At The Movies - Movie Week Delight At The Mae Wilson

MJ Independent File Photo

MJ Independent File Photo

By Jordan Bosch - MJ Independent Movie and Arts Critic

This week, following the Family Day Holiday, the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre is putting on “Movie Mania”,  a revival of their excellent movie week series.

It’s a chance to see some great films not only on the big screen  but in the historic Mae Wilson Theatre, which the venue was originally made for.

And all for just five dollars or a non-perishable donation for the Moose Jaw Food Bank.

With the exception of one, all the movies will have two showings so you have the opportunity to catch your favourite again if you miss it the first time.

It’s a selection of family films (appropriate given the schools are out this week), and the opportunity to see them as they were intended shouldn’t be passed up for either their cultural significance or their entertainment value. Here are some reasons why.

Pinocchio –Tuesday 2:00, Friday 6:30

Walt Disney Studios’ second feature is still one of their best.

A film that even more than Snow White tested the limits of what could be done in the bold new medium of animation, Pinocchio is remembered and revered as much for its charm and imagination as for its dark atmosphere and frightful implications to deter children from moral corruption.

What child will want to smoke after seeing it hideously turn kids into donkeys? What child will trust strangers once they see it result in exploitation and imprisonment? And what child will want to lie if it means their nose will grow obscenely long?

All of these lessons serve a purpose though, and a happy ending has rarely felt more earned.

The characters, from miniature conscience Jiminy Cricket to the magical Blue Fairy, are rightfully iconic; the songs, particularly Disney anthem “When You Wish Upon A Star” are still wonderful; and the animation is as gorgeous and captivating as ever. Its’ influence can be directly felt in the work of Don Bluth, Henry Sellick, and Guillermo del Toro, who’s filming his own adaptation with a script by Over the Garden Wall’s Patrick McHale. Pinocchio is Disney Magic at its finest.

Lady and the Tramp –Tuesday 6:30, Thursday 2:00

By far Disney’s greatest romance until Beauty and the Beast came along, Lady and the Tramp is a sweet and humble relic of its time.

It’s a classic kind of class romance, but between two dogs, making it one of the more mundane plots of the classic Disney era. However its’ earnestness and storytelling beauty has a way of sticking with you.

The famous spaghetti scene and accompanying serenade of the lovely “Bella Notte” is one of the all-time great romantic scenes in cinema, certainly as effective as any of its live-action contemporaries in the likes of From Here to Eternity or Roman Holiday.

The Tramp with his Rat Pack attitude and thrill for danger makes for a worthy companion to the pampered Lady, a more interesting character than she’s often remembered for, owing to the evolution of her complex relationship with her owners’ new baby.

Obviously the Siamese cats and their song have not aged well, and the climax ends with a cheap misdirect (something Disney would repeat in movies like The Jungle Book and The Fox and the Hound), but Lady and the Tramp is still a delightfully cute and sincere Disney movie far better than its later imitator The Aristocats.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial –Wednesday 2:00, Saturday 6:30

Not a Disney movie, but a movie Disney passed on, E.T. is if not Steven Spielberg’s greatest film, certainly his most personal.

Understanding the loneliness of childhood better than just about any other, the seminal story about a boy and his alien friend is as moving, captivating, and mystical as it was in 1982.

The performances, even from the young actors, still stand up, the script by the late Melissa Mathison is still unequivocally human, the puppetry and special effects still glorious, and Spielbergs’ love of the story, heavily inspired by his own solitary childhood in the wake of divorce, is still palpable on every frame.

Drawn to the mystery and powers of his titular alien, Spielberg allows him to be a magical bastion for good, the source of love and the unifying force he felt was denied him and others from broken families -along the way creating one of most iconic images in cinema. E.T. speaks in an incredibly fresh way to something deeply universal: the desire to find understanding and compassion in another, and the decency to protect and cherish the unusual.

I’ve discussed the film further here, but I think I’ve already made clear E.T. more than deserving of all its’ acclaim.

Alice in Wonderland –Wednesday 6:30, Saturday 2:00

Before Tim Burton remade it as a dark, warped, and dreary chosen one narrative, Alice in Wonderland was most familiar outside of the original Lewis Carroll novel for the Disney animated adaptation.

One of Disney’s earliest passion projects for a feature film, it was a failure in its initial release, before gaining renewed popularity in the 1960s and 70s.

It’s still largely considered the best adaptation of the bizarre children’s novel, capturing its creative and otherworldly randomness. A fever dream of strange characters and happenings without a semblance of direction or logic, it’s a perfect fit for animation as well -being a form that can render such things as flamingo croquet mallets, an opium-smoking caterpillar, a Dodo, and the utter specificity of the Cheshire Cat far better than any live-action film could.

Without having a plot to worry about, it’s got more songs than any other Disney movie and the animation is particularly colourful and unique. Chances are anyone thinking of the aesthetics of Carroll’s Wonderland is recalling this film more than anything. Alice in Wonderland is among the purest of Disney spectacles, possibly second only to the Fantasia films, and like those, it’s a sensational trip.

Annie –Friday 2:00

Based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and the much more famous Broadway musical, Annie is a relatively charming interpretation of the story about the red-headed New York foundling adopted by a billionaire.

One of the last films directed by the great John Huston, it’s a whimsical and competent musical, if dated and unambitious.

It gets by largely on a sense of innocence and an incredibly dedicated cast.

Carol Burnett is a complete delight as always in the role of the severe Miss Hannigan, and in light of Albert Finney’s recent death, his campy performance as Daddy Warbucks is particularly joyous. In a cast that also boasts Bernadette Peters and a hammy as usual Tim Curry as the villains, young Aileen Quinn’s performance as the impetuous yet endearing title character is a major scene-stealer, her sanguine rendition of “Tomorrow” being especially sweet.

The music in general, as anyone who’s seen the show knows, is unbearably catchy, and is matched here with talented singers and exemplary choreography. All in all, a nice film that saccharine, unfocussed, and mildly racist though it may be, is a cheery and accessible movie musical for an afternoons’ respite.

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