Thursday, October 15, 2020

When You're the Only One Punished

When I was a kid, I don't recall having a specific bedtime but I know that at some point, I was supposed to be in bed / asleep.  Being the youngest, I was obviously supposed to go to bed before everyone else, and oftentimes, bedtime was before or while good television was still on!

Just to set up the geography in the house, all the rooms branched off a main hallway.  The room I shared with my sisters was on one end of the hallway, so if I was standing at the end of my hallway, my room was to my left.  A little bit forward to the right was an entryway to the living room, and through that, to the front door.  A little past the living room entrance on the right, my brother's room was to the left.  A little past his room also on the left was the bathroom.  On the right directly across from the bathroom was the kitchen and dining room.  And my parents' bedroom was just after those, at the other end of the hallway from my room.

I remember one night, I think I was maybe 6 or 7, I was still out in the living room with my siblings watching TV.  My parents had gone to bed, and I had either said I was going to bed or had come back out after they'd gone to bed.  My siblings were watching a comedy and laughing.  Not softly laughing, regular laughing.  That was also a reason why having an earlier bedtime was difficult.  I already had trouble sleeping as a kid, and having people laugh at a regular volume nearby was not going to help me to fall asleep or stay asleep.

At some point, I heard my parents' bedroom door open.  I figured the laughing had woken them up or kept them awake.  I knew I'd probably be in trouble, so I got up to go to the bathroom and then head to my room.  My father came out, and he was angry.  As I walked past him, he hit me, hard enough to knock me into the wall.  I don't remember where he hit me.  I remember that it hurt, physically.  I don't remember that it was what I expected.  I figured he'd yell at me or something, which is why I was sort of trying to duck past him.  Yeah, that didn't work.  I did continue on to the bathroom, crying.

I stayed in there for a few minutes, and then I heard my mother saying something to my father about "are you trying to kill her?", and I guess she persuaded him to go back into their room and shut the door.  I heard a clang of some sort but didn't know what it was.  My sister was knocking on the door, telling me it was ok and to let her in.  Shortly afterward, I did.  She came in to check that I wasn't hurt, and she did seem upset about what had happened.  I went to bed after that.

The next day, I think after my father had left for work, I had to go into the bathroom that was attached to my parents' bedroom to get something.  And I saw what had made the clang I'd heard the night before.  It was kind of like a wooden brick, a think slab of wood that I think we used as a door stop for the sliding glass door in the dining room.  I think I figured out that after I went into the bathroom, my father had gone to get that and was waiting for me to come out of the bathroom.  That's when my mother saw him and made the comment she did.  She must have taken it from him and tossed it in the bathroom.  If I had come out of the bathroom sooner, I'm guessing he would have hit me with it.

And with regard to my mother's comment to him of "are you trying to kill her?"  I don't recall her sounding mad or outraged.  It was very matter of fact, a little exasperated, like "don't be ridiculous".  She never came to check on me.  I'm not even sure if she knew that he'd hit me.  I don't remember how much noise I was making while crying, so I don't know if she knew about that either.  I never saw her come out of their room.

As I said, I don't think it had crossed my mind that he'd hit me, just that I'd get yelled at.  Or maybe a slap on the butt or something?  I don't know.  I was definitely not expecting to be hit hard enough for the blow to push me against the wall.  It wasn't a very broad hallway, enough for two people to walk past each other.  I don't know if his hitting me hurt more or if hitting the wall with my shoulder (?) or head (?) hurt more.  I know that I've witnessed violence between my parents on several occasions when I was a kid, but I don't remember if it was before or after this.

I know that I wasn't laughing that loudly.  It wasn't me that they heard.  It was my siblings laughing at normal volume that woke them up / prevented them from going to sleep.  While I wasn't supposed to be out there, my presence in the living room was not what was interfering with their sleep.  And yet, as far as I know, I was the only one punished.  I don't think my father ever went into the living room.  I was walking past him in the hallway when he hit me.  I was crying but I don't recall hearing him say anything to my siblings as I headed towards the bathroom.  I don't remember what happened after I went to bed, whether my siblings stayed in the living room watching TV or whether they stopped.  I think my oldest sister put me to bed, but other than that, there was no comfort or reassurance after what happened.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Language Issues

My parents weren't very good at English, so while the kids would speak to each other in English, we would speak to them in Chinese for the most part. My knowledge of spoken Chinese is limited in that I was born in Hong Kong, and our family moved to the States just after I turned 3, so my Chinese was learned only from what my family spoke to me. I remember that as we grew up, my parents were often irritated when we the kids spoke English to each other, especially when it was something that didn't involve my parents so it wasn't like they needed to understand what we were saying.  They would have wanted us to speak Chinese at home all the time, which would have severely limited what conversations I could have.  I probably had the vocabulary of an elementary school kid when it came to Chinese?  The example I often used is that I wouldn't know words like "auditorium" in Chinese, but I could say "the big building where people gather to do things", which would generally get my point across. I was living in the States, going to an English-speaking school, so it would seem to me to make sense that I was learning a lot more English, and it wasn't like there was a concerted effort to necessarily teach me Chinese other than what I learned listening to everyone talk around the house.  Occasionally, my parents would use a word I didn't know, and I would ask them what it meant. Sometimes I'd remember and sometimes I wouldn't, depending on how often they used the word.

I remember at one point, my father used a word, and I didn't know what it meant, so I asked him. And he got angry because I didn't know this word for a very common thing. It showed how much I didn't know enough Chinese, he said. Well, my parents spoke a different dialect than my siblings and I did. My parents usually spoke our dialect, so that's what I'd learned.  Sometimes, they'd  speak their own dialect, and I learned some of those words as well. But in this case, my father had used the word for "ice", but he'd said it in his dialect instead of the dialect I knew. The word in his dialect and in my dialect sound completely different (for example, the word in his dialect was more like "bat" but the word in my dialect was more like "shoe"), so it's not like you could guess what it was because it sounded similar, and he'd said it in some way where the context didn't give you any idea what the word meant. I'd literally never heard him use that word before, which I told him, but that didn't matter, he was still mad at me.

Both of my parents, but moreso my mother, often lamented the fact that I couldn't read or write Chinese. All of my siblings could to some degree (the next oldest from me, a brother, was 9 when we moved to the States, so he would have already had some schooling in Chinese). I'd had none. My mother would often mention that there were Chinese classes in Chinatown and then voice her disappointment that I never took any, especially if the child of one of her friends (or rivals) at work did take a class.

Of course, there was never any mention of exactly how I was supposed to get to a class. From where we lived, it would take maybe half an hour by car to get to Chinatown. I was clearly not old enough to drive. My father worked weekends, so he couldn't take me. My mother didn't know how to drive. There was no way that my siblings were going to drive me. Was I supposed to get on a bus that would take however long to get there and back? I think my mother started harping on me about the classes starting from when I was in Junior High School, which I guess is called Middle School now. She'd come home from work and tell me how this person or that person was talking about their son or daughter going to Chinese school and I wasn't. And if I asked, it always turned out that they lived in Chinatown and could walk to class on a Saturday.

And it's not like my mother got the information about classes and then tried to work out with me how it could happen. I only knew that there were classes being held somewhere in Chinatown. I didn't know when or how much they cost. And it wasn't like there was the internet readily available in those days to look that kind of information up.

Mind you, none of my siblings took any additional Chinese classes once we got to the States. I don't recall her ever telling my next oldest sibling, the brother who is 6 years older than me, that he should go to Chinese school. So I got chastised for not going to classes that I didn't really have a way to get to, that would have cost money that I'm not sure they would have been ok with paying (we didn't have a lot of extra money for non-necessities), and that no other kid in the family had been expected to go to. Whenever the subject came up, even as I got older, if I mentioned that I had no real way of getting there, that was dismissed as just an excuse.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

I am Not My Brother's Keeper

With my oldest siblings out of the house, it was just my brother and me left in the house with my parents. I keep trying to work out how old I was based on the memories I have. I think I was 17 or so, and my brother is 6 years older than me. It had to be on Saturdays because my mother worked on Saturdays, but my brother did not. My mother would come into my room on Saturday mornings before she went to work, and she'd wake me up and tell me whatever she wanted to tell me. And usually, she was irritated because I was still in bed, on a Saturday morning when I didn't have school, I guess. I'm half asleep, trying to understand and remember whatever it was she was telling me. Oftentimes, she would tell me things that she wanted my brother to do, and I was the one who was supposed to tell him.

I cannot for the life of me remember why she didn't just tell him. Maybe he wasn't home for some reason? Maybe he'd been out the night before so he was still asleep and apparently, it was ok for him to be asleep and not woken up, but somehow, I was the one who needed to be woken up to be told what HE was supposed to do that day.

It could be a particular chore she wanted him to do, or something different she wanted taken care of. Whatever it was, it wasn't something I could do, or at least it would require both of us to do it. So I'd have to remember whatever she told me, as I went back to sleep for a bit after she left, and then later, after my brother woke up, I would tell him what our mother had said for him to do. These were probably things he wasn't keen on doing anyway because they were chores of some kind. But can you imagine how happy he was to be told by his six-years-younger sister what chores he had to do on a Saturday instead of whatever else he might have wanted to do, because it wasn't like there had been any warning or notice ahead of time that our mother had wanted him to do these things.

And the day would wear on, and I'd tell him again about the things our mother wanted him to do. How keen do you think he was about that? There was no way that I was going to be able to make my six-years-older-than-me brother do something he didn't want to do, even if it was something our mother wanted.

And then he might go out on a Saturday night before our mother got home from work. And he might have done one of the things she wanted but not everything or maybe even none of it. And I would be the one to get in trouble. I'd get scolded because things hadn't been done. I'd tell her that I told him, but that never mattered. I mean, I never got punished for it, but it was clear that she was unhappy, and she voiced it, and I was the one who had to deal with it.

It wasn't like she never told him directly when she wanted him to do something. But on the many occasions when she would tell me to tell him, and he didn't do it, I don't recall a single time when she was angry or irritated with him that it wasn't done. She was either ok with it, or she'd be mad at me. I had zero control over whether or not the thing was done, but somehow, it was my fault for not being able to get him to do it.


Monday, September 14, 2020

It's My Fault For Not Being Able to Move

No one likes being blamed for something they didn't do. That's not a revelation, right?  Who would be ok with taking the blame (and possible recrimination and punishment) for something that someone else did?  But I was noticing that I was reacting much more strongly to those situations than seemed normal.  And it wasn't until it had happened a few more times after that revelation, and I started to think about it more, that I realized the reason.  I've been blamed for things consistently in my life that I don't believe were my fault.  Now, I suppose it's possible that I'm just refusing to take responsibility. There are some situations where I do think I deserve some blame, but I don't think I deserved the amount of blame (and consequences) that was handed out to me.

I think maybe I was 11 or 12.  One of my sisters was giving me a haircut in the dining room.  I was sitting in a barstool chair with a sheet draped over me, hanging in the back so that the hair that was cut off wouldn't stick to me and would just drop to the floor.  We were kind of in the middle of the room, and the small TV was on, sitting on the counter.  I was turned so that when I faced straight ahead, I was looking at the TV, but when my sister had to turn my head to cut different parts of my hair, of course, I couldn't necessarily see the TV.

So I'm sitting there, watching TV, getting my hair cut. My father comes in the room, and he stops to see what's on the TV. Mind you, the TV wasn't just on, I was actually watching whatever show was on.  The main TV is in the living room, and I don't know if it was on, and if it was, who was watching it or what they were watching. He stopped right in between me and the TV, completely blocking my view.  I asked him to move.  He didn't.  I asked him again.  I tried to get his attention, calling him, telling him I couldn't see, and asking him to move.  And he didn't.  After a few more times, he got angry, went over to the TV and abruptly turned it off, saying that I was being loud and belligerent and that I didn't deserve to watch TV and walked out of the room. It was one of those TVs that had a knob that you pulled up to turn it on and pushed down to turn it off.  I remember that he pushed it down hard because the sound of the knob going down was pretty loud, kind of like slamming a door closed.

I just sat there and tears started. I was stuck in my position. It wasn't like I could move since I was getting my hair cut.  That would seem pretty obvious.  I wasn't yelling at him. At first, it was a regular level of speaking when I asked him to move. Eventually, yeah, I probably got a little louder, as sometimes, my father couldn't always hear very well, but we were in pretty close proximity, so it seemed unlikely that he couldn't hear me. It's not like it was a show he had been watching. He couldn't even understand the show, as he didn't know English very well. He would just be watching out of idle curiosity to see what it was. But of all the places he could have stopped to watch, anywhere since he had no restrictions on where he needed to be, he stopped literally in the only spot that blocked my line of sight completely. And when I asked him to move and kept telling him that I couldn't see, he didn't budge, until he got angry and blamed me for being loud and apparently bothering him, and my punishment was that I couldn't watching the show I had been watching before he came into the room.

Shortly after he left the room, as I sat there silently crying, my sister made a disgusted noise, walked over to the TV and turned it back on.  I don't remember if she said anything else. I don't think I paid any attention to the rest of the show. She finished giving me a haircut in silence.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Which "you" are you, and when?

If you asked ten different people who know me to tell you about me, you're likely to get 10 at least slightly different answers.  The answers would vary depending on whether you spoke to someone who was just a co-worker, someone who was a co-worker but a bit of a friend, someone who was an acquaintance, or someone who knew me a bit better.  You'd also get different answers depending on whether it was someone who spent more time with me in person versus someone who I interacted more with over electronic means.  And you'd definitely get different answers if it was someone who knows me but who isn't necessarily friends with me.

We all show different sides of ourselves to different people, depending on the circumstances, the kind of relationship it is, how much we reveal of ourselves to any given person.  We might be quieter with some people, more boisterous with others, more reserved with some, more brash with others, depending on our comfort level and how we might closer match with the personality of the other person.  That doesn't mean you're showing a false version of you. It just means that different people bring out a different side of you.

In my case, while I think you'd get a range of answers, I don't think you'd find two people who would describe me using polar opposite words.  Well, at least I don't think so.  I guess you'd have to ask the people who really dislike me to answer that question, but I don't think that you'd get a Jekyll and Hyde description of me from two different people.

What made me think about this situation in particular is something that happened a few weeks ago.  I ended up reading an article about someone I know.  And the person described in the article was in fact not someone I know.  I've never seen that person to exhibit those qualities in my interactions with them.  While I didn't spend a ton of time with this person, I was around them more than just casually, and while I did note differences in their behaviour depending on who they interacted with, I was absolutely floored by the person as depicted in the story.  The person in the story was kind, caring, compassionate, fun, easy-going, and seemed genuinely a good person to be around.  While I'd seen a bit of that behaviour exhibited towards some people, I'd also seen the person be very negative, outright condescending, unabashedly rude, and sometimes, even vicious, and all of those things happened more than once, and more than to one person.  And that was all before any of that behaviour was turned on me.  It was actually because I started to notice that behaviour to others and started objecting to it that things changed, and eventually, their behaviour towards me turned into something I had to discretely manage.  At the time that the person depicted in the article existed for the person writing the story, this same person was also in the worst part of their treatment towards me.  In reading the article a few weeks ago and knowing the time period when that all was happening, and thinking about the behaviour that was directed towards me at the time, it was really hard to accept that it was the same person.

I suppose it shouldn't really come as a total surprise, since there are so many situations in the news when someone does something, and people they know are interviewed, and often, their response is that they would have never expected something like that, and they would never have expected that kind of behaviour from the person they knew.  This situation isn't nearly on that level - no crime was committed towards me. But it was hard to reconcile the person I was reading about in the article with the person who had decided to target me. And while not a physical threat, there was a level of threat that it was possible the person could have inflicted on my life, given the nature of our interaction, and at times, it was problematic trying to figure out how to best avoid the land mines while still needing to make it across the field.

I think I was particularly aware of the difference in the perception of someone's personality because it's come up in other situations. Someone who comes across really nice and friend to all, but you know things about them that not everyone does, and it dampens how you feel.  Or someone who might appear "odd" or difficult but you know something else about them so have more sympathy to overlook moments of them being less than gracious.

I was especially attune to these kinds of differences in many recent high-profile cases in many different arenas, where someone is accused of doing something terrible, and there are testimonials from others in their support saying that this person has never done that to them, implying that the person therefore could not have done it to their accusers. I've never understood that.  If the person has never done this particular bad thing to you or in your presence, it means only that.  You cannot extrapolate that to mean that they have not and cannot do it to someone else during the many hours in someone's life when you're not around. The example I usually use is that there are many people that high-profile serial killers met and interacted with and didn't kill.  That certainly doesn't mean that they didn't kill the numerous people that they are convicted of killing.

While I know that different people have different perceptions of me, a realization that I accept, it's still interesting to think about it in terms of other people, especially when confronted with reading about someone you know and seeing a completely different person.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

What's For Dinner?

A lot of people have had to make a lot of changes to their lives because of the current pandemic, and most people are spending a lot more time at home. I'm fortunate in that I've been able to work from home, so that's one adjustment that's been relatively easy to manage. One of the major changes that have come out of being home pretty much all of the time is that I'm doing much more cooking than I used to. Because of the hours I was keeping at work, as well as the commute time that was terrible, as is common in the Los Angeles area, I wouldn't get home until much later in the evening, so for the most part, the husband and I handled our meals on our own, except for weekends. And even then, cooking has never been my thing. It's no secret that I'm fond of food and am interested in food-related subjects, but I don't generally find the pleasure in cooking that a lot of other people do. Well, I like watching it, but I'm not as interested in doing it. Other people are much better at it, so why not take advantage of that.

Because I have more time now, I generally do some sort of cooking maybe twice a week. On other days, we might do take-out or leftovers or simpler things from the pantry or refrigerator. My form of cooking is currently very simple and mostly consists of Chinese cuisine. I'll admit that I never really learned to cook, which is why I can only do fairly simple things. I was never taught to cook as a child. Being the youngest of five kids, I was tasked with the simple jobs, which usually consisted of washing things. As I got older, I would sometimes be allowed to prep or cut certain vegetables but really only if it was easy. When it came to actual cooking, I was rarely given the chance. Occasionally, I would get to stir something, but otherwise, my parents were too impatient to actually teach me or let me do stuff because it would take too long to explain it. Even when I'd ask, they might let me do it for a little while, but in explaining what kind of seasoning to add or how long to cook something at any particular stage in the process, they would usually get tired of explaining and waiting and just take over. End of lesson. The stuff I taught myself to cook when I lived on my own were pretty simple, and there's not much incentive to learn to cook more when you're just cooking for one. And, as I mentioned, cooking really isn't my thing, so there wasn't much of a drive to teach myself more.

My mother would often lament my lack of ability to cook. How was I going to catch a husband if I couldn't cook for him? Because that's apparently all I'm good for. Because a grown man isn't expected to be able to feed himself, but it's my responsibility to make sure he's fed? And, if it really was so vital for me to be able to cook in order to snag a husband, wouldn't you think it would be fairly important for my parents to teach me that essential skill? Yeah, there was never an answer when I would bring that up. It was my fault that I didn't know how to cook because no one taught me.

So when I cook now, some of it is experimenting with regard to what things go well together, how long to cook things, seasonings, and the like. The husband happens to like Chinese cooking, but some of the things I've made for him are things he's not really familiar with, so my advantage is that he doesn't know how the dish is *supposed* to turn out. He doesn't know if I made it "wrong" - he can only go by what the finished product looks and tastes like. He's not particularly forthcoming with his feedback, so I have to ask specific questions to find out what he likes and what he doesn't. If there's something he isn't fond of, I either don't use that ingredient the next time or I use less of it. I know there are certain things and tastes that he does like, so I can take that into account. Occasionally, I'll make something because I want it, even if it's not something he's keen on. Those nights, he figures out dinner on his own, and he's fine with that.

I'm looking at recipes and things to try to branch out into non-Chinese cuisine, partly because it gets repetitive cooking and eating the same things when you're having every meal at home. For those things, the husband will obviously have more familiarity with how they're supposed to be made, but he seems pretty flexible.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

"Onward" - Disney animated film review



The Disney animated movie that I watched for the first time last week was "Onward".

From the first trailer that I saw of this movie, I had already decided I wasn't going to see it. It really turned me off. It wasn't until the third trailer that I saw that I didn't immediately think NO, and that was when they were actually telling the story of the movie, with the two brothers on their quest. But even that trailer and then finding out that Tom Holland played the younger brother didn't inspire me to see the film.

The prelude in the film gives the backstory that once upon a time, the world had magic, and it was cool. But it was hard, and not everyone could do it, and then technology and innovation allowed everyone to do the "magic" things without having to master magic, and so magic faded from the world.

If you read my review of "The Emperor's New Groove", you know that I had trouble getting past the first 5 minutes and only made it through because of this project. For this film, I made it to 10 minutes in before I wanted to bail. I did end up liking parts of this film more than I did "The Emperor's New Groove", but that's not just a low bar, it's a bar that's on the ground so not hard to get over.

Oh, here's one thing I liked - at one point when someone was driving around, I noticed that the normal STOP signs said HALT instead. That made me laugh.

So the story is that younger brother Ian is shy and unsure of himself, and his father died before he was born, so he never knew him. It's his 16th birthday, but he's too nervous to ask a group of kids to come to his party. He finally gets the courage to utter a convoluted invitation, which they happily accept, but then his older brother pulls up and the kids don't have a favorable reaction to him (older brother), so he (Ian) hastily withdraws the invitation with the excuse that the party is cancelled. Once Ian gets home, he pulls out a cassette tape (I guess they haven't gotten that far in the technology and innovation timeline.) and a cassette player and pops in a tape. As it plays, it sounds like a test tape that his dad made, trying it out for the first time. After playing it through once, he plays it again, this time adding his own dialogue at the right time so that it sounds like he and his dad are having a conversation. He's clearly listened to this enough times that he knows it all by heart, words and pauses both.

Older brother Barley is loud and brash and annoying as hell.

Because Ian is so down, their mom (Laurel) decides to bring out a present early (she had meant to do this later in the evening) and give a present from their dad that is actually meant for both brothers, once they're both at least 16. They unwrap a wizard's staff and a magic gem and realize that their dad was a wizard. There are instructions that, when the spell is cast, will bring their father back for 24 hours. Barley attempts the spell and nothing happens, disappointing them both, as well as their mother. After they leave his room, Ian absentmindedly starts reciting the spell and doesn't notice that the gem is glowing. He finally notices, and Barley comes in and sees what's happening, and as the spell proceeds, their father starts to materialize, from the shoes up. Ian is struggling to control the staff, and Barley jumps in to help him, but in doing so, it throws the spell awry.

Once everything settles, they discover that their dad has only materialized up to his waist. With no other way to communicate with him, Barley taps "shave and a haircut" on his dad's shoe, and his dad responds. This was something they used to do, so Barley in this way communicates to his dad that it's him, and his dad acknowledges him. Dad's feet then go searching for Ian's, which he finds.

So then there's this whole story where Barley is really into gaming quests which are based on real events, so Barley knows one game that is exactly like the quest they're on - they're in search of another magic gem so that they can materialize the rest of their dad. Their quest takes them to the Manticore's Tavern, run by Corey, who's a manticore, of course. The formerly fierce tavern has now been turned into a sort of Chuck E. Cheese, with a cute, fuzzy mascot of Corey. Barley is disheartened that she's now just a businesswoman and implores her to rediscover herself, when she was fierce and loved adventure. After Ian and Barley leave, Corey does just that and turns ferocious. Laurel has just arrived in search of her boys, and Corey says they're already on their way, but she forgot to tell them about the curse, so she and Laurel try to catch up with them. I was thinking at that point, she has wings, why can't she use them? And then later, Corey and Laurel have a conversation where Corey says that her wings don't work very well because she hasn't exercised those muscles much. OK, point taken.

Ian and Barley are in need of gas, and Barley comes up with the idea that Ian can make the gas can bigger and that will increase the amount of gas. And I'm thinking, how do you know it works that way, that they won't just end up with the same amount of gas in a giant gas can? And after this whole elaborate explanation to Ian that he {Ian} has to concentrate and not be distracted while he's (Ian's) casting the spell, Barley proceeds to break his concentration and distract him the whole time, throwing the spell off. Are you seeing a pattern?

So instead of making the can bigger, it turns out that Barley is made tiny. They have to continue their quest, and because Barley is too small to drive, Ian has to drive, even though he doesn't know how and is terrified to try again after messing up really badly in Driver's Training.

Other stuff happens, and then while trying to get out of another scrape, Barley ends up finding out that Ian thinks he (Barley) is a screw-up. Ian tries to deny it, but Barley doesn't believe him. I don't remember what happened next, but at some point, there's music, and their dad can feel the vibrations so starts dancing to the music. Dad wants them to join in so goes to get them one by one, but how does dad know where they were?

Then there was a giant cheese puff floaty thing. They eventually get to where they're going and make their way through a maze of things to conquer. It was kind of like what Indiana Jones had to do to get the idol, but instead of a giant rolling boulder, they had to escape from a giant gelatinous cube. Barley said that the gelatinous cube dissolved anything it touched, but I saw bits of stuff in it, so I guess it doesn't dissolve every little bit? I just kept thinking it was a Borg ship made of jello with fruit bits in it.

And after defeating all of the obstacles, they get to the light at the end of the tunnel and finally make it through - back to their own town, right near Ian's school. Ian is incensed that they've wasted so much time because the 24 hour time limit is closing quickly, so he goes off to spend what little time he has left with his dad. Barley is determined to find the gem and follows a hunch and ends up retrieving the gem from the nearby water fountain. But then the curse is triggered, and red smoke pours out from the top of the fountain and permeates the area, destroying and absorbing things, and it turns out that it is taking rocks and wood and metal in order to create a giant dragon pieced together from those bits. The friendly school mascot picture as its face was pretty funny.

A battle ensues (and Corey [who has rediscovered the use of her wings] and Laurel arrive, and Corey joins in the fight) and the staff ends up getting knocked out of Ian's hand, but he realizes that he still has a splinter in his hand, so he pulls that out, and it magically regenerates into another staff. I wasn't really keen on that save-the-day measure. He's had to climb rocks and all kinds of other things that involved using his hands, and there's still a big enough piece of intact splinter in his hand?

Ian is able to use the staff and gem to cast the spell again, and this time, the spell is completed, and the rest of their dad starts to materialize. But the dragon is hell-bent on destroying them all, and while Ian had really, really wanted to meet his dad, he tells Barley to go instead, while he (Ian) fights the dragon. Earlier, Barley had told Ian that when their father was dying and almost gone, he had the chance to see him one more time, but dad had tubes and other stuff all over and didn't look like himself anymore, and Barley was too afraid to see him, so he never said goodbye. Ian wants Barley to have the chance to say goodbye to their dad.

Ian manages to defeat the dragon, and he's able to watch the final minutes that his dad has, talking to Barley, and it ends with a hug before dad disappears. When Barley comes to Ian, he (Barley) gives him (Ian) a hug on their dad's behalf.

At the end of the movie, when they're driving off and lift into the air, the husband and I both said, "Where we're going, we don't need ... roads." Geeks.

Barley bugged the crap out of me. He was the main reason I disliked the film so much, because he was such a jerk and pretended to know everything. And when Ian kept saying that it was all his fault because he messed up the spells, I was yelling (mostly in my head but maybe some got out), "No, it's not. It's Barley's fault." He insisted on grabbing the staff when their dad was materializing, so it was his fault that only half came through. He kept talking and talking and talking to Ian and distracting him, which resulted in Barley getting shrunk, so again, his fault. I'll admit, the moment he had with his dad was really sweet (as was his passing along a hug from their dad to Ian), and I almost cried at that (both of those), but I would have felt it more if I'd had ANY positive feelings about Barley prior to that point. Mostly, I thought how nice it was of Ian to let Barley have that moment, which would hopefully be a healing for him (Barley), and maybe it'll make him less of a jerk (that part is my thinking, not Ian's).

I thought Ian's story arc was unremarkable. I wish they had structured the earlier part of the story differently, so that it was that there was this list of things he wanted to do, but he thinks he never got to do them because he didn't have a dad, but it turns out, Barley filled that role. Instead, he had a list of things he wanted to do WITH his dad, but doing them with Barley was enough? If he'd been looking for a dad the whole time and then realized that Barley was there all along, I would have bought it more. Also, with the "flashbacks" to the things that Barley did for him when they were younger, we're supposed to all of a sudden see what a great brother Barley has been? A minute or two of flashbacks that I didn't see happen, per se, is not going to change my opinion that quickly. I would like them to have mentioned maybe one or two of them during their adventures, so we would have known that Barley hasn't been a jerk with Ian his whole life.

I thought Tom Holland was fine as Ian, but other than playing Spider-man, I really want him to not play "nervous, unsure teenage boy" anymore. I want to see something else from him. Even though it wasn't a big part, I liked him in "The Current War". More of that kind of stuff, please. I know, he still has a very young face, but that didn't distract from his serious role in "The Current War".

I liked Corey, moreso after I found out that she was voiced by Octavia Spencer. She does fantastic work in everything I've seen her in (I recommend "Gifted" and "Ma", yes, very different films from each other and this film, but she's fantastic, and both are films that I don't think got enough attention.), but I like Manticore Corey better than Tavern Corey. I don't plan to see this film again, but if I'm ever in a position where it happens, I'll be paying more attention to Corey.

I think part of my disinterest in this film (other than being constantly irritated by Barley) is that the fantasy genre has never been my thing. I like some stories in the fantasy realm, but I wouldn't choose it.

There were some parts of this film that reminded me a bit of "Wall-E". Automation had turned everyone lethargic so that they were all lazy and overweight and spent all their time in chairs that moved them around. In this film, technology and innovation had similarly made some of them forget themselves, with Laurel's minotaur boyfriend driving instead of running, and Corey not having used her wings in a long time, and magic had been neglected.


So this is the last film on my list for this project. Other than "Mulan" (which will be crossed off the list at some point after I've seen the new live-action version, whenever that is), I've seen all the Disney animated films I hadn't seen previously. Well, all the Disney animated films I hadn't seen previously that I was willing o watch. I haven't seen "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", "The Rescuers Down Under", "A Goofy Movie", "James and the Giant Peach", "The Tigger Movie" and "Dinosaur". I'm not counting them on my list. Why? Because it's my project, so I get to make the non-existent rules.

Speaking of unseen Disney animated movies, I want to mention three movies that I don't think got nearly the attention and love they should have, either when they were released or any time discussions of animated Disney movies arise. If you haven't seen them, I would highly recommend them.

1. "Meet the Robinsons" - I just wrote a short sentence to describe this movie and realized it's kind of a spoiler. Anyway, I do think it's a terrific movie with good things to say to kids and adults alike, and it also contains one of my favorite Disney animated characters.

2. "Bolt" - It's a lot of fun, and Bolt (who's a dog) is really cute, and you get to meet his friends Mittens (a cute cat) and Rhino (a funny hamster). Some of the characters are voiced by people I'm not fond of but they're good in this movie.

3. "Chicken Little" - Yes, it's that story, but with a twist, of course. I loved this movie. I thought it was so much fun. And Chicken Little is cute!


I haven't quite decided what I'm doing next, if anything. Thanks for coming along on this journey. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"Coco"- Disney animated film review


The Disney animated movie that I watched for the first time last week was "Coco".

I'd seen the trailers for this film, so I had an idea of the general premise, but the trailers didn't interest me enough to see the film previously.

The mariachi version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" that plays over the castle image before the film - I loved it!  I know they don't generally like to mess with the icon of the image or the music, but when they do, they do such a great job.  My favorite was the imagery change they did for "Tron:  Legacy".

I loved the telling of the backstory through the images on the papel picado (paper decorations).  (No, I didn't know that's what they were called.  Yes, I looked it up.  Movies that are entertaining and informational, yay.)

Oh, so Coco is the grandmother.  Ok, didn't know that.  Miguel Rivera tells the story of his family.  Coco's dad was a musician who went off to pursue his dream, leaving his wife (Imelda) and young daughter behind.  Imelda is so infuriated that she banishes anything musical from her family, and she starts a shoe-making business, which then becomes the family business.  But Miguel has a secret - he loves music.  He's just not sure how to let his family know.  There's a singing contest the next day, and while Miguel is shining the shoes of a member of a mariachi band, he encourages Miguel to enter the contest.  Just then, Miguel is found by his family, and his Abuelita is furious and marches the family home.  On the way, she's annoyed with someone (something?  I can't remember) and throws one of her sandles at him/it.  And I'm thinking, so now you've only got one shoe.  And sure enough, she continues the walk home with one shoe and one bare foot.  In the next scene, I specifically looked at her feet, and she had two shoes on, so she must have put on another pair from home.

Miguel idolizes a local hero - Ernesto de la Cruz, a famous musician and actor who was tragically killed when a giant bell fell on him onstage.

It's Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), when families put up pictures of dead relatives and offerings of their favorite food and other things so that the relatives can come and have a pleasant visit.  On this fateful day, Miguel discovers that he's related to Ernesto - Ernesto is Coco's father!  Miguel is more determined than ever to participate in the singing contest, but when Abuelita hears about it, she's so infuriated that she smashes the guitar that Miguel has made himself.  Miguel can't join the contest if he doesn't have a guitar.  After futile attempts to borrow one, he gets an idea - there's a guitar in Ernesto's mausoleum, so he decides to borrow the guitar just for the contest.  Kid, stealing things from someone's mausoleum is not a good idea, even if you think of it as "borrowing", and even if it's family.  Miguel retrieves the hallowed guitar and gives it a strum, and the leaves are illuminated and flutter.  Miguel then hears people outside say that someone is inside and trying to steal things.  Miguel prepares himself for the confrontation ... when people literally walk right through him and don't know that he's there.

Apparently, the strum on the guitar has now made him invisible to the living but visible to the dead, and he can see them too.  Not sure who was more startled, him or them.  He sees all the people crossing the bridge to visit their loved ones in the land of the living, but there's a catch - you can only cross over if someone puts a picture up of you.  The person is scanned, and if there's a matching picture put up, they can go through.  If not, they're turned away.  It reminded me a little of the entrance turnstiles at Disneyland, where they scan your admission media to find out if you're allowed to enter that park on that day.

Miguel decides to track down his great, great grandfather Ernesto, and street dog Dante decides to follow him.  OK, I knew there was a dog in this movie, but I didn't know he was just a random stray.  And why is Dante allowed to cross over when he's not dead, and he wasn't there when Miguel strummed the guitar?  Is it like a Twilight Zone thing where dogs can sense evil, so they can go anywhere, and they provide protection and guidance for their masters?

Miguel meets Hector, who asks Miguel to put his picture up when he returns to the land of the living so that Hector can visit his girl.  Hector says that he knows Ernesto and can help him.  They eventually have a falling out, and Miguel sets out on his own with Dante.

I can't remember where they were, but random dude says that he's allergic to dogs.  Miguel points out that Dante has no hair.  Random dude:  "And I have no nose, and yet, here we are."  I busted out laughing at that line.

Imelda has a spirit animal named Pepita that's kind of like a ginormous mountain lion with even ginormouser wings.  He soars and plays fetch pretty well as he goes in search of Miguel, who has run away because Imelda insists that he promise not to be involved with music anymore, and none of the rest of the family is willing to go against her.  In order for Miguel to return to the land of the living, he must have a family member give their blessing before midnight.  (Are you not supposed to feed him after midnight also?)  Miguel refuses to accept Imelda's no-music restriction and decides to look for Ernesto instead, since he's sure Ernesto will give him his blessing with the music restriction

Some mariachi band somewhere is playing, and I'm thinking, how can they play brass when they have no lungs?

Miguel eventually finds Ernesto.  Ernesto's spirit animals looked like multi-colored gremlin to me.  Not Spike-gremlin, but Mogwai gremlin.  (Hmmm, gremlins, midnight deadlines.)  Miguel tells Ernesto that he's his great, great grandson, and Ernesto shows him off at various events.  Eventually, it's time for Miguel to return home, so Ernesto gives his blessing and ends it with "I hope you die very soon", which would normally seem like a terrible thing to say to someone, but in this case, it's very sweet because it means Ernesto wants to see Miguel again soon.  Awwww...

But before Miguel can return home, he's intercepted by Hector, and it turns out that Hector does indeed know Ernesto.  Hector and Ernesto used to perform together, and Hector is actually the one who wrote all of their songs, including what had become Ernesto's signature song, "Remember Me", while Ernesto has been taking credit for writing all the songs himself.  And Hector remembers what else happened.  He had decided that his family was more important to him, and he was going to give it up and return home.  Ernesto tried to talk him into staying, but to no avail.  And then he came up with an idea - a final toast with Hector.  Hector agreed, but he didn't know how final it was going to turn out to be, because Ernesto slipped a poison in Hector's drink, and after Hector died, Ernesto took all of his songs and music and went on to become super famous.  Miguel, who knows all of Ernesto's movies, is horrified when he reveals that that very same poisoning scenario was duplicated in one of Ernesto's films.

Ernesto orders his guards to remove Hector, which they do.  Miguel nervously waits, hoping Ernesto will still send him home, but Ernesto is worried about what Miguel just heard, and Ernesto will do anything to protect his reputation and his name, so he summons his guards to take care of Miguel as well.  Dude, your own great, great grandson?  Heartless.

Miguel is tossed down some giant cavernous hole, which it turns out is the same giant cavernous hole that Hector had been tossed into.  (Miguel lands in water, so I guess there's no warning about not getting him wet.) Hector laments that he's never going to see his girl, and it's only then that's it's clarified that he means his daughter.  He had hoped to see her again, if not when he could cross over, but when she eventually arrived at the land of the dead.  But, Coco's memories of him are fading (Coco is experiencing some effects of Alzheimer's), and she's the last to know him, and no one in the family was allowed to talk about him, and once no one remembers him anymore, he will even disappear from the world of the dead, and he will really never see Coco again.

At the mention of the name "Coco", Miguel is stunned.  HECTOR is Miguel's great, great grandfather, not Ernesto!  Hector talks about the song "Remember Me", and that he wrote the song for Coco, because he knew he was going to be away for a while and didn't want her to forget him.  He sang the song to her, and she'd sing it with him.  (In the footage when Coco is a little girl sitting on the edge of the bed listening to him with her little feet dangling and swinging - how cute!)

Miguel is eventually rescued by Imelda and Pepita, but she is decidely not happy to see Hector again after all these years.  She learns what actually happened to him, that he didn't just abandon his family, but while she's not ready to forgive him yet, she is willing to help him.  The picture of himself that Hector had originally given to Miguel to put up for him is now in the hands of Ernesto, and they need that picture back so that Miguel can take it back with him, with Miguel's deadline looming as well.

A whole bunch of stuff happens, and when the podium rises, it takes Imelda up into the spotlight on stage that was supposed to have taken Ernesto instead.  (As the circle she was standing on started to rise, I totally thought of "The Hunger Games", when Katniss is sent up into the arena.)  And then a miraculous thing happens.  Imelda starts to sing.  (Now that I think about it, I think she sang at a running-away Miguel earlier, but I don't remember why.)  It turns out that she used to be a singer but gave it all up as part of her banishment of music from her life and family after she thought Hector had deserted them.  Hector goes out with a guitar to join her, and then the band plays along too, and everyone is happy!  Until Ernesto takes the stage with Imelda, in an effort to retrieve Hector's picture that she now has.

A bunch of other stuff ensues that I don't remember, but as Ernesto is about to confirm to Miguel that he (Ernesto) did poison Hector and that he (Ernesto) did then steal his (Hector) songs and go on a diatribe about how he's willing to do anything to keep what he has, no matter what, someone turns on the microphones, so all of his secrets are out as the audience hears his confession.  And they are not in a forgiving mood.  Something happens, and Ernesto ends up getting a bell dropped on him again.

They weren't able to retrieve Hector's picture, and Hector is about to fade away, but Miguel's time is up.  He has to go back to the land of the living or be stuck in the land of the dead forever.  Imelda gives her blessing with no conditions, and after Miguel wakes up back in Ernesto's mausoleum, he races home.  The rest of his family tries to stop him, but he makes his way to his great grandmother Coco, and he tries to get her to remember Hector.  Coco is non-responsive to his pleas, so Miguel starts to play and sing "Remember Me" and reminds her that her dad used to play this for her.  And soon, Coco is smiling and singing with Miguel.  She then takes out something and gives it to Miguel - it's the piece of the picture that was ripped off that had Hector's face.  Miguel holds it up with the entire picture, and the family picture is complete.

And the next year, everyone is able to cross over from the land of the dead to the land of the living.  And Imelda and Hector are together again.  Even Dante and Pepita come back, and Pepita turns out to be a regular cat.  So they both have dual lives, regular animals in the land of the living and spirit animals in the land of the dead?

Overall, I enjoyed this movie.  I'm not sure what they could have done with the advertising that would have gotten me interested enough to see the movie in the first place, though.  I did like that they gavve you part of the story in the trailer, but that turns out to not be the real story.  Oh, and the husband actually figured out ahead of the reveal that Hector was the great, great grandfather, not Ernesto.  He said that when Ernesto gave Miguel his blessing, the leaf didn't glow like when other people did it, which it wouldn't have since they weren't really related.  I'll have to look for that next time.

So since Hector kept pretending to be Frida Kahlo, I was thinking she better show up at some point, and she did!  Yay!

Ernesto is a jerk.  Like seriously, he's an asshole.  But I like Benjamin Bratt, so conflicted feelings

I wasn't too keen on Abuelita either.  She was bossy and much too overbearing.  I was so mad at her when she broke Miguel's guitar.  She had no right!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

"The Great Mouse Detective" - Disney animated film review


The Disney animated movie that I watched for the first time last week was "The Great Mouse Detective".

Back to movies I knew nothing about ahead of time.  Hmmm, Disney movie starring a mouse.  It's not Mickey, is it?  Nope, not Mickey.  Minnie?  Yeah, not likely if the mouse is a detective, especially back then.

And two of the four directors credited on this picture are the ones who directed "The Princess and the Frog", the movie I saw last week.  How weird is that?  Nope, not planned that way.

Awww, little girl mouse named Olivia.  She has a British accent but she also had some affectation I couldn't pinpoint.  Or maybe it's just that she's young, and youngsters don't pronounce everything the same as adults.  And then something terrible happens..  Her dad, Hiram Flaversham the toymaker, is attacked by a bat and then goes missing.  Well, this sounds like a case for a detective!

Poor little crying Olivia is found by Dr. Dawson, who just retired from working for the Queen.  She tells him what happened, and they go in search of Basil of Baker Street.

Dawson and Olivia arrive at 221 Baker Street and knock on the little door.  It looked like the address was 221s, but I couldn't see it clearly enough.  The husband is the one who recognized the silhouette upstairs playing the violin as being Sherlock Holmes.  The husband also recognized the address as Holmes'.  Ahhh, so this is going to be a sort of mouse version of Sherlock Holmes.  OK, that makes sense.  (I asked the husband, and he said the movie title did not make him presume that this is what it was going to be about.  OK, so it's not just me.)  So tall, skinny Basil is supposed to be Holmes, and more rotund Dr. Dawson is supposed to be Watson.  Got it.  (For some reason, I find myself wondering if there's a Muppet version of the Holmes story.  In my head, I'm seeing Kermit with Holmes' hat, but I don't know if I've actually seen that picture or if I'm just making it up.  Yeah, I know, I can look it up, but I'm just musing.)

While Basil is not interested in talking to Olivia at first (Did Holmes have an aversion to children?), Dawson convinces him to listen, and Basil is much more interested once he hears about the bat that attacked Flaversham.  (I noticed that Basil is left-handed.  Was Holmes left-handed?) Basil says it must have been Fidget, the bat with a peg leg.  Bat with a peg leg.  Didn't see that coming.  Someone needs to cosplay that at D23 Expo next year.

Basil goes on to say that Fidget works for Professor Ratigan, Basil's archenemy, who Basil has been after for quite some time.  Ratigan had Fidget (every time I type his name, I want to type "Figment" - mash-up cosplay?) kidnap Flaversham because Ratigan wants him to work on a secret project for Ratigan, some kind of robot thing.  Ratigan wants to be supreme leader of all mousedom.  I liked that title.  Ratigan can put that on a business card:

Supreme Leader of
ALL MOUSEDOM

And Ratigan sings!  I did not expect that.  And we find out that Ratigan has one trigger point.  He hates being referred to as a rat, even though that's what he is, and even though his minion mice refer to him as a big mouse.  (BTW, what was up with the ONE lizard minion amongst them?) The drunken mouse who refers to him as a rat has serious consequences - Ratigan feeds him to Felicia, his ginormous cat.  OK, now that I think about it, Felicia isn't really ginormous.  She just looks ginormous in relative size to Ratigan and the mice.  Speaking of looks, Felicia seemed like a cross between Lucifer from "Cinderella" and Marie from "The Aristocats".

Meanwhile, Basil has figured out where they need to go, and he takes Dawson and Olivia upstairs to meet Toby the bassett hound, who I'm guessing is supposed to be Holmes' dog.  (Did Holmes have a dog?  Have you gotten the idea yet that I kept wondering if the info about Holmes was "true"?)

I don't remember now who was offering them cheese crumpets, but Olivia seemed to really like those, and when she was stuffing them in her pockets, it reminded me of Meeko the raccoon from "Pocahontas" when John Smith was dropping biscuits.

Basil brought Toby to sniff out Fidget.  Meanwhile, Basil instructs Dawson to keep an eye on Olivia, but like not-Peter-Pan in "The Black Cauldron" with Piggie, Dawson has one job and fails, as Olivia is lured away by a toy Dumbo (!) that blows bubbles.  A giant fight ensues because Fidget has a laundry list of "honey-dos" from Ratigan, and next on the list is to kidnap Olivia, and toys are attacking Basil and Dawson as they try to get to Olivia.  At one point, this giant doll (again, probably not giant, just in perspective in relation to the mice) crashes down, and she reminded me of Gabby Gabby from "Toy Story 4".

Fidget escapes with Olivia and brings her to Ratigan, who instructs him to put Olivia in a bottle as a prison.  Fidget puts a cork in the opening, and I'm thinking, she's gonna suffocate!  Fidget makes the mistake of telling Ratigan that Basil was trying to intercept Olivia, and Ratigan gets so mad that he tries to feed Fidget to Felicia, but it doesn't take, and Felicia is cheated of a snack.  Ratigan allows Flaversham to see Olivia, but the reunion is short-lived because Ratigan is using Olivia as leverage to get a defiant Flaversham to continue the work that Ratigan wants him to do.  Flaversham complies.

Dawson finds the honey-do list that Fidget dropped, and Basil figures out that it belonged to Fidget and tries to figure out where Ratigan's hideout is.  As Basil is inspecting and tasting the list and talking about the composition of the paper, I was totally thinking of Goren from "Law and Order:  Criminal Intent".  Goren, I mean, Basil figures out that the note has come from the docks, so he and Dawson head there and wander into a pub, dressed with disguises.  Dawson looked to me like Smee from "Peter Pan", though his colors weren't the same.

They sit and the Moulin-Rouge-esque show starts, with Miss Kitty Mouse doing her show-stopping song.  The hardened pub patrons melt at the sound of her voice.  I thought she was dressed much more risque, with feathers and a garter, than I normally expect from Disney films.

Musical interlude over, Basil and Dawson follow Fidget to Ratigan's lair, which looks like it's inside a beer keg.  But it turns out that they've walked into a trap, as they are greeted by a banner and confetti (Disney confetti usually means the show is over, but not in this case.) to welcome them.

I forget what happens at this point, but eventually, we find out that it's the Queen's jubilee, celebrating her 60 years of queendom.  (I had started to realize that things in this film were a lot like in "The Rescuers", where there are mouse equivalents to their human counterparts.)

We then find out what dad was working on - a robot of the Queen, kind of like a Stepford version.  The plan is for Stepford Queen to take the real queen's place, and then Ratigan is announced as the Queen's consort, and now, Ratigan is in charge.  (Fidget wearing Mary Poppins' hat!)

But, here comes the cavalry.  Toby arrives to chase after Felicia as she was menacing Basil.  (And with seeing Felicia in proportion with Toby, Felicia is indeed a big cat, but she's not ginormous.)  Basil liberates Flaversham (even though Basil can't pronounce that name to save his life, which is a running joke throughout the film as he's talking to Olivia) from Ratigan's minions, and Flaversham makes Stepford Queen turn on Ratigan and announce all of Ratigan's dastardly misdeeds, and then Stepford Queen destructs in the time-honored tradition of Stepford women.

It's not over yet though, as Ratigan makes off with Olivia again, and a blimp / balloon chase ensues high over London.  Chase, chase, other stuff happened, they crashed into Big Ben (neither Peter Pan nor not-Peter-Pan were standing on the hands of the clock face), they save Olivia and Basil does not in fact plunge to his doom but ends up pedaling himself to safety.  (As he was falling, the husband called that.)  I don't remember what happened to Ratigan.  I think Fidget found a female bat?  I can't remember that either.

I enjoyed the film but likely won't see it again as I'm not really into the Holmes thing.  I don't know if a Holmes fan would like or hate this film.  (Even though I'm not into Holmes, I did enjoy the film "Young Sherlock Holmes", though I heard that lots of Holmes fans hated it because it didn't stick to canon.  Pretty sure they weren't trying to be canon, but hey, not my fight.)  I liked Olivia.  Fidget reminded me of Bartok from "Anastasia".

Vincent Price as Ratigan was a riot to listen to.  I so wanted to see the footage of him in the recording studio.  You could see him chewing the scenery even though you couldn't see him!  And he even did his own singing.  Actual singing, not just reciting, like he did for "Thriller".

While I thought Miss Kitty Mouse was just ok, I did really like her song, and I thought whomever sang it was fantastic.  And then I found out that it was sung by Melissa Manchester, who I like.  Well, of course, I liked her song.

I don't know if the name Basil was simply taken from the book which was the inspiration for this movie, or because it was in honor of Basil Rathbone, who was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes in films.  Or maybe the book picked that name to honor him.  In any case, I choose to believe that they were paying tribute to Rathbone because that would be cool.

The End

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"The Princess and the Frog" - Disney animated film review


The Disney animated movie that I watched for the first time last week was "The Princess and the Frog".

I had a general idea of what the film would be about since I'm familiar with the classic story of the princess and the frog (and not just from Peter Gabriel's "Kiss That Frog", which I happen to love), but I didn't know much about the details of this particular version of the story.

About half an hour into the film, I wondered to myself why someone hadn't forced me to watch this movie earlier. (A friend expressed the sentiment that she liked that I thought any of my friends could "force" me to watch a movie. Yeah, she's right. "Convince me to watch" is probably a better description.) I didn't quite love it as much by the time the movie was over, but I did like it more than not.

I loved the opening scene with Tiana and Charlotte as little girls, as Tiana's mother read them the story. I laughed at Tiana's reaction to the idea of kissing a frog.  I laughed quite loudly when she soon after saw a frog and screamed.  It made me think of little Moana's scream in "Ralph Breaks the Internet".

So, this was bugging me throughout this entire section of the film.  Tiana's little bit of curly hair that hangs down from the middle of her forehead reminds me of someone else, but I can't think of who.  I think it's another animated character, and it might be a child as well.  It triggered a familiarity for me, and I can almost picture it in my head, but for the life of me, I can't figure out who I'm thinking of.

Tiana and Charlotte grow up, and Charlotte's father is so rich and important that a visiting prince is going to stay in his palace, and Charlotte is determined to bag him as a husband.

Said visiting royalty, Prince Naveen, finds himself led astray by Dr. Facilier and ends up being turned into a frog.  Oh, green, get it?  He thinks that Tiana is a princess because she's wearing a gown and tiara borrowed from Charlotte, and he persuades Tiana to kiss him to turn him back into a human, lying to her that he can help her fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant, even though he's flat broke because he's been cut off by his parents.

But holy plot twist, Batman, kissing him instead turns Tiana into a frog as well.  Well, that's a fine pickle (green, get it?) she's gotten into.

Tiana and Naveen as their frog selves have an adventure in the bayou and along the way meet Louis, the gator who plays a trumpet.  So, I knew there was an instrument-playing gator in this movie because I've seen him in parades and such at Disneyland, and I figured he was a human who'd gotten turned into an alligator.  Nope, actual gator.  Ok then.

They encounter more bayou folk, like Ray the firefly, who's obsessed with Evangeline (no, not Freckles from "Lost"), who turns out to be a star (planet?) in the sky.

Mama Odie was kind of interesting, though I was not a fan of her helper because ... well, you know.  She was kind of like the wizard of Oz, granting people's wishes, but she was a lot nicer.

So then there's this whole story wherein Tiana and Naveen think that Charlotte counts as a princess because her father is the reigning king of Mardi Gras (yeah, I wasn't keen on that particular line of thinking), so there's a mad rush to get to her so she can break the spell.  That doesn't end up working out, and even though Naveen has grown to love Tiana (and she loves him back), he agrees to marry Charlotte if she will kiss him to turn him back into a human, but she has to promise to give Tiana the funds to purchase the restaurant space she wants.  Charlotte later relieves him of his obligation to marry her, and Tiana and Naveen are reunited in their love and decide to get married in their frog forms.

You may kiss the bride."  And they're both turned back into human form.  How, when the way to break the spell is for Naveen to be kissed by a princess?  Tiana's not a princess!  Ah, but she married PRINCE Naveen, so she is indeed now a princess!  I loved that plot point.  So clever.

Because Facilier fails in his bid to get his hands on Charlotte's money, the Shadow People that he's been bargaining with are not happy with him.  His whole pleading with them and explanation of why he failed and his demise reminded me a lot of Scar in "The Lion King" trying to explain himself to the hyenas before they descend on him.

Ray the firefly ends up being killed in the final melee, but he is re-born as a star (planet?) near his beloved Evangeline.  I know that was supposed to elicit FEELINGS but it actually didn't do anything for me.  Maybe because I didn't connect to Ray at all.  Or because I thought it was kind of a cheesy end to his story.

I really enjoyed the film when it involved Tiana and Naveen, though I really wanted to see more of Tiana in her human form.  I loved the scenes of her as a child, and I wanted to see more of that and of her as she grew up.  I loved her spunk and wanted to see how that developed further.  I also liked that she wasn't fixated on getting a man, which is all too common a theme with these kinds of films.  I mean, in the end, she does get a man, but she doesn't sacrifice her dream for him.  Instead, HE joins her in HER dream.  And she's actually the hero of the story, since she's the one who manages to destroy the amulet.

I liked Naveen, even though he could be a jerk at times.  I did really like that he was willing to sacrifice his own happiness by marrying Charlotte and letting Tiana go because it would guarantee that Tiana's dream of having a restaurant would come true.  It reminded me of Beast from "Beauty and the Beast", who let Belle go because it was the best thing for her, even though it caused pain for Beast.

Charlotte - I was a little irritated that she was so annoying throughout so much of the film because I'm quite partial to that name, but she ended up doing a good thing in the end, so ok.  For some reason, she reminded me of Glinda from "Wicked".

I laughed a lot during this film, which was nice.  I particularly enjoyed the bug scene, when both Naveen and Tiana are involuntarily controlled by their frog instincts and their tongues have a mind of their own, so to speak.

I want to visit Tiana's Place and try the gumbo that she and her dad created.

I liked the end song and was especially pleased that it was an actual song, rather than a pop version of a song from the film.

I noted one very subtle reference to the racism that Tiana was subject to, something that kids might not understand.  When the owners of the building she wants tell her that someone outbid her, they mention that given her history (or background, I can't remember which word they used), maybe it was for the best that she didn't have the restaurant because she wouldn't be able to handle it.  Wow, really?  You made a deal with her, jerks.

So, I had no idea that Oprah Winfrey voiced Tiana's mom until I saw the credit at the end.  I even went back to watch/listen to the scenes with Tiana and her mother.  She sounds very different from what I've normally heard of her.  Her tone sounded higher pitched than what I'm used to, and even knowing it was her, there were only moments when I could "hear" her in the voice.  I thought she did a good job.  I liked Tiana's mom.

I thought it was really interesting to see how they differentiated a female frog versus a male frog in the way they drew the characters without the obvious overused shortcuts, like lipstick, eyelashes or a bow on the head or some other frilly thing to make sure we know THIS IS A FEMALE.  Naveen looked to me more like what is normally expected to depict a frog, and then for Tiana, they drew her a bit smaller, a bit skinnier, with a smaller head and face and softer, smoother features.  I really liked that they went with just style and not accessories to differentiate male from female.

The things that I didn't really enjoy about the film were almost all of the supporting characters.  Ray the firefly, the frog hunters, and I forget who else, none of them did anything for me, and I have to admit I didn't pay much attention to them.

I thought Louis had a lot of potential, but then he kind of got lost in the shuffle, I thought.  I thought it was brilliant that he got to play with an actual band because they thought he was dressed up as an alligator for Mardi Gras.  I was very happy for him, and that in the end, he was able to continue playing with a human band.

I thought Facilier had a lot of potential too, but I also thought he got lost.  I didn't like that he didn't really have the power, that he basically answered to the Shadow People.

And the one thing that irritated me the most was in no way the fault of the movie.  Most if not all of the times that I've seen Tiana in some sort of entertainment at Disneyland, whether it was the Soundsational parade or the Mickey and the Magical Map show, she sings "Dig a Little Deeper".  Now that I've seen the movie, I now know that IT'S NOT TIANA'S SONG!!!!  It's Mama Odie's song.  Why is Tiana singing someone else's song as her signature song?  I really liked "Almost There", so why not that one?  It's even one of the songs that got an Oscar nomination!  But they don't use it because "Dig a Little Deeper" is catchier?  Or at least have some representation or reference to Mama Odie, that this is what Tiana has now learned from her.  It irritated me to make that discovery, like when I found out that Madonna had stolen the prostitute's song in the film version of "Evita".

I did like the movie enough that I'd like to see it again.  Maybe next time, I'll like the supporting cast more.