Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

I got some verbal feedback on my interpretations of the undisguised propaganda clearly visible in this film maybe self delusion. Or maybe I was seeing imaginary Monsters in the closest, communists in the government ( or is that so 1954) or at least vastly over interpreting the political message of this cartoon. I love it that I was at least gently challenged on my opinions. I stand by them unmoved but I love the feedback.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon, the movie

“Everything we know about them is wrong” demands our hero protagonist anti-Viking named Hiccup. Our culture has suffered degradation to the point where children’s animations (dare I call it a cartoon) are simply archetype Liberal anti establishment pacifist agitprop. The propaganda was so overt and unembarrassedly blatant the movie was difficult to enjoy.
How to Train Your Dragon, playing in a theater near you. Not worth the $11 if you can't see it in 3D. The 2D will look fine on the "small screen".
The Story. A Viking village suffers from relentless attacks by dragons. These dragons are of many colors, types and ferocity. Hiccup, the son of the village chief, something of a misfit, befriends a dragon and uses this dragon to help save the village.
First, the good stuff. The animation-CG was wonderful. The characters and costumes were colorful, humorous and varied. Outside of the propaganda, the screenplay had some good comedic dialogue. One of the young Vikings, Fishlegs Ingerman, used video game scoring to describe the strengths and weakness of the various attacking dragons. Courage against the enemy was on visual display and highly valued by the Village. The Vikings took to their ships in defense of the village, a fantastic sight.
Now the bad stuff; it’s not just bad, it’s really bad stuff. Our anti-hero is a “Vegetarian” (fish eater) who, using one of his amazing inventions, was able to disable the most deadly of all the dragons. At the decisive moment, he cannot do his Viking duty and kill it. Apparently, the village “idiot” is in reality is an unrecognized genius and therefore a pacifist. After having compassion on the Viking killing, cattle stealing, village destroying fire-breathing dragon, this “Night Fury” dragon reciprocates this benevolence and they become friends. Gimme me a break. The boy soon discovers the truth: Dragons are not evil at all, they are just misunderstood. These dragons kill men, women and children, burn and destroy villages, and carry off livestock because they are made to do it. If the Vikings would just make nice and talk with the dragons, the war would end. Why will no one listen! WE DO NOT NEED WAR, WE NEED DIPLOMACY.
Except for Hiccup, the other characters in the movie were made to look like southern hillbillies. Hiccups Father, Stoick the Vast, is portrayed as a powerful dogmatic leader, brave but dependent on his physical strength. (This is a bad thing apparently) He is otherwise non-communicative, possessing few acceptable parenting skills and is/was embarrassed by his “different son”. Being different means repudiation of the traditional and incorrect values of the village and society. This rejection of all things Viking included, refusing to kill a dragon in Hiccups initiation ritual (much like a bull fight), throwing down his weapon, throwing down his Viking helmet, made by his father as a gift, from “your dead mothers breastplate”, and joining with the dragons. This rejection was essential to save the village from itself. The other youths willing to follow and accept the village traditions and customs were portrayed as knuckle dragging troglodytes’ screaming for dragon blood.
Key to saving the world were lies, deceptions and secrecy. These dishonesties were morally acceptable because Hiccup meant well, consistent with the end justifying the means. It was therefore admirable to perpetuate the lies. Only this immature boy understands the truth. Adults will not listen only to suffer fatal consequences.
I was not offended by the predictable plot devices, the plethora of dragons (there should have only been one species) or the accents (Scottish? Not Norwegian) but the politicized screenplay was over the top horrible. I cannot comment on the 3D. I saw “normal”.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Last of the Mohicans. James Fennimore Cooper

Last of the Mohicans. James Fennimore Cooper

Written in 1826, it was hard for me to tell if this book was pure fiction or included an accurate estimate of life in the 18th century. It is something of a historical novel and included facts about dates, places, battles and real people. It was set in 1757 during the French and Indian war. The story was an account of the harsh life and easy death of the times. I wondered about the accuracy of the battle, name and places accuracy given the liberties taken the descriptions of the characters and their lives. When reading, I would not count on historical accuracy. The invisible, stealthy Indian was the most interesting theme. It seems the British army, in all its glory, was constantly outwitted but was never the less able to defeat the French at least after a long protracted war. The Indians were treated mostly favorably although their “heathen” beliefs not so much. The prose was highly stylized and at times, I labored under the flowering graphic and idealized language of Mr. Cooper. In spite of obvious exaggerations it attempted to offer a glimpse into the dangers of frontier life. Natty Bumpo, Hawkeye or "La Longue Carabine" as the main character was bulletproof and smarter than everyone else altogether. He was famous for his shooting ability and feared by his enemies, mostly the French and some of the Indians. This figure may have originated the phrase “one shot, one kill.” As an aside, the most excellent movie of a few years ago starring Daniel Day-Lewis followed the book very closely until the ending. As in many books of the era, race, interracial relationships and religions figure largely in the narrative. It is a good read and interesting for the difficulty of the stylized prose. There were few internal inconsistencies, the largest involving the kidnapping of the General Munro’s daughters. I am sure he would not have sent his girls into the wilderness without sufficient protection, if at all. Getting past that I recommend this book for someone interested in slightly more than “light reading”.