Tag Archives: Coco

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 271 – Soul

Occupying some similar thematic terrain to Coco, Pixar’s 2017 masterpiece, Soul uses an afterlife-bound journey with a tight deadline to explore what it is that makes us human, in the context of a life devoted to music. When Joe, a music teacher and passionate jazz pianist, dies in a classic open manhole cover accident, his soul, now separated from his body but desperate to live, escapes an A Matter of Life and Death-inspired travelator to Heaven and ends up in the Great Before, a meadow populated with unborn souls preparing for their upcoming lives. Mistaken for a mentor, he is assigned 22, a cynical, sarcastic soul with no desire to live on Earth, and when he tries to return to his body, she accidentally comes with.

As well as to Coco, Mike finds Soul comparable to another of Pixar’s films: Soul handles philosophical concepts the way Inside Out did psychological ones, rendering them visually imaginative and narratively physical. ‘The zone’, where people describe themselves when feeling that transcendent state of flow when an activity consumes them, is in the Great Beyond a real place that Joe and 22 visit; the unborn souls develop personality traits signified by Boy Scout-style badges. The storytelling is economical and concise, characters’ priorities and attitudes smoothly and legibly changing as their goals and relationships shift. It’s a beautifully told story.

José considers the social and economic setting of Joe’s life, the music he loves and the barber he visits, about whose life he learns – the film humanely understands people and hardship without wallowing in despair, finding space for joy. We wonder how well it will play to kids, thrilled that Pixar refuses to speak down to its audience, if a little unsure about how much will translate to the younger members of its target audience. Predictably, Mike finished the film in tears, despite an ending he found to be overly mechanical and inorganic.

Soul is a beautiful, wonderful film. To José, it’s a masterpiece. To Mike, possibly not, but only because Coco exists. See it.

Andrew Griffith has brought to out attention this article you may also find interesting about rumblings of discontent in relation to the film and why it’s turned out surprisingly polarasing.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Guest starring in Fantasy/Animation on Coco



The latest episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast on Coco is also our first crossover instalment. Many thanks to Christopher Holliday and Alex Sergeant for including Michael Glass and myself. Coco´s great and this was great fun to do:

You can follow the link below:


José Arroyo

Macario (Roberto Gavaldón, Mexico, 1960)


The first Mexican film to be nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and a truly great movie. Macario (Ignacio López Tarso) is a good, honest, hardworking peasant who lives for his family. He works all day but has so many children that they literally take the food from his plate. Director Roberto Gavaldón is great at showing what hunger feels like, the life of people who live on less than subsistence wages, the melodrama that conveys the truth and pain of the small things in life: .

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Macario fears God, is haunted by the dead, and dreams of food. One day he vows that unless he can have something entirely to himself he won’t eat at all . His wife (Pina Pellicer), fearing that he’ll die, steals a turkey, cooks it for him and asks him to eat it out in the fields where the children won’t get to it first and he won’t be interrupted so that he can finally enjoy one thing all to himself. When he sits down to eat his turkey, he’s taunted by the devil, who offers him all kinds of things if he’d share his food with him. But Macario is a good man and refuses. Then God appears and also asks for some of his food. But Macario, figuring that God can have anything he wants, refuses him also. Finally death appears. Macario figuring he’s got no option and that at least he’ll live for as long as it takes death to eat his half of the turkey, agrees to share it.

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As a reward, death offers him a vial of water that can bring some people back from the dead. Macario is to be alone with those he wants to cure, death will then appear. If he’s at the foot of the bed, Macario can offer them his water and cure them. If Death’s at the head, nothing can be done for them and they’re goners. Macario’s urged to be careful with this magic water as he will receive no more and when it’s gone Death will be merciless.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 14.43.05.pngMacario is delighted to have escaped death, and with newfound powers. But has he? The rest of the film is a morality tale, a fable about life and death, a commentary on the meanings of Mexico’s day of the dead, the cruelties of Church and government, the petty avarices of little people made big with money.

It’s a beautiful film, rich in symbolism, poetic but directly accessible. It’s got striking, expressionist imagery that is easily understandable in ways that go right to one’s head and heart.  It’s a direct influence on the equally great Coco, one of the many reasons to see it.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies 38 – Coco


(Mind out for spoilers, we don’t do a good job of warning of them here. After the plot synopsis at the beginning, expect spoilers throughout.)

Pixar’s extraordinarily vivid, rich Coco tells the story of a young Mexican boy who dreams of life as a musician, stranded in the Land of the Dead. Themes of sacrifice for family, liberation and expression through music, remembrance and commemoration of loved ones and more are explored, and a culture that is typically ignored or stereotyped – or walled off if a certain someone has his way – is allowed to explode onto the cinema screen. It’s as warm, funny, and imaginative as anything you’ll see all year, and we adore it.

Film buffs will recognise homages to Busby Berkeley, Mexican musicals, Dolores Del Rio, Maria Felix, Rancheras, Emilio Fernandez, Enamorada, The Wizard of Oz and Frida Kahlo. It’s full of mariachis. When one hears a whisper of what sounds like Chavela Vargas, the spine tingles.

Jose is reminded of his dear abuelita. Mike cries.

Recorded on 23rd January 2018.


The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

You can download it from i-tunes here.

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José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film