| August 2, 2021
The opening of Mulan, after a magic drone ride through the lush, green Chinese countryside with some wise male voice over about the story we are about to embark on, reminded me of Beauty & The Beast. The camera swoops into a Hakka walled village, establishing the town of personalities and, indeed, Mulan, who is chasing a chicken.
It isn’t long before dad is telling little Mulan to hide her light under a bushel in order to be a traditional girl in a traditional world. This fills the void of an opening musical number like “Belle,” in which everyone opines on the beautiful, quirky girl with her face always in a book. (I bet she could handle a chicken pretty well too.)
Then, as fast a running bird, the movie turns into an Ang Lee/Zhang Yimou high-end chop-socky movie with some great Chinese action stars and the man who was once Bruce Lee.
The rest of the way through Mulan, the film hops back and forth between the two ideas. Fish out of water meets a legitimate Chinese war movie with the requisite touch of magic.
There is something about the reality of Mulan being a real-life teenage girl that changes the dynamic of the whole experience, as compared to the animated film. Director Niki Caro never mocks… never goes for the easy gag…. never forgets that her Mulan is a real life young woman.
As a result, there is something truly dangerous about this young woman pretending to be a boy to defend the honor of her family (and ultimately, to do much more than that). The frathouse culture that sometimes comes of military training is as uncomfortable as the occasional threats that lying to could lead to death or worse. But Mulan is not a sexualized girl at all, though the actress is beautiful. Caro & Co. don’t indulge in anachronisms. Nor is she a plain Jane who finds her beauty when she takes off her glasses or her kimono or her battle gear. She is from a time long past and she feels real.
There is a lot of classic moviemaking… characters you are interested in talking for extended periods. And it’s lovely. Caro’s films, large-budget and small, have included this. As impressive as Mandy Walker’s cinematography is, the intimacy brings the magic.
And then… it’s just fun. Big canvas. Solid action. Plenty of weird Shaw Bros stuff done with a great deal more sophistication. There’s the wacky boys in military training, a dumb jock and a round-faced goof amongst them, and – hee-hee – the cute one.
Yes… She will only become a great fighter when she rocks out with her… uh… hair down. This is no spoiler. And there are moments that read as silly. But that is part of the joy.
The reason the movie works – and it really works – is that you want to believe, you like this rather silent young woman, you are rooting for her to find her higher self, and Ms. Caro never gets in your way, making the experience too sweet or too sour.
There’s even a Marilyn Monroe homage… but I’ll let you find that.
After my 10-year-old watched the film with us (“What do you mean there’s no Mushu!?!?”), we turned on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but he wasn’t ready for the subtlety of that one. Executioners from Shaolin is probably a better fit. But he had a great time, even without Mushu.
As for whether it’s worth $30 to see now instead of in December as part of the regular Disney+ package… that’s up to you. I can promise you won’t feel ripped off by the movie. Value for the dollar is in the eye of the beholder.
| August 2, 2021
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| June 4, 2021
July 25, 2021
"A subsidiary of South Korean entertainment company HYBE in April acquired Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings for $1.05 billion. Seoul-based CJ Entertainment and Merchandising invested in studio Skydance last year, as part of a $275 million strategic funding round with other investors."
South Korea Wants A Hollywood Footprint: JTBC Studios Acquires Majority Stake In Content Arm Of CAA
| July 25, 2021
The Staff And Board of The Canyon Cinema Foundation Address SFMOMA On Planned Elimination of Film Program
"SFMOMA’s recent decision to eliminate its Film Program (among other vital, inclusive, and community-focused programs) is a stunning disavowal of its own history. Moreso, it is a shocking divestment from SFMOMA’s stated commitment to “exhibiting film as an essential medium of modern and contemporary art” and to fostering a vibrant film culture in San Francisco. Following the renovation of its state-of-the-art Phyllis Wattis Theater in 2016, SFMOMA has demonstrated the ability, and financial willingness, to present film at the highest quality. Combining excellent film curation and world-class projection, SFMOMA has become a flagship of cinema exhibition in the Bay Area, which makes the decision to cut its Film Program especially puzzling. It is disappointing and disheartening to learn that a museum that claims to be a center for “the most innovative and challenging art of its time,” now holds the medium of film and the projected moving image in such low regard..." [More here]
July 24, 2021
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| December 4, 2019