Monday, August 11, 2014

Is This a Film Review? (animated films)

I try not to write too much about being a mother, because I would like to imagine my blog as a safe space for women (and the men who love them) as their own selves and not in relation to kids, or to jobs that are expected to define them as people, or a certain aesthetic that’s supposed to be Aesthetic Supreme.  BUT, I am definitely a mom, and I watch a ton of kid’s movies.  It’s an interesting medium to be well-versed in, because these movies are affecting young minds with their different versions of the world.  I’m always getting caught up in the philosophies and personalities of these movies, and here is a little scatter-brained musing (film review of sorts) on some of these movies.

The Shrek Movies

A long long time ago when was a single mingler, I was no big fan of animation, unless it was The Simpsons or some kind of highbrow thing like this really bummer of a British Christmas movie The Snowman.  I was at some small gathering of cynical 20 and 30 something artists and the topic of Shrek came up; this one misanthrope loved the way there were all these off-color jokes in the first Shrek movie.  I’d recently seen the beginning of it and totally hated it; it was the scene where people are getting money from a mean government in exchange for having fairy tale creatures turned in to them by NARC’s and opportunistic assholes.  Do you really want to see good old sweet wood-worker Gepetto as an opportunist asshole, turning in his own adopted son Pinocchio for a bit of pocket money?  Not me.  Of all the cynical shit to foist on a child – Gepetto callously selling out Pinocchio?!  I had an argument with this guy, I’ll call him Dick, over all this cynicism in the movie, along with the double entendres in the dialogue, and how kids are going to get enough of this negative world-views by the time they hit 12 – can’t they just have some escape from all the real-life meanness by watching a movie.  Dick couldn’t disagree more and thought that it was good for kids to be precocious depressives, though he phrased it differently.  Flash-forward a couple years after this argument, which I always held against him.  We ended up meeting under different circumstances and hanging out a few times.  Surprise, he was a total asshole.  All my JD Salinger paperbacks are well loved with long cracked spins and ripped covers, so I lovingly repaired them all with clear contact paper so I could go on reading them forever.  One time he tried to make me feel stupid by saying those books could have been valuable if I hadn’t fixed them.  I explained that for starters, my mom and her best friends have been involved in used book-selling for most of my life, that I have accompanied them on several book-scouting missions at church rummage sales etc. since I was a kid and that I know what valuable is, and would never have sold these Salinger books for all the world – they are mine.  He didn’t hear any of this and condescended to me all night.  He was a total blowhard – leave it to someone who wants kids to be exposed to harsh life lessons in their kids’ movies.

All Shrek criticism aside, I do like the fact that Shrek is a totally ungainly monster, as is his princess, and that the rest of society learns not only accept these two monsters, but to love them for it.  We own all three Shrek movies and I have probably seen them at least 30 times each.

Toy Story Trilogy

Oh melodrama, you cruel bitch.  Toy Story 3 is completely unwatchable to me, because it’s too sad for words.  This movie really nails the feeling of being on the cusp of adulthood and having to cut some things from childhood free.  It’s the end of an era and oh my god is it heartbreaking.  If you want to see how puffy my eyes get for crying for at least a half hour just sit with me while I watch Toy Story 3.  This is a well written movie, the sentimentality flawlessly poignant.  I will never, ever own this movie.  The couple times I have rented it, my poor kid has to stroke my hair and say “mama sad?”

Toy Story 2, however, is a delightful tale of an adventure in a toy store full of toys with their own intrigues and secrets – Barbie is really smart and liberal, etc.

Toy Story 1 is the one we own and watch forever, and I have no complaints about it, accept that the toys are really disloyal to their leader, Woody, for the majority of the film, and as a big believer in dignity and therefore loyalty, I’m just like “What’s wrong with you, Mr. Potato Head?  Why won’t you stand by Woody the cowboy doll and give him the benefit of the doubt, after all he’s done for you!”  All in all though, this is a pretty easy movie to sit through and its life lessons and whatnot are okay by me.

Now for Monster’s Inc.  Oh you masterpiece Monster’s Inc.  I LOVE this movie!!!  It’s the perfect blend of sentimentality and a well-constructed imaginary world, a working class neighborhood where the main job is a factory that has magical doors to kid’s rooms – factory-worker monsters go into kids’ rooms, scare them, and collect their screams into canisters – the screams provide the energy the town runs on.  The monster heroes in this movie are pretty much a couple of noble working class heroes.

Lion King

Lion King, you depressing piece of shit.  This is a movie about manifest destiny.  A cute little lion loves his lion daddy.  The kid lion, Simba, has a best friend, a girl, who he is also supposed to marry.  When his lion dad dies, he splits town and lives a humble existence for several years.  Then his former female runs into him and is like, “you have to come back – it’s your destiny to be the next lion king!”  He doesn’t want to, he just wants to take his own path, but then he realizes he has to do his duty to his community.  He kicks the asses of the hyenas who’ve taken over his old village.  Now he’s the king.  He looks just like his dad before him.  His bestie becomes his wife, who looks just like Simba’s mom when she was a young woman.  They have a kid who looks just like Simba did when he was a little kid.  This is referred to as “The Circle of Life,” but this philosophy of ‘Do your duty to the community, fill your role, follow in tons of ancestors’ footprints, go through a brief transgressive phase perhaps but finally submit to your expected role” – Jesus Christ, what are we, the early American settlers, believing we were destined to live in America, destined to die of cholera before we were even born if that’s the cards we were dealt, destined to have no agency in our choices?  I’m pretty sure Simba should have spent a few more years of self-exploration before returning to the business-as-usual of his Pride.  Oh well, my son likes the songs.  And I guess I should like the films’ message of “Listen to your family – they know what’s best for you!”  Can’t help it though, I want him to “Question Authority,” as the saying goes.

Ernest and Celestine

Oh my god, this movie is great, by any one’s standards, I believe.  See it!


  1. I'd love to know what you think of Lilo & Stitch! It's, uh... it's just one of my favorite movies. I really want to see Ernest and Celestine.

  2. aw, sorry to report i have no special feeling towards it either way, except for leaning a bit towards disliking it. you should write a little review in the comments box describing all its finer points!