Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Nominated for: Best Costume; Best Production Design

I’m a late 80s baby and therefore the Disney movies from the early 1990s, like The Lion King (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff, 1994), Aladdin (1992, Ron Clements & John Musker) and The Rescuers Down Under (1990, Hendel Butoy) hold a special place in my heart as they are the ones I grew up like, and none more so then Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale) which is my absolute favourite animated Disney classic. Needless to say I was a little bit wary when they announced that Beauty and the Beast would be the next in the current line of Disney animations to be re-imagined as live-action films. I also couldn’t wrap my head around how they were going to have real actors being the wonderful objects – like would they be identifiably the face of the actors providing the voices or what? I certainly did not expect to like this new version of Beauty and the Beast … nor did I want to like it … but I have to say that Bill Condon did an exceptional job and actually surpassed my expectations (and they were high expectations indeed!!)beauty-and-beast-2017-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

That’s not to say there aren’t elements that didn’t quite gel with me because there were. And sadly the one that just didn’t sit right at all was Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts – or more specifically her accent. Now it was always going to be difficult to take one the role that was made iconic by the wonderful Angela Lansbury but I had faith the Emma Thompson would be the women to do so. And she wasn’t – her singing voice is wonderful but the accent she used for Mrs Potts was all wrong for me. I understand wanting to put your own spin on a character but Emma’s got such a lovely voice anyway that I didn’t really get the decision to go with an accent. In fact the accent’s in general were sometimes a bit hit or miss – like Ewan McGregor’s French accent as Lumière.

Sir Ian McKellen was brilliant as Cogsworth – the irascible old clock forever put out by Lumière’s failed plans. The relationship between the two of them is hilarious. And Cogsworth gets even better when they’re returned to their human forms and you discover that there is a rather unexpected harridan of a wife in his past life. Actually the way that they linked the villagers with those who had been trapped in the enchantment was one of the new elements that I liked the most. I also thought the idea of adding Stanley Tucci as a piano, Maestro Cadenza, was a brilliant one but then I love Stanley Tucci as an actor. He adds a lot of humour to his roles. Kevin Kline fits as Maurice – and by adding more of a back story to his life becomes a much sadder character which makes you love him even more.

mVa0DfBgIWHlLuke Evans just is Gaston – he’s perfect. It’s as if the animated character has walked off the screen and become Luke Evans. The look is spectacular and he can back it up with the voice needed for Gaston too. It is spot on casting! As is the casting of Josh Gad as his hapless sidekick LeFou. The interplay between the two of them is wonderful. But what I really like is that LeFou is allowed to develop emotionally as a gaston lefoucharacter. He definitely starts off as Gaston’s sidekick who blindly follows all his instructions and directions but he actually develops something of a conscience and begins to make decisions for himself after coming to realise that Gaston isn’t really the leader everyone makes him out to be.

Dan Stevens grew on me as the Beast but then I think that was just getting used to the make-up. The addition of the opening scenes of him as the spoilt Prince before the enchantment befalls the castle was a great decision as it shows the starting point of the man and makes his journey through knowing Belle all the more meaningful and a noticeable change in character by the end of the film. And the man has a set of lungs on him – I was very taken with his voice. I absolutely adore the new song written for the Beast. It’s beautiful, haunting and so emotional and perfectly fits the moment. But then the film benefited from having Alan Menken on board to write the music which meant that any new additions would still fit with the original songs thanks to him being the original composer. 

Belle is the Princess I want to be – even now – as she’s a reader and a feisty character. She’s not the damsel in distress that previous Disney Princesses were – in need of the Prince to save her. In fact it’s she who saves the Prince! As such it was really important to have the right person for her. And I actually love that it was Emma Watson. I know that the comparison has been made between Belle and Hermione from as far back as the very early Harry Potters but it is a worthy comparison and you just know that J.K Rowling will have been inspired by Belle when writing Hermione so it’s a choice that made sense for me. Sure there were moments when it was like ‘Oh there’s Hermione’ but not so much that it took you out of the film.

The costumes are simply stunning! They’ve managed to maintain the magic of the original film while at the same time putting their own stamp on things. Actually that’s one of the things the whole film did really well – the new additions were done carefully and enhanced the original film rather than detracting from it. It must actually have been quite a daunting position for the costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, as these costumes headshots_1490713523438.0are so iconic and yet animated so don’t exist in the real world in the same way. Especially the yellow ball gown that is very much the signature piece of the film. She has done an exceptional job – I got goosebumps the first time that scene comes on. It’s everything the original was and yet more because it was real this time. But I think the costumes that blew me away the most in terms of technical ability were the debutante dresses from the opening scenes that establish the Prince as the loathsome character he started as. These are all done in shades of cream, off-white and ivory and are absolutely stunning. They’re gorgeous – every one is an individual design that relies on different textures and patterns rather than colours to make them different from the others around them. It’s quite a brave thing to do as it could so easily have just all blurred into one but it was done masterfully and added a level of richness to the film. images

Now nothing is going to be able to replace the original animated Beauty and the Beast for me because that will always be my favourite Disney. But I will say that this film did an admirable job and actually took me by surprise in terms of how much I loved it. The new additions bring an added spark of life to the film without replacing or removing anything that made the original so magical in the first place. And oh my god – the library – so much more mind-blowing in this film than the animation. I’m still so very jealous!!

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Director: George Roy Hill

1969

“The iconic teaming of Paul Newman and Robert Redford was so magical – and so profitable, scoring the year’s biggest hit – that this offbeat character study/action comedy in Western trappings and bathed in cinematographer Conrad Hall’s Oscar-winning sepia hues has been a touchstone for bickering buddy pictures ever since.” (494, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

I went through a period where I watched films in genres or by directors that normally bore me to tears and discovered that actually there were a few I enjoyed, such as Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). And it turns out that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is, so far, the only Western film I’ve watched that hasn’t bored me silly. But then I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it strictly as a western. It may have a number of the western tropes but in reality it is much more character driven. It’s really about these two men and their friendship that just so happens to take place against a western backdrop. And this is precisely why I found it entertaining rather than turgid like so many other films in the western genre.

There is lots of humour and having watched a number of buddy movies it’s clear that a lot of them have been influenced by this movie. The core trio of Butch (Paul Newman), Sundance (Robert Redford) and Etta (Katherine Ross) are brilliant, and in some ways remind me a little bit of the ‘golden trio’ from Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling) – they work best as a trio, each complimenting and at times reigning each other in. I actually really enjoyed watching Newman and Redford in their prime. Paul Newman is often held up as one of the truly brilliant actors of recent Hollywood and yet he is an actor whose work I have really not seen very much of so it was interesting to see him working his magic on-screen. They make a handsome pair of bandits as well it can’t be denied.

“[But] the film is immortal for its final image of the pair, freeze-framed as they run out into a shoot-’em-up with an army.” (494) Having never seen the film I had still been aware of this iconic final image. Now I have the context behind it and it makes the image so much more powerful.

butchButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is an utterly disarming combination of smart, original screenwriting, handsome visual treatment, and star power. With all the jokes and poses, there is still real interest in the well-defined, contrasting characters.” (494) I couldn’t agree more with Errigo. If it had been otherwise there is a high chance I would have been writing yet another blog about how dreary and tedious I find western movies so this was a nice surprise. However apologies for the crapness of this post – I’m pretty tired and clearly my brain isn’t working all that well. Don’t let my inarticulate ramblings dissuade you from watching the film because it really is so much more than I have touched upon in this update.