One of the things I’ve missed about blogging is writing my thoughts about films. Although I don’t necessarily want to get into the long monthly posts that I used to do, I would like to reinstitute a bit of film discussion on here as and when the mood takes!
Normally, when I’m away from work or it so we can, I like to get a decent amount of films in. However, one of the drawbacks of being off sick with arm problems is that driving has been very difficult, and therefore get into the cinema much harder than it usually is. This means I’m really behind on the latest films and haven’t seen very many recent releases-but last weekend I did manage to get to see a couple of films: Minions and Amy.
I didn’t have particularly high expectations for Minions. The trailer looked OK, but I was a little bit underwhelmed by both Despicable Me films. I remember finding everything enjoyable, but a bit lacking (but I’m obviously not the target market) and I expected Minions to be more of the same. Obviously, it isn’t drastically different from the Despicable Me series in that the minions are the same kinds of characters, and there’s also the emphasis on villains and comedy. However, this is much more of a buddy film then I imagined it would be, with a hint of road trip and peril thrown in for good measure. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the Toy Story films (obviously not quite as good, but still).
There were quite a few jokes for the adults-I don’t mean sex jokes, more pop cultural references that would have gone over the kids’ heads. However, the kids in the cinema I was in seemed to enjoy the film very much and laughed a lot-albeit at different points to the adults. It’s a nice little adventure, it ticks the boxes and it was a pleasant surprise as it zips along quite briskly and had a little bit more to it than I thought it would. However, I do wonder why, given the minions seem to be fairly genderless beings, they all have boys’ names.
Amy is a film that attracted a lot of controversy, as you probably know. I went into it with a fairly open mind-I am often pretty sceptical about documentaries having done a PhD wherein I watched several hundred of them. Although I find some documentaries interesting, I’m fairly immune to their messages a lot of the time and I think they’re probably one of the most highly constructed and problematic pieces of media that exist. That’s not to say, however, that I necessarily side with the Winehouse family over this documentary either. Let’s be honest, families rarely know their members as well as they think they do, and, of course the family are going to want to be protective over anything that presents them in a slightly negative light. The truth of Amy’s life lies buried with Amy-none of us will ever really know what went on, but the film does the best the job as it can with the access it has to friends, family and colleagues.
To be honest, I didn’t think this film was as sensational as it might have been in other hands. At times, some of the moralising felt a little bit heavy-handed-for example, when talking about the media coverage of her addictions. Yes, we know that jokes about her might have seemed excessive and potentially hurtful; yes, we know that paparazzi makes stars’ lives uncomfortable. However, this is not necessarily news post-Diana; post-Leveson. (Obviously it’s a key part of her story, but there’s a sense of LOOK AT WHAT THE BAD MEDIA DID that is a bit clunky).
The most shocking scenes from me were from 2008 where video footage shows Winehouse at such a low ebb that she was practically skeletal-incredibly gaunt and ill looking, much more so than any other point in the film. However, what sticks with me or Amy’s own words about how she felt and the struggles she was going through-and not only does this come through in the things that she says, but, most powerfully, in her lyrics. In fact, I think the film’s biggest strength is the light it shines on Winehouse’s music: the first thing I want to do upon leaving the film was go back and listen to her performances again. Lyrics are published on screen throughout the film and the meditation on her words really demonstrates what a talent she had-not just as a singer, but as a songwriter.
I found it quite moving and affecting film-obviously that’s the reaction you’re meant to have, what really came through was how articulate and charming Winehouse was-I’m not sure her sense of humour or warmth always came through in some of the interviews with her that I’d read or seen in the past. Because she became a bit of caricatured figure and, like many big stars, became more of an image than a real person in the way we perceived her-we forget often how young she was-this film really brings that home, most notably when she sings with Tony Bennett and she’s like a shy teenager, all adorkable and earnest.
It’s not a film that you’re going to want to watch over and over, but rather than being a shock piece as it has sometimes been portrayed, it offers an interesting portrait of the star and becomes a largely empathetic tribute to her.