A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

09 November 2007

Pixar vs Pixart vs Pixaren't

Okay, I just watched "Ratatouille" and I'm probably the only person in the world who feels this way, but...I just didn't like it.

My kids kept asking me at different points throughout the film, "Is this a 'feel-good' movie?" - to which I have to say, "No." It just didn't seem plausible to me. Yes, yes, I know - it's an animated movie, it's not SUPPOSED to be plausible, right? Well, I beg to differ...all the animated movies that I liked tended to have something believable in them, even if they were extremely fantasy-based. This to me was more like a hodgepodge of ideas thrown out around a table while a couple guys were getting drunk. It was, in essence, Pixar's Atlanta Nights if you will. Sure, the animation was top notch...but that just doesn't cut it to me.

Spoilers here...so don't read if you don't want to know more (altho I'm probably the last person to see this film as I always wait until they are out on dvd)...

A rat that can cook...then said rat being able to pull the guy's hair (who also just happens to be the lowest guy on the totem pole in the haute cuisine restaurant) to control his body movements, then him ending up being the guy who inherits the restaurant, then having it closed down due to rat infestation...only to open another restaurant which apparently caters to the "rat-friendly" who don't mind their meals prepared by vermin. Um...I just don't see anything plausible in the film nor anything fantasy-ish enough to make it credible. Each of these Pixar (or Pixarotype) films score high marks for their incredible art technique...but this one lacks what the others that I've seen had going for them: the ability to take you away for an hour and a half to a fun little world.

"Monsters, Inc." was plausible - a little world filled with the dreaded monster in all our inner child's heads...even if you were OLD like me, you'd hearken back memories of what you saw, i.e., imagined was under the bed, in the closet, scratching at the window, etc. Then to find out the monsters were as scared of us as we were of them...well, that was pretty darned brilliant.

"Toy Story" was plausible - a boy whose toys come to life because, well, we all wished our toys did when we were kids...and secretly thought they did when we weren't in the room...kinda like how all pets can talk only they don't let you know because you'd expect them to do subservient things for you then.

"A Bug's Life" was plausible because we really don't know what bugs do - and for all we know their social structures are far more elaborate (at least in their own realm) than we'd ever give them credit for...until you watched this film. And face it, we've all seen those ants who sacrifice their bodies by stringing themselves across water so the others can make it safely to the other side...so just right there it gains some redemption.

"The Incredibles" - oh, who hasn't wondered what a washed up Superman or Batman would do? And who wouldn't like the whole idea of being able to be useful and young again and save the world - plus have nifty superpowers to boot?

See? All of those have a lot going for them from the get-go - they didn't need 14 different angles to attempt to pull it all together, which to me, fails, except for the fact it has kick-ass computer effects.

Now...don't even get me started on the other film we watched the other day that the whole country went ga-ga about which my kids and I kept looking at each other with that "what the....???" look on our faces: "Happy Feet" - yes, that had a lot going for it - dancing penguins...everyone loves dancing penguins...let's just animate a bunch of penguins. Story? We don't need a story...we have cute dancing penguins! Look, I got my fill of dancing penguins in "Mary Poppins"...and the three minutes they were on screen in that - well, it held more plot (and my attention) than the 108 minutes they used up in "Happy Feet". My feet were only too happy to walk over to remove that disc from my player as well.


  1. I have fond memories of watching Mary Poppins. I liked The Incredibles. A Bug's Life was fun to watch. I wasn't such a big fan of Monsters Inc. - too frenetic for my taste, too filled with an endless barrage of pop culture references like so many of the newer Disney cartoons. I haven't seen Ratatouille yet, but I look forward to seeing it. By the dubious standards of animation these days, it seemed pretty well done judging by the excerpts I've seen.

    I still have a fondness for the old "hand drawn" animation. I don't think the computer stuff can compete with it as far as the range of expression of the characters or the richness of the color palette, not to mention a standard for every aspect of the animation process that simply disappeared when Disney himself died and the lawyers took over his studio. I just happened to catch a showing of "Lady and the Tramp" a few months ago on ABC. Next to Pinocchio and Dumbo, this was the old Disney studios at its best - utterly charming, and with an uncompromising attention to detail.

    If you really want to lay into animation, you ought to go after the soulless mush they're showing on Saturday mornings these days. Troll Dolls? Humorless vegetables? Unicorns with lavender manes just about everywhere you look? And I guess the independent stations have completely given up on after school stuff for kids of any age. I can remember watching Three Stooges shorts, Lost in Space, Gilligan's Island, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek, Ultraman, Popeye cartoons, Warner Bros. cartoons, and on and on, and maybe even an old movie. Some of the cartoons may have been violent, but they were also highly moral and more importantly they had character. Weekdays after school used to be a real adventure. Then again I guess kids don't have their afternoons to themselves anymore with all the studying and the soccer practice, and the swimming practice, and the violin practice, and the endless volunteer work which I guess is supposed to look good on a college application. But, that's something for another blog.

  2. Yes, the computer animation for these things keep getting better and better - but, I, like you, appreciate the old hand-drawn techniques. The subtleness of the looks on their faces...the evil Queen in Snow White...c'mon...you can't get that look with a computer. Simply gorgeous.

    As for "Monsters, Inc.", I especially loved the little homage to Ray Harryhausen (the master of all stop-action animation - "Clash of the Titans", those "Sinbad" movies?) - and I know what you mean about the little things you have catch that kids wouldn't...but I kinda think they are fun. You can watch it on a whole different level than your kid and teach him something along the way.

    And yes, I remember after school things and Saturday morning cartoons and the only time you could catch an older film was on weekends in the afternoons (those Weekend Matinee Movies). Made it seem special when you didn't have 400 channels of it on all the time. Saturday mornings I was glued to the set watching Spiderman, Aquaman, Jonny Quest (the original), Speed Racer and who didn't have the most fun coming up with silly dialogue watching ultra-campy Ultraman?

    Just takes away the thrill of it if it's there all the time and most of it is pure rubbish. Being a kid and waiting all week for that payoff...instead of instant gratification - that's teaches a kid at the very least anticipation and patience. And parents always knew exactly where their kids were on Saturday mornings.

  3. Exactly! And if I might add, watching TV was special not only because there wasn't as much to choose from but because there weren't any VCRs or DVRs to record shows with. You had to be in front of the set at a certain time or you missed your show, period. And when your shows were over, you had no excuse for not doing your homework or, more importantly, no excuse for not going outside and getting some much needed fresh air and exercise.

    My God, I'm starting to sound like my parents. But that's a subject for another blog.

  4. Yes...this is exactly why I watch movies I have on DVD when they come on television - it's much more of an "event". I swear - it's maybe silly...but it's just not the same to put "My Fair Lady" in the dvd player - but let it come on television and I'll watch it!

    Oh...and you just want me to write a blog about us turning into our parents, don't you? Come on - you can admit it...better yet, tell the Montgomery Advertiser people! Maybe they will hire me to write for them - for actual real money. :)

  5. No! No blogs about turning into our parents. Too depressing. How about a blog about adults who still act like twelve-year-olds. It's epidemic. I must admit to being an offender now and then.

  6. I like to say the word "titties" but that hardly makes me a twelve year old. More like fifteen ;-)