Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: movies

Storytelling in the Form of Movies

I’m 100% in love with Disneyanity by Douglas Brode, but I do have a few complaints. First of all, he uses the title or a character’s full name once and then abbreviates it for the rest of the essay and that drives me crazy. I’m constantly trying to remember who or what it stands for. It uses up brain energy, people. You’re typing, not writing it out by hand, please.

Second, I think he’s wrong in a lot of places. I know. Crazy. I could be wrong too, but I doubt it. (Read that in “sarcasm font.”) Honestly, though, I think he’s definitely reading into a lot, but it’s still fascinating to read. We all interpret movies and books from our own world view, seeing what we want to see, connecting the dots to create the picture we really want. We’re not scientists or historians! We’re artists and lovers of craft!

And what’s better than pulling apart and peering into the inner workings of a great story?!

“And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMDB) amateur, complain that “Disney get the story all wrong.” Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

disneyanity by douglas brode

I’ve heard that complaint from people when new Disney movies came out and agreed with it. If you’re going to present movies about historical figures, shouldn’t they be as true to life as possible? Pocahontas was the first movie I heard people losing their minds about.

I guess it depends on why you’re making the movie, why you’re telling the story.

I mean, history books and biographies have already been written, probably a documentary has already been made. So why create another?

In the past I might have said because it hasn’t been told by you, in your words. But why are your words and images so important?

Disney isn’t teaching history. He’s creating mythology. He’s taking characters from our past and telling their story (and his own) in the context of our time. Not himself these days, since he died in 1966 (or did he), but his company of storytellers.

That’s what all movie makers are. Storytellers.

When we watch something, anything really, we need to remember who is telling the story and why, not simply digest everything we see on a screen as the gospel truth.

Instead of screaming to yourself, and the online community at large, “This is false! That’s not what that person did!” Try asking yourself, “What did the presenter of this try to tell me?” We can spend some time reading more about the real-life character or situation if we like, or we can take the entire thing as mythology, a story that attempts to convey a message about humanity and the world around us using names and places we already know.

As a sidenote, the Disney company should pay the author of this book for all the new subscriptions to Disney+ it is probably generating. Reading about each tv show and movie, I want to go back and watch some of them to see if I see what Douglas Brode is talking about. I can’t be the only one. Besides, there are so many new Disney movies that I haven’t seen.

Over the weekend, I watched Encanto while my husband was working on our bathroom remodel. He came in several times to find me cross-legged on the couch, bouncing along to the music like a child. Once, toward the end, when I heard him walk into the room, I shouted, “I’m not crying!”

That movie…oh, wow. Absolutely gorgeous and completely unexpected. I found myself talking back to the tv more than once, which isn’t unheard of around here. I tend to get a little excited about what I’m watching. One of the world’s most beautiful inventions? The pause button!

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies

Book vs Movie: Final Thoughts on The Stand

Book vs Movie, the only argument I’m willing to have these days, so I’ll jump in and give my two cents worth. In this instance, the contestants are many. The original 1978 book vs the Complete and Uncut 1990 version and/or the ’94 movie vs the ’20 movie.

book vs movie

When I closed the book, my first thought was, “Holy…wow…that was a long book!” Even though I’m a big fan of Stephen King, I don’t think it needed to be THAT long. There were plenty of drawn-out scenes that were awesome but didn’t move the story forward or add to character development. But I get it. If you loved the original, more is always better!

The Stand was originally published in 1978. In the introduction, King writes to the reader to warn them that there isn’t much of a change from the original, just about 400 pages that were taken out of his original manuscript at the request of the publisher because that many pages makes the book more expensive to print and therefore more costly at the retailer. They know people will only pay so much for entertainment, one of those economic principles I’m sure my son knows all the college words for.

In fact, the introduction was my favorite part of the book. I can’t help it, I enjoy King’s voice most when he writes directly to the reader. It’s why I cared so much for his memoir On Writing. Oh my…I just spent ten minutes looking up the post that I wrote about that book (because I LOVED IT so much) only to find that I never did. I read it in November of 2018, back before I regularly wrote about the books that I was devouring. Makes me think that maybe I should go back to my favorites and say a few words “in memoria,” starting with this one.

Anywho, back to The Stand!

Opening up The Stand was the beginning of a month-long relationship for me. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fast reader, and this book went by at my average, around 30 pages an hour. But book vs movie? I’m sad to say…you’re going to kill me…I think watching the new movie on Paramount+ was enough for me, even if I didn’t like Whoopie Goldberg’s portrayal of Mother Abigail. It wasn’t a waste of time though. I did learn a few things, it was interesting, and I did enjoy my time in the story.

Sure, scenes were moved around and combined in the new movie. Some characters were switched. But the feeling was all there, the motives. I liked the new movie because of the diverse characters and women had more aggressive and independent motives of their own than the book seemed to portray.

One thing that really did make me crazy (and this is my inner feminist coming out), I cringed every time someone was referred to “my woman,” “his woman,” or “her man.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve said the same thing about my husband in jest. “My man always takes care of me!” But this use and the frequency of it felt different and it pulled me out of the story every time I read the words. Pet peeve, I suppose.

Come to think of it, one could write a whole article about the differences in the portrayal of female characters in book, the 90’s version of the movie, and the ’20 version. Someone else do that, please, but not in a nasty man-hating way. It’s just interesting how things have changed and why.

I was relieved at finally finishing this book. It’s a big fatty and I’m tired of looking at it!

If you’d like to use the Wayback Machine and see what my first thoughts going into this epic, click over to The Stand by Stephen King: A New Read, a whole freakin’ MONTH ago!

Movie Magic & Human Nature

When I was a kid, the movie magic and the theater were the domain of my dad. He’d frequently pick us up, go to Thrifty’s for two candies each, and head to the theater for the latest movie. There’s an anecdote about my active imagination that my dad loves to tell. I’ll try to recreate it but remember that it’s far better when he tells the story.

There was a day we were at the movies and, as was our custom, before the movie started, my brother and I would run down the front of the house to explore that big space in front of the screen but before the seats. “Back in my day” you had to show up to the theater early to get a good seat, so we had plenty of time to kill before the previews started.

This time I came running back with my serious face and sat beside my dad leaving my little brother to explore on his own. My dad asked me what was wrong, and I replied that I was afraid of the monsters. My dad scoffed and reminded me that monsters were only in the movies. I turned my six-year-old face to my dad, wide-eyed and dismayed, “Dad! This IS the movies!”

You can’t argue with that. Movie magic comes with movie monsters!

As I grew up, movies with my dad became more and more rare. Teenagers don’t go to movies with their old parents! But I did keep going with my friends until well into my 20’s. As an adult, they fell out of favor. I’m not sure why. It may have simply been the expense of taking the whole family.

Over the past five years, I began to rediscover movie going and was reminded of how much I love the experience…only to have it whisked away by the “pandemic” but theaters are open again and this past weekend a friend asked if I wanted to go.

At first, I jumped at the chance, then I looked at the offerings and wasn’t impressed. There weren’t many movies to choose from and they all seemed lame. But it has been blazing hot this summer and sitting inside a cool, dark theater sounded so nice. We picked a comedy and decided to go on Saturday.

Then I started thinking. Would it be crowded early on a Saturday afternoon? I don’t want to be surrounded by people during normal times, and even more so now. Would there we weird ass restrictions that make me uncomfortable? I’d rather just stay home than jump through hoops so that everyone FEELS safe and really isn’t. Human behavior can make me crazy sometimes.

I decided I was being ridiculous, and it would be better to go out and experience the world, take notes, and make observations in person, than to stay at home and speculate.

I’m glad I did, because people are so damn weird and movie magic is real.

We purchased our tickets online about an hour before the movie started. It’s the kind of theater where you pick your specific seats when you purchase the ticket. I thought that was pretty cool BCB but now it’s even cooler. They can separate people before they get in the theater, put empty seats between groups, because we’re all too collectively dumb to do so for ourselves (insert eyeroll).

When we bought the tickets, we were the first to do so. That was weird. I assumed more people would be buying tickets just before the movie and the theater would be fairly full. I mean, it’s Saturday and over 100 degrees outside…again. I messed up my timing (again) and got to the theater five minutes before showtime to find the theater empty but for one other family, who had bought tickets for seats directly in front of us.

Think about that for a moment. Those people looked at the seat chart, saw that only two other seats in the whole theater were already taken, and selected the seats directly in front of those. Really?!

With the way they build theaters now, sightlines are not a problem. And maybe you’re not that worried about strangers breathing and eating and talking less than three feet above and behind you because you’re vaccinated. But what about personal space and privacy? I get it if the theater is full and those are the only seats available, but the whole theater was empty. Why would you CHOOSE to be that close to other people?

Humans are so strange. I sat down in those seats because I those are the assigned seats I bought, but within a couple minutes the previews started, no one else was coming, so we moved up a couple rows. I laughed in my head the whole time thinking about my Dad and how he always complains that people choose the seat directly in front of you no matter how empty the theater is. I couldn’t wait to tell him.

Movie magic strikes again!
Image from Wikipedia

As a side note, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is hilarious. I chose that movie purely by the title and the genre. I assumed it would be as stupid as the title, but it was inside and air-conditioned, so what the hell! I was pleasantly surprised, laughed the whole time, and loved every minute of it.

There was something else interesting that was thinking about while I was at the movies and for several hours after. Things are changing…duh…but not necessarily in a bad way.

I had stopped going to the movies mostly because the hassle of going, the cost, being among a large group of people that (from the story above) seem to have no sense of manners when it comes to movie etiquette. Screaming kids watching clearly inappropriate movies, sick people over my shoulder, talking people, etc. Why spend that much on a movie when I can sit a home and watch them on my big screen with a beer and chips? The ability to pause when I have to go to the bathroom? Yes, please!

Moving my watching time to earlier in the day, before 2pm, helped a tremendous amount. Why is it that no one goes to the movies at 11am or 1pm? We had been going on Christmas day for the latest release of Star Wars and walking into an empty theater for years. Walking out, we’d see a long line of people waiting for the late afternoon showings. Crazy.

I was bored with the selection of movies at one point. It seemed there were only action movies and coarse and crude comedies. I was so completely disappointed with first Hobbit movie, that I never went back to see the next one. There’s no dialog, no depth of meaning or character, just chase, chase, explode, and kill. It’s exhausting. And loud.

We chose to stay home to watch movies instead and I love the new streaming movies. There are so many new limited series shows based on books, history, etc. It’s awesome. Traditional movies have to be made to fit a niche: a time frame people can sit through in one stint and that a large swath of people will watch. A two-to-three-hour movie has to leave a lot of details out to get the story told. And it has to be made so that as many people as possible will watch to be profitable, so it’s catered the lowest common denominator.

It’s expensive for a theater to show a movie, so they need as many people there as possible. Streaming movies are cheaper to distribute, so they can be made for a smaller market. Limited series shows based on books or history, can be as long as they want. And now we have movies that cater to a very specific audience. It’s awesome.

But something is missing for me. Where’s the movie magic?

When The Force Awakens came out, something strange happened to me. This was the first movie I’d seen in a theater in years. When those yellow words started scrolling up the screen and the music began, I got a chill. I could feel the energy around me. And when the whole theater gasped in excitement to relive old memories and see the continuation of a story that we had all grown up with…it was movie magic. A collective memory, we were all connected emotionally. It felt…primal. I’m tearing up just writing about it.

The best part of that movie was the fact that we were all sitting there watching it together. Like watching your favorite band perform live or a live performance of a play, we are experiencing something together and for a moment we had a bond with our fellow humans. It was weird.

Right now, I’m reading “The Righteous Mind” and he’s talking about humans and how their evolved edge over all the other animals is their ability to work together, to trust each other (as in The Rational Optimist), and to bond into large groups of non-family. This is what has made us thrive and spread out over the world, to master our environment, and create technology that makes us fatter and happier than any other species. Call me crazy, but I think the movie magic is an extension of that.

I remember huge movie houses when I was a kid, packed full, shoulder to shoulder with little leg room, to watch a giant screen. The last movie I saw like that was Jurassic Park at the Cinedome in Anaheim. This movie was HUGE and was touted as having huge sound that had to be “experienced,” so we went there. It was amazing. You could feel those dinosaurs walking and hear them coming up behind you.

Those huge movie theaters are gone, I know, and that’s ok because their replacement is so much more intimate and comfortable. Smaller theaters, with comfortable recliners, tiered up so no one’s view is obstructed. Seats far enough apart that you don’t get kicked in the back by the long-legged dude or coughed on by the squirmy kids behind you. It’s fantastic.

But ticket sales had started to fall BCB, and I hope after being closed for over a year, they don’t continue that trend and theaters close forever.

There’s just something about the collective experience that I had forgotten was so special. The arrival, the popcorn, the finding of your seat. The lights dimming, the previews we watch and then look at each other for a thumbs up or down. The movie itself with the collective laughs, gasps, and painful silences. And then the end: the applause, the standing and stretching, walking from the theater laughing or crying, the looking to other patrons with the “Did you feel that?” look. It’s movie magic.

It’s Friday, My Friends!

It’s a special Friday today!

My husband is on vacation starting today and therefore, so am I!

For the next couple of weeks, I won’t be posting anything, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I’ll be spending our on the road vacation as a kind of writing retreat. I have a short list of “to-do’s” and a couple of great books to read!

This is my husband and I’s first vacation without kids in twenty years, so we have some adjusting to do. Where do you go when you aren’t trying to show the world to your kids? What places do you visit when you only have the two of you chiming in with preferences? It’s going to be different for sure and I’m really looking forward to it.

On to the Friday list!

Thing I learned: Writer’s keep journals for different reasons and they’re NOT all very interesting. I just finished “Breathe in. Breathe Out.” By Ralph Fletcher. I’ve kept a journal/notebook for years, ever since I was a teenager. Lately, my notebook has begun to look more like a personal journal. I don’t like it. The past couple of weeks I started keeping it with me wherever I go and writing down things I see, memories, ideas, quotes, song lyrics, anything I think is interesting. When I go out to lunch with a friend, I sit in my car afterwards and write down a few lines about it, impressions I had or feelings that came up. I promised myself I’d be looking back on that more often than I used to, but I’ve let is slide again. June has been busy.

Thing I’m reading: “The Pagan Christ” by Tom Harpur. Part of me is a bit afraid to post the cover of this on my Facebook page and that makes me angry. I’m of the mind that the real God is so great that it cannot be proven false. I have no fear of reading something that might challenge my beliefs. I want those challenges. I don’t want to believe anything blindly!

Right off the bat, I know this book will be fascinating! Here’s a quote to show you exactly what I mean. “A too often forgotten truth is that you can live through actual events of history and completely miss the underlying reality of what’s going on.” There is more to the world around you than the details only you experience. We have to remove ourselves a bit to see the bigger picture, and sometimes the picture is just far too big for us every to be THAT removed.

Thing I heard: “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede! Every single time I hear that song, I see my Dad’s livingroom and his juke box. I also see him singing it at the top of his voice next to me in the cab of his Datsun pickup truck, banging on the steering wheel. It brings to mind images of Thrify’s ice cream, Saturday matinees, and 7/11 Slurpees. I’m only slightly perturbed that everyone else only knows it because of “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Thing I want to do: Take a nap for several days. I have not gotten enough sleep lately and I have no idea why. Could it be the weather change? The sun going down so late in the day? My son’s cooking? The cat and its need for me to on the couch at 4am so he can sleep next to me there? No idea. Maybe I can get some more sleep while we are on our trip!

Picture of the week:

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The Says Phoebe’s have left the nest on our front porch! Two new birds have been raised to adulthood once again. I love them. A new couple is on our porch every spring and I look forward to hearing their twittering. I’ve learned what each different call means. One call I know is the one for, “That cat is stalking us again!” And I’m out there at least once a day to shoo him into the house and apologize for his behavior.

Interesting thing my son said…he was washing a dish at the sink and watching the mother bird fly up to the nest with a bug and then fly off a bit and start calling. He wondered what she was doing and it dawned on him. “She’s luring him out of the nest! She doesn’t kick them out, she offers him food and waits to see if they’ll join her…just like YOU!”

My sons are old enough to be on their own and they fly in and out of our nest all the time. I know when they are ready to be on their own without their mother hovering over them and asking stupid questions, they will go. I’m in no hurry, but I know the day will come soon. There is already talk about apartments and moving to the city. I won’t kick them out and see if they fly. I’ve put way too much work into this for that! When they are ready, their instincts to fend for themselves will pull them.

See you in a few weeks!

“Rebecca”

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“Rebecca” is another book I got on my epic Barnes & Noble quest for great novels. I found it laying on a table as I was about to leave. It’s one of my husband’s favorite movies, one he rented for us when we were still dating, and I had no idea it was a book. Are all old movies from best-selling books?

If you know there is a book and a movie, which do you like to experience first? I usually like to watch the movie first. I’m rarely disappointed that way. The only time I am let down by a book after a movie is when the movie followed the book too closely. Mary Poppins was like that! Great movie, great book, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them both. I like reading a book that gives the movie far more depth.

The author of “Rebecca,” Daphne Du Maurier, wrote “The Birds” as well and a few other great movies. Now I want to read those stories and watch their movies too! I wonder if they are all as somber and mysterious?

Anyway! On to “Rebecca.” I haven’t seen the movie in nearly twenty years, but the minute I started reading the feeling of it came flooding back. Lucky for me, I couldn’t remember how it ended, so it was a total surprise. If you like mysteries, Alfred Hitchcock style, you’ll love this book.

It’s a mystery book, so I can’t really write much about the story without giving it away, but I did have one thing I wanted to mention.

The relationship between the servants of a big manor like that and its owner is so foreign to me. They revere the master of that house, the whole family for that matter. And some of them are just so irritated that he married beneath him. It’s weird. You’d think they would be happy for her. If I were them, I’d be proud that my boss isn’t too stuck up to fall in love with someone despite their class.

I must have written this out six or seven times and I still can’t get the words out the way I want them too. Maybe it’s my thinking that’s confused. What do you think about classes today? Do you think we have them separated as completely as we have in the past? Or are the walls easier to climb today?

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