Ah the naughty Julie Andrews movie. This spot is filled by The Hole which I reviewed all the way back here. So instead of Keira Knightley flashing her boobs, we get Julie Andrews doing a striptease.
There, now that I’ve got my click bait, this is a film that’s perfectly fine. Not amazing and not terrible, hence why it isn’t on the main list. The real story is almost in the production of it. It’s one of those shoots whose troubles behind the scenes created material for a whole film itself (a 1980 release called SOB). Shot in four different countries, in production for two years and costing Paramount about $25 million (equaling $158 million in today’s money) – the result was an extravaganza that covered multiple genres. Spy, romance, slapstick comedy, partial thriller and even musical – this film tried to do it all. And all it did do was lose money for Paramount and dent the careers of those involved for a while. Blake Edwards had the opportunity to recut the film in the 90s – knocking about 29 minutes off the run time. But since that cut is hard to track down, the lengthy 2.5 hour cut is the one I’ll be going off.
I’m currently trying to picture a world where the following happened:
A Disney film was nominated for thirteen Oscars, including Best Picture.
The Best Actress award went to a woman in her first film – who was not playing ugly, disabled, a Holocaust survivor or a real person.
The Oscars were not just for the technical categories (make-up, hair styling etc.)
This Oscar nominated film was also the most profitable release of the year.
And yet that’s exactly what happened in 1965. Mary Poppins took Hollywood by storm – in the days before the huge divide between movies people watched and those that won awards. The film was a mainstay in our house when I was a child. I don’t remember watching it religiously like some of the other Disney videos we had, but it was a favourite. When I was around 14-ish I started re-watching a lot of my childhood loves – but this one got left out. I didn’t even see it again until I was nineteen. Back then I would have dismissed it as a shallow kids’ movie. But now in my mid-20s many of my favourite films are intended for children or a family audience – I happily saw Paddington 2 as soon as it came out. I believe that a lot of children’s films tend to have deeper meanings than we give them credit for. The lessons are often simple but very meaningful. The Little Mermaid teaches that being an overprotective parent can be dangerous, Beauty & the Beast teaches to look beyond appearances and Aladdin has some important lessons about friendship and trust. So what does Mary Poppins teach us?
Y’all may not know this but I was f’in OBSESSED with Stephen King books in my teens. From when I was fourteen to when I was seventeen I read Carrie, The Shining, Christine, IT, Danse Macabre, Night Shift, Firestarter and parts of Salem’s Lot, Bag of Bones, and Misery. I was a teen obsessed. Out of all the books I’d have to say Carrie was my favourite, or at least the one that resonated with me the most. I’ll spoiler you by saying that the 1976 film adaptation is not on my list – and it was my first experience with an adaptation that failed to live up to the book (do not get me started on The Shining either). I never read the anthology that today’s film comes from, and I knew very little about the film when I watched it. I was as surprised as most to discover that it came from a Stephen King book. And I didn’t watch it until I’d entered my twenties. After finishing it, I even went “why the hell didn’t I watch this earlier?” – because this would have been the perfect coming of age story for me to relate to (even if I wasn’t a teenager in 1950s Oregon). Four different young boys opening up and showing their vulnerability…I could have learned the ‘men can be vulnerable’ lesson five years earlier dammit! But even though my love of reading Stephen King slowly died off as I became less angsty, it doesn’t mean I can’t love his work in other ways.
Ah so we’ve come to Alfred Hitchcock again. But – and this is something I only found out as I was doing research for this review – he didn’t consider this part of his resume. Rebecca was his first American film and – although he had made plenty of hits in his native UK – he was pretty unknown over in Hollywood. And David O Selznick – producer and studio head of United Artists – had plenty of input as well. Knowing this instantly explains why the two adaptations of Daphne du Maurier stories I’ve reviewed (the other one being The Birds) differ in faithfulness. Hitch did his own thing in The Birds and it barely resembles its inspiration. For Rebecca he had United Artists looking over his shoulder making sure he was staying true to the book. Regardless of the amount of proverbial (and possibly literal) mud slinging that happened during filming – and how much the film went over budget – this marked Hitch’s first (and only) Best Picture win at the Oscars. It’s one of his best remembered films, and I had it hyped for me for years before I finally saw it. My mother – who taught me as much about Alfred Hitchcock as the internet has – has a high opinion of this film and has probably been looking forward to this review the most. So shall we go to Manderley?
It’s funny to think how the trends of film have changed since I first started writing this list back at the start of 2016. Movie musicals have suddenly come back into fashion thanks to the mega hit that was La La Land. R-rated superhero movies are now a thing, thanks to the success of Deadpool. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been getting lukewarm reactions with its Phase Two films but it’s now back in prominence thanks to the well-received Phase Three entries. One genre that’s well and truly out is YA dystopia. In 2012 when paranormal romances following Twilight’s lead were coasting, The Hunger Games was the newest hit. And suddenly other Young Adult books taking place in dystopian sci-fi settings were put up for adaptation. As with the Twilight imitators, most of these flopped. Only Divergent managed to succeed, and indeed I had just become a Divergent geek when I started this list. But it seemed there would be a holy trinity amongst the YA dystopias. And with The Hunger Games and Divergent featuring female leads and teetering on the edge of that ghetto, there was of course a market for ‘the same but with boys’ to step into. So let’s also step into the maze.
“Favorite moviesdon’t have to be perfect movies. Like in any relationship, Love is what makes them stick around.”
I felt as if the halfway point in this list was a good place to put that quote in from Guillermo del Toro. I read it not too long after I started doing this, and it’s been a very helpful guide along the way. There are times when critics don’t like a particular film. And there are times when audiences don’t like it either. You find yourself as apparently the only person on the planet who thinks it’s good, in spite of its flaws. The ‘popular opinion decides quality’ mentality can often make you second-guess yourself. After all, we’ve all found ourselves guilty of looking down on someone because they dislike a particular thing – or even worse if they like it. Hence why a lot of twenty-somethings these days will be reluctant to admit that they didn’t think the Twilight movies were that bad when they were teenagers. Liking or disliking one particular thing doesn’t say anything about your intelligence or your character after all. So the halfway point is going to be marked with another Disney film – the first one I remember in fact. I was around four years old when this came out, and I remember going to see it in the cinemas. I may have been too young to see any of the preceding Renaissance films, so this could very well have been the first cinema trip for me ever.
Can I just say that we are in a golden age of genre films right now? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is generating billions of dollars off films that are completely fantastical – and yet are legitimately good, as well as being critically acclaimed. Two of HBO’s biggest shows are fantasy (Game of Thrones) and sci-fi (Westworld) respectively. This year’s Best Picture win went to The Shape of Water – a film about a woman falling in love with a friggin sea monster! Just three years ago a Mad Max movie got ten Oscar nominations. Even horror films these days range from great social commentaries – Get Out, Don’t Breathe, A Quiet Place – to simply well made thrill rides – IT, Annabelle: Creation, Insidious. It took years for genre films to earn respect from critics though. I remember a line from The Jane Austen Book Club (I watched it for research, now stop giggling) where a character dismisses sci-fi stories, saying she prefers to read things about real people. The logic the world used to be running on was that normal, well-adjusted people were interested in normal, conventional dramas, comedies and action films. Only losers who lived in their parents’ basements and had never known the touch of a woman could possibly be interested in anything else. While the acceptance of geek culture was a slow thing, I can point to one man who helped change a lot of people’s minds.
Roger Ebert was a film critic who just loved films in general. While reading some critics’ reviews, you can get the impression that they’re just waiting to go to town on anything bad. But good ol’ Roger was pretty lenient. His critiques always tried to find something positive, and when he slated a film you knew it was bad. Or at least offensive in some way. He was a geek and proud, with a real appreciation of Japanese anime – Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies are on his ‘Great Movies List’. He also loved science fiction, and it’s his love for the genre that helped shine some respect on the film I am reviewing today.