Watching Aladdin with a Fresh Set of Eyes

IMG_6059We all have movies we know by heart, that we’ve seen so many times they become akin to comfort food. Perhaps you pop in the DVD when you don’t know what else to watch, or when you’re doing something else and want it to play in the background. When you’ve watched something enough, the experience of watching turns into one of remembering, tuning out the present and filling the time with your memories of the very thing you could be experiencing. Aladdin was one of those films for me which I’d watched so many times I no longer needed a TV; I could just close my eyes and replay it perfectly in my head. (I distinctly remember watching the VHS three times in a row once when I was home sick from school many years ago.) But I recently got the chance to see it on the big screen for the first time in 23 years and it felt like I was seeing it with a fresh set of eyes. Time and experience can change our perspective or deepen our understanding of a film, but we so rarely take the opportunity to come at things from a new angle and recapture the sense of magic that has been softened by familiarity.

As a way to mark the upcoming Blu-ray release of Aladdin, Disney’s D23 fan club allowed people to vote on which cities would get to host a one-time screening, and luckily for me Phoenix was selected (along with Seattle and Sacremento). Continue reading

In Memoriam: Robin Williams

I don’t even know how to begin to talk about Robin Williams. It seems ridiculous to try to remind people of his many standout roles and performances, because he was so iconic that any reminder is unnecessary. I could easily just post a list of his film, TV and stand-up works and everyone would instantly share my feelings by simply reading the list and having a thousand images and moments flash through their heads. I could highlight his unique talents at comedy and improvisation, in which he was in a class all by himself, or pull out examples of his dramatic roles throughout the years in order to needlessly prove that he was a real actor. I could point to his generous charity work, whether with the USO or St. Jude’s, or I could use the tragic circumstances of his passing to help bring awareness to depression and suicide. Yet instead I find myself flooded with moments, each tied to the most vivid of memories.

I remember Genie, because everyone remembers Genie. Continue reading

What if there was a Best Voice Performance Oscar? – 1992

Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards, in a moment that changed the face of the animated film landscape forever.  It signaled that the Disney Renaissance that began two years earlier with The Little Mermaid (or perhaps even earlier with Oliver & Company) was not just a fluke and was destined to continue on.  It showed that animation is just as important as other types of film, and that they could be just as artistic and meaningful.  And while it eventually lost to The Silence of the Lambs, it still stood as the moment when animation as an industry and a media announced itself as an equal to the rest of Hollywood.  And while it was a number of years before feature length animation received its own category in the awards (2001) and even longer before another animated film would be nominated for best picture (2009’s Up), the fact that animated films are now consistently among the highest grossing films each year and are often the most popular and longest lived of new releases owes a lot to Beauty and the Beast.

But what if Beauty and the Beast had done even more for animation?  Continue reading