Saturday, July 19, 2014


An alternate take on a classic 
fairy tale would be unimaginable 
without Angelina Jolie

     We haven’t visited the cinema lately, mainly because we’re in superhero – i.e. fascist bullshit season for the simple-minded – and have been catching up on more intriguing
movies we’ve been DVRing.  However, we saw Maleficent and it was a good live action revisionist version of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959).  Gregory Maguire pioneered this practice with his brilliant novel Wicked (1995), the other side of the Wizard of Oz story.

     In both cases, the original story is a patriarchal narrative masking a castration complex by blaming a heinous female.  In the revisions, those females act as saviors for other educated species (Wicked) or for other spiritual beings and the ecological environment (Maleficent).  Would these works be possible in our current culture without the impact of the Women’s Movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s?

     Robert Stromberg has been the Art Director for Alice (2010) and the execrable Oz The Great and Powerful (2013) so he’s comfortable in his debut directing another fantasy.  However, I almost wish it had been made in black and white and I feel similarly about some of those other fairy tale based movies because it’s easier to cover the special effects, rather than working in a color palette that ends up looking murky or muddy.  Yes, I know the superhero movies use blue/green screens and they sometimes look faked as well and for what obscene amounts of money?  Millions and millions, though this is also an expensive movie.

Angelina Jolie
     Where Maleficent works is Angelina Jolie’s fully committed performance and sepulchral, sculpted beauty.  Sam Riley gives an off-beat rhythm and line to the humanized raven that Maleficent saves.  I wondered why Aurora didn’t end up with him instead of the Prince, who was a little cookie cutter bland.  I guess classism doesn’t get erased in revisionist narratives.  Sharlto Copley looks haggard and evil as King Stefan, whose antipathy towards Maleficent comes from his selling out for ambition, when he had actually loved her.  Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, and Juno Temple form a hilarious troika whether as tiny fairies or as actual humans.  The children who play Stefan and Maleficent as children match up well with their adult counterparts and look grubbily real, rather than Disney cute.

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