Pixar Movies: Toy Story

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As you know, I’m really really looking forward to Pixar’s newest movie Inside Out which comes out in one month. MV5BOTgxMDQwMDk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU5OTg2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Sadly though, this will be my first Pixar movie since A Bug’s Life that I will not be able to see in theaters. Our daughter’s not old enough and I’m not going without my wife and trying to convince my work buddies to go see an animated movie with me would be kinda awkward (at least there’s Jurassic World which we plan on seeing).

So I’m gonna have to wait until it comes on DVD sometime in November.

It’ll be a hard wait, but I’ve got a little countdown going on: I get to watch two Pixar movies a month. By the time I reach the last one, I’ll finally get to watch Inside Out.

So I watched Toy Story last night. What made the movie so popular? What’s the genius behind it? What’s the allure that still holds up today, twenty years later? To be blunt, what makes it so flawless?

Uncle Walt’s nephew, Roy Disney said that every single frame in the movie pushes the story forward.

And I think that’s it. Not a single frame is wasted. The movie makers really did a magnificent job of getting inside a toy’s psych: What makes a toy happy? (To have his purpose fulfilled and be played with.) What is his greatest fear? (To be replaced or lost.) And the movie answers those questions, and not only that, every single person on the planet can relate with these characters.

And the movie broke three rules in the animation genre at the time (I’m shameless enough to admit that I pointed them out when I saw it in the theaters at twelve years old):

screenshot-med-011) It was the first animated movie that was also a buddy movie, where the protagonists had to overcome their stubborn differences to meet a common goal. (Disney was against this, not wanting to break the rule, but the Pixar guys held firm.)

2) The songs were voiced over, not sung by the characters. (The Rescuers did this, too, but not to enhance the story.)

3) It’s the first time the opening credits appeared on screen after the start of the movie, which gave it (and still gives it) a more mature feel, like, this movie isn’t just for kids.

Toy Stoy is one of my desert island movies for sure. I can watch it over and over and not get bored with it, always finding something new (I can’t wait till my kids can start watching it!). And indeed, when I write, I go to movies like Toy Story, and I ask myself continually, What did these guys do so right? 

They told a clear story without wasting time and they dared to break the rules.

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My Top 10 Movies: No. 1

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If you exclude any Disney or Pixar movie, there’s one that, to me, stands head and shoulders above the rest. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I enjoy the simpler films. To me, a story isn’t great based off of what’s told, but rather how it’s told.

Think back to 127 HoursA story about a guy who gets his hand stuck in a cave. But the brilliance is in the telling. Every moment intense and pouring with creativity.

Frost/Nixon covers the story of 20 hour-long interviews with the former president of the United States. Again, a sharp-as-nails film, highly engaging and equally as gripping. But still, so simple.

The King’s Speech is nearly overwhelming because of the historical ramifications that stems from this true story. Just before Hitler reunites Germany against the world, a man who dreams only of a quiet life is forced to take England’s throne after his self-indulgent older brother abdicates the responsibility. Not only must he conquer his fear of power and failure, but he must learn to speak.

Literally.

Having been born into a life of politics and plagued with a speech impediment since he was a boy, the Duke of York is forced to see a speech specialist to help him overcome his stuttering.

It’s a place where we have all found ourselves. We’re born into, or placed into circumstances that we did not orchestrate, and we have been gifted with talents and abilities that, if carried out to fruition, could better our surroundings and the people near us. But our greatest strengths often go hand-in-hand with our greatest weaknesses. Anyone can relate to Bertie’s despair in believing that his deficiency is hopeless. And we can all appreciate his pride and unwillingness to let anyone in and help him – because his story is ours.

I appreciate that this 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Picture is rated R for just a scene or two of brief cursing – only the most prudish among us will not find these scenes highly amusing. Though I understand that there is a PG-13 version for those who want to watch this as a family.

Collin Firth’s performance as Bertie, or King George the VI, rivals Tom Hanks’s Forrest Gump. And Geoffrey Rush as the King’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue, steals every scene just as he did as Captain Barbosa in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

There’s a true hero to be found in King George VI and Lionel Logue. The book that’s based on the diaries of Lionel Logue, The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy, was written by Logue’s grandson, Mark Logue. I cannot recommend this book enough following the movie.

For surely, anyone who watches this – my all-time favorite non-Disney movie – will be starving for more information on the history of Britain when the future Queen Elizabeth was still learning about the ways of the world.

I’m especially excited about the movie about Princess Diana coming out later this yearIf it’s a worthy film, it will complete our own self-made “British trilogy collection.” Starting with The King’s Speech, about Queen Elizabeth’s father, then the conspiracy over his granddaughter-in-law’s death in Diana, and ending with how the Queen coped with the aftermath of her daughter-in-law’s death in The Queen

How fascinating to watch the culmination of history from the reluctant King, half a century ago, to the birth of his great-great grandson, of whom he is appropriately named after.

Bowing to the Dark Side

Creepy

Joshua Hoffine is a photographer who is known for his unorthodox use of creepy and fearsome. He loves to creep people out. And in his newest series of photographs, he uses his own daughter as a prop in his highly disturbing images.

He has featured other children in past works. “They loved it,” he told The Huffington Post via e-mail. “It was like a giant game of dress-up for them. … They also knew we were making a scary picture — and loved the idea of scaring the audience as much as I did.”

What is it with human beings and choosing to be frightened? What is it about darkness and monsters and Satanic images that draws many of us in? How many of you clicked on the link I posted above because it contained the words “disturbing images”?

There’s something about the twisted unknown that sucks most of us in like a tractor beam. But why do we insist on exposing our children to these nightmares? Why do we allow them to watch the same TV shows we do: CSI, local news, The Walking DeadDexter…

One of my thoughts is because the other side can sometimes be so… cheesy. It’s almost as if we’re faced with the decision of Fringe or the Hallmark Channel, or Paranormal Activity 5 or The Smurfs 2. Something sinister inside me prefers the former of those two sets of options. Why? Because it’s edgy, it’s creepy, it’s – dare I say it? – rebellious.

Filling our minds and hearts with images of dark and sadistic replications is not what God intended. In fact, He never intended for such mediums to exist in the first place. Monsters and vampires and zombies, when you get down to it, are nothing more than reflections of demons and their activities amongst the world and its populates.

Now, am I saying it’s more godly or “Christian-like” to tune into the Hallmark Channel or buy admission to The Smurfs or other silly nonsense? No. I’m saying that there are more uplifting and encouraging things to watch and engage in that balance darkness with light quite nicely, and the heroes come out stronger in the end, or their legends live on in the lives of their followers.

But what do you think? Do you think it’s okay to saturate or even “treat” ourselves with images of horror and violence? Is it okay to involve our kids in our twisted tastes? Do you think Hoffine’s art is appropriate? Can it even be called “art”? What draws you to view such images? Share your thoughts below.

Imagination Run Amuck

jurassicpark4movieJurassic Park is making its grand reappearance in theaters today. I remember seeing it a few times in theaters twenty years ago. Those were good times.

One of my earliest memories of Sarabeth and I dating long-distance is her mentioning something on the phone about Jurassic Park that I never caught before.

I fell deeper in love with her that day.

This dino-romping, spine-tingling movie is great in so many ways. I like to think it was gutsy of the late author, Michael Crichton, to write an adult novel about people living among dinosaurs.

Amusement park attractions break lose and terrorize the visitors! 

Sounds more like a Goosebumps plot, doesn’t it?

Perhaps Crichton purposefully took a kids’ concept and spun it with a grown-up appeal. It seems like this methodology has taken root over the last couple of years.

You’ve got shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm – Fairy tales coming to life.

Movies such as Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Grettle are stealing Hollywood’s spotlight. And weren’t there several dozen movies about Snow White recently?

And while adult movies are trying to reach for the kid in us, kids movies seem to be appealing more and more to the adult in us. What father can’t relate to Marlin in Finding Nemo? What mother can’t help but root for reconciliation between Marida and the queen in Brave? And need I mention the uncertainty of passing from childhood to adulthood in Toy Story 3?

Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg together created a masterpiece that, in its day, was quite revolutionary – a kids’ movie, wrapped in a grown-up package that will appeal to all ages.

I may be wrong here. I know there are some people who would never let their nine year old watch Jurassic Park. I saw it at that age and I had the time of my life. It was the most fun I ever had being scared out of my wits!

Because they were dinosaurs! I’m not talking about blood-sucking vampires or eye-gouging zombies (or whatever they do), or ungodly exorcisms. I’m talking about good ol’ cowboys-and-Indians type of fun here.

To this day, Jurassic Park influences my storytelling and my day-to-day imagination. (Just the other day I heard what must have been a truck outside, and I asked the girls – the dogs – in all seriousness, “Was that a dinosaur?”)  Those who read my book know what I’m talking about, and see the influence Spielberg has had on me.

I’m not about to tell you to spend $50 to go see it in 3d when you likely already own it (we aren’t). But I am saying that we should appreciate the stories that appeal to both who we are on the outside (tax-paying, hard-working adults) and who we yearn to be on the inside (carefree kids who like to be spooked every now and then).

And who knows? Maybe your kids will be as inspired as I was by Jurassic Park, and, like Crichton, have the courage to let their imagination run amuck.

[Image Credit]

A Giveaway and a New Blog

photoLet me see a show of hands from those of you who like to cook. How about those of you who like to do crafts?

Okay, hands down.

How about those of you who want to cook but can’t? And those of you who would like to learn about crafts?

Wow. There’s quite a few of you out there.

I don’t think I’m just being biased when I say that my wife is the best cook I’ve ever encountered. Only her cooking can make me second-guess whether I want to go to Cheesecake Factory or stay in.

That’s right. She rivals Cheesecake Factory. That’s no short order.

And crafty! She’s so incredibly talented with the little projects she seems to always have going on around the house.

Well, lucky for you, Sarabeth and her sister Ruthane, who currently lives in South Asia, and is equally as talented, have started a new blog called From Flats to Lofts. It’s been up for a few weeks and so far you can

learn to bake an incredibly delicious and moist birthday cake,

learn to make an exfoliating scrub with lemon and sugar and make your skin oh-so-smooth!

learn to make laundry soap and save money on name-brand detergents

learn to make your own counter spray, and so much more!

And starting tomorrow, Friday, there will be  a giveaway of the famous Travelocity Gnome for you to win! I’ve put the link to their blog here, so check out all the cool stuff they have for you to read throughout today, then tomorrow keep checking back for details on how you can win the Gnome.

Be awesome blog followers and support my wife and her sister. Comment, follow, and encourage them to keep up the good work.

I don’t know how she does it, but Sarabeth is actually managing two blogs right now. Her other one is about our three dachshunds. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it’s puppies! You can check out The Dachshund Blog here.

Seeking Artist for Children’s Book

0842.StickFigure_StandingI wrote a children’s book complete with stick-figure drawings, which you’ll have a chance to look at in a moment. I’m seeking a publisher or agent to get it printed and published, but in order to really sell it, I need an artist to do the artwork. If anyone is interested (publishers, agents, artists), please email me at adoptingjames@aol.com.

Below I have pasted the manuscript which you are all welcome to look at. Please feel free to leave some feedback, keeping in mind that I might send publishers to this post to see if there is enough interest built up to make this book marketable.

The Giving Tree was one of my favorite picture books growing up. So it makes sense that if I’m going to make my own children’s book, it would be inspired by Shel Silversteen’s masterpiece. I’m not much of an illustrator, so stick-figures is really the best I can do. But since we’re all about stories here, this little story can’t be told without pictures. Check out A Warm Cup of String by Andrew Toy.

[Image Credit]

Irish Christmas Music

Getty Joy An Irish Christmas Cover copyLast night, Sarabeth and I had the privilege of attending a beautiful concert by new Hymn writers and performers Keith and Kristyn Getty at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Pay attention to this post because they might be coming to your town, and you would be remiss in missing such a great opportunity.

You know that beautiful song, “In Christ Alone” that you sing at church? This is the couple that wrote that song (along with Stuart Townend), and a handful of other world-renowned hymns.

The Getty’s music is unique in that it even has its own genre: singable theology. And to make it even better, they tie their Irish roots in the sounds, blending it beautifully and seamlessly with a tinge of our ol’ country ring. (Their newest album, “Hymns for the Christian Life” features Alison Krauss, one of my personal favorite U.S. performers.) I mean, really – where else will you find a banjo and an accordion on the same stage?

I have posted a link to their Christmas tour below. If you see that they’re headed your way, jump on it in a heartbeat. Cancel anything else you have planned and go to this concert. It tells the Christmas story beautifully through new and traditional Christmas hymns. In fact, there were many times when I got choked up because of the audience participation they encouraged. At one point they had just the children join them in a new Christmas carol and soon everyone was caught up in the magic and purity of the moment.

Fans of the Brave soundtrack will be delighted and will recognize the beautiful uilleann pipes throughout the entire evening (played by Patrick D’Arcy). Never mind that I can’t pronounce it, it’s my favorite instrument! Though there are some tender and intimate moments, you’ll be rooting and dancing and cheering throughout the concert, begging, along with everyone else, for an encore. Oh, and did I mention that most of the songs are accompanied by a vocal choir that tends to steal the show?

Regardless, whether you can make it to the concert or not, you absolutely have to check out their music on itunes, and in particular, “Joy: An Irish Christmas.” It’s the perfect CD to get you in that old-time Christmas spirit.

I’d share more of the band’s impressive resume (including playing for former president George W. Bush at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville), but I’d rather you hear it for yourself to believe it.

Christmas Tour Schedule 

If you go to this concert or listen to the Getty’s music, please comment below to help spread the word about their ministry.

Also, my book, The Man in the Box premiers today! I know several people have already received their copies from Amazon. Make sure to get yours today by clicking here. It’s the perfect gift for the bookworms in your life! You can also get it for your Kindle here.

Also, they promote a great cause to help get children out of poverty. Visit Compassion to sponsor a child today.

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