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.

Run, Princess, Run: Walt Disney World Trip Report 2/22/2017-2/28/2017

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I bet you want a newsy and detailed retelling of my Disney World Trip don’t you? (Well, you’re getting one regardless). I should note that the title of this post was almost, “Everything Takes Longer Than Reenie Thought It Would” (This also applies to why I’ve been MIA for a few weeks. I’ve also been working on other writing…and not watching things that aren’t on my DVR…and Buffy, I’ve been watching a ton of Buffy…)

Wednesday 2/22/2017: Wine and Gathering

I always consider a vacation’s beginning from the moment work or school ends the night before. So, once I exited the doors of my office and blared “How Far I’ll Go” on my car stereo, I was on vacation. I got home to find my mom, Mike, his friends Owen and Meg (who were watching Bella, Mike’s puppy for the week!) as well as Mary and my friend Dino and Meg, who were joining us as a surprise for Joe. Much wine was drank, steak was eaten, puppy care and trip plans were discussed.

Kristi showed up later, with her husband (my cousin) Sean, and we all chatted some more. Kristi was staying over because we were taking a very early flight. We didn’t sleep more than a few hours. (TOO EXCITED) and thus, set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday 2/23/2017: Be Our Guest!

Kristi and I required an Uber to the airport as my mother was NOT getting up at 4 AM to drive us. “If I wanted to do that, I’d be on the plane with you.” She has a point. After a slight panic attack because no Ubers appeared to be answering the call, I switched over to Lyft and one showed up 15 minutes later. I am converted, I’m a Lyft person now. (They also let you tip in ap! So much easier!). Our drive was pleasant and quick, as was the check and security process. (Not always a guarantee at Newark airport, let me tell you!) We settled in with coffees as we waited to board.

The flight was equally pleasant, and I watched Beauty And The Beast because it was a free option. Right as Belle and Prince Adam (NEERRRDDD) kissed and froze in time forever as a stained glass window, the plane descended, and we were in sunny Orlando.

Then came Magical Express. This was my first time using the service (it wasn’t available when we stayed at the Contemporary, Juli and I stayed off site, and it doesn’t service The Swan) and while you can’t beat the price (INCLUDED!) we waited well over forty minutes for our bus.

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Bus that finally loaded us after 40 Minutes!

It was fine, since we landed 30 minutes early, but I was frustrated. We got to Saratoga Springs Resort, handed our carry ons to bell services, got changed and headed to The Disney Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our race stuff. We basically ran through there, because we had a 2 PM reservation at San Angel Inn, but regardless, we got our bibs, snapped a few pictures and hopped in a cab to the Boardwalk.

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After getting my Annual Pass (MORE OF THESE REPORTS COMING) synched with my Magic Band, we wandered World Showcase on our way to check in to our “Romantic Lunch By Candelight.” So began the long weekend of “Are you sisters?” “No, cousins,” which tends to go on everytime that Kristi and I go someplace together.

I really liked San Angel Inn, though I liked Hacienda De San Angel for dinner better. We shared Queso Fundido (Melted Cheese!) and I had enchiladas, plus a delicious Hibiscus Margarita. The ambiance of the restaurant is unbeatable and it was a truly festive way to kick off our trip.

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Not a bad view for lunch right?

We then decided to roll the dice on Frozen Ever After, since we had nothing better to do, but then got the message from my mom that she and Mike and Mary had landed, so we decided to head back to the resort, rather than wait another half hour for a ride we planned to do the next day anyway.

Barely taking a minute to settle into our villa, we four Nayden ladies, headed to Magic Kingdom to ride Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and of course, eat at Be Our Guest! Splash Mountain gets me everytime. I’m never sure if it’s worth the time and mess, but it’s always so much fun, I leave with a huge smile on my face. I was even more excited to see Mary and Mom’s reaction Mine Train, and they were both giddy, but even more excited to share it with my dad and Joe in a few days time. (They were right to be, both were floored by it).

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Kristi was cute, the rest of us were just screaming…

Finally came Be Our Guest. We checked in, waited about 10 minutes (not bad, the hostess warned they were running 15 minutes behind, so I guess we would have gone right in had they been on time) and were escorted right to our table.

Walking into Be Our Guest is one of my favorite Disney World experiences, I always find myself inhaling sharply. But the way Mary giddily clapped when she learned that after dinner we’d get to meet Beast was even better. (I’d managed to not spoil that detail for them. I’m proud of myself). We had champagne, soups, two bottles of wine and a variety of entrees. (Seafood & steaks) We obviously shared some grey stuff and a lemon merange cupcake before moving on.

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This might be my favorite picture of the whole trip. We Nayden ladies clean up pretty well, I think.

Moving On wound us up seeing the tail end of “Once Upon a Time” the new projection show and heading back to the villa for, what else! More wine. Most of our group had rendezvoused by this point and it was quite the fiesta. It had nothing on the next day though.

Friday 2/24/2017: But, this one goes to 11

So, Friday morning, Mike, Joe and Dad had decided to play golf, and Mom decided to sleep in a bit, and Meg and Dino headed to Magic Kingdom, so Mary, Kristi and I headed to Epcot, missing park opening by a breath because of BUSES being SLOW, with one thing on our mind, “FROZEN,” we didn’t bolt, but worked pretty quickly, back to Norway and lined up for Frozen Ever After and this time, DID NOT bail halfway through the line, which, I should note moves very quickly, at least in the morning. We waited about 45 minutes, which for a ride this new and popular is not bad at all, especially given the cuteness of the line. You weave through Kristoff’s ice house, Arrendell’s town square and Oaken’s Tokens before boarding. But remember, we were there before 9:30 AM, which I get is a dealbreaker for a lot of people.

Anyway, the ride itself, really is great. On Sunday, Meg and I would chat about how her trip to the Wizarding World that day reminded her of being a kid at Disney, and I said Frozen Ever After did the same for me. The storyline that you’re on a boat to Elsa’s ice palace to celebrate the anniversary of her coronation is perfect, the animatronics are SUPERB (Olaf and Sven in particular are impressive) and the fact that it keeps the structure of Maelstrom makes it somehow able to be both nostalgic and brand new at the same time. It’s a real triumph. Worth a 2 hour wait? Absolutely not. Worth 1 hour? For SURE.

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Kristi and I Disneybounding Anna and Elsa. I love these topiaries.

After our Frozen adventure we walked around admiring the topiaries (Flower and Garden didn’t start officially until the day after we left, but we got the benefit of all the pretty!) shopped in World Showcase and met Belle.

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Bonjour Mademoiselle Belle!

By this time we met up with Mom, and waited on the others by more shopping. (Mom even bought Mouse Ears! I’m so proud!) We also registered for the Express Bus, which is meant to cost $19 for a single day and $29 for seven days. This is a very good service that takes you from park to park, by passing the gates and security, at specific times on every hour for each park. It was AWESOME, and I highly recommend it, except I hope that most people don’t do it, because the buses not being crowded was one of the best parts. Once we met up with everyone we headed over to ride test track. Knowing that we’d never beat the boys in power, Kristi, Meg and I decided to focus on making our car environmentally friendly and cute. We did so. I was proud of us. After that we rode Nemo, which is a cute ride and gets you into The Seas, and since aquariums are in Mary’s top 10 favorite things in the world, I knew we wouldn’t be allowed to skip it. Then we began our drink around the world.

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At the beginning of our boozy, boozy journey. (Note Mom’s mouse ears.) This is a close second to the hugging on Mainstreet Pic when it comes to favorites.

Let’s just say, we finished, but it was a bit of a rush, it was very sloppy and there were a few tears (mostly from me.) (They weren’t the nice emotional kind) (they were the mean drunk trying to make the people I love feel bad about themselves kind) (I’m very sorry) (I was VERY drunk) We had lunch at Yorkshire County Fish Shop (YUM!) and dinner at Spice Road Table (SUPER YUM). We then headed to the Boardwalk, hit Abracadbar and then Jelly Rolls and then took like 2 hours to get home because of BUSES being THE WORST.

Saturday 4/25/2017: Animals, A Galaxy Far, Far Away & A Start of A Challenge

Getting 10 grown ass, hung over adults out the door in the morning when there are only two bathrooms is a challenge, but we did it! (YAY!) We did miss extra magic hour (booo) but were in the gates at Animal Kingdom by 9:30, and on Kilamanjaro Safaris by 9:45 and it was, and I say this in all seriousness, the best version of the ride I’ve ever been on. The weather was hazy and cool so all of the animals were out and about. We saw the baby giraffe and baby elephant, as well as an adolescent elephant and 3 of the lions walking around their rock. It was really, very, very exciting.

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Puppy Elephant! (This is an ancient It’s Always Sunny reference…)

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Just LION around!

Next came Everest, which we all rode single rider and then we all split up a bit. I needed to eat, so I went over to Harambe Market and picked up a chicken skewer (delicious) and a few people hopped on Kali Rapids (It was too cold for me). We then hopped on the Express Bus over to Epcot, which was great because we ran into an old friend, Matt Ban and his wife Erin. We had a lovely catch up with Matt and then headed into The Seimens VIP Lounge, courtesy of Joe’s coworkers. This was excellent, in caffinating us, and getting us right on to Spaceship Earth as we exited. Then we headed to Studios and to Backlot Express For Lunch.

I had a Diet Coke and the Darkside Chicken and Waffles because A) Chicken and Waffles are delicious. B) I tend to eat quicky southern food when I find it, because it’s not always readily available in the burbs of NYC where I live. I am also a sucker for sausage gravy, chicken fried steaks and grits! C) These waffles had Darth Vader on them! I also got the BB8 Souvenier cup because I want nothing more than to walk around a convention in my Poe cosplay drinking out of BB8’s head. (I know, I have weird goals.)

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VADER. On WAFFLES. Also, Joe looks very serious in this picture.

As we sat eating lunch, and watching Trials of The Temple (Nothing better than those kids fighting Darth Vader) (Except maybe Mike and I explaining who The Seventh Sister is to everyone else) (Mike is also pretty into Rebels. This warms my heart) Mary and Joe mentioned maybe going to Magic Kingdom after dinner and I pointed out that 4 park day is something Disney Geeks strive for. This made the decision for them, pretty much . After eating, we opted to head over to Muppets 3-D while we waited for our Star Tours Fastpasses to kick in.

I love The Muppets and so much of that comes from family memories involving them, so it was nice to share this show with my family for a change. Next some of us rode Star Tours. We were taken to Hoth, and intercepted by Porkins, which, YAY! Porkins! (Which I exclaimed, quite loudly and embarassingly.)  Then, after our spy was revealed. (Maybe one of these trips I’ll just ride Star Tours over and over again, until I’m the spy) we were taken to Naboo by Yoda’s orders and escorted by Gungans to our final landing place.

I really enjoyed a completely different ride from the last time I rode. Though I wouldn’t have minded the Jakku scene as I never object to BB8 or Finn. Also, this one involves gungans and I mean, REALLY?

Anyway, after that we hit Tower of Terror and Star Wars Launch Bay, including a very fun visit with Chewie and a discussion with Mike about how Ahsoka’s light saber being in the case with the others was awesome, (we are less impressed by Ezra’s, because, it’s Ezra, but his Saber/Blaster combo is a cool design.) (Talking about Star Wars with my brother is one of my favorite things in the world and we did a lot of it on this day) it was time to head back to Saratoga Springs.

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It’s weird they only have one of Ahsoka’s sabers, as she fights with two. (Yes I’m using present tense.) (#ahsokalives) (I’m in denial)

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We were all really psyched to meet Chewie!

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So scared of The Tower of Terror!

We had an early dinner planned since Kristi and I had to go to bed at like 8 o’clock for race day. From everything I’ve heard and seen in pictures the 4 park day was a hit though, and I went on to have my own later. Dinner was at The Turf Club Bar And Grill at Saratoga Springs and while I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to eat there, if you’re staying at the hotel, it’s worth one night’s relaxed meal. I had steak and a glass of wine.

This was followed by a hasty trip back to the villa, where Kristi and I prepped for the next morning, watched the first of half of High School Musical were asleep by 9:00 PM.

Sunday 2/26/2017: Run Like The Wind! And May All Your Wishes Come True

My alarm went off at 2:30 AM and by 3 Kristi and I were on a bus to the race. After getting coffee, waiting in line, and then using the facilities, we opted to head to our corrals. And thus began the crying. (The good kind this time) I met and chatted with several of the women in my corrall, and waited about an hour after official race time to get moving. I really enjoyed the race itself, despite it taking a very long time. I wrote on facebook later that day about how amazing it felt to be running up Mainstreet USA, hearing my family cheer for me. I really, really adored the whole experience and I’m all about trying to go for this again.

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Crossing the finish line! I was BUSHED, but I did it!

After the race, there was another quick detour to the villas, where we showered, changed and then headed to Magic Kingdom. We ate hotdogs, rode The Jungle Cruise (which is bizarrely the most important ride to my family.), rode the Mine Train, which did in fact, garner the enthusiasm I expected, and then split off. Kristi and I decided we didn’t want to wait on the half hour line for Big Thunder Mountain, so we headed over and rode Pirates of The Carribean, which is always a treat, and we got front row seats, so SUPER BONUS treat. We got coffee, wandered through Tomorrowland, considered getting on the Peoplemover, but discovered that it had a line, so we refused to ride on principle. We were planning on meeting the rest of the group back in Fantasyland to get on Small World with Fastpasses, so we decided to head to the Carousel, as neither of us had ever ridden it before. (It was super fun, especially because we were already dressed for dinner.)

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Small World is a secret favorite of mine and I was worried that we weren’t going to get on it this trip, so I was happy that Mom requested we get the fastpass. (None of us were willing to wait more than a half hour and Magic Kingdom was VERY crowded.) Pointing out our favorite dolls was great as was singing the song over and over again. After that, we did some shopping on Main Street and headed over to the Contemporary to have dinner, not until after we’d said good bye to Joe. He assures me that he had a great time on his first trip, and as he has a work commitment out west for the next year, he and Mary are already talking about going to Disneyland at some point. (I am very jealous…and would NEVER crash their vacation. Also I probably can’t afford it…) He boarded a bus back to Saratoga and an Uber to the airport and it was all over for him.

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Favorite people and favorite place! I’m a lucky girl!

The rest of us hopped on the Monorail and we checked in to California Grill and rode up. This was probably the non race, non introducing my family to new things, part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most. Ever since I entered a constant state of Disney Planning I’ve been DYING to eat at California Grill and watch Wishes from it’s fabled decks.

We settled in at our table, enjoyed the sunset over Seven Seas Lagoon, as well as some amazing sushi, charcuterie, and cocktails and then the main meal…I had scallops which were perfect, we tried a wine variety that we hadn’t before and then each got a desert.

We were finished by around 6:45 and after a bit of hemming and hawing, decided that our best bet was to hang out at the bar until 8, rather than go elsewhere and rush back. Meg and Dino rejoined us (they’d spent the day at Universal) and we made friends with some regular Disney runners, who were happy to encourage Kristi and I in our pursuit of more Disney races. And then Wishes.

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Pretty good view, right?

I’m really going to miss these fireworks when they go, and I’m even more grateful that I’m going to have one more shot to see it before it’s retired. But seeing them from this new vantage point was incredible, and watching them with the people I love so much was even better. Having space to breath sing and even dance a little bit took our breath away. After the fireworks, Dad and I headed back into the park, to ride The Haunted Mansion and I was reminded, as we wound along the path from The Contemporary to Main Street, of one of my all time favorite Disney Memories.

When I was in seventh grade we took a trip and stayed at The Contemporary. We were never a “at park opening” family. For a lot of reasons, we often stayed off site, Mom, Mary and Mike are not early risers by nature and we never went at super busy times, so it wasn’t really necessary, but after missing out on Space Mountain and a few other rides, Dad woke me up early on our last day and we went to the park, just us. We saw the opening show, which we did not previously know existed. (“Really?” Juli’s reaction to that when I mentioned being excited to see it again to her.) This quick trip back into the park was a lot like that. We hopped right on Haunted Mansion, pointing out our favorite ghosts and gags. We also talked about planning strategies for next years trip. (Yes, really, my “we’re not going back until we have grandchildren” parents are now considering a second trip inside of two years.)  Then, the rest of the group met up with us at the buses and we split off between people who wanted to get another drink at Disney Springs and people who had run a half marathon that day and needed to sleep.

We watched bits of the Oscars as we fell asleep, and planned for our four park day the next day.

Monday 2/27/2017: 4 Parks, 1 World, and STKs

We got up earlyish in an attempt to get to Studios first thing and ride The Great Movie ride. We were once again thwarted by BUSES, and absurdly long security lines. But we still managed a relatively brief wait for the ride.

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And a fun pic in front of it!

We went to find out the Express Bus situation. We had a 1 PM reservation at Tiffins, and it was now about 11:30. So our thought was to go to Epcot (I had some souvenier pick up that I wanted to do in France) and then head to AK for lunch. We’d just missed the Epcot bus, so decided to try our luck at Animal Kingdom, and checking in to lunch early. It was absolutely the right call. We got on the Animal Kingdom bus, walked right over to Tiffins, checked in, settled in at Nomad Lounge, and waited maybe a grand total of 25 minutes for our table.

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Also more pictures!

Tiffins was number 2 on my “I can’t wait for this” list after California Grill, and I was so glad we were able to fit it in. Nomad Lounge is really cozy and beautifully themed, and the food at Tiffins was sublime. Mom and I split a fish entree, Kristi & Mom both had salad an I had the lobster popcorn soup, which GUYS, OMG yum! I really like the concept of this space too, that it’s inspired by the travels of Imagineers designing Animal Kingdom. It’s subtle in the same ways that Animal Kingdom is.

We then circled back to Epcot, heading to France to get me a tee shirt and everyone some ice cream. It was our quickest stop, but it counted because we ate food.

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Then it was on to Magic Kingdom. We had fast passes for Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain, rode them both and then headed back to the hotel to get showered and dressed for our second girls night (this time minus Mary, who’d left that morning. This whole day was just Mom, Kristi and I).

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Hooray for meeting goals!

Mom had expressed, way back in our ADR making days wanting to eat at “not a Disney restaurant.” Kristi and I were shocked by this request, bubble dwelling Disney people that we are. Juli suggested STK, where she ate with her sister Jenn, and which is, a high scale chain, including spots in Manhattan and Vegas, but we wouldn’t have to worry about a cab, as it’s at Disney Springs. The food was excellent. I really love steakhouses, I think there’s something special and communal about that style of eating. You pick your meat, your group chooses your sides and everyone shares, and everyone’s wallets are a little lighter (Often a lot lighter, depending on the place) and pants a little tighter. This was a very fun night, we ate on the patio.

Our next mission after dinner was shopping. Hitting World of Disney is always a treat, even if we were in a bit of a rush this go round. We also went to the D-Co Op, which is my favorite shopping spot in the whole of WDW.

2/28/2017: Dig a Little Deeper

It was back to just Kristi and I on Tuesday, we once again missed the opening (stupid buses!) but were on line to meet Cinderella and Elena by 9:10, and then Rapunzel and Tiana by 9:45. It was really fun. I like meeting the princesses, and have made it a staple of my trips, but I really love meeting Rapunzel, I’ve never had a bad or boring or awkward interaction with her. This particular go round however, was exceptionally fun, all four.

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Her crown is very shiny.

I know very little about Elena but she talked with us a lot. (The group ahead of us had a bunch of kids, all for autographs, so she was filling). We were again asked if we were sisters. We then talked to Cinderella about the race. She congratulated us, and mentioned that she could never run that much, she’d lose all her glass slippers and the Prince would be going crazy.

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We wished Tiana a happy Mardi Gras and she chatted with us about the special food she was making for the day.

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And then Rapunzel. Seriously, I love this meet and greet. We mentioned that we’d met Eugene the other day, and she also congratulated us on our run. We talked about the smoldering (“He does that to everybody. He knows it doesn’t work on me.”) And then took a selfie.

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Another top five picture from the trip!

This was basically our, “wander around and take in Magic Kingdom” day. We also grabbed coffee and breakfast at Gaston’s Tavern, and then did Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is adorable, and made us wish we’d worn our medals, because we were pretty sure we would have then been in the show and gotten a pic with her. AH well.

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My favorite thing about this restaurant? The background music is the song “Me” from the Broadway musical version. Seriously, such a delight!

Next up we hit Main Street and watched Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, which I liked a lot. It didn’t move me the way that Dream Along With Mickey did, but I appreciate the focus on the newer characters and music. It’s always nice to see Tiana get her due, and the costumes on the dancing cast members really blew me away. (This is kind of like how my mom and I get obsessed with wigs on TV. I fixate on costuming…go figure) Then we checked in with our fast pass to meet Mickey.

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Seriously, I LOVE these costumes.

Being more prepared for the talking Town Hall Mickey this time around made the whole thing way less awkward than when Juli and I met him. He performed his card trick for us and then we realized that we needed to eat.

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My eyes are closed, but I love the Big Guy!

I suggested making our way to Liberty Square and going to Columbia Harbor House. (I had a hankering for a Lobster Roll) but we went via Adventure land, and decided to see what the wait would be for a table at Skipper Canteen. The hostess said 20 minutes, so we decided to do it, taking menus so we could order right away once we sat.

It way have been the best decision we made all day. The wait was much closer to 10 minutes than 20, and comfortable in rocking chairs on a fanned porch in front of the restaurant. And as for the restaurant itself. Can I say, wow? The space is really beautiful, and it’s got the killer Jungle Cruise wit.

I also know that the decision to serve beer and wine at sit down restaurants in The Magic Kingdom is controversial. While I logically understand the rule, and the reaction against breaking it, the part of me that was tired and hot and happy to be in air conditioning, was even happier to be given a cold can of Blue Moon and a frosty glass to drink it out of. I also had the Char Siu Pork, which was incredible.

We next finished out our trip by riding The Little Mermaid. Kristi said, “that ride is way better after a beer.” She would be right. We were singing and dancing the whole time. Then it came time to leave. The ride back to the airport on Magical Express was much nicer than the ride in. We only had one other stop and I was at my gate with about 30 minutes to spare.

So ends the trip report. I’ve spent two weeks putting it together and I’m pretty proud of it. Next trip is a solo jaunt for Dapper Day, so I’ll be there from April 28 to May 1. The to do list includes, Rivers Of Light, Sunset Safari, lunch at Be Our Guest and one last hit of Wishes.

I’m Your Opponent, Not The Clock

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Movie Post Season Round 7

Queen of Katwe Inspires Searching For Bobby Fischer

There’s a chess set sitting in my living room. It’s a heavy marble board and the pieces are plastic made to look like stone. It’s on a leather four sided gaming table that my father took from his older brother during a downsizing. The table is a beautiful piece of furniture, and it’s coming into our house inspired the purchase of the chess set.

I think maybe two games of chess have been played on that table.

Anytime I watch anything about chess, I want to learn the game, but I also don’t really have anyone to play with so, that makes it hard. Anyway, this is what was going through my mind as I watched Searching For Bobby Fischer, the story of a seven year old chess prodigy, his parents and teachers and the quest to let a kid be kid in the face of extraordinary talent.

I chose it to pair with Queen of Katwe even though, outside of chess playing, Josh Waitzkin and Phiona have little else in common, there’s a thread here of life outside of the game and choices that have to be made. It’s also a good pair because of the extraordinary performances put on film. Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kingsley and Joe Montegna are the adults who shape Josh’s world and manage to create a balance. Fishburn plays the street chess player who teaches Josh the thrill of competition, Kingsley the classical teacher who brings rigor and form and Montegna the father, a sports writer who understand the need to be the best.

Josh and Phiona both push to become the best they can be at Chess, though the struggles of a poor girl in Africa are a good deal different than those of a upper middle class kid from Manhattan, but I really enjoyed the way the three male role models approached chess and life for Josh. Also, this is an astonishingly restrained performance from Kingsley, who I always associate with scenery chewing (usually the good kind).

Overall, I’m glad I watched this movie, even though I probably never will again

But This One Goes To Eleven

Movie Post Season Round 6:

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping inspires This Is Spinal Tap

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This Is Spinal Tap looms so large in comedy consciousness, in the careers of the men who made it (except maybe Rob Reiner, who I kind of forgot about in the equation), and of course in the mind of anyone who enjoyed the best comedy of 2016 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, that I was a little nervous to sit down and watch it.

Spinal Tap started the comedy style of Christopher Guest, and his brilliant mockumentaries, and while I don’t think it’s the best of the genre, (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN!) being the first gets it some latitude.

However, the point of this review is mainly to compare it to Popstar, and in that vein, aside from being about the music business in all of it’s weirdness, is about something falling apart and then coming back together. The tensions of Spinal Tap are not identical to those of Connor4Real, but the end result is the same. The band is far less coddled, so their increasing reaction to the chaos provides a different sort of feel from Connor’s willful obliviousness.

As Spinal Tap’s gigs fall in prominence, and their guitarist quits and then returns, it’s not impossible to believe that this is a real band, which was, I think the point in making it. But to apply to much logic or linear storytelling to Spinal Tap would be a waste of energy, since anytime you started to get anywhere, one of the many genius gags would smack you in the face.

Whether it’s the fact that they can’t get an album cover they like approved, the classic, “but this goes to eleven” amp scene, or the tiny stone henge (which is my favorite). The main thing that I’d forgotten, or perhaps never noticed, about it, is that the band seems deeply aware of the fact that what’s going on around them is completely nuts, and their team seems to want to smooth it over. It’s a different takeaway than I anticipated (I’m fairly sure I haven’t watched this movie since middle school) and I kind of comedy that I’m always fond of.

While, as I said, it’s not my favorite for Guest, (Stool boom, stool boom…) nor Reiner, (The Princess Bride exists…and When Harry Met Sally…and A Few Good Men. My GOD that man has made some good movies…ooh, also Stand By Me!) it’s a solid beginning for two really great artists, so that’s something!

Impressive, Most Impressive

Movie Post Season: Round 5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story inspires Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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I barely had to pay attention, I have watched this movie so many times. But what to focus on, when comparing it to it’s new younger brother. (Which, I now hold as like, my fifth favorite Star Wars movie.) And while there are lots of things in Empire that I think could directly correlate with Rogue One, I think that main one is the legacy of fathers and children.

Both Luke and Jyn are out to outrun and live up to their father’s legacies simultaneously, and both wind up learning about something that they didn’t expect about said father. A) That he’s alive, and B) that he’s not on the side that they initially thought he was.

In Rogue One, Jyn has convinced herself that her father is dead, but in fact he’s alive and working for the empire, but then, twist! Turns out he’s trying his best to be a good guy. Luke, has always believed his father was a great hero, a powerful Jedi, and of course, that he’s dead. His father, like Jyn’s, not dead, and is in fact the villain to end all villains.

While Jyn gets half the movie to deal with this information, Luke gets, well, a whole movie, but it’s not this one. Both are huge bombshells that matter in not only the hero’s relationship with their father, but in their entire identity. Jyn becomes a hero because her father wanted to save the universe for her. Luke, on the other hand, considers himself the son of Anakin Skywalker, the hero, the greatest Jedi to ever live, or whatever, and instead, he learns that his father is Darth Vader and that his mentor lied to him.

That’s a lot of disillusionment for one little farm boy and one badass space pirate? (What was her deal exactly? Seriously, I was less into that movie than others…) But either way.

I Lead You Here Sir, For I Am Spartacus

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Movie Season round 4:

Don’t Think Twice inspires The Thing You Do

Sorry that this is late, you guys! I was at a comic con on Saturday and then Sunday I spent three hours training for race day (less than a month, eeehhh!!!) So I wasn’t really up for writing so much as sleeping!

Anyway, choosing a movie to pair with Don’t Think Twice took some thinking and I’m very proud of what I wound up with. As I reflected on Don’t Think Twice and what it was saying (which was a lot,) the things that really interested me about it were the personalities bouncing around it, and the cross section of creation and commerce.

No other movie deals with that quite as well as That Thing You Do, the rock and roll fable that Tom Hanks gave us in the 90’s and is in the top ten movies that I’ve seen the most. It’s one of those stop on cable and watch it regardless of timing movies (also included, The Princess Bride & and of the Rocky films.) The Wonders are a group of people who are quickly shot into extraordinary circumstances and it winds up tearing them apart and forcing them to make something new.

Guy Patterson is a really good protagonist, especially as everymen go. Tom Everett Scott invests him with just enough personality that you want to root for him, but not enough to alienate you. He’s on a ride that he’s going to enjoy and that leads to him finding out what he actually wants (He winds up a music teacher, rather than a rock star. It’s a brilliant subversion). Which, oddly, lines him up with Sam, Gillian Anderson’s character in Don’t Think Twice, he wants the music, not the glory. She wants the art of improv, not the glory of comedy stardom.

When something falls apart, it’s tempting to believe that that’s a bad thing, but sometimes that destruction is what lives come out of, where joy and art and goodness blooms, and I think that’s the theme of both of these little show business stories, that focus on people and places and specificity and something magical and special.

Also, that song is pretty great. Way to go Adam Schlessinger!

It Has To Mean Something

Movie Postseason Round 4:

Arrival Inspires Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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With the exception of the remakes, this is probably the most obvious connection between two of the movies I chose. This is also a movie about humanity connecting with visitors from another world. It’s also primarily the small personal story of one character rather than a sweeping epic.

So there you go.

Here are some other things about Close Encounters that every one forgets when they’re talking about the majesty of that final scene and the communication of music and the awesome special effects:

  1. Richard Dreyfus is really good in this movie even though it’s all about him leaving his family
  2. This movie is FREAKING TERRIFYING
  3. This movie is really, really weird.

So let’s deal the performance of Mr. Dreyfus, shall we? He’s exceptional in this, his laser focus on the mountain, what it means and being sure that he belongs there. His confusion and certainity at the same time are really really good, and it’s jut all really exceptional. Much how Arrival hinges on Amy Adams. (I’m telling you it’s really easy for me to connect these two movies, just absurdly simple. I did good with selection this time around!)

As for how terrifying this movie is? Maybe it was because I was alone in the house and exhausted while I was watching, but the scene where all of that kid’s toys come to life? Or when he gets abducted? Or the scene where the alien is seen for the first time as the saucer opens. FUCKING TERRIFYING MAN!!!

This movie is really, really weird. Most people talk about this movie, they remember the last 20 minutes, which, frankly, is what I remembered too. (I’m also pretty sure this is the first time I sat and watched the whole thing) but the two hours before that is really just Dreyfus running around acting like a goddamn lunatic, some weird stuff in Africa, some weirder stuff with a French scientist and something sort of involving the army. It’s strange and slow and hard to follow. The payoff is worth it, but I feel the need to warn anyone else who wants to watch this movie that it’s kind of strange.

Overall, I’m proud of this pairing in a way that I’m not of any of the others. It’s just such a perfect match.