Magical Movies Tour: The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh

The first time I watched these Winnie The Pooh stories they were broken up individually on video cassettes, so I watched some of them more than others. But I watched all of them, over and over again.

In fact as I rewatched this, all the way back in March, from my Quarantine Couch was rocking back and forth humming along to “I’m Just A Little Black Rain Cloud,” and I felt like I was home from kindergarten again, my mom throwing Winnie The Pooh on to give her another 30 minutes to wrangle Mary in the afternoons. (We were both half-day kids)

That’s been a big bonus of this project, getting into the nostalgia of the thing. The coming weeks are going to just be more and more of that as we enter into the movies that I remember seeing in the movie theater and then watching over and over again on video.

Anyway, Winnie The Pooh, which tells some of A.A. Milne’s stories in delightful animated fashion. I’ve mentioned before that charm goes a long way with me, and oh boy are these shorts (stitched together as chapters in a book) charming out butt. It helps that the characters are so broadly and yet specifically sketched, and their interactions are always surprising. And Pooh himself is lovely, really a perfect child’s hero, kind hearted, a little selfish, and always does the right thing, eventually.

Christopher Robin also made more of an impression watching as an adult. We’re in his little world here and he’s the grown up, oddly enough. The animals all need his help with almost everything, the way a child would with an adult. It’s a sweet fantasy for kids, and I think part of what has made Winnie The Pooh endure for as long as it has.

Next week we return to the water works, with The Fox And The Hound. 

Magical Movies Tour: The Rescuers

I don’t know if it was the quarantine, or that I watched this on a day with four other movies, or that Penny is just the saddest character in the history of the world, but I was very emotional watching this one.

Seriously, I think I cried four times and the movie is only an hour and twenty minutes long.

First of all let’s talk about that airy seventies guitar pop soundtrack. I love that crap, I did have to double check that it wasn’t actually Linda Rondstat singing the songs (it wasn’t it was Shelby Flint) like in An American Tail, which has a lot in common in this movie, as it is also about the secret paralell world of tiny animal people, and involved Don Bluth. (Bluth actually got bumped from this movie when the older Disney animators decided they wanted to work on it.)

Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart are wonderful as Ms. Bianca and Bernard two mice working for the Rescue Aid Society, an internation coalition of mice who help the helpless, and who meet in the walls of the U.N. (Like, so cute) They’re on a mission to find a little girl who’s message in a bottle was found by the society. That little girl is Penny, a six year old orphan who just wants to be “dopted” but keeps being passed over for cuter,, younger kids. (Oh I’m sorry, was that an onion ninja?) Penny’s been kidnapped by Madame Medusa, who owns a pawnshop near the orphanage and needs a little kid to go into a pirate cave to get a diamond.

It’s a needlessly complicated plot, but the whole thing is very emotional and seriously, every time that little girl opened her mouth I burst into tears.

OH there’s also an albatross who is also a plane? Look, I loved this movie, I don’t know what to tell you.

Next week is The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, which, if I know me and my emotional state, means I will be crying more. (And also technically was released BEFORE The Rescuers but in the same year and because Disney Plus sorts The Rescuers first, so I watched it first.)

Magical Movie Tours: Robin Hood

Is there a more magical moment in this era of Disney Animation (considered a bit of a dark time, if you must know) than the illustration of Alan O’Dale as a Rooster, coming to life on the page and explaining the conceit of this film, that it’s the animal kingdom’s version of Robin Hood, and singing, “Robin Hood and Little John, walking through the forest, Ood-a-laddy, Ood-a-laddy, Golly what a day!”? I can’t think of one, but I’m only two movies in. (I figure from The Aristocats to Oliver And Company) 

I loved this one too. It’s funny how as we movie closer to the time I’ve been alive (this is still a good 14 years before my birth) I’m starting to like more of the movies, rather than the previous every other. We’re not quite in my exact zone of nostalgia yet, that hits with Oliver and the so called Disney Renaissance, but I still watched these ones more as a kid than the early films.

Anyway, Robin Hood is a delight, the meta conceit that we’re seeing a version of the legend told over again, it’s a story about stories in it’s way, and it’s also got some fun character designs, even if they are mostly recycled, and the music is cute and catchy.

The love story feels reasonably organic, if cut off abruptly because the final set piece of rescuing the townsfolk gets in the way, but I still love Robin and Marian’s walk through the woods after the tournament, and the accompanying song, “Love,” which I thought was the most romantic thing in the world when I was little.

Unlike a good number of my generation and ilk (nerdy queer folks) I’m reasonably sure that Robin Hood did not turn me into a furry, largely because I am not a furry, but I can totally see why if you were inclined that way this movie would awaken it, because DAMN, that fox is ATTRACTIVE. Which is to say, I do agree that Disney made us all into a bunch of weirdos. (I blame my wild obsession with musical theater and poofy princess dresses on the company.)

Next week we talk about The Rescuers and their adventures in children saving and super 70s soundtracks.

Magical Movies Tour: The Aristocats

Seriously, I think when I finish these and start going back these little animal tales are going to go into regular rotation. They are just so entirely sweet and easy to watch. I enjoy the characters and the creative ways that they create character.

While The Aristocats manages to combine the plots of both Lady And The Tramp and 101 Dalmations it doesn’t feel like a copy and that’s probably not something you would notice unless you were watching them all right in a row the way I am. Duchess and her three kittens, Marie, Toulous and Berlioz live a privileged existence in Paris, 1910, the beloved house pets of a retired opera singer. When Madame changes her will so that her fortune is left to the cats instead of her loyal butler, he decides to get the cats out of the way, abanoning them on the side of the road in the countryside.

Quickly, the adorable kitties encounter Thomas O’Malley, an suave alley cat who find the beautiful Duchess irrestiable (though he’s a bit thrown that she’s a single mom!) and they begin their trek home to Paris.

There’s excellent music in this one, with the title tune (sung by the inimitable Maurice Chevalier, should I watch Gigi while in quarantine? I probably will) always sticking and also the fabulous “Everybody Wants to Be A Cat,” wins as the catchiest song this side of “Under The Sea.”

Next week we watch the movie that launched a thousand fetishes, Robin Hood. 

Will Turner Is Trash And Other Pirates Thoughts

This week, drowned in Cinco De Mayo Tequila and Boredom and sadness that I wasn’t in Disney World as planned, I made a decision. It might not have been a great decision, but that decision was to watch the Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. 

That wasn’t the mistake, that movie is great. It’s fun, and funny, and effects are cool, and the performances are great, and it has my second favorite sword fight in any movie ever.

The mistake came when after watching The Curse Of The Black Pearl, I thought, “I wonder if the sequels are as bad as I remember.”

And in truth, the first three sequels, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and On Stranger Tides are not as bad as I remember. They’re still fun to watch. But that fifth movie, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is possibly even worse than I remembered it, when I reviewed it here.

But here are some things that came to mind, watching the series again.

  • Boy, after that first movie, Will Turner sucks. Not Orlando Bloom’s performance which is always a little bit dull but fine. I mean the character as written. The creators got it in their heads that Elizabeth and Will were going to have a tragic star crossed romance no matter how much it ruined Will as a character. He backstabs everyone and everyone is still like, “Will’s the good guy!” NO! Will is not the good guy! Will sucks.
  • In On Stranger Tides Ian McShane plays Black Beard and if you punctuated each of his lines with “Cocksucker,” “son of a whore,” or any of the other colorful profanity of Deadwood it would basically be the same performances Al Swearangen and I am 100% OK with it. Ian McShane chewing scenery is the best.
  • People think that Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is what’s great about these movies. And it is an incredible performance, but what makes them great are the supporting cast, which is why the last two movies are not so good. Jack Davenport, Kiera Knightly, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Lee Artenberg and Mackenzie Crook and Jonathan Price, are what made the first three movies really really special. The sequels loses these actors and characters and are poorer for them. (Except Rush, but they kind of run Barbosa into the ground)
  • I am particularly obsessed with Jack Davenport as James Norrington and I hate that Mary was right about this because he was always her favorite. I didn’t make the connection about him being great until I watched Smash where he played the awful director Derek Wells. (TEAM IVY!)
  • It is incredible how Jack goes from an actual performance to straight schtick. It’s also really annoying.
  • Kiera Knightly is super cool.
  • Barbossa is even worse than Jack when it comes to an interesting performances becoming Schtick. It takes a little longer, Geoffrey Rush makes it through the first three movies, but by the fourth, there’s nothing left in the tank.
  • I am, as it turns out, much more attached to these movies than I thought I was. I think it’s because that first trilogy came out while I was in high school and they were like Acceptable? nerd movies. I didn’t have to pretend I only liked them because of Hugh Jackman.
  • In retrospect it is incredible how necessary Will and Elizabeth are to the plot and spine of the films. Part of what hurts the last two m”ovies is that you lose them and their naivete and sense of discovery about the world and none of the characters brought in to replace them quite hit the right tone.
  • I still love Brenton Thwaites, even though that fifth movie sucks. He’s still Dick Grayson
  • The whole Mermaid subplot in the fourth movie adds absolutely nothing
  • Will Turner only came ashore 1 of the 2 chances he had to see Elizabeth, which again, links back to the title of this post he is straight TRASH and she is THE FUCKING PIRATE KING, (and it is, it is a glorious thing) and she deserves better than his ambivalent complacent ass.
  • The fifth movie totally wastes Javier Bardem and that should be a goddamned crime. Nothing about his character makes any sense.
  • Johnny Depp is likely a terrible person, I don’t feel like passing judgement on that here.

ANYWAY! I’m really excited that I got five posts in this week, and I’m already on my way to three for next week, so we’ll probably get five in next week too. YAY!

 

Magical Movies Tour: 101 Dalmatians

A few months ago on their podcast, “We Got This With Mark & Hal” Mark Gagliardi and Hal Lublin chose “The Best Disney Movie While Walt Disney Was Alive” and Mark described 101 Dalmatians as super hip.

I didn’t remember it that way, but I hadn’t watched it since some time in the mid 90s, so I really couldn’t say and after watching it again, I agree with Mark. This is a cool movie, and so very contemporary to the time it was made. Everything about the movie is terrifically 60s in the Mad Men sense. The drawing style, the music, the way the characters interact, all of it. It’s a complete delight.

The characters are amazing too. I think I could write an entire book on Cruella DeVille and on Pongo, everyone else is a bit of a thin sketch but they’re strong enough to make up for it. And the system of the Twilight Bark and the network of animals that help Pongo and Perdita find their puppies (and the 86 others) is a pure delight.

But back to Cruella, who is a brilliant villain and my favorite so far that we’ve encountered, and that includes Maleficent who I also like a lot. But Cruella is so much fun and a complete sociopath. The woman genuinely doesn’t understand why people aren’t cool with her making a puppy skin coat. She gets that they are, but the emotion of this eludes her. It’s fascinating and great.

Pongo, our hero, is also incredible, placing the psychology of a London Bachelor from 1962 in a dalmatian is such a wonderful conceit, that he finds Anita for Roger it’s mostly about himself finding Perdita, and the opening scene where he watches the women and dogs of London walk past their apartment is very fun, and the perfect window into who this dog is.

I didn’t love this as much as Lady And The Tramp, which I also watched a few extra times during COVID-19 panic because I loved it so much, but I did like it a whole lot.

Next week we get into some magical mischief with The Sword And The Stone

Magical Movies Tour: Lady And The Tramp

I LOVE THE PUPPIES!!!!!!

Ok, that’s out of my system, but it’s true, I do. The doggies in this movie are adorable and I want to give them pets and snuggles. Also, in this particular film, they are interesting and well drawn characters. Lady is a sweetie pie, a little spoiled and but happy to help her family as it grows. Tramp is, well, a lovable scoundrel, immediately drawn to the beautiful and sassy little spaniel of the “leash and collar set” as he calls them.

It also has the very lovely “Bella Notte” in the film, and those nasty siamese cats. (Again a LITTLE bit of racism poisons these films in some frustrating ways.) But it’s mostly just a charming little rom com, but with puppies and I love it so much.

I also love Peggy Lee’s Peg, and her song, “He’s A Tramp.” And the way Tramp calls Lady, “Pidge” and how she gets all huffy learning that he was a big slut before they met. Seriously, this movie is so stinking adorable, and the rat that sneaks into the baby’s room is scarier than The Queen Of Hearts and Captain Hook COMBINED, as far as villains go.

Also I hate those damn cats so much.

I also like the humans in this movie, sidelined thought they are. (Disney will get the balance better in a few tries, with 101 Dalmations.) Darling and Jim Dear are sweet and lovely pet owners and new parents, and even the notorious Aunt Sarah is more oblivious than malicious. The various keystone cops and dog catchers also get some fun spotlights.

All of the dogs in this movie are super great though. Lady’s suitors Jock (A Scottie) and Trusty (A Bloodhound) a so adorably protective of her. Boris a Russian Wolf Hound with a bent towards philosophizing in the pound is a real highlight too, but that all compares to the HUGE highlight

Peggy Lee has multiple songs in this movie. PEGGY. FUCKING. LEE. (If you’re unfamiliar here is a link to “Is That All There Is?” which is a masterpiece of song interpretation.)  She plays Peg, who sings “He’s A Tramp,” she’s also the voice of the Siamese Cats, and of Darling. She’s magical and awesome in this movie and I love that it’s her.

I will be coming back to this one, probably a few times. I also have to watch the “live action” remake which went right to Disney+, which I was waiting until I had a chance to rewatch the original to get to.

Next week, we get back to princesses with Sleeping Beauty. I’ve watched this one a few times since getting Disney+ but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.