Category Archives: learn something

film review. aladdin

MOVIE: Aladdin

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

WRITER: John August & Guy Ritchie

MAIN CAST: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Merwan Kenzari

RUNNING TIME: 2hr 8min

There are spoilers below…

So as far as I’m concerned, if Guy Ritchie wants to make more Musicals then I will back that situation 100%.

Aladdin follows the almost identical story-line of its 1992 cartoon original. Aladdin, a poor thief on the streets of Agrabah, meets Princess Jasmine and falls in love with her. It’s not until Aladdin finds a magical Lamp and a Genie within, that he can become a Prince and be worthy of her. Of course, an evil sorcerer threatens all of these wonderful romantic plans so it is up to Aladdin, his monkey-friend Abu, a loyal magic Carpet and Aladdin’s Genie to save them all.

Jafar Genie Aladdin Jasmine Daliah

As for all things technical; when it comes to the way this film is shot, in all it’s bright and beautiful glory, I was wide-eyed and taken in. I have always enjoyed Ritchie’s style of camerawork and editing, and this film is different from his usual grit. It’s vivid and colourful from start to finish, mimicking the rich vibrancy of the cartoon. Compared to Live-Action, there can be a lot of unnatural manoeuvrability with camerawork and lighting in a cartoon, so Ritchie’s style is a perfect match since Disney clearly wanted a ‘live-animation’ equivalent of the Original.

The setting of the City and the Palace is almost stage-like, which is a common design for Musical Movies because they’re built for ease of dancing and movement (not only from the actors but the set and props too). It’s a layout which adds to the feel of animation because of how it moves in the background to make way for the action of the characters.

Although I can understand the stage-like layout of the film, despite the controversy attached to the place, props and detail (more on that soon), I was really disappointed in the costume designs. They were very Disneyland-esque and I won’t be surprised if they are on mass production for the staff in theme parks, or when identical outfits are flying out of Disney stores the world over.

From late last year, I heard a lot of dubious comments and opinions from people when it was announced that there would be a Live-Action Aladdin, and of course there were going to be; an unknown fact about Disney’s original Aladdin cartoon, was that it had a bit of bad press back in the day when it sparked racial controversy. It may have claimed more than a whopping $500 million at the Box Office, but between racist lyrics in the songs to the prejudice depiction of the antagonist characters, it really hit a nerve with Middle Eastern and North African audiences, and rightly so.

A real problem with blockbuster movies and the size of the audience they command (especially in a young audience, like Aladdin), is that prejudice representations of any creed or cultures leave a real-world impression ( to be fair, any negative stereotypes perpetuate adverse impressions on races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions… the list goes on). In some ways I see it as borderline irresponsible of film-makers, when its possible their audience could be naive enough to take these depictions seriously.

Characters and Lyrics aside (because Ritchie has changed them somewhat), Orientalism is the main perpetrator casting a shadow over both Aladdin movies.

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.

Orientalism is something which has grown into a monster in terms of how the western world seem to imagine the Eastern world. It has been growing since the late 1800’s in things like art and stories which have almost always come from an outsiders perspective opposed to someone with knowledge and experience of actual communities and their cultures, traditions or beliefs.

Aladdin is a film that cemented Orientalism into the western perception far before Ritchie got his hands onto it. Despite how well I think Guy Ritchie has done creating a film with colour, more in-depth character development (compared to the cartoon) and humour (personally, I don’t think Will Smith had some bad lines); I think he still managed to ignore most of the free lessons critics and advocacy groups have expressed about the problems in the original.

Although there’s a lot of improvement in the characters (thankfully the Sultan isn’t a babbling man-baby and the Genie, for all his power, wants to go on a date), the costumes make the actors look like life-sized dolls and the whole city design from the Palace to the River to the Market is make-belief of all the pretty things from Asia and North Africa. There is no real depth, and for all the talk about ‘the people’ by Princess Jasmine, the film has almost nothing to do with them.

This film could be set anywhere, and its that transparency that acts as an affront to Middle Eastern and African culture insulted by the original cartoon. Or, perhaps the point was since Aladdin comes from a mishmash of cultures it is set in a place-less place; I aren’t sure that is good enough, maybe it should have been set in the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Washington DC or on Route 66 if that was the case, and Disney should not make a culturally contraversial film if they aren’t going to do their utmost to respect and teach about the culture they’re portraying.

As it stands, on the surface, Ritchie simply made the 1992 Aladdin into a Live-Action Movie and not a lot more.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it though.

reading films: an intro

reading films? what is this girl on about?!!

Yes, I am here to tell you that reading films is a thing.  

Have you ever watched a film and felt puzzled at the end… and then had to Google the meaning? (and then wondered afterwards, who are these people that know this stuff?)

As it happens, they’re people that read films.  It’s not an exclusive skill and I bet you’ve even done it yourself a few times without realising and if you’ve ever spoken to anyone in depth about a film you’ve seen, then you definitely have.

Since over a century ago when films were invented there have been huge changes in what we expect from them. From at first not having any sound, to the soundtrack being one of the most important devices a filmmaker may rely on, to computer generated images opposed to handmade props and puppets. 

Like art and music and poetry and storytelling, film-making has been a fluid evolutionary process as it expands and experiments with new ways to project our interpretations of humanity.

That was a deep I know, it gets worse.  

When we study English in School, we learn how Shakespeare used storytelling devices like Metaphors in Imagery to convey the states or the emotions of the characters. More than that, they would sometimes communicate entire existential crisis’, like mortality!! There are now even studies into how Shakespeare may have been a political rebel, hiding subversive messages in his works.

Films are a great way to learn about people, kids, friendships, relationships, politics, cultures, humanity and even history (I know they’re generally fictitious but sometimes they inspire people to do a bit of research). As the years have passed the dramatic became more realistic, backdrops became Ariel shots and the suspense became more intense. Reading films is about appreciating those changes and asking why they happened. 

It’s not to say that every single film is trying to ask some life changing question or state some intense political agenda… However, many of the most famous (and infamous) films do use different devices and techniques to make some sort of statement, and that goes to show as an audience, that we like watching clever and meaningful film-making.

************ 

There’s a lot of places for Directors to hide clues and messages in plain sight. They reinforce something in the plot, create a theme or develop the characters and their motives but mainly, they show us the story, without telling it.  

Go to my next post reading films: a breakdown for what to look out for next.

mini midnight post

Yes, it’s been a while.

Here I am, having a catch up with myself at 2.30 in the morning, but it serves me right for having a 3-hour nap earlier.

I’m completely out of sync with my sleep this week and I’ve been unable to get back into a rhythm since my last night shift a few days ago.

If you work nights, you’ll understand the struggle of managing your day life and your night life and your social life and your health life and… I’m sure you get the picture.

So here I am, trimming and pruning the next few posts (I don’t like doing one thing at once… no, I have to do everything at the same time) while also writing this one.

But enough moaning about that I only have 2 more nightshifts and 3 very long and excessive day shifts before it’s all over and I change jobs. I may have enjoyed most of it while it lasted (it was an interesting experience), but for so many reasons I had to give it up.

It’s been an arduous month of interviews and multi-tasking and babysitting (so much babysitting), but I’m so excited to say that I’ve found another job and I will be working days again (and no more weekends).

img_20190521_113403_9483006012298413539811.jpg

The photo above is an hour before I attended my final interview… er, yesterday I guess… after a night of, well, 3 hours sleep (like the picture says).

This has been one of the most testing months I have had in a while but I feel like it’s all been worth it even though I spent a lot of time worrying about things that seemed to just fall into place anyway.

It could be all the sunshine & vitamin D or maybe I’m finally just crawling out from under the rock I’ve been living under, but I finally feel excited for something and it has been such a long, long time.

my cinema: summer 2019

I don’t know why I haven’t done this sooner but I guess it has been a while since I have made regular trips to Cinema.

My local Odeon Cinema, in Hull, recently had a refurbish, so I have been going almost once a or twice a week since my first time back there after it became all new and shiny. I’ve decided that I love going there so much more than any other Cinema (EVER), that I am going to make a point of going as much as I possibly can this Summer, hence the massive list.

I am even debating signing up for their Limitless Card, but I have a few commitment issues and as soon as I sign up for something, I stop wanting to do it… if that doesn’t make sense to you, then too bad; the things I do rarely make sense to me either.

There are are tonnes of films I’ve been adding to my list for a few months (here are twenty of them) and all I can do is hope they’re all going to be shown at Hull’s new Odeon.

So here is my light and fluffy (with occasional blood-soaked violence) list of films that I definitely want to see this Summer, and unless there are any secret productions that are going to drop onto my lap, I don’t see this list changing.

What’s left of May;

Aladdin 24/05/2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters 29/05/2019

June;

X-Men: Dark Phoenix 05/06/2019

Men in Black: International 14/06/2019

Brightburn 21/06/2019

Child’s Play 21/06/2019

Annabelle Comes Home 28/06/2019

July;

Spider-Man: Far from Home 02/07/2019

The Dead Don’t Die 12/07/2019

The Art of Self-Defense 12/07/2019

The Lion King 19/07/2019

August;

Artemis Fowl 09/08/2019

Once upon a time in Hollywood 14/08/2019

Dora and the Lost City of Gold 16/08/2019

Where’d you go, Bernadette? 16/08/2019

Angel has Fallen 23/08/2019

The Informer 30/08/2019

September;

It Chapter Two 06/09/2019

The Kitchen 20/09/2019

Rambo V: Last Blood 20/09/2019

a brief history of the origin of plays

There’s a clear link between the origin of the play and what’s known as western philosophy. A few philosophers and playwrights developed the principle the techniques and devices in storytelling (including films, books and plays alike) that we use today.


Melpomene (Tragedy) and Thalia (Comedy )

Philosophy on its own, just means the solving of problems – Big problems, with broad subjects like; existence, knowledge, language and reason. It can be applied to all sorts of things.

Why are plays so important?

Being able to read or write was not something just anyone could do a few thousand years ago. Even if people were telling stories, unless they could shout very loudly or write them down, not many people would hear them except through word of mouth which means there was a lot lost in translation.

Luckily for us, some storytellers did end up finding ways to write their stories down. But, it was hard enough finding anyone that could write, so imagine trying to find anyone that could read!

Someone eventually saw a niche in the market though, and figured that those who could read, could read stories out loud to a group of people… and so it began. Plays.

Have a guess where it all started… Did you guess Ancient Greece? Gold star for you!

The first Plays were performed in Athens in the Theatre of Dionysus around 500 BC and they consisted of one actor called the Protagonist who told a story with the help of a Chorus (a group of people). A man called Thespis was apparently the first ever man who went on stage and acted as a character. He even went on Tour after winning one of the first documented theatre competitions. Ha! Imagine that, Thespis on Tour! People loved him and he was a complete celebrity – like Thespis Depp or Brad Thespis.

Theatre of Dionysus

As time went on, the Tyrants and Politicians (same difference really) would buy their people’s favour by building theatres or sponsoring plays and employing playwrights to write for them.

Plays were so popular that within years there were Theatres popping up all over the place. But it didn’t stop at reading out loud, these were exciting times and once the ideas started rolling, they just snowballed.

A Playwright called Aeschylus (aka The Father of Tragedy), decided to change the game. He added a Second Guy to help tell the story. So there were 2 men telling the story and less chorus! The second person became known as the Antagonist. Aeschylus literally introduced the Conflict amongst his Characters. This is where storytelling evolved into something really complex.

We had our first Goodie and Baddie on stage.

So, Aeschylus had a student called Sophocles. You will never guess what he did… OK, you might. Well, he introduced a THIRD GUY!

Sophocles did other great things too but the competition was tough by now and he was overtaken by Euripides.

More of Euripides’ work survived because it was more popular than Aeschylus & Sophocles’. He was all about the representation of traditional mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. That’s because us lot in the audience loved to be able to imagine our plain-Jane selves as heroes.

Anyway, then there was Socrates who happened to be a this great mind-blowing philosopher who, in 407, met Plato. Plato abandons his first ambitions of being a playwright and becomes Socrates student and personal biographer.

Then! After ALL that comes along Aristotle. Aristotle begins studies at Plato’s Academy and becomes his student and with that, the first ever Play-Writing Manual was written.

“Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments, and it should be written in poetry embellished with every kind of artistic expression.” – Poetics, Aristotle 

It was written by Aristotle called and was called Poetics . It was like the beginning of Literary Theory. It talks about the elements found in storytelling and shows where they appear in Plays.

It documents the start of literary theory as we understand it today. It supports the close connection between philosophical thinking applied in plays, stories and films.

The western thinkers

The link between plays and western thinking is clear when you see how closely these men all worked together. The stories that were told and the impact they had were an insight into our psyche at the time and much of it is still relevant today. The Greeks explored the world they lived in and what it meant to be human through the Plays they watched and the reason the rest of us in the western world did the same is because we could identify with each other through them.

Stories go hand in hand with philosophy because they’re our way of thinking about those big subjects – existence, knowledge, language and reason.

There were only really three types of Play at first. Comedy, Tragedy and Satyr. Poetics outlines them all in the introduction however the main subject of the book is Tragedy (there may have been a second book which covered Comedy but it’s thought to have been lost).

The Comedies mainly made fun out of the men in power (and their vanity). The Tragedies were about Love and Loss, pride and abuse of Power. Typically the Protagonist would do something really bad and be arrogant or foolish. But, as he realises what he has done, his world falls apart around him. 

Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides are thought of as the Three Great Playwrights of Tragedy. 

The Satyr plays were short skits which played between the acts of Tragedies and they mocked the misfortune of the Tragedies characters. The origins of the play and what you can find from the public interaction with them is how important they were to the culture in Greece and subsequently the rest of the world. 

We may think we have evolved and grown but even now when it comes to most of what happened in all those Plays written in the few hundred years after 600 BC we still find the stories are relatable. Why? Because they are stories about the human condition and they were written by philosophers that shaped our history, way of thinking and perspective.

Thousands of years on we can identify with the stories they left us – so what does that say about the films and stories we see and hear today? How relatable will they be to the future generations?

In order,

Thespis, c. 6th century BCE (exact dates unknown)

Aeschylus, c. 525 BCE – 455 BCE

Sophocles, c. 497 – 406 BCE

Euripides, c. 480 – 406 BCE

Socrates, c. 469 – 399 BCE

Plato, c. 427- 348 BCE

Aristotle 384 – 322 BCE