Month: January 2017

Disney Canon Project Finished!

Hey guys! I just wanted to quickly share something with you. Last week I finished my 56 week project of reviewing the Disney Canon on my youtube channel. I’m really proud of each of these videos and it was interesting to see how some opinions changed on rewatch:

Give the videos a watch and I would love to have your feedback.  Thanks!

Winners- 1/28/2017

I thought I would start a new weekly series on this blog where I profile a few things that I feel positive about for the week. This could be TV, movies, books, food, whatever that has made me happy. There is so much negativity right now that it seemed like a good idea. So here goes:

  1. STEP- At Sundance film festival I saw the amazing documentary about a group of high school students who step dance, trying to make it out of inner-city. It was life affirming and inspiring. I can’t wait until the rest of you get to see it. Put it on your radar now. step
  2. Hacksaw Ridge- I was thrilled to see Hacksaw Ridge getting so much Oscar love. The filmmaker may have serious flaws but the movie was powerful. What I loved most about it was it’s not a person following their church. It’s a man who makes an individual covenant with God and then keeps to it until he cashes in all that faith for ‘one more Lord’.  A personal covenant is much harder to keep than something dictated by a church. I was so inspired by it and I’m glad the academy treated it like a movie not its filmmaker. Very violent though

3. Chocolate Covered Grapes- I was introduced to the delight that is chocolate covered grapes. I know it sounds weird but I’m telling you it makes you forget chocolate covered strawberries ever exited. The way the fruit pops in your mouth with the creamy chocolate is so delicious! I want more right now!

grapes24. School Choice Week- This week was National School Choice Week and it has been inspiring to read of the way school options and reform are changing lives. I am so excited we may have a real reformer/school choice advocates leading education. It is so needed.

5. Mary Tyler Moore- RIP Mary Tyler Moore.  I have been rewatching episodes of her show and it still holds up. I have all 7 seasons and they are so funny. They never sacrificed the gag for social commentary. The joke was always there and I love it.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it.

mary-tyler-moore

As far as losers this week it poorly ran ticket distribution at Sundance, driving way too much, and Martin Scorsese’s Silence which I absolutely hated.

I Am Not a Feminist

Male equals femaleWhen I was in college I believed myself to be a feminist! I took classes on the political economy of women and felt emboldened by classic feminist authors like Betty Friedan. The idea of inequality of the sexes was shocking to me and things like domestic abuse and female circumcision needed to be changed. However, as I have gotten older I realize more and more that I can not call myself a feminist by most modern definitions. It actually makes me kind of sad. The idealist college student in me would like to hold on to that label but I cannot.

The biggest reason I have moved away from feminism is I used to believe it was a more flexible word than it actually is. I realize many women have their own definitions of feminism and what it means to be a feminist but what matters to me is what it politically and socially means. For example, I used to believe you could be pro-life and be a feminist, but that really isn’t the case any more. This was made abundantly clear in the recent Women’s March where pro-life groups were not only turned away as sponsors but actively reviled by March leadership as being “anti-choice” and not being pro-woman. Never mind the myriad of issues we could agree on in a ‘women’s march’, acceptance of abortion was required to be a part of this expression of the feminist movement.

Sure there were some pro-life marchers who I admire very much and many women who didn’t realize the agenda of the deceptively titled march but it doesn’t change the fact that to be a female advocate or feminist required the acceptance of abortion. That blows my mind because in my mind I’m the one actually standing up for females- the female unborn. To me being pro-life is the greatest act of feminism you could possibly support! And people bring up the other health procedures Planned Parenthood does for women as an argument against pro-life advocacy? How about we have other community sources for those services outside of the largest abortion provider in the nation? That would be pro-woman.

Anyway, there are lots of other examples of positions that have become requisite to accept in order to join in the modern feminist movement. But it is not just about positions that I cannot call myself a feminist.  The other reason is because the movement only supports a particular type of woman. If feminism were really about supporting women and female empowerment than it would celebrate the achievements of all women not just left-leaning women. Unfortunately this is almost never the case.

Just as an example, today Nikki Haley was confirmed as UN Ambassador after serving well as South Carolina governor. Will you hear praise of her nomination and success by feminist causes? Of course not because she is Republican and a nominee of Donald Trump. You see this across the board with conservative women even moderates like Susan Collins from Maine. They cannot buy into the complete liberal feminist agenda therefore their accomplishments are not praised by NOW or other organizations supposedly advocating for women. Certainly if someone like Nikki Haley, Condoleezza Rice or Susan Collins aren’t considered feminist than I am not.

I was disgusted on Inauguration night to hear people criticizing Karen Pence for her appearance. I thought she looked beautiful in her blue dress but these critiques were not about fashion. They were about tearing down a woman who’s husband they don’t like. That is not feminism to me. Even with Melania Trump, recently a supposed feminist Chelsea Handler said she wouldn’t interview her because she “can barely speak English”. Um she actually speaks 6 languages you moron. Shouldn’t a real feminist be talking to women who have different points of view? Shouldn’t a real feminist not judge a woman based on the behavior and positions of her husband! Talk about 1950’s logic there!

Recently I heard some criticize Karen Pence for having a towel charm business before her husband became governor. What’s wrong with that? I guess that’s another thing we aren’t allowed to do in modern feminism? We should be supporting women who have small businesses but instead it is a point of derision. I hated Hillary Clinton’s policies, but I actually begged my friends on social media to listen to her and not judge her on her wardrobe. Why do conservative women never seem to get such respect?

The truth is if you are not willing to accept the radical agenda of the left than you are not a feminist today; therefore, I am not a feminist. It’s as simple as that. I believe in women and that they should be treated equally to men. I’m all for equal pay and strict penalties for domestic abusers and rapists but I will never accept their positions. And I certainly am not interested in marching for them.

I am, however, interested in speaking with women of all points of view- something I do practically every day on my social media. There are times when I wonder if it is worth it particularly with certain liberal friends but I believe in the discussion and I believe in them.  I believe in learning from them and hopefully maybe they learn from me every now and then.

This discussion between women is what feminism should be. Unfortunately it has become a code word  for policies and ideas I cannot accept.

Make no mistake. I am pro-woman even the unborn woman, but I am not a feminist.

Friday 5: Songs that Remind Me of Books

This week I have a special episode of the music series I participate in called the Friday 5. The topic was supposed to be song parodies but I’m not really a fan so my friend and I came up with our own topic to talk about. Instead we picked 5 songs that remind us of books. I tried to stay away from soundtracks of movies based on the books because that would be too easy.  It was songs that I feel capture the essence of the book. It was a challenge but also a lot of fun.

The songs and books I chose are:

Ashokan’s Farewell to match with Little Women- I particularly think in the Beth scene this song would be perfect. It’s a song I would like played at my funeral and even though it is just classical music it makes me cry every time. Little Women is the first substatial novel I ever remember reading so it will always have a special place in my heart.

I’ll Follow You Into the Dark to match with The Book Thief- this beautiful song by Death Cab for Cutie captures the surreal feeling of the book and weird combination of despair and hope. The Book Thief is my favorite modern novel and I love the song also.

Kiss Me to go with the Undomestic Goddess- Sophie Kinsella books started out as a guilty pleasure and then I gave up the guilt and realized I just genuinely love them. This song by Six Pence None the Richer is kind of the same way. It’s a one hit wonder of sorts but I genuinely love it. Plus, it captures the light romance of the book and Kinsella’s writing. The Undomestic Goddess has its silliness but I really like what Kinsella has to say about work and balancing the modern with homemaking.

Swing Lo Sweet Chariot to go with To Kill a Mockingbird- Sung by Suzy Bogguss there is something about this song which fits To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a folk song that feels real with a mournful quality to it. I can picture it being sung as Atticus leaves the courtroom and all in the balcony stand in his honor.

Seven Years to go with North and South- Technically this song is about a little girl so perhaps it is an odd choice but there is something about the lyrics that reminds me of Margaret and John in this novel. The way their worlds open up to each other and they go from hating each other to understanding.

So there you have it!  Those are my 5 songs that remind me of books.  What about you? What songs remind you of your favorite books? Put in the comment section below.  Thanks!

Sherlock Season 4 Sucked

You could say I kind of hated Sherlock Season 4…

Reviewing All 56 Disney Animated Films And More!

sherlockWell, we have reached my Batman v Superman. You know how last year Batman fans were so disappointed with Zack Snyder’s latest film? Well, I’ve never been that big on Batman so I wasn’t that disappointed that it sucked. What I have always been is a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and as such I was eagerly anticipating season 4 of the BBC show Sherlock. Boy was I let down. Actually that’s not strong enough. Sherlock Season 4 sucked so bad I can hardly believe I sat through it.

I have been a big fan of Sherlock since way back in 2011 when it first aired in the US. I wrote about it on my other blog- https://smilingldsgirl.com/2011/01/14/sherlock/. I normally don’t like modern retellings of classic stories but this managed to keep true to the spirit of the Conan Doyle books and characters and so I fell in love with…

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My Top 15 Films of 2016

It’s finally here my friends! The moment you have all been waiting for. My top 15 best movies of 2016 list! Make sure you are following my movie blog for more post like these at http://54disneyreviews.com

Here is the youtube version:

You guys have no idea how much thought I have put into this list. I have moved films around and thought weighed the pros and cons countless times. It’s so hard because I like all of these movies for different reasons and how do I decide which reason is better than another? Well, I did the best I could. I must admit I am kind of proud of my list. I think it is thoroughly unique and represents me very well.

So let’s get started!

hidden-figures215. Hidden Figures- I love movies that make me want to cheer and this movie did that in droves. I loved how it chose to forgo the evil redneck violent racist and instead took on institutional racism which I think can be just as virulent and much harder to strike down. I loved all the performances and that it is PG so kids all over the world will know about these amazing women.

hell-or-high-water14. Hell or High Water- Basically a perfectly executed film about two brothers pushed to the edge and the officers who are following them. It has such a sense of place and feels very relevant to many issues we face today. I felt for the characters and was engrossed the entire time. Not my typical genre but it won me over any way.

10_cloverfield_lane13. 10 Cloverfield Lane- I don’t see that many thrillers/horror movies but this one blew me away. I loved how it kept surprising me. I really didn’t know where it was going or what was going to happen. I loved Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman in the leads and even the ending that others didn’t like I kind of dug. It’s one of the only times in recent years I had genuine fun at a horror movie.

presenting-princess-shaw-poster12. Presenting Princess Shaw- 2016 was an amazing year for documentaries and this was one of my favorites. As a youtuber, this story of Samantha from Atlanta who ends up as part of a video for an Israeli man named Kutiman meant a lot to me. It reminded me that this sometimes toxic medium can be a powerful tool to serve others and bond with strangers.

pete's dragon 811. Pete’s Dragon- Yes, I’m kind of ashamed of myself that this didn’t make my top 10 because I loved it so much. This is the kind of movie I want Disney to make. It was small, intimate with humongous heart. I can’t believe they pulled off the dragon on such a small budget. I loved the cast especially Oaks Begley as Pete. Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford were completely lovely. It reminded me of live action movies we used to get from Disney that weren’t afraid to be real and deep with kids. Now we get the next warmed over bland remake…

tower410. Tower- This documentary was new and fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It profiles a sniper standout at the University of Texas in 1966 but it uses animation to make the experience more rich and textured. The different characters were compelling with a variety of reactions and getting to see them in the real and animated forms was very absorbing. It amazed me how some had never really dealt with the incident after all these years making the documentary very raw.

zootopia poster29. Zootopia- I admit some of the criticisms of Zootopia had started to get to me and then I rewatched it and remembered how much I love it. Sure the metaphor has holes if you overthink it but it’s still powerful for children and the movie isn’t only the metaphor. There are lessons about never giving up, facing bullies, forgiveness and friendship. Mostly it is about not letting our fears dictate our behaviors. I love Judy as a character and the friendship between her and Nick is very heartfelt. The world building is amazing and it is so funny.

things-to-come8. Things to Come- This film has 100% on rotten tomatoes and there is a reason why- it’s amazing! Isabelle Huppert is incredible in this role of a woman who’s life goes completely upside down in every way possible. She’s devastated of course but it actually becomes this empowering experience for her. It’s a very fly on the wall kind of film without a strong plot but I loved it. Huppert is so great in the lead role and the writing is honest and powerful. It’s the only time I have felt moved to tears by the speech of an agnostic explaining her views on life.

red-turtle107. The Red Turtle- A combined project between director Michael Dudok De Wit and Studio Ghibli is one of the most stunning films I saw all year. With no dialogue, The Red Turtle manages to tell a stirring story about fate, love and how nature sometimes knows best. The animation is awe inspiring and the music is the best of 2016.

lion6. Lion- This is how you do a true story right. I loved everything about this movie. The child actor is incredible and I felt his chaos, joy and fears as he carries the first hour of the movie. Then Dev Patel comes in and does a great job showing the highs and challenges of adoption. Nicole Kidman was fantastic as his mother and the cinematography and music were so well done.

love and friendship35. Love and Friendship- This movie gave me a new Jane Austen book. How can I not love it for that reason alone but it’s not just that. It’s super funny and has an energy and pizazz to it the other Austen adaptations (as much as I love them) don’t. Lady Susan is kind of an anti-hero who’s self-interest ends up being to everyone’s benefit in the end. The dialogue is hilarious as well as the costume, product design and everything else. I love it more each time I watch it.

moana144. Moana- I can hear the shocks now. I am sure most thought this would be my top pick. I really do love it so much. I love Moana as a character. I love how unselfish her quest is. I love the animation, music, humor, and characters. I love that it focuses on Polynesia, which has my heart. I really don’t have any big flaws with it. I just felt my top 3 were a little more unique than this but I LOVE Moana!

hacksaw_ridge_poster3. Hacksaw Ridge- Moana entertained me. Hacksaw Ridge made me want to be a better person. Yes it is super violent but it’s a rare case where the violence actually made it a better movie. I love that Desmond’s abstaining from war is not dictated by his faith but is a personal covenant between him and God. It reminded me of Daniel and the Lions Den. Sure he could pretend and play along, just hold the gun, but that wouldn’t be true to his promise to God. So, when he cashes in that faith with his pleas for ‘One more Lord’ it blew my mind. It made me want to go out and be more faithful and serve others more.

sing-street2. Sing Street- This movie is like joy in movie form. I watch it over and over again. I love everything about it. I love the relationship between the brothers and their dialogue. I love the romance and how they make each other better. I love the music and the payoff concert. It’s a movie I could watch 100 times and never tire of.

your-name31. Your Name- I thought long and hard about it and I believe Your Name is the best movie I saw in 2016. It’s so original, stunning and emotional. It starts off as a fun body swap movie and then a friendship grows which is challenged when a complication is introduced. Then it takes on a sci-fi element that was surprising and I had no idea what was going to happen without being too twist dependent. I loved the characters and what they learn from each other. The animation is stunning and the music (both score and songs) are perfect. It’s a movie that each time I watch I see layers I had missed the first time. It’s stunning and my favorite movie of 2016!

So there you have it! What did you think of my list? How does it match up with your list and what are your favorites of 2016?

And if you were wondering my 16-20 are

16. Kubo and the Two Strings

17. Queen of Katwe

18. Midnight Special

19. Kung fu Panda 3

20. Manchester by the Sea

If you are wondering I will see My Life as a Zucchini next week at Sundance and then I will do my 2016 animation ranking.

Now on to 2017!

Fences: Stage vs Screen

fences

Last month a movie called Fences came out starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This naturally caught my attention and then I realized it was based on a pulitzer prize winning play of same name by August Wilson written in 1983 and I got more excited.

Then I found out that Pioneer Theater Company here in Utah was doing a production of the play at the same time the movie was released. So I thought it would be fun to see both the play and movie and compare/contrast them.

I was going to do a video analysis but the truth is they ended up being so similar I didn’t have much to go off of.  Nevertheless, let me profile both as there is still plenty of time to see both if you are interested.

Fences Summary- Before I go into both versions let me give a quick plot summary. Fences is about a black man named Troy in the 1950s. He has a wife named Rose and 2 sons- one from his relationship with Rose who is high school athlete named Corey and another who is a vagrant musician. Troy resents pretty much everything about his life. He believes he was robbed of being a professional baseball player because he was black and so everything has become about duty and obligations to him. The story goes over the course of 6 or 7 years as Troy makes selfish choices that impact his marriage and family. The whole time he is building a fence that is an analogy to his building fences on the inside and his attempts to scare away death.

Pioneer Theater Company Play-

fences-playThe Pioneer Theater Company’s production of Fences stars Michael Anthony Williams as Troy. He originally played the part of Troy’s friend Bono in the original broadway production, and he is up for the task here. My only qualm with him is I don’t know if he is physically imposing enough for the role. He doesn’t seem like an ex-athlete and for what a beast he becomes there is something that always feels a little slight about his appearance.

fences-play2The part of Rose is played by Gayle Samuels and she is very good. I don’t know if she is quite Viola Davis good but who is? I kind of wish the play gave a bit more time to Rose.  There are a couple of dialogue sections between Troy and his buddy or son that I think could be swapped out for more time with Rose. She is the one who has to adapt and forgive the most so I kind of wish I saw more of her.

JJ Jeter plays the son Corey and he is fine in the role. There is a final scene between Corey and Rose that he pulls off quite well as he is struggling to forgive his father and fighting off the amount of his father he sees in himself.

fences-play4Fences is a very intimate experience as a play. There are only 6 actors in the cast and the set is the front of house with a yard and tree. It never changes aside from the ever-growing fence. At Pioneer Theater Company it looks convincingly like a real house with a kitchen inside you can see through the door. I also thought the tree looked very realistic.

The play in comparison to the movie feels a bit brisker and maybe that is just because I saw it second so I knew what was coming? I’m not sure because they are nearly identical in content.

If you take kids to this play be forewarned they do use the ‘n word’ and there are mature topics like infidelity discussed.

Overall, Pioneer Theater Company did a great job with their production of Fences. Aside from wishing August Wilson had given us more Rose and feeling Williams was a little slight for the role of Troy I have nothing else to really say about it. PTC could keep the prices down a little bit as $44 is pretty expensive. Also the people next to me had clearly never been to a play before and were acting like it was a sports game. Ugh…

But if you live in Utah I recommend checking out Fences at Pioneer Theater Company

Fences Movie-

fences-movieI don’t know if I have ever seen a more faithful stage to screen adaptation than the recent film version of Fences. Pretty much the only difference is they can have a few more sets as opposed to the constant house-front of the play. They on occasion actually go in the house in the movie!

Other than that, they are exactly the same. The dialogue is exactly the same in the same spots with the same characters. At least to my eyes they were.

So it comes down to the cast. Denzel Washington plays Troy and he is more believable than Williams as the bitter ex-athlete. He feels intimidating and I think part of that may be the ability of film to get up close and personal with a character that you can’t in a stage play.

fences-movie2Jovan Adepo isn’t that great as his son but in a way that works because it makes Troy seem all the more dominating and controlling. I mean this kid doesn’t stand a chance against his Dad! If you watch this clip I think you will agree Denzel owns this kid actor.

fences-movie35Viola Davis is amazing in the role. Even though I still wish August Wilson had written more dialogue for Rose, Viola makes the scenes she does have so powerful. It feels like Rose is in more than she actually is and has more dialogue than she actually does.  A particular scene between Rose and Troy where she says “I’ve been standing right here with you” is unforgettable.

The rest of the supporting cast is all good and feels like they know the parts from a Broadway production. I particularly liked Troy and his friend Bono played by Stephen McKinley Henderson. They had nice chemistry together.

fences-movie3For some people it will be a little bit tough to sit through a movie that feels like a play. There’s something about the way dialogue is done in a play that can be an adjustment for a movie and that won’t be for everyone.

The story of Fences is pretty simple and will be depressing for many but the true gravitas comes from the performances. I think it is worth seeing just for Viola Davis alone who puts on an acting class. The fact she will be beat out at the Oscars by Emma Stone or Natalie Portman makes me kind of sick. Sigh…

So I recommend Fences but I suppose just know what you are getting into when you get your ticket. It’s basically a play on the big screen but a good one at that with great performances.

I’m curious after reading those 2 summaries/reviews which experience sounds the most appealing to you?  Which would you like to attend? If any of you in Utah get to see both let me know what your thoughts are. As there are many wonderful theaters here in Utah I hope to do more of these compare/contrasts in 2017. Hopefully most of them will be a little more different than these versions of Fences but I enjoyed seeing both.