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Entries in Tangled (11)

Wednesday
Feb092011

Heroes & Villains: From Hiccup to Hailsham

More Film Bitch Awards coming at'cha. The Snow White casting news last week got me to thinking of heroics at the movies. Snow White isn't really an active heroine is she? She's more like a pretty pretty princess waiting to be rescued.

None of my choices for hero of the year waited for rescue -- not even Rapunzel in Tangled --  though a few of them did need to be cajoled into action.  I can relate. Hero, rescue thyself! But in the end, it doesn't matter how you get to your heroics, so long as you eventually get there. The top ten in no particular order. [Edited to add: TOP ELEVEN. I forgot to list one of my intended medalists. An excel error!]

  • Sally Hawkins as "Rita O' Grady" in Made in Dagenham
  • Dany Boon as "Bazil" in Mic-Macs
  • Colin Firth as "King George VI" in The King's Speech
  • Angelina Jolie as "Salt" in Salt
  • "Hiccup" in How To Train Your Dragon
  • Hilary Swank as "Betty Anne Waters" in Conviction
  • Jennifer Lawrence as "Ree Dolly" in Winter's Bone
  • "Rapunzel & Flynn" in Tangled
  • Mark Wahlberg as "Mickey Ward" in The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld as "Mattie Ross" in True Grit
  • Michael Cera as "Scott Pilgrim" in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

There was less to choose from as villains go even if you get creative. Do you cite the financial institutions in Inside Job. I mean, come on, they were SCARY... like scarier than Jason or Freddie.  But I decided that was too diffuse to be a single entity... Sometimes though, if you narrow the lens, system do work as symbolic primary villain:. Hailsham haunts in Never Let Me Go

Elsewhere in 2010 villains were just no match for the heroes. I normally love Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper but True Grit was totally unbalanced; the villains had no performative spark in comparison to the heroes. I didn't like Kick-Ass but even there the villains didn't measure up the heroes. It takes two to make beautiful battle. Is it too much to ask for great heroes and great villains simultaneously?  I think only Tangled managed that this year. Finally, I was about to cite Jacki Weaver's wicked "Smurf" in Animal Kingdom but in the end the villain of the piece is really the family. Smurf is but a henchwoman, to use superhero vernacular, who fills in when the bosses are on vacation (i.e. jail, six feet under, etcetera). The top ten:

  • "Gru" in Despicable Me
  • "The Cody Boys" in Animal Kingdom
  • "7 Evil Exes" in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Helena Bonham Carter as "The Red Queen" in Alice in Wonderland
  • "Mother Gothel" in Tangled 
  • Hailsham in Never Let Me Go
  • "Lotso Huggin' Bear" in Toy Story 3
  • Niels Arestrup as "César Luciani" in A Prophet
  • Mickey Rourke as "Whiplash" in Iron Man 2
  • Justin Timberlake as "Sean Parker" in The Social Network

 HERE ARE THE NOMINEES & WRITEUPS

Which heroics thrilled you and which evil deeds made you grip your armrests last year?

Friday
Jan212011

Ear Candy: Best Sound, Score, Songs of 2010

I really am trying to get a move on with my Film Bitch Awards. If you're new to The Film Experience that's this site's annual awards. We've been doing it for (gulp) 11 years... Each year I promise myself to spend more time listening to the movies since my eyes are so greedy and always want to watch watch watch. But movies are not only eye candy. They can also provide significant aural pleasure. 

Some films that sound gooooooooood

So I've now announced the nominees in all the sound categories. mixing, editing, original song, original score and my own special category "best adapted or song score" which is a highly necessary category given that  so many films now use a mix-tape approach rather than relying on one person to provide the music. This weekend we'll try to wrap all the other "standard" i.e. Oscar categories -- as well as do final Oscar predictions -- since that's all gotta be out of the way before Oscar nomination morning. (I don't expect my lineups to match Oscar's much in sound and score but they rarely do so I won't be hurt too much on Tuesday.)

Come back and let me know what you think of the soundscapes of movies like Black Swan, I Am Love, Salt, The Social Network, The Ghost Writer, Burlesque and many more in the comments. (My ears are not as well trained as my eyes but each year I think I listen a little better. Progress)

After the Oscar nomination brouhaha winds down late next week, we'll hit the "fun" categories like Diva, Villain, Best Action Sequence. You know how we do.

Monday
Jan102011

Best of 2010: Honorable Mentions

Before we begin, new readers take note: This is but the beginning of The Film Experience year-in-review kudos. It goes on for some time because we're giddy and OCD like that when it comes to recognizing great work. The "Film Bitch Awards" title is misleading and an old joke from college. We don't look down at the movies through our noses, but look up at the silver screen in reverie.

Here's a quick overview of well-loved films outside of the top ten (make that a top thirteen, coming tomorrow). Don't we all ♥ more than ten films a year?

Best Documentaries
I don't include documentaries in my top ten -- a personal quirk since they're a different artform with wildly different goals -- but if I did include them, please note that the Kimberly Reed's trans identity essay Prodigal Sons [Netflix Instant Watch] and the Chinese migration family drama Last Train Home, both released theatrically in 2010, would be in the mix. They might be the two best docs I've seen since Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man which you'll understand is the highest compliment I can pay them. I was also intrigued by Catfish, but then I saw it long before it was possible to have it "spoiled."  It's arguably exploitative take on online relationship and virtual identity works whether it's staged or real. And the scene that gives the film its name? Wow.

Exit Through Joan's Gift Shop

Quite by accident I saw more documentaries this year than I ever have. The two other true keepers among the batch were laugh-out-loud goodies: Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work which both stare straight at the lunacy of celebrity and artistic success, one with twinkling eyes and amused disbelief, the other with trembling lip and defiant survival.

Movie I Feel Bad About Missing
I shan't bore you with the details but please know that I did try to see Dogtooth -- most people I trust have urged me to see it -- but was thwarted in my attempts. One for the future. For what it's worth I also missed: For Colored Girls,  Robin Hood, and the French romantic comedy Heartbreaker which was an international hit, finishing in the top 100 globally. How did I miss that one? Grrrr.

The Movies I Can't Count
There is an argument out there that in this new millenium, theatrical release is more or less meaningless and shouldn't be a factor in year-end honors. But, without some sort of structure, how can there be community in movie discussions?

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan092011

Supporting Actress Blog-a-Thon: Donna Murphy in "Tangled"

Tangled begins as so many Disney fairy tales do, with literal storytelling. But rather than opening a book --are they too antiquated for the kiddies *sniffle* ? -- it's simple narration as Flynn Rider begins to tell us the tale of Rapunzel. The first character he introduces us to is Mother Gothel, obsessing over the healing power of a golden flower. 

Oh, you see that old woman over there? You might want to remember her. She's kind of important.

No joke. That's true of character and actress. Gothel's voice belongs to Donna Murphy, one of Broadway's most formidable stars. She seizes the richest opportunity of her sparse screen career as forcefully as Mother Gothel grabs at her chance at immortality.

"blah blah blah blah blah"

In the first seconds of this introduction when we see the hunched crone-like woman with darting eyes, the animators are doing the heavy lifting. But soon enough Donna Murphy's spectacular voice creeps into the picture and we have one of the all-time best villains in Disney's already estimable rogues gallery.

"Flower gleam and glow, let your power shine," she sings with ancient cracked weariness. As her magic flower does its healing work, Murphy's more familiar superstar pipes emerge, newly coated in honey "Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine, what once was mine." No wonder she can't let go of this power once it's in the human form or Rapunzel. Who'd want that voice to whither, never mind the beauty. 

Murphy's enormous gift for musical comedy is a huge assett in crafting Disney's most disturbing parent/child relationship without alienating its intended audience. Tangled isn't a horror film after all. We have to understand that Mother Gothel is dangerous for her adopted daughter, but we also have to enjoy the emotional games which are played at Rapunzel's expense. Little "Flower", as Gothel calls Rapunzel, doesn't even understand the rules.

Murphy's quickfire comic delivery is filled with florid theatricality (perfect for both the stage and the animated film) but the actress can ground it just as quickly with softer tones. So when she teases Rapunzel in the mirror. "I see a confident beautiful young woman. [beat] Oh look you're here too!" and then laughs at her own mean joke, you're both giggling and apalled. Then you want to forgive her when she hugs her daughter because she's funny and vibrant and she sounds like she means it whenever she drops the teasing. She cushions those blows with kisses and endearments "I love you most" and though not all of them sound 100% genuine, moments of emotional authenticity pop up to catch you unawares. What kind of woman is this? Murphy flips Gothel's switch constantly: loving mother, flamboyant diva, charming confidante, dangerous villain, exhausted single parent, selfish bitch; who can keep up? Certainly not Rapunzel!  

a dramatic pose in "Mother Knows Best"

Even better, whether she's working the book scenes or singing, you can hear in Murphy's delivery both the anticipatory manipulations (when she doesn't want to deal with her daughter's neediness) and the lags in response time (when Rapunzel surprises her). 

Though it's not the least bit surprising if you've ever seen her on stage, Murphy absolutely nails Mother Gothel's big number "Mother Knows Best" which is a character song, an illustration of emotional backstory (you know she's sung this song before and you can imagine how it's shaped her "daughter"), a comic interlude and dramatic showstopper. At least it is with Murphy playing it. The most hilariously self-aware moment is in the climax. She sings 

Skip the drama
Stay with Mama
Moooooooooother Knows Best. 

"Skip the drama," sings the drama queen with total flamboyance. That's rich. Mother Gothel is laughing at her own killing joke even while sliding into the next witty lyric.

Murphy records Gothel's voiceLater while bargaining with her daughter about a trip, she drops the comedy for more earthbound familiar parent/child friction but Murphy's still working it like it's her big showstopping song and the spotlight is on. "Enough with the lights," she yells with scary force at her persistent daughter (Dangerous Villain) having reached her breaking point.  "Great now I'm the bad guy" she sighs, collapsing with self-deluding comedy (Selfish Bitch). Rapunzel switches gears herself in response and wants a different gift. "And what is that?" Murphy says with genuine inquisitiveness peaking through her annoyance (Exhaustive Single Parent). Murphy doesn't oversell this last line at all, though she might have. The actress is softening with the character so your attention can flow back to Rapunzel, who is trying her hand at the manipulation game from her mother who knows it best.

Murphy's spoken dialogue is as musically fluid and emotionally incisive as her singing is dramatically and comedically assured.  This is why you cast already great musical stars in musicals, Hollywood! They sing beautifully even when they're just acting and they act dramatically even when their voices are carrying a melody.

Murphy Done Best.   

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For more supporting actress write-ups see StinkyLulu's 5th annual Supporting Actress blog-a-thon

 

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