The Champlain Valley Union High’s freshman football team won 12-6 on Oct. 17. (Courtesy photos by Bill Knight)
“Frankenweenie:” Total Tail Wagger
By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer
“Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton’s animated, stop action reimagining of the classic Mary Shelley horror tale Hollywood brought to life in 1931 is wonderfully nutty. Part parody, part paean, and delivered in era-emulative black and white, it heartily basks us in the eerie legend while taking the occasion to make a contemporary social comment or two.
As he lovingly dips back into his cartoon/artistic roots at Disney, it occurs that director Burton is the Fellini of animation, his grotesque, circus-like characters readily evincing philosophic notes on the perennially wacky state of things. Still, trust that it is ultimately optimistic, even if its only half-kidding delivery sears with ominous incantations.
Here, taking advantage of a broadening, more enlightened view of what kids should or should not see, he makes the Frankenstein metaphor even more approachable whilst also upping the ante on the traditional boy and his dog story. And you don’t need the scientific acumen of a Dr. Frankenstein to plumb the witty criticisms on bullying and peer pressure.
So sit back and meet little Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) and his, uh, typically American family, denizens of New Holland, Somewhere or Other, living in the late ‘50’s or early 1960s. The sneering, poetic vagueness of the nonetheless familiar time and place heightens the acerbic observations with passionately seriocomic whimsy.
Making it a point to inform that Victor has no friends increases the dramatic importance of the grade school loner’s relationship with his pup, Sparky, a pointy-nosed bull terrier of sorts who stars in his master’s home movies, not unlike the filmmaker’s actual history. Well, we know it’s coming…a kid’s worst nightmare. Sparky chases a ball into the street.
Even if you were lucky enough as a child to avoid the despondency that then rains down and engulfs Victor, you can’t help but emote. But then, this is a movie, and a PG-rated one at that, the Burton signature notwithstanding. Backtrack a bit and Victor is being inspired by his science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski. A light bulb goes on above his head.
Until now, Victor hadn’t quite decided what his project would be for the much heralded Science Competition announced by the controversial Eastern European educator, mistrusted by the bulk of New Holland’s Babbitts. Now, it’s a no-brainer. Turning his attic into the proverbial mad scientist’s lab, he begins his work…to resurrect Sparky.
The sociology is spot on, Martin Landau urgently, intelligently voicing the ostracized Rzykruski, heretofore the only human who speaks to Victor’s sensibilities. Press your cheek to truth and purity, the besieged iconoclast exhorts as he packs the trunk of his tiny, character-correct foreign car. Now more than ever, Victor is alone. He must succeed.
What particularly delights, aside from the screwball fancifulness of the filmmaker’s comic homage, is the apparent fun he’s having whilst unloading ideas he’s doubtless wanted to frame in one piece de resistance. Harking back to themes he nurtured in his formative years, he puts them all together in a loving, biographically sensitive giambotta.
It makes no difference, for example, that Tod Browning’s “Dracula” (1931) is but a genre cousin to this variation on director James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Mrs. Shelley’s irreverent reverie. He gleefully tosses in several cues just the same: i.e. —Victor’s cute neighbor is Elsa Van Helsing, as in Dr. Van Helsing, the vampire expert.
The cross-pollination is then further synergized as Burton turns the intolerant burghers of his source material into stereotypical suburban types, and with frighteningly little effort at that. Rather ingeniously, as aficionados of the lore will attest, he realizes his lampoon in terms that would still make it recognizable to Mary Shelley, just in case, y’know.
But beware, parents who feel it’s high time Tyler and Brittany saw their first horror flick. Cartoon or not, there are some scary scenes, borne out by the mortified toddlers the two daddies to my left dragged to the theater. Unhappy that they merely lacked judgment, by not removing the hysterical waifs the Neanderthals also proved they were inconsiderate.
That dutifully noted, tots north of 8 should be heartened to learn that Victor must deal with the same jerky classmates and status issues that they do while seeking a safe, ego-pleasing niche in a world fraught with ambiguity and fears, Franken monster or not. They might also relate to albeit loving parents who don’t always know what’s good for Victor.
But most profound is how Burton again embraces the ghoulish and bizarre as a vehicle to understanding. Combine that with superb verbalizations by Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, plus black and white imagery often suitable for framing, and “Frankenweenie” introduces yet another generation to the sheer joy of intoning, “It’s alive, it’s alive!”
“Frankenweenie,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Pictures release directed by Tim Burton and stars the voices of Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Charlie Tahan. Running time: 87 minutes
Deb Ellis, President of the Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) Board of Directors , has announced the winners of the festival’s 2012 Vermont Filmmakers’ Showcase. The Showcase is the largest juried selection of Vermont-made films and has been an audience favorite of the 27-year-old festival.
This year’s winners include:
Winner of the Ben & Jerry’s Award—Mira Niagolova, “Welcome to Vermont”
Winner of the James Goldstone Award—Matt Day, “Shape of Things to Come”
Winner of the Footage Farm Award—Alison Segar, “We Have to Talk About Hunger”
Winner, Best Cinematography—Michael Fisher, “Stations”
Winner, Best Screenlay—John Milton Oliver, “Steel Rendezvous”
Winner, Best Acting—Dan Butler, “Steel Rendezvous”
All of the winning films will be screened on Sunday, Oct. 28, the final day of the festival. The award for the Audience Favorite will also be announced at the end of the festival after the results of the ballots are tallied.
“We are so thrilled to present these awards to these talented Vermont filmmakers,” said Deb Ellis. “The festival has been committed to supporting filmmaking in Vermont and we are proud to acknowledge their efforts.”
VTIFF is Vermont’s longest-running film festival and this year marks its 27th year. The 2012 Vermont International Film Festival will run through Sunday, Oct. 28, in Essex and at multiple venues in downtown Burlington.
—Observer staff report
By Ginger Isham
I make more than one kind of granola and always use a dark maple syrup for the sweetener. Some time ago I came across this recipe in a small, religious book called “Angels on Earth.”
It makes a smaller batch and takes less time to bake. You can adjust ingredients.
Hearty, Healthy Breakfast Granola
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup honey (of course I use maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup coconut (I use unsweetened, flaked)
1 cup chopped walnuts (can use any nut)
1/2 cup bran
2 tablespoons cinnamon (I use less)
Mix oil, vanilla and honey in a 9 x 13 baking pan (I warm these ingredients on stovetop). Mix dry ingredients and fold into honey mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking for 15 more minutes.
New Favorite—Baked Donut Holes
In a mixing bowl, combine the following:
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup brown sugar (I use a scant 1/2 cup)
In another bowl combine :
1/2 cup applesauce (I make my own unsweetened)
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup dark maple syrup (may substitute honey?)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons oil (canola or light olive oil)
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Using a teaspoon, drop batter into greased mini-muffin pans. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Makes 3 and 1/2 dozen. When cooled, dip in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Delicious!
Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.
Observer staff report
As kids perfect their costumes and get ready to go trick-or-treating, the American Red Cross has tips to make Oct. 31 a fun and safe Halloween.
“Halloween is a fun time, especially for the little ones,” said Doug Bishop, Director of Communications with the Vermont & New Hampshire Upper Valley American Red Cross. “The Red Cross has steps everyone can take to make sure their Halloween is also a safe one.”
There are steps parents can take to keep their little ghosts and goblins safe in their disguises:
Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
Use flame-resistant costumes.
Use face makeup instead of masks, which can cover their eyes and make it hard to see.
BE SAFE WHILE OUT AND ABOUT
To maximize safety for the trick-or-treaters, plan a route ahead of time. Make sure adults know where children are going. If the children are young, a parent or responsible adult should accompany them as they walk through the neighborhood.
Here are more safety tips to follow as children go from house to house:
Make sure trick-or-treaters have a flashlight.
Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door—never go inside.
Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic.
Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.
Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.
Be cautious around strange animals, especially dogs.
GREETING TRICK OR TREATERS
For those who expect to welcome trick-or-treaters at their door, they can make sure it’s fun for everyone by following a few tips:
Make sure the outdoor lights are on.
Sweep leaves from sidewalks and steps.
Clear the porch or front yard of any obstacles that a child could trip over.
Use a glow stick instead of a candle in jack-o-lanterns to avoid a fire hazard.