Tag Archives: Tina Fey

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 401 – A Haunting in Venice

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Kenneth Branagh continues to direct himself as Hercule Poirot in his ongoing project to make Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnits all about him. A Haunting in Venice has less focus on the process and nuances of investigation than its predecessors, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile – and those already felt the need to punctuate the procedural with action, lest the audience get bored – but shows just as much interest in Poirot’s story, at the expense of the suspects’ and victims’. It’s safe to say that these adaptations are not what they could, or should, be.

Branagh enthusiastically uses dramatic angles and camera movement; wonderful to see but for the fact that he does so with little motivation, failing to create with them the effects and mood that he could. The casting disappoints José, who looks to these sorts of films for the stars of yesteryear who fill the ensemble, bringing their histories and personas to their portrayals of the snooty dowagers, nervous accountants and so on; here, no such stars are present. A few current names pepper the cast list, but most of the players that this whodunnit hosts form a who’s who of “who’s that?”

We’re already into diminishing returns with Branagh’s Poirot series, the films increasingly missing the point of their genre – how can the audience play along with the mystery and marvel at the intricacy of its solution when we’re rushed past the details in favour of hearing about the detective’s inner life yet again? Mike found an element of that to like back in Murder on the Orient Express, but even a heart as large and generous as his can find no room for it any more. It’s simply not good enough.

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

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.