'Princess Mononoke' and 'Beetlejuice' | Quarantine Film Club (Week 1)
Week 1 of the Quarantine Film Club got off to a cute start so thanks to everyone that joined in! This week we turned our attention to Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988) and Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke (1997) - only the former of which I hadn't seen before.
Beetlejuice was recently re-imagined for the stage, having almost finished a limited run in Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre. It's unknown whether the show will make its scheduled, final performance on June 6th, 2020 (Broadway shows have been cancelled temporarily in the midst of this pandemic) so, in solidarity with the cast and crew, I thought it would be a good film to kick off the proceedings.
It honestly surprised me how much I enjoyed Beetlejuice and I have no idea how it's taken me so long to get around to it. It has that quintessential, Hollywood-Halloween vibe you can also find in Hocus Pocus and The Haunted Mansion, riding that fine line between self-awareness and camp commitment to a tee.
I particularly loved Burton's use of stop-motion animation which he sprinkles throughout the film. The human brain can always tell when natural light is hitting a tangible surface, so this animation style is effective at producing either a cosy atmosphere (think, Wallace and Gromit) or an uneasy one (see, Return to Oz). Burton obviously opts for the latter approach, and the film's mosaic of computer-generated, stop-motion and practical effects gives Beetlejuice a timeless appeal.
Whether we were baffled by the (many) plot twists or marveling at how young Alec Baldwin looked, the Netflix Party chat was pretty active during the Tuesday watch-along. I somehow managed to lock myself out of the NP chat halfway through the screening, but practice makes perfect and I've learnt from that mistake - Beyonce was not built in a day, dear reader.
Princess Mononoke was a far more sobering affair, but the film was still escapist in its own right. Though Studio Ghibli's hand-drawn animation isn't as tangible as stop-motion it's still just as immersive. The film trades in the silver screen for a velvet one, and each frame is pillow-y and soft and inviting and warm.
These lush visuals clash brilliantly with a dark and disturbing narrative, one which questions humanity's moral compass as it co-opts the natural world. It's a stark and sweeping tale, one made even more poignant (and frustrating) given that we're arguably in a worse place now than we were in 1997 (in regards to our on-going Climate Crisis).
I'd watched Mononoke before when it was first released on Netflix. The film had been on my radar for some time; I'm a big Nintendo fan, and it's no secret that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017's 'Game of the Year' recipient) was heavily inspired by the film. There really are some huge parallels between the two properties and, as I joked to a friend before the watch-party, if Nintendo had sent Breath of the Wild to Turnitin before the game's release it would have probably been rejected. While I don't want to offend the Ghibli purists out there, Mononoke really does feel like the Zelda adaptation I've always wanted to see. It's brilliant.
Last night I uploaded a Facebook poll to our Quarantine Film Club Group asking you guys to choose which two films should get a place on next week's line-up, and I am very happy with the results. Cher's Burlesque got the most votes (gay rights!!) so that'll take up Tuesday's slot. On Friday we'll turn our attentions to Ocean's Eleven, because who doesn't love a little pre-weekend espionage?
Thanks again for all of your involvement in the Club so far. It was always intended to be something light and jokey to take our minds off of the shit-storm we're all collectively facing, and it's been a great little distraction from impending doom! I hope everyone's doing okay out there, and - provided society doesn't collapse - I'll be back next Sunday for a round-up of Week 2....
Written by James Green