One of the side-effects of making a podcast is that I find myself thinking about movies a great deal. Not a hugely surprising fact I grant you. I am forever pondering interesting top 5 categories. Internal debates rage about themes for the movies we choose and what would make a fun discussion amongst the Dads.
Because of this I came to wonder about what piqued my interest in movies in the first place. I can remember my childhood watching endless repeats of whatever I had managed to record onto a tired VHS. My parents were not enthusiastic movie goers. No, the trigger was laziness. Downright apathy towards academic study. The school that I went to ran an A-Level course in media studies. Watching movies and writing a few pages about it. Perfect. Far less effort and hard work than physics or maths!
Before this course I wasn’t seeking out the latest independent release from Joe Bloggs available on 3 screens only nationwide. My tastes were limited and bland. I was fortunate that our teacher encouraged us to watch the films that weren’t part of the syllabus, just because they were interesting a change from the usual blockbuster fare. I recall him pointing out a Kubrick season on Channel 4. Because of that I watched The Killing, 2001 and Full Metal Jacket. I also starting reading around the subject and would pick up a copy of Total Film and Empire every month.
So it would have been around this time that I heard of a low budget movie Swingers. This one didn’t make it to out local Odeon. I had to pick this up on video and watch at home. I immediately loved this movie. The plot is small scale and very human. A guy struggling with a breakup and his friends rallying round to help him get back on track.
It’s funny, clever, excruciating (I’m looking at you answerphone conversation scene!) and relatable. I know that a movie has really struck a chord when I buy the soundtrack, which I did with this one. This was the first-time seeing Vince Vaughn who really steals the movie. But I can’t help but see this as a Jon Favreau movie. It is in fact directed by Doug Liman. In reality though I think that it’s probably more of a collaborative piece. Apologies Mr Liman if that’s doing you a disservice!
When I look at the filmography of Jon Favreau there seem to be two distinct kinds of movie. The first is the lower budget, smaller scale project. The second are the much bigger, studio productions with all kinds of technical bells and whistles. Things like the Disney live action remakes of The Lion King and The Jungle Book, or the MCU entries Iron Man 1 & 2.
My personal favourites are the former. I loved Swingers and still do. Possible midweek mention incoming! We also covered Chef on the show (you can catch that HERE). We loved Chef and I revisit it frequently. That movie was such a hit that it has spawned its own spinoff cookery show on Netflix – The Chef Show. I absolutely love it and am impatiently waiting for the next instalment!
The Disney stuff, well I appreciate the technical innovation of all the talking animals. But really I think the original animation versions are superior. I don’t really understand the purpose of remaking them all as live-action, other than a shameless cash grab. But that’s a Disney thing not Mr Favreau.
I can’t talk about Jon Favreau without mentioning The Mandalorian. If you’re a long time listener to our podcast (seek help!), then you’ll know that I’ve suffered from Star Wars fatigue for a long time now. However, The Mandalorian is the one Star Wars story that has reignited any passion I have for that universe. JF has created a story (almost) completely separate from the dreary Skywalker saga. The journey of Mando and Baby Yoda was brilliant and totally unexpected. I can’t wait to see what is in store for season 3.
So how do I sum this up? What the point of all this? Well, it just makes me really happy to see that someone like JF has been successful in Hollywood. He looks like someone who grabbed the movies by the scruff of the next and written his own story. His movies aren’t pretentious or challenging, they are human, relatable stories that I enjoy even after multiple viewings. Even more, he seems like a good bloke* and congratulations to him on his success!
*please don’t let there be any hideous stories about him in the future!