According to Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood has figured out that critics are important in helping audiences find good movies that are not pre-sold through familiar characters or special effects. It cites an Advertising Age article that concludes the studios are starting to see a correlation between the disappearance of movie critics from newspapers and the slumping ticket sales for the kind of movies that depend on critics to publicize and champion them — not just art-house movies from independent and foreign-language filmmakers, but also expensive, year-end Oscar hopefuls from the major studios.
The collateral damage may be the closing down of the studio divisions that make quieter, more ambitious films. Just as in nature, it’s a complicated ecosystem and any loss can affect the survival of all.
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Somewhere inside this Adam Sandler slacker silliness there is a fierce and provocative little satire trying to get out. Sandler is so busy with his usual shtick that at times it seems that even he hardly notices the subversive political humor bubbling up around him.
Sandler plays Zohan, a top Israeli assassin, who can slaughter terrorists with one hand while he scoops hummus with the other. He is commando as rock star, universally admired and adored by all women. But Zohan dreams of peace and hairdressing. He decides to fake his own death and move to the United States where he can spend his days making hair shiny and silky. Soon he has transformed himself with an 80’s haircut and has a job sweeping up hair in a beauty salon on the Palestinian side of the street in a middle Eastern neighborhood of New York and is happily having sex with all of the elderly patrons and his landlady (all-purpose ethnic hot mama Lainie Kazan).
Comedians most often rely on ineptitude at work or with women to get laughs, but Sandler’s characters are often very successful in both. That leaves only gross-outs and silliness for humor, and that is what Sandler gives us, over and over. Lots of jokes about sex with old ladies (who are all thrilled with his prowess), bare tushes (male and female), the consternation of his landlady’s nerdy son over his mother’s unabashed sexual encounters, the ability to withstand pain, made-up euphemisms for sex, random pop star cameos, and of course one of Sandler’s theme moves — a sharp implement being thrust into the body of someone who feels no pain. We’ve seen most of this before.
But the movie also has moments of surreal humor, some remarkably adept and surprisingly understated political satire, and better roles than usual for Sandler’s frequent co-stars John Turturro and Rob Schneider. Its (almost) even-handed jibes at just about everyone are refreshing. Of course the real bad guy is a white American, but the movie’s notion that this is a place where people may hate and do crazy things but they can all agree on the importance of shiny hair, good Chinese food, and the other things that really matter in life is sweetly hopeful. All the crotch-rubbing and hummus humor feels tired and shrill when we see would-be terrorists put on hold from the bomb-building line, cheerfully reassured by the recorded voice that “we will resume service as soon as negotiations break down” or a bunch of enemies interrupting a confrontation to speculate on the, uh, appeal of Hillary Clinton.
The outrageous stereotyping and stereotype tweaking of characters on the basis of race, culture, religion, and nationality may be softened or even sanitized by the content that falls into the “normally offensive” category, the stereotyping and stereotype tweaking of old ladies (sexually voracious or addled, often both), the constant vulgarity, Sandler’s annoying idea of an accent. Or it may be that it is just a distraction that lets the political satire sneak in under the radar. But this glimpse of something a little more ambitious, a little more substantive adds a level of freshness and interest that is a welcome change from Sandler’s increasingly stale snigger-fests.
Disney’s gorgeous “Sleeping Beauty” is out in a magnificent new Diamond edition this week. This classic should be in the library of every family and every animation fan.
The King and Queen happily celebrate the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. The young Prince who is betrothed to the baby and three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, join the celebration. But wicked Maleficent, a bad fairy, is enraged when she is not included. She arrives at the party to cast a spell on the baby Princess. When she turns 16, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die.
The good fairies cannot remove the spell, but they change it from death to a deep sleep from which Aurora can be awakened only by love’s first kiss. The King and Queen try to protect the princess by sending her off with the good fairies to live in a tiny cottage in the woods until her sixteenth birthday is over. They cannot use their magic powers because it would lead Maleficent to the princess. Aurora (called Briar Rose) grows up. Out in the woods, she meets the Prince, and they fall in love, not knowing they are already engaged. But the fairies prepare for her birthday party and argue about whether the dress they are making for Aurora should be pink or blue, and cannot resist using their magic. Maleficent discovers where they are and is able to make Aurora prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep. Maleficent also captures the prince to make sure he cannot break the spell. After the fairies help him escape, Maleficent turns herself into a dragon to stop him. He kills the dragon and wakes Aurora with a kiss. At her birthday party, they dance, not even noticing that her dress turns from blue to pink as the fairies continue to argue about the color.
In this classic story, as in “Snow White,” a sleeping princess can only be awakened by a kiss from the prince. Psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim and others have written extensively about the meaning of these stories, and the ways in which they symbolize the transition to adulthood and sexual awakening. Bettelheim’s theory was that such fairy tales begin to prepare children for developments they are not ready to assimilate consciously.
There is no reason to discuss this interpretation with children, of course. But it is worthwhile to talk with them about Maleficent, one of Disney’s most terrifying villains, and why her bitter jealousy makes her so obsessed with vengeance. Is that what she really wants? Isn’t she doing exactly the opposite of what is required to achieve her real goal, acceptance? Children also enjoy the little squabbles of the three good fairies, which may remind them of arguments with their siblings.
Extras on this new edition:
· Art of Evil: Generations Of Disney Villains – This legacy piece spotlights Disney’s favorite villain animator, Marc Davis and his infamous creations of characters such as Maleficent and Cruella. Throughout the piece, we will talk to modern day animators like Andreas Deja and also the new generation of Animators (Lino DiSalvo Animation Director of FROZEN) on how Marc’s designs and characters influenced what they do today.
· DisneyAnimation: ARTISTS IN MOTION (Extended Edition) – Join Walt Disney Animation Visual Development artist Brittney Lee as she goes through the process of creating a three dimensional sculpture of Maleficent, completely out of paper. In this extended edition, go deeper into Britney’s process
· Never Before Seen Deleted Scenes:
o The Fair (With Deleted Character – The Vulture) – In this version of the story, the fairies do not take the Princess to live with them in the forest. Convinced that King Stefan’s order to burn all the spinning wheels in the kingdom will not prevent Maleficent’s curse, the good fairies put a magic circle around the castle and cast a spell: “No evil thing that walks or flies or creeps or crawls can ever pass these castle walls.”
o The Curse is Fulfilled – The three good fairies have just returned Aurora to the castle and give her a crown. They leave the room to give Aurora some time alone…but Maleficent pays her a visit.
o Arrival Of Maleficent (Alternate Scene) – Maleficent arrives uninvited to the christening of the Princess Aurora.
· BEAUTY-OKE “Once Upon A Dream” – Sing along to this kinetic text video of Aurora’s signature song.
· Classic DVD Bonus Features Include:
o The Sound Of Beauty: Restoring A Classic – This featurette covers the creation of the 7.1 mix of the score of Sleeping Beauty that was done for Blu-ray, using the source tapes from the original recording sessions resulting in an audio experience of superior quality with greater detail and fidelity that you have ever heard before.
o Picture Perfect: The Making Of Sleeping Beauty – Discover the behind-the-scenes magic that transformed a beloved fairy tale into a cinematic work of art. Legendary Animators, actors and film historians reveal the secrets behind Disney’s masterpiece.
o Eyvind Earle: A Man And His Art – Early in his career, renowned American Artist Eyvind Earle worked as a background painter at the Walt Disney Studio. Walt Disney liked his work so much that he entrusted him with the assignment to be the Art Director for Sleeping Beauty. This was the first time that one artist was given the responsibility for the entire look on one of Disney’s animated features. This piece follows Earle’s development as an artist and his years at the Studio.
o Audio Commentary by John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin
Interview: Mary Costa of Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’
Posted on October 5, 2008 at 8:00 am
I spoke to Mary Costa, who played the title role in the animated Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty,” about making the film and the new 50th anniversary DVD release. As Ms. Costa told me the story of her favorite scene, she recited it from memory and her voice became again exactly the voice of the young princess who has just met her one true love, the one she once danced with once upon a dream. You can get a glimpse of this scene and hear Mary Costa’s voice in the clip below from the DVD extras.
How were you cast in the role of Briar Rose/Princess Aurora?
I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and moved to California with my parents. I attended Glendale High School and appeared in the school operetta. I was invited to a dinner party with some people from the industry and people began singing. I sang “When I Fall in Love.” One of the other guests was Walter Shuman who said, “I’ve been looking for three years and I think you are it. Can you audition tomorrow morning?” The next day, I came to the studio and there was a booth with everyone I would be working with for the next three years. They asked me to sing and do a bird call. But I had a Southern accent. So they said, “Do you think you could talk with a British accent?” “Oh yes, I could!” . My father and I loved to pretend we had British accents. The next day, the phone rang and everyone in my family raced to get it. It was Walt Disney and he said, “You have been hiding the Princess Aurora in Glendale!” I had the job.
Did Walt Disney advise you about the role?
He was involved in every single detail about the movie. He said this story was the most inspirational of all the fairy tales. And he told me, “I want you to know your character so well that you have memorized everything so you can drop all of those colors into your vocal palate and paint with your voice.” He said that in the forest scenes I should let the forest caress me.
Were you working mostly by yourself in a booth or interacting with the other performers?
I worked with the godmothers a couple of times and I worked with the prince, Bill Shirley. We all had our crushes on him! The woman who played Maleficent was a petite woman but she sounded like she was nine feet tall. Verna Felton, who played one of the godmothers, was so funny.
How does it look in its newly restored edition?
For the first time I really feel I have seen this movie. The depths of color and quality of sound with this technology! The people in the audience were oo-ing and ah-ing. You will be enveloped by the sound and see things you have never seen before.
Do you have a favorite scene?
I love every scene. But one I think is the essence of romance is when Princess Aurora and the Prince are in the forest and he asks her when he can see her again.
Prince Phillip: But when will I see you again?
Princess Aurora: Oh never, never!
Prince Phillip: Never?
Princess Aurora: Well, maybe someday.
Prince Phillip: When, tomorrow?
Princess Aurora: Oh no, this evening!
Prince Phillip: Where?
Princess Aurora: At the cottage… in the glen.