Tag Archives: Disney Movies

Mediocre Mirror Mirror

First, some context: I went and saw this movie more for the fact that my husband and I were able to finally have a date night, and it was the only movie that looked decent enough to see. (We are refraining from seeing the Hunger Games until I can read the books this summer). It’s been a long winter for decent date movies. Indeed, we haven’t been to the movies since Haywire in January.

Now, for the movie itself:

On a positive note, this movie is visually stunning. Beautiful scenes, elaborate (if somewhat over the top) costuming, and an intriguing orchestration.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised (though also a wee bit disappointed) that Sean Bean broke his acting mold.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say positively. The dialogue was generic, and the few good lines in it (like the focus-group quip) were badly timed which meant humorous lines fell flat. And that was part of the bigger problem: was this moving supposed to be fantasy, comedy, drama? It did none of them well.

The characters:

I can’t for the life of me figure out why Snow White finds the Prince attractive. At the very best he is bland, at worst he is annoying. Either way, the Prince was abundantly forgettable. The dwarves had potential, but there was not enough time devoted to demonstrating their unique personalities (though, having them be thieves instead of miners was quite smart). Speaking of the generic dialogue, Julia Roberts was maybe, sort-of trying to do an accent but it was so inconsistent she shouldn’t have bothered. And was the queen really evil? Narcissistic yes, but was that enough for the audience to see her as the villain? Not really. A generic queen who failed to be the big baddie that the story needed. The supporting cast’s abundance of talent is wasted and I’m not quite sure why the stellar actors that they cast (e.g., Nathan Lane and Mare Winningham) actually agreed to do the film. (paycheque?)

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

And Snow. Dear Snow. If this movie had been made in 2004, it would have starred Anne Hathaway. Indeed, there were several moments where Lily Collins seemed to be channeling Hathaway’s performance in Ella Enchanted (including the dance number at the end), but the difference is Hathaway at least had some spunk. Indeed, Ella Enchanted and Mirror, Mirror are interchangeable in their mediocrity. Now I get that this is Collins’ breakout role. With some more practice and opportunities to grow as an actress she will probably be an actress to look out for, but for now she was, like the rest of the movie, generic.

The story:

Since retelling fairy tales is all the rage right now, Mirror, Mirror attempts to retell Snow White for a modern audience and we seem to be on a Snow White kick. I figure that Snow White is the new Cinderella, with a modern retelling being presented every six months until Hollywood latches on and obsesses over another story.  Of course Mirror, Mirror updates and changes the story while retaining key elements: the evil queen, the dwarves, the magic power of a kiss, the poisonous apple. But, for all their updates, the story is forgettable and generic. The twists were for the most part predictable (save for one).

So the question becomes is it because Snow White is hard to re-envision for a modern audience? Is there just not enough story to work with? If Once Upon a Time is any indication there is enough story and a unique way to re-tell the story of Snow. Mirror, Mirror fails to do this in any memorable way.

Here’s hoping Snow White and the Huntsman does a better job of telling the story.

Summary:

Generic movie. Generic acting. Generic storytelling. Visually stunning movie. 1.5 browncoats out of 5.

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Disney's Song of the South, Race, and Biblical Interpretation

White Cultural Interpretation of Scripture + Disney’s Racist Anti-Gospel

“Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”- Jeremiah 13:23, NRSV

For years now, out of my utter dislike for Disney movies and the Disney Vault, I wanted to watch and finish Song of the South (1946). I was expecting racial stereotypes galore and, well, that is what I received. What I did not expect was RELIGION! And by religion, I mean the most impure and unholiest of all religions, that of uplifting empire and racism. I say this not out of exaggeration, but in all seriousness. I was surprised to see that Disney’s Song of the South referred to Scripture, from the very beginning. The first tune that the (formerly enslaved) black minstrels (still living on the plantation btw) sang included the question, “Can a leopard change its spots?” Right away, bam! The holy writ, what Christians call Scripture, is used to sanction slavery and racial segregation. Is this a necessary move that the text itself (Jeremiah 13) makes? Highly unlikely. In even the literary context, Jeremiah’s oracle is confronting the sinners in Judah, who have brought upon themselves exile. Of course, we still have to deal with the first part of the verse about the Ethiopians, though, right? But one can safely assume that not all African Americans are from that country that the ancients referred to as Ethiopia.

By baptizing racism in pseudo-religious language, Disney does not have to mention god at all through out the film (well, except for the vague references to a higher power by our hero, Uncle Remus and other blacks). Of course, Uncle Remus is the black Uncle Tom (oh gods, I utterly hate that word) foil and servant, the fallen brother who had to be walked over so that the new Romulus could be born (the USA as the New Roman Empire). Without going into any of the modern politically-correct criticisms of this film, just to think what was going on back then, and consider the message that Disney was trying to get across. The cartoon was drawn, written, and finished during the late stages of the Second World War. African Americans strived and made great achievements in this era (the Tuskegee Airmen), and were about to head home to work for their human rights, fighting for democracy here in the U.S. after struggling and killing folk for it abroad. Brer Rabbit is an allegory, that he faces traps and even the threat of lynching after he leaves the Briar Patch is an omenous warning to the Negro Americans living in that day. Brer Bear, the big dumb, muscular sensuous Negro man, the Buck as he was known in the days of slavery, winds up being the one with his neck in a noose. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Patriotic Negro soldiers shouldn’t ask questions, right?

Further along in our story, there is the “save the kitten trope” only with Uncle Remus’s massa’s kid, Johnny saving a puppy from drowning. See, even though Johnny is going to grow up being racist, and advance the goals of the Jim Crow South, it’s okay, because he is doing it out of compassion. Johnny comes to learn from Brer Rabbit, to become wise and cunning and not use his brute strength. Brer Rabbit, at one point, is tricked into fighting a tar baby, getting trapped by Brer Fox. Brer Fox, representing the typical sly Negro con artist who always has a scheme but ultimately fails, chases after Brer Rabbit’s laughing place instead (which was a bee hive–hahahahhaha, yeah!). Johnny admits to Uncle Remus at the conclusion of our film that Johnny’s laughing place is the slave quarters where Uncle Remus lives. One man’s joy comes at the expense of another’s racial oppression.

The final and closing reference to religion comes again in the form of the formerly yet still enslaved Negroes singing a chorus at the door of Johnny’s family’s home. They are only allowed on the outside as Johnny lies in his bed, hurt from an injury. “Have faith in Him. Have faith in him.” God is again called in again sanctify the racist part of America’s history. Of course, Johnny’s resurrection (albeit a false, oppressive narration of rising up again), coincides with an encounter with Brer Rabbit, a creature who Johnny’s mother worries will make Johnny disobedient and not very submissive.

Of course, there could be a redemptive counter-narrative to my criticism, that Johnny’s mother (as she is the status quo) fretting over the danger of the Brer Rabbit stories, as well as Johnny and Uncle Remus holding hands represent the possiblity of a new South, blacks and whites holding hands. But this vision of racial harmony would be far from mutual, and would exclude blacks the privilege of earning political rights.

“Everything is satisfaction.”- Uncle Remus

Grimm: BEEWARE

In this week’s episode, Greenwalt and company borrowed images from the Brothers Grimm story, The Queen Bee. I obviously missed the Disney movie on that one. Anyhow, it seems like an interesting story and someday I may read the original Grimm stories I have never even heard of. I keep thinking that this show is a reminder, with a little bird flying above my head chirping, “Someday you will have to re-learn German for a PHD program. German German German.”

*SPOILER ALERT*

Now, to this week’s episode of GRIMM. After reading some previews, I had a very different idea of what this particular episode was going to be about, hopefully a take on gender and such. But, to my surprise and delight, the show was not what it advertised tonight.

Another ANGEL similarity immediately appeared within the first 5 minutes of the episode; a tall tower occupied by an all white, law firm with the propensity for evil is the set for the center of the drama.Insert the one token lawyer joke here. Wolfram & Hart, anyone? Anyhow, the episode takes place first with a female lawyer being murdered by a flashmob on the subway. Her wounds are that of apitoxin, the natural toxin made by bees that causes our bee stings to swell up. Grimm gets suspicious and visits a professor who also happens to be a beekeeper, and who just happened to BEE (hahahah, I know) returning from a conference of bee scholars. To add to Grimm’s and Hank’s confusion, the flashmob has the same alibi. They all met on twitter, and they claimed to want to have fun with strangers.

Grimm goes to the trailer to do research (ala Angel and his investigations in the sewer–hint hint) and learns of the existence of Mellifers, or people who have some of the physical and social characteristics of bees. Their constant communication via Twitter and other social media was a part of their clarion habits. In the words of my favorite character Eddie, “It’s just some fancy pants mumbo jumbo for saying they just like to gossip alot.” Things get complicated when Nick and Hank are ordered to protect Adalind Schade, who Nick has identified as a Hexenbiest, aka, an evil murderous witch. At the conclusion, Nick is put into a situation where he has to ultimately decide whether to let the Queen Bee and her hive kill Schade, or to do his job, and protect his enemy.

Prior to the close of “BEEWARE,” The Mellischwuler (the Queen Bee), played by Nana Visitor (Colonel Kira from DS9!), warns Nick, “He’s coming for you.” “Beware, it’s close.”

I think that this episode is a dark tale that could serve as an allegory of the function of social media in our lives, and how destructive ugly rumors, facebook & twitter statuses are. In addition, there are flashes of how complex our moral choices can be, given our residing in multiple identities. Nick is a police officer sworn to protect the public, but he is also a Grimm with the task of ridding the world of bad monsters (but keeping the good ones like Eddie). As the police force was tracking the Twitter message and it’s location, Sargent Wu joked, “Of course I can, I’m Asian.” His race has nothing to do with his ability to master technology, but the idea of the construction of race in the formation of our identities, especially with stereotypes and social roles, is there out in the open. Something no doubt the writers wanted us to BEEWARE of.