Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The House of Mouse

Busy busy busy this week. Here's a review of the new Disney movie, which i think might be the best animated film they've done on their own since Pocahontas. It's more of a feature article than a review, but i hope you find it interesting anyway.


Disney lost its way for a while. After the glory days of our collective childhood, with their steady succession of classic musical adventures from Beauty and the Beast to The Lion King, the animation giant’s pool of ideas seemed to stagnate. The only stand-out classics for the past decade were the Toy Story movies, and one suspects that Pixar did the lion’s share of the creative work on that franchise. So why did Disney dry up? What happened in the intervening years, and how will they regain their crown as the animation studio to beat?

One idea, and one I hold close to my own sing-along heart, was Disney’s decision to stop making animated musicals. While the musical as a genre had been out of fashion in mainstream, grown-up cinema since the sixties, in animation and children’s film it was still going strong. Try and imagine The Lion King without Hakuna Matata, or Aladdin without A Whole New World. Imagine how different, how empty your childhood would have been without Be Our Guest or Under the Sea. Singing along to Disney was part of growing up; but in recent years, for some unknown reason, the music has died, dragging audience figures and critical acclaim down with it.

Perhaps it was a bid to compete with Pixar, who have never made a musical; perhaps some market researcher told them children these days want catchphrases and comedy penguins more than catchy tunes; perhaps they just couldn’t be bothered any more. Whatever the reason, the Disney musical died a death in the mid-nineties, and (not necessarily as a direct result, but certainly as an interesting parallel) the company as a whole has suffered.
Thankfully, at the start of this new decade, Disney seems to be going back to its more tuneful roots. With the release last year of The Princess and the Frog, and with their new movie Tangled released this week, we have two Disney musicals in the classic tradition, and the good news is that they’re both great.

Tangled is a new spin on the classic fairytale of Rapunzel, which takes its cues as much from Shrek as from The Little Mermaid. The characters are energetically voiced and playfully rebellious, the script is fun for adults as well as children, and there are two genuinely amusing animal sidekicks, neither of which, thank the lord, are voiced by Eddie Murphy. While the film is needlessly in three dimensions, because the studios haven’t yet realized that their audiences have brains enough to follow a film that isn’t literally jumping out of the screen, it does look beautiful. One particular scene at the film’s climax is visually spectacular enough to rival any magic in the Mouse House’s back catalogue. But the real reason this film stands apart from anything the studio has done for a long while is the music. When the characters sing, it feels like you’re watching a REAL Disney film. The characters break into song and the film comes to life.

There is an obvious reason for this. The songs and music are written by Alan Menken, whose name you might not know, but whose music you were raised on. He composed the score for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Aladdin, and just about any other Disney film you secretly sing along to. His songs shaped our childhood, and now he’s back at the studio what won him his eight academy awards, introducing a whole new generation to the wonders of the animated musical. Watching the musical sequences in Tangled reminds you how you felt when you first saw Aladdin and Jasmine take that magic carpet ride, or sat down to dinner with Belle and Lumière. Alan Menken’s music makes you a kid again, and really, isn’t that what watching a Disney film is all about?

Also this week I had my first read-through for Antigone, which went spectacularly well. My cast are all lovely and i honestly can't wait for our first proper rehearsal tomorrow. Working with a small cast is such a relief, you have no idea.
And finally, I'm running for election at my student union. I'm running for activities officer, and if i get elected it'll be a full time job for a year, paying £17,000, to do stuff I've been doing for the past 3 years for free because i enjoy doing it. More info on that as it progresses, but wish me luck.
That's all for now. Have a wonderful evening.

Monday, 24 January 2011

It was all yellow

Feeling very yellow today. Yellow is my favourite colour, it brightens my mood. I wish I weren't so pale so I could wear it every day.

Had a wonderful weekend with my friends Henrik and Mercy, drinking wine, eating far too much sugar and watching series 4 of Friends. It brought me out of the foul mood i was in last week, and hopefully my joy and energy will continue throughout this week as i start rehearsals for Antigone.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

weighted by thinking

Today I stage managed a show with over 100 performers in a professional venue. It was great, but now I'm so tired i want to die, and upon coming home i was put into an awful mood. Ups and downs, ups and downs.

The tiger dreams only of death

Oh Werner, you know how it goes.

So, uh, yeah...
There is a whole series of these and they crack me up.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Happy Music Tuesday

I thought I'd share some goodness with you.

It is impossible not to smile while listening to these. I command you to dance.

Hope that got you warmed up. Have a lovely day.

You always hurt the ones you love

"Shall I, after tea and cake and ices have the strength to force the situation to its crisis."

Blue Valentine was 12 years in the making. The script had 66 drafts. When the concept was first created, Ryan Gosling was in a Disney show called Young Hercules and Michelle Williams was auditioning for Dawson’s Creek. In the intervening years, the two actors grew to become two of the finest and bravest working in their medium, and the script developed into one of the most raw, painful, heartfelt pieces of screenwriting I’ve ever experienced. As a result, Blue Valentine became a piece of filmmaking born from love, dedication, hard work and time, a remarkable achievement for both actors and director, and one which deserves all the recognition it can get.

The film tells the story of Dean and Cindy, a young couple on the brink of destruction. Intercutting between the start and end of their relationship, the audience is allowed to understand how the couple fell in love while watching their relationship deteriorate. The scenes of their meeting and initial romance are touching, funny, charming and beautifully realized. They could quite easily come from an indie rom-com along the lines of Garden State or (500) Days of Summer; complete as they are with spontaneous dance routines, quirky humour and a leading man to make any and all female audiences dissatisfied with their current partners. Gosling particularly shines in these sequences; effortlessly charming and handsome, his performance had every girl in the audience (myself included) giggling as though he were flirting with them alone, rather than with the characters on screen. Although the film of their early romance would clearly do spectacularly well at the box office (almost undoubtedly better than the actual film will fare), it is in the scenes of destruction, of love lost, that the true genius of the film lies.

Opening on a shot of their daughter calling out for their lost dog, the film sets a tone of searching, of desperation, of an impossible desire to regain what is lost. This heightens as the film continues, until every moment of tenderness between the pair hurts just as much as every harsh word. Instead of focusing on moments of high drama, as is the way of so many other films dealing with the breakdown of a marriage, here the film confronts us with the day to day life of the couple. The tedium and routine of daily life, the little frustrations, the things which used to be cute or funny but suddenly aren’t. This is the way love dies in real life, played out in excruciating detail. Parallel sex scenes from the start and end of their relationship spell out most explicitly the change that has come upon them, and make for some of the most uncomfortable viewing you’re likely to get in the cinema for quite some time.

The reason that the audience cares about the characters, that the film remains watchable and compelling even when you’re confronted with images and situations you’d really rather not see, is entirely down to the two lead actors. Ryan Gosling continues on his quest to avoid the heart-throb image in which Hollywood is so desperate to cast him, and by so doing provides us with yet another tour de force performance. His character, Dean, is a wonderful father but a sub-standard husband, an insecure, bullying dreamer caught in a life he chose but never wanted. Michelle Williams is quickly proving to be one of the best actresses in her generation, instilling Cindy with the quiet determination and vulnerability of a woman whose life has turned out the opposite of what she had planned. Both performances are so perfectly nuanced, so delicately observed, so essentially human that it is impossible to look away.

Blue Valentine will not be to everyone’s tastes. It is slow, quiet, understated and sombre. Beautifully and unobtrusively shot, with a cold, washed out colour pallet which makes everything appear even bleaker than it already is. The soundtrack by Grizzly Bear is dreamy and melancholic, hinting at a happy ending that we know won’t come. While not for the faint of heart, or those hoping to do anything after the film apart from sit alone and have a little cry, it is a film worth watching. Beautiful, brutal and heartbreaking, it reminds us that the happy ending is only half the story, and that the point where most romance films end is where the real story begins.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Don't you forget about me

So Antigone has kicked into action. I'm wondering if i should blog the rehearsal process like i did last term. Did you guys enjoy reading about the horrors of my rehearsal process, or would you rather i kept it less personal?

Let me know and I'll write accordingly.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The outsiders are gathering, a new day is born

Band of Outsiders kind of rock. I've never bought or worn any of their clothes (although i think they're pretty cute), but i love them as a brand because they have the BEST look books every season. Always shot on Polaroid (they're a hipster label after all, and what hipster is complete without his dedication to the impossible project?) and starring some of the coolest and most beautiful actors in the world, they put together photo-series that are seemingly torn directly from my daydreams.

In this dream, Andrew Garfield and I go for a holiday at an out of season ski resort.

It was the best holiday ever.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Make 'em Laugh

I'm writing an essay about Gene Kelly, but i can't stop watching videos of Donald O'Connor. He's such a charmer. I also completely love Vera-Ellen's pretend European accent. I wonder if this was intentionally as full of innuendo then as it appears to be now. Vera-Ellen's eyes suggest it was.

Honestly, how am i supposed to write an essay when i can just sit and watch this all day?

He's like an adorable, tap-dancing Bernard Black

I imagine, when i fall in love, this will be EXACTLY what it'll be like. If it's not, then i'll just stay single i guess...

keep it wonky

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

— Jim Jarmusch

Monday, 3 January 2011

This will be our year

To celebrate the new year, I've tried to think of some resolutions that i might actually keep. Here's what I've come up with:

Be Braver: This is one that i seem to say alot, but not nearly so much as other people say it to me. It applies to nearly every aspect of my life, but is particularly applicable in this coming year. It means not being afraid to go for what i want, whether it be a job, and internship, or a boy i like but don't have the courage to talk to. It means believing in myself and grabbing life by the balls.

Go Out More: This is along the same lines. I'm a student, and love my student life, but i seem to be working so hard on plays and essays that i hardly ever go out any more. I come home from rehearsal completely exhausted and spend my evenings and weekends curled up in bed watching TV. I'm not saying I'm going to become a party girl, but i do think I'd have more fun if a kicked back and let my hair down more often.

Wear More High Shoes: Because really, why the hell not? By now you all know about my amazing boots and how i wear them every day, and the simple fact is that i feel happier when I'm in them. Screw the fact that they make me a giant (and that a random man came up to me in London yesterday to tell me that he loved my look but that i would scare all the men away), screw that it's not considered normal to wear 6 inch heels every day. If i say it's casual wear then it's casual. It's a quality of life issue, and my life is better when i wear big shoes.

I think they're pretty reasonable, as far as resolutions go. Hopefully they shouldn't be too hard to keep either. Anyway, I hope you have a very happy new year and that it brings you all kinds of joy.