Because fans should be critical, too

Archive for September, 2014

Last Season of “Korra” Starting October 3rd?

I can’t stop staring at Bryan Konietzko’s Gymkata T-shirt. Is he a fan of the movie? Or is he a fan of RedLetterMedia’s Best of the Worst series (they reviewed Gymkata among other movies)? Is it both? More importantly, why is the final season of The Legend of Korra going to start airing (on the Internet) in less than a month?

I suppose being banished to the Internet is better than being cancelled, but in many ways it may be just as bad. All that hard work that Konietzko liked to prattle on about will still be available for all who are interested to see. It just won’t be on television, which is probably Nickelodeon’s way of saying they have no idea how to market this show on their channel. Why waste precious time slots for a show they don’t even understand? Besides, the ratings for Korra had been declining since Book Two, and the people most likely to watch new episodes of Korra on television were probably already watching it online in the first time. Why not redirect those people to the Nickelodeon website and make some money from it?

I don’t know why it’s come to this. Perhaps this will be the fate of all “niche” shows on a major cable network if they prove unable to gain a profitable audience. That or they’ll be cancelled. DiMartino and Konietzko got lucky: Books Two, Three and Four were practically produced at the same time, so it makes sense that Book Four is ready enough to start airing so soon. Maybe they didn’t want they didn’t feel comfortable with Book Three’s downer ending, so they want to start airing Book Four as soon as possible.

I don’t know. But I kind of feel bad for DiMartino and Konietzko. All those years of working for Nickelodeon and trying to make the best show they could (erroneously or not), and now their series is coming to an end rather quietly on the Internet. At least they seem enthusiastic about it in the announcement video. Or maybe they’re both just giddy that Konietzko’s cool Gymkata T-shirt arrived in the mail that day. It’s hard to tell.


Announcement: Last Update for a While Regarding “Frozen” Review

I’ve seen Frozen again (4th time around), done more extensive research, re-evaluated my own feelings on the matter, and refined my game plan in approaching this entire project. Now all that’s left to do is write a third and finalized draft of the entire review before recording, editing, and animating the whole damn thing.

I know this seems a bit excessive (or perhaps it seemed a bit excessive two months ago), but I just want to assure that this thing is the best it can be with the time and resources I have available. And now I have an unofficial deadline, for the Disney folks are making a Frozen short film to be released in “spring 2015.” What better time to release an extensive analysis of the movie than at the same time as a nice, fun follow-up to the movie itself?

So there you have it. Until “spring 2015,” don’t expect me to have the Frozen-alysis to be completed (and unless I think of something better, definitely don’t expect that title).

In the meantime, I’ll still be writing on the blog (I’m currently working on my review of “Long Live the Queen”), and I’m still figuring out how to transition to writing about animation in general, particularly works I love. I may even work a bit more on the Korranalysis or other videos to get back into the video-making groove before editing the Frozen review. (To top it all off, school started a few weeks ago, so I’ll be balancing school, work, and all these projects.)

All-in-all, this is going to be a strange, laborious next few months. I’m a little scared, but also very excited. Thanks always for your support and discussions, dear readers!

P.S. I only recently found that poster for Frozen (it’s the DVD cover in Korea), and I absolutely love it! It’s so beautiful and so frightening! It actually makes me want to watch the movie (again, but still)! Why wasn’t that sense of majesty and terror in the actual movie?! (This poster alone presents a strong argument for why Elsa should have remained a villainous character.)

And to think some people were lamenting the lost of the art of the movie poster!


Announcement: Thoughts on the “Frozen” ABC Special, Update on Video Review

A few nights ago, ABC broadcast this special on Frozen entitled “The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic” (though, frankly, I think they missed a great opportunity to use the more accurate title “The Story of Frozen: This Movie Had a Story?!”). Cast and crew member interviews abound, detailing their process and inspirations. I truly enjoyed the descriptions of the more technical challenges, especially regarding the character animation. Unfortunately, that occupied maybe fifteen percent of the special’s focus. More time is devoted to everyone’s tear-jerking testimonies of how personal the process was and the product are to their lives. Not that their feelings aren’t genuine, and least of all unearned: they made a movie that has touched many, many, many people like so few have (even the more deserving ones, tragically). Besides, their sincerity was probably exaggerated by the inanely sentimental soundtrack of the special (I don’t know about you, but I am really sick of hearing a finger-picked guitar everything someone says something remotely emotional).

So how exactly am I supposed to even suggest that Frozen is less than perfect? That the story doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, that the flimsy nature of the tone muffles our experience and our expectations, that “Let It Go” is probably one of the most boring songs ever written? Even if I did tell them, would they listen or simply dismiss me as a “hater?” Would they take it personally? On top of that, why should I even explain why the story stinks if Frozen proves that a good story is no longer (and probably never has been) necessarily to make a hit film?

There were some of the thoughts I had while watching this special. I don’t remember the last time I felt so old and so alienated in my current existence. I just don’t understand the power that this movie has on people. Am I missing something? Is there a whole train of life experience that I somehow missed for over twenty years? What am I missing? Why is this movie so popular? And what does that mean for the future of American animation? Will every studio be trying to make their own Frozen for the next five years? (I’d blow my brains out if that were the case.)

I just do not understand, and it makes me feel alone. So very, very alone.

As for the review, let’s just say that I’m looking forward to a lot more thinking, more writing, and more thinking. So much more thinking…

 


The Hypnotized Never Lie: A Passionate “Frozen” Fan Speaks Up

A few days ago, I received two comments from someone named Kelsey, and she had some very interesting things to say regarding my harshness towards Frozen and The Legend of Korra. I’ll post both comments here, along with my general response:

You want to write a Frozen review, but you don’t even know the name of the keynote song? (It’s “Let It Go,” not “Let It Be.”) That throws all your credibility out the window right there.

Frankly, between your thumbing your nose at Frozen (a film written by a woman, directed by a woman, and focused on female characters and relationships), and your insistence that Korra isn’t worthy of being seen as a “real person” because she’s a brash “honorary boy”** instead of more traditionally feminine, I suspect you have some deep-seated internalized misogyny issues you should think long and hard about.

**I know you stole the “honorary boy” quote from Ebert, but seriously, just stop for a second and think about how offensive and insulting that is. It implies that a woman who doesn’t fit into society’s narrow definition of femininity isn’t even a woman at all, and that the best she can hope for is to be sneeringly labeled as an honorary man. That’s just…more gross than I can even say.

I clearly didn’t edit that post well, otherwise I would have corrected that error immediately. I suppose I’m more used to typing “Let It Be” instead of “Let It Go” because I have much stronger and more positive memories of that Beatles tune than I do with the entire soundtrack of Frozen. Regardless, it was a silly mistake that I shouldn’t have let slide. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

The use of the “honorary boy” phrase is something I’ve long since regretted using. I haven’t altered the post to address this regret, but I probably should have. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so precious about the integrity of the original piece (if one could it that).

Now, regarding these accusations of deep-seated internalized misogyny…

All of those facts you pointed out about Frozen (the female director and co-writer, Jennifer Lee, and the focus of the film on female characters and relationships) were all things that made me excited to see Frozen. I liked the sisterly angle they were going with, and seeing it was coming from a female director (and, apparently, the first female to direct any major Disney animated film) gave me more than enough high hopes.

Unfortunately, these major victories cannot rectify the underlying failure of the storytelling. That’s where my problems with Frozen and Korra lie, not with the things that make them progressive and interesting in their own little ways. (I noted in my most recent post about The Legend of Korra that my qualms with both Aang and Korra are essentially the same: a lack of focus and challenge to their personal integrity.) The story world of Frozen lacks a truly coherent inner logic, possibly because it would interfere with the emotional manipulation of the sisters’ story. Either you go with the blatant sentimentality on display, or you don’t. Many, many people went along with the manipulation. A wise choice, in retrospect, because going along with the “feel good” nature of the plot is much less taxing than giving the story a moment’s thought and realizing it makes very little sense.

These are all things to be discussed in the review, so I’ll end this train of thought now. So fear not: my deep-seated issues are with the story, not the women.

(The next post, I will respond to in pieces, due to length and to points of interests. This post was technically in response to frequent commenter rosemon, but I believe it holds worthy virtues.)

“Still, give it another ten years or so, and I wonder if anyone will actually remember Frozen.”

I think you’re woefully (and from the tone of your post, likely willfully) underestimating/downplaying the impact Frozen has had on people’s lives. It didn’t reach its vast popularity or make the insane amount of money it did (top-grossing animated film ever, and number five highest grossing film of any genre, just in case you didn’t know) simply because it’s a cute family-friendly movie with a feel-good message and catchy songs. Sure, that’s part of the reason it did so well, but not the only factor. Plenty of other films meet that description, but don’t come close to the critical, cultural, or financial success that Frozen has enjoyed. So what makes Frozen so different?

Ask ten different people that question and you’ll likely get ten different answers, but in my opinion, in a word, it’s relatability. In a nutshell, here’s what I took from Frozen: I relate more to Elsa than to literally any other person, living or dead, real or fictional. She could be me, and I could be her. No, I don’t have hidden magical ice powers, but the powers are just a symbol. I know exactly what it’s like to live a life of emotional isolation, constantly eaten up by anxiety but unable to share that burden with anyone. I know what it’s like to be unable to be who I really am because I know from experience that people will judge me for it. I know what it’s like to struggle with depression and feel that the world would be better off without me. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood, to be considered weird, rude, monstrous because I’m not just like everyone else. I know what it’s like to be reserved and introverted and to be sneered at by extroverts who don’t get that my brain is wired differently from theirs. If I had a dollar for every “but why can’t you just be more outgoing/extroverted/talkative?” I’ve received, I’d be rich. (Coincidentally, I also have a younger red-headed sister with questionable taste in men, but that’s neither here nor there.)

One thing Frozen has that other “cute family-friendly movie[s] with a feel-good message and catchy songs” do not is thepower of the Disney brand, which has had a strangle-hold on popular culture for decades, especially in relation to animated feature-length films. Any Disney animated release is bound to draw attention in some form or another due to Disney’s legacy as the forerunner of animation. Frozen was essentially marketed as the self-proclaimed start of a new Disney renaissance. With nostalgia and brand recognition to bank on, how could they fail to turn in such a huge audience?

In terms of relatability, I’ve actually experienced many of the things you listed, but I saw none of it portrayed effectively in the film itself. I appreciate their attempt to bring those qualities into the story, but it could have been done much better while keeping it kid friendly, and without sentimentalizing it so much. The vast, obvious, blatantly manipulative lengths that the film goes to make us “feel” the sisters’ drama only serve to mask the story’s weak foundation and structure. All the more power to you if you were able to find something genuinely effecting amidst this endless spectacle.

When I saw Frozen, and watched and listened to Elsa sing “Let It Go,” I burst into tears right there in the theater. I first heard the song almost nine months ago, and I still listen to it nearly every day, and it still often makes me tear up. Why? Why does that song, that character, have such a profound emotional impact on me? Because Frozen sends the message that it’s okay to be like Elsa. The film portrays her as a sympathetic character who is WORTHY of life, of love, of being who she is, no matter what. And for someone who identifies with her as closely as I do, you have no idea what an incredibly powerful cathartic experience that was. All my life, I’ve been told–whether implicitly or to my face–that I’m not okay. I’m abnormal. I should change who I am to better fit the mold society has laid out for me. In one fell swoop, Frozen demolished that. (And for the record, I’m 29 years old; I’m no impressionable teenager.)

Because of Elsa, because of Frozen, I’ve started re-examining things about myself that I always thought–had always been told–were flaws. I’ve started learning to accept myself instead of hate myself. I’ve even renewed my previously-sidelined dream of becoming a writer, because someday I want to create a character who can be for someone else what Elsa is for me.

Are you sure you’re just a very passionate fan and not a marketing agent? In any case, if Elsa has inspired this much positive change in your life, then by all means, glorify the woman and the film. No argument can sway the life-changing psychedelia effects this feature has had on you. I certainly wish I could share in your catharsis as so many others have.

Also, if you are truly serious about becoming a writer, may I recommend a wonderful book I’m reading right now called How Fiction Works by James Wood. It’s a fantastic read that’ll set your mind in motion as a writer and a critic.

To be honest, I’m envious of you and others like you, who don’t understand Frozen’s popularity and think the film is forgettable and overrated, because it implies that you *didn’t* find the characters and themes relatable. You *don’t* know what it’s like to be judged by society and found wanting. Enjoy that privilege, please. I mean that sincerely. (Oh, and before anyone sneers at me for being too emotionally invested in an animated kids’ film, I’ll just remind everyone that the owner of this blog recently said [he] want[ed] to die” after watching the Korra season finale.)

Kelsey, you were doing just fine until this passage. You are correct that I didn’t find the characters and themes as presented in this film relatable. You are incorrect to believe that means I do not know what it’s like to be judged by society and found wanting. I’m still being judged. And I’m still found wanting. And as an animator, a storyteller, and a human being, Frozen has left me found wanting more. (Not to mention judged by society because I don’t get it like they do.)

All that to say: if you don’t like Frozen, you’re entitled to your opinion. If you want to criticize the film, go ahead. (Much as I love the film, I agree there are things worthy of criticism–the rushed ending springs to mind.) But to ignore and to downplay the very real, very lasting positive impact the film has had on other people’s lives, just because it didn’t have that impact on yours, is sadly ignorant and shortsighted.

This is the key point that I’m glad you brought up. I’m definitely aware of the impact Frozen has had on so, so, so many peoples’ lives. In fact, it’s become very easy to bond with strangers on their relationship with the film. Because just about everyone’s at least heard of Frozen, and to not have any opinion on the film is to risk the kind of shaming from both sides that traumatized Candide. So it’s influence on people on a broad scale is not beyond me.

That said, my main purpose is not to tell people not to enjoy the movie. Beyond it’s storytelling woes, it’s not an offensive film in the slightest. However, people should not hold Frozen up to be the standard for great storytelling. There is a wide gap between what people got out of Frozen and what it actually provided, and I want to illuminate how wide that gap is. And yet, Frozen does have wonderful qualities amidst it’s horrid circumstances, which also makes doing a review worthwhile.