Expectations (for the new Justice League.)

I’ve finally seen a trailer for the Justice League movie, and I am still skeptical at best. It’s be hard to beat the show.

The key to superheroes as a tool in the creative world, is, as my sister and I have narrowed down, to put a person in a normal human situation, magnified by super abilities and super villains and over the top circumstances.

All this makes it clearer to the audience what the stakes are, what the choice is, and what the difference between the good and the evil character is.

So what I think the new film needs is not to progress further into the dark, gritty and melodramatic world that the genre has become, but to regress into more human terms.

I have nothing against climatic events and galaxy sized stakes, but it should never be about that. Making the problem with the world the main focus of any movie risks making it too vague. What the film needs to be about is what problems humans deal with on a human level. With something like the Justice League, there’s a wide range of subjects that could be covered, that’s why it worked so well as a show. Narrowing down each member’s own personal struggles in the span of one film is a difficult and almost impossible task

But my concern is that none of them will be followed through in a satisfying way.

Many super movies (and other movies and also modern literature) end with what I call a question. Ending with a question means the narrative of the film (usually the unspoken one) does not completely side with any perspective presented in it. It may lean one way, but it refuses to admit it. Leaving you, the audience, to try to figure it out by debate.

Sometimes that is okay. But I have never liked it.

I know many people are totally fine with movies ending with a question. They think it’s more respectful and more thought provoking that it does so. They think they will discuss it more and understand better because of it.

There may be times that happens, but I have yet to see that actually be the fruit of Question Films.

What I typically see is that people will take whichever side of the argument they were already on walking into the film (or reading the book) and continue to use the piece in question to defend their point of view. They claim to be getting a better understanding of it, but all they really are doing is getting deeper into their own beliefs. The film did not challenge them by presenting any belief as wrong based on evidence or results, it just fed into the desire they had to remain perfectly secure in what they already thought.

Take Zootopia, I liked that film okay, not because I agree with its supposed portrayal of society, but because I thought the characters still exhibited real world flaws that could apply to a lot more than racism or class bigotry. Judy being guilty of the crime she hated is a thing that happens to all of us at some point, and she handled it the right way.

However, I do not think it is pushing us forward if you take it only as a class and racial  (or a have and have nots) commentary because all the people that already believe that just nodded along with the film, it presented no new information or ideas to them. The people who didn’t agree either disliked the film or got a different message from it, like me.

The fact is, Zootopia was too vague to really be an effective eye opener to anyone. There are no cold hard facts in it.

The shift in super hero movies since the Avengers and Captain America franchise started is that they go from being about personal struggles to being about world wide threats. Which is not bad exactly, but in a way it renders the drama both too real for people to want to dwell on, and not real enough. Because we know similar organizations exist or have existed, and that this is just a more dramatized version of it, making it less serious and not more.

People always complain about characters not being relatable. But I think the real reason is not the struggles of the character are less terrible, but that the characters themselves are less moral.

I could relate to any character who is struggling with the right and wrong thing to do, especially if the choice is not really obvious (and I don’t mean that it’s morally ambiguous, but that it is a difficult choice to make for them because of the circumstances,) the reason is that the moral struggle is one we all go through. We are all equal under that struggle and no one is exempt from it.

Films that confuse that struggle are not being honest with us. In real life, we almost always have at least a dim idea of what the right choice is. What would be best for us to do, what we should do, and often what we know we won’t do but wish we would. In real life, we can repent of our mistakes and actually turn away from making them before we destroy our lives.

Like the Black Panther did, frankly, that was probably my favorite moment of Age of Ultron.

In real life, villains are often afraid of heroes because heroes are stronger than them in that one dangerous way: in their heart.

It’s the Dark Side in Star Wars that must be threatened by the Light. Why does the Emperor decide to kill Luke after he refuses to be corrupted? He fears and hates him for being stronger than himself.

So, to wrap all this up, the more dark these films become the more impossible to please the fans will be. Once people start to hunger for drama and gore and unbelievable violence, it will only grow. It’s happened many times. By pandering to this wish, Hollywood is dooming itself.

And it is only by being a little less picky about our special affects, our complex characters, and our high stakes; and a little more concerned with what affect our entertainment is actually having on us, that we will learn to really enjoy it.

That’s my thought anyway. I’d forgive the new Justice League for a lot if Batman would just take a knee at some point and deeply regret his actions in the previous film(s.) (I’d forgive even more if Wonder Woman straight up tells him what he did was reprehensible and doesn’t want to join the league till she’s convinced he’s really changed.)

As unlikely as I find both those things, I still hope that there’s someone on the writing team whos till knows how to use the genre.

Anyway, there’s still Infinity Wars coming.

Until next time–Natasha.

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The Lion King.

The Lion King. One of the best Disney films ever made. In my opinion.

 

I can’t add much to this film by reviewing it. It’s themes are clear. And everyone knows the story.

But I want to look at the ideology of it, if you will.

I have heard multiple Christians use this film as an illustration of spiritual truths. What interests me is how deliberately the film itself seems to raise that sort of impression.

No one really would argue that it supports some kind of belief in the after life.

And it seems to go out of its way to establish that Mufasa’s reappearance is not just in Simba’s head. Rafiki sees him, and also communicates with him when Simba is not there. WE also see Mufasa as the sun, as well as the stars.

I don’t think anyone would debate that Mufasa is a God-character.

If you’ve never heard that term, or never int his context, it means a character who inspires other characters in the ways we would attribute to God. Typically meaning they give them instructions, seem to know things no one else knows, and give them hope in their darkest hour.

Mufasa fits the bill on all accounts.

Yet he’s totally believable as just a lion trying to be the best king and father he can be. Ultimately laying down his life for his son in an effort to protect him.

What just about killed me was that he never found out that it was Scar who put Simba up to doing those stupid things. (I guess he did once he was up in the sky, but still, closure!)

I don’t know what Simba means, or Mufasa, but Scar’s name, notably one of the only English names in the whole thing (except for Ed) is a giveaway to his character, both his personal issues, and the issues he creates for Simba.

Scar holds a grudge for being put out of succession. He holds a grudge against Mufasa because Mufasa is so much better than him. AT first we think he’s just sour over  being a nobody, but later when Sarabi taunts him, we realize he is secretly aware of how inferior he is to Mufasa and Simba both. Which comes up again when Simba has defeated him.

Scar’s name also relates to who he emotionally scars Simba by his treacherous acts and leaves him crippled for his whole adolescent phase, without a father except for two well meaning but ignoble beasts who just want to relax their life away.

Interestingly enough, Simba’s emotional scars only fade when Scar himself does.

Scar, as the betrayer and the deceiver and the false king, who accuse Simba of his own crimes, makes a fitting devil character. And a formidable villain.

The best lines of the film are all Mufasa’s, I love his speech to Simba when he is a spirit. I also love how in that scene Mufasa becomes more fully realized the longer he is speaking, going from clouds, to a starry shape, to full on color. Symbolic.

He tells Simba “You are more than what you have become.”

It seems odd that Mufasa doesn’t tell him “I love you.” Or something like that. But not when we consider that Simba is laboring under a delusion that he killed him. When he knows, deep down, that Scar is the one to blame. Simba also has just been confronted by Nala about what he needs to do. So this kick in the rear is exactly w at he needs.

He tells Simba further “You have forgotten me.” Simba denies it. “You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me…You must take your place as the one true king. Remember who you are.”

Who did not share Rafikis’ sentiment after the end of that. “Wow! What was that!”

Simba returns home and kicks Scar’s tail, but not without some pitfalls along the way.

But the scenery of the last part of the film is a huge part of the story.

Under an evil ruler , the land has faded. The herds are leaving t o find food, but Scar, like the coward he is, refuses to leave.

I never understood stood this when I was younger, but now I think he was afraid of other lion challengers on the Savannah. He knew he was no match for any healthy young or middle aged lion that wanted a pride. Also that the pride wouldn’t do jack squat to help him if he was challenged. (As they will for a lion they like.)

Scar just want to stay away from any competition that will expose him. So imagine how scared he is when Simba returns.

At first everyone thinks Simba is Mufasa. A resemblance the writer didn’t pretend wasn’t there. Because it’s more potent that it is. Yet when Scar knows it’s him, he think he can manipulate him because he always has before. Otherwise he would have slunk away while he could.

In the end Scar thinks his greater numbers may give him the advantage, and then fights Simba more in desperation than in courage. Then he begs for mercy when he is defeated, Simba gives it, but Scar pulls one more nasty back stabbing trick and then falls as a result. The hyenas, having heard him throw them under the bus, decide they’ve had enough of Scar. All four of them presumably burn to death.

There’s so much biblical resemblance here, it would be hard to deny it if I wanted to.

There’s a little thing I want to explain about what follows:

Simba’s roar is both symbolic as assuming his place as king; and literal, as Male lions do roar to declare their territory. Female lion actually do roar in response to males, so if that part always felt real to you, that’s because it is.

But it is not a magic roar.

I have hard theories on this, but they are ridiculous and here’s why.

When the land goes from desolate to healthy, we see Simba and Nala have a cub. (Everything came full circle.) Lionesses are pregnant for a year. It’s been a whole year. So the land has had time to recover, and the rain had time to work.

You can say the rain was magic and I won’t argue. But the rest is nature.

So, in defiance of modern values, this movie supports living up to you responsibilities. taking someone else;s place, following in someone else’s footsteps, and being what people need  you to be.

And all that could also be your destiny.

I don’t favor the very selfish viewpoint on finding your dream nowadays. Your dream can be what would help other people. And sometimes we have to adjust our priorities.

Even Timon and Pumba take a more noble place beside Simba and prove they are not the cowards they thought themselves.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

Circle of Life.

Lyrics of African lyrics:

Here comes a lion father

oh yes it’s a lion

we’re going to conquer

a lion and tiger come to this open place.

 

From the day we arrive on the planet

and blinking step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen, ‘

more to do than could ever be done

there’s far too much to take in here

much more to find than cane very be found

but the sun rolling high 

in the sapphire sky

keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the circle of life

and it moves us all

through despair and hope

through faith and love

till we find our place

on the path unwinding

It’s the circle, 

the circle of life.

Anyone else get chills when they hear this English part? I used to love this intro.

It’s just so great. I always though it captured the feeling of being in Africa and being one of the animals in the film.

Something about it. IT just suggests wisdom and steadiness with life.

Well, I doubt it surprises anyone that I like the Lion King. Who doesn’t?

Though to be honest, Simba was never my favorite part of it. I like Mufasa, and Nala, and kind of Timon and Pumba.

Well, everyone loves Mufasa.

And I also hated Scar, which most people don’t seem to. Though at the last you almsot feel sorry for him…almost.

Actually to my mind the whole scene where he hyenas kill him while the fire starts burning them is one of the creepiest Disney deaths ever. But poetically just.

Anyway, why one earth would I make this song the subject of a post?

Well, I always thought this song was embodying some tribal philosophy. Don’t take that the wrong way, it just seems like Disney selected an African culture to base the film off of. (Plus Hamlet.)

Now, maybe it is, but if so, now that I know the lyrics, I’m not convinced that philosophy is so bad.

Again, this song just has a rich tone. That’s what really makes it work. The lyrics aren’t spectacular, until you combine them with those awesome vocals and background music.

Then you get something that basically makes you feel like you’re on the African Savannah watching life happen.

The best things about the animation for this film as that everything in it seems royal. It just spells it out for you. Every beast is portrayed majestically and proud, except for the hyenas and Timon and Pumba. But especially in this opening number, you really feel like you’re that young giraffe we see, or Simba himself. Seeing all this for the first time, and being overawed by it all.

You feel the wonder of being young and new to the world.

And that is a good feeling to have. Especially to us older and often more cynical folks.

also I could feel a sort of appreciation all the beasts have for their world.

And that’s another factor of this film, it’s very simple. The circle of life is easy to explain. You are born, you die. Lions eat antelope; but antelope eat grass, which grows from dirt which the lions turn into after dying. The sun moves over the Savannah and provides light to all the animals, enabling the circle to continue.

It gets even more interesting if you start looking further in the the symbolism in the film. It’s no accident that we see a birth, a death, a coming of age, another death, and finally another birth; all in the course of the story. (nor that we see similar things int he sequel. If you’ve watched that.) It’s a circle.

Now I am not one of those who thinks that thinks just progress in a certain way because of some abstract Mother Nature, or some pattern that just proceeds because it has to. OF course I think God established the rhythm of the world. (It has since been tweaked a lot, and not for the better.)

But because I believe that, I don’t find the circle of life idea offensive. I think it’s very true that things proceed in a circular pattern. This has been pointed out in “The Fourth Turning.”

The reason it simple enough. Human nature doesn’t change, and Nature itself has to operate the way it is designed to. So you have events always repeating themselves, though never exactly in the same way.

Mufasa and Simba are not the same. But they have to take the same role in life.

But it should not be lost on the audience that the movie, though showing deatht o be a real and important thing, supports life as the goal and proper state of the world. Showing how Simba restores life and order to his kingdom.

The whole thing with the Sun even in the song lyrics is pointing to life and health and prosperity.

Also, in true Disney fashion (and much like Frozen) the song is foreshadowing the movie’s events.

Through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place, int he path unwinding.

TO be honest, I neer understood those lines, I fully expected the last part to be “to fulfill our dream” or something like that.

It so would be now.

Simba goes through despair, and then hope, he finds faith and then love. Then he finds his place. (The path unwinding part comes more into the sequel.) The landscape of the film mirrors his journey. From the dry canyon and the thorny bramble, to the lush and lazy jungle, back to his home, and ultimately we see that home restored to it’s lush state also.

The beasts and other lions also experience despair at losing their king, then hope when Simba returns, they put their faith in him, and in the end things are right again.

Symbolically, we hear the song again at the close of the film. (You remember that thunderclap sound that  everyone got pumped up after hearing?)

Things come full circle.

That was subtlety, back in the day.

There is so much to unpack from this film, but that’ all I can fit into this post. Until next time–Natasha.

Wish Fulfillment.

I’ve been rereading “Pride and Prejudice” for the umpteenth time.

I am not one of those Austen-land level fans (though I’d totally spend a week at an English manor wearing Empire Waist dresses and having tea.) But I have to appreciate the brilliance behind that book as much as the next person.

Jane Austen loves the Cinderella story. Poor girl attracts rich man with her charms of sense and character, and they eventually live happily ever after.

Even if a lot of the ending does seem like wish fulfillment, it’s the best kind of wish fulfillment. We all know how it should end, and in books if no where else, endings ought to be what should have happened, at least 90% of the time.

I had no problem with wish fulfillment endings before I started watching movie reviews on YouTube. Then I was introduced to how critical my generation tends to be.

And the one who aren’t critical seem to blindly like whatever movie panders to them, be it good or bad.

I would not be the one to say we should all just drop our differences and get along because sometimes there are legitimate points on both ends of the spectrum.

Too much criticism renders anyone, but especially a youth, cynical.

No criticism at all renders anyone gullible and empty headed about art.

Wish fulfillment is one of the main things that gets complained about.

“Oh that was convenient.” “She is such a Mary Sue.” “This ending makes no sense at all.”

My problem more often is that I feel that the movie provides its happy ending just to avoid making people angry, and doesn’t bother to work it out so that it’s convincing.

Heck, all the difference between a good ending and a bad one can be made with just the actors. In book form that’s a little harder to pull off.

But my question is what is so wrong with wish fulfillment anyway?

Don’t we all want to get what we wish for? Isn’t that how we define a wish?

On what planet then do we complain about getting what we wanted?

On Planet Earth of course.

I guess people only complain when the fulfillment was what someone else wished for, not them.

I can’t argue with that myself. I certainly prefer endings I wanted, but there have been times when a different ending works out well and I have to admit that.

But in life, many of us just want to get what we want.

Though to be honest, I wonder if most young people know what they want now. The ones I know don’t seem to have more than a vague idea. I know I only have bits and pieces. Even older folks don’t seem to have a clue what they want.

If you went up to ten different people and asked them “What do you want? I mean really want? More than anything else in the world?” Most of them would give you either a stupid answer that they clearly didn’t think through, or possibly a blank look and a shrug.

For example. If you were to say the next iPhone, that would be a stupid answer. You want other things more than that, even if you don’t know it.

You would be amazed at how few people know what they really believe, but even fewer know what they want.

There are some tried and true answers to the question. All of us want love, in some form or other. We all want meaning. We all want to be important to someone.

Notice that those three elements primarily make up Happy Endings.

Then there are our more specific dreams.

Lot’s of young people have dreams now, very diverse dreams. Many of them even have the drive to fulfill those dreams. Oddly enough, no one is calling this Wish Fulfillment.

Even though we all know from Cinderella that a dream is a wish your heart makes.

I was annoyed by the song after a certain point, but I think she’s right about that.

It really is isn’t it? Your heart has a wish to do something, that becomes your dream.

For many of us it’s been a long time since we had a dream.

We find a place in life and in line that we can make work, and it suits us to a degree, and it’s fairly safe because we know  a lot about it, and that’s where we decide to stay.

For some of us our comfort can even be in pushing ourselves to new degrees of excellence, provided it’s excellence in an area we feel we have a shot in.

But Pride and Prejudice might show us this, that it’s only when we find our perceptions turned upside down and inside out that we begin to finally see our way clear to what we should be.

Maybe it’s when we’re cornered and have to face up to our own flaws that we start to find a way to push past them.

I had such an experience recently, more then one as it so happens. I have more coming I am positive.

If I might wax philosophical, I think that Happy Endings are what we prefer because we are meant to have them.

I think that we have to work towards them, as Sabrina Carpenter sings in “The Middle of Starting Over.”

I think also that they come to us.

In every human life I believe there is an intertwining of the results of our own choices, and the events caused by a higher power.

The Bible says we partner with God. I’d have to say the evidence points that way.

Wish Fulfillment is not a bad thing when it is born out of someone becoming the kind of person who wishes for the right things, and a belief that righteousness is, in the end, rewarded.

Jane Austen’s books would all be examples of such a blending of ideas.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

Bittersweet.

I have made no secret of the fact that while I’m a Disney Fan, I don’t like everything they do, as some fans. But there’s a saving grace. Even in my least favorite Disney Princess film, there was one song.

Ironically, it’s the one with the same title as the movie. “Beauty and The Beast.”

For some reason, this song was just more palatable to me than the film itself. It basically sums up what the film’s message is, which isn’t such a bad one. But I could never swallow it in that format.

However, in song form, I actually really like it. If you haven’t heard the song a million times by now, I’ll sum it up for you:

The song is about how what’s happening is a tale as old as time, certain as the sun rising from the east.

In other words, what we’re seeing is something that’s happened before and is certain to happen again. That’s important to remember.

The song also describes the two people as both scared, and neither prepared for what’s taking place.

Young love right? Well, sort of.

But the parts that I actually think are unusual are as follows:

Barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly…

Bitter sweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong.

I really had to pause when I finally knew what the lyrics were. (It took years before I did.)

Perhaps it doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary to my readers, but personally, I rarely hear this sort of message in children’s films anymore. even Disney ones are losing it, though Frozen does stand out as a recent example to the contrary.

What’s unusual about that one lyric “Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong” is the Bittersweet part.

We could all name a bunch of stories, both real and fictional, in which someone is aghast when they realize they are wrong, and they feel guilty.

But the nice thing here is that the song admits there is sometimes a phenomenon, strange as it is, in which it is partially a relief to find out you were wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be right. Being wrong tends to scare me. It may be one of my worst weaknesses. Yet even I can at least imagine how being wrong about something could be a pleasant thing.

It’s bitter because no one with any honesty can say change of that sort isn’t painful and difficult, even while it’s rewarding.

To refer back to Frozen for a moment, I have said before that that movie admits that we are messed up and need to change, but it does so in such a way that we can feel the utter relief of both our main characters at the end when they realize they both can change, and want to change, and have changed.

If I may so, this also appears in Brave, when Merida and her Mother realize that they needed to change their attitudes toward each other and do so without realizing it.

Did you know that the name of the Beast in Prince form is Adam?

Call me crazy, but I think that it was not a mere chance. Beauty and the Beast mirrors the Garden of Eden story in several ways. The forbidden plant that both of them handle poorly; The prince rejecting it, Belle nearly touching it after being warned to stay away from the West Wing. Then Belle reenacts leaving the garden by running away, just as the Prince reenacts becoming cursed by sin to become something he is not supposed to be.

In the original tale, Beauty is more of a Christ figure in taking her father’s place to pay his debt, but the movie focused less on that part than on her own mistakes.

But where the movie and book both detour from the Fall story is that they skip ahead to the redemption part of it. Where both the main characters learn to love instead of fear, and to forgive, and to admit they were wrong, and eventually death itself is turned backwards.

I’m not theorizing that this is a Christian film in secret by any means (the remake really destroys that idea) but inadvertently, it has the Christian message woven into it. In a gentler form than some other movies, in that the key to the whole thing ends up being two people changing each other.

By the way, everyone always makes fun of the fact that Belle is a classic example of a woman thinking she can change an ogreish man. But in the book, and movie to an extent, it’s the Beast who changes her perspective.

I’d have liked Belle a lot more if she started the movie with more misconceptions about outward appearance that eventually got overturned, instead of being all perfect yet still strangely annoying.

To be honest, I think the reason I can’t stand her is because she spends her whole first number complaining about the people around her instead of proactively trying to befriend them and see the best in them, and treat them like actual people.

Hmm… just like she does with the Beast, at first.

But oddly enough she doesn’t really learn her lesson because she goes back to the town and is no better to anyone.

Well, I’ve already complained about this film enough to make plenty of folks mad as it is.

Anyway, so to conclude, changing is a thing to be celebrated. I thank God I am not the same person I was five years ago. (Five years exactly as of this month.)

I’ll say this: Most people are secretly frustrated not by the fact that others don’t change, but by the fact that they believe they themselves cannot.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

The Princes’ Quest.

I’m going to review a movie you have probably never heard of: The Prince’s Quest. 

This movie is, as it tells you, about two boys. One is named Azur, the other Asmar. Azur is the son of a nobleman, who had blue eyes. Asmar is the son of a nurse, with brown eyes. Asmar and his mother appear to be of Middle Eastern descent, I am not sure it is ever clarified what, but my guess is Arabic, because the Nurse tells both the boys a story about a Djinn Fairy. Or Djinn Princess, she’s referred to as both.

The story goes like this:

A small boy

Becomes a big boy

Crosses rivers and valleys, puts out fires

And he saves the Djinn Princess

Together they live in happiness

Happiness.

It sounds better in the native language she uses, but I can’t write that for you.

This song is a sort of prophecy, and both boys want to be the one to save the Djinn Princess.

But meanwhile, Azur is being trained in the arts of nobility, dancing, riding, and what not. Asmar is watching and trying to learn by imitation. But they have their share of tiffs. The worst  being over only having one parent, (though Azur says Janine is his mom also,) an dover who will save the Djinn fairy.

Azur’s father gets tired of him fighting and associating with these lower class citizens so he sends him off to boarding school and drives Nurse Janine and Asmar out. With no money and without even letting them pack their belongings.

Azur grows up and declares to his father that he intends to sail across the sea and search for the Djinn Fairy. His father thinks this is nonsense and doesn’t seem to consent, but Azur sets sail anyway, till a wave comes up and sweeps him overboard. He washes up on the shore of a strange, and he thinks ugly, land. And realizes he’s lost everything. No one could find him here.

Azur goes looking for people and finds some, who speak the language of his Nurse, though he remembers only a little. But he doesn’t get much of a chance to try for everyone runs from him and one man spits at him, telling him that his blue eyes bring bad luck.

As stupid as this seems, Azur believes that he has no choice but to pretend to be blind for the rest of his life.

He gets directions to a city from a different group of folks who think he is only a blind beggar, and on the way he meets a guy whose name I forget, but he offers to be his guide if he’ll carry him on his back. Claiming to have a problem with his own legs. They proceed to the city, where his “guide” proceeds to criticize everything, but the people do give him alms. And some food too.

I forog to explain earlier, but the prophecy of the Djinn fairy also involves three keys. One of fire, one of spices, and one of steel.

While Azur is walking around, his guide mentions that the keys are reputably hidden in the temples of each thing. At least we see two temples, one of heat, one of spice. The Temple of heat has been all dug up in the search for the key, but Azur, never opening his eyes, feels along the outer wall and finds the key hidden behind one of the stones, which was hot.

Later he finds the spiced key on the peak of the Temple of Spices.

After this Azur is told where the house of Janine is, whom he recognizes as his old nurse. She is now wealthy and owns a huge property and a lot of servants. With the help of his guide he finds her door and knocks. They don’t let him in, but he begins yelling for “Nanny” and Janine opens the door. She doesn’t believe it’s him, she says she left Azur across the sea. She says Azure did not have his voice. And Azur was not blind. Azur answer all these in turn, and answers the last by opening his eyes. Janine gasps and embraces him.

After that it all happens pretty quickly. Azur is brought in, and fed, and told about what happened to her. Janine makes the servants stop talking about his eyes. Asmar is also at the house, but he is less enthused to see his brother. He is bitter over what Azur’s father did.

Janine agrees to help Azur with his quest, just as she is helping Asmar. She sends Azur to see the Princess ( I can’t remember or spell her name) who gives him three gifts to help him. She gave these same gifts to Asmar, and now there is none left. (If you think this is convenient, then remember this is a fairy tale.)

The two men set out, and endure many difficulties, finally they reach the tunnels and caverns of the mountain where the Djinn Fairy is supposed to be. They get close, but then they are attacked by other men looking for her, who are not so honorable. Asmar gets stabbed for warning Azur, and Azur carries him into a tunnel. They find three doorways, one of fire, one of gases, one of sword blades. Azur uses the two keys he has, and then the one Asmar (of course) had, to open each door. Asmar is fading fast, but Azur carries him on till they come to two doorways. One leads to shadows, the other to the Djinn fairy. Azur chooses one in a hurry as Asmar is saying he’s going to die.

They find only blackness. But just as Azur is despairing, a voice gives command for light, and the whole room is lit by hundreds of light djinns, and the Djinn Fairy herself is sitting behind a wall of glass. Azur reaches for her and the wall shatters.

The Djinn fairy is able to save Asmar. But then they can’t decide who it was that actually saved her. Both boys say it was the other. They bring in more and more people (pretty much all the principal characters) to decide, no one can. Finally the Djinn fairy calls her cousin the Elf Fairy to come and decide. The Elf Fairy appears. She is white and blue eyed, whereas the Djinn Fairy looks Arabic.

She can’t choose either, but everyone else realizes that the answer is clear. One Prince for both fairies. The Djinn Fairy chooses Azur, and the Elf Fairy prefers Asmar. Neither Prince seems to have a preference. Everyone ends by dancing and living happily ever after.

This took way longer to tell than I expected, so I’ll try to sum up briefly why I thought it was worth sharing:

This is a very old sort of story. But that doesn’t mean it lacks depth. It covers themes like forgiveness, brotherly love, treating people equally no matter what they look like, and also self-sacrifice and true worthiness which comes from bravery and unselfishness and honesty. (Yes, like in Pinocchio.)

Three is also plenty of mythical danger and obstacles to satisfy the fantasy lover.

The only real flaw is in production. The movie is clearly low-budget. But once you’ve got through the first ten minutes, you stop caring, and the art is still pretty stunning in its own style.

Anyway, it may be out of stock, but if you can find it anywhere, I recommend checking it out.

Until next post–Natasha.

P. S. (Would you believe spell-check doesn’t recognize the traditional way to spell djinn? Honestly.)

Mary Poppins

If I may wax nostalgic without ripping off some popular you-tubers, I’d like to look back on this classic.

I just watched it today, and it seems, like all classics, to have more in it than I realized as a child.

Since I grew up right as Disney was transitioning more and more to 3D and coming to the end of it’s Renaissance phase (that’s all the 2D princesses and princes after Sleeping Beauty,) I never found the really old films quite as interesting to re-watch, but I felt their charm and I think it’s shame a lot of kids now haven’t even watched these classics.

Mary Poppins is at least a perennial favorite movie of mine. I always wanted to ride those merry-go-round horses (it used to really frustrate me that I knew they weren’t real) hop into pictures, laugh on the ceiling and dance on rooftops.

I also have seen Saving Mr. Banks, so that lent the movie even more meaning. I remember asking my mom once during Mary Poppins, while Bert was talking/singing to Mr. Banks, why he was doing so. She told me he was trying to help him learn the lesson Mary Poppins was trying to teach him. I wasn’t entirely clear on what that lesson was. I’d often ask my mom questions about stuff I had already figured out just to hear what she would say, and often she’d say something I hadn’t thought of though basically agreeing with me.

So, that said. What do I think about the movie now that I’m older?

I think that in the end there are two basic messages of the film, and they are expressed in different ways through the whimsical things that happen.

The secondary message is that life needs a little wonder in it and a little fun in everything, or it isn’t worthwhile. I know that this movie influenced my attitude about chores and other tasks. I play music and sing when I clean just because it’s more fun  hat way and I’m more likely to finish the task. Oh the tedious hours of cleaning before I clued in to this trick. Ugh.

Now my mom might just listen to a radio talk show, or nothing at all, not everyone needs to use this method; but the point is, especially if you’re young, you don’t like grueling work.

And who doesn’t want a merry-go-round horse that can go off the carousal? I wish.

The funny thing is, though I didn’t like Mr. Banks, I knew he was right that those things weren’t real. Even Mary Poppins never admits that they were and seems affronted at even doing them half the time. I was that kid who grows up knowing Santa Claus isn’t real, and frankly the Easter Bunny was never appealing to me. And fairies aren’t real, and so on.

Yet I never ceased to enjoy stories aobut those things, or to wish in a way that they were real. And now I believe in them in a different sort of way.

I don’t believe that Santa Claus is real, but I believe in the possibility of things like Santa Claus. I don’t believe Mary Poppins is real, but I do believe that there are people just as wondrous as her who don’ get have the recognition. Remember that real life is stranger than fiction and their are weirder things than tea parties on the ceiling.

Heck, in the very same movie Mr. Banks references the Boston Tea Party, and that story is almost as odd as an actual tea part defying gravity.  I mean, colonists dressed as Native Americans? Seriously? Why would the Natives have thrown tea overboard? It was almost comical…funny. Like the tea party on the ceiling…hmm.

Anyway, the Primary message of Mary Poppins hits even closer to home. It’s about how adults can get to where they miss the little things that are so important.

You see, fixing the children’s kite, the tuppence, the feeding the birds, they are all of a piece. They are all little things. Things that seem to a busy man like a waste of time. He is focused on railroads, bridges, tea plantation, etc. All noble things perhaps (it’s debatable) but are they necessarily more important?

It’s an age old dilemma that adults have been trying to answer forever. Is it more important to be contributing the world in general and helping humanity or is it more important to be at home with your family making real memories. And people have answered it different ways. There’s a big movement now, especially among feminists and Hollywood, that we can have both.

But the fact is, that is almost impossible. Some few people can make it work, but most can’t prioritize family and work equally.

Which is more important? Mr. Banks comes to think that it is his family. Time goes by so fast, and kids will grow up, perhaps not hating their parents who neglected them, but never having that kind of bond with them that kids who felt valued did.

I can personally attestify to this. Once childhood is gone, it’s gone. Adult children can become close to their parents even after years of estrangement, but it’s a different kind o close. It can be just as good but never just as innocent as the first.

That’s why we need to treasure childhood instead of trying to rid ourselves of it, as Mr. Banks does at first.

The spoon full of sugar metaphor is pretty clear, a little sweetness is not hard to give, and it pays dividends in relationships.

The fixing of the kite ties all three metaphors together. The tuppence for paper and string, the kite, and the sweetness even after the medicine of being fired and disgraced.

Little things are important.

As an author and a reader I notice how often in stories little events end up being what the whole ending is hinged on. Often our Salvation turns on the smallest thing.

Big things are important of course, but the secret may actually be that big things are composed of many small things suddenly coming together. That’s my experience.

Those are my thoughts, until next time–Natasha.

Stranger than fiction.

Stranger than fiction.

It’s the title of a movie, I’ll bet there’s probably a book called that too. It’s also an old saying “Real life is stranger than fiction.”

You know what’s funny to me? How demanding we are now about our entertainment. There are still folks who aren’t picky. But especially among millennials and younger, we’ve got a lot of critics who want to find their fiction believable.

I’m guilty of this too, and hey, it’s not exactly wrong. I’m all for having standards. It’s not that that bothers me.

It’s that these standards are often ridiculous.

Fiction creators are held up to almost impossible standards. Everything that happens in their imaginary world needs to line up with everything else. They get criticized if there’s a detour into a subject unrelated to the main plot, even though if all of a story is just about one main plot, it can be flat and lacking in depth. If their characters aren’t funny or really emotional, than they’re flat. (It couldn’t just be that not everyone has to be either really funny or really volatile. Or stoic.)

They get accused of making characters stereotypical or cliche, but are also expected to play into certain stereotypes like “strong female character” or “doubtful hero,” or “compelling villain.”

We put a lot on these poor folks who just want to tell us an interesting story. Some of the most beloved stories of all time don’t make sense, that’s part of their charm.

And we’d be wise to take a look at why that is, and learn from it.

Take “Alice in Wonderland” for example. If you are western European, you have heard of this story. It used to be the number one required children’s book in England. It may still be. (Google it someone.) This story is famously nonsensical. But I like how Jim Weiss described such nonsense. “It makes sense, but in it’s own whimsical way.”

Alice runs into a lot of silliness, but mixed in with all that are some important lessons in humor error and in logic and the value of certain things. IT also turns a lot of the phrase we use on our own heads, and so teaches us that words ae important. In fact books like the Alice books, and the Phantom Tollbooth, and Mary Poppins, all foster a love of words in the reader. I sound like the prolouge to a classic by an editor, but it’s true nonetheless.

But what I find most important of all about these books is that they challenge the persepctive on life that even children may take too seriously. Alice i a know-it-all, Milo
(Tollbooth) is bored and finds nothing around him to be worthwhile, and Jane and Michael tend to be close minded about new things. The whimsical things that happen to all of those children teach them to enjoy life more and see wonder in things that they never paid attention to. The Narnia books do the same thing in a more gentle and subtle way.

And it’s good for all of us to have to stretch our minds to see things a different way. To understand that there may be different rules than the ones we know, or that we may just only know part of the story.

Okay, so what do my two subjects have to do with each other? I’m getting to that.

We have two choices in life, ladies in gentlemen, and all our important decisions will fall into one of these categories. Good and Bad.

But good doesn’t just mean moral, it means good for you.

And our attitude toward fiction is way more important to our well being than we give it credit for.

We can either demand that we understand every little thing, in every single part, after just one time with a story. Or, we can let it sink in a little deeper, and move us; or puzzle us and thereby cause us to think and hopefully to grow.

See, all this criticism and nitpicking, it’s our way of trying to protect ourselves. Not even from bad ideas, but just from liking things that it would somehow reflect badly on us to like. We don’t want to be fooled again.

There is some wisdom in that, but we have carried it way too far as a culture. It’s really just used to keep us from ever being challenged in the way we look at things. Because as long as we can pick something to pieces, we don’t have to admit it has a point. And as long as we can assign whatever meaning we want to it (whether it be less or more than the creator intended) then we don’t have to ask ourselves what the actual meaning was.

If we can explain it, then it can’t hurt us.

That’s what we think.

But if everything must be explained, then I’ll be the first to say fiction is fiction indeed.

Nothing in fiction is more unreal than when it all makes sense. Because if you haven’t noticed, real life does not make sense.

In real life, things happen for a reason, but it’s not always a reason we know. Or like. In real life phenomenons take place that we can’t understand or explain. In real life, outcomes are not always predictable. Most of all, in real life things cannot be dismissed just because we disagree with them or find fault with them. We actually have to work out problems in real life.

That’s why I take fiction seriously. Because it ought to be helping us deal with real life, since fiction is actually far simpler.

So demanding it be perfect is demanding something you are never going to see in this life. And demanding it be compelling is pointless. Because most fiction can’t force you to be compelled, you have to choose whether to care or not. And it’s no big surprise that those who don’t care about fictional events on the basis that it’s boring will not care about real events in a deep way.

Life is most definitely stranger than fiction, and the best fiction reminds us of that fact so we can become more flexible.

Those are my thoughts for now, until next time–Natasha.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol #2

I held off saying anything about this move until I’d actually seen it, and now I finally have! (celebratory noises.)

I do think it had way more inappropriate humor than necessary and earns that PG-13 rating in full. And it had a lot of gross stuff, more than the first one.

That’s only superficial elements. What was this movie about?

I agree with the other people who reviewed it, it’s about family, parenthood, forgiveness, and how pride gets in the way of really bonding with people.

This film is about how friends can be better than family because it’s not blood that makes loyalty but the choice of the person. There’s actually a verse in Proverbs about it “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs was written by Solomon, who had brothers who wanted to kill him, so his point of view makes sense.

I found Nebula a little disconcerting, something about her is always kind of sadist and psyco and even though you know she’s had a horrible life I don’t think trying to kill your sister is okay, even if they were bad. I also have to say Gomorrah “joking” about killing Nebula didn’t seem in character after the first film in which she made it a point to try to get her on their side.

Am I nitpicking? Maybe.

But by far the biggest concern to me personally is the character of Ego. I’m aware that some people out there probably think he’s supposed to represent God. Or Jesus. Because I’ve seen hints of theories like that, though I have yet to watch or read any.

But now that I’ve seen the film, I do see some similarities (on the surface) between Christ and Ego. Actually, it’s my theory that the movie was parodying the whole trinity. But Christ especially, because Ego is all like “Oh I walked among them and took their form and then I decided I wanted to fill the universe with copies of me.”

A person could make the argument, and I wouldn’t blame them, that this is a lot like what the Bible says Jesus did. He became flesh, dwelt among us, and he wants to make us like him. (Like him, not into him.)

That doesn’t sound at all creepy to me, I was raised hearing it, but the way the movie portrayed it, I suddenly saw how it could seem creepy to someone else. And it should.

Because if that was all there was to the story, I’d be freaked out too.

Ego is all about himself, he doesn’t even really seem to care about being worshipped, except by Peter, though he enjoys the admiration he gets. He just wants everything to be made of the same matter as himself.

He also has killed off all of his children as soon as they let him down, and some would see a parallel to God in this also. (A false one, but still.)

And no, I’m not afraid to bring all this up, and I admit that on the surface, it might look right.

But here’s a Christian’s perspective on this:

You could believe that God is like Ego, but God is way more powerful, and also just. Which Ego is not.

Actually you know who Ego really resembles? Satan.

I’m not kidding. There’s this part of the movie where Ego is going on about how “We will do all this…” and he lists several things. Is sounds eerily like a passage in the Bible where Lucifer is saying “I will be like The Most High.” a.k.a. “I will be like God.”

And you remember when Ego said that he was a small “g” god, at least on days he was feeling as humble as Drax?

The defining characteristic of God is Love. You know what Ego is another word for? Pride. Which is the defining characteristic of Lucifer.

Yep.

And actually, everything Ego did, Christians believe Satan either did or will do. Right down to making biological life forms. It may seem bizarre, but our own scientists are already able to do that, so…

In fact, the similarities to Christ can all be attributed to the fact that The devil will become the antichrist. Which you don’t have to believe is true to acknowledge that it is still biblical.

And in my mind, Ego is that. For he does not love, he rejects love as weak (like the devil;) he wants to remove free will (like the devil) and he wants to destroy all other life save what he can use (like the devil.)

I understand that this is all my own perspective, and some people out there might think I’m conveniently transferring all the clues into a picture I actually like. And maybe I am.

I won’t deny, I do wonder if the director of the movie is trying to mock God, or show contempt for our ideals. But the fact of the matter is, no one can successfully mock God.

The only way people can do that is by inventing things about him to mock. People do this to other people anyway. much more to beings they can’t understand.

Whether James Gunn meant to mock God; meant to show how pride twists all attributes; or just meant to tell an interesting story with a  metaphor; I can’t say. But that he does not know how true that metaphor actually is, I have no doubt.

One thing I do appreciate is how all the characters seemed to sense something was wrong about Ego and his planet, and I certainly got that impression watching it. There was something uncanny about it.

One more point: Ego made matter from himself, but even he was obviously created, because when he came to consciousness there were other life forms in existence. There was other matter. This again fits in with him being like the devil, but it also raise the question, where did all that other matter come from?

I don’t expect Marvel to ever actually admit there’s a God in their films. But I still think the existence of superheroes only makes sense in that context. That could just be me.

Anyway, I hope some of this made sense. Until next time–Natasha.

 

 

 

Shallow Hal

“Shallow Hal wants a gal,” that line sums up most of this movie.

Whether or not you’ve heard of this story specifically, I’m sure you’ve heard that Beauty is not only skin deep, and it’s about what’s inside.

That’s all well and good. But does this movie make that point well?

Here’s the good and bad of Shallow Hal.

Good: Hal is a loser, who’s trying to find a hottie to go out with, but he’s not that good looking, so most of the hotties he meets aren’t interested in him. Even his neighbor, Jill, who’s less shallow, is disgusted by his shallowness and not interested.

But after a self-help guru helps him broaden his horizons (sort of) Hal starts getting successful with the hotties he’s flirting with. They seem a bit surprised by his attentions, but they go along. Then he meets Rosemary, a blonde beauty with a great personality who’s also really nice. He’s scored big time!

Until he finds out that he’d be seeing everyone as they are on the inside.

Long story short, Hal gets over his shock, and his shallowness because he’s fallen in love with Rosemary for who she really is. They go off to live happily ever after (after a few hurdles he has to clear.)

Bad: This movie’s number one sin is how stereotypical it is. The whole plot almost revolves around stereotypes. Even though the guru says “We’re all brainwashed to see certain things as beautiful, by society.” (I paraphrase.)

But the movie implies that society is partly right. If a girl is nice, smart, and funny, then she’s obviously not pretty. Or she’s pretty but doesn’t realize it. And there is some evidence in Rosemary’s character to support this. She’s pretty, in her own way, but believes she’s ugly and fat. She is fat, but Hal still thinks she’s beautiful when he finally sees her at the end.

But what made me kind of annoyed is that anytime we, as the audience, see Rosemary in a good light is when she looks like Gweneth Paltrow, who plays her. Whenever we see her as fat, she’s always being insecure, upset, and otherwise less desirable. We don’t get to see her humor or smarts except when she looks pretty.

This might seem to defy the stereotype that pretty girls are stupid or mean, but it really doesn’t. We know the whole time what she really looks like, The effect is that at the end it’s hard to see why Hal is attracted to her, since we’ve never seen chemistry between him and her in her real form.

Say as much as you like about what her real form actually is, it still doesn’t work in the context of  movie where you need to be able to see it.

Also, I find it offensive that the movie doesn’t give one example of a pretty girl in real life who was also pretty on the inside. Other than Rosemary that is. I’m not sure she counts.

Possibly there were one or two, but we don’t see for sure, so it seems incomplete. Also there’s no example of an ugly person who was ugly on the inside.

The movie ignores the fact that inner beauty makes outer beauty and inner ugliness makes outer ugliness. Which is a tried and true fact. Lots of people have observed it and written of it.

It’s a valid point to make that Hal never was looking for either inner beauty or ugliness, so of course he missed both.

But does that help us as the audience? The movie lays down no real guidelines as to discerning inner beauty, other than that someone does things which are culturally perceived as nice.

But wouldn’t even a beauty want to help her Grandma?

Couldn’t people working at the Peace Corp have bad motives?

The nurse at the hospital does indeed look ugly, and act ugly. But we never see her in real life to know if she was pretty on the outside or if she was ugly there too.

We just don’t know.

Maybe I am asking more of this movie than it ever meant to give. I think Shallow Hal is what it intended to be. A slightly different take on a Romantic Comedy in which instead of a girl getting a makeover, a man has to learn to accept her how she is.

But I don’t think it’s true that society has brainwashed us all into perceiving beauty. Different cultures have different ideas of beauty, yes. (Sometimes that can work out in your favor.)

But it would be incredibly racist, as well as untrue, to say that our culture blinds us to the beauty of people in other cultures.

White people can find African American’s attractive; American’s can find Asians attractive; and in many cultures looking American is seen as an enviable thing because they associate wealth and strength with America. While in other cases, looking Jewish or African has made people uglier to countries that hated them.

Sometimes that hatred actually takes advantage of the beauty in those races.

But the point I’m making is, beauty is universally acknowledged. And most people wouldn’t argue about external features being beautiful. Even if they have a different taste.

Just because you like tall, dark, and handsome doesn’t mean you find short or blonde unattractive.

So this brainwashing line of reasoning doesn’t hold up.

The verdict:

In the end Shallow Hal is more about how love makes you desirable than it is about how our culture is wrong about its standards. It’s an okay movie, but there are better sources for the subject of superficiality.

Hope you enjoyed, until next time–Natasha.