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2011 Summer Line Up!

Finally, after some delay due to logistics with the films, I’m happy to announce the Stilwell Summer Film Series Line Up!  This year we’re heading to the wild west with two Westerns and two Western influenced films!

July 8: Rio Bravo, the Howard Hawk’s classic starring John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson.

July 15:  Bandidas, the 2006 western comedy starring Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek as bank-robbers in turn of the century Mexico, and co-starring one of my favorite actors, Steve Zhan!

July 22: Rango, the 2011 animated film with Johnny Depp as a chameleon transplanted into the middle of Chinatown and High Noon!

July 29: Our 2011 finale: Star Wars IV: A New Hope, George Lucas’ western inspired sci-fi classic that started it all!

As always, all films start at dusk on the southern wall of Stilwell United Methodist Church (19335 Metcalf Ave), and it is outdoors, so bring chairs and blankets to sit on.  In case of bad weather, films will be moved indoors.  Popcorn is free, and other food and drink are available by donation.

This year, we are looking to expand on the experience by providing pre-film entertainment, so check back often to find out about all the action!  More information about the films will also be posted over the coming weeks, including ratings, running times and reviews, but if you have any questions in the mean time, email info@stilwellfilm.org or follow us on  twitter.


2010 Line up coming soon!

Next week, we’ll be announcing the 2010 Stilwell Film Series films and dates, and it’s got us excited!


And the nominees are…

The Oscars air next Sunday (March 7) at 7PM Central on ABC.  Needless to say, the entertainment world is all a-twitter, and most people seem to think the big duel of the evening will be between James Cameron and Avatar vs Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker.

The question on everyone’s mind is will this be the first year a female director is honored with one of the highest directing awards?  With the new 10 Best Picture nominees, it’s really anyone game.  With more films to divide the votes, I wouldn’t be surprised if neither of the front runners win.

Over the next week, I plan to see as many of the nominated films as I can get a hold on here in Scotland, but in the mean time, visit Oscar.com and leave a comment with your predictions, preferences, and if you’d like to see any of the films at this year’s series.


The Princess and the Frog

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog is amazing. Need I say more? I suppose I should.  Tiana is, of course, Disney’s first Black princess. She is also their first American (as in US citizen) princess, which I find just as interesting as her race, especially since the movie doesn’t focus on her race. There is one line in the movie that sort of refers to Tiana’s race: the real estate man says “a little woman of your… background,” when explaining why she shouldn’t have the building she wants for her restaurant. This line is repeated later on during her Facilier-induced nightmare. This could easily refer to her race or class, or probably both. The fact is, this movie is more about class than race. What race is Naveen? Maldonian. That’s all I can tell you. He has not particular race. But what’s important is his class: he is royalty. He comes from a fabulously wealthy family. This makes him part of Charlotte’s rich society, and this is what makes him so different from Tiana. But I don’t want this review to be about race; I am much more interested in the characters, romance, and relation to previous Disney movies.

Ok, so the characters in this story are so great that I simply don’t have words for it. Tiana is strong, independent, hard-working—everything people have been complaining Disney princesses are not. She has two jobs, and she has a dream other than get-the-prince or please-her-father. And she grows and changes during the story! Charlotte is more like the traditional Disney princess; sitting around, waiting for her prince, doesn’t have a job. And she is HILARIOUS. Yes, I used caps lock, because that’s how serious I am about this. You’re supposed to laugh at her intense desire to marry a prince and become a princess, no matter what else happens. Prince Naveen is truly outstanding. He has a personality! Say what? Since when do princes have personalities? Aladdin, Beast… that’s pretty much it. They also both have their names in the titles of their movies. Eric kind of had a personality, maybe? He’s not very memorable. I guess Shang has a personality, but I have a problem with him, because his romance is just sort of there out of necessity, and he’s not as awesome as Mulan’s friends; of course, he is also not really a prince. I’m only mentioning him because Mulan is considered one of Disney’s princesses. Naveen has a personality, a past, and he matures and develops, like Aladdin and Beast. And he is Disney’s sexiest prince yet. No question.

Dr. Facilier is a great villain; I’d say he’s like a mix of Ursula and Scar. His magic is very reminiscent of Ursula (more on that later), but more charismatic, sort of like Scar. I am officially in love with Keith David. “Friends on the Other Side” is my current ringtone. I just love it. And don’t forget Ray, the Cajun firefly! He leads the song “Gonna Take You There” and has the solo “Ma Belle Evangeline.” In the previews, Ray seemed like the most problematic and downright annoying of all the characters, but in the movie, he is possibly the best. He’s so sweet and smart and wise, and I love him. Of course, this was just a brief overview of my favorite characters. There are plenty of other great characters, but I really don’t want to describe my love for everyone in this movie.

Naveen and Tiana’s romance was so great. It was definitely not love at first sight. When they first see each other, Tiana sighs and rolls her eyes, and Naveen just shrugs and walks off. For most of the movie, they plan on marrying Naveen to Charlotte. This was simply the best Disney romance yet. It was between two characters with real personalities. I guess you could compare it to Beauty and the Beast, but I was reminded more of Fox’s Anastasia. Two characters forced together, at first don’t like each other, but start to fall in love. Demetri uses Anya to escape Russia and get money, and Naveen plans on using Tiana to escape his frog form so he can marry rich and get money. The problem with comparing it to Beauty and the Beast is that Beast and Naveen are not similar. Yes, they are both pretty selfish, but that’s about it. And Beast is selfish in a mean way, while Naveen is selfish in a more unthinking way. He doesn’t try to hurt anyone; he just doesn’t always realize the consequences of his actions.

One of the greatest things about this movie is its relationship to previous Disney movies. This is Disney’s return to classic animation, and the movie contains references to other movies. As previously mentioned, Dr. Facilier is rather similar to Ursula; he keeps Naveen’s blood on a mask-thing on a necklace, rather like how Ursula traps Ariel’s voice in a shell-thing on a necklace. His plan is for Lawrence to marry Charlotte, who Naveen wants to marry, like how Ursula plans to marry Eric, Ariel’s love interest. Additionally, King Triton is on a Mardi Gras float. Charlotte’s dance with “Naveen” looks similar to the dance in Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Tiana wishes upon a star (Pinnochio), and the star turns out to be Evangeline, who Ray eventually joins (The Lion King). In the book The Art of the Princess and the Frog, they describe how the artists watched old Disney movies, and took a lot of inspiration for the drawing style from Lady and the Tramp.

So, to sum up: this movie is totally awesome, and everyone should see it. And I want to visit New Orleans. And marry Prince Naveen. And open a restaurant. And own Charlotte’s wardrobe.

Stats:

Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker

Starring: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Jim Cummings, Keith David, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey

Rated: G

97 minutes


Sherlock Holmes

Photo sourced from the film's Warner Brothers website.

Regardless of his troubled past, Robert Downey, Jr. has proved repeatedly that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation.   Even with his pesky drug problem, he has managed to carve out a nice (if bumpy) career since the mid-1980s, and perhaps it was his problems that leads me to believe he was bornto play the equally troubled, but gifted, Sherlock Holmes.  It is the ease in which Downey slips from one character to another that has endeared him as one of my favorite actors since I first saw Heart And Souls (Ron Underwood 1993), and his performance in Guy Ritchie’s take of the classic sleuth never ceases to entertain, even when the film seems to lag.

First, let me admit that the closest I’ve come to reading a Sherlock Holme’s story was watching Wishbone on PBS during the mid-90s, so I’m no expert on the characters.  However, Downey manages to capture the soul of Holmes while bringing him into the 21st century.  Not only does his Sherlock use his intelligence to solve crimes and out smart his foes, but to physically best them as well.  This is shown in two early fights where the audience is taken through Sherlock’s mental plan of attack and then witnesses him take down his opponent by implementing his plans.  While interesting, and a great way to marry the action to the genius, the second scene, was a bit gratuitous.  It provided an interesting introduction to Rachel McAdam’s Irene Adler, and her lure over Holmes, but didn’t serve any pressing purpose to the plot.

Guy Ritchie, who’s cannon deals with crime lords and London’s underbelly, succeeds at bringing a gritty Victorian London to the screen, and providing plenty of action for a post-Iron Man Downey to work with.  However, what impressed me the most with this film (aside from Jude Law finally proving he’s more than a pretty boy) was the wit, which, sadly, went over the heads of most the audience at my screening.  The verbal sparring between Holmes and Watson was wonderful, and I was happy that this Watson dished out as much as he took, but the best thing about the pairing of Downey and Law was their ability to play up the homoeroticism, with out crossing into parody.  The subplot involving Watson’s impeding engagement, not only prevented Watson from becoming a cartoon, but perfectly articulated one of the most famous “bromances” of all time.

Bottom line: the overly complicated plot and action dragged down the characterizations and performances from the leading men.

The Stats:

Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Rated: PG-13

128 minutes.