Tag Archives: Frozen

Moana: How Far You Should Go to See It

I went into this movie knowing pretty much nothing about it. I purposefully ignored the commercials, even not so subtly shutting my ears and eyes when an ad for it played before another movie I went to go see, Kubo and the Two Strings.  Shocking though it may be, some of us like not having the best jokes of the movie beaten into the ground before it even opens in theaters. Some of us – little kids included – will go simply because Disney made it, and we naturally expect their movies to be well-animated, fun, and high quality. No spoiler-y advertisement needed.

I will also admit to you that I went in with cautious, but hopeful optimism, much like I am approaching the live action Beauty and the Beast remake set to open in March. It’s not that I expected or wished for poor quality; rather the opposite, in fact. But Disney is a business, and thus doesn’t always make the most sound decisions for their artistic persona. Sometimes, they obviously look at what is the most marketable.

“Hey,” they might say, “this old movie of ours did really well, so let’s copy-paste it to a slightly new format, tweak a few things, and basically let it sell itself!”

Boom!
Boom!

 

And hey, a lot of people are clamoring for more diverse Disney characters. Which is great when Disney actually puts in the time and proper investment to make a good story with good characters, but in the past has led to some awkwardness with misguided steps like Pocahontas and even Mulan to some extent. There, they take aspects of a culture that Westerners have are somewhat familiar with,  and give you weird, inaccurate diet versions of real-world history and culture, which yes, come across as arrogant at best and downright mocking at worst.

And I say that as someone who genuinely loves Mulan. Who gets annoyed when people write her off, along with every other princess in the lineup before Tiana. Every Disney Princess has something good you can say about her, even if, on the surface, the only distinguishing factors appear to be hair and eye color.

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What I’m trying to say is this: I want a good story and good characters first. As long as you do thatby all means; take it anywhere in the world. Show me something I haven’t seen before.

Thankfully, Moana lived up to its hype and doesn’t feel like cheap appeasement in any way. It handled another culture very respectfully, while still being fun and silly and gorgeous. I’m not sure the film surpasses Frozen, given its memorable innovations and twists, but it’s definitely up there on its level, and definitely expanding on a few ideas from its predecessor. It is always nice to see Disney’s work flourish after a particularly big hit, rather than proving it to be a fluke.

As usual, spoilers below. 

I, like many people, am happy that Moana doesn’t get a romantic subplot. It is very refreshing for a Disney princess, though admittedly, that doesn’t tend to bother me unless the courting and/or characters are annoying or handled really poorly. I’m waiting to see how many people will speculate that she’s a lesbian, because of course Merida just had to be one if she wasn’t interested in dating and marriage by age 16. 

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I like that, for once in recent memory, a movie about tradition doesn’t paint it as the “enemy.” It almost looks that way in the beginning, what with Moana’s family and village encouraging her not to leave her island’s reef, but we soon discover that, further back than most people can remember, her ancestors were wayfinders who traveled the seas in search of new islands. This actually parallels some recent Polynesian history, believe it or not, and in the end, after being trained by a demigod and making the seas a safer place for humans, Moana re-teaches her people a useful, wonderful tradition that they had long-thought lost to them forever.

I like that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the lyrical genius behind the Broadway smash Hamilton, lends his talents to the soundtrack, even providing us with a few vocals himself. He has a very good sense of rhythm and flow, and together with Mark Mancina (who worked on the arrangements with Hans Zimmer  for Disney’s The Lion King and Phil Collins for Disney’s Tarzan) and Opetaia Foa’i (a South Pacific Fusion group originally formed in New Zealand), he offers us something unique, catchy, and new altogether. I doubt “How Far I’ll Go” will be quite as explosive as “Let It Go,” but as Soprano who has attempted both songs, I have to say that the former is far more comfortable while still being compelling, beautiful, and triumphant.

It is kind of funny, though, that right after that moment in the movie, Moana kind of gets her ass handed to her. It was almost comical; like an estranged sister to those old Lilo and Stitch commercials from back in the day.

Speaking  of Lilo and Stitch, Nani and Lilo will always be my first Polynesian Disney Princesses. I don’t care what anyone says; Lilo was one of the most realistic kids I’ve ever seen (not overly-annoying, but not romanticized and ridiculously smart or well-behaved), and her older sister did everything she could to love and provide for her, even though she was put in a really crummy position and didn’t have anyone to blame for it. Stitch wasn’t pretty or nice when they first got him, but Lilo loved him from the start and wanted to give him a chance to be part of their family.

They both deserve to be in the official lineup, sparkly dress or no sparkly dress.

Also, neither of these girls has the standard petite, “cinch-waisted” features that you hear so many complain about in other Disney movies.

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Moana herself is cool. I like how she isn’t resistant to the path set before her; it’s more that she wants to have her cake and eat it too. She wants to be responsible and live up to her people’s expectations, but she also longs to explore the ocean and see more of the world than just her small island. As is typical for Disney movies, the songs and visual symbolism set that up very clearly.

I’m reminded very much of Mulan’s dilemma, but Moana isn’t nearly as physically clumsy, and she actually embraces her role (though admittedly it’s a lot less sexist and uncomfortable than Mulan’s).

This image released by Disney shows Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson in a scene from the animated film, "Moana." (Disney via AP)

I like Maui, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s demigod character, although he can get just the slightest bit cringe-worthy at some points. Admittedly, I’m not fond of “too cool for school” characters, especially when it’s obviously a pose and they’re trying so hard that they take a sharp turn back into lame territory, but the eventual reveal of his backstory, as well as some genuinely charismatic moments before that, make it fairly easy to forgive that. I like when movies show that kind of behavior as a pose or the result of some insecurity, rather than playing into it and glorifying it. And I like how during Maui’s song, Moana kind of falls for it a bit because Maui is so likable, yet obviously selfish and egotistical.

I like how everything ties together in some way or another. Moana’s father’s portion of the “Where We Are” song hints at his own past mistakes as well as his current concerns and fears (or just how they’ve naturally developed overtime). Te Fiti, the creation goddess, because a monster born of rage and vengeance  but still very much tied to the earth (Te Ka is lava, and lava and water make new islands, similar to how Te Fiti would make them with her lush greens). There is a greater theme about identity, much like Frozen, where what the world calls you should not be what defines you. Your actions and choices are what define you, and in the end, Moana uses this new knowledge and the knowledge of who she is to save Te Fiti from what she has been doing since the loss of her heart.

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There is very little to dislike about this movie, and most of it is just a matter of preference; nothing reprehensible or ill-intentioned. Maui’s origin story seems to have been where Disney took the most creative liberties culturally, but again, compared to past mistakes, that’s pretty commendable. That’s just kind of what Disney does with fairytales and legends (although we tend to look the other way with those based in European folklore), and if it inspires audiences to look into the culture and history out of curiosity, I can’t really call it that bad. It’s just the evolution of story-telling as it changes hands.

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Moana looks and sounds amazing, and it brings us what feels like a coming-of-age Odyssey, with monsters and other strange encounters along the way. It’s a great  mix of the familiar and the new, and, most importantly, it’s engaging all the way through. I like that Moana’s loving parents don’t die (which is one of my bigger personal Disney gripes), and her village-crazy-lady Grandmother Tala is adorable and utterly delightful.

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The film is just so sweet and touching and heart-felt, and it doesn’t feel forced at all. Some of the humor borders on millennial-isms, but it’s still such that it can seem mostly  situational, and thereby “timeless”.

The weakest song in the whole thing is probably “Shiny,” but it’s still pretty catch and fun to watch…Oh, and the fact that Moana puts her hair in a bun when bad stuff is about to go down makes me so happy. People in movies don’t seem to have their hair get in the way of things, but it really does. Mine is curly, frizzy, and on the long side, so you bet I put it up when I’m working.

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I also love that her hair actually does slap her in the face a few times. For once, I will say, “Take that, Disney Princess of the Past! This is what we plebeian, real-worlders have to deal with!”

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I can’t think of anything else to say. Just go see it. It’s great. Your kids will love it, if for no other reason than Moana’s adorably stupid rooster sidekick Heihei.

 

8.5/10

*None of the pictures or clips in this blog belong to me. Most belong to Disney. 

Can Frozen Be Stopped?

Whelp, it’s practically the merry, merry month of May 2014, and Frozen is still going strong. t_FrozenStill

People are still seeing the movie in theaters, going to sing-alongs (for maybe one song in the whole movie) in said theaters, downloading and purchasing the soundtrack, and, most egregious of all, clogging up the Internet with cover after cover after cover of “Let It Go.”

While I personally am sick of the last item above, I am not yet sick of “Let It Go” itself. Probably because I haven’t been hyper focusing on it or playing it into the ground. I do listen from time to time; it is a catchy, upbeat song (this is my current favorite version, if you’re curious) In my defense, it’s well put together by the Disney folks themselves, and it’s not a cover. Not technically 🙂

But I feel for the haters, dislikers, and even the (once) indifferent civilians who have had enough.

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How can you tell them to shut up and move on? When you hate something, it tends to follow you everywhere. It doesn’t seem possible, but the monstrosity finds a way. That’s how I felt about Katy Perry’s “Roar,” which is a very mediocre piece of dreck in my opinion. Initially I was just underwhelmed and bored with the song, but then I couldn’t stop my over-exposure rage towards it because it. Wouldn’t. Leave. Me. Alone. Not in workout classes or morning talk shows; not with friends and coworkers blasting it, and the local radio stations playing it about twice every hour.

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I can say all day that the song is bad, lame, cliché, and not inspirational to anyone with a working brainstem (yes, people, these songs mesh so well for a reason because it’s the same damn song), music is very subjective. It comes down to taste and experiences, and despite my whining, it’s not bad that people find positive value in “Roar.” Inversely, it’s not bad that people think “Let It Go” is an overrated, overplayed, YOLO-glorifying p.o.s. So I get why people are sick of “Let It Go,” even if I’m not. And I get why people rage against the over-exposure of it, despite the fact that I don’t.

The movie and song are still riding high after a triumphant sweep of the animated Oscars arena, and of course Disney marketing agents intend to milk this surprisingly successful little cash cow until it’s as a dry as Arendelle is cold.  Err…was cold. Add in the extra ingredients: an especially cold, meme-worthy winter BdKVyOYCcAAV9R5

a controversy that, quite frankly, makes both sides of the argument look like idiots who don’t know what research is; Disney running out of merch for Christmas and Easter sales; etc. It didn’t hurt that one of Broadway’s most beloved stars, the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem, was a prominent character with a catchy song.

It all makes sense now...
It all makes sense now…

Frozen is not just a movie. It’s a phenomenon.

Even the haters can’t deny it. What they can deny is that the movie is good, worthy of praise, or does anything different. How much of the movie itself, or even the big hit musical number, is good on its own merits, and how much of it comes from outside factors like timing, marketing, etc? CAN ITS EVIL POWERS BE STOPPED?

Did you get the reference in the last sentence?!!!!!!!!!

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As long as people can defend what they’re arguing, I don’t have a beef with their opinion (unless they suck at arguing or, again, can’t do research). As long as you can give some weight to your words besides just “I liked it” or “I hated it,” that’s cool with me. And while some people call bs, I don’t take issue with over-exposure backlash as much. Sometimes it’s blind hate from inarticulate people, and other times, as I said, it’s from a trend stalking you.

And as we’ve seen from sites like Facebook and Twitter, absolutely no one likes stalking.

People have very good reasons to dislike the whole Frozen thing, but I would argue that both the movie and the entire soundtrack, not just “Let It Go,” are good. More than good, really; they’re great. And I say this as someone who saw Frozen 7 times in theaters (in my defense, each time I was with new people who hadn’t seen it), and 3 times outside of theaters (still showing it to new people, but I was really tired of watching it by now). The last movies I saw at least 5 times in theaters were the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

I saw An Unexpected Journey twice and The Desolation of Smaug only once in theaters, for the record.

But yeah. Embarrassing as it is to say, I’ve seen this movie enough to break it down  different ways. There are a lot of ways to view this film, and most are valid or at least harmless. It has two likable, fairly strong female leads that actually do things for themselves, an adorkable male lead and his dog-reindeer hybrid, and a snowman that, honestly, just going from the trailers alone, I went into the movie ready to hate. And Olaf wasn’t just not bad; he was hilarious.

Seriously! Watch this and honestly tell me you never once cracked a smile:

Unlike some other movies I could mention, the sidekicks (Sven the Reindeer & Olaf) were funny but not distracting or hijacking the movie. Olaf only hijacked one song, and it was funny enough to get a pass from me.

This movie showed a different kind of love than just romantic, and told kids it was just as powerful.  It playfully mocked its heritage, but didn’t go overboard like I felt Enchanted sometimes did. Yeah, some moments were over-the-top or not as well explained, like Han’s seemingly Face-Heel Turn from nice guy to complete sociopath (though the hints are totally there if you can catch them. By the second viewing, I caught them). But nothing is perfect.

There have been people overpraising the film too, and while I think some traditional elements have been mixed up a bit, the movie isn’t terribly original.

My point is that, whether you like it or you hate it, Frozen was clearly trying. It hid its story well, through some clever and risky marketing, and genuinely pleasantly surprised a lot of people. I mean, Tangled was pretty decent, but was anyone really expecting this?

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This wowed people.

Watching this movie for the first time in theaters, especially the “Let It Go” sequence, genuinely felt like seeing a Renaissance Disney movie in theaters again. I wouldn’t say it’s totally on the level of Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Lion King, or Aladdin, but it was the closest I’d felt in years. Even closer than for Tangled or Princess and the Frog (I really don’t get why the latter did so poorly).

Even seeing this movie so much didn’t make me hate it. It did make me well-content not to watch it til next Christmas though. XD

The ride was really fun and, what I think was most important, the music was really good (more broadway than pop at times, but meshing with a few other styles), and the characters were relatable. They spoke to a lot of people, particularly Elsa. Then a bunch of pop culture factors blew it up to even bigger proportions.

And maybe some people, like me, were worried that Disney was on the decline, especially after pretty much closing up their 2D animation studio.

For what it is, I think it’s good. Great even. For what people want to make of it, or what they wanted it to be? I can’t say.

But yeah, Frozen can be stopped. The folks who made it worked hard and are coasting now, so if you hate it, you’ll probably have to wait a little while. It’s okay though; I know you guys can do it. 🙂

Oh, and one more meme, because this one had me dying:

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None of the pictures are owned or made by me. As usual. Check out more images, songs, and the actual film from Disney.