Sunday, December 20, 2009

O Tannenbaum

Presenting our very first Christmas tree! It's a perfectly round and fat five-foot Noble Fir which Julie has appropriately dubbed Bombadil. I took the nomenclature one step further to name the star after the lovely Goldberry.

Look, it's even a Gryffindor tree.

We bought it the weekend after Thanksgiving and totally love the feeling it brings to our li'l abode. Crazy that Christmas is less than a week away...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A New Era Begins

Friday, 11 December 2009 marked a momentous occasion for the animation industry, namely, Disney's glorious return to classic, hand-drawn animation. (I should mention that this day also marked the end of our four-month, 45-film Disney Animation Marathon event, starting with the earliest Disney animated film on 26 August and working our way through the entire canon, almost all of which, we are just a little startled to learn, we own on DVD.) Since its previews first aired, The Princess and the Frog had been advertised heavily as a classically 2D-animated film, Disney's first since Home on the Range in 2005. Naturally (and as has been made abundantly evident here on the blog), I was thrilled and couldn't wait to see it. I should mention, however, that Disney's more recent 2D animated films have not gone unnoticed by me, and I feel even the weakest of them has a lot of generally ignored positives. What bothered me most of all was how Disney seemed to be throwing up its hands (and throwing out its light tables) and shifting all its attention to making sub-par 3D films, when their sister company Pixar was handling that medium just fine. They surely must have thought that Pixar's movies were so successful because of the style of animation, when really Pixar's strength is storytelling and character development, and understanding making quality films with heart designed exactly for their target audience. (I still feel like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. would be as successful if they were hand-drawn, the stories and characters are just that strong.) So, if this new offering, Disney's 45th (or 49th, depending on what you consider canon) animated film, was successful, it could mean any number of things for my future career aspirations. It had been ages since I bought a Disney soundtrack ahead of time and listened to it before even seeing the movie, though I admit I limited myself a little this time so as to avoid any MAJOR spoilers. And finally, the day came, and Julie and I went to a first-run theater on opening night, which only the biggest and most exciting film releases merit. I promise I won't spoil anything on this post, but I will say this:


EVERYONE within reach of this blogvoice must see this movie forthwith, and by any means possible! It was the most fun I've had in a movie theater in I don't know how long, and it was classic Disney at its absolute finest. I hesitate to award the label "favorite," of course (that honor still belongs to Aladdin), but in so many ways it returns to the classic art form, the brilliant storytelling, and the charming characters of Disney's past. The story is enough of a twist on the well-known story to make it interesting, new and original, while still staying true to the spirit of fairy tale storytelling. The early 1900s New Orleans setting lends itself quite nicely to a diverse display of characters, colors, light and locations, including a take on classic Mardi Gras, a riverboat under sparkling stars and the mystical bayous of Louisiana. The voice acting is excellent as well, featuring Tony Award-winning Anika Noni Rose (also seen in the film version of Dreamgirls) as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Naveen and Keith David as the suave and sinister "Shadow Man," Dr. Facilier, not to mention the awesome supporting cast. There are appropriate themes and some deeper lessons than expected present, and a surprising emotional element. (I'm not even going to try and deny that I cried at one point.) It had everything the classic Disney film formula calls for: A beautiful, strong female lead (a princess to boot), a charming, rough-around-the-edges prince (read: frog, for a lot of it), a fabulous, striking villain, and a strong set of secondary characters (which include, yes, talking animals). Then of course, the soundtrack by Disney/Pixar favorite Randy Newman is a glorious blend of several styles of appropriate music. It's been so long since I've had new Disney music stuck in my head, and I am loving it. I predict already that "Ma Belle Evangeline" is destined to be one of Disney's most treasured love songs, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it's sung by a toothless Cajun firefly. This movie was at times funny, sweet, colorful, exciting, just the right amount of frightening, and now and then even heartbreaking.

In the end, we both loved this movie, and I was all for turning right around and seeing it again, it was just that good. And of course, we're not the only ones who feel this way. It seems to be getting glowing reviews from all over the place.

For the record, the fact that Tiana is the first black Disney princess has little to no interest to me whatsoever. There were some issues raised in the film regarding class distinction and such, but they had little to do with the overarching themes and overall storyline. Her race as far as the story goes is practically immaterial, and all I cared is that she's a charming, vibrant, beautiful addition to the Disney Princess canon.

Go see it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giving Thanks

Yes, it was Thanksgiving a couple weeks ago, and yes, I enjoyed my first T-Gives with The Wife very much. I don't have a lot to say about it, but I do want to post something as a prelude to the upcoming holiday events.

We started the day off with Amber's most excellent 4th Annual Cedar Hollow Turkey Trot (for the record, I'm so glad she started this, it's a fun route and a good crowd). Though our numbers were fewer than usual for a race, Julie, Cami and I had a good time, while Dad was on hand as the ever-present "athletic supporter." I so hoped to win the drawing for the iPod, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. It wasn't TOO cold, and Julie, Cami and I all finished together.* Believe it or not, we didn't take a single picture there, which I guess is what happens when Melody isn't around for the races (even though I think we did bring our camera...). Still, this 4-miler is always a good way to start a day of a lot of eating.

Speaking of eating, Julie and I then headed to Mom's house to prepare our contribution for the glorious feast. Curiously, our assignment was what Julie was quite hoping to make anyway, so we made our yams and our green bean casserole (made with only the right kind of beans, which we went to three grocers to find), and went with Dad to Cami's house for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Everything you could want was there, and the company was excellent as always. We missed those of ours who were absent for whatever reason, but look forward to having everyone here for Christmas. There was plenty of food to go around, and quite a lot of leftovers for all to take home as well (did you really think we would need TWO whole turkeys, Cami??). We webcammed with Mom, Emily, KC and the triplets, and it was good to be able to talk to them and see how big the babies are getting! We also had a nice look at the progress of Cami's basement, which is looking better all the time. Cami set a lovely table, and Julie's plate was chosen as the ideal sampling for the photo:

We came home full and happy, had leftovers enough for several more meals, and not two days later had our very first Christmas tree up and decorated, details to follow...

* ThoughIprobablyshouldmentionthatifIhadrunatmyusualpaceI'mprettysureIwouldhavewon1stplace...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

100 (+) Movie Redux

As you may or may not recall from this post, as well as the running list down the right side of my blog, I like to clean out my list. Posting them here not only cleans up my blog but also serves as somewhat archival information for future reference. What reference, I don't know, but here it is anyway. These 100 films weren't viewed in quite as short a span as the previous post's, but I still recently reached 100, so the time has come. For the record, this list includes only films that I hadn't previously seen, so there are dozens that I watched that I had already seen, and they didn't make the list. I don't even want to think about how many movies total I have seen since last summer.

Top Five:
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Bleak House
  • Star Trek
  • Australia
  • Cloverfield
Honorable Mention awarded to several other excellent miniseries, such as North and South, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jane Eyre and Wives & Daughters, as well as TV series like The It Crowd, LOST, Firefly and certain seasons of Prison Break. Other highly-rated films include 9, Serenity, The Spirit, Leatherheds, Baby Mana, Gran Torino, Taken.

Bottom Five:
  • Nosferatu (Either version)
  • G.I. Joe
  • He's Just Not That Into You
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Twilight
The last one up there might qualify as the worst film of all time, not just of this list. Chicken Little and The Day the Earth Stood Still earn Dishonorable Mention for the bottom list.

Georgia Rule * 1/2 / Frankenstein (1931) *** 1/2 / The Box *** 1/2 / The IT Crowd (Season 3) **** / Dracula (1931) *** 1/2 / Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979) * 1/2 / Nosferatu (1922) ** 1/2 / The Time Traveler's Wife ** 1/2 / Ringu ** / Inkheart ** / Eyes Without a Face ** 1/2 / Valkyrie *** 1/2 / G.I. Joe * 1/2 / Prairie Home Companion ** / 9 **** / Melody Time *** 1/2 / Fun and Fancy Free *** 1/2/ Make Mine Music *** 1/2 / The Three Caballeros ** 1/2/ Saludos Amigos ** 1/2 / Wives & Daughters **** / Quantum of Solace ** / Jane Eyre (MT) **** / Night at the Museum: The Battle for the Smithsonian *** 1/2 / Julie & Julia *** 1/2 / New In Town ** 1/2 / Push *** 1/2 / He's Just Not That Into You * 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ***** / The Brothers Bloom *** 1/2 / The Proposal ** 1/2 / The Last of the Mohicans ** 1/2 / Gran Torino **** / Passengers *** 1/2 / Up *** 1/2 / The House Bunny ** / Serenity **** / Firefly **** / Coraline *** 1/2 / American Idol (Season 9) *** 1/2 / Knowing *** 1/2 / 24 (Season 8) *** / Star Trek **** / Survivor Tocantins *** 1/2 / Doubt *** 1/2 / Prison Break (Season 4) ** 1/2 / LOST (Season 5) ***** / X-Men Origins: Wolverine ** 1/2 / Under the Greenwood Tree **** / The Mayor of Casterbridge **** 1/2 / Bedtime Stories ** 1/2 / Chicken Little * 1/2 / Bolt *** 1/2 / The Spirit **** / Slumdog Millionaire *** / Marie Antoinette *** 1/2 / Be Kind Rewind *** 1/2 / Twilight * / North & South **** / Taken **** / Fireproof *** / Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! *** 1/2 / Dracula: Dead and Loving It **** / Bleak House **** 1/2 / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button *** 1/2 / The Day the Earth Stood Still * 1/2 / The Tale of Despereaux ** / The Lake House *** 1/2 / Run Fatboy Run **** / Australia **** 1/2 / Shattered Glass *** 1/2 / Firstborn ** / Get Smart *** 1/2 / Hancock *** 1/2 / Aeon Flux *** / Dear Frankie *** 1/2 / Nim's Island *** 1/2 / Leatherheads **** / The Great Gatsby ** 1/2 / Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day *** 1/2 / Martian Child *** 1/2 / The Happening ** 1/2 / Baby Mama **** / Animal Farm *** 1/2 / The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning **** / 21 *** 1/2 / Prom Night * 1/2 / Cloverfield **** / Goya's Ghosts ** 1/2 / The Flight of the Conchords (Season 1) *** / Penelope **** / Sense and Sensibility (BBC) *** 1/2 / Les Choristes (The Chorus) *** 1/2 / Match Point ** 1/2 / Prison Break (Season 3) *** 1/2 / Next ** 1/2 / Prison Break (Season 2) **** / Prison Break (last half of Season 1) **** 1/2 / Vantage Point *** 1/2 / The Visitor ** 1/2