Pursuing natural health & thinking beyond the superficial. Deconstructing Culture.

Posts tagged ‘Movie’

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Hidden Figures (2016) – One Giant Leap for Women (‘Coloured’) One Small Step for Womenkind

What a film!

Award worthy indeed, I absolutely love the way US folk manage to include pathos in drama where one moment your heartfelt swept up in the moment and the next laughing with joy, but seriously lay off the cheese. That said for a patriotic movie (against the Russians of course) it did well in showing US failures both in ethics and the space race whilst portraying the 60’s attitudes and work ethics in a way that is comparable today.

In a way it reminded me of one of my favourite films 9 to 5 (1980) but with mathematics and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, who unfortunately still played Sheldon but toned down and kudos to ‘him’ for playing no:2 instead of no:1 in the genius stakes. Kevin Costner was pretty damned apt at playing someone open minded enough to realize that to be the best (or at least ruthless) you have to at the very least pretend to push aside prejudice but at the same time a person who doesn’t see what’s in front of his face until it’s heavily pointed out. Kirsten Dunst did well as a woman forced to respect other women. The leading ladies were brilliant, of course, an absolute delight to watch and I couldn’t stop smiling every time I saw them (regardless of my severe discomfort due to ‘illness’). I really wanted to see and understand the equations better but I did enjoy knowing how to fix the flaws in their basic explanations e.g. the heat shield and the change in elliptical path. I did love the fact that they reverted to ‘ancient’ mathematics for ‘Atlas’ i.e. remembering the lessons of the forbears rather than needing or thinking they were inventing new theories.

It did make me wonder if/why there weren’t any Mexican, South American or other ‘ethnic’ (hate that word, White and Eurasian people are ethnic too) races involved or just Black vs White (though interestingly Black people were referred to as Browns vs Virginia [state]).

I always dislike seeing/knowing just how much it takes one person to go through to make any kind of change let alone wide ranging changes and then those individuals have to push others ahead as well considerately and sometimes to the individual’s own detriment to build enough confidence in a group to support them. Otherwise they’re practically left outside alone (as a minority or even worse, an extremist) and social change then takes forever. For all the hardship the women faced in the film and indeed also deference and respect from their male peers (which was strange to see) we haven’t come far as a society and in the end I was left thinking – great we made it into space and we can’t even solve out domestic problems, technologically forwards and socially backwards, what a way to spread our problems to the rest of the solar system and galaxy… And who knows where else.

I think NASA could’ve been portrayed a lot worse than they were (and the poster boy astronaut was particularly sickening but at least he had faith in our first amongst equals leading lady or ‘computer’ as she and those like her were known) but the film had to be funny to make it more palatable not only as a meta-nonfiction story but to the inclusive audience watching; teenage and adult women and men of all colours.


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Moving on, some snaps of what I was wearing:

9 to 5 (1980) (featuring another Dolly 😉 and I love it when Lily i.e. ‘Violet’ demands a little dignity and respect! How much do you have to go through just to be treated with the same basic rights as everybody else!?)

P.S – both Hidden Figures and 9 to 5 feature awesome period fashion hence the addition of my photos and a non-in depth review (though I’m far too tired for more detail).

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Making the Unreal Real – Playing Games with Lives – Thieves Who Make Confusion Are Really The Monsters

What if you could engineer a situation where you take a ‘regular Joe/Jane’ or someone slightly ‘different’ and even better ‘alienated’ and turn them into whatever you wanted?

I watched this film when it came out with a friend of mine, it was the last movie we went to see before going our separate ways and I think it was me who chose to watch this one because it had the longest running time but by the end of it we realized we should have chosen a comedy.

Anyway I’m not going to review it but here’s some info from Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cell

The Cell is a 2000 American science fiction psychological thriller film and the directorial debut of Tarsem Singh, starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D’Onofrio. It received mixed reviews upon its release, with critics praising the visuals, direction, make-up, costumes and D’Onofrio’s performance, but commenting on the Silence of the Lambs-inspired plot, the emphasis on style rather than substance and the somewhat masochistic images.

Plot

Child psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) is an expert in an experimental treatment for coma patients: a virtual reality device that allows her to enter into the minds of her patients and attempt to coax them into consciousness. When serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) falls into a coma before the FBI can locate his final victim, Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) persuades Deane to enter Stargher’s mind and discover the victim’s location.[1] Stargher’s victim is imprisoned in a cell in the form of a glass enclosure that is slowly filling with water by means of an automatic timer.

Deane enters Stargher’s twisted mind, where she is confronted by both the violent and the innocent parts of the killer’s psyche. The innocent half shows her the abuse he suffered at his father’s hands and the birth of his pathology when he drowned an injured bird as a mercy killing. Deane attempts to nurture the innocent side of Stargher’s mind, but his murderous half thwarts her at every turn.

Despite Deane’s best efforts, she becomes trapped in Stargher’s dark dreamscape. Novak volunteers to enter Stargher’s mind and attempts to rescue Deane. He frees her from Stargher’s hold and discovers clues to the whereabouts of his victim. Novak relates his revelations to his team and they are able to track down the location of Stargher’s victim (Stargher had been entrusted by a company to take care of an advanced water pump, which he used to fill the cell with water). Novak discovers Stargher’s secret underground room and saves Stargher’s victim just in time. Meanwhile, Deane decides to reverse the process and pull Stargher’s mind into her own. She presents Stargher’s innocent side with a paradise, but his murderous side is always present and manifests as a serpent. This time, however, Deane has all the power; she attacks the serpent/Stargher only to discover that she cannot destroy one half without killing the other. Stargher’s innocent side reminds her of the bird he drowned, and she kills him to put him out of his misery. She adopts Stargher’s dog and successfully uses her new technique on her other coma patient (Colton James).

Artistic influences

Some of the scenes in The Cell are inspired by works of art. A scene in which a horse is split into sections by falling glass panels was inspired by the works of British artist Damien Hirst. The film also includes scenes based on the work of other late 20th century artists, including Odd Nerdrum, H. R. Giger and the Brothers Quay. Tarsem—who began his career directing music videos such as En Vogue’s “Hold On” and R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”—drew upon such imagery for Stargher’s dream sequences. In particular, he was influenced by videos directed by Mark Romanek, such as “Closer” and “The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails, “Bedtime Story” by Madonna, and the many videos that Floria Sigismondi directed for Marilyn Manson. During a scene, Jennifer Lopez falls asleep watching a film; the film is Fantastic Planet.

This is not to justify anybody with such behaviours on either side i.e. the mind control/mind raping/soul destroying side of the ‘security surveillance’ nor the violent, inhumane psychopath they just happen to be following in the film – but just how far would ‘people’ would go to make someone into one ‘side’ or the other, why and how they’d get away with it. A bit like the film ‘Inception’ (2010).

Oh and btw looking up ‘cybernetic’, ‘psychotronic whore’, ‘mollusc’, ‘hybrid’, ‘drone’ and a whole load of other crap doesn’t apply to me, especially the ‘Myra Hindley’.

Note – I mentioned Fantastic Planet HERE titled ‘Who/What are the Blue Beings, why are we inspired by them? Although being a US film it could also conveniently be a dig at the former USSR, like the English and the French the ‘feud’ never ends.)

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Movie Film Symbolism

Hell in a cell i.e. invisible yet visible prison.

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

Her work clothes – one ‘body suit’ which…

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

… She conveniently changes for another and with a mask whilst in his mind – notice the placement of the lights (sun/star and pillars).

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

How very similar to the enemy. Looks is one thing, acting like these people (‘good’ or ‘bad’, or the fake ‘light’ or ‘dark’) is another – some people make great game/targets for ‘change’ to players.

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

He’s a bad bird now that needs killing (apparently mercifully) – and to do so the ‘good’ side go into the mind or as some could call it ‘the astral plane’ to do the job.

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

So it’s ok for her to play Mother Mary now (as well as the Red ‘whore’/’prostitute’ double meaning but with White for the ‘good’ ‘purity’ side.)

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

And then the Dark Mother (wannabe) with the Red and Black. (Note that Mary was never a Mother Goddess or even a Goddess.)

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

Black and White – both extremes, two sides of the same coin, both beautiful; unfortunately here she’s portrayed as a Goddess, even a Warrior Goddess as a rider. Both the violator (the security/watchers) and the violated (here the child was violated and became a violator) are metamorphosed.

The Cell Jennifer Lopez Film Movie Symbolism

Hmm, decide for yourselves.

There is a heck of a lot of symbolism (including religious) in this film which you can see from the pictures and it makes for a very gruesome metaphor, the film is practically a vehicle and anybody wanting to explain or interpret it could have a field day. Again I’m not going to bother right now (maybe later) but basically it shows in a subtle yet obvious way (subtle i.e. artistically and easy to dismiss for those not really looking and hidden in plain sight for those who ‘know’ or think they/we do) both ‘sides’ are one and the same ultimately (so you have to be careful if you’re in the middle and not affiliated lol). Just to point out the use of the serpent and the mercy killing of the bird were streamlined, initially in the film they seemed like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but ultimately they can and were used together as one thing such as winged serpent beings or Caduceus, or in this case for transformation. An innocent is turned into a villain and taken out by super villains acting as good folk. It’s ironic, Mum and I once shared the same dream on the same night and we both had the same reaction, both involved the killing of an innocent bird and right afterwards three ‘interesting’ networks came along. It’d be more interesting however to look into the ‘history’ of the symbolic so-called cat people [or at least group of] being conquered by a group of serpentine people, I hesitate to call them reptile/reptilian since it’s getting more complicated nowadays with the ‘groupings’.

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Living today for today, as part of one circus or another

You cant take it with you 1938 film movie review

Released: 1938
Cast includes: Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold
Runtime: 126min
Rating: U

This is not a review about pharaohs, emperors and others who stockpile an entourage of spouse(s), pets, servants, possessions, sometimes armed guards etc in an effort to metaphysically at least… Take it all with them.

No! Those people are sickening (but necessary to know about). Ok it’s not far off, there are filfthy rich people in this film, however they learn an unlikely but very valuable lesson about humility over insatiable appetites for power and how to actually feel positive and less constrained without all the stress and paranoia greed and success cause pushing one to worry about maintaining it and threats to the status quo.

PLOT

The film starts off showing VIP, Anthony Kirby, being escorted past reporters into his marble filled building upto a floor with so many pillars in it you wonder where the line is between being structural support and excess weight.

His young son Tony has just been made vice president though he’s not very business minded and his father settles into conference with his similar age associates, a conversation that garners some interesting phrases including ‘powers that be’, ‘moving into munitions’, ‘the war wouldn’t be possible without us’ and ‘there wouldn’t be a bullet or cannon in this country without us’.

It turns out a venture is being stalled by one person in a twelve-block area that won’t sell their property and this leads to a boy meets girl from the other side of the tracks story and a clash of the families with the boy’s being disapproving.

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COMMENTARY

This is a light hearted film which supposedly deals with serious themes like wealth distribution, class and trying to be in love with someone of said different class but really it’s a semi-‘screwball comedy’. I say ‘semi’ because screwball black and white comedies from 1935-1945 just missed out on being those crazy, hammy escapades in silent movies not quite the thriller capers that came later on. Also, the contrasting family are not poor, they’re semi-honest content and comfortable middle class, large family in a beautiful, big house with black servants (stereotypical ‘yes’m’ pair, a young mammy cook/nurse and young man who makes quips) and a fireworks factory in the basement… They’re an eccentric lot; the grandpa who is on crutches after sliding down a banister, his business staff (three men and a bird – a literal bird), his daughter the budding novelist and artist, her daughters Ethel and Alice, Ethel’s husband and her staunch but flattering ‘old country’ (Russia in this case) ballet teacher, and a kitten. Ethel spends most of her day dancing around the house, her husband the musical accompaniment whilst Alice leaves the house to work as a stenographer and it’s outside that she meets her love interest, none other than Tony Kirby.

You cant take it with you 1938 film movie review

This quirky, free spirited family’s influences spread not only to the wealthy but the repressed in general, they seem irresponsible and are in comparison to bureaucratic standards that most people begrudgingly follow and many would be upset at them not playing by the rules or not at all (the grandfather not paying income tax for 22 years because he disagrees with or doesn’t understand the way it’s spent) but still there’s something about that which speaks to the heart and makes even detractors question their normal ways if not feel a tad rebellious. It’s a bit ironic given that by the time/if one becomes one of the world’s elite only then do they see it wasn’t worth it and are inspired by the ‘lowly’ yet enviable family. All the money, status, exclusive ‘perks’ etc don’t make up for the true feeling of a light spirit and fun you get with being around people who genuinely care about each other and you, and in this case they’re not lacking in security; it’s true they’re in a precarious situation but they’re not on or under the breadline and without resources, social mobility, hope and strained relationships as a result. I’ll also reiterate that they do have domestic staff who are more likely to be domestic staff because they are black and are more limited in their gender roles than their Caucasian ‘peers’, it’s not one of those films (and there are some) where black actors manage to excel and exhibit a lot of skill even in stereotypical roles, here they seem more token. But this is a product of its time, and in contrast to women in general, male black actors started to get more of the limelight and the show stopper Sammy Davis Jr made waves post 1945 (though questionably his conversion to Judaism may have helped propel his talent and popularity in Holy-wood and then later becoming a Republican cemented his legacy after his Democrat past – one of his fellow Rat Packers being brother-in-law to ex-pres Kennedy.)

Jean Arthur (who plays Alice) is my favourite actress from the period between 1935-45, she started earlier in the days of silent film but made many ‘talkies’ though she’s relatively unknown these days overshadowed by the smoldering sirens. She’s quite the high strung comedienne and does so without being cringeworthy whilst adding coyness and charm into the mix; it’s a great role that you often see in films from this period alongside sharper, straightforward females and the brash, rude ones. It works so well because those are roles the men play too and so they work together to their strengths and banter well in many of the comedy films. During and more obviously after WWII women’s roles lost that progressive and even natural factor, the power that independent responsibility and moving into the workplace had given women in US and UK society was reflected in the films (even though they were kept very much in iron clad and handled bird in gilded cage contracts by the studios, let alone the ones picked up and groomed from childhood often married to much older men who financed/made the films by the time they were ‘eligible’, used to sleeping with them younger than that, both girls and boys were given to influential people just boys didn’t have showgirl like roles ’til more recent years.) When the soldiers came back from the field work they weren’t happy about it feeling threatened and usurped (which is why it took so long for women’s war effort to be recognized and memorialized (though I still think people were misguided in general in going to war) similar disapproval/dissent about women in society was around after WWI), women didn’t see such outgoing and less ‘the cookie cutter kitchen/bedroom wife’ or ‘evil mistress’ roles until the 60’s let alone ’empowered female roles’ we talk about today (which we still commend for not being the norm, though some are sick of them already and want to see more ‘normal and geeky females who won’t try as hard as their tough and sometimes selfless counterparts winning in the end’).

This film is as much about the patriarchs as it is the young couple. The conversations the older men are forced to have are portrayed as the sharing of wisdom from the older grandpater of the kooky family to the younger daddy warbucks. The former shows the latter that he should appreciate clean fun and cheer, community spirit, letting their children be happy despite the social gap and that the walls they build to keep them apart are not real they just feel that way when enforced, unlike the jail cell they both find themselves in which for the sake of the film makes them equal and the one used to influence and preferential treatment doesn’t get it (In real life he’d probably be friends with the judge or above and his banking position his meal ticket to get out of jail free card or at the most a cushy sentence/location.) In this film though, he gets to learn or re-learn the feeling of being part of a group who could like him for himself and not his money, plus a chance to feel young again playing the harmonica! This is a long film and near the end it gets sombre but unfortunately it takes life changing events and a re-evaluation of their relationships for both Senior and Junior Kirby to get through to them.

You Cant Take It With You 3

You Cant Take It With You 5

I’m not a modern rom-com fan but I do like these ‘screwball comedy’ romances, they’re so silly and sweet; Jean and James [‘Jimmy’] Stewart (who plays Tony) have such a darling chemistry. Jean plays her usual role of being caught in a difficult situation but generally has the final decision, and can be difficult but always cute :-). She has a taut somewhat nasal voice which I’ve gotten used to and like because it’s distinctive but some people think it squeaky – either way I think it suits this type of role where she has to hold her head high a little. Regarding Jimmy I’d been used to his older films so was surprised to see him so young! He’s got his usual laid back but determined though not entirely sure how to go about things persona (and yet not a wallflower) but I recently saw him in a similar film (a musical) called ‘Pot O’Gold’ (1941) where he’s pushed into being more assertive and petty. I think the softer side suits his tall frame and ability to be shockingly loud out of the blue o_o better than more aggressive but of course it depends on the person you’re paired with and the circumstance and in Pot O’Gold he wasn’t with a character like Alice where they could play the tall/small (the smaller one the assertive and the taller the receptive) cuddly ratio.

You Cant Take It With You 4

Aesthetically the colour and sound is typical for its age, it’s not the clearest Black and White film and sometimes seems that you can see the curve of the lens at the edges but that isn’t detrimental – it suits the fairytale-eque nature of the story as does the soft lighting at parts. Usually I’m not fussed about seeing such films in ‘remastered’ colour but this is one that I think would look very decadent in colour given all the antique, ornate furnishings, textures and clothing. The sound is clear and almost even throughout, I didn’t notice a score actually – the focus is on the character vocals which are distinct to each and well enunciated. The jail/courtroom has the best moral-of-the-story quotes which I’d love to share with you but would be a spoiler though in another scene I did like a line implying Alice didn’t need a family tree because her [surname] is a tree (sycamore – they make a point of showing it’s different to the grandfather’s name).

You Cant Take It With You 6

Obviously living like either family in this film isn’t very practical (or safe) but it does have flashes of hope such as Tony being more interested in solar and renewable energy and of course being in love with Alice rather than his title and his family apparently being in banking for 9000 years o_o and Alice is from a family that seems a little too unaware of their weirdness. Unlike them she’s not unabashed and more sensitive, she feels she has to prove she’s not inferior but at the same time is able see that despite such a heritage Tony is different from his family too though he does compare her family to a zoo. It’s her family that is the nicer ones here, exuding laughter and warmth and making Tony’s see ‘the light and error of its ways’. Like with ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, personally I wouldn’t forgive people who create/fund/perpetuate war nor mortgage providers(!) but can say that whilst this isn’t specifically ‘an end of year’ themed film it does work well for the festivity of the season.

Tony: It takes courage. You know everybody’s afraid to live.
Alice: You ought to hear grandpa on that subject. You know he says most people nowadays are run by fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they drink, fear of their jobs, their future, fear of their health. They’re scared to save money, and they’re scared to spend it. You know what his pet aversion is? The people who commercialize on fear, you know they scare you to death so they can sell you something you don’t need.

‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (Les Guêpes, January 1849)

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Wizards (1977) – War, what is it good for?

Wizards 1977 film animation

Director: Ralph Bakshi
Starring: Bob Holt, Steve Gravers, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval
Runtime: 80min
Rating: PG (UK)
Genre: Post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy animation (USA)

’Avatar’ vs ‘Blackwolf’

Loaded terms indeed and here they are names of the main two characters/sides in the story but let’s start somewhere in the future of humanity’s timeline. The film begins with:

‘An illuminating history bearing on the everlasting struggle for world supremacy fought between the powers of technology and magic.’

The world was subject to 1000 atomic bombs which caused 2 million years of radioactive pollution, much of the land was devastated and called ‘bad lands’ and humans mutated. When some of the skies and land cleared those who had fallen asleep, the elves, fairies and dwarves, awoke. Queen Delia of the Fairies was at a public celebration, the ‘Feast of the Plenty’ marking 3000 years of peace when she sensed something more awry than usual… Later she had twins (we don’t know if they were her biological sons or ‘given’ to her), one who spent a lot of time showing enchanting visions to her/‘mother’, he was Avatar. The other ignored her, tortured animals and was power hungry, he was Blackwolf. Delia finally died and the brothers fought, Blackwolf to succeed the queen mother and Avatar for her honour and the loss. Avatar beat Blackwolf, who was banished to the bad lands where he spent thousands of years accumulating knowledge, power and followers. Both are wizards but whereas Avatar uses magic, Blackwolf uses both magic and technology and as science&technology were banned after the nuclear war so he’s desperate to get his hands on any ancient tech and memorabilia he can to rise up against his twin and win. His ancient history is our World War II, particularly Nazi footage.

Bear in mind that Avatar is an Indian term pertaining to what Western people would think of as demi-gods, human or part human forms/representatives of deities; in popular scripture the most commonly known and celebrated avatars are that of the ‘god’ Vishnu with Krishna being the most famous. Many Hindus came to accept Jesus the [a] Christ (abit like ‘Interview with the vampire’ – 1976 – should be ‘Interview with A vampire’) as an avatar when he went from being referred to linguistically as ‘Son of Man’ to ‘Son of God’ (colonialism in India helped with the acceptance/conversion) because they know/remember that ‘Christ’ is a title not a name. Krist-na/Christ is a deviation from krystal/crystal aka crystalline energy (that glow/halo) and any one with enough power/ability/endurance could attain it, you didn’t have to be directly related to the divine but once you attained it you would obviously have a closer link to ‘oneness’/divinity and hence become a christ/illuminated/enlightened one – closer to god and easier to call a child/descendant/form of god. Interestingly enough Avatar is referred to as a/the Messiah in this film and the power of three is maintained given the good lands are a tri-state area with three rulers/monarchs. Blackwolf is a very native American sounding name and would generally depict either honour/nobility or tainted honour (depending on the use of ‘Black’).

Avatar sets off with a band other interesting characters; Elinore daughter of one of the state’s president who is assassinated and hence becomes queen and Avatar’s love interest, Weehawk an elf who lost his colleague/friend and… Necron 99 who worked for Blackwolf destroying believers of magic, killed the president and Weehawk’s co-spy partner. An unlikely band of heroes? Well Necro[n] 99 [66] is defeated by Avatar and renamed/inverted into ‘Peace’ as he joins their side in the name of love but really the threat of torture. They journey to attempt to gain allegiance from their neighbours.

Wizards 1977 film animation

Wizards 1977 film animation

Wizards 1977 film animation

Psychological Warfare – Trickery, Illusions, Bad Dreams, Hypnotism, Brainwashing, Projections, Possession

A big part of war, history and culture is propaganda, it’s one of the most notable forms of psychological warfare but more direct psychological weapons or mental/health side effects from physical weapons don’t get so much attention. Here we’re shown Blackwolf desecrating the Swastika as his idol Hitler (and other Nazis, KKK etc) did with his actions on top of it and via using it as a symbol. He uses film footage to inspire his troops and intimidate his foes, no one had seen imagery of such things (tanks, explosions etc although Blackwolf’s soldiers are already equipped with guns) and the pictures in and of themselves are enough to defeat many of the people of the good lands who had previously been used to unmotivated and lethargic people of the bad lands.

Wizards 1977 film animation

Interestingly enough the footage is shown as projections in the sky and in the mind striking fear and zombie likeness in targets. The use of sky projection reminded me of something some people have been saying for a long time and which was recently proved by a clever young lady Cleo Loi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) and the School of Physics at the University of Sydney that the Earth’s magnetosphere contains plasma ‘tubes’ which she calls a cinema. We’ve seen for quite some time now the ability to produce holograms via sprayed chemicals in localised air for national games/events but this take the potential further.

What can’t or won’t be explained is called as ‘magic’.

Comic Relief

Yes there is some!

Mostly in the form of a pair of tin can soldiers who could easily be dubbed ‘Dumb and Dumber’; we’re introduced to them when one thinks the other is dead and blames the vile, evil, cowardly fairies but then that one wakes and arises only to knocked unconscious again by his fellow nincompoop who continues to blame the fairies… These two provide social commentary in their own exemplary way for the audience, in another scene one is about ready to defect saying everything has the right to live but is told that they now have an ultimate weapon so he automatically becomes loyal again dispelling his need for ‘praying on his deathbed’/converting in his hour of need. The place of religion in society and war isn’t spared either; Blackwolf’s soldiers can’t be bothered to look after prisoners of war so they decide religion can be used to placate them – give them minimum sustenance for the soul instead of food, water and warmth and the priests are just… Funny in the way they cover as many bases as possible and the soldier’s reaction is just as ironic ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em, if you can’t join ‘em blast the buggers’ mentality. All very fair-weather.

Wizards 1977 film animation

Unconditional love comes under scrutiny a tad too and as someone who has never been an advocate of it I could appreciate that, additionally as a fan of satire I don’t mind the above use of dark humour (I have limits although found this ok) but it might be off-putting (and I can understand why) to others.

Aesthetics

Avatar is portrayed as a hip, short old dude with big feet, 70’s lingo, a laid back air, gravelly voice and more beard than body in classic wizardly garb. Elinore rather than an elegantly and naturally nudist or acceptably scantily clad faerie/member of the fair folk is more of a sultry, kinkily dressed fairy queen (perhaps an ode to the days of Bakshi’s x-rated cartoon ‘Fritz the Cat’ 1972 and ‘Heavy Traffic’ 1973), Weehawk as yes you guessed it native American seeming and equipped with earring and horse, and Necron 99/Peace as a red suit of armour/knight. Blackwolf is a tall, fierce looking man with his arms lacking flesh and blood, long hair and dark robes. All in all the characters are distinctive and the background medieval and industrial in conflict.

The look of the animation is outdated and not particularly retro-chic or appealing but interesting nevertheless. Still images are used over moving backgrounds combined with simple colour schemes in poignant parts whereas WWII film and photography are used in tandem and at other times rotoscoped (traced) into the drawing. Everything else is very casually drawn without much shading so other than the footage and rotoscoping it looks flat and unrealistic, also the bodies are disproportionate but in this weird cartoon it’s watchable.

This sound is abit hit and miss too but the voice actors were well cast, for example parts of the film are beautifully narrated by Susan Tyrell whose tender and deeply feminine vocals enhance the storytelling and set the scenes. That said I thought I could hear her voice in for bit part characters which I didn’t like because it ruined the flow and changed the perspective too quickly from narration to character dialogue.

The musical score is quirky to say the least, jazz plays when Avatar speaks and he has a voice that if used to sing you just know would suit old school rhythm and blues and maybe even talking-singing (a ‘sing song voice’ not melodious but noir/classic detective) and then there’s the use of funk/soul when armies are marching instead of epic/driven classical we’ve become used to. It maintains the somewhat ‘what have you been smoking man’ vibe of the film replete with bits of electronica, organ and regular (lovely) orchestra in between.

On a sidenote some of the animation (particularly the look of Necro 99/Peace and) and musical effects reminded me of the later ‘He-Man/Masters of the Universe’ (1980’s) cartoons.

Apparently George Lucas was interested in the film while it was being made as he was making Star Wars at the same time, and apparently asked Bakshi if he’d change the name from War Wizards to Wizards to avoid confusion, and he agreed to due to Lucas allowing Mark Hamill time off to voice the King of the Mountain Fairies.

Hitler vs Holocaust

Comparison to Hitler is a main feature of the film, it would seem to follow then that the holocaust would also be a major factor however it’s only mentioned sparsely and referenced as the name of Hitler’s(Blackwolf’s) actions/the war in general rather than to actions carried out to the Jewish people; uprooting some, torturing/killing many, keeping some of professional status (the Allies recruited too) though imprisonment wasn’t limited to Jewish people and some would argue it was the sacrifice of the people for extremist Judaism aka Zionism (not moderate Jews) even though it seemed Hitler was against all of that heritage in general. In our mindset generations later when we hear the word ‘holocaust’ we think of the suffering of the Jewish people and of Hitler and his supporters as evil and the Allies as good/heroes. That everything the Allies did was retribution; the ongoing bombing leaving bodies looking like barbeque parts stuck/intermingled with each other and the land akin to the likes of Pompeii, the mass raping of girls/women/old women, repeatedly, in front of their loved ones, with objects/weapons, necrophilia, claiming to help females by guiding them into ‘safe’ zones like churches then barring them in and raping them, by what we think of as the usual treatment of ‘boat people’ nowadays i.e. sinking ships of refugees/asylum seekers or letting them sink, slaughtering of wild/pet/farm/and zoo animals etc etc etc. An eye for an eye or more like war as the venting of frustration and stress in an ongoing cycle of revenge, since retribution doesn’t satisfy many who’d have to deal with emotional/physical trauma sooner than if they continue vengeance and negate accountability onto the madness of the situation as long as possible first for which they can then be medicated or left as homeless veterans and potentially treated as criminals on homeland soil once they return by their former superiors if not glorified/medalled and then luckily enough left to get on with ‘normal life’ in the aftermath. I say ongoing cycle of revenge because grudges/inherited memory come back to haunt and not always obviously/directly – we tend to think linearly instead of or in addition to ‘they suffered terribly, no one should go through that’ (damned straight such things should never of happened) but who had a significant hand in Black slavery and the horrors that entailed. Similarly another religious/ethnic group in ‘that area of the world’ that has been/is being displaced and suffering now also had a hand in that, no racial group is innocent or guilty as a whole or by default, we have a long history of hurting each other ‘foreign’ or not and with consumerism it’s a lot easier for people regardless of race/creed/colour to live off the backs of others since it comes down to the basic classism that all groups suffer from – rich and poor. Just doing what we can to survive and if possible make the best of it comes with high risk/consequence but that’s moving away from the theme of this film.

Wizards 1977 film animation

Returning to Hitler and Nazi-ism in their ode to Aryanism we’re shown Blackwolf’s desire/obsession with lineage and the perfect human though given the circumstances he’s using a woman as a breeding machine to ensure his longevity through a human (not mutant) son who can live in the good lands.

Wizards 1977 film animation

At some points I wondered if Avatar and the people of the good lands try and help change the band lands and their residents or if they reached out for help, we’re told that Avatar spent a lot of time clearing radiation but not what the historic relations between the two overall sides were; whether there was an element of ‘keeping the good lands to ourselves and you lot stay over there’ or a case of resentment and jealousy on the part of the mutants, it’s unexplained. I found one insult Avatar used against his brother and their ‘mother’ eyebrow raising given their so-called opposite positions and his reputed affection for her.

Conclusion

I think the animation and fairytale style beginning would deter some people and hence miss out on what is quite a powerful and unique film. Also the way it identifies Blackwolf/Hitler and his followers/soldiers/supporters as mutants, demons, people gone wrong, dark, dangerous creatures and Avatar/Allies/Jews as the light, Earth’s older races, ancestors of man, Earth’s rightful residents and inheritors, saviours and natural/tribal peoples (although funnily enough ‘Blackwolf’ is more a tribal sounding name than ‘Avatar’ which is divinity based). I won’t explain the ending obviously but let’s just say I found it too light hearted and convenient. I think of the uselessness of war unless somehow you know it’ll be the final one and every last one of the ‘enemy’ killed – which doesn’t contradict the storyline here but I think those who manage to survive that are not pained or unscarred are without conscience and/or have selective memory. It would take me a very long time to be able to celebrate with a light heart or feel at peace, I’d be misery personified and weep; for my friends, loved ones, those I wanted to protect, those I managed to protect but still suffered, all those I missed and those I didn’t know but still thought of and existed, my enemies and for everything that happened.

Its saving grace is the comedy and weirdness which makes what would have been a so-so predictable film into something more.

‘As long as the world is under the influence of a correct social order it will never fall to devastation. However when the social order requires a lack of logic and mindless minions to survive the devastation appears as a world of its own.’ – Darkside Blues (1994 anime)

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Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron – When I lived wild and free…

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

Release Date: 2002
Language: English (also French, Italian and Spanish)
Certification: U
Runtime: 83 min
Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook
Production Co: Dreamworks
Main Vocal Cast: Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi

…Instead of everybody wanting a ride and pound of flesh.

“They say that the history of the west was written from the saddle of a horse, but it’s never been told from the heart of one. Not till now. I was born here, in this place that would come to be called the Old West. But to my kind the land was ageless. It had no beginning and no end, no boundary between earth and sky. Like the wind and the buffalo we belonged here, we would always belong here. They say the mustang is the spirit of the West. Whether that west was won or lost in the end you’ll have to decide for yourself but the story I want to tell you is true. I was there and I remember. I remember the sun, the sky and the wind calling my name in a time when we ran free. I’ll never forget the sound and the feeling of running together. The hoof beats were many but our hearts were one.”

After we’re told the above we see a montage of a foal growing up as colt to a stallion, it’s sweet and endearing. He gets on with many other animals and they get on with him, there’s a gorgeous moment where he and others his age are drinking but feel the earth quake and while the others quickly move to their mothers he stays and ends up in the way of a buffalo stampede. He’s so innocent and friendly that the buffaloes don’t mind (and hey he was there first…) Evidently there’s social norms he doesn’t quite get but it’s not a bad thing and he knows the meaning of responsibility, inheriting his position as head of the herd, he loves his mother dearly and looks after everybody.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

Unfortunately his naïveté and curiosity to be kind to other species changes his life when he finally meets some two-leggeds i.e. humans and militant humans at that.

We have an upstart on our hands fellas – deal with him.

This was not a creature meant for captivity, though technically that should apply to all, but some will keep trying to break free ‘til the end, even the bitter end and even if ‘freedom’ is not all it’s cracked up to be in this world when surrounded by those with other ideas.

Our protagonist (Spirit) is to be ‘broken in’ and domesticated for military use and transport commerce but he’s not having it. Method after method is used; chained in the corral, starved/dehydrated, ridden rodeo style/beaten – you’d think such treatment counterproductive to having an efficient servant but looking at history/present we know it’s a numbers game with tools being dispensable and replaceable; the utmost is done to break the spirit whilst damaging the body just enough so as to keep it basically functional – and it almost works at least temporarily but even in despair and depression some of us have a living spark.

His guts and endurance inspires the other horses which worries people and the captain mostly as he’s got a troublemaker on his hands and increases his already egotistical need to break this one to solidify his firm belief and teaching that everyone and thing can be conquered. It makes them feel big to pretend to be winners with all the backup, torture, weapons and resources, dishing it out and going schizo if any is returned or questioned.

During this period I began to think the horses were a parallel for native Americans; the taking of his mane reminded me of why those peoples and many Asian peoples traditionally have long hair and some Euro & Asian peoples have parts of their hair long, the obsession with cutting hair and removing body hair which isn’t unique to but rampant and regimented into normalcy in modern civilisations (and the use of it at some places/points as punishment for crime). Then the story (unproven, though they did recruit Montagnards in Vietnam for tracking) that during the Vietnam war US special forces tested on ‘Indians’ (native Americans) to find about extra-sensory perception and tracking ability via hair as an extension of the nervous system (there is searchable study on the nervous system part at least) and its ability to increase/maintain mental awareness. Additionally our lack of ability to grow it long again once significantly cut and as we get older in comparison to those with less modern lifestyles. Then whaddaya know? Yep here comes a ‘hostile’ or ‘noble savage’ aka native prisoner kept next to the four-legged ‘beast’.

But native Americans are people too.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

What ensues is a bid for escape and a chase akin to the policeman stalking Valjean in ‘Les Misérables’ (1862).

When we’re shown the indigenous village Spirit’s former co-inmate lives in there’s a stark difference between the treatment and place of horses in their society. They roam the village and interact with the people. The former prisoner has his own horse (female) who catches Spirit’s attention, well he doesn’t have a choice really but they become bonded in more ways than one. Using what I’ll call the ‘reign method’ though it’s unclear whether she is called Rain or if the filmmakers are referring to the dual reign that is put on both horses so that Spirit is calmed, kept in check, doesn’t run off and to tame him (perhaps it’s both her name and the method). (The ‘Join-Up’ native American domestication method shows they tired the horses and put them between a rock and hard place so to speak to seem like they had a choice in following the people.) She’s very protective over her human companion but also interested in Spirit, who is still kept in a corral and undergoes several attempts at being ridden. But Spirit is a stubborn one 😉 and I felt a heartfelt thank you when her owner acknowledged and admitted

‘I’m never going to ride you am I, and no one ever should’

and gave him his freedom, not that he should have tried let alone repeatedly. That said genuine friendship and having to rely on each other is another matter so Spirit does allow him at times.

Inverting the Western

I’m not generally a fan of Westerns, it’s not that I’m adverse to them I just find their plots & scripts formulaic and the results one dimensional. We came to this here land, which was up for grabs and fair game especially since the darkies who lived/still living here are backwards, impure, don’t speak English (though we can’t abide the English) and can’t/don’t make the best use of it, they make good gun fodder and servants though har har har. We pretty much rule the roost, though we fight and drink all day and shoot each other for over a misplaced look or cheatin’ at cards in the local brothel. The sheriff is good, the bandits is bad and the black fellas (‘Indians’) are wholesale pointless but saleable; lotsa assets here if you know where to look, willing to work hard and take what you can, who knows maybe one day it’ll rain. Noah style.

There are a handful that impressed me such as ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ (1969) (ironically seen as sub-par to many) but I prefer it when it’s used in a combination of genres such as the animes ‘El Cazador de la Bruja’ (2007) about a bounty hunter and witch who become close on a strange journey with stranger relationships and ‘Trigun’ (1995) about a hopeless but indefatigable optimistic pacifist who wants to use his guns to bring about peace and equality, attracts devastation wherever he goes but cares for everybody (and ‘Desert Punk’ which is adult and tacky/borderline humour, bit like the ‘South Park’ of Westerns.)

‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’ turns all that upside down and tells the game to drop dead. The cavalry are the bad guys, the native Americans the good side, the animals are part of the land and have every right to live freely on/in it. The film proudly demonstrates a link between people, other animals and the land; a bond that when forgotten or desecrated allows us to also disrespect each other and everything becomes a struggle and power play.

In regards to the good and bad sides, it maintains simplicity and stereotyping (White Man is Bad, In’jin is Good – ignoring that native people also have classism, sexism, animal sacrifice etc) though thankfully it doesn’t do a Romeo & Juliet/Tony & Maria pastiche and bring one child from each side together to mend the divide as if that’ll save society and maybe even the world. I’ve read criticism that the film claims technology is bad; this refers to the development of the railways – I disagree, I think the film simply shows that people have used animals [and still do as well as other humans] as slave labour, that it is dangerous, unhealthy and that some animals will try to flee. Ultimately not having complex characters, side-switching nor multiple storylines doesn’t take away from the film, as aforementioned there’s enough clichéd Westerns of the opposite type for this one to stand out and still be very watchable.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

This is not an anthropomorphic film.

Anthropomorphism – a lot of people look down on it, some offended by it, some think it’s not a good example for their children. I have no problem with it, I don’t mind relating to others either through my own eyes or theirs although I find it strange in some media how the main characters are humanistic animals but their pets/food/other animals are still portrayed as animalistic and/or inferior. It ranges from socio-political commentary such as in ‘Animal Farm’ (book version, 1945) to coming of age stories like ‘Charlotte’s Webb’ (book version, 1952) to the many animations we see everyday aimed at children and crazy ones like ‘Road Runner’/’Tom & Jerry’ (both 1940s+). ‘Spirit’ doesn’t use or need it. We only hear a character’s name once if at all and it’s a case of actions speak louder than words yet the names are still meaningful.

Spirit’s thoughts are given a narrator’s voice over once in a while by Matt Damon but overall it’s there only as a gentle aide-mémoire, to give a little explanation or introduction. The horses neigh and verbalise in what we consider their own tongue, their movement and mannerisms (excepting the facial expressions which are humanistic) have been paid attention to.

All throughout the film I thought “this horse has tremendous spirit” and it was only after I looked it up online (I hadn’t known what I was watching) did I find that his name was actually Spirit, that’s how well the story is told and how compelling it is.

Aesthetics

The visuals are drawn in what I consider high quality yet simply shaded ‘old fashioned’ animation style with rich earth tones; warm rather than sharp and bold and yet still lends itself well to all the motion in the story. There’s both the feeling and look of elation, heart racing, speed/flying and it didn’t need obviously modern graphics to engross the viewer.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

The soundtrack is very noticeable and vocalised by Bryan Adams (in the English and French versions) and the end theme a duet with Sarah McLachlan. Given that there is little dialogue in the film the lyrics provide commentary and enhance the situations – too much so at the beginning in my opinion but well paced and better than Bon Jovi’s ‘Blaze of Glory’ (for ‘Young Guns II’ – 1990 – though ‘Dead or Alive’ was my favourite song of theirs/his back when used to like them).

Conclusion

Whilst it’s formulaic it’s not predictable, I was surprised and grateful that it met my hopes, I’d been worried when the native Americans introduced/roped him to the lovely mare thinking “oh great, please don’t ruin this and do the whole he falls in love, settles down, has an heir, is the happy father.” (The Lion King – 1994 – was a great film, great if very long play and epic for its day but childish in comparison to this.) Heck I liked the mare – she’s spunky, coy and charming with a feather in her mane but I’m sick of the massive majority of media I’ve seen since 2000 focusing on the ‘circle of life’, we already had the birth/growing up scene for crying out loud. He does fall in love and there is heartbreak, tragedy, twists and an ending but it’s more fitting to the strong yet gentle wanderer/wayfarer theme that I wanted to see and did finally. All Spirit wants from the very start is to be happy at home and as the film continues he feels confused, torn, grieved but ultimately the beginning and the end is the same, it’s all about home and that feeling of belonging yet peacefully free.

Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron

I think its poignant that the focus of this story is a mustang – a breed of horses that came from escaped Spanish domesticated horses – rather than a ‘wild horse’. Spirit has a racial lineage/memory of being used/kept and then knowing what it is to be wild and has no intention of losing that [again].

I don’t usually agree with everything my favourite characters say/do/are and that’s to be expected but if I had been born a horse I can imagine being just like Spirit in this film. Characters showed their true colours when they looked at the horse and said ‘wow, he’s beautiful’ and next thought automatically = grab the ropes, trap him (and there’s profit to be made). Be a beacon, not a tool.

Comparisons

Black Beauty (1877) – written by Anna Sewell, became a classic and portrayed in several formats. Black Beauty remembers the love from his mother and the days pulling cabs in London, he recounts them in his retirement as examples about morality.

Black Beauty Horse

War Horse (1982) – written by Michael Morpurgo, has become a modern classic and as a former theatre goer I regrettably missed it on stage even moreso as I was one of the children who went to work at Nethercott Farm/House (Narracott Farm in the book) and so lived with the writer for a week, I even remember the room I stayed in (‘Candlelight’). War Horse is about Joey, a horse bought for use in World War I and his tale of pain and consistently being bought/sold and finally reunited with his human friend Albert.

War Horse Book

The Last Unicorn (book 1968 by Peter S. Beagle, film 1982) – in terms of pure force and feeling like Spirit, the animated version of this is one of the most evocative and moving films I’ve seen; about a unicorn who is thought to be the last of her kind but she doesn’t believe it and goes on a harrowing journey to find/rescue the others. It has a similar (more folksy) soundtrack and interestingly enough produced by people who thereafter went on to be Studio Ghibli who then made ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’(1984) – both are very symbolic, magical films.

The Last Unicorn

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Fashion in Film – The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

I haven’t done one of these lighthearted fashion in film posts for ages and since I’m up with nothing better to do (ok there are many better things but I can’t be bothered right now) due to an annoying, pampered Summer Solstice child who due to his birth date and misconceptions got everything whilst I the Winter Solstice child got hell (not that I would want the ridiculously overdone/overkill/pompous life he has either). As usual though, what most people don’t realize and as it isn’t what is purported the Winter Solstice is actually the Light Bringer, and the Summer one the Fore-shadower of Darkness so with people being people separate everything making opposites instead of balance and unity, they put positive connotations and treatment on the Summer and vice versa. Really each day is both for the whole planet (yin & yang) but per location is seen as one Solstice at a time; the Summer being the shining glory/the peak of the empire about to fall and the Winter one more poignant/potent given this planet’s proximity to the moon along with the significance of the sun – ‘darkness and light as one, the light [Summer] chases away the darkness but makes the shadow deeper, the darkness [Winter] holds the light but has light of its own so dark it…’ (Like the way both ice and fire burn.) I’m not saying the Summer Solstice child has it easy but there’s plenty of compensations and indulgence. The Summer Solstice child is selfish, takes and is lauded; the Winter Solstice child gives, is taken from and hidden/made unsightly.

Anyway The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) is basically a film about a uni (though the maths questions they get are secondary school level) student who gets a lot smarter than he is and more popular than he should be by accident (caused by his own stupidity, how could he not know that and still get into uni-level Physics)? A bit like being born into a wealthy family and becoming a z-list celebrity in reality but A-list status without merit. Starring Kurt Russell, he did other films like this for Buena Vista/Walt Disney such as The Barefoot Executive (1971), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). They’re also akin to the Flubber films.

This film features some beautiful suits.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits

This was his most boring suit in the film but it gets better

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

There’s an abundance of polo/turtle necks in this film, just the way I like it.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

Bright colours and prints

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

The former look doesn’t suit everybody though and he switches to the darker pinstripe for the evening.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

The university challenge host look dapper.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

And again.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

A suit being tailored.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

Not quite the colour/print scheme I would go for but what they hey.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Fashion Film Clothing Suits Suiting

Can’t get those beautiful suits dirty lol.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes 1969 Film Dune Buggy

Isn’t this the coolest buggy?! Why does a student even have a dune buggy o_o

It's bit too lean and mean for four adult males though, they make it look like a clown car and can't do its ability justice - it's better for me! :D

It’s bit too lean and mean for four adult males though, they make it look like a clown car and can’t do its ability justice – it’s better for me! 😀

Thankfully there are no MIB Men in Black suits in here though one borders it (the mafia, casino owning guy above avoiding the paint) – but at least he’s not wearing sunglasses. What is with that ridiculous look, the whole suit or half suit with leather/ette outwear and/or gloves – they look like dumbasses (oh wait…)

I liked the way that the makeup for the guys didn’t cover their freckles and moles as is normal to do nowadays like they’re some kind of imperfection or something to be embarrassed/ashamed of (not talking about large, ‘disfiguring’ ones where professional makeup really does help people feel better and more confident.)

Also throughout the film Kurt stuffs his face with food, lucky b*stard (albeit gross food). Ha if he lived in a place that gets cold from mid-late August and freezing through to mid-Spring he’d not only afford heating but ramp it up! I have swollen fingers from typing as usual and they’re almost numb with the cold, thankfully kitty is no longer hogging my bed so I can sit down again!

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Nim’s Island – There are many types of hero and heroic deeds

Nim's Island

Directed by: Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler
Released: 2008
Runtime: 96min
Rating: U

Having seen this recently and thinking I’d write about it today when I had some time to think I then realised that today is:

Day of the Imprisoned Writer
National Philanthropy Day (USA)

And thought ‘how fitting’.

One of the characters in this film is an imprisoned writer, though not in the traditional sense and seemingly of her own edifice but the root of her conditions are also linked to society. More on that later.

Day of the Imprisoned Writer is about authors who are likely to be/are persecuted for their work, all over the world political writers to poets are in danger and punished in many ways from surveillance, experimentation, imprisonment and death. PEN is an international organization that attempts to bring awareness to these issues and support such people.

http://www.pen-international.org/
http://www.englishpen.org/

‘Freedom to write, freedom to read’ – always check for the logo in books and if interested perhaps petition your favourite publishers to become PEN partners.

Looking at other reviews on this film it seems I’m in them minority in liking this film, perhaps because in this case I’m willing to overlook the ‘unrealistic’ plot (unusual circumstances are not usually a problem for me anyway) and plot holes because of the sincere (to me), witty storytelling and spirit.

Striving to be who you are, what you need to be and what you want to be

We’re treated to an animated (graphically) introduction by 11-year old Nim on the importance of stories in our lives and the loss of her mother:

‘That’s all my mother is to me now, just these stories…

‘The Oceanographer and the Great Blue Whale.’

Once upon a time, the oceanographer went out on the wide-open sea to find out what was in the stomach of the great blue whale. As my mother was staring into the mouth of the whale a mysterious ship came out of nowhere. It was called The Buccaneer Ship. It got much too close and it frightened the whale and the oceanographer was swallowed and taken by the sea. Dad felt that we should sail the ocean and look for that blue whale that, someday, that whale would bring her back to us. I think he just missed her. We both did.

By my 4th birthday, we had sailed around the globe, twice… Then one day, we found it. Our home.”

I think that really sets the scene for the film in addition to the opening line from her father:

“If we take care of our island Nim, our island will take care of us.”

Nim’s father is a marine biologist and following the death of her mother they decide to find a secluded, special place where they can live freely and peacefully – they are as self sustainable as possible but periodically a ship comes with supplies for things they can’t make/find themselves.

They are the only humans on ‘their’ island in the South Pacific and it truly makes a beautiful, charming and enchanting setting for the film. Nim is obviously home schooled and like those who in my own experience have had the benefit of such education is more able than her peers [would be] as well as more creative/having advanced vision (such as students from Steiner Schools). Her and her father’s lifestyle is mix in that they’ve gone ‘back to nature’ but with access to computers/electronic tools and seem to have found genuine contentment. Therefore they are very protective over their environment and Nim particularly wants to keep it just for them, perhaps she feels that any ‘trespass’ would disturb their balance, whilst I can understand that I do think that part of it is based on fear and the film illustrates it as the feeling she has under extreme duress.

Her father is obsessed with finding a rare/hypothetical plankton that he wants to name ‘Protozoa Nim’ (protozoa – being simple and/or single cell organisms, essentially containing apparently earliest traces of life), it seems to be his life work and so he goes off on one of his trips to find one, this time his gut feeling will win out, surely… He tries to get Nim to accompany him because he’ll be gone for two nights but she’s determined to stay and guard her sea-turtle friend’s birth since the previous year only one of the eggs survived. Nim has numerous animal friends including Chica the turtle, Fred the bearded dragon lizard who rides on her shoulder, Selkie the sea lion (I like that name since Selkie is the Celtic and old English word for seal or more specifically seals that shapeshift into humans/humanoids) and Galileo the pelican – all of the animals have helped her growth as a person and education in fundamental ways.

Nim's Island Film Review

Photo credits to: outnow.ch/Movies/2008/NimsIsland/

Nim is one of those children (modern and/or free spirited) who calls her parent by their name instead of title i.e. ‘Jack’, a practice which for all intents and purposes suits her practical nature, can you imagine trying to find your parent in a crowd by calling ‘Mum!’ ‘Dad!’ And having probably half the crowd turn to you in askance and not just because you’re a shouting fool 😉

Nim's Island Movie Review

On the other hand, in San Francisco, a very famous author called Alex Rover (Nim’s favourite author) writes about a protagonist of the same name; a fearless, brave and quintessential adventurer, the exact opposite of the author. The real Alex is agoraphobic (doesn’t like to leave her house, scared of travelling) and germophobic but thanks to technology doesn’t have to leave her precious and sanitary house. Interestingly enough and perhaps strange to some but Nim refers to her and Jack’s situation as a ‘scientist’s life’ which I can understand in old science, having understanding yet living harmoniously but Alex’s lifestyle is far more the modern scientist, clinical and sterile. How are the characters connected? Alex is able to write her novels by communicating with others and their research and so writes to Jack but she’s on the cusp of serious change whether she likes the process or not.

During Jack’s trip a storm breaks and in the bleakness that follows all he and Nim have are faith and determination. Additionally one of the bain’s of water expanses aka a cruise ship has decided the island will make a great excursion destination, and we quickly see how a pristine island looks as a tourist beach. Can Nim save her island from mass tourism and successfully reach out to those she loves at the same time?

“The world was designed to help people find each other” – Anita, ‘Read or Die’ (anime)

Especially with the internet.

When the ship comes into sight Nim feel’s the paradise is being invaded and is reminded of the story of her mother and the blue whale so she embarks on a mission to make the island seem unattractive and offputting. Jack is AWOL so she has to grow up some more but unfortunately gets injured, how is she going to manage and how can Alex help her?

The setting of the story was probably easier for many to watch as a fantasy but the onset of events (which I won’t describe) were probably harder to believe or stay with for many but I saw them as symbolic for transformation, doing what has to be done and ‘character development’ (which so many find important).

Like some authors I’ve come across Alex’s fictional character is a form of alter ego, semi-visceral, ethereal and acts either as a ghostly presence or conscience/mirror; he urges Alex to be more like him, more like the hero she and other others need/want her to be. Ironically her writing is so pervasive that people think her the living embodiment of the protagonist i.e. that she is a he and real rather than image. She shows the greatest growth in this film, not only does she have to persuade everybody that she is indeed ‘the’ Alex Rover, a writer, but she also has to become the adventurer they expect. Her journey to find Nim is the most fantastic and each stage sees her dropping or losing boundaries/trappings/crutches, layer after layer she escapes/lets go of inhibitions, fears, doubts and perceived safety nets, risking it all, for what? A dream? A stranger/girl across the ocean who admires and needs her and feels inexplicably connected to? Her challenges are both physical and mental, striving for something spiritual. She’s going for what seems impossible.

Nim's Island Film Movie Review

Jack is also trying to get home to Nim, despite anything and everything that happens he is sure, failure is not an option.

The ties that bind together the storytelling

This seems to be the area that really let people down and incurred a mixed/negative reception. There are some scenes that are ‘too much’ such as the lengths characters go to, I think they fit in with the target audience of the film and the genre(s). Another criticism some have is the use of sfx/cgi e.g. with the animals, being a person that doesn’t support the use of animals I have no problem with having to animate/accentuate their behaviour and I thought their antics/assistance delightful, I would have had problems with the mass lizard catapulting scene otherwise (reminding me of an old film where they ran over a goose’s tail and practically through other birds and numerous other examples).

Our neurotic author garners disdain as well since she really does throw herself in at the deep end pushing her limits in a way that most people wouldn’t/couldn’t but the drama in this film allows for that – she loses everything to gain everything.

Water is symbolic of transformation (and indeed purification, as is fire), travel and doors/portals hence space (the cosmos) is often referred to as a sea/ocean and death as a river so I find it fitting that so much happens in the water, because of it, it’s changing (violent/peaceful) nature and them living on an island. Apart from the volcano scenes I liked the underwater ones the most, not quite as awe inspiring or even transcendental as other films – even the old film She Gods of Shark Reef (1958) – but still perfectly representing both the force; attraction/repulsion between bodies e.g. the distance, and pull/barrier between people.

Nim's Island Film Movie Review

The soundtrack isn’t too obvious but noticeable in a background enhancing way, at times raising in crescendo but never taking over and is purely instrumental (I think it’s quite precarious determining suitability for vocal or even pop songs in films, and the inclusion of those would have lightened the mood a tad too much here).

There are many great quotes although I’ve tried to limit them to the most poignant imo to save the significance for if/when you watch it 🙂 and if little else the script does credit to the film in conjunction to some of the acting which is quite hammy and akin to gesticulating whilst talking. I liked that and thought it added a comic element making the whole thing more watchable and maintaining good pace. Jodie Foster is a fine actress and hasn’t failed to impress in the films I’ve seen her in, I’m used to her playing serious and sometimes gritty roles but here she has an element of physical comedy, ‘lighthearted’ yet dramatic grandstanding with underlying gravity – a type of acting I mostly remember her using in Bugsy Malone (1976) but there as a cynical minx, here it was gratifying to see her play a themed character again and so well (and as an adult rather than child creepily playing sexualized adult). Gerard Butler plays both Jack and the fictional Alex, doing so quite convincingly though both are gregarious. He doesn’t feature as much as Nim and the real Alex but at least he changes his accent between roles and I liked hearing a bit of ‘Scottishness’ from him! Abigil Breslin does a heartfelt job as Nim, a girl who is not really alone and yet is quite solitary and scared; strong yet vulnerable and the obvious hero of the story who is fighting desperately hard to save the island, its inhabitants, the people she loves, herself and the entire environment of ‘home/safety’.

Nim's Island Film Movie Review

The End

I can relate in ways to all of the characters and think that viewers can do the same particularly with Nim and Alex – even if it means having to remove their circumstances first to try and understand what they’re going through. If that is still too unlikely at least we can look at Nim’s Island as a ‘decent fantasy flick’ although to many ‘nothing special’. I don’t think it has to be different or benchmark to be special, I can see why people expected an immersive/grandiose epic given the cast/setting/current standards but like the film Bridge to Terabithia (2007) I think this story is more about the characters involved and what they go through internally/how they feel though BoT also emphasized how we can affect/effect the environment around us and is more ‘slice of life’.

I haven’t read the book by Wendy Orr or seen the sequel but I am interested now due to this film. I appreciate the way that Nim and Jack’s surname is ‘Rusoe’ like Robinson Crusoe and hence linking to Swiss Family Robinson however those are more serious and survivalist, the latter being academic and in the storytelling the thematic difference being that those stories were about people lost/travelling to a strange place(s) whereas Nim’s Island is already home and is ultimately a ‘feel good’ film despite the hardship.

Sometimes the unlikeliest of people become/have to be heroes because even the strongest of us need help, who will save the heroes if the people they care for don’t respond?

‘Be the Hero in Your Own Life Story.’

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The Boxtrolls – Takes Living in a Box to Another Level

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review

Release Date: 2014
Rating: PG
Language: English
Runtime: 96min
Productions Company: Laika Entertainment
Cast Includes: Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Jared Harris, Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead-Wright

On the surface this is a children’s film, though perhaps one that’s better appreciated by adults in its detail, a paradox of subtle and flashy styling but not really knowing whether it should have been a none-too-deep action caper or a crafty look at cultural prejudice. It went for both and lost something along the way, visually enticing but weak in its storytelling. Still, one for people who like dark/black humour or just those with/related to kids who like a bit of a thriller.

Who are the boxtrolls, what are they?

Vermin, dangerous, dirty; they’ll kidnap your children and kill them.

Will they?

They live underground. Lock your doors and windows, don’t go out at night, they lurk in the shadows.

Do they?

Ten years ago in a town called Cheesebridge sometime in the Victorian era a scientist and a baby went missing, the scandal has since come to be known as the ‘Trubshaw Baby’. Much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin (the fictionalised accounts not the theories) something had to be done. Cue Archibald Snatcher the rat err scratch that the boxtroll catcher (akin to the child catcher re: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) who makes a deal with the mayor Lord Portley-Rind, membership to the council in exchange for boxtroll extermination.

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review, Archibald Snatcher

Ten years later the boxtrolls are still little trolls that wear discarded boxes as clothing, hide in them like turtles if necessary, and have a habit of taking metal things left outside that aren’t so discarded even if they’re nailed down. One however isn’t very troll looking, in fact he’s very boyish looking and like every other troll he’s named in conjunction with his box, in his case that’s ‘Eggs’. Eggs is the adoptee of Fish and both are greatly upset and confused over the ever dwindling population of their peers. Where are they are all going and why does the town/city hate them so much?

On the journey to discover the answers to those questions and also who he is – he is a troll, how can he not be, he’s not a boy (hey says) – he uncovers some sinister secrets, some dastardly plans and a girl called Winnie who doesn’t seem very nice either.

Can Eggs save his friends and family, can he prove everyone wrong? (Will the town stop lauding street theatre and music hall?)

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review, Cheesebridge

Cheesebridge

People vs Boxtrolls simplified to Us vs Them

Remember The Wombles and The Jungle Book? The boxtrolls are a quiet though not quite unassuming species, like those furry recycling critters they collect items and make castles (not really, but usable and inventive items) out of other’s trash. They’re furtive and timid; scared of humans, scared to be seen and scared to stand up for themselves even if good at stacking up together (*ahem*). They have however one human member.

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review

This is a US production with a very British feel. The characterisation is very clear cut and cliché down to their pun-full names; the trolls are misunderstood, hunted and abused – that much we get, people do that to everybody and everything. That they’re all meek and frightened with every last fibre of their being is a bit dubious, no blame there just a little cynical. Enter one generally clueless, mild mannered and nice boy and then one very attention starved/needy, rude, forthright girl. They’re both the product of their environments and too young to have developed much from their initial personalities but one thing they have in common is determination and interest in finding out just what exactly is happening to the missing boxtrolls, even if her interest is macabre…

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review, Eggs, Winnie Portley-Rind

An interesting switch of archetypes here; the usual light saving/defeating the dark but in actuality the illuminated one is not the better one/not representative of better things aka the White Hats are not the good side and yet it’s another one of these major films asking us to embrace monsters by not judging books by their covers ‘they’re not the evil aliens you think they are’ style.

There’s much in the way of offbeat satirical humour for example Archibald’s assistants Mr Trout, Mr Pickles and Mr Gristle engage in ironic, philosophical musings about life and their place within it whilst carrying out dastardly deeds in the employ of a dastard. In contrast the boxtrolls (Wheels, Sparky, Socks, Clocks, Bucket, Specs, Fragile, Sweets, Oil Can, Knickers, Shoes and Fish) don’t speak a language I recognize and whether gibberish fabricated by the producers or actually constructed and encoded they’re enigmatic in sound when expressing themselves to each other but subdued in mannerism the rest of the time.

Elitism is further highlighted through what looks like a Masonic order in the town/city, one aspect being its White Hat, Red hat system. The White Hats are the deciders, the owners, the pillars of society, the old and nobly titled money. The Red Hats are not ‘have nots’ but still not quite there. Archibald is desperate to be a White Hat and Lord Portley-Rind doesn’t really want him but new money must be acknowledged even if condescendingly once it’s proven itself useful if not worthy. In our reality the term ‘White Hat’ is usually an opposite to ‘Black Hats’ and more recently ‘Grey Hats’ i.e. the ‘good guys’ (people investigating and raising public awareness about issues – not supposed to be Masons or members of any Order, theoretically), the ‘bad guys’ (people working in black markets, secret services/organisations, the ethos of business over the lives of others) and ‘the in-betweeners’ (whistleblowers, insiders, people who were on one so-called side and decided to or at least appear to change sides, or people who provide a platform for any side). Funnily enough to finally prove one’s eligibility in the film (after status and means) one must know one’s cheese. No pun intended. Seriously, you have to be a real cheese whizz I mean connoisseur. Now I’ve been to a cheese exhibition and I’ve been downwind of it and on top of the already ‘fragrant’ Thames it was not something I’d choose to remember but these guys adore eating cheese copiously. Perhaps a nod to Wallace and Gromit, perhaps highlighting that cheese (and wine) are still currencies in some places and investments in many others but either way if you want to be one of the big boys you’d better like it. Unfortunately for Archibald it doesn’t like him.

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review, White Hats

Here the White Hats change sides, dark becomes light after the film has shown the former White Hats to be a sham/lording it up over the poor and the previous lord wears a lesser Red Hat. (Though interestingly the Portley-Rinds are Red haired, and former White Hats.)

Aesthetics

This is a stop motion animation and as such holds a certain charm for me, it could be said that since the advent and progression of CGI it’s been rendered unnecessary but digital art is also massively time and energy consuming, plus they can be complimentary. The movement of stop motion characters/backgrounds can be clunky and the overall style thought of as childish but I think this film has managed a good level of fluidity and I challenge anyone to think about the film Coraline (2009) and consider it puerile (both Coraline and The Boxtrolls were produced by Laika studio). Interestingly the first stop motion animations that come to mind are The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Trapdoor (1984-86) and Corpse Bride (2005) all horror fantasies but then you have Wallace and Gromit (1990-present) and it’s spin off Shaun the Sheep (2007-present) so the genre is pretty varied.

The most striking thing about the film is the level of detail, from the faces and expressions on the characters to the finer points of their clothing and their surroundings. The architecture is stunning; cobbled streets, dingy at night and in the poorer parts to gauche and eye opening/brow raising at the cheese buffets. The colours are not always bright but they are vivid and every scene lavish in their own way. There’s even an ode to steampunk in the plot, though I think it steals the show and to its detriment.

The accents are believable given the cast features many British actors. The most notable being Ben Kingsley in a nod to German brethren in a Brit version of the classic rat cum child catcher aka Archibald Snatcher and he voices the villain with zeal. I’m usually adverse to big names in animations unless they can enunciate and convey character through voice alone and obviously he can. At least it’s not a big name cast in general though a few are recognizable. Even with a US actor in the leading female role (Elle Fanning as Winnie Portley-Rind) the vocalisation is an accomplishment of distinct tones and personalities.

The Boxtrolls, Animation, Film, Review

Conclusion

For me it’s not of the utmost importance that a plot be complex or for characters to undergo deep and meaningful development. As long as the story is well told and the characters suit it then I’m not too bothered but even taking into account the age rating and general target audience of this film (kids and their guardians) the plot isn’t portrayed as well as it could have been. If it wasn’t for the impressive visuals and quirkiness of the characters it would be another ‘can’t be bothered to watch but ok as background noise’ movie. It feels like the plot is secondary to the dressing making the film feel shorter than it is (although that’s better than making it feel longer and dragged out). The focus is overbalanced towards the action and gags hence becoming formulaic. The action seems more for the children as it’s not palpitating enough for older more desensitized people and the dialogue of the adult characters could potentially go over the heads of youngsters due to the time period, class differences and colloquialisms. However there’s enough [silly and oddball] humour to bridge the gap e.g.

Winnie: [sees Eggs rubbing his crotch] No!… You don’t scratch there in public. That’s why they’re called [whispers] privates.

Or

Winnie: You’re the worst pickpocket I’ve ever seen. Here [Gives Eggs a coin]. Buy a book on how to be a better thief.

Or

Mr. Pickles: We’re exterminators! Of justice!
Mr. Gristle: We exterminate justice!

I haven’t read the source material i.e. ‘Here Be Monsters!‘ By Alan Snow so can’t say how faithful it is to the text but as a standalone product it’s a decent flick with the parts I didn’t like so much almost compensated for in other areas but ultimately I think it came down to style over substance. Despite having sufficient surprise elements and emotion those things just felt forced. The plot had promise, lots of themes to work with: slavery, classism, demonizing due to looks, fear and mutual complicity in oppression/suppression, being raised in a different social/cultural group, elitist ‘in the club’ rituals/traditions – easily dismissed as hard going for a children’s film but there are many such films that have managed it (some with a lot of flair) and many children living in such conditions and a Victorian setting usually implies some kind of child abuse (Charles Dickens anyone?) If they hadn’t compressed feelings that arise from those themes into sporadic moments/sequences the film would have been better. As it is they created a beautifully detailed environment that promised something special but didn’t quite deliver.

Rate: 3.5/5, I can’t give it a 4 because ultimately I didn’t find the storyline passable and to be honest, boring overall.

Recommendations

Over The Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall (mini-series 2014) – this was a unique fairy tale featuring some very well known talent, in strange melodic/mesmerizing pace. Two brothers go trick or treating only to find themselves in another world where a woodsman carries a soul in a lamp, pumpkins live in a town, a bluebird talks and they sing songs about molasses. Folksy meets old school Mickey Mouse/Betty Boop – it has a niche and surreal feel that reminds me of the elaborate yet creepy world of The Boxtrolls.

3 Pigs & a Baby

Unstable Fables: 3 Pigs & a Baby (film 2008) – a funny, fractured fairy tale where a baby wolf is left on the doorstep of the three little pigs and they do their best to raise and love him as their own. He grows up believing he’s a pig but with puberty comes changes and bad crowds. Can he resist or make peace?

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Fist of the North Star – “Animals don’t negotiate!”

Fist of the North Star Film

Eh what’s that? You think I’m reviewing that cult classic film animation or anime tv series? Sadly this is a film only review of the live action version released 9 years later in 1995… Yeah live action versions of cartoons usually need masses of CGI to be passable, this was too early for that and so falls into the same vein as “who sponsored a sequel, and another, and another for that film!?!?

Why did I watch it? Well you know, it just happened to be there. Why was it made? I dunno, to cash in? To see what too much makeup and prosthetics look like? To give the finger to the fans maybe. Basically it was made and I’m reviewing it, so there.

A little backstory

For either FotNS fans or newbies there’s little point in me explaining or referencing the manga or animated versions much because the people in charge of this didn’t really seem to care, that said the viewer needs to know at least the basics so here we go:

The film is set the very first part of the comic – the world is a post-nuclear/apocalyptic wasteland, most of the animals have died including the people but those left seem to be immune to what would likely be megatons of radiation. Their version of acid rain smokes hence digging for clean water is extremely important. As usual the class system has remained intact; there’s a tyrant, his army and the rest i.e. the poor slaves who are typically the targets of raids of the military/thugs who think everything/one is up for grabs and ‘jollies’.

The masses are trying to form a rebellion but they lack cohesion, resources, health and are constantly beaten down. The tyrant has a ‘vision’ that he’s trying to build, he’s already got a city, headquarters, lackeys, a kidnapped queen, amazing fighting skill and is the icon of the Southern Cross (the southern lands and name of his fighting style) but there’s someone out there that threatens him… Someone from his past, his ex-best friend, also the holder of the Fist of the North Star – a legendary style that allows the user to manipulate pressure points and cause internal organs to explode.

That’s basically it and that’s more than enough really but the execution is dire. To me it’s firmly in league with Masters of the Universe aka He-Man (1987) and Flash Gordon (1980) but those were ok for their time whereas this was made much later and didn’t learn the lesson, much like wardrobe didn’t think twice when they put George Clooney in a Batman suit that wasn’t right for him.

Everything that could go wrong…

“The Fist of the North Star and the Southern Cross should never fight. (Otherwise the ‘balance’ is upset.) The teaching is true.”

But.

And that’s a big ‘but’! In the very beginning we see the old master of the FofNS shot dead without any kind of fight by the tyrant which was really an anti-climatic way to start off but it gets worse…

The Tyrant – Lord Shin (played by Costas Mandylor) – decides he can circumvent the teaching by shooting the master Ryuken (played by Malcolm McDowell) and then taking the fight to his best friend, the disciple. He also decides he’s going to kidnap Julia, his best friend’s girlfriend because apparently he’s in love with her too.

But first, what is with his makeup!?!? I mean seriously, and it’s not just him – almost the whole cast look as if they’ve been smothered in foundation and then left in a sauna. It’s distracting. It’s bad enough that at times people’s faces and bodies look like the department bought way too much latex and just had to use it all in one film but Shin in particular looks like they plastered on his foundation. Even his foyer portrait looks overdone and if the humungous statue of himself in front of his castle was in colour it’d probably look caked as well. Additionally he and the rest of the cast have blinding teeth, even the poverty stricken ones. Only some of the thugs give Queen Victoria or Captain Jack Sparrow a run for their money but I presume that’s more to do with making them as ugly as they are in personality.

Back to the plot – didn’t anyone teach this guy that you’re unlikely to win fair lady’s affection by almost killing her lover let alone whilst restraining her and doing it in her face and forcing her to say she loves you instead? Bad form dude. Totally. Then making it worse by repeatedly telling her over the years that everything you’ve done is for her and in her name by sticking up posters of her image under the banner of ‘progress’, even when she’s constantly rejecting you and your stupid plans which are really an excuse to get your badly made up face all over the place.

The good guy – Kenshiro (Ken played by Gary Daniels) – loner who wanders about hunched in a ragged cloak, immune to the acid rain, has terrible scars on his torso from where Shin beat him, is generally miserable and who can blame him? He’s gentle, kind, has the ability to fight and heal but there are constant close-ups of his ‘baby blues’ trying to look innocent resulting in an almost cross-eyed effect, he’s slightly open mouthed half the time and very slow to deliver his lines. Wooden about covers it. Much of the acting in general can be described that way with the rest being hammy instead, you know those retro Chinese movies with the bad dubbing and part of the fun is watching their mouths out of sync? This is not fun. And they’re speaking English in the first place.

He’s haunted and hounded by his dead master who wants him to acknowledge his destiny as the bearer of the FotNS and whose not shy of possessing others to convey the message, even a buried skeleton.

Fist Of The North Star Kenshiro Ken

The damsel in distress – Julia (played by Isako Washio) – is surprisingly enough the best acted part and the studio did a good job in making her stand out from the rest; she comes across as pure and light but also aloof and timid/frightened though defiant at the same time. She’s mostly dressed in shades of White, delivers her lines in decent time and gives off the aura of the feeling she wants to portray effectively enough even without words. She basically misses Ken and her freedom.

Interestingly enough for all the graphic violence and implied rape in this film her relationships with Ken and Shin are remarkably chaste; her memories with Ken show them sweetly and he evidently appreciates her presence, and despite Shin’s usual ‘if I can’t have you nobody will, especially not him’ and ‘you’re my bird in an ivory tower’ mentality he isn’t ever shown as wanting to force/manipulate her to bed him, but just because it’s not shown…

Fist of the North Star 1995 Julia Shin

The targets/poor people – There’s a mix of people of various ages and colours but they are generally seen as wanting to make things better for themselves whether by rebellion, learning to fight or peace treaty. The title of this review refers to a line one of the leaders uses when she argues against trying to assert their rights peacefully and via mutual agreement – when beings are seen as livestock, property, ‘useless eaters’, ‘sheeple’ etc then they are disposable if not recyclable and so they have no place or right to speak let alone argue because they don’t matter and their perspective isn’t worth much.

Fist of the North Star 1995 rebels leaders

There’s no point in life without freedom.
Freedom means nothing without life.

Most of the film takes place in the slums, it’s strange because the areas and inhabitants are obviously destitute but sometimes the setting in particular looks surreal – a little too camera ready. Other than that the characters are well portrayed from the big brother and little sister (who is blind here but if I remember correctly deaf in the anime) who are struggling to stay alive and the brother teaching others to fight to the three leaders trying to help in their own way. Ken heals the little sister’s eyes and then can somehow hear her when she’s in trouble. He feels guilty – he opened her eyes only to see what?

Fist of the North Star 1995 Brother Sister

The military – Shin’s men – they don’t look like ordinary soldiers, mostly they look like grossly disfigured bikers but it’s their characterization that is the most realistic part of the film for me and the reason I’m giving it two stars instead of one. Their behaviour is nothing short of psychotic and parasitic and accurately portrays people who like to fully control and torture others particularly in the ‘second/successive wave(s)’ of war/battle i.e. after the main conquest is (officially) over and most of the people disarmed and in disarray making those left easier prey to hurt at leisure and for those new(ish) to the winning side it means an opportunity to get their taste of ‘battle’ too. They run rampage through the slums, chase, trap, beat, rape, gang rape, repeatedly rape, set alight, maim, drown, take foodstuffs etc alongside destroying shelters/homes, drinking and trying out new ‘toys’. The only thing missing here is going home as heroes and pretending they never acted dishonourably especially as ‘blowing off steam’ is normal and if they do it to each other it’s ‘occupational hazard’ or if they can’t re-integrate ending up homeless or institution/hospitalized.

Any positive features?

Umm… Umm… The music. Yes the soundtrack is pretty decent but given it’s an action film that’s to be expected but still it’s no magnum opus, it just keeps pace with what’s going on and doesn’t stand out. However, in an action film particularly a fighting flick you’d also expect good fight scenes no? No. Not in this one. There’s one decent fight, otherwise the film is badly choreographed; people react too fast, they move out of the way sometimes launch themselves out of the way or act as if they’ve been struck when they obviously haven’t – that’s partially the camera’s fault but what’s the sound department’s excuse? Why are the sound effects off as well? Even the 70’s action shows got the ‘POW’, ‘WHAM’ et al in the right places. I don’t expect someone to get hit or fall and hear the thud in slow mo. In contrast when combatants are visually hit, like with Ken’s signature pressure point combo, he may as well be hitting a sand bag with a feather – I don’t know if that’s to make the effect of the organs then bursting more gross but it looks and sounds um, put it this way an air kiss would be more meaningful.

That’s not a bad thing par se, I’m not into gore let alone realistic gore but I admire precision and flow in the contortion fields aka gymnastics, dance, yoga and martial arts and whilst the ability is there it’s not well portrayed. The only fighting that is believable are the times Shin’s men are ravaging the people and quite frankly if that were any more realistic it’d be even harder to watch.

Comparisons

Mad Max (1979)
Another post-apocalyptic setting but more deserted and on the road. A gang dominance movie whether official or outlaws. Former policeman turned vigilante Max is out to get those who killed his family.

American Streetfighter (1992) (yes I saw that too, yeesh)
Also starring Gary Daniels – the plots are totally different – AS is about a guy from a bad crowd trying who later becomes a businessman in Hong Kong but has to go back home to the US to save his brother from another bad crowd and drug trafficking. His ex helps him and it pretty much all about the fighting but the bad: choreography, dialogue/dubbing, styling etc is all there.

Recommendation:

Mortal Kombat (1995)
It has all the cheese and hammy acting of martial arts movies of this type, it doesn’t follow the source material, Sonya is crap in it, the volume is too low when some of the characters speak although the quips are the best part of the dialogue anyway and the music is the best thing in the film but the locations are stunning and most of the fights are pretty darned watchable. It’s one of those films you shouldn’t really like, but I do 😉

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Fashion in Film Picture Review – The Women (1939)

1 - The Women 1939 Film

The Women (1939)

Yep this was the precursor for the more recent 2008 version but that was just was like a paddling pool with rubber duckies in comparison to the predator infested deep waters that is this film. Everything is enhanced in the original from the incredibly knife sharp dialogue to the overblown characters and of course, for the purposes of this post, the costumes.

The film takes a peek and a poke at, perhaps a whole pothole out of the private lives in high society. Scandals ablaze but it’s not any different to any other class really other than everything they do makes the papers and they can afford much higher standard pity parties. Being that the film is called ‘The Women’ there are no men in this film, yep that’s right, no men or boys – at least not visually though maybe some of the animals/pets were male, most probably. (EDIT – I stand corrected, it turns out the animals and most of the artwork/photos used in the film were female too.) That said the entire plot is about husbands and lovers – getting, keeping and losing them and then repeating the cycle.

Starring a long list of well known actresses:
Norma Shearer as Mary Haines
Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen
Rosalind Russell as Sylvia Fowler
Mary Boland as The Countess De Lave
Paulette Goddard as Miriam Aarons
Phyllis Povah as Edith Potter
Joan Fontaine as Peggy Day
Virginia Weidler as Mary
Lucile Watson as Mrs. Morehead
Marjorie Main as Lucy

The first half of the film is as aforementioned – sharp and poignant, almost every angle is covered in how relationships are seen and why they are the way they are. The second half however denigrates into mass hysteria and hypocrisy – if I had been watching it in a cinema or theatre I would have walked out (unfortunately I was prevented from doing so in the latest 2008 rendition due my ‘friends’ sitting each side of me and me not wanting to be awkward). In my opinion overall the film is about cruelty; dealt to people, carried out on others can caused purposely and complacently. Seriously not my style.

The relationships are fickle e.g. the main marriage the film revolves around is ideal yet there’s still discontent! The couple are apparently as much in love as they were when they first met, they share mutual hobbies that they relish, enjoy each other’s company, have open communication (until infidelity), laugh and share lot’s happy memories, seem to understand each other well (as far as is possible to tell with one partner shown in the film) and aren’t wanting for anything materially, physically or emotionally. Yet he still gets duped by a seemingly sweet and coy almost look-a-like of his wife though his wife is known as consistently nice and tolerant (until), keeps it up because he wants to until caught and then stays with the mistress because he can’t go back to his wife. Then like a lot of people who don’t stand on their own two feet, refusing to choose a path preferring to hedge their bets until they know they’ve got somebody waiting for them. In the film the wife is the last to know regardless of all her friends, well with friends like those… She goes on about pride, does take her time to think about the situation but not address all of her feelings then forcibly takes dignity and throws it out the window.

The end of this film is just chaos. The farce could have lent itself to comedy but it was just too annoying, the script was satirical but no saving grace – there were moments of slapstick but were drowned in masses of sarcasm. The all star cast couldn’t make it worthwhile when the direction went downhill, their characters just ended up looking hypocritical and interested in shallow point scoring.

I only vaguely remembered watching this years ago on late night TCM and thinking that the opening sequence was interesting so when I watched it again I was sorely disappointed (ah what I go through to make up for slacking on the blog!) I guess the only compensation is that class doesn’t stop the women in this film talking to each other on equal terms, for better or worse. They’re really candid :-S

On a sidenote – the opening titles state ‘As presented for 666 performances in its triumphant run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York.’ and the film length is 133.13 (minute and seconds). Curious.

The opening sequence is very politically incorrect but sometimes the footwear fits (no offence to the animals shown and the stereotypes ascribed to them):

Anyway on to the best (well, sometimes) part – the clothes! Ha! As with many, I’m a fan of many vintage pieces and styles but seriously the design and construction can be a sad joke regardless of the times. As with any time or place though the film has some gorgeous pieces, some awful pieces and some what the hell were they thinking pieces. Decide for yourself which you think is which. That said, as a big millinery fan I found the amazing array of headgear quite interesting.

Note – I’ve included the most notable outfits but there were a lot to choose from with many being lovely skirt suits with gorgeous, individual blazers and some outfits that would have been ok to lovely had it not been for dire detailing!

P.S – in keeping with the tone of the film I’m going to be a little harsh (but only in a way that criticises things that are not beneficial to the wearers and in support of making fashion less stressful).

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The film starts out with the usual well fitted/tailored suits and overkill of fur, do these people shed their skins like snakes and so take it upon themselves to wear other’s? It probably wasn’t faux at the time either. Ironically enough the spa these women are at has a crèche for their pooches to be pampered also, perhaps they’re just dressing like their furry friends. The ‘master’ matching the dog rather than the other way round as the expression is usually noted for. Perhaps I should go around in carnival plumage as a tribute to featheries everywhere reminding their collective memory of how their wings are cut and feathers ripped out.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Look at this gymwear, if everyone was comfortable like that who would be worried about their appearance? They’re all older women as well, good for them. As a person who has never worked out in a modern gym (I spent my club activity days in gymnasiums with the old fashioned giant apparatus that were attached to the walls, vaults, bars, beams, gym mats etc) I would not be comfortable in one unless I was feeling confident and ignoring the thoughts/gossip going on around me, plus I’d be wearing jogging bottoms/yoga pants and a long sleeved top, I exercise in layers baby :-p Ha I refused leotards without proper shorts for gymnastics, yeah I upset some judges – well two fingers to them and not the peace sign!

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Checkout the third eye action going on there, a unique embellishment on her top. In her case though it probably stands for intel gleaned from spying, snooping and gossiping rather than the other type of enlightenment.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Love hats worn slightly to one side.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

I couldn’t be dealing with all the stiff netting coming off the hat and wrapped like a noose.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

I’m a sucker for vintage nightgowns, peignoirs and housecoats; Olga bodysilk l’amour. I’m not sure if this is a housecoat or jumpsuit but it’s certainly unique. A tad harlequin but with the details it certainly works well.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

So many of Rosalind Russell’s (on the right) outfits were hit or miss but it’s a testament to her acting that she was able to look gawky and awkward/protruded in them, both the hits and misses, yet statuesque and elegant in other films.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The gorgeous dress on the right is jacquard but it wasn’t clear.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

If the proverbial dragon had already entered with Rosalind Russell then the viper’s nest is ruled by Joan Crawford. Both her and her ‘friend’ looking well turned out in well fitted Black highlighted with accessories.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Whilst the women indulge in grotesque private shopping sprees in establishments that have buffets, orchestra, theatrical staging and assistants to attend to your every whim the film does something amazing. It seems the fashion is too divine to be shown in Black and White so the picture does a Wizard of Oz (also released in 1939 literally days before this film) and transforms into colour. Divine darling? Well, the fayre is eye opening if not eyebrow raising and like a lot of individual fashion items, the colour is shortlived.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Yeah I hate tennis wear, then and now – seriously why do they design them to show everything whilst jumping around? And nowadays they’re just like spandex or lycra mini slips. No thanks. Might as well play in mini pj’s. The rackets can be honourary pillows, the heavy grunting when hitting the ball is equivalent to the racuous giggling/laughter that seems to turn some people on and anyone with binoculars oggling, I mean watching for more than just the game can be the peeping toms. Heck it’s a slumber party… On a tennis court.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

I have a repulsion for swimwear in general, swim’dresses’ and ‘shorts’ are a joke with the ‘dress’ being nothing more than a frill which covers nothing but causes some kind of mental reassurance/barrier somehow, and swimshorts are just hot pants if that. Seriously, I’d like swimwear that covers the top of the thighs, doesn’t ride up and shorts that maybe go somewhere near the knees – is that really so abnormal? Why is it normal to go out in supposedly waterproof negligee? I say supposedly because a ton of swimwear nowadays does not have the required lycra or lining and is just glorified rave wear. This suit is actually really nice (even the hat is cute with the ensemble) except it’s not long enough for me and looked too tight even on such a slender figure. I was under the impression that regular, even breathing was important when swimming, not gasping for air.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Then I saw the darker skinned mannequin hand (women are usually portrayed as lighter skinned than a male counterpart in films) with large ring and rose over her d’ecolletage – sleazy? Perhaps it’s ok for the catwalk but I’d hope that if anyone bought it the hand would be removed.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Everything’s cute except the maypole on her head.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The outfit on the left is like one big hug.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

And I thought she was wearing an abaya and hijab but that was before she revealed she was Bat Woman, minimal style.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Ah look it has a see-through visor, how practical that it won’t block out the glare but will prevent bird droppings or unfortunate falling excrement from planes from falling in your face.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Yes those are animals in that ‘cute’ zoo scene cage in mini versions of the clothes for all to stare and giggle at whilst the models throw something (presumably food) anywhere but near them and in such a way that if they did it might hit them. This film is earlier than The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956) in which a car runs over a duck’s/goose’s tail feathers without giving a crap but shows that things didn’t get any better for a long time.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

That said, it was in the time when sexualizing weapons was made popular (curse you fools) such as sitting provocatively atop torpedoes. It was also at the time where White women were trying to get ahead but their sisters were still lower class e.g. the way a Black woman working in the department store is treated by her colleague Crystal p*ssed me off.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

It seems as long women look pretty and smile it makes it ok… uh-huh, keep telling yourself that.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Little Bo Peep

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Sweet and adorable no doubt but practical for picnics? These ballgown beauties remind me of boating attire for Victorian women which consisted of shades of White delicate fabrics and trim, matching accessories and do their utmost not to move a muscle, avoid the wet parts of the boat nor get splashed, had to keep on the blankets and get upset if they had to go to the riverbank to rinse the dishes. These numbers are even more floaty than their predecessors – grass stains and the breeze blowing hems into the food and heaven forbid it be sticky jam much?

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Remember running in floor length gowns = tripping hazard.

Ok I can’t criticise and critique everything, I’ll have each of these dresses please! (Vegan versions.)

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

24 - The Women 1939 Film

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

This one actually had Gold sparkles underneath that cape but the underneath wasn’t shown.

29 - The Women 1939 Film

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Wow what a difference eh?

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Remember the date of this film, slips were still slips and not outerwear. In the back area the models regaled the clientèle with undergarments and sleepwear.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

It seems the models were allowed to barge into dressing rooms to show pieces the incumbents may not have seen/properly. This one just walked in to multiple rooms without knocking or saying anything and waiting to be invited.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

One of the most awful baths ever? I’ve seen quite a few statement baths in films from this time but this one is completely gauche.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Such a beautiful gown worn with no grace – she barely stood still for a split second, stooped and leaned all over, flung the fabric everywhere and in keeping with her character behaved appallingly.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The forefront of the older women in the film imparting an older, though not always wiser, but still astute view of things. Love the arms on that dressing gown, almost like armor.

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

The Women 1939 Film Vintage Fashion Clothing Norma Shearer Joan Crawford Rosalind Russell

Is this film worth watching other than for the fashion? Well it has some great lines and sometimes insight but on the whole showed the common grim sides of people, though shown through women.

That last pic says it all.