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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 26, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 48
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Marwencol a mentally fascinating journey of self-discovery
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Marwencol
Opening November 26


In April of 2000, Mark Hogancamp was assaulted outside a Kingston, NY bar by five men. They pummeled him to the brink of death, leaving him so disfigured even his own mother didn't recognize him. After 40 days in a coma Mark awoke to discover he had little to no memory of his previous life, and unable to afford continuing care or physical and emotional therapy he was discharged and sent home to fend for himself.

In order to help himself retain some semblance of sanity and to facilitate recovery, Mark builds Marwencol, a 1/6 scale WWII-era town he populates with Barbie Dolls and G.I. Joes that he meticulously clothes and reengineers to look like people from his life. As the world he has created begins to grow, he starts telling intricate stories using his characters set during the war but also somewhat consciously based upon his own frazzled memories about things before, during, and after his attack. He takes pictures of these tales, creating a massive visual history of a place and time blossoming from his own weary, yet vivid, imagination.

That's only the tip of the iceberg as far as Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol is concerned. The 2010 Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle award-winner for Best Documentary, this intricate and intimate little film is a glorious and thought-provoking journey through one man's fractured psyche. It is a human drama and a human mystery all at the same time, as who Mark Hogancamp is and what he is doing with his life is a breathless enigma only Mark himself can ever hope to answer.

If anything, the movie is a boon to art therapists. There is something wholly personal about what the act of creation can unlock, what secrets it might unintentionally uncover. For Mark, his creative expressionism involving dolls and the world he manufactures for them is the key to helping him recover from an event too deplorable to imagine. What was done to him - and for the apparent reasons disclosed near the end of the picture - is of striking inhumanity. The level of intolerance shown by his attackers another reason why national hate crime laws that cover everyone no matter what race, nationality, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or gender expression are of such import.

Malmberg goes over everything with a delicate and astonishing touch. He inserts himself into Mark's life with restraint, never pushing things to an extent you feel like harm is being done, but also finding a way to ask questions that could end up doing his subject a modicum of good. This is a documentary where the filmmaker can't help but become a part of the story, and for once that's a plus and not a minus, the two engaging in a cathartic friendship that's honest and heartwarming.

There is plenty here for audiences to mull over. From a strictly artistic perspective, Mark's creations end up speaking loudly for themselves. From the standpoint of the importance of access to mental health care for people in need, there is much in the way of food for thought. But for me, it is the human drama of one man tackling his own injustice through a lens distinctly of his own design that is the most important. Marwencol is a journey into the subconscious of a man who doesn't always know just how loudly he is speaking, and as such it is this story of triumph - a story that continues to evolve - that makes the film an emotionally stunning achievement worthy of acclaim.


Sensational Tangled lets down its hair
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Tangled
Now Playing


Once upon a time, a pregnant queen was slowly dying. To save his beloved, her husband the king sent his people on a quest for a mythical magical flower that could cure all illnesses. Finding it, they broke the plant down into an elixir, feeding it to the queen and thus saving both her life and that of her unborn child.

But the evil Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy) knows intimately the power of the flower the queen has ingested, and sneaks into the palace and kidnaps the beautiful blonde-haired princess shortly after her birth. For 18 years, she has raised Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) as her own, using the magic within her hair to maintain her own youth and beauty.

Trapped within a high tower, this young woman longs to see the world, to discover why there are flickering lights off in the distance above the royal castle every year on the night of her birth. Teaming up with a wondering rogue named Flynn Ryder (voiced Zachary Levi), she breaks Mother Gothel's number-one rule and finds a way outside of the home which has been her prison for so long. In the process, she discovers a world she never could have imagined, a horrible truth she never would have believed, and a potential love no one - not even the unflappable Ryder - could have anticipated.

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Tangled is the Walt Disney Company's first computer animated feature that mostly closely echoes their beloved hand-drawn catalog. It is a superlative piece of family entertainment that might just be one of the year's very best motion pictures, and along with Pixar's Toy Story 3 and DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon, it is a wonderful effort bordering on being timeless.

I have to say, not since Beauty and the Beast have I been so thoroughly and completely caught off guard by an animated release from the Mouse House. Starting with Dan Fogelman's (Bolt, Cars) remarkable script, moving on to the marvelous vocal work by the entire cast and finishing up with Oscar-winner Alan Menken's (The Little Mermaid) music and Glenn Slater's (Home on the Range) superb lyrics, everything about this borders on perfection. Watching it is akin to pure bliss, the smile on my face steadily increasing all the way from first delectable frame to last.

As for the animation itself, there are moments here that rival anything Pixar has ever put to celluloid. The entire first meeting between Rapunzel and Flynn is a major wow, while a singing inner monologue by the heroine describing her typical day is a beguiling winner. But the sequence that really made me hold my breath came just before the start of the final act, as our two potential lovebirds get a boat's-eye view of a blizzard of flying lanterns that left me thunderstruck in awe. It's one of those moments that makes you cherish how lucky you are to be sitting in a theatre taking these sights in. This picture is filled with so many charms it's almost impossible to give all of them their proper due.

Is it all a bit slight? Sure it is, this being a fanciful Disneyfied fairy tale after all. But just because that's so doesn't make any of it less remarkable. There hasn't been a CG animated film like this one - none of them echo the pure unadulterated joy of classically animated Disney like this does. You get the feeling as the film progresses that Tangled has every opportunity to enter the timeless canon, to be as fondly remembered as Cinderella, as Sleeping Beauty, as Beauty and the Beast.

Time will be the final judge and jury there, or course, and when we revisit the picture in a decade or so, hopefully I'll be waxing just as poetic then as I am now. But right now, my heart is soaring beyond the moon over the glories of Tangled. This movie made me feel bushels of ecstasy as it resplendently filled my heart with glee. I am beyond enamored with it, and this Thanksgiving holiday, I can't think of a more satisfactory treat than the ability to introduce my two young nieces to an animated treasure they'll keep enjoying into their adolescence and beyond.






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The Dandy Warhols' Mia McCabe cites M.I.A, pulled pork, and ?Gay community as faves
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Hollow Lughnasa leaves audience unaffected
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Excellent actors wasted in sluggish Vestal Virgins
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Marwencol a mentally fascinating journey of self-discovery
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Sensational Tangled lets down its hair
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Northwest News
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Letters
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Holiday Events Calendar
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Dina Martina - Comedian delights, disturbs this season
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Holiday albums hit the shelves alongside Elton and Liza
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Seattle favorite Anne Allgood sings with holiday cheer in A Christmas Story
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