Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Drollness of Dolls

DVD Notes: “Toy Story 2”

Woody, Bull's-Eye, and Jessie, like hipsters, play with a vinyl record amid 20th century paraphernalia

The sequel to the altogether cheery and beloved Toy Story, Pixar’s first release and surprise hit film, begins with a sequence which is the stuff of a 10-year-old’s nightmares, fed by a nourishing diet of video games and modern television. We’re brought out of this quickly enough into Pixar’s customary brightness, but soon taken into a real nightmare of one of the characters. While these two sequences take up relatively little of Toy Story 2’s brisk hour-and-a-half, they effectively serve to set up a tone of slightly more self-consciousness towards entertainment and play-time than we had in the first film, both directed by John Lasseter.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Musical Inclinations

DVD Notes: “August Rush”

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Freddie Highmore jam in Washington Square

In his review of Whiplash, Richard Brody writes, “Movies about musicians offer musical approximations that usually satisfy in inverse proportion to a viewer’s devotion to the actual music behind the story.” One might make the same comment just as aptly when discussing August Rush, except, while Whiplash was clearly about jazz musicians, it’s difficult to know what musical tradition August Rush has taken as its subject. We’re treated with the rarefied musings of the eponymous 11-year-old musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) and his mentor, “Wizard” (Robin Williams), about how music is what surrounds us all – in the air, on the wind, in all living forms – and what connects everything, including all of us to everything else, even the stars and galaxies. One has only to “follow the music” – forgive me, “The Music” – to reach one’s fulfilment, the movie posits.

The New Yorker recently published a humourous article in which Ayn Rand (a fictional persona of the novelist) reviewed children’s movies. “An industrious woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté,” she writes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. “She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathise with the main character.” She gave it Zero Stars. Sadly, Ms Rand was not around to provide her very straightforward acuity and pointed views on August Rush, but I think it would’ve been just the thing to cut through the drivel offered here.