Whereas in years past, the “best Pagan movies of the year” have come from Historical Pagan Dramas (often involving the Roman Empire, and/ or Native Celts), or Nature Documentaries (or Indie Films that take their cues from Nature Documentaries, and which may or may not involve the Sasquatch): This year’s (2012) Best Pagan Movies of the Year are Fantasy-Films, notably CGI-generated and/or assisted (or maybe in the case of Life of Pi, you think that that they hired a whale as an actor; had Wardrobe or Makeup coat the whale in phosphorus; and then Ang Lee directed the whale in that incredible film-defining shot; or that an Actors’ Union is going to let you put an actor in a boat, in the ocean, with a tiger). All three of the Best Pagan Films of 2012 are notable for the demonstration of what CGI-technology can do, wed to an impressive [Pagan-Friendly] script.
The first film ParaNorman is unique for its very Supernatural (meaning, beyond the Realm of the Physically Natural) orientation. Starting off with a kid supernaturally gifted enough to see “dead people” (yes, ParaNorman takes its cue from the “Kids who see Dead People” genre), the movie goes on to investigate realms of existence transcending the mundane world of mortals and muggles, to an extent that might properly be called “Shamanic.” Although there is plenty of humor in this excellently done animation, its ultimate premise is derived from an imagined 17th century Witch-Trial, revealing an extraordinarily sympathetic point-of-view with the actual “Witch,” as well as satirizing this New England town (nothing like Salem, no, no, no) that builds its reputation upon its Witch-Hunting past. A lot of canny stuff is found within this animated flick, finally leading to a remarkably Shamanic (and Pagan, for taking place in some sort of wooded-grove astral-plane) conclusion, and featuring a ton of hilarious comedy along the way (my fave is the over-the-top opera-diva elementary school drama-teacher). A really well-done film, with a lot of important stuff going on, much of it of interest to Pagans, and suitable for Pagan Families, enjoying a Pagan Family Movie-Night.
The other stand-out animated film of 2012 is so very Celtic (Scots Celtic, to be precise) as to give some idea of how it might have been, if the Druids had been able to make movies. Brave is basically a Girl-Power flick, making its comment on the repressed social roles forced upon women in the early medieval period presented here in the wimple and corseted bodice into which the heroine is straitjacketed. Don’t you want to bet that bodice gets ripped to shreds as (check out the phallic-woman image here), the girl fits her arrow to her own bow, to shoot for her own hand in matrimony. As seems to be a recurrent theme in “Pagan” movies, the natural world is embraced by the heroine as a place of liberation; in an extremely Celtic sense, the natural world serves as a guide to the girl and to the pivotal moment of the film and her destiny, as she follows twinkling Fays through the night, from a stone circle that leads to the “world between the worlds” cottage of a Witch. Only she is not a Witch (as she insists), but rather a simple wood-carver; but no, she is a Witch, after all, and provides the spell of animal-metamorphosis (again, very Celtic) that changes the film’s direction. The Witch (seen as a agent of transformative change) is a wonderfully comic one, who provides a hilarious call-out to the Pagan Festival Scene, in what must be a nod of recognition to modern Pagans. Providing appreciation and enjoyment of a very Pagan variety to both kids and adults, this film counts as a true Pagan Classic.
“Finding God” is the subject of Life of Pi, with God often identified as a Hindu Deity and found in an ocean, in a lifeboat, with a tiger. Derived from a novel of the same title, Life of Pi is refreshingly told from the Eastern point-of-view of an Indian Hindu (point #1: you don’t have to be a Westerner, to be a Pagan: arguably, Eastern Religions such as Hinduism and Shintoism have been “Pagan” since long before Westerners started turning “Pagan”; pause for Props-Callouts to Native Americans). At the film’s start, “Pi” is an Indian Hindu, in such search of “God” that he turns to Christianity and Islam as well as his native Hinduism. His family runs a zoo (point #2: they think that they have enslaved or imprisoned Nature, in the form of zoo-animals). Through a complicated series of plot-points: Pi’s family sets to sea, in a vessel with many of these zoo-creatures (plot-point #3: humans in adventure upon the primordial wilderness of the sea, as told from The Odyssey to Moby Dick, from Mutiny on the Bounty to The Poseidon Adventure to Titanic to- wait for it; I’m serious- Gilligan’s Island). Leading to: a Tempest at sea (as in Shakespeare’s The Tempest? Possibly-); leading to: Pi’s finding himself stranded in the mid-Pacific, in a lifeboat with (the pivotal plot-point) a bengal tiger (and you thought Alfred Hitchcock was an auteur, for making a film around Tallulah Bankhead in a Lifeboat). Here we find (plot-point #4) in extraordinary microcosm, the macrocosm of humans beset by the wildness of nature since the very beginning of human evolution. And here, indeed, Pi finds “God,” in the wilderness of the sea, overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring fantastical beauty of a mid-sea sunrise or the King Lear-like “I can’t help this, so I’ll embrace and love it” thrill of a mid-sea stormy tempest. Ravishingly shot, this is easily the most beautiful Pagan film of the year, as well as one of the most compelling.