At The Movies With Javid #23

As TPG continue the long, slow drag of their nuts across my face, I bring you another sporadic blog in these times of lean bandwidth.

Word.

Word.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

There’s a lot about this film that screams ‘IT’S A KID’S MOVIE WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?’ – particularly the bright colours, heartfelt storyline laden with morals and the undeniably adorable BayMax – he’s like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters without the sinister edge and plentiful white goop inside him… (wait…)

But there’s far more to it than that. Perhaps I’ve been too dismissive of a lot of these films in the past – although in my defence a lot of them are SHIT. Big Hero 6, though, is not.

While the co-main character is indeed adorable, there’s definitely a blackened edge to the film, with themes of familial death and seeking revenge countering light and airy moments well. It’s not an intricately woven story by any means but it focuses on telling it well and letting the messages seep through the performances and graphic wonder. Where many of these movies focus on chucking adult jokes into kids films and elaborate musical numbers, Big Hero 6 just focuses on telling a story and instilling values we should all hold dear. And good god, I cried my ass off (not literally of course) at the unexpectedly heartbreaking and sorrowful ending. I’d say spoiler alert but that’s probably spoiler enough.

All in all, the 90 minutes I’d allocated to a dreary Sunday afternoon were 90 of the best I’ve spent watching many of these films of late. People will fawn over (boring) Birdman, and stay divided over something like American Sniper, but the morals, storytelling and characters (although it must be said that some are stupid and superfluous) of this film are hard to argue against, no matter how old you are. My own attitude tells me that the only people being dismissive of this film are those who haven’t seen it, or those who have no heart whatsoever. 9/10

The Imitation Game (2014)

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Who says a war film needs battlefield scenes? Many directors, surely, but the Imitation Game defies them all with its telling of an unknown and incredibly interesting story from WW2, barely leaving one room.

The film tells the story of Alan Turing, who many people may know as one of the fathers of computers, one of the most important men of the last century. What we didn’t know until the information was finally released from the clutches of the Official Secrets Act was just how important he was.

An eccentric, Turing (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) is offered a position with the military on a team of experts trying to decrypt the Nazi enigma code. The story is told by Turing during an interview with police, many years after the war, who are investigating a break-in at his home.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of a remarkably introverted genius is worthy of the plaudits is has received. While Kiera Knightley plays well, it’s Benedicts performance that lifts the film.

Where I feel the film lacks is in it’s indecision as to whether or not it wants to also be about the struggles of a homosexual man at a time when it was still a crime. Yes, his sexuality is identified by one of his co-workers, and there are scenes lightly sprayed throughout the telling of the tale that appear if only to remind you that Turing was gay, but the price he paid as a result of this is only skimmed over at the end (he was convicted in court and took the option of probation with synthetic oestrogen injections – also known as chemical castration. Utterly brutal). That bit of info is seriously just surmised in a footnote that plays out at the end. It also doesn’t mention that he was a 39 year-old man in a relationship with a 19 year old. It’s almost like the fear of persecution for announcing gay rights is still there in the film itself. Perhaps it’s intentional, but I doubt it.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that, were they willing to focus on the sexuality aspect properly, they should have devoted more time to his post-war life instead of what feels like a very rushed attempt to be a gay-rights war film right at the end.

Alan Turing changed the world, and perhaps saved the world a couple of extra years of war by doing so. This movie captures him as history will remember him, but it’s the relative skimming of the most important part of the tale that leaves a small blemish on a captivating tale. 7/10

Pan’s Labyrinth (2007)

I was going to use this space to review The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, but let’s face it – you’re either going to love it or not love it, and you’ve already made that decision long ago, probably at about the time The Lord of the Rings was first coming out and you were deciding whether to invest in 3 hour movies about short people or not – that being said, if you like the franchise, it’s a good film.

Aaaanyway instead I’m going with Pan’s Labyrinth, a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a long time but haven’t had the pleasure of. It takes place in Franco’s war, with a young girl and her pregnant mother moving to the estate of a colonel fighting the rebels.

The man himself is brutal and unforgiving, and the mother is submissive and hoping to achieve safety for her family, and the young girl is caught in the middle.

On her journeys through the estate she eventually comes to Pan’s Labyrinth – and no, Pan isn’t in green tights and youthful, but rather a large and haggard beast who tells the girl she might be the daughter of the king of the underworld, and she must complete a set of tasks to prove it.

Outside of this, the story of the malevolent colonel losing his grip on power, the terrified but stern mother and the war going on is told well, even if it primarily serves as historical context and an environment to cultivate the nature of the military man. While it’s relevance to the goings-on inside the labyrinth is tenuous, apart from providing a bleak setting, it’s still very well done.

Inside the Labyrinth, it is irrelevant, as the tasks must be completed. The performance of the young girl (Ivana Baquero) is great, as is that of the brutal Colonel. The cinematography and visual effects are stunning, both inside and outside the maze, although the man puppets, particularly both the fawn and the ‘monster’ at the dinner table, are brilliant – thoroughly deserving of all the Oscars it won.

It’s a fairy tale, told in the traditional Grimm way of dark and macabre, as opposed to the light and fluffy stuff. A critic called it a fairy-tale for adults, and that’s a pretty apt description. Both inside and outside the maze, this film excels, even if the outside world isn’t crucial to the telling. It’s dark and brooding, but leaves you feeling that no matter how bad things get (in the world or in our minds), it can be overcome with perseverance – it’s just that you have to do it yourself – and that’s certainly not a bad lesson to be reminded of, no matter how old you are. 8/10

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