December 2017 on the Silver Screen

Without further adieu, let’s dig down to the productions of December.

Thor: Ragnarok

Score: 3/5

I’ll be completely honest, I walked into the theatre with very low expectations for this movie, but it surprised me. I have had the same behavior for every Marvel production since the remake of Spider Man (Homecoming), which was a huge disappointment for me by the way. I do not know what is it that keeps us coming with the Marvel movies. Although I have borderline hated the last few, and they failed to keep me engaged through the whole thing, I keep supporting these productions by simply purchasing tickets to see them (e.g. Wonder Woman, I actually felt bored by the end of it).

Thor had been in my top three for the Marvel superheroes, so I did not dare ignore Ragnarok. The storyline somewhat made me wonder why the developers could not come up with something better than an evil sister, however, the way they placed it into context was clever (Spoiler: Odin has many successes with the evil sister but decides killing is not the right way to achieve power. As a result, Odin erases the past. Crucial Scene: The ceiling breaks apart, revealing the history of these events).

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I did not necessarily follow the change in development and production of Marvel series, however, I assume some significant changes of the stories are influenced by the Disney take over of the studios. The first Thor movie was much heavier on drama, religious references, and especially romance. Referencing Thor: Ragnarok, there are no aspects of romance (Jane is completely out of the storyline nonetheless they only mention her name once), much more inclusive racial characters as implanted in every Disney production, and most importantly, humor. There is much more humor than the amount needed in an action movie. Yes, all Marvel heroes are charismatic and at times too confident or cocky, but their humorous character is not their ‘most important’ trait. Iron Man was known with his sarcasm through the movies, thank you Robert Downey Jr. Deadpool’s previous lifetime experiences simply reflect on his personality as a hero, and we are used to him being the way he is. In my opinion, simply implementing more humour into Thor or any other character all of a sudden, sheds light on their powerfulness. The viewer needs just the right amount. In my opinion, it has been overdone in the last few movies.

As a side note, the soundtrack was delightful and produced a different reality for the action scenes. It almost felt like the power to demolish the enemy came from the song, and it was much like playing the last round of a strategy video game. I have been jamming to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song after seeing the movie.

Overall, Thor: Ragnarok had a lot less emphasis on the drama aspect that may not be compelling to all audience members, and put forth the humor aspect to reach more. That does not bother me if the storyline meets my expectations of quality and I do not expect that from the latest Marvel productions. Marvel needs to do a lot more than ‘the appearance of evil sister’ to get there, however, Thor: Ragnarok kept me engaged the whole time compared to the numerous poorly constructed scenes of Spider Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman and sequal to the Avengers. Disney needs to forget about the mere goal of producing as many movies as possible in a year, and aim for better storyline production. Well, I say let’s give Disney a couple more years to familiarize themselves with the super hero world.

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Coco

Score: 5/5

Although Disney fails in the super hero world, I need to give the team their credit on how successful they have been with producing diversity in animation and cartoon. The Princess and the frog, Moana and Elena, all introduced the children of all ages about the skin colors and somewhat took a step beyond breaking the image of white superiority. In essence, this approach seems to work for Disney’s profit, however, it is fairly risky too. It might offend cultures if representation has twitches, and mostly, all are westernized. In Coco, too, the western idea of ‘being yourself’ is highly emphasized, and this may not dare be presented in a collectivist culture like those who are Mexicans.

I loved everything about this production, so first of all, hats off! The main theme was being yourself with sprinkles of appreciating roots, importance of family, and remembering loved ones as the theme song “Remember Me” suggests. The storyline is excellent, and the plot twist at the end shakes the audience all over. I bet all the children in the theatre were as compelled as I was, and I was hysterically sobbing before I left the theatre. Coco gives the audience the hope that we all will meet those whom we lost one day, it reminds us the idea of ‘the waiting room’ that many religions adopt, and the waiting room provides space to watch the loved ones from above as dead relatives wait to get to heaven or hell.

As the story highlights, it is very easy to resonate with ‘the day of the dead’ celebrated yearly. It is based on the same idea that if one’s on earth forget the one’s whom are gone, they fade away. Prayers or the day of the dead are important to implement in our lives, reminiscing memories are equivalent to keeping these people alive in memories. Finally, although it may not always be true, family are bound to support each other.

There was so much to love about Coco. Extraordinary visuals. I will say this that Coco is by far the best visual work that Pixar produced. As I watched Miguel enter the world of the dead, I was astonished by millions of lights that are on literally every single inch-pixel of the screen. Amazing. You can just go and watch this movie for its visuals, but the story line is a bonus! Sit back and enjoy as the beautiful Mexican music sings to your heart.

 

Daddy’s Home 2

Score: 1/5

Will Ferrell in a Christmas movie sounds like a good idea at first but all of us that went to the movie, we, have all been fooled. Newer Christmas movies barely make it in the film market and that is because they focus on the slapstick comedy of it where we watch the main person get his ass kicked or hurt himself. There are some slapstick comedies with clever jokes however, here’s the truth: Dear Mr. Ferrell, Elf was your climax, why not end it there gracefully?

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I do understand this movie is a sequal to the story of two-daddies trying to balance the family relationship out. Four-daddies with no stories, was pushing it. Although I appreciated Mel Gibson’s appearance as a tough-guy who dominates the screen through the movie, it is a mystery why he would even consider playing in Daddy’s Home 2.

I am not sorry for being harsh; This movie deserves way worse. It was a waste of my time, and there are far better comedies on Netflix to get a good laugh.

The Greatest Showman

Score 4/5

Compelling. Musical production on the silver screen is hard work. It is much harder than a production on stage. Stage allows the artists to establish extraordinary connection. The trembling in the artists voice, every breath they take, the dream of the ovation that helps them hit the highest notes. Despite everything that could make me hate this movie, I adored it. There was a standing ovation in my local theatre, as it ended with the graceful quote of P.T. Barnum:

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”.

DF-07341_R.JPGLet me set out my criteria: I am not a huge fan of circus-themed musicals. I expect some dialogue to understand each character, and I do not like it when the producers force a boring musical on my face. The Greatest Showman was both dark and bright, and one reason it is not getting a full point from me is because I could not get enough of it.

There is not a movie that I did not appreciate when Hugh Jackman is in it. He might not have an astonishing musical career; however, he sure does an amazing job delivering the character’s voice. Michelle Williams gracefully accompanies him where the audience witnesses their love story from day one. Again, romance was not overdone. Conflict was not overdone. I could say everything was right about this musical for me. However, it is important to note that many critiques claim the storyline lacked accuracy when portraying Barnum’s life. This will happen either way they portray Barnum because there is much conflict in his own autobiography.

The visuals, performers and the script didn’t have much to complain about for me. I would’ve liked songs that appealed more to the style of 1870s. The attempt to modernize the theme, and musical choices only worked for the sake of Hugh Jackman, and his compelling performance. Give the developers one more year of research and song-writing, this movie would have gotten a 5/5.

I’ll say this; It was an original production and it did a hell of a good job delivering as if I were in Broadway. The Greatest Showman is a must-see.

Bed Time Stories Series: An elephant who hates rocks

If he could hear me, I would tell him how much I miss him every single day. He was my hero, my best friend, a nightingale when he sang the songs of his young days, the person I could complain to about my father, my weekend dinner date, my confidant… He was my arts critique and my whole audience that could fill a room with his one-person presence. He was the Indiana Jones, a traveller who was native to wherever he went. He was an undercover agent, he knew everything. He was a philanthropist and the kindest person I knew, but despite all, I could swear he could easily obtain a master’s degree in gossiping, too. He had no fears; He could squeeze half a lemon on canned tuna, drink a tiny carton of milk with it, and not get food poisoned. If this is not a super power, I do not know what is! He was the greatest man alive.

All and all, he was my favourite person for everything I mentioned above… but there is more. My grandfather ran his own chicken farm! Once, it was a small local factory too… I’d beg him to take me into the now-dusty buildings, and let his words convince me that chickens would try to keep their babies warm inside while sheep and cows ran freely along the green grass. My aunts and my mom always told me about that smelly place they hated going, but I loved hearing stories about it. Everything was worth listening, if he did it.

This is one of my favourite stories about him: My grandfather took my mom to the national zoo during one of his trips working as a bus driver and a tour guide. The national zoo was the only one that was home to the country’s first two elephants. So, the story goes along like this; they walk along the zoo and get to see the elephants. My grandpa wonders if elephants could eat a rock, (I am assuming this is an appropriate estimation because they have huge stomachs and he was always right anyways), so he manages to give a rock to one of the elephants through the fences. To this day, I still wonder how he managed to do that. Well, according to my mom, the elephant was offended because to be given a rock was apparently a rude gesture in the elephant world. He fills his trunk full of water beside him and sprays it on my grandpa. It’s an amazing story really (but, I am just realizing now that maybe it’s not the best story to start with…)

As you hear from my previous story, my grandfather had excellent relationship skills, especially with animals… and kids! I mostly filled up the ‘kids’ category for him until my cousins were born a decade later. Anyway, I loved the chicks he had in his farm and wanted to raise some of them in our apartment in the city. The farm was an hour away from our home at the time, (It is now half an hour because of the advanced technology. The government built a faster route by blocking the highway for three summers with that same technology), and I needed to see those chicks more often; I needed non-adult friends, and the chicks seemed to be a good option.

My mother said one of her short-cut no’s when I brought this excellent idea to her, and I cried for a long time (I am talking about, give or take, four straight hours here). Next day, my grandfather came with a deep carton box that had three little chicks in it. They were squeaking, terrified to death, as if they knew a 5-year-old was just not going to be able to take care of them. I tried heating them with tiny bulbs, putting the box next to a heater, putting in tiny blankets for them. My mom told me not to pick them up with my bare hands and said I could hurt them, but I wanted to play with my new friends. Every time my parents weren’t around, I would pet the terrified chicks. The next week, one of them died, and I cried a lot, but I didn’t want to let go of the other two either. I believed I could help them live to be beautiful chickens. My mom immediately took the box to my grand parents’ house. That was the end of it. My grandpa tried to keep them alive and told me they were fine, but they ended up sharing the same fate with their sibling. I didn’t find out until a long time after. The coming years, my grandfather also took care of the dog I could not take care of, adopted my aunt’s cat, and supported me to own a horse when I came to love riding those majestic animals for a long time in my life. Lesson was learnt, I never wanted anything I simply could not keep alive.

During elementary school, probably second or third grade, I adored this horse cart for my blonde Barbie doll; the horses were battery operated and could march like they were in a parade. In the supervision of my mother, I was gifted the horse cart by my grandpa, however, I still wasn’t allowed to have the full set of princess barbies with it. Later around fifth grade, my grandmother wanted to renew her garden furniture, so we went along with my mother. I fell in love with this doll-size white statue of a fairy, and I begged my mom to get it for me. She told me I didn’t need it, I could not play with it because it was simply a hard stone, and I wouldn’t be happy by just having it. Same old excuses, but I was offended this time. I kept my tears in and did not talk the way home. Typing these make me feel like a spoiled child; by all means, my mother tried, but my grandpa wouldn’t dare see me cry. The next day, I woke up seeing something wrapped with newspapers on the living room table, I opened it. The fairy was beautifully laying there. My mom bet that I would break it in a week then; I am 21 and the fairy is still napping in our living room. She is still white though, as my suggestions for coloring her were not even under consideration.

Now that I earn my own minimum wage salary and he is gone, I keep the tradition going, I buy myself gifts, and disregard what my mom says. The courage to do that could only be taught by a man of powers. I silently thank him one more time.

Rest in Peace. I miss you.

Grandpa and I
Playing dress-up at my aunt’s wedding. (Age 7)

Final Countdown

“What did you learn in 2017?” I asked, hoping to get an answer that will make me write again.

“It’s too late in the night to think about that, my brain doesn’t even want to work now”. I hung up, I missed him more.

 

As I sit in a wooden chair in front of my computer on a wooden desk, at a local coffee shop, allowing myself to take tiny bites of the cold chocolate croissant… I appreciate, again, how everything around me is composed of numerous details that I fail to realize every day. It is something that I learnt over the past month to get ahead of my anxiety. I look around, find something, and describe the edges of it. The softness, the colour, the shape, the noise it would make if I knocked on it. Today, instead of putting my earbuds, I sit at a table shared with other people and stay half attentive to all the noises around me. I do not need to know what they talk about, I just let the crowd comfort me.

This year, I learnt that judgement is bad. Using judgement over yourself is worse. I try not to do that now. I remind myself that I am strong but if I struggle, I am not the only one that is in pain.

You can make friends by forcing them to hang out with you. Thank you. Max, Tina and my long-lost brother Sam. I appreciate all of you individually.

Waking up after seeing bad dreams do make me angry. As much as I want to limit my caffeine intake, I was gifted a coffee-maker couple months ago, and the smell of the brewing coffee makes me love life again.

I wanted something so dearly for my future, I could not afford it and only thing I said to myself was that it was going to happen. It did. I am going on an adventure, and It feels so satisfying to say it.

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I am waiting to have some of the turkey stuffing on Monday, then, the Christmas lights to be taken down. I am waiting to smell my grandmother’s cookies coming out of the oven we have here, only me and my mom would make them. It would still smell the same (I am not convinced).   I am waiting to see my beddings actually do fit into my luggage (I need to call Flight Network…). I am waiting to drive to Vancouver airport and wait for my seat number to get called to go into the plane. Then, I’ll wait to go home some more. I am not waiting in a painful way, and it is not waiting that makes the world turn in circular motion.

You get the idea. Instead of moving all the time, I wait for things to come, and It is not an ordinary feeling.

 

QUITTING SOCIAL MEDIA: NOW AND THEN

First of all, let’s make something clear: I am not saying that you should quit social media, nor I am saying you should not… I will get to that in a minute. Over the past decade, I have witnessed many forms of social media outgrowing books and tv whom once paralyzed my great grandparents. Facebook dropped the magic bomb of see all, know all. Then came, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Swarm, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and many more that I cannot recall off the top of my head.

The big hit lately is Instagram (at least it still was last month, before I deleted my Instagram account). It is an excellent promotion tool since it seems to be one of the limited ways to reach young adults, and it seems to be the preferred platform of the celebrities and influencers (When did that term get into our culture anyways? Think about it). Well, I felt fed up with seeing every second of every person’s life on ‘insta-snap’ feature. I honestly didn’t feel interested in how to cook egg whites and spinach to get fit, or what this girl from my kinder garden was listening to as she was driving to work. I bet you watched a 10 second short video of a similar kind too. And let’s be real, I was also fed up with getting comments about how my picture deserves a comment of ‘wow’ from someone I barely talk to. Or reading someone else’s comment about someone I cared about (but that’s another story for another time).

Credit: Pinterest
Credits: Pinterest

I’d lie if I said social media doesn’t creep the door of the wardrobe for my insecurities. It does, and it will, but believe me when I say nobody is perfect… I first quit Swarm, Foursquare and Twitter a couple of years ago until I had to create a Twitter account for a class. I have no issues with twitter, I find it excellent to catch the news now. However, Swarm and Foursquare were both ‘check-in-your-location’ kind of apps and 98% of its users were looking to find girls that they could meet at the next bar they walk in. No regrets. Next, gone Snapchat. After the ‘insta-snap’ feature people seemed the forget about Snapchat. I broke it off with a couple of close friends that I used snaps to communicate, I didn’t care to have other boys on there and people I cared about were one call away. Gone, gone.

Came Instagram… I deleted it for a short while after an unnecessary argument, tried to get back into my same account, didn’t work. Am I ever thankful. Do I miss scrolling down? Yes. Do I want to give cute, supportive comments to friends? Yes. Do I want to know what those people (that I do not like) are doing with their lives? Did God give them what they deserve? None of my business. I am over it. Will I ever get Instagram again? I expect so since it is the ‘it’ of today, people around me use it. But that decision will have to wait. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a new app that rises like a star coming 2018?

Hey… I still have Facebook for my daily memes… In my opinion, it is harmless now that it lost its crown to Instagram.

I study Media and Communications and I truly believe in both constructive and destructive power of technology and social media however, it mentally challenges me. I will always critique the mere existence of this ‘see all, know all’ mentality while abusing it madly. All I am saying is, know the time to take a mental break. Sip your coffee and look out your window instead of snapping the hell out of it. Use it with meaning.

Hazal