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.
My Little Pony is a franchise that pretty much everyone knows. It started back in the 80s as a line of toy horses with brushable manes. Despite being intended as a unisex toy, they quickly developed a reputation as the girl equivalent to the Transformers franchise – thanks to Hasbro deciding that its marketing strategy was “boys play with robots, girls with horses”. Male fans of the toys did exist even back then, helped by the original tie-in cartoons being adventure themed and having some rather dark moments…
My Little Pony is separated into ‘generations’ – where each generation has its own set of characters and tie-in media. The fourth generation saw an animator called Lauren Faust – The Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends – being brought in to helm the cartoon. Sick of the general badness of cartoons aimed at girls, she sought to create a show that children of both genders could enjoy. Given that the show is now a worldwide phenomenon – to the point that Fox News are airing badly researched specials about the fandom – she has definitely succeeded. Friendship Is Magic – the official subtitle for this generation – has clocked eight seasons and such is its popularity that 2017 saw the release of a feature film. It is one of the first 2-D animated films in years. Remember how Tangled and Frozen became CGI because Disney were convinced that hand-drawn didn’t sell? That’s how popular the series is.
As I pick up this gimmick after another year’s worth of inactivity, the spot on the list has once again changed. You might say as if by magic….
Yeah I won’t give up my day job.
It only recently hit me that we were all obsessed with witches during the 90s. Take a look at all the witch-related media we had out there. Starting with the obvious:
Sabrina The Teenage Witch
Over in the UK where I grew up we also got these fun little books about a witch Paranormal Operative who livens up the local children’s lives.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer also started featuring witchcraft more prominently from the second season onwards. So what was it about witches? What was their appeal?
Y’all have to remember that in the 90s, we were still really used to the ‘Wicked Witch’ archetype. The most famous witch was probably Margaret Hamilton’s green-skinned hag from The Wizard of Oz. Witches were still very much a figure from children’s stories and fairy tales, and they didn’t get much of an image overhaul during the fantasy boom of the 80s. But the 90s was the decade of Goth. And for some reason, witches and goth just seemed to go hand in hand. Which brings us to the movie I’m reviewing today…
In contrast to the other entries I usually write about films, this time I feel like just writing a letter.
Do you believe in curses? I’ve always been on and off about them. Back in my wrestling days I jokingly called one recurring phenomenon ‘the curse’. Whenever we had a show that I was booked on, I always seemed to develop tonsillitis, a sore throat or some other cold right before it. We did do a lot of shows in the winter, but then again it was a little too coincidental. Nonetheless I had my own recent experiences with curses in making a film that’s finally finished.
In the beginning there was the gold, or the standard of it.
My first role of 2018 came just a few days in. I was sitting at my laptop minding my own business when I got a message from a young filmmaker called Zac Goold. He was directing a short film that was to be shot the very next day. It was to star a friend of mine called Ernie Draper – who I had worked with on Dublin Old School – but he had dropped out last minute and recommended me as a replacement. I read the script, and it opened with my character having a big monologue about how the world was divided into raisin eaters and non-raisin eaters. I was ready to sign on before I’d finished the second page, but I waited until I’d read the whole thing before saying yes.