Friday, May 09, 2008

Recent Viewings Abandonments 05.09.2008

These aren't really reviews as I have no right to review something I didn't finish. I try to strictly adhere to Alexander Pope's directive when criticizing to "Survey the Whole".

Blurbs on the PBS documentary made it look PHAT (Pretty Hot and Tempting), so I fired up the ancient VCR that's hidden away from the fray of the house (it had to churn for a week undisturbed). This week ended up with scads of open TV time as MPC1 is in a school play, so wife and MPC1 are gone all night, leaving me and MPC2 to have fun.

Documentaries are one of the best things to watch whilst you play with little ones because they're mostly talky talky and don't depend on your eyes being latched to the screen. (It even conforms to the "playing with toddlers" advice from the great Dear Prudence.) The lone exception to this is The Thin Blue Line, which you must and will remain glued to.

For the record, I loves myself some documentary. To croon along with Julie Andrews, it's one of my favorite things, even though the multisyllabic word does not slide easily into the refrains of the tune.

Carrier is an unfocused mess. Unless you're good at recognizing faces, there is no narrative thread provided. There's also nothing particularly novel or surprising shown. They don't even walk you through the mechanics of the jets taking off and landing. The big piece of info about that particular central activity of the carrier is that ... wait for it ... it's LOUD. (Hell you say!). Yes, the sound doth ring throughout the ship, and they actually have some of the crewman's quarters directly beneath the landing pad.

But, how does the breaking cable work? How does the catapult work? What are the steps to launching a jet? Etc. None of this. Perhaps in this day and age it's considered a security risk to get too detailed on that stuff. But it does exist in other docs about carriers, so that's prolly not it. Nope. Methinks the documentary crew just didn't think to cover it.

So, after 4 chapters, I announced to my poppet, who was taking her stuffed kitties on walks (drags, actually) through the house at the end of toy puppy leash, that we were going to stop with the carrier stuff already. Never one to miss an opportunity, she asked if we could put Bugs Bunny on. Bless her.

Oh, one positive note is the music selection is pretty cool. I plan to use This list and hunt around Amazon for some MP3s.

Bee Movie
Feeling that we needed to meet halfway on viewing choices during this week of opportunity while half the family was off strutting and fretting their hour, I got some little-person fare from the library, and one of those was Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie (which I'm sure he thought was an oh-so-clever double-meaning on "B" movie, and, well, it kinda is).

Quasi-SPOILER stuff ....

Bee-leave it or not (see, I got those double-meaning thangs going too), the flick culminates in a court trial. Again: a cartoon that is aimed at kids ends up being a freakin' courtroom drama. You wonder how that went in the pitch meeting.

End SPOILER stuff.

It was nearly impossible to stay focused on the movie. And, btw, let me emphasis what a big deal this is in our case.

For some reason my wife and I haven't been able to get to the bottom of, our littlest one is terrified of bees. Last summer, when she was awake, all she wanted to do was go outside. This year it's like trying to get an agoraphobic to walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. If she's on a trike (Word spellcheck doesn't know the word "trike"! Or "spellcheck"!) or in some other moving toy, she's fine, but you put her on her feet and she dashes for the door crying.

So, I thought watching a movie about nice bees would help. She was initially fascinated because these were cartoon avatars of the thing she so fears, but after the novelty wore off it was as if the TV wasn't even on. Sometime during the ... spoiler event above ... I found my mind had drifted so many times, I wasn't sure what they were talking about at times. About 10 minutes after that, off it went.

I've noticed something (that seems rather obvious now) in that the entertainment value of an animated film is in direct proportion to how much of the story is told visually as opposed to exposition through dialogue.

Though adults kinds dug Ratatouille, I didn't really note that much excitement from the kids. Alvin and the Chipmunks went through my daughter's school like ebola. They even had show and tell sessions where kids dressed up like the chipmunks and performed the songs.

Ratatouille was almost all talk, and over half was total Food Channel fare. Yawn. (I still haven't seen the whole thing even though someone literally gave us a copy because they didn't like it.)

So, cartoon shops: tell the story through the visuals as much as possible. If a character opens their mouth, consider that a problem. Hey - just occurred to me. See the flick by The Fifth Element director (whose common theme seems to be that a great woman can save a guy's life) Luc Besson entitled Angel-A. Nearly all the dialogue in that film is inconsequential.

Another great example is our youngest's fav film right now: Bambi. Which, visually, is a glorious moving watercolor. It's also got a lot of kid politics in it, which I hadn't noticed until the recent rash of repeated viewings. (The little ones tend to latch on to a film and watch it incessantly for a while until they've completely absorbed it.) All the dialogue centers on the kid politics angle, while the story itself is told visually.

If this section of the post were a cartoon, it'd be me (well, my web avatar (floating on the left there)) pounding this point to China.


Whisky Prajer said...

My wife and I were both underwhelmed by Ratatouille. On top of that, it really peeved me that the critics fell all over themselves to praise this thing after they'd been given such a stern (and shameless) talking to. I stewed for a bit on the ride home, and my wife pointed out that the trailer for the upcoming Pixar film seemed to pointedly cut Brad Bird from the equation. A viewer of a certain mindset could be forgiven for thinking that Pixar was trying to tell him they were intent on getting "back on track" with their next film. We shall see, I suppose ('cos, dammit, they're still better than the competition).

Yahmdallah said...