Category: films

[Probably Not] Kids Movies

By , November 11, 2009 9:41 am

The Rolling Stones – The Lantern

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image The fact that the state government closes down today in honor of Veteran’s day provides me with the excuse of going out to see a movie on a school night. Last evening’s showcase was a preview screening of Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Perhaps what struck me is that this screening of a film that is both animated (in glorious old-school stop-motion fashion) and only rated “PG” was attended by no children whatsoever. It was all adults going to see this adaptation of a kid’s story. And while this film is certainly appropriate for children, particularly in terms of content and plot, this room full of adults was fully entertained and amazed at the beautiful scenery, and idiosyncratic dialogue. While most “kids movies” I can certainly tolerate for 90 minutes, this one had me (and the rest of the audience) laughing out loud.

imageIn fact, this whole event reminded me of the fact that  just a few weeks ago, another film, Spike Jonze’s new adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are was released. Again, based on a kid’s book, again merely rated PG. And again, when I went to see it, I found myself in a theatre full of adults who, aside from being dumbfounded at how 10 sentences of text could be expanded into 2 hours of film, wondered at the escape back into the world of Max and his Wild Things. And again, while certainly containing nothing inappropriate for children, this was a film that finally was able to re-tell a great story, with deep characters in a meaningful way to adults.

What’s my hope? My hope is that these two recent films are merely the beginning of a renewed movement toward retelling some classics in a non-trite, meaningful way to all of today’s audiences. Far too often, kids movies are simply escapism, but every so often, one sticks with you (even with Pixar’s last two ventures, Wall-E, and Up).

Here are a few suggestions of future filmic adaptations I’d love to see!

  • P.T. Anderson – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Martin Scorsese – The Snowy Day
  • Joel and Ethan Coen – Millions of Cats
  • Terence Malick – The Story of Ping
  • Quentin Tarantino – The Story of Ferdinand
  • Tim Burton – The Missing Piece
  • Charlie Kaufman  – Corduroy

Got more suggestions? Post them here!

“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a Deputy Superintendant of Public Instruction”

By , May 9, 2009 10:50 am

Gustav Holst: The Planets – Jupiter

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bones-2265  Work hard….play hard. That’s pretty much my modus operandi. And thank goodness, because “playing hard” got to consist of watching the Lakers win a wonderfully solid game last evening against Houston, followed by catching the new reboot of Star Trek with my roommate and some of his acting/writing buddies. Very surprised at how much I liked it, especially given the abysmal track record of the post-Shatner Star Trek film era. Especially entertaining was my new favorite character, Leonard “Bones” McCoy, who, while persistently bold and loyal, brings it all back to reality with a witty dash of cynicism.

Anyway, it was nice to relax a bit after a long week, which was especially boring as we prepare the kids to take their infamous California Standards Tests next week. The kids are tired, and ready to be done, as are many of our teachers.

On a different front, our district has managed to find itself at the center of much media this past week, for better or for worse (well,….actually it’s mostly for worse).

First, we can’t seem to fire any bad teachers. The other side of that coin is our wonderful union, who promotes the status quo in this regard by defending these bad teachers. Our union is staging a one day strike this Friday. I’ll take some photos and post them here. Furthering this dilemma, is the fact that in the midst of all this frustration, many god and qualified teachers finally opt out of the district and go work for charter schools! It seems to be working really well, or so reports The New Yorker in an article about Los Angeles charter organization, Green Dot (which my roommate currently works for). Finally, we had a front page Times article today about LAUSD’s failure to deal with not merely inept teachers, but potentially dangerous ones as well.

Wow. Gives me lots of hope…


By , April 25, 2009 4:19 pm

Peter Gabriel – Down To Earth

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image It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon, and an evening Skype appointment with a long-lost sister (well, perhaps not so long-lost) will keep me mostly at home this afternoon catching up on all the things I’ve let slip by the wayside during the past few weeks….you know, basic things like cleaning my room, doing some laundry, and perhaps even picking up with Prince Andrei, Princess Natayla, and Count Bezhukov in a currently dull “Peace” section. (The “War” sections are significantly more interesting).

This morning was fairly interesting on two accounts, both of which occurred as a result of doing something I rarely do….cover an absent colleague’s Saturday School classes. Yep. I got roped into it, but it turned out to be rather interesting on two accounts.

First, this colleague is teaching two experimental classes (no, not experimental mathematics), but rather two classes that are gender-specific. Yes, that’s right. A class of nothing but 8th grade girls, and then another class of 8th grade guys. I must admit, I was a bit wary of the assignment. Both classes went incredibly smoothly and it seemed that students in each of the two classes focused more than has been my typical experience in the relatively few Saturday school classes I’ve taught. Yes, I’m sure we’re trying this out on an experimental basis, but I’m going to be really intrigued by the results.

Second, while this was going on, a team of about 500 employees from local cable company Comcast spent the day working on beautification projects at our school consisting of several huge new murals! This is really amazing stuff and I know the kids (who weren’t here this morning) will come back Monday simply agape at the changes that have taken place on campus in just a few short days! This ought to at least buy us at least a week of no tagging.

Oh yeah…almost forgot. Why the Wall-E poster? Friday, we had our 3rd pizza-movie party for Advanced and Proficient students in the auditorium after school! I forgot how much I liked Wall-E!

Today’s Post

By , July 7, 2008 8:28 pm

j0178833Well, I can’t say there’s much at all to write about, but I figured, isn’t that the point of a blog anyway? After all, isn’t this just a way that I get to hear myself talk without actually talking?

Anyway, it’s now almost mid-July and summer is once again in full swing. The summer heat consistently keeps me out of the out-of-doors, which is unfortunate due to the utter dearth of good films out right now. The last two films I’ve seen, Wanted, and Hancock, have been alright, but nothing stunning.

Even the background iTunes song, Evan Dando’s nondescript and ponderously long-titled The Same Thing You Thought Hard About Is the Same Part I Can Live Without is droning on and on. Oh well.

Anyway, as I sign off, I realize that this is probably the most boring post I’ve ever written, but I offer no apologies, after all, that is what you risk by reading my blog.

Bonus Post

By , June 12, 2008 8:26 pm

I just got back from seeing Kung Fu Panda, which is perhaps the best kids movie I’ve seen in years. Yes, that’s right, years. Amazing animation, solid storyline, typical "Blackian" dialogue (I term which I hereby inaugurate in the same sense as the terms "Jeffersonian" or "Barthian"), and absolutely hilarious subtleties made this film one of the most enjoyable of the year!

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Favorite Films of 2007

By , December 21, 2007 6:33 pm

As the year 2007 quickly comes to a close (and since everybody else is doing this), I figured I’d give my list of favorites from this past year. This list is thoroughly unscientific and completely biased in every way imaginable. Today’s list will be my favorite 5 films that I saw this year counting down from #5 to #1.

Way back in June, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) held an event called Late Night at LACMA. The museum opened its doors free of charge and had several special exhibits including art exhibits, two live bands, and several film screenings. Several friends of mine and I went to this event, which was a great deal of fun! As part of the night, they had two film screenings, one of which was Hairspray (which I couldn’t have been less interested in) and this film, which presented in documentary form a recollection of the manned missions to the moon in the late 60s and early 70s given entirely from the perspective of the men who flew those missions.

Honestly, I was extremely surprised by this one. Nowadays, I’m not much of a fan of films marketed towards the younger crowd, and after the fiasco that was Cars, I have become pretty skeptical of the ability of Pixar to still be relevant and creative. Yet, with this release, I found myself absolutely captivated by the animation, the story, and the characters.

Early this fall, I read a book called The Road, which was a Pulitzer-Prize winner for author Cormac McCarthy. Coincidentally, No Country For Old Men was originally a book by the same author and only this year was released as a Coen brothers film. The word “dark” is not quite sufficient to give the feeling created by this film. “Bleak” is more like it.

  • #2) Juno (Jason Reitman)

Darkly funny, sarcastically biting, and all with an undercurrent of hope, Juno surprised me this year (actual, several weeks ago) as a great film that kept me laughing the whole time.

In one of the most realistic and gripping scripts I’ve seen in years, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney play siblings who must care for an elderly parent. As I watched this film, I became immediately engrossed almost forgetting that I was sitting in a movie theater. This film reminds us of certain aspects of life that many of us would rather not deal with, all the while conveying a sense of importance and meaning in even the most mundane of daily decisions that we face. Great film! Should win some awards but probably won’t.

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