Thursday, March 16, 2017

Some thoughts on the new live-action Beauty and the Beast

It's been a while since I've done a movie review on this blog! Usually, the only movies I bother to see and blog about are book-to-movie adaptations, and those usually go on my book blog. (I mean, technically, yeah, BatB could be considered a book-to-movie adaptation, but... meh.)

Okay, so fair warning: Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies, and Belle is absolutely my favorite Disney princess. (See?) As a kid, I of course identified with her as a book-loving outcast. Also, I love the, uh, Frenchness (?), and I'm sure it had something to do with my decision to take French in high school.

Therefore, I was rather intrigued when I found out there would be a live-action remake, and I was SUPER excited to find out that my favorite princess would be played by another favorite bookworm of mine, Hermione Granger Emma Watson. (PS - Before I ever found out that she was cast, I had made a list/photo collage of Disney princesses as my favorite YA characters, and I totally had Belle as Hermione. JUST SAYIN'.)

So, this movie had a lot to live up to. In some ways, it hit, and in other ways, it missed, but overall, I enjoyed it. I still prefer the animated movie from my childhood, but there are definitely some things I really liked about this one.

Some scattered thoughts (and I guess I should give a spoiler warning, not for the stuff everyone already knows from the animated movie, but for the changes that were made):
  • I LOVED the introductory scene, about how the Beast became the Beast. That ballroom scene was fantastic visually, and OMG Audra McDonald!!!! Can we just have her sing EVERYTHING EVER?
  • Stanley Tucci, your Caesar Flickerman is showing. Just a lil bit. :)
  • The whole movie was extremely beautiful, like, visually. I loved the color palette, and even the wintry scenes were gorgeous. There were quite a few shots and sets that looked like throwbacks to the animated one.
  • That said, the CGI... made me scrunch my nose a little. The songs where we were basically just watching a bunch of CGI instead of real people (like "Be Our Guest" or that song that the Beast sings after Belle leaves) just felt off and less interesting to me.
  • Speaking of the CGI, I kinda laughed when I realized at the end that Bill Condon had directed this, because I was thinking to myself earlier in the movie that the CGI wolves looked like the wolves from the Twilight movies. (He directed the two Breaking Dawn movies.) I was like, "... Jacob? Stop trying to eat the Beast!"
  • I loved most of the songs that were new for this movie. I did not LOVE the ones that were used from the animated movie, because they had made some changes lyrically and musically. I didn't mind the musical changes, but like, I couldn't suss out why they changed the words, and I just wasn't having it. 
  • I'm also quite familiar with the dialogue from the animated version, and I didn't like how they kept some lines, but changed others for seemingly no reason. Was it to shorten the movie? But it's not like the animated one is particularly long to begin with. And really, I kinda felt like I was just watching a Cliffs Notes version of the animated one at certain points. (Do kids still use Cliffs Notes?)
  • But again, the things that they added for this movie were awesome. I loved the backstory about Belle's mother and about the Beast's upbringing (like, why WAS he such a spoiled douche?) and all that stuff. The Paris part made me tear up. 
  • Dude, Kevin Kline, I KNOW you can do a French accent. What gives??? 
  • Speaking of French accents, it was fun listening to Ewan MacGregor as Lumiere. I mean, he's no Jerry Orbach, of course, but he pulled it off.
  • I did think "Belle" was quite spectacularly choreographed/blocked/performed/everything.
  • Emma Watson's singing... :/ I'm not making that face because she's a bad singer. Rather, I think they must have run her voice through autotune or some sort of vocal processor, because it didn't sound like a real voice/purely her voice? I don't know, it just didn't feel like it was purely her, if that makes sense.
  • Not gonna lie... there were a couple moments when I was half-expecting to hear something Harry Potter-related. I do truly think Emma Watson was channeling some Hermione there when Belle sees the library for the first time. 
  • I definitely noticed and loved how this movie was not alllllll white actors. It's the sort of movie where it would've been very easy (and expected, not gonna lie) to have a purely white cast, but there was a great range of skin tones among the crowd, and many of the POC characters even had speaking parts. =')
  • Speaking of diversity and representation... I know it was a huge deal that they decided to make LeFou gay. When I first heard this, I was like :/ because, yes, representation is awesome, but LeFou is technically a bad guy, and yo, Disney, y'all been queer-coding your villains forEVER. (Feel free to google that.) However, they took this LeFou in a totally different direction and I ended up loving it. And I cheered after the garderobe scene during the battle. (You'll know when you see it.)
  • Also... and correct me if I'm wrong... I felt like they did NOT have Gaston react to LeFou in a gay-panicky sort of way? It would've been easy to have him be freaked out and weirded out every time LeFou came on too strong, but it seemed like he just kind of took it in stride. Which I appreciated, even though I'm not sure it was entirely in character. But thank you for not making people react to LeFou like he's gross or weird or anything like that. 
  • And speaking of that whole "controversy," I laughed a ton when I saw all the comments about Belle marrying a water buffalo, BUT... don't laugh... that scene where Belle is tending to the Beast's wounds, he's technically shirtless (though covered in fur) in his bed, and holy pecs and delts, Batman! I mean, I know he's some sort of buffalo bear creature and therefore it's kinda weird to be into him, but HE LOOKS LIKE HE BENCH PRESSES. Just sayin'. 
  • Fun fact: Hattie Morahan (Agathe) and Dan Stevens (the Beast) were both in a remake of Sense & Sensibility as Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars. You know who also played Elinor Dashwood once? Emma Thompson! Who was Mrs. Potts in this movie. 
  • And speaking of Austen-ish things, I don't know why, but the dancing caught me off guard. You would think that I'd be used to seeing those types of dances, since I watch so many Austen movies (and I'm not saying they're all the same dances historically, either), but I guess I was expecting the same ballroom dancing that was in the animated one. 
  • Not related to anything, but I really want one of those ear cuff things that Belle is wearing with the gold dress. 
  • Thankyouthankyouthankyou for not including "Human Again." I hate how they added that song to the animated version decades later, and I just really don't care for it very much. However, it's curious that they did reference Romeo and Juliet in this version, just like that particular added scene did. (Also, why is Belle so into R&J anyway? It's nothing like the favorite story she sings about, and it's like, depressing as all hell. Come on, gurl.)
  • The Celine Dion (?) song at the end was a nice touch. 
Okay, that's all I've got for now. I am still very firmly attached to the animated one, but I liked this one too - it didn't ruin the old one for me, and it even added some new elements that I really enjoyed. :) Yep, still my favorite Princess.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I want to be where your heart is home

Spring is just around the corner, but as far as I know, it will stay rainy and gray around here for quite a bit longer. We've had a few nice days here and there, but overall it's been the darkest, coldest winter I've ever had.

I find myself missing the California sunshine. I had an errant thought the other day that I really want to go to Disneyland. I mean, that's not unique or special - a lot of people love Disneyland and it's fun to escape into a fantasy away from your real life. But this time I actually was thinking about the getting-to-Disneyland part of going to Disneyland too.

I'm not really into long drives, and the drive to Disneyland is largely unexciting - just lots of brown hills and farmland, for the most part. But there's something in my heart right now longing for that vast stretch of sun-drenched freeway.

Of course, it's not just the sunshine that I miss. I'm pretty isolated up here - I have Portland-area friends and coworkers and gym buddies, but I'm quite a ways out from all of them and haven't really been up to socializing, to be honest. So I'm often just holed up in my cold house, knitting and looking through my social media feeds in between running errands and work.

And it's hard not to feel sad. I'm watching the people that I love living their lives without me, and it was my decision that made this happen. I don't know if it's the sky making me sadder than I normally would be, or if it's also because I'm feeling adrift and purposeless right now because I'm not currently teaching, or if social media generally makes me sad because of the FOMO it engenders, or... I don't know. Maybe some combination of all those things. I'm at a point where it hurts profoundly and I have to just close my window and distract myself with fictional worlds and people, instead of the real thing.

I'm not sorry I decided to move, because I do think this is where I am meant to be. I just didn't realize how lonely it would feel. I'm already not good at reaching out to people when I have friends around to reach out to; it's even harder now, when I barely know anyone. So I just hide myself away instead.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Some people are never happy.

Article here
This morning I was looking at the above article about the new swimwear line from plus-sized model Ashley Graham. And I had some... thoughts.

And then I happened to glance at the comments section on the Facebook post that shared the article, and saw this comment, which pretty much stated what I was thinking:
This isn't swimsuits for all haha. It's swimsuits for women with big hips, a narrow flat stomach, and huge boobs. That's fantastic for the folks who look that way but all of us ladies aren't that blessed.
To which someone else replied,
Some people are never happy.
To which _I_ replied (in my own head), "No... we're not."

I mean, as the first comment said, "That's fantastic for folks who look that way." I'm happy for THEM, but no, I'm not satisfied. No shade to Ashley Graham--I'm not picking on her--but she is essentially a larger version of the same body type that is pushed on women by the media. It's GREAT that she's larger, and there should be more representation of larger women, but her body type still only represents a small slice of the population, so we shouldn't just stop there. I am technically a smaller size than she is, but my body doesn't look like that, nor will it EVER look like that (without drastic and/or unhealthy measures), because that's just not my body type.

A quick glance at Swimsuits For All's Instagram page does indeed showcase some different body types, so I'm not here to rail against them, specifically. I'm moreso angry about the second commenter. Because, you know how why models like Ashley Graham and companies like Swimsuits For All even exist? Because SOME PEOPLE WEREN'T HAPPY. There were enough unhappy women out there, who were willing to speak up about the lack of body diversity in fashion, that modeling agencies decided to start taking a chance on women like Ashley, and SHE saw enough unhappy women looking for swimsuits that she decided to start her own line.

Good stuff happens when people decide not to settle for "good enough." Good stuff happens when we keep pushing boundaries and breaking barriers, instead of just getting complacent. Good stuff happens when we voice our unhappiness, and they are not complaints or whining, but legitimate calls for more inclusiveness and better representation. So, no, I'm not just going to "be happy."

I want to re-emphasize that I'm not hating on Ashley Graham or her company, or accusing her or them of complacency, okay? (In fact, if you are able to, please support! Show the industry that companies like hers have a demand!) It's not her/them that is making me mad; it's random members of the public (and the media too!) who want to silence those criticisms and suggestions for improving our society and culture.

I'm going to continue to fight and speak out. Until all of us who are non-mainstream (in various ways, not just because of our weight) are no longer treated as lesser-than or invisible, I'm not going to be satisfied.

Friday, February 3, 2017

FO: Dragonscale gloves

Don't fashion me
into a maiden
that needs saving
from a dragon.
I am the dragon,
and I will eat you

Pattern: Dragonscale Gloves by Rachel Barlow
Yarn: Dream in Color's Smooshy with Cashmere in the colorway "Mermaid Shoes"
Quote: Requiem of the Moon Poetry