Commentary, movie reviews, musings

Revisiting Childhood: The Lion King

Tonight I went to see the Lion King in 3D and I have to admit that I got chills when the sun first popped into view and the music started. It’s a great piece of music for one, but also because it was fun to see something that I remember seeing in theaters. In fact, I remember liking the movie so much we went to see it a second time at the $1 theater six months after it first opened.

While a lot of the movie is exactly as I remember it (I have it on DVD, too, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it in years or anything, though it has been a while), there are several things I didn’t notice as a child. And the interesting thing about childhood memories is that they are sometimes so strong that they continue to be the main perception of something. For instance, even though I’ve seen this movie a dozen times at least (plus every week of summer camp at the zoo), and even though I’ve seen the Broadway production, for the first time I heard the dialog as an adult and not as a kid. I noticed the Reservoir Dogs joke (“They call me… Mr. PIG!”) and other such small things that meant nothing to me 17 years ago when the movie was made.

Another thing I noticed? For being out of food about about to starve, those lionesses are still kind of, well, rounded. If they looked like that in a zoo, they’d be put on a diet reduction. (Note to self: cartoonlionscartoonlionscartoonlionsCARTOONLIONS)

Also, how did Scar get his name? It’s got to be a nickname since everyone else has African-sounding names. Plus, if he was born with the scar then it’s not really a scar, now is it? It’s just a weird stripe on his face. As an adult I imagine that Mufasa and his brother fought as cubs and that Mufasa gave him the scar and therefore the new name. (I have found that my theory is correct. Hmm.)

Another difference from childhood? I’ve now studied Hamlet. Hello, plotline.

But really, it was fun to rediscover my favorite movie from childhood and to find that it’s still beautiful and that I can still enjoy it (even if I spent the entire opening sequence thinking “Hey, look, it’s a kudu!” and other such things). And I think I’d like the new remastered version on DVD to replace my old, well loved copy.

Joanna problems, throwback

Candy Corn Confessional

There are a lot of things from childhood (and even from early adulthood) about which I feel a certain nostalgia. These things range from the $.05 candies (always “tutti frutti”) at the corner store in Edisto when I was 6 to being in Chapel Hill for Halloween during college. In both of these cases, as well as many others, I feel that if I ever tried to go back and recapture the moment as it exists in my head, that it will forever be ruined. Memories last a long time, but those impressions are fleeting in a way, where going back has too much potential to disappoint. Some things are best left to memory lest they turn out to be less than wonderful. It’s quite a bit like the sleigh bell in The Polar Express that eventually stops ringing as the magic of childhood fades.

By the same token, there are some things, mostly very small things, that I have held onto even as I’ve moved farther into adulthood. One of these is decorating for Christmas at the same time every year; I always put up the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, if not immediately after Thanksgiving dinner itself. This started off as a combination of excitement and convenience: my brother, sister, and I were always very excited to get out the Christmas decorations, but also (especially as we got older) Thanksgiving was one time when everyone was in the house and it could be an event.

But there is one little tradition I have that hasn’t quite faded. Every year I wait for the arrival of the Halloween candy, not because I like Halloween candy specifically, but to get my hands on Brach’s candy corn and pumpkins. (Yes, it has to be Brach’s.) For some reason this particular flavor from childhood has never changed to my palate (I once liked circus peanuts, for instance, and now find them disgusting) and I buy a bag each year. These pumpkins have decorated birthday cakes, have been used as toys, and have been my favorite fall candy for years.

There is a part of me, though, that almost dreads the candy corn because I feel like at some point my tastes will change and I will open my little orange packet and the pumpkins won’t satisfy because I’ll have outgrown the sugary sweetness. I have already found that most sugar candies aren’t good to me any more, but so far the candy corn is still just the way I remember it. And in a strange way, that’s comforting.

Commentary, this and that

My life in movies

You can learn a lot about a person from the movies on their shelf. For now let’s take a little trip into the movie shelf in my head.

Films That Remind Me of Childhood:
Back to the Future is still the first movie I can remember seeing in theaters. My “first movie” was Follow That Bird, but I don’t really recall seeing it. Back to the Future was vivid; we went to the Fox Theater (which is a memory in and of itself) and I especially remember the opening bit with the giant amp and speaker, and then I remember having a crush on Michael J. Fox for a long time, as much as a three year old can crush.

Roger Rabbit was one that I distinctly remember. I’m pretty sure we saw it in theaters and I vaguely recall my parents thinking they shouldn’t have taken me, but having seen it as an adult I can honestly say that the adult parts were completely over my head. Jessica Rabbit got chalked up to Red from the old Tex Avery cartoons.

The Rescuers Down Under came out when I was about seven, so going into second grade (I think). My favorite part was the goanna lizard named Joanna, and how she kept stealing eggs. “These are NOT Joanna eggs!” was one of my kid-catch-phrases (a la “There IS such a thing as privacy!”) that stuck for a while. Also this Rescuers movie was a lot more fun than the original, and really shows the huge change that happened in Disney’s studio between the 1970s (and all of their dark, serious movies) and the 1990s when the Disney revival happened. I would even argue that this movie set the tone for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.

Home Alone was one I saw a couple of times in theaters, and I remember going with my cousin. We all quoted it in school because in middle-elementary it was the “cool” movie.

Childhood Films Where Removal was Necessary:
Ghost Dad really upset me in the theater and I asked to leave. Other than that, I can’t really recall being removed from any movies. I’m sure the channel got changed a few times.

Films that Defined My Teens:
Men in Black is one I still enjoy watching. It was the first blockbuster movie when I got to high school and pop culture references become a big thing at that age so it stuck with me.

The Matrix came out between my sophomore and junior years of high school and that became the next huge pop culture defining movie. The first one was very good but I didn’t like the other two.

Labyrinth is a movie that should’ve been a childhood movie, but I don’t think I saw it until I was a teenager. This is one that my friends and I would quote incessantly at one another and we enjoyed that most people our age had no idea what we were referencing. It was this great inside joke. “Don’t go that way, nobody ever goes that way!” and “One door leads to the castle at the center of the labyrinth and the other door leads to BA BA BA BOOM! CERTAIN DEATH! Ooooooh!” are two I especially recall.

The Fugitive was the first in a long line of action flicks I rented from the local video store. There was a whole wall of them and I went through and rented a huge number, trying to see as many movies as I could. Action is still one of my favorite genres, though I tend to like suspense in the mix (much like The Fugitive) more than straight action movies.

Lord of the Rings. That is all. Actually, I spent a good bit of high school and then early college obsessed with these movies because I was obsessed with the books long before any of my friends had heard of them. For years LotR was “that weird book (my name) reads all the time” to my friends. When it became a blockbuster, then I wasn’t so weird. Then I could answer questions. Incidentally, the site I linked for the movie title used to be the homepage on my browser, back when it was a white background with some photos on it and filming information was scarce. Heh.

Films Seen Multiple Times at Theaters:
I saw Fellowship of the Ring no less than eight times in theaters. Please see the above paragraph.

First Date Film:
While I had a couple of “only dates” (so not really “first dates”) to movies in college, Alien vs. Predator was my first date with J. Yes, he picked it. It’s okay, though, since I’ve picked a massive number of the movies we’ve seen since then and he has discovered several things about movies, namely that musicals are AWESOME, that cartoons are still so much fun, and that when I say things like “The King’s Speech looks really good, we should go!” it’s better to just agree with me.

Nightmares from Films:
E.T. No lie. I will not watch that movie to this day. I don’t know what scared me more: the monster coming into the room, the monster hiding in the stuffed animals (I had a TON of stuffed animals as a child), or the part where the monster almost dies and the whole house gets quarantined. I fail to see anything cute or charming about this movie and find it disturbing in the extreme. In fact, I’m getting worked up just writing about it. *shudder*

Also The Lorax— I had LOTS of nightmares about green arms coming out of dark holes to grab me. For years I had this recurring dream where a hole opened in the middle of our (built on concrete slab) downstairs and that I couldn’t walk within a certain distance or green arms would come out and grab me. Sometimes the hole with the arms would shift to be under my bed. For years I had to sleep with my cat quilt (it’s covered in cats dancing ballet) and with a huge stuffed animal blocking me from the edge of the bed because I was convinced that those would protect me from the green arms. I also think I never told my parents about this fear and they probably wondered what compulsion made me sleep buried under stuffed animals… Well, now you know.**

Films that are Guilty Pleasures:
Josie and the Pussycats came out my freshman year of college and it was just the kind of silly girl movie that I related to at the time. It also helped that I really didn’t like boy bands and that this movie pretty much lampooned the music industry and the boy band craze.

I saw Mystery Men in theaters and loved it for its quirkiness, but no one else seems to have liked it.

Last Film I Saw at the Theater:
Gnomeo and Juliet was very cute, but I liked the opening monologue (along with the other snarky Shakespeare references) best. You should know that I detest Romeo and Juliet (though I generally love Shakespeare) and that this movie was fun anyway, so take that as you will for a recommendation.

Favorite Film Nobody Else Seems to Know About:
Prancer is my favorite Christmas movie but I almost never meet people who have seen it. Shame, as it’s charming.

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*This is a borrowed meme, and it took a little digging, but I eventually found its source: a list of blogging memes from squidoo. I’m thinking of doing another BEDA (Blog Every Day in April this time) and using the memes from the site.

**How weird is it that I grew up to work in the conservation field when the poster-child conservation book and movie gave me such nightmares? You’d think I would be traumatized or something.

this and that

Twelve Trivial Traits

I have been challenged to come up with a list of a dozen things that you may not know about me and post them here. This is difficult for me as half of my readers are probably related to me… but I’m going to try. So here you have twelve mostly useless things to know.

1. I like fairy doors. I have one in my house and have been looking them up online recently and have decided that my new hobby is going to be making them. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them (sell them, maybe?), but I want to make some. I have also been known (as an adult, no less) to make “fairy houses” in parks and then leave them there with no explanation, hoping someone will find them. I suppose this is “art.”

Fairy Housea fairy house J and I made in 2008

2. I really like daisies and tulips better than other flowers. Roses have too much cultural significance and lilies make me sneeze.

3. The more time I spend around animals, the more difficult I have choosing a “favorite animal.” It used to be tigers, and I still love big cats the best, but really I just love animals in general. Except for spiders. And primates are fascinating, but they’re at the bottom of the list for me.

4. I like to paint. I’m not great at it and I don’t have much outlet for it at the moment, but I can sit and paint for hours.

5. I’ve been on one roller coaster in my life. I had a panic attack halfway through the ride. There have been none since then and now J believes that I’m not exaggerating when I say, “No, really, I’m very VERY afraid of roller coasters.”

6. I use my hairbrush on Caspian. You might think this is weird, but he sits patiently on the counter when I get out of the shower and am brushing my hair so that he can be brushed, too. He’s got OCD, I know.

7. I suspect that I was a little OCD myself as a child, as I had a real need to count everything out in even increments, usually of ten. I also had to mirror everything I did with one hand or foot with the other and would repeatedly do the same behavior until I got them to match exactly and then I would freeze and have to hold perfectly still (including holding my breath) for ten seconds before I could stop. If I froze successfully, then I could move about normally, but if I didn’t make it, I would have to start over at the beginning. I also have no idea where that behavior started.*

8. I am allergic to rats. I’ve never had trouble with mice or gerbils or anything like that, but domestic rats make my skin break out and my eyes swell and itch, and I get congested. We discovered this at a previous job where rats were one of the education animals and I kept having allergic reactions in the van on the way to programs.

9. I document most animals that I rescue with photos. I could probably show more of them than you’d care to see, but over the years there have been birds, snakes, lizards, squirrels, kittens, and a few other things.

baby squirrelbaby squirrel in 2007

10. I tend to poke my chin with either one of my fingers or with a pen when I’m taking notes (in a meeting or something), or if I’m just thinking really hard.

11. The two TV channels I watch the most are BBC America and SyFy… and my guilty TV habit is that I really do like those shows where people go in search of mythological things like the Loch Ness Monster or the yeti or even ghosts. I don’t take them seriously by any means, but the shows themselves (and the people who look for those things) fascinate me.

12. I leave little business-card size notes for people (especially servers and cashiers) telling them that they’ve done a great job or that I appreciate their help. I try to leave it on the way out the door so it’s a surprise after I’m gone, and so far I’ve been good about being anonymous. People need anonymous pick-me-ups, I think.

So there are some random things about me. Did you know them all? ^_^

*I should probably specify right here and right now that I no longer do this. I don’t recall when it stopped, but I have a vague memory of freezing for a really long time at some point and then just being done with the whole thing.

musings, this and that

Memories of Being Nine.

This weekend I went to a Spongebob themed birthday party for a girl turning nine. It took me longer than I thought it would for me to pick out a gift for her, because nine is a difficult age. At nine, kids are too told for “little kid” toys, but too young for “pre-teen” things (well, mostly) and I don’t want to encourage the bratty behavior of Hannah Montana, etc. They understand sarcasm enough to use it, but not to use it appropriately, so that most of what they say is really smart-alecky sounding, even when they don’t mean to be smart.

Anyway, I spent a long time before going to the store trying to remember what I would’ve liked when I was nine. That’s third grade, in case you can’t remember. At age nine, I was re-reading (for the fourth time, I think) the Chronicles of Narniaand had just started tearing through Nancy Drew.

Side note: I’ve read every one of the “original” Nancy Drew stories, by the way, and a few of the “modern” ones that really aren’t as good. I was really upset when they made her into a pre-teen for the movie a few years back, because Nancy in the books is in high school and can drive and has a boyfriend and is cool. I had no trouble looking up to her when I was nine, so why do you have to make her younger and dorky for the movie?

I think by then I was also into collecting plastic horses (there are over 100 of them in the guest room closet at my folks’ house, or used to be anyway) and loved going to football games, assuming the Gators were playing. So anything having to do with that would’ve worked for me as a birthday gift. I’d like to think that most of the kids in my third grade class would’ve liked at least one of those things (books, horses, sports) so that would make me mostly typical, right? (Here I am, though I think this might have been my 8th birthday and not my 9th…)

Well, it’s harder than you think to shop for a nine year old. They watch cartoons that scream at them and flash bright colors, or they watch (on TV) bratty kids who have dumb parents get into trouble and somehow never get punished. They only play outside where either mom can see them every second or as part of organized sports. They have hours of homework at night (even in kindergarten). They have video games that reward them immediately with points or “gold” or whatever it is for their “actions.” The education budget is limited so there’s not much in the way of art or music or even playground time.

This all makes it hard to shop. I don’t want to give movies that encourage sitting indoors, but you can’t easily give “going outdoors” as a gift (though I did take her to see sea turtles on Friday, which she loved). I settled on art supplies, of the slightly crazy (drive mom slightly crazy, that is) variety: “3D” sidewalk chalk with glasses, scratch and sniff colored pencils (with Spongebob coloring sheets), glass markers (as in markers that draw on windows, mirrors, etc and can be washed away), and a paint-it-yourself pet’s bowl kit (she’s got a dog). I must have picked well because another kid at the party said, “Oh, I almost bought her that, too!” to about three of the items.

Really, I tried to remember being in third grade, but the memories are hazy. Third grade was the first major move of my life (since I don’t remember the move that happened when I was two). Six weeks before the end of the school year, my family moved from Georgia to Florida and I started a new school. Too late in the year to really catch up, but enough into the year that I wasn’t the “new girl” in fourth grade and was therefore uninteresting. Oh, and I had a “funny accent” (remember, from Georgia) so that didn’t help. Memories of third grade beyond moving? Well, I remember painting paper fish to make a mural. I remember getting my desk dumped because it was messy (which is a fate I don’t think should happen to any child, but I’ll get into that another time). I remember trying to quit school on the third day because my teacher didn’t want me to have “doo-dads” (i.e. fun erasers and colored pencils and the like) in my desk. The thing is, to this day, if I’m doodling or playing with something while I’m talking to you, it’s because I’m concentrating on what you’re saying. It sounds weird, but to keep my brain on one informational topic, I have to be doing something creative with my hands, or my brain will get distracted. Really. But I think leaving behind the only place I’d ever known and moving to a new state and starting a new school sort of blurred any memories of what was popular at age nine.

I remember New Kids on the Block, vaguely, and remember my NKOTB slapbracelet vividly. And MC Hammer, because we all tried to do the dance. I remember watching the Ghost Busters cartoon, though I think I had to sneak that one because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t really allowed to watch it. I liked the Disney afternoon cartoons, like Rescue Rangers and TailSpin and DuckTails. I played kick ball on the playground and we made forts in the woods behind the playground (which our teacher supervised). We read The Boxcar Children on days it rained so our room sounded like the boxcar with the rain beating down, and when we read Sarah, Plain and Tall we got boxes and slid down the hill behind the school. I don’t think a teacher could get away with that now. My best friend and I made friendship bracelets and we wrote letters (pen pals were cool!) and we rode our bikes every afternoon.

Do kids do that stuff any more?

Anyway, that’s what I remember from age nine. I had seen the Berlin Wall fall down and I was worried about the rain forest getting cut down and I already had two siblings and I wonder how much those things have affected the way I think now.

The kids turning nine this year? They were born in 2001. That means they’ve never known a time when we weren’t at war against “terror,” which is a hard enough thing to grasp as an adult. Imagine a kid whose whole life is lived knowing about terrorists, and hearing about global warming, and not being in schools that fund the arts so they have no outlet to express themselves.

To all of my friends who have kids: I will be giving them art. They need it.