Friday, March 17, 2017

'Beauty and the Beast' 2017: Best Thought Provoking Articles About the Movie on the Internet (so far)

UPDATED! MARCH 18th, 2017 8pm
There are a lot of reviews, theories, musings and posts in general discussing Disney's take on Beauty and the Beast - both the animated version as well as the new one. Here are some that fairy tale fans, and fans of storytelling - and adapting tales for various audiences - might find more useful and interesting than the current avalanche of reviews.

This is Part I. You can find Part II HERE.

'Beauty and the Beast': 9 Differences Between the Live-Action and Animated Movies — and Why They Matter - from the Hollywood Reporter, this is one of the most thoughtful pieces we've seen at the differences in the new movie which expand on the animated classic and story. Most people know the Disney classic well so there aren't spoilers here, exactly, so much as an explanation of how the filmmakers expanded the story and why. For those who are wanting to watch the movie looking for those aspects they put an effort into developing (and which you might miss hints of in scenes in which those additions aren't the focus) this article will likely help you pick up on things you normally wouldn't see until a second viewing. For those who would prefer to see it without the hints first, it can serve as a reflective piece after a viewing, to see how successful the filmmakers were in communicating their intentions.

13 'Beauty and the Beast' Adaptations - a handy list and set of links to the various notable screen adaptations, whether they were successful or not. Each has had some impact on how society views the fairy tale, which makes for an interesting comparative tool.
There's another shorter list HERE with a couple of differences. The 'beastliness' of films is rated in this article.
A different list of 13 can be found HERE, and, although it overlaps with the others, it highlights a few different ones, including a specific episode from Once Upon A Time and a couple of other episodic series highlights.

The Beauty and the Beast remake is a long series of wasted opportunities - yes, that is the official title. We didn't paraphrase. The title is harsher than the article, likely to catch people's attention but it does critically ask the important questions of how to represent something in a revision/ reboot/ remake, be it active feminism, or acceptance of differences (race, orientation etc). (Note: it also makes an effort to point out the changes that did work, so this isn't entirely negative and critical.) Though it contains spoilers (so it may be better for reading after viewing the movie) it also makes clear how over-hyped some of the changes are, or how the changes, touted to be bold and needed advances for today, are, perhaps, still on the tame side, giving nods to these things rather than properly representing them. (Please note - neither the article, or we, are not saying things need to be explicit in any way. It's more about how one scene or moment can be undermined, ending up as a detached statement that doesn't actually change the landscape of the story at all.) Worth a read for writers and filmmakers looking to address equality for all in their work.

The boycott against Beauty and the Beast is about much more than the movie - quoting the article to give you an idea of what's being discussed: "But like so many of today’s cultural controversies, this fight over boycotting the movie is part of a bigger picture. It’s not just about Beauty and the Beast or gay rights. It’s about the outrage culture we’ve grown so accustomed to, the spectacle, and the opportunity to define ourselves online by publicly performing our morals." The article also talks about the importance of acknowledging Howard Ashman, the lyricist and co-composer of many/ most of the iconic songs that caused people around the world in droves to love The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and, yes, Beauty and the Beast. Ashman was gay and struggled with being accepted for his orientation, among many other challenges. "It takes a special cultural ignorance to protest the adaptation because it features a gay character, even though the original movie wouldn’t be what it is without Ashman’s talent." [Note: it may be of interest to christian readers that the Catholic News Service, discusses these aspects and still recommends the movie as "a must-see film intended for children" with the "pall" cast by the controversy being called "unfortunate". This article 'Beauty and the Beast': Why Christian Parents Can Calm Down is a traditionally solid evangelical approach, while being realistic about society, explaining why a 'panic button', and boycotting the movie, is unnecessary. The Evangelical Christian organization, Focus on the Family gives a movie review and breakdown here of the various elements of the movie from the positive through to the questions as well as any violence, strong language, and sexual allusions of all orientations.]

Why Is the Prince in Beauty and the Beast Always Less Hot Than the Beast? - To quote Heidi of SurLaLune: "There's been a long going discussion among scholars and others about the disappointment often felt by readers and viewers when the Beast is transformed back into his human form in Beauty and the Beast tales... The effect is much worse in film, of course, but it has been explored many times in fiction, too, by Angela Carter, Robin McKinley, and others." And this discussion has now hit popular culture, something we don't remember seeing much of when the animated film was released, but perhaps the live action/ CG simulated-live action aspect has brought this (along with other questions) to the fore. What isn't discussed here is that Cocteau, in his black and white cinematic masterpiece, intended the transformation to be a let down, and the ending to specifically be unsatisfying and a strong statement. No filmmaker since seems to have navigated (or successfully ignored) this concept gracefully since, and that includes this new movie. [Note: the animated classic intended to tap the Biblical concept of new/re-made man, hence the name 'Adam' used in the studio for the human Prince at the time, but that idea, as most girls who fell in love with the Disney movie will tell you, wasn't successful. He was definitely "less hot".]

A traditional tale with titillating twists: Beauty and the Beast gets reinvented (again) - This article tracks the traditional psychoanalytical interpretations through to the implications 'updating' Belle through to noting the social implications and automatic connections audiences will make to this new Belle, just in having Emma Watson in the role. With the strong impressions of her public persona, which include 'forever-Hermione', eco-conscious fashion icon, feminist bookworm, activist and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, she is currently the quintessential model for brains + beauty that so many girls (and women) want to be.

There's Actually a Reason to Like Gaston in the New Beauty and the Beast - "Like" is probably the wrong word here, though it attracts readers. What they really mean is 'understand'. And understanding Gaston doesn't mean being OK with any of his behavior, as this next article - which should be read as a companion  piece to this one - outlines:
Why 'Beauty and the Beast's Gaston Is the Worst Kind of Disney Villain - "No one's a misogynist like Gaston." As stated above, it should be read as a companion piece to that one. Having the sort of background this 'new' Gaston has been given doesn't excuse any of his behavior  - as a character and certainly not in real life, as Teen Vogue aims to remind romantics.

'Beauty and the Beast' Honest Trailer Tells "a Tale as Old as Stockholm Syndrome" - This is a humorous video but, at the safe distance that comedy gives us, raises more - a lot more - than this much-talked about issue and is worth consideration. Disney's classic animated version of Beauty and the Beast has a lot of questionable things and while, yes, it paints these in fairly broad strokes, we all know that nuances of an aspect are rarely retained by the public over the long term. The overall impression - especially the unspoken ones - need to be considered, and in some cases, challenged. Even with revisions and updates in the new live action version, Belle's character motives still seem a little too close to home to the #whyIstayed discussion of domestic abuse (which is different from Stockholm syndrome but not necessarily unrelated). This 'honest trailer' that pulls no punches will, at the very least, enlighten you as to the impressions the story can give and illustrates why challenging, or updating the 'nuances' in a new version shouldn't be done half-heartedly. How much the new film succeeds at doing this on certain issues is still debatable. Good for thinkers but expect some protective feels if the Disney movie/s are personal faves.

The Primal and Mythical Allure of Beauty and the Beast by Maria Tatar - One for fairy tale folk and those looking to increase their knowledge of the fairy tale, and its appeal, beyond general knowledge. By esteemed fairy tale scholar Maria Tatar, you know this one is highly recommended by our news team. "Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” like the many other versions, gave us a vivid, visual grammar for thinking about abstractions: cruelty and compassion, surfaces and essences, hostility and hospitality, predators and victims. Like all fairy tales, it gives us the primal and the mythical, getting us talking in ways that headlines do their cultural work today. And they also lead us to keep hitting the refresh button, as we try to get the story right, even as we know that Beauty and the Beast will always be at odds with each other in an endless struggle to resolve their differences."

Crosswalk the Musical: 'Beauty and the Beast' (James Corden Brings ‘Beauty And The Beast’ (And Its Stars) To The Street -  Finishing on a fun note, this is both funny and shows how both versions of this film inspire people to creativity and continue telling the tale of Beauty and the Beast in news ways. One of the best things about this 'sketch' is that tale telling is being taken to the streets. The performance, stopped traffic. Literally. Take a look. (If you want to skip the preamble and prep and just get to the street performance, begin at 3:36):

UPDATE! MARCH 18th, 2017 8pm:
Reel Representation: Diversity in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is less radical than Disney claims  - This article takes a critical, and thought provoking look, at the true amount of diversity included in the 2017 re-make. Yes - there is more diversity and clear feminism in the new movie but is it really as progressive as the promotional campaigns for the movie have been touting? "Holding up the moments as landmarks lessens the significance of true milestones and superficially lets Hollywood off the hook, making it seem like diversity is rapidly increasing when in reality, change is slow in Hollywood."

'Beauty and The Beast': Why Live-Action Remakes Can't Truly Replace Cartoons - To be clear, this is not saying the movie is bad or 'less', just that there are certain aspects in which animation - being the artform that is is - does exceptionally well, that is difficult to reproduce in live action. (In other words, sometimes animation is the best medium.) It's an issue worth considering when choosing how to tell a story, as in what you're trying to do in a specific medium. It is also the reason illustrated books (picture books) and traditional animation works so well at telling fantasy stories. "The very specificity that live-action CGI demands (and delivers) makes it harder for audiences to accept nonhuman characters as peers to the humans — they seem too alien, too dissimilar. By contrast, there's more in common between Belle and Mrs. Potts in the 1991 animated story, because the lack of detail in the line work means the two subconsciously look more alike.
The same is true of almost every animated story: the cartoonishness works in the favor of the movie, because the artists are rarely trying to be realistic — they're more focused on telling the story in the best way possible. That's rarely the case on a live-action remake, for the simple fact that there's an additional layer of "reality" immediately placed upon proceedings..."
Ultimately this shouldn't mean 'don't make CG/live action versions of stories - not at all. What it means is there needs to be more awareness about why things work in one medium and not another, and that those need to be part of the conversation when creating moving images in whatever medium, or blend.
This is Part I. You can find Part II HERE.

Did we miss a thought provoking article on Disney's live action remake Beauty and the Beast?
Add it in the comments and we'll update the post and credit you!

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