Seeing Red

So, just recently I had the pleasure of watching the movie Turning Red. I’m sure you’ve probably at least heard the name as it’s been in the news quite a bit lately. It’s an animated coming-of-age film by Pixar (subsidiary of Disney) that tells the story of Meilin “Mei” Lee, a confident, average, dorky 13-year-old girl who struggles with being her mother’s obedient and perfect daughter amid the pandemonium that is adolescence. Her protective, and oftentimes overbearing mother, Ming, is never far from her child, which is a rather unfortunate reality for the teenager. School isn’t even a safe haven as Ming often shows up, keeping an embarrassingly close eye on Mei. On top of maintaining her honor roll grades, navigating relationships, and valiantly trying to to meet her mother’s impossible expectations, Mei Lee turns into a giant red panda every time she has strong emotions… which, as a 13 year old, happens quite often.

Overall, it’s a great movie, I really enjoyed it, and I plan on watching it again. There were a lot of cringe moments in the movie, which went along beautifully with the story, and, if we’re being honest, encapsulated the awkwardness that is being a teenage girl extremely well. I may be a few summers removed from my youth, but not so much that I don’t remember being a 13-year-old girl or what the household was like when my daughter hit the teenage years.  The movie was spot on.  And, if you’re a fan of kids’ movies (like me!) or you have young kids of your own, this is probably a movie you all would enjoy. I highly recommend it.

This brings me to someone else’s opinion on the film. Now, I don’t have any problem with people who aren’t into this kind of thing. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t find this movie, or any kids’ movie, enjoyable at all. Different strokes for different folks, right? But when you’re a globally recognized company with a verified YouTube account and claim to be “the go-to source for today’s information and updates on new movies, tv shows, games, and celebrity news and gossip,” that’s a different story.

According to CinemaBlend’s managing director, Sean O’Connell, it’s a niche film. Now, to be fair, after having read his original review, I thought surely this O’Connell dude must be an old white guy. I was wrong. He’s a middle-aged white guy, and it shows.  So, according to this middle-aged white guy, Turning Red is relatable to only a select few, namely the film director’s friends and family. This so-called managing director goes on to add that “some Pixar films are made for universal audiences. ‘Turning Red’ is not. The target audience for this one feels very specific and very narrow. If you are in it, this might work very well for you. I am not in it. This was exhausting.”  You can check out the drama here. If you ask me, his opinion is shite, um, less than credible. He put his foot in his mouth and then shoved it in as far as it would go while saying hmmm, this tastes delicious.

Okay, let’s start with the “very specific target audience” and these are his words, not mine. The target audience, ok? So the lead is an Asian girl, and Asians alone make up nearly 60 percent of the world population. But ok, that’s just the main character. Who relates to the main character of a story anyway right? Well, the lead, as well as her friends, are all female. Wait a minute. Females? That’s like half the population, right? But for the sake of Mr. O’Connell, managing director, let’s continue. The movie is about kids, primarily young teens, and who knows how many of them exist out there in the world. I’m sure someone has the stats, but I’m guessing it’s a lot. Alright, that does it. Mr. O’Connell, managing director and middle-aged white dude, I’m going to need to see your credentials, because clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about.

So yeah, perhaps the movie’s reach isn’t such a narrow niche after all. Not to mention, that literally everyone can relate to this movie unless you somehow skipped your entire childhood. We can ALL relate to the nerves, the anxiety, the crushes, and most of us can relate to the mother who loves us but will also accept nothing less than perfection. Like I said before, it really is a coming-of-age film. Who hasn’t come of age? I mean, who can’t understand what a young person goes through?

Similarly, Luca is a film about a young boy who experiences an unforgettable seaside summer on the Italian Riviera filled with gelato, pasta, and endless scooter rides. Stay with me here for a minute. So, Luca goes on these fascinating adventures with his newly-made best friend, Alberto, but things take a mysterious turn once Luca’s deep-dark secret comes to light. The fact that he is a sea monster from a world that exists just below the ocean’s surface. Oh, and so is Alberto. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong. It even had a similar storyline to Turning Red – a coming-of-age tale where a young person is not all they appear to be. Both stories have a suffocating mother, and both kids want the freedom to be who they are and explore the world. It’s a well-loved movie, in fact, it was rated 4-stars by CinemaBlend. Of course, the leads were all males so therein lies the difference. Mr. Managing Director could relate to a movie about a boy-who-turns-into-a-sea-monster. A. Sea. Monster.

In regard to Turning Red, a few conservative critics have even gone as far to say that the film deals with topics that aren’t suitable for kids. Like periods and girls having crushes. *GASP* I know, right!?  I’m scarred for having watched it.  Scarred, I tell you!  You know what’s a-okay with these conservative critics though? Killing Bambi’s mother. Killing Nemo’s mother. Killing Elsa and Anna’s parents. Killing Tod’s mother (Fox and the Hound). Killing Quasimodo’s mother (Hunchback of Notre Dame). Killing Koda’s mother (Brother Bear). One word, Mufasa. Hmmm… there seems to be a pattern here. Even Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben died in the streets, just the same as Batman’s parents. What else? The hanging of Clayton in Tarzan. Sid, the sadist in Toy Story. But a story about a young teen girl getting her period and experiencing her first crush just isn’t suitable or relatable viewing material.

Here’s the kicker. CinemaBlend called Turning Red unrelatable as compared to other animated films.  What the hell are they even talking about it?  Do they mean Finding Nemo, where the lead is a fish? Or Luca, where the lead is a sea monster-boy-hybrid? Or perhaps it was Finding Dory, oh wait, that was about a different fish. It was probably Toy Story. No, wait, that’s not right either. All the leads in that one were toys. Now I know they couldn’t have been referencing the movie Cars because they were all actually cars. CARS. I love Wall-E, it’s one of my absolute favorites, but even this one is all about AI and robots. The humans in Wall-E are secondary characters at best.

So, what I’m getting out of all this is that CinemaBlend can relate more to a FISH or a TOY than they can a Chinese GIRL. I happen to love Shrek, also a fantastic movie. Soundtrack is phenomenal. It’s a film that CinemaBlend gave 4.5 stars, maybe because they relate more to ogres and donkeys than humans? Misogyny and racism has always played a role in non-kid films, but here you go folks, puffed up old middle-aged white men want to keep girls out of kids’ movies because they’re unrelatable.

Reel Life

If you’re anything like me, you love to watch movies. You might even shape your world view and expectations around them, knowing that the real world will fall short, leaving you disappointed and disillusioned again and again. And to cope, you’ll just watch more.

It’s a cycle I’m fully aware of and entirely content participating in.

Sometimes I even try to take advice from movies, but life always gets in the way. Take Under the Tuscan Sun for example. Since 2003, Diane Lane has been convincing women that the solution to their problems is to move to Tuscany. She’s not wrong.

Okay, Diane, I’m in. Yes, I would love to move to Italy and solve all my problems by running away from them. I’ve got half of that down already.

Except, how am I supposed to afford it? Is there some sort of waiting list I need to sign up for?

In the movie (which is based on a book but doesn’t really follow the book like so many other movies based on a book), Diane’s character takes a singles trip after her marriage fails. In Italy, she decides she’s not coming home — ever. The whole time it feels like she’s taking some massively brave leap into uncertainty. But she also seems to have an endless supply of cash. With a safety net made of money, her spontaneity feels a little less risky.

I would love to be casually wealthy — you know, to the point where no one talks about how unusual it is to have so much money in the bank for no apparent reason. And I would love to just up and move to Italy and never come back.

Oh, and if I could have Diane Lane’s looks while I’m at it, that would be great. I mean, come on… the woman is gorgeous and doesn’t appear to age at all.

Unfortunately, the only remote similarity between my life and hers in Under the Tuscan Sun is a cheating ex-husband.

If I did have enough money to visit a foreign country and never come back, I would go to Ireland. And if my life were written and produced in Hollywood, I would ask to have a fairy tale ending like Amy Adams’ character in Leap Year.

Do I want to meet my soulmate in Ireland? Yes, please. Am I going to? Probably not. I’ve never even been to Ireland, and I think getting to the country in question is probably a prerequisite to meeting your soulmate there.

Life just isn’t the same in the real world versus the reel world.  Go figure.

Look at Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Her character goes through a divorce (do you sense a theme here?) and soul searches across the world — regardless of how much money it costs.

I’ve got the divorce and the soul-searching, but I don’t think I’ll ever have the cash to find myself in Italy, India, and Indonesia. I mean, who does? Well, besides Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who inspired the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

In the film, our heroine is seen as a brave risk-taker, but the real risk would be to try that trip without a disposable income. I’m not crazy or desperate enough to try that. At least, not yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against our wealthy traveling heroines — hell, if I were in their place, I’d be on a plane tomorrow and never look back.

But it’s just all so unrealistic. I guess that’s the escapism we’re drawn to when we watch movies.

Some movies, like About Time, break the illusion with outrageous elements like time travel. On a basic level, I know we all understand we’ll never be able to travel back in time, but I think it still leaves some of us wishing we could control the event in our lives.

As for most of these other movies, they leave us wishing we had more dough in our pockets. And not the brioche variety. Although now that I think about it, one can never have too much brioche.

Maybe that’s why we watch these movies in the first place. So we can live vicariously through others in a way we never could in real life.

It seems quite depressing, doesn’t it? Acknowledging that life will never be like our favorite movies is no fun. Yet we continually and willingly subject ourselves to these escapist fantasies. What the hell is that all about? Speaking of which, I think it’s time for another good romantic comedy movie binge. I’m nothing if not a glutton for punishment. It’s entertainment, after all.

Crazy Rich Asians seems like a good choice, although I’m certain I’m past the age of marrying into money. Oh, well. One can dream. And I do like to dream.

At least the characters always find their perfect happy ending, even if we don’t.

 

The Ghostest with the Mostest

I’m pretty sure it’s come up before, but I’m quite the horror movie fanatic. Well nothing too crazy like a having a life-size cutout of Freddie Krueger or Michael Myers (slasher extraordinaire, not the Spy Who Shagged Me) in my living room or a lifelike replica of Pamela Voorhees’ dismembered head on a candlelit coffee table (just let me pause for a moment to say that if anyone is selling one, please be sure to send me a message with a fair price.)

With that said, I am a pretty avid fan, nonetheless. Back in the day, anything and everything was fair game in my cinematic horror world. Films like Razorback (don’t judge me!) were in the same line-up as Ghost Story for my late-night viewing. I like to think that my viewing habits have gotten more consistently sophisticated over time, but I’m not so sure. Nowadays, movies like The Cabin in the Woods (2011) share space with classics such as The Haunting of Hill House (1963) in “my stuff” on streaming media sites.

If I had to pinpoint a genre (or sub-genre, if you like) to be a personal favorite, I would have to say I lean strongly towards haunted house and general ghost-y movies.

Once in a while, Hollywood scores pretty big with a well-done ghost story, but mostly it’s a special effects game. Don’t get me wrong, I love CGI-laden movies as much as anyone, but movies that build from a slow burn make for a more realistic scare in my opinion.

M.R. James is a favorite writer and while some of his stories have been utilized for movie making, there is so much more potential there that’s left untapped.

If I were to recommend a film that is inspired by one of his works, I’d say Number 13 (2006) is a pretty good story. If you’re a fan of the shining, it’s definitely worth a look.

In the age of zombies (World War Z or Night of the Living Dead), creature features (The Descent or A Quiet Place), and others, a good ghost story is hard to come by. There have been a few wonderful adaptations of ghost stories throughout cinema, but the most popular ghost story of the last decade or so would probably go to Paranormal Activity, and that’s such a modernized “fast-food” experience in my opinion.

So, why is there a lack of really good ghost stories?  Is it because Hollywood knows its audience usually has the attention span of a jar of mayonnaise?  Or is it that people just like to see pain and anguish on a physical level because they’re sadistic voyeurs? A friend of mine who is obsessed with horror, thinks that most of Hollywood’s decisions are targeted to two basic types of horror movie audiences.

You have the mainstream movies, like Winchester or The Visit (good movie by the way!), which are intended to appeal to the casual horror movie fan. For instance, “You know what Becky, I haven’t seen a horror movie in a few years, let’s go check out this eerie ghost flick at the theater.” Versus hardcore fans of horror, where it’s all about shock value, over the top gore, sex, violence, etc. For example: “Hey Sven, have you seen Tokyo Gore Police yet? I heard they used over 50 thousand gallons of fake blood making that film, we should go check it out.”

Where are the intelligent, slow building haunted house stories? I know that Hollywood sometimes has difficulty with original material – hence all the remakes, but in this case, there is source material galore. The fact that modern day audiences have likely never read gothic horror is not so much a slight on society as it is, quite simply, teeming with potential for screenwriters.

Actors Are People Too… No, Really

I find that the amount of irony in the world is ever growing. For instance, I once knew this lady who claimed to be an animal rights activist. Closer to one of the extremist types at that. Wouldn’t you know it, turned out she also had quite the addiction to alligators. Not the animal per se, but more or less their skin. Purses, handbags, belts, and even shoes. She had quite the collection. I’m talking at least 30 plus items. All authentic alligator skins. Imported from all over. Mind you, she didn’t sport the gator leather often, it was more or less for her private collection. I didn’t really know her well, maybe met her once or twice – she was the friend of a mutual friend and you know how that goes. Anyway, at some point in time, and admittedly I don’t recall when, she was called out on her hypocritical lifestyle.  Her response was simple. Alligators aren’t animals, they are reptiles. I kid you not. Yeah, I know. But the whole point of this little backstory was to paint a little picture of the irony I’m talking about. Which brings me right into the meat of this article. Classic Hollywood and the Illustrious Oscars.

As you know, I find many things funny. To add to that humor bank, I think it’s funny that people who love movies hate the Oscars. In fact, it might surprise you to know that many people who love movies also hate the actors that play in them. If you ask these folks why, they say that they prefer “their” actors to remain nothing more than performing monkeys instead of smashing through the 4th wall, so to speak, and appearing as real, functioning members of society. Oh, not in so many words, but that’s the gist.

Maybe there is some truth to the phrase, “Never meet your heroes.” But it leads me to wonder if sometimes celebrities say, “Never meet your biggest fans.”

With that said, I typically do not watch the Oscars myself, but not because I get my feelings hurt over some famous person with an opinion, it’s just that my attention span won’t let me. I know a few guys who love sports, but a lot of them say they can’t sit through a whole baseball game or whatever game because, like me, they have the attention span of a gnat. However, they still enjoy watching the highlights after, and in fact, enjoy it even more than watching a game… all of the good stuff in short bursts.  That’s me with the Oscars. I like to see the winners and losers, the antics that took place, who wore what, who showed up with who, you know, the highlights if you will.

There are oftentimes when I think the voters got it wrong (much like the 2016 election).  For instance, the fact that Taika Waititi received zilch for his amazing and unprecedented Valkyrie scene in Thor: Ragnarök – the process for which he CREATED because it had never been done before – was unforgivable. The fact that very few people of color ever win is atrocious. I mean, in general, the Oscars are obviously a massive ego stroke to the Hollywood crowd and nothing more, but what else is new.

Lately, actors have been using this platform as a way to advocate for social change and to give voice to specific causes. I say, good for them. I wish they’d use more of their money to promote change, but hey, at least they’re speaking out.

Some of the people in my classic Hollywood film group are very different than me. They don’t say “good for them.” They prefer Trump to someone normal, they prefer John Wayne (whom they all agree is a known racist, but hey, it was just the times in which he lived!) to Jimmy Stewart who never said a bad word about anyone and who, unlike John Wayne, willingly served our country (in case you were unaware, Wayne kept getting deferments to keep him in Hollywood).

As for an actor saying anything other than, thank you for this shiny award, oh boy… you’d think the world was coming to an end. These movie lovers claim that “real” actors, the ones with talent, that is, existed only in the classic Hollywood days, and these stars would never stoop so low as to voice an opinion about anything. Anything, I tell you!

Back in the day, actors were on contracts. The studios controlled their lives, down to who they married or dated so as to “keep face” or hide one’s true self.  It’s not surprising that most actors opted not to rock the boat. Still, you had Brando, who refused to go to the Oscars in 1973 to protest how Native Americans were being treated. The Native American woman he sent in his stead was booed. But when this is discussed in my classic Hollywood group, they rave about Brando’s choice… because Brando is Brando and they obsess over him cause, you know, he’s Brando.

Newman didn’t attend … well, just because. But hey, he’s Newman. No-one hates Newman.

After six acting nominations and two honorary Oscars, Newman finally got a win for “The Color of Money” in 1987. But he wasn’t there to accept it, telling the Associated Press, “It’s like chasing a beautiful woman for 80 years. Finally, she relents, and you say, ‘I’m terribly sorry. I’m tired.’”

And yes, these are more recent events, relatively speaking, but as I said, back in the day, actors were kept on a pretty tight leash. The movies were great, yeah, but the way the actors themselves were treated, meh.

Nowadays, actors have a voice, just like everyone else in the world. And they’re using that voice more readily than they have in the past. I applaud most of them when they use their platform of celebrity to give voice to a better a world.

You can read more here, if you’re so inclined.

The thing is, most of the actors using the podium are voicing opinions that enrage the conservative right, because these ideas are, well, good for the world at large and not just a select few. The people getting offended by the awards ceremony – and celebrity causes in general, believe that actors should just keep their trap shut and act, because they’re nothing more than entertainment fodder for the audience and have no real presence in the world.

The days of actors being on a leash are gone. This speaks to the good and the bad. Because the same social changes that allow actors to use the Oscar stage to speak out against human rights abuses and animal cruelty also allow James Woods to air conspiracy theories and vile tirades against women on Twitter. Of course, in the classic Hollywood film group I mentioned, the latter is applauded, and the former is reviled.

Spoiler Alert

When is a movie old enough that you can discuss it in-depth without it being considered “spoilers?” 5 years, 10 years, 75 years?

I belong to a classic Hollywood movie group and someone was discussing the film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. It’s 75 years old.  A person commented that both leads die in the end and several – not one or two, but several – people got all upset and were chastising the person for spoiling the movie.  No spoilers!  But good grief, it’s a 75-year-old film!  What about Romeo and Juliet?  People know how that one turned out. Is it a spoiler to discuss it?

A friend of mine had a fight with her boyfriend because she “ruined” Titanic. Yeah, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio… by simply saying, “it’s sad when the ship sinks in the end.” Apparently, he didn’t know the ship sank at the end. And didn’t take the news well, either. In my opinion, for movies based on history, or true stories, can you really spoil them? I hate to tell you, but Bonnie and Clyde die at the end. That airplane filled with Uruguay’s Rugby team crashes in the Andes mountains, and they start eating each other to survive. I’m sorry, did I ruin the movie? Well, it was all over the news for weeks in 1993. Not to mention, it’s a piece of history.

Let’s say it wasn’t a movie of any historical significance, then how long do you wait? Whether we like it or not, I think for newer blockbuster movies, you have about a month after the movie premieres before it will be all over social media. And that goes for t.v. shows as well. For example, the AMC’s the Walking Dead. Fantastic show from what I hear. But if you happen to miss an episode, don’t even think about logging onto Facebook or Instagram the next morning. Hell, don’t even check the news. Some of the deaths of some of the major characters were listed right on the front of Yahoo News with clickbait titles like, “Walking Dead kills off another original cast member.” I’ve never watched the show but can tell you some major plot points just because it’s impossible to avoid. Game of Thrones was another one that was spoiler heavy, and yet another show I know a lot about simply from seeing unsolicited posts online.

But yeah, back on the topic of having a short window before movie spoilers run rampant. Are you into Marvel movies? Star Wars?  Hell, people were yelling out spoilers while in line to watch some of the latest movies. That’s going a bit far, if you ask me. What can I say? People are assholes. But if you still haven’t seen that popular Marvel movie that premiered a month or two ago, and you log onto social media, that’s sort of  asking for spoilers.

Personal conversations are different. People should keep endings and major plot twists to themselves when talking to someone who might not have seen a movie yet. Unless you’re the type of person who likes spoilers, I never spill the beans on newer movies because ruining someone else’s enjoyment is just a jerk thing to do. But there should be a time limit to these things. I mean, once you hit a certain age, if you haven’t seen at least a few of the classics, that’s on you, not me. Most of my banter is pulled from old movies and books and sometimes spoilers just slip out. I can’t help it if you don’t know the bad witch dies in The Wizard of Oz or that Clarence gets his wings.

And in the case of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, the person who discussed it in a classic movie group should be forgiven for thinking that the group’s members would have seen – or at least heard of – this 75 year old flick.

 

 

Ghosts and Gore and So Much More

I’m a pretty big fan of horror and action movies, as most of you know. But I will admit to enjoying the oft-maligned Hallmark movies. If I’m not actively watching them, I often have them just playing on the t.v. as background noise. My first dive into the Hallmark pool was with the ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ trilogy from way back in 1991 with the incredibly talented duo of Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. The Hallmark movies have lost a little quality and/or diversity in plot since then, but some of them are still fun.

Recently, my daughter has been successful in talking me into movies I wouldn’t ordinarily watch, like The Goldfinch, Shallow Grave, Kill Your Darlings, and Wonder Boys. I must confess, I’ve really enjoyed these and others that aren’t my usual genre. I’m expanding my movie horizons, you might say.

However, I always return to my roots when left to my own devices… horror. And I’ll admit to a little binging here lately. Hey, I like movies and I certainly have the time right about now. I tend to gravitate towards ghost stories, haunted houses, and supernatural tales for my fright fests. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like nowadays, it’s all gore, jump scares, gore, and more jump scares. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t any good mainstream horror movies, it’s just that many of the newer horror flicks have been a tad disappointing. Personally, I like smart horror movies, the stories that scare in their own right, not ones that rely solely on gimmicks to startle the audience. Being startled by a sudden overly loud sound or someone popping out of a cabinet isn’t the same as being scared, if you ask me.

A friend of mine, on the other hand, is a huge fan of the cheesy, gory style of horror movies. The gorier the better for him. And he’s not alone. To each their own, I say.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can’t or don’t watch over the top gory movies, it’s not that gore sickens me… I just think it’s a cheap thrill. (For argument’s sake, we’ll ignore the fact that a very blood-filled ‘No-one Lives’ is one of my favorite movies.)  Films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno, and Human Centipede are shocking and gruesome, and I guess they’re classified as horror because there really isn’t another genre box to put them in. But no matter how well written they might be (not counting Human Centipede, that movie is as stupid as it is grotesque – and not in a good way), it’s difficult for me to equate them with truly scary films such as The Orphanage, Ju-On: The Grudge, Carnival of Souls, The Haunting (1963), and the like.

I don’t want everyone to think I hate every gory movie with jump scares. In fact, some make for an entertaining afternoon. It’s just that in general, where horror movies are concerned, I usually prefer to be scared, not grossed out.

What say you, my friends? Ghosts or gore?

It’s Got Everything

I was going through my phone’s photo albums and came across a screenshot I had taken months ago … no doubt saved as inspiration for future commentary.  And here we are, in the future.  So, let’s get to it.

This was a conversation in reference to the movie JoJo Rabbit, and I don’t know if any of you have seen JoJo Rabbit, but the thing that makes this comment funny – and no doubt the reason I saved it, is that this movie is nothing if not one giant political statement. I mean, I’m not sure what this guy expects from a movie about Hitler. In the words of the great Stefon, this movie has everything… Nazis (the originals, not the ones that just came out from under their rocks recently), a corrupt government, bigotry, you name it, and yes, Hitler – albeit, a buffoonish, idiotic, ridiculous Hitler (played by Waititi himself). JoJo Rabbit is a sweeping commentary on politics, society, war, and hate.

But, and this is where Taika Waititi shows his genius, it’s also a movie about compassion and bravery in doing what’s right despite what your government and leaders, and even your friends, might want from you. Ultimately, it’s a story about kindness and love. But make no mistake, political. In other words, it’s tainted to the gills with “liberal doo doo.”  So foolish comments like these, from people who, if they’re being honest, are probably pissed off at Hitler’s demise (in both the movie and in real life) are comical to me.

If you haven’t watched the film, I recommend it. For me, it will likely be a one off. Don’t get me wrong, Taika Waititi has created something wonderful and poignant and unexpectedly funny… and moving. So. Damn. Moving. I saw it in the theater and at the end, I was left awestruck and speechless and pained.  It wasn’t a movie I could comfortably, let alone enjoyably, discuss afterward – feelings which are a testament to Waititi’s incredible vision. Whether cowardly or no, once was enough for me, it’s not a movie I’ll revisit. However, I still highly recommend it… it’s more than worth the experience.  It won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and perhaps, more importantly, it won the AFI (American Film Institute) award for Movie of the Year, along with many other accolades, all well deserved.

But yeah. It “gets political.”

click on Stefon to watch the JoJo Rabbit trailer

Animal Tales

Oh my gosh, guys.  Did you see “A Dog’s Purpose?”  Wasn’t it great?

Well, I wouldn’t know.  I refuse to watch it.  I hate any story where the dog dies, so why would I see a movie where the dog dies fifteen times?  I heard there is a sequel out now, “The Dog Dies Twenty More Times.”

“Marley and Me” traumatized me for life.  I refuse to watch “War Horse,” and several scenes in “White Fang” haunt me to this day.  Black Beauty still makes me cry, and yes, I remember Bambi’s mother (“Man is in the forest,” bang).  In fact, Disney is famous for jerking animal lovers around. Disney isn’t alone in toying with my animal softened heart, though.

Those that know me realize that I love horror movies.  I know all of the rules in horror movies:

  • Never run up the stairs to escape the killer
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • The more annoying the character, the longer he lives, but, the more horrible his death will be when it finally does happen
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • Women can’t run in the woods without falling down a hill
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • The non-virgin woman with matching undies always dies
  • The dog or cat gets it first

Come on, I’m not alone here.  Here is the plot of every horror movie ever written:

The happy family unpacks the car for a week in a waterfront cabin in the woods. They open the door to the station wagon and two adorable, bright eyed kids bounce out with any variety of toys from doll to teddy bear. Happy, panting, tail-wagging dog follows them out of the car, usually a yellow lab or golden retriever.  His cuteness factor will play a part in the events to come.

Day one passes with camera angles hinting at a crazed killer in the woods. The dog runs out for his night time pee, and the audience inhales as he runs to the woods, barking.  Not this time, though; dog runs back to the house unharmed.  Audience visibly relaxes and lets out a collective sigh.

At some point the next day, the dog will disappear.  Sometimes he runs away, and an off camera “yelp” tells us he has met the crazed killer.  Other times, he is found in little bitty puppy bits and pieces.  The cuter and more obedient he is, the worse his ending is.

I have missed endings to good horror movies because I get too pissed to watch any more from the minute I see the dog in the beginning of the movie. Don’t judge me, Mr. or Ms. “choked up at a Hallmark commercial.” The whole idea behind books and movies is to bring us in, get us emotionally invested in the character(s), to make us CARE.

Members of my book club show little sympathy for the “animal-affected” – those of us who are bothered by abuse to animals or “when the dog dies,” in stories. We’re constantly reminded by the better than thou folks that it’s “just a fictional dog” and we’re advised to “suck it up already.”  Of course, these same people snort into boxes of Kleenex over the death of a human character (I’m looking at you Cedric Diggory, Fred Weasley, and Sirius Black!) and are inconsolably upset when the plot takes a sad turn.

On the edge of your seat over a thriller? Upbeat romance have you smiling? Horror movie got you looking over your shoulder? Is that tear-jerker causing real tears to well up? That’s the whole point!

As book readers and movie watchers, we’re SUPPOSED to get drawn into the story. We cry over fictional characters, laugh with fictional characters, get angry with fictional characters… why on earth wouldn’t we get upset over the death or mistreatment of a fictional animal?  Consider my tears the highest praise, story tellers and movie makers. You managed to destroy me in one “yelp” or sad scene at the vet’s office.  I know I’m not alone.

My friend was pissed that the dinosaurs didn’t win in Jurassic Park.  I’m still wrecked over Cujo, and don’t get me started about Old Yeller.  When I look for a book, I check to see if there are animals and whether those animals are in imminent danger.  If they are, I pass.

Life’s already sad enough, isn’t it? I don’t need my realm of escapism to be sad too.