Sunday, 23 March 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

I am supremely pleased that I ended up liking this film. (Almost as pleased as I was that it was screening on pay tv and that meant that I didn't have to hire it and therefore spend money.) But I've wanted to see Stranger Than Fiction ever since I saw the promos at the cinemas. Sadly it was not to be and thus I hadn't ever gotten around to hiring it (something I considered last time I was at the video store) or even buying it blind, which I have never been able to justify doing. But as I say, I am supremely pleased that I ended up liking this film. I guess its mainly that all things fiction writing fascinate and captivate me. And yes, the irony is not lost on me that a film about writing and writers and fiction has compelled me to go and write something myself ie. this blog. But I find the whole thing fascinating. If you know me, which I presume you probably do if you are reading this, then you know that it is my dream to one day have a book published, to have my name placed among the annals of those noble creatures, the masters of the imagination - the novelists. And like most writers, I am incredibly incredulous and insecure about my ability or the lack thereof. I can't help but go back to this one article I read in one of the first few weeks of my current uni studies in writing. In my opinion it perfectly captures the experience of writing: "Writing fiction is like allowing yourself to be the ugliest person in the room and the most beautiful person at the same time. The ‘beautiful’ you swans into the party, garnering admiration, presuming that everyone else will be interested in what you have to say -- about anything. The ‘ugly’ you would prefer to cower in the kitchen, scoffing leftovers in the dark. It’s a schizoid existence. The part of you that is dying to be heard is chronically at odds with the part of you that fears exposure, rejection, or being just plain bad" (Albyn Leah Hall) The constant writer's dilemma and struggle with self. But back to Stranger Than Fiction. Here is the premise: Harold Crick is just a bloke going about his life when he begins to hear a voice narrating his life. As if that we're enough stress for him - a man who has never had anything remotely exciting or more than mundane happen to him for the past 12 years - then he hears the voice narrate that he doesn't know it but he is imminently close to his death. Bit of a shock really ;-) So the rest of the movie is about his quest to find out more about his death and what that means for his life. Now I'm not Will Ferrell's biggest fan. I only like him in about half of his movies. I either really like and adore his performance, or I absolutely loath it and any credability and respect he may have built up in my eyes is instantly demolished. So fortunately for him I really liked his performance in this movie. Had I have not, I don't think I would have liked this movie at all and simply written it off. Will's portrayal of Harrold was rather adorable and enamouring. Poor Harrold Crick. He really hasn't got much to live for other than numbers (he's an auditer for the IRS) and his wristwatch. I really liked the wristwatch motif actually. A mark of great writing I reckon. Compelling and unique, it leads you through the narrative and is indeed a character in its own right. I have to say I much prefer Will playing a character straight and letting the comedy come from the cirumstance rather than the character attempting to be funny in and of themselves. Dustin Hoffman as the Professor of Literature was a nice touch too. I didn't know he was in the film so it was a pleasant surprise as he is a tremendous actor who just pulls you in to whatever he is doing. The way he kept asking Harrold if he counted stuff like the stairs outside or the number of tiles in the bathroom was really cute and quirky and helped solidify Harrold's character and patheticness, if thats not too harsh a description. I also liked the role that Hoffman played as it stimulated my writer's mind by talking about all the literary theory and creation mechanics and games writers play to stimulate ideas etc. I wonder if I didn't have some foreknowledge and insight into the theory behind writing, would I have understood and been able to follow all the stuff he was going on about, eg. the ideas about plot and how it happens, working out if Harrold was in a Comedy or a Tragedy, and the list of questions that Hoffman asks about Harrold's life. Awesome! A crane bursting thru a wall to create plot when the character refuses, nice touch! And only I find this interesting but I would soooo love to hear Hoffman's lectures on "Little did he know". That is awesome!!!! The romance with Maggie Gylenhall was quite sweet (no pun intended given that she bakes him cookies) and perfectly illustrated the whole plot twist thing. An unlikely pairing between the characters but it works nonetheless. And yet another masterful performance by Emma Thompson as the writer of the piece. I certainly hope I never go as wonko as she seems to be for most of the movie. Though there is a part of me that admires her character's methods of trying to immerse herself in the different experiences of dying. Though the hospital part was more than a bit extreme. Also a nice surprise by Queen Latifah as the assistant. Overall I guess I can't eloquently describe why it is that I really liked this film other than that the mechanics of it tickled my writer's bone and understanding. Deeply satisfying to my writer's sensibilities, which is a great relief cause this film could have been a real flop. Little did I know...hehehe A definite recommendation and then come talk to me about the writing stuff in it if you dare. Interesting ideas. Happy Easter Everyone! Till next time

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Disney Theatrical Animated Features

Ever since I was a little kid I have been obsessed with Disney animated feature movies. We all know and love them. I'm talking of course about all those classics: Cinderella, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast etc. etc. My obsession with such films is back once again in full resurgence thanks to the current promotions for the Platinum Edition of 101 Dalmations on DVD. Something that I have discovered in investigating Disney DVDs is that a lot of their "classics" are actually currently unavailable for sale, which for an avid collector like me is something of a real frustration and absurdity. I dunno if its just me but I found this fact a real shock and a pain in the neck. Although I do buy a lot of DVDs and have a rather large collection of titles in my home library, I do only really like to buy them when they are at reduced prices. Unless I really really desire something when it is initially released or desperate to have it for my collection, I don't like to pay full price for things. But it depends. It's all about justification. The Lion King is one such film that I have never been fully able to justify buying on DVD. As much as I want it (I have the video from when it first came out but the quality has severely degraded from old VCRs and multiple viewings) the timing has just never been right. I even contemplated buying the 3 pack of the films as I am quite fond of the second one but still could not do it. Now to my great dismay it is no longer available. Imagine my shock when a simple search of popular Australian DVD sites turns up no hits for The Lion King! Okay, now I suppose many people out there might be thinking I should just go on to ebay and search for such DVDs and that I will find them available and possibly for the price I wanna pay. But here's the rub...I'm really fussy about my DVDs. I don't go in for cheap and nasty and you really can just never tell of the quality you will get. It's like my books, I like them to be pristine. I hate it if my DVDs get even one tiny scratch. I cannot and will never buy ex-rentals based on this reason alone. So back to Disney DVD. For those interested, there are 49 feature films in the official Walt Disney Animation Studios canon, also known as the Walt Disney Animated Classics according to Wikipedia. The list goes as follows below. I have bolded the titles from the list that are currently unavailable according to searches conducted by me of the EzyDVD and JB Hi-Fi websites that I often frequent. Official Walt Disney Animation Studios canon 1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 2. Pinocchio 3. Fantasia 4. Dumbo 5. Bambi 6. Saludos Amigos 7. The Three Caballeros 8. Make Mine Music 9. Fun and Fancy Free 10. Melody Time 11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad 12. Cinderella 13. Alice In Wonderland 14. Peter Pan 15. Lady and the Tramp 16. Sleeping Beauty 17. One Hundred and One Dalmatians 18. The Sword in the Stone 19. The Jungle Book 20. The Arisocats 21. Robin Hood 22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 23. The Rescuers 24. The Fox and the Hound 25. The Black Cauldron 26. Basil the Great Mouse Detective 27. Oliver and Company 28. The Little Mermaid 29. The Recuers Down Under 30. Beauty and the Beast 31. Aladdin 32. The Lion King 33. Pocahontas 34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 35. Hercules 36. Mulan 37. Tarzan 38. Fantasia 2000 39. The Emperor's New Groove 40. Atlantis: The Lost Empire 41. Lilo and Stitch 42. Treasure Planet 43. Brother Bear 44. Home on the Range 45. Chicken Little 46. Meet the Robinsons 47. Bolt (current theatrical release date 2008) 48. The Princess and the Frog (current theatrical release date 2009) 49. Rapunzel (current theatrical release date 2010) Okay, looking at the list now I must admit it doesn't seem like all that many of them afterall. But it sure feels like it. There are several titles on this list that plainly dont interest me and there are also a couple that I feel should be on the list. This last point is of course complicated by the fact that some of my own personal "classics" feature both animation and live action. So, if I was making a list of Disney Classics, my list would be as follows (in no particular order): 1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 2. Pinocchio 3. Fantasia 4. Dumbo 5. Bambi 6. Saludos Amigos 7. The Three Caballeros 8. Make Mine Music 9. Fun and Fancy Free 10. Melody Time 11. Cinderella 12. Alice In Wonderland 13. Peter Pan 14. Lady and the Tramp 15. Sleeping Beauty 16. One Hundred and One Dalmatians 17. The Sword in the Stone 18. The Jungle Book 19. The Arisocats 20. Robin Hood 21. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 22. The Rescuers 23. The Fox and the Hound 24. The Black Cauldron 25. Basil the Great Mouse Detective 26. Oliver and Company 27. The Little Mermaid 28. The Recuers Down Under 29. Beauty and the Beast 30. Aladdin 31. The Lion King 32. Pocahontas 33. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 34. Hercules 35. Mulan 36. The Emperor's New Groove 37. Lilo and Stitch 38. Bedknobs and Broomsticks 39. Ducktales - The Movie: The Treasure of the Lost Lamp 40. Enchanted 41. A Goofy Movie 42. An Extremely Goofy Movie 43. The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride 44. Finding Nemo 45. Mary Poppins 46. Monsters Inc. 47. Pete's Dragon 48. The Return of Jafar 49. Song of the South 50. The Three Musketeers 51. Toy Story 52. Toy Story 2 53. Tron 54. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 55. The Parent Trap* 56. The Happiest Millionaire* 57. The Shaggy Dog* 58. George of the Jungle* 59. The Love Bug* 60. Herbie Rides Again* 61. Herbie Goes Bananas* 62. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids* 62. Honey, I Blew Up the Baby* 63. The Mighty Ducks (also known as The Champions)* 64. Return to Oz* 65. The Million Dollar Duck* 66. That Darn Cat* 67. The Ugliest Daschund* 68. Freaky Friday* 69. Flubber* 70. Doug's 1st Movie * These titles are only live-action but in my opinion warrant "classic" status I'll stop now as I fear I am no longer interesting in the slightest. But its food for thought. If you like Disney animated films on DVD my advice is to buy them when you see them. As with the current release of the Platinum Editions of 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and The Arisocats and the like, Disney animated features generally only "come out of the vault" for a limited time and thereafter only seem to be rereleased in special editions once the individual movies hit significant anniversaries. Needless-to-say, my current obsession has seen me this week buying up as many Disney classics from the list of those I desire on DVD as possible. I have 7 new additions to my collection in total. Yes, I bought them on sale. How much did I spend? I'd rather not say because frankly I probably shouldn't have spent the money. Was 101 Dalamatians included in that list? No. The Platinum Edition has just be released and is not as yet reduced. I just can't justify the money. Perhaps when it comes down a little bit more in price then I'll buy it for my collection. Here's hoping I don't cave and can last that long :-)

Monday, 3 March 2008

A Very Supernatural Christmas

For my inaugral post I am going to comment on something that I have watched only minutes ago. I've been wanting to start this blog for a while now. I can't even remember when I actually signed up for this but here it is, no doubt months later, and still it is bare. So here I go, jumping in the deep end. Well, finally tonight I actually sat down to download the current episodes of Supernatural so that I could catch up on all the ones I've missed since the New Year has started and the masterful show has returned once again to our screens. I vehemently blame summer television and its lack of appeal (and hence my lack of watching copious amounts of television for three months; I know, a record for me!) on my not knowing that the show had started up again. Thank goodness for Ten offering limited time free downloads! Keeps me up to date. So anyway, the episode that was next on my list to watch was "A Very Supernatural Christmas". I must say, what a kack! I generally find the show funny (one of the things I really appreciate about the horror genre, the fine line between terror and comedy) but this one was just absurd to say the least. I particularly liked the corny "A Special Presentation" flash at the beginning, and inherent mock at itself, as well as the Supernatural script exploding out of a Christmas bauble...classic! Okay, so the basic premise was pretty lame. An anti-Santa that drags bad people up the chimney?! Sounds like something I'd write in one of my lame stories. It reminded me of like a season one or two Buffy episode. But while lame, I just couldn't help but find the idea charming and endearing for all its ironic hilarity. I guess I just get devoted to my shows and look blindly with love past their flaws. hehehe :-) Truthfully the premise would be really really scary to kids. Perhaps it would be better suited for a younger audience. As a storyline I mean. But whatever. People start disappearing up their chimneys and the boys start investigating. I particularly like Dean calling Sam nuts for believing the horror is the result of an anti-Santa. It's the interactions between the brothers and the flashbacks that really make this episode for me. At least maybe that's one way I can justify why the horror aspect was kinda hokey. The character development and evolution is so much more important to the overall plot of the series. I have to put a shout out of commendation to the two young boys they got to play the Winchesters. What talented actors! I wondered throughout all their sequences the extent to which they had studied the mannerisms of the characters and the inflections of voice and such prior to taking on the roles. In my opinion they really nailed it on the head. More the boy who played Sam than Dean but still. I could practically hear Jared Padalecki saying the lines along with the sounded so natural and in sync. Almost supernatural. hehehe I know I'm so lame. But I hope they use the same actors again if they do more flashbacks in the future. It was really cool to see the boys thinking about past Christmases, as well as witnessing the moment that Sam discovered his Dad wasn't like other Dads. I was like whoa! Another instance where the strength of character and love of Dean for Sam shone thru in him giving his pesky kid brother the best Christmas he could manage and still trying to keep Sam's veneration towards their father alive...even if he did steal a Barbie doll and a wand as Christmas presents! And what an "awwww!!" factor when you see Sam give Dean the necklace and then it flashes back to the present day and you see Dean come thru the door wearing that same necklace he is always wearing but now it has more significance. Perhaps Dean's conviction at wanting to celebrate Christmas would have seemed more convincing and compelling if they had made him really go to the hilt with it, like surprising Sam out of the bathroom or something and standing there all cheery, singing Christmas carols and wearing a big fluffy Santa hat. Then once they encountered the wicked old creepy Christmas couple and the absolute Seasonal-vomit that was their house he would have changed his mind about celebrating so fervently and hence made the ending that much more touching with all the effort that Sam goes to to make it a good memory of Christmas. Oh well. The real crux of it was Sam's reluctance and not wanting to get in the spirit of things because of the pain that Dean's days are numbered. Oh, I just have to draw attention to the caroling thing now that I think of it. Oh my! Rolling on the floor laughing at the boys attempting to sing "Silent Night" to that manky, mangy and creepy Santa. hehehe "round and round and round" instead of "'round young virgin"!!! Classic! And that Santa really was manky! I have a friend who has worked for Santa photos and I seriously hope she has never had to deal with anything like that Santa!!! Oh! And the boys talking to the elf. "My brother's always wanted (a photo with Santa)..Lifelong wish." "Umm, no kids over twelve." "No, no. We're just here to watch." Oops! Got yourself in a bit of hilarious hot water there, Sammy. Would have made the episode run long no doubt but would have capped it off to have had the boys thrown out of Santa's Village by reindeer security for suspicion of being dangerous men to children. And that cross-eyed reindeer that Sam stared at was funny in his response to it's creepiness. But back to the plot and off my tangents. The boys' investigations lead them to a link between wreaths found in the victims' homes and eventually trace them back to the maker, a seemingly innocent, season-obsessed and leave-it-to-Beaveresque woman and her husband. Turns out that they are actually pagan gods who have "assimilated" into our world and now only take about 3-5 victims a year instead of their past hundreds....and they play Bridge on Tuesdays :-) So the gods capture the boys when they break into the house, attempting to put the kibosh on the couple. Tied up in kitchen chairs the couple torment Sam and Dean with all their Christmas cheer as well as delivering the required amount of exposition about who they are and what they do so that the story makes sense. Preparing the boys for sacrifice to anti-Santa or whatever was really good. The creepy genility of the couple gave the scene the perfect unsettling aura and heightened the humor. It also heightened the gruesomeness of their ritual, the cutting of the flesh and removing Sam's fingernail (ewwwww!!!! so gross!!!). Then they go to remove a tooth from Dean's mouth and the doorbell rings. hehehe "I think someone should get that" he says. The boys get free when the couple answer the door, trap them in the kitchen (I'm sorry but a drawer to hold back a door that is being beaten at by a demi-god is strong enough?! Not! Too convenient for me considering they slide a wall unit in front of the other door, but whatever, I'll overlook it) and then proceed to break apart the immaculate Christmas tree for stakes to finish the couple off. Sam and Dean have their own gas station-inspired Christmas celebration back at the motel, sans Santa hats much to my dismay. But they have eggnog so they get points. The gifts they give each other are pathetic and macho but perfect for these two disfunctional characters. Perhaps there's been a Christmas miracle afterall. Well, must be off. That went waaaayyy longer than I intended or thought possible. Off to watch another episode before bed. Till next time (hopefully its soon).