Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Peter T Chattaway

Saving Mr. Banks

Recommended Posts

A colleague of mine mentioned Finding Neverland after the screening of this film, and I mentioned Becoming Jane (starring Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen) as another example of a film that purports to examine the relationship between reality and fiction but really projects elements of the fiction back into the reality. In general, I prefer to let the fiction be fiction; since film itself is basically a fictionalization of whatever it touches, films like these always leave me wondering what the *real* reality was behind the story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly is not amused:
 

Thompson is good in a punishing role. In her first scene, she stares down the camera as if it's a dog who might nip her heels. She keeps her neck tight, her mouth pinched and her nose aloft, as though she's sniffing for trouble. When she clicks into the room in her sensible pumps, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and bouncy songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) shiver. Her Travers is as unpleasant as a pine needle pillow, and she's as far away from the actual woman as "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is from being a real word.

In reality, Travers was a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual — a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse. Now that's a character worth slapping on-screen, instead of this stiff British stereotype determined to steal joy from future generations of children. With her longtime girlfriend and then-adult son erased, this frigid Travers seems like she may not even know how babies are made. Maybe Mary Poppins could sing her a song about it.
 
Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there's something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter. (Another battle she lost — Mary Poppins' opening credits list Travers as merely a "consultant.") Just as slimy is the sense that this film, made by a studio conglomerate in a Hollywood dominated by studio conglomerates, is tricking us into cheering for the corporation over the creator. We take sides because we can't imagine living in a world without the songs the Sherman brothers wrote for the film: "Let's Go Fly a Kite," "Feed the Birds," "Chim Chim Cher-ee." We wouldn't have had to either way; if Mary Poppins had collapsed, Walt planned to package up the songs wholesale for Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

...

...while Saving Mr. Banks feels like his risen-from-the-grave attempt to pretend that Travers only cried during the film because it reminded her of her daddy, the disgruntled writer got her own eternal revenge on Walt, Burbank and the sunny country that's made Mickey Mouse its international ambassador: Not only did she forbid the studio from making a sequel, in her will, she decreed that no American would ever be allowed to tamper with her Mary Poppins again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly is not amused:

 

Why does it matter that Saving Mr. Banks sabotages its supposed heroine? Because in a Hollywood where men still pen 85 percent of all films, there's something sour in a movie that roots against a woman who asserted her artistic control by asking to be a co-screenwriter. (Another battle she lost — Mary Poppins' opening credits list Travers as merely a "consultant.") Just as slimy is the sense that this film, made by a studio conglomerate in a Hollywood dominated by studio conglomerates, is tricking us into cheering for the corporation over the creator. We take sides because we can't imagine living in a world without the songs the Sherman brothers wrote for the film: "Let's Go Fly a Kite," "Feed the Birds," "Chim Chim Cher-ee." We wouldn't have had to either way; if Mary Poppins had collapsed, Walt planned to package up the songs wholesale for Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

 

I'm sure the film is as sugar-coated as she says, but anyone who's going to make claims of sexism (one of the most tired and over-used words of recent years) surely has to address the fact this was a spec-script written by a woman - Kelly Marcel - with rewrites by... another woman. Disney had nothing to do with the original screenplay; perhaps they had the film rewritten out of recognition, but I don't think that was the case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting comment on that article:

 

I went to a screening in which the original songwriter (Richard Sherman) was there for a Q&A. He stated that most of the film is true to life; in fact, the first drafts were far removed from true to life and were then revised to be as close of possible to the truth.

He said the only part that was not quite true to life was Travers attending the premiere. That was a little glamorized, as she was still not happy with the film.

He also said it was amazing how accurately the movie portrayed the [lack of] chemistry between Disney and Travers.

FWIW, I enjoyed the movie, though my take on it is a bit subversive. I'm looking forward to writing it up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

FWIW, I enjoyed the movie, though my take on it is a bit subversive. I'm looking forward to writing it up.

 

 

I too enjoyed it. I'm not sure I'd be the one willing or anxious to invest lifespan in defending it from whatever charges those who dislike it care to lob at it, but it brought me genuine pleasure.

Edited by kenmorefield

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The past two nights I watched Mary Poppins ... for the first time. Halfway through I thought it was hopeless, but the second half was so delightful it completely turned me around!

 

Saving Mr. Banks, on the other hand, was almost entirely a first-half experience. I don't get the love for Emma Thompson in this movie; I thought Tom Hanks ran circles around her -- and I wasn't a huge fan of his performance in the movie.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This was unexpectedly fun to write up. My review

 

 

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. That’s almost enough to sell the picture by itself, isn’t it? Who but Hanks can one imagine in the role?

 

Hanks isn’t the spitting image of Disney: His face is a bit broader, and Disney had a more prominent nose. Hanks is squintier, too, and tends to knit his brows, where Disney’s brows often levitated well above his eyes.

 

Yet Hanks’s genial, beloved public persona — the most trusted man in America, according to a rather head-scratching recent poll — may be the nearest analogy we have to Uncle Walt in his day. Walt Disney was Mickey Mouse; Tom Hanks was (and is) Woody…

 

Hanks’ Disney is a teddy bear; Thompson’s Travers is a porcupine. They go together like apple pie and, oh, liver and onions…

 

Hanks and Thompson’s beguiling performances and nearly perfect non-chemistry are the saving grace at the heart of Saving Mr. Banks … an enjoyable serving of Hollywood schmaltz that manages to transcend a potentially queasy premise.

 

Hollywood loves self-congratulatory movies about Hollywood, as well as sentimental movies like Finding Neverland and Becoming Jane that fictionalize the creative process, planting the seeds of the author’s later work in the dreams and tears of youth. This time, though, there’s a catch.

 

Saving Mr. Banks is history written by the winner: a Disney movie that regales us with just how ridiculously hard a prickly, capricious British authoress made it for our Uncle Walt to bring us Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in one of the most beloved family films of all time…

 

Here’s how I see it: What makes Saving Mr. Banks different from Finding Neverland and Becoming Jane is that it’s precisely about the tendency of Hollywood in general and Disney in particular to reshape everything they touch, repackaging it into a palatable, reassuring something the masses want, or what the filmmakers think they want, instead of what it really is…

 

Paul Giamatti, of all people, brings a surprising ingenuousness to a stock character, the unassuming salt-of-the-earth chauffeur. In a small role, Michelle Arthur is hilarious as a Disney employee named Polly who embodies the soul of Minnie Mouse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SDG wrote:
: They go together like apple pie and, oh, liver and onions…

 

I have always loved liver (though my mother never served it with onions). I have never liked baked apples of any sort.

 

So, yeah, they don't go together, but in my case, not for the reason I think you were suggesting. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

: They go together like apple pie and, oh, liver and onions…

 

I have always loved liver (though my mother never served it with onions). I have never liked baked apples of any sort.

 

So, yeah, they don't go together, but in my case, not for the reason I think you were suggesting. wink.png

Ha!

 

As it happens, I put a bit of thought into that metaphor. (That paragraph was one of the bits I had the most fun writing.)

 

The "apple pie" bit came easily, as a sort of food equivalent to the "teddy bear" analogy. (I.e., something comforting, familiar, sweet, and, as it happens, quintessentially American -- and, just as not everyone has to like Disney, not everyone has to like apple pie!)

Then the first "contrasting" food that came to mind was "okra." I didn't want something that was or sounded repulsive, like tripe or fetal duck. I wasn't trying to be nasty to Travers! Just something that a) wasn't sweet or comforting, b.) was somehow intimidating, but in a good-for-you way, and c) many people would find off-putting. Oh, and something that, whatever your tastes, you probably wouldn't want to eat along with apple pie.

 

But then I thought, no, okra is too American and even Southern. I should have something recognizably British.

 

But I didn't want haggis or blood sausage or something. It took a bit of digging, but I turned up liver and onions as an identifiably British dish that sounded good for you and not too gross, but that many people found off-putting. 

 

Then, of course, I had the syntactic problem of how to pairing apple pie with the compound "liver and onions" ("like apple pie and liver and onions" doesn't scan), and after trying a few things I came up with the pausing-for-thought "oh" as a way of dropping a comma into the sentence (though it also works in the sense that apple pie is proverbially American, whereas liver and onions doesn't have that same proverbially British status).

 

Not that I necessarily expect readers to know or process that I contrasted a proverbially American food with a possibly British food, but at least the analogy isn't hampered by an unwanted regional echo.

 

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the effect of the finished sentence. smile.png

Edited by SDG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love that so much effort went into finding the word "oh". smile.png

 

I think I was in grade three when I discovered that other people don't like liver. In one of our school assemblies, someone brought out a model of the human body and proceeded to take out some of the organs and point out what they were. When he pointed to the liver and said the word "liver", I immediately perked up and thought "hey, cool" but then I realized that everyone around me was going "Ewwwwwww..." I felt so alone.

 

But when my mother made liver for dinner, and we had leftovers, she would put liver sandwiches in my lunch kit, and I would proudly -- defiantly -- eat them where my classmates could see me eat them.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't recall ever eating (or marking having eaten) actual liver, but as a kind I loved liverwurst. One of my favorite cold cuts on sandwiches. But your reaction is entirely within the intended scope of my sentence. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Colin Farrell was a revelation to me in the Australia sequences - a very moving performance.  But has anyone else noted that those flashback scenes are a kind-of remake of

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Saving Mr. Banks in 60 seconds. (The full written version is linked above.)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DMVTsuakL8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was reading through the PL Travers Wikipedia page and noticed she published Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, the book she says she's working on near the end of Saving Mr. Banks, in 1975. Unless she was working on it for more than a decade, it's a detail the movie changed. (She published Mary Poppins from A to Z in 1963, FWIW). I can see why they excised the adoption/astrology saga from the movie (and the relationships with women), but the only reason I can think of to change the book dates is to underscore Disney resurrecting Poppins and Travers, which is probably exactly why they changed it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Would Have Saved “Saving Mr. Banks”

That’s the key idea of the movie—to humanize Walt Disney, to reveal the personal element in his grand-scale scheming. Where Travers attempts to restore to history the virtues of an apparent ne’er-do-well, Disney lets her know that his artistic drive is to create, in fiction, the kind of childhood that he never had in life. The subject of the film is actually Saving Mr. Disney. Hancock’s movie may be the greatest popular tribute to the auteur theory, carried to its most decadent extreme. Everyone, after all, has a backstory—a past that provides the roots and the reasons for what they do now.

There’s something humane and liberal in this vision of working through, and imaginatively repairing, family traumas in cinematic fiction. It stands in remarkable contrast to the old-school way of working through daddy issues that’s depicted in another inside-Hollywood movie—one of the greatest, Vincente Minnelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,” from 1952 (here’s the trailer—the relevant scene is right up front). And the appeal to “hope” rings comical in light of Steven Soderbergh’s widely publicized “State of Cinema” speech from last April (“I don’t care who you’re pitching, I don’t care what you’re pitching… Stop yourself in the middle of a sentence and act like you’re having an epiphany, and say, ‘You know what, at the end of this day, this is a movie about hope.’ ”)

But, above all, the story of “Saving Mr. Banks” is a grossly missed opportunity. As Caitlin Flanagan reported in this magazine in 2005, P. L. Travers wasn’t a stereotypically starchy and sexless spinster (as she seems to be in the movie); she was a self-conscious, self-aware, free-thinking artist whose personal life couldn’t have been more different from Disney’s normative sentimentalism . . .

Richard Brody, New Yorker, January 7

 

Meryl Streep calls Walt Disney 'gender bigot,' Disney family organization fires back

Disney's reputation has long been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, but Streep focused most of her attention on Disney's treatment of women, calling the legendary impresario a "gender bigot" and quoting longtime Disney animator Ward Kimball, who said his boss "didn't trust women or cats."

Streep also accused Disney of supporting "an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group," believed to be a reference to the Motion Picture Alliance, and quoted a letter purportedly written by Disney's company to an aspiring female animator which read, in part "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men." . . .

Fox 411, January 9

 

- - -

 

FWIW, Michael Barrier and other film historians have questioned the accusations of "anti-Semitism", e.g.:

 

Let's first allow for the possibility that my correspondent is either unduly sensitive or prejudiced, perhaps in ways he or she may not realize. That leaves open the question of why Walt Disney has been singled out for accusations of anti-Semitism, when the evidence for such accusations has always been so slight and sometimes manufactured out of whole cloth (as when Neal Gabler, in his book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, accuses Walt of refusing to hire Jews). The focus has always been on whether Walt was prejudiced, not on whether his accusers—many of them with Hollywood connections of some kind—were themselves acting from questionable motives.

 

And when did these accusations of anti-Semitism begin to surface? I can't recall running across any that originated when Walt was not only alive but was hiring Jews like Joe Grant and Maurice Rapf, seeking the counsel of Sam Goldwyn, receiving an award from B'nai B'rith, and choosing Richard Fleischer, the son of Max, to direct what was then his most expensive (and riskiest) live-action feature, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The screenwriter Irving Brecher does write in his memoir The Wicked Wit of the West that when he worked for the Mickey Mouse Magazine in New York in 1935, he raised the question of Walt's supposed anti-Semitism with Hal Horne, the magazine's publisher; but Brecher cites no basis for his suspicions, and he says Horne rejected them. (Horne was Jewish, as was Kay Kamen, the licensing genius who succeeded Horne as the magazine's publisher. Both Horne and Kamen had long associations with Walt and Roy Disney.)

 

For the most part, the ugly rumors about Walt's anti-Semitism seem to have begun circulating after his death, when he wasn't around to refute them, along with idiocies of other kinds, like the urban legend that his body was frozen so he could be restored to life in the future. What could account for this irrepressible hostility and contempt?

 

One reason may be that some people have never been able to accept Walt's legitimacy as the head of an important Hollywood studio. (Comparisons with the wretched "birthers" who cannot accept Barack Obama's legitimacy as president may be relevant here.) The proprietors of the important studios have always been overwhelmingly Jewish; I believe that's true of all of them today, the Walt Disney Company very much included. Scarcely anyone except devoted film buffs remembers Darryl F. Zanuck—or, for that matter, the Jewish moguls who were his and Walt's contemporaries—but Walt Disney remains a major presence in Hollywood, his name of incomparable value; and he was, conspicuously, and I suspect in some eyes unforgivably, a Gentile in an industry that was for many years one of the few that welcomed bright and ambitious Jews.

 

If my correspondent is correct, resentment of Gentile interlopers still exists in Hollywood, extending not just to prominent figures like Walt Disney but also to people much lower in the pecking order. (Would Jeffrey Katzenberg bristle if one of his Gentile employees called him "short Hebrew guy"? The question answers itself.) This is of course a state of affairs that defies even the most civilized sort of discussion, given the hideous damage that anti-Semitism has inflicted over the centuries, culminating in the Holocaust. In that larger scheme of things, any superficial damage to Walt Disney's reputation simply isn't very important. But I can't help feeling that the persistent rumors about Walt are a symptom of a sickness, one that may be lamentably widespread in an industry that he ornamented.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Floyd Norman, the African-American animator who worked at Disney from 1956 until sometime after Walt's death in 1966 (Norman worked on Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book, and has worked off-and-on with Disney-Pixar since then), and Amid Amidi, the Cartoon Brew host and "family-approved biographer" of Ward Kimball (the Disney animator that Streep quoted during her harangue), have also responded to Streep's misinformed rant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This deserves to be dismissed as "one of Disney's silly cartoons" a lot more than Mary Poppins does.

 

"We have to teach the witch to be happy again"? Really? How trite and heavy-handed can you get?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...