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Tangled, Country Strong, and things

16 Jan

Its epic, isn't it?

Today I sold my car. The picture up there is from my last trip to Austin from Houston. I know I always talk about the sky in Texas and how its blue, but this is proof. I know that its not the last time I’ll make this drive, but it’s the last time I’ll make it for quite a while now that I am without wheels. Which brings me to things. While I was selling my car, I had this moment of doubt. Mainly: “can i live without a car?” And in the end, it came to the fact that a car is just a thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about things, because my parents are flipping our house. I know this means something in reality tv or real estate or both, but in this case I mean they are literally flipping the house: moving their room and the living room from downstairs to upstairs, and turning their room into a guest room. This means that my room is going to be their room, so I have to get all of my stuff packed before I leave. This then means that I’m throwing everything in boxes that I can’t take with me to New Jersey. I already went through my room this summer and threw out about four large trashbags of stuff that I no longer need, but there is still a shocking amount of crap hanging out in my room. It’s hard to go through years of your stuff and get rid of things that meant something to you at one time, but I’m working on it. I eventually had to adopt an attitude of “if I haven’t looked at/used/thought about this in the last year, there is no need to keep it.” Also, I am trying to think about how they are all just things, and how many things does a person really need? No matter how zen I try to be about it, its still hard to throw some of it out.

Now, on to my movie reviews!

Disney Does Rapunzel

the 50th animated movie, and not much has changed.

Oh, Tangled. What can I say? I went to see it with the hope that this would be the more feminist version of Rapunzel, judging from the trailers, and from what a couple friends had reported back. Let me just be the first to say, I was not impressed. I absolutely loved The Princess and the Frog, despite some of the racist stereotypes and such, because the music was great, the hand animation was wonderful, and it was much more feminist than an story ever before. Plus, it featured a woman of color. Awesome! Fast forward to Tangled, which features an entirely white cast of computer animated characters and songs that are sub par. It features Mandy Moore as the voice of Rapunzel. I have a special place in my heart for Mandy Moore, and I can’t quite explain why. Maybe its because she was awesome in Saved!, or perhaps because I totally loved Because I Said So. Whatever the reason, her success as an actress really made me happy. She does a great animated voice, and she’s still a great singer, but those songs were completely predictable and boring. And that’s just the beginning.

Within the first few minutes of the movie, after the stage is set, you discover that Rapunzel’s 18th birthday is coming up. Meaning: she is only seventeen. Then you meet the dashing Flynn Rider, bad thief gone good, whose body type and facial hair suggest he is in his late twenties. As soon as the two of them were in a room together, her plotting to get to the lanterns for her birthday, him to retrieve his stolen goods, I knew where it was going. I hoped, I prayed to the Disney Gods, and it something along the lines of “Oh, dear Disney Gods, please don’t let this man in his late twenties hook up with this teenager who he met when she was underage.” My prayers went unanswered, and I continued to cringe through a plot where the main focal point of the female character went from finding independence to chasing the man she loved. Gag. Me. With. A. Spoon. When the happy ending comes, as you know it will, I was content with the happy family portrait moment. But no. Disney wasn’t done. In the voice over that closes the film, Flynn Rider says, “I know what you’re all wondering.” Actually, I wasn’t wondering anything, and if I had been wondering something that wasn’t “How many more cliches can they fit in this movie?” it would have been “I wonder what that newfound family dynamic is like!”or, “I bet she makes an awesome queen!” But no. Flynn Rider knows what you’re wondering, and that is, “Did we ever get married?” It felt so completely unnecessary and contrived. There was no need to insert this idea of an unfinished story without the successful marriage of the two main characters into the minds of small children, yet again. But would it be a Disney movie without it? Overall, rent it if you have to babysit or don’t care about well-written, original songs and feminist storylines.

it'll make you want cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and a horse

Now on to Country Strong, a movie I highly enjoyed. You have to know that my homesickness informed a lot of my desire to see this movie. In Jersey, almost no one likes country music. You better believe I couldn’t wait to sit and listen to some for two whole hours. All of the actors sing their own songs on the awesome soundtrack, and every single one did a great job in the movie. I was really impressed with Leighton Meester‘s twang and Garrett Hedlund‘s… everything. I already knew Gwyneth could act and sing, so I expected her to be great, and she was. Tim McGraw has, for me, established himself as an actor. The plot wasn’t incredibly surprising and certainly had some gendered stereotypes, but also dealt with issues I hadn’t expected to find in a movie about country stars, like mental illness. **insert spoiler alert here** the eventual decision of Leighton Meester’s character to leave her possibly awesome, though bubblegum country Barbie pop-filled, career behind to follow Garrett Hedlund into the “true” country lifestyle a la George Strait in Pure Country. If you can get past the romanticizing of country music, which I was in the perfect mood for, you will absolutely enjoy this movie. I can’t wait to buy the soundtrack and jam out.

And now, I leave you with this: the only man who can rock denim on denim.

where's mine?

in sisterhood and solidarity,

me

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This post is not political

1 Dec

As mentioned above, this post is not political. Well I mean… not really.

First I’d like to do a quick review of Morning Glory, which I think everyone should see, and if you are currently broke like me, you should rent it or at least watch it illegally online.

This movie has, supposedly, gotten bad reviews. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t seek them out. I assume that these people who reviewed it were expecting it to fit into a particular mold of the Chick Flick. In an age when Chick Flick means Rom Com, I can understand why people would be confused by Morning Glory. So lets talk about why I loved this movie so much, shall we?

1. Rachel McAdams. I was first introduced to this fantastic Canadian through the equally excellent, though way more problematic, Mean Girls in 2004.  I have followed her string of strong female characters, buying most of the movies she is in, and nursing a serious crush since then. I will admit that, though the preview had me assuming another empowerment through romance movie, I was willing to put up eleven dollars to see Rachel McAdams in a new role.

2. Soundtrack . I’m not a huge music lover, I’m generally happy with the songs on the radio or old pop hits on my phone. That said, this movie’s soundtrack was so incredible, I left hoping the soundtrack was already available now. (It isn’t, but you better believe I’ll be buying it as soon as it comes out.) Along with the previously mentioned track, Strip Me, were tracks by The Weepies (Same Changes), Newton Faulkner (Gone in the Morning), Joss Stone (Free Me), and Colin Hay (Waiting for My Real Life to Begin), and those were just the tracks I could web-stalk my way to titles of.

3. Bechdel Test Pass! For those of you feminist filmies out there, you may already be familiar with this measuring stick of quality filmage. In order to pass, the movie must have (1) two or more women (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than men. You would be (or, perhaps you wouldn’t be) shocked by how many movies don’t pass this test, especially movies targeted at women consumers. Not only does this movie pass, it passes with flying colors.

I think this would be a good place to segue into the plot (I’ll try not to spoil anything). The preview presents the movie as a work/romance struggle by interspersing shots of McAdams struggling at her job (with Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford, and others) with shots of McAdams with her (assumed) love interest Patrick Wilson (who I fell in love with as Raul in the awful but lovable movie adaptation of Phantom and then again as William Travis in The Alamo). The real meat of the movie, however, is all about McAdams. She never apologizes for being career focused, and when it seems she is being asked to, she refuses. The only time she talks about a man that she is romantically involved with in the entire movie is when she’s yelling at another man (with whom she is not romantically involved). Her conversations with other women are about a vast array of things, but mainly they focus on her career, which most of the plot revolves around. She is a 28 year old woman who is not married nor does she have children, and her character never explicitly or implicitly shows a struggle around this part of her identity. She’s smart, capable, and focused, and she is happy. The other trope the movie teetered on the edge of was that of the career woman/happy life juxtaposition, that by completely focusing her life around her career, she would lose out as a woman. A conversation like this does happen in the movie, but not to shame McAdams, and it doesn’t happen with another female character.

I went into this movie praying to the pop culture gods that it would be all that Post Grad claimed, and then failed, to be. I got so much more than I expected. As a 22 year old graduate student, floating somewhere in the universe of Single, careerless, and unanchored, a movie that created hope around what I assume my future will be was more than welcome. I left the movie feeling buoyed by the writers’ dedication to making a real flick for ‘chicks,’ and a pop-culture induced assurance that somehow my life will make sense of itself.

Like I said, if you haven’t seen it yet, you must! It is feminist, fierce, and just plain entertaining.

Now, on to what I’ve been marinating on the last few weeks. The holidays are a hard time to be away from home, especially when home is 1,609 miles away. Luckily I was able to spend it with friends who are equally displaced, and we made a simultaneous foray into the realm of making thanksgiving turkey with all the fixins. Basically, I’ve been struggling with what is more important in life, to reach and push and go as far as possible, which for me now seems to mean putting roots down in the Northeast, or to really embrace the meat of life as the family and friends that are homegrown? I’m not sure if there is a moderation to be had, because so far this pushing and reaching has me missing both my family thanksgiving and christmas celebrations. I kind of waffle from side to side, and today is no ambiguous exception. I love it here, and I’m trying to be as present as possible. I am slowly coming to the obvious realization that the people here have the possibility to become far more than placemarkers, not that I saw them as such to begin with, but more so that I saw this place as a transient part of my life and therefore unimportant and something to plan to leave. All I know is that, though I’m happy to be here with these new people that I’m growing to love, I can’t wait to sit on the couch next to my pops and watch a Sean Connery bond flick while he reminisces about when I was small.

New pop culture obsession: Veronica Mars. Streaming instantly on Netflix, available in chunks on TheWB.com, and so far all-around awesome. Expect a series recap over the break. I had to stop in the middle of the third, and final, season in order to get some term papers done. (Look how good I’m doing! …not.)

Until next time, marinate on this:

“I’m gonna master all kinds of kung-foo
I’m gonna live inside a tiny zoo
I’m gonna grow myself a giant afro (incredible) whoa
When the alarm goes off i just won’t go.”

In Solidarity and Sisterhood,

me

Easy A ain’t no Saved, and other thoughts

30 Sep

Why hello, blogosphere. Most likely no one will ever read this, but I guess that’s kind of fine, because aren’t blogs really just for people who have something to say to get it off their chests? Also, I’ve attempted this blog thing at least 5 times previously and it’s never worked. However. Two of my hilltopper alum buddies now have fancy grownup blogs so I thought I’d give this a try!

Tonight I went to see Easy A with some members of my cohort. Perhaps Theodor Adorno is right with his ideas about free time, although instead of being tied to business and a job which my free time is tethered to, I am tethered to graduate school and every spare moment is spent trying to turn my brain back into an unaware, useless blob. Obviously, from the title of this entry, that doesn’t work so well.

I saw the trailer for Easy A and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was a premise that could go the way of Saved! or of every other annoying, traditional christian moral-soaked teenage romantic comedies. I had very high hopes that it would be the former, but then I also thought Post Grad would be worth $9. Easy A is an interesting interpretation of The Scarlet Letter where, as the trailer shows the viewers before they even decide to purchase a ticket, Hester (in this case, Olive) hasn’t even had an affair. Instead, she’s a girl who makes a few misguided decisions while trying to help herself and some other people out. Here’s how I hoped the plot would go:

Olive accidentally becomes known for being a slut because she’s trying to help her gay friend out. She then goes on to help lots of nerds make their reputations better through false hook up accounts. The super intense conservative Christians get all shamey, and then the whole school turns into a slut-shaming high school battlefield. Olive’s parents are supportive of Olive leading whatever kind of (safe) sex life she desires and give awkward parent anecdotes about their own pasts without any moral undertones or references to lack of “self esteem”(seriously?! no, seriously?!). Though Olive is tempted to give in to the feeling that she is, indeed, a whore and should hate herself, she realizes (after getting angry to some angsty girl music and maybe throwing some corsets around in her room and having a good, healthy cry) that slut-shaming is sexist and wrong. Yes, she didn’t actually have any of the sex, but that shouldn’t matter. The boy she meets (because it wouldn’t be a rom com without it, I mean hell, even Saved! gave us a happy ending) doesn’t explain his continued affection for her in terms of who he knows she “isn’t”(i.e. that she didn’t sleep with the whole school) but instead affirms a sex-positive view that maintains that a person can be awesome, worthwhile, and full of self-confidence while being involved with multiple (consensual, safe) partners. The end!

Le sigh. But I guess one of my friends was right when she said that it did the best it could for the audience it addressed. Saved! wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, and so if Easy A wanted to profit like the average romantic comedy it couldn’t be anything other than a slightly provocative but still conservative account of female sexuality. I mean, what if this girl had started wearing corsets with an A on them, claimed her sexuality, and not started to “hate” herself? Why, we’d have female sexual power running rampant! And as Audre Lorde and many of her sisters before and after have pointed out, we just can’t have that.

I have GOT to go to bed (although with my luck I’ll still just lie awake until 4), but if I remember to blog tomorrow, remind me to talk about veganism and the UN. Yes, they go together.

Hopefully one day the title of my blog will be “OMGSH NATHAN FILLION TWEETED BACK!” but until then, I tweet on.

In sisterhood,

meDo you see all the slut-shaming floating around her face?