Monthly Archives: December 2014
Into the Woods
Sorry this post is a day later than promised…I know you were all compulsively refreshing the page every five seconds to find out what I thought about the movie. Yesterday was a very busy day for me–I spent the whole day watching movies with a friend, followed by a meeting of Watson’s Tin Box, a Sherlock Holmes scion society. Both were lovely, and I will tell you about both later 🙂 However, I promised Into the Woods, so Into the Woods you shall have. Warning: spoilers abound. So if you don’t know what Into the Woods is about or how it ends, I can’t imagine why you’re here but either flee or be prepared. You have been warned.
I don’t think anyone can review this movie without discussing the expectations they had going into it. If you are at all into musical theater, you have a history with this musical (or at least with Sondheim, the composer). Love it, hate it–there are very few who can just take it or leave it. Sondheim incites strong emotions in people. Full disclosure–I happen to love it. This musical showed me how powerful art can be and made me a lifelong musical lover at the tender age of twelve. I have been an ardent devotee ever since. So it was with some trepidation that I greeted the knowledge of this film’s arrival. I don’t generally hate film adaptations–I actually like the “Les Mis” movie for many reasons, warts and all. I was not convinced just by existing that this movie was going to be a terrible flop. But I did have some reservations.
1) I was worried it was Disney, and that it might be sanitized too much. I am a huge Disney fan and know they can make adult-ish movies (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has both gory and sexy adult moments) but this musical has a dark side, y’all, and I was worried they’d only represent the one-dimensional fairy tales without exploring their darker underpinnings.
2) Kids as the kids! Little Red and Jack (of Beanstalk fame) are traditionally played by adult actors. This news fed into my fears above, particularly when I found out the film would be rated “PG”. This musical is not “PG”.
But I liked the look of the trailer, I recognized that the musical has a lot of magical elements which could be brought to life on screen in a way it can’t be done on stage, and I stuck to my bottom line, which is the more musicals out there, the better. So I was cautiously optimistic as I awaited the film’s release, which set me apart as a heretic among my more cynical (wiser?) friends.
So, I saw the movie. And I thought it was pretty okay. It was not the train wreck everyone said it was going to be, but I didn’t feel it deserved the rapturous accolades it was getting in the press, either. (It received a 71% on rotten tomatoes, while the much more heartfelt and innovative “Annie” received a 29%.) I feel a little left out, to be honest–I can’t be a lover or a hater. Here are my specific thoughts:
1) the movie was almost perfectly cast. Other than Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick, I wasn’t in love with any of the actors, but they all really stepped up. The singing, with the exception of Chris Pine’s atrocious auto-tune (and maybe also Johnny Depp, but I love him so very much and I will forgive him anything so I can’t be too critical), is unimpeachable. Emily Blunt dazzles as the Baker’s wife with an atypical, softer portrayal of the character who supports her husband rather than heckles him. James Corden is a delight. I’ve already mentioned Johnny Depp. 🙂 Even the kids are fine. There’s not a Russell Crowe-esque standout of badness here other than Chris Pine, and he’s not onscreen a lot.
2) The first “act” of the movie was really good. Sure, they cut some songs (and verses of songs) but I felt it was faithful to the spirit of the show. The “I Know things Now” CGI-bad wolf sequence was weird, but it wasn’t too distracting. Also, WIND! They are in the WOODS, y’all, and there are leaves and breezes and other nature-y things that constantly remind you that we’re outside, in the elements. It’s cool in a way you can’t really replicate onstage, and that (to me) is the whole point of a movie-musical: to go further and bring something new that is unique to this medium. And the first part does that well.
3) The second “act” was pretty bad. It starts when the giant arrives mid-wedding, in place of the song “Ever After”. Now look–I know it’s not a stage play anymore, and it might have been weird to do “Ever After”/
“So Happy” back to back without the benefit of an intermission in between. But dang it, maybe the show needs the intermission. The tonal shift between the first and second act is BIG and it’s important to tie a bow around Act I and let you (briefly) experience the happiness before it all gets cruelly snatched away. And I think everything went downhill from there. The pacing was (understandably) off, and everything else seemed rushed. Like, if we get through all the deaths fast enough, maybe the kiddies won’t realize the body count is piling up? I’m not sure why the film-makers decided to sprint to the ending, but it was just jumpy and bad. There wasn’t time to get invested in characters before they disappeared and (presumably) died. I felt off-balance the entire second half and never regained my momentum.
4) There are a few moments of brilliance in Act II. The Baker’s wife’s death actually had my heart pounding for a moment. And when the witch turns around with the baby at the beginning of “Last Midnight” and sings the first verse to him in a twisted lullaby, my jaw dropped. But the end of the film is supposed to feel cathartic, and it doesn’t. Because we’re not suffering or afraid long enough to deserve the redemption.Act II is supposed to be too long and uncomfortable. People are supposed to die, often. The ending is supposed to come by the skin of our teeth, having barely escaped destruction ourselves. In this version, we are not nearly in peril enough to be grateful for our salvation. It’s too easily won, and therefore not valued.
5) The Mysterious Man. You cannot cut him. You did. It was terrible. Enough said. I could rant for ages but I won’t. But this was a huge mistake.
Ultimately, I think the cast did a wonderful job. It’s a shame the directors didn’t entrust more of this wonderful story to them. Who knows how powerful it would have been to see the whole show, instead of merely a truncated, awkward version?
Am I way off base here? What did you think? Tune in the rest of this week for more movies, holiday hijinks, and the Sherlock Holmes society meeting!!
This might seen a bit out there, but I am so irritated and frustrated that my helpful husband said “you should blog about this!” So, this is me blogging about this.
On Saturday, I went to get my eyebrows done. In their natural state, my eyebrows would run the entire width and length of my forehead and refuse to separate at my nose, so it’s necessary to groom them once in a while. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a low-maintenance gal, not much into makeup and such, but I draw the line at two eyebrows. It’s a must. The Bert from Sesame Street look is not a good one on me.
I should go every other week, but I put the trip off over and over again. Not because I can’t spare the $12, but because I don’t like being bullied. That’s right–bullied. I have been to salons all over the country, in a variety of pricing brackets, and almost every time, I leave nearly in tears.
Why, you ask? How could it be so awful? I offer two words: lip wax.
I have not, nor will I ever, wax my upper lip. It hurts like hell, I’ve been told, and also, the hair above my upper lip is the light, almost-invisible kind that’s on the rest of my face. It’s not noticeable, in other words. And I don’t want to wax something just for the fun of it. So the answer is no.
Yet every time I walk into a salon and say “eyebrow wax, please”, someone asks, “do you want lip, too?”
I know they’re just trying to upsell me. I know my lip could be absolutely hairless and they’d still ask. But it really, really bothers me. Why? I don’t really know. I think it’s the implication that with my grossly hairy lip, I am somehow not-feminine, that there’s something manly and freakish about me. I generally pshaw at beauty standards, but I don’t want to be told that I look like a man.
So, I decided not to meekly take it anymore. I was going to be up-front and assertive and avoid the shame. I marched right in on Saturday and said “eyebrow wax only please. Don’t ask about lip wax. I don’t want one and it hurts my feelings.” Small, simple step, I know, but I was proud I had the courage to say it.
The lady took one look at me and said, “No lip? You sure?”
I gritted my teeth and said, “Yes. No lip.” She proceeded to pour hot wax on my forehead, which I stoically endured in the name of beauty.
Halfway through, she said, “You should really try lip. You need it.” I barked out a slightly-strangled NO and we didn’t say anything else. I paid her, then left. And yes, I tipped her. Not a lot, but a little bit, because I know she doesn’t make a lot of money. But why did I tip her for the abuse? Why am I conditioned to be so darn nice?
Readers, I have had enough. I refuse to let anyone make me feel bad about my appearance. I will not be shamed. I know this many sound beyond trivial–but it’s a microcosm of what women go through every day. From looks on the subway to catcalls on the street, women are being judged for how they look. Too fancy? Must be a bitch. Extremely well-dressed/coiffed? Probably stupid. Doesn’t she care about things besides her appearance? Not well-dressed? Slob. Butch. Fatty. Loser. There is no way to win. Ever.
So I’m over it. I will dress in a way that allows me to move through the world and accomplish the things I need to do. No more towering heels that make it hard to walk. No more tight clothing that makes me self-conscious so I’m thinking about if my skirt is long enough and not what I’m supposed to be doing. No. More. I refuse to waste any more time on appearance-related shame. Because life is just too darn short.
Who’s with me, readers?
Look, I know that people were not universally hailing Interstellar as a masterpiece, so perhaps I should not be so mad about it. Unlike so many movies where women are flat and plastic, this one was not critically acclaimed. But I am mad. I am tired of giving my money to movies that have no intention of treating women as equals. And I’m not going to do it anymore.
Anne Hathaway is a great actress.
She and Marion Cotillard both have Oscar statuettes–and yet they both subject themselves to Christopher Nolan films. Why? Aren’t they tired of playing inferior, whiny women who need rescuing or a good talking-to from the male heroes of the film? Wouldn’t they rather play women who are interesting, have inner lives, heck, even occasionally save the day? I’m sure they would. I’d sure like to see them do it.
I don’t know if Hollywood isn’t making better movies because the scripts aren’t out there or because they think women don’t go to the movies. I don’t care what the reason is. I’ve had enough.
I sat through the nearly three hours of Interstellar slack-jawed at how often Anne Hathaway was belittled, second-guessed, and manipulated by the men around her. I was truly shocked that a movie could get away with something like that in this day and age. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t think it was that bad. Is it just me? Am I the only one upset about this? Or are we just so accustomed to this terrible treatment of women in film that it seems normal?
Sorry to get ranty but after three hours of holding my tongue, I had to let it out. 🙂
What do you think, readers? Is Christopher Nolan as bad as I think? See you Monday!!
“The Interview” and the 1st Amendment
So, lots going on in the world (and in my world) this week. I am hard at work on a non-fiction project, of which more will be revealed shortly. And it’s almost Christmas! So I am wrapping, baking, singing, packing, and all the other lovely things that come with the holiday season. So happy holidays–whatever you may celebrate, I am celebrating with you!
What I’ve been thinking about recently is this whole “The Interview” thing. I won’t mince words–I think the movie looks bad. Tasteless and offensive, and starring James Franco, besides. So it’s no big tragedy to me that it’s been canceled. However, there are some serious ramifications I feel like we need to discuss.
I respect my friends out there who want to watch this movie–repeatedly–because if we back out, the terrorists win. I acknowledge it’s a slippery slope in terms of terror groups forbidding things and companies kowtowing. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, or those who would wield it as a weapon.
That being said, I think it’s best it was canceled. Because N. Korea is really quite scary and we don’t have any idea what they’re capable of. And I don’t think any lives should be lost over entertainment. End of story.
People have been talking about censorship, which is not quite right. Sony is not a government agency–to my knowledge, nobody forced Sony to cancel the film. So what a private company does isn’t covered under the First Amendment as long as the government doesn’t wade in. Now, if the government did somehow force Sony to cancel the movie–that’s a different story.
I am going to take an unpopular stance here and say the government DID have the right to shut down the film (even though, to my knowledge, it did not do so, I want to be clear) due to the clear and present danger exception. The first amendment does not cover things that could cause danger to US citizens. This doctrine, established by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919, says the government can infringe upon the rights of speechmakers if that speech has the potential to harm others. It’s often demonstrated by the example of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater (where there is no fire). Since the speech made things dangerous for no reason, it’s not protected. And I think this movie does just that.
I’m all for controversial art. I love being challenged and confronted in the books I read and movies I see. It helps me grow and see things in a different way. But there is a line, and that’s safety of US citizens, and I think this movie crosses it. I say that it never should have gotten made in the first place. Now that it has provoked such a response (“9/11-like terrorism” was promised) then I say I’m glad it was canceled. I just can’t get upset about it.
So accuse me of bowing to the police state, if you must. But this is where I stand on this. What about YOU, readers? What do you think? See you soon!
I’ll ride with you
so, SO in love with Sydney’s response to this terrible tragedy! I am amazed that in the middle of the pain and fear, they are reaching for hope and solidarity.
“Hate has caused so many problems but not solved one yet.” -Maya Angelou
Anyone need a ride-buddy?
“The Blind Side” of Racism
What do we think about this, folks? On the one hand, I feel like communication brings understanding. But what Ms. Touhy did seems condescending, at best. Readers, where do you fall on this?
It has been writing central around here! Three things to report:
1) Jezebel published my first pirate article about Cheng I Sao! If you haven’t read it, check it out here: http://jezebel.com/cheng-i-sao-the-vicious-pirate-who-banned-rape-in-her-1665758677/all. I am very proud of it! It’s amazing to go to jezebel.com, a site I’ve loved since 1L year, and see my name! I am so grateful to my amazing editor there, Jia Tolentino, for providing me this fabulous opportunity! I look forward to sharing the stories of many more female pirates. Piratesses? Can we make that a word?
But with every article comes THE COMMENTS. I know the #1 rule of the internet is DON’T READ THE COMMENTS, but I figured that doesn’t count for when you’re a writer, right? WRONG. Man, there are some mean people out there who say some mean things. And some people who read something into the piece that wasn’t there, and got very angry about it. I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s comments. If they felt strongly enough about my work to share their thoughts, I appreciate it. It is upsetting, though, to read things like “this is a case of an author not doing her research” or someone responding to someone else’s comment (when the first comment had a quote not actually in my article). I will own up to my mistakes, but not mistakes someone else made! Anyway, the whole experience is exhilarating! It’s exciting to be on a big enough website to garner some angry comments. And it’s a good lesson in developing a thicker skin. Because some people, maybe many peoples, are not going to like my book, if it ever gets published **fingers crossed, knock on wood**. And they might say mean things about it. And it doesn’t get to take away my enjoyment of writing it! I’m not going to go all Carrie Underwood and say “mean people need Jesus,” because I do respect critics and I appreciate their point of view. I just don’t have to go out back and beat myself every time I get a bad review. I am thankful, as always, for my brilliant, eloquent friends who rushed to my defense (as well as the commenters who did the same) and made me feel tons better. Y’all are the best.
2) I participated in Pitch Madness last week! For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a twitter contest of sorts. A bunch of agents get on twitter. Prospective authors tweet their book synopsis in 140 characters or less, and if an agent/editor reads it and “favorites” it, then you send them your book! That is the basic idea of the contest. You’re allowed to tweet once every hour about your book. Let me tell you, it was a crazy, wild couple of hours! I only found out it was happening at noon on the day of the contest (last Thursday), so I didn’t have time to prepare or overthink, which was good. I checked out some other people’s tweets to get an idea, then sent my own. Well, my first tweet did diddly squat, so I phoned a friend for some twitter assistance. We were able to brainstorm some catchy tweets, which I dutifully issued every hour, on the hour! I am delighted to report that I got 5 bites on the book!!!!! I sent it out to those people tout-suite, and I am twisted in knots of fear/dread/delight/anticipation that one of them will want to agent/buy it. It feels closer, now that Important People are interested. I’m not just in the slush pile! I’m moving up!!
Some other day I will write a long post about choosing an agent, because my gosh, you guys, it’s tough. But I’m too tired today from all the Jezebel hoopla.
3) I started a new book!! Now that REJECT is off seeking representation/a buyer, I figured I can’t sit around freaking out about it. It’s officially out there and done, you know? So, I have opened up a blank word doc, inserted page numbers, and started on Page 1. It’s a weird feeling. I haven’t done that in three years! But I am excited, very much so. I am working on a middle-grade (so for ages 8-14) mystery novel. It’s a modern-day adaptation of Holmes and Watson, only they’re preteen sisters. But they solve crimes! And have snappy repartee! And rely on each other to bring out the best in the other! I am very, very excited. Did I mention that? There’s a lot of “me” in this one, and it feels good to write characters based on loved ones from various parts of my life. Also, I’m amped about middle grade. A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books, bar none, and I know it played a huge role in me becoming a reader. So I am thrilled at the prospect of enticing future readers into the wonderful world of books!
Can I just say that Nancy Drew sucks? I love, love, LOVED her as a kid. But when I was re-reading, it’s so…dated. One page one, she’s described as “attractive” and “slender” while her friends are “tomboys” and “unattractive”. I want a heroine I can believe in, no matter what she looks like! Nancy has had her day at the top of the MG sleuth charts. So watch out, Nancy, there’s a new sleuth in town. And Harmony Fye is coming for you.
That’s all, folks! This will be my post for the week, so I’ll see you next Thursday! Love,