Our guest reviewer Noelle K. Bowles reviews BBC’s The Living and the Dead (2016) now available on streaming services.
[Editor’s Note: This review does contain some spoilers.]
The Witch is an unsettling and cinematically-beautiful film that challenges its viewers through its themes and multilayered construction. But it is not at all what you might expect. Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch is the latest film to capitalize on the public’s continued obsession with witch stories and, even more specifically, the Salem mythos. Subtitled “A New England Folk Tale,” the title alone sets a definitive tone for an American audience before a single ticket is purchased and the lights go down in the theater. The legendary connection between witches and New England is woven into the very fabric of the American story, captivating the imagination and intriguing the mind.
TWH – As we reported Friday, October is a popular time for interview Witches. The season also brings a flurry of Halloween-inspired television programming. From the holiday specials to the classic horror films, the entertainment industry capitalizes on our cultural love for all things related to the secular holiday. This phenomenon is nothing new. In the 1930s, Betty Boop appeared in a short called Hall’ween Party (1933).
Disney’s most iconic animated villain has returned to the big screen in a live-action fantasy that twists and soars as it fractures the original fairy tale upon which it’s based. At its simplest level Maleficent is an extended re-imagining of Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty (1959) with a focus on its well-known, dark-cloaked villain. However in presenting this alternative perspective, the live-action film dabbles in contemporary feminist, religious and ecological themes as it takes you through its fantasy world. The story begins with Maleficent as a young fairy living in the Moors, a world of enchantment and peace. She eventually meets Stephan, an orphan human boy from the greedy human world.
On Sunday WGN America debuted its first originally-scripted TV series: Salem. Crafted in the horror genre, the show follows in the footsteps of the popular American Horror Story: Coven. WGN uses the tag line: “The Witch Hunt Has Begun – In Salem, witches are real, but they are not what they seem.”
On opening night Variety reported that the show earned “1.5 million viewers” which is “seven times the network’s season-to-date average in the 10 p.m. timeslot.” WGN is capitalizing on the recent popularity of witches in order to launch its new original production offerings. In July the network will premiere its second series, Manhattan, and then in 2015, Ten Commandments. WGN’s Salem is the latest in a very long-line of television and film productions using the city as its setting.
The Disney princess paradigm is defined by a system of American ideological and aesthetic codes that are known to the Disney artists and their viewers. The heroine is recognized when she stands on a balcony letting her long hair blow in the breeze, when she sings in the forest, or when she wishes for that which is beyond her grasp…The attributes are visual, narrative, and musical. Although the specifics have been updated, revised, and reformulated to conform to contemporary ideology, the essence of the Disney princess formula has remained intact. As Walt put it, we always root for ‘Cinderella and the Prince.’
I wrote that in 1998 after completing an extensive two-year study on nine of Disney’s animated heroines. Now let’s flash forward 15 years to 2013. Disney has released the latest edition to its Princess Collection: Frozen. How has the princess formula been “updated to conform to contemporary ideology”?