Movie Review: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)


Title: The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet
Release Date: 16 October 2013
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Production Company: Cross Creek Pictures | Epithète Films | Filmarto | France 2 Cinéma | Gaumont | Orange Cinéma Séries | Tapioca Films
Summary/Review:

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is responsible for three of my favorite films of all time: Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, and Amélie.  And yet, I only recently became aware of this most recent release of Jeunet’s from 2013, for which the loathsome Harvey Weinstein is partially to blame.  This is Jeunet’s first film set in the United States and in the English language, and as such his whimsical approach to filmmaking suddenly feels a lot like a lot like Wes Anderson.

The titular T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a ten-year-old science and engineering prodigy living on a ranch in rural Montana.  His mother, Dr. Clair (Helena Bonham Carter) is a devoted entomologist while his father, Tecumseh Elijah Spivet (Callum Keith Rennie), is a laconic cowboy “born 100 years too late.”  T.S. siblings are older sister Gracie Spivet (Niamh Wilson), a wannabe actor who mocks her family’s obsessions, and brother Layton (Jakob Davies), who is like their father in miniature.  We learn early on that Layton was killed in an accident while using a firearm and the way each family member deals with their grief is a key part of the movie.

T.S. wins an award from the Smithsonian Institute for inventing a perpetual motion device and feeling that his family wouldn’t understand, decides to travel on his own to Washington, D.C. to receive the award.  The better part of the film documents his journey by freight train and hitchhiking.  Jeunet’s direction captures the beautiful landscapes of the American West and feels as if it’s a peculiarly French understanding of American mythology.

While the movie has it’s share of adventures and quirkiness, it is overall a sad movie dealing with very heavy grief.  When T.S. is sad or scared we really feel it, and when he’s injured part way through the film he continues to suffer the injury for the rest of the story.  Unfortunately, Catlett doesn’t seem to be an experienced enough actor when it comes to delivering dialogue and when he talks like a detached scientist it feels artificial. I really wanted to love this film, and there are a lot of elements that are great, but overall it feels like it missed the mark.  But and A for effort, I guess.

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Two Weeks Ending March 27


Best of the Left :: Democracy Under Siege

Republicans are attacking the right to vote in order to retain power and maintain white supremacist fascism.

Code Switch :: Lonnie Bunch And The ‘Museum Of No’

An interview with the first Black Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution focusing on his work in bringing the National Museum of African American History and Culture to fruition.

Have You Heard? ::  What They’ve Lost

Boston Public Schools students talk about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and not being able to attend school in person. Also includes a good discussion of why the focus on “learning loss” only adds to the trauma rather than addressing students’ real problems.

Hub History :: Disaster at Bussey Bridge

134 years ago, corporate malfeasance lead to the death and dismemberment of several railway commuters at a site not far from where I live today.

Planet Money :: The Even More Minimum Wage

The history of the tipped minimum wage and how it maintains inequality. I was particularly stunned by how tipped employment is often the first jobs for young women and that it conditions them to accept sexual harassment in order to get tips.

Seizing Freedom :: Interview: Rhiannon Giddens

For the second POTW post in a row I’ve found a fascinating podcast about the banjo in Black music, this time an interview with the contemporary folk musician Rhiannon Giddens.

This American Life :: The Campus Tour Has Been Cancelled

Many colleges and universities have suspended using the SATs and other standardized tests for admissions because of the COVID pandemic. Tests like these have a gatekeeping effect and this podcast explores how their absence can open up college opportunities for poor, BIPOC, and first-generation applicants.

Throughline :: Chaos

Stories of humanity and chaos, including the real life The Lord of the Flies.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: 20th Century Fox

The composition and history of the deceptively simple 20th Century Fox fanfare.

The War on Cars :: Jamelle Bouie Has Seen the Future of Transportation

Journalist Jamelle Bouie talks about his experience using an electric bike in Charlottesville, VA and the future of transportation and housing in the United States.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 26


AirSpace :: Nicotine Stain

How flight attendants lead the fight against public smoking and raising awareness of the danger of second-hand smoke

Consider This :: Optimism About Case Rates, Vaccines, And Future Of The Pandemic

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Judas and the Black Messiah

This podcast series ties into the new film about Fred Hampton and explores the Black Panther leader’s life with interviews with people who knew him, as well as behind the scenes of making the movie.

99% Invisible : The Batman and the Bridge Builder

The story of how the design of a bridge in Austin, Texas lead to it becoming a center of bat conservation (featuring bat scientist Merlin Tuttle).

Throughline :: Remembering Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the March on Washington

The life of Bayard Rustin, a pioneering activist of nonviolence in the American Civil Rights and labor movements.

Up First :: Christian Nationalism & Disinformation

How white evangelical churches perpetuate the ideology that led to the Capitol Insurrection.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 13


Sidedoor :: Reservation Math: Navigating Love in Native America

The story of “blood quantum,” a concept used to define Native American identity from it’s colonialist origins to the personal impact is has on indigenous peoples today.

Throughline :: ‘Black Moses’ Lives On: How Marcus Garvey’s Vision Still Resonates

The history of Marcus Garvey and his vision of pan-Africanism and the Black Star Line.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Sound 101

The science of sound with Bill Nye.

 

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 9


Twenty Thousand Hertz  :: Baby Shark

The long history of the ubiquitous children’s song that became an unexpected hit this year.

Lost at the Smithsonian :: Archie Bunker’s Chair

Norman Lear’s groundbreaking show All in the Family depicted the real divisions within American family.  The famed overstuffed armchair remains on display at the Smithsonian as recognition of the show’s place in history. By the way, I’ve never before noticed how much Donald Trump’s vocal intonations resemble Archie Bunker’s.

Throughline :: No Friends But the Mountains

A history of the Kurds, a people without a nation.

Wedway Radio :: The Evolution of Disney Lands

Breaking down how Disney parks have created lands that evolved from a loose collection of attractions around a theme to fully immersive experiences.


Running tally of 2019 Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 16


There’s a rich crop of podcasts this week!  I wont be posting any podcasts next Saturday, so if you hear any good ones I shouldn’t miss, let me know in the comments.

Throughline :: How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days

The overlooked history of one of the worst crimes ever committed by the United States government.

Hub History :: Apocalypse on Boston Bay 

The indigenous population of New England suffered significant casualties from epidemics of infectious disease that swept their communities in the 1620.  The colonizing English saw these plagues as the grace of God to their settlement.

Tomorrow Society :: Peggie Farris on 50 Years at Disney and Producing Spaceship Earth

An interview with a remarkable woman who rose from being a ride operator at Disneyland to an influential Imagineer at Disney Parks across the world.

99% Invisible :: National Sword

China has enacted a program to no longer import recycled materials, which means that recycling collected from many US communities no longer is actually being recycled.  This podcasts prods consumers to “reduce and reuse” more than they recycle, but also questions placing the burden on the consumer and suggest industry needs to reduce the material created in the first place.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Cheech Marin Gets Antsy

Cheech Marin, famed for starring in stoner comedies, now works to bring attention to Chicano art in galleries and museums.

Planet Money: The Indicator :: The Strike That Changed U.S. Labor

The 1937 General Motors strike presaged a highpoint for union membership in the United States and a period of shared prosperity.  This podcast discusses how we got from there to today with record low union participation.

The Truth :: Meet Cute

A romantic comedy where one the members of the couple dies before the first date.  There’s a lot of clever twists in this story.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending November 3


Household Name :: Sears: There Was More For Your Life

The story of the demise of the legendary store, Sears.  Turns out it is owned by an Ayn Rand devotee whose investments make a profit when stores close.  Go figure!

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Seriously Seeking Sasquatch

You won’t find anything about Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot, at the Smithsonian museums, but you will find the skeleton a scientist who dedicated his life to researching Bigfoot. Find out why in this podcast.

30 for 30 :: Six Who Sat

The story of the women who fought for equality to participate in running events in the 1970s.

Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Theater of the Mind

The history of radio dramas from the War of the Worlds to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to NPR’s foray into adapting Star Wars.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 26


99% Invisible :: Curb Cuts

An important history of the disability rights movement and how curb cuts ended up benefiting society in a broader sense than originally intended.

WGBH News :: On ‘Melnea Cass Day,’ Remembering The Boston Civil Rights Activist And Her Legacy In Roxbury

A day for a great Bostonian.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Don’t Call Me Extinct

The story of rehabilitating the scimitar-horned oryx population.

Upon Further Review :: How Actor Jesse Eisenberg Doomed the Phoenix Suns

A funny story of how a young fan’s guilt over a letter to his favorite basketball player.

Podcasts of the Week for Two Weeks Ending May 19


I’m not doing well at getting these podcast recommendations up every week, but here’s a good crop of podcast for your listening pleasure.

HUB History :: The Battle of Jamaica Plain

There was a gang shootout right here in my own neighborhood over a 100 years ago that had international implications and ended up involving Winston Churchill, and I’d never heard of it?!?

Hidden Brain :: Baby Talk: Decoding the Secret Language of Babies

It’s been a long while since I’ve had a nice chat with a baby.

Planet Money :: The Land of Duty Free

The mass quantities of liquor, cigarettes, chocolate, and perfume sold in airports has always fascinated/perplexed me.  Here’s the story of how the duty free shop got started at Shannon Airport in Ireland.  It also confirms my suspicions that duty free shop purchases aren’t really bargains.

LeVar Burton Reads :: “As Good as New” by Charlie Jane Anders

A live performance of LeVar Burton reading a hillarious/poignant story about a worldwide apocalypse, a genie in a bottle, theater criticism,  and the nature of wishes, complete with an interview with the author

BackStory :: Shock of the New

The history of World’s Fairs fascinates me and this episode commemorates the 125th anniversary of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with special focus on women’s and African American perspectives on the fair.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Cherokee Story Slam

The stories and life of the talented Robert Lewis.

More or Less: Behind the Stats :: Tulipmania mythology

The Dutch tulip bubble always makes a good story about economics and finance, but the truth of the story is not as dramatic as the myths, albeit more interesting in many ways.

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending February 17


A bumper crop of erudition for your ears this week.

The Memory Palace :: Hercules

With Washington’s Birthday coming up, a reminder that our first President held people in bondage because he enjoyed what their labor provided without having to pay for them.  The story of Hercules, a talented chef, who successfully escaped slavery.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: Killer Viruses and One Man’s Mission to Stop Them

The story of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and the efforts of Dr. Maurice Hilleman to create vaccines to prevent later outbreaks.

The Nation Start Making Sense :: Elizabeth Warren on Monopoly Power

Elizabeth Warren wants to make fighting monopolies part of the Democrats agenda again. Also, the truth behind Warren Buffett, and white working class Trump voter.

The Truth :: Nuclear Winter

 A spooky story set in an outdated nuclear missile silo.  Don’t worry, it’s fictional!

Afropop Worldwide :: Africa and the Blues

A fascinating look into musicologist Gerhard Kubik’s research into the traits of blues music that connect with the music of different regions of Africa.  Read more here: http://afropop.org/articles/africa-and-the-blues-an-interview-with-gerhard-kubik

StoryCorps :: In the Neighborhood

The story of the multi-talented François Clemmons, most famous for playing Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers Neighborhood, his friendship with Fred Rogers, and their quietly bold statement for civil rights and equality.