Keeping the Voice Authentic: Spirit

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a movie about a wild stallion who finds himself taken into captivity by humans. Spirit’s primary objective in the film is to regain his freedom and return home to his wild herd.

It’s a magnificent movie on so many levels. The story is beautiful and unique. The characters are deeply engaging. The music grabs your soul and will not let go. Spirit is a character that stirs the deepest parts of you and makes you want to stand up and fight. This was one of my favorite childhood films for all of these reasons.

But looking at this film as an adult, I can now appreciate it at a whole new level. Watching it again, I noticed something that I had instinctively felt as a child, but could never put into words.

Spirit is a movie about a horse, told with the voice of a horse.

In every story there is a primary voice that is telling the tale. This voice can take on many forms, and it can come from any character; but it is this voice that filters every single detail in any story. It is this voice that will lead you-the viewer- in knowing how to think and how to feel. This voice determines the message of the story. Without a clear voice, a story will feel limp and useless because it lacks direction and a strong foundation.

Spirit did so many things right on every level of cinematic storytelling. Why? Because the voice in Spirit was authentic and spoken through every single detail of the movie. Here are some specific examples of how the voice in Spirit was made authentic.

Body Language

Horses communicate via body language. Ears forward=alert. Ears laid back flat= aggressive, etc. Snorts, whinnies, stamping; all of these communicate different thoughts, emotions, and instincts being expressed.

Spirit was a movie where a horse was the primary character. We saw the world through Spirit’s eyes; in order to put ourselves into his hooves we had to understand communication the way he did.

Spirit made use of every body movement and sound that horses make. We clearly understand what all of the horse characters were thinking and feeling even though very few of us naturally speak “horse”. Not a single horse character ever spoke words, thank goodness, or this whole movie would have felt cheesy and stupid. No, in order to live and breath this story we didn’t need the horses to speak our language, we needed to be able to understand theirs.

Narration Via Spirit’s Inner Dialogue

Even though so much was communicated through the horses’ body language, we still needed some sort of narration to happen in order to bring us through the story. Given that Spirit himself is the one telling his story, it would make sense for him to do the narrating.

They could have done this where Spirit chimed in with a comment every few seconds, or told us the story from start to finish while we merely watched the motions. Both ways would have made this movie less than it was.

The way the filmmakers chose was incredibly brilliant. Our narration was Spirit’s inner dialogue, his thoughts so to speak. His impression of a situation, his instinctive reactions to things, etc. This put us inside of Spirit’s head and heart in a way that no other narration could have done.

These thoughts had to be clear enough for us to follow them, but it was vital that they stay as true as possible to the authentic “horse” voice. The writers did this in multiple ways.

  • Spirit never uses proper nouns. The one time he uses a specific name for someone is when he is referencing the term the soldiers use for his Indian friend, Little Creek. Instead of using specific terms, Spirit uses vague generalities. They, he, him, her, she, I. We always know of whom he is speaking, but he never calls them by name, that is reserved for the human characters of this story. While horses do understand commands and recognize differences in people and other animals, I don’t imagine that they think of those people by name. It’s more about how those people smell, sound, and feel. It’s more about visceral things than intellectual categorizing. Spirit takes in his world in a vaguer way, trying to understand it, but he doesn’t intellectualize it.
  • Spirit doesn’t narrate all of the time. There are very long sequences when all of his communication happens with his actions; again, he is speaking as a real horse would. This puts us into the mind of an animal instead of a human mind. Human minds have a constant running dialogue. Spirit’s mind is more instinctive, and physical. He doesn’t have five million little details running amok in his brain. His one driving force and thought for most of this movie is to regain his freedom.
  • Spirit’s thoughts are never connected to his mouth. If this were a movie with a “talking horse” it would have been utterly cheesy and failed in delivering authenticity. Yes, we do know what Spirit is thinking, but it is almost as if his mind is a separate entity from his body. We are in the first-person perspective of this horse. We feel what he feels, we want what he wants, we struggle when he struggles. And we do it the way he does it, as a horse. Yes, a horse with heightened emotions and soul, but still a horse.

Sound

The sounds of this movie are very gritty and earthy. I mentioned above how much of the story is told through the horses’ body language. That body language makes a lot of noise. Stamping, chomping, snorting, running with hooves on the ground, whinnies, nickers, shrieks, we hear it all as if we were there experiencing it firsthand.

The sounds of this movie are very natural, after all, it’s a horse’s world we are entering. The sounds of the military fort feel unnatural. The marching of iron-shod hoof beats in formation feel strange compared to the more random fall of hooves for a wild herd of horses. There are whips cracking, the shouting out of military drills, and bugles. And then when Spirit is tied to the post for three days there is an eerie and still the silence in the night.

The wind whooshes, the water roars, the eagle shrieks high up in the mountain air. The bison snort, a mountain lion roars. The thunder of pounding hooves raises your heartbeat. You are a part of this story, body and soul. You hear it as if it were happening around you, your heart becomes connected to this land, this place on a sensory level, exactly how Spirit feels.

I hear the wind, call my name

The sound that leads me home again

It sparks up the fire- a flame that still burns

To you, I will always return….

….You run like the river-you shine like the sun

You fly like an eagle

You are the one

I’ve seen every sunset

And with all that I’ve learned

Oh, it’s to you, I will always return

Music

Bryan Adams and Hans Zimmer delivered on this movie. The music reaches that wild part of your soul and pulls you into Spirit’s soul. The music is also an excellent part of the narration, almost as if Spirit’s soul had created a soundtrack that put words and melodies to the deepest instincts of his heart.

 

The Setting Is A Part of Spirit’s Character

Spirit is a wild horse that lives in the vast West. The landscape is as much a part of who he is as his organs. He is the wind, the sky, the grasses, the rolling hills. He is the eagle that flies free. He does fly at the end of the movie when he makes his fantastic leap for freedom.

Spirit is the fierce and rushing water, and the gentle warmth of the afternoon sunshine. He’s the cold snow, the fire, he’s all of it. This is his world that he interacts with on a very personal level. It reflects him and this journey that he is on.

Humans rarely interact with an outdoor setting like this, but this is a wild horse’s world. We needed to understand and interact with that world as Spirit did in order to understand him. We needed to love and depend upon this wild place the same way he does. This world is in his blood, and by the end of the movie, it’s in ours as well.

*****

I have not come across another movie quite like this one. It is unique and authentic. This movie made in impression on my soul like few others have. I used to ache for wide open spaces and dream in my sleep about running across hills and mountains. I understand Spirit’s desires so well because they were like some of my own. When I watched this film, I fully entered into Spirit’s character. I became him for a time.

That is the power of an authentic voice. You can communicate so well with your audience that they feel they have become a part of your story/character/world. This is powerful way to connect and communicate.

If you are a storyteller, find the voice that will communicate your message the clearest. Use that voice to filter every aspect of your story, doing so will bind your story together tightly and deliver a powerful impact.

If you are a viewer, look for the voice in the stories you love to watch. Seek out the voices that have spoken the most deeply to you and dig deeper. You will be amazed at what you learn about yourself.

I am so thrilled that I was able to share this post with you. This is a subject and movie dear to my heart. I hope this post can touch you as well.

You too have a voice, how are you using it to tell your story?

 

 

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Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2- The Perfect Death to the Triangle

Finally! The triangle that came into existence in Girl Meets Texas Part 1 has been laid to rest where it belongs. We can all take a deep sigh of relief now and turn our attention to other aspects of this magnificent show.

I was utterly amazed at how the writers wrapped this messy triangle up. I am continually in awe of how much depth they are able to incorporate into each, 22 minute episode. The writers are able to do this because they are experts at foreshadowing, setup, and keeping running plot threads going that they can recall in a moment’s notice.

Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2 is probably the greatest example of this. This masterful episode brought so many moments together, starting from the pilot episode in Season 1 and going through the seasons from there.

I could not be happier with the result. The writers managed to destroy the triangle while only lifting our hearts up. I could go on and on, but I’ll consider your valuable time. Instead, here are a few of the very best aspects of Girl Meets Ski Lodge Part 2.

Lucaya ended, but our hearts were not broken.

Lucaya

I’ve made it no secret that I was pulling for Lucas and Riley from Day One of this aggravating triangle. I wanted the quirky, non-“cool” girl to get the handsome Western hero. I loved the way they interacted. I love the expression on Lucas’s face when he looks at Riley.

Still, I know there were a lot of fans pulling for Lucaya. They loved the interaction between Lucas and Maya. The conclusion of this triangle had the potential to grieve Lucaya fans deeply, but our GMW writers are just too good to leave broken hearts behind.

Instead, they had Maya end Lucaya naturally and gently by discovering that she, Maya Penelope Hart, doesn’t care for Lucas that way. Now that she remembers who she is, she is happy to keep Huckleberry as a good friend and nothing more. The look of sheer relief on Lucas’s face was beautiful. He could never hurt her, and she saved him from that burden.

But even better, the person who helped Maya come to this conclusion wasn’t Riley, it wasn’t Evan, it wasn’t Farkle, it wasn’t even Maya herself. It was….JOSH! Uncle Boing, the boy she has cared for in her heart of hearts since Season 1. The pure joy and radiance on Maya’s face during her conversations with Josh in this episode made angels sing. I can’t imagine anyone NOT being happy for Maya and Josh.

GMW joshaya

Josh became possible, and it was perfect.

According to the writers, Josh was supposed to have been a larger part of Season 2. However, due to a near-fatal motorcycle accident, Uriah Shelton (Josh) had to be absent during the beginning of this triangle mess. I honestly wondered how they were going to bring him back into the story and introduce growth in his character when we hadn’t seen the progression of maturity.

I had nothing to worry about. Josh Matthews comes onto the scene with a depth of maturity that he has not shown before. His position as the chaperone during the ski trip, and his role as guide and mentor completely pulled his character onto the relevant timeline and made up for any lost episodes.

“Josh?”

“What?”

“Why have you let me hold onto your hand this entire time?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know everything.”

Mature people know that the value of a person isn’t dependent upon age. Before, Josh was too immature to see past 3 measly little years. But now that he’s grown up and has a desire to be a mature person, he can recognize the incredible treasure that Maya is.

“For me to think that I don’t ever need a friend like you, in the world, just ’cause I’m a little older? That’d make me a lot less mature than I wanna be.”

Oh, just watch his cute face. I could just eat up his facial expressions and Maya’s along with them.

“You once said you were playing the long game.”

“I like you, Josh, it’s you I like.”

“I like you too.”

“I’ll play the long game. Live your life, I’ll live my life, I know you’re out there and….I’m out there too.”

“Someday?” “Someday.” 

Eat it up, people. Every person who has ever loved someone older is crying their heart out right now. We are SO happy for Maya!

Purple shirt, purple jellybean, his favorite thing in the world, it was Riley all along

jealous Lucas

Lucas comes down the stairs wearing a purple shirt. His face falls and he looks both threatened and devastated when he sees that Riley spent the entire night having a heart-to-heart with another guy. Why?

Because,

“My favorite thing in this world is when you talk to me.” 

“It is?”

“It’s okay for you to talk to whoever you want, Riley. You know why? Because I am a secure Western hero.”

“Yes, yes you are.”

“But the important talks, the ones that we’re gonna think about and always remember….can those just be between you and me?”

Lucas has opened up his heart to Riley in a way that he has to no one else. She touched a deep place in him and he fell in love. The best friendships and romantic relationships are built on a deep, lifelong conversation. It is when we converse deeply that we reach each other’s hearts and souls. Riley reached Lucas’s, and she has owned his heart ever since.

“So, this is our moment?”

“Mmhmm. I promised you, that my moment, would be my moment. This is it.”

Watching Lucas’s face during this whole scene is priceless. His dialogue along with his face are telling the story of a boy who has loved a girl deeply, and feared he would never get to have her. You know that feeling when you are looking at your favorite thing? Or when you can’t believe that you are so blessed as to experience something uniquely wonderful? That is what Lucas is feeling.

Riley has the sweetest response. Her face is both surprised and thrilled. She has hoped and dreamed for this, and yet, she’s still in awe of the fact that she is this blessed. She’s on the verge of tears this entire conversation.

The climax is when Lucas pulls out a jewel box- momentarily freaking Riley out- and produces a purple jellybean.

“It means you, Riley, I choose you. And I really want you to choose me.”

“I do.”

He’s had that purple jellybean in the ring box this whole time, even when he thought the triangle was still a thing. This is the biggest clue of all, it has been Riley all along.

Look at Lucas and Riley’s faces, they both landed on the right person to talk to.

landing in the right lap

The long game, playing for the future

Both Josh and Maya, and Riley and Lucas have the gravity and maturity that few people their age have. They think long-term, not just about instant gratification which often leads to heartache and poor choices. Their relationships are built to last.

Riley and Lucas talk about landing on the right person to talk to for the rest of your life. They aren’t in this just for the momentary fuzzies (even though they are enjoying the fuzzies), they are willing to work for this long term.

Whether that ends up happening or not, you will always make better decisions when you keep your head on straight and think about long-term results. Cory and Topanga modeled this when no one else did, and it is changing how relationships are depicted on GMW.

Josh and Maya know it’s too soon for them to be together. Still, they are grown up enough to recognize the value they see in each other and their desire to be together. Real love is willing to wait. Real love plays the long game.

GMW the long game

Girl Meets World does it yet again, overturning cheap, cultural tendencies and instead promoting life and commitment.

I held my breath during this entire episode. I knew what I wanted to happen, and yet, my imagination never came close to the glorious result that is this episode. Well done writers! Well done actors! Well done everyone, you make a show that is a gift our world.

Also, Girl Meets World needs a Season 4 and MANY more seasons to follow! Here’s to taking on the world for many years to come!

 

Star Trek: Beyond- Parental Review

The third installment in the incredibly popular reboot, Star Trek: Beyond was everything I could have hoped for and more.

This movie was the cleanest movie yet and a heck of a lot of fun. A great story paired with great characters, humor, and the clever cunning of the Enterprise crew which has been a delight in every film.

This movie was unique in that the writers switched up character pairings into new sets that we haven’t seen before. This enabled us to get a fresh view of characters in a way that was fantastic. Bones and Spock, people, those scenes were absolute gold.

While I don’t appreciate and endorse every personal choice made by Kirk’s character, I do love  him. My favorite thing about Kirk is how intensely he loves his crew and how he will do anything for them. He has grown a lot in his sense of maturity, there is a heavier gravity to his character in this film than the previous two. But never fear, the traces of the rascal are still there. He’s unorthodox in his methods, and that’s why he’s the best captain Starfleet has.

Spock was delightful in this film. His emotional progression has been steady and engaging for all three movies. I liked him in the first film and I have not stopped. His awkward way of putting things is one of my favorite aspects of these movies. His facial expressions have only gotten better each movie. I do hope he and Uhara eventually tie the knot in this series, I have enjoyed the deep love and maturity of their interaction.

Uhara was the same beautiful, classy, and intelligent woman as always. She is one of the best female characters I have seen on screen. My favorite thing about her is that she is not just her body, she is so beautiful, but that is merely the lovely frame holding her heart, soul, and spirit. I plan to write more on her in the future.

Bones. Oh my word! Bones has always been hilarious with his poor-timed pessimistic lines, but this movie gave him more of a spotlight. It was awesome. He was perfect. I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers, but seriously, Bones was the MVP of this film.

Chekov. Oh Chekov, seeing him was bittersweet given the recent death of the actor, Anton Yelchin. I was happy to see that he did have a more prominent role in this film and got a lot of screen time beside Captain Kirk. No one could know that his death would happen when making this film, but this movie couldn’t have been made in a better way to preserve his memory.

Scotty. Simon Pegg co-wrote this film and you can tell. It has a distinctive flavor that is unique from the previous two, while also being cohesive. Scotty was very sweet and we go to see a new side of his character in his interaction with new alien girl, Jaylah.

Sulu was on top of things as usual. He has guts and focus that make him perfect for his role. He has never been my favorite, but he is a strong asset to the team.

Jayla. I had rather expected her to be a kick-rear, emotionally sterile character that is good in a fight, but not really enjoyable. She was actually much more approachable than I had anticipated. Her character was young and vulnerable, and actually quite funny. I hope that she will be in the next film.

This entire cast is made up of strong men and women characters, and even better, a stronger team who are all pulling for each other. No sacrifice is too much. That relational aspect has been incredible in every one of these new Star Trek films, and it was the thing that held them together during the chaotic events of this movie. The characters of these films have shown both their strengths and their moments of vulnerability. They are well-rounded and engaging.

One of my favorite things in this series, the aspect that really drew me in first, is the colorful visuals. They are stunning! To often space looks boring and black. Sure, planets are colorful, but often space travel seems dull and boring. Star Trek has always been a visual feast that I have enjoyed.

Now, here are the nitty-gritty details to help you decided if this film is suitable for your family.

Sex/Nudity- During Kirk’s Captain’s log entry, he mentions the potential situations arising from having a crew made up of both sexes, leading to a small montage:

You see crew members give each other meaningful looks.

One couple is kissing and walk into a room where they shut the door behind them.

A door opens and a man is shoved out, shirtless. And fully-clothed but indignant alien girl throws his shirt at him in a huff. This montage is very brief.

Kirk is shirtless when washing his face.

A camera angle zooms in on Zulu’s left hand at one point, revealing a wedding ring and a photo of a little girl. During a stop-off at a space station, Zulu goes running up to a man and little girl, his partner and their daughter. They embrace and walk off together with the child. No kisses are exchanged.

Violence/Gore- There is a lot of blasting, explosions, people are sucked out into space, some punching, etc.

The villain’s minions blast people with a green blaster that seems to age and suck the life out of them, leaving them gray and lifeless. You only see a closeup of one person after they have been shot. A main character is threatened with a similar weapon and the edges of his face begin to gray, but he is not killed and is fine.

Two people are hung upside down in a machine that sucks the very life out of them. They scream in torment. The sounds are the most disturbing part.

A  minor character is disintegrated. Later on another character is disintegrated, but it is not horrifying.

Kirk and the villain exchanged blows that leave them bloodied.

A character has a shard of metal stuck in his torso after a bad landing. Another character rips it out and quickly cauterizes the wound while the injured character yells. It’s not graphic.

Language/Profanity- The cleanest one yet. I only heard a few words and only one or two times per word.

kicka**

b*s*a*d

h***

d***

oh my g*d

Two uses of the word horses***. Used for comic relief during a moment when one character is in a lot of pain.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking- An alcoholic toast between friends celebrating a birthday, and then later champagne at a party. Everyone drinks responsibly and there are no drunken scenes.

Frightening Scenes- A ship is attacked violently and taken down, people are killed, at least 3 violently, the villains are aggressive and show no remorse, a city is attacked and people are screaming.

Heroes/Role Models- There are great many heroes in this film. As I have said before, the love and teamwork displayed by the crew of the Enterprise is inspiring and beautiful. The characters are willing to make sacrifices to protect those that they love. Each person knows their role and does it well so that the whole team can function. They are brave in the face of long odds, and they are willing to protect the innocent. No one is ever left behind. They are creative and resourceful.

Talking Points

  • Why is being on a team so important?
  • How can we be good team members?
  • Can we be brave for those we love, even if it means we might get hurt?
  • How do we make sure no one is left behind?
  • Are you willing to make sacrifices for those you love?
  • Are you willing to protect those who cannot protect themselves?
  • Where do we find our identity?
  • How can we persevere and find the hope to keep moving forward?
  • What do we do with fear?

I enjoyed this film thoroughly and I look forward to the next one. Good news, Chris Hemsworth has been confirmed to be in it. To what extent, we don’t know yet, but I cannot wait.

I hope this movie enables you to go where you have not gone before and enjoy a fantastic story! Live long and prosper!

*****

Check out my other movie reviews here!

Captain America: Civil War – Parental Review

Finding Dory – Parental Review

Ghostbusters- Parental Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Enjoy More Movies

What do I watch now?

Ever been in a show-hole? Ever had a really good movie run that ended before film studios could come out with the sequels, three-quels, and spinoff titles?

Our ability to consume movies is much faster-paced than the ability for film companies to produce new films. This can leave you feeling hungry for more movies, with no immediate way to solve the problem.

I decided to share a few ideas today about how you might open up your movie world to include more films; giving yourself a longer runway before you run out of stories to watch. These are tricks of the trade that have proved very enjoyable for me and my family, and hopefully they can open up your world a little bit more as well.

1. Watch Old Movies

The African Queen (Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn), Going My Way (Bing Crosby), Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Ingrid Bergman), Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck), Gentleman’s Agreement (Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Jimmy Stewart), Holiday Inn (Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire), The Inspector General (Danny Kaye) Bedtime for Bonzo (Ronald Reagan), The Magnificent Seven (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson), The Great Escape (Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson) Desperate Journey (Ronald Reagan, Errol Flynn) Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), Foreign Correspondent (Joel McCrea, Laraine Day), Never a Dull Moment (Dick Van Dyke)

These are just a few little nuggets of gold in the goldmine that is old movies. A movie being made decades before your birth in no way diminishes its value. Watching old movies can be a delightful way to experience the evolution of films earlier on. You can also get a taste for normal life and cultural mindsets in previous decades. There are endless possibilities and literally hundreds upon hundreds of films available.

I have discovered amazing stories, endearing characters, and a heartbeat in some old films that I could have just passed over. Human beings have not changed in who we are at our core, only our technology has changed. There were compelling stories being told long before the days of green screen, CGI, and high definition.

Don’t limit yourself, try something “new” for a change.  After all, in this day when retro is cool, old is the new new.

Retro

2. Expand Your Genres

Picky eaters and picky viewers have this in common, they have very few options available.

Opening yourself up to new genres can open up hundreds of new movies titles for you to browse and enjoy. Even if the new genres you try are not as dear to you as your favorite genre, you still may find that you actually enjoy a lot more than you thought possible. Keeping an open and non-cynical mind about movies can do wonders for your viewing soul.

3. Enjoy Each Story For It’s Own Value, Not Another Story’s Value

This trick has been incredibly useful in my own family where we have many different ages. It can be hard to find a film that’s safe and enjoyable for everyone. My mom worked really hard to teach us the perspective of enjoying each story for its own value.

This means I can enjoy Cars, The Avengersand the Indian-made film LagaanThey are all across the board in purpose, message, and storytelling. Cars is a sweet and humorous story that is a mix of speed and taking its time. The Avengers is flashy and showy with superheroes, alien invasions, and explosions. Lagaan is hot, dusty, and not even in English-you have to read the subtitles-but it is a compelling story nonetheless.

I have enjoyed each one of these films, because I enjoyed them for their own, individual value. If I used the same criteria for evaluating Lagaan as I did The Avengers, I would be disappointed. Why? Because Lagaan was never intended to be The Avengers, therefore, it will only fail to meet my Avengers standards.

This way of looking at things is actually really useful in life, especially when looking at people. If I judge one person based on the criteria used for another, completely separate individual, I will be disappointed. The same principal applies to movies.

Enjoy each story for its own merits, gifts, and yes, even its flaws. This will open up many more movies for you as you set your expectations accordingly.

 

 

4. Watch Movies You’ve Seen Before

If you are like me, then you already love to watch some of the same movies over, and over, and over again. Not everyone enjoys this, and once they’ve seen a film they may not care to see it again.

Let me encourage you to revisit movies you’ve seen before. It is possible to enjoy a movie the second time through, sometimes it is just about the amount of effort you are willing to put into it. There are multiple ways to enjoy movies again.

Look for details in the backgrounds, costumes, or electronics of the film. Pick a topic and pay attention to it.

Research for a few minutes online for trivia involving the film. Then look for the moments mentioned. I have done this at movie marathons with friends and it gives you an entirely new perspective on the film.

Invite friends over who have also seen the film and keep a running commentary going with them. I love watching movies I’ve seen a million times with friends because you feel the freedom to talk all that you want. This is a really fun way to enjoy a film and relational time with other people. You will have a good time and create memories.

*Who cares if you’ve seen it 11 times, there is always a fresh way to enjoy something. Don’t box yourself in!

5. Just For Kids, I Don’t Think So

So what, you’re 35, 46, 73? I don’t care, try a “kids” movie. The mistake many adults are making nowadays is believing that movies geared toward children are only for children. WRONG! I dare you to watch any Pixar film and have your mind blown.

Children’s films often have soft, approachable layers of storytelling and clear truths that adult movies don’t have. What is simple and understood in a children’s film is often lost in the chaos and complications of an adult film.

Many children’s films are often quite profound and touching. There is a special sense of wonder about them that adult films rarely seem to grasp. There is a reason we remember our favorite films from childhood, because they touched our hearts in a way that changed us. Who knows, you may actually need to hear a simple truth from a children’s film more now than you ever did when you were 7.

Open up your heart, you can still enjoy some Bourne movies while also diving into the delightful world of “children’s” films. After all, adults are just kids a bit older and bigger, right?

 

6. Don’t Be A Critic

Yeah, I know this one sounds a little hypocritical coming from the woman who is running a blog where she analyzes movies. But there is a difference between analyzing in order to understand and engage a story, vs critiquing a story and only looking for the faults.

One can enrich your mind and help you understand stories and people better, the other can make you cynical and jaded. Why? Because there is no perfect movie, and the ones that make the cut as being “good enough” in professional critic’s minds are far and few in-between, even if regular audiences loved the films.

I often think that professional critics must have a hard time enjoying movies anymore. When you are paid to go see a movie with a critical eye, that will soon become the lens that you view everything with. How many caustic and sarcastic critic reviews have you read from professionals? I’ve gotten to the point where I read what normal, everyday viewers thought of the movie before I would read a critic’s take on it. I trust a fan’s perspective more than I do a professional’s.

Granted, I do critique movies sometimes. I find fault with them, and I point those things out. I will even do so many times on this website. But, critiquing is not my top priority here. My top priority is to engage in movies and discuss them through the eyes of a storyteller and a fan.

I never want to lose my joy in movies, be they perfect or largely imperfect. And I don’t want you to lose that either by being overly-critical.

So, did that car chase seem a bit far-fetched? Sure. Were the special FX in that film from 1965 kinda hokey? Yeah, so, what? Put down the critic’s chart and just watch the movie. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable.

7. Chill Out, Lighten Up

This one is really a compilation of all of my previous suggestions. The best way to limit your viewing options is to have a very narrow set of standards and criteria when it comes to what you will view.

Now, please don’t hear me telling you to violate your conscience. I would never, ever do that. When I say “standards”, I am speaking artistically. Here are a few phrases that might explain what I am saying.

The graphics are terrible on that, this was pre-CGI. Forget it!

That would never happen in real life. (This one is so ridiculous it makes me laugh. Dude, what do you think movies are, reality caught on camera after make-up and  costuming?)

I’m too old for that.

No, none of us are going to enjoy everything in every genre. We are each going to develop our own set of likes and dislikes that will exclude some films. But you can open yourself up to many, many more films if you will relax and give them a chance. Will you still dislike certain films after watching them? Of course, but at least you gave it a shot.

We can get too “sophisticated” for our own good, and it is limiting our viewing options and making our movie diet too strict. Having variety is good and healthy for our perspective and for our movie-watching list.

Explore, step out of your comfort zone, make the old new again, lay down the critic clipboard and watch the dang movie! Life is too short to be uptight when you don’t have to be.

Chill out meme

*****

I hope that these ideas will can help breath a little fresh life into your movie-watching experience. They have worked wonders for me, and I hope that you can also benefit from them. Movies are an amazing and unnecessary gift that we often take for granted. Here’s to the hope that we can all appreciate them more!

So, do you have any ideas on how to enjoy more movies? Have you tried any of these options before? What was a movie experience where you tried something new and loved it? I would love to hear from you.

Like and share! Let’s open up our movie cabinets and our minds together!

 

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters- Parental Review

I don’t watch many ghost movies where there are actual ghosts and not just some faker trying to scare everyone. I had never seen the originals, and so unlike many Ghostbusters fans from the past, I was able to see this movie unbiased.

(see the official trailer for Ghostbusters)

I’ll be honest, this is not the film you go to see if you want a tight story, easily followed character progression, and any sense of realism. It’s a far-fetched tale with ghosts, slime, and ridiculously dumb receptionists. One of the most realistic elements of the film was Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) back and forth battle with the Chinese restaurant over the number of wantons in her soup.

Still, I rather expected this going in. I mean, it’s a movie about ghosts where four women are wearing coveralls and zapping paranormal beings with bright shafts of light. You don’t walk into that kind of film expecting realism or a deep message. So, instead I set my expectations accordingly and I ended up enjoying the movie for what it was.

The characters of this movie were actually pretty engaging and funny. Kevin-the-receptionist played by Chris Hemsworth was incredibly delightful. I have only ever seen Chris in more serious roles where he plays a fierce warrior, but I have heard that he is naturally funny. I loved getting to see this goofy and cutesy side of him. He was perfectly adorable and added a nice sparkle to the film. I only wish they had used him more.

The ladies, Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Patty (Leslie Jones) were each unique and funny in their own way. Their witty banter was cute and engaging. I was annoyed with the amount of cussing and crass language thrown into the dialogue. It was unnatural in how it was fit in, and it felt like a cheap way to be edgier. The characters were funnier when they were just talking about normal things using words safe for all ages.

*I’ll cover this in the language section of my review, but be warned, both Imdb and Common Sense Media failed to cover that subject correctly. We went to the movie after looking at the reviews anticipating far less language than was actually in the film. I have no idea why they did such a poor job covering it as they are usually pretty thorough, but be forewarned especially if you are considering bringing your children.

I know a lot of fans of the original Ghostbusters films were incredibly disappointed with this remake. I can see how they could be disappointed, but like I said before, I have never seen the old ones and was able to enjoy this film unbiased.

Now, here’s the info you’ll need in order to make a decision about whether or not this film is beneficial for you or your family.

Sex/Nudity- There are a few designs that the receptionist has drawn up to be potential logos for the Ghostbuster ladies. He’s drawn a few designs of ghosts with big boobs. The ladies are somewhat embarrassed and explain that is not the image they want to project.

One of the ladies finds Kevin to be very attractive and makes a few, slightly suggestive comments that will probably go over younger viewers’ heads.

Some dancing, either to loosen up before a big speech, or in celebration of a victory. It doesn’t feel overly sensual, it’s mostly goofy, but there will be pelvic movement.

A female mannequin with nothing on is possessed by a ghost and featured prominently for a minute. It’s not a detailed mannequin, but it is clearly female given the chest shapes.

Violence/Gore- The women blast ghosts with bright rays of light and destroy them.

A ghost posses a main character for a time and she attempts to throw another woman out of the window. She is relieved of the ghost after being slapped very hard by her friend.

A man is thrown out of a window by a ghost. It’s obviously implied that he was killed, but nothing is ever shown.

A gruesome story is told at the beginning of the movie about a woman-now-ghost who murdered her servants.

A man commits suicide by electrocuting himself. This is a part of his plan to become a ghost himself.

A woman walks up to a ghost and attempts to communicate with it. The ghost hovers for a time and appears calm, but in a split second turns very violent and spews slime all over the woman. This is a startling scene.

Lots of slime. Lots of screaming.

Language/Profanity- As I said above, this subject was woefully undersold in other parental reviews. Here is a complete list of the amount of profanity in this film, I apologize that I could not get an exact word count, but I can at least every word that you can expect to hear.

B*t*h*s

a**

Many g*d, oh my g*d

p***

At least one use of J*s*s

I think there was at least one use of s***

h***

d**n

One very unnecessary sequence where a man uses a middle finger, on both hands, and flies his hands around like birds in the women’s faces. He is never intended to be a gentleman by any stretch of the imagination, but this scene was so unnecessary and stupid.

Other words would include crap, butt, stick-up-your-butt.

Very unnecessarily crass, to the point that some of the language felt out of character.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking- Wine or champagne, one bar scene at the end of the movie where the ladies are having a beer together. This section really isn’t an issue.

Frightening Scenes- It’s a ghost movie, expect this to be frightening for younger viewers. I would have been terrified of this film as a child, especially of the larger ghosts that took the form of giant and evil parade balloons.

*Please, on behalf of your children, don’t assume that they can just handle something or if they are young enough they won’t remember it. My mom was 3 years old when she saw King Kong and she was tormented by that movie for years, it still effects her today. Children pick up on and remember a lot more than many will give them credit for. Keep this in mind when deciding if this film is for your children or not.

Heroes/Role Models- All of the main characters were decent people. They are persevering and brave. The primary motivation for the villain was that he had been bullied and poorly treated his entire life, and now he wanted the world to suffer when he unleashed the murderous paranormal on them. Our main cast of characters have also been poorly treated, but they represented a contrast to the villain in that they fought to protect the world and people, even those who called them fools.

Talking Points- This movie isn’t really message-centric, so there aren’t a ton of talking points presented. Still, here are a few things you could go over with your family.

  • Are ghosts real?
  • Can we blame “society” for the difficulties in our life, or do we take responsibility for our own attitudes.
  • Are you willing to keep doing what you know is right, even if everyone is calling you crazy.
  • Would you protect someone who had been mean to you before?
  • Is revenge the way to solve being hurt? What other options are there?
  • Will you still do the right thing, even if no one will ever know that you did it?

This movie was somewhat outside of my comfort zone in what I typically watch. I enjoyed it for what it was, even through its faults. I hope that this review will enable you to make the best possible decision for you and your family.

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Finn Is Still Going to Be a Jedi

When the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, it seemed that Finn was going to be our primary new Jedi figure. After all, he was the one wielding the light saber and going toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren, our Dark Side baddie. While I think that we all guessed Rey was going to be Force-sensitive via her genetic line, we really didn’t know how involved she was going to be with the battle between the Light and Dark side.

I was surprised and delighted when Rey stepped into the Light as a very strong, very Force sensitive character. She handled the role with grace and humility, so I didn’t resent her at all. I think the filmmakers did a beautiful job of creating a balance in all of their main characters, giving them equal parts of strength and vulnerability. Finn and Rey in particular took turns looking out for each other.

Still, after the first viewing, I felt a bit of disappointment that Finn didn’t end the film with a clear direction as a Jedi. I really enjoyed watching him wield the lightsaber, even though I also totally ate up Rey kicking Kylo Ren’s rear.

However, after reading a theory or two, and watching the movie several more times (I do want to give credit to some of these sources for pointing this out to me,  I am borrowing some of their ideas along with my own), I have come to the conclusion that Finn along with Rey will become a Jedi character. He is Force-sensitive, but perhaps in a less obvious way than Rey in this film.

Here are five reasons why, started with the weakest up to the strongest.

1. His Strong Sense of Justice and Compassion

Finn good Stormtrooper

During his first battle, Finn never fired a single blast. He knew that what he and his fellow Stormtroopers were ordered to do was wrong. He felt horror and sadness at the death of his fellow soldier. When ordered to murder the villagers, Finn couldn’t fire because he instinctively knew that what was happening was wrong.

Later, in the small Jakku outpost, Finn saw two creeps hassling a young woman. He didn’t hesitate to jump up and try to interfere. Granted, he soon saw that Rey could handle herself, but his heart was in the right place. He assigned himself the job of watching Rey’s back even before he knew her name.

The Jedi were supposed to be protectors and peacekeepers in the galaxy. It was instinctive for them to protect life and especially those who were preyed upon by evil. Finn struggles a bit with this, his desire to protect Rey is warring with his own fearful instinct to get away from the First Order.

But by the end of the movie he is no longer waffling, instead he runs straight into the doors of Starkiller base to rescue his friend. His love for Rey pushes Finn to embrace what is already inside of him, the heart of a hero and a warrior.

2. He Broke Through An Entire Life of Brainwashing

Stormtrooper Finn

He has been raised by the First Order from babyhood. He never knew his parents. All he has known and been taught is the First Order. Practically speaking, the idea that someone would break out of 20 years of brainwashing in just a few hours is pretty far out there, even for a galaxy far, far away.

Still, Finn did it, and it’s quite obvious there is no going back for him. He is clearly thinking for himself and even harbors bitterness and hatred towards the First Order. I think the only logical explanation for any of this is that Finn must be Force-sensitive. No other Stormtroopers reacted the way he did, even though they went through the same motions.

3. Wielding the Lightsaber

Not just anyone can pick up a lightsaber and do well with it. True, Finn has been given excellent military training, something they did a great job showcasing. But he has never handled a lightsaber before, and twice in this movie he wields one with decent amount of skill for a beginner.

He even managed to go toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren for a bit there in that last duel scene. Granted, his anger was up over what Kylo just did to Rey (a little righteous anger never hurt anyone in a lightsaber fight, ask Luke and Obi-Wan), but he holds his own pretty well for a rookie. Kylo Ren is supposed to be this incredible warrior who wiped out the new generation of Jedi, and yet, he gets his rear handed to him by an ex-Stormtrooper and a sweet girl from Jakku.

4. Kylo Ren Sensed Finn Through the Force

Kylo Ren Dark Side baddie

Kylo Ren would be proud to know that he is like Grandpa Vader in the fact that when he senses something via the Force, we all know it. Both villains pause and raise their helmeted heads slightly when feeling something.

Right before departing Jakku, Kylo Ren ordered the massacre of the remaining villagers. The other Stormtroopers opened fire without question. Finn stood staring in horror. He was still standing there when Kylo Ren walked by to head back to his ship. If you notice, Kylo pauses mid-step, looks up slightly, and then turns to actually stare at Finn, who stares back. Kylo felt Finn before he saw him.

Later on, right after Kylo has killed Han Solo, Rey screams in agony. Kylo looks up at the platform where Rey and Finn are standing, but he isn’t looking at Rey, he’s glaring at Finn. The camera even zooms in on Finn’s face. There are very few coincidences in the Star Wars Universe, and you should NEVER mistake a unique camera shot for a random choice. Something is being alluded to there.

5. Finn Felt/Heard the Death of the Republic When No One Else Did

This is by far the biggest tell-tale clue that Finn is Jedi material. When the beams of destruction were sent out from Starkiller Base towards the Republic Planets, Finn was preparing to board a ship with smugglers headed for the Outer Rim. No one around him had noticed the bright red beams in the sky, he himself hadn’t seen them yet.

But he pauses, and cocks his head as if hearing something. Listen carefully, you can hear screaming. But from where? No one around him was reacting yet, however, the people on the Republic planets were screaming. This is very much like Obi-Wan Kenobi’s reaction to the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars: A New Hope.

I think this is the best clue that Finn is, indeed, a Jedi.

The trailers were cleverly made to make us believe that Finn was the primary new Jedi, a misdirect from the truth that Rey was actually the biggest Force-user in The Force Awakens. But perhaps the filmmakers used their own mind-trick on us. Maybe Rey is now being used to distract us from the fact that Finn will also become a Jedi.

This will be a new experience for Star Wars fans. We have really only ever had one new Jedi to focus on at a time. First it was Luke Skywalker, then Anakin Skywalker. In the animated series The Clone Wars we saw the conflict through the eyes of growing padawan Ahsoka Tano. In Star Wars Rebels our new Jedi character is Ezra Bridger.

Always one at a time. But, this is a new time, and a new generation of Star Wars, so why not shake things up?

I believe that Finn and Rey are going to take turns in the spotlight as we see their journey to fulfill their destinies. And I love it. They have an awesome dynamic that is fresh and engaging. They are both relate-able and endearing characters who bring out the best in each other.

We will see Finn come into his own as a Jedi.

*****

What did you think of Finn? Do you agree that he is in fact Force-sensitive? What are your hopes for him in Star Wars Episode 8?

Check out these other fan theories as well! You’ll find that we all came to some very similar conclusions.

http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/star-wars-force-awakens-finn-force-sensitive-fan-theories/

http://moviepilot.com/posts/3695753

Great video here!

 

The “On-Off” Switch That Kills Romance

Jamie is pretty, spunky, and has a thing for drinking lemonade on bridges under a sky full of stars. Tom is hunky, smart, and thinks pug-nosed pups are cute.

These two characters just so happen to work in the same crime-fighting division. Their chemistry is instantaneous and obvious, something that both the audience and the coworkers all notice. They click right into place like puzzle pieces.

Jamie and Tom make a great team. They are dynamite on the dance floor. They both love cheese pizza. When Jamie was devastated about her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Tom was there to be her shoulder to cry on. When Tom got hurt and was laid up for a while, Jamie came over to cook him homemade meals every night. They stayed up until 3 in the morning talking about their favorite childhood memories.

Jamie and Tom belong together, it’s as plain as day. The writers told us in every way in possible. They have practically spelled it out in bright neon letters JAMIE AND TOM BELONG TOGETHER.

Our emotions are now invested. We are now printing up #Tamie t-shirts and talking on message boards about the latest developments. We’ve picked out names for Jamie and Tom’s first 3 kids and have mentally written up plots for 4+ season’s worth of episodes. We hold our breath every time one of them gets close to saying those 3 words we know that they feel.

“I love you.”

First date. Yes, finally! We’ve had enough of the longing looks from across the water cooler.

Tom changes his blazer 3 times to make sure it’s just right. Jamie goes out and buys a new red dress. They go to an Italian restaurant and have a great time dipping bread sticks in marinara and then walking the waterfront. Oh boy! We even get a first kiss!

All is happy in Tamie-town. And then it happens!

Jamie and Tom go into work the next morning, the happiness of their date lingering in their smiles.  The coworkers notice, some ribbing takes place. Uh oh! A crisis happens and it’s all hands on deck. For some reason, Jamie and Tom are having trouble getting their heads in the game. Their teamwork is off. Someone almost dies, and the most natural assumption is that the near miss is somehow their fault.

“I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

Tamie fans get off of the couch and walk out of the living room, leaving little pieces of their heart and emotions in a trail behind them.

And so it begins. Jamie and Tom still love each other, but continue to deny it.

They lie to themselves and others.

“We’re just friends.” 

They date other people

“I’m so happy for you, she/he seems nice.”

More longing looks over the water cooler. More sweet and endearing talks during a stakeout. A tear-jerking hospital vigil after a dangerous run-in with the bad guys.

“Maybe….we could give this another try?”

Up and down, up and down. On and off, on and off again. There is an engagement ring for a while….and then it’s handed back with some trite line.

“This just isn’t going to work for me.”

After a few seasons of this garbage, we are done. Our emotions are strung out all over the place and we are tired. We get our hopes up only to have the writers dash them once more! The passion and fire die, and now it’s just getting laughable.

We stare numbly at the screen. Literally the only reason we are still watching is because of Tom’s dog, Mr. Puggles.

 

Why do writers do this? What is wrong with them?

When writers create lovable characters and put them onscreen, they are asking us to invest a little piece of our hearts in those characters. They are asking us to entrust our emotions to their care.

So why do they take that precious trust and just trample all over it?

Writers also ask us to suspend our belief in reality as we know it. They are asking us to believe in things like superheroes, zombies, guys walking around after major head trauma, and that the female lead’s makeup still looks good. We know that all of those things aren’t real, so we need a bit of real life authenticity to ground this fictional story and make us believe.

I know that a lot of real people struggle to maintain relationships. I know a lot of real people don’t know what the heck to do with their love life. But there are far more people, who, if they found someone to love, would move forward and not keep jumping back. This is particularly true for well-rounded people with a measure of maturity. (You know, like characters that are supposedly mature enough to save the world but can’t get up the courage to date and marry their soulmate???)

Somewhere along the way, TV writers believed the lie that commitment and allowing their characters to stick together would kill any chance for romance. The only way they know how to write romance is in the pursuit stage, or, the lack thereof. They also know that the ups and downs are a cheap way to string along an audience for a time.

Guess what?

I’m done. I’m sick of the fruitless ups and downs that lead no where. I’m sick of the idea that having characters commit instantly kills the romance. Seriously, just watch the first few minutes of UP. Or great shows like Hart to Hartor Dr. Quinn Medicine WomanI assure you, the romance doesn’t die once there is a ring involved. If anything, the potential for new plot ideas grow.

If TV shows want to keep an audience along for the ride, they are going to have to take us on different routes, and not just keep reversing the plot vehicle. We’ve been there, done that, seen that, ENOUGH!

Be bold, be brave, let your characters move forward with their lives. Enough of this infinite loop, this up and down, this road that leads nowhere!

Enough of the on-off switch! You are killing the romance and turning off the interest of your audience!