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.
I am starting this journey in the early days of American cinema; from its inception in 1895 through its development into a viable culturally-influential industry. I’ve dated this period as “pre-1939.” Many of you will recognize 1939 as being the release date of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM)’s classic film The Wizard of Oz, a film that contains the most iconic Hollywood witch in American cultural history. From 1895 to 1916 moving pictures were just a technical novelty. As film historian Jeanine Basinger said, “No one really took movies very seriously. It was thought that they were a fad.” Most early movies depicted actual events, landscape photography, historical re-enactments or popular stories.
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. Through June 17th the Observatory in Brooklyn is featuring “Sigils and Signs,” a group show the explores the intersection of magic and the occult with fine art. Erik Davis interviews show organizer Pam Grossman on his “Expanding Mind” radio show. If you can’t make it to Brooklyn, there’s a Tumblr blog of the art featured in the show.