Category Archives: Travelogues

Old School Disney

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a movie as old as my grandmother. Snow was renowned for her beauty and charm, and a mouthy mirror made the mistake of saying giphy (1)as much to Snow’s step-mother, whose ego couldn’t handle the truth. So Snow White fled to the forest, where she befriended a group of miners. It wasn’t enough to save her, though, the Queen is evil but she’s good with follow-through, you have to give her that. She stalks Snow through the woods in a very convincing crone costume and a poisoned apple – one bite, and Snow falls into a coma, to be wakened only by true love’s kiss. Which is creepy, absolutely, but let’s not forget we live in a society where people marry murderers after exchanging pornographic letters with them in prison, so comparatively, falling in love with a woman who is beautiful AND never tells you to pick up your socks? She’s perfect! This movie was huge for Disney. It was huge, period. It made 4 times as much money as any other film that year, attracting audience members of all ages – though after its engagement ended at Radio City Music Hall, all the chairs had to be re-upholstered because the forest sequence proved pants-wettingly frightening to small children.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won an honourary Academy Award for Walt Disney blog_bedi-joyce-tatarewicz-joseph-2016-02-28_walt-disney-shirley-temple-oscars-1939-snow-white-from-ampas“as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field”. Disney received a full-size Oscar statuette and 7 miniature ones, presented to him by 10-year-old Shirley Temple.

In 1950, Disney hadn’t had a hit since Snow White, way back in 1937. The studio was up to its mouse ears in debt, and Cinderella, at a cost of 3 million to make, was a huge gamble. Had it failed at the box office, Disney Studios would have been sunk. Imagine living without Disney’s legacy, without the magic of whichever of its movies you grew up on. Luckily, Cinderella was a milestone in Disney’s filmography. It garnered 3 Oscar nominations and was the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, after King Solomon’s Mine and All About Eve. Between box office receipts, music sales, and merchandising, Disney had enough cash to finance a whole slate of new films, start up its own distribution company, get into TV, and start building Disneyland.

tepidpersonaljaeger-smallThis week, Sean and I are at Disney World, and the first thing you see in Magic Kingdom, the very symbol of the park and of the company itself, is Cinderella’s Castle. That movie is nearly 70 years old but it was Disney’s rags to riches story. In 2018, Disney reported a revenue of 59.43 billion USD, and it was Cinderella who saved their sorry asses from bankruptcy. And don’t you just love the feminist bent of referring to it as Cinderella’s Castle? Bitch just moved in yesterday, but she stormed that castle like Jackie O took the White House. I can only hope we start referring to Buckingham Palace as Megnan Markle’s Castle.

At the park, you can walk through her 189′ tall castle (it looks taller thanks to forced perspective trickery), enjoying its soaring spires, ornate turrets, its tranquil moat, and the wishing well surrounded by rose bushes. Within the castle corridor, you’ll see 5 handcrafted mosaic murals containing 14-karat gold and silver plus over a million pieces of glass in 500 different colours that tell the classic Cinderella story. If you’re looking for a little luxury, you can have a real princess experience by dining inside the caste, at the cinderellas-royal-table_full_30908royal table, with princesses (which, yes, okay, I admit I will be doing this tonight). OR, if you’ve got a little girl who wants to be a princess herself, there’s the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a spa where fairy godmothers will do hair, makeup, and nails for little girls ages 3-12 (and where you can of course pick up a princess dress, at an additional additional cost). Which is unfair, because I’m like, a quarter past 12 or something ridiculous, and they do not cater to little big girls such as myself. However, they do have a character couture experience at Disney spas, where even I can have my hair, makeup, and nails done, inspired by the character of my choice – so if you’re feeling a little more Ursula than Ariel, that’s cool too. The truth is, while children are encouraged to come to the parks dressed as their favourite characters, adults are forbidden to wear costumes at Disney. Disney really wants to preserve the magic, and it just wouldn’t do to have 2 Cinderellas wandering around, and certainly not a sub-par Cinderella wearing Crocs instead of glass slippers under her gown, and who’s a little pink in the face from lining up for rides in the hot sun all day long. If Sean was feeling extra romantic, you can up the ante at the royal table by having a glass slipper presented on a bed of roses waiting for your sweetheart at your table. Or even a chocolate glass slipper. Or a tiara. Or a scepter and a royal proclamation. Yes, really. Disney leaves no stone unturned in the quest to part us from our money.

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WALL-E

I never appreciated just how dark the opening to Wall-E is. The landscape is littered not just with trash, but with the busted skeletons of old Wall-E models that have met their doom while relentlessly cubing trash. In fact, Wall-E sizes up one robot corpse and swaps his worn out tracks for the newer ones on the dead body of his comrade – very reminiscent of war movies where soldiers are always on the lookout for newer boots, and the soul-crushing way they’ll pry them off a bloated corpse if necessary.

Wall-E, by the way, is the last functioning trash-compacting robot (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class) on Earth. All the humans fled 700 years ago when the Earth was overwhelmed with garbage. The whole living in space thing was thought to be temporary (5 years), but no amount of Wall-Es could get the job done, and eventually all but our Wall-E became trash themselves. Wall-E is a bit of a hoarder; he collects MV5BMjZkODJmYzktMDYzNi00NWQ3LTllZTMtMWVhOTgxY2U4ODA3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA4NzQyMjk@._V1_human treasures much the way Ariel does in The Little Mermaid. He’s got a Rubik’s cube and an Atari and he loves to watch Hello, Dolly!, which keeps his romantic streak alive despite living a pretty solitary life. But then one day a lovely robot named Eve (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) gets sent to Earth to search for signs of life. Having found a seedling, she jets back to the Axiom where humans have been living for more than 250 000 days, despite some “slight” bone loss. Enamoured, Wall-E follows her there, where her positive probe engages a return-to-Earth protocol. Unfortunately, the ship’s autopilot computer has other ideas.

The first 20 minutes or so of Wall-E are dialogue-free. This put many people off the film, but I didn’t even notice, so enraptured was I by stunning visuals. Cinematographer Roger Deakins was consulted to see how he might light and shoot the scenes, and he was happy to oblige. Those opening scenes therefore look like some of his atmospheric, sepia-hued stuff, and it’s no accident.

Wall-E has a magic that cannot quite be explained. It’s a sci-fi epic that manages to give us a glimpse into the future through the telescope of a current issue, while maintaining a nostalgic reverence. It’s Back To The Future, but with robots, and gelatinous blobs that used to be human (which begs the question: when a blobby human falls out of their chair, and literally cannot right himself without robot assistance, how in the heck are they still fucking?). Minor qualms aside, Wall-E is exhilarating and beautiful. You may know that I’m reviewing Disney movies this week because I’m at Disney World with my two sweetheart nephews, who are sure to make the experience a memorable one. It puts a literal pinch in my heart to say this, but they’re both born after Wall-E came out. Gulp. So they may not be searching for signs of Wall-E in the Magic Kingdom, but I will be – or I would be, if Wall-E had any presence at all. Sadly, he does not. Which is weird, because Wall-E was a huge movie in 2008, and it went on to score 6 Oscar nominations, a feat that had only been equaled by Beauty and the Beast, and you can be sure that both Belle and the Beast are featured heavily in these parks. In fact we’ll be dining on “the grey stuff” in the Beast’s castle, whether or not the boys get the reference because their mother and I grew up on 90s Disney, and the last time I checked, it was our Visas doing the heavy lifting.

Speaking of which, I have in fact visited Disney World once before, when the older of my two nephews was but a babe of 18 months. I had heard about this magical place all my life, and it didn’t matter that my first visit was as an adult, I went at that bitch with childhood wonder, delighting in Mickey-shaped ice cream bars, waving at the mascots on parade. I was obsessed with finding the perfect set of Mickey ears, but only knew about them from my elementary school classmates who brought them back without fail, embroidered with their names, from their own Disney vacations. I didn’t realize that today there are hundreds of dozens of possibilities: ears for every occasion, for every character, for every film, for every ride in every park. It was so overwhelming I spent my whole vacation embarrassingly ear-less. This time I’m anticipating being crippled with indecision and I’ve done two brilliant things:

  1. I’ve warned Sean to bring ALL the money.
  2. I’ve given myself permission to buy new ears each day.
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I’ve already pre-scouted these Wall-E ears that will be very hard to resist. But I think we can all agree that they only work if I can convince Sean to wear the other pair. And though the man is smart enough to never say no to me, he also doesn’t have a whimsical bone in his body and i’m just not sure I can do it to him. But probably I can! After all, this is the place where dreams really do come true.
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Disney Movies Based on Rides

I am no fan of Johnny Depp, or Orlando Bloom, or stupid movies, so when Pirates of the Caribbean came out, I didn’t need another reason not to see it. But a movie based on a ride? What does that even mean? Of course, at the time, I’d never been to Disney World, so I didn’t understand to what lengths Disney goes to actually tell a story with its rides. This was not such a stretch. Nor was it the first of its kind. In fact, unknown to me, there were several movies based on rides coming out at the same time.

The Haunted Mansion is a much-loved ride at Disney. Sean remembers it from anigif_enhanced-5175-1444687916-5childhood, but the ride is even older than he is – it opened in 1969 in Disneyland, and 1971 in Disney World, and both are still operating today. You ride in a doom-buggy through a dark, spook-filled mansion. To this day, Sean is disappointed that his little sister ruined the ride for him – her little body occupying the space between Sean and his dad meant that they didn’t see the ghost in their cart, but two-person carts are treated to a spectral sight between them, among many other spooky tricks.

The movie The Haunted Mansion (2003) managed to come out to so little fanfare that I never knew it existed. Its story doesn’t really draw much inspiration from the ghosts that are known and loved for the WDW ride, but anyone who’s ridden it in Paris might find something more familiar. Eddie Murphy plays Jim Evers, a real estate agent who works alongside his wife, Sara (Marsha Thomason). He’s a mv5bnzc4nwyzzjctytm5os00odqylwfiyjetmdkyzgezndexnmrhl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzq2odyxodq@._v1_workaholic and they’re supposed to be at the lake with their kids this weekend, but instead he can’t resist a detour to check out a potential listing – a cobwebbed, derelict mansion. Its “master” Gracey (Nathanial Parker) is reclusive and his butler, Ramsley (Terence Stamp), is…protective. Jennifer Tilly, Wallace Shawn, and Dina Waters round out the the mansion’s creepy staff.

While the ride manages to mix horror with humour, the movie doesn’t quite manage either. In fact, I was constantly distracted by the memory of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routine wherein he avowed that no black person would ever star in a haunted house horror movie because they would have sense enough to just leave the minute they saw anything supernatural. The Evers family does not leave. The audience feels very much like they have overstayed their welcome. Guillermo Del Toro was rumoured to be remaking this film, and I cannot overstate how very welcome that would be, but he has since parted ways with Disney so the film seems increasingly unlikely. Boo.

Country Bear Jamboree is a bunch of ursine animatronics who put on a country the-country-bear-bear-band-bears-now-in-high-definitionmusic spectacle, and have done so in Walt Disney World since 1971 – and they do to this day, in a slightly revamped version. I find it fascinating that park-goers in 2019 continue to be entertained satisfactorily by “technology” that was obsolete before most of them were born (if the popularity of the Millennial Pink Minnie mouse ears are any indicator of the park’s demographics). And yet the bears can still be found strumming banjos and talking to taxidermied heads in Frontierland.

The Country Bears  (2002) is beary disappointing. The bears are basically just people wearing dopey bear costumes, and the movie is live-action, with bears and humans mixing unreservedly. However, little Beary Barrington (voice: Haley Joel Osment) knows that he is different from his human brother and human parents. He’s detail.9e4f2ff3adopted. The only kinship he feels is toward The Country Bears, a defunct country-rock band made up of bears, who have since broken up. When Beary runs away from home to The Country Bears’ favourite venue, he finds it derelict, and about to be torn down. In a bid to save it, he tries to reunite the band for a fundraiser reunion concert. It’s a bafflingly bad film with zero laughs. I don’t know how it got made, I don’t know which 17 people went to a theatre to see it, and I don’t know how The Muppets got away with stealing this exact plot line 9 years later. And yes that’s Christopher Walken in the photo.

Top 10 Disney Songs

My little heart is swollen with song lately, because I’ve discovered that Disney has put 90s-era soundtracks out on vinyl and I’m acutely here for it. I’ve got The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin, and I’m just fluttering around my home like a goddamn Disney princess, fully expecting a bird to tie a bow in my hair at literally any moment. I’m at Disney World, looking for any excuse to blow my wad (of money), quite possibly scouring its shops, hundreds of shops, for more soundtracks to add to my collection.

Admit it – you’ve got a favourite Disney song. I’ve got dozens. So just know that to whittle the list down to 10 was excruciating.

10. When She Loved Me, Toy Story 2. Written by Randy Newman and performed by Sarah McLachlan. I don’t even like Sarah McLachlan, like at all, but this song is perfect as it backs a montage wherein Jessie reveals her melancholy to pal Woody. How her previous owner outgrew her and ultimately left her forgotten at the side of the road. I don’t know many people who made it through the song dry-eyed and I’m sure I don’t know ANYONE who survived it without some pretty definitely pangs of guilt for our own neglected toys. It’s seriously one of the saddest songs ever written for film, especially when you hear it as a metaphor for children growing up and leaving their parents as well:

And when she was sad
I was there to dry her tears
And when was happy so was Igrandspiritedbrahmanbull-small
When she loved me
So the years went by
I stayed the same
But she began to drift away
I was left alone
Still I waited for the day
When she’d say I will always love you

Big gulps. Oddly (in my opinion), this movie didn’t win the Oscar that year – it went instead to You’ll Be In My Heart, from Tarzan, which is a good song, but you’ll not see it on this list.

9. Remember Me, Coco. Written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Performed in the film by  Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, and Ana Ofelia Murguía. Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade do the pop cover that plays over the credits. It’s used several times throughout the movie. We first hear it as Ernesto de la Cruz’s big hit song, a plea to his fans to revere him always, and then come to realize that it’s actually Hector’s song, a special lullaby for his baby daughter. The song is then used by Miguel to reach his great-grandmother, Coco, through the webs of her dementia. It’s a song that crosses multiple generations and unites them all.

I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you
Each night we are apart
Remember me

8. You’re Welcome, Moana. Moana overflows with beautiful music. How Far I’ll Go is an absolute treasure and We Know The Way is absurdly good, but for my money, it’s You’re Welcome every time, because it’s the one that my nephew, no more than 2 or 3 at the time but already a rock star in his heart, would break into randomly. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s performed by Dwayne The Rock Johnson, who, in case you haven’t noticed, is not a singer. But Miranda crafts the perfect song for his talents, and the perfect song for Maui to sing boastfully while hoodwinking Moana.

I know it’s a lot, the hair, the bod
When you’re staring at a demigod
What can I say except “You’re welcome”

7. Colors of The Wind, Pocahontas. Written by lyricist Stephen Schwartz and composer Alan Menken, this song was lauded as one of Disney’s best in many years. Vanessa Williams provided the pop cover that would be released ahead of the film, while Judy Kuhn did the singing in the movie. Inspiration was drawn Native American poetry, music and folklore, with an emphasis on the beauty of nature, and the special relationship that Pocahontas and her people had with it. The song is also in part a confrontation with John Smith regarding his Eurocentrism. It is philosophical rather than humourous, which was quite a departure for Disney at the time (1995) but it went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, the Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, and the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating out Bruce Springsteen’s Dead Man Walkin, Bryan Adams’ Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman, and Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend In Me from Toy Story.

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew

6. He Mele No Lilo, Lilo & Stitch. Lilo & Stitch has an absurdly fun soundtrack, brimming with great Elvis tunes. But this song, written by Mark Kealiʻi Hoʻomalu and Alan Silvestri, and performed by Ho’omalu and the Kamehameha Schools children’s chorus, has a distinct Hawaiian flavour that needs to be savoured.

5. Why Should I Worry, Oliver & Company. I swear my tail is wagging already. Written by written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, and performed by Billy Joel, it’s song sung by a street-wise dog to a kitten named Oliver who’s recently joined his gang of merry thieves (the movie is based on Oliver Twist). It’s got a bluesy feel to it, and it sounds exactly like the kind of song Billy Joel would sing if he was a dog. Or even if he wasn’t. Which he’s not.

4. A Whole New World, Aladdin. Truly I could have just as easily picked Friend Like Me, which is such an excellent use of Robin Williams’ many talents, but honestly, this ballad is the stuff Disney dreams are made of. I love that it’s a duet between Aladdin and Jasmine; it sounds like a musical discovery, full of wonder and awe. You can hear and taste the freedom. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice, Disney had another insta-, mega-hit on their hands. Performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga in the film, and by Peobo Bryson and Regina Belle on the radio cover, it went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, and earned a Grammy for Song of Year. Song of the whole freaking Year! – the first and only time a Disney song has done that. It also went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, bumping Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You out of its 14 week stranglehold.

3. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, The Lion King. 3 out of 5 songs nominated for Best Original Song at the 1994 Academy Awards were from The Lion King. This isn’t one of them. Oh sure, Elton John can belt out a ballad, but this song sounds so joyous to me. Simba is still a naive little cub, and he can only think of the perks of the job, like when a kid imagines that as an adult, he’ll eat ice cream for dinner every night, and doesn’t realize that it’s really about the bills, bills, bills. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the song is performed by Jason Weaver, Laura Williams and Rowan Atkinson in the film. This may be The Lion King’s underdog song, but it’s catchy, bouncy, festive, goddammit, it’s happy. Simba’s dad is still alive, his uncle is only plotting murder, he doesn’t yet have a flatulent roommate, and he’s still living the bachelor lifestyle. Life is good.

2. Kiss The Girl, The Little Mermaid. It was nearly impossible for me not to pick Part of Your World; my sisters had mermaid choreography to this song that they performed daily, hourly, in our pool. But Kiss The Girl is so interestingly atmospheric in unexpected ways. It’s definitely the only ballad on this list performed by a calypso crab deeply, oddly invested in a smooch between a mute and an oblivious prince. Written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman and performed by Samuel Wright, it was nominated for both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Original Song but lost both to another song from the movie, Under The Sea.

1.Be Our Guest, Beauty and the Beast. Once again, Beauty and The Beast managed 3 Oscar nominations for Best Original Song from a single film, and though this one was nominated, it lost to the titular enchanting ballad sung by Celine Dion. But Academy voters were wrong. Be Our Guest is superior is every conceivable way. Beauty and the Beast is a super magical movie that is way problematic if you stop and think about it for even a millisecond so DON’T. Do not. Hang on to your whimsy and just enjoy. An anthropomorphic candelabra is a fine dining advocate, and an entire dinner service comes alive just to get some hot soup into a waif. It’s magnificent.

 

 

Sean and I are at Disney this week, so stay tuned to be inundated with the happiest place on Earth.

Burlesque

Some bad movies you watch because some self-sabotaging part of your brain wonders, how bad could it really be? Some bad movies you watch because you’re too damn lazy to seek out a better one. Some bad movies you watch out of curiosity, or you’re in the mood to hate-watch something, or you don’t think the night deserves anything better. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes you’re just smart enough to avoid it. I’ve been actively choosing to not watch Burlesque since 2010, so much so that I never even realized how many of my favourite performers – Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming – are in it. How did I come to finally watch this stinker?

This is going to sound like a stretch, but it basically comes down to our traveling to Mexico over Christmas. If you’ve ever been to an all-inclusive resort, then you know there’s a prescribed set of nightly entertainment. Five years ago, every resort had some crappy version of Broadway’s The Lion King, but I think Disney put the kibosh on that. We had a Jersey Boys night, a Pirates show, and the obligatory Michael Jackson tribute. And the resort also offered a burlesque show. We’ve seen some of the best burlesque in Las Vegas (and some of the worst). We’ve seen burlesque at Crazy Horse and the Moulin Rouge in Paris. We’ve seen some good shit, but having seen what passes for “Jersey” and “Boys” in Mexico, our expectations were appropriately tempered. We thought. What we weren’t expecting was a poor imitation of a reviled movie, but with Santa hats, and even Santa Claus. Merry Christmas eve to us!

In the movie, Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a small-town waitress who moves to L.A. to become a performer. Not a big dreamer, she seems content when she settles at Tess’s (Cher’s) burlesque bar, first as a waitress who has to prove her mettle, then as a performer that everyone else (Kristen Bell in particular) is jealous of.

The script is beyond bad. Like, there’s bad, and then if you keep going beyond bad, past terrible, past horrible even, orbiting somewhere around dreadful, you’ll find the script to Burlesque. Also, in my experience, burlesque involves some form of artsy striptease. In Burlesque, it means lip-syncing in your underwear. Possibly Xtina just can’t do two things at once. And good lord, we wouldn’t want her to.

So we’ve confirmed what we always suspected but never cared enough to validate. Burlesque is bad. Not even campy bad, not even so bad it’s good. It’s surprisingly boring for a movie that features so many beautiful women in lingerie. But you could watch a Victoria’s Secret commercial with the sound off and feel more satisfied than you will at the end of this movie. So thanks, Mexico, for piquing our interest and giving us a reason to seek out a stinker. Couldn’t have (wouldn’t have) done it without you!

Nicolas Cage: Man of Mystery

So, Nicolas Cage. How to talk about Hollywood’s favourite nut job? I’ve never been on the Cage train myself, he always rubbed me the wrong way, like an overzealous hairy uncle that I just don’t trust. But it’s less fun to dislike him now that everyone else does too. The poor guy just unraveled. His movies all flopped at the same time, his money ran out, and it turns out that money and success really were the only things hiding his extremely bizarre personality from the rest of the world. He’s the kind of guy who, when his cat accidentally gets high on shrooms, does them too, to keep him company (yes, that really happened). When playing a traumatized vet in Birdy, he had a dentist pull teeth without anesthetic so he could “understand real pain” because a) dental procedures are comparable to the horrors of war and b) he’s such a bad actor that he couldn’t just pretend to be in pain. He diets according to sex, and not the way you’re thinking: he only eats animals whose mating he finds “dignified” like birds and fish. If he finds their sex to be unattractive, he can’t bear to eat their meat. He once woke up to discover a man, completely naked except for Cage’s leather jacket, sitting on the foot of his bed eating a Fudgesicle. And of course, he spends money like a legit crazy person. He owns or has owned: albino king cobras (yes, plural), a t-rex skull (he outbid Leo fair and square!), a pet octopus that helped him with his acting, a private island next door to Johnny Depp’s private island (sounds like a bad neighbourhood already), and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini.

But that’s not all. As you may have heard, Sean and I are in New Orleans this week and Nicolas Cage has some pretty infamous ties to the town. Of course, owing the IRS $6.6 million in back taxes meant some of his properties needed to be sold, and those included his New Orleans real estate. One of those houses was a murder mansion. It was once home to Madame LaLaurie, a wealthy socialite who tortured and 7adb4-cage_lalaurie_picsmurdered her household slaves in the 1800s. She was discovered in 1834 when rescuers responding to a fire at the home found bound slaves in the attic who showed marks of someone having been cruelly tortured over a long period of time – I’m talking people hanging by the neck, mutilated, limbs stretch or torn right off. The fire was later confessed to have been started by the cook, chained to the oven by a chain around her ankle, in a suicide attempt. Outraged, a New Orleans mob stormed the house but LaLaurie fled to the safety of France. If that sounds at all familiar, you may have seen Kathy Bates play a fictionalized version of her on American Horror Story. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead slaves, including a young girl who fell to her death fleeing LaLaurie’s whip and was buried in the back yard. It may not be a place you’d choose to lay your head for the night, but Nicolas Cage plunked down $3.45M for it.

The second home is much less spectacular in reputation but quite delightful for fa740-cage_prytania_picsliving in it, I would think. At 13 000 square feet in the prestigious garden district, it was once owned by the catholic church, who took to calling it the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. And then Anne Rice owned it. And then Nicolas Cage, possibly for the nights when sleeping in the blood-soaked house mentioned above got too intense. It’s nice to have an unhaunted backup house just in case. It was actually rumoured that he and his family actually lived in the house next door to this one, and thus owned three properties, because sometimes two is not enough. At any rate, “economic difficulties” led to their sale\foreclosure and now he owns no homes in New Orleans but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t own a place to rest his weary bones.

Just as his homes were being sold, he was busy purchasing a cemetery plot. And not just any cemetery, but New Orleans’ most famous one St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It’s home to the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who is said to haunt it. Because the water table is so high in New Orleans, the tombs are all above ground, and leave it to Nicolas Cage to take advantage: he’s built himself a pyramid tomb that reads Omni img_4195-nicholas-cage-tomb-omnia-ab-uno-everything-from-one-1024x768Ab Uno, Latin for Everything From One. Now, it’s entirely possible that the IRS just can’t foreclose on a tomb. And some New Orleans locals think it’s also possible that the pyramid is stuffed to the gills with cash. The rest of us just wonder whether the pyramid is a tribute to his role in National Treasure, whether the dollar bill has a secret map that would unlock its door, or whether he’s just mixed up in some Illuminati shit. And maybe, just maybe, his flamboyant, 9 foot tall pyramid mausoleum is where he’ll regenerate his immortal self. Some of the locals aren’t too crazy about this eye sore in their historic cemetery, but female tourists have embraced it – literally, leaving lipstick kisses on its walls. To find out if I’ll do the same, why not follow our travel adventures on Twitter – @assholemovies.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin Button was born a little boy who looked like an old man; baby Benjamin suffered from old age ailments. He had a disease that made him age backwards. His mom dies in childbirth and his dad abandons him post haste, so little Benny Button is left on the stoop of a nursing home to be raised by the good-hearted Queenie. Benjamin first meets the love of his life, Daisy, when they are 7 years old. She’s a little ballerina, but he’s a wizened old man in a wheel chair. They’ll meet on and off again throughout all the years of his life, and make a little family when they overlap in middle age, but it doesn’t last long. So when Daisy’s on her death bed she tells this story in its entirety to her daughter Caroline, who learns for the first time who her father was.

MV5BMTI1MjY5MzY4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTU1OTUxMg@@._V1_The film was among the first to film in New Orleans after Katrina, enticed by tax savings that made up a good chunk of their budget. Director David Fincher praised the city’s rehab efforts and filmed in both rural and urban settings. The film pays tribute to Katrina by having the flood threaten just as Daisy lays dying.

Someone’s been wanting to make some version of this film since before I was born. In the mid-80s, Frank Oz was sough to direct, with Martin Short as its possible star. Later, Spielberg was keen to direct, and Tom Cruise slated to star. Then Ron Howard thought he might have a go, with John Travolta in the lead. Can you picture any of those?

Brad Pitt could spend upwards of 5 hours a day in the makeup chair. Even so, they had to resort to hiring child actors to portray the younger-looking versions of Benjamin – not because the makeup and effects teams couldn’t handle it, but simply because the budget was totally depleted. Cate Blanchett plays Daisy and had some young actors to cover her character as a child as well – including a very young Elle Fanning. Julia Ormand plays their daughter Caroline, but her younger self is covered by none other than 2 year old Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

Since Sean and I are in New Orleans at the moment, we may swing by the Nolan house at 2707 Coliseum St., where lots of the filming took place, in virtually every room of the house. With 6 bedrooms, it was home to 3 generations of Nolans, one of whom played a doctor in the film. Fincher knew he wanted this particular house, benjamin-button-house.jpgwhich would serve to ground the fantasy, but it wasn’t an easy get. The owner had evacuated for Katrina, and had refused every previous request by movie crews. She turned down Fincher too – twice. Fincher combed over 300 other locations and ruled out every one. Finally the owner relented, and she moved into a condo so her home could be made to fit the period. She never did move back in: she evacuated again when hurricane Gustav threatened, and while away she passed, without ever seeing the movie filmed in her home of over 60 years.

 

 

 

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