Oh my gizzle, I'm breathless. Ever since The Incredibles, I've been greatful to the heavens that John Lasseter invited Brad Bird to come in and tell his own story his own way. He is able to, like the rest of the Pixar people, let the story be the star of the story. But his stories are just a little deeper, and told just a little more subtly, but with all the more impact. You may find yourself being moved as you watch this movie for the first time, yet not knowing, or being able to articulate anyway, why exactly.
The critics are abuzz about it, as am I. I predict that, like The Incredibles, it will not be the blockbuster that other Pixar films have been. With The Incredibles, they had to market it as SOMEthing, so it was clear from watching the previews that it was going to be a hilarious send up of superheroes. Well, it wasn't. It wasn't at all. I remember seeing for the first time in a Corona, CA theater and knowing I liked it a great deal but wondering just what kind of movie I just watched. It was that different from what anyone expected in a Pixar film (aside from the people who had seen "The Iron Giant" and knew it was the same guy). Well this time, they made a point it would seem to not sell the film as any particular kind of film in the previews. I'd seen all the previews numerous times and still didn't know just what to expect.
The opening short was gut-bustingly funny, an outrageous concept with brilliant physical comedy execution.
The film was visually stunning, and somehow upped the CGI ante once again. There may be more studios than ever putting out animated features faster and cheaper than ever -- but Pixar holds the title for at least another year
The story was told with little-to-no cliches. And I must be getting old because even the cliche jokes ("I don't mean to be rude. . . . but I'm French. . . ") made me laugh out loud. The message of the story was anything but obvious, so when it hits you, you get to feel like you solved a mystery. As Peter O'Tooles character lays it all out, all the pieces come together and . . . well, I didn't cry. Nope. You know me. I'm a rock, dammit :).
I applaud Peter O'Toole for not only voicing the character brilliantly but having a full-on comeback at the age of 174. I applaud Janeanne Garafaolo for -- for the first time I'm aware of -- playing a character without a hint of Janeanne Garafaolo in it. Or for making me believe it, anyway.
Max's reaction? "I dont' get it". This from a kid who, while emotionally immature in some ways, is nothing if not eloquent about his emotions. His heart is on his sleeve and he "gets" things on the gut level very easily. Sad that it won't be the boxoffice smash that Nemo or even Cars were, but I look forward to watching it -- as I have The Incredibles -- several hundred times on DVD. I'm sure I'll appreciate it more an more every time. I SURE hope Brad Bird gets to make a 3rd Pixar film. . .
Paging LDS Vegas Ben
Will Lds Vegas Ben please report to the nearest white courtesy phone.
My e-mails are bouncing, get in touch homeslice!
The Summer of 1981
I remember the summer between 5th & 6th grade. Grant Tsuji and I spent our days, from 10 to 3, at a daycare/camp thing called -- you'll never believe this -- "Ten to Three". It was held at the Elementary School we attended. Every week we took a bus to at least two different amusement-type places, which, knowing the cost of those things now, makes me think surely the program was subsidised on account of our Po' Kids School status.
-My treasured Mizuno baseball glove was stolen by the meanest, baddest bully in 10-3. His name was Mamdough (pronounced Mam-doo). It stayed stolen.
-I was bullied by a skinny guy from my baseball team named Bobby, until Grant (literally half my size) used some Karate throat-clench move from his extensive training on him. He tought it to me and I later used it during middle school, self-defense, against a Vietnamese kid on a basketball court
-Every bus ride we listened to someone's tape player, playing Double Dutch Bus. Over, and over again. Everyone on the bus knew every word, sometimes we'd sing along like zealous concertgoers.
-Grant and I used the keys to the apartment buildings we had (for our paper routes) to sneak in and play pool on their community pool tables.
-We were kicked out by a manager one time after he caught Grant standing on the table, air-guitar'ing his pool cue and singing "Betty Davis Eyes"
-Strangely, I don't remember any females from that summer. Perhaps hormones didn't rule my entire childhood as has been previously argued. Though my first school dance was that Spring, and Tammy Box & I danced to what seemed like an endless succession of Hall & Oates songs. I'm sure there were other songs, but every sound I remember from that dance came from good ole Darryl & John. Where are they now?
-I rode my bike (red Sekai 2000 10-speed) around the dark streets, wee hours of the morning, on my paper route, singing "Jessies Girl" and Smoky Robinson's "Being with You".
Today I'm reminiscing because of Max, who is the same age. Mostly, his maturity-spurts completely wig me out. But lately he's developed an interest in music, we spent a lot of time last Sunday putting music from my CD collection on his iPod. He'd go through my collection, pick out things that interested him, and I'd put a few representative (& appropriate) songs on his iPod. He personally requested more Stevie Wonder & Earth Wind & Fire. I glowed :). So this week he's been listening, and we listen together while we drive in White Bread Fred. As AK prepared our lunch salads today, Max and I serenaded her with a verse & chorus from EW&F's "September".
Then I glowed again. I often share my enthusiasms with him, but this may be the first time he's instigated it himself. He's reeeeally growing inside & out this summer. And as frustrating as my midlife career situation is, as much as I think I'm supposed to be beginning my "2nd half" or in the middle of a Vision Quest to rediscover the me that will lead me through the next phase of my life (since the old me is SO the old me. Remember Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven with a pompadour & awful NY accent? "This is not the old me, this is new me!") . . . . anyway (sometimes you just have to give up on a sentence that's grown too big for it's place in your story. It's like this sentence just grew up & moved out of the house, eager to strike out on it's own in the world outside my blog. I think I need to get over the loss & move on with life. . . ).
As much as I DON'T know where I'm supposed to be right now, I am infinitely grateful that I am here right now. I mean, I'm totally here. Even if I'm up to my ears in paint & work, I'm right here where we can listen to music, run errands together, and I am available to him. Does he need me right now? No. But I think he needs to know I'm available, that he need not fear, that he's not alone.
He's coming up on the awful trauma that is Middle School. And his neeto-bandito charter school is likely to provide a buffer to some extent. That in addition to his own leisurely maturity progress might make High School his Middle School. I don't know how available I'll actually be at that time, so I'm glad I'm setting a precedent right now. If he's in the habit of having me here, he'll more easily trust me to be here when he does need me. I hope.
Say do you remember? Dancing in September? Never was a cloudy day. . . . .
EZ-Up And Over The Roof
Our EZ-Up is not the cheap kind. It's the super heavy duty deluxe model that you really don't ever want to have to carry anywhere, but are happy you bought when there's real weather and all of the other RC racers/MX racers/sports parents' EZ-Ups are blowing away in the wind. Its lived a long, rich life. It's been to countless MX and RC tracks, off-road riding areas and kids sporting events. It was our porch canopy for more than a month at the end of last Summer. Heck, now that I think about it, I do believe we've had it for over 7 years! But like I said, it's substantial. It's substantial enough that I call it the Relatively EZ-Up instead of the EZ-Up, because erecting it IS EZ'er than, say, building a shelter from brick & mortar. But it certainly doesn't go up with the EZ of some that I've seen recently.
For all of these reasons, we were shocked and a little mystified when we got home from a BBQ at a friends' house Friday night to see its white spindly self wadded up on the front lawn (it had been erected on the porch when we left) like a crumpled pretzel. No, it looked more like a huge albino daddy longlegs after an epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest. See, a storm rolled in while we were BBQ'ing. Apparently quite a doozy. At the BBQ we relaxed, watched the trees rock in the wind, and welcomed the coolness after a 90 degree afternoon. But here at the homefront that pleasant breeze had lifted our heavy-yet-admitedly-kite-shaped EZ-Up. . . well. . . UP over the roof of our house and onto the front lawn. I don't know what I'm more sad about; the fact that I missed watching/hearing it's journey over the house or the fact that my good old EZ-Up's days may be finally coming to a close.
Max and I went to see "Surfs Up" as part of my birthday gift to him yesterday. I don't know if it's a good movie or not, time will tell, but I sure giggled my ass off :). There was even at least one extended guffaw! When you watch the movie (and you should) look for the scene where Big Z is trying to teach Cody how to carve a surfboard. That scene IS me trying to teach Max, oh, anything. Lots of heart, and a Dad who's just as O.C.D. as the boy is impatient. God I'm giggling just thinking about it! Really, go see it, I want to know if I find it so funny because IT'S FUNNY or if it's because it just happens to be exactly like me trying to parent. Other reasons I loved seeing this movie:
-Zooey Deschanel and Jeff Bridges, two of my favorites and not the usual animated feature voices, play leads.
-Either they actually recorded the voice talent TOGETHER, or they did a phenomenal job of making it sound like they did. When you watch as much animation as I do, you notice how often the scripting sounds like, well, it's scripted. Lines are delivered one after the other with little of the spontaneity or natural'ness of, say, a Robert Altman film. In this one, there is banter between the characters, specifically Bridges and Shia Leboef, that feeels natural. As though it were of-the-moment or group improvised.
-Original setting idea: it's filmed almost entirely as a Reality Sports documentary show.
-Poop jokes. I'm sorry, but poop is funny. Say it. "Poop". Heh heh. That was cool.
Gramma Gaye got Max some much-needed gear for his birthday, all in his favorite color: orange. An effort to quickly take a photo to send Gramma turned into a dress-up parade, and that evolved into a dance party. Imagine the following with "Jump and Move" from the Happy Feet soundtrack playing. . . .
And while I'm sniffing around in my photo folders, here are two from Ben and Milo's "graduation" ceremony at preschool. Before the "ceremony" they had their usual preschool routines, what with kids doing their jobs and checking them off of lists and announcing what day it was and singing songs about how they are happy and together clap your hands etc etc. . . . Of particular interest to me were 2 things. One was Milo demanding with typical Milothian Authoritatious authority that ALL SINGING MUST CEASE AT ONCE because he hadn't yet peered out the window and reported on the weather for everyone. That was his job, see.
The other thing I noticed was the speed and enthusiasm with which my little joined-at-the-hip partners in crime PARTED WAYS when it was time to sit on the rug for, um, Rug Sitting Circle Group Together Time or whatever it was called. The boys zeroed in on "O" and "K" -- if not the prettiest girls in the class, certainly the girly'est girls in the class -- with great accuracy. I thought it was cute. It was either cute or borderline disruptuve when both boys engaged O and K with such singular focus as to exclude of the rest of the class, Mrs. Teacherface, and the oft-shouted-at-them requests to shut up & pay attention. Nope, darn near got them in trouble, that did. Here is Ben glowing at O. . .
Note that while Ben's attention is anywhere but where it should be, at least he is facing the proper direction like the rest of the class. Milo is not troubled by our feeble, uncreative reality with it's "teachers" and it's "other students". . .
*heh heh* I am SO sitting with K right now.
Today we went to church. That was good. I wrangled the Bishop into pinning down my future role in Scouting, and we decided that I will be the 11-Year-Old Scout Guy. I don't know if there is a title for it, but I'll be guiding Max and a few of his peers, starting late this summer, through Tenderfoot, 2nd Class Scout and First Class Scout status. We discussed my staying with the younger Webelos while Max moves forward. But for the time being Max still thinks I'm cool and still thinks I'm funny and thinks it's just cooler than cool that his Dad is his Scout Leader. Bishop is also a father of a 10-11 year old boy, and we agreed that I should appreciate this while I can, so I'll stay with Max and be the Wee Beginning Boy Scout Guy instead of the Senior Veteran Cub Scout Guy. We also discussed my own personal scout experience, which was limited to a few months in a well-intentioned but ultimately doomed Cub Scout pack organized and run almost exclusively by single mothers. We agreed that he'll sign me up for some Scout Leader training this summer :).
Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.
Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.
Max is smart and handsome, with a big heart. He is not only growing like a weed, but he has the attention span and concentration abilities of a weed. Despite my best efforts, AK keeps feeding him and he keeps growing. Our plan is to keep him so busy with school, sports & the arts that he won't notice he's a teenager and is supposed to hate us. T minus 2.5 years to teen launch, so far so good.
Ben and Milo are phenomenal little creatures who remind us minute-by-minute not only how little control we have in this world, but why we should cease our controlling efforts and just laugh at all of God's jokes. Lately, Milo likes to dance and is good on the piano. Ben likes to mimic Max and enjoys manipulating adults and anyone else who has no idea how quietly brilliant he is. Both of them would love your full and complete attention. Really, stop reading silly blogs and join the fan club now. Ok? Ok.