Category: arts and entertainment

Modern Media and the Paradox of Choice

Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘the paradox of choice’?  This is the idea that choice is not always a freeing experience but quite the reverse. That an abundance of choices can lead to unhappiness, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

It seems kind of counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t choice be a liberating thing? But it makes sense when you think about it. For example, if I have one restaurant to eat at then I will be happy with said restaurant. When I have 15 restaurants then what was once pleasurable for me at the lone restaurant may be gross in comparison. Plus, now I have the anxiety and frustration of picking out a restaurant when before I went and made it work.

I was thinking about this particularly in terms of media. Never in history of time has there been so many options for entertainment. It is quite overwhelming.

I couldn’t find the exact number but I believe around 700 films are currently released each year. That is triple what we had in the 80s and 90s.

Just think about animated films alone:

By my counts we had 35 animated films both indie and main studio released in 2016. In contrast, 1984 had 0 animated releases. Can you imagine that? A whole year without an animated film? Now we get 2 or 3 a month.

Because of the scarcity of options we would see a very flawed movie like Oliver and Company and have a good time with it. It felt more special because it kind of was. I think you could say the same thing for a movie like Space Jam. It’s not a very good movie but it was an animated comedy and we didn’t get many of those.

Compare the experience of Oliver and Company with the recent release of Smurfs: the Lost Village. I liked the film but it did not do well at the box office. Critics were pretty harsh on it and audiences weren’t drawn to it. Imagine if that was the only animated film of the year? People would have went to it and enjoyed it.

But on the other hand, a plethora of options can be a great thing. To use 2016 as an example we got so much great animation. I had 9 animated films in my top 25 of the year and they all deserved their spot. In one year I was treated to Zootopia, Moana, Your Name, The Red Turtle, Kubo and the Two Strings and more.

On the other hand, I can’t help but compare my experience as a little girl watching Little Mermaid and obsessing about it for 3 years hard core. Kids don’t do that as much now because the next movie has come in the next month and they’ve moved on. It seems like movies like Zootopia and Moana aren’t as special as they would have been in the 90s. Not because they aren’t great films, because they are, but because we simply have so many other options.

It is even worse with TV where the options are endless. Literally every day I hear about a new show I have to see. At least with movies I can pump it out in 2 hours where a TV show requires so much investment. A side of me misses the day when there were 10 channels and you found something to entertain you on that channel.  Now we have the networks, premium channels, streaming and even online providers and youtubers.

I end up having to narrow my focus and watch animation and period pieces as top priority. Then I have innocuous comedies and food shows as my unwind. But I would love to watch Dr Who, Avatar, Legend of Kora, Steven Universe, and a million other shows. I’ve been wanting to watch the original Star Trek for forever but I’ve only seen a few episodes (which were brilliant). Even for someone like me with a flexible schedule there just isn’t enough hours in the day!

Dr Barry Schwartz says about the paradox of choice:

“Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

He then talks about how having a choice can make our eventual decision less satisfying:

“Schwartz finds that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity’s potential….afterwards, it affects the level of satisfaction we experience from our decision.”

I feel like this is true with so many aspects of modern life. Even many deciding their major can be super overwhelming when back in my grandma’s day you just picked bachelor of arts or science and went on your merry way. Maybe there is something to that?

What do you think? Do we almost have too many choices these days and do you find it overwhelming? How do you decide what shows to watch and movies to see? Have you felt this paradox of choice with media or other part of your life? I would love to discuss it!

Winners 2/27/17

Today is the next entry in my series expressing positivity about the world around me. We are talking winners for the last week! I hope you guys had a good week. It has been busy for me but great as well.

Best Picture Nominees

wp-1488244788878.jpgI ended up rewatching a lot of the Oscar films last week including a bunch in the theater including Arrival, Manchester by the Sea and Lion. Some call it Oscar bait but I loved Lion. I thought it was a beautiful story, about ordinary people that was stunningly shot and acted.  Everyone should see it. Arrival was better for me on the rewatch although still one of my least favorite of the nominees. I felt it should have been bigger, showing us more of the pods when instead it was very small, focusing on just one person’s experience. But it is still a good film and I appreciate how bold it was.

Many of these films are R rated so they won’t be for everyone but if you feel you can tolerate the content give them a watch. I have reviews for most of them on my blog at http://54disneyreviews.com.

Producers Behind La La Land and Moonlight

oscar-upsetSo last night at the Oscars the wrong envelope was given and the wrong film was named as the winner.  The producers behind La La Land gave their speeches and then found out they didn’t win and that Moonlight won. It was a chaotic, brutal moment but I give a lot of credit to both groups of artists behind the films for how they handled it. It’s got to be tough to have an Oscar in your hand, be giving the most important speech in your life and then find out oops I didn’t win. And then it has to be hard to accept the award on the part of Moonlight and take the statue away from the La La Land folks. Either way they handled it beautifully and are both winners in my book.

Moonlight

moonlightSpeaking of Moonlight- congrats on winning best picture. I feel bummed that their tremendous accomplishment is being outshadowed by this botched ending. Moonlight won’t be for everyone who reads this blog but I was moved by it. The great thing about film is when it can allow you to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a couple of hours and see the world through their point of view. Moonlight is about a gay young man growing up in inner-city America but it is not a gay messaging movie. It’s just about this person’s life.

Chiron is played by 3 different actors and they each show a unique segment of his life. I thought they tied in beautifully together and particularly the second act was completely devastating. The third act didn’t work quite as well for me because I didn’t buy the two men in the story would reunite the way they did. It took something very realistic into a bit of melodrama for me that I didn’t think quite worked. But it still is a very strong film that I recommend. The score is also one of the best of the year and it is so well written and directed by Barry Jenkins.

Winder Dairy-

winder-dairy

My last winner for the week is Winder Dairy. Through their service I am able to get milk delivered each week direct to my door. And it’s not just any milk but delicious milk. My brother says it is the best milk he’s ever had. Plus, they have a lot of other groceries you can get and just start a new meal delivery service much like Blue Apron.  You should definitely check out the services of Winder Dairy and use link to sign up.

So that’s it for this week. What are some of your winners for the week and what did you think of the Oscars?

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!

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.