Commentary 22 Jun 2013 03:11 am

A Week that Was

At the Movies

Academy Screenings have come at us this Summer in a hot and heavy fashion. I can’t say that all the films are worth watching, but then you’ll get a week like this where there were several positive adventures as opposed to last week when you had duds on top of duds.

On Tuesday, Brad Pitt came to us in 3D with World War Z. Quite some time ago, I had read that it was a film about Zombies and had forgotten. If I’d remembered I wouldn’t have gone to see the movie, and I might have been sorry. The story is a bit simplistic, but the metaphor is a good one. People, for some medical reason gone awry, turn into killers destroying each other, by bite, without reason. From the first 10 minutes in the film, right to the end I was sitting on the edge of my seat. The tension was formidable.

It was basically about Brad Pitt trying to save his family and in doing so resolve the problem for the world. It all seemed possible (given all the horrendous medical mishaps we’ve seen – from AIDS to Avian Flu to whatever else we could imagine.) Pitt’s one of the only actors I can think of who can relay confidence as a father to his two daughters (and a boy they pick up along the way) as well as a leading consultant working for the UN. The story resolves things in the way Mr. Pitt would like to see. A positive and hopeful ending.

Having seen Superman (Man of Steel)a week ago, it was good to see something with more heft on its mind than aliens.

Monsters University was a piece of garbage that could have stayed on the shelf. More like one of those Disney reworks (Remember: Bambi 2, Peter Pan 2, Aladdin 2, Pocahontas 2, Lady & The Tramp 2 et. al.) This thing, Monsters University, was a total piece of waste. At least the other 2D animated films had originals worth trying to live up to. It’s a tough chore to compete with the original Bambi that the off shore studio tried hard. The original Monsters Inc. was easy to compete with. Nothing to do with the art of animation and all to do with padding Disney’s pockets. (Coming up next week is Despicable Me 2. Who cares? I couldn’t make it through the original.) Pixar, doing Monsters Inc and now Monster U, should be ashamed of this work.

The Attack was an Arabic film that capitalized on the endless war between their two cultures. The 100% rating for The Attack might have been more deserving of half that.

So far, too many battles this summer. All tedium.


Same Old Sad Song


Back in 1955 I was nine years old. There were five kids in my family (including me and an older sister who never would’ve hung out with the rest of us.) Up the block was a larger family of cousins – all girls (at the time). Lady and the Tramp was opening, I wanted to see it on opening day – a Wednesday, and there was no stopping me. In the end, it meant I was supervising 7 kids if I wanted to see this film on it’s first Manhattan screening.

My mother had give me enough for the 8 admissions: 15 cents each for admission ($1.20) plus cash for popcorn & sodas. I had it all worked out and was set to buy something for every one. But the theater got smart! They raised admission for anyone under 12.($.25 cents!) Now, instead of being $1.20 for all of us to get in, it’d cost TWO DOLLARS for admission. We had enough to get in, but forget the candy. There wasn’t enough.

I explained it to my siblings and my cousins. My big fat, old-enough-to-know-better cousin started crying while we waited on line. We needed another quarter, and we could all share popcorn. How was I gonna get that! We were on line and she wouldn’t shut up.

I just wanted to see the movie. I didn’t care about candy or popcorn. Yet the fake-ish crying got louder. They were starting to sell tickets.

The theater manager came over to me to ask what was wrong. When I said we didn’t have enough, he thought I meant admission. He had to stop the crying. It was bad promotion for opening day at his theater. He gave me a dollar!

We suddenly had enough candy and popcorn for all of us, and we had no trouble getting into the theater in plenty of time with lotsa extras. The only problem was that my cousin was hooked onto her crying and she wouldn’t let up on it.

In the end, we saw the movie, ate the candy and had a good time. Of course, before we left, that same cousin had lost her glasses and she started crying again until we found them.

That big wide C i n e m a s c o p e screen. It was great, and I refused to ever go to a theater with my cousin again. I figured out a way to go again the next day with just my younger sister. We sat through Lady & the Tramp twice.

Nowadays, you’d have to put half those kids up for adoption to get enough for entrance and popcorn and 3D glasses. And the movie wouldn’t be as good. (See Monsters U about that one. They didn’t even offer 3D version to the Academy members; that’s how much it mattered.)


New Old Favorites from John Canemaker

BlairBook MaryBlair_2

Recent news I got from John Canemaker was that they are going to republish all of his Disney art books with a fresh approach. I believe they’ll be doing one book a year with The Art and Flair of Mary Blair to be the first to be published anew. It will have better color matching supervised by the Disney archives to equal the originals by Mary Blair.

The second book from the Canemaker canon to go this route will be Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation. In the end all of his great books should look fresh and bright, possibly even better published than the originals.

For once a publisher does a positive service to the history of the medium.

Speaking of which, I’m reading John’s Paper Dreams for the first time. It’s a pretty fabulous book, and I’ll have a lot to say when I finish it this coming week.


More on Mogubgub

Ed Grant on his site, MediaFunhouse, has devoted some space to the late Fred Mogugub. The material in the article seems to have been culled from work written by Mogubgub;s friend, Richard O’Connor as well as from my site.

The rehash is worth the reread; I can assure you. Artists need to be recognized.


James Gandolfini


At only 51, James Gandolfini (center above) seems to have left us. Thank god for The Sopranos. That show gave us a clue as to was a fine actor he was. I’m unable to turn on an episode, and episode and to quit so quickly thereafter. I feel compelled to watch the entire show regardless of the fact that I’d seen it many times already. Like a great movie, not a TV show.

As it happens, in the past year I seem to have run into Gondolfini more than my fair share of times. Twice I saw him with other “Soprano” members at David Chase events and three times I saw him at HBO events which celebrated documentaries about to be aired. I am amazed at how fit he looked all those times that I’d seen him. He was an actor who carried some weight (I don’t mean physically but dramatically), someone I would have cast in a moment’s notice no matter what I was filming. He was a talent to be reckoned with, someone who’d have brought real character to your film.

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