Happy Feet 2 (Miller, 2011)

My defense of George Miller’s much-maligned Happy Feet 2, which hasn’t deserved the resentment and spite most critics have spewed its way.

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Best of the 2000’s: Epilogue

The Best of the Rest: Honorable Mentions for the 2000’s

For every beginning, there must be an end. Sadly, our joint venture has come to its waning days, but the experience has been invigorating and therapeutic. So we have a decade nearly in the books, ten personal favorites revealed, and plenty of great Cinema to spare.

As previously stated in the Prologue, a rash of other masterful films deserve mention as best of the 2000’s, and I’d like to consider each in short bursts. I’ve ranked them 11-20 but in truth, they are interchangeable on any given day. To be followed by my Top 10 performances of the decade. Continue reading

Babe: Pig in the City (Miller, 1998)

I’ve always been fond of the two Babe films, and revisiting the sequel only reinforces why this particular character resonates with me. Unlike Babe’s origin story, Pig in the City establishes an intriguing clash between the darkness and limitation of urban existence and the gracious simplicity of farm life. George Miller doesn’t skirt around the brutality of pitting animals against humans (the raid on the Animal hotel, where black booted storm troopers capture Babe and his friends, is blatantly defined by Gestapo tactics). Like Mumbles, the Puffin hero of Miller’s masterpiece Happy Feet, Babe leads not just by his clarity of purpose, but by a thoughtful selflessness that transcends family movie cliches and enlightens a dark world consumed by their own ideas of normalcy. Babe’s quest evolves out of the kindness and harshness of those around him, something even the faceless, emotionless humans of Miller’s universe seem to understand.

Lorenzo’s Oil (Miller, 1992)

A relentless Hollywood tearjerker, but one that reveals a great deal about George Miller the humanist. Being an M.D., Miller must have responded to the devastating material from more than just a filmmaking perspective. With Lorenzo’s Oil, he compassionately charts the slow and painful decline of a sweet young boy suffering from a brain disease called ADL, most decisively through an emphasis on self education (by his parents played by Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte) in the face of a disintegrating way of life (definite thematic parallels to the Mad Max Trilogy and Witches of Eastwick). For Miller, expertise of a certain environment (or disease in this case) equates to the best chance for survival, and in this particular work there’s a great respect for medical treatments, doctors, and the process of healing. Lorenzo’s Oil begins with a telling quote that could sum up this methodology and Miller’s filmography as a whole; “Life is in the struggle…triumph and defeat are in the hands of the Gods.” Whether its seen through the eyes of Mad Max, Lorenzo, or the little pig Babe, for George Miller the battle between man and nature is a never-ending process of highs and lows, hopes and failures, and the small joys of experience shine through these tense altercations. The end result, while always crucial and essential, seems to be more elusive and disappointing than the wonders of the process at hand, a paradox which seems both endlessly fascinating and frustrating.

Twilight Zone: The Movie (Landis, Spielberg, Dante, Miller, 1984)

Thankfully for my purposes, George Miller’s segment “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (a remake of the Richard Matheson penned/Richard Donner helmed episode from 1963) turns out to be the best of an uninspiring bunch, exhibiting a sense of space and ambiguity the other stories lack.

Once again, Miller deals with battling environments, showing John Lithgow’s nervous passenger trapped inside a caged vision of technology while nature’s wrath (personified by the crazed monster on the wing) attempts to break through several manmade barriers

This separation disintegrates when Lithgow shoots out one of the plane’s windows and comes face to face with the beast, his head fittingly coated with a sheen of ice while the other passengers attempt to pull him back in and recover the sanitized environment of air travel.