How refreshing! An animated film where the goal of the female protagonist isn’t only to find her prince!
Frozen is a lovely animated musical with a few typical elements: the funny sidekick, a horse with attitude, ridiculously slender princesses with very large eyes and a story of kingdom in need of a hero. What makes this film so wonderful is that the hero is the young woman (like in Mulan but w/o the disguise as a man) and the true love that saves the day isn’t the kiss of a man! The songs are catchy and actually move the story along. There could have been a little more character development as the young girls grow-up into young women with very little interaction. They’re undying love for each other stretches credibility a little but at least they do not rely on men as their definition of themselves. Elsa is a princess who tries to control her powers by hiding away, and then a queen, but without a prince or man to tell her how to rule the kingdom. Anna may rely on a man to help her search and rescue her sister but she’s portrayed as the driving force in the story and makes her own decisions. She may be blinded by romance but her naivety can be attributed to her young age and lack of experience of the world.
One of the first animated films directed by a woman based on her own screenplay, Jennifer Lee was given a full director’s credit after working closely with Chris Buck as co-director. She joins the ranks of Brenda Chapman at Pixar (who was replaced as sole director of the film, Brave but still retains story credit).
Having read the Hans Christian Anderson fairly tale, Snow Queen (Snedronningen, 1845), that the story is “inspired by”, I would give Jennifer Lee even more credit…there is little in the original Danish tale that is retained in Frozen save the setting! But the back story of the strange fairy tale detailing the cursed mirror that “shrinks everything that was good and beautiful to almost nothing, and it would magnify whatever was worthless and ugly and make it seem even worse” (The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen, Diana Crone Frank & Jeffrey Frank, 2003) does help readers familiar with the fairy tale understand Elsa’s frozen heart. In the original fairy tale, a sliver of the mirror has lodged in the young boy’s eye and another in his heart and this is what makes him fall in love with the Snow Queen who lives in her frozen palace. Only the true love of his childhood friend, Gerda saves him. Her tears thaw his heart!
Rating: 3 cups of hot cocoa
Bechedel rating: A+
This was a particularly great year for documentaries. Eric Kohn of Indiewire picks his top 10 documenataries; one of which is a favorite of mine: Cutie and the Boxer (review here: https://drinkswithfilms.com/2013/08/23/fond-farewell-to-the-bay-area/) I’d suggest you put all of these films on your streaming queue though I haven’t seen them all. I would warn you to take a motion sickness pill if you get queasy with hand-held camera movements if you’re sitting down to Leviathan!
20 Feet From Stardom is another great documentary from last year. If you love Motown or R & B, this is a must-see for you! The award-winning director, Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. The film features some wonderful, mostly female, singers and tells the story of why some of these artists aren’t interested in stepping into the limelight and enduring all the trappings of fame. A gripping and involving film, you’ll be grooving in your seat and rooting for the women as they rock the mic!
- Cast: Lou Adler, Stephanie ‘Stevvi’ Alexander, Patti Austin
- Director: Morgan Neville
Rating: 3 cups of Throat Coat tea
Bechdel Rating: A+
As nighttime begins to encroach on the afternoon, as holiday decorations engulf the shopping centers; out come the woolly hats and scarves and thoughts turn to…sugar plum fairies, sticky toffee pudding, and other trappings of a Victorian Christmas…NO? Okay, not for everyone but many of us anglophiles do think of the holidays as the perfect time to indulge in all things British! High tea with scones and clotted cream, favorite Christmas carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and mulled wine all seem ideally suited to snow and Christmas bustle. At the very least, we look for a good old-fashioned weepie from a filmmaker from the British Isles!
The dramatic comedy PHILOMENA is one such holiday treat! Based on a true story of a woman whose son was taken from her; Philomena (played by the always wonderful Judi Dench) is an upbeat Irish woman who just wants to learn the truth but not cause too much bother. Then she mets Martin Sixsmith (co-writer Steve Coogan), a world-weary political journalist who happens to be intrigued by her story and sees it as a way to recover from a career stumble. Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity), this isn’t a treacle treat that will make your teeth ache; instead, the laughs and gasps of indignation will keep you rooting for warm-hearted Philomena and cheering for the discovery that cynical Martin might have had a transformation of Grinch-like proportions.
Rating: 3 mugs of mulled wine (or eggnog if you prefer!)
Bechdel Rating: A+