Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story
Directed by John Lasseter
Written by John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (phew)
(number 105)

– this review has sat in drafts since 2014 –

What the Hell, Joss Whedon? Who knew?

Toy Story was the first all CGI feature film, and the first film to be made by an at the time unheard of studio called Pixar. It’s easy to see why this film has a spot on the list with being those two firsts.

I remember going to see this movie in 1995 when it first came out, at the Hoyts on Manners Mall. It was a big enough event for me and my friends that we also went to KFC for lunch and I got a special edition Toy Story bucket souvenir thing. I remember us all being totally blown away by this movie. In a lot of ways the 90s were a sort of rennaissance for animated films, we had Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and this.

The story is an excellent buddy film and features awesome voice acting from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the two lead roles. Their sincerity sells the characters, it’d be a hard film to buy into. The story is similar to that of the Velveteen Rabbit which made me feel horribly guilty for not treating my toys with an equal amount of love and attention. This movie made it a bit worse I think, since it shows the toys feeling sad if they’re being neglected and Woody is so jealous of Buzz.. The guilt. The supreme guilt.

The animation of the human people is a bit on the ropey side, but the animation of the toys and the landscapes has held up well. I watched this on Blu ray on the new big HD tv that Wayne moved in with and it looked shiny and really good. I haven’t watched any of the Toy Story movies since the third one came out and broke my heart, and y’know, that’s coming on this list… all three of them are on the 500 list, although 3 is in top 100 so I won’t publish the review of that one for a while.

The movie also reminds me of The Brave Little Toaster, which has a similar amount of toy/object guilt and there’s also the whole creepy mutant toys Sid makes which are like the bizarre electrical goods in Brave Little Toaster. There’s a matching level of menace… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Brave Little Toaster but it’s fantastically traumatic and good.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is full of characters with real emotions like jealousy and compassion. It’s hard not to be able to relate to Woody’s fear of losing someone he loves so much, and the fear of the change to his lifestyle. And then there’s Buzz, so sure that he knows exactly who he is but then finding out that what Woody has been saying is true and he’s not what he thought he was.

Buzz’s self esteem dive is pretty relatable too.

The existence of Sid’s experimental toys are a bit of a moral lesson as well. Woody is terrified of them, calling them cannibals, but they are ultimately friendly to them. They demonstrate how you shouldn’t judge people by how they look or their circumstances – which is a great non-xenophobic/non-racist/non-ablieist message depending on how you read them. But this is also problematic because none of them talk at all. They interact with Woody and Buzz but only with noises and gestures, they are entirely without a voice. I guess the rest of the message past ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is deemed to be irrelevant? I don’t know.

Bechdel test: No, there are female characters: Hannah, Bo Peep, ‘Mom’ and Sid’s mom but none of them are in the same scenes as each other.

Best line:

Buzz: You are a sad strange little man.

and

Woody: There’s a snake in my boot!

and this…

State of Mind: I find it kind of sad making/hard to believe that all the other toys were so convinced Woody was evil. I mean, they did see him push Buzz out the window but the idea that your old friends could just turn on you like that is a bit chilling. On the other hand it’s a really lovely story and a good entertaining movie. Plus happy feels right at the end.

Watched movie count

Advertisements

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Written by Horton Foote based on the book by Harper Lee
(number 188)

content warning: the dog dies

This is one of those classics which has been weighing on me. I should have seen it before. I should have read the book. I have the book, on my shelf, unread and waiting. Well, I had a sick day and I didn’t want to watch something with subtitles so this was the pick. It’s just lovely. The whole movie has a gentle tone to it, a general niceness. I guess you get that with movies centred around kids.

I hate that the message of this film is still relevant :/ why can’t we leave racism in the past? I hate it. I hate how the news keeps having the names of people of colour gunned down in America. Maybe this movie should be compulsory viewing every week for every white American.

My favourite scene was Scout, Jem and Dil inadvertently breaking up the lynch mob. It’s such a perfect moment to show just how much the kids don’t understand about what’s going on. The tension is real when you see the men walk up on the courthouse, it’s been building. And you worry for Atticus because he’s in their way, but then the kids appear and it’s lovely? Like the best possible outcome of a lynch mob scene?

Overall it’s a great slice of life, a portrait of a small town, a coming of age/family story, a compelling court case and a feel good movie. It covers a lot, and it’s not short, but it never feels slow. The actors are all superb and the script is great.

I put a content warning up there for a dog dying but I have to point out that it’s like… very well handled, it makes sense for the plot and it’s not at all played for pain. It helps that much of the nasty stuff other than that happens off screen. Deaths and such, even the bit where Jem and Scout are jumped is somewhat obscured so you’re not too sure what’s going on.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, one hundred percent. Atticus Finch is a wonderful, kind and just lawyer who does his job conscientiously and with compassion. His pain when things go badly is real, it’s beautifully acted and your heart hurts for him watching it. Scout and Jem are great characters, and you can’t help but love them too. Then Boo, I had this part of the story spoiled for me (I think by reading Beautiful Creatures?) but still, it’s a wonderful character and sub plot.

Bechdel test: Yes Scout talks to Calpurnia about what she should be wearing and about the mad dog, also about Scouts manners at lunch with Walter but that’s partially about Walter.

Best line:

Atticus: If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

State of Mind: Loved it to bits. Will definitely watch again and bumping the book to the top of my to read pile. Will watch again, recommend to everyone, just generally really happy that I watched this one.

Watched movie count

The Black Cat (1934)

The Black Cat
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Peter Ruric “suggest by” a story by Edgar Allen Poe
(number 266)

Content warning: animal killed off screen

So this film is basically what Manos the Hands of Fate wanted to be. It’s the same kind of ‘you’re stranded in the wilderness and you have to take shelter in this weird ass house’ storyline. And the people who live in the house just happen to be involved in some dark doings.

You know you’re in for fun when both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are in it.

This movie is exactly what you’re expecting it to be. It actually gave me really big flashbacks to when the Incredibly Strange Film Festival used to be a thing at the Paramount Theatre in Wellington. This is just the kind of weird old movie they’d have dug out and screened.

I remember going to see an old Vincent Price horror there one year (which felt very similar), I must’ve been a student or just out of university. It was House on Haunted Hill and it was a bit more on the batty side than Black Cat was. But I loved the feeling of going to the theatre and seeing some of my similarly geeky friends, or seeing people way cooler than me, or just seeing a whole lot of people in for some schlocky good times. The screenings were often big on audience participation with people throwing out one liners or cheering and booing. It was a big thrill if you made a joke and other people laughed at it, although not all the one liners were particularly witty.

I suspect this film would be more enjoyable with some friends and some drinks, as it is it’s a pretty stock standard horror with a satan worshipping cult and a narrow escape for our lead couple. There’s some grisly bits, some gore but nothing compared to a horror movie made today.

Does it make me love the people? Sure, although they’re all so two dimensional. Joan and Peter are our heroes and we’re rooting for them. Gotta love Bela Lugosi as well.

Bechdel test: There’s Joan and Karen and although a few of the unnamed women in white kidnap Joan, we never see them talk to each other.

Best line:

Peter: this is a very tricky house, you know. The kind of place where I’d like to have company.

Joan: what happened last night? Did I do anything silly?
Peter: Silly? how could you do anything that wasn’t entirely lovely?

State of Mind: I mean, this was fine. It didn’t blow my mind, but I might be tempted to grab a couple of friends and some drinks and watch it again for the laughs. Probably I’d choose House on Haunted Hill instead just because it had a higher rate of WTF-ery going on.

Watched movie count

Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day
Directed by Harold Ramis
Written by Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin based on a story by Danny Rubin
(number 267)

I’m sure I must have, at some point seem a bunch of this movie. Like, it used to be on TV a lot in the nineties. I’m sure I’ve seen the start of it anyway. But I’ve never sat down and watched the whole thing. I seen a whole lot of media that riffs off this though. The most notable being the Mystery Spot episode of Supernatural.

Phil is your typical eighties yuppie, wanting everything to be about him, wanting to be noticed, and bored with the cutesy human interest story. Honestly? He’s not that bad. Sure he’s a little impatient with people but on the scale of garbage people he’s not particularly evil. I think if this got made again it’d probably have him being quite a lot grosser or unforgivable. But as it is, I guess it’s meant to be pretty gentle all round.

It’s pretty fun to watch him learn things about the town and the people in it. The way he tries out a few things: drinking, seducing women, dressing up in cowboy outfits, dying, etc.

He has enough days repeated that he learns how to play the piano really well. That’s kind of a horror movie thing right? He must’ve had thousands of that same day. According to this website he was stuck there for over eight years doing the same day over again, but it was initially meant to be ten thousand years which is pretty intense. A bit too many days, a bit much on the horror side.

Does it make me love the people? Sure. Rita is a sweetheart and Phil learns to do good deeds and get out of his trap. I dunno if there’s enough screentime for any of the others to really get to know them. In terms of loving the human condition it does make you think about what you would do if you were stuck in that situation. Learning a musical instrument does seem like an excellent use of time. I reckon I’d read lots and lots of books as well. I could get through this whole 500 list in one day!

Bechdel test: No, Andie Macdowell’s Rita and in fact, all the other women, only talk to Phil.

Best line:
Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.

State of Mind: totally fine, enjoyable Romantic Comedy with a bit of a sci fi twist. Pretty fun! I may even watch it again on a sick day or something. Watching this movie did give me a whole lot of nostalgia for the various comedies I watched on network TV with my family in the nineties. Things like Joe Vs the Volcano and Ghostbusters and Four Weddings, which all have this same kind of cynical veneer over a very sweet and gentle heart.

Watched movie count

The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover
Directed by Todd Phillips
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
(number 271)

It wouldn’t be wrong (or exaggerating) to say I was dreading watching this movie more than I dreaded watching Se7en. Here’s my assumptions about this movie: a bunch of privileged, self assured white dudes do a whole lot of terrible shit that we’re somehow meant to applaud because masculinity is toxic and gross. The women will be sex symbols or nagging love interests (also white and privileged) and I’ll have to look at Bradley Cooper’s face, which I hate doing.

So right away during the answerphone messages we get ‘text messages are gay’ so.. off to a great start there. (also that makes zero sense). Then we have the classic ‘tailor touching junk’ freak out, immediately followed by a hug with the guy who freaked out about the junk touching wearing only a jock strap or something and I just. Okay. Either they’re framing him as closeted gay or he just had a total personality switch in three seconds. Let’s see.. Ohhhh funny, he has some kind of child based conviction where he’s not supposed to be near schools. So funny.

Oh cool, Bradley Cooper is a teacher who steals from the kids in his class, great.. I guess he’s not quite as privileged as his friends, except then he immediately is a total asshole to both his students and his friends so. Great. More homophobic language :/

And the old feminist controlling wife who has to be lied to. Yep, so far this movie is not changing my expectations. And of course this is the one who married a stripper and then freaks out hard about it.

Okay so this movie is almost exactly Dude, Where’s My Car but more adult. I.. somehow didn’t expect that.

Does it make me love the people? … I loved Mike Tyson. Okay I kind of loved Alan. Like, he’s a loser, and there’s a lot of stereotypical loser stuff, but him singing the three best friends song was super cute.

Bechdel test: let’s see. It’s hard to find the names of the women, it’s not something that they use much when there are women. Jade is probably the main woman and she is constantly referred to as a whore even though she’s a sort of great character.

Best line: ehhhhh have this one.

Phil: Stu, we don’t have time for this. Look, let’s go hook up with Doug, and we’ll deal with the baby later.
Stu: Phil, we’re not gonna leave a baby in the room, there’s a fucking tiger in the bathroom!
Phil: It’s not our baby.
Alan: Yeah, I gotta side with Stu on this one.

Or… tigers love pepper, they hate cinnamon.

State of Mind: I am confused about how much people said they loved this movie. Like, I guess the mystery solving – unravelling the stuff that happened the night before was sort of interesting but… I did not enjoy this film, and I will not be watching it again, or any of the sequels. This is one of the movies on the list I dreaded watching. Why is the wedding singer so aggressively sexual? Why is Bradley Cooper so happy with his wife and kid when they get home? Whyyyy….Okay but yay it’s over.

Watched movie count

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Steven Spielberg and Ian Watson based on the short story by Brian Aldiss
(number 274)

I saw this at the movies when it first came out, and probably once or twice again since. I had put off watching it due to being traumatised by the Flesh Fair sequence.

Ah yes, the advanced future where everyone wears grey all the time, the homes are filled with ceramics and chrome and wives stay at home all day doing housework while the husband goes off to work.

As soon as Martin is introduced the abuse starts. The first thing we see him doing is picking up Teddy by the ear as he says ‘Martin, no’, then he makes Teddy choose between the two of them. The way Teddy is animated makes this sequence pretty heartbreaking, although undercut with a laugh when Teddy very wisely chooses to follow Mommy out of the room. Mommy’s casual, amused ‘are they torturing you?’ seems to be a foreshadowing.

Monica’s choice to abandon David in the woods rather than return him to the factory he was made in is supposed to show her humanity, her inability to destroy something she cares about, but ultimately is the most monstrous choice she could have made. She even seems to know it, telling him ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world’ before driving off. She had to know that things would be hard for David out there with no one but Teddy.

The Flesh Fair sequence remains horrid. Is it a coincidence that the first thing they destroy is a clearly coded black man? However maybe because I was prepped for it, or maybe because I watched so many horrid things since I last saw this movie, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Plus, Brendan Gleeson! Still not pleasant to watch though. The joy in the destruction of others… horrible.

The story is somewhat meandering. It’s a very long running time for a film which only really has four settings and not too much story. It needs a bit of an edit, although the SFX have held up remarkably well for something seventeen years old. The not quite real make up job on Joe is fantastic as well.

Does it make me love the people? Hayley Joel Osment does a fantastic job in this role. It’s very hard not to feel for him even as he’s being creepy and appearing noiselessly or dangerously getting something wrong. I also really love Jude Law as Gigolo Joe and Teddy – the actual humans in the movie are a lot harder to care about, but ultimately it’s not a film about them.

Bechdel test: No, although there is Monica and a handful of other named women almost all the speaking roles in this film are men. Weird really… no need for Martin to have only friends who are boys, or for every scientist to be male… now that I think of it the women are only in two roles: Mothering (Monica, Blue Fairy, the nanny at the Flesh Fair) and sexual (Gigalo Jane, the women hiring Joe.) The only exception is the little girl in the flesh fair who is supposed to be David’s mirror I think.

Best line:

Gigolo Joe: She loves what you do for her, as my customers love what it is I do for them. But she does not love you, David. She cannot love you. You are neither flesh nor blood. You are not a dog a cat or a canary. You were designed and built specific like the rest of us… and you are alone now only because they tired of you… or replaced you with a younger model… or were displeased with something you said or broke. They made us too smart, too quick and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left is us. That’s why they hate us. And that is why you must stay here… with me.

State of Mind: It remains an enjoyable movie but I feel like these themes and ideas are being explored better in TV now, notably Humans and Black Mirror. I understand Westworld as well but I haven’t watched any of that yet. This film is a moment in time, and no doubt was influential and important for the genre of sci fi and AI movies. I feel like yeah, there’s better out there now.

Watched movie count

Das Boot (1981)

Das Boot
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Wolfgang Petersen based on the novel by Lothar G. Buchheim
(number 272)

It’s pretty interesting to see a German film about the crap that happened during the second World War, so I can see how this is the massive film hit that it is. Plus, yes. I have heard that this film is claustrophobic and I can see it as soon as they’re on board the ship. The sets are so close, and there’s so many people and things everywhere. What a hideous existence.

Urgh the food getting worse as the movie goes on D: D: horrorrr…

That one navy officer did a great Josephine Baker impression though. I knew exactly what he was doing and he looked the part.

I can see why this movie is as long as it is.. The way you are made to feel the dreariness of the waiting around, and the sudden bursts of action, or the staying perfectly quiet while the ships are searching for them. You couldn’t do that in a movie with quick cuts and a short running time. It needs time to play out, time to feel. Time to watch the faces of the sailors as they do these things.

I have seen a lot of rough scenes in war movies. a lot of images that will stick with you… but the sequence with the burning ship.. holy christ. It’s one of those things where I guess I’d never thought it through. Of course a submarine cannot take prisoners, there’s barely enough room for the crew. But I’d never considered it. Not until it was shown like that.

Does it make me love the people? Yes. It’s a horrible situation they’re in. Not only at war, but stuffed in together in horrible conditions with heavy machinery all around, no room to move your elbows without hitting another man and none of them able to wash or clean their clothes. The food slowly going off as the voyage continues and then… yeah, the British have stopped making mistakes, so here’s a boat full of young men writing letters to their loved ones and I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die.

There are a lot of moments when I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die. Then there’s the fake out ending where I got very excited about how they had an unexpected happy ending and return home but of course… no. No, there’s still a war on.

Bechdel test: No women on the boat, don’t be silly.

Best line:

It’s better to take photos after the mission, on the return home.

or maybe “AALLLAAAAAAAAARM!!”

State of Mind: I genuinely enjoyed this movie although I didn’t expect to. It is without a doubt a rough, horrifying movie and I suspect pretty close to things that happened. I may even watch it again at some point! I’m sure I missed some stuff when I forgot I should be watching the screen for subtitles. The battle sequences are great, the quiet sequences are tense as fuck and it’s brilliantly acted. Nice work, classic movie!

Watched movie count