Chic-Flick Trailers

Sunday, April 5, 2009

THE DRAMEDY: A better alternative in contemporary trends

So, while the The Romantic Drama is seen as the best of the best it does have some some chic-flick related problems. So in response, I thought I would give you a taste of what I think is a perfect medium, a better alternative. Of course most of these fall under the comedy genre because, sadly, there are major underachievers in the writing, acting, directing, etc. when it comes to comedy. Strangely enough, when I was making a list of quirky, funny, heartfelt films I realized they all were pretty current in the box office scene and like The Contemporary Romance seem to be a new trend of something a little more substantial in the teen and romantic comedy genres. So for all of those who look back on the good ol' days with heavy hearts and nostalgia, take a look a the age of the aughties for undeniably great chic-flicks.

Also called the comedy-drama or serio-comedy, it comes from the tragicomedy genre in theatre originally created in Shakespeare's time. Maybe you just can't take all the dead lovers and cruel betrayals of The Romantic Dramas but you thrive for the same quality. And wha-la the dramedy appears. It's the perfect balance of depth, sorrow, hope, all wrapped up in a funny romantic package that usually has good writing.

Sub-genre mania: The Dramedy, like drama or comedy, has its own sub-genres that include The Contemporary Romance, The Teen Dramedy while also seemingly popular in independent film and with contemporary writers.

Must-sees: Amelie (2001), Oscar nominated French, independent film, Garden State (2004), directed and written by the multi-talented Zach Braff with an incredible performance by Natalie Portman, Stranger Than Fiction (2006) including the legendary Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) which features a dramedy favourite and new Oscar winner, Kate Winslet.

Comedians realm: One of the best features of this hybrid genre is the dramatic debut of some amazing comedians including Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Zach Braff and I might even include Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates who follow other great comedian turned actors like the great Robin Williams.

The Teen Dramedy
For a look back at all the problems read here. But people, I have fabulous news: there is hope and it just keeps on coming. Some of the best teen movies are the most recent including Juno (2007), Superbad (2007), Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (2008), and Adventureland (2009). Again, I'm all for this new hybrid of comedy and drama with a cast of great actors and writers with guts, honesty and a fresh look at the life of a teen. If you don't believe me, check out reliable Ebert for some great insight.

The best of the best: In other posts I have mentioned Ellen Page (Oscar nominated for Juno) and Michael Cera who I think are the most normal, quirky and interesting young actors out there who also have this amazing talent for comedy and drama. And Jonah Hill is so hysterically funny that I will now see anything with him in it. I think their performances along with the premises of these movies, are the most relatable of any teen films out there and that is why they are better than anything else.

I'm talking REAL teenagers: They actually look like teenagers and you rarely see the jock, cheerleader, science or math geek stereotypes. The girls aren't overly sexualized and the guys aren't always sex-crazed beasts (I mean, Superbad's Evan is the sweetest kid ever). They don't demean or degrade teenagers and thank god for it!

The Bro-mantic Comedy
I mean, in the sense that it is guy-friendly. These are for those of you who actually want to keep their boyfriends around on movie night I'm sure you've turned to some of these: The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Role Models (2008), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and I Love You, Man (2009). And just from talking to friends and family about these movies they are popular with many age groups including both genders. And yes, I classify them as chick flicks ( I even dub them, chic-flicks), because they stick to the romantic comedy form in some way, shape or form. I Love You, Man and Superbad literally trade the heterosexual romance plot for a bromance plot while Role Models take bits of both and even crosses generations of male bonding, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall tells a break-up story from the point-of-view of a guy, which I don't think has ever been done before in a romantic comedy.

The root of it all: Turns out the new generation of comedians, featured in April 2009 Vanity Fair, are not only funny performers but pretty substantial writers; Paul Rudd is the co-writer of Role Models, Seth Rogen co-wrote Superbad, and Jason Segel wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Is this whats turning comedy around? I say, keep the comedians doing it all, writing, directing and holding the boom if that's what keeps their creative juices flowing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

THE ROMANTIC DRAMA: We're talking some serious chic-flick action...

The American Film Institute has made many top 100 lists of movies in their series called AFI's 100 Years and even included a list for all of us chick-flickers; AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions that includes the top 100 love stories in American film. Now as I go through this list I recognize most of these films as Romantic Dramas. These are the chick flicks (most of the chic but not always) that get nominated for Oscars and are given the respect they so rightly deserve in the film industry. A lot of this has to do with the themes of historical events and the realism in style that this genre focuses on. It's true, usually these movies are better written, directed and acted by all parties, but I wonder if this is inherent in the genre or maybe something else? This even falls under The Academy Rules, a drama is respectable no matter what the content while a comedy is mindless fluff that is only made worse by a romantic storyline. But I digress; these movies are some of the top features of all time and I'm really excited that girly movies can fall into this category. So here's my breakdown:

The Epic
I, myself, didn't even think to include The Epic as a part of romantic drama until I came across Box Office Mojo which told me that the top box office romantic dramas include a lot of current romantic epics (Titanic, Cold Mountain, Out of Africa, Pearl Harbour, The English Patient, etc).
Now I have to say I am a little biased on this topic because these are some of my favourite movies of all time and I really think they have something in them for everyone. Out of all romantic dramas you are most likely to drag your friends, family and even your boyfriend to an epic.

The problem is: The men seem to die a lot. Count them out: Denys Finch Hatton (Out of Africa, 1985), Jack Dawson (Titanic 1997), Danny Walker (Pearl Harbour, 2001), Inman (Cold Mountain, 2003) and The Drover was originally supposed to be killed at the end of the most recent epic, Australia (2008). I have a bit of a feminist problem with this: do they kill the men off because to kill a woman off is less forgivable? This, of course, is different in The English Patient, based on Michael Ondaatje's 1992 novel. I'm finding disappointing trends in this genre that I would like to be stretched and interrogated a little because the last thing we need is for another chick flick sub-genre to be generic.

But keep 'em coming: No matter what I say, I still love these films. The exciting thing is that most of them are top notch; in fact the only epics I can think of that fell under par were Pearl Harbour and Troy (2004), probably because they are such a large undertaking and have such large budgets, but that's achievement for the genre itself.

The Tragedy of the Genre
Critics, reviewers and any old movie snob will tell you that
Dramas have more substance than the generic comedy or action film, which I mostly think is true but because of the content that is usually paired with this film genre (war, historical events or people, etc.) not because it necessarily has better people behind or in front of the camera. I'm sure many people don't even consider these movies chick flicks but Wikipedia says they are as well as an actor named Daniel Stern, in a video on AFI, even calls Titanic (the top grossing romantic drama of all time) an "epic chick flick". I felt so validated, I can't even tell you.

The problem is: I just can't handle all the sadness, depression and lack of hope. Now this is not in every film in this genre but if you make a list of all of these movies, I promise you it will be very difficult to make a substantial list of those with happy endings. And yes, to a chick-flicker, that is a problem, but as always, stay tuned for what I call "a better alternative".

The saddest of the sad: Just think about watching these movies one after another and you might see what I mean:
Legends of the Fall (1994), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Atonement (2007), Evening (2007) and then throw in some of the classic love stories and any epic that I listed and you might just have an emotional breakdown. The reason for this goes back to why Aristotle thought tragedy was better than comedy in Grecian times. Serious issues with serious consequences makes us think and feel about what is really important, which is actually pretty fantastic. Call it a reaffirmation of life, but look for my picks with a little more hope.

Let's call it bittersweet: Now, I have no problem with a little sadness, a little tragedy but sometimes you've had a bad day and the last thing you need is to emerge yourself in someone else's extreme problems. That is why women turn to the fluffier of chick flicks, because they need a little distraction and, most importantly, hope. So my picks for romantic drama might fall towards the ones with bittersweet endings and less tragic circumstances than one person can handle in a sitting.

The Classic Love Story
The romantic storylines in this genre usually stem from some of the most popular plays, novels and other written work of all time. The tragic circumstances of
star-crossed lovers and impossible circumstances has its roots in the classic stories of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the Arthurian legend of Guinevere and Lancelot, and the legend and popular opera by Richard Wagner, Tristan and Isolde. Writers, directors and producers are smart in the sense that they stick to what has worked for centuries by adapting these love stories or just making new versions of them in cases like Baz Lurhman's Romeo and Juliet, Kevin Reynold's Tristan and Isolde, the musical version of Camelot (1967) and Jerry Zucker's First Knight (1995).

The written word: I'm sure people have noticed that adaptation is popular, so much so that they give awards based on it that are separated from original work. Some of the best of the best in romantic drama comes from adaptation of the old stuff (like I mentioned) and even the new stuff that was mentioned in the saddest of the sad. But if you love adapted film like I do, you really can't ignore the Austen adaptations (Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Becoming Jane (2007), Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1992), Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1979), and the story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillpa Gregory (2008).

The best of the bunch: Well, in my opinion anyway. Almost all of these have bittersweet endings with lots of hope that do exactly what Aristotle wanted but don't emotionally damage you in the process: Shakespeare in Love (1998), Possession (2002), The Notebook (2004), Walk the Line (2005), and Jane Eyre (2006).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Many a TEEN FLICK: Teens just wanna have fuh-un...

It's true. Teen movies may not be known for their depth and intelligence but they do capture the wonders of our joyous youth...or, at least they try to show the rest of us what could or should have been. Like the chick flick genre, teen flicks are lacking in credibility because the majority falls under the comedy genre. Some of the most popular being teen flick phenomenons are: The American Pie Series (1999, 2001, 2003), The National Lampoon series (1978, 1994, 1995, 2002) and The Scary Movie Series (2000, 2001, 2003, 2006). There are tons of sub-genres in this category including The Teen Cult Favourite that is usually directed at teeny boppers, who are in a different subculture on their own now and could be the topic of another post in itself. The good thing about this genre is that you might just get your boyfriend to go with you to see some of these, even the chick flicks, because they are usually directed at the general teen age group and pay less attention to specific gender preferences.

What started it all...well, kinda
If you are from my generation (all you twenty-somethings), than your parents or older siblings have made you watch The Breakfast Club (1985) (named #1 in Entertainment Weekly's "The 50 Best High School Movies"), Pretty in Pink (1986), Sixteen Candles (1984) or Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Some of you may not have considered these teen flicks because...well they're old now, but you must face the truth and embrace the past. It was the era of Molly Ringwald and John Hughes, a man that got audience buzz and critical acclaim with these movies. Before him, teen films were classified as beach party films like Gidget (1959). He was the first director of teen film to explore real teen issues like sex, drugs, abuse, suicide, cliques, and alienation in high schools.

The problem is: I'm not sure if it's because it's set in the 80's, but everything is cheesier (of course, the hair and clothes don't exactly help). And if you don't like Molly Ringwald, I suggest you pick a different genre for this time period, because she was in everything. I love The Breakfast Club, but the teen angst and cross-clique bonding is a little much for my generation of teenage drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, teenage pregnancy, bullying and murder, though if you can come to the table with an open mind than there is a lot to gain.

Must-see: Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club because I am not alone in believing it is seriously a right of passage. And you might just want to skim through Pretty in Pink for James Spader alone.

Ah, the good o'l days: For all of their cheesiness, the acting is better, the writing is better and they strived for deeper storylines with more substance unlike a lot of what is put out currently.

Teen Comedy
This is the genre that can get away with almost anything and still remains the most popular of teen films. There are girl versions and guy versions though the main audience is the teenage consumer, and guess what, it works. Though, funnily enough, this may be the one genre where the romantic comedy holds a higher critical status and, in my opinion, makes more interesting films. Teen rom-coms are basically adult rom-coms featuring teenage stock characters (the popular crowd, the geeks, cheerleaders, jocks, the girl next door, the stoner kid, etc.) and at least one scene at the prom.

Watch out for: Many versions of the same movie over and over again, overage casting, under par acting, offensive stereotypes, hyper-sexualized teen girls, and disgusting bawdy humour.

Why you should still see them: They are the only films out there that directly relate (sometimes barely) to the teenage experience and don't we all want to see movies about ourselves? Plus, other will talk about them and you'll be out of the loop. That's no fun.

Bright spots in the darkness: Check out Drama Queen for a fairly good top 5 list. On top of that, my personal recommendations would be The Princess Diaries (2001, but stay away from the sequel) and Clueless (1995) though stay tuned for what I call, "a better alternative".

Teen Drama/Romance
The chickiest and possibly the chic-est in the teen film genre. Like the romantic drama (coming soon), there is usually an element of tragedy that has its roots in the classic structure of Romeo and Juliet, arguably, the archetypal teen romance.
Teen drama is the same only it is not restricted to a romantic storyline, or what would usually be classified as a chick flick, like Dead Poet's Society (1989), Almost Famous (2000) and The Virgin Suicides (1999). These movies are more likely to have critical acclaim but not necessarily box office hits which mirror the adult versions.

The problem is: The cheese factor, of course. It's also harder to believe a love story between teenagers than between adults so it falls back on tragedy to gain the emotional attachment of the audience (see Crazy/Beautiful [2001], How to Deal [2003]). The acting is usually better than in comedies but is still under par and while the storylines are deeper, the writing isn't always better.

I would still recommend: A Walk to Remember (2002) to any chick flick lover despite all the sappiness. And for a good twist on this sub-genre, check out films like Twilight (
2008) and then read my post on it.

Upcoming Teen Flicks: On April 17th, Zac Efron makes his post-High School Musical debut in 17 Again. I am extremely tempted to see this movie for the hilarious Matthew Perry and Leslie Mann (remember, her husband is Judd Apatow) but if Efron is actually funny than it could possibly be decent. Also on July 10th, I Love You, Beth Cooper (featuring Heroes star Hayden Panettiere) about the bonding between popular cheerleaders and nerds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

THE EMSEMBLE PIECE: Curtis' Love Actually! Love is everywhere I go...

This may me one of those times you just don't believe me and my crazy sub-genre inventions, but I beg of you, hear me out. The Ensemble Piece is not just a movie of a standard genre with an ensemble cast but a form all on it's own. I am sad to say that this is yet another film deemed a romantic comedy featuring an ensemble cast and while, yes, it does have romance and it does have comedy, it goes beyond what this limiting genre is capable of. This sub-genre is a more general Sisterhood flick, because it features the different kinds of relationships between women and men. The ensemble is also like the fantasy genre that can be integrated with wide span of different movies including films like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), CrashOcean's Eleven (2001) and it's sequels (2004, 2007). Other chick flicks or romantic-comedy-like films that fit into this sub-genre are A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Playing by Heart (1998) and the newest and sadly disappointing He's Just Not that Into You (2009).

A movie that
I think uses all it can from this sub-genre and does it well is Love Actually (2003), originally called Love Actually is All Around which pretty much gives you a general synopsis of the story. The most appealing thing about this movie and possibly what made it successful is it's star packed cast. Think of ten of the most interesting, talented and popular British actors. I'm sure at least five are in this movie. And while I know it is shallow to see movies because of the actors themselves, I am a firm believer in the quality of the actors in a film can tell you a lot about the quality of the film itself. True to ensemble style almost every character is connected through an "it's a small world" kind of theme; Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant) and Karen(Emma Thompson) are brother and sister, Harry (Alan Rickman, as in Snape, anyone?) is Sarah's (Laura Linney) boss, and Jamie (Colin Firth)and Sarah are friends with Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) and so on and so forth.

Sadly because there are so many performances in an ensemble film they are usually snubbed by the Oscars and other award-giving societies, especially in the acting category. I remember critics going on and on about Bill Nighy (Davy Jones anyone?) and Emma Thompson but they were snubbed in the more popular award categories. Something similar happened to nominee, Matt Dillon for Crash who was over-shadowed by George Clooney and the actors in The Lord of the Rings, specifically Andy Serkis and Sean Astin, who, The Academy revealed, who were number sixes on the nomination list and to . On a more positive note, it did receive Golden Globe nominations for Best Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay by writer and director, Richard Curtis. He is one of the prominent romantic-comedy writers who gave us Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), and the Bridget Jones Series (2001, 2004) and makes his directorial debut with this film.

This movie, once again, received a disappointing 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes fresh meter and not much better on the average use and critics ratings on Yahoo! Movies. Most of the negative comments from the critics argue that the movie is too long and drags just before the end which I didn't notice the first or last time I watched it. A few also complain about that the number of connected storylines are too ambitious and do not deliver. It's hard for me to appreciate these valid criticisms because most are written nonchalantly, as if they're expected, or give no evidence or insight into their claims. Thank the Lord for Ebert, who makes similar claims but writes them factually, without disdain and with evidence:

The movie's only flaw is also a virtue: It's jammed with characters, stories, warmth and laughs, until at times Curtis seems to be working from a checklist of obligatory movie love situations and doesn't want to leave anything out. At 129 minutes, it feels a little like a gourmet meal that turns into a hot-dog eating contest.

My thoughts are that I am a big fan of the ensemble. I lov
e seeing the dynamics of interconnected stories that are like short stories that give the good stuff and only the good stuff. I also like seeing the country of dry humour, wisdom and cynicism depicted as normal, fallible human beings who are on the same quest for happiness as the rest of us. Who knew the English were such big softies? And on top of that there is even a scene where a guy and his step-son indulge in a little chick-flick therapy. I like to think they're sending a subliminal message.

Favourite quotes: "When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love." -Hugh Grant voice over, "Christmas shopping, never an easy or a pleasant task" -Harry, "But you know, the thing about romance is... people only get together right at the very end." -Sam, "Hiya kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!" - Billy Mack, "Meatloaf definitely got laid at least once. For God's sake, Ringo Starr married a Bond girl!" -Daniel
Chemistry level: 5/5. Even the kiddies had good chemistry.
Best love story: A hard choice indeed. I'll break it down for you: sweetest was by far the movie stand-ins (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page),
saddest by far is Sarah's that is a conflict between her love for her brother and her co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro)and
Best performance
While it is really nice to see Liam Neeson as really light-hearted and funny, Emma Thompson really steals the show. She tries to stop herself from having a break down while listening to one of the greatest Joni Mitchell songs ever (and it's pretty incredible. But the most entertaining by far are also guest appearances by Billy Bob Thorton as the pompous American President and Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean, anyone?) as a sort of quirky Puck-like character who helps out little Sam(Thomas Sangster) and takes his sweet time with everything he does.
Interesting choices: The film begins and finishes with scenes involving real people experiencing different kinds of love in the Heathrow airport. Apparently the director filmed there for a few days and asked people's permission when he caught something he wanted to put in the film. Also, there are relationships that are interracial, have a large age difference, a language barrier and an obvious class difference between the Prime Minister and Natalie(Martine McCutcheon) from the "dodgy end" who everyone seems to think is chubby. By the way, she so is not.
Musical Atmosphere: The climactic theme music that gets the audience's heart racing happens at two significant moments in the film: when the Prime Minister stands up to the President after he hits on his girl and during the montage in the last moments of the film. I will admit whole-heartedly that this is a feel-good moment in a feel-good movie.
Best overall moment
: Hugh Grant's dance solo. Not only a white-boy dance but a pasty, British white-boy dance to a 1980's pop song. Classic.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

THE ROMANTIC FANTASY: Hallstrom's Chocolat! Indulge a little...

To keep with the magical theme of this week, I thought why not venture into another one of my favourite genres; fantasy. Now, don't worry I'm not getting carried away, I do know that the fantasy genre has nothing to do with chick flicks but it has influenced the romance genre and created a sort of hybrid I like to call The Romantic Fantasy. You might call this the fairytale for adults. This is basically, the ever-popular, romantic comedy or romantic drama (coming soon), with a fantastical storyline that critics and movie-goers recognize and connect to the fantasy genre. Movies you might rcognize that I would put into this sub-genre are ones you, yourself may have had trouble categorizing: romantic comedies like Kate and Leopold (2001), Penelope (2006), dramas like Big Fish (2003), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button(Academy Award nominee 2008) and even mystery or adventure films like The Illusionist (2006), The Fountain or Stardust

Following an Oscar season of seven nominations for The Cider House Rules (1999), director Lasse Hallstrom decided to embark on the adventure of a film adapted from Joanna Harris' novel; Chocolat (2000). The film is about a travelling medicine woman, Vianne Rocher played by the glorious Juliette Binoche(1997 Oscar winner), whose methods are a little different than you might think. Vianne and her daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), arrive in a small French town with large and rigid Catholic morals. The story follows Vianne as David and the Comte de Renaud (brilliantly played by Alfred Molina) as Goliath in a fight to the death over paganism and organized religion, discipline and indulgence or even control and freedom. Of course, like any good chic-flick, Goliath isn't really Goliath but more of a David with a superiority complex who you really feel bad for as the movie progresses.

Unfortunately Ebert and Yahoo! Movies have failed me with no record of reviews for this film but I can relay that Rotten Tomatoes gives it a slightly disappointing 62% on it's fresh meter. I can also say that the Academy thought highly of this film giving it five nominations including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (the incredible Dame Judi Dench), Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I also watched the making-of featurette on the DVD that told me the Los Angeles Times called it "a splendid work of artistry and craftsmanship". The heart, as producer Leslie Hollerman says it, of this movie is the three generations of "such strong and varied" women who come together to support each other in a movie about generation gaps. That is where the chic-flick lies. Hallstrom also adds that this film has "very vivid and textured portrayals of women that are wonderful role models for any contemporary woman".

Basically, this is up there with my favourite movies of all time. I love it's respect for younger generations; even Vianne, free spirit and all, relaizes that she is caught up in her own strict tradition created by her mother that severely affects Vianne, that she has forced her daughter into accepting. This movie is about the good things in life that you shouldn't deny yourself and as a chocolaholic I am very grateful for the message. And speaking of guilty pleasures, how appropriate for my blog, dontcha think?

Favourite quotes: "Who says I can't use a skillet?"- Josephine, "I hear she's an atheist."- Boy #1, "What's that?"- Boy #2"I don't know. "- Boy #1, "We can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we ought to measure goodness by what we embace, what we create and who we include." - Pere Henri
Best performance: Like another one of
my favourites, I say the ensemble. Well done, all.
Chemistry level
: 5/5. With this ensemble, how can you go wrong? Writer, Robert Nelson Jacobs calls this film "an ensemble movie" in which he actually added characters to make the story resonate in a more Global way. For more on the ensemble, stay tuned.
Best love story
: In a film with many love stories (requiremed in an ensemble film) there is one that is short, sweet and rarely seen. Not to mention it features
Leslie Caron, the most gorgeous 70 year-old alive, and who you might recognize from a little musical called Gigi (1958). It also features a charming dog and John Wood in a love story for an older audience.
Best revenge moment
: It's a tie between when Serge claims that they're "still married in the eyes of God" to which Josephine replies "Then He must be blind". Next is a very dramatic scene involving Josephine, Serge and a skillet. This moment definitely deserves an independent-woman booyah! Also, the Comte de Renaud, in a decreasing mental state, starts to cut up his wife's dresses. As annoying of a guy as he is, you can't help but be happy that he indulges in some form of pleasure by this point of the film.
History of chocolate: Originally a drink called
cacao by the Mayans and Aztecs, it was said to have magical properties that were mostly an aphrodisiac. Chocolate is also known to produce high amounts of serotonin and endorphins in the human brain. One of the best scenes in the movie is a table of people eating in slow motion; a great visual example of the magical feeling of eating chocolate.
A question of bad taste: This movie questions the basis for good and bad taste that is stereotyped by people like the ones in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Young Luc (Aurelien Parent Koenig) is ashamed for liking horror stories and grotesque images like his grandmere, Armande (Dench). But he is also a great artist. Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor) is looked down upon by the Comte de Renaud for singing and dancing to Elvis and even Guillaume Blerot (Wood) is chastised for thinking his dog, Charlie, has a soul.
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny: Half way through the movie we get this little surprise... Johnny Depp! He's definitely one of the best actors of his generation and I can't believe he hasn't won anything yet. This is also one of my favourite performances by him and an unlikely one at that. Mr. Depp has made it known that he doesn't like to be pretty or attractive onscreen and therefore does not usually take roles that look anything like a romantic lead; but look at him now in a verified chick flick and everything. He's a Gypsy with an Irish accent, a wavy ponytail and some serious guitar picking skills; there's nothing left to say.
Fun tidbit: Producer, David Brown
(you know, the guy who did Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, and The Verdict), says this is his favourite movie he has ever produced because it is so "beloved by all" which is rare and very different from a "hit" that he is used to.

Friday, March 13, 2009

THE FAIRYTALE: Disney's Enchanted! That's how you know...

And....I'm back! Everyone watches Disney. Even if you say you don't and that their portrayals of race and gender are skewed, you've still watched them and at least loved one. Even you boys. I remember my brother loved Peter Pan (1953) and Pinocchio (1940). But it's the Disney Princess movies that are the real chick flicks and possibly the first ones we ever see. You might even be able to blame the chick flick genre on classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).

The newest of the Disney Princess movies, Enchanted (2007) pays homage to Disney's classics while also making fun of themselves and the fairytale genre. Director, Kevin Lima, has a limited resume, but it includes some great kid's films like A Goofy Movie (1995) and Disney's Tarzan (1999). Enchanted is what the critics might call a modern fairytale; a genre which also includes Ever After (1998), Ella Enchanted (2004) and even The Princess Bride (1987). These movies are usually more feminist-friendly with complex characters and storylines that deconstruct the archetypal and overly simplistic fairytale story. I kind of like to think of it as Disney's apology for making so many movies that depict women as weak, desperate, stupid and useless. You may not believe me when you start this animated movie because Giselle, voiced by the charming Amy Adams, is your typical Disney princess who makes a creepy statue of her Prince Charming and sings to her forest friends about the importance of lips. She admits to the man she thinks is her Prince Charming, the multi-talented James Marsden, that she was made "to finish [his] duet". She is the girl who believes that someone will always catch her until she gets transported into modern New York City, a place her step-mother-to-be says "there are no happily ever afters".

The film goes on from there with larger doses of reality and live-action. Giselle is not delicate and optimistic in this world, but naive and perceived as insane. I'm sure all the hardcore feminists appreciated the depiction of a Disney Princess in the "real" world as a potential mental patient. She learns about real emotions like anger, lust and obligation while teaching the cynical real-world residents that a little fantasy in your life won't kill you. Poor, jaded Robert Philip(possibly named for Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty), played by McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, wants to pursue a sensible marriage with his girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel) and tries to discourage his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey) from her fairytale attachment. He's a man who was hurt by love and is shocked by the grandiose romantic gestures and ideals of someone like Giselle. He is portrayed as somewhat of a disappointing stereotype; a single father/workaholic who tries to force his daughter into adulthood, can't keep his apartment clean and pathetically sends his girlfriend emailed flowers instead of real ones.
It was received well by the critics getting a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes fresh meter. The worst reviews on Yahoo! Movies have the same complaints of a great idea with a lot of potential that didn't quite deliver. Disney has never been know for their high-end emotionally invigorating, intellectual scripts but for their innovation and spectacle, so I can't say I had the same expectations as these critics. Ebert gives the film a fairly high review that focuses on Amy Adams' performance which makes this film so lovable. I think it's smart and fun! It's told through a pop-up book, Julie Andrews narrates it and it has the prettiest credits I have ever seen. The best part of the story is the end where Narcissa (Susan Sarandon) narrates the changes in the fairytale story and Giselle finally becomes three-dimensional. Instead of the handsome prince "catching" her, which is consistent throughout the film, she must save poor Robert from the evil sorceress. Yes, everything ends happily and there are cheesy, unrealistic moments, but isn't that what Disney is about? Creating some interesting conflicts and challenges but then putting every perfect, cookie-cutter piece together at the end? Only these cookies have a little self-parody and feminism, so they're even better.

Favourite quotes: The best quotes are the contrasted moments of reality and fantasy that cause confusion in the characters. "Why do people keep giving you free stuff?" - Robert Philip, "No one's been very nice to me." -Giselle, "Yeah, well. Welcome to New York." -Robert Philip, "Oh, thank you." - Giselle, "I seek a beautiful girl." - Edward, "I'd like to find one of them too." construction worker, "You looking for a beautiful lady too?" - construction worker, "No, actually I'm looking for a prince." - Nathaniel, "Riiight." -construction worker
Best performance: Susan Sarandon as Narcissa(Narcissus anyone?) has the greatest evil sorceress voice ever and is a fun addition to the last part of the movie. She turns into a dragon and everything. But the definite best performance is by Amy Adams who even looks like an otherworldly Disney princess. She received a Golden Globe nomination for it and many other awards. I read an interview with her that described her technique for portraying an essentially animated character which basically drew on her dance experience as a child (watch her movements, especially her hands and arm gestures). I think this part is a difficult feat that she conquered brilliantly.

Chemistry level: 4/5. Not bad for Disney. I upped it a little for the juicy sexual tension scenes(Dempsey in a robe and Adams in a towel) that I don't think anyone saw coming and for the gay jokes(in scenes featuring Nathaniel and Edward's comic relief, see quotes) throughout that make this movie fun for adults too.
The Disney Musical: Most classic Disney films are considered musicals because the characters sing at least one song(see any of the films mentioned above). I wouldn't consider it a musical per se, but a movie with integral musical elements.
Stephen Swartz, writer of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, is the lyricist and possibly explains Idina Menzel's appearance. Check out the serious singing chops of James Marsden as Edward as well as singing the background song, "That's Amore", in the pizza parlour.
Romantic comedy?!?: Can you believe that, that is how this is classified? People have no imagination. Anything that takes a little effort is called a romantic comedy. Watch out for this overused term and be aware that it may just be a cop-out.

And the moral of the story is...: With it's self-critique as well as the critique of modern society I think this film has some great messages for young and older viewers. Love is a fantasy, Fight for love, Practicality, sensibility and excitement all have thier place in love, Optimism and pessimism are both extremes, It's all about balance, Save yourself, you're the only person who can, Stand up for yourself(Yay, Nathaniel played by Timothy Spall), The only way to be happy is to be honest.
FUN FIND: If you check out IMDB, there are photos of the moments that reflect all the different Disney movies moments in Enchanted. And a great photo galley commentary featured on MSN about the girl movies that guys secretly like. Check em' out!