Saturday, January 18, 2014

Storytelling and the movies

For the past few weeks I have been trying to play catch-up with favorite TV shows and movies. I've finally caught up with The Walking Dead and I'm waiting to see what happens when it returns in February (what's up with Carol?). I finished with Being Human, the original UK series, and thought the ending was okay. I still thought the show lost its spark after the original members left, but it was still entertaining. As for the movies, I did get to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and while I did enjoy it, parts of it began to feel repetitive. How many times can we see view a battle with Orcs and not get a little bored? I liked the inclusion of the female elf, Tauriel, simply because there aren't many females in Tolkien's world, and her story line added a reason to see more of Legolas. Smaug was magnificent but I did feel his scene dragged on a bit. I'm not convinced The Hobbit needed to be made into a trilogy but I loved what Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings, so I await the final film with a renewed interest. 

The one movie which I found totally surprising was Saving Mr. Banks. I love Emma Thompson and her take on P.J. Travers brought an elegance and quiet beauty to the role. When Walt Disney explained to his songwriters how he understood why Travers was reluctant to sign over her beloved character and then mentioned he was once a young man with a mouse, I cheered. First, because it was a treat to see Hollywood make a movie about Disney wooing an author, and second, because the story exemplified the power of books and wonderful stories. Mary Poppins has enchanted generations of children and adults alike and I am thrilled the author let Walt and company create the movie musical they did (with Dick Van Dyke as Burt, of course). 

What really drew me into Saving Mr. Banks were the two stories included in one which ran parallel to one another: P.J. Travers of the present and her childhood. Actor Colin Farrell as Travers Robert Goff had some great scenes which gave the film heart and feeling. Of course, Emma Thompson was great and gave another magnificent portrayal, one which I wished had been reflected in the recent Oscar nominations. Despite her omission, this emotionally uplifting movie reduced me to a watery mess by the end. 

Another movie I saw and loved was an anime, Up on Poppy Hill. From Studio Ghibli, this sweet, poignant film was about some students who wanted to save their beloved school clubhouse from demolition. There was a lot more going on from a mystery concerning parentage, to a budding romance between main characters Umi and Shun, friendship, heartbreak, love renewed and the importance of family and community. This wasn't a fantasy--something I usually associate with Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki (who co-wrote the script)--and yet I was quite taken with the movie and music. There were moments of 'magic' in this movie from when the new clubhouse is unveiled to the scene with Umi and Shun on the boat at the end after they hear the truth about Shun's father. Like Saving Mr. Banks, Up On Poppy Hill was not an in-your-face type of movie, it was gentle, sweet, and totally engrossing.

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