Where Did Disney’s Magic Go?

From my perspective, the magic of Disney is that whenever I hear a certain song, or re-watch an old movie, it instantly takes me back. I’m reminded of the days when I would pop the chubby VHS tape in the VCR, decorated in some Cinderella costume my mom sewed, ornamented with orange juice stains and loose threads. Time stood still when I heard lovely tune of A Whole New World with Princess Jasmine’s grainy, enchanting presence on a TV screen that was once brand new in 1995. 

Whew! Nostalgia, how bout it!

Disney’s animation was a unique, vibrant, breathtaking experience that I remember being inspired by as a child. The colors popped, the quick tricks were fascinating, the scenery was detailed, and everything was just so interesting. 

Which is why I can’t help but share my disappointment in many of the new live-action Disney films, attempting to unnecessarily replicate these beautiful, original masterpieces. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

I’ve seen a handful of these new movies so far: Aladdin, Lion King, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book. (Wow, actually typing these out I saw way more than I should’ve, damn.) Either way, I wasn’t impressed by them. Here’s why:

My big girl answer: The creators of these films banked on nostalgia, altered soundtracks, and big Hollywood names to recreate the tales. And, in a way, it worked. These movies racked in a massive fortune for Disney, and launched several careers for the ‘live-action’ actors. However, it failed in a more important way. Although the CGI that they love to use for everything is impeccable, the color palettes of (many) of the films are ridden with depressing, dull greys, browns, and blacks. The celebrity cameos are distracting and misplaced. The focus for these films is more on being ‘epic’ and gritty, showing off the calibrated CGI. Observing the overall look of the film from an art direction perspective, it’s underwhelming, especially seeing such phenomenal films like Coco being released in the same year. The difference is night and day. 

My biased, toddler answer:  It took stories that were so vibrant, so beautiful, and so well-fitting for the animation they were currently told as, and made it a weird, stupid-looking human version! Are you kidding me? Part of the magic of Disney’s animation is that the characters are, in fact, animated, more vibrant than real people and real animals. You can twist and stretch the intensity of their looks and actions. It creates the larger-than-life, mind-boggling excitement that you can’t recreate yourself. The Lion King looked like a NATURE DOCUMENTARY. Their mouths barely moved, the colors were pathetic. You broke it! How’d you break the Lion King!? (Sidenote on Aladdin: I know Will Smith has a bajillion dollars but… I still don’t think the man got paid enough for being the genie Jesus fucking Christ) 

Here’s a comparison between the Lion King animation (left) and live-action (right).

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Here’s another, except vice versa:

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This final comparison is from the Live Action Aladdin (2019)

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I understand the default answer: money. That little mouse will smile and wave and then slash each remaining industry dead as the serial entertainment monopolist. However, there are also less ‘capitalist’ reasons. Many people argued that these live-action films bring the same magic of the original stories to the new generation of children to enjoy. But to that I ask, is it the same magic?

Disney’s blatant disinterest in its own magic is, what can be best described as a plague affecting movie theaters everywhere. It’s almost aggravating, especially from where I’m standing. As a student who is interested in writing screenplays, it’s frustrating to watch Hollywood’s spotlight only shine on the same stories from roughly 15 years ago. I love seeing new creators, directors, and screenwriters explode. Watching quality, original work given the attention it deserves not only gives me something new to watch and enjoy, but also a gleam of hope for the future of content on the silver screen. 

I’m not a fan of ‘10 reasons you shouldn’t support xyz’ or ‘why (insert movie or show) sucks!’ type of journalism. It isn’t very productive. However, I think it’s genuinely important to criticize a massive company that a wickedly tight grip on the entertainment industry’s balls. Disney has a large say over what we choose to accept as the standard for entertainment that we once held sacredly to our childhood hearts. I hope this phase of live-action movies is a weird fluke that we can all just kick under the magic carpet. 

 

One Second Each Day

I came across this really interesting idea a few years ago–taking a short, one-second long video of each day for a year, and compiling them up and seeing how your year turned out. I tried doing this for 2018, but I unfortunately ran short of storage on my phone.

But this year, I gave into the society-consuming monopoly that is Apple, and bought more storage. I began filming everyday starting January first, and have been consistent everyday since.

And so far, I must say, 2019 has given me many bad days. Many things I don’t want to film. Many breakdowns, stressful nights, and issue upon issue. So, I found that the days I go out with my friends or party much easier to find the perfect second to film, but the days I feel empty are so much harder.

But, some good came out of these empty days. Because yes, things have been hard. Specific days have been huge struggles. But, this little video project essentially forces me to find one good thing about that day. So, I got a scholarship rejection letter. I cried, and then I found a really pretty sunset to look at. I stayed up for hours working on a midterm essay, and I filmed a really cute baby pitbull hanging out the window of someone’s car. Searching for the right ‘second a day’ has given me a reason to look for the good, the magic, the life in everyday.

I also had a tendency to search for ‘perfect’ things to film. My makeup had to be flawless, or it had to be a cool video of all of my friends, or a new, exciting thing that I’m doing everyday. But that’s not EVERYDAY. Everyday is normal things. Colorful pens I organized on my desk, coffee in my car cup holder that I made while I was running late for class, or just normal everyday things that don’t have to be perfect.

So, even if it’s hard to, take a second to find the good part of your day. I promise, it’s worth it.

 

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5 Unparalleled Romance Movies Worth Watching

Although Valentine’s Day is far past us, good quality romance films will always be in season. Here’s a list of 5 romances that don’t belong in the cliche bin.

Amelie (2001)

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Words and actions don’t always align. Amelie is painfully shy, yet continually sets up intricate mysteries for strangers passing through her life. This movie is a foreign film, but the subtitles don’t take away from its  lighthearted, upbeat and romantic nature. Not to mention, the cinematography in this film is one of a kind.

2) The Big Sick (2017)

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A narrative written so personally, The Big Sick is a love-story so close to reality. It doesn’t follow the same structure of every rom-com you’ve watched. It follows a journey that focuses on family, religious expectations, illness, and the lengths people will go for those that they love.

3)  500 Days of Summer (2009)

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I love this movie because it looks like such a cliche, cheesy romance film, but it’s actually super duper not. It focuses on our projections of what we think love is, versus what reality turns out for us. Sometimes we see love through rose-tinted lenses, and our expectations aren’t always fair. 500 Days of Summer is endearing, heartbreaking, and worth a watch.

4) Juno (2007)

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This movie isn’t simply boy meets girl, or girl meets boy, or the well-known stereotypical love scene in most romance films. It deals with teen pregnancy, boundaries, not fitting in, and all the complications that come with a new life. It’s also an exemplary artifact of the off-beat 90’s teen culture.

5) While You Were Sleeping (1995)

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This is a classic film that twists through a series of lies, altercations with family, and finding unexpected love. Also– Sandra Bullock. Is she not the greatest?

 

German Expressionism Turns Film into Poetry

I’ll be honest. My knowledge of film isn’t broad. Sometimes I like movies solely because Chris Pratt is in them. I’m definitely not qualified to professionally review them, but I’m learning the ropes. So, with that in mind, I came across this film that I was not at all exciting to watch. It was called The Night of the Hunter (1955)

My film professor flicked off the lights and started the movie. I was already yawning. All I wanted was to go home and watch Parks and Rec and then fall asleep. Nonetheless, I stayed in my seat and braved through it.

AND DAMN. What a movie! German expressionism was the main topic for us this week. I understood the gist of it, but never saw it in execution. The Night of the Hunter was a flawless execution of this genre, and allowed me to see how impactful it was. German expressionism in film exaggerates, stretches, and bends all forms of reality to create a twisted, Kafkaesque world where the plot then takes off from there. Picture it like Tim Burton movies coming to life.

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This genre not only exaggerates the effects, but it strengthens the emotions felt while watching. For instance, childhood wonder, nostalgia, chase, and family were all jacked up on steroids with the film techniques in this movie. The scenes with the children felt like a Disney sequence, the scenes with the murderer felt inescapable and something out of a nightmare, and the scenes with the whole family felt warm, safe and loving. Everything was accentuated due to this style. I highly recommend this movie. It didn’t feel like I was watching two children escaping a murder, it was more peaking into their brains for a night and watching their very bad dream of escaping a murderer. It was filmed like a dream, where things are just, for lack of a better word, off. And that’s what made it such an unsettling work of art.

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Comedians that Dominated their Decade 1920’s-now

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1920’s : Buster Keaton: Known for his physical, slapstick antics, Buster Keaton was the ‘stone-face’ of comedy in the new platform of film. He’s famous for seemingly impossible gags, establishing a new territory of comedy in his era. You can’t take a film class without hearing his name. He’s known for his feature films like The General and Steamboat Bill Jr.

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1930’s: Charlie Chaplin: Relying heavily on pantomime and eccentric, quirky movements to convey humor, Chaplin paved the way for experimental techniques in comedy films. He’s known for his works like Modern Times, and The Great Dictator. (Side-note: he’s also infamous for his scandalous life outside of film.)

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1940’s: Bing Crosby: Known for his life in comedy motion pictures, as well as music, Crosby took the entertainment industry by storm in his era. He’s known for many comedic films like Going My Way and Road to Bali, especially when he was starring on the silver screen with classic comedian, Bob Hope.

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1950’s: Jerry Lewis: As the Paramount comedy star, and former duo member with Dean Martin, Lewis was a thriving entertainer of the 1950’s and beyond. Creating and starring in a plethora of comedy films, as well as being known for his quick improvisational humor on The Martin and Lewis Show on the radio, Lewis seemed unstoppable in his career endeavors. He went on to pursue a solo career, and later directed many films like The Bellboy and The Ladies Man.

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1960’s Joan Rivers: One of, or if not the most famous female comedian of all time, Joan Rivers was outspoken, fearless, and hilarious in her glory days of comedy. She pioneered comedy for females, as she was the first female late night television host and paved the way for stand up, igniting laughter with shocking comedy, insults, and witty observation.

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1970’s Rodney Dangerfield: Known as one of the greatest names in comedy, Dangerfield has mastered film, stand up, and simply being a hilarious person all around. If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘I don’t get no respect!,’ you know who to thank. With stand up specials, No Respect and Back to School, and classic comedy films like Caddyshack and Easy Money, and hundreds of witty one-liners, it’s easy to see how Dangerfield rose to the top.

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1980’s: Robin Williams: Ah, the man himself, whom we all miss dearly. Williams’ comedic talents of improvisation, mastering impressions and voices, televised comedy and classic comedy films, is famously loved by many. Appealing to practically any audience, his legacy of comedy wins him a place as one of the greatest. Need there be a further explanation? 

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1990’s: Jerry Seinfeld: What is the deal with him? Inventing the best of sitcom comedy, Jerry Seinfeld is quite literally known as the ‘king of comedy’ by many. Exuding confidence, wit, and an expertise knowledge of humor, he’s the creator of one of the most famous, long-running comedy series. His stand-up specials and screenwriting skills have made him one of the biggest names in comedy. 

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2000’s: Dave Chappelle: Relaxed, philosophical, clever and brilliantly hilarious–Chappelle takes on broad topics in stand up from politics to sex and drugs, and many more. Creating the Chappelle Show, Half-Baked, and The Dave Chappelle Project as well as hilarious stand-up specials like For What It’s Worth, and Killin’ Them Softly. He’s known by many as one of the greatest names in the history of comedy.

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2010’s: John Mulaney: Taking the comedy scene by storm, Mulaney has created three successful stand-up specials (New in Town, The Comeback Kid, and Kid Gorgeous) undertook years writing for SNL, and co-created a new type of cartoon comedy on TV animation, Big Mouth. His aura of gentle, story-telling politeness is part of what ropes each audience in to roaring laughter. His talent in sketch comedy, self-deprecating nature, and surreal humor, are all what make him one of the current top names in comedy today.

 

 

 

How to be: A Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Here is the official guide to becoming the quirky, dorky, flirtatiously one-dimensional idyllic girl found in many poorly-written romantic movies. Because you? You’re different. You’re not like most girls.

  • Dye your hair a vibrant color

Purchase a Twister spin board, and whatever color it lands on, that’s your new hair look. Don’t shy away from Office Max Sharpie yellow or just go full on marinara with that early 2000’s Kate Winslet glam. If you want to be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, you have to be QUIRKY DAMNIT. No instagram baddies here.

  •  Wear converse with a dress

It’s because you’re DIFFERENT. Heels? For suckers. For suckers that were nominated as prom queen, in fact. You’re GOOFY and ADORABLE and not buying into it.

  • Make no plans for your future

Remember, you’re one-dimensional. Law school? No, no, no.

  • Make up songs on the spot and sing them in public places

You’re in the grocery store with your back-story developed male partner and it’s jam-packed. But you’re not a boring, normal girl. You’re spontaneous. Sing about the milk cartons or the magazines. Feel free to embarrass the exhausted, straight, skinny white boy protagonist, but also simultaneously charm him with your playful, oddly attractive vibes. All of this will occur while the cashier just fucking has it because oh my god this couple needs to shut the fuck up I make 7.25 an hour just to check out discount items for these fucking wankers.

  • Have a whimsical yet mysterious name

If you’re sporting a basic name like Katie or Emily, delete it. Your name is now either Autumn, Clementine, or Lavender Winterheart. If it doesn’t abide by the bath & body works scent code (season, fruit, or flower) then you might as well be named Richard or Larry.

  • Play the ukulele

But make sure you only learn four chords, not full songs, to make sure you disappoint a crowd everytime you whip it out at a party.

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There you have it. If you want to be a poorly-written literary trope that caters only to the developed plot line of the male protagonist, attaining these characteristics will be crucial to being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

 

How American Psycho Charms its Audience with Dark Themes and A Puzzling Truth

Recently, I had to review a film for my composition class. I wanted to pick a film that actually got me thinking and entertained dark, thrilling elements. With halloween coming up, I thought–what better movie to pick than our favorite businessman killer, our American psycho?

American Psycho (2000), was  directed by Mary Harron and based on a top-selling novel written by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991. This film is about a young, sophisticated businessman–Patrick Bateman–living in New York in the late 80’s. However, he’s an uncontrollable and horrendous serial killer when nighttime hits. The film has running themes of self-identity, isolation, illusion and insanity, all of which contribute to its dark, horrific elements.

Self-identity and distortion are recurring themes in this film. Patrick seems to be living as two identities. We first have his social identity: businessman, agreeably uninteresting and undistinguishable from his co-workers. Then there’s his psychotic, night-time, killer identity that has no remorse. Because he’s one person, understanding which identity he is at certain points in the film can seem confusing. Cinematography works as a guide for the audience to see which “person” he is.

For example, the consistent shots of Bateman’s reflection in mirrors shows that he’s aware of his other identity. He wears Valentino business suits as a symbol of his social identity. While he’s murdering his co-worker, Paul Allen, he puts on a transparent raincoat, veiling the view of his pristine business suit. This represents his social personality being blocked, or pushed aside as his murderous, malicious side steps forward.

There is a shot of the ‘Les Mis’ French flag casted over Bateman’s face. This shot is exactly half-lit; one side of his face is perfectly illuminated, the other cast with a dark shadow. This can be seen as a symbol of his bipolar, dual nature with one side, bright and charming while the other, villainous side hides in the darkness.

The concept of masks as a symbol consistently shows up in Bateman’s life. In his opening monologue, he applies a face mask and slowly peels it off. This represents how he “puts on a mask” before he goes out into the world and interacts with people–his evil side is hiding under his social identity. Then there are scenes where Bateman’s face is covered with blood, looking as if it is a mask; this is representative of his evil persona blocking, or masking his sane, social identity. He is constantly masking his true identity to match whatever situation he’s in.

If a tree falls in a forest when no one is there, does it make a sound?

This philosophy can be specified in context to: if you confess to murdering forty people and nobody believes you, does it even matter? The lack of self identity is displayed in Bateman’s social interactions with his peers and fiance. His coworkers seem confusedly interchangeable to one another.

“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me. Only an entity. Something illusory,” Bateman declares.

But no one appears to care. Worse yet, no one even notices. Bateman confesses to these peers multiple times to the murders he committed. Each person either laughs it off or pretends not to hear, giving way to the storm of frustration and insanity heightening in his narrative.

Bateman’s hysterical confession to his lawyer on the phone is quite possibly the loudest shout for help he could give.

Howard, it’s Bateman. Patrick Bateman. You’re my lawyer, so I think you should know I’ve killed a lot of people.”

He goes on to confess, in detail, to every murder he committed. In response, his lawyer simply laughs, mistakes him for a different client and praises him on pulling “such a funny joke on that loser Patrick Bateman.” The lack of distinguishability between the individual worth or traits of the characters in their uptight, high-class society is what drives Bateman to become a murderer. In his world of isolation and no discernible identity, murder is his insanity-driven way to differentiate himself from the rest.

Lastly, as an audience, it’s vital to unpack the idea of a false narrative, or being misled through the actual timeline of events. Distortion, insanity, self-identity are all themes that heavily rely on the musings and broken gears of Patrick Bateman’s mind. This leaves us with the question: were all of his murders just a product of his mind as well? Did he just imagine each kill and leave the audience to believe it actually happened?

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During the movie, there are a few compelling examples that serve as evidence for this false narrative. For example, after Bateman’s killing spree, he visits the apartment in which he stored the “evidence” of his murders.  This is when everything we understood to be true of Bateman’s narrative starts to unwind. The evidence is completely wiped from the apartment; painted over without a trace. He runs into a realtor; she states that nobody named “Paul Allen” actually lived there. Near the end of the film, Patrick is told by his lawyer that he couldn’t have committed the murder of Allen, because he went out to dinner with a different coworker, Paul Owen, the prior week.

Essentially, American Psycho has elements of isolation, insanity, and self-identity that seem to falsely lead the audience through an incorrect timeline of events told by a bipolar, psychotic narrator. These elements also serve to satirize the upper-working class of late-80’s New York “yuppies”, so to speak. Although the perplexing plot line has led people to argue about its truth, the original author, Ellis, has said that the greatness of the story is exactly that we do not know whether or not Bateman committed the crimes.

As an audience, we’re left to wonder if the his insanity led us through a false, blurry narrative, or if he recounted everything exactly as it happened, but no one cared.

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