Posted by dlandgren on 2009-03-17
The Forum des Images has an excellent programme of children’s cinema. I took the boys there this week-end to see Волчонок Среди Людей (Volchonok sredi lyudey), which I suppose should really be translated as a whelp among people, that being the correct term for a baby wolf (I had to look it up).
It’s the story of a boy who finds and adopts a baby wolf, after a hunter in his village kills its mother. The hunter and the boy find themselves in a tug of war over the animal, each wanting for their own reasons: the boy, for a companion, the hunter, for business.
It’s an interesting narrative that can be read at a number of levels. One thing I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched the barren, dusty landscape of Kazakhstan, was whether I was looking at the future, at what climate disruption will bring. It was a disquieting thought.
All in all, a great children’s film.
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Posted by dlandgren on 2008-12-08
We saw the first Madagascar film on DVD with the children at someone’s house a year or so ago. It’s a good film with a decent plot and we all enjoyed it. For months afterwards Basil would dance around singing “I like to move it, move it.”
When the children learnt that Madagascar 2 was coming out, they naturally nagged us to death to go and see it. So we saw it yesterday. There are lots of things wrong with this film and there’s not much that can be said in its defence.
The film begins with a hurried flashback to explain how Alex the Lion came to wind up in New York City, which also allows the introduction of the Evil Character who is a rival to Alex’s father as ruler of Lions. Care is taken to have a Evil Poacher shoot a chunk out of the ear of Zuba, his father, so that later on in the film we’ll be able to identify him. See also how father and son share a the distinctive birthmark on forepaw in the shape of Africa. Don’t forget, it’s important later on.
Fast-forward to the present where the heroes of the first movie board a DC-3 loaded in a gigantic slingshot built by the penguins to fly back to the USA. And this is the beginning of the problem; the most interesting part of the film revolves around how the penguins salvage the airplane (that crashes in Africa) and construct a helicopter out of the wreckage. But if the boss of the penguins is so smart, what’s with the endless unfunny gags about how he’s smitten by a rafia doll?
The penguins steal the show
The storyline is pretty weak, consisting mostly of a series of sketches that fortuitiously manage to be tangentially related to each other. On the positive side, at least there are no jokes about farting. On the other hand there are plenty of jokes about being kicked in the testicles. Ha ha, aren’t those Americans funny?
There are also lots of scenes that to allow people to prove their intellectual mettle by spotting the clichés and meta-clichés. Laugh at the granny standing up by the campfire, with her shadow projected on to a rock behind her, casting a shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Giggle at the scene where the Penguin lords cave into the demands of the proletariat Monkeys negotiating for maternity leave.
See the poor Alex, shunned by his father. How will he ever prove his worth and (re)gain his father’s esteem? I hover between not caring, and knowing that in the end, Alex will prevail, and his father will adopt his crazy new-fangled ideas and everything will be groovy.
As the credits scrolled past (my, what a lot of animators you have!) at the end of the film, a kindly usher took pity on us and tipped us off to the fact that there was no secret out-take at the end of the credits so there was no need to hang around to the very end. Phew!
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Posted by dlandgren on 2008-10-29
Meerkats on patrol
We took the children to see The Meerkats last week. The filming itself is exceptional with very sharp close-up views. I kept wondering how they had managed to pull it off. On the other hand the soundtrack was pretty uninspiring, and the text, even though narrated by Paul Newman, is without merit. We’re a long way from Richard Attenborough’s Life on Earth.
For instance, we learn that the litter from the previous year stays with their mother, and help teach and protect the offspring from the following year. But it’s only near the end of the film we learn that the father of Kolo (around whom the film revolves) is part of the group. But it’s never made clear if meerkats form a partnership for life, or if each litter is the result of opportunistic encounters.
In a similar vein, basic genetics tells us that inbreeding within a small group will draw out lethal alleles rapidly and thus new members must come into the group, and other members must leave. But just how meerkats solve this problem is never even hinted at.
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Posted by dlandgren on 2008-09-19
I received an e-mail link today asking me to take part in a survey “on the media”. Since I’m always willing to take advantage of an online survey to twist the answers to create a really odd datapoint in their database, I set about filling out the questions.
It didn’t last long. It turned out that they were after opinions on films destined for a six year old child. They wanted to know which of the following films my six year old had seen. The list was… odd, to say the least:
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (2006)
- Kung Fu Panda
- Meet Dave
- The Bank Job
- The Dark Knight
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
- The X-Files: I Want to Believe
- L’empreinte de l’ange
- Le premier jour du reste de ta vie
- Mes amis mes amours
- Nos 18 ans
Now I’ve seen Waltz with Bachir, which is a fantastic film, but it’s not something I’d take a six year along to see. In fact, I wouldn’t take them to see any of them, except perhaps for Wall-E and Kung-fu Panda.
I was tempted to answer yes to a couple of them, or perhaps all of them, but it was too much; I answered none of the above. At that point the survey ended, so I’ll never know what they wanted to know, but I find it odd that there are people who would consider taking their young children to see such films.
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