Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

United Doesn’t Get It

February 2, 2007

th-f5.jpgI just flew in from the coast on United. The inflight movie was one I had not heard of: Man of the Year starring Robin Williams. So I was pleased when, instead of a preview, they aired one of those Ebert and Roeper style reviews before the show. Imagine my surprise when the reviewers panned the film! OK, to be fair: one thumb way down and one thumb sideways.

Is it possible they were getting complaints from customers about lousy inflight movies, so someone in legal decided: better add a warning?

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Boys’ Night Out

January 23, 2007

I spent Saturday night camping out with my son (and 200 other dads & lads) on the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

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What’s not to like about running free through an enourmous indoor-outdoor playground/maze, bristling with guns of all sizes? We took a knot-tying class, did Q & A with WWII vets, listened to a storyteller, and watched the classic 1964 Warner Brothers film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Yes, the 16-inch guns were memorable. But what stuck with me was the movie. The Incredible Mr. Limpet stars Don Knotts as the sad loser whose dreams come true when he magically turns into a fish and helps the US Navy win World War II. I loved this movie as a child. Seeing it again, I was surprised by a certain plot element that must have been lost on my pre-adolescent mind. Limpet’s wife Bessie is clearly attracted to another man—Limpet’s best friend George. Bessie and George would much rather be out dancing together than dealing with the boring Limpet. Then, when Limpet turns into a fish, he meets the beautiful Ladyfish, who wants to go with him to the spawning grounds. Limpet resists until he has a chance to talk it over with his wife and to get her blessing. Limpet and Bessie agree that a union between a woman and a fish is not practical, and they run off happily with their more compatible mates.

Is it a child’s primer on divorce? Or is it a metaphor for another kind of identity crisis? In any case, it is beautifully nuanced—not at all the heavy-handed style you might see in a modern movie.

Faded Fairy Tale

January 9, 2007

cinderella.jpgContinuing in the vein of old guy romanticizing the past, I rented the 1965 TV movie Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella so that my kids could have it forever glowing in their childhood memories as I do. However, from the moment the show started, I was astounded at how inferior the production values of 1965 television appeared. The music and Leslie Ann Warren’s incredible performance as the abused child shone through for me. But the kids couldn’t get past the Carol Burnett Show sets and the horses hooves clacking improbably on the linoleum sound stage floor. I feebly suggested, “Isn’t this great?”

My daughter’s response: “It’s cheesy!”

I was forced to admit, it was shockingly so…but still great.

Frog Princess Buzz

December 15, 2006

Animation fans have been buzzing since July about The Frog Princess, a 2D feature film rumored to be in development at Walt Disney Feature Animation. A casting call went out in November, but Disney still won’t officially comment.

Lost in Translation

December 11, 2006

Last night I saw a stage adaptation of the classic 1983 film A Christmas Story. There were strong performances from the actors playing Mrs. Parker, The Old Man (Mr. Parker) and Ralphie. However, the narration that works so well in the film did not work at all on stage. Seeing this live narrator over and over ruined my willing suspension of disbelief. It kept yanking me out of the story and reminding me it is all a play.

Writing guru, Robert McKee, believes narration in film should only be used if it is not needed (as counterpoint). I’m thinking the rule on stage should be: never.

Disney Returns to Shorts

December 3, 2006

There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times about Disney’s move (a few years ago) to resume development of short animated films. Disney has a long, illustrious history of making shorts, and the company has tried unsuccessfully to revive the old format before. Now, under John Lasseter’s leadership, there is no requirement or expectation that short films be profitable. The express purposes of the projects are to experiment with new techniques and to develop the next generation of talent.

Buried near the end of the article is the momentous news that one of the new shorts will be the first animated film in Disney’s history to be directed by a woman (Stevie Wermers).