A Week In Film & TV #1

03/07/17 – 09/07/17

Film

Moana

Moana is a feel-good Disney film about a girl (the eponymous Polynesian protagonist, Moana) who loves the ocean and is ‘chosen’ to go on a quest to restore the heart of Te Fiti to its island. In order to do this, she must seek the help of a Demi-God called Maui who stole the heart of the island centuries ago. For a modern Disney princess movie, the plot is fairly standard. Apart from the main song, How Far I’ll Go, it also doesn’t have the best soundtrack compared to other Disney movies. However, one of the things I loved most about it, and one of the factors that distinguish it from every other Disney princess film, is the fact that there is no love interest whatsoever. The relationship between Moana and Maui develops no further than a sort of niece/uncle situation, and it’s so refreshing to see a princess independent of romance or lust.

I’m really not one to perceive Disney princesses as role models and it irks me when people think many of them are, but, like Mulan, Moana is one of the exceptions. She is truly courageous, intelligent, kind, and yes, she’s beautiful but the animation in this movie is a lot more realistic to real life, so her proportions actually aren’t so intimidatingly idealistic. Another thing I loved is that her quest technically had little to nothing to do with the inhabitants on her island. No one was in danger; no one was doomed – her agreeing to go on the quest was purely out of the goodness of her own heart. Of course – and this isn’t much of a spoiler – despite a number of obstacles along the way, she succeeds.

All little girls should watch this movie; it sends a strong message about self-belief and independence. I mean, I felt empowered after watching it and I’m not even the target audience.

5.5/7

Eagle vs. Shark

Sometimes, ‘misfits’ in movies aren’t actually ‘misfits’ at all, they’re just sanctimonious hipsters – *cough* PerksOfBeingAWallflower *cough* – but in this movie, the characters, not even just the two main ones, are about as misfit-y as you can get. From being a Flight Of The Conchords fan for years, Jermaine Clements can pretty much do no wrong for me. Even though he tends to play similar characters, he does them so damn well. Saying that, although his and Loren Horsley’s acting in this film is great, the movie itself is somewhat underdeveloped.

It gets off to a great start – the animal costume party scene was genius, but the film then soon starts to lose direction. Jarrod’s mission to fight his old school bully was ultimately somewhat impetuous and irrelevant within the storyline, and the two main characters (Jarrod and Lily), though similar on a basic level, seemed more unsuited to me as the film progressed. I stopped rooting for their romance the more I got to know Jarrod, who just seemed to take advantage of Lily’s unceasing niceness. I love quirky films like this – Me, You And Everyone We Know, Napoleon Dynamite, everything Wes Anderson has made, but this often felt kooky for the sake of kookiness. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad film by any means. I enjoyed the little animated clips and the sleeping bag stop-motion scene. Generally, Eagle vs Shark was very creative and at times, bloody hilarious.

I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to watch this film again but I did enjoy it. If you like Napoleon Dynamite-type humour, you’ll probably like this.

4/7

Man On Wire

Out of everything I’ve watched this week, this is a close second favourite. I love documentary films; I find them so interesting and educational, and this one is up there with one of the best I’ve seen. The film is about a French man called Philippe Petit, a wire walker whose dream it is to high-wire walk between the twin towers. In order to do this successfully, he employs the help of friends of whom will each play a role. Together they come up with a brilliantly crafted, meticulous plan to make Philippe’s dream a reality. As what they intend to do is illegal – which, of course, is part of what makes it so stimulating – they must ascend to the very top of the tower (one of the tallest buildings in the entire world) without arousing any suspicion, and once up there, be totally inconspicuous. Usually in documentaries there are only re-enactments with actors, but what makes this film so fascinating to watch is the abundance of real footage of the people involved during the 70s interwoven with clips of those same people in the modern day being interviewed. Although you know everything is real, it truly brings the story to life and is edited so seamlessly together.

Though there are some setbacks, the plan ultimately works. Knowing that he obviously lived to see another day as he’s one of the people being interviewed, the photos of and discussion about Philippe’s walking between the two towers still had me on the edge of my seat. Oddly, despite walking on a wire less than two inches thick with a colossal drop to potential death below his feet, Philippe explains how he didn’t feel scared up there. Another interviewee, his ex-lover who had expected to feel fearful for his life, states that his performance was actually beautiful to watch.

The fact that all of this was real somewhat blows my mind. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this before, and perhaps more surprised that it’s something which isn’t talked about very much, because it’s definitely a story worth knowing.

6.5/7

What The Health

From the same guy that brought you Cowspiracy, now comes What The Health, a documentary which explores the effect of an omnivorous diet on human health. What I both love and appreciate about Kip Anderson’s films is that they aren’t gimmicky, and the information they provide isn’t vague or based on hearsay. Rather, it is factual and scientific; everything that is stated is cited, thoroughly researched and backed up by a number of professionals. Despite being the filmmaker, Kip willingly steps back in his films, interviewing many qualified doctors and specialists who themselves become massively integral to the film. Kip’s job is rather to question and expose the corporations, and what he discovers is disturbing to say the least.

I’ve already watched this documentary twice and recommended it to 3 people, one of which is my sister who was so affected that she’s currently trying to cut animal products out of her diet. I would implore everyone to watch this; it is extremely eye-opening and so insightful. Sadly, it is also quite a shocking documentary, as you come to realise that the misinformation we are given (or often loss of information entirely) is a cause only for profit.

I imagine that next on Kip Anderson’s agenda will be a documentary behind the ethical reasons for veganism, as he seems to be making his way through the three main factors for going vegan: environment, health and ethics. No one can undervalue the effect his work as a filmmaker is having on thousands of people, especially in the West, and I for one can’t wait for the next documentary in this supposed vegan trilogy.

7/7

 

TV

Orange Is The New Black (Season 5)

Who doesn’t love Orange Is The New Black? Whether you’re genuinely invested in the drama or just watch it for the lesbian sex scenes, Orange Is The New Black is one of the most popular modern television shows. Less specifically about Piper now than ever before (thank God), the characters in this show share the spotlight and the screen-time, with many of them given backstories to help us to understand how they got to where they are. Season 5 begins exactly where it left off, with Daya pointing at gun at one of the most deplorable prison guards – aka. the baddies – unsure of whether or not to shoot him. In the end, being egged on by the crowd, she does. The recent (accidental) killing of Poussey (the Season 4 finale) has unsurprisingly got the prisoners riled up and irate.

The intention of Orange Is The New Black, at least to me, has always been to humanize prisoners and equally to shine a glaring light at the inadequacy of the American Prison and Justice Systems. And this Season in particular is the most political the show has ever been, with scenes that quite conspicuously draw inspiration from issues that are happening in the real world, such as the final episode whereby the riot police are sent into the prison to cease the riot and gather the female prisoners; the force with which they handle the women is quite harrowing to watch.

Unfortunately, the Season ultimately seems a lil’ bit clumsy or haphazard, as there are quite a lot of loose ties. With such a huge ‘main’ cast, the show often tries to do too much. This time around, it was all about the drama, and while the producers succeeded in that regard – it is irrefutably the most dramatic Season – the craziness appears to have gotten in the way of any sort of structure. I found quite a few mini-storylines either anti-climactic or unfinished. The most disappointing parts were the flashbacks – with the exception of Frieda’s, they were highly irrelevant and unnecessary within the plot.

While the show lacks precision, as per of OITNB, they really came through on the final episode. OITNB gets a gold star for that ending – the writers and directors have always been the masters of finales. Suffice it to say I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hyped for Season 6.

5/7

Love Island (Season 3)

Take my word for it, nobody is as embarrassed as I am for admitting that I bloody love this show. It’s such complete and utter shameless Trash TV, but, unlike some reality TV shows, it’s so self-aware of its own trashiness, I can almost forgive it. Almost. Quite like Come Dine With Me, Love Island would be nothing without the narration from Iain Stirling, whose role is essentially to poke fun at the Islanders and at the general ridiculousness of the goings on. Nonetheless, you find yourself getting sucked into all the low-IQ melodrama, genuinely invested in the lives of these frustratingly conventionally-hot people. Did Jess hook up with Mike? Can Olivia and Chris’ romance last? Has Camilla (aka the new nation’s sweetheart) finally found her Prince Charming in Jamie? Only time will tell…

I’d recommend reading The Da Vinci Code or studying rocket science immediately before and after this hour of shallow, hyperbolic (AMAZING) nonsense, just to cleanse your soul a bit and keep those brain cells a-flowing – you don’t want to kill too many of them.

6.5/7

Jane The Virgin (Season 3)

Jane The Virgin is probably one of the most underrated shows out there. It’s a serial drama or ‘telenovela’ which essentially makes fun of telenovelas, therefore making fun of itself. No surprise then that the storyline is completely insane, unrealistic and overdramatised, but that’s all part of the fun. The show never tries to pretend that any of this stuff would actually happen in real life.

In Season 3, we catch up with Jane, our bilingual, Venezuelan-American romance-novel writer/baby mama, whose husband Michael, a talented detective/Jane’s one true love, has just been shot and is now in hospital in critical condition. Of course, per all typical telenovelas, he miraculously recovers, and after failing his physical for detective work, has to find an entirely new career. Just as him and Jane are finding their footing and adjusting to newly-married life, Michael has a sudden heart-ache and dies. Fast forward to three years later and the real drama ensues. The love triangle between the capricious  Petra, criminally handsome Rafael and not-so-plain Jane is rehashed, and the finale ends with us unsure of whether Petra is going to make it into Season 4…

6/7

RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 9)

I am a HUGE fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I think anyone my age would say the same thing; it is pretty much the perfect show for Millennials and Generation Zs – so fun, liberal and easy to get hooked on. Season 6 will forever be my favourite (mainly because of the Queen that is Bianca Del Rio) but I’d say this year’s Season 9 would definitely make my Top 3 Seasons. There was quite a lot of drama this year (isn’t there always?), highlights of which include Valentina’s shocking elimination and Nina BoNina Brown’s ridiculous paranoia. Every year the production is amped up – the challenges are crazier, the guest judges are more famous, and this Season’s finale was off-the-charts insane. I’d been rooting for Sasha Velour from Day 1 (okay, fine, I was rooting for Valentina but the biatch let me down), so I was overjoyed when she won, taking the title of America’s Drag Superstar! You go, girl (boy?)!

6/7