… here’s some potpourri. I really haven’t had a ton of things to say lately — hence the radio silence. Still, here’s a bit of what has been going on.
The Spawn and I went to Real City yesterday, and among other things, we caught a matinee screening of Pixar’s latest, The Good Dinosaur. It’s very much pitched as a kids’ movie, and the audience reflected that — lots of little folks who talk and ask questions during the film. Neither the Spawn nor I were bothered by this; she found it cute, and I found it nostalgic.
Apparently, the film’s production was troubled, with a change in directors and significant rewriting, and yes, the stitches are frequently visible. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, and it seems that some critics have basically said it isn’t up to Pixar standards. I disagree.
The Good Dinosaur isn’t a particularly original movie. The gimmick is that a certain asteroid missed Earth about 65 million years back, allowing saurians to continue to flourish, although mammals develop as well. Indeed, the reptiles appear to build a society. The film follows the adventures of Arlo, the timid youngest dinosaur of a homesteading farm family of apatosaurs. The family’s corn supplies are being raided by a pest, who turns out to be a young hominid. Arlo is tasked with eliminating the problem, complications ensue, and Arlo and the boy must make a very long trek through the wilderness back to his family.
As I said, not very original — but the monomyth rarely is (that’s why it’s a monomyth), and likewise, originality isn’t always a sine qua non for the film’s genre — which is the Western. The movie really doesn’t hide this, even introducing a family of T.Rex ranchers dealing with rustlers as a subplot. And like many good Westerns, the landscape becomes as important a character as the characters themselves. This is where Pixar’s legendary animation skills come to the fore. The mountains, grasslands, forests and rivers are astonishing, and look so realistic that the characters look even more cartoonish by contrast. Should the time arise when Pixar can depict humans as realistically as they do this landscape, the virtual movie star will be at hand.
So ultimately, what we have in The Good Dinosaur is a slightly cheekier version of the kids’ Westerns of days gone by. Parts are familiar (although there were enough variations to add flavor, and one moment at which the Spawn and I both dropped our jaws), and if you’re looking for something like the opening sequence of Up, you’re out of luck. However, the Spawn and I both enjoyed this movie more than the more critically esteemed Inside Out, and we agreed it’s a shame that this movie was buried under the hype of the latest Star Wars installment. And as ever, the popcorn was terrific.
In other news, the Spawn is absolutely thriving at Mondoville College, both academically and socially. In fact, she accepted a bid to one of Mondoville’s three sororities after chapel on Wednesday. That was another reason the two of us were in Real City. Apparently her sorority requires a white dress and white shoes on ceremonial occasions (including one that comes up Monday), and white shoes are hard to find at this time of year. In fact, we had to go to five different stores before we found a pair in her size.
This is new territory for Clan Mondo — neither Mrs. M nor I had the funds to go Greek when we were undergrads, and the fact that I transferred midway through my college career was another factor. So, like her entry into high school marching band culture, the Spawn is introducing me to a subculture about which I know little. This should be interesting.
While I haven’t done much — or really, any — writing in the last week or two, I got an update from the editor of an anthology where I placed a story. The cover’s going to be gorgeous, and it’s funny to see my name on the cover next to some folks who are very heavy business indeed. More to come.
This fall, it looks like I may wind up teaching a course I haven’t taught before. It’s an interdisciplinary course, which means I have to incorporate aspects of at least three disciplines into the work. As a medievalist, that’s not overly frightening, but I haven’t cut a course from whole cloth in a while, so this could be fun. I’m currently considering a course on theodicy in British literature, but we’ll see how it shakes out.
And since it’s a potpourri day, here’s a bit of music. The Creeps, from Sweden, were active in the garage revival of the mid-80s. This is perhaps their best known song, and I adore the main riff. The first time I heard it, it made the hair on my arms stand up, and I hope you like it as well. This is “Down at the Nightclub.”
See you soon!