May the Force (Fourth?) Be With You

Today is May 4th, Star Wars day. Today is the day when the internet is overflowing with Star Wars memes, people are tweeting and updating their Facebook statuses to “May the fourth be with you,” Star Wars TV show trailers are released, and people all over the world gather to watch their favorite of the six movies.

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

I remember when I first saw Star Wars. I was about eight or nine years old when I discovered the VHS box set pushed to the corner of the movie shelf, which was overflowing with my countless Disney and “The Land Before Time” tapes. I scanned the cover before holding it up, inquisitively, to my mom. She didn’t tell me anything about it, but granted me permission to watch it (my parents were always very strict about what I was and was not allowed to view. I was never allowed to watch a PG-13 movie until I was 13).

I remember popping the first movie, “A New Hope,” into the VHS player in my basement, turning off all the lights, and sitting directly in front of the TV. I remember going into the trilogy not knowing what to expect. I remember being completely enthralled.

It was a December evening and my mother came downstairs and told me to pause the movie, that we were going to go to Christmas in the Park, as we do every year. Of course, I argued  — why did we have to go right then? I was right at the part of “A New Hope” where Luke, Han, Chewie, and Leia were currently trapped in the garbage room with the walls slowly closing in. I had to keep watching. But, of course, I lost the argument. I paused the movie and got into the car, but throughout the multiple-hours-long escapade to see Christmas lights I’d seen a thousand times before, my mind was with my heroes who were currently trapped on the Death Star.

I devoured each movie, one after the other. It was like nothing my little grade-school self had ever seen before. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I’d talk endlessly about my favorite parts and my favorite characters and about how cute Han Solo is and debate with people who said “The Empire Strikes Back” wasn’t the best of the three.

Despite my enthusiasm for the original trilogy, I didn’t get around to seeing the prequels until years later when I rented them from Family Video in sixth or seventh grade. And me, being an emotional and hopelessly romantic preteen girl, got caught up in the love story of Anakin and Padme — so much so that I cried at the end of “Revenge of the Sith” and proceeded to spend my free time making tribute videos on Windows Movie Maker. (The prequels also sparked a short-lived obsession with the “super cute” Hayden Christensen, but that’s beside the point).

When I think about Star Wars, I think of the many fond memories I’ve made over the years which center around the galaxy far, far away. I think of the time my friend and I attempted (without success) to watch all six movies in one night in middle school; the many movie nights with many different people where we watched “A New Hope” or “The Empire Strikes Back;” the time my best friend who, as a junior in high school, had never seen the original trilogy and I made it my personal mission to introduce her to the movies; the time I was scrambling on layout night to write a story about Disney purchasing Lucasfilm for my high school newspaper.

Star Wars has a big place in my heart.

Lucasfilm
Lucasfilm

Last week when the cast for Episode VII was announced, I enthusiastically raved with my friends at the dining hall. Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis (who I am excitedly expecting to play some sort of alien creature) are just some of those who will be starring alongside Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. And, call me crazy, but I have high expectations for this new Star Wars trilogy and the various spin-offs that will come with it. Disney does great things and I am excited for the future of Luke, Han, Leia, et al. December 18, 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Star Wars is awesome, and may the fourth be with you.

Review: ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Walt Disney Pictures

Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by films such as The Aristocats, Winnie the Pooh (my absolute favorite- I have the tattoo to prove it), The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc. etc. etc. I had Disney bed sets and costumes and too many stuffed animals to keep up with. I have multiple soundtracks and Disney’s Greatest Hits compilation albums, numerous coloring books, and Disney Princess Candy Land. I grew up with Disney.

I’m telling you this, dear reader, to give you a fair warning before you continue so kindly reading: I am biased. This review is filled with complete and utter bias.

From the moment I first saw the trailer to Saving Mr. Banks over the summer I instantly started excitedly rambling to my friends, parents, and anyone else who would listen about this film I had not yet seen. “It’s going to win Oscars,” I said. “Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, how could this not be amazing?” And after it’s been playing in theaters for nearly a month, tonight I finally went out and saw Saving Mr. Banks. 

And it was everything I thought it would be.

The film is the true story of how Walt Disney, played by the always marvelous Hanks, convinces P. L. Travers to let him turn her Mary Poppins children’s books into the movie we all know and love. Travers, portrayed superbly by Thompson, is a piece of work. She’s stubborn and stuck-up, making her interactions with Disney and his poor employees hilariously awkward as the two parties try to reach a compromise that will more or less please them both.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks is full of heart. As Disney tries to reason with the demands Travers has regarding the movie (such as no animation, no singing, and absolutely no color red), the emotional connection Travers maintains with her character Mary Poppins is revealed to the audience through heartbreaking flashbacks of a troubled childhood and father who is more or less Mr. Banks himself. Just try not to cry.

Thompson has already achieved a Golden Globe nomination for her role. And she, along with Hanks, are bound to get Oscar nods as well.

It’s pure and simple: this is a film Disney fans like myself have dreamed about. It’s pure magic.

Is Disney ‘Frozen?’

Frozen

Life during winter break is dull. For almost two weeks I’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching Breaking Bad and desperately trying to finish reading Under the Dome before I return to Columbia in mid-January. When I do leave the house, chances are it’s going to be for the movie theater. Coming into break I made a list of nine movies I wanted to see over these next five weeks of boredom. On that list- Dallas Buyers Club, Catching Fire (for a second time), American Hustle, Anchorman 2, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks, and the topic of today’s post: Frozen.

Yesterday I finally ventured out and saw Frozen, Disney’s latest animated film loosely based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen. The movie follows Anna and Elsa, sisters and princess of the kingdom Arendelle. All is well for the sisters until an accident causes Elsa to fear the power she holds to manipulate ice and snow, leading her to shut out all those close to her and essentially live her life in isolation. Despite her attempts over the years to control her powers, Elsa’s secret gets out the day of her coronation and she accidentally plunges the kingdom into an eternal winter. Fearing hurting those around her, she flees into the mountains and it’s up to Anna, with a little help from mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, to save the frozen land of Arendelle.

When I first saw the Frozen trailer over the summer, I thought it looked god-awful. Horrible. Atrocious. I told my friends, “This looks just like Tangled, but in Norway and with an obnoxious snow man.” I had no intention of seeing it. But when it finally did come out at the end of November, I heard nothing but good things about it, which sparked my curiosity.

Let’s get one thing straight: Frozen is not a bad movie. It’s filled with catchy songs, goofy characters, and beautiful animation. I was wrong about it being awful, but it’s nowhere near Disney’s best. It’s a cute story; it’s just the same story that Disney always seems to be falling back on.

Look back on the three most recent Disney princess movies: Tangled, Brave, and now Frozen. All are good movies, I’d even call Tangled fantastic, but it’s all too clear that all three of these films tell the same story.

1. Each follows a princess who somehow feels isolated. In Tangled, the isolation is obvious with Rapunzel being locked up in a tower with only a chameleon for company. The isolation is apparent in Frozen as well, with a disgruntled Anna living in a castle whose doors are perpetually closed to everyone. In Brave, Merida’s mother tells her exactly how she should act, making her feel invisible, misunderstood, and, well, isolated.

2. In Tangled and Frozen, the princess goes on an adventure across the kingdom with a guy that she eventually falls in love with. I get it, I get it, everybody loves a love story. But please, try to change it up a little. This is where I have to applaud Brave– the romantic interest is taken out of the formula.

3. There is always a last minute save. At the end of Tangled, Brave, and Frozen, there is a point where things are not looking good for the characters. Whether it’s when Eugene/Flynn nearly dies after Gothel stabs him, when the sun rises and Merida’s mother still hasn’t turned back into a human, or when Anna’s frozen heart turns her into an ice statue, there’s always a moment of bleakness where the other characters are crying and everything looks hopeless. But this is Disney, and unhappy endings don’t exist. Just as everything seems hopeless, the power of true love swoops in and saves the day, saving the lives of the precious characters and restoring everything to how it should be.

Again, I’m not trying to bash on Disney or on these three movies, I honestly think that Tangled is the last truly great Disney movie made. But Disney seems frozen on this specific formula of movie-making.

So to you, Disney, I implore you: in the future, please change things up a little. Move away from the princesses. Ditch the “true love saves everything at the last second always” mentality. I want to see something different.