It’s my most wonderful time of the year when I can decorate my tree to within one inch of its much-loved life with pop culture ornaments without number – there are a finite number of them but when I start pulling out all the boxes, it sure doesn’t feel like that – sing warm-and-fuzzy festive songs with gusto and when I get to see close friends and family, often in the one wondrous place.
It’s bliss on a stick for me but I get that not everyone loves it the way I do. So don’t worry you won’t get this reaction from me …
And no, I won’t do this to you either …
And I appreciate you might feel like this is the way Christmas actually feels …
Try though to remember that even when everything seems bleak, that there is love, care and friendship awaiting you.
Maybe even love sweet festive love (along with Mariah Carey in The Late Show’s James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke) …
And have yourself a merry little (Grover) Christmas Day …
Thank you so much for reading my blog all year. I have loved writing and appreciate all the support everyone has given me. Now go off and enjoy all those chestnuts roasting, those sleight bells and your favourite Christmas TV specials and movies. Have some festive fun will ya?!
A great place to start doing that is here with Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle’s latest Christmas extravaganza backed by Barbara Streisand’s delicious take on “Jingle Bells” …
I am both a Christmas tree addict and a pop culture junkie.
All of which means that with the arrival of the most wonderful time of the year, my thoughts tend to go to covering my delightful artificial pine tree – when I was growing natural pine trees were a rarity and an expense my parents couldn’t afford so it was plastic trees from the word go and so shall it always be – with as many pop culture ornaments as is humanly possible.
Which given I am an extrovert naturally prone to excess is a substantial number. A ridiculously substantial number in fact.
Thus I have ornaments from The Muppets and Sesame Street, Looney Tunes, Disney and Hanna-Barbera, Star Wars, comic strips such as Peanuts and Dilbert, feature animation such as Minions, Zootopia and Inside Out, and even Smurfs.
Yep I have a wide assortment of pop culture ornaments, which add to every year, not by one or two ornaments as my partner hopes and prays but by 10 to 12, largely because experience has taught me that many of these ornaments are rare and rarely come back up for sale again (they’re not like baubles or more traditional ornaments which are far more common).
So without any further ado, here are 5 of this year’s additions to the ornaments collection, which carry a heavy, nay pretty much exclusive, animation bias.
Voiced by with forgetful delight by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory was the breakaway star of Finding Nemo (2003) and of course Finding Dory (2016). In this year’s sequel we see Dory both as a very cute baby fish – we see her origin story in flashbacks – and as the grown up fish we have come to know and love. It’s the adult version that Hallmark have brought to life in this delightful piece, which captures an appealing amnesic glint in her eye. Now if I could only remember where I packed it … kidding she’s on the tree already.
There’s no other word for him – Baymax, the cuddly, kindhearted and trusting protagonist of Big Hero 6 (2014), is adorable. Ridiculously, gloriously, huggably adorable. He is a distinctive hero who departs from the usual superhero in that he takes goes from naive child to capable adult over the course of the film which is warm, rich, action-packed, fun and poignant in equal measure. Baymax stole my heart and continues to delight me so having him on the tree makes perfect sense and is long overdue.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel maverick film – while it has a bunch of superheroes at the heart of its narrative, so much so template, it also dares to upset the creative applecart, thrown in a good amount of irreverence, silliness and over the top playfulness, something distinctly lacking in its more serious genre counterparts. While everyone loves Star-Lord’s retro ’80s chic, the two characters I love the most are wisecracking mercenary Rocket Raccoon and his sentient tree friend, the vocabulary-challenged Groot. Finding them together in an ornaments pack was thrilling and made my Guardians-loving heart glad.
Voiced by Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Oh, the protagonist of Home(2015), is a Boov, an outcast member of a compliant, conformist alien race called the Boov who colonise Earth without so much as a how-you-do, sending humanity to live on a beautifully manicured suburban prisons high in the sky. Largely because he isn’t one of the gang, Oh hilariously connects with a young feisty girl Tip (Rihanna), something the rest of his race would never think to do, in the process changing the course of human and Boov history. he’s a delight and the ornament, complete with Tip’s cat is similarly delightful.
Granted The Good Dinosaur is not one of Pixar’s more celebrated movies, possessing a rather pedestrian been-there-done-that narrative that hardly pushes any storytelling envelopes. But there’s something about Arlo (a dinosaur voiced by Raymond Ochoa) and Spot (a caveboy voiced by Jack Bright) that warms the heart and gives the film a deep emotional resonance far beyond what its conventional plot might suggest. I love these guys and so, naturally, I love their ornament.
I have always been drawn to exquisitely colourful, imaginative artwork.
But these works by Korean artist jeeyoung lee, all of which are created inside her four metre square studio are breathtakingly leaps and bounds beyond anything I’ve seen before.
They are worlds and universes unto themselves, telling a story even as they dazzle and enthrall with colour, design and out-of-the-box thinking.
You don’t so much want to look at this artwork as disappear into it and go on a grand reality-defying adventure.
As you might expect, they take a considerable amount and though to bring to being, as Design Boom explains:
“in their making, the elaborate sets require extraordinary patience and copious creative materials, as each element is individually handcrafted to diminish the need for post-production manipulation. the compositions act as a visual representation of the artist’s own thoughts and frustrations. although she includes herself in each piece, her image is not meant as a self-portrait — rather a quest for identity, a desire for personal introspection, and an exploration of her frame of mind. [sic]”
The artist draws all her inspiration from her personal experience, which makes you wish your life was as vivid and as utterly transportive as her most clearly is.
You can see more of Jeeyoung Lee’s art and an interview with the artist at Design Boom.
It goes without saying that Vincent Van Gogh was a breathtakingly talented artist, a man who, despite his many afflictions, created some of the most stunningly beautiful, leap-off-the-canvas art the world has ever seen.
You may not think you could improve on art that luminously entrancing, and truth be told the makers of Loving Vincent aren’t even trying, but the hand-painted film they and a legion of artists schooled in the master’s inimitable style is a wondrous extension and celebration of the rich colours and landscapes of Van Gogh’s creations.
Loving Vincent, described as the “first feature-length painted animation”, tells the story of Van Gogh through the animated recreation of 120 of his own paintings. It’s not necessarily intended as an exhaustive biopic; rather an evocation of the life and spirit of the man, and in that respect the film, which uses 12 paintings to create one second of onscreen time, succeeds marvellously.
The trailer alone is enchanting, with many points where you feel like you could just tumble into the endlessly moving art unfurling before you, so you can only wonder at how special the final film, from Oscar-winners, Breakthru Films, will be.
There’s no release yet but rest assured when there is, Loving Vincent looks like one of those films you will haveto see on the big screen.
Disney•Pixar’s Finding Dory reunites everyone’s favorite forgetful blue tang, Dory, with her friends Nemo and Marlin on a search for answers about her past. What can she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak Whale? Directed by Andrew Stanton and produced by Lindsey Collins, the film features the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton. (synopsis via official Finding Dory facebook page)
Dory’s remembered she has parents! Well mostly … OK a little bit … intermittently … look the point is a bunch of migrating stingrays prompt some long forgotten memories in Dory and she has to go find her parents.
Wherever they are! She has to find them! Wait … what was she doing again?
She may not always remember but she remembers enough to go off in search of her beloved parents, during which she encounters a sneaky octopus with issues, an effervescently happy whale shark who hasn’t quite got the whole swimming thing down, and of course, Nemo and dad Marlin.
We get to see way more of Dory’s epic journey to reunite with her family and Ellen DeGeneres as the titular fish in search of those she loves, well when she remembers she loves them, is as delightful as ever.
Finding Dory opens 16 June 2016 in Australia and 17 June in USA.
As Love Bites, a delightful 2014 short film by Agaki Bautista, Aram Davern, Michael De Caria, and Jonathon Iskov (then students at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment Sydney), with music by Peter Lam makes gorgeously clear, love is but an appetiser to a yummy testosterone-laced meal.
Only someone forgot to give the adorable young Cecil the memo.
The young male praying mantis sweetly and naively ties a bow around a pretty red ladybird before setting off for what he imagines will be the realisation of all his romantic mantis dreams.
But as the heads of other male mantises start to fall around him, he realises love may be more of a degustation than a delight.
But might he defy the odds and find sweet insect love after all?
Anything is possible in the magically wonderful world of Love Bites.
Assuming the venus fly traps allow you to live and tell the tale …
Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) is rightly regarded as one of the master animators of the modern era.
A gifted storyteller with an enthralling ability to conjure up evocative characters and the beguiling, unique worlds they inhabit, he examines and celebrates the human condition in ways few other animators, besides Pixar, seem to manage.
It’s why people reacted with horror and sorrow when it appeared he was hanging up his animator boots for good; thankfully that’s not the case with Miyazaki working on a 10-minute short film about a hairy caterpillar that will be shown at Studio Ghibli’s museum in Tokyo.
But it does appear that the era of Miyazaki-helmed feature films may have passed, which is why this montage video by French animator Dono celebrating Miyazaki’s work is such a wonderful treat.
Covering everything from pre-Ghibli Castle of Cagliostro to his final beautifully touching work The Wind Rises, it vividly illustrates how marvelous Miyazaki’s creations are, and they fit so seamlessly together into one delightful, transportive whole.
There is no such thing as too many Pixar movies in one year.
Especially after a year (2014) where there were no movies from the rightly acclaimed animation powerhouse at all.
Hot, relative again to last year’s Pixar drought on the heels of the beyond superlative Inside Out, comes The Good Dinosaur which wonders what would have happened if that pesky meteorite has screamed right on by Earth 65 millions years ago and left dinosaurs and humans to get to know other than by the fossil record (quite a way down the track of course).
It’s hard to say how that prehistoric alternative history would have played out but one thing’s for sure – if this trailer is anything to go by, it could have been downright magical.
Granted, in the real world, it would likely have played out with a lot of running (humans) and chomping (T-Rex and his kin) but I like to think that maybe, just maybe there would have been a little bit of the lovely storyline we see in the film where an Apatosaurus named Arlo meets and befriends a young human boy and wonderful heartwarming, life-affirming things happen.
And hopefully all to a lovely song like “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men which accompanies the trailer, and without a single Pixar-unfriendly velociraptor in sight.
The Good Dinosaur opens 18 November 2015 in USA and Boxing Day in Australia.
It’s not all that often that beautiful songs find themselves recreated as a exquisitely-realised piece of comic book art, which is a pity when you think about it because the two share of the same richly-descriptive DNA.
Some, realised Sean Edgar of Paste Magazine one cold December morning in 2014, much more than others.
Case in point – Neko Case’s “Wild Creatures” song, the latest in a transcendently long line of songs that as Edgar describes it, draw together “haunting, bittersweet tales of loss, reconciliation and redemption” which has been gifted a whole new realm of expression by the evocative work of Emily Carroll, a comic book artist of captivating imagination and artistry.
They go together as perfectly as two artistic expressions of the human soul ever possibly could, something Edgar justifiably rhapsodises about in his piece on the first of Paste magazine is calling its Songs Illustrated series:
“Luckily, there’s only one creator who can express Neko’s meticulous balance of elegance, power and menace in her work: Emily Carroll. Her print collection of harrowing fairy and folk tales, Through the Woods, easily landed our best comics of 2014 list. Her subsequent output has confirmed her as one of the premier storytellers of the field, a sentiment echoed by two Eisner nominations this year. I could ramble all day about how the work of Neko and Emily harmonize on so many different levels, but the below comic speaks more articulately than I could ever could.”
It is, indeed a beautiful coming together of these two remarkable of talents, proof positive that ideas hatched at 3.30 in the morning can have the most magical and heart-stirring of outworkings.
Winnie the Pooh, and by obvious extension the man who brought his remarkable adventures to life in The Hundred Acre Wood, Alan Alexander Milne or A. A. Milne, were an integral part of my childhood.
For those of us who delight in reading still about the “Bear of Very Little Brain”, and his dear friends Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit and others, it seems like he has been around forever, a constant figure in the glowing firmament of British children’s literature, and of course, in our hearts.
But in fact he only appeared just over 90 years ago, as Maria Popova, from the exquisitely interesting site Brain Pickings points out:
“On February 13, 1924, Punch magazine published a short poem titled “Teddy Bear” by Alan Alexander Milne, one of the magazine’s editors and a frequent contributor. The poem, inspired by the stuffed teddy bear so dearly beloved by Milne’s four-year-old son Christopher Robin, was included in Milne’s collection of children’s verses, When We Were Very Young, illustrated by Punch staff cartoonist E. H. Shepard and published later that year. But the bear’s very first appearance in Punch was the birth of Winnie-the-Pooh, which Milne released two years later and which went on to become one of the most timeless children’s books ever written.”
Set against the vast span of time, and all the many “smackerels of honey” that would have been consumed through those many years, it’s not that long at all really, a reminder of just great an impact Milne’s few books have had on the world.
Rarer still though is A. A. Milne, or any early twentieth century author reading from their books, but thanks to recordings made by Dominion Grammophone Company in 1929 we have the pleasure of listening to this most clever and sweetly sentimental of men reading aloud from the third chapter of When We Were Very Young, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle,” an experience Brain Pickings notes “made all the more delightful by his enchantingly melodic voice”.
And who knows, as you’re carried away hearing A. A. Milne read about his marvellous creations you may find, like Piglet himself, that even though you have “a Very Small Heart, it [can] hold a rather large amount of Gratitude” for the genius of this wonderful of authors …