She’s just being Miley

Miley Cyrus and the road from Disney darling to rocker chick.

On March 24, 2006, the first episode of Hannah Montana aired on Disney Channel.

The premier was an instant hit, earning 54 million views and subsequently launching the career of then-14-year-old Miley Cyrus, daughter of famed country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. Almost overnight, Hannah Montana evolved into one of the most iconic Disney shows of all time. It wasn’t long before Miley’s face was plastered across the bedroom walls of pre-teens everywhere.

Much of the show’s success can be credited to its original soundtrack. The songs were pure pop and positivity, featuring Disney-approved lyrics about friendship, self-confidence, and livin’ life to the fullest. As a care-free 10-year-old whose self-confidence was yet to be squandered by the perils of puberty, Hannah Montana’s music really resonated with me.

“You’re right, Miley,” I would think. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

I utterly idolized Miley Cyrus, as many girls my age did. When Breakout came out in 2008 — her first studio album unaffiliated with the Hannah Montana franchise — I loaded up my iPod shuffle with each track and listened religiously. Aptly titled, Breakout provided a glimpse of Miley beyond her role as Hannah Montana; the woman behind the wig, if you will. While certainly not as bold as some of her later music, this album had an edginess to it unparalleled by her Disney-discography.

Take Breakout’s lead single, “7 Things,” for example. The song is less about a school-girl crush, and more about the complexities of a toxic relationship, illustrated by lyrics such as You’re vain, your games, you’re insecure / You love me, you like her and The seventh thing I hate the most that you do / You make me love you.

While Miley’s Disney gig undoubtedly propelled her career as a solo artist, it also placed her beneath a microscope. 

Disney stars are often held to near-impossible standards in terms of their public image, and there’s little room for personal-growth, experimentation, or mistakes. This is especially unfair considering most of these celebrities are hired as teenagers — a time when growth, experimentation, and mistakes are the name of the game.

In 2008, when Miley was just 15, intimate photos she took for her boyfriend were leaked on two separate occasions. That same year, Miley faced fierce backlash after the release of her Vanity Fair cover, on which she was wrapped in a sheet with her bare back exposed. She later apologized for the image, saying in a statement, “I have let myself down. I will learn from my mistakes … My family and my faith will guide me through my life’s journey.” She has since revoked this apology.

Looking back, I’m inclined to think that instances such as these played a huge role in how Miley’s music evolved moving forward. By the early 2010s, Miley’s image had changed entirely. As if to symbolize her entry into a new era, she traded her long brown hair for a short, icy-blonde pixie cut, and her pop-rock sound for a mix of synth, pop, R&B and hip hop.

Although songs like Cardi B’s “WAP” make Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” (2013) sound like a nursery rhyme, at the time the track was considered quite provocative, featuring lyrics such as It’s our party we can love who we want / We can kiss who we want / We can screw who we want. From this point onwards, Miley’s artistic choices became increasingly controversial: she posed naked in her “Wrecking Ball” video, twerked at the VMAs, and sported an oversized diaper and pacifier in her BB Talk (2015) video, to name a few things. This time around, however, her controversies were intentional, unlike when she was a teenager. I can’t help but think that through these controversies Miley was simply fulfilling a need to express herself freely and openly — express her sexuality, her boldness, her queerness — because during her Disney days, she wasn’t allowed to do so.

In a 2013 interview with Barbara Walters, Miley’s words said it all: “I don’t think I was ever really happy with who I was.”

Today, in 2020, Miley has taken on yet another new image. In the past few months, she’s released a series of new wave, rock, and grunge covers, from Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” to Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” to “Zombie” by the Cranberries. Along with her single “Midnight Sky,” released in August, the songs perfectly showcase Miley’s smokey, powerful voice. Her blonde hair now shaped into a shaggy, Joan Jett-esque mullet, she’s fully leaning into the role of rocker chick, and it suits her.  Her new album, Plastic Hearts, is set to arrive soon, and I’m looking forward to hearing how her sound continues to evolve.

I think part of the reason I’m so emotionally invested in Miley and her career is because I grew up alongside her. Miley has undoubtedly played with different identities over the years, and so have I — I’m not exactly a care-free ten-year-old anymore. The lesson I get from all this is pretty clear: nobody’s perfect.    


Graphic by Chloë Lalonde @ihooqstudio


The Mandalorian: Untold tales in a galaxy far, far away

 Star Wars lives on in Disney+

Set five years after the Return of the Jedi, the Disney+ original takes the viewer on a journey alongside an unknown character who is addressed as The Mandalorian, referred to as Mando, seemingly being his sole alias. The title character wears a helmet that is eerily similar to Boba Fett’s during the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983).

The first episode of the Mandalorian takes us to a cantina, located on Arvala-7, a remote desert planet, where the protagonist walks towards the bar to get a drink. A fight breaks out and Mando takes care of the men in the altercation without much trouble.

The title character is a ruthless, cold loner. There is no explanation nor peek in his backstory, which is quite an enigma, as members of the audience are often offered a flashback to explain why the character acts in a certain way. It is another side of the Star Wars universe, which makes it interesting and fascinating to the viewer – it definitely was for me.

In the usual Star Wars fashion, the protagonists are often good and have a desire to stand up to an evil regime – it is completely different here. It is a lawless and chaotic galaxy, which is unseen and unprecedented. Something that makes Mando different, contrary to Greedo, the bounty hunter we met during A New Hope, is that he doesn’t kill his mark, he only takes them to his employer.

Mando has different motivations as a bounty hunter other than killing or a thrill from power, contrary to those who worked under antagonists, such as Jabba the Hutt or Boba Fett. Although Mando’s morals fall in the grey zone, though he has a human side that few get to see. This side of the limitless universe that we see isn’t only fascinating, but it teaches that what makes someone evil isn’t their circumstances – it is up to the person to decide how to act. Your circumstances do not determine who you are, we always have a choice.

In my opinion, as a lifelong Star Wars fan, Jon Favreau  is doing amazing so far with the four episodes that I’ve seen. The cinematography maintains the classic Star Wars movie aesthetic, from the transitions used to the colour scheme. However, the pacing of the episodes is slower, and there are no central Jedis. This is what makes the show so intriguing: it’s different from the movies, all while still being true to the franchise.

Although the main movie saga is going to end on Dec. 20 with its ninth movie, The Rise of Skywalker, with this series, it still feels like Star Wars will live on. There are so many other worlds and characters to explore. Disney+ may just be the perfect medium for that purpose.


Illustration by @joeybruceart

Briefs News

World in brief: First week of public hearings, Venice under water and a new Netflix rival

Venice faced its worst flooding in 50 years, leaving St. Mark’s Square under a metre of water last Tuesday. Reuters reported that the Basilica was submerged for the sixth time in the past 1,200 years – but the fourth time since 2000. After declaring a state of emergency, Venice’s Mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, also told reporters that climate change was to blame, referring to the high tides as “apocalyptic.” A study published in Quaternary International back in 2017 argued that Venice will be underwater before the next century if no actions are taken to counter climate change.

The first public hearings in 21 years began on Wednesday for Trump’s impeachment inquiry. It is set to investigate whether or not the President abused his presidential powers and sought help from the Ukraine government to undermine Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Politico reported that standout moments included the House moving from quid pro quo to officially accusing the President of “bribery,” and the testimony from the Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor reporting another previously unknown phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump. Also an important moment was U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony, which Trump denigrated on Twitter, claiming “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” If the inquiry ends up proving Trump’s wrongdoing, he would become the third American President to be impeached.

A new streaming platform that was launched on Nov. 12 is set to offer access to Fox, Pixar, Marvel and National Geographic productions. Disney Plus comes as another big player against Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime and HBO, among others. Subscribers can expect to find Disney classics such as The Lion King and Star Wars on the streaming service. While Disney has been accused in the past of being culturally offensive, the service deemed wise to include the message “may contain outdated cultural depictions” prior to some of its movies. The platform is available for $8.99/month or $89.99/year in Canada.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Live-action Disney films: A worse idea than you can imagine

A study on the reasons Disney is remaking its beloved animated movies

If you’ve been following entertainment news recently, you might have heard Disney is planning on releasing live-action retellings of its classic animated movies. The first film in this genre was Alice in Wonderland, a 2010 remake which grossed over $1 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Although the Jungle Book exceeded the studio’s forecasted expectations, the recent onslaught of adaptations announced within the last week has left some people dumfounded.

There are now 12 live-action Disney films in the works, including some childhood favorites like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.  Even a Chip ‘n’ Dale adaptation was announced earlier this month, according to In my opinion, these remakes are a ridiculous idea with the sole purpose of increasing the production company’s bottom line. Why is Disney rushing out all of these remakes instead of developing new ideas?

For starters, according to Business Insider, Disney is a risk-averse company, and every time they take a chance with a challenging project, they fail miserably. For example, their attempt at entering the video game business—which, according to the same source, resulted in hundreds of jobs lost and the closing of six video game studios. According to Forbes, movies like Mars Needs Moms and John Carter lost the company upwards of $500 million. It is becoming incredibly difficult to attract audiences with new ideas in a world filled with derivative works, or works based on something that already exists, like a book. Moviegoers want to go see a film they know they are going to enjoy, not risk spending two hours grinding their teeth, Business Insider states.

It is also important to mention that Disney, like any other company, has to have a constant stream of output. The many animators hired by the company can’t remain idle—it would bankrupt the studio. Hence, any project, no matter how absurd, might start production if the executive team believes in its money-making power, as said in Creativity Inc., by Pixar president Edwin Catmull and Amy Wallace.

According to the same book, by adapting their previous works, Disney believes they will attract millennials who have been increasingly avoiding movie theaters. According to an article in The Atlantic, people between the ages of 15 and 30 grew up watching The Lion King on VHS and will go see its adaptation regardless of its quality. This is worrisome as the increase in ticket sales might cause Disney to believe that they no longer need to come up with new ideas—they can just continue to allow one remake after another.

This is not the first time Disney has opted to recycle stories rather than develop something new. The studio has been releasing sequels to their animated films since the late 90s and early 2000s, from Cinderella 3 to Aladdin: The Return of Jafar. At least the company had the decency to release those films straight to video instead of giving them worldwide theatrical releases.

According to Catherine Russell, chair of Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, filmmaking is constantly evolving. Due to its constant transformation, the movie industry should be dominated by adventurous producers, not money-hungry executives.


The American dream is alive in McFarland, USA

Actor Kevin Costner gives insight into the social complexities of Disney’s new film

McFarland, USA, a new Walt Disney film set to release on Feb. 20, is based on the true success of McFarland High School’s cross country team in 1987. The team was created by coach Jim White, played in the film by Kevin Costner, after he spotted potential in a group of students from Hispanic farmworker families. The narrative follows White’s character as he creates the team and proceeds to train the group to achieve athletic success. That may sound like one of the biggest clichés in Hollywood, but the social commentary presented in this film proves it to be one that’s worth risking cinematic redundancy for.

“I’m looking for kids that have a desire to do something better,” said the real Jim White when asked in a conference call what inspired him to start the cross country team. “These boys didn’t slack off and jog and walk like everybody else was doing, they actually loved to run— and so you try to look for things like this in young people.”

To Costner, this goes even further. “What it is, is a combination of young men and a man with a level of wisdom, a level of desire, to come together with one goal in mind, and through work they achieved that.” He also added his insight on another facet of the film: commentary on education: “Coaching is not always about the finish line, coaching is about the big picture which is how [the boys are] going to be as men.”

Costner stated that before this project was even conceptualized, he had read a story about McFarland in Sports Illustrated some years before. “I actually played against this community,” said Costner, who grew up in nearby Compton, California. “I played McFarland in baseball.”

Coach White spoke about his portrayal in the movie by stating that the character, “truly shows a love for the kids and a love for the town and the community. I think that you’re going to get that feeling when you see it and that’s a wonderful feeling.”

Costner went on to speak about his efforts to portray White accurately: “I think he’s quintessentially ‘what you see is what you get’ and I fought to try to make no more of that other than the passion that he had to have running deep inside him everyday when he went to coach these kids.”

White emphasized the film’s focus on the migrant field workers of McFarland saying, “the hardships that the kids have to go through working in the fields, that is so, so important to understand.”

“Seeing these people first-hand, up-close, in these fields … they’re simply working these incredible hours through very difficult weather conditions everyday of their lives,” said Costner. “The American Dream in McFarland is alive and well, there’s nothing more American than a parent trying to make their life better for their children.”

The film follows the classic sports drama narrative, but such Hollywood formulas can often hold both objective and subjective worth. Whether it’s in the variations, details, aesthetics, or thoughts provoked.

“Films are emotional experiences: they’re not intellectual, they’re emotional,” said Costner, “When movies are working at their very best, they become about moments that you’ll never ever forget and we carry the moments of films throughout our whole lives.”


“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”

Saving Mr. Banks takes us behind the scenes of one of the most iconic films in history, Mary Poppins. The film focuses on the interplay and rivalry between author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson, witty, imperious, fantastic) and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks, exuberant, charming, sincere) who wishes to adapt her book series into a film.

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in Saving Mr. Banks. Press photo

As far as Travers is concerned, turning Mary Poppins into a “silly cartoon” is an atrocious idea, one she equates to “selling out.” It’s a vile concept she would never consider – until that is, the royalties from her book sales dry up and she faces financial uncertainty.
A dejected Travers finds herself on a flight from dreary London to sunny Burbank, CA. “Sunny” in this case, is an understatement. Just as Mary Poppins enters the cartoon world of penguins and merry-go-round horses that come to life, so does Travers leave a somber reality to plunge into the glitzy fantasy land of Disney Studios – and she couldn’t be more adverse.

Since Travers has not signed the contract yet, Disney and his employees are at her mercy.

The set design is fantastic, transporting us to Burbank in the ‘60s, and is aided by the fact that the Disney Studios and Disneyland itself have not changed too much in the last 50 years. All the characters look like they were taken off the set of Mad Men, so there is much eye candy for fans of tailored suits and elaborate hairstyles.

It’s not long before the team that “Uncle Walt” has tasked with adapting the book, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the musical Schwartzman brothers (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) realize that Travers is not there to cooperate or make their lives easy.

Her demands become increasingly ridiculous (no songs, no cartoons, no Dick Van Dyke, no colour red) and when the chipper Disney denizens see that Travers is entirely immune to their upbeat charms, a tug of war ensues between a writer desperately clinging to an idealization of the past, and entertainers looking to bring her characters to the audiences of the future.
This conflict is the most enjoyable part of the film due to the sly dialogue delivered by Thompson, who steals every scene she’s in, even the ones opposite Hanks.

Hanks’ performance of Walt Disney focuses on the magic and splendor of a visit to a Disney theme park with only a glimpse at the chains and cogs that make the rides function. You can’t build a multibillion-dollar company on smiles and fairy dust alone, and it would have been apt to see a bit more of the practical side of Disney – the visionary businessman and shrewd empire-builder that wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So why is Travers such a difficult nut to crack? Why does she retain her jaded cynicism even in the happiest place on Earth?
Juxtaposed with the 1961 story is the tale of eight-year-old Helen Goff (Travers as a child) in turn-of-the-century Australia. The girl with the golden locks is forced to grow up all too quickly when her quirky, fun-loving father (Colin Farrell, a strange casting choice but he makes it work) brings his family to ruins by succumbing to alcoholism.

While bedridden, little Helen tries to brighten his day by reading him the first poem she has ever written, a poem that has won first place in her school.

“It’s not exactly Yates, is it?” spits her father to her heartbroken face. These flashback scenes provide answers to some character-building questions.

Unfortunately, little Helen does not get the Disney ending she hopes for, and by the midpoint of the film we understand the experiences that shaped Travers into a lonely dispassionate old lady but also – because all great writing must come from pain – into a brilliant writer capable of capturing the imaginations of children and adults all over the world.

The movie does take many liberties with the truth. In real life, Travers was not at all happy with the film, and she refused to allow Disney any rights to the rest of her books. After the premiere, Travers demanded that the animated segments be removed and Disney denied her request telling her that “the ship has sailed.”

But a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down and Saving Mr. Banks is an emotional roller coaster that will make you cry, make you laugh and – fitting to a movie about the Disney Corporation by the Disney Corporation – make you leave the theaters with a little more joy in your life than when you went in.

Saving Mr. Banks will be opening in Montreal theatres on Dec. 20.


Pros and Cons: Star Wars…Disney is your father

There are some films that are so influential they will be engrained in film culture for years and years to come. There are some stories that are so appealing that they are rendered classics almost immediately. Star Wars is one of those films. Alas, the question we ask is this: Disney has bought the the rights to the series for a pretty penny, but should more Star Wars movies be made? Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons.

PRO: Why fans should rejoice
by Jenna Cocullo

I sense a disturbance in the force; Disney Studios has bought LucasFilm for $4.05 billion with the intention of making three brand new films. Some fans were upset with the news. However, there is no reason to fret and here are four reasons why.

1. Once you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up.
Let’s face it, Star Wars episodes I to III were not exactly the most satisfying films. Matthew Hays, critic and film studies professor at Concordia University, agrees.

“The first Star Wars film was a lot of fun, and was very creative and new. The next two weren’t as good. The next three, the prequels, were generally quite rotten.”

The good news? Well it seems that it cannot get any more rotten as anything could be better than the last three films to hit theaters.

“I think a new sequel could be fun, and it couldn’t be much worse than the last few,” said Hays.

Disney is starting off favourably since expectations will be very low for any new Star Wars movies because the last few disappointed so intensely.

2. It’s Disney!
Besides supposedly putting subliminal messages in our beloved childhood films, have they ever really done anything bad? They are responsible for this summer’s greatest blockbuster, The Avengers, recent favourites like Pirates of the Caribbean and creating childhood classics such as the epic Toy Story trilogy. It is safe to say that the Star Wars legacy will be in good hands.

3. A fresh new storyline with a fresh new perspective
Had Disney decided to reboot the films, that would have been a problem (even though it would be kind of cool to see what they would look like in the 21st century).

“I like the idea of creating new storylines and not rebooting the old films,” explained Hays. “There are too many reboots going on right now, it just feels like so much recycling.”

Fortunately, that is not the case. New story lines are in the making — ones which do not involve the original cast at all. The fact that George Lucas is not the one producing them is even better because Disney can provide a new take on the films.

4. A classic movie is immortal
Star Wars will live on with the making of three new movies. Of course, they will never be as good as the originals, nothing ever leaves an impression like the first, but that is no reason to stop the legacy. Many enthusiasts have expressed their feelings of joy on Internet forums discussing the topic. They feel that they can relive a great part of their childhood. At the end of the day, a franchise so many love is coming back to the big screen. If it sucks, so what? The originals will always be there. So for any doubtful people out there, my advice to you would be to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

CON: Don’t mess with a good thing
by Christina Rowan

Disney making three more Star Wars films instead of Lucasfilm is the equivalent of a modern day artist adding onto to Michelangelo’s oeuvre in the Sistine Chapel. What’s done is done!

From here on out, the legacy of George Lucas’ cinematic ventures runs the risk of being credited to Disney, which initially, had nothing to do with it.

Lucas will remain a consultant to the Star Wars franchise. However, Disney ultimately holds the cards, allowing them to take directions Lucas wouldn’t if it were solely up to him.

Lucas was clearly in no need of financial aid. He has made beyond what is considered a fortune on his franchise — an estimated $27 billion, through the films, television shows, action figures, video games, board games, you name it — yet still sold to mass film corporation Disney.

Since the sale, the announcement of three new possible Star Wars films has become public, but what more can Disney add to the story?

Everyone is already familiar with the the intergalactic empire, life-threatening lightsaber battles, epic pod races and the ultimate fight between good and evil. We’ve seen what happens from beginning to end to Luke, Princess Leia, and their villainous father, Darth Vader. Even the Emperor fell to his doom in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.

So, is the production of three more Star Wars movies really necessary? Three new films may only tarnish the glory it possesses.

The entertainment business today seems to be popping out the same types of movies all the time, most recently, superhero films like Batman, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. They’ve been recycled and updated with clearer graphics, bigger explosions and louder sound effects. It’s becoming a little repetitive, when you think about it.

For Star Wars fans who were disappointed with the prequel films released since 1999, it will only be more of the same disappointment with three Disney-made Star Wars films.

Lucas said in an interview with IGN that when he made the first Star Wars installments back in the 1970s, everybody in Hollywood said it was a movie Disney should have made. He didn’t give in then so why now? In the end, Lucas made some of the greatest movies of all time. Can Disney really live up to that reputation? I don’t think so.

I’m sure the new movies will be enormous box office hits, action-packed blockbusters. They might even be great films in themselves, but we should be looking to new ideas, not revamping old ones.

Despite all the excitement and all the hype, the classics will always be the innovative, new world brought to life by George Lucas, and no remake or newer movie can live up to that.

Graphic by Phil Waheed.

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