Thursday, February 22, 2007

Italian Food and a Disney Film

Dinner this evening (mind you, evening starts early for me) was a spinjuine pizza at Caito's Italian Restaurant in Chesterfield, MO. This spinjuine thing (pronounced like "spin-June") is an old family recipe, and a sensational new experience for me. Apparently it's been written up in the local moonbat culture-gossip rag, Riverfront Times.

And well it should be. It's nice to experience something really different (but also good) within the tolerances of a "comfort food" formula. Spinjuine is a pizza with your choice of crust (thick or thin), generously covered with a nicely seasoned sauce full of chunks of crumbled meat (like the meat mixture in lasagna), and finally topped with white cheese in such a way that the cheese forms white "spots" on the red "background." It looks odd but tastes marvy.

Then I went to see the new film based on the Newbery-Medal book Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. The film comes out of Disney and Walden Media.

I recently read a speech by one of the Walden execs, who made the case (in which I heartly agree) that a childhood habit of "literary reading" - reading works of imagination for pleasure - is an important part of growing up to be thoughtful, responsible, good and even courageous people. Walden Media has been involved with movies based on several exceptional children's books, including Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Chronicles of Narnia series, and Charlotte's Web, as well as a film about British anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce titled Amazing Grace, and the upcoming film based on Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.

Knowing all of these books and having seen most of these movies, I think I can generalize that Walden Media is committed to encouraging young people to use their imagination, and to imagine themselves as heroes - an important first step to becoming heroes. Each of these stories (discounting the Wilberforce biopic) contains the kind of innocent magic that exists in every child's world of make-believe. And so each of these films is a beautiful invitation to our world's growing number of couch potatoes to turn the TV off and, for a change, vegetate over a good book.

I know there are parents who object to this type of magic and react to it as satanic witchcraft; but these people are ignorant fools who will probably do more harm than good to their children's development by stifling their ability to imagine. I think magical stories are like dreams; in some mysterious way they are a necessary part of being human, and if we deprive ourselves of them we make ourselves sick.

These stories also feature prominent conflicts between good and evil, and/or young characters faced with agonizing problems in their lives. Again, some parents probably object to this because they want to protect their children from fear and pain. But this, too, is silly. If they can't face such things in the safe world of a book, how will they deal with them in real life?

Bridge to Terabithia is one of those books that has been challenged, and perhaps even banned, because reactionary idiots who haven't really read it think it contains witchcraft and/or material too scary or mature for children. The "magic" in this book is a world of make-believe created by two children whose friendship and courage are truly inspiring. The "tragic" in this book is certainly moving, but it is also uplifting. Both the book and the movie made me sob like a girl. I even broke down in tears while driving home from the cinema, when I thought about the scene in which the meanest teacher in the school sends the hero boy out into the hallway for a private telling-off...and then starts crying in front of him.

The two main characters include a farm boy named Jess with an eye for art, played by Josh Hutcherson of Little Manhattan, Zathura, RV, and the upcoming Firehouse Dog. AnnaSophia Robb, who played the lead in Because of Winn-Dixie and gum-chewing Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, stars as Jess's friend Leslie. Robert Patrick plays the pivotal part of Jess's father, and Zooey Deschanel plays an attractive, young school music teacher whose interest in a talented student leads, indirectly, to tragedy.

It isn't a cutesie, happily-ever-after Disney movie. This Disney movie showcases family hardship and conflict, schoolyard bullying, the perils and joys of nonconformity, a hint of child abuse, and a full dose of grief and loss, to say nothing of survivor's guilt. Occupational hazards of being a child, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor, a human being.

1 comment:

kaleidoscopicepic said...

A beautiful book and movie... They did do a good job with it, though I think that kids are more likely to use their imaginations when reading a book, visualizing the text, than watching a movie in which the text is visualized for them...