Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Musings: Why I Love (and Hate) A Series of Unfortunate Events

I recently finished listening to the final book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the appropriately titled The End. I've been reading this series off and on for the last two years, largely due to the praise and fandom over the series expressed by several of my online friends. I enjoyed the Jim Carrey film when it came out, but my first attempt to read the series failed because I didn't quite have a taste for dark humor when I was a teen. Turns out I enjoyed the tone of the books more as an adult than when I was in the series' target audience. And with the first season of the Netflix series available and the second one on the way, I'm taking a moment to look at my feelings on the series.

Why I Love the Books
  • The dark humor: the books are told with a dry, somewhat morbid tone that edges toward black comedy at times. I love good wit and sarcasm, especially in narration, and these books take that style to the best level.
  • The larger mystery: the story behind the story surrounding VFD, Snicket, and the many odd (and possibly fictitious) goings on that form a backdrop for the Baudelaires' trials is compelling and intriguing. It forms the most interesting part of the series as the mystery comes closer to the forefront of the story.
  • The abundance of literary references: Snicket's wit shows itself best when he is making obscure references to other literature (one of my favorites is the Virginia Wolf Snake).
  • Violet and Klaus: these two are the heart of the story. Violet is an inventor (and probably a future engineer) and Klaus remembers everything he reads. They are wonderful role models and characters.
  • A love of words: Snicket loves to give alternate definitions of words and play around with idioms and common turns of phrase. These passages are often humorous but they also serve as part of Snicket's unreliable narrative style and even as character development.

Why I (Sometimes) Hate the Books
  • The dark gets too dark sometimes: I don't care for depressing books, and while these books tend toward humor at many turns. But sometimes the books just sit in the darkness of the orphans' trials to the point I feel like there's not even the levity of dark humor to shine in the dark.
  • The mystery isn't a mystery: despite the increasing prominence of the VFD and the mysteries surrounding it, the series ends without answering many of the biggest questions about this group that it raises (the chief of which that bothers me is "What is the significance of the sugar bowl?").

Thursday, March 16, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: The Secret Garden

In last week's Watercolor Wednesday, I shared a piece inspired by one of the enduring quotations from my childhood, which I mentioned in a previous Top 10. The quote was "If there's a key, there must be a door" from The Secret Garden. I've actually been thinking about this book a good bit lately, not only because of the watercolor piece, but because I finally tracked down a DVD copy of the Hallmark film from the 1980s. This is one of two film versions I remember watching as a child (the other being MGM's classic adaptation) and it is by far my favorite adaptation to date. (I will add that I also enjoy the musical adaptation, if for no other reason than that Mandy Patinkin can sing like nobody's business.)



My appreciation of this book has grown over the years. While I'm more skeptical of the whole "positive thinking" aspect of the story, I still think having a positive environment and attitude can contribute to a person's health. To be fair to Burnett and her characters, Mary's insistence on Colin getting better is far less saccharine than, say, Polyanna's. Upon further reflection, I think it's a fairer assessment of the book (and my feelings toward it) to say that I don't think the book quite goes as far as Polyanna in its insistence on never acknowledging darkness and bad circumstances. Mary's own circumstances (and her reaction to them in the earlier parts of the book) are certainly dark enough. The book's theme (from my memory of it) is truly more about the positive effects people can have on one another. Mary spurs Colin out of his melodramatic depression, but she is spurred out of hers by Martha, Dickon, and Ben.

As a child, I didn't appreciate the book's elements of Gothic mystery -- the forbidden corridor, the lonesome wailing, the secrets of the house's past -- as such. To me, they were simply parts of a good story. As an adult, I appreciate the connections to other works of literature that these elements give The Secret Garden as well as the atmospheric shift they introduce to the book. MGM's film, with its shift from black and white to Technicolor as the garden is revived, illustrates this tonal shift. The book develops Misselthwaite Manor and its place on the Yorkshire moors as a dark, mysterious, and lonely place. It is only when the garden has been opened and tended that life, light, and fellowship really pervade the lives of the characters. Dickon's family is an exception to this, of course. But Dickon himself is like an avatar of the garden's virtues, tying Mary to nature and to other people even when she doesn't want to be.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Musings: We are All Orcs

When it comes to the various races of Tolkien's Middle-earth stories, most people usually have a favorite -- the one they'd most like to be. For many, it's the Elves -- beautiful, wise, and pretty darn close to immortal. Others may prefer the Dwarves, who are rowdy but skilled craftsmen. Or the Ainur -- angelic spirits who include the Istari (wizards like Gandalf), the Valar (archangels, guardians of the world), and the fallen spirits like Melkor, Sauron, and the Balrogs.

There is one race that no one I've met has ever wanted to be part of -- the orcs. While orcs and similar races are often given a more nuanced role in some post-Tolkien fantasy, in the myth-maker's world orcs are corrupt by their very nature. They are servants of the dark, bound to the wills of fallen angels like Melkor and Sauron, but also given to their own bouts of greed and lust.

But the thing is that -- although this is true of the orcs in most of the stories -- Tolkien doesn't start out with Elves and Men as inherently good races and the orcs as inherently bad. As Saruman so eloquently puts it in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring: "They were Elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated -- a ruined and terrible form of life."

When I read Tolkien for the first time, I wanted to be an Elf or a wizard. They were powerful and mysterious and very cool. I am, however, more of a Hobbit at heart (much like Professor Tolkien). I'm not nearly as disappointed by this discovery as I might once have been. Though Hobbits possess no great power, wisdom, or strength (unless it be strength of character), they are the linchpins of victory, the heroes of The Lord of the Rings. It is no bad thing to be a Hobbit. That said, as I was contemplating my own flaws and failures recently, I realized that the description of the orcs's origins matches our own in some ways. As fallen humans, we were corrupted by our own sin natures and the machinations of the enemy. Once shining bearers of the imago dei, we now walk about capable of quite horrible things. There is darkness in our hearts we cannot expunge. Born in darkness because of our ancestors, we remain the enemies of the Flame Imperishable.

But there is hope.

Unlike the orcs (whose end Tolkien never really explores), we are given a promise of redemption and resurrection. Christ promises His followers more than just eternal life -- it's an endless life in a glorified body, free from sin and death. That promise is like saying to an orc in Frodo's time, "You can return to the sort of person your earliest ancestor was -- free and wise."

So yes, we are all orcs. But by extension, we are also all Elves. And one day, God willing, we will be something even better.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Watercolor Wednesday: Postcards and the Secret Garden

It's time again for Watercolor Wednesday. I painted a couple more postcards this month as well as a quote piece for one of the quotes that didn't make it onto the larger quote collage last month.

First up, the Cheshire Cat postcard.


I loved how the Cheshire Cat turned out in last month's quote collage around the "c" in "Chance and careful planning" and wanted to try painting him on a larger scale. I'm pleased with the mixture of the colors this time around, though I had some trouble keeping the purple consistent. The grin remained pretty well defined too, considering I don't have any masking fluid to keep the space clear of paint. I didn't even attempt to paint the legs and paws because 1) I would have botched them terribly and 2) he's the Cheshire Cat, so he might just be phasing his limbs out of focus. We'll go with that.


Next, my attempt to paint a sunset we observed on one of our drives home in the last few months.


This beauty is on its way to my grandparents. I painted this wet on wet, and the colors blended a bit on the edges, but I meant to have them fade into one another more. The sunset I was attempting to recreate was far more pastel than this. I'll have to experiment with lightening my colors more. I also meant to have a fingernail-thin moon in the dark part of the sky, but as I said before, I don't have masking fluid, and it didn't happen. Still, I am pleased with how this one turned out.

Lastly, my Secret Garden quote piece.


I've mentioned before, though perhaps not on the blog, how much this quote fired my imagination when I was younger. It still pops up in my mind from time to time. I'd originally included it in the list of quotes for last month's collage, but it didn't quite fit into the space, and I quickly decided I wanted it to be its own piece anyway. It took me a few attempts at sketching out the key/E to get the design I wanted. It's probably my favorite part of the piece. While I'm not a brilliant hand letterist, I've enjoyed doing these pieces. I may try one next month without the pre-drawn letters and just watercolor a message. One technique I tried with this piece that I hadn't quite done properly before was letting the paint for the D in "Door" dry and then layering more colors on top. It turned out okay, but not quite what I'd hoped for. I'll have to experiment some more.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Top 10(-ish) Books that weren't Better than the Movie

This list is going to be a bit unorthodox for two reasons. One, as the title suggests, there are films out there that I think are equal to or better than the books which inspired them (sacrilege, I know). Two, it's actually a top 11.

Quest for Camelot

This is not high on many people's list of fantastic films, but it was one of the first Arthurian movies I saw as a child (after Disney's Sword in the Stone) and it holds a special place in my heart. It's based on Vera Chapman's short novel The Queen's Damosel, and the two have almost nothing in common. The reason I say the movie is better is this: the movie doesn't advocate adultery. Yep. This book excuses the main character's adultery because her marriage is a political one and her love for the blind man is . . . true love? The worst part of this is that one of the spiritual leaders in this young woman's life tells her God won't hold this against her for these reasons. It's baffling.


Bambi

Okay, this is one of several books on this list that I have to say I don't know that the movie is necessarily better, but the two are so vastly different in tone and story that I have to place them in separate categories. Bambi the book is a more naturalistic story than Disney's, with sociopolitical underpinnings that I'm honestly surprised Disney didn't expand on given their anti-Nazi propaganda efforts during WWII. However, sadness aside, I'd rather sit through the movie again than reread the book.


The Fox and the Hound

Another book that Disney lightened up, The Fox and the Hound is again a more naturalistic story. It's so naturalistic that there isn't a species-crossing friendship between fox and hound. Instead, the book covers the decline of the wilderness that both fox and hound rely on for survival and sustenance. (This book also has one of the more depressing endings I've read. Be warned.)


The Hunger Games trilogy

This trilogy of books and quartet of movies are one of the rare things I find in the world of book adaptations: an adaptation that is equal to its source material. This is due primarily to Collins' influence on the scripts, inserting scenes not from Katniss' perspective in order to make more sense of the plot for a film-viewing audience. In some cases, it even helped make the books more sensible. The end of Mockingjay, in which Katniss votes to have a Hunger Games reprisal for the Capitol's children and dismisses Gale without much struggle is given fresh clarity in the last film. It is clear from the body language between Katniss and Haymitch that the only reason they vote for the Hunger Games is to get Coin (and Snow) out of the way. Likewise, it is made clear how much Katniss can't ever be with Gale because she will never know how much influence he had in the events leading up to Prim's death.


Howl's Moving Castle

These two are both beautiful stories. The book is typical Diana Wynne Jones -- fanciful, thoughtful, and full of insight into humanity. The movie is similarly crafted, with stunning animation and larger-than-life characterizations. But they tell the story of Sophie and Howl in different ways. The film focuses on war and makes Suliman a main antagonist, reducing the Witch of the Waste to a forgetful old dear. The book, however, spends time with the multiple worlds Howl's castle can access and makes the Witch's tactics far more personal than her film counterpart. I would keep both of these without hesitation.


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Again, two media formats, two different stories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic children's book, even among Dahl's works. It delights in wordplay and fancy and jabs at both ill-behaved children and the parents who raise them. It mocks television and machines over books and people. The movie (which Dahl apparently hated, especially since his name was listed on the script despite it being reworked by the director) is no less fanciful and playful, but it is in some ways a more adult film. It treads the line of Wonka's sanity very carefully and presents a Charlie who is slightly less angelic than the book's version. But Gene Wilder's performance as Wonka far exceeds Johnny Depp's for art and charm and the film is a classic in its own right.


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I'm not sure whether this goes in the "Movie was better" or the "Movie was different/equal" category. The book, written by James Bond author Ian Fleming, is not the fun fairy tale adventure of the film. Instead, it's a mobster story in which the children have to escape the mafia with the help of the titular car. Another major difference is that the car is not invented by Caractacus in the book; instead, it is bought from a dealer already in possession of its peculiar abilities. In the book, the car's license plate, which reads GEN 11 in both book and film, is interpreted by the Potts children to mean genii/genie. This is the only explanation given for the car's seemingly magical capabilities. I remember being surprised by the book's differences (at the time I read it, I didn't realize it was written by the man who created Bond) but since I still have the film and haven't felt the need to track down a personal copy of the book, I'll assume I prefer the film.


The Illusionist

This and the next entry on my list suffer from similar problems for my money, which is fitting since they were released close to one another and both deal with mysteries surrounding stage magicians. The Illusionist is based on the short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," written by literary author Stephen Milhauser. I bought Milhauser's story collection The Barnum Museum in order to read "Eisenheim" because the film is so well done. Unfortunately, it was the last story in the collection, and by the time I reached it, I was already out of patience for Milhauser's pretentious style of storytelling (when authors try to be "literary" it usually doesn't go well with me). That said, I did enjoy "Eisenheim the Illusionist." It just wasn't as enjoyable as the film. Maybe I was biased toward the film because I'd seen it twice before reading the story, but I prefer its more sympathetic inspector and the larger world of the film's story. At the very least, I didn't feel talked down to by the filmmakers.


The Prestige

The Prestige is one of those movies that blows my mind each time I watch it. Even knowing the final twists and reveals, I still enjoy seeing the layers of the film pulled back a little more each time. The novel is written in a less orderly manner, with the books and journals of the two main characters serving as the bulk of the text, with some framing elements involving their last descendants. The novel was less frustrating than the story that inspired The Illusionist, but it failed to do as much with the intertextuality of its main characters' writings as I had hoped based on the brief but skillful scenes in the film. That being said, I want to see more of Christopher Priest's works because he reminds me of Jorge Luis Borges, even if he didn't quite reach the heights his novel aspired to.


Big Fish

If I wanted more from The Prestige's storytelling, I wanted Big Fish to give me two or three times the narrative acrobatics it actually provided. The film is all about the interplay of tall tale and reality, the truth hidden in the father's stories about life, and the son's acceptance of his father's mythic history of himself. The book -- well, it doesn't really do much of that. It has stories and tall tales, but there's no resolution, not even any mystery. The closest the book comes to the movie's wonder is the series of stories recounting the father's death, each one a revision, each one another attempt by the son to come to grips with the man and the myth. But the magic isn't here. The sheer joy in storytelling that the film exhibits in every scene is nowhere to be found. And that's a shame.


The Little Prince

Okay. This one may be a bit controversial, but hear me out. The children's novel is beautiful. The illustrations alone make it worth the read. It features some very important ideas like "What is essential is invisible to the eye." But there is no resolution to the story. And that bugged me from the moment I put down the book. While the film (available on Netflix) adds a larger frame story that emphasizes the book's themes and ups the emotional ante, it also resolves the Prince's story. I was fully prepared for a depressing ending (considering the Prince's choice to allow the snake to bite him so he can "go home") but the film finds a way to meld both sad and happy. The film wins simply for giving me a resolution.


How about you? Have there been films you liked better than the books? Do you agree with my choices or think some of them aren't as bad as I make out? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monday Musings: O'Brien Read/Watch: Book vs. Movie and What I Want in the NIMH Remake

Since I didn't talk much about the film in my review of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and my post about The Secret of NIMH focused primarily on my reactions to the film after so many years, I thought I would take the time to talk about the differences between the two and my hopes for the new film (or film series).

There are three major differences right off the bat. The first change is this: the title has been changed from the book to a more generic (and boy-friendly?) one for the film. This might have been due in part to the second major change: Mrs. Frisby is now Mrs. Brisby. I understand that the name change was prompted by copyright concerns with Frisbee, but honestly it caused my younger self a great deal of confusion as I wasn't always certain whether the characters in the film were saying Brisby or Frisby. When I found the book, I still wasn't sure which was correct. In any event, I hope the new film (or series of films) keeps the original title -- or at the very least doesn't call itself The Secret of NIMH. This remake/reboot needs to stand on its own as an adaptation.

The third major change from the book to the film is the pervasive and somewhat confusing inclusion of magic and the supernatural in what is ostensibly a science fiction story. Yes, Arthur C. Clarke said the two are indistinguishable if the technology is advanced enough. But this isn't that kind of technology. In the book, as in the film, the rats are still using human inventions. Yet Nicodemus is shown to have telekinetic powers, a magic mirror of sorts, magic ink that writes what he says in a record book, and the MacGuffin of the film -- the red stone.

While I enjoyed the film for what it is -- a fantasy film -- I missed seeing the extensive analysis of the rats' intelligence and their moral and ethical concerns. The film barely touches on these, choosing to focus on (sometimes invented) sequences of danger and risk. NIMH in the book is a clean, (fairly) ethical laboratory where the mice and rats are cared for as well as test subjects can be. The scientists are not the dirty maniacs of the film's disturbing change sequence, but responsible, thoughtful inquirers. I hope the new film will return to the book's portrayal so as to make NIMH -- not less threatening, but less evil. I also hope we will see more of the rats during their time at NIMH. The animated film brushes over this time very quickly, despite it taking up almost one third of the book.

Most of the other changes to the story were minor, like the shrew being present in more scenes and being the one to suggest visiting the owl. These things don't detract from the story, but they do change it. Jeremy is a much more serious and capable character in the book, though he still has a fondness for string and shiny things like many crows. In the film, Dragon is given a more frightening appearance, while Mr. Ages is more secretive and cantankerous. In the book, Nicodemus, rather than being old and decrepit, is a mature rat who is a capable leader. (Also, in the book he has a scar and eye patch and if they don't utilize this in his character design in the new film, they are missing a golden opportunity for the Nick Fury of rats.)

One change in The Secret of NIMH that I actually preferred was that Mrs. Brisby escaped the cage on her own. In the book, she is rescued by Justin, who returned for her as soon as the humans were asleep. I like seeing Mrs. B as a more capable and intelligent character in the film, and I hope the new film will keep this characterization. She may be out of her depth in the world of the rats of NIMH, but she isn't purely a damsel in distress.

Despite its many changes, The Secret of NIMH managed to keep many lines of dialogue, scenes, and bits of story from the book. Mr. Ages mentions Timothy's spider bite -- something we are told of in the book via a flashback. Jeremy and Mrs. B's rescue of each other from Dragon is very similar to the book, though drawn out for thrills in the film. I hope these small touches are carried over into the new film.

My only other major hope for the new film is to see Jonathan as a full character, and not just a silent figure in a flashback narrated by Nicodemus. One of the articles I found on the movie mentioned the idea of the film being an origin story. This makes me think the first film might be primarily about Nicodemus' story from youth to capture to NIMH to the farm. If this is the case, then we will get to know Jonathan much better than even the book allows us to, setting up his death just before the story of Mrs. Frisby as a much more sorrowful event. While this route might remove much of the mystery of Mrs. Frisby, it will also mean that the audience will be rooting for Jonathan's widow and children from the opening of a film that will follow their story. We will want her to know the truth Jonathan was never able to tell her. We will cheer as she strives to fill a gap in her family she never anticipated would appear.

What do you hope to see in the new NIMH movie? Do you think we'll see something more akin to the book or will MGM take the movie into its own realm like the Don Bluth film before it?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Musings: O'Brien Read/Watch: The Secret of NIMH

I'm going to treat this post as something more like a running commentary than an actual review. What follows are my thoughts as I watched the movie The Secret of NIMH for the first time in (at least) 7 years.



Wow. There's magic from the first scene of this movie. Which is based on a science fiction novel. Arthur C. Clarke, where are you?

Nicodemus is a bit creepy with the warts and such, but I like introducing the mystery of Jonathan's connection to the rats this early.

Nicodemus' book sets Jenner's character up and mentions Thorn Valley, though you can't read it all without pausing. (I had to go back because I missed some of the dialogue in this quiet scene.)

Mr. Ages' house got moved from an old farmhouse in the book to an old combine in the movie. That's mostly an atmospheric change, I think, but it fits with the technological advancements of the rats.

"Great Jupiter, woman!" <-- don="" exclamations="" have="" like="" p="" t="" this="" today="" we="" why="">

Mr. Ages is far more cantankerous here than in the book.

"—but you can die from it!" – I remembered this line from my first viewing of this movie. o_O It's amazing what little bits of this film haven't faded with time.

The movements are wonderful -- the mice actually seem like mice.

What's with the sparks in the powder for Timothy? Mr. Ages isn't supposed to be magical, is he?

It's fun how they fit details like Timmy's spider bite into the dialogue without having to give all the long story of it. I like that they took that effort to put in the bits of the book that wouldn't translate well to the film.

"Bless yourself. You'll need it." <-- is="" one.="" p="" snark="" strong="" the="" this="" with="">

Dom DeLuise <3 p="">

Jeremy is a bit sillier than in the book. He's not the young but knowledgeable crow from near the farm, but an older bachelor who doesn't have the sense God gave a billy goat.

Sudden hellish glow is subtle. :P

Dragon is also not the basic yellow-orange farm cat of the books. He's much more in line with Don Bluth's demonic villains (setting up for An American Tail and the Cossack cats, I think).

The first Jeremy sequence is definitely more exciting here than in the book, but it has much of the book's flavor.

The children are pretty much on point, though Martin is slightly more filled with bravado and attitude.

"Auntie Shrew" is a bit more prominent and larger than life. She gets two quick scenes in the book.

NIMH comes in sooner for the Fitzgibbons and the rats moving the cable is in the night, without Mrs. Brisby's seeing. It certainly makes the rats seem more ominous.

Oh look! A rabbit that looks like Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh. Surely that has nothing to do with Bluth and his colleagues working for Disney.

The shrew is definitely a histrionic personality. It would be funny if we all didn't know someone just like her.

Interesting that they chose sabotage instead of typical mechanical wear to cause the tractor's delay. I guess they had to make the plot more tense.

The shrew suggests the owl instead of Jeremy -- not sure why this change, but it fits with the expansion of the shrew's character and the sillier take on Jeremy.

Did they just imply that Nicodemus caused her to go to the owl? He's like a morally ambiguous wizard at this point with his electric magic mirror.

Random wolf howl in the forest?

"That must be the owl's tree" –Another one of the lines I remembered.

I love the animation on the cobwebs for the owl's house. It feels so real and creepy. A bit like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Jeremy is definitely more of a coward here.

John Carradine's voice is perfect for the owl.

"Step inside or go away." – That's a wonderful line from the book. I'm glad they kept it.

How big IS this tree?! In the book she barely had room to move around the owl, and here she's walking across bridges and through multiple rooms.

How the heck did the owl have his head upside down? o_O

The owl and Nicodemus are obviously designed by the same artist – the flowing mustaches and robes/feathers, the glowing eyes, etc.

"His name is not unknown in these woods." – Another line from the book, but I remembered it in Carradine's voice for all these years.

The Owl only mentions Nicodemus, not Justin. He's much less informative than in the book, I think.

"The lee of the stone" feels like such a more important phrase than in the book, possibly because of the red stone Nicodemus had in the opener.

Mrs. Brisby's tricking Jeremy into leaving is funny. Never mind the fact she's basically using feminine wiles on him.

Jeremy doesn't remember where she lives after the first time she told him? Just how dumb did they make him?

The door into the rosebush is almost like the book's description. (To be fair, it's very close to the book's description, just not how I pictured it. I wanted an actual door of thorns.)

The electrical buzzing and flashing are certainly very creepy, as are the random vines reaching out as Mrs. Brisby enters the rosebush.

What's with the random red skull?

Random bright and shiny place at the heart of the bush. It's the Great Valley! (Oh wait, wrong Bluth film.)

An electrified spear is mighty dangerous in the water, dude.

Mr. Ages is far more secretive here, and he makes the owl out to be much more fearsome than the book. "No one sees the owl and lives to tell about it!"

Where is my friendly Brutus who was just doing his duty as a young rat? He's gone, replaced by this silent creepy watchdog.

Jenner is still here, and is obviously a villain, as opposed to the book where he'd already left.

And the amulet is given importance again.

The bulbs look like they have fire in them, not electricity.

Forced creepy entrance for Justin making way for a revelation that he's a friend. Typical change in the tone of his animation. Not sure how I feel about it.

They kept the "We've had electricity for four years now." "Five." exchange from the book, but Nicodemus said they left NIMH four years ago in the beginning. >_>

I do like the extrapolated city the rats have in the film. It's like they took the ideas of the book and said, "More."

Jenner's reasoning for dissent is the same as in the book, but his appeals to the council like some politician from a Roman epic is odd.

There are female rats in the meeting, but none named. This is not much improvement over the book's take on female rats (and no improvement at all really given they nixed Isabella altogether).

Also, we seem to be laboring under the delusion that the owl is now "the great owl". What makes him so great? ("What do you mean Beethoven wasn't so great?!")

Nicodemus should have the scar and eye patch of the book, not the blind-ish glowing eyes.

The shrew's tying up Jeremy – extrapolated from the shrew's resistance of the rats at the end of the book; only possible because of the lack of them meeting Jeremy before, though Martin figures out Jeremy is the crow who met their mother.

"The poor turkey fell down." XD I'd forgotten how amusing Cynthia was.

Even Jeremy isn't immune to the crazy eyes (the shrew had them in the tractor scene earlier). He looks like Batty from Ferngully in this scene.

Also, Nicodemus is very, very old here.

MAGIC BOOK!

They skipped over Nicodemus's description of Jonathan as a mouse of great courage in his magic book. I realize Mrs. Brisby has a hard time reading, but still -- why did she skip a whole phrase?

NIMH is much more unclean and unethical than in the book.

The change sequence has always been the freakiest part of this movie. It's on par with the boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

11 mice? There were 8 in the book. And I'm pretty sure the sequel to this movie said 8 as well.

Group C. Really? That was the control group in the book. I expected better of you, Don Bluth.

They certainly sped up the whole learning process. No slow realization of the importance of letters. No mazes. Just "One night, I could read."

"Courage of the heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it's there." – I remember this now; much of this scene, really. Of course, this is a kids' movie so we have to have a moral. *ahem*

"You can unlock any door if you only have the key." -- I like that they kept this line, but I wish they'd kept it as something Jonathan had said to Mrs. Brisby rather than as an inscription on the back of a magic rock.

"I will treasure it always." -- I remembered this line in connection to the previous one.

"Jonathan couldn't tell you about NIMH…" – I also remembered this line.

I also remembered the intense look on Jenner's face when he says the stone will crush Nicodemus' bones and his line about Justin: "Leave him to me … to me … to me." After the change sequence, this was the freakiest part for younger me. Or at least the scariest.

Jeremy's role was so expanded for this movie.

Mrs. Brisby suddenly knows about Thorn Valley though it hasn't been mentioned aloud yet?

Billy and the colander – glad they kept those details from the book.

Justin's infamous "Damn!" (I say infamous because my grandparents were shocked to hear it spoken when I watched this movie with them some years after my first viewing.)

The Shrew's bravado vanishing when she realizes the rats have arrived. Such a classic moment.

They're speeding up the timeline on NIMH's arrival, too. Not a couple of days. In the morning. Increase the tension!

Moving the house was much more logical in the book. They rolled it like sensible mutated rats.

Of course Jenner has a crooked sword. Because eight-year-olds need more visual cues that this is a villain.

I like Mrs. Brisby escaping the cage on her own. It feels more rewarding than Justin appearing to save her in the book.

They're lucky no one else died in that mess besides Nicodemus. The kids might've died being slung about inside the concrete block. The rats holding the wheel might have died being thrown around by the weight. Sheesh, Jenner, you really didn't think this through.

Justin's mourning Nicodemus' death is eerily similar to Cooper mourning Chief's injuries in The Fox and the Hound (that Bluth just happened to work on; just a coincidence, right?).

Just realized Dragon's eye opening inspired Mordred in Albion Academy.

Man, Jenner. You're a real winner, beating up women, assassinating old men. Leader of the Year, folks.

What's a kid's movie without a swordfight over a red background and intense music? Am I right?

Easy confession time! Because Jenner thinks no one else can hear him.

Nice shot for a dying man (or rat), Sullivan (whose name I only know thanks to IMDB; why don't they ever say side character names on screen?).

And there's the last desperate problem – the stone is sinking.

Hey, Brutus gets another mention! Yay!

And the magical solution with the amulet because we can.

Suddenly everyone bows down to Mrs. Brisby -- because she's magic? (I feel like this is not as good a magical deus ex machina as the end of Ferngully.)

Also, the Fitzgibbons don't notice all this shining flashing stuff out in their fields, even at night? I mean, did no one wake up and notice this? Surely on a farm they sleep lightly enough to notice what looks like a fire.

Suddenly they are in what looks like the book's summer home? Or there's a small pond in the garden patch?

Justin takes the amulet because why not?

And Jeremy meets his female equivalent. The love story nobody asked for.

Wow these credits shots are shaky. Like, how has no one fixed this in the DVD age?

Wait. Wil Wheaton and Shannon Doherty were in this?!! How am I just learning this?

And Bruce Timm worked on this movie? This is like the Young Sherlock Holmes of animation.


[After I had typed all of this up, a friend shared this article that gives some background info on the movie, including a couple of things I noticed above.]