TTT: L’Abri Film Night

I’m celebrating this week’s movie freebie by reminiscing about my time at L’Abri, a Christian hospitality ministry.  I was at their location in England for three months earlier this year.  Every week, on Wednesday evening, our study room was transformed into a theater.  One of the staff members would pick a film and we would watch it while eating cinnamon-sugar popcorn.  When the movie ended, we’d spend half an hour or so discussing it.

The movies that were chosen were usually the kind that make you think.  I got to see several fantastic titles (some of which I’ve included in my list) and lots of foreign films.  I love watching movies that engage you on a deeper level than mere entertainment.

So, I’ve chosen a list of movies that I would show at L’Abri if I had the chance.

  1. Midnight in Paris (2011): One of my all-time favorites, this movie has a lot to say about nostalgia and the dangers of Golden-Age thinking.
  2. The Imitation Game (2014): I watched this one on an airplane and had to stop it multiple times just to think about what was going on.  In addition to being a great historical piece, the messages about homosexuality is an important one.
  3. Les Miserables (2012): Although I prefer the stage version, the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece raises great questions about grace, forgiveness, and redemption.
  4. Inside Out (2015): I watched this one while at L’Abri.  Pixar movies do such a great job at creating movies that are both entertaining and enlightening.  Inside Out is no exception with messages about the complexity of emotions.  It can also be seen as a critique of American uber-positivity.
  5. Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Here’s another one I was introduced to at L’Abri.  The premise is odd and uncomfortable at times, but it’s really a beautiful message about community.
  6. About Time (2013): Again, one of my favorite movies and one of the few to make me cry.  You think it’s going to be a happy romantic comedy, but then it turns out to be a beautiful story about family and what makes life worthwhile.
  7. Her (2013): This movie is super weird and uncomfortable at points.  I include it on my list because, when we watched it at L’Abri, it raised so many question and thoughts that we were still talking about it for a week and a half later.
  8. The Truman Show (1998): This movie raises so many ethical questions, especially since it predates the rise of reality television, and I’d love to have a discussion about it.

What movies make you think?  What ones would you like to have an intellectual group discussion about?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly link-up hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

For more of my bookish adventures, add me on Goodreads!

Cinderella

I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings.  My favorite being Cinderella.

What fascinates me about fairytales is that, even though the stories are hundreds of years old, they are still being told.  They hold a valuable place as cultural markers.  The stories a culture tells speak volumes about the culture’s values, customs, and fears.  All fairytales have their core elements.  Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger, Snow White eats the apple, Rapunzel is saved from her tower by a handsome prince.

The thing about adaptations is that they tweak the core elements of a fairy tale.  Changes are significant because they reveal the values, customs, and fears of culture today.  It’s amazing how we can tell a story can be told for hundreds of years and continue to find new ways to tell it.  What if Snow White didn’t eat the apple?  What if Sleeping Beauty never pricked her finger?  What would happen if Rapunzel wasn’t saved, but left of her own volition with not a prince, but an outlaw?

As you may know, I’ve been looking forward to Disney’s new Cinderella for a long time.  (See posts here and here for my anticipation).  I caught wind of the film three years ago and have been following its production ever since.

With adaptations like the book Ella Enchanted or the movie Ever After out there, what’s so special about this movie?  Well, it’s a remake of the animated movie.  And I HATE the animated movie.  I think it’s one of the worst adaptations out there.  So I was excited for Disney to have a chance to redeem itself.

I saw the movie yesterday and, for the most part, I agree with many of the critics.  Disney played it pretty safe.  It’s your traditional Cinderella tale with all the elements: dead parents, evil stepmother, stupid stepsisters, forced servitude, fairy godmother, a pumpkin coach, leave before midnight, forget the slipper, etc. etc. etc.  They fleshed out the characters a bit, but it’s nowhere near as convincing as the development in Ever After.

Did Disney redeem itself, though?  Absolutely.  What the movie lacks in innovation is more than made up for in how stunningly beautiful it is.  Everything about the film is gorgeous–from the costumes to the sets to the dashing Richard Madden as the prince.

My favorite part of the entire movie was probably Cate Blanchett’s performance as Lady Tremaine.  Her costumes were stunning and every line was delivered with the perfect level of poison.  I’d pay to see it again just to soak in her villainy.

To be honest, if I think too hard about this movie, I’m pretty sure I’ll make myself dislike it.  (My inner feminist can’t deny that the heroine of this adaptation is ridiculously passive.)  So, for once in my life, I’m not going to let myself think.  It’s the kind of movie that is made to be enjoyed.  You watch it, feel warm fuzzies, and then go on with life.  I’m determined to sit back, soak in the prettiness, and daydream about Richard Madden’s smile.

To my Cinderella fans out there–what did you think of the movie?  Let me know in the comments!

I’ve become a hermit and I don’t even care

These days, I don’t seem to get out much.  It’s been a month since I moved back into the dorms and it took until tonight for me to actually meet my floor-mates.  I rarely see my friends anymore.

At times, flying solo is a bit lonesome.  I go hours without talking to anyone but myself.  It’s easy to let myself get all sad and mopey about this, but I do my best to remain positive.  When it comes down to it, I don’t really mind.

After all, life continues to steamroll by and I’m moving with it.  Even if there are moments when I wouldn’t mind company, I’m staying busy and thriving.  I’ve been working hard and am ahead on homework.  In the evenings, I’ve got Bible studies, prayer meetings, and worship nights to attend.  Between work and study, I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the library.   I’m organizing a letter-writing program for college students and elderly in the community for a group project.  On Saturdays, I judge speech meets for the local high school team.

Then, there are quiet nights like this one.  The homework is done, library shifts completed, the meetings have been attended and there is only me, my paint, a jar of Nutella, and a Wes Anderson film.

Life, my friends, is good.

 

Boys only want love if it’s torture

Courtly Love.  Fin’ amor.  What comes to mind?

Knights on white horses.  Damsels in towers.  Romance.  Intrigue.  Purity.  Chivalry.

One of the many literature classes I’m taking this semester is Gender, Lit, and Culture.  The professor, Julie, is one of my absolute favorites (and happens to be my academic advisor).  This year, she’s teaching the class from the angle of Courtly Love.

It’s only been one day and I’m already over the moon with excitement.  Since today was the day for introductory material, we spent most of the time defining courtly love.  Julie showed examples of different aspects of the concept from movies like The Princess Bride, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare in Love, and A Knight’s Tale.  (Oh, Heath Ledger.  You beautiful, beautiful man.  May you rest in peace.)

The concept of courtly love is primarily literary, meaning it didn’t actually happen in real life.  It involves a man possessing deep, ennobling love with a woman who is usually unattainable.  (She could be married, far away, or even dead.)  The lover takes on the role of a servant, humbling himself before his beloved.  He gives her excessive praise and almost wastes away (symptoms: paleness of skin, sudden weight loss, sleeplessness) due to love.  The lady is placed on a pedestal, becoming an icon of unnatural beauty and a borderline spiritual inspiration to the lover.  Due to this position, the beloved is often seen as domineering, demanding proof of his loyalty and obedience before paying him attention.

In stories of courtly love, there is secrecy, adultery, and (of course) endless suffering on behalf of the lover.  Love transcends mere emotion–it is a game, an art with rules and guidelines.

I find it all fascinating.  It’s problematic, but also tugs at your romantic heartstrings.  The idea that there is such a thing as true love sets a standard that can never be met.  We know this, but still long for it anyway.

One of the things Julie talked about was that the traditions of courtly love continue to influence our culture today.  We talked about several examples, but my favorite was from a movie that came out not too long ago…  The song, of course, is satire.  But the agony of the courtly lover is shown PERFECTLY.  (Also, it’s the best scene in Into the Woods hands down.  Attractive men ripping their shirts, writhing around on rocks, moaning about love.  Absolute hilarity.)

Courtly love isn’t just in the movies.  Julie, defending herself with the claim that it’s all her eleven year old daughter listens to, pointed out that Taylor Swift songs are littered with courtly love themes.  After class ended, I visited some of her recent songs and discovered that is absolutely true.  I mean, the ENTIRE music video to “Blank Space” is a big, overblown courtly love fest. It’s not a perfect example, but comes pretty dang close.  Taylor takes the position of the beloved, holding complete and total control of the mansion and lover.  She’s on the pedestal.  She’s got the power.  And, goodness, does she use it.  The lyrics explain the thrill of the game and the agonies of love.  “Boys only want love if it’s torture.”

Courtly love aside, the music video is absolutely hilarious.  I’m kind of in love with it.

(Also, you can take a quiz on Buzzfeed to find out what part you are.  I got the screaming fight part.)

The Battle of Five Armies

This weekend, I visited Middle Earth via the silver screen for the last time.  To say I’m a Tolkien fan is an obvious fact.  I mean, I DID name my blog from one of his lines.

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

I remember my first exposure to The Hobbit.  I was six or seven years old and we rented the old 1970’s cartoon.  It was creepy, kind of terrifying, but my brothers and I enjoyed it enough to delve further into Tolkien’s world.

In fifth grade, I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time.  The movies were coming out around this time and I followed them religiously.  Despite differences from the books, I adore the film versions.  I have them memorized.  I listen to the original trilogy on audiobook every summer.

The main difference between the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fanchises is that the original trilogy came out when I was still in my formative years.  I was an excited child, ready to eat up anything Peter Jackson dished out.  As I grew older and learned to see the books and movies as different entities, I continued to love them out of childhood nostalgia.  The Hobbit, however, is different.

The first time I ever read The Hobbit was at the age of ten.  I was in fourth grade.  Mr. Achartz, my teacher, read it aloud to us.  I had a copy and followed along.  I fell absolutely in love.  Ever since, I’ve been reading and rereading the children’s story to the point where I don’t even need the words for the story to appear in my mind.

My main issue with The Hobbit movies is that I’m WAY too intimate with the source material.  Not only did I grow up on the story, but it’s something I’ve put a great deal of academic thought into.  Last fall during my term abroad, I wrote a ten page final essay on the uncanniness of Mirkwood that not only scored the best grade possible, but took first prize in the annual essay contest in my university at home.  The novel’s themes, centering around the idea of home, fascinate me and hold my heart.

It’s been incredibly painful, to be honest, watching the world eat up the film versions.  I enjoyed the first one well enough, but was absolutely devastated by the second.  Peter Jackson mutilated my beloved story.  The characters come and go to and from all the right places, but the events that transpire are totally different.  I was heartbroken by this.

Going into the final version, to say I had expectations would be a lie.  I didn’t even watch any of the trailers, to be honest.  I knew that the film would never match my idealistic childhood imaginings.  So I didn’t expect it to.  I went into The Battle of Five Armies with a mindset of detachment–these weren’t my beloved characters.  This isn’t my beloved story.  It’s an adaptation, a version that is not my own.

Having this mindset helped a LOT.  I actually really enjoyed the movie.  The pacing, of course, was really weird.  One of the finest moments of the novel is when Bard slays Smaug, which happens in the first ten minutes.  Most of the movie is focused on the battle and resolving Thorin’s issues with pride and, as the movie calls it, “dragon-sickness”.

There were things I really enjoyed.

Smaug, for one, is absolute and total perfection. It’s a shame his role is cut so short. Benedict Cumberbatch is incredible.

Once I pushed aside the weirdness of the Tauriel/Kili thing, I was able to actually cheer for the cross-species couple.  (Although I’m still miffed that they actually created a freaking awesome female elf and the stupid studio only allowed her existence if she was part of a love triangle.  WOMEN DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE IN LOVE IN MOVIES.  Rant over.)

I also really enjoy Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo, especially his weird little twitches.  It’s been fun seeing Bilbo grow and evolve as a character, finding his courage and facing down deadly foes.  But, through those little movements, Freeman conveys that deep down, Bilbo is not at home.  He isn’t comfortable.  He belongs in the Shire, in his armchair with a cozy breakfast and a large stock of pipeweed.

I also am head-over-heels in love with Lee Pace’s Thranduil.  He’s one of the most arrogant, (insert many profanities here) characters I’ve ever encountered.  And I love it.  Oh my goodness.  The internet has done some beautiful things with this character.

Because GingerHaze’s Party King Thranduil comics are the best.

I also pretty much adored Legolas throughout the entire film.  But that’s mainly because I don’t take Orlando Bloom seriously.  Every time he does something, I turned and obnoxiously whispered to my older brother, “Legolas does what he wants!”  He never listens to his father, never follows orders.  Out of nowhere, he opens up to Tauriel about not knowing his mother.  And at the end, he dramatically announces to his father that he isn’t returning to Mirkwood.  To which Thranduil goes, “Okay cool, just so you know, your mother did love you.”  At this point, I whispered to Joe (my brother), “So all this time, Legolas just had serious mommy issues.”  And he goes, “And now he’s going on the Middle Earth equivalent of a three-month backpacking trip in Europe to find himself.”  It’s fun not taking Legolas seriously.  (Because even in the original movie trilogy, all he does is point out the obvious.)

There is certainly a great deal more to say and there are a lot of things I could complain about, but I’m trying to be better at not being a total elitist English major snob.  So as far as movies go, it is an entertaining and enjoyable one. I will leave it at that and go read the book.

What are your thoughts/opinions on the movies? Love them? Hate them? Tell me about it in the comments!

Tis the Season Day 2: Untraditional Christmas Movies

Welcome to Day 2 of Tis the Season!

Today we’ll be talking movies.  There are countless fantastic Christmas movies, from It’s a Wonderful Life to White Christmas to A Christmas Story to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. etc.  We make a point of watching all of these movies every year, but my all time favorite tradition is a bit unconventional.

Every year in the week leading up to Christmas, my mom and I watch the 1957 film An Affair to Remember back to back with the 1993 “Sleepless in Seattle”.  I don’t know how the tradition began, or why THESE particular movies, but it’s something I always look forward to.

Made in 1957, An Affair to Remember stars Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr.  Grant’s character, a playboy who dabbles in the arts, meets Kerr’s on a cruise liner from Europe to New York City.  Although involved with other people, the two fall in love.  When they get to New York, they promise to break of their relationships and meet on the top of the Empire State Building to run away and get married.  But not everything goes as planned.  On the way to the meeting, something happens to Kerr that prevents her from attending.  I don’t want to say too much to spoil the ending, which is the best part.  I will say that the movie ends on Christmas Day.

Sleepless in Seattle is from 1993, the year after I was born.  The trailer below pretty much sums it all up, but it stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The movie opens on Christmas Eve with Hanks’ character’s son, still grieving from the death of his mother, calls a late-night radio talk show asking for help.  Hanks ends up spilling his heart out to the show’s hostess, resulting in his nickname “Sleepless in Seattle”.  All the way across the country in Baltimore lives Ryan’s character, who hears the broadcast and is captivated by the story.  She then sends a letter to Hanks that gets picked up by the son, sparking a series of events that leads to a meeting atop the Empire State Building.

An Affair to Remember is a love story that ends on Christmas.  Sleepless in Seattle is a love story that begins on Christmas.  Both couples have or fail to meet at the top of the Empire State Building.  One takes place in the 1950’s, the other in the 1990’s, but somehow, they work so well together.

Because I’m recovering from getting my wisdom teeth removed, I’ve been a bit under the weather.  I’ve been spending most of yesterday and today laying on the couch in my pajamas.  Since I’m not allowed out of the house, Mom and I are planning on watching these movies back-to-back tonight!  I’m looking forward to it.

What Christmas movies do you watch every year?  What are your favorites?

“All I Want for Christmas is You”

The first featured song of Tis the Season is one of my all time favorites. My roommate Katie was a bit surprised by this choice.

The thing about “All I Want For Christmas is You” is that it feels like a power number in a Broadway/West End show. I have this head canon where this is actually a thing. It’s a Christmas play with some kind of fun, family oriented plot. Naturally, there is a guy and girl who fall in love. Right at the tipping point of their relationship, they sing the slowed down Michael Buble version. Then, the show ends with the entire cast dancing and belting the Mariah Carey version.

Anyways, enough rambling from me. I hope you enjoy the song!

See you tomorrow for day two of Tis the Season!

On Tangled (and why it’s wonderful)

After a long (but great) night at Bible study in the next town over, I’m ending it all with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and watching a movie that, in light of the Frozen obsession, everyone seems to have forgotten about.  Can we all just take a moment to appreciate what a fantastic movie Tangled is?

I mean, Mother Gothel is one of the most terrifying Disney villains.  I often find that the scariest villans are the ones with no superpowers.  Take Gaston from Beauty & the Beast.  He’s horrifying because he fights with ignorance, pride, good looks, and the popularity card.  Gastons actually exist in the world.

Mother Gothel is in that same boat.  She doesn’t have any superpowers, but what she has are words.  And oh, how skillfully she uses them.  She twists and wraps Rapunzel in her lies to the extend that Rapunzel doesn’t even realize she’s being emotionally abused.  There are people like that in the world.  Not just people, there are mothers like that in the world.  That’s why this movie is resonating so deeply this time around.

Well, that and the fact that I keep reading into it as an allegory for Christianity.  I went to an event at a local church a couple of years ago where a guy analyzed the entirety of Tangled (performing the songs as they came along) and tied it into Christian faith.  It forever changed the way I see this movie.

Also, stuck in a tiny town in the middle of the prairie with nothing to do but watch movies and freak out about my impending finals, I kind of relate to Rapunzel here:

P.S. This is my 100th post on Keep Your Feet!  YAY!!!

Giddiness and gorgeous Cinderella posters!

As many of you may know, to say I’m excited for the upcoming Cinderella adaptation is a bit of an understatement.  With the recently released trailer and photos, I’ve been dancing around like a little girl before Christmas with glee.

This promo poster came up in my Facebook feed the other day and I was absolutely blown away.

There’s even more gorgeous photos and posters floating around online.  Be sure to check them out!

Can it be March yet?