May 16th, 2022

Luca: Pixar has created some of the most enduring animated films since its creation back in the late 1980s and the release of the beloved Toy Story in 1995. What has transpired since has included Oscar winners across the board with films like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, Monster’s Inc, Wall-E, and Coco. Their films are known to be enjoyed by a wide audience with visuals that appeal to kids while the stories can be touching for adults. For me, my favourite remains Finding Nemo, where not only do we have the Dad as the hero, we have the attitude of “the world is not safe” being deconstructed as it unfolds. Not all Pixar films are universally loved, and certainly not the short films either. For me the short film Bao which I saw in the theatre just creeped me out. Not just because I don’t like dumplings, but because of the smothering ways of the Mother character involved. Luca was released in 2021, and is currently on Disney +. It falls somewhere in the middle on the Pixar success scale in my mind. The story in many ways mirrors the Little Mermaid tale, with Ariel yearning to be human so that she can enjoy all the human things, not the least of all was her Prince Charming Eric who would whisk her away to a world of castle bliss. Ariel defies her father, King Triton and transforms herself into a human young lady with the help of the Sea Witch Ursulla. The story unfolds with terrific songs like “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea”. In Luca, he is a young sea monster, their label and not mine, who works on the family farm tending to sea sheep (I am not joking). He has been forbidden to go to the surface as humans are regarded as murderers. Fairly from the fish point of view really. Luca however comes across some “human stuff” dropped from a fisherman’s boat above, and runs into what he thinks is a human in deep sea diving gear. Turns out, this is another fellow young sea monster who lives on the surface in his secluded castle. He has his collection of human stuff. The two boys, after chatting and becoming friends, marvel at a poster of a Vespa and wish one day to have one. The story unfolds as the boys head into town, not too far away. A small Italian fishing village, which among other things runs an annual triathalon-like race. Instead of swimming, running and biking, they have swimming, eating pasta, and biking. Go figure. Of course there will be the locals who have been taught to fear the sea monsters and the villain who finds a way to win the annual race while making fun of the young lady just trying to run her own race. There is no musical numbers performed by the characters. Unlike Coco, where the music is very much part of the engaging story, there isn’t any here to be played. So the story as expected resolves itself in a way that is fairly predictable. From a visual perspective, the sea creatures are borrowed well from the Finding Nemo world. The young girl reminds me of the heroine in Brave and the village theme with the Italians seemed like Coco. In other words, it was a borrowing of many other films, which were generally better. I did very much like the transition from sea monster to young boy that takes place. There were a couple of decent laughs. Overall, it was a decent effort, just not up to the lofty expectations that one can have with Pixar given their history. Incidentally the Disney animated film Encanto won the Oscar this year for Best Animated Film. Luca was nominated.

2021 Pixar Film Luca

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy: Season 2 of this series has begun. I sadly have missed the first two episodes with Venice and then Piedmont. I will be taping this from CNN using the PVR. Stanley’s first season was really good as you the viewer were introduced to some amazing local dishes, and encouraged to make them at home, but also experience some history within the area and see them make things like fresh mozzarella cheese. I am hopeful that there is a balance brought forth again to acquaint the viewers with the scenes and tastes within Italy. If you watch and don’t feel the desire to head to Italy and enjoy for yourself, then I don’t know what you may need to ever want to go anywhere.

March 8th, 2021

The Last Full Measure: The title name for this movie is from a speech from Abraham Lincoln back in the Civil War. The movie takes place at the end of 1999, near the end of the Clinton Administration. A young up and comer in the Pentagon is asked to meet with an older man about a request that has languished for many years. William Hurt plays the veteran, who is looking for a posthumous upgrade to an Air Force paramedic, Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr. (“Pits”) to a Medal of Honor. Seems the young Pits was aboard a helicopter seeing an Army unit (The Big Red One) being ambushed by a Viet Nam, when the Army medic was brought aboard the helicopter and he decided to replace him, heading down to the fire fight. He saved many men before meeting his demise. Hurt was one of the many soldiers that he saved and impacted. Others included Samuel L Jackson, Peter Fonda, Ed Harris and others. These are present day versions of these veterans as well as a re-telling of the horrific events of that day. The story goes from the past to the present. It tries hard to pull on the viewer’s heart strings. The events of course are tragic. As they unfold, you realize that there were other forces at work politically, both then and now, which prevented the award. The veterans want closure, and for someone to acknowledge the incredible selfless act of this Airmen, who helped out Army soldiers when he didn’t have to. He also has his aging parents, with his father who has cancer. The other parties in one way or another seek redemption as well. Things happened and you realize that it went down thirty two years ago not as expected. One of the messages is that of the many Medals of Honor, only three had been given to Air Force enlisted men. Most have gone to officers. That seems a little out of sorts. In looking into the movie a little further, I found out that lead character Huffman never existed. Some of the other characters didn’t either. The father did in fact have cancer (played by Christopher Plummer). In the end, I would have liked a better story for these actors. I cannot recommend it, as for me it was a little too manipulative.

Framing Britney: This documentary just came on Crave on Friday. It was previously on Hulu in the US. It outlines the meteoric rise from rural Mississippi at the age of 8, to worldwide singing sensation. It also shows how one who becomes so popular has the paparazzi follow them, in the days before stalking laws and the death of Princess Diana. In many ways, Britney Spears could have had an in depth conversation with the late Princess and talk about how to deal with people who can make a million dollars for one picture of you. At a very early age she was on top of the world, and then her world begin coming apart at the seams. Some poor choices with people she hung out with, then married became turning points in her life. Some erratic behaviour followed by any measure, and ultimately she ended up in a precarious legal position of being in a conservatorship. A conservatorship basically is like a Power of Attorney where you can have your financial situation and/or your person. The interesting and scary aspect of it becomes that it the event the Conservatee wants to take care of their own business, they must make an application to the Court. But the burden of proof is on them to prove that it should be removed. In this case, because of her behaviour, likely showing aspects of mental illness (with a 2020 lens on it), she had a court impose this on her. Strangely, unlike most situations like this with elderly or incapacitated individuals, Britney is still expected to perform, earn money, be the superstar. Even post-conservatorship she had a successful residency at Las Vegas. So she can make money, earn money for “the Brand”, but her father, who has never shown any ability to handle money is the Conservator. Odd. When she was growing up, it was her Mom who was closest to her. A movement has arisen called Free Britney, and they are wanting this Conservatorship to end. A woman in her 40s, who can make money, and have children, should have the ability to make financial and personal choices. She has been under this order since 2009; 12 years!! I agree that initially this made a lot of sense, but time has passed. She won’t perform again without her Dad being removed. In the end, I do think that she should find a way to spend some time before a judge and show them that she is lucid and capable. Not through lawyers. Not in the social media. This is an ongoing movement, and the story unfolds. I would like to think that it will get sorted out, and that a more critical eye can be put towards real situations where such legal arrangements are necessary. This was worthwhile to watch and I enjoyed it. The lawyer in me is shocked by the lack of rights for someone who needs assistance. It is scary that someone with obvious conflicts of interest (her father) has the ability to make decisions about her. Stay tuned.

Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy: In short this is a really great series showing a visual smorgasbord of cities around Italy and the foods that are known in the region. I have seen three episodes. It started with Roma, then Firenza and Amalfi and then Bologna. The dishes included Spaghetti Carbonara (which I had to make shortly after viewing the episode). Other dishes include a zucchini dish in Amalfi that he raved about and then other episodes showing the making of mozzarella cheese, proscuitto and others. It has some history, some sites, and dish after dish of delectable pasta and other delicacies. Naples showed pizza. Not just any pizza, the marguerita with simple ingredients. Having travelled the regions, except Bologna so far, I can attest that the lemons, the tomatoes, the bread, the pecorino cheese (oh! that cheese!) are all phenomenal. I would return again in a heartbeat. I look forward to the other episodes and being able to do what I can do make other dishes! Worth viewing for anyone who has been to Italy, or who has ever dreamt of going. If you believe the San Marzano tomatoes that you buy at the local Longo’s come from Italy, and this small area near Naples, they just aren’t. It is a small area. Sorry to let you know.