Everybody Listen! // La Liberte
“True Confession Tuesday”…how’s that for a catchy subheading? Anyway, that’s what you’re getting today, because I have a true confession to make. And, like a Peter Jackson movie, it comes in multiple parts.
Part 1: I am not cool. I regard Radiohead with caution. I tolerate the Album Leaf. I actively dislike Sigur Ros. If ever I arrive at the party, it’s long after the cool kids have moved on.
Part 2: Unless it’s classical or jazz, I’m generally suspicious of music without words. Mainly because I don’t know how to talk about it.
Part 3: I don’t know how to talk about music, in general, beyond the “it makes me feel this way” level that any sweaty preteen can achieve.
So it’s with some conflict of soul that I confess my weird affinity for the quirky ambient tunes of La Liberte.
If you like Sigur Ros, Album Leaf, or even Radiohead, you will undoubtedly like this music. If you don’t like those fellers, you will probably find yourself questioning everything you know about yourself as you make your way through track after track of “The Tide.”
Don’t be afraid.
Download “The Tide” on Noisetrade
If you visit his site, you’ll find his ear is all over the place. “Lessons in Italian Cherries” is all acoustic, and very traditional-sounding. His score for the short film promoting “Frankie” magazine is constructed on the spindly tones of a toy piano.
The tracks selected for “The Tide” are a lot more complex. The record is a weird, intriguing amalgam of acoustic and electronic music, texture-rich like a woven blanket, shimmery like theatrical silk, with gauzy vocals and rhythms that invite purposeful introspection.
Sorry–I know I’m being vague. Like I said, I don’t really know how to talk about this music. But I wanted to, because I want you to hear it.
I suspect that La Liberte likes Sigur Ros, but since I don’t, I’ll go ahead and say that what distinguishes these songs is that they don’t merely set a mood. They go somewhere. And they don’t make you feel like a self-conscious stargazer for following them in your imagination.
Perhaps what I like best of all about La Liberte’s take on this genre is that it’s not over-serious. He reminds me a little bit of an artist I do like–Yann Tiersen–whose wordless tunes also convey a richly unpredictable story. The sense of humor inherent in his unconventional instruments and sharp left turns in melody make this music sound like more than a synthesizer with a head cold.
And like Takenobu–another ambient artist I can get behind–there’s a sad knowingness underneath it all that makes it feel like more than just visions, that anchors it in reality. I think that’s what lifts it beyond evocative to being actually powerful.
Download “The Tide” by La Liberte.
Listen to more of his music.
Visit his website.
Got a hot tip on some free music? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Community’s Inspector Spacetime now real
In entertainment news..
Fans of Community can now share something the lovable comedic duo, Troy and Abed (cue Troy and Abed in the morning jingle), is completely obsessed over.
The two’s favourite British TV show, the one that’s supposedly been running since the 1960′s and is basically Doctor Who, has now moved on out of the fictional TV world into the real web world — Inspector Spacetime is now a webseries!
The fictional TV show was first referenced in season 3 of Community. Travis Richey, the actor playing the inspector, has then carried on to re-creating Troy and Abed’s favourite show into, so far, a 4-minute web-series we all can enjoy. However, if you’re going to look it up, you’ll have to search it under Untitled Web Series about a Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time due to a cease-and-desist order from NBC.
If you like Doctor Who, spin-offs and the laughs Community brings you, be sure to check it out. While only one episode is out for now, only spacetime can tell where it can take us!
The Dark Knight Rises Review
As the saying goes, all wonderful journeys must inevitably come to an end. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the rousing final chapter in his Batman trilogy, which began with 2005’s Batman Begins and spectacularly continued in 2008’s The Dark Knight, is a propulsive ten tonne juggernaut of a motion picture; slightly lumbering out of the gate but ultimately smashing across the finish line in unforgettably grand, applause-worthy style.
Those worried that Christian Bale’s last cinematic undertaking as the tormented caped crusader would underwhelm can rest easy. The always reliable Brit helmer, an undisputed master of slickly cerebral cinematic cool, boldly torpedoes the superhero threequel curse, delivering a dense, emotionally resonant comic book epic that captures the imagination like that page-turner graphic novel you just can’t for the life of you put down.
Returning to the streets of Gotham City eight years after the Joker’s mad rampage, The Dark Knight Rises sees Bruce Wayne (Bale) at an all-time low; unkempt, injured and isolated, he’s a purposeless shell of his former self, watching from the shadows as his proud metropolis celebrates another year of relative peace. The Dent Act, named after the tragically deceased Two-Face-d D.A., has provided authorities with a means of successfully thwarting internal corruption and organized crime, essentially putting the Bat out of business. However, while all seems well, a storm is brewing that threatens to expose the well-intentioned lie concocted by the haunted hero and long-suffering GPD Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, a dignified portrait of world-weariness).
Enter Bane. As inhabited by the brutishly imposing Tom Hardy, he’s a vicious, facial apparatus-sporting revolutionary who charges into Gotham with the supposed intention of taking down the wealthy elite in order to give the city back to “the people.” Of course, true to villainous form, there’s far more to Bane’s plan than just empowering the 99%. His feverish dream is to destroy Wayne body, mind and soul. As the billionaire playboy vigilante struggles to get back into fighting shape to tackle the maniacal mountain of a man, much to the consternation of loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine, dependably heartfelt), he draws the attention of John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt), a strong-willed beat cop with a similar history. He also finds himself caught between two wildly disparate romantic interests: environmentally conscious woman of means Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and periphery-dwelling jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). These distractions prove fleeting, though, once Bane slowly begins stripping away all that Wayne holds dear, forcing the erstwhile masked protector to look inwards and rediscover what it truly takes to become the Batman.
Embracing the Star Wars trilogy playbook, The Dark Knight Rises often echoes Return of the Jedi, re-visiting many of the same story elements from the series’s first entry, only across a bigger, more extravagant (IMAX-sized) canvas. This is a massive, plot-heavy film that, in its first hour, tends to operate under a “function over form” philosophy, employing heavy exposition and backstory material as a means of pushing all of the pieces into place for the dazzling two hours to come. Although these sections often feel a little bumpy and confusing – side characters, such as Ben Mendelsohn’s snivelling industrialist baddie, come across more as story connective tissue than flesh and blood individuals – the talented director does an effective job establishing the escalating sense of doom and gloom that hovers over the majority of the movie. This is not a light-hearted adventure, and Nolan trusts the audience to follow him into the darkest regions of Bane-occupied Gotham which, following a series of breathtaking attacks, becomes a terrorist state that reflects our most paranoid, horror-drenched post-9/11 fears.
Despite the grim atmosphere, Nolan can deliver high octane geeky thrills with the best of ‘em. An opening plane hijack sequence is deliriously analogue in its staging – eschewing heavy CG in favour of stuntmen and daredevil practical work akin to the best Bond installments – as are scenes involving the beloved Batpod (which pulls off some killer hair pin turns). And just wait until you see the Bat, our hero’s tank-sized flying battle station! The film’s climactic half hour is a veritable orchestra of seamless virtuoso action that puts most city-demolishing blockbuster finales to shame.
The script, by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, with story input from David S. Goyer (Blade, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), like its predecessors, does a fantastic job balancing the humanity, intentionally murky hot button political commentary (which will inspire no shortage of debate for years to come on Nolan’s social conscience and perspective on the Occupy movement and the U.S.’s war on terrorism) and go-for-broke action. The occasionally labyrinthine story, an oft-inspired amalgamation of vaunted comic-book tales “Knightfall,” “No Man’s Land” and Frank Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns,” is both intensely compelling and thematically intriguing, weaving in fascinating meditations on redemption, the motivational influence of hope amidst despair, the power of the individual, and the enduring legacy of symbols. It invests us so strongly in its immersive world, and in Wayne’s trials and tribulations, that its skillfully paced 3-hour run-time zips by at a bracing clip. This is very much a third act, making precious few concessions for newcomers – those who haven’t seen Batman Begins will likely be a bit lost – while simultaneously paying off fan expectations and boasting several unanticipated revelations. By the time the curtain triumphantly falls rises, there’s an unusual – given Hollywood’s franchise-milking mentality – sense of genuine completion.
This is arguably Bale’s best turn in the cape and cowl; the extra years and baggage suit him, and imbue the character with a junkie-like desperation. Wayne, in his current mental state, is nothing without the costume, and suiting up feeds his addiction. At least until his first encounter with Bane, which allows the actor to rebuild his entire Batman persona and close out his take on the crusader with a bang. Supporting him, Hathaway is as ideal an on-screen Catwoman as we’ve seen. Seductive, dynamic and dangerous, she’s a dead ringer for the comic book anti-heroine and nails Kyle’s ability to adapt on a dime, whether theatrically transforming into a hysterical victim or a Bambi-eyed innocent. Levitt excels in a tricky role, portraying an unpredictably complex character that, on the surface, seems like a throwaway.
Tom Hardy had his work set out for him. Tasked with following up Heath Ledger’s iconic, Oscar-winning Clown Prince of Crime, the actor was saddled with a bulky S&M mask that leaves only his eyes visible, and cast as a B-level antagonist who is, frankly, not one of the Dark Knight’s more multi-dimensional rogues. Nonetheless, against these burdensome restrictions, Hardy has a created a truly unique emodiment of evil. A rhetoric-spouting, military gear-clad battering ram – he’s more than a match for Batman in hand-to-hand combat – Bane just so happens to be an amusing study in contrasts as well. Thanks to his ever-present demonic headgear, he is, like the masses he aims to provoke, faceless, yet his creepy, mechanical cartoon walrus voice sounds too posh and polished to hail from lower-class origins. For all he may lack the Joker’s rock star charisma, he’s an undeniably hypnotic, unsettling and refreshingly unconventional presence.
It’s doubtful any sequel could have ever matched the hype and artistic alchemy of The Dark Knight, but where Nolan’s new film falters, it more than compensates with jaw-dropping sights, sounds (Hans Zimmer’s pounding, vital score is a crucial co-star) and crowd-pleasing showmanship. A dramatic close to the first great superhero trilogy, this is a tremendous achievement in big-screen myth-making that’s as poignant as it is utterly entrancing. If the Batman must soar into the ominous Gotham sunset, The Dark Knight Rises is a stunning and victorious exit.
4.5 out of 5
The American Bible Challenge game show
If you haven’t picked up your Bible in a while, here’s another reason why you should: The American Bible Challenge game show is coming to the Game Show Network. The new one-hour show debuting in August will challenge contestants’ knowledge of the Bible relevant to present-times pop culture. Michael Davies of Embassy Row created the show to see America’s passion of knowledge of the Bible portrayed on TV.
Though making the Bible into a game show could potentially spark controversy, senior vice president of programming and development David Schiff says,”the Bible is the most popular book of all time. Period, end of sentence. There’s no denying that it has an incredibly continuing relevance in hundreds of millions of lives. We believe it is perfectly acceptable for us to take that material and those facts and turn it into a game. We’re excited about this, and we have the ultimate confidence that this is going to be a really well-received series.”
Besides, what better way is there to show off your Bible knowledge while spending time with family and friends? If you remember the fun you’ve had guessing prices, buying vowels, and proving that you are smarter than a 5th grader (or that you’re not!), then this new game show could have potential to be a big hit.
The Amazing Spider-Man [Movie Review]
An understandable shockwave of geek-rage exploded in early 2010 when Sony Pictures, amidst rumours of cost-cutting and ongoing arguments over creative direction, scrapped series helmer Sam Raimi’s gestating Spider-Man 4 in favour of a full-on reboot. After all, while 2007’s Spider-Man 3 was a somewhat messy (studio-compromised) disappointment, the film still earned a robust $890 million dollars worldwide and ended on an emotional cliffhanger.
Starting over from scratch meant audiences would never witness the ultimate resolution to the rocky romance between Tobey Maguire’s web-slinging Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst’s fledgling actress Mary Jane Watson. Could any rejiggered origin story, no matter how good, justify such an extreme shake up?
Mixed bag superhero extravaganza
Unfortunately, the end result of this decision, director Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, is a pretty lackluster alternative to the heartfelt, bubble-gum-infused joys that Raimi so deliriously wrought. Dressed up in an ill-fitting costume of angsty quasi-realism, it’s a wonderfully cast, meandering and unconfident mixed bag of a superhero extravaganza that follows many of the same beats as its predecessor, with merely a fraction of its high-flying energy. Amazing? Hardly. Inoffensive? Sure. Underwhelming? No doubt about it.
Unlike Maguire’s lovably awkward, cheery-eyed nerd, this latest Peter Parker is a moody, gutsy teenage loner with a chip on his shoulder and a skateboard always in hand. Haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his parents (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz), and solitarily prowling the high school halls, he nonetheless yearns to someday catch the eye of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a brainy blonde beauty with serious skills in the science department. One evening, exploring the basement of the home he shares with his kindly Aunt May and Uncle Ben (Sally Field and Martin Sheen), he happens upon his scientist father’s briefcase, which contains valuable, and enigmatic, research. Following a string of clues to OsCorp Industries – which, like most high profile biotech firms, hires high school interns – he encounters his dad’s former partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a one-armed biologist researching reptilian regeneration, and has a life-changing date with spider-bitten destiny.
Of course, as the Spider-Man mythos demands, just as Parker is getting used to his newfound abilities, and building some snazzy mechanical web-shooters, one selfish decision leads to Uncle Ben meeting a classic Uncle Ben-ian fate. Driven by grief and rage, the unrefined crusader begins a single-minded vigilante quest to catch the crook responsible for his loss, much to the annoyance of Gwen’s NYPD captain pop George Stacy (Denis Leary). However, just as his crime-fighting career is starting to warm up, Dr. Connors, suffering immense inter-office pressure, tests his experimental serum on himself, with disastrously scaly consequences.
Hopelessly confused narrative
The filmmakers have purposefully named their movie after ‘ol Webhead’s flagship Marvel Comics series, yet the more appropriate choice would have been “Spider-Man’s Tangled Web,” as this movie boasts one hopelessly confused narrative. The picture, credited to three writers – James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Spider-Man 2 & 3) and Steve Kloves (the Harry Potter franchise) – gracelessly unfolds like it was cobbled together in the editing room from mismatching parts. The Amazing Spider-Man has an uncanny aptitude for leapfrogging from plotline to plotline, rarely paying off any. Peter’s investigation into his father’s past? Forgotten. The same goes for his hunt for his uncle’s killer, ongoing conflict with grieving Aunt May (Field is wasted in a nonentity role) and apprenticeship under Dr. Connors. And the shady dealings of OsCorp president Norman Osborn’s lackey (Irrfan Khan)? Wait for the already announced sequel in 2014, I guess.
Whereas the 2002 film picked which points to hit and boldly carried them to their logical conclusion, Webb and his team try to cram in every possible idea, simultaneously making their bumpily paced 136 minute movie feel both bloated and too short. There’s no flow to it’s hero’s journey, only scattered checklist moments and prologue material for future entries. Even the effective and engaging elements, such as the central courtship and the rivalry between Peter and Captain Stacy, are dilluted by all the surrounding filler.
That said, these nagging story problems become infinitely less egregious once the villainous Lizard rears his ugly head. Aggressively contradicting the realistic world the picture has established (imagine Batman Begins with The Incredible Hulk’s Abomination as the central baddie), he’s a tonally jarring all-CG creature with a sinister scheme straight out of the first X-Men movie. Never mind that he’s basically just a one-dimensional, toothier clone of Green Goblin – a tragic father figure scientist who falls victim to his own experimental injection and becomes a split-personality green menace – stripped of his touchingly tragic comic-book backstory. No, Lizard’s greatest sin is that his appearance sends The Amazing Spider-Man careening off the rails into cornball C-grade horror movie land. In a project fraught with issues, his clunky, tail-whipping presence is irredeemably disruptive.
Enough charm to pull it from disaster
Although he’s at a loss when it comes to wrangling his film’s cartoonish antagonist, director Marc Webb still manages to inject enough charm, if not personality, into the proceedings to pull it back from disaster-land. As evidenced by his debut (500) Days of Summer, he has a clear understanding of how to stage an honest youthful love tale, and, in the relationship between Peter and Gwen, he strikes a pleasantly authentic, sweet vibe. Webb doesn’t aim for big iconic moments – no upside down kisses or, despite a nice set-up, late night swings through the city – choosing instead to capture the witty, earnest intimacy of the union. It works. He also scores on a number of comedic sequences showcasing Spidey’s developing powers, and finds interesting ways to present the character’s unusual poses and approaches to battle. Even if the downbeat tone of the film prevents the action setpieces from being particularly exhilirating or awe-inspiring, the helmer understands effects and knows how to stage a cool moment, such as when our hero tracks Lizard in the sewer by creating a large vibration-sensitive web network. A schmaltzy climactic post-9/11 “New Yorkers united!” scene involving helpful cranes is a bit much, however.
Amazing Spiderman has amazing casting
Of course, where The Amazing Spider-Man truly excells is in its casting. Garfield isn’t inhabiting a Peter Parker that I’m personally familiar with, but he’s an appealing, physically spot-on presence, easily carrying the unwieldy film on his wiry shoulders. He makes you long to see what he could do with better material. Likewise, Stone – who can do no wrong these days, it seems – vibrantly humanizes Gwen and gives her a spunky can-do spirit. Capable and smart, she’s a heroine who doesn’t fall victim to the usual weary cardboard conventions reserved for superhero love interests. Of the supporting players, on-screen patriarchs Leary and Sheen are the stand-outs. The former, more vinegary than the Captain Stacy of the comic books, is a very fun, imposingly snarky sparring partner for Parker (J. Jonah Jamieson is MIA here), while Sheen, like Cliff Robertson before him, makes Uncle Ben impossibly dignified, warm and sadly unforgettable. As the cursed Dr. Connors, Ifans has a nice academic dryness. It’s too bad he really just gets to give a half performance before the soulless 1s and 0s take over.
If only this well-acted, technically competent endeavour didn’t feel so unnecessary and fundamentally empty at its core. Compared to the first two Raimi films, which were perceptibly fuelled by delighted adoration for our Friendly Neighbourhood Webslinger, this picture feels like a calculated, dutiful business move with only slightly diverting diminished returns. The Amazing Spider-Manmore or less gets to where it wants to go, but its too reigned in and rickety to cut loose and soar to perilous new unseen heights.
2.5 out of 5
Rock of Ages is shamelessly entertaining
Here we have a prime example of a movie that’s shamelessly entertaining in spite of the fact it’s not very good.
Adam Shankman’s off-Broadway play adaptation Rock of Ages is cheesier than a Wisconsin fondue party, and sloppier than Motley Crue’s dressing room, but I’ll be darned if it didn’t win me over with its infectious combination of high energy, go-for-the-gusto performances and straight-faced gee-whiz clichés.
Be prepared for some serious camp
This wholly synthetic ode to the (embarrassing) 80s hair metal movement is deliciously ridiculous, boasting a lengthy series of amusingly bombastic movie star karaoke sessions turned up to 11, with dignity and subtlety gleefully drowned out by the power chord nirvana. If you’ve ever wanted to see a tattooed, leather chaps-sporting Tom Cruise drunkenly carouse with lusty groupies while crooning Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” this is the movie for you. All others should consider themselves forewarned.
Set in a Disneyland version of 1987 L.A. – where sex and drugs occur discreetly off-screen and everyone rocks out responsibly with no ill consequences – Rock of Ages stars drop dead gorgeous former Dancing with the Stars champion Julianne Hough as Sherrie Christian, a not-so-bright Midwestern farm girl who travels to the City of Angels to sing and dance. Or something.
After having her luggage, which consists solely (!) of treasured LPs, jacked, the pixie-ish blonde princess fortuitously befriends hunky bartender/aspiring frontman Drew Boley (Diego Boneta), and is offered a job at hot downtown nightclub The Bourbon Room. Overseen by burned out owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his sassy right hand man Lonny (Russell Brand), the financially struggling establishment is mere days away from hosting a register-busting hometown performance by spaced out glam metal legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) and his soon to be dissolved band Arsenal.
However, even as excitement for the impending performance reaches fever pitch, complications begin to arise. The mayor (Bryan Cranston) is pushing to clean up the Sunset Strip, and has unleashed his conservative pitbull wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) on the hard partying problem.
Backstage, matters are no better. Jaxx, lost in druggy oblivion and manipulated by his skeezy manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), begins to question his place in the arena of existence just as intrepid Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) arrives to probe him for hard truths about his current career trajectory. And, of course, new lovebirds Sherrie and Drew quickly discover that love in the rock ‘n’ roll fastlane is not without its considerable speed-bumps. Can the show still go on?! (No points for correct guesses.)
Are catchy anthems enough to save this musical?
The plot is, to be honest, little more than a crudely strung up clothesline for songs – and only slightly edgier than, say, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s cornball “classic” State Fair – so fortunately former Hairspray helmer Shankman instead focuses on delivering enough flamboyant, head-banging numbers (roughly 20) to satiate those with a taste for gloriously catchy/dopey anthems. Unlike Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), the director doesn’t dice his set-pieces into MTV-edited spasms of chaotic activity. He isn’t afraid to simply pull back and allow us to watch the performance unfold in basic, unflashy shots.
Shankman also knows how to play to his all-star casts’ strengths. Film leads Hough and Boneta aren’t exactly dramatic powerhouses – their romance consists of off-the-shelf parts that were outdated by the close of the 1950s – but they look fantastic on camera and the director wisely emphasizes their singing and dancing skills over their questionable thespian abilities.
Zeta-Jones, in full haughty outrage, summons up some of her fiery Chicago spirit, especially in a church-set rendition of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” Giamatti milks his trademark Garfield-voiced opportunistic creep and Baldwin and Brand draw huge laughs with an unexpected song collaboration.
Bryan Cranston is a hoot as a hedonistic hypocrite, though it’s to Rock of Ages detriment he’s never given a golden chance to belt out a ballad of his own.
All that said, it’s Cruise who’s having the biggest ball here as an Axl Rose-esque decadent nutbar. Flanked by a sassy baboon named Hey Man, and rambling on in nonsensical pseudo-intellectual blitherings, the actor both kids his bizarre real world public persona and creates a magnetically compelling comic creation. And who knew he could sing?! He brings prowling panther attitude to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and, alongside hot librarian-styled Akerman, reaches a deliriously funny zenith with a raunchy seductive duet of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
Giddy 80s nostalgia
Alas, the script by Justin Theroux (Iron Man 2), Allan Loeb (Just Go with It, 21) and play creator Chris D’Arienzo — which apparently only loosely follows the theatrical source material — is kind of a mess, both tonally and structurally. The film often switches gears between spoof and starry-eyed sincerity without ever finding a comfortable balance. Instead, it’s a slightly too-longish rough assembly of moments that hit the right notes enough times to please, yet could have been greatly improved with some tightening and trimming.
Perhaps a little less Baldwin and Brand hijinx (their brief early performance of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” feels like it was shot on a lunch break), or scenes set inside a never-nude strip club run by tough-edged madam Mary J. Blige. And that bad laugh-inducing “Sister Christian” opening number never should have left the editing room.
At the end of the day, the likelihood of you deriving enjoyment from Shankman’s silly opus will depend on how receptive you are to the picture’s giddy, winking 80s nostalgia campiness and whether you can semi-swallow its assertion that hair metal was rock’s last great artistic movement (never mind that the trash and grunge revolutions that soon followed were a direct response to the superficiality of glam).
Rock of Ages is a purely unapologetic guilty pleasure, sailing by on the enduring fist-pumping magnificence of its huge sing-a-long choruses. If you can march along to its outlandish beat it’s a goofy, exuberant fun time at the movies.
3 out of 5
The case for faery tales [Snow White and the Huntsman]
Snow White and the Huntsman is a film peopled by actors not quite known for their portrayal of strong characters — swoony vampire crushes, roaring Norse gods, and alien monsters all come to mind. As one might expect, the acting in this film is not memorable — or so I am told — I myself am not a good judge of these things. Nonetheless, or maybe even for these very reasons, this is a film you should see.
It is a film you should see because these aspects and others enable it to “get” the world of faery that it is trying to represent. If you think of the faery tales you know, you will find that not many of the characters from them are remarkable; Prince Charming is generally fairly charming, and not much different from the other Prince Charmings in other stories. Likewise, we can call her what we like — Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or even Princess Peach for those of us so inclined — but these characters all point to a type rather than distinct characters. The art of the faery tale, like the art of iconography, is not designed to bear the burden of modern realism — it consists in types and gestures alluding to something else. In fact, probably the primary reason many of us (post)moderns don’t care for original faery tales (and represent them poorly on film) is because of a genre mistake — we look for realism and find that the letter kills — and then wonder what to do with the corpses of stories we have killed.
In any case, the great moments and themes in this film are the ones that refuse to explain themselves in (post)modern terms. We are not given a complex psychological reason for, or even a strong dramatic performance of, the uniqueness of Snow White that gives her potential to overthrow the dark queen; she is special because she is the king’s daughter and has (we are told) beauty in her heart, but we are meant for the most part to simply believe this rather than see it. Various miraculous and magical events occur throughout the film without explanation; we are reminded of that wonderful Biblical moment in which Jesus writes in the sand and we are never told what exactly he wrote — real truth and beauty tease us with mystery. We do not ask ourselves how it is that Snow White, who has apparently lived in the tower since childhood, wears a relatively pristine dress modeled after Walt Disney’s original conception, nor do we ask how after all those years in a tower she has the remarkable physical strength to escape and become a sexy warrior queen (though we suspect it is because she has just come off the set of Twilight). Neither we nor the film ask these questions because they are too leaden for the lightness of faeryland.
To be sure, this film does suffer from some of the problems we might expect. Given the film’s general maintenance of the spirit of faery, I do not consider the changes to the story particularly damaging, and the genre in any case allows for a certain degree of narrative plasticity. However, the filmmakers would have done better to revel in the great beauty and artistry of the film and omit much of the fighting, clearly thrown in to please a certain demographic of viewers expecting a re-enactment of Peter Jackson’s battle of Helm’s Deep. Also, in spite of the film’s general avoidance of explanatory back-stories, it falters when it comes to Ravenna (the dark queen), who is explained (albeit very briefly) in terms of a traumatic childhood event. The huntsman too has a back-story, but that is because he is an intentional anomaly.
He is an intentional anomaly in that he is in fact dramatized in a way that the other type-bound characters aren’t; this is because he is the stand-in for the average (post)modern viewer. He would rather sneak off into the woods than get involved with overarching power clashes. He is the sort of person who refrains from speaking truth to power largely because he would prefer not to speak with power at all. But there are loyalties that lie deeper than his surface cynicism, and these loyalties are eventually and somewhat inexplicably awakened by Snow White. Through his perspective, we are confronted with the image of our own (post)modern selves as they try to make sense of the faery tale they encounter – do we give in to beauty and wonder, or is it all a cruel lie?
Since you already know the plot, I do not think I will be giving much away in describing the final scene in the film, which crystalizes this symbolism. In a scene of the utmost regal seriousness – we might here think of the set though not the dialogue of Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail – Snow White is crowned in the name of “all that is just and right,” or something to that effect. With the huntsman, we gaze upon the scene and walk out of the hall. Justice? Righteousness? Who believes in those abstractions anymore? But if the faery tale has done its work, something inexplicable may have been awakened in us, and we just might return later to hear further on this matter.
Check out college student Raychel Manko’s version of the popular Nicki Minaj song ‘Super Bass’. Pretty hilarious and complete opposite message from the original. Would love to hear what you think! Video is in the jump. Read More
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Wednesday Morning Music Pick
Brandon Flowers: Only the Young (live)