The Great Movie Post (5/6) For the Family

Time for the family unit to sit and watch things together.  C’mon, you can do it.  Just post a Facebook update that says “BRB” and put down the cell phone for about an hour and a half.

BTW – sorry about the absence.  ran away to Mexico for about a week.


cartoons, stop motion, CGI, paper dolls


Politically correct way of saying “Christmas”


When people suddenly break out in song and dance without necessarily being gay


Really?  Facts?  zzzzzzzzzz


when a band performs live on stage with cameras rolling


1.  Toy Story  – 1995  –  Animation

Close 2nd  Anything other than Ponyo

Directed by John Lasseter

Written by John Lasseter and Pete Docter

Linear Bonding Strip by Scotch

Oscar won for Special Technical Achievement, Nominated for Best Musical Score, Best Original Song, Best Original Screenplay.

 A cowboy doll is profoundly threatened and jealous when a new spaceman figure supplants him as top toy in a boy’s room.

 If you’re under 30, it’s not your fault that you might not be able to appreciate the real beauty of Toy Story.  Those under 30 have never really known a life without cable tv, the Internet, and DVD’s or at least VHS.  You don’t remember what it was like to wait for the one day a year when Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on TV because if your world, you would pop the disc in any time you wanted.  The same goes for the amazement of Computer Generated Imaging (CGI).  So when Toy Story was released, it was a stunning achievement in film that you just weren’t there for at the right age.  And luckily, that new technology, for which it earned a special Oscar, came with a helluva story.

Toy Story is about one thing:  progress.  Life is progress and full of various little progressions.  We grow up, we learn, we do our best, and we get replaced.  Cut and dry.  Woody (Tom Hanks) has been the everlasting favorite toy of a plain-ass kid named Andy.  But there’s a snappy new toy, a “space ranger,” that every kid wants – Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen).  He’s got a spacesuit, molded wings, a helmet that pops open and closed, blinking lights, and a “death” ray.  Through no fault or intent of his own, Buzz is slowly replacing Woody as Andy’s favorite toy, but Woody is not just going to roll over and take it.  He shows some sharp jealousy and goes a little too far in trying to preserve his #1 role, and it gets both Woody and Buzz in some trouble.

It’s a film that has to be watched probably five or six times before you can really take in everything that’s packed in.  The perfect CGI replications of classic games and toys, the stand-up wit and barbs traded by Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Potato Head (Don Rickles), and the way most of the toys act with such an acute awareness of who and where they are.  Jaws was once my most-watched film, but Toy Story is slowly replacing it.

Favorite scene:  The toys’ reactions when the party guests arrive.


2.  It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946  –  Holiday

Close 2nd  Elf  (sorry to fans of A Christmas Story)

Directed by Frank Capra

Written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and others

Petals by Zuzu

Oscar nominated for Best Actor, Director, Picture, Film Editing, and Sound Recording.

 An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

I began this series of posts with one criteria – films that you’ll love enough that you’ll watch them until the end if you land in the middle while channel surfing.  None matches that more than this one for me because it’s just not possible for me to not watch the rest, even if it’s more than halfway through.  It represents the greatest possible self sacrifice for the best possible reasons:  family, community, and country.

George Bailey has – I mean “had” – big dreams.  World travel, be an architect, lasso the moon, and then some crazy stuff too.  He had loving, accommodating parents with idealistic approach to encourage him.  His father ran a ragtag financial group called the Bedford Falls Building and Loan that allowed those of uneasy means to put a roof over their heads and live their American Dream.  George was on the doorstep to the beginning of it all when tragedy struck, and his supportive father was taken away.  It left George with two options.  He could begin his life of greatness that he’d planned, or he could stay home and take over the Building and Loan.  It doesn’t take any brains to know that George gave up of himself for others, but it’s a matter of how.

I had probably seen It’s a Wonderful Life roughly five times before I had actually seen it from the very beginning.  So, just in case, I’ll review it.  George, facing great embarrassment that you’ll learn about when you watch it for the first time, attempts suicide.  He’s interrupted by an angel who pulls him out of the icy river into which he’s jumped.  After Clarence, the angel, hears George wish he’d never been born, he gives George the most amazing bitter-sweet gift – to see what life would have been like without him.  That’s the guts of the film, and that’s what will pull your guts loose and make you want to watch it over and over again, as I have for about 20 years.  Just don’t watch the Ted Turner colorized version.  Eww.

Favorite scene:  The short montage of how George kept Bedford Falls secure during the war.


3.  The Wizard of Oz – 1939  –  Musical

Close 2nd  West Side Story

Directed by Victor Fleming

Adapted from a story by L. Frank Baum

Flying Monkeys by Bernie Darwin

Oscars won for Best Score and Best Original Song, nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography, and Special Effects.

 Dorothy Gale is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.

I was browsing the daily itinerary of the activities on a cruise ship a few years ago and saw two interesting things scattered amongst the snorkeling and kayaking excursions.  One was called “Friends of Bill W.” which I knew was sort of a code name for Alcoholics Anonymous.  The other was called “Friends of Dorothy,” but I was unaware of its decoding.  As I glanced through the karaoke and dance club times, I kept thinking about “Friends of Dorothy” and slowly pieced it together.  In case you didn’t know, a large percentage of gay men have a great affinity for Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz.  I’m not completely sure of why Dorothy is so beloved by the Gay community.  Maybe it’s the voice of Judy Garland, or maybe it’s just the dress and shoes.  Or maybe it’s about someone who is trying to just go home to the family she loves and misses after having tried to run away from home.  Then, when a tornado is coming, she instead attempts to return to her family, only to find herself tossed skyward while inside their farmhouse.  Said farmhouse then falls back to earth, only to land on and kill a witch.  Oh, but Dorothy isn’t satisfied there and immediately embarks on a journey to kill the witch’s sister.

Of course I’m exaggerating, but I’m allowed and you can’t stop me, so “nyah.”  (universal sound of sticking out tongue in order to mock someone).  There’s nothing I can say about The Wizard of Oz that you don’t already know so I won’t bore you with any story or plot details.  Instead, I’ll just leave you with a few interesting pieces.  You’ve likely heard the story that if you start the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon at exactly the same time you see the lion roar inside the MGM logo, there will be some very interesting film and song moments that coincide.  That might also be true with almost any movie and almost any album, but it’s only a stupid myth created by someone who smoked a whole lotta pot.  Also, at roughly 101 minutes into the film you’ll see the Dorothy, the lion, the scarecrow, and the Tinman prancing up the yellow brick road, and off to the left on the horizon is what appears to be a man hanging himself.  One legend says it was a stagehand, a maintenance worker, who was unhappy about something.  Another said it was a depressed munchkin who was dumped by another little person.  The truth is that many stagehands were unhappy.  Also true is that the shadow of a dead man is really just the silhouette of a poorly-drawn tree on a back drop.  If anyone tells you differently, tell them to move to Kansas.

Favorite scene – When the Wizard gives the Scarecrow his gift of a brain, which prompts Scarecrow to inaccurately explain the properties of an isosceles triangle.


4.   Bowling for Columbine – 2004  –  Documentary

Close 2nd  Fahrenheit 9/11

Directed by Michael Moore

Written by Michael Moore

Bullets formerly by K-Mart

Oscar for Best Documentary

 Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America’s predilection for gun violence.

 America – we got issues.  Violent issues.  We’ve got this paranoia that someone’s out to get us, so we carry guns.  And since so many people are carrying guns, then there are many people potentially ready to “get us.”  It’s like a perpetual motion machine or an unhealthy cycle.  It’s a logistical and deadly “chicken or the egg” conundrum.  In Michael Moore’s mega-award (everything other than an Oscar) winning documentary, it seems our Wild West never went away.  It just grew so big that it’s everywhere.  It’s like living on an island.  It’s only an island when you look at it from the water.  So the American Island is entirely the Wild West.  Yeah, that was dumb.

Anyway, the movie is basically nice different ways to prove that we have too many guns and too many violent, angry people.  And it asks the question, “What were we doing before the violence kicked in?”  We weren’t born this way, so what triggered it?  As the title suggests, maybe we were just bowling, doing something nice and fun, and then one day – snap.  The “bowling” refers to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two students who murdered 12 other students and one teacher while injuring 72 others before turning their guns on themselves (like all cowards do) on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, not far from Denver, Colorado.  A students interviewed in the film was asked if she knew them and said they seemed like any other kid and remembered one of them being on the bowling team, just looking like a regular kid.  I guess at some point we all look like regular kids, but some of us have things happen, and some of us deal with those things differently than others.

Bowling for Columbine doesn’t entirely blame the gun industry, also pointing fingers at the media, the National Rifle Association, and Hollywood.  In one “funny” segment, he shows a bank that gives away rifles for opening new accounts, then proudly walks out with one.  And there’s a touching segment involving a boy who’s life was drastically altered in a shooting that involved bullets bought at a local K-Mart.  Until this movie, I would never have guessed K-Mart sold weapons of personal destruction.  Then I went to my local store to see for myself that it’s true.  Very disappointing.

Favorite scene:  Opening doors in Canada.


5.   Let It Be– 1970  Concert

Close 2nd  Woodstock

Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Written by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr

Oscar won for Best Music/Original Score.

 The filmed account of the Beatles’ attempt to recapture their old group spirit by making a back to basics album, which instead drove them further apart.

 I don’t care that the Rolling Stones call themselves “the world’s greatest rock and roll band.”  That’s just a trademark phrase that they themselves adopted.  It’s like giving yourself your own nickname, calling yourself Rocky or something.  It’s wrong and doesn’t work because it’s phony.  As for who is or isn’t or has been the world’s greatest rock and roll band, it should lie with whoever can define more than just an era of music but beyond music into culture in its entirety.  That’s the Beatles, not the Rolling Stones.  The Stones did one type of music – theirs.  The Beatles did everyone’s music.

After rising from nothing and creating everything, with a little borrowing from Motown and Elvis, they then should have fallen.  Instead, they reinvented.  No, they evolved with the decades instead of just doing one type of music, as the Stones did and still do.  The Stones became a mockery of themselves, just as Aerosmith has, in a way.  Instead, the Beatles looked around, saw the world, jumped in, and came out the other side.  Then it was time for them to fall again, and they dug their claws in, unwilling to let go.  Let it Be was the result of what happened when they would either pull back up or fall.  Thus, the title Let it Be.  The film does the near impossible, capture a moment in history, but artistic history, not military or political history.  It captures a moment when there was greatest that slipped away.  The creators of that greatness all paused to look back and see where they had gone wrong.  They backtracked with goodwill to try again.

It’s hard to encourage someone without an appreciation of the Beatles to want to see this movie.  All I can say is that if you were able to sit and watch it, you’d walk away with the appreciation that you don’t have now.

Favorite scene:  The Rooftop?


Up next:  Guilty Pleasures

11 thoughts on “The Great Movie Post (5/6) For the Family

  1. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my. This is a great post!
    I agree with you about A Wonderful Life. The first time I came across it, it was somewhere in the middle. I usually hate coming late to the party but with this movie I just sat and watched and then when the rest of the people were done, I went back and watched it through from the beginning.
    I’ve seen Toy Story in bits and pieces. I’ve never actually watched it from start to finish – maybe I should. I’m old enough to remember real toys!!

  2. It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie that never tires me. Still remember the days when it was one cable countless times. Loved tuning in at different points in the movie, and always enjoying it.

    • Choosing a concert film was probably the most difficult part yet. I would like to have gone with Woodstock because of the great difficulty in organizing the film, but in my opinion the concert was just not that great to watch. The camera work however was terrific based on the situation. I also considered a fabulous Bruce Springsteen concert filmed in 2000 in New York City. But as much as I am a huge Springsteen fan and it was an outstanding concert, The events surrounding the Beatles was more important in the history of music and rock n roll. I also considered the film “Rattle and Hum” with u2. But too much of that film occasionally feels more like a music video than peeking into the reality of a concert.

  3. Pingback: The Great Movie Post (4/6) For the Laughs | brainsnorts inc.

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