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

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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.

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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.

wm-room-5

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.

100fj food

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.

100fj hassan cooking

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.

100fj no memories

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.

100fj french food

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.

 

The Need for a Sparring Partner- Part 2

Sparring partners can come in many forms. They can be good friends and allies. They are often love interests. Many sparring partners actually come in the form of villains who, by adding negative pressure, force the hero to get stronger. A sparring partner can also come in the form of a setting or circumstance.

Here are a few examples of good sparring partners.

Love Interest Sparring Partners

Han Solo and Princess Leia

There is no question that Han’s interest in Leia opened the door for him to reveal his big heart and put it out on his sleeve. Han’s drive to fight for Leia, Luke, and the Rebellion pushed him to greater things and more selflessness than ever before.

Leia’s love for Han opened up places in her heart that she had carefully shielded. She is a more well-rounded person because of him.

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And let us all just recognize the masterpiece that are Han and Leia’s verbal exchanges. I think some of the most legendary film dialogue ever written takes place in The Empire Strikes Back.

Finn and Rey

In the course of just a few days, Finn goes from being a frightened Stormtrooper to charging fearlessly into Starkiller Base and dueling with a Dark Side warrior. Finn makes this incredible 180 turnaround because of one person: Rey. Rey simply being who she is pushes Finn to desire to be better, to be more. And that mighty person is exactly what he becomes.

Likewise, Finn touches Rey’s heart by being the first person in her life who has shown her concern, care, and friendship. His choices regarding her make a huge impact on her chosen direction. Finn was a catalyst in Rey’s life that helped move her down the path she is destined for.

Barry Allen and Iris West 

I wish I had time to cover everything I have to say on the subject of West-Allen. I promise you, there is a juicy article in the works.

Barry Allen has been in love with Iris West since forever. Iris has always believed in Barry, even when he didn’t believe in himself. The combination of these two is dynamite.

Barry runs faster, punches harder, and doesn’t give up because he knows that Iris believes in him. She is his inspiration as well as his home.

Iris has always been inspired by Barry, she has always believed in him, even before he became the Flash. Her relationship with Barry throughout the years has helped shape her into a compassionate and mighty person who makes things happen. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind to Barry, even when he doesn’t want to listen.

Like I said, dynamite.

Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter

*Sigh*, we’ve lived this story so many times and it always hurts. But it still wows me.

Steve Rogers immediately saw the strength, dignity, and heart in Peggy Carter. She was everything he could have ever dreamed for in a woman. Knowing her made him want to be better all the time. He carries a picture of her in his compass because Peggy is his true north, his guide, even after her death her words and heart still reach him at his core.

Peggy Carter was almost instantaneously impacted by Steve Rogers. She fell in love with him on Day 1 and his memory inspired pretty much her entire life. She felt that no one, including her, could ever hope to be everything that Steve was. Keeping him in mind, Peggy lived a legendary life that inspired others.

Best Friends

Steve and Bucky

They are with each other “To the end of the line.” 

Growing up, Bucky kept Steve alive. He never failed to have Steve’s back. He took punches, fought battles, and held his friend up through anything. Knowing that scrawny kid from Brooklyn with the massive heart made Bucky into the best friend everyone dreams of. He is a total hero. Without Bucky, there never would have been Captain America

Steve had the best friend in the world, one he could always depend on. When Steve thought he lost Bucky, he kept going with Bucky still sitting in his heart. The knowledge of who Bucky was and the sacrifices he willingly made hugely impacted Steve’s life choices. Later on, when Steve learned Bucky wasn’t actually dead but now a brainwashed assassin, Steve didn’t write his friend off. He walked through fire and ice to save his friend, without hesitation.

Hiccup and Toothless

Hiccup Haddock began to come into his own as soon as he met Toothless. While Hiccup already had many unrecognized talents and abilities, he never had a reason to bring them forward until he met his dragon. Toothless made Hiccup grow into a selfless leader who is constantly improving. Hiccup never settles or stays stagnant, he is always improving, always growing.

Bonding with Hiccup pushed Toothless beyond the bounds of ordinary dragons. Toothless was already an extraordinary dragon, but his great love for Hiccup has pushed him to do things that go even against his own biological instinct. The greatest example of this is when he challenges the Alpha Bewilderbeast in order to protect Hiccup.

Hiccup and Toothless are stronger together, they inspire and push each other to greater heights all the time.

Woody and Buzz

Despite a rough beginning, Woody and Buzz have a friendship that real life people are jealous of. While Woody at first felt threatened by Buzz’s strong presence, he has since grown to appreciate and lean on this brave little space ranger’s shoulder. Woody helped Buzz face reality, learn resourcefulness, and taught him the joy of being a child’s toy.

Buzz is Woody’s backbone. When Woody needs support, Buzz is there. When Woody can’t lead the other toys, Buzz steps up to the plate. When Woody forgets who he is and what being a toy means, Buzz is there to remind him. Great friends remind each other who they are when one has forgotten.

Woody and Buzz make each other better, they fill each other out and made one heck of a team.

Enemies

Flash and Reverse Flash

Run, Barry, run!

Eobard Thawne (aka Harrison Wells/The Reverse Flash) is a top example of a how a villain can be an excellent sparring partner.

Thawne is incredibly layered and complex because he has been the friend, mentor, villain, and created circumstances that have all shaped Barry and forced him to become better. Thawne is constantly moving around and changing up his strategy to manipulate Barry’s actions. That being said, everything that Thawne has done has still made Barry faster, stronger, and smarter.

 

Barry continually overcomes obstacles and springs back up. Whenever Thawne thinks he has won, or at least stolen something from Barry, the strength of Barry’s will and heart still carry the day. Thawne continually has to change and evolve his strategy because he just can’t seem to take a good Barry down.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader

There are dozens of articles waiting to happen regarding the Skywalker family. I’ll try to keep it simple here for now.

Luke Skywalker came onto the scene as a whiny kid who had raw talent and Force abilities. And he was in WAY OVER HIS HEAD. Still, he had a enough mentoring in the form of Obi-Wan to jump-start his Jedi career. He also adopted his own personal enemy, the scary guy known as Darth Vader.

Luke was driven to conquer Vader for multiple reasons. He knew Vader to be the villain that destroyed his father (whom Luke worships), Vader killed his mentor (Obi-Wan), and Luke knows that in order to become a powerful Jedi, defeating Vader is his primary concern.

This drive to defeat Vader pushes Luke to train. His time spent on Dagobah was all geared towards his impending confrontation with Vader. Mentally, and physically, Luke was preparing himself for the sole goal of defeating Vader. And then, SURPRISE!

This was a huge moment for Luke’s character. Everything could have fallen apart right here, but lucky for us Luke was smart enough to fall down a ventilation shaft and get the heck outta there.

By the sixth movie, Luke’s goal and drive was to win his father back. He was calm, focused, and frighteningly strong. He faced down Vader and the Emperor without fear. He declared himself to be a true Jedi and confirmed his belief in the good left in Anakin Skywalker. Because of his back and forth battle with Vader, emotionally, physically, and mentally, Luke walks out of Return of the Jedi a total superstar.

 

Darth Vader was trapped. He was evil, he hated the Emperor, and he hated himself. But he was too weak to do anything about it. Until he met Luke.

“The Force is strong with this one.” He becomes obsessed with tracking Luke down and bringing Luke over to his side to join him and overthrow the Emperor.

But that Luke is just too darned determined! He’s slippery, he has good friends who have his back, and Luke is surprisingly strong. Vader has to keep thinking outside of the carbonite chamber in order to track Luke down.

He tries to play the “I’m your Daddy, I know you have Daddy issues” card and his kid purposely falls down a ventilation shaft to get away.

Luke awakens something in Vader. He awakens whatever is left of Anakin that is buried inside of this dark Sith lord.

Vader is in awe of this kid, his kid, who keeps popping back up and just getting stronger all the time. Vader is at war within himself, the Dark and Light side are both tugging at him. One side is his enslaved mind to his Master, and on the other side is his love and admiration for his son.

Luke’s faithfulness and strength are strong enough to make Darth Vader shake himself out of years of darkness and slavery, and overcome the evil that is both himself and the Emperor.

If Luke had never been forced to face Vader, he wouldn’t be so strong. And if Luke hadn’t been so strong, Vader never would have returned to being Anakin. That right there is a showcase of the great power of a excellent sparring partner.

Vader and Luke were sparring partners from the very beginning, even though the nature of their interaction with each other evolved and changed throughout the story.

Setting/Circumstance

Mars and Mark Watney

The Martian has to be one of the best films I have ever seen. It was man vs. Mars wrapped up in a dramatic, yet lighthearted and educational package..

There is no villain in The Martian, but there is an antagonist, and one heck of a sparring partner: Mars.

An inanimate object, a thing with no mind, will, or emotions still takes on the role of the opposition. In order to stay alive, Mark Watney has to essentially beat Mars. He has to out-think, out-math, out-science, out-wit, and out-mental Mars.

Mars proves to be a pretty tough sparring partner. It constantly throws things Mark’s way that almost kill him.

Mark jumps through hoops, solves seemingly impossible equations, and comes up with gadgets and gizmos that would make MacGyver weep. Mark also grows very mentally strong during this ordeal. While he faces heartache, loneliness, despair, and fear, he never gives up.

The Mark Watney who went into space with his buddies is not the same Mark Watney that comes back to earth. He has conquered the unimaginable and come out victorious.

Mark still has an affection for Mars. Even though just about every aspect of Mars was trying to kill him on a regular basis, Mark appreciated the beauty and wonder of Mars. Mars was practically became a character in its own right.

Mark’s character sparred with Mars and he grew exponentially. Those watching Mark grew. Mark’s goal to stay in the match (stay alive) with Mars created a ripple effect that went all the way down to earth. Thousands of people were effected and made stronger by the match with Mars.

Jurassic Park Movies- Man Vs. Nature

Yet another series that I have so much to say on, but now is not the time.

The Jurassic Park films are an amazing example of using setting/circumstance as a sparring partner. I put the dinosaurs into the category of setting because the dinosaurs are not dangerous for any emotional or personal reason. This takes the soul and emotion out of the situation, fitting it more into the category of an emotionless setting or circumstance rather than an emotionally-driven character.

While there are human villains in these films, those humans and their effective harm pale in comparison to the dinosaurs and the damage they cause.

Yes, a dinosaur is a living creature, but it is a creature without a spirit and soul. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are merely behaving out of their instincts, making them less personal, but no-less deadly. This of course was changed in Jurassic World, when the Indominus Rex began to rampage beyond the need for food or defense, but instead merely for sport.

The characters in the first 3 Jurassic films often go into the situation with wide-eyes and little wisdom.

It doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are pretty well out-matched and they are going to have to adapt and learn fast if they want to live.

The ones who make it out do so because their characters had a growth spurt. They learned to stop underestimating these animals. They learn the animals’ strengths and weaknesses.

The animals also change and adapt. The velociraptors in particular. They experience new circumstances, absorb the information, and then adapt to the new situation. More than any other dinosaur species in this movie series, the velociraptors prove that they are not stagnant and will continue to change and grow. That makes them ever-increasingly difficult to defeat.

This is an incredibly unique set-up, one where an animal is the human’s great sparring partner/enemy, but the non-emotional creature is also learning and growing because of the human’s involvement.

*****

The need for good sparring partners is vital for any story, be it a film, a book, or your real life. I draw a lot from studying these interactions on screen, and I hope now you can too.

What type of sparring partners do you enjoy the most? Villains and heroes? Love interests? Best friends? Setting/circumstance? What are some of your favorite sparring partners on screen? Do you have great real life sparring partners that help you grow and mature?

I’d love to hear your stories and your opinions. Share what you love, I want to know what you think.

And if you missed my previous article, you can find it here.