Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seven Favorite Films from BYU International Cinema

One of my favorite pastimes as a BYU student was going to BYU International Cinema. Sometimes I’d have the good fortune of going with friends, but like most things I enjoy in life for the most part I went by myself. The humanities department would release the semester’s film schedule and I’d eagerly devour the film synopses, but as life intervened I could only make it to so many of the films I actually wanted to see. And I didn’t enjoy all of the films I actually got to see. As it turns out, I don’t like Kung Fu movies: Hero and Jade Warrior were both weird and maybe my tolerance for action films only goes so far. The only Kurosawa film I was able to see was Kagemusha and I didn’t like it that much. In Hindi Bollywood musicals everybody cries too much. But here’s a list of a few--just a few--of the International movies I saw that I liked.

The Orphanage (El Orfanato)--Ok, this one is rated R in the states, but since it’s BYU they edited the one graphic scene (that’s the nice thing about BYU IC, since they edit the questionable stuff) so other than that it could pass for PG-13. Yes it is supposed to be a scary ghost story, and the ending is really sad. But the story is very well-written and centers around the mom trying to figure out the disappearance of her son and why the place is haunted, and it is very cool to watch how she solves it.

Image result for the orphanage 2007

This was the one Spanish film that I reported on for my Spanish classes that I actually enjoyed--the other two were boring documentaries. And then I went to see Death of a Cyclist my last term just for kicks and it was downright disturbing.

Howl’s Moving Castle--Bear with me, I am not a Studio Ghibli fan. I saw parts of Spirited Away at a family reunion and I was totally weirded out. But Howl’s Moving Castle is Steampunk and had fantasy elements I was a little more comfortable with. Sophie learns to stand up for herself and Howl gets his...issues sorted out. Plus the supporting characters are fantastic.

Image result for howl's moving castle
Film Takeout
On the way out of the showing, I ran into a friend of mine who explained that in the English dubbing Calcifer’s line about the bacon burning is different. So last summer when I saw someone wearing this shirt I understood the reference:
Image result for calcifer for president
Calcifer for President: May All Your Bacon Burn In 2016
Chickadee Solutions

The Hedgehog--I didn’t get to see nearly enough French films. This one was a gem. It is based on a book called The Elegance of the Hedgehog that my mom actually read once and I saw lying around the house, so I actually read the jacket summary. The story is about a girl who wants to commit suicide, but then befriends a Japanese gentleman who moves into her apartment building and then the grumpy concierge downstairs. Their friendships change all of them for the better.
Image result for the hedgehog 2009
Newtopia Magazine

Jodha Akbar--This is officially my favorite Bollywood movie. For a Hindi musical, this one didn’t have a lot of crying. What it does have is spectacular musical numbers, beautiful costumes, a great story rooted in India’s history, and spectacular action sequences. Princess Jodha is the strong female heroine that everyone deserves. Emperor Akbar is hot stuff but he is also a courageous, tolerant, forward-thinking monarch who takes zero crap from courtiers who plot against him. My favorite part? When they FINALLY fall in love and consummate the marriage (nothing shown but you get the idea).
Image result for jodha akbar movie
Image result for new york doll documentary
New York Doll--The thing about BYU International Cinema is that sometimes they show American films that students might otherwise dismiss. This documentary from the Sundance Film Festival was a surprise favorite. It follows the conversion story of Arthur “Killer” Kane from the New York Dolls. Kane had a hard time dealing with the breakup of his band. After joining the Church, he asked Heavenly Father for the chance to make amends with his former band mates.  Now I’d thought after joining the Church Kane would put his old life behind him forever, but that wasn’t what the band reunion was about for him: it was about forgiveness. I learned that if something matters to us, then it matters enough to our Father in Heaven for Him to help us obtain it. All we need to do is ask.

Bliss (Mutluluk)--A girl from a small village in Turkey is raped. Local custom dictates that she must die to uphold family honor. She declines to hang herself so she is sent to Istanbul with a guy from her village who is supposed to shoot her. He chickens out. They go hide on a fish farm and then go on a cruise with a retired professor. Predictably the victim falls in love with the guy sent to kill her. The guy figures out who the real rapist is and justice is served. I love justice.
Image result for bliss movie turkish
Slant Magazine

12--This was the only Russian film I had the chance to see. It was three hours long and it was worth every minute. A Chechen boy is accused of murdering his Russian foster father. The jury is locked up in a high school gym overnight to decide his fate. They go through the evidence and, one by one, they puzzle out the truth and their minds are changed. The story is incredible to watch unfold, and the twelve jurors each have different backstories and personalities and it’s fun to watch them interact. I would watch it again without hesitation.

Image result for 12 movie
New York Times

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall in All Its Glory!

Fall is my favorite time of year in Provo. In Texas we don't have the same variety of trees or colors. In Northern Arizona we have some but not a lot. But in Provo, fall means falling leaves of every conceivable variety and color. It's amazing! These are just some pictures I've taken on my walks around town.

Right now, we have leaves in all stages of turning--green, yellow, red, brown, and orange.

It makes for some very beautiful combinations of color

Reds are rarer but they are bold.

This is by the Provo River trail.

Bright yellow-orange is the predominant color.

My life has been having a few ups and downs lately. This is definitely one of the ups. 
Fall makes everything better.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Lizy Reviews--'Five Kingdoms: Death Weavers' by Brandon Mull

Spoiler alert: everybody dies but not really.

No, seriously. That’s the plot. In the land of Necronum inside the Five Kingdoms, you can visit the afterlife without actually dying. The dead, known as echoes, can go back and forth from Necronum as well. That’s a gross oversimplification of how the magic of Necronum works, but it’s interesting.

We will be delving into spoilers for this post so if you don’t want spoilers, come back later. Cole Randolph arrives in Necronum with Mira, Dalton, Jace, Joe, and his brother Hunter (I think that’s everyone--his crowd of companions is getting bigger) to find Mira’s sister Destiny. Cole makes a deal with an echo named Sando who turns them over to the followers of the arch-villain Nazeem. (I was totally going to write something about the plot being motivated by the hero doing something stupid but it’s been a few weeks since I finished reading). Cole escapes and then enters the afterlife, known as the Echolands, to save those who crossed over. Most of Death Weavers actually takes place in the Echolands, which is a little disappointing since I wanted or rather expected to see more of Necronum. I expected the Echolands to be dark and creepy, but then I guess everybody did, Cole most of all. It is a paradise, in some ways, but a perilous one. If the series has been about finding and saving Mira’s sisters, then I imagine most of the actual revolution will be in book 5, which comes out next year. So for Death Weavers, sit back and enjoy the ride through the Echolands.

Image result for five kingdoms death weavers
Kernel's Corner

Typical of Brandon Mull, there are lots of random characters that are supposed to be cool. The weavers and magicians on both sides of Necronum are appropriately mystical and mysterious. The horse Thunder is amazing. I am also a huge fan of She Who Stands at the Summit. I wanted more Nandavi--why waste a villain with such an awesome name? Sando wasn’t terribly convincing as a villain, since the way he deceived Cole at the beginning I still expected him to not pan out. Nazeem up close and personal? Definitely worth the anticipation. As for the main characters, we get a little bit of development for Mira but I’m still not terribly attached to her. But Cole is getting more interesting, especially as he deals with his broken shaping powers and with his internal conflict.

But my favorite thing about the Echolands is that Mull wrote it to cross over beyond the Five Kingdoms, even to other worlds that he’s created. In other words, he finally delivered on that Beyonders crossover, but that’s all I’m going to say for now. While I regret not going to see Brandon Mull at Comic Con, I was worried about spoilers and I’m glad I avoided those, if any.

Yes, I know the first book in the Fablehaven follow-up Dragonwatch is coming in Marc h, but it could be a while before I get my hands on that. I the meantime I will see if I can squeeze in the time to reread Fablehaven, and of course I am ready for the conclusion to the Five Kingdoms series..

Note: the post originally stated that Dragonwatch had already come out but the author was unaware of the real release date at the time.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Revisited

I was going to put this off until next week, but then today at work (I work at a thrift store) I saw a framed print of this image come through the line:

Image result for gregory peck to kill a mockingbird movie

Slightly weird face he's making, I know.

 I know better than to ignore a sign. I finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time since high school the other night. 

I don't remember reading about half of what was in the book when I was a high school sophomore. I don't remember Aunt Alexandra at all. I remembered Scout's first day of school and Burris Ewell walking out, but I didn't remember Walter Cunningham or the kid with head lights. There were some things I remembered better from the movie once I reached those parts, like Atticus keeping watch over the jailhouse.

Image result for gregory peck to kill a mockingbird movie

I consider myself more Texan than southern. But I still feel a little at home in 1930s Maycomb Alabama. Probably because of the southern accents and the people. Maybe it's the summer humidity. Or maybe Maycomb is a lot like what southeastern Texas used to be. Or maybe it's because back in Texas was where I read it.  

Yes, I did have in mind the current racial struggles taking place in the U.S.  I must confess, I am not as good of a citizen as I would like to be, and I haven't been able to get my mind around those issues as well as I would like. So I don't have anything enlightening to say on that subject in regards to Mockingbird. But I think we can learn a lot from Scout and Jem as candid observers of their society:

"Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." 

I was thinking of Maya Angelou's memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read for my capstone course at BYU. And since that capstone was focused on folklore and culture, I was primed to watch for little folklorish things in Jem and Scout's world as shared in Mockingbird. I also watched The Help a year or so ago. This time reading Mockingbird I had a better visual of Calpurnia as one of the maids featured in that film. And The Help also helped me to keep in mind just how petty some high-society women are. (I totally spaced what a breath of fresh air Miss Maudie was).

Atticus Finch is one of the most hardcore characters in literature, but rereading Mockingbird I got the chance to remember why. I had completely forgotten about the incident with the rabid dog. Atticus is a hero in the eyes of his children, and even when the rest of the community sees him as different they still respect him for doing his job--even though he is SO DONE with their ways. If you need to watch the speech again, watch it here:

So, with that important matter of business taken care of, sometime soon I hope to read the recently released sequel Go Set a Watchman. I am really curious to see how it will compare to the original. So no spoilers, please.