Movie: Fantasia 2000

Fantasia 2000I love this whole movie, but the only portion that I want to talk about today is the “Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102″ by Dimitri Shostakovich segment, which retells the story of the steadfast tin soldier and the little ballerina he loved. I always loved this particular Andersen fairy tale (I found it’s very sad ending unspeakably romantic when I was a kid – I was weird). The version of the story that the Walt Disney studios brings us in this movie is very different from the classic one. It has a happy ending for the soldier and the ballerina, but even more than that, it introduces a villain in the person of a jack-in-the-box who loves the ballerina. It almost feels to be like they took “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and another of Andersen’s tales, “The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep”, and sort of smushed them together to come up with this story. It works fairly well, but the result is very different from either tale of course. I enjoyed it a lot. The mix is creative and I do wonder if it was conscious or if the resemblance they ended up with to the second story just sort of happened as they made changes. I would be interesting to know! This story is so infrequently told in cinema that I’m pleased they included it in Fantasia 2000, especially since it is such an interesting version!

Movie: Little Women

Little Women PosterMovie versions of Little Women are always a little bit odd. They are much abridged, since the book is actually quite long, and generally put more meaning or emphasis behind some of the events than the book really seems to intend them to have (the better to sensationalize, my dear). This version is really no different. It tells the story of the four March sisters and how they grow from young ladyhood to adulthood while the Civil War and other various changes are happening in the rest of the country. Each girl is different, but they share a special bond and are clearly young women the audience is supposed to love and identify with (at least the female half of the audience is).

My biggest issues with this movie were in the portrayal of the girls themselves. Beth, for some reason, never grows up while the other three do. She never got any older, while Amy, who is ostensibly younger than her, grows up and starts wearing long skirts and even eventually gets married! Beth is still dressed as a little girl and speaking as a little girl up until the end, while the rest of them, obviously full grown women at this point, stand around her and it looks very odd. Amy, played by Elizabeth Taylor, is incredibly bratty. She actually kind of drove me crazy. I really wanted to like Amy, just like I liked the other three sisters, but I really couldn’t. I felt like Ashley was a dope for marrying her at the end and I felt really sorry for him having to spend the rest of his life dealing with her. I felt like Jo was trying to hard. It just didn’t feel natural. Meg was so generic that I hardly remember her at all! I don’t remember her actually getting much screen time anyway.

This wasn’t a terribly good interpretation of the book and it felt very choppy and odd as a movie in its own right as well. It really felt like it was saying “love these girls, aren’t they precious and wonderful?”, but Amy was an unlovable brat, Jo was so fake it hurt and Meg was completely forgettable. That’s a little hard to love. They all looked great. The costuming and sets were amazing. And the secondary characters were really well done. It’s just that the story isn’t about them, it’s about Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Somehow, that wasn’t what this felt like. It felt like a very strange, convoluted story about random people. I kept wondering why I was supposed to care.

Movie: Shrek the Third

Shrek 3 PosterThis is the third movie in the Shrek saga and it is filled with characters we are pretty familiar with at this point. Shrek and Fiona are married and living in the swamp, but they get called back to Fiona’s parents’ castle because her father is dying. There they take on royal duties for him for a while, thinking it will only be temporary. Unfortunately, he dies and leaves Shrek his kingdom. The only other person who could conceivably become king of Far Far Away is a scrawny kid named Arthur who is busy being bullied off in a high school somewhere a ways away. Since Shrek doesn’t want the throne, he sets off to find said scrawny kid and force him to take it. With him, of course, are Donkey and Puss. Meanwhile, Fiona reveals that she is pregnant and all the princesses squeal in delight (Shrek isn’t quite so thrilled, but Fiona doesn’t know that). While Shrek is away, the villains of the fairy tale world all decide to stage a coup and Prince Charming installs himself as the ruler of the kingdom. Lucky for Far Far Away, the princesses prove more of a challenge than he anticipated. Chaos ensues and eventually all is worked out happily.

The most interesting plotline in this movie from my perspective was that of the fairy tale princesses. They start out pretty shallow and really seem about as ornamental and useless as the writers could possibly make them, but over the course of the story they actually prove pretty effective. The thing is, they use the traits from their fairy tales to fight their battle (Snow White sings to get the birds and furry creatures of the woods to attack the guards, Sleeping Beauty collapses and trips guards, Cinderella throws a razor sharp glass slipper as a weapon, etc.). This is not only a good comic device, but it also proves a pretty interesting storytelling element. It shows the women recognizing that their real best weapon is the element of surprise. No one expects them to put up a fight, so when they do, it distracts even the enemies not directly affected by the attack itself. And they definitely use those distractions to their advantage! Clearly these are not the damsels in distress we thought they were! It may have taken Fiona to push them to do this, but she didn’t have much time in which it convince them, so they must have had that strength within them to begin with, they just didn’t ever use it. I’m not saying that the portrayals were all as forward-thinking as one might want, but this is definitely way more twenty-first century than the majority of Princess movies than come out!

Overall I really enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t amazing high-quality cinema by any means, but it was fun and had some very interesting interpretations of fairy tales and legends (Camelot played a big part of this story). It seems like the people writing the Shrek movies have realized that the world they are playing with allows them more freedom to experiment with stereotypes and expectations than perhaps a more traditional setting would. And the best part is, they seem to be getting better at it since this movie was better than Shrek 2! Perhaps that means if there is a fourth one it has a good chance of being even more interesting yet! That said, I don’t think there needs to be any more in the series. This one made a good ending.

Movie: Nancy Drew

Nancy DrewLast week my mother and I went to see the new Nancy Drew movie. My mom has a collection of original Nancy Drew books that I read through eagerly when I was a kid and I still remember Nancy and her adventures fondly. I was really worried about this movie, though, because for me, Nancy’s stories are set in the 1930s and she wears a cloche hat and often gloves. The trailers for this movie looked hardly anything like the Nancy that lives in my memory. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when Emma Roberts managed to ooze Nancy. She was everything I remembered, but dressed more modernly and with an updated vocabulary. She was still the girl who pulled no punches when it came to following clues and solving a mystery, who was careful not to break rules as she did so, and who needed no guy along to help her! I was thrilled that she got kidnapped and saved herself (Nancy was always getting kidnapped and saving herself one way or another, although the movie kidnappers seemed extra dumb to me since they didn’t even tie her up)! The mystery was interesting and the pacing of the movie was good. Best of all, this movie seems to have revitalized interest in the books. I wish the originals were still in print, rather than the sixties rewrites, but I guess I can’t have everything (and a reprint of the first book did just come out, but I’m not sure if it’s the rewrite with the original cover or an actual reprint). Anyway, it’s a highly entertaining movie. I definitely recommend it, especially for fans of the books or for anyone wanting a movie about a self-reliant girl! It’s worth watching and a lot of fun!

Random Thoughts

I finished The Phoenix Dance yesterday and I love love loved it!  I have a lot of thoughts about, but I’m still working them out, so we’ll see when I actually get around to writing them out nicely and posting them (hopefully this week sometime).  I think this has been one of my favorite books in a while, which is really something since I’ve read some great books recently!

Anyway, today is Mother’s Day!  I’m going to have lunch with my mother this afternoon.  The hardest part about having lunch with my mother on days like this is keeping her from helping!  I finally gave in a said she could make the rolls and Michael gave me a very hard time about it.  But it’s just the rolls, right?

I’m going to take her to see the new Nancy Drew movie when it comes on in June.  I don’t have terribly high hopes for it, but we have to go see it anyway.  My mother has a complete collection of the original Nancy Drew books from the 1930s and those were what I read when I grew up.  Nancy will always wear a cloche hat in my mind!  So even though this movie can’t possibly be the real Nancy, we have to check it out anyway.  It’s one of those things.  It’s like how Michael has to play the new Shadowrun video game, even though he knows it won’t really be Shadowrun.  It’s one of those things.

Anyhow, Happy Mother’s Day everyone!  Have a great day and hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with something more coherent!

Movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven DwarfsThis movie is from the “Faerie Tale Theatre” series and was produced in 1983. I enjoyed Vincent Price as the mirror (his silent facial expressions at the queen were great), but the queen was more creepy than beautiful. It seems like the tendency with “Snow White” is to make the queen revolting, but she really is supposed to be beautiful! She’s absolutely insane, but she’s supposed to be incredibly beautiful! Why did they make Vanessa Redgrave look like a complete freak? Her hair was everywhere and her costumes were incredibly unflattering. Snow White was cute, but they seemed to be going for a very little girlish look. Her costume looked strange on the grown-up Elizabeth McGovern when it was clearly designed for a child. So the costuming, at least on the women’s side, was a little weird in this one. The acting of the dwarfs was great, though. They and Price were the only ones who didn’t sound stilted and like they were reading from a script at any point. They also rarely overacted when it wasn’t really necessary. The queen overacted a lot. I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the acting in this one.

The story mangled the fairy tale a little bit, but seemed to be trying to keep the spirit of it. They had the queen give Snow White a ribbon and wrap it around her neck to kill her, rather than her waist (how would she come back from that, exactly?). They skipped the comb altogether, but kept the apple as expected, with them sharing it and everything. The queen was punished by never being able to see herself in a mirror again, all her mirrors turned black. This seemed fairly appropriate and easier to film and more tv-friendly than her classic punishment, so I actually liked the change. The one change I found very strange, however, was that Snow White did not wake up when the prince kissed her. She woke up when the dwarfs dropped her coffin, thus jarring the apple from her mouth. This may make more technical sense, but it’s very different from the “true love’s kiss” of the fairy tale. It’s less magical and romantic. It also made her sudden acceptance of a marriage proposal from some guy she’s never met until this moment seem really strange. Without the magic, why is she suddenly agreeing to marry some strange guy with a guitar? The dwarfs weren’t that bad!

In general, I enjoyed this movie. I wasn’t wildly impressed with it, but it was entertaining to watch.

Television: The 10th Kingdom

The 10th KingdomThis was a miniseries about a woman from New York City who gets pulled into the world of fairy tales (the Nine Kingdoms).  The woman, whose name is Virginia, travels with her father, a prince who has been enchanted to look like a dog, and a man who is really a wolf (and in love with her).  They are trying to retrieve the magic mirror that will let them return to Manhattan and the prince is trying to save his kingdom.  A wicked queen is trying to take over the kingdom with a dog who has been enchanted to look like the prince.  Everything is very complicated and fairy tale references abound.  Chance plays a big part in the whole adventure, but it is highly entertaining and surprisingly well-woven together.  The story is interesting and enjoyable.

One of the things I found most interesting was the mythology of the Nine Kingdoms themselves.  The story took place two generations after the great fairy tale women supposedly ruled and made the lands great – and it was stressed that it was the women who made the kingdoms what they were (in general, their husbands were barely mentioned).   I was also surprised by who the five women were – Queen Snow White, Queen Cinderella, Queen Riding Hood (?), Gretel, and the Lady Rapunzel.  Gretel’s rank was not stated, how Riding Hood became a queen was never explained, and why Rapunzel was listed as a lady and not a princess was likewise never explained.  Snow White was the most talked about as she was the prince/dog’s grandmother and actually showed up as a fairy godmother sort of figure when they found her grave (death evidently isn’t as permanent in the Nine Kingdoms as it is here).  Her husband was also the only one mentioned – on her tomb and in the town based around where they fell in love.  As far as the movie was concerned, the other women may as well not have had husbands (and perhaps Riding Hood and Gretel did not, we don’t know).  It was interesting that in this world, though, it was clear that women are the historical leaders, both good and bad.

I found the interesting ways they worked in various references, artifacts, spells, curses, and effects from different tales and legends from around the world fascinating.  They were surprisingly varied and often quite subtly employed.  I most liked that the writers were clearly working from the classic Grimms’ versions of the German stories, especially Snow White, rather than the cleaned up and shortened versions we most often hear told today.  For example, the poisoned comb was a major plot point.  Many of the other details usually left out of the story were used as well.  The parts of the story that took place in New York were not as good as those in the Nine Kingdoms.  They felt more clunky and it just didn’t make as much sense.  The miniseries got a lot better once all the characters had fully crossed into the fairy tale world.

I very much enjoyed this miniseries.  It was fun and well told, if a little strange at times.  I doubt that my husband would have enjoyed it as much as I did, but I think that it required a certain appreciation for the type of story that they were telling.  I would definitely recommend it for fans of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings.  It is an entertaining experience, although a long one as well.  And the DVD breaks always come right when you want to know what is going to happen next!

Movie: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory was a fun and wonderfully well done movie.  The casting was brilliant.  Charlie was charming and his grandfather, played by David Kelly, was just perfect.  Willy Wonka was great as well – funny, endearing, logical in his own quirky way, and just the littlest bit creepy.  The four other children and their parents were good too, each seemed to really grasp what made their characters tick and they certainly made us love to hate them!  The sets and costumes were fantastic, making for amazing visuals.  I particularly loved Wonka’s costumes.  The lush fabrics and slightly old-fashioned style were just right for his personality.  The Oompa Loompas were wonderful, they presented a great visual image and their songs, while not exactly catchy, were extremely appropriate in each situation.  My favorite song from the movie by far, however, was the welcome song.  The sets were beautiful and quirky (the boat, which appeared to be injection-molded plastic, was great), which presented the perfect image for the surreal story.  I really enjoyed this story.

The movie was a reasonable interpretation of the book and stood quite well on its own.  I was more impressed with this movie than with the old version in some ways, but they really are two completely different movies and quite difficult to compare.  This was a fun, energetic movie and I enjoyed it a lot.

Site Updates, New Dolls

There have been a bunch of site updates lately that I have completely forgotten to post, so here are the ones I remember! Weeee!

There are movie lessons up for four new movies.

Bright Young Things:

- Men are dumb, don’t trust them with important things like money, they will mess it up
- Don’t marry, get engaged to or otherwise even associate with men who will either sell or buy you, your children or both
- Don’t let rich debutantes who don’t normally drive cars drive your race car. It’s bound to be bad for both the debutante and the race car (not to mention your standings in the race)
- If your father is the prime minister or otherwise important, don’t bring home your friends after a party for a drink and let them spend the night (especially if their reputations are less than spotless)

The Sword in the Stone:

- Your beard should never be so long that it can wrap around your head, it’s just asking for trouble
- Don’t turn into a squirrel during mating season, it’s just asking for trouble
- Small things will always defeat big things in the end

V for Vendetta:

- Remember remember important events in history or they will be repeated
- Don’t oppress people or they will rise up against you
- Don’t follow crazy religious fanatics, it’s really just a bad idea

X-Men III: The Last Stand:

- Don’t run races with girls who can phase through solid objects
- Don’t piss off women who can call down lightning on your head
- Don’t play with things that can cause your powers to disappear, even if you just intend to use them on someone else
- Don’t leave behind the woman who knows all your secrets

The lyrics to “Boom, Da Boom” from the episode “Pete’s One Man Show” of House of Mouse. It’s funny. Go read it. Also from House of Mouse (from the episode “Ask Von Drake”) is Von Drake’s list of where everyone sits. Again, it’s very funny. And it took me a very long time to transcribe it all, so go read it. I also have the answers Mickey got when he asked “What would you like for Christmas?” in the episode “Pete’s Christmas Caper” from House of Mouse.  There is also now a growing page of the “Brought to you by” messages from the end of each House of Mouse episode. The products they come up with are great and Mic’s little speaches about them are very funny. I wish I could include screenshots, but I don’t know how to do that.

There is now a page for book clubs. I’m only an active participant in one right now, and only one book has been read by that group, but there are links up to people’s thoughts about Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, so if you are interested check them out. The next book up is Bone by Fae Myenne Ng.

There is now a page listing all the profiles of famous historical women that I’m working on (two have been posted so far). More will come, but they should all be blogged too, so it’s just there for reference. There are a lot of women on my list, so more should be coming soon!

There are several new dolls today too. The first is a pretty doll inspired by a piece of art that I can’t find anymore by Clio Chiang. It ended up pretty different from the original art (I totally couldn’t do the hair and you could only see the girl from the waist up or so), but I love how it turned out. The next doll is another one from Season 2 of Project Runway. This one is Diana Eng’s design from the first challenge (the muslin one). I like how the neckline detail turned out. Otherwise it doesn’t look that interesting. The next one is Dorothy in her blue and white gingham from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I think that she turned out well. The lady in the lovely red gown is based on some old fashioned pin-up art by Gil Elvgren. I’m not entirely happy with her, but overall I think that she turned out ok. Fifth I have a cute pirate-ish girl who reminds me of Ramona Quimby (from Beverly Cleary’s books), but is actually based on some sketches by Deanna Marsigliese. I love her hair. I’m almost never proud of hair, but I’m really proud of hers. The last doll is a little odd. I was looking at some pictures of Princess Zelda from the Legend of Zelda games (thinking about the shiny new one coming out with the Wii) and I thought she had some very 1920ish elements to her costume. Don’t ask. Anyway, I decided to play with the idea and this doll is the result. Like I said, it’s a little odd and didn’t turn out quite as I would have liked, but overall I like her. She’s unique. Anyway, they will all appear on the correct pages soon and if you click on them they will take you to the website of their basemaker.
Chinese New Year DollDiana Eng Episode 1DorothyPretty Red Pin-UpPirate GirlZelda 1920s

Movie: V for Vendetta

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot.

I saw “V for Vendetta” today and it was awesome. A little loud at some points in the IMAX theater for my headache’s taste, but not so much to ruin the rest of my day. The story is really good (I totally want to read the book now) and the acting was great. Natalie Portman is an incredibly talented woman. I think that it’s a little sad that the point seems to have been lost on so many Americans (probably at least partially due to the government’s huge anti-terrorist push), and even more sad that for many people the image will be remembered as V rather than Guy Fawkes. Of course, that isn’t surprising as I doubt one in ten people in the United States could tell you what Guy Fawkes day is anyway. I really enjoyed it though and think it was a wonderful movie. I’m glad that I spent money to see it and would even buy it on DVD when it comes out.

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