Category Archives: Movies

Come Dance With Me ‘Cause Now We’re Free

Recently I was treated to a viewing of Mirror Mirror, otherwise known as that other Snow White movie that came out earlier this year. I had wanted to see it at the cinema because not only do I study (and adore) fairy tales, but I’ve also been a fan of director Tarsem Singh’s incredibly lush and detailed style of filmmaking since The CellThe Fall has been, in my opinion, his undisputed masterpiece, but no matter how colourful and vibrant his visuals are, his films all have a dark undertone to them. That actually works well in fairy tales, as the original stories were far more gruesome than the Disney concoctions that we know today. The Grimm Brothers brought fairy tales into the nursery, but before that they were lewd fables of bloodlust, sex, and death, told (or even enacted) as amusement for adults. However, the previews for Mirror Mirror alluded to a film geared for the younger set, rampant with childish physical humor and dwarf jokes. Because of this, I wasn’t terribly fussed when I became too busy to make it to the cinema when it came out.

In retrospect I wish that I had taken the time to see Mirror Mirror instead of Snow White & The Huntsman, as the former is far, far, far superior to the latter. Mirror Mirror was rife with the Tarsem visuals that I was craving, but it also had elements of darkness and as well as deep magic. Gone were the childish jabs seen in the previews, and what remained was an enthralling and endearing film that would be tame enough for children but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable for adults. The funny parts were actually funny, the beautiful parts were stunning, and the overall feel of the film was warm and wonderful despite the fact that most of the story takes place in a downfall of snow. I was so enamored of this version of Snow White that I decided to share the Bollywood-inspired song from the film, “I Believe In Love,” sung by Snow White herself, Lily Collins.

If fairy tales continue to remain in vogue (fingers crossed!) and directors make more versions as gorgeous as Mirror Mirror, then I’ll be certain not to miss any future outings to the cinema for them.


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A Chorus So Sublime: Summer 2012 Movie Soundtracks

Summer is upon us, and one of the best parts of summer, in my opinion, is getting to spend a hot afternoon in an air-conditioned theater watching a summer movie. What always makes those movies even better are the killer soundtracks. I spent last weekend catching up on my summer flicks, and I have to say, already we have some excellent music to fill our ears with thanks to the current crop of blockbusters at the cinema.

For instance, Snow White and the Huntsman, which was nowhere near as good as I had hoped it would be, still proved to have some merit once the credits rolled.  (It had such promise at the beginning thanks to Charlize Theron’s awesomely evil Queen performance, then it just devolved into Chris Hemsworth’s strange muddled accent with Kristen Stewart flitting around the woods as some sort of fairy Jesus.) Despite being fairly bored and disappointed with the film as a whole, Florence + The Machine’s dramatic closing song, “Breath of Life,” was almost good enough to make me not feel cheated out of a movie ticket.

Luckily other movies have far exceeded my expectations, such as Pixar’s Scottish fairy tale Brave. The film was funny, moving, and incredibly lush, and what made it even better was the sweeping score by Patrick Doyle. The bagpipes, strings, and drums do a fitting service to both the story as well as Scotland, and “Touch the Sky” by Julie Fowlis is genuinely grand and uplifting. You can almost feel the highland winds in your face when you listen to this ebullient tune. It’s a fitting theme for a modern yet timeless heroine such as Merida.

Of course, what summer could be complete without a vampire movie? Some are good, some are bad, others are terrible, but luckily Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was every ounce as epic as I had hoped. (What do you get when you take one of the most awesome American presidents and add vampires to the mix? One hour and forty-five minutes of solid badass entertainment, that’s what.) The Linkin Park song “Powerless,” which is played over the credits, is decent, but lately I’m obsessing over Henry Jackman’s score, especially the tune “The Rampant Hunter.” If this music doesn’t put you in the mood to take up an axe and right the wrongs of the world yourself (or at the very least walk in slow motion while looking cool) then I don’t know what will.

It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over, but luckily July’s fresh crop of summer films is just around the corner. Let’s hope that Batman and Spider-Man prove good musical company by adding to the worthy summer soundtracks of 2012.

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I Left My Childhood In The Garden Green

Yesterday I finally made it out to the cinema in order to watch The Secret World of Arrietty. It was really just…breathtaking. Something about that film completely captured my heart. I wrote about it in great detail over on Otaku Haiku, where I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about the beautiful soundtrack, which caught my attention as soon as the film opened. To quote myself:

…the music is stunning. The entire soundtrack is by Celtic musician Cecile Corbel, and while a Japanese film with a Celtic soundtrack doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be a good fit, it’s actually incredible. The vocals are lovely and lilting, and the harp makes the natural setting come alive, especially in the rain scenes where every pluck of the strings mimics a drop of water on the leaves. As a longtime lover of Celtic music, I know that the genre can get a little heavy at times, hearkening back to those 90s Pure Moods compilation CDs. However, the soundtrack to Arrietty is as far from the Celtic clichés as night and day. It would be a gorgeous album on its own, but paired with the film it perfectly enhances this Western tale in an Eastern setting.

I bought the album as soon as I left the cinema, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since. The delicate harp and gentle vocals are the most prevalent, but the dancing flute that recalls wind and the soft beating of the bodhrán as footsteps all play a part in making the woodland setting of Arrietty come alive in a really astonishing way. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to already be a lover of Celtic music to enjoy this album, but take a listen* to the opening song, “The Neglected Garden,” and decide what you think. Music this lovely that plucks at the heartstrings speaks for itself.

*SPOILER ALERT: This fan-made video, while excellent, shows many scenes from the film The Secret of Arrietty, including almost the entire end of the movie. Watch at your own risk.

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The Lovers, The Dreamers, And Me

Due to NaNoWriMo I got behind on my trips to the cinema, but last weekend I finally made it out to see my first film of 2012, The Muppets. I was so glad that I took the time to see it in the theatre, because it brought back so many great memories of being young and loving Kermit, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy. Yet thanks to the numerous star cameos and song numbers, it was the same Muppets that we all know and love, but updated for a modern 2012 audience. They even included a fresh version of the classic Kermit ballad “The Rainbow Connection,” which was originally from the first Muppet film, The Muppet Movie.

I’d forgotten how poignant and amazing this song is until I saw it performed again in the movie. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1979, which was also the year that I was born, so I have literally had the Muppets in my life throughout my entire life. The most recent Muppet movie made me think yet again about how much I miss Jim Henson. His creative, innovative, and distinctive work plays a role in every film and television show that was wonderful from my childhood.

From Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to two movies that remain in my top ten films of all time, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, his stories and creatures remind me of everything awe-inspiring that I, as an adult writer, try to recreate in my work today. I try to write stories that are inclusive of everyone, and magical, and innocent, and full of wonder. Tall order, I know, but that’s what Jim did, and if I can manage to impart to the world even a fourth of what Henson instilled in my own life, I’ll consider myself a blazing success. Listening to “The Rainbow Connection” is the same feeling I get when I pet my cats, or hang out with my dad, or visit Disney World with my family: those hopeful, joyous times.

Anime gives me some of that magic, as do many of the musical artists that I’ve found over the years. But I’ll always come back to Jim Henson whenever I need to remember what it is that I’m doing and what message I’m trying to share with the world. Jim Henson read my heart, and the best way that I know how to honor his visionary art is to share my heart with the world.

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The Closing Of The Year

Hello again, little earbuds. I hope that you’re having/have had a lovely holiday season. I wish that I had something more profound to say at the close of the year, but if you’re looking for something like that, try The Procrastinator’s Project Journal. I was feeling more thoughtful when I last updated that one. Right now I’m just enjoying my Christmas presents and looking forward to spending the weekend with my family, which is even better, in my opinion! So today is a flashback video entry, and one that I think is very appropriate for the last week of 2011.

Toys was such an odd little movie that it really stuck out in my mind, and I have very vivid recollections of watching it when I was a child. I don’t even remember what possessed me to purchase the soundtrack, but I did, and I listened to it over and over and over again. Truth be told, the movie freaked me out a bit and made me sad, but the soundtrack was completely enchanting. I have found the music to hold up well over the years, and every now and then I just get a hankering to listen to the Grace Jones, Thomas Dolby, or Enya tracks. But this song, “The Closing of the Year,” by Lisa & Wendy, captivated me from the very first time that I heard it. In thinking back, it might have been the catalyst for me purchasing the soundtrack.

Just now as I listen to the song for this entry, the part when all the instruments kick in and the voices sing, “aaaaaaaAAAAAAAA” literally makes me feel like someone just poured warm water inside my chest, and it trickles down throughout my torso. I began singing along and was amazed that even though I haven’t listened to this song in several years, I remember all of the words. It just made that much of an impact on me. When I looked it up on YouTube, I didn’t even know there was an official music video for it! Wendy and Lisa are rockin’ their early 90s hair and leather pants amidst those creepy toys. And Seal has a cameo! And he’s wearing a feather-plumed top hat! This video, and this song, are all kinds of wonderful, especially for the way it makes me feel perfectly, completely happy.

And so I wish you a joyful closing of the year, little earbuds! May the new year shine brightly for us all.

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Musical Grab Bag: Strange As Angels

Hello again in real-time, little earbuds! I’m back after a grueling month of NaNoWriMo-ing. (If you want more details on that experience, check out The Procrastinator’s Project Journal.) Now that I’m back to my beloved blogging, I had intended for the first order of business to be writing up a review of the Pixies concert I attended last month. However, this past week has been just as busy, if not more so, than any given week in November (as evidenced by my late-night updates since December 1st). And so today I decided to start a wee fun tradition that I like to call “Musical Grab Bag.” The rules are simple: go to your iTunes or other form of musical library. Hit “shuffle.” The first 5-star rated song that comes up is the winner, and the one to get a spotlight on ye olde blog!

To be fair, I had to do this a few times to find something. The first couple of 5-stars I wasn’t feeling, then there was one I’d written about before (I think), then one video that I couldn’t get to play outside of YouTube. But I’m pleased as punch about the selection that eventually came up. As I’ve said before, you just can’t go wrong with The Cure, you really, absolutely can’t. And this video is one of my all-time favs. The purple sky, the boys in black playing their hearts out on the edge of a cliff, the dance with the ghostly maiden under the moonlight… it’s typical Cure, and completely wonderful. Besides that, the song is one that always lifts my heart and makes me want to dance around (though preferably not on the edge of a cliff… then again, for Robert, I just might).

This song is also used to great effect in the excellent road trip movie Gypsy 83 (a movie that I’ve been trying to get all of my Goth friends to watch for years). If you care to forward the video to the 7:40 mark, you’ll get to see Gypsy and Clive, two road trippin’ Goths, give an Amish guy a makeover in a graveyard set to The Cure. Yeah, this movie is that awesome.

Tune in next week when I’ll finally/hopefully have a review of the Pixies in concert, complete with pictures!

Editor’s Note: Okay, so apparently I can’t get the “Just Like Heaven” video to play outside of YouTube, either. Fine, corporate music monkeys, you win. This round.

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I Might Like You Better If We Ate Together: Fat Girls On Film

Get ready for a tidbit of pop culture blogging this week, little earbuds!

Women eating on-screen is my personal version of fan service. My favourite scene in any given movie usually takes place in a diner, with people just talking esoterically while eating waffles. In particular I love to see women eat on film, because it seems like such a taboo. Women can’t eat on-screen! Eating implies satisfaction and taking care of oneself and even, gasp, enjoying oneself. But this can’t be! Women are supposed to either be the eternal caretakers, always putting someone else’s needs before our own, or they’re supposed to be neurotic and unhappy basket cases in constant search of fulfillment. But no worries, by the time the final credits roll, she’s usually found that fulfillment via becoming a caretaker (be it of a romantic relationship or of children or both).

That’s why I love to see women eating. Not in any fetishistic sort of way, mind; I just like to see women enjoying themselves and having realistic characteristics (as opposed to what rom-com screenwriters assign to us; for example, I hate shoe shopping, despite what pop culture aimed at females would lead you to believe). I’ll admit, part of my love affair with Gilmore Girls (besides their completely unbelievable “friendly-quirky town” setting) is the junk food addiction of the two female leads. Sure, they still remain rail-thin, but I’m not fussed about that part. I’ve known real women who eat the junkiest junk food available and still retain a naturally thin body frame. Plus, the Hollywood machine is steeped in sexist stereotypes of all sorts, and you can’t expect it to change overnight (especially when sexism is still completely acceptable in society at large). So if I have to get my fill of women eating pie and french fries in the form of two socially acceptably “beautiful” women (i.e. white, middle class, heterosexual, and thin) well, I’ll take what I can get. For now.

And at least the character of Sookie was prevalent. Viva la fat* best friend! Yet even though Sookie was a skilled chef, we hardly ever got to see her enjoying the fruits of her labors. Why can’t we see fat women eat on-screen? We’ve broken down enough barriers to show thin women eating, but not fat women. Or have we? Lauren Zizes on Glee was not shy about demanding edible treats from her romantic suitor, and the Valentine’s Day episode that aired earlier this year even showed her relishing in a box of chocolates. It was totally badass. And yet, there was still an air of the humorous about it: look at the attractive jock who has a crush on the fat girl! That’s crazy! That would never happen in real life! Except that it does. Thin/muscular men find fat women attractive every day, just as thin/muscular women find fat men attractive every day, and thin women find fat women attractive, and thin men find fat men attractive, and so on and so forth. Romantic interest isn’t as segregated as Hollywood seems to think.

Lauren Zizes, it appears, is no longer a part of the Glee equation. She was there for a refreshing moment of truly awesome television, then she was conveniently whisked away at the opening of the current season. Boo. But there’s still Mike & Molly! Which relies on the stale equation of fat = funny. Okay, so what about Drop Dead Diva? Now here is a true conundrum of a show. It airs on Lifetime, aka “Television for Women” (aka here’s another frightening made-for-TV movie about a woman in peril: women, stay in your homes and care for your children, it’s a scary world out there!). Drop Dead Diva has what appears to be a rather insulting premise: a thin, blonde model dies and accidentally comes back to life in the body of a brunette size sixteen woman. Gasp! How horrible! Going from a model to a fat girl is worse than death! But as the show progresses we see “Jane” (the fat girl stuck with the former beauty queen in her body) learn to enjoy her new life as a lawyer (and use her mega brain, which the real Jane crammed chock-full of knowledge before her body got hijacked).

It’s old hat now to see a movie or TV show that demonstrates that fat people are beautiful and attractive and human, too. (Duh, says I. What idiot doesn’t know that much? And yet, it still seems to come as a shock to some people.) However, it’s still “okay” for fat-hating to exist, even in a seemingly fat-positive world like Drop Dead Diva. The most prevalent example of this is Grayson, former fiancé of Deb (the dead model). Throughout three seasons of this show we’ve watched Jane continuously win her cases in court (fat positive), date a myriad of attractive men (fat positive), and enjoy spending time with her friends (fat positive). However, despite all of her success in Jane’s body, she still pines for Grayson, who gets along with Jane and constantly goes to her for advice and support… yet serial dates thin girls exclusively. One would think that if Grayson were a well-rounded fellow who honestly loved Deb for everything that she was, eventually he would similarly fall for Jane, who has the exact same personality and nuances as Deb. The only difference is her looks. Yet in all of three seasons, Grayson never sees this connection. Which leads one to suppose that he is a shallow person who is only interested in looks. (It doesn’t matter if you only date fat or thin people; if your biggest concern is the outer package, then you, my friend, are the definition of shallow.) And Jane/Deb’s unwavering love for him makes us question her position as a strong female lead. Fat negative there, and a huge one at that (pun intended).

You know how the longer you know someone, the more attractive they become if they’re a good person? Similarly, someone conventionally “attractive” can become incredibly ugly if they are rude, mean, or otherwise undesirable in spirit. Shouldn’t this have happened with Grayson on Drop Dead Diva by now? Regardless of his personal physical preferences, if he sees so much of the woman that he once loved in Jane, it seems natural that he would have made more of a romantic advance after three seasons. Yet every time that he chooses another skinny stranger over the woman he once loved, the music swells and we as viewers are meant to sympathize with Jane/Deb, and never once do they present Grayson as a superficial jerk. Which, let’s face it, in real life he totally would be. But it’s seen as understandable that he wouldn’t fall for Jane, because she’s fat. Ummm, no. That’s not understandable in the slightest, unless, like Grayson, you are a fellow superficial jerk. If the premise of the show was that Deb came back as a reincarnated skinny redhead instead of a skinny blonde, it would be preposterous for Grayson not to fall in love with her all over again based on something as transient as outward appearance. As socially acceptable as fat-hating is, in any other context he would be seen as completely shallow and worthless. “Maybe he’s just not attracted to Korean girls… Maybe he’s just not attracted to girls with blue eyes… Maybe he’s just not attracted to girls with big noses.” See how shallow that sounds? Who would want to hang out with that asshole, let alone be in love with him?

And that is my big fat problem with Drop Dead Diva. The main character is fantastic and a great role model for women. When Jane goes on dates and wins in court I’m more invested because she’s more like me physically than almost any other character on either the big or small screen. But the fact that she remains in love with a superficial asshole makes her seem stupid, which makes me question her status as an empathetic and watchable character. Maybe that’s the trade-off for having a fat character on TV or in film: they have to stick to old outdated clichés such as being a “funny fattie” or understanding why their love interest doesn’t feel the same for them and accepting it because they’re fat. At least that’s what the diet companies want you to believe! You know what, in the real world, if someone doesn’t like me based on my weight, I know that person is a shallow moron, and I move on. But Jane/Deb is stuck in this constant cycle of NOT being able to move on, and that’s what’s truly sad about such an otherwise engaging show.

However, on the bright side, there are (finally!) shows with fat leading ladies available to critique. Not many, and the few out there are flawed (as are most portrayals of women in pop culture) but still. Progress is progress. And so, to wrap up this little ode to fabulous fat ladies, I leave you with a great video by the excellent Romeo Void. Don’t forget to continue the good fight by demanding better female characters, and keep questioning pop culture. We can and will evolve, it’ll just take some time. And perhaps a second helping of pie.

*I use the term “fat” as a non-judgmental descriptor with no negative connotations.

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Karen O and Trent Reznor: Hammer of the Gods

Today I’m taking a wee break from the Music for Otakus series, little earbuds, because I found a new song that I simply must share with you. Summer movies are in full blossom, and with summer movies come the trailers for winter movies. Now I’ll admit that I’ve heard of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (how can you not, it’s been bloody everywhere!) but I’ve not been that fussed about it. I’ve not bothered to pick up the book, and I wasn’t particularly waiting with bated breath for the grand Hollywood version of the story on the silver screen. But then I saw this trailer in front of X-Men: First Class (which was completely brilliant, by the by) and now, everything has changed:

Yes, that was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s phenomenal “Immigrant Song.” And it was covered by none other than the fantastic Karen O (of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame) and the Oscar-winning Big Man with a Gun himself, Trent Reznor. Whoever came up with that little pairing is an absolute genius. The song is dark and pounding and builds with so much intensity that you get goosebumps by the end of the trailer (I do every time I hear or watch it, literally). Unfortunately the cover isn’t available yet for download (they’re probably doing what they did with Fever Ray’s song from the Red Riding Hood trailer and waiting until closer to the film’s release). Until then we can just play this video over and over again (as I’m doing right now!) and bide our time in anticipation of the awesomeness to come. And furthermore, I just want to add that whoever put that trailer together was spot-on. I’m sold on the song, the film, the whole package. Roll on December!

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May Is Here, Time For Pie

Hello again, little earbuds. I have a confession today: I stayed up all night editing and re-editing my latest anime entry, and I gave all I had to give to bloggity-blog-blogging to Otaku Haiku. And I don’t have anything left to give, at least as far as today is concerned. So my advice is to head over there and check it out. Yes, even if you don’t care about anime! It’s got tons of preeeeeetty pictures of cutie-patootie animated boys, and who wouldn’t love that? However, if you still need something to listen to (this is a music blog, after all, and I can’t turn any ear in need away) try this on for size:

This vid is one of my favourite Ouran High School Host Club fan-made AMVs (that’s anime music video; don’t worry, I had to look it up the first time, too). The song isn’t particularly original (“Wherever You Are [I Feel Love]” by Laava) and the lyrics are fairly predictable for an early-2000s dance/trance number. But something about hearing it while watching scenes of some of my favourite characters from one of my favourite anime shows kind of melted my heart the first day that I found it. Plus the music pairs so nicely with the images. So today I share it with you. I hope that you enjoy my little slice of otaku pie! And who knows, you might find a flavor that you like in there.

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For The Love of Frock Coats

Last night I went to the art cinema and watched the latest version of Jane Eyre to hit the big screen. I was rather looking forward to it, as I recall reading the book as a senior in high school and enjoying it well enough, and I remember loving whatever miniseries version it was that we watched in class. I even read Wide Sargasso Sea in college and didn’t hate it! However, my expectations might have been a wee bit too high for a story as dark and depressing as Jane Eyre. I mean dark literally, as the film relied very heavily on flickering candlelight and faces lit only by fires in gloomy sitting rooms at night. Mia Wasikowska was likable enough, if a bit blander than the Jane from my memory, and I just didn’t feel the love between her and Rochester. Speaking of which, I was looking forward to Michael Fassbender as Rochester, since he caught my eye in Hex and has been on my radar ever since, and overall he was good, but not enough to keep me from thinking about how long the movie was and how much my butt hurt toward the end.

I wondered what had changed in the fourteen years(!?!) since I last watched Charlotte Brontë’s story come to life on film. Surely I’m not too jaded for period piece romances, because my heart still swoons during any given Jane Austen film. And who doesn’t love a man in a frock coat? It makes everything more dashing and romantic. And yet… I don’t know if I could handle a guy straight from the pages of a British romance novel riding up to me on his horse and trying to sweep me off my feet. I’d get caught up in the details, such as how are we both gonna fit on this poor horse, where does he think we’ll go, how did he navigate the interstate on horseback, is that a costume or his daily clothing, and most of all who the hell is this guy and who does he think he is? So many of us want the storybook romance, but I that sort of thing just doesn’t fit into our modern lives, as much as we imagine it could. I think it would take a bit of humor and a modern wink-and-nod to pull that sort of thing off. And so today’s video is a marvelous little period piece montage I randomly found on YouTube dedicated to those dashing men in frock coats but set to Geri Halliwell’s version of that disco classic “It’s Raining Men.” Unfortunately I can’t post it directly on my page, but you can go watch it here, and I sincerely hope you do, especially if you’ve ever loved Mr. Darcy and still dream of being swept off of your feet.

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