PythosCheetah

PythosCheetah

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1 hour ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 0 replies · +2 points

I don't think I've seen that movie since the 90s. I really should rewatch it at some point.

4 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 1 reply · +5 points

Just in case, no Dresden Files this week. I've been spending eight hours a day helping wrangle my 4 and 2 year old nieces, and it hasn't been exactly conducive to either reading or writing.

6 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 5 replies · +2 points

I think this is the first Disney movie to be structured explicitly as a mystery, especially for the first half of the film. We see Penny throwing the bottle overboard at the very beginning, but she otherwise doesn’t appear on screen again (at least outside of flashbacks) until around the halfway mark. Before that, it’s the odd couple of Bianca and Bernard attempting to follow the clues to determine what happened to her. One Hundred and One Dalmatians had the kidnapping of the puppies, of course, but it was always pretty clear who’d taken them, and the story hinged on how Pongo and Perdita were going to find them and get them back. But here, we’re discovering everything right along with our protagonists.

While I like the idea of a Disney mystery movie in concept, this first attempt definitely had some issues. For all that it puts an emphasis on action sequences, I found it to actually be pretty slow in places. And several of the set pieces were undercut by the music, which switched to an almost slapstick mode when Penny and the mice were escaping from the boat at the end. Granted, I don’t think the image of Madame Medusa waterskiing on the backs of alligators is something that could really be taken seriously, but it’s hard to have any tension when the villains aren’t much of a threat.

That’s only the end, however. For most of the film, Madame Medusa is a cruel, amoral antagonist, who intentionally inflicts abuse on a little girl in pursuit of her diamond. She’s not as flamboyantly evil as Cruella De Vil (whom she was clearly inspired by), but she might be even more detestable as a human being. There’s a long-standing, half-confirmed rumor that animator Milt Kahl deliberately based her appearance on his ex wife. If that’s true, then…damn. I would not want to be their divorce lawyers.

Thanks to the improvement in the xerography process that I mentioned earlier, this is probably the best-looking Disney movie since the 1950s. That’s nowhere more apparent than in the sea cave sequence. This scene is one that actually is tense, with the (wonderfully animated) water rushing out of a hole in the floor creating a ticking clock for the trio to find the diamond and escape alive. It’s a sequence that I don’t think they could have pulled off a decade earlier.

This film was definitely a big step up in terms of quality for the studio. They’re not quite back up to where they were in the 50s, but I think this is probably the most I’ve enjoyed one since at least The Jungle Book, and maybe One Hundred and One Dalmatians. We’re not quite out of the woods, however. The 80s are about to hit the studio hard.

6 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 6 replies · +2 points

While Robin Hood was finishing up the B-team, lead by Don Bluth, was looking for something to work on next. They found a film that Disney had tried to develop in the early 60s, based on the Miss Bianca stories by Margery Sharp. The earlier version had been a spy movie in the James Bond mold, and it hadn’t really worked at the time. The B-team took the concept, and retooled it into a movie about Bianca and Bernard rescuing a circus polar bear, to be played by Louis Prima. However, it was put on hold when Prima was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Meanwhile, the A team had finished up Robin Hood, and were looking for their own next movie. They grabbed The Rescuers from the B team and promoted it to Disney’s next major film (several of the junior team, such as Bluth and Glen Keane, were brought in to work on the production as well). Fortunately for the movie, being promoted to the main crew also brought with it better resources and, finally, a breakthrough in animation technique. Disney had been using the xerography method for 15 years by this point, but this was the movie that they finally figured out how to get their machines to actually copy in a limited color palette, instead of just thick black.

The movie was released in June 1977, about a month after Star Wars, and it actually managed to hold its own against that behemoth in the battle for the family audience. It made about $50 million worldwide at the box office (roughly $200 million in today’s dollars), which made it Disney’s biggest success since The Jungle Book. It was also a big critical hit, with the general consensus being that it was the best thing the studio had released since Mary Poppins.

Review

We go from one of the lightest, most pleasant films in the Disney canon, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, straight to what is certainly the darkest entry that we’ve had to this point. If you actually take a hard look at the material here, it’s an atypically grim affair for the House of Mouse. The plot not only deals with child kidnapping, but full-on child slavery, as Penny is forced into working in an exceedingly dangerous situation against her will. She’s physically and emotionally abused, and would almost certainly have died without the help of a couple of mice. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume this was a Bluth film…oh, wait. He worked on it. That explains everything.

Seriously, though, Bluth’s fingerprints are all over this movie. It was his first credit as a directing animator, and everything about it, from the tone to the color used in the Devil’s Bayou backgrounds, reminds me much more of Secret of NIMH or All Dogs Go to Heaven than it does the other Disney movies of the 60s and 70s. It makes me really wonder what sort of direction Disney might have gone in if he had stayed with the company. But that’s getting a movie ahead of myself.

[Cont.]

6 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 7 replies · +2 points

The Rescuers (1977)
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery and Art Stevens

Synopsis

A little girl named Penny is seen throwing a bottle with a note in it in a river. The bottle makes its way to New York City, where the note is read by the members of the Rescue Aid Society: an international organization of mice dedicated to helping those in need, based in (and clearly modeled on) the United Nations building. The Hungarian representative, Miss Bianca, volunteers to investigate, and when the RAS leadership refuses to let her go alone she selects a lowly janitor, Bernard, as her partner/chaperone.

The two of them first investigate the orphanage that Penny had addressed the note to. They follow the clues to Madame Medusa’s pawn shop, where it becomes clear that the proprietor has kidnapped the girl. They attempt to stow away in her luggage, but fail and have to take a commercial flight (a.k.a. an actual albatross) down to somewhere in the Deep South. With the help of a dragonfly named Evinrude, they reach an abandoned riverboat in the bayou, where they find Penny and learn that she is being forced to crawl into a narrow sea cave to retrieve a priceless diamond.

The next day, Penny is sent back into the cave, and Bianca and Bernard help her to find the diamond before it floods with water. Madame Medusa and her assistant Snoops turn on each other once they have the jewel, and Bernard and Bianca (along with the animal cavalry brought by Evinrude) set off the riverboat’s fireworks cargo to create a distraction and allow Penny to escape. Back in New York, the mice watch a news broadcast that tells how the diamond ended up in the Smithsonian, and that Penny has been adopted by a loving family.

Production Notes

By the early 1970s, most of the Nine Old Men who had been running the animation department for decades were reaching retirement age. Only four of them were still working on animation by the time that Robin Hood was finished: Milt Kahl, John Lounsbery, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston (Wolfgang Reitherman was still in the department, but he’s switched from character animation to directing a decade earlier). As such, Disney needed new talent, and a B team was created as a training ground for young, up-and-coming animators. They’d get the smaller, less prestigious projects, while the elder animators would work on the big-budget stuff. They’d also help out the senior animators by doing background characters or short sequences on the main films.

[Cont].

6 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 8 replies · +3 points

Pythos Watches Disney



This week: The Rescuers [tw: child endangerment/abuse]

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 0 replies · +1 points

Chapter 6 – Enter the Leanansidhe

Summary:

Harry’s godmother Lea, in the guise of a beautiful redhead, attempts to convince Harry to honor his oath to her and come with her. Michael attempts to defend Harry, but is unable to work against an oath sworn of Harry’s own free will. Barely able to resist the pull of Lea’s compulsion, Harry allows it to carry him towards her. He then uses the last of his willpower to dump the entire bag of ghost dust on her. The depleted uranium has no effect on her – but the iron in the mixture certainly does. While Lea is writhing in pain, Harry and Michael fight off the hellhounds as they run for the portal. They barely make it through before it closes on them, and are still sitting on the floor of the nursery when the cops finally bust in.

Commentary:

Lea

We only get the briefest of introductions to Lea here, but her character is already pretty well-drawn. She is outwardly reasonable and polite, though with malice barely hidden under the surface. She seems to covet Harry, and is willing to go against a Knight of the Cross (she surely knows exactly who and what Michael is) to get him. Her description always reminds me of a classic 40s femme fatale, especially Veronica Lake (or, if you will, a really evil Jessica Rabbit, who was based on Lake).

As for the mystery of how she was able to find them that fast, given that the Nevernever is huge, that’s the first clue that Butcher gives you that the Lea is in on the whole plan. She clearly knew that he’d be there because she knew what had been done to Agatha Hagglethorn. I’ve never really figured out, though, whether or not Lea was acting on orders from Mab or on her own volition. Other than the athame, I’m not sure what she got out of all of this, since it’s obvious from the start that Harry was meant to die at the party and Lea wants him alive.

Harry’s Oath

There’s still not enough clues to really piece together Harry’s backstory yet, but we get another couple of tidbits in this chapter. We learn that Harry swore to serve Lea, an oath that he has so far reneged on, and that he did so as a minor. She also makes a crack about how the burning buildings of Agatha’s demesne should be familiar to him. We already know that Harry killed his mentor (and, he believes, his girlfriend) in a fire, so we can assume that she was either present or learned of it soon afterwards. We also learn here that his mother had some sort of oath with Lea, and that she considers him to be her property because of that, even without Harry’s own oath. It’s the first clue that we have about Harry’s mother’s relationship with the Faerie courts, a relationship that will come to be significantly more important for the development of his character in later books.

Other thoughts:

-The Leanansidhe is not a character that Butcher made up. She’s a part of Gaelic folklore, and is usually represented as a beautiful woman who inspires artists and other creative types, while simultaneously leading them to a premature death. [Star Trek DS9] N yrnanafvqur npghnyyl nccrnef va gur rcvfbqr Gur Zhfr. She’s a relative of the bean sidhe (banshee).

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 0 replies · +1 points

Chapter 5 – In which Harry and Michael bust a ghost

Summary:

Back in the present, Harry and Michael leap through the portal into the Nevernever. Agatha’s demesne appears as a turn-of-the-century Chicago street scene. They search around for her for a bit, and are about to split up when Agatha bursts her way through the wooden boards under their feet. Michael attacks first, but is batted away with ease by the ghost, who then turns on Harry. He manages to put up a barrier shield in time to stop her charge, but the shield shatters under the weight of her attack, sending Harry flying and making him see stars.

Harry and Michael regroup, but soon hear the baying of approaching hellhounds – Harry’s godmother is on her way. Together, the two manage to strike a fatal blow on the ghost, Michael with Amoracchius and Harry using his bag of ghost dust as an improvised blackjack. As she expires, they find out what had caused her to lash out: a coil of spectral barbed wire that had been wrapped around her from head to toe. As the ghost’s demesne in the Nevernever begins to collapse, they hightail it back to the rift, but are blocked from escaping by the arrival of Lea and her hellhounds.

Commentary:

After a couple of talky flashback chapters, we get a nice rousing action scene here. It firmly establishes Michael as a badass on the combat front, as he is quick to recover from getting tossed through the air and is the one who strikes the killing blow. It also reestablishes the playful ribbing and comradery that the two have.

As this is our first actual visit to the Nevernever, we get a lot of world-building packed into a small space. We learn that ghosts are solid there, that their presence influences the environment to fit them, and that things that are “extra-real” – like, say, depleted uranium – have a direct effect on the environment as well. We’re also, briefly, introduced to the Leanansidhe, who we’ll cover more in the next chapter.

Other thoughts:

“Holy shit,” I breathed. “Hellhounds.”
“Harry,” Michael said sternly. “You know I hate it when you swear.”
“You’re right. Sorry. Holy shit,” I breathed, “heckhounds.”

This exchange sums up their entire relationship in three sentences, and is definitely one of my favorites in the whole series.

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - The Black Market · 0 replies · +3 points

Here's a whole bunch of episodes from Star Trek: TNG seasons 1-3 that I was missing when I went to do my quarantine rewatch: http://markdoesstuff.fetchapp.com/get/7ad52acc

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Weekly Shenanigans · 0 replies · +1 points

Speaking of foreshadowing, Lydia’s little Foretelling here is not only a prophecy for the rest of this book, but in fact for the entire Vampire War arc. Let me go ahead and quote it here:

“Fire,” she whispered. “Wind. I see dark things and a dark war. I see my death coming for me,
out of the spirit world. And I see you at the middle of it all. You’re the beginning, the end of it. You’re the one who can make the path go different ways.”

So, ominous much? We’ve definitely had plenty of fire and wind (Harry’s two preferred types of combat spells), and dark things aplenty. The dark war could be the coming war with the vampires, or it could be a reference to the deeper shadow war that Harry et al. have been waging against Nemesis (I’ll get into the exact nature of Nemesis when we get to the end. Suffice it to say now that I don’t entirely trust Aurora’s description of it or its behavior). It’s probably both, actually, since Harry definitely stands at the beginning and end of the Vampire War, and it’s been heavily implied that his birth is tied in with whatever apocalypse is coming from the Outer Gates.

Other thoughts:

-Saint Mary of the Angels is a real hundred-year-old church on the northwest side of Chicago, patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica. Interestingly, it’s been run by Opus Dei since before Grave Peril was written. While most of their portrayal in things like The Da Vinci Code are embellishments or fabrications for the sake of drama, I find it intriguing that Butcher chose to use a church run by an organization connected to secret societies and conspiracy theories in popular culture.

-“Lydia” has to be a reference to Lydia Deetz, Winona Ryder’s character from Beetlejuice, who was the only living human that could see the ghosts. More foreshadowing that her plotline is going to be directly connected to Harry’s ghost problem.