stilleatingoranges:

Critics panned it. A pedestrian cable drama sneered at it. Worse, its creator disowned it–loudly. And none of the foregoing, although ominous, is indicative of its quality. The film is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a children’s picture unfairly reviled in 2007 and forgotten afterward. Between slick credits sequences animated by William Joyce, it weaves a (relaxed, meandering) tale that is principally about death. A 243-year-old man, who runs a living toy store with a 23-year-old woman, is dying; and he hires a lukewarm accountant to review his estate. An eccentric young boy with a taste for hats stars also. Surprisingly, one finds here neither Hallmark schmaltz nor Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cynicism and spectacle, but something alien to both.

Weighty for any current artist is the problem of kitsch–or, in honor of the style’s grandmaster, the problem of Thomas Kinkade. Today, a faint (for some, invisible) line separates the hard-fought tenderness of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty from a vomitous Kinkade canvas. Innocence risks a fall into phony romanticism. The artist must embrace this challenge, however. In 1990, writer David Foster Wallace predicted that “anti-rebels”, a nonjaded movement opposed to the ironic distance of postmodernism, would revitalize art amid “accusations of sentimentality, melodrama.” Ironic art, for Wallace, was a dead end: ultimately it is a safeguard against all feeling, against life itself. There exists a third road beyond the cynical and the cloyingly naïve.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium locates this road. It jumps with both feet into childlike whimsy–but it does not, in the process, sacrifice bite and intelligence. References are made to Fibonacci and Magritte; and King Lear’s final scene is analyzed. Robust, sophisticated acting and production design are the rule. Like that earlier project from writer-director Zach Helm, the badly underrated Stranger than Fiction (2006), this work brims with quirky humor and existential pathos. But Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium was marketed as kitsch, as fodder for the family-friendly-film ghetto. An open mind with a love for good movies will see past the lie, and be pleased. The film may be obtained from the nearest bargain bin.

Still Eating Oranges


November 28, 2015

stilleatingoranges:

Critics panned it. A pedestrian cable drama sneered at it. Worse, its creator disowned it–loudly. And none of the foregoing, although ominous, is indicative of its quality. The film is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a children’s picture unfairly reviled in 2007 and forgotten afterward. Between slick credits sequences animated by William Joyce, it weaves a (relaxed, meandering) tale that is principally about death. A 243-year-old man, who runs a living toy store with a 23-year-old woman, is dying; and he hires a lukewarm accountant to review his estate. An eccentric young boy with a taste for hats stars also. Surprisingly, one finds here neither Hallmark schmaltz nor Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cynicism and spectacle, but something alien to both.

Weighty for any current artist is the problem of kitsch–or, in honor of the style’s grandmaster, the problem of Thomas Kinkade. Today, a faint (for some, invisible) line separates the hard-fought tenderness of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty from a vomitous Kinkade canvas. Innocence risks a fall into phony romanticism. The artist must embrace this challenge, however. In 1990, writer David Foster Wallace predicted that “anti-rebels”, a nonjaded movement opposed to the ironic distance of postmodernism, would revitalize art amid “accusations of sentimentality, melodrama.” Ironic art, for Wallace, was a dead end: ultimately it is a safeguard against all feeling, against life itself. There exists a third road beyond the cynical and the cloyingly naïve.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium locates this road. It jumps with both feet into childlike whimsy–but it does not, in the process, sacrifice bite and intelligence. References are made to Fibonacci and Magritte; and King Lear’s final scene is analyzed. Robust, sophisticated acting and production design are the rule. Like that earlier project from writer-director Zach Helm, the badly underrated Stranger than Fiction (2006), this work brims with quirky humor and existential pathos. But Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium was marketed as kitsch, as fodder for the family-friendly-film ghetto. An open mind with a love for good movies will see past the lie, and be pleased. The film may be obtained from the nearest bargain bin.

Still Eating Oranges


November 28, 2015