Arts, Sports, Entertainment, and a World in Crisis Mode

I’ve written before about people deeming the work of others to be unimportant, particularly when it comes to people who work in different areas of entertainment. It seems the coronavirus pandemic has led to a new wave of finger-pointing regarding whose work matters, whose work doesn’t, and how this time of quarantining proves afresh that overpaid pro athletes and movie stars and the like are useless when the rubber meets the road.

Now, this post isn’t to raise a debate about how much money entertainers should or shouldn’t make.

Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that a lot of folks who enjoy the entertainment that athletes and actors provide willingly pay for that entertainment all the time. There’d be little money invested or made in professional sports and motion pictures and such if paying fans and audiences didn’t exist or weren’t interested.

Anyway, yeah, “your work doesn’t matter” finger-pointing hits a nerve in me, maybe more so because I’m an author. It seems plenty of people think of artists and writers as folks whose work isn’t all that necessary, and perhaps that way of thinking will continue right through this time when people are staying at home more than usual and watching more movies and TV series and reading more books—entertainment that wouldn’t exist without “useless” artists and writers.

Huh.

Well. When it comes to professional athletes, I don’t think the fact that many of them can’t presently engage in their work (the entertaining parts of the work that audiences see, anyway) means the athletes are useless any more than the fact that stage actors and artists who can’t presently engage in their work means those actors and artists are useless. The work required in arts and entertainment is hard, made even harder when your upcoming events are canceled and many ticket-holders understandably want their money back.

Again, I’m not judging how valuable entertainment is, monetary wise, or how much audiences should or shouldn’t pay for it. But I don’t think a temporary world crisis/survival mode that forces technical designations of Essential and Nonessential jobs means: “Anyone whose work isn’t listed as one of these Essential jobs is a useless worker.” Not at all.

And while I in no way mean to minimize the seriousness of an international pandemic, it doesn’t mean I think times of crisis are the only times that truly matter. There’d be little reason to get through a crisis if there wasn’t a preferable quality of life waiting on the other side of it.

What we do on the other side indeed matters, including the places and times when people gather together to work, to play, and to worship. To sing and dance and go to the movies. To go to school, to go to the library, or to go out to shop and eat together. To see stage plays, to attend concerts, to high-five and holler at sporting events, to be delighted and awed at the ballet. To go visit friends and family.

It’s all a part of life. Basic survival is super-important, yes, but that’s not all there is to living well. Not by a long shot.

So. Instead of using this time to put down all the Nonessential and “useless” workers out there, we’d be wise to let this experience remind us that it takes all kinds of work in the world to add to our overall quality of life—to make life not only worth surviving through but more worth living.

 

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Toy Story 4 (2019) from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Rated G. Animated, Comedy, Action, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Feature Film

Description (from the film case): Pixar Animation Studios proudly presents the adventure of a lifetime! When Woody, Buzz and the gang join Bonnie on a road trip with her new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, the innocent little spork’s hilarious antics launch Woody on a wild quest filled with unexpected new characters—and one long-lost friend!

My thoughts: “To infinity…” “…and beyond.”

I’ve been following the Toy Story story and characters for a quarter of a century. And I’ve been nervous every time a sequel has come out, as second and third movies can be notorious for taking a good thing downhill and making you wish folks would’ve just left the original awesomeness alone.

Could filmmakers maintain this particular awesomeness for a fourth whole movie? Well. Turns out, they’ve done just that.

I mean, I could go on in detail about the amazing detail of the art and animation, the wonderful character development, the hilarity (and downright creepiness, sometimes) and action and relatability of it all. But what may get me most is that the Toy Story movies are just that: a story. Not just a nice little amusing tale, but a story of depth and heart, of excitement and nostalgia. Imaginative and highly accessible genius coming to life onscreen—four movies in a row.

Outstanding!

Whether or not you’ve been here the whole quarter of a century, be sure to watch the movies in order, if you can.

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Hair Love (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Hair Love (2019) from Sony Pictures Animation
Rated G. Animated, African American, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Short Film

My thoughts: It’s simple really, but a lot—and plenty relatable for so many of us. It’s an Oscar-winning short family film about a father facing the daunting task of doing his daughter’s hair. But the story is more than that, of course.

Refreshing and clever, amusing and adorable, touching and real, this picture is. It’s no small feat for a film to manage to be everything in fewer than seven minutes.

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Haven’t seen Hair Love yet? Take a look!

 

Klaus (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Klaus (2019) from The SPA Studios
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

Description (from Netflix): A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.

My thoughts: I heard a little positive buzz via Twitter about the return of 2D animation for Christmas, and being the lover of holiday flicks that I am, I decided to check this movie out. It had an entertaining enough start for me, and I settled in to watch something with middling but adequately fun humor. You know, mild amusement wrapped in about an hour and a half of holiday spirit.

I had no idea I would eventually laugh out loud as much as I did, or that I’d wind up with tears running down my face at more than one point in the movie. And at the last moment of the last scene that punctuates it all, I threw my hands straight up in the air, feeling as oddly triumphant as I was thoroughly touched.

Yes, this movie is fun and funny, cute and Christmassy, but it’s also a rather brilliant work of storytelling, adding clever and imaginative details and twists to bring a legend to life, so that even though you already know what’s going to happen at times, the story as a whole is fresh and refreshing.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to wind up weeping as I did, but don’t prejudge or dismiss this as “just a kid’s cartoon” or “only a Christmas comedy.” It’s an entertaining and beautifully developed story of friendship and family, love and loss, discovery and growth, risk and adventure, reconciliation and redemption. It has to go on my list of all-time favorite Christmas movies.

And yes—I do dig the wonderful 2D animation!

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