Wednesday, June 20

The Rom-Com Template

Vulture's Kyle Buchanan cracks down on the romantic comedy template--well, a very particular subset of the genre-- the latest incarnation of which is the Keira Knightley-Steve Carrell starrer Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. 

Briefly, the formula seems to be this: 
Sad-Sack Comedian +  Manic Pixie Dream Girl + Wordy Title = Rom-Com Template. 
They plugged in the formula using several variables, and what do you know, it does fit. My favorite of those name-checked is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I can also live with (500) Days of Summer (with queen of the Manic Pixie Dream Girls Zooey Deschanel) and Lost in Translation (directed by queen of the Manic Pixie Dream Director Sophia Coppola). Bill Murray wins for the largest age discrepancy from love interest--34 years between him and Scarlett Johansson. 

Monday, June 4

A Pratfall is better than anything.

Preston Sturges, father of the screwball comedy, drew up the following rules for box office appeal:

  1. A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.
  2. A leg is better than an arm.
  3. A bedroom is better than a living room.
  4. An arrival is better than a departure.
  5. A birth is better than a death.
  6. A chase is better than a chat.
  7. A dog is better than a landscape.
  8. A kitten is better than a dog.
  9. A baby is better than a kitten.
  10. A kiss is better than a baby.
  11. A pratfall is better than anything.

Sunday, June 3

The Fairest in the Land

Tell me I'm the fairest in the land, or I shall impale you with my crown.

I saw Snow White and the Huntsman on opening day. I was there partly to see Kristen Stewart grimace her way through the movie and partly to watch Charlize Theron's milk bath dry.  Also, I have a standing bet that KStew will have more chemistry with Theron's Queen Ravenna  than with the Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman. Or any other guy they throw her way for that matter. There's even a meme dedicated to that, but that's another matter.

I was also curious how the movie would pull off this premise: If Charlize Theron is your Queen, how can the mirror declare KStew the fairest in the land? Anyone with eyes and a cursory glancing knowledge of the tale knows the story didn't say "most awkward and would be first in line at the Converse sale." Sure, sure, Snow White is but a bud versus the Queen's beauty in full bloom, and the princess can still blossom into a fair maiden later in her youth. But, KStew is the fairest in the land, really? The One who represents "life itself" is deader than anything or even The Nothing. If I were the Queen, I'd throw a tantrum, too. But while wearing fabulous clothes made of raven feathers and hate, of course. 

The most interesting dynamic in the movie is still that of the Evil Queen and her stepdaughter. We see how she took over Snow White's father's kingdom: She sends out a phantom army, plays a damsel in distress, which of course pumps up the need to protect said damsel and marry her immediately, like the very next day. 

There are a lot of questions surrounding Ravenna's rise to power: how come this king has not heard of this modus before? Is beauty really so powerful that it enamors and enslaves men and drives them to their own ruin? We'll accept that this beauty is potent, courtesy of the spell cast by Ravenna's mother. It is unclear how often this spell be fed with the beauty of young women. There was this lone young woman in the tower with Snow White in the beginning--the one that Snow White wanted to liberate later on only to discover that the young woman had been drained of her youth. But later on, there's this hall full of dead women. Does Queen Ravenna have a cheat day where she can gorge on a buffet of pretty damsels? 

Also, the Mirror doesn't seem to do much other than to point out that the spell can be undone by the fairest in the land, and so Snow White must be vanquished. Once Ravenna became weak, there is no solace or advice from the Mirror. But it does drive Queen Ravenna to use all her powers. She apparently has the ability to transform herself--and guess what, she chooses to be the Duke's son William, Snow White's childhood protector. 


So technically, Snow White's first kiss is with her stepmother. And it kills her. What can be more awkward than that? To be fair, Snow White does get two more kisses: once from William--the kiss we have been told should revive her. But it did not do anything. It is the Huntsman's kiss that brings her back to life. Strangely enough, this turn of events wasn't explored much in the movie. 

I was under the impression that this would be about empowering fairy tale princesses, i.e., Snow White the Warrior Princess. The trailers were all about Snow White in chainmail on a galloping horse, on her way to battle the Evil Queen Stepmother, aptly named Ravenna. (How very Mulawin of them, no?) Unless the princess had received warrior training prior to her imprisonment in the north tower after her father's death, then Snow White has to get her warrior training somewhere before going off into a great battle, yes? So perhaps that's where the Huntsman goes in. I thought the deviation from the fairy tale would come once Princess and Huntsman get together. The movie is named Snow White and the Huntsman after all. 

But the closest we get to hunting lessons from the Huntsman is that one moment where he tells Snow White that she should drive the knife in all the way to the hilt. Where is the Karate Kid training montage? Where is Snow White's initial rejection of her role as savior? Other than that, it's a movie that's partly the Fellowship of the Dwarves in Pandora with a side of Narnia. And that's it, off to battle we go. 

Seriously, who rides off to battle after a semi-awkward speech from a recently back from the dead princess? 

There is this bit in the end that "fairest in the land" does not pertain to beauty but a sense of equal judgment. So it really is about Snow White reasserting her rightful role as ruler of her father's kingdom. She has no need for the Huntsman or the Duke's son. But I am more concerned about the Queen's fate: What does it mean when a woman is driven to protect her daughter by casting a spell that allows her to rise to power so that she would not suffer at the hands of men again, but the spell forces said daughter to make other women suffer at her expense, to feed off their youth and beauty? And yet her ultimate undoing comes from the one girl who refused to give her her heart. All it takes is three drops of blood. 

(Here's an alternative take on this: Who are we kidding? I went into the theater to gawk at the screen. The movie is gorgeous to look at, Charlize Theron is really pretty and wears fabulous clothes made of raven feathers and hate. Here's the interview with Snow White and the Huntsman costume designer Coleen Atwood on how hundreds of roosters sacrificed their lives at the altar of Queen Ravenna.)