Love and Paper Aeroplanes

paperman-disneyscreencaps-com-83Last week, I wrote about Valentine’s Day and how, now more than ever, we shouldn’t judge it as a simple romantic holiday but an occasion to highlight the importance of love in all its many and varied forms. In this blog, however, I’m going to focus squarely on romantic love, because that’s important too and at this time of year, it seems to come under attack from people who aren’t in a relationship. Understandable, but still a little silly in my opinion.

How am I going to explore romantic love, I hear you ask? Through the medium of Disney’s short masterpiece, Paperman. Because I haven’t mentioned it before. Like ever. No seriously.

Paperman is about a lonely nobody called George who lives and works in a vaguely 1930s-esque metropolis. One day he encounters the girl of his dreams (Meg) and resorts to using paper aeroplanes to capture her attention when they’re parted. Our hero has no luck via this route, but eventually the fates take over and literally sweep the two young lovers up for a reunion on the train platform at which they first met. Awwwwww.

It’s absolutely goddamn lovely and were it possible, I’m pretty sure I’d propose to it. You want to do the same no doubt, but I’ve already bought the ring, so BACK OFF, ok.

I honestly believe that at the centre of Paperman is the essence of romance itself. I appreciate that’s a slightly grandiose statement and if you’re feeling cynical about love at the moment, you’re probably scoffing (or vomiting) at having read it. But I don’t care. It’s true, and if I (a pathetically lonely creature who at the age of 32 has never so much as held hands with a woman, never mind kissed or been in a relationship with one) can write it, you can sure as heck read it.

What makes Paperman so glorious is the way it juxtaposes the banal and the magical. George and Meg are pretty normal people making their way through a normal day, loaded with tedious paperwork and stuffed briefcases. They get the train, they make their way to a job they’d probably rather not be at, and they likely go home at night ready to do the exact same thing the next day. Had they never met, their lives would have continued as such, just as it did the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that. These are not the Princesses and Princes we’re used to seeing in Disney romances.

Director John Kahrs’ decision to make the film black-and-white adds to this sense of everyday banality. George and Meg live their lives in monotone and with its giant skyscrapers, speeding trains and uniform office environments (all beautifully captured by Kahrs’ camerawork), their world becomes a cage they stand little chance of escaping from. Until, of course, the fates take over and the wind blows a little piece of paper (of magic, of colour, of love) into their world.

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Meg stifles a laugh, George joins in after working out the joke, and with one tiny quirk of the weather, their lives are changed. But that’s not the end of it. Had George and Meg been separated and gone through a series of similarly serendipitous events before meeting again and forming a relationship, Paperman would be an enjoyable but rather unremarkable piece of film-making no different from the multitude of other romances out there. Love is lovely, it’d say, and that’s fine, because yes, of course, it is. But it’s also difficult and painful and all about the delicate decisions we have to take to make love happen. Paperman reflects that.

George’s delicate decision revolves around his job. He’s an office drone surrounded by men who look like they’ve forgotten how to spell love, never mind feel it. George is no doubt going the same way, but now, in Meg, he’s found a spark he wants to turn into a fire. Can he though? Can he really risk his livelihood for a girl he’s never spoken to just because he’s meet-cuted with her? It’s the kind of choice we all face: the choice between the practical and the romantic, the reality and the dream, the life we need to live in order to survive and the life we want to live in order to be happy.

Of course, George chooses love (Paperman would be pretty depressing if he ignored Meg), but he has to work for it. Every aeroplane he throws to win Meg’s attention fails: falling just short, straying just wide, or hitting a pigeon just as it’s about to sail through the window to its intended target. It’s almost like he’s being tested. The world wants to see his breaking point, to see just how much he wants to turn that spark into a fire. Every plane thrown, every despairing grunt, every frustrated moan is George’s fight against the fates – and eventually the fates reward his endeavour.

In a film about the meeting of, rather than the relationship between, George and Meg, the final act is the closest we get to seeing the rush of their love. This fantastical flurry of paper is the stuff that cinematic dreams are made of and it produces some of Paperman‘s most iconic imagery: the bounce of the failed planes as they slowly creep into life, the blur of the windows as Meg follows her aeroplane through the train, the thrill of George being dragged across the road by the aeroplanes, his pursuit literally putting his life in danger. It’s intoxicating and it allows the audience to feel the excitement and fear of the love the characters are chasing, and which we hope we’ll feel ourselves.

It all leads, of course, back to the train station. The film calms, the music slows, and George and Meg are finally reunited. And yes, I know it’s predictable. And yes, I know it’s all very mushy. And yes, I know that real life doesn’t happen in such perfect little romantic and fantastical episodes.

But I don’t care.

Last year, I fell in love with someone, and she seemed to like me back. Paperman was my go-to film for the warm fuzzies during that time. After years of nothing, it maintained my hope that this might finally be the time, that she might finally be the one. It wasn’t. And she wasn’t. And now, we haven’t spoken for months. But I still think of her, and I still care about her because I adored her as a friend before anything else. She was, and I expect still is, an incredible woman and she struggled with love as much as I did. She’s happy with someone else now, and I’m delighted for her. How could I not be? Nobody deserves a flurry of paper aeroplanes like she does.

As for me, I’m still alone, but Paperman remains my go-to film for the warm fuzzies. Because after years of nothing, it maintains my hope that eventually, there might finally be the time, and there might finally be the one. That’s what makes it so special. It reflects both the love you have, if you have it, and the love you hope you have, if you don’t have it. It keeps you going in all those giant grey offices where life seems to eek out its existence in the thin spaces between pieces of piled up paper. It keeps your head up even as you kick the street in frustration, feeling like the chance is gone forever. It keeps you believing that your very own train station is out there and some day, some way, some how you’ll meet that special someone.

It gives you hope and reminds you to keep hoping.

Because sometimes your paper aeroplane flies straight and true, and sometimes it strays just wide. The latter doesn’t mean you should give up hope that the former will ever happen. It just means that you need to make more paper aeroplanes.

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Mouse House Movie Club #11: Mulan

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This is the first Mouse House Movie Club I’ve put together in a little while. I apologise for not keeping the feature going over the last few weeks, but, well, I’ve not been in the mood for cute animals and funny sidekicks of late. With everything that’s going on in the world, Disney can feel a little pointless. After all, there are no wicked witches as evil as Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump is a misogynist so vile he makes Gaston look like a chivalrous prince.

That said, while Disney’s version of the world can seem a little disconnected from reality, it’s an important escape. When terrible things happen, you must sit up and take notice, but you’ve also got to give yourself time to breathe, otherwise the sheer horror of what that gigantic orange blob is doing becomes too much to bear. So, I decided to load up a classic and write another feature. I enjoyed doing so and hope you enjoy reading it.

There was only ever one classic in mind for this edition, and that’s Mulan. There are a couple of very good reasons for this. 1) Disney’s art sellers Cyclops Print Works released a glorious and badass Mulan print this week that captures her grace and strength with wonderful simplicity. 2) A film about a brave and strong woman seems appropriate a week on from the Women’s March. 3) It’s Chinese New Year, an important time for a different culture that’s well worth acknowledging as Trump tries to stamp out anything that doesn’t fit within his minuscule world view.

Also, Mulan is good. Like, seriously good. So before deep-diving into the more social and political elements of the film, it’s worth discussing it on its filmic merits.

Mulan: Like, seriously good.
Here are four frames from Mulan. They’re taken from random and very different moments in the film, and come courtesy of the always awesome Disney Screengrabs.

Look at how different each shot is from the others. Not just in the camera angle and the way the moment is being captured, but also in terms of the colours. The rich reds, the muddy dark blues, the cold gray-whites, the muted greens. No two scenes are the same in Mulan, and that’s great for animation nerds such as myself, who revel in such detail and diversity, but also great for the film. Mulan is an epic and a classic heroes’ journey, and by giving each stage in her journey a distinct look, it feels more even grander, at times rivalling even some of the great live action epics of Hollywood history.

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This is some serious David Lean jazz going on here…

More significantly, it lends a sense of scale to Mulan’s achievement. While lesser films would resort to having characters tell us how arduous the trip is, Mulan is smart enough to show us. Thanks to the range of the colour palate, the film makes each scene seem fresh and each challenge feel genuinely new and unnerving for our hero. We all know what it’s like to feel lost or overwhelmed in environments we don’t know or can’t understand, and that’s how we feel when watching Mulan. We empathise because the film visually gives us an emotion to empathise with.

It’s why films like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, indeed most Zack Snyder films, don’t work (apologies fans of he and the film. I appreciate both have taken a huge pummelling of late, but, well, they’re terrible). If we’re seeing the same kind of visuals from scene to scene, the film has no ebb and flow, it turns into a long monotonous hum, instead of a song. Mulan is the Bohemian Rhapsody of Disney films, flinging you from one distinct style to the next and making for a heckuva journey while doing so.

Speaking of music, there’s also great joy to be found in Jerry Goldsmith’s subtle and sensitive score, which manages to feel authentically Chinese without ever descending into cliche. One of cinema’s great musical innovators, Goldsmith plays it fairly straight on Mulan and is careful to ensure that his music never overpowers the film, instead working in tandem with the visuals to heighten the epic scale and intimate emotion. Ditto the songs, almost all of which come at the start of the film. As such, it doesn’t actually feel like a musical, certainly not in the same way The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast do. As I’ve said here before, songs in Disney films are like soliloquys in Shakespeare plays: they’re moments where the characters confess their innermost thoughts to the audience.

Mulan expresses that better than any other Disney musical. It’s a Shakespearean history play, where intimate emotions are painted across an epic canvas with glorious colours and beautiful songs.

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When will my reflection show/Who I am inside?
Nowhere is this better seen than in ‘Reflection’. In a bold move, Disney went in a different direction for the film’s I Want Song. ‘Reflection’ isn’t a stirring power ballad, or empowering statement of intent. It’s a rather sad and introspective number where we see a downtrodden Mulan lamenting the fact that she can’t be her true self and can’t live up to the demands of her family or the society around her. Christina Aguilera sang the ‘pop song’ version, and while it’s pretty enough, it fails to communicate the nuance and tragedy of the film version. It’s simply not a pop song. It’s something different and remarkable.

It’s worth examining the song’s lyrics in more detail, because it (and Mulan as a whole) was well ahead of its time.

Look at me,
I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter.
Can it be,
I’m not meant to play this part?
Now I see, that if I were truly to be myself,
I would break my family’s heart.

That’s the first verse, and it speaks more clearly to modern day identity politics than many modern films that are trying to directly address those issues. I can’t speak for women or LGBTQ people, I can only try to understand their experiences through the people I have the great honour to know, but I imagine this first verse covers it pretty neatly. The struggle to be perfect, the sense of playing a role, the desperation not to hurt those you love by simply being who you are. It’s all there. The pain Mulan is communicating must be tangibly real to anyone who doesn’t fit in with society’s increasingly harsh strictures, and ‘Reflection’ communicates it beautifully, perhaps better than any other Renaissance film, which were all aiming to achieve similar commentary.

It’s why I’m excited for the live action remake of the film that’ll be hitting screens next year. Mulan feels a little lost in the Renaissance mix, lacking the iconic status of The Lion King, the romantic sweep of Beauty and the Beast, and the enduring tunes of The Little Mermaid. As it’ll be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, Disney could give it a big birthday push: a new Blu Ray, a theatrical re-release, a huge merchandise onslaught. But no matter how much they promote it, it’ll simply never garner as much attention as a live action film. Fans of the original will hang on every casting announcement and trailer, and the new generation of teenagers, with their awareness of and interest in diversity, will also be keen to know who’s starring and how the story will play out. That will no doubt lead them to watching the original and discovering what a truly wonderful film it is.

That may seem a little naive on my part, but ‘Reflection’ alone will chime with thousands of people, and as the recent protests against Trump have shown, fictional heroes have more power than we may think. If a new film means Mulan gets seen by more people, then so be it. The film’s message is significant, its main character is an avatar for everyone who can relate to her, and ‘Reflection’ is an anthem for them to get behind. May it ring out clearly and may everyone who sees themselves in it feel strong enough to join in.

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A Girl Worth Fighting For
Beyond Mulan herself, one of the most compelling things about the film is how it extends its feminism beyond the main character – and in pretty subtle ways. Beauty and the Beast communicated its feminism through Gaston as well as Belle, showing him as the enemy of everything feminism stands for. It’s very direct, very broad, and very on the nose. Nothing wrong with that of course, but Mulan tries a different approach, showing threats to feminism as something a little more subtle and insidious, something that even good guys – and worse, comic sidekicks – can inadvertently succumb to.

Tao, Ling, and Chien-Po are our sidekicks here, and great ones they are too, generating the necessary laughs and silliness to ensure things don’t become too serious. But they treat Mulan poorly at first, and even when they’ve come to accept her (albeit in her disguise as Ping) they still display signs of sexism, most notably through their song ‘A Girl Worth Fighting For’, in which they get through the trials of war by fantasising about their perfect wives. Here’s a sample of the lyrics…

I want her paler than the
moon with eyes that
shine like stars
My girl will marvel at
my strength, adore my
battle scars
I couldn’t care less what she’ll
wear or what she looks like
It all depends on what
she cooks like
Beef, pork, chicken
Mmm
Bet the local girls thought
you were quite the charmer
And I’ll bet the ladies love
a man in armor
This is wonderfully sophisticated and delicate storytelling. As I’ve said, these guys aren’t Gaston – they’re the comic sidekicks. We like them. But they’re perpetrating the same toxic viewpoints that Mulan is struggling against. That in itself is pretty sophisticated, but the context adds extra eloquence. It’s difficult to judge these characters for dreaming like this – they’re at war and they’re under incredible stress. We can forgive them a little fantasy, so the film doesn’t ask that we condemn them, and it certainly doesn’t condemn the women who do have “eyes that shine like stars” even if it frames such standards as dangerous and difficult to meet. It simply makes the point that by ascribing these roles to women, Tao, Ling, and Chien-Po are hurting women like Mulan who don’t fit into those categories, even if they don’t really mean to.

Moments like this add layers to the film’s message, but again underline just how hard Mulan has it. Not only is she fighting a vast society that refuses her the right to be who she is, she’s also fighting well-meaning friends who are sleepwalking into that self-same oppression. It’ll be a wake-up call to many men and young boys who may do the same. None of us are perfect, and Mulan has the sophistication to point that out, and instead of condemning show a way for us to better ourselves and be more understanding of the needs and struggles of others.

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Be a Man
Indeed, as well as having some vital things to say about women, Mulan also has some significant points to make about men. Mulan’s battle is as much one against patriarchy as it is against Huns, and the film sheds some light on how that damages men as well. ‘Be A Man’ is perhaps the film’s most well-known song, certainly the one that lingers in the mind the most. But it’s darker than its jaunty tune would suggest: a dehumanising number in which we’re told that Li-Shang’s recruits are “a spineless, pale, pathetic lot” who represent “the saddest bunch I ever met”.

As the song goes on, it reveals that the men of this army are subject to similar societal pressures as Mulan is. Here’s another lyrical sample:

[men] WE ARE MEN
We must be swift as a coursing river
[men] WE ARE MEN
With all the force of a great typhoon
[men] WE ARE MEN
With all the strength of a raging fire

Patriarchy (and this is what so many Men’s Rights Activists simply don’t understand) is devastating for everyone. Mulan is expected to be the perfect daughter: to be poised and graceful and elegant, and if she’s not then she’s somehow a lesser woman, a lesser human being. Men suffer in a similar way. The expectations on them may be focused on strength rather than passivity, but they’re still unrealistic and those who don’t meet them are dismissed as being spineless, pale, and pathetic.

The great victory at the end of the film is that Li-Shang, Tao, Ling, and Chien-Po break free from these pressures, just as Mulan does: Li-Shang accepting that Mulan has a great plan and taking her lead, the sidekicks dressing as women and playing their part in the scheme as distractions. Sadly, not all men have such moments of revelation and stay stuck in the patriarchal expectations imposed on them. It’s why suicide rates among young men are so high (certainly in the UK) and why a particularly toxic brand of misogyny has risen up of late. Men are told that they have to be strong and in charge: the idea of listening to women is a threat to that and therefore a threat to their very humanity. So feminism is fought against – vehemently – and they remain fixed in their destructive societal norms, dragging women along with them. It’s a tragedy; one Mulan communicates – as it does everything else – with incredible intelligence and great conscience.

Conclusion

Mulan should be required viewing at school. It’s simply that important. This has been an ineloquent piece that doesn’t cover even half of what makes the film so significant and I feel a bit uncomfortable for having dedicated a portion of a piece about an incredible woman to the film’s men. But maybe that’s why Mulan is so good. It’s a call for unity and understanding that shows how we all play parts in each other’s oppression, even if we’re not always aware of it. That sounds depressing, I know, but it also shows how simple respect and empathy means we can help each other out of that oppression.

In these dark and disturbing times, Mulan speaks clearly to who are, who we should be, and who we could be. It’s about time we started listening.

Mouse House Movie Club #11: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

the-many-adventures-of-winnie-the-pooh-posterIn 1973, Warner Brothers released a film of such unremitting horror that it caused outrage across the world. Directed by William Friedkin and adapted from his own novel by William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist depicted the possession of a 12-year-old girl by the demon Pazuzu and subsequent attempts at an exorcism by two Catholic priests. Featuring some of the most shocking sights ever seen on screen, the film was condemned by many prominent figures in society and its terrifying nature even led some to believe that the very celluloid the film was printed on was somehow possessed.

Yet, Friedkin’s masterpiece of terror pales in comparison to the soul-chilling, bone-trembling evil of Disney’s 22nd animated classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh and the Childhood Memories
The mind is a strange and confusing thing. We can endure some of the most life-altering events imaginable and forget everything but the major bullet points, but go through some of the most disposable, inconsequential things and have them stick like flies on fly paper. What’s more, while those memories may be of ostensibly happy and wonderful things, they can somehow get mashed up in our heads into being something uncanny or scary. Such is the case with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

When I was a kid, I had the film on VHS recorded off the television. As kids do, I watched it over and over and over again with my sister, alongside the likes of The Goonies and a handful of Donald Duck cartoons. This, I believe, is a critical part of a child’s development. The desire to rewatch a film is a desire to re-experience and understand emotions and, perhaps more significantly, a display of empathy for characters: by rewatching films, kids aren’t just interested in reliving the plot, but spending more time with the people in the film, even if those people are doing exactly the same thing they’ve already done before. (It’s why I passionately defend Disney’s direct-to-video sequels in the 90s. Even the weakest examples allow kids to develop stronger bonds with characters they love, but now following them through new and different adventures).

The problem with rewatching films in your youth (aside from driving your parents mad) is that they become lodged in your head in really strange ways. One of the Donald cartoons I remember watching is 1939’s Sea Scouts, in which Donald and the nephews set out to sea (obviously) and come across a shark. Donald – because he’s a dick – wear’s an admiral’s hat, denoting his clear superiority over his nephews and Poseidon himself (probably). Obviously he comes a cropper and his hat gets wet in the process. I watched the short a few months ago for the first time in years and what stuck with me isn’t the narrative or any of the jokes, but the sight of Donald’s hat, wet and deflated, as he struggles against the shark.

Perhaps as a kid I had a preternatural understanding of Freudian imagery and recognised Donald’s hat as an unmistakably phallic symbol, associating it with my own burgeoning manhood in some sort of weird moment of primal acknowledgement.

Or maybe the shark just really scared me.

Either way, that moment has stuck with me, and so too has The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Impressionable minds are there to be shaped and Pooh (much more than Trainspotting or Terminator 2: Judgement Day, both of which I was banned from watching by my parents) shaped mine.

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Winnie the Pooh and the Extreme Weather Warning
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh consists of three shorts and a brief epilogue. The first (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree) finds Pooh seeking out honey, winding up at Rabbit’s house, feeding his habit, and getting stuck in Rabbit’s door because he’s too fat to fit through it. The third (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too) brings Tigger into the mix and sees Rabbit trying to ditch his hyperactive friend before the poor sap ends up bouncing all the way up to the top of a very tall tree and struggling to get down. Both are very charming stories told with beautiful painterly animation, lovely Sherman Brothers songs, and a pleasingly silly sense of humour.

However…

In the middle of these two delightful tales is a story of Edgar Allan Poe-esque horror. Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day may sound like an easy watch, but don’t let the title fool you. In reality, it’s a horrifyingly gritty tale of lost homes, the unremitting brutality of Mother Nature, and the worst hallucination in cinematic history. (Except maybe ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’, but there’s no need to bring that into it. I can only deal with one childhood trauma at a time thanks very much.)

Blustery Day details a terrible storm in The Hundred Acre Wood. It blows over Owl’s house, leading Eeyore to hunt down a new abode for the feathered gasbag. As day turns to night the winds turn to rain, creating a torrent that floods most of the wood and Pooh’s house in particular. Piglet gets caught in the flood water, meaning Pooh needs to save him from almost certain death. Terrifying, right? And then at the end, just when you thought the horror was over, Eeyore misreads a sign at Piglet’s house, believing it to say ‘Owl’. This, therefore, must be Owl’s house, so Piglet’s turfed out and is forced to live with notorious addict Pooh in a life of almost certain honey-induced squalor and degradation.

I was a nervy kid when I was young (and remain a nervy adult now) and once got terribly upset when my Dad momentarily lost his way on a family outing. We were lost, my anxiety-riddled brain told me, and were never going to get home. As someone who’s always seen my home as my centre, the one place I could flee when times got tough, this prospect really terrified me, and that’s probably why Blustery Day gets to me so much. The idea that the weather – something no-one on Earth can protect you from – could take your home away was genuinely horrifying, and remains so to me now. Owl’s house swaying from side-to-side in the wind still puts me on the edge of my seat and when Piglet drifts through the flood water, I’m about ready to hide behind my sofa. Come on Christopher Robin, nobody needs this shit bother.

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Winnie the Pooh and the Heffalumps of Terror
But that’s not the only pulse-pounding, nerve-shredding, sweat-inducing horror that Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day delivers in its effort to warp the minds of children the world over. Oh no, no, no.

May I introduce you to Heffalumps and Woozles.

These demons of the night appear to Pooh in a dream. Tigger has just been round and warned his honey-obssessed chum of the dangers they represent. Naturally Pooh doesn’t really listen until their interest in honey is mentioned, then he gets really terrified that he’ll lose his stash and decides to go on guard duty, marching up and down his little house to make sure that none of the honey-thieving bastards appear and spirit his supply away.

Naturally, being a willy-nilly-silly old bear, Pooh falls asleep and hallucinates about Heffalumps and Woozles. A gigantic mistake, because if these fuckers actually existed and invaded Pooh’s home wearing Donald Trump masks and armed with AK-47s and a mobile phone that opens only Breitbart News they’d still be less scary than what Pooh dreams up.

Here, in full and in glorious 1080p definition, is the most terrifying thing in cinematic history…

You may think I’m being silly. That I’m somehow exaggerating for comic effect. Firstly: how dare you, this is my blog, and I don’t accept civil criticism. Secondly, let’s rundown exactly what happens in this 3 minutes 40 seconds of gruelling terror, and then see if you think I’m over-reacting.

  • The sky is without end or form. There are no clouds, there’s no horizon. It’s just an infinite haze of blues, blacks, and whites from which we will never escape.
  • The people singing sound like they’re from a Dr Seuss book, if those people happened to be the devil himself.
  • “They come in ones and twozles,” we’re told. Okay, fine. I can take one or two Heffalumps. “But if they so choozles, before your eyes you’ll see them multiply-ply-ply-ply.” What?! They can just multiply endlessly? And quite randomly too – just, if they so choozle? Just like that?! First of all, choozle is not a word. Second of all, at least there was only one Pazuzu. There’s an infinite supply of Heffalumps and Woozles.
  • “Because they guzzle up the thing you prize.” Hey, you leave my Ghostbusters House with Real Slime and Working Fireman’s Pole alone, you bastard Heffalumps!
  • These things can morph themselves into anything they so wish, changing colour, shape, and form. They can be square if they like! They could be that square. Or that sofa! Or that dustbin! They could be anywhere and anything!
  • The laughing honey pot really scares me and I don’t know why.
  • A Heffalump is disguised as a gigantic bee. A gigantic bee, everybody. A gigantic bee sent from the depths of hell itself.
  • Jack in the Boxes. They come in Jack in the Boxes as well. As if both Heffalumps and Jack in the Boxes weren’t terrifying enough already.
  • The dancing Heffalump in the tux never blinks and never looks at anything. It just stares at the camera, through the screen, and into my very soul.
  • As a kid, I thought the Heffalump that uses honey to create a harp with her trunk actually, biologically had a trunk/harp. It was body horror for children. If David Cronenberg made cartoons, this would be what he would come up with.
  • How does Pooh turn so small he can fit into the snake-charmer’s honey pot? What demon magic is this?
  • How is that Heffalump doubling up as a cannon? Why does the Woozle light his fuse? Why does he blow up?!
  • WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUCK…?freegifmaker-me_2a3yn

None of this makes sense! You may be thinking: Yes, but Paul, it doesn’t have to make sense. This is just a dream and dreams don’t make sense and, for that fact, are frequently scary. I accept that, but counter it with the fact that Tigger said Heffelumps and Woozles exist, and therefore that’s the truth. Tigger wouldn’t lie. These bastards are out there and they must be stopped. In fact, wait…

Is that one now? OH MY GOD, THERE’S ONE HERE. THERE’S A HEFFALUMP IN THE HOUSE.

SEND HEL…–=DA

DDCSDPMDSFDFFLSMDldmlemfes

f

sdlf

efewf]ewf

../././lm;/………………….

The Mouse House Movie Club will return next time. Maybe…

Goals for 2017

It’s nearly the end of 2016. Hurrah. Which means it’s nearly 2017. Hurrah…?

Sadly, I don’t know if 2017 will be better than 2016, a year of diminished confidence, high anxiety, and a little bit of heartbreak for me. But I can set out goals and try to make it better. I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions as they’re as easy to break as they are to make, so I’ll simply lay out little long-term goals I’d like to achieve by this time next year.

So here they are…

Write a short story
I’ve been longing to write fiction for a while, and have a number of ideas in my head (including a fairy tale that I really love). But every time I sit down to write something, I get discouraged. I’m worried, I suppose, that I’ll realise that I simply can’t write fiction and so the dreams I have in my head will disintegrate. But I need to give it a shot. I’ve always wanted to write something that means something to someone, something that can give people hope and warmth. The stories in my head are all about clinging to hope in dark times, and I need to get on and write them. Better to try and fail than not to try at all.

Get confident, stupid
Confidence has long been an issue for me. I’m both an introvert and shy, so even when I want to go out and mingle, I find it really hard. It’s not much fun. But I’ve made some strides in the last few months of this year – going to conventions, meeting up with people, talking to new people online – and want to continue that progress into 2017. It’s not going to be easy, and sooner or later I need to take some big strides, but I need to just get on and do it. Gladly, I’ve got some excitement in me about it (as well as, y’know, crippling fear), so I should focus on that and use it to my advantage.

Do some cosplay
I’ve blogged about cosplay here before, and I really wanted to do some at the con I went to in November, but it didn’t work out. I wasn’t ready. I want to cosplay at at least one con this year though. It doesn’t need to be anything big (I’ve got an idea for cosplaying as Elliott from E.T.), I just need to do it. It’s a nice chance to draw a bit of attention to myself, maybe even have people come over and talk to me. I’ve been wearing some Disney pin badges on me whenever I’ve gone out recently, and have had some lovely conversations with people because of them. That’s the beginning of the big road to cosplay!

Compile my essays into a book
I’ve written a lot about Steven Spielberg. Like, loads. Seriously. I’ve uhmed and aahed about writing a book about him and trying to get it published, and I’m getting the itch again. With a new Indiana Jones film on the horizon, a book on the series would likely go down well with publishers, so that’s an option. But I find writing about film a little empty at the moment. I can’t put my finger on it; it’s just: what is me writing about Spielberg or Disney actually achieving? What’s it doing to help others? Not much. But I still want to get a book published, and maybe a good step on that road is to gather the essays I’ve already written, add a few new ones, and self-publish. At least then I can try to work out exactly how I feel about my film writing.

Find a special someone
I’m 32. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never been kissed. I’m shy. I live alone. I’m lonely. Really, very lonely. These are things we’re not really supposed to talk about. Social media and blogging is all about projecting a perfect vision of yourself, right? Well, I don’t believe that. What’s the point? Things don’t change if you don’t talk about them, and I want them to change. I want to find someone special, I want a girlfriend. That’s very much the wrong way to go about things: don’t aim to find a girlfriend, as that’s a sure way to failure and frankly a little creepy. Women are human beings, not things to turn into girlfriends. But I can’t deny I want to meet a woman. I need to work on my confidence before then, I need to be the kind of person who can be a good boyfriend, I need friendships first of all. I’m certainly not going to rush things, and I’m certainly not the kind of guy to go hunting for women or anything so hideous as that. But by the end of 2017, I’d love to have a girlfriend in my life, so let’s see how it goes.

And that’s it. My five core goals. I hope they make sense and I hope that if you’re setting yourself goals, you achieve them. 2016 hasn’t been a great year, but that doesn’t mean things can’t get better. We’ve all got to be a little nicer to each other, a little more empathetic, and things can turn around. Happy New Year folks. I hope it’s a good one.

Hei Hei: Hero, Gentleman, Idiot

In the days since seeing Disney’s latest masterpiece Moana I’ve become obsessed with one thing.

This. Idiot. Chicken.

Let me be quite clear here. This chicken is an idiot. An idiot of such staggering idiocy that he may actually go the full 360 and be a genius. It’s 2016. Anything’s possible.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this guy, but it’s worth stating a few serious points because while he’s the comedic star of the movie, he does underline a couple of important points it’s trying to make.

1. Moana’s really genuinely lovely. When she finds out Hei Hei has accidentally stowed away on her boat, she doesn’t panic and she doesn’t get angry. It’d be understandable if she did; Hei Hei is in no way prepared for life on the ocean, screams endlessly when he realises where he is, and repeatedly swallows things, falls into the sea, and generally gets in the way. He’s a pain in the arse, in other words, but Moana always keeps her calm and keeps him safe. It’s genuinely touching. He’s an idiot, but he’s her idiot and she takes care of him no matter what.

2. Hei Hei has a moment of heroism. Early in the film, we see Hei Hei eating a rock. It’s a genius gag and one that’s quite brilliantly animated for maximum comedic effect. He struggles with food throughout, in fact, for example, being unable to know where to peck to pick up seeds. So when he picks up the Heart of Te Fiti in the finale, we expect another complication for Moana. Surely Hei Hei’s going to swallow it or kick it off the boat and into the ocean? It’s not his fault. He’s just an idiot. But he doesn’t. Instead, he keeps it in his mouth and passes it to Moana. Why? Because somewhere in that daft old brain of his, he understood something: the goodness of Moana and why this journey is important to her. He’s an idiot, but he’s her idiot and he’ll take care of her no matter what.

Maybe Hei Hei didn’t accidentally get on the boat at all then. Maybe it was intentional all along, his daft way of protecting his friend, even if it’ll baffle and terrify him to do so. Reading too much into it? Maybe. But Moana is all about identity and how our true selves lie within us. Hei Hei, like Moana, just needed a journey to discover it.

Deep.  

Moana Audio Review

I love podcasts as they help build a nice sense of community among people with shared interests. I’ve considered doing a podcast myself, but I’m not at ease with my ability to speak at all and that’s always stopped me.

However, I’ve decided to challenge my shyness a little of late. That process began by successfully meeting Twitter friends at the Moana screening last weekend, and continues with this audio review of the film.

It’s not the best quality, and I apologise for the uhming and ahing and the tinny sound of my voice. But, well, here it is. I hope you enjoy.

Singin’ and dancin’ in the rain…

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“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Nietzsche. It wasn’t all nihilism, the death of God, and staring into the abyss; dude also liked dancing. And hey, if it’s good enough for Nietzsche, why’s it not good enough for you?!

Curiously metaphysical introduction over (I knew I’d put that Philosophy A Level to good use some day), I’ve fallen under the spell of the cinematic musical yet again. Those who’ve been following this blog from the start will know that I’m rather fond of a good musical, and with La La Land almost in cinemas, I’ve decided to cosy up to the warm embrace of random singing and dancing for the next month or so. Because it’s cold outside, 2016 sucks, and, well, look. Look at La La Land. LOOK AT IT!

Why are musicals so darn good, I hear you ask? Well, I reply, I love expressionist forms of film-making that bring emotion out into literal truth. It’s why animation means so much to me: it’s all about using its non-real potential to heighten the emotions of the characters and turn them into something big and bold and beautiful. The best superhero films do the same, as do the best sci-fi and fantasy films. Emotions can’t always be captured by literal truth; they need the hyper-realism of film to truly hit home.

Musicals take that rule to the next level: they literally make a song and dance about emotions. If the character is sad, they’ll sing a soppy ballad; if the character is happy, they’ll get up off their feet and perform an incredible dance routine. People scoff at such things (pfft, why can no-one else hear this music? How can everyone suddenly know exactly the same dance routine?), but that’s because they’re soulless husks who’ve been damaged by life and probably spend their lives noting continuity errors on IMDB. People sing and dance in musicals because it’s the purest form of expression, and that’s what musicals are about: the various ways we express ourselves.

They’re also, of course, about love, and as I’ve mentioned before, hopeless romance is one of my favourite things. As pathetic as it is to believe, I truly do reckon that there’s someone out there for everyone, that someday you’ll find that person and – metaphorically rather than literally because, well, you’d probably seem a bit weird if you literally did it – they’ll make you sing and dance and you’ll make them do the same. It’s just one of those things I refuse to buckle on – no matter how difficult it sometimes gets – and musicals are a great way to bolster that faith. They’re so damn sincere. They just believe and they make me believe too.

So I’m going full musical. Across the next few weeks, I’m going to indulge in some of my favourites, and a few I’ve never seen before, and probably write a bit of nonsense about them here. Then I’ll go and see La La Land when it’s released in the UK in January and hopefully fall in love with that. Because, well, look at it. How can you not fall in love with it? LOOK AT IT. JUST… LOOOOOOOOK!

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