Month: January 2016

Classics for a Reason

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. At my local cinemark movie theater they have a ‘Cinemark Classics Series’ where twice a month or so they will have a movie ‘classic’ on the big screen. I try to go to as many of these as I can and you can even get them at a discounted rate.  In last year I’ve seen rereleases on big screen of films such as Roman Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life, My Fair Lady, Home Alone, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more.  These have all been great experiences.

However, what was interesting about last night is I went to a movie I knew nothing about except that it was a ‘classic’.  I saw the John Huston classic ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’.  I knew this was a Western with Humphrey Bogart and that was about it.

cinemark classic seriesHere’s the trailer.

I ended up loving the movie!  It’s not just a Western but it’s a nuanced and gripping portrayal of a man going crazy over greed.  The moral conflict was much more interesting than anything that happened to them physically.  Bogart starts off assuming he will do the right thing but as the curse of money grips him he becomes more and more of a savage.  The script is so well written and I completely bought the transition.

You can read the rest of my review here but I guess what struck me is that sometimes you can trust ‘a classic really is a classic’.  You could make an argument for only seeing classics I could understand.  The movies have had the chance to sift through and eliminate the turkeys.  With modern movies we don’t have that option.  Of course, I don’t love every classic but there aren’t many that I hate.

Isn’t that interesting? It’s the same way with all the classics- classic books, classic stories, classic TV shows, even classic recipes.  They are the tried, true and tested of the world, and you can rely on them to be good most of the time.

What was particularly striking is there was a lot in Treasure of Sierra Madre that reminded me of the current Oscar frontrunner The Revenant.  It’s a decent flick but I think Treasure is far superior despite having many of the same elements.  They are both about hardened Westerners.  They both have gritty survival stories and both feature stories of greed and revenge. But Treasure is so much more subtle and nuanced than The Revenant.  It also gave me more moments to breath and empathize with the characters where The Revenant is kind of unending in its repetitive beatdown of its characters.  Again, not saying The Revenant is a bad movie because it isn’t but when compared to a true classic it falls far short of where it needs to be.

I wonder if many movies could be looked at that way (or novels for that matter).  If you held them against their classic doppleganger the flaws in the new become much more apparent.

So cheers to the classics!  What are classics you like?  Or what is a movie you’ve watched recently where you thought “____ movie did that better”?  Are there contemporary takes on characters or stories you think did the concepts or stories better than the classics?  Please list in the comments section.

Do you ever go to the theater to see the classics?  It’s a ton of fun if you get a chance.

Rotoscopers, Little Mermaid Tag, and Dumbo

Today I had a crazy content day and published 3 articles on rotoscopers.com including my interview and review of Snowtime. I thought you guys might like to read those. Plus, I posted 2 videos on my channel I thought turned out well- Little Mermaid Tag and my review of Dumbo. Busy, busy day!!

Rachel's Reviews

So today ended up being a crazy day content-wise for me.  I had 3 articles published on Rotoscopers.com you should check out!

Rocks in My Pockes Review for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-rocks-in-my-pockets/

My interview with creators of independent animated film Snowtime I did for Sundance Film Festival.

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/interview-with-snowtime-filmmakers-francois-brisson-and-marie-claude-beauchamp/

My review of Snowtime for Rotoscopers.com

http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/01/27/review-snowtime/

I will be reviewing Snowtime in the next couple of days on this blog, as I didn’t want to take anything away from the Rotoscopers review.  I have previously reviewed Rocks in My Pockets on this blog (but I would still love it if you checked out the Rotoscopers review).

But I also posted 2 new videos on my youtube channel.  I created a tag called The Little Mermaid tag and my fellow youtuber Aly did it with me.  It ended up being really fun and if any of you want to do it I would love…

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35 and Sundance

So I am writing you all as a 35 year old woman.  I know in the grand scheme of things it isn’t old but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel old.  I still feel like the same old person I was in my 20s and here I am 35!  How did this happen? 🙂

Well, I ended up having a really fun 35th birthday.  I was worried because I had been sick all week (as I reported a few days ago).  But I tried to rest up and was feeling mostly better for my birthday.  It was a good thing because I had a great experience and a unique opportunity for my birthday.

A few weeks ago Morgan over at Rotoscopers.com asked if I would be willing to represent their website at a screening for a film at the Sundance Film Festival.  I had always wanted to go to Sundance but I didn’t know they had a Sundance Kids section.  Now I will totally be going every year!  She said I could see the film and then have a chance to interview the creators afterwards.

I jumped at the chance but was also very nervous about the interview portion.  I’ve never done an interview before and worried I wouldn’t have professional enough questions.   The movie is called Snowtime and I will save my review for rotoscopers.com but I really did enjoy the film.  It’s a sweet little story about kids playing in the snow.  It reminded me of the Peanuts Movie quite a bit, which I loved.   Here’s a trailer for the film:

So I did my homework and came up with some questions that I ran by some friends who had done that kind of thing before.  I also had my camera, phone to record the interview and notepad ready to go!

The big ticket

Waiting in line for the show to start

Dog Cleo from the movie was there

snowtime

Then I saw the film and enjoyed it and they did a Q and A afterwards where the kids in the audience asked great questions.  This helped relieve my nerves a little bit.  I figured if little kids could do it, so could I! 🙂

So, I was rushed into a little green room area and I met with director Francois Brisson and producer Marie-Claude Beauchamp.  I got to ask questions for about 5 minutes and I think I did pretty well.  I will pass the link on to you guys when I get the interview written up for Rotoscopers.com.  It was so fascinating to learn about the behind the scenes of an animated film- even a small scale animated film like this one.  I enjoyed hearing about their inspiration and how they came up with different elements of the design and story.

It ended up being a really cool experience and a great way to spend my birthday.  I finished the day with a quiet dinner with one of my best friends also named Rachel.  I had tons of love shown my way, which I greatly appreciate it and heard from many of my family and friends.  I am so blessed.

I hope 35 is one of the best years yet!!

Why I am a Tough Book Critic

hate booksIf you came to my house you would see wall after wall lined with bookcases and books.  I couldn’t even tell you how many books I own but when I moved in 2013 I had 24 boxes, and I’ve certainly added to it since then.  I love to read and find the experience of a great book one of the most exhilarating I can have.  I’ve also persevered in many a book club and am currently in one that I love and possibly starting up another.  I love books!

With all that said it might surprise you to hear about a conversation my sister Megan and I had a couple of weeks ago.  With her being an author, I often report to her my feelings on books I’ve read.  In 2015 I read quite a bit and enjoyed reading classics like The Jungle Book and Dracula was interesting, but my favorites by far was Finding Audrey and The Martian.  I loved those books so much!  Reading those books reminded me of why I love to read.  I loved the characters, humor, emotion and combination of everything in the story.

Unfortunately there were a lot of books I read last year that I really didn’t like.  Megan said to me “Rachel, you are a tough critic when it comes to books.  You seem to be a lot tougher on books you don’t like than on movies you don’t like”.  I think being an author Megan is more forgiving of plotholes and flaws in books than I am.  She recognizes the struggles of producing a novel and is willing to ignore things or explain them away where I am not so understanding.

The biggest difference between movies and books for me is time and emotional investment.  I recently saw an animated atrocity called Norm of the North.  It was so bad I sat there in disbelief that anyone financed and produced this garbage.  That said it was 90 minutes of my life.  A bad book or even an underwhelming book takes days sometimes weeks for me to read.  I’m living with these characters and I get more emotionally absorbed than in most movies so when an ending sucks or the characters are stupid it ticks me off.  If a book is boring it’s days of boredom (the horrors of reading Dune come to mind….).  If a character is annoying it is days of annoyance.  You get the idea…

I guess if I was a speed reader and could finish books in 2 or 3 hours than maybe it wouldn’t be so bad but I’m not.  I look at a book as a real investment and I will call it out if that investment doesn’t pay off.  I usually try to point out some positives (with movies too although some like Norm of the North there really isn’t anything).  This is particularly true for book club as I don’t want to appear like a complete grinch.

Like today we are discussing The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion which I hated but I will talk about my empathy with her situation and sufferings.  I do feel bad for her but it’s a rough read.  It has to have one of the most deceptive titles in recent memory.  There is no magic.  Only death and comatose loved ones.  Yippee!  And not that every book has to be happy but reading someone’s therapy journal and a bunch of statistics about death and grief- kill me now.

Again it’s worse than a bad movie because I’m living with this woman and her awful book for days!  And bad books seem to take so much longer to finish; thereby, extenuating the badness.

Now if you think I’m tough on books I’m even tougher on TV shows because that’s investing literally years of my life too. If you don’t believe me check out my thoughts on the How I Met Your Mother finale

I’m also pickier when it comes to characters and tone in books.  I can handle spending 2 hours with unlikable characters in a movie; although not my preference.  But a book? No thank you! A recent example is The Revenant.  It was a great film but brutal and has nothing but jerks in it.  I can’t imagine reading a book of the Revenant.  It sounds completely miserable.

That’s why I loved The Martian so much! It was about a nice guy that I loved spending time with.  I loved the movie but the book allowed me to be with Mark for days.  That was great!! Elizabeth Gaskell I love because the characters are so wonderful.  I love spending time with them for days.  Same with Jane Austen.

The other reason I am tougher on books than movies is there are a lot more saving graces in movies than books.  What I mean is in a book you have the text, characters, plot etc.  In a movie there are so many more factors to judge and that can save a movie from total disaster.  For instance, I hated Chappie so much.  It was one of my worst films of the year, but even I have to admit the visual effects were pretty good and Hugh Jackman was good.  If I had to read the novel of Chappie that would be awful!

You see what I mean?  I can really dislike a movie but the animation is good or a performance is impressive.  Sometimes the special effects are cool or there is some good writing or cinematography.  With books it is just the book that can either sink or swim.

What do you guys think?  Are you tougher on books than movies?  Which side do you land on?  I’d be curious to know.  What are some good books you’ve read recently?  What are some bad and why?

700 Subscriber Q and A Answers

Hi guys!  A week or so ago I requested my blog readers and youtubers  submit questions for me to answer in honor of my 700th youtube subscriber.  Here is the video.  You can jump right ahead to your question if you want using the time stamp in the description section.  Thanks for the great questions!

If you have comments on my answers feel free to put it in the comments section and let’s talk.  On to more vlogging and blogging fun!

Someone to Take Care of Me

calvin and hobbes sickToday I am sick. Coughing and coughing. I have to say it is at moments like these that I wish I had someone to take care of me.  It might sound crazy to miss my Mother when I’m about to turn 35 but doesn’t everyone miss their mothers from time to time?

I think it is more than that.  It is that sense of someone having your back and taking care of you when you are unwell.  Most of us as adults, married or single, don’t have that.  It is probably the part of childhood we all miss the most.

It makes sense when you think about it because we are taught to be independent and strong but when we are sick that facade is gone and we are back to being needy and in pain.  Plus, I am usually very tired and worn out when I am sick.

calvin and hobbes sick2

I’m just grateful I don’t work in accounting any more so I can take the day off and get better.  In accounting it didn’t matter how sick I was.  I still had to work every day.

But I still do miss being taken care of.  On my mission I used to have these fantasies about my Mother taking care of me.  I was so tired and worn out the entire time that it was something I would dream about.  Ha! Not that much has changed.

Can anyone relate to what I am talking about?  Do you ever as an adult wish you could get taken care of?

 

Friday 5: My Theme Songs

So this week on the Friday 5 the topic was surprisingly tricky.  Sara asked us to pick 5 songs that could be our theme song.  That might sound easy but I really struggled because a lot of songs I love didn’t really have that feeling of describing me and some felt too on the nose and uncreative.  I can’t say I’m 100% happy with my picks but I did the best I could.

What would be your theme song?

Teaser Tuesdays: A Year of Magical Thinking

This week’s Teaser Tuesdays is a book I had to re-read for book club and I must own it is not a favorite of mine.  I thought I might like it better on the reread but still find it more of a clinical exercise than actual prose. It is Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking.  Let’s just say I could use with less of Joan’s magic…

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

year of magical thinking

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page.
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

I listened to The Year of Magical Thinking and am nearly finished.  My quote is from 3 hr 36 min in :

“When the twilights got long in June I forced myself to eat dinner in the living room where the light was.  After John died I had begun eating by myself in the kitchen. The dining room was too big and the table in the living room was where he had died but when the long twilights came I had a strong sense that he would want me to see the light

I guess there could be some magic in where Joan eats but this quote is emblematic of the blandness of Joan’s insight.  It’s the kind of book that you feel bad for not liking because it clearly meant so much for her to write, but it just didn’t do it for me on this read through or last.

Every journal does not make a good book and that’s essentially what Joan has done.  It feels like her therapist told her to write out her thoughts on the death of her husband and coma of her daughter and she published it.  It seems like she is working out these experiences but not in a compelling way, at least for me.  It’s just I went here, dreamed about this, and look at this study  I found…  There’s a lot of stats and quotes about grieving and typical human responses to things which made it feel oddly detatched from a human response. Joan often felt robotic instead of a mother and wife.  It felt very clinical like something you’d tell a therapist.
I kind of think of it like several books about addiction I’ve read.  Overcoming addiction is one of the hardest things anyone can do. I’ve seen it ravage and take the lives of 2 of my cousins.  However, as narratives go, addiction isn’t a gripping topic for most books.  It’s such a self-contained, even selfish time and to a reader it can feel like wallowing in problems rather than surmounting them.  That’s kind of how Joan’s book feels.  What should be dramatic and moving feels flat, lifeless and boring.
Again, I feel bad criticizing a heartfelt book, but I have enough issues in my life without slogging through the nuts and bolts of Joan’s problems.  It’s all too safe.  Too clinical and not enough of a story for a compelling read. I certainly didn’t find any magic in Joan’s journey.  Sorry… I wish her all the best though and hopefully she eventually has some happiness in her life.
It will be interesting to see what people at book club think.  I know at least several have found it to be rough going.   Have you read it? What did you think?  It won National Book Award so clearly others found it moving.  Just not me.

700 Subscribers Q and A Request

I have exciting news!  Over on my youtube channel I am almost at 700 subscribers.  To commemorate that number I thought I would finally do a good old fashioned Q and A.  Of  course, I naturally wanted to include all of you, my loyal blog readers.  Although, there isn’t much you don’t know about me!  Still, ask me anything.  Ask me about movies, music, swimming, faith, work, books, whatever you like.  I will do my best to answer whatever you throw at me.

You can put your question in the comments section on this post, the video or email me at smilingldsgirl@yahoo.com.  I look forward to chatting with all of you and seeing what you come up with.

Thanks!

Friday 5: Songs about Winter

Happy Winter guys!  Today it has been snowing most of the day and it looks like it is going to be a white winter.  It has been one of the biggest snowfalls this season that I remember in Utah for quite some time.  Luckily I don’t have to drive in it so it isn’t too stressful for me. For all of you out in it please be safe and take your time on the roads!

Well, just in time for winter weather Sara assigned us to pick ‘5 Songs that Remind You of Winter’ for the Friday 5.  This was a little tough because I didn’t want to pick holiday songs.

One song I ended up with is technically on a holiday album but isn’t really a holiday song.  One song is from a broadway musical based on the amazing documentary Grey Gardens.

Another is the great Nora Jones singing about a cold cold heart.  And finally the last is a stretch to be about winter but is Amos Lee’s Colors and I feel it captures the gray lack of color we get here in Utah during the summer.  ‘The color seems to fade” is a line from the chorus.

Let me know what you think of my picks and what songs remind you of Winter:

Speaking of Winter I also just posted on my movie blog my review of the very cold movie, The Revenant.  It is not for everyone so if you were thinking of seeing it check out the review.

http://54disneyreviews.com/2016/01/08/the-revenant-review/

Have you caught any movies recently?  January is usually a tough month.  Have you been doing anything else that is fun?  I’ve been missing my nieces something fierce but trying to stay busy as best as I can.

I hope you are all well.  Sure love ya!