Monday, January 20, 2014

Frozen: Yes. It is THAT Good.

Hello, my dears. I apologize for being absent since whenever the heck the last time was that I wrote on here (two weeks? a month? never?) but I just saw Frozen last week and wanted to take a minute to reassure everyone that:

Yes. It is that good.

For weeks I have been hearing my previous babysittees, fellow Disney enthusiasts, and award shows sing (sometimes literally) the praises of this film and I FINALLY found someone to go see it with me last week.

The movie is set in Scandinavia, in a land called Arondelle, where two little princesses live with their royal parents. On a night where the younger of the two, Anna, can't sleep, she wakes up her older sister, Elsa, and tries to persuade her to build a snowman. As the two escape downstairs, Elsa reveals that she has magical powers that enable her to make snow and ice. Even though they are merely playing, Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with some of her magic. Although the crisis is quickly averted by the king and queen, they decide to hide the two girls away from the world, urging Elsa to conceal her powers. Anna has no memory of Elsa's special gift and so is confused by her sister's cold manner (see what I did there?) for years. Years later, when it is time for Elsa to step up as queen, she accidentally reveals her powers to her kingdom and, in turn, runs away from Arondelle to protect both herself and others. Anna then makes it her mission to find her, repair their broken relationship, and to persuade her to thaw the winter that Elsa unintentionally brought upon their town.

Along the way Anna makes friends with a prince named Hans, a guy named Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and a talking snowman named Olaf.

SO! What I liked about this movie:

-MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC: there is a reason that this movie won some stuff at that awards show two weeks ago (one week ago? a week and a half ago?). All of the songs in the film harken back to the Golden Age of Disney animation back in the 90s, and for one spectacular reason: you can tell that they were thinking Broadway when they made this. In the same way that Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid all became smash-hits on Broadway, Disney seems to have anticipated its success and prepared for this musical ahead of time. Boasting Idina Menzel of Wicked and a surprisingly versatile Kristen Bell, all of the songs in this film are incredibly catchy. And not in that annoying "Call Me Maybe" kind of way.

Frozen: The Musical (no I did not make this)

-Girl lessons: How many people are going feminist these days? Yep. Lots. And Disney doesn't seem to have taken this for granted. As a girl that wrote an embarrassingly long paper on a feminist reading of The Swan Princess, I've got to say that it's nice to see a movie that tells girls, "Hey. Sometimes finding true love is as easy as looking at your family tree. And not at prince that you've only known for, like, a day." It's also about rejecting traditional fantastical plot lines and introducing ones that are more realistic. After all, you wouldn't want your kids to grow up thinking that marrying a guy that has never heard you speak (The Little Mermaid), has only hung out with you once (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella), and/or needs to rescue you all the time (too many.) is commonplace.

Girl power. Just like the Spice Girls always said.

-Olaf the Talking Snowman: Such a huge part of kid movies' appeal is an entertaining cast. But where Disney frequently ups the ante is its inclusion of the adults that are so frequently watching these movies with their kids (or, y'know, weird 24-year-olds that really like cartoons...ahem...). When I first saw the preview for Frozen a few months ago I actually cringed. I was like "Crap. A great plot; sounds interesting; and they had to incorporate a stupid talking snowman. Great. Why not just call it Snowbuddies 12." Honestly...I have never been so wrong. Olaf is a key reason why I liked this movie. In fact, I would say the personalities of all of the characters in general are just ultra-relatable for a kids' movie. Their optimistic attitudes aren't the ditz-prince interactions that we're used to. These guys have substance. But are still hilarious. And I like that.

hahaha, omg, this guy...

In conclusion: go see Frozen. And embrace YouTubing all of the various songs in it, because they're going to become the new ones that you belt in your car.

8.5 outa 10.

I'm gonna do something crazy and just show you guys this song, because all of the trailers aren't very good. Enjoy!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis's No-Good, Very Bad Life

When I saw this at the NYFF in October I didn't know anything about it other than that it had been made by the Coen Brothers (of FargoO Brother, Where Art Thou, and True Grit fame). Honestly, (maybe I was a little burnt out by the amount of movies I was cramming into my days) I didn't LOVE it. But after seeing it again over the weekend, I've got to admit: I'm a pretty big fan.


Llewyn Davis is a musician trying to make his way in the cutthroat folk music scene of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He doesn't have a permanent address, he never knows when he'll earn his next paycheck, and he doesn't even have a winter coat. As we peek inside his everyday life, we get a look at the instability he experiences in the day-to-day. His record label is a dated nightmare run by an old man, he's recently gone solo due to his partner's suicide, he finds out that he's been implicated in the life of one of his friends' girlfriends, and he treks all the way out to Chicago in hopes of becoming something bigger than what he currently has. By the end of the movie, Llewyn has to reflect on this lifestyle and whether it's something that he wants to perpetuate.

Because, let's be honest, it looks hard.

The first time I saw this, I was confused. There's a lot of "larger forces at play" kind of themes. (Which I really should've realized before going in. I mean, it's the Coen Brothers.) For example, after Llewyn is leaving one house, the homeowners' cat gets out, forcing him to carry it around for about half the movie. He moves the cat to another house where he stays, it runs away, he catches it, he gives it back to the owners, it's not their cat, so he takes it in the car to Chicago, etc. The cat is with him all over the place (and really, keeps the movie pretty funny, among other methods). But also obviously serves a higher metaphorical purpose: does the cat represent fate, his life, his hope? (I'll leave it up to you to explore, if you feel to inclined, rather than blithering on about it here.)

Ha, this guy..

I was also distracted the first time by the pessimistic tone of the movie. The Coen Brothers are notorious for their aesthetic and this is no exception. NYC looks freezing and the gray tone of the whole film really emphasizes the bleak themes and hopelessness of Llewyn's life.

But what I missed the first time that I really noticed the second time was the vibrancy that the music gives to the whole film. Despite Llewyn's snark, unhappiness, and irresponsibleness, all of those emotions seem to stem from his frustration that no one is taking his music seriously. At one point his sister asks him to find a stable job and he asks, "What, quit? Just exist?" The whole movie then becomes the tale of his struggle to make his art into a lifestyle (a problem that a lot of us deal with) while keeping it authentic. While Llewyn's songs are simple and soulful (as is the majority of the soundtrack), the Coen Brothers draw attention to the fact that people are starting to like the catchier, more commercial folk music emerging from the scene. Hilariously kind and simple Troy Nelson's folk tunes earn him more recognition than Llewyn can scrounge up for his renditions of "Fare Thee Well" and "The Death of Queen Jane." Despite the fact that when Llewyn meets him he asks him "So where do you plug yourself in?" And the oh-so-typical 1960s tune "Please Mr. Kennedy" that Llewyn's friend Jim (played by Justin Timberlake) dreams up only serves to contrast the simple, moody folk tunes with hyper-bubbly pop nonsense.

I mean, pop is obviously not Llewyn's style of choice...

The soundtrack enhances the experiences that Llewyn has and really breathes life into a story that can sometimes be a little hard to watch. The music is so good, in fact, that they made a movie of it called Another Day, Another Time. It's a huge folk music concert that they had in New York's city hall to promote the movie and just seeing all of the artists interact with each other, collaborate on songs, and (sometimes) get emotionally caught up in the music is really neat.

Back to Llewyn Davis, though. It's a great story with great tunes. If you're into folk music at all, give it a watch, or at least a listen.

8 outa 10.

(Obsessed with the track that goes over this trailer. On repeat.)