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: 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. 

 

Spring Has Sprung: Let’s Talk About Music

A few weeks ago on my facebook, I mentioned that season changes often put me into the mood for specific music. My Winter into spring music is pretty specific and kind of odd, but I thought it would be fun to talk about here. (We’ll do spring to summer, and summer to fall, probably too, but no promises.)

Anyway, let’s talk about it!

The Eagles

Frankly, I always like listening to The Eagles, which is kind of lame when you reflect on it, because The Eagles are kind of lame, but I also love them very much, so let’s get into it. I think Hotel California is a very good spring album because there’s something about it that feels like you should be driving with a top down while listening to it. I haven’t had a convertible in 10 years, so I settle for the windows down these days, but you know, still. Does the trick.

Death Cab For Cutie 

I actually would listen to Death Cab anytime also, but there’s something about their songs (especially Plans but really all of it…) that feels like waking up, which is very spring. I’m also in love with “I’ll Follow You Into The Dark,” right now, which you know, is kind of depressing, but it’s such a beautiful song. I also started an Amazon station of their music, which lead me down some great roads of their mid 2000s indie rock peers. So much Florence And The Machine, and Mumford And Sons you guys. It’s glorious.

John Williams Scores

OK, again, there’s no bad time to listen to this music, but it’s something that gets me moving, which is important in spring. Listen the “Eight Symphonies,” (Star Wars,) or my favorite score of all time, Jurassic Park and seriously, seriously, the Superman score, which is totally beautiful and lovely and great.

So that’s my spring music, what do you like to listen to this time of year to get things movie, and welcome the pollen that is currently destroying my resperatory system?

Thank You, Jonathan Larson

One of my arbitrary rules for myself is that I don’t seek out Rent on purpose. This isn’t because I don’t like Rent, it’s because I love and obsess about Rent so completely that all other thoughts, interests and delights become moot.

Rent is perfect. Rent is a trashfire. Rent is a phenomenon. Rent is overrated. Rent was a revolution. Rent was a mainstream sanitizing of the queer experience by a straight white dude. The thing that’s infuriating, I think, to non Rent-heads, is that the show is all of these things at once. It’s a mess. But as was made abundantly clear if you were anywhere near social media Sunday night, Rent is our mess, and we’ve all got a lot to say about it.

For me, Rent: Live (which wound up being mostly the taped dress rehearsal due to Brennin Hunt breaking his foot the night before.) was just a reminder of something very visceral, this show tatooed itself on my heart when I was 15, and so I will love it forever. (Not without criticism. It isn’t Les Mis which I refuse to examine critically.) But there’s too much emotion tied into it for me to turn my back completely. There’s too many late night diner renditions of “La Vie Boheme,” with friends. (We were a delight!) Too many karaoke duets to “Take Me Or Leave Me,” and “Another Day.” To many doodled “No Day But Today”‘s scrawled in notebooks. To many hours spent arguing whether OBC Mark and Roger, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal were better than long time mainstays in the roles like Matt Caplan and Jeremy Kushnier. (I actually prefer Matt, who I’ve always called, “My Mark,” to Anthony, I saw Rent on Broadway 4 times, 3 of those, Matt was Mark. I prefer Adam to everyone though.)

There were plenty of moments in Sunday night’s broadcast that landed like a thud. When you know the show backwards and forwards, changes are jarring. Some of those really soared though. I’m madly in love with the ways, “Will I,” and “Seasons Of Love,” were redone. Especially “Seasons,” which is about remembering the good things in life in the face of imminent death, but has become a kind of treacly, feel good catch all out of context. Jordan Fisher’s Mark was adorable, Vanessa Hudgens continues to remind us all that Kenny Ortega did a really good job picking some top tier musical theater talent back in the day for High School Musical, and of course Brandon Victor Dixon brought the house down as Collins. (They were the MVPs, but also Keala Settle as the “Seasons” soloist and the rest of the cast was uniformly good.)

But the real kicker came with the finale. Finally moving into live mode, after the new cast sang through “Finale B,” (the overlapping of “Without You,” and “Life Support” reaching it’s breathtaking energetic conclusion with a projection of Jonathan Larson’s smiling face blessing the whole enterprise.) the chords of “Seasons Of Love” began anew, and the original Broadway cast ran onstage and my heart burst.

Even that raised my hackles in places. Idina sings the female solo? Why? (I know why! But seriously, world, she’s amazing and I love her, but we need to Let It Go!) Daphne and Fredi got to riff on the final, “measure your life,” but only Jesse got to sing out of the boys.  (Mostly I’d like to see Adam and Anthony, but also Wilson and Taye!) (Also, though, Jesse and Brandon singing together should be illegal. Nothing that beautiful should exist.)

As I meditated on this beautiful, perfect, stupid, problematic mess, I realized, that the thing about Rent, and why theater nerd kids love it so much, is that it is us. It’s an unlikely creature, optimistic and nihilistic, heartbreaking and silly, and refusing to be tamped down and shut up. The universe doesn’t seem to want Rent but we don’t care. Jonathan Larson died before he could really finish it. The movie crackles with possibility despite iffy choices all around. Rent: Live almost didn’t happen because of a star injury. People continue to take it apart and say it’s dated, but it persists.

So, Thank You, Jonathan Larson. Your last breaths have given a couple of generations of kids a way to articulate something that’s inside of them and that’s really worthwhile.

The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation! 

2018 Favorites: An Unexpected List

Hey everyone! Happy (almost!) New Year! So, as promised here’s my list of favorite things from the past year. We’ll get going quickly, I have a few categories, I think it’ll go well.

Favorite Movie (Not Movie Season): Black Panther

I’ll get into movie season movies in a few days. (I have my tickets for the final three.) But in the rest of the year, I don’t think I loved anything the way I loved Black Panther. I saw it in theaters 3 times, a thing I don’t do often anymore, and bought it on Amazon Prime immediately (Another thing I don’t do much anymore.)

Favorite Old Show I Finally Got Around To Watching: Battlestar Galactica

I fill in a bunch of gaps this year, and while this was a toss up, between Battlestar and Deadwood, ultimately I had to go with the Space Opera, and for one reason alone. As much as I enjoyed Deadwood, I didn’t connect to any of those characters the way I did to Kara Thrace. You can check out my Facebook for my thoughts on Starbuck, I love her, I find  her hugely inspirational and wonderful.

Favorite Book I Read: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

My God, I loved this book. I can’t stop thinking about this book. How sexy it is, how beautifully constructed, how twisted and dark and wonderful. Even it’s really really disappointing sequels (I’m into Taltos now, and it’s fine…) can’t tarnish the shine of how much I loved this book.

Favorite Current TV Show: The Good Place

Holy Mother Forking Shirtballs, you guys!

Friday night, Jess and I sighed about the show, and about how it just made us happy. The Good Place is funny, intelligent and kind, and with the way the world has felt like it was on fire all year, it was a beacon of light every Thursday night, and then Friday morning, when the conversations inevitably began. Plus The Good Place Podcast which gives a wonderful behind the scenes look at each episode. Seriously, The Good Place, y’all.

Favorite Thing I Rewatched And Fell Back In Love With: Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings extended editions

One weekend this summer, when I wasn’t feeling terribly well, I decided to watch The Lord Of The Rings, for some reason they weren’t streaming on any of my services so I was going to have to purchase them off Amazon. It was only a few extra dollars each to get the extended editions, and I think I’ve now watched them like five or six times. They’re nice to have on in the background, I usually watch them in chunks of an hour or two, making it more like binging a series than watching three epicily long movies and that’s a really fun way to revisit this series.

Favorite Broadway Show: Springsteen On Broadway

I saw a lot of theater this year, and I’m very grateful for that, but as I hinted  at earlier this week, nothing quite moved me the way that Springsteen On Broadway did. It’s something so special that discussing it feels moot. It’s just so good, I haven’t rewatched it on Netflix yet, although I’m sure that I will eventually, because revisiting this joyful piece of art will lift me up. A  love letter to his fans and to America, the carefully crafted one man show is The Boss at his broodiest and also possibly his best.

Unfinished Bussiness Being Pushed to 2019

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Nerd Homework: Watch More Anime

Finish Reading Dune series 

Catch Up On The Flash

1+1=3

There’s a moment towards the end of Springsteen On Broadway where The Boss, after talking about the darkness of our times, the difficulties of absorbing the world as it is right now after making a study of the American soul over the course of his life, and his hope in the youth of our country, plays the mournful Grapes Of Wrath themed masterpiece of a ballad “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” and the lights go out, as he finishes, and they turn blue as they switch back on, and he plays, “The Rising.” It’s a moment of art and wonder, symbolising the fall and rebirth of the American dream, the inevitability of each generation. It’s a beautifully artistic moment bringing you into the end of an evening where things that were infinitely familiar to me, were stripped down, re contextualized and elevated.

I was born, and I was a Bruce Springsteen fan. I was baptized twice, once with water and Chrism and once in the surf of The Jersey Shore (which, Bruce assures us, he invented, pretty much.) (He also assures us, several times throughout the evening that he’s full of shit.) At fifteen I stood before a bishop and took a new name, confirming my place as an adult in the church, but the year before I’d heard Clarence whale the sax on “Thunder Road,” confirming my life long love of this music.

Springsteen On Broadway is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and that includes the ten or so times I’ve seen the man perform live before. The stripped down arrangements of the music, the sheer raw intimacy of the thing, is beyond compare. It’s uplifting and emotionally exhausting, and a singularly illuminating look into a mind of artist, who’s work has meant so much to me.

Anyway, the show goes onto Netflix in 10 days, and I’m immensely grateful for the chance to see it live. (Even if my credit card company isn’t.) I’m sure I’ll watch it many more times, because it’s deeply moving and truly special, an essential entry for any Springsteen fan.

It’s The Same Story, Told Over And Over Again

A Star Is Born.jpg

Remakes are tricky. Usually they’re messy sloppy copies, rushed, with nothing new to say, no reason to exist beyond vanity and admiration.

But sometimes, magically, a remake says something new, takes a framework we know and hangs different things on it. But the frame is still there, familiar and warm, reminding you that you know this one. You know where it hits, where it hurts, how it bleeds.

A Star Is Born is the second kind. Instantly familiar, Bradley Cooper never loses sight of the fact that he’s telling one of the oldest stories in Hollywood. Revisiting his predecessors in ways both small and large. Whether it’s Ally crooning “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” to warm up, to the song, “Shallow,” which feels especially on the nose (for a story that previously featured suicide by walking into the ocean) and Ally’s final declaration, “My name is Ally Maine.”

Cooper’s direction and performance are stirring, as are supporting turns by Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay (Huh?) and Anthony Ramos (YAASSS!) but this movie was always going to rise or fall based on Lady Gaga’s performance, so thank God she’s a complete revelation.

Ally is all insecurity and striving, shy smiles and stuttered words, but my lord that voice. It’s a wonderful take on a part played by legends before, and she’s well on her way to cementing herself there.

But the movie’s thesis statement about music and stories is summed up in the truly epic closing monologue delivered by Elliott.

Trailers

Mary Poppins Returns really does look wonderful. I can’t wait to see it and then watch it a million times over.

The Frontrunner: Any other year I’d be all over this movie, this year, I’m too tired for political drama. I’m even behind on my West Wing watching.

Green Book: Y’all, I know it’s a mushy dumb, tropey movie (probably) but seriously, it’s Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali (with Linda Cardellini in there for good measure)

The Mule again.

Instant Family – I get the feeling I’m going to love this movie. Like, really love it.

Rankings:

  1. The Incredibles 2
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. A Star Is Born
  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  7. Ocean’s 8
  8. Infinity War
  9. Ant-Man And The Wasp