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Monthly Archives: January 2014

A truly exceptional ‘little’ film.


The cast.  Mayer is in the middle and Dancy is to the left.


A long time ago, I was a social worker and then a family therapist. Later, I taught psychology. During the course of this, I worked with a few folks with Autism spectrum disorders–including Asperger’s Syndrome. Now I am NOT an expert but know enough by teaching about it, knowing folks with it (including a few of my students) and reading up on it to know whether or not a film that deals with this topic gets it right or wrong. It was because of this background I was excited to watch “Adam”–to see if I finally found a film that got it right. This is because although a lot of folks on the internet talk about this disorder (and many claim to have it–though in most cases this seems to be done to excuse boorish behavior) but few folks REALLY understand what it is. I sure wish I’d had this film available to me when I was teaching–it sure would have provided a nice example for my students.

I won’t spend a lot of time discussing what Asperger’s is–though it would make sense to briefly explain it. People with Asperger’s are generally quite normal. However, they are socially inept–having great difficulty picking up on normal social cues, understanding polite conversation and relating to people in a healthy manner. It’s as if they are socially retarded–generally unable to understand nuances, metaphors or things such as sarcasm or inferences. But, on the other hand, intellectually (aside from the social aspects) they are very normal and even sometimes brilliant. They are also incredibly literal in their thinking and speech. For someone to build a relationship with an individual like this is possible…though it certainly poses challenges.

Adam (Hugh Dancy) is a nice young man who lives alone and works with computers and loves astronomy. He happens to strike up a conversation with his neighbor, Beth (Rose Byrne) and slowly they become friends. But, early on, it’s obvious to Beth that there is something wrong with Adam. When he tells her he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, she learns more about him–such as how to interact with him as well as his social shortcomings. And, despite this problem, she learns to love him and vice-versa. The movie then unfolds–and addresses the unspoken salient point–is loving a person enough when you’re in a relationship?


The writer/director of this film is Max Mayer. It’s obvious that Max either knows someone with the diagnosis or he really, really did his homework. The film very accurately portrays someone with these life challenges–and Hugh Dancy was amazing in the film–simply amazing. I also really, really appreciated how the movie did NOT simply give way to sentiment or stuff itself with clichés, film formula or false nobility. Realism and integrity of the characters is what made this film really work for me.

If you do see this exceptional film (and I strongly recommend you do), a couple things I noticed that you may also like are Dancy’s amazing performance which includes no trace of his British accent as well as the cute scene with Beth reading to her young students.   As for Ms. Byrne, she is also excellent and I had no idea she was an Aussie–there was no trace of this accent in the film.  The way the little kids talked about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”–and how some just didn’t get it at all–was very realistic. Apparently, Mayer also really understands kids and child development! What a great film–and one of the few movies where I have NOTHING negative to say about it!


Disney REALLY reimagines Mickey!

Two new incarnations of Mickey Mouse have recently been created by the Disney folks recently.  One is REALLY radical–the new Mickey Mouse shorts shown on the Disney Channel.  The other, though it looks old, brings a crazy new CGI version of Mickey to the big screen as a short before the feature “Frozen”.  Here’s a quick blurb on each:





When the film begins, you don’t think it’s a CGI or 3-D film. It looks like a Mickey Mouse film circa 1929–complete with scratchy film stock! However, when the baddie, Pete, tosses Mickey THROUGH the screen and he becomes a full-color 3-D character, you know you are in for something unique! What’s next? See the film–it’s well worth it.

This is an interesting case where it turns out that I liked the short more than the feature film it accompanied. In the case of “Get a Horse!”, it was shown before the Disney CGI film “Frozen”–a moderately enjoyable full-length film. However, the short was indeed magical and appeared to be a real work of love. I say this because the folks who made the film did a great job of trying to replicate the exact look and sound of the very early Mickey Mouse cartoons–something that is no small feat! Unlike most 3-D films I’ve seen, I think it’s very important you try to see “Get a Horse!” in 3-D. This is because rarely has another 3-D film tried so hard to incorporate this sort of camera-work into the film (another exception being the underrated “How to Train Your Dragon”). Most 3-D films, to me, seem as if they just tacked on the 3-D at the end and didn’t plan for the use of 3-D all along (this is especially true of the live action 3-D films).

Overall, a wonderful little film that no doubt will get nominated for Best Animated Short for the Oscars. If it doesn’t, I’ll be incredibly surprised as the film isn’t just fun but an amazing film technically.




MICKEY (Disney Channel)

One reviewer for this show on IMDB clearly hated these cartoons. They describe them as ‘despicable, detestable, deplorable desecration of Walt Disney’s early works’. I can certainly understand WHY they felt that way, as the animation style is NOTHING like the classic Disney characters and it seems pretty cheap at first. And, I can certainly understand WHY they felt this way because the characters were doing many things that would make Walt spin in his grave like a rotisserie. Imagine having episodes with a zombie Goofy, Mickey and Donald trying to hide their nudity, dogs urinating, bites being bitten off Mickey’s ear and a lot of very un-Disney-like violence!! It IS shocking and I could see how a purist would blanch at such things. However, I am NOT a Disney purist. Sure, I love the old cartoons but will quickly admit that Mickey’s old cartoons were awfully sanitized–a bit too sanitized if you ask me. Rarely did Mickey have any sort of edge–that was left to Donald and, sometimes, Goofy. But here, Mickey is a rather impish character–more like you’d see in the very, very early Mickey cartoons and not the sweet and 100% wholesome guy you’d see in the 1930s to today! While the art style takes some getting used to, I can look past the cheap look. More importantly, as I sat and watched these cartoons during a recent Disney cruise (where they pipe them into the rooms), I found myself laughing louder than I ever have before with a cartoon. Imagine blending a bit of “Ren & Stimpy” with Mickey–that is what you’ll find in “Mickey Mouse” (2013). I love them and want more!