| April 8, 2021
The opening of Mulan, after a magic drone ride through the lush, green Chinese countryside with some wise male voice over about the story we are about to embark on, reminded me of Beauty & The Beast. The camera swoops into a Hakka walled village, establishing the town of personalities and, indeed, Mulan, who is chasing a chicken.
It isn’t long before dad is telling little Mulan to hide her light under a bushel in order to be a traditional girl in a traditional world. This fills the void of an opening musical number like “Belle,” in which everyone opines on the beautiful, quirky girl with her face always in a book. (I bet she could handle a chicken pretty well too.)
Then, as fast a running bird, the movie turns into an Ang Lee/Zhang Yimou high-end chop-socky movie with some great Chinese action stars and the man who was once Bruce Lee.
The rest of the way through Mulan, the film hops back and forth between the two ideas. Fish out of water meets a legitimate Chinese war movie with the requisite touch of magic.
There is something about the reality of Mulan being a real-life teenage girl that changes the dynamic of the whole experience, as compared to the animated film. Director Niki Caro never mocks… never goes for the easy gag…. never forgets that her Mulan is a real life young woman.
As a result, there is something truly dangerous about this young woman pretending to be a boy to defend the honor of her family (and ultimately, to do much more than that). The frathouse culture that sometimes comes of military training is as uncomfortable as the occasional threats that lying to could lead to death or worse. But Mulan is not a sexualized girl at all, though the actress is beautiful. Caro & Co. don’t indulge in anachronisms. Nor is she a plain Jane who finds her beauty when she takes off her glasses or her kimono or her battle gear. She is from a time long past and she feels real.
There is a lot of classic moviemaking… characters you are interested in talking for extended periods. And it’s lovely. Caro’s films, large-budget and small, have included this. As impressive as Mandy Walker’s cinematography is, the intimacy brings the magic.
And then… it’s just fun. Big canvas. Solid action. Plenty of weird Shaw Bros stuff done with a great deal more sophistication. There’s the wacky boys in military training, a dumb jock and a round-faced goof amongst them, and – hee-hee – the cute one.
Yes… She will only become a great fighter when she rocks out with her… uh… hair down. This is no spoiler. And there are moments that read as silly. But that is part of the joy.
The reason the movie works – and it really works – is that you want to believe, you like this rather silent young woman, you are rooting for her to find her higher self, and Ms. Caro never gets in your way, making the experience too sweet or too sour.
There’s even a Marilyn Monroe homage… but I’ll let you find that.
After my 10-year-old watched the film with us (“What do you mean there’s no Mushu!?!?”), we turned on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but he wasn’t ready for the subtlety of that one. Executioners from Shaolin is probably a better fit. But he had a great time, even without Mushu.
As for whether it’s worth $30 to see now instead of in December as part of the regular Disney+ package… that’s up to you. I can promise you won’t feel ripped off by the movie. Value for the dollar is in the eye of the beholder.
| April 8, 2021
| March 25, 2021
| March 16, 2021
"Will it matter in No Time to Die that the state-of-the-art Bond gadgetry is last year’s model? Have In the Heights and West Side Story missed the post-"Hamilton" wave they might have been hoping to catch? Will it be weird seeing a 16-year-old Finn Wolfhard in Ghostbusters: Afterlife when he’s pushing 19 in real life? In the broader sense, will any of these delayed movies feel truly fresh?"
| April 12, 2021
"Even former assistants who survived their tenure with Rudin and became executives themselves described the tough skin they developed as an asset. Emotional and mental anguish—reportedly at minimum wage—were a given. “You’d always forgive him because he’s so smart, cares so much, and he gets movies made that no one else can,” explained Amy Pascal, one of Rudin’s former assistants who became a major studio executive herself, in 2008. “I attribute an enormous amount of whatever success I’ve been able to attain directly because of how I saw him operate,” the producer Craig Perry, another Rudin acolyte, said in 2005. “Does he yell? Sure. Do I yell? Sure.” Rudin’s workplace behavior may have been an open secret, but open secrets eventually build cultures—in this case, one where tolerating mistreatment is a fundamental ingredient for success. And that culture was reflected in the press: Many stories about Rudin casually downplayed or reframed his nastiness. Tempestuousness was excused as 'behind-the-scenes excesses of passion.'"
April 12, 2021
What A Brit Misses
—Discovering that you and your viewing partner had wildly different views about the merits of a film and knowing that a treat of discussing is about to unfold over several drinks.
—Discovering during the film that you and your viewing partner have equally eye-rolling disdain for something and anticipating picking over the cadaver afterwards.
—Discovering you and your viewing partner both loved what you watched and sitting in awe and ‘aw shucks’ at some of the best moments.
—Holding a new beloved’s hand to the point of discomfort.
—The drowning feeling of being sucked under into sleep in NFT1.
—Being absolutely slathered in a film, emerging alone into the night, carrying its mood with you.
—Blinking back into the light during a daytime show, realising how little time you’ve been away in actual hours.
—The magnetic connection between audiences that can cry and laugh together.
April 11, 2021
BAFTAs: Nomadland, Zhao, McDormand, Hopkins; Soul; Screenplays, Promising Young Woman, The Father; Editing, Sound of Metal; Cinematography, Nomadland; Another Round, Not In English; Youn Yuh-jung, Daniel Kaluuya; My Octopus Teacher; Score, Soul
April 11, 2021
| February 15, 2021
| December 13, 2019
| December 4, 2019
| December 4, 2019