Monthly Archives: March 2012

AFI List: Do the Right Thing – 1989 (96)

Movie: Do the Right Thing Year: 1989 Genre: Drama

Starring: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, John Tuturo, Rosie Perez,

I saw this film about 4 days ago. I have this on-going joke with friends of mine that I “bake” my thoughts – in other words, I’m a pretty pensive person, really, especially when I want to comment on something that could be a sensitive topic. So, I sit here at the computer, trying desperately to organize my thoughts about this and I decide to just bake my thoughts… this is the reason *this* write up also took a while.

I remember this film from my college film class and I must say, I had placed the memory of it deep into the folds in the back of my brain and forgot all about it until I saw it on the list and said “oh yeah… I liked that movie!” as we were reading the titles at work. A few days in advance of watching it, I couldn’t even remember the plot line, I’m embarrassed to say. The only thing I remember is that I really liked the movie and it seemed to move me.

I remember now why I liked it… and yes, it moved me again. Probably more this time.

I think I took a lot more away from this film this time than I did before – partially because of my difference in perspective: I’m almost 20 years older than when I saw it the first time; I’m a mother now; I’m divorced; I tend to be a little more patient and empathetic than I used to be. I tend to be a little more grounded now. I was idealistic and probably pretty naive back then, which I believe shaped my impression of the story itself. As I watched the film, though, I began to remember some of the impressions I had about it the first time – I remember liking (and being impressed with) how he was able to weave that many characters into a story. I liked how the characters addressed each other (back then, that was the first time I had seen it). I remember liking the dialog. I remember thinking that Mookie’s act at the end of the film was more of protection than anger because, at the time, the idealistic me didn’t accept the true anger people sometimes feel.

Now, however, having the perspective of a few years behind me, I see things a bit differently. I know that anger now, and I understand it better. Maybe that’s why I saw two major plot themes in this story: social/racial and generational. This film is renowned and recognized for the social impact, but the generational part of the theme I didn’t catch the first time I saw it – and isn’t really discussed in the research I’ve done. And, frankly, I don’t remember that part of the film from the last time I saw it…maybe because, most of the characters in the film were all older than me. But, now that I’m getting older and I’m evaluating my own life and what I’ve done with this wonderful opportunity I’ve been given, I think I noticed the generational aspect of the film and that it helped me relate more to all of the characters. I am simply blown away at the sheer talent of Spike Lee for this film – he wrote the whole thing in about 2 weeks, he directed it and even starred in it as a pretty pivotal character in the story.

From a technical stand point, there were two things I really loved about how he shot and produced this film:

  1. the use of music throughout the film – in addition to being a running geek, I’m also a music geek – well, music lover really – I have only scratched the surface of what there is to know about music and I seem to have a pretty ravenous appetite for learning about it. I appreciate music done well of almost any kind, so I tend to be sensitive to how it is used in films because, in my life, the music that I tend to go to as my favorites help ingrain memories for me – a soundtrack to my own life, if you will. Music, to me, was integral to this film. The most obvious is the heavy use of “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, which opens the film, is blasted from the boombox of one of the characters in the film, and is played in key parts of the film when the story reaches it’s climax. There was also the DJ, played by Samuel L. Jackson that narrates and plays a “soundtrack” to the day – starting with his emphatic “Wake Up! Wake Up! Wake UP!!” at the beginning, his begging folks to chill out and some of the commentary throughout the day… like having a narrator without actually being obvious about it. Finally, there is a score that is played (it was mixed a little too loud for my taste) but is key to a conversation Sal has with one of his sons.
  2. How he uses the camera – There were many ways that I took notice of the way he used the camera. All the shots were pretty tight – not a lot of background noise. He used a lot of bright, vibrant colors (and film to capture them) to illustrate different feelings and attitudes. I also loved the way he used light in his shots. Ok, so yeah, I’m a bit of a camera geek, too.

This film is set in Brooklyn, NY in the summer and is supposed to be one of the hottest days of the year. There are a lot of characters in this film… It opens with the neighborhood waking up to the DJ (Samuel L. Jackson) telling everyone to wake up – one-by-one, you are introduced to Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), the older woman who sits at her window and watches over the neighborhood; “the mayor” (Ossie Davis) the older man who is the neighborhood alcoholic; Radio Raheem who blasts “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy; Smiley, the mentally impaired man who tries to sell photos of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr; the four teens (one of which is a very young Martin Lawrence); the three gentlemen sitting on the corner evaluating the goings on in the neighborhood, Buggin Out, Mookie and his sister Jade; the Puerto Ricans, including Tina and her son Hector who live with her mother, the Koren convenience store owner, and finally Sal and his sons Vito and Pino, who own the local pizza shop. There are more characters, but these are the main ones that are most integral to the story.

Sal’s pizza shop has been in the neighborhood for years and his sons work with him in the shop. Mookie is their delivery guy. Mookie has a good relationship with Vito, the younger son, and with Sal, but his relationship with Pino is strained because, quite frankly, Pino is an asshole. He does not want to be in this neighborhood and makes that clear from the opening shot of the film and throughout constantly reminds us that he’s profoundly unhappy working in a “black neighborhood” and wants to work closer to their own neighborhood. The first interactions of Pino and Mookie set the tone for the remainder of the story as each character develops.

As the day unfolds, and gets hotter, you see many interactions with the characters: the teenagers open the fire hydrant to cool off the younger kids, but get an Italian guy’s car wet which starts a fight; Radio Raheem has a “blast out” with the Puerto Ricans, who eventually concede; we discover that Tina’s son Hector is Mookie’s son and that they are lovers in a quarrel over him not spending enough time with her; we hear Pino throwing racial slurs throughout to Mookie and all of the people coming in to the Pizzeria, and Mookie trying to talk sense into him (“who’s your favorite basketball player?” – “Jordan… but he’s different” says Pino).

Throughout the day, though, the story lines incorporated interactions between generations…

  • We have the septuagenarians The Mayor and Mother Sister (Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee) who have been through rough periods in their lives – rougher than what the kids are experiencing today – and tend to be voices of reason throughout the film. Both of them, but The Mayor in particular, act as protectors and parental figures in the neighborhood.
  • Next, we have the three on the corner as well as Sal – they appear to be in their 50s – still vivacious, reminiscent of “the good old days” and less patient with their children’s generation.
  • Then, we have Jade (Mookie’s sister), Mookie, Radio Raheem, Smiley, Buggin Out, Pino, Vito, and Tina – all in their late 20s or early 30s and a little high strung; all still a little angry.
  • finally the gang of teenagers (Martin Lawerence’s crowd) who are young, naive, think they know more than they actually do.

Then we get to the turning point when Buggin Out becomes annoyed that there are “no brothers on the wall” of Sal’s Pizzeria. Sal tells Buggin Out that he’s Italian and it is his place and he’s “putting American Italians on my wall”. The argument escalates to the point where Sal tells Buggin Out  to leave. Buggin Out decides to boycott Sal’s and goes throughout the neighborhood to recruit boycotters. Everyone declines: the teens because they love it (and have had it their entire lives – “I was raised on Sal’s pizza!” exclaims the girl), the Mayor because he wants peace and cooler heads to prevail.

Eventually, though, Buggin Out does find some boycotters in kind with Radio Raheem and Smiley. As the Pizzeria is closing, the teenagers ask for one more slice for the night so Sal lets them in. Behind, them, however, is Radio Raheem, Smiley and Buggin Out. Sal orders them to leave and tells Raheem to turn the music down. Raheem refuses, so Sal smashes his radio with a baseball bat. The two begin fighting and the fight spills into the street, Radio Raheem almost killing Sal. The police arrive to break up the fight, but end up choking Raheem to death. The crowd is stunned at the sight of their friend being killed in front of them – Mookie grabs a garbage can and throws it through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria. The crowd erupts into a riot – destroying the Pizzeria, finally, with Smiley setting it on fire. The fire crews arrive to attempt to put it out, but end up having to manage the riot instead.

The last scene is the next morning when Mookie returns to Sal’s to collect his salary of $250 a week. Angry, Sal throws $500 at Mookie. Mookie throws $200 back and says “I owe you $50”. Sal asks what he’s going to do and Mookie responds “You know… work… and get paid”.

My initial impression – when I saw this movie about 20 years ago – was that Mookie was protecting Sal by throwing the garbage can. I don’t think that today. He looked angry to me – and the crowd had not yet started to riot… they all seemed to be in shock. To me, it seemed like he felt a violent anger and, rather than directing it another person and risking more injury or death to a person, directed it to a building. The rest of the crowd followed suit. In a weird way, I think it did protect Sal a little – most of the crowd blamed him for Radio Raheem’s death – but I did not take away from that scene that Mookie was intentionally trying to divert attention away from Sal – he was dealing with his own anger and didn’t seem to think much about anybody else around him. The other thing I really caught this time around that I don’t remember thinking last time was the familial relationship between Sal and Mookie that was best displayed during their “reconciliation” the next day. Although it was quite strained between them, they still seemed to display a genuine affection for each other, in spite of the events from the evening before. Thus… to me, at least, showing more of a father-son relationship than anything – as though Sal thinks of Mookie as his kid – who screwed up – but he still loves him and cares about his well being.

I mentioned that the film moved me – I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. That last scene moved me the most because of the father-son relationship I saw. The riot scene the night before made my heart break for the entire neighborhood, especially when you hear from The Mayor, having the benefit of wisdom, trying desperately to keep everyone calm and told them “let’s not do something now we’ll regret tomorrow”. My heart broke for Radio Raheem – to be murdered, basically, in such a way. My heart broke for his friends and neighbors – to see that. My heart broke for Sal – just trying to run a business and loving his customers – all of them – and to see one of them murdered broke his heart, too. My heart broke for the teens – so young to see all this violence.

I am really glad this film was on the list – it was really good to watch it again and I am still in awe of Spike Lee’s talent.

Next up: The Last Picture Show #95 – I had heard people rave about this one before, but I don’t know much about it… yet.


Posted by on March 29, 2012 in AFI 100 Years List


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AFI List: Blade Runner – 1982 (97)

Movie: Blade Runner Year: 1982 Genre: Science Fiction

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah

My friends… it took me a while to write this post. Partially because I wasn’t left with a strong feeling about the film either way, and partly because I started a related project to this one, but I won’t comment on that just yet… I don’t hate “Blade Runner”, but I don’t love it, either. I’m just… I’m just…


I have discussed this project with my friends at work. When the subject of this film came up, the men were pretty excited that I was going to watch Blade Runner. They all seem to have a very positive impression of it and seemed to love it. Their excitement about it is somewhat infectious, so admittedly, I got caught up in their excitement and became excited about seeing Blade Runner, too. I do like some films in the Sci Fi genre – I am a fan of the Star Wars franchise (even using the nicknames Vader and Yoda for my kids). So, when I admitted I hadn’t seen it, those same men that were super excited about my seeing it let out a collective gasp followed (almost in unison) by the phrase “YOU’VE never seen ‘Blade Runner’?”.

(sigh) No… no I haven’t.

I don’t know what it is about this genre – some I love, some I’m apathetic about. I don’t hate any that I can think of, they – collectively – just don’t “do it” for me. I appreciate the creativity that goes into these stories and the imagery, but I guess, in my heart, I’m more of a realist. So… having said all of that, here’s my (most likely longer-ish) post…

Here’s where my “research” ahead of time might get me into trouble… once I started reading about this film, I went down a veritable rabbit hole of information, all leading to interesting facts and debates about this film. I know all about the various cuts. I know all about the actors and how they felt about Ridley Scott. I know how they felt about the final product (and I agree with Harrison Ford on a lot of it). I read the Wikipedia Cliff’s notes about the book and I think I got a good image of what the story was supposed to be… and am (as I usually am in this situation) profoundly disappointed in the departure from what I thought the story should have included from the book. But the debate of the versions… that intrigued me so much so that I felt like I had to see both the original 1982 theatrical release and the Scott Final Cut versions.

So… I did.

I get the debate now.

Short version of the long story: Blade Runners are bounty hunters for Androids called replicants. Replicants look like humans and are really only distinguishable by their lack of empathy (which can be measured by a VK machine – kind of like a lie detector). The replicants were banned from Earth long ago and are used on colonies for dangerous work. When they come back to Earth, they are “retired” or killed by a Blade Runner. In this case, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired Blade Runner who is enlisted to find 4 rogue replicants that have made their way back to Earth because the end of their service (about 4 years) is approaching and they want more time (read: longer life). His first stop is the manufacturer of these replicants who has an assistant (Rachael) we soon discover is also a replicant (with implanted memories), but doesn’t know it. Deckard leaves so he can find the first on his list – he finds and retires her while another replicant witnesses the retirement. Seeking revenge, the witness replicant tries to kill Deckard, but Rachael saves his life – after which he promises not to hunt her.

Meanwhile, on the non-crowded side of town, the other two replicants (Roy and Pris) befriend a lonely bio-mechanical engineer named JK Sebastian who lives alone in a huge building, but is surrounded by these creepy Franken-Toys (I can’t believe I’ve used that phrase in two posts now…) – he says “I make my friends”. Sebastian is suffering from a degenerative condition that ages him faster than his years – which is important in how the replicants relate to him. The replicants talk Sebastian in to taking the leader (Roy) to the owner of their manufacturer (Tyrell) and, after realizing there is nothing even Tyrell can do to help them live longer, Roy confesses his sins and kills both Tyrell and Sebastian (by poking their eyes into their brains – a pretty graphic thing I chose not to watch). While Roy is away, Deckard finds Pris (the last replicant) and retires her. Roy arrives shortly after Pris is retired and the two fight until Deckard almost falls off a building – Roy saves him at the last minute, delivers a soliloquy and dies. I’m ending it there because there were two different endings.

So… the things I liked about the film:

  • I liked the Neo-Noir feel to it – the mashup of early 1980s with early 1940s in the attire of all the characters – I actually even noticed a few cars that had that same mixed feeling.
  • I liked – generally speaking – the idea of the story – it made me think a little more about humanity and longevity and how we’d all like a little more time to just do a little more here on Earth.
  • I preferred the Final Cut version – I thought the clean up they did on the color and contrast looked much better and the imagery was just brighter
  • The hover cars were pretty damn cool

Here’s what I didn’t really like about it…

  • I hated the narration of the domestic theatrical release. I get what they were going for, I do – the noir narration typical in the 1940s, but you could really tell that Harrison Ford was *not* on board with it and he sounded so irritated. Thank you, Scott, for getting rid of that.
  • Although I didn’t read the book, I know that a major plot line in it (hence the name of the book) was the animals and that owning an animal was a big deal – it was a status symbol and it helped prove you had empathy – that’s why all the humans wanted one. Deckard wanted to buy an animal and had motivation for taking the job of bounty hunter. He didn’t really have any motivation for taking the job in the movie. He got up to leave Bryant’s office all huffy and “I’m still quit!” but Bryant said “Sit down – you *have* to do this” and he sat down like a chump and took the job. No real motivation.
  • Animals are only mentioned 4 times: the turtle during a replicant VK test, an owl when Deckard comes to Tyrell’s office the first time, the snake one of the Replicant uses in a strip tease show, and the owl at Tyrell’s office appears again in his apartment when Roy kills him. The turtle was a completely hypothetical situation and the owl and snake were both replicants – the characters talk about the fact that they are expensive, but never are real animals discussed… maybe I don’t have enough imagination for this or maybe, perhaps, I was sullied by an important plot line in the book missing from the film and would have been none-the-wiser had I not read that.
  • There is a unicorn dream that Deckard has (while in a drunken stupor, no less) – the unicorn doesn’t do anything – it is just running through a field. This 15-seconds is supposed to symbolize the fact that Deckard may also be a replicant and had implanted memories (because another cop played by Edward James Olmos puts an oragami unicorn at Deckard’s front door). The “dream”, though, was cut from the original theatrical release so the oragami unicorn at the front door in that version made no sense at all… aside from that, unicorns aren’t real, so it isn’t like he was remembering something from his past… so, the whole “planted memory” thing doesn’t hold water for me…
  • Did I miss the news that Noah is making a visit to LA in 5 years? Since when did LA ever get that much rain? It would have been better if they just didn’t say what the city was…
  • The eyes thing kind of creeped me out… I get the symbolism of it (eyes are the window to the soul and all that), but I just didn’t like seeing people die by having their eyes poked out. That gave me nightmares a couple of days later…

So… I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I found holes in the story, but I think that my imagination might have been turned off that day. I dunno. On to the next one…

Next up:  Do the Right Thing (1989) #96 starring Danny Aiello and Ossie Davis – I saw this one in Film Class, but as I talked about it today, I honestly couldn’t remember much about the story. I remember that I liked it when I saw it about 19 years ago… let’s see what I think now.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in AFI 100 Years List


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AFI List: Yankee Doodle Dandy – 1942 (98)

Movie: Yankee Doodle Dandy Year: 1942 Genre(s): Musical, Comedy, Biographical

Starring: James Cagney

I’ll be honest… I put this one off for a while because, well, I don’t like musicals. I dread them, in fact. They just aren’t “realistic” enough for me – hence the slightly sarcastic comment I made in my Toy Story review about the Disney folks singing to the Pixar folks about the “musical” argument for that movie.

Not. A. Fan.

So, I put this off a few days. But… I decided tonight that I would read the back story and see if it might be something I’d be more inclined to see tomorrow night… or maybe Thursday.

Once I started reading the back story, though, I became a lot more interested in this movie. First of all, it is a biography and I had no idea who the man was until tonight. I love biographies, especially of interesting folks, and friends, I find this guy interesting. His name is George M. Cohan (pronounced co-han). Maybe it is a generational thing or maybe I am just not as “into” theater and Broadway… I can’t explain it, but I had not heard of him. I can’t tell you how many times I sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as a kid, never thinking about the man that wrote the song… until tonight. He was a singer, traveling vaudeville actor, dancer and incidentally a great musical writer. And… he was a bit of a smart ass, a trait I can relate to. Next interesting fact: it has James Cagney in it. He’s kind of a bad ass in some of the gangster movies and, well, he’s snarky Irish man, so he gets type-cast a lot and that’s been my experience so far with James Cagney movies. I was surprised to discover that James Cagney is not only a great actor (totally deserved that Oscar), but a good singer and dancer, too.

There isn’t as much of a back story on this movie as I’ve found for others – it won a lot of awards, including an Oscar for Cagney. Cagney’s real-life sister played Cohan’s sister. They made their money back on the cost of the film. They took a few liberties with Cohan’s real life and some of the timeline, but stuck pretty close to events in his life. They won awards for the costumes…. that’s pretty much it for the business side of the film. To me, the more interesting part of this one was the life of the man it was about.

I think I was most surprised, however, about the fact that, for a musical, it wasn’t as “musical” as I expected. It isn’t the usual formula of people randomly breaking out in song to sing about the events or their feelings; the songs in this one were all contained to the shows or to him writing the shows. It was actually very well done.

The story starts near the end of Cohan’s life (he passed away the year this movie was finished, although, he did get to see it and really liked Cagney’s portrayal of him) as he is starring in a show called “I’d Rather Be Right” that features a singing, dancing Franklin Roosevelt. FDR calls him in to ultimately give him a congressional medal of honor, but before giving him the medal, decides to have a chat with him. Cohan tells FDR the story of his life in all flashback.

Cohan was born to a pair of traveling Vaudevillian actors who toured and brought their children with them – ultimately including them in the show (including George’s sister Josie) so theater and show business was all they knew. As he grew up, he became more of a star of the shows, and started to write skits and songs for the family (The Four Cohans) to perform. However, as he grew up and gained more popularity and praise for his work, his humility deminished and became more of a wisenheimer than his parents would have liked. My favorite scene is him getting a spanking from his father and his mother saying “not the hands! he has to play violin! oh… Not the face – he has to sing!” his father puts him over his knee, spanks his behind and says “this part has no talent!” – I’m still laughing about that one. Eventually, he breaks away from the family to write on his own, but has a hard time selling anything because of his lack of humility and his wise cracking.

Eventually, he worms his way in with another down-and-out playwright named Sam Harris who, when then worked together, made multiple hits, the first of which is a play about a jockey called “Little Johnny Jones” who rides a horse (pony!) called Yankee Doodle – that’s what the song was about – that made “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (actual name of the song is “Yankee Doodle Boy”) a hit. From this point on, the majority of the story is him and Harris writing plays, a bit of his relationship with his aging parents and his wife Mary (which was his first wife in reality – he was married twice), and songs from the shows he and Harris wrote and produced during this phase of his life. He apparently was in and out of retirement, never able to fully tear himself away from the theater.

A staunch patriot, though (he claimed to be born on July 4th, though there are disputes saying he was actually born on the 3rd), the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 prompted Cohan to try to enlist to fight in World War I. Told he was too old to enlist, he decided to entertain the troops and ended up writing the song “Over There” the World War I “fight” song. I first heard this song in the movie “1941” in the scene where Hollis Wood is kidnapped by the Japanese looking for Hollywood and, until tonight, had always thought of that scene when I heard this song. I have a different memory of it now. The movie ends with FDR giving him the medal of honor and him walking through a parade singing that song. Very sweet.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one in many ways and I recommend it!

On that note… it is time for me to go to bed.

The next on the list: Blade Runner (1982) #97 – still haven’t seen this Cult Classic yet – I’m intrigued by the gasps I’ve been getting when I admit I haven’t seen it yet… Besides, it has Han Solo… I mean, Harrison Ford, in it, so how bad can it be??

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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in AFI 100 Years List


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AFI List: Toy Story – 1995 (99)

Movie: Toy Story Year: 1995 Genre(s): Animated, Comedy, Family

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

I was actually pretty excited to see this one again because I have long been a big fan of Disney animated films, even before I had kids. In fact, it used to be a tradition that my sister and I had at Christmas and for birthdays: we would buy each other a Disney animated film and build out the other’s collection – first we built out the VHS collection, and then eventually DVDs. Once we had kids it got difficult to manage and the tradition has since slipped away. I might pick that up again this year with her.

I have seen this movie a few times, but not really since I’ve had kids (believe it or not). My kids were born in 2005 and 2006 and by then, Toy Story was a relic. Cars was even kind of old by the time they cared enough to watch it, so they never really got into the Toy Story franchise until Toy Story 3 came out. I had forgotten how much I loved this movie and how much it made me laugh! However, this time watching it, I am a mother and I have a rapidly growing interest in the business behind the movies, so watch it with a different perspective.

So, first, the mother angle – one of the biggest chuckles from me was at the end when Andy becomes reunited with his toys (after they chase the moving van – see the story synopsis below) and his mother basically tells him that they had been in the car all along. I hear those words coming out of my mouth a lot around here and now the thought of the toys getting up and walking off by themselves (something I promised the boys would never happen) crosses my mind as I say it. Also, the relationship between the mother and Andy is poignant to me because it reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my boys as I see it. Although the movie didn’t discuss or show it a lot – it wasn’t even central to the story – resonated with me as a mother to two boys who are about the age of Andy in this movie. I thought it was really sweet.

Next… the business filter… One of the more interesting business facts about this film is the interest Disney had in it, long before Disney owned Pixar. The director was actually an animator at Disney and pitched an idea for a full-length computer generated animated film that was summarily rejected. He went on to found Pixar (no hard feelings). The film was being distributed by Disney, so they had a say in how it was produced and what the end product would be – and, even though they were not yet joined officially, took sole branding in the title of the movie (Pixar was added to the branding in later releases). They also rejected the first draft of the movie because they thought the Woody character was too sarcastic and threatened to take over the project entirely. The Pixar guys said “no, no, we’ll rewrite it… in 2 weeks”.

And they did. *that* amazes me.

Another fact I found interesting is the argument the Pixar guys had with Disney about the film being a musical. The Pixar guys absolutely did not want it to be a musical. At all. Disney, on the other hand, basically told Pixar “hey… that’s what we do” (in my mind, Disney execs sang that sentence… that would be funny). The compromise, if you can call it that, is that the soundtrack to the movie is filled with Randy Newman songs. I type this with gritted teeth because I do not like Randy Newman (sorry Randy). That dumb song from 1984 “I Love L.A.” ruined him for me. This sound track was no different. I am glad, however, that the Pixar guys stuck to their guns about this point – I think having the characters sing in this film would have completely ruined it.

From a technical point of view, the animation is still pretty phenomenal to me. I *cannot* believe how realistic things still look in this film after 17 years – and the attention to detail they have in there – scratches on the floor. Dents in the wall. The dog’s eyes dilating while he’s chasing the toys. I can’t believe this movie is 17 years old… now that I write that. The Budget for this film was $30 million and had only a staff of 110 people. Contrast that with The Lion King from just the year before with a cost of $45 Million and a staff of over 800. The characters were all built with clay first, then transferred to the computer design, when they then added the controls. Of all the characters, Woody was the most time consuming and difficult. I was surprised because I thought the dog would have been tougher since it was so realistic.

Fair warning… from this point on, I’m going to give my impression of the story, just in case you know the story or don’t want a spoiler…

The story is a pretty simple buddy comedy formula, only with toys. The toys belong to a young boy named Andy and come to life when nobody is around. There is the favorite (Woody the cowboy) who is, more or less, seen as the “leader” of the lot of Andy’s toys. On Andy’s birthday, he gets a new toy called Buzz Lightyear, which is an astronaut (and yes, he’s named after Buzz Aldrin… and yes, the contrast between the older cowboy theme contrasts well with the newer astronaut theme in the characters, I think).

Although Buzz doesn’t realize he is a toy, he quickly becomes Andy’s new favorite, which leaves Woody feeling jealous. When the family goes out for pizza, Woody tries to become the toy chosen for the outing (“you may bring one – ONE – toy” is a pretty common thing heard in my house, too) by trying to make Buzz fall behind the bed. Instead, Buzz falls out the window and the rest of the toys accuse Woody of trying to get rid of Buzz altogether.

Because Andy can’t find Buzz, he takes Woody to the Pizza place, but Buzz sees Andy carrying Woody into the car and hitches on to the car. While in the Dinoco (yes, from Cars!) gas station, the toys have a confrontation, fall out of the car, and are left behind. Hitching a ride on a delivery truck for the pizza place, they make their way into the restaurant (called Pizza Planet) which has a space theme. Buzz, still thinking he is a real astronaut, crawls into a space ship that is actually one of those “grab-a-toy-with-a-claw” games and Woody goes after him to try to save him. Unfortunately, Andy lives next to Sid, the creepiest kid on the planet – who blows up toys – and Sid happens to be good at Grab a Toy games. Sid grabs Buzz out of the machine and, because Woody can’t pull Buzz out, he gets Woody too.

This is the part that, I honestly think would creep out my kids. I mentioned that Sid likes to blow stuff up – he also likes to make Franken-Toys made with various parts of broken (or in his case destroyed) toys. Sid puts Woody and Buzz in his room and they are confronted with the Franken-toys which, honestly, kind of creeped me out. They try to escape, only to be chased by a very realistic looking family dog that looks kind of like a bull dog mixed with a pitt bull. During all of these scenes, Woody is unsuccessful at convincing Buzz he is a toy – but while Buzz is hiding from the dog during an escape attempt, he sees a TV commercial for himself and starts to believe Woody…

But, an indigent streak hits him, and setting out to prove to Woody he is real, he attempts to fly from the banister to an open window (an earlier attempt at flying was Buzz getting help from other toys and Woody’s response was “that’s not flying! that’s falling with style” probably the best line in this movie). He crashes on the floor, loosing his arm and becomes depressed. Sid ends up getting a rocket he ordered, and tapes Buzz to it, intending to blow him up. Buzz gets a reprieve, thanks to a thunder storm, and, overnight, Woody finally convinces Buzz they need to escape and get back to Andy. They enlist the help of the Franken-Toys (which they have befriended by now) and all toys meet Sid in the back yard to teach him a lesson by “coming to life” again – which freaks the kid out.

Buzz and Woody get over to Andy’s but not in time before the moving truck (I forgot to mention: Andy’s moving) and the last few scenes are Buzz, Woody, an RC (the car) trying to get back onto the moving truck. They do and they get back into the car where Andy’s mother says (as I know I have a million times) “see what happens when you look?” haha.

On that note… it is time for me to go to bed.

The next on the list: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). That one should be fun – James Cagney!


Posted by on March 1, 2012 in AFI 100 Years List


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