Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quick Flicks: What We've Been Watching

Erroll Garner
No One Can Hear You Read

Some of the best 53 minutes you'll ever spend on a documentary. This makes you appreciate Erroll Garner's jazz genius in improvising, communicating joy, and inspiring others. Little time is spent on his personal life, which may be just as well based on the few things his daughter said (which pretty much broke my heart). But I don't watch documentaries to find out whether musicians were kind to their daughters. I watch to find out why their music was brilliant or different. And this does that very, very well.

A Cat in Paris
(Animated • French • dubbed)

A charming animated film about a cat who spends her days with her little girl and her nights accompanying a cat burglar. The two plots come together when the little girl follows her cat one night. Kind of "That Darn Cat" for the French. If our girls were still small we'd have to buy this and it would be daily viewing.

I liked the animation style, the jazzy soundtrack, and especially the way they showed what was happening in pitch darkness.

Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2
(Animated shorts)

This collection features the short animated pieces that appear before every Pixar full-length movie. Unfortunately viewing them in sequence makes it obvious that the quality is very uneven. Some are simply brilliant like Night and Day and La Luna. Presto was a throwback to old style cartoons that was thoroughly enjoyable. Others are extensions, back story if you will, of lesser characters from Wall-E or Up, which are amusing enough for what they are.

The losers are the shorts that push Toy Story or Cars characters into situations which, frankly, don't have stories to justify being viewed. One wonders if this was when Disney was more in control because it certainly feels as if the viewers' intelligence weren't being taken into consideration.

I still recommend the collection if only to have Night and Day, La Luna, and Presto available. They demonstrate what respect for story and creativity can do.

Of Gods and Men

I watched this for discussion on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, which will air on May 2.

This is a rich, meditative film which shows a group of Trappist monks in Algeria who must choose between the practical, understandable choice to abandon their monastery when extremist Muslims terrorize the area ... or following a spiritual calling even when there seems to be no reason to do so. The monks are intertwined in the local Muslim community, but all are equally helpless in the face of the extremists. The monks' choices are not portrayed as heroic or sentimental but simply as human, as each man each must pray for guidance, consider his place in the area, and face what it means to fully live one's faith.


  1. I definitely enjoyed "A Cat in Paris," and very much for the reasons you mention -- stylistic and musical, chiefly. A fun piece, to be sure. I should let the boys have a look.

    "La Luna's" inclusion would justify recommending nearly anything. LOVE that short. (Also, "Presto." Such a throwback.)

    1. Thank you for reminding me of Presto, which was equally brilliant in a classical style. I amended my review to include it. Once again I was a kid watching Bugs Bunny ...