Movie For Every Year of My Life

Rachel's Movie Festival!(2)

Just for fun I thought I would go through and pretend I was doing a movie festival where I had to pick out a movie made in every year of my life.  These are not nececssarily the Oscar winners or most highly praised, just which one’s stand out for me.  Some years there are strong honorable mentions like 2012 and 2007 and others it was easy like 1990.

Here goes:

1981- Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982- ET

1983- A Christmas Story

HM- Return of the Jedi

1984- Amadeus

HM- Ghostbusters

1985- Back to the Future

HM- Goonies

1986- Ferris Buellers Day Off

HM- The Mission

1987- Princess Bride

HM- Moonstruck

1988- Who Framed Roger Rabbit

HM- My Neighbor Totorro

1989- The Little Mermaid

HM- When Harry Met Sally, Indiana Jones and Last Crusade, Dead Poets Society

1990- Home Alone

1991- Beauty and the Beast

HM- What About Bob?

1992- Howards End

HM- Aladdin

1993- Schindler’s List

HM- Jurassic Park

1994- Lion King

HM- Shawshank Redemption, Hoop Dreams

1995- Clueless

HM- Toy Story, Sense and Sensibility

1996- Fargo

HM- Jerry Mcguire

1997- Gattaca

HM- My Best Friends Wedding, Princess Mononoke

1998- Saving Private Ryan

HM- Truman Show, Mulan, You’ve Got Mail

1999- The Matrix

HM- Office Space

2000- Best in Show

HM- Cast Away

2001- Spirited Away

HM- A Beautiful Mind, Harry Potter 1, Lord of the Rings 1

2002- About a Boy

HM- My Big Fat Greek Wedding

2003- Lord of the Rings 3

HM- Finding Nemo, Love Actually

2004- The Incredibles

HM- Mean Girls

2005- Walk the Line

HM- Pride and Prejudice

2006- Casino Royal

HM- Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil Wears Prada

2007- Juno

HM- There Will be Blood, Bourne Ultimatum, Rataouille

2008- Slumdog Millionaire

HM- Wall-e

2009- 500 Days of Summer

2010- Inception

HM- Toy Stoyr 3, HTTYD, Tangled

2011- Harry Potter 7 pt 2

HM- Warrior

2012- Perks of Being a Wallflower

HM- Les Miserables, Argo, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, Avengers

2013- Gravity

HM- Frozen

2014- Boyhood

HM- Lego Movie, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy

2015- Selma

So for the festival you’d have Raiders of the Lost Arc, ET, A Christmas Story, Amadeus, Back to the Future Ferris Buellers Day Off, Princess Bride, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Little Mermaid, Home Alone, Beauty and the Beast, Howards End, Schindler’s List, Lion King, Clueless, Fargo, Gattaca, Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, Best in Show, Spirited Away, About a Boy, Lord of the Rings 3, The Incredibles, Walk the Line, Casino Royal, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, 500 Days of Summer, Inception, Harry Potter 7 pt 2, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Gravity, Boyhood and Selma

Not too shabby a festival! We’d have 4 action, 6 drama, 3 family dramas, 6 animation, 4 historical fiction, 2 romcom, 3 sci-fi, 2 fantasy, 5 comedies.

I’d go to that festival! Sign me up!

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Paddington: A Review

paddingtonLast year I went into Mr Peabody and Sherman with a certain amount of dread.  Hollywood’s track record at adapting beloved franchises from the past has not been very good.  Inspector Gadget, Yogi Bear, Smurfs, Lorax, TMNT, Transformers Cat in the Hat, Garfield are some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But to my great surprise Mr Peabody and Sherman was clever, funny, competently animated and an enjoyable time at the movies.

I had a similar experience with Paddington which is based on the popular children’s books by Michael Bond.  The trailer was very slapsticky and a dreaded January release made me nervous.  I was expecting the worst. But then I saw some youtube reviews from England praising the film and Rottentomatoes currently has it at 98%.  So, I went to see it today with my friend and her kids and was delightfully surprised!  Paddington is a completely charming family film.

paddington-tree_3059288cIf you didn’t know Paddington is about a bear family in Peru that are discovered by an explorer and taught English and how to serve tea and the joys of orange marmalade (the perfect food for a bear!). The explorer tells the bears that if they ever come to London they will have a home and about the child refuge program of WWII where orphans were given tags and left for strangers to welcome home.

An earthquake occurs causing the youngest Paddington to stow away and travel to London with a tag hoping to be welcomed. At first the English aren’t as friendly as he had hoped but he meets the Brown family led by the always luminous Sally Hawkins as the mother and the overly-cautious Hugh Bonneville as the father.

paddington4Paddington is clumsy and there are some Dennis the Menace moments with Mr Brown losing his cool at Paddington’s shenanigans but it was never over-kill and I enjoyed the scenes.  The kids are initially resistant to Paddington which I thought was an interesting choice but it made their eventual kinship all the more endearing.

paddington kidsIn many ways I think Paddington is very similar to a Muppets movie.  In fact, 20 years ago he would have looked more like Fozzie the Bear instead of being CG.  The key in a Muppets movie working is the human actors must play it straight while acting with a pig, frog, alien etc.  That is what happens in Paddington.  Nobody is surprised to be talking to or walking with a bear just like Kermit is treated like any other character in Muppets movies.

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This helped us stay away from the ‘OMG he’s actually a talking bear’ scenes, which have been done to death and the bear getting civilized because he is already drinking tea and making marmalade to start.

He’s a klutz but pretty quickly the movie moves to the main plot trying to find the explorer and we get introduced to a taxidermist played with great gusto by Nicole Kidman (who’s face actually looked semi-normal in this).

2014, PADDINGTON BEARShe has some hilarious interactions with the Brown’s neighbor Mr Curry played by Peter Capaldi who falls for her charms.

Peter_Capaldi__Hugh_Bonneville_and_Nicole_Kidman_in_brand_new_posters_for_PaddingtonJulie Walters is also great as the Brown’s aunt who lives with them.  She looks so different from Harry Potter movies I hardly recognized her but is very funny.  She senses the weather with her knees.

paddington mrs birdThe script is so well done by Paul King and Hamish McColl and I laughed a lot. The kids around me were laughing a lot and of the 3 kids that came with me 2 really liked it and 1 said she didn’t. Not sure why but 2/3 aint bad!

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The production design is so lovely. Whimsical without being over-the-top (like Tim Burton or Wes Anderson sometimes do).  There is a tree in the Brown’s house that changes from summer, winter, spring depending on moods.  The antique shop run by Jim Broadbent is perfect and the children’s bedrooms were magical without being cheesy.

paddington antiquesPaddington reminded me of Babe.  How many terrible animal kids movies have there been?  Well, Disney has a pretty bad one with Home on the Range. But then Babe comes out which is funny, sweet, and lovely movie that for my money is one of the best family films ever made (with a very underrated sequel that is brilliant).  I wouldn’t put Paddington at that level but I though it was really strong with a nice message about family, great design, very funny script and engaging performances. It’s just a winner.

PaddingtonStill2

It is also a pretty wholesome film- no innuendo or winking to the camera although some of the jokes may be funnier to adults it is never in an uncomfortable or unseemly way.  One scene a character dresses in drag but it is played for laughs and isn’t offensive in any way.

There is also a scene where Paddington is in serious peril and a moment where the crowd watching gasped but overall it is a gentle movie the whole family will enjoy.

Any of you seen it?  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Content Grade- A+, Overall Grade- A+ (yep, I really liked it!)

This makes me hopeful for Peanuts.  Maybe Hollywood can get 3 good adaptations of things I loved as a kid? Too much to hope for? We will see.

N and P’s of My Bluray’s and Vudu Giveaway

Two more of the ABC’s of my blu-ray videos to show you.  I have a new camera and external microphone on my channel and I think you will see the improvement on the video.  If you aren’t subscribed please do.  I would really appreciate it.

I also have a giveaway on my facebook page you will want to check out.  There is a great site called vudu.com where you can rent and own digital versions of your favorite movies.  You can watch them on most blu-ray players or on your laptop, tablet or even phone.  You can also digitize your DVD library for only $1, $2 if you want it in HDX.

Over the last year or so I have a library with over 300 films and I am allowed to invite 5 people who can view said library. I am going to invite 1 fan to have access to the library.   This has Frozen, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Dumbo, other Disney films and other great live action movies.  You can enter multiple times a day through different ways, so please check it out. http://is.gd/Pg2N2S

 

vudu

 

Whiplash: A Review

whiplash poster 2014

Today I got the chance to see the Best Picture Oscar nominated film Whiplash and it is a very good movie.  It is not my favorite movie of 2014 or anything but an extremely engrossing one, that I have a feeling I might like more the more times I see it.

Trailer:

It is about a boy named Andrew played by Miles Teller.  He is a freshman drummer  at Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the US and has dreams of being the greatest jazz drummer in the world right up there with Buddy Rich (I got to know that name quite well through this movie!).

The ‘Studio Band’ at the school is conducted by a man named Terence Fletcher played by the always great JK Simmons. He is a beast of a man who believes by manipulating and pushing his students he will push a student beyond what is good to what is great.

000036.2771.Whiplash_still1_JKSimmons_.JPGMy friends who have more experience in the arts felt this type of teacher could exist.  It seemed a little over-the-top to me but Simmons is mesmerizing in the role so whether it is or isn’t I bought it for the sake of this movie.

Fletcher throws chairs, yells, curses, makes Andrew play until his hands are raw and bloody.  A little challenge for me is unlike singing where I know when a singer is off key, the bad and good jazz music here sounded exactly the same. But it doesn’t really matter because even if Andrew played perfectly Fletcher is not going to tell Andrew that.  He says the worst words in the English language are ‘good job’ because it makes you rest.

I wonder about this basic premise.  I know for me when a mentor says ‘good job’ nothing makes me want to work harder and do better, so I’m not sure that Fletcher is right. What do you think?

Whiplash-4Andrew becomes totally obsessed with pleasing Fletcher and you can feel the meltdown coming.  He even breaks it off with his girlfriend because he is afraid it will distract him from the drums.

I would have liked to have learned more about why it is so important for Andrew to be the best?  There are a few quotes and we see him listening to Buddy Rich albums but nothing more.  What is it that makes him want to be first?  So many are satisfied with simple things but Andrew wants more.  Why?

Whiplash-Miles-TellerThe movie is basically like a pot of water getting hotter and hotter till it boils over.  Andrew practices like a mad man and Fletcher does not let go for a second and the ending is surprising and extremely satisfying.

Whiplash made me think a lot which is always a good thing.  It made me think about success or greatness.  According to Fletcher  to give such greatness to the world is of prime importance at any costs.

On a certain angle it is tough to argue with.  I’ve thought about this many times.  For example, if a young Mozart came to you and said ‘I’m sick of this. I’m going to live on a farm the rest of my life.  I know this music thing isn’t going to end well for me” Would anyone in their right mind say “Absolutely, do what makes you happy and live a good life”.  No, not when we know what resplendent masterpieces he left us with.

Miles-Teller-WhiplashTo continue on the Mozart comparison in the movie Amadeus Salieri is jealous over the seemingly lack of effort Mozart has to go in order to produce sublime works of music.  He is even angry at God for blessing Mozart with these gifts and only giving him mediocre talent. Whiplash is a different approach.  Fletcher seems to think greatness is either cultivated or it is wasted. Andrew works so hard it literally destroys his hands. Is it worth it? I don’t know.   That’s kind of the question the movie  and there isn’t a tidy answer.

Whiplash1I would have liked to have gotten in Andrew’s head a little more about these issues and had maybe one less practice scream session.  Andrew feels a little robotic at times and again I was left wondering why it is so important for him to be the greatest? The creators may assume it’s human nature to want to be the best and it can be but it can also be human nature to be lazy and do just enough to get by which is why Fletcher justifies his treatment of the students.  There has to be some underlying motivation for not doing the bare minimum for Andrew and I don’t know if I quite got that in Whiplash.

But that’s a bit nitpicky.  You certainly know he loves jazz music and maybe that’s enough.  Andrew’s father wanted to be a writer but ended up being a teacher and this is treated in the movie as a sell-out and maybe it is. Did his father not work hard enough, not innately talented enough or did he realize he wanted other things?  It’s a tough but insightful question the movie allows us to think about and ponder. I love that!

 

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Andrew even has a moment where he tells Fletcher ‘where is the line? When do you go too far and discourage people from playing at all?’.  Are the truly greats so great they can only be pushed, and pushed and those that give up simply weren’t good enough?  Or is someone with a slower more methodical training approach turned off from achieving their goal, which could be equally great?  I don’t know.

Another interesting question the movie had me pondering is isn’t it almost inevitable that someone better will eventually come along and then what have you sacrificed it all for? Again, that’s the struggle with Salieri in Amadeus. In another era he could have been great but someone who was simply better came along.

In contrast we have roles that only we can do like being a mother, father, sister, friend.  Doesn’t sound as glorious as being the greatest but in a way doesn’t it actually matter much more? I mean if you are going to offer your life up for sacrifice shouldn’t it be for something that only you can and should do?  But in the movie Fletcher says he has never found a truly great player (perhaps a testament to the problem of his methods…) so maybe they aren’t as common and repeatable as it might seem? After all, Mozart died in 1791 and I’m still talking about his genius on a blog in 2015.  It’s really tough. (See how this movie makes you think!)

Whiplash-4868.cr2

So to sum it all up- Whiplash is an excellent movie that asks a lot of intriguing questions with great performances.  All the music scenes are done incredibly well and it builds tension to a very satisfying ending. I wish we had gotten inside Andrew’s head a little bit more and understood more his desire for greatness but it still definitely earns a recommendation from me.  Worth your time to check out!

As far as content goes there is a fair amount of profanity including some homophobic slurs.  It is bloody and tense with shouting and other disrespectful behavior.  Whiplash is most appropriate for mature teens and adults, and I think it would be a good movie to show young people who have great ambition and talk about what success looks like and what is worth sacrificing to get where they want to go.

If you see it I am very curious what you think especially if you are an artist or musician.  Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments. Thanks!

Content Grade- D, Overall Grade- B+

Character Profile 5: Atticus Finch

atticus

Most people I know consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be the greatest novel ever written.  Perhaps Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby is in the running for some (not me) but it would certainly be in my top 5.  I’m sure just like with everything else there will be a few comments about how To Kill a Mockingbird is overrated and I’m sorry but I just don’t get how anyone could think that.

It is so well paced and builds momentum until the moment of the verdict which is completely devastating and yet triumphant at the same time.  And then a lesser writer would have stopped there but the story continues till the reveal of Boo Radley and the attack.

I tend to be a bit of a speed reader because I want to find out what is going to happen (even if I’ve read it before!).  But with To Kill a Mockingbird I slow down because I love being with these people so much I don’t want it to end.  There are not many books I can say that about.  Part of that attachment is the complete charm of Scout as the matter-of-fact narrator and Jem as his little idealistic heart is broken.

But in the end the person I most want to stay in my life is their Dad, Atticus Finch.  Never was a more noble character put to pen and paper. He reminds me of my Grandpa who I loved dearly and has passed on.  I hope we have all known someone like that.  I hope we all know someone who is worthy of standing for when they pass by.

I feel like many modern novelists are afraid to write noble characters- afraid they will seem ‘unrealistic’ or ‘too perfect’. It seems like a modern novelist would tag on some negative qualities to Atticus making him weaker and supposedly more complex.  And yet I know many people who are like Atticus, who by no means is a perfect person but he is just trying to do what is right.  I certainly hope we all know people who fit that description.

In fact, in my life the alcoholics, philanderers and crooks are the minority thankfully.  I relate to the struggles Atticus has where his kids and family pull him one way and his desire to stand up for what is right another.  He knows he is putting his family in danger by representing Tom but he can’t stand to sit by and do nothing and let evil prevail. That makes him a complex character because you see the conflict in his eyes.  Also he knows he is fighting not only a losing battle but one that will hurt his career and name amongst the town but he is anchored by his own moral compass and nothing else in the end matters.

atticus3When they went to adapt To Kill a Mockingbird to the movies they certainly had a Herculean task before them.  Fortunately it is in my opinion the finest adaptation from book to screen ever produced.  Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus and it was such a favorite of his that he kept in touch with the child actors and Harper Lee (a famous recluse) until he died.

After reading the book he said:

“”I got started on it and of course I sat up all night and read straight through it. I understood that they wanted me to play Atticus and I called them at about eight o’clock in the morning and said, ‘If you want me to play Atticus, when do I start? I’d love to play it.’ I thought the novel was a fine piece of writing and of course I turned out to be right about that, because it won the Pulitzer Prize and it’s still being read in high-school literature classes and the paperback goes on selling. But more than that I felt it was something I could identify with without any stress or strain… And I felt that I knew those two children…So I fell into that very readily, both as the father and with an understanding of the children.”

atticus2

You sense that love in his performance and it feels like a real family.  The kid actors are so good and it is kind of amazing this was their first and only role if I’m not mistaken.  Peck is so loving and sweet with them while still being honest.  It is the mix of showing them the world while shielding them at the same time that makes him a parenting hero.

I love the closing arguments because you know he is certain of the outcome and behavior of the jurors but he still hopes and says with complete conviction they will do the right thing.  That’s a main message of To Kill a Mockingbird is hope. Whether it is in the innocence of a child, the honor of a good man or the persecuted souls dreaming of better things, there is always hope to cling too.

When Atticus finds out that Boo is responsible for saving the life of his children he looks at Boo and says simply ““Thank you for my children, Arthur,”.  It’s so simple and beautiful. A lesser author might have made a big speech but 6 words is all that is needed. It’s a beautiful contrast when a jury of strong able bodied men fail to have courage but a timid fearful Boo Radley does the right thing.

It’s the culmination of all Harper Lee and Atticus have been trying to teach us.  He tells Scout:

“”Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Some may consider that a sad look at human nature but I see it as incredibly hopeful.  Hopeful there will always be people who can say like Paul “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”

atticus4

So Atticus to me is the most noble and complex character in literature and film.  If by some travesty you have not seen and/or read To Kill a Mockingbird stop what you are doing and get it done.  Luckily most of us read it in school (and most of us still like it which usually school ruins most books!).  It is a movie I frequently watch on Sunday and consider it the equivalent of a hug from my Grandpa who I miss terribly. He was such a man as Atticus.

2014 in review

Not half bad for starting in August.  Thanks for all the support! It’s been a blast!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Oscar Noms Reactions- 200 posts

86th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet

Hi guys! Just a quick post this morning and it is my 200th post!  Can you believe it! Thanks for making this such a fun part of my life. My other personal blog http://smilingldsgirl.com is just about to get 1000 posts (and has 500 followers!) but I’ve had that for 7 years.  This has only been since August  Crazy!

Just thought I would give a little response to the Oscar noms, not that these awards matter that much.  Still, it is nice to see quality praised.

I’m still working on seeing the nominated films and of the Best Picture noms I’ve seen Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma and they all deserve their noms.  Probably the surprise was only 8 noms this year when they can have 10 (the best picture nomination process is so convoluted and ridiculous).

I’m going to see Whiplash on Saturday so excited for that and should get to everything else in the next couple of months.  What’d you think of list?

Best Picture:
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

The biggest surprise is no nomination for Lego Movie. This is probably the result of it being an early 2014 release and it being a comedy.  The academy tends to praise dramas at the expense of comedies which I think are in many ways harder to pull off especially for kids.  It was also a definite tip of the hat to hand drawn with Tale of Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea both getting nominated.

The fact is it was an incredibly competitive year in animation.  I know a bunch of you disagree with me but I still think this is the strongest year in animation since the 90’s.  Just my opinion but for a movie as inventive, creative and funny to be off the list as the Lego Movie says something about the strength of the year.

While I haven’t seen Song of the Sea it looks amazing, so I can’t argue with the 5 on the list. They were all great. Of the one’s I saw I gave them all A’s.

Best Animated Feature:  (click film for link to my review)
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Other surprises-  no nom for Life Itself which I thought given Ebert’s popularity would be a shoe-in but it is kind of appropriate as the documentary branch consistently let Ebert down (example- Hoop Dreams not being nominated in 1994).

No nom for David Oyelowo for Selma is a big surprise because it is a great performance and typically the academy loves actors who portray famous people well.  Also it would have been one non-white nominee (amazing how non-diverse Hollywood can be?).  All the 20 nominees for acting are white.

Surprised but not surprised with a Meryl Streep nom for Into the Woods.  She is great and it was a fun performance, but at this point her getting nominated has become such a bore. I almost wish she’d just take herself out of contention.   I would be stunned if Patricia Arquette doesn’t win in that category.

Robert Duvall is kind of the same way with his nom for The Judge which I haven’t seen but didn’t hear great things. I am also a little surprised Ethan Hawke got nominated but happy.

No nom for Gone Girl (or its director David Lynch) which is a surprise although I haven’t seen that yet either.

Tom Hardy deserved to be nominated for Locke.  I mean who else can say they kept audiences transfixed talking on a car phone for 84 minutes? Oh well. Not enough room on the list.  I’m surprised no love for Nightcrawler which I probably won’t see because of the violence but heard is pretty great.

While not a surprise, disappointing to only have 1 nom for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for visual effects. Andy Serkis deserves to be recognized for the amazing ACTING he does.  Apes really affected me and made me think about life and conflict. It was a fun blockbuster but with something to say.

My prediction is it will be a big night for Boyhood.  It certainly was the movie that impacted me the most in 2014.  I think it will win picture, director, and supporting actress.

I also think Big Hero 6 will win for best animated movie.  It’s a battle between it and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Both deserving.

What did you guys think? What surprised you?

To 200 more posts!

Disney Over/Under

I haven’t done a straight Disney post for a while and I thought it might be fun to go through the decades of Disney and pick one movie I think is overrated, and one underrated. The overrated movies are not bad movies (except for 1).  I like all Disney movies to one level or another and there are only 4 that I have no desire to ever see again. (Any guesses?)

 

1937-1942  Early Era

Overrated- Pinocchio

pinocchio nose

I don’t think any from this era are overrated.  They are all great.  That said, I like Pinocchio.  It is brilliant, a masterpiece, but it is so dark and scary that it is not one I want to rewatch much.  I would give it an A where most people give it an A+ so only a small difference (I had a B in my original review but I’ve thought on it and would give an A now).  It’s a morality tale and sometimes that can be a little heavy handed and the Pleasure Island sequence is especially chilling particularly the kids turning into donkeys for the salt mines (holy crap that’s scary!). However,  I LOVE the music, animation, and heart! I appreciate a lot more now as an adult than I did as a child but unlike Hunchback which goes too far IMO this is still watchable scary for kids. Just not a favorite of mine even though I recognize its many great qualities.

Underrated- Dumbo

Dumbo-disneyscreencaps.com-6976.jpg

Dumbo I think unfairly has a reputation as being racist and so people stay away.  The crows are a caricature but I never found them demeaning or insulting. Perhaps I am not culturally sensitive to that group but they are happy and cheerful, nothing childish or patronizing.  Even if you fast forward the crows (a small scene) the rest of the movie has such heart and teaches about accepting others with differences- just the message some fear the crows are against.

I love the relationship between Timothy Mouse and Dumbo and Mrs Jumbo and her son. The artistry is also simple but beautiful.

 

1942-1949  Package Era

Overrated- Fun and Fancy Free

bongo finds love2

None of the package movies are really rated very highly but I got a lot of pushback on my Fun and Fancy Free review because people have nostalgia for Mickey and the Beanstalk.  I wonder how many have really seen it recently? It is pleasant and Crazy Donald is cool but it is also predictable and kind of slow.  But it is harmless enough.  What I really didn’t care for was Bongo- the story of a circus bear who learns how to slap people to show them how much they love them.  What a great message for kids!

I am also not a big fan of the interruptions from Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen at a little girls birthday party.  I know they are legends but it didn’t make me laugh and felt a little awkward.

Underrated- Melody Time

I find Melody Time to be one of the more palatable of the package films because although it has 7 shorts it focuses mainly on 2 longer segments- Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill.  Appleseed I love but may be less agreeable to non-Christian viewers.  It looks like it was picked up off a Grandma Moses painting and the story is sweet and music lovely. Pecos Bill is also beautiful to look at and a very funny Western tall tale.

johnny appleseed

1950-1959 Post War Era

Overrated- Peter Pan

peter-pan-1953-peter-pan-and-captain-hook

I like Peter Pan but unlike Dumbo I think people have a right to complain about the Redman song.  It is pretty bad and long. Plus, everyone is so mean to Wendy and she doesn’t really do anything worthy of the ill treatment. It also resorts to slapstick a lot.  Most of it I think is funny but it gets a little old after a while.  Still, the artistry is lovely and music great.  It’s a solid, entertaining movie, just not a favorite of mine.

Underrated- Alice in Wonderland

Alice-march-hare-mad-hatter

Alice in Wonderland isn’t for every taste so I think that is why it gets a bad rap. If you can just take off your normal linear storytelling hat and appreciate something different you will be dazzled.  It is supposed to be nonsense, not have a plot.  The movie is Alice being introduced to a variety of unusual creatures and I think it is brilliant.  The artistry is so much fun with the great Mary Blair’s visual style and the music is wonderful too.  Even after seeing it many times I find myself curious for what Alice will find next on her journey.  It’s great!

1960-1979 Sketch Era

Overrated- Sword in the Stone

light and swordThis is another film I think a lot of people have a fondness for out of nostalgia more than it actually being a good movie.  I was honestly being generous when I gave it a C-.  I hated the way it looks.  Everything looks like it has been painted over with blue and gray and feels dirty.  But most importantly none of the lessons Arthur goes through teach him anything about being a King or make him qualified to take the sword out of the stone.  Let’s see- he learns to be saved as a fish by Archimedes, make a squirrel cry as a squirrel and have Merlin battle Madam Mim as a bird.  How does any of that relate to being a King?  The songs are fun I will grant it that.

Underrated- Robin Hood

robin and little johnThe movie even Disney is embarrassed by because of the recycled animation.  I’ve thought about it a lot and decided I don’t care about that.  It’s just a technique like CG, hand drawn, stop motion, and if the story is good than the technique doesn’t matter to me.  Not that Robin Hood is a perfect film.  I think it is one act too long and gets a little too melancholy in the 3rd act. But I love the dry English wit and pithy dialogue. It’s funny with a great villain and solid music.

 

1980-1988 Pre-Renaissance

Overrated- Fox and the Hound

foxandthehound2mc-08Fox and the Hound is a fine movie but I’ve seen it pretty high on some lists and it is far too corny for me to take seriously.  I mean there is an extended poem with violins playing in the background. If that’s not corny I don’t know what is? And the characters are kind of one note although the message about friendships changing is a good one.  I hate the female characters who are just man (or dog/fox) candy.  I am not a fan of the dopey music and the bear scene while striking feels like it belongs in a different movie.

Underrated- Great Mouse Detective

basil and dawson

Those of us who are in the animation fandom may think I’m nuts for saying Great Mouse Detective is underrated but I think if you asked the world at large many are unaware of The Great Mouse Detective.  It’s not a perfect movie and is pretty scary for little tikes but the energy of Basil and Dawson and the great performance by Vincent Price as Ratigan make it thoroughly entertaining.  The scheme is over-the-top like a Bond villain and the animation is lush including the terrific use of computer animation in the clocktower segment.  The only part I dislike is the stripper song at the bar which I fast forward.

1989-1999  Renaissance

Overrated- Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame_gargoyles

Hunchback of Notre Dame is kind of the opposite of Great Mouse Detective.  The hardcore Disney fandom loves it, where most normal moviegoers I know greatly dislike it. We’ve hashed this out a million times on this blog but my main issues are the tonal shifts it takes between obvious appeals to children to adult-appropriate cruelty and messaging. The movie is visually striking but I found myself either disliking or feeling ambivalent towards every character. The change of Frollo to a judge from the Archbishop actually makes the church look worse by being inattentive and enabling a madman. The music is wonderful and it is some of Disney’s best animation but I just can’t get over that tonal see-saw and the cruel imagery for a film marketed and made for children.  They should have just gone all adult and I would have gone for it.

Underrated- Rescuers Down Under

RescuersduposterThis movie hits a couple happy buttons for me.  I love action adventure movies with treasure hunts and clues. To me RDU tapped into that formula and was so much fun.  I also love scenes in movies where characters fly and this has stunning flying sequences with Marahute. I also had extremely low expectations because I hate the first one.  RDU tempers the meanness of the first by only having McCleach in the movie for about 12 minutes and Cody is rarely alone. There is way more hope throughout and John Candy is hilarious as Wilbur the albatross who is operated on by crazy mice doctors (still one of the funniest scenes in all of Disney!).

2000-2009 Post Renaissance

Overrated- Brother Bear

brother_bear_09-1Finding an overrated movie in this period is hard and Brother Bear has a bad rotten tomatoes score and is at the bottom section of most people’s list so how can it apply? Well, I guess this is degrees.  I thought it was total junk.  I disagreed with literally every decision they made.  Most people give it a ‘stupid but harmless’ pass but I hated everything about it- the voice acting, predictable story, terrible character designs, awful background songs, strange singer choices, unlikable characters, annoying side characters, humor that doesn’t work (most jokes aren’t even jokes, no punchlines given…), ending is unbelievable and it had potential which made their terrible choices even more maddening. I would way rather watch Brave than this and I am not a big Brave fan but in the world of Disney turning into bears movies this is by far the worst.  It was nominated for an Oscar I remind you!

Underrated- Meet the Robinsons

meet-the-robinsons-original-2Meet the Robinsons is not a perfect movie by a long shot but I think many were so upset by Chicken Little they didn’t give this a fair shot.  It’s a lot of fun and very clever.   It is too cluttered but it is also kind of a puzzle I had fun putting together.  The Bowler Hat villain is creepily drawn and you will never guess his surprise!  The characters are engaging and fun and the story has a lot of energy, zipping around all over the place. And I almost always like a time travel story so this just worked even with its flaws.  Give it another shot and I bet you will find some things to like.

 

2010-Present Revitalization Era

Overrated- Wreck It Ralph

Wreckitralphdisney.pngSorry guys. I like Wreck-it Ralph but it is an average Disney for me not a top tier film.  I love the setup.  I love Ralph but I do not like Vanellope or Sarah Silverman’s vocal performance.  The villain is very clever but they spend way too much time in Sugar Rush and I’ve seen lots of worlds that look like Sugar Rush. After a while it kind of looked like one of the new Care Bears movie backdrops.  I love the music, and what they were going for but it loses me. It should have been more like The Lego Movie or Monsters Inc in the door scene and skipped between lots of the games.  That would have been much more entertaining to me.  Again, not terrible.  I like it.  I own it.  I just don’t think it is the masterpiece others think. Plus, the other movies in the era are in my top 10 except for Winnie the Pooh which I love and Princess and the Frog which I feel is perfectly rated.

Underrated- Winnie the Pooh

winnie pooh 2011 meetingI don’t know if I think any of the films from this era is underrated but like Great Mouse Detective I think 2011’s Winnie the Pooh has been largely forgotten by the general public despite getting good reviews and praise of many hard-core fans.  This is a movie that takes its target demographic of little children under 3 seriously and is gentle and sweet and I loved it.  Aside from a few of the voice actors and Christopher’s eyes it is lovely story of the gang trying to find Eeyore’s tail and prepare for the coming of the Backson.  I love the music and the animation is wonderful. I love that this movie was made for little children with no attempts to wink at adults and even the short running time is perfect for the attention span of toddlers.

And please save your conspiracy theories. This was not a carefully constructed film to justify the closing of the 2D department. That is so asinine.  If Disney can make money on 2D guess what they want to make money.  That’s what a business wants to do…It’s not as good as the original but a worthy sequel in spirit and feel- an lovely homage you might say.

 

So there you have it.  I’m sure you will have lots to say.  Remember I like all of these movies except Brother Bear. I love Disney movies! Share with me what your over/under would be for the eras I mentioned?  Always be respectful and we can have a spirited debate.  Thanks!

Selma: A Review

selmaTonight I had the chance to see the new movie Selma about a moment in the Civil Rights Movement (1965 to be precise) when Martin Luther King led a protest in the town of Selma over the discriminatory practices used to keep black citizens from voting.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I will- before this movie I didn’t know that much about the Selma riots.  I knew about the march on Montgomery, bus boycotts, march to Washington, Medgar Evars, and the Greensboro Sit-ins.  I know about a lot but for some reason this particular event had escaped my education.

Not that you can ever take all of your education on anything from the storytelling of a movie, but I am grateful to this film for introducing me to the subject and doing so in a very moving, motivating way. I feel inspired to learn more.

Trailer:

Selma is an extremely strong movie I think everyone should see (even you non-Americans).  We all should know about these injustices.  We should know because they persist in today and unfortunately always will. The human brain has a hateful side to it that always wants to prop one group over another and feel superior for a variety of reasons. This then provides a rationale for all manner of hate because it is not a person we are hating but a ……….(fill in the blank). My own ancestors had an extermination order written against them and were forcibly evicted from this country.  We all have those stories in our heritage and need to know about them.

But that does not mean that Selma is preachy.  It is a lot like Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln but I think more effective in some ways.  Just as in Lincoln we learn about the passing of the 13th Amendment,  Selma focuses on the months leading up to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

martin luther king selmaMartin Luther King is played very well by David Oyelowo who even sounds like King and captures both the loud and soft moments very well.  This is not a perfect version of King.  It shows him as a man who is unfaithful to his marriage and perhaps an idealist to a fault.  I was glad he is not shown as a paragon of virtue like a Lifetime Movie might have.

God uses very imperfect vessels to further his work and someone like Dr. King was used to do great things.  Imagine what we imperfect souls could do?

Selma-movie-Bridge-scene-592x333The cast is huge and features many famous names like Common, Cuba Gooding Jr, Niecy Nash, and of course Oprah Winfrey in a small but moving role (you forget sometimes she can really act).

If I was going to nitpick the casting of 2 Brits as LBJ (Tom Wilkinson who’s accent roams) and George Wallace (Tim Roth) was odd.  They are both fine in their scenes but the accents could have been better.

lbj wallaceLiberals might be ticked off at this movie because their patron saint LBJ is painted as an adversary of King.  Someone who had to be talked into a corner in order to bring the bill to Congress. I liked how it shows people how complicated governing is.  Something which seems so cut and dry to us may be littered with land mines for the folks in Washington.  Doesn’t mean you don’t act but it is harder often than we realize.

Another aspect of the movie I liked was it is not a ‘white people are evil’ message.  In fact, thousands of white clergy came at the call of King to join in the march across the Selma bridge.  There were nuns, rabbi’s and many of other faiths, which was something I didn’t know about.

selma2If I had to nitpick there are quite a few stops and starts.  I kept thinking the big moment was coming and then there would be another but it didn’t bother me much.  The characters were interesting enough and I was engaged throughout.

The music by Jason Moran is also excellent.  One thing that annoyed me in Lincoln was the John Williams score telling you what to think every 5 seconds.  This was more subtle while still being dramatic when it needed to be.

selma3I had no idea Dr King was so young when he died- only 39!  It’s shocking really.  One of the most fascinating men who have ever lived (I mean that), Malcolm X, also makes an appearance and if you have read his Autobiography (which you absolutely should) you totally get what he is trying to say.

malcolm xAgain if I was going to nitpick the filming could have been better.  There were lots of extreme closeups when a 2 shot or crowd would have been more interesting.

But it really is a very satisfying picture.  I left learning a lot, crying a little, inspired much and wanting to learn more.  Can’t ask much more from a film than that.  The performances are excellent even if a few of the accents could be improved.  Especially Oyelowo deserves all the praise he is getting.  It is quite the accomplishment.

selma-movie-edmund-pettis-bridge-e1420694825797

So go see Selma.  Take your families and friends.  Go see it and talk about what it means and what we can learn from it.   As far as content goes it is pretty tame.  There are 2 f words and a few other sprinkled profanity but it’s nothing to worry about.  The violence against the protestors can be tough to watch with innocent people getting gassed, struck at by police and beaten until a few are killed by redneck thugs.  But we need to know and have imprinted in our hearts these things.  And if you think the white people are bad in this movie see Rosewood.  That movie is brutal.  This is enough to show us what happened and teach us something without scarring us for life (although there is a place for that as well.   Some things should be taught to us so bluntly).  This movie however is more subtle and totally appropriate for mature children and teens.  I can see it being shown in schools in years to come and that’s a good thing.

What are some of your favorite movies based on real people or moments in history like Selma?  I’d love to hear and if any of you see Selma put in the comments what you think. Thanks!

Content Grade- B+  Overall Grade A ( few little qualms but overall really liked it)