2014 BAM Award Considerations – March

I decided that with the plethora of BAM Awards-related post towards the end of 2013 and the start of this year it was best to wait to the end of this month before officially recommencing the process.

I will post these lists towards the end of the month to allow for minimal updates. By creating a new post monthly, and creating massive combo files offline, it should make the process easier for me and more user-friendly for you, the esteemed reader. Enjoy.

Eligible Titles

Non-Stop
Muppets: Most Wanted
Noah
300: Rise of an Empire
Mission: Sputnik
Interior. Leather Bar.
To Dance Like a Man
Son of God

Best Picture

Mission: Sputnik

Best Foreign Film

Best Documentary

To Dance Like a Man

Most Overlooked Film

As intimated in my Most Underrated announcement this year, I’ve decided to make a change here. Rather than get caught up in me vs. the world nonsense and what a film’s rating is on an aggregate site, the IMDb or anywhere else, I want to champion smaller, lesser-known films. In 2011 with the selection of Toast this move was really in the offing. The nominees from this past year echo that fact. So here, regardless of how well-received something is by those who’ve seen it, I’ll be championing indies and foreign films, and the occasional financial flop from a bigger entity.

To Dance Like a Man
Mission: Sputnik

Best Director

Mission: Sputnik

Best Actress

Jennifer Connolly Noah

Best Actor

Liam Neeson Non-Stop
Russell Crowe Noah
Diogo Morgado Son of God

Best Supporting Actress

Emma Watson Noah
Lena Headey 300: Rise of an Empire
Yvonne Catterfeld Mission: Sputnik

Best Supporting Actor

Ray Winstone Noah
Max Mehmet Mission: Sputnik
Greg Hicks Son of God
Adrian Schiller Son of God

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Flora Thiemann Mission: Sputnik

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Finn Fiebig Mission Sputnik

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Skylar Burke Noah

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Emil von Schönfels Mission: Sputnik
Gavin Casalegno Noah
Nolan Gross Noah
Leo McHugh Carroll Noah

Best Cast

Noah

Best Youth Ensemble

Mission: Sputnik
Noah

Best Original Screenplay

Mission: Sputnik

Best Adapted Screenplay

Noah

Best Score

Mission: Sputnik

Best Editing

Non-Stop

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

300: Rise of an Empire

Best Cinematography

Noah
Mission: Sputnik
Son of God

Best Art Direction

Noah
Son of God

Best Costume Design

Mission: Sputnik
300: Rise of an Empire
Noah
Son of God

Best Makeup

Noah

Best Visual Effects

Non-Stop

Best (Original) Song

Mission: Sputnik
Muppets Most Wanted

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Short Film Saturday – Checkin’ in with Goofy

Yes, this is an advertisement, and a webtoon at that, however, even in advertising there is room for creativity. Also, as I have discussed before with Disney animated shorts there is room for advancement without neglecting the past. Here to introduce Disney’s then-new online check-in for their cruise lines the animators/storytellers use a 1940s approach from Goofy’s string of how-to videos to introduce the new system humorosly. Enjoy!

Disney and Phase 4 Settled Frozen Lawsuit

You may or may not have heard that Disney had filed suit against Phase 4 for trademark infringement. Basically, the claim Disney was making was a rather obvious one: owing to the success of Frozen Phase 4 decided to try to bamboozle more unwitting consumers in the market place by creating confusion between their animated film and Disney’s.

They changed the title from The Legend of Sarila to Frozen Land. While by itself that may not have been enough the brazen actions of Phase 4 went further remaking their poster and logo to look like this:

frozenland

I have greatly enjoyed some Phase 4 titles and this move seemed like one far beneath them just to catch a few Redbox users off-guard. This is not over-zealous brand management. Disney, it was said, could really do nothing about Escape from Tomorrow (A guerrilla-shot horror film shot entirely at Disney World) legally and it was inadvisable to try, so they didn’t.

The argument being Disney cannot and should not control every single image and portrayal of their park. However, the Phase 4 issue is a bit more obvious, could hurt both Disney and anger consumers, furthermore its laziness is beneath even Asylum who while knocking things off intend to do so from the start and don’t make a last-second commitment. It’s even sillier considering how frequently Disney is at the forefront of lobbying for more copyright and trademark protections.

Frozen (2013, Disney)

The settlement was as follows:

Immediately cease marketing and distribution of The Legend of Sarila as FROZEN LAND. Any further distribution, marketing, and/or promotion of The Legend of Sarila or related products, irrespective of format, shall be under the name The Legend of Sarila or another name not confusingly similar to or intended to create any association with FROZEN or any other motion picture marketed, promoted, or released by [Disney Enterprises] or its affiliated companies, including Walt Disney Pictures.

Phase 4 Films cannot use the “Frozen Land” logo in marketing its movie and must take “all practicable efforts” to immediately remove all copies (including DVD covers, DVDs and other media) of “Frozen Land” from stores and distribution centers. Phase 4 Films must then certify to the court that it has destroyed all copies of the infringing logo no later than March 3, 2014. The Judgment also requires Phase 4 Films to pay Disney Enterprises $100,000 no later than January 27, 2014.

Disney’s prompt filing of the trademark lawsuit and the parties’ even more prompt resolution to of it demonstrates that Disney is not going to tolerate infringement of its trademarks. To be honest, at $100,000, Phase 4 Films probably got off cheaply, given how brazenly it copied Disney’s Frozen logo.

Now, Disney likely could have tried to go for even more – many likely expected them to – however, they got exactly what they were after and quick. It would’ve been beneath Disney to go “bigger” against an indie just as it was beneath Phase 4 to try and co-opt Disney’s success for their own title. At the end of the day it’s a proper result.

The Arts on Film: The Wind Rises (2013)

If one watches Hiyao Miyzaki’s latest, and reportedly last, film The Wind Rises it’s impossible to miss the influence of Paul Valéry’s poem on this film. In a bit of coincidence I had not heard of Valéry, or his works, until I saw the documentary The Short Game wherein his grandson was a subject and recited some of his words in the introduction.

That instance got me to look him up and I found his works scarce. Having heard another snippet in this film, and repeated often as the mantra of the story I searched again. I found the entire original French and translated included it below. This poem and others can be found here.

This one gave me chills and I was glad I found it.


Le cimetière marin

Paul Valéry

Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes,
Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes;
Midi le juste y compose de feux
La mer, la mer, toujours recommencee
O récompense après une pensée
Qu’un long regard sur le calme des dieux!

Quel pur travail de fins éclairs consume
Maint diamant d’imperceptible écume,
Et quelle paix semble se concevoir!
Quand sur l’abîme un soleil se repose,
Ouvrages purs d’une éternelle cause,
Le temps scintille et le songe est savoir.

Stable trésor, temple simple à Minerve,
Masse de calme, et visible réserve,
Eau sourcilleuse, Oeil qui gardes en toi
Tant de sommeil sous une voile de flamme,
O mon silence! . . . Édifice dans l’ame,
Mais comble d’or aux mille tuiles, Toit!

Temple du Temps, qu’un seul soupir résume,
À ce point pur je monte et m’accoutume,
Tout entouré de mon regard marin;
Et comme aux dieux mon offrande suprême,
La scintillation sereine sème
Sur l’altitude un dédain souverain.

Comme le fruit se fond en jouissance,
Comme en délice il change son absence
Dans une bouche où sa forme se meurt,
Je hume ici ma future fumée,
Et le ciel chante à l’âme consumée
Le changement des rives en rumeur.

Beau ciel, vrai ciel, regarde-moi qui change!
Après tant d’orgueil, après tant d’étrange
Oisiveté, mais pleine de pouvoir,
Je m’abandonne à ce brillant espace,
Sur les maisons des morts mon ombre passe
Qui m’apprivoise à son frêle mouvoir.

L’âme exposée aux torches du solstice,
Je te soutiens, admirable justice
De la lumière aux armes sans pitié!
Je te tends pure à ta place première,
Regarde-toi! . . . Mais rendre la lumière
Suppose d’ombre une morne moitié.

O pour moi seul, à moi seul, en moi-même,
Auprès d’un coeur, aux sources du poème,
Entre le vide et l’événement pur,
J’attends l’écho de ma grandeur interne,
Amère, sombre, et sonore citerne,
Sonnant dans l’âme un creux toujours futur!

Sais-tu, fausse captive des feuillages,
Golfe mangeur de ces maigres grillages,
Sur mes yeux clos, secrets éblouissants,
Quel corps me traîne à sa fin paresseuse,
Quel front l’attire à cette terre osseuse?
Une étincelle y pense à mes absents.

Fermé, sacré, plein d’un feu sans matière,
Fragment terrestre offert à la lumière,
Ce lieu me plaît, dominé de flambeaux,
Composé d’or, de pierre et d’arbres sombres,
Où tant de marbre est tremblant sur tant d’ombres;
La mer fidèle y dort sur mes tombeaux!

Chienne splendide, écarte l’idolâtre!
Quand solitaire au sourire de pâtre,
Je pais longtemps, moutons mystérieux,
Le blanc troupeau de mes tranquilles tombes,
Éloignes-en les prudentes colombes,
Les songes vains, les anges curieux!

Ici venu, l’avenir est paresse.
L’insecte net gratte la sécheresse;
Tout est brûlé, défait, reçu dans l’air
A je ne sais quelle sévère essence . . .
La vie est vaste, étant ivre d’absence,
Et l’amertume est douce, et l’esprit clair.

Les morts cachés sont bien dans cette terre
Qui les réchauffe et sèche leur mystère.
Midi là-haut, Midi sans mouvement
En soi se pense et convient à soi-même
Tête complète et parfait diadème,
Je suis en toi le secret changement.

Tu n’as que moi pour contenir tes craintes!
Mes repentirs, mes doutes, mes contraintes
Sont le défaut de ton grand diamant! . . .
Mais dans leur nuit toute lourde de marbres,
Un peuple vague aux racines des arbres
A pris déjà ton parti lentement.

Ils ont fondu dans une absence épaisse,
L’argile rouge a bu la blanche espèce,
Le don de vivre a passé dans les fleurs!
Où sont des morts les phrases familières,
L’art personnel, les âmes singulières?
La larve file où se formaient les pleurs.

Les cris aigus des filles chatouillées,
Les yeux, les dents, les paupières mouillées,
Le sein charmant qui joue avec le feu,
Le sang qui brille aux lèvres qui se rendent,
Les derniers dons, les doigts qui les défendent,
Tout va sous terre et rentre dans le jeu!

Et vous, grande âme, espérez-vous un songe
Qui n’aura plus ces couleurs de mensonge
Qu’aux yeux de chair l’onde et l’or font ici?
Chanterez-vous quand serez vaporeuse?
Allez! Tout fuit! Ma présence est poreuse,
La sainte impatience meurt aussi!

Maigre immortalité noire et dorée,
Consolatrice affreusement laurée,
Qui de la mort fais un sein maternel,
Le beau mensonge et la pieuse ruse!
Qui ne connaît, et qui ne les refuse,
Ce crâne vide et ce rire éternel!

Pères profonds, têtes inhabitées,
Qui sous le poids de tant de pelletées,
Êtes la terre et confondez nos pas,
Le vrai rongeur, le ver irréfutable
N’est point pour vous qui dormez sous la table,
Il vit de vie, il ne me quitte pas!

Amour, peut-être, ou de moi-même haine?
Sa dent secrète est de moi si prochaine
Que tous les noms lui peuvent convenir!
Qu’importe! Il voit, il veut, il songe, il touche!
Ma chair lui plaît, et jusque sur ma couche,
À ce vivant je vis d’appartenir!

Zénon! Cruel Zénon! Zénon d’Êlée!
M’as-tu percé de cette flèche ailée
Qui vibre, vole, et qui ne vole pas!
Le son m’enfante et la flèche me tue!
Ah! le soleil . . . Quelle ombre de tortue
Pour l’âme, Achille immobile à grands pas!

Non, non! . . . Debout! Dans l’ère successive!
Brisez, mon corps, cette forme pensive!
Buvez, mon sein, la naissance du vent!
Une fraîcheur, de la mer exhalée,
Me rend mon âme . . . O puissance salée!
Courons à l’onde en rejaillir vivant.

Oui! grande mer de delires douée,
Peau de panthère et chlamyde trouée,
De mille et mille idoles du soleil,
Hydre absolue, ivre de ta chair bleue,
Qui te remords l’étincelante queue
Dans un tumulte au silence pareil

Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
L’air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d’eaux rejouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!

The Graveyard By The Sea

Translated by C. Day Lewis

This quiet roof, where dove-sails saunter by,
Between the pines, the tombs, throbs visibly.
Impartial noon patterns the sea in flame —
That sea forever starting and re-starting.
When thought has had its hour, oh how rewarding
Are the long vistas of celestial calm!

What grace of light, what pure toil goes to form
The manifold diamond of the elusive foam!
What peace I feel begotten at that source!
When sunlight rests upon a profound sea,
Time’s air is sparkling, dream is certainty —
Pure artifice both of an eternal Cause.

Sure treasure, simple shrine to intelligence,
Palpable calm, visible reticence,
Proud-lidded water, Eye wherein there wells
Under a film of fire such depth of sleep —
O silence! . . . Mansion in my soul, you slope
Of gold, roof of a myriad golden tiles.

Temple of time, within a brief sigh bounded,
To this rare height inured I climb, surrounded
By the horizons of a sea-girt eye.
And, like my supreme offering to the gods,
That peaceful coruscation only breeds
A loftier indifference on the sky.

Even as a fruit’s absorbed in the enjoying,
Even as within the mouth its body dying
Changes into delight through dissolution,
So to my melted soul the heavens declare
All bounds transfigured into a boundless air,
And I breathe now my future’s emanation.

Beautiful heaven, true heaven, look how I change!
After such arrogance, after so much strange
Idleness — strange, yet full of potency —
I am all open to these shining spaces;
Over the homes of the dead my shadow passes,
Ghosting along — a ghost subduing me.

My soul laid bare to your midsummer fire,
O just, impartial light whom I admire,
Whose arms are merciless, you have I stayed
And give back, pure, to your original place.
Look at yourself . . . But to give light implies
No less a somber moiety of shade.

Oh, for myself alone, mine, deep within
At the heart’s quick, the poem’s fount, between
The void and its pure issue, I beseech
The intimations of my secret power.
O bitter, dark, and echoing reservoir
Speaking of depths always beyond my reach.

But know you — feigning prisoner of the boughs,
Gulf which cats up their slender prison-bars,
Secret which dazzles though mine eyes are closed —
What body drags me to its lingering end,
What mind draws it to this bone-peopled ground?
A star broods there on all that I have lost.

Closed, hallowed, full of insubstantial fire,
Morsel of earth to heaven’s light given o’er —
This plot, ruled by its flambeaux, pleases me —
A place all gold, stone, and dark wood, where shudders
So much marble above so many shadows:
And on my tombs, asleep, the faithful sea.

Keep off the idolaters, bright watch-dog, while —
A solitary with the shepherd’s smile —
I pasture long my sheep, my mysteries,
My snow-white flock of undisturbed graves!
Drive far away from here the careful doves,
The vain daydreams, the angels’ questioning eyes!

Now present here, the future takes its time.
The brittle insect scrapes at the dry loam;
All is burnt up, used up, drawn up in air
To some ineffably rarefied solution . . .
Life is enlarged, drunk with annihilation,
And bitterness is sweet, and the spirit clear.

The dead lie easy, hidden in earth where they
Are warmed and have their mysteries burnt away.
Motionless noon, noon aloft in the blue
Broods on itself — a self-sufficient theme.
O rounded dome and perfect diadem,
I am what’s changing secretly in you.

I am the only medium for your fears.
My penitence, my doubts, my baulked desires —
These are the flaw within your diamond pride . . .
But in their heavy night, cumbered with marble,
Under the roots of trees a shadow people
Has slowly now come over to your side.

To an impervious nothingness they’re thinned,
For the red clay has swallowed the white kind;
Into the flowers that gift of life has passed.
Where are the dead? — their homely turns of speech,
The personal grace, the soul informing each?
Grubs thread their way where tears were once composed.

The bird-sharp cries of girls whom love is teasing,
The eyes, the teeth, the eyelids moistly closing,
The pretty breast that gambles with the flame,
The crimson blood shining when lips are yielded,
The last gift, and the fingers that would shield it —
All go to earth, go back into the game.

And you, great soul, is there yet hope in you
To find some dream without the lying hue
That gold or wave offers to fleshly eyes?
Will you be singing still when you’re thin air?
All perishes. A thing of flesh and pore
Am I. Divine impatience also dies.

Lean immortality, all crêpe and gold,
Laurelled consoler frightening to behold,
Death is a womb, a mother’s breast, you feign
The fine illusion, oh the pious trick!
Who does not know them, and is not made sick
That empty skull, that everlasting grin?

Ancestors deep down there, O derelict heads
Whom such a weight of spaded earth o’erspreads,
Who are the earth, in whom our steps are lost,
The real flesh-eater, worm unanswerable
Is not for you that sleep under the table:
Life is his meat, and I am still his host.

‘Love,’ shall we call him? ‘Hatred of self,’ maybe?
His secret tooth is so intimate with me
That any name would suit him well enough,
Enough that he can see, will, daydream, touch —
My flesh delights him, even upon my couch
I live but as a morsel of his life.

Zeno, Zeno, cruel philosopher Zeno,
Have you then pierced me with your feathered arrow
That hums and flies, yet does not fly! The sounding
Shaft gives me life, the arrow kills. Oh, sun! —
Oh, what a tortoise-shadow to outrun
My soul, Achilles’ giant stride left standing!

No, no! Arise! The future years unfold.
Shatter, O body, meditation’s mould!
And, O my breast, drink in the wind’s reviving!
A freshness, exhalation of the sea,
Restores my soul . . . Salt-breathing potency!
Let’s run at the waves and be hurled back to living!

Yes, mighty sea with such wild frenzies gifted
(The panther skin and the rent chlamys), sifted
All over with sun-images that glisten,
Creature supreme, drunk on your own blue flesh,
Who in a tumult like the deepest hush
Bite at your sequin-glittering tail — yes, listen!

The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.

Franco Leveraging the Disney Link

In screening Interior. Leather Bar. the other day oddly enough the perfect segue to discussing the stigma or connotation that an actor participating in Disney film is hung with.

Interior. Leather Bar. is a film that toes the line of narrative documentary in an attempt to recreate/reimagine the footage that William Friedkin was forced to cut from his 1980 film Cruising to appease the MPAA. So the topics that are discussed are clearly homosexuality, censorship, artistic merit, public perception and the like. How good an idea the so-called project is, and the merits therein are constantly debated “You were in a Disney movie” the character Val states to James Franco to which he replies:

“Being in a Disney movie and doing this that’s the point. That’s what’s giving it it’s power.”

James Franco as of lately has been versatile enough that he probably could’ve gotten away with not having said anything about his appearance in the The Great and Powerful Oz, but in the conversation on public perception it does carry significant weight. The public, as a whole, likes an easy association.

A quick example, would be when Julie Andrews was topless in S.O.B. Surely, over the years Andrews had developed a persona. And part of the idea was to buck that in this role, and that lent some shock to the maneuver, but more often than not the thought wasn’t it was Julie Andrews who would do such a thing, but rather, Maria and more to the point Mary Poppins.

In more recent, more directly Disney-related incidents actor Jake T. Austin used a profanity in a tweet and the overwhelming reaction from those who responded negatively wasn’t really just about his syntax. Rather it was that he cursed while, or perhaps, just after finishing his run on Disney. His response was level-headed and something to the effect of “I may have been on Disney, but I’m human.”

Sure, even I am surprised that Disney doesn’t crack the whip on the social media activity of its contracted actors more, but that just highlights the fact that these are people, they are not branded cattle, but the perception publicly remains that the image portrayed in fiction is the persona in reality.

This is perhaps more true of Disney kids, and former Disney kids, than any other subset in entertainment. Disney is perhaps the most recognized brand around. And unprovable memes about what Walt would think of the Disney Channel as if he never dealt in cheese aside, the brand is still preserved and still seeking some of the same ideals while entertaining, but that doesn’t make the player automatons like those found in Magic Kingdom attractions.

Sure, we can sit back and comment upon the judgment, or lack their of shown in the exploits of Miley Cyrus and the photos of Dylan Sprouse, but the fact of the matter is whatever we think of such things Disney really shouldn’t enter the equation. Miley is very clearly no longer interest in her former persona or alter ego, and the Sprouses whether self-photographed or not, have already discussed the end of their Disney tenure. Therefore any current misstep or perceived misstep ought not lead back to where they started.

However, it invariably does, in a way its human nature. That brings us back to Franco. While there is a scripted nature to the film at hand, in spite of the documentarian approach, there is a consciousness and a willingness to use his name, and recent associations to garner attention for the film he’s making and the ideas he’s exploring. It’s a shrewd move to address it and consciously use it as opposed to running for it. Either way, whether the Disney connection should be used or not, he knows the link will exist in some minds and he willingly exploits it here to good effect.

March to Disney: Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)

This was a title that I wanted to discuss during 61 Days of Halloween, however, one of the good things about having multiple annual topics is that you will frequently find overlaps. Such is the case with Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire. Yes, it’s another DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie), and another from the earlier days of Disney Channel’s sojourn into made-for-TV films.

The title is indicative of a few things: 1) what it’s about 2) That it’s at least partly (actually mostly comedic). The release date also give you a hint that said date is not seen as a good thing, seeing as how this is pre-Twilight.

As is the case with any of these titles that work a lot of the debt is owed to the cast, and this one runs pretty deep with Charlotte Rhea, Charles Shaughnessy, Robert Carradine, Matt O’Leary, Jake Epstein and Myles Jeffrey. More on that to follow.

The films begins with a movie-within-a-movie which sets the stage first for some of the comedic aspects, for the gothic (read: traditional) treatment of vampires, sets up characters and is used as a point of reference for rules when the kids find they are faced with a real vampire.

It is a an extremely structurally sound film as nothing is superfluous and things that seem like they are just fenestration do play a role later on and play into the plot everything from the desire to see a band called the Headless Horseman at the Harvest Festival, the promise of a date, the mention of mom (Rhea) having been in a band before, and more.

Typically in reviewing I avoid over-focus on the acting – not because it’s not important but mostly because it’s just one aspect of the film that needs to be discussed. In this film it’s what I frequently remember but it’s the solid foundation, the details in terms of the use of vampires that stand out.

There are a lot of hidden jokes for fans of the genre and a great implementation of archetypes commonly found in horror films. The discovery of the threat and the willingness to believe it’s true is very tied in to character arcs in the film.

Those arcs are accentuated by how good the performances are, and similarly virtually all the characters have pronounced, well-wrought and significant ones which is in fact a rare accomplishment. Matt O’Leary, had quite a few good turns as a young actor. The fact that this rivals his performance in Frailty is a testament to his skilled reads and reactions to situations, and the material. Playing his sidekick in a small, but not insignificant role, is Jake Epstein, who was perhaps best known as one of the forebears on the new-age Degrassi he is so good in this – such a different character than I saw him in afterward.

A perfect example of the cast’s work is a scene wherein Adam (O’Leary) is grounded (again set up by a seemingly innocuous improvised essay he created by reading a tabloid). It’s the kind of scene you see various times, but everyone O’Leary, Rhea and Laura Vadervoort; is so on that it works a lot better than it should.

That leads to the kids’ plotting which sets up everything that happens after that. If you’re after silly escapism, you’ll like this; if after a wink and knowing nod to the vampire subgenre, you should like this. If you like DCOM seasonal fare, you should love this. And that’s why I wanted to write about it of the Halloween-themed ones it’s by far the best and rarely airs. I had to re-screen it off a VHS recording I made in 2001. It’s a Disney title that really doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Making Frozen Say What You Want It To Say

It’s not exactly a new phenomena that I’ve seen creeping up on the internet lately. Disney films, whether Walt was at the helm or not, have always been rife, fertile grounds for actual and fraudulent film theorists alike to put forth their theories.

When discussing actual theories I mean real, careful consideration of the narrative an visual cues of an entire work and not just analysis of a single frame in The Lion King where the word “sex” can be seen formed amidst dandelion spores.

The democratization of anything is always a double-edged sword. On the one hand the internet has helped bring forth voices in the world of film criticism that may not have had a platform 20+ years ago, on the other hand it gives a virtually free platform to someone with an ax to grind the ability, and the audience to transpose social norms and/or political debates on to a vague set of tropes set forth a film.

Frozen (2013, Disney)

Recently, and for some reason this has only crept up now that Frozen crossed the $1B world-wide threshold, there have been a rash of people discussing the homosexual agenda it puts forth.

If this feels like Déjà Vu, then you’re right, it wasn’t all that long ago (when Brave was out) in fact since outlandish claims of “homosexual indoctrination” and/or lesbian characters have been made.

Brave (2012, Disney/Pixar)

Specifically, these claims are citing the thrust of Frozen wherein Elsa feels she has “something to hide” and that if anyone found out about her “power” it would be bad and people would get hurt, and so on and so forth. If you saw the film you can connect further dots without having to subject yourselves to these entire posts.

There are a few things these posts ignore, even giving them the benefit of taking their claims at face value. The first being that quite often fairy tales though they may have specific imagery that can be read in a subtextual way by adults they usually have a very simple object lesson that is usually so reductive it can apply to a universal audience. Ultimately, Frozen ends up being about being yourself and not hiding who you are whoever that may be. That can apply to any number of things.

Drawing back to the Brave conversation it’s focusing a bit too much on the marriage plot. It’s a situation wherein you just can’t win with some people. When other Disney classics were made societal norms dictated there was nothing wrong with Snow White or Cinderella being rescued by a Prince Charming. That has changed. It doesn’t devalue the prior tale it just makes a new iteration of that trope undesirable. However, then you have Brave that emphasizes a strong, independent woman bucking the marriage tradition and reconciling with her mother; and Frozen is a sister tale wherein no man can really save the day and then there are shouts of lesbianism.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006, 20th Century Fox)

The issue with the argument, setting political slant aside, is that there are things being ignored that factor in. Elsa has a supernatural power, therefore, she is closer to being a super-being afraid of how she can handle her power and that she may be villainous. Another superhero moment comes to mind an a point of comparison here:

In X-Men: The Last Stand the character of Angel is introduced. As the name implies he has wings growing out of his back. In his origin scene, we see a younger version of his character played by Cayden Boyd. he is trying to cut out his nascent wings to hide his affliction. His father walks in on him. Young Angel is bawling his eyes out, ashamed of what he has become.

One could take that scene in isolation and the emotions that Young Angel felt and correlate them to the homosexual experience. However, within the arc of the character as a whole the analogy doesn’t hold water.

This same faulty logic could lead one to deduce that Olaf is a drug addict because even though it may kill him, he wants “heat.” Or you could substitute with any other vice, and at the end he’s given an antidote of how he can be kept alive and still do what he wants. It’s far easier to argue, and more consistently represented in the film, that Olaf is merely seeking to be himself as well.

Mind you that he is also a creation of their childhood brought to life by Elsa’s power thus symbolic of their bond and what they lost and not really conducive to the drug analogy.

Getting back to Elsa these arguments also hang their hats on the vagueness of certain specific lines in “Let it Go.” Again this is hinging on the fact that her power is her hidden sexuality; and virtually ignores the ebbs and flows of Anna and Elsa’s relationship, and the fact that they have to be there for one another at the end, and the fact that Elsa’s power can quite literally stop someone’s heart from beating and give them hypothermia, I’m no physician but my core temperature never dropped based on someone’s sexual orientation.

Cinderella (1950, Disney)

I grant that last rebuff was extraordinarily facetious, but it almost has to be. The foundations of these arguments are cinematically shaky at best and come from a place where the answer is assumed and seeks facts to bear them out and doesn’t seek out alternatives – like the plot at face value or how it could easily apply to other things.

In Dumbo there is a statement being made about the stigmatization of, and harm caused by, involuntary admission to a mental institution. Where do I come up with that? It happens in the film. Missus Jumbo defends Dumbo. Is deemed a “Mad Elephant” and locked in a cell. Is it the entire point of the film? No.

Even if the Frozen theory hold water its presented in a way that makes it seem like “This movie is going to make kids gay.” “I mean it’ll be a Broadway show too so they’ll be super-gay after that happens.” I hate to break it to those folks but it doesn’t work that way. Similarly, even if it did have a normalizing agenda, that doesn’t always work either. Want an extreme example? Hitler’s favorite movie was reportedly Snow White; it was also one of Eisenstein’s. Hitler’s affection for that film didn’t make him dance about houses singing to birds and squirrels and little girls the world over singing “Let it Go” aren’t going to be gay if they aren’t already. You make Frozen, or any movie say what you want it to say in your head, that doesn’t make it true.

Short Film Saturday – Oswald and Ortensia Holiday Greeting Card

Whether one is fully aware of it or not, foreign Disney branches and the foreign Disney parks do contribute to the canon. Here is a short Holiday (Christmas) themed greeting featuring Oswald, the Lucky Rabbit (Walt’s first creation), and his girl Ortensia.

It’s interesting for both those aspects: a foreign contribution, and an animated incarnation of an early character outside the video game world.

Big Stars on the Small Screen: Leslie Nielsen as The Swamp Fox

Introduction

Leslie Nielsen as The Swamp Fox

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A few other things that come to mind when I think of Disney are apparent in the series “The Swamp Fox.” They are the association with music (while both the theme songs are good, Elfego Baca’s doesn’t have the earworm quality of this one. The next is the preponderance of colonial narratives. In looking back you see that Disney dealt a lot both in those times and American folklore and that’s not as common now.

Next, this series does highlight the early dramatic work of Leslie Nielsen. Now in the latter part of his career Nielsen became far better known as a comedic actor. However, in this part of his career he was mainly a dramatic actor with a lot of TV work. Some of his more notable titles were Forbidden Planet and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

However, as I stated about that later work it was this dramatic foundation and aptitude that set the stage for him to help to redefine parodic comedy:

Many cite The Naked Gun series as one of the best examples of this subgenre, and much credit in that case is due to Leslie Nielsen. For as preposterous as what he was saying or doing was he was committed to it, there was a dramatic intent bordering on deadpan that tethered the silliness of the situation to reality.

The-Swamp-Fox-2

While this is, similar to the prior series, mainly action plots Nielsen had the dramatic gravitas to pull off the commander role. It was necessary that a kindliness, sternness and capability of valiant behavior shine through whatever actor was pegged for the role and Nielsen encapsulated all of these well. When you’re covering a figure of revolutionary times and establishing how that legend was born casting is that much more important such that the magnetism and whatever other qualities you’re trying to convey about them shine through.

Having seen much of Nielsen’s earlier work lately I don’t want to over-stress how he became most famous. However, this comment is a testament to his fine work here. There are people who bring such joy to film, so naturally funny that you smile when you see them show up (John Candy was one) this role is the opposite example it’s not funny in hindsight. The tone of the piece is well-conveyed and is as serious as it needs to be.

It may be deceptive to watch Nielsen as a dramatic actor because there is such a stolidity to his representation that it can be misread as lacking in range or depth. However, I don’t feel that’s the case, while there’s a dutiful nature to him and many of his speeches deal with his being the moral compass of his band of men it doesn’t carry weight if you don’t see the facets of his character.

Walt Disney Presents (1958, Disney)

Furthermore, what I was able to see in this section is but a prelude. As opposed to the three episodes of Elfego Baca which were somewhat transformative, here the series (as shown on DVD) stops at the point where a major change in the character and his approach to taking on the red coats is about to take place. Therefore, there’s far more of an arc to the series than these episodes show.

There are two Disney and film-related notes I found in watching these titles. Firstly, the more important thing to keep in mind when dealing with historical figures on screen is representation over misrepresentation. Which means that having historical figures conveyed is far more important than nitpicking issues of inaccuracy or dramatic license. Elfego Baca made me want to look him up. Entertainment can be an aid to but not a substitute for education in subject matter such as history. Donald in Mathmagicland is great fun, but it doesn’t mean you can skip algebra. It all seems obvious but these are things that are seemingly forgotten when people complain about historical inaccuracy in film. If people, with all the information easily available to them, take a fictional representation’s word for it and that’s it it’s not the movie’s fault.

In Disney-specific terms Walt Disney Presents was an early case of a work in a visual medium (TV) being influenced by a theme park. Therefore, the adages about nothing being new and history repeating itself are proven true again. This is not that far from Pirates of the Caribbean and the like.

Walt Disney Presents (1958, Disney)

As imported series and streaming services are further shaking up the notions of what constitutes a season of television and other rules. Future templates can be found in the past. More so than in the past perhaps because of current visual conventions the movie stars of tomorrow are the TV stars of today, and vice versa. I don’t know how many people predicted bigger things for Loggia and Nielsen, but having seen these small samples I’m not surprised by their success or longevity at all.

Big Stars on the Small Screen Blogathon: Robert Loggia as Elfego Baca

Introduction

This is a post for the Big Stars on the Small Screen blogathon. The titles and actors I chose to cover are Robert Loggia as Elfego Baca, and Leslie Nielsen as The Swamp Fox (Tomorrow). Both of these television narratives aired in rotating fashion on an ABC program called Walt Disney Presents from 1958 and 1960, at the tail end of what some refer to as the (first) Golden Age of Television.

The structure of Walt Disney presents was such that the stories told were inspired by any of the four sections of Disneyland at the time: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland.

Both of the series I will discuss dealt with tales inspired by Frontierland, the same section of the park that brought Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone (’60) to the small screen. The modus operandi of said show was stories inspired by figures in American history.

Now many projects from the Walt era are vaulted by Disney and not frequently available, especially these serialized show-within-shows. However, there was a time (and I think that it should return) when Disney Treasures released a series of tin-cased box sets in limited supply that would be of interest to collectors and Disney fans. This was one of the selections, one that I was able to obtain via the Disney Movie Club.

The unfortunate part of the packaging is that you are not provided here with the whole run of the show on these discs. Since they’re DVD releases and an hour-long show there are but three-episodes per show. In one case the selection closes a chapter, in another it feels more like a prelude.

Having said all that, both these shows feature early-career performances of two actors who have had varied and successful careers: Robert Loggia played Elfego Baca and Leslie Nielsen played Robert Marion, a.k.a. The Swamp Fox.

Robert Loggia as Elfego Baca

Walt Disney Presents (1958, Disney)

The insights gleaned to this show, and the story behind it are better in general and not just because there is a supplemental interview with Loggia that gives further background to the series and his involvement.

Firstly, in narrative terms, these short tastes of series give an interesting insight into lesser-known figures in the US’s past. In Baca’s case it’s even more interesting because he was a US-born and -bred bilingual Mexican-American. He lived in the frontier lands and built a legend of having “nine lives” and a unique sense of justice. He eventually, mostly through self-teaching, became an attorney. We first meet him as a self-appointed deputy standing up to a group of bandits. Then he comes into the fold as a full-fledged deputy.

In cultural terms, the mere depiction of an ethnic character in later 1958 and early 1959 is quite a big deal, much less making him the hero. Surely, he was a historical figure but there was nothing forcing Disney’s hand to tell his tale. While the interview between Leonard Maltin does reveal that casting was down between Loggia and Ricardo Montalban, and what tipped the scales his way is not discussed -especially considering Montalban seemed to have an in. However, with Loggia being cast Baca’s heritage could’ve further been buried but it was the actor’s option, per his telling, to accentuate the ethnicity more than even the script would with an accent. He also passably slips into Spanish here and there which makes it a unique take. Cross-ethnic casting is a double-edged sword, and was more common in this day-and-age, but it’s not something that can be held against Loggia if you disagree with it on principal– he had a job to do and did it very well.

Walt Disney Presents (1958, Disney)

Loggia ’s break here is one he describes as very fortunate. He was an athlete in college and had served in Korea. He was working on Broadway in fairly short order and then was picked by Disney to play this role. The cowboy elements, a hefty portion of the role, were things he learned to be able to play it, which is impressive as there is quite a bit of riding and action in a western-set tale.

He also worked with legendary stunt people and did quite a few of those stunts himself and made his portrayal seem even more authentic than it would have otherwise. Of course, as referenced above, with access to only 30% of the series it’s impossible to get a sense of the totality of the series. The IMDb does indicate the further addition of Latin actors later on.

However, not only is Loggia, who in the minds of many is the willing participant in a Family Guy cutaway, or the boss in Big; great in a very different kind of role here. There are some important things of note in this show additionally such as Native Americans appearing with Baca in a scene as an ally, Baca’s betrothal and marriage to a Caucasian woman. Loggia in discussing Disney’s influence on the production stating that he “knew everything,” which reaffirms my assertion that he was one of those producers who had their fingerprints on their films. Loggia’s memories were always fond it seems. Of course, he was on a parade float in Disneyland in ’59 so I assume it would be. And like many Disney alums he returned many years later this time voicing a character in Oliver and Company.

Walt Disney Presents (1958, Disney)

Furthermore, it set the stage for Loggia in his career he played many varied ethnicities. It became one if his calling cards. Of course, being a character actor to some extent and having a bit of chameleon about him it made him one of those actors you knew, but maybe not necessarily from what film. However, many actors will take that, when you can be any number of people to moviegoers that’s a pretty great thing. To me, he may always be Skeletor first and foremost.

CHeck back tomorrow for the post on Leslie Nielsen!