God help thee, poor monkey. - Macbeth

Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie Review: Labyrinth

Ever since I was very young, "Labyrinth" has been one of my favorite movies. In fact, I loved it so much, that I was absolutely thrilled when my dad bought me a tape of "Peter and the Wolf" narrated by David Bowie because I loved him so much as Jareth, the king of the goblins.

For those who haven't seen it, "Labyrinth" is a darkly funny fairy tale about a spoiled teenager, Sarah, who spends all her time in a fantasy world rather than interacting with people her own age. One night, while babysitting her crying baby brother, Toby, she wishes for goblins to come and take the inconsolable infant away. At her words, Toby disappears from his room, and his sister comes face to face with the formidable Goblin King, Jareth. She begs him to return her brother, but he refuses, declaring that "What's said is said." Finally, he relents, telling her that her brother is being kept in the castle at the center of a gigantic, complex labyrinth and gives her 13 hours to solve the labyrinth and find the boy before he becomes a goblin himself. Throughout the rest of the movie, he places in front of her a number of challenges that she is forced to overcome, with the help of a cowardly dwarf named Hoggle, an adorable giant furry beast called Ludo, and Sir Didymus, the fearless, hyperactive foxlike creature who rides on a horseshoed English Sheepdog named Ambrosius.

This movie is amazing for so many reasons. For one thing, you've got a fantastic screenplay written by Monty Python's Terry Jones. For another, you've got a potentially scary story turned into a hilariously whimsical and kid-friendly story by the buffoonish antics of the hapless, muppet-like goblins. Not only that, but the creatures are designed by renowned fairy illustrator Brian Froud, and the special effects are provided by none other than George Lucas. Add to that the direction of Jim Henson (and that absolutely gorgeous cinderella-esque dress that Sarah gets to wear toward the end of the film), and you've got a fantastic movie. Sure, it's campy and VERY 80s, but that's part of its charm.

Let's be honest, though. It's David Bowie who makes the movie. From his irresistibly catchy songs to his flawless portrayal of the mysterious Goblin King, the movie wouldn't be half as good without him. There's something incredibly alluring about the character of Jareth, too, something that I've struggled to put my finger on. As a child, I was absolutely in love with him and found the ball scene to be completely enchanting. I still do, despite the slightly disturbing undertones (not least of which the huge age difference between Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, who plays Sarah). The other day, however, I was watching the movie with my friend who had never seen it, and she said decidedly, "It's because he's so tragic." The more I think about it, the more I realize that she's right. There is a melancholy air to the Goblin King that is quite appealing. However, I am surprised at how many people completely miss this aspect of the character while watching the movie. A great many people only take him at surface level and dismiss him as a jealous, vindictive creature who is in love with Sarah and is motivated by his desire to possess her. This is not what I see at all. In fact, I have never seen Jareth in this way, and I strongly believe that he is not meant to be viewed in this manner. I am undecided on whether or not he was actually in love with Sarah, but I have always seen him as a character who was trying to help Sarah grow up and embrace her life. He didn't want to see her turn into a lonely person like him, surrounded by people but never a part of the group, so he devised a plan to help her discover the values of friendship. While he may have appeared angry and threatening, it was merely because she was still so childlike and wrapped up in the fantasy world of the labyrinth. All his challenges helped her find faith in herself and discover the kind of person that she wanted to be.

If you haven't seen "Labyrinth", I strongly suggest checking it out. It is terribly entertaining and appeals to the child within us all. Even if you have seen it, watch it again. I guarantee that there's something that you missed (Pay close attention to the objects shown in Sarah's room at the beginning of the movie. You might spot some things that look familiar).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Bittersweet Week

Usually I don't write such personal posts, but this is a very emotional week for me. This post is not meant to be depressing but rather to honor some very important memories. Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, the first I've celebrated since my grandfather (pictured above with my little sister) died 6 months ago. St. Patty's Day was always one of his favorite holidays. He was very proud of his Irish heritage. Every year, he would hang the Irish flag on the garage door, and some years he would invite my family over for dinner to celebrate. Not only that, but the last time that I spoke to my grandpa on the phone before he died was when I called him from Irishfest in September. He had fallen ill and was in the hospital, so I thought a call from me would cheer him up, especially since my sister and I are the only two grandchildren who have taken any interest in Irish music and the like. That was the last time that I heard my grandpa's voice. He died the next weekend. I've been missing him a fair amount the past few months, as we were quite close (although I didn't realize how close until he was gone), but today I felt it more acutely than I have since his memorial service. St. Patrick's Day just isn't the same without him around.

The good news this week is that tomorrow is my nineteenth birthday, and my mom is coming to visit me. I haven't seen her since January, so I'm very excited to show her around the city and just spend some quality time with her. It's also my golden birthday, which I have been waiting for since I was old enough to know what a golden birthday was (although now that it's here, it seems a bit anticlimactic).

Unfortunately, tomorrow is also the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. I am very strongly antiwar, and I always have been, and my fourteenth birthday was very nearly ruined when Bush announced on March 17th that he was giving Hussein two days to leave Iraq. I had predicted that our illustrious president would put off attacking Iraq until my birthday, but everyone told me I was being paranoid. I just had this feeling, though. I knew it was going to happen. When we went out for my birthday dinner that night, the restaurant we were at had the TV on right above our table. Bush was on the news outlining his plan of attack, and they refused to turn it off until my mom yelled at them for ruining our celebrations (this is a bar and grill that specializes in birthdays, so I'm not really sure why anyone there would have wanted to be watching such sad news on what is supposed to be such a happy day). I was very emotional that week and prone to tears, a state that was exploited by some of my more pro-war classmates. It wasn't so much that I was upset about my birthday being tainted. It was more that I felt guilty that I was celebrating while bombs were being dropped on innocent people in Iraq. Needless to say, it was not a happy birthday.

Thursday, the 20th, is also an emotional day for me. I was named after my great grandmother, and last year she grew very sick the weekend before my birthday. I was incredibly upset. For some reason, it was very important to me that she see me, her namesake and the oldest great grandchild, turn 18. It's such a big milestone, and I really wanted her to see me reach it. A few days before she died, we went to visit her in the nursing home, and I held her hand and told her how much I loved her and how proud I was to be named after her. I told her that I was going to be an adult in a few days and that I hoped she would be around to see it. My dad told me later that he thought she was going to die on my birthday so she would be remembered (her husband died on my uncle's birthday) but that she saw how important it was to me that she make it through that day and so she waited an extra day. I found that to be a very touching thought.

The final thing that makes this week so bittersweet is that Friday, the 21st, is the 14th birthday of my little sister Sophie. She was born right after I turned five and unfortunately was only with us for ten days. I suppose it's a bit strange to miss someone that I barely knew, but around this time of year I start wondering what my baby sister would be like and wishing she were still around. She was an exceptional girl, and I loved her very deeply, even though I only knew her for a couple of days. However, two years later, I got another little sister, and I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's one of my best friends, despite the large age difference between us, and I don't know what I would do without her.

I'm sorry if I bored anyone with my ramblings. I just wanted to honor the exceptional people who make this week so memorable and the events that changed my life. All of them were very dear to me, and I hope that wherever they are, they know that I'm thinking about them.