July 4th, 2006

Film Challenge

Cars

by John Lasseter

I enjoyed this film a lot – something I wasn’t expecting to do. It did take a while for me to get into it – I found at least the first third of the film to be pretty dull (admittedly, car races do nothing for me, so the entire opening sequence left me thinking, “Oh PLEASE don’t make me sit through another hour of this”). But then it picked up and got interesting (I think the tractor tipping was the turning point for me – that was SO FUNNY)! I will also say that this film features one of my all-time favourite Disney movie endings. Seriously. I found this a very satisfying ending, so much more so than usual, but obviously I can’t go into detail without spoiling it for those who haven’t yet seen it.

I do agree with others who’ve said it’s maybe not the best kid’s movie ever. My son enjoyed it, but he wasn’t raving over it, and he got wiggly by the end, which tells me he’d lost interest somewhere along the way. It was definitely worth seeing, though. Based on the way I felt walking out of the cinema, I’ll rate it 8/10.

Disney

#55 - Mickey and the Beanstalk

by Walt Disney

This is an old Disney book which we’ve read dozens of times over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever counted it before, so here goes. It casts Mickey in the role of Jack in an otherwise standard version of this fairy tale. and is one of my son’s favourite bedtime books, because we have so much fun doing silly character voices, and adding additional dialogue and text to the story when we read it, ending up with a rather subversive, and non-traditional telling of the Jack and the Beanstalk story. Things like, “And then Mickey, that verminous little thief, stole the giant’s bag of gold, even though the giant had never done ANYTHING bad to Mickey,” and “Mickey threw down the bag of gold, where it bashed Donald Duck in the head. Fortunately, he wasn’t harmed, since he doesn’t have a brain,” and “Then Mickey MURDERED the giant by chopping down the beanstalk,” and “The three friends lived happily ever after, until the bad karma of Mickey’s evil actions caught up with them, and they were all reincarnated as slugs.” Stuff like that. Oh, and I usually do the giant’s dialogue in my best Dame Edna voice.

It’s a hoot to read it this way, and I feel like I’m giving my son a bit of a moral lesson, too. While we may go a bit overboard in villifying poor Mickey, really, this IS a messed up story. Mickey/Jack basically breaks and enters into this giant’s castle, steals his stuff, and then murders him so he doesn’t get in trouble. No provocation – and we can assume that the harp, at least, was happy where she was, or she wouldn’t have called out to the giant when she was being kidnapped, right? LOL! So, we have a lot of fun with this book, even though, as books go, it’s not particularly inspired. It’s also not a good bedtime book, since we always end up laughing hysterically over something or other, which isn’t particularly condusive to getting my son to sleep soon afterwards. All things considered, though, 8/10 for sustained entertainment value.

Our Mother

An Inconvenient Truth

by Davis Guggenheim

Go. See. This. Film.

Seriously. If you haven’t yet seen it, please please PLEASE make the effort to do so. Skip “Superman,” or “DaVinci Code” or whatever blockbuster you were planning to see, and see this instead. Even if you dislike Al Gore, or disagree with his politics, you owe it to yourself, your children, your world to go and see it. Yesterday, I took my seven-year-old son to see it, and as far as I’m concerned, this is probably the single most important film ever made, because it just might make the difference in whether or not the human race as we know it will survive. And if you’re shaking your head now and thinking I’m being overly dramatic, go and see the film and see if you still think that way afterward.

Because I was a skeptic. Oh sure, there is some global warming happening – that’s obvious – but I’d never seen anything to suggest it went beyond normal, cyclical fluctuations in temperature. After all, we know our planet has gone in and out of ice ages, etc. And we’ve only kept temperature data for a relatively short period of time. So how were we to know this wasn’t just a normal thing? Nothing to be upset about, in any case. Plus, isn’t the world just too BIG for our ant-like little activities to have any effect?

After seeing this film I have completely changed my mind. We might not have been keeping data for long, but the earth herself has, and Gore presents geological data that shows very clearly that the warming that is happening now is way, way, WAY beyond anything that is part of the normal cycles of our planet. WAY beyond.

Global warming is real. It’s caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and we are directly causing it with our activities. And because of this, global weather patterns are changing, causing devastating storms, drought, disease, and promising even more destruction in the future. To give just one example (the one I found most terrifying) – if polar ice continues to melt at accellerated rates, our planet’s sea level will rise. And a rise of 20 feet (which would happen if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica were to melt – does it sound unlikely? Yeah, I thought so too – only it’s already started happening). If the sea level were to rise by just this much – say goodbye to most of Florida, large parts of San Francisco and Manhattan, an area of India where 60 million people now live. And that’s just to name a few of the places that would be affected. I won’t spend more time on details, because I am urging you to go out and do your own research.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we already have the knowledge and technology to halt, even to reverse, this problem. It means changing our society’s relationship to fossil fuels (in particular), and there are some powerful and vocal forces in our society who don’t want to do this (mostly because some of them are making a lot of money from the current system). We CAN overcome this short-sighted attitude, though. It’s do-able, if we all pull ourselves out of denial and into action. So go see this film. And, if you’re like me, you might be pleasantly surprised at just how engaging and funny this man can be. Not only did this film open my eyes, but I really enjoyed watching it. As did my son.

I am proud that I took my son to see this, and that together, he and I can find ways that we can make a difference. I think that’s going to be our “project” this summer. Reducing our family’s impact on the carbon emissions which cause global warming. I challenge each and every one of you to do the same. Start by going to see this film. We really can make a difference. And the alternative is simply too horrible to contemplate.

Books

#56 - Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons

by Lorna Landvik

I enjoyed this book. The title sounded like chick-lit to me, and I thought it would be a light, comic read, but it’s not. It’s not a downer, either, but definitely more “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” than “Bridget Jones.” It’s a saga spanning several decades of the lives of five women who form a book club, and the story of their friendship, and their lives. These women are the same generation as my own mother, so parts of the book (especially “The Seventies”) was interesting to me in the ways it reminded me of my own childhood – the cultural things and world events that were happening. On the whole, I found it very “real” – an interesting mix of characters and the challenges they face – infidelity and divorce, domestic abuse, the Vietnam war. And the central “thread” of the story deals with the woman who believed her own childhood was so loathsome that she created an entire fantasy past for herself. It wasn’t amazingly good or profoundly moving, but it was interesting and kept me reading until the end. 7/10

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