The Need for a Sparring Partner- Part 1

In ancient times when  warriors wanted to increase their skill in combat, they would spar with other skilled warriors. These duels were intense and pushed both combatants to their limits. Warriors spent hours every day engaged in these duels, and their skill and strength increased because of it.

A warrior who did not spar was a man whose days were numbered. It didn’t matter if he was incredibly skilled, failure to practice regularly with others of skill meant it was only a matter of time before he met his match or superior in a real fight and was killed.

This concept of a good “sparring partner” is hugely important when creating a main character. It can be the difference between a relate-able character that is continually growing, or, a character that is always superior and stagnant because they are never pushed. Lasting characters often last because they never stop getting better.

Wise people in real life know that they need to grow. So, they surround themselves with people who engage their minds, push their limits in knowledge, and test their virtues and social skills. Iron sharpening iron, so to speak.

Characters are based off of real life experiences. I think this is why characters that are sixteen levels above anyone else in the movie feel so boring. They are never stimulated, they are always the smartest person in the room, and they are never thrown off their game or forced to become better.

A great example of this is Aurora Teagarden (Candace Cameron Bure) in the original movie series Aurora Teagarden  on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.

Ro

Aurora is a smart librarian with a knack for solving murders. She is always mentally one step ahead of everyone around her. In her first two movies Aurora may face a bit of resistance in solving the murders, but it’s often due to police red tape or other people’s failures.

Aurora also can’t seem to find a significant other to stick around. Sure, the pastor from the Aurora Teagarden: A Bone to Pick and the author from Real Murders were nice guys. Both men adored her and yet they did nothing to add to her character or grow her. They were “yes” men who told her how smart and gorgeous she was, but they never challenged her.

I love these mystery series, I really do, but I always felt that this particular series was missing something. It didn’t hold water as well and there was clearly a strong flavor that the story lacked.

Lucky for everybody, the writers figured out what flavor they needed to add in, and it came in the form of Martin (Yannick Bisson) in the third installment: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse.

Martin

Martin as a character totally threw Aurora for a loop. He could say one thing and catch her off guard. While he deeply admired her brilliance and her beauty, he was not intimidated by her. He remained mysterious and didn’t hand over information to her just because she batted her eyelashes.

Aurora T

Aurora was forced to operate at a whole new level in order to learn about Martin and prove whether or not he was the murder suspect. In the sparring of both wits and words, Martin proved to be her equal and occasionally her better; a fact that only caused her to step up her game.

Providing Aurora with an excellent sparring partner evened her character out, made her more realistic (she’s not a goddess, she’s human), and added great interest to her story. The third installment of the Aurora Teagarden movies was by far the best and moved this series up in my favorites list, previously it had been my least favorite original mystery movie series on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.

We were even treated to a preview of the next Aurora Teagarden installment, and lo and behold, guess who the writers decided to hang onto? That’s right, Martin.

Finally! Aurora has met her match and everyone knows it. The missing flavor has been added, and our heroine has found a sparring partner.

Sparring partners can come in many different shapes and forms. Sometimes they are allies, and sometimes they are enemies. There are even cases when setting or circumstances can fill provide the role of the sparring partner.

Still, I always enjoy a human touch to the role of a sparring partner. Particularly when it is an ally who challenges the hero to become better.

It is always encouraging to me see examples of two characters pushing each other to greater heights. I love these character pairings because I strive for this kind of great interaction in my own life.

Join me Friday for Part 2, when I will point out and discuss some iconic film/TV pairings that are examples of excellent sparring partners.

 

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5 Reasons We Love Flynn Rider

It’s no secret that Tangled‘s Flynn Rider has been a favorite among Disney fans since his introduction in 2010. He was one of the key elements that made Tangled a level above it’s predecessor Disney movies.

Flynn really broke out of the mold of boring and backstory-less Disney men and is really one of the most engaging characters to date. He wasn’t just a pretty face (let’s be honest, though, he is incredibly pretty), there was so much more to his character.

I could go into greater depth about the brilliance and complexities of his character, but I’ll save that for a later date. Today, let’s just enjoy a few of the primary reasons that we all love Flynn Rider.

1. The Smolder

Tangled really ushered in a new era for Disney. While many beautiful and charming movies had been made before it, Tangled introduced a finer 3D level of animation to the big studio. Pixar had been doing this kind of amazing animation for a long time now, and I think it is greatly due to Pixar’s involvement in this project that it turned out so well.

The facial expressions in this movie are just amazing. I always say about Tangled, “They told an entire story using eyebrows.”

By far the most prominent eyebrows belong to the one and only Flynn Rider. His facial expressions are just amazing, and with the slightest tweak of an eyebrow he completely changes the mood.

And what is the top Flynn Rider facial expression? I don’t really need to answer that for you, because we all know.

His face is so ridiculously fluid. In one 45 second clip he makes multiple, hilarious facial expressions with just the slightest twitch. Flynn Rider is like the poster child for amazing facial expressions.

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2. His Love/Hate Relationships with Animals

It seems like everyone in Disney is some kind of animal whisperer (Snow White, I’m looking at you). How many of us have had unrealistic expectations set for our human/animal interactions because of Disney movies? Seriously, I could whistle until my lips bled and still no birds would show up to help me clean my room.

Flynn Rider is not your typical Disney character. He actually seems weirded out by the hyper-intelligence of classic Disney animals. His interactions with Pascal and Maximus are hilarious.

He goes through 3 stages of animal interaction in this movie.

(1) Flynn’s face is one big question, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?”

Image result for tangled pascal images

(2) He  moves on to feeling the need to justify himself.

“You should know that this is the strangest thing I have ever done!”

(3) He starts talking to animals even more casually and normally than the other characters. He doesn’t have the sparkly, awe-like interaction that other Disney characters have with their animals. He moves right on to normal, person-to-person interaction. He and Maximus might as well be brothers who grew up tussling with each other.

3. Breaking Disney Men Cliches

(1) He’s a thief, not a prince, general, or warrior.

Yes, I know Aladdin also fits this qualifications, but Aladdin was immediately more selfless to start than Flynn is. *For the record, I adore Aladdin as a character and his movie is my favorite of the older, Disney “princess” movies. More on that another time.

Flynn stole a crown and left his partners in crime to the hangman’s noose. His only goal for the beginning of the movie is to get that crown and make a fortune. He tries to discourage Rapunzel from following her dream so that he can fulfill his sooner.

(2) He didn’t fall in love at first sight. More on this at the end.

(3) Again, he’s not really sure about these hyper-intelligent animals. See above.

(4) He doesn’t SING, not on his own initiative anyway.

(5) He has a deeply compelling backstory.

Very few Disney men are given interesting backstories, they are more the eye candy for whatever princess is doing her thing. I think Disney is starting to get the picture that maybe we want interesting men and women characters, it has been announced that Prince Charming will be getting his own backstory made into a live action film

The reveal of Eugene Fitzherbert, the orphan boy who loved the book about Flynnigan Rider was precious and compelling. It opened the door for Flynn to soften his heart and let a new, golden dream in. This moment was huge for his character development and setup for that glorious sacrificial scene at the end of the movie.

(6) He freaks out. Many times.

(7) He looks, GOOD. And he’s not afraid to admit it.

All Disney princes are gloriously beautiful (hold back the dimples, Eric, we can’t handle dimples that deep), but none of them ever acknowledge it.

Flynn knows how gorgeous he is, and he completely uses that to his advantage. Don’t get me wrong, I love men with humility, but this very real character flaw of Flynn’s was fresh and hilarious.

4. Best Lines

Flynn Rider has just got some great, very quotable lines, and his delivery could not be more perfect. He’s like the animated Han Solo of great line delivery.

Flynn Rider- You smell that? Take a deep breath through the nose.
[Breathes through nose]
Flynn Rider: Really let that seep in. What are you getting? Because to me, that’s part man-smell, and the other part is really bad man-smell. I don’t know why, but overall it just smells like the color brown. Your thoughts?

Flynn Rider- [sword-fighting with Maximus] You should know that this is the strangest thing I’ve ever done!
[Max flicks the frying-pan from Flynn’s hands]
Flynn Rider- … How ’bout best two out of three?

Flynn Rider- [Flynn looking at his ‘Wanted’ poster] No… no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this is bad, this is very very bad, this is really bad… They just can’t get my nose right!
Stabbington Brother- Who cares?
Flynn Rider- Well, it’s easy for you to say…
[Looking at the Stabbington Brothers’ ‘Wanted’ poster]
Flynn Rider- [in awe] … You guys look amazing.

Flynn Rider- All right, listen! I didn’t want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice. Here comes the smolder.
[Flynn puts on a pout, hoping to charm Rapunzel. She just looks at him sternly]
Flynn Rider- This is kind of an off-day for me. This doesn’t normally happen.

5. Not Love at First Sight

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in love at first sight.

But, if we were to take Disney’s word for it, love at first sight is the only way any beautiful romances happen.

That’s not the case for Flynn and Rapunzel, however. Flynn did notice Rapunzel’s pretty face when she first stepped out of the shadows, but a second later the first hint of awe wears off and he’s trying to sweet talk her to get his way.

He gains a hint of respect for her when she faces down the goons at the Ugly Duckling, turning the whole place into an impromptu Broadway performance; but it’s more of just admiration at the moment, love has not yet begun to bloom.

The evolution of Flynn’s love for Rapunzel was gradual. He didn’t let down his guard a bit until he thought they were going to drown. And then he shares something very precious and personal with her: his name.

Eugene represents the softest, realest heart of who he is. It’s the most vulnerable part of him, it represents a little orphan boy who never had enough but dreamed big. Rapunzel recognizes how precious that name is and uses it with great respect and gentleness. This attracts Flynn.

He sees the sweet innocence and beauty of her heart at the Festival of Lights. She soaks up every single moment with the joy of a child. Her pure beauty and warm heart are magnetic to Flynn. She is the most real, colorful thing he has ever experienced. She makes his dream of fortune seem black and white by comparison.

And then, he celebrates her dream with her. He spares no expense to make this moment the most special moment in her life. He understands how much these lights mean to her, he understands that they reflect her soul, which has felt trapped and captive. She trusts him with her most vulnerable place, and he treats her like a princess.

This scene is legendary and makes my throat ache.

He’s ready to go all in. He wants nothing in the world except to be with this beautiful, precious girl in front of him. He’s even willing to turn in the crown to the Stabbington brothers without a second thought. This is symbolic of him giving up his previous dream for a new one.

We know what happens. Evil Mother Gothel scheme, Flynn in prison, Rapunzel back to her captive tower, etc.

Flynn has an energy and desperation that he didn’t have before. Now, he’s not just fighting for himself, he is fighting for someone else. He’s always been resourceful and scrappy, but he’s never been in love.

He rushes back to the tower to save Rapunzel, only to be stabbed by Mother Gothel.

I gasped out loud when I saw this scene the first time. I did NOT expect that level of violence in a Disney movie. It scared me to death, a cardinal rule had just been broken and I didn’t know what to expect next. For all I knew, Maximus would kick the bucket the following scene.

Rapunzel willingly sacrifices her freedom for life in order to save the life of Flynn. I shall continue to call him Flynn, as I feel Eugene is really a special name that only Rapunzel should get to call him.

Flynn was bleeding out on the floor. He wasn’t exactly in top physical condition, no one would have blamed him if he was unable to do anything. He’s already gone above and beyond who he was at the beginning of the movie.

They move in for the kiss, and BAM! He slices her hair off, rescuing her and sacrificing himself.

Respect. Vulnerability. Attraction. Sacrifice.

This is such a well-written, well-rounded model for falling in love. The romance in this movie had so much more depth and maturity than any of the previous Disney Princess films. It opened the door for other amazing romances like Frozen’s Kristoff and Anna in the future.

*****

Flynn Rider was an amazing character all on his own. He had his own set of circumstances, beliefs, and goals before he ever met Rapunzel. She didn’t change him immediately, but in time, being around her altered his priorities.

He was bold and sacrificial. His rescue of Rapunzel in no way diminished her strength as a character or threatened her capability, it only added to the rich interaction. Flynn Rider was a strong male character, paired with a strong female character, and the result was the best Disney princess movie anyone had seen.

Eugene Fitzherbert would be happy to know that he is every bit as legendary as his fictional hero, Flynnagin Rider. His fame has spread far and wide and we still enjoy his story.

What did you love about Flynn Rider? What did you love about Tangled? What did you see that they did differently in this movie from their previous fairytale films?

25 of My Favorite Movie Lines

It is the 25th post on reellifebygrace today! I thought I would have some fun with this number and keep it simple by sharing 25 of my favorite movie lines. These are in no particular order and are merely here to make you smile.

1.”It’s like America, but south!” (Ellie, Up)

I am a big South America fangirl. I understand the deep wonder and excitement that Ellie and Carl have for that mysterious continent. Not to mention, this scene is just the cutest thing ever.

2. “I love you.” “I know.” (Han Solo/Leia, The Empire Strikes Back)

Han and Leia’s romance is one of the top movie romances in the world. I love, LOVE their interaction. This scene is so iconic to Star Wars fans for so many reasons. My favorite bit of trivia about this scene is that Harrison Ford came up with his classic I know response on the spot, and a legendary line was born.

To top this amazing line off, the roles are later reversed in Return of the Jedi when Han says “I love you” to Leia. She gets a twinkle in her eye as she replies “I know.” What a great tie-in between the two movies.

3. “Uh, mebbe I shoulda hooked him up to Bessie, an then took the boot off.” (Mater, Cars)

A classic “DUH” moment that is made totally adorable by Mater. He takes Lightening McQueen’s handcuff “boot” off before he hooked McQueen up to Bessie, the enormous asphalt machine.  My dad always laughs at this part, so it is a fond moment for me.

4. “My mother was a caterpillar, my father was a worm, but I’m okay with that now.” (Khalil, Veggie Tales: Jonah)

If you have never seen Khalil the caterpillar, look up some clips on Youtube. He is utterly hilarious and a top-quote character for Veggie Tales fans.

5. “I am expressing multiple attitudes simultaneously. To which are you referring?” (Spock, Star Trek: Into the Darkness)

SPOCK SASS! I love Spock.

6. “I think I heard a whoosh.” (Emmet, The LEGO Movie)

Emmet is totally adorable, and this line cracks me up. I can just see Chris Pratt saying this himself. I’d be willing to bet Chris Pratt really is Emmet in so many ways. I feel like if we went inside of Chris Pratt’s mind we would find a double-decker couch in there somewhere.

There are a million hilarious and quotable lines from this movie, I had to just grab one off the cuff.

7. “You hesitated.” (Olaf, Frozen)

Again, so many quotable lines to choose from in Frozen, but this one always cracks me up because of the timing. Anna’s hair is turning white and it’s freaking Kristoff out. Her cute little feminine query, “Does it look bad?” is something so many gals can identify with. Poor Kristoff waits a half second longer than he should to reply, and his fate is sealed. So many males identify with this.

Haha, Olaf isn’t buying it.

8. “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn….I can do this all day.” (Steve Rogers, Captain America: The First Avenger)

I make no secret about my love for this guy. I really feel like these two lines (they are really a part of the same thought) entirely sum up this extraordinary guy.

It’s even better because of all of the follow-up times when Steve uses his signature lines. He never gives up. It’s the Steve Roger’s version of just keep swimming. 

How do you compete with that?

9. “Obviously. Yes, I am. I’m with the Resistance, yeah, *whispers* I am with the Resistance.” (Finn, The Force Awakens)

This kid is so stinkin’ adorable. I fell in love with him on like Line 3. He was so unlike any of the previous Star Wars main heroes. He was so not confident he felt so normal and human. His instant crush on Rey is all the cuter as he seeks to impress her with his “Resistance” status.

Aren’t they adorable?

10. “What do you still have it for?!? I can’t believe you had THAT in your purse!” (Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy)

Obviously I just picked out one gem among that treasure trove of quotable lines that is Guardians of the Galaxy. This one however, cracks me up even when I’m not watching the movie.

The orb just blew up and the Guardians are all in shock. Rocket’s line is hilarious enough, but it’s made even more hilarious by the fact that he and Peter Quill start having the purse vs. knapsack argument right then and there.

11. “Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow!” (Mushu, Mulan)

Using this line as a comeback will either end the argument with your opponent defeated, or you will make a new best Disney friend.

12. “Great, where are we going?” (Pippin, The Fellowship of the Ring)

I’m going for more comical than deep today. Pippin is a great moment of comedic relief in the epic but exhausting saga that is Lord of the Rings. This line is so hilarious in that you-have-no-idea-kid kind of way. It’s even funnier because this stupid line totally breaks up the solemn and dramatic gravity of Elrond’s “you shall be the Fellowship of the Ring” statement.

What an adorable idiot!

13. “And Daddy! He stole my boot!” (Jane, Tarzan)

Jane is a highly underrated Disney lady. She’s charming, adorable, and says the cutest things. She has the most rambling way of getting to the point. It’s even cuter how her round and squishy little professor Daddy follows her bizarre thoughts easily.

This line is when Jane returns from  having met “the wild man” Tarzan. She’s babbling away about this strange creature, only to stop in the middle of her ramble to talk about the theft of her boot. I do this sometimes, so this line always cracks me up. I can’t find this particular line, but here’s a cute scene that will give you a great example of her adorable dialogue.

14. “These mashed potatoes are SO creamy!” (Midge, While You Were Sleeping)

I cheated by using this line to introduce one whole scene full of hilarious lines. Lucy is eating dinner with Peter’s family and about 3 different conversations are happening at once. She and Jack never say a word but smile at each other through the chaos. It’s a hilarious scene, one that I completely understand because I grew up in a large family. I promise you, this is completely realistic.

This movie is priceless!

15. “Whaaaaattt???” (Minion, Despicable Me)

This gif works for EVERYTHING.

16. “You should know, that this is the strangest thing I’ve ever done!” (Flynn Rider, Tangled)

Flynn Rider broke so many rules for Disney guys, I think that’s why he is so beloved. This scene is hilarious.

17. “I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine, and he shall be my Squishy.” (Dory, Finding Nemo)

This is everyone literally every time they see something adorable.

18. “School mascot by day, but by night….I am also a school mascot.” (Fred, Big Hero 6)

He’s so hilarious!

19. “I’ve never put on pantyhose, but it sounds dangerous.” (Joseph, The Princess Diaries)

Fellas, you just have no idea the truth of this statement. I laugh really hard at this line because pantyhose are HORRIBLE! They itch, they pull, they rip, they slip, and you have no guarantees about the length of your life when you start putting them on. They are DANGEROUS!

20. “Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile.” (Hiccup, How to Train Your Dragon)

Hiccup Haddock is one of the greatest things animation has ever brought the world. I flat-out adore this guy. His dry and sarcastic sense of humor is one of the best aspects of this character.

21. “I was with the Navy, not the Navajo.” (Owen, Jurassic World)

There’s a reason Chris Pratt keeps sneaking in here. He’s amazing. I love Owen’s face when Claire looks expectantly at him after asking him to track down her nephews. He gives her this look repeatedly throughout the movie.

22. “Well done, you just decapitated your grandfather.” (Loki, Thor: The Dark World)

Loki gets the best lines.

23. “The word I’m searching for, I can’t say because there’s preschool toys present.” (Woody, Toy Story)

This is a great way to express your emotions in a situation without getting profane.

24. “So yeah, I blew myself up.” (Mark, The Martian)

Mark’s running dialogue for this movie was utterly amazing. He had a great sense of humor that kept things from getting too heavy. Amazing!

25. “If I see one, I shall inform you immediately.” (Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

This is one of my favorite little interchanges throughout this funny movie.

And there you have it! 25 great movie lines from some wonderful movies. This was actually far more complicated than I had anticipated. Good thing I chose to do this post for my 25th instead of my 100th. Merry movie-watching to you all!

 

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?

 

 

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!