"It's a kid's movie, fer chrissakes!"

Readers weigh in on our review of "Monsters, Inc." and our story on the Jar-Jar Binks-less "Phantom Menace."



Salon Staff
November 7, 2001 5:17AM (UTC)

Read "Monsters, Inc." by Charles Taylor

I have not seen "Monsters, Inc." yet, I probably will this weekend along with the other lemming parents who kowtow to the Disney monolith. I will take my 6-year-old down to the 16-screen cineplex and plop down the equivalent of my hourly wage for matinee tickets for two. Maybe we'll get our tickets early and run over to the megalithic chain bookstore across the suburban-mall parking lot where I can look at my design magazines while Griff reviews the latest HP propaganda. When we return to the movie theater in time for our movie we will laugh at all the families who didn't buy their tickets in advance and have to stand in line as we strut past. We will gorge ourselves on overpriced, non-nutritious snacks. Or maybe we will stealthily hide Halloween candy in the crevices of our jackets and backpacks and feel like we've pulled the wool over the ushers' eyes with our contraband.

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We will watch the movie. Griff will laugh at anything involving bodily fluids or fart humor: He's 6. I'll make him stick around for the credits to see if Pixar put in those clever "outtakes." We will drive home and my son will inevitably fall asleep in the car and I'll have to carry him into the house, even though I can see he's kind of faking it.

Don't send a reviewer who obviously hates Disney to review a Disney movie. The guy doesn't get it. He had an agenda walking in and didn't review the movie objectively. My son and I love "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach" and yes, I can picture how the premise of "Monsters, Inc." would be better served with a Danny Elfman soundtrack. However, I highly recommend the next critic you send to a kids' movie take a kid, eat sour gummy worms, discuss the character motivation of the evil bad guy on the way to the car, see the movie through the eyes of its intended audience. Then write the review.

-- Stacey George

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Just a brief note to say how much I appreciated your reviewers' comments regarding animation trying to be "real." I have found that in the last few years CGI has been forcefully applied to its limit in movies where previously stop-motion, go-motion or puppetry would have been used first. This, I believe, has lead to effect-laden films looking too slick, too glossy -- too real, if there could be such a thing. In "Jurassic Park" the T. Rex was a terrifying creature that had "edges" -- in "Pearl Harbor" the planes that crash are nothing more than seamless, high-resolution blurs. The more film attempts to be real, the more contrived it is -- leave it to our imaginations sometimes, Hollywood!

-- Kate Hopkins

Sheesh! It's a kid's movie, fer chrissakes!

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-- Judson

Mr. Taylor:

Why do you say Chuck Jones cartoons are funny, when his cartoons so obviously aren't? The cartoons are stupid, which is quite different from funny. Chuck Jones cartoons are like "Home Improvement" or "Everyone Likes Raymond" -- stupid, tiresome, one-note jokes built around stupid, tiresome, one note characters. Bugs Bunny makes a not-very-funny crack, or a not-funny, violent attack on Elmer Fudd. Over and over again. In cartoon after cartoon. I just want someone to kill the rabbit. I have since I was 3 years old. It's the same, unfunny thing done by a loathsome, creepy character (be it Bugs Bunny, Tim or Raymond). I would not want to spend five minutes in their company in real life; why would I want to watch them?

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I have a sense of humor, I would just rather watch something funny, "Bringing Up Baby" or "Topper" or David Letterman. Letterman is not particularly likable, but he's intelligent and funny, rather than stupid and boorish.

So why the fuss about Chuck Jones? I thought he was stupid and cruel at 3, still do at 43. What's funny about stupid and cruel?

-- M.L.G. Moore

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Charles Taylor needs to learn how to review a movie on its own merits rather than comparing it to the imaginary movie he believes it might have been. He also needs to figure out that no self-respecting parent would take children under the age of 10 to see "The Matrix" (and yes, I know lots of parents take kids to movies that are intended for older audiences but those are the same losers who take their kids shopping at Wal-Mart at 11 p.m. on a school night). Why not review "Monsters, Inc.," a movie intended for a general audience, on its own strengths and weaknesses?

His current review serves little purpose other than to give him a chance to engage in his own useless wish-fulfillment and prove to his readers how much he knows about old movies and cartoons, all of which are automatically superior to anything put out today. He comes off sounding like a childless old fart trying to instruct us all in what we should like.

-- Craig Gill

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It's a given that most movie reviewers are frustrated filmmakers, but most professionals can separate that suppressed desire when actually reviewing others' films. Charles Taylor seems not to have this ability.

Throughout the review of "Monsters, Inc.," all he seemed able to do was complain about what the movie could have been. It should have been darker, he wrote. The kid should have been a "hellion." Blah blah blah.

Here's a suggestion. Next time, why not review the movie for what it is instead of bemoaning the fact that the directors aren't "tough-minded enough" to make the movie the way Mr. Taylor would have made it?

Ridiculous.

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-- Terry L. Welch

Read "The Phantom Edit" by Daniel Kraus.

I've been fascinated since George Lucas first announced that he would be releasing "prequels" to the "Star Wars" trilogy by the degree of personal investment "Star Wars" fans had in the back story of their beloved characters. I was angered but not surprised when fans reacted with indignation at "The Phantom Menace," challenging the accuracy and intelligence of George Lucas' vision. I didn't like Jar-Jar either, but it's insulting to watch fellow "Star Wars" geeks' willingly suggest that George Lucas -- who, after all, did sort of, you know, WRITE THE WHOLE THING IN THE FIRST PLACE -- might not be qualified to tell his own story. Though Daniel Kraus' reflections on the possibilities of digital media and the impact they might have on film production and post-production is intriguing, it overlooks the singular principle of artistic creation -- something that George Lucas and his cohorts from the '70s like Coppola and Spielberg worked so hard to bring to wide-release film media: creative, directorial control.

Though it's certainly ironic that George Lucas has formed a sort of "Evil Empire" with Lucasfilm and ILM, that actors (at least the ones who've had non-Star Wars successes) famously bemoan his directing skills, and "The Phantom Menace" was so relentlessly marketed and licensed that the film began to feel like an excuse to sell a new set of figurines and video games, the fact of the matter is that it is still George Lucas' movie and George Lucas' vision. The expectations placed upon the film by the now-grown-up audience of the first three were totally unrealistic; adult viewers weren't able to acknowledge that the movie was aimed at their 11-year-old intellect, not their postgraduate critical-thinking skills. Jar-Jar stunk, and the inexperienced Jake Lloyd (the young actor who portrayed Anakin) could have used a more actor-friendly director, but he wasn't any worse than Mark Hamill. Anyone who watches the original "Star Wars" ("Episode IV: A New Hope") and can successfully filter out the nostalgia ought to be able to see that these films are fairy tales first and science fiction second. Most of all, they are one man's conceptual creation, facilitated by people he is paying to realize his ideas.

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Several years ago when the Internet went mainstream, there were WELL conferences and symposiums and theoretical manifestos about the changes digital media would bring to storytelling: People dreamed of collaborative writing (Ken Kesey held workshops in which a group of students collectively worked on the same novel), the lines of ownership looked increasingly unimportant, and the idea of singular vision was called in to question. But I don't recall anyone suggesting that we ought to publish online copies of "Moby-Dick" that exclude some of those boring chapters on whale parts, or Picassos or Pollocks cropped to exclude some of that weird impressionist stuff.

"The Phantom Menace" doesn't earn aesthetic comparisons to Melville or Pollock or Picasso, but it certainly deserves to be respected and evaluated according to what it is: a work over which one man has total creative control. If we're lucky, new digital media will increase the likelihood that a young writer/director can make a film true to her vision, rather than developing a trend in which cynical smart-alecks hack apart an artist's work and peddle it around cyberspace as if the vision had been their own.

-- Ed Tarkington

Editing a movie reminds me of musicians arranging music. Now visual art can be sampled, improvised upon and reinterpreted as songs are -- if the legal framework for shows is updated to parallel music's. Digital moviemaking can spawn its own jazz.

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-- Patrick Gillam

Now if only someone would replace the crap soundtrack to "Leaving Los Vegas" ...

-- Ted Gullikson

Good piece, but I believe Daniel Kraus errs when he states:

"The Phantom Editor has smartly taken advantage of Lucas' trademark 'wipes' (a scene transition that scoots a new scene in from one edge of the screen to the other) to duck out of scenes early."

"Wipes" are hardly a Lucas trademark. Lucas' wipes were a homage to Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, whose influences on Lucas have been repeatedly acknowledged. Kurosawa pioneered wipes in films such as 1958's "The Hidden Fortress." "Star Wars" stole more than just "wipes" and other cinematic techniques from "The Hidden Fortress" -- it stole whole plot elements.

I mention this only to point out an irony evident in Lucasfilm's apparent concerns about "infringement." I cannot think of a film more replete with homage/theft than "Star Wars."

-- Daniel Horne


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