Finally Watching [Nostalgia Movies]

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Postby worrywort » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:03 pm

(this is an earnest answer post; i recognize it might sound jerky in a tone other than what i intended)

what do you guys mean by "who it's for"? it was a near-universally acclaimed smash hit combining animation and detective story, the most immediately captivating film format with perhaps the single most durable, broadly appealing genre in all of storytelling. plus people are fundamentally entertained by mashups, and WFRR promised (and delivered) mashups galore. none of this stuff is niche.
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Postby reversemigraine » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:36 pm

I mean, in part I mean that there's no modern audience for it. Its brand of adult content is exactly the kind of stuff that Disney goes out of its way to avoid in family-friendly movies (murder, sexual blackmail, guns), its cast is older and schlubbier than any you'll see in a modern children's movie, and the nostalgia it traffics in (Disney and Warner Bros. animation, the golden age of Hollywood studios, and hard-boiled PI tropes) are indeed niche subjects and far less embedded in the culture for many adults and almost all kids today, compared to audiences 30 years ago.

So yeah, it's not entirely fair to ask, "Who's it for?" in the context of the late Eighties, but I also don't see it being a smash today.
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Postby Milk » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:13 pm

i know i liked it a lot when i was 12 and saw it when it came out on vhs. But the judge scared me....not that at 12 id' have admitted to it.
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Postby Merciel » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:46 pm

worrywort wrote:what do you guys mean by "who it's for"? it was a near-universally acclaimed smash hit combining animation and detective story, the most immediately captivating film format with perhaps the single most durable, broadly appealing genre in all of storytelling. plus people are fundamentally entertained by mashups, and WFRR promised (and delivered) mashups galore. none of this stuff is niche.


I think high bias nailed it in saying that WFRR doesn't feel focus grouped.

Yeah, sure, it turned out to be a smash hit, but I don't think anyone honestly knew going in that would happen. It's a very strange movie with no obvious built-in audience. Flip the coin again and maybe it turns out to be a massive bomb.

And I think reversemigraine is right that it couldn't really exist outside that cultural moment in the late '80s (see also: Eisner pulled the plug on a sequel after investing considerable money into it, and current Disney leadership has less than zero interest in revisiting that decision), but it's still pretty weird even within that cultural context.
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Postby Merciel » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:47 pm

Also I can't decide if we should do Dick Tracy or not (it's like WFRR in that my recollection is hating it at the time, and I suspect that reaction's going to stay the same), but if we do it we should probably do it in pretty close proximity to this thing for comparison purposes.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:21 am

Merciel wrote:
worrywort wrote:what do you guys mean by "who it's for"? it was a near-universally acclaimed smash hit combining animation and detective story, the most immediately captivating film format with perhaps the single most durable, broadly appealing genre in all of storytelling. plus people are fundamentally entertained by mashups, and WFRR promised (and delivered) mashups galore. none of this stuff is niche.


I think high bias nailed it in saying that WFRR doesn't feel focus grouped.

Yeah, sure, it turned out to be a smash hit, but I don't think anyone honestly knew going in that would happen. It's a very strange movie with no obvious built-in audience. Flip the coin again and maybe it turns out to be a massive bomb.

It was a joint venture between Disney and Steven Spielberg, who went to the trouble of licensing all of the most expensive cartoon characters in the world; the first movie Robert Zemeckis directed after Back to the Future; and, at the time, the most expensive animated film ever made. I think they were pretty confident that it was going to be a hit.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:23 am

Anyway I thought it was pretty good, though I don't think it would've hurt anything if they'd made Roger Rabbit 20% less annoying.
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Postby Merciel » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:26 am

It's not like big-budget collaborations don't fail as often as they succeed, but anyway I'm not that interested in litigating whether the makers of WFRR knew they'd have a hit on their hands or were crossing their fingers and frantically hoping for the best, because either way what they actually put out was a real crummy movie.

It's possible I might look more kindly on it by comparison if I watched Cool World, but "a movie that's a crummier version of Roger Rabbit" might be the actual worst tagline I could imagine existing in this universe.
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Postby Merciel » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:46 am

Aladdin (1992)

Gilbert Gottfried + Robin Williams in full-on manic LIKE ME!! mode sounds like a recipe for a completely unbearable pile of shit, but Disney's Aladdin is fantastic. It harnesses the things those two did well (and I say this as someone so fiercly allergic to their shticks that I'd forgotten there was anything either of them did well) and mostly keeps them reined in enough that the annoying parts aren't overwhelming. Also, it helps a bunch that Iago spends a lot of time getting punched in the face.

Disney really had an amazing run from Little Mermaid --> Beauty and the Beast (original version, not version with crummy bonus song inserted) --> Aladdin --> Lion King. If it weren't for Rescuers Down Under, which nobody remembers anyway, it would be the best winning streak of any studio ever. They owe so much to Alan Menken it's ridiculous.

It's funny in retrospect that people complained about Aladdin and Jasmine having white features, because to me at least it looks like they clearly do not. Aladdin has very thick eyebrows and Jasmine's nose is not a white girl nose, and even if you rendered them as ink drawings on plain white paper it would be evident that they aren't white people. Furthermore, and this isn't a comment on the movie so much as the regression of our dumbshit country, but can you imagine the reception that a Disney movie where the heroes (but never the villains!) regularly exclaim "Praise Allah!" would get today?

In 1992 that didn't go nearly far enough to make anybody happy. In 2017 it would get caterwauling and boycott threats from a sea of rancid idiots in MAGA hats. Fifteen years, and we've backslid that much.

Aladdin and Jasmine have the biggest gap between spoken voices and singing voices of any major characters I've seen so far on this project. It's not even close.

I was sad when I read on Wikipedia that the guy who voiced Abu the monkey (he also did the tiger) never got to meet Robin Williams or the guy who voiced Aladdin. It took three years to make this movie and he never got to meet either of them once.

10/10
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:13 am

I know the SNES version has its defenders but the fact is it just has too much purple in it. There's just purple everywhere and that's not the color I want to see when I'm a 9-year-old wasting my afternoon, because it looks like a dead afternoon. The Genesis version, when it needs something like purple, sensibly uses more of a periwinkle color, which reminds me of dreams. Also it doesn't have that fucking lava level with the carpet.

As for the movie, Robin Williams keeps it out of the top tier. Ironically it arguably makes sense for his character, but you can't watch this movie now without seeing Hercules, The Emperor's New Groove, Family Guy, late-era Simpsons, the whole 20 years of pop culture ruined by pop culture. Also the songs are a step down from Beauty and the Beast (which was already a big step down from The Little Mermaid), and the way the sultan voids the entire plot at the end feels... kind of... insulting...

On the plus side it looks way better than any Disney movie that preceded it, notwithstanding a couple of fairly shitty CG sequences. And everything else about it is good, even Gilbert Gottfried.

Anyway if any character is white it's the sultan, he is just the dad from Beauty and the Beast with a beard.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:28 am

Now that I think about it I guess he's also the prince's dad in Cinderella and... also the prince's dad in Sleeping Beauty.
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Postby universe » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:34 am

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Postby Milk » Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:50 am

Merciel wrote:[b]In 1992 that didn't go nearly far enough to make anybody happy. In 2017 it would get caterwauling and boycott threats from a sea of rancid idiots in MAGA hats. Fifteen years, and we've backslid that much.



25 years. Though the argument could be made it would have been the same in 2007 as it is today. Perhaps actually even worse.
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Postby aububs » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:00 am

I watched Aladdin fairly recently with my kid.

I consulted my archives and I gave it 5/10.
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Postby number none » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:52 am

Milk wrote:
Merciel wrote:[b]In 1992 that didn't go nearly far enough to make anybody happy. In 2017 it would get caterwauling and boycott threats from a sea of rancid idiots in MAGA hats. Fifteen years, and we've backslid that much.



25 years. Though the argument could be made it would have been the same in 2007 as it is today. Perhaps actually even worse.


I guess we'll see with the Guy Ritchie version...
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Postby deadwolfbones » Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:29 am

WFRR is the first movie I saw in the theater (or the first I remember, anyway) and still one of my all-time favorites. I think I love it for pretty much all the reasons merciel hates it.
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Postby Vegetable » Tue Sep 12, 2017 10:38 am

I think Merciel's opinion of WFRR is both rational and symptomatic of why movies are so boring now. I remember watching it as a small kid and being at turns bored, confused, and terrified, but at least it was something.
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Postby Merciel » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:01 pm

Milk wrote:
Merciel wrote:[b]In 1992 that didn't go nearly far enough to make anybody happy. In 2017 it would get caterwauling and boycott threats from a sea of rancid idiots in MAGA hats. Fifteen years, and we've backslid that much.


25 years.


god I fuck that math up all the time

it's like the 2000s as a decade just get obliterated and conflated with the 2010s
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Postby Merciel » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:53 am

The Last Unicorn (1982)

Once upon a time when I was about three years old, I loved the Monkees show on TV. I used to sing the theme song (or so I'm told; now that I've heard toddler "singing" firsthand, I'm pretty sure my parents were just being extremely charitable) and sat down happily to watch it every day with stupid toddler joy. One day my dad asked me who was better, the Monkees or the Beatles, and I said "the Monkees!" and he said "NO THEY'RE TERRIBLE" and I ran out of the room crying and that was it, I never watched the Monkees show again.

My dad still feels bad about this. I'm pretty sure I've told that story on the board before.

Anyway I was thinking about that while we watched The Last Unicorn because Kermit was jamming out to the intro song by America, like waving his arms around and stomping his feet and clearly just having a grand old time rocking out to this Pop Culture WTF bit of fantasy-rock ephemera, and SVC was like "this song is so bad" and I was all "YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TELL HIM THAT" because based on my Monkees experience I firmly believe that toddlers should be allowed to like whatever shitty things they like.

It's fine. You go on and love America's song about The Last Unicorn. You don't need to have taste until you're 15.

It is a pretty bad song though. All their songs in this movie are pretty bad. It's faintly amazing to be reminded that, in certain parts of the rock world, it was actually really cool to write out-and-out nerd fantasy songs in the '70s, or anyway not uncool, but I can't say much of that stuff has aged well. This movie would be a full point higher but for the music.

Apart from the music (and the bumblebee, whom I hated as a kid and still hate now, although as an adult I can see that the dumb little dude just completely fried his brains on drugs), though, this holds up pretty well. It remains the only Rankin-Bass movie I like and the only one where I feel their animation style helps the material rather than holding it back.

The Last Unicorn (the book) is lyrical and elegant and imbued with that sense of faintly sad wonder that comes of recognizing that every beautiful thing in the world comes at the cost of some other beautiful thing, and that regret is an essential piece of humanity but just as essentially not a piece of the immortal and inhuman, with all that that implies. One of the other major themes is that unalloyed happiness comes at the cost of knowledge (and vice versa), which is why Amalthea/the Last Unicorn clings to ignorance and resists both transformations because she is vaguely aware, even through her creeping amnesia the second time, that regaining knowledge will mean losing happiness. In the end it's worth it, of course -- she trades off some of her simple joy for wisdom and bittersweet joy, and she regrets that only a little -- but I've always liked that the book explicitly recognizes the cost, and the tendency to resist it.

And the movie mostly gets that right, which is a thing I have always liked about it. There's a lot more complexity here than most kids' cartoons ordinarily allow themselves (the whole character of Mama Fortuna and her embrace of future death as the price of temporary mastery over the mythic; the bandits' desperate chase after Robin Hood and Maid Marian to take them along, even after they know the parade of figures is completely illusory) and a lot more of what makes fantasy so magical to me.

Also how great is that voice cast. Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee, Alan Arkin, Brother Theodore (again!), Angela Lansbury, and more!, all for a fairly low-budget animated fantasy cartoon in 1982.

It's a shame about the music.

I didn't realize as a kid that Amalthea/The Last Unicorn is straight-up an anime character dropped into a Rankin-Bass production, but that was pretty funny to notice on this rewatch. Hey look, future Studio Ghibli is already creating its look.

9/10
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:41 pm

Yeah I was really impressed with The Last Unicorn. It really takes advantage of the genre's freedom to play with archetypes and create new psychologies. And its unwillingness to dumb anything down is pretty astounding. The scene that's going to stick with me the most is the one where Molly Grue (whose life has clearly not turned out the way she planned) berates the unicorn for not coming to her when she was still a girl. It's more crushing than anything in, say, Magnolia, but I have no idea what a kid would get out of it -- there isn't a child on Earth who has either the cultural or psychological context necessary to understand that scene. I guess it probably just adds to the overall sense of mystery (which I think is the main thing a fantasy story needs).

I do think the art is worse than The Hobbit's, especially the landscapes. And yeah the music is terrible. I also don't understand why you would hire Alan Arkin as a voice actor, since his whole shtick depends on being able to see him. His voice does not make sense coming out of anyone else and as a result most of his line readings are really confusing and distracting. I was glad to hear Brother Theodore again though.
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Postby universe » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:45 pm

The Monkees are good though
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:48 pm

Yeah I think I can manage not to fuck up that badly at least.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:49 pm

Also that seems to be the only voice role Alan Arkin's ever had, so... I guess we're all agreed.
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Postby Merciel » Thu Sep 14, 2017 3:01 am

The Land Before Time (1988)

I did not realize Spielberg and Lucas were involved in this.

I only saw this movie once before the rewatch project. I wanted to say we saw it in theaters, but that's impossible, because this came out before The Little Mermaid. So either it got a theatrical re-release at some point (this is definitely possible because the Army bases would sometimes show old movies as weekend matinees for the kids if there wasn't anything on first run for them), or we saw it in some other environment that was sufficiently like a movie theater to confuse me.

Anyway, it was an enormous disaster. We all freaked out when Littlefoot's mom died and broke down bawling and that was the end of that. I'd never seen it since, because my parents were not about to try making us sit through that a second time after the original reaction.

On rewatch, I'm mainly struck by how this movie manages to be inappropriate for small kids (there is a LOT of time spent lingering on Littlefoot's mom's death, which is extremely WTF when you realize how many kids were scarred by Bambi's mom dying, and that's completely off-screen, over in a flash, and never referred to again; there's also a lot of time spent on the baby dinos being menaced and attacked and put in horrible poison lava environments filled with skeletons, etc.) and simultaneously too babyish for older kids, who are unlikely to be into a bunch of main characters who all speak relentless baby-ese.

Also, other than Littlefoot, all the main characters are annoying as fuck. Cera is obviously the worst and her dino-racist shithead gimmick gets run into the ground way before you're allowed to finally stop watching her, but Ducky and Petrie are annoying little shits too. The use of gimmicky terms like "tree star" for "leaf" gets pretty old too, although I suspect much of my antipathy toward that particular gimmick is because, given that all the main characters speak baby-ese, it comes off more like patronizing toddler talk than an interesting mechanism to explore how the dinosaurs conceptualize their world.

Despite all this it managed to keep me mostly on board through the end, but I think that's because I have an enormous soft spot for dinosaurs and, really, just getting to watch reasonably well-animated cartoon dinosaurs move across the screen does most of the work here.

I did not realize they got Diana Ross to sing the closing credits song. I assume that's where half their budget went.

6.5/10
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Postby reversemigraine » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:45 am

TLBT is one of those movies that other kids my age seemed to like so much more than I did.

I would have been 8 when it came out, so it came out at the exact right time. But clearly I didn't watch TLBT nearly as much as I watched An American Tail, judging from how little I remember about the former compared to the latter. Most of my memories are about the Pizza Hut puppets, and how I got stuck with Spike:



RM Jr. is still only 2.5 but has zero interest in this movie so far, based on the couple of times I've tried putting it on.
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Postby Rainbow Battle Kid » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:05 am

man i rewatched it recently and loved it, but i'm a big sucker for things about teamwork and friendship and i cry like a baby when they make it to the great valley at the end.

also the music at 2:28 on, still really gets to me

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Postby WeirdJungle » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:23 am

Land Before Time was the first movie my parents took me to in a theater, I was maybe five years old and I loved it. I also weirdly still remember the Pizza Hut ad with the puppets that played during the trailers. We never got the movie on video so that one experience really defines my memories of it.
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Postby WeirdJungle » Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:33 am

(Not having watched either of these movies in ~20 years)

I wonder if showing mom's death on screen actually makes it more understandable for kids? He gets to talk to her, she tells him it's going to be ok, etc. it's not like she's just suddenly and violently extinguished by an unseen enemy.
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Postby Spoilt Victorian Child » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:19 am

I'm baffled that those toys were from Pizza Hut because I had a couple of them and we never went to Pizza Hut. However, my memory is that I got at least one of them when I was in the care of Chip Sheridan's parents, so that could explain it (although my memory also thinks they took us to Burger King).

This was probably one of the first movies I saw in theaters too, along with Oliver & Co. (which, as I mentioned upthread, opened the same day). Certainly they're the first two ad campaigns I remember.

I don't remember watching it that often but I must have seen it a million times because I remembered not only lines but their exact cadences. Like "That's my hopper!" and "I can take care of myself, all by myself." And I have not been able to do that with most of the Disney movies we've done.

I think the idea with Cera is to teach kids that it's a virtue to have empathy for literally everyone. I imagine their success was pretty mixed. The other thing about Cera is that she looks exactly like my aunt Betsy.

Every four-year-old we meet on the playground sounds like Ducky. I have no idea how (or whether, or when) I'm supposed to respond to any of the stuff they vomit at me. I assume by the time my son reaches that age he will have reprogrammed my brain as necessary. Otherwise that is going to be a very tedious period.

The art is a lot worse than The Secret of NIMH's, but not as bad as I remember it being in like All Dogs Go to Heaven and Rock-a-Doodle. It's probably about halfway between them. The colors are mostly bad and the backgrounds are frequently obscured by a mysterious, Liefeldian fog. There is something appealing about the character designs though.

In my memory the death scene was a lot more manipulative. But it could just be that I'm 32 now.
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Postby Merciel » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:44 am

WeirdJungle wrote:I wonder if showing mom's death on screen actually makes it more understandable for kids? He gets to talk to her, she tells him it's going to be ok, etc. it's not like she's just suddenly and violently extinguished by an unseen enemy.


I don't think confusion is really an issue.

I think it's just that thing SVC talks about in kids' books sometimes where they all just want you to feel sad. Thankfully this is not a thing with kids' books written in the last 20-30 years or so (that I've read), but it's definitely a thing in Land Before Time.

Also they really drive home the fact that all these dinosaurs ultimately died anyhow. It's not explicit in the movie but you can't have a bunch of dinosaurs dumbly fleeing from volcanoes and earthquakes and famine without continually having to remember that all these guys went extinct.

They all died, nobody survives this story. And the movie will not let you forget it.
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