Movie Review: The Lion King (1994)


Title: The Lion King
Release Date: June 24, 1994
Director: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Walt Disney Feature Animation
Summary/Review:

I first saw The Lion King in the movie theaters with a group of college friends and we all had an enjoyable time and loved the movie.  Oddly, I didn’t see another Disney animated film in the theaters until Moana 22 years later (although I did see plenty of Pixar films).

The Lion King draws upon Shakespeare’s Hamlet (and possibly a Japanese anime series) for inspiration, but this is the first Disney animated feature that’s not an adaptation of another work and I think it was very freeing for the creators.  They were able to create a universe within the wilderness of Africa to tell a story of love, betrayal, and redemption.  And I think this may also be the first Disney movie with no human characters.

The opening scene with Simba’s presentation is perhaps the most awe-inspiring animation Disney has ever created. And having it all end with a dramatic sting and the movie’s title is a bold choice before beginning the movie proper.  The Lion King strikes the right balance of humor, drama, romance, and adventure.  And the music drawing on African traditions is amazing.  Elton John as composer was an odd choice (and the beginning of a trend of pop artists composing soundtracks for animated movies), but even if his songs do get a little cheezy at times they are definitely memorable.

The Lion King is a great film that I believe will continue to reward viewings for quite some time.

Rating: ****1/2

Day 5: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the fifth day of our travels.

To lift our spirits after feeling tired and cranky the day before, we started off our fifth day by treating ourselves to a hot breakfast from the eatery at the Canyon Lodge. We ate at the picnic tables outside under the watchful eyes of the local ravens. Fueled by scrambled eggs and French toast, we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon taking in the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

We started on the south rim stopping at Artists Point and Uncle Tom’s overlooks.  Then we saw everything again from the north rim at Lookout Point and Inspiration Point.  The Yellowstone River dropping over the Upper and Lower Falls never failed to please and we enjoyed the many colors of the canyon, including the stones of yellow. We also enjoyed watching the osprey soar over the canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is very photogenic.  Not that it stopped Kay from stealing our phones to take selfies and silly photos of her family.

 

After resting in the afternoon, we went to the Canyon Corral.  Susan and the kids went horseback riding on an hour-long guided tour and saw elk from the saddle.  Kay bonded with the wrangler Jonathan by talking about Star Wars.  Meanwhile, I went for a drive through the Hayden Valley where I saw a small hide of bison (with very cute calves), a coyote, and many spectacular vistas.

Movie Reviews: Yellowstone stories


I saw two different films related to Yellowstone National Park available on Disney+ so I watched them both in preparation for my trip to Yellowstone.

Title: Yellowstone Cubs
Release Date: June 1, 1963
Director: Charles L. Draper
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Summary/Review:

This 45-minute, live action short tells the story of two bear cubs, Tuffy and Tubby, who are separated from their mother. She is marked as a “bad bear” and exiled from the park and then spends the whole summer tracking down her cubs. Meanwhile Tuffy and Tubby cause mayhem like causing a trailer to roll down a hill and take out a tent, stealing a motorboat, and eating all the food left out unattended in the kitchen of the Old Faithful Inn.

It’s pretty clear that domesticated bears were used in making this films, and bear paw props were used for closeups when a paw manipulates a boat engine or a can of whipped cream. To be fair, this movie never claims to be a documentary or even a True Life Adventure, merely a funny story about bear cubs. It is surprising to see the opening credits confirm the involvement of the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park, and  Montana Game and Wildlife (I guess Wyoming wanted no part of this even though it’s where the movie takes place).

The message of this movie is made clear that feeding wild bears is dangerous for the bears and for human visitors for the park. And yet the folksy narration seems to undercut that with jokes about bears working the passing traffic for handouts (in front of signs prohibiting the feeding of bears). Times have certainly changed since this movie was made and so this movie serves as an odd time capsule rather something anyone should expect from a visit to Yellowstone.

Rating: *


Title: Wild Yellowstone
Release Date: December 3, 2015
Production Company: Brain Farm Digital Cinema
Summary/Review:

This two-part documentary follows much the same structure of the BBC Yellowstone documentary with an episode for winter (“The Frozen Frontier”) and summer (“Grizzly Summer”) focusing on the survival strategies of various animals. Unfortunately, despite some beautiful captures of animals in the wonderland of Yellowstone, the movie takes a sensationalist approach in its narration as well as editing tricks which involve quick cuts among slow-motion and time-lapse.  I give this points for having lots and lots footage of otters as well as treating fights among hummingbirds as dramatically as fights among sheep, elk, and bison.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: A Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Kurt F. Johnson


Author: Kurt F. Johnson
Title: A Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Publication Info: Farcountry Press (2013)
Summary/Review:

A really spectacular guide book to the animals, plants, fungi, waterfalls, geysers, and even the night time sky in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  This is an excellent reference to have handy when traveling in the parks and wondering just what exactly is that!

Rating: ****

Book Review: Watching Yellowstone & Grand Teton Wildlife by Todd Wilkinson


Author: Todd Wilkinson
Title: Watching Yellowstone & Grand Teton Wildlife
Publication Info: Riverbend Publishing (2008)
Summary/Review:

This book does just what it says on the tin: tells you the best places to see wildlife in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  The critters each get their own page with gorgeous photographs, a description of the animals habits, and tips on where to spot them in the park. It will be a useful tool on our visit to the parks.

Rating: ***

Podcast of the Week Ending August 22


60 Second Science :: Cows With Eye Images Keep Predators in Arrears

Painting eye spots on the rear ends of cows apparently acts as a deterrent to predators.

Throughline :: Reframing History: The Commentator

A medieval Islamic philosopher named Averroes had a great influence on Western thought and the modern world that has been overlooked by history.


RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 11


Last week I had no podcasts to share.  This week I have a bumper crop!

Afropop Worldwide :: Remembering Tony Allen

Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died this spring, shortly after releasing his final album Rejoice, with Hugh Masekela. Afropop Worldwide revisits Allen’s storied career.

BackStory :: The End of the Road: BackStory and the History of Finales in America

My favorite history podcast BackStory comes to an end with an episode about finales in American history, from President George Washington to Mary Tyler Moore.

Hidden Brain :: The Night That Lasted A Lifetime: How Psychology Was Misused In Teen’s Murder Case

The story of a Black Boston teenager, Fred Clay, who spent 38 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted based on evidence the police extracted using hypnosis.

The Last Archive :: For the Birds

Rachel Carson, the extinction of bird species, and climate change.

99% Invisible :: Freedom House Ambulance Service

The modern practice of paramedics serving communities with an emergency medical service began in the Black community in Pittsburgh just over 50 years ago.

60-Second Science :: Animals Appreciate Recent Traffic Lull

One side benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic is the reduced use of automobiles.  Some cities (not Boston, of course) have even taken advantage of creating space for people to walk and bike by closing roads to cars.  But even in rural areas, animals are thriving because of fewer collisions with motor vehicles.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Take Me Who Out to the Ballgame?

If you’re American, you’ve inevitably sung along with the chorus “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” baseball’s unofficial anthem.  But if you’ve never heard the chorus, you may not know that the song is about a woman who wants to watch baseball at a time when that was considered a men’s only activity.  The podcast explores the history of how the song went “viral” and features music by Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust.

Throughline :: The Long Hot Summer

Civil disturbances in Black communities in America in 1967 lead President Johnson to call the Kerner Commission. The commission’s report revealed evidence of police violence that was criticized and ignored at the time, but still reads as a diagnoses of our present-day crises.


Book Review: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White


Author: E.B. White
Title: Charlotte’s Web
Narrator: E.B. White
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group [Originally published, 1952]
Other Books Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Charlotte’s Web is a book I loved as a child and still love revisiting it as an adult.  And it’s quite the weeper! It’s a simple barnyard fable of a piglet who is the runt of the litter saved by a girl named Fern and named Wilbur.  As Wilbur grows and thrives he is faced with the reality that he will be butchered for pork. His life is saved by his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte who weaves words like “Some Pig” and “Terrific” into her webs. Wilbur grows to become a celebrity pig which saves him from the butchering block.

The natural response to this story is that Wilbur actually does nothing and it is Charlotte who should be recognized as a remarkable spider.  The farmer’s wife, Mrs. Zuckerman, says as much in the story. What I never noticed about this story as a child is how it is a social satire of how gullible humans are to the messages of advertising. But it’s also a story of friendship and how Charlotte dedicates her naturally short life to preventing the unnatural end of Wilbur’s life.  As a result, Charlotte’s legacy is ensured with Wilbur telling her story to generations of her descendants.

The book also features Templeton, a funny rat, who I loved as a child and who still cracks me up now.  Charlotte’s Web is a well-regarded classic and I can’t help but throw my praise onto it’s heap of plaudits.  Have you read Charlotte’s Web, and if you have what are your thoughts?

Favorite Passages:

“…A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “it seems to me that you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.

Final Lines: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Recommended books:

  • The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Rating: *****

Documentary Movie Review: Yellowstone (2009) #AtoZChallenge


This is my entry for “Y” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “Y” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Yellowstone: The World’s First National Park and You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Title: Yellowstone
Release Date: March 2009
Director: [none listed]
Production Company: BBC Natural History Unit | Animal Planet
Summary/Review:

Yellowstone is a three-part nature documentary series filmed in Yellowstone National Park.  The episodes each focus on a season: winter, summer, and autumn (spring gets short shrift but since the snows don’t melt until June, maybe there is no spring).  I think if you drop some decent cinematographers with quality cameras into Yellowstone you’re guaranteed to get a gorgeous film, but nevertheless the visuals in this documentary are absolutely spectacular.  The theme of the series is “The Battle for Life” so it does veer toward overly dramatic narration.

Winter – Yellowstone’s geothermal features and landscape contribute to long, severe winters with heavy snowfall.  Wolves thrive in the winter as they are able to hunt weakened herds of elk. Bison use their heavy heads like a snowplow to search for edible grasses.  A red fox dives through the snow to capture mice.  And in my absolute favorite part, otters practically swim through the snow and use an opening in the ice created by geysers as a place to fish.

Summer – The season sees the emergence of a bear and her cubs. Other animals including pronghorn, bison, and wolves are also birthing young and keeping them alive in dangerous conditions. Cuthroat trout swim upstream to spawn and are hunted by otters and osprey.  Toward the end of the season, bear climb high in the mountains where they feed on army cutworm moths (like blue whales living on krill!).

Autumn – Trees devour their chlorophyll and erupt in gorgeous colors. Whitebark pine cones are spread with the help of squirrels, bears, and Clark’s nutcrackers.  Beavers repair their dams and stock up food for the winter.  Male elk and bighorn sheep fight among themselves for the right to mate with their respective females.  For the first time in the series, we also see humans as the elk and pronghorn migrate to lower ground outside of the park, with the wolves hot on their heels.  The wild animals have to face the dangers of hunters, motor vehicles, industry, and residential development, while ranchers are uneasy about wolves attacking their herds.

Rating: ****