Magical Movies Tour: Fantasia

This was the second time I watched Fantasia since getting Disney+, and it probably won’t be the last. (Unlike Pinnochio, which I really didn’t like much at all on adult revisit) It’s a really beautiful and interesting film, a delightful anthology of music and creativity that’s a wonderful love letter to the way the performing and creative arts communicate with one another.

The pacing surprised me when I revisited it. I felt as a kid that it was an endless wait to get to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” but it’s only the third segment! I also always loved “The Rite Of Spring” and now I think it’s kind of ugly and dull. I’m no longer a nightmare inclined kid, so I can see “Night On Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” as stunning dual images of the supernatural rather than you know, the most terrifying thing ever and a boring parade of lights.

There are so many things that I think get overlooked. I’m sure when designing Hercules Disney Animation when back to “The Pastoral Symphony” because while not identical, so much of the design matches up. “The Nutcracker Suite” images here are still the ones I see in my head when I hear the music. Those fairies spreading dewfall and dancing flowers are much more ingrained than any ballerina.

Fantasia’s initial financial failure is so sad to me. It’s such a special and beautiful film. I actually never saw the sequel Fantasia 2000 so when we get to it in a few months, I’m actually pretty excited to revisit the concept. I may just watch it this week too, in addition to Dumbo, which is, incidentally, our next movie! I’m not sure what I’ll have to say about Dumbo…but I bet it’s racism.

 

Magical Movies Tour: Pinnochio

As someone who love Disney in all it’s forms. (All praise to the Mouse!) I found myself stunned by watching Pinnochio another one I hadn’t watched since I was little. While there’s the light through line of Pinnochio wanting to become a real boy, and Geppetto searching for him on his adventures, it’s much more episodic than anything else, we go from scrape, to scrape, thatat Pinnochio and Jiminy get into.

But I was also blown away by how despite not knowing the movie that well, I knew every word to every one of these songs, because they’re used ad nauseum in the parks. “When You Wish Upon A Star” obviously, but also, “Hi Diddly Dee,” and “I’ve Got No Strings” just all over the place.

Jiminy Cricket is an interesting character, I like that he’s a little bit more of a scoundrel than I remembered, or at least, kind of a bum. He’s looking for some level of “becoming real” as well, or at least a place of belonging. The Blue Fairy sees this in him and grants him purpose, he’s a conscience. He’s terrible at this job but he’s trying his best.

The animation is once again, mind blowingly lovely, the transformation of the boys into Donkeys is terrifying, as is Monstro the whale, but in general everything looks so smooth and beautiful, the dancing in particular is a marvel and such a step up from Snow White, which I know was something that Disney himself was very adamant about, he wanted there to be revolutionary and new animation in each film.

While I didn’t enjoy Pinnochio as much as I did Snow White, seeing the way the animation moved forward was cool, and I love the music here, truly love it.

Next week, even more music! It’s time to talk about Fantasia. I actually watched this the first weekend that Disney+ was available, but I’m excited to watch it again. It’s remarkably beautiful.

Magical Movies Tour: Snow White And The Seven Dwarves

Welcome my friends to the Magical Movies Tour! For the next fourteen months we’re going to be watching all of the Walt Disney Animations Studios Movies. To be specific, these are the Walt Disney Animation, NOT Pixar, and only the theatrical releases. Maybe I’ll dive into those at a different time, but just the Disney Studios stuff at the moment.

And where better to start than Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, the beginning (and we will be proceeding chronologically from there). So, here we go.

I was nervous going into Snow White which I don’t think I’d watched all the way through since I was a kid, and I’d always written off as “annoying” and “simplistic” and “not particularly good.”

About five minutes in when I realized how wrong I was about the film. Aside from the revolutionary and incredibly beautiful animation, the music is lovely and Snow White herself is a better character than I’ve ever considered, while she is certainly more reactive than proactive, I’m OK with that. Making the Dwarves individualized rather than a collective was a genius decision on Walt Disney’s part. And each of the seven gets a moment to shine.

And then there’s this music. There are good, good songs in this movie. “I’m Wishing,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Dig Dig Dig & Heigh Ho” are all bangers in the musical theater/Disney tradition. Not to mention, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” which is a truly lovely “I Want” song. I was so charmed by this movie watching it again, truly. If I had to choose something to criticize I would say that the first act is a little choppy.

There’s nearly no exposition to the Queen’s jealousy, or Snow White’s trip to the woods with the Huntsman, or the magic mirror. It just jumps from place to place. The Prince also appears and disappears. I don’t mind gaps in exposition, especially in fairy tales, but it’s conspicuous and makes the first act hard to follow. However once the Dwarves enter the proceedings, the movie is nearly perfect.

The animation is legitimately some of the most beautiful ever created, stunning and scary and charming. I keep coming back to that word, but really, that’s the best one for the film, charming. This is a charming film, with personality to spare. No wonder it spawned an empire.

Next week we’re going to watch Pinnochio. 

 

In The Shadow Of Adaptation: Little Women

I’ve been joking around about how every angry nerd bro was about to get their revenge from me, as Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was announcing. If this movie wasn’t good, I was going to scream and yell and throw things. I was going to CREATE A YOUTUBE channel just to make videos dismantling the movie. I was going to every single time any cast member came up change the subject to how Little Women was crappy.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is my favorite book ever. I read it every few years, most recently, two weeks ago, and I find something special and new in it each time I read it. I’ve built my personality around The March sisters. I love it so much. I’d heard it was good, I’d heard the ending was “controversial.” (It shouldn’t be, Gerwig figured out how to fix the ending of Little Women to have her cake and eat it too, and it’s genius. I sat down in the theater and crossed my arms, saying, “OK, show me.”

I was shown. The choices that Gerwig made are clear and concise, choosing to move between the timelines of the parts of the story really worked for me. So many adaptations of Little Women are top heavy, leaning on the childhood portions and leaving the grown up portions bereft (Beth’s death is the exception.) But here, begining with Jo’s return to Concord when Beth’s sickness develops and Amy and Laurie’s reconnection in France, and moving through their memories from there let’s each story breathe. Meg still gets short shrift, which is a shame. I hope someone delves into her dreams of a happy married life and the way she struggles a bit more some day. This did more with it than the 1994 version, so we’re getting somewhere, but still.

I’m in love with this movie. It’s a wonderful adaptation, I love the cast. I am obsessed with Florence Pugh, but mostly I just love that it felt right. As teenagers, the characters felt like teenagers. Their emotions felt true, the barely contained chaos of the March house felt like home.

Let’s talk about the ending, if you’re new to Little Women, because of this movie, welcome, come inside. I’ve made some blanc mange but I swear I used sugar not salt! Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women as a lightly fictionalized (very lightly) version of her childhood. Famously, she only married Joe to Freidrich Bhaer at her editor’s insistence, Alcott herself never married, and she didn’t want Jo to. Gerwig takes this fact and makes Jo’s actual fate ambiguous. We see her argue the ending with her editor writing, “Under The Umbrella” where Jo and Bhaer agree to marry, in real time. But we also see Jo’s school at Plumfield, and Friedrich is there, so which is it? The choose your own aspect is wonderful. 

I have a lot of feelings about this movie, about Little Women in general, and about how to adapt older work, about feminism in this story, about female characters, and I’m very happy to point to this movie forever and say, “Look at Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, just DO THAT!”

I think I’m going to continue this sporadic feature. I don’t know if any books that I love a lot are getting high profile adaptations this year off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’ll be at least a few. It was really rewarding rereading Watchmen, His Dark Materials and Little Women. (I still have to finish HBO’s His Dark Materials, which…probably speaks to how I feel about that adaptation) we shall see.

It’ll Be Important If You Write It

I am not to be trusted when it comes to stories that I love and criticism, and I more than love Little Women. 

Little Women is my favorite book ever. Little Women is me in so many ways, it’s shaped the way I think, the way I feel, the way I interpret stories and especially how I feel about adapting stories I love. (But we’ll talk about that later in the week)

Greta Gerwig is a talented writer and director and she’s found a great collaborator in Saorise Ronan. This Little Women feels vital and new and yet stays faithful to it’s source. The March sisters are rowdy, loving and full of life, Laurie Laurence feels of them and apart from them at the same time. They learn, they grow, they love, they lose. I wept through most of the film, but that’s not a surprise. Timothee Chalamet is the Laurie I’ve always wanted, both dreamy and dorky, brooding and awkward. Ronan is born for Jo, Emma Watson is charming as Meg (Meg is the least challenging of the girls, really) and Eliza Scanlan is heartbreaking as Beth. But this is a version of Little Women that belongs to Amy March in many ways and Florence Pugh runs away with the flick. Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk and others aquit themselves well.

Rankings

  1. Knive’s Out
  2. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  3. Jo Jo Rabbit
  4. Frozen 2
  5. Little Women
  6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  7. Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker
  8. Avengers: Endgame
  9. Rocketman
  10. Detective Pikachu
  11. Zombieland: Double Tap
  12. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  13. Downton Abbey
  14. Joker

Trailers

I Still Believe: I’ve been listening to the podcast Good Christian Fun, and I really can’t wait for them to review this movie, but I’m not going to see it. KJ Appa’s natural hair is disconcerting.

Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge on The Run: Is this the fourth or fifth Spongebob movie?

Respect: 2 OSCARS FOR JENNIFER! Let’s do it!

Ghostsbusters: Afterlife: Did we not just go through two weeks of gnashing of teeth at unnecessary grandpa connections? DO I CARE ABOUT EGON SPENGLER’S GRANDKIDS BUSTING GHOSTS? I do not.

In The Heights: This did not help…with the crying. You are going to have to mop whatever theater I am in when I see this. I am going to cry buckets.

 

We’ll Always Take Care Of You

I walked into Knive’s Out with a bit of a “show me” attitude. I’d heard it was great. I’d heard there was a sweater. I didn’t want to walk out of the movie feeling like it was overrated.

It’s not.

This movie fucking rules.

Daniel Craig is great in this movie. The Agatha Christie vibes are strong. The main character, Marta, played by the lovely Ana De Armas is so relate able caught up in a viper’s nest of preppy weirdos. And oh, these preppy weirdos. Christopher Plummer is the murdered patriarch, Jamie Lee Curtis is his daughter, Don Johnson her husband (also thanks to Watchmen I was so excited to see Don Johnson), Toni Collette is the widowed daughter in law who stuck with the clan and Michael Shannon is the youngest son. The grandkids, Jacen Martell and Katherine Langford are two of the grandchild, a budding internet Nazi and Smith College Feminist respectively. And then there’s Chris Evans as a beautiful New England prep school asshole for the ages. (He’s the one who wears the sweater. It’s just a ratty fisherman’s sweater. I own five of them. They’re very cozy and yes, Evans looks quite sexy in it. But he looks sexy in everything. I get the hype of the movie. I do not get the hype of the sweater.)

Rian Johnson is a great creator. I loved Brick, I loved Looper, I loved this. The Last Jedi is a movie that I have watched. I’m also, as the kind of person who likes seeing movie stars, excited for what this movie means for both Evans and Craig now that they’re out of their franchise handcuffs. I love them both as Captain America and James Bond but they’re capable of so much more, and this a great way to remind people of that.

Rankings!

  1. Knive’s Out
  2. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  3. Jo Jo Rabbit
  4. Frozen 2
  5. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  6. Avengers: Endgame
  7. Rocketman
  8. Detective Pikachu
  9. Zombieland: Double Tap
  10. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  11. Downton Abbey
  12. Joker

Trailers:

I was running a little late so I didn’t see them all but what I did see:

Uncut Jems: I like when Adam Sandler really acts. He’s quite good at it. And Idina! She’s having a bit of a year. (Her new Christmas Album A Season Of Love is great!)

Bombshell: Oy. The thing is, I love all the women in this movie. And John Lithgow. I just am so tired, you guys, and I don’t think I have the bandwith for a movie about sexual harassment and Fox News. Though Charlize is excellent casting for Megyn Kelly.

The Next Right Thing

If Disney is going to keep throwing out movies where Princesses sing awesome songs and fulfill the hero’s journey, I’m gonna keep watching them. Or watch what I can of them through the tears.

Frozen 2 follows through on the first movies promise in a number of ways. For one thing, Anna and Elsa are front and center, telling their own story, feeling their own feelings, saving each other and everyone around them with the power of their love and bond. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are to be commended for the work they’ve done with these characters. The songs are very good. Nothing quite as catchy as “For The First Time In Forever” or “Let It Go,” but “Into The Unknown,” “Show Yourself,” and “The Next Right Thing,” have more narrative power. And hey! Kristoff got a song all to himself. “Lost In The Woods” is delightful but I’d listen to Jonathan Groff sing scales for three minutes so I might be too receptive an audience for that one.

The rest of the movie is very good. It’s visually stunning, and like I said, hero’s journey, for both sisters. I’m into it. There’s also a scene where Elsa sings about embracing your true self and stops the destruction fueled by colonialist lies with a flurry of rainbow glitter.

Which is the gayest shit ever and I’m so happy it exists.

Rankings!

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Jo Jo Rabbit
  3. Frozen 2
  4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Rocketman
  7. Detective Pikachu
  8. Zombieland: Double Tap
  9. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  10. Downton Abbey
  11. Joker

Trailers

Onward looks DOPE AS HELL. Seriously. I’m a sucker for “what happens when fantasy societies evolve” as a conceit.

Soul also looks great. I’m down for what’s going on at Pixar these days it seems.

Trolls: World Tour: I am every distracted whenever I see this trailer because I keep trying to figure out if that “Drop Button” is a McElroy. Do we know yet? I believe people thought it was Griffin. (This shows how much I care about this movie. Which is not at all, if there aren’t McElroys.)

There were others but nothing really stuck…