Archive for May, 2007

May 28, 2007

Pan and Scan

My son Soren, who just turned 4 a few months back, is very deeply into pirates. We’re not sure what set him off on this avenue exactly. It’s been suggested to us that it might be the hype for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies–though Soren doesn’t watch any commercial television so that’s an unlikely source. Maybe he saw a pirate in a video he was watching and felt that “pirating” was something that he’d like to be involved in. And why not? They wear funky outfits and fight with swords and talk in a slightly hilarious language etc etc and while his interest has dimmed a bit in the past month (it’s nice enough to play outside everyday finally) he’s still pretty enthusiastic. We’ve tried to match his interest by getting a lot of pirate books (Soren loves to be read to) and his 4th birthday was a pirate themed birthday party complete with a pirate ship cake.

We’ve also rented a slew of pirate themed movies and that’s been one of the best parts for me. I’d never seen Treasure Island before and I was impressed. I knew that Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver was quite famous but after watching him stomp around and bellow through the whole thing, I realized how much of our modern stereotype of what a pirate is/does/says is based on that performance. And Bobby Driscoll is also excellent as Jim Hawkins and one of those kids that looks like he should be a child actor in Disney movies (My research found that Newton was dead in 10 years from alcoholism and Driscoll’s last performance was in Andy Warhol’s Dirt, after which he died of hepatitis brought on by heroin use.) While at ShopKo we picked up a dvd set of “23 Hours of Pirate Movies” which includes the whole season of “The Adventures of Long John Silver”, which was a low budget cash-in on Newton’s most famous role. The dvd set also has three other sequels to the Treasure Island which we haven’t yet made it through.

We also watched Treasure Planet which is a modern animated version of Treasure Island. I enjoyed it as well as it updates the plot to fit an outer space theme but keeps the characters more or less the same. We haven’t yet broken down and rented Muppet Treasure Island though I see from the listings that Tim Curry plays Long John Silver and I’ll pretty much watch anything he’s in. (I’m still waiting for the second season of the “Muppets” to come out on dvd.)

We also rented Peter Pan as it has a recurring swashbuckling theme involving Captain Hook. Much like Treasure Island I knew all about it but had never sat down and watched it. Bobby Driscoll pops up again (thanks, Disney) as Pan and while the film is quite dated (especially in their portrayal of the Indians) it rolls nicely and has that classic Disney flavor. We then rented Hook which I actually saw in the theater back when I was really into film and saw all of Spielberg’s stuff on the big screen. I was quite bored by Hook and 15 years later it still has great actors and a great premise but some of the worst scriptwriting and hammiest portrayals ever. I did notice this time that young Wendy was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow which had to have been one of her first roles. Soren enjoyed Hook nonetheless but I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck happened. For cinematic redemption, we got our hands on the 2003 live-action Peter Pan which was truly amazing. The young cast is brilliant and the special effects are excellent but do not detract from the story. I didn’t recall this version of Pan being in the theaters but then again, 2003 was the year that Soren was born and we stopped spending as much time going to movies and more watching them in our living room. We just Return to Neverland which takes the Peter Pan story and moves it forward, placing Wendy and her children in London during the WWII bombing raids. Hook shows up to kidnap Wendy’s daughter (thinking she is Wendy) and thus Peter and the Lost Boys have to come and rescue her. The plot is a good one and the animation (and voices) are careful reproductions of the original Peter Pan which makes a big difference for me. Soren had enjoyed most of what we’ve showed him and I’m getting a chance to bond with him over classic tales and participate in the cinematic life I used to spend all of my time dreaming about. I am puzzled about one thing: the story goes that Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook’s hand (and fed it to a crocodile?) and that’s why he has a Hook. But he and Peter knew each other before that happened, so my question is: what was Captain Hook called when he still had two hands?

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May 8, 2007

American Idle

I was surprised when I learned about the show called “America’s Got Talent.” Their new season is starting up and while I’m all for junk culture, I’m still smarting from hearing and reading the show’s horribly ungrammatic title. Lets take a look at “America’s Got Talent”–I presume in this case that the apostrophe is representing “has” (or, since the “s” is there, is it representing “ha” and Simon Cowell is laughing at us?) but then the title is “America Has Got Talent” which sounds really really stupid. (Or maybe the apostrophe is a possessive and this show is about how America has this talent for, um, “gotting?”) Everyone can understand what the title is really conveying so my point is kind of moot, but when did the language–and not just regionally but on a major network show–turn into such a big bowl of mush? My suggestion for a change is to make it a show about the obesity epidemic in this country and change the name to “America’s Gut Talent” which I would definitely watch with grammatic pride intact.