Monday, September 21, 2015

The Top 100: Beauty and the Beast

The Top 100 is a blog series where I rewatch and rerank the movies that were in my Flickchart top 100 at the beginning of the challenge. I'm watching them in a random order to be as unbiased as possible in terms of reranking.

Well, hi. Remember when I said I was initially going to be blogging about this? Yeah, that was June 15, which was the day I took the job at Marin Theatre Company and moved my entire life across the country and never had time to do anything. But now things have settled down a bit, I have some weekends free, and it's time to get back to work on this challenge.

Beauty and the Beast was #6 on my Flickchart when I began this challenge. Since Casablanca moved down the list, Beauty and the Beast moved up and is at #5 as of this viewing. For a long time, this has been my favorite Disney movie. Belle is my favorite Disney princess. These are most of my favorite Disney songs. It's one of my favorite Disney movie messages.

So it has a lot going for it, but I haven't seen it in a very long time. We're talking years, possibly a decade. Let's find out if it holds up after all this time.

Here are my live-blogged thoughts as I watch.

  • Oh. Looks like I got my hands on the extended version. I've never seen this before.
  • Oh, man. That opening castle shot is gorgeous.
  • Ending of the prologue gave me chills.
  • One reason I like Belle so much is that I always identified with her as a bookworm who doesn't fit in.
  • And the townspeople don't even bother getting to know her. They just don't get her, so they give up.
  • I also like that Belle stands up for the people she loves. Who the people around her also don't understand.
  • I never noticed that the background music here was later used as the verse for "No Matter What" in the stage musical.
  • Maurice seems so vulnerable in this scene in the forest. He started running & I immediately thought, "He can't possibly outrun the wolves."
  • This opening intro to the servants is charming, and the intro to the Beast wonderfully ominous.
  • LOL, I forgot Gaston has the entire wedding in place before proposing.
  • Belle and Maurice have a puddle full of pigs directly outside their door?
  • I remember even as a kid bring blown away by the visuals in the "Belle" reprise. They're so pretty.
  • These far away shots of Belle exploring the castle are so atmospheric.
  • As a child, I was terrified of that spider coach.
  • I love that moment where you first sense Beast isn't entirely terrible, where he clearly has sympathy for Belle's loss of her father.
  • "Gaston" was my favorite song to perform. Let's see if it's as fun here.
  • This is a very minor detail, but I like that Gaston and the Beast both have blue eyes. Drawing that similarity is interesting to me.
  • "I could be wrong, but that may not be the best way to win the girl's affection."
  • I really like that the Beast's behavior is not excused as, "Oh, he's a tortured soul." Belle doesn't tolerate him being an entitled jerk.
  • Interestingly, he then takes her rejection as a rejection of him PHYSICALLY, rather than his personality.
  • Belle is the one person who might NOT judge him on his appearance and he's immediately alienating her with his behavior.
  • Yay, big ensemble number!
  • I really like that weird abstract shot of dancing plates and cups.
  • The Beast's instant regret of his outburst in the west wing is really nice.
  • Huh. I guess Philippe HAS been chilling at the castle, since the spider coach took Maurice home.
  • Gosh, the animation on the Beast's wolf attack is stunning. That shadowy reaction shot of Belle... Wow.
  • "Thank you for saving my life." "You're welcome." This is a lovely exchange.
  • This scene with the asylum owner is the first step toward Gaston being a truly evil villain instead of just a narcissistic buffoon.
  • Oh, how I used to dream of this castle library.
  • The oatmeal scene is gorgeous. He tries to do what she wants, does it poorly, and she extends a compromise to help him save face.
  • Ah, here's the extended scene that I've never seen before. 
  • Oh right, "Human Again" was added to this version. Not my favorite song and since I'm not used to it in here it feels like an interruption.
  • That above shot of dancing mops is lovely, though.
  • I admit I can't take the "Learn how to read" subplot seriously since the Community horror story episode.
  • Pretty sure the title song is one of the most romantic moments in all Disney movies. It looks and sounds so gorgeous.
  • "He's no monster, Gaston. You are."
  • The Mob Song is one of the scariest Disney villain songs to me. So much fear mongering.
  • "Praise the Lord and here we go" is my favorite line in that song.
  • "Fifty Frenchmen can't be wrong" is another good one.
  • And here at the end, Gaston still makes it all about ownership of Belle. He hates the Beast for being the one she cares about.
  • I like that the Beast doesn't deliberately kill Gaston. I think that's necessary.
  • "At least I got to see you one last time."
  • What I like about this is that while there is romance in it, their story is also heavily about friendship.
  • The servants all turned into objects resembling themselves... Now I can't stop wondering what I would be.

Immediate thoughts: This absolutely, absolutely holds up. The animation is gorgeous, the songs are great, and the love story is every bit as good as I thought it was as a child. Seeing it now as an adult, I'm struck (as I mentioned in my tweets) by how strongly this is about friendship. It's not just about Belle finding someone to love, it's about finding someone she connects with at all. When she laments to her father about being alone at the beginning, it's not that she is searching for a husband. She instead says, "There's no one I can really talk to." She wants a companion first and foremost, and so it makes sense that her relationship with the Beast flows naturally out of that companionship.

This movie is sometimes torn down for being essentially a romantic story of Stockholm Syndrome, compared to other women-and-their-monster-men stories like Twilight. But there's a huge difference between this and Twilight, or this and The Phantom of the Opera (which I love but think is a terrible love story). It's that the Beast's awful kidnapper behavior in the first half of the movie is not condoned or romanticized. His servants try to make excuses for him, but Belle will have none of it (and I think some of that is more for their own well-being than for his anyway; after all, if she gives him a chance, they may get back their human bodies). It's not until she calls him out on his bad behavior and he starts making an attempt to change that she starts falling for him.

At the beginning of the story, nearly everyone, including the Beast himself, puts all their emphasis on the outward appearance. When Belle rejects him, it's because why wouldn't she reject him, with the way he looks? And when Belle rejects Gaston, she clearly must be crazy. Belle and Belle alone is the person who looks beneath the surface. In the Beast, she sees potential for good. In Gaston, she sees self-centeredness and manipulation. In her father, she sees hidden genius. That makes her suspect and works against her in her own village, but it's what lets her find happiness with the Beast.

This movie still deeply resonates with me. I'm not as angsty now as I was as a child or a teenager, but I still am very aware that I get misinterpreted a lot by people (I don't think I'm that complicated, but apparently so). I understand Belle's frustration of having no one to talk to because no one gets her. And I understand how awesome it is when you find somebody who is willing to do the little extra digging necessary to understand you.

Easily still my favorite Disney movie. Let's see if it stays at #5.

vs. The Sunshine Boys (1996) - We could at least pretend this was a contest if it was the original 1975 version, but this one is pretty lackluster and Beauty and the Beast easily snatches away the win.

vs. Rurouni Kenshin (2012) - I watched this for my movie challenge last year, and while I remember it having some very lovely cinematography, it's definitely not going to win.

vs. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) - This was the first film to beat Schindler's List on my last Top 100 challenge. But it isn't going to beat Beauty and the Beast. I like ELAIC more than a lot of people do, but I'm not blind to its flaws. Beauty and the Beast has no such flaws. Or, well, if it does, I am blind to them.

vs. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - I really like Anchorman, though I think Anchorman 2 is more solidly funny. Beauty and the Beast would also beat Anchorman 2, so it's definitely beating Anchorman 1.

vs. The Remains of the Day (1993) - This is one I'd have to rewatch to be sure of how I feel about it. I remember liking it very much overall, but individual moments didn't speak to me as much as with Beauty and the Beast.

vs. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - Certainly my favorite of the Python movies, but, yeah, I'm disappointed by that ending. At least enough to give Beauty and the Beast the win.

vs. Back to the Future (1985) - This is the first one that might be a tough call, but, really, I didn't debate it for long. While Back to the Future is delightful and fun, it doesn't connect with me emotionally the way Beauty and the Beast does. I did not cry when Doc died and came back to life. I did for the Beast.

vs. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) - Now that we're pitting it against other top 20 movies, I have to seriously think about my matches. But though it may bounce back out when I rewatch it, for now, The Purple Rose is going to lose to Beauty and the Beast.

vs. Singin' in the Rain (1952) - Ouch. This is definitely a tough call. OK. I think if Singin' in the Rain didn't have the Broadway Melody sequence, or if it was only 2 1/2 minutes instead of like 15, I think Singin' in the Rain would win. But because that section drags down the film for me and there's nothing in Beauty and the Beast that drags, it's going to win.

vs. Moulin Rouge! (2001) - Ohhhhhhhhhhhh this is so difficult to choose. OK. OK. OK. I think for now I'm choosing Beauty and the Beast, which is the first chart shift of this reranking. But while I love Moulin Rouge! so so so much for its music and its visuals, it does fall down in the area of story. I don't care even a little bit about Christian and Satine. Beauty and the Beast, however, looks amazing, makes me care about the characters, and sounds fantastic. So... it's going to take the win here.

vs. Love Actually (2003) - OK. I think this is the only one I'm going to let Beauty and the Beast lose to right now. Because there is something transcendentally amazing about Love Actually that makes me happy every single time I watch it, and while I love Beauty and the Beast so, so, so much, it doesn't quite reach those levels. So Love Actually wins here. For now.

Beauty and the Beast has moved from #6 on the original chart to #2 on my new chart. Wow. But, gosh, the movie's so good. The switching up of my top 20 continues.

Time to randomly choose my next movie to rewatch and rerank! Looks like I'll be checking out my original #49, a movie I've only seen once: Amelie (2001). I'll be writing about that no earlier than October 5th (and possibly a lot later, as was the case here), so feel free to rewatch it and discuss it along with me.

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