Friday, September 30, 2011

Realms of Fantasy: Fairytale Cinema and Spectatorship by Alison Tedman

Today's the last day of the month and thus the last day of Fairy Tale Film Month here on SurLaLune. As one of the final posts in the theme for this month, I wanted to share an upcoming book of which I know very little. That is Realms of Fantasy: Fairytale Cinema and Spectatorship by Alison Tedman. Now I haven't been able to find very reliable information on this title. The cover image comes from Columbia University Press's website with a 2009 publication date listed for a cloth edition, but I can't find any record of this book actually having been in print yet. (I can, of course, always be wrong, but it's not in WorldCat which is rather telling.) Now it is listed on Amazon with a January 2012 release date.

Here's the description from the publisher:

This volume brings together critical approaches from fairytale studies, film studies, and feminist studies, including philosophical and psychoanalytic methodologies. It analyzes fairytale strategies and enunciation, explores the role of fantasy in the spectatorship of fairytale cinema, and considers the potential for the feminine voice.
I can't wait to see the table of contents.

And since this is one of my pet topics, I am intrigued. I find myself overall bored with most of Hollywood's offerings these days. I find the portrayal of women to be way behind what exists in the real world, in books and even on television where women are given a wider range of roles and characters. Thus the reason I rarely go to the movies anymore but spend the time and money on TV series for my entertainment with my husband who is an avid tv and film watcher. So I am curious to see what this book offers when it is released.
I'll post more about this in the future when I learn more...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Michaelmas!

If you have spent any part of your life reading the classics, you have read about Michaelmas. Or perhaps you celebrate it now in your own observances. I myself was introduced to it through multiple readings of Jane Austen and others, but it appears often in Austen's works and I remember when I was younger and sans internet wondering what it was.

Well, today is Michaelmas. If you celebrate, enjoy! If you don't and want to know more, there's a helpful entry on Wikipedia. Yes, it has been primarily a religious holiday, but it is also strongly associated with the autumnal equinox--which I neglected to post about last week--and is often observed along with that, too.

I also found this website helpful about Michaelmas where you can read about customs, history, etc. And yes, I count this as pertinent to SurLaLune as part of customs and traditions with associated folklore, albeit they are primarily religious traditions which have a heavy influence on folklore.

Cinderella (1899): A Film by George Méliès

It just wouldn't be fairy tale film month if we didn't salute Georges Méliès, one of the fathers of fairy tale film. You can find many of his films on YouTube as well as several DVDs, of which the highest recommended is Georges Melies: First Wizard of Cinema 1896-1913.

Here is a video of his 1899 Cinderella film. Be warned that you need the neweset version of the Adobe Flash Player to view it. (Or at least I did. Annoying thing, software upgrades.)

Yes, I know fairy tale film month has been Cinderella heavy, but then so is the fairy tale world. I can't help that Méliès was inspired by Cinderella instead of say, Little Red Riding Hood, a perfectly popular French fairy tale, too. He was acactually so fascinated with the story that he made another film of it in 1912 although I didn't find that one online in my quick searches. He also explored the Arabian Nights which I will also embed in two parts below.

Shrinky Dinks!

Shrinky Dinks! I reveal my age when I say I adored Shrinky Dinks when I would color and bake them with my best friend Keri in fourth grade during our Friday night sleepovers. I stumbled across these when looking for something else a while back and have been flirting with them in my cart ever since. With a nephew and niece coming to visit in the coming months, I am tempted to get some and try them out again. No, there are no fairy tale ones, but there are mermaids and fairies which we discuss enough around here to merit their appearance. There are also aliens and pirates and monsters, oh my!  I really wish there were dragons since that is what my niece is most fascinated with these days. Oh well. There's always the make your own kits and we do have a resident artist on hand with John. (He drew Leighton as an elfin archer last time she was here which totally made her night.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Now in eBook Format: Bluebeard Tales From Around the World

Bluebeard Tales From Around the World is now available as an ebook. It is priced $9.99 compared to $39.99 for the paper version (although Amazon has the paper discounted to $31.57 for now).

I'll be reading from the book at the Southern Festival of Books, too. If you happen to be in the Nashville area that weekend. I'll be appearing Sunday, October 16, 12:00pm - 1:00pm on the Chapter 16 Stage.

Jim Henson's The Frog Prince and Hey Cinderella and Bremen and Others

And, yes, while we have Jim Henson on the brain, I might as well post about his Frog Prince film, too. This is another fan/cult favorite. This time I will link to one of the videos on YouTube since this one has never been released to DVD to my knowledge. There are VHS tapes around, but how many people even have a VHS player anymore? I do, but I am a rarity. And I don't own this.

And while we're here, I'll add Henson's Hey Cinderella and Muppet Musicians of Bremen. All of these were made for tv, but that's film and they are charming. I didn't go hunting for the shorts available in Muppet Classic Theater, but I am sure you can find those, too, if you look. They include "The Three Little Pigs", "King Midas", "Rumplestiltskin", "The Boy Who Cried Wolf", "The Elves & The Shoemaker", and "The Emperor's New Clothes".

The Frog Prince:

Hey Cinderella:

Muppet Musicians of Bremen:

Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collection

Last month when my niece was visiting, I pulled out Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collectionwhen we had exhausted our supply of Merlin. (Leighton adores Merlin!) Alas, I started with one that disturbed her a little due to the thought of babies in jeopardy--The Three Ravens--and after that she was done. So, no, this is most likely not for most kids under age 10. Leighton is 8.5 and has read Harry Potter, Rick Riordan and the Eragon series multiple times so she is not a shrinking violet. And, of course, I was inspired by John Hurt's voice over as the dragon in Merlin to pull out Storyteller and show him in action to Leighton. He does have a wonderful voice for both roles.

But I hadn't watched an episode in years and wow, John and I were charmed all over again and wished I'd picked another to initiate Leighton. Jim Henson's 75th birthday just passed last week and I was reminded how he is one of the few celebrities whose death made me cry. I still wish we had been able to keep him longer, but I'm grateful for his body of work and legacy. Storyteller is one of the pinnacles of his career, cut too short. And now we're also missing the Storyteller writer Anthony Minghella who died a few years ago, too.

With the Muppets getting a big publicity push again with the upcoming movie this holiday season, don't forget Henson's other work with fairy tales. Unfortunately, the DVDs are out of print again, but there are videos on YouTube. I won't link them since they are copyrighted--I know other things I sometimes link probably are, too, but these are available in other ways, so I won't this time. For one thing, I imagine they will eventually be taken down, so I hate to link and the video quality isn't as wonderful as a DVD. Hopefully these will be released again soon.

Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity

Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity

This is a slightly edited repost of another fairy tale film book. The readership has almost doubled since this was posted, so I wanted to make it sure it was highlighted again for fairy tale film month.
Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix with an introduction by Jack Zipes was released in August 2010. This is another great resource for the theme, especially if any of the films discussed are of interest to the reader.

Description from the publisher:

In this, the first collection of essays to address the development of fairy tale film as a genre, Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix stress, "the mirror of fairy-tale film reflects not so much what its audience members actually are but how they see themselves and their potential to develop (or, likewise, to regress)." As Jack Zipes says further in the foreword, “Folk and fairy tales pervade our lives constantly through television soap operas and commercials, in comic books and cartoons, in school plays and storytelling performances, in our superstitions and prayers for miracles, and in our dreams and daydreams. The artistic re-creations of fairy-tale plots and characters in film—the parodies, the aesthetic experimentation, and the mixing of genres to engender new insights into art and life— mirror possibilities of estranging ourselves from designated roles, along with the conventional patterns of the classical tales.”

Here, scholars from film, folklore, and cultural studies move discussion beyond the well-known Disney movies to the many other filmic adaptations of fairy tales and to the widespread use of fairy tale tropes, themes, and motifs in cinema.

And from Zipes' introduction:

The essays in Fairy Tale Film seek to keep our eyes open and sharpen our perspective. Folk and fairy tales pervade our lives constantly through television soap operas and commercials, in comic books and cartoons, in school plays and storytelling performances, in our superstitions and prayers for miracles, and in our dreams and daydreams. The artistic re-creations of fairy-tale plots and characters in filmýthe parodies, the aesthetic experimentation, and the mixing of genres to engender new insights into art and lifeýare significant because they mirror possibilities of estranging ourselves from designated roles and the conventional patterns of the classical tales. As Greenhill and Matrix stress in their introduction, "the mirror of fairy-tale film reflects not so much what its audience members actually are but how they see themselves and their potential to develop (or, likewise, to regress)."

You can also see the table of contents with a strange bookviewer on the press page for the book.  (It was too long to try to reformat for this post.) Overall, it appears to be discussing the usual suspects--Company of Wolves, Pan's Labyrinth, the Harry Potter movies with Ever After and Enchanted thrown in this time. And Eyes Wide Shut?  Okay then.  :)

What will be interesting is the literature that will arrive in a few years after the new slew of fairy tale movies we are being promised by the media, most of them not from Disney.  I'm so glad that SurLaLune is a perennial project...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Free Story: Straw by Daniel Nayeri

Remember six weeks ago when I posted about Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas by Daniel Nayeri? Well, one of the stories from the book, Straw, is now available free to Kindle readers.

Here's the story's description:

In this profoundly allegorical cutting-edge novella, a sizzling Western set on a farm filled with living toys, readers meet a young straw man who must lay his life on the line to defend his master's home, who loves a basil-eyed girl, and who searches for manhood through the fiery confusion of adolescence. If you enjoy reading "Straw House," check out Daniel Nayeri's three other whimsical riffs on classic genres, all available in the collection Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow.
Here's my original post, too:

Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas by Daniel Nayeri

Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas by Daniel Nayeri. Okay, no, this book isn't released until October, so I am jumping the gun. But from what I can tell it really doesn't have anything to do with fairy tales other than its borrowing the concept of straw, wood, brick and blow from The Three Little Pigs. That was enough to intrigue me.

Here's the publisher's description:

Written entirely on an iPhone, this quartet of YA novellas by Another Pan and Another Faust author Daniel Nayeri showcases four different genres.

This bold collection of novellas by Another series author Daniel Nayeri features four riveting tales. These modern riffs on classic genres will introduce young adult readers to a broad range of writing styles that explore universally compelling themes such as identity and belonging, betrayal and friendship, love and mortality.

Straw House: A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.

Wood House: This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls "ReCreation Day."

Brick House: This detective story set in modern NYC features a squad of "wish police" and a team of unlikely detectives.

Blow: A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one. With humor, suspense, and relatable prose, this hip and cutting-edge collection dazzles.

About the Author

Daniel Nayeri is a writer and editor in New York City. He loves pastry chefing and was once an award-winning stuntman.

And, no, I don't find it impressive this was written entirely on an iPhone. Toilet paper, paper, computer, iPhone, I don't care how or where it was composed, only if it is good. I hope it is because I am in love with the concept and the story descriptions are interesting, too. The kitschy stuff I can leave behind.

New Book: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is released today, in ebook format, too. While one might assume it is a Hansel and Gretel retelling, it is actually a Snow Queen interpretation.

Book description from the publisher:

A stunning modern-day fairy tale from acclaimed author Anne Ursu.

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

About the Author

Anne Ursu is the author of the three middle-grade novels that comprise the
Cronus Chronicles trilogy: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She teaches at Hamline University's MFA program in Writing for Children and is a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and cats.


Like a fairy-tale heroine, Hazel traverses the woods without a breadcrumb trail to save a boy who may not want to be saved in this multi-layered, artfully crafted, transforming testament to the power of friendship. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) )

The evocative magical landscape, superbly developed characters (particularly dreamy, self-doubting, determined Hazel and lost Jack), and the piercing sadness of a faltering childhood friendship give this delicately written fantasy wide and lingering appeal. (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review) )

The creepy fantasyland that Hazel traverses uses bits from other Andersen tales to create a story beautifully written and wholly original. It’s certainly the only children’s fantasy around where Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer figures into the plot. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) )

“Devastatingly brilliant and beautiful...Ursu has sculpted a rich and poignant adventure that brings readers deep into the mysterious, magical, and sometimes frightening forests of childhood and change. Breadcrumbs is one of those rare novels that turned me on my head then sat on my heart and refused to budge.” (Ingrid Law, Newbery Honor-winning author of Savvy )

“This is a lyrical book, a lovely book, and a smart book; it dares us to see stories as spreading more widely, and running more deeply, than we had imagined.” (Gary Schmidt, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Wednesday Wars )

From the Brothers Grimm: Willa: An American Snow White

From the Brothers Grimm: Willa: An American Snow White from Davenport Films happens to be one of my favorite film versions of Snow White. It is not inexpensive on DVD, but thanks to modern technology it is available to rent for 72 hours for $1.99 on YouTube. You may not be familiar with the From the Brothers Grimm series, but it is a fun and educational one, offering fairy tales with a Southern U.S. flavor--which I adore since I am a Southern girl.  Willa is one of the best in the series although my husband and I have a fondness for From the Brothers Grimm: Soldier Jack: The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack, one of our personal favorites. We haven't watched it in several years--we only have it on VHS--but John still talks about it on occasion as if we watched it only a few weeks ago. It is one of his favorite fairy tales as a result of this film, although being John, he predictably loves trickster tales.

Really, these films should be watched, especially Willa and Soldier Jack. And where else can you see and share film versions of Mutzmag or Bearskin or Ashpet or The Goose Girl and others? It's too bad the series has essentially ended but I'm happy we have these.

Here's a preview:

And here's a review:

Once upon a time there was a filmmaker in Virginia named Tom Davenport who had the uncanny knack of being able to create winsome live-action American Versions of classic fairy tales in a multi-award winning series called From the Brothers Grimm... and, by golly, he's gone and done it again! In Willa: An American Snow White -- based on the timeless tale of monstrous vanity transforming into a murderous jealousy -- the young Becky Stark is radiant as the photogenic orphan Willa. Having lost her mother and later her (remarried) father, poor Willa now lives with her aging stepmother Regina (Caitlin O'Connell), a former queen of the stage who carries a certain mirror which reassures her regularly that she's the bee's knees. "Although Willa tries to court her stepmother's favor, she makes the nearly fatal error of attending a house party looking better than her stepmother; an offense which is, of course, punishable by death. Taking mercy on the child, Regina's henpecked servant Otto (Mark Jaster) takes her into the woods, where she later hooks up with a traveling medicine fair (the story is set circa 1915) and -- sweet irony -- ends up playing Snow White on stage to rapt small-town audiences. "From a business standpoint, naturally, the play is not the thing; what's important are the commercials. Which is why the crowds are regularly regaled with eloquent sales pitches for Chief Tonka's Elixir of Life (the innocent Willa, when questioning the potion's actual efficacy in alleviating all and sundry woes is told succinctly: "It's not meant to cure, it's meant to sell.") "Needless to say, complications arise when Regina discovers that her stepdaughter is not only still sucking in oxygen, but playing to (relatively) packed village fields, a fact which really makes her come unglued in a kind of Gloria-Swanson-Sunset Boulevard-ish way. Clever scripting, wonderful comic timing, Davenport's trademark faithfulness to the darkness of the tales. --Randy Pitman, editor Video Librarian (September-October 1997)

Grimm Pictures: Fairy Tale Archetypes in Eight Horror and Suspense Films by Walter Rankin

Grimm Pictures: Fairy Tale Archetypes in Eight Horror and Suspense Films by Walter Rankin is another book I received for a review a while back. I thought I had already posted about it and planned to repost it for film month, but apparently I haven't since I couldn't find the post. But enough about my inadequacies!

Book description from the publisher:

Though Grimm's Fairy Tales was published about 200 years ago, the revered collection of folk stories remains one of the most iconic pieces of children's literature and has had significant influence in modern pop culture. This work examines the many ways that recent films have employed archetypal images, themes, symbols, and structural elements that originated in the most well-known Grimm fairy tales. The author draws similarities between the cannibalistic symbolism of the Grimm brothers' Little Red Cap and the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs and reveals Faustian parallels between Rumpelstiltskin and the 1968 film Rosemary's Baby. Each of eight chapters reveals a similar pairing, and film stills and illustrations are featured throughout the work.

About the Author

Walter Rankin is Deputy Associate Dean and an affiliate associate professor of English and German at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He lives in Broadlands, Virginia.

Table of Contents:

Table of Contents

Preface 7


Branding the Grimm Brothers
From the Black Forest to the Hollywood Hills 11

1. The Path of Beast Resistance
“Little Red Cap” and The Silence of the Lambs 17

2. A Rose by Any Other Name
“Brier Rose” and Scream 40

3. The Hand That Hawks the Cradle
“Rapunzel” and The Ring 60

4. The Object of My Reflection
“Little Snow White” and The Talented Mr. Ripley 81

5. Mother of the Pride
“Cinderella” and Aliens 100

6. The Devil in the Details
“Rumpelstiltskin” and Rosemary’s Baby 118

7. Off the Eaten Path
“Hansel and Gretel” and What Lies Beneath 142

The Writhing on the Wall
“Mother Holle” and Misery 168

Notes 193
Bibliography 203
Index 211

Now, isn't that fascinating? Those are some unexpected films. As we all know, I am a wimp when it comes to film horror, so I haven't seen many of the movies discussed which makes it hard for me to fully evaluate the arguments for the inclusion of fairy tale archetypes. I admit I thought Mother Holle and Misery would be a stretch, but I can see the basis for argument. And, really, Silence of the Lambs and Little Red Cap is quite understandable if one sets one's imagination to it. In the end, Rankin makes some interesting comparisons and this book would be EXCELLENT for students looking for ways to tie horror film to fairy tales. I can just imagine the papers...