Thursday, January 9, 2014

Penelope Cruz as Belle

Beauty and Her Beast

Penelope Cruz Jeff Bridges Beauty and the Beast
Penelope Cruz and Jeff Bridges.
Penelope Cruz as Belle, and Jeff Bridges as her Prince, from the Disney animated feature film classic "Beauty and the Beast." This photograph was shot in 2011 by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. It is part of a continuing campaign by Disney to promote its theme parks.

Begin rant.

This is a rare shoot with a man in Disney Portraits photo on an equal footing with a woman (David Beckham portrayed Prince Phillip from "Sleeping Beauty," Roger Federer was King Arthur from "The Sword in the Stone," and Johnny Depp was his character Captain Jack Sparrow, but the were either alone or easily overshadowed any women in the shot; Michael Phelps appears in Julianne Moore's Ariel the Little Mermaid shot, but he's almost unrecognizable). They easily could have gone with just Belle by herself, so this was a deliberate decision. Perhaps they figured that since "The Beast" is a joint headliner with Belle, that he had as much of a right to be featured? Or perhaps it's that he's actually a beast?

After all, ponder this: how many male names are in the titles of Disney animated features aside from "Robin Hood" (portrayed in the film as an animal), the boys Peter Pan and Pinocchio, the deer "Bambi" and the baby elephant "Dumbo"? Not too many. Actual men are in a distinct minority in Disney animated feature films, real second-class citizens who basically are there only to give the women their diva moments (coughcoughFrozencoughcough).

So, this "Beauty and the Beast" shot is quite unusual. Consider that all the promotion for the Broadway musical and various other productions always focuses solely on Belle. Disney knows what sells. So, there's a bit of a mystery here why an actual man is featured with a woman on something approaching an equal footing (one must figure that the relatively little-known Marc Anthony joined Jennifer Lopez as Jasmine on that magic carpet only because to leave Jennifer's husband out would have been an obvious affront, or perhaps his inclusion was an imposed condition from the outset or simply a way to entice Lopez in).

Maybe Bridges just happened to be nearby that day and they dragooned him into the shot. His inclusion is difficult to fathom otherwise.

Or perhaps Annie Leibovitz just became a bit concerned that, throughout the Disney Portraits series, it was becoming painfully obvious that the genders were being segregated as if by the Maginot Line, with not a hint of any actual romance (and that goes double for the Jennifer Lopez/Marc Anthony shot, too, as they are sitting grim-faced and frozen, avoiding touching meaningfully as if on separate Continents).

And, completely unexpectedly I'm sure, Bridges is the one who makes this "Beauty and the Beast" photo work. Penelope is undeniably lovely and radiant, but she also looks kind of bland here, like just about any pretty girl being hoisted aloft. That's not her fault, but really, look at her: a generic-looking taffeta dress? They couldn't come up with something a little more original, like, say, the blue peasant costume that the character wears or a more distinguished dress? Cruz' face also does not stand out and does not scream for attention as it should - perhaps some jewelry around her neck and on her hand would have helped make her a little more distinctive? I am not taking issue with Penelope herself, as she is wonderful and attractive and all that. However, her costuming people should have gone back and chosen something other than the first thing that fell off the rack.

End rant.

Nice shot. It works.

For all the actresses and actors in the series:

Jessica Chastain as Merida in "Brave"
Jessica Biel as "Pocahontas"
Taylor Swift as Rapunzel from "Tangled"
Scarlett Johansson as "Cinderella"
Penelope Cruz as Belle and Jeff Bridges as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast"
David Beckham as Prince Philip from "Sleeping Beauty"
Queen Latifah as Ursula from "The Little Mermaid"
Jennifer Lopez as Jasmine from "Aladdin"
Whoopi Goldberg as the Genie from "Aladdin"
Julie Andrews as the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio"
Roger Federer as King Arthur from "The Sword in the Stone"
Rachel Weisz as Snow White from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
Beyonce Knowles as Alice from "Alice in Wonderland"
Julianne Moore as Ariel from "The Little Mermaid"
Penelope Cruz as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast"
Mikhail Baryshnikov as "Peter Pan"
Olivia Wilde as The Evil Queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in "Sleeping Beauty"
Drew Barrymore as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast"


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