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                        Celebrating the Art of Cinema, ... and Cinema as Art


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(film commentary - classic cinema & contemporary blockbusters)

Views On Film:



* MALEFICENT (6/2/14)   *JERSEY BOYS (7/14/14)
* THE BFG (8/8/16)


      ... And over the next few months the hosts of our first slate of online shows (dedicated to cinema fashion, novels to film, film music, 80s Cinema and more) will be introduced via regular written columns here at the GullCottage online magazine.  Our dear friend - film historian Steve Vertlieb (subject of our documentary feature THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES), kicks things off with his new column 24 FRAMES.

 Steve Vertlieb with legendary dir. Frank Capra
     A former on-air TV reviewer of film as well as magazine publisher, Steve Vertlieb's learned, literate and much published dissertations on cinema over the last near half-century have made him a much sought after consultant on numerous projects, including an appearance in the 2006 award winning documentary KREATING KARLOFF, and as consultant on TCM's 75th Anniversary Restoration of Merian C. Cooper's original KING KONG. Widely considered one of the nation's foremost experts on the legendary "Great Ape", his numerous articles on the subject (including that in the still definitive volume THE GIRL IN THE HAIRY PAW) is referenced to this day by film makers, teachers and cinema students alike.

     As an archivist, Mr. Vertlieb's collection of rare movie memorabilia, letters and more is to such an unparalleled degree, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences at one time opened a dialog in the hopes of using parts of it for a planned film history annex.

      His status as a film historian, love of the medium, and voluminous output as a journalist / author has engendered immense respect within the film community and produced a lifetime of personal & professional relationships with names as varied and famous as RAY BRADBURY, RAY HARRYHAUSEN, VERONICA CARLSON, LEE HOLDRIDGE, BILLY WILDER, DAVID AMRAM and more.

     Divided into three departments - "Reviews", "33 1/3rd: The Art & Craft of the Film Score" and "Vertlieb Considers" (editorial commentary on classic and contemporary cinema) It is the honor of the GullCottage / Sandlot to welcome Steve Vertlieb's 24 FRAMES as an integral addition to our online film magazine and ever growing cinema reference and research library.

* Connect with Steve Vertlieb at 

* Learn more about the documentary STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES
on Facebook and on the film's official web pages.





by SJV
(posted 6/2/14)

(Walt Disney / Roth Films)
GullCottage rating (***** on a scale of 1 - 5)

Dir. by - Robert Stromberg
Written by - Linda Woolverton
by Charles Perrault, and
"LITTLE BRIAR ROSE" by The Brothers Grimm

Prod. by - Joe Roth
Exec. Prods. - Sarah Bradshaw, Don Hahn, Angelina Jolie
Dir. Of Photography  - Dean Semler
Edited by - Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson
Production Design by - Dylan Cole, Gary Freeman
Costume Design by - Anna B. Sheppard
Music - James Newton Howard
Running Time: 97 mins.


Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Elle Fanning (Aurora), Sharlto Copely (Stefan), Leslie Manville (Flittle), Imelda Staunton (Knotgrass), Juno Temple (Thistlewit), Sam Riley (Diaval), Brenton Thwaites (Prince Phillip),  Kenneth Cranham  (King Henry), Hannah New (Princess Leila), Isobelle Molloy (Young Maleficent), Michael Higgins (Young Stefan), Ella Purnell (Teen Maleficent), Janet McTeer (Narrator) 

MALEFICENT (official trailer #3)

Site Search Index:


play MALEFICENT score - "Queen of Faerieland" (J. Newton Howard)

  Angelina Jolie as the infamous Queen MALEFICENT (2014)

     In an age of cynicism, parody, and revisionist story telling, Hollywood film makers seem to regard traditional sincerity and simplicity with a jaundiced, suspicious gaze.  The mediocrity of such films as Ridley Scott’s “ROBIN HOOD”, “SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN”, and most recently “GODZILLA”, have left a bitter taste in the mouths of countless film purists and cinephiles longing for the purity of an age gone by.   Throughout each successive Summer season, the air of anticipation among film fans has diminished with palpable disappointment.  Seldom trusting the intelligence and sensitivity of their target audiences, studios and producers have chosen instead to abandon subtlety in favor of crass commercialism and jaw dropping stupidity.
Dir. and Oscar winning Production Designer
Robert Stromberg (ALICE IN WONDERLAND,

     The Disney Studios, however, appeared to stand alone in their desire to somehow recreate the sweet innocence of a bygone era.  This became evident in the Spring of 2013 with their much heralded return to the land of Oz  in “OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL”, a reverent if modestly successful tribute to MGM’s 1939 classic.  Far more satisfying and cerebral was “SAVING MR. BANKS”, their film within a film recounting the turbulent production of “MARY POPPINS” with the magical pairing of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers.  A poignant look back at the evolution of their acclaimed motion picture, “SAVING MR. BANKS” was, at once, a sweet and lovely tribute to the tender innocence that created the house of Disney.
     Now, in the midst of a decidedly lackluster Summer season, comes their live action remake of the  animated Disney classic, “SLEEPING BEAUTY,” a revisionist look at the untold origin of the famed fairy tale starring Angelina Jolie as Maleficent and Elle Fanning as the stricken Aurora.  Assembled by first time director Robert Stromberg (brother of conductor/composer William Stromberg and son of pioneering special effects technician William Stromberg, Sr.), this new look at the “Sleeping Beauty” legend was hailed as one of the most eagerly anticipated new films of the 2014 Summer blockbuster season. 

     Happily, the director’s lifelong passion for films and film making, as well as his own seasoned expertise as an accomplished special effects craftsman and art director within the motion picture industry, have paid off handsomely, for MALEFICENT will surely become the crown jewel in the current Disney empire.  To put it quite simply, MALEFICENT is an unexpected fantasy masterpiece and a motion picture that, in years to come, will be looked upon as one of the greatest fairy tales ever captured on film.

MALEFICENT is a joyous experience for children of all ages.  It is an eye popping, darkly exquisite fantasy that dares to look into the heart of a brooding villainess with sensitivity and compassion.  The brutality of bullying has been a silent killer for decades, corrupting innocent lives, and forever scarring both the perpetrator and his victim.  In an age when the horrors of bullying are finally being addressed by the collective conscience of humanity, it is sometimes sobering to remember how bullies are born, and why the afflicted might tragically become the tormentor.  Perhaps only in darkened movie theaters were the horrifying effects of such blind cruelty and dehumanizing assaults ever seriously or openly addressed.

                                                                                     SLEEPING BEAUTY: Disney's 1959 depiction of Maleficent

     Such issues were to be found in the unlikeliest of settings…in the plight and anguish of Frankenstein’s ”Monster” as he is reduced to pitiable sobs when at last finding acceptance in the heart of a blind hermit who cannot see his physical ugliness, or in conspicuous sacrifice atop the tall tower of The Empire State Building as the great “King Kong” commits noble suicide in order to protect the human girl he has grown to love from the slings, arrows, and bi-plane bullets of both outrageous fortune and human brutality.

     Similarly, Malefiicent is forced to endure a symbolic, off camera dismemberment.  Her anguish upon the realization of her fate at the hands of someone whom she trusted is bone chilling, an agonized wail transcending the supposed confines of a children’s fable.   Angelina Jolie’s performance is a stunning reminder that, even in the most apparently benign tableau, she is a remarkably gifted, and passionate artist.

This is an actress who has grown before our eyes into artistic maturity, enabling her to express in the single arching of her imperial eyebrow, the subtle pain of a creature wounded and wronged by the world.  Hers is an understated performance by a sublime actress able to convey more passion without a solitary word of dialogue than many performers might invest in an entire page of scripting.  In a world that takes precious little time for those who may appear “different” from the remainder of society, it is sometimes fashionable to clip one’s wings so that they may not fly, for to ascend beyond the heavens is ultimately threatening to those who wallow in their own, earth bound mediocrity.  This metaphorical castration, then, lays the groundwork for the evolution of evil and villainy or, at least, our feeble perception of both.


     The unhappy trend toward revisionist history in the arts, often fabricated in order simply to corrupt and trash the purity of its origin, has seldom inspired a superior translation.  Disney’s MALEFICENT is, of course, another take on the beloved story of SLEEPING BEAUTY.  It is a decidedly different variation of the classic fairy tale and yet, despite its dramatically radical interpretation, becomes at once as cherished as its original source material.   Director Robert Stromberg, himself an Oscar winning set decorator and acclaimed special effects technician, along with writer Linda Woolverton, have created an inspired cinematic doppleganger in which their alternate story telling choices are both logical and brilliant.

     Based upon LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT by Charles Perrault and derived from the story LITTLE BRIAR ROSE by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Disney studio had once before attempted a screen translation with their cherished, feature length, 1959 cartoon fantasy SLEEPING BEAUTY.  The acclaimed original motion picture was based upon a story adaptation by Erdman Penner, featuring a screenplay by Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibbler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, and Milt Banta.  This newest incarnation of the wondrous fairy tale is a joy to behold.  Finally, someone got it right! 

     MALEFICENT is visually stunning; an ethereal feast for the senses.  Dean Semler’s highly imaginative cinematography emblazons the three dimensional screen with impeccable imagery and, for once (upon a time) we’ve been offered a production entirely worthy of its process.  The sumptuous production design has been crafted by Dylan Cole and Gary Freeman, while the art direction by David Allday and his crew, combined with Lee Sandales magnificent set decoration, and Anna B. Sheppard’s striking costumes, illumine the screen with mind bending beauty. 

     Music is ultimately essential to any film’s integrity and literate structure.  Far too often during these years of sanitized, homogenized musical construction, thematic structure and melodic inspiration have been cast aside and abandoned as somehow “old fashioned,” leaving producers to commission barren, empty scores devoid of either heart or soul.  In an age when beauty and melody have come to be regarded with fear and suspicion, lest the score might possess its own identify or…dare I say it…personality, we’ve come to expect little more than the same wall to wall noise populating the monotonous, overly loud, and opulently boring soundtracks of most Summer films.  Except for the grand “old man” of film music, John Williams, whose now infrequent scoring assignments seem like a sweet oasis amidst an arid desert of uninspired mediocrity, few of today’s film composers seem to have the “chops” to write a melodious or memorable score. 

    Screenwriter Linda Woolverton / Composer James Newton Howard / Dir. of Photography Dean Semler


     Among the very few remaining gifted artists in the proverbial field, James Newton Howard stands proudly by his craft as a shining beacon in a creative sea awash in artistic poverty.  On those rare occasions in which a studio or producer yearns for melodic days of old, Howard has proven time after time that he can take the musical “ball” and run beyond the goal line.  His music perfectly matches the imagery created for the film, weaving a joyously romantic, symphonic tapestry upon which Stromberg’s artistic vision may safely rest.  Howard’s score is, perhaps, his finest work since THE FUGITIVE, PETER PAN and KING KONG.

     Elle Fanning is utterly enchanting as the innocent sleeping beauty, Aurora, while the remainder of the gifted cast is both convincing and compelling in their “animated” roles and performances.
     MALEFICENT is a wondrous celebration of everything that movies were meant to be.  The film is a flawless fantasy masterpiece, never condescending to a single false note or inappropriate mood.  It is an exquisite, triumphant classic that will easily rank, in years to come, as one of the Disney’s Studio’s most cherished motion pictures, as well as one of the most truly beautiful fantasy films ever made. 

is Magnificent …

     ...Quite simply, ”The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of".

                                                                                 SJV (6/2/14)

                                 Connect with Steve Vertlieb at

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