"Maleficent" and the Disney Renaissance (Mild Plot Spoilers)

 With both irony and triumph, clever storytelling and genuine feeling, Disney is bringing us a new kind of fairy tale.

As much love, fondness, and respect as I have for Disney, the company's name is still the one we most commonly associate with the age-old misconception that a princess is usually in need of rescuing.  In the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty, this "heroine" sleeps through the majority of her own fairy tale.  Almost a literal demonstration of the concept in critical theory of the female as the object of the male gaze - the princess lies unconscious, her person-hood negated, while the admiring prince looks on and, eventually, is the catalyst to her awakening.


Movie Review: "Noah" (Mild Spoilers)

If nothing else, Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" is a film of beauty, albeit cold and disturbing beauty.  The cinematography, the visual effects, and the score by Clint Mansell are all very stirring and epic.  The stark Icelandic landscape in which "Noah" was filmed is a believable backdrop for a world in which - as Aronofsky's tale goes - man is an eco-terrorist and has spoiled and consumed nearly all of God's creation.  God communicates to Noah through dreams and hallucinations that all people save for him and his family will be destroyed by water as judgement for their wickedness.  The loneliness of Noah as he prepares for the flooding of the earth is felt acutely by the audience, since there is often nothing but his tiny family in the vast expanse of the uncivilized land.


Sparking the Imagination: A Look into Flint Books

A Flint Book: Artwork by Kevin Meier (Check out the Kickstarter page here!)
When I was in fourth grade, my whole class participated in a writing program in which we could write original stories on lined pages, adorn them with illustrations, and then have them laminated and bound with real spines by our teacher.  Yes, the illustrations were in crayon, and the writing was very much at a fourth-grade level, but that program changed my life.  From that school year up until this day, I have always believed I was meant to tell stories and to write.  I find great fulfillment in doing so.

Allowing young minds to do the storytelling is the specialty of Flint Books.  They are called Flint Books because, as creator Kevin Meier says: "...kids are amazing storytellers, but sometimes they just need a little spark."  The books are designed to give kids just enough visual inspiration to get them started on their own completely original tale.  There is even a space for them to dedicate the book and write a little "About the Author!"  The eye-catching and detailed illustrations by artist Kevin Meier are each followed by several lined, blank pages for the author to tell the story of what they imagine to be happening in the picture.  The series will most likely be released in a subscription format.  Kids will periodically receive a new book - each one containing a fresh adventure.


Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises"

"The Wind Rises" has to be my favorite Miyazaki film since "My Neighbor Totoro."  While still whimsical, beautiful, and fantastic, "The Wind Rises" will be much more appreciated by adults than by children, which isn't always true for Miyazaki's work.  The story follows the career, aspirations, struggles, and romantic life of Jiro Horikoshi - a Japanese airplane engineer who designed aircraft for the Japanese military during WW II.  The film has themes of corrupt and flawed governments, life-threatening illness, and war, much of the dialogue about which might be a little bit lost on younger audiences.  But just because "The Wind Rises" is animated doesn't mean it cannot entrance adults.  It is a very artfully told story.  The scenes in which Jiro is dreaming are especially beautiful and really showcase Miyazaki's unique style.

My favorite parts about the film were the cast chosen for the voices of the main characters - John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt - as well as the use of human-generated sounds for many of the sound effects.  Everything from airplane engines, the starting up of airplane propellers, and even the sounds of an earthquake were all sound effects made with human mouths and vocalizations.  Pretty cool!  And it aided in the personification of the inanimate objects in the film.


This Week's Window Shopping

Who would have thought that Loki could help you explain to all those relatives of yours why you are still single?

Product page: Skreened.com
via Fashionably Geek

For the, shall we say...younger?...geek in your life:

Product page: Studio73Creations shop on Etsy

Christmas has passed, unfortunately, but there is still a lot of Winter to go, so why not gear up for the remaining cold weather with Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn from Uncommon Goods?

Product page: Uncommon Goods


Martin Freeman's Bilbo and 13 Other Reasons to Love "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

There are a lot of reasons to see "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," but I thought I would cut it down to fourteen - thirteen plus one for luck. Beware of spoilers after the break!


Special Screening of "The Last Unicorn" at the Tower Theater with Peter S. Beagle

 For the next couple years, Peter S. Beagle and his crew will be hosting special screenings of the 1982 animated movie "The Last Unicorn" all across the United States and Canada.  The tour happened to be in my city on December 2nd, and the event was a relatively intimate gathering of a couple hundred people.  The wonderful part about this was that Peter was able to stay and speak to/do signings for everyone in attendance who was interested.  In fact, when the movie was about to start, the tour facilitators walked down the line of fans waiting to get an autograph and assured us all that it was okay to go get a seat in the theater - Peter would stay as long as it took after the show to meet everyone.