January 30, 2015


Dragged through development, animated overseas on the cheap, and unceremoniously dumped onto home video without an American theatrical release, The Brave Little Toaster's production history practically mirrors the experience of its protagonists - a group of five outdated home appliances left behind at a vacation cottage to gather dust and contemplate their own obsolescence.

Those appliances, however, rage against the dying of the light - as so has the film, as repeated airings on cable revealed its influence on the most affecting films of animation's modern high-tech era.  Echoes of The Brave Little Toaster are present in later masterpieces like Toy Story and The Iron Giant, and its sturdy emotional blueprint is still admired by generations of fans and filmmakers.  Indeed, one person's trash is another's treasure - and this BLT is a gem.

The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
Directed by Jerry Rees
Produced by Donald Kushner and Thomas L. Wilhite
Written by Jerry Rees and Joe Ranft
Based on the novella The Brave Little Toaster by Thomas Disch
Starring Deanna Oliver, Timothy E. Day, Tim Stack, Jon Lovitz, and Thurl Ravenscroft

January 16, 2015

Episode 16 - HARRIET THE SPY

Step into the baggy work pants of Harriet M. Welsch circa 6th grade and you’ll notice that your cozy, familiar world is transforming.  Everything seems more complicated and more fraught with expectation.  You’re breaking taboos you didn’t know existed simply by inching over the amorphous, invisible line that separates childhood from adulthood.  (Hint: most people won't react well when they learn that you record all their dirt in your diary.)

Harriet the Spy’s charm comes from its liberal sprinkling of ‘90s ephemera across a sturdy coming-of-age narrative born in the ‘60s, though these days Harriet’s tech-free lifestyle feels just as quaint as its optimistically orderly urban setting.  But even if city kids grow up faster than others, the point remains that they eventually realize they're part of a bigger picture and have to cope with it somehow.  In this episode, we navigate the pitfalls of preadolescence along with special guest Blythe Wolber, and come to understand what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's Dickies.

Harriet the Spy (1996)
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Produced by Marykay Powell
Written by Douglas Petrie and Theresa Rebeck
Based on the book Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Starring Michelle Trachtenberg, Gregory Smith, Vanessa Lee Chester, J. Smith-Cameron, Robert Joy, and Rosie O'Donnell

January 2, 2015


Filmmaking is all about making the right choices, and few recent movies illustrate the importance of this more than Battlefield Earth.  John Travolta's intergalactic passion project - based on L. Ron Hubbard's 1982 novel about Earthlings rebelling against their cruel alien conquerors - is a keen reminder that the slippage of time can ravage the best-laid plans of any creative project.

Yet, in a way, Battlefield Earth's reputation as a monumentally misguided flop gives it a notoriety that this tardy Spartacus-meets-Star Wars epic might not have achieved otherwise.  Like any pop culture punching bag, this one is more interesting than it looks...

Battlefield Earth (2000)
Directed by Roger Christian
Produced by Jonathan Krane, Elie Samaha, and John Travolta
Written by Corey Mandell and J.D. Shapiro
Based on Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 by L. Ron Hubbard
Starring John Travolta, Barry Pepper, Forest Whitaker, and Kim Coates