Category: Analysis


BOYHOOD (2014)
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette & Lorelei Linklater
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Richard Linklater
Produced by Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Johnathan Sehring & John Sloss
Cinematography by Lee Daniel & Shane Kelly
Music by Various Popular Artists
Edited by Sandra Adair

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Rejected subtitle: The Tale of the Tiny-Arm Lad

   Hello, friends. Yes, I am back. After many false starts, undelivered promises & procrastination-involved setbacks, I am finally here to think way too hard and text-scream about feature films once again. Be afraid, y’all. Because while I was away on my year-long sabbatical, I spelunked in the deepest caverns of film history, and I’m armed to the teeth with new perspective. However, the lack of posts in 2014 was borderline inexcusable, so to make up for lost time, I’ve picked quite a doozy of a diatribe for my triumphant return to the Blogrealm – a doozy of a film, to be sure. This essay I’m about to unfold may cause lots of angst, consternation and outright insufferable rage out there in the filmiverse, but, fellow cinephiles…please know I do this for you. It’s something which must be done. And I’m here to do it big.

   Perhaps no film in the past decade has been as gloriously overhyped yet so dramatically underwhelming as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Here it stands as an acclaimed film, a film which critics have almost unanimously described as “groundbreaking”, “breathtaking”, “daring”, “epic,” and other superlatives, yet at its core is a film which not only fails to entertain on a purely cinematic level, but also misses the entire point its admittedly intriguing concept promised to deliver from the get-go. It’s a film with grand ambitions, but not nearly enough dramatic heft to live up to them. It’s a film from a genuinely talented director which feels out-of-touch with the generation it’s depicting. It’s a film which feels completely flat and is devoid of any stylistic nuances. Basically, Boyhood is kind of like a Phantom Menace of indie cinema – profoundly exciting on paper, likewise profoundly disappointing in execution.

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Yet, not as profoundly maligned.

   But obviously, this is an unpopular opinion – one which just might get me hundreds of unhappy & dissenting comments, emails & messages (assuming anybody reads this diatribe). How could I possibly say so many bad things about Boyhood – a movie generally described as a heartwarming masterpiece of modern cinema; an intimate portrayal of life, maturity & existence on a pure, human level? Am I heartless, cynical asshole just looking to shit all over a solemn piece of epic filmmaking? Do I simply hate Richard Linklater’s films and just want to see him fall on his face, no matter how objectively great his films may be? Am I a horrible troll just looking for blog views? Have I simply LOST MY GODDAMN MIND???

   The answer to all these questions is, of course, a resounding No. I am not any of those things. (Well, I’m not so sure about that last one.) I love cinema, I love human expression, I love being reduced to tears at the sheer beauty of magnificent art unfolding in front of my face, intimating the dreams & realities of life, death, love, hate, & the rest of the soul’s deepest unknown mysteries. Dat’s dat shit to me. I also love the films of Richard Linklater – I happen to find him to be a very honest, intuitive filmmaker, whose films range from a large palette of personal, broad, experimental, mainstream, and other styles. Waking Life is one of my favorite films of all time, a truly jaw-dropping experience in mind-expanding cinema. A Scanner Darkly is an expertly crafted film, surreal & thought provoking while also being funny & disturbing in equal doses. Slacker, Dazed & Confused, Bernie…these films were made by no slouch. Linklater’s filmography is by no means perfect, but he’s certainly not a hack filmmaker. I went into this movie with respect for Linklater’s work, and I can genuinely say that I WANTED to like Boyhood with all my movie-loving heart.

   So what, pray tell, could possibly be my HUGE fucking problem with Boyhood?

   That answer in itself is simple: It’s really just not as good as it’s been blown up to be. In fact, it’s actually highly flawed. Please note that I didn’t say the movie SUCKS, or that it’s completely worthless – there is some genuine merit to this film, which I will certainly discuss at length later. I acknowledge it has a unique place in cinema history, and says some very meaningful things about family, parenting & the human experience. However, given the reception it’s received & the actual quality of storytelling going on here, well…it certainly ain’t Shakespeare. Yet for some inexplicable and unexplained reason, all of moviedom has resorted to shoving this movie up into the “All-Time Great” lexicon, touting it as a “modern masterpiece” and hailing it as a “groundbreaking event in cinematic history”. Then when you see the movie, it’s just so plain, unadventurous & stale over the course of its nearly 3 hour(!!!) running time that you wind up zoning out in the movie theater wondering if you’ve fallen victim to some kind of giant marketing pyramid scheme. Watching events play out in Boyhood is akin to watching paint dry – the humdrum pacing, the boring, uninteresting cinematography, the wooden and hokey acting & writing…this certainly does not seem like any groundbreaking cinema classic I’ve ever seen. It’s just mind-boggling how much film critics are jizzing their pantaloons over this honestly boring film – just what exactly is the big fucking deal here?

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WOA HOW TEHY DO ThAT??

   Well, to answer THAT question, it’s going to take a little more time & in-depth analysis. Let me begin by delving into the film itself:

   Boyhood is the story of Mason (played by newcomer Ellar Coltrane), an average suburban boy with divorced parents (Ethan Hawke & Patricia Arquette) and an older sister (played by the director’s own daughter Lorelei Linklater) growing up in the heart of turn-of-the-21st-century America. Mason goes to school, fights with his sister, ogles scantily clad women in underwear magazines with his friends, and generally lives your normal, everyday suburban life. (Sounds enthralling, right?) His dad comes to visit every now and then, taking them off to do fun things like bowling while Mom lays down the law at home. Mason’s mom is a hard-working woman raising two rambunctious kids on her own, and seems to constantly date drunken assholes who unsuccessfully try to act as father figures for Mason as he gets older. Meanwhile, Dad is a free spirited drifter type, driving around in a cool car and insisting on always being the “fun dad” around his kids. We follow Mason throughout his life, watching him go to school, hang out with friends, date girls, smoke weed while pondering the mysteries of life, and other generic things humans do.

(Notice how I never used the word “but” at any point while describing this film’s story? Remember that for later.)

   As the film progresses on, we see Mason literally grow up before our eyes – the same actor, Ellar Coltrane, physically growing older as the movie unfolds. Richard Linklater’s vision for the film – indeed, the entire gimmick the film is based around – is that we are going to follow this one kid throughout his life, and watch him actually grow and change as the film chugs along. An entire human life observed over the course of a few hours. Like, WOAH man! Actually using the same person, and like, going back every so often to film more stuff? Sounds AMAZING, DARING and GROUNDBREAKING, right???

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Pictured above: shameless Boyhood ripoff

   Hey, have you guys ever heard of a series of documentary films called the Up Series? It’s really great. It started in 1964 and chronicles the lives of 14 different individuals, starting from age 7 and periodically checking in on them throughout their lives as they grow older. In fact, it’s still continuing up into the present day – the latest in the series, 56 Up, aired in 2012. All the individuals participated voluntarily, and it’s generally considered to be one of the best documentaries ever conceived, depicting in extreme detail the trials, tribulations & evolutions of several human lives. If you haven’t checked it out you should really give it a look, it’s a really fascinating, insightful & comprehensive view into what it is to be a modern human being.

   So then, Boyhood took that idea and spun it into a fictional story. Um…whoopee?

   Everywhere you look, people are jawing on about the “12 years” deal. “The movie took 12 years to make!” “It’s a masterpiece, it took 12 years to make!” “12 years, 12 years, 12 years!!!” The movie poster even does us the favor of reminding us that the film was “12 years in the making”. Literally every time I hear somebody describing the movie to somebody else, the phrase “it took 12 years to make!” inevitably comes up in the conversation – as if this single defining factor was the only important detail in the quality of the film itself. Well, here’s the thing, my friends, and I cannot emphasize this point enough:

   Just because a movie takes a long time to make does NOT mean it’s automatically good.

   In all seriousness, I consider this to be the cinematic equivalent of people going on & on about how 50 Cent got shot 9 times back in the days when he was first getting famous. I don’t care about how many times the guy got shot – all I really want to know is, how good of a rapper is he??? (Editor’s Note: Not a very good one, as it turns out.) Now, please don’t confuse my point here: I know filming a movie over the course of 12 years and waiting for your cast to age is a risky move. I understand it inherently makes the movie meaningful because it’s a catalog of a (somewhat) real person’s life. I comprehend the boldness & cinematic significance of doing such a thing, & I applaud Linklater, a director whom I respect, for doing something genuinely ballsy. But what I’m saying is, the movie itself – the story, the characters, the performances, the EVERYTHING – still needs to be held up to the same standard of quality by which you’d judge any other movie, ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be sticking the G.O.A.T. title on it. I don’t give a damn how long the movie took to make, quite frankly – if it’s boring and filled with stilted dialogue & generic cinematography, it’s not going to be much fun to watch! I watched this movie the same way I would watch any other movie, and let me tell you, most of the movies I’ve seen that I would regard as “cinematic classics” are MUCH more entertaining than this one. I guarantee you if Linklater made this same exact film – everything exactly the same, right down to the last detail – but made it over the course of a few months with different actors playing Mason at different ages, it would NOT be met with the same level of esteem it’s currently being treated with. In fact, I’m certain a fair amount of critics would label it as an embarrassing fiasco.

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Speaking of embarrassing fiascos, have you guys seen Ellar Coltrane’s stylish creeper ‘stache? Yeeeeeesh.

   You see, the whole “aging factor” built up around this movie’s hype machine should just be a part of what it has going for it, an addition to the overall focus & plot progression of the movie, NOT the sole purpose of the movie itself. Yeah, Ellar Coltrane ages before our eyes in the movie – but what the fuck else happens? What struggles does he go through as a character, what tough decisions does he have to make the drastically impact the course of his life, possibly shaping the type of man he chooses to be? What do we get out of living through these experiences with him? The unfortunate thing about Boyhood is…apparently, not a whole hell of a lot.

   In the Up Series, you see actual human lives grow & develop in realistic, genuinely interesting ways. One of the kids, Neil, lived arguably the most unpredictable life of all the kids – he was living in a squat and cruising around the countryside by the time he was 21, having dropped out of college and living a carefree lifestyle. Now he’s an English politician, imagine that. Then there’s Symon, who had an absentee father and jumped around from a charity home to his depressed mother’s house…sheesh, that already sounds traumatizing. Suzy came from a wealthy background, had divorced parents and dropped out of school at 16 to move to Paris, and even though she had a negative view of marriage and being a parent, she eventually did both and found new positive meaning in her life. You know…stories. Actual, real life decisions affecting outcomes, viewpoints being challenged and turned around by life experiences. This is the stuff of real life & drama! So, to say that Boyhood, a 3-hour long movie where nothing happens is “daring” because it shows how “boring” real life is, is not only exploiting a lazy creative crutch, it’s just a plain & simple fallacy.

   Don’t get me wrong. Things happen in the movie…it’s not like Mason just sits around on his ass the whole time. But the problem is – and this is my MAIN PROBLEM with the film Boyhood – nothing of significant dramatic importance happens in the story. Not a single story development with that real element of human weight, the tension that comes with facing a problem & making a difficult decision about how to overcome it. There’s never a moment in the film where Mason has to ask himself a difficult question (other than “What college do I want to go to?” which makes for intensely compelling cinema, let me tell you) or face an unforeseen challenge, one which makes him come to terms with something he’d rather not have to come to terms with. Basically what I’m saying is, there’s no conflict. There’s nothing in Boyhood to make us root for Mason’s character, other than the fact that this is the kid we’re gonna be following around for the next 3 hours.

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“Drugs, mom? What are those?”

   Now I know what some of you out there might be thinking: “Well, that’s like, the point of the movie, man! Life just happens, life isn’t like a movie, real life doesn’t have significant dramatic weight behind it, man!” And to that I say, you’re right – life isn’t a movie, and it doesn’t have those dramatic embellishments going on all the time, and Linklater’s film does a very good job of capturing that. The thing is – and I’m just going to be blunt here – that doesn’t make for very compelling storytelling. You see, if I wanted to experience something just like real life, I’d just…walk out of the theater and go experience real life. I HAD a boyhood man, and a pretty typical one at that – I’ve LIVED this shit already, and I don’t need to see some other kid’s boring life in my movie – ESPECIALLY if that other kid’s life is completely fictional, like this kid’s! When I go to a movie, I’m looking for something which is a reflection of life – not necessarily life itself, but rather, an interpretation of what life is like. I’ll tell you this right now: this movie is called Boyhood, and there’s not one moment in the film – NOT ONE – where Mason cries. He doesn’t shed a single tear, about anything – his cat doesn’t die, he doesn’t flunk a test he really wanted to do well on, he never seems distraught over the fact his stepdads are all drunken assholes. Hell, he doesn’t even fall down and skin his knee! In a film about a single human being, we never see that human being partake in one of the most ubiquitous human experiences of all: crying. THAT, to me, is a huge problem with Boyhood, and one which may appear trivial to some, but to me, sets an important precedent for how this film should be judged: it’s an idealistic vision of life, not a realistic one.

   I’m NOT saying Mason should have been an overemotional sap who cries buckets at every unfortunate turn – what I am saying is, there should have been at least ONE moment in his life where he had to cope with some seriously heavy shit. I don’t care how humdrum or boring you might consider your life to be – there’s at least one moment in all of our lives where something was so horribly fucked that we weren’t sure how life could ever be the same afterwards. Whether it be the death of a friend or family member, getting in a horrible accident, being abused by a drunken asshole stepdad, or even something shocking like discovering you’re gay and not knowing how to deal with it socially, there are defining moments in all of our lives which force us to come to terms with something uncomfortable, and define us as growing & changing human beings. Hell, they could’ve had Mason be the victim of extreme bullying & alienation, offering the opportunity to explore Mason’s reaction to such treatment AND make a statement about how cruel & ruthless modern kids can be to each other. Plus, it would give the audience something to empathize with Mason on and emotionally connect to! What I’m saying here is, we NEED those “buts” – the instances in the story where something comes along and flips the script for our protagonist. “Mason wanted to make friends at school, BUT -” “Mason decided to make the chess team, BUT -” “Mason was riding his bike down a steep hill blindfolded with no handlebars, BUT -” there are no “buts” in Boyhood, just a bunch of “thens”. Quite frankly, this movie needed quite a few more “buts”.

   And yes, there is “drama” in the movie, with Mason’s mom constantly shacking up with drunken assholes over & over again while said drunken assholes throw things at the dinner table and overdramatically declare, “I HATE SQUASH!!!” The sequence I’m referring to involves Mason, his mother, sister and step-siblings being violently harassed at the dinner table by Drunken Stepdad #1, who openly drinks hard liquor at the table and throws plates on the ground, commanding his kids to clean it up. Aside from the hokey performance from Drunken Stepdad, I would honestly give a scene like this a little more praise since there’s actually something happening…if only it weren’t so manipulative and one-dimensional. This scene is designed to make us pity Mason and his family, and feel some sort of empathy towards them in their tragic human plight. But the problem is, these experiences don’t really seem to have any traumatic or life-changing effect on Mason, other than being somewhat of an inconvenience. We never see him struggle with these issues, so there’s no reason for us to care. There’s never a scene where Mason lashes out at Daddy Drunkman, or in any way for that matter, other than the occasional stink eye from a distance. It’s mostly happening to his mom – in the end, she’s the one being abused and treated terribly by a drunken asshole, not Mason. These scenes of familial strife don’t add anything to the overall narrative. Mason doesn’t learn anything from these experiences, and if he does, we certainly aren’t made aware of what it is. There’s no dimensionality or deeper implications, and therefore, nothing to connect with or ruminate on beyond a superficial surface level.

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Remember that special, unforgettable scene where they argue about sides in the car? Omg like SO meaningful

   Over the course of Boyhood’s nearly 3 hour running time, there is not a single moment I could describe as profoundly significant, or challenging to Mason’s character in any way. Sure, Mason’s mom keeps dating horrible men, and there’s a (very) brief scene where Mason gets (sort of) bullied, and Mason’s girlfriend breaks up with him in high school, but these problems are meager at best – and what’s worse, they’re not treated with any sort of weight – they kind of just happen, and then…yeah. Mason just sort of goes along with it. Big whoop. If we as audience members are supposed to be projecting ourselves into Mason’s position and feeling real empathy for this character, then isn’t it a contradiction to make that position something stale, predictable & unchallenging? Anytime Boyhood presents an opportunity to become truly engaging to the audience, the scene changes and the next uneventful highlight of Mason’s life occurs. This is my main, main problem with Boyhood – it’s utterly, horribly, almost absurdly dull.

   A lot of this also has to do with Mason himself, and the almost lackadaisical manner in which he’s portrayed. Ellar Coltrane was not an actor when Richard Linklater picked him to be the Boy in his Hood 14 years ago, and that is abundantly apparent as Mason ages before our eyes – particularly during the dreadful high school years the movie chronicles. I’ve seen critics gush over how fantastic Coltrane is in the film, but really, there’s no actual acting going on in his performance. While watching the movie, I kind of got the impression Coltrane was just being himself the whole time, reciting lines in the boring, humdrum way he’d say them if he was actually Mason. Yeah, I guess that’s “acting” on one level, but it’s not really “acting” on the same level as Ethan Hawke – who unquestionably delivers the best performance in the film – is acting. Coltrane portrays Mason as a fairly unexcitable downer, someone who’s kind of withdrawn and sort of a wet blanket, especially during his high school years. This isn’t necessarily a problem – it’s not like he has to be a perfect All-American high school student or anything, but it becomes troublesome when we don’t have any real reason to identify with his directionless teenage angst – he just sort of comes off as patronizing. He doesn’t have charisma, he mumbles a lot of his lines, and he seems almost uninterested in heavily emoting towards the end of the film – almost as if Coltrane lost interest in the whole project somewhere in those 12 years of production time. I just don’t see how he could be labelled as a good actor. In fact, I bet a big reason Mason never cries in the film is because Ellar Coltrane can’t make himself squeeze out the tears in real life! When you’ve got an actor in a lead role who can’t really emote or perform with real dramatic weight who’s supposed to carry your entire 3 hour running time, and kind of comes off like a moody asshole the whole time, you’ve got a real problem on your hands.

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Mason: Illuminati confirmed.

   As long as we’re on the subject of performances, let me address something you won’t hear in most of the reviews you’ll find: the acting in this movie is subpar, at best. We’ve already been over Coltrane’s “stellar” performance, but seriously: Lorelei Linklater is pretty damn terrible as Mason’s older sister. I can understand Linklater’s enthusiasm for casting his daughter in this substantial role (especially after she apparently begged, pleaded & wouldn’t leave her father alone about being cast in it), but at the end of the day, Lorelei just isn’t an actress. And look, I’m really not trying to be harsh here, I don’t have anything against the kid, but her performance is one of the weakest aspects of the movie – I’m not gonna let a bad performance slide, no matter who’s delivering it. Her incessant squeals & behavior when she’s younger and eventual passiveness as a performer when she’s older are annoying, and drag the movie down as a whole. She’s a pretty major part of it for the first half, and while it establishes Mason has a boisterous & annoying older sister, her presence in the film starts to get a little grating.

   And hey, here’s an interesting side note: while doing my diligent research for this analysis online I read that a few years along into the Boyhood project, Lorelei Linklater got disinterested with the film and suggested to her father that he kill off her character. Linklater balked, basically stating that it was too grim for the film he was planning and he convinced her to stay on board. Given the uneventful nature of the movie’s story, I think it actually would have been extremely daring – TRULY daring – of Linklater to kill off the sister character, because then Mason would have had some actual dramatic conflict in his life!!! It just goes to show something here…Linklater had the opportunity to make his movie a little more dramatic, yet he deliberately chose against it. Do what you will with that information, but I believe it sets a precedent for how this movie should be judged.

   Anyway, Patricia Arquette fares better as the Mom character, but – despite recently winning a Golden Globe for her performance – her portrayal comes off as a little forced in many scenes. There’s a scene in the film where Mom, having recently come to her senses and left her drunken asshole boyfriend with the kids in tow, is dropping Mason & Lil’ Linklater off at a new school, and Sister Mason whines (in a very repugnant & bratty tone) that they have no friends at this school and no place to live. Mom then blows up at her, yelling about how she’s doing “the best she can” and how she “has no idea what it’s like to have a drunken asshole SLAM YOUR HEAD AGAINST A WALL” or something to that effect. It’s supposed to be a dramatic moment, Patricia Arquette’s overacted delivery of this line just takes me out of it – it’s forced, at best. This scene is the worst of it, but there are a handful of moments in the film which carry the same forced vibe. By the end of the movie, when Arquette’s character is given a farewell scene which involves an unjustly whiny, self-absorbed breakdown over her ungrateful son not taking a photo as he leaves for college, we’re not really feeling sympathy for her…it’s more like pity. And while Arquette’s performance in this scene is realistic, the narrative as a whole is casting such an unflattering light on her in her final moments onscreen that we can’t help but feel the same way she does… “it all led up to this?”

   Despite my minor complaints about Patricia Arquette’s performance, Mason’s Mom and Dad are actually the most interesting characters in the whole film. More so than Mason’s character, both of the parents actually have arcs – Mom puts herself through school and kind of learns that dudes who are rich with good jobs aren’t necessarily the right picks, and Dad goes from being kind of a boyish, free-spirited slacker type of guy to a mature man with a job at an insurance company. (Hey, I didn’t say they were good arcs.) What is Mason’s arc over the course of the movie? Um…he starts out as a boy and…uh, doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, so he, uh…takes up photography, and…ponders life? That’s another thing about the writing in this movie – it feels detrimentally non-directional and devoid of any deeper purpose, other than “this is what happens in real life.” “Remember that? When you couldn’t decide what college you wanted to go to? That was reeeeally tough, wasn’t it?” Anyway, I’m digressing. As I said before, Ethan Hawke gives the best performance of the film, really embodying the Dad character and giving him a boyish, carefree quality which is much needed for the role. You really get the sense that the Dad cares about his kids, and wants the best for them no matter what. Hawke takes a very naturalistic approach to the role, and doesn’t feel the need to imbue his character with any melodramatic heft or excess. His character is fair & honest with his kids, and Hawke plays the role pitch perfectly. It’s a standout performance in a sea of mediocre ones, and definitely a positive highlight of the movie as a whole.

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Mason & sister smile politely while Dad secretly wishes he was out driving his fancy car instead of spending time with his boring kids.

   Allow me to illustrate my points by highlighting one particular segment: There’s a scene in the film where Mason and some of his friends are hanging out with older kids. They’re talking shit, drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, throwing metal saw blades into slabs of dry wall, doing things “rebellious” young boys do. Like every other scene in the movie, it sort of just happens and doesn’t lead to anything else whatsoever. The reason I call this particular scene into question is because nearly all the performances in it are horrendous. The older kids have acting skills so shoddy that I can’t believe Linklater accepted them, and that they’re in a film being considered for the Best Picture Oscar. The writing is godawful too: the kids speak in horribly outdated slang, actually saying things like “True dat!” (In an earlier scene, when Mason is being introduced to his new class, one kid actually says to him “Welcome to the Suck”, which, I don’t know about you, is something my friends and I would ALWAYS say to each other in grade school.) In this scene we learn a new key aspect about Mason. After some hassling from the other guys about his Lady Biz Status, Mason lets it slip that he’s (apparently) hooked up with girls before. Only the thing is, we haven’t seen Mason hook up with any girls before, at least not up until this point. So either Mason is openly lying to these kids to appear cool, or we just simply haven’t seen this defining moment in a young straight man’s life – his first kiss with a girlOr hell, doing anything romantic with a girl! Either way, we’re never told what the case is – he just says it, and I guess it’s a fact now because the movie told us so. When I saw this scene I was just like, “News To Me!” Oh, and remember that saw blade I mentioned? These kids are drinking beers, throwing sharp metal objects around, and practicing their ninja punches in close proximity to said sharp objects…suspiciously sounds like a dramatic setup, right? But, instead of one of the boys having an unfortunate accident that they’ll all have to deal with, the scene just…ends, and moves on to the next event in Mason’s life. You know, if you build up a scene, even with a hint of something dangerous going on, the audience is going to subconsciously think something is afoot…because, you know, we’ve seen movies before. However, there’s no payoff whatsoever – no payoff to the saw blade setup, no building of an emotional connection to Mason’s outlook on existence – just events, happening in sequential order like a memory reel with all the good bits chopped out.

   Or how about the scenes where an older role-model type of person tries to give Mason some much-needed life advice? There are several points in the film where Mason’s dad, his photography teacher, and Drunken Stepdad #2 try to speak to him about the choices one makes in life, and how those choices shape who you are and what you’re going to be. Mason tends to listen to his father’s words with more intent, but he sort of blows off the advice of his teacher & stepdad. I can’t really say I grew to like Mason as a character more over time, because he sort of just became a closed off twerpy guy – not really the kind of person I’d want to hang out with, to be honest. For all the narrative problems Boyhood has, I will say the first half of the film is highly more engaging than the second half, where Mason becomes an angsty teenager and ponders clichéd existential questions about life. The early childhood scenes have this sense of freedom and discovery to them, while the high school scenes get bogged down with plodding, overwritten dialogue & stale performances – it really makes the 2nd half of the film feel like a chore. A good 45 minutes could have easily been cut from this film and not weighed down significantly on the movie’s overall effect.

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Mason stoically ruminates on deep, meaningful mysteries like “woah, man” and “like, for real, bro”

   Next let’s talk about the visual style (or lack thereof) utilized throughout the film. A notable thing about Boyhood is how plainly everything is shot. Scenes unfold in front of the camera in a very basic, conventional manner, without any attempt to make it feel “like a movie”. Now, in some ways, this makes sense, since the route Linklater is taking narratively is a very straight-up, clear-cut path through the life of this boy – no need to really embellish, right? Well…yes and no. For how plain the narrative is, we honestly could have used some embellishments in the visual style of this film, if only to keep us distracted for a few hours. But the editing & cinematography in Boyhood is so basic & by-the-book in its execution it almost feels like the first cut of an ambitious student film. What some people don’t seem to realize is that movies, being a visual medium, are capable of wooing & bedazzling us with just pure imagery alone, no need for the characters to say ­anything, really – the style of a film can add a special layer of richness to it, and make it more memorable in your mind-parts. I’m not asking for There Will Be Blood-caliber cinematography here, but something that’s at least visually stimulating – especially since nothing stimulating is happening in the story.

   For all the talk about how personal & close to home this project was for Richard Linklater, the distant, by-the-book manner in which the story is presented to us leaves this feeling like the most impersonal personal film ever made. We never really connect with Mason as a character – he’s a bit too passive and ho-hum to be relatable on any deeply personal level. We’re never let in on what he’s thinking – and more importantly, what he’s feeling. It’s as if Linklater is simply documenting the plain, natural things that happen to a plain, natural person from an outside and omnipotent perspective, which would probably be a little more interesting if this was a documentary – but it’s not. It’s a fictional movie Linklater had complete creative control over, and for some reason, there doesn’t seem to be any creativity going on anywhere, from the choice of visual style to the way the main character is depicted. For a movie that’s supposed to be a personal, insightful look at the developing life of a single specific person, we never really get a decent grip on what it is that makes Mason Mason – and that is a huge fundamental flaw with Boyhood, in my opinion.

   Do you guys remember that movie The Tree of Life, directed by God-tier director Terrence Malick and released in 2011? In that film, Malick takes us on a visual & narrative journey through the truths & mysteries of life and existence as presented through the lens of experiences from a small Texas family, specifically those of eldest son Jack. In the film he is torn between two forces: the caring love of his mother and the cold, authoritative control of his father. Because of this contradiction in his life, Jack acts out, making some questionable decisions with his actions that lead to his understanding of life as a whole. Plus, there’s dinosaurs! While Tree of Life is inarguably a more complex & ponderous movie with more on its conceptual plate than Boyhood has, there are several similarities between the two which I couldn’t help but compare & contrast.

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Ethan Hawke & Ellar Coltrane share a tender father/son mome…oh shit sry this is from a similar film which did everything better, my bad

   First of all, Boyhood is also about a small Texas family, and the emotional struggles they go through as a young boy grows older. However, unlike Boyhood’s Mason, who pretty much goes with the status-quo flow his entire life, Jack in Tree of Life reaches a point where he starts acting out, vandalizing buildings and even abusing animals with his friends. He steals from his neighbor at one point, and also feels genuine complex emotional dissonance because of his parents’ different parenting styles. Tree of Life features breathtaking visual splendor on an imaginative and more down-to-earth level, and an emphatic attention to character nuance that is quite frankly missing from Boyhood’s dry, boring scenes. And while some may write off Tree of Life as pretentious and overly ambitious, it at least takes creative & narrative risks in a meaningful and interesting way, making us ask questions about our own inherent natures and choices we make in life. Boyhood just presents us the bare bones account of a life, one that doesn’t nearly approach the level of depth and complexity Malick strives to imbue his similarly-themed film with.

   Now, is it fair to compare Boyhood, a small, quiet & unassuming depiction of everyday American life from the mind of a grounded, down-to-earth director like Richard Linklater, to The Tree of Life, a sprawling art-house epic directed by a certifiable madman/genius auteur which basically tries to singlehandedly answer the question of the meaning of life? Probably not, but I would argue that the ends justify the means on this one. Boyhood is being called a new American masterpiece, a heartwarming tale for young & old, and The Tree of Life, while receiving its fair share of acknowledgement & glory upon its release (including a Best Picture nomination), has sort of faded from the public eye in such short time. Why is Boyhood “bold” while Tree of Life is “polarizing”? Well, for one thing, The Tree of Life is more esoteric and thematically complex than Boyhood is – there aren’t any extended, 2001-esque cosmic flight segments where the audience soars across the universe and witnesses existence on a macrocosmic level in Boyhood. It’s a little safer, a little more cookie-cutter for modern mainstream audiences to consume & digest. It won’t offend you or your sensibilities in any way, and because of that, I feel like it’s just going to be more generally accepted than The Tree of Life will ever be.

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But WHAT COLLEGE IS HE GOING TO GO TO?!?!?!

   Boyhood has received a lot of hype as being “exciting” and “daring” but, to me, it doesn’t come anywhere close to being as daring as The Tree of Life was. Tree of Life delved deeper into the underlying nature of things, and was trying to ask larger questions about consciousness & what this all really means – kind of like what Linklater did in his own film Waking Life 13 years ago. For Linklater, Boyhood isn’t any kind of narratively risky project, even if he did spend 12 years making it. It’s about a semi-privileged suburban white kid, which is something Linklater himself grew up as. If he really wanted to make Boyhood a “daring” film, he should have made it about a young black boy, growing up on the dangerous streets of an American ghetto and facing the real challenges such a life presents, not something safe and close to home. Then he could have shot THAT film over the course of 12 years. Getting out of comfort zones, much? But such a film wouldn’t sit well with the mass viewing public of the world, many of whom don’t like to have their perceptions challenged or put into question. THAT would have been a much more interesting film to me, not something which plays like an overly-sentimental Hallmark card for 3 hours straight.

   Okay, now that I’ve got most of my griping out of the way and we’re nearing the end, let me just say this: if you see Boyhood, and you feel like it connects with you on an emotional & spiritual level, then by all means, enjoy your experience with this film, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not trying to blast Boyhood as a completely unnecessary waste of time – it is a reflection of life, and as such, contains some insightful moments on what it is to be a young person growing up in this world. It speaks a lot about how things change, while somehow seeming the same all the while – gradual change, rather than sharp and drastic. There are some genuinely touching moments in the film, particularly with Mason and his dad, which show how meaningful family relationships can be – scenes like Dad giving Mason a specially-made, self-compiled Beatles mix album complete with CD case and album art, or Mason going camping with Dad and talking about movies. Boyhood has its heart in the right place, and you can’t really knock it for that. It’s trying to be a meaningful and positive film, showing us the simplicity of existence and how our relationships interact and shape our lives. My problem is, it tends to fall flat about 98% of the time – but it does have its moments.

   I know I’ve said some pretty mean things about this movie throughout this analysis, but I’m really not an old codger who just wants to shit on a harmless flick about some kid’s life – really, I just expected more out of this movie, given the wondrous and glowing reviews it has received, and was drastically let down by its execution and presentation. It’s a simple film, with not much else going on under the surface, and there’s nothing really wrong with that. The thing is, that’s all it is, and it doesn’t really stand up to these grandiose accolades it’s been receiving. In my opinion, Boyhood is an interesting experiment, a sort of “what if I did this?” scenario that a talented filmmaker dared to undertake. It didn’t quite work to the fullest extent, but hey, we got something worth seeing and talking about out of it, and that’s worth something. Because of its simplicity and unassuming charm, Boyhood has kind of developed a shield for itself from negative criticism, being hailed as beautiful by critics who don’t want to seem like a sourpuss for not liking this inoffensive film about growing up. I’m running the risk of looking like a cynical asshole film critic, but I will proudly come out and say that the inoffensive nature of Boyhood is precisely what makes it offensive to me – it doesn’t have anything deep to say other than, “this is what life is like!”

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Just pretend the bubble is this movie’s overinflated sense of importance and Mason’s finger is this review.

   Here’s the thing about a movie like Boyhood, and I’m going to explain this as carefully as I can. When you’re watching this movie and see those “Kodak Moments” Mason has with his family, you automatically harken back your own memories with your own family and, somehow, inexplicably, those feelings become associated with the film. Then, the film is amazing by default because your own memories are amazing by default. “Look at that thing Mason got from his dad! I remember when my dad gave me a thing! This movie is SO brilliant and amazing!” You identified with your own nostalgic moment instead of the one Mason is half-heartedly experiencing onscreen. Because of this simple magic trick, Linklater is raking in millions and Boyhood is robbing more deserving films of their spotlight. If you really take a step back and watch Boyhood without the “taking a trip down memory lane” filter it becomes apparent that movie heavily relies on the audience projecting their own nostalgia into the frame. I think that’s why so many critics and so many regular people have latched on to this film so fervently like it’s some kind of wonderful new drug: it’s a nostalgia generator, but not because it actually creates its own nostalgic moments. More appropriately, it’s a nostalgia emulator – referencing those ubiquitous heartfelt moments and letting you fill in the gaps. This is what I mean when I describe Boyhood as a manipulative film.

   Which I guess is as good a spot as any to address the music in this film. Linklater made a very true-to-life move and decided not to incorporate a traditional musical score for the film, most likely because real life doesn’t have its own film score. I’ll actually give Linklater some credit here – while a film score might have been effective in its own right, it definitely wouldn’t have aligned with the “true to life” vibe he was shooting for. Having no orchestrated score made the movie feel at least a little more real, even if the convenient and simplistic writing detracted from that. The score of our modern lives is, of course, popular music, which is utilized to full effect throughout the movie. The very first thing our senses are treated to in Boyhood is the sound of Coldplay’s “Yellow” introducing Mason to us in the properly sappy tone only a song like “Yellow” could achieve. The movie’s got a wide range of musical selections – from Blink-182 to Sheryl Crow to The Flaming Lips to Soulja Boy to Gnarls Barkley to Lady Gaga to Paul McCartney to Arcade Fire. There’s a lot of tunes of varying degrees of quality throughout the film, and it at least serves to switch up the humdrum goings-on of what’s actually happening onscreen. In fact, I could probably say that Boyhood’s soundtrack is probably the most eclectic aspect of the film. That being said, it’s only with a few exceptions that the songs are used as anything more than background music – not really having anything to do with the scenes at hand, but placed there to remind us roughly what era it is, and also to wring all that precious nostalgia-juice out of our exhausted nostalgia glands. At least Linklater did us the favor of saving the movie’s “theme song” – that godawful song “Hero” by Family of the Year (how appropriate) till the end, where we don’t have to put up with it for very long! Words cannot describe how much I hate that song…it’s bland, corny and sickeningly oversentimental, much like the movie it will forever be associated with.

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Ethan Hawk & Ellar Coltrane silently reflect on the past 12 years of their lives after reading everything I’ve just said.

   Overall, I would say that Boyhood is an ineffective film, one which whole-heartedly tries but ultimately fails to achieve the deeper implications of what its intriguing premise promises. There’s too much hokey dialogue, bland cinematography, subpar-to-weak acting, and manipulative/faux-sentimental hoo-hah going on in the movie for me to consider it as one of the “greatest films of the decade.” There’s not enough energy in the movie, nothing exciting or interesting to really keep us ingrained in the film’s world throughout its butt-numbing three hour running time. And what’s worse, we’re never made to feel close or united with Mason and his “problems”, which is problematic for a movie which is solely concentrated on that one character. We never make a true connection with Mason, and that is why Boyhood is flawed. The sad thing is, critics and (some) audiences all over the country seem to be blind to this inherent flaw because they’re going absolutely gaga over it and nominating it for all sorts of awards – and what’s worse, giving it those awards! This is a slightly fancier Hallmark Channel TV movie, at best. It’s certainly no Birdman, which in MY humble opinion is THE BEST movie of 2014, if not the DECADE.

   Ah, Birdman. Birdman is so great. Birdman is 20 times more creative, risky & daring than Boyhood could ever HOPE to be, and it’s not getting the glorious recognition it deserves because this flop film has come out in the same year and is pulling a lampshade over everyone’s heads. Birdman has compelling characters, GREAT performances, stunning cinematography and music, and best of all, it’s DIFFERENT. It’s INTERESTING. It has soul, wit and heart that I frankly haven’t seen in a film in quite some time. And before I turn this into a full-blown Birdman review (that’s coming later), I just want to say that I brought up Birdman because that film embodies everything that makes a great film great – the human elements, an elegant & thought-provoking story, the deeper thematic underpinnings within that story, the memorable characters, the colossal drama & tension…those things make a Great Film fun to watch, not… “Where am I gonna go to college?” “Aw man, this girl broke up with me, that wasn’t fun. I’m gonna mope about it for 2 ½ hours of running time.” “Ohh, I don’t know what to do with my life…isn’t that, leik, so dramaaaatic??”

   Yes, Linklater’s Boyhood, a film being praised as a masterpiece and a profound appraisal on the human condition, is ironically one of the most lifeless films about real life ever made. It’s boring, plain & simple, and almost shockingly trite in how phony & unconvincing its portrayal of youth is. Mason is just a dude floating through life, free from any eye-opening choices, safe from any life-changing circumstances. It’s kind of insulting that this faux-sentimental tripe is being pushed upon us like the second coming of Movie Christ, actually. That’s why I have chosen it as the Most Overrated Film of the Decade, even though we’re just halfway through it. The sickening amount of critical praise this film has received is literally baffling to me, and I sort of wrote this analysis as a way of venting & figuring out just what it is that’s making everyone go gaga. It’s sappy, nostalgic, & directed by man whom film critics have come to respect over the years – it’s for these reason that I believe Boyhood has become so absurdly overhyped. And don’t forget – it took 12 years to make!!!

   In closing, here is a little something I’d like to share with you which sums up my feelings about Boyhood. There’s a scene early on in the film when Mason is out bowling with his annoying sister and absentee father, and Ethan Hawke’s character gives him these immortal words of profound fatherly advice: “You don’t need the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers.” Unfortunately, with his technically interesting but overly dull & ham-fisted film Boyhood, director Linklater has given Mason bumpers – the bumpers to coast throughout life with ease, bouncing off one setback to the next without ever once winding up in the gutter. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very “great” to me.

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This, however, sounds fucking awesome!

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THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER: THE RECOBBLED CUT
Starring Vincent Price, Hilary Pritchard, Anthony Quayle, Paul Matthews, Windsor Davies & Joan Sims
Directed by Richard Williams
Written by Richard Williams & Margaret French
Produced by Richard Williams & Imogen Sutton
Cinematography by John Leatherbarrow
Music by various classical artists
Compiled & Edited by Garrett Gilchrist

The best damn story you never heard.

(Just a few notes before we begin: this review is for the 3rd version of The Recobbled Cut, otherwise known as Mark III. Mark IV, a more complete, slightly different, hi-def version of The Recobbled Cut has since been released and is available at various places online. This review was written before the release of Mark IV, so it’s not entirely up-to-date – however, it will still get the job done. Also, there are SPOILERS in here. I highly recommend you watch this film unspoiled, if you haven’t already. Whether or not you read this before seeing it is your choice. Anyway, on to the review!)

   I’m gonna start off by stating the obvious: it’s not a perfect world. In a perfect world, things would never go wrong for talented people. The masses would always flock to quality-made productions, artists would always get the upper hand over money-grubbing business executives, and inspired creations painstakingly crafted by good-natured people would always see the light of day and achieve the accolades they deserve. Unfortunately, life has an unfortunate knack for being cruelly unfair most of the time, and if there’s anybody on the planet who can attest to this fact with absolute pathos, it’s Richard Williams. There’s perhaps nobody else in the history of cinema who’s been as royally fucked over harder than Richard Williams, the genius director and master animator behind The Thief and the Cobbler. Once upon a time, Williams was a man with a dream – to create the greatest animated film the world had ever seen. And, in 1964, he set forth on the path to accomplishing this lofty goal. Sadly, it would never come to fruition: Thief spent the next 29 years in on-again off-again production only to be taken away from Williams at the last minute and drastically re-edited into a shameful, Disneyesque shitfest released into theaters in 1993 (and 1995, confusingly) as Arabian Knight…or, The Princess and the Cobbler…or, in some cases, just as The Thief and the Cobbler, which is probably the biggest slap in the face considering the fact the “finished” product was NOTHING like the Thief Williams had envisioned. For a long time, the dream was dead – and nobody in the general public had any clue about the hideous buttfucking the system had given this once great masterpiece of animated cinema.

   Nobody, that is, until 2006, when a young filmmaker/animation aficionado named Garrett Gilchrist completed a little restoration project he titled The Thief and the Cobbler: The Recobbled Cut and released it for free onto the internet. Since then, awareness has been steadily growing regarding this lost animated gem, and for the first time, the public could finally sort-of witness the glory of what was intended to be the greatest animated film ever created by human consciousness. I remember stumbling along through the vast chasms of the Interwebz one day when I happened upon an article detailing the story of this troubled film in its entirety, which ended with a strong urging to seek out The Recobbled Cut. I had never heard of the released version of the movie before, and since I am a life-long, fanatically enthusiastic lover of animation, I was intrigued, and I took it upon myself to view this Recobbled Cut for great justice. And friends…it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, at least, in terms of cinema I’ve chosen to expose myself to. For you see, The Thief and the Cobbler: The Recobbled Cut is one of the most important and vital pieces of fan-made cultural preservation you will ever, EVER experience. I was absolutely blown away by Thief, even in its unfinished form – it really, truly is the greatest animated film ever made, a lovingly crafted and dazzingly animated epic tale of good & evil, fate & circumstance, random causality, dreams, and general cartoony goodness that will absolutely astonish your brain while you’re watching it. I really can’t say enough good things about it, which is why I’m writing this doozy of a film review to get it all out. It is now my responsibility to spread awareness of this film by any means necessary, and to alert the populace to both its raw, epic greatness and also its tragic tale of brutal mutilation at the hands of those unworthy of said greatness. And believe me, dear readers…I have every intention of doing so.

The titular Thief attempts to rob the titular cobbler….hilarity will no doubt ensue.

   It’s important to note that The Recobbled Cut is NOT The Thief and the Cobbler – that film was never finished in its appropriate form. Rather, The Recobbled Cut is an appropriation of what that epic film would have been. It compiles unfinished animation and original storyboards to complete a story inspired by the Arabian Nights legends which is flawlessly executed with the help of incredibly vibrant, instantly memorable characters as a testament to the power and beauty of animation. Why anybody would want to stop that from happening is BEYOND me, but, it happened, ladies and gents. I’m sorry to say it, but you were all deprived of one of the coolest fucking movies that has ever existed – and now I’m here to try and help pick up the pieces.

   The entire story of The Thief and the Cobbler – the production of the film itself, I mean – is long, confusing, and above all, tragic. First off, a brief background on Richard Williams: you know that old colloquialism about how someone “wrote the book” on a given topic? Well, Richard Williams IS that guy with concern to animation. Really! His book The Animator’s Survival Kit is considered THE definitive tome on the art of animation and is even used in animation classrooms all over. Also, he was the Oscar-winning animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. So basically, this guy rules at animating. Anyway, Richard Williams sought to make the entire film independently – with absolute creative control over what would happen in it. This was the obvious and highly important choice for the film, but a cold truth about the world is that independent animators don’t make a ton of money. Williams demanded perfection in the animation, down to the straightest line, striving to push the boundaries of what animation had previously accomplished – but doing so would cost a fortune. Think about it this way: time is money, and this movie took nearly 30 years to see some form of release – and it isn’t even fucking done yet. The amount of intricacy in the animation of this film is a beautiful and awe-inspiring thing to see, but it didn’t come cheap. To pay for his expensive masterpiece, Williams (along with his animation studio) took on work from anyone who would be willing to pay – commercials, films, television shows, you name it, Richard Williams Studio was animating it.

Richard Williams himself. I would make a joke but I actually respect this guy, so I’ll just say that’s one silly ass camel he’s drawing.

   The film originally began life as The Amazing Nasruddin, and was set to be a tale about Mulla Nasruddin, a legendary figure from Near Eastern folklore. The film’s name changed to The Majestic Fool, and then to Nasruddin! and production chugged along very slowly. Eventually, Williams had a falling out with some of the people he was planning the film with, and it was also determined that Nasruddin! was “too verbal” for a proper animated film, so the script was thrown out sometime around 1972. (I’ve actually seen some footage left over from Nasruddin!, and trust me…they were right.) However Williams, having gained a lot of visual reference and inspiration from Middle Eastern artwork and folklore, decided to make an entirely new production based in this world that would ideally become the greatest animated film ever created. Now titled The Thief and the Cobbler, Williams began production on this new project in 1973. Production was extremely slow, and due to Williams not faithfully following the script he had written, scenes were pretty much animated on a whim. Williams made it a point to hire animation legends to work on the project – names like Ken Harris, Art Babbitt, and Emery Hawkins. You might not know who these guys are, but they are all considered legends in the field of animation, and true masters of their craft. The film was conceived as a way to preserve their craft for all generations to come. Williams himself made things a bit of a problem, since he didn’t like the tyranny of scripts or storyboards hindering his creativity and ambition. Because of this, scenes were being animated without any bearing as to where they would end up in the film – many of the scenes involving the Thief doing random things that are in the film exist because Williams wanted to keep his master animators busy while he plotted out the entire film in his head.

   After receiving some financial backing from a Saudi Arabian prince in the late ’70s and using it to complete the climax of the film (which contains some of the most intricate, complex and detailed animation ever committed to celluloid), Thief was comprised of about 12 minutes of completed footage. (The prince eventually backed out of the movie after Williams missed two deadlines and went drastically over budget.) Richard Williams put together a screening of the completed 12 minutes to show to potential financiers, and this caught the attention of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, who were in the process of prepping for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. They checked out the animation for themselves, and after being thoroughly impressed, they offered Williams the position of Animation Director for Roger. Williams accepted the offer, knowing that he would finally be able to gain financial backing for The Thief and the Cobbler in return for working on such a high-profile project. And, after Roger was released in 1988 and became a huge box-office success which gained him two Academy Awards, it happened. Warner Bros. Pictures gave Williams proper funding, a distribution deal, and a 1991 deadline, and for the first time in the history of the film, it looked like it was actually going to be made. It was during this time that Williams began to truly gain the reputation of being a perfectionist blowhard: he was firing scores of animators left and right, staying extra late at the studio working on the film, and even throwing out entire completed scenes and re-animating them. To make matters worse, he still didn’t have a solid storyboard of the film, meaning the entire thing was pretty much in his head and nobody had any solid foundation to go on. By the time the 1991 deadline rolled around, production still had about 15 minutes of animation left to finish – animation which would take months to complete under Williams’ methods. It was also around this time that Disney began prepping their ad campaign for their new film Aladdin…which was also based on the Arabian Nights tales and bore some VERY striking resemblances to The Thief and the Cobbler (more of that later…believe me, it’s quite a tale). Feeling the pressure, Warner Bros. demanded Williams compile a workprint of the finished animation for the film, and use storyboards to fill in the parts that weren’t completed. Williams begrudgingly complied, and in 1992 the workprint was screened for the studio bigwigs.

Actual photograph of the distribution executives at Warner Bros.

   The bigwigs were not happy. An ever-expanding budget and Williams’ slow working pace made Warner Bros. frustrated and nervous, and after 4 years of financial support, they effectively backed out of the project, citing lost confidence in Williams. A few months later, The Completion Bond Company (basically, just a film insurance company…you can imagine how many creative people were employed over there) seized control of the film and booted Williams out of the director’s chair. Basically, they had legal control over the project at this point, and Williams had no say in how it would continue.  He was separated from his creation, and creative control was handed over to a man named Fred Calvert. Instead of finishing the film that Williams had started, Calvert decided to completely reconstruct the tone of the movie, and excise much of Williams’ original animation to make a more streamlined, family-friendly production. This differed strongly from Williams’ original vision of a mature, adult-oriented film…not in terms of “adult” themes, but you know…an actual film with a story that didn’t have cartoon animals singing about their feelings every 5 minutes. The execs ordered Calvert to finish the movie in the shortest amount of time possible for the smallest amount of money possible, and in 1993, Majestic Films bought the distribution rights from the Completion Bond Company and released this new version of the film in Australia and South Africa as The Princess and the Cobbler. Two years later, Miramax gained U.S. distribution rights and re-edited the film even further, making “brilliant” decisions such as adding Matthew Broderick and Johnathan Winters to the mix to provide voice-overs for the previously MUTE characters of the Thief and Tack the cobbler, and giving the film the oh-so-clever title of Arabian Knight. It was at this point the horrid fate of the once ambitious film was sealed.

   Arabian Knight was released in America in 1995 to terrible critical reception and box office failure. It was considered a poor, misguided attempt at streamlining Williams’ vision and a blatant ripoff of Disney’s much more successful Aladdin, which was released in 1992. Calvert had gone about adding horrible, unmemorable Disneyesque songs to the production, and those were also criticized for being the horrid piles of shame that they were. In the end, The Thief and the Cobbler had been butchered by the Hollywood system – a victim of both overzealous ambitions from the creator and cheap, uninspired completion methods from the company that stole it from him. A genuine work of art downgraded to a cheaply-made, by-the-numbers commodity. Richard Williams vowed to never speak of the film again, a vow which he has stuck to for the most part. And seriously, can you blame the guy?

   But you see my friends, we’ve finally come full circle: In the 2000’s, a filmmaker named Garrett Gilchrist set off on a quest to see The Thief and the Cobbler somewhat restored to its former glory. Going directly to the animators who worked on the film, Gilchrist eventually gathered together all of the released and unreleased footage, voice recordings, music selections and storyboards and edited it all together to create The Recobbled Cut, which currently stands as the closest anyone has come to completing The Thief and the Cobbler as a whole. Be happy that Gilchrist did that, ladies and gents, because he basically saved an entire work of art from tragic obscurity.

   So now, after reading that long and admittedly twisty tale, you may be saying to yourself “Well, that sucks for him. But why should I care?” The reason you should care, my friends, is because The Thief and the Cobbler – had it been finished – really, genuinely would have been the greatest animated film of all time!!! Seriously, this is a movie which would have been played countless times on television, become an international landmark classic, and would’ve had a grand impact on the face of cinematic history as we know it. The film is seemingly made out of pure imagination, streamed directly from some unknown and mystical source directly into your retinas. The quality of the animation is breathtaking – you can definitely see the effort that went into the flawless, fluid motions of the characters and the world they inhabit. The movie is just straight up fun to look at! It’s pure eye candy while also being a completely satisfying cinematic experience.

Did I mention eye candy and a completely satisfying cinematic experience?

   So now that you’ve heard the tale of how the movie was made, just what the hell is the movie about? Well, it’s about some really well thought-out and developed characters, for one thing. The hero of our adventure is Tack, a lowly cobbler in an old Arabian city who – through a series of seemingly random and coincidental events – ends up becoming the prince of all the land, with the beautiful Princess Yum Yum (that’s right) by his side. It’s also the tale of an unnamed Thief, who is simultaneously a crucial yet largely unnoticed part of the events which unfold. Sliming his way through the mayhem to be our antagonist is Zigzag, an ugly and very blue Grand Vizier who lusts for power and is extremely well-voiced by none other than Vincent Price, and undeniable film legend who goes all out to help imbue Zigzag with the right amount of hilarity and hubris and fully realize him as one of the creepiest, most lecherous animated villains ever devised. Despite her, uh, “simple” name, Princess Yum Yum is actually a very strong female character – we actually see her do things in the movie, and she utilizes her feminine charm (and wrath, at least on Zigzag’s vulture Phido) to get shit done. I really enjoy her character a lot because she’s not just an airhead princess – she has personality and that previously mentioned charm which shines through the screen because of her amazing animation. She’s treated respectfully, and it makes her character that much stronger.  And one thing I want to mention about Tack is his mouth – he doesn’t really have one. Well, he does, but it’s always closed and unmoving. Instead, his mouth expressions are handled by tacks which he keeps in his mouth like toothpicks – when he’s happy, they perk up! When he’s sad, they droop. It’s a really clever trick that works perfectly for guy who doesn’t really talk that much. All of these characters are so well defined, and have their own visual styles which are instantly ingrained on your memory – truly, there’s no better compliment you can give to successful animated characters.

   So anyway, the story begins with a narrator, who sets the stage by informing us –

It is written among the limitless constellations of the celestial heavens, and in the depths of the emerald seas, and upon every grain of sand in the vast deserts, that the world which we see is an outward and visible dream…of an inward and invisible reality.

   – which might be the coolest fucking opening line for any movie that has ever existed in the history of EVER. The pure epicness of that one line alone is but a taste of the glorious wonder which is to follow – but I’m digressing. The narrator continues to tell us that once upon a time, there was a city made entirely of gold. In the city, on top of the tallest minaret, were three gold balls of some magical variety. It had been prophesized that if the golden balls were ever taken away, then “harmony would fall to discord” and the city would come to “destruction and death.” Keeping up? The prophecy also states that the city would be saved by the “simplest of souls with the smallest and simplest of things.”

   This introduces us to Tack, who we find sleeping peacefully in his shoe shop. Soon after, the narrative introduces us to the Thief, who remains otherwise nameless throughout the entire film. The design of the Thief is hilarious – he’s a skinny, sickly-green fellow with a large cloak used for stashing a large quantity of stolen goods. He attempts to rob a little old lady, who immediately turns the tables on him by thoroughly beating him senseless and literally tying him into knots. It’s a great introduction to both the Thief and the old lady (who later turns out to be Princess Yum Yum’s nanny), and it properly establishes both the whimsical nature of the story and the cartoonish silliness employed throughout the film. Eventually, the Thief wanders into Tack’s shoe shop, where he vainly attempts to rob the broke cobbler of any cash he might have. Meanwhile, the sound of loud music can be heard, as an entirely self-important parade takes place on the street for Zigzag the Grand Vizier, who clearly thinks very highly of himself as he sort of dance-walks through the square as a group of hastily-moving underlings continually roll up and unfurl a carpet beneath his feet as he walks – it’s a hilarious image, and instantly defines Zigzag as the biggest douche ever. After waking to find he has accidentally stitched himself to the Thief while he was sleeping, Tack and the Thief awkwardly stumble out onto the street, where several of Tack’s tacks spill out right where Zigzag is about to step. He steps on one, and after screaming in pain he immediately orders Tack to be seized and taken to the palace, where his fate will be decided.

Note to any aspiring thieves out there: always have a swarm of flies buzzing around your face. Nobody will ever notice you.

   By this point the film has already established an important precedent: this is a highly VISUAL story – as it should be! The animation, character designs, and backgrounds are so gloriously rendered it’s almost unbelievable to witness. The main characters of the film – the Thief and Tack the cobbler – are entirely silent. As in, they DO NOT SPEAK. This is a very obvious aesthetic choice that Richard Williams made, and it helps to emphasize the visuals as the primary storytelling compenent. This is where the Miramax-helmed shitfest Arabian Knight goes horribly wrong – they actually give Tack and the Thief fuckin’ voices! Tack has the horrible misfortune of being awkwardly voiced by Matthew Broderick – whose involvement in anything pretty much guarantees a sheen of mediocrity. Miramax got away with this by making Tack the narrator of the film – and he pretty much spells out everything that anybody with half a brain could figure out just by, you know…watching the fucking movie. They even went in and added scenes of Tack saying such brilliant things like “Why can’t I ever talk when it matters?”…which is pretty much the stupidest, most disrespectful thing you could make a previously mute character say. But still, despite the horrible treatment Tack received, it’s nothing compared to the evil slaughtering the Thief’s character underwent. Miramax decided to make the Thief “a man of few words…but many thoughts” because, apparently, having an entirely mute character in a cartoon is too risky and ridiculous of a thing to do. So they got a comedian named Johnathan Winters to provide CONTINUOUS voice-over “thought-speech” to THE ENTIRE MOVIE. So basically, this just means that some asshole is making terrible, pop culture-referencing “jokes” over beautiful animation that has absolutely NO BEARING on the story at all! And worst of all, it doesn’t stop!!! The Thief is constantly jabbering away “in his head”, but nothing – NOTHING he thinks has anything to do with anything. It really is a baffling and infuriating thing to watch.

   You might be wondering why I’m getting so furious over some stupid voices added to an animated film, and the reason is because doing so completely rapes the entire point of what Richard Williams set out to accomplish, and because it totally bastardizes the characters! Tack and the Thief are NOT supposed to talk. Period. To think that they needed to talk for some reason is not only foolish, but offensive to Richard Williams AND the audience. We don’t need things spelled out for us, especially in an animated film where the visuals are all we need to understand what is happening. It’s self-indulgent, unnecessary, redundant, boring, and worst of all, annoying. It’s a big reason why Arabian Knight is considered an atrocious film. Now, I will add an asterisk here saying that Tack does indeed have one line in The Recobbled Cut, but it’s so gloriously awesome that I won’t spoil what he says or when he says it. When it happens, it makes sense and it’s just so surprising that your brain can’t help but enjoy it! With Arabian Knight, it doesn’t make sense in the slightest – it just illustrates how terribly Richard Williams and his art were screwed over.

Zigzag has the idea to ditch the whole “golden balls” thing and just sell his likeness to Disney.

   Anyway, I got a little sidetracked from the story…I’m sorry, but there’s just so much to talk about with this movie. Tack is taken into the palace where he meets King Nod – who is very appropriately named because he always seems to be nodding off to sleep – and his daughter, the beautiful Princess Yum Yum. Zigzag wants to have Tack killed because he “attacked” him in the square, but Yum Yum instantly sees something in Tack and purposely breaks her shoe so she can save the cobbler’s life. This infuriates Zigzag, who has something of a longing for Yum Yum himself. Meanwhile, the Thief sets his eyes on the legendary golden balls atop the minaret, and sets about trying to get into the palace walls so he can steal them. Why would the Thief want to steal these balls that are bound to the city’s fate? Well, the first thing you should know about the Thief is that he’s an idiot, and the second is that this guy does NOT think about anything besides stealing (another reason why making him a “man of many thoughts” is retarded). He’s the king of kleptomaniacs, putting stealing above his own life in almost every aspect. A lot of the movie revolves around scenes with the Thief trying to steal something in some way, even though it only directly influences the plot twice – he’s mainly used as comedy relief throughout the film, and indeed is barely noticed by any other characters as things progress. In fact, Tack is the only major character who directly interacts with the Thief, or seems to even be aware of his existence. There’s a scene in which the Thief has successfully gained access to the palace’s inner chambers, where he runs into Tack fixing Yum Yum’s shoe. The Thief steals it and Tack chases after him, leading to one of the most visually stimulating and powerfully exciting chase sequences in motion picture history. Tack chases the Thief through a series of M.C. Escher-inspired set pieces that comprise the interior of the palace – perspective and the laws of physics are thrown out the window and the characters are forced to make their way through the mayhem while we watch with delight. Seriously, it’s one of the coolest things you’ll ever see, and even though it only lasts about 40 seconds, it leaves a permanent imprint on your brain. Had Thief been completed and released into theaters, I guarantee it would have become one of the film’s standout and signature scenes. I guess we can thank our lucky stars that the sequence is one of the ones which is completely finished.

   Another thing I’d like to randomly point out about The Recobbled Cut that’s worth mentioning is the music. The music used here – like everything else about the film – is simply breathtaking and perfectly utilized for the visuals we’re seeing. The classical pieces chosen are so well-edited and synced to what is happening in the film that it almost seems like they were written for the movie, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know much about the process of how the film’s music was chosen, or about Williams’ full intent with how the music was utilized in it, but just judging from the way it exists in The Recobbled Cut I’ve come to the conclusion that Williams definitely intended for The Thief to be somewhat of a musical experience, too. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s beautiful, epic 40-minute masterpiece Scheherazade sort of serves as the main theme of the movie; its gorgeous strings and horns are heard throughout the film and various points. Without a doubt, it’s the single piece of music that gives the entirety of The Recobbled Cut its flavor. The rest of the music in the film is beautiful as well, and luckily for us, there are several moments where the animation has been timed sublimely with the accompanying music – there’s a scene where the Thief comically bounces around on the canopies of the marketplace windows in a botched attempt at getting to the top of the minaret, and the silly music chosen for the scene fits perfectly – the tone of the music, the swoops of the horns…it all matches with the action of the animation perfectly. There’s another scene with the Thief in which he has fashioned some makeshift wings out of palm fronds to swoop off a tall cliffside with, in an attempt to steal the ruby off of The Great Ruby Idol (gotta hand it to the Thief…he goes for the big grabs). After a very dodgy launch, he eventually soars into the air and begins flying around to the sound of a patriotic-sounding U.S. Air Force battle march, evoking the greatest memories of old-time aerial war films. The Thief and the Cobbler has a built-in lyricism to it, a structure of a somewhat loose and musical kind. The music seems to guide the story, while at the same time existing outside of it…indeed, the music somewhat serves as another character in the film, making just as much of an impression as the cast of characters it’s scoring. It’s really an effective move, and best of all, it’s done subtly – the music actually serves the story without interfering with it. This is MUCH different than the Bond Company/Miramax edits, which unnecessarily add some of the most laziest, monotonous, unoriginal, and straight-up simple-minded Disney-cribbing songs you could ever imagine. This literally shits in the face with Williams’ original vision, which – as I’m sure is quite apparent – was the polar opposite of the Disney brand of animated filmmaking.  I’ll give it to Aladdin…there are some pretty damn good songs in that flick, and let’s face it, that’s what Disney’s strong suite is. That’s why blatantly RIPPING IT OFF and then adding it to a film which was NOT supposed to have ANYTHING LIKE THAT IN IT is misguided, thoughtless, stupid, and insulting…plus many more negative adjectives I won’t list here. It literally boggles the mind. Now, I will say that The Recobbled Cut does use some of the score from the Miramax edit – not the songs of course, but just the background score – but it’s only in scenes where some other piece of music might not have fit, and in all fairness, the musical score of Arabian Knight was probably the least worst thing about that release. Gilchrist did a fantastic job of being able to pull together something great from sources of varying quality, and the score he’s stitched together is another miraculous triumph.

   So anyway, once the Thief successfully steals the golden balls (but loses them due to incurable clumsiness), the city is thrown into panicked chaos. Zigzag orders his lackies to retrieve the balls, and, once he has them, he uses it to his advantage by trying to coax King Nod into letting him marry Yum Yum in exchange for returning the golden balls. This offends Nod horribly, and he orders Zigzag out of the palace for good. Zigzag then decides to take the balls to the One-Eyes, a savage and fierce race of one-eyed men who plan to invade the Golden City and take it as their own. Meanwhile, the king sends his daughter and Tack (with the Thief in pursuit) into the desert to find the Mad and Holy Old Witch, the only one who can tell them how to save the city from the One-Eye invasion. Along the way they run into a group of comedic imbeciles called the Brigands, whom Yum Yum assigns as her Royal Guards to prevent them from pillaging their little caravan. The Brigands are pretty hilarious, but apart from getting our heroes back to the Golden City quickly after they’ve met the Witch, they serve no real purpose in the story. This isn’t really a bad thing though, because their foolishness adds a whimsical touch to the middle segment of the film. However, once they return to the city, they find the One-Eyes preparing for their invasion with a giant, impossibly elaborate War Machine and thousands of marching troops. I won’t spoil what happens from this point on, but I’ll just let you know that it involves some of the most complex, intricate animation ever devised and is an extremely satisfying (if highly unlikely) climax to the film. The War Machine sequence is also mostly finished, and we can definitely breath a sigh of relief that this unbelievably detailed animation is preserved for our enjoyment.

If they weren’t so evil and full of bloodlust they might actually make for a nice ensemble.

   On that note, let’s talk about the unfinished nature of The Recobbled Cut. Yes, this movie is not complete. The movie seamlessly transitions from fully finished animation one moment to very rough, sort-of finished animation the next, or in some cases, just basic storyboard drawings. Backgrounds are unfinished, sound effects are missing, and entire sequences are told through stills. You might be thinking that watching an unfinished film with still pictures and basic line drawings spliced in may seem tedious or boring, but you would be WRONG boy, because watching Thief with the incomplete parts intact is like looking into the brain of a genius animator. We get a glimpse into the process of traditional animation, and an understanding of how painstaking and meticulous the animators got with this thing. The unfinished footage actually adds to the movie, and in a way, makes it feel that much more ethereal – it’s really, really cool. I’ve actually watched the film with people who were unaware of its unfinished nature, and midway through they asked me if it was stylistically that way on purpose. After explaining why it was like that, they told me they thought it added to the film’s resonance. And it does! Now, don’t get me wrong – the movie would definitely be a LOT better if it was actually finished. There’s actually segments of The Recobbled Cut which feel bogged down because of its unfinished nature – mainly, the middle part of the movie where our heroes venture into the desert to meet the Mad and Holy Old Witch. This is definitely the part of the movie that would have benefited from just a little more time from Warner Bros before they pulled the plug. I’d much rather see the completed animation than storyboards added in to fill up space, but this is a classic case of taking what you can get. While it would be astronimically awesome to see Thief completed and fully animated, it is a visual treat to see the unfinished work spliced in as well – it just adds to the surreality of the film. Another interesting thing about The Recobbled Cut is that it actually uses some of the Fred Calvert-helmed animation to fill in space in a few key spots – King Nod gets an extra line when sending Yum Yum on her quest into the desert, some footage of Tack and Yum Yum meeting the Witch from The Princess and the Cobbler is used, and perhaps most appropriately a scene at the end in which the Thief is hoisted up above a crowd in celebratory recognition is used. All of these things were absent from Williams’ original workprint, and they are actually really tactful additions put in by Garrett Gilchrist. They work extremely well, despite their woeful source of existence. That’s makin’ some good lemonade out of some pretty shitty lemons, folks.

   At this point, I want to take a moment to focus on something you may have noticed in the pictures – Zigzag looks an awwwwfulllll lot like an effective combination between the Genie and Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin. Just for reference, take a close look at the pictures here:

Zigzag, in all his blue and evil glory

The very blue Genie

The very evil Jafar

   The Genie and Zigzag are both blue and have wild facial expressions. Jafar bears a striking resemblance to Zigzag and is also a Grand Vizier to an uninvolved, somewhat lackadaisical ruler. A royal princess falls in love with a poor scamp and they go on an epic adventure together. Zigzag even has a pet vulture named Phido, and Jafar has a pet parrot named Iago. Both of the films take place in old-school Arabian marketplaces and palaces (although Thief‘s palace is much, much cooler). Both of the heroes are imprisoned by their respective Grand Viziers after getting up close and personal with their respective princesses. Both of the movies feature a trick based on the idea that they’re on film reels at their endings…Aladdin with the Genie’s “made ya look” thing and Thief concluding with the Thief stealing the film…and I could go on.

   Now, we could just chalk this up to extreme coincidence, and say that it’s just random circumstance that two characters from a multi-million dollar production would look so much like one character from a mostly independently-funded production which had been in the making for at least 28 years. You could also say it’s a coincidence that Aladdin and The Thief and the Cobbler both take place in old Arabian times, feature princesses, kings and grand viziers, and both take influence from the Arabian Nights folklore – hell, you could even argue that said influence is the reason for these striking similarities…in the story, at least. But then I could tell you a little story about an Japanese anime program called Kimba the White Lion, created by anime legend/godfather Osamu Tezuka. It ran on television in the mid-60’s and featured a colorful cast of talking animals. Kimba was the son of a great lion who strived for peace in the jungle and provided a haven for animals everywhere.

Sound sort of familiar?

Kimba, the white lion

Simba, the…er, regular lion

the_lion_king_simba_kimba02

Yeah….”pride rock” alright.

   So, you could say that all of these things are just a huge coincidence, and Disney just happened to create huge-budget movies that have striking similarities to these other lesser-known projects. Or you could say they are swindling assholes who completely jacked the intellectual properties of others so they could make a quick buck. You see, either one of these could be true, but they can’t BOTH be true. All I know is, Thief was in production for a LONG time before Aladdin was even a thought in anyone’s head. Over the years, Williams hired and fired a slew of animators, especially during the Warner Bros.-funded era in the late 80’s…right before Aladdin was conceived and created. Getting fired by someone is no doubt an infuriating experience, and William fired plenty of animators who logically might have gone to work for Disney. Not only that, but it’s kind of impossible to be working on something for decades and not have people in your related field gain knowledge about it in some way. The Thief and the Cobbler was infamous in animation circles before Aladdin was released. Now, I wasn’t there, and there’s no hard evidence to prove it, but I would NOT put it past Disney to completely rip off the hard work of someone else – especially if there were people there who felt slighted at Williams’ gall to create an admittedly self-righteous “greatest animated film ever” and fire the people he got to do it. I dunno, it just sort of makes sense to me. I almost don’t want to believe it, but it’s hard for me to look away from the probability that Aladdin is a giant, multi-million dollar “Fuck You” to Richard Williams. They basically took his beautiful, complex, artistically original masterpiece and warped it into a mainstream commodity to sell merchandise with. And it’s also hard to look over the fact that it was BECAUSE of Aladdin that The Thief and the Cobbler began to fall apart! And THEN you can look at the fact that Miramax – which, if you remember, released Arabian Knight – is a DISNEY-OWNED COMPANY. Warner Bros. felt the pressure from Disney because of Aladdin and backed out of The Thief because Williams couldn’t finish it on time. Now, they might have done this eventually anyway, but I’m willing to bet that if Aladdin wasn’t about to be released, they would have given him at least a LITTLE more time. It really is a clusterfuck of a situation – and Richard Williams just happened to come out on the bottom.

   Now, just for clarity’s sake, I would like to state that I am not trying to bash on Aladdin as a movie itself. In all honesty, I think I’ve pretty much been a fan of Aladdin for my entire life. If you ever asked me what my absolute favorite Disney movie was sometime over the past few years, I definitely would have told you Aladdin. In fact, the chances are very good that it was the first movie I ever saw…if you’ve ever read the “My Mission” section of this site, I mention that the earliest memory I can fully remember is going to see Aladdin with my family in the movie theater, so Aladdin has pretty much been there my whole life. But now that it’s exactly 20 years later, I’ve grown up, slightly matured, and learned many things about the world…and one of them is that Disney – let’s face it – is a pretty fucked up company. I don’t want to get into a long tirade about the evils of Disney or whatever, because honestly, I have quite a few mixed feelings about it…I mean, like I said, I fuckin’ LOVED Aladdin. And I still think Aladdin is a well-made film for what it is…but now, after experiencing The Thief and the Cobbler and learning of its long and winding history, I can’t help but look at Aladdin in an unpleasant and disappointed light. I mean, even if it ISN’T true that Disney completely ripped off Richard Williams’ ideas – which could possibly be the case – Aladdin still doesn’t measure up to the greatness that Thief was aiming for, and it certainly pales as a work of art by comparison. The Thief and the Cobbler was conceived from a purely genuine, creative place of inspiration, and was trying to break new boundaries as an artistic statement and in a wonderful field of expression. Aladdin is just the same ol’ Disney shit we’ve seen over and over time and time again, just shoved into a different package. It’s painfully obvious that it’s just another commodity with that “Disney Sheen” on it. And don’t get me wrong, the “Disney Sheen” is mighty fine – they obviously have been doing it right for generations now! And I don’t want to stomp on Walt Disney’s grave…I mean, the man built an EPIC legacy, pioneering animation as a major art form and influencing millions of people along the way. He made the very first animated film for chrissakes, he’s a goddamn American icon. But the company he built has become something of a money-guzzling juggernaut, doing everything in its power to suck the money out of your wallet. The vast control they have over the media is as undeniable as it is gargantuan and far-reaching – Disney owns a SHITLOAD of movie-production companies (again, including Miramax), TV stations, clothing lines, THEME PARKS, and other marketing what-have-yous. Disney has become a multimedia and cultural titan, and when they have that much pull in the entertainment industry, I think it’s fairly obvious they can do whatever the fuck they want – even if it is destroying a true artist’s potentially game-changing work of art. And The Thief and the Cobbler is DEFINITELY a game-changer – that’s pretty much what Williams had in mind, I think. So I dunno, the point is Aladdin is now officially in an awkward place within my psyche. There’s definitely a sense of innocence lost within me, and sadness over the fact I can never view a movie I previously loved with the same outlook again…The Thief and the Cobbler is pretty much to blame for that. But, overall, I actually think that it’s a good thing, and even something that my life has kind of been leading up to in a very strange, specific way – it’s like a lesson just for me about the nature of the world. For me, Aladdin is caught somewhere between a beloved childhood favorite and a lecherous, manipulative and totally underhanded marketing campaign. I’m guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle – but there is no doubt in my mind that The Thief and the Cobbler is vastly, unequivocally superior.

The Thief, doing his best impression of a Disney business executive.

   Man, I could literally write about The Thief and the Cobbler for days on end and never get tired of it, or run out of things to talk about. There’s just so many intricate layers to the film, and its meanings and interpretations. I haven’t even talked about the small, barely noticeable details that pop out at you every time you re-watch the movie because of the intricate amounts of things happening in almost every frame, or the scenes hand-drawn in fully-realized, twisty-turny three dimensional space which were animated WITHOUT the use of computer animation, or even the references to drug use and psychedelia when the Mad and Holy Old Witch inhales “mystic fumes” which show her the way to save the Golden City.  The film functions not only as a substantial dissertation on the random, chaotic nature of existence, but also on a really basic level as just a funny cartoon – the sequences with the Thief evoke the greatest memories of the classic Looney Tunes repertoire, with hilarious sight gags and visually pleasing physical comedy that would entertain even the smallest of children with no concept of the deeper themes being explored. That is the true mark of a successful film, in my opinion – one that works on a deeply complex level, and also on an entertainingly simple one. The Thief and the Cobbler will forever stand as one of cinema’s greatest disappointments, not because of the content of the film itself, but because it was never able to appropriately see the light of day. I just KNOW that if this movie had been released properly in the late 70’s, the 80’s, or even in the mid-90’s, it would have completely rocked the world of animated cinema and changed everything as we know it. It’s a highly inspirational and influential film, and I know this because it’s had a profound effect just on me and my life. It truly is one of the greatest films ever made, and one of my absolute favorites of all time. I honestly think my life is better because I have seen it, and I think a lot of people would benefit from viewing it and hearing its story. I highly, HIGHLY recommend The Recobbled Cut to literally everybody in the entire world…seriously, go onto YouTube and watch it, it’s pretty easy to find. I think there’s something for everyone in this movie, at least one thing that somebody can find and hold onto after viewing it. It’s a genuine work of art which has been swept under the rug for the crime of being perhaps TOO great…but it’s still there for us to experience.

   Perhaps The Thief and the Cobbler was destined for failure even from the beginning. Perhaps Richard Williams’ ambitions were too great, and maybe a movie of its scope and scale was just too much for the world to handle. But thanks to The Recobbled Cut, we at least have some semblance of the genius that Richard Williams was trying to give us. Garret Gilchrist should be praised for his invaluable efforts to restore the film to its former glory, and I thank my lucky stars I was able to experience it in some way because of his resolve. History might forget The Thief and the Cobbler, but I know that for as long as I live, I never will. Richard Williams once said the film he was making was in “the language of a dream” – perhaps that’s why it got lost in translation when he tried to express it in reality. But all I know is, in a perfect world, this movie would have been released, and it would have gotten the accolades it deserves. But even with its imperfections, the fact The Recobbled Cut exists as it does reflects the very world in which we live in…and you know what? I think it’s pretty damn good enough.