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4B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, December 4, 2003
NIAMH $LEVIN - AUGTAVANT GARDE

The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine -

TOYs WILL BE TOYS

tis official: The holidays have arrived. I noticed
it first when the incessant Christmas music
aded mall PA systems back in early October.
Then, it became pretty obvious when Christmas
ornaments appeared stocked on shelves next to the
Halloween masks and fake blood. But, the real hol-
iday spirit takes over right around Thanksgiving
when I, along with the rest of the nation, realize
jolly, old Santa Claus is about to swoop down from
the North Pole with no gifts in tow, and we flock to
the stores.
But this year, upon entering each new store, I was
surprised to see just how much the holiday shopping
experience has changed. Instead of the overwhelm-
ing presence of Harry Potter memorabilia and cheap
Japanimation toys (the latest being Yu-Gee-Oh)
crowding the aisle ways, I was confronted with what
appeared to be hordes of characters from my early
childhood. It's not as if I hadn't seen this phenome-
non before my frantic expedition, but somehow, the
sight of these '80s treasures seemed more reprehen-
sible on this trip.
First, a small wave of He-Man action heroes
trickled into the male-dominated aisles alongside
the classic X-Men figurines and Transformers of my
youth. Next, novelty T-shirts brandished with
Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears dotted mall
windows. Yet, these occasional sightings were noth-

ing compared to the utter infiltration that had taken
place a few weeks ago.
In addition to regular toys, good old Strawberry
lends her face to wrapping paper, toothpaste tubes,
lunchboxes and pillowcases throughout the store.
Look for My Little Pony on all the latest school sup-
plies, and check out the plethora of Care Bears plas-
tered on everything from sweatshirts (both big and
small) to steering wheel covers.
While these old-timey friends are most prominent
in the toy department, marketers have discovered a
way to corner their real targets: The first generation
of loyal fans, the parents. Cell phone covers and
floor mats don't exactly seem like a child's dream
present on Christmas morning.
After an episode of "I Love the '80s" aired fea-
turing the lovable Glo-Worm, I had suddenly
noticed the little bug wriggling its way back into the
baby aisle of my local Target. As charismatic as
VH 1's strange hit may be, it's hardly geared toward
that young of an audience.
It's not that these plush creatures were education-
al or otherwise beneficial in their original forms
either. Most were produced as a joint affair with
some cheesy television show; and both had been
used to rake in some serious dough for corporate
America. Yet, they still had some semblance of
uniqueness the first time around. Now, it's fairly

obvious these memories are being used as money-
makers, and their presence in the hands of tiny fam-
ily members seems just a little sleazier.
At least the cartoons were not intended as subtle
advertising jargon; their entire purpose had been to
sell toys. But, this new tirade has tackled a market-
ing technique largely untapped in prior years and
appears to be highly lucrative for those at the top.
They are now speaking to the new age parents'
heightened sense of nostalgia.
Rather than spending thousands of dollars
developing original toy ideas or producing
expensive children's shows in order to cut down
on advertising, toymakers now realize that par-
ents' own idyllic dreams can prove to be a far
more cost-effective form of marketing. The
thought of little Timmy or Susie cuddling the
very same toy you once cherished is certainly a
sweet notion. Think of all the wonderful
moments that might ensue as the kids fondly lis-
ten to old stories of Mom and Dad's favorite
childhood pastimes.
Unfortunately, kids don't really care about that
stuff. The joy that we once shared with such toys is
not a source of amusement for the younger genera-
tions. What we once had was sub-par in comparison
to today's standards. Where were the lights, the loud
noises and the animatronic movements?

I also succumbed to the urge to purchase a per-
sonal favorite for one of these young whipper-
snappers. A few months ago, I proudly planted a
Transformer action figure into the hands of my
eager little nephew, who, for a brief moment, had
thought I was the coolest aunt in the world.
Pleased with my success, I launched into stories
of yore when I too had enjoyed playing
Transformers and My Little Ponies just like the
ones in the toy box now.
My tales were met with the quick response, "But
these are new. These are better."
I didn't feel like I'd shared some newfound mag-
ical connection with him through this toy. I didn't
feel like he had felt a newly discovered interest in
my past. Really, I just felt old.
So, as I walked by the packed end caps and
loaded toy stands on my shopping venture, I had to
shake my head a little and remind myself this resur-
gence of my old favorites is merely another market-
ing ploy.
And, as I watch my fellow consumers, only a few
years older than I am now, filling their carts with the
latest Strawberry Shortcake accessory, I say: Forget
it, kids. My childhood is not for sale.
- Niamh obviously has nothing better to do than
critique little kid toys. Distract her with
e-mails at nikaslev@umich.edu.

Antics of 'Home Alone'

deliver holiday cheer

By Zach Mabee
Daily Arts Writer

The current state of filmmaking in
the holiday season is uncertain indeed.
That's not to say that the months that
bring good tidings don't also bring
good movies; they just seem to bring
more worthless ones as of late. Films
are churned out hastily and carelessly
to reel in spendthrift holiday hoards.
There was a time, though, when

holiday movies were treated with the
same care and concern as any other
serious work of art. A look at a little
movie called "Home Alone" is all the
proof we need.
"Home Alone" was much more
than a holiday movie. It incorporated
vastly more than most seasonal trib-
utes we see these days. It was a char-
acter study of the many members of a
large and eccentric family; a sublime
tale of the friendship of a young boy

and an elderly man; a masterfully
devised cat-and-mouse game between
a scheming kid and two foolish ban-
dits; and, perhaps most of all, the

breakout perform-
ance of a charis-
matic child star.
"Home" proba-
bly wouldn't have
conquered the
world like it did
were it not for its

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stellar cast.
Harry Lime (Joe Pesci) and Mary
Merchants (Daniel Stern) made a time-
less and inimitable criminal duo -
clashing personalities at their
strongest. They were like a comedic,
and not so tragic, George and Lenny
from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men":
a bumbling ignoramus and his edgy,
control-freak of a friend.
The interplay between Pesci and
Stern and Kevin McCallister
(McCaulay Culkin) is priceless.

Maybe it's nothing more than the
comedy present in watching the two
crooks get hit in the face with random
household objects, but there was a
remarkable chem-
istry that made the
From three of them end-
the lessly enjoyable.
Vault To appreciate
"Home" just for the
quirky chases and
slapstick antics is to
undervalue it greatly. The action was
eye-catching and surely funny
throughout, but there were also some
strong undertones about friendship,
family and the spirit of the season that
made it so much more gratifying.
The companionship between Kevin
and the aged vagrant who salted the
town's sidewalks was very intriguing.
The old man was a strikingly haunting
character, and the development of his
bond with Culkin, primarily through
window-to-street glances and little dis-

cussion, had been powerful.
Similarly, the dynamics within the
family were memorable and rather sat-
isfying. The family was portrayed
throughout as unorganized, chaotic and
constantly at each other's throats -this
was shown best in the opening scenes
at the house the night before and morn-
ing of the family's flight. They clawed
at one another persistently and only in
the closing scenes did they come to
appreciate each other. This may sound
like a typically sappy holiday movie
ending, but the resonance of the char-
acters and family disputes made it a
much more emotional resolution.
"Home Alone" was such a great hol-
iday movie precisely because it wasn't
a holiday movie, in the strictest sense. It
encompassed strong, personable char-
acters, slapstick hilarity and a very
appropriate, but not overdone, seasonal
flare. It succeeded in spite of the holi-
day conventions it had incorporated
and was immeasurably better for it.

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THE LAST SAMURAI (R)........................12:45, 2:00, 3:45, 5:15,
7:00, 9:00, 10:00
MASTER AND COMMANDER: (PG-13)..1:15, 4:10, 7:00, 9:45
LOVE ACTUALLY (R)..................................1:10, 3:55, 7:10, 9:45
MYSTIC RIVER (R).................................................1:30, 4:15, 7:05
;OTHIKA (R) ..................... 9:35
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TAKING SIDES (R). ................ ...............3:10, 9:35
THE STATION AGENT (R) ............................. 1:25, 5:25, 7:25
TOM CRUISE
T H E
LAST SAMURAI
[-m A0

the new

B IA RWOOD

the evolution of holiday shopping

_ (w7n3wa: 41 -9W. Ww.mAA Of,neeaJts.om1
(734) 994 1000 -w.modstonetheaters.com

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