Why We Need More of NBC’s “The Brave”

In the fall of 2017, NBC put out a little show called “The Brave” starring Mike Vogel, Anne Heche, and a full cast of truly delightful people. The Brave follows a small military unit led by Adam Dalton (Vogel) that specializes in extractions, rescues, and yes, even the occasional assassination. They are overseen from D.C. by Patricia Campbell (Heche) and her brilliant staff.

The components I just listed are not that extraordinary in and of themselves. Many military dramas have had the same ingredients, and they never rose in rank above their peer shows. On paper, The Brave looks no different. So why is this show so great?

I believe what sets The Brave apart from other military shows is the heart.

The heart of this show IS the military men and women it seeks to represent. Our real life heroes are truly the stars of this show, even though the roles are portrayed by actors. Dean Georgaris (writer, creator), the cast, and the crew give every moment 110%, because their top priority is to honor and represent our real heroes. This heart of respect and passion shine through every moment, every line, every wounded look and new scar that is gained.

The Brave is character-centric, as a good story should be. Unlike many other action-heavy shows, The Brave does not rely on explosions, fancy gadgets, or trumped up inter-personal drama to bring viewers in. Does that mean its boring? Heck no! Each new episode brings a unique location, creative problem solving, and some straight up epic scenes that often do involve explosions. Not to mention humor that is natural and classy. These elements are all the better because they are not carrying the weight of the show, but rather highlighting the true pillar of this series, the characters.

The team is composed of imperfect, broken, beautiful people who have come together with a common purpose. They share a goal to protect freedom and innocent lives, even if it means giving their own. They laugh, they fight, and they cry together. No one is left behind. The Brave doesn’t use cheap and gratuitous sex, gore, or language for shock value like so many shows do. It showcases real people, who love each other, doing a very hard job. And it does it well.

The Brave addresses the male/female equality discussion brilliantly, it doesn’t talk about it. Talk is cheap, actions are not.

Deputy Director Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) is a competent and strong leader. She evaluates, gives orders, and supports wherever, whenever she is needed. Her tactical and analyst teams, composed of men and women, trust and respect her without question. Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas) and Noah Morganthau (Tate Ellington) have developed a brilliant rhythm where they play to each other’s strengths and use their different approaches to create a broader perspective.

Sergeant Jasmine “Jaz” Kahn (Natacha Karam) is the tactical team’s sniper, and one of the toughest women currently on TV. She’s had to work incredibly hard to be where she is, but she is valued and respected by the men she calls “my guys”. Even pretty boy medic, Sergeant Joseph J. “McG” McGuire (Noah Mills) carries himself with respect and compassion, which is not always the case for his character type.

The men of The Brave are fully men, the women are fully women. Together they are powerful. There is no “us” and “them”, no struggle for the spotlight. Each person, be they tactical, or analyst, know their strengths, and their weaknesses. They celebrate and lean on each other’s strengths, and support each other through their weaknesses, just as God intended.

This is the key to a good team, if only the rest of the world would quit spewing useless words and just start treating each other with the same value and respect.

The Brave represents the true heart of America. This is the show where a Muslim intelligence operative, Agent Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabal), and a Christian family man, CPO Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse) fight side by side as brothers and friends. They face evil as allies with a common cause.

That has been the heart of America, even through our biggest mistakes and worst moments, the goal of this country is freedom, life, and unity. We are made up of all colors, shapes, sizes, and religions. We come from different circumstances, we carry different baggage. But that isn’t something to fear, it’s something to celebrate and enjoy. The men and women of The Brave fight to protect these ideals, and to protect the brother or the sister beside them. The love these characters have for each other is so beautiful, so rich. It’s what America was meant to be, and it’s what I still believe in.

And now for my favorite part of The Brave.

Because I have watched this show, I feel like I better understand the hearts and minds of our service men and women.

I have not had the privilege of knowing many service men or women in my life, so my knowledge regarding their experience has been limited. Through watching The Brave and subsequently interacting on Twitter with service members, I have learned so much. In the most recent episode, Grounded, Dalton (Vogel) had a monologue describing something very personal, very emotional regarding his experiences in combat and how they have effected him. A gentleman on Twitter responded so powerfully.

@Mike_Vogel just told the story so many of us veterans have tried to get out into the world in that monologue in that final part of #thebrave

To which Mike Vogel replied….

It’s your story _________. We’re sorry the world is so slow to listen, but we thank you for answering the call and being part of it. We owe you guys everything.

Got chills yet? I know I do.

I believe the call of a storyteller is to tells stories that bring life, truth, and understanding. It is to delight an audience, to give them a good time, but to also instill in them a deeper understanding of something, or someone. It is to share an experience that the audience may have never had. It is to be a voice for someone who either can’t speak, or doesn’t know how. Or in this case, a voice for someone who has been yelling, but no one has heard.

It is to tell the people it represents, “I hear you, I see you, and you are NOT forgotten!” And to give the rest of the audience a chance to say, “We see you, and you are loved.”

Stories are meant to bridge experiences, to delight, to teach….to heal.

The Brave has accomplished all of this in a glorious, beautiful way. No, I am not just talking about the fact that this entire cast is almost too good-looking and charming for my TV screen to handle. Who needs explosives on hand when you have dynamite smiles to work with?

I have seen The Brave, and I have seen the people it is touching….

….and I see life.

Something this special is worth protecting. This show is worth renewing. Our team has more missions to go on and more stories to tell. NBC, we hope you are listening, ’cause you have a treasure right now, and we want more of it.

Part 1 of the Season 1 finale airs Jan. 22, at 10/9c on NBC. If you aren’t already watching, you will be before long. 

 

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Real Women: Jyn Erso (Rogue One)

I imagine most of you have seen Rogue One by now. If not, do not read further as there will be spoilers included. And if you have, then welcome, Fellow Star Wars Fan. We are forever changed after seeing that film.

There is so much to say on the subject of Rogue One, I have several articles waiting in the wings, but for now, I would like to focus on the titular character of the movie:

Jyn Erso.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) joined the annals of Star Wars history as yet another deserving Star Wars leading lady. She owned her role beautifully and brought a level of human authenticity to the Star Wars world that was unlike anything I have yet seen. Not to say that the other Star Wars leading ladies have failed, quite the contrary, but their stories and roles are drastically different from Jyn’s.

Rogue One was such a raw and personal movie that it was only going to succeed if it’s characters were equally raw and personal. Jyn had a brief, but fiercely important role to play in the timeline of Star Wars. And because she played that role so well, she will never be forgotten.

I want to share a few specific things I found deeply attractive about this character, and why I am adding her to my list of real women in cinema.

1. She was scared.

Based upon earlier trailers for Rogue One, I was not at all looking forward to Jyn’s character. To me, she came across as untouchable and sarcastic. In fact, before the re-shoots, I have a feeling that may be closer to Jyn’s original portrayal. But more on that another day.

When the final trailer came out I was delighted to see that she actually appeared to be far more human than I had first believed.

My secondary impression was correct. We first meet Jyn as an innocent child, yet another victim of the Empire’s cruelty that robs her of both her mother and father. She’s a sweet little girl with braids and a stuffed doll that she drops when fleeing the Storm troopers.

little-jyn

As a young woman, you can still see that haunted and frightened look of a child in her huge eyes. She doesn’t walk around with a chip on her shoulder and an exaggerated swagger (she’s no Solo after all). Instead she goes through life with her head down and keeps running. Even when she is “rescued” by the rebels she attempts to flee. Her fighting reactions are that of a cornered animal rather than a fierce warrior.

frightened-jyn

To me, this is far more accurate than if they had made Jyn some fierce and untouchable warrior. She has quite obviously gone through terrifying things, and she just wants to feel safe. She just wants her daddy back. Is there anything more human than that?

2. She was compassionate

One of my absolute favorite moments in this entire movie was when Jyn saves the little girl during the raid in Jedha. She looked at that child and saw herself, and despite the fact that she has a huge survivor’s instinct, her instinct to protect that baby was stronger. Cassian tries to call her back, but she ignores him and runs into the crossfire. She scoops up the terrified little lady and returns her safely to her mama.  As much as that moment frustrated Cassian, he was also deeply attracted to it. Compassion is a rare quality, but it’s also one of the most alluring.

Jyn’s compassion extended further when she learned the truth about the Death Star and was given the information about how to destroy it. Her earlier instinct to get in, get out, and survive is once more overridden by her desire to protect others. Jyn’s heart for others is even bigger than her beautiful eyes. These moments were a beautiful illumination of her true heart, and made her an unforgettable character.

3. She was hopeful

Hope, like compassion, is a rare quality. Jyn has a lot of reasons to stop hoping. She has been haunted and hunted by the Empire since childhood. They have taken everything from her and millions of others in the galaxy. She could just throw her hands up in despair, but instead, she chooses to grab onto hope and charge into battle with it.

Cassian was raised his entire life in this Rebellion. He’s used to sleepless nights, long odds, and big regrets. He doesn’t give up, and yet, even he seems to be awakened in a new way by Jyn’s hope and determination. Jyn’s sweet little quotation during the Rebel council,

“Rebellions are built on hope,”

was actually his original statement. And yet, Cassian’s reaction to her hopeful initiative is like someone coming alive again. It’s as if he is hearing that concept in a completely new, and reachable way. He is going into battle with a fresh countenance and renewed sense of purpose that only Jyn was able to awaken.

jyns-rallying-hope

Hopeful people heal and rally those around them. Hope is like an infectious disease, it cannot help but spread. Jyn’s hope was beautiful and rejuvenating. She rallied an entire organization, a group of incredible and effective individuals around her because of her hope and determination. I have a hard time believing a jaded and sarcastic character would have been nearly as effective.

4. She was beautiful and ladylike

Despite the fact that Jyn was in one, practical outfit, went through multiple battles, killed storm troopers, climbed towers, and did a million other “dirty” things, she was such a lady. Being termed a lady has nothing to do with keeping your clothes clean or staying out of harm’s way, it is an overall bearing and way of carrying yourself in any situation.

Jyn felt so feminine to me. She wasn’t seductive once, she didn’t try to gain attention for herself, she didn’t constantly have to advertise how smart and capable she was. And yet, by the end of the movie during that dreadful and wonderful beach scene, you could see in Cassian’s eyes how much he loved her.

She was not unnecessarily crass and she wasn’t hardened and bitter. She was strong and tender.

Jyn was so, so beautiful. Her beautiful heart and wonderful character came out and clothed her as brilliantly as if she had been a member of Princess Leia’s court. Her daddy’s sweet nick-name Stardust was perfect for this lovely girl, for she sparkled and cast light like a beautiful star.

jyns-face

*****

I loved the character work done with many of the characters in this beautiful and heartbreaking film, and Jyn was one of the finest. Gareth Edwards and Felicity Jones can be proud of what they accomplished with her, she was a wonderful character to grace the screen and I hope we have the privilege of seeing many more women like her in the future.

As I said above, I have more Rogue One articles waiting in the wings. I would love to hear from you all as well. What did you love about the movie? Did you love Jyn Erso as much as I did? What is one thing you thought they incredibly well?

Like Star Wars? Here are a few more articles you might find interesting.

5 Reasons Why Finn Is Still Going to Be a Jedi

6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

Why Ezra Bridger Will Ultimately Choose the Light Side

Where are the Real Women?

In nearly 100 years of film, real life women been largely misrepresented.

Earlier decades saw women as pretty faces with over dramatic reactions to everything. Tears, screams, and tripping over nonexistent obstacles were many cliches and stereotypes that media portrayed.

There is the consistent portrayal no matter the decade of the seductress, a woman who is all body. She uses her body like a currency to buy, beg, or steal whatever she wants.

The empty-headed woman, she’s beautiful and everyone wants to be with her, but she’s not that handy in a pinch. That’s okay, because she’s a good kisser and she’s a blonde, which depending upon the decade means this woman is instantly more valuable than any brunette or redhead.

The taboo on portraying older women with wrinkles, sags, gray or white hair. After all, beauty only exists in between 18-40, right?

In more recent decades Hollywood has attempted to create the strong woman. More often than not, what comes out is a kick-butt woman with incredible intelligence. She’s also totally “sexy”. It looks great at first glance, until you realize something vital is missing. She’s a robot. There is no compassion, no nurturing, no warmth, no sorrow, no love, so softness. She’s cold and unapproachable. She can rip your face off without breaking a sweat and crack an impossible code, yet she has no idea what to do when someone just needs a hug.

Where are the real women? Where are the wives, the mothers, the grandmothers, the daughters, the sisters, the nieces, the cousins, the best friends, the good neighbors? Where are the real women who are strong and soft, the women who are intelligent and also have lost moments? Where are the business women, the stay-at-home-working women, the plus sized women, the older women, the hurting women, the loving women….

….where are the imperfect women who are perfectly beautiful in their real, raw complexity?

I’m sick of it. Real women are a mix of so many things, pieces of the above and many more things that I have no mentioned. Real women are so complex, so layered, and have many qualities, good and bad. They are not all one thing, and they do so many things. They are each uniquely beautiful, regardless of age, weight, coloration, or occupation.

I think it is possible that Hollywood may finally be getting an inkling that they create fake women, but we are well past “it’s about time”. I think the journey to making real women the stars of the movies is going to be a long one. Our pop culture is built upon a concept of unreachable perfection that Hollywood has greatly contributed to.

I intend to write some posts featuring some rare exceptions to the rule that I have found sprinkled throughout various movies and TV shows. These are moments throughout the decades where someone actually understood that beautiful mystery that is a woman, and attempted to bring her to life on screen. I applaud anyone who does this, and I hope that more will attempt this accuracy in the future.

It is time for truth to appear on our screens, and I for one hope to become a part of that at some point.

What are some real women you have been inspired by on screen and in real life?

Bless you all, and a Happy 2017 to you!

Character Details: Disney Princesses and Prince Caspian

Detail work is vital when it comes to creating a full character. We may not instantly take in every single detail about someone when we see them on screen, or meet a person in real life. But let me tell you, we WOULD notice if those “unnoticeable” little details were gone.

Detail work can happen on a character’s person or in their surroundings, like Wanda Maximoff’s bedroom in Civil WarThat setting gave us a very personal look into the who of Wanda, without us even realizing it at first. Without the careful attention to detail in that scene, we would have known so much less about this mysterious character.

Today I want to talk about personal details about the character’s physical appearance. These small things in how they look, sound, or appear, are in fact HUGE when it comes to telling us about this character. Who they are, where they are from, how they feel, and what they want.

Here are 2 examples of details. The first one is a detail that has been done well and added to the character. And the second is a detail that was handled poorly and it detracted from the character.

1. Disney Princesses and their big eyes.

Ever noticed how HUGE Disney Princesses’ eyes are? It’s become something that even Disney fans are pointing out as rather ridiculous, especially considering that our latest princesses Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa have the hugest eyes of all. Right?

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I mean, take a look at above slideshow of Disney princesses. The eyes have only grown more disproportionate over the decades, even though you would think they would get more realistic. What’s with that?

Obviously huge eyes are beautiful. But some fans have complained that these beautiful princesses with their impossibly huge eyes and tiny waists have created an unrealistic image for little girls everywhere. It is quite true that Disney does not create the most realistic looking characters. But what if that was done entirely on purpose?

The eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes are the most important feature on a character to portray what happens in that character’s heart. Squinty eyes = villain. Sad eyes = someone who has suffered. Huge eyes = a person feels trapped, or they are searching for something.

What are the 2 things most Disney princesses have in common? They feel trapped. Trapped by an evil stepmother, trapped under the sea, trapped in a marriage custom, trapped in a little French provincial town, trapped by societal bounds, and trapped in a tower/castle and cut off from the whole world.

Or, they are searching for something. Searching for freedom, adventure, love, safety, truth, floating lights, peace, etc.

Yes, I can now see why especially Rapunzel and the Frozen sisters have impossibly huge eyes. Their lives have been so incredibly isolated, they have been cut off from the world and human interaction and they are desperate to find freedom and love. You can see it in their eyes.

Those who have been drawing or animating stories that are more geared toward children have been using visual clues to communicate more subtle messages and understanding for centuries. And children have been picking up on those details for centuries. I guess the big-eyed Disney Princess is starting to make more sense now. It’s not just an impossible standard of beauty, it’s a clue into these girls’ souls.

A detail that we have often passed off as ridiculous now seems rather vital.

*I have no good explanation for the tiny waists. I am with the thousands of other fans who are ready for realistic portrayals of both men and women in both animated and live action films.

2. Prince Caspian and his changing accent.

What? What in the world am I talking about?

Honestly, not many people have noticed this until I mentioned it to them. It may seem like it should be an easily overlooked detail, but hear me out.

In Prince Caspian Caspian spoke with a Spanish accent like the rest of his Telmarine people. This gave them a distinctly different flavor from the Pevensies, our classic heroes and monarchs who had British accents. The majority of the Narnian creatures also spoke with a British accent.

Listen closely to the difference in Caspian’s accent and the accents of those around him.

Caspian’s accent in that film made him stand out from the other main characters and gave his character even more of an outsider complex. It was a small detail that gave us tons of information about his backstory and culture vs. that of the Narnians or the Pevensies. I found it to be a very unique and charming aspect of his character that I enjoyed a lot.

However, something strange happens in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian has over the course of just three years suddenly developed a British accent.

When did that happen? Typically, if you have been raised up to adulthood with one way of speaking, you tend to keep using that accent for the rest of your life, even if it may soften over time.

Caspian was a young man when he became king of Narnia. He was old enough that his Spanish accent should have remain entrenched, even if he picked up a few new things from those around him speaking with British accents.

The character of Caspian in TVOTDT has grown and matured since PC, he is a confident and capable leader. But he is still Caspian.

The creative choice to change this single, but very important detail of Caspian’s character was a bad one in my opinion. It robbed Caspian’s character of a very rich and intriguing layer and instead made him fade into the woodwork of the British-sounding cast instead of standing out as someone unique.

It created mental confusion and stole attention from his unique character, instead of adding to it. This was a detail that was poorly handled and hurt both the character and the authenticity of the story.

*****

Stories are made of up of thousands of details. Characters are created with a few big things, and a whole lot of details. The greatest characters have been given careful attention by their creators, folks who used details to their advantage.

What are some tiny things you have noticed that have made a big difference in characters? I’d love to hear from you, so please, share your thoughts with me.

Also, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! I feel delight when I imagine the millions of people who will be doing the same thing this Thursday. Gathering in a common purpose for food, family, and thankfulness. May we never take these beautiful things for granted, may we never take those we love for granted. May we enjoy this day in which so many peoples’ stories are engaged upon the same moment, a shared experience. God bless you all!

 

 

 

The Racially Diverse Movie that Wasn’t About Race: The Magnificent Seven

Remember the movie headlines and trending topics when the casting info came out about Antoine Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven?

ATOINE FUQUA’S MAGNIFICENT SEVEN TO BE A RACIALLY DIVERSE CAST

And on, and on, and on. And many of us rolled our eyes. Why? Because, we are tired of hearing about race. We are tired of hearing about racially driven violence, lost lives, and people being blamed, both black and white, for actions and events they had nothing to do with.

I’m sick of the word “race” altogether. There is no such thing as “races”, that is a term that has stemmed from an evolutionary mindset where scientists once believed that some “races” were more evolved than others. We know that to be a lie, so why are we still using the false terminology?

In truth, there is only one race, and that is the human race. That encompasses every tribe, every nation, every color, every beating human heart. We are all members of one human race, created in the Image of God.

I came out of the The Magnificent Seven a few days ago positively thrilled. It was a perfectly delicious film, for many reasons. But one reason in particular was worthy of a post. And that reason was….

The Magnificent Seven was a movie starring a diverse cast that was never about race, it was actually about the real issue: human nature.

Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) was an incredibly skilled man who carried himself with modesty and intelligence. He obviously had the ability to hate, but what was even more evident was his ability to forgive and move on. Sam’s obvious respect and friendship with Goodnight (a sharpshooter who fought for the Confederacy) was the evidence of that.

“What we lost in the fire we’ll find in the ashes.” Sam to Goodnight

Goodnight (Ethan Hawke) was legendary for his sharpshooting abilities. He had 23 confirmed kills during the war. And he was a haunted man with a severe case of PTSD. Goodnight hated thinking about all of the faces of the ones he had killed, even though it had been during a war. He has a hard time forgiving himself and moving on. As I said above, Sam holds no malice for this man. Sam isn’t a black man who sees a white man, he is a man who sees a man. And by his judgment, Sam holds this particular man in respect and high esteem, respect that Goodnight reciprocates.

Goodnight displays this kind of colorblindness in his friendship with Billy (Byung-hun Lee). Billy more than any other member of the Seven is mentioned as having faced prejudice because of his ethnic background. Still, Billy doesn’t walk around with a chip on his shoulder. He just lives his life. Goodnight couldn’t care less what color Billy is, he values Billy’s skills and it is obvious that these two are deeply in tune with each others’ needs. Billy is as protective over Goodnight’s vulnerabilities as Goodnight is protective over the prejudices surrounding Billy. They are brothers from another mother.

Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) is a Comanche Indian who is something of an outcast even among his own tribe. Red Harvest is “on a different path”. Red Harvest offers his services to the Seven without a second thought, even though on the outside he appears to have very little in common with them. Red Harvest is a stark contrast to the Indian thug, Denali, on Bogue’s side, the man who murders an unarmed woman in cold blood.

“You are a disgrace.” Red Harvest tells the fellow Indian in a confrontation.

This was a beautiful portrayal of the reality that good people are not determined by their color, but their hearts and actions.

Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) has spent years hunting and scalping Indians. In a brief reference to his backstory, you get the impression that perhaps it was Indians who were responsible for the death of his family. However, Jack’s past experience does not keep him from joining forces with Red Harvest. Jack even laughingly mentions to the boy, “We have a lot to talk about.” He sees the man, not the color, and he finds the man worthy.

Vasquez (Manuel-Garcia Rulfo) is a Mexican man. There is some lighthearted banter between him and companions Faraday and Goodnight. Faraday consistently teases Vasquez about his Spanish words, and Goodnight and Vasquez have a conversation about their grandfathers being on opposing sides at the Alamo.

“Perhaps my grandfather killed your grandfather.” Vasquez

*laughs* Goodnight

Vasquez develops a playful friendship with the Seven, particularly Faraday. He puts forth an amazing effort in the battle against Bogue, and shows great concern for his companions and those they are defending.

Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) is the biggest tease when it comes to anyone’s color. But it is obvious that none of that means a lick to him when he gets down to business. His admiration for these other men’s skills is obvious, and he willingly fights alongside them to defend the townspeople. He sees that each of them carry their own scars, and he understands that because he carries his own.

This movie was about humans, of all colors and backgrounds, and the choices they made out of their human nature, for good or evil. Bogue and his thugs acted out of greed, lust, evil, and a desire to prey upon the weak.

The Seven have made many wrong choices in their past. Each one is running from his own demons. But here and now, they are joined together in one purpose, to resist evil. They choose to walk out righteousness, protection, and to defend life. This movie wasn’t about the evil white man, or the evil black man, this is the about the evil manwho is opposed by other men who are choosing to stand up for good. In doing so they form a brotherhood born out of common purpose.

This is how it should be. This is the truth. Our battle is not between black and white, red and yellow, or any other color in between. Our battle is against evil, in any form or color.

Antoine Fuqua used his beautifully colorful cast to bring this point across. His characters were colorblind in both their grudges and their friendships. This perspective enabled them to unite. They were so powerful in fact, that seven men defeated a small army.

This is what can happen when we toss aside the false concept of race, and unite to fight the true battle that is against evil. We can all take a cue from the Seven.

The potential results from such a unity can only be thought of as magnificent.

 

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Wanda Maximoff’s Room: Backstory in Less than 3 Minutes

The Russo brothers had their work cut out for them in Civil War. They had to bring us up to speed on all of our old characters, seamlessly introduce new ones, and engage in a deeply layered and interpersonal conflict in a way that was organic and engaging. What is the answer to that dilemma? Multitasking storytelling; using every aspect of a scene with characters, props, setting, music, etc to get the point across.

They pulled it all off magnificently. There are so many of this aspects of this film that I could discuss, but today I want to talk about how we were brought up to speed on the character of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch.

When we last saw Wanda, it was in Age of Ultron where she spent most of the movie on the hunt for revenge on Tony Stark. We got a bit of her backstory, she and her twin brother lost both their parents and their childhood to a missile made by Stark Industries. Still, we didn’t really get to experience her heart, and we learned next-to-nothing about her personality.

Now, it is one year after the tragic events in Sokovia. Wanda lost her brother to that battle, and that meant she lost pretty much the only stability or identify she has ever known. Pietro was her foundation and safe place. She has been with the Avengers for a year now, and they have become her new sense of family and security. She’s no longer thirsting for vengeance, so….just who is Wanda Maximoff?

We got a few glimpses of who she is in the battle with Crossbones in Lagos, Nigeria. Wanda is obviously still in training, but her powers make her one of the biggest assets on the team. She was very tuned in to instructions and quick to have Captain America’s back. Her face was heartbreaking when she saw the accidental explosion caused by her efforts to save Steve from Crossbones’ bomb.

But the greatest download we got on Wanda was in the short scene in her bedroom. This scene was brilliantly done of every level, but I have to give the biggest applause to the set designer. Multiple levels of information and story were given to us in less than 3 minutes.

We know exactly who Wanda is when this scene is done; we know her desires, her hopes, and her fears. Her character arc for the rest of the movie is established in this scene. we know where she is coming from, which means we also now know where she needs to go.

Shall we examine this fine bit of set design?

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Notice the pin markers in her globe. Are these places she has already gone with the Avengers, or places that she dreams of going? Her life before wasn’t exactly one where she could dream, it was a life of survival and vengeance. She was experimented on and became this insanely enhanced person.

Despite all that she lost before, her normal life, her parents, and especially her brother, I would venture to say that Wanda also feels a sense of relief. She is now free to dream again. She is young and it is a big and beautiful world just waiting to be discovered.

wm-room-2

The color palette in this room is very subtle and restful. Soothing grays, blues, greens, and ivory. Despite her superhero name of “Scarlet Witch”, Wanda Maximoff is very non-scarlet in her both her color choices and personality. This room is her refuge, her quiet place to be vulnerable and to dream. This room represents who she is inside, and inside she is a soft, sweet person.

See the guitar? Wanda is learning to play music. She is a very gentle soul. There is a soft throw on the back of the chair, perhaps she cuddles up in it to watch late-night movies or read a good book. A bit of laundry in the hamper? It would seem she is actually still quite normal in the fact that she is procrastinating laundry day.

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Her shelf. It has books, a glass globe (I have one like it), candles, and this oh-so-telling bulletin board which I will get to in a minute.

My favorite part here is the cute hanging rack she made with a gold chain and a feather. Feathers represent freedom and whimsy, a side of Wanda we never saw in Age of Ultron. She has a feminine pair of dangly earrings hung on this homemade rack. I’ll just bet you she got the idea to make it when she saw a similar idea on Pinterest. Wanda can manipulate and create with her powers, but she can also create beautiful things with her hands.

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We can see a photo of what is obviously little Pietro. It is both sweet and heartbreaking. There are also photos of dogs and a cat. Were they her pets? Or does she just love animals? This bulletin board is completely stuffed. Memories matter to Wanda, she treasures them. She has experienced other people’s memories through the visions she gave them, how telling that she keeps her own memories out in plain view, even the tragic ones.

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More subtle colors. Another glimpse of her stuffed bulletin board. A stray headband that she never put away. Baskets stuffed with what looks like stationary or scrap booking materials. And the final detail, a cross necklace hung in the background. Could it be a part of her past, or has faith become a part of her life since the events in Sokovia?

Dreams. Memories. Sweetness. Peace. Refuge. Femininity. We learned all of this just from the background setting, this doesn’t even include everything we learned in Wanda’s conversation with Steve.

This is not the room of a child, nor is it the room of a woman. It is the room of someone who is in between. It is a room reminiscent of the childhood that she never got to have, but it is also longing for the womanhood she is not yet sure how to grasp. Instead, she is a girl caught in the middle between fear and vulnerability, and bold strength.

Wanda made huge strides to grow and become braver. She faced down her fear when Vision confronted her and she triumphed. Everyone is well aware of just how powerful she is, she is not lacking for capabilities to protect both herself and others.

But underneath all of that, Wanda still has a sweetness that needs to be protected. All those who know her feel that and try to guard her. Steve, Vision, Clint, even Tony. She’s the baby Avenger, the kid sister, the girl who they have all grown to love and want to protect. I think Pietro would feel great relief to know that his sister is so well looked after.

We were truly introduced to Wanda Maximoff for the first time in Civil War. And we were introduced so subtly and organically that we never even noticed it.

Meet Wanda Maximoff, a sweet young woman with a heart that’s even bigger than her beautiful eyes.

Appealing to The Senses: The Hundred-Foot Journey

Most movies appeal to our senses of sight and sound. I can see the story playing out, and I can hear the music, sound effects, and dialogue.

However, not many movies have the ability to drawn in more than those two senses. It is a rare gift to find a movie that appeals to multiple senses and makes you feel as if you are fully engaged on both a soul and sense level.

The Hundred Foot-Journey

If you have never seen this delicious movie, might I kindly urge you to drop everything and watch it immediately. It is one of the best, richest films I have ever seen and I am about to tell you why.

The Hundred Foot-Journey follows the Kadam family who leave India for France looking for a better life. They find a charming village to settle in and open up their Indian restaurant. Their location? Exactly one-hundred feet across the road from Madame Mallory’s Michelin-starred eatery. What follows is a story about memories, love, people, and food.

Now, I can hear your question. This movie is still just a movie right? It can’t produce smell, literal food, or hand you something out of the screen to touch. So how can I say that this movie appealed to more than my sight and sound senses?

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a movie about people that uses food as the medium to communicate the heart of story and messages. The brilliance here is that food is a common denominator that everyone on planet earth understands and connects with. Food reaches us physically and emotionally. We touch it, see it, smell it, hear it, and above all, taste it.

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Have you ever seen a peach and had a flashback to a fun summer afternoon spent in the orchard? Does the smell of cinnamon make you feel like it’s Thanksgiving? When you hold a muffin do you remember your grandma? Has your mouth ever watered at the sound of someone crunching down on hot, buttery toast? When you bite into a cheeseburger, do you suddenly feel like you are on vacation again?

The Hundred-Foot Journey triggers the memories of our own personal experiences with physical things such as food in order to draw us into a story on a sensory level.

In the beginning of The Hundred Foot-Journey, we see Mrs. Kaddam teaching her son Hassan how to cook. But it’s not the typical one cup of water, 2 teaspoons of salt, stir for thirty seconds that you might imagine. Instead, Mrs. Kaddam is teaching Hassan about the soul of food.

“Food is memories.” 

She pours a ladle-full of her stew into her son’s palm where he slowly drinks it, savoring and experiencing each flavor and feeling of the dish. Mrs. Kaddam infuses so much meaning and life experience into her food that whenever Hassan eats or cooks something, he understands the story and memory behind the food.

Throughout this entire movie, the characters are deeply involved with their food. They touch it, experience the color, savor the flavor, and recognize the memories or feelings that the food arouses. No character does this more than Hassan. You taste, smell, hear, touch, and see through his eyes more than anyone else’s. You are connected on both a soul and sensory level with his experiences regarding food.

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At one point in the film, Hassan begins to lose himself in the process and precision of making food rather than the memories and emotions of it. It changes his entire persona and perspective. He is lost and miserable, and he cannot figure out why. The movie begins to lose its flavor as we lose our connection to the food and the heart of the story. We become distant and disconnect, just like Hassan is. We can no longer taste anything.

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When he reaches a very low point, he is given the opportunity to eat some homemade Indian food. The moment he bites into it his entire countenance changes and tears come into his eyes. He tastes home, himself, and his mama. He tastes who he is in his heart, the person that he had forgotten about for time has returned. At that same moment, the color and flavor return to the story for us. Our connection point is restored and we are once more engaged on a sensory level.

There are so many characters in this movie who take turns being right and wrong. There is brokenness and humanity. There is beauty and tragedy. There is life, laughter, and dancing. There are happy and sad tears.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey is a movie about life and people; and it uses the universal language of food to connect to our senses and draw us into the story in a deep, connected way.

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I cannot recommend this movie enough. It is excellent both in content and form. You watch this movie and drink in every detail. It is so layered and well-done that you take in some things consciously, and others at a sub-conscious level.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a satisfying movie on every level. When you reach the credits you will feel full in body, mind, and spirit. It is a veritable feast for your soul and senses.