Thursday, July 2, 2009


We went to see Up last night and found it quite charming. Our daughter had insisted that we should see it in 3-D, but it didn't seem to be available in that version any more locally. I guess the 3-D theaters had moved on to new material. Still, I'm just as happy that we didn't. I discovered that dizzying heights bother me just as much on screen as in real life, and much of the film takes place at dizzying heights, with dizzying dives in space! For all that critics have swooned about it being a movie for adults as well as for children, I left with some of my usual reservations about Disney films. This one had its share of those cute and sentimental qualities that I tend to recoil from. Churlish me, I guess. Like the film's hero, Mr. Frederickson, who finds salvation through the adventure that he thought to have missed out on while his beloved wife (Ellie!) was still alive. As I say, we found it charming.

It was the previews, though, that had me wondering about what we're feeding our children in the guise of entertainment. Clearly, it's unfair to judge films on the basis of a two-minute preview, but I was struck by the eerie similarity of the several that we saw: all were big-screen, animated affairs, featuring battles between monstrous beings ranging from prehistoric dinosaurs and mammoths to sci-fi alien invaders from outer space. Accompanied by sound as violent and clashing as the images themselves, and created with a technology so sophisticated as to engulf the viewer with its overwhelming "reality", I could only imagine how these stories could impose on the receptive mind of a child.

It's a frightening aspect of our culture, I think, that we have reached the point where this kind of violence is what we present to our children in the form of summer entertainment. And, by some strange paradox, Disney has seen fit to bowdlerize the stories of the Brothers Grimm! Somehow, the image of the woodcutter opening up the belly of the wolf to release Little Red Ridinghood's grandmother was deemed, not too many years ago, to be unacceptable, while today the cacophonous clash of titans roars across the giant screens. The Grimms, it seems to me, understood the formative power of inviting the child imaginatively into the dark side of the psyche. The films today make it all too powerfully real.

So much for cute and sentimental!


Twilight said...

We saw this in 3D a while ago. We enjoyed it, but noticed some children in the audience getting bored - a family behind us left half-way through the movie.

We decided that it was, perhaps, a movie mainly for adults. There wasn't a character to whom kids wanted to relate. The cub scout was a tad dorkish, the dog was sweet but dumb. The message of the movie was probably lost on the young, I fear.

Some of the summer movies previewed are awash in violence and nastiness. It is a worry. If I had kids I wouldn't take them to such movies, but today's parents themselves have grown up with computer games displaying all kinds of violence, so they don't notice.

Anonymous said...

speaking of loud noise, dumb plot and attendance out the door, Transformers seems to have everything the studios are after.
Interesting it needs all the noise and action to disguise the less than subtle tension, will the nubile heroine's breasts fall out of her skimpy clothes?

Anonymous said...

We haven't seen the movie, but I appreciate reading the review and viewpoints. I gotta say, though, I'm always curious how people are so quick to assume and question the motives of modern parents ("the why"). I think we all do it a little bit. I'm sure the movie companies invest a lot of money and effort evaluating it, too. However, we aren't all cut from the same cloth. Most of us consider the personalities and interests of our children and put limits on what is acceptable, based on our own values and interests - and select from there. It's a crazy world and, I'll admit, the media doesn't make it easy on the parents who really strive to do what's best for their children.

Gary said...

My 13 and 11 year old boys have explored the video game culture in the USA and China. There are few differences in their group vocal emotional reactions and the same games kids in the states play are also played in China.

They have already tired of this medium and have advanced their extraordinary minor motor skills to such a fine degree that experienced adults who compete with them are unable even get to their level. They are now exploring artificial intelligence
in their summer science studies. Their ability to decipher and work with new software was honed
using the wireless hand controls used in the video games.

They just had an opportunity to try out a flight simulator at a local aerospace firm and the instructor said they had mastered the controls in less than half the time of the adult average.

My exploration of transformation was pushing the garden hose slowly into the muddy earth at the back edge of my grandmas garden while my friends paper prehistoric flying beasts attacked from above suspended by strings and sticks.

The Adobe Creative Suite the boys are studying with me has a long list of tutorials. One can guess who is far ahead of me in the study program creating flying beasts and planting rain forests within the cyberspace.

However this morning we are working in our garden which only measures 12' x 20' but is full of tomatoes, chard, squash, string beans and more.

It is a challenge to balance the real and the artificial. A victory garden? No, it is a move away from the past.

Doctor Noe said...

I took 13-yr-old Dylan to Up. I cried at the tear-jerker moments as I always do, whether it's Citizen Kane or Bambi. Dylan pokes me in the ribs at those moments, as he always does, ashamed at the antics of his barmy old dad. But he liked this movie too, and his usual cup of meat is anything involving World War II, ordinance or ballistics of any kind.

Here's some more on the subject of me and my son ...