The Great “ONCE UPON A TIME” Costume Gallery II

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Below is a gallery featuring the costumes designed by Eduardo Castro from the third and fourth seasons of the ABC series, “ONCE UPON A TIME” and the 2013-2014 series, “ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND”:

THE GREAT “ONCE UPON A TIME” COSTUME Gallery II
The Ladies

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“ONCE UPON A TIME”: Tolerating Ambiguity

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“ONCE UPON A TIME”: TOLERATING AMBIGUITY

A good number of the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom seemed to be divided over what was revealed in the series’ latest episode called (4.16) “Best Laid Plans”. This division seems to be especially apparent in the episode’s flashbacks and the moral implications hinted from those sequences.

Since the second half of the series’ Season Four began, there have been rumors and hints on the Internet that two of the series’ leads – Snow White aka Mary-Margaret Blanchard and Prince Charming aka David Nolan – may have done something questionable or even terrible in their past in the Enchanted Forest. The first hint appeared in the episode,(4.12) “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, when the couple had protested against allowing villainesses Ursula the Sea Witch and Cruella DeVille to enter their Maine community, Storyrbooke. Later in the episode, both Snow and Charming warned the villainous pair not to say a word about their past to anyone, especially their daughter Emma Swan.

The episode, (4.13) “Unforgiven” gave further hints of the royal pair’s ominous deed. The Storybrooke sequences featured Snow and Charming’s failed efforts to prevent Ursula and Cruella (with Rumpelstiltskin’s help) from resurrecting their former comrade, Maleficent. The latter had been trapped in dragon form by Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen in a cavern underneath Storybrooke during those 28 years of the first curse, until Emma killed her in the Season One episode, (1.22) “A Land Without Magic”. But the flashbacks for “Unforgiven” revealed that the Charmings had briefly formed an alliance with Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella to find a way to prevent Regina from casting the first curse. The alliance fell apart after Maleficent killed a pair of guards who blocked their way to a magical tree that could give them advice. Snow and Charming eventually learned – ironically from Maleficent – that the former was pregnant with Emma. They also learned that their unborn child would not only have the potential for good, but also for great evil. To anyone with common sense, this would be an apt description of any sentient being. Yet, the idea of their future child – who became dubbed as “the Savior” – possessing a potential for evil frightened the Charmings . . . especially Snow White.

So, what actually happened between the Charmings and the “Queens of Darkness” in the Enchanted Forest? “Best Laid Plans” provided the answer. The episode revealed that the royal couple had stopped to help a roadside peddler, who warned them that Maleficent had torched a village after becoming a dragon and laying an egg. He also advised them to seek advice from a “man in a cottage”. The latter turned out to be the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the same elderly man who had directed Queen Ingrid aka the Snow Queen to our world and whom Rumpelstiltskin (with Hook’s reluctant help) had entrapped inside the Sorcerer’s Hat. It was the Apprentice who told the Charmings that their child would grow up with the potential for both good and evil . . . like everyone else. He also added that if they wanted to ensure Emma would remain good, they would have to find another sentient being to serve as a vessel to absorb their unborn child’s potential for evil. In the end, the Charmings kidnapped Maleficent’s egg, which carried an unborn child to use as a vessel for Emma’s inner evil. And the Apprentice, who cast a spell that sent Emma’s inner evil into Maleficent’s unborn child, took the royal pair by surprise by declaring that such evil should not reside in the Enchanted Forest. He sent Maleficent’s child to “the Land Without Magic”, sucking Ursula and Cruella into the portal, as well.

The reaction to the Charmings’ actions in the Enchanted Forest and their subsequent lies in present-day Storybrooke proved to be very emotional and mixed within the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom. Many fans accepted what the Charmings did and recognized what they had done was wrong. However, other fan reactions to the Charmings’ actions and “Best Laid Plans” has been . . . well, interesting. Some fans have accused show runners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis of retconning Snow White and Charming’s characterizations . . . and bad writing altogether. Others have made excuses for the Charmings, claiming they could understand the couple’s need to save Emma from a life of evil. Others have used the peddler, who turned out to be the Author that many have been seeking, as an excuse for the Charmings’ terrible act. The episode revealed that instead of recording the going-ons in the Enchanted Forest, the peddler had been occasionally manipulating the actions of the inhabitants to “make a better story”. And since the episode revealed that the peddler/Author had manipulated the Apprentice into sending Maleficent’s unborn child to “the Land Without Magic”, he must have manipulated the Charmings into kidnapping the child in the first place. Ironically, the charges of bad writing and excuses reminded me of the reactions to Snow’s murder of Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts in Season Two’s (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter”. For some reason, a certain portion of the series’ fandom find it difficult to accept any signs of moral ambiguity from either Snow White, Prince Charming or their daughter, Emma Swan. And there are those fans who have raked the Charmings over hot coals for their deed. I get the feeling these particular fans are angry at the couple (or at Horowitz and Kitsis) for shattering their ideal image of innate goodness.

Personally, I had sighed with relief over the revelation of the Charmings’ past misdeed. No one was more happier than me when Snow and David proved how low they could sink. Some might view my comment as crowing over the couple’s downfall. Trust me, I am not. I am happy that Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis has finally resumed portraying the couple’s moral ambiguity after . . . how many seasons? I believe the last time audiences really saw any signs of questionable morality from either Snow or David was in Season Two’s (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter”, when Snow murdered Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts by cursing the latter’s heart and emotionally manipulating Regina into placing that heart back into Cora’s body. Many fans – to this day – have used Cora’s own moral compass and goal to become the new “Dark One” as an excuse for her murder. These same fans continue to claim that Snow’s intent was to save Storybrooke from Cora’s machinations. But Snow White’s declared intent to murder Cora in revenge for her mother’s death in (2.15) “The Queen Is Dead” makes it clear that Snow White’s only intent was to exact revenge.

There have been other signs throughout the series of Snow’s moral ambiguity. Flashbacks revealed in episodes that she was a kind, yet spoiled and slightly bratty child. I have always wondered about her attempts to redeemed Regina on her own terms, instead of allowing the latter to make the choice to seek redemption, herself. Was this some effort on Snow White’s part to regain the affection of the young woman who first saved her when they met? Or to be the “loving” stepmother and mother substitute she had assumed Regina was before King Leopold’s death? Who knows. I also recalled Snow White’s attempt to murder Regina in the flashbacks featured in Season One’s (1.16) “Heart of Darkness”. Many fans had attributed Snow’s murderous intent to the potion given to her by Rumpelstiltskin, which stripped away her memories of Charming. Those fans seemed to forget that the potion merely erased her memories of Charming. It did not make her murderous. I suspect that the stress of being a fugitive, along with anger and resentment over Regina’s part in Leopold’s death had finally got the best of Snow and she decided to resolve her situation with an act of murder. Thankfully, Charming managed to stop her.

And for quite some time, I have brought up Snow’s action against Mulan in Season Two’s (2.08) “Into the Darkness”, in which she and Emma were trying to leave the Enchanted Forest and return home to Storybrooke. As many know, Mulan had snatched a magical compass that mother and daughter were planning to use to return home. But Mulan wanted to exchange the compass for Princess Aurora, who had been kidnapped by Cora. Snow and Emma managed to catch up in time, before the former engaged in a tussle with Mulan that led to an implausible victory for her. Angry over Mulan’s theft, Snow demanded to know the reason behind it. Even though Mulan admitted that she stole the compass to save Aurora’s life, Snow gave into her anger and tried to kill the former. Fortunately for Mulan, Aurora (who had been freed by Killian Jones aka Captain Hook) stopped Snow from committing murder. Emma, on the other hand, had done nothing to stop her mother. Wow. Snow managed to commit two murder attempts before finally achieving one, when she arranged Cora’s death. Now, her body count is a far, far cry from the likes of Rumpelstiltskin, Regina, Cora, Zelena and other villains. But for someone with a reputation for innate goodness, her penchant for murder (whether successful or not) is at least worth contemplating.

As for David, one of his major character flaws has always been his penchant for judging others with extreme prejudice. Not only has this trait been apparent in his attitude toward Regina – even when she finally managed to achieve some form of full redemption – but also toward others whom he would view as different. This is a trait that Snow White also shares. How else could someone explain the couple’s willingness to use Maleficent’s child as a vessel for Emma’s inner evil? As far as they were concerned, the baby was nothing more than a replica of her mother – a personification of evil. Transferring Emma’s inner evil to her would cause no harm . . . or so they would believe. David was also willing to destroy the book’s page that contained the entrapped Author – an act that could have killed the latter and robbed anyone else of a future “happy ending”. He wanted to destroy that page to hide his and Snow’s theft of Maleficent’s child from everyone . . . especially Emma. His willingness to destroy the page struck me as a stark example of his own personal cowardice that has manifested itself, time and again.

In the Season Two episode, (2.02) “We Are Both”, he told the citizens of Storybrooke that the cursed David Nolan who was too cowardly to be truthful about his adulterous affair with the cursed Mary Margaret Blanchard; and the heroic Prince Charming were one and the same. In Season Three’s (3.14) “The Tower”, he resorted to hiding from others for a few nips of booze in order to hide from his guilt over Emma’s upbringing away from the family and a fear that he might prove to be an ineffective father to his son, Neal, with whom Snow was pregnant at the time. In “Unforgiven”, Snow woke up in the middle of the night following a nightmare about Maleficent, and found David drinking on the staircase to hide his worries over Ursula and Cruella’s arrival in Storybrooke. I am beginning to suspect that he might be a secret lush. Oh dear. And most addicts, if not all, tend to resort to this behavior because they are afraid to face the complete truth about themselves – especially their less than admirable traits. Charming has always struck me as the type willing to face external dangers like evil magic practitioners, dragons, a dangerous water temptress and his malevolent adopted father. Facing his flaws, personal mistakes and demons has always been a problem for him.

Why is it so difficult for some fans to view the Charming family – Snow White, David, Emma and Henry – as morally ambiguous? I never understood this attitude. “ONCE UPON A TIME” is not a television series solely for children. If it was, ABC/Disney would have aired the show on Saturday mornings, instead of during the usual prime time hours. This is the same series in which other heroes and villains have been portrayed in an ambiguous light. Why should the Charmings be exempt from such ambiguity? Because they are among the show’s main protagonists? Some would point out that Emma is a morally ambiguous character, due to her past as a thief and ex-convict. But Emma has committed some questionable acts since the series began – destruction of property, breaking and entering, accessory to her mother’s attempt to kill Mulan in “Into the Deep”, changing the timeline and lying to Henry. In fact, she is still driving the same yellow Volkswagen that she and Neal Cassidy (Baefire) had stolen when they first met. However, many fans tend to brush aside these acts – including the stolen Volkswagen. With the exception of her lies to Henry, which they saw as a threat to the Charming family’s reunion, many fans were willing to brush aside Emma’s questionable acts as long as she was not guilty of murder. Personally, I find this viewpoint rather hypocritical and an example of certain fans’ insistence upon viewing protagonists like the Charmings as morally ideal.

I personally do not care for morally ideal characters. I find them rather boring and unrealistic. I remember reading in a few Agatha Christie novels in which the main character – usually Miss Jane Marple – tend to express the view that just about anyone is capable of murder, given a specific situation. I agree with this assessment. I sometimes feel that human beings like to regard themselves as better than we really are. Perhaps this is why they love the idea of fictional characters – especially those dubbed “the protagonist” or “hero/heroine” – as being morally ideal. Mind you, this is merely an opinion of mine. I tend to find morally ambiguous characters more interesting. Such characters are very entertaining and really do make a story bridle with energy. Characters of one-dimensional morality do not. Even one-dimensional villains. Both Regina and Rumpelstiltskin had struck me as a pair of uninteresting villains in Season One, until episodes like (1.08) “Desperate Souls” and (1.18) “The Stable Boy” revealed just how ambiguous and interesting they truly were.

After Season Two, both Snow White and Charming seemed in danger of becoming a pair of rather dull characters. Between (2.17) “Welcome to Storybrooke” (in which Snow tried to me avert the emotional impact of Cora’s death) and“Darkness on the Edge of Town”, they were not that interesting to me. Well . . . there was the (4.11) “Shattered Sight”episode, in which Queen Ingrid of Arendelle aka the Snow Queen’s spell in which the couple exposed their . . . um, inner resentments and anger toward each other. But for me, that was not the same as deliberately indulging in or utilizing one’s unpleasant traits. After all, they and other Storybrooke’s citizens were under a spell. However, this story arc featuring Maleficent’s stolen child is an entirely different matter. Yes, Snow and Charming’s crime happened in the past. But they were not under a spell.

But there is one potential problem. Earlier, I had revealed that in “Best Laid Plans”, audiences learned the true identity of “the Author” – a peddler who had been commissioned by the Sorcerer and his apprentice to record the happenings in the Enchanted Forest and other “fictional” realms. After the Apprentice had sent Maleficent’s child to “the Land Without Magic”, he confronted the Author and accused the latter of manipulating him into banishing the unborn (or unhatched) child to our world. He also accused the Author of manipulating past events in the “fictional” realms. Certain fans jumped on this narrative turn-of-events and claimed that the Author had manipulated Snow and Charming into stealing Maleficent’s child. Yes, it is possible that the royal pair had been manipulated by the Author. Then again, the Apprentice never accused the Author of that particular act. So, the audience will never learn the truth, until Horowitz and Kitsis decide to reveal it. If they reveal that the Charmings’ act of kidnapping had been manipulated by the Author, then I will be sadly disappointed.

But you know what? Even if the show runners decide to include that Snow and Charming had been manipulated into kidnapping Maleficent’s child, the royal pair still managed to commit some morally questionable acts since the Apprentice had entrapped the Author in that book. And because both of them, along with other characters in “ONCE UPON A TIME”, have shown they are capable of both decent and very questionable acts, I can never regard them as innately good. Frankly, I see that as a good thing. Because in my eyes, there is nothing more boring or damaging to a good story than a morally one-dimensional character.

“No Criticism of Emma Swan Allowed”

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“NO CRITICISM OF EMMA SWAN ALLOWED”

What is it about the Emma Swan character that raises the ire of so many fans whenever any of her actions are criticized? Is she some kind of sacred cow of the “ONCE UPON A TIME” fandom?

I do not regard Emma as some kind of monster. I never have. But I do get tired of fandom stomping down on anyone who dares to criticize her character or any of her actions. Some have claimed that my criticisms are a result of my dislike of Emma. Well, I am going to protest against that accusation. When the series first began in the fall of 2011, Emma was one of my favorite characters on the show. I spent most of that season cheering for her victory against Big Bad Regina Mills aka the Evil Queen. I felt especially thrilled when she finally restored everyone’s memories of their Enchanted Forest personas when she broke the curse cast by Regina. So . . . what happened? How did I come to this point where I find myself criticizing Emma so much? More importantly, why are so many fans intolerant of the idea of her being criticized in the first place?

I feel it began in Season Two, when Emma and her mother, Snow White, found themselves conveyed to a post-curse Enchanted Forest. They spent most of that season’s early episodes trying to find a way to return to Storybrooke, Maine with the help of two new acquaintances – Mulan and Princess Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty. When they finally stumbled across a means – namely a magical compass that could guide them to a portal, it just went sour. There was an incident between Snow White and Mulan in the episode, (2.08) “Into the Deep” in which the latter had stolen the compass in order to exchange it with Regina’s mother, the more evil Cora Mills aka the Queen of Hearts, for the kidnapped Aurora’s life. However, Snow and Emma managed to catch up with Mulan. And Snow started to murder Mulan. I had posted a complaint about what happened. How did many fans respond? They claimed that Snow was about to kill Mulan, while in the midst of a fight. In reality, the fight had ended with Snow the victor. After Mulan confessed that she wanted the compass to save Aurora, Snow started to kill her anyway by shoving an arrow toward her face. Emma . . . did nothing to stop her mother. Instead, she stood there and watched. It was Aurora (freed by Killian Jones aka Captain Hook) who actually saved Mulan. Every time . . . every time I bring this up, people sweep Emma and Snow’s actions under the rug by insulting Mulan or pretending that no such thing happened.

On several occasions since Season Two, I have brought up the subject of Emma’s possession of a stolen car . . . namely the yellow Volkswagen that she drives. The Season Two episode, (2.06) “Tallahassee” revealed that her former lover, Neal Cassidy aka Baefire, had originally stolen the yellow Volkswagen. Then Emma, who was in her late teens at the time, tried to steal the car from him, before he stopped her. Following her arrest for the theft of watches that he had stolen, Neal had changed the car’s registration in order to reflect Emma as the vehicle’s legal owner. And instead of doing the right thing and turning it in to the police, Emma took possession of a vehicle that she knows was stolen and kept it for over a decade. Even after she managed to become a successful bails bondsman. Whenever I brought up this matter, other fans would sweep Emma’s misdeed under the rug and use her sentimentality over her past relationship with Neal as an excuse for her maintaining possession of a stolen vehicle.

From the moment she had decided to remain in Storybrooke in the series’ premiere, Emma has been breaking the law regarding the close adoption she had agreed to when she gave up her birth son, Henry Mills. When Emma learned that Regina, who was Henry’s adopted mother, had used a file about her criminal background to divide her and Henry, she used a chainsaw to destroy one of Regina’s apple trees … on her personal property. When I first saw the Season One episode, (1.02) “The Thing You Love Most”, I cheered. What can I say? I was pretty stupid back then. After some thought, my feelings over the incident has changed. For reasons that now baffles me, the series’ creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had allowed Emma to get away with this criminal act by having Sheriff Graham Humbert convince Regina not to press charges. I could not fucking believe it when I last saw this episode. Why was it so important that Emma avoid paying the price for trespassing and damage to private property? Come to think of it . . . why was just as it was important that she did not pay the price for possession of stolen property? Why was Snow White allowed to avoid any consequences for the attempt on Mulan’s life? Why was Emma allowed to avoid any consequences for being an accessory to her mother’s attempted murder? Why are the crimes of Regina, Rumpelstiltskin aka Mr. Gold and Killian constantly discussed and criticized by fans . . . and not those crimes and mistakes committed by Emma and/or her parents?

Speaking of Emma Swan and the law … why on earth is this woman the Sheriff of Storybrooke? Since when is experience as a bail bondsman qualifies someone for law enforcement? Mind you, none of the other characters – Graham or Sidney Glass – were not qualified. But neither was Emma. To make matters worse, she has developed a bad habit of abusing her position. At the end of the Season Two episode, (2.11) “The Outsider”, Killian shot Belle in an attempt to move her across the town’s limit and have her lose her memories. Why? He wanted revenge against Belle’s future husband, Rumpelstiltskin, for the loss of his hand and the murder of his former lover, Rumpelstiltskin’s wife Milah. For his actions, Killian got hit by a car. I had no problems with that. He deserved to pay the consequences of his act. In the following episode, (2.12) “In the Name of the Brother”, Emma questioned Killian for the whereabouts of his companion at the time, Cora Mills. When Killian responded with a snarky and flirtatious remark, Emma applied pressure to his wound, causing him pain. This little act was supposed to be a joke. All I can say is . . . what the fuck? Were Kitsis and Horowitz advocating police brutality? Apparently so, for in the Season Four episode, (4.04) “The Apprentice”, Emma had interrupted her date with Killian, to arrest Will Scarlet, after she spotted inside the restaurant where they were dining. She and her father, David aka Prince Charming had been looking for Will since they spotted him going through Robin Hood’s belongings and breaking into the town’s ice cream shop in the previous episode. And how did Emma treat him? She fed him a half-eaten Pop Tart and kept him jailed longer than necessary, because he had interrupted her date. This was the show runners’ idea of law enforcement? The audience was supposed to view such abuse of position as a joke? In the wake of national scandals regarding the abuse of law enforcers, I found it difficult to be amused.

The incident that “broke the camel’s back occurred in the Season Three finale, (3.22) “There’s No Place Like Home”. In this episode, Emma and Killian accidentally got caught into a vortex that sent them back into time. During their little time traveling sojourn, Emma accidentally prevented Snow and David’s first meeting. So, she and Killian set out to clean up the mess created by her. In doing so, Emma ended up captured by Regina and tossed into a dungeon that included an imprisoned Maid Marian, wife to Robin Hood, whom Regina was dating in the present time Storybrooke. As everyone knows, when Killian sprung Emma from the dungeon, the latter decided to rescue Marian as well . . . despite the fact that the latter was killed years before Robin Hood ever met Regina. In other words, Emma changed the past. To make matters worse, she revealed Neal’s fate to his father, Rumpelstiltskin. In order to prevent the latter from being tempted to change the time and save Neal, Emma convinced him to drink a memory wiping potion.

Just think about that . . . shall we? Are we to assume that it was okay for Emma to play “savior” by saving a woman who had died in the past and changing the timeline in the process? Yet, it was not okay for Rumpelstiltskin to be tempted to change the time in order to save Neal? The hypocrisy of Emma’s actions still astounds me to this day. When I had posted an earlier article about this, I predicted that Regina would eventually forgive Emma within a few episodes of Season Four. And I was right. Emma felt remorse for ruining Regina’s romance with Robin. But she remained convinced that she had the right to change the timeline in order to save Marian. And within five episodes, Regina forgave Emma for her “mistake” in (4.05) “Breaking Glass”.

I felt disgusted beyond belief. More importantly, I felt angry. And when I posted my feelings about Emma’s actions, I ended up banned from a “ONCE UPON A TIME” Live Journal blog. I posted this article on Tumblr and received a good deal of personal insults for my troubles. When I complained about Emma’s actions and expressed hope that she would see the errors of her actions on the show’s Fanforum thread, I received a warning from the moderator that I was guilty of baiting. I am curious. If I continue to complain about Emma’s inability to see the wrong of her actions … especially her time changing stunt in ““There’s No Place Like Home”, will I ended up being banned from more message boards and sites?

When the idea of SwanQueen first appeared in late Season One/early Season Two of the series, I saw some merit in the idea, even if I could not care less whether Emma and Regina ended up with each other or other partners. Now . . . I would rather blind myself than watch the two of them become a couple. I have a problem with them being friendly, due to the show’s current inability to allow Emma to see the errors of her ways. Such a relationship now strikes me as uneven. As long as Regina continues to be judged for her past actions, while Emma gets a free ride or excuses for hers, I could never support such a relationship. Hell, I could barely give a rat’s ass about Emma’s relationship with Killian. I am not one of those who believe that their relationship supports“rape culture”, due to Killian’s past sexual innuendos to Emma. But I cannot support a relationship when the abusive actions of one them – namely Emma’s physical abuse of Killian in mid-Season Two and her treatment of the imprisoned Will Scarlet – are treated like jokes.

This is my plea to Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. Do something about Emma Swan. Please. I am sick and tired of you giving Emma an excuse for many of her questionable actions. If you are capable of allowing characters like Regina Mills, Rumpelstiltskin, Killian Jones and even Snow White (for the murder of Cora) facing their mistakes and crimes, why can you not do the same for Emma? Why allow her to break the law regarding her son’s adoption terms, destroy private property, possess a stolen vehicle, be an accessory to attempted murder, engage in police brutality and do something incredibly stupid like change the timeline . . . and NOT have her face the consequences of her actions? Because I am fast losing all respect for Emma. And I am getting sick and tired of being punished for criticizing her behavior.

“MALEFICENT” (2014) Review

 

“MALEFICENT” (2014) Review

I am probably the last person on this earth who would associate Angelina Jolie with a Disney film, let alone one made for children. Then again, I have never seen Jolie in another movie like her recent film, “MALEFICENT”.

Despite some adult themes found in this new film, I honestly believe that “MALEFICENT” is basically a movie for children. It is not just based upon Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale, “La Belle au Bois Dormant”, but also the Disney Studios’ 1959 animated adaptation, “SLEEPING BEAUTY”. Only this film is told with a twist. Some would say with a feminist twist. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay features the story’s main villainess, the evil and vindictive fairy, Maleficent, as the movie’s main protagonist. The film begins with Maleficent as a young and powerful fairy who serves as the main protector of a fairy realm called Moors that borders a human kingdom ruled by ruthless monarch named King Henry, who covets it. Maleficent befriends a young boy named Stefan, who works as a kitchen servant for the king.

The years pass as Maleficent and Stefan’s friendship grows to something close to a romance. But King Henry’s latest attempt to invade Moors leads him to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage and his kingdom to the man able to kill Maleficent. Ambitious and longing to rise above his station, Stefan sets out to collect the bounty on his old friend. Unable to kill her because of their friendship, Stefan drugs Maleficent and burns her wings off with iron (a substance lethal to fairies) and presents the latter to King Henry as proof of her death. Stefan eventually marries King Henry’s daughter, Princess Leila, and eventually assumes the throne following his father-in-law’s death. When Maleficent learns about the birth of Stefan and Leila’s infant daughter, Aurora, she appears uninvited at the christening and places a curse on the infant princess. On her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a death-like sleep. After Stefan is forced by Maleficent to beg for his daughter, she alters the curse with the addition that it can be broken by true love’s kiss. Stefan arranges for Aurora to be raised by three pixie fairies – Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit. And despite her initial dislike of Aurora, Maleficent begins to secretly care about the girl, when the neglectful pixie fairies fail to take properly care of her.

There is a good number of elements for “MALEFICENT” that I found very admirable. I believe it is one of the more visually stunning films I have seen in recent years. A great deal of credit has to go to Dylan Cole and Gary Freeman’s production designs. The pair did an excellent job in recapturing medieval life . . . at least in a fantasy world. Dean Semler’s photography of parts of rural England, which served as King Stefan’s realm, added to the movie’s visual style. But the work from the special effects team, especially for creation of the fairy realm and other sequences that featured magic, truly enhanced the movie’s visual style. I also have to add a word about Anna B. Sheppard’s costume designs for the film. I could wax lyrical on how beautiful they looked. But there are times when I believe that images can speak louder than words:

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I will not claim that Sheppard’s costumes are an accurate reflection of medieval fashion. But . . . hey! I cannot deny that I found them beautiful.

As for the plot for “MALEFICENT”, I cannot deny that it proved to be something of a conundrum for me. Woolverton’s screenplay and Robert Stromberg’s direction clearly seemed to hint that it is basically a movie for children. The dialogue, the movie’s style of humor and especially its use of the three fairy sisters as the movie’s comic relief practically screams “Kiddie Film” to me. And yet . . . Woolverton’s screenplay also featured elements that seemed to indicate a movie with strong adult themes. The most obvious element proved to be the theft of Maleficent’s wings. Unless I am mistaken, the entire scene struck me as a metaphor for rape. Think about it. Stefan drugs Maleficent (a stand-in for any rape drug) to knock her unconscious. Using iron – an indication of violence – he physically violates her by burning off her wings. The relationship that develops between Maleficent and Aurora not only proved to be unexpected, but is given a feminist twist. Aside from Maleficent’s relationship with her aide Diaval, a raven whom she had saved by transforming him into a human; the male-female relationships in this movie proved to be either ineffective or disastrous. Even the use of “True Love’s Kiss” had a twist I had failed to foresee . . . until several minutes before it actually occurred.

There have been other productions – both television and film – that mixed elements of children’s stories and adult themes. ABC Television’s “ONCE UPON A TIME” seemed to use a great deal of adult themes in its twist on fairy tales. Yet, the series continues to maintain some semblance of childlike morality in its portrayal of magic. J.K. Rowling’s “HARRY POTTER” literary (and film adaptations) series becomes increasingly ambiguous as the saga progresses. And aside from the first film, George Lucas’ “STAR WARS” film saga strikes me as a case study of moral ambiguity with touches of humor and characterizations for children. But these science-fiction/fantasy sagas seem capable of balancing humor and storytelling for children with adult themes.

I cannot say the same about “MALEFICENT”. The movie’s childish humor – courtesy of the three fairy sisters – struck me as heavy-handed and not at all funny. I also believe the movie’s 97-minute running time made it difficult for Woolverton’s script to maintain that balance between children and adult themes. More importantly, the movie’s running time forced Stromberg and Woolverton to rush the story forward at a unnecessarily fast pace, especially during the movie’s last half hour. Other aspects of the plot – Maleficent’s background, her relationships with both Stefan and Diaval, and especially her developing relationship with Aurora. But there are two aspects that struck me as rushed – namely Aurora’s relationship with the fairy sisters (which barely seemed to exist) and the last half hour in which the sleeping curse is played out. I cannot help but wonder if Disney’s penchant for cinematic penny-pinching forced Stromberg and Woolverton to rush the movie’s climatic act.

I certainly had no problems with the movie’s performances. Angelina Jolie was outstanding as the movie’s protagonist, the fairy Maleficent. Being the top-notch actress that she is, Jolie effortlessly captured every nuance of Maleficent’s character – both the good and the bad. I have been a great admirer of Sharlto Copley in the past – with the exception of his villainous turn in the 2013 sci-fi movie, “ELYSIUM”. Thankfully, his complex portrayal of this movie’s villain, King Stefan, reminded me of his skill at portraying complex roles. At first, Elle Fanning seemed to be stuck with a role that struck me very sweet, kind . . . and boring. Fortunately for her, the Princess Aurora character became more interesting in the movie’s second half and Fanning got the chance to show off her acting chops – especially in the scene in which Aurora confronts Maleficent about the curse.

The movie also featured solid performances from Sam Riley as Maleficent’s confidant Diaval, Kenneth Cranham as King Henry and Hannah New as Queen Leila. I have been longtime fans of Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple. But I have to be honest – I was not that impressed by their portrayals of the three fairy sisters. It was quite obvious to me that Staunton, Manville and Temple did their best to make the three sisters – Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit – interesting. Nor can I accuse them of bad acting. They were obviously giving it their all. There are times when external forces have a way of affecting an actor or actress’ performance, whether due to bad direction or bad writing. In the case of the three actresses who portrayed Aurora’s fairy guardians, I suspect their performances were sabotaged by Linda Woolverton’s writing. The screenwriter’s sense of humor struck me as subtle as a stampeding buffalo. I also believe that her screenplay may have hampered Brenton Thwaites’ performance as Prince Philip. How can I put it? Thwaites gave a bland and boring performance, because he was forced to portrayed a bland and boring character. The 1959 animated version of the prince had more zing than this latest version. And I blame Woolverton’s screenplay, not the actor.

Do not get me wrong. I rather liked “MALEFICENT”. I found it to be a visually stunning film with some strong moral ambiguity in its plot and in some of the major characters, and a solid cast led by outstanding performances from Angelina Jolie and Sharlto Copley. I also enjoyed the feminist twist on the “Sleeping Beauty” tale. But due to some flawed characterizations and a failure to balance both the children and adult theme in its plot, I can honestly say that I did not love “MALEFICENT”.

 

 

 

 

Five Favorite Episodes of “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season Two (2012-2013)

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Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of “ONCE UPON A TIME”. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz: 

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “ONCE UPON A TIME” – Season Two (2012-2013)

1 - 2.16 The Millers Daughter

1. (2.16) “The Miller’s Daughter” – While Regina Mills and her mother Cora hunt for Rumpelstiltskin’s dagger in Storybrooke in this spine-tingling episode, Cora’s back story as a poor miller’s daughter who becomes the wife of a prince is revealed in flashbacks.

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2. (2.10) “The Cricket Game” – Following Cora and Captain Hook’s arrival in Storybrooke, the former set about framing Regina for Archie Hooper’s “murder” in an effort to emotionally break the former mayor. Snow White and Charming disagree over how to handle the captured Evil Queen in the Fairy Tale Land flashbacks.

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3. (2.05) “The Doctor” – The true identity of Dr. Victor Whale is revealed to be Dr. Frankenstein, when he attempts to resurrect Regina’s long dead fiancé in an effort to make a bargain with her. Flashbacks reveal Rumpelstiltskin’s manipulations of a young Regina that prove to have major consequences.

4 - 2.22 And Straight Until Morning

4. (2.22) “And Straight Until Morning” – Regina and the Charmings join forces to prevent Storybrooke from being destroyed by the former mayor’s magical trigger, stolen by anti-magic vigilantes Greg and Tamara in this surprisingly interesting season finale.

5 - 2.14 Manhattan

5. (2.14) “Manhattan” – Emma Swan, Henry Mills and Rumpelstiltskin’s search for the latter’s son in Manhattan results in a major surprise for all three. Flashbacks reveal Rumpelstiltskin’s encounters with a blind seer, whose predictions will harbor consequences for the former.