The Rear-View Mirror: T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
       Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
       That is not it, at all.”
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Birds, rats and iron giants

I like Pixar movies, by and large, but I’m not as over the moon with them as many others. For one thing, I got extremely annoyed with John Lasseter when I got the Studio Ghibli films on DVD and had to sit through his patronising “My dear friend, Miyazaki-san…” and “You are very lucky…” intros; but also, I felt around Monsters Inc. and especially Finding Nemo that they were getting way too sentimental for their own good.

However, I loved The Incredibles. Yes, it also had that “family is the best” vibe that Nemo had, but it was done a lot less sappily. It was sweet but stayed quirky at the same time – and it was a lot darker in parts than Nemo – which basically did the Bambi thing by killing off Nemo’s mother, but apart from that there was little to no edge to the film. The Incredibles, on the other hand? Remember the scene when Mr. Incredible finds out what’s been happening to all the supers? Or the one where he almost kills Mirage? Also, there’s something very real about Mrs. Incredible’s fears that her husband is cheating on her – which is a fear you won’t find in many movies produced by Disney, I’d wager.

I also liked Ratatouille a lot – and there’s a subtle, quiet scene late in the film that brought a lump to my throat. I remembered that lump from another film by the same director: The Iron Giant. More than most directors of animated movies, Brad Bird is a deft hand at mixing the sentimental and the funny, real pathos and sheer goofiness. While Ratatouille is a very different film from The Iron Giant and indeed The Incredibles (the latter two go much more for the iconic, namely ’50s cold war paranoia and superheroes), all three of these films show a subtlety that is rare in American animation, so that a short, simple scene can break your heart.

The Iron Giant

I also liked Lifted, the Pixar short that was shown before Ratatouille. I hadn’t been that mad about For the Birds (shown before Monsters Inc., I think) or the jackalope one (Boundin’), since both of these got on my nerves after roughly one minute (they weren’t quite as clever or loveable as they thought they were, as far as I’m concerned), Lifted had a simplicity of story and design that worked very well for me. So, courtesy of YouTube, here’s Lifted: