THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Meow. It’s been a long time.

1625454_10201731630993298_125276479_nHowever, I feel that when there is snow outside, it is absolutely imperative that I do NOTHING. I have to preserve my precious body heat. I’m a cat, not a snow leopard!

Speaking of snow leopards.

While in the great state of Idaho with my humans, we visited the zoo. It sounds like a great plan until you realize that January in Idaho means SNOW. And COLD. Most animals in zoos don’t like that.

Except the snow leopards.

Two baby snow leopards and their dad snow leopard were out in FULL FORCE. The baby snow leopards were running, playing, punching, chewing, and thoroughly irritating their dad snow leopard. It was glorious. I told my humans that I thought I might be part snow leopard and that they should permit me to join this herd. They told me that I was the size of these snow leopard’s paws. I stood down.

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

Speaking of snow leopards, my humans and I just saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Why is this related? Well, to not give too much away, there is a scene that has a snow leopard.

I must admit that the trailers for Walter Mitty got me all aflutter. I love cool music when it plays alongside hyper-realistic and creative running and jumping. Yet a whole movie can’t just be that, and this one isn’t, which is almost too bad.

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The basic plot is this: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the photo editor for TIME magazine. As a kid, he dreamed of traveling the world, but instead has worked a bunch of boring jobs and lived a super boring life. At the start of the movie, new management, led by Ted (Adam Scott), takes over TIME and announces that it will publish its final issue before transitioning to an only-online version. The cover of that final issue will be a photograph by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Unfortunately, in the roll of negatives O’Connell sent to Walter, that photo’s negative is missing. This begins Walter’s epic journey of self-discovery and world travel, where he learns that life is crazier than daydreams!

Oh, there’s also a love story with Kristen Wiig, but it’s not that important.

The good: the music is great, there are some gorgeous vistas of Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayas, and there are a lot of sweet moments. Unfortunately, on the whole, Walter Mitty fails to coalesce into the sweet, magical movie it wants to be. It’s neither as funny nor as romantic as it thinks it wants to be. This is disappointing. Ben Stiller is a consummate actor, though, and he’s so easy to watch and love that, on the whole, Walter Mitty is a really enjoyable way to spend two hours.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYThe snow leopard is the sole cat in the film, but considering my current snow leopard obsession (I WILL JOIN MY PEOPLE), it was a highlight. Below is the PawPrint Plot. I gave it a generous score of 20 points. Not great, but SNOW LEOPARD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.53.08 PMStay warm out there, fellow snow leopards!

xoxo
Franny

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Happy National Cat Day! (and THE SECRET LIFE OF CATS)

In honor of National Cat Day, I’ve gone back to the core of my interests—myself. Also other cats.

This evening, after a delectable dinner of chicken bits in gravy and some running around pointlessly, I settled in to watch the National Geographic documentary from 2008, The Secret Life of Cats.

The film begins with an examination of cats’ nature and history of domestication, which features some of the most incredible cat re-enactments I’ve ever seen. I have to share some screen grabs.Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 5.58.14 PM

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Nothing too new to report from this section of the film—we are told that cats generally have the upper hand in every situation. We are “a marvel of engineering.” Tell me something I DON’T know.

However, after the playful opening, The Secret Life of Cats took a turn for the worse.

After learning about an abandoned cat community in Florida, we are treated to an incredibly disturbing scene of these cats being captured, anesthetized, tested for feline AIDS and leukemia, and spayed or neutered (I, for one, don’t remember being spayed, and I don’t care to). I had to look away more than once.

We then turn an eye on the problem of outdoor cats hunting where they shouldn’t. Some very sad small children show the camera injured baby bunnies: “The cat bit it here, on its foot.” An ornithologist shows us the tattered carcass of a bird: “We have about a 50% survival rate in wildlife here, mostly due to cats.”

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

They stalked cats for MONTHS using nightcams. Blair Witch Project, anyone?!

Um, excuse me, but weren’t we just talking about how we’re still wild and supposed to be hunting? Am I crazy?

Then, we travel down under to New Zealand, where cats are not a native species.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

This is not a cat in New Zealand, but it is a cat in Antarctica with penguins, which is even weirder.

Naturally, though, since we are the most popular animal anywhere, cats were brought to New Zealand, where they proceeded to disrupt the life cycle. Sigh. Haven’t you “naturalists” in your little hats ever heard of Darwin? Survival of the fittest? I’m rolling my eyes, and THEN:

Apparently they are now EATING CATS in New Zealand? And that’s not all: Nat Geo also thought it okay to show a cat being killed, having its stomach cut open and the contents investigated, and then eaten. WHAT IS THIS, A HORROR MOVIE?! WHAT IS THIS FILM RATED?!

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

THIS MAN HAS A DEAD CAT PELT ON HIS HEAD

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Thank god for some sanity. (that is a live cat)

Frankly, that was about all I could take. I hung in there for the remainder, where Nat Geo finally decided to tell us what we “should” do. The best solutions to the cat hunting problem was demonstrated by two cats named “Tootle Loo” and “Diddles” respectively (I’m not joking, though I wish I were). Tootle has a curfew. No nightime hunting, little Tootle! Diddles has an outdoor cage where he can watch the birds at their feeders. Oh sweet Diddles, you will never know the wonders you are missing behind those metal bars.

I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to other cat lovers with less steely stomachs than I, but as far as my Pawprint Plot, The Secret Life of Cats managed a top score:    80 POINTS!IMG_0209

May you all celebrate your holiday with far less graphic depictions of cat-kind. I plan to curl into the shape of a cinnamon roll and sleep the whole thing off.

Regards,
Franny

Pawprint Plot secret life

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE

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My male human fancies himself a writer. I put up with this because “writing” usually means “sitting on the couch in soft pants and thinking,” which ends up providing me a soft place to sleep and a captive ear-scratcher. All day long. I’m telling you, my life is HARD.

Now, my human is a writer of many things, but lately, he’s doing crazy stuff like making up alternate steampunk universes and post-apocalyptic landscapes. To spark his creativity, he’s been venturing into the great canons of sci-fi filmmaking. The limit of my interest in technology begins and ends with the remarkable CGI Richard Parker in Life of Pi (we could be TWINS), but with a soft lap just waiting to be napped in, I resigned myself to settling in for a classic of the genre—1948’s Portrait of Jennie.

The film opens with Joseph Cotten as Eben, a dejected artist wandering snowy Central Park as a pensive voiceover tells us, “those were the years when therewas a hunger in you for more than food… It was a winter of your mind when the life of your genius seemed frozen and motionless.”As a cat, I understood this well. Under an icy arbor, Eben meets a strange little girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. They strike up a merry conversation, and Eben begins a sketch of what will become the eponymous Portrait of Jennie.

Eben’s return to his boarding house is where the reason I’m reviewing this film comes in. THERE’S A CAT! The landlady (Florence Bates) meets Eben at the base of the stairs, and informs him there’s a package waiting. Eben fetches it and leaves, and we’re treated to a brief scene in which the landlady and her elderly friend discuss… something. I didn’t hear a word, because one of the cutest cats ever captured in black-and-white was prettily weaving around their ankles. I got very excited, but I hate to say, this was the beginning and the end of that charming kitten.

The film continues, and Eben runs into Jennie intermittently over the next year. Strangely, it seems she has aged 9045568_origsignificantly between each meeting. By meeting number three, she’s of marriageable age and they become engaged. Perhaps I’m a prude, but wasn’t she thirteen less than a year ago? Anyhow, Eben is naturally a bit suspicious, and does some digging. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave the plotting there. The only thing I’ll tell you is that Eben does finish the Portrait of Jennie.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this little movie. It is predictable and a bit trite, but there are also some real gems in the screenplay, though not quite enough to call it “great.” The story is engaging and never lags, and while I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance, Jennie is undoubtedly magical. The most impressive element of Portrait of Jennie, though, is the massive, atmospheric shots of winter in New York City by cinematographer Joseph August. It’s incredibly beautiful, evocative work, and worth a Netflix queue jump there. My favorite moments were those shot in Jennie’s convent/college, filmed at the Cloisters in Northern Manhattan, right near where I live. I’ve been known to spend time in the nearby park with my humans, but I’m not allowed inside since it’s a “museum.” Like I care. It was a great pleasure, though, to see the nooks and crannies of the Cloisters through the literal lens of 1948. This exemplifies my experience of Portrait of Jennie on the whole—you know what it is, but that doesn’t take away from the beautiful, enjoyable journey.

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

So, for Portrait of Jennie, a small 30 paw-points, but a good-hearted recommendation.

Till next time,

Franny

Pawprint Plot Jennie

DEREK

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I’m about more than just feature-length films here at Franny’s Feline Film Forum.  This site will include entertainment reviews of all kinds – film, television, theatre, ballet, opera, et al.  Because that’s just how awesome a cat I am.

Today’s review is concerning the latest Netflix television series “Derek,” written by, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais.  Thank goodness my humans have Netflix, otherwise I’m not sure how I’d keep myself occupied while they were out of the house doing whatever they do all day.  Anyway, I was excited about the series and blew through it in two days.

First and foremost, let me say that I’ve always been a fan of Ricky Gervais’ work.  And not just his comedy, but his actual writing style – the human themes present in his stories, the down-and-dirty everyman quality to his heroes, and his unabashed courage when it comes to uncomfortable subjects.  In that aspect, this series is a dream.  All of those qualities are there in droves.

Shot in mockumentary form, “Derek” shows us the happenings at Briar Hill Care Home, a small nursing home in the British suburbs.  We meet Hannah, the overworked and overwraught young manager of the place (Gervais sure does love his almost-mousy heart-of-gold leading ladies); Douglas, the unattractive, self-proclaimed bachelor caretaker; and Derek (Gervais), a naïve and gentle-hearted employee of the home.  We also get to know Kevin, an out-of-work friend of Derek’s who hangs around a lot, as well as all the residents and some in-and-out characters that pepper the series.

There’s not an overall story arc to the series – instead, we have the usual sitcom formula of same characters-different problem each episode.  Hannah is always fighting against the company that owns the home trying to get rid of it.  Douglas is always fixing something and yelling at the suits for her (one could claim he plays the hero more often than not in most episodes).  And Derek is always there, loving everybody, being kind to everyone, and showing us all that life is a gift worth living to the fullest.  Also, one of the residents dies in almost every one of the seven episodes.

There has been a lot of controversy over the character of Derek that I’ve read on my cat entertainment news sites.  Some claim he’s portrayed as mentally challenged and the whole thing is then offensive.  Gervais himself has said that he’s just simple and child-minded.  I could argue either way, but I’ll believe the man who wrote, directed, and portrayed the guy.  My only concern is that there’s not as much forward-momentum in the story as I would have liked.  Again, it seems like Douglas is the hero of the story because he’s always the one who stands up to the “bad guys.”  Derek often seems there in the background, an afterthought.  It’s not until the final episode of the season that he really goes through an emotional journey and we see a struggle and a change in him.

As for cats, there really aren’t many…  You would think that a show about a nursing home would be filled with felines.  Alas, it’s just not the case.  It’s only in Episode 2 –when a local animal shelter brings in dogs and cats for the residents to play with for the day – that we see any whiskers at all.  And out of all the animals brought in, there’s only four cats.  They spend the episode sitting on laps being petted.  At the end of the episode, Hannah decides to stay for the overnight shift so that the animals can spend the night with the residents.  Then we see another shot of one of the cats, sleeping peacefully beside one of the elderly.  That’s it.

So, as far as cats go, the score is………………………..

Pawprint Plot Derek50 POINTS!

There are multiple cats, and they interact with humans, but that’s about it.
Humans might like it more, though.  It’s a pretty good show for humans.

Keep watching for more feline reviews!

– Franny

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