Sorry this review is SO late. A lot has been happening in my life, but since Into The Woods is being released on iTunes today, I thought it was about time to post my thoughts on the movie adaptation of my favorite Sondheim musical. You can also get a filmed version of the original Broadway production on iTunes.
You may remember a while back I posted about "evil" characters and how evil isn't born, but made. Given it was tied to the OUAT finale, I think it's a good "companion" post of sorts since Into The Woods is an amalgam of multiple fairytales with the new storyline of the baker and his wife. While I would never call The Witch in this musical evil, she definitely does some not so nice things. But, as Meryl Streep sings in "Last Midnight," she says: "I'm the hitch, I'm what no one believes, I'm the witch!" Basically, she's the jaded-mostly cynical (but annoyingly realistic) force in life that pushes people to action and makes them deal with the consequences. The last song of the musical says, "Wishes come true, not free," which I think perfectly encapsulates the show.
So! My actual review: I loved it. I cried, laughed, and everything in between while watching this star-studded cast belt out some of my favorite musical theater numbers in awesome costumes (designed by the legendary Colleen Atwood) while being directed by the best (in my opinion) musical-to-movie director, Rob Marshall. If you're not a fan of the same-old girl waits for a prince trope, but still want to experience some of the "classics," this movie is for you.
On a random note, I got super excited when I saw the movie alluding to the original Broadway poster.
Also, enjoy this cool GIF of Meryl Streep as The Witch:
Based on Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game centers on the life of the British mathematician who created the Bombe, the giant machine that broke Germany's Enigma code (or “The Nazi Code”) in World War II. He is credited as the father of computer science. In the movie, the machine was called “Christopher” to be more sentimental and reminiscent of Turing’s first love. When it broke the code in real life, the name was changed to “Victory.” For those who don’t know what Enigma is, it was the supposedly unbreakable cipher used by the Nazis during World War II to encrypt all of their messages.
The name of the movie is derived from Alan Turing’s post-World War II work, mainly the Turing Test, which tried to answer the question of what makes the human mind uniquely human and how closely can artificial intelligence imitate it? The film focuses on three distinct time periods of the genius’ life: his secondary education at the Sherborne School (1928), his work in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park (1939-45), and when he was arrested for being a homosexual in 1952. Bletchley Park (or the code name “Ultra”) was the home to the British Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS) where cryptographers worked on breaking the Japanese and German codes during World War II. Hut 8 was where the Nazi Code was finally broken by Turing and his team. The movie opens with a scene from the latest chronological time period, which was mostly vague with one piece of foreshadowing. It was an interesting decision, but one that seems to distance the audience from the main story before it has really begun. The film is well edited, almost seamlessly transferring between these epochs, though the mental transition was still sometimes a bit jarring.
Although Benedict Cumberbatch shares little physical resemblance to his character, he expertly portrays the complicated and fascinating man. Working from oral reports about Turing’s speech patterns, Cumberbatch created his own type of stutter that was both high in pitch like Turing’s, but not so much that it grated on the audience’s ears and patience. One can easily believe that the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes on BBC’s Sherlock is the brilliant, but sometimes unlikeable man responsible for ending World War II at least 2 years earlier than expected. As Sherlock, he indirectly referenced breaking the Enigma code in one episode (Season 2, Episode 1, “A Scandal in Belgravia”) when he mentions the controversial Coventry bombing.
The ensemble consists of strong actors including The Good Wife’s Matthew Goode, Gosford Park’s Charles Dance, and Mark Strong from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy among others. In the midst of all the testosterone on screen, Keira Knightley shines as her character, Joan Clarke, a brilliant woman working in a man’s world.
With the success of The Hunger Games Trilogy (get the fancy paperback foil edition) and the upcoming movie adaptation of The Giver (Book 1 of The Giver Quartet), it's no surprise that The Divergent Trilogy is popular among both book and film audiences.
Two days ago, I read an interesting book called Divergent Thinking: YA Authors on Veronica Roth's Divergent Trilogy. from Smart Pop Books (their other books look awesome). It reminded me of The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason from Wiley Publishing (part of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, not to be confused with the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series).
Anyway, both books analyze why everyone seems to be obsessed with specific Dystopian YA novels (and their film adaptations). Back when I was still doing PR work for Melissa A. Petreshock, another teen was doing a Throwback Thursday series (which rocked), and talked about The Giver and Divergent. Read that post when you're done here. And here's another post about the over-saturation of said genre.
Divergent Thinking differs from The Hunger Games and Philosophy in that it is comprised of essays, ranging from the psychology to modern-day equivalents of the Faction System, by other YA authors instead of a philosopher. The first essay of Divergent Thinking, "From Factions to Fire Signs" by Rosemary Clement-Moore, states that the reason "we like books that sort people" (a common theme in dystopian fiction) "comes down ... to a paradox:"
My mom hasn't finished either dystopian trilogy, which is fine. My only stipulation is that she finish reading them before the 4th movie comes out for each series (the fact that the film industry is splitting the last book in 2 for every series since Harry Potter pisses me off, but that's another topic that I won't go into here).
I was talking to her about why Lois Lowry should be given a medal for making dystopian a popular genre of Young Adult Fiction because without The Giver, Katniss and Tris' stories probably wouldn't have been published (again, read this article).
Update 8/18/14: New York Magazine referred to Lowry as "the godmother to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the general dystopia mania of the last decade."
The conversation then veered into my opinion of which trilogy I liked better (The Giver is my favorite of all 3 works, hand down). I said Divergent. I think the Hunger Games books were written better, but I like that the Faction System is based on values and that there is a Choosing Ceremony. There's still a bunch of corruption and rules in that government as there is in the Capitol and even the Board of Elders, but at least there is the illusion of real choice. In contrast, the Districts are arbitrary. If you're born in District 12, you're stuck as a mine-worker. The only way out is by winning the Hunger Games (by murdering 23 other people—yeah, no thanks).
The Giver had both aspects. While the Elders assigned jobs at the Ceremony of Twelve (which is now Ceremony of Sixteen, because Hollywood is obsessed with teenagers), the decisions are based off observations of the students and their extra-curricular activities. It's not as arbitrary as in Collins' world.
I'm not saying any of the 3 worlds is better than the other. One has a fight to the death, the other creates mindless drones, and the final one (or first if you go by publication date) has drugs that represses all emotion. I certainly wouldn't want to live in any of them, if given the choice.
The dystopian genre works for young adults because rebellion is inevitable, and all of the stories have a teenage protagonist fighting (and usually winning, at least in some way) against the control of their oppressive adult governments.
Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Have anything to add? Comment below!
And for those of you who are curious to read my book reviews of the 3 mentioned books:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s avant-garde fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, has captivated audiences since the character’s debut in 1887 with the publication of "A Study in Scarlet." Skilled in deductive reasoning and forensics, this consulting detective revolutionized the mystery genre. In the most recent edition of Writer’s Digest, an article states that new stories “that hearken back to the Golden Age of detective fiction” are continually emerging in the modern mystery fiction market. Doyle’s influence has transcended the literary medium and has inspired many dramatic adaptations (both stage and screen), stretching all the way back to the late 1800’s during Doyle’s writing career. Some of the most famous include the early-1900’s play Sherlock Holmes—A Drama in Four Acts written by and starring William Gillette; the famous 1939 movie featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce; the two Robert Downey Jr. films Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; BBC’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch; and CBS’ Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller. The three most-recent Sherlocks, all of whom are friends, will soon be joined by Sir Ian McKellan in portraying the famed detective when the movie adaptation of the 2006 Sherlock-inspired novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, hits theaters. The official release date, not yet set, is estimated to be sometime in 2014.
In addition to the myriad responses of the global fanbase, Sherlock Holmes has also recently been in the news on the legal front. In February 2013, editor and scholar Leslie S. Klinger sued the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. He refuted its claim that a license was needed in order to publish his upcoming book, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes; he had previously worked on at least four similar works. Klinger argued that the stories were in the public domain and accused the Estate of “Copyfraud,” when false copyright notices are included in documents to garner illegal fees. The issue blew up on twitter using the hashtag #FreeSherlock, and Klinger created a blog, “free-sherlock.com,” to chronicle the legal proceedings. Eventually, the scholar won the case when Chief Judge Rubén Castillo ruled that “Klinger and the public may use the Pre-1923 Story Elements without seeking a license.” All the Holmes stories will enter the public domain in 2022. On January 12, 2014, in association with the BBC, PBS Masterpiece aired an hour-long special about the timeless appeal of Doyle’s iconic detective. The feature includes interviews with BBC’s Sherlock stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; the show’s creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss; and other experts. The special delves into the many inspirations for the popular twenty-first century Sherlock adaptation. Unlike most previous incarnations of the detective, the plot of BBC’s Sherlock derives much of its material straight from the Doyle stories such as “A Study in Scarlet,” “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Final Problem”—the last of which has been dubbed “The Reichenbach Fall” for its final scene where Sherlock and Moriarty apparently fall to their deaths.
As Benedict Cumberbatch states, Moffat and Gatiss approach this show with a “fanboy reverence” unique to the British TV production. The entire documentary as well as other mini behind-the-scenes episodes are available on iTunes. Understanding the story behind the script is not the only knowledge Holmes fans are after. In this demanding and fast-paced world where distractions abound and impact one’s ability to focus and retain information, people also want to be able to think like him. Maria Konnikova’s book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes addresses this demand by delineating the differences between the regular and non-observant “Watson” brain and the aspirational “Sherlock” brain. She offers many tools and exercises to maximize the brain’s capacity for critical thinking and deductive reasoning. Spanning countries, generations, and gender, Sherlock Holmes appeals to almost everyone, and has for centuries. If you haven’t already joined the fandom (“Sherlockians”), it’s not too late. The books are available in any bookstore (physical or virtual), and the TV shows Sherlock and Elementary, as well as the recent films Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are all available on iTunes.
Three months after the release of the touching movie adaptation of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (November 8, 2013), Hollywood is revisiting World War II with The Monuments Men. George Clooney co-wrote, directed, and starred in the film, which is based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter. As the Allied Powers closed in on Nazi Germany, seven men, led by Frank Stokes (Clooney), volunteer to become part of a special unit tasked with saving stolen artwork, monuments, and artifacts from Nazi possession and destruction. Each member was a renowned art expert. George L. Stout, the real-life counterpart of George Clooney’s character, worked in the art conservation department of the Harvard Fogg Art Museum. He became director of the museum in 1933, and held the position for fourteen years. Matt Damon’s character, based on James Rorimer, was a museum curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was instrumental in the creation of the Cloisters. Some of the other men were art historians, or artists themselves.
Some critics have emphasized the historical inaccuracies and attacked the theatrical humor inserted for dramatic purposes. One of the most glaring differences between historical fact and the movie’s depictions is the number of men on the team. In a special featurette and interview on the Internet Movie Database, it is stated that most of the film’s seven main characters are really composites of the 350 members (men and women from thirteen nations) of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA aka “the Monuments Men”). The very founding of the group was also altered for the film, giving Clooney’s character a more direct role in influencing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to create the MFAA. However, the Monuments Men book does state that the group was Stout’s “brain child.”
While the film may not be a completely accurate or thorough textbook representation of the historical events, press for the movie has brought attention to past and present art repatriation debates, including those surrounding Greece’s “Elgin Marbles” (taken from the Parthenon in the nineteenth century) and Egypt’s famed Rosetta Stone. Both the “Elgin Marbles” and the Rosetta Stone are currently housed in the British Museum in London. Clooney and his co-stars, Bill Murray and Matt Damon, all support Greece’s claim that England should return the marble statues, but the British Prime Minister David Cameron said he does not “believe in ‘returnism,’ as it were. I don’t think that’s sensible.”
Other British arguments against repatriation range from declaring the act useless to not wanting to set a precedent that could empty their historical collections. Is this situation any different from Hitler’s plan to display stolen artwork in his private museum? Where do we draw the line? Both the film’s message and repatriation in general emphasize the importance of preserving different cultures. As Clooney’s character states: “You can wipe out a generation of people. You can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they'll still come back. But if you destroy their achievements, and their history, then it's like they never existed.” The Monuments Men risked their lives to protect Europe’s artistic achievements. Thanks to the MFAA, thousands if not millions of artworks were saved from destruction and returned to their rightful owners. While the movie effectively conveys an emotionally compelling story, it is less successful in creating a completely factual representation of history’s true events.
What did you think of the movie? And what's your opinion of repatriation?
I'm a self-published author (because being a college student wasn't hard enough!) and spend most of my time doing homework. I write YA multi-genre fiction for young adults or the young at heart. I love NCIS, BBC's Sherlock,
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