Sunday, 31 January 2010

The BAH!scars #2: Supporting Brah

I currently feel as if my entire life is in purgatory (or antepurgatory, to use Dante Alighieri’s model of the afterlife). I’m waiting. Waiting for the weather to get warmer. Waiting for grad programs to get back to me. Waiting for the Academy to announce their nominations.

Yes, I could speculate endlessly on what they’ll nominate, but I feel that everyone’s already done that and that I really can’t add anything all that new or interesting to the mix. So instead, I’m going to go on about the one category that, barring us shifting into alternate reality or something else that would have to change the odds on the most cosmic of levels, is already in the bag. Hell, it’s already in the bag and the bag has been thrown into the car, driven home, brought into the kitchen, and unpacked into the cupboard. Christoph Waltz is undoubtedly going to win Best Supporting Actor.

The buzz already was circling around him like flies around a dropped ice cream cone since Inglourious Basterds first premiered. Since then, there has yet to be a winners list that is devoid of his name. According to IMDB (as of January 31), the only awards he has only been nominated for have not yet announced their winners. At this rate, I think he’ll only miss the NAACP and GLAAD awards (and his camp performance might even give him a chance in the latter’s eyes).

Never has there been an actor more guaranteed of an award since, well, last year’s Best Supporting Actor, Heath Ledger. Is there some weird type of curse around this category that prevents it from being a real contest? Did Dumbledore refuse Voldemort the award years ago (or maybe the Riddle just really wanted to present it)? I mean, Waltz didn’t even have to go through the whole inconvenience of dying, which I’ve heard really quite an encumbrance to getting things done.

So, before we continue, let’s just acknowledge the indisputable feeling of impending anticlimax every other nominee must feel as he finds out that he is indeed a nominee and thus is to lose to Waltz in a month. Let us also the pay heed to the quick curse of fate that must emancipate itself from each mouth as to why he had to give his great performance the same year that Inglourious Basterds debuted.

Now let me ask the real question of this entry: how must it feel to be Christoph Waltz on Oscar Night? I imagine for the majority of actors, Oscar nights are exciting, tense, and a plethora of other emotions. They either are anxious if they will take home a statue, or possibly acknowledge that they are the fifth nominee and just enjoying the thrill of being there. But very rarely does someone walk in assured that he will be a winner. Like, I said, the last time that a victory was so certain that actor was a bit too inanimate to really consider the situation.

Is there any doubt in Waltz’s mind? Does he still have jitters over the night, that a fluke will turn his category in the very quintessence of “upset?” Or is he going to spend the first hour or so of the show making last minute changes to his acceptance speech? Has he run out of things to say and people to thank? Is winning “Best Supporting Actor” even exciting after going through the routine so many times or does the prestige of the Oscars somehow make reinvigorate everything?

The only way I can even think to relate is to think of when I was taking a math class to fill a requirement in college. It was essentially “Math for Drama Majors and Kids Who Got into Tufts Since They Were From North Dakota.” We spent the first day going over “y = mx + b” and by the end of the semester, we had successfully reviewed my first two years of high school math. I imagine the absolute dearth of nervousness with the most Lilliputian pinch of “I better not screw this up” in my head as I walked in to take a test is probably the closest I have ever felt to how Waltz will feel on March 7. Of course, I was filling a BS distribution requirement whereas Waltz is about to get one of the (justified or not) most prestigious accolades that can be bestowed upon a thespian of film.

In short, as Judgment Day Part 1 rolls around, at least we can all rest assured that the biggest question of the Supporting Actor category is not “Who will be nominated?” or even “Who will win?” but instead, “How awesome is it to be Christoph Waltz right now?”

Friday, 29 January 2010

Avatar's Gross!

I’m beginning to fear I may have to change the name of this blog to “Pop Culture Gone Avatar.”

This past week Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances (and maybe an enemy or two) have already posted Facebook statuses, Gchat statuses and a few Twitters lamenting this fact. All I can think is, “Why?”

Now, I’m not going to hide the fact that I liked Avatar. Was it the best movie of the year? No. I don’t think it even cracked my top ten, or if so, just barely. I mean, it was a Final Fantasy game. It had pretty simple characters, a plot that was as predictable as an episode of Sailor Moon, and all the ethical complexity of a morality play (“Hmm…should I do the good thing or the bad thing? Decisions, Decisions”). But damn, that movie was fun and pretty darn beautiful! And I tend to be a guy who ain’t all that impressed just by purty CGI. The last 30 minutes were just about everything I could want from a sci-fi action scene and the rest of it wasn’t too shabby.

That being said, I can understand why people didn’t like Avatar. The simplicity is a bit exhausting and the acting leaves quite a bit to be desired. In the end, it’s a dumb visual spectacle that’s delightful to munch popcorn over. [deep breath] JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER MOVIE IN THE TOP TWENTY GROSSING FILMS!

Let’s first look at the actual story: Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time. In the end, all that really is that it beat out Titanic. How can anyone who is not a teenage girl in 1997 be annoyed about that? All this means is that overblown one piece of James Cameron eye-candy with one-dimensional lovers and a paint-by-numbers plot has usurped the spot of another. Was Titanic really that much better of a film than Avatar? No? Okay, then you can’t really be all too upset over the fact it had to cede its throne to Avatar.

Honestly, I am quite happy over the coup. I never did like Titanic. Rose and Jack always seemed extraordinarily imbecilic and completely stolid to everything going on around them (except for the occasional bout of fervent panic). I waited with baited breath to see their stars cross and for the state of their affairs to sink below the murky depths. A melodrama does not work if the characters are utterly loathsome. Jake and Neytiri may not be characters crafted by the pen of Flaubert, but they at least got my sympathy. These recent developments simply mean that a slightly better variation on the same Cameroneon theme now holds the prior’s honor.

Of course, let’s pull back a bit. Maybe people are annoyed that Avatar has even cracked the top ten or top twenty. Maybe Titanic was as much of a fluke as Avatar. Without further ado then, I present the top 20 highest grossing films of all time, as listed on Wikipedia as of January 29, 2010.
1. Avatar (2009)
2. Titanic (1997)
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006).
5. The Dark Knight (2008).
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007).
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
11. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
12. Shrek 2 (2002)
13. Jurassic Park (1993).
14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
15. Spider-Man 3 (2007).
16. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009).
17. Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets (2002).
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).
19. Finding Nemo (2003)
20. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Let me state off the bat (pardon the pun) that there is no love lost between me and Dark Knight and I’ve always found Finding Nemo to be a rather anomalous creation: a Pixar movie that was just decent. Many would argue that these are diamonds in the rough (okay, is that a term or did Jafar coin that in Aladdin?), but I place Avatar above them without hesitation.

Now for the rest, in no order. The Pirates movies I have not been able to sit through and really have never bought into the Johnny Depp love (he’s good, but that’s it) and even the most stalwart fans are cold when it comes to the third member of the trilogy. The Harry Potter movies are tapestries of prosaic teen drama only livened up by spurts of life provided by Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, the DADA teacher of the year, and the girl who plays Luna. I do not know a soul in his or her right mind who will defend the prequels to Star Wars. I’ve never seen an Ice Age movie and hope to keep it that way. Shrek 2 I don’t remember a single thing about. I’ve always felt people were more invidious to Spider-Man 3 than they should have been, but still don’t think it was anything more than dumb (and a bit fabulous) popcorn fun.

So that leaves us with Jurassic Park (which is one of those movies everyone in the world has seen but me) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Okay, you got me there. The Lord of the Rings films are better than Avatar. But, even they are really well done action films where most of the characters are fairly simple. You have a few more developed personalities and better acting, but still, the situation is not like Avatar knocked The Godfather and Casablanca out of the way on its crawl to the top. Well, yes, it did, but much earlier on. And you can’t really fault it for that. I wonder if there’s a film that came out in most major theaters last year that grossed less than those gems.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Return of the Barbarian

As we all know, last Friday marked the denouement of the torrid Tonight Show debacle. A tearful Conan bid adieu to his brief stint on The Tonight Show, allowing Leno to again take the reins. And the unsettling part of this whole story is that, despite the fans’ outrage, despite the deluge of bad publicity this imbroglio created, despite the fact that Conan is an infinity of more funny than Leno (yes, it’s a fact, not an opinion)…Leno has replaced Conan. He’s “going down with the Titanic,” though he’s the one who kind of wanted his spot back first. Maybe he thought he could somehow use it to profit from the Avatar success.

So, as we tune into our story, evil (or mediocrity, the greatest evil of all) has triumphed over good. Conan has to flee from sight, only to be summoned when New York most needs him, or at least until September. Somehow Jimmy Fallon is still staying strong and we’ll all have to tune into Letterman or move to Middle America to understand the appeal of Jay.

Yet perhaps this cloud has its silver cliché. Yes, Conan on The Tonight Show delivered far more risibility than Leno. But, was he still most inferior to another host: Conan on Late Night. I remember tuning into Conan this past summer. I had been watching his stint sporadically but had not been as steadfast a devotee as I had anticipated. That night, I deduced why this was the case. He had a few stunt cyclists on his show, doing various tricks and acrobatics off of some ramps. I remember thinking, “This is what happens when you host The Tonight Show.” You suddenly have to deal with insipid acts like jackanapes who can walk on eggs or an animal trainer who will inevitably have the host feign terror upon the unveiling of some enormous reptile.

That Conan was not the Conan with whom I fell in love. My heart still belonged to the man whose sidemen included the likes of Vomiting Kermit and, of course, The Masturbating Bear. I was still hopelessly enraptured with the man who brought unbridled insanity to post-midnight television and constantly delighted my budding teenage sense of humor back in high school. He could be weird, he could be tasteless, he could have skits that redid the whole show as a Victorian comedy of manners or revolved around a German game show where the contestants must rearrange objects in right angles, and it was all kosher. With that extra hour shield between him and decent programming came freedom. Everything that made Conan O’Brien not just very good but great was inextricably tied with him being the host of Late Night.

But this Conan was not gone. Nor was the original’s superiority just a product of me being more tired at 12:30. I saw him return last week: as he knew he was leaving NBC. Sketches became odder and had more of a bite to them. And then, just to prove that the old Conan had come out of hiding, the greatest thing happened: the Masturbating Bear returned to NBC.

This is the Conan we need. The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien was great in theory, but I’m willing to wait another sixty minutes to have the real deal. I don’t know if I could have gone years seeing a weaker Conan on screen, taunting me with brief glimpses of how hilarious he can actually be. Conan O’Brien is not a Tonight Show host. The job may be what he deserves, but it is not what he needs.

Of course, now I just need to hope that we do indeed get the return of such a real deal. We may not know till September, but (maybe I’m just optimistic and delusional) I have a hard time imagining we’ve heard the last of our red-headed friend. Here’s hoping the next network to get him knows to keep him off a leash – for everyone’s benefit.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The BAH!scars #1: Setting My Phaser to "Pissed Off"

Let me state the obvious. It’s Oscar season. I’m a (fledgling) pop culture blogger (not too fledgling if you count two years of column writing though). I’m going to be writing in excess about the Oscars. Might as well start now.

[Oh, by the way, I fully acknowledge the irony that I will continually call the Academy every iteration of "stupid" and "worthless" and yet still get infuriated by their every action. Just should put that out on the table early.]

This past June, the Academy created quite the buzz when they announced that there would be not five, but ten Best Picture nominees. Granted, I think this revelation ignited more sensation than it really warranted. Let’s face the truth (Hi, Truth!), even if ten are nominated, the race is still almost always between two or three films anyway. This superficial vicissitude only means an increase in token films that have as little of a chance of winning as a red shirt has of surviving a voyage to Deygon-7. Now, instead of simply the token “Little Indie That Could” (The Little Miss Juno Award), there will also be the token “Comedy” and “Animated Movie” and the like.

Before we go on, let’s just mention that this has now rendered the already questionable “Best Animated Picture” (The Pixar Award) to the status of utterly worthless (“Hmm…I wonder if the one animated picture nominated for Best Picture will win”). Hopefully it will just disappear. Let’s face it – all it ever did was fail to appease the people who were noticing that Pixar continually got overlooked for Best Picture. We doing that? Good. Oh, and anyone thinking they’ll dare nominate two animated films (like, let’s say The Fantastic Mr. Fox along with Up instead of just Up)…please check up on your idea of reality. Though I do indeed hope I have to eat my words on that last statement.

However, there is another genre of film that the querulous masses lament is constantly overlooked come Oscar time: the action film. Ever since the Academy made its proclamation, nerds nationwide have been in a constant rejoice over the fact that there may now be an action film among the best picture nominees. And what has been the favorite these past seven or so months? Star Trek.

It was mentioned when the press release first journeyed from the computer screen to the pupils of every geek in the world. Speculation over three films: Star Trek, Up, and The Hangover finally getting nominated. The first two have persisted as favorites all the way up to speculation over the ten in the past month. The third lost steam…though its Golden Globe may help it recover some. Now, I can’t comment on The Hangover. I haven’t seen it. I know, I know, I’m a pop culture blogger…but this ain’t a full time job. If any of you wish to change that so I may see The Hangover and weigh in quicker, I am more than willing to take you up on your lucrative and exceedingly generous offer. As it is, let me say that Up certainly deserves a nomination and is currently my runner-up for picture of the year (which I gave to Inglourious Basterds).

Then there’s Star Trek. I admit, I took a while to get to the meat of this entry. It’s like the first hour of Deer Hunter. Anyway, Star Trek. For a while, I’ve tried to deny it. I would think, “That’s just wishful thinking! Of course, they’re not going to nominate Star Trek!” But every day it seems that more and more critics are predicting it. And, to be honest, I’m beginning to think they’re right.

Star Trek
in no way deserves to be considered as even a candidate (despite how token such candidancy may be) for Best Picture. It was fun, yes. It was enjoyable, had some humorous moments, and the acting was good. It was a solid summer blockbuster. Solid summer blockbuster does not translate into great cinema. Granted, I’m not ruling out such a possibility that an action film can be deep and meaningful or even simply just use the camera brilliantly or whatever prerequisite for a nomination. The Matrix certainly should have been among 1999’s candidates. Hell, I’d have to give 2002 another look, but I wouldn’t automatically rule out X2: XMen United being among ten nominees. But Star Trek? Just because a movie delivers a few thrills and somehow combines premiering in 80-degree weather with not turning my brain into Jujy Fruits doesn’t mean it’s among the year’s best films.

So Star Trek delivers a solid sci-fi romp. Good for it. I gave it a good review when it came out and even defended it against people who wanted a more traditional Star Trek film. Hell, I defended its summer-blockbuster-ness. It does accomplish what it sets out to do. That does merit praise. That does not automatically merit this type of praise. Jennifer’s Body (a wrongfully maligned film from this year) also accomplishes its intended purpose. It also felt like a worthwhile use of two hours of my time. Jennifer’s Body is thankfully not in consideration for the ten nominees. Not every film that fails to screw-up is automatically a laudable landmark of cinema.

Essentially, Star Trek being considered for such honors feels a bit like high school. The attractive, successful jock, the guy with all the girls and popularity and good looks, is not completely destitute in the smarts department. He doesn’t ace his algebra test. But he gets a B. He may have some plot holes and a predictable story line and some cheesy dialogue and – oops, back to my analogy. Suddenly, he’s a Renaissance man! Not only is he an Olympian Adonis, but his lack of flunking makes him a disciple of Athena as well! Helios be praised!

Are our expectations for summer movies really so low? Does a little quality in one suddenly make us desire to crown it with every laurel in sight? Or are we (and probably the Academy) so likely to rally around Star Trek because of another scorned son?

Now, any of you who know me personally or read my column back in the old days (P.S. I love you, new readers!) know I have nothing but contempt for Dark Knight. I was quite relieved to find it did not receive a Best Picture nomination last year. However, I also will freely admit that it did not get the nomination for the wrong reasons. What do I mean? Dark Knight was terrible, but it was also cheated. The Academy still apotheosized Heath Ledger. And, to be perfectly honest, of the five best picture nominees, one was worse than Dark Knight (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), one was only a little better (The Reader), and two weren’t exactly stellar (Slumdog Millionaire and Frost/Nixon). Dark Knight was not nominated, but for the wrong reason – it was an action film. A summer blockbuster. (And yes, Gladiator won early this decade, but that’s because it was sword-and-sandal epic and that has a history, etc.)

Ironically, if Star Trek is nominated, it will be for the exact same reason: because it’s a summer blockbuster. And now the Academy owes a summer blockbuster some love. Yes, this film lacks the pretentions of Dark Knight, the Introduction to Ethics speeches, and the dead actor…all the things that would have been perfectly Academic reasons for Dark Knight to be nominated and all the things that deluded a people into believing it to be the second coming of Kane. For better or for worse, it’s a more run-of-the-mill action movie. It aims lower, but it hits its mark. Star Trek was just a good action movie and, aside from a few genuinely great movies, probably the best thing to come out in the four month span of mind-mush. But allow me to reiterate, that’s all folks.

But I suppose the time has come for awards to be more democratic. Good is the new great. Let’s more evenly disperse accolades among seasons, genres, and qualities. About time we keep the masses happy. I mean, it’s not like the actual film nerds were ever all that happy with the Oscar picks anyway.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, in this case, I guess my advice would be, “If it’s broke, please don’t take a mallet to it and bang on it repeatedly until it’s pulverized to mere atoms.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Settling Down in the Uncanny Valley

Unless you’ve been living under a lump of unobtainium, you’ve probably already heard more than you ever wanted to hear about Avatar and its special effects. It’s mesmerizing! It’s revolutionizing the way we look at movies just like Jay Leno failed to revolutionize television! It’s the best technological and most racist thing to happen to cinema since Al Jolson sang about his mammy from Alabammy!

It’s conquered the uncanny valley.

That’s right; everyone, even Frank from 30 Rock, was wrong about this one. The Na’vi were compelling, realistic looking, and kind of sexy at times (none of us are proud by the fact that a series of 0s and 1s on a computer database turned us on, but that’s the truth – oh, the g-strings…). CGI can now tackle humans that look, feel, and act realer than Megan Fox ever did.

But is this the ultimate goal of CGI? One of my friends suggested that CGI will finally reach its consummation when it becomes like set design or sound editing – you don’t notice it (unless it’s bad). Is that all we want? Yes, I realize I don’t really admire sound editing that much, and I only really think of great sets after seeing the movie 4 or 5 times (for example, The Rear Window). However, what about costumes? I agree that sometimes costumes are meant to blend into the scene and not draw attention away from the action. Yet, they also can be the spectacle and their flashiness and costumeness can enhance a scene or an entire movie.

Can this work with CGI though? Can we really appreciate CGI when it stands out from the rest of the film? I think so, particularly in one specific genre: horror. If you look at the diagram of the uncanny
valley on Wikipedia, you’ll notice it isn’t about CGI. It predates that. In the valley are two things of note: corpses and zombies. So, if I’m reading this correctly, George Romero’s creatures are establishing residences in roughly the same latitude and longitude as Ringo Starr in Rockband. Why not make this work for us?

You know what’s still scary? King Kong in the original 1933 film. He walks in a herky-jerky fashion, his fur moves randomly since the animators weren’t all that concerned with the between-shot continuity, and he’s just not of this world. Maybe it’s me talking from a 2010 perspective, but King Kong moves like death – like a relic from the past that has come back to haunt us. Unzombified, he is more of a walking corpse than any horror that Danny Boyle ever filmed. While I can’t speak for the 1933 audience, I would like to think that they were discerning enough to at least realize that there was a barrier between Kong and seeing a realistic looking gorilla on screen.

Why can’t we harness this bringer of fear? You want to know what was one of the most terrifying things I’ve seen recently on screen? I was channel surfing and for some reason that is lost to me, I ended up watching Alvin and the Chipmunks. Yes, the Jason Lee movie. And you wanna know what – it wasn’t terrible. It was kind of fun, in a "cheesy kids' movie" sort of way. However, there is a short moment when Dave opens his dishwasher to find a wet Alvin in it. The CGI was off and the wet chipmunk looked unnatural, disturbing, and made me jump for a moment in my seat. A mistake? Undoubtably. Certainly, this reaction was not the intended one of the film makers. But hasn’t art always been about using accidents and transfiguring the mishap into serendipity? My abjection, my unnerving was there. There’s an easy way to tap into it; this way is far easier and far more guaranteed than billions dollars worth of computer generated blood, monsters, or severed limbs…because they all just look too natural.

I leave you with this thought: think of a zombie chasing a human. Now think of the same human being chased by a zombie…except now the zombie is the festering cadaver of Andy from the first Toy Story. Inhuman, early CGI Andy. Maybe missing an arm or half a skull.

Chilling, isn’t it?

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Princess, the Frog, and the Mixed Message

Last month I, like many 20-somethings attempting to reclaim some Rosebudian piece of their childhood, saw Disney's The Princess and the Frog. This was it: the return to animated glory, to the days of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and, hell, I'll even throw in The Return of Jafar because I always had a soft spot in my heart for that sequel.

(Be warned, this blog is not above spoilers)

I must say I liked it. It was cute, fun, and felt much stronger and classic than anything else that has come from Disney animation (Pixar excepted, of course) in the past decade and a half. The Shadow Man was a bad-ass villain, I was impressed at the choice to off the comic relief, and Tiana was a far cry from the man-obsessed, whiny bitches like Snow White or Ariel (coming soon: "Why all Disney characters are whiny bitches"). She was independent, career-minded, and did not want to get around in life by wishing on stars or flowers or teapots or whatever it is every other princess feels the uncontrollable urge to wish upon instead of just getting of her ass and doing her own dirty work.

Then I made the mistake of going to Disney World. Don't get me wrong; I love everything about Disney World (well, except Epcot). I love the forced kindness from the "cast members." I love that people can walk around with Donald Duck's rear or Goofy's mouth on their heads without fact, they’re almost expected to look so asinine. I love the angry lesbians who are always in charge of crowd control when characters come out to sign autographs. But my sojourn to the second happiest place on earth (first being my local Chevy's) also reminded me what Disney is all about: wishes. Tiana (the Princess half of The Princess and the Frog) may say that wishing on a star is not what you need. She may try to convince little girls all you need to prosper in life and get that great art deco restaurant is a lot of hard work, some delicious southern cooking, a manic, overweight rich white friend, and a lot of hard work, but she's lying through her teeth.

Yes, I will admit Tiana is more of a busy bee than most Disney princesses. Aurora sings and sleeps her way through her film, and Cinderella only really does any domestic labor because she's forced to, and even then she mostly outsources to various mammalia rodentia. Tiana saves like a miser, works 20 hour shifts at most dining establishments in New Orleans, and has thrown her biological clock out the window all to get her dream restaurant.

But none of that makes a bit of difference.

When the real action of the movie begins, Tiana has just learned that years of toiling have gotten her nowhere. Her dream building for her dream restaurant will remain just a dream and her money just isn't enough to become Paula-Dean-before-Paula-Dean.

And so she wishes on a star.

Enter the Frog Prince. She kisses him, has many lovely adventures, falls in love with him, and then, voila, she eventually gets her restaurant! With money she got from her wonderful prince. Not money she saved up. In fact, she probably could have spent that money on a good bunch of Hurricanes and Mardis Gras beads and gone out with every Tom, Dick, and Charming in the town and as long as she seduced that prince, she still would have gotten her dream fulfilled (come to think of it, she could've sold out to Shadow Man and gotten it, so many ways to skin a catfish that rely much more on magic and wishes than on hard work).

Now, you could argue that Tiana's sedulous nature that she built up over the years of her ascetic lifestyle was what got her and her prince through their ordeal so she could eventually get her dreams. However, that wasn't enough. She needed the wish. She needed the star to give her her prince. Snow White or Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty wouldn't have gotten their man if they were butt-ugly. Hell, Ariel couldn't get laid until she could talk. Tiana may need her work ethic, but it ultimately becomes just an accessory to the main catalyst: the wish.

Of course, this situation is in a way indicative of every fictional plot. No matter how industrious or good a character is, no matter how much she saves up or brushes her teeth, she has no control over her fate. Or his fate. The star, the godlike figure, the writer has to grant his or her wish regardless of how talented or untalented he or she is. In fact, Tiana's tenacious hold on her aspirations is really just as much a gift of fate as any deus ex machina that could be devised. She was not naturally a hard worker. She got that when the screenwriter was laying down the script; possibly the same moment he or she decided that Tiana would be saved by cosmic intervention. All magic could be extirpated from this movie and she would still have as little credit for the ultimate outcome and her inevitable prosperity as she has now or as any Disney princess has ever had. Well, unless we changed this movie to Darren Aronofsky's The Princess and the Frog.

So, I suppose this leaves us in a bit of a pickle. I started this first blog entry hoping to denounce Disney for using the illusion of "keeping one's nose to the grindstone" to mask its stereotypical reliance on magic, fate, love, and everything that a most people never really attain in life. But I may have just condemned most Hollywood cinema as equally flawed.

I refuse it! Damn metafiction! Rick Blaine deserves more pats on the back than Briar Rose ever will. So I'll wrap up with this line.

All movies are Disney movies. But some movies are more Disney movies than others.

Tiana and the Princess and the Frog may be taking a baby step away from the Jiminy Cricket and his doctrine, but in the end, I can still see them suckling at the teat of the Blue Fairy and hoping for a miracle, as much as Disney may want to deny it.