Back to tv: Once Upon a Time

(The purple stuff is not the Gay Menace it’s magic – okay, even I noticed the contradiction in that statement…)

A tv show about fairy tales, I thought, this is either a very bad or a very good idea. I am still not sure which it is but I am watching every week now. The premise goes as follows:

The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) hates Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and wants to destroy her happiness with Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) – actually she wants to destroy everybody’s happy ending. So she curses her enemies to live in a land without magic where she reigns. But the Charmings are having a baby and by prophecy this baby is to rid everyone of the curse – in 28 years. They put her in a magic wardrobe and Emma – thus the Charming’s off-spring’s name – is transported to our world, somewhere in Maine. Not far from that small town that magically appeared shortly after by the name of Storybrooke where all the characters from our favorite fairy tales are now living.

28 years pass – only in Storybrooke they don’t really pass because time has stopped – and Henry (Jared Gilmore) appears at Emma Swan’s (Jennifer Morrison) door, telling her that he is her son and that she has to safe everyone in Storybrooke from the Evil Queen, his adoptive mother, Regina Mills. Emma comes to Storybrooke and as she decides to stay, the clocks in Storybrooke start ticking again.

The story is told in flashbacks that bring us back to Fairytale Land and the story that is taking place in Storybrooke. We get to know the characters and who they were in a magical world and who they have – unknowingly – become.

The concept is actually quite fascinating, especially from a feminist perspective: most of the main players are women because fairy tales are so often concerned with them. The love/hate relationship between Regina and Snow White/Mary Margaret is as much at the core of it as the antagonism between Regina and Emma – who, after all, lay claims to the same boy as son – and the love between Snow and Charmin’ who in Storybrooke are a school teacher and a man in a coma (don’t worry he wakes only to learn that he has married the wrong girl).

With a lot of characters there come a lot of stories to be told. The show does not exclusively tell classic fairy tales either but dips into Wonderland, Neverland and also brings Victor Frankenstein (David Anders) to the (operating) table.

While the story as conducted story is quite fascinating, the handling of characters is sometimes disappointing. It seems that the two villains are treated differently by the writer’s on the ground of gender, while Regina gets the cold shoulder treatment, Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is forgiven his misdeeds because he is loved by someone. The writer’s also like to throw love-interests at Emma Swan, white male love interests while a lot of fans would rather see her with the Evil Queen, Regina, because these two have actual chemistry.

There are a lot of ships sailing under the Ouat (Once Upon a Time) banner, there are very few characters who are not in some way linked to each other and the fans love making up new ships (some of them not even romantic). One thing is sure: the fans are invested – and I count myself among them. Though my ship is the Red Beauty (that’s Ruby/Red Riding Hood and Belle/Beauty to you).

If you find the time, have a look. If for nothing else, the retelling and changing of fairy tales we’ve grown up with, is fascinating. And there’s room for plenty interpretation.

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Natalie Portman IS the Black Swan

Black Swan (2010) by Darren Aronofsky

When I watched V for Vendetta late last year I was quite amazed at how good Natalie Portman was in it. Not because she was good but how good. I was never a fan of hers but I always regarded her as a talented actress. Well, V for Vendetta convinced me that there was more than talent but Black Swan

Every now and then (but probably not that often) you watch a performance by an actress that just blows you away. Even an hour after leaving the theater you feel drugged and dazed and confused. Such a performance I saw in Black Swan by Natalie Portman. It was amazing, it was catching, it was sad and heart-wrenching, stunning, and, yes, sexy.

I’m still over-whelmed to tell the truth. From the first moment Natalie Portman appeared on screen she was like a force I could not look away from. And it was not just her. The female cast seemed to take their cues from her and showed amazing performances. Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, they were all brilliant. But Natalie Portman was breathtaking.

You might wonder if I did not think Vincent Cassel was good as well but honestly I did not even see him. Maybe that is because I think women are the better actors per se, or maybe I just ignore men per se, I don’t know but this movie was made by the women in it not by Vincent Cassel.

And I also don’t want to talk about the story because I would have to unearth some of the raw clichés that inhabit the movie and the fact that it bows to heteronormative standards in the end. And I don’t want to do that. It would make me cherish the movie less and nothing should lessen the joy, the enjoyment, the amusement, the horror I felt watching this movie. It was truly a pleasure.

And if you ask me what it’s about I’d say: A woman who admires another woman, wants to be like her, wants to be her, wants to be with her. Not necessarily in that order and you are never sure which woman is which and what the others have to do with it… it’s complicated and gripping and frightening.

It is almost comical how glad I am these days to see Winona Ryder again. I could almost imagine watching The Dilemma. Almost.

Well, the Oscars are coming up and, of course, there was no way around Natalie Portman and her performance and I hope everyone in the Academy will vote for her. I bow to Ms. Portman.