Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Cymbeline" Trailer

Some of the Snow White-like motifs will be clear. All of Shakespeare's Cymbeline should be obvious, what with the script pretty much following the Bard's (and they do it a LOT better than I expected). Not really my type of movie but I will be watching what people say about it and how it's discussed.

Fairy tales seem to get related to everything these days/weeks (and with no additional help from me!). In Cymbeline they wouldn't be stretching the idea too far, of course, but I'm curious to see just which ones they cite as having parallels. If Snow White doesn't come up you can then assume fairy tales are just the current hot-button-scapegoat for unveiling the darkness in us all... (insert ridiculous evil laugh here). But hey - at least they're open to discussing our favorite subject!

If you're interested in Shakespeare, seeing his work translated into modern  or are curious about the Snow White motifs in the play (which will have to be there in the movie to some extent since they're following the book so closely) then you might want to keep your eye on this film too.

Take a look at the trailer. It looks better than the poster implies and we might even be getting a glimpse of Imogen's death-like sleep. Or is it sleep-like death? Depends on the story you're telling I suppose... :

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Guest Post: Modern Fairy Tale Home Decor

Intimate fairy tale style dining via iseecubed
I was recently asked by the home idea and inspiration people at Modernize if our readers would be interested in an article on home decor that was fairy tale themed and my answer was "Of course! Especially if you can bring us something out of the norm, something modern (ie. non-traditional) for design-savvy adults who love fairy tales; something that goes beyond Pre-Raphaelite motifs (as great as they are), showing you don't need glitter, frills and woodland scenes to maintain a fairy tale feel." Jane Blanchard at Modernize took up the challenge and didn't disappoint. Enjoy and be inspired!

Modern Fairy Tale Home Decor

By Jane Blanchard

Anglo-American poet W.H. Auden said, “The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.” We assume he meant bed, walls and all.

Every fairy tale needs a room. Just as the prophet Ezekiel spoke flesh onto skeletons in the Valley of Dry Bones, so an interior designer speaks second life into fairy tales from the troves of Walt Disney, Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.

Yet too often, the run-of-the-mill fairytale room suggests that the artist’s craftsmanship long ago outstripped his knowledge of literature. It brims with Beauty and the Beast chandeliers, Sleeping Beauty canopies, that sort of thing. Lots of melodrama. Lots of pink.

Dutch design studio Ontwerpduo took the road less traveled by. Hired to colonize with furniture a room inside a gorgeous 16th century mansion, Ontwerpduo designers made 10 pieces based on different fairy tales. Themes included the secret room, the genie in a bottle, and the princess and the pea. Lighting fixtures overran the ceiling like fugitive plumping pipes. Lilies blossomed out of the carpet rug – and was that a pea underneath the six-stack bed?
Via Once Upon A Blog...Fairy Tale News

Ontwerpduo has its own Fairytale Furniture collection, which showcases a swinging birdcage seat, a warped wooden cabinet, and a handcrafted "Marbelous" maple table with grooves and channels ferrying stainless steel marbles across the surface, down the legs and along the supports. Lewis Carroll would be proud.
Via Designose
The Dutch design studio may be one of the first to homestead the next frontier of home design: modern fairytale chic. Warner Bros. Studio argues that pop culture cinema and television like ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” will ignite an interest in adult fairytale design, a movement defined by its creativity of scale and emphasis on mood. Aspen bedposts tower over sleeping beauties; intricate glass chandeliers loom over distressed window frames. The style relies upon earthy tones, gothic elegance, rustic accents and mirror arrangements.

But the fairytale design is not new. In the 1920s, architect Hugh Comstock constructed a handful of fairytale cottages in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Now some of the most sought-after properties in Monterrey, California, the Comstock cottages sport rusticated chimneys, pointed eaves, storybook masonry and whimsical arched doorways. A modern Carmel-by-the-Sea home might cost $5,000,000.
Via Tales from Carmel
Sandra Foster devised her own DIY gingerbread house, and it didn’t cost $5,000,000. Stretched by a too-big house and long workdays, she and her husband felt like a pair of Laffy Taffy candies. So they bought a woodland cabin in the Catskill Mountains for $40,000. Foster renovated the 9x10 cabin using odds and ends purchased from antique shops, salvage stores, Craigslist, and the occasional tree trunk. Her refuge, a Victorian shabby chic cabin, cost just $3,000.
Via the New York Times
Now that’s a happy ending.

Jane Blanchard is a blogger, home design geek, and graphic designer from Savannah, GA. She also is a passionate writer for

For more home design tips and tricks, please visit

Note: This article was written for Once Upon A Blog with permission to publish here, in exchange for a credit for Modernize and link to the company website only. Once Upon A Blog has no ongoing affiliation with Modernize but is happy to say they found the staff friendly, helpful and professional. They were a pleasure to work with.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Avoid Drama?

Baba Yaga by Vania Zouravliov
Oh yes. I need to hear some advice on this one too please Baba Yaga.

Today's timely question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

The way one enjoys their tea can be so telling. Too bitter, too sweet - I'm picky, I know. Perhaps that's why my circle of true confidantes is so small. I'm known as a coffee connoisseur but I can enjoy a cup of tea too if I can take some time with it (tea always feels like it needs ceremony, even a small one, to me). It just needs to be good for me not to be left with an nasty after-taste. I guess this tells me I should be looking at the tea leaf tales left in a cup I make; one of my own choosing, rather than a random cup thrust at me. Baba Yaga seems to suggest having your own brew bubbling at the ready, just in case. That sounds like some sensible, practical advice I can actually follow. Snow Monkey Plum anyone?

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Firebird Ash Shoes

Firebird ash shoes - holy..!
These pumps, crafted by Mexican designer Lucita Abarca, caused quite a stir at a recent Sixth Borough fashion show. These crystalline high-heels were grown by Wyrm’s Pass artisans, deep below the Rocky Mountains, using a mixture of firebird ash, waters from the springs at Paradiso, and a variety of secret ingredients, rumored to include Australian fire opals and powdered moonstone. The result of using the firebird ash become immediately recognizable when the heel of the shoe is dragged backward across any dry surface, as it creates an impressive streak of magical fire which can be accurately aimed with a little effort. Ms. Abarca said she wanted a shoe that made a statement, and that statement was “Any bastardo brujo catcalling me on La Plaza de Sangre better be ready to dose his huevos, you know?”  
from Ekaterina and the Firebird,* illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso
I so much *heart* these shoes. And the statement.

But I can't just leave this here for you all to wonder. This is what could be termed a "Tumblr Tall Tale". There is no Mexican designer named Lucita Abarca (and the name can be roughly translated as "lit shoe" or "shoe of light"). The truth is there truly are so many ingenious inventions and incredible fashion creations out there, this could be a real thing. (Except for perhaps the Firebird ash - I would happily travel the world over to go see a real Firebird!) This wonderfully done GIF doesn't appear to have a "true" source and if you do a little investigating you keep getting sent back to American Wizarding (if you like fantasy storytelling and reference to tales in news, you'll probably enjoy the Tumblr site too - it's wonderfully creative). Despite Vogue-desire being cited as the source, as far as I can tell this is just a wonderful story many of us wish were true. I mean, can you imagine? I immediately think of the possibilities in a flamenco performance, immediately followed by the flammable possibilities in the same flamenco performance! (And if I were still working in ballet I'd be rushing to the Director and asking if we could figure out how to create something like this for a pointe shoes for a new Firebird performance!)

The Firebird illustrated by Luděk Maňásek (FB)
While I couldn't resist posting a Firebird related "product" anyway, it occurred to me that we've never really discussed the tales that circulate the internet via memes and gifs. They're like urban legend wildfire, the way things spread virally these days. I'm not just talking about misconceptions, poor journalism and rumors (which abound and has us constantly checking to see if they're true) but about that heightened-portrayal of reality. It reminds me of Big Fish (the book, though the movie was pretty good up till the end), and the way the father told his son all these slightly left-of-center stories in which it was difficult to tell the real from the unreal.

We do the same all the time with children and it's perpetuated through their own expressions - something we now see vivid evidence of on Tumblr and other teen-driven social media. 

More than ever, fashion sells itself via tales these days - and not just fairy tale fantasy like it used to. Runway shows are now theatrical performances and people are sold the story as much as the look. The look by itself just doesn't grab as much as being able to be part of a story as well. Fashion has always sold an altered reality but these days we see even more effort put into the stories between the seams. The designers and seamsters talk continuously now of what this stitch means, what this "petal" represents etc - something that harks back to traditional folk artisans and the care with which they create things and infuse them with stories.

I think stories that use images like this to grab our attention have made a difference too, like when Katniss "becomes the Mockingjay" in the second Hunger Games movie. I'm talking about the movie specifically because of the visual effects which turn Katniss' false wedding dress into a fiery one, to reveal a dark, winged, Mockingjay dress. The themes of phoenix and hope rising are all over this story and the movie gave us some very strong visuals it's difficult to forget. (You can see a clip from the movie which shows the wonderfully done dress transformation and illustrates the rising rebellion against the system HERE.)

I have to say, I really like seeing this return to Story.

I'll leave you with another Firebird story, also from American Wizarding:
An early morning palm tree fire on Christmas day in Los Angeles 
"Reports are currently coming in from downtown Los Angeles, where a firebird, escaped from a reserve just north of the Mexican city of Tecate, has started its regenerative process within the full sight of Muggle onlookers and authorities. Agents of the Department of Secrecy and Obfuscation (DSO) and the Bureau of Conservation and Magical Resources (CMR) are already on the scene, and spreading the story of a lightning strike and a brittle palm tree. Representatives from both agencies claim that they are empowered by law to practice temporary memory charms on Muggle witnesses to prevent a potential breach of the Statute of Secrecy, and that warrants will later be sought to make the charms permanent. Once the firebird has burned itself out, the agents will collect the remains and repair to a secure facility to allow the creature to regenerate safely before being returned to its normal nesting grounds."  
Report by Donna Maria Garcia, The Antigua Finca Times: February 4, 2015
* If you like Russian tales or the concept of The Firebird I strongly suggest going and reading the short story this illustration was created for at The story is lovely and there are some nice insights in the comments below too. Go have a lovely read HERE.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Into The Woods" Coming to DVD & Blu-ray March 24th

This is on my to-get list. I'm aware of some of the challenges of bringing a musical to screen and how impossible it is to please everyone. Considering the "small" budget (relatively speaking) for this movie and the decision to do as much as possible "in camera", I think this is an overall better-than-we-expected result. The casting was good to great and the music, complete with symphony-sized orchestra, is wonderful. I just wish there was more to this take-it-home package. Considering how beloved a musical it is in general I think they could have easily had a special edition with book and lyrics that included pre-production designs, as well as nods to previously great productions. I would have considered getting it and I know I'm not alone...

Listed below are the special features from the Blu-ray. Disney has a track record of only putting the best features on the Blu-ray, not the DVD, so if you want the behind the scenes extras the Blu-ray is the way to go.
They still haven't put everything currently available to view online on the discs though! (Seems crazy to me.) I wish there was more from Sondheim and Lapine, a comparison to the original screenplay, a shout-out to the original Broadway cast, some development artwork and story research notes... Anyone who is interested in this as a play, who is looking at tropes or as a lyricist is going to feel frustrated (including me).

There is a filmmaker commentary though and Rob Marshall isn't just a technical conductor with regard to his films. He's very involved in the "how" and "why" of each scene and moment, so hopefully there will be some great gems from him on here.

There's also the newly written, then deleted song. Disney released an excerpt of it late Friday as a DVD teaser (it was filmed for the movie, not just recorded and was cut late in editing so it's a fully produced version).
The clip features Meryl Streep as The Witch performing ‘She’ll Be Back,’ an original song written by Stephen Sondheim for the film. In the song, The Witch laments Rapunzel’s decision to leave her and run off with the prince, but she is convinced Rapunzel will return once she comes to her senses. (The) full length of the bonus feature/song (which also features an introduction by director Rob Marshall) is just over 4 1/2 minutes long. (via StitchKingdom)
Take a look:

Additional bonus features are as follows:
  • Streep Sings Sondheim – ‘She’ll Be Back’ (4:35) – Meryl Streep performs a compelling new song that sheds a little more light on the Witch’s relationship with Rapunzel. This never-before- seen composition was penned especially for this movie by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and is seen here exclusively on Blu-ray and EHV. With introduction by Director Rob Marshall.
  • There’s Something About the Woods (12:46) – Journey into this mysterious forest to discover how this compelling, new musical was made. Meet Director Rob Marshall and his award-winning team of artists and craftspeople, see how the woods were brought to life…and what they represent to the story… and to all of us.
  • The Cast as Good as Gold (9:42) – Emily Blunt. Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine. James Corden. Johnny Depp. Meryl Streep. Meet the remarkable cast of this musical movie, and hear of their affinity for this Broadway classic.
  • Deeper Into the Woods – Journey even further into the development of the film in these 4 segments:
  • Deeper Into the Woods – From Stage to Screen (8:10)
  • Deeper Into the Woods – The Magic of the Woods (7:03)
  • Deeper Into the Woods – Designing of the Woods (6:48)
  • Deeper Into the Woods – The Costumes of the Woods (6:35)
  • Get direct access to the musical song segments from the film, with optional sing-along lyrics.
  • Easter Eggs – Meryl Climbs (:21), Witch Riser (:46), Sneakers (:12), Jack and the Bean Stalk Rehearsal (1:30), Bird Attack (:19)
  • Into the Woods Audio Commentary with Director Rob Marshall and Producer John Deluca

You can pre-order via Amazon (they've updated with the proper images now) or through the official Into The Woods movie site.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Catching Grimm Shadows - The Art of Andrea Dezsö (Now Showing in NY)

Left: Fairy tale silhouettes created for the Complete First Edition translation, Right: Andrea Dezsö self portrait
For lucky New Yorkers (and those visiting before the end of March) there is a very special solo exhibition you need to put on your "must see" list, that just opened (February 21st, 2015) at the Nancy Margolis Gallery. Much of the art was created specifically for Grimm's fairy tales and the artist is Andrea Dezsö.
If you're not familiar with the name Andrea Dezsö it's probably not because you haven't seen her work. You have; especially if you're a regular reader of this blog. One of her most recent projects was completing twenty different illustrations for Jack Zipes new translation of the Grimm's First Edition (twenty-one, including the cover) and these special pieces are a large part of the gallery showing.
(Oh to see these in person!)

Her silhouettes communicate a raw folk-like quality like the unvarnished tales they accompany.

And Ms. Dezsö is not new to getting to the heart of a subject, nor to folktales and fairy tales either. Her self-portrait (see the head of the post) illustrates just how important a theme this is to the artist, showing the essence, the true tale, inside something, or someone. It should come as no surprise that she's often called on for editorial work as a result.
Although am award winning illustrator and known for her distinctive silhouette work (something I find truly interesting - showing the outline to show the inside..), it becomes quickly apparent this artist isn't limited to any one medium at all. While she does work with paper, she also uses etched glass, mosaics (small and wall+ sized!), paint, ceramics, puppets, animation, mixed media sculptures, giant public murals ad site-specific art, stainless steel sculptures... pretty much anything she seems to be able to get her hands on. 

I don't know if the term was coined before she made it popular but Dezsö is also known for her "tunnel books" and "tunnel installations". A recent and extremely popular exhibition had people walking inside of giant cut outs, lit in different sections, as if one were walking through a story. 

Often she returns to books and to tales and folktales, the theme often returning to looking at the inside and of seeing through layers. More recently, and included in the Nancy Margolis Gallery exhibition, is a new form of tunnel one, one in which she translated her tunnel book technique to glass! 

(Seriously: any one want to sponsor me a ticket to see this? Please?)

Of creating the Grimm tale illustrations Dezsö says:

"I wished to find the heart of each tale and express it visually. My aim was to create a feeling of atmosphere that could convey a strong sense of place and I wanted the drawings to look like made-up folk art, instead of simply relying on details from the region or period."
"I chose tales to illustrate that gave me immediate, strong mental images as I read them. The images that popped into my mind first are generally what I illustrated. Using silhouettes leaves room for the reader’s imagination; not everything is concrete, it’s more a conjured world of dreams, in the same way that the Grimms' tales invite in the reader."

Here is an excerpt from the gallery's press release for the show:
February 21 through March 28, 2015.
Inventive, brilliant, undaunted by complexity or scale mixed media artist Andrea Dezsö, masters a multitude of materials to execute numerous projects ranging from intimate graphite drawings, book illustrations, magnificent mosaics, paper tunnel books, large ink drawing, sandblasted glass, subway murals, colored marker on paper, a long list reflecting Dezsö’s exceptional capacity to take on any challenge regardless of medium.
Growing up in communist Romania, Dezsö found art and literature allowed an escape from the rigid limitations the regime imposed on the lives of people. Absorbed, introspective, Dezsö took control of her life by creating her own worlds filled with wishful flights to charmed lands of dark beauty, and haunting iconography. Dezsö’s art, boundless, unrestrained blends a personal vision, contemporary sensibility with a touch of darkness born of Romanian/ Hungarian expression.
In the current exhibition Dezsö brings together many creative moments, some familiar, others more recent. Utilizing the flat glass technique learned during a two week 2014 residency at Pilchuck Glass Dezsö succeeded in transposing the layering concept used in her popular paper tunnel books into multi layers of glass panels to form a tunnel book, ”Girl and Devil in Underwater Cave”, and four, one-of-a-kind single flat glass panels sandblasted with lively pictorial scenes.

While visiting Hawaii in 2014 Dezsö made a series of marker drawings and one long drawing 112” x 36.75” made with marker, latex paint, ink, and collage. An exciting addition to the upcoming exhibition are the illustrations Dezsö was commissioned to do for the Princeton University Press publication of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Translated and edited by Jack Zipes.

It sounds amazing and hearing from people who have seen her work in person - it's rave reviews all round, something to be experienced that doesn't completely translate to a flat image on a computer screen. Hopefully one day I'll be lucky enough to get to see these in person.

These bowls - they're just wonderful!

I strongly recommend you peruse Ms. Dezsö's website. You'll see folktale references and fairy tale references throughout, including some originals of her own making. All are touching, some are raw, some are stunningly beautiful... and I envy the people who take the subway where those gorgeous stainless steel railings are installed and where her mosaics and other public art brighten up the tunnels! You can also keep up to date on the many exhibits and activities of this busy artist through her page on Facebook HERE.

For a quick overview I've started putting together a Pinterest page where you can see a variety of her work at a glance. I predict you will not be able to "just glance" though, but will go for a further journey to closer... she's good at helping us do that.

Fairy tale bonus of the day:
You may also recognize Ms. Dezsö's art from the book cover Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge that was published last year. Here's a promotional video that includes some of Ms. Dezsö's work from the darker side (don't watch right before bed!):
Writing in free verse honed to a wicked edge, the incomparable Ron Koertge brings dark and contemporary humor to twenty iconic fairy tales.

"Once Upon A Time" Returns This Sunday

Here's the official poster.

The concept (and the costumes, which look like none-too-imaginative cosplay to me) just seem to continue the trend of an hour-long ad for Disney products, rather than be a unique spin on fairy tales or adding to the overall mythology of fairy tale villains.

Please don't misunderstand me: I would LOVE to be proven wrong and see brilliant and creative storytelling using fairy tale principles, and perhaps even drawing from actual fairy tales (even if they're put to use via the vehicle of these Disney-created characters). After all, I was pleasantly surprised to see the depiction of the Snow Queen in the "Frozen" half of this season. Her character and arc nuances (and Elizabeth Mitchell's acting - credit corrected 2-28-15) made the show worth watching, even though I cringed every time Anna and Elsa appeared in their straight-from-the-movie costumes like some weird sort of fan-fiction-slash-Disney-ad. (Note: I thought the actresses both did wonderfully in their given parts. They had the characterizations down extremely well, but there was just nothing subtle about the way they were written or shown. Instead it became like an hour long promo to grab the attention of Frozen fans when they were on screen. Not cool sorry!)

Once Upon A Time continues with the second half of season 4 on Sunday, March 1st.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shakespeare's (Modern) "Cymbeline" Heading To Theaters in March

A poster was just revealed for the upcoming movie release Cymbeline. (This movie was originally planned to be released in 2014 so there have been some delays and reworkings.) It's a modern (and very violent, it would seem) adaptation of Shakespeare's Cymbeline (which was also violent but had clearer fairy tale elements).

For those wondering why I'm putting something Shakespeare-related on the blog, Cymbeline is often regarded as "Shakespeare's Snow White" as it has so many of the key motifs and elements of the tale in a specific combination the parallel can easily be made. 

Did Shakespeare know the Snow White story or one of the many variants? Although it seems unlikely that he did, considering the timeline of certain collections with regard to Shakespeare's own dates, the Decameron is listed among his sources when creating the play and may have been one of those texts also seen by the Grimm Brothers in their studies (I haven't looked at this very much in depth but this discussion was started long ago on the SurLaLune boards HERE).

With regard to the upcoming movie, will any Snow White variant be detectable? Beyond the basic set-up of jealous "queen", huntsman and the girl finding her way through grit and wit and possibly a death-like sleep, I'd be surprised if the usual Snow White parallels remain, though you never know. If they stuck closely to Shakespeare's Cymbeline, there will be more classic fairy tale elements there than you'd ever think from the poster above. (You can read a break down of the similarities between Cymbeline, Snow White, Othello and King Lear by Quill and Qwerty HERE.) An interesting note is that the film was titled Anarchy for a short while but is back to being Cymbeline. That should give a few clues about the film right there.
Ethan Hawke (Edit FTNH: who did the modern day New York update of Hamlet with the same director) co-stars with Ed Harris as two players caught up in the middle of a war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang which forces a drug kingpin (Harris) to desperate measures. The ensemble cast includes Milla Jovovich (“Resident Evil” films), John Leguizamo, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey), Penn Badgley, Anton Yelchin, Bill Pullman and Delroy Lindo. 
Cymbeline will be released in select cities on March13, 2015, and will be rated R.