Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

picBen Stiller, I am impressed. I was expecting another Zoolander, and believe me, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is in a league of its own.

By the end of the movie, I was grinning and wanted to hop on a plane to – anywhere!

This movie speaks to the daydreamer in all of us. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie where the underdog goes on whirlwind trip and comes back a hero – the likeable kind – then this the movie for you. You’ll be cheering Walter on from start to finish.

It’s refreshing to watch a movie which doesn’t end on a cliffhanger and keeps us in suspense until the next installment comes out. *ahem The Hobbit and The Hunger Games* Ah, the satisfaction that comes with watching a movie that starts and ends in one sitting lol.

In addition to the fantastic narrative threaded throughout the film, the cinematography was exquisite. Without giving too much away, Walter comes across some spectacular vistas. There really is so much out there to see.

It was also really cool to see elements of video game design weaved into the movie e.g. check out the way the opening credits were introduced. I’m not sure what that technique is called, but I hope to see more if it. Very L.A. Noir. Plus, the lead antagonist of the movie, the very unlikeable Ted Hendricks, (played by Adam Scott) looked exactly like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution! All he needed were a pair of sunglasses and, um, a lot of cybernetic implants. My worlds are colliding!

In conclusion: 9/10. Watch it!

PS: Deus Ex is being turned into a MOVIE!

Mona Lisa Smile, you infuriate me

MonalisasmileA few nights ago, I watched Mona Lisa Smile on TV with my husband. He was surprised I hadn’t watched it before, with all of my interest in women’s rights, feminism and so on. While he cooked, I sat down and watched it.

I found the movie, in one word, infuriating! The movie was set in the 1950’s, and I was gobsmacked by how much these bright, talented and articulate young women worshipped the idea of marriage, and put their husbands on a pedestal. It was so painful to watch these girls attend dances and so on in the desperate hope of snagging a husband. Preferably from Harvard.

I’m all for women exercising agency. But it looks like in 1950’s America, the only agency a woman had was through her husband. There were literally  etiquette classes where the (of course) unmarried teacher role-played domestic disasters, and quizzed her bright-eyed students about what she ought to do. You know, I’m all for being prepared for marriage, but that’s just going overboard. There was so much pressure for young women to be PERFECT – perfect wives, perfect mothers, and perfect housemakers. They transformed their very beings to fit this image, and moulded their souls against the expectations of their husbands. Unbelievable. I didn’t change my last name when I got married. I will always be my father’s daughter, and my sense of self isn’t contingent upon the ring on my finger.

Without giving too much away (in case you actually can stomach this kind of thing and actually want to watch it), the uppity, privileged girl in the movie who finds herself in an awful arranged (ARRANGED, PEOPLE) marriage actually does have the chutzpah to reclaim her dignity. So that’s one redeeming point.

Okay, so it wasn’t all bad. Julia Roberts played the ‘subversive’ (gasp!) art history teacher who kept telling her students then you don’t have to choose between being a housewife and getting a career. “You can do both.”And that, ladies and gentlemen, was enough to make her subversive. If I was a women’ liberal arts college teacher in 1950’s America, I would probably get my house vandalised by scandalised upper-class mothers. I would be SO subversive.

I am amazed and grateful that I live in a time where that concept is such a no-brainer, and most of all, that my faith supports me in balancing the many roles I have in my life. A woman must have  time to herself to stay sane, especially in the face of so many competing demands. People come and go, things change, but the only constant is God. I’ve learned to pin my hopes on Him, and not on creation.

The world has marched on since the era depicted by the Mona Lisa Smile.

In the 1950’s, we had this:

housewife002

And now, in 2011, we have this: Debunking the myths of sex work.

Wow. Now that’s a whole other point of discussion.

Review of “The Sapphires”

The Sapphires

The Sapphires was a fantastic movie, based around the lives of four incredible Aboriginal women who sang for the US troops in Vietnam. I have a weakness for musicals, and the vocal range of these women gave me goosebumps! I also really loved the very realistic portrayal of the relationships between the sisters, cousin, mum, dad, aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. The bumbling manager was a nice touch. He’s a perfect example of the flawed hero.

Without giving too much away, The Sapphires describes the challenges faced by Aboriginal people in Australia, and how much of an uphill battle it was for them – and still is – to be respected. Watching this movie made me wonder abut the Stolen Generations – how unimaginable it is for me, but how much of a reality it is for so many Aboriginal families.

In Conversation With The Real Sapphires was a fantastic interview with the real-life heroines. Check it out!

Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure

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I watched the Hobbit last night with my husband, mum, brother and sister. It was AMAZING. If you’re a fantasy fan or just enjoy a rollicking good movie, then you won’t be disappointed. The visuals were breathtaking (as my mum put it, “I liked the scenery.” lol) and the haunting soundtrack (“Song of the Lonely Mountain”) really gets into your bones. The characters ranged from a company of dwarves to a very scary giant pale orc. You’ll also see an assortment of ethereal elves, some familiar, and some new. It was really cool to see Lee Pace from Pushing Daisies as the Elf King Thranduil (Legolas’ dad). Bret (Flight of The Concords) also made another appearance as an elf.

Moving away from the elves – this first part of the Hobbit gives us much more backstory to the dwarves. In the introductory scene where we see the gorgeous dwarven city of Erebor, I was astounded to see how similar the architure was to Skyrim’s depiction of dwarven ruins. Is there some kind of unspoken understanding that dwarves are just architecturally gifted?

Speaking of dwarves, we only really met Gimli in LOTR. It’s refreshing to see a much larger cast of dwarves, each one very different to the other. The dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield, is one intense, brooding fella, while the rest of them are the table-thumping, jovial sort.

As far as protagonists go, Bilbo Baggins is one of the most endearing. You’ll see plenty of character growth from the start of the movie to the end. I’ll always like the narrative of an accidental hero!

Random note: Watch out for the rabbit-sled when you see the Hobbit. I’ve never seen rabbits being used in a fantasy novel/movie before, and it works!

What makes a great character?

Think of your favourite books and movies, and ask yourself – what made you love or hate these characters? What made them so…compelling? The Write Practice wrote a post on this, titled Han Solo, Scarlett O’Hara, and Your Characters: What Makes Them Compelling? Definitely worth a read! To me, I can think of a few memorable characters, right off the bat:

Bella Swan. Now, when I think of Bella, I immediately think of the following synonyms: annoying, insipid and ungrateful. Read this great article on Fifty Shades of Sexism: Why Are Our Modern Heroines So Weak? and you’ll see what I mean.

On the other hand, when I think of Anne of Green Gables, I think of a very flawed girl-turned-woman with agency, passion and determination. I’m telling you, the classics are called the classics for good reason.

Having read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and watched the movies, I vastly prefer Eowyn over Arwen. Eowyn is a strong, focused, brave heroine who literally jumped into the jaws of death. Remember that scene? “I am no man!” Oh, goosebumps! Her courage is way cool. Arwen actually didn’t feature much in the LOTR books, unlike the movie, and..well…she was very ephemeral, beautiful, and useful for Aragon’s dream-scenes 😛 She doesn’t have as much independent substance as Eowyn.

To me, the best kinds of characters are the ones who grow throughout the story. I want to see someone who is flawed bumble through the pages of his/her story, and then triumph over his/her inadequacies and be in a better place by the end of the book. There needs to be some kind of motivation behind their actions, something I can understand and perhaps even relate to. Samwise Gamgee had so much love and loyalty for Frodo, and that made him my favourite hobbit 🙂

On the other hand, the biggest turn-off in any character is the P word – perfection. The last thing I want is to pick up a book, invest my time and emotional energy engaging in the story and character(s), only to find him/her in the exact same headspace, 600 pages later! I don’t want to read about a static character who is beautiful in the start of the novel and is still beautiful by the end of it. Give me some real, messy, problematic points that shake up the protagonist and compels him/her into motion. Give me something I can relate to.

With that in mind, it’s my hope that Jamilah, the protagonist in Finding Jamilah, did just that. She grew into a different young woman by the end of the story, and in all honesty, so did I!