I think you all probably remember from a few weeks ago how much I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and while I hadn’t watched Ralph Breaks The Internet yet, although I’d attempted to a few times. (I started it on multiple air plane rides and fell asleep each time.)
I’ll say this for the movie, it sure does pack a lot of fun visual gags into it, but even, midday, settled comfortably on my couch, I was having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie.
I think the plot is perfectly solid, and honestly, I think Ralph and Vanellope are as fun as ever. I also like all of the new friends they meet. I do think the movie is maybe 15 minutes too long, and thinks it’s more clever than it actually is.
That said, each individual sequence is great, I appreciate the light Disney Princess parody and I really like the message about the ways that people grow up and apart without losing one another. Sarah Silverman’s performance as Vanellope continues to stun me, teetering right on the annoying line that she’s always walked so well. Her confusion and searching in this movie are definitely work the best.
Overall though, I just didn’t feel the heart in this one, which bummed me out because Wreck-It Ralph was so chock full of heart. I know a lot of people love this one and I just didn’t get it.
Next time, our final rewatch, we head into the unkown with Frozen 2.
Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an expoloration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids.It hought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that.
There are certain moments when I remember how young my parents were when they married, settled and had the three of us. By the time my mother was my age she’d been with her life partner for twelve years, married for eight of those, and had three children.
So it becomes less weird when the musical touchstones of my childhood, beyond their teenage boomer staples, include stuff like Green Day, Blues Traveler, The Wallflowers.
But beyond even that, comes the fact that my parents were still heading to rock clubs and listening to bar bands well into my childhood. One time, after a trip to New York City’s The Bottom Line (now closed, but a favorite of my dad’s) they came back with a CD from a British, Indie Signed Singer Songwriter named Julian Dawson called Travel On.
We listened to this CD A LOT as kids. It was one of those that just stuck around in my mom’s car, and unlike a lot of the transitive stuff my dad picked up in his 30’s, was actually really good.
And then, when streaming came along, I made the decision to search Mr. Dawson (I still haven’t dove into his other work though I probably should, based on my adult tastes, I’d probably dig his shit). And today, we’re going to talk about the album, Travel On, which came out in 1995 and I listened to regularly probably until about 2003.
First things first, this ablum is super 90’s. It’s that odd combination of male yearning, 60’s nostalgia, daddy issues, and a vague social conscious, plus synths and acoustic guitars.
I forgot how deeply in my brain these songs were until I listened to them again, and how my favorites from when I was a kid are still the ones I prefer, despite getting most of them more. But were I to curate the album (which isn’t long) I’d probably still stick to the opening track, “Travel On,” the fun and propulsive, “Just Can’t Say No,” the 90’s-tastic depression ballad, “Sigh Heart, Don’t Break,” and the lovely parental loss song, “You’re Listening Now,” and the werido folk style story song, “Queen Of The Bayou.”
I’m less into the exhortation of shallow tourism as colonialism, “New Columbus” which includes the eye rolling insight, “Columbus has a credit card, he’s traded in his cross. The King and Queen of Nicotine still guarantee the profit and loss.” I’d liked this song as a kid because it is pretty catchy. Knowing a little bit more about how music works, it has a pretty fun guitar riff and some neat harmonica work. There are a few other songs that are very much about heartbreak and betrayal that I get more as an adult, but are also just, still not my thing.
Julian Dawson’s entire discography is on Spotify and while I don’t know if I can recommend this entire album, I would DEFINITELY say that I think people should at the very least listen to “You’re Listening Now,” which is the kind of raw and beautiful piano ballad that I will just never be able to resists. A sample of the lyrics:
I mean, dude, I am not made out of stone. That is some heartbreaking shit.
I was a little nervous to go back to this one, because it was SO odd, and also because I didn’t know if it would hold up at all, but it really did, and also is a bit of a Rosetta Stone into the kind of music I got into later. I’ve always been into this kind of lyric heavy acoustic pop-rock, and I think this album has some influence on that.
I’m hoping to get one of these done a week. I have a decent list of stuff that I’d like to talk about. It’s going to be fun.
I love Moana. I love Moana so much. Trying to decide what to focus on for this essay is almost impossible, but I’ve decided very specifically to focus on how Moana, the character in the movie Moana, goes perfectly on every step of “The Hero’s Journey”
The Call To Adventure
From the time she’s a literal baby, The Ocean is calling on Moana to venture out and save her people, she drops the Heart of Tafiti into her tiny baby lap. Of course we must first establish her normal life, as the chief’s daughter she’s learning to lead the tribe. It’s going very well.
Refusal Of The Call
Moana spends her whole life resisting this urge to go out onto the ocean and leave her home behind. She has responsibilities and also her father really hates the ocean. BUT, her island is in trouble and she goes into a cave and has a vision of her people’s history as voyagers and realizes what she needs to do.
The Ocean itself finally sends Moana on her way, as does the spirit of her Grandmother, who passes away right as Moana realizes her true calling.
Passing The Threshold Of Adventure
I mean, she LITERALLY HAS TO GET PAST A REEF SURROUNDING HER ISLAND TO BEGIN HER QUEST. (To find Maui and replace the heart of Tafiti) Also, when she meets Maui and convinces him to join her
Belly Of The Whale
Moana fight the Kakamora, realizing that this journey will be perilous and not as easy as she thought.
The Road Of Trials
This is largely the battle with Tomatoa, but also the journey across the ocean, where Maui teaches her to sail, and regains his powers of shapeshifting with his hook. This is also when Maui and Moana fail at their first attempt to get the heart to Tafiti, blocked by the demon TaKa.
The Meeting With The Goddess/Atonement With The Father/Abyss/Apotheosis
After Maui flees in their failure, Moana communes with her ancestors, especially her grandmother and realizes that she is a hero and she needs to finish her quest. (I weep, and weep like a tiny baby.)
Here the hero is supposed to have a greater realization about themselves and their quest, here, Moana know at last, who she is and what she wants.
The Final Boon
Moana restores the heart! She wins! Also, she realizes that trauma is not the defining portion of a person’s life and soul, when she returns the heart and it is revealed that Taka is the heartless Tafiti.
The Master Of Two Worlds/The Freedom To Live
Upon returning to her people, Moana teaches them to voyage once again, and takes her place as the next chief. Also, Maui returns to his place as a great hero.
I left a few categories and steps that didn’t apply, but otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward telling and I love it so much. Frozen II also fits pretty well, but we’re mostly going to be talking about feminism and matrilineal lines of power when we get there.
Next time, I do my best to finish a movie that I feel asleep watching on planes like 4 times, Ralph Breaks The Internet
It’s kind of amazing that Disney manged to make a movie like Zootopia that is an entertaining mystery, features adorable and interesting animal characters, and is someone how a very effective fable about the dangers of both personal prejudice and institutional other-ing.
Also, Shakira plays a Gazelle.
I really quite enjoyed watching Zootopia again, especially in light of the…well, everything, lately, and I think it hold up pretty well, despit being a little on the naive and simple side. (But I mean, this is a movie where Jason Bateman voices a fox in a Hawaiian shirt, so we can only expect so much of it right?) I also appreciate that pop culture references, which aren’t totally glaring and feel relatively timeless.
What’s even more exceptional is the absolutely perfect voice casting, even using almost entirely celebrities. Ginnifer Goodwin and Bateman do excellent work as our leads, Judy Hopps and Nick Wylde, and I especially like Jenny Slate as the villainous Mayer Bellwether.
I also appreciate the way the animation and environments look, Zootopia doesn’t really look like any other movie and the animals are uniquely designed and adorable. I particularly like Judy, who really manages to stand out from the crowd with relative teeniness and grey and blue color pallet.
And did I mention that Shakira plays a Gazelle, because that happens and it’s pretty wonderful.
Next time there’s just no telling how far we’ll go with Moana.
It’s funny what watching these movies all in a row have done for thinking about the context of what the studio was trying to do with the movies as the came out. If Frozen is the old formula coming back stronger than every, I feel like Big Hero Six is something they’d tried to get traction on ten years before finally working.
That is, if Frozen is the musical beginning of the Disney Renaissance coming back, Big Hero Six is the stuff thank tanked it finally coming back. It’s of a piece with Atlantis and Treasure Planet and even Meet The Robinsons in a way. It’s really interesting.
I also happen to just really love it. It’s a fun superhero origin, completely reinterpreting an obscure, and not particularly popular comic story line, and provide a diverse and fun team.
I’m also a big fan of stories where love besides romantic love is given weight, and we’re in the middle of three movies that highlight that very much. (Frozen, Big Hero Six and Zootopia) It’s a pretty cool trend they went for there. I wouldn’t mind another love story though, because I’m a sucker.
I feel like I’m being vague in talking about Big Hero Six itself, and it might be because it just didn’t make much of an impression on this particular watch. Perhaps it’s because I spent so much of the past six months in Superhero stuff. (Rewatching the Arrowverse, and lately diving back into Young Justice.) Big Hero Six does a great job with telling a straightforward super hero story, and also has a big cuddly robot.
I’m a fan, but there’s not a whole lot to dissect here. (also we’ve now hit the point where I was watching and reviewing these movies in the theater, crazy!) It’s a well made, fun bit of action movie, with a sweet heart and some killer voice acting. I really enjoyed it.
Next week we want to try everything, with Zootopia.
There have been so many inches of digital ink already handed over to why Frozen managed to become a phenomenon, but why not spend a few more?
For my money it’s an odd combination of things, but most especially, it is a case of the formula clicking back into place. Adaptation of a fairy tale? CHECK. Songs Written By A Top Tier Broadway Talent that Broadway isn’t exactly sure what to do with? CHECK. Innovating and exciting animation sequences? CHECK. Memorable characters voiced by top tier talent? CHECKARONI!
Frozen managed to scratch an itch that a lot of people, especially the parents of young girls, and those young girls themselves, didn’t realize they had. I also happen to love it because it’s message of finding your place in the mess and sisterly love came around at a time that I really needed both of those things. Also it was the year I fell back in love with Disney World, so that didn’t hurt.
My own experience is so marginal though, because this movie belongs so thoroughly to the kids that fell in love with it on sight, the way people my age did with The Little Mermaid. There’s just something endearingly special about it, the kind of alchemy of right place and time that really creates something magical and special and of it’s moment.
I mean, it also doesn’t hurt to have a knock down, drag out show stopping musical number performed by a world class, unique talent. I am of course speaking of Jonathan Groff’s timeless rendition of “Reindeers Are Better Than People.”
I’m kidding, obviously, “Let It Go,” is an exceptional musical theater song performed by one of the all time greats, Idina Menzel. I’ve always been impressed by the way Robert and Kristen Lopez utilized her voice in the song, somehow managing to take the incredible range she showed in “Defying Gravity,” and the attitude in “Take Me Or Leave Me,” to create a signature song worthy of the title.
Frozen is just really special, it’s hard to quantify. It isn’t exactly perfect, the story is clumsy and jumps around. Anna and Elsa as duel protagonists are underserved and undeveloped a little bit. The Hans twist seems to come out of nowhere. What’s the deal with the trolls? And Olaf is juuuussst over the line into annoying. But it as shaggy as it all is, it manages to hold together and be just wonderful.
Up next, let me know if you’re satisfied with your care, when we talk about Big Hero 6.
My God, this movie is chock full of creativity. The fact that they created three fully realized video game worlds that felt like they belonged, used well recognized IP without over-relying on it, and used one of the best deployed voice casts of the century is no small feat, and that’s just the trimmings on the greatness of Wreck-It Ralph.
Because what really makes it great is that this movie has a big beating soft heart. It’s a movie about misfits who want to fit in. Ralph and Vanellope are kind, determined and loveable, but they just can’t seem to get those around them to see it. This was smack dab in the middle of the “Pixar the cry factory” era, but Ralph sacrificing himself while reciting the “Villain Oath” is as tear jerking as Bing-Bongs disappearance from memory.
It also manages to bring about some truly fun new characters. King Candy is a wonderful villain and the twist is well set up and still surprising. I’m also just a huge fan of Vanellope. I think Sarah Silverman does a great job with her. She’s so endearing in that weird little kid way without slipping over into annoying and that’s as much a triumph of performance as it is of writing.
It also helps that I’m not much of a gamer, but the stuff I do love is arcade games. I love arcades and arcade games to this day. I do not live near a good barcade and it’s such a bummer to me. (I mean, not right now, because of the ‘Rona, but in precedented times.) So this movie, with it’s deep affection for that era and kind of gaming is just such a treat for me to go back to occasionally and spot things that I missed. It’s so much fun to watch.
Well, up next, y’all know what’s up next right? It’s time to Let It Go, and head off to Arrendelle and watch Frozen.
Of all the things that I miss about life in the before times, I was missing my weekly trips to the multiplex the most. I miss brunch, and bars and going out dancing, and hugging my friends.
But I missed the movies so much, that I actually danced for joy when Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state of NJ was going to allow 40% capacity in movie theaters starting on September 4th.
I was at the shore when I found out and sitting out on a patio drinking Chardonnay with some family friends, one of them asked me what the first movie I would go see was.
I exhaled. I’d given it some thought. I miss superheros so I was psyched for New Mutants, and it’s always exciting to see what’s going on in Christopher Nolan’s weird brain, so Tenet was also in the mix. But honestly? Bookending my COVID based cinema gap with interesting and exciting adaptations of classic novels seemed correct.
So I went to go see David Copperfield, which, if you read everything I’ve ever written you might remember is a novel I did not care for, despite usually liking Charles Dickens quite a bit. (Part of that is finding David himself insufferably virtuous.) I did however really enjoy this movie. My issue with the narrator was solved by him being played by the impossible not to love Dev Patel. And my issues with the narrative, that it leans into the worst of Dickens’s quirks with coincidence and black and white elements of virtue, vice, reward and punishment, are solved by the sharp and cynical eyes of it’s co writer and director Armondo Ianucci.
There was no way that the man behind Veep was going to fall into the sinking pit of melancoly and sentimentality that is so easy to fall into with David Copperfield. And indeed he did not.
I am here for this new trend where we adapt classic novels and actually lean into their comedy. I was cackling at the performances in this movie, Darren Boyd and Gwedolyn Christie play the wicked Murdstone siblings that sweeping ghosts. The flight but loving Micawbers are magically and affectionally played by Peter Capaldi & Bronagh Gallagher (A Doctor and a Commitment? DELIGHTFUL) but the true triump are Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton as David’s loving a loving but eccentric relations. (Ben Winshaw is also great as sleazy and villainous Uriah Heap)
What’s most fascinating about the film, to me though, is how it feels like play. Most of the characters have only one costume, the performances and broad and straight faced, and with the exception of Jairaj Varsani as young David, no one is aged, despite the story taking place over a lifetime.
Overall, I was extremely impressed and I think I made the right choice for my triumphant return to seeing movies out in the world.
Literally the only thing I remembered about this Winnie The Pooh movie was that it was released the same weekend as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II, and the marketing campaign was therefore highly engaged in the concept of holding on to childhood as counterprogramming to Deathly Hallows, “And now childhood ends,” approach, and I thought that was absolutely genius at the time. Still do, in fact.
That said, I think the reason that I didn’t particularly remember this one is that it isn’t particularly memorable.
It’s a nice little Hundred Acre Wood story, where Christopher Robin arranges a contest to get Eeyore a new tail, the prize being a pot of honey. Pooh Bear needs that honey, obviously, though he doesn’t win initially, he does in the end. There’s also a digression where the animals fuss over Christopher Robin being kidnapped when he was just off at school for the day, which is terribly sweet.
But it’s also just, there’s so much of this movie that is absolutely trapped in 2011. (The songs are sung by She & Him, for example!) That it loses the timeless quality that makes Winnie The Pooh and his group of friends really special. I do like the animation, which is strong and pretty, but strays too much from the classic feel, without reinventing enough.
I was just underwhelmed by the movie in general, I guess? It wasn’t charming enough and didn’t get the emotional moments right at all, even if all the delightful child logic of this world was on full display.
I was watching the Oscars and Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were performing, “I See The Light,” and I gasped. The song was wonderful, and so touchingly and lightly performed by these two actors.
Then I watched the movie, and I fell head over heels for it. I loved Rapunzel’s characterization, I loved Donna Murphy’s brilliant voice performance as Mother Gothel, and my god, Levi has never been better than he was as Flynn Ryder.
This was also the return of Alan Menken to the Disney fold, working this time with , and it’s some fine work, some of my favorite that’s not with Howard Ashman. I mentioned, “I See The Light,” but “When Will My Life Begin” is such a wonderful bit of ingenue introduction, and I mentioned Donna Murphy, yeah? “Mother Knows Best” is perfection in a villain song. It’s so full of gaslighting and abuse, and the melody is bouncy and menacing and I love it so much.
The other thing that Tangled has going for it, is that it is funny. It’s really, and honestly a great road trip comedy with fairy tale trappings, aided by Moore and Levi and of course the animators making Rapunzel and Flynn so very loveable and fun to follow.
I also love Rapunzel’s chameleon buddy Pascal, and Maximus a palace horse who acts like a bloodhound for some reason. I’ve never been sure why, but it’s a delightful gag.
Next time we’re back to that Silly Old Bear, and check out Winnie The Pooh.