Tag Archives: film

My Thoughts on: Peter Pan (1953)

Prior to getting a copy of Peter Pan for Christmas this year, it had been a number of years since I’d seen the film, so it was nice to sit down and revisit one of my favorite Disney films. Very loosely based on J.M. Barrie’s novel, Peter Pan follows the Darling children: Wendy (Kathryn Beaumont), John (Paul Collins), and Michael (Tommy Luske) as they fly off to Neverland with Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll) and Tinkerbell for a series of adventures.

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Upon arriving at Neverland Peter has to deal with his long-time nemesis Captain Hook (Hans Conried), who is bound and determined to get revenge on Peter for cutting off his hand some years ago and feeding it to the Crocodile, who has been following him ever since in anticipation of getting the rest of him someday. The scenes with the Crocodile are probably my favorite apart from the flying sequences. You’re never quite sure when or where the Crocodile is going to show up, and Hook’s reactions are priceless each time he hears the “tick tock” of the clock inside the Crocodile’s belly.

Speaking of Captain Hook, he’s one of my favorite Disney villains. Hook was created at a time when Disney took a more comedic approach to their villains, so despite his many, MANY threats (including shooting a pirate in the middle of his cadenza), you never really get the impression that Hook is a major threat, because Peter will always find a way to get the upper hand. Also, I have to add that Mr. Smee is also one of my favorite characters: he’s so nice and polite that one wonders how he ended up on a pirate ship. Throughout the story, Smee tries again and again to get Hook to give up his pursuit of Peter Pan and go back to sea, and finally at the end he gives up and heads off in his own boat.

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The film does contain a number of what are now considered troubling sequences with Indians (the film employs practically every stereotype associated with Native Americans). As a child these scenes didn’t bother me because I didn’t know any better, and even now I don’t let it bother me too much only because I remind myself that the film was made in 1953 when things were very different culturally. Years afterward the animators admitted that if they could do it all over again they would animate the tribe differently.

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I feel very badly for Wendy throughout this film: she’s so eager to head off to Neverland but her adventure is hardly what she expects. First of all, she gets shot down (literally) by the Lost Boys; then the mermaids (whom she expressly wanted to see) try to drown her while Peter laughs; and worst of all, Peter ditches Wendy to celebrate with Tiger Lily. It’s no wonder Wendy decides to head for home not long afterward. I do like the reveal at the end that George Darling (the father) vaguely remembers going on his own adventure with Peter Pan and the flying pirate ship. It’s a twist that breaks the trope of parents reassuring the child that whatever happened was “just a dream.” Because in this case both parents take notice of the flying ship, which means Wendy was telling the truth!

One last thought: I love the scene at the end when Tinkerbell covers the pirate ship with pixie dust and it flies into the sky.

What do you think about Disney’s Peter Pan? Was it a favorite when you were growing up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

I’ve known about A Fistful of Dollars for years from its reputation as a shameless rip-off of Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo (1961). I thought I’d seen at least part of it before, but it turns out I was remembering The Good, The Bad and the Ugly instead. So as it turns out, this was my first viewing of the film.

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If you’ve ever seen Yojimbo, the similarities between that film and A Fistful of Dollars become obvious almost immediately. A lone gunslinger rides into a rural town that is being dominated by two rival gangs. The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) decides to eliminate both groups by playing them off against one another. Except for minor plot differences, this is the exact story presented in Yojimbo. One difference I couldn’t help but notice is that in A Fistful of Dollars, the gunslinger initially allies with the Rojo brothers (analogous to Ushitora and his brothers); in Yojimbo, Sanjuro initially joins Sebei’s side (analogous to the Baxter family).

Now excluding the fact that this film is a rip-off, A Fistful of Dollars is a really good film. It wasn’t the first spaghetti western ever made, but it was the first to become really big, which is why director Sergio Leone is often credited as the founder of the genre. Eastwood’s performance as the Man with No Name is really something to see: he doesn’t say much but his expressions say plenty. I’m still not quite sure if he enjoys what he’s doing or if he just sees it as something that needs to be done.

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Ennio Morricone’s score for the film provides a perfect complement to the action though, in atypical fashion, a large portion of the score was actually written before most of the film was created. I like how whenever the gunslinger does something like sits in a chair or shifts his cigar in his mouth, the music plays a little trill that comments on it.

If you’ve never seen a spaghetti western before, A Fistful of Dollars is a good place to start. One word of warning though: the film is obviously dubbed (it was filmed silent and the voices looped in after the fact) so yes you’re going to see mouths that don’t match up to the words. In fact the actors in this film spoke a plethora of languages: there were Germans, Austrians, Italians, Spaniards and Americans of course. And most if not all spoke their lines in their own languages (I can only imagine what filming a scene was like).

Let me know what you think about A Fistful of Dollars in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film/TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: The Favourite (2018)

Having not seen any of Yorgos Lanthimos’ work before now, I went into The Favourite excited, but not sure what to expect. The film caught my attention because it’s set during the reign of Queen Anne of Great Britain (1665-1714), a royal that you don’t usually see depicted in film. The film is based on the true story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the struggle between two of her court favorites: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), her cousin. The film traces Abigail’s rise at court alongside Sarah’s simultaneous fall along with the various intrigues going on at the British court in the early 18th century.

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The film is undeniably beautiful, both visually and musically (the soundtrack features a number of classical compositions that would have been appropriate for the time period). I love the dresses that Sarah and Abigail wear. I also like the attire Sarah wears whenever she goes shooting or riding (the tricorn hat and the grey coat). Most of the costumes are black, white or shades of grey, and I like that generally muted color palette.

One thing that surprised me is how sexual the film was. I knew there was going to be some romantic intrigue from the previews, but I had no idea (or I wasn’t paying enough attention) that there would be so much between Sarah and the Queen (and later Abigail and the Queen!) Watching Sarah and Abigail each manipulate Anne in their own way leads you to feel nothing but sympathy for the unhappy monarch. Having lost 17 children, all Anne wants is to be loved but she certainly doesn’t get any from Sarah, who at times is downright abusive in her behavior. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel any sympathy for Sarah or not (I certainly didn’t).

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Overall I enjoyed The Favourite very much, but I have some trouble with the ending. Given the story up to that point, the last scene felt like a strange way to end the film and I wasn’t quite sure what message I was supposed to receive from it (though I suspect a rewatch would help to enlighten me). That still didn’t stop me from enjoying the film and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it yet. Colman, Stone and Weisz fully deserve all of the nominations they’ve received thus far.

What did you think of The Favourite? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Robin Hood (2018)

Okay, right from the beginning I should clarify that I haven’t actually seen Robin Hood (and I probably won’t until it hits Redbox) but given what I know about this film, I HAVE to talk about it. I first heard about this film months ago when I heard that there was a really bad trailer circulating on the Internet. When I first saw it for myself, I was half convinced it had to be a joke; there’s no way they could have made a Robin Hood film THIS bad…right? Well, actually yes they did and the more previews I saw the worse it got.

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The Middle Ages looked NOTHING like this

First let’s talk about the setting. As most people know, Robin Hood is traditionally set in or around the reign of King Richard the Lionheart (so between 1189 and 1200 CE give or take a few years), which places the story firmly in the Middle Ages. Knowing that, take a look at those previews again and tell me with a straight face that this film even loosely resembles that time period. Nottingham bears no resemblance to a medieval city, in fact in the previews it looks more like something from a post-apocalyptic future (or a generic fantasy film). I’m not saying a Robin Hood film has to be 100% period-authentic, but they’re not even trying with these locations OR the costumes. The machine-stitching is painfully obvious and nothing remotely resembles the era they should be in. I groaned aloud when I saw the footage from a party that Robin attended in his public persona as a nobleman. The costumes the ladies are wearing are totally inappropriate for the era (no woman would be caught dead in anything so revealing). I referenced the location looking post-apocalyptic before, I find myself wondering if they meant to make this a futuristic post-apocalypse retelling of the story and just forgot to tell the audience?

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As cool as it looks, Molotov cocktails were NOT a thing in the Middle Ages

Second, we need to talk about those arrows. It goes without saying that arrows do NOT work like that! They’re not that powerful (not at that size anyway) and you can’t fire them THAT quickly (I don’t care if it is a Robin Hood movie, no one is THAT good). This was another thing that really bothered me about the film, and that’s the pacing, it’s much too fast. A Robin Hood story can be many things, but a fast-paced action thriller is not typically one of them.

Third, where is Prince John in all of this? One of the key components of the Robin Hood legend has always involved the outlaw fighting against the tyranny of Prince John until King Richard can return. The only reason Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves got away with excluding the character is because they had Alan Rickman playing the Sheriff of Nottingham. I’m not saying Ben Mendelsohn isn’t a good actor, it’s just I’ve seen him play this kind of role several times before and no offense but it’s starting to wear thin.

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Lastly, I have to comment on something I heard from reviews of the film. I read that Robin is sent to the Crusades via a “draft notice” pinned to his front gate. Are you KIDDING me?? This is not how the Crusades worked! There was no draft for noblemen in the Middle Ages, either you went on Crusade or you didn’t! It’s like they did no research whatsoever for this film and didn’t think anyone would notice (spoiler alert: we’ve definitely noticed). All reports indicate that Robin Hood is going to be the biggest box office bomb of the year and I’m not surprised in the slightest. I knew this film would bomb the moment I saw the first teaser. Hopefully I’ll get my own turn to eviscerate the film once I can rent it from Redbox sooner rather than later (and as it’s bombing badly that shouldn’t be a long wait). For now, those are my thoughts on Robin Hood but I’m very curious to know what you think about it. Have you gone to see it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) is a film I’d not heard of before yesterday, but as I was searching for Criterion films to add to my collection, the film’s plot caught my attention. The film, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, is modeled after a kabuki play (classic Japanese dance-drama) and tells the story of a remote village where anyone who reaches the age of 70 must be taken to Narayama (a distant mountain) and left there to die of exposure. Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a 69 year old grandmother who has resolved to make the journey to Narayama when the new year comes, but first she wants to make sure her family’s affairs are in order.

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From the start the film looks like it’s a stage play: a narrator introduces the story and narrates various sections through song. I was worried at first that I would find a narrator distracting, but it flows in and out of the film so seamlessly that after a while you don’t even notice. I also like how there’s not even a pretense of realism: the action is clearly taking place on a stage and when a scene is done, the background will literally fall away to reveal the next scene.

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While the film shows various aspects of village life throughout the year, I feel that most of all the film displays the contrast between Orin, who happily accepts her fate, and Mata  (Seiji Miyaguchi), a man past 70 who refuses to journey to Narayama, even though he shames his family (and himself) by refusing to go. The difference in how they meet their ends couldn’t be more different: while Orin is left serenely awaiting death on the mountain, Mata is dragged kicking and screaming by his son, and finally resists so much that he falls off a cliff. The message couldn’t be more clear: not following tradition only leads to heartbreak and pain. You’re also left feeling nothing but contempt for Mata after seeing how calmly Orin accepts what must be done.

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The one thing about this film that confuses me however, is the ending. After Orin is left on Narayama, her son returns to his new wife and she consoles him with the knowledge that they can travel to Narayama together someday (as they are the same age). The scene abruptly cuts to a black and white shot of a train pulling in at a station, presumably where the old village used to stand. I’m sure we’re meant to gather something from this transition to the present, but I’m not sure what that message is supposed to be.

The Ballad of Narayama is a beautiful film that tells a very sad story. You’ll definitely be in tears by the end. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

*note, this song refers to Native Americans as Indians and “Injuns” which is politically incorrect now, but was considered okay then.

Now that Wendy and her brothers have safely arrived in Neverland and met the Lost Boys, it’s time to set off on the adventures Peter promised them. While Peter takes Wendy to meet the mermaids, John and Michael and the Lost Boys set off to locate the Indian tribe (with John assuming the role of leader). As the Lost Boys march off, they sing a song about “following the leader.”

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Peter Pan “Following the Leader” (1953)

Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee day
Tee dum, tee dee it’s part of the game we play
Tee dum, tee dee, the words are easy to say
Just a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle ee do tee dum
We’re one for all, and all of us out for fun
We march in line and follow the other one
With a teedle ee do a teedle ee do tee dum

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Following the leader, the leader, the leader
We’re following the leader
Wherever he may go
We’re out to fight the Injuns, the Injuns, the Injuns
We’re out to fight the Injuns
Because he told us so

Tee dum, tee dee a teedle ee do tee day
We march along and these are the words we say:
Tee dum, tee dee, a teedle de dum dee-day
Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day

Oh, a teedle ee dum a teedle ee-do-tee-day

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The boys traveling through Neverland is like any adventure you ever dreamed of having as a child. They cross rivers, swing down vines and unwittingly pass by several animals (a hippo, monkeys, a rhinoceros and even a large bear). Neverland is full of all kinds of terrain, from the jungle, to the savannah and ending in a forest filled with pine trees.

The song comes to an abrupt end when John discovers a pair of “Indian tracks” in the middle of a clearing. Looking back, it seems obvious that this was a trap for the Lost Boys from the start because how else could their be two footprints side-by-side? If someone is walking normally, one footprint should be in front of the other. But instead they’re next to each other like someone was just standing still. Clearly this is meant to be a trap to delay the Lost Boys until the tribe can close in and capture them (which they do).

I’ve always liked “Following the Leader,” it’s a fun interlude before the drama with Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. What do you think of this song? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Peter Pan “What Made the Red Man red?” (1953)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Katrina” (1949)

In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is the awkward yet likable enough school teacher in the village of Sleepy Hollow. He leads a contented life teaching the children while shamelessly flirting with most of the women in town when, one day…he happens to notice the beautiful Katrina van Tassel. Katrina is described as the most beautiful woman in town and she has every unmarried man in Sleepy Hollow wrapped around her finger (without even trying). Naturally Ichabod promptly falls head over heels for the young heiress (though the narrator states he’s equally interested in her fortune as much as her looks), but the short song about Katrina indicates that she’s not as innocent as she looks:

Oo oo oo oo
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
Once you have met that little coquette Katrina
You won’t forget Katrina
But nobody yet has ever upset Katrina
That cute coquette Katrina
You can do more with Margaret or Helena
Or Anne or Angelina
But Katrina will kiss and run
To her a romance is fun
With always another one to start
And then when you’ve met that little coquette Katrina
You’ve lost your heart

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Katrina is described as “that little coquette,” meaning she loves to flirt. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a later line forebodes that Ichabod’s quest for Katrina’s hand will end badly: “but Katrina will kiss and run/To her a romance is fun/With always another one to start…” I take this line to mean that Katrina has no problem playing with men’s feelings and doesn’t take declarations of love seriously, which can be hurtful if the person expressing those feelings is genuine. And believe me Katrina is taking full advantage of men’s feelings for her, like having them assemble a picnic or carrying all of her packages. It IS funny though to see how quickly Ichabod is smitten by Katrina: one look and he puts a chicken on his head and starts eating his hat!

What do you think of “Katrina”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow “Headless Horseman” (1949)

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

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