Give a little more than you take.

I haven’t yet mentioned that I read the second installment of the Mr. Miracle comic series.

I have a whole list of the problems with it, but I’ll sum it up as being far lesser than the first one.

Of course, as I do, I had some deeper thoughts about it and also about why it bothered me so much. You see, by comic book standards of the seventies, most of it was passable; it wasn’t terrible if I compared it to the Superman of the fifties and sixties. However bad it could be, Barda and Scott could never be that campy and still be the same characters. But they weren’t the same.

I know that this bothers me more than some would say it should, and some hard core fans would be even more upset than me, but for my part, here’s why I get upset when this happens, and it happens a lot.

When a creative person underperforms, it bothers me because it seems like they didn’t know what they had. Often, I think that even when I like what they’re doing. Because it seems too good to be the work of some one who was not trying to be astounding, and often the source was not.

Check out the making of Frozen, for example. It was a long process and what they were trying to do at first ended up being the opposite of what they did.

I also think of the early Ever After High series, it seems like the show was just supposed to be for kids and yet the points is made were worthy of a lot of adult consideration.

Generally something like this gets ruined because of a new writer who just wants to use the franchise to make money. But sometimes the staff remains the same, and they just seem to lose touch with what made their show or series so great.

(Forgive me, but I think this happened with the Percy Jackson series when it switched to “Heroes of Olympus.”)

The problem is, once you get a devoted fan base, you always have an audience, even if you were to do the worst thing possible some of them would defend it. And believe me, as an aspiring writer, I think about how I would handle this problem.

There will always be those who don’t like anything you do that’s new, either. When Ever After High switched over to covering the opposing point of view in their rebel-royal conflict, a lot of people weren’t happy, including me. But I had to hand it to them that a couple times it came out well and deserved some appreciation.

I don’t think a little change is bad, writers and movie makers are always expanding their vision, or so we would hope, and they fill out their stories. They have the right to do that.

so, I would not have faulted Kirby for that, and some would say that is what he was doing.

But there was a very serious problem with how he ended the story. He let evil have the last say. It was sort of like how the Empire Strikes Back ends, (always my least favorite by the way,) but even worse. Because we know it’s not over for Luke and his friends, and we have hope, but the evil figure of this comic book steals the best moment of the whole story from the best people in it. It’s just so unfair to them, and they don’t seem to realize it.

I can’t go into it fully, but that is what I had a problem with. The beauty of Kirby’s creation of Mr. Miracle was in how good triumphs over evil against all odds, and even against our human weaknesses.

Together Scott and Barda are unstoppable. But only when they are being the best they can be. I’d say that’s true in real life. I hope all of us have met at least one couple who was like that, amazing separately, but together they became an inspiration.

That’s what made the whole thing work. I liked Scott okay by himself, and I like Barda by herself, but I didn’t really get into their stories until they were together.

And it wasn’t that that changed, it was how they were together. It just wasn’t the same. But worst of all was I felt like Darkseid showing up at the end made it his victory.

In fact, I really wonder if Kirby did it on purpose. But that’s a whole other discussion.

I guess the point I want to bring out of all this is that, fan base or no, your work will not be worthy of admiration if you lose touch with what made it special. It’s important to know what truth you want to show, and to listen to what your positive feed back is telling you; what people are getting out of your work, I mean.

I’ve been surprised by what people got out of my stuff sometimes, but once I saw it that way, I thought it was even better than what I planned.

Which is not to say you can never try anything different, I try different plots and usually I like the result, and my siblings are always trying new things with their creative pursuits, but you have to have a core.

Otherwise you might start to think it’s about you, and how great you are, instead of about what you give to other people through your creativity. Or your service, if that’s how you give.

I think I’ll end with this song which is about that very thing:

“A single voice is joined by multitudes in song, with every note they’re finding harmonies that rise to carry on, richer and richer the soil in which they thrive, higher and higher a hymn of what it means to be alive.

You’ve got to give a little more than you take, you’ve got to leave a little more than was here; you may be prideful of the strides you will make, but keep one things clear. You’re just a player in a much bigger plan, and still you have to give it all that you can, the very measure of your soul is at stake, you’ve got to give a little more than you take.”

–Natasha.

Totally Scott Free.

Like I asked a moment ago, what is total freedom?

Well, it turns out it’s not just being able to choose. Scott had a choice. That didn’t give him freedom.

Of course choice is a big part of it, but as weird as this is going to sound, freedom is actually the ability to choose the right thing.

What’s the difference?

There’s a big difference.

Take the extreme example of drug addiction. Most addicts are not force-fed the substance they are addicted to, they choose to take it. They bring their hand to their mouth, or whatever form they use. They are not free. They were at one time, one time they had the choice to not try drugs, and they forfeited their freedom from drugs when they chose to try them. Now they can’t stop.

Choice is not freedom, it is the medium freedom is accessed through, if that makes sense.

Freedom is a state of being, not an ability.

Total freedom is humanly impossible without some sort of Divine intervention, and that is just the truth.

But what about all that stuff about taking freedom?

That’s all true. Freedom is a fight.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” John Philpot Curran.

It’s a fight for me.

There’s another quote about freedom being in disobedience, but as far as I can see that kind of thinking leads to disaster. Freedom is obeying the right thing. Like your conscience for example.

We do choose what we listen to, but what we listen to is what makes us free or slaves.

To go back to Scott Free, he spent years listening to Granny Goodness. (The name is a misnomer.) It wasn’t until Granny took away her voice from him (as punishment, but if you ask me, the psycho was just too arrogant to realize she was doing him a favor,) that he started listening to Metron and then Himon.

You got to be careful what you hear. I can’t tell you how many times I did not struggle with a sin, or a fear, or even a symptom of disease, until I heard about it. Knowledge is not always power, or it’s not always a good power.

One more thing about freedom: It’s a lifestyle.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”–Nelson Mandela.

We can blame other people for enslaving us, and some of us have a reason to do that, but blame will not free us.

We want to take our freedom, and then we want to pass it on.

Scott didn’t think of anyone else but himself needing to be free at first, but after Barda helped him, he realized she should be free too, and later he came to wish everyone could be, though he knew you can’t free everyone and that they really have to want it themselves.

Barda is an interesting example of someone who is uncertain about freedom at first. She wasn’t ready to leave when Scott did, but once she left, she resolved never to go back without putting up one heck of a fight. And she did.

Even though Barda never seems to want to free others, she is the one who is responsible for bringing four additional people back to earth with them. Four of her furies. Though the furies get a chance at freedom through this turn of events, none of them stay on Earth. They are too bound up to their home planet, even though it will be the death of them.

So we see that freedom is offered to all of us at one time, but few of us accept it.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

This verse is generally taken as “It’s so hard to be good, why is it so hard? Why did God make so few things okay for us to do?”

The truth is, the things that are bad to do in of themselves, those are pretty much summed up in a list of ten commandments. Dishonoring God; dishonoring parents; dishonoring what’s sacred; lying; stealing; adultery; greed and covetousness; murder; etc. You can find rules like that in many other books and creeds.

But the list of mistakes we make with even the things that are good, that list is extensive. I couldn’t name all of them if I tried. The reason the road to freedom is narrow is because the road of slavery is so broad. We enslave ourselves to nearly everything; but we free ourselves only in doing what’s good, healthy, and holy.

Scott Free is a little bit like how they portrayed Moses in “The Prince of Egypt” movie. (Thank you Dreamworks.) He can have power, wealth, respect, fame….and he can live a life built on slavery. Or he can run off and become a nameless nobody in a strange land, only to return later to secure the freedom of others.

God is the one who told Moses to go back (and that was the part of the story they changed the least,) and I don’t think anyone ever gets fired up for the freedom of others without it being a Divine thing. Because there’s a certain power in fighting for other people.

So, those are my thoughts on the story and the concept. I hope it all made sense, since I’m still figuring it out myself. I do recommend checking out the stories for yourself. (With the exception of the Barbie Fairytopia one, please do not watch that.)

Until next time–Natasha.

“Freedom to dance, freedom to sing, freedom to grow, I’m telling you Pharoah, let God’s people go!”–Jason Upton.

Getting off Scott Free.

Some of you may remember the post I did about Mr. Miracle. Well since then I have actually read the comic book of that title, and I thought I’d share my reaction.

Oh my gosh! It is freaking incredible!

Seriously, I have never been a huge comic book person, but this one blew me away.

You don’t realize the first time you read it how great it is, you only see that it’s way better than most of the other stuff in the genre, but upon rereading you notice the details that went into the character arcs and plot build up, and how, remarkably, there is no real discrepancy anywhere (I can think of one place that something didn’t entirely add up, but it was minor, and I’m not sure it was really an error, and it was just one.)

Sorry everyone, I’m still in fan girl mode. Which for me is both way more excited and way less than what you’d typically see made fun of on TV.

Aside from geeking out about it, I do have another reason to share it with you guys. I need to do some writing about liberty for a school thing, and all I can think about is this comic book as a reference. (Which is the first time in my life that has happened, I assure you.) The reason is, liberty is a huge point in the story, though it’s ironically the one I’ve thought least about, because being the person that I am, I want to talk about the love story.

But it’s time I gave the idea of freedom some consideration.

Scott Free starts off as a brainwashed prisoner of the hellish planet of Apokalips. I won’t give away all the details here, it would be far too long, but suffice to say he’s different than the other drones. In Barda’s words, they never got to him. Scott is affected by his life on this planet, but he refuses, for a reason unknown to himself even, to ben to all their rules. He in encouraged in this by Metron and Himon, two people who try to help whom they can become free minded.

Now the narrator leaves no doubt in our minds that no one on Apokalips is free minded except Himon. And he has precious few people who are even willing to try to learn his ways. But Scott becomes intrigued by him.

Long story short, with help from is unexpected ally, Big Barda, Scott flees the cursed planet and comes to Earth. We aren’t told exactly what he does at first, but he learns about the place and develops a passion for seeing justice served, but always with a degree of Mercy. he takes on the name of Mr. Miracle and tries to live a quiet life. Or quiet for him.

But Scott soon finds that you cannot just run from oppression and think that will be the end of it, after Barda joins him on Earth both of them try to keep their enemies at bay using their respective skills, but Scott quickly realizes he cannot run forever. So they return to face their past. To face themselves in a way.

I  have avoided this part of the story for one reason, I was concerned that the story was trying to tell us that finding our self is the answer. I know many people will take that from it, and take it at face-value. But how many of us really know what finding our true self even means?

Oddly enough, what came to my mind was a Barbie movie of all things, and not one of the good ones either, it was the second one of the Fairytopia trilogy. (Gag worthy, especially if you already hate Barbie, which I did for a while probably because of those movies.) But there’s one good part, Elena, the “Protagonist” is faced with the option of eating a berry that will turn her into whatever form her “True self” is. Elena was born without wings, and wanted them badly, winning them as a reward for saving the day in movie No#1. Her fear now is that her true self will not have wings.

I actually understand Elena for once. But her friends tell her “Whatever you are, you’ll be happy, because you’ll be your true self.”

Mixed up in the sappy stuff of this whole idea is actually an important truth. Our true self is not always what we want it to be, but what it is best for us to be.

This applies to Scott, as well. He wanted to be free; he wanted, in his own words “tranquility;” and he thought he could find that by running until they stopped pursuing him. Barda knew better, but she would rather chase after a delusion with Scott than be realistic by herself.

But Scott had to realize that we cannot be free by running, running is just the start, the begging of the dive into the deep end.

Freedom is not something anyone can be given, it is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”–James Baldwin.

Barda, on the other hand, knew you have to take freedom. She lived this next quote.

Better to die fighting for freedom then to be a prisoner all the days of your life.”–Bob Marley.

Barda figured on dying in the fight to be free, but she intended to go out with a bang.

What makes this story oddly different is that their battle is a mental one. Scott literally fights it out in his mind. Barda nearly loses on that account, but Scott saves her in the nick of time.

It might be said that Scott will get out of anything, but Barda will avoid getting into it as long as she remains standing. She’d be free to start with if she could.

But the thing it, none of us are born free. We say we are, but we are all slaves to something. To sin usually, there’s always that one thing we can’t shake, sometimes its many things. Others of us get enslaved to people. Being a Christian is comparted to being a slave for God.

Only, in that last instance, it does not last. God wants free people. The reason we consider ourselves slaves fro Christ is because we don’t trust ourselves with total freedom.

What is total freedom anyway? It is not the absence of tyranny, that leads to anarchy most of the time.

I think I’ll dive into that in my next post, until then–Natasha.

Strange Magic

Since I just recently re-watched this movie, I thought it’d be a good chance to do a review on it, especially since there are only two main positions on it.

People either love this movie or hate it, very few are indifferent.

A lot of folks think this movie was George Lucas’ big joke at both our own and fairytales’ expense. The ending scene may well leave all the audience turning to their friends and asking “What the heck did I just watch?”

The movie seems so obviously bad that it’s baffling how many people left positive reviews for it on Amazon. Why?

Well, it may surprise you that after stating all that, I actually like this movie. You’ve probably never heard of it. I never had until a chance line in a review of a different movie, and the clips that started showing up on YouTube’s homepage.

I will not deny it is the weirdest movie I have ever seen all the way through. It beats out “Willy Wonka and the Cholate Factory.” It is not weird in the way that I’d say was wrong. It has no questionable scenes, no creepy stuff, no inappropriateness, beyond what will go over kids’ heads and is hardly even a thing to adults. It’s still arguable that its even inappropriate because I think circumstance counts for a lot.

So, that said, what is this movies big flaw that baffles its audience?

It’s really hard to pinpoint. The weirdest is scattered all over the place, but it mainly is in the awkwardness.

Maryanne, our main character, is socially awkward. I find it quite believable and in some ways too familiar for comfort; but that is the point. Maryanne is very human, despite being a fairy, and often doesn’t know how to handle herself unless it’s at the end of a sword. She is constantly shocking her father and sister with how rude or indifferent to people’s opinion she can be.

That said, Maryanne never does anything that can be considered truly wrong in the course of the film. she is painfully honest, fiercely loyal, and her chief flaw is being merciless to her ex, Rolland. Though he really leaves her no choice, and she never hurts him beyond what the situation calls for.

What makes up the rest of the awkwardness in this movie is the use of the love potion. It will make any two creatures fall in love with each other, though it seems only to work if they are of the opposite sex. It also only works on the one it’s dusted onto, so it can lead to one-sided, over-the-top obsession. An imp scatters the potion all over random creatures, leading to some very repulsive matches. It makes your stomach turn, and Maryanne’s as well.

But I can’t call that a flaw in the plot itself because the whole idea is supposed to be love shouldn’t be forced. We are supposed to be disgusted with how the misuse of this potion can ruin people. Maryanne’s sister spends a large portion of the movie in love with someone she’d normally be terrified of. Bog, the king of the Dark Forest, used the potion at one time, to no affect, and later realizes how wrong it was of him to do so.

Definitely the best thing this movie has going for it is Maryanne and Bog. Maryanne proves able to be very un-judgmental when she learns what Bog did in the past and why he hates love, she even sees herself in that and sympathizes. Bog also teaches her how to see the Dark Forest as a place that is more challenging than her own, and not actually evil, just different.

That is the powerful thing in the jumbled world of this movie. Because the audience perceives everything how Maryanne does, we see the forest as scary, evil, ugly, and hostile. But when she learns to see the beauty in it, we do too. Also we learn that sometimes ugly things are still amazingly complex. Like a centipede. Plus, some things will only grow in the Dark Forest, or on the line between it and the Lighter one, because some species need it cool and damp. This is stuff we have to remember as we watch, because everything in the dark forest looks the way it does because that makes it blend in with its surroundings. The creatures are ugly because they have to hide in the uglier places.

While I don’t think embracing ugliness is wise, it is wise to realize that different places look different for a reason.

There’s no racism message in this film, it’s more “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

But the best massage is that true love prevails. Maryanne goes from being a person who goes by appearances to being a person who doesn’t care about them. This has its drawbacks, as she is rude at times, and also impulsive; but it makes her a perfect match for Bog who is tired of being simpered to and having everyone afraid of him. Bog on the other hand rapidly goes from being bitter and somewhat evil to being heroic because he’s finally met someone who understands him.

The message is not that it’s okay to be evil, but that love can change you. Also, that love will accept you how you are. None of our characters are perfect. But only Rolland, the guy who thinks he is perfect, is the one who never changes. Everyone else grows and learns from their mistakes. But they also all learn that perfect or not, they can be loved. just for who they are. It’s a surprisingly sweet message in a very weird package.

So what’s the verdict?

I like this movie because only a move this weird could make you get past weirdness and love it anyway. In a sense, if you like the movie, you’ve learned what it was trying to teach you.

But…

If you can’t stand singing, especially if the songs are all unoriginal popular songs, most of them from the seventies, then this is not your movie.

All the songs fit the story, but one or two are completely unnecessary, and only one or two feel entirely natural in the movie.

And if the awkwardness of the dialogue is going to turn you off, than be warned, it is awkward most of the time.

The voice acting is sometimes surprisingly moving, but many times the characters make it weird, and to some people it will feel flat.

Also, the movie can grow on you, but it can also shrink.

Don’t watch it with anyone who hates musicals. Their scorn will  absolutely ruin it for you. Unless you are able to completely block it out.

But if you can get past all that and dig deep you’ll find that with all its flaws there’s something very charming about this film. Which seems to be the whole point. And for the rest, blame George Lucas’ weird imagination and not me. Or the movie itself.

Until next time–Natasha.

P. S. ( I hope I didn’t lose respect from anyone for liking this. You have to laugh at yourself, ladies and gentlemen.)

“I am Moana” part 2.

Okay, I’ve already outlined the story and the positive and negative elements of the film itself, now I want to get to my favorite part: The message.

It’s funny that directors often don’t know their own message very well. Everyone thinks Moana is about being true to yourself.

“You always, always say ‘be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”–Buddy, The Incredibles.

Well, as Buddy points out, being true to yourself is not as simple as just being told to be.

And what does it really mean anyway?

I won’t argue that a large part of Moana is devoted to that message, but I don’t think we should just apply it to Moana. What about the Ocean? The Ocean wrecks Moana’s canoe, twice; almost drowns her; almost drowns her father and does drown his best friend; it also doesn’t respond to Moana’s cries for help every time she want sit to. What is the deal with the Ocean?

Moana, as we all would, gets frustrated with her new “friend.” Maybe you have a friend like that, one who acts in ways you can’t understand. I do.

But I actually love that the ocean acts this way, because the Ocean reminds me of God.

I know Christians say this about virtually every movie, but don’t roll your eyes yet, I have an unusual reason.

If you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll recall that Aslan, the king, is not safe; but he’s good. Even in the movie they admit “He is not a tame lion.”

The wildness of Aslan frightens many people, in and out of the books, I might add. Aslan himself may not frighten those of us in the real world, but when we meet anything like him, we are frightened.

When it comes to things that aren’t alive, I’d say the Ocean takes the prize for being the most wild and unpredictable. You know why sailors are famous for cursing? You try being on a boat in the middle of rough water and see if you don’t at least think about it. I have been, it was one of the worst days of my life–and then there was the return trip.

No one can tame the Ocean. And that is something Moana needs to realize, no matter whether it chose her or not, the Ocean is still the Ocean, and it has to act according to its nature. Aslan admits to swallowing whole villages of people, to Jill, (in Book 6,) and not at all as if he is sorry or glad. He just is.

It is largely forgotten among the Church that God is like this. He is not predictable, we can not carry Him in our pocket. God Himself does destroy things, he does mete out justice, He does cause death. Many people hate Him for those reasons.

Yet God is not responsible for murder, for evil, or for every sorrow. But eh never tells us how we may know the difference between what he ahs caused and what other things have caused, He just ells us to trust Him.

This is why many people think Christians who are not fake are simply nuts. Well, maybe we are, maybe we are crazy for the sake of others, as Paul says.

But is it not somewhat crazy for Moana to set off alone, with her dumb chicken, to find Maui, who doesn’t seem the hero type even to her, and fight a lava monster single handedly after Maui abandons her like a jerk. (Really, if he’d just left it would have been one thing, but the mean things he says made me want to punch him.) Moana’s Grandma is crazy, and Moana definitely takes after her, but I loved it and I was not in the minority for once.

The Ocean teaches us a very important lesson: Good things are dangerous.

Things cannot be truly good until they are dangerous. Otherwise they are not tested. Evil things are also dangerous, but not in the same way. The difference, if we go by Jesus words, is one can destroy your body, the other can destroy body and soul, but the first is men, the second is God. Which is more good?

Of all the monsters in the realm, none of them defeats Moana or comes as close to it, as her disappointment and discouragement with the Ocean does. Good is far more dangerous than evil.

But that’s not bad. Because it’s good. That’s the paradox the movie is trying to show us. The Ocean helps Moana, just not in the way she expects, nor in the way she understands. For example, because the Ocean wrecked Moana a few times, she is not fazed when the Lava monster is making waves and nearly drowning her. She’s figured out how to swim.

And because Mona has had to do things without the Ocean’s help, she is brave enough to tell it to part when she needs Te Ka to come to her.

Because Moana has to carry so much of the weight, she is able to go on with or without Maui.

Maybe the Ocean knows what its doing.

The Ocean chose Moana for a reason, and I believe God chooses people for a reason too. But it’s not really about what’s special about us, it’s about if we will learn to trust.

That’s what’s great about Moana. It spends more time focusing on the journey than on why she was chosen, that becomes more apparent as we go.

Moana means Ocean, so the movie is really named after both of them, and Moana and the Ocean are in a sense, both the hero, neither is independent of the other.

Christians believe that God does not need people, but I personally believe that He has chosen to set this world up so that he does, in a sense. Not like we need things, it’s a different kind of need.

Moana realizes that our desires are awakened by something outside ourselves. That she longs for the Ocean because it calls her.

“And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising. I will carry you here in my heart to remind me, that come what may, I know the way. I am Moana!”

I am the ocean. Not that I literally am it, or that I have the power of it, but that the ocean is a part of me.

As weird as that may sound, the movie completely backs me up on it. Who we are is, literally, who we are called to be. Think about that sentence.

That song is what made me like the movie, and in my opinion, it’s why everyone likes it.

Is it better than “Let it go”? Of course not; they are two different songs that describe two different feelings, which are connected but are certainly not the same.

But Moana is like Frozen continued. Not good in the same way, but still good, and that is my verdict.

Until next time–Natasha.

“I am Moana.”

I’m having fun doing reviews, though I don’t do them exactly like how people generally do, but that’s fine, because I figure if someone wants to know about the cast, the score, and the rating, there’s a bunch of other sites that tell them better than I can.

So, as my title says, I want to talk about Moana.

Everybody, including me, went into Moana with high expectations, except those who hate Disney Princess movies, and they went in with that expectation.

I will say from the beginning that the advertisers never should have marketed this movie as something made by the creators of Frozen. Frozen is hard to replicate for its own screen writers (have you seen that horrible short that came with the 2015 Cinderella?) let alone for other people.

I tried hard not to watch the movie with a Frozen bias, but I realized that I couldn’t help myself, the result was, upon first watch, I really disliked it.

But now I’ve had plenty of time to reconsider, and I’ve had my sister give me a lot of reasons why the movie was not as bad as I thought, and I liked some of the songs; and the long and short of it is, I have changed my mind.

Now, the people who say (and there are many) that this movie is better than Frozen, are completely wrong. From the first moments of the film there is a different tone and style to it than Frozen, Moana herself is nothing like either Elsa or Anna, and she has no special power, there is not threat form the elements. Plus, Moana is based off of a myth, not a fairytale, and the writers and animators did a good job of making the whole thing feel like a legend.

So, since this is the case, Moana is not actually the same kind of story as Frozen, and comparing the two in that light, is not fair to either.

Just in case you haven’t seen it and don’t plan to (Spoiler alert!) I’ll outline the story. Moana is the daughter of the village chief of an island in Hawaii, not yet called that, of course. she had a love for the sea, that her father discourages for reasons of his own, but Moana can’t help herself. Then we find out the Ocean chose her to be the one to save her people. As we are told in the opening minutes of the film the heart of Tafiti, the Polynesian goddess of creation, was stolen by the demigod Maui, and that brought a curse of decay and death over the world, which now finds its way to Moana’s island. Realizing this, and with some pushing and revelation from her crazy Grandma, Moana finally sets out to restore the heart, despite various setbacks. She finds Maui, they team up, and after a lot of monsters and storms, and Te Ka, the lava monster, Moana figures out how to restore the heart, and succeeds. (You knew she would.)

Okay, so what is negative in all this?

Well, though the story works a lot of the time, it unfortunately breaks down whenever Maui is acting less than demigodly.  Also, some parts of it are a little rushed, not very well explained, and why did we need that dumb chicken? But that’s a personal preference, not an actual plot problem.

I have to admit, the movie has no real plot holes, but it has plot rubbish. Maui may be the most unnecessary additional character that I’ve ever seen as part of the whole. But what I really had a hard time forgiving the movie for was that Maui and some other parts, constantly took away the mythic feel of the whole thing. They made it seem cheesy and too aimed at a young audience, and a young audience with low standards at that. The humor was just stupid at many times, and often it was modern, which threw off the movie because the whole point is to feel like you’re way back in time, watching the whole legend unfold before your eyes.

Moana is not the first modern Disney Princess movie to use modern humor, Tangled did in some ways, I’ve seen other movies do it and it worked fine, like Shrek. But those other movies were set up with a much simpler plot that would not suffer from that kind of humor, while Moana, form its conception, is supposed to feel more timeless.

I may be overstating my case, but the importance of this factor really cannot be stressed too much, I winced every time the movie got too modern, because, if I wanted to hear modern jokes, I’d watch a Dreamworks movie or a TV show, for crying out loud, I watch Disney to get away from that.

It doesn’t bother everyone the way it bothers me, but whether it bothers you or not, it does change the tone of the movie and that’s going to affect the quality.

Enough with the negative. What changed my mind about this movie was two things: The first was of course, Moana herself.

I’ve got to hand it to Auli, she kept this character grounded. Moana never is ruined by the stupid jokes, or unnecessary humor around her, she stays down to earth and passionate the entire time, and manages to sell innocent and shrewd at the same time. I have no problem with her character at all, and I would have liked her even better without the plot problems that were not her fault.

The other thing will not surprise anyone who has seen it: The Ocean.

I think the climax of this movie is one of the best parts, but the only thing that made Maui and Hei Hei bearable for me was Moana and the Ocean working together. The Ocean actually behaved just as I would expect it to if it were a conscious creature, and that was what really sold me on the plot. If the Ocean had been too nice, or too magical, it would have felt fake and contrived, but the Ocean being unpredictable and very real at times made it work. I was most into Moana’s head when the Ocean proved more dangerous than she expected, and when she almost gave up, because it was a natural feeling.

I can’t get into the meaning of the movie in this part, so I’ll do it in part two, until then–Natasha.

The Hunger Games–part 2

Okay, so after reviewing The Hunger Games, I drew one lesson from it. (If you don’t like drawing lessons from things, you’re reading the wrong review.)

The lesson is this: The movie is parodying the media.

I never knew this from what I was told or the few clips I’d seen before, but the whole driving force behind the games is the Media. They run it like that show “Survivor.” Except, there are no volunteers (I don’t count Katniss and the two other “volunteers” because being in the games is still a forced thing,) and the people must kill each other instead of learning how to work together.

Other than those two insignificant facts, the games could be any kind of survival show. The people behind them rig them with extra challenges because the kids being at each other’s throats is not enough, and they monitor the whole thing. There is no escaping, no quitting, nothing.

If the kids did not have to fight each other, their combined skills might be enough to escape and defy the elitists who were forcing this on them. At the very least they might die together, and retain their humanity. (I would’ve like that movie better.) That would be an inspiring story, and more true to what history teaches us about the overthrow of evil.

But not even Katniss thinks of such an idea, and it is never broached.

Think, if the kids had all seen the horror of what they were being compelled to do, they could have made a real statement by refusing with one accord to do it. there would have been repercussions, but if the movie had made it clear that it was the right thing to do, the kids could have overcome them.

Is there any doubt it was the right thing to do?

It’s true some of those kids were evil and demented, but they were that because they had grown up believing these games were their destiny, and that they were prepared to kill. Even if those kids had refused to change their minds, they could have been outnumbered by those who showed more humanity.

Katniss would have been a real hero had she convinced them to rebel against the idea of the hunger games, but we are never given any hint that the idea is even conceivable for them.

Because the games get their districts benefits.

The system is effectively evil, but after 75 years, you’d think someone would get fed up.

But the people have been convinced that this is entertainment. That it’s normal to take an interest in it.  Gale ha the right idea, everyone should stop watching. Katniss shoots that down, wont’ even try it. Don’t people go on strike in this world?

So, it really is the Media controlling it all. The sad thing is, the Media can only control compliant people. People may not listen to plain common sense, but they’ll listen to what someone on TV says.

WE all know better, but it’s easier to listen to Media and ignore our conscience.

Folks, what you see on TV is often no better than the Hunger Games.

There are dozens of shows that involve murder in every single episode, and many more involve crime in each one.

There have been scores of shows that show people disrespecting each other horribly, constantly, while laugh tracks are playing. Even some good kid shows still fall prey to that type of humor. I repeat, the good ones.

There are many more shows than I ever  thought possible that are pornographic.

who taught us this was normal? Who promoted it?

Much as I think the media fully deserves everything said against them, I can’t pin all the blame on the donkey, so to speak.

After all, who bought those televisions? Who turned them on? Who laughed at the shows? Who taught their kids it was all right?

I think its a testimony to my parents’ success in raising free thinkers that I to this day have different standards than the adults I know, concerning TV shows. But what if I did not think for myself?

It saddens me that things like The Hunger Games are so attractive to young people, because it tells me they are too used to little hope, little purpose, and low standards.

Now, I would not encourage people to be snobbish, I have been that, and I recognize now that it is also immature and small minded, but being snobbish is still better than having no standards beyond the Culture’s dictates.

But I will not say every show out there is bad. You all know I like some of them myself. But I am concerned that our focus is on the wrong thing, like who we ship. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term ship, it means who should be with who romantically, and some people use it as a friendship thing.) Or who we like. Or how funny it is. But we aren’t asking what the real message is, and if we should find it funny.

There will always be those who think I am a prude for thinking this way, but if I go by what the Word says, than I can never be too careful.

Here are my fallback verses whenever I start to weaken in my belief that high standards are a good thing.

“I will behave wisely in a perfect (blameless) way… I wills et nothing wicked before my eyes. I hate the work  of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.” Psalm 101: 2-3

When the Bible uses the word know, it means experience, or know deeply, to get inside someone’s head, or soul really. Too many characters in entertainment are used to get us inside the head of evil. That is what they are designed to do.

My other passage to go to is this:

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good (clear or healthy,) your whole body will be full of light.

“But if your eye is bad (evil or unhealthy,) your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in  you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23.

When I looked up the above passage, I found a bunch of articles about how our eyes actually are a giveaway of how we’re feeling, what kind of personality we have, and how healthy we are. Seriously, look it up, it’s cool.

science always caches up with the Bible eventually. But most of us have looked into other people’s eyes and seen something about them.

Just like everything else about us, the eyes don’t set our personality in stone, they only indicate what choice we are making now.

And what we watch is what fills our minds. Especially what we’re focusing on as we’re watching.

I’ll leave it at that. Until next time–Natasha.

The Hunger Games.

This is going to be a review post.

It may surprise a few people that until last week, I’ve never seen or read the Hunger Games. At least in my limited scope of things, it seems like that series was what kicked off the post apocalyptic trend in teen fiction. If you’ve read some of my previous posts you know how I view that, so needless to say the idea of The Hunger Games never exactly thrilled me.

I also never could understand why it was my 11 or 12 year old friend who first told me about them; and how great the books were. Man, if I had a dime for every time someone my age told me this or that was good and I thought they were out of their mind.

But over the years I heard more intriguing things about the series, so my sister and I decided to finally check it out and our dad sat in for some of it. (We didn’t ask him to, but he was curious.)

So, as we like to ask each other, what’s the verdict?

Well, to like this movie, I would have had to be surprised, it would have had to be different than I expected. But it wasn’t.

That’s not to say I expected it to be completely bad. There were a lot of good moments. Katniss saving her sister, Katniss and Rue (almost tears,) Katniss and Peeta making their big decision. Katniss grieving over Rue was more than I expected, and it brought a lot of humanity to her. Rue’s brother or relative saving Katniss was kind of cool.

And despite all the hate Peeta gets, I don’t see why he deserves it, but I’ve only seen the one movie.

So, after admitting all this was good, why wouldn’t I give this movie a thumbs up. I am one to find meaning in anything I can.

Which I do. But There are those who find meaning, and there are those who find a meaning that was clearly never supposed to be there, or if it was  it was the wrong meaning.

You see, it is hard enough to find a movie with any attempt at a good message, but it is harder to find one that even knows how to communicate its message.

At the end of “The Hunger Games.” I can’t really tell what the message was. It wasn’t about going against the culture, whatever Peeta thinks. It wasn’t about risking your life to save someone else, whatever Katniss’es original intent might have been. I guess, from what the scary guy with the white beard was saying, the movie is supposed to be about hope.

You all know how much I like hope.

And that is my huge problem with this movie and every movie like it. Hope is very, very slim. Hope is nearly given up. Hope lies in running for your life and then starting a rebellion. And I’m not even certain what part of what Katniss and Peeta did was meant to give me hope. They both started off willing to kill, steal, and destroy each other and their competition. This is supposed to make me like them?

I know Katniss wanted to save her sister, but doing bad things for you family used to be frowned upon; and it still would be in a different movie.  No one would question it then. Like Luke, should he have gone over to the Dark side to make his father happy?

It may seem like a completely different circumstance, but it’ not. Peeta had no such noble reason for being in the Hunger games at all.

I am glad Katniss killed no one who did not attack her first, but neither did she at any time declare it was wrong to do so. She did not stand up to the government till the very end, and then it was almost too late, everyone else had died.

But on top of all that, the whole idea of the Hunger games is highly disturbing. no one ever talks about it when they discuss the movies’ merits, but what kind of person thinks up such an idea, and what kind of parents in the future would allow their children to be taken without a fight? Gale at least wants to run away, why hasn’t that idea been adopted ages ago? I’d expect it to be a reoccurring problem by the time Katniss goes. (If it is in the second movie, then my apologies, I haven’t seen it.)

Really. Why do parents let their children watch this movie anyway? My sister and I are older teens, but our younger sibling wasn’t watching, and good thing too. Like I said, a 12-year-old first recommended this to me. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?

Unfortunately, I usually am the only one who does.

As for the theme of hope, I want to know why we are satisfied with so little. We are given barely any to go on, we are shown precious little positive change because of that hope. Yet for this we are to be happy and feel inspired?

I think C. S. Lewis nailed the problem with most of mankind when he said “We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory.)

We all talk about being exceptional, but we don’t recognize that exceptional people are not satisfied with small ideas, small goals, and small hopes. Things have come to a sad pass when I need to watch a movie about children murdering each other in order to feel related to and get inspiration.

And that’s my verdict. The Hunger Games is, in a sense, lowering the bar. I am perfectly aware I will make tons of people furious by saying so, and if it were deserved, I might mind. But though the movie has all the appearance of goodness, it is not actually good.

It has good acting, amazing scenery, and a fine score, it is moving in some ways; but none of that makes it good. It just makes it easier to mistake it for good. I almost would have too, but when it was over I realized that despite feeling horrified by what I saw, I was left with no lasting, strong impression of any injustice that I could have righted, or any improvement I could have made, all I was left with was the characters, and they didn’t inspire me.

I am sorry to have to upset so many people, but that is my honest take on it. However there is one lesson to draw from the movie, and I’m going to cover that in part two.

Until then–Natasha.

Reviewing “This Changes Everything.”

“This Changes Everything: How the Gospel transforms the teen years.” Is a book with a self explanatory title. It goes into the Christian Living category. It was written by Jaquelle Crowe.

I got to read this book early because of a writer’s group I’m in, the Young Writers Workshop. (No sign ups currently available but here will be eventually if you’re interested.)

I went into this a bit skeptical, despite what many of my own nonfiction writing is about, which is living and believing things that are true, I am not a hug fan of books written for teenagers specifically.  I got over that phase around 16 or 17. Which feels longer than it actually is.

My main problem with many Christian Teen, or just Christian Life books is that they are half baked. The writer firmly believe the have answers, but the content comes off as helpful only to a certain point, after which they don’t really understand their subject. I think Christians are especially susceptible to this because much of God is extremely difficult to explain, and very difficult to understand. As it should be. It’s be more likely to be made up if it made sense to man. But it does throw a kink in writing about it since an author want to explain things to their readers more clearly than they otherwise would be able to.

So, I’ve just had some negative experiences with these books. And this book was written by someone in her late teens.

All this to explain I was not biased in her favor, and I can happily say Jaquelle Crowe managed to earn my respect. Once I got into the second and third chapters of the book, I was figuratively nodding my head. (Usually I say “Amen”, yeah, I’m one of those people.) This book is really good.

Of course I may differ a bit in how I perceive my faith, but that is to be expected. Essentially, I agreed with everything she said. And what’s more, I think teens do need to hear it.

While I don’t favor talking down to young people, I do recognize that Millennials and Generation Y-ers have grown up in a very different culture than we’ve seen for centuries. More has been forgotten and neglected about us than perhaps any other generation for many decades. We do not have to be victims however, and that’s why this book’s message is so important. Jaquelle is giving the responsibility back to us.

Now, that may not be her intention. I think her intention was to remind young people of what the Gospel really means, or to explain it to them if they had never heard it before. But nevertheless, what she says is something that will challenge anyone who really listens to examine their life and, hopefully, to improve it.

The best thing in this books favor is that it is not watered down, or constantly addressed to teens, per sec. It is addressed to Christians. Because it is written for them, and though it is aimed at teenagers, any adult could easily apply it to their own life, and so could a preteen.

Truth is true. Whatever else you’ve been told. And something in us know that. If there is one thing I agree with the dystopian, teen fiction works on, it is that there are always a few young people who know in their hearts that what they see around them is not what they are meant for. And if a young teen feeling that reads this book, it may tell them just what they need to hear.

All in all, I will not say this is the best book ever. (That would be the Bible.) I do not even know if it is the best book on the subject I have read. But it is one of them. It is worth checking out. And it could potentially change some lives. But only if people are willing to accept the message, and that is why I cannot say it is a book that sucks you in, and doesn’t let you go. It is entirely your choice to heed it.

Which I think the author realizes and embraces.

I will not object to rereading this book and adding it to my personal library; and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject matter.