Movies

On Turning 30: The End of an Era and the Land of Tomorrows

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There are four days until I turn thirty. Thirty! The big, elusive number that’s always hung up there on the shelf of somedays, a number I think on some level I’ve probably believed may perhaps hold within it the feeling of actually being a grown up. I know I’m not the only one sitting at the end of my twenties still wondering when I’m going to feel like an adult – I hear it all the time. Yes, I have a job, a car, real bills, food I buy myself (yes, sometimes rice pudding is a perfectly acceptable breakfast), and a sweet cat I all too often consider listing as a dependent, but I don’t feel there’s yet been a moment where I’ve felt there’s been a clear-cut, unequivocal moment that defined the transition from young person to responsible adult; girl to woman. I still feel uncomfortable referring to myself as the latter. I think I’ll always be that girl. The optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of impossible dreams. (Points if you caught that one.) But not a grown-up. I’ve looked forward to thirty for some time now – I still get ID’d, I still get the gasps from people ten years my junior that no, I’m not really in the same age bracket, and from people in the working world shocked to hear I’m in my second decade of employment and actually have a couple of management positions under my belt. I’m excited to hold up my card and have it reflect an age where generally people are seen as a little more together, and I’m excited to put the rollercoaster adventure that was my twenties in the memory box. I’m actually in a little bit of disbelief to be saying goodbye to them and all they’ve been.

My twenties were life-changing. I think I levelled up as a person at least twice – I had a horrid anxiety disorder for years that prevented me doing basically anything, I ended up in the hospital a few times, I broke bones, got beaten up and had a bunch of money stolen, got married despite crying the night before knowing full well I shouldn’t be doing it because nothing about that relationship was right, got banned from catholic churches, got divorced when he went religion-crazy, uprooted myself and moved countless times, and learned about the power of choice, action, and developed an awareness of our ephemeral existence and decided life was far too short to spend not trying to make it exactly what you dream of. There are things outside of our control that may pose limitations, but there are things within us – hopes, dreams, attitudes, and determination – that we have the power to simply activate and put into motion.

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In my twenties, I learned to stop seeing my sensitivity as a terrible thing and actually learn techniques that would help keep me more bearable to others and to myself instead of spiralling into fits of worry about imaginary things inside my head. I studied psychology and neuroscience relentlessly, and learned all sorts of helpful things about abandonment issues and deficiencies in object constancy. I trained myself to be grateful for at least three things every single day, to express that gratitude, and I decided to make a point of letting everyone I know and love just how awesome they are. I decided that success didn’t mean financial wealth, it meant value to others. I wanted to be the friend to everyone I always wished I had when I was going through stupid stuff, and a big goal of mine was for everyone to know I’d always be there for them no matter what. Because loneliness can, as my friend John says, “suck a d**k”.

I learned an instrument and started putting my voice on the interwebs. I was terrified, but I wanted to sing so badly. I spent many nights crying because I was so scared of anyone hearing and judging me, and I’m not saying I’m good by any means, but the act of repeatedly doing it as well as learning an instrument led me to making music with friends, and though at first I cried and made them look the other way, now we have half a dozen songs under our belt ready for polishing and hopefully an EP and some shows in the near future. I volunteered to be in videos and do voiceovers, and I started being funny. Something I always admired in my dad and something I knew I had inside me, but I’d always been too scared to try. I was known as quiet and shy – until I started a new job and nobody knew me from Adam’s house cat – so I started subtly, making wise cracks in newsletters and company profiles, and it slowly transformed into being known as “the extrovert of the office”. It was like every Christmas had come at once. Finally, people were starting to see me the way I always wanted to be seen. And I learned that that sort of thing fuels me to keep going. When small victories become real things, when wishes become habits, and who you always were finally starts to be strong enough to emerge on the outside, it’s addictive, and slowly all the old ways of thinking and seeing are transformed into something healthier, better.

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I also learned that I’m a bit of an emotional sponge. I try to be the eternal optimist, because that rubs off on people, and the world is a better place with more happy people in it. But I also find (maybe it’s an INFJ thing) that I absorb other people’s emotions like a sponge, and this takes me back to that place where I used to fear everything like a crazy person. One thing I’m learning lots lately is the power of our own thoughts in shaping our realities, which I touched on in my last post, along with words of wisdom from a movie I was lucky enough to see recently: Tomorrowland is full of adventure, sci-fi brilliance, imagination, but also science, philosophy, and some incredibly wise food for thought.

I didn’t realise how brilliant Brad Bird was until I looked him up after this. The SimpsonsRatatouilleThe IncrediblesMission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol? That’s one heck of a resume. And Tomorrowland may be on the shortlist of my favourite movies ever. It teaches the power of “feeding the right wolf”. “There are two wolves,” one of our leads says to her father. “One bright and hopeful, and one dark and cynical. Which wolf wins? Whichever one you feed.” How often do we fall into our own pits of self-absorption whenever things aren’t going quite right? We may be having a bad day, work might be throwing us unexpected challenges, our bodies might feel stiff and sore, or we may be overtired. We complain about these things because societally, that’s normal. That’s expected. A swarm of whiners in eternal competition to see who’s worse off.

Sympathy has a certain allure when we’re feeling crappy, but self-victimization and bringing others down to our own pity parties definitely doesn’t. With every word we utter, we have the power to influence someone else’s mood. Day. Life, even. With every attitude we adopt, we shape the lens of our own life. With every thought, the more we feed it, the more it shapes us, and in turn affects everyone we subsequently encounter. Do you want the root of it all to spread negativity, to your own days and to those around you? Or do you want to realise that life just happens, good or bad, accept it, and focus on making the most of the next minute? It’s an issue the film explores wonderfully. It makes the point that we, as humans, thrive on chaos. We devour unrest and catastrophe – we claim to desire inspiration and salvation, yet instead, adopt the easy route of depression. As a brilliant Hugh Laurie states during the movie: “You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity AND starvation; explain that one. Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, the algae blooms. All around you, the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you won’t take the hint. In every moment there’s a possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it, you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality.”

The film was full of writing that made me sit on the edge of my seat and applaud. (“Why do you love the stars so much?” “Because I want to go there.” “But what if nothing’s there?” “What if everything is there?” #swoon) It shows big problems with our world, and how the future, in growing up, may not be all it was cracked up to be when we were children. It shows that anyone; young and untainted or old and jaded, can choose to respond to a problem not with complaint, but with questions; can we fix it? as well we the bravery to try. Things can become difficult. It’s part of life. Everyone can get overwhelmed and things can feel impossible. But we can all look around, and find something we can do right now. Something that makes everything a little better. And decide to build a better future this very moment. Every course of action starts with the right attitude. There are all sorts of philosophical topics tackled in Tomorrowland, great performances, robots, time travel, alternate dimensions, spaceships, rockets, and a fantastic cast, but above all, it’s an enormous life lesson packaged in an adventure of the imagination, and it will leave you inspired, introspective, and exhilarated. Go and see it right now.

I wrap up my twenties with a heart that may have a few bruises and scars, but ones that will forever remind me of everything I’ve learned. I’m incredibly thankful for everything that happened in the last decade – every tear, every laugh, every friendship, every sunset, every hope lost and gained, every dream that shone bright enough to fuel action. Every sadness that made me want something different, every leader whose kindness and influence inspired me, every time I was thanked or felt thankful. Every movie or song, performance, story, or piece of art that made me feel proud to belong to the human race. Every adventure or act of serendipity. Everyone who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Every fellow dreamer. Every quiet sign from the universe. Everyone who demonstrated love and kindness, and everyone who demonstrated the opposite, because it showed me exactly the sort of person I want to be. I feel I’m ending this decade as I would a school year, emerging with memories, life-long friendships and relationships built on authenticity, and life lessons I’m excited to carry into my thirties. I always wanted to have confidence, skills, passion, humour, gratitude, wit and compassion. I always wanted those things to be known. I always wanted to love unconditionally, to have such beautiful souls around me that have let me in, to sincerely know them, and to bring the good to their lives that they do to mine.

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On the edge of a new decade, I feel extremely lucky to be able to count many of those once-dreams as realities. I’m excited for my thirties. In a month, I am kicking them off with Fringe festival and friends (my favourite time of year), and with the love of my life on an epic 8-country adventure across Europe. I’m writing songs, building a business, expanding my skills, looking at the stars, and soaking up the sky. I vow to always be striving to be better, to always choose kindness, to not fall victim to what’s easy, and to always try to do what’s right. I vow to make my default attitude one of acceptance and action, to leave a good story behind, and to try hard not to get swallowed by my own fears or emotions. It may take a little while, but by eliminating excuses, procrastination, and shunning negative societal norms, and instead adopting an awareness of our own transience and making the absolute most of it, we truly can map the course of our own lives any moment we decide to.

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A Feast for the Senses

There seems to have been an influx of amazing books, movies, and music in my life lately – incredible stories, stunning effects, brilliant lyricism, and sheer imagination that just make me want to give humanity a standing ovation. It seems almost unfair not to share the joy with everyone else! If you’re looking for recommendations, I’d highly recommend checking any of these out:
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I’d originally seen The Ghosts of Belfast (“The Twelve” in Europe) last year in one of Chicago’s many wonderful bookshops, and had made a note to order it as soon as I got back home (I’d only taken a rucksack, which was chock-full by the time I had to leave!). Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be released in Canada for another six months, so I pre-ordered it as soon as I could. The premise captivated me immediately: Gerry Fegan, an ex-IRA hit man is haunted by the ghosts of the 12 people he killed, and soon realises the only way they will give him rest is to systematically assassinate the men who gave him his orders. What a brilliant premise!

I’d never ventured into the realm of thrillers or crime fiction before, but when it’s mixed with otherworldly elements (and set in my favourite place on earth), it’s the ideal way to start. It took a bit of getting used to a story comprised primarily of heavy-cursing men and politics I hadn’t studied in as much depth as I would’ve liked, but I was soon fully absorbed in the characters, and literally read with baited breath through chilling scenes of a dozen ghosts miming execution around the men Gerry encountered. Neville’s writing is nothing short of brilliant, and imagery of “bruised” and “scarred” landscapes was a literary feast that added to the ongoing air of trepidation. The story is a haunting rollercoaster of suspense, forbidden romance, politics, survival and the supernatural, and ends with an extraordinary twist that’ll make you want to stand up and give a round of applause.

I don’t often watch movies, but last week we saw two that ended up being a couple of the best I’d seen in a very long time. I knew I was going to like Source Code as soon as I heard the premise: an action, sci-fi thriller revolving around a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man, and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. He’s sent back into the last eight minutes of a passenger’s life before the explosion repeatedly until he discovers enough detail to find the bomb, and stop the bomber’s future attacks. Most of you will know that I probably wouldn’t need to even know the synopsis if a movie’s filed under “sci-fi” and “thriller” (Inception and District 9 are some of the best premises I’ve ever seen), and this was just another to add to the list. Great visuals of a city I’d fallen in love with last year combined with great imagination and another excellent twist at the end that left me thinking about it for days. Trekkies will be fans: the story was reminiscent of the Voyager episode Relativity where a character is sent back in time repeatedly to find a bomb and discover the identity of the bomber to stop the destruction of the ship. But this time, “it’s not time travel. It’s time… reassignment.” Epic.

We also watched The Experiment, a remake of a 2001 German movie – a highly intense film about a real-life, controversial psychological study in which 26 men are chosen to participate into the roles of prisoners and guards for 14 days in an environment simulating a state penitentiary that ultimately spirals out of control. I’ve always liked Adrien Brody – he’s had interesting roles in several movies I personally enjoyed thoroughly, but seem to have fallen below the radar of critical acclaim (The Jacket; The Village), but this is probably my favourite performance of his. (Though this may have been slightly affected by his long hair and gorgeous tattoos). When I watched this, I had no idea it was based on a true story, which made the already frightening premise even more disturbing upon discovery, but the psychological aspect made it simultaneously fascinating and thoroughly gripping. Vanessa, this one’s for you!

Lastly, I can’t not mention my favourite album around at the moment. There was a tonne of hype about these guys when their first demo leaked on the Internet, and it started getting national radioplay before a proper recording had even been made! The Vaccines’ album, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines? is a short punch (less than forty minutes total, which each song clocking in around two minutes) of feel-good, infectious good old punk rock. And the first single off it is so catchy it makes me a)  jump around wherever I happen to be, b) air drum my arms off (or c) a frantic, flailing, highly attractive combination of the two) every time I hear it. We played them on the radio a few weeks ago, and even had people write in to ask for the tracklisting because they liked them so much! Crank it up!

What movies, books or bands are rocking your world lately?

That’s Entertainment

At the end of every year, I like to make a visit to a little site called Blurb.com. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a place where you can upload, print and publish professional-looking books. They can be a variety of styles, sizes, hardcover or soft – and at the end of each year, I like to print a copy of my year in blogging. I’ve only been seriously blogging since the latter part of 2009, so the books I have to date may not be the most substantial, but I think 2010 is going to be one I’m excited to add to the shelf. It’ll be a record of an absolute rollercoaster of a year, of new experiences, of firsts, of hopes, dreams, goals, challenges, reflections and observations – but I also want to make note not just of thoughts, but of the day-to-day. Things that filled my days, music I was passionate about, TV that rocked my world, books that changed my life, things that made me laugh so hard my face hurt, words that touched my heart, and moments I want to hold onto forever. Moments that made me feel lucky to be alive. That which inspires passion is important to chronicle. So, some of the things that blew me away this year include:

Creative genius

I’m not a big movie-goer. The thought of going to the cinema fills me more with panic than excitement, and sitting through two hours of having my chair kicked, being distracted by the glare from other people’s phones, and leaving with my wallet $25 lighter isn’t generally my idea of a good time. When it comes to visual entertainment, I’m more a stay-at-home kind of girl. This year has been full of incredibly imaginative movies and TV that have just made me feel proud to be a human being, including the epically intelligent Ashes to Ashes, a series following a gun shot, present-day police officer waking up in the mid-eighties, trying to figure out if she’s gone mad, dead or alive, in a coma, or literally back in time, the finale to which was probably the most intelligent piece of screenwriting I’ve ever witnessed and kept me mesmerised, and firmly on the edge of my seat. Movie-wise, it was the year of special effects and 3D glasses, and the detail in films like Toy Story 3 and Legend of the Guardians was simply breathtaking.

Literary brilliance

Almost a year ago, I made New Year’s Resolutions, and one of them was to get back into reading. I seem to have gone from reading books every day to reading blogs every day, and though I still make time for brain food (I have an entire shelf dedicated to back issues of Psychology Today and Discover magazine), I want to get back into the habit of Real Books. At the beginning of the year, I read Audrey Niffenegger’s follow-up to The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry, and though wildly different, I loved every part of it. Ghost stories amongst a backdrop of my favourite city, Doctor Who references, two parts imagination, one part wonderfully creepy, this novel had me thoroughly captivated from the start. Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked was an enjoyable, lighter read following dysfunctional relationships and a lifelong quest fuelled by musical passion, I finally got on the Lovely Bones bandwagon, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth completely changed my life, and currently, I’m savouring the final Harry Potter book so I can finally see it on the big screen!

Spine-tinglingly talented musicians

I loved Mumford and Sons the moment I first heard them, and seeing them perform an intimate venue halfway across the country, playing songs that stirred my soul, while proclaiming how humbled and honoured they were to have sold out in a country they hadn’t released any music to yet. Knowing that every person in that space had discovered this incredible music through word of mouth, and became so passionate about it they queued out in the cold and bought so many tickets they had to move venues was just refreshing, and the atmosphere of being a part of something so amazing was just electric.

2010 was also the year of the ‘nu-folk’ movement in the UK, with bands like this taking centre stage, coupled with banjos, mandolins and accordions. Suddenly, countryfolk were as popular as the Black Eyed Peas, and the masses were exposed to real musicianship and literary lyricism. A girl of 20 by the name of Laura Marling exploded onto the world stage with the album I Speak Because I Can – a stunning collection of heart-wrenching, poetic songs tales that delve into haunting stories filled with beautiful words and melody; sounds ranging from the frenzied, supernatural, old-world gypsy-esque “Devil’s Spoke” (with the fabulously determined “all of this can be broken, take your devil by his spoke and spin him to the ground“) to the beautiful “Rambling Man” (“beaten, battered and cold, my children will live just to grow old, but if I sit here and weep, I’ll be blown over by the slightest of breeze”) reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. The epic “Hope in the Air” is pure, chilling, sumptuous storytelling at its absolute finest, and continues to give me goosebumps with every listen (“our hearts are small and ever thinning, there is no hope ever of winning, so why fear death? Be scared of living“). Not all is high drama – if you’re looking for something to play your sweetheart one cold winter’s night, try “Rest in the Bed“, and allow beautiful words to express a sentiment of love (“there lies a man of my heart, a fine and complete work of art, here, I his woman, his home, and his heart, and proud to be playing that part“).  If you’re hooked by haunting melodies, exquisite lyrics and truly intelligent musicianship, don’t hesitate another second before adding this to your collection.

Entertainment this year was pretty fantastic, I must say, and 2010 was filled with great, clever imagination from all sides. Here’s hoping next year’s just as stimulating, inspiring, and impressive – full of things that make you proud to be a member the human race.

What were some highlights of the entertainment world for you in 2010?



A Cinematic Paradigm Shift?

Last week, I did something I rarely do: I went to the cinema. It’s been months and months – I think the last thing I saw on the big screen was Inception, and before that, Avatar (yep, I get out TONNES). Now, anyone who knows me personally knows that patience is not my forte – and the combination of overspending, restraint, ignorant texters, whisperers and chair kickers usually make it an experience I’d gladly avoid. But getting together with friends at 6:30 on a Wednesday night to see a children’s movie turned out to be just the ticket to avoid all of the above.

With a title like Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, it does leave a bit of an impression that this movie could be, as a certain someone delicately put it, “totally lame.” But when I saw the trailer a few months ago, I made a mental note that I was going to see it because I thought it looked fantastic! After an atrocious dinner out (waiting 1.5 hours to get two salads and some chicken fingers, then having to leave without eating so you can MAKE your movie does not give you the right to still charge us, Moxies), we made it with seconds to spare, donned our 3D glasses and set about eating in the dark (way more challenging than it sounds), settling into the opening sequence of the movie.

I’m going to cut to the chase here: this movie was INTENSE!! At the risk of sounding old, I remember the days (oh God) when a PG rating was given to a Disney movie because Aladdin made a sexual innuendo. Today, movies seem to be getting all the more terrifying, being injected with themes way more mature than 9 year olds should be able to understand, and being rated the same thing! Now, I should probably mention the fact that I’m actually all for this. I’m just wondering if it’s a sort of paradigm shift in the cinema – are movies getting scarier and more adult, or are children getting more and more desensitised?

Within minutes of LotG, the audience witnesses two highly adorable baby owls falling out of their tree, landing on the forest floor, and, unable to fly yet, getting kidnapped and taken off to join masses of other young abductees who are given the choice: join their “new family” of “Pure Ones”, or become blinded and enslaved. Pretty upsetting, no? Let’s not get started on the Holocaust allusions – this movie could basically be set in Nazi Germany, following a young hostage trying to escape an evil “King” hell-bent on worldwide racial purification – in the short 90 minutes, we observe brainwashing, torture, and epic, though incredibly gory battle scenes.  It was more than enough to make me upset – which leaves me with the question, am I just behind the times?

What was scary when I was a kid is laughable by today’s standards. The primitive TNG Borg in all their hooded glory, and Daleks with egg whisks and plungers for hands that were clearly being pushed along from behind. Today, kids’ movies are full of uncomfortable, upsetting, and downright scary themes and images, which make you wonder if the world’s senses to scariness have just been numbed. I remember thinking the same thing last summer at Coraline, a movie adapatation of a book by one of my favourite authors.  It was a treat for the fantasy lover in me, and, visually Burtonesque, was something I came away loving. But again with the PG rating: when I was a kid, a movie filled with grotesque images of a child’s father going crazy and melting in the garden, an insectlike creature, pincers literally pointing out of the screen, and a furiously controlling mother who turns into a monster, stealing away children’s souls by replacing their eyes with buttons… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it. Yes, I was the kid who had to wait until she was 12 before watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I say I’m all for these scare tactics in family movies and TV shows. And I am. A couple of months ago I wrote about what can successfully deliver a fright, and what’s pretty much the equivalent of horror porn. I can’t stomach traditional scary movies, but I am genuinely affected by themes, hints, and possibilities of the frightening. These days, I’m seeing more and more of it in what are supposed to be “family friendly” – LotG, at times, was downright disturbing. Racial purification and slavery aren’t the most lighthearted of topics, and though watching a bunch of birds in helmets duelling it out is never going to be quite the same as watching Gerard Butler beating up a bunch of Spartans, Zack Snyder has still instilled fear, shock, and visual effects that are nothing short of epic.  You have to wonder though, what kids 15 years younger than me came away with – were they as simultaneously disturbed and thrilled as I was? Are children these days more immune to scare tactics, and what does that say about the future of cinema? I think giving people food for thought by genuinely creating a reaction is a good thing, but I can’t help but wonder where this trend is leading. Am I going to be more scared to go to a movie, fifteen years down the line, than my child?

Back to the Guardians. It was epic, it was visually stunning. The tiniest of details were captured beautifully, and dazzled through the elements leaving you absolutely exhilarated. It was emotional, and it was jam-packed with action, heroism, and an extensive list of Hollywood voices: Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Hugo Weaving, and – be still my heart – Sam Neill? Count me in. If you’re in the mood for a Tolkien-esque tale of fantasy, adventure, and triumph over evil, I can’t recommend this movie enough.

Human-alien hybrids changed my life

“So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to man, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?”

Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.”

This weekend, two months later than the rest of the masses, Sweet and I went to see Avatar.  I’d heard so many amazing things, but we don’t tend to get out to the flicks very often (especially in winter; braving -30 on a Friday night isn’t always our first pick after a busy week), but this week, we decided on a date night of dinner and a movie (followed by late night rock band karaoke, could a girl ask for more?).  And I was STUNNED.

One of the first pieces of dialogue in the movie, there, made me instantly question its relevance to my life.  (Well maybe not instantly, I was initially preoccupied figuring out how to keep 3D glasses on my face over the top of my normal ones, and thoughts of how science was not only correcting my vision but allowing me to see 2D as 3D at the same time.  I’m a nerd, I know.)  The protagonist is an uneducated, physically disabled man who goes on to stand up against evil and save the world.  Seconds after I heard the on-screen exchange, I felt… empowered.  Motivated.  Determined, not only to keep taking small steps to my ongoing goal of overcoming anxiety, but blowing it out of the water – taking a giant leap out of my comfort zone and surprising everybody, most of all myself.

It’s been six months since I made the decision to stop living trapped by a fear that had taken over my life for so long.  I look back on the words in this post in astonishment at the fact that it was only six months ago when I decided I wanted to break free.  I recognised that I had a choice in how I lived my life; I could see what I wanted, but I was choosing to live it differently.  There was a discrepancy between what I dreamed of and held important… and what I was actually doing.  So I made the decision to change everything, and it’s been a journey of small steps, but always choosing to take the risk into new territory in the face of fear, bluffing my way through it… and getting incredible feedback.  Evaluation forms in my classroom full of “strongly agrees”, and this Friday, when I was put in a literal “fishbowl” on the spot in a training room full of staff to demonstrate what I’d learned over the week, inside I was shaking – but I chose to go first.

And as well as some incredible feedback, I got a round of applause! These small victories have kept me going – checking things off lists, practicing with increasingly difficult situations, and getting through them okay – I have an incredible sense of momentum, and I can’t wait for the day I can not only speak in front of a large group without my cheeks flushing or my heart racing, but the day I’m fuelled by the adrenaline and self-belief to actually want to do it.

The quote from the movie really made me think.  It’s taken six months to get to where I am now, but I still have a long way to go.  Every time I’ve pushed myself along the way, chosen to take a step – my initial worries were blown away by positive feedback; success.  I still get nervous – but I don’t let it stop me any more.  I’m no longer held back on the outside – I just want to be totally free on the inside, too.  My outlook has changed enormously – and I realise that the power of choice, making the decision and actively following through has been invaluable.  So if I’ve done okay in my little steps – what if I took a leap? Instead of following my PowerPoint to the letter next class, what if I threw things in on the spot? Games, jokes… and delivered with passion, positivity, and total confidence? It’s the people who can do that effortlessly that inspire me, because they can use it to make such a difference in people’s lives.  And, for the time being, at least – I’m in a position where I could potentially do that.

Found on Caro's blog

Avatar was not only visually stunning, incredibly written, and moved me to tears – but those first few words fuelled me with a desire to reach the finish line.  I’m going to choose to trust those little victories and take a risk next time I get up there.  I’m going to speak up, make people laugh, and really try be a positive influence in my little corner of the world.  Not for myself, but for the hope I might make a difference if I do.  I’m faced with the same choice I was back in July, just on a slightly larger scale.  I see how I’m choosing to live, choosing to let the nerves and anxiety sometimes get the better of me before I get up in front of people, resulting in an impression of a girl who’s uncertain and scared… I’m choosing to appear nervous, and I have the choice not to.  I think now, it’s time to take another risk.  What’s “going through my head”, as the movie said?

Maybe I’m sick of thinking of the things I can’t do.  I’m going to show the world I can.

The Time Traveller’s Strife

Okay guys, I have to own up to something. I caved.  I went to see The Time Traveller’s Wife.

I’d heard bad things when it first came out and decided to wait until it hit the cheap seats; I’d loved the book so much I re-read it with Sweet immediately after I finished it the first time, and it’s become one of my most loved books ever.  I knew movies based on books had a tendency to be completely disappointing and frustrating – but it was the BEST BOOK EVER – I had to see it on the big screen!

Sweet reluctantly came along, telling me on the way how he knew what was going to happen – I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it because I’d be thinking the whole time how different it was in the book, and I’d leave annoyed and wanting my two hours back.  I hadn’t realised I was engaged to a prophet, but I left annoyed, wanting my two hours back, and angry that those people all around the world who hadn’t read the book never would after watching a puzzling, unexplained tale of two characters who go from first date to marriage with no sense of attachment, intrigue or passion.

Don’t read ahead if you haven’t read the book.  Go and buy it now, while I rant about how much I hated the film.

The movie fails to explain the science that is so expertly and admirably undertaken in the book, in which the author sews the intricacies of time travel seamlessly into a timeless take of star-crossed lovers, desperately living with the curse of a genetic mutation that pulls Henry to moments of time, past and future, of emotional gravity.   In the book, Henry is an intense character, weathered and rough, charismatic, worldly with a turbulent past but an intense passion for the woman he’s loved all her life. You come to know both Henry and Clare intimately, flaws, passions and all, and genuinely empathize to the point of tears by the end.  In the book, Henry is a character.  He’s scrawny, beaten, etched and imposing.  Movie Henry was just a Generally Nice Man – Hollywood handsome, too-short hair, well spoken and well dressed with no sense of character at all.

I’d imagined the Meadow to be so vast – so immeasurable in size, somewhere you’d lay out a blanket in a sea of wild grass and knee-high dandelion clocks and see the landscape extending all the way to the horizon.  In the movie – it was somebody’s back garden.  Moments of intensity in the book are bypassed or treated with disinterest; Henry’s episode of arriving naked in the middle of a harsh winter and struggling to survive the frostbite is unremarkable on screen, with no blizzard, no hypothermia, and no intensity.  The intricately planned concoctions created to get Henry through his wedding day without disappearing are a simple Valium tablet.  Clare’s depression following Henry’s death is practically nonexistent.  A broken-glass ridden body, displaced in time for an instant, is unforgettable in its narrative power, compelling the imagination and evoking feelings of fear, distress and danger, just shows up on screen slightly bruised and disappears again.

Key characters are omitted (including our protagonists’), details are left out and passion is lacking.  I almost cried out at the end of the movie when they left out the best part of the book (the letter I sobbed over for hours? The part when Clare’s an old lady?) and rewrote it to be a Happy Hollywood Ending.  It makes me wonder just how much say an author has when their work is taken to the silver screen.  Is there really any amount of money that could replace your art, your imagination, and allow such butcherings to take your work to the masses? This movie destroyed the very soul of the story, and I hope and pray it doesn’t discourage people from experiencing the real tale.  I can only imagine the pangs of regret seizing Audrey Niffenegger as she sat through the film.

During the credits, I noticed Brad Pitt was listed as Executive Producer.  I suppose that would explain something.  I kind of want to get in on this time travelling thing – even if it is solely for the purpose of going back to the day he came on board, and punching him in the face.

Some days, I’m extra proud to be a sci-fi geek

This weekend, I did something I haven’t done for what feels like at least a year.  And I did it two nights running.  Ladies and gentlemen, this Friday and Saturday, I went to the cinema.  In a world of video piracy and mass filesharing; actually deciding to go out and spend $20 on a film where you may get kicked in the back of your seat multiple times (and may end up hating anyway) hasn’t really been top of my list on a Friday night.  But this weekend, Sweet and I went for a couple of good old fashioned dates.  Friday, I got to pick.  I scanned the Free Press and landed on the one that I knew nothing about other than the fact it got numerous five star reviews from pretty reputable places, and it was written by Nick Hornby.

An Education held a lot of promise – a great cast (including Carey Mulligan of recent Doctor Who fame, the bad guy off of Flightplan, and Emma Thompson, who I’ve always loved dearly.  It was a nice enough story set in ‘60s England, about a girl with a strong academic background who meets a glamourous older chap, who takes her to Paris, proposes marriage and encourages her to give up school.  Relatively low-key, slightly underwhelming (the “bad guy” doesn’t even turn into a psycho stalker, and after dropping out of school she still ends up with a place at Oxford), but nice nonetheless.

But then we decided to do it all over again.  Saturday afternoon, like the old people at heart we truly are, we grabbed a couple of toonies and hit the cheap seats, where we opted for District 9.  I’d read a bit about it when it came out a few months ago; from what I knew, Peter Jackson had gone off to South Africa to film a Halo-based movie, but something had gone wrong with copyrights and that sort of thing, and he’d done a different movie instead.  What resulted was what I can only say was THE single best sci-fi movie I have ever seen in my LIFE, and for the next couple of weeks I request you ALL go and catch this before it leaves the big screens.

District 9

It was incredible.  With sci-fi movies (and television), my general experience is that big blockbusters with lots of special effects and generic good guys vs. bad aliens formulas have always won over mass audiences, while more “intellectual” storylines in Star Trek and X Files episodes are the nerd armies’ best kept secret.  Sci-fi that makes you think is generally thought of as “for the geeks” or turned into a cult classic, never reigning the box office or drawing in a nation on a Saturday night.   District 9 may just change everything.  It’s comparatively low budget ($30 million) to other recent sci-fi movie endeavours (Transformers 2 had $380 million to play with), and cast with a bunch of no-names whose lead actor has never before graced the screen.  There’s no outer-space warfare, or journeys to other planets, and the only things getting blown up leave you questioning your morality with a sense of enormous discomfort.

I’m not going to tell you what happens in the movie.  They cleverly omitted the major plotline from the trailer, which made for enormous surprise, and I think with good reason.  But I’ve never seen anything like this.  This is a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking political commentary, which, unusually, paints us as the bad guys.  It will tug and tear at your emotions as you feel for computer-generated characters who don’t actually exist, don’t render any sort of human facial expressions, and don’t speak.  You’ll fall in love with these characters based on nothing but subtitles, which in my mind, says a hell of a lot about the quality of the script.   This film is stunningly original and can easily put a good number of larger blockbusters to shame with its performance, intelligence, emotion and imagination.  It’s pretty gory, and I was definitely rather uncomfortable at several points, but anything that causes such a reaction based on raising questions of our capability to be so inhumane is fully justified. Plus, I’m a girl. I get squeamish pretty easily.  But I’ve never been so moved by what initially looked like such a boys’ movie.  I’ve never seen anything so action-packed and at the same time so reflective, so soulful, and so emotional.  I’ve never been prouder to be a sci-fi geek.  Bring on District 10.  I’ll be one of the thousands queuing up for advance tickets that’ll sell out faster than any Star Wars movie in box office history.