Archive for August, 2008
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
On Tuesday, August 19th, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing three DVDs in the Growing Up Animals series. Growing Up Wildcats contains four hour-long episodes about baby…well, wildcats. Although “wild” cats might be the wrong word to use. You see, the four episodes centre around baby lions, baby tigers, baby cheetahs, and a baby black leopard. But none of them are wild. The lions have been rescued from abusive owners near San Antonio. The tigers have been bred in captivity at a wildlife refuge in Texas. The cheetahs are from a wildlife breeding ranch in South Africa. And Edie Falco (of the Sopranos) hosts the special episode about the rare black leopard, also bred in captivity.
Not that this is a problem – each of the cats in these programs relies on their human benefactors for survival. So it isn’t exactly like watching animals growing up in zoos. But after a while, I found myself really wanting to see these animals grow up in the wild. I wanted to see how cheetah parents raised cheetah cubs, not how humans raised cheetah cubs. In the end, this is basically like watching one of those shows about babies on Lifetime Network. Only, the babies grow to be 600 pounds and could conceivably eat people. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that tiger babies are far cuter than human babies.
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
Growing Up Safari is one of three DVDs released by Alliance Films on Tuesday August 19th. These DVDs are part of the Growing Up series from Animal Planet, a series that follows the development of young animals from infancy to the point where they are re-integrated with their adult populations. Growing Up Safari follows the story of young rhinos, hyenas, zebras and giraffes as they grow up. These four animals are certainly not as cute as those on the Growing Up Wildcats DVD. Rhinos are kind of cute, because as babies they’re just so strange looking. But hyenas have a bad rap simply because they’re pretty ugly creatures, baby zebras look exactly like adult zebras, only smaller, and baby giraffes are so gangly and awkward that it’s hard to consider them cute. It’s also hard to use the word “cute” to describe something that comes into the world seven feet tall.
Also ruining the “cuteness” factor for the giraffe – the fact that after it’s unceremonious introduction to the earth – a drop of ten feet to the ground – it is then covered, head to toe, in a life-giving but certainly disgusting waterfall that consists of like sixty gallons of giraffe afterbirth. There was something about seeing this that I found…disconcerting. As in all the other Growing Up DVDs, we see death, birth and disasters befall these tiny animals, and at times the series can really tug at the heart strings, as when we see the caregiver of a young hyena named Homer have to deal with the loss of his young charge. But again, I watch these episodes feeling like I’m not really learning much about the animals themselves, but more that I am learning about the people who raise them. Which is still interesting, but not as interesting as the animals are.
Tuesday, August 19th, 2008
There are three Growing Up DVDs being released on Tuesday, August 19th, from Alliance Films. They are DVDs from an Animal Planet series that features young, cute animals as they are raised from infancy by humans. Often they are orphaned, and left alone, or perhaps they come from abusive owners and needed to be rescued. The three DVDs, Growing Up Safari, Growing Up Wildcats and Growing Up Arctic are pretty much interchangeable, except that the wildcats are cuter and the safari animals are more interesting. But the best of the three DVDs is Growing Up Arctic. Partly because there may be no creature on Earth cuter than a baby penguin – unless it’s a baby seal. And both those animals are featured on the disc. Also featured are the polar bear (also terribly cute) and the walrus (not so cute, but awfully darn cool).
These are some of the only episodes that take place at zoos – the penguins are hatched at the Oregon Zoo, the polar bear cub is given a chance at life at the Toronto Zoo, and the walrus baby grows up at the Indianapolis Zoo. The baby seal isn’t at a zoo, however, as it gets nursed back to health at the Alaska Sea Life Center. Growing Up Arctic is the best of the three DVDs in that it’s slightly more interesting than the others. But, like the others, it’s just cute, and that’s about it.
Friday, August 1st, 2008
In 2002, there was a wonderful documentary called Lost In La Mancha, that chronicled Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt to make the movie he’s always wanted to make, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. It’s a fascinting and poignant documentary about a movie shoot where everything that can go wrong does go wrong. There are many disasters in Lost In La Mancha. The star of the film, the fantastic French actor Jean Rochefort, suffers a serious back injury and can’t continue. There are unsigned contracts, disputes, and the Spanish Air Force ruins a whole day of shooting by performing manouevers overhead. Then the entire set, and all the equipment, gets washed away in a flash flood.
Of course, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote never got made. The project was shut down after five days of production and shelved in 2001. Gilliam has re-acquired the rights to the script, however, and he is going to make another run at it. He still has his Big Star on board, Johnny Depp, and that is apparently the biggest reason the film is going ahead. Depp, you see, was just not big enough a star in 2001 to convince the financiers to stay on board when all hell broke loose. Although in fact it was his other commitments, and the fact that he couldn’t stay on with the film behind schedule, that led to the film losing it’s backing in the end. But now, since Pirates of the Caribbean, the opportunity to make a film starring Depp is too lucrative an idea to pass up. So The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will move forward.
Gilliam has re-acquired the script rights from the insurers who took control after the failed attempt at making the film. The filming of a Don Quixote-themed movie has come to be sort of a cinema-world equivalent of staging a production of Macbeth, in that it seems to carry with it a substantial amount of bad luck. As we see toward the end of Lost In La Mancha, Gilliam has become basically a Quixote figure himself.
The plot of Don Quixote, one of my favourite books of all time, basically concerns an old man who imagines himself to be something he isn’t – that is, a knight-errant. One of those fictional characters that rides around on a horse, defeating evil, rescuing damsels, and fighting giants and dragons. But he lives about 100 years too late. The days of the knight-errant are long past, but that does not stop him. He carries out his delusions to the fullest, and in the most famous scene in the book, he attacks a series of windmills, imagining them to be some kind of evil giants.
Since the novel was written, “tilting at windmills” has come to mean something a little different than just plain old-fashioned hilarious lunacy. The phrase is now used to describe people who wholeheartedly pursue impossible dreams, and in this way Gilliam certainly fits the bill. The Monty Python alum has created some of the most bizarre but fantastic films of the last twenty years, including Twelve Monkeys and Brazil.
But he has also participated in some of the least successful movie projects of all time. Not just the one chronicled in Lost In La Mancha, but also the uber-bomb The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which was a terrific film that no one wanted to see. It cost 45 million dollars and made virtually no money. But it really was great. People should see it. In fact, go out and rent Baron Munchausen right now. And rent Lost In La Mancha too. And go read Don Quixote. Then you will be as excited for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as I am.