Hi, hey there, hello, I worked 30 hours this week

I love to work. I love being productive. Being out of school for nearly two months with no job related to my degree is killing me, but I am forever thankful of my job in retail that keeps me busy (bet nobody has ever said that before, huh?).

Even so, 30 hours a week standing, lifting furniture and dealing with more-than-a-little-cranky customers takes its toll. Mostly in the form of necessary beer consumption, sore legs and taking three and a half hour naps between shifts. And when you throw in a freelance project I’ve been working on, this week has been exhausting.

Self-care is something I tend to neglect, especially in the face of a busy schedule. But after this week, I have found it necessary. Here are some easy ways I kept myself sane the last few days, sans-fancy candle-lit bath:

Yoga: Back in the day (aka junior year) I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. for sunrise yoga at the Mizzou Rec twice a week. Now that I’ve graduated and, sadly, can no longer enjoy the Rec’s classes, my mat has stayed rolled up in a box of clothes. Until yesterday, that is, when I finally practiced solo (with help from Youtube).

Going out for food: Getting brunch/lunch/dinner with someone is one of my favorite things to do. Maybe it’s because I’m just too lazy to cook, but hey, it always makes me feel better.

READ: Find a hammock, couch, coffee shop or just get in bed and spend hours with a book. Though I can’t exactly say my current read is particularly calming (Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry), it’s definitely a much-needed escape from my reality.

See a movie: Baby Driver is so much fun. Holy cow.

‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ and hello to what I’ve been waiting for my entire life

One of my earliest memories is from when I was two or three years old, sitting in front of my TV watching The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh surrounded by my kittens appropriately named Pooh Bear and Tigger. I have an E. H. Shepard illustration of Pooh tattooed on my right shoulder. Last week, I made my boyfriend watch Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin with me. I cried when I met Pooh at Disneyland. As I type this, I am sitting on my Winnie the Pooh pillow pet. You get the picture. I’m a Pooh person.

So you can imagine my excitement now that the first trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin was finally released today (and my agony of knowing I won’t be able to see this film for four more months).

I am fully ready to see this movie every week it is in theaters and sob. My friends jokingly say that my catchphrase of sorts is *gentle gasps about Winnie the Pooh*, and today it’s *heaving sobs about Winnie the Pooh*. To quote the bear himself: “Today, I should say, is a good day for being Pooh [or, in this case, a Pooh fan].”

Though the books and Disney cartoons were made with children as the target audience, I have always advocated that the stories of Pooh and his pals can’t be fully appreciated and understood until you’ve grown up. The stories teach empathy, kindness, embracing your individuality, self-confidence and the importance of forming lasting friendships. As we grow older and leave parts of childhood behind us, we should never forget Pooh.

And now, after movies and TV shows and picture book adaptations of A. A. Milne’s novels, there is finally a Pooh story coming that’s made for adults.

Starring my love Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie and Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag glory, Goodbye Christopher Robin is looking to follow in the footsteps of Finding Neverland and be a strong Oscar contender.

(Now the question is: do you think Disney’s upcoming live-action Winnie the Pooh will be any good? I’m concerned).

Meet Me in Montauk

Today is the 11th anniversary of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s a film that’s very special to me for a number of reasons.

eternal sunshine

I didn’t see “Eternal Sunshine” until my senior year of high school, almost exactly two years ago. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times since, and it’s become very near and dear to my heart. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” poster hanging in my room. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” phone case. If you know me, I’ve almost definitely made you watch the movie with me at least once.

I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey. I grew up watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Ace Ventura,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” When I got older, I loved “Yes Man,” “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” and “Horton Hears a Who,” all of which left me in stitches. I had never seen him in a serious role before, and I was captivated by his role as reserved, shy Joel Barish.

Instantly, I found myself relating to Joel. I can be quiet and introverted and, above all, awkward. I doodle in journals on a daily basis. I’m a romantic. I tend to let people have more power over me than they should. I often don’t know what to say. I, like Joel, would have run away from Clementine at the beach and been too afraid to walk out onto the frozen lake.

But I could also see myself in Clementine (a perfect as always Kate Winslet). Granted, I’m not spontaneous and I don’t dye my hair “Blue Ruin,” but she’s more than the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s irritable and erratic and, in her own words, “just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for (her) own peace of mind.”

The thing I love about “Eternal Sunshine” is how truthful it is. Every time I watch it, I learn something new about it and about myself/relationships/love:

You can try as hard as you can to make a relationship work, but sometimes…it just won’t. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Everybody has flaws, everybody has baggage. You’re not going to be completely happy all the time. Love isn’t easy, and “Eternal Sunshine” shows all of its complexities.

You can’t force a connection. When Patrick uses Joel’s possessions and words to make Clementine fall in love with him, it’s not right — the connection isn’t there. Clementine feels like something’s wrong. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and you have to accept that.

That being said, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. When Clementine and Joel erase each other from their memories, they end up finding each other again.

Past experiences, even the painful ones, make you who you are. If you erase all the memories of people who ever did you wrong, you won’t grow. We love who we love, and sometimes we love the wrong person. The good and the bad shape us, and (hopefully) we learn from the hurt. It sucks at the time, but going through rough times only benefits us in the future.

The first time I saw this movie, I was in the midst of my very first breakup and I had no idea what was going on. This movie made me feel so much less alone. Every time I’m going through hard times and boys are being stupid, “Eternal Sunshine” will always be there for me. The film’s universal feelings of love, loss, and loneliness are like a giant hug around your heart.

So happy birthday, “Eternal Sunshine.” Thank you for impacting my life.

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.

A Newbie’s Adventures at True/False

DSCN2275

Yesterday I forsook my classes and spent 12 hours trudging around Downtown Columbia, using the last of my Shakespeare’s and Starbucks gift cards, standing in Q lines for an hour, and, above all, watching documentaries.

This weekend is the True/False Film Festival— a documentary film festival that comes to Columbia every year in late February/early March. I found out about the festival over the summer, but until this weekend I had no idea how huge it really is.

43 documentaries and three series of shorts are screened over four days at nine venues throughout the Downtown area. Films shown at True/False sometimes go on to be nominated for Academy Awards (such as “The Act of Killing,” which is currently nominated for an Oscar and was at True/False last year), which is completely incredible. Having the opportunity to view some of the year’s best documentaries and participate in a Q&A session with the film’s creators and subjects after the showing is an amazing experience. So far, I have seen three films— “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” “Rich Hill,” and “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” and I have plans to see “Private Violence.”

True/False-goers line up for "Rich Hill." Around 300 Q's were given for the screening.
True/False-goers line up for “Rich Hill.” Around 300 Q’s were given for the screening.

Along with the films, True/False takes over Columbia with art and music from all over the world. Last night an indie band from France performed before a film. Thursday, a latino band from Mexico City. There are pieces of artwork in alleyways and outside theaters. Hipsters with beards and dreadlocks and ear gagues litter the sidewalks as they stand in Q lines or walk to panels with their Canon in one hand and a coffee from Lakota in the other.

But above attending True/False as a spectator, yesterday I had the privilege and honor of covering the fest for MOVE.

I wielded that press pass like it had magical powers and it was invigorating. Scrambling to write reviews between screenings while frantically chugging caramel Frappuccinos is my equivalent to skydiving or bungee jumping or other things normal people do for an adrenaline rush. There’s nothing like the feeling of cranking out a review in record time before heading directly to another Q-line.

I love every moment I’ve spent at True/False— laughing with the fierce Q Queens, making friends while waiting in line for an hour and a half, sitting beside filmmakers at screenings, attending panels led by Criticwire’s editor Sam Adams with other entertainment journalists, and spending a ridiculous amount of money on merchandise.

One major highlight of True/False is the March March, a parade that stretches down 9th street.

The True/False March March parade
The True/False March March parade

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the parade, but I sure was not expecting this. There were people dressed up as Teletubbies, Buzz Lightyear, and Mario. Marching Mizzou played their drums and trumpets. A giant brain was rolled down the street. It was like something out of a really, really weird dream.

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I found an old person at March March dressed as Winnie the Pooh and I was so happy.
I found an old person at March March dressed as Winnie the Pooh and I was so happy.

How lucky am I to have True/False within walking distance from my campus? I can’t wait to continue the festivities this weekend, and I’m looking forward to the next three years.

Good Book, Bad Movie: Top 5 Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

This past weekend I went to the movie theater. No, I did not see “The Lego Movie,” which has taken the world by storm these last couple of days. (97% on Rotten Tomatoes? Can it really be that good? I think I’ll wait until it’s on Redbox). Instead, I  saw “Vampire Academy.”

“But Claudia, why would you do that?” you might be wondering. “‘Vampire Academy?’ It looks awful! Horrendous! ‘Twilight’ minus the sparkling!” And yeah, it pretty much was. I wrote a review of it for my movie column, which you can read here.

As explained in my column, I decided to see “Vampire Academy” simply because I owed it to my 14 year-old self. I went through a phase where I obsessed over teen paranormal romance novels, as every young girl does. And one of my very favorite book series was Richelle Mead’s vampire romance. I loved everything about it- Rose’s snark, Lissa and Christian’s unconventional relationship, and don’t even get me started on Dimitri; I was in love with that hunky Russian guardian. “Vampire Academy” was a quality series. And as with many book-to-movie adaptations, the film fell flat on its face.

So in honor of Hollywood’s latest fail to adapt a popular book series, I’ve decided to take a walk down memory lane and remember all the books that I love and the movies that completely crushed them into the ground.

1. “Eragon” (20th Century Fox, 2006)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Every time I think of “Eragon,” I feel so sorry for little sixth-grade Claudia. In the course of the school year I devoured Christopher Paolini’s first two novels (the only ones that were published at the time), “Eragon” and “Eldest,” and I thought they were absolutely brilliant. Fantasy, romance, adventure, mystery, battles, dragons, magic- what more could you ask for from a story? When the movie finally came to theaters, I was shaking with excitement. I went to the theater with my dad, all giddy and bouncing in anticipation…and then my hopes and dreams were destroyed.

It was god-awful. The acting was horrendous, the story was watered down almost beyond recognition, and Hollywood almost killed off Saphira and barely mentioned Angela. No. No no no. A part of my childhood died that day. And to make things worse, I didn’t have the emotional strength to express my dissatisfaction over the film, thus my parents assumed that I liked it and ended up giving it to me on DVD as a present. So now I own it. And every time I see it sitting among my other DVDs as I’m searching for a movie to watch, I vomit in my mouth a little.

2. “Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (Universal Studios, 2009)

Universal Pictures
Universal Studios

I found Darren Shan’s “Cirque Du Freak” series almost accidentally. I remember I was at Borders, glancing over the shelves, when the first book, “A Living Nightmare,” caught my eye. I opened it, sat down, and read the preface. That’s all it took- I was hooked. After that day, I read the 12-book series in record time. It captivated me- “Cirque Du Freak” was unique, unpredictable, void of all clichés. I loved it so much that I even wrote fan fiction and made slideshows of fan art in my spare time. (Sixth-grade Claudia had a lot of spare time, okay?)

When I learned it was going to be made into a movie, I was thrilled. But, as with “Eragon,” I was only to be disappointed. Let’s be real- this movie was doomed for failure the moment that John C. Reilly was cast to play the sexy, mysterious, bad ass vampire Larten Crepsley (my favorite character of the series). To be honest, I can’t remember much of the movie, which is probably for the best. I remember a train wreck of the plot being completely changed and awful acting, but no specifics. I have successfully pushed the traumatic experience out of my mind, and I am perfectly okay with that.

I don't even know what's going on here. Why, Hollywood? WHY?
I don’t even know what’s going on here. Why, Hollywood? WHY?

3. “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” (20th Century Fox, 2010)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Oh Logan Lerman, where did you go wrong? You can do so much better! Where is the charmingly awkward Charlie from “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” that we all fell in love with?

To be fair, Logan Lerman is probably the best thing about this adaptation of Rick Riordan’s popular children’s series. The acting was blah, there were changes to the plot that I had strong feelings against, etc. It just didn’t do it for me, okay? I also had a hard time adjusting to Annabeth’s hair being brown.

"ANNABETH IS A BLONDE! A BLONDE!" -me, internally.
“ANNABETH IS A BLONDE! A BLONDE!” -me, internally.

But seriously, how hard is it to dye your hair? And why is she finally blonde in the sequel, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters?” I must not have been the only one who freaked out over this seemingly-infinitesimal detail. (It’s a big deal, guys).

4. “The Golden Compass” (New Line Cinema, 2007)

New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

With a cast including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellan, and Sam Elliott, “The Golden Compass” should have been a hell of a lot better than it was. Yes, the animation is pretty impressive. Yes, Philip Pullman’s fantasy story of a parallel universe is nothing short of stellar. But “The Golden Compass” ended up as one big train wreck.

What went wrong? Well, it could be the fact that the big-name actors get remarkably little screen time compared to the “star,” Dakota Blue Richards, who portrays (or, tries to portray) Lyra. It was pitiful to watch the poor girl. The Catholics got upset because it was “anti-Catholic.” If they were going to get upset, it should have been because it was an utter piece of crap. And it ended on what is quite possibly the most boring cliffhanger (Lyra looking out to the horizon, urging her enemies to “just try to stop us”) for a sequel that will never be made.

5. “The City of Ember” (20th Century Fox, 2008)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

“The City of Ember” wasn’t awful. It was just simply extremely forgettable.

Nothing was “wrong” with it, per say. I am a huge Saoirse Ronan fan (“Hanna,” “The Lovely Bones,” “Atonement,”) and Billy Murray, who plays the mayor of Ember, can do no wrong. The reason I have included “The City Of Ember” on this list is simple: it did not even come close to doing the novel justice.

Jeanne DuPrau’s story is phenomenal. I read “The City of Ember” multiple times throughout elementary school, and I will always associate the story with my childhood. The film adaptation just fell flat. It was fine, but nothing that impressive. Eh.

P.S., what’s up with the giant moths and moles, Hollywood? DO NOT ADD THINGS TO SOMETHING THAT IS ALREADY PERFECT!

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.