Fantastically Foxy

December 4, 2009

One of my regular gigs is the Popcorn Panel in the National Post’s Movie section every other week (it used to be every week, but the panel was a victim of downsizing last spring). As the boss of the Popcorn Panel, I get to choose the movies and the panelists. I try to find panelists who will have a particularly interesting perspective on the week’s film, based on their profession or life experience or whatever.

This week’s film is Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is one of my top movies of 2009. My guest panelists are Craig Courtice (who used to be the boss of the Popcorn Panel until he moved to Abu Dhabi two years ago) and Heather Kuipers, the owner of the lovely Beaches bookstore Ella Minnow. You can read the panel here.

As I mention in the panel, I am a big fan of foxes, both as an animal (they’re so elegant and sneaky and red!) and as a pop culture trope. This has been the case since childhood: when I was 7, the Disney character I was most excited to meet at the Magic Kingdom was Robin Hood. There is a significant Fox in one of my favourite short stories, Magic for Beginners, by my favourite short story writer, Kelly Link. I wear a lot of red, perhaps in some unconscious effort to look like a fox.

But my love for this movie is based on more than just high fox content. It was the first movie in I don’t know how long whose ending actually surprised me. Wes Anderson’s films can sometimes be a bit hard to take with their self-satisfied quirkiness, but he never shies away from unpredictable storytelling, much like Roald Dahl himself (remember how at the end of The Witches, the kid lives happily ever after…as a mouse?) Fantastic Mr. Fox is weird, but refreshingly so, which is odd because the movie feels old-fashioned in a lot of ways. Would that more makers of children’s films were to take such care in their execution and storytelling.

One last fox-thing. Here is a very stupid Flash game featuring a cute little fox.

Now, to figure out what the next Popcorn Panel should be. I’m very tempted by The Lovely Bones because I loved the book when it first came out, and have been burning with curiosity about the movie adaptation since the film rights were picked up by Peter Jackson in 2001 or whenever it was – I wonder if you can film that movie with the right amount of detachment, or if it will be a disaster of sentimentality. I guess it’s between that and Invictus, although that’s one of those films I feel like I’ve seen before. You know, SPORTS RALLYING A NATION! IMPORTANT RACIAL POLITICS! MORGAN FREEMAN AS NELSON MANDELA! GIVE US OSCARS OSCARS OSCARS! A movie like that comes out every year, whereas The Lovely Bones is a weird book to choose to adapt to film.

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