Saturday, March 18, 2017

I REALLY wanted to love Disney's Live Action Beauty & the Beast...

Truly I did.

But I couldn't.

Let me explain. I have adored Beauty & the Beast since I was 2 years old. Since it came out in 1991, I have been enamored with the music, animation, story & characters in that particular Disney classic.

I even have my original pillow case from the bedsheet set my mom bought me when I was 5 years old. I have watched the 1991 Beauty and the Beast probably well over a million times. So much so, that I have even the instrumental melodies and harmonies memorized, in addition to the lines of dialogue. If you say to me one phrase from the movie, I could tell you exactly what is going on in the scene, what each character was wearing at the time and what instruments are playing in the background.

Basically, I know my Beauty & the Beast stuff. I think I'm a pretty fair judge as to what is a good and what is a bad interpretation of the classic fairytale. And Disney did SUCH an amazing job on the animated version, that it was nominated for an Academy Award. Yeah, it was that good.

So when I found out that they were doing the live action version, featuring one of my favorite actresses, (Emma Watson) an actor I adore from Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) and a fabulous actor from the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug & Five Armies (Luke Evans), I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. Though, I knew they would make some changes and additions to the original, I was hopeful. Emma physically & personality-wise was perfect for the role. Dan Stevens has the piercing blue eyes that the Beast has in addition to having a beautiful voice. Luke Evans has the ruggedness and gusto to bring to the role of Gaston.

I was thrilled to see it last night with my husband. And then... it started. And it didn't start the way I thought it would.

Now before I get into the things I had a problem with, I'll tell you the things that I thought they did spectacularly well. I thought Dan Stevens did a great job. I thought visually, the live action adaptation was stunning. The castle, the costumes were beautiful. I think personality wise and physically, (as I said before) Emma Watson was a perfect Belle, though she is no professional singer & there were a few moments she overacted. Those things I didn't mind, honestly.

Now here are the things I did have a problem with.

Instead of a narrator with a rich, mysterious voice speaking slowly and emphasizing words, it was someone who I felt like sped-read the whole opening and gave WAY more information than was necessary. Instead of a variation of the original's beautiful stain glass that tells us the story of how the prince was spoiled and then cursed by an enchantress, they make the opening scenes gaudy and change the prince's character to being a bit of a party animal, instead of him just being selfish and unkind. I wasn't expecting them to do the stain glass like the original, but I was hoping they'd do something like beautiful tapestries or impressionist paintings to depict the opening. You know, making it their own thing while paying homage to the original.

But no...

And then it all went downhill from there.

The dialogue was clunky, the editing atrocious and the new songs they wrote for the live-action adaptation didn't fit. I was expecting them to add in the songs from the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast like "If I Can't Love Her," and "Home." I was also expecting to have the song "Human Again," which was cut from the animated version for the sake of time & pacing.

I also felt like Luke Evans portrayal of Gaston wasn't rude enough. What I loved in the Broadway version of Beauty & the Beast is that the three babettes (the three dim-witted girls who fawn all over Gaston) are all sad that Gaston's going to marry Belle. But Gaston tells them basically, "don't worry girls. We can still have our fun together," with a little wink. WOW. He just became THAT much more of a swine. In the animated version, it seemed like he liked the attention the three girls gave him, but in the end he was obsessed with Belle. In the Broadway version, it really shows Gaston as a womanizer and a pig. I was looking forward to seeing more of that in the live action version.

Though Gaston had his awful moments, one of which punching Maurice in the face and leaving him for dead, I wanted more of his terrible-ness to be shown in front of Belle. I just felt like he should've really laid it on thick, because his behavior towards Belle just wasn't good enough for me.

Another thing that disappointed me was the subplot of "Where's Belle's mother? And how did she die?" This really served no purpose or usefulness in furthering the story at all, and was just a waste of time in the end.

In Robin McKinley's novel interpretation of Beauty and the Beast entitled, Beauty, the subplot was that Beauty hates her nickname because she doesn't think she's beautiful at all. She doesn't think she's ugly but she thinks she's plain and that nickname of 'Beauty' embarrasses her. So when she meets the Beast, there's a parallelism that happens. Beast knows he's not handsome and has no mirrors in his whole castle apart from one (which one do you think that would be?), and Beauty believes to not be a ravishing beauty. So at the end of the story when she finally sees herself in a mirror after Beast transforms, she realizes she is beautiful and sees the beauty that Beast saw in her the whole time, which Beauty learns to see the beauty in the Beast.

MUCH MUCH better subplot than "How did Belle's mother die?" You know, there's stuff that's called, "useless exposition,"  or "expository dialogue," that just bothers me. And the live action version of Beauty and the Beast was chalked full of useless expository dialogue.

For example, every body was making comments on how "why is it snowing at this Beast's castle when it's in the middle of June?" Um.. first off, in the animated version it was clearly autumn, so naturally when it transitions from leaves blowing off trees to snow on the ground at the Beast's castle, it's kind of logical that that would happen.

But let's say, for the sake of this reinterpretation that in the village where Belle and Maurice are at, it's June. Then they wind up at the Beast's castle and there's snow everywhere. Knowing that the castle and Beast are enchanted, wouldn't it make sense that the grounds of the castle would be enchanted as well? And that the evidence that they're all under a curse would be snow? You don't have to talk about "how strange it is that there's snow on the ground when it's June!" 😑😒 Um... the castle's enchanted.... duh. I don't need you to constantly remind me of that through stupid comments about the weather being different at the castle than in the village.

Now, you might say, "Why is that such a big deal?" Well, I guess it isn't. But I do take offense when directors or screenwriters think I'm stupid and can't read between the lines in the narrative. As a writer myself and a storyteller, you learn early on that your readers are smarter than you think and giving them a bunch of exposition that you can simply give subtle hints about is going to piss them off and make them feel like you don't think they're smart at all.

I could go on with other examples of things that bothered my like the transformation, that they could've REALLY gone all out for, but the camera pans away for half of it and then when the Beast is finally human, neither Belle nor he say anything.That's awkward.

You know what would've been nice? Having Belle and Beast share the same dialogue as in the original and then Belle telling him, "I don't even know your real name." and Beast replying something along the lines of, "It's been too long and I can't remember. You give me a new name." Or something like that. A little shout out to Robin McKinley's Beauty.

And then there's the enchantress that was hidden in town that randomly shows up at the end, but nobody sees or mentions the fact that "hey! That's the enchantress that cast the spell!" It's just a pointless thread in the movie that should've been cut.

And then there's the over emphasis on Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and so forth instead of on Belle and Beast's friendship and love story. I'm sure that Disney felt that since they got so many big name cast members to play these minor roles, they needed to give them more screen time. But, here's the problem with that; it takes away from the WHOLE HEART-TUGGING main plot. When Beast dies, the camera pans over to all these minor characters turning into lifeless objects... well you kind of just sucked out all the emotionally charged feelings from the air, and turned it into a melodrama. Sorry, but in the animated feature, it was perfectly acceptable that the camera shifts over to where Lumiere, Mrs. Potts & Cogsworth see the last petal fall, and they're crying. Instead, they turned it into this long, overdramatic thing where I'm not feeling any sadness or grief over the Beast dying or Belle crying over his dead body. In the original, I WEPT at that part. In this one, I was bored.

If they wanted to have Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, the Wardrobe (etc) to be in the spotlight a little more, why did they not include the song, "Human Again," that Disney cut from the original animated film?

Basically, the dialogue was stilted, the additions unnecessary, and I really felt like they could've done a better job in picking the subplot of the movie being Belle's body image issues and in the end, realizing the beauty that she always had at the same moment of Beast's transformation.

Maybe I'm suffering from the Hindsight Syndrome of "I could've done it better!" after something has already been done. But the fact is that, movies like Batman vs Superman & Captain America Civil War had massive criticisms when they were actually, very good movies. The problem is people becoming lazy and not wanting to read between the lines in the narrative. A movie isn't just about being entertaining, unless it's Fast & the Furious, I guess. But I don't consider those to be "entertaining" so much as "brain heroin."

A movie should have 3 things:
1. Make you feel uplifted--leaving you better than when you went in
2. A place you've never been before
3. A story with some substance

And the fact is that I felt like watching the Beauty and the Beast live action was like listening to a symphony by Mozart and every 5 minutes the orchestra hits the wrong note. It should be beautiful, inspiring, uplifting but they can't get the music in tune!

You're more than welcome to disagree with me. If you liked it or even loved it, that's fine. But after seeing it, I just can't get on the bandwagon. Fact is, Disney needs to STOP doing live action version of their classic movies. They have yet to do one that is satisfactory, and why would you do a remake when the originals are perfect? It makes no sense. They need to go back to doing more original stories with original music and classic hand-drawn animation. Not any of this 3D Frozen crap. That takes no talent whatsoever to do.

Feel free to leave love, or hate if that's how you roll! Maybe I'm just a picky son of a B. Or maybe I just expect better quality from a multi-billion dollar company that has access to hundreds of talented writers. I just wish this time around, I was one of them.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Writer's Experience With Depression

I decided to finally make this blog more focused on my writing again. The title after all is Ramblings of a Starving Creative Writer, so I figured I should probably post things in accordance to that.

Anyway, I wanted to write a little bit about my experience that I've had (and continue to have) with going through a depression as an aspiring author with several book projects being juggled all at once.

I mentioned on my facebook how I crashed into a mini depression as soon as I moved from the States to Canada. Long story short, my husband's Canadian and we needed to move back to Canada in order for us to be together and for him to get his Master's degree cheaply.

I went from working a full-time job at a global magazine, constantly reading and voraciously writing chapter after chapter in my adult mystery, adult ghost story and young adult fantasy novels. I was probably flying at my highest when it came to goals and accomplishing them.

Fast forward to August of 2016. About five months ago. Me and my husband make the move to Canada and I'm unable to work until I get permanent residency (which, let me tell you takes FOREVER). We lived with his parents for a month then moved in to our new place which we've been in since September. I thought that maybe my lack of motivation in writing was due to all the stress of a new environment, not having access to my own computer (since I did a lot of my writing on my work computer) as well as just the fact that it took us a while to unpack everything and get settled into our new place.

Well, October comes and goes. Then November. Then December. And my mood and way of life aren't changing. We moved to a small town an hour away from a big city. My husband has a car he needs to use for work, which leaves me without any means of transporting myself anywhere outside of this town of about 3,000 people.

Needless to say, I've had several meltdowns since about November. I had such a fire ignited within me to write and to read, and I have done a fair amount of reading but not like I did when I was in the States. I thought FOR SURE having the free time I have right now I'd have at least 2 books written by now and revising them and looking for an agent.

But no. Mostly it's just empty pages. It's a flashdrive I haven't picked up in months. It's chapters that are unwritten. It's a brain that used to be flooding with ideas that now can barely tell her fingers to type a sentence. In addition to the painful and crippling disappointment comes the shame and absolute and utter self-loathing.

I've spent the past few weeks trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've searched YouTube videos and kindle books to try to find authors who struggle with depression and how they don't let it affect their writing.

What I found was comforting but I wanted more. With the new year, I decided that I desperately needed to change something. I wasted 4 months of what could have been solid writing, solid improvement, solid progression.

So I'm writing this blog post in the hopes that I can help other fellow writers who struggle with what I struggle with as well. Or really, any artist. Any musician, any designer, any poet, any photographer etc. who have struggled with depression.

I really do feel like we writers (or we artists/creative folk) are both blessed and cursed at the same time. We are blessed because we feel deeply and passionately about our craft--about telling stories. But we're cursed because of our deep seeded emotions, they can turn on us like a tidal wave, and it's excruciatingly difficult to overcome it.

I'm not fully back to my normal self yet. Far from it, in fact, though I've hidden it from almost all of my family members and friends until now.

But I will list a few things that have helped me just attempt to get back in the saddle again as far as my writing goes.

1. Force yourself to just do it, no matter how little you end up accomplishing.
By celebrating these simple achievements, and by simply writing you'll at least not feel like a total failure. I wrote 204 words yesterday of an outline for my young adult fantasy novel. 204 words. For a bloody outline. But I did it. I wrote 204 words, which is 204 words more than I've written in over 3 months. And I felt slightly better about myself after the fact. And you will too if you just wrench yourself from your couch or your bed or wherever it is you spend the majority of your time instead of writing and just WRITE. Force yourself to until you get into the habit of it. Someone told me it takes 28 days of doing something to make it into a habit. I'm on day 2. How bout you?

2. Don't beat yourself up about everything.
This is something I'm the Jedi master of. Seriously. It's a BAD JEDI MIND TRICK that gets me EVERY TIME. But there is a way to move past it. Part of it I mentioned in #1 which is celebrating small victories. If you can only get out 200 words, treat yourself. If it's 20 or 2, give yourself a pat on the bat, or allow yourself one episode of Netflix/Amazon prime, or buy yourself a smoothie or ANYTHING that gives yourself positive reinforcement. You know how they train dogs to do tricks by offering them food at the end? Well, it kinda works with us humans as well. If you give yourself a reward after you try and exert yourself, you will feel better about yourself and your life. Trust me, I'm trying to do that right now. Be kind to yourself. If you want to end up in the black hole where you're at right now, then listen to that douchey jerky voice telling you that you suck or you've failed. Tell that voice to shove it and promptly turn on the Force Theme by John Williams. Star Wars music has a way of empowering just about anyone, I've found.

3. Change up your routine/scenery
This is something I'm trying to do now. Because of my husband's schedule, there are random times during the day where he's at home and distracting me. Though I love him and love spending time with him, I just can't write when he's in the house. I need complete and utter solitude in order to do that. I tried writing at home when he's not there, and it sort of worked, but having to use his work laptop can sometimes be problematic. Especially when he has to use it. So I go to the library. It's only a few blocks away from my house, and even in the cold, pathetic wasteland of a winter we're having right now, it's not so bad to walk to. I'm only technically allowed an hour on the library computers, but I'm kind of friends with the library staff so they let me work a little longer than that if it's not busy. Changing things up a bit will greatly help stimulate your creative juices. Though I'm not a fan of the sloppy, bulky keyboard, I'm at least able to be in an environment that I'm not too relaxed in, or tempted to turn on the T.V. or distracted by a spouse.

4. Make sure your sleep schedule isn't whacked
Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 10 or 11 in the morning is fun for a day or two, but then it really starts to make you feel like a zombie. Especially if you're struggling with depression. I'm still working on this but going to bed by 10 and getting up around 8 or 9 will definitely help you a) have more hours in the day where you can get a lot more done and b) help your mind to be more sharp and focused. When I'm not on a sleeping schedule like I was when I was working full-time, I don't get hardly anything done. So make sure you're going to bed at a decent hour and eating healthy at least 3 times a day. The simple things are what helps your mental health, trust me.

So far that's all I've tried doing to help me in my depression to continue working towards finishing one of my books. If you have any suggestions or additions that you'd like to see on this blog post, please comment below. I'm still struggling with this so I absolutely welcome others' experiences, whether they're yours or someone you know.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Make America Sane Again

So, I know I've certainly been very vocal about politics lately. To be honest, it's been hard lately not to be.

I'm sure that people are getting sick of it, but you know what, I'm frankly getting sick of the same old things people have been posting about as well which is why I've decided to write a little blog about it.

I've already expressed concerns about the GOP candidates. Hilary Clinton is dishonest, elitist, self-entitled & self-serving while Donald Trump is a racist, outrageous, inflammatory failed businessman. I could not, in good conscious, vote for either one. It would be, and I may sound like I'm overreacting and perhaps I am, voting between two evils.

I've said this before & I'll say it again, that when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you are still voting for evil.

However, when you vote for a good candidate, even if they have no chance of winning, this country will be blessed for it because it means that we are still exercising our liberty to vote for good.

Which is where I will introduce Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, and the man that I will be voting for in the presidential election.

Though I may not agree with everything on his platform, I certainly agree with him on the most pressing matters like education, term limits for Senators, and changing our strategy in fighting ISIS (because Obama is certainly failing on that front as well as others).

The reason why I'm talking about this so much is because I want Gary Johnson to be in the presidential debates. Right now, he is polling 11% and needs to be at least 15% in order to participate.

I know, it seems quite banal to endorse a presidential candidate, and it seems like I may be suffering from "hero worship," but honestly it's more of an act of desperation. I don't want Trump to be president. I don't want Hilary to be president. I want change, but I don't want radical change.

We haven't had a Libertarian president, but I think it's about time we see if it's a good option. And it's only 4 years, so if you don't like his policies, you can vote as many Hilarys and Donalds as you want.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Rejoicing In Spite of the GOP Candidates

I know many are probably raising their eyebrows a bit at the title, I promise I'll try to make this post as unbiased as possible with as little political diatribes as I can muster. This is actually supposed to be an uplifting, spiritual post and I hope that those who support any of the GOP candidates will bear with me until the end for the punchline of this blog post.

I have nothing personal against Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. If you endorse any or all of them, that's just fine. This post isn't meant to make you change your mind or persuade you in voting for or against anyone in particular and it's certainly not meant to insult or offend anyone, though I'm sure I'll already be doing that inadvertently anyway, because to have an opinion means to offend someone at some point in time.

Anyway, to get to the point. I have long been worried about the future of this country of which I am a part of. The education system is abominable (see No Child Left Behind & Common Core), as we are number 24 on the PISA assessment in math and reading (a global education rankings test) leaving us behind countries like Australia and Canada. Our foreign relations policies are atrocious, and don't even get me started on these small interest groups on college campuses asking for "safe spaces" (sorry, is the 1st Amendment still in force today? Or did I miss a meeting?) or Black Lives Matter (If you want to get people involved in a cause that is against racism, shouldn't you at least make the title of your group more ethnically inclusive?).

But I digress. The current candidates in the GOP running is kind of the straw that's broken the camel's back for me lately. Like I said before, I'm not going to be rude or judgmental of Trump, Sanders or Clinton, but I will say what concerns me about all of them.

1. Trump
His entire campaign has been steeped in controversy and frankly, verbal violence against loads of people (see Serge Kovaleski, Megyn Kelly and Ted Cruz to name a few). I am not a fan of celebrity worshiping nor am I a fan of political party worship (see every single daggum celebrity in Hollywood or the music industry who are incredibly vocal about the Democratic party but immediately ostracizes and demonizes others who belong to a different political party) and this issue with Trump (and Sanders & Clinton) is no different. People get caught up with his idioms and catchphrases like "Make America Great Again," that they are blind to some deep flaws and foibles in his character. I'm not saying that the President of the United States needs to be perfect, but I am saying that the President needs to hold some standard of dignity and grace. Though I don't agree with Obama's politics, and I have criticized several of his policies, President Obama does hold some dignity and has strived for peaceable dialogue, even though I may not agree with his dialogue, I haven't heard anything truly inflammatory like I hear on a regular basis from Trump. Whether or not he'll be a good president if he gets elected, I don't know. He may surprise us yet. But my concerns with him are numerous in regards to him saying anything and everything that comes to his mind without thinking about the consequences they might bring and the fact that everything that comes to his mind is derogatory and sometimes hateful.

2. Sanders
This may come as a surprise to some people, since I've been rather quiet on the political discourse on Facebook, that I don't support Bernie Sanders. I've never felt "the bern" as his supporters have coined the phrase. If you like him, that's fine. I'm not saying I don't like him. He's certainly deserving of respect and common decency like all the other candidates. What I am saying is, he wouldn't be a good choice at all. I don't agree with his politics, and here's just one example why:

Free college--Let me explain something here. I don't remember much from my Economics class I took my senior year of high school, but I do remember this: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Meaning, when people promise you free stuff, it is never truly free. If celebrities are a part of a fundraising campaign like, and they promise you an all-expenses paid weekend to the premiere of such-and-such movie, you have to donate something to their campaign in order for you to even be considered as winning. If, on a smaller scale, the monopoly game is happening at McDonalds, even if you get a free small french fry on your large Diet Coke, you still had to pay for the Diet Coke. Does that make sense? The fact is, free college would never work. Not in a million years. It is a socialist dream that will die as quickly as it is put into place. Canada has a constitutional monarchy and has implemented socialist programs into their government, like free health care and subsidized universities. Note that I said subsidized not free. Canada is much more socialist than we are and you still have to pay tuition each year. If free college would be put into effect, it would bankrupt the country.

There are other reasons why I'm not feeling "the Bern" and never will but this blog post is already too long. Fact is, Bernie Sanders is a nice guy and I actually do appreciate him wanting parental leave but if he were to get into office, he would increase the power of the federal government by 40%. 40%. Since when has governmental involvement been a good thing? Since never. It's already screwed up our education and health system when it should've been protecting us from ISIS and terrorism which is it's number 1 priority (our safety). The federal government shouldn't be a micro-managing nanny, but apparently no one else is bothered by that except me.

3. Clinton
I don't think I need to go into detail why I'm not feeling "the Hill," but if I need to defend why I'm not a fan, I'll just give you a few words. Benghazi. Email Scandal. Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton may not be steeped in controversial hate speech like Trump, but she is steeped in fraud charges and is currently under investigation by the FBI. You're more than entitled to vote for her, but I personally don't think she's honest and couldn't trust her with my vote let alone my tax dollars.

So this brings me to my original point for writing this blog post as something that's more positive than negative. As you can tell, I've been thinking about these 3 candidates a lot and it's been eating away at me for weeks and weeks. I've prayed a lot and studied a lot and hoped that I could get some kind of answer as to what I should do about all of this, how to process it all and how to combat the shadiness (GOP candidates) to the evil (ISIS) that has been happening.

Today, I finally got my answer. I was singing in a meeting today the hymn, "Now Let Us Rejoice." I've always liked the song, but there are definitely some other favorites that come before it. But today, for reasons mentioned above, the lyrics struck me in a way that brought tears to my eyes. The last verse says:

In faith we'll rely on the arm of Jehovah
To guide through these last days of trouble and gloom
And after the scourges and harvest are over
We'll rise with the just when the Savior doth come
Then all that was promised, the Saints will be given
And they will be crowned with the angels of heav'n
And earth will appear as the Garden of Eden
And Christ and His people will ever be one

The part that really got me was In faith we'll rely on the arm of Jehovah to guide through these last days of trouble and gloom. And though to some the days aren't that troublesome or gloomy, to me recently they certainly have been. As I worry about the refugee crisis, ISIS, the education system, the corruption that always happens when men and women thirst for power, internal unrest with the American people, it's clear to me that these days are full of trouble and gloom. But, having said that and it being the title of the song I chose, now let us rejoice in the day of salvation.

We can still rejoice, even in spite of everything going on. That's not to say we can get complacent with the things that go on in this country and around the world, we still have much work to do to combat the evil and inhumanity in the world. But we can still "rely on the arm of Jehovah" and know that He will guide us "through these last days of trouble and gloom."

I know that God loves us, that He loves you and me and yes Trump, Sanders and Clinton (obviously). We are all His children and I know He won't leave us alone. And though secret combinations and Gadianton Robbers will arise in our own days, Heavenly Father is on our side and the Savior Jesus Christ, and they will not abandon us to our foes.

Hopefully I didn't hurt anyones feelings who truly like any of the above people mentioned, I'm simply trying to say that there are much better individuals than these. And to remind those who say they're going to choose the "lesser of the two evils," you are still choosing evil.

To quote Ezra Taft Benson, "If you vote for the lesser of two evils you are still voting for evil and you will be judged for it. You should always vote for the best possible candidate, whether they have a chance of winning or not, and then, even if the worst possible candidate wins, the Lord will bless our country more because more people were willing to stand up for what is right." 

That is all, thanks for reading :)