Cahiers du Cinéma, the oldest French-language film magazine in the world as well as one of the most prestigious movie publications in any tongue, has named David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) as the greatest film of the 2010s, according to IndieWire. Lynch is the only American filmmaker to appear on their end-of-the-decade top-ten list, but it has ignited a debate over whether Twin Peaks: The Return, which was written as a single feature script, should be counted as film or television, since it aired on Showtime over eighteen episodes. André Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca founded Cahiers du Cinéma in 1951, and writers Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut would go on to mold the French New Wave, with Éric Rohmer serving as editor in 1957.
Beginning with Ron Clements and John Musker’s The Little Mermaid (1989) and ending with Kevin Lima and Chris Buck’s Tarzan (1999), the Disney Renaissance is to Disney what the Hollywood Renaissance is to Golden Age Hollywood.
Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) may be the first animated film ever eligible for the Best Picture Academy Award, but Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s The Lion King (1994) is the studio’s masterstroke.
With Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg’s Pocahontas (1995), the overpowered media conglomerate attempts to recapture the prestige of Beauty and the Beast as well as the success of its predecessor, The Lion King, the top-grossing traditionally animated movie of all time.
Ambition paints every frame with all the colors of the wind, but ambition can also dance perilously close to pretension, and one misstep can spell disaster.
If you don’t know what to watch next, Pocahontas is available to stream on Hulu.
The animated musical romantic drama won Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind,” and composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz were honored a second time that year with the Oscar for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.
The eponymous hero would go on to become the first Native American Disney Princess and the first woman of color to lead a cast of Disney characters.
Set in 1607, Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson) sails with the Virginia Company to the New World in search of adventure.
Once landing in Tsenacommacah, he meets and falls in love with Pocahontas (Irene Bedard, with Judy Kuhn as the singing voice), the free-spirited daughter of Chief Powhatan (Russell Means, with vocals from Jim Cummings).
But the greedy, genocidal Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) is obsessed with pillaging the Powhatan tribe’s land for gold, and his conquest threatens to make a tragedy out of the star-crossed lovers’ forbidden romance.
Artistic liberties are taken in almost all works of historical fiction – to quote Sir Alfred Hitchcock, “Drama is life with all the dull bits cut out” – but the sanitization and whitewashing found in Pocahontas have aged the text poorly.
The real Pocahontas was not a “magical minority,” but, rather, a child bride, and the colonizers didn’t make peace with her people after she learned how to speak English by “listening with her heart.”
As for John Smith, his “exploration” was more correctly an “invasion,” an “imperialization,” and it shouldn’t have taken a “noble savage” like Pocahontas to humanize First Nation people in his eyes (through her sexuality, no less).
This problematic, post-Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) white savior narrative of exotification crystallizes at its most egregious in the musical number, “Savages.”
The back-and-forth parallelism of the song conflates the white supremacy of the European settlers alongside the self-defensive resistance from the indigenous groups, drawing a false equivalency between the two that the First Americans were as intolerant as the British Empire.
Intentionalism is a critical fallacy, and Disney’s white liberal, apologistic intentions here are irrelevant.
If the true story of Pocahontas is too upsetting for their key demographic to understand without reducing the Powhatan culture to something that existed only for white men to appropriate it, then it’s a story that never should be told to children.
But, for what it is within the context of the Disney canon, Pocahontas is an epic entertainment. The soundtrack raises goosebumps, and the animation is as colorful as the signature song.
Apolitically, the love story between John Smith and Pocahontas is one of the most mature and affecting in the Disney universe, and, hey, if nothing else, Ratcliffe is shown to be more villainous than Powhatan.
If your child is too young to learn the real history behind Pocahontas, then at least take care to teach them what reel history means. The insultingly oversimplified themes of the picture will be digestible enough to entertain them, but the more harmlessly so, the better.
And as far as Disney fare goes, its family-friendliness is just as accessible for adults looking to enjoy a more grownup tale of intercultural (though largely fictionalized) romance, as it is for kids looking to sing along to some catchy tunes.
Since November 22, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has been hosting the exhibit Now Showing, which will be featured at the Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts gallery until November 2020, according to DCist. It is made up of more than forty movie posters and lobby cards from the Larry Richard Collection, a cache of more than seven hundred posters the museum acquired in 2013, and an app will play film clips and curator interviews for museum visitors in a classic theater setting. Curator Rhea Combs says posters from before the 1980s were works of art.
Antonio Banderas will be honored with the thirty-first annual Palm Springs International Film Festival’s International Star Award, Actor, for his performance in Pedro Almódovar’s Pain and Glory (2019), at the Palm Springs Convention Center Film Awards Gala, according to Deadline. Jennifer Lopez (Spotlight Award), Joaquin Phoenix (Chairman’s Award), Martin Scorsese (Sonny Bono Visionary Award), Charlize Theron (International Star Award, Actress), and Renée Zellweger (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress), will also be recognized January 2. Past recipients of the International Star Award include Javier Barden, Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren, Gary Oldman, as well as Saoirse Ronan, and the festival will run from January 2 to January 13, 2020.
Sight & Sound named Joanna Hogg’s semiautobiographical The Souvenir (2019), introducing Honor Swinton Byrne as a promising young filmmaker who falls for a charismatic (if self-indulgent) heroin addict, as the greatest film of the year, according to IndieWire. The BBC also listed it in the hundred best movies directed by women; in addition, Sight & Sound included Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019), Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019), and Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) in its top twenty. Neither Sight & Sound, nor Time with its top ten, recognized Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019), but both did Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019).
Kim Longinotto’s documentary, Shooting the Mafia (2019), biographizes Letizia Battaglia, a Palermo-born eighty-four-year-old woman who left behind her life as an unhappy housewife in her forties to photograph Mafia atrocities for L’Ora, according to the New Statesman. Battaglia was the first female photographer to work at a daily Italian newspaper, and she would go on to take six hundred thousand pictures of the Costa Nostra as well as the devastation they wrought on Sicilian communities, where eighty percent of businesses still pay protection money. The filmmaker, whose other feminist documentaries include Divorce Iranian Style (1998) and The Day I Will Never Forget (2002), hopes her latest release will counterbalance Hollywood’s popular Mafia narrative, which still inspires young Sicilian men to join the Cosa Nostra.
Lance Acord’s four-minute A Holiday Reunion (2019), a sequel to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), will reunite E.T. and a now married-with-children Elliot (Henry Thomas) at theater pre-shows over the long holiday weekend, according to Deadline. The Comcast commercial, produced by their advertising agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, premiered as a two-minute cut during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, before the full edit played on Syfy during their airings of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Thursday night. Spielberg never took creative control of the ad, but was consulted throughout the process and responded favorably to the theme of “connection.”