Nowhere near as miserable as I remember it: The Beatles – Let It Be reviewed

Beatles lore has long held that the film Let It Be was a depressing portrait of the band falling apart. According to the same lore, that’s why Peter Jackson’s Get Back was such a revelation. Revisiting Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s footage of the group at work in January 1969, Jackson discovered there was far more joy around than anyone suspected – including the surviving Beatles. Yoko remains a darkly brooding presence (the revisionism that sees her as benign needs its own revision) All of which, it now turns out, only goes to prove the ever-reliable power of suggestion. I vaguely remember seeing Let It Be on TV in the 1970s, before it

Why intellectuals love Disney

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney’s company. The first cartoons it was founded to produce – the animation/live-action shorts Alice Comedies – are largely forgotten, eclipsed not least by the resounding success of Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse grabbed much of the attention from the get-go, including that of several philosophers, sociologists and critical theorists, who perceived in him an emblem of the best and worst of the modern age. Also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year is the founding text of western Marxism, Georg Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness. A generation of disaffected, bourgeois intellectuals, adherents of what came to be known as the Frankfurt School (100

Prince Charming is cancelled

The only strikes I really enjoy are actors’ strikes. Teachers’ strikes leave me cold. Train strikes get me into a cold fury. But there are few more enjoyable spectacles in life than members of the acting profession making demands which – if left unmet – will see them refuse to work. Why should girls dream of being something like a deputy under-secretary at the United Nations? My first urge is always to clasp my head in my hands and in my best South Park voice scream: ‘You mean no movies with Susan Sarandon for six months? Nooooo.’ Then there’s the fact that most of the strikers haven’t seen work in

Wikipedia does more justice to this fascinating story than this film: Chevalier reviewed

Chevalier is a biopic of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, whom you’ve probably never heard of, as I hadn’t. He was an 18th-century French-African virtuoso violinist and composer who wowed everyone in his day – in 1779, John Adams, then the American ambassador to France, called him ‘the most accomplished Man in Europe’ – but was erased from history and is only lately being rediscovered. Fascinating, you would think, and he was fascinating. Even a cursory look at his Wikipedia entry is thrilling. But this is not a fascinating or thrilling film. It is handsomely mounted yet strangely bland and strikes too many false notes. I was going to say

Why The Little Mermaid is bad news for cinema

It is disappointing to learn that, after critics and cynical audiences everywhere had sharpened their fish knives in the expectation of the new live-action Little Mermaid film being a catastrophic disaster, early reviews have suggested that it is… fine. It attracted a great deal of attention, and some criticism, for the casting of the black singer-actress Halle Bailey in the lead role of Ariel, on the grounds that sea-dwelling mermaids must, after all, be white-skinned redheads, as she was in the seminal 1989 animated film. Yet Bailey’s performance has been universally acclaimed, with her delivery of ‘Part of Your World’ being singled out for particular praise. The reason why so many

The Disneyfication of Prince Harry

After Prince Harry’s first date with the future Duchess of Sussex, he repaired to a friend’s house off the King’s Road. ‘Out came the tequila,’ he recalls in his much-discussed autobiography, Spare. ‘Out came the weed. We drank and smoked and watched… Inside Out.’ Meghan, however, interrupted his stoned reverie by Facetiming him, and immediately asked: ‘Are you watching cartoons?’ Harry replied: ‘No. I mean, yeah. It’s… Inside Out.’ It was, he recalls, ‘good weed, dude’. The quality of the Disney film, he doesn’t mention – though his pointed double use of ellipses around its title suggests it perhaps has some significance in relation to this new girlfriend. Three years

What’s the matter with Disney?

If there’s one thing that gives a bad name to gender stereotyping it’s the Disney princess: a combination of hideous synthetic fabric and a noisomely winsome concept. And yet the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques at Disney Parks are popular with families as a place where their offspring can get dressed and styled as their favourite Disney characters, i.e. princesses or, in the case of a smaller number, knights. Now, the Streaming the Magic blog – which posts on Disney Parks – reports that: Disney Parks’s website itself now refers to ‘Godmother’s Apprentices’. I’d say the whole exercise is an exercise in cold-blooded cynical commercialism, whether it’s provided by a Fairy Godmother’s

Disney vs DeSantis

Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, was paid $32.5 million last year. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone on that sort of money. Poor Bob, though. He’s caught in the middle of a vicious fight between Florida’s conservative governor Ron DeSantis and Disney’s LGBTQ+ activists and he’s being pummelled from both sides. It’s nasty. Children probably shouldn’t watch. The story begins with DeSantis’s Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, which passed in March and banned Floridian schoolteachers from discussing sexuality and mutable gender-identities with very young children. America’s progressives despise DeSantis and, it seems, the notion that parents should have more control over what their sprogs are told about sex. They

Disney’s rococo roots

Extensive research went into the writing of this piece. First, I lay on the sofa watching Disney’s Cinderella. Then, Beauty and the Beast. Then, because I’m assiduous about these things, Frozen. The singalong version. I wish I could tell you that the sofa was a rococo number with ormolu mounts and a pink satin seat, but that would upholster the truth. My excuse – who needs one? – was the Wallace Collection’s delightful exhibition Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts. It’s not often that I leave a show smiling, humming and near enough twirling my way through the West End. Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. What a clever and original exhibition

The dark story behind Bambi, the book Hitler banned

The extent of Walt Disney’s grasp of the natural world remains unclear. After the Austrian author Felix Salten sold the rights to his 1923 bestseller Bambi for a paltry $1,000, Walt is reputed to have suggested myriad unhelpful plot additions to the simple story. ‘Suppose we have Bambi step on an ant hill,’ he offered at one script meeting, ‘and then cut away to see all the damage he’s done to the ant civilisation?’ His writers knew better. The resulting 1942 forest fantasia, which leaps in swooning bounds from one extravagantly coloured and orchestrated natural history lesson to another, was nominated for three Oscars, and by 2005 had grossed $102

It’ll please small kids, but they’re never to be trusted: Raya and the Last Dragon reviewed

Raya and the Last Dragon has everything you might want nowadays from a major Disney film — feisty kick-ass heroine, non-white representation, a narrative that isn’t hung up on romance — but no one involved appears to have asked themselves: do we have an interesting story? Do we have any fresh ideas? Is it fun? This may please very small kiddies who don’t know any better, and there are plenty of them about, but Raya’s not a classic in the making. It’s gorgeously depicted, needless to say, but disappointingly unanimated in all other ways. While this film may please small kiddies, remember: they are not to be trusted. Ever The

These rediscovered drawings by Hokusai are extraordinary

Lost boys, lost women, lost civilisations, lost causes — the romantic ring of the word ‘lost’ is media gold. So when the British Museum announced last autumn that it had acquired 103 ‘lost’ drawings by Hokusai, one was tempted to take it with a large pinch of salt. How do 103 drawings by Japan’s most famous artist simply disappear? The answer is, surprisingly easily. Hokusai’s works have never commanded the sorts of prices a draughtsman of his calibre would be expected to fetch, not even in Japan. His art was designed to be affordable: in his day, you could buy a print of ‘The Great Wave’ for the price of