30 June 2017

Review: Despicable Me 3


Thanks to an invite from the publicity team, I took my 13-year-old daughter and her friend to a special screening of Despicable Me 3. We really loved the first movie. My daughter was Agnes for Halloween that year. The second movie fell flat for the overly racist stereotype of El Macho. I STILL SEE YOU, BENJAMIN BRATT!

The theater was packed with families, many in Minion t-shirts, and kids who did not any of the sugar they were about to ingest from the concession stand. Since it was a special screening the organizers kept trying to get our attention for giveaways and rule announcements. Nope. The kids were too excited to shush for a free t-shirt.

So the movie... This movie was better than DM2, but still far from the magic that made Despicable Me the franchise we keep going back to. As I said, I took my teenage daughter and while she liked it, it was clear it wasn't a home run. It was a hit with the younger kids we were surrounded by. They laughed, giggled, and danced in their seats.

THINGS I LIKED
  • Agnes steals the movie again. She was used perfectly to remind us of why we fell in love with this family. From her yard sale scene to the unicorn hunt, Agnes is the epitome of adorable. 
  • It was odd that it seemed like Margo had matured while the character clearly did not age. But her maturity with stepmom Lucy was sweet. 
  • The ending with Gru & his long-lost brother was nice and parents with more than one will use it in vain attempts to stop arguments. 
  • Lucy saves the day.
THINGS THAT BUGGED ME
  • Lucy spends most of the movie stumbling over her role as a mom. She is the experienced super spy, but gets pigeonholed into the mom role. 
  • The Minions get sent to prison. While there were some cute scenes, given this moment in US history, prison comedy is hard to laugh at, especially when I'm still not sure why they got locked up in the first place. 
  • Balthazar Bratt is the big villain, but was only there to give us Gen Xers a fun soundtrack. Ya know who they should have gotten to play the evil child star? Jason Bateman. Remember how much of a brat he was on Silver Spoons? Now that would had been awesome casting. 
  • Lucy making Margo do something to relieve a boy of public shaming. Yes, it seemed like a nice gesture, but I felt it sent too much of a message that girls should do whatever it takes to make a boy feel better. And then it back fired with an engagement, thus allowing Lucy to display her mama bear skills and win Margo's love.  
So go see the movie. It's not terrible, but it's a good decision on a hot steamy summer day. And it's a great decision for smaller kids who giggle at fart jokes.

Three Stars for everyone over 10
Four 1/2 Stars for those under 10

Disclaimer: We bought our own snacks from the concession stand!

22 June 2017

In reality Wonder Woman is a beautiful retelling of The Little Mermaid

Hear me out friends.

Disney's The Little Mermaid is my favorite classic princess movie. I saw it multiple times in the theater as a teen and have seen it enough to spot the plot a mile away. So let's do this.

Ariel is a girl who lives in a protected world free from humans, dreams of adventure, and is super curious about humankind.


Diana is a woman who lives in a protected world free from men, dreams of adventures, and is super curious about men.

One day a storm/war casts a man into the water and Ariel/Diana dive in to save him despite knowing contact with a man is going to make her dad/mom really upset. She brings him to the shore and when he wakes up he sees her...


In The Little Mermaid, Eric "forgets" all about Ariel after the beach. Where in Wonder Woman, Diana stays to fight alongside Steve. But both Ariel and Diana end up venturing out into the world of humans...

They are both fishes outta water (Ariel, literally!) and find human artifacts to bring them much joy. Forks. Ice cream. Tiny humans.


Both arrive into the world inappropriately dressed and must find suitable clothing. Both have to get to use to wearing human clothing.



They each go on adventures. Ariel has to help save her bestie Sebastian, who for the record is the one who has to survive a gauntlet, aka No Crab's Land. Whereas Diana is the one who survives "No Man's Land." As a reward, they get taught how to human dance or sway. Also for the record, both Eric and Steve are fans of the huge collar.



In the final battle of each movie, it is Ariel and Diana on their own. Ariel must battle Ursula, who was in disguise as Vanessa! Where Diana must battle Ares who was in disguise as Sir Patrick!! Both have to dig deep to locate their power. They find their strength in the love they have for the men in their lives - King Triton and Steve Trevor - in order to defeat their enemies.


Sadly there is where the parallels truly end as Ariel gets her happy ending with a big poofy wedding dress and the blessing of the King. Whereas Diana is left wondering what could have been. On the plus side, she does learn the truth about herself. Not to mention I don't recall punch-dancing my way out of the theater post-TLM.

And don't forget this last factoid...

THEY ARE BOTH PRINCESSES!!

Seriously though, I started to put together this post the first time I saw Wonder Woman. Then I tested the water by telling a friend my theory and he bought it. So when I went for the second time, especially to write my official review, and caught more common plot points I knew I needed to write this up. Then I decided it had to be in mostly gifs. Sadly Wonder Woman still doesn't have a lot of gifs so this post isn't as awesome as it could be. I'm sure someone will try to rip this to pieces for being an offense to feminism or something, but I don't care. I'm having fun merging two of my favorite movies into one plot line.

ariel dressed as wonder woman

21 June 2017

I'm finally ready to talk about the Wonder Woman movie...


Goddess knows that I had to see the movie at least two times before I could truly sort through all my feelings. Sitting in the theater the first time was like an out of body experience. I was there and knew I was there, but it didn't feel like it. I was somehow disconnected from the emotion of being there. Perhaps because my brain was taking a zillion notes a second. The second time...omg...the second time was overwhelming. First we got to the theater after the movie had already started - 2 minutes, that's ok. But when we got into the theater it was packed and we couldn't find seats. OMG! Where would we sit? Thankfully my daughter spotted three seats in row two. After we sat down it dawned on me...the theater was sold out in the second weekend. YES!!!
AUDIENCE REACTIONS
I found it odd that in both viewings there was little applause or cheering as in other eagerly anticipated movies. It was almost as if we were all stunned that we were actually at the Wonder Woman movie. That said, watching the movie the second time was a thrill because I did get to hear gasps and oohs at places where I knew the good stuff was still to come. The worst was hearing a little boy ask whomever he was with near the end of the movie, "Where's Steve?!" The best was the little girl who dance-punched her way through the credits at the end. She's who the movie is truly revolutionary for...she'll grow up never knowing any difference.
Why I Didn't Cry at the Battle Scene
I've read a lot of comments online about women crying during the Amazon battle scene. Most say it is because they had never seen such a battle. And I'm all...






See also Ripley, Sarah Conner, and a host of other kick ass women from TV and film. Yes, yes, yes...it is different to see a magnificent Amazon battle scene on the big screen with all the money that allows. The whole scene was breathtaking. But as someone who consumes scifi media, the woman warrior battle scene isn't earth shattering to me. Beautiful? Yes. Again, that doesn't mean I didn't love it, cause anytime I can see Amazons charging on horseback down the beach is a good day.



Steve Trevor
Call me a traditionalist, but Steve Trevor is supposed to be the damsel in distress. I kinda liked how ditzy he was in the TV show. But I get why plotwise he needed to know exactly who she was. We get a bit of Steve as damsel in the alley scene, but as Michi Trota at The Learned Fangirl points out, his punch at the end is only necessary to maintain him not being saved by Diana. Also until Ares shows up, Trevor is pretty sure the woman he's falling in love with is crazy. The fact he keeps talking about 'dropping her off at the front' told me that he thought she was delusional. He's getting credit for following her lead, but I am not totally sold that he truly believed in her. He shifts towards belief when he coordinated the others into helping her catapult into the church steeple. All that said, I did like Steve Trevor. I am just not buying all the chatter about him falling in line behind her. Also like Michi, I was upset that it was his death that made Diana realize the extent of her power.
Love
When Diana proclaimed that love was the answer, I let my skeptical side come out. "Oh come on...really? Wonder Woman gets the love will conquer all line?" But after reading some reviews, sitting on it, and seeing it a second time, love is the answer. Love for humanity is what motivates Diana to leave the safety of Themyscira. Love for humanity is what has her jump at the baby on the street. Love for humanity is what propelled her to walk across "No Man's Land." By the way, great hat tip to Lord of the Rings. It also accurate to her origins as amplifying women's goodness.

Women of Color
The critique of where the women of color existed in Themyscira. The first time we see one is as Diana's nanny bringing up images of mammies. This is a legitimate critique. But when I saw the film the second time I tried to pay attention to where the Amazons of color existed. I took the scene where Hippolyta is interrogating Steve Trevor as a meeting of the Amazon Senate. And there are a lot of Amazons of color. Some speak up, and yes are interrupted, but they are shown to be valued for more than just their strength. While I agree with most of the critiques, I do want to give a bit more credit. For me the entire Themyscira scene was done far too quickly. We could have skipped the Pretty Woman scene and add more time on Paradise Island.


In the end...
I really liked the movie. I have a feeling that I'll grow to love it as I rewatch it over and over. I'll find new things to love and new things that make me twitch my nose. Maybe I'll figure out what everyone seems to see in Steve.

What I do know is that Wonder Woman rose to the challenge to kick major ass at the box office. Luckily Patty Jenkins signed for two films so she'll get to bring the same vision to Diana in the sequel. As of this moment she's brought in $438.5 million in the US alone and $300 million overseas. Wonder Woman is set to break records that perhaps might force Warner Brothers to give us all the stupid movie promotions we were robbed of like cereal and ice cream. We will have Wonder Woman ice cream next time, right?!
But was it feminist?
SIGH...This is the question that kept eating at me during the first viewing. Does saying it is feminist mean I don't care that women of color weren't featured more prominently? Or that same sex love was only suggested not screamed from the top of a Themyscira cliff? Does it mean I am ok with the fact Etta Candy was given such a poor role? I don't think saying this movie was feminist means it is perfectly feminist. It had a lot to be desired, but it did give us a tale of a strong, smart, and loving woman who acted with an eye towards peace and justice. A woman who loves ice cream, babies, and kicking ass.

Yet at this moment when feminism needs to mean something, I hesitate to call everything feminist. Within our capitalistic society it seems like it is a feminist act to buy a ticket or three to Wonder Woman, but is it really? In Andi Zeisler's book, We Were Feminists Once, she argues that we can not buy our way to liberation. But this movie makes it clear that war is bad without framing even the Germans as evil. Diana wrestles with the source of humanity's urge to destroy itself which aligns with my feminism - the belief that people are inherently good, but misguided by fear. Cue Yoda.

So is the movie feminist? Kinda. There are definite feminist themes, but perhaps instead of focusing on stamping the entire film as feminist, we keep analyzing the film as to which scenes were feminist and which were not. Let's use this film to talk to the young girls in our lives about being ready for a fight, hoping it never comes, but kicking ass when necessary. That may be exactly how to balance the pacifism of my feminism with the reality of our world. Maybe.

If you haven't seen it, go....then come debate with me. 

16 June 2017

International Women’s Media Foundation creates award to honor Gwen Ifill


The loss of Gwen Ifill is one of those pieces of knowledge that causes me to stop breathing when I remember it. At a time when we need hard-hitting journalism, there is a gaping hole in our media without her. The folks at the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) feel the same way as they just announced a new award in Ifill's name:
Ifill was a bright light in the news industry, an incredible role model and mentor for young journalists – especially women journalists of color – and a friend of the IWMF. The Award will be given annually to an outstanding woman journalist of color whose work carries forward Ifill’s legacy.

In addition to the award, the IWMF will develop a corresponding program focused on mentorship and network building. It will be open to both journalism students and women journalists of color working in the news media.

Candidates for the award will be evaluated on criteria including their record of outstanding achievement in journalism, and the extent to which they represent the values Ifill embodied, including in the areas of mentorship, leadership, and commitment to diversity in journalism.
Ifill left us with a rich legacy and inherent in that legacy is a challenge to keep moving and doing better. Hopefully this award and program will fulfill both that challenge.

11 June 2017

Book Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is a novella that at first is a scifi adventure, but in the end is the perfect gift for a recent graduate. I swear it was fate that had me read this book during graduation time.

Binti is book one in a series that eagerly awaits its third volume. Binti is a young woman gifted with a combination of mathematical, engineering, and diplomatic skills with the tried and true eagerness to know more than her hometown. And with that framing comes her family's insistence that she stay put and follow tradition. But we meet Binti as she makes a run for her chosen path and into the great unknown world of university.

As the only one of my sisters to leave home for university and having worked on a campus full of first-generation university students this story hit home like a dagger. Binti's awkwardness at traveling alone, being an only, and negotiating space where "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not hold true is something many readers may feel deeply.

This is a scifi, speculative fiction story. One where the settings seem normal except for the fantastical technology that is ordinary to our hero. Binti also stumbles into violence that can be too much for younger readers, but should be ok to most teens.

Many have said that speculative fiction allows us to explore our current issues in a different universe. Binti certainly does this. Okorafor takes the almost-trope of a girl breaking out of her family and delivers to us a fresh and innovative tale of her discovering courage and belief in her abilities.

This book is a must for anyone who feels like they were a pioneer in their own lives, whether you were the first in your family to go away to college or the first X in your company. This is not a fish-out-of-water tale, rather how the fish got everyone else in the ocean with her. 

[ Order your a copy at Powells or IndieBound ]

Disclaimer: I bought this book myself.

Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


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