Reaction To The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

Some parents taped their kids’ over-the-top reaction to this new Disney film. (SPOILER ALERT!)

It’s SAD!

Does posting something like this online contitute a poor parenting choice? The parents obviously love their kids, and think it’s sweet that they are so emotional. And they probably didn’t think this would be seen by many people. But maybe it will be traumatic for the kids. What do you think? Post thoughts in the comments.

Personally, I find this pretty funny, and I don’t think it’s such a big deal. But then again, I didn’t grow up in the internet age. People had to tease me in person.

Also, thank god I didn’t take my 4-y-o daughter to see this. She got emotional when she saw Jennifer Love Hewitt sadly plugging UNICEF over footage of starving African children from 1996.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

Here’s the reaction:

Film Review: BRAVE

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG.

The new Pixar film is out on June 22, and it is called Brave, and it is wicked awesome. Wiki. I will attempt to tell you how awesome it is (‘review’ is probably a misnomer, since this is likely to be little more than lavish praise and gushing) but I really won’t spoil anything you can’t learn from the trailer or the cover of a new Brave coloring book now available at Target. Heck, I even picked photos that don’t reveal much. However, if you are a strict NO SPOILERS freakazoid, then don’t read ANY reviews until AFTER you see it. Just a suggestion. I won’t be blamed for your unhappiness.

My hero.

Last night I was privileged enough to catch an advance screening of Brave with my 4-year-old daughter. We were pumped, so pumped I didn’t mind relinquishing my cell phone. We are big Pixar fans, and all their releases (except that travesty known as Cars 2) are wonderful films. But even with such a high bar set by all those previous killer Pixar releases, I couldn’t have expected a film with this much depth, this many facets and which is successful on so many levels. In turns, and without seeming jumpy or forced, the film is mature, emotional, spooky, action-packed, hilarious, magical and gorgeous. It’s pretty impressive, all the things they managed to cram into this 93 minute movie.  But then again, this is Pixar. They are the best in the biz, right?

I predict an uptick in archery class registrations this summer.

Pixar films have always looked pretty sweet, so bright, sharp, and clean, but I knew something looked… different about this film, compared to the signature look of the older releases. It was realer. Smoother. Deeper. More natural. Better hair. Better facial acting, even. Turns out the studio totally reworked their hoosey-whatsis algorithmic thingys that make them there cartoon pitchers look real purty. As a result Brave looks incredible. The sound is stunning, too. Lush, pretty, and sometimes bone-shaking. The music adds an authentic feel, but it is not at all distracting. This is a flick to see at a quality cinema for full effect.

Mérida, self-rescuing princess.

Pixar folks must be taking some cues from their buddies over at Ghibli, because this protagonist is no swooning princess, but a feisty, independent young woman with nerves of steel. Meet Kelly MacDonald as Princess Mérida, the feisty redheaded you’ve seen in all the promos. You will likely get to know her well this summer as she grins at you from the side of your beverage cup. Well, this is one NEW kind of Disney princess. One of those self-rescuing princesses. And she really is not looking for a Prince right now, thank you very much, and she could probably kick my butt, and yours. Plus she’s funny, charming, brainy, a free-thinking progressive, a good sister, and a knockout with amazing hair.  She actually might not want to be a princess at all, because it interferes with thundering across the mist-drenched, gorgeously mystical looking Scottish landscape on a Highland Pony and loosing arrows with deadly accuracy at stuff.

Da fam.

We also have Mérida’s loving and impressive family, lead by one of those huge Pixar Dads (more of a mountain than a man, but a nice, funny ginger mountain), King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and an impressively together Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), who is a bit severe and controlling for a young woman of Mérida’s tastes. She also has three hilarious non-speaking toddler prankster redhead brothers, who are responsible for a considerable amount of the hilarity, mayhem, sight gags and slapstick humor in the film. The cast is rounded out with three Scottish Clans filled to the brim with hilarious character types,  Mérida’s erstwhile Highland Pony Angus, an old wise woman, a scary monster of sorts, and of course, Scotland itself in a leading role.

Clan leaders! Haw!

Things open up with a young Princess playing with her loving mother and doting father on a gorgeous day in a sun-drenched field. It’s a glorious memory, really, a day which it turns out will live in legend, as a massive bear rears up to attack toddler Mérida and her fearless father throws himself between them and saves her life. In this, the first of many acts of bravery in this film, King Fergus loses a leg, and he is ever after locked in an Ahab-esque, life-long pursuit of the beast. Of course, the bear image recurs throughout the film, and we see the monster again before the film’s end.

Cut to the ‘present’ day 10th century, and Mérida’s parents applying pressure, as parents do, for her to make good and marry one of the appropriate suitors. Standard stuff. Mérida resists, which is no surprise, running off after a fight with moms. A rift in the family and a subsequent transformation lead to a surprising, moving, sometimes uproarious, pretty much jaw-dropping series of events. I cried four times, I think. I don’t think that’s saying too much in the way of spoilers.

A Wisp!

We also have a lot of neat details- the really cool recurring motifs of Will-O-The-Wisps leading our heroine to realize her destiny, haggis, Kilt jokes, Highland Games, stunning magic, and tons of mist. There is also a requisite stone circle, impressively ancient looking already in the 10th century, that figures in the story in a really creative way. All of this stuff is played in a way that feels authentic and natural. Even the kilt jokes, which are usually so stale, work fine. There are like 4 “nothing under the kilt” gags and I didn’t mind a bit.

This film is destined to be elevated to a spot near the top of Pixar’s cannon, which is no mean feat. Do yourself a favor and see it in a cinema with digital picture and sound this summer. You will be glad you did!

Nutshell Kids Part 1: Pierre

Pierre full-sized library edition (left) and Nutshell Library edition (right).

I just checked Maurice Sendak’s little book Pierre out of the library yesterday, in order to write this book/music/video review of it. This morning I found out that Mr. Sendak died. The obit praises him more effectively than I ever could- it’s worth reading. For example, like his parents, I had no idea he was gay. And he felt he never learned how to draw feet properly. I still regret missing his talk at UConn in 1993. I was probably off listening to Jimi Hendrix somewhere.

Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012

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Film Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

Studio Ghibli is probably tied with Pixar for the title of Best Movie Studio for Kids in the World. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke… the list of awesome movies goes on and on. Pom Poko kind of fell short, but it’s still about a billion times better than a Barbie Movie or Bee Story or something. The genius behind much of this greatness is a man named Hayao Miyazaki. If you don’t know who he is, click his name and educate yourself, son.

When you see this, you know it's going to be good.

Studio Ghibli is synonymous with quality, superb art, fantastic stories and writing, and sheer beauty. The stories are moving and mysterious and gorgeous and sincere as all get out. GUSH. So when I found out there was a new Studio Ghibli film out, based on the classic Mary Norton novel The Borrowers, I had to bring Stella to see it. A fresh, new Studio Ghibli film on the glory of the big screen is a rare and wonderful thing. Mastermind Miyazaki was not directing in this case, but he wrote the screenplay and oversaw production. And it’s not screening in 3-D, anywhere. Miyazaki is no greedy bandwagon-jumper.

So I huddled in the darkness, feeding Stella popcorn and surreptitiously taking bad photos of the screen, which I now present for your edification.

Dad! That's her!

OK, now here is the short version of the review, for those people who can’t deal with a good juicy spoiler. The movie is wicked, wicked good. In fact, it is awesome. Go see it at an HD/digital theatre if you can. Buy it on Blu-Ray, when it comes out. Spoiler haters can stop reading now.

We went to the charmingly named Regal Hollywood 24 @ North I-85 in Marietta, Georgia. It was quite nice. I wish I had taken pictures of the cinema itself. Sweet retro look from the outside, glass room fill of whirring hard drives with crispy-clear digital movies on em, great picture, great sound, not a lot of people at the Saturday matinee. The staff of friendly, efficient teenagers who work there stood in pleasantly stark contrast to the attitude laden, eye-rolling, sullen teens who seem to staff the cinemas of Boston. They also didn’t care that I was taking pictures. I am glad I moved for weird reasons.

Arrietty and her awesome hair clip.

The story revolves around a young Borrower named Arrietty, and her parents. Borrowers are miniature people who borrow items from humans – or ‘Beans’ – in order to survive. Thimbles, flashlight bulbs, pins, stuff like that. These little things, inconsequential to Beans, become essentially useful and prized items in the skilled little hands of The Borrowers. These little guys (and dolls) are like sweet, charming Navy Seal ninjas who are totally brave and resourceful as they rappel around the house in search of bits of food and these little items to borrow. They don’t have any evident magic, despite their magical-seeming stature. They are simply awesome enough to survive unseen on their wits, skills and ingenuity. But their survival is endangered by encroaching Bean curiosity and cynicism. They have knowledge of only a few other Borrowers, and they are isolated, living in fear of discovery.

Drops of water on a leaf umbrella.

Everything is writ large in this film- we fully inhabit the XL world from the Borrowers XS perspective. Sounds like rustling leaves or a crunch of gravel are  massive. A human hand brushing fabric is delightfully loud. Detail of things like wood grain or the texture of something like a broken flowerpot is huge with detail, just as a Borrower would see it. Drops of water are massive globs- one or two will fill a Borrower’s cup. The formidable cooking fire in Arrietty’s kitchen is a tiny pilot light. The physics and weight of bouncing leaves is perfect. Details are packed into the movie, and they are incredibly charming. The score enhances all this with a quaint, pretty, Celtic-esque sound, which fits perfectly with the homey vibe.

Sup, big guy?

A young man comes to the house where Arrietty’s family lives- it is his grandmother’s house, he’s there to relax before heart surgery, and eventually we find out he’s probably going to die from his condition. When he catches a glimpse of Arrietty, both their lives are changed. Her family will need undertake a dangerous relocation, to preserve their secrecy and safety. He learns lessons of bravery in the face of the certain extinction they both face.

Sweets for my sweet - a sugar cube.

In these films there is often a lovely, almost unspoken childlike romance present, and there is no exception here. I guess size doesn’t really matter. Earlier I mentioned Bee Movie, that horrid Seinfeld vehicle where the stupid bee falls in stupid love with a stupid human woman.  It makes you sick to watch it. This romance is just as unlikely, but it doesn’t insult your intelligence. Watching the almost heartbreakingly sweet platonic love of Sean and Arrietty develop makes you kind of want to cry. In a good way.

I wanna hold your hand.

Of course, there is a bad guy- a mean nannny/servant/housekeeper is on the trail of the Little People and really wants to… I don’t know, exactly. Out them. Capture them. Sell them to The Carnival. She finally finds the hidden lair under the floorboards, captures Arrietty’s mom, locks Sean in his room, calls the exterminator, and acts like a total jerk in general. So, Arrietty must use her formidable Borrower talents, and also learn to trust a Bean, in order to rescue her moms.

She did put holes in the lid, in case you were wondering.

Also, there is this Aboriginal type little Borrower dude. He’s kinda cool. He eats grasshopper legs like drumsticks. And by the end, he’s hitting on Arrietty too, in his chill Aboriginal kind of way. That’s cool. It wouldn’t have worked out with Sean anyway.

Spiller.

I will freely admit, I am a convert already. But from the second this film began I was hooked. The sunshine drenched garden of the magical old house took my breath away from the start, and when I caught my own initial glimpse of Arrietty, my heart was in my throat. I had a tear in my eye and I was overwhelmed with emotion as I entered another one of Miyazaki’s beautiful and amazing worlds for the first time.

All in all, this is another grand slam home run for Ghibli and Miyazaki. Well worth the $10, and a worthy addition to a substantial canon. TAKE MY MONEY, STUDIO GHIBLI!