Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Five Best Childhood Films, The

This morning the thought of listing my five best childhood films came to mind, and it didn't take me long to list them. A few others came and went, but they don't retain or create that unique synesthetic picture and feeling that I got from the others that installed me virtually back in to that time.

After a days' ponder about it, I've come up with these five, with one being the 'best.'

5. Mr. Magoo
4. Born to be Wild
3. Matilda
2. Homeward Bound
1. Paulie

The first four I've already reviewed on here (what they're hyperlinked to). As for the fifth, Mr. Magoo, I never came around to reviewing it because I never got the extreme want to look it up again online. I might. As a child, it was something I remember renting from the Parkwood Hills Foodland numerous times, first at my mother's suggestion (she thought I'd like it, and she was right) and subsequently whenever I saw it on the rack again on visits to the store.

Notable mentions that didn't get included on that list are Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Lion King, Space Jam, and Ernest Rides Again. Mousehunt almost got on there, but it was more of a fringe movie for me, something I'd watch occasionally at my paternal grandparents. I got more interested in the movie when I was closer to a preteen and still like it now, but it wasn't exactly a childhood movie for me.

I should note that every movie on that list (including the notable mentions) were all released in the 90s. Which makes sense as that was the decade of my real childhood (not including the preteen phase between 10 & 13), though I'm sure there are other children out there who have favourites that were released before they were born. Also, every one of them excluding Matilda has an animal character in them - from the gorilla in Born to be Wild to the parakeet in Paulie. Homeward Bound is about three animals finding their way home. Mr. Magoo's dog has a role.

In each review, I wrote a synopsis of the film and my thoughts and feelings on it, as well as my findings in seeing them again as a grown man. I re-read each of my reviews today; they aren't too badly written, although I had a real fussy reaction in seeing in the Homeward Bound post that I'd written "in the enlightened year of 1993..." I had to delete that phrase because I knew too well that I'd made that remark based on the fact that the girl I was "dating" was born that year, and therefore as a compliment I'd put in "enlightened." Stupid. I vow never to phrase in biases or remarks that indirectly or subliminally speak to positive or negative relationships in the future.

Here I'm going to write a short rationale for why I added a film and where. And I'm going to ensure I stick to 'short.'

5. Mr. Magoo

I really need to re-watch it again and write a proper review. It's included at five because I got a real synesthetic universe exclusive to my childhood world when I watched it at a young age (this 'exclusive universe' is a main factor in all those movies being included). Of what I can remember, I enjoyed the quick pace of the film and the various settings, all in fast shots, and I really enjoyed the adventure. One thing I remember with clarity is a scene that had to do with Magoo's eggplant vehicle pulling out of a driveway while 'I Can See Clearly Now' by Johnny Nash is playing. That was the first time I'd ever heard the song and it meshed with the imagery, giving me a nice synesthetic mesh.
On another note, the film got a lot of negative reaction from the blind or nearly blind due to its humour being derived from the sight problems of the main character.

4. Born to be Wild

It's one of those road trip adventure films, which was probably one reason I liked it when I was young, as the teen, Will, drives, paddles, and hitchhikes a gorilla up the California coast. The opening sequence where the titles, all green, fly through the camera as it pans over wilderness, though, really applied to that childhood universe and perception to me - it looked pre-dawn from my perspective and likely made me think of trips to the cabin with my dad and cousins, but early in the morning. It came out in 1995, which I synesthetically perceive in that light already. The issue I had with the film then, and now, though, was how weepy the main character was, and how overly sentimental a couple of scenes were. And a large reason I went back to watch it again was because I was shocked at how many actors I'd come to know in my teenage and recent years happened to have supporting roles in it, from Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. It was neat to see them in those roles in that film.

3. Matilda

This is #3 because of the large amount of attention I've paid to it since re-watching it a couple of years ago. The movie gave me some childhood sounds and scenes such as Mara Wilson and Agatha Trunchbull, or that Rusted Root song. It was a colourful vignette of a film that appealed to my young eyes and had a lot of memorable scenes that I still enjoy today; a good reason why it's #3 is actually because I would watch it virtually with no compunction right now. There's some great humour in it still. However, there were a couple of inane plot twists or details that I wondered about, details that either showed the complete stupidity of some of the characters or the holes created by the screenwriters. Particularly Harry Wormwood's eagerness to "beat the speedboat salesmen to the airport" when they're leaving the country at the film's end (though he might have said that in order to soften a blatant admission that he's being chased by the FBI). I wrote a "redux" post on my criticisms which touched on that, as well as Danny DeVito's almost overbearing presence in and through the film, and the unusual back-and-forth manner of the film's focus and creation. I said it best like this: "You have here an American adaption of a British novel with American characters being antagonized by a crazy British woman."

2. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

The second-best film out of all five. Why? Because it was something I watched virtually over and over as a kid, all the time, and never got tired or used to the characters, their ethos, and the plot. I can't actually think of many other reasons for why I loved the film other than its journey-based plot. The quality of sound on the VHS tape recording my mother made of it helped, that's for sure. There's a certain dynamic and atmosphere to the sound of an old or aging VHS recording of a movie on TV that I'm attracted to. Otherwise, it's an extremely fulfilling film from that time of my life. I can't really think of any criticisms. You can't really criticize a film aimed at children about anthropomorphic animals other than if the plot is so unbelievable even the child's intelligence is insulted, or the voice acting, and the voice acting was great in this film.

1. Paulie

This comes in at number one because of the effect it had on me after I watched it. It touched my heart even as a kid. It was one of those very few films that caused me to feel different about things overall after watching it, because there was such a huge sense of task finished or journey's end or goal met. I even had dreams where I was having the time of my life playing with and being with someone, a female friend, where everything was perfect and home-like, and then that person disappears and I spend the rest of the dream travelling far to return to her. I never get to her in the end. The parakeet, Paulie, travels far and wide, and for a long time in that film. He's virtually with his soulmate at the beginning, a sweet little girl with a stutter, and by the time he's reunited with her, she's a young woman. While it's beautiful and fulfilling that Paulie reunites with her in the end, I didn't like the big change and removal from the original setting and time, which was part of what caused me to feel differently. The big change was, of course, the California summer setting and Marie's change from a girl to a grown woman - if I were Paulie I would have wanted to return to the original times in the beginning, having endless joy that was taken away. I'm not putting down the film's ending - it does it justice to have them reunited - I just didn't like, as a kid, that she'd transformed into a woman by the end and moved from the original setting of New Jersey. In other words, I didn't like grand changes when I was young, I guess. I liked the original time, the original stuff. But the movie's plot direction and travel itinerary, its characters, were amazing and perfect, and I loved all of it. I loved how Paulie goes through several life phases - from those original, joy-filled times with Marie to being Ivy's companion, to being in a "band" of sorts and eventually having a short-term life of crime. The institute part is the only sad, gloomy part, but Tony Shalhoub's character helps drive it home.

I'd include the honourable mentions, but I need to manage my time, and it's getting late (I've been telling myself to do some homework). All of those films have their positives and their flaws, but all in all, they really bring me back. It's almost like watching an old home movie for me, except in better film-quality. And to give a concrete example of what I mean when I say I got a "synesthetic universe exclusive to my childhood," I mean that, particularly in outdoor scenes, based on the direction the camera is looking (on my own perceived orientation), the setting, and whether it's sunny or overcast, I got a synesthetic meshing between that and an unrelated perspective or perception I saw/had in my life at the time. 

There's a silly scene in Ace Ventura where the camera is focused on a shaking bush in the jungle (the antagonist is apparently being raped by a female gorilla). The overcast light falling on the jungle, plus the perceived direction the camera is looking (to me, southeast) and the suggestion of dampness and feeling before rain made my mind connect the scene to how I viewed going to my paternal grandparents at the time. This connection had absolutely nothing to do with the shaking tree or the context of it and everything to do with the light and direction. It's an unrelated, unusual, mostly unexplainable meshing via synesthesia, but that's the connection I made. My paternal grandparents and cousins, and their house. All I can think of that could be a logical reason for the connection was the fact they were well-travelled and this is a jungle scene...that and a memory of running around with my cousins in their backyard on an overcast day.

I'll leave it there. I have work to do.

Red Cloud
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