Ever Just The Same, Ever A Surprise

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast is not my favorite Disney movie. I love it a lot, and I still think it’s one of the greatest examples of a film musical. (Right behind Singin In The Rain and The Sound Of Music.)  So I had similar if not the same expectations as everyone going into the movie last weekend.

I wasn’t disappointed. Baffled, unsure, and impressed, for sure, but never disappointed.

The basics of Beauty And The Beast remain as they always have been, but the new film manages to add wrinkles and twists to the story you know that are surprising enough to make watching the film engrossing. The characters we know and love are given turns in their paths and depths revealed in their wake.

If I sound a little too poetic I’m sorry, but I was very happy with this movie. I’m obsessed with this cast, with the decision made in it’s screen play, and I could babble on for days about the visual, but I guess I have to focus on one thing at a time.

Let’s start with the cast. Emma Watson is delightful as Belle. There’s none of Hermione’s intensity or bossiness in her quiet thoughtful French village girl, and that’s something of a relief. Watson’s voice is noticeably autotuned in spots, but when it isn’t has a lovely sing song quality that I think suits the piece quite well. Dan Stevens brings a mournful heartbreak to the Beast and “For Evermore” is an excellent addition to the canon of Howard Ashman penned Disney songs. These two were also wonderful together. Kevin Kline. I wish Kevin Kline were in more movies. The only reason I can think that he isn’t is that he is not inclined to be, because he’s ALWAYS SO GOOD! Ian McKellan is wonderful if underused. There’s a lot of comedy to Cogsworth that I think got lost in the more serious tone taken on the overall film, but both he and Emma Thomspson do exceedingly well with their limited scope. I would watch Audra McDonald read the phone book as long as she got to hit a few above the staff notes and the movie grants her that and then some. Ewan McGregor acquits himself well with Lumiere, the one of the servants who I think gets to maintain their original charm. This is probably because Lumiere is the most *ahem* flamboyant, (pun  not intended) his light (Damn, keep walking into those) is harder to dampen.

Luke Evans and Josh Gad are flawless and I want more of them doing musical theater. I hope this movie shows the mainstream what theater people have known about Gad for a long time. There’s more to him than Olaf, not that mainstream comedy has the kind of roles that really suit Gad, but he’s really great here, and Evans makes Gaston’s particular brand of masculine menace chilling.

The screenplays new wrinkles would constitute spoilers if I talked about them too deeply, but I will talk about the deepening characterizations, starting with Gaston and LeFou! The codifying of LeFou’s queerness is interesting, especially as it dawns on him that his adoration of Gaston is both troubling and misplaced, giving a comic sidekick an actual arc is something that I always support and it’s executed well here. Gaston is shown here as a soldier and returning golden boy who finds the provincial town dull after the horror and glory of war. Which is way more interesting than a blustering hunter and a good deal more frightening. He’s enamored of Belle not just because she’s beautiful (though that helps) but because she’s, well, disinterested. There’s an undercurrent of “yes, you and I are above this place” to his attempts to woo her, and that’s fascinating to me.

Maurice also gets a makeover, made less of a buffoon and more of an eccentric and it works. Belle and The Beast, both become wounded motherless children, searching for a connection anywhere they can find it, and it makes their romance deeper, sweeter and sadder all at once.

I didn’t love all of the changes. It seemed strange to turn the village from a quiet, sleepy, slightly backward hamlet to some kind of patriarchal hellscape a la The Republic of Gilead where women aren’t allowed to learn to read and if they’re unmarried or without a father’s protection they’re thrown out into the streets to beg. This seems extreme for a fairytale that’s about seeing past first impressions and I did feel the loss of some of the comedy.

But there’s something deeply instinctual about fairy tales, and Disney’s take on these stories that have been with us forever is so deep in the company’s roots, I’m not surprised that they’re able to execute things well.

Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now: The Ballad of Ahsoka Tano


Hey everyone! So this is a very special version of Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now that has almost everything to do with my preparation for Star Wars: Rogue One

Which is to say, watching as much of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels as a human being possibly can while still having a full time job and maintaining what is left of her sanity.

If you’re curious, that adds up to something near 15 hours in the past 3 days.

Anyway, let’s get to the nitty gritty of this post.

Ahsoka Tano. She’s amazing. I knew she was amazing a year ago when I started Clone Wars, but now I think she’s really, incredibly amazing, one of the best characters I’ve encountered anywhere, let alone in my fairly recent dive into the world of modern American animation. Ahsoka is confident, badass, vulnerable, has agency coming out of her many orrifices. She’s as powerful a Jedi as Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi and although she is their student, she’s held up as their peer and in many cases, their moral superior.

Her decision to walk away from the Jedi order when they wouldn’t stand be her was brave and a good way to illustrate that sometimes, an apology just isn’t enough. Her commitment to helping start the Rebellion is also incredible. Her decision to help Kanan train Ezra is a huge boon to the series. (I also love Kanan. I could take or leave Ezra. He’s like Anakin if you sucked out the angst, and that makes him fine but boring, and we already have Luke in this series.)

But the end (I suppose) of her story, has left me wrecked, like to the point that I had to retool this post, which was supposed to be about Clone Wars and Rebels in general. Her decision to face Darth Vader, which lead to the unthinkable truth that he was her old master, and the one moment where he revealed himself to her and then killed her is just, I can’t deal with it.

Of course it was impossible to ignore, “Anakin Skywalker was weak and so I destroyed him.” In a few decades, well, someone else is going to us those same words to describe his descent into the darkness. (It will also make me cry there.)

There is a tiny part of me that wanted to subvert this well executed and dramatically satisfying story, plus retcon an entire series that I’ve loved my entire life by Ahsoka, literally just punching Vader in the face and says, “Seriously, Skyguy? I was gone for like a minute and you turn to the dark side? GET IT TOGETHER?” And then Anakin wakes up, he gets all redeemed, we save everyone a bunch of trouble and heartache. Alderaan doesn’t explode, Luke keeps that hand of his, Obi-Wan lives.

Downside? Han and Leia probably never meet, but that means they don’t create Ben, and he doesn’t become Kylo Ren, so Han also lives. Or, I guess not, because he’d probably have been killed by Jabba the Hutt, huh? OK, so things still don’t go well for Han, but as much as I love him, it’s a net gain for the galaxy.

Alas no, and a great character gets a satisfying and brutal ending. Also Kanan is blind now and Darth Maul is back. (The Clone Wars and Rebels people really love them some Darth Maul, I’m pretty sure they’ve brought him back like six times. I can only assume this will lead to Obi-Wan, since you know, they hate each other a lot…)

Anyway, I’m glad I finally invested in this story. I’m glad I’ve gotten to know Ahsoka.

Otherwise Occupied

Hi everyone! Since I started my new job I’ve been, well, just not super into blogging, I have ideas, on top of ideas, but just haven’t felt much like putting them down. I’m doing my best to get organized, and it’s not like I’m not obsessing. (Holy Cow, Star Wars: Rebels! Am I ever obsessed!) Just, forming it into something, is proving difficult. I’m hoping that in the next few days I get it a little more together for you guys.

I’ll do my best.

But meanwhile, seriously holy crap, Star Wars: Rebels!

sabine-retina_3322c32b

That’s Sabine, and she’s my new fave forever.

Or until I find something else to be obsessed with.

Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now: Indian Summer

Summer seems to be finally breaking and I’m thrilled about that. I love fall and here’s a bunch of the stuff that I’m using to wait out the heat, so we get to the time of year of tights, sweaters and boots. (I’ve already started with boots though…)

Anyway, here we go:

  • Gilmore Guys: I mean obviously, but I’ve been listening to it like crazy, not at the expense of my other podcasts, but a whole lot.
  • “Nobody’s Crying” a song by Sutton Foster about her divorce from Christian Borle. It’s on her solo album Wish. It’s melancholy and heartbreaking and perfect, and I’ve loved it for a while, but Crystan and I listened to it while we were driving into the city on Saturday and my love for it has sprung anew. Listen to it, I swear you won’t be disappointed.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena…WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHOW? I should explain, despite a long list of anime that friends I love and trust have recommended to me, I decided instead to dive into this one because, “The Mary Sue says that it heavily inspired Steven Universe.” As I have previously noted, I will do just about anything The Mary Sue tells me to, so I clicked it on Hulu and now I’m sucked in when I should finally be watching Stranger Things or at least Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood like everyone I know told me to. And yet now I’m sucked into this weird anime about sword fighting and lesbians and incest where everything might just be happening inside of the characters heads or whatever. But it’s fantastic and I love it and I think Utena might be my new favorite protagonist in anything (Sorry Korra.) Mostly because I love a passive protagonist. (Sup Harry Potter?) And Utena doesn’t really do anything except wear a totally stylish blazer and get dragged along by the plot. I’ll do a full post about it when I finish, but it’s taking up a lot of my time and brain power.
  • My friend Lora’s daily closet cosplays! She’s putting me to shame you guys! Check out her Tumblr and Instagram (@dailycasualcosplay)!
  • Party Planning! I made the facebook event for my birthday party this year and I’m really excited about it. My costume is done, which means I can focus on the other fun stuff, liked themed food and drinks, decorations, and entertainment options! I’m really excited about it.
  • Comic Con planning. I’m so organized that I’m worried I’m missing something. But I’m going to just let it go. (LET IT GOOOO…)

So that’s what I’m doing right now. See you tomorrow with more stuff!

And That Is The Least Of It

I love stories about storytelling. I think it’s because I’m a writer that’s up my ass about criticism, but nothing gets me quite like talking about why stories matter to the larger world. (We like being reminded that we matter.)

Kubo And The Two Strings is not exactly a meta narrative, but it is deeply invested in both craft and stories, which fit in well with Laika’s hand crafted stop motion animation style. Kubo is beautiful, heartfelt, just scary enough and something of a triumph.

We follow our eleven year old hero Kubo as he hunts for his long dead father’s mystical armor, in the attempt to thwart his grandfather, the wicked Moon King, and his two aunts. His grandfather stole his eye when he was a baby for vague mythological magic reasons, and his mother has lost her mind in her grief over his father and trying to protect him.

Kubo is aided in his adventure by Monkey, a guardian brought to life by his mother’s magic, and Beetle, a samurai transformed into a giant amnesiatic bug man, because that’s the single coolest thing ever.

There’s a lovely twist that drives home the family theme of the whole thing and as I said before, no one makes movies quite like Laika. Kubo is another truly wonderful entry for them.

Rankings

  1. The Nice Guys
  2. Don’t Think Twice
  3. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  4. Pete’s Dragon
  5. Ghostbusters
  6. Captain America: Civil War
  7. Kubo And The Two Strings
  8. Star Trek Beyond
  9. X-Men: Apocalypse
  10. The Legend Of Tarzan
  11. Suicide Squad
  12. Finding Dory
  13. Independence Day: Resurgence
  14. Alice Through The Looking Glass

Trailers

Sing really does look so adorable. I can’t wait to watch it. I probably won’t go in the theater though.

Moana – It feels so close, and yet so far away at the same time. But like how you couldn’t keep me away from Creed on Black Friday last year, you’re not keeping me away from Moana this year!

Surprised, but also glad there was no Miss Perigrine’s trailer. I’m looking forward to the movie, but I’m getting as tired of that trailer as I was of Jason Bourne

Sailor Moon Crystal Check In: All Together Now

It’s over.

Two years and it’s over. I’m not sure what comes next, but I do know that this has been incredible. But first for the episode.

Sailor Moon Crystal 3

Sailor Saturn and Super Sailor Moon stop Master Pharoah 90 from consuming the planet. Because of the power from the Moon Chalice, Saturn is able to destroy him without destroying the planet. It’s actually very beautiful, and par for the course in Crystal we get some truly beautiful and affecting still images.

When Hotaru is reborn as a teeny tiny perfect baby, the outers decide to raise her and I’m so glad that this got included. Also the image of Michiru picking up the baby is so freaking perfect and adorable that I can barely even about it.

But the last few minutes of the episode are my favorite. We learn that Usagi passed her exams, so everyone is going to high school together. (You know, except Rei, who goes to a different school) including Minako! Chibi-Usa is getting ready to go back to the 30th century when the eclipse comes.

And we all know what comes with the eclipse right? I mean, I want more Sailor Moon, of course, but I’m actually quite happy to have a break before diving into that mess of an arc again.

Although, Crystal Amazoness…sigh.

Anyway, it’s over, for now, and I’m not sure what comes next here. I mean, I do need to read the short stories. So maybe I’ll do that, and write them up next week. But I’m not sure. I am trying to get a senshi cosplay group together for NYCC (I got tickets WEE!) so I’ll update that as progress gets made.

Overall, I’m glad that I did this. I opened myself up to a whole world that I hadn’t even thought to check out. I have to watch more anime. I want to watch more. Seriously people, I need recommendations. (If it’s on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, so much the better.) I’d like to branch out beyond magical girl, but we’ll see…

Sailor Moon Crystal Check In: Saturn Rising

Sailor Moon Crystal 3

Look, this is the third version of this story that I’ve taken in, and I understand that when Sailor Saturn wakes up it means that shit is about to go down. Her job is literally to end the world so that disaster doesn’t further spread or whatever, but damn is it cool when she emerges.

But the episode begins with the Sailors Moon transforming into their Super Selves and it’s really great, they also attack the monster with a “Double Moon Heart Ache” and it looks amazing.

I could spend an entire post just talking about how beautiful this season has been.

But I won’t because we’ve got some plot to deal with. So, after the Double Heart Attack doesn’t do the job, Sailor Saturn is born and explains how she was never supposed to awaken in this time, but because Professor Tomoe just had to turn his daughter into a cyborg, it ruined everything.

Uranus, is kind of having none of it and like the pure straight up bad ass that she is she charges at Saturn as Saturn is getting ready to wipe out existence.

And that’s where things end. Seriously. There actually isn’t a lot of plot momentum here because we get the Saturn awakening and explanation, but the other pause and enjoy it moment comes when Usagi realizes that everyone has always watched over and guarded her and that now it’s her turn to guard everyone else.

Seriously, it’s always my favorite story climax when Usagi realizes that it’s time for her to fight, and that she does it with love power from and for her friends.

Also, does Mamoru have powers? I always thought Tuxedo Mask was a Hawkeye type, you know, no particular powers, but lots of skills and everyone thinks he’s useless until he isn’t? Also, I cannot watch that Mamoru closing theme without laughing. I get what they’re going for, but it’s just so unrepentantly corny and hilarious.

Anyway, we only have one more episode. And then one week where I write a heartfelt post about what the past year and a half has meant to me, discovering this crazy new fandom.