04 July 2008

Audio-visual Interlude

Allow me to briefly warn you that this section contains almost nothing but my meandering impressions of the delights of in-flight entertainment.

Now that I've disclaimed away and you're all sitting comfortably on your botties, I shall continue. The flights allowed me to catch up on a lot of stuff I'd been wanting to watch for a while, Enchanted, 30 Rock, St Trinian's, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Jane Austen Book Club, as well as giving me an opportunity to enjoy classics like The Wizard of Oz and some of my favourite music that felt especially relevant (so many Joni Mitchell songs seem to be about the experience of moving...).

The Other Boleyn Girl was enjoyable enough, but I think that I definitely preferred the book to the film. I felt that they changed the story for the adaptation rather more than they needed to, and I can't believe that they felt the need to tone down the wacky incest! I really liked the casting however, and felt it was very well acted.

Enchanted was really fun, and I'm glad that I finally got the chance to see it. I love Amy Adams anyway (thanks to The West Wing and Charlie Wilson's War, viva la Sorkinistas!), and she was especially endearing here. I guess the problem with watching films aeons after everyone else in the world, combined with an inability to totally filter out pop culture as it happens around me means that I don't really have anything original to say about the film. However I will say that I read a review from a source that I generally feel can do no wrong which, although generally positive, complained a little about the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman that the bus driver embodied (no argument from me) and the depiction of women (general agreement, with slight argument from me).

Obviously Giselle is portrayed as being fairly stupid. I think that this was less to do with her being a woman, and more to do with her being a fantasy character. After all the Prince is certainly shown to be far less intelligent than her. They're both startlingly ill-equipped to deal with life.

I do definitely take the point that it's an unsatisfactory conclusion in some ways to have the six year old girl shun learning about and attempting to emulate women like Rosa Parks and Marie Curie (although, as she herself points out, dying as a result of your research isn't necessarily an excellent path to follow no matter how great a penchant for irony you have) in favour of her adulation of Giselle who is mostly concerned with shopping, cleaning up after other people and being beautiful. However, I think it's possible to argue that this is essentially a fairly positive resolution. Her heroine, Giselle is shown to be coming into her own, learning to think for herself and making decisions for herself far more whilst throwing off her idealism and romanticism. What better role model is there for a little girl than a woman who is prepared to admit her mistakes, who is concerned with learning and improving? Not only that, but why shouldn't the little girl be able to choose for herself what is important and worthwhile, rather than have various ideas thrust on her by an over-compensating father?

The only woman whom I thought was depicted in a negative way was Nancy, who could apparently be appeased very easily with a load of flowers and was happy to run off with the Prince and in fact marry him, simply because he was romantic and lacked a sense of irony. Then again, had matters not been resolved in that way it might have left a strong woman with an unhappy ending, which I might very well have been bitching about right now.

I actually really liked the fact that Giselle and the Prince were, at least initially, pretty stupid. To me it seemed to be saying, a la Miracle on 34th Street, that although fairytales are fun and have their place and we shouldn't just term them 'nonsense' (especially in front of 6 year olds) they aren't unproblematic. At the end of the day they are somewhat ridiculous and do not offer an exactly sensible template to model our real lives on. It may sound stupid, but how many women end up with bizarre notions about love, relationships and Prince Charmings because of them? I'm pretty sure that that's established sociological fact, although I can't be bothered to back up my point. It definitely makes me remember that scene in the Sex and the City movie where Carrie tries to explain to Lily (Charlotte's daughter, who I think was probably also around six) that love in real life often isn't very much like the way it is depicted in fairytales. Carrie seems so sad and resigned when she can't get the idea through to her.

Wow, that wasn't an amazing amount of over-analysis for a kid's flick, or anything. *whistles* It's just that I actually really love fairytales, legends and pretty much any kind of traditional story. I get annoyed with most Disney versions of these stories though, for sanitising them, and often losing a lot of the meaning. The blood, sex, violence and foul language need to be put back in, dammit! I tend to really love inventive modern stories that weave in elements of fairytales, like Shrek and Stardust, for example.

I really loved The Belles of St Trinian's when I was young, and didn't have any problem with the new St Trinian's film, it wasn't pretending to be anything serious and I think they managed to successfully contribute a perfectly fun film to the series, adding some contemporary twists and lightly playing around with contemporary ideas and styles. I think the film also managed to make a couple of decent points too, I'm not saying that an incredibly anarchic school is the ideal (although maybe that idea shouldn't be dismissed out of hand either), but I definitely agree with the Headmistress that the National Curriculum is far too constraining, and often idiotic. She also makes a good point that the school's students are entitled to an education, and yet they might not be accepted anywhere else. Even if the school isn't brilliant, at least they have something. I was impressed that Russell Brand somehow avoided being annoying, and definitely think that more films should involve Rupert Everett and Colin Firth in bed together. I really couldn't believe that that little geek girl (with the excellent name) was Lily Cole! It was nice to see Juno Temple again (so soon after The Other Boleyn Girl) as well.

The flight also allowed me to finally get around to watching the pilot episode of 30 Rock. I didn't dislike it and it did make me laugh a few times, but I don't think I'd bother to watch it further although I don't think I'd object to watching it if it happened to be on. Tina Fey definitely seems to love herself a bit too much, and it seemed a bit too silly (not in a good way) as well as incredibly contrived. I definitely, definitely, definitely preferred Studio 60, even at its worst.

The Jane Austen Book Club was strange, I felt a bit let down by it. It definitely could have been a lot better, but I wouldn't say that it was bad. I found some of the characters quite likable, especially Jocelyn and Grigg, and some were fun to hate like Daniel (played by Jimmy Smits, again viva la Sorkinistas, and indeed Sorkinistos!) but a lot of the others were incredibly annoying, especially Bernadette who seemed to be trying way too hard to be 'kooky'. I actually love Jane Austen, and the extremely underrated Mansfield Park. The only novels of hers that I haven't reread recently are Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion, and that's only because they mysteriously went missing. Actually if I was in charge of the great Austen reread I think I would have forced Lady Susan's Letters on people in addition to the novels, and maybe some other shiz as well.

I would have enjoyed a bit more in-depth discussion of the books, what we got was interesting but often quite surface. However, I suppose that's because I'm a massive Austen fan and it might be quite alienating for viewers outside of a small niche market. In addition I would have enjoyed some more instantly and strongly likable characters and I would definitely have liked some of the parallels between the film's and Jane's characters to have been drawn a tad less explicitly. Subtlety is definitely a virtue.

One part of the film that I really enjoyed was the way that Grigg and Jocelyn introduced each other to very gendered fiction that they each had misgivings about, but ended up enjoying. I think the book geek in me especially liked that because not only am I head over heels for Austen, but fantasy is one of my absolute favourite genres, which definitely includes a lot of sci-fi as well. I do have mixed feelings about Ursula le Guin though, to be fair. I can be made extremely happy very easily by films mentioning things I love, and here the mention of the Buffy convention garnered a big ol' smile, and a lot of empathy for Grigg.

I could totally see the school teacher character ditching Riley for the fittie from Transamerica, even if his hair was a bit weird in this. He may have had stigmata and whatnot as a kid in the X-Files but at least he's never been caught getting suckjobs from vampires. As I said, subtlety is a virtue.

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