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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Little Mermaid

Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin...

#329: The Little Mermaid.  I saw this movie five times in the theatre when it first came out.  I sang “Part of Your World” at my eighth grade talent show.  I love this movie.  It was Disney’s return to greatness, and paved the way for Beauty and the Beast

The Players:

Ariel: Voiced by Jodi Benson.  Ariel is pretty much a spoiled mer-brat, who is obsessed with humans and falls in love with one.  OK, she’s got a good heart and isn’t really too bad, but let’s be real.  She’s a little bit of a brat.

Eric: Voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes.  Eric isn’t too bright.  But he’s cute, and falls in love with Ariel (or, rather, her voice) after she saves him from drowning.  But really, he can’t put two and two together?  Oh, well, he’s cute and owns a castle.  That’s all you need, right?

Sebastian: Voiced by Samuel E. Wright.  Sebastian is a crab, and he is King Triton’s right hand man.  He is also the Mer-Kingdom’s official music director.  He usually tries to be the voice of reason, but no one really listens to him.

Flounder: Voiced by Jason Marin.  Flounder is Ariel’s best friend.  He’s kind of a whiner, but he means well most of the time.

Scuttle: Voiced by Buddy Hackett.  Scuttle is Ariel’s link to the surface world.  He can tell her about all of the things she finds in the ocean from the surface, but he’s usually wrong. 

King Triton: Voiced by Kenneth Mars.  King Triton is the ruler of the sea, and a very frustrated father.  He loves his daughter, and wants nothing more than to protect her, but has a hard time keeping her safe.  Like most fathers.

Ursula: Voiced by Pat Carroll.  Ursula is the sea witch, and the villain.  She’s part squid, and fabulous.  She was banished from the Kingdom, and wants control over the sea.  So she uses Ariel as leverage. 

So, I am assuming you’ve seen this or at least heard of it, and since I had to work insane amounts of hours the past two days, I am in no mood for a full-on rundown.  Ariel is obsessed with the human world, saves Prince Eric from a shipwreck, makes a deal with Ursula to become human (in exchange for her voice), gets Eric to fall in love with her, Ursula deceives Eric and almost marries him, big battle at sea, Eric kills Ursula, King Triton learns to let go of his daughter, and Ariel and Eric live happily ever after.

So, why do I love this?  I remember getting beyond excited for this before it came out – Ariel was unlike any Disney Princess I’d seen before (I think it was the red hair), Eric was a fine Prince, and the music sounded great.  I was in fifth/sixth grade, so everyone thought I was totally lame for being excited about this movie, but I was raised on old musicals and Disney movies, so this was right up my alley.  It was the beginning of the Renaissance Period for Disney, the first animated feature to feel like a Broadway musical, and a major reason for that is it was the first collaboration between Allen & Menkin and Disney. 

The music for this is fantastic.  There is not one bad song here, from the opener “Fathoms Below” to the recurring “Part of Your World”, even the little “throw-away” song “Les Poisson” is delightful.  The score also feels magical and fits with the under water theme perfectly.  Now, if you listen close to “Part of Your World” and “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, you will find a lot of similarities, but really who cares?  They are both fantastic songs.  “Under the Sea” won the Oscar for Best Original Song that year, and it was well-deserved.  It is fun, it describes the beauty and excitement of sea life, and the visuals to go with it are stunning.

This whole movie is beautiful to look at, especially the under water stuff.  Ever since I was a little kid, I have been obsessed with the ocean, and marine life.  At one point I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and study whales.  I attribute the water obsession in part to my parents, who are from Rhode Island, and especially my dad who is also water-obsessed, and the fact that I am a Cancer, which is a water sign.  At any rate, I fell in love with the under water Kingdom, and wondered why Ariel couldn’t just ask her father to make Eric a merman so they could live together under the sea, because Sebastian was right- life is just better under the sea.

I also have to give serious credit to the animators.  Animating scenes under water is a major challenge, since there is constant movement.  Utilizing a the time new computer technology combined with the artistry and skill of the animators, they were able to create a believable under water world.  Hats off to you guys!

Ursula is a delightful villain, although not nearly as badass as Maleficent, but she’s still sufficiently creepy. 

The only downside to this movie, I think, is Ariel’s depth.  She is kind of one-note, but then again, so are most of the Princesses.  We didn’t really see a lot of character development until Beauty and the Beast.  So, it’s par for the course.  Although, I have to give a mad shout-out to Jodi Benson.  I adore her in everything she does, and she really nailed everything about Ariel.  She made her more sympathetic, because she really could have been a true brat if not voiced just right.

If you haven’t seen this, what is wrong with you?!  If you have, check it out again.  It’s amazing!

That’s a Wrap!  Up Next: get out your dancing shoes! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sleeping Beauty

Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin…

#330: Sleeping Beauty (1959).  Oh, hey, it’s my birthday!  WOOOO!  So, I am writing about my favourite Disney movie of all time (Beauty and the Beast is a very close 2nd).  So, let’s get to it!

The Players:

Princess Aurora: Voiced by Mary Costa.  Aurora (also known as Briar Rose when she is being hidden by the three fairies) has a little more personality than most Disney Princesses from this era, but not much.  She is fairly spirited and whatnot, but mostly is just pleasant and dreams about finding true love.


Prince Phillip: Voiced by Bill Shirley.  Prince Phillip has loads of personality.  In fact, he’s the first Disney Prince to not only have an actual name, but a personality at all.  He’s funny, strong-willed, romantic… *sigh*.  He’s also drawn very nicely.  I would like to make him real. 

The Three Fairies: Flora, Fauna and Merryweather: Voiced by Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen and Barbara Luddy, respectively.  They are the guardians of Princess Aurora.  They give her the gift of beauty and song, and… sleep?  Trust me, it makes sense.  Flora and Merryweather fight like woah, and Fauna is just in her own little world.  Love.

Maleficent: Voiced by Eleanor Audley.  Maleficent is the villain, and what a villain she is.  She’s elegant, well-spoken, and scary as hell.  Plus?  She turns into a fucking dragon at the end.  We never know what her motivation is, and we don’t care, because she is awesome.

The Rundown:

Seriously, y’all, if you don’t know what Sleeping Beauty is about… yeesh. 

OK, so we start with the celebration of the much-anticipated birth of King Stephan and the Queen’s (Leah?) daughter, Aurora.  The three fairies show up to bestow gifts upon her: Flora gives her the gift of beauty, Fauna the gift of song, and Merryweather…. gets interrupted by the entrance of one pissed off Maleficent. 

Turns out Maleficent wasn’t invited to the shindig.  So, she curses Aurora with the prophecy that before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.  That’s a bit harsh for not being invited to a birth celebration.  There’s probably more to it, but it’s never explained.  Again, we don’t really care because Maleficent is crazy awesome.

After she curses the Princess, she peaces out in true villain fashion, leaving the King and Queen quite distraught.  They ask the fairies if there’s anything they can do, but their magic isn’t strong enough to counteract Maleficent’s.  But they can make an adjustment.  Merryweather still have one gift left.  She changes the curse so that instead of death, she will fall into a deep sleep until true love’s kiss awakens her. 

King Stephan wastes no time in having all of the spinning wheels in the kingdom burned, but even that isn’t enough.  The fairies deliberate, and decide the best thing to do is to take baby Aurora and hide her in a cottage in the woods until her sixteenth birthday.  They sneak her out in the dead of night.

Cut to sixteen years later.  Maleficent is still searching for Aurora, but her minions have been looking for a baby for sixteen years.  Stupid minions.  Maleficent decides to send her raven to do the job.

Meanwhile, Briar Rose has grown up to be a beautiful young woman, with a beautiful voice.  When those fairies give gifts, they don’t mess around!  She is all pleasant and dreamy as she wonders if she will ever meet a man. 

The fairies, disguised as peasant women, are planning a surprise party for Briar Rose, so they send her out to pick berries.  While she’s gone, Flora decides that she’s going to make a dress, Fauna will make a cake, and Merryweather will be the dress dummy.  And they have to do it all without magic.  This should be good…

Prince Phillip is out for a ride in the woods and hears Aurora singing to herself.  He in enchanted by her voice, and sets out to find her.  He gets knocked off of his hose, Samson.  His interactions with his horse are pretty funny.

So, Aurora is singing “Once Upon a Dream” to the forest animals (of course she is) and Prince Phillip winds up cutting in.  They fall in love on sight, but she’s not allowed to talk to strangers or reveal any information about herself, so she runs off. 

Meanwhile, the fairies are not doing so well with their non-magical birthday prep.  The cake is a disaster, and the dress… well… Yeah.

Fed up with this nonsense, Merryweather gets the wands and they go to work.  Flora gets to the dress, Fauna makes the cake, and this time Merryweather is on clean up duty.  Poor Merryweather.  She always gets the short end of the stick…

All’s well, until Merryweather and Flora fight over the color of the dress.  Their magic colour streams shoot up through the chimney and are spotted by the raven.  Uh-oh…

Aurora arrives home, and is told that she’s a Princess, betrothed to a Prince (who is actually Prince Phillip, but she doesn’t know that, and they don’t know that she met him).  She doesn’t take the news well, and goes to cry in her room.  Typical teenager.

Prince Phillip goes to his father and tells him all about the beautiful peasant girl he’s fallen in love with, but the King is none to happy about that.  He goes to Aurora’s father and they wind up having it out over stupid Kingdom negotiations stuff, but the scene is great, and they wind up being cool and all.

Back to the actual story… Aurora is taken to the castle, but Phillip shows up to the cottage after they left to be kidnapped by Maleficent. 

The fairies sneak Aurora into the castle just before sunset so they can get her ready to be presented.  She’s all moody teenager on them, so they leave her alone for a minute.  Stupid fairies!  It’s not sunset yet! 

Maleficent lures Aurora to some tower in the castle and she pricks the spindle.  Ah, the best-laid plans.  As the sun sets, the fairies find Aurora in a deep sleep.  They put her in her bed, and decide to put the entire Kingdom to sleep.  Makes sense.

Maleficent decides to pay Prince Phillip a little visit.  She tells him that she is going to keep him there for a hundred years before she lets him go awaken Aurora with his kiss.  Seriously, woman.  I don’t understand your motive here.  But again, it really doesn’t matter, because you are awesome.

The fairies show up to help Prince Phillip break out of the castle, and what follows is the best climax Disney has ever done.  The fairies turn the raven to stone, help him escape, Maleficent raises thorns around King Stephan’s castle, and when he breaks through those, she transforms into this:

Just before the transformation, she says “Now you shall deal with me, oh Prince!  And all the powers of Hell!”  I had a story book of this when I was a kid, and they changed the line from “powers to Hell” to “Powers of evil”.  Totally not as effective.

The Prince slays the dragon, kisses the girl, and they all live happily ever after.

So, why do I love this movie so much?  It was the last of the great fairy tales until The Little Mermaid, and it took them almost ten years to get it from idea to screen.  It is such a unique and special movie. 

The art direction is amazing.  It is based on classical artists.  The only film that comes close stylistically is Pocahontas.  The colours are vibrant, the characters drawn perfectly.  Aurora is stunning, but believable as a sixteen year old, Prince Phillip not only has a personality, but he is gorgeous.  The fairies all have their own unique looks to go with their personalities, as well as colours – Flora is red/pink, Fauna is green, and Merryweather is blue.

The music.  Of course.  The music is almost entirely taken from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet, albeit rearranged.  Some is taken from other classical pieces, and anything original to the film fits right in.  It is beautiful, and used well here. 

Maleficent.  Best villain ever.  Eleanor Audley also voiced the evil stepmother from Cinderella, and is Madame Leona on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride.  She is terrific.  Her motives aren’t really stated, and her revenge does seem to be a bit much for not being invited to a party, but she is just so amazing, it doesn’t matter.  Also?  FREAKING DRAGON.

This movie is a reminder that animated does not have to be silly.  It does not have to be directed strictly to children.  It is an art form, and can appeal to people of all ages.  This movie captivated me as a child, and there is only a small amount of slapsticky humor when the fairies are trying to make Aurora’s party without magic.  It is a smart, beautiful film. 

That’s a wrap!  Tomorrow: another Princess…

Friday, June 22, 2012


Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin…

#331: Chaplin (1992).  This is a biopic, and really, I don’t want to give you a history lesson here, so this will be a slightly different style of posting.  Let’s get down to it:

The Players:

Charlie Chaplin: Played by Robert Downey, Jr. He’s Charlie Fucking Chaplin.  *Sigh* ok, I get that some of you are all “who?”, since there were a couple of teenagers I work with who didn’t know who Judy Garland was, so quickly: Charlie Chaplin was a silent movie star who pretty much invented slapstick style comedy and political satire in film.  He was also extremely complex, had issues galore, and was a bit of a man-whore. 

Hetty Kelly/Oona O’Neill: Played by Moira Kelly.  Hetty Kelly was Charlie’s first love, and an inspiration for many of his leading ladies.  In the film, she is nicely bookended with Oona, who was Charlie’s final wife (he had a few) and had her played by the same actress.  Well done.

Hannah Chaplin: Played by Geraldine Chaplin.  Yes, Charlie Chaplin’s mother was played by his daughter.  Awesome.  Hannah was batshit crazy, and Charlie spent the better part of his life trying to help her, even though he didn't know how to deal with her most of the time.

Sydney Chaplin: Played by Paul Rhys.  Sydney is Charlie’s half brother, is  half Jewish (which explains the support Charlie had for the Jews and why he was so against the Nazis before most Americans realized Hitler was truly evil) and is his manager/business partner.  He is a grounding presence throughout the film.

Douglas Fairbanks: Played by Kevin Klein.  Again, a lot of you are probably all “who?!” so, ok… Fairbanks was the biggest action star of early Hollywood.  He was married to America’s sweetheart Mary Pickford, and along with Chaplin and a couple of others helped to form United Artists.  I am not explaining anymore.  Google it or something… anyway, Fairbanks was Chaplin’s best friend, and had a profound influence on him.


George Hayden: Played by Anthony Hopkins.  He is a completely fictional character.  He’s the editor working with Chaplin on his autobiography, so he’s probably not so much fiction as an amalgam of various editors he worked with.  He is the person to whom Charlie is telling his story throughout the film, so he’s kind of important.

There are a bunch of other people (Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Thomei, and others) who pop up as important people to Chaplin and to the film industry as well.  Including all his wives. 

So, this is a really well-done movie.  There are theatrical/fictional elements to it, but then again the same could be said for Chaplin’s life.  Even the main book it is based on, My Autobiography by Chaplin himself has been proven to contain a lot of exaggerated truths and outright fiction.  So, it works.  Because no matter how much of an expert on the man anyone claims to be, no one, not even his closest friends and lovers, really knew who the hell Chaplin was. 

The best thing truly about this movie is Robert Downey, Jr.  So many comedic actors were considered for the role, but thankfully the powers that be realized that this was not a movie about being funny, it was looking at the man behind the tramp.  The opening scene is of a grown Chaplin washing away his famous Little Tramp makeup, revealing the man underneath it, stating that this movie is not about his hilarious on-screen persona, but the complex man behind him. 

Now, obviously Downey can handle the comedy as witnessed here:

But he truly excels at playing him as a real person, and the cinematic innovator he was.  Chaplin understood so much about his persona, that he pushed his brother to find a different way to use sound without the Tramp talking.  Great scene:

Chaplin was a workhorse, and it was what killed his otherwise solid relationship with third wife Paulette Goddard.  Again, portrayed brilliantly by Downey.  He was totally robbed of an Oscar that year, but then again he was up against Pacino, was in the middle of his drug-addict years, and apparently pissed off the Academy with some choice words that year. 

There are a few little moments that he does so well, one of them being when he first falls in love with movies.  He wanders into a little tent in Butte, Montana, which is where the Vaudeville show he works for was playing.  There’s a silly little slapstick comedy playing, and he stops and looks at the projector with wonder.  Then he sits down, and it cuts to him being the only one there, asking the projeciotnist to play the movies over and over.  I know that feeling.  And it is played very understated and with joy by Downey here. 

This is a well-done biopic.  It’s long, but you hardly notice it, as it goes along at a pretty good pace.  All of the performances are great, and it really makes you appreciate all of the hard work and effort that Chaplin put into his movies.  He really did set a lot of Hollywood standards, and even some of his work today holds up beautifully.  Seriously, there is so much on YouTube, you really need to check it out!

It is beautifully shot, and the score is stunning.  Truly.  John Barry did an outstanding job here. 

This is a nice little history lesson, but don’t believe everything you see, especially about Chaplin’s personal life.  But it is a wonderful glimpse into early Hollywood, so if that interests you, check it out!

 And as an added treat, I give you Robert Downey, jr. singing that famous song written by Chaplin, "Smile":

That’s a Wrap!  Tomorrow: It’s my birthday!  So, a little Disney is in order!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Happy June!  Since it is my birth month, I am being self-indulgent and writing about all of my favourite movies.  For some of the more well-known movies out there, I will be mostly reflecting on the why it is one of my favourites, as opposed to the usual format of a plot rundown and a wee little bit of reflection.  Not all of my favourite movies are classics – some fall into the guilty pleasure category – but whatever.  It’s my birthday month, deal with it.  OK, disclaimer out of the way, let us begin…

#332: Parenthood (1989).  When I first started this blog, I started with the Ron Howard movie The Paper, stating that Ron Howard really does his best with ensemble, character driven stories.  This is no exception, and in fact may be the best example of this.  I love this movie, and am psyched to be writing about it for this, but damn there are a lot of people and a lot going on here.  So, let’s get started, shall we?

The Players:

Gil Buckman: Played by Steve Martin.  He’s sort of the main character.  He has a wonderful wife, a gaggle of kids (one of whom is a neurotic mess) and is always twitching around, hoping that his life will just get easier for him.

Karen Buckman: Played by the lovely Mary Steenburgen.  Karen is married to Gil, and is the heart of the film.  She is the seemingly perfect mom, but she has her bad days, too.  She just keeps on pushing through them with grace and poise.

Helen Buckman: Played by Dianne Wiest.  Helen is Gil’s sister.  She’s a single mom having to deal with a surly teenage daughter, a monosyllabic son, and a less than desirable son in law.  She is stressed to the hilt, but loves her children a lot, and it shows.

Julie Buckman: Played by Martha Plimpton.  Julie is Helen’s surly teenager.  She has a lot of angst, and is “deeply in looooove” with her boyfriend, so much so that they get married.  She eventually starts to come around a little, but can be very overbearing and doesn’t handle the stress as well as her mom.

Garry Buckman-Lampkin: Played by Juaquin Phoenex (at the time, he went by Leaf).  At first, he just kind of lurks around, has a padlock on his bedroom door, and an ever-present brown paper bag with him.  Is he into drugs?  Turns out no, but he also just really needs a man around the house.  He misses his dad.

Tod Higgins: Played by Keanu Reeves.  Tod is, at first glance, Ted from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  But there is more to him than that, and actually Keanu plays him very nice and subtle at times.  He is married to Julie, and manages to make her mom like him by the end.  He also becomes a good male role model for Garry.

Nathan Huffner: Played by Rick Moranis.  Yeah, him again.  Nathan is one of those assholes that were mostly prominent in the ‘80s and ‘90s – obsessed with intellect, pushing his preschool daughter to be a mini-Mensa.  Yeah, that kind.  He’s Gil’s brother in law, and passes judgment every where he goes, even with his wife sometimes.  He redeems himself in the end, but throughout he’s just a big meanie.  And as stated before, Rick Moranis being an asshole is always a rare treat!

Susan Huffner: Played by Harley Jane Kozac.  Susan is Gil’s sister, and Nathan’s wife.  She goes along with all of Nathan’s crazy, but is starting to get more and more frustrated.  She’s a tough cookie, and a smart one, too.  She also has a fun side to her, and is a pretty decent human being.  Harley really sells it beautifully, and is a real treat to watch. 

Larry Buckman: Played by Tom Hulce.  Larry is the baby of the Buckman family.  He’s all about making it big quickly, and always gets a pass from his dad.  He shows up with a son named Cool, the product of a one-night fling with a showgirl in Vegas.  His dad tries to teach him a few important life lessons, but poor Larry never learns.

Frank Buckman: Played by Jason Robards.  He is the Patriarch of the Buckman clan, and he’s an old-school tough guy.  Jason Robards is just so freaking brilliant, I can’t even…  Anyway, he’s tough on all of his kids (except for Larry) and interferes the most with Gil and his parenting skills.  He means well, he loves his family, but he realizes by the end that he never did Larry any favors by cutting him yards of slack, and that maybe he should lighten up a little with Gil.

Marilyn Buckman: Played by Eileen Ryan.  A pretty thankless role, here.  She’s married to Frank, and pretty much just looks after Cool and keeps pretty quiet.  But there is some affection between her and Frank – just not a whole heck of a lot.

Grandma: Played by Helen Shaw.  Grandma is the slightly crazy old lady I think we all want to become.  She gets moved around from family to family (remember when families actually gave a shit about their elders and didn’t just toss them in a sub-par nursing home?) and along the way gives out little bits of wisdom, the most famous of which is the roller coaster scene, which I will share later.  Most people kind of write her off as a loon, but they also really love her.  She’s awesome.

Wow.  OK.  Ummm… time for a stretch, because this is gonna be a doozy. 

I have been trying to keep up with this movie, but it moves pretty fast, and there is so much going on.  So, here is a slightly condensed rundown:

The movie’s main focus is on Gil and Karen’s family.  Their oldest, Kevin, has some issues.  He’s neurotic and high-stressed.  Wonder where he gets it from?  Gil is so obsessed with having happy, confident, well-adjusted kids that he feels like a major failure as a parent because he passed all his crazy genes down to one kid.  The other kids are pretty normal, even the youngest (who is adorable) who likes to butt things with his head and put random stuff in his mouth.  You say weird, I say normal 4 year old. 

Karen puts up with a lot, and keeps her cool most of the time.  Mary Steenburgen just knocks it out of the park with this performance.  She exudes warmth and love and light, and is just beautiful and radiant.  Anyway, she just wants her family to be happy and together, and likes being a stay at home mom.  A rare thing these days, and refreshing, to be honest.  She has a lot on her plate throughout, what with her crazed husband and son.  She finds out towards the end that she is pregnant again, and wants to keep the baby, despite the insanity of their family already.  Gil isn’t so sure, but finally decides to enjoy the ride on the roller coaster of life.  His family is not perfect, but they are a lovable chaos.

Over at the casa de dysfunction, we have Helen and her family.  There’s Garry, who just walks through scenes with his brown paper bag, Julie who is kind of a bitch, but then again she’s 17, so ok, and Tod, Julie’s boyfriend-turned-husband.  Poor Helen has a jerk of an ex who won’t spend any time with the kids, leaving her to do all the heavy lifting.  She has no life of her own, and works hard to keep the peace.  When Garry goes crazy and vandalizes his dad’s office after being shut down again for more time with him, Helen breaks into his room, and finds the paper bag.  Convinced her son is on drugs, she opens the bag to reveal a bunch of video tapes.  Sighing with relief, she picks one up, and when the tape falls out, she discovers that her son is not a drug addict, but rather a porn addict.  Or, ya know, a normal teenage boy.  Ah, the days before the internet, when boys had to sneak porn in the house…

So, Helen realizes that Garry needs someone to talk to about sex, and asks if Tod will do it.  Afterwards, Tod speaks open and honestly with Helen about Garry, saying that he is “one messed up little dude”.  See, he got his first boner, and freaked, and didn’t know how to handle it, and was masturbating a whole lot, and thought there was something wrong with him.  Tod: “I said, that’s what little dudes do”.  Preach it, Tod!  We also learn a little about Tod’s background: abusive father, etc.  But he just keeps on being Tod, and for that we love him.  As does Helen.  

Tod and Julie fight constantly, mostly because Tod drag races and really, there’s enough brain damage going on there, why add potential for more?  I side with Julie here.  Oh, and Helen is dating Garry’s biology teacher, and Julie is pregnant.  Three-ringed circus over here! 

At the Mensa Mansion, we have Nathan and Susan.  Nathan is trying to mold his daughter into being the perfect little brainiac.  He is an intellectual snob.  Susan goes along with all of his bullshit, but slowly is getting frustrated.  When she tells him they can afford to go on vacation in Mexico, he balks at sending Patti to Gil’s house (because obviously Gil is an idiot, as are his children) and suggests they bring her along!  Susan tells him she thought it would be nice if it was just the two of them (someone wants her sexytime!) and instead of jumping all over that, Nathan says it’ll be ok – they’ll get two rooms!  Susan: “Which one will I be in?”  Valid question, Susan, valid question.  She retaliates by digging into her closet and pulling out a shoebox of junkfood.  You go, girl.

Later, we discover that Susan has been poking holes in her diaphragm.  She wants more kids, but Nathan says there needs to be “five years between sibs”.  Ha!  She freaks out on him about it, and they fight.  Harley Jane Kozac looks gorgeous in this scene, by the way.  She’s wearing this dark blue satin and lace thing that is tasteful yet sexy as hell.  Damn, Nathan, get on that!

Fed up, eventually Susan leaves Nathan.  Woo-hoo!  Oh, but then he goes and does this:

I love Susan's reactions and little comments throughout.  Also, I love how all the guys are like "WTF?!" and the girls get all dreamy over it.  

We also see him being all cute and playful with Patti at the end, so he gets a nice little redemptive storyline. 

And then there’s the storyline I always tend to forget about: Frank and Larry.  Basically, Larry is a little shit, Frank realizes the error of his ways, and agrees to take Cool while Larry runs away to South America for some stupid deal that will most likely get him killed.  Frank finally understands that the macho bullshit he forces on his family may not have been the best route to go. 

At the end of the movie, we are treated to Grandma (who is now at Gil and Karen’s) who gives a wonderful little speech about roller coasters as a metaphor for life:

Can I also just reiterate how radiant and in the moment Mary Steenburgen is here?  She is such an underrated actress!  This scene also is a good sample of life over at Gil and Karen’s house.  Dude, you need to lighten up!

So, we end with every generation and family member at the hospital as babies are born.  It is a very touching end scene. 

Wow.  That was the condensed version. 

So, why do I love this movie?  I’m not a parent, and there isn’t really a character I identify with here.  But, there are some I aspire to be like (a combo of Helen and Karen is kinda who I want to be) and some I know I would avoid (Nathan – I hate people like him!).  But it is compelling and heartwarming and frustrating and hilarious and heartbreaking throughout.  The movie is a rollercoaster, and a satisfying one at that.  Ron did a wonderful job here, and really needs to make another movie like this.  Is it any wonder that he returned to the material twice to adapt it for TV.  The first attempt bombed, the second one is going into its third season this fall.  It all comes down to family dynamics, and that is what is universal about this.  We may not have exactly the same as this family, but we all have some kind of weird dynamic in our families. 

The cast is a dream team of brilliant actors.  I mean, holy crap, you’ve got Jason Robards, Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Tom Hulce (fresh off of Amadeus, no less!).  And I really do have to give a shout-out to my man Rick Moranis for not being afraid to be the asshole here.  He does it brilliantly, and it is probably my favourite of all his roles.  Steve Martin is so great as a dad here, it amazes me that he has never had any kids of his own!  He really is a tremendously talented actor.  Please stop with the Pink Panther bullshit, Steve, and go back to dramedy stuff.  A Simple Twist of Fate was glorious, this was brilliant!  You are an amazing actor!

Harley Jane Kozac is also worth mentioning here, as she is also a very underrated actress.  She also has books out, and they are hilarious, and you should all read them.  

I adore this movie, I love the TV show… Ron Howard, you are so great at this stuff, can you please make more like this?  Pretty please?

And that’s a wrap for today!  Tomorrow: some Hollywood History for y’all!