Child confounds cynical cinephile. Future of film is fixed.

Having reached my quarter-life milestone I’ve become ever so aware of the growing cynicism that I have for the world, even for the parts of it that I adore. It’s all too easy to slip into the mindset and overlook so much of the good that still permeates our everyday lives when we’re not rolling our eyes or shaking our heads with worried disbelief. I have noticed it particularly in the way I view the world of film.

As someone striving to find my critical voice and hone it until it reaches something approaching a sincere and insightful level, I’ve had to operate with the accepted knowledge that my opinion is golden. Part of this comes from wanting to have proper convictions about films and to not abandon my own views in the wake of dissimilar professional opinion, and that’s a good thing to have. The down side of this however, is that you start to feel like you know a lot. You start to believe that you’ve become good at analysing films and passing judgement on whether they’re good, bad, or even worth the time. Maybe you’ll be right about a couple, but pressing on in this manner and not allowing creative works to settle and breathe means that you often only see a film in relation to the worth you assign to it from your own perspective, and rarely do you grasp the worth it may have to others.

Why am I starting this way? Because having seen the trailer for Dreamworks latest film, entitled Home, I had set in my mind that this was nothing more than a bit of animated flim-flam utterly devoid of any innovative spark for storytelling, and perhaps worst of all a vehicle for clunky pop-culture humour, the sort that is painfully recognisable as an adult trying to be ‘down with the kids’. I haven’t seen the film but frankly I have no desire to. The trailer just left me cold, and made me elevate Pixar’s Inside Out to saviour for animation in 2015.

All of this went out the window when I had a brief conversation with a young girl when I was cleaning the cinema after a screening of Home. She was waiting for her father to collect his belongings and so I asked her if she had enjoyed the film. She emphatically replied that she had, which naturally brought a smile to my face – if this kid enjoyed it then she’ll surely be open to other cinematic adventures, we’re off to a good start here. But what she said next really took me by surprise. I should add at this point that she was not in distress and was clearly in a cheerful mood. She told me that while she was no stranger to the cinema, this was the first time that she had cried at the end of a film.

I carried on cleaning but continued to think on her response a little later, and in a Grinch-like manner, the conclusion I got from it warmed my cynical heart quite a bit. As decreed by my obviously superior powers of discernment, Home is a film not worth the time, and when I finally get round to watching it my preconceptions might be spot on, but the very same film contains enough heartfelt emotion that it moved a young girl to tears, in the same way that certain scenes in Interstellar move me to tears.

Roger Ebert has been quoted as saying that, “the movies are like a machine that generates empathy” and I don’t think he could be more right. We all have our different tastes and different films will affect us in different ways, but it is so comforting to know that a film I may brush aside as uninspiring still has the power to move a child to tears. You could examine this in more detail but ultimately I feel it means one thing – Cinema is still important, and that is a very very good thing.

Hooray for films!

Recapturing Childhood – Toy Story 3 (2010) Review

Toy Story 3 PosterBy the time the conclusion to the Toy Story franchise rolled around in 2010, many of its target audience who were kids back in the 90s, were reaching adulthood. How fitting then that Toy Story 3 keeps pace and deals with the fate of our favourite group of play-things now that Andy is all grown up. This film once again showcases Pixar’s honed ability to blend comedy and drama, even throwing in a few legitimate scares.

The film begins with a fast-paced ride in the world of Andy’s imagination, but we quickly learn that this was a long time ago. Andy is about to leave for college and his neglected toys still yearn to be played with. Through a mishap they believe they are about to be thrown in the trash instead of being safely tucked away in the attic. All except the ever-faithful Woody become convinced the best place for them is Sunnyside Daycare, but this idyllic place turns out to be far more sinister than its name suggests, forcing our heroes to stage an elaborate escape to make it back home.

Toy Story 3 delivers a clever, well-paced story, raising the stakes higher so that the emotional resonance is far greater. There are definitely some darker elements this time around; the sad tale of the tyrannical Lotso (a brilliant Ned Beatty), the regime at Sunnyside, and that CCTV-operating monkey *shivers*. However, all the brief scares are nothing compared to a scene later on involving waste-disposal which had my pulse racing as I feared for the very existence of the toys. It tugs remorselessly at the heart-strings too, so much that a bit of moisture started to appear in my eye (just a little). Pixar’s balancing act is still alive and well; for every moment of peril there are plenty of nuggets of comedy. The disillusioned Buzz gag returns with vigour, this time introducing a Spanish variant, and a scene with Mr. Potato Head and a tortilla had me cracking up. It would be exhaustive to go into the many more aspects that are of the highest quality in this movie, but suffice to say it is only the third animation to receive a nomination for a Best Picture Oscar. And well deserved it is.

The heart of the Toy Story franchise is apparent in its final scene – bittersweet and tear-jerking – showing us the catharsis that it can offer. Andy, now reunited with his beloved toys, is persuaded to pass them on to a little girl named Bonnie (possibly the cutest kid in CGI). In the scene where he introduces each one to her as she listens intently, we are both Andy and Bonnie. We are Andy as he reminisces about his childhood and cherished toys, saying farewell to them as he moves on with his life, just as we say goodbye to the Toy Story trilogy. But thanks to the pure escapism of great cinema, we can always come back and relive a slice of childhood through these films, rediscovering the imaginative adventures with each viewing. In that way, we can be Bonnie also, wide-eyed with excitement, every time we choose to indulge in these films – recapturing some of the wonder of childhood.

Andy entrusts his treasured toys to Bonnie.

Andy entrusts his treasured toys to Bonnie.