sleeping beauty, 1959

film
film stills

Each time I watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I am obliged to find this draft and rewrite it.

The first time I rewatched it as an adult (or, a kind-of adult) (I use the term ‘adulting’ a lot) I realized that I must’ve been a pretty patient kid, as nothing happens for the first hour of the film.

The second rewatching, this past May, I was struck by the film’s dichotomous nature. The titular character, Aurora the sleeping beauty, is only on screen for about fifteen minutes of a total 78 minute running time, and she doesn’t do much while on screen. Nevertheless, the film passes the Bechdel test within the first quarter-hour, thanks to the back-and-forth bickering of the Good Fairies: Merryweather, Flora, Fauna.

Aurora is typically ranked as the least feminist of the Disney princesses (although she has stiff competition from Cinderella and Snow White) but, of the Disney princesses (up until Pocahontas), Aurora alone has female friends (the aforementioned Good Fairies). It’s not until the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999) that the  princesses became more than glorified dolls; yet 1959’s Sleeping Beauty far surpasses every Disney princess movie in regards to the ratio of female-to-male dialogue until 2012’s Brave.  But! the movie in no way breaks with the backwards gender ideals of mid-20th-century America. For all its visual beauty (courtesy the art direction of Eyvind Earle) the film is flawed, especially in regards to its lack of gender equality. The original fairy tales aren’t any better.

So. If you like to debate and critique gender roles in 20th century Disney films, I’d definitely recommend Sleeping Beauty; if you’d rather your heroines actually do something; you can never go wrong with Mulan (1998) or Pocahontas (1995)¹, or their 21st century counterparts, Tiana (Princess and the Frog, 2009) and Merida (Brave, 2012).

¹ Yes, I will defend Pocahontas, even if it is historically inaccurate. The movie depicts a strong female character, perhaps the first of Disney’s female leads. This is not to say I’m willing to disregard the apologist nature of the film’s creators towards the English colonists.

AT LEAST SHE HAS AGENCY

by the way, Maleficent is the best Disney villain hands down

 

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the snowman, 1982

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stills from The Snowman

Should you be the kind of person who likes sad Christmas movies, or classic movies, or short films with an introduction by David Bowie, The Snowman is a worthwhile watch. It’s virtually silent; only Bowie (in the UK version of the intro) and Raymond Briggs (the American version) speak. The London Sinfonia soundtracks the 26-minute feature, but the scrimshaw-esque sketchiness of the illustrations do a fine job of carrying the plot; no dialogue is really needed. Luckily, as most of us lack VCRs nowadays, The Snowman is available on YouTube and streaming services the world ’round.

Happy holidays, and all the best for a better 2017.

x. Carey

  snowman-iii

 

ginger & rosa, 2012

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GINGER AND ROSA by Sally Potter

Elle Fanning is Ginger / Alice Englert is Rosa

After a forever-long search, I finally found Ginger and Rosa on

Amazon Prime.

It premiered in 2013,

to independent movie theaters around the U.S.,

but debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012.

It’s a period drama about 1960’s London,

a cityscape in the forefront of

the two seventeen-year-old heroines multi-layered,

contradictory lives

of Ginger (Elle Fanning)

and Rosa (Alice Englert).

Ginger, a redhead born to teenage Nat in 1945, is a burgeoning existentialist and poet.

She is a peace activist with an interest in

(or obession with) nuclear disarmament.

Her friend, Rosa is a practicing Catholic,

but loosely moral in most other respects.

When Nat and Roland,

Ginger’s parents,

separate, this time

SSC Ginger and Rosa 3

Image Courtesy AceShowBiz

for good,

Roland takes up with Rosa,

whose own father

left

when she was little.

(This is particularly twisted,

and I, the reviewer,

did not like this plot device at all.)

Ginger and Rosa’s friendship founders quite dramatically

as the nuclear war and sexual revolution flourish,

but Ginger finds hope,

Image Courtesy Adam Gees

Image Courtesy Adam Gees

hope in her godfathers and their friend Bella,

hope in the peace activist she meets at a disarmament rally,

and hope in herself.

The movie ends with a final twist,

and Ginger,

writing in her diary in the hospital

(shh! not telling anymore…)

and is quoted as saying.,

“I forgive you, Rosa,”.

This is an excellent movie,

plotted like a

literary novel

its acting spectacular,

especially Elle Fanning as Ginger,

and Timothy Spall, and Oliver Platt as the

convincingly good-humored godfathers.

Image Courtesy Union Pictures

Image Courtesy Union Pictures

Annette Bening, who played Bella, was also superb.

Signing off,

-Carey