Monday, February 28, 2011

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are..."

Recently I watched two great documentaries about Disney animated films that I found fascinating, interesting, and a little bit sad. I grew up not only watching Disney films (initially in the movie theater and on TV, and eventually on VHS & DVD), but also listening to the long playing records of the stories and the songs. (I could use the Fisher Price record player on my own before I could properly tie my shoes, and I probably knew most of the Disney movie songs before I went to kindergarten.)

The first one is The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story. The songs of the Sherman brothers are ingrained in American pop culture. You may not know the names Richard and Robert Sherman, but you probably know the words to their songs: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", "Wonderful Thing about Tiggers","Wanna Be Like You", "Portobello Road", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", or "It's a Small World After All". This documentary recounts the personal and professional history of the brothers, including their great successes (the Oscar for Mary Poppins), personal clashes, and the eventual decline of their songwriting. The most interesting part of their story is their early collaboration with Walt Disney himself, who signed them as the first permanent staff songwriters at the studio during the first golden age of Disney. There are wonderful interviews with the brothers as well as the men and women who performed the songs in the films; I particularly enjoyed the one with Dick van Dyke. The documentary was made by the brothers' sons, who due to their fathers' estrangement, hadn't seen each other in 25 years, and the film really is a kind of olive branch to their dads.

The other Disney documentary is Waking Sleeping Beauty, which examines the decline of the Disney Animation studios in the early 1980s following the departure of head animator Don Bluth and the box office failure of The Black Cauldron (which I actually saw at its premiere at Radio City Music Hall; it was AWFUL-read the books instead) through the rise of its second golden age in the early 1990s with the smash hits The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Focusing on leadership and management at Disney (rather than the technical aspects of creating the films), the film is a fascinating look at the Disney outsiders who came in to shake things up and give animation the shot in the arm that it needed to put Disney animated films back at the top of the box office. Because the film is done by men who actually worked at Disney animation during this period, it is chock full of home movies (Tim Burton is in one of them!! Pixar's John Lasseter is there too!) and first hand accounts with many of the animators. It is honest and doesn't whitewash much: crazy hours, massive egos, power plays, and a completely scrapped first go at Beauty and the Beast. There are some really beautiful things in the film too: the inspiration lyricist Howard Ashman brought to projects, the camaraderie of the animators, and the support of Roy Disney for continuing Disney film making when it was falling out of fashion. Watching this documentary knowing that Tangled is going to be the last animated Disney fairytale for the foreseeable future is bittersweet, but this film gave me an even stronger appreciation of the legacy of the Disney Animation Studio.

Both of these get a strong B+ from this Disney fan.

*Every time I hear "When You Wish Upon a Star", I get a little choked up. It is a good one.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Good Earth

A recent episode of "CBS Sunday Morning" featured a piece on terrariums. They looked really cool, and I thought to myself, "I can do that."

And so I did...

Succulant Terrarium Succulant Terrarium
Succulant Terrarium Succulant Terrarium

The plants are from Winston's Flowers on Route 9 in Chestnut Hill (a little more expensive, but the plants looked really healthy and I was spoiled for choice). The fishbowl, gravel, and charcoal came from PetSmart. (I had the other two containers already; one of them is a trifle bowl I never use.)

I got my directions from an article in Yankee Magazine (written by the woman featured on "CBS Sunday Morning"), but I modified them by using bright light loving succulents instead of shade loving dwarf plants. (My living room gets a lot of sunlight.) In my experience, a cool thing about putting succulents in a glass container is that you can easily monitor the moisture level of the soil, making over-watering less likely.

ETA: If you are going to do this, DON'T put river stones in your succulent terrarium. They prevented the soil from drying out (which the plants like), and the succulents started to rot! I had to pull all of the stones out and pulled out a bunch of dying pieces along with them. Hopefully I did this soon enough to stop anything else from dying, but talk about learning a lesson the hard way. Yeesh!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Oh, Lotty, we must be friends forever and forever."*

When first I went away to college, I didn't really have any homesickness. Everything was too new and exciting, and I loved the experience of being on my own and responsible for myself. Going back to school for the second semester of my freshman year after the Christmas break was another story. I was terribly homesick and really quite lonely and depressed. The horrible winter weather we had didn't help, nor did the fact that my roommate had transferred to Brown and the person who I thought was going to be my new roommate transferred to Hampshire. I felt isolated and somewhat abandoned; things were looking quite bleak.

On Wednesday afternoons and evenings my college would show second run art films, and one of those Wednesdays that was particularly bleak, I ended up going to see a British film on my own. The film was Enchanted April, and I didn't really know anything definite about it except that it was British. (That was okay with me; I went into Howards End with the exact same attitude.)

The story follows four very different English women in post-WWI Britain, each of whom is unhappy with life for her own reason. They come together to rent a castle in Italy, which has a healing effect on each of them. The film is wonderfully acted, starring Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, and the wonderful Joan Plowright. (Richardson and Plowright each received Golden Globes for their roles, and Plowright also received an Oscar nod.) The contrast between bleak, rainy London and beautiful, sunny Italy is like going from black and white Kansas to Technicolor Oz. The locations in Italy are stunning, while the score by Richard Rodney Bennett is lush, magical, and yearning.

As I said, Italy has a transforming and healing effect on the characters in the film. But what I wasn't counting on was the rejuvenating effect that this film had on me. I left that theater with a light heart and a willingness to re-embrace my life at school. This film was a life saver and a life changer for me. For years, I would watch my VHS copy of this film whenever I was having a hard time and refused to give up my VCR rather than lose the ability to watch it. Fortunately, Enchanted April was finally released on DVD last year. I watched the dvd this weekend, and, once again, it filled me with happiness and love.

This is one of my favorite exchanges. It happens near the end of the film.
Lotty surprises Mrs. Fisher with a kiss on the cheek.
Mrs. Fisher: Thank you, my dear. I was feeling a little melancholy. Where are the others?
Mellersh Wilkins: They all seem to have paired off, Mrs. Fisher.
Mrs. Fisher: It does seem that people can only be happy in pairs. All sorts of pairs.
Lotty Wilkins: Then you and I will be a pair, Mrs. Fisher. We're going to be very good friends.
Mrs. Fisher: I hope so, Lotty.
Lotty: Oh, I see it.
Mrs. Fisher: Then we will be.

*Lady Caroline Dester, Enchanted April

Friday, February 11, 2011

Public art, public spaces

In my previous post, JR mentioned in the comments that there is a new sculpture up at the 'Tute that looks really cool in the dark. I have to be honest: at first, I really didn't like this sculpture. It gave me the creeps.
But then I saw it lit up at night, and I finally started to see the beauty in it.
And then the snow came, and I really started to love it. See if you agree...

During the daytime:
The Alchemist by Jaume Plensa   (in snow)

At night:
The Alchemist by Jaume Plensa (in snow)

The piece is called "The Alchemist", and it is by Jaume Plensa. My changing reaction says a lot to me about how art can be influenced by its surroundings. It will be interesting to see what I think in the spring when everything is really green.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Color that POPS!

One thing I will say about the snow, it certainly makes the bright colors around the 'Tute stand out.

Aesop's Fables, II by Mark di Suvero


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...