Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pixar, does she HAVE to be a princess?

Exciting news about Pixar, the excellent purveyor of animated films...their newest project will feature a FEMALE hero!

Not only that, she is SCOTTISH!

And an ARCHER!


Oh...and a princess.

Sigh. Really? It's not enough for her to be a badass with a bow and arrow? She has to be a PRINCESS, too?

Brave looks to be a fun historical romp, obviously inspired to some degree by Braveheart (it was previously titled The Bear and the Bow), and will be a nice way to have some kind of Celtic culture trope out there that's not related to pirates or drinking or dancing. (But I bet there will be some dancing and possibly some subtle suggestion of drinking in this one).

There are some trailers available online, like this one, showing the fierce maiden Merida riding her warhorse through misty forests and stone circles. If nothing else, the use of landscape should be very satisfying for pagan audiences. Also, Merida is more interested in archery than in men...at least at first. Will she remain independent? Or wind up with a man? We'll find out next summer.

The characters, on the other hand...well, despite the lead character being very beautiful, the others are cartoonish and exaggerated in typical Pixar fashion, like these tough guys with their woad tattoos and subtly-shaded tartans.
Princess Merida's main challengers is a blue ball of light referred to as a will o'the wisp, and a huge black bear (a powerful animal in Celtic mythology). But she apparently unleashes these harmful forces when she defies tradition to forge her own path.

Maybe this means she is not really into the idea of being a "princess" after all? (Wow, does this mean little girls will start wearing some color other than PINK for a while? It does clash with red hair, after all). The idea that little girls should aspire to be princesses is a tired an annoying stereotyoe and we really need to get away from it. I sincerely hope this film will put a different message out there. Maybe there will be a positive new role model offered for girls: a nature-loving, athletic, independent gal who knows her way around the forest and a bow and arrow. Now we like the sound of that! We also like the sound of some of the actors whose voices will be featured: including Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane.

Oh, and did I mention there will be a WITCH? Voiced by Julie Walters (aka Ron Weasley's mum). She's old and ugly. But they do also refer to her as a "wise woman." Then again she grants a hasty wish to Merida, which ends up being more like a curse. Hmmm, careful what you wish for? Well, we wish for this movie to give us something to cheer about.

Can't wait...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I received a short press release on this event:

The 2011 Monstermash Expo is hosting the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT REUNION at their horror convention at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel on December 16th-18th! (***UPDATE November 12: The organizer has informed me that, due to medical emergency, the convention has been postponed until further notice.***)

Special guests will include original cast members Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, along with the producers and director Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie and Daniel Myrick! This is the first reunion since the 1999 premiere and, according to the organizers, "will be the only reunion they will ever do." A once in a lifetime opportunity for Blair Witch fans worldwide! To preview the other guests at this convention, check out the Monster Mash website.

One thing occurs to me...I wonder why they did not try to hold this in or near Burkittsville?

This could be a very interesting event. I have wondered why there was not a scholarly film conerence ever organized around this film, as I think it had enormous impact on the world of cinema. I mean, do you really think films like Cloverfield or Paranormal Activity or The Last Exorcism or the recent Norwegian arthouse hit Trollhunter
(slated for an American remake) would exist if not for The Blair Witch Project? True, the "found footage" conceit (in which the disappearances or deaths of victims are explained by video or film footage that captures the events that led to their demise) was not original to the 1999 blockbuster hit, but, really, no one had ever even heard of Cannibal Holocaust before that. The Blair Witch dudes were fans of obscure horror (their production company is called Haxan Films, after all), and they used this obsession to create something wholly new and original. They also initiated a very creative internet campaign to publicize the film before its release (it is amazing how creative people get when they don't have much money to work with; the film was made for less than $22,000 and made over $240 million.

I was invited to speak at a web-based promotional event (filmed in Los Angeles) upon the release of the second Blair Witch film (Book of Shadows), (and also did a bit of script advising for co-writer and director Joe Berlinger)and sadly that film received fairly negative press. But how could any sequel live up to the phenomenon of the original?

I think a reunion is a great idea; but there is much interesting discussion and analysis yet to take place on the film; so why not a conference? Come on, scholars and film buffs: who's with me?