- Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
- Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
- Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
- The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
- Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
- The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
- I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
- Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
- #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.
Back in 1976, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich made the following statement:
“Well-behaved women seldom make history”
Among the myths that exist in Chinese history, the story of Hua Mulan is one of the most well known. In 1998, Disney released an animated film based on her narrative. In September, the live action adaptation premiered on Disney Plus.
Mulan (Yifei Liu) is not your average young woman. Girls in her world are expected to be meek, mild, and subservient. The highlight of her life is her future as a wife and mother. But Mulan is the opposite. She is a tomboy who would prefer to be active rather than submit to the path that is prescribed for her.
When the kingdom is invaded, a decree is sent out. Every family must send one man to fight. But Mulan has no brothers and her father is partially crippled from the last invasion. Disguising herself as a boy, she joins the army, knowing full well that the revelation of her gender is a dangerous one.
Among the live-action updates of Disney’s animated films (Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast), this is the best of the three that have so far been seen by audiences. It is darker and grittier than its predecessor, enhancing what was already there. I also loved the addition of Xianniang (Li Gong). Though she is initially introduced as the typical Disney villain, there is more to her than meets the eye.
One of the updates that I think makes the movie is the question of how gender is perceived. Though the subject was threaded into the screenplay in the 1998 movie, it is much more prevalent in this version.
If there was one takeaway from this film, it is to thine own self be true, even if the revelation is a difficult one to process. Given the changes in our culture in regards to gender, sex, and sexuality, the message comes through loud and clear.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Mulan is available for streaming on Disney Plus.
Thoughts On the Mulan Teaser Trailer
In 1998, Disney broke ground with the release of Mulan. Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, the movie told the story of the eponymous character who dresses as a boy and takes her elderly father’s place during wartime.
The teaser trailer for the live action reboot was released today.
Back then, Mulan (Ming Na-Wen) was a revolutionary character, especially among the Disney Princesses. Unlike other Disney Princesses, her main goal was not men, marriage and eventual children, in spite of the message that was shoved at her in every form possible. Her journey was that of a warrior who was defending her country while trying to figure out who she was.
It is that message, that I think, then and now still resonates with audiences.
This new live adaptation is directed by Niki Caro, whose previous films have featured strong women making tough decisions. Three of the four screenwriters are female. The cast is made up of Asian actors, properly reflecting the world that the characters live in. And yes, there will be some musical elements, but those details are being kept under wrap for now.
As expected, Disney is keeping certain information under wraps until the film is released in March of next year. These live action adaptations straddle a fine line. They have to honor their animated predecessor (and the original fairy tale, if there is one), while reflecting the cultural changes that have occurred since the original film was released.
We can only wait and see when the film is released next year.
Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary of Mulan
Twenty years ago, Disney introduced audiences to the newest member of the Disney Princess line: Mulan.
Based on the myth of Hua Mulan, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) is a young woman growing up in ancient China. She is expected the follow the traditional path: marry, have children and live as women before her have lived.
Then the Huns attack and the men are called up to join the army. But Mulan is an only child and her father is not a young man anymore. She takes her father’s place and pretends to be a boy. The ancestors watching her are not pleased with Mulan’s decision and send Mushu (Eddie Murphy) to convince Mulan to stay home. But Mulan will not be convinced otherwise, so Mushu goes with her to battle.
Twenty years ago, Mulan was a revolutionary film for Disney. As a character, Mulan was the most progressive of the Disney Princesses up to that point. She was the second non-Caucasian heroine after Jasmine in Aladdin (1992). Marriage was not her first priority.She was also not a size 2.
In every Disney Princess film, the character’s emotional journey is kicked off by the “I Want” song. In a nutshell, the song describes what they want from life. Mulan’s “I Want” song is “Reflection”. 20 years ago, this song left its emotional mark on me and many others who saw this film. It’s about pretending to be someone else to please your loved ones and the emotional toll it takes on you.
While Disney has a long way to go in terms of how women are represented on film, Mulan was and still is a giant step forward for which I am grateful for.
Flashback Friday-Mulan (1998)
Disney is known for its Princess line. The problem with this is that up until recently, the heroines have followed the same trajectory in terms of plot line (i.e. princess looking for a prince, the standard happily ever after,etc).
In 1998’s Mulan, they tried a new plot that did not revolve around their heroine looking for a significant other. Based on the Chinese myth, Mulan (voiced by Ming Na-Wen) is an only child. Like all girls, she is expected to conform and eventually marry. Then the Huns invade and all men are expected to serve in the army. The problem is that Mulan’s father is getting up there in age and she worries that he will not survive. Pretending to be a boy, she takes his place.
Her ancestors, who try to discourage Mulan send Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), to stop Mulan. But Mulan is determined to take her father’s place and Mushu, seeing that she will not change her mind, stays with Mulan. Will she survive and will she be unmasked? What will be the consequences of her choice?
This is Disney dipping their toe in the sea of feminism. While it is not full feminism (that would come with Brave in 2012), it’s not a bad movie and the message to the young females in the audience is certainly more empowering than past films.
And with every Disney movie, comes the obligatory theme song.
Do I recommend it? Why not?