Monthly Archives: August 2015

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Hidden Gems: Elena Undone (2010)

Jon Rutledge (Fat Samurai) joins me in the first selection for Outside the Frame’s Hidden Gems. This thread will seek to discuss movies, that other contributors or I will select, to advocate as underrated or overlooked. The first pick is a favourite of mine, the widely unseen Nicole Conn film, Elena Undone.

Gabby: I have a big love of finding independent film companies online and whilst seeking a new one I discovered Wolfe video. This is a site and company that sells and supports LGBT films as well as making them. I remember following Wolfe on youtube as I do like seeing stuff they have coming. I remember being excited by the look of Elena Undone and was pleasantly surprised by the impression that there were dynamic characters there. So I thought it was definitely go to be at least something to look out for. It was your first experience with this film, what were your initial thoughts?

Jon: Wow….just wow. The writing is well done, it has depth to characters. The core message is love and passion exists regardless of the gender and race. Almost like a more inclusive When Harry Met Sally. The interludes with real live couples of all mixes talking about how they found love was a very nice touch. I do want to get into some of the elements I didn’t care for. Or really thought were ham handed in their execution.

Gabby: I agree there are quite a few! On the other hand, I go back to it quite a lot due to the two main characters being layered and interesting to spend time with.

Jon: Absolutely. I would love to have them over for a dinner part or a picnic; they seem like people who would be genuinely great people and fun to be with. They are interesting and engaging. Sam Harris is outstanding and the narrator. 20100708_inq_dm1qfest08z-aHaving him walking us through the stages of finding true love gives a nice break in the acts. His work sounds interesting I want to take his seminar because it sounds like a blast. I have found the love of my life but someone so passionate about their work is very engaging. He is also a great friend to Elena compared to Payton’s friend, Wave, who almost kills the passion that she has at every turn. I can understand warning caution and worrying about where it will end, but you should at least celebrate the happiness that your friend is having. Why take that away from her? I want Tyler in my corner over Wave.

Gabby: Wave for me is cynical, but she is very protective of Peyton. She is a friend, honest, maybe blunt, but at least has her back. I really like the touch of the true stories as well. Rasheed and Ari’s story is one of my favourites. They are so sincere.

Tyler is an amazing friend and I think we get to see him as a character makes a lot of that narration work. Tyler could have easily be a downfall of the movie in seeming contrived with narration and some cheesy lines but as we see his character we see how sincere he is in what he is saying. I don’t think it is laziness I think it is that character. I would love him as a friend and to listen to him talk about his work more. I do love seeing people who are good at their jobs and in this film we have three!

Could you elaborate on some of those issues you have with the film?

Jon: One of the biggest points of discomfort for me was the infidelity. The cheating takes away from the beauty of the relationship, regardless of the gender combinations. I felt bad for Elena’s family. There is also the addition of Elena having a baby at the end. That seemed shoehorned in there. We know that Peyton wanted a child but did she want to go through the motherhood experience and feel the life growing inside her? Did Elena take that away from her with the surprise news of her pregnancy?

Gabby: To your second point, we know Peyton wanted a child but we also know she was adopting. She has ways of doing this if she does want to be pregnant first. She also has ways of getting another child after Elena has had one. I think it is a different thing though to want pregnancy. In this day and age we can talk about these things separately as not everyone wants to be pregnant even if they do want a child and with many children needing homes that is a beautiful thing.

The movie shows Peyton dealing with a mental health problem. maxresdefaultI think anyone with one can be pregnant of course, it is their body, choice and responsibility. With the right support they would do as well as anyone else. But, we come to understand the type of person Peyton is. She takes responsibility with her illness; she takes her meds and talks about it. She knows that just because a baby wasn’t growing inside her, it can still be hers without the risk of huge hormone problems that people like Peyton would have, especially post pregnancy.

Jon: Very true. Peyton’s desire for children is the end goal; I forgot her struggle with that. And Elena did say she was trying for a child. Very true. It still felt like it was added only to show that Elena’s son was OK with his mother’s choice and supports her relationship; when he went to Payton and telling her that she needs her could have been done without having the pregnancy. What did the baby add to the story? And why the Six moth gap with no contact?

Gabby: I think that it wasn’t really tagged on as it is brought up a lot throughout though I see what you mean as that six month part was a bit bothersome for me too. To go back to your first problem though, the fidelity, that really is a moral grey area that, for me, you have to look on case by case basis. In principle infidelity is wrong. Now I am not going to make a point that it isn’t because it always hurts someone. However, we can still understand a lot of situations, in films, as to how and why this person cheats on someone. In this film, it is Elena’s inability to communicate with Barry. I think the character isn’t a bad or evil husband, he just has beliefs I happen to find incredibly awful. Does he deserve that? No. But he couldn’t expect a marriage or relationship to last when I feel he didn’t really care about Elena’s true feelings. He saw a surface and didn’t push past it. The lack of ability for him to relate to her means to mean that fell out of love with her and they drifted apart a while before we meet them.

Something I appreciate on this matter is how the film emphasises that Elena doesn’t cheat on Barry in haste or because of his coldness but because she doesn’t connect to him and vice versa. eleI don’t like it when movies imply that makes it okay to cheat, especially when it seems that whe they reduce the moral grey to the fact they are the same gender. It is insulting to all types of people. Whereas, in this film, Elena falls in love with someone who just happens to be a woman. Instead of judging them, or disregarding the infidelity part, it tried to show the two leads moral struggles with their situation.

Jon: I felt that after they realized the connection they should have taken steps after that. I agree that gender is not a factor because this passion between these two could happen to anyone. You opened the conversation up about the husband so I am going to spend some time talking about his performance and character. Firstly the character- We got absolutely no time with him and what he thought about his marriage. We see him as an empty 50’s stereotypical father figure who stands for outdated social beliefs. But did he feel the love leave his relationship, or was he blissfully ignorant of how she was feeling? If he knew she was unhappy and did nothing about it than totally his jerk face fault. But if he is clueless it almost makes the cheating worse.

It takes two to make a relationship work, if he wasn’t picking up on the signals that she was unhappy she needs to tell him. All that aside I think that the way they did the relationship between Peyton and Elena is real, it feel like a genuine organic way that a relationship grows. Now on to the performance- Gary Weeks was wooden in this role. Every scene that he had was lacking in any sort of depth of emotion. That could be because he was directed to play it that way but either way when he walked on screen he brought the emotional level down. His sermons were delivered with all the passion of a corpse. I want to see something else he has done to see if it was the role or the performer.

Gabby One of the biggest problems I have with his character is that he is a bigot, preaching at people on how to live. He is saying how these people are ruining his life but he is encouraging hatred. He also has a control over Elena that is unsettling. I’ve thought about it and think it is almost emotional abuse. When that is involved I think this dynamic makes a lot of sense.

Regardless of any of that, I really agree that the way the relationship between Elena and Peyton develops feels organic. Morally they might be doing something frowned upon, but that is how people work much more often in life and I feel this makes it very easy to sympathise. To me, he elenaundonewineisn’t a stereotypical 50s husband. His son points why he has no passionate around his sermons. He’s acting, he doesn’t feel it, not really. I think that is his character. Just a big wall up due to his preoccupation with social norms and beliefs we know weren’t always there. I don’t feel sorry for him because he takes it out on others. He is superior and narrow minded but also, it might sound odd, but I like the fact he is dull. Not everyone in life is dynamic and I think the other secondary characters here do get dynamics to make up for it.

I do think Barry stifles Elena in an emotionally abusive way and I’m not sure he even realises he is doing it. As someone who has gone through emotional abuse, I know it may not look like much on this occasion, but I think the film shows enough subtle comments or actions from Barry and their effect on Elena to make us understand that feeling she describes of being like a mummy.

Jon: I would agree with that. He is not doing it to be evil he is doing it because he is programmed that way. He is really a small pitiful person who keeps Elena under his control.

You said before that he tells people how to live, that’s kind of the point of that type of church. Well any religion really. They set out rules that they want their congregation to live by, we left a church because they were forcing us to live a way that didn’t fit with our lifestyle. In that respect, the character is well played because he needs to be the negative influence in Elena’s life. And as a plot device he is well fitted but still very poorly performed.

Gabby: I really want to know your thoughts on your wow reaction.

Jon Rutledge: I have never seen a film that captures the sheer emotion of honest love. I admit that I am not well versed in romance films but I can’t think of one that has that much energy between characters. The beauty of this film is that it’s theme of pure love regardless of who it’s with rings true and seeing that is awe inspiring. A movie that highlights the emotion over the people feeling it is what really spoke to me.

The only other same sex relationship movie I’ve seen is Brokeback Mountain and the central theme to that film was: look what happens to people who fall in love with a person from the same sex. It was more focused on the Tragedy. As I think about it, maybe the rest of the characters in Elena Undone were emotionally played down to bring the spark of passion to a higher level in contrast.

Gabby: It really does illustrate that spark It gets to the beginnings of intimacy and shows how these two are emotionally and intellectually right for each despite being quite different.#ton I think Elena has spent her whole life worried about what others might think. She has not done this consciously because there has been a huge expectation on her to follow the rules. I think she lost her love of the world around her by not engaging with who she is as well as a few taking advantage of that by keeping her there. I think it takes someone like Peyton, who wears her heart on her sleeve, to allow Elena to begin to show herself.

I love the depth of Peyton and she is wonderfully played by Traci Dinwiddie. The fact that her agoraphobia is just part of her character as a whole is incredibly rare. You can the subtly of that anxiety coming into play within the performance. Slight gestures here and there, such as fiddling with her cutlery too much before sighing and fighting with her hands out of frustration or whether it is being afraid of becoming emotionally vulnerable when telling Elena about her feelings towards her. Wanting to avoid it is a very typical problem with anxiety sufferers but I also think it is something that anyone can relate to as well. It is one of the most honest looks at what it is like to have an anxiety disorder I have seen. You could miss it entirely on a first viewing, but you can also start picking it up on it on a repeated one. That is the reality of how it manifests in real people. Peyton is so real to me. I admire her courage to try overcome her past as well as her ability to try and deal with this new situation. Also, Elena’s ability to make her realize she is worthy of love.

Jon: Peyton is a wonderful character. Her relationship gives her strength, not in a way that is co-dependent, but through that love, it gives her a feeling of worth. Its infections and she is stronger in the long run. You are right about the subtleties of Dinwiddie’s performance. It is the small touches that really sell the transition from the start of the film to the end.

Elena is very brave in following her passions and gambling elena-undone-chemistryeverything in the name of the love. To see her transformation is wonderful to see. How she realizes and accepts her love. Their first kiss was magical. In The Princess Bride they say that Wesley and Buttercup’s kiss was number one in the top five. I think this one gave them a run for their money.

What are your favourite movie kisses? Give a comment below or join the discussion on our facebook group!

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The Indefensibles: Camp Rock

Now I wouldn’t have expected this going in but things really heat up with this discussion! So time to grab your capes everyone; it is my pick, the Disney Channel 2008 movie, Camp Rock.

For this movie, our team of superheroes (Brett, Jeremy and myself) is joined by guest hero Ingelinn Lilleborge, aka my bestie. Let’s kick things off!

Brett: 80% of my problems with this film revolves around the kind of film it is. It’s a Disney movie for 14 year-olds so I am instantly out of the loop being 24 years out of date. A lot of the issues are things I would complain about if this was made in 1971 or 1985 or 1996. There is no way I could have watched this without my trusty cane and a healthy shouting of “Git offa mah lahwn!” Every five minutes. That being said, there is some value here. Demi Lovato can actually act, and she has a genuine talent. They did at least pick the Jonas brother who can read lines and act (as evidenced by how the other two could barely manage to perform as themselves) to play the love interest.

The thing is, it’s not badly made. It does feel cynically made though. There is a lot of cutting and pasting going on. Slot A and Tab B film making. It created a distance that I was never able to fully surmount.

Gabby: Absolutely; there is a laziness from the people who make this for sure. They were just insanely lucky with getting Demi Lovato. There are films with similarly lazy demiproducers without luck with a barely adequately talented lead that leads in some truly hideous results. I think Demi’s adorableness wasn’t clear enough to the filmmakers. She needs to have more time like her making cute faces at other characters or playing a piano and singing with no nonsense. Because that makes the movie.

If they lost the insane ‘I have a mother who works in Hot Tunes’ thing. You have girl who is insecure in a place where she has longed to be due to lack of self confidence in her talent, her place in life, her image and consequently her own sense of self-worth. But they were determined to make so much money by featuring Jonas’ and weird song numbers on tables from characters we hardly ever see.

Brett: It most feels like the pilot for a TV show they passed on producing. Or perhaps it’s a series that they decided to scrunch down to a single movie. Since there are moments like when Tess steals Mitchie’s notebook, which comes to nothing. (Why the hell do I remember their names?) The movie does have an episodic feel to it.

Gabby: I agree that always stands out. I am so glad she didn’t try and sing it or claim it as hers.

Ingelinn: She only wants to confirm that the words JJ was singing were the ones from Mitchie’s song. She then comes up with a plan to make sure Mitchie won’t be able to perform at Final Jam. But I will agree, it was done weirdly.

Gabby: The plot is so filled with holes. As soon as you think about these things it is so messy.

Jeremy: As the gang has already said, Demi Lovato’s way too good for this. And I get why she makes the movie for you, Gabby.

On the other hand, I think you can only analyze this brand of Disney movies to a point – but I think there are some really ugly messages that come out of their live-action division. That – not the songs or acting or anything else – that got my hackles up.

Here’s what bugs me: the Disney formula of pretty upper-middle class teens who kind of learn a lesson about not lying or casting their friends aside to make their dreams come true and always have their dreams come true and their friends back and everything they could possibly want out of life because they’re precious, talented snowflakes. It’s such a deluded, half-hearted message to give to kids. And it’s especially odd because teens aren’t the target for these movies. They’re weird parables for preteens who are about to go through these awkward, painful years… and they’re probably watching it with parents who, if they were lucky, got through those years without too many scars and realize now how silly most of it all was. So who are these movies for?

Gabby: I don’t understand why you have to bring class into it. Pretty much in the opening frames I think it seemed you did that and I have to say it hits nerves. Now I know where you are coming from and I know you as well. I know the nerve you are hitting comes from somewhere else. And that is this idea that people who are financially secure, their problems are always going to be reduced or dismissed as well pull those socks up don’t you know you are lucky?

Disney’s idea of what poor means is ridiculous yes. But that is an excuse to hide behind for her. It is so much easier to try and pretend her insecurity comes out of having working parents and working herself than where it really does. It isn’t her fault. It is society. We are told that having insecurities are really not a big deal; that people who are very vulnerable to people like Tess are either weak or, well, could ‘build character’ from a bit of a couple of knocks.

Now I think the movie allows us to see enough to know that it isn’t anything to do with her mother. Not really. That is just part of it.DEMI LOVATO, JOE JONAS, ALYSON STONER There is that moment where she is scared by what she looks like and what she is wearing. Then there are the parts when she is told she is good and she simple laughs and says no. There is a reason why young girls took to that character. The movie is really not good enough or brave enough to see it but the audience is a lot smarter than most people give them credit for. Now I might not be saying this if it wasn’t for Demi’s very sincere performance. That is a lot of where the troubles with those messages come from. Any other tween star in that role would make what you said would be pretty accurate.

Maybe then the problem is that people didn’t connect to Mitchie or the movie. They connected with Demi. And I think a lot of the young teens watching would admit their relationship to the movie is only affectionate due to that.

Brett: I think there is a lot right with Demi’s Performance. I think that this movie is just another grating Saturday afternoon Disney original without Demi’s performance though.

Gabby: Ingelinn what about you? I think you watched it with me first time right? I came at it a bit closer to the demographic and got to enjoy it with younger kids. I came for a TV movie to cheer me up in 2009 and stayed for Demi. And turned Lovatic. Whereas you came at this purely for Demi and maybe Disney camp? (As in glitter not as in the summer camp of rock)

Ingelinn: I used to be pretentious about this kind of stuff, like I was above liking this type of thing. I refused to like anything mainstream, for a while, mostly because I just wanted to listen to music that was different to whatever other girl my age was listening to. I was a stubborn arse about it. It was only in 2008, when I secretly got addicted to Poker Face, that I began to cave. I was determined not to like it, but I LOVED it, and eventually I just had to embrace it. When something is good, it’s GOOD. Doesn’t matter if it’s mainstream or not. Plus, at some point, I realised that I didn’t care. I didn’t give a crap. I was going to like whatever the hell I liked.

Even so, when Gabby told me about Demi, which I think was in 2009 (?), I scoffed, like the thought of listening to some dumb Disney star was completely hilarious to me. Gabby, however, insisted that I should listen to her, and in the end I did because after all, she was a Streisand fan, so there had to be some truth to what she was008CMR_Demi_Lovato_042 saying about Demi. So I started listening to her albums, and was like HOLY SHAT VOCAL WINNING.  decided that she was way too good for Disney, hah. I remember how I met up with Gabby in 2010, while visiting Kingston in spring (long story, but basically I met her at the 2009 fresher’s fair, but quit my course ten weeks in and came back the following year for a different course), and I showed her what I was listening to on my iPod. Her face of triumph was so great.

I can’t remember when we watched Camp Rock together, but I definitely watched it with you the first time. I think you got me the DVD? Anyway, I didn’t even care what the movie was about, because Demi is the cutest thing ever, and can act and sing circles around everyone else in it!

The rest of the movie is just a bit of dumb fun, really. I can get into the spirit of it, because it’s so ridiculous with all the weird little characters, like drumstick guy and that overly cheerful camp counsellor lady who is all but jumping up and down like she’s on some kind of crazy sugar high.

I think there is some value in this movie as well, to be honest. I don’t agree with the “ugly messages” thing related to class or whatever, because we know that kids go to camp if their parents can afford to send them. That’s just the reality of the world we live in. For example, my sister is a competitive horseback rider. She competes in show jumping, and has done for years. I used to as well, during my pony days (you can compete as a pony rider through the year you turn 16), and here’s the thing: YES, we were extremely privileged to even have ponies, but we also worked our asses off for it. My pony was incredibly difficult a lot of the time. He did things to psych me out. I had to do everything perfectly, or he wouldn’t jump. However, other kids had ponies that helped them out WAY more than they deserved! This wasn’t fun to watch, and of course I complained about it. It upset me. Does that make me ungrateful? I was a kid!

There are also levels of competitions. There were county competitions, which were the ones I mostly participated in. Then there were national competitions, and elite competitions. If you ever went to one of those, it was a completely different ballgame. These people were BORN into the elite of show jumping. They were given expensive ponies, and as they got older, horses. I didn’t “graduate” from pony to horse, ever, mostly because I just wasn’t cut out for it, but my sister did, and I went with her to competitions to help out. The people she’d compete against had parents with some kind of status within the sport, and they had horses that would do much of the work FOR them. My sister has ten times the talent of most of those people, but she didn’t have the same resources. If you want to get anywhere, you need a certain level of talent, but something like a last name can also get you pretty far.

It’s the same within the entertainment industry. If your parents are famous, you have an “in”. You’ve got one foot inside the door already. Sure, you still have to work for it, but not nearly as hard. I would never discredit any of those people, though, because that’s just the way it is. If your mother is Meryl Streep that will get you places much faster than if your mother is someone with a regular job. The same goes for the character of Tess. Her mother is an award-winning artist, 008CMR_Demi_Lovato_019and that is going to be intimidating to other kids, especially someone as insecure as Mitchie. When she felt like they were about to just brush her off as a nobody she made up a really stupid lie on the spot. Teenagers want to fit in, this is a well-known fact, because at that age they are still trying to figure out who they are. They are very vulnerable at that time in their lives, and I think that is important to remember. A lot of kids who were watching this movie could probably relate to that feeling, and the message at the end about being proud of who you are isn’t without value. I know it’s a fairly common message in films, but it can’t be said enough, not really.

Also, I think people of all ages should be able to connect with Demi. She’s been through so much crap in her life, and she’s grown as a person because of it. Her performance in this movie is emotionally layered, which is something SHE gives that character, and I’m not sure another actress would have been able to do the same thing. The movie had the potential to be better than what it was, and it’s a shame they didn’t take the time to develop dynamic, relatable characters. Ultimately, it’s just a bit of fluff. Most of it should not be taken seriously. Have a laugh, get into the spirit of the ridiculousness. Or don’t. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

Wanting to fit in will also make you do stuff like following a leader just because they are cool and “important” or whatever. Ella and Peggy did that for a long time, joining in on the nastiness because they craved Tess’s acceptance.

I was bullied as a teenager, so I have seen how this works. Once the “cool” girl in my class had decided that she didn’t like me that was it. Her minions followed, and so did pretty much everyone else in my class, including the boys, and it was a hell of a lot more cruel than what went down in this movie. It was stuff like, hqdefault“You’re a worthless loser”, “You’re so ugly you don’t deserve to be alive”, and “Do the world a favour and go kill yourself”. Teenagers will join in on the cruellest of behaviour if they think it will make them fit in. So when Mitchie didn’t stand up for Caitlyn, for example, that pales in comparison to the meanness that kids are actually capable of.

Once the bullying was discovered and dealt with, a few of the “followers” came up and apologised to me. The leaders continued to ignore me and look at me like I was the dirt on their shoe, but the verbal harassment stopped, and a couple of people realised that being cruel wasn’t so cool, after all. Most of them didn’t seem to care, though, but those who did come around became my friends, and I really appreciated that.

So yeah, kids can be cruel. But some of them, when they get a wake-up call, will ultimately come around and apologise for their behaviour. And when they do, it’s important to accept it, just like this movie demonstrated. That’s certainly not a message without value.

Jeremy: First, Ingelinn, let me say I admire what you wrote and its sincerity. That’s certainly the best piece of writing this little project has had so far. And getting to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes on this one is enlightening. Ingelinn, your thoughts on class and having a young woman find her voice made me see why you like this film, and all three of you are without a doubt coming at this movie with a more centered, rational point of view than me. And I don’t think this movie in itself has ugly messages – at least intentionally. But I compare it to other live-action Disney movies from this era – including Sky High, a film I quite like – and they all have a nasty habit of spoiling their characters. These movies keep giving and giving things to their protagonists without them ever really earning anything.

Gabby: I think your response Ingelinn made me realise something. What I have learned from this discussion is that it is simply impossible for me to divorce this film from who Demi is as a person in real life. I want to add that it is because of Demi I think we see some off the internal struggle. Demi knew who she wanted to be but was incredibly insecure which I think came across.

The movie I think leaves a lot out. Partially due to running time and partially due to limitations of those making/airing this. Now if we take two other examples, High School Musical and Hannah Montana the movie just for point of comparison. High School musical is fun for me. I enjoy it. However, I would not say Troy and Gabriella’s struggle to accept themselves is really something I connect with. I like Zac Efron but the movie is a bit empty if you don’t find it fun despite aiming for a similar message. Hannah Montana the movie has some really awful messages and then you have ‘The Climb’ which I just find insulting in that context.

I find Demi sitting at a piano singing a few lines of ‘This is me’ a million times more sincere and touching. 2nd-annual-unite4-humanity-presented-by-alcatel-onetouch-showI hope some of the people reading this will look up Demi talking on mental health and bullying as well as some of her inspiring performances such as her on Ellen singing Skyscraper or the IHeartRadio performance of Warrior. Demi should be in everyone’s lives. She is a person who restored my faith in humanity all the time. So for me it will be always connected to who Demi is and if we get anything from this, no matter how bad this movie is to sit through, it has lead more people to listening to her speak, and I hope more of you will because it is incredibly inspiring.