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I wish I'd had these movies when I was an 11-year-old:

I've had the great pleasure of seeing "When Marnie was There" and "Inside Out" in these past few weeks, and I'm convinced that they would make an excellent double feature. Both of them feature female protagonists who are on the cusp of puberty and maturity, and both movies come at the issues that puberty brings, but from completely different angles. "Inside Out" is a lot more action-filled and a good deal louder than "Marnie" but really, one is the flip side of the other, as they're both meditations on what growing up means and how we deal with adversity.

"When Marnie was There" is a lovely entry into the Studio Ghibli canon. The story focuses on Anna, a 12-year-old asthmatic adoptee whose internal life is filled with turmoil and loathing. Worried for her health and mental state, her adopted mother sends her to spend the summer with relatives who live in the country, and leave her to her own devices, although they do meddle as they try to set her up on a "friend date" with some local girls that, predictably, turns sour. Left alone, Anna finds herself talking to the lonely girl who lives in the deserted house across the tidal marsh, Marnie. But Marnie comes and goes without warning, and her stories of her life (all rendered in gorgeous attention to detail and period, as expected from a Ghibli film) sound off, somehow. I don't want to spoil the ending, and so I'll stop summarizing the plot here, and shift over to discussing how richly everything in this story is rendered: the colors! The emotions! The textures! (The textures alone are worth the price of admission; I could imagine the feel of almost everything in that movie under my fingers as it went along.) What's really gorgeous about this movie is the love that is packed into every aspect of the production. It has a soul, a rich, empathetic soul that serves all the characters with equal measures of respect. I wish that I had seen this movie when I was a depressed adolescent tween, because I think it would have healed my soul in return for viewing it (although I would never, ever have admitted that to anyone.)

"Inside Out" is a little more accessible to all ages than "Marnie" (which definitely requires an attention span and patience to fully enjoy) but it's really all about the same difficulties of growing up and accepting parts of ourselves. You've probably seen the trailers and know that this is a movie about the voices in a tween protagonist's head as she copes with a great deal of life changes (moving, new school, parental strife, etc.) What I'm pleased to say about this is that it's not the gender essentialist nonsense that I feared from the first few trailers I saw, and that the imagination that fuels this movie is electric and boundless and beautiful. It treats its protagonist's mental crisis with the same gravity that "Marnie" does, and we see the solution from the internal side, rather than the external one. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but I can say that the mental landscape this movie lays out is absolutely perfect, and very well observed. This is a movie that I wouldn't mind seeing in theaters again at all, because I'm sure there were a million things or so that I missed. "Inside Out" is the best Pixar movie I've seen... well, maybe ever, although nothing will beat the first ten minutes of "Up" or that sequence in "Toy Story 3" for making me cry. It's absolutely worth seeing on the big screen. I don't want to oversell it, so please just go and see it. (And then come back and talk to me about it, because I have some stuff I want to run by you.)
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Sens8 is sens-sational!

Apologies for the corny title; I could not resist.

I want to urge everyone to check out Sens8 over on Netflix. It's not a fast-paced, non-stop action thriller (although it's had scenes like that), nor is it a overwrought drama full of white people problems (there is drama, but it never over-tugs at the heart strings, and given the diverse group of characters and settings, #firstworldproblems are the least of the characters' worries.) It's a science fiction drama that focuses on a group of eight people who are suddenly, and completely unbeknownst to them, psychically connected to each other. They can access skills and memories from one another and share information, but the only mentor they have is (frustratingly) cryptic and currently imprisoned. What unfolds is a lengthy meditation on the beautiful but bewildering connections we share with every other human being on the planet, told through the lens of the eight characters fumbling towards helping each other through trial and error, all the while dealing with their own lives' problems. Five episodes in, I'm not sure what the story's endgame is, but I don't worry too much because the story has steered me well so far. I'm curious as to who the nebulous baddies are, but I don't want to rush things, and I really hope their motive isn't too mustache-twirlingly over the top. I want very much to discuss this with others, the way that I am frustrated because no one will talk about Cloud Atlas (book and movie) with me. Anyway, it's well worth your time. It's not a fun, silly show that you can have on in the background as you're doing other stuff: you need to pay attention in order to catch everything that's rushing by. But it's paying off so far, and I think the ending will be worth it.
oh you bad guys

ST:TNG Rewatch: "When the Bough Breaks" & "Home Soil"

These were another two episodes that didn't really... stand up, or congeal, or something. They weren't actively bad, though, and they did show off some seriously good character moments for the people involved, but they've left me with more questions than answers.

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Signs that it's THE FUTURE: Terra-forming a planet! The future, ladies and gentlemen! If science fiction has taught us nothing else, it's that nothing could possibly go wrong there!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE: Uhm... there's still a necessity for HR and legal, both of which are sorely needed in both of these episodes. This week on Star Fleet: Law and Order, Contract Law! Existentialist debate! Kidnapping and extortion!
run away!

ST: TNG ReWatch, "11001001" & "Too Short a Season"

Argh, I've fallen behind in writing these! This one sat on my to-do pile for quite a while, and I realized that besides Real Life happening, I just wasn't too moved one way or another by either one of these episodes. Nonetheless, here we go:

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Signs it's THE FUTURE: Aliens! The Bi-nars are the most consistently alien creatures we've seen for a whole episode, and that's nice. Also Holodeck~~~~!

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE: The central moral dilemma plot problem in "Too Short a Season" doesn't really need to be set on another planet, except for the crazy alien drugs plot device. Really, this could be set in any time period, with any scientific mumbo jumbo substituted for the de-aging part of the story, and it would work just fine.
oh you bad guys

ST: TNG ReWatch, "Datalore" & "Angel One"

OK, now this is what I was waiting for! Collapse )

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Signs it's THE FUTURE/NOT THE FUTURE: OK, writers, in the future, have we eliminated the common cold or not? In "Datalore" it's mentioned (for the millionth time) that the common cold has been eradicated and no longer plagues anyone, but in "Angel One", the illness that the Enterprise crew is suffering from looks suspiciously like the common cold. Which is it, writers? Please pick one option or another!

A note for science fiction writers interested in writing a matriarchial society: If this is an episode about a planet dominated by women, why are the men talking so much? If you've set up this scenario solely to show how our modern society is still grappling with sexism and it's wrong, there are far easier ways to go about making that point without effectively doing exactly what the characters you make into villains are doing.
run away!

Enthusiastic Movie Rec: It Follows

I've been thinking about "It Follows" ever since I saw it, mostly in two ways: 1), what the hell was up with that ending, and that plot twist, and that plot element, etc. and, 2) intellectually, I know this is impossible, but I don't want to turn off the lights because what if it is there?! I've seen horror movies before that lingered for a few days, but this one shows no signs of letting up and it's a rare movie that can scare me for this long. It's also a beautiful movie, another reason that it's sticking around in my brain, with its empty houses and landscapes, the whole thing feels like an exploration of a hollow shell. This film also reminds me of a particularly fiendish RPG that a player came into knowing only the most basic of rules, and upon leaving, said player knows very little more than what they started with, only that there was... this thing and there were rules and consequences, and there was an unrelenting sense of dread from start to finish. Seriously, there is only one jump cut in the whole movie (and it's reasonably warranted by the setting the characters are in at the time) and the rest is this perfectly timed to build tension and inevitability. So I want to recommend this movie to all and sundry. There is minimal gore if that turns you off, but the threat is not minimized because of this; there is character development of both obvious and subtle varieties; and there's a lovely sense of timelessness and universality that, again, a lot of movies (horror or not) want to capture but fail.

So, go. See it. Not alone.
yuuko

Cinderella! *swoons*

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, but probably not for the reasons that anyone else in the theater did. A side note, before I begin, has to do with the Frozen Fever short that played before the movie. It was... cute. So cute. And so merchandisable. It reminded me of the articles I read about the Sailor Moon manga's plot being timed around various school holidays and celebrations in Japan so that brand new merchandise would be on the shelves in time for girls to see it during breaks. In this case, Elsa and Anna got new dresses (ka-ching) and there were little snow golems that appeared every time Elsa sneezed (d'awww, plushie!) The song that accompanied the major plot was cute, but it didn't have the staying power of the songs in the original movie. I guess I'd call the whole thing harmless, if it didn't seem to be such a cash grab.

But, yes, anyway, the movie itself. The Good parts: the costume porn was Spec. Tac. Cular, and the set dressing excellent. I could have watched an entire movie set at the ball, because I suspect there was more set dressing (of the food porn variety) that there wasn't time to show. The animals that Cinderella talks to were actually cute, not cloying. The transformation (and "de-transformation") sequences were top-notch. Helena Bonham Carter appeared to be having the time of her life as the Fairy Godmother.

Not-So-Good: It's been widely observed that parents in Disney movies don't last long, and this movie had that issue in spades. Not only do Cinderella's parents die from Plotdeviceitis, but the Prince's father died, too, of some unspecified malady. (3 parental deaths in one movie is a lot!)

Another thing that stuck in my craw was the constant reiterating of Cinderella's saintly mother's dying advice: "Have courage and be kind." While this is good advice, it's not especially nuanced or universally applicable, although this movie gamely tried to prove otherwise. This phrase started to annoy me on the level that "With great power comes great responsibility" did in the first Spiderman movie. It's one thing to explore an idea, but it's another to bludgeon the audience repeatedly with it. There were scenes that showed this idea effectively--Cinderella admonishing the Prince not to hunt the stag, for example, was a very nice way to show us this dictum in action, but annoyingly, the writers worked the aphorism into the dialogue at the end of it, blergh--but the idea hovered over the entire thing so omnipotently that it was like a single-minded deity running the entire show.

On the good side, there was a lot of effort made to humanize the prince, which is nice, I guess, because my memories of him from the animated movie are somewhat on the "cardboard cutout" side of things. In this case, the Prince was so handsome and winsome that the first scene he appeared in... well, it was like the first scene in Maison Ikkoku where Kyoko meets Coach Mitaka, he turns around to greet her, and he's so handsome that his teeth sparkle. I honestly kept waiting for this Prince's teeth to sparkle like the bishounen hottie he was meant to be. Fortunately, he wasn't a jerk or smarmy during any of this, and as it turned out he was smart enough for a pivotal plot twist to take place. So yay for that? But he's not the star of the thing... Cinderella is. And Lily James is just lovely, and she played the whole thing as well as she could. But I didn't leave the film liking Cinderella as a character any more than when I'd come in, and I feel like there was a real missed opportunity there. There's a lot that's good about the original animated film, and the story is timeless and appealing, but I wish this version, with all its beauty, had set its sights just a little higher in terms of character development for its heroine.

A side note: if making animated princess films into live action spectacles is the new thing, can we please do The Princess and the Frog next? Tiana is the BEST, Lottie is hilarious, New Orleans in the 20s would be a great setting, and I would pay all the monies to see that.
good read

ST:TNG Rewatch: "Haven" & "The Big Goodbye"

There is so much that is good/bad/wonderful/funny/bonkers about these episodes!

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Funniest Line: Data, at the worst engagement party in the entire universe, "Could you please continue the petty bickering? It is most intriguing."

The writers' 'ship = Awkward!Troi/Sullen!Riker

Most annoying music: It's a tie between the single violin of braveryyyyy and the panpipes of introspection.

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Funniest/Best Line: The Holodeck baddie, who is surprisingly well spoken, "Make your thoughts fruitful and your words eloquent."

Funniest Moment: Watching Crusher mimic the movements of another woman in the Holodeck police waiting room is just adorable. Even more adorable is the following scene, where a random guy offers her a stick of gum and she swallows it whole.

The writers' 'ship= Picard/Crusher, but only after Picard is disastrously unaware and Crusher is damseled. >:(

The plot aspect that ties these two episodes together is the tricky challenge of introducing a brand new character and making the audience care about him/her in the space of about twenty minutes. Both of these episodes try really, really hard to do just that, but only "The Big Goodbye" succeeds with the Holodeck characters who first realize that Picard/Dixon Hill is, in fact, from another planet, and then, heartbreakingly, that his leaving their space means that they will, effectively die. The new character in "Haven" is a little trickier to care about, for the reasons explained above. It's one thing to see a new character who has an annoying family and a bizarre tie to a main character, but it's another entirely to hang the entire plot on him and his revelations and expect the audience to feel anything about him.
yuuko

ST: TOS Rewatch, Nimoy Edition!

On Friday, Yebisu and I decided that in honor of Leonard Nimoy, we'd do an original series rewatch instead of Next Gen. And what a treat that was! I had forgotten a lot of the details about these particular episodes, and they were both good Spock episodes; I even found that I didn't mind Kirk that much after all this time (and Futurama viewing.)

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Awesome-est moment in both episodes: I had forgotten the storytelling conceit that Kirk, Spock, and Bones have a little summation on the bridge at the end of both of these episodes, and these scenes were really good. Spock got some funny zingers, and the friendship (or more, whatever you want to see there) was well-expressed and rather touching.

Least awesome-est moment: Too many dicks on the dance floor. Seriously: there is only one woman in "The Devil in the Dark" and she doesn't even get a speaking line; while there are two women in "Mirror, Mirror", only Uhura gets any real agency. I'm glad that Next Gen, for all its contrivances and weird bits rectifies this problem to mostly very good effect.

Most Ridiculous Thing from my notes: "Coffee break! Eyebrow!" & "Semantics~~~~~"