"Test everything; hold fast to what is good."
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Tonio and Lonespark: I have the same issues with regard to Jenny–and also the whole “sex and drugs=lost soul” thing, because I hate that trope. (Filmmakers: it’s called “sophomore year,” it ain’t exactly a dark night of the soul for most of us, please get a clue.) Karen: Exactly. It’s not that I think the Russian novel sort of thing is bad, per se, but it’s very not for me, in the same way that Sour Patch Kids aren’t. Amaryllis: Heh, word. I do like the villain songs from those movies, though. (And “Savages,” which may or may not be a villain song, insofar as one half of it is sung by a villain and the other half isn’t.) And Hercules only gets off the hook for having one of the sassier Disney girls.
Run, Forest, run, into a wall; off a pier; into a vat of acid. I really wish that the “box of chocolates” he opened was prepared by Monty Python. Awesome. I never watched that; it didn’t appeal to me when I first heard about it, and all the “oh, you *must*! It’s the best movie ever!” turned me off. Had the same reaction to “Thelma and Louise”, only there the argument was “oh you *must*! It’s a *sisterhood* movie!”. Er, yeah. Whatever. So I share chromosomal configuration with the main characters, big deal. When we watch The Lord of the Rings, I like to wait for the part in The Two Towers where the trees of Fangorn are marching on Isengard and shout, “Run, forest, run!” Also awesome :)
And Hercules only gets off the hook for having one of the sassier Disney girls. Yes, that’s another case where it’s better not to know the rest of the story. And I got annoyed every time one of those polysyllabic Greek names got truncated to some American-sounding one-syllable nickname: Herc! Meg! Phil! and so on. If I hadn’t used up my quoting quota lately — okay, if I had the book handy– I’d cite Ogden Nash on “nickynames.” But I have, and I don’t, so I won’t. Other than that, I rather liked Hercules, as Disney movies go.
And I got annoyed every time one of those polysyllabic Greek names got truncated to some American-sounding one-syllable nickname: Herc! Meg! Phil! and so on. And Hercules wasn’t even the original Greek – it was Heracles. Or was it Hera Cleese, with the Pythons wearing Greek goddess drag?
I may have brought this up before, but anyhow… Friends and I used to amuse ourselves in high school by thinking up Disneyfied versions of books we read. Les Miserables would have a lot less misery and revolution, and more talking animals. The Phantom of the Opera would become somehow cute and cuddly. I think we actually did it with Hunchback, too, and then were horrified when the thing came out and surpassed our expectations. I’m not going to say Bambi isn’t a good film. Lilo and Stitch is one of my favorite movies ever, and there is good Disney stuff from the time period between. Like Tonio, I enjoy sampling different versions of the same story. But I would feel cheated by a story in which Tyr didn’t lose his hand. Or, for more “fictional story” examples, Ringbearers suffered no ill effects, and Arwen’s choice had no consequences. (I’m trying to think of Biblical examples, but I am admittedly not that familiar. I first thought of an animated tale of Jael that left out the whole nasty business with the tent peg. Maybe Exodus without the last plague? A kinder, gentler Crucifixion? Help, I can’t stop!) Gah, Pocahontas is still pissing me off! I don’t object so much to the story they told as the fact that they hijacked and deformed an important historical figure to do so. Why not just made-up story? At what point does a recasting of a story’s theme stray too far from the source material? For me I think it comes down to “tone abuse.” (Remember the shiny, happy Alamo! Salome gives John the Baptist a stern talking to!)
Other than that, I rather liked Hercules, as Disney movies go. I didn’t like it as much as others, possibly because I was more familiar with the original than I was with other Disney movies, or possibly because I’d watched the Disney series before watching the movie. I really missed Cassandra. Les Miserables would have a lot less misery and revolution, and more talking animals. I read what I much, much later realized was an abridged version of Les Miserables… No wonder, it only contained the story of Cosette from the scene where she is left at the Thernardier’s home to the scene where she leaves with Jean Valjean. I liked it well enough at the time but having read the whole thing I now consider it an abomination. Anyway : there’s your Disney version. With talking animals. Or is that too Cinderella ?
Lonespark: Yeah, pretty much. The exception for me is Mulan, which I know has issues of history and tone and so forth, but which nonetheless makes me happy. Pocohontas bothers the hell out of me–not least because I had to listen to multiple “Colors of the Wind” iterations working in a deli–and Hunchback…enh, I enjoyed it, but mostly in a so-bad-it’s-funny way. The fairy tale stuff doesn’t bug because there’s been so many different versions already, I think, and most of them were made cleaner and shinier before Disney got involved at all.
There was an episode of The Critic that featured a Broadway musical version of Hunchback of Notre Dame calle “Hunch” that was a shiny, happy version of the story. When the Disney movie came out a couple years later I remember being amazed by the prescience of the people who wrote that episode.
I don’t object so much to the story they told as the fact that they hijacked and deformed an important historical figure to do so. I share that objection, partly because I care about historical accuracy. At what point does a recasting of a story’s theme stray too far from the source material? For me I think it comes down to “tone abuse.” (Remember the shiny, happy Alamo! Salome gives John the Baptist a stern talking to!) That’s a good standard. Can you come up with other examples? Custer rescued by a pretty Indian woman who instantaneously rejects her heritage and beliefs, like in the worst of the original Star Treks? The wacky Floridian adventures of a newly juvenile De Leon, where his best friend was Corey the Crocodile?
a shiny, happy version of the story While most college football fans know the legend of The Gipper, few know about one of Notre Dame’s greatest defensive stars. “Sparky” Quasimodo was discovered during his freshman year during a chance visit by Knute Rockne to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus. Most of Quasimodo’s fellow students had dismissed the bell-ringer as a deformed simpleton. But Rockne, with his keen eye for gridiron talent, saw the young man’s tremendous potential. While not a consistently fast runner, Quasimodo was capable of lightning bursts of speed, often catching even his own teammates by surprise. But the Hunchback’s main asset was his fearsome tackling ability, setting an NCAA record in sacks that stood for 45 years. Quarterbacks throughout college football trembled in fear at hearing his name.
And Hercules only gets off the hook for having one of the sassier Disney girls. Word. And pretty good gospel-pastiche soundtrack. Plus James Woods asking “Woah. Is my hair out?” I also liked Mulan, for the cinematography basically, and for having a decent villain for a change. And Beauty and the Beast, but all the best parts of that movie were stolen from Robin McKinley and Jean Cocteau.
Jon: OMG, that’s right. The Lonespark household are big fans of The Critic. I think if I checked I would find that far too many of the absurd film premises in the series have since been realized. But I shan’t right now, because the fetus won’t let me drown my sorrows. Caravelle: I don’t think that works, because it’s a different story. You need to incorporate violent revolution, and street urchins, and the whole wacky Javert saga, and still have it be fluffy. Disneyfying the Thernardiers themselves would be quite an accomplishment, though. It would work better if Cosette were an adorable puppy. Les Miserables is a good example of multiple versions that work. A buttload of movie adaptations over the years have left out Eponine’s storyline entirely. I’ve seen and liked the 70’s version w/Tony Perkins and the recent version w/Jeffrey Rush despite this. The musical keeps her, but tosses Azelma, Gavroche and his “babies,” most of Marius’s homelife, that guy who really liked books, most of the ABC interaction…and is still awesome. (I can’t remember if it keeps in Javert trying to get fired, which is one of my favorite bits.) I would love to see week long miniseries that tackled the whole thing, though. (And they’d still have to cut, because you don’t need to recount the entire battle of Waterloo to explain what Thenardier does in that context, and the sections on argot don’t even really have any story in them. These are the kinds of things that make one greatful JRR Tolkien believed in Appendices.) Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Lord of the Rings are three modern works I can think of that lend themselves well to multiple interpretations in the same way that fairy tales and myths do. And of course, the great modern myths, aka superhero comics, are in the same boat. You get the occasional Bakshi cartoon version, but that’s ok. Multiple branches/streams of “canon” just make it more fun to play in that sandbox.
One lazy spring afternoon, Quasimodo and his buddies decided to check out the Bell Tower, climbing all the way to the top. After a little horsing around, one of his buddies dared Sparky to ring the bell. Well, never one to back down, he reached over and pushed that bell as hard as his tackling strength would allow. The bell rang out with a sonorous gong, but then swung back and knocked old Sparky to the ground several stories below. The crowd that gathered around his body could not even identify him at first, given the extent of his injuries. Finally, one perceptive young woman said, “I don’t know his name, but his face sure rings a bell.”
Can you come up with other examples? Well, what legend did to poor King Cnut by the ocean pretty much reversed his original point. And I always thought the White Rosers had a good case. Hmm. You could re-write the tragedy of Abelard and Heloise as a sort of merry musical romp of mistaken identities, sort of cross between Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE* and PDQ Bach’s HANSEL AND GRETEL AND TED AND ALICE. * which I always thought of as “Nasty Child Custody Dispute Gone Horribly, Horribly Wrong”
It’s not just historical accuracy. I occasionally buy the argument that something historically innacurate is more aesthtically/dramatically powerful. It’s more like a complete disregard to for historical truth at all, or perversion of the spirit of the characters and story. I love epics. I would love more historical accuracy, though, because it is worthwhile and awesome, and so many true stories are great stories. Trying to pretend that a weak story, very loosely based on some historical figure or event, gains something from that association, is an insult to history and to storytelling. Except when it isn’t – Shakespeare comes to mind. But I don’t think that’s the same thing, quite. The worst, worst, worst instances of this involve historical revisionism for no other reason that supposed box-office draw of straight white American men. Changing the protagonists from British to American (or the enemy from American to French, in the case of Master and Commander)is dodgy. Changing history so that your Asian protagonists become white, your female heroes get their best tricks stolen by men, your black protagonists suddenly have white anti-slavery best friends, and gay people don’t exist, is pathetic and sickening. Because there weren’t already enough stories about the adventures of white men, right?
It would work better if Cosette were an adorable puppy. You mean like the misbegotten OLIVER AND COMPANY? (No, I refuse to provide a link.” one perceptive young woman said, “I don’t know his name, but his face sure rings a bell.” Her friend asked, “Could it be, whatz-iz-name, Quasimodo?” A verger in the crowd pushed his way forward at hearing this. Upon gazing at the body, he nodded. “It’s either him, or a dead ringer.”
Also, Sparky Quasimodo wins an internet. Yeah, you’re right hapax, most legends and “history” throw fact out the window in favor of what some group considered a good story. But in most cases I think the stories can exist in parallel and contribute to a richer understanding. That movie with Viggo Mortensen and the horse race is an example where telling the full story would have made it more interesting to me at least.
And Beauty and the Beast, but all the best parts of that movie were stolen from Robin McKinley and Jean Cocteau. Was it stolen? I remember being impressed by the obviousness of the McKinley bits and looking for a credit.
Aw, but my parents exposed me to Oliver and Company when I was young and defenseless! Plus, I gotta say Dickens lends itself to Disneyfication better than most.
Wonderful, wonderful music, though. And all the keys are in systematic order. (Oops, wrong Dvorak! Sorry!)
The worst, worst, worst instances of this involve historical revisionism for no other reason that supposed box-office draw of straight white American men. I’m with you there. Despite the terrific script and performances in THE WIND AND THE LION, there is no queation that the film distorts the real life Perdicaris Incident in order to preach right-wing testerone polics. Of course, Oliver Stone consistently does the same from the other end of the political spectrum.
Thank you, hapax, for the follow-up; I did not have the nerve.
Lonespark: With you, plus Billy Joel. I kind of want to see The Scarlet Letter as Disney musical, now, but that’s because I’m a bad person. And because I hate Nathaniel Hawthorne. (True story: I swiped my mom’s copy of TSL when I was about ten, because I’d heard that it was all about illicit sex and stuff oh my god. Acted all nonchalant about it; was surprised when I got away with it, because Mom was generally pretty on the ball. Did not hear her evil laughter AT THE TIME, oh no. Not until after I’d discovered that, yes, it *was* possible for a book whose plot was all about illicit sex–and which included creepy midnight visions of fire and blood, moreover–to be incredibly damn boring.)
I would have said Oliver Stone does that from the batshit-insane end of the political spectrum, but I admit to not being familiar with all his work. Does Natural Born Killers somehow promote liberal values?
On downer endings: I agree with you to some extent. I don’t like films where, stuck for a conclusion, the producers just decide to kill everyone off in deeply unsatisfying ways, and I still can’t stand to watch the “Jurassic Bark” episode of Futurama. On the other hand, there are a lot of works with downer endings that I do like – indeed where the downer ending makes the work. Brazil and 1984 wouldn’t be nearly as good if they’d ended with the downfall of the evil government and Winston Smith/Sam Lowry living happily ever after with his love interest, and it can give films like Shaun of the Dead some much needed deep and perspective after the light-hearted events that have transpired. But yeah, Harry Potter was a total downer ending. Learning that they’d all grow up to be boring middle-class inbreeding dorks (I don’t care how symbolic the name is, if you call your kid Albus-Severus, you may as steal his lunch money before he goes to school and save the bullies’ time) was just depressing!
Does Natural Born Killers somehow promote liberal values? Well, sho’nuff. It promotes gun control, don’t it? :-) if you call your kid Albus-Severus Not to mention the poor kid’s initials. It’s Slytherin for him, no question.
Yah, if loving Billy Joel is wrong, I don’t want to be…not wrong. I looked up Wind and the Lion on imdb. It sounds like one of those many movies that are wonderful, and then you find out the real history and think, “But that would have made and even better story!” As opposed to say, The Patriot, which with or without any historical accuracy, is crap. (The were called the Green Dragoons, because they wore…Red Coats! etc.)
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