Coco Songs

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: the first in a series ranking all 368 songs featured in Disney animated films.)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I am clearly insane. Why else would I feel compelled to rank every song from every animated feature from the Walt Disney Company? So yes, this list will feature songs from every Walt Disney Animation Studios film, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Moana; every Pixar Animation Studios film, from Toy Story to their latest release, Coco; and even films like The Nightmare Before Christmas as well as the company’s live-action/animation hybrids, such as Mary Poppins and Enchanted. That makes up 368 songs. 368. Songs. Like I said: I’m insane.

And yet: this was a wonderful and exhausting list to compile. I have no doubt that you will disagree with my rankings. How could you not? We all share such unique likes and dislikes that there’s no way we can all agree on the very best or very worst Disney song, let alone all of those in between. What I hope is that people read the list and don’t tear out their hair too much. So now, please: read the list. You know you want to. Part 2 and Part 3 of this list will arrive over the next two days.

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daisy ridley murder on the orient express

This year’s holiday movie season brings us arguably the most widely anticipated blockbuster of the entirety of 2017: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s follow-up to the massively popular revival of the Star Wars franchise in 2015, The Force Awakens, is still five weeks away from release, and is all but guaranteed to be a similarly massive, critic-proof hit. However, this weekend offers a glimpse into a possible future for one of the new stars of The Last Jedi, Daisy Ridley.

Ridley, a relative unknown before being cast as Rey in The Force Awakens, has her first non-Star Wars movie in wide release this weekend, as one part of the vast ensemble of Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express. By the very nature of the Agatha Christie detective story that inspired Branagh’s film (as well as the Sidney Lumet-directed adaptation from 1974), Ridley is not stepping fully into the spotlight here. She plays one of a handful of suspects of a vicious killing on an upscale intercontinental train, as a forthright governess with — of course — a secret past. So this is not the equivalent of Hayden Christensen taking a break from playing the petulant teenage version of Anakin Skywalker by starring in the true-story drama Shattered Glass. But it might work toward Ridley’s benefit to gradually break away from Star Wars, expanding her talents as opposed to diving in headfirst to radically different roles.

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Disney Needs to Chill Out Right Now

Disney L.A. Times ban

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: between trying to buy 20th Century Fox and blacklisting the L.A. Times, Disney needs to chill the eff out.)

Update: Amid growing backlash, Disney has lifted their ban against L.A. Times film critics.

What a wonderful time it is to cover the film industry. The last couple months — has it really only been that long? — has been dominated (justifiably) by the flood of accusations of sexual harassment and assault against Harry Knowles, Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, and Kevin Spacey, among many others. But the last few days have offered a brief, if no less troubling, shift in the story, as the Walt Disney Company has been pushing its power around with little regard for who ends up in its wake. Earlier this week, there were shocking rumors regarding the company engaging in talks with 21st Century Fox to buy most of its studio product. More vexing, if more inside-baseball, was Disney’s choice to bar the Los Angeles Times from attending its press screenings.

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Thor: Ragnarok review

Nearly a decade ago, Marvel’s first entry in their burgeoning Cinematic Universe, Iron Man, proved so successful as to influence and inspire plenty of other studios and filmmakers to build out extended-universe franchises. Now, it’s hard to imagine a more influential Marvel movie than Guardians of the Galaxy, the gleefully anarchic, candy-colored 2014 film that stood apart from the machinations of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and the rest of the Avengers. Its rousing success has bled through to the Avengers themselves, starting with the previously pompous Thor in his third dedicated film, Thor: Ragnarok, which is maybe the goofiest, silliest Marvel movie to date.

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Adam Sandler is a Good Actor…But Does He Know That?

Adam Sandler is a Good Actor...But Does He Know That?

Last week, amidst its various ’80s-TV revivals, animated shows, and comedy specials, Netflix released yet another new original film. Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) depicts the slow-burn, middle-aged fracturing of a family whose patriarch (Dustin Hoffman) is both suffering from illness and still able to emotionally damage his three adult children. In the last few years, Baumbach has balanced between collaborating with Greta Gerwig on films like Frances Ha and Mistress America and making movies that focus on mid-40s angst and ennui. His leaning on a familiar trope is itself not surprising; what’s shocking is how The Meyerowitz Stories merges two of Netflix’s pet projects in one startling whole: indie cinema and Adam Sandler.

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the florida project

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: a look at Escape From Tomorrow and the newly released The Florida Project, both of which explore the peripheries of the Disney experience.)

The Disney theme parks are built upon a foundation of agreed-upon lies. We tell ourselves that we can afford a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth even if we should spend that money on more reasonable expenses, because we value our enjoyment or the enjoyment of our family members more than the strength of our bank accounts. We tell ourselves when we walk through the gates of the Magic Kingdom that we’ve been transported into a world of fantasy and future, a land where our real-world problems don’t exist. We tell ourselves that the theme parks are a place where the Cast Members who operate the attractions, shows, and restaurants have no real-world problems — really, no outside lives — of their own. Each winding walkway, each touch of atmosphere, each architectural choice is, in its own special way, a lie. They are mostly beautiful lies, but lies nonetheless.

The beautiful lies of the Disney theme parks, and how those lies have an uglier ripple effect towards the periphery of the cities that house them, are part of the fuel behind two independent, tonally very different, films from the past few years: Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Each film deals with the specter of the Disney theme parks in its own way. Moore’s 2013 film built buzz because he and his cast had shot a majority of the Lynchian film inside the parks without Disney’s knowledge. Baker’s is focused on the fraying edges of the community that borders Walt Disney World. Despite being radically different, the directors each attempt to confront the parks and their impacts through these stories.

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boogie nights 20th anniversary 2

“I got a dream of making a film that’s true. True and right and dramatic.”

This line of dialogue comes courtesy of porn producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) early in the sprawling 1997 epic Boogie Nights, from then-upstart writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. In the intervening period, Anderson has lived up to that dialogue, maturing into his generation’s best filmmaker, the spiky and unique auteur behind Punch-Drunk Love, Inherent Vice, and the new century’s best film, There Will Be Blood.

Boogie Nights, which turns 20 today, is not Anderson’s first feature—that would be Hard Eight from 1996—but it’s a poster child of the major concept that he’s returned to in his other films. His filmography has focused on everything from porn to the oil industry to Scientology, but the core theme of his work, as highlighted by Boogie Nights, is the necessity of family.

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Ridley Scott on the set of The Martian

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Ridley Scott has only made two good movies…and the reason why they’re good explains the rest of his weaker filmography.)

Sir Ridley Scott’s 40-year career is marked as much by its successes as it is by his chameleonic willingness to jump from genre to genre on an almost annual basis. This year alone, Scott has directed the grim sci-fi film Alien: Covenant and is following it up in December with All the Money in the World, a true-story crime drama about kidnappers trying to extort industrialist J. Paul Getty. His past films include the nihilistic thriller The Counselor, the light dramedy A Good Year, the con caper Matchstick Men, the sci-fi adventure The Martian, and on and on and on.

But the films that loom largest over Scott’s career are two of his earliest: Alien and Blade Runner, the latter of which received a long-awaited sequel last week in the form of Blade Runner 2049. Considering that both Alien and Blade Runner have gotten second lives of sorts in 2017, I feel compelled to come clean to my fellow cinephiles: for me, these are the only good Ridley Scott movies.

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Blade Runner 2049 Review

The future that Ridley Scott’s cult science-fiction film Blade Runner portended was both grim and fantastical: in the year 2019, Los Angeles seems to stretch infinitely and is now a mélange of cultures anchored by building-long advertising, a handful of monopolistic corporations, and replicants, humanoid robots that do the dirty work humans don’t want to perform. The vision crafted by Scott, designer Syd Mead, and special-effects wizard Douglas Trumbull was mysterious, astonishing, lush, singular, and dark. The real 2019 isn’t likely to line up nearly as much to the original film’s dystopic future. So it’s fitting that we now have Blade Runner 2049, a massive follow-up that offers an extension of that vision, a frequently beautiful, awe-inspiring, enigmatic, if somewhat hollow piece of filmmaking.

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epcot-35th-anniversary-logo

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: on its 35th birthday, Walt Disney World’s Epcot remains inspiring and frustrating.)

“EPCOT Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.”  This dedication, provided by E. Cardon Walker in October of 1982, was both grandiose and utterly appropriate to what the second theme park in Orlando’s Walt Disney World resort strived to be. Yesterday, the park celebrated its 35th anniversary, so there’s no better time to look at the park as it is now, and wonder why it’s altered quite so much.

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