How Baby Groot Stole Christmas

It started innocently enough. A week ago, after bewailing the state of Our Exceptional Republic, we felt like zoning out on some fine filmed entertainment offered by our preferred streaming service. Maybe one of those comic-book movies we hadn’t gotten to watching yet?

We didn’t get very far.

The opening credits were one of the most joyous things we’ve seen since the Snoopy Dance — and we first saw the Snoopy Dance fifty years ago. The face was total bliss, the body (trunk?) a mass of expression.

We had to stop. And play it again. And again. And again.

We’ve been playing it again all week.

About a half-dozen times in, you stop merely enjoying it for what it is, and start studying how it is, why it works. Those eyes, for example, particularly the brows and how they meticulously capture each fleeting emotion. Or the thorough unselfconsciousness of the dance itself, so loose that we knew there had to be a live-action model for it.

There was. It was the director.

And beyond all that, the technology itself. You can do some amazing things with computer animation, but the tools aren’t designed for pure expressions of soul. You can draw those things and let your hand and eyes guide you, but with computer characters you’re fighting architecture and mechanics and control points, and everything needs to be studied to death by teams just to get anything working at all.

And yet, there it is. The joy shines through.

Maybe it’s just the year it’s been. Maybe after week after incessant week of trying to see things as they are in all their unremitting cynicism and ugliness, of seeing just how quickly society can fall apart — nothing new to twentieth-century Europeans — we were just ready to be consumed by something, anything, that could be thoroughly enjoyed, even obsessed over, and heralded as an unalloyed accomplishment.

All we know for certain is that given the year ahead, we’re not done watching it.

16 comments:

2:17 am • Saturday • December 23, 2017

I’m so happy! I’m going to watch it again. I think part of the joy stems from how the other characters pause during the insane battle do things like stop him from eating a fly and to say “Hi” when he waves. He’s their baby. It’s incredibly sweet.

When the world is going to shit around you, sometimes you just gotta dance.

2:58 am • Saturday • December 23, 2017

@JNOV: Outside the parts I obsess over, it’s also well-constructed classic comedy schtick — the innocent in the midst of chaos, the “real” action almost offstage.

And yes, that wave. There’s a scene later in the movie where a tired Groot reaches out to be held, and you know there’s some real family video behind that one. You can’t make up the nuances of that moment.

It’s all, as they say, closely observed. A lot of love went into that craftsmanship.

9:46 pm • Saturday • December 23, 2017

@nojo: I keep coming back to watch it, and I keep noticing things that I remember seeing before but now think, “Oh wow – that’s really smart. The camera just hit Groot and made a sound like metal hitting petrified wood.”

In other news, when I moved, I thought I’d be stuck in a deeply red Congressional district. BUT NO! WA 3rd is crazy purple, probably because it’s crazy big and people sneak in from Portland.

We have three progressive contenders (four Democrats, but one doesn’t count), and I just might have to volunteer for the first time ever.

10:32 pm • Saturday • December 23, 2017

@nojo: Yes, passing the sleepy baby. I might need a grandkid. Maybe there’s a hospital nearby that needs people to hold babies.

12:15 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017
12:40 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017

@JNOV: It’s those details that keep drawing me back for close study. Just how Groot’s eyes move when he’s frozen because Drax is staring him down. Classic comic (and cartoon) schtick, but no motion is taken for granted. They worked the hell out of it.

12:46 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017

@ManchuCandidate: I’m trying not to be cranky about it, but after VII, I just lost interest. (And I can’t get fifteen minutes into Rogue.) I’m hearing that VIII actually (finally) moves the story forward, and I’ll probably eventually give it a shot, but at some point I have to recognize that the last Star Wars movie I enjoyed came out in 1980.

7:17 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017

Feliz Navidad, Stinqueros! May we all have peace, joy, and absolutely no news from the orange grinch at Mar-a-Lardass.

7:23 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017

@nojo: I saw The Last Jedi last week (in 3D!), and I have mixed feelings about it. The space battles are A+++, however there’s plenty of groaner dialogue and long stretches where nothing the characters do makes much sense, in classic Star Wars tradition. The good news is that JJ Abrams didn’t direct this one. The bad news is that he’s returning for the next film, Star Wars: Lens Flares.

8:08 pm • Sunday • December 24, 2017

@¡Andrew!: In JJ’s defense, I liked the first Trek reboot, and, I dunno, maybe ten minutes of the second one.

3:10 pm • Monday • December 25, 2017

@nojo: loved TLJ (saw it yesterday) and I own Rogue One. Just put it on and let it go, in the background. You will fall in love with it. Except for the Bor Gullet … that shit was stupid.

5:00 pm • Monday • December 25, 2017

Feliz Navidog, Happy Festivus, Merry Solstice. Let us all take a page from the book of protesting with style from my hero who delivered horse shit to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.

@¡Andrew!: It was great to hang out this week with you & the hubby & fashion forward junior – she was working that Yoko Ono look in the Castro – definitely more stylish than the three adults combined!

3:47 pm • Tuesday • December 26, 2017

@SanFranLefty: Tú también, mi amiga! Looking forward to next time : )

3:53 pm • Tuesday • December 26, 2017

I’m sure the Vatican is thrilled that Ambassador Callista Gingrinch of Stepford-on-Valium has assumed her official duties.

Nothing to see here. Just an adulteress appointed by pussy grabbing POTUS as ambassador to a pedophilia money laundering organization. — Bambino

Brav-oh (golf claps)

6:02 pm • Friday • December 29, 2017

I saw TLJ. I like it. Not a rehash of a previous movie.

11:36 am • Saturday • December 30, 2017

@ManchuCandidate: Space Dern stole the show.

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