#366- Tabu: A Story of the South Pacific

Quick recap: Matahi and Reri are lovers who live in paradise. Everything is perfect, except for the fact that Reri has been chosen as a Forever Virgin as sacrifice to the gods. Oops.

Finally sinking in how messed up this whole thing is

Fun (?) fact: I assumed ‘Tabu’ to either be a lost island in the South Pacific, or some very complicated ritual a select group of natives followed. Turns out, it literally means ‘taboo’, as in, Reri becomes off-limits, or tabu, to other men. What a let down.

look at that………scenery!

 

My thoughts: Do you remember when you first discovered National Geographic magazine? You were probably in 5th grade or maybe middle school and the first time you opened one up you told yourself it was just for the articles since you wanted to be an archeologist, after all. But inevitably there was always, ALWAYS some photo shoot about an Amazonian tribe who had never heard of the concept of clothes and that, unfortunately, would be the exact second your teacher chose to walk by. That, my friends, is how this movie felt to watch. I tried my best to pay attention to the plot as best as I could but like that very first National Geographic photo spread many years ago, the tribe….aesthetic…..was hard to ignore.

Despite this movie being made in 1931, it’s not the worst when it comes to representing an indigenous tribe. Director FW Murnau filmed in the South Pacific and hired mostly locals. The beginning of Tabu is about as stereotypical as you can get with youths running around naked and just enjoying nature. But at the same time, it just didn’t feel exploitative . It surprised me how a silent film about a non-white group of people could come off as so humane. For example, there is a huge feast for Reri before she heads out to be a Forever Virgin (meaning no man can ever look or touch her again) and of course the girl is absolutely devastated. I loved how fed up the elder was that he had to deal with such drama, but it felt realistic. And so did Reri and Matahi’s relationship. They really seemed to care for each other, even though both were super naive when it came to being an adult.

As I went over the basic facts with my nine year old the next morning, as I sometimes do, I realized that this is actually a very tragic film. Almost 90 year old spoiler alert: Matahi and Reri run away to a different island only to be tracked down by the elder rather quickly. He threatens to kill Matahi if the girl doesn’t give in to her fate and she finally agrees because she loves him so much. Matahi refuses to give up however and follows her ship as far as he can until he finally succumbs to exhaustion and drowns. So basically the movies ends on a downer, except for the gods, who finally got their Forever Virgin.

Final review: 3/5. The nudity is pretty good too.

Up next: Cairo Station

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#365- The Jungle Book

Quick recap: Mowgli wants to continue living in the jungle even though literally every animal either hates his very essence or just wants to eat him.

Did you know there is fan fiction where Baloo Bagheera Gay Dad it Up and raise Mowgli together? Because I did not.

Fun (?) fact: According to Rudyard Kipling’s daughter, we should be pronouncing Mowgli as if the first syllable rhymes with ‘cow’. She reportedly never forgave Disney for messing this up.

Me around any responsibilities

My thoughts:  My usual strategy with a cartoon is to invite my nine year old to watch it with me and get his ‘hot take’ on things (as the kids say). This worked perfectly with A Night at the Opera ….and that’s about it. He stayed for about 15 minutes, got bored and went to go play on his phone. When asked later on if there was any wisdom he wanted to impart from the little bit he did watch, my son rolled his eyes deeply and replied, ‘It was horrible. Just horrible.’

I, on the other hand, quite enjoyed The Jungle Book. I thought the animation was really pretty and I’m a sucker for animals. Even more enjoyable, I was quite pleased to find out that this movie isn’t as racist as I remembered it to be. As an example, Louis Armstrong was originally chosen to play the orangutan King Louie but was cut because Disney didn’t want him to be likened to an ape, the racist stereotype. How progressive! But really, this just felt like a sweet story about a little boy growing up. A timeless tale, if you will. There was a wide range of genres of music from scatting to a barbershop quartet that made the movie seem more fun than I remember as a kid. I found myself humming along to several tunes days later, a sign that I’m hooked.

I’m always surprised when I rewatch a childhood film to find that I now identify with an entirely different character than I used to and I no longer fear the villain. This time around, it made total sense why Bagheera wanted Mowgli back in the village and how totally wrong Baloo was for the boy. As a kid, Baloo just looked fun and sweet but considering he let Mowgli get kidnapped by monkeys in the middle of their first song together, maybe he wasn’t the best choice. Then again, Bagheera almost let Kaa the snake eat him so he’s not entirely blameless. As for Shere Khan, who absolutely scared me as a kid, now I see him as just a tiger who needs to eat and who is rightfully scared of fire. Adulthood may have less imagination but it sure brings about some good logic.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Tabu

#357- Goldfinger

Quick recap:   Goldfinger! He’s the guy who loves that gold! Goldfinger! He makes James Bond wear a duck on his head! Goldfinger! There’s actually someone named Pussy Galore!  Goldfinger! Nothing makes sense!

Fun (?) fact: Sean Connery wore a toupee as James Bond since he started going bald at 21

Ewan McGregor and Sean Connery are the only men allowed to wear this.

My thoughts: This is only my second James Bond film, after watching Spectre in 2015 (I KNOW). Now I can compare that first experience to arguably the best of all Bond films, Goldfinger. 

The very first scene is of a duck floating in a bay and I thought a very nice calming moment before all the mayhem. But then Sean Connery as James Bond emerges from the water and it turns out to have been a disguise! What a twist and I’m only 3 minutes into the movie! Let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster from then until the closing credits. Everything was over the top ridiculous, but only in the best possible way. I’m not even going to pretend that the plot made sense to me but I don’t think it matters because we are all in it for Bond. The audience wants him to win even if we don’t quite understand the gravity of the threat. Goldfinger was such an interesting villain because he was so obvious about his love for gold but also he apparently went to great lengths to show off how dastardly he was. I absolutely loved the scene where he gets all the crime bosses from the major cities and shows off his master plan to rob Fort Knox. How much time do you think went into building that room and the very detailed model and then turning it into a gas chamber?? Say what you will, but Goldfinger really cares about those little touches. He’s like the Martha Stewart of villains.

I’ve never been one for hunky guys like Channing Tatum or various Hemsworths and I figured Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond would fall into that category as well. As a progressive woman it annoyed me that he wanted to make out with literally every woman but also, I totally would’ve made out with him on the spot. He’s one of those jerks that just has to smile and it’s all over. I can’t imagine anyone ever coming close to this level of hotness and I can say that as an expert now, having watched a total of two Bond films.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#350- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Quick recap: There’s this ring, you see, that causes trouble and might ultimately bring destruction to Middle Earth. So it’s up to a Hobbit who has never stepped foot out of his village to destroy it and save everyone.

Fun (?) fact:

Fellowship of the Ring

Gimli the Dwarf is played by John Rhys-Davies, who is actually 6 feet tall. This makes him the tallest actor out of the fellowship.

The Two Towers

Gollum was actually biting a fish shaped lollipop instead of nomming on an actual fish.

Return of the King

Director Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the spider design on what he is most afraid of.

 

My thoughts: I’ve now spent a hellish semester in 7th grade reading The Hobbit, watching the trilogy when it first came out and then watching it AGAIN for this list. I guess the only real surprise is how come I still don’t love it yet. Are we through, Tolkien? Please release me.

Fellowship of the Ring

I haven’t watched the trilogy more than once for two reasons. 1) it’s long and 2) there are SO MANY CHARACTERS. I was in high school when this movie came out so I’d like to think my movie tastes have matured since then. Nope. The movie still felt long, mostly because it’s tiring to see Frodo and his pals in constant peril. And speaking of pals, I was following when it was Gandalf and all the Hobbits, but then everyone else showed up and I had no clue who anyone was. Fight me if you want, but Aragorn and Boromir look too similar. I won’t say I’m glad Boromir died but it sure made it a lot easier to tell them apart. As for everything else: plot, music, scenery, I was into it. I enjoyed it much more this time around, as did my kid, who walked out in protest when Gandalf died.

The Two Towers

This was my favorite of the three although now looking back, they do all sort of meld together seamlessly. I really loved the huge fighting sequence and I liked that there weren’t too many sappy moments (more on that later). Everyone is still in peril, of course, but the talking trees made everything seem like they would be alright in the end.

Return of the King

Peter Jackson went all out for this one so it’s no surprise it won so many Oscars. I enjoyed it as much as the others, but the neverending sap fest at the end got a little old. The movie would’ve been great had it ended with Frodo waking up and seeing that his friends are ok. But then the next scene was of Frodo finishing the book ‘Lord of the Rings’ which would’ve been an even better ending but NO, Peter Jackson’s reign of terror was far from over because then I had to sit through a gut wrenching scene between Sam and Frodo as he leaves them forever. Still not done yet, I’m subjected to seeing Sam head back to his impossibly cute family and live happily ever after. That being said, it really resonated with me how Frodo still carried the scars from his journey. Everything was back to normal but it was also completely different and would always be so.

So in the end, I think I can finally say that I’ve made peace with these movies. I found them boring back when I first saw them and the characters were overwhelming. I still feel that way a bit, but this time around I really enjoyed the story and the little details that make the story timeless.

My thoughts: 5/5 for all three

Up next: La Dolce Vita