Virgin Movie Review – Planet of the Apes (2001)

2001 planet of the apes
I’m not convinced a chimp would find a human sexy, no matter how hot Walhberg is.

Who knew Tim Burton could direct a grand scale epic adventure? I always thought his specialty was weirdos doing wacky things. But I was surprised and pleased with how much I enjoyed this 2001 version of Planet of the Apes, especially since I’m not impressed with the more recent trilogy.

I also didn’t realize Mark Walhberg  could do a heroic genre role. The man seems pretty talented and versatile, when he’s not confined to goofy comedies. Not to rag on wacky weirdos and goofy comedies, but this is more of the kind of world-building I’d expect from The Lord of the Rings.

Following this point will be some mildly vague spoilers…

There was a lot of genre-hopping, from space stations off Saturn, to Bronze Age ape civilizations, to a Mad Max climax. And while bouncing around through space and time, I had to remind myself of something deeply embedded in the mythos of Planet of the Apes: total mind-screwing. At its heart, Apes is a dystopian vision of what can or could be, if conditions were right. I wanted to yell at Walhberg’s character at the very end: to never mess with the timeline. He had a good thing going there on that planet. Has he never seen the original 1968 movie?

[pullquote]But before we get to the denouement that should surprise exactly no one, there were hugely impressive sets, makeup, and costumes.[/pullquote] A lot of care and detail went into the construction of this remake: it’s clear everyone involved was a fan. The final setting in the desert landscape with the rock formations was filmed on location near Death Valley, CA. I hiked there this spring and took a lot of photos (I’ll post some soon and link to it), and it really added to my film enjoyment to recall how cool a place it was in real life. (To be fair, I visited the park because Star Trek was also filmed there, but once I saw the formations above the battleground in Apes, things clicked into place.)

What was good: the apes looked great. I enjoyed seeing the variety of Great Apes represented: chimps, gorillas (lowland gorillas, I think), baboons, orangutans, and humans. The ape actors moved like apes; this was most noticeable with the chimps. They sounded like apes and had temper tantrums like apes. Although it might have seemed a bit overwrought with all the leaping and the screeching, zoologically speaking, everything was spot on.

I had to ask myself, can’t apes swim? I never considered their construction might prohibit it.  But then, humans lost the ability to brachiate, so we ourselves picked up water during our evolution, but lost the trees.

We just have to go along with the apes’ ability to speak, since a silent film wouldn’t be as fun.

Something that stood out to me too was how violent General Thade was. Was he psychotic, or more like a real chimp? He was one mean monkey. From what I’ve heard, adult chimps can fly violently off the handle and rip your face off:  not the kind of creatures you want living in your house. Although clearly, from watching this, the apes didn’t want us around either. Of all the primates, it seems gorillas are the sweetest: and their noble warrior personas were interestingly played.

Side Note: Hey! Want to get scared to death by chimpanzees? Have fun watching this video:

 Back to the film: I liked the apes discussing whether humans had  souls. Don’t we debate that about animals we’ve domesticated?  I hope we treat our “pets” better than we see the apes doing in this flick, although I know from my experience working in animal rescue that we often, quite sadly, do not. (Even with animals we think we’re decent to, I have to wonder. Look at our beloved horses. We sit on their spines, kick their ribs when we want them to go, and force cold iron bars between their teeth to steer them. Dammit, I’m on my soapbox again. )

What I didn’t like as much: the human characters, save Walhberg’s, were completely underdeveloped. They were like stand-ins for real people. It was strange that the best individuals were the apes, although that is probably intentional. But I can’t say it made for good storytelling to have the humans be sparsely written caricatures. And the the line about “Damn dirty humans” — while intended as humor — felt like a cheap shot. I guess they couldn’t resist an ironic nod to the iconic original.

Ultimately, were the apes wrong about humans? Some of it was pretty true: we can be savage and mindless. But we, like they, could become much more. So I managed to do a little soul-searching in a sci-fi/fantasy film; not a bad thing. I’d say this earnest remake of Planet of the Apes is worth a watch.

Movie Grade: B

Tom Cruise Wants You To Fix Your TV

Have you ever heard of Motion Smoothing? I haven’t either. Apparently the new HDTVs come with it already defaulted on, and Tom Cruise wants you to turn it off, dammit, when you sit down to watch movies at home.

He even took time out from filming the Top Gun sequel to tell everyone how to resolve this, and that he really wants you to do it. Like now. Don’t make this man have to jump out of a high altitude plane with a broken foot to fix it for you.

Here’s the amusing article we found about how serious Ethan Hunt/Maverick/Charlie Babbitt/Lestat de Lioncourt/Jack Reacher and Jerry Maguire are about putting this travesty to an end.

Take a look at this earnest and short video:

Motion Smoothing is also known as The Soap Opera Effect, for reasons I’m not very clear about.  If I sound flip, it’s intentional. I have no idea what soap operas look like, and I’d like to see a side-by-side depiction of normal film viewing and motion smoothed viewing. I’m going to leave that video comparison up to someone else to create, and feel free to share your findings here. I’m just reporting the news. [pullquote]If Tom Cruise says this is the only way to have a proper at-home movie experience, we’d be smart to listen.[/pullquote]

Note: I decided to be less lazy about this. Here’s another article discussing the sins of motion smoothing, saying, “These problems are created because the TV is essentially predicting, at an exceptionally fast rate, what each next ‘real’ frame will be, and inventing a frame that’s half way there.”

And  here’s an actual side by side comparison. See? I knew someone would make it so.

I’m on my way to see what the settings are on my TV. I had no idea my television was trying to pull a fast one on me. Amazing the things we can learn from the internet!  😉

What DC Can Learn from Marvel Movies

DC comics superheroes
Let’s bring some playfulness into DC, okay?

This awesome 10 minute video (below) by ScreenRant picks apart how and why the Marvel Cinematic Universe kills it over the DC Extended Universe. You may be a bigger DC fan over Marvel, but it’s hard to argue the MCU movies are  more inspiring, with strong character beats and good-natured humor…while DC limps along being largely morose. This might change with the Aquaman film (he was quite amusing in The Justice League, along with The Flash). And then there’s the really fun-looking trailers for the upcoming April 2019 release of Shazaam.

[pullquote]I think DC might be getting the picture: stop with the grim, and come in with the ability to transport fans to a place where they can let go of their worries and enjoy a couple of hours at the cinema.[/pullquote]

Marvel used humor way back in the beginning  (ten years ago) with Iron Man 1, and upped the comic ante with time and expertise — just look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok, and most of the latter film entries. Those are beautiful films, and also carry important messages. Did “We Are Groot” make you tear up? How about as Peter Parker cried under the rubble, then realized no grown-up was going to swoop in and save him? Did you enjoy when Ant-Man ecstatically learned he could join the ‘real’ heroes in Captain America: Civil War as a certified Avenger, or when Black Widow asked Hawkeye, mid-fight, if they were still buddies?

There’s a lot to deconstruct with Marvel, and that’s not EVEN getting into the masterpiece that was X-Men’s Logan. (Which I have seen only once, because extra curricular crying is not  on my list of daily fun stuff.)

In any case, I think DC might be getting the message. When James Gunn was unceremoniously fired from Disney’s Marvel world, DC eagerly snapped him up, to do for Suicide Squad what he did for Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m sure this wasn’t a good move for Marvel, but hey — we’ll get what I expect to be a fantastic treatment for Suicide Squad, on a premise mostly squandered before.

So, enjoy this video about what Marvel does that DC needs to emulate:

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

Video – How Marvel Finally Got Thor Right

Is Thor your favorite Avenger? Did the Ragnarok movie change your feeling towards him as a legitimate character?

This 10 minute video breaks apart the progression of the “Strongest Avenger” and tells us how he went from meh to awesome, becoming the character we most root (Groot for?) for by the time of Infinity War:

The Weirdest Moments in Classic Christmas Specials

abominable snowman on the year without a santa claus
Turns out he’s not a bad guy. But still kind of strange.

Old Christmas TV specials can be downright bizarre. I grew up watching the animated cartoons like  Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch, and eagerly lapped up the clay stop-motions like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Joyous holiday fun, right?

Yes. And no. They’re enjoyable shorts, but as an adult I’m noticing really strange beats, weirdo songs, and odd, almost off-putting characters. Some of these things resonate through the years: we’ve learned to use the term Reindeer Games to signify human pack behavior that’s intended to be more clique-ish than inclusive. And among those experiencing “outsider status” alienation, the concept of The Island of Misfit Toys really hits home.

Here are some of the best wacked-out characters and songs from decades ago that we still love, probably because of their strangeness.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974):

Remember the Heat Miser? There’s also a Snow Miser, but nobody remembers him. The Snow guy seems too nice, but the “Heat Blister” is the king of strange. If you’ve ever seen this, the lyrics come flooding back. (He’s too much…da da da duh…)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966):

I can’t go any further without mentioning the beloved song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. What great about this song is there are so many additional lyrics as the song reprises over the course of 26 minutes of cartoon runtime. It’s really creative and each set gets wilder and weirder. I love this. Between The Grinch and the Heat Miser, it’s like grumpy geek nirvana.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964):

This is the cutest one in the holiday lineup, with a whole lot of adorableness and a great message about tolerance, compassion for others who don’t fit the societal role, and the kind of understanding that leads (if we’re really lucky) to friendship. Everyone in this special is damaged goods in some way, even Santa himself, who has to stuff himself unhealthily to fit the “image” of a fat old man. But the real strangeness award has to go to the Abominable Snowman, who’s only cranky because his teeth hurt. Enter the elf who wants to be a — gasp! —  dentist. It all comes around, and Rudolph’s deformity saves Christmas. I hope the other reindeer invite him to play their games and he tells them off. Although, I guess, that’s defeating the spirit of the message.

The Island of Misfit Toys also qualifies as weird. There’s a birdfish, a crying dolly, a Charlie in the Box, a train with square wheels…all toys probably made by elves on crack. The toys believe no child would ever want them. In reality — our reality — there are kids who’d love them instead of getting the boring same-old toys: these are unique. And remember, even in this day there are children who’s families can’t afford any gifts. They would CHERISH these toys.

Those who are different don’t have to be outcasts, or think of themselves as broken. Apparently Santa doesn’t even bother to save the toys in the original, as LifeNews reports in an excellent article (well worth a read — angry letters from children saved the day).

And that’s all I’m going to say as I put my soapbox away. Here’s the brightly, sprightly song the lonely toys sing, at strange odds with their predicament — they truly have no hope for themselves. It’s remarkably subversive, and I love it:

In sum, I’d posit that strange is memorable and fun, sticking to the nooks and crannies of the brain moreso than taking more expected  route. Look at the new (1918) Grinch movie. It’ a marvel of animation, but boring. Really, really boring.

Have I missed something noteworthy and odd from your favorite holiday specials? Do you prefer the Grinch song or the Heat Miser? Please add your comments below!

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Movie Review – The Grinch (2018)

 

 

 

Who at RunPee Writes the Facebook Posts?

facebook logo
“F is for Facebook, that’s good enough for me…” – The Cookie Monster, if he was on social media.

In case any RunPee fans are wondering who answers our active and engaging  Facebook posts:

  • Mostly RunPee Jilly writes the posts, puts up the Quick Quotes, and creates the polls. Jilly sweeps through on Wednesdays, the day before the films come out, but checks in nearly daily to update the page.
  • RunPee Dan creates the daily Birthday Quote Posters and passes through on Mondays. If there’s a technical question, or information about RunPee behind-the-scenes, Dan is usually the man.
  • RunPee Mom gets the end of the week to play with on a Friday or Saturday sweep. She’s also got the sharpest sense of humor. You’ll know when you’ve had a social media hug from RunPee Mom.

We’ve got a good family business, don’t we? (We’re grateful and lucky!)

[pullquote]We’d also like to thank the Facebook fans who comment, question, and keep us on our toes every day, for ten years (!) of RunPee activity.[/pullquote] You’re the true superheroes here. We’re more like Nick Fury, handling the traffic, and appreciating the intelligent skills of movie-goers worldwide. Thank you!

Got any ideas to improve RunPee? Leave a comment at the bottom of this post, check in on Facebook, or contact Support@RunPee.com. We’ll get right back to you. As honorary Agents of Shield, that’s a promise! 😉

Dune – What is the Litany Against Fear (and why should we care)?

dune and the litany against fear
I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.

Can an old science fiction book from the 60s offer modern man any surfeit from pain? Do we allow fears — both great and small — to rule our lives? Can  we train ourselves to be greater than our anxieties?

I’d say yes, although I’ve yet to achieve this enlightened state myself. But, there’s this: courage is NOT being unafraid. Get that out of your mind now. [pullquote]Courage is about being afraid and going forth anyway.[/pullquote] If we can gain mastery of our fears, we can live our lives more aware, more gracefully, and accomplish great things perhaps against great odds. People through history have done it. [pullquote position=”right”]Wisdom from not so long ago in our literary past can absolutely help us today. [/pullquote]And while Dune’s author Frank Herbert might have had a lesson in mind more about planetary politics or the future of humanity than the test of one young human, the Litany he penned resonates now, as it did then, and will continue to touch people newly discovering this great tome of a book. (And yes, there have been several attempts to turn this into film…we’re still waiting for the one to do it right.)

Here is the Litany Against Fear, directly from the (1965) Dune novel, by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Is this the kind of thing anyone should care about? Or use? And why would we?

Well, has fear gone away since 1965? I’d even posit we’ve found more things to be afraid of with the ease we now devour world news and calamitous global misery.

In my college years, the Litany was something I’d scrawled on a Post-it and pasted to my mirror.  I made a best friend after those days, in my old town of Flagstaff, AZ, who I learned kept a copy of the Litany on a note in his wallet. I’d ended up more impressed with him than before: you can have a lot of fun with someone, but also find unplumbed depths together in the strangest moments.

When I got married later on, I found someone who may not have kept the Litany on his person, but for whom the book Dune is his favorite science-fiction touchstone of all time. [pullquote position=”right”]The Spice must flow, after all.  :-)[/pullquote]

I might have forgotten the Litany’s usefulness as the years slipped by, but in my current re-read it’s come to my attention again. It was a pleasant shock to have it re-spool into my neurons; now it’s written on a note in my own wallet, like my friend kept his, long ago.

My paperback copy of Dune was re-published in 1971 and is tattered and torn, with a broken spine. I don’t care — it smells like a real book, and it’s a great reading copy, with the early cover artwork. I want to put it in an archival bag, and probably will when my re-read is done. I’ve also got copies of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune that are older than me. At age 50, finding a 53 year-old novel at a garage sale or thrift store is like finding something precious and rare.

Dune keeps me doing regular re-reads over the decades, and I find something new and exciting every time, stuff I scrawl in my journal and try to remember when times get tough. I’m not really a fearful person (I love things like rock climbing and solo backpacking), but stupid small anxieties master me every day. [pullquote]The Litany is a good balm for the soul, a salve to one’s agitation, and simply a soothing chant to memorize for times of emotional turmoil.[/pullquote]

Has Dune affected you? Do you think you can learn from the Litany Against Fear?  Add your insights to the comments below. I won’t judge. We’re all in this together.

Can Dune be done? Should Dune be done? Bringing Long Books to the Screen

Yes, it’s about Dune – The Lyrics to Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice

A Novice Rocky Review

rocky and adrian
Rocky — a love story.

I’d never seen the original 1976 Rocky in the past, because it seemed to be a “boxing” movie, and watching people hit each other into a bloody mess has never been my bag. Somewhere along the line I watched Rocky III, which was a decent enough film. It was sad and then triumphant. But I never became a Rocky fan. I did see Rocky IV, but thought that one wasn’t good, and then gave up on the whole thing as more decades of Rocky  and Rocky-adjacent films passed me by.

With Creed II killing it in theaters, all the Rocky movies have been re-playing on TV, so I DVRed I-III for a newbie review. I can’t quite call it a Virgin Review, since I did see two of the eight films in the franchise (although if you ask me for any details, all I remember is III is the sad one and IV is the one with the blonde Russian boxer.)

[pullquote]I figured it was time to see what the fuss was about with Rocky the First.[/pullquote] I recently watched Jaws this summer, to prep for The Meg, and thought Jaws was truly an A+ film. I was too young to appreciate Jaws when it came out, thinking it a horror monster movie, when it really is not. It’s about three men and what they are made of when it counts. (Jaws is a perfect film. I gave it an A+  and posted a glowing rewatch review here.)

Well, Rocky is not really a boxing movie. The cold open shows Sylvester Stallone in a match, but we don’t see any more fighting until the end with the big champion-ship match. The plot is really more about this somewhat under-educated man with an unappealing job of collecting loan debts. He’s rough around every edge, but as you watch, you can sense he’s also so much more: he loves animals; is enamored with the shy bookish woman at the pet store; he tries to help a young girl on the streets, and, most tellingly, doesn’t break the thumb of the man he’s ordered to hurt when collecting a debt. Rocky also loves music. He fights because it’s the one thing he feels he’s really good at. [pullquote]He’s as insecure as everyone else seems to be in the story. One could argue Rocky is more about overcoming your self-loathing than fighting.[/pullquote]

More than being a sports movie, it’s a love story and a drama. The scenes where Rocky tries to bring Adrian out of her shell are unusual: he likes the quiet girl that doesn’t speak words if she can help it. He gave her enough self-confidence to tell off her abusive brother, in a wonderfully acted and taut scene. I don’t understand why Rocky is even friends with Paulie, but I think we are given to understand Rocky likes everyone, and doesn’t hold their personality defects against them. What a rare trait, and something to consider in our own lives.

[pullquote position=”right”]Rocky is also clearly a drama. The two fight scenes are more efficient than gripping, and I have no problem with that.  But the scenes that truly stick out show Rocky with coach Mickey, Rocky with Paulie, and Rocky with his strangely sympathetic loan shark.[/pullquote] The one big scene with Coach, played in an astoundingly profound, yet gruff way, needs to be seen once, then seen again. It’s sorrowful, hopeful AND hopeless, and features two significant monologues, spoken to a closed door in one case, and then from listening alone in a stairwell for the second. This turns into a  masterful, surprising, and deeply moving pair of performances. Rocky and Mickey are damaged people who don’t know how to trust or feel hope again…yet the two men come together as the camera pans out to a wide shot on the streets, without any words at all. Its beautiful. You could cry right there. I hope this scene, and Burgess Meredith in particular, won an award. [pullquote]It’s that good. You feel you’ve witnessed a great moment in cinema.[/pullquote]

Here’s a video of this duology of monologues. Watch this again, because scenes like this don’t come around very often: 

I had no idea Rocky was a good movie, let alone a great one, which puts me in my place. It’s got seven sequels for a reason. (Maybe I need to see the first Fast and Furious, by my logic?) 😉

Many iconic moments stood out that I only absorbed through pop culture til now:  when Rocky cracks five raw eggs into a glass and sloppily gulps it down. When Rocky, trying  to make a point with Paulie, beats up a side of beef so furiously that he breaks its ribs. When Rocky runs through the streets of Philly, pre-morning, and triumphs over the stairs that left him winded earlier, as the Rocky theme song we all love crescendos all around, Rocky’s arms making a V to the skies as the dawn emerges from the night. (I’ve got goosebumps remembering this.)

The training montage scene that should never be considered a Peetime:

And then, of course, the climax: Rocky blinded, bloody, and beaten, calls plaintively for Adrian. When she makes it through the throng, I thought this would be the time to say they love each other, which they do. I lapped up every second of that. Remember when this film came out in 1976, audiences were still hopeful movies would leave them happier than when they came in. Now we are cynical and a bit jaded, so it’s nice to see an early film that awards the viewers for their patience, as a slow tale reaches a beautiful conclusion.

I think the only reason this film doesn’t get a Plus on that A, is from the confusing ending. Who won the fight? I have no idea from watching it. I asked my mother, also watching, who won and she had no clue either. Nobody was punched out on the ground. We re-wound the scene and still didn’t understand what happened, although I could barely make it out that Apollo Creed mumbled something about a re-match. So, was it a tie?

I texted a friend and asked WHO WON IN ROCKY? He said Creed did, from “points” — and the denouement is about Creed respecting Rocky enough to give him a real chance for the title next year. Or something like that? When I watch Rocky II I might understand better, but I think it’s unforgivable to keep your non-sport oriented viewers this confused. At that time in movie history, sequels were not much of a thing, so this might have left us confused forever. I don’t mind him not winning: I just want to know what happened without asking the Wikipedia. (It turns out they professed love and a vow to not have a re-match? I am not sure how I’m supposed to know this from watching it on film.)

There’s a nice bit of background to Rocky: Stallone himself wrote it, and the story says he was down to around $106 left to his name. The studios offered him $300, 000 for the script and wanted to put someone like Burt Reynolds in the role. Stallone turned it down, insisting that he should star in it. The rest, I guess, is history, as per Wikipedia:

The film, made on a budget of just over $1 million, was a sleeper hit; it earned $225 million in global box office receipts, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1976, and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture. The film received many positive reviews and turned Stallone into a major star.[4] In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. Rocky is considered to be one of the greatest sports films ever made and was ranked as the second-best in the genre, after Raging Bull, by the American Film Institute in 2008.

Movie Grade: A

The Rocky theme music for your nostalgic enjoyment, and good luck getting it out of your head:

PS: I’ve started noticing the use of holidays in films. Well, in this case, Rocky could be called both a Thanksgiving movie and a Christmas flick. Pay attention the next time you watch it. 🙂


Here are our detailed Rocky I–Creed II reviews, from a Rocky Virgin who’d never seen any of the films  in the franchise before.

Some related reviews we think you’ll like:

Movie Review – Creed II

Movie Review – The Meg

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Why Newt Scamander is a Fantastic, Yet Underrated Hero

newt scamander in fantastic beasts where to find them crimes of grindelwald
Not the usual male protagonist, but my new favorite hero.

Not every hero has to fit the typical mold we’re so very used to in epic storytelling. It’s always either the manly man’s man who is the big, strong, authoritative handsome guy, like Thor and Captain Kirk. (This really doesn’t even have to be a man — look at fighters like Black Widow and Wonder Woman — but we’re going to focus this piece on men, because it’s specifically about Newt Scamander from the Wizarding World’s Fantastic Beasts series.)

Or the protagonistic hero is frequently The Chosen One, who is “Called to the Quest” by nature of birthright or a unique ability, like Harry Potter himself, Luke Skywalker of Tatooine, Paul Atreides of Dune, Neo from the Matrix, or even pint-sized Frodo of the Shire.

[pullquote]Some men like Thor, Hercules, and King Arthur fit both the strong fighting man and Chosen One categories. It’s a very well-worn premise.[/pullquote] These heroes fit the archetype most clearly defined by Joseph Campbell’s Journey of the Hero.

The third most common kind of male hero is a leader by nature of being the smartest, most talented guy in any room, like Captain Picard, Dumbledore, Gandalf, or Dr. Strange.

There’s also a fourth common heroic category: the lovable rogue with a heart of gold. Mal from Firefly, Han Solo of Star Wars, and Starlord from the Marvel Universe nestle right in there.  Iron Man may be more smartass than badass, but he fits the mold, along with being super smart like Dr. Strange (and to wit, in his words: genius, billionaire, philanthropist.)

I freely love these heroes, these ‘accepted’ stereotypes. I grew up adoring them and never thought much about it before.

[pullquote position=”right”]So what about the humble, good-natured, perhaps shy man, exhibiting gentleness and compassion?[/pullquote] His skill sets usually don’t include fighting; he isn’t of noble birth, and is actually not interested in the big events of the world except as they effect his personal goals: in Newt’s case, communing with and conserving the endangered magical creatures of the world first, and secondly, to find his girlfriend and help her (she is the one actually interested in fighting Grindelwald).  I’m not sure he even believes in evil at all: he says he doesn’t choose sides, and twice ignores Dumbledore’s behest to take the safe house card in Paris.

[pullquote]I think an attempt was made in Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald to have Dumbledore retcon Newt into being a sort of Chosen One[/pullquote], in the mold of Frodo Baggins (“You’re a man with no lust for power, so you’re the only one who can do this…blah blah bah” I was pleased to see Newt still wanted none of it).

This video below by Pop Culture Detective came highly recommended to me by several RunPee fans, most of them, happily, from men. And it’s AWESOME.

If you read the comments, it’s clear there’s room out there for exactly this kind of protagonist among the male gender. I applaud every bit of it. I’ve loved Newt Scamander as a new kind of protagonist as soon as I realized his social awkwardness likely stemmed from a bit of Asperger’s Syndrome: he approaches people (save his very, very few friends) in the same way one would a dangerous animal, in a submissive posture with almost no eye contact. And yet he comes alive most when he’s loving on the fantastic beasts in both the magical suitcase and his wonderful zoo-like apartment. Freddy Redmayne is astounding as Newt. The video below shows a few clips that can’t not make you go Awwwwwww.

I hope Newt isn’t marginalized as the series plows on. We have three more films of which he is the intended main character. But from his unusual nature, even JK Rowling worries he might be pushed aside for more typical male heroes to assume the center spot.

Do you believe we have room in the world of epic genre entertainment for a gentle, quiet, and unassuming male figure to remain in the center of political intrigue, wizardly power plays and world-dominating plots? Do you like Newt at all? Please use the comments section below.

 

Movie Rewatch Review – The Birdcage

the birdcage with gene hackman, robin williams and nathan lane.
I’m still giggling. Some of this movie is just not cool today, but the basic madcap humor and earnest message is a win.

When The Birdcage opened as a feature film in 1997, I don’t remember people being quite so terrified of gay men…so it surprised me, 21 years later, to see such fear in the hearts of the young straight couple to admit the groom-to-be had two fathers. Or, as this movie made clear, one male father, and one male mother.

I’m guessing the producers chose to make the young lady’s parents so super conservative to even be close to being okay with this premise — even to making Callista Flockhart’s character’s father an uber republican senator, basing his platform almost entirely on a Moral “Something-Or-Other” Coalition.

I can’t imagine this movie being produced today. The son made his doting, supportive parents pretend to be something society deemed acceptable, deceive his fiance’s parents, bring on a “fake” (sort of–it’s complicated) cis female mother, and REDECORATE THEIR ENTIRE HOUSE to appear heteronormative. It felt so completely unfair and inappropriate that I had to sit back, reminding myself the original version of the story came out even earlier, in a time when “the gays” was a legitimate source of humor. (Gene Hackman’s senator is an equal-opportunity xenophobe: he also says “a Black.”)

As per the Wikipedia, The Birdcage was previously known on Broadway as La Cage aux Folles (written in 1973): “The original 1983 Broadway production received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The success of the musical spawned a West End production and several international runs. The 2004 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and the 2008 London revival garnered the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. The 2010 Broadway revival was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. La Cage aux Folles is the first musical which has won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice and the show that has won a Best Production Tony Award (Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical) for each of its Broadway productions. The show has had five nominations for Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical from the three Broadway productions, twice for Georges and three times for Albin, and won twice, both for Albin.”

Not too shabby. I’d love to see it on stage, myself.

Anyway. [pullquote]I’ve decided not to judge an old story on new norms. [/pullquote]So be it: in this film’s universe, it’s a screaming hoot to present a wildly feminine fellow as a manly men’s man. Yes, I’m being sardonic, but if we go with the old and acceptable trope of mixed identities and madcap humor, this really is a super fun film. It made me a little sad to see Robin Williams here, knowing now how his genius stemmed from intense depression, but he was note-perfect as the long-suffering father who stands by his man when it counted. Nathan Lane, as William’s effeminate mate, was at turns amusing and heart-breaking, but always fantastic. And [pullquote position=”right”]Hank Azaria (as their houseboy) was a non-stop delight, and not because he was gay, but from being such a wonderful weirdo in all incarnations. [/pullquote](I want an entire movie based on the life and times of Agador Spartacus. )

Hank Azaria in the birdcage
Oh Hank Spartacus, you rock my world!

Everyone committed to their parts with genuine glee and abandon. It was a real pleasure and treat to rewatch this film, so many years later, in spite of the genuine frustration of intransigent attitudes that hopefully don’t persist today.

[pullquote]I give this a super high grade only because the film made me laugh harder than I have in many (many!) years[/pullquote], from seeing everyone scrambling to hide phallic statues and bowls with Greek boys playing “leapfrog” around the rim, serving shrimp soup with no shrimp (and uncracked eggs floating around) as the only dish, and the joyous end with Hackman’s senator finally accepting the inevitable and the ridiculous. I’m still  smiling two days later.

I don’t want to write any more for this review, for two reasons: it’s immensely funny and shouldn’t be spoiled, and because I’m kind of uncomfortable making a lot of comments on using Gay Panic as a source of humor. If you have any suggestions how to handle both loving and being disturbed by the themes of a  movie, please leave them in the comments below. 

Movie Grade: A+ (For being legitimately enjoyable when taken on its intended merits: showcasing great acting, playful humor, and showing that society should never make one feel ashamed of themselves. )