New Patron and the Blog Awards

Hi everyone, please join me in saying a big hello to our new patron:

Dylan Lessel, the secret identity of Shrinking Man, an obscure Silver Age DC hero who was rocketed to prominence in the late eighties by a dark, deconstructionist mini-series written by Alan Moore.

In other news, you may have noticed my new buddy on the right there:

“BAHIA!”

Yup, Unshaved Mouse has been shortlisted for Best Film and TV Blog (Personal Category) for the Blog Awards Ireland 2018. The other blogs with whom I am locked in a vicious elevator knife-fight are:

Bone-Idle.ie

Films and Faith

Luwd Media

Reel Time Flicks

Scannain.com

The Sundae

They’re all fantastic blogs and I feel humbled to be included in their company. Go check them out.

And then come back because they will never love you like I do.

Disney(ish) Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse: The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea

(Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.)

Some movies belong to a genre, others define a genre.

For example, if someone ever asked you “What’s Film Noir?” you could do no better than to plonk them in front of The Maltese Falcon and say “That.”

That movie perfectly encapsulates everything that we associate with the genre; the moody black and white photography, the moral ambiguity, cynical gumshoes, treacherous dames, shifty foreigners and all the fedoras in the world. We might argue over whether it’s the best Film Noir, but it’s definitely the most Film Noir.

It’s like, how much more noir could it be? And the answer is none. None more noir.

Which brings me nicely, like the old blogging pro I am, to Return to the Sea, which I feel confident in calling The Maltese Falcon of Disney Sequels.

“Well, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Yeah, don’t.”

I haven’t seen all the DTV sequels but I’ve seen enough.

I’ve seen enough like George C Scott saw enough in Hardcore.

But, fair is fair, they have occasionally been able to surprise me. Some of the very best, I’ll even concede, are slightly better than the very worst of the official canon. But Return to the Sea will not surprise you. If you picture the platonic ideal of “Disney Sequel”, this is it. This is exactly what you imagined. A palpable lack of effort leaches into every cel of this misbegotten thing. Mulan 2, whatever its crimes against its heroine, has a loopy, unpredictable “what is it going to do next?!” chutzpah that I have to admit I kind of enjoyed. But Return to the Sea provides the kind of soul crushing tedium that can only be provided by watching a movie you’ve already seen but worse in every respect.

Scalpels at the ready folks. Let’s make some sushi.

(more…)

A message for patrons

He everyone, first of all we have two new patrons to welcome:

Victor Nilsson: achieved fame in the late sixties/early seventies as a laid-back folk singer whose gentle, pastoral ballads masked his trenchant critique of the hippy lifestyle with such songs as “Free Love is Great, Until You Get Clap”, “Brother, how will you get a mortgage?” and “Your reflexive critique of the war in Vietnam is poorly thought out and reductive, man.”

Lance is the original leader of the Elite Four and a master of Dragon Type Pokémon.

Many thanks to both of these gentlemen.

Now, that that’s out of the way there is just something I needed to be sure that everyone is cool with. If you’ve signed up as a patron for $5 you can request one review every six months, whereas $10 patrons get to request a review every month. I repeat, you can request a review every month. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a review the same month you request one, it means you can add a review to the queue every month. Two reviews a month is still my limit in terms of output unless someone wants to sign up as a patron and match my current salary (please don’t do that, my reviews are not that good) and I’ll still be doing the regular series reviews as well as finishing off the last of the reviews from people who donated to help Mauricio. What I’m trying to say is, it will probably be a long time before I get to your specific review. Sorry, I’m just one rodent. Starting from the review after next I’m going to try to keep to the following schedule.

1)      Regular series review (X-Men/Marvel/Disney Canon if they ever get around to releasing another  one)

2)      Patron review

3)      Mauricio review

And repeat until the end of time. Once the Mauricio reviews are done that will free up an extra slot and I’ll be able to focus more on Patron reviews. Sorry if there was any confusion. If you feel that’s not what you signed up for, please feel free to amend your pledge or cancel it altogether, I won’t be offended.  Anyway, thanks again for your support and your patience.

A shout out to all you Patrons

Huge thanks to all of you new patrons who’ve decided to entrust me with your hard earned cash. I promise that the money will go to a worthy cause and certainly not towards building a mind-control ray that will make all human beings docile and amenable to being ridden around by rodents as our personal very tall horses.

But who are these patrons, you ask? Well, I’ve listed them below with an interesting fact about each one. If you would like to get your own interesting fact and support the blog, you know what to do.

A. Vartianen is a trickster God in Polynesian mythology.

Alex Hu discovered Wales.

Allison can’t fly, but can glide from roof to roof.

Amelia Mellor is the only person to ever win seven Nobel prizes for literature in the same year.

Anna Bale invented the hammock. Also, she’s my darling mother.

Aonghus Collins knows the difference between “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and jam.

Ben Harding walked five hundred miles, and said “Sod it. No one’s door is worth this.”

Charlotte Hassel has a cameo in every Marvel movie, plus Spawn (she was Spawn).

Christian Kavanagh has blood that can bring Tribbles back to life.

Donnacha Mallen sailed the seven seas, but has never sailed their own heart.

Who knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men? ED knows.

Eli Berg-Maas has never lost a game of Cards Against Humanity, because they keep the “David Bowie flying in on a tiger made of lightning” card up their sleeve.

Erin Barber shot the sheriff. Also shot the deputy.

Fabrisse ter Brugghe obeyed their duty to her heart, and plunged China into war.

Ian Rowe has his own brand of wine. It’s excellent, and is deservedly building a following.

J* smells like a cool autumn day.

Lupin the 8th? Oh fuck yeah.

Katherine Stokke was deemed “Too hot” for “hot or not” and was banned for life.

Mathom has worked as a body double for every US president for the last thirty years.

Michael Petrocelli likes his women like he likes his South American democracies; strong, independent and fully paid up members of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

PurrElise floats like a butterfly, stings like a letter from your ex that makes you realise that it’s finally over.

Thanks again guys

Mouse

Disney(ish) Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse: Mulan 2

(Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.)

Oh hey, here’s a nice uncontroversial question: Is Mulan feminist?

To which of course the answer is IT’S A TRAP YOU FOOL RUN!!!

Image result for running from explosion gif

You see, the question presupposes that everyone agrees on what a feminist movie is, and that you can even have a feminist movie in the first place and you’d be surprised how little agreement there is on these points.

Now as to whether Mulan is feminist, personally, I say “Yeah, sure”. It centres its story on a female protagonist whose story is treated as being of equal or greater importance to those of the male characters and it doesn’t reinforce any misogynist tropes. Boom. Let’s go out for ribs. But there are differing schools of thought.

For example, when Fury Road (a movie that, for my money, wears its feminist politics as openly and proudly as a movie can while still working in its own right as a narrative) came out, Anita Sarkeesian claimed that it couldn’t be considered feminist because the main characters still resolved their problems with violence. In an action movie.

Which, if taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that the only way a movie could succeed at being feminist would be if it failed utterly as a movie. Which…no.

So for the sake of argument, let’s accept that Mulan (as much as it can be given that it’s a movie that’s enjoyable and therefore a tool of the patriarchy) is feminist. But Mulan is not. By which I mean, the character herself should not be considered feminist because she lives in a pre-industrial, pre-mass literacy honour culture where anything even remotely resembling modern feminism is not only unknown but literally impossible. And here’s the thing that I think people often miss about this character. She doesn’t dress up as a man and join the army to give the middle finger to the expectations and traditions of her culture, but to honour them. Let me explain.

Mulan’s father teaches her that the three most important things in life are:

  1. Respecting her ancestors.
  2. Protecting her family.
  3. Safeguarding her family’s honour.

Now, ideally these three priorities should be in alignment. But when Fa Zhou is called up to serve in the Imperial Army, those three priorities are suddenly in competition. If Mulan lets her father go to war, she will be respecting his wishes (Respecting her ancestors) and ensuring that the family’ honour is intact, but she will not be protecting her family because her father will almost certainly die. But, if she somehow prevents him from going she will be protecting her family but disrespecting her father and bringing shame on the family. Mulan’s dressing up as a man and joining the army in her father’s place, while seemingly staggeringly transgressive, is really the only way Mulan has of resolving this paradox and ensuring that all three of her obligations are met. This is why Mulan is brilliant and why Mulan is brilliant. It gives us a story that is progressive and inspiring to a modern audience, but is still rooted very much in the culture and Imperial Han milieu of the heroine (or, y’know, the Disneyfied version of it at least). It gets to eat its cake and have it. This is why Mulan is my favourite Disney princess along (along with Moana, who has a similar story). She’s not about adventure in the great wide somewhere, she’s the “get shit done” Princess. She’s not riding out there upsetting gender norms for poops and giggles, she’s doing it because she’s got a job to do and she’s going to do it, dammit. And if a couple of hundred thousand Huns got to get put in the ground, well, eggs and omelettes.

Lotta people don’t get that. Some of them got together and made a movie.

Well. A “movie”.

(more…)

Please patronise me.

Hey guys. So for a while now people have been asking me why I don’t setup a Patreon page and the answer has always been; I’m Irish and the thought of asking people to validate my work by giving me money fills me with shame and causes the ghosts of a thousand nuns to rise from the grave and chase me through the village square demanding to know who the hell I think I am.

But Ms Mouse has been making the point that if i’m going to blow off date night again so I can stay up until 4 AM making Simpsons gifs to illustrate an obscure point about the Disney sequels I might as well get paid for it, y’know?

So here’s the deal, I’ve set up a Patreon thingy and I would like you all to put money in it (please excuse the technical jargon). Now, I’m not gonna lie to you. This is not a big fancy Patreon. It’s not like if you pledge $500 a month you’re going to get a lifetime membership to Unshaved Mouse World in fabulous Tampa (the local planning board are being a bunch of Nazis). This is a one-mouse operation and I don’t have that much to offer other than reviews and um…more reviews. But if you’ve enjoyed the blog these last six years and you feel like you could spare a few shekels it would be hugely appreciated.

Thanks guys

Mouse

5 Centimetres per Second (2007)

“Mouse-san!”

“Oh, hello Otaku Oceania.”

“I am so, so glad to hear you’ve decided to review Makoto Shinkai’s instant classic Five Centimetres per Second!”

“Oh?”

“You bet! I mean, in your last few animé reviews you’ve been beating up pretty hard on my favourite genre! In fact, I was this close to running you through with my limited edition Masashi Kishimoto autographed samurai sword! Ha ha ha!”

“Ha ha.”

“But a glowing review of 5 Centimetres per Second should smooth everything over and where are you going!?”

 

“It sucks! Soz!”

Ohhhh I’m gonna catch a beating for this one. I’ve given bad reviews to popular movies before but, holy moly, 5cmPS is a full on critical darling. It was released in 2007and received rapturous responses, with the film press instantly hailing director Makoto Shinkai as “the next Miyazaki”, an accolade I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that Hiyao Miyazaki was the only animé director any of those mouth breathers knew by name harrumph harrumph harrumph harrumph harrumph!

“I didn’t get a harrumph out of that guy!”

“Give Mouse an harrumph!”

“Harrumph!”

“You watch yer ass!”

I’d never heard of the movie before I was requested to review it but I went in expecting to love it. I mean, there is a halo around this thing and all the screenshots I could see looked absolutely smurges. I mean, look at this.

  

But…it…just…movie…good…is…not…

(more…)

On bad people and good art

A few days back a question was put to me in the comments that I decided needed a full blog post to answer. The question was this:

“Yo Mouse. There’s something that’s been on my mind for a while regarding the whole #MeToo movement: should movies and TV shows with actors/directors/whatever who are guilty of sexual misconduct be (to borrow a quote from your Song of the South review) “sealed away, never to be seen by human eyes again”, or could they still be watched but without forgetting the actions of the people behind them?”

Before I answer I would like to introduce you to Sharpson’s law: Dogma is inherently immoral.

What I mean is, if you take any moral principal, no matter how universally agreed, and make it absolute, sooner or later it’s going to do harm.

Killing is wrong. Absolutely. No question. But is killing always wrong?

Give me a few minutes and I could probably come up with dozens if not hundreds of instances where killing would be morally justifiable. This is the problem with dogma. It creates moral laziness. It turns ascertaining right and wrong into a box ticking exercise, and if you fall into that mode of thinking sooner or later you’re going to tick the wrong box. All this is my extremely pretentious way of saying, there’s no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this one.

As a writer, I think that the notion that only good people can create good art, and therefore if someone is revealed to be a bad person their art is worthless is absurd on its face. It’s also an extremely Victorian attitude. As Oscar Wilde said “Books are neither moral or immoral, they are well written or badly written. That is all.”

But that does not mean that we should never consider morality when it comes to art. We should consider morality in everything we do, and especially in a capitalist economy where how you spend your money is, more and more, seen as a kind of imprimatur. The Weinsteins of this world operated and continue to operate because we loved the art they created too much to care about the sins they committed.

But this opens up another question:

Harvey Weinstein created Pulp Fiction. But so did literally hundreds of actors, cameramen, techies, publicists, the writer, the director and on and on and on. Should all their work be consigned to oblivion because one of their number was a scumbag? That hardly seems fair.

On the other hand, refusing to let these considerations change your viewing habits at all looks a lot like “I just don’t care”, and “I just don’t care” is not good enough anymore.

So, instead of giving a hard and fast answer as to whether or not to boycott art by made by awful people, I’ll just offer some suggestions.

1)      If the offender in question is dead, it’s irrelevant. Yes, Wagner was a terrible Anti-Semite. But he’s been dust for decades and you refusing to listen to Ride of the Valkyries accomplishes nothing but inflating your own sense of moral superiority. Speaking of.

2)      If you’ve decided to boycott a particular artist, all well and good, but don’t do it just for bragging rights because it’s not about you. And especially…

3)      Don’t brag about boycotting art you were never going to patronise anyway. I’ll never watch The Apprentice or listen to Chris Brown, but even if Trump and Chris Brown were two of the nicest guys who ever lived you couldn’t make me with a gun to my head.

4)      Don’t insult or belittle someone who continues to appreciate the work of an offender. Everyone has a right to enjoy whatever art they wish. Flip side:

5)      Don’t insult or belittle someone who refuses to patronise the work of an offender. Everyone has a line in the sand and often it’s less a logical well thought out thing than an instinctive gut reaction. John Lasseter’s “Inappropriate Hugging” isn’t enough to get me to swear off Pixar, but I’m not going to watch that Gravity Falls episode with Louis C. K again. Does that make sense? Honestly, no. But that’s where my line is.

6)      Just…just…just be nice. Jesus.

7)      It is perfectly acceptable, and indeed laudable, to pirate the work of offenders so that they don’t see a red cent.

8)      Feel free to separate the artist from the art. But “separate” is not the same as “forget”.

9)      Last one. If you know that a piece of art was actually created by harming an innocent, then it’s no longer art, it’s snuff and should not be watched ( or at least not in unedited form). I’m specifically thinking of Last Tango in Paris but there’s almost certainly others.

Anyway, that’s my answer. I look forward to the reasoned and polite debate in the comments.

“This is the building where our uncle lived. Where our father killed him.”

There are so many different places you could start with a review of Black Panther. I could go heavy and political, exploring the importance of the most famous black superhero in these troubled times. I could go historical, discussing how the character was conceived and developed over the decades. Or I could go personal, explaining how I personally discovered the character.

Instead, let’s talk about Batman.

Batman was created in the Golden Age of comics, where many of the genre’s tropes and visual languages were codified. And the Silver Age that followed was in many ways the second draft of the superhero genre, where the old characters were taken and what worked was enhanced and what didn’t work was discarded.

With the obvious exception of the Original Human Torch, who was perfect in the sight of God.

Often, this was quite literal. The Silver Age at DC saw new versions of the Flash and Green Lantern that were basically the same as their Golden Age counterparts but with some of the clunkier aspects of them sanded down. And as a Golden Age character, Batman definitely has some aspects that could be troubling.

Look, I love Batman. Don’t get me wrong. One of the greatest superheroes ever created. But, as I’m hardly the first one to notice, the image of a billionaire WASP donning a bat costume to beat the ever-living tar out of the city’s poor and disenfranchised with the tacit blessing of the police can be a difficult sell. It’s not an insurmountable problem, by any means and many different writers have found different ways to deal with it.  Grant Morrison largely keeps Batman away from muggers and car-jackers and has him mostly fighting crazed supervillains. Other writers emphasise that Bruce Wayne isn’t just helping Gotham by being Batman but also contributes hugely to the city with his humanitarian work. And Frank Miller just shrugs and says “Yeah, he’s a fascist, whadyagonna do?”

“Hello chums!”

But still, that’s always going to be an issue with the character that has to be dealt with. And I would argue that the second draft of Batman that addressed these problems wasn’t created at DC at all, but at Marvel. Actually, scratch that. Marvel didn’t make an improved Batman. They made three:

Okay, he’s Batman, but instead of being a rich kid raised by his butler he was a dirt poor Irish Catholic boy with a hardscrabble working class upbringing in the roughest neighbourhood in New York who had to put himself through law school despite being blind.

 

Okay, he’s Batman, but instead of everyone pretending that dressing up in a costume and beating up muggers wouldn’t make you a lunatic and kind of an asshole we just acknowledge that he’s a lunatic and kind of an asshole.

Okay, he’s Batman. But he’s black. And smarter. And richer. And a king.

Like the Golden Age that preceded it, the Silver Age was initially whiter than white. But even in the early days at Marvel you can see a recognition of this and the halting, occasionally cringe-worthy but always well-motived attempts by Stan Lee and his co-creators to open up their fledgling universe to non-white characters. And undoubtedly their greatest achievement in this regard was the introduction to the Marvel universe of T’Challa, the Black Panther and the King of Wakanda.

Tsk. Buncha SJWs.

T’Challa first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 where Reed Richards and his family are invited to the mysterious African Nation of Wakanda by its equally mysterious king. The FF consistently underestimate the technology and skill of the Wakandans until they are faced with the mysterious Black Panther who manages to best one of the most powerful superhero teams in the world single-handed. Then, the Black Panther reveals himself to be T’Challa, and explains that he had to lure them to Wakanda to test his abilities against them. This first story, I think, encapsulates what’s made the character so enduring:

He’s kind of a dick.

Which doesn’t sound like a selling point, but hear me out. Too often, when white creators are trying to create positive black characters they make them a little too um…what’s the word I’m looking for?

Bagger Vancey.

Like, really friendly, eager to please, completely unthreatening and ready to lay their lives down for whitey at a moment’s notice.

Black Panther is very much not that. He may be a good guy, but he’s not your good guy. He has his own mission and agenda which is protecting Wakanda. If your agenda and his align, great. If not, he will not hesitate for a second to slit your throat if that’s what it takes to keep his people safe. He’s aloof, unknowable, one of the three of four smartest human beings on the planet, and you can never quite be sure how much you can trust him. He is a black man who is the hero of his own story, not a supporting character in someone else’s.

If there was any doubt that there was a real hunger for this kind of character, then the roaring rampage this thing cut through the global box office put it to rest. No MCU movie has flopped…

Image result for inhumans movie

No MCU movie that counts has flopped and most of them have been big hits. Some of them have been massive hits. But Black Panther was a full on cultural event. Dialogue and characters from this movie saturated the pop culture. Athletes started dressing in Wakanda inspired outfits and making the Wakandan salute. Schools and churches organised trips to see it and some commentators compared its release to cultural touchstones like Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech and the election of Obama and okay guys, c’mon. It’s just a movie. But, after all the fanfare and thinkpieces, does the movie hold up? This looks like a job for an opinionated white guy on the internet! Let’s do this.

(more…)

Wizards (1977)

Ah Bakshi, the man they couldn’t tame.

I’ve reviewed two of Ralph Bakshi’s movies now, and even though my feelings on them were, oh let’s just go with “mixed” I have to say I have been looking forward to this one quite a bit. Why? Well, partially it’s because the animation reviews tend to be more fun to write, and also because, even if I don’t think they’re necessarily good films, they’re always a hell of a trip and fascinating to watch and talk about. Look, the guy walked into mainstream animation and just started throwing petrol bombs and I’ve always said I’ll take fascinatingly bad over dully competent any day.

And yet, the more I read up on Wizards (Papa Bear Bakshi’s third feature) the more anxious I got. Wizards is Ralph Bakshi’s most popular movie, and the one that, by Bakshi’s own admission, no one gave him shit over and genuinely seemed to like. This is the movie that even the squares seem to dig.

“You sold out, man.”

“Fuck you, man.”

Could that work? Could Ralph Bakshi actually make a standard, mainstream animated film? Or would his movie lose that inherent grungy Bak-shit insane quality that’s really the only thing that makes his output interesting? What happens when Ralph Bakshi shaves and puts on some damn pants? Let’s take a look.

(more…)