Moana

I have a five-year-old daughter. Recently, my wife and I took her to her first in-theater movie experience. (Except for one of those thirty-minute-long IMAX documentary films.)

My daughter is a bit on the sensitive side. She finds the giant squid in Finding Dory too much. But it’s hard for me to argue with her on that one. Watching¬†Moana she had to contend with a lava monster, an oversized crab, and a pirate navy of freaky coconut creatures. She spent a lot of the film in the hallway with her mother. But man, did she have a lot to say about it afterward. Her deconstruction of the character of Maui kind of took my breath away. It was insightful and likely accurate; and I never even thought about it.

Okay, enough about the target demo. How did Moana affect me?

Dang, this is a good film. One opening scene, with the title character Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) as a toddler, was astonishing. Not just gorgeous animation (which it is) but brilliant animation storytelling. You learn what you need to know without a single word of dialogue.

Soon enough Moana grows up to be a girl of indeterminate age, but likely a teenager. She’s being groomed to take over as chief of the island on which her people have lived for many years. (1000, if Maui is to be believed.) Her father (Temura Morrison) is adamant that what has worked this long–staying safe behind the reef–will continue to work. But an impending ecological disaster pushes Moana to take a risk and go out to sea in search of the demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson).

The balance of the film is a buddy action comedy with these two (and a couple of enjoyable side characters who don’t actually speak) as they try to accomplish the quest steps needed to get everything back in order on Moana’s island.

Pretty much everything about this film works. The settings are lush and amazing. The performances are spot on. The story is straightforward enough for kids, but not simple and not dumbed down. The music is heartfelt and touching when its supposed to be, and hilarious at other times. (Kudos to Jemaine Clement for his portrayal of the most impressive crab in cinema history.)

This could be my favorite animated film.

Customer Service

This a sort of catchall post to discuss some of the customer service I’ve experienced in the past couple of weeks. Let’s start at the top and work our way down, shall we?

University Volkswagen — I recently bought a new Tiguan from these guys. The process wasn’t entirely devoid of the “buying a car” cliche annoyances, by any means. I still got the last-minute high-pressure sales pitch for extra warranties. I haven’t bought a car for ten years, so this part was a little crazy to me. Not only extended bumper-to-bumper warranties, but also warranties for the windshield, the undercoating, the tires, the wheels, and even the paint on the nose of the vehicle. I was half expecting a warranty on the new car smell. That aside, the process was mostly pain-free, I got a good deal on my trade in, and they’ve been very responsive with questions I had in follow-up. So, thumbs up!

Bekins — My parents moved from Chicago to Fort Worth with Bekins… in 1970. But that was enough for me to call them up when I was helping my aunt with her move. They got me a local rep with a local number, the quote was reasonable, and the service has been great. (We’ll see if the move itself goes as well, but that’s less about customer service and more about the service you’re contracting.) Thumbs up.

UPS — When we thought we could accomplish the move with a package delivery company, I spoke several times with UPS, and they were uniformly knowledgeable and helpful. Sorry, guys, but we had to go with professional movers. Still, thumbs up.

FedEx — The other company I talked to about shipping was FedEx. Every person I talked to had a slightly different take on the process. Which amped up my annoyance remarkably efficiently. When the last guy tried to explain the difference between “Ground” and “Home Delivery”, I got lost and said to him, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.” His response was “I don’t know any other way to say it.” Thumbs down.

Dish¬†Network — I’ve never been a subscriber of this service, and I know people who swear by it. But I had one simple task: return the device to Dish because my aunt is moving. First, they gave us the wrong address for the return. Then, after I corrected the address on the internet… there wasn’t anything there. It was a parking lot. So I called the number. Dish answered, but it was a sales number. When I tried to get help, they said, “Write this number down,” and switched me over to a recording. Of course, I was driving at the time, so I couldn’t write anything down. (But I’m sure I’m in the minority of people who don’t have pencil and paper at the ready every time I’m on the phone.) So I found another location on the internet, and called again. This time I said, “I’m trying to get to you. Can you help me.” Despite the fact that this was a Sacramento area code, the guy said, “We’re in Ohio.” And he dumped me to the phone number recording again. This time I took note, and called this new guy. He was helpful, and gave me the address of a local retailer who would accept the returned hardware. I thanked him, drove over there, and was told that, no, they didn’t accept hardware. No one does. It has to be mailed back to Dish. Terrible, terrible customer service. Thumbs way down!