Tribute: Maurice Sendak

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 9:30 am

A sad farewell to children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who has died at age 83. Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favorite books for any age, from its magnificent first line “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him WILD THING” through the grand rumpus and the terrible teeth to the perfect conclusion: “he found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot” it is a story of endless depth and poetry.  I love the Nutshell Library with “Alligators All Around” to teach the alphabet, “One Was Johnny” to teach the numbers, “Chicken Soup with Rice” to teach the months, and the best of all, “Pierre” to teach children never to say “I don’t care.” There are superb animated versions of his work, especially Where the Wild Things Are…and 5 More Stories by Maurice Sendak and the Carole King versions of the Nutshell stories, called “Really Rosie.”  The live-action version of Where the Wild Things Are is a brilliant exploration of childhood for grown-ups.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3DRUJUWgOA

Adults will enjoy his salty interview with Steven Colbert. May his memory be a blessing.

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Wild Things Giveaway!

Posted on March 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I am very excited about this week’s DVD and Blu-Ray release of “Where the Wild Things Are,” one of my top 10 films of 2009.

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And I am also excited about the chance to give away some “Wild Things” goodies! I have three Wild Things toys, a calendar, and a DVD-Blu-Ray combo pack.

And don’t forget to check out the Wild Things iphone app.

The Blu-Ray has some great extras, including:

· Higgelty Piggelty Pop! An all-new short featuring the voices of Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker

· HBO First Look featurette

· 8 Webisodes:

o The Absurd Difficulty of Filming a Dog Running and Barking at the Same Time

o The Big Prank

o Vampire Attack

o The Kids Take Over the Picture

o Maurice and Spike

o Max and Spike

o The Records Family

o Carter Burwell

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Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com and tell me why kids love Wild Things. Put Wild Things and “toy,” “calendar,” or “DVD-Blu-Ray” in the subject line. The first in each category will win the prize. Only one entry per family and US addresses only, please. Note: prizes provided by Warner Brothers. All views expressed are my own.

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Where the Wild Things Are

Posted on March 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language
Profanity: Brief mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Adults drink wine
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril and violence, references to being eaten, bones of victims, hurt feelings and family stress
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: October 16, 2009
Date Released to DVD: March 2, 2010
Amazon.com ASIN: B001HN699A

Maurice Sendak’s spare, poetic, and deeply wise book has been lovingly unfolded into a movie about the child who lives in all of us, brave and fearful, generous and needy, angry and peaceful, confident and insecure, adventuresome and very glad to come home. The movie may challenge children who are used to bright, shiny colors and having everything explained to them but if they allow it, Max and his story will bloom inside them as it will for anyone open to its profound pleasures.

The book’s opening line is as well-remembered as “Call me Ishmael” or “It was a dark and stormy night.” “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘WILD THING.'” Those who wondered what prompted Max’s mischief will accompany him as he experiences the jubilation of creating his own cozy space, a snowball-stocked igloo, and as he joyously takes on his sister’s friends in a snowball fight, only to be inconsolably crushed when they carelessly smash his icy lair and then leave without him.

There has never been a more evocative portrayal on film of the purity, the intensity, the transcendence of childhood emotions. The hallmark of maturity is the way we temper our feelings; it is not a compliment when we call someone “childish” for not being able to do so. Our experiences — and our parents — teach us that life is complex, that sorrow and joy are always mixed, and that we can find the patience to respond to frustration without breaking anything. But one reason that we mis-remember childhood as idyllic is the longing for the ferocity of childhood pleasures. Jonze and his Max (Max Records) bring us straight into the immediacy and open-heartedness of a child’s emotions.

We know we are in a child’s world even before the movie begins, with scrawled-on opening credits and then a breathtaking, child’s eye opening bursting with sensation, all the feelings rushing together. The film brilliantly evokes the feeling of childhood with the same freshness and intimacy director Spike Jonze showed in the influential videos he made when he was barely out of his teens. Max’s mother is beautifully played by Catherine Keener who makes clear to us, if not to Max, her devotion and sensitivity in the midst of concerns about work and a budding romance. His incoherent fury at her being distracted, including a kiss from a date who seems to think he has the right to tell Max how to behave almost hurtles him from the house, into the night, where he runs and runs, and then to a boat, where he sails and sails, until he comes to the land of the Wild Things.

They begin to attack him, but Max tames them with his bravado and imagination and he becomes the king, promising to do away with loneliness and make everyone happy. The book’s brief story blooms here as Max interacts with the Wild Things (voices of James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O’Hara, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, and Chris Cooper). Each of them represents or reflects Max’s emotions or experiences. They love sleeping in a big pile and are thrilled with Max’s plans for a fort. But Max learns how difficult it is to be responsible for the happiness of others, and before long, like other children in stories who have traveled to lands filled with magic and wonder, he longs for home.

The movie’s look is steeped in the natural world, with forests and beaches, and intricate Waldorf-school-style constructions that evoke a sense of wonder. The screenplay by Dave Eggers and Jonze locates the heart of Sendak’s story. They have not turned it into a movie; they have made their own movie as a tribute to Sendak, to childhood, to parenthood, to the Wild Things we all are at times, and to the home that waits for us when those times are over.

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Maurice Sendak on DVD

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 8:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: All Ages
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to DVD: 2008
Amazon.com ASIN: B0016OKR70

If you saw Where the Wild Things Are this week and loved it — or if your children are too young for it but want to enjoy Sendak on film, try the Sendak collection from my favorite Scholastic Storybook series. It includes not only the title story but other Sendak favorites like “In the Night Kitchen” and the wonderful Nutshell classics that teach letters (“Alligators All Around”), numbers (“One Was Johnny”), and the months (“Chicken Soup with Rice”) to wonderful songs by Carole King. Our family favorite was the one about Pierre, who learned not to say “I don’t care!”

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Reading Rockets: Where the Wild Things Are Family Kit

Posted on October 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

Get ready for the release of “Where the Wild Things Are” by reading the book! Reading Rockets has a great site with resources including an interview with author Maurice Sendak. Did you know he originally wrote it as a story about horses?

And here’s a short animated version of the book:

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