Category Archives: movie review

Big Eyes

141202210752_margaret_keane_304x171_margaretkeaneYesterday, before the big game, I watched the DVD I bought of Tim Burton’s Golden Globe Award movie, Big Eyes.  It is the true-story bio-pic of an artist I loved as a kid, Margaret Keane… though I knew her as Walter Keane.

This movie is the bizarre real-life tale of an artist whose art was stolen from her by a man she loved, and supposedly loved her back.  I have to wonder how you deal with a thing like that as an artist?  I live in obscurity as an artist.  My art has been published in several venues, but I have never been paid a dime for it.  All I have ever gotten is publication in return for “exposure”, and limited exposure at that.  But my art always brought vigor, joy, and light to my career as a school teacher.  My art was always my own, and had either my own name on it, or the name Mickey on it.  I shared my drawing skill in ways that directly impacted the lives of other people.  It enriched my “teacher life”.

Mrs. Keane’s hauntingly beautiful big-eyed children appealed to the cartoonist in me.  They expressed such deeply-felt character and emotion, that I was obsessed with imitating them.  In fact, the “big-eye-ness” of them can still be detected in some of my work.  I remember wondering how these children, mostly girls, could be drawn by a grown man.  What was his obsession with little girls?  But the true story reveals that he was a man so desperate to have art talent and notoriety that he put his name on his wife’s work, made her paint in secret, and eventually convinced himself that it was actually his.  He had a real genius for marketing art, and he invented many of  the art-market ploys that would later inform the careers of homely artists like Paul Detlafsen and Thomas Kinkaid.  One wonders if Mrs. Keane could’ve ever become famous and popular without him.

 

The movie itself is a Tim Burton masterpiece that reveals the artist that lives within the filmmaker himself.  I love Burton’s movies for their visual mastery and artistic atmosphere.  They are all very different in look and feel.  Batman was very dark and Gothic, inventing an entirely new way of seeing Batman that differed remarkably from the 60’s TV series.  Edward Scissorhands was full of muted, pastel colors and gentle humor.  Alice in Wonderland was full of bright colors and oddly distorted fantasy characters.  Dark Shadows was Gothic melodrama in 70’s pop-art style.  This movie was true to the paintings that inspired it and visually saturate it.  It is beautiful and colorful, while also serious and somber.  It makes you contemplate the tears in the eyes of the big-eyed waifs in so many of the pictures.  It is a movie “I love with a love that is more than a love in this kingdom by the sea”… if I may get all obsessive like Edgar Allen Poe.

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So, there you have it.  Not so much a movie review as an effusion of love and admiration for an artist’s entire life and work.  I am captivated… fascinated… addicted… all the things I always feel about works of great art.

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Filed under art my Grandpa loved, artists I admire, artwork, movie review

The Uncritical Critic Watches Another Quirky Movie

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Yesterday was a weird day.  If you looked carefully at the mental map I made of Mickey’s head the other day, you realize that Uncle Slappy’s Big Box of Weirdness occupies a key position in the top center.  I had a traffic accident in the parking lot of Long Middle School yesterday morning, banging bumpers with a lady named Vilma.  The sun was in my eyes, and she started to go, then suddenly stopped for no reason I could see.  No damage was done to anything but my pride.  My wife put her parents, Tatang and Inang, on an airplane yesterday bound for the Philippine Islands, going home for a visit.  Afterwards, my wife was feeling mortal, betting me that she was going to die before me even though I have the head start of six incurable diseases and surviving cancer once already.  There are no symptoms for her impending heart attack, so I will probably win that bet.  But the point is, it was a weird time yesterday to stumble weirdly over a weird and wacky movie on Netflix called Moonrise Kingdom.  It is a Romeo and Juliet sort of story about two twelve-year-olds who fall in love at first sight, and though their families try to keep them apart, they end up together.  Thankfully it is not a Shakespearian Tragedy where everybody dies at the end, though Sam is struck by lightning and the big storm nearly drowns all the boy scouts.  It is more like a Shakespearian Comedy where everybody gets married at the end, though the twelve-year-olds don’t get married at the end… rather, they are married by the middle.

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Wes Anderson is the genius director behind movies like;

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None of which I have seen, but now have to watch ALL of them sooner or later.  Kinda like the mad quest to see every Tim Burton movie ever made.  I am one of the few idiots out there who think Dark Shadows was a truly wonderful movie, and along with Edward Scissor-hands, one of the finest things Johnny Depp has ever done.

In Moonrise Kingdom Anderson uses tracking shots at the beginning that shift quickly from one room to the next in a way that invokes an old-time slide show.  The story is set in 1965 in Maine, and is filled with all kinds of iconic references to things we 60’s kids all vividly recall.

The movie also tells the love story of Sam and Suzy with a painter’s sense of iconic pictures that focus you on important plot points and themes.

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And there are numerous quotable bits that make the movie what we teachers refer to as a text-rich environment, complete with phony kids’ books and maps and notes.

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The all-star cast is pretty good, too.

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This is now one of my new favorite movies.  It is a happy-ending-type fairy tale with no fairies in it.  It is full of ineffectual and incompetent adults who have rules of behavior like grown-ups and motivations like goofy kids… just like real life.  The plot is driven by the notion that anything you do in life is a mistake, and mistakes have consequences, but you have to do them anyway because, well… that’s life.

Am I telling you that you should watch this movie too?  Well, you should… but, no.  I am simply gushing about this quirky movie because I like it, and yesterday was a very weird day.

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Filed under goofiness, humor, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

A Mr. Holland Moment

Life is making music.  We hum, we sing to ourselves, movie music plays in our head as the soundtrack to our daily life. At least, it does if we stop for a moment and dare to listen.   We make music in many different ways.  Some play guitar.  Some are piano players.  And some of us are only player pianos.  Some of us make music by writing a themed paragraph like this one.  Others make an engine sing in the automotive shop.  Still others plant gardens and make flowers or tomatoes grow.  I chose teaching kids to read and write.  The music still swells in my ears four years after retiring.

The 1995 movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is about a musician who thinks he is going to write a magnificent classical orchestra opus while teaching music at a public high school to bring in money and allow him time to compose and be with his young wife as they start a new family.

But teaching is not, of course, what he thought it was.  He has to learn the hard way that it is not an easy thing to open up the closed little clam shells that are the minds of students and put music in.  You have to learn who they are as people first.  You have to learn to care about what goes on in their lives, and how the world around them makes them feel… and react to what you have to teach.  Mr. Holland has to learn to pull them into music appreciation using rock and roll and music they like to listen to, teaching them to understand the sparkles and beats and elements that make it up and can be found in all music throughout their lives.  They can even begin to find those things in classical music, and appreciate why it has taken hold of our attention for centuries.

And teaching is not easy.  You have to make sacrifices.  Big dreams, such as a magnum opus called “An American Symphony”, have to be put on the shelf until later.  You have children, and you find that parenting isn’t easy either.  Mr. Holland’s son is deaf and can never actually hear the music that his father writes from the center of his soul.  And the issue of the importance of what you have to teach becomes something you have to fight for.  Budget cuts and lack of funding cripples teachers in every field, especially if you teach the arts.  Principals don’t often appreciate the value of the life lessons you have to give.  Being in high school band doesn’t get you a high paying job later.

But in the end, at the climax of the movie, the students all come back to honor Mr. Holland.  They provide a public performance of his magnum opus, his life’s work.  And the movie ends with a feeling that it was all worth it, because what he built was eternal, and will be there long after the last note of his music is completely forgotten.  It is in the lives and loves and memories of his students, and they will pass it on.

But this post isn’t a movie review.  This post is about my movie, my music.  I was a teacher in the same way Mr. Holland was.  I learned the same lessons about being a teacher as he did.  I had the same struggles to learn to reach kids.  And my Mr. Holland moment wasn’t anywhere near as big and as loud as Mr. Holland’s.  His was performed on a stage in front of the whole school and alumni.  His won Richard Dreyfus an Academy Award for Best Actor.  But his was only fictional.

Mine was real.  It happened in a portable building on the Naaman Forest High School campus.  The students and the teacher in the classroom next door threw a surprise party for me.  They made a lot of food to share, almost all of which I couldn’t eat because of diabetes.  And they told me how much they would miss me, and that they would never forget me.  And I had promised myself I would never cry about having to retire.  But I broke my promise.  In fact, I am crying now four years later.  But they are not tears of sadness.  My masterwork has now reached its last, bitter-sweet notes.  The crescendos have all faded.  But the music of our lives will still keep playing.  And not even death can silence it completely.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, happiness, insight, kids, movie review, teaching

Tim Burton Movies

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Last night the Princess and I went to see Alice, Through the Looking Glass, the latest Tim Burton movie.  Of course we loved it.  Burton is one of the most interesting story-tellers of our time.  Did you know he is two years younger than me?  And also, like me, he began as a cartoonist and is totally dedicated to the idea that every artist is a surrealist and must exaggerate, elucidate, equivocate, and numerous other things that start with the letter “e” and end with the suffix “ate” simply because that’s how surrealism starts.  You notice a little bit of weirdness in real life and blow it all out of proportion with lies and coloring of meaning and relentless “what-iffing?”  If you don’t see surrealism in those last two sentences of purple paisley prose… then maybe you can see it visually in Burton’s many masterpieces.

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Tim Burton began his legacy as an apprentice Disney animator specializing in stop-motion animation.  But he was just another creative nobody like me until the launch of his small-budget monster hit, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Of course, any time you can pull in huge profits for little investments, you will have Hollywood executives ramming the heads of their unpaid interns like battering rams against your door so they can get in and throw money at you.

Hence, Batman.

 

Batman was the first time I actually took notice of Tim.  And not just as a director of a film… eventually two films.  He was gifted at assembling a cast.  And this would work to his advantage as several singular talents attached themselves to him and worked in his movie projects repeatedly.

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And his repeated collaboration with Danny Elfman and his music was easily as great a master-stroke of genius as John Williams with Spielberg and Lucas.

He has repeatedly used his movies to describe and rewrite his own life story as a misunderstood genius flubbing horribly in the quest to fit in with a world full of “regular people”.

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Poster for the film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (directed by Tim Burton), 1990. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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His sense of humor, of course, is distinctly and colorfully bizarre.

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DSTF-0046r JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “DARK SHADOWS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

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Burton is, just like me, a child of the 70’s.  He references things like the old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, that were a part of his impressionable youth just as they were mine.  He picks stories about things he truly cares about, and that is also just like me.

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So, in a rather bizarre coincidence that is entirely appropriate to surrealists, I love any Tim Burton movie simply because it is a Tim Burton movie.  He is probably me in an alternate dimension.  And as such, I already know I will love his next movie, whatever the heck it is.

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P.T. Barnum

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Last night my wife and my daughter the Princess went with me to the movie musical The Greatest Showman at the dollar movie.  I was enchanted.  My wife laughed at me for how much the movie made me cry.  But it was a very touching and timely movie for me because it was about pursuing dreams in spite of economic hardships.  The award-winning songs promote with energy and stunning beauty the notion that you should follow your passion no matter the risk, and that choosing to do so will produce rewards as long as family and love are with you and along for the ride.

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Of course, one has to remember that the whole story is based on the life and work of Phineas Taylor Barnum, a man who is a lot more like Donald Trump than he is Hugh Jackman.  I really doubt he could sing and dance the way the movie portrays him.  And words like “humbug”, “fraud”, and “exploiter” apply to him in a very real way.

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Barnum was actually one of those wheeler dealers who wants to control the story.  He actively found ways to alter the public narrative about himself and used criticism to help promote his money-making shows.  The idea of bad publicity being just as good if not better than good publicity actually makes its presence felt in at least one scene in the movie.  There is ample evidence that more than a little of Barnum’s efforts were aimed at making himself a star.

And although the movie sentimentalizes his exploitation of freaks and special individuals, giving him credit for giving them self esteem and a means to make a good living, that was really only the fictional Barnum created by Barnum’s own media efforts.

The truth of the matter, though far more fascinating than the movie version of Barnum, does not make for a good musical libretto.  In the movie the theme of special people outcast from the society because of their uniqueness coming together to support each other in a circus is strongly woven into both the story and the music.  The song “This is Me” performed by Keala Settle playing the part of bearded lady Lettie Lutz is a powerful anthem for everyone who feels smaller than they really are because of prejudice, bullying, racism, sexism, or any of the other forms of moronic stupidity that humans are so often guilty of.  I have to admit, the song made me cry even as it filled me with joy.  The musical score of this movie is one that I intend to listen to again and again and again.  It makes the circus seem like an answer to life’s problems.  It is the same feeling that I got the first time, and every time, I ever saw the circus with all its clowns and jugglers, acrobats and lion tamers, bare-back riders and elephants.  And I knew it was all illusion.  All humbug.  But it was pure joy worth the price of the ticket never-the-less.

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The movie was only rated 56% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.  But I rarely pay attention to things like that.  This musical goes into the category with The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Oklahoma!, and Mary Poppins of musicals I can’t live without.  Never mind the greedy little man that it is based on.  This movie is about big dreams and even bigger achievements.  And it is well worth the price.

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Filed under art criticism, Celebration, heroes, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Why Do You Think That? (Part Two)

In my short, sweet sixty years of life, I have probably seen more than my share of movies.  I have seen classic movies, black-and-white movies, cartoon movies, Humphrey Bogart movies, epic movies, science fiction movies, PeeWee Herman movies, Disney movies, Oscar-winning movies, and endless box-office stinkers.  But in all of that, one of the most undeniable threads of all is that movies make me cry.  In fact they make me cry so often it is a miracle that even a drop of moisture remains in my body.   I should be a dried-out husk by now.

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I wept horribly during this scene.  Did you?

And the thing is, people make fun of you when you cry at movies.  Especially cartoon movies like Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.  (But I claim I was laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes.  That’s the truth, dear sister.  So stop laughing at me.)  But I would like to put forth another “Why do you think that?” notion.  People who cry while watching a movie are stronger and more powerful than the people who laugh at them for crying.  A self-serving thesis if ever there was one.

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Movies can make you cry if you have the ability to feel empathy.  We all know this.  Old Yeller is the story of a dog who endears himself to a prairie farm family, saves Travis’s life at one point, and then gets infected with rabies and has to be put down.  Dang! No dry eyes at the end of that one.  Because everyone has encountered a dog and loyal dog-love somewhere along the line.  And a ten-year-old dog is an old dog.  The dogs you knew as a child helped you deal with mortality because invariably, no matter how much you loved them, dogs demonstrate what it means to die.  Trixie and Scamper were both hit by cars.  Queenie, Grampa’s collie, died of old age.  Jiggs the Boston Terrier died of heat stroke one summer.  You remember the pain of loss, and the story brings it all back.

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Only psychopaths don’t feel empathy to some degree.  Think about how you would feel if you were watching Old Yeller and somebody you were watching with started laughing when Travis pulls the trigger on the shotgun.  Now, there’s a Stephen King sort of character.

But I think I can defend having lots of empathy as a reason for crying a river of tears during Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  You see, identifying with Quasimodo as the main character, hoping for what he hopes for, feeling like a monster and completely unloved, and fearing what he fears connect you to the story in ways that completely immerses you in the experience.  This is basically a monster movie.Original-Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame

But the film puts you inside the head of the malformed man, and you realize that he is not the monster.  Righteous Judge Frollo and the people who mistreat Quasimodo for his deformity of outward appearance are the real monsters.  If you don’t cry a river of tears because of this story, then you have not learned the essential truth of Quasimodo.  When we judge others harshly, we are really judging ourselves. In order to stop being monstrous, and be truly human, you must look inside the ugliness as Esmeralda does to see the heroic beauty inside others.  Sometimes the ideas themselves are so powerful they make me weep.  That’s when my sister and my wife look at me and shake their heads because tears are shooting out of me like a fountain, raining wetness two or three seats in every direction.  But I believe I am a wiser man, a more resolved man, and ultimately a better man because I was not afraid to let a movie make me cry.

The music also helps to tell the story in ways that move my very soul to tears.  Notice how the heroine walks the opposite way to the rest of the crowd.  As they sing of what they desire, what they ask God to grant, she asks for nothing for herself.  She shows empathy in every verse, asking only for help for others.  And she alone walks to the light from the stained glass window.  She alone is talking to God.

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Yes, I am not embarrassed by the fact that movies make me cry.   In fact, I should probably be proud that movies and stories and connections to other people, which they bring me, makes me feel it so deeply I cry.  Maybe I am a sissy and a wimp.  Maybe I deserved to be laughed at all those times for crying during the movie.  But, hey, I’ll take the laughter.  I am not above it.  I am trying to be a humorist after all.

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The World is a B-Movie

Yes, I am saying the world I live in is a low-budget commercial movie made without literary or artistic pretensions. You know, the kind where movie makers learn their craft, taking big risks with smaller consequences, and making the world of their picture reflect their heart rather than the producer’s lust for money.

Mostly what I am talking about are the movies I remember from late-night Saturday TV in black and white (regardless of whether or not the movie was made in Technicolor) and the less-risky as well as more-likely-good Saturday matinees on Channel 3. Movies made in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. They were perfect, of course, for the forbidden Midnight Movie on the show called Gravesend Manor. I had to sneak downstairs to watch it on Saturday nights with the volume turned way down low. (Not that Mom and Dad didn’t know. Well, maybe they didn’t know how many of those I watched completely naked… maybe.)

I watched this one when I was twelve, late night on an October Saturday. I had a bed-sheet with me to pull over my head at the scariest parts. Frankenstein was a crashed astronaut brought back to life by the magic of space radiation. He was uglier than sin, but still the hero of the movie, saving the Earth from invading guys in gorilla suits and scary masks (none of which looked like the movie poster.)

This one, starring James Whitmore, a really good B-Movie actor, was about giant ants coming up from the sewers and the underground to eat the city.

I would end up watching it again twenty years later when I was wearing clothes and not alone in the dark house lit only by a black-and-white TV screen.

I realized on the second viewing that it was actually a pretty good movie in spite of cheesy special effects. And I realized too that I had learned from James Whitmore’s hero character that, in times of crisis, you have to run towards the trouble rather than away from it, a thing that I used several times in my teaching career with fights and tornadoes and even rattlesnakes visiting the school campus looking to eat a seventh-grader or something (though it was a bad idea for the snake even if it had been successful.)

This one, of course, taught me that monsters liked to carry off pretty girls in bikinis. And not just on the poster, either. But it was the hero that got the girl, not the monster. This movie taught me that it sucks to be the monster. Though it also taught me that it was a good movie to take your pajamas off for and watch naked when you are thirteen.

But not all B-movies had to be watched late night on Saturdays. This movie was one of the first ones that I got to go to the movie theater to see by myself. (My sisters and little brother were still too young and got nightmares too easily to see such a movie.) It came out when I was in my teens and Mom and Dad began thinking of me as an adult once… or even possibly twice in a month.

And not all B-movies were monster movies, gangster movies, and westerns. Some, like a lot of Danny Kaye’s movies, were movies my Dad and my grandparents were more than happy to watch with me. I saw this one in both black-and-white and color. And I learned from this that it was okay to take advantage of happy accidents, like a case of mistaken identity, and using your wits, your creative singing ability, and your inexplicable good luck to win the day for everybody but the bad guys armed only with your good sense of humor.

And some of the best movies I have ever seen, judging by what I learned about movies as literature from Professor Loring Silet in his Modern Film Class at Iowa State University, are by their nature B-movies.

I am using movie posters in this blog post only from movies I have personally seen. (And I admit that not all of them are strictly “good” movies according to Professor Silet, but I like them all.)

Feel free to tell me in the comments if you have seen any of these movies yourself. I am open to all opinions, comments, and confessions.

This one is based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
I saw this one in college. You had to be 18 at the time to even buy a ticket.
I actually think that this is one of the best movies ever made. It will always make my own personal top-ten list.

I live in a B-movie world. The production values around me are not the top-dollar ones. But the stories are entertaining. The real-life heroes still run towards the problem. And it still sucks to be the monster. But it has always been worth the price of the ticket. And during my time on Earth here, even in 2020, I plan on staying till the end of the picture. I go nowhere until I see the Best Boy’s name in the end credits. And maybe not even then.

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Filed under art criticism, heroes, humor, monsters, movie review, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature, TV review

Jungle Book

Last night my family and I went to the new Disney movie Jungle Book directed by John Favreau.  It was the movie version I have been waiting for all my life.

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The amazing thing about this movie is the way it took the book and layered its themes and central idea on top of the classic 60’s Disney cartoon.  The music is still there and intact, though mostly moved to the end credits.  The kid is still cute and mostly vulnerable, at least until the conclusion.  And they have still given the Disneyesque comedic touch to the character of Baloo the bear, voiced by comedian Bill Murray in the this incarnation.  But this is a live action movie and the kid-friendly Bowdlerization of the original story is a thing no longer.

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A classic book illustration by E.J. Detmold

Fortunately for the young actor, Neel Sethi, they don’t require him to play the entire movie naked as would be required by a strictly by-the-book approach.  They allow him the Disney-dignity of the cartoon red loin cover.  But the sense of a human child facing the violence of the jungle naked, armed only with his creature-appropriate natural defenses, has been put back into the story. This version literally has teeth and claws.  We see the boy’s body wounded and scarred during the course of his life in the jungle.  And at a time of crucial confrontation, Mowgli takes the defense stolen from man village, a torch of the feared red flower, and throws it away into the water, facing the terrible tiger with only his wits and the abilities of his fangless, clawless human body.   Thus, an essential theme I loved about the book when I was twelve is restored.  Man has a place in the natural world even without the protections of civilization.

The story-telling is rich and nuanced, with multiple minor characters added.  Gray Brother has been restored to Mowgli’s family.  The fierce power of Mowgli’s wolf mother has been written back into the screenplay.  And the character of Akela is given far more importance in the story than the cartoon could even contemplate.  Although his role in aiding Mowgli to kill the tiger Shere Khan has been taken away from him, Akels’s death becomes the central motivation bringing Mowgli and Shere Khan together for the final inevitable confrontation.  And this movie does not shy away from the reality of death as the cartoon did, resurrecting Baloo at the end and Kaa’s attempts to eat Mowgli being turned into a joke (though I would like to note if you have never read the book, Kaa is not supposed to be a villain.  He was Mowgli’s wise and powerful friend in the book).  Even the tiger survives in the cartoon version.  This is no longer a cute cartoon story with a Disney sugared-up ending.

I will always treasure the 1960’s cartoon version.  I saw it at the Cecil Theater in Mason City, Iowa when I was ten.  I saw it with my mother and father and sisters and little brother.  It was my favorite Disney movie of all time at that point in my life.  I read and loved the book two years after that, a paperback copy that I bought with my own money from Scholastic book club back in 1968, in Mrs. Reitz’s sixth grade classroom.  That copy is dog-eared, but still in my library.  But this movie is the best thing that could possibly happen to bring all of that love of the story together and package it in a stunning visual experience.

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Tarzan and the Timeless Valley of Nostalgia

There was a time when Tarzan was one of the ruling heroes of my boyhood fantasies of power and self-fulfillment. And, while Tarzan was a cartoon show on Saturday morning, comics by Burne Hogarth, movies in the theater in color with Mike Henry, or a weekly series on TV with Ron Ely, he was always Johnny Weissmuller to me. Weissmuller who played both Tarzan and Jungle Jim in the Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies.

I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the character of Tarzan as much as I thought of myself like the character “Boy”, played by Johnny Sheffield in movies like “Tarzan Finds a Son”. It was a significant part of my boyhood to imagine myself being like Boy, free from practically all restraints, able to gad about the dangerous jungle nearly naked with monkey pals and no fear. If I got into trouble by believing my skills were greater than they really were, I would save myself with ingenuity, and, barring that, Tarzan would rescue me. And, believe it or not, sometimes there were fixes that Tarzan got into that he needed me and Cheetah to be creative and get him out of. I knew in my heart that one day real life would be like that, especially once I grew into Tarzan and stopped being just Boy. That idea was in my head so loudly that several times I went to Bingham Park Woods, stripped down, and played Boy in the Jungle.

As in the previous essay about Heroes of Yesteryear, I learned important things from Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday TV. He taught me that all you really needed, even in the darkest jungles of Africa, was confidence and courage. You could stand up to any deadly danger without the protection of any armor, practically naked, in fact, if only you had that heroic goodness of heart. The little boy I was then still believes that whole-heartedly even in the aging body of an old man.

So, Tarzan continues to live in my memory, a part of me, an essential part of my education. He is me and I am he. But only in my mind. Me in a loincloth, swinging on a vine now… and probably going splat like an overripe melon on the jungle floor… well, that is too ridiculous to even imagine being real anymore. Yet he lives on in me. And he battles the metaphorical leopard-people of modern life through me. Unarmored. Confident. And unafraid.

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Filed under autobiography, comic book heroes, foolishness, heroes, humor, movie review, old books, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature

Essential Visits to Boo-Hooville

I have been ill this past weekend, a viral infection that I must take care of aggressively because I got vaccinated and survived the Covid pandemic but could still die from complications of the regular flu. So, what can I do about the fever, headaches, and diarrhea? Well, one thing I can do is watch a few Boo-Hoo movies. Seriously, crying cleans out the sinuses better than any medicine you can take. Especially deep-down from-the-bottom-of-the-heart, you’ve-touched-the-wounds-in-my-soul crying.

And, of course, I found some doozies.

Raya and the Last Dragon just became free-without-additional-fees on Disney+.

Wow! Is that ever a good movie for making puddles all over your comforter and pillows while trying to overcome a churning stomach and swimming vision!

The dragon kingdom has broken apart into five warring factions. Each has a broken piece of the dragon stone. And the evil cloud-things the dragon stone was supposed to protect the people from are sweeping across the country, turning everybody into statues of unfeeling stone. Raya, daughter of the last protector of the dragon stone, finds Sisu, the Last Dragon not turned to stone, and together they must reassemble the stone and the country it protects.

Literally everyone sacrifices themselves at some point in the story. The whole story is about how nothing will ever be right again until people trust each other and work together for the common good. Watch it. See if you can prove me wrong.

Sweettooth, the Netflix series based on the comic book of the same name, is another good one. In it the world after the pandemic apocalypse is increasingly inhabited by the animal-children, all of whom are born after the Big Sick wipes out nearly every normal human on the planet. And the Last Men who are still not yet sick are actively hunting kids like Gus, nicknamed Sweettooth, because the only possible cure comes from harvesting the living tissue of animal children.

I have watched six episodes so far. There is something major to weep for in every single episode. And the most amazing thing about Boo-Hoo movies is that most of them are classified as comedies. There are things to laugh at in every movie or every episode. The sobs and the ha-has always seem to go hand in hand.

Remember this one? How many tissues did it take to get you through that bus-ride near the end?

Grief and sadness are the flip side of the coin of comedy. You need them both to completely understand what love is. You need them both to get the jokes. And if you don’t feel them both in a great movie, you don’t know what a great movie really is. You will never see the light if you don’t know what darkness is.

Anyway, I have pretty much cried my head dry this weekend. And I have hopes the current bug will also pass. If it doesn’t, I guess I turn on another movie. Maybe the Incredibles should be next.

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