Big Hero 6: Why Do You Make Me So Happy?

Disney’s Big Hero 6 is a real treat for those who like to go out to an animated movie. The environments are lush, the designs are vivid, the animation is stunning, the characters are well-defined, the plot has pathos, there are laughs, there are cries, there are thrills aplenty, high-concept throw-aways, “aw, cute” moments…

Big Hero 6 Hiro in Costume

The movie also exhibits so much by way of video game dynamics, anime-and-manga tropes, nerd culture, S.T.E.M. proselytization, violence disavowal, female empowerment, minority representation, and toy-selling potential…

No one on Earth can be unhappy with this movie.

And neither am I.

BIG HERO 6

Yes, I may feel cheated by this movie, which seems to have sold out on every level, but I am definitely going to see it again. And own it. And put the disk right between The Transformers: The Movie: The Special Edition and The Incredibles. With a big smile on my face.

But, no, I am not going to research it. I have read Ted Hughes’ The Iron Giant and Christopher Priest’s The Prestige, but a cursory investigation of the comic does little to recommend the property to me. Disney is cashing in on its investment, when it bought Marvel, and we receive the benefits.

Big Hero 6 Baymax

Also, Disney does.

But the important thing is that in this coming-of-age story about a boy and his dog (for “dog,” read “giant robotic health care companion), there is a real coping-with-loss and a silent villain in a kabuki mask.

And we’ve never seen that before.

Big Hero 6 Yokai

I realize that my writing is a bit uneven in this post, but I don’t mind at this point.

Here is another still from the movie. Why don’t you go see it already?

BIG HERO 6

Images: http://movies.disney.com/big-hero-6/

I recommend Rob Minkoff’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman with a broad smile. The story was character-based, the plot moved a nice trot, the animation was beautiful, and the voice acting was first-rate. High marks, all around.

I found some of the plot devices even stunning.  They disclosed to me, by their very superfluity, the love of the writers for story-making. The devices themselves were interesting, and writers’ love always engenders a kindred love in the audience, I find.

Now, a stirring discussion could begin with the movie’s meaning for pop culture:

  1. because it is another remake of an old all-ages property but one that never had as big a fanbase as some other properties–and I do not know the original, so I cannot make more than partial comparisons to other remakes.
  2. because it sends another message along the lines of the thesis that adults know nothing very useful and only renegade minors can bring about a better society–but whereas this by-now old thesis is supposed to be subversive, Mr. Peabody and Sherman might subvert it!

Jay Ward, Craig Wright, Robert Ben Garant, and Thomas Lennon–the writers–might even say–who knows?–they love the audience.  Well, if that is the case, then here is my reply: I have a deep regard for you as well.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman: “My Deep Regard”

Hushed Roar: Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles”

In Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, the tale of Achilles is heard from the mouth of his beloved companion, Patroclus.  The marvel of the book for this reader is how gracefully it unites its varied strains into a single voice.  That voice is then wonderfully played by Frazer Douglas in the audiobook.

Just as Achilles is son of a man but also son of a goddess…

Just as Achilles is prophesied to have a short life but immortal glory or a dimmer brilliance and a greater longevity…

Just as Achilles is known for his wrath but he tends a love for kind-hearted Patroclus–

Medline Miller The Song of Achilles

So the book is a contemporary fantasy about ancient myths…

So it testifies to scholarly research and boasts the originality of a literary talent…

So it uses Patroclus’ hushed self-consciousness to magnify the roaring effusion of Achilles’ glory.

There are so many things to be said for the book that I can do no better than to offer my recommendation.  Nonetheless, perhaps I can indicate some of those things by comparisons to other works of fiction.

Continue reading

Love, Death, Bravery, Immortality: Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

Part I: Review

Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bells Tolls (1940) tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American dynamiter fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War.  His mission is to fall in with a band of guerrillas and destroy an enemy bridge.  Do not read the rest of the paragraph before reading the book.  He falls in love with a young woman whom the band shelters and succeeds in his mission, but he is severely wounded and covers the others’ escape.

I never read Hemingway until now.  I cannot explain why.  I have heard Metallica’s track, of course, and Corey Stoll’s portrayal of the man was one of the great delights of Woody Allen’s already all-ar0und delightful film, Midnight in Paris (2011).

Perhaps I will not be misunderstood when I attribute the read to a certain instinctual belief that now was the time.  The title itself suffices to attract a man’s attention.  Its words bring doom, that fearfully sacred thing (mysterium tremendum), unbearably and yet enticingly near–a virtue of poetic language.  The words are indeed, as I distantly remembered, a line from a poem.  Hemingway takes the title from Meditation 17 in John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

I would love to attempt a lengthy comparison of doom in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Chris Nolan’s Inception (2010), or just the magnificent score that Hans Zimmer wrote for it.  Zimmer has introduced another “fanfare of terror” into the art form, as Richard Wagner might put it.

A lengthy comparison, however, would necessitate a proportionately lengthy exploration of the themes.  In short, I say: the bells’ doom tolls for all men in each man and each man in all men; the horns’ doom blares for one man himself alone.  “Non, Je ne regrette rien [No, I regret nothing]” does not express the idea of Dostoevsky’s Father Zosima that “all are responsible for all.”

The sole flaw of the book, in my opinion, is its pace.  Ostensibly, the action of the novel is the demolition of a bridge, but little progress is made toward that goal over many chapters.  I found the slightness of the progress to be a source of aggravation.  Perhaps, on a second reading, I would find the novel’s tensions more well-balanced.

Continue reading

Rian Johnson’s “Looper,” a Genres-Piece with Substance

Rian Johnson is the writer-director behind Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2008).  Brick is a tightly-plotted highschool film noir, which shows genius in its witty dialogue, dramatic characterization, and intriguing staging.  Johnson gives the conventions of the two genres a vividness to be the envy of any film in either genre, blending them perfectly without confusion.

The Brothers Bloom “draws” the viewer “on” a bit more, rather like the con-men–two brothers by the name of Bloom–whom the film is about.  But just as the perfect con, according to the one brother, is the con from which both parties walk away with what they want, so at the end the viewer walks away from the film not unsatisfied.

His latest, Looper, is one of my most anticipated films of the year.  Within the next hundred years, time travel is invented, but banned because of the trauma that it may cause to the timeline, and used only by large crime organizations.  Hitmen in the present called “loopers” shoot the victims sent to them from the future and dispose of the bodies.  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper.  But the crime organizations do not want any loose ends, and they send their loopers’ future selves, like old Joe (Bruce Willis) to the past to “close their loop.”

Looper blends more genres than Brick and says more about the viewer than The Brothers Bloom.  In any time, the viewer may be treated to a scene of noir, science fiction, crime, horror, action, drama, or western.  The changes from one genre to another do not jar the viewer, as they might in a spoof comedy (and desirably so), like Weird Al’s cult classic, UHF (1989), which I watched recently with some friends.  The changes are suited to the theme of the given scene according to the one plot running throughout the film.

On top of the intriguing premise, Johnson gives the audience a lot to be pleased at.  He assembles a great cast; writes a tight plot with inventive concepts, smart dialogue, and motivated characters; shows good choices in music cues; and displays some truly beautiful camerawork.

Continue reading

No Matter the Odds, ‘The Stuff of Legend: Book 3: A Jester’s Tale’

Policy on Spoilers: I avoid saying anything that diminishes the experience of the work of art and aim to augment the experience of the work of art as the work of art that it is.

 

Writers: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith

Art: Charles Paul Wilson III

Publisher: Th3rd World Studios

The team at Th3rd World Studios has crafted for a third time fine artifact that is a pleasure to hold and delight to read.  But then, how could they misfire with such a dynamite premise: the Boogeyman kidnaps a boy, and his toys go after to rescue him?

Book 1: The Dark – The toys bestir themselves to rescue the boy.

Book 1: The Dark – They change out of toy form and wage battle.

In particular, how could Raicht and Smith, the writers, go wrong with Wilson’s to add his artistic flair?  Flair is just the word, too, because Wilson’s talents suit the Jester grandly.  The Jester leaps off the page just as well as he leaped out of the box as a “jack.”   A Jester’s Tale may well become a favorite book of the series to reread.

Jon Conkling and Michael DeVito also deserve credit for the design and color that they contribute to the project.  The  well-chosen design makes the book look well over half a century old.  The book is made of high quality, glossy paper, sturdy enough to last through several sets of children’s hands, but on the glossy paper are printed the discoloration of time and the frayed edges of oft-turned pages.  As with Books 1 and 2, in my opinion, the single flaw to the design is the choice to use solid white word balloons.  A reader becomes accustomed to them, but some off-white shade would seem to me to suit the finished page better.

Continue reading