Saturday, March 25, 2017

Beauty and the Beast ~ A Personal Review of a Classic Redone

  Along with a lot of other people I was over the moon excited when I found out about a live action Beauty and the Beast back in 2014. I remember the very moment actually! I was in the living room of the family I was babysitting for and they always had the Today Show on in the morning, and the movie was announced. I was so excited. I had seen Cinderella, fell so in love with it, so the thought of a remake of Beauty and the Beast (my favorite Disney Princess movie) was enough to make me do a little dance inside.

  Spoilers Ahead.

 BUT. I did have some qualms. I mean, doing Beauty and the Beast again? Doing an even better job? I have a strong belief in taking something and showing what it means to you, while staying true to the story. You can show a unique vision while still holding the essence, the soul of the story. I was excited/nervous about choosing Emma Watson for Belle. She has the brains for it, no question. But at the same time I could picture her being a scary Belle too. Haha! I was excited about everyone else in the cast--Obi-Wan being Lumiere, Gandalf being Gogsworth. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Teapot. Others. DAN STEVENS. I can tell you, my mom and I were excited about that one. And Luke Evens as Gaston! Olaf as LeFou! I did fear that a modern rendition of the Beast wouldn't have the same "oomph" as the original. The original is so perfect on so many levels.

  But I have to say, that I so enjoyed the film. Bill Condon's version was gorgeous, fun. Humorous. But it did the thing I was most afraid of. It drew way to much off of the original. I was happy when they said that there was going to be a mix of new and original songs, and that Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were returning. But the weakest part of the movie was the beginning, and so much felt "the same" in a way that I wasn't happy with. Some of it was funny, and I have to say that the best innovation of this part of the story was the realistic depiction of what made Belle so odd--she was an educated woman, and she was actually spurned and scorned for endeavoring to teach a young girl to read. This was a very real issue of the time, and was a great device in the first act. One of the brilliant ideas of the movie, that made the storyline real.

  But I have to say that it actually took me until the song in Gaston's tavern to really get into the movie, to be pulled in and happy. There was real oomph in that performance. They changed up the beat in such a fun way in part of it, incorporating more of a social celebration and rhythm, it was just so catchy and fun! After that point it just kept improving. I was just having fun. In a lot of ways the story still felt "laced together" if you will, but the new elements in the story added more meaning, and definitely an explanation to the Beast's origins. And the sins of the house. Something that was definitely missing from the original. And the ending was just great. I did think that there were minor things that could have been done better, but overall I was so pleased with the ending that I didn't care all that much. Everyone was human again and gorgeous, happy endings for all. (Except for Gaston, rotting somewhere broken to bits). I loved the dance, and how it involved everyone this time--everyone with someone they loved, happy that they were granted this blessing. Belle's dress was gorgeous--I can almost say I like it more than the classic golden ballgown. And Belle asking the Prince if he could grow a beard? Priceless. Just priceless! And that little growl! Now honestly it was just so cute and appropriate that it's one of my favorite parts.

  Overall, it was a great movie. I'd give it a 6.5. I still hold that Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella still holds the crown of the Disney live action remakes. There is nothing in that movie that I would change. The best thing about Beauty and the Beast was the beauty that it did uphold. It did show real love, rather than sentiment. While it took a bit too much from the original, (some of it felt word for word) this movie still had its wonderful, beautiful elements. Definitely worth the theater visit.

  ~ Elora Shore

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Logan ~ Hugh Jackman's Last Stand

Got to see Logan about a week ago.  I've been struggling with doing my Logan review because for the most part I just sit here and mourn, rather than figure out what to get down. After seeing the trailer awhile back, I was thinking, "Oh this is going to be so fun--it's going to be gritty, action-packed, have that gravitas and humor in just the right places...." Well. I didn't expect so much of the gravitas. Oh and your are forewarned. Spoilers ahead.

  First off, lets start of with some context--the context of most of us, I'm sure. I was a kid when I saw the first X-Men movie. Fell in love with Wolverine--he has been my hero. He represents the beast within the man perfectly, and I've always had an eye for that. For land's sake The Call of the Wild was my favorite book when I was ten, and my favorite part was when Buck confronted Spitz and broke his legs--then let the pack eat him. Favorite part. Wolverine--was like an even better version the tragedy of the man wrangling his inner beast, letting him loose--trying to find a line to walk. Like I said. My hero.

  WAY TO BREAK MY HEART GUYS!! But man, what a hell of a story. And can I just say, just the level of perfection and balance in this movie is staggering. Nothing was out of place. The makers had a solid vision. And saved the best for last. And honestly I had to berate myself a bit, because when you know that an actor wants to do his final performance, and a franchise wants to continue with a character--they are handled a certain way. Why did I not assume this outcome?

  The story begins with Logan working as a driver for hire, is taking care of Professor X in the middle of nowhere and is trying to scrape enough together to get themselves a boat so they can live on the ocean in peace, and have a bit of peace and perhaps happiness.

  It hit on so many levels--the weariness that Logan feels, the desperation and sadness--the rough bleakness of their current situation. Professor X, old and suffering from Alzheimer's--having seizures that paralyze people. Mutants are all but extinct. Their history is now the stuff of comic books--and who will remain to tell the real story? Because all does come to dust. It does, and we get to witness it to a full extent. There's a bit of hope, but it's just because mutants aren't quite extinct. But the ones we loved are. Way to rip open my heart and lay it bare.

  So Xavier convinces Logan to care for Laura, and get her to where she needs to go. What follows is so incredibly human--for more than any previous films. There's the anger, the irritation, the fighting, mixed with the humor. It was so superbly balanced, which was definitely a need for a last film. Logan loses Xavier, has to battle a version of himself, and defend a little girl who by all accounts has to be his own. And in the final battle sequences (where several displays of mutant power had me cackling with joy), there is the ultimate in father-daughter moments. I mean, honestly--fighting side by side and ripping into baddies? One of the most satisfying moments ever.

  But of course it ends for old Logan. And while it is debated what his last words are in reference to, I like to think his smiling " that's what it feels like..." is because for the first time ever someone called him "daddy".

  And it is so appropriate that Laura places the cross of his grave on its side, to honor the X Man he had been. So passes old Logan.

  ~ E. C. S. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Word is a Double-Edged Sword ~ Interview with Nav the Poet

The performance at Amarillo College. Nav center, my boyfriend right next to him on the left. Me--half hidden behind said boyfriend.

About a month ago Amarillo College had the privilege of having Navpreet Sachdev, aka "Nav the Poet", perform. I was so glad that I agreed to go when my boyfriend Jaciel asked me--and of course the Thai food was a bonus. He shared some of how he got started, the unique challenges he faces as a "brown man with a beard". Nav definitely has a sense of humor! He spoke about his time with depression (which I really related to) and when he shared his poem on it, it felt like he was speaking my language. I got up the nerve to approach him after the performance and gave him a hug, and asked if I could interview him, because it would be criminal just to keep him to myself! And rest assured there's a LOT of happy, funny poems in his repertoire too. He blends everything in a unique way. He's a funny, insightful Sikh man from New York and we all were definitely blessed to have him!

  Now to the interview:

  Thank you for the kind words. By the way, I've checked out your blog and I'm so excited to learn you're also a Star Wars and Once Upon A Time fan like me! I'm not caught up with this season of OUAT though so I had to quickly stop reading your article once I realized I'd be diving into spoilers. Your article on Han Solo's death was fascinating and you make some interesting points. I'll be commenting soon with my own perspective since I disagree to an extent. Anyway, here are the answers to your questions. And yes, feel free to ask any follow-up questions if any come to mind from my responses. I appreciate this very much!

Getting Started/Biggest Influence:
  Looking back to when I was younger, I always had this sense of creativity in me. I used to write silly love poems for this one girl I was really into in high school and I would always randomly rhyme, to the point where it would irritate my family. But, I really started getting into writing in 2011. As it appears happens for most artists, my writing came about from dealing with the end of my first relationship. That's a whole story on its own, but basically, I fell into a depression and a total disregard for life. I really just didn't care about this existence, to be blunt. So, after having attempted various forms of dealing with the pain and suffering, both positive and negative outlets, I picked up a pen and started writing. And the only answer I have to what compelled me to pick up a pen is God. What's most interesting is that I wasn't really into my faith until I discovered my writing. I used to attend temple all the time when I was younger and do prayer but it was all hollow. At one point after the break-up, I actually turned away from the faith. But, as I discovered this passion for poetry, I rediscovered my faith and it has become my biggest influence for my writing. In case you don't know, I follow the Sikh faith. It's a fairly young religion in comparison to most others. It started in the 1400's in India and has since grown to have about 24 million followers worldwide. The reason it has been such an influence on me is because, throughout the history of my people, we've faced adversity, oppression, and struggle. And yet, we've always persevered and worked through. Whether during the earlier years, the 1980's where a government-run attack attempted to wipe out the population of Sikhs in India, or as recent as the past decade where anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments have made their way onto my people. And what keeps me going and gives me the willingness to write is this belief that we have to protect and serve others and fight injustice wherever it may be. In fact, a Sikh is supposed to carry a small dagger on them at all times. The idea being that a Sikh can always be ready to help and fight if need be. So, these beliefs have helped me shape my pen into a dagger, fighting injustice with my words rather than a weapon.  

How has your poetry influenced your life since then?
  Well, it's changed my life around completely. And it has had positive impacts on various aspects of my life. As stated previously, I didn't think much of this existence. And as an adolescent, I was filled with so much anger, frustration, and pain. I dealt with a decent amount of harassment and bullying in middle and high school. I was ostracized by various groups of peers because of my interests and hobbies. But, when I found poetry, I began to see a whole new perspective to life. My main issue when I was younger was that I felt my voice was always being suppressed. I'm not one to be incredibly loud so when I'm in groups, I do my best to voice my opinion but it gets overshadowed by the more vocal people. However, with poetry, I was able to express my thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or more importantly, not being heard. Once I found this outlet, I began to heal many of the emotional wounds that existed. And once I found my voice, I found the strength to make my voice heard. What I love most about poetry is that it's taught me to be more open and understanding. It has allowed me to be more willing to listen to disagreeing viewpoints and consider other perspectives and ideas. Along with this, it has made me more open about myself. As shown through my work, I don't shy away from my struggles, be it prejudice or mental health. I make a conscious choice every day to be who I am without hiding any part of me because I want people to connect with me; I don't want them to accept me for who makes them feel comfortable. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve, but carry it in my hand and give it to each person I encounter. And honestly, it makes a huge difference in how you interact with people and treat them. My poetry has taught me to show love to everyone, believe in the best of humanity, and work to create a better world. 

First Milestone?
  Well, in the 6 years I've been performing, I've done plenty of cool shows and been in front of some large audiences. However, I feel that my first milestone was only last year in 2016 when I got my first real bookings. I was booked for six shows in three different states. And while I've been performing for years now, getting booked was validation that everything I had done up to that point was worth the struggle. The late nights writing, the constant rehearsing at home, the dozens upon dozens of open mics I performed at to hone my craft and the need to believe in myself because most others don't show that support had all proven itself to be worthwhile when those schools decided to book me to perform at their campuses. I love what I do but to know that others appreciate the work I do so much that they are willing to pay me to do what I love means everything. And it's a reaffirmation that what I'm doing is something important and with purpose. And this isn't to take away some of the other awesome things I've done throughout the years. It's just on a personal level, I felt like I hadn't achieved much until those first bookings. 

First performance? Any funny stories?
  My first performance was back in December 2011. I actually had two performances the same week, both with an audience of about 250-300 people. One was an event by my religious community and one was a college event. This is something most people who know me now don't believe, but I used to be an incredibly shy kid. And when I started performing, it was incredibly difficult for me. So, for both shows, I was so incredibly nervous because I didn't know if I'd perform well and if people would even enjoy my work. Fortunately, they both went well and it set me on this path that I'm on now. One funny thing is how bad my performances were. And people are kind because it was my first performance but seeing how I perform now and then watching videos of these old performances, which I still have, make me cringe haha!

What are your plans for the future?
  Honestly, my journey has just begun so I'm planning on continuing with pursuing this career for quite some time. I'm still in the infancy of this, so I'm just working on growing it until I'm traveling to various campuses all year long, connecting with people from all around the country and the world. I do want to expand what I do and hopefully give workshops and facilitate discussions on the ideas of diversity and labels to help create a better understanding of the people around us. The political climate is severely tense currently and I feel that if more people sat down and had honest discussions with each other on these issues that didn't devolve into yelling and insulting the other side, we can really make a difference in our communities. At the end of the day, we're all humans. We all think, breathe, eat, sleep and love; we're also prone to ignorance, misunderstanding, and mistakes. All of that is the beauty of being human. None of us are perfect, so we're always developing into a better version of ourselves today than the one yesterday. And I wish to be a catalyst for that growth.

  It was a great treat to be able to interview you, Nav. Thanks for the opportunity. Can't wait to see more of your work in the future! If you guys want to get in touch with Nav, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and Instagram.

  And lastly, here's a little treat for the dancer in all of us. Thanks Nav. ;)

  ~Elora Carmen Shore 

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