Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hairspray: Our Common Ground

When the remake of Hairspray came out in 2007, all eleven-year-old me could think was, “Finally, a movie I can relate to.”
Wait. Let me rephrase that.
No, I wasn’t born and raised in Baltimore in the 50s and 60s where, at the time, it was a city segregated by race and class. I’m not a chubby, flirty girl who bursts out in song whenever the opportunity arises; I’ve never been on TV. Frankly, the only thing I have in common with Tracy Turnblad is the excessive use of hair spray.
Our hair could support a small family of gophers, if needed, and we both pride ourselves on that (well, just the fact that it's big. I don't go around saying, "Yup. My hair is so awesomely big, rodents could live in it."). Our mane is what defines a big part of us. In the movie, Tracy’s dad sells tons of merchandise in his joke shop off of her famous ‘do. Me? Not so much. But maybe one day…
Other than that, though, it's like we're from different planets. Tracy is a song-and-dance girl (I guess you have to be when you're the star of a musical). I, on the other hand, only spontaneously burst out into song in the confines of my own house; usually in a duet with my sister. We'll sing Disney classics or Michael Buble, and when I don't know the words she hits me. I'm sure Tracy Turnblad never forgot the words to a song and got slapped for it.
She's much more interested in music and being famous than anything else, especially school. Tracy's attention can't be kept in class; she ditches school and gets sent to detention multiple times. Just another thing we differ in. While I don't exactly always listen during classes, and definitely count down the seconds until the bell rings at the end of the day, I'm actually pretty interested in some subjects. I've never ditched class to audition for a TV show and, surprise surprise, I've never been in detention (except for that one time in seventh grade, but that was totally the art teacher's fault).
So our only common ground comes in a pressurized can.
Nonetheless, Tracy is a relatable character. Everyone comes to a point in their life where they have to make an unpopular decision. For her it was defying the lines that separated races; for most of us, it’s stuff like not letting your daughter spend the night at a friend’s house or changing your wifi password so your neighbor can’t use it. Stuff like that (we can’t all be world changers).
Tracy has her best friend, Penny, by her side the entire way, even against Penny’s mom’s wishes. She has her slightly over-protective, loving parents that I could easily mistake for my own (except for, you know, my mom’s not John Travolta in women’s clothes).
So no, eleven-year-old me wasn’t wrong. She ignored the time and place and, frankly, the whole plot of the movie-musical but focused on the less noticeable things about Tracy and her life. If you take away the songs, the dancing, the cameras, and completely change the setting, it’s like we’re the same person.
The same, hair spray-addicted, person.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pocahontas: An Incredible Lie

Growing up in a Disney house, one of my favorite movies was Pocahontas. What was there not to love about the Romeo and Juliet-esque relationship between the nature girl, sweet as honey, daughter of Chief Powhatan and the caring, strong as stone, British settler John Smith?
I think I was in fourth grade when I first saw an actual portrait of John Smith. A chubby, bald, bearded man stared back at me as I sat in my seat in Mrs. Kasparek’s class, incredulous (now I’m not one to judge on looks, but that was just ridiculous). Where was the blonde, flowing hair? The strong jaw? The chiseled physique of the Mel Gibson-voiced hunk?
I remembered back to when I first saw Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World. Why on Earth did she marry John Rolfe instead of her love, Smith? Surely there was some mistake…
Well, there was. Disney John Smith was a lie, and Real John Smith was a liar. Many historians believe the whole Pocahontas-saved-my-life story from the settler was fabricated to increase his popularity. After all, he brought it up around twenty years after the apparent life saving.
So that explains why John Rolfe won-over Pocahontas and had child with her before she died in her early twenties of unknown causes.
So unromantic.
But still, there’s something about the story, the songs, the characters in the (completely fictional) Pocahontas. I still love the movie; I just watch it in a different light now. It’s just like finding out Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Now whenever you watch Star Wars, you look at the Dark Lord of the Sith and can only think of the fact that he’s Luke’s dad.
No matter, I still ship Disney John Smith and Pocahontas. I still awe at the little raccoon, Meeko, and, despite my better judgment, I still try to sing both parts of “Savages”. I still love the incredible lie that is Disney’s Pocahontas.

Star Wars: I Had Hope

I have a confession to make. I’ve seen tons of movies. Ones most kids my age haven’t heard of. I’ve seen a British movie about three friends who fall in love with the same girl without knowing it; I’ve seen a French movie about a teacher trying to help his troubled students; the Spanish version and it’s sequel of the horror film, Quarantine. I’ve even seen a movie where Barbie wins the lottery and is sent to a princess charm school. With all of these under my belt you would think that I’ve also seen all the classics, but I haven’t. My confession being: I haven’t seen any of the Star Wars.
Watching A New Hope now, I can understand why it’s held in a high place in movie history. The graphics, for the 1970s, are revolutionary. You have to ignore the obviously green-screened backgrounds and the awful costumes and look deeper. The plot holds the audience captive like Darth Vader does to Princess Leia. I’m won over by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo (or as my mom likes to call him, “Han So-hot”).
But…I don’t quite know what’s missing from this movie. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to do other homework or because I’m on Facebook, but now, like how Leia was taken by Han and Luke, I’ve been taken by my internet connection and school work. The movie has allowed for me to escape.
Maybe I need to be more focused (as a teenage girl, I don’t hold the attention span to stare at a screen for one hundred and twenty-two minutes). Maybe it’s because I’m a generation off for this movie. Or maybe I just know the events too well. I know the major rises and falls of the characters and the relationships between them.
And now, as the first of the six movies reaches its end, I realize that the only reason I stayed till the end was because of the movie’s notoriety, and for the grade.
But still, when people will ask me if I liked it, I’ll say yes. Even if my attention was lost during it, the movie was revolutionary in every way, and that I can respect.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

For millions of dollars and thousands of hours, audiences are transported from their bland, cookie-cutter lives into worlds where anything can happen. A god is banished to Earth; a mermaid receives legs for her best asset: her voice; a rat controls a man by his hair and helps him become a great chef.
The most important events in history are told in different ways to people who couldn't be there. We held our breath during the Mexican standoff of Blondie, Angel Eyes, and Tuco; we held back tears as Colonel Robert Shaw led his men into battle at Fort Wagner and ultimately failed and let our tears flow when Scarlett learned that Rhett didn't "give a damn".
People spend two hours sitting in a crowded, cold, musty theater for these reasons. They love the thrill and undying love, and even the heartache that the characters experience. In 2011 movie-goers in the United States and Canada spent $10.2 billion on box office releases; the highest grossing of these being Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Each year a new milestone is reached in the movie industry because of one reason: people keep going. Without movies people are forced to come to terms with their ordinary lives where it's not possible that you'd be accepted into a wizarding school when you're eleven or go to classes with a family of stupid vampires that sparkle in the sunlight.
This blog is dedicated to all movies: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.