Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)
How many of you remember Walt Disney and Tinkerbell's opening every Sunday night on his primetime television show? That director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) recreates that magical moment is just one of the many small charms in this wonderful movie. Award-winning actors taking on American's greatest children's entertainment advocate seems a delicious proposition. And it is. This is the story of Walt's (Tom Hanks) -- he preferred that everyone refer to each other by their first names on his studio lot -- relentless pursuit (20 years!) of Mrs. P.L. Travers's (Emma Thompson) much-beloved literary classic Mary Poppins.
Director Hancock seamlessly threads two plots together: the trials and tribulations of the backstage Hollywood drama of creating the film version of Mary Poppins, and the Australian-based melodrama of Mrs. Travers's childhood with her loving but tragically alcoholic father "Ginty" Goth, portrayed by the charismatic Colin Farrell. When Hanks and Thompson spar with each other, we forget what is truly at stake and is really the tragic center. When the young Travers witnesses her inebriated father embarrass himself in front of his boss, family, and fellow countrymen, you'll feel the young girl's pain and humiliation.
Some of the more magical moments occur when Travers finally agrees to Disney's demands, as long as it's not a musical, and the real friction and backstage dramatic comedy comes to life, including her seemingly endless nitpicking and torture with the Disney songwriting team of Richard and Robert Sherman -- wonderfully portrayed by Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak -- and the screenwriter Don DaGardi (Bradley Whitford).
And stick around for the end credits as you'll get to hear some of the actual taped transcripts of the sparing sessions with Team Disney. I wanted to hear more!
This must-see movie is for Disney and non-Disney fans alike.
The holidays can be extremely difficult for many of us. For protagonist Harry Connick, Jr.'s character Michael Walker, his emotional wound runs way deep, and the holidays only leave him exposed and vulnerable. He has purposely built a wall around his heart. A decent family man with a loving family around him, he tries but he can not shake the self-loathing contempt he feels for Christmas.
Certainly, many of us have felt a little irritated, or exposed to painful holiday memories that we care not relive. They can force us to examine ourselves and those family members we may hold in contempt, even when we care not hold ourselves accountable. And so it is with this indie holiday movie classic based on Austin's actor/writer/philanthropist Turk Pipkin's life-affirming novella When Angels Sing.
A top-notch cast shares the billing with Connick, including Kris Kristofferson as Connick's father, Willie Nelson as the wise ol' sage with just a hint of magic dust to sprinkle on the proceedings, his faithful but concerned wife, Susan, played by Connie Britton (ABC's Nashville, Friday Night Lights), and scene-stealing turns by the affable but eccentric neighbor Lyle Lovett in hideous holiday sweaters galore, plus cameos from musicians Marcia Ball, Ray Benson, Charlie Sexton, Dale Watson, et al.
Even if you are just a casual fan of the Austin music scene, you will be blown away by the performances of her favorite sons and daughters. I wasn't aware at the time of the screening that director Tim McCanlies decided to add musical performances to the narrative. A very wise choice as it lends so much charm to this tale of healing. And now you'll get to hear them share some of those holiday tunes digitally on the official soundtrack that was released today.
Add Angels Sing to your Christmas viewing pleasure this year. You and your family will be glad you did. (Purchase it on Amazon today.)
Blessings to you and yours during the Holidays.
Mr. Wright is a content creator and culture curator. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, a DJ at David Lynch's Transcendental Music Radio, the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and television. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released four solo CDs and one with folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.