Hello, everyone! I’m currently failing to keep up with my goal of writing a weekly blog post, but after about two weeks of deep meditation, introspection, and communication with the shamans, I think I’m ready to review Incredibles 2. I love the original Incredibles and I harbored extremely high hopes for its decades-in-the-making sequel. As can be expected, the movie did not satisfy those expectations, nor should I have hoped it would. When you have a film as witty, poignant, beautiful, and gratifying as The Incredibles, any film that does less is going to feel like a let-down. That’s not to say that Incredibles 2 is not a good film, and perhaps, if it existed in a vacuum, it might be considered an excellent animated movie. Unfortunately, it was created as a sequel to one of the best Pixar films of all time, and even one of the best animated films of all time. It was doomed by its heritage and by our expectations.
J.K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is not an easy novel to read. It’s depressing, melodramatic, and populated with a variety of flawed characters, from the self-absorbed to the self-righteously malicious. Although Rowling is arguably one of the most beloved and popular authors of the 21st century, her first non-Potter novel drew mixed reviews from critics, with some praising it for being ambitious, and others decrying it for being too grim. After reading this book for the 4th time, the grimness loses its shock value, and the more incisive elements of the book start to stand out, the most important being the novel’s razor sharp glimpse into class struggles in a modern Western country. The Casual Vacancy can be preachy and a tad on-the-nose, but it also highlights the inability of the upper class to empathize with those below them, or even to appreciate their humanity. While The Casual Vacancy can seem like it’s tackling mundane issues, Rowling’s story shows us that the same small-fry squabbles that divide English parishes can be found on global political stages, including in many of the United States’ current domestic policy crises.
Hello, everyone! I finally got to see Hereditary, a movie I’ve been eagerly awaiting since critics dubbed it the scariest movie of the year. Listen to me, children. Never go into a horror movie with expectations. Those will be your downfall. I went into the screening of Hereditary expecting to have my jaded bones jump out of their skin and to experience two hours of impeccable craftsmanship. While not exactly satisfied, my expectations were subverted, even perverted, into a movie that seemed to constantly contradict itself. It was wholly original, but also derivative, masterfully frightening in parts, yet tame in others. It was an intense family drama with an amateur grasp on characterization and how real people interact. As director Ari Aster’s debut film, Hereditary exhibited subtlety, sophistication, and boldness, but also revealed a lack of restraint. Hereditary showcases a lot of skill on Aster’s part, but it’s also kind of a mess. In our new era of horror where slow-burn, character-driven pieces like The Babadook and The Witch reign supreme, a film like Hereditary checks all the boxes, but can’t think outside of them.
Hello, everyone! I was thinking about page-to-screen adaptations the other day to try to figure out the secret sauce that makes a film succeed instead of crash and burn. Since I started reading books as a wee lass, the adage has always been “the book is better.” After having my expectations tarnished by adaptations of my favorite books (Harry Potter, Enders Game, The Crimson Petal and the White, etc.) I didn’t trust movies to be able to capture what made those books special, and most importantly, what made those books special to me. As I’ve gotten older and read more books and watched more movies, I’ve realized that I had a narrow view of film adaptations, because for every botched film adaptation (R.I.P The Snowman, you deserved better), you have a masterpiece like The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Shining, films which not only did their originals justice, but also elevated them into media art. The kicker is, some of these masterpiece films started as mediocre books, while the worst adaptations originated from brilliant novels. Making a successful adaptation is not about the quality of the original work, nor does it rely on producing a carbon-copy of the story. To produce a worthy page-to-screen adaptation, you have to be willing to view the original story as an empty canvas and be brave enough to paint over it with your own vision. That sort of bravery depends on only one thing: the director.
Hello, everyone! I’ve returned from my hiatus destroying the Iran deal and cancelling the North Korean Summit to tell you guys some important news: A Wrinkle In Time wasn’t that bad. Mired in flaws, including cheesy character design, an over bloated, “Disney-fied” second act, and the very essence of Charles Wallace, Wrinkle still managed to forgo Disney’s formula for chemically engineered joy in favor of a sincere message about family love and the power of self-esteem. In a market where shiny cynicism sells, this type of sentimentality can be enough to sink a children’s movie, but Wrinkle’s confidence in its candid message elevates it beyond other Disney live-action adaptations. Even with the stench of Disney’s greed on every frame, I could tell the movie was really trying its best. For quality, I give the movie a frowny face. But for effort? Gold star.
Hello, everyone! Today I’m going to write a bit of a more topical personal post. Even though this is foremost a pop-culture blog, it’s also my blog, and it feels like the right place to talk about what has been worrying me lately: the American college system. I’m not speaking for everyone or trying to generalize; I only want to talk about my experiences and about what I’ve noticed. So if you think the American college system is as flawless as a diamond, you probably won’t enjoy what I have to say. But if you’ve been feeling like there’s something fundamentally fucked up about the college system, welcome! Let’s talk.
Hello, everyone! A month ago I started watching a show on Hulu called Parenthood, a “dramedy” that follows the Braverman clan as they navigate the ups and downs of family life in suburban America. Parenthood is probably one of the smuggest television shows I’ve ever watched, where each of the parents is incredibly insufferable and the kids are nightmares, but I still find myself tuning in episode after episode, if only to hope that Max Braverman, the most poorly-written autistic kid to grace television, might get punched in the face. This post isn’t about my qualms with the show, however, it’s about Adam Braverman, one of the show’s main characters and the perfect example of the “over-protective man.”
The “over protective man,” or OPM as I will call him in the rest of the post, is pervasive in American pop-culture and in American life. He’s the dad who takes “hilarious” pictures with his daughter’s homecoming date warning him to keep his hands to himself, or makes his tween daughter wear a shirt emblazoned with a picture of himself to keep any potential suitors away. He’s Scarface‘s Tony Montana dragging his sister Gina out of a bathroom because she kissed a man he didn’t like. And he’s Parenthood’s Adam Braverman in his every interaction with his daughter Haddie, or pretty much any woman he deems himself worthy of controlling.
The OPM is common enough to warrant its own page on TV Tropes, but I’m going to limit this post to discussing the characters Tony Montana and Adam Braverman, mainly because I find it equally hilarious and distressing that the trope is so embedded in American culture that it pops up in the characters of an über-violent gangster and a mild-mannered white-collar dad. These two characters wouldn’t be able to have even a civil conversation over coffee, but they’re on the same page when it comes to controlling the women around them. The most disturbing aspect? Tony Montana was written in 1983 and Adam Braverman’s character started in 2010. If pop-culture’s portrayal of protective men has changed that little in the past 27 years, then equality between men and women has suffered an equal setback.
Hello, everyone! Let me preface this review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by saying that I’m a casual viewer of the franchise. It’d be a stretch to even say that I’m a fan, since the only time I’ve watched a Star Wars film is at someone else’s behest or for a family outing. I view the films with pleasant indifference. The series is fun, and its contribution to pop culture is staggering, so if a friend suggests that we see The Force Awakens or Rogue One, I’m game and I don’t regret it. I didn’t plan on seeing The Last Jedi and I would have skipped it altogether if it wasn’t playing for $5 at my local college theater. I expected an easy night with an exciting, sentimental, and yes, formulaic film. But what I got was an in-cohesive, nostalgia-drenched mess that was so trite and boring that my boyfriend and I left the theater with twenty minutes left until the end.
How did a Star Wars film, especially one directed by Rian Johnson (the fantastic Looper), fail so badly at being a quality film? It all comes down to the dilution of character in service of promoting nostalgia and sticking to a formula that long ago wore out its welcome.
Hello, everyone! Short post today but I wanted to catch you guys up on what’s been on my bookshelf this month. I’ll be writing a long review/critique of the news Star Wars film later, so if you’ve been missing my snark, you won’t have to wait very long. So, let’s get to it. Here’s what’s been on my shelf this month:
Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the fine spring weather. I’m on Spring Break now, so I checked out about ten books from the library and have been devouring them. Today’s review covers Eva Ibbotson’s The Reluctant Heiress. I went through an Ibbotson phase years ago and read all of her children’s books, but I completely missed her Young Adult reads. The Reluctant Heiress is rich with Ibbotson’s elaborate prose, but suffers from an enormous dose of that horrid 4 letter word called “love.” Why does it have to ruin every YA book? I promise I am not a bitter spinster, I’m just sick of plot being swept away in the face of heart-stopping, coup de foudre love. As a romantic novel, The Reluctant Heiress is enjoyable, but as just a novel, it lacks the same magic as Ibbotson’s other works.