The 007 Project: From Russia With Love

Previously on The 007 Project: I was getting nervous because I didn’t super enjoy watching Dr. No and I was afraid I’d made a huge mistake choosing this as my new watch project.

But I took a deep breath, and stuck with it and watched From Russia With Love.

And you guys? I really liked this one. It is a much more fun watch than it’s predecessor. It’s cheekier, Connery gets to do more of the stuff I liked from him in Dr. No, and it’s a little bit less racist and sexist. (I mean, it’s still really racist and sexist you guys. This is not a woke franchise.)

Who’s Our Bond

We’re still in Connery land and I still love him. He’s so much fun in this part. He’s just along for this delightful ride, smirking and quipping and practically winking at the camera. He gets that this is a ridiculous game and he’s having a ball playing it. He has a few more intense and emotional scenes which he also nails.

What’s The Plot This Time

A mysterious man who’s face we never see but has a distinctive white cat (Me as we see this, *SQUEEEEEEEEE* BLOFELD!) holds a meeting with two of his operatives and declares that SPECTRE is ready for their next step, further destabilizing the East/West Cold War tensions to rise to power in the chaos that will come. The plan is to sow some seeds of distrust in Istanbul, via a Russian agent defecting, and as a bonus, killing that pesky James Bond, who got the valuable Dr. No killed. The Russian agent chosen is Tatiana Romanova, who reaches out to M, saying she has a decoding machine that MI6 wants, and that she’ll only communicate with 007. Baffled, but very into this mission, once he sees a picture of Tatiana, Bond hops a plane to Istanbul, rendevous with Ali Kerim Bey, and then Tatiana. They get the machine and head towards England (with some fun set pieces along the way) and Bond learns that Tatiana is actually taking orders from Rosa Klebb, and Klebb has defected to SPECTRE. Tatiana still thinks she’s working for Russia and is pretty pissed she was used by the rogue organization so then she defects for real. Klebb is threatened by Blofeld (who we don’t know is Blofeld yet) that he will not tolerate another failure from her.

I’m Addressing The Problematic

Ooookkkaaayyy, let’s get started. So, there is a very racist section of this movie that could be cut entirely without losing much of anything. (Isn’t that always a bummer? I mean, a whole movie being super racist sucks, but when there’s just BOOM 20 MINUTES OF TERRIBLE RACISM it’s so jarring) While in Instanbul, Kerim takes Bond to a Romani camp, (though they use a commonly used slur for folks of Romani cultural background) where they watch a sexy girl dance, and then there’s a fight between two women to win the right to marry the son of the chief. When the Russians (actually SPECTRE) attack the gathering, and Bond protects them the chief says, “SURPRISE, you James Bond are my son now and also those girls, all yours.” It is, unsettling. And then, completely unaddressed.

But again, this is a 20 minute section that you could completely skip over and lose pretty much nothing except some weird racist shit.

Tell Me About The Girl

Tatiana Romanova is played by Daniela Bianchi, and I like her a lot. She’s a loyal Russian intelligence clerk, who is chosen pretty much because of her unfailing loyalty to the state and also she’s super hot, and they want to lure James Bond and having a super hot lady around is a great way to do that. While there’s still a lot of pouting and looking pretty involved, she’s a pretty active (if reactive) character, who’s in control of her own mind and dislikes being used. She does however, enjoy sex with James Bond. (And who wouldn’t, really?) So when she defects for real, they head off to Venice and make out in a Gondola. Is great. I like it a whole lot.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

I had to do a little more digging to even ask Joe about a car this time, because there’s only one scene with the car. This movie is much more about boats and a train. Anyway, it’s a 1935 Bentley Mark IV, it was what Bond drove in the books and honestly? I kind of forgot to ask Joe about it. Because it isn’t really featured much in the movie at all.

The Song Is The Thing

This is the first time we get a Bond Theme Song, besides the iconic orchestral theme, which does indeed rule super hard. The song “From Russia With Love” is a cool loungey ballad performed by Matt Monro. The song plays diagetically as Bond picnics with sometimes girlfriend Eunice Grayson (who he met in the casino in Dr. No) and then over the end critics. The song seems to be about a world traveler who’s decided to hang up his hat and settled down with his sweetheart. It is pretty good.

Overall Thoughts

I genuinely and really enjoyed this movie and it totally energized me going into the project, which, Dr. No had gotten me a little bit freaked out about. I had an absolute ball watching this movie and can’t wait to move forward, because, if I’m remembering correctly, things just get more campy and fun from here.

Next week, we get into Goldfinger. I don’t remember much about the movie, but the song is good.

The Weird Bits That Made Me: The Rocketeer

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

I’m not the only nerd of a certain age to talk about how the notorious Disney produced flop The Rocketeer, made in 1991 by director Joe Johnston, was a big influence on their taste. There are tons of blog posts and think pieces out there about this one. Mostly, because Johnston went back to the well in some major ways when he made Captain America: The First Avenger which I also love.

The Rocketeer tells the story of Cliff Secor (Billy Campbell, adorable) a struggling stunt pilot in 1930’s Los Angeles, who comes across an experimental jet pack, along with his trusty mentor and mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin! The cast only gets more exciting from here folks). The pack was stolen from Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn!) by gangster Joey Valentine (PAUL SORVINO!) who has been employed by matinee idol Neville Sinclair (TIMOTHY DALTON! Who we will be talking about more eventually!) who is actually a Nazi spy. Sinclair becomes interested in Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny, an up and coming actress (Jennifer Connolly at her absolute hottest) and shenanigans ensue.

It’s a great movie. Fun, and funny and grown up without feeling tawdry, with clean exciting practical action and a “Gee Whiz!” energy that never feels corny. Johnston really excels at this, and I’m 1000% convinced that fond memories of this movie got him the Cap job. There are quite a few beats reused. (It ends with a couple of kids running around the airfield pretending to be The Rocketeer, which made me laugh out loud.)

We also watched this movie maybe every weekend growing up. It was my brothers favorite movie ever, and I can honestly say, my absolute love of this movie, is I think a testament to how oddly isolated to my family my childhood was. I spent most of my time with my siblings and cousins, and so we liked all the same things. When I was a teenager and referenced something like The Rocketeer, and no one knew what I was talking about, was the first time I learned that my references were just a little out of step. And when someone did know what I was talking about, I knew they were a friend.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended one of my nerd friends Central Park hang outs, (these have been sanity saving) and I mentioned watching it for this feature and got an explosion of, “I love The Rocketeer” from a few, and then describing the flick, a “that sounds awesome.”

The Rocketeer is a great movie and I hope more people discover and fall in love with it because of Disney +. It was also nice to do a movie after having done music based ones for the past few times. (Most of these are going to be music though, probably)

The 007 Project: Dr. No

Hello everyone! I’ve learned over the past few years that what really helps me keep things going around here is having a watch project. Whether it’s recapping a show as it comes out, or doing a series of movies.

I really enjoyed watching all of those Disney movies, but rather than continue in that vein, I decided to go for something completely different. And that something completely different is watching all of the James Bond movies. In a row. In order. Open minded about who is best. (Though, you know, Connery.)

So, we’re watching The Bonds. We’re starting right here, at the beginning with Dr. No.

I don’t think I’ve watched these early Sean Connery movies since I was much younger and a very different sort of movie watcher. Here was my first thought, in writing this up:

It is amazing how Dr. No manages to set up everything we now expect a Bond movie to do, and still be incredibly grounded as a spy thriller. The large campy set pieces aren’t really there, with the exception of Dr. No’s lair, everything seems pretty real world. And yet, there’s still, well, everything we need to know about James Bond. He has sex with two different ladies, before meeting Honey Ryder, he drinks his martinis, he has his car shipped to Jamaica from England, he meets with M, flirts with Moneypenny, wears the tux, it’s all there.

Who’s Our Bond?

There’s also just, Sean Connery. My God, when he first appeared, I melted into the sofa. That is a sexy man, my friends, and I don’t mind saying it. When the camera focuses in on him at the card table at Le Club de Cercle, I actually took a deep breath and then exhaled. He is attractive. He’s also funny, and charismatic, and delightfully self aware in the role. He made the mold, and no one has really matched him.

What’s The Plot This Time?

A British spy in Jamaica has gone missing, and 007, James Bond, has been sent to find out what happened to the poor fellow. As it turns out, he was onto a mysterious Chinese scientist by the name of Dr. No, who is experimenting with atomic power, while under the banner of the mysterious SPECTRE. Bond thwarts him, HOORAY!

I’m Adressing The Problematic

Look, we’re doing Bond. There is sexism, there is racism, there is glorification of the waning British Empire throughout this series. Dr. No has got all of that. The women, all four of them, are completely disposable. The characters of color are stereotypical and silly. Dr. No is supposed to be half Chinese, but is played by the white, Julian Wiseman (who’s great, but you know, YIKES).

Tell Me About The Girl

Honey Ryder is played by Ursula Andress and she is very beautiful. She doesn’t appear until the last half hour of the movie but she has an iconic entrance in her gorgeous white bikini with a belt and it is completely and utterly fabulous. This bikini rules so much that last week it sold at auction for $500,000. I’m talking about the bikini and not the character because Honey is not really a character, she just kind of shows up and is around for about five scenes and then Bond kisses her on a boat and the movie ends.

It sucks.

Joe’s Bond Car Corner

Part of the fun of this series is that my brother-in-law loves the Bond movies, and love cars, so he agreed to do a quick write up of James Bond’s car in each movie. Hooray! Here’s what Joe has to say about The Sunbeam II, which I noted to him, I observed was blue!

  • You’re right – it was a 1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II in Lake Blue 
  • Being the first Bond film, they did not have the money nor the endorsements from large car manufacturers (Aston Martin), this car was actually borrowed from a local Jamaican resident since it was one of the only viable sports cars they could find on the island.
  • The Sunbeam name dates back to 1888 when it was registered by John Marsten, a bicycle manufacturer.  They began manufacturing cars in 1901. 
  • Sunbeam was a prestigious name due to their engine manufacturing.  They produced aero engines for planes in WWI, then focused on Grand Prix Racing and land speed records post war
  • Engine for the 1962 Alpine Series II: 80 horsepower, 97 MPH top speed.  Not so sporty for Bond compared to a 1962 Corvette, 150 horsepower, 108MPH top speed. 
  • Bond’s Alpine included optional upgrades such as wire spoke wheels and white wall tires (SO necessary for the early 60’s look)
  • The Alpine is named after the Alpine Rally (Coupe des Alpes) which was one of the most prestigious races in the world during the 50s.
  • Base price was about $2,500.  Mint condition these days they go for $10,000 tops.
  • About 19,000 Sunbeam Alpine Series II were made.  Not many around these days, if they are they are in bad shape and you can get them for around $3,000 as a project car.  
  • The Apline I was not very successful, so Sunbeam put a bigger engine in it, and made the car a bit bigger to attract the American Market.  It was considered moderately successful.
  • If Bond had waited 2 more years for the Alpine to be upgraded to the Sunbeam Tiger, he could’ve been riding around with a Ford V8 (twice as powerful) that was designed by the legend Carol Shelby. (A Note From Reenie: I know who Carol Shelby is because Matt Damon plays him in the very good movie Ford VS Ferrari)

Overall Thoughts

Not going to lie you guys, I got worried watching this movie. “Is this going to be harder than I thought? Watching all these movies?” It’s not a super fun watch. While Dr. No shines in moments, as a film it’s slow and meandering and a little more self serious than I expected, I didn’t actually like it much.

Next week we press on to From Russia With Love. And SPOILER! I like it a whole lot more.

Movie Reviews: Enola Holmes

Good lord, it really is hard to express how much “charming,” is one of the most important elements of any movie for me these days. A really and truly, I can think of no better term to describe Enola Holmes, the new Netflix movie starring Millie Bobbie Brown as Sherlock Holmes’s much younger sister, than charming.

Brown is adorable as the precocious sixteen year old Enola, who wakes up on her sixteenth birthday to find her eccentric mother, Eudoria (a delightful Helena Bonham Carter), vanished. In the wake of this disappearance, Enola’s brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) show up and cluck disapprovingly at their wild independent sister.

After Sherlock blows off searching for Mom (NIIICCCEEE) and Mycroft declares they’re shipping Enola off to finishing school, Enola runs away, and gets caught up in a mystery involving the young Lord Tewkesbury, who’s family is trying to kill him to keep him from voting for reform in The House Of Lords. He’s also adorable (And played by Louis Partridge, who I have never heard of but is good here) and Enola spends most of the movie denying her very obvious crush on him.

After solving that problem, Enola does find her mother, gets some money and sets up in a boarding house, despite Sherlock now offering to take her in and train her as a detective.

Millie Bobbie Brown is great in this movie. I’ve never not liked her, though, so there’s that. But she suits Enola very well, seeming both stunningly young and vulnerable and yet wise beyond her years. I’m excited to see more this character, as the movie is adapted from a series of books, of which there are five. More Enola Holmes please, Netflix. (Also, Millie Bobbie Brown and her mother produced the movie, which I said, was very Olsen of her.) (Mary Kate and Ashley, not Elisabeth.)

The Weird Bits That Made Me: Starlight Express

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.

It’s kind of incredible how many of the things I love exist because an idiosyncratic creator was not allowed to adapt the work they really wanted. George Lucas made Star Wars because he was denied the rights to Flash Gordon, Alan Moore wrote Watchmen as a response to being denied control over the Charlton family of characters, Lucas again, with Steven Spielberg made Raiders Of The Lost Arc after being told that they were, under no circumstances going to allow Americans to make a James Bond movie. Guillermo Del Toro wrote Crimson Peak after Disney kept delaying his Haunted Mansion script. (I do still mourn for that one, I love Crimson Peak but I WANT THAT DEL TORO HM MOVIE!)

Starlight Express exists because Andrew Lloyd Webber really, really wanted to write a Thomas The Tank Engine musical. (Yes really) The powers that be that owned Thomas and his buddies flatly turned him down, so he made an even weirder choice and wrote a new story about sentient trains, their love lives (yes really), the deity they pray to (I think?), and some twenty years later, a family of Americans got cheap tickets to a London revival of the show while on vacation, and the rest is odd familial inside joke history.

I’m going to do my best to sum up the plot of Starlight Express, but I make no guarantees. It’s been years since I saw it, and also, it does not make a lot of sense. So, Starlight Express is the elaborate imaginings of “Control” a child who is playing with toy trains, and who’s squawking annoying voice narrates elements of the show. It’s the big train race week or whatever, and a bunch of international stereotype trains are getting ready to race. The reigning champion is the American Diesel Locomotive, Greaseball, who fulfills that very important Webber role of “guy who sings like Elvis.” On the sideline are Passenger cars, who are female coded, and want to hook up with the male coded engines. These include Pearl, an observation car, who is into, but embarassed by Rusty, an old steam engine, and Greaseball’s car of choice, Dinah, a dining car. (There are two others, but I don’t remember them) There are also some freight cars who act as Rusty’s buddies.

Rusty enters the race with Pearl, and also an electric train, Electra, shows up. Greaseball is threatened by Electra, and also Pearl ditches rusty for Electra. Rusty goes for advice to an EVEN OLDER steam engine, Papa, who tells Rusty to trust in the Starlight Express, a legendary God like train who rides the rails at night. After the first round of races, Papa dies, and Rusty, Electra and Greaseball and The British Train, I think? are in the finals. Electra ditches Pearl, who then goes to Greaseball for reasons? And then there’s another race, Rusty and Pearl get together, and Rusty wins in the end, YAY! They all sing a big gospel number to celebrate and then a Megamix to take their bows.

Also they’ve been on roller skates, the whole time. There are also lasers, so many lasers.

I saw this show when I was 10 and I was enamored of it. I loved it so much, you guys, and my siblings loved and my parents probably liked it fine, but completely indulged our love of it. I still like it better than Cats. (I am alone in this one, my siblings do not like it better than Cats.) It’s lower tier in Webber’s work for sure. (The high tier being Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom Of The Opera, Evita and School Of Rock.) But there’s some strong stuff here that’s worth talking about.

The title track, “Starlight Express” is a really beautiful lullaby by way of power pop ballad. Greaseball’s intro solo, “Pumping Iron” is a super fun 50’s pastiche, and the regret duet from Greaseball and Electra “One Rock And Roll Too Many” will always make me smile and I can imagine being the kind of song performers love tackling. I’ll also always have a soft spot for the straight up Weird Al level parody of Dinah’s act 2 lament, “U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D” which is the kind of country breakup song everyone should appreciate even without knowing Tammy Wynette’s brilliant, “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.D” but you should also listen to that song because it rules. Pearl’s ballads, “He’ll Whistle At Me,” and “Make Up My Heart” are serviceable but not up to snuff with Webber’s better female lead songs, and the Act 2 Duet, “Next Time You Fall In Love,” is a sweet reunion for our leads.

Nearly all of the character songs do their work, but often feel like soft runners up to similar songs from Joseph, or *sigh* Cats. (It is interesting that the one unmitigated favorite from Cats that I have is “Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat” which is about trains.)

Overall this is a straight nostalgia pick for me. I know it’s not particularly good by any critical measure, but it is immensely popular in Europe, ran for a while in Vegas, and toured in the States for a bit. Some of these songs really hit the sweet spot for me, and the out and out bonkers level of the production and story are a lot of fun. Also, I think this was the beginning of me just loving highest level musical theater, no matter who crappy the show I’m seeing is. My weird attachment to The Pirate Queen and Rocky The Musical are the fruit of this seed.

Also, I will always give credit to my friend Ali, who once noted, “It is not strange that Webber wrote Starlight Express. He’s a weird dude. It is utterly bizarre that men in suits somewhere gave him money to mount it.”

I for one am so grateful that they did.

Magical Movies Tour: Frozen 2

I have so much to say about Frozen 2, that I started, stopped and restarted, reworked and rethought what I wanted to say with this essay.

Did I want to talk about this movie is really, super gay? Did I want to talk about Kristoff as a model of positive masculinity? (“My love is not fragile” is incredible) Did I want to talk about Queen Anna? Or Olaf modeling working through an existential crisis for the children? Colonialism? There’s so much! It’s a movie that’s packed full of stuff.

I couldn’t pick so instead here’s what I have to say. Frozen 2 is very good. The animation is cool and great. The story is fantastic. The songs are very good. Idina Menzel, good singer. Jonathan Groff, also good singer. Kristen Bell and Josh Gad, do less singing this time around, but they also good. Sterling K. Brown is around too. He’s great. There’s not really a villain which is good because Hans might be the weakest part of Frozen.

I love the idea of Anna and Elsa as a bridge between the people of Arrendell and the indigneous Northaldra. It’s a nice piece of symmetry. I really love the set piece in the glacier that goes along with my favorite song in the movie, “Show Yourself.” I sob each and everytime I watch it.

It’s really a surprise that I’m having trouble wrapping up, as I am TERRIBLE at endings. And this brings us to the end of the road here. I have watched ALL of the Walt Disney Animation Studios films.

It was a very fun project that I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and found some new favorites. (Bambi, Lady And The Tramp, Treasure Planet!) But now it’s time for something completely different! I considered plowing forward with animation and going into Pixar, and I still might, but I need a break from that kind of world and maybe to feel a little more grown up. And So! Starting next Monday, I will be watching all of the James Bond movies! I think it’s going to be really fun. I’ll also be checking in with more of The Weird Bits That Made Me, and of course on October 30, it’s the exciting return of Fangirl Loves Star Wars with The Mandolorian Season 2. (Ahsoka Lives! #WheresEzra? BABY YODA RETURNS!) After that, The 007 Project will move to Wednesdays. We cool? Great!

Thanks for coming along on the magical movie tour, this was an exciting thing for me. It made me miss Disney less. (I HAVE MY TRIP IN MARCH BOOKED AND I AM SO AFRAID)

Magical Movies Tour: Ralph Breaks The Internet

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.

The Weird Bits That Made Me: Julian Dawson, Travel On

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:

The strong and silent teacher,

You let the music talk

I learned to sing in harmony

As soon as I could walk

But trying to please everybody on Earth’s

Not an easy thing to do

When all the time I was only try to please you

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.

Magical Movies Tour: Moana

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”

Shall we?

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.

Supernatural Aid

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

Magical Movies Tour: Zootopia

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.