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October Reviews: Spirits

October Reviews: Spirits
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

"'Only today,' he said, 'Today, in October sun, it's all gold—sky and tree and water.'"- Eudora Welty


Last winter an announcer on NPR said Maine was enjoying a mild winter which was surprising since there was a chest-high snow bank pushing against my back door and my kitchen faucets were threatening to freeze. October is the time for the first fire in the fireplace, but not until this old schooner of a house is made ready for winter. So much work ahead. I'm grateful for the distraction of baseball.

There are no books reviewed this month. I never recommend anything I haven't read and since I'm still making my way through the most recent novels of Michael Connelly and I've already recommended him, I have some reading left to do. All I will say is that Connelly is a master of the police procedural crime novel. No one I have ever read does it better.

This is the month of Halloween, not one of my favorite nights. I choose to resist the darkness this month by featuring one of my guilty pleasures: animated films. There is a lot going on in the world that we need to work hard to repair, but it is good to take time to keep the mind clear of unnecessary weight. Garbage in, garbage out.

For music this month I am featuring musicians who wowed David Letterman. It's a fun series of clips.

As I write this, Iran has funded and coordinated a proxy war attacking Israel. Ukraine is suffering from the first heavy rains of the season on the front lines against the Russian invasion. Both wars have resulted in thousands of wounded and homeless civilians. I donate to the Red Cross because they are present in both locations doing all they can to deliver medical help, food, and shelter to civilians. Please give what you can afford.

Please donate what you can to the Red Cross assisting civilians suffering from Russia's brutal invasion at RedCross.org.

SCREEN: "Coco" directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina written by Unkrich, Molina, Matthew Aldrich, and Jason Katz

This is my first pick for a Halloween movie. There is something about the colors and the energy that feels right. Pixar Animation Studios is all about attention to detail and you can see it here. There is an emotional core to this movie that works for me.

Coco was released in 2017 and it features a 12-year-old boy as the protagonist. I can't help but wonder why production companies keep dividing boys and girls into two different markets and designing films for each separately. It would not have been that hard to include a young girl as a co-protagonist in this story.

That said, this is an excellent Halloween movie. It has thrills, humor, a touch of education, encourages musicianship, and celebrates family. The visuals are fantastic and the core of the story has real feeling.

SCREEN: "The Book of Life" directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez and written by Gutierrez and Doug Langdale.

This animated film was released in 2014 before Coco. It is a romance quest movie so supposedly its intention is to reach both young girls and boys, but the focus still remains on the male protagonist. This story does not have much emotional depth and the animation is not quite as sparkling, but it has its moments. There is nothing truly dark about it. It remains a lighter pick for a Halloween movie.

SCREEN: "Spirited Away" written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Here is a ghost movie that features a young girl protagonist. The animation is wild, the artists are clearly enjoying themselves, and the story introduces elements that can be frightening. But it is a quest movie after all. We know she is going to be all right in the end and triumph.

This is a Studio Ghibli film available to rent in English on Amazon.

SCREEN: "When Marnie Was There" directed and co-written by Hiromasa Yonebayasi

This animated film is about a friendship between two young girls. It is more of a psychological drama than a scary movie. Adults and young people will both find this film compelling. It is an animation masterpiece based on Joan G. Robinson's 1967 novel Marnie of My Memories which has since been reissued with the same title as the film. It is one of the best-rated Studio Ghibli films which is saying something since that studio is famous for its storytelling and animation.

The English version is available to rent on Amazon.

SCREEN: "FLEE" directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

This is an adult animated film originally in Danish and Dari with English subtitles. There is an English dubbed version available on Hulu. It is a mesmerizing animation that allows the emotion of the material to seep into the heart. It is one of the best documentaries I've seen and it works like great literature. I felt I lived this journey with this family as if they were close friends.

MUSIC: The David Letterman Reactions

These are clips that I've collected showcasing David Letterman's reactions after musicians played live on his show. When your performance gets Letterman excited, you did your job.

And then when Letterman was ill, there was this and it is what the world really needs right now.

MUSIC: "The Sky At Night" from the new release "Small Fortune" by Annie Gallup

Annie Gallup continues her journey of immediate and intimate songwriting delivered gently in deceptively simple compositions with superb production in her new studio album Small Fortune. Her poetic lyrics are always rich and carved deeply and carry more weight than seems possible.

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