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Monday, October 07, 2013


I bet you're wondering why this entire blog entry has been tinted in green today. I'm going to get to that in a moment.

Remember how I told you all that I decided to come up with an ingenious way to choose topics for the Monday Matinee?  It all started off with rooting through the bin of movies that were worth five dollars, and deciding to randomly choose one movie to write a blog about.  This way, I expand my knowledge on movies, and enjoy a relatively inexpensive night in with a movie.  

Now, this was the initial PLAN, that was.  Of course, as you all well know from experience, the best laid plans can sometimes change at the drop of a hat.

In my case, the colour green was a huge factor behind my change in plans.

You see, I guess I should explain before I continue.  In our electronics department, our methods of displaying and featuring movies.  Contrary to what many believe, our entire movie section is NOT done in alphabetical order.

(Well, actually, it is.  But it's a little bit more complex than that.)

You see, our movies are arranged by price point - and then they go in alphabetical order.  You always have your new releases in their own individual section.  Then you have your movies that are in the fifteen dollar price range.  Then you have your ten dollar movies.  Then you have the Disney movie section, which while almost all of them are quite good, they are also pretty pricey.  As much as I love classic Disney films like "Finding Nemo", "Oliver & Company" and "Peter Pan", there is no way that I could justify spending over thirty dollars on a single DVD...especially when the films themselves are over ten years old.

Well, since I work in electronics now, I do a lot of stocking movies and zoning movies (zoning meaning that you put the movies back in their proper places which ensures that you don't accidentally sell the newest box set of "Downton Abbey" for $9.83), and I'll admit that one DVD immediately caught my eye.  And it had absolutely nothing to do with what the movie was about, or who acted in it, or even what the title of it was.

I ended up choosing the DVD based on its cover.  And, as much as I have preached to the choir that you shouldn't judge a book (or DVD in this case) by its cover, there was just something unusual about a certain movie that was displayed in our $15.00 section.

The whole case was a bright emerald green colour.  No other film on that shelf was that same colour.  It just stood out to me.  It grabbed my attention.  It was almost like it was saying "Pick me!  Pick me!"

That's how I ended up with the movie "ParaNorman" in my hands.  And that was how "ParaNorman" became the subject of discussion for this week.

The way I look at it, choosing that vivid green DVD case with the ParaNorman DVD inside ended up being a very good thing.  For one, I actually got the DVD on sale, and saved five dollars off the sticker price.  And, who doesn't love a good deal, right?  Secondly, the movie is Halloween themed, and since we're less than a month away from the big trick-or-treating day, I thought that it would be an appropriate film to talk about in this space.  And lastly, the movie itself is quite good.  I loved the stop-motion animation (the animation team behind this film also worked on the 2009 film "Coraline"), and the message of the film is one that I strongly believe in.  But, I will get to that a little later.

The film was released on August 17, 2012, and the names linked to the project are big ones.  "ParaNorman" was co-directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, its screenplay and story was a collaboration between Butler, Arianne Sutner, and Stephen Stone, and some of the voice actors who lent their talents to the film were Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, John Goodman, and Jodelle Ferland.  Some of those names are obviously more recognizable than others, but in my opinion, this voice cast was well assembled and boasted a lot of talent.

As far as the film's critical reception goes, it maintains a high ranking on the film review site "Rotten Tomatoes", with a Fresh rating within the 80% range (this is quite good), and the film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013 (losing to the film "Brave").  And on a budget of sixty million dollars, the film made at least $107 million.  I'd call that a financial success as well as a critical success.

Now, let's get on with the plot of the film.  And, let's just say that I understand what the main protagonist of this film went through.  Mind you, I wasn't exactly like him...but I do know what it was like to feel like an outcast because of something that you couldn't change about yourself.

In my case - and I believe that I have talked about this before - I wasn't exactly the best walker in my school.  It wasn't for a lack of trying.  I had foot problems that forced me to walk on my toes instead of flat footed like everybody else.  It caused me physical pain to try and walk flat on my feet for years, so naturally, I reverted back to walking on the toes.  It was the way that I felt comfortable with, and I didn't think that it was hurting anybody.  But when one of my teachers took it upon herself to try and force me to change my walking style by embarrassing me in front of the whole class, it made me stand out in one of the worst ways possible.  It really hurt my feelings and it kept me from really getting close to people...something that unfortunately hurt the way that I approach social relationships and friendships even today.

Well, in the case of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts resident Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee), he too suffered from having a quirk that nobody else had.  And, honestly I think he had it worse off than I did, as he had classmates, teachers, and even members of his own family trying to tell him that he was crazy for the quirk that he possessed.

But little Norman couldn't help it.  He couldn't help that he was born with the ability to see and communicate with those who were deceased.  And, that's part of the reason why green was such a dominant colour on the DVD cover...all of the spirits that Norman sees are bathed in a green glow.  

It's not really explained in the film how Norman ended up with the ability to talk to ghosts, but it is presumed that he was born with the ability.  Or, maybe his ability was strengthened upon the death of his grandmother (Stritch), whom Norman was especially close to.  Norman's mother (Mann) tries to be as understanding as she can be, but his father (Garlin), and older sister Courtney (Kendrick) do not believe that he can talk to the deceased at all.  Nor do the other kids who attend Norman's school.  In fact, many times, he had to go to school to face people writing graffiti on his locker, tripping him so that he would fall on the floor and calling him a lot of horrible names.  The ringleader of this smear campaign is Alvin (Mintz-Plasse), and chances were that if Alvin and Norman were in the same room together, it would not end well for Norman at all.

Of course, this isn't to say that Norman was a complete outcast.  He did have a best friend in Neil Downe (Albrizzi), who understood the pain of being bullied as Alvin picked on him as well.

Anyway, part of the charm of the movie is where the film takes place.  The film takes place in the state of Massachusetts, which happens to be the setting of the infamous "Salem Witch Trials", in which several women who were accused of practicing witchcraft were sentenced to death, and needless to say, the town ironically has some of their traditions based around witches and witchcraft.  Their fast-food outlets and even a casino have a witch theme!  Seems a bit odd that a town would celebrate an event in which people actually DIED because they were classified as "different", but maybe that's just me.

Anyway, the school hosted a play that was about the history of the town, and it is during this play that Norman ends up having another vision...and this one is so scary that Norman ends up causing a scene right on stage, leading to his father grounding him.  On top of all that, Norman's estranged and touched uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (Goodman) has a confrontation with Norman who tells him that he has to be prepared to protect the town from evil...and shortly after that encounter, he passes away and his spirit enters the spirit world...which leads to an interesting conversation between Prenderghast and Norman in the bathroom at school.

Prenderghast warns Norman that several centuries ago, seven former citizens of Blithe Hollow condemned a young girl to death believing that she was a witch.  Ever since that day, the spirits of those seven people were cursed by the person that they essentially had killed.  Prenderghast also tells Norman that he has to perform a ritual before sundown that day to prevent the entire town from being destroyed by the curse by grabbing a certain book and reciting its contents so that the curse can be broken.

And it would have worked out just fine...had Alvin not followed Norman and prevented him from finishing the reading.  And, when a witch shaped cloud appears in the sky, it's pretty much a given that things were about to change forever.  Cracks soon begin appearing in the ground near the gravesites of the seven people who had long since passed away, and one by one, all seven come back to life as zombies.  It now becomes a race against time for Norman to set things right.  He teams up with Courtney, Neil, Neil's brother Mitch (Affleck), and a reluctant Alvin to try and locate the unmarked witch grave so that he can perform the ritual the right way before the zombies end up destroying the town (or, rather, before the townsfolk of Blithe Hollow destroy the town and themselves by attacking the seven newest zombie residents).

And while I won't spoil the ending of this film, I can tell you this.  The identity of the "witch" is incredibly significant in tying up all the film's loose ends.  After all, the "witch" shares a last name with one of the characters in the film, and Norman discovers that there really isn't a lot that is different between him and the "witch".  In fact, it is made incredibly clear why Norman was the one chosen to perform the ritual.

All in all, I will state that yes, I did choose a DVD by its cover.  But in this case, I am so happy that I did.  It's one of the most spectacular films that I have ever seen, and the three-dimensional stop motion animation was absolutely flawless.  It truly is a visual spectacle that combines 1960s-era horror films with the technology that 2010s-era animation provides.  But all in all, as someone who had to deal with childhood bullying and having to try to make excuses for why I was who I was in order to lessen the sting of the pain of being bullied...this film has a really great message.  It shows all of us that we no longer have to be afraid of being true to ourselves as long as we have a select few people who believe in us and love us.

Seriously, this film comes highly recommended.  And, it's a fairly recent release on DVD and Blu-Ray.

( it...Green-Ray?  Seriously, the jewel case for the Blu-Ray version is green as well!)


  1. I love this movie! Saw it in the theater when it came out and was blown away by how great it was.

  2. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by it myself. I hear the same team was responsible for Coraline. I must check that movie out too...