Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cinderella: Behind the Fairy Tale

Nobody loves fairy tales and Disney movies more than me! Yeah that's right I have claimed that right to love them more than anyone. But aside from that blatant truth, I have always found it incredibly interesting to read the original fairy tales that the Disney movies were based from. Disney is truly magical, for many reasons such as a creative narrative, memorable songs and characters and spectacular animation. But there is also lessons to be learnt from Disney movies; some may debate that, I call those people with no heart. The original fairy tales are often quite dark and have harsh life lessons, and I think that is very clever seeing something so harsh come out of something quite beautiful. Disney is about making the viewer happy and making them feel warm and loved, but also learning a strong message. The message may not be as intense or even the same as the original, but Disney can teach children a lot about life. Both texts teach the viewer and reader about life, but in the dark and in the light. To all the 'half glass empty' people, believe it or not life lessons can be conveyed positively, not all life lessons come from some sort of suffering either emotionally or physically. How do each of the texts stand up toe to toe, and how did Disney stray from the original source material? And more importantly why? Surely we will be able to tell the difference between Disney's 'Cinderella' and the Brothers Grimm version and which version depicts the stronger message. The 'Cinderella' fairy tale has been around for centuries and it is apparently unknown where the original story comes from, it just a story that has been passed down from generation to generation along with hundreds of different retelling's of the story throughout hundreds of cultures. Rumour has it that Disney's 'Cinderella' was an inspiration of the Brothers Grimm version as well as the Charles Perrault version. You can definitely see the influence of both versions in the animated feature. 

I have met a lot of people who dislike Disney for the fact it 'waters' down the original story, which is true it does but I can think of plenty of reasons why it does. Firstly I am not even sure if the Disney haters have even read the original fairy tale counterparts, but all I can say is this, go try reading some of them to a group of five year olds and see the reaction you will get. Every child is different, without a doubt, but I grew up with Disney, so did my mother, as I am sure many other people did too, and I can tell you from my mother's experience and my own we have a strong love for Disney. And as much as I do love original fairy tales, I just think Disney does it better. And I believe a lot of people would agree with me on that. I know their could be some cynics who believe that Disney doesn't tell the truth and that people should be more interested in reading than watching a movie. And that is all well and good but I can guarantee that more people would rather watch a Disney movie because even though at times they can be quite dark, they all incorporate magic into the narrative, opposed to the classic fairy tales. Disney obviously had to change a lot of the original source material because it wasn't appropriate for an animated feature for that time, and also children may just not understand it. Sure children's brains are like sponges and they suck up any new information given to them, but whether they truly understand what is given to them, that is a different story. I believe Disney created the version they did because they wanted it to appeal to the masses, to make children and adults happy and being able to share something truly loveable together. Disney movies in general are great because they are a brief distraction of your life. People may say that is a bad thing, but if it is then why are movies even made? 

'Cinderella' is one of the classic Disney movies that really pushes out the magic with such ease among it's audience even 63 years after it's initial cinematic release. Not only does that prove it is a timeless film, but each generation have adapted to that kind of magic and grown up loving it and passing it on to their own children. Cinderella is a fairly colourful film, and not very dark unlike some of the animated Disney films, but at the same time it does get a little upsetting in some parts. There are clear differences between book and film. While Cinderella is kind in the film and the Perrault version, in the Brothers Grimm adaptation she is kind but doesn't have much of a 'voice', so I found it harder to feel for her character because she seemed quite faceless. The fact she is so sweet and kind to anyone in the film is a great thing for young children to see because kids take influence on what they watch and I guess it makes them root for her. In the film there isn't much discussion about Cinderella's dead mother and father, it's just a quickly told story which leads you up to where she currently is now. Whereas the book discusses how Cinderella is constantly at her mothers grave, and how her dad really doesn't take much notice of what his wife and step-daughters are putting his own flesh and blood through. He just turned the other cheek, and I guessed played dumb and ignorant. 



Cinderella's step-sisters are actually quite vicious in the Disney version, especially the scene where they rip apart Cinderella's dress while she is still wearing it. That moment actually taught me a lot about women, and how they sometimes will do ANYTHING if they are jealous of you or what you have. The step-sisters in the Brother's Grimm tale are mean, but again nothing is really said of how mean they can get besides them putting her down by telling her she can't go to the ball because she can't dance. In the Brothers Grimm adaptation, both sisters try on the gold and silver slipper and both of their feet are too big so one cuts off her toe to fit into it and the other cuts off part of her heel, all under the influence of their mother. The prince falls for both of their gruesome efforts claiming to be his mysterious woman, which proves he is a little bit thick. Although I guess there is a point to them cutting off parts of their feet; proving they would do ANYTHING to be a princess and live in a big castle and be able to wear all the pretty dresses and jewels they like. By the end of the story they are invited to Cinderella's wedding and their eyes are pecked out by birds. The lesson there is them being blinded to be malicious to Cinderella to get further than her and to get what they want. If being blinded by expensive things is what they wanted then let them be blinded. I think that is quite a strong message, but I don't think that would go down so well in the animated film, so in the end they get nothing. Obviously Disney didn't want to concentrate on the step sisters after Cinderella's foot fits into the glass slipper but in a way it does have a message; If you are vicious, mean, jealous you will get nothing. 

Now here is what you don't see in the film unlike the book. Cinderella meets the prince 3 times before she tries on the slipper she lost at the ball. It was a 3 day event and each time she ran off, but on the third night as she was running down the staircase her shoe got stuck on the tar that had been laid out on the steps...Yes that's right the prince was so crafty he put tar on there in an attempt to either stop her or find out who the shoe belonged to. There was no fairy godmother in fact it was a bird in a tree that was growing next to her mothers grave which would pass down anything she asked for. The infamous glass slipper from the film adaptation wasn't glass in the Grimm Fairy tale; it was made with silk and silver. There is also no talk of the animals like the mice, cat, and dog but obviously that is a Disney thing which is used in a lot of their films. 


As far as emotion goes the Disney film does incorporate a lot more heart and a bigger wave of emotions which flow within the natural progression of the storytelling. And as much as I love the Brothers Grimm version, it does come across as very cold at times but it does have it's intense moments towards the end. I also find the emotion is sucked out of it because I don't really feel anything for any of the characters including Cinderella, I was just more interested in the lesson bestowed upon the step-sisters at the end of the story. This is only my opinion though, but it's how I interpreted it. Some people may prefer the book version to the film, because they feel Disney took away a lot of it's depth, which I don't believe it did. I believe that both versions are different, and they both have their merit, but I find Disney's Cinderella is the clear winner in terms of getting the point across through terrific storytelling. 'Cinderella' is an amazing interpretation of the classic fairy tale, and it didn't destroy any legacy in the literature world by it's so called 'watering' down of the themes if anything it made people want to read fairy tales. Even though 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' was released in 1937, I do believe that 'Cinderella' was the first Disney fairy tale, because of the elements, magic and strong emotion it possessed. While 'Snow White' did posses those things, 'Cinderella' really did take it to a whole new level, and she really gave young girls a voice and let them know that good things do come to those who wait, and that patience really is a virtue. 



Monday, May 13, 2013

Documentaries: How Do They Make You Feel?


I am a documentary buff, and I own hundreds on DVD, I also love the fact that if a documentary is engaging enough, and it teaches you something that you never knew, then it has the power to make you want to re-watch it. When I was doing some research on the most popular documentaries, there were a lot I had seen; some of which were good but a lot I found to be quite boring. I also liked to check out peoples lists on what their favourites where, and a lot of them were exactly the same as everyone else. I found a lot of them to be those ‘environmentally and socially’ aware documentaries. And sure a lot of those kind of documentaries expose the ‘bad guys’ of society which is great for making the viewer not feel so gullible but at the same time they are incredibly bias. Great documentaries can be bias, if what they are saying has sufficient proof and evidence to back it up, but at the same time I do love watching documentaries that can be fair to both sides of the story and make you understand the issues better and can change your opinion on something for the greater good.

When I watch a documentary I need to be engrossed in the issue, and I need to feel something. I’m not saying the documentary has to be a dramatic and intense issue, but I want to be able to connect or understand with what the film maker is trying to do. There are a lot of great documentaries out there that get shunned because they are not glossy, they don’t have a lot of money pushing it to the masses through advertising, and it’s a real shame because it shouldn’t just be about the money surrounding the picture, it should be about the substance that’s feeding our brains. And I find that a lot of popular documentaries have the money and the substance but it’s made in such a boring way that I lose interest. Some of the best documentaries I have seen I have watched online on different websites, most of which were not on any of these lists of top documentaries. There is a lot of great made for TV documentaries that get made, that people shun because they are made for TV and don’t see a ‘pretty’ looking documentary so the audience tends to lose interest. When it all comes down to it, the film maker is just mixing up a story in a big pot of information, all he/she has to do is make sure all the right information and elements are there so they can engage you and make you learn. When I watch a documentary, I like it to be told simply and to the point, and if that is done correctly I could watch a 5 hour documentary; time makes no difference to me.

When I used to sell DVD’s for a living, I would often get people asking me about documentaries since I do know a lot about them, and no matter how much I would try and sell them a documentary like ‘Deliver us From Evil’ or ‘F*ck’ they would usually opt for ‘Gasland’ or ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. That is all well and good because people have their own tastes, but instead of believing someone who’s job was to research and watch movies to make sure good recommendations are given out, they just go for these documentaries that were just over-saturated in hype. I think a lot of people tend to watch the more ‘environmentally’ aware documentaries because they believe if they watch them, and have learnt some new information then they have ‘done their part’ towards saving the planet. I am not saying all viewers of those kind of documentaries think that, but having worked in that industry for nearly five years, it was a common answer I got from customers when I asked them why they wanted to watch it. When it came to recommending them documentaries exposing  the true nature of people in high power or exposing religion, they just didn’t want to know. And while there are a lot of people who have seen those kind of documentaries and understand the mission behind exposing humans for what they are, people would rather be ignorant to it.

I have loved documentaries since I was a child, I loved feeding my brain new information, it didn’t matter what the topic was, as long as it was information I hadn’t heard before I was intrigued. But over the years of watching them, it has made me despise human nature a lot more, and the more I watch documentaries and then look outside my window, and one day I just woke up and thought ‘How the hell could anyone bring up children in this environment, just look at the state we are in’. People think it’s immoral to either not have children or have an abortion, and that’s their opinion, but remember it’s just as immoral to bring a child  into the world, and not give a toss about it or to exploit them. The more documentaries I watch, the more it makes me question myself, the people I surround myself and the people I don’t even know. And if documentaries can make you question things around you and make you think, I’d say the film maker has really done their job correctly.


I would have to say my favourite documentary of all time is ‘Bigger, Stronger Faster’, because it something I have watched repeatedly and it never gets boring. The basic run down of the plot surrounds Chris Bell who also directed this piece, and his journey to find the truth about the use of anabolic steroid use in sport, entertainment and every day life, and the effects and the myths surrounding the drug. It is a great insight because we see his brothers taking them and how that affects him, as well as his action and sporting heroes taking the drug. It makes him disheartened to know a lot of what he grew up loving about his heroes was a lie. It isn’t a bias look at anabolic steroids, it is very well balanced and it’s great to see the people who use them come forward and say what are the myths and common misconceptions about the drug and how people are so misinformed about what they can be used for and what effects they REALLY have.  Just because this is more of a ‘sport’ documentary doesn’t mean it has any less value than ‘Man on wire’, because this has just as much substance if not more, because Chris Bell’s research is thorough and in depth and will definitely make you want to know more about the side effects and history of the drug.


A documentary that stuck with me and wouldn’t leave my head for a long time was ‘Jesus Camp’. I am not a believer in God, so let’s get that out of the way, however I do like to understand why people believe in certain religions and the effects it has on their values and just how it ‘completes’ them as a person. ‘Jesus Camp’ is based around a camp for kids who learn more about God’s teachings and how these children are going to  be ‘soldiers’ for Christianity. This documentary is intense because let’s face it, it’s scary seeing children been taught about abortion and not fully understanding the issue and getting worked up about it and crying. It is actually heartbreaking to see these young children getting brainwashed and talking in tongues. This documentary comes across a little bias, I won’t lie, however it was definitely a side I hadn’t seen in religion. What is so scary is that these ‘adults’ are influencing their beliefs on their kids and further reinforcing the religion and it’s teachings by sending them to a camp which is feeding them information and making their children just as narrow minded towards the world. Religion can be a powerful thing, whether it’s taught through sermons, songs, Sunday School or camps, and sometimes it can spread love, peace and forgiveness which is all groovy, but this documentary does not convey that. Instead ‘Jesus Camp’ conveys a misguided look on religion, and in some ways it looks to be conveyed as certain type of child abuse.


‘Girl 27′ is a documentary I had only seen recently, but it definitely had an effect on me, and made me ask a lot of questions about the movie industry. ‘Girl 27′ is about Patricia Douglas who was a dancer for the MGM film studios in the 1930′s, and how she discovered the hard way that if you were raped by a senior executive for MGM everything will be done to prove you are a liar, a slut, a whore, trash. Patricia Douglas was raped outside the barn and that she an many other young women happened to be performing at for these MGM executives. Everyone turned against her and made her out to be a slut wanting money, so to make sure that MGM’s pristine image was not tarnished in any way, people were bribed, brainwashed and paid off to make sure that everyone would be against her. Patricia was so upset, hurt and disheartened by everything she became a recluse and very rarely leaving her house. What is so remarkable about this story is that it went practically unheard of for all these years and no one even bothered to look for Patricia until now. It made me feel disgusted and disappointed that such a highly respected company like MGM could do that to someone so vulnerable. ‘Girl 27′ woke me up a lot, and made me remember that there is a dark side to Hollywood which people don’t like to think exists, but it does. It made me wonder though if this MGM executive would rape a leading lady in Hollywood, but chances are he wouldn’t have even attempted it, because there is no way he would have gotten away with it. I guess it was easier for him to rape and exploit Patricia Douglas because she was a nobody who would have cared if anything bad happened to her right? What a terrible and messed up mentality to have. 



Another personal favourite of mine is ‘Video Nasties: A Definitive Guide’. Why? Well it deals with the 72 banned films in the UK in the 1980′s and the politics surrounding them. I found this documentary to be a lot of fun because I love horror and exploitation films, and it was at times funny and interesting to see why these certain films were getting banned. It all went down to the British Government and the press using scare tactics towards parents by making them think their own children were being exposed to this, by making up how many percentages of children were watching these kind of films. And it turns out not many were getting exposed to them, but more were lying just to say they had seen them to impress their chums. Films were getting banned just based on the cover art, so the film hadn’t even been viewed, or they were banned on the fact these ignorant politicians thought they were ACTUAL snuff films, and had never heard of a thing called practical FX. It is a great insight to the video nastie titles, the history surrounding them which made this notorious but also a great look on the people who are advocates of the films  and what their thoughts on the matter are. It is also a great way to remind the viewers out there that people are afraid of things they don’t understand, and they automatically write it off, and see it as affecting their children. But these politicians didn’t give a toss about the public’s children previously, they were more concerned with the bribes they were taking under the table.

Now here are some of my favourite documentaries, and if you haven’t seen them, you need to do so.

  • Forbidden Lies
  • Punk Attitude
  • Filth and the Fury
  • Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop
  • American Grindhouse
  • Dope Sick Love
  • Nightmares in Red, White and Blue
  • The Cove
  • Deliver us From Evil
  • History of the Devil
  • God Who Wasn’t There
  • Religulous
  • Inside Deep Throat
  • Tyson
  • Dear Zachary
  • His Name was Jason
  • Good Hair
  • Second Skin
  • American: Bill Hicks Story
  • Heavy Metal: Louder Than Life
  • Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey
  • TallHotBlonde
  • Catfish
  • For the Bible Tells me so
  • Jihad for Love
  • Trembling before God
  • Films of Fury
  • Rudolf Nueyev: A Brilliant Life
  • Thug Angel
  • Tupac Resurrected
  • The Meth Epidemic
  • Genocide
  • Night and Fog
  • A Film Unfinished
  • Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
  • Union Square
  • Shoah
  • Ballet Russes
  • Hitler’s Holocaust
  • Hitler’s Henchmen
  • Capturing the Friedmans
  • The Bridge
  • Screamers
  • Heckler
  • Celluloid Closet
  • Halloween 25 Years of Terror
  • Easy Rider’s Raging Bulls
  • Midnight Movies
  • Standard Operating Procedure
  • The King of Kong
  • Freedom’s Fury
  • Heart of Darkness
  • How Bruce Lee Changed the World
  • Voices from the List
  • The Shark is Still Working
  • West of Memphis
  • Paradise Lost 1-3
  • Cocaine Cowboys
  • Root of all Evil
  • Pumping Iron
  • The Krays: The Final Word.
  • Raw Deal: A Question of Consent


 Documentaries are an integral part to cinema whether they are bias or not, because they make us think with issues we haven’t heard much about or fully dealt with and they give us an inside look to what is really happening in the world. I find most documentary film makers are courageous in setting out their mission to convey the truth. There are documentaries which get seen throughout the world at cinemas and they are an advertising machine, but that doesn’t always mean that their message will come across clearly, and truthfully it just means they had the money to back up what they wanted to do. Never forget to seek the gems that are out there because there are a lot, you just have to really dig deep into this genre. I love documentaries for how they make me think and feel, and how they can have such a strong effect on me, that all I want to do is watch it again and again.