Category Archives: Fantasy

Happy Halloweekend 2017

Disney has re-released The Nightmare Before Christmas for a limited engagement at Regal Cinemas just for this weekend through Halloween. Even though I consider it really more of a Christmas movie, I still decided to make this my primary Halloween celebration this year. Below are some random thoughts:

Jack Skellington in repose in a cemetery

Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie

  • There are much more memorable tunes and visuals throughout the film, but what I love about “Poor Jack” is that you almost think that Jack will actually learn something from putting everyone through this massive ordeal, but NOPE! As the lyrics continue, you realize he’s learned NOTHING, and it’s amazing.
  • I’ve watched it on television a thousand times, but it took re-visiting it on the big screen to realize that Zero’s glowing nose is actually a light-up jack-o-lantern. Huh. Neat.
  • The whole Harvey Weinstein scandal and #MeToo and just all of that recent business really casts a new light on Sally’s relationship with Dr. Finkelstein.
Dr. Finkelstein holds Sally's arm in front of her

Yikes.

  • A few years ago I went to Disneyland in October, and I felt chagrined to discover that the Haunted Mansion ride had been given a Nightmare Before Christmas makeover. Make no mistake:  If this movie had its own ride, I’d be the first in line. But the whole point of the trip was to get drenched in nostalgia, so I felt bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t experience the Haunted Mansion of my childhood.
  • Only one sobbing, terrified child at my screening. I had estimated there would be about three.
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Deathmatch: Animation Domination

The Boxtrolls vs. The Book of Life!

Posters for The Boxtrolls and The Book of Life

Images from IMDB

There is no real competition here. I loved BoL. I loved it the same way everyone else in the known universe who is not me reacted to Frozen.*

In contrast, I appreciated Boxtrolls more than I really liked it per se. I respect how it expressed a uniquely weird vision. And make no mistake, it is seriously weird. That isn’t precisely a complaint considering I bought my ticket hoping for something as weird-and-wonderful as Coraline and ParaNorman.** The good folks at the Laika stop-motion animation studio aren’t afraid to go scary and unpleasant, and that’s exactly what I like about their product. But this maybe crossed a threshold for me.

While I mostly enjoyed the look and the feel of Boxtrolls, I found some parts almost unendurably ugly and repellent. The icky look of the villains undermines the story’s message of tolerance. I do firmly believe our culture needs more stories about learning to love things that aren’t cute, but this one features trolls that are far cuter than the humans. I spent more than half the running time terribly afraid the movie would go full Jungle Book, but it course-corrected in time to make a nice point about choosing your own path in life. However, that doesn’t completely make up for the fact that the plot jags off on a bizarre, cross-dressing-related tangent, which I wouldn’t mind except that they treat the subject so negatively.

Other than thematic concerns, I just didn’t get swept up in the tale, and I didn’t fall in love with the characters. Frankly, the bratty ginger “heroine” has few redeeming qualities.­ And it felt overly long even at a slim 96 minutes. It would’ve been an amazing short film, though.

As for BoL, I find I don’t have a lot to dissect with it, so I can mostly sum up my feeling with an enthusiastic recommendation. BoL is definitely more conventional, but it still feels like a breath of fresh air. I loved the colorful visual style that felt textured and almost touchable. The soundtrack is a brilliant mix of original songs and pop music arranged in a traditional mariachi style. And it manages to effectively convey a layered narrative without confusing children. It’s not just a love story, but also manages to have something meaningful to say about family ties, the nature of heroism, and how to draw inspiration from folklore to live a better modern life. All strands weave together magically into a lovely tapestry. If I had one small quibble, I do wish we could’ve spent more time with Maria to get to know her better, but perhaps then the movie would’ve overstayed its welcome with the youngest audience members.

* Note: I actually quite enjoyed Frozen. Please don’t send me hate mail.

 ** ParaNorman was once itself the subject of an October animation deathmatch, wherein it cleaned the floor with Disney’s shallow re-imagining of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

Quote of the day

Moving day is at hand. Prepare to move your very, very odd family.

Tonight I’m rolling with the animated flashback theme and watching The Secret of NIMH (available on Netflix Instant). This viewing is in honor of my impending move tomorrow because every time I change apartments, I’m heavily reminded of the scene with the Shrew. And I toss this quote at anyone who will listen (repeatedly) while I’m packing and cleaning and preparing, even though it’s not especially clever, most people have no idea what I’m referencing, and also it makes no sense in context. No matter how odd I am, I am still only one person.

It’s been 13 years since the last major Don Bluth release. I find that bittersweet because I have appreciated his work my whole life even if it never moved me in quite the same way as the Disney movies of my youth. The stories were always just slightly off, like a beautiful gem with a flaw. The movies never quite hit all the right notes at exactly the correct times, and the result was an indefinable lacking. That special Disney je ne sais quoi was missing. And yet — revisiting NIMH I’m struck by how amazingly gorgeous the visuals are with all the moody intricacy and the uniquely ripe texture displayed in all his projects. The artwork is so special, and in the case of NIMH, there’s also a lush Jerry Goldsmith score.

Huh. You know, I’ve never questioned it before, but why do super-intelligent science-experiment-gone-awry rats also happen to have a magic necklace just lying around? Also, with or without courage of the heart, I think I could totally rock a red and gold amulet just like that.

By the way, I feel obligated to mention that last summer I had just recently launched a promising new blog when I interrupted my flow to move into DC. What with all the associated hassle and bother and needing to shop for new lamps and trying to unpack after work when I was already tired and then the stockpiling of procrastination-related guilt… Yeah, that all pretty much killed it dead. And, here we go again, only eleven months later. I should warn you that I’m jeopardizing the welfare of this blog to move back to Virginia, solely out of a selfish desire to once again share a residence with my boyfriend and our cat now that the Army has seen fit to bring him to this area after two looong years stationed over 900 miles away.

Anyway, we’ll now be taking a short break from our regularly scheduled programming. I’ll see y’all again on the flip side. Probably. Maybe?

Recap: Mother’s Day Marathon

Let it be known:  My mom could probably do a much better job of producing this blog than I ever could. She is a world-champion consumer of media.* As much as I love watching stuff, I have limits. I usually don’t watch more than one movie or show in a day.  If I’m doing a “marathon session,” I might watch as many as three episodes of a television show in a row. But any more than that burns me out. But not her.

When I lived in Kansas City, I worked in a library with an outstanding video collection that included DVD boxed sets of television seasons. I would check them out for her, and she tore through them with stupefying speed. One of her favorites was 24, and at one point I swear she finished a season of that in almost real-time. Amazing.

So when she came to visit me in DC, sure, we took in some monuments and ate at some great restaurants and toured some fun neighborhoods. But we also watched a fair amount of programming. More in a few days than I would probably get through in a month on my own.

Here’s a quick rundown:
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