"We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression "You're history" as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself. By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Ur and Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus. Orwell's was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley ... rightly foresaw that any such regime could break but could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works. This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught."
-Christopher Hitchens, from his 1999 Article "Why Americans are Not Taught History."
I do hope everyone is enjoying their respective Christmas holidays!
As for me, the party is sadly over. I'm back in ye olde sunshine state, far away from my rosy-cheeked friends and love ones in cold, frozen New England.
Much though I will miss actually being with my family and loved ones on Christmas, as far as we're concerned, Christmas is already over and we've celebrated it while we were up there all together.
It's been years since I helped in the hacking down of a real-deal Christmas tree, much less actually helped in the hacking myself. But that was jolly good fun.
On top of that I got my shopping done for friends and family alike, and I got to spend a grand time with my newlywed friends Glenn & Cait.
Glenn was even kind enough to soup up my Christmas present. A brand-spanking-new Laptop. A shiny, sleek new Apple... It's real nice.
(Thanks Mom & Dad!
It was wonderful to actually get to experience some of the charm of the holidays that we're all force-fed as kids. And hell, the geographic location I grew up in served as the model for those very unrealistic Holiday standards, "White Christmas," Sleigh rides, Rosy-cheeked carolers, roasting chestnuts and so on. It was nice to actually immerse myself in that for awhile. And it was quite bracing to watch shooting stars fall through a clear winter sky in the warm embrace of soothing, hot water while the extremity-gnawing cold pressed in from every direction around you.
But one of the Highlights for me was visiting our old family friend and one of my greatest mentors, Richard. Its always good fun catching up with our old family friends, and Richard is always a joy and a dab hand in the kitchen as well.
Having worked professionally in the foodservice industry his whole life and now as a teacher, Richard is a stonecold badass of the restaurant biz. Furthermore, he made me and my kinfolk an arrestingly fabulous dinner.
In 2003, the Mansfield Depot Restaurant burned down, taking with it one of the more venerable centers of culinary and cultural heritage of central Connecticut. Richard, former executive chef of that very establishment made each and all of us the signature dish of the house: Filet mignon under a creamy shallot sauce over toasted hearth bread smeared with duck liver pâté...
I can hardly think of a better way to end an already awesome Christmas vacation.
(Thanks everyone. Especially Richard... But ESPECIALLY mom & dad for the new computer.
Well in any case. I'm back. Back in the dreary Sunshine state to struggle through the rest of the year and to plot my eventual exodus... But not now, certainly... I've done enough for today.
In point of fact I just returned from my local movie theater.
I was somewhat conflicted on what movie I wanted to see. I really had a strong yen to see "Invictus" staring Morgan "Voice of God" Freeman and Matt Damon! [link]
Although, exigent circumstances won out, and I realized that since I had recently been brushing up on famous works of dystopian literature (I.E. "1984" and "Brave New World" respectively) I needed something light and airy to lighten my leaden, lugubrious mind.
Ergo, I wound up seeing the latest offering from the Walt Disney animation studios. "The Princess and the Frog."
Now before I launch into my armchair critique, I should say I had reservations about seeing this movie. I even made a poll regarding that very reservation. [link]
But there was a part of me that really WANTED to see it, if for nothing else than that I'm a hopeless and incurable animation geek.
It was a really, really good time to be a kid during the so called "Disney Renaissance" Which, depending on who you ask, either began with "The Little Mermaid" or "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and started a whole slew of brilliantly executed 2D animated movies over the course of the next decade. In turn, the 1990's became synonymous with the growth of the Starbucks franchise, Bill Clinton getting his winky whacked and the debuts of some of the best 2D animated features in cinema history.
I LOVE 2D animation, I absolutely adore it. It's not only because of the many awkward/awesome Disney films, but because I associate so many happy childhood memories with the medium. Everything from Sonic to Carmen Sandiego, From X-men to classics like Rocky and Bullwinkle, to the prime-time offerings of the latter half of the decade like Futurama and Family Guy. I devoured it all.
There's something so appealing about 2D animation. When the animators actually animate with feeling, effort and sincerity, the ecpressiveness and fluid motion of the subjects can actually make you forget you're watching animation and intwine you within the magic of a well-told story.
I'm such a geek that I actually have become a devoted fan and follower of the Hollywood voiceover actor community, to the point where I'll argue the merits of Billy West vs. Dan Castellaneta, recognize John DiMaggio or Maurice LaMarche's voices nearly every time I hear them, and develop obsessive, fanboyish crushes on the articulate ladies of the trade... Like Jennifer Hale for instance... (Oh Jenny... [link]
I won't say too much about the rise of 3D animation and how, with a select few exceptions, the character are so stiff, lifeless and unappealing that most large-scale 3D productions are actually painful for me to watch.
Pixar is okay, but only because they actually put effort into their stories and plots, and they constantly push the envelope on realism in the medium...
Dremaworks is okay too... to a point. But really, after "Shrek 3"... Those guys really need the fear of God scared into them...
Which brings us to "The Princess and the Frog" Disney's latest offering and their attempt to return them to their roots, going back to the well of genius 2D animation that helped turn them into the capitalist giant that they are today...
IT IS ABOUT FREAKING TIME!!!
Now, as for the film itself. Some of my more astute readers might have followed the news and remembered how some months back, the Mouse found itself in some hot water over alleged racial insensitivity surrounding this very film project.
My favorite interpretation of the events was encapsulated by Larry Wimore, Senior Black correspondent for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (Mind you, his job entails being the correspondent who covers Black affairs... and he happens to be black, at least according to his introduction on the show. [link]
"The Disney Company has announced that it's 49th animated feature film will be staring a black princess... finally... we have overcome. And only after we had to sit through an Native American princess, a Gypsy Princess, a Chinese Princess, an Arab princess, even a half-fish princess. Hell, "The Lion King" and "Tarzan" were set in Africa and there weren't even any black people in them!"
But I digress.
How will the public react after the film's release? Well, now that it's out it will be up for the court of public opinion to decide.
Only time will tell.
And there's also the matter of the city of New Orleans, where the movie is set.
As most of you probably recall, the fine city of New Orleans suffered from one of the worst natural disasters in US history in waning summer of 2005.
Hurricane Katrina not only cost hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in damage, but it exposed a dark and neglected underside of a city that for decades has been disguised in the guise of soul food, a party atmosphere and jazz music. The real ills and sins of the Big Easy were put on for grim display for the whole world to see, and it was not a pleasant sight.
There is, however, a silver lining. My long-term friend from college, Kathy, who is herself a long-time Louisiana resident has told me that in the 4 years since said disaster, the city at large has finally made some large strides toward recovery and is coming close to standing on it's own two feet again after what was unquestionably a crippling blow.
So, I went and sat down in my theater seat, ready to experience a Disney movie adventure the only way you can in a theater for the authentic experience, with a bunch of screaming, unruly kids running about, violently clawing at each other an screeching incoherent babble (Like the move "Babble")
So, lights dimmed and I was quickly reminded of one thing: Say what you will about the Walt Disney company, but they know how to tell a goddamn story.
The plot was what you might expect from Disney, and it was pretty clear that the company is trying to do a drastic overhaul on the tone and substance of their leading ladies.
Where disney Heroines of the past were decent enough characters but largely shrinking violets with impossibly perfect hair, the new generation of Disney lasses are plucky and pragmatic as they are aesthetically desirable.
All in all it was a rather good film, and the 85% it's thusfar received on the tomatometer is a fair assessment of it's quality.
There were also some stellar vocal performances as well.
Voice actor veteran Jim Cummings will actually make you feel sympathetic for an antrho, Cajun Firefly.
The ever-awesome John Goodman lends his talents and makes his small role stand out with great distinction.
And newcomer Anika Noni Rose delivers a powerhouse performance as half of the titular characters, Princess Tiana. With a hauntingly sonorous voice, Rose captures the part perfectly. And not for nothing, but she also happens to be a native of my homestate of Connecticut. And honestly, should "The Princess and the Frog" help bring about a new glut of brilliant Disney 2D Animated movies and help further rebuild and help the beleaguered city of New Orleans.... I think it only fair that Conencticut gets all the credit.
Well, in any case. If you're an animation geek like me, Go see "The Princess and the Frog!"
If not... Enjoy the stress and ennui of the Holidays.
(And seriously, if what I've gleamed from the news is accurate, and being an adult means stressing out over the $6,000.00 every man, woman and child in the United States now owes China, having a strong opinion of Tiger Woods' infidelity, or otherwise waving Lipton teabags around in front of news cameras for no discernible reason... then pass me my Mighty Morphn Power Rangers underoos please.
"You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."