The Lion King
Disney’s protagonists have always had to leave home. This is true from Snow White to Belle and even characters in Disney movies that are outsourced from Pixar like Wall-E and the gang from the Toy Story series. But unlike these debutantes and adult inanimate objects, The Lion King‘s Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) an actual child, and a change of environment at such a young age demonstrates how precarious the idea of home really is. He delightfully gasps when he sees the untouched African jungle where Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) live, a place ripe for adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) to be too content to to live. But there is something to be said a carnivore adapting to eating bugs, Fear Factor style.
The jungle didn’t look like emeralds, outdoing that scene in The African Queen in showing how luscious and verdant it could be. The jungle isn’t the only landscape feature here, as we also have the African veld pre and post-Scar, and within desert dunes where Simba does some slow motion running. All of those have the Dinsey glow even though its animators were still working in 90’s technology.
Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) sings “It’s a Small World” to the chagrin of the regicidal and decadent lion Scar (Jeremy Irons) , Simba’s uncle. When Simba and his unlikely crew attack Scar, Poomba does his part, goes on a Travis Bickle rampage and exclaims ‘They call me MR. PIG!’ before doing a number on two unfortunate hyenas (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings). Pop cultural humour happens when a movie allows the supporting cast to talk, and I’m constantly surprised how our generation didn’t invent it. Movies or populist artistic expressions in the turn of the twenty-first century has this insecurity about itself that it references earlier work. Everything else before it seems like a solid text that I forget that these works have their own pasts, and that the people who are behind these older texts might, a bit, have felt the same way. Or that these references exist so that the kids will know that the world they’re watching isn’t exclusive and is actually relate-able to them.
Africa is in new and rougher hands because of Scar and while that is not untrue, it’d be more right to see that outside forces equally let destitution happen and no, hyenas don’t count as outsiders.
Timon sings the first and last verse of “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” If only he’s more famous than Elton John, or maybe his already and I just don’t know it yet. During that musical number Simba and Nala grow from friends and much more. Nothing around Timon and Poomba’s jungle would have pushed him to adulthood, but finding love should.
Hakuna Matata – no worries. It seems like an alien concept in a worry-centric world. But this laid back feline only becomes victorious because of two inherent things, his royal lineage – which contributes a lot to his physical prowess, even with eating all those bugs – and his goodness. He doesn’t have a Rocky-esque montage where he trains to beat Scar (Jeremy Irons) and instead, he looks down on a pond to see his father Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) but as himself.
This means two things. First, that there’s a difference between becoming and being and that, despite how Simba makes it looks easy to kick his Claudius-like uncle’s butt, that we have to believe in ourselves first. Although with this interpretation, what’s stopping the Claudius-like Scar from thinking the same way, grumbling to Zazu and the other animals that he IS the king.
The second involves adolescence as a state and the different responses towards becoming an adult. Some of us might be anxious to get the process of growing done already, but Simba partly gives up on it because he’s lost the proper environment to do that. The movie has Timon and Poomba harmlessly yet deliberately laughing at Simba’s interpretation of what stars really are. This shows adolescence as a state when we can be derailed and when our childhood narratives of destiny can be crushed. At least he learns kindness and acceptance towards creatures whom he would have eaten had things gone differently, even if they’re jokey and a bit passive aggressive towards him.It’s not cool to think you’re the king. But on that note their jokes are nothing compared to what would have happened if he stayed in Pride Rock – Scar would have probably subjugated him. Somehow the time off works, as the pressure to be and to have lost the throne is cagier than him slacking off, attaching himself to swinging vines all over the jungle and looking at the stars. Or let’s compromise and say that both suck.
Nonetheless, Simba in the jungle symbolizes a tendency within many of us to be oblivious of our own growth, that we need a good support group like Rafiki, Nala and a mirror to tell us what we can do. Broderick’s voice work as Simba has the gravitas with the roles he’s taken half a decade earlier, but he still has Bueller’s reputation and a boyish demeanour that he could easily switch on, even at thirty-two. He eventually finds himself snarling at Scar as if he’s just learning how to do so, as if he’s surprised that he can do it. It may seem like a compromise to show that he can only reclaim to his kingdom or as his old self but not do both. But he’s returning home because he’s a different being and that greatness is deserved through change.
Daughter: Leon The Professional
Luc Besson‘s Leon: The Professional is part of the ‘wave’ of crime movies from the mid-to-late 90’s that I’m hesitant to (re)visit because of its violent fan boy reputation. Though it’s respectably well-shot in the beginning, especially in its first cleaning – or assassination – scene perpetrated by its quick eponymous hero (Jean Reno). Although he’s a physically trained man in his forties, he’s also meek, childlike and his self-imposed isolation – in New York City nonetheless – doesn’t help in ironing out his quirks. And you know he’s lonely because there’s nondiagetic European accordion music in the background trying to get empathy out of the audience, exposing how dated and uneven this film’s tone could be.
Next door to Leon’s apartment is Mathilda (Natalie Portman, living with an abusive family situation. Buying groceries for herself and volunteering to buy Leon’s two quarts of milk, she arrives too late for her family’s massacre by the corrupt DEA officer Stansfield (campy Gary Oldman). The street-smart girl ignores the thugs bringing the bloodshed walks forward to Leon’s apartment, persistently asking to be let in while ringing the doorbell and crying. Leon finally relents, white light shining on her face, bringing the film’s first redeemable moment. This is one of the moments in the film that remind us of the way her face strongly evinces emotion in her future movies as an adult. She’s also intense when she attacks her violent or sexual lines with determination, smoothness and an uncanny maturity.
After opening the door for her, Mathilda gives Leon an ultimatum to let her live with him teach her how to clean, threatening him with her alternative – death in the hands of Stansfield. But in a way, entering his apartment is equally an ultimatum for her, feeling a nix of Freudian resentment towards her new father figure and his closed-up, workaholic, machine-like nature. Fortunately, she elbows her own version of childhood naiveté, allocating some well-needed play-time in their routine. They squirt each other with water or impersonating pop-culture icons, finally makes us understand that this movie is like what would happen if Jacques Tati directed an action film. And then the guns go satisfying blazing.
- Clip joint: tearjerkers (guardian.co.uk)
Shots of Fantasy: Heavenly Creatures
This post is for Nathaniel Rogers’ “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series.
The second time I saw Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures was on the big screen, brought by CINSSU in the winter of 2008. Peter Kuplowsky introduced it, saying that this movie never gets shown in its proper format and getting it on 35 and screening it will do the film justice. Which makes my best shot above gloriously majestic. Peter Jackson doesn’t need to go the extra mile to show the girls’ fantasy world. This shot, instead, is all about inclusion, Jackson including Juliet (Kate Winslet) and Pauline Yvonne (Melanie Lynskey), making them as small as the unicorns on the right hand side. They’re immersed into the fantasy instead of being its voyeur, legitimizing the [ETA] Fourth World’s tangibility.
It’s a self-imposed challenge that if I haven’t written about the movie on my blog, I have to rewatch it. By 7:06 PM of the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death, I would have seen this movie a whopping four times. On Facebook, Chris D. Mischs called it an ‘ugly’ movie. This is the first time I have heard the movie being called that, and it let me cloud my mind. But I guess it’s a marvel that it took that fourth time for me to see its flaws, like the pans or zooms ending with either Juliet or Paul of them turning around to face the camera that makes the film less naturalistic. Or when Juliet exclaims ‘That’s great!’ while finding out that Pauline can break into the latter’s dad’s safe for their fare money. Which leads us to how this movie is about two hormonal teenagers who act without hesitation, and the queer politics involving them and their crime.
I did see positive aspects of the film. Its cinematic references, despite the obvious one from The Third Man to the subtle homages to Throne of Blood and the Sound of Music. How Winslet, although imperfect in this film, can seamlessly switch from one emotion to another. Or that yes, Lynskey and Sarah Peirse look the same but I never realized how much the actress who plays Juliet’s mom looks much like Winslet herself.
My second and third viewings made me assume that Juliet is the dominant person in the relationship, the one with the nice big mansion. Paul hangs on to her every word, subscribing to Juliet’s fantasies and crushes, but she does get to hold the reins too, like when she tells Juliet that her breath smells like onions. Juliet couldn’t have suggested to kill Paul’s mom (Peirse), Paul did. There’s even the moment when Juliet hesitates in the act but Paul looks at her as if to do her part. It’s the same ambivalence when I watched it those second and third times. My focus then was on Paul’s relationship with her mom. The second time, I sided with Mom, the third with Paul.
I first saw this film when I was ten or eleven, airing on a local channel. Winslet became more recognizable worldwide because of Titanic, and for some reason I remember her movies being played a lot back in the Philippines. The opening scene just shocked me. Kate wasn’t just the girl in Titanic, she was an actress.
I can’t remember any other time I’ve felt that in between then and now. I guess that means I’m easy to impress, put a little blood and screaming and I’m captivated. I’ve noticed that except for two movies, she’s always made great entrances. Whether she adds scenes that top the first one or not, I’d still remember how her character is introduced and rely on either the pathos or enthusiasm there. And good God can the girl cry.
How did this movie slip through the cracks of the Philippine censorship board? Back then I thought that everything in Hollywood spoon-fed me was great, but movies like this gave me a new criterion for what makes a great film, a criterion that I stood by until my second year in University – the more fucked up a movie is, the better. Which is obviously reductive, since I needed the few more viewing to appreciate its cinematography, pacing, acting and all of that.
It also felt rebellious as a boy who has yet to discover his sexuality to have seen two characters who cross the line without blatantly calling themselves that. I distinctly implanted the close-up of the psychiatrist’s teeth as he diagnoses Juliet and Paul with the condemning word ‘homosexuality,’ and back then I defended them as not homosexuals because I thought their intense and pure friendship shouldn’t bear that denigrating title, which reflects my innocence or ignorance on the subject itself and that they weren’t homosexuals because they didn’t look the part.
On Ingrid Randoja’s seminar last year
because I’m so cool, she noted this as one of canonical lesbian films in the gay 90’s. This and the one with Jennifer Tilly where she and her girlfriend kills someone too. Which again subverts my recent reading that it’s one of those ‘gays who KILL’ movies. I still don’t know how to feel about a movie that packages a stereotype differently. Despite the little flaws that I see now, watching this film is like the girls seeing the Fourth World. It’s something radical and I hope it’s not too much to thank Jackson and the actors for making a movie that shook my world.
Valentine’s Post: Blue Sky
The story of Blue Sky is set in the late 1950’s but it’s set under the lens of the early 1990’s aesthetic principles, with its electric guitar and synthesizer music accompanying female eroticism. Does that sound like I have preconceived notions and biases against the movie? Because unfortunately, I do, with all the assumptions that this film is gonna seem dated.
Another disadvantage against the film is its two plot lines combined because they couldn’t stand on their own. First is the erotic wildness of Carly Marshall (Jessica Lange), a problem that’s going to get violently fixed or will bring her to her own doom. The second concerns her husband, military man Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), an insubordinate sane voice against the nuclear testing in the two bases he’s assigned in – Hawaii and Mercury, Nevada. This second plot line is the less cringe worthy yet the less interesting one.
Because Hank encourages her to do so, Alex finds a friend with Glenn (Chris O’Donnell!), Johnson’s son. She tells him about ‘noment,’ moments when nothing’s happening, and ‘slowments,’ moments when people are too lazy. I gotta bring those back. He kisses her, which is funny because I would have laughed at those dorky words, being born in the generations when I was. Their kisses are interrupted by Hank and Carly ‘kiss and make up’ after the dance, a heightened, more sexualized version of the adolescent’s innocent love.
Alex and Glenn hang out later at the ‘off-limits,’ area. They talk about the Manhattan Project and marriage in a way that they’re not seriously talking about it. Alex tells Glenn her fears of marrying a military man because marrying one might turn her into her mother. Alex hands Glenn an old grenade, he throws out the window, the grenade explodes. Glenn’s dad, army in tow, finds the two, and Alex’s hair is dishevelled and all. Her mom then throws her all these accusations, the mother sublimating her own guilty past to her daughter.
Carly supposed to be the insane one who has to be cured, but Hank actually steps on a few delicate toes. Instead of confronting his boss about the latter’s indiscretions with his own wife, actually faces him about the nuclear testing that has irradiated two people. This leads to a physical argument that gets him to prison and then to a mental hospital where he is drugged. Nonetheless, its’ her duty now in the film’s third act to defend her husband from all the lies, while I wonder how her husband would defend her if this movie took the usual path of making her the insane one.
The only ray of optimism comes from Jessica Lange’s Oscar win, and if you’re a latent completist just like I am, this film is a must watch. But is her performance perfect? There’s something performatively cunning about her pretending that her father works for the New York Times, as if she’s winking to us,blatantly pointing to her character’s delusions. There are moments, however, where Lange doesn’t use clichés. Instead of being spiteful because Hank won’t dance with her, she dances with his boss not out of spite but with a human insanity all her own.
It’s also interesting to watch Carly’s ability to make her own fictions with her frustrated life. As she tells the Johnson’s wife that ‘a woman’s charm is mostly illusion.’ She puts red cloth over the lamps and suddenly an army base living room is now a cabaret room, a place where she can teach her girls to dance. An important theme in this film is Carly dressing like movie stars because that’s apparently that’s the only way for the audience to tell eras. The film ends with Carly putting away her vulnerably sexy Monroe-Bardot-Charisse hybrid to looking like Elizabeth Taylor, to looking like a survivor.
In his look back into the 90’s, Nathaniel R called this movie underrated. To find out if he’s right, the gods of TV fortunately had it airing at midnight. On a religious channel. I shit you not.
The titular Nell (Jodie Foster), gets discovered by the small town’s Dr. Jerry Lowell (Liam Neeson) after her mother’s death. The childlike feral virgin has unformed relationships with the outside world. Because the South needed another stereotype, she is awkward and has a distorted Dixie-like twin language that Jerry tries to learn and adapt as he camps outside Nell’s cabin. She can either be an institutional prisoner or an oddity splashed all over the media. She is unable to articulate her paranoia of a sexual threat, whether it be Jerry himself or the horny hicks who talk about her in a pool hall nearby.
Dynamics get more complex as Dr. Paula Olsen (Natasha Richrdson RIP) wants Nell to be locked up in a ‘caring’ institution, and she camps out near Nell’s sanctuary to prove she’s right. Again, there’s this lingering possibility that Nell can become Jerry’s lover. Paula even suggests Jerry to ‘educate’ her because, as a phobic, Nell has to ‘face her fears’ – to that we say, ‘please don’t.’ However, Paula’s presence partly directs Nell asserts herself to the role of Jerry’s surrogate child. Which, by default, Paula becomes Nell’s surrogate mother, and you know where this leads.
We fortunately don’t see the worst case scenario, and besides these lingering threats, the story’s mostly about two lonely people who try to communicate with each other. That the story leads me to these different tangents and alternate fates shows that the script isn’t insipid. Nonetheless, it was a queasy journey before the end. And here’s hoping that Trey Parker or Seth McFarlane hasn’t made fun of this movie yet.
First Movie Ever: Forrest Gump
(I’m sure it wasn’t a close-up. ph. Paramount)
First of all, I just wanna say that FIRST BLOG ENTRY IN THREE DAYS!
RopeofSilicon asked its readers what their first movie going experience was. “Forrest Gump.” I was seven. I remember my paternal grandmother taking me, my sister and my two cousins to see the movie. I remember the bus stop, young Forrest’s foot getting stuck in the gutter, Forrest (Tom Hanks) in the rain, Forrest meeting Jenny (Robin Wright) and giving her some box and I remmeber the meeting being really happy and I guess it’s more bittersweet.
Everything else was a blur. For some reason, I don’t remember Jenny being a coke addicted stripper trying to jump off a building and eventually getting AIDS. Or Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) being homeless and getting hookers for him and Forrest and eventually kicking him out because one of the hookers called Forrest a retard or something. And how it’s a one in a million chance for a special needs person to have a rockin’ body like that. And somebody investing Forrest’s money on Apple, because advertising within a film existed back then too. And that this is probably Haley Joel Osment’s first movie. Hookers and suicide and cocaine and the stock market in a family movie.
I blame my lack of memory first to the draconian censorship board in the Philippines. Maybe I slept while watching the movie, or we left the theatre when the shocking parts happened. The last scenario seems impossible since my grandma was also a cultural person who would probably have wanted us to see the terrible side of life. But then she didn’t allow me to have toy guns.
There’s also a part of me that’s a bit surprised how this movie hasn’t aged well. All we have to do is look at Jenny’s storyline which, by the way, is probably the most ridiculous sentence I’ve ever written. And I haven’t even said everything that happens to her. All those things can happen to a real person, but going through time with a timely addiction to a timely disease makes someone look more like a time capsule or a metaphor instead of a fleshed out character. Jenny, however, exists both as a foil for Forrest as a way to remind contemporary critics that this movie ain’t cookie cutter.
Tom Hanks’s performance divides critics and movie writers moreso today than when it was released. I guess if a movie fails to shock at repeat viewings, it fails. I can’t watch it in its duration when it’s being aired on TV. I like it despite its flaws, but there are too many movie I like better that came out the same year.
I also wanna say that my mom absolutely hates Tom Hanks for some reason. I don’t know when else would I have the opportunity to expand on that.
Inside Out – All the Young Dykes: Lesbians…
This wasn’t a movie, it was more of a session about film by critic Ingrid Randoja. For half an hour, Randoja shattered my Catholic 90’s upbringing as I learned that “Fried Green Tomatoes” was a lesbian film although straight critics are helplessly oblivious to this knowledge, that Kate Winslet had a face of a 40-year-old at 18 and that’s a poorly worded compliment about maturity that showed within a teenager, that “Chasing Amy” sucks because it wanted Amy to be with the Ben Affleck character. The depiction of lesbians has a circular time line since it went from predatory to positive (“Fucking Amal”) and back to predatory (“Monster”). But there’s also linear progression, as the films go from showing young lesbians to lesbian mothers (the up and coming “The Kids are All Right”). And she talked about TV too (“Cagney and Lacey”).
Not mentioned was the Oscar nominated Mulholland Drive, a movie I’ll plug until my death. I mentioned this omission and Randoja assessed the David Lynch film as lesbianism under a straight male lens, and I guess she has a point. I guess I’ll do a second official entry for Mulholland Drive if it catches me again, but the movie, especially the sex scene, was more romantic than it was erotic. At least it wasn’t as erotic as the scene in “Bound.” However anyone interprets it, the relationship between Betty Elms and Rita is either a real thing in some alternate universe or an ideal. Yes, Rita is a bit leachy and Betty asserts herself as Rita’s saviour, but straight relationships are imperfect too. Would the film have been different if say, Lisa Chodolenko directed it?