Movie Review: Moana (2016)

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Moana (2016)

I cannot help but feel like I’ve already written something about Moana, that I’ve gushed about it somewhere…

But I can’t find it, so clearly I must do it again.

Let’s start with: I was not expecting such an epic Disney princess to emerge last year, which is silly of me, because aren’t all Disney’s princesses epic? (Even the ones who aren’t considered official princesses! Moana is the chieftain’s daughter, after all.)

Moana of Motonui has been chosen by the Ocean to play a very special part in Disney’s film: the Hero. She’s not waiting for a hero to come find her and rescue her, and Moana (the movie) isn’t about that at all. Moana is about Moana rescuing herself. Well, rescuing everyone else– and rescuing herself by proxy. About growing up, and doing the right thing even though the right thing is hard. About being stubborn, and sticking to your guns, and believing in yourself.

So much of this movie is about believing in yourself.

Born the chief’s only child, Moana stands to inherit leadership of her tribe. He’s been training her for that role her whole life. There’s just one little problem: she’d really rather… not stay on land for it. She doesn’t want to. She tries really hard not to not want to, but she doesn’t want to. It works about as well as expected. Which goes over about as well as anybody could have thought it would. Because nobody goes beyond the cove, and nobody truly leaves the island.

The whole thing is set in Ancient Polynesia, and I’m no expert in the culture, the location, the mythology– but I understand the people who crafted the movie and plot went out of their way to learn those things from the people immersed in them. I know that they also collected local talent for the voice acting, which boosts it to an A+ for me.

One of the interesting things was the music. There’s at least one entire song that never got translated to English, which gives the whole thing very much a more realistic feel to it, and I was very proud of that fact. All too often I feel that I’m not invested enough in things, but that one song being beyond me– I don’t know the words, but the words didn’t matter. I didn’t have to know the lyrics to get drawn up in it.

Also “You’re Welcome” is going to haunt me for years.

–Natasha

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Movie Review: The Last Starfighter (1984)

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The Last Starfighter (1984)

Sometimes you have to shake the dust off the good ol’ times. You  have to look at your childhood and say, yes, this one.

The Last Starfighter is one of those. I don’t remember the first time I saw this; I was young, impressionable, and enthralled with space movies. It was probably around the first time I saw the Star Wars films, come to think of it, which, uh, wow, that was a time ago. Star Wars is a different post, eventually, when I get around to it.

In the meantime, this film is over thirty years old, and managed to age pretty remarkably well. Okay, sure, the digital graphics are pretty outdated, but it was made thirty years ago, you have to give it a pass. The storyline, though, the character design, the plot? None of it comes off as cheesy, none of it is badly written. The costumes are solid, props are well made, and, well, I just love it, okay? There’s not a lot of I can tell you without absolutely gushing about this movie.

It doesn’t matter that it’s old. It was well done. And if you can get over the fact that some computer-generated graphics are a little jarring after we’ve been spoiled by new-age things so long, I heartily recommend it to you.

It’s not Star Wars. But then, nothing can be Star Wars. The Last Starfighter is just what it says on the tin, and nothing else.

–Natasha

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 24th, 2017

NaNoWriMo

And with Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo is quickly coming to a close. But that doesn’t mean your journey is necessarily finished, and my saying that doesn’t mean it has to continue. Whether your book is finished or just not working out for you doesn’t actually matter in relation to the month; NaNoWriMo might be nearly over, but the gathering we’ve all had this month is likely going to stick around, even if you’ve never said a word to your fellow authors.

Why? Because it’s going to come next year, too, and that’s even ignoring the Camps and various dedicated groups and communities determined to see the brotherhood continue.

What is NaNoWriMo? It’s our permission to write a bunch of extremely messy words without feeling guilty. (It’s a push to buy a teeshirt once a year, if I’m being honest.) It’s a nightmare of typos and awful one-liners and shoddy characterization while we mine for the gems that are hidden inside. It’s practice, and the outline of a book, or several books. It’s seeing how high you can get your words per minute on a solid ratio of letters versus whoops, hit the wrong key. It’s using the wrong their when you want there.

Other artistic groups have their own thing. Musicians have the RPM Challenge in February, and artists have all sorts of pursuits from DrawMo in November to National Art Making Month (NaArMaMo) in August, as well as Sketchember, Inktober (which I participated in this year, and should eventually post) and others. Cover artists often do the 30/30 with us in November, making a different cover for a different book ever day. I’m sure there are times set aside for flower arrangers, seamstresses, people who work in architecture, photographers.

Each one of these brings together like-minded people who may never say one word to each other. The conversation isn’t as important as the community, of knowing you are not alone. And if your book is done at the end of NaNo, or if it isn’t, you’re still not alone.

We were here. We will still be here. We’re not going anywhere.

NaNo might be over, but we’re writers. And every one of us knows, the writing never stops.

–Natasha

Wordcount: 36,162/50,000

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 17th, 2017

NaNoWriMo

Take a breather. Five minutes. Get up, stretch your legs, take your eyes away from your screen or paper. Take a walk in the woods. Play with a ball of string. Get something to eat.

NaNoWriMo is a taxing time. It’s stressful. We’re attached to our writing utensils and we can’t part ways for long. But honestly, we really have to do that, once in a while. But taking our breaks is important. It lets our minds rest, distracts us for a few minutes. But the thing is, we’re very rarely actually not progressing forward. I’ve taken time to catch a breather and my brain has pieced together parts that I was struggling with, despite doing a completely unrelated thing.

Sometimes our brains can make logic leaps when we’re paying attention to it… and sometimes it only makes those connections when we’re not actively focusing on it anymore.

I know it seems like we have to hammer away hard at what we’re working on, and that we can’t do anything else. But between NaNo and our responsibilities– housework, actual work, chores and remembering to eat and sleep– there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time left just to take a wedge out for ourselves. And we really need that. The human mind isn’t designed to focus hard-wire on one thing without distraction. Single-mindedness is great for short term and drive, but after a few weeks you really just need to take your moment.

Take your moment. Look after yourself. Let your brain have an moment off, to do nothing except rest. Maybe you’ll thank it for the help.

–Natasha

Wordcount: 31,898/50,000

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 10th, 2017

NaNoWriMo

About this time last year, I had some truly awful breakups. And at least one of them was caused by speaking different languages.

I don’t mean English versus French or anything like that. I mean, the words we use don’t quite mean the same thing to the pair of us. I’ve talked about the phenomenon before, but never for NaNo, I think.

Last year was hectic for everybody. It was a difficult time, especially for hermits who don’t get out much, and I won’t rehash what went on in the world at the time. There was distance between my friend and I– and maybe it was on me, maybe it was on them, it doesn’t matter. But when everything came to a head, the distance had cost us our understanding of one another’s nuances. Or perhaps we had never truly known them. But I said what I meant, and they said what they meant, and both of us heard what those words meant to us, which wasn’t either of us had quite meant, I think.

That’s going to happen to characters, too. Especially those who don’t know each other well, or come from different walks of life. Of course, on the other hand, there’s always going to be those characters who just know one another. They know every little twitch and nuance of their partner, they can practically read one another’s thoughts. They don’t have to have words, anymore, to know what would have been said and follow through with the words that weren’t.

Drift compatible, anybody? You’d be surprised how often that happens in real life.

Maybe you have characters like the first set, or maybe you have characters like the second. Both are super fun to write and even more fun to read. But everybody isn’t going to go without having errors all of the time, and those errors might help boost your word count and enhance your story rather magnificently. Can’t hurt to try it, right?

–Natasha

Wordcount: 11,246/50,000

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NaNoWriMo: Fri 3rd, 2017

NaNoWriMo

We’re three days into the biggest writing ‘fest of the year, and it’s kind of a nightmare already. But one of those awesome nightmares; it’s hard, it’s grueling, but it’s so, so worth it, just you wait.

One of the things that is hard for me, especially in the month of November, is time.

Now, time is a nebulous concept, but I get paid by the hour to whittle away at it. Some days it takes forever and a half to get through my work schedule, and some days it’s like it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Some days I have a whole wealth of energy, and some days I just can’t barely move. (Ironically, on the days of the second, it almost seems like I get more work done.)

Time is something we all likely find tricky in November. It’s the holiday season, just after Halloween, coming through the crunch for Thanksgiving, ready to steamroll on through Christmas and New Years. A lot of us are home, preparing for all of this nonsense; family dinners, gifts, end of the year bills, trying to figure out how to wrap everything up for Tax Time next year.

(I need a filing cabinet.)

How do you find time to write in all of that?

I cheat. I cheat like a boss. I have scrap papers everywhere, in every pocket, I carry a pen in my hair to scribble with. I inch out spare moments in the lulls between work, I write ferociously on breaks and lunch, and I subsist on nearly nothing but sugar and water throughout the month. Sleep? Sleep is for the weak. Writers don’t need that.

(Pro tip: yes we do.)

Some days, you’ll find time to write. It’ll just happen. Some days– like most of mine, because adulting is hard– you have to sink your teeth into it and not let go until you’re ready. Real life doesn’t always accommodate you, but you would be amazed at the measure of words you can get if you train yourself to quickly scribble down a few half-dozen lines during your luncheon. You don’t have to horrifically neglect real life and responsibilities for it.

And if you can, try to write more on the days you have the time, so you can get away with a little less on the days where you just can’t snag more than a handful of moments.

I know not hitting the goal isn’t the end of the world… but we wouldn’t all be here if we weren’t hoping to hit it.

–Natasha

Wordcount: 2,247/50,000

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Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

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Wonder Woman (2017)

So, for my birthday I might have gone to the store and splurged a little. I might have bought a whole lot of superhero movies. And one of those movies might have been Wonder Woman.

I have a lot of respect for how they did this movie, but there are some things about it but did not trip my trigger. Or rather they hit the ‘no’ button, and they hit it hard enough said it’s hard to get over. Of course I can’t tell you about those because they’re spoilers but they do exist.

So to start I loved the graphics of this movie and the character design. The costuming was on point, although I admit I don’t know enough about that era say how accurate it is. Still everything looked excellent from a design point of view. Interestingly I finally discovered what the eagle motif on Wonder Woman’s costume is supposed to represent. As a girl I thought it was supposed to represent the eagle of America, however growing up and having researched more of the Amazon mythos and Greek mythology in general, I realize that it’s supposed to be the eagle of Zeus.  I’m still not sure what the colors are supposed to represent besides looking super pretty on her.

The other characters are likewise done very nicely with subtle details that hint at larger portions of their personality, which is good because we don’t really get to see that much of them. I could have spent another two hours learning purely about the rest of the cast, but I understand that it is a movie about Diana, so at this point it’s really just me being nitpicky. Nevertheless the lack of them leaves me feeling like something is missing in the movie.

The fight scenes in this movie are absolutely epic and there are quite a few to be very proud of. Wonder Woman is designed and comes off as a very powerful and sophisticated combatant and the way the other characters respond to this is amazing to behold.

One of the things I could have done without in this entire movie, however, that I can mention because it is not actually spoiler, is I could have happily gone without a romantic subplot anywhere at all. I understand that’s not true with a lot of people, but to me it felt awkward and extremely uncomfortable to witness.  Perhaps it would have bothered me less if we had more time of them interacting, or if a particlar segment had been removed, but as it stands it was just really strange for me personally.

I would have also been more gratufied for a longer ending. Something more satisfyingly conclusive, but that could just be me being greedy for more content, as is one of my flaws.

I cannot wait to see more of Wonder Woman.

–Natasha

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