Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ever After > Cinderella

It's silly to compare such different movies, but this is just for fun. And this will likely turn into a rant! 1998's Ever After is all about the "real" story of Cinderella, so it lacks all the pumpkin-into-carriage and mice-into-horses bits that the new live-action Cinderella wanted to capture. This year's version is basically a (barely) updated version of the 1950 animated film, magic intact. Since I am both a 90s girl at heart and have an unshakable aversion to CGI, it's kind of a given that I prefer Ever After. But let's compare the two anyway, shall we? Spoilers abound!


Danielle vs Ella
Okay, Drew Barrymore's accent is all over the place. And Lily James is undeniably lovely. But COME ON. Danielle blows Ella out of the water in the personality department. "Have courage and be kind"? That's nice and all, but Ella basically would have been satisfied to sit in her attic singing forever while slowly starving to death. Danielle speaks up! She gets things done and she PUNCHES HER STEPSISTER IN THE FACE. Having a Cinderella (made in 2015! Come on!) take so much abuse and just wait around for someone to rescue her is ridiculous.

The Stepsisters
I actually enjoyed the stepsisters from the new Cinderella. They were funny (wonderfully acted by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger) and totally over the top. But what I really like about Ever After is that one of the stepsisters (played by the always amazing Melanie Lynskey) is really sweet. She is pushed aside by her mother for her more beautiful and shrewish sister (Megan Dodds) and really feels for Danielle, becoming a valuable friend and ally to her. Sisters helping sisters, I love it!

Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent vs Lady Tremaine
Anjelica Huston versus Cate Blanchett. How can I choose? Okay, Lady Tremaine definitely gets the fashion points (although I do love the Baroness's ball outfit). Truth be told, Cinderella's costumes were the primary reason I went to see this film at all. They both act the hell out of their roles, and I cannot choose. We'll call this one a draw. I have to give a Sick Burn Point to Huston for her delivery of this line: when Danielle asks if she ever loved her, she responds "How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?" OUCH.

The "Fairy Godmothers"
Ella's fairy godmother doesn't show up during any other hard time in her life. She just shows up to let her go to a dance. Danielle's "fairy godmother" is Leonardo Da Vinci, and they have a friendship throughout the film. Yes, he helps her get out of a tough spot, but she ultimately does her own rescuing. The winner here is obvious.


The Princes
Princes are princes. They're generally boring, and they're boring in both of these films. However, Ever After's prince at least gets in several meetings with her before they run off and get hitched. She throws an apple at him, he's annoyed. She shows up at court, they share words, he's intrigued. He meets her again while she's swimming like a lovely water nymph. And then they have a wonderful all-nighter where they fight and then befriend gypsies, and talk about books and life goals and then kiss and fall in love. Ella has one conversation with her prince in the forest, and then he pretty much has his mind made up that SHE'S THE ONE. And of course she feels the same way because she's totally sheltered. Sigh.

The Dress!
Cinderella's costumes are pretty breathtaking. While I was originally a little underwhelmed by Ella's blue dress, it's definitely grown on me.  However, lovely as it is, it's your fairly standard ball gown. Danielle's dress has wings! WINGS! And let's talk about the shoes for a second. I'm sorry, but no human foot could comfortably fit in Ella's shoe. That thing looks like fetish wear.

The bottom line:
I'm not trying to dismiss all fairytales or all love stories. I can somewhat accept a passive heroine back in the 1950s. But in 2015, with renewed interest in building up our girls to be more than just pretty faces, I'm looking for my princesses to pack a little punch. Ever After shows that a girl can suffer through abuse and survive, go to the ball, and get her prince, and still be strong and outspoken and do her own rescuing. Ella, you're nice and pretty but you've got a LOT of growing up to do.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Not-Quite-Broke Person's Guide to the TCM Film Festival

Last Saturday we went to the annual TCM Film Festival in Hollywood! This was our fifth year going, and every year that we've gone we've been without festival passes (wah wahhh). The festival passes allow you priority access to all of the screenings (based on which one you get). Being that we can't get the time off work to properly attend the entire festival, we usually take one day to enjoy the city, catch a couple screenings, and chat with fellow cinephiles in the very long wait in the standby line!

I was super stoked to arrive and jump in line for Rebel Without a Cause! (OMG note to may have been 85 degrees in the afternoon but the second screening was late at night and I was really regretting wearing shorts. Next year, pants!)

First in line, woo! Last year we waited hours in line for Blazing Saddles, but this screening was less crowded. All the rich people were at another theater seeing special guest Sophia Loren, but our expectations were realistic. We showed up early, chatted with people in line, met a guy who's been blogging about Carole Lombard for seven years, and got into the screening no problem.

Ah, Hollywood! Beautiful weather, and plenty of time between our screenings to enjoy good walking around, checking out bookstores (Larry Edmunds bookshop is a treasure!), and pigging out!

We always go to Miceli's every year for dinner during the festival. It's really close to the Egyptian and it has the yummiest Italian food. Craig's texting our pal screenwriter Larry Karaszewski who was also enjoying the festival; he stopped by to say hello. We also chatted with fellow diners, also there for the festival (and passholders, damn them!). 

Sorry 'bout it, Gregory Peck!

Hello Egyptian! You're beautiful and I love you! Our second and final screening (we're wimps, what can I say?) was Adam's Rib at the Egyptian, with an intro by Greg Proops for his podcast Greg Proops Film Club. Craig had never seen the film but we both loved it, of course. And I feel like I could love just about any movie in a theater that beautiful.

Goodbye, TCM Film Fest! Until next year!

Monday, March 30, 2015

House Styles

Back when I started reading comics in 2nd grade, the art contained within was all pretty similar. Even though the gap between Dan Jurgens and Neil Adams is admittedly gigantic, you would be hard-pressed to deny that there isn't at least a little commonality there. From the golden age onward, that was just how you drew superheroes. A “house style” one might call it. If you wanted a unique visual take on things, you had to turn to the independent books like Madman, Love & Rockets and Mage. And then there was the Image Comics revolution.

Though founded by mainstream artists working in the conventional style, Image’s emphasis on “creator owned” books lead to them embracing a lot of the more unconventional voices out there in comics. Thanks to their open submission policy, you suddenly had manga and indie inflected art turning up in books that got shelf space right next to “the big two” of Marvel and DC. Of course it was only a matter of time before these unorthodox voices found their way into the mainstream as well. Now when I walk around my local comic shop, I see all sorts of styles ranging from the deliberately paced David Aja on Hawkeye, to the pop art inflected Mike Allred on Silver Surfer, to the street-art stylings of Ron Wimberly in the pages of She-Hulk. Today a superhero book can look like ANYTHING! Yet sadly, the same cannot be said for superhero movies.

Rather than embracing the visual diversity inherent in their comics, Marvel and DC have both opted to hold true to that old-fashioned “house style” mentality for their cinematic universes. DC is dark and brooding, Marvel is bright and playful. I assure you that if Jeremy Renner ever gets to star in a Hawkeye movie, you will not find any of the ground-level, every-day simplicity that made the Hawkeye comic a hit. And even though the “New 52” incarnation of Batman has embraced a bright color pallet (complete with healthy doses of pink and purple) you will find those colors sadly absent from the monochrome Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I get that both companies are spending billions on large interconnected universes where characters from one film can pop up in another, but do they think we just won’t “get it” unless all the films look the same? I don’t know about you, but I’m perfectly capable of accepting the fact that Captain America looks one way in his own book, and slightly different when he pops up in someone else’s book. No cognitive dissonance here. Give your fans a little bit more credit. If a firmly entrenched institution like super hero comics can change its aesthetics to more accurately reflect the full range of the human experience, why can't our super hero movies do the same?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Quote: Badlands

"Listen to your parents and teachers. They got a line on most things, so don't treat 'em like enemies. There's always an outside chance you can learn something. Try to keep an open mind. Try to understand the viewpoints of others. Consider the minority opinion. But try to get along with the majority of opinion once it's accepted."

Badlands (1973)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gimme Shelter (1970)

On the commentary track for Zodiac, David Fincher describes the infamous overhead shot of the ill-fated Paul Stein's taxi making its way around Presidio Heights thusly:
"The idea here was to have this sense of both detachment, you know. God's POV looking down on something he has no control over and also this way're both locked on to what's happening and powerless to change it."
For me, that sentiment perfectly encapsulates the experience of watching Gimme Shelter. You know where this is heading. You know it is headed somewhere bad because you have the advantage of hindsight and can see all of the foreshadowing. But there is also absolutely nothing you can do about it. All you can do is silently sit there and bare witness to the end of an era.

I'm sort of perplexed at the inclusion of a 5.1 soundtrack on the Bluray. Of course the music is excellent. But it is really hard to party when rape and murder is just a shot away. But then again, the show must go on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Listening To: The Land Before Time (1988)

Let me start by saying that while I have fond nostalgic memories of the first Land Before Time film, I wouldn't rank it with my favorite animated films. It's pretty good, but not great. However! Something this film really has going for it is that fantastic James Horner score. My roommate and I were on the hunt for a not-ludicrously-expensive copy of the soundtrack (it's out of print) and I was so excited when he finally got it (and burned a copy for me, obviously). The score really elevates the film. You can listen to it and remember all that emotion you felt as a kid when you first saw this film - the heartbreak, the fear, the laughs - without having to actually dig up your VHS and watch those goofy dinosaurs running around saying things like "Green food!" and "Sharptooth!" Although, if you want to do that too you're more than welcome.

Give a listen!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Be a Jane Austen Heroine

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a girl in possession of good taste, must be in want of a constant stream of Jane Austen adaptions to meet her needs for pretty girliness. However little known the feelings or views of such a reader may be on her first entering a film blog, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the film blogger, that she is considered as the rightful author of some one or other of her pointless "How to Become" guides.
"My dear reader," said the blogger to the reader one day, "have you heard that I've written a guide to becoming a Regency period movie heroine at last?''
The reader replied that she had not.
"But I have," returned she; "for I thought there was a need for that here, and I will tell you all about it."
The reader made no answer.
"Do not you want to know how to become such a heroine?" cried the blogger impatiently.
"You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

Okay sorry, I'll stop.

Step One: Be beautiful. Even if you are described in the novel as being "barely tolerable" or that your "bloom of youth" has left you, this is a movie so you are pretty.

Step Two: Pretty dresses. Wear them. Hats too. Better start practicing your complicated curly updos as well. Oh, and tea. Drink it.

Step Three: Read, and be spunky. You may not be the best musician or painter or the most poised and well mannered young woman, but you know your Shakespeare and your laugh is infectious and you walk through mud and that makes you charming as hell, lady!

Step Four: Don't be a great judge of character right away. Handsome stranger seems too good to be true? He probably is. We call that a Wickham and we get AWAY from that nonsense. But for a while, believe everything he says, fall for his charms, and let him distract you from your true knight in shining armor.

Step Five: Get your man! The RIGHT one. The one that was there all along and was probably kind of a dick but only because he couldn't handle his feelings. No making out until after you're married, though. And try not to lose your sense of fun and adventure, and walking through mud and all that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shutter Island (2010)

Sometimes great filmmakers just want to play. Lots of reviews at the time pointed out that this film wasn't awards material, but they're missing the point. Like Cape Fear before it, this was a chance for Marty to get his genre on. This film isn't about gold statues, it's about making audiences jump and gasp. This film is about taking little strips of celluloid and assembling them in an order that illicits dread. Sure it is over-long and that stretch in the cave is a chore to get through once you know the "twist", but by and large this film is an extremely effective creep fest. And that ending is absolutely shattering. I still can't believe people turned out in such large numbers to watch something that bleak on its opening weekend. The car rides home must've been dead quiet.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Quote: Darby O'Gill and the Little People

"Have you ever seen the seagulls a-flyin' o'er the heather, or the crimson sails on Galway Bay the fishermen unfurl? Oh, the Earth is filled with beauty, and it's gathered all together in the form and face and dainty grace of a pretty Irish girl. Oh, she is my dear, my darling one, her eyes so sparklin' full of fun, no other, no other can match the likes of her! She is my dear, my darling one, my smilin' and beguilin' one; I love the ground she walks upon, my darling Irish girl!"

Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Man this film is dark! There is literally nobody to root for. On the one hand you have the Young Hollywood that abandoned the stars of yesteryear in favor of talking pictures. On the other hand you have the Old Hollywood that insulated its stars so far from reality that they are incapable of functioning in proper society. It’s like a monster movie. Norma Desmond is a symbol of a rotten past, come to wreak havoc on the still corrupt present. But what is gained in the end? Will the events of this film change anything in that awful system? Of course not! It will just become fodder for the nightly news and eventually be forgotten in a matter of weeks. There are no winners here. Only losers. Remove the witty Wilder/Bracket banter and what you are left with is a film as bleak as Foxcatcher.