Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 Unreasonable Movie Project (Vol. 2): Frozen In Cold Weather and Other Forecasts

Movies are a form of escapism for me. I live in the coldest major city in America, and specifically dreamed up the Unreasonable Movie Project to help mentally escape the dead of winter.

Dead is what you would be if you were outside for very long without proper gear on January 6, 2014, the coldest day in 10 years in Minneapolis. Wind chills were -50. Exposed skin freezes in five minutes at -50. So of course, that was the day I decided I ought to take the kids to a movie.

My wife wasn't thrilled about it, but the kids and I piled in the car, and we listened to meteorologists on the radio warn people to "shelter in place" as if we were driving through a hurricane on our way to see Frozen.

My wife had instructed us to check in when we arrived and check in when we left, like we were racing a leg of Iditarod. I wasn't worried about getting stranded, but I complied. When my kids saw me using my phone in the theater lobby, they begged me to take a picture of them posing in a cardboard cut-out of The Lego Movie. They were way too excited about this, but I complied.


After the photo shoot and a pre-emptive kid bathroom break, we went into the theater. Most people must have decided to "shelter in place," because there were a grand total of two other people sitting there. Do I think I put my kids in danger that night? I really couldn't're judging me, I can feel you judging me.

The movie itself was great, made in the traditional style of classic Disney musicals. The story was about two sisters, the princesses of a great northern kingdom. The older sister has a magical power that makes her different and she isolates herself because of it, but the younger sister is determined to bring them back together. It's definitely a girl power movie, which is nice. There are boys, even boys who do heroic things, but the girls drive the action.

My two nitpicky gripes about the movie involved the writing, which was poorly simplified at two or three key moments for the sake of a quicker pace, and a character twist that seemed jarring and out-of-the-blue.

"Did you see that coming?" I asked my daughter. "I totally didn't see it coming. There was no foreshadowing, at all. I had no idea that character would do that," I said.

To seem smarter than the average Daddy, I then rattled off the definition of foreshadowing, which she probably already knew. I've done this before. Last year, she endured my speech about conflict being required to create drama.

"I knew that would happen," she said of the character twist. "When something goes that well that soon in the movie, you know it's going to turn bad."

"Ummm...good point," I said uneasily. This must be what Obi-Wan felt like in those final moments. So much for me being the Jedi master. She's only 9.

The credits mentioned that Frozen is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen." I got excited about it because I had taken a literature course on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen in college. I still own the book. Maybe I could still teach her something.

I asked my daughter if she was interested in taking a look at the story when we got home. She loves to read, and reads incredibly fast, so she said yes. Not wanting to play favorites, I thought I could also create some meaningful dialogue about the movie with my 7-year-old son, but he just kept repeating what the magical snowman kept repeating: "My name is Olaf, and I like warm hugs!" He said this in response to anything I asked, and thought it was hilarious. Since quoting movies is a time honored male tradition, I'm not worried. Actually, I'd say he's developmentally ahead of schedule.

"Yeah, that story is nothing like the movie," my daughter said, a half-hour after I gave her the Hans Christian Andersen.

"What about the two sisters?" I asked. "And you read the entire 28-page story that fast?"

"There weren't two sisters," she said. "And yes I read the whole thing."

"Was there a magical snowman?"


"So nothing was the same then?"


OK then. If you are excited about this movie's connection to Hans Christian Andersen, my daughter describes it as "loosely based." Very. Loosely. Based.

Seeing Frozen was in keeping with the Unreasonable Movie Project because it's all about seeing movies that might win awards. Frozen just won Best Animated Film at the Golden Globes, and because I've also seen The Croods and Despicable Me 2 this year, I figure I've now got this year's animation category covered.

The nominations for the Academy Awards are released tomorrow (January 16), but I'm not convinced the Golden Globe winners will be any indicator of the eventual Oscar winners, or even the nominations. The Globe recipients were spread out among several movies. 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity may be the front runners for Best Picture because of their Globe wins, but a lot can happen between now and March 2.

Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won for their roles in Dallas Buyers Club, but their chances diminish at the Oscars because there aren't separate 'Comedy/Musical' and 'Drama' categories for films and actors like the Globes (a very Gen Y event - seems like everyone gets a trophy). At the Osacrs, everything is in one big pot. There is a lot of good work out there this year, and you can make a case that there are no clear favorites.

"So the Golden Globes won't be any good to me predicting the Oscars?" I might hypothetically ask my daughter.

"Nope," she would say. Smart girl.

NEXT POST: My wife and I take our annual day off to see two movies, and choose great ones that nonetheless suck the life out of us. Philomena and August: Osage County are both heavyweight movies dealing with heavyweight subjects.

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