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Friday, June 8, 2012

Mary Poppins

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…

#345: Mary Poppins (1964).  So, this is right up there with The Wizard of Oz when it comes to “Did you spend your childhood under a rock?!” if you haven’t seen it, so I am going to go easy on the plot stuff.  Also, because I got sidetracked with fixing the internet at our house after I broke it yesterday, and just did my Princess and the Frog entry this morning, so I am a little worn out.  OK, so a refresher for y’all re: the players:

Mary Poppins: Played by Julie Andrews.  She’s the best nanny ever.  She is strict but loves her charges (even if she won’t admit it) and she is all magical.  She’s kind of weird at times, but you can’t help but adore her, and wish you’d had her as your own nanny growing up.

Bert: Played by Dick Van Dyke.  Bert is sort of the guide through all of this, as he knows Mary Poppins and has witnessed her magic before.  He’s also Mr. Odd-Jobs, starting off as a one man band in the park.  He also works as a chalk artist, a chimney sweep, and who knows what else.  He is charming, funny, and handsome.  Yeah, I said it. 

Mr. Banks: Played by David Thomlinson.  Thomlinson was featured in a few 1960s Disney live actions.  Mr. Banks is a workaholic, who works at the bank.  He is a hands-off parent, who is sick of his kids scaring off the nannys, so he decides they need someone firm to keep the kids in line.  He eventually realizes that he needs to be a little more involved, but it is a long journey for him to get there.

Mrs. Banks: Played by Glynis Johns.  She’s not much better with regards to being involved in her children.  She is a Suffragette, fighting for the rights of women to vote and be considered people and whatnot.  Awesome.  But the cause gets in the way of her parenting.

Jane and Michael: Played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber.  They, too, were in a lot of Disney flicks throughout the ‘60s.  They are kind of bratty, but not too much.  They just want some attention.  They want to play and be kids.  But when Mary Poppins shows up and expects them to clean their room, Michael especially wants none of it.  They really are sweet kids, though.

The Housekeepers: Played by Reta Shaw and Hermione Baddeley, a.k.a. the resident Disney Movie Maids.  They fight like crazy, are in charge of the kids when the nannies inevitably quit, and provide some nice comic relief. 

So, ok, the current nanny at the Banks household has quit, they are in need of a new nanny, Mary Poppins shows up, magic and brilliance ensues, Mr. Banks realizes that he should try being a parent, and all’s right with the world.  Again, if you haven’t seen this, what is wrong with you?!

So, things that I love about this movie:

The music.  I know this is something I always touch on in my posts, but I was raised in a home filled with movies and music, so I tend to notice music in movies.  Anyway, the score and songs are Sherman Brothers, and at their finest.  The Sherman Brothers wrote most of the music featured in the classic Disney films.  This is probably their best work.  A few of my faves from this movie:

The Perfect Nanny.  See, Jane and Michael really aren’t little brats, they’re just kids who need a little TLC.  It’s really sweet, and I love that Jane is kind of off-key.  It adds some realism.

Chim Chim Cheree.  This is one I grew into.  I didn’t like it much when I was a kid, but can appreciate it much better now.  It is the running theme, too, used a lot throughout the movie.

I Love to Laugh.  Ed Wynn.  You can’t beat that.!

Step in Time.  I love this because I adore Dick Van Dyke, and it is so much fun! 

Feed the Birds.  This was Walt’s favourite song ever written for one of his movies, and is it any wonder?  The Sherman Brothers outdid themselves with this song, and it still moves me to this day.  When you combine it with the visuals of the Bird Lady on the Cathedral steps… just. Wow.

Julie Andrews.  She is perfection in this role.  This came out the same year as My Fair Lady, in which she was passed over for the lead role in favor of Audrey Hepburn.  Well, she showed them when she took home the Oscar for Mary Poppins.  She truly captures the proper yet playful nature of Mary Poppins. 

Dick Van Dyke.  I adore him.  He is so great in this movie, as he guides us through the story.  He’s goofy, but makes some good points, especially in the end when he has a man to man talk with Mr. Banks about what it means to be a good father.  Ultimately, it is Bert who brings Mr. Banks around, not Mary Poppins, which is pretty cool.

The effects.  Peter Ellenshaw and Ub Iwerks threw every innovation in filmmaking they had into this movie.  It is widely considered the culmination of everything Disney wanted to achieve up to that point, and I agree.  The beautiful matte paintings are whimsical, yet realistic enough to keep you in the story.  They used animation, animatronics, had people floating on ceilings, jumping into chalk paintings, everything.  And it all was done flawlessly. 

The cinematography.  Cinematographers have a pretty thankless job.  So, I want to give a shout-out to cinematographers everywhere, because they are responsible for the overall look of a film.  This looks beautiful and fanciful, but has enough realism to make it float. 

What could be better?  Honestly.  I have no clue.  This is as damn close to perfect as you get.  Sure, some of the effects (mostly the fireworks at the end) are a little off, but mostly it works because it is a childhood fantasy story.  

Oh, and because it should be addressed: Dick Van Dyke’s, um, “accent”.  It comes and goes, and is sometimes Cockney when it’s there.  It’s ok, he knows it’s crappy, too, and in fact mocks himself on the DVD commentary, so just go with it.

So, I guess it’s a little nit-picky, but that’s all I got.  Because this movie is just that great!

Really, if you haven’t seen this movie, you need to.  It is delightful and pure fantasy, but it has some really deep stuff, too. 

That’s a wrap for today!  Tomorrow… wow, I really love me some Disney, eh?

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