Once upon a time there was an awkward girl from Washington who didn’t get to play with vampires or werewolves, but instead traveled to the vivid land of New Zealand where she went on magical adventures and maybe befriended some hobbits. On sunny days, when she sat with her book by the riverbank, she was wooed – not by princely frogs, but by insistent seagulls. As she was minding her own business, they would prowl near and squawkingly perform their ridiculous mating calls. She did not find them attractive. She was not turned on. There was no way she was putting her lips near that pointy beak even if there was a princeling inside that loud and annoying seagull.
I love fairy tales and many of today’s fairy tales intrigue me – the ones that modify traditional stories with a modern, and often darker, twist and yet still maintain an element of otherworldliness, magic, childhood… They tug at my heartstrings and are so entrancing.
Anyway, I thought it fitting to write about fairy tales because my journey in New Zealand has often seemed like my own grand, unreal fairy tale…. Plus, I just saw Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Ohmygosh, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this movie ever since my friend and I saw the trailer whilst waiting for Pitch Perfect to start and thought, “Oh my. Looks so bad. But so good. Must see.” I sometimes feel like my intense desire to see H&G reflects badly upon me as a film student – like a nutritional expert who acts upon a sudden craving for McDonald’s, a zookeeper who gets the urge to put a donkey on display… I don’t even know what I’m talking about. As a film student, shouldn’t I be wanting to watch/analyze The Master 80+ times and pretentiously discuss theory with other students in a smoky cafe? But, no. I’m going to buy myself a chocolate caramel bar, walk to the theater alone, and pick up the ticket that I get for free because I joined the rewards club (I’m now a member of both theaters in town. I don’t know if this is a I’m-wearing-both-Nike-and-Adidas-situation, but whatever).
Hoyts Cinema is quite swanky. My ticket had an assigned seat number on it. I felt like I was getting on a plane, but the seats themselves were spacious and comfortable (think 1st class seating, not economy). The theater was quite empty and I was enjoying my dark, comfortable bubble. Until three kids showed up and sat right next to me. Right. Next. To. Me. Ok, fine. I can deal with that. I was going to put my feet all up the seats on either side of me, but I can cope without. Then they start talking loudly. Ok, fine. I’m sure they’ll quiet down once the film starts. Then I hear, “Haha, it’s kinda like we’re on a double date.” Hmm, that’s nice- wait a sec. One… two… three… What? Um, no. You have three people. And hell no no hell I’m not gonna be number four. Yeah, I saw you looking at me. At this point I would very much like to switch my seat, but I have a feeling that it would be awkward and/or socially unacceptable for me to get up and move over one seat. Oh well, the movie is about to start.
And let me tell you: Hansel and Gretel DELIVERED! It matched – nay, exceeded – my expectations and I preferred it to Gangster Squad. I knew what I was getting in to; I wanted bullets and candy, and the movie provided. The two attractive main characters were not played by the greatest actors in the world, but then again I think the roles called less for stellar emoting skills and more for people who look good in tight pleather. The action was quite epic. And gory. The plot hit its beats. And I liked Gretel- girl got shit done. On a modernized-medieval-tale scale, the film fell way ahead of Your Highness (which dangled beautiful carrots and promises before my eyes and then snatched them away), but still behind A Knight’s Tale. It’s definitely worth watching, even in 3D (normally bothers me, but didn’t this time), although it’s a fairy tale retold more for teenagers and adults. Don’t take your children.
In further honor of my love for the immortal fairy tale, I’ve compiled an assortment of fairy tale-esque miscellanea:
Fairy Tale Architecture:
a list of real-life fairy tale buildings, including
Retold and Inspired Fairy Tale Books, Movies, and Shows that everyone should read/watch:
- The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – I can’t even begin to describe it (my first few drafts didn’t do it justice, so I give up). Suffice to say it’s one of my favorite books.
- East by Edith Pattou – a lyrical and mythical story adapted from an old Norwegian folk tale (similar to Beauty and the Beast), set in an icy land, and told from multiple perspectives.
- Briar Rose by Jane Yolen – a haunting rendition of Sleeping Beauty that explores the horrors of the Holocaust.
- Grimm – a cop procedural / fantasy show about a descendant of the Grimm brothers and modern-day monsters (and it’s set in Portland, what what!). I just started watching this show and immensely enjoy it. You could also check out Once Upon A Time; I’ve only seen the pilot, but I’ve heard that it’s quite good. I’d originally avoided watching both shows because they came out around the same time and I thought, “They’re the same thing! Overload. Erp.” This is probably also why I never got around to seeing The Illusionist and The Prestige, or No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits.
- Merlin – British, hilarious, hunky shirtless knights. Need I say more?
- Hanna – an offbeat bildungsroman (coming of age) action drama about a young girl assassin who does assassin-y and not-so-assassin-y things. Great soundtrack. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey! This isn’t a fairy tale,” but think about the how Grimm tales influence the fairy tale dreamscape: growing up in a log cabin, the two books Hanna owns (one is Grimm’s fairytales), the wolf trope…
- Ever After – a sweet retelling of Cinderella.
- FairyTale: A True Story – my childhood. The Secret Garden with WWI setting, two friends, fairies, and early photography.
- The Beasts of the Southern Wild – “Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.” A heart-wrenching, post-Katrina epic.
- Pan’s Labyrinth – sad and creepy like a good old-fashioned fairy tale. I think I’m the only person I know who actually like the weird eyes-in-my-hands man.
- The Fall (dir. Tarsem Singh)- surreal, beautiful, poetic, visually stunning and vibrant, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. One of the first films to make me cry in a long time. Mmm, Lee Pace. Filming took place over 4 years and in 20 different countries… yeah, it’s a big deal
And now for a Fairy Tale Playlist:
- Once Upon a Time… Storybook Love (from The Princess Bride)
- The Call (by Regina Spektor)
- Winter Song (by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson)
- Skinny Love (by Birdy. A cover of Bon Iver’s song)
- Poison and Wine (by The Civil Wars)
- Far Away (by Ingrid Michaelson)
- Flowers in your Hair (by The Lumineers)
- Rocks (by Imagine Dragons – aka, one of my most favoritest bands ever)
- Dustland Fairytale (by The Killers)
- Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal) (from Brave)
- Blood (by The Middle East)
- Holocene (by Bon Iver) – be sure to watch the stunning music video
- A Narnia Lullaby (from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe)
- White Horse (by Taylor Swift)
- Fairytale (by Sara Bareilles)
- Where Do My Bluebirds Fly (by The Tallest Man on Earth)
- Wash Away (by Matt Costa)
- The Lighthouse’s Tale (by Nickel Creek)
- Fern Beard (by The Submarines)
- Dirty Paws (by Of Monsters and Men)
- Rivers and Roads (by The Head and the Heart)
- A Thousand Years (by Christina Perri)
- Perpetuum Mobile (by Penguin Cafe Orchestra)
- The Crane Wife 3 (by The Decemberists)
- Illgresi (by Sigur Ros)
- Your Song (by Ellie Goulding)
- The King and All Of His Men (by Wolf Gang)
- Fairytale (by Alexander Rybak)