Cinderella Review

I went to see the new Cinderella movie with a friend last week and absolutely loved it. It was sweet and innocent and just all around lovely. My only issue? Not enough Helena Bonham-Carter (she’s been a long time favorite of mine). But the real stand out here was the set and costume design, both of which were absolutely magnificent. It was a glorious riot of Rococo, Victoriana, and 1940’s influences that, at times, had me paying more attention to what people were wearing and where they were standing than what they were actually talking about. So rather than talking about the movie, I’ll just show you.

The young Cinderella and her mother.

The young Ella and her mother.

Cinderella's daily wear- nicer than most of my good clothes.

Cinderella’s daily wear- nicer than most of my good clothes.

Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and the two stepsisters. I liked that the stepsisters weren't physically ugly, they just had pretty ugly personalities.

Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and the two stepsisters. I liked that the stepsisters weren’t physically ugly, they just had pretty ugly personalities.

I loved the rather lurid pinks and yellows that the stepsisters were dressed in. They always matched exactly and they always wore their color. And the dresses were beautiful, just maybe not in a color I would ever wear.

I loved the rather lurid pinks and yellows that the stepsisters were dressed in. They always matched exactly and they always wore their color. And the dresses were beautiful, just maybe not in a color I would ever wear.

Prince Kit, also known as King in the North. I like him better scruffy but he makes a good, clean cut Disney Prince. Most of his costumes were military style, but they were still ornate with beautiful details like the design seen on this hunting coat.

Prince Kit, also known as King in the North. I like him better scruffy but he makes a good, clean cut Disney Prince. Most of his costumes were military style, but they still had ornate and beautiful details like the design seen on this hunting coat.

Helena Bonham-Carter looking absolutely luminous as the fairy godmother. At times I found her even prettier than Cinderella (but that could just be my own personal bias...).

Helena Bonham-Carter looking absolutely luminous as the fairy godmother. At times I found her even prettier than Cinderella (but that could just be my own personal bias…).

The step family at the ball. There was always so. much. going on with the sisters' gowns.

The step family at the ball. There was always so. much. going on with the sisters’ gowns.

Cinderella's marvel of a ball gown. I wanted to touch it so badly. All those petticoats! The shimmeriness! The tulle! The twirliness! I can't get enough of it!

Cinderella’s marvel of a ball gown. I wanted to touch it so badly. All those petticoats! The shimmeriness! The tulle! The twirliness! I can’t get enough of it!

I'm not normally a huge fan of wedding dresses but this one was pretty nice. Surprisingly subdued, but look at the embroidery on it! Lovely.

I’m not normally a huge fan of wedding dresses but this one was pretty nice. Surprisingly subdued, but look at the embroidery on it! Lovely.

Has anyone else seen this version yet? What did you think of it?

The Turnip Princess

Almost exactly three years, I wrote about the discovery of a collection of previously unknown fairy tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth. At the time, a small collection had been published in German but there was no word on when an English translation would become available. But I just found out a paperback collection of 72 of the tales was published this past February and it is now available to purchase! That is very exciting news. I hope to purchase a copy for myself soon and look forward to adding new fairy tales to my repertoire. The book is of course available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and probably anywhere else that sells new books.

PrincessTurnip

Here is a review from NPR: It’s All Charm and Wolves in “The Turnip Princess”

Here’s a review from the Washington Post: A newly discovered trove of unknown fairy tales: “The Turnip Princess”

And here’s a story from the collection called “Tricking the Witch” that was originally published on the Slate Book Review.

An evil witch kidnapped three princesses and would not set them free. While they were in captivity, the girls learned a few magic tricks from the witch.

One day a young prince lost his way in the woods, and the two-faced witch welcomed him warmly, but she was actually plotting to kill him that night.

Although the princesses were not allowed to speak, the youngest of the three, Reinhilda, alerted the prince to the perils facing him. She had taken a liking to him, and she whispered in his ear: “When the old woman takes you to your room, don’t step on the threshold but jump over it! When she gives you something to drink for the night, don’t touch it because it will be a sleeping potion. Don’t sleep in the bed but under it. Leave everything else to me!”

After dinner the witch took the stranger up the stairs to his bedroom, and the youngest of the three sisters lit the way with her candle. The young man jumped over the threshold, and when the witch handed him something to drink, the candle went out, as if by accident. The prince poured the brew into his boot and settled down to sleep under the bed. Later that night the princess woke the prince up and fled with him using the magic she had learned while in captivity.

The two were able to soar through the air, but just as the day was dawning, Reinhilda realized that they were being followed. And indeed the witch, as soon as she had woken up, had known exactly what had happened with the prince and the youngest of the three princesses. She had sent one of the two other princesses out to catch her and bring her back.

It looked as if the two were about to be caught, when the princess said: “I’m going to change into a rosebush, and I’ll turn you into a rose. My sister is chasing us, and she won’t be able to do a thing because she can’t stand the smell of roses.” Just when the girl was closing in on them, a fragrant rosebush sprang up right in her path with a magnificent rose in bloom. The girl had been tricked, and she had to turn back. The witch scolded her to no end. “You stupid girl,” she grumbled angrily. “If you had just plucked the rose, the bush would have followed.” And then she sent the eldest of the three to find the two fugitives.

In the meantime the couple returned to their human shapes, and they continued on their way. Reinhilda turned around at one point, and she saw that they were still being pursued. She decided to take advantage of her magic powers again, and she said to the prince: “I’m going to turn myself into a church, and you are going to climb up into the pulpit and hold a stern sermon about witches and their sinister magic.”

When the third sister caught up with the pair and was just about to overtake them, she suddenly found herself near a church, and right there in the pulpit was a preacher raging against witches and their black magic. The sister returned, and when the old woman asked her what she had seen, she said: “I could see her from a distance, but when I reached the spot where she had been, there was nothing but a church there with a preacher denouncing witches.”

“Oh, you foolish thing!” the old woman said. “If only you had just shoved the preacher out of the pulpit, the church would have come back with you. Now I have to go after them. Well, they don’t stand a chance against me.”

The princess resumed her natural form, but now the old woman was chasing the two of them, and she was hot on their trail. “My magic is not as powerful as a witch’s,” Reinhilda said to her beloved. “Give me your sword. I’m going to turn myself into a pond and you will become a duck. Just stay in the middle of the pond, no matter how much the old woman tries to lure you to come on shore. Otherwise we will be lost.”

The old woman did what she could to bring the duck on land, using terms of endearment and throwing tasty morsels on the water, all in vain. The duck stayed in the middle of the pond and would not paddle any closer. Then the old woman climbed to the top of a dam in the pond and drank every drop of water in sight. The princess was now in the belly of the witch. She turned back into a human and cut the witch open from inside with the sword the prince had given to her. The witch was now as dead as a doornail.

The loving couple were reunited and in safety. The princess gave her hand to the prince at the altar, and the two lived happily together with the sisters, who had been freed from the spell.

Maleficent

This movie had a lot against it in my opinion. I’ve never been a huge fan of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (#BeautyandtheBeast4lyfe!) and I get tired of villains being made sympathetic. Sometimes evil really is just evil. But this retelling worked, for the most part.

First the bad:

  • The Moors, where Maleficent lives, looks a bit like it was taken from the latest straight-to-DVD Tinkerbell release. It’s sugary bright and seems unsuited for the tone of the movie which, yes, is family-friendly, but that doesn’t need to mean it looks like a cartoon.
  •  I understand the idea behind this movie is that we’ve been told the wrong story. But the main character’s name is Maleficent, her assistant’s name is Diaval, she has big devil horns, and her wings look like they came straight from a gigantic bird of prey. Either she’s a villain, or the deck’s been stacked against her in a big way.
  • Aurora is under the curse for all of what, an hour? While I understand the need to continue the plot of the story, it’s hard to take the curse seriously when we know she’s not going to be fighting it long.

Now the good:

  • I don’t like Angelina Jolie. All I can think when I see her is the absolutely crazy (bad crazy, not fun crazy!) antics she used to perform pre-Brad Pitt and motherhood. But she somehow fits perfectly in this role, both as good Maleficent and bad (that mouth!).
  • Goodness. That wing stealing scene is brutal (in the best way?!). It’s a powerful and absolutely believable back story to the bad Maleficent. Not only has the best part of her physically been stolen, but her heart has truly been broken, by the loss of her wings and a betrayal from the man she loved and thought loved her in return.
  • But love! The great redeemer. And not romantic love. We meet Prince Phillip, but he only meets Aurora once before the curse takes effect and while there’s an obvious attraction, his kiss does not break the spell. SPOILER It’s Maleficent! She watches over Aurora from birth and even before learning to love the little princess, Maleficent begins her redemption by caring for Aurora. It’s lovely and not entirely unexpected, but still nice to see this recent theme in movies and TV that non-romantic love is just as valuable and powerful as romantic love.

What did you think?

The Journal of Mythic Arts

I love stumbling on things that seem like they were tailor made for my particular interests. Things like this: The Journal of Mythic Arts.

It’s not publishing new content anymore but the material they have will stay there so people like me can read through it at their leisure. And there are some very interesting articles on the site.

There’s a nonfiction section, that has articles like “Baba Yaga in Film” and “A Rune with a View“.

There’s a poetry section, that has poems from Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman.

There’s an art and mixed media section (oh joy!), with articles such as “On Pre-Raphaelites, Then and Now” and “From Fairy Tales to Fantasia: The Art of Kay Nielsen” (all with lots of lovely examples).

And perhaps most dangerously of all there are several reading lists provided, one for mythic fiction and one for fairy tale fiction. Each article also has a further reading list at the end (like I don’t have enough to read already!).

I see many happy days ahead, poring over the articles on this website.

A Fairy Tale Wardrobe

I love the show Once Upon A Time. I love the stories they tell and the characters they’ve created and I particularly love the crazy way they have connected the core group of characters. Imagine being the genealogist for that family! My head hurts just thinking about it.

I also love the costumes they have on the show. Like Game of Thrones (albeit on a smaller scale), they manage to create beautiful costumes for the characters both in our world and theirs. I recently came across a photo album for some of the best costumes from the show and here are some of the highlights:

Prince Charming

Prince Charming

Captain Hook

Captain Hook

Regina

Regina

Mulan

Mulan

Tiny

Tiny

You can see the whole gallery here.

Some of my favorite costumes didn’t make the gallery (or at least not clearly).

I love Belle’s main blue dress.

Belle

Belle

And pretty much anything on Snow White. Especially this cloak:

Snow White

Snow White

And this dressing gown (finding a good picture seems impossible so enjoy this short clip!):

I will say they love their leather on this show and lots of prominent, um, bosoms. But the fairy tale costumes are lovely and even the modern day costumes make me wish I could ask for some advice from the costumers!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland

GirlwhoCircumnavigatedFairylandCoverHave you ever known someone who you should be best friends with? As in, on the surface, this person has everything in common with you? They like the same things, they read the same books, they listen to the same music. But for some reason, you just don’t mesh well together. Why is this? Because this seems to be the case with me and Catherynne Valente.

I began hearing about Valente sometime last year because of her book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Well, Fairyland! I thought. That sounds interesting. And eventually I read her book Deathless. It was good, but not great, and it made me wonder if I would actually like Fairyland. So I finally got the book from the library to read and I’m now wondering why it is so popular.

There is so much about this book that I should love. September is a twelve year old girl living in Nebraska who is taken into Fairyland. Once there, she is left on her own and begins a series of adventures that ultimately lead her into direct conflict with the current ruler of Fairyland. Along the way she makes friends with a wyvern (like a dragon but not quite) and a marid, as well as getting help from fairies, spriggans, panthers and various other sentient creatures. The story owes an obvious debt to old Victorian morality and fairy tales but has a healthy dose of modernness to it.

So why don’t I love this book? I really can’t say. It’s not the first time this has happened- I never could get into the Inkheart books by Cornelia Funke. Valente’s tone bothers me a bit, as it did with Deathless. She seems to patronize a bit and whether that’s intentional or not, I can’t tell. And everything seems so…precious. I don’t really know any other way to explain it. Half the time I’m trying to enjoy the story I just end up rolling my eyes. I also have a hard time connecting or caring about many of the characters.

There is a sequel recently published, also saddled with a horribly cumbersome title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Will I read it? Probably. But I fear I’m just setting myself up for another disappointingly flat tale.

The 10th Kingdom

Part of my job involves selecting new A/V materials for the library system I work for. I’m part of the committee that chooses new CDs, audiobooks, DVDs, etc. and I love that it gives me a heads up about new things coming out and specifically what’s coming to our library. As I was looking through one of our supplier’s catalogs, I happened to notice this one: The 10th Kingdom.

Oh my goodness. Guys. I love The 10th Kingdom. I’ve been thinking a lot about it for the past year or two, probably due to the influence of watching Once Upon A Time, but I’ve been unable to find it. Netflix was not carrying it, copies on Amazon were exorbitantly expensive, and our old VHS copies from home were not even an option (I don’t own a TV, much less a VCR!). But it has recently been re-released on DVD and Amazon copies are now an entirely affordable $6. Or check your local Target! They’re not selling it online but they do have some copies available in store for a dollar less and the benefit of immediate gratification! (Or if you’re super cheap and lazy, apparently the whole thing is available on youtube. Did I know this before? Maybe. But somehow the idea of sitting in front of a computer to watch a 7 hour miniseries seems horribly unappealing.)

Basically, here’s the story: Virginia and her father Tony share an apartment in the building he takes care of. Virginia’s mother left them some years before and they have not heard from her since. They discover a magic mirror that transports them to the fairy tale kingdoms we have all heard so much about. We meet all kinds of fairy tale characters like trolls, charming princes, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Bo-Peep, Snow White, and so on. It’s probably been 10 years since I last saw the show but I still remember how much fun it was and what a good story it had to tell. So tonight? I’m heading to the store. I’ve got a long (rainy) weekend coming up and this seems like a pretty good way to spend it.

Happy Independence Day, American friends!