Category Archives: film

The Slumming Angel: Raymond Chandler

In his essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” Raymond Chandler explores detective fiction in general, but especially the hard-boiled kind he perfected. It includes my favorite bit of writing advice: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” By which he meant, if you’re not sure what should happen next, make things worse in the most exciting way you can. Which is exactly how his books and stories work—everything goes from bad to worse to the worst imaginable… and then somehow turns out all right in the end.  Continue reading

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The Dangers of Patriotic Zeal: Taras Bulba

The 1962 film Taras Bulba focuses on a revolution you might never have heard of if you’re not from eastern Europe. It tells the story of a 17th-century rebellion of the Zaporozhian Cossacks against their Polish overlords by focusing on a fictional family. It’s based on a book by Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol, originally released as a short story in 1835. The Tsarist Russian authorities condemned that version as being “too Ukrainian.” Gogol later revised and expanded the story into a novel that pleased those in power. Continue reading

Kind Courage: The New Cinderella

“Have courage, and be kind,” our heroine’s mother tells Ella before she passes away.

The theme resonates through the story, as Ella is joyous amid her troubles—when banished to the attic by her wicked stepmother, she rearranges the scraps of furniture and shakes out a dusty blanket, before she tells the mice how much she enjoys solitude. Continue reading

A New Maleficent

Just how do you rework a classic fairy tale, offering something new and different to audiences whilst still maintaining the magic? Maleficent (2014) balances new and old in this wave of live-action adaptations of old animated classics. Interestingly, unlike Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), Maleficent is the Wicked-esque version of Sleeping Beauty (1959) where the titular Maleficent receives a rich backstory. This twist on the classic tale has not been used for any other Disney live-action adaptations. Maleficent is unique in not only being able to keep to the bare bones of the original, but also insert some new twists and subversions of fairy tale tropes. Continue reading

Remaking Romance: Tristan and Isolde

A common complaint lodged against Hollywood is that it has no new stories. This is understandable, but it neglects to consider that certain narratives are timeless. They can appear with different external details but will always keep that impact on audiences which can be lasting. A story that is particularly effective at this is the romantic tragedy, and one such tale is about Tristan and Isolde. The different versions of Tristan and Isolde shows how reinterpretation can manifest itself across various mediums. Continue reading

Remember Who You Are: Shakespeare’s Lion King

Simba, son of the strongest lion king of the animal kingdom Mufasa and his wife Sarabi, will inherit the Kingship of the Pride Lands. But his jealous uncle Scar wants to take away from him what is rightfully his—his family, his kingdom, his pride. After the long years, the Ghost of Simba’s father tries to point him the right way… Continue reading

“What a Legend Needs”

Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does not feature a quest for the Holy Grail. Not once does someone in it sing about how fun it is to be happily-ever-aftering in Camelot. You won’t find a single Roman cavalry officer who wants to retire. It has no young Viking princes seeking a spot at the round table. And Merlin? He gets name-checked a few times, and there’s one shot of him in a flashback, but that’s it. Lancelot and Guinevere don’t even get a mention. Continue reading

The Shape of Water

Women falling in love with monsters is nothing new. Beauty and the Beast is just that—a beautiful young woman falls in love with a monster and the power of true love turns the scary monster into a handsome prince. Even outside the realm of fairy tales, later stories such as The Phantom of the Opera, or the Francis Ford Coppola 1992 adaptation of Dracula had the female lead falling in love with a monster. Even then, the Phantom has the gift of music to woo Christine and Dracula can use his powers to turn into a handsome younger man. Continue reading

The Greatest Showman: Re-Imagining An American Myth

P.T. Barnum was an all-American scrapper, a self-built from the bottom up businessman of the highest caliber, a man who saw money-making opportunities everywhere he looked, and, was ahead of his time and in others, was very much a product of his times. Most famous for creating the recently retired Barnum & Bailey Circus, last year filmmakers took his life as loose inspiration for the crowd-pleasing, slow-burn box office smash, The Greatest Showman. Continue reading