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A new type of princess.
Pixar has done nothing for me since Up. I’ve never understood why people like the Toy Story movies as much as they do and the less said about Cars 2 the better. Now in what is a landmark moment that should have come a decade ago, Pixar decided to make a movie about women. Not only is Merida (Kelly MacDonald) the first female protagonist in a Pixar movie, this is the first time a Pixar film has focused on an exclusively female relationship: that of mother and daughter. Though destined to be a Disney Princess (another first for Pixar, getting a character into that vaunted club), Merida is a new breed. Gone is the tacit assurance that finding love and getting married is the apex of womanly existence. You have to hand it to Pixar: when they join a club, they aim to change it. Maybe this is because Brenda Chapman, getting credit both as a writer and director on the project, is a woman. She was the first woman to direct a major animated feature for a Hollywood studio (The Prince of Egypt). So there’s a lot of new ground being broken by Brave behind the scenes.
In terms of quality, well, Brave is every bit as good as the typical Pixar movie. It’s got the same beating heart beneath the action and comedy, the same simple but completely human themes running through its somewhat fantastic story. Above all, it’s really about relationships between people and strong emotions expressed through clear, confident storytelling. This is another one of those cases where they make it look easy over there. It’s got a little The Little Mermaid mixed into its DNA and I don’t just say that because half the characters are gingers. There’s the same narrative of the rebellious young woman only this time, it’s her mother and not her father she’s rebelling against. Add in some colorful secondary characters, a magic spell, and some danger and you’ve got a solid formula that, while not groundbreaking, allows everything about Brave that is groundbreaking to breathe. Read the rest of this entry »
The Last Samurai is an underrated movie. I know that it isn’t exactly maligned but I do think that people, especially film geeks, have some rather unfair perceptions about it that keep it from being considered the pretty fucking good movie that it is. I mean, it’s no Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut but it rates a lot higher than the superficially similar movies that appeared around the same time. It is head and shoulders above the likes of Troy or King Arthur, for example, and I actually like Troy.
It’s unusual for me to review a movie that isn’t new, on Netflix, or something I just saw for the first time. I’ve seen The Last Samurai like a dozen times, have owned it on DVD since like 2004, and so on. I love it and that’s fine and dandy, but beneath my subjective affection is a level of critical regard that I believe provides me with some communicable reasons to defend this movie against the specific critiques I don’t think fairly apply. I may do other reviews like this in the future (Troy might deserve one!), or just get around to eventually reviewing movies that I have watched a bunch of times but never ever wrote about. Writing about movies is fun and I suspect that writing about The Last Samurai will be as fun for me as it is annoying/educational for you to read! Read the rest of this entry »