Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Léon Bakst's Oddly Compelling Sleeping Beauty Series (with Commentary)

Close-up of Rothschild Sleeping Beauty panel by Léon Bakst
We're including information about these amazing Sleeping Beauty panels at the end of the post, but for fun, we decided to post these panel paintings with our own commentary, to draw your attention to some unusual - and amusing - aspects of these scenes.

Note: almost all symbolism is being thoroughly ignored in favor of first impressions, and any art history analysis is completely accidental.

Let's begin at the first panel, showing the moment the christening went horribly wrong:
The Bad Fairy Visits the Christening
So here we have the 'bad fairy' talking directly to the King, who looks bored, and a more concerned Queen. Meanwhile, on the floor, rats are swarming toward the cradle and the nannies are busy being very protective of the baby. One of them looks horrified and is choosing to shield the baby from the fairy, despite rats looking to make their way up her skirts, while the other is working on stopping the vermin with some good whacks of her, whatever that is - a fan?

It's a bit hard to tell if the rest of the folk are in shock, have no idea what's going on or are so bored they don't care.

Before we leave, we have to draw your attention to whatever is going on behind the curtain. We don't know what it is - but something shady is going on. (Perhaps the Bad Fairy's visual effects crew setting up? They're in black with those tell-tale floating heads of a backstage crew. Whomever they are, they 're about to be found out by the person wrapped in a gold, er, wraps, in front of them.)

Next: the Good Fairy takes her chance and gets a promotion up the fairy ranks with her bold initiative: while she's not powerful enough to stop the curse, she can bend it a little.
The Good Fairy's Promise
Here we see the Queen forgetting about her designer dress (though her ladies in waiting look to have been aware of the optics and fanned it out to best effect on the ground), crouching on the floor near the cradle, clearly begging for help from the young fairy, while the nannies are being perfect back-up nannies, having jumped to assist immediately, and apparently having banished the rats very effectively to follow their mistress.

Meanwhile, poor nervous apprentice fairy seems to have a body odor issue, as evidenced by the looks on the faces of the people next to, behind and across from her. (You thought they were magical radiance lines, like we did at first, didn't you? Well now you know. She just stressed.)

The royal guard have rushed at the cause of the initial commotion and are forcing the old woman - and her rats - out the door, perhaps overdoing the threat factor a little with that giant axe being swung at her head. Good thing she seems to have ducked in time. The painting behind her is looking on in a very judgmental fashion, but what can you expect from folks stuck on a wall in such a situation?

Meanwhile the King appears to be protecting his royal jewels and trying to not look as if he's lost control of the situation, (is that pregnant lady looking at him from the background very pointedly?) while the young fairy is looking a little wavery, like she's barely holding it together herself.

Oh and by the way, looks like the baby got a preview of the sleeping spell there. She's turned over and is looking pretty happily asleep now.

Fast forward fifteen and a half years to see Briar Rose checking out a teeny, squishy tower room, complete with foreshadowing crow in the top right corner:
The Princess Pricks Her Finger On A Spinning Wheel
Through a strangely distorted fish-eye-type-but-not-quite lens we see Beauty, who looks like she stole out of her dressing room in her underthings while no one was looking, having found a cool looking door, opened it and let herself in (because she's a princess and doesn't need to ask permission). 

The spinning woman, who can't seem to fit her spinning wheel anywhere else except next to the gigantic unsafe window, looks rather concerned her over-sized cat will escape out the open door, but Beauty is oblivious. In fact, the girl seems to be making it even more awkward for the old woman in that space, to the point where granny has just caught her wheel from being knocked over. Luckily, the enormous cat, likely full-bellied from having a lot of that creamy milk, is totally occupied with a gigantic ball of yarn (though it's clearly keeping escape as an option out of the corner of its eye).

Meanwhile, the bird in the cage is savvy enough to rock its prison so it will get launched out into the air, and dumb enough to not realize there's no door... The crow, watching, seemed to be finding this behavior quite stupid and Darwin-esque, so is so relaxed about it all, he's leaning on the wall, just waiting for his moment.

Knowing Beauty is about to swoon into an enchanted sleep, it seems more likely that she'll fall out that low-silled tower window, or impale herself on the spindle, rather than on the floor, at this point, but really, with a cat, a crow, a crazy bird and an off-balance old woman in the mix, anything could happen.

Cut to dear old dad calling on the Good Fairy (who has taken advantage of her job promotion to afford herself a chariot pulled by dragons), saying something along the lines of: "Halp! The thing the ugly one said came true, and Beauty's mother isn't around anywhere to fix this, so now I have to figure this mess out... Please? -whine, whine - I'm old and stuff, and shouldn't be working on fixing stuff any more..":
The Aged King Pleads with the Good Fairy
The dragon is looking at the gathering murder of crows and thinking "lunch?". The fairy, in upgraded designer garb, is looking dubiously at the jeweled cushion thingy her POC servant seems her to want to step on, effectively ignoring the King (who conveniently is wearing the same outfit as the last time her saw her, to help her recognize him), though the monkey is offering to take it if no one else wants it. The king has had the presence of mind to employ some convenient POC helpers with his cloak, although they're having issues because either they're the only ones who have noticed the dragon and are appropriately terrified, or are the only ones who can see it.

The self-important guys behind the King seem to be discussing the fairy's outfit and looking at her ankles, while the folks below clearly can't hear anything over the racket of the trumpet by the knight doing double-duty as a herald. (It could be our imagination but it looks like the African herald-helper just saw his long lost brother above, with the cushion, so he's sent the monkey up to get his attention, but the monkey is distracted by the cushion... sigh.)

So the Good Fairy does her thing and send the entire castle to sleep (and we need to give her a break because it looks like this is her first time trying her spell on this scale):
The Princess and the Court Fall Asleep for a Hundred Years
She doesn't do it very adroitly. Unlike other paintings where people fall asleep gracefully, here folks clearly collapsed right where they stood, including a couple who unfortunately face-planted, while others knocked heads together pretty hard on the way down. At least the guards' armor seems to be helping prop those guys up. As long as the end guy doesn't fall over, they should be good for a few years, until they rust in place together. The cricks happening in some of those necks are going to need a miracle of their own to survive though. Yikes.

It's not clear if the fairy did a Miracle-Gro spell on the plants around the castle at the same time, but it's either that or the royal gardeners have not been doing their jobs, because the moss and mold is out of control already, and it's only 'day one, a hundred years to go'. Eesh.

The fairy looks less than impressed with the whole effect, like the vision hasn't matched the outcome, but from the way she's holding her arms she's not going to bother re-doing it all, especially since she appears to have become flammable. (Perhaps her dragon is in the background and isn't fully trained yet.) At least she remembered to get Beauty out of the tower and onto a proper bed. Not too terrible for her first proper assignment.

Fast forward again, but this time ninety-nine years, nine months and twenty-nine days, to when a more modern Prince finds himself in the vicinity of the legend:
The Prince Out Hunting Sees the Castle Where the Princess Lies Sleeping
So perhaps he's not modern enough for even a Galileo telescope, and he's clearly not modern enough to treat his companions any better than a literal footstool, but this Prince, in his latest skinny-jean fashion-pants, has caught sight of something he likes and he's going to change everyone's plans by making that his new adventure. (His horse doesn't care - he found a good crop of grass and is going for it.)

His advisors are estimating the distance to the walls, not looking happy about the setting sun and the terrain between them and the prince's new ambition. To complicate matters, they all seem to have different ideas about which direction to take is best. The dogs only care about their dinner, which the guy who fell down the hill a little was holding.

Meanwhile, the prince's buddies are tooting their own horns - literally - while trying not to tear their own fashion-pants on the twisted dead tree branches that are stopping them from falling over the edge of the cliff. And all this as the wind is getting stronger and flopping their sun hats and fripperies around, making it clear their fashion choices for this venture have leaned toward hazardous.

 Cut all the boring bits about the Prince hacking his way through to the princess.. but wait: is this even the same guy? Maybe not. Which, would make sense, considering the scene above. And frankly, that's fine. He's dressed more appropriately for finding a princess and declaring himself to also be royal (the crowns make the theme kinda obvious: 'Princess Alert!'. If they could have been flashing, perhaps they would):
The Prince Discovers the Princess and Wakes Her With a Kiss
So Sleeping Beauty wakes up and although she's aged well for a hundred years, she's not sixteen anymore. (Hopefully that's a good thing.) Not sure when she got moved from the tower with the open window to this fancy boudoir but room theme should make it obvious she's got good breeding, even if her nightie is outdated and she speaks in medieval-ese.

The dog isn't completely sure he approves of this hand kissing business, though the princess is doing her best to be gracious (despite that what she really wants is a glass of water to rinse her mouth out, or maybe just a bathroom and some privacy). The prince isn't exactly sure he's doing the right thing either, all the while, keeping a close eye on that dog, who clearly believes he has dibs on princess-cuddles, and can you blame him?

And where is everyone else? That part isn't clear. Maybe their stasis spells weren't as effective as the one on the princess, but that's OK. As long as she's there, and can take that heavy crown off her head at some point really soon, all's good, right? The look on the princess' face says she has other thoughts about that though...

And so her real story begins...
[End of non-official, non-researched commentary.]

Note: Léon Bakst is probably best known for his association with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and his opulent and inventive costume designs, that influenced the fashion and design world at large. He also created set designs and backgrounds for ballets but these Sleeping Beauty panels he created (aka The Sleeping Princess in the Wood), on commission for James de Rothschild in 1913 and finished in 1923,  seem largely unknown outside the art world, apart from the woken princess panel. (His costume designs for Diaghilev's Tchaikovsky production were rendered in 1921.) The paintings are from an era when people took their time looking at paintings, discovering details and aspects included at the artist's whim and own commentary. We just felt these panels included so many unusual elements that it was worth sharing our own commentary, because, after all, the eye of the beholder is where Beauty's true state is. ;)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Garrone's Live Action 'Pinocchio' Gets Harry Potter SFX Wizard

Pinocchio, which is currently being sold at Cannes, has signed one of the most sought after special effects folks in the business, Nick Dudman. We are guessing he is currently trying out a variety of noses for his new project...

We reported a while back on Italian Director Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales) and his latest passion project, a live action, personal retelling of Pinocchio, which he is also writing. (You can find that earlier post HERE.)
Dudman told Variety that the new Italian-language “Pinocchio” will have a “flavor and look that’s quintessentially Italian” and will be different from what audiences are used to seeing in mainstream fantasy films. “It’s a very personal journey for Matteo,” Dudman said. “They are doing something very different from previous versions. It’s very dark.” 
“’Pinocchio’ is a dream of mine that goes back to when I was a child,” says Garrone. “On my desk I still have my own personal ‘Pinocchio’ story-board that I drew and colored in when I was a kid, and which is one of my most cherished mementos.” 
... Production is expected to begin in early 2018 in Sicily, Calabria and Tuscany. (Variety)
We're looking forward to see how this develops, if we can. Garrone was pretty strict with his closed sets on Tale of Tales, but this is, at last information, still supposed to be a family film and should be very different from everything Garrone has done to date. Either way - we won't have seen a Pinocchio like this one before.

In case you missed the note, it's been confirmed that unlike Tale of Tales, this film will be in Italian.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein to Direct 'Fairy Godmother'

We have to agree with the writers at iO9. This movie, that we had relegated to the don't-even-bother corner did just get way cooler!
Yes, that’s Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia fame, who in addition to being a comedy god is also an acclaimed author and a rock star. She could probably pick any project to make her feature-film directing debut, but something about Fairy Godmother must’ve appealed. According to Deadline, the script by blogger and playwright Chiara Atik sparked a bidding war last year, and it offers a spin on the classic fairy godmother story: 

'When sought after Fairy Godmother Faye is hired by a mind-bogglingly gorgeous teenage client, Kenzie, to find her true love with the hottest prince in the land, Faye finds herself facing an unfamiliar challenge when the prince starts falling for her instead.' (iO9)
Hm. Unless the description isn't disclosing some fabulous take on this, Carrie Brownstein really is the only thing keeping this movie from the 'likely to ignore' pile. We must have faith in the Brownstein and believe... (clap hard!)

Asleep Means 'No' For Sleeping Beauties Too

Illustrator unknown, coloring by child
Warning: this post references real news. If you are sensitive or have trigger issues, you may wish to stop reading.

On reading this awful news story, we're thinking this is the true dark side of society being familiar with, well, the dark side of fairy tales. Who would have thought the trigger warning often attached to an old fairy tale telling would be used as a defense in court?

And yes: before you continue:
Though we are not including details, this article references sexual assault.
Please practice self-care in reading below.

This is the very real headline from May 18, 2017:

Doctor accused of drugging, raping patients claims ‘Sleeping Beauty fetish’

We repeat, this is not a drill. This is horribly, awfully real.

Here's the very weird testimony, recorded in court, as reported by ReviewJournal:
A suspended Las Vegas doctor accused of drugging and raping unconscious patients told jurors Thursday that he had a “Sleeping Beauty fetish,” which he acted out and videotaped with a woman during an affair.
... He acknowledged that she appeared unconscious in the recordings, but said the woman was actually awake and playing a role to act out his fantasy.
“Sleeping Beauty, kind of like a Disney movie, right?” prosecutor Alex Chen asked.
The doctor replied: “Sleeping Beauty meaning princess.” He referred to what’s known as somnophilia...
We're going to stop there, and let you look up the last word, in case you can't guess it's full meaning, because it goes on and gets worse, so if you want to read more about this bizarre "fetish defense" and what ensued in court, you can go to the article HERE.

Perhaps you are wondering, why on earth are you posting about this horrific thing on your lovely fairy tale blog? The thing is, the 'lovely' side of fairy tales is only one aspect of those tales. We all know there are many harsh and horrific ones, but society tends to relegate them to research, to case studies, and yes, to 'stories'. 

But we want to remind people that for many of us reading fairy tales, these issues are NOT stories. That they're real - newsworthy real. Perhaps they don't read so specifically like a dark old version of a fairy tale, but take out the 'wonder' aspect and you realize fairy tales are talking to us about the human condition, about human behavior, and about consequences and our choices.

We want to acknowledge all those who have survived their dark moments and have the courage to continue their tales. We want to acknowledge that it's a daily challenge and respect every second they choose life as a result. Like this photo from a set of survivor photos who chose the art of photography to communicate how they felt after being assaulted. (The photographer is a survivor too.)
Photo of survivor 1 by Elisa Iannacone"In the original fairytale, the princess is asleep and the prince rapes her.
I felt like 'Sleeping Beauty' and could have stayed in that tower forever."
This is one of the reasons fairy tales resonate so much, with so many people - because they talk about real, harsh, horrible things - things with consequences. Society is, in many ways, different now than it was when these tales were told, and again from when they were written down, yet it many ways it remains the same. It's acknowledged it was still a very bad thing 'before' but now that women are not property, the brutal behavior of what humans are capable of is even clearer.

The thing is, we're supposed to learn from the past, and yes, from fairy tales, to make the future better, not to twist it and curse others. We believe that in sharing these tales, our tales, with others we can share our support, and acknowledge that despite all of the dark, that we are not alone in our journey out from under that pall. Together we can resist the ongoing influence of those who believe they can impose their wills -and bodies- on us, and together we can help create a stronger protection for more of the dreamers to come.

Let's retell this fairy tale our way.

Note: as the court case stands, the doctor in question has been suspended from practicing indefinitely, however, jurors have not yet reached a consensus, and the deliberations will continue next week. We will not make an effort to follow this story, so if you wish to know the outcome, please refer back to the article and the links provided there.

Coming in October: 'Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards'

We need this! Since the advent of Pinterest (our happy place on the internet), people have collected all sorts of obscure fairy tale postcard images from auction sites, Ebay and their own scans. There have been so many new-to-us images, it's like a portal to how painters at the turn of the century (in particular), viewed fairy tales, not to mention just how very many there have been over the years, that we had no idea existed until quite recently. We're sure this new volume will have much more than just these (we are talking about a Zipes book where, so no doubt there will be tons of chewy informational goodness as part of the package) but we're looking forward to filling in the gaps on how fairy tales have been visually represented - and spread around the world, via airmail in particular (so traveling from country to country), over time, and what impact that has had on how fairy tale impressions and images have been disseminated.

Take a look at the juicy description. (We are so excited about this study! And note the bonus Marina Warner input):
The most familiar fairy tales call to mind certain images: Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty. Yet these visions often merely reflect illustrations encountered in classic tellings of the tales. The postcards gathered here by one of the world’s foremost scholars of folk and fairy tales tell another story—of the remarkable range of interpretations and reimaginings these tales have inspired, captured, and conveyed picture by picture in this singular form. 
A pictorial history of fairy-tale postcards from the late nineteenth century to the present, Tales of Wonder presents a fascinating look at how key scenes of fairy tales have been rendered over time, suggesting a rethinking and reliving of the tales through the years. 
Drawn from the author’s collection of more than three thousand fairy-tale postcards from around the world, these five hundred beautiful illustrations reproduce oil paintings, watercolors, photographs, ink drawings, and silhouettes—all evincing the myriad ways popular artists and their audiences have reimagined these tales. After an introduction and general history of fairy tales in postcards, the book features Jack Zipes’s own translations of the most classical fairy tales in Europe and the United States, including versions by Charles Perrault and by Brothers Grimm. 
The fairy tale is not just once upon a time: it is, as fairy-tale postcard, a particular if not peculiar expression of a time, created by talented artists and innovative publishing companies. Tales of Wonder tells this intriguing history of the postcards as well as providing new perspectives on familiar stories.
Aside: Whoa. Jack Zipes has more than three-thousand fairy tale postcards from all over the globe?! How awesome is that?

(Translate: we are a little jealous and wish we could visit, have tea and look at every one!)

'Tales of Wonder: Retelling Fairy Tales through Picture Postcards' will be available October 10, 2017 but you can pre-order now.

Note: artists of fairy tale postcards aren't always easy to figure out. Click the images to enlarge to full size. Most have an artist signature of some type, though they're not always straight forward to interpret. These images do not represent the content of the book. They are meant as examples of genuine fairy tale postcards only.

Friday, May 19, 2017

'We Are All Connected' (for World Wildlife Day)

In honor of World Wildlife Day we're posting this incredibly gorgeous short film, made for the World Wildlife Fund and presented by National Geographic, with origami art and stunning paper animation, that beautifully and artistically highlights the message of Wildlife Conservation.

The film's title and message is 'We Are All Connected':

Different miniature paper animals move across the various landscapes of an office environment, underscoring what was affected for each supply, telling their stories as they go, and showing us how they are all connected to us. It isn't too much of a stretch to see a folktale connection of storytelling and animals fables, with stunning use of origami, folding itself out of ordinary lined and colored work papers, coming to life and racing away.
From the description on YouTube:
Paper predators and prey spring to life in this visually stunning short from directors Dávid Ringeisen & László Ruska. An ordinary desk and typical office supplies are the backdrop for this micro-universe that carries the macro-message of wildlife conservation. While humans are left out of the piece, their impact is still present in a discarded cigarette butt that sparks an imaginary forest fire and an overflowing wastebasket that pollutes a fantastical rolling-chair river. This piece is part of the filmmakers' MOME thesis project, the animation department at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, Hungary and was created for WWF Hungary.

Dávid Ringeisen & László Ruska: Hungary:
Simply gorgeous. It's no surprise it's the winner of multiple notable awards!

'The Dark Crystal' Is Coming to Netflix. As A NEW Series

And it will have puppets and everything! We will admit, we are excited about this. We adore the film but it's pretty slow in places, and there's a lot of potential - and history - the film didn't explore that we'd love to see expanded on. In fact, this series will be a prequel, taking place in that world decades before it reached the crisis in which Gelflings Jen and Kira (and Fizzgig! And the Landstriders!), took #alltherisks and rescued everyone.

From the Henson Company Press Release:
HOLLYWOOD, CA (May 18, 2017) - A beloved classic from the 80s marks its return as Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment network, will bring The Jim Henson Company’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance  exclusively to members around the world. The 10-episode fantasy adventure series is a prequel to the groundbreaking 1982 fan favorite The Dark Crystal, and takes place many years before the events of the film. The series will be shot in the U.K., and will star an ensemble of fantastical, state-of-the-art creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ and Brian Froud, the original feature’s conceptual designer. 
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance returns to the world of Thra with an all new adventure. When three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power, they set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world. 
Feature film director Louis Leterrier (Now You See MeThe Incredible Hulk) will executive produce the series and direct. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will be a Netflix original series produced by The Jim Henson Company and executive produced by Letterier, Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford. Longtime Henson collaborator Rita Peruggi will serve as producer and Henson’s Blanca Lista will serve as a co-executive producer. Leading the writing are co-executive producers Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (Life in a Year), and Javier Grillo-Marxuach (LostThe 100). 
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will combine the art of puppetry perfected by The Jim Henson Company, with Louis’ vision, powerful storytelling and a mix of cutting-edge digital imagery and visual effects,” said Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix. “I can’t wait for families around the world to see how we bring these unique characters to life.” 
“Louis Leterrier is passionate about the world of The Dark Crystal and has an incredible creative vision for the series. He brings this passion to every facet of the production as he leads the talented team of artists and writers that are bringing this entire universe to life,” said Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company. "Netflix has a deep respect for my father's original work and the many people it inspired. They are the perfect partners to create this next epic chapter in The Dark Crystal story for new fans and the loyal fans who have waited so long for more adventures from this world."
Brand new 'state-of-the-art' creatures! *swoon* (Perhaps we're super excited because our newsroom is filled with all kinds of creatures - from fairy tale ones, and Henson creations to yo-kai, but these pop-culture touchstones are major tools for us when we teach art and fairy tales at schools and other kid-centric places, and have guaranteed kids love and remember what we're working with them on in following years - so YES PLEASE! Plus, yeah, they're usually pretty flippin' cute - see below for a selection of 'teaching tools'.)
Aside: anyone notice that 'Age of Resistance' subtitle in there? We have a feeling that is pretty purposeful, and we're looking forward to seeing how that develops. In fact, we're going to tag this with our #RRR hashtag, just because we have a feeling...

Here's the promotional teaser trailer, which doesn't really show anything new, but will get folks excited about the concept anyway - unless it doesn't. We're sure some folks aren't going to be thrilled about the idea. At least it won't be a retread of classic footage but more of an exploration of the world which fascinated so many of us as children.
And we're really excited to see all the folklore world-building that will come out of this! Folklore takes center stage in the film, with knowledge and exploration of those tales being the key to knowing what to do.

PS Anyone noticing we're kinda going back to the that 80's/early 90's era of musicals and fantasy films and series? Anyone also noticing we're rehashing similar issues to those of that time period, societally speaking? Yeah.

'Okja' - An Eco Fairy Tale/Monster Film Coming to Netflix

We just saw this and are pretty thrilled to see a Miyazaki-like story coming to Netflix as live action. While it has nothing to do with Studio Ghibli (that we can find), you can see the influence in the trailer.

Here's the synopsis:
“Okja” tells the story of a girl who travels from Korea to Manhattan to prevent Swinton, head of a sinister multinational meat company looking for a revolutionary product, from kidnapping her best friend, a massive animal named Okja, with some help from a (less extreme) PETA-like organization. The cast includes Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.

It looks like a somewhat-edgy family film, except that Ms. Swinton does use the F-word in the trailer, so more information is needed on the final rating/age appropriateness.

Take a look (we are smitten with Okja!):
It's clearly another fairy tale-like, fantasy/action film, mirroring the eco-warrior trend of the 80's but with a, very relevant, 2017 twist, and perhaps a little Princess Mononoke thrown in. In some ways it reminds us of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (remember that little gem, that was also much more violent than you remember?!) except that Okja is a GMO super-pig in serious peril.

Under some controversy at Cannes, due to being backed by Netflix (ie not a traditional/'real' film), Okja is one of two Netflix movies chosen to compete at Cannes. Director, Bong Joon-ho couldn't have been happier with this arrangement though, and his statement makes it easy to see why:
“Netflix guaranteed my complete freedom in terms of putting together my team and the final cut privilege, which only godlike filmmakers such as Spielberg get,” he said. (Variety)
We can hear indie filmmakers getting their proposals in order as we type! In fact, with the current conversations about the representation of fairy tales in films, this sounds like a great option to pursue if none of the big studios seem to be getting on board with a fairy tale vision.

Okja is only on Netflix, June 28.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

In 'Losing Time' Red Has To Choose A Path... (Interview w/Director Lisa Stock)

A girl in red, chased by the Wolf of time: which path will she choose?

In Lisa Stock's latest magic realist film, 'Losing Time', which has just become available for the public to view, she asks the question: "If all time were to stop, would you start it again?"

Intrigued by the lovely images, and very different concept, we thought we'd ask Lisa Stock, of InByTheEye, who created, wrote and directed the film, a little about it. 

OUABlog: Congratulations on your new film, and thank you for visiting OUABlog today to talk a little about it. You chose to dress your protagonist in a red coat on purpose. How do you see your new magic realism film reflecting the tale of Red Riding Hood?
Actress Heather Witherill plays a girl with a choice in 'Losing Time'.

Lisa Stock (InByTheEye): I did indeed dress her in red for a reason! While Red is different for everyone, a red cloak or coat suggests potential; potential choices, potential dangers, potential futures. Time, the most ancient of systems is found in the forest. In my film, the grandmother's wisdom comes through at the portal when she makes her decision. Like Red my heroine doesn't let the trappings of fear keep her from persevering.

OUABlog: How did you arrive at this idea?

Lisa Stock (InByTheEye):  As the film is part of the Danny Elfman Challenge we were to choose a piece of his music off the album "Rabbit and Rogue". I chose "Lyric". Listening to the music over and over gave me a sense of both whimsy and urgency, and I immediately saw this character running. Running for something, but obstacles in her way creating tension. I saw her being interrupted, I saw her falling, I saw things getting in her way and came to the idea that perhaps they were frozen in front of her and then the idea of time stopping came to me. So it was a little bit of a backward process.

OUABlog: The film fits well into the 'magic realist' genre, bringing elements of wonder and the supernatural to seemingly ordinary situations. It also seems, if you pardon the pun, very timely, in terms of where society is at right now. We see parallels to concerns about the planet, about people with opposing views not knowing how to get on, as well as the importance of getting back to basics - through those woods that are different for everyone - to figure out just how you feel about something - for clarity. What issues were you thinking about most when having your 'Red' enter the woods?

Lisa Stock (InByTheEye): It does feel to me as if we're on the verge of a new era - there's so much potential, like the burgeoning science generation, but also that bubbling epidemic of despair on so many fronts. We really are at a crossroads. Which path do we take? Especially in light of so much sorrow, worry and anger today, I wanted my Red to reflect that we had a choice - with a very good and positive option.

OUABlog: 'Losing Time' is part of the Danny Elfman Challenge, in which you had the opportunity to use some of Elfman's music score from 'Rabbit & Rogue'. How did it feel being able to use his music? And what happens now?

Lisa Stock (InByTheEye): The Danny Elfman Challenge is part of the LA Film Festival, and 'Losing Time' has been officially accepted and uploaded for voter input and panel judging. Our film, has had a wonderful response the last day or so since it's gone live, and we're thrilled. At this point we have a really good chance of being selected for the finals!

The lady in the clock comes to life
to alert our heroine that time has stopped.
I love this piece of music, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't somewhat intimidating to be creating a unique film for an Elfman composition. I had Heather (the actress) listen to the music over and over again. We would listen to the particular part of the music that went with each scene before filming so she could have it in her head. If you watch closely, particularly on the bridge, her movements are almost dance-like and are going along with the music. I know that the music was supposed to be "the soundtrack" but to me it's very much a character in and of itself. It's almost like a narrator, leading her on from one moment to the next. To me, the music dictated this story and took me through the process of the idea. Part of the rules were that we were only permitted to edit the music in very minor ways, so I have only one cut. When I was listening to the piece early on I could hear and see that fall over and over and I wanted a hard 'stop' (with the music). The whole story stops because she suddenly is becoming frozen and maybe she's going to stop too. But then, in true Red style, she crawls on and keeps going. When she stands up at the portal, the music picks back up and keeps going. When she decides not to restart time, and lifts her hands on that final note of the music, I had her lengthen that movement to extend that final note into silence. Those images after seeing her lift her hands sort of carry the music on, even though you're no longer hearing it. 

Elfman is such a singular and inspiring artist, and it was such a pleasure and honor for me to be able to participate in this Challenge. It shows what a generous artist he is by extending a piece of his own artwork to others, complete strangers, to use in their own stories. That's not something you see very often.

As to 'what next', right now a panel of industry judges are selecting finalists - BUT the public gets a say too, and we'd love some help getting us into that final films selection, and it's very easy to do: all you have to do is vote for our film on THEIR website at the link below (it takes you directly to 'Losing Time', so no hunting required):

There's a 'like/heart' button right below the film and every click counts. Sharing helps too, of course, (the share wheel is next to the heart) and the following hashtags are really helpful for those sharing: #buzzchallenge #indi_8xcwv

OUABlog: We have one last question: why chocolate?

Lisa Stock (InByTheEye): *laughs* Because chocolate is pure happiness and no matter what there is always chocolate!

OUABlog: Thank you for talking with us today. We wish you every success with this lovely new take on our very versatile Red!

Chloe Grace Moretz To voice Character in Animated Film 'Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs'

It's animated. It's a parody. It will expose the true story of Snow White and it's South Korean (and will be in English).
In the upcoming (family friendly) spoof, which was written and directed by Sung Ho, the Dwarves (are actually) seven cursed princes (or knights) looking to break the dark spell by kissing the most beautiful woman in the world. Snow White will come dressed in red shoes for the occasion. The film will teach the lesson that looks aren’t everything. (DenOfGeek & THR)
Here is the trailer making the Cannes circuit. It's not what you might expect:
The film is currently in post-production, which is odd timing for an actor to join, except that we're guessing Moretz will be the English language voice for her character, (though this trailer is already in English). There are no hints from the official IMDB page as to what character Moretz will be playing.

One odd thing is the beauty aspect. We know the point of the film is to challenge traditional ideas about beauty but there's a whole Jessica Rabbit vibe here at times and it feels a little off. Hopefully it's just because we're not seeing the development and handling of this in the feature film, but it's still odd to watch and realize.

And we're sure someone, somewhere is having a whole conversation about Western standards of beauty versus Eastern standards of beauty too. We know Koreans are often criticized at having extremely unrealistic beauty standards for women to attain, which is seen to have many adverse social repercussions, but perhaps that's part of why this film has been made. We shall see.
The film is currently being shopped around at Cannes Film Festival this week, so we should hear more news on this very soon.

We also have to share the original teaser trailer from 2014, when the film was titled 'Red Heels and the 7 Dwarfs'. You might say it's... unconventional. Perhaps it's due to culture and how we've come to expect family films to 'represent', but we think there's some pretty weird stuff going on in this trailer... And we don't believe it's just us that think so.
Chloe Grace Moretz

Take a look. (This will be great fodder for analysis and presentations on all sorts of subjects, we promise. So much here to, er, use for examples of, er, things.)
So, yeah - we can see how that trailer wouldn't go down so well, especially for families. (!) There's so much in there to pick at, (borderline offensive in some places, has a sense of being politically incorrect, sexist, etc) which is probably why the current trailer (shown earlier in the post) is the one they're going with at Cannes.

Just sayin'.

Hard to get a good read on the film when the Director says 'very family friendly romantic comedy sequel/prequel' and yet the initial teaser above is full of what appear to be 'hidden' adult jokes. We're not sure what we really think about this yet, but we'll be keeping an ear out for more info.
By the way, are we the only ones seeing some HCA Red Shoes parallels in these trailers?
(Hint: it's not the sleeping part.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Caliph Stork by Wilhelm Hauff, Illustrated by Anton Lomaev

We discovered this gorgeous picture book just the other day and had to share the illustrations and this lesser-known fairy tale, The Story of Caliph Stork.

It may sound familiar as a version of the fairy tale was include in Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book, but with such rich fodder for illustrators, and such a funny tale for storytellers to have fun with, it's surprising this isn't more well known.

The fairy tale actually has a distinct origin, written by German writer Wilhelm Hauff for his Märchen almanach auf das Jahr 1826 (Fairytale Almanac of 1826). (The Green Fairy Book retells story in chapters.)

Set in the nebulous 'Orient' (something the romantics were fascinated by, even though it was a fantasy) the plot could easily (today) be mistaken for something out of 1001 Nights. Source notes from one writer/storyteller, Aaron Shepard, who has won honors from the American Folklore Society, retold and published this tale (with very different, but also lovely illustrations by Alisher Dianov) tell us that despite it's German origin, that this tale is now told in the Middle East and has become part of their folklore!


From Shepard's notes:
This tale—usually called “The Calif Stork” or “The Stork Calif”—is often classified as a folktale of Iraq; and folklorist Harold Courlander, who heard it twice from Muslim storytellers, believes it to be widely told in the Middle East. Yet its origin is The Caravan, a book of original fairy tales by nineteenth-century German writer Wilhelm Hauff. While folktales often make their way into written literature, in this case a written work has passed into folklore. My own retelling draws from both original and retold versions. 
The calif in this tale is patterned after Harun al-Rashid, made popular in the pages of The Thousand and One Nights.
The plot essentially goes :
The Caliph of Baghdad comes across a mysterious powder with an incantation on the bottle. It is said it can turn someone into any animal they wish. They must not, however, forget the incantation so they can turn back but above all, they must not laugh while as animals or they will be trapped in that form forever. Of course the Caliph (and his Vizier) become storks and get stuck. On a quest to find a cure, the encounter a large sad, owl, who tells them she is really the Princess of India, transformed by an evil imposter wizard, who now sits on the throne. They see an opportunity, via sneaky animal-eavesdropping and spy work, to become human again but there's a tricky clause in that one of them needs to promise his hand in marriage to the owl - without seeing what she looks like - otherwise the reversing will fail. All goes well and, of course, the princess is gorgeous, so the anxious Caliph is relieved.

If the illustration style of the images posted here, looks familiar it's because Anton Lomaev's illustrations for The Wild Swans have been circulating the internet constantly for about three years now, never failing to catch the eye (especially with all the golds and fire colors he includes in his images for that particular fairy tale. This one, however, is ultimately dominated by blues and mystery...

As an interesting tag to the tale, the sorcerer is sentenced to death while his son is given the choice of death or to smell the same black powder and become an animal forever. The son chooses the powder and becomes their pet, displayed in a cage in the garden for all to see. 
We love the last illustration in which the Caliph is making his children laugh by making fun of the Vizier when he was a stork. (And the Vizier is threatening to find that powder again as a result.)

And one day we will track down a physical copy of these lovely Lomaev illustrations (printed 2016) to put in the Fairy Tale Newsroom library!