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In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 4:58:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 20, 2012 5:08:37 PM PST
WAS: I agree, that is a bit snobbish. I mean, if all I watched were animated films, it might be appropriate to stop for several months. But that's certainly not the case. It helps to have a growing taste.

I branch out what I watch on a regular basis. I was fortunate to have a long enough train ride today to watch both The Big Sleep and The Fugitive.

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 5:10:27 PM PST
PoM: See my comment elsewhere on the very fine The Big Sleep.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 5:21:49 PM PST
J. Baker says:
William A. Smith says of Disney films: "As I have said many times: craft is not art...Not art. Pablum for restless infants."

So sayeth the guy who hails 'Back to the Beach' as a postmodern masterwork.

Art or craft? Always a subjective definition. The early Disney films had some great art in them.
I'm not as enthusiastic as some are around here for the modern Disney (to say the least) but we don't need to insult the taste of others by painting it all as childish inanities. That would be unfair and shortsighted.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 20, 2012 8:18:18 PM PST
C McGhee says:
William A. Smith- Thoughtlessly.

A perfect discription of 0 of 1. They only read names, not the posts.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 6:35:02 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 7:49:36 AM PST
Hikari says:
>>>H: You reserve your fan-gal enthusiasms for Lewis, Hathaway, Holmes, and Watson, no doubt.

Yes, as it happens. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)

The appeal of superheroes is easy to see, but I guess I object to the magical element so often relied upon. Magic or science, as Thor says, they are the same thing where he's from. Our Hero gains his superhuman powers through either some freak genetic accident or manipulation ala the Captain, the Hulk, Spiderman . . .or else is an alien race with super powers (Superman, Wonder Woman, Thor)--their skills and powers are more or less accidents of their birth, not earned. When we know the superhuman will always prevail, a certain element of mystique is lost. Batman comes closest to being an ordinary guy, but we could make the case that were he not a convenient multi-billionaire, there would have been no Batman because the technology that enables him to be who he is would have been out of reach economically. Ditto Ironman. If a superhero's identity and powers are largely tied up in The Suit, whatever that looks like for him/her . . .what is he/she without it? A power that relies on props for its existence isn't really rock-solid, no?

The superhero mythos speaks to a imaginative and developmental need in children to identify with powerful figures, since they often feel powerless in an adult world. Imaginative empowerment is a good thing--but I am unsure whether superheroes really send the message that kids need to absorb--true power to effect change comes from within, and does not rely on externals. Strip the heroes of their suits, their gadgets and their genetic modifications . . .are they still heroes if what makes them 'special' is all invented/concocted in some way?

That is why I think Captain America is refreshing--he'd still have his salient inner qualities even without the shot. It would be truly heroic if he could have achieved that physique through diet and training and not a magic injection--but of course that would have taken too long. :)

>>>My goodness, my zero of one is quick. No sooner had I posted than he, or she, reacted.

Zero of One is like the All-Seeing Eye of Mordor. It never sleeps.

Stocked up on some viewing entertainment for the upcoming long weekend. I enjoyed Thor and the Avengers enough to go-round with them again. A long-overdue screening of "Moonstruck"--meant to get to that around Thanksgiving. "Scrooged"--haven't seen that one in years. The first Chronicles of Narnia . .ie, the only good one, it could be argued. I think of that as a Christmas movie for some reason. A Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas concert. My copy of White Christmas will get an airing too, probably. And last but not least, the Downton Abbey marathon. I'm not going to get to all this in just three days but I'm going to give it a go.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 7:46:49 AM PST
H: There are two additional ways to look at superheros, which are complementary. The first is to note the aspect of duality--the secret identity coupled with the superhero role, the existence of dual personae. That is obviously a deeply charged psychological construct--duality of various sorts emerged in the 19th century as a major literary theme, initially of course as good and evil. Classic psychological theory is full of doubles--Otto Rank's essay on the double being a prime example. In Jungian terms, one could say that the secret identity is the ego, and the superhero the Self--which, if you factor in the costuming (since the clothing of the secret identity is also a suit--no caps, please), makes it a quaternity--persona of ego, ego, persona of Self, Self. Further, the suit as an external signifier raises the issue of the integration of the persona with the underlying reality of the persona. In the true superhero, they are no--the suit is just an external sign of inward grace (yes, you can work the sacramental notion in here as well). How many superhero stories revolve around imposter superheros?

Rotating the view a bit, we can say that superheros are analogues to demi-gods--half human, half divine--in classical mythology, or to saints in Christian thinking--humans with a superabundance of divine grace, able thereby to act as intermediaries with God and perform miracles in His name.

I find that to be a bit more satisfying than reducing superheros to a small element in child psychology, or to use them as a springboard for existential nattering. The suit is the hero, the hero is the suit, if the hero is authentic. Even in the case of Iron Man--the suit is his creation, and therefore intimately part of himself.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 7:53:21 AM PST
Hikari says:
The suit (small s) was a bit downplayed in Captain America--am I mistaken that apart from the shield, it doesn't have any special powers per se, though its military styling looks functional? In the Captain's case, perhaps his suit is the one he wears in his physical person after his transformation--his armor is his new physique.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 8:03:59 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 8:07:13 AM PST
JB: We all have our critical enthusiasms, and our critical biases--you not least among us (Romero, anyone?). I'm certainly ready to defend a post-modern jeu d'esprit as a work of art--certain not high art, but art nevertheless. "Some great art"? To what do you refer? I do not quibble about the technical quality of the drawing--but that's craft, not art. Certain neither the quality of the writing, nor of the music. I am fully aware that there is a widely-held view of the early Disney animateds as fine films. I reject that, and don't think it can stand up to critical examination.

And lest you think my obiter dictum goes beyond a critique of the film to a critique of someone liking the films--think again. The films are designed as pablum for restless infants. It does not necessarily follow that all who like them are restless infants.

"Unfair and shortsighted"? What is this supposed to be, elementary school? I've just been browsing through the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations, and I am mild and amiable in comparison to some. For example (a chuckle of the day) Gore Vidal on Hemingway: "What other culture could have produced someone like Hemingway and NOT seen the joke?"

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 8:06:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 8:07:30 AM PST
H: The suit rarely has any particular function beyond that of a signifier, or (in the case of Batman, say) a toolbelt. Iron Man is an exception--but since he designed the suit, it may be seen as an extension of him--as indeed with all the Batman gadgets.

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 9:06:37 AM PST
For my third Film of Christmas...I was a bit delayed (quite tired), and I was having some difficulty with quite a few films here. As such, my scheduling for these films have changed somewhat. The bright side is, this was the last movie I saw, and I saw it yesterday. The downside is, it's...

Eight Crazy Nights

Never in my life have I ever seen a Christmas--or holiday-related film--illustrate so much hate within the first five minutes. Our introduction to Davey Stone (voiced by and animated in an identical likeness to Adam Sandler) involves him behaving atrociously, with the opening musical number (yes, this is a musical) revolving around how much he hates the Holidays, and everything in general.

Now, to be frank; this is nothing new when it comes to Holiday movies (I say this because the film's connected mostly to Chanukah with a little bit of Christmas thrown in). Heck, the grump that hates the Holidays, if not everything good in this world, harkens back to two of the most iconic Christmas humbugs: Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch. And various alterations of said characters--like Richard Donner's Scrooged starring Bill Murray--have indeed reimagined A Christmas Carole as a modern American black comedy to proper effect.

So indeed, creating a new character and story from scratch, and making that a gross-out comedy, is tricky, but not impossible. First off, we must be able to like our main character, regardless of how unlikeable he makes himself. In Scrooge's case, we are made to pity him for being such a miserable scoundrel unable to see the joys of life, and the three spirits are to signify his troubled past, the joys of those closest to him today, and the bleakest of events yet to come. As for The Grinch, much of it comes from Chuck Jones's craft and Dr. Seuss's writing in trying to add charm to such a revolting creature--with a blend of Jones's exaggerated expressions, Boris Karloff's subtle acting, and the musical lyrics written by Seuss himself; but the other dominating trait comes from The Grinch's skewered perception on Christmas as a corrupt and noisy holiday due to all the festivities that go on every year, only to realize that, while fun, isn't why the Whos love Christmas so much; the very characterization of The Whos in stark contrast to The Grinch harkens back to the biblical story of Job and his steadfast devotion to God.

In Davey Stone's case, the man is nothing more than an anarchist that makes everybody's life miserable, all for laughs. At least Bill Murray added a bit of charm to his character in Scrooged, and one could even argue he gets his laugh from his complete lack of empathy, only for a stark contrast to reveal later that his apathy indeed leads to tragedy; the man believes there's an answer to everything and that it's their fault if they died or whatnot.

No sympathy. No empathy. Not even a hint of charm in him. Just disgust.

Second, the contrasting supporting characters have to withhold some sort of divine significance. In A Christmas Carole, not only do the three spirits and the tormented souls of the condemned unravel the keys to Scrooge's salvation, but supporting players like Bob Cratchet and nephew Fred--and most notably, Tiny Tim--are defining symbols of the purity of the Holiday seasons in spite of not having much (many adaptations also throw in greed as the dominate trait in Scrooge's character, but I digress). In The Grinch, the town of Who-Ville, after being robbed of everything, still celebrates Christmas as normal, leaving The Grinch perplexed--the ending with the bright, shining star taking the place of the Christmas tree is a moment of transcendence--literally as it rises to the Heavens; and followed up with The Grinch saving the sleigh when his heart grew three sizes that day revels perfectly illustrates the divinity of the Who's convictions and The Grinch's revelation.

In Eight Crazy Nights, these contrasting characters are Whitey and Eleanor DuVall (both also voiced by Sandler); short, deformed fraternal twins whose presence throughout the film exists strictly for us the viewers--and most the rest of the cast as well--to mock and laugh at. The ending scene where Stone shames the entire town of Dukesberry for not giving Whitey the patch--and then bringing them all to the closed mall so that everyone would toss the patches they won over the years to Whitey--screams of disgusting sentimentality, shame, cynicism, and ultimately self-contradiction.

And Davey Stone's backstory is so heavy with contrivances forced down our throats just so we could sympathize with the manchild whilst satisfying a narcisistic ego. He was once a great kids that everybody loved. His parents died (shortly after winning the JCC Miracle Game as Whitey dubbed it, no less), and he went into a foster home. But he never cried from this incident, and that's why he's such a despicable specimen. First of all, at the age of 12, there was no way Davey could have held his sadness in for so long. Second, even if he did cry, that is no sign that he would have moved on and became a better person because of it. And third of all, this backstory doesn't redeem his character in the least. Again, we are led to sympathize with The Grinch, and pity Scrooge. We get none of that here.

And his revelation is even more contrived. After being told of the tragic events that made Davey the man he was today, Davey mocks Whitey and Eleanor in a fit of rage, storms off and gets drunk, and breaks into a mall. The logos from said mall comes to life and makes him cry a la musical number--by getting him to read his unopened Chanukah card from his parents the day they died. That changes his character just like that for the better. Now while that mall sequence is indeed creative and pretty surreal, it sticks out like a sore thumb in this sort of movie, and was better off in a different kind of film (it's nothing more than crass commercialism--a trait Sandler's films are known for).

Only two positives I can think of with this film. First off, the animation is nice. Second, Sandler's got a pretty decent voice-over range; not only has he voiced three of the main characters in this film, but he also provided the deer sounds. Beyond that, we only have a couple neutrals; Rob Schneider's a decent, but unnecessary narrator, and some of the worst scenes in the film were cut or replaced by not-as-bad-scenes-but still-worst-scenes-in-the-movie. A perfect example: An overly violent basketball game between a team of kids and a team of convicts that leads to one of the kid getting decapitated--though the kid's still alive and picks up his head--was replaced by a two-on-two game between Davey and a young kid named Benjamin (originally Whitey in yet another series of unpleasant punchlines) versus two thugs in which the thugs were soundly defeated and forced to eat a fat guy's sweaty jockstrap as a condition for their defeat.

The overall writing was best summed up by Comcast (a cable company which normally has something good to say for every one of their synopsises, even the 1-star reviews): Tasteless and trite. But alas, it's not enough. This could very well be the single worst Holiday movie I've ever seen in my life. If Lars von Trier were to direct an animated holiday musical feature in which he incorporated gross-out gags while simultaneously paying tribute to Frank Capra, we would have gotten something just as ''good,'' if not better.

Let that final comment sink in. I believe I've said all that was needed; to add anything more would be fruitless and redundant. 0 out of 10.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:07 AM PST
WAS: ''I am fully aware that there is a widely-held view of the early Disney animateds as fine films. I reject that, and don't think it can stand up to critical examination.''

And yet, you've admitted to liking Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, and stated that Fantasia may very well be one of three animated features eligible to being regarded as genuinely (the others being The Adventures of Prince Achmed and Toy Story). Granted, I'm sure you mean early films in general, and didn't necessarily mean all of them.

I may not believe that the end of the world will come today, but does anybody believe that one of the four horsemen are coming shortly to greatly reduce civilization's numbers?

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:39 AM PST
Gordo: You really are putting yourself some unnecessary suffering. Animation plus Sandler? Automatic horror.

I hope that you have chosen some bonbons as well as lumps of coal.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 9:23:41 AM PST
Gordo: In speaking of the early Disney, I am thinking chiefly of Snow White, Pinocchio, and Bambi. Yes, I do make an exception for Fantasia--chiefly on the originality of the concept. There are some quite astonishingly tasteless bits in that film as well. However, overall, the critique stands. Just because I did enjoy Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella does not mean that the general observation doesn't hold.

I do think it's time to drop animation for a while and go watch Alistair Sim. Or White Christmas. Or The Bishop's Wife.

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 10:12:25 AM PST
Steelers fan says:
Did you know Sandler was in it beforehand? If so, why, for God's sake, did you watch it?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 10:16:13 AM PST
Because he likes to torture himself.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 10:30:25 AM PST
Steelers fan: Believe it or not, I wasn't intending to review it. The original plan for last night was to watch both versions of The Grinch so that I could do an old vs. new-style of review, comparing the two together. But when I couldn't secure good picture quality with the VCR (as my parents only had Ron Howard's Grinch available on VHS), I had to improvise.

But having watched Chuck Jones's Grinch, Richard Donner's Scrooged, and Rankin/Bass's Stingiest Man in Town (a terrible adaptation of A Christmas Carole, I might add, but it reminded me of the source material), I knew I had to watch Eight Crazy Nights as a contrast as to how the movie fails when the aforementioned narratives worked so well (especially Scrooged, which was also a comedic tale about an unscrupulous jerk--but an enjoyable unscrupulous jerk), so I put it on.

It wasn't like I was deliberately tormenting myself. On the plus side, at least Sandler's badness didn't completely override my enjoyment of Jones's Grinch or, for that matter, Scrooged (Stingiest Man in Town wasn't good, but it wasn't completely unbearable either).

And I don't think anyone would have not known Sandler was in it, given the main character looks just like him, and the marketing campaign advertised the film as ''Adam Sandler liked you never seen him before!''

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 1:39:05 PM PST
mack says:
The best Christmas Carol movie verision is with Allister Sims. He' s the best in my opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2012 1:14:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2012 1:16:55 PM PST
Watched Haywire at last. I know it was downplayed in this discussion so I was not expecting much. I was suprised by all the A listers that showed up. Fassbender, Douglas, Bandaras, McGregor, Tatum, even Bill Paxton. I found it to be an okay movie. Started slow but proved worth watching. As for the fight scenes, still the same problem, people get beat up royally but as soon as the fight is over they look like they have been to the beauty counter at Macy's.

3 stars

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2012 7:16:53 PM PST
stevign says:
Gina Carano isn't that tough, I could lick her to death in a couple hours.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 1:10:09 PM PST
mack says:
Saw all The Bourne Identity (all 3.) with Matt Damon. Like those movies a lot...There's a lot of action & suspense! I have watched them more
than once.....

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:41:58 PM PST
A bit of a delay here; having too much fun, and much of my scheduled 12 Films of Christmas lineup has changed. For those of you who are celebrating Christmas tomorrow (err...tonight, even), I would like to say, Merry Christmas. And for those celebrating the last night of Chanukah this evening (is it the last night of Chanukah?), I'd like to say, Happy Chanukah! For those who've recognized that I quoted Eight Crazy Nights, I must apologize; the PC police would have had my head had I not do that. So all I have to say about this is, if you take offense because I said, ''Merry Christmas,'' I would like you to picture an image in your head of me pointing my middle finger upwards.

Anyways, on the Fourth Film of Christmas, I'll be taking a page right out of the Nostalgia Critic: Old vs. New!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The original film directed by Chuck Jones is a masterpiece that most everybody loves. The remake is quite polarizing; some people love it, while others hate it. But what is the better film? Me says it's a clean sweep: The original wins in all three areas concerned. Why? Well, let's cover the typical three areas, starting with technique.

Yeah, yeah! People put too much emphasis on technique when it comes to animation. But here's where the animated movie really shines. Not only does the film look delightfully colorful, with the setting looking really inventive, but there's always this stark contrast between the subtlety of the voice acting vs. the exaggerated expressions from the characters.

The remake, on the other hand, is a consistently ugly-looking movie in which all the colors are greyed out; it's like von Trier directed it (from a technical standpoint, anyways; the writing is more Spielberg-esque if anything). And frankly, Jim Carrey can either be an effective actor--comedic or otherwise--or chew every scene to bits with his obnoxious hyperactivity.

The moment of transcendence in the original is when the Grinch sees and hears the Whos gathering together and singing in spite of all of their stuff having been stolen, and the Grinch realizing that the true meaning of Christmas isn't materialistic after all. Two signs of this are present in the original: All the Whos down in Who-Ville have their eyes closed whenever they gather together to sing--they avert their gazes from the corrupting influences of materialism in order to recognize the true soul of the holidays, and is a profound characterization for the Whos. The second is the star shining in the place where the town Christmas tree once stood, shining ever-so brightly as it ascended into Heaven, which is symbolically significant for the Grinch.

In the remake, the Whos down in Who-Ville are materialistically corrupt, and their revelation on what Christmas is all about comes straight out of a Hallmark card. And the moment of transcendence we have in this movie is when the sun rises, shining before Carrey's Grinch--and that scene came straight out of The Truman Show, and completely lacks the necessary oomph (seriously, couldn't they give the song the Whos sing a spiritually significant representation? At least the Chuck Jones version hints at the holy representation at the end).

So, taking in both acting/characterization and technique into account, the old wins.

Story also goes to the original as well--and much of what I've covered already overlaps with the narratives of both versions. The original is straight-forward with the characterization perfect in every way. The remake, on the other hand, is completely unnecessary. Director Ron Howard has admitted that there was no way he could have made a better adaptation than what Jones provided, so he decided to do his own thing with it instead. So I must ask, Mr. Howard: If you knew you couldn't best the legendary Chuck Jones, why attempt it in the first place?

The things we got? A ton of filler with two unique additions in particular; vulgar jokes, and a backstory to the Grinch. The latter is a contradiction to the narration (remember, nobody knows the reason why the Grinch hates Christmas): His backstory was that he was mocked at school for presenting his gift to his crush at school AND for having cut himself repeatedly from shaving around Christmas time (oh, and the crush at school--all grown up especially--is presented as such a lustful woman all throughout that it confounds me that her infatuation with the Grinch was actually being played straight--let alone being played out with a PG rating).

The vulgar jokes are as followed--but are not exclusive to just these jokes: A scene where the Grinch lands on his High School crush, his face plummeting right between her breasts (really, this is a PG-rated movie); he flips some mistletoe right by his buttcrack; and he tricks the mayor--his grade school bully--into kissing the dog's hairy air via sleep talking. These jokes in particular are tasteless and trite.

I think the evidence speaks loud and clear here: The Chuck Jones version is infinitely superior to the Ron Howard version. My highest recommendations for the former; if you wish to see the latter, go ahead, but there's really no reason to. Ever.

As it is a short film, I'll rate the Jones version a perfect 5 out of 5. The Howard version is a 3 out of 10 (it's barely watchable).

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 5:09:35 AM PST
stevign says:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HANUKKAH EVERYONE

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/christmas122112/s_c01_56466043.jpg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JABQQiwCfuI

Posted on Dec 25, 2012 6:24:27 AM PST
And a Happy ChristmaKwanzaaHanukah to you as well, Gordo and stevign!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012 6:53:44 AM PST
stevign says:
lolol.......People still celebrate Kwanzaa? I thought the Black Nationalist Movement fad from the 60s would have faded away by now.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012 6:55:56 AM PST
Well, unfortunately, they've reemerged recently, and are slowly trying to take over the world.
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