Monday, March 11, 2013

JUMP: A glimpse into another mind

Posted: January 24, 2013 - 1:00amBy CLINT J. FARRFARR NORTH PERSPECTIVES
There is a line of rock doves on a power line near my house. They’re lined up perfectly. At the right angle, it’s just pigeon, wire, and sky. It is an arresting visual. I want to put them in a movie. I want to put them into the Juneau Underground Motion Picture, or JUMP, Society film festival.
The JUMP film festival is unlike any film festival in the country. Greg Chaney is a local filmmaker who has participated in all 20 of the JUMP film festivals and about a dozen other festivals across the nation. Chaney believes JUMP is “absolutely” a community forum. Any Juneauite can show a film as long as it fits the generous parameters of the JUMP festival requirements.
Courtney Nelson agrees. Nelson feels JUMP allows “a glimpse into the mind of another community member.” Nelson will have submitted three films to JUMP including the upcoming festival where Nelson and a group of students address Native American history. Chaney once submitted a film mocking exercise programs by showcasing weight lifting with eyebrows. (“Superciliary Exercise Program” was initially rejected and then accepted to a film festival in England because, in the words of the festival director, “We couldn’t stop thinking about it.”). Antoine Doiron has worked on and promoted his upcoming film “Space Trucker Bruce” at JUMP. Izzy Christenson takes on the debate between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones on gun control. And Corin Hughes-Skandijs once depicted a character peeing his pants rather than exerting the effort go to the bathroom as a liberating life choice. I’m not sure that’s the glimpse we wanted into Hughes-Skandijs’s mind, but there it is. Juneauites minds are active and varied, serious and silly, wily and warped, and JUMP provides the window.
If not for JUMP, many of these folks would not be making films in the first place. There are practical reasons. Nelson likes how JUMP gives her a deadline, something to work for. Others appreciate JUMP for forcing them to enhance the professionalism of their films, like making sure the music is legal and the actors have signed waivers.
More than anything however is how JUMP jumpstarts Juneauites’ dreams of filmmaking careers. Doiron said, “JUMP has inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Between his first film and now, Doiron has nearly completed a feature length film “Space Trucker Bruce,” Because of JUMP, “I realized … that filmmaking is my passion and my career.” Nearly every person I talked to dreams of that potential.
Some are actively turning their dream to reality. Chaney figures JUMP taught him how to edit. By gauging his and others’ works, Chaney developed a sense of when to enter and leave a scene so the pacing doesn’t drag. This “sense” for editing became important for Chaney when he found himself with a hundred hours of footage from a couple that walked from Washington State to the tip of the Alaska Peninsula. By editing this footage to two hours and less, Chaney created “Journey on the Wild Coast,” his most successful film to date. “I really had a sense of what would work given my experience.”
“Journey on the Wild Coast” has been to a number of film festivals and won a number of awards. It was selected “Best of Fest” at the 2010 Anchorage International Film Festival. It won the Seven Summits Best Feature from the Mountain Film Festival. Perhaps most spectacularly, the film won a Special Jury Award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Chaney’s story about having to climb over people to get out of his seat to give a speech when completely unprepared is pretty awesome. (Nobody expected Chaney’s film to win, including Chaney, so it’s not like he got an aisle seat). “It’s all down to JUMP,” added Chaney.
One advantage of the JUMP festival that (ahem) jumps out again and again is that Juneau filmmakers love the availability of an audience.
Hughes-Skandijs is one of the more prolific of the local filmmakers. “It’s been really cool to see some of the regular contributors hone their skills over the years...including myself. I think that’s something that can be completely chalked up to the JUMP guys for providing that outlet, where an … audience can tell you what you need to be working on.”
“The immediate reaction of the audience provides filmmakers something film schools cannot — figuring out what audiences like.” Christenson does not necessarily need to show his works at JUMP to have an audience, as much of his work is posted online. However, JUMP provides Christenson the ability to introduce audiences to new editing techniques and receive feedback. Christenson busted onto the JUMP scene with a mash up of Teletubbies and Daft Punk. He was six. The rest of us dinosaurs need JUMP as our main audience. For Christenson, now 14, JUMP is used as an airing of his more absurd endeavors.”
Chaney has put a number of comedies into JUMP.
“Having a JUMP audience not respond to something you thought was funny can be pretty profound.” Imagine having a joke fall flat at a party. Imagine you worked for hours on that joke. “On the other hand, you may not intend something to be funny but find out it was.”
JUMP is a film festival without a competition. This allows the audience to walk away with their own personal favorites. JUMP is unique in that respect. Most festivals are competitions and hard to get into. According to Chaney, the competitive aspect of festivals elsewhere sucks the fun out of them.
And fun is the other common theme. It’s fun to make movies. It’s fun to shoot, to work with the actors and even to edit. Christenson very much wanted me to relate that though filmmaking is hard, it has to be fun. And when you look at Christenson’s work, so detailed and minute with hundreds if not thousands of edits in a short time; or Doiron’s work, where five seconds may take two days of computer processing time, and you see that it’s much more than fame and fortune driving these folks. It has to be fun.
What inspires the filmmakers is as varied as the works they produce. Sometimes it’s simple. Antoine’s first movies were made for a Spanish class. Christenson often goes back to a television staple of his childhood, “Blue’s Clues,” for inspiration. For Hughes-Skandijs, soundtracks and film scores undam the creative juices. Sometimes inspiration is impressive and grand. Nelson’s step dad was an Emmy award winning title designer for feature films. He introduced Nelson to the creative world of Hollywood where she got to witness him meeting with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola.
Inspiration could be birds on a wire. Do gray birds on a black wire against a gray sky suggest something poignant? Or should I go for silly and have actors dodging bird poop in slow motion while “Flight of the Valkyries” plays in the background? Whether I go for poignant or puerile with those pigeons, it will have to wait until July. I missed the deadline for this weekend’s festival.
Filmmaking is a luxury of our modern lifestyle. To have time to ruminate on something so useless as the aesthetics of bird on a wire is, in the grand scheme of things, quite remarkable. If an asteroid hit the Gobi desert, dust blocked the sun, and daily survival became a reality, I’m putting the camera down and those pigeons are going into a soup. But that hasn’t happened and we still live in a time when a person can capture the images and stories that give them pause.
You can celebrate the luxury of filmmaking this weekend by seeing Juneau’s premiere showcase of locally produced film shorts at the biannual JUMP festival this weekend. For more information on times and tickets, go to
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at

Film series highlights new direction for art house theaters

Not-so-silent films, shown with live accompaniment from local musicians, are among the varied offerings at the Gold Town

Posted: November 29, 2012 - 1:01am



Collette Costa, manager of the Gold Town Nickelodeon Theater, is a woman of many passions, two of which are being channeled through the theater’s ongoing “Not So Silent Film Series.” One, obviously, is silent film. The other is keeping the Nickelodeon, and independent cinema houses in general, from going extinct.
It’s tough to run an independent cinema. From what Costa and others tell me, movies are expensive to distribute and show. Theaters do not make money off movies. (Does this qualify as “irony”? I’m never sure.) Conventional movie houses use high concession costs to stay in business. Independent cinema has to go another route.
Costa’s route is to move from “being a 90 percent movie theater and 10 percent special-event venue to being something closer to a 50/50 split.” That means producing new and unusual movie-related entertainment that will entice Juneauites to put down their media devices, brave the cold, and come over to the Nickelodeon for something really special. This shift into “eventizing” the cinema is one that can be seen in art house theaters all over the country, as they struggle to stay relevant — a change Costa considers to be revolutionary.
“It’s like the biggest thing to happen to movies since the invention of sound!” she said.
Sometimes, being new means venerating the old.
Costa has spent years figuring out how to share silent film with Juneau. Then “The Artist” happened.
“(It) was such a smash, I decided to use it as a slingshot for this series ... to give modern audiences a chance to discover how amazing silent films can be,” she said.
Thus the “Not So Silent Film Series” began. Costa’s goal is six to eight shows a year, showcasing a diversity of films. Each show will feature different local musicians. The first in Costa’s series was the old vampire flick “Nosferatu” shown to the musical accompaniment of George and Bridget Kuhar of Playboy Spaceman, who composed an original soundtrack for the film
The next film — to be shown this Saturday — is Buster Keaton’s 1926 classic “The General.” “The General” receives a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which lends credence to Costa’s assertion the film is considered by critics to be “one of — if not THE — best silent film ever made.”
Keaton co-wrote and co-directed “The General”. He also performed his own stunts — and broke his neck at one point. The film features “some of the most daring, exciting, unbelievable stunts ever put to film,” Costa said. There were few special effects then. If something crazy happens in the movie, it’s because an actor did something crazy.
“When you see him run across the top of the speeding train, then jump onto a water tower, he actually did it,” she said.
“The General” begins as the Civil War is declared. Keaton plays a southern railroad engineer who loves his train engine named “The General.” Through a series of outlandish situations, Keaton chases a train, thwarts the Yanks and gets the girl. At the time, this was one of the more expensive movies ever made. There are full scale Civil War battle recreations and real trains wrecked. Through it all is Keaton’s trademark deadpan humor and stony face.
Local old-time band Rumblefish will provide the music for “The General,” a pairing Costa said is particularly apt considering that many old-time songs were written during the film’s Civil War-era setting. Rumblefish includes Andy Ferguson, Erik Chadwell, Sergei Morosan, and my daughter’s first grade teacher, Jack Fontanella. In addition to music, they will incorporate sound effects for the movie such as noise makers and percussion, a common practice in the silent film days.
“There was often nothing silent about these movies,” Costa said.
Many people probably assume silent films are dull, dated, and boring. Certainly I was one of those types. I never considered silent film an option until I stumbled upon a showing of “Metropolis” at the Grand Illusion, Seattle’s venerable independent cinema. The film was engaging. It was recently scored by Queen. It wasn’t, as I’d often assumed of silent film, boring.
I am excited to see Costa bring the best of the era to Juneau. She challenges anyone who thinks they do not like silent movies, or thinks they are boring and unwatchable, to come see “The General.” For the sake of silent film, for independent cinema for that matter, perhaps you should take up the challenge.
“The General” shows Saturday Dec. 1 at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.. Saturday’s 4 p.m. showing will be a Family Show, so bring the kids. The evening shows are all-ages but a no-host bar will be set up with specialty cocktails. Tickets are $15 in advance at Rainy Retreat Books or online, or $18 at the door.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at

Gear up for new Bond flick with a look back at the action on the slopes

Posted: November 8, 2012 - 1:02am



A confluence of cinematic and natural forces is at hand. Snow has fallen and James Bond movies are 50 years old. In honor of this convergence, I give you the Bond films with the best ski scenes -- perfect movies for a hot chocolate kind of night.

• “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”: George Lazenby has huge hands. His 1969 one-off appearance of as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” has many unintentionally hilarious scenes, such as the one where Lazenby seems to nearly crush Diana Riggs’ head as he cups her face in a caring gesture. The others involve skiing.

Since this film revolves around an evil genius’ mountain-top lair, there is more skiing than in any other Bond film. And there has to be a lot of skiing, because the mountains in this movie are huge. Bond escapes the mountain-top lair, skis to a resort town, meets Riggs, and drives to a cabin. You would think they’re at a much lower elevation. Yet they wake up, somehow find skis and boots that fit, and take off down the mountain just as the henchmen locate the cabin. This is followed by a massive (and massively silly) ski sequence involving a race against an avalanche. How long can you ski down the same mountain without need of a chairlift? It’s so stupid. I love it!

• “The Spy Who Loved Me”: In 1976, Roger Moore starred in “The Spy Who Loved Me” with Barbara Bach as the Russian spy XXX. (Har). This film featured an evil genius in an underwater lair, climatic fights between submarines and soldiers, SCUBA battles, and seven-foot Richard Kiel as one of the best Bond bad guys ever, Jaws.

It is the film’s beginning, however, that is pure ski-film bliss. Summoned by M via a highly advanced ticker-tape watch, Bond finishes making out with a blond Russian double agent in a random ski lodge high in the Austrian Alps. The agent notifies a group of Russian agents on skis with a newfangled walkie-talkie that has — wait for it – an extendable antenna. Bond quickly realizes he is being chased and stylishly carves the mountain with perfect parallel turns. At one point, Bond skis backwards and shoots a Russian baddie with his ski-pole/high powered rifle. The bad guys close in and the mountain drops away into a sheer 3,000 foot cliff! Is this the end? Of course not! Bond drops off the cliff, his skis fly off, and — in what must be one of the first filmed examples of BASE jumping — a union jack parachute opens. The Bond theme starts! England rules! Awesome!

• “For Your Eyes Only”: In 1982, Moore returns to the slopes for “For Your Eyes Only.” Given the title, there are lots of awkward close-ups of the angry eyes of Melina played by Carole Bouquet. Bond helps Melina avenge the death of her parents by Russian spies. Bouquet may be one of the prettier Bond women, and her character is strong and talented with a cross-bow, but the actress is a little subdued, perhaps stoned, through most of film. Melina, in sum, is “I’m grieving. My parents are dead. Look into my angry eyes. Where’s my crossbow?”

The evil genius’ cliff-top lair is in the mountains of Northern Italy. There are ample examples of outdoors activity, but the ski chase is really the show stopper. As the evil henchmen chase Bond through a ski resort, there is a run on a luge, tree skiing, jumping on a table of skiers eating lunch, motorcycles with spiked wheels, and one talented Russian on cross country skis. This is one of the best constructed action sequences in all of Bond’s history. As with the Lazenby picture, there is the chairlift issue. They never need a chairlift. It’s a lot of skiing for never needing to go back up the mountain.

• “The World is Not Enough”: Finally, there is 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” starring the suave Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan’s Bond warms the heart of evil Elektra on the cool slopes of .... oh, whatever. This movie starred Denise Richards as a nuclear “Fizz-a-cyst”. It’s horrible. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again. Skip it. You’ll never get those two hours back.

If you are looking for a night out, the 23rd Bond movie comes out this weekend at Glacier Cinemas. “Skyfall” has received over a 90 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has broken box office records in Britain, and is rumored to have a ski scene. “Skyfall” promises to continue the excellence of the Daniel Craig Bond movies. What was once silly, formulaic, sexist, sophomoric, dumb, and weirdly innocent is now dark, artistic, and accomplished cinema. I love the new Bond.

That said, I miss Moore and Lazenby hamming it up for the camera, lurching through unconvincing fight scenes, questionable special effects, and really (really) big mountains. There is stupid, and then there is Bond-stupid — wonderful, fun, escapist Bond-stupid. With these movies, you can unapologetically lower your IQ tonight. Have fun!

New film presents an Alaska Alaskans might relate to

Posted: August 29, 2012 - 11:01pm



Alaska in film is often ominous: intriguing and beautiful, but deadly. Alaska-based film and television productions understandably use the theme of person versus nature. (Well, that or bears splashing in a salmon stream to happy music.) “Deadliest Catch,” “Into the Wild,” “Runaway Train,” even “Limbo” touch on this idea.
But to Alaskans, there is much more to our wilderness than the threat of death. Sure, Alaska can kill us any number of ways. You can fall off a cliff or crash a small plane. But most Alaskans will die of old age. So cheating death isn’t the main point of our “struggles” with Alaska’s environment.
“Wildlike” a film under production this summer in Alaska, offers a more nuanced view, one in which the Alaskan wilderness is seen as a positive force. Schuyler Weiss, a producer of “Wildlike” with Tandem Pictures, provided a synopsis, which goes something like this:
“A struggling mother sends her troubled daughter Mackenzie to her uncle in Juneau, Alaska. The uncle is trouble and Mackenzie runs away. She tries to get to mom in Seattle, but winds up deeper into Alaska’s interior. McKenzie ends up following and forming an unlikely bond with a loner backpacker named Bartlett. Together, they discover sanctuary and redemption in Alaska’s wilderness.”
Sure, nitpickers will point out the difficulty of ending up in Alaska’s interior trying to go south from Juneau to Seattle, but the nitpickers would be missing the point.
Weiss puts it well: “Alaska represents a place to escape to, and escape into, for our two protagonists... Alaska is a place of natural wonder on such a scale that it gives true perspective to the characters’ lives and their personal challenges. It is the redemptive force in the film.”
Nice. Finally, a film that will depict an Alaska Alaskans might relate to; where our wilderness is a place of growth, not a place to die.
This is the Alaska I know, where the environment allows us to find ourselves. Alaska is a giant reset button, cold to the touch. Alaska is a place to reformulate the alchemy of who you are. Alaska is a place where Harvard PhDs live remotely off the land and high school drop-outs become millionaires. Alaska is the lost and found bin for misplaced souls. Alaska is for, as Weiss says, “redemption.”
So Alaska isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
This adage also applies to shooting a film in Alaska.
“We have had to be extremely meticulous in our planning due to the distances involved in shipping anything to and from Alaska,” Weiss said.
Further, Alaskan business may lack materials a production might need. Future productions will benefit as local businesses gain experience, and inventory, from current productions.
Finding actors in Alaska can also pose challenges.
“Alaskan actors could also use a little more support with more casting directors and some local talent reps,” Weiss said.
A quick review of the Internet Movie Database reveals the “Wildlike” folks found Teddy Kyle Smith. Smith played the dad in “On the Ice” and was the best thing in that movie. The man can hold a scene by its neck. I’m excited to see Smith will be in another movie.
Despite the challenges (and beyond the draws of the scenery and Teddy Kyle Smith), Weiss has found that Alaska is worth it, in part because of Alaskans themselves.
“(There is) tremendous enthusiasm for film in Alaska … people have gone out of their way to accommodate us and make our film possible,” he said. “You have a very rich environment for filmmaking.”
The production will be coming to the very wet environment of Juneau as early as next week. Weiss’s description of Juneau makes me want to live there: “Juneau is such a fascinating city, with an inherent drama of its own -- hemmed in by sea and mountains, the atmosphere is naturally cinematic.”
The production may need extras in Juneau too. Weiss said interested people can contact them through their Facebook page at
I am happy to see New York production companies, Green Machine Films and Tandem Pictures, shoot a film in Alaska. They will hire locals and spend money on Alaskan businesses for food, lodging, equipment, vehicles, shipping and travel. They will shoot a story of young woman who will use her wits to overcome obstacles and discover her true self and strength. Above all, they will present Alaska as more than a place simply to survive, but a place to heal and a place to thrive.
“Wildlike” is scheduled for release in 2013.
* Clint Farr can be contacted at

'Flewn' moves toward interactive cinema

Posted: June 14, 2012 - 12:01am



Movies are a director’s medium. Directors have the last say in the script, look and feel of a movie, and the movie succeeds or fails on their singular vision.
This model of storytelling, however, does not allow for audience interaction or influence. You cannot call a director half-way through a movie and say, ‘you know, I think you need to add a character here or tweak this story there.’ How fun would it be to immerse yourself into a movie, deeper than the visual trick of 3D, and interact with the story? How satisfying would it be to influence the story’s outcome as a viewer?
A step toward this level of interactive cinema is being initiated by Alaska’s Gabe Smetzer.
Smetzer is a storyteller, artist and animator. His latest project, ““Story of Flewn” (floon), is, in very broad strokes, the animated story of a cetaceous Noah. Instead of a flood, the world is a desert. Flewn walks the desert on stilts searching for a new saltwater home and answers to why his first home disappeared. He is accompanied by a frog and rabbit who also use novel transportation methods, and a number of aquatic refugees in water-filled jars on his back.
Smetzer is using Flewn to explore new ways of telling a story. He wants to avoid the hierarchical model of director, then everybody else. In the “Story of Flewn,” there will be an interaction between the story and the viewer. The viewer will use gaming mechanics to help the story unfold. Except it’s not a game; the viewer does not pursue points. Rather the viewer engages with Flewn to keep Flewn, and thus the story, going. Smetzer likens it to turning the pages of a book.
By keeping Flewn fed and helping Flewn overcome obstacles, the viewer becomes invested in Flewn and his story’s outcome. There are limits, of course, to this interaction. There are still climatic points in the story and, well, the ending. You cannot send Flewn into outerspace, for example. (I asked).
Eventually the film will be available for personal electronic devices, but as of yet, the “Story of Flewn” is not complete. Smetzer is raising funds through the revolutionary arts funding site called Kickstarter. You can view Smetzer’s pitch at The page includes a short video that provides samples of the story’s animation and music. As of this writing, Smetzer has received more than twice the amount he was asking. This is not surprising. The video tease is very cinematic with beautiful animation and an arresting soundtrack (also created by Smetzer). It looks amazing.
Smetzer’s origins are humble. Fairbanks. Between Fairbanks and now, Smetzer found a talent for drawing, painting and music, traveled the world and figured out computer animation.
In 2008, Smetzer won the San Francisco “Cut and Paste” computer animation contest ( Within 20 minutes, he developed an animation to match the contest theme that was then judged. Considering San Francisco and surroundings are ground zero for computer technology, to have a young man from Fairbanks win a computer animation contest is unexpected. To have that same young man, raised in a log cabin, go on in 2009 to win the international “Cut and Paste” competition in New York City is awesome.
Any similarities between Flewn’s world travels and Smetzer’s own picaresque life can be no coincidence.
Smetzer will paint a Flewn image at the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council’s Sunday market from noon to 4 p.m. on June 17 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. This event is public and you might get a chance to talk with Smetzer. He’ll be painting the image directly onto a six-foot resin whale’s tail sculpture, as part of a continuing program of fund-raising to finance Juneau artist Skip Wallen’s 30 foot tall bronze sculpture of a breaching humpback. (See related story on C1.)
Smetzer will also make a technical presentation at the Gold Town Nickelodeon on Monday, June 18 at 7 p.m. (Editor's note: As of Monday afternoon, this presentation has been cancelled. For more information on this project, visit Here you might help Smetzer flatten the hierarchical style of storytelling by providing story and character suggestions. These ideas “must work within the narrative” but provide another opportunity for an interactive storytelling experience.
The Nickelodeon presentation is geared toward visual and performance artists, musicians, movie makers, comic book enthusiasts, 3D animation specialists, storytellers, educators and other friends and supporters of the JUMP festival and the arts in Juneau. Tickets are needed for admission, but are free at the Alaska Robotics Gallery.
The opportunity to interact with a master in high technology storytelling is rare for Juneauites. We are fortunate someone this talented (and busy) is making time for two Juneau events. Let’s make time for Smetzer.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at

'Memorial Day' screening to feature Q&A with screenwriter

Posted: July 19, 2012 - 12:01am



Pixar's Sort of Brave New Movie

Posted: July 5, 2012 - 12:02amBy CLINT J. FARR


Disney’s Cinderella escaped poverty due to her good looks and a prince. Snow White barely escaped death because of her good looks … and a prince. At least Belle learned appearances don’t matter, in beastly men. And mystifying to me, Ariel gave up her family and her fish tail for a life on land with a prince. Really! Her fish tail! That’s like an albatross giving up its wings to marry a snail.
And let’s face it, the only thing those princes have going for them, for all the character development they receive, is good hair and a strong jaw line.
Disney’s been mining princess stories for 70 years. Disney bought Pixar about 12 years ago. Until their latest film, “Brave,” Pixar has mostly avoided the princess theme. One way to avoid a princess theme is to never showcase a female protagonist.
Pixar knows story-telling. Their string of movies must set a record for consistent excellence. Their movies are technically beautiful and the storytelling is timeless. Yet, if females appear, they have been mostly relegated to spunky sidekicks (“Finding Nemo”) or spunky love interests (“Ratatouille”). Who doesn’t like spunky? Spunky seems to be the go-to trait for unthreatening independence in females. But the lack of a female protagonist over 12 movies is troubling to a father of daughters desperate to find them a quality non-princess movie we can all enjoy.
My daughters, ages 6 and 3, are smart girls and strong. Their mom is accomplished in her field and their dad is, well, not so much. Dad does, however, limit their access to pop culture. These two should not be girly girls. They shouldn’t be tied into this culture of pink princesses ... but they are.
(It started almost immediately. In an example of how much influence I have with family, I issued an edict to the grandparents upon birth of my first born not to buy a bunch of pink, plastic, princess crap. I think I heard them cackling as a tidal wave of pink, plastic princess crap crashed into the house, flooding the bedrooms and living room with princess pajamas, pink blankets, princess tea sets and purple plush puppies. Purple is pink’s accomplice.)
Perhaps I’m making too much of this. Perhaps for all the fretting, karma will hand me a jerk of a son-in-law. Much of fatherhood is managing anxiety. There are so many pitfalls and traps my girls could fall into as they grow up — from the minor sprains and strains to the things that keep me up at night. So, is their princess obsession relatively a bad thing? Shouldn’t I be picking my battles here?
I don’t know. Movies influence people. Movies are our cultural common denominator. How movies present little girls has to have an impact.
Look, I’ve got nothing against the theme of true love’s kiss; making out with my wife is great. But true love’s kiss is one great thing of many great things. It is not THE thing. Maybe a girl’s “thing” could be, say, archery.
Which brings us to Pixar’s “Brave.” “Brave” turns the Disney princess trope on its head. I love the movie. My oldest loved the movie. (My youngest did not. She had to be removed during some intense scenes, they’re not kidding with the PG rating).
As expected, Pixar pushes technology. The film’s animation is amazing, particularly Merida’s flaming red and tangled mass of hair. The nature shots are so photorealistic I thought they were using real film during the opening credits. The action sequences, complete with bears and crack archery, are gripping. The story, however, does not quite hold up. For all the celebration of wild independence, the film’s moral ends up muddled. Plus, “Brave” is easily Pixar’s most violent film. Thus I cannot rank “Brave” as a classic Pixar film. But come on, a “good” Pixar film is still better than 99 percent of everything else out there.
Except “Brave” is still a @%#$$@ princess movie! An excellent and engaging princess movie, but still...
There are options I like for girls. I recommend films from the Japanese filmmakers at Studio Ghibly. “Ponyo,” “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away” are amazing and feature girl protagonists who get into adventures and use their wits to get out of trouble. They’re not princesses either. And in my experience, boys watch those films with just as much enthusiasm as my daughters. They’re excellent.
So see “Brave”, and rent “Ponyo” too. Movies are probably not the single influence that will define how your little one grows up. But little girls, and little boys, need to see quality stories of females who are not princesses, but who are strong, smart and brave.
• Clint J. Farr can be reached at