37 Movie Blitz: Day 15

Yes Day 15 was a crusher with four very different films screened. Good thing I didn’t have a lemon in the bunch but there was a minor hiccup involving Hamlet (I’ll explain when we get there).

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Blancanieves is the first silent film in the bunch and more so a unique retelling of Snow White. It begins with Carmen’s parents, how she comes to live with the “wicked queen”, her failed assassination and exile, and her spending time with the dwarves. But how is this different? Well it’s set in Spain and it is about following in the family business: bullfighting.

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Yes she is a bull fighter just like her father was. Hell the dwarves are a troupe of bull fighters as well. Allow your mind to drink that in; the seven dwarves are bullfighters.

 

See? The 7 Bullfighting Dwarves!
See? The 7 Bullfighting Dwarves!

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Not just because it is a newer film (2012) that felt it was crafted in the golden age of the silent film yet is crisp and clean like any HD film. I was also invested in the story, how it was retold to take place in 1920’s Spain, and that this was the Grimm fairy tale and not the Disney version of Snow White.  Well worth the time spent screening it; I would even say this might be a good entryway into black & white silent movies for the modern movie audiences just because of how accessible and well crafted this film is.

Paranorman

ParaNorman during its theatric release did nothing to garner my desire to spend money to see it on a big screen. Now after screening it I admit that I enjoyed it but still hold to my position that this was more of a rental than full feature.

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It had all the hallmark elements of a pseudo-Burton-esque rip off but managed to not be a total Tim Burton rip in one very important area: it was scarier than most Tim Burton animated films. Really. I can see some of this flicks ‘gallows humor’ really scaring small children. This was aimed squarely at tweens/teens for the young audience demographic.

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I also really dug the underlying story about taking ideologies to their extremes due to fear and its consequences. That wasn’t too heavy handed yet it the film wasn’t being subtle about it. Animation wise it scratched the itch and I was happy that it used stop motion and not all digital. Worth the Netflix screening if you are in the mood for something slightly macabre.

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I haven’t seen this since I was 5 years old and I was glad this was recommended on the list. I didn’t remember this film except for slivers of imagery and even those were erroneous. Regardless I enjoyed watching this bizarre fairytale set in a western frontier town. Themes of the importance of community and friendship are important as well as never assume a person’s appearance belies who they really are.

But there is a concern folk showing this film today and that is the main character Dr. Lao is played by a white actor, Tony Randall, and appears to be an enormous racist stereotype. I would argue in the context of this movie we do not ever know who Dr. Lao is and all of his appearances are masks that reflect what the other person feels he should act/behave like.

Tony Randall as Dr. Lao
Tony Randall as Dr. Lao

Yes I can understand the hesitance here to watch this movie but consider a film like Blazing Saddles where the central character played the part of the stereotype for the idiots and bigots but was nuanced and willingly put on that act to highlight how stupid racism really is. Not that deep here but you see Randall play all of his characters in a sly, intelligent, and respectful manner through out.  In no way is this Mickey Rooney from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. THAT was just racist and unapologetically so.

Geez... this role made me cringe as a child when I first watched this. That is pretty bad.
Geez… this role made me cringe as a child when I first watched this. That is pretty bad.

There is some cool stuff in this movie like the blurring between imagination and magic, the stop motion Loch Ness Monster, the superb make up used to transform Randall into all of this ‘faces’. When watching this you could easily see Dr. Lao being a distant cousin to Doctor Who. A being who travels from place to place and arrives at a point where the people there need the help the most and helps to stabilize and fix the problem before moving on to the next.

This movie also has a young Barbara Eden in it and it reminded me of how lovely she was back in the day.

She looks great even with out the blond hair and genie costume.
She looks great even with out the blond hair and genie costume.

And now for the hiccup!

Hamlet

Lets just start by saying I enjoyed the hell out of this version of Hamlet and it has inspired me to screen other takes on the immortal themes and characters The Bard scripted all those years ago.

The hiccup was as a three hour movie I dozed off and fell asleep through acts 2-3. Yup, out like a light, and I wasn’t woken up until I snored and my wife gave me a nudge. Fortunately she is a English teacher specializing in British Literature and caught me back up to speed quickly.

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OMG THE DOCTOR IS TRYING TO MURDER PICARD!!!!!

The acting was good, the story (sans hiccup) was compelling but the acts I slept through are somewhat dull. The opening and last acts were just nonstop tension, betrayal, and kept me wide awake and glued to the screen. It was also interesting having my wife give me tidbits of info about particular lines and why they were important or where there have been multiple interpretations to what Shakespeare was trying to say.  I will admit that I loved watching Tennant act like he was going insane and possibly skirting that fine line and really losing his mind.

This is a real scene in the film. I am not kidding.
This is a real scene in the film. I am not kidding.

He keeps everything moving along at a fine pace, I felt he made Hamlet his own version much like he made The Doctor his own. But there was times where you saw a Timelord poking out from a Danish royal but I didn’t mind. In fact I think if he went full on Doctor it would have added to the insanity and kicked up the role.

You MUST be crazy to wear this....or are you?
You MUST be crazy to wear this….or are you?

Worth watching just be prepared to take a break from this 3 hour retelling.

Next: God Bless America,Last Tango in Paris, and Megamind

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