Saturday, October 30, 2010

One More Day...

Brief Thoughts on Disney and Pixar

I was one of the many animation fans disappointed to see that Brenda Chapman had been removed from her chair as director of Pixar's Brave (previously-titled The Bear and the Bow). She's been replaced by Mark Andrews, which is a shame considering that Pixar was crowing about having their first female-driven-and-directed film. Keeping an eye on the arguments over this move, it really does seem like Pixar is second-guessing themselves instead of maintaining the illusion that they're a director-driven studio. Seems like the dew is off the lily on that image.

I have to say that I'm not thrilled with John Lasseter at the moment. He really did seem like the creative key at Disney, but with the exception of The Princess and the Frog, I haven't really loved much of Disney's animated output over the last few years. Lasseter's decision (as creative director at Disney) to remove Chris Sanders from American Dog and turn it into the dull, uninspired Bolt was something that really stung, being such a fan of Sanders and loving everything I'd read about the concept. I'm also not a fan of the advertising for Entangled, which is almost aggressively boy-friendly. And then Newt--which had some truly wonderful concept art--got dumped by Pixar and Brenda Chapman was taken off of Brave. Now, with the exception of Brave, everything in development at Pixar seems to be a sequel (including Cars 2, which I am not looking forward to, since I felt the original was one of Pixar's weakest films).

What drives me nuts is not that Brenda Chapman, as Pixar's first woman director, was unceremoniously removed from this honor. What bothers me the most is that she was behind this project from its inception on. When the driving creative force is shoved aside for what I assume are business reasons (did it not fit into the usual Pixar box?), it usually seems to be a mistake. Not always; Ratatouille is a decent (though, I think, overrated) film even though Jan Pinkava was replaced by Brad Bird. But I'd love to see what Pinkava wanted to do. And after Chris Sanders was turned out so that we could all get to see Bolt, it makes me wary. Because Bolt was so insipid. And Tangled looks like it's gone from the story of Rapunzel to the story of Rapunzel the Minor Supporting Character because if this stuff isn't sold at boys, no one will go, or something. A better title would be Mangled. And I should point out, Glen Keane was removed as director by John Lasseter.

The problem I have with John Lasseter is that he really seems to err on the side of this quaint folksiness over any other story quality. He has this folksy Americana sensibility, and that's fine, but it's not something I need to see in every story. I thought Toy Story 3 was pushing it a little bit, and too many times in Cars it seemed to substitute for a story. It reminds me not of the fresh, creative, Snow White-era Walt Disney, but the later, Davy Crockett-era studio that Walt seemed to have no real stake in. John Lasseter and Pixar are starting to seem settled, less hungry, less passionate about taking chances and more interested in just perpetuating themselves. And that can be very boring, and very frustrating.

Brenda Chapman is, I think, too talented not to land on her feet. Maybe she'll go back to DreamWorks, where she co-directed The Prince of Egypt a decade ago. I know she's still at Pixar for now, but Chris Sanders seems to have done well over there with How to Train Your Dragon (which is currently in the mail from Netflix en route to my home). I hope Doug Sweetland--who directed my favorite Pixar short ever, Presto--is doing well at Sony.

I can't legitimately comment on films I'll never see--Brenda Chapman's Brave or Chris Sanders' American Dog--and claim they were great. What I can say is this: I was excited about them. I was genuinely excited. But now I'm not excited about Brave. And I'm not excited about Cars 2 or the seemingly unnecessary Monsters, Inc. 2. I'm not interested in those movies. And Bolt was mediocre at best.

Fear of failure means an aversion to risk... I'm starting to expect less and less of Pixar these days...

BOO!

I Love That I'm Even Having This Conversation

BECCA: I can just never remember that guy's name.

ME: Alpine! That's... how can you forget Alpine? If Shipwreck's the Han Solo of G.I. Joe--

BECCA: Agreed.

ME: Then Alpine's like the Lando Calrissian of G.I. Joe.

BECCA: Okay, let's get one thing straight: Roadblock is the Lando Calrissian of G.I. Joe. Roadblock is cooler than everyone. Like Lando.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: Pumpkins by Ray Villafane

Thanks, Douglas!

Christ, I Hate Elections

I saw Bill Brady on the local news this morning. He's running for Governor here in Illinois. And he's an idiot. Everyone running for anything in Illinois this year is an idiot. But Bill Brady is someone I really don't trust.

What really struck me about this dim bulb this morning was just how obviously he was lying. He's giving us the usual rhetoric about the economy and creating jobs and what Illinois needs to do. Now, I'm not a Brady fan to begin with (Jesus, who could be?), but he's just so clearly a con artist that it made me sick. To their credit, the usually lightweight anchors on WGN News started things off by rattling him over not paying for his campaign ads, which WGN was refusing to air until payment came through. (He must've handed over a check right then, because the ads started airing less than an hour later.) But his attempts to spin a response to that fuck-up ("It's a campaign strategy we thought would be more successful") just pegged him as a liar right off the bat.

What really set me off this morning, though, was when Brady proclaimed that the people of Illinois had to "live within their means." It really offended me, because most of us Illinoisans are doing just that. We can't do anything else, because of what robber barons have done to this state. And this guy, who payed no taxes for two years, is telling me to live within my means? Dude, you have no idea what it's like to be poor. I do, but it's because I'm not a tax cheat. Don't you dare lecture me on frugality when you don't pay your taxes. Don't you dare.

And then he goes into his usual evasion dance, ducking every issue except for what he thinks sounds good on the economy. Governor Pat Quinn--who is facing a hard battle, mainly because he inherited a giant mess and an amazing amount of debt from Rod Blagojevich--tried to engage Brady on the abortion issue in a debate, and Brady has decided he doesn't have to talk about that or any other social issue, because "this election is about the economy."

Well, no. The economy is the issue that's getting the most media play, and it's certainly the most immediate problem we have, but as voters we also have a right to know where you stand on every other issue. If you want to govern us, we deserve to know what we're getting. So answer each and every damn question that is put to you.

And then, finally, he gets to his economy spiel. And it's what most candidates--especially Republicans--like to give us in every election: cut taxes, cut spending, create jobs, pay off debt. And unless you're just willfully stupid, you've already figured out what this means: tax breaks for corporations.

They like to stick it to Quinn on the fact that Quinn will raise income taxes, but so will Brady. Anyone will. They have to. They can't afford not to, because of the deep financial hole Illinois is in. Brady cannot cut government spending and create jobs. He can't cut programs (and he wants to take a billion dollars out of education, which is already stretched far too thin) and create jobs. A government can't take in less money and spend less money without cutting programs, which means laying more people off and hurting the state's economy even worse. Less people with jobs means less wages paid and less money spent by consumers. It's that simple.

So how do you make up for the loss of spending cash? Well, you have to raise income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc. It's the only way it evens out.

So if Brady is cutting taxes (starting at the top with the people who have the most already) and cutting programs (which many of the economically disadvantaged can't afford to lose), how the hell does he plan to create any jobs?

The same way politicians always "create" jobs: by giving tax incentives to corporations who do business with the state, and putting the onus on them to create jobs, which they may or may not do, because none of the politicians actually care about anything other than making empty promises they can't or won't keep in order to get elected.

And it works, is the sad part. People who are already poor vote to keep themselves poor and protect the rights of the rich to treat them like serfs and peasants and indentured servants because they hear buzz phrases like "lower taxes" and "create jobs" and figure it'll actually happen. And it never does.

Look, all these wannabe governors are doing is looking for the newest way to legislate you out of any of the money you have left. That's all they care about. You're paying and paying and paying into a system you will never get very much out of, because they're more interested in staying rich and powerful than they are in any problems you're going through.

I am sick of this rigged game.

Nearly Here...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween: The Great Pumpkin Waltz

A wonderful piece from Vince Guaraldi's score to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Which is on ABC tonight, by the way. Looking forward to it, as I do every year. Gosh, this music makes me feel good.

Three Things Meme

Snagged this from Byzantium's Shores.

3 Places I Would Pack My Travel Bag For

Disneyland
New Zealand
Guam

3 On-Screen Characters I Love To Watch

The Little Tramp
Indiana Jones
Kermit the Frog

3 Moods That Describe Me The Best

Sarcastic
Cynical
Tired

3 Things I Always Think Of Doing On A Weekend

Reading
Napping
Drinking coffee

3 Things From My Childhood That I Can't Forget

The smell of Showbiz Pizza.
The excitement of the movie theater lights darkening.
Snowball fights with my Dad.

3 Things I Would Never Say No To

Pizza
Muppets
Cherie Currie

3 Things I Can't Live Without

Internet
Music
Becca!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween: Lego Street View

This is really the Year of Lego Halloween. I can not get enough of it!

Odie Is Ready for Halloween

Halloween Pumpkins 2010

We carved our pumpkins yesterday, and as usual, I thought I'd share them with you.

You know I always love the big, creepy smiles and wonky expressions. It may be derivative of some of my other pumpkins, but I added creepy teeth this year. I freestyle these things, but I just have so much fun doing it.

Becca did another one of these pin-up silhouettes, and I think this is her best one yet. I love the stitches on the Bride of Frankenstein here.

Here's my pumpkin all lit up. It was really windy last night, but we managed to grab a couple of pictures. (Look at how think the pumpkin was; it cut much easier than the one from 2008, though!)



Here's Becca's all lit up. I love how the stitches glow!

Becca's pumpkin is spectacular!

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE CAPTAIN'S PARADISE (1953)
Alec Guinness as a ship captain who has one wife on both sides of his route: one in Gibraltar, one in North Africa. One, Celia Johnson, is the wife he relies on for a steady English home of routine, the other, Yvonne DeCarlo, is the wife he wants to be fun, vivacious, and full of the night life. He figures he has a genius set-up, but of course, you can't ask a woman to be happy with just one aspect of her personality, and eventually his set-up unravels. A funny character study with a surprising ending; not quite the equal of his Ealing comedies, but a great Guinness picture. ***1/2 stars.

LAST HOLIDAY (1950)
Alec Guinness as a farm equipment salesman who is told by his doctor he's going to die, so he cashes in his savings and goes off to a fancy hotel, determined that living his remaining days in posh comfort will bring him the happiness he's never known. A nice character study, but not one of Guinness' best films, I think. I really liked Kay Walsh as a sympathetic hotel employee, and it's always nice to see Ernest Thesiger turn up. *** stars.

BANDSLAM (2009)
Better than I thought it would be, honestly. A David Bowie fan moves to a new school that's caught up in a band competition, falls in love with Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens (neither of which I blame him for), and becomes a band manager. What surprised me was both the sincerity of the film, and the complexity of its relationships. Though it has a predictable ending (which did, nonetheless, make me smile), it's surprisingly observant about teenage relationships and personal tragedy, and the way friendships can form. And it made a Bread song sound cool, which is seemingly an impossible feat. *** stars.

Watching Batman Reruns Again

You know, everyone likes to joke around about how Batman and Robin are gay, but watching it as an adult, it's clearly Chief O'Hara and Commissioner Gordon who are together. They have a comfortable relationship, a couple of old hens working together, developing a shorthand, completely incompetent at what they do. They've got a whole Bert and Ernie thing going on. It's so obvious. (And it puts a whole new spin on their reliance on getting the guy in tights with the boy in shorts to show up at the office...)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween: Fright to the Finish

Yotsuba&!

Becca recently got me into Yotsuba&! and I've already torn through the first 8 volumes. It's one of the most wonderful comic books ever. So I can't pass up this cuteness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween: Lego Witch


I am really loving the heroic number of Halloween-themed Lego pictures this year. You had to use your imagination much more when I was a kid.

Happy Birthday, Becca!

Here are some bunnies, because nothing makes Becca happier than bunnies.

The Unknowable Nature of the Universe

In the apartment doorway.

ME: I really need you to get out of my way.

BECCA: I'll bet, after all that coffee at breakfast, you must really need to pee.

ME: Yes, and right now it's either here in the living room or in the bathroom.

BECCA: I'd prefer the bathroom.

ME: Well, so would I, but who truly knows what fate has in store for any of us?

Kristen Bell Mondays