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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sing Street: A Review

Sing Street: A Review

It’s hard to resist comparisons to Once with John Carney’s new film. They’re both set in Dublin and have romance and creating music as central themes. But really that’s where the similarities stop. Once is a film with a limited focus telling a story of two people over a few days. It’s an excellent film because of this limited scope which is then aided by the low budget, home style camera work.

Sing Street is much broader in focus. The central story is pretty simple: boy creates band to impress a girl. But there’s a lot more going on in this film. Set against a backdrop of his parent’s crumbling marriage the film also touches on sibling comradery, difficulty with changing schools, the transformative power of music and the limits of possibility in a small city. The film itself is halfway between a gritty kitchen-sink drama and a fantasy story where dreams come true. It doesn’t sound like there should even be a possible middle ground between those realms that should work but it does.

The film’s major false step is when the band tries to recruit the one black student at the school. I understand the 80s were a time when racial stereotyping was more blatant and that the film is trying to make a point about comedy of idiocy. But it doesn’t really work at all and it’s a false note in the rhythm. But it’s not a major drawback.

I’d be perfectly happy for John Carney to keep making films about people making music together. It’s pretty much his niche and no one else can do films like this. They just don’t have his vision to craft this musical word combined with a romantic backdrop steeped in reality.

Romantic is probably the best adjective for the story, as much as musical is for the whole film (musical probably fits the story as well). Is there anything really more universally relatable than a high school story about young love? I’d be inclined to think there isn’t. While it isn’t that setting that drives the likeability of the film, it’s definitely a huge helper.

Soundtracks are what drive this film (as with all the films from John Carney). The music is excellent, both the original songs and the popular records of the time (the film is set in 1985). By using everything from Duran Duran to Hall and Oates, it throws the viewer straight back into the era and gives them new stuff to have stuck in their heads afterwards.

Possibly one of the best high school films of recent times. Definitely one of the best films about music of the century. Undisputedly one of the films of the year. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sausage Party: A Review

Sausage Party: A Review

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have now collaborated on Superbad, Pineapple Express and This is the End. Every single one of these films can be a strong contender for one of the best films of the year they were released in and Sausage Party keeps this tradition going (only The Interview, while still decent, doesn’t hit the high level of the other films they’ve written). At some point if this output and quality continues, critics are going to mark this duo as a new wave of comedy.

Comedy films are underrated to the point where it’s become a stereotype of awards ceremonies that the comedy role won’t win any awards. In Sausage Party (and Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, the other film the duo wrote this year) there’s been a secondary theme of addressing more serious issues. This can have the potential to derail all the fun of the film, as in Sausage Party, the serious theme being addressed is religion but the writers never allow the film to get away from the overall feel of intense silliness.

 Extremely silly humour is central to this film which is full of food puns and stereotypes ( a character that’s a bagel has a Woody Allen accent and is constantly sparring with a lavash). It’s the ridiculousness of it all and the fact that no group gets spared that really allows all the stereotypes to be used without all feeling of meanness. It doesn’t really ever seem like the film is making fun of ethnicities more than they actors think accents are a great source of humour (which they are).

The storyline is decently thought out and at times thought provoking. Touching mainly on the existence of god but also dropping points on blind faith and senseless cultural animosity, it’s not revolutionary themes being explored. And expecting a brilliant solution to be thrown up at the end of an animated film about food would be too much. So while the best comedic orgy scene since Team America might not exactly be the best ending in carrying the storyline to an end, it’s still a great end. Because the storyline, as good as it is, is definitely playing in the background in terms of importance to the quality of the film. It’s all about the gags.

A lot of the film reminds one of teenage humour when swear words were used as punctuation and every single thing had a reference to sex or genitals. It’s probably a film that catches the vulgarity of 14 year old jokes better than any other. The thing with clever comedy films is that actual out-loud laughter is rare. Stupidly vulgar films, however, bring out all the belly laughs and I’m definitely in favour of the latter sometimes.