Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa Claus's Powers vs. Santa Claus's Science

Father Christmas using the powers of science to deliver presents.

My daughter is a little odd. Yeah, I know that's not really a big surprise. But a few weeks ago while discussing Santa Claus, I made some mention of him being magic, a charge which she quickly and adamantly denied. She said that Santa wasn't magic. I tried to explain that he was and she shot me down again, very adamant that he was not. Any time that I've brought something up about Santa, she's flatly denied that Santa does it with magic and instead uses "science" to perform whatever task. Then again, this is also the girl who drew me, Jessica, Isaac and Jo pictures of her "hypothesis". Anyhow, these have been interesting and entertaining (to me) discussions about Santa, so I thought I would take our review style and interview my daughter about Santa's powers, so that I can keep it and show it to her later.  Now, this isn't a review of Santa Claus; I'm sure he would get a ton of stars, suns and moons. However, this is just a dialogue about how my daughter "scientifically" explains how Santa works.

Molly: (As usual, I'll be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we talk and I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting next to my computer as we do this.)  

Chuckie: So tell me what you know about Santa Claus.
Molly: Um, he makes toys. And he has, he has--Rudolph has a shiny nose. And then, so, so, then, um, the other ones liked him. And Santa's elves wrap up presents and put them onto him sleigh and then he delivers them to the good girls and the good boys.

Chuckie: Okay, so you and I have been talking about this: Do you think Santa is magic?
Molly: Um, no.
Chuckie: Why not?
Molly: Because he does it all with science.

Chuckie: Well, his reindeer fly. Isn't that magic?
Molly: Uh-uh, because he trained them to fly.
Chuckie: Well, can you train our cats to fly then?
Molly: No, because we don't have enough money to train them to do that. I know how much money we need for that: fifty-hundred and twenty-one. Santa had enough money to train his reindeers that.
Chuckie: Well, if we had that much money, could we train our cats to fly?
Molly: No, because Santa trained his reindeers from babies.

Chuckie: Okay, well, he makes so many toys. That has to be magic.
Molly: No, because he uses a bucket thing to put the pieces in and then the machines make them into the right shape and then the last thing that is important is that he doesn't do it, but the machines make it into a present. And then his elves load them up into his sleigh.

Chuckie: Well, how can Santa know if everyone is good or bad. Isn't that magic?
Molly: No, he checks his short list of naughty kids so he doesn't deliver them presents and the long list is for the good kids who will get presents.

Chuckie: But how do the names get on the lists? Magic?
Molly: No, because he knows.
Chuckie: How does he know?
Molly: Because he's Santa Claus. Santa Claus knows everything.
Chuckie: But isn't that magic?
Molly: No, it's just smarts.

Chuckie: How does he get to every house in the world in one night? Isn't that magic?
Molly: No. 'Cause Santa Claus can deliver presents because he doesn't get tired for a long time.
Chuckie: If he never gets tired, isn't that magic?
Molly: No, he can deliver presents because when he's done, he can go to bed if he likes.

Chuckie: How can he go up and down chimneys? Isn't that magic?
Molly: No, sometimes he can and sometimes he can't, because he uses magic dust on him from a bag.

Chuckie: Aha! He has a magic dust bag. That means he's got magic.
Molly: No, he got it for a birthday present when he was a little baby Santa Claus. Besides it costs fifteen dollars.
Chuckie: So anyone can buy a magic dust bag if they have fifteen dollars?
Molly: Yeah, but guess what?
Chuckie: What?
Molly: They're sold out.

Chuckie: Well, who gave him the magic dust bag?
Molly: His mom and dad. They had enough money.

Chuckie: What kind of magic does his magic dust bag let him do?
Molly: Go up chimneys.
Chuckie: Then if he didn't have his bag, he couldn't deliver the presents. So Santa needs magic to deliver presents.
Molly: No, no one needs magic to just get up a chimney. It just makes it easier.
Chuckie: What if he didn't have his magic dust bag at all?
Molly: He could use the doors or windows to get into the houses.

Chuckie: Santa works with elves. Aren't they magic?
Molly: No. Live elves aren't magic. They just make toys and load him sleigh.

Chuckie: How does Rudolph's nose glow? Isn't that magic?
Molly: No, he was just born with a glowing nose. Like how I was born with green eyes and you were born with green eyes and mommy was born with brown eyes.
Chuckie: So, it's a genetic thing?
Molly: Um, yeah.

Chuckie: What are Santa's reindeer's names?
Molly: Rudolph, and um, Charlene, and uh... Wrinkled? And there are some other ones. But Rudolph is the important one.

Chuckie: Wait a minute! How does Santa fit all of the presents into one bag? That has to be magic!
Molly: No, he has a big, big bag that stretches.

Chuckie: How does he know what presents go to what kid? Magic?
Molly: No, he knows because he writes their names on the presents.

Chuckie: How does he eat all of the cookies and drink all of the milk at every single house? Magic?
Molly: No, he's just really hungry and really thirsty a lot. Sometimes he gets too full. Even him reindeers get something to eat.

Chuckie: Why does Santa give presents?
Molly: Because he's nice. Except to naught kids. But they're naughty.
Chuckie: Are you nice?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Is there anything else that you want to tell people about Santa Claus?
Molly: Wait! We never talked about Mrs. Santa Claus.

Chuckie: Okay, what do you know about her?
Molly: She has white hair.
Chuckie: Is she nice?
Molly: (Molly nods.)

Chuckie: Oh, wait! I know! Mrs. Claus is magic and gives Santa magic powers, right?
Molly: No, she's not magic. She's just an old lady who married Santa Claus.

Chuckie: Ouch. Okay. So, is there anything else you want to tell everyone about Santa Claus or Christmas?
Molly: I think people should be helpful and good to each other.

So, that's Santa's powers, each grounded in scientific explanation. If there is magic in Christmas, it's tucked away in a little's girl's firm belief in science. Oh, and while I was formatting this, Molly came back over to me and we had this exchange:

Molly: Daddy?
Chuckie: Yes, Pixie?
Molly: Are you surprised that I know so much about Santa?
Chuckie: Yes, I am. You know a real lot.
Molly: Are you proud that I know so much about Santa and science?
Chuckie: Of course I am, Sweety. I'm always so proud of you.
Molly: Even though you tried to trick me to think that Santa was magic?
Chuckie: I wasn't trying to trick you, Pixie. We were just talking about things. I'm very proud about how you stuck to your beliefs.
Molly: Thank you. Daddy, when you're done, can we write a thank-you letter to Santa for giving everyone presents?
Chuckie: Sure, Pixie.

So whether you believe in the magic of the season, or the science of the season, Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter #'s 1-6

A battered Ron Weasley card and a magic wand.

I am not really a Harry Potter fan. I'm not sure why, but it never meshed with me. It really has all of the markings of something that I should like, I mean, wizards, magic and mythical creatures. The early books and movies are geared towards kids, and I usually don't have a problem with kid's movies. But for some reason it never meshed with me.

There are some things that I admire about the whole Harry Potter phenomenon. For example, it got a generation of kids incredibly eager to read. That is amazing and I have  a lot of respect for it. However, with that, came an older generation of adults who started to co-opt the books and stories for themselves. That may be where the main rub I have with the Potter stuff is: adults took it over.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I likes me some childish geeky stuff, but I have perspective about it. The geeky adults who dress up like Star Wars characters are a sort of peer in some of my hobbies and interests. And I'm fine with that... until said "adult" snatches away the last limited edition Boba Fett action figure with the artificially rare limited edition blaster pistol from a seven year old who was reaching for it who really only wanted to play with it.

That's what happened with Harry Potter. You have these great kid's books that became an adult hobby and interest. Adults storm the bookstores and push little kids aside to get the book first. Merchandise becomes artificially geared towards adults instead of being marketed for the children who should be reading the books. You have adults who claim the stories and interest for themselves and somehow the children who it was originally designed for are left behind. Just a few weeks ago as of this writing, the fourth World Quidditch Cup was held in New York City. It is a two-day event in which a bunch of Quidditch teams from around the world gather to play for the championship. Quidditch. That game that makes no fucking sense. But anyhow, the teams are made up of adults. They come from 42 different colleges and universities. Adults. These aren't kids pretending to play Quidditch. They are college students running around with brooms between their legs playing a sport that makes no sense even when the brooms can fly. But that just shows the culture of how much adults have co-opted Harry Potter. These are adults who are so engaged in this who take it serious and take them like they are written for adults, but have forgotten that the stories also have jelly beans that taste like throw-up in them.

That isn't to say that I don't think that adults should enjoy the stories. I'm fine with that. They don't really work for me for whatever reason, but I have no problem with anyone who likes them liking them. But remember that they are kids stories. I feel the same way about every schlub who spent $5000 on their Stormtrooper uniform that they wear out at any chance they can. I'm perfectly fine with that. And most of them will play along with children as well when they see them. Hell, I dress up in Renaissance clothing and go to the faire. But, when I'm there, I engage the kids that I see because I understand that even though I enjoy all of this, the faire is there for them. So when I'm at the faire, I engage the kids I see. I cannot even count the number of times I've taught kids that I don't know how to run around and play on the maypole or any of the other activities that are set up there.

Having an interest and liking for stuff for kids is perfectly fine. So long as you remember that is what your hobby or interest was designed for.

But anyhow, the movies. We've caught up and watched all of the movies with Molly so that we can see the newest release. Molly has really enjoyed them and has become obsessed with Ron Weasley and he is currently her biggest crush.

The movies themselves, as I said, never did it for me. But they take place in the hidden world of wizards and witches, but focusing primarily on the teaching at Hogwarts. When someone first arrives at Hogwarts to be a student, they are "sorted" into one of four different magical houses: House Obviously Good, or House Vaguely Evil, or House Never Mentioned Again, or House Afterthought. Obviously most of the protagonists are sorted into House Obviously Good, while the character foils and antagonists are sorted into House Vaguely Evil. I think the movie actually has different names for the Houses, but these are rough estimations.

This sets up one of the problems that I have with the stories: They introduce us into such a large world, then limit what they show us of it. Really, it's not until the fifth movie before they introduce a character who is not a part of House Obviously Good or House Vaguely Evil who has more than one line. We never get to see or explore this grand world from more than a singular point of view, which is a shame.

This is further reinforced by how Harry Potter-centric Hogwarts is. Yes, yes, I know the stories are called Harry Potter and the Object du Jour, but still. I kind of agree with the other students who in the stories had felt some Harry Potter backlash. I mean, it just would make each of them feel so much more insignificant to see every aspect of their school year revolve around one student.

Now part of the reason why the school is so Harry Potter-centric is because he is the student who has been marked for death by the greatest villain the wizard-world has ever known. That seems to be a rather lofty risk to place on the other students at the school whenever these attempts on Harry's life take place, and other students are routinely injured or killed as the bad guys move against Harry. I just think that it would have been a much smarter and much less dangerous idea to have someone decide to privately tutor Harry in magic instead of risking the lives of every student at Hogwarts. But maybe that's just me. But if Molly's preschool classmate Jovaughn had magickal jihadists gunning for him and her preschool classmates were routinely being blown up by magical attacks or bitten by giant basilisks with poisonous bites, I might either move Molly to a different school or ask if Jovaughn could be privately watched elsewhere.

Part of the problem that Harry and everyone else is in is due to the fact that no one in the movies communicates with one another.  Seriously, I think that a good 90% of every problem or issue in each of the stories would be resolved if people would just talk to one another. Instead, no one trusts anyone. Harry knows what is going and knows that someone is after the Sorcerer's Stone, but does he tell Dumbledore? No. Pity that, because Dumbledore might have been able to ferret out the baddie earlier and save sending the 10 year olds down into a horribly trapped secret basement. The same works the other way as well. Everyone knows that Voldemort is gunning for Harry, but no one tells him about his parents or background or Voldemort. They decide to let the information trickle to him a little bit each year, which is rather ghastly, considering that the greatest evil known to wizard kind is out to kill Harry, but there's no need to fill him in on all the details.

But perhaps my biggest problem with the wizard world is the gross inconsistencies in their rules and law. Everything is both rigid and arbitrary. Take the Goblet of Fire, for example. Harry Potter's name is offered as one of the contestants at the TriWizard's Tournament (a tournament which is so dangerous that kids routinely die as a part of it, and yet, they continue to hold it), however, Harry is too young to be eligible in the tournament. The judges determine that obviously powerful dark magicks were used to get Harry chosen, but decide that despite the tampering, the rules forbid him from turning down the role as champion. This, by the way, hurts Harry's reputation, as all of the students think he cheated to get his named chosen, causing problems for him this year. This, as mentioned earlier, could have been solved by communication and the judges pointing out that dark magic was used to tamper with the goblet and it wasn't Harry's doing, but instead, they keep that to themselves and Harry is picked on all year. Anyhow, the rules are so strict that they cannot have the 14 year old Harry refuse to compete. Yet, the rules are so lax that when Harry saves two people in the second challenge, Dumbledore just arbitrarily gives Harry second place in the competition, despite him technically coming in third. Another sort of recurring arbitrary theme in the stories are the points being assigned to or taken from each house in a decidedly haphazard and random manner.

Perhaps most of all, there is the magic and schooling. I would imagine that the books cover this better and some of it is lost in the movies. For example, I would assume from what I saw in Goblet of Fire that the TriWizard Tournament was such a big deal that there were no classes at all that year because they were not shown or focused on at all in the movie.

But the one thing that really always baffled me about the schooling was the students learning how to transform animals into goblets in the Chamber of Secrets. That seems like such a fucking random and useless spell, but they learn it nonetheless, and (this is important) Ron practices turning his rat, Scabbers, into a goblet. Now in the movie, I assumed that something that random would have to have a pay off, such as Harry having to collect the Basilisk venom at the end and having to transform Hedwig into a goblet to collect or some shit like that. You know, to give a payoff for an otherwise absolutely useless spell. But, ultimately, no. There is no pay off. They all just learned a pointless spell that seems to serve no purpose...

Until the Prisoner of Azkaban. There, we learn that Ron's rat, Scabbers is really Peter Pettigrew who has been masquerading as a rat for the last 12 years and is really a terrible bad guy and horribly wicked. They try to catch him, but he turns into his rat form and runs and is too quick for them. Now, this is perhaps the one fucking useful time to cast a transform animal into a goblet spell! Ron used it on Scabbers before, so we know it will work on him. He could not fucking run away if he was a goblet. But do they actually put the worthless spell to its one practical use? No. They let him get away.

When it comes down to other spells and such, there are inconsistencies in their uses. For example, no one believes that Harry saw Voldemort and everyone thinks he is lying. However, we later learn that Snape is teaching Harry how to protect himself from a spell that can be used to see another person's memories (not to mention Dumbledore also has a way of extracting memories from his mind and placing them into a pool that other people can view). Now, considering threat that Voldemort poses, don't you think it would have made sense for them to employ these methods to have a physical demonstrable means of showing and proving that Voldemort exists to everyone else? No. They would rather just fall back on the whole lack of communication motif.

Oh, and lastly, Quidditch makes no fucking sense. Okay, first of all scoring. Goals are worth ten points each. Fair enough. However, whichever team's seeker catches the Golden Snitch scores 150 points and ends the game. That's worth fifteen times a goal. That would be like in American football, teams are trying to get touchdowns worth 7 points each, but at the same time there is a sub-game going on and whichever team's special teams gets a field goal first scores 105 points for their team and the game is over. Yeah, whoever triggers the game's end condition is likely to cause a blow-out and win for their team. I haven't read the books, but have been told by people who do that you do not actually rank teams by wins or losses, but rather by (non-Snitch) points scored in the game. This makes the Golden Snitch part of the game even more pointless, or at the very least, the fact that it gives points. To add to this, the Golden Snitch end-game trigger means that games are of no set length. A Seeker could catch a Snitch in 5 minutes, or, according to the books, last for several months with no Seeker being able to get the Snitch. Now, in the case of games lasting several months, I would imagine that a 150 point swing wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I do think that this is the exception and not the rule. Oh, and all of this is further confounded by the fact that spectators are routinely casting spells, hexes and enchantments on the play on the field. However, this is the sport that adults are now emulating as they run around with broomsticks between their legs.

But other than that, the movies are fine.

Molly: (As usual, I'll be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we talk and I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting next to my computer as we do this.) 

Chuckie: What did you think about all of the Harry Potter movies, Pixie?
Molly: I liked one of them.

Chuckie: Which one?
Molly: The one where he drinked the poison.

Chuckie: Oh, where Ron drank it?
Molly: Mm-hm. Besides I know his whole name: Ron Weasley.

Chuckie: That's right.
Molly: Why didn't Ron know that there was poison in it, Daddy?

Chuckie: Well, no one knew. Malfoy poisoned it to try to poison Dumbledore, but Ron drank it by mistake.
Molly: Oh yeah. And Ron drank it all so Dumbledore didn't drink it and so him wouldn't get poisoned from it.

Chuckie: Uh, yeah. I guess Ron really was the hero there, huh?
Molly: Yup.

Chuckie: Did you like any of the other movies?
Molly: The cup one. And the one where the things came out and scared Harry Potter and were pulling him apart.

Chuckie: The Dementors?
Molly: Yeah. Them.

Chuckie: So, tell me what the Harry Potter movies were about?
Molly: Hey Daddy, you know what I'm going to name my magic wand?

Chuckie: What, Pixie?
Molly: "Magic Sting". That way I can use it to sting out the spider's eye that Ron is afraid of and then I'd save him. (Molly giggles)

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: You know what's kind of silly about the spider one?

Chuckie: What's that, Pixie?
Molly: Ron was scared of the spider then it was on roller-skates and it couldn't stand.

Chuckie: Who is your favorite character in the Harry Potter movies?
Molly: Ron.

Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because he looks cute.
Chuckie: Why do you think he looks cute?
Molly: Because of him orange hair and because of the card when he smiled.
Chuckie: The trading card that you got?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: Okay. What does Ron do in the movies?
Molly: He's afraid of spiders in one of the movies. He made Hermione cry because her liked him and the girl ghost said, "Someone threw a book at me" and Ron said, "But it would go right through you" and Ron got caught by the monsters and I don't know why, but Harry saved him under the water and the bad girls under the water said, "You can only take one" and he broke him wand...

Chuckie: Slow down.
Molly: Okay, then the dog bit Ron's leg and it hurt him and the woomping tree wouldn't let them get to Ron, but then it swinged them down and they ended up near Ron and Ron played Cabbage--

Chuckie: Quidditch.
Molly: Twiddidge.


Chuckie: Close enough.
Molly: Um, well, Ron played...um, that game and he won at it and was the best because I cheered for him.

Chuckie: Which was your favorite Harry Potter movie?
Molly: When Ron was real sad when his wand broke, because that was kind of funny.

Chuckie: Some people think that the movies get too dark and scary for kids. What did you think about that?
Molly: Um, I think for some kids.

Chuckie: How about you?
Molly: No.

Chuckie: They weren't scary for you?
Molly: Not at all.

Chuckie: So, who does Ron like in the movies?
Molly: Hermione. And he was jealous and then he got friends again, but he thought he liked that other girl, but him got tired of her and she wrote a heart on the window for Ron Weasley, but he didn't like her anymore because she was getting on him nerves.

Chuckie: Was there anything that you didn't like about the movies?
Molly: Um. Yes.

Chuckie: What?
Molly: Well, when she said something and the book said, "Raaar!"

Chuckie: The Monstrous Book of Monsters?
Molly: Mm-hm.  Daddy, you know what?
Chuckie: What, Sweetie?
Molly: This is really funny.
Chuckie: Okay, what is it?
Molly: Do you know what Ron really likes to eat?
Chuckie: What's that?
Molly: Pie! (She covers her mouth and laughs.) Daddy, maybe if I see Ron we can eat apple pie and cheesecake together.

Chuckie: How would you rate the movies?
Molly: You mean moons and stars? I don't want to do suns anymore, Daddy.
Chuckie: Okay, why not?
Molly: Because I'm getting too old to give suns now, Daddy.

Chuckie: Oh. Okay. So how many stars would you give the movie?
Molly: One hundred and thirteen and one hundred stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Africa.
Chuckie: (laughs)
Molly: Daddy, I'm serious. Out of Africa.

Chuckie: Okay. Out of Africa. How many moons do you give the movies?
Molly: Sixteen and one moon.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of July 14.  And Daddy, that's for Harry Potter. Want to know how many stars and moons I give Ron Weasley?

Chuckie: Okay, how many stars?
Molly: One hundred and thirteen and one hundred and one hundred and ten and one hundred.

Chuckie: And how many moons?
Molly: One hundred and one and seven hundred.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Both of them are from my place.

Chuckie: Okay. Do you think people would like the Harry Potter movies?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie:  So, who do you think would like the Harry Potter movies?
Molly: Me.

Chuckie: Well, yeah, but besides you?
Molly: I think Edison and Mason, but I think Mason will be a little scared, but him would laugh at the spider part. But, Daddy, why was Ron scared of spiders?

Chuckie: I don't know.
Molly: Then we'll have to read the book about Ron.

Chuckie: Is there anything else you want to say about the movies, Pixie?
Molly: Yeah. Ron Weasley is going to be at my school today, Daddy?

Chuckie: Really?
Molly: Yup. At 8:30.

So that's our review. This really was an undertaking over the course of a little over a week. I figured that she would like the first couple of the movies, but I'm actually rather surprised that Molly was able to follow the plot and story as well as she did in the later ones. She still didn't quite get everything, but she got enough of it to get the jist of the stories, even though the later ones were over her head.

I really can understand the appeal of Harry Potter, but it just doesn't work for me. The books get more and more dark and more and more adult as they go, which was great for the generation who were Harry's age when the books came out, but it makes it odd for 10 year old children to read all of the books now and get lost in the later ones, or for more adult readers to have to trudge through the simplicity of the earlier stories. Still, I have a lot of respect for what the books did to encourage a generation of readers. The movies, well, Molly liked them. And ultimately, that's what matters.

Molly really enjoyed watching the movies as well. She gives the movies one hundred and thirteen and one hundred stars out of Africa and sixteen and one moon out of July 14th. However, she gives Ron Weasley one hundred and thirteen and one hundred and one hundred and ten and one hundred stars and one hundred and one and seven hundred moons both out of her place. She was able to follow the main story (what happened to Ron) really well, and was able to follow most of the secondary storylines (you know, that stuff that happened to Ron's friend Harry). I was afraid that the later movies would be too over her head, but apparently her love for Ron knows no bounds and she followed through the movies.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hobbit

The Hobbit.

A number of years ago, my friend Mike and I were discussing Tolkien and we were idly musing whether or not when writing The Hobbit he had in mind the story of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, more specifically, the character and role of Gollum. This was pre-Wikipedia days, so questions like that were not quite as easily answered. I had to research it through more annoying means and eventually discovered that he did not. At least not fully.

Tolkien's first edition of The Hobbit was different than the later versions since he started work on the LotR books and needed to change things, specifically the encounter with Gollum. In the original telling, Gollum is a bit more kindly to Bilbo. In the riddle contest, Gollum offers to give Bilbo a nice present if Bilbo wins. When he does win, Gollum goes to try to find the ring to give to Bilbo for winning the contest, but does not know that Bilbo has already found it and it was in his pocket. Distraught that he does not have a present to give to Bilbo now, he begs his pardon and instead offers to show him the way out of the goblin tunnels.

Not exactly the ring obsessed creature that he was in the later versions and in the sequel trilogy. So, the copy of The Hobbit that I have is the annotated version, that is full of footnotes and also has a footnote in the Riddles in the Dark chapter that recites the original version of that chapter, though I only read the nastier, more wretched version of Gollum's chapter from the newer version.

Anyway, this was by far the longest story that Molly has followed. Portions of it were well over her head, but we would have a discussion and chapter recap at the end of each chapter, and she followed it surprisingly well. Still, a lot of the story bits dragged on a bit and Tolkien really can be unnecessarily wordy at times, especially for a children's story. It's really not meant for 4 year olds. Maybe 8-12 is a better age range to really have the attention span to get through some of the long, unnecessary over-descriptions in some of the more dull chapters.

Each chapter took about 30-45 minutes to read to her, depending on their length. I am by no means a voice-smith, but I had fun with the different voices for each character to try to differentiate them to make it easier for Molly to follow. However, I found that chapters that were heavy with Dwarf-dialogue really tore up my throat.

It's also interesting to see which parts of the story really resonated with Molly. She loved Gollum (and the voice I did for him), which was to be expected. She really liked Beorn, who didn't make the cut in the Rankin and Bass Hobbit cartoon. But the minor things that she kept bringing up again and again?

1. The Dwarves bending Bilbo's forks. They didn't really, but they sing about it in the "That's What Bilbo Baggins hates" song in a sort of teasing manner in Chapter One. We couldn't get through another paragraph in that chapter without her asking me, "Why did they bend his forks, Daddy?" "Do all Dwarves bend forks?" "How's Bilbo going to eat dinner with his forks bended?" However, ten chapters later, when eating dinner with Beorn, Molly would interrupt me to say, "Those Dwarves better not bend his forks because he'll be really mad at that and he can turn into a bear and fight them if they try." And when they found and got Smaug's treasure, Molly pointed out that maybe Bilbo could get new silverware from the dragon's treasure.

2. Bilbo losing the buttons on his jacket when escaping the goblins. Bilbo slipped through a small opening that was so tight that the buttons on his jacket broke off as he squeezed through it. Throughout the rest of the book, Molly was worried about Bilbo catching a cold because he wouldn't be able to keep his coat closed. The peril of the dragon guarding the treasure was nothing compared to the possibility of a chest-cold for Bilbo. However, Tolkien did address this; at the end of the book, he does point out that Bilbo had replaced the buttons on his coat with gold buttons bought with the treasure he obtained. However, even that happy coat button ending wasn't enough for Molly. When we finished the book, the first thing she asked me was, "Did Bilbo ever find the buttons that came off of his coat? Because I lost my hair tie at school and then I looked and I found it later." I pointed out that the difference was that Bilbo lost his buttons in the middle of a goblin lair and he had replacements now anyhow. This seemed to pacify her somewhat, though I know that deep down inside, she's still upset about the buttons being lost.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed the experience of reading this to Molly and she really seemed to enjoy it as well.

It is an odd piece when compared to the Lord of the Rings stories. Some things don't really work in context. I mean, the Trolls (William, Tom and Bert) don't really fit in with the later trolls in the books. They are afterward in later books retroactively described as "Stone Trolls" and while they turn to stone in daylight, no other trolls do. Mountain Trolls wielded Grond (thus the siege could go into dawn) and Cave Trolls were in Moria and they hardly seemed to be cockney Englishmen wanting have tea and scones with their dead dwarves.

Also, I have to say that the proud, fierce dwarves of Tolkien's tales of glory and honor are actually a rather inept and bumbling group of thirteen in the The Hobbit. I mean, descended from a proud line of kings, Thorin and his group are routinely captured by Trolls, Goblins, Spiders and Elves. They seemed to live up to their battle nature at the end of the book, but really I can't say that until that point that Thorin really was an inspiring king.

What I find interesting about Tolkien's dwarves, however, is that Tolkien based them off of Jewish stereotype, especially ones from Medieval times. Seriously. Check out the annotated book or The History of the Hobbit to read about Tolkien's intentional influences with his dwarves. They have negative Jewish stereotypes (greedy, gold-coveting, overly proud and meddling), they have a dispossessed homeland (in this case Lonely Mountain), they were skilled craftsmen (like medieval Jewish stereotype), the Dwarven calendar in The Hobbit begins in late autumn (like the Jewish calendar) and he crafted the Dwarven language based off of Hebrew, and, like Jewish culture, it is only spoken among themselves. One of the footnotes about Dwarves in the annotated book I have is a quote from Tolkien which read, "I do think of the Dwarves as Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of their country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue." Tokien has also mentioned that they Legolas-Gimli relationship in the later books is supposed to represent "Gentile anti-Semitism and Jewish exclusiveness". The Rankin and Bass cartoon also has each of the dwarves with a very large nose, though I don't think I can necessarily tie that one in here.

But cultural metaphors aside, The Hobbit was a great experience with Molly. Peter Jackson is directing a two-part Hobbit movie, which is aligned as a prequel to his LotR movies. The thing is, the tone is too different. I'm excited to see it with Molly, but it will have to make a choice. It will have to choose either the tone of the book, or the tone of the movie trilogy. The problem is that if it takes the tone of the book, it will not feel like the LotR movies and disappoint those fans. If it takes the tone of the LotR movies, then it will not be true to the book and disappoint those fans. They really should have just let the Rankin and Bass cartoon stand as the theatrical telling of the story.

With our book read, we'll be watching that movie later and I'm sure we'll review that as well.

Molly: (As usual, I'll be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we talk and I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting next to my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the book, "The Hobbit"?
Molly: I liked the song about where they sang, "Down, down to Goblin Town!"
Chuckie: So you liked the songs in the book?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: What about the story?
Molly: You want to know the funny part about the story that I liked?
Chuckie: Sure.
Molly: Bilbo got knocked out two times.

Chuckie: That he did. What else did you like about the story?
Molly: I liked where the goblins sang, "Fifteen birds in five fir trees."

Chuckie: So you really liked the songs.
Molly: Uh-huh. The ones the goblins sang. They sang better songs than the elves did.

Chuckie: But what about the story?
Molly: The dwarves wanted to go to the Lonely Mountain and Bilbo sneaked in to see the dragon and him got scared.

Chuckie: How did Bilbo sneak around so well?
Molly: Because him was a little Hobbit. And I can sneak around you so good because I scrunch down and I'm little too. And he had THE RING! (She says that last bit in a  sing-song voice.)

Chuckie: Where did Bilbo get the ring from?
Molly: Gollum. Him got the ring from Gollum. He found it on the ground and him got it and Gollum wanted it back, but him had a contest and if he losed them him was going to eat Bilbo and even when him losed, him tried to eat Bilbo anyway because him was really naughty. And if I was there, I would have said, "You naughty little skunk, you don't catch Bilbo and eat him. If you even try I'll stab you." Then I'd get Bilbo's sword from him and use it to stop Gollum so him didn't eat my friend Bilbo.

Chuckie: Okay, hold on. Slow down.
Molly: And I'd say, "Gollum, please don't eat Bilbo." But if Bilbo would poke me with him sword, then I'd let Gollum eat him because that's not nice and I thought Bilbo was my friend and you really shouldn't poke your friends with swords and if him is going to do that, then Gollum should eat him and I'd say, "Well, you shouldn't have poked me with your sword then."

Chuckie: Gotcha. Wow. So what were your favorite parts of Bilbo's adventure?
Molly: Hm. Let me think for a minute, Daddy.

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: Hm. The parts when Bilbo didn't get knocked out.

Chuckie: What did you think about the Dwarves?
Molly: Well, I liked something normal about Bilbo. He got the shiny cup to show the Dwarves and they wanted it. But I know one thing, I didn't like some things because some of them died.

Chuckie: How did they die?
Molly: Well everyone gets together and they fight too many bad guys in the big war. That's what a war is. There's too many people and they bump each other and they fight each other and shoot each other. Thorin died. Thorin Oakenshield. (She sniffles over-dramatically.)

Chuckie: Did the dwarves learn any lessons?
Molly: They should have shared their treasure, but they were greedy and wanted to keep all of the gold for themselves. And there were too many at Bilbo's house and bended his forks. Daddy, did they really bend his forks.

Chuckie: No, it was just a teasing song.
Molly: No. "Crack the plates, bend the forks, that's what Bilbo Baggins hates, so carefully, carefully with the plates." See. Them broke them.

Chuckie: Okay, fine. I guess they broke them then.
Molly: Yeah, that's not nice. Thorin should have said him was sorry before him died.

Chuckie: Who else did you like in the story?
Molly: The wizard, Gandalf. Beorn, because him could turn into a bear.

Chuckie: So, did you like me reading the book to you?
Molly: Yes. Because I liked all the Goblin songs. (Starts singing "Down, Down to Goblin Town" again.)

Chuckie: Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
Molly: No, I liked it all.

Chuckie: Was the book too long for you?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: What parts would you leave out?
Molly: The Goblins and Bilbo. Only Dwarves.

Chuckie: So, you'd edit out the goblins and the only the only Hobbit from the book the Hobbit?
Molly: Mm-hm.

Chuckie: And just have Dwarves.
Molly: Yes, Daddy. But only one dwarf.

Chuckie: Just one?
Molly: Bombor.

Chuckie: And what would he do in your story?
Molly: He'd have a gun and shoot one goblin and that would be the end. And Bilbo could be in it, but he could just lay down because him not a much fighter.

Chuckie: That really would abridge the story.
Molly: Yup. Cause I want it shorter because it's too long for little kids. Well, not too long for this little kid, but for other ones.

Chuckie: So, how would you rate the book, Pixie?
Molly: Daddy, call me Bronwyn.

Chuckie: Okay, so, how would you rate the book, Bronwyn?
Molly: Molly Bronwyn Simon.

Chuckie: Fine. How would you rate the book, Molly Bronwyn Simon?
Molly: Miss Molly Bronwyn Simon.

Chuckie: Seriously? Okay, fine. How would you rate the book, Miss Molly Bronwyn Simon?
Molly: Sixty hundred moons.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: July 26.

Chuckie: July 26?
Molly: Yup.

Chuckie: Anything else you wanted to say about the book?
Molly: I like Hobbits because they are real small like me.

So that's our review. It really was an undertaking to read this over a course of so many nights, but both me and Molly really enjoyed it. It was a really nice bonding story for us. I think it's above the head and level for a four year old, but Molly was still surprisingly able to follow most of it. I think reading the book will make watching the movie a more exciting experience for her as well.

It's definitely a classic, but I don't think it will do that well from a Peter Jackson touch. It's not an "epic" story in the sense that the Lord of the Rings books were and by making it a two-parter, it's building it up more than it really is: a kids story about maturity of a character and the perils of greed and pride (every overly-proud character dies, from Thorin to Smaug, as a result of their hubris and pride) within a setting of childhood animism. The Rankin/Bass production has a soft-spot in my heart from watching it obsessively as a kid, and despite what it gets wrong in the story, it gets right in the theme.  Still, there were no female characters in the story for Molly to relate to, but I think that she was able to find that everyone's inner-Hobbit is genderless.

Molly really enjoyed the experience as well. She gives it sixty hundred moons out of July 26. She thought it was a little long for most kids her age and would suggest an abridged version that just has Bombur shooting a goblin while Bilbo laid down in the background. But the story has been a major part of mine and Molly's life and routine over the past month. And she's very excited to have furry feet for Halloween as she's decided to go as Bilbo Baggins.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega.

I just took my four year old daughter to a movie all about wolves fucking.

The movie, at least, had the courtesy of giving the most thinly veiled metaphor for sex that I have ever seen. But it was a very weak one and there was no mistaking it. Here's a prime example of a scene in the movie: The male wolves each pair off with the female wolves to Howling Rock, where they howl with one another in the night. The young omega has a crush on the female alpha and says, "Man, I wish I could howl with her." Then as the older wolves return from Howling Rock, one of the wolf females coyly asks her mate, "Was the howling good for you as well?"

So, howling = fucking.

Just in cast that is a little difficult to follow, I'll parse the metaphor for the remainder of the review:

So, basically, the story revolves around a young male omega wolf who has a childhood friend and crush of a female alpha. Apparently, however, the rules of the pack are that the role of the omega is to be comic relief for the pack (seriously) and the alphas hunt and protect the pack. However, rules and tradition forbid omegas and alphas from howling together fucking.

The young cubs are separated for a winter as the young alpha goes to alpha school to learn how to... um... alpha. There are no improv comedy classes for the omegas, however. They just hang around and goof off and crack jokes and ogle the female wolves and talk about how much they want to howl with fuck them.

In spring, the alpha female returns and the omega male sees her and is smitten all over again. He confides in his omega friends how much he wants to howl with fuck his old childhood friend since she's matured. They tell him that he is crazy and that he'll never get to howl with fuck a beautiful alpha girl like her.

Anyhow, there is apparently a food shortage in the valley and the wolf packs are on the verge of starvation. This is despite the fact that there are enough caribou that rush through the valley and almost stampede the hunting pack to death. But anyhow, with the threat of starvation, there is a decision to "unite the packs" and have the male alpha of the east pack howl with fuck the female alpha of the west pack so they can join as one big pack.

Even though the female alpha does sort of have feelings for her omega childhood friend, she knows her role and decides to go to Howling Fucking Rock with the other pack's alpha to howl with fuck him to join the tribes. Besides, he's strong and powerful and handsome, so she realizes that it could be worse and isn't too distraught about her duty.

Well, the pair arrive at Howling Fucking Rock and begin to howl fuck. Well, part way through the howling fucking, she realizes that he is terrible at it. Despite his strength and good looks, the male alpha cannot howl fuck for shit. So, the female alpha awkwardly excuses herself for a moment, telling the male alpha to "keep yourself ready to howl fuck, I'll be back in a minute." However, she flees, leaving the male alpha on Howling Fucking Rock by himself, keeping himself primed for her return.

When she flees, she runs into the omega wolf, who senses something is wrong because "no one leaves ten minutes into a good howl fuck." At this point park rangers shoot them both with tranquilizers and relocate them from Canada to Idaho. They are set free in a park in hopes that they will repopulate the wolf population in the park.

The omega wolf is fine with the idea of settling down and howling fucking out a few cubs with the alpha, but she needs to return to the pack. It is her duty to unite the packs and howl with fuck the other pack's male alpha no matter how off-key small he is.

So the pair start their journey back to their packs.

Meanwhile, the disappearance of the female alpha causes political problems and the packs are about the go at war with one another, because apparently they cannot get along unless the male alpha gets howled fucked.

To appease tension, the alpha female's sister, an omega, spends time with the male alpha. They soon fall in love and decide to secretly howl together fuck. However, she also realizes how bad he is at it, but slowly teaches him how to howl fuck better, by taking his time and relaxing, so he doesn't howl off-key suffer from premature ejaculation anymore.

Meanwhile, hitching a ride on the train back, the alpha female and omega male are high on the adrenaline of their adventures and decide to howl together fuck. He actually urges her to join him in this forbidden howling fucking, by telling her, "Come on, let yourself go with the moment. It can be a one-time thing." So the two of them howl fuck on the train ride back to Canada.

Back in Canada, the male alpha and female omega's howling fucking has been discovered and it causes an uproar. The packs are about to go to war when the alpha female and omega male return. She agrees to howl with fuck the male alpha to make peace between the packs. Her sister is heartbroken, and even the male alpha wants to be with the sister, but recognizes his duty.

So both packs gather to watch the two alphas howl together fuck to unite the tribes. But at the last moment, the female alpha declares her love for the omega male and the alpha male declares his love for the omega female. Everyone decides to just say fuck howl it to tradition and just go with it.

The end.

Oh, I forgot the mention the minor characters introduced in the two vegetarian hippie omega females. They had minor roles and wore flowers in their hair and it was implied that the two girls howled together on their own. The end of the movie had one of the other omega males who liked these hippie wolves with his paws around each of them, implying that the three have started howling together while the others were out having their adventure. So I guess ultimately, he won.

Anyhow, creepy metaphors aside, this is a bad movie. It's not fun bad, just boring bad. The howling/sex metaphor really makes the movie seem a lot more interesting than it really was.

Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on next to my computer as we do this.) 

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Alpha and Omega?
Molly: I liked when they got married.

Chuckie: Spoilers don't mean a thing to you, do they?
Molly: Nope.

Chuckie: What was the movie about?
Molly: Wolves.

Chuckie: Yes, but what about them?
Molly: Um. The bad wolves come.

Chuckie: Why did they come?
Molly: Because they wanted to steal the valley for themself. And the boy and girl went to Idaho.

Chuckie: Why did they go to Idaho?
Molly: 'Cause they thought they was too much wolves there and there was. So the ranger shooted them with medicine and put them in Idaho.

Chuckie: Did the Alpha girl and Omega boy wolves like each other?
Molly: Yes, but it was their rules that they couldn't get married.

Chuckie: What did you think about all of the howling in the movie?
Molly: I like when the boy and girl singed together by howling.

Chuckie: Do you know what a metaphor is?
Molly: No.
Chuckie: Good.
Molly: Why?
Chuckie: There were a few metaphors in the movie.
Molly: What is that?
Chuckie: It's when something means something else.
Molly: Oh.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Um, when they howled together. (She howls.) Like the wolves that were howling after Bilbo.
Chuckie: Well, they were wargs, Pixie. And their howling meant something completely different.
Molly: Like howling monkeys?
Chuckie: No. Nothing like howling monkeys.

Chuckie: You wore your 3-D glasses more in this movie, why?
Molly: Because it wasn't bad. The wolves weren't bad ones and I only taked them off when the wolf was jumping at me so he'd stay in the movie and not get me.

Chuckie: Were there any parts that you didn't like?
Molly: Um, no. I liked it all.

Chuckie: What age do you think this movie is best for?
Molly: Four year olds and five year olds and three year olds and two year olds and one year olds and sixty year olds and six hundred year olds.

Chuckie: How do you want to rate this movie?
Molly: Um, sixty hundred stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of stars.
Chuckie: Stars?
Molly: Mm-hm. Out of that.

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: And one moon, Daddy, so the wolves can howl. (She howls.) Daddy, I think a werewolf must have bit me because I'm howling a lot now. I really am.
Chuckie: Well, do you remember any werewolves biting you?
Molly: (Thinks for a moment.) Um, no
Chuckie: Then you're probably fine.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: Ellen. And, um, does Mike like wolves?
Chuckie: I don't know, Sweetie. Maybe.
Molly: Well, if him does, then he'll like it.

Chuckie: Anything else you want to say about the movie?
Molly: (She howls.)

So, that's our review. Despite the fact that it was titled "Alpha and Omega", I knew to expect wolves and not Revelations Jesus or anything, but I really wasn't expecting cartoon wolf porn. The animation was rather poor as well, kind of a crappy generic computer animation, and it looked a hundred times worse coming in after seeing Legend of the Guardians the day before.

I give it a half star out of five stars. The only reason why it got that much was because the obvious metaphor was rather amusing in some weird, perverse way. I'm definitely not a prude and have no problems about talking sex with my daughter. However, I think I would have rathered a better context than in the middle of a crappy movie, having my daughter turn to me and ask, "Daddy, why aren't they letting them two howl together because they really want to, but those guys said no?"
Molly gives it sixty hundred stars out of one star and one moon for the wolves to howl at. She enjoyed the less intense 3-D of this movie more than other films and her favorite parts were all the howling. Hopefully that's because she didn't get the metaphor.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga'Hoole

Legend of the Guardians, the Owls of Ga'Hoole.

Me: I don't like birds. I mean, I don't have such visceral feelings against them that I would say that I hate them, but I am not fond of them. I'm not frightened or skeeved out by them; they just kind of annoy the piss out of me. Sure, blah blah, majestic and flight, blah blah. I get it, but they still annoy me. I'm not sure where it comes from, but really birds don't have a great cultural background in literature and movies. I mean, the Eagles in the Hobbit and Return of the King are just deus ex machina, the crows in Dumbo are racist stereotypes, Woody Woodpecker is a douche, Daffy and Donald are both short-fused asshole foils for their counterparts, and Heckle and Jeckle are some kind of incestuous gay magpies - or maybe they are, I've never quite figured out their relationship. And even Foghorn Leghorn, who is portrayed as the protagonist in most cartoons, is really the instigator in each situation and Jonathan Livingston Seagull is just a Taoist propaganda seagull whose nonconformity ultimately becomes the new conformity at the end of the book as he returns to find all of the outlawed nonconformist seagulls and teaches them to be just like him.

So that is what this movie had going against it with me when I took Molly to see it. But this is the time of year when kids movies stink. It's the time of year when the choices are rather limited. It's the time of year after the summer releases, but before the Thanksgiving and Christmas releases. It's the time of year when you try to get grandmom and pop-pop take your kids to the movies. But Jessica is out of town for the night, so I let Molly pick what we did.

The movie is about a pair of owl brothers who are captured by these evil owls who want to control the owl kingdoms and have some weird, unexplained magic...  or possible magnetic... device that can ground owls because of some metal flecks that they find. Anyhow, one of the brothers escapes and finds the Guardians who are legendary owls that are good guys. The other brother, however, remains with the bad owls (or "Pure Ones" - feel free to connect the really huge obvious dot for the "Master Race" analogy) and embraces their ideology and becomes one of them.

Oh, and in battle the owls wear armor. You may think that this is weird (as I did), but they later point out that some owls excel at and are trained to be blacksmiths.  Yeah... I wasn't exactly content with that gloss over myself and would have thought that a much more interesting movie would have been about the first owl who created a forge and became a smithy. Let alone all of this is rather odd when you consider that wearing metal helmets would probably be a little unwieldy  and heavy in flight for the owls.

Anyhow, the good owl brother escapes and finds a Misfit Band of Friends (TM) and ventures off to warn the Guardians. Along the way he, he finds his inner strength and his potential at being a leader and friend. Blah, blah, blah. Standard story. However, there are a couple of things worth noting about the movie.

First of all, I have no clue how much time passed in the movie. I mean, passage of time just seemed this abstract thing. The movie was 90 minutes long, so I suppose that at least 90 minutes must have passed in the story. Probably more time, but I couldn't tell you if the story they told took place over 90 minutes, 90 hours, 90 days, 90 weeks or 90 months.

Next, I have to say that for all of the computer animated movies I have seen, this one is by far the most technically beautiful. The detail is absolutely stunning and so incredibly real looking that it is amazing. It's just a shame that they took that level of intense detail and wasted it on a movie about birds.

And finally the battle scenes were fucking intense for a kid's movie billed as being "from the makers of 'Happy Feet'".  The battles in the movie would cut to super-slow motion scenes of where metal-bladed weapons used by the owls would come perilously close to decapitating another owl, but he ducks and rolls just as the blade cuts above his head. Honestly, the owl battle scenes looked like the battle scenes from 300. Then during the end credits I noticed the director: Zack Snyder, who directed 300 and Watchmen. The battles are just as intense as they are in either of those movies, but you don't see the blood flowing. But instead, you get implied gore and death, such as an owl battle helmet bouncing on the ground after a razor attack, implying, instead of overtly showing, decapitation.

Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on next to my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Legend of the Guardians?
Molly: Well, I liked when the eyes was white.

Chuckie: Which eyes?
Molly: I mean, the white eyes on the owls. When they looked at the moon.

Chuckie: What was the movie about?
Molly: Um, owls.

Chuckie: Well, yes, but what about them, Pixie?
Molly: Well, they scratched each other.

Chuckie: Why did they do that?
Molly: Because one of them was bad and he was trying to get the other ones gone.

Chuckie: I thought that the slow-motion battle scenes were a little over-the-top for a kid's movie. What did you think?
Molly: Um, I don't know about that.

Chuckie: Alright, fair enough, but I also thought that the battle scenes were a little intense for a movie billed as "from the people who gave you 'Happy Feet'". Did you think that the movie was mismarketed as well?
Molly: Um, no.

Chuckie: So, you think that the movie should get the Happy Feet market crowd as well?
Molly: Yes, Daddy. I have happy feet too.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Well, my favorite part was where they singed together.

Chuckie: Was there anything that you didn't like about the movie?
Molly: Um, yes.
Chuckie: What?
Molly: Where the two guys fighted.

Chuckie: There was a lot of fighting in the movie, Pixie.
Molly: Yeah, but when the one fighted the other one in the fire and he fell in and was like "AAAAAH!" and I was like, "You have wings! Fly! Duh!"

Chuckie: Good point.
Molly: Thank you, Daddy.

Chuckie: Do you think that the fighting was too scary for younger kids.
Molly: Um, no. Not for me, it wasn't.

Chuckie: What ages do you think the movie was for?
Molly: Um, four year olds.

Chuckie: Why?
Molly: Because I watched it and look at me. No nightmares, Daddy.

Chuckie: Fair enough. The movie was in 3-D, but you didn't want to wear your glasses. Why not?
Molly: Because it would be scary to me.

Chuckie: What would, Sweetie?
Molly: When I put my glasses on and everything would come out of the movie and into my eyes and take me over and control me and then I'd have white eyes too.

Chuckie: (laughing)
Molly: I'm serious, Daddy. That would really happen.

Chuckie: Okay, okay. So, how would you rate the movie, Pixie?
Molly: You mean give it stars and moons and suns?

Chuckie: You can rate it however you like.
Molly: Okay, then, um... sixteen and twenty one stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Um, Daddy, I don't know. Because sometimes I make the wrong choices.
Chuckie: What do you mean?
Molly: Because sometimes I make the wrong review of the stars and moons and suns and give it the wrong number.

Chuckie: That's okay, Sweetie.
Molly: Okay. Then sixteen and a hundred and thirteen moons.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of two, Daddy.

Chuckie: And suns?
Molly: A hundred and one out of one.

Chuckie: Do you think that people would like this movie?
Molly: Um, yes. Excellent question, by the way, Daddy.

Chuckie: Um, thank you.
Molly: You're welcome.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like this movie?
Molly: Well, I think Eva would, but she really likes horses so she can pretend that the owls are horses then she'll really like the movie better.

Chuckie: Anything else you want to say about the movie, Pixie?
Molly: They should see it because it's a fun movie and it's great.

So, that's our review. I thought that the movie was visually stunning and an amazing demonstration of what computer animation can look like. However, the story fell short on many levels from taking the cliché route, to failing to flesh out characters to even explaining what the hell was going on and how much friggin' time passed in the movie.

I give it one and a half out of five stars. The computer animation is gorgeous, but ultimately I don't know where it will satisfy an audience. If you are really into owls, the owls look real, but ultimately don't act like owls because they have a blacksmith and forge weapons and armor for war. If you really love amazing battle scenes, well, the battles are epic, but it's hard to get past the fact that it is just a bunch of owls fighting. Ultimately this movie will probably only really satisfy a niche audience of people who love both owls and war equally.
Molly gives it sixteen and twenty one stars, sixteen and a hundred and thirteen moons out of two and a hundred and one out of one suns. She also thinks that the movie can be improved upon by just pretending that the characters in the movie are something other than owls if you happen to like something else more. I wish that I had thought of that before watching it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Me: What happens when you have a wife who is very excited to see a movie that isn't about notebooks, that doesn't have Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts in it and does not involve (non-pornographic) sex in any city?* You encourage it by digging up movie passes and bringing along your four-year old daughter since you haven't yet to find a good babysitter up in these parts.

And thus, we gathered up our family to see "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World". For some reason Scott Pilgrim has been sort of billed and previewed as a comic book movie, but it is really a video game movie. But fortunately the Venn Diagram of fans of those genres comes pretty close to forming a single circle, so it shouldn't be much of a problem for the oddly mislabeled film. I mean, technically it was a comic, but the movie really takes on the video game culture more in hand than the comic culture.

The movie is by Edgar Wright, who also wrote the really excellent "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", so I was expecting to like the movie. I also was not disappointed, and this is coming from someone who is in the comic book side of the previously mentioned Venn Diagram and not in the overlap of the 8-bit video game circle.

I feel odd liking this movie in a way. I mean, first of all, I'm old enough that I've played 8-bit video games as new releases, not to be ironic, retro or hipster. Second, a lot of the music was written by 90's era (former) indie musicians such as Beck and Frank Black. So the music and the visuals are from my era, but the movie is obviously aimed for an audience that bought their Pixies tee-shirts from Hot Top instead of from an actual show. Here I was sitting through the movie in my thirties with my wife and kid. I felt like I was supposed to dislike the movie just so that the 20 year olds in the theater could scoff at me and tell me that I didn't get it.

But I did get it.

That's what was weird. I felt like I was letting the rest of the younger audience down by not giving them someone to scoff at for being old and out of it. It's one of those movies that will make young people think that those roles need to be fulfilled and, in a way, I'm sorry I liked it so much and deprived my theater audience by not fulfilling that role.

First of all, the movie is great. Probably the best one I've seen this year in the theaters (I've caught a couple of video that probably beat it thought). It has the right amount of action and rapid movement that makes it pleasing right before it turns into ADD. And beyond all of the flash and fury, there is actually a rather decent story and message in there as well.

But what makes the movie fun is the flash and fury. Visually, the movie is just amazing. I'm really surprised at Edgar Wright's range in the more visually subdued flicks (Shaun and Hot Fuzz) to pull off something so intensely visual and auditory as this film. I'm also a fan of Michael Cera and I was very glad to see that he "matured" a bit from his stammering gawkiness in this movie, at least at parts.

Anyhow, I won't go fully into the flick. On paper, it will sound rather bland and dull because this movie needs to be appreciated in the sound and fury of the screen. But there is a lot to like about this movie. Unfortunately, other audiences will be deprived of my favorite part of the movie experience we had:

When Scott Pilgrim defeated the evil exes after a furious battle scene, they exploded into a bunch of coins. That was immediately followed, in our theater, by my four-year old daughter happily yelling out, "Yay! Pennies!"

Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on next to my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? 
Molly: I liked it. I liked the girl with the pink hair. And the green hair. And the blue hair.

Chuckie: What did you like about her?
Molly: I liked about the girl and boy. When they had hearts.
Chuckie: When did they have hearts? 
Molly: When they kissed each other. (She giggles shyly.)

Chuckie: What was the movie about?
Molly: Him was fighting the ones that wouldn't let him be her boyfriend.
Chuckie: Why wouldn't they let him?
Molly: Because they were bad guys.

Chuckie: So what did you think about the fights?
Molly: They were trying to kill him and he fought them like this... (She engages in a solo battle sequence showing me a number of kicking and punching moves.) ...and then they turned into pennies. And the one he killed turned into glasses and camed out to fight him again.

Chuckie: I thought that the music was almost an uncredited character in and of itself in the movie. What did you think about the music in it?
Molly: I liked it. Especially the dragons.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie? 
Molly: The hearts.

Chuckie: Who else did you like in the movie?
Molly: The girl he fought. She disappeared and then... POOF! (She waves her arms up largely.) She undisappeared and kicked him like this! (Shows me a kick move.)

Chuckie: Anyone else?
Molly: Um, the black guy and the tan guy.
Chuckie: Who were they?
Molly: One was the black one that never can be dead and the other one can turn his eyes white. Daddy, do I have any powers?
Chuckie: I don't know, Pixie, you tell me. 
Molly: Um, well I can make disappearing tricks like the girl he fighted. Close your eyes, Daddy.
Chuckie: (Closes eyes.) Okay, Sweetie. 
Molly: (Quickly gets up and runs behind me.) Okay, now open them.
Chuckie: (Opens eyes.) Wow. You're gone. 
Molly: (From behind me.) Poof! See, Daddy.

Chuckie: Okay, that's your power, I suppose. So, did the movie teach you anything about boyfriends and girlfriends?
Molly: Uh-huh. I should kiss my boyfriends then they can fall in love with me. Daddy, do you think that Craig could beat Jovaughn in a fight?
Chuckie: Hold old is Jovaughn?
Molly: Four. 
Chuckie: Probably.

Molly: How about Brace?
Chuckie: I don't know, Sweetie. Do you really think you should have all of your boyfriends fight each other? 
Molly: I know, Daddy. I was just pretending. And Jovaughn hates me now.

Chuckie: Why? 
Molly: (Shrugs.) Dunno. At one time he was in love with me and he wanted to kiss me. And I ran from him because you're not supposed to kiss at school.
Chuckie: That's right, you shouldn't. 
Molly: I know. Hey, Daddy, I'm a karate girl. (She yells, "Hi-yah!" and does a karate chop into the air.)

Chuckie: So was there anything you didn't like about the movie?
Molly: The bad guys.
Chuckie: Why not? 
Molly: Because they fighted him.

Chuckie: How would you rate the movie, Pixie? 
Molly: Um, can I give it stars and moons and suns now, Daddy?
Chuckie: You can rate it however you like. 
Molly: Okay, I'll give it sixteen-eight-twenty-ninety stars. Say "whoa", Daddy.

Chuckie: Why? 
Molly: Because that's a heckalotta stars.
Chuckie: Okay. Whoa.
Molly: Thanks, Daddy,

Chuckie: How many moons? 
Molly: Sixty-ninety-twenty-eighty. Say "whoa, whoa."

Chuckie: Whoa, whoa. How many suns? 
Molly: Sixty-hundred-ninety-zero.

Chuckie: Do you think people would like this movie? 
Molly: Yes, because it's so good.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like this movie, Sweetie? 
Molly: Um. Craig and Lindsey. I got them a picture poster for it. They're gonna love it and hang it up in their room and say "wow" whenever they see it.

Chuckie: That's very sweet, Pixie. Anything else you want to say about the movie? 
Molly: I like the girl a lot and a lot and a lot. And I want to be like her and have white and blue hair like she has. 
Chuckie: And have boyfriends fighting over you like she had?
Molly: No. Just them fighting Jovaughn.

So, that's our review. I thought that the movie was brilliant and quite entertaining. While it is nice to see Michael Cera move past stammering awkwardness, it is even more impressive to see the vision that Edgar Wright can pull off beyond the subdued visuals of his previous works. The music takes on a life of its own in the movie (literally) and it combines perfectly with the visuals. Ultimately the depth of the story is a little light, but that does not matter. This movie is pure fun, even if it is slightly depressing to think that I am probably supposed to be too old to enjoy it.

I give it a solid four out of five stars. I probably would have given it another half-star for every five years younger I was, but being married with a kid and in my thirties, I feel I have to deduct at least one star so that younger folk do not get too upset that I liked the movie too much and can still think that I don't really "get" it.
Molly gives it sixteen-eight-twenty-ninety stars, sixty-ninety-twenty-eighty moons and sixty-hundred-ninety-zero suns. Apparently the movie has also taught her a lot about relationships and my friend Craig who is in his twenties and "her boyfriend" is going to have to kick four-year old Jovaughn's ass. Apparently my daughter is going after an Evil League of Current Boyfriends.

*For the record, my wife is rather awesome in the fact that she does not really care for any of these movies anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2010



Me: I tend to be more aware of anime movies than actually see them. So I was aware of Ponyo for a long while and knew that it had received good reviews and had thought about renting it to watch with Molly at some point. However, whenever I ended renting movies, I would promptly forget about the title and either Molly or I would grab a different title instead. However, we finally got to sit down and watch the movie.

Ponyo focuses on the story of a goldfish-girl whose father is a wizard-like keeper of the ocean. Struck with curiosity and wanderlust, she sneaks away from her father and goes closer to the shore and the surface of the water. She is trapped in the trash and waste that the humans leave along their coast, but the young human boy, Sōsuke, discovers her and frees her. Thinking her no more than a goldfish, he decides to name her Ponyo and keep her in a bucket, but not before she licks a wound of his (tasting human blood) and heals him. Sōsuke vows to protect her forever.

Upon discovering her missing, Ponyo's father searches for her and the seas become stormy and restless as he believes that his daughter has been kidnapped by humans, who he detests for their mistreatment of the ocean. Anyhow, as the waters rise and swell, he "rescues" his daughter from her "captors" and locks her away for her own good with her other sisters. Perhaps this is the father in me, but I didn't particularly view this as a malicious act, but just fatherly overprotectiveness tied in with his own biases and prejudices.

Anyhow, Ponyo escapes and goes to rejoin Sōsuke, whom she loves. Along the way, her magic powers grow and she turns into a human girl to join Sōsuke. This, however, causes a great imbalance in the world. The moon moves out of orbit and great tides flood the islands. Sōsuke's mother leaves Sōsuke and Ponyo together in their house high on a cliff to try to help the senior citizens that she cares for. As the floods increase, they are separated by the waters.

Sōsuke and Ponyao search out for Sōsuke's mother, along the way finding that prehistoric fish have seemingly filled the waters again. Ponyo's mother, the Goddess of Mercy, meets with Ponyo's father and they discuss Ponyo's decision to become a human and love Sōsuke and the dangers it may cause as the world is imbalanced. Sōsuke must be tested for his love of Ponyo. If he passes, she will remain human with him. If he fails, she will become sea foam.

Ultimately the test is a declaration of Sōsuke's love for Ponyo. Would he love her as a fish as much as a human? Sōsuke declares that he loves all of Ponyo's forms and that love is accepted and he passes the test. Ponyo becomes a human and the moon is returned and balance is restored to the world.

Ah, but what I failed to mention is that Sōsuke is five-years old. That seems like a rather heavy burden to rest the fate of the world upon: the capacity of a five year old to love. I think back to when I was five. I was deeply and madly in love as well. However, the object of my affection was Princess Leia. Really. I used to have this Star Wars picture book and I remember flipping through it and kissing the pictures of Princess Leia. I wanted nothing more in life than to marry her. I think that my affection for Princess Leia is part of the reason why I still have an innate dislike of Han Solo. Early in the stories, it seemed like Luke and Leia would end up together. I also related to Luke because of a lack of blond heroes (When playing Super Friends, I was always forced to be Aquaman because of my blond hair. Do you know how often Aquaman's crappy powers are useful in a school playground pretend disaster? Not friggin' often at all. The lack of blond heroes on teevee and movies is why Peter Davidson was always my favorite Doctor as well.). But anyhow, it is fortunate for the fate of the world, Sōsuke's capacity to love at five years old was much more developed than Princess-Leia-lusting five year old capacity was.

I think that is my only real complaint with the movie. Perhaps part of it is a cultural thing; Japan has more cultural emphasis on arranged marriages and destiny than US culture, so a five-year old's understanding of love might be more important. Or maybe it's just my own bias. My understanding of love at five years old ended being mired in hair buns and unknowing incest.

But anyhow, the visuals in the movie are beautiful. I'm not really a fish person, but I really thought that the sea life was drawn with such loving attention to detail. Also, I was fully aware of the score of the movie throughout. Most movies it fades into the background and is just supposed to be subtle themes in your subconscious. But this movie, the score was almost a character in and of itself. It was present and obvious and it was not a bad thing. I loved the music whenever Ponyo's father was on the screen.

Molly is usually a bit distracted when watching movies at home as opposed to the theater, but we sat down to watch it and she was transfixed on the film throughout. That's saying a lot for the movie, especially for watching it "cold" without her picking out the box or anything. She laid on me for most of the movie and asked a lot of questions about the plot. Only after about the 80 minute mark did she start to get a bit antsy. She still watched it, but began squirming from sofa to sofa. But she definitely was engaged throughout the film.

Molly: (As usual, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at my computer and I'll be typing up what we are saying as we speak, then I'll go back and format it afterward. Her review will be in a Q&A form due to her age. She's sitting on my lap at my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Ponyo?
Molly: I liked the little girl.
Chuckie: What little girl?
Molly: Ponyo, you silly goof.
Chuckie: What did you like about her?
Molly: Her was playing and she ran around like a crazy maniac.

Chuckie: What did you like about the movie?
Molly: Um, her was going over there to the couch and the boy said, the table's over here.
Chuckie: You mean when they ate dinner together at the boy's house?
Molly: Yeah. They had spaghettis and ham. Oh, and eggs. (She then closes her eyes and goes limp and falls off of my lap onto the floor.)
Chuckie: Get up, Pixie.
Molly: I'm showing you the other part I like, Daddy.

Chuckie: What part?
Molly: When she fell asleep like this. (She closes her eyes again and goes "nee nee nee", which is her "snoring" sound.)

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: Daddy, I'll be right back. (She stands up.)

Chuckie: Where are you going?
Molly: I need to get a drink or else my mouth will go so dry that I won't ever be able to talk again and then we can't ever finish the review.

Chuckie: Okay, Sweetie. Get something from Mommy in the kitchen.
Molly: (She runs out into the kitchen and eventually returns with a glass of chocolate milk.) Now where was I?

Chuckie: What happened in the movie?
Molly: Um, the man was trying to steal the little fishie.
Chuckie: The man?
Molly: The one that had the dolphins. The one that tricked the old people.
Chuckie: You mean Ponyo's daddy?
Molly: Yeah. That one.

Chuckie: Why was he trying to steal her?
Molly: Because... um... I don't know. Maybe he just wanted a little fish again.

Chuckie: What was your favorite part of the movie?
Molly: Um, I like the part when the girl did this. (She tries to make her eyes open really big.)

Chuckie: What didn't you like about the movie?
Molly: Um, the man shouldn't have tried to steal the fish. I mean, he already had a bunch of other fishies at him house.

Chuckie: Did you think that the movie was too scary?
Molly: Uh-uh. Not scary.

Chuckie: How would you rate the movie?
Molly: I want to give out stars and moons and suns.

Chuckie: Okay, how many starts do you give the movie?
Molly: Ten hundred ninety eighty nine stars.
Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of ten hundred hundred ninety four thousand.

Chuckie: That's a lot.
Molly: Yeah, but it only gets one moon, Daddy.
Chuckie: Just one?
Molly: Yeah, out of the one big moon that was in the sky in the movie.

Chuckie: Okay.
Molly: Daddy, don't forget the suns.

Chuckie: Sorry, Pixie. How many suns do you give it?
Molly: Um, ten. Out of ten.

Chuckie: Okay. Do you think that people will like this movie?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: Who do you think would like it?
Molly: Everyone.

Chuckie: Do you think that it is a good movie for four year olds?
Molly: Five.

Chuckie: But you're four.
Molly: Nuh-uh, Daddy. I had a birthday at school. So, I'm five, Daddy. None of you guys know that I'm five because none of you guys were there at my birthday party. (She is a little confused. We celebrated her birthday and had a party on Saturday since it was the weekend. Her actual birthday is today, so she took in cupcakes to Daycare and had another party today, so she is thinking that she had another birthday.)

Chuckie: Okay, fine. So, it is a good movie for five year olds?
Molly: Yes.

Chuckie: What kind of people do you think would like it?
Molly: Um, I think Mason would be sad because there's a bad guy in it. And I think Edison would be brave because she likes a lot of movies, so she'd be brave. (She starts to sing "Brave, brave, brave. Edison is so brave. Brave, brave, brave. Molly is so brave. Brave, brave, brave. We're brave because we're five.")

Chuckie: Very nice singing, Pixie.
Molly: Thank you.

Chuckie: Is there anything else that you want to tell people about the movie?
Molly: Um, yes. This is going to be a funny one, Daddy. I think dolphins would like the movie too. Because they've never seen a movie before, so they'd think it was a funny one.

So, that's our review. I thought it was a beautiful movie and the score was interesting and present throughout. There are a couple of cultural differences that do not fully translate to a Western audience, but they are really only minor things and perhaps relate to my own views of what true love is from when I was five. Still, the movie was visually beautiful and the plot, which is sort of a retelling of the Littlest Mermaid (the original, not the Disney version), was a little light, but perfect for the simple story it told.

I give it three and a half out of five stars and I probably would have given it fewer stars for the plot issue of having a five-year old in the movie understanding what love really is, but as I look back at it, I think I can accept that my five-year old love really was true and lasting and I'm still really in love with Princess Leia to this day.
Molly gives it ten hundred ninety eighty nine stars out of ten hundred hundred ninety four thousand stars and one big moon that was in the movie and ten out of ten suns. She also thinks that as long as you are five (or believe that you are five), you will be brave enough to watch this movie. And apparently dolphins, who are unused to the motion picture medium, will find it hilarious.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Me: Molly has been telling me about how she's been wanting to watch "that movie with the chocolate river" again. She's seen Willy Wonka once before about 5 or 6 months ago and apparently remembered it. So we went to the video store after I picked her up from school and I let her pick out a couple of movies and she grabbed "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (the 1971 classic, not the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory travesty).

Hopefully you've seen it before, because it really is a classic. I've always liked the movie and I liked it as an adult before I had my daughter. Now that I have a kid, it's fun to watch with her. Molly was really very into the movie when we watched it. It starts a little slow and drags a bit before the arrival at the factory, but she was still insistent on sitting there intently and watching it and asking me a lot of questions. She was really disappointed when the fifth ticket showed up in Paraguay and Charlie didn't get it. However, she was really excited once it was discovered to be a fake and Charlie found the last ticket.

Anyhow, the movie is an adaptation of the book by Roald Dahl (who also wrote the Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was made into a movie that I loved). Roald Dahl actually wrote the screenplay for the 1971 movie as well, but ultimately was disappointed by some revisions that were put into his work, notably the emphasis on Willy Wonka over Charlie and Charlie's flawed morality by stealing the Fizzy-lifting drink. I kind of have to agree a bit with the second bit, as Charlie stealing the drink did create a little moral ambiguity that was difficult for Molly to understand as she told me at the end of the movie "but he stoled drink so he was a bad kid too". As far as the emphasis on Willy Wonka, I have to say that I think that this is genius work by Gene Wilder and he is amazingly fun to watch. The whole reason for the original title change to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory instead of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the result of product tie-ins, since the Willy Wonka name could be branded.

There was also a bit of controversy in the original Dahl book, as the Oompa-Loompa were originally pygmies from Africa who worked for cacao beans and are experimented on with the candy testing, but it was later changed in a revised reissue to a more fantastical race from Loompaland in response to criticism of being racist. The movie's change to orange-skinned green-haired peoples from Loompaland actually predates the author's revisions in his books. I suppose it while staving off charges of racism by this change, it still doesn't exactly better the colonialism nature exhibited by Wonka.

But cheap foreign labor issues aside, the movie really is a lot of fun. The flaws of the children are blunt and obvious and morality lessons to be learned are recited to us in song by the Oompa-Loompas. The bad children, however, have character flaws of what seems to be differing problematic levels.

Augustus Gloop is gluttonous. It seems rather basic enough of a "sin" for this character, even though he's out of the story quickly and doesn't survive past the first room so we've never explored the possible psychological issues that Augustus might suffer from, such as a shattered childhood where he turned to compulsive overeating as a means to cope with his feelings. Instead, he is just that German kid who wears shorts in October when everyone else has on coats and scarves. Really, are Nazi uniforms and lederhosen the only two types of clothing that Hollywood wardrobes can provide for German characters? But anyway, I can see how gluttony is an issue, more so in today's world than in 1971. This is a message that is appropriate enough to tell to children.

Violet Beauregarde is obsessed with gum chewing. This seems to be a rather specific problem and not really a "global" children's issue that needs to be dealt with. In fact, her flaw can be seen akin to Augustus's gluttony in a way. Or, perhaps more appropriately, as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder since she is obsessed with chewing the same piece of gum. If that is the case, then a "life-lesson" at the Wonka factory probably isn't really the best approach and instead the Oompa-Loompa should be looking for rhymes for "tricyclic antidepressants", "serotonin" and "cognitive-behavioral therapy". Instead, the Oompa-Loompas sing about the perils of obsessive gum-chewing and include the lyric; "Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while; it stops you from smoking and brightens your smile." It stops you from smoking?!? This line being in a song for children's morality is rather odd, unless, we assume that Violet used to be a heavy chain smoker and this is how she's given it up. If that is the case, then I say the Oompa-Loompas should be more accepting of the lesser of two evils. Either way, if Violet is suffering from severe OCD or if she is struggling with nicotine addiction, I have to say that her "sin" is rather minor and unfitting in context of the other kids.

Veruca Salt is, appropriately, most people's favorite of the kids. Her last name is "Salt" to emphasize that there is nothing sweet about her. She's greedy, selfish and quite spoiled. These are, of course, terrible traits for a child to have. However, as the Oompa-Loompas point out in song, it is the full blame of the mothers and the fathers for a child to be like this. So, is it alright for the children to snooze during this part of the movie since the message is for their parents? I mean, the Loompa song pretty much absolves the child for any responsibility in their condition and puts the full blame on the parents. Does that mean that Veruca Salt is potentially incinerated in a garbage chute for crimes of her parents? According to the Oompa-Loompas, that is the case. Now, any of the issues of the children can be traced back to their parents and their upbringing (except poor Violet's brain chemistry and her OCD, unless we want to blame the parents on a genetic level), but this is the only issue that the Oompa-Loompas specifically call out the parents on. So we must assume that this one is fully the fault of the parents and poor Veruca has been incinerated merely because of the lack of discipline in her upbringing. Though if it is an consolation, her father also gets incinerated.

Mike Teavee is television obsessed and apparently by his dress and attitude we can assume that in 1971 all that was on teevee was Westerns. However, looking at the prime time TV schedule for the 1971-72 season you see that this was not the case. Gunsmoke was on Monday nights at 8 on NBC, but other than that, there were no Westerns. That's fine, however, because I really think the character would have suffered if he was a Mannix-obsessed boy or obsessively watched The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Still, I suppose that this is a relevant message for today's kids.

Charlie Bucket is a poor kid who is supposed to be honest, but he steals Fizzy-Lifting Drink with his Grandpa and is almost decapitated by a metal fan blade. But he makes good at the end of the movie by returning the everlasting Gobstopper to Willy Wonka and showing his trustworthiness. Then, the weirdest thing happens. Wonka produces Slugworth and reveals that he is working for him and that the whole thing was a morality test. Now, I have always assumed that this means that Slugworth is really a subsidiary of Wonka's and by creating this illusion of competition, Wonka is really just subverting antitrust laws. Is that how Wonka's chocolate became such a powerhouse in the world? Has he used a dummy competitor to enter the market with him to give the illusion of competition while just using the dual market influences to take out his competitors with predatory pricing practices? I mean, it makes sense, considering the cheap slave labor that runs the Wonka factories, he could lower the prices enough and have the dummy Slugworth company match his lower prices. This would give the illusion of fair competition, while at the same time excluding newcomers into the markets and ultimately Wonka's cheap labor could offset any losses incurred by the dummy Slugworth company. This is probably why Wonka never considers letting an Oompa-Loompa take over his business and instead searches out for a kid. If he let the Oompa-Loompas learn the dubious morality of the market model that Wonka is using, he'd have to fear for his life with a song that started with "Oompa-Loompa doompadee Derman Dantitrust Dact".

Anyhow, despite the anti-fair competition message, the movie is quite excellent and Gene Wilder is perfect in it. I loved this movie as a kid and I loved it as an adult. Now I love it as a father watching it with my kid.

Molly: (As always, I will be transcribing as much as I can from what she says. We're at a computer and I'm typing up what we are saying as we speak, then going back afterward to format it. Her review will be in a Q&A form, due to her age. She's sitting next to me at my computer as we do this.)

Chuckie: What did you think about the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
Molly: Daddy, it wasn't in a movie feater.
Chuckie: I know, Sweetie. But we can still review it, right?
Molly: Yeah. I was just saying it wasn't in a movie feater.
Chuckie: So, what did you think of the movie?
Molly: I liked it.

Chuckie: What did you like about the movie, Pixie?
Molly: I liked the part about the boy going down into the chocolate.
Chuckie: Augustus Gloop?
Molly: Yeah. In the chocolate.

Chuckie: What happened in the movie?
Molly: (She does not immediately answer, but decides to get another chair. She gets up and goes to Jessica's computer desk and gets her roller chair and pushes it over next to me and climbs up onto it, all the while chanting "Oompa-oompa, oompa-oompa" again and again.)
Chuckie: You set up now?
Molly: Yeah.

Chuckie: Okay, so what happened in the movie?
Molly: They had to find golden tickets and someone tricked them.

Chuckie: How did they trick them?
Molly: Um, because there were no more left when he said that he got one, but he lied. He didn't really have one. There were five tickets and there were none left, but there really was one left.

Chuckie: Let's talk about the kids. Tell me about Augustus Gloop.
Molly: Him was bad because he ate the chocolate from the river and went in a tube.

Chuckie: Tell me about Violet Beauregarde.
Molly: That's Molly Simon.
Chuckie: What do you mean.
Molly: My hair's like her hair. See? (She holds out a handful of strands of her hair to show me.) Her hair matches mine. It's brown like her hair.
Chuckie: Do you act like her?
Molly: She's me when I growed up. Then I'll act like her.
Chuckie: Well, what happened to Violet.
Molly: Her turned into a blueberry. I called her a grape once, Daddy.

Chuckie: Tell me about Veruca Salt.
Molly: Her was an egg.
Chuckie: What do you mean?
Molly: Her wanted everything, even the eggs.
Chuckie: And what happened to her?
Molly: She wanted to be an egg and she went into the garbage.

Chuckie: Tell me about Mike Teavee.
Molly: I want to talk about Charlie Brown.

Chuckie: Do you mean Charlie Bucket?
Molly: No, him name was Charlie Brown.

Chuckie: Okay, let's talk about him.
Molly: Um, him drink the drink. (She makes a fist and mimes drinking a drink from it.) And then he flew, flew, flew! And they almost got to the fan. And then they had to burp. Ew, Daddy, gross. You're eating your shirt. (She is looking at me and I do have the collar of my tee shirt in my mouth and am chewing on it while I type. It's a nasty habit I have.)
Chuckie: Sorry, Sweetie. (I drop it out of my mouth.)
Molly: Daddy, if you eat your shirts all the time that's how you won't get bigger muscles. You need to eat healthy food instead to get muscles or else you can't fight Shelby Marx.

Chuckie: What did you think about the songs in the movie?
Molly: Um, I liked the part where they went "oompa oompa". That one.

Chuckie: What were the Oompa Loompas' songs about?
Molly: Fixing the kids.

Chuckie: Were there any parts of the movie that you didn't like?
Molly: Yep.
Chuckie: What parts?
Molly: The one that tricked them.
Chuckie: You mean the fake golden ticket?
Molly: Yeah. Him was really bad. Him was more bad than the kids.

Chuckie: Was the movie scary at all?
Molly: Nah.

Chuckie: Not even when the boat when in the tunnel?
Molly: No. I'd watch it a couple times and I'd be fine.

Chuckie: So what happened to Charlie at the end of the movie?
Molly: You mean Charlie Brown?

Chuckie: Sure.
Molly: Him gived the candy back to the man and that meant he won.

Chuckie: What did he win?
Molly: He got to go in a big rocket ship.

Chuckie: Do you think that this is a good movie for kids your age?
Molly: You can say that again!
Chuckie: Did you learn --
Molly: (interrupting) Daddy, I said you can say that again.
Chuckie: I heard you.
Molly: So say it.
Chuckie: Okay. Do you think that this is a good movie for kids your age?
Molly: Yeah.

Chuckie: Did you learn any lessons from the movie?
Molly: Uh-huh. You're supposed to be a good kid.

Chuckie: So, the movie taught you to be good?
Molly: Daddy, it's not a teacher, it doesn't talk like that.

Chuckie: How would you rate this movie?
Molly: Can we please give out stars and give out moons and give out suns?

Chuckie: Of course, Pixie. You can rate it however you want.
Molly: Six-eleven stars.

Chuckie: Out of how many?
Molly: Out of sixty-hundred. Sixty hundred moons out of sixty-sixty hundred moons.

Chuckie: And suns?
Molly: Yeah, it can have suns.

Chuckie: How many?
Molly: Sixty-hundred twelve and sixty.

Chuckie: Do you think that people would like this movie?
Molly: Uh-huh. Craig and Lindsey should watch it. And Mike said he saw it. And Edison would like it. And Mason. And Grandmom and Pop Pop and Conner and Emily and Grammy and Pappy and Sarah would like it.

Chuckie: No, I mean people that you don't know.
Molly: Like the girl with the two doggies?

Chuckie: Who do you mean?
Molly: The one with the two doggies that are brown/

Chuckie: I'm not sure who you are talking about, Pixie.
Molly: The one with the two doggies and she said something one time and you said "Hi" to her.

Chuckie: Sweetie, I don't know who you mean.
Molly: (She starts to "draw" a "map" on her leg with her finger.) The one with the bricks whose house is here and our house is here.

Chuckie: You mean the neighbor across the street?
Molly: Yeah. Her would like it.

Chuckie: Is there anything else you want to tell people about the movie?
Molly: Well, I was laughing at some parts, so I think it's a funny movie.

Chuckie: What were you laughing at?
Molly: (She makes a fake burping sound, then laughs at herself.)

Chuckie: You liked the burpring?
Molly: (She nods.) Daddy, when you shake your head like this it means yes. And when you shake your head like this is means no. And when you say yes, it means yes and when you say no, it means no. (She points at her cup that has smiling jack-o-lanterns on it.) And, Daddy, these pumpkins liked the movie. They're laughing because of the burps.

So that's our review. I think that it is a classic and Gene Wilder at his best. Parts of the movie may be a little intense or creepy, but Molly was surprisingly fine with the dark elements in the movie. But then again, that's Molly. Your mileage with your kids may vary. It's a great children's movie that is still quite charming once you are an adult. And for a movie that we were watching on DVD instead of the theater, Molly was quite entranced throughout.

I give it four out of five stars. It is a great children's movie that is also fun for adults. It holds up well despite the time, even if the Oompa-Loompa songs are a bit dated and the explanation of how television images are transmitted is out of date. Just ignore the Wonka's anti-trust antics and you'll have a fine time.
Molly gives it sixty-eleven stars out of sixty-hundred, sixty hundred moons out of sixty-sixty hundred moons and sixty-hundred twelve and sixty suns. She also thinks that our neighbor across the street would like it and it is also documentary as apparently she is intent on growing up to be Violet Beauregarde.