First but not Best by
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Prompted By Best Picture

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My older brother and I were Disney nuts. We loved all things Disney. I skipped piano practice so I could watch the afternoon TV show as a kid. My first movie, as a four year old was Fantasia, some lovely stuff there, but some pretty scary stuff too. I don’t remember my reaction, but I’m sure I was frightened by The Night on Bald Mountain and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but charmed by rhinos and elephants dancing to Waltz of the Hours.

The movie was re-released again in 1969 and the counter-culture had discovered it. My super-straight brother and I went to see it along with all the stoners, tripping out on the lights and fantasy. My brother couldn’t understand what was going on. I thought it was very funny.

My favorite movie of all time is Shakespeare in Love, having always wanted to play Juliet. I loved the clever way Shakespearean references were woven throughout, the doomed love story, the vibrant costumes, lovely music, and it takes place during the reign of my favorite monarch, Elizabeth I. What could be better? I watch it over and over again.

Second favorite: Last of the Mohicans, a gripping adventure of love and death in the mid-1700s with a political twist. Daniel Day-Lewis never looked so good. Best screen kiss EVER! I had a chance to see it again on the big screen recently, as one of our local arthouse cinemas was doing a DD-L retrospective, given his planned retirement. After 25 years, it holds up well. It is lush, brutal and surprisingly romantic.

This year was not a bumper crop of good movies. I think the best two are Three Billboards Outside Hibbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. One is a brutally stark, dark movie about a mother’s grief and guilt, what she does to try to find her daughter’s murderer and how she seeks salvation. The other is an odd, Cold War love story, charming and twisted in its own way. Quite different, but very interesting. I found it beautiful. Very different animals (no pun intended).


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: Disney, Fantasia, Shakespeare in Love, Last of the Mohicans
Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Betsy, how fun that Fantasia was your first movie! I only saw it when it was re-released in 1969, and of course I was stoned, like everyone else in the theatre. Have you ever seen Fantasia 2000? That has some fabulous new stuff, and a reprise of the sorceror’s apprentice.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t pick Phantom Thread for this year’s movie. I didn’t like it at all, but I figured your love of DD-L would overcome the terrible plot. I agree with you that The Shape of Water was great, but it’s not my top choice, as you will see.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Suzy, much as I love Daniel Day-Lewis, I did not love this movie…and I really wanted to. Thought it was well-acted and beautiful to look at, but the story line just didn’t appeal to me. What can I say?

      No, I’ve never seen Fantasia 2000. Guess I was busy with kids and not movies at that time in my life.

      • Suzy says:

        Betsy, I’m surprised that you say you were too busy with kids. My kids are the same age as yours, and I took them to see Fantasia 2000 for Sabrina’s 15th birthday. It would have been the perfect movie to see WITH your kids.

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          As I think about the timing of that movie, not necessarily with Jeffrey. There we only a few movies he was interested in or would sit through, so I suspect that was why we skipped it. On the other hand. I had dinner with her and her partner a week ago and she LOVED “Coco”, so she does (usually) love the Pixar movies.

  2. John Zussman says:

    I also saw Fantasia as a young kid, but don’t recall being at all frightened, even by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence (whose music I think I knew beforehand). We actually saw a lot of cartoon violence as kids (think Popeye) and Disney films had plenty of loss and pathos (Bambi, Old Yeller).

    I’m with you on Shakespeare in Love as well. Screenplay by British playwright Tom Stoppard, so say no more.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It’s true, John, we saw many sad/scary movies as kids. I don’t actually remember being frightened by Fantasia. It’s only looking back that I wonder if I was. I remember being devastated when Old Yeller had to be put down at the end of that film. And being truly frightened by the Banshee in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (and early Sean Connery film…he sang in that one!)

      Absolutely, Tom Stoppard did a great job with Shakespeare in Love. Sooo witty, weaving little bits of other plays throughout this screenplay. I went back over and over just to catch every allusion.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Thanks for the thoughts and memories, Betsy. Fantasia didn’t scare me (particularly when I saw it in an altered state in college), but certainly a lot of Disney movies were scary. And, like you, I remember being terrified in the banshee scenes of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and literally hiding under my seat in the movie theater.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      John, I don’t actually remember being frightened by it. It is only in retrospect (pun intended) that I wonder if I was frightened. I DEFINITELY remember being frightened by the Banshee, and just so sad about Bambi’s mother’s death. And even the scene in Dumbo where he is separated from his mother. So much sadness in those early Disney movies…

  4. Thanks, Betsy, for bringing back Fantasia. I remember seeing it early on in life, sometime in the late 1950s, so too old to be terrified as a child might have been. I find most of those iconic Disney animated films to have terrorist elements and who didn’t cry when Bambi’s mom died. Jeez, what a sadist! I enjoyed the thoughtful way you encapsulated each film, loved Shakespeare in Love, as much for its depiction of the ugly mechanics of playwriting and producing (a bit like making sausages, as lawmaking has been described). Your descriptions of Three Billboards and Shape of Water were most helpful as I haven’t seen them. Thanks for all.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      So true about those classic Disney movies, Charlie…so much stuff to unsettle a child. Interesting that you relate to the writer’s struggle in Shakespeare in Love (do also have your rituals before you can sit and put work on “paper”?) Oscars this Sunday. Always interesting to see what the industry thinks vs. what I think!

  5. Patricia says:

    I think I saw Fantasia as a child, but certainly as a young adult–and I was bored out of my mind both times. Suzy, I never got the memo that it helped to be stoned! I certainly respect the intention and the effort that went into its creation, but I suppose the music conjured other images for me and so those on screen were like nails on a blackboard.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Interesting take on it, Patti. I guess it didn’t occur to me to be bored. I just enjoyed the whole fantasy of it. Though at some point, fairly recently, I had to look up the various segments. Only a few had really stayed with me.

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