Friday, February 24, 2012
And the Winner Is … !
This is Media Darlings’ first Academy Award season and we’ve begun what we hope will become a yearly tradition. In honor of the Awards, we’ll choose a different theme and bring you the best of that category. This is the year of the piglet, so put on your top hat, grab your silk purse, and join me on the red carpet for the Piglet Hall of Fame Awards. The envelope, please!
Babe, directed in 1995 by Chris Noonan, adapted from the 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig written by Dick King-Smith. Babe is one of the best family films of the late 20th century. The character of Babe was possessed of an “unprejudiced heart” and was encouraged to develop his talents for sheep herding to awe-inspiring results. The animal performances are a clever combination of real animals with very realistic puppets. Actress Christine Cavanaugh hits just the right child-like note in Babe’s voice. Oh, and real-life actor James Cromwell is no slouch as Farmer Hoggett. He sings and dances a jig to cheer up young Babe in a scene that may well move you to tears. This film belongs on every family’s dvd shelf.
Olivia. Both the books by Ian Falconer and the Nickelodeon television series based on his characters are a delight. Olivia is a piglet/role model for any kid, spunky, funny, a great student, and a wonderful big sister to William and Ian. Her flights of imagination form the anchor for Falconer’s books and the television series, and those are some fancy flights!
Runner Up: Toot & Puddle. This book series created in 1964 by Holly Hobbie and the Nickelodeon television series are sweet and adorably gentle; great reading and great television.
Mercy Watson series created by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. These charming books feature the character Mercy, a piglet who is adopted by a human family and raised as their daughter. Any book from this series—including Mercy Watson to the Rescue and Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride—would make a wonderful choice for your early reader. The chapters are short and it can give young readers a real sense of accomplishment to tackle a real chapter book.
Best Foreign Piglet: Peppa Pig from the British Television Series of the same name. I’ve written on the many joys of this series and continue to recommend this ongoing series that appears in this country on Nick Jr.
Charlotte's Web. This book may be about spider Charlotte, but that Wilbur is some pig. This is a beautifully written book, a favorite since its 1952 debut, enjoyed by adults and children alike. The description of the experience of swinging on a rope swing at the farm is an often-cited example of rhythm in writing, as the pace of the sentences reflects the motion of the swing. This is a book to treasure.
Best Musical Score: 1973’s animated film, Charlotte's Web,music and lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, better knows as the Sherman Brothers. I’ve never been a fan of the animation of this 1973 adaptation, but the music does soar. The Sherman Brothers created the music for 1964’s Mary Poppins, 1967’s The Jungle Book, and 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Songs for Charlotte’s Web include, “We’ve Got Lots in Common,” “There Must Be Something More,” and “A Veritable Smorgasbord.” My favorite? “Chin Up.”
Green Acres, 1965 to 1971. Arnold is a true cultural icon. In Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction, the character Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) refers to Arnold, saying a pig would have to be “ten times more charming” than Arnold for him to eat it. And the 1995 theatrical film Gordy was originally conceived in the early 1970s by Green Acres creator Jay Sommers and writer Dick Chevillat as a vehicle for the Arnold Ziffel character, though Sommers died some ten years before the release of Gordy.
Best Costume Design: Miss Piggy as Liz Taylor in Cleopatra, from Piggy’s 1980 calendar. Eat your heart out, Madonna. You may have wowed at this year’s Super Bowl in your homage to Liz Taylor/Cleopatra, but Miss Piggy created her homage to Taylor’s iconic depiction decades ago. Runner up? All of Miss Piggy’s other costumes.
Winnie-the-Pooh and then in all ten chapters of the follow up book, The House At Pooh Corner.
Service Award: to the supermarket chain Piggly Wiggly for years of service to consumers and for appearing repeatedly in the dialogue of the 1989 Brue Beresford-directed film Driving Miss Daisy.
Permanently Banned from the Piglet Hall of Fame: The Porky’s Movies (Porky’s, Porky’s II, and Porky’s Revenge.) Bob Clark’s trio of Dan Monahan-starring films ran from 1982 to 1985. So inane, they give pigs a bad name.