Harper Watched: A Monster In Paris

Harper Watched is a feature where I review a film I watched (or sometimes a TV show). Today we have a french animated film called A Monster In Paris

Review: A Monster In Paris
(c/o EUROPA)
Ever the fan of animated movies, I took the time off afforded by the snow day last week to watch a totally cute animated movie on Netflix: A Monster in Paris. I'd seen the trailer when it first came state-side but due to other films coming out around the same time, I wasn't particularly interested in it. On top of them making one of the headlining features the fact that it was from the same people who brought us Shark Tale (fun, but unimpressive and fluffy), the animation looked a lot like that of Hotel Transylvania which I didn't really like, so I put it out of my mind. Only recently when I watched another French animated film, Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, did I regain interest in the movie since the trailer for it was built into my DVD of Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. The thing that stuck out to me most, having been super into the music in Jack, was the music in the trailer.

The plot

So what is this movie about? It's set in Paris, obviously, but less obviously it's set in a steampunk-ish Paris that Jules Verne might've imagined. Even less obviously, it's set in a Paris in turmoil-- The Seine has flooded dramatically, leaving the inhabitants of the lower-lying levels of the city the exact opposite of high-and-dry. Most Parisians struggle to get from one place to another, needing to use boats and floating walk ways to get about. Many have lost homes and businesses to the flooding. The only place where business goes about as usual is up on the hill of Montmartre, where most of the story takes place. Parts of the story seem very loosely based off of The Phantom of the Opera, but it is a very distinct story and most of the references are more like mini-homages and easter eggs than heavy plot points.

We open the film learning about Paris' wet predicament and of Emile, a short, shy projectionist at a movie theater who is in love with Maude, a coworker of his at the cinema. He has a friend named Raoul (which I think is intentionally a reference to Phantom) who is a brilliant, fast-talking, kinda dorky inventor who runs a delivery service using a delivery truck he has modified in a number of unusual ways. It's named Catherine. I wish they had named the truck "Christine" instead, but I digress.

Meanwhile, Lucille, a successful singer at The Rare Bird is introduced. For her act, she wears white and wings like an angel (one might even say... an Angel of Music?). She ends up catching the eye of the wealthy police commissioner, Victor Maynott. Maynott is obsessed with himself and his ambition, even at the expense of the Parisians still struggling with the effects of the flood. Lucille is unimpressed and frankly a little disgusted with the way the commissioner acts, but nonetheless her aunt tries to encourage her to take up with him anyway.

Raoul brings Emile along for a delivery to the Botanical Garden for a Professor who is currently away in New York. The professor left his assistant, a proboscis monkey named Charles, in charge of the garden which also serves as a laboratory. Raoul and Emile go exploring the lab and end up tinkering with some potions that cause a sunflower seed to grow into a 50-foot flower, give Charles a fantastic singing voice, and makes a flea that had been living on Charles grow to 7 feet and gain a propensity for music and song. The flea escapes into the night and adventure ensues!
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Juno: A Love Story

(via Fox Searchlight)
It's no secret that I love movies. I've done tons of reviews and I voraciously consume entertainment media and their critical analyses. In honor of Valentine's Day, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite movies about love: Juno.

Juno is not at the top of many people's love story list because it's not really a romance. I think people really do themselves a disservice by thinking of "romances" as the standard model of a love story. Anyone can fall in love. Anyone can land a date or win someone over--not just any two people, of course, but in general it's not the most difficult thing to get someone to take a chance on you. You know what's really hard? Staying together. Overcoming obstacles. Growing with each other without losing yourself in the process. Love is a lot more complicated than just "getting the guy/girl/gender non-conforming cutie."

I like movies that are about more than just winning that person over (or, "realizing that the right person was right under your nose all along") because to me they just mean more in the grand scheme of life. I rarely want a movie just about two people falling for each other, I want a movie that makes a statement about the nature of love and its meaning in the human experience. Or, more simply put, "romances" are boring and predictable. I don't "escape life" in movies by buying into them, I explore life by digging into them. That's just the kind of moviegoer I am.

I love Juno as a film about love because that's exactly what it is. I think a lot of people just sort of take it at face value as a movie about a girl dealing with her teen pregnancy. That's not what Juno is about. Juno is about the many different kinds of love that are out there, how none of them are really wrong, but how some of them don't last, and maybe they don't need to.

I'm gonna throw down a spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't seen the movie before, even though it came out 7 years ago. I know a lot of people just didn't care to see a movie about a pregnant teen since it came out around the time that the media became obsessed with the appearance of the TV show Teen Mom.
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