Friday, December 10, 2010

Villains! or How Everything I know I Learnt From Animation

It's been a while since I've done one of these, and what better way to celebrate Donna Murphy's induction into the Disney Villains Hall of Fame (with her deliciously scene-stealing Mother Gothel in Tangled) than by telling you what I've learnt from Disney's villains?

And so I give you, with my tongue clearly planted in my cheek,

The Top 10 Things I've Learned from Disney Villains

1. Mother knows best (Tangled).
Sure, she's overprotective and only has selfish reasons as to why Rapunzel should stay in her tower, but this kernel of wisdom need not be underestimated.

2. Don't ever underestimate the power of body language! (The Little Mermaid).
Who knew that the film that taught me the word 'reprimand' would also be the one to give me guiding when hitting up the clubs? That said, this works as advice for us that aren't also gifted with beautifully alluring voices (or sumptuous red hair!)

3. Good looks and impressive pecs won't get you the girl (Beauty and the Beast).
Someone had to break it to me (I mean, Belle chose the bear/beast for god's sakes!)

4. Be prepared (Lion King).
Some would say that boy scouts taught us this, but... I was never one to seek out old men to get a new badge, so it took an effeminate lion to teach me the basic tenet of Life: be prepared!

5. With infinite power comes responsibility (Aladdin).
Yeah, I didn't need Tobey to lecture me on this because Jafar had already taught me that if you get unlimited cosmic powers, you also get unfashionable Wonder Woman-like bracelets that imprison you.

6. Fashion comes at a price (101 Dalmatians).
One which is much too adorable to pay.

7. You can be cool and be flaming (Hercules).
Another gay-themed lesson from the greatest Disney soul-trader around.

8. There's always some hot new white thing ready to take your 'fairest of them all' crown. Also: apples/fruits are deadly (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).
I've outgrown that last one, but that first lesson still sticks with me to this day.

9. Evening wear and swamps don't really mix (The Emperor's New Groove & The Rescuers).
Who knew Disney was so intent on teaching me what's appropriate to wear in swamps? [Oh Yzma, so full of wisdom (see more here)]

& of course, the takeaway:
10. Evil is sexy, alluring, seductive, stylish, witty, hip and hilarious, but sadly, it does not pay off and if you follow these villains' path you'll end up incarcerated, eaten alive by your cronies, dead or worse...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Swan, or How I'm obsessed, Nina Sayers-obsessed!

Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronosfky
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Wynona Ryder.

If you've been following me on Twitter (and let's face it, you probably have since I've mostly abandoned the blog... real life and school has beckoned - I'll try my best to keep it pseudo-active, I promise!) you know I was obsessed with Aronosfky's Black Swan even before it came out. This would usually have led me to overhype the film to an absurd degree and in the end found it wanting. But quel surprise! The film lived up to my crazy (mark my word!) expectations and I'm probably MORE obsessed now, not least because the film combines so many things I adore both personally and academically.

I could probably go on for hours about how Natalie's performance is as bit an achievement as everyone has been saying (compare the scene where she calls her mom from the bathroom to the fight scene in the dressing room and not only do you notice this is a thespian in full control of her body, her voice and her performance, but someone fully committed to the part, even though it takes her from one extreme to another - usually in less than it takes the camera to blink and catch her on the mirror!). The supporting cast isn't far behind, giving us a complex Mommie Dearest, a doppelganger worthy of Nabokov, a sexy/ual choreographer and a drunken, broken and past-her-prime Wynona (which, you gotta admit, is a great casting coup in it of itself).
I could also go on for hours on the beautiful cinematography and on Aronosky and Libatique's choice to film with hand-held cameras, usually keeping us behind Nina's head, as if we were at once stalking, preying and encouraging her. This is particularly effective in the ballet sequences which forgo the usual fourth wall/from the audience POV and instead place us alongside Nina/Natalie, giving us a real sense of the physicality and intensely emotional ride that is dancing in front of an audience.
But instead I'll simply ask you to go watch it and experience it for yourself, and find yourself being plunged into a frenzied film that can only be described as a 'balletic horror film' (or would a 'horrific ballet film' be more appropriate? Clearly, in the world of doppelgangers and mirrors that Aronofsky creates, the distinction becomes mere semantics). A