Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Saving Mr. Banks

Folks, often we're very active here around the holidays. I apologize, but I took a little trip this past holiday season courtesy of my younger sis. Our mother has been dealing with cancer on top of the death of our father due to Leukemia, so she needed a vacation. After returning in mid-December, well, the holidays and everything else just overwhelmed me, but things are getting back to normal now, hope everyone is having a happy New Year, and it's time we got back to work here at the ol' Moonlight Motel. I'll be reporting about that trip I took soon, actually, along with doing a lot of other long overdue reviews and articles, and hopefully getting back to my comic strip more fruitfully than the last two attempts, ha. For now though, I did manage to make it out to one new movie since coming back from my trip, so let's talk about it. But first...

R.I.P., Uncle Phil.

James Avery
1945 - 2013

And, yes, I know he was also the voice of Shredder.

Now, tonight's review...

This is rather overdue, so it may be pretty short and sweet. Anyway, I loved this film, so do you really just want to read me saying how great it was over and over? There's more to say about a movie with a lot of flaws. Um, can't really think of any with this one...

Yes, "Saving Mr. Banks" is a movie that's practically perfect in every way. Wondering what it's about? It's the basically true story of Walt Disney wanting to make the Mary Poppins books into a film, but not being able to gain the rights from the author, P. L. Travers, who disapproved of the idea of a film version all together, but especially something from Disney, which would likely have animation and songs, and other such nonsense. The film is a fascinating look at the creative process at Disney in its heyday and goes back and forth between its 1960's setting focused on the attempts to win over Mrs. Travers to the idea of making the film and scenes of Travers' childhood and the tragedy of her beloved, ailing, alcoholic, dreamer father. Emma Thompson plays the stern, unyielding P. L. Travers, while American treasure Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney himself.

As I said, this is basically a true story in that it is based on actual events. Of course, it's also a dramatization and a Disney film itself. It's not going to be 100 percent accurate. The most notable, closest thing to a flaw one might point out is that, when all was said and done, P. L. Travers didn't like the finished film at all, just as she thought she wouldn't. This was probably inevitable, but in "Saving Mr. Banks" they are a bit ambiguous about her final feelings. Personally, I think they handled this well enough, considering they no doubt wanted to end the film on an upbeat note. They didn't have her stand up and cheer or anything, after all. I think they handled it in the best possible way to make this the best possible movie they could, and what they have here is wonderful, even Oscar worthy. The cast is superb. Not just Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks, who I was a bit concerned about initially, but who completely became Walt Disney from the beginning with no trouble at all, but also the supporting cast! They really shine in this! Of course, they're not exactly unknowns or anything. One of the most heartwarming is Paul Giamatti (one of my favorite actors) in the role of a Disney chauffeur who has the job of driving Travers around during her stay in California, but Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the Sherman brothers and Bradley Whitford as the script writer also manage to steal their share of the show. All of their scenes are a complete joy to watch. But this movie does have two halves. The world of Walt Disney, though definitely a business world with its seriousness too, is mostly about imagination, whimsy and fun, while the world of Travers, and especially her flashbacks to childhood, is very much about disregarding such things as frivolity and viewing life as something hard, serious and cold. It balances well in the film though, and the performances are just as amazing all around. Little Annie Rose Buckley is a delight as young Travers, but I was especially impressed by Colin Farrell as her father, Travers Goff. This is probably because, frankly, I never really liked Colin Farrell. I certainly see him differently after watching this film.

Besides the cast, something else I have to rave about as a Disney fanatic is how perfectly this film captures the 60's Disney feeling. There is even a bit set in Disneyland, which I would have liked to see more of, but I was happy to see any of, ha. And, even more importantly, I love the way this film treats the movie "Mary Poppins" itself. Honestly, this film is very much for fans of the movie as well as for fans of Disney, and, to be completely truthful, if I have any concern about this film at all, it's that I really don't know what a person who is not familiar with the subject matter would get out of it. It's still a beautiful film with brilliant acting and a solid story, so perhaps that is more than enough, but there is so much joy in watching this as a hardcore Disney fanatic who grew up watching the real Walt Disney, the man and host himself, via the Disney anthology show reruns on the Disney Channel in its original (and far superior) format. I also happen to be a huge fan of the Disney "Mary Poppins" film, and that almost seems crucial to appreciating all the details put into this film about the making of that one. Also worth noting though, this is very much about the pre-production, creative side of the filmmaking process rather than seeing actors portraying Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke recreating the filming side of things. No, this is about the script and song writing, the designs while still on paper, the ideas, the concepts, and most importantly, getting the creator of the source material to approve of it all, ha, which, of course, thankfully, she did. No secret there, but the effort and thought it took to come to that agreement, and all the memories it dredged up, is the real heart, magic and beauty of this film, and it will bring you to tears more than once when you view it.

Ya know, I love the original Disney film, "Mary Poppins", so much, I had long wanted to see the stage musical, and I finally did when its tour came to Austin, TX on my birthday in 2012. In fact, I brought with me the girl I was very much in love with at the time in one of my many failed attempts to please her, ha. Much like P.L. Travers, she simply had no interest in me, and I have no idea why she let me keep trying for two plus years, but I digress. She had never seen the movie "Mary Poppins" before (and I THINK it would have suited her tastes well), so I really thought the stage musical was going to blow her away. Unfortunately, we were both disappointed. The Disney stage musical was nothing like the Disney film, and it was not very good, frankly, except in a few parts. I hear it was trying to be more like the books than the film. Had I not left with my own Parrot-head umbrella (wanted one since childhood, even though I'd prefer the film-version), the evening would have been a total bust. Now I fear that girl I was so in love with will NEVER give the movie version of "Mary Poppins" a chance, and that's too bad. The film "Mary Poppins" is one of the best movies ever made, period, and one of the most enchanting experiences you'll ever have. The stage show didn't capture much of that magic. "Saving Mr. Banks" does. I highly recommend you go see it. And, wherever that girl I loved so deeply is now (last I heard, in Colorado with her newest boyfriend, probably living in a womb of reefer), I hope she sees it too, and maybe it'll convince her to finally give the original movie a chance since I was never able to get her to watch it with me.

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