Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Movie Poster – copyright Walt Disney Pictures

The following are my thoughts on the film “Brave” which may contain spoilers.  Please skip to the very end if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want anything ruined!

I recently went to the movie theater to see the latest offering from Disney and Pixar Studios – “Brave.”  I’d heard of the movie for months and months and was excitedly anticipating it.  Every detail made me more and more excited.  A film set in Medieval Scotland?  Already got my attention.  A strong female lead?  Even better!  As concept art became available, and the Celtic motifs grew ever more apparent, I became even more enticed!

I did not go into the film expecting historical accuracy.  This is from Disney and Pixar, for goodness’ sake.  It is incredibly anachronistic in several ways.  Some men may feel it is a bit insulting to their sex.  It stereotypes the Scottish at times, but there are few films that don’t.  As a whole, it’s a bit of a love letter to what modern folks, particularly modern Americans, imagine the Celts to have been: quarrelsome, braggarts, proud, wild haired, perpetually tartan-clad, sensitive to nature, and in tune to the spirit world.  Those are/were only true some of the time, of course, but we have to remember that this is, at heart, a movie aimed at children.  The ridiculousness of the Scottish men is mostly to get the wee ones laughing.  It’s not meant to be a documentary – it’s an entertaining and often moving story.  It’s bardcraft for modern children and the young at heart!  While the story centers on the bond between a mother and daughter, its core is the essence of many familiar Celtic legends.

For me, that’s what really redeems Brave.  There’s been some discussion on film blogs about it being disappointing compared to other Pixar films.  I will say it does depart from the usual theme which seems to have been exploring unseen worlds just out of our sight or somehow parallel to our own.  “Brave” is about an actual group of people, but a people who, unlike most modern folk, already believe in a world parallel to their own.  Some argue “Brave” is more Disney than Pixar, lacking in the comedy and whimsy of previous films.  The magic, it’s been argued, is a crutch of sorts for the storytelling.  But…this is a Scottish-themed fairytale!  “Brave” takes several elements of Celtic storytelling and explores them.  The protagonist, Merida, has the heart and guts of figures such as Scáthach, and Cú Chulainn’s drive to overcome fate.  Her mother, while not portrayed as lusty, is a powerful queen in the tradition of Medb.  In a backstory, four brothers fight over and divide the land to rule.  There are families associated with specific animals and animal transformations.  There is a gathering of the tribes and great feasting!  The threat of war looms large.  Magical creatures inhabit the forests in the form of will-o-the-whisps.  And the witch!

Oh the witch is fun.  She only has a bit of screen time and she doesn’t even get a big song and dance number like other famous animated witches (Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” being a favorite of mine).  The witch of “Brave” is neither good (like Mama Odie, the Voodoo priestess of “The Princess and the Frog”) nor evil (like Maleficent of “Sleeping Beauty”).  Instead she is very much like a Cailleach figure (though smaller); the witch is willing to help but one must be careful what one wishes for.  She is the old, eccentric woman who lives away from society in the forest.  She vanishes (amusingly to attend a wicker man festival), leaving Merida to solve her own problems and learn some important lessons.  In my opinion, the movie doesn’t use magic asa crutch; it portrays its use in many Celtic legends relatively spot on. If the makers of “Brave” got something right, it’s the overall depiction of magic as a neutral force that can be manipulated for good or ill, as well as the overall ambivalence of the spirit world.  Some spirits want to help (in this case, funnily enough, it’s the whisps).  Some actually want help (the prince trapped in the bear).  Others, such as the witch/Cailleach figure…  She’s just having fun and is willing to lend a hand for something in return…but you better be careful how you ask!

If this were an actual Celtic legend, the king, whose leg was eaten by a demonic bear, would have killed the queen (who was turned into a bear thanks to the witch).  He would have then killed the triplets who also became bears.  Merida probably would have killed herself or been carried off by one of her suitors before she had the chance.  Or the queen, in connecting with her primitive, bear mind, would have killed Merida in the forest.  But this is a kids’ film so, despite the threat, it ends lighthearted.  Even though I knew the movie was heading in that direction, I was able to lose myself in the story and feel the emotion.

The mother-daughter theme was also quite engaging to me as I related to it.  I cried when Merida and the queen (as a bear) found themselves playing in the river.  As an adult, I totally got the flashbacks to mama always being there, the frustration related to growing up and still living under mother’s roof, and the realization that growing up shouldn’t mean growing apart.  Living away from my mother now, the film really touched me in that sense.  Part of the power of the film is in celebrating the sacred female – our growing up, our changing roles, our need to be free but also our need to be loved, and our need to pass down and learn wisdom from other women.  Most children won’t grasp that.  Men may even have a difficult time fully appreciating the film for that reason.  Most women, on the other hand, live and experience it.  The film was just as poignant for me as the love story early on in “Up” or the lessons of growing up in the “Toy Story” trilogy.

In conclusion…

I definitly recommend seeing “Brave.”  It’s a fun story that, while not historically accurate, contains several elements of Celtic legends that even novice Celtophiles and Druids will notice and appreciate.  If you can keep the fact that it is a Disney/Pixar film in mind, and let the anachronisms go in favor of a fun story that doesn’t mean any real harm, you should have an excellent time.  The music, while not particularly memorable as other Disney films, works and the scenery is just lovely.  If you have wee ones at home, I think it would be a great film to inspire their curiosity about Celtic cultures and mythology.  

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The Secret World of Arrietty « Chronic Awesome.

This pretty much says everything I think about this lovely movie.  If you’re looking for something whimsical and earthy, this is definitely for you!  It has some very deep themes that most children are likely to miss, but I still highly recommend it for the little ones too.

Now although the little people in this film aren’t magical in the way we think of the word, it did make me wonder whether the little people some speak of really would be magical.  What if they really are just little people without any spiritual agenda?  Hmmmm….

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Michael Fassbender Plots Movie About Celtic Warrior Cuchulain | /Film.

Wow, I’m pretty excited about this.  I just hope they don’t turn it into another “Beowulf.”

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Blessed Imbolc

Cros Bhríde from Paula Geraghty on Vimeo.

Here’s a video of Imbolc customs in modern Ireland (North Donegal).  You can see the threshold rite as well as a community weaving Brighid crosses.

Here are some more Imbolc customs, including weather predictions.  It says a rainy Imbolc means a good summer.  It rained here today so I guess we’ll see what it’s like in a few months!

Blessed Imbolc everyone!

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"A Dangerous Method" movie poster from buzz.blastmagazine.com

Ever since I heard there was going to be a film featuring Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, I have excitedly anticipated “A Dangerous Method.”   I first became aware of Jung’s work in psychology when I applied some of his ideas to a paper on Frankenstein in 12th grade. I was dabbling with Wicca at the time, and his ideas about archetypes, the universal unconscious, the dark self, anima, and animus were just too delicious.  Delving into academic papers about his beliefs and discoveries at such a tender age was probably my first look into a more “academic approach” to spirituality.  It relied on comparative mythology and his psychological understandings at the time.  Truly, it gave me a real boost in understanding what many of the “Wicca 101 books” glossed over, and really made me start to consider such concepts rather than accept them blindly.  To this day, I still wonder about the universal unconscious; various duotheistic approaches to Paganism rely on archetypes; Witchcraft delves into the concept of the shadow self; and most of us, regardless of path, seek a balance between our masculine and feminine energies.  Jung’s ideas, while seldom  utilized by most contemporary psychologists,  have remained very influential in literary circles as well as our own religious community.  With that interest, I waited for the film’s release!

A few weeks ago, I learned that a small group of individuals had petitions our local theater to show “A Dangerous Method.”   You see, Mortensen graduated from Watertown’s high school and attended St. Lawrence University in the Canton-Potsdam area.  Despite that, many of his films aren’t shown here!  I was delighted that “A Dangerous Method” made it to our theater, albeit on a very limited release.  I fear it was not advertised very well outside of the above article and one movie poster near the theater entrance.  Weretoad and I were the only people in the theater at the latest showing!  I do hope it attracts larger crowds.

Unfortunately, when competing with an action film like “The Grey,” “Method” will prove uneventful to the average audience.     Directed by  David Cronenberg and written by Christopher Hampton and John Kerr, this film depicts the tumultuous relationship between Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as well as Jung and his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).  It is very dialog-driven.  I found myself wondering if I would appreciate it as much if I hadn’t taken a couple psychology classes in college and read so much about Jung.  It almost feels like a niche movie – a story for true and wannabe intellectuals (I’m probably more of the latter). There are some interesting exchanges between the characters.  The tension between Freud and Jung, as the protege shows an interest in the mystical (telepathy for example), is rather intriguing.  Sabina occasionally discusses occult topics – the directions her “angel” has given her, for example.  There are regular exchanges of dreams and attempts to interpret them.  Jung comes to disagree with Freud’s insistence that everything is sexually-driven.  He seeks more spiritual explanations and believes religion cannot be fully divorced from science when healing patients.  To paraphrase, Freud says he doesn’t care if a patient worships one God, or others like Aphrodite – but he wants to leave that out of his clinical work.  An interesting thing to say when his office is littered with Pagan statues.  50 points if you spot the Venus of Willendorf!

Vincent Cassel, who plays Otto Gross, truly stole the show in my opinion.  His exchanges with Jung were the most fascinating, particularly because of his character’s quirks and how he interacted with objects on the set.  I’ve never seen Cassel do poorly in a film and I was delighted and surprised to see him in this story.

I can see “A Dangerous Method”  doing well in theaters that cater to such audiences – Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in my old hometown will likely show it to a large crowd in it’s usual two showings.  No doubt it will do well in denser, more urban cities.  All the same, I’m so glad it reached Northern NY and that I could see it.  It is a depressing but intellectually satisfying story.  It is worth seeing if you are interested in Jung, psychology, or just enjoy a good costume drama.

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If you’re looking for something to watch over the upcoming vacation, consider “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”  I recently finished this six-part documentary by Ken Burns and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ve considered myself an environmentalist since I was very young, but it recently occurred to me that I really didn’t know much about the history of the movement.  Of course I knew bits – the significance of Theodor Roosevelt, Ansel Adems, and Rachel Carlson, and also a little about its roots in the Romantic and Transcendentalist movement, but beyond that?  I’m ashamed to say that, before this documentary, I didn’t know who John Muir was.  The next time someone asks me which dead person I would most like to meet, I have a solid answer.

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is a must watch for those from and interested in the USA.  To understand the present you need to look into the past, and the history of our conservation movement could give you some insights into today’s arguments over the EPA, States’ Rights, and energy reform.  What is more American than our “purple mountains majesty” and “amber waves of grain?”   The national parks are supposed to belong to “the people” and are meant to be pristine escapes into the wild (more or less).  They’ve been described as “America’s playground.”  The National Parks are also supposed to help preserve our native wildlife.  Some contain the final remnants of beings who once roamed much of America. The parks exist because of government intervention.  Before this documentary, I didn’t know about places like Hetch Hetchy Valley – a pristine environment that was destroyed all so San Francisco could get a dam.   After the reality of what happened – of what had been lost – became known, there was so much outrage that National Parks are now supposed to be protected from operations like that.  The film also provides more insight into civil rights, immigration, and the advances of science. I was particularly interested in the treatment of large predators – once killed without a thought to save the wild herds, then later understood to be essential parts of the “circle of life.”

Anyone following an Earth-centered path will gain much through watching the documentary.  Ken Burns’ style is to provide historical facts and recount the tales of the influential, but also to weave in stories of the everyday men and women who were touched by the parks in some ways.  He balances the factual with the emotional, allowing quite a bit of spiritual exploration.  I’m sure many Pagans would be interested in John Muir – someone who I now include on my ancestral altar.  Although Christian, he believed that God could best be experienced in the wild rather than a church.  He seemed, at times, animistic as he wrote of listening to rocks and trees.  He was key to modern environmentalism.

This program truly touched me.  My heart welled with emotion several times either because I could so relate to the spiritual sensations others were describing to have felt in nature, or because I was so moved by the imagery.  At times, my heart ached for the atrocities we’ve committed against nature and our fellow human beings.  While the film rightfully instils national pride, Ken Burns is honest about our history.

I finished “The National Parks” wanting to visit every single one before I die.  Who knows if my idealistic dream will become reality, but I would like to try.  On the Druidic path, I’m naturally inspired by and drawn to European cultures, but we have some of the most varied and amazing natural features in the world right here!  Remembering that makes me feel better about my inability to afford a trip across the Atlantic each year. We have such beautiful, natural temples here – groves of giant redwoods, the Grand Canyon, Acadia, the Everglades, Yosemite, Denali…  My heart and soul yearn to see them with my own eyes.

Enjoy “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” on Netflix through Instant Queue.

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I couldn’t resist posting “This is Halloween” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”  It’s a great reminder of the fun (and even the necessity) to feel a little scared from time to time.  Samhain is a good holiday to reflect on our fears, especially those associated with death and the denizens of the Otherworlds.  While there are some who should be avoided and respectfully distanced, most are just part of life.  Spirits of death and decay are really just psychopomps to another state of being.  Samhain, while a somber occasion to remember our departed loved ones, is an excellent time to celebrate life and take solace in the humbling fact that we’re all going to die – we might as well have some fun while we can!

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