I needed to find self storage for London Ontario residents as soon as I could. My parents needed me, and I didn’t have any time to spare with worrying about sorting through my things before storing them. My parents had both been in a car accident, and I am their only child. They were both in the hospital and a nurse there told me that both of them would probably be there for a couple of months. I did not want to be home while my parents both opened their eyes at some point and felt alone. I also worried that one of them would die and I would not be there. I raced to put all my things in boxes, and then I found a storage business that offers inexpensive units to store all your belongings in. Continue reading I Had to Work Quickly to Get to My Parents As Soon As Possible
Spontaneously bursting into song, that’s what it’s all about. By ‘it’ I mean random and unexpected musical scenes in films. They are like little rays of cinematic sunshine.
And, like all good moments of music that you experience in your life, a lot of these will have stayed with you as fond memories; for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the songs in A Life Less Ordinary and Empire Records.
Some of these you may have seen coming – karaoke for example – but some, I imagine, took you by surprise in a wonderful way, as they did me. Here’s my selection:
‘Don’t Stop Believing’ Chris Evans – The Losers
Need to ensure no one gets in the lift with you? Just sing Journey with gusto. An unexpected and genuinely hilarious scene, one which works due to Evans’ ballsy delivery.
‘Beyond The Sea’ Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz – A Life Less Ordinary
A great scene in this underrated Danny Boyle film. It got me hooked on Bobby Darin for a fair while and remains one of my favourite Cameron Diaz performances.
‘Sugar High’ Renee Zellweger – Empire Records
It’s hard to pick one scene in a film packed with musical gems. This one is so much fun that it makes the cut. And Zellweger is so sweet singing her little heart out.
‘Hey Ma’ Anna Kendrick and Jake Gyllenhaal – End Of Watch
Apparently on a long drive the two actors were mucking about singing in character with director David Ayer in the back seat. He caught this and stuck it in the movie. That’s a moment.
‘Brass In Pocket’ Scarlett Johansson – Lost In Translation
This Sofia Coppola film which gave Scarlett her break remains my favourite of her performances. As she donned a pink wig, Bill Murray’s resistance was futile.
‘These Eyes’ Michael Cera – Superbad
Comedy that stands the test of time, now that’s tough. This film holds up though. A modern classic, encapsulated in this memorable scene. The hurtin’s on me yeah!
‘Here Comes Your Man’ Joseph Gordon-Levitt – 500 Days Of Summer
I have to say, I know one or two girls that would fall over themselves to get a piece of Gordon-Levitt. Here he gives us a masterclass in how to effortlessly rock a tank top.
‘Afternoon Delight’ Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner – Anchorman
Remember the first time you saw this film? Every scene held a wonderful surprise. This one was a classic example as I doubt anyone saw this 1976 song by the Starland Vocal Band coming.
‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ Tom Cruise – Top Gun
I am sure I’m not the only one that’s had mates reenact this in the direction of unsuspecting women; essentially cornering them till the song is done. Ladies do love a crooner.
‘New York New York’ Carey Mulligan – Shame
Filmed with Mulligan singing live in one unbroken shot, this scene is so raw and affecting that I’ve only been able to watch it twice. Along with Fassbender, Mulligan elevated this film to pure art.
‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’ Steve Buscemi – Con Air
Supremely creepy, yet mesmerising in a way. An innocuous little scene in the middle of this – clearly quite bonkers – Michael Bay movie has Buscemi singing like a loon as their plane prepares to crash.
‘Blue Shadows’ Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short – Three Amigos
This 1986 John Landis classic was packed with wonderfully witty musical ditties. Whilst ‘My Little Buttercup’ tends to get all the plaudits, honorable mention should go to this song too.
A man wearing a giant fake head. A band full of oddballs, real oddballs. Is this a film about those characters we meet in life – if we’re lucky enough – that exist at the edges of normal?
Based on the real life experiences of writer Jon Ronson, Frank starts with Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless wannabe musician who, through a chance encounter with a band manager, gets to play keyboard in the supremely odd band with an unpronounceable name, headed by front-man Frank (Michael Fassbender). Job interview: ‘Can you play C, F and G? You’re in.’
Jon plays one gig then gets offered another and jumps at it, only to discover the band are heading off to the woods and will leave once the album is recorded.
Gleeson is a great fit for Jon. He needs to be likeable, but also a little offbeat. And, whilst Fassbender’s Frank is the enigmatic and mercurial figure that steals scenes – waving his arms dancing wildly, finding musical inspiration in everyday objects, addressing a German family in their native tongue – it’s Jon that drives the story.
This is his tale and experience of trying to fit into a group that themselves don’t fit into the world. And there’s the rub. Jon wants to be one of them but wants notoriety, which puts him at odds with the band, particularly the volatile Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
His efforts lead them to a festival in the US and it’s here where the film comes somewhat undone, losing the focus it had in the early half. Screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan (the chaps behind The Men Who Stare At Goats) perhaps lost their way.
Or maybe it’s just the case that these characters work better in a tighter, simpler setting. Maybe that’s the point the filmmakers were trying to make – one echoed by Gyllenhaal’s Clara – but it didn’t entirely hold together leading up to the film’s final scene.
Tonally though, this movie is interesting and puts me in mind of Little Miss Sunshine or The Life Aquatic. It’s been described as a musical comedy which, in some instances, is accurate (it has music and comedy), but it’s perhaps more tragic in tone. Frank is the sort of role you might expect Johnny Depp to have played, so it’s refreshing to see someone like Fassbender take it on and add another string to his mighty acting bow.
Ultimately there’s a fair amount to love about this film and feels like you’d get more out of it on repeat viewings. It’s a little slow in places (some of the middle and most of the final third), but it’s highly original and quirky, albeit not hugely cinematic. And Fassbender can definitely do quirky, who knew. Now, if only someone could cast him in a Wes Anderson movie.
Everyone loves a bit of Queen right? In tribute to their musical greatness I thought I’d highlight a few moments they’ve contributed to cinema.
Whether – like the first two in the list below – they were responsible for almost the film’s entire soundtrack, or one of their songs were used in a particular scene, a bit of Queen goes a long way.
Here are mine. Which would you pick as your favourite Queen song from film?
Flash Gordon ‘Birdmen, to me!’
Right Brian May, we need some epic guitar with an ominous keyboard drumming beneath for tension, scored to a scene of a lycra-clad guy with Prince Charming hair flying a spaceship into a laser-guarded fortress with Brian Blessed regularly screaming ‘Die!’. Got it? Good.
Highlander ‘Who wants to live forever’
Freddie Mercury’s vocal was never better than when crooning on this track penned by Brian May. Sad, poignant and beautiful. And almost balanced out Christopher Lambert’s and Sean Connery’s woeful attempts at accents. A standout scene.
Wayne’s World ‘Headbanging in the car’
Looking back, this film (and the sequel) were really just a series of set piece gags upon which to hang the plot. Here, in what could have been a humdrum extended title sequence at the start of the film, Wayne (Mike Myers) puts on a Queen tape to liven up the journey.
Shaun of the Dead ‘Jukebox zombie’
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and the gang crafted comedy gold with this entire film. One scene saw them trapped in the local pub, the Winchester, forced to administer a beating to a zombie barman, perfectly timed to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. Tongue firmly in cheek? Check.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know… David Bowie died today finally losing his battle with cancer aged 69, and tributes flooded the internet because, despite what most of us like to think, Bowie was a freak. An oddity.
And we’re all odd freaks too (most of us), so we loved that he allowed us to embrace that. Simply put, he showed us the way – through his music, acting and constant reinvention. He took us to the heavens and the stars helping us expand our thinking, and he naval-gazed in his quieter moments, causing us to reflect inward and question ourselves.
On a personal level I discovered Bowie through old cassette tapes in my parent’s music collection. I had a listen and liked them, but didn’t quite ‘get it’, so put them aside and went back to my house records (I used to DJ a bit back then).
Then, around ten years later in my mid-20s, I found Bowie again.
Now I own an acoustic guitar and his songs had ways of finding me and making me sing alone in my room, expressing myself in a most liberating manner. From Space Oddity to A Man Who Sold The World to Starman, I sang my little heart out. What music was this? It was glorious and timeless (but in a good way, not a stuffy, Antiques Roadshow kind of way).
Then I became aware of his work in film, watching him steal scenes in The Prestige opposite Hugh Jackman. And so I revisited an ’80s, coming-of-age classic, The Labyrinth, where he was something of a force of nature, strutting his stuff in leather trousers opposite a young Jennifer Connelly.
I could go on… and on. But, well, you get it. If Bowie meant something to you then he meant something to you. And he kind of meant something to a great many of us, in profoundly different ways.
So, as tribute, below are a selection of clips that meant something to me.
Rest in peace David Bowie, you’re now among the stars.
Will I ever be any good at parkour/freerunning? I found myself asking this question last night as I sat in a London hospital with – yet another – injury. This time quite a bad one, a deep gash in my shin that needed two stitches.
Let’s rewind for a second. For those not familiar, parkour is essentially a type of movement used to overcome obstacles by way of vaulting, leaping, climbing, rolling etc. It’s done outdoors and – in London – often around housing estates, where there are lots of walls, rails, playgrounds. Ideal places to practice.
Still reading? Well, there’s an organisation called Parkour Generations that do lessons all around London. Well worth a go if you’re looking for a new sport. I realise, from my opening paragraph, I’ve probably completely put off you if you were considering it, apologies! To be honest, you can get injured in so many ways on a day-to-day basis. Crossing the road, preparing dinner etc.
The way I see it, I have no time for the gym, it’s such a static, sterile environment. It’s nice to train your overall body outside, doing something different, challenging, exciting. Injuries are bound to happen in any sport if you’re pushing yourself. You just need to know where your limits are. I was fully aware of mine but ignored the signs, hence the injury.
The video below was taken in the area I was training. None of the guys in the video are me by the way, I am nowhere near their level of skill, but it’s what I aim for. Well, except the flips, I’ll give those a miss!
Plus, these days, parkour has moved much more into the mainstream. No longer a niche, extreme sport, its influence can be seen all over the place, particularly in film over the last few years.
There’s a French film called District 13 which features one of the founders of the sport, David Belle. Well worth a watch if you’ve got the time. Good as a film as well as a showcase for the sport. Also, in Casino Royale there’s a scene featuring Sebastien Foucan, another parkour founding father. Watch the building site chase here, very cool.
So, back to my latest predicament. As I sat there cursing my stupidity at failing to admit my body’s limitations, it occurred to me that – in order to improve – that’s sort of the point. You have to push yourself. Dig deep, double your efforts, whatever it takes really. Cue 80s montage…
A little while back I wrote a post about how I managed to sustain quite a bad injury during parkour/freerunning practice near Archway, London, UK. Well it put me out of action for about a month. Most frustrating.
Many people suggested I should perhaps try a safer sport, one where I don’t pick up quite so many injuries. Whilst I’m hardly – nor do I want to be – the Six Million Dollar Man, phrases kept floating through my head such as, ‘We can rebuild him. We have the technology.’ Simply put, I was beginning to feel a bit patchwork; a broken toe, stitches in my leg, various ankle sprains.
I then had an epiphany of sorts. Something I touched on in my previous parkour posting. The reason for my injuries was that I was trying to push myself too hard at an extreme sport without enough training. Yes, you can improve to a degree. But it becomes much, much easier if you put in the training. Obvious, but it takes me a while to grasp things. Be nice.
As a result, in the last week or so I’ve stepped up my training. So, if you happen to be in South-West London around Putney, keep an eye out for a guy with a mini backpack haring about the place. That’ll be me. You’ll most likely spot me tightrope walking along railings or attempting precision jumps off pathetically tiny walls. We all start somewhere right?
So I begin my slow and steady progress, building my strength until I can leap around like some sort of cat/monkey/man-child. Also, if you do happen to walk past and see a guy laying on the ground next to a wall screaming in agony. Again, that will be me. Have a heart and help me limp to the nearest hospital. Of course I’m joking. One hospital trip in the name of sport and fitness is more than enough, at least for a few years.
I’ll leave you with a video I found of some young lads training in and around Putney somewhere a few years ago. I’ve no idea who they are but they’re clearly better than me and at least half my age. Let’s finish with a Scooby Doo ending, damn those pesky kids!
After lengthy success in TV (Gilmore Girls, Mike & Molly), Melissa McCarthy finally broke through to film in 2011’s Bridesmaids, almost stealing the whole thing from the rest of the cast. In 2013 she received critical and commercial acclaim for The Heat with Sandra Bullock and, last year, starred opposite Bill Murray in quirky comedy St. Vincent.
So she’s been building to a big project and here with Paul Feig’s Spy we have the result. McCarthy leads the show but is ably supported by a great cast (all having a ball) which includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Miranda Hart and Jude Law.
McCarthy plays desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who gets thrown into the field to foil a plot by evil baddie Rayna Boyanov (a bitchy Rose Bryne) to sell a nuclear weapon. From the off we see Susan on a headset advising charismatic agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law on fine, narcissistic form) as he dispatches bad guys with time to check his hair. Bond eat your heart out.
Once the Americans learn Rayna is behind a plot to steal a nuke, CIA head Elaine (a pragmatic, spiky Allison Janney) realises none of their current agents can get near her as they’ll be recognised, so up steps Susan, sent off to a series of European locations on a mission to ‘track and report’ only. This disgusts loose cannon agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), who ends up butting heads with her throughout the movie in a series of hilarious encounters (who knew Statham was this funny?).
As a writer-director Paul Feig has formed a stellar partnership with Melissa McCarthy; they’ve now done three films together (Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy) and she knows exactly how to make his material sing, comedically speaking. And in the world of funnies she’s really carved her own niche. Lazy critics might say McCarthy is the female Will Ferrell or, given Bridesmaids‘ common DNA with The Hangover, the female Zach Galifiniakis. Why she has to be the female equivalent of a male actor is beyond me, but that’s Hollywood and the media I guess, still a man’s world to the core.
Back to Spy, the plot is relatively simple and merely a device for McCarthy to show Susan’s progression from timid analyst to kick ass spy, which she does convincingly. She’s surrounded by quite a lot of British talent too, from fellow analyst, ditzy Nancy (Miranda Hart) to lecherous ‘Italian’ Aldo (Peter Serafinowicz having the time of his life). So it’s an odd mix in a way, but it works well.
Spy has its tongue in its cheek the entire time and there’s barely a quiet moment to reflect on whether all the jokes are landing or not (most of them do). But none of this matters as you won’t be assessing it during (a sure sign the comedy is flagging); you’ll be with Susan on her journey in all its sweary glory. In the year of spy films coming out (The Man fromUNCLE, Bond’s SPECTRE) it remains to be seen whether audiences will tire of this genre by the end of the year. If they don’t, there’s a high chance we’ll see a Spy 2 greenlit, so watch this space.
Bow… bow, wow, wow. When Genuwine’s Pony kicks in you know you’re watching Magic Mike. Sometimes certain songs coupled with certain scenes elevate an entire film and glue it firmly to our memories. Such was the case three years ago.
Directed by Steven Soderburgh at the time in almost a documentary style, Magic Mike was a funny old beast. It was less about stripping and more male bonding; how these guys actually live and are part of a tribe. Like The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke but with more nudity. (Actually, scratch that, they’ve both got naked guys aplenty.) It focused on character too; so if it were mere titillation we wouldn’t have this sequel now.
This time round Soderburgh’s long time assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, steps up to direct. He’s a man who has worked extensively with Soderburgh in the past and knows the style and tone of the first movie. Whilst not quite matching the first he does a passable job with this sequel.
So… why would a straight guy go to see Magic Mike, surely it’s one for the ladies? Well, yes, there’s male nudity in abundance but I’d argue this is a film that, in a manner of speaking, has more to offer the male market. Bear (or bare, geddit?) with me here whilst I state my case. First, the plot.
Mike has left the life of stripping behind to pursue his passion of furniture design. He’s got his girl, it’s all rosy. However, three years later things don’t work out as he plans and he gets a call from the old gang as they pass through town on their way to a stripper convention (Yes, it’s a real thing. Tatum actually attended one in his former life before acting.)
With only a little – rather convenient – persuasion from Genuwine’s Pony on the radio in his workshop (in a scene which riffs on Flashdance) he bundles in with the fellas for a road trip and one last stripping hurrah. They meet various characters along the way, including Jada Pinkett Smith’s stripper Madam Rome (Mike’s mentor) and Andie Macdowell’s lonely housewife Nancy, which all add something.
That said, there’s things missing, specifically characters. Gone is Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) crooning ‘ladies of Tampa’ and stealing scenes. He leaves a rather large hole which the rest of the cast try to fill with varying degrees of success. Gone is Adam ‘The Kid’ (Alex Pettyfer), gone is Mike’s love interest Brooke (Cody Horn), replaced rather half-heartedly with quirky and nomadic Zoe (Amber Heard Depp); who does what she can but has very little to work with. However, former players do step up, particularly Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Ritchie, who gets the funniest – and ballsiest – scene of the movie.
Stripping scenes aside, the movie itself, in its quieter moments, seems at pains to show these guys as more than strippers. They’ve got hopes and dreams like the rest of us and they’re just as vulnerable, if not more so. There’s one scene where two characters talk about how they’re modern-day healers for women. Weirdly, it’s quite touching and all rather spiritual.
In parts it does drag a little, but overall it’s a pretty solid follow-up and doesn’t retread too much old ground. It feels like a good way to end, too. If we see a Magic Mike 3 in a few years I can safely say it’ll tank at the box office as there’s really nowhere else to take these characters. I think the actors knew that as they looked like there were having so much fun here and really went for it.
So… It’s a good laugh, fits the tone of the first and is surprisingly sensitive in places where it touches on the male bonding aspect and sense of belonging. But let’s leave it there eh? Mike’s stripping days are done. Time he hung up that thong for good.
From great pain comes great genius. And let’s not muck about, Amy Winehouse, the gobby girl from North London, the unassuming jazz singer, had both in buckets.
This documentary – directed by Asif Kapadia, the man who brought us Senna a few years back – charts her life through mostly previously unseen footage in a compelling and deeply affecting way.
I’ll say from the outset I was – and still am – a big fan.
I loved her music, that unique and beguiling voice, the darkness she carried that came out in her lyrics and – this may seem callous but – I cannot think of another artist that, if they died, I’d be that cut up about. There was obviously something about her that spoke to me.
Darkness, pain, loneliness, vulnerability – these things can mean a lot to a lot of people and Amy was our figurehead. When she died it was a shock, although the act not shocking in itself. More that maybe it hadn’t happened sooner, in a way, given the media frenzy which surrounded her later years (which we’ll come to in a bit).
With Amy we get a detailed insight into her inner circle, the people closest to her and how her eventual demise came to pass. From her friends and various managers and producers to her absent family, all seemed to play a part in trying to help her get back on track, but almost all ultimately failed her in some way.
And some more than others.
The person that got cast in the worst light was probably her father, Mitch Winehouse (who came out after the film’s release, surprisingly enough, saying he wanted the filmmakers to make changes). With her most famous song, Rehab, directly referencing the fact he told her not to go, he had dealt his own hand in terms of how he wanted to be portrayed as a father. This absenteeism as a role model for Amy continued right up until the end.
In fact, time and again Kapadia comes back to clips that illustrate the fact that most of Amy’s darkness and self-destructive impulses stemmed from the lack of a father figure in her life. Starting with Mitch leaving the family to have an affair whilst she was growing up, she then spent the rest of her life trying to replace him, either with boyfriends/husbands (Blake Fielder-Civil being the worst of the bunch) or managers and producers or, near the end, bodyguards.
The media also comes under Kapadia’s scrutiny (and rightly so), with the rise of the paparazzi scrum hounding her every move directly contributing to her downward spiral. (In some ways the same thing happened with Princess Diana, so it’s clear we’ll never learn.) In this Kapadia makes us complicit, we’re just as much to blame as anyone within her inner circle. We buy the magazines and read the tabloids and gobble up all the sordid details of her destruction like sharks out for blood.
The sucker punch, the killer blow if you will, was that Amy almost turned a corner right before the end. She did a duet with her idol Tony Bennett (who said she was up there with greats like Ella Fitzgerald) and she planned, by the looks of it, to return to her jazz roots. But then, in a flash, it was all over.
If you were a fan of Amy Winehouse you’ll most likely find the film engaging and insightful. If you weren’t, you’ll still get something from it, as it’s a fascinating look at the recent and tragic demise of a modern-day musical genius and the factors that contributed to her downfall.
Kapadia seems to have treated the material sensitively and portrayed Amy in a sympathetic light. Whether you choose to – as I do – feel a little responsible and quite disgusted by the way the world ended up treating her will be up to you.
For me, it made me raw again that she’s gone. But this was an important film to make and the story needed to be told.
Rest in peace Amy. We’ll miss you, always.
Guy Ritchie is like… so hot right now. At least, it seems so, after his career had hit a little blip right before the Sherlock Holmes films put him back on the map.
Then for his next trick he thought he’d turn his hand to the spy genre, specifically resurrecting a nostalgically adored ’60s TV show, The Man from UNCLE. Remembered fondly by those of a certain age, utterly unknown to those younger than that.
But no matter. Whether you’re young or old(er) most of us can get on board with a sexy cast dressed in gorgeous clothing, their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks as they swan around the globe foiling evil plots. Can’t we?
And if we’re talking tone (which we are now), this film sits somewhere between Austin Powers and Bond, the Roger Moore years, which is no bad thing. Or if you’re seeking a more modern reference, it would make a nice triple-bill with Spy with Melissa McCarthy and Kingsman, with Colin Firth; as you’ve never seen him before.
Concerning story: we have handsome American spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) trying to rescue pretty girl Gabriella Teller (Alicia Vikander) from East Germany, as he needs her help to get close to her nuclear scientist father who’s been kidnapped by an evil, Paris Hilton-esque woman wearing far too much jewellery. They’re aided by a handsome yet prickly Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), told by his superiors he’ll have to team up with the annoyingly smug American to complete his mission.
Ultimately this film isn’t really about plot. It’s about the laddiest of all laddy things, banter! And Cavill and Hammer do this pretty well, bouncing off each other and working effectively – if chaotically – as a team, despite their grudging reluctance. However, most of this film does feel like an intro to a franchise – as the studio would no doubt love it to be.
Do we have the spy version of Lethal Weapon on our hands? Too early to call. I wouldn’t be averse to a second film. It nipped along at a decent pace, looked great and had a killer soundtrack (as you’d expect from Ritchie), so giving these characters another mission wouldn’t be a bad idea.
But on the downside, as far as quibbles go, I have two.
First, it’s 2015, and in this day and age Ritchie must surely have been able to give a lady of Alicia Vikander’s talents more to work with. She starts off ok then descends (slight spoiler) in the final third into classic, uninspired territory of the female needing to be rescued by the male leads. It’s tiresome and it would have been nice to mix this up. She had a frisson of chemistry with Armie Hammer’s character, so why couldn’t he have been the one needing to be rescued by her?
Secondly, despite me saying the story is incidental, the characters (and actors) still need something credible to sink their teeth into and give the audience a reason to care. For me, the story started well but lacked a bit of punch as it progressed. I found my attention wavering somewhat in the middle. (This never happend with Lock, Stock and Snatch – Mr Ritchie, take note.)
In general though, it’s a fun ride. An easy, popcorn fest of a movie. Standout for me was probably Armie Hammer’s performance, although Hugh Grant does turn up at the end and almost steal it.
So go see it.
Turn your brain off and your smile on and soak it in.
American psychologist Paul Ekman pioneered the study of human emotions creating an atlas of thousands of emotions. These can be boiled down into seven: anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.
For Disney Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, we start with the basics.
A child, Riley, is born. In her head she experiences her first emotion and Joy (Amy Poehler) steps into the void. A bubbly, bouncy, excitable character who controls a console in Riley’s head dictating how she reacts to any given situation. She’s quickly joined by Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Thus making up five of Ekman’s seven key emotions (surprise and contempt not making the cut being similar to anger and disgust I imagine, and for the film’s sake, seven are too many characters).
With this film, Pixar, in all their inventiveness, have laid out how the human mind works in a way that’s fully accessible to children and adults alike. For example, to begin with they introduce us to how memories are formed and how they’re attached to the emotions; glowing orbs that roll into Riley’s mind, each colour representing the overriding emotion linked to that memory. From a few scenes we quickly understand the concept of long and short-term memory and ‘core memories’ that form the building blocks of one’s personality, in this case Riley’s. These power the fundamental aspects of her personality: friendship, family, her love of hockey etc. We also understand how the five characters/emotions fight for supremacy when faced with certain situations and how they defer leadership to each other.
For example, for most of Riley’s life Joy has ruled the roost (and her emotions). Then the family move to San Francisco and Riley loses her friends and everything she has known and her personality changes irrevocably. Joy finds herself increasingly unable to control Riley’s mind and the other emotions. This was the building block – and brain child – of director Pete Docter, and the idea upon which he based the story.
As things go from bad to worse for Riley (at least in her head, moving to San Francisco can’t be that bad surely?), Joy and Sadness find themselves out of brain HQ and marooned in her long-term memory. So theirs becomes a journey movie, as they must get back in control of Riley’s mind and back to HQ. At least, that’s Joy’s plan. Sadness sort of tags along for the ride dragging her down.
The way Docter and Pixar personified these emotions in order to explain growing up, being a child and the loss of innocence, is remarkable and, at times, quite heartbreaking (the loss of Goofball Island brought a tear to my eye). Rarely has a film so succintly laid out the inner machinations of a person’s mind before. We get Imagination Land, the Train of Thought, Dream Production, even the corridor of Abstract Thought. It’s like Google decided to set up an office in someone’s mind and let loose (scarily, this may happen in the future).
And just to prove it’s not just Riley (and young girls) the filmmakers understand, at certain points they dive inside other character’s heads to hilarious effect. More jokes for the adults than the kids, but the balance between pleasing audiences old and young is never an easy thing, and here Docter and his team makes it look easy.
Like a mash up between Alice in Wonderland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is is a movie which tackles big themes and complex issues in an almost effortless way. It will make you laugh and cry (definitely if you’re a parent) and, as long as you understand the importance of – and why we need – both, then the filmmakers will, no doubt, feel their work is done. Hurrah Pixar, add this to your classics.