Oo-de-Lally: 10 Favorite Disney Films (animated)

Robin Hood and Little John walkin’ through the forest

Robin Hood

So no one else likes this one apparently? 52% on Rotten Tomatoes? Well, it’s still my favorite, as proven by watching it recently on Netflix with immeasurable glee.

Further, I swore I saw Robin Hood — and a slew of other Disney classics — in theaters as a kid, even though many of them were originally released decades earlier. Sure enough, a quick Google search reveals that Disney did indeed re-release several animated movies in the eighties to keep interest up in the new releases and avoid that pesky VHS fad. This was before they invented that stupid vault.

The marketing move seems to have had a big influence on my list, so read on with a grain of nostalgia.

 

The Little John – Baloo similarities are not lost on me.

 Jungle Book

Easily the best soundtrack of all of the Disney animated films, IMO, featuring Louis Prima and Phil Harris. Also my mum’s favorite, and one of the few animated films able to make vultures work as characters.

 

Fantasia Live at Boston Symphony Hall…

Fantasia

Another controversial pick – the critically acclaimed/panned Walt Disney passion project, a compilation of shorts set to classical scores.

I love all of the films, but what I think many people don’t love is that some sections feature dancing Hippos, while others include dying brontosauri and creepy nuns. I was a weird kid so it all sat fine with me. I understand from some friends, however, that they were emotionally scarred by Fantasia long before it was the name of an American Idol winner.

…it was a whale of a show. Shut up.

Fantasia 2000

The sequel was received a little better, and is a little less uneven. Great to watch in tandem with the original – American Rhapsody and what seems to be colloquially known as ‘the whale one’ are highlights.

 

WFRR was the first time Looney Tunes and Disney characters appeared on screen together.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Why is this – and, for that matter, Song of the South – on the animated films list and Bedknobs & Broomsticks is not? Does it have to do with sheer time of animation on screen? Regardless it’s annoying. But WFRR is still a great movie with a lot of innovation for its time, and enough animated character cameos (Betty Boop, Bugs Bunny, assorted dwarves) to keep me happy, and save its spot on the list.

 

An example of the early entourage

Sleeping Beauty

I like the little fairies.

 

I had the Oliver Christmas ornament from McDonalds foreverrrr.

Oliver & Company

Billy Joel as a dog! And you know who else voices characters in this one? Robert Loggia. Bette Midler. Richard Mulligan. I bet they recorded their parts in a smoky steakhouse with red vinyl booths in West Hollywood.

 

To infinity – and aisle seven!!

Toy Story

I was working part-time at KayBee Toys when this movie came out and we all reserved our VHS copies (by now, delivered in puffy plastic binder-sized cases instead of cardboard sleeves) right off the truck. We loved Woody and Buzz until Christmastime, when the sought after toys came out, and every parent on the planet turned into a psychopath. That might be one reason why Toy Story 2 isn’t on this list.

A Bug’s Life: the niche actor insect flick

A Bug’s Life

I remember this being released around the same time as Dreamworks’ Antz, and everyone was all, A Bug’s Life is lame! Antz is where it’s at!

But I always liked this one more. It has the geeks line-up of voice talent: Kids in the Hall‘s Dave Foley, Madeline Kahn, Denis Leary, and a pre-American Beauty Kevin Spacey, while Antz was a weird powerhouse showcase including Woody Allen, Anne Bancroft, Sharon Stone, and Sylvester Stallone. Huh?

A Bug’s Life also includes a ‘blooper reel’ at the credits that I fully appreciate.

 

Finding photos labeled for reuse is often hilarious.

 The Lion King

I feel like The Lion King just sort of has to be on the list. I mean, it was great; I saw it in the theater as an adult. It’s pure animated camp to me now, but at one time, most of us were caught up in the circle of life. Not as much as Julie Taymor though.

Bonus Question: What Disney-movie toys and books do you remember from your youth?

 

 

Geek Salad Tossed Me Another Blog Prompt

In the pursuit of drafting Top Ten Lists — or Top Five, Top 15, Top 132, whatevs — there’s a lot of self-discovery to be made.

It always starts the same… someone, for some reason, asks you to list your favorite albums, movies, books, or sock brands, then slaps a finite number on it. You start out confidently enough, but then the list either hits a brick wall or boards a runaway train, and getting to your assigned ‘number’ becomes panic-inducing.

Such was the case this week as I tried to list my Top 15 movies, as challenged by the folks over at the Geek Salad Radio podcast.

A few film titles flew into my head right away, only to be followed by a litany of questions, starting with What constitutes a favorite movie? Is it one I’ve seen several times? Do nostalgic picks count? What if I love it ironically, a la The Poseidon Adventure? Should I open the non-fictional Pandora’s Box that is my love of the documentary genre? Is it really one of my favorite movies, or do I just think it is supposed to be…My Own Private Idaho comes to mind?

I decided to list all the films with a special place in my heart that I could think of, and whittle down from there, which has its pluses and minuses as list-making tactics go. I still feel like I have completely forgotten about a few that I honestly do love, while at the same time, knew a few I did remember weren’t going to make the final cut in the end. I listed them anyway — it felt like The Bachelor of Top Movie Lists. So here we go … these 15 films get my rose.

John_Cusack_Headshot.jpg

    1. Say Anything… Still my favorite, from age 15 on. What can I say — I’m a bit of a romantic and a sucker for witty banter. That’s what writer/director Cameron Crowe does best, and his work appears on my grand list more than once. Fun fact: I actually referenced Lloyd Dobler in my high school yearbook as my perfect man.5548609273_13e2508e5f_b.jpg
    2. Dazed and Confused There’s a strong nostalgia factor here, but I also just plain love the movie. We started discussing the possibility of outdoor movies on our lawn recently, and decided this had to be the premier showing without a doubt. Even if there are ruffians about.Casablanca,_title.JPG
    3. Casablanca Despite my admission that I’m a little hopeless in the romance department, I don’t actually see Casablanca as a true romance. It’s more of a war film, a political comedy, and even a buddy flick. My favorite scene is the bar spontaneously singing the French National anthem … chills. c104c046ed96e1acf9023aa61745515d.jpg
    4. Closer In my opinion, one of the best written films of recent memory, though not the most uplifting. Excellent ensemble cast, great twists, plenty of character study. Hearing Clive Owen’s pronunciation of the word ‘Lobster’ is a particular high point.
    5. A Fish Called Wanda A fantabulous comedy and another great ensemble cast — although Kevin Kline is my hands-down favorite character. We all know that guy … the dumb guy who thinks he’s smart. Accountant or assassin, they’re all the same.
    6. The Princess Bride As I write this list out, I’m noticing the ensemble cast thread, here … you? This is easily one of the most quotable films of all time (HELLO), but its place in history as one of the best Hero’s Journey movies ever can’t be overlooked.
    7. 28 Days Later I’m a huge horror movie fan, and this one makes my overall favorites list because it sticks to its story so damn tightly it’s nerve-wracking to watch, even  during the fourth or fifth showing. There’s also an alternate ending available that’s just as good as the theatrical release, making it truly a movie you can watch for the first time twice.
    8. Beetlejuice I don’t think I can ever get sick of this movie … I haven’t yet, and it was released when I was 11. It’s still one of the best soundtracks in my collection (Belafonte-heavy) and I always see something on the Other Side that I hadn’t noticed before.
    9. Office Space This is a movie that falls under the ‘I’ve seen it 500 times’ category. I even attended an Office Space-themed party once and won an Initech mug, and years later went to a Halloween party dressed as Joanna at work, complete with pieces of flair. It’s required viewing for anyone with a crappy job, which is pretty much everyone.across_the_universe_strawberry_by_mewax42-d5hivcy
    10. Across the Universe Behold – the musical of the list! This is a Julie Taymor film – a sixties musical starring a bunch of unknowns and two-hours of Beatles tunes. As I recall, the reviews were mixed, but I like the bright, psychedelic look of the movie, its soundtrack, and its fun smattering of cameos — keep an eye out for the guy playing Timothy Leary. You might be surprised.
    11. Four Weddings and a Funeral Poignant and funny, I only waivered on this choice once, in college: my favorite professor deemed it insipid and terrible, and I died a little inside – knowing I’d never become his protege or muse. But a few days later, I decided ‘no, it’s a great flick, and suck it Professor Crawford.’maxresdefault
    12. Pretty in Pink It can be tough to choose just one John Hughes movie, and it’s not that I had to, but I spent an inordinate amount of time weighing Pretty in Pink against other Hughes films; particularly The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The bottom line though is this is the movie I watch on rainy days. It’s the soundtrack I recreated myself because the retail version lacks a lot of the good stuff, and I still want to dress like Andi (and sometimes do).
    13. Trainspotting Choose Life. And choose the fucking sequel, coming soon from Danny Boyle.539615302_5a9d2d9886_z.jpg
    14. The Big Lebowski I think attending Lebowskifest as a journalist puts this on my Top 15 list by proxy. But I can also appreciate the natural, zesty enterprise that is The Dude.
    15. O Brother, Where Art Thou? Great film, great soundtrack, great adaptation of what is one of my favorite books/poems/stories (The Odyssey). Again with that ensemble cast-hero-journey-musically-inclined-movie thing…I think I may have found my niche.

And the Runners-up…

Waiting For Guffmann

Best in Show

High Fidelity
Romancing the Stone
The Never-ending Story
Star Wars: Episode 7
The Fifth Element
Little Women (1938)
Robin Hood (Disney)
Fantasia
Dead Man Walking
Elizabeth
Saw
Parenthood
Memento
Jaws
Seven
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Fargo
The Wizard of Oz
The Birdcage
The Full Monty
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Little Miss Sunshine
Love Actually
Napoleon Dynamite
Young Frankenstein
Clerks
Mommie Dearest
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle
Spaceballs
Shaun of the Dead
Anchorman
Brain Candy
The Exorcist
The Sixth Sense
The Last of the Mohicans
Dear Zachary
MST3K
The World According to Garp
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Bowling for Columbine
Super Size Me
Dirty Dancing
My Life
White Christmas
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Ref
Born into Brothels
The Poseidon Adventure
Sixteen Candles

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McScary: The Art of the Horror Franchise

Speaking as a writer, horror film franchises are great in one particular respect, because they give writers and directors a lot of room to develop a story.

Granted, not all of them take that opportunity, but some do. And even when they don’t, it’s fun to track the evolution of the antagonist, be it an old-school Michael Myers or a new-age Toby.

It can even be fun to pick apart the inevitable plot holes that arise when a movie franchise reaches, say, its tenth installment… just don’t get me started on Halloween III.

My favorite franchises are those I can sink my teeth into (sorry) in terms of an ongoing, intriguing plot line or, conversely, sheer, marathon will-to-live. That is to say I can appreciate the many bloody nuances of Saw as much as I can the longevity of Jason Voorhees. Even after dissolving in an sub-city acid bath, he persisted for 11 movies plus a remake.

What I don’t count among my favorite franchises are blockbusters with a string of crummy sequels after them, a la The Exorcist or Psycho. There’s got to be a little bit of effort – or at least some cache – attached to any sequels.

That said, here are my top four:

https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1366/4734089894_7a9ff28768_b.jpg1. Saw – Yes, they’re disgusting and gory, but the plot actually connects seamlessly from film to film — at its best in the first three films, but the cross-overs are still there when we arrive at Saw 3D (the seventh installment). John Kramer, aka Jigsaw, actually had human emotions and reasons for his lunacy, and that’s not often seen in horror films. Fun bonus – Cary Elwes returning six films in, because oh yeah – he didn’t die in Saw I!

2. Paranormal Activity – People complain that the these movies are too similar from film to film, but I argue that it’s just this particular franchise’s schtick, and they all need one. Who would Freddy be without his knife-fingered glove? Just some dude in a bad sweater and a fedora, that’s who. Paranormal Activity takes something very timely — our obsession as a culture to document everything we do — and turns it into a horror series that’s been successful four times over now, with a fifth movie in the works. Plus, this is a series that has mastered the ‘one big jump…’ that moment when the entire theater loses its collective shiz due to a great effect or moment in a movie. There’s been at least one in every PA to date, and that’s something.

3. Final Destination – I think the creator of Final Destination, Jeffrey Reddick, stumbled onto gold when he came up with the idea for this series. The ways to die are, gruesomely, endless, and as such so could be this franchise. Dang if it ain’t creative, too. Decapitation by elevator? Gross. Final Destination has been running its course for five films now, the fourth inexplicably called ‘The Final Destination‘ before returning to plain old ‘Final Destination V.’ Honestly, you guys.

4. Halloween – Yes, I complain about Halloween III — what happened there? Did the entire production crew have a stroke at once? — but it’s the franchise that started all franchises, in my opinion. Some argue Psycho or Night of the Living Dead as earlier, better contenders, but I see those more as reboots than legitimate sequels. The third Halloween installment (which, if you haven’t gathered already, deviated completely from the Michael Myers storyline) isn’t the only plot redirect in this series either, but at least the various writers and directors kept trying to get it right. And you know what? After ten Halloween movies, the latest two directed by Rob Zombie, I still don’t think anyone’s gotten it completely right. That means the playing field is still open. Have at it, masked clown-murderer fans of the world.

There are several other Top Horror Franchise lists, including this one at AMC.