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Bend it like a unicorn

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Last night Kam and I went to a lovely Burmese/Chinese restaurant in downtown Palo Alto, a place called Rangoon that we happened across in an online review. We'd never had Burmese food before, so we ordered paratha (which in this rendition was kind of like thick green-onion pancakes without the green onion), a mild vegetable curry that I forgot the name of (something Hin, but I gather that "Hin" just means "curry"), and a Burmese chicken curry. It was all good, and I thought the paratha and veggie curry were delicious. I wasn't as thrilled with the chicken curry as with the other stuff, but it certainly wasn't bad, and Kam liked it a lot.

(After typing that paragraph I took a brief time-out to listen to a tune that came up on iTunes: possibly my favorite English-dance tune, graced with the unlovely name "Dick's Maggot," as performed by Bare Necessities. I'm not sure how much of my appreciation for it is the tune and the performance, which are both very nice, and how much is the fact that it's what I learned to waltz to. But more on that another time.)

So anyway, after dinner we walked over to the Aquarius Theater to see Bend It Like Beckham, a totally charming comedy about a South Asian girl in the UK who wants to be a football (soccer) player. (If you look at the IMDB page, do not read the quotes page, as it contains a major spoiler.) It doesn't transcend its genre, but it's full of delightful little unexpected variations on what I expected. It's well-acted, and very funny, and though it does rely on humor-of-embarrassment, it doesn't dwell on it. The characters are all sympathetic and likeable. It's written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, the writer and director of Bhaji on the Beach. It's got plenty of eye-candy for all tastes: two attractive female leads (one South Asian, one caucasian), an attractive caucasian male lead, and lingering closeups on a poster of a very attractive caucasian soccer player. :) All of the acting is good. The movie's a bit heavy-handed in places, and a bit predictable in places, and a bit obvious in places, but it's so damn charming that we just didn't care about any of that.

The rest of the audience loved it too—we were seeing the second sold-out showing of the night (in a small art theatre, though), and I missed a few lines here and there because of audience laughter. (Also because of accents.) But only a few.

When I got home, I poked around on IMDB to find out who the actors were, and found a couple interesting items.

First, the female caucasian lead was Keira Knightley, who played (spoilers for The Phantom Menace!) Sabé, the double, in TPM. About which she says: ". . . they didn't have real lightsabers, which annoyed me." She's also going to be the female lead in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which will also feature Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, and Jonathan Pryce.

But much more interesting to me is that the male caucasian lead was Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, who played Steerpike in the Gormenghast TV miniseries (which I haven't seen, but he'd be perfect for the part), and is going to play Schmendrick (!) in—I can't believe I hadn't heard this was happening—next year's live-action movie of The Last Unicorn.

Now, I am deeply dubious about another movie of Unicorn. The book is probably in my top ten all-time favorite books; but the 1982 Rankin-Bass animated movie, with songs, featuring voices of Alan Arkin (Schmendrick), Jeff Bridges (Lir), Mia Farrow (Unicorn), Angela Lansbury (Mommy Fortuna), Christopher Lee (Haggard), Keenan Wynn (Cully), and Rene ("Odo") Auberjonois (The Skull), was disappointing and forgettable. (I recall thinking at the time that the one good thing about the movie was that the unicorn moved the way a unicorn should move.)

And yet, hope springs a turtle. This new live-action version will have a new screenplay written by Beagle (though I think he also wrote the screenplay for the animated version), and will feature—hmm, an oddly familiar list of names: Christopher Lee as Haggard, Mia Farrow as Molly Grue, Angela Lansbury as Mommy Fortuna, Rene Auberjonois as Captain Cully. Fascinating.

Also fascinating is the official site for the movie, which (though various aspects don't inspire confidence) includes, among other things, a complete copy of the script (as of a couple years ago) in RTF form. I've never heard of anyone doing that. Actually, that and various other things (like the fact that the site has apparently barely been updated in a couple years, though the movie's supposed to go into production in a couple months) make me wonder whether this production is for real, and/or is still happening. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

The animations and early production-design sketches and models on the site aren't bad, but aren't great either. The unicorn is graceful, but the horn's a little short, and there's just a touch of My Little Pony. But the model and the animation are very preliminary; presumably it'll be refined a lot before the movie's done.

I still haven't yet seen a drawing of a unicorn that I liked better than Darrell K. Sweet's cover of one edition of Last Unicorn: basically a white deer with a horn, rather than a horse. It conveys both the wildness and the grace much better, for me, than a horse does.

I bet some of you thought this entry was going to mention zombie unicorns, didn't you?

19 Comments

I haven't been to Rangoon (the restaurant, not the city) for years, but I recall that they make a very delicious noodle salad. It might be a lunch special.


Honestly, Jed, you and this zombie unicorn fascination. It's an obsession - seek help.


I tried to find an image of the Sweet Last Unicorn cover to link to, but couldn't. Fortunately, Josh did. Thanks, Josh!

By the way, as it turns out, there are also unicorn sex toys. I will make no further comment upon that.


The key thing about the unicorn sex toys is that they're *bendy*. (grin)


Well, you didn't mention zombie unicorns, but you did mention zombie actresses -- Angela Lansbury's dead.


Just as well; I've got nothing against Angela Lansbury, but she's no Mommy Fortuna.

Rhys-Meyers is very good in the BBC Gormenghast, and I think he'll make a great Schmedrick. (You should also see him as the villain in Ang Lee's Civil War western, Ride With The Devil, if you haven't already.) The rest of the cast is pretty good, too. The castle isn't dusty enough, and the camera work is... uninspired, but overall, it's worth watching at least once.


Eep! Angela Lansbury dead? When did that happen? dead-or-alive.org shows her as still alive, as does the IMDB?did she die recently? Sadness!

I had no idea that Ang Lee made a Civil War western, but yup, there it is. I'll have to take a look; I've very much liked most of what I've seen of his. (I avoided The Ice Storm 'cause it sounded like so much not my kind of movie.) I'm a little skeptical about Skeet Ulrich (who's always struck me as who you get if you can't get Johnny Depp) and Tobey Maguire (who everyone but me seems to adore), but I'll give it a shot anyway.


Lansbury apparently performed last Sunday, and Liz Smith didn't mention anything about her being a zombie, so I can only conclude that Fred is mistaken.


The Last Unicorn was one of my favourite movies as a child. I taped it off of HBO and watched it over and over and over. Then again, one of my other favourites at that age was Super Fuzz so my tastes may not have been all that refined yet?

I found a used copy of the novel a few years ago, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Ghormenghast was haunting and delicious, and while it wasn't great film, it was (I thought) astounding for PBS fare and pretty durn good overall. Rhyr-Meyers was perfect. (Caveat: again, I've only seen it, not read the Peake.)

I cried tears of sadness and relief all in the space of a few comments for Angela Lansbury. Wow.


Unicorn sex toys? Ah well, can't be any worse than the Hello Kitty vibrator. Bendy is indeed the key. I'll have to add The Last Unicorn to my reading list, Jed. I've seen parts of the movie, and I was only watching it to see if I could spot the symbolism of unicorn/bull and figure out what it meant. I suppose reading the book would be better for me on that front.


Angela Lansbury's husband, on the other hand, died a few months ago. Possibly that's the cause of the confusion?


FYI--"maggot", in the context of English Country Dancing, is referring to its meaning as "whimsy", "odd idea", "fancy". Of course, you may have known that already.

I have to admit that when the animated Last Unicorn came out, I really loved it. But I was 12, just past the pre-teen-girl-in-love-with-horses phase, and firmly in the pre-teen girl-in-love-with-unicorns phase. At this point, all I really remember about the movie is the way the unicorn moved, which I loved. Didn't Dark Castle come out around then? I loved that, too. Heh.


Oh. My. God.

Last Unicorn is one of my all-time favourites when it comes to books, movies, anything.

Thanks for posting this!

*dances with gleeeeeee!*


Hi, Aaron! Did you know that your web page shows you standing next to a giant cucumber? I guess you probably did.

Nao: Cool! I always wondered what "maggot" meant in that context. (I just know someone's going to make a zombie joke.)

Maybe I didn't give the Rankin-Bass Last Unicorn a fair enough try. Then again, it sounds like age 12 or younger may've been the best time to see it, so maybe I'm just too late.

Dark Castle—as in the video game?


I'm sad you didn't give a nod to the late Brother Theodore, who did the voice of Ruhk.

He was a comic genius who I had the honor of knowing for about a year or so before his death. After he died at the age of 94, I swore off playing chess forever.

He didn't like the movie or his role in it either, actually. Being an egoist, he prefered to play himself. The money from that movie, and from The 'Burbs, plus his SAG pension, did keep him from being thrown out of his tiny apartment or starving to death though.


Ooops--I was tired from four long hours of driving (for three short days of sitting by the Atlantic. ;) I *meant* The Dark Crystal.

Ah well.

As far as I can tell from the OED, the maggot-as-whimsy definition is in fact from a metaphor (or maybe actual thought) that strange notions were caused by a maggot in the brain.


Nao: Maggot in the brain! What a lovely notion. If one's a zombie, anyway.

Nick: I don't know anything about Brother Theodore other than that (sez the IMDB) he also played Gollum in the Rankin-Bass Hobbit and Return of the King. It appears that he didn't start appearing in movies 'til he was 40—what did he do before that? Was he also a stage actor? How did you meet him? And why did you swear off chess?


Added much later: turns out Nick discussed all this in his essay "Brother Theodore Is Dead," originally published at disinfo.com and now also available in Nick's collection 3000 MPH in Every Direction at Once.


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