Thursday, June 05, 2014

Maleficent

About 15 years ago, I first became aware of Angelina Jolie and saw her in "Gia" and "Girl, Interrupted." I thought these two performances were mildly moving, nothing profound. (It's easy to "play crazy and/or drug-addled.") What was even more interesting to me at the time was her public persona: Deep-kissing her brother, giving an interview while all sexed-up after intercourse with Billy Bob Thornton in their limo. She was, indeed, interesting: bordering on train-wreckish, but also very bold and daring.

Since then, she's apparently calmed down, and I haven't seen another performance of hers, other than the public media pronouncements about her "stealing" Brad Pitt, and the multiple kid adoptions, and her double mastectomy. YAWN. I can't think of three things that are less inspiring to me than (1) winning Brad Pitt, (2) adopting a bunch of kids, or (3) getting a double mastectomy when you don't even have cancer just 'cause you're paranoid about possibly getting cancer in the future.

With all the current publicity about "Maleficent," though... OK, so Jolie was initially interesting to me because of her "dark side." And I've always been interested in psychologically dark women. But then it's kind of trendy recently to do "The Madwoman in the Attic" and "Wicked" and such. And I hate "summer blockbusters from Disney"-- surely anything psychologically profound about the concept of the Evil Queen is going to be dumbed down.

Reviews I started reading about "Maleficent" initially confirmed my doubts. The fact that Peter Travers of "Rolling Stone" hated it was all over the web. So I had to go to the RS site to read what Travers had to say. And there I came upon this cogent response to Travers by reader Amy Luna Manderino, which is now also getting much attention:
Let me translate Travers' review for those of you who like a bit of objectivity and depth in your movie reviews...

"classic evil b*tch"
translation: I only see characters in terms of their gender tropes.

"soulless" "untouched by human hands" "empty inside"
translation: I am too numb to recognize that this is the deeply profound story of anyone (male or female) being physically violated and emotionally betrayed by someone in whom they placed their deepest love and trust and the healing journey back from that devastation to conquer the inner urge to become evil yourself."

"The idea..is that Maleficent is really a secret softie."
translation: I am too obtuse to realize that the idea is that people are complex and nuanced, sometimes Princes (or Princesses) turn into Frogs and Villians turn into Heroes and we shouldn't be quick to judge the..uh…what was that term?…oh yes…the "evil b*tches" of the world.

"She's been done wrong...Men-those rat b*stards!"
translation: I'm too defensive to realize that any person, male or female who displays psychopathic values above their humanity is a rat b*stard but it's also true that socialized masculine culture normalizes psychopathic values over humanity and that pointing this out helps women AND men.

"three incompetent pixies"
translation: I'm so used to the same old five female tropes in my films that I didn't pick up on the passive-aggressive codependent mother role the pixies were meant to deliberately symbolize in contrast to Jolie's true and unconditional mother love for Aurora.

"Aurora is ready to join her spirit mom Maleficent in revenge against Big Daddy."
translation: I so wanted to hate the b*tches in this film that I didn't even notice that Aurora were and Maleficent were simply TRYING TO LEAVE THE CASTLE (not extract revenge) when they were ATTACKED. And that, in the end, Maleficent does NOT take her revenge when she can.

"The twink of a prince is little more than an afterthought."
translation: I am so used to the entitled male tropes in films that I can't wrap my brain around the idea that a significant other can be one of many aspects of life that a man or woman indulges in and loves and that doesn't make them an AFTERthought, it makes them an ALSOthought.

"Even the true love's kiss that can awaken Aurora takes a feminist slant."
translation: Any love that doesn't involve sex between a man and a woman is "feminist."

"Maleficent is still one long, laborious slog."
translation: This movie is way ahead of my ability to comprehend its beauty, subtly and innovative universal themes on the human condition.

Rolling Stone, it's time to get a new movie critic. The world is passing Travers by in leaps and bounds.
Holy fuck and amen, Amy Luna! :)  And I haven't even SEEN the film. But now I certainly WANT to! Closing the deal (re my indecision about seeing this movie) was this excerpt by Matt Zoller Seitz on the rogerebert.com site:
The scene of Maleficent waking up on a hilltop with huge scars in her back, then weeping with rage, is the most traumatizing image I've seen in a Hollywood fairy tale since the Christ-like sacrifice of Aslan in 2005's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It strikes so deep, and its impact resonates for so long after, that it makes the film's numerous missteps seem less like deal breakers than irritants. The assault transforms Maleficent from an unabashed heroine into an anti-heroine—a straight-up bad guy, as far as the story's terrified humans are concerned—and warps Disney's vanilla 1959 film into a conflicted revenge story with an unmistakable feminist undertone. It's the deepest betrayal imaginable. Every subsequent action Maleficent takes—including casting a spell on Stefan's daughter Aurora (played as a teen by Elle Fanning) that will send her into a coma at age 16 after a finger-prick by a spinning wheel needle—is driven by the trauma of that betrayal.
 

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