The ’90s Nostalgia Project: Matilda

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Hi again!  I swear you all will actually get another Canada post one of these days, but unfortunately not until my life calms down again.  Which, if I’m lucky, will be after this Friday, but we’ll see.  I’m not promising anything.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been busily livetweeting, and this time I’m here to bring you my tweet recap of Matilda!  Without further ado:

  • ah yes, hyper-closeup on a baby’s face, exactly how I wanted to start things off
  • tbh same tho
  • how is this kid so expressive
  • I feel like I’m watching The Sopranos by way of Arrested Development
  • god the cinematography in this movie though
  • all the overhead shots combined with the omniscient narrator, *damn*
  • k but why do I get the feeling Gaston would turn out very much like Mr. Wormwood
  • y’all, THIS LIBRARY. I’m dying it’s so beautiful
  • I want this chair.
  • so wait the time jump just happened and she’s like eight or nine now but she still goes to the library during the day?
  • is this kid literally homeschooling herself?
  • god I just. I have no words for how horrendous the rest of the Wormwoods are.
  • THAT’S RIGHT, KIDDO, YOU TELL ‘EM
  • oh my god. she’s about to blow this joint omg I love her so much
  • dear god what is that Ninja Turtles mask Zinnia is wearing
  • I paused at exactly the right moment
  • wait why is Matilda going with them for a change
  • oh god I just figured out who Harry Wormwood reminds me of. oh god.
  • let’s just leave that there.
  • anyway, Donald Wormwood is at his car dealership showing Barron whatsisface and poor undeserving Matilda the Art of the Steel or w/e
  • I’m pretty sure half the stuff he’s doing to these heaps of garbage would make them explode
  • well, that gives “hat trick” a whole different meaning
  • wait am I seriously hearing the rules of this fictional game show right
  • that’s lowkey gross af. anyway, moving on.
  • “Moby what?” oh my god
  • getting highkey Clockwork Orange vibes from this TV-watching scene and I’m so sure that’s on purpose
  • ………………………..totally forgot Matilda was telekinetic. whoops.
  • oh christ please miss me with the “we only use a tiny portion of our brains” thing
  • can you believe ppl still use that trope. wow. (looking at you, Lucy and Limitless)
  • a wild Ms. Trunchbull appears
  • “they’re all mistakes, children… glad I never was one.” Agatha Trunchbull, confirmed cryptid
  • Lavender is a lil cutie and I want to adopt both her and Matilda
  • Trunchbull went to the Jaime Lannister school of disciplining kids
  • k but how does Hortensia have all this time for a backstory dump when the Trunch is going all Patton on everyone
  • ……………….super not appreciating the butch-coding with Trunchbull.
  • oh dear lord this is literally the school from Hard Times I can’t.
  • I’ve been getting Dickensian vibes from this whole movie and just now realized it
  • also, tonally, this movie is a perfect counterpart to A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • (which, incidentally, I got Dickensian vibes from before I’d ever read Dickens)
  • oh hell-LO THERE MISS HONEY
  • being Miss Honey in Crunchem is a perfect metaphor for being a teacher at all in the state of Oklahoma tbh
  • I’m amazed any classroom has windows in a place like Crunchem
  • I love how Matilda starts to answer that one multiplication problem and then starts mumbling halfway through when ppl notice her
  • Miss Honey is the only person besides Harry Potter himself who can actually pull off giant round Harry Potter glasses
  • you can tell this movie was made a while ago bc nobody whips out their phone to check Matilda’s multiplication
  • “what do you like to read?”
    “everything.”
    k move over Miss Honey I’m adopting her
  • (or, y’know, we could co-parent… I’d be more than okay with that…)
  • okay Matilda just name-dropped Charles Dickens. Roald Dahl knew exactly what he was doing lmao
  • ugh fr Miss Honey’s soft voice is a Problem
  • Miss Honey is so much braver than I am, I absolutely would not have knocked on Trunchbull’s door if I’d heard those sounds from her office
  • it’s fine, it’s fine, I’m sure she’s just playing Grand Theft Auto
  • UM HOW IS THIS ACCEPTABLE
  • new hypothesis: this movie is set in an alternate near-future where Betsy DeVos has already gutted the Department of Education
  • also how did the set designers get ahold of so many school pictures for this what were those conversations like
  • “hey can I use your kid’s school picture in my movie”
    “sure, for what?”
    “the villain throwing darts at it”
    “…………..”
  • wait hold on the kid playing Michael looks like the kid who plays young Wilson Fisk in Daredevil.
  • no way it’s the same kid, but that’s hysterical
  • DRAG HIM, MISS HONEY
  • for real how is it that Harry was humiliated by bleached hair but will answer the door while clearly in the middle of a dye job
  • SAME
  • when a Dump Truck supporter says some ignorant sh*t
  • when you realize the Wormwoods definitely would have voted for Dump Truck
  • when you realize Dump Truck definitely would have picked Agatha Trunchbull for Secretary of Education over even Betsy DeVos
  • “don’t sneer at educated people, Mr. Wormwood.”
    oh my god I hate that this movie is still so relevant wtfffffffffff
  • the Wormwoods’ house looks like the set of the Addams Family
  • which, fun fact, was pink in order to look the right shade of gray on camera
  • I’m not kidding
  • “well it’s hard for me to remember a specific cake” and just like that, Bruce Bogtrotter became one of my favorite characters
  • “my mom’s is better” HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
  • this is some book-Harry-Potter level sass right here and I am LIVING
  • on this episode of “I paused at exactly the right moment”
  • that is a, uh, bizarre idea of punishment you have there, Trunchy
  • okay yeah I definitely will not be able to eat chocolate cake for a while
  • PLOT TWIST
  • THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED
  • actual footage of how well the inquiry appears to be going
  • lawl the scene where Trunchbull is coming to Miss Honey’s classroom is so very School of Rock I can’t
  • ah yes, schools with no children, just like health insurance that doesn’t cover any health-related matters at all
  • okay I’ll stop, that’s not fair, would have covered Viagra and hair implants and all stress injuries brought on by excessive golf
  • (k I’m really done now)
  • the whole class is subtweeting the hell out of Trunchbull with that poem and I am living
  • wait okay why has Trunchbull apparently not noticed that Matilda has mysteriously teleported from the Choker thingy to that classroom
  • that poor newt, ewwwww
  • sacrificial newt
  • (god that tweet would look weird out of context)
  • The Help (2011)
  • ooooooooooh Matilda, girlfran, you’ve got some nerve raising your hand rn
  • she’d better deliver the smackdown of the century
  • “why is there a swing [outside Trunchbull’s house]?” that’s my girl, always asking the real questions
  • OH GOD I CAN’T WITH THIS MISS HONEY BACKSTORY
  • me
  • wait ok are they using the same tiny child for young Miss Honey as they did for young Matilda?
  • Miss Honey’s rent is $50 a month??????? 😫😫😫 foh
  • I love this episode of Tiny House Hunters
  • “I wonder what Miss Trunchbull is afraid of” – sweetpea you literally just saw her do the newt lambada
  • that is not a particularly good hedge through which to spy on Trunchbull
  • that’s really not even a hedge
  • well this is, uh………. definitely some kind of look.
  • the belt. what is with the belt.
  • is it specially designed to keep all the bats inside her
  • are there spells worked into the leather to keep her from metamorphosing back into one of the Old Gods
  • I swear to God, Trenchfoot, if you touch that cat I will reach through my laptop screen and string you up by that beloved belt of yours
  • Matilda is so down for casual breaking and entering this is great
  • chaotic good
  • k back up, did Matilda pick the lock with her mind or did Trenchfoot leave it unlocked?
  • grudgingly impressed at Trunchbull’s ability to deadlift half her car’s weight
  • how in the snot did they not hear Trunchbull on the front drive
  • okay NOW they hear her
  • um, surely there’s a way out that doesn’t involve sneaking through the giant open entry hall
  • oh, NOW you mention the kitchen door? thanks, Miss Honey, that would have been great to know thirty seconds ago
  • dear god, Trunch, surely there are more effective ways to flush out an intruder than Hulksmashing your entire house
  • holy cannoli this is tense
  • UM, OKAY, I’M PRETTY SURE MISS HONEY AND MATILDA JUST WALKED INTO A LITERAL MURDER BASEMENT
  • THIS IS FINE
  • “just wait till she leaves, then we’ll go get your doll”
    “WHAT?”
    “just kidding.”
    Matilda you lil snarkmonster I love you
  • oh my dear sweet baby jesus one of the FBI agents looks like Stephen Miller
  • HA YES SLAM THAT DOOR IN HIS SMUG FACE
  • this sequence is better than any superhero training montage ever sorry I don’t make the rules
  • it just occurred to me that I haven’t seen her brother for the past half-hour, at least
  • spoke too soon
  • ah yes the rarely executed Reverse Carrot
  • oh yes pls tell me Matilda is about to Reverse Carrot the hell out of Trunchbull
  • okay well rescuing Lissie-doll Chamber-of-Secrets style is almost as good
  • omg. this is ARTFUL trolling
  • and Matilda is the most chaotic good to ever chaotic good
  • AS FAR AS I’M CONCERNED YOU’RE JUST ANOTHER PICTURE TO BURN
  • (definitely had to look up the lyrics for that)
  • oh no OH NO NOT THE RIBBON
  • just gonna leave this here
  • k but for real has somebody done a comparative analysis of femininity in Matilda and Carrie because I’d read the hell out of that article
  • OH MY GOD some kid just called Trunchbull “sir” this situation is about to escalate extremely quickly
  • here’s a novel idea for you, Trunchbull, people can do different stuff with their hair on different days
  • that red ribbon schtick is just flimsy evidence. inadmissible.
  • OH MY GOD IT’S HAPPENING IT’S HAPPENING
  • THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL, FOLKS
  • or, um, the chalkboard. same diff.
  • I’m surprised they’re not making more of the possible murder plotline, though. like what evidence do we have that Trunchbull killed Magnus?
  • beyond, that is, her eternally sunny disposition.
  • which they have taken great pains to emphasize.
  • Trunchbull hasn’t been shown as greedy, at least not that I saw. just unbelievably cruel.
  • so if she did kill Magnus, did she literally only off him so that she could torture Miss Honey with impunity?
  • I’m confused.
  • so wait is she dead
  • did that belt finally choke the life out of her or
  • nope. not dead. definitely not dead.
  • YOU SPIN MY HEAD RIGHT ROUND RIGHT ROUND
  • k as cathartic as this complete humiliation of Trunchbull is, I hope the movie has an equally devastating dragging coming for the Wormwoods
  • tag yourself I’m the girl with the glasses who’s all like “just try, I dare you”
  • I also have complicated thoughts about how food and weight are gendered in this movie
  • what do you want to bet Matilda did the bulk of Miss Honey’s redecorating for her
  • oh wonderful, here come the rest of the Wormwoods. please please please summarily humiliate them, Matilda
  • GOD BLESS YOU MISS HONEY
  • also I’m just lmaoing at “permanent vacation to Guam”
  • Matilda how on earth did you get ADOPTION PAPERS from a book in the library
  • it’d be one thing if you had Googled them, but sheesh
  • wait, they just got off relatively scot-free like that? come ON
  • ……………….hold up.
  • moral of the story: having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card
  • and I have Thoughts(TM) about the narrative purposes of Matilda’s powers and the gendering of food and stuff but those will come later
  • MMMPH I JUST REALIZED they totally dropped the murder plot thread. there was nothing about it after Trunchbull’s humiliation

Whoosh, there you have it!  I’ll be back with more Buffy soon-ish.  Till then:

An announcement.

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(I’m putting this in a separate post from all the vacation shenanigans because I don’t want it to get buried.)

Because apparently I like making more work for myself than I need, I’m doing another one of those class project things this semester, like I did with Lucy Audley’s Secret.  This time, the class broadly concerns memory studies and issues of cultural memory and nostalgia in the media, and the project… well.

If you know me at all, you probably know how woefully behind on pop culture I am.  You may have even stared at me, dumbfounded, and said, “You didn’t watch that?!”, to which I probably replied, “I basically wasn’t even alive in the ’90s.”  And it’s not entirely an exaggeration, either.  I missed a lot while I was homeschooled.  So with this project, I’m at least putting a dent in the frighteningly long list of Things I Missed in the ’90s.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be watching MatildaBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and Groundhog Day, as well as listening to No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom–and livetweeting everything, so keep an eye on Twitter.  These essays will be posted on a website that is currently under construction.  The ultimate purpose of this project is twofold:  to understand the particular breed of nostalgia that manifests itself among the self-styled ’90s kids, and to make sense of my own childhood and how it’s shaped me.

Now, I actually need your help with one part of this thing:  a title.  I’ve wracked my brain for weeks, and I still cannot come up with a title for the project to save my life.  I am open to any and all suggestions, and if you (yes, you) suggest the title I end up using, you’ll get a shoutout on the site and my undying gratitude ❤

So that’s the latest manifestation of my tendency towards extreme academic overcommitment!  Hit me up with your best title suggestions, in the comments or on Facebook or via carrier pigeon.

Canada, week 8

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Oh man, is it time for another update again?  It’s totally time for another update again!

I don’t know about all of you, but this week has just flown by for me.  And it’s been one packed week, too, so without further ado:

The Paper Street Journal knows how to do Halloween.  I’ll admit it, I wanted to go to this shindig almost entirely so I could bust out my Phryne Fisher costume:

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But the party itself was great too!  They got some super-talented bands to perform; GREY \\ WATER reminds me of the xx in the best way possible, and Edgar Breau was so delightfully folksy that he made me miss Oklahoma something fierce.  They rented out the Staircase Theater on Dundurn, this amazing vintage theater.  (I may or may not have briefly played the piano in the theater proper…)  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, and the lighting wouldn’t have been good anyway, but you can bet I’ll be back in the future.

The Dap-Queen:  I won a free ticket to see a screening of Miss Sharon Jones! on Saturday night, as part of the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s film festival.  They screened the film at Collective Arts Brewing, so y’know, I got to sit in the middle of a working brewery.  That was pretty cool.  The movie itself was even more emotionally brutal than I’d been bracing for–I knew Sharon Jones had had cancer, but they showed her going through chemo several times, so my wimpy needlephobic self had to look away from the screen on a couple occasions.  But the music was phenomenal, and Sharon herself is a force of nature on stage.  She’s so dynamic.  Even if she weren’t wearing the hippest, most sparkly dresses known to humankind at every show, your eyes would still be drawn to her.

I think the most moving scene for me was when she went to church, still in the throes of chemo, and felt compelled to get up and belt a gospel song and dance like she did at her concerts.  Her feet were going a mile a minute, and afterwards she sat down and just gasped for breath for a solid minute.  I felt so viscerally how badly she wanted to dance, so when she finally sat back down again, I was almost gasping along with her.

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Buffer Festival:  There were so many great screenings and panels at Buffer, and I only wish I could have gone to more of them.  But alas, things cost money and things are expensive, so I only ended up going to the LGBT+ screening on Sunday.  It was 500% worth it–the quality of filmmaking on display was fantastic, and the panelists themselves were all so cool.  I went in only knowing Kaitlyn Alexander, but I came out wanting to check out everybody else’s YouTube channels.

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Before the panel.

I rode my first Canadian train!  The Gardiner Expressway was closed for maintenance this weekend, meaning I had to take my normal Hamilton-Toronto bus to the Aldershot train station, figure out how trains worked in a right hurry (sue me, it’s been over four years since I went to England), and take a train to Union Station.  It was kind of slow going, actually–I definitely like the bus better.

Coffee:  Durand Coffee is a bit of a walk down Caroline Street.  I first went there when it was raining outside, so I was a little miserable and my TOMS were a lot soaked by the time I got there,* but I loved the place nonetheless.  The decor is gorgeous, for one thing.

I want to go there someday when I don’t have homework or grading to worry about and just spend a day reading the books they have on their shelves.

Coffee-wise, I had something they call an “autumn spice latte”–cinnamon and nutmeg, very reminiscent of Finch on Locke’s cinnamon brown butter latte from two weeks ago.  Deeeeeeeee-lish.  10/10 would recommend.

*Side note, please remind me NEVER to wear TOMS outside when I know it’s raining.  I have no idea why I always do this to myself.

Food:  I hit up Maki My Way, on King St., with a friend before Buffer on Sunday.  It’s a sushi place with remarkably fast service–I got my rainbow roll maybe five minutes after I ordered it.  I’d never tried a rainbow roll before, so I can’t really comment on the quality of this specific rainbow roll as compared to Yokozuna or something, but it’s definitely something I’ll get again.

Also, I got fried tofu for an appetizer, and it was heavenly.  (I feel like that’s the most American thing I could have possibly ordered off that menu, but it’s whatever.)

Bonus:  This week you get another installment of Grad School Kitchen!  Our special guests are the packets of tamarind sauce I got with frozen chicken samosas.  I didn’t use the sauce for the samosas, but there was no way I was going to waste it (I’ve gotten WAY weirder about not eating food I bought in the last couple months), so I’ve been putting it in other stuff.

An Incomplete List of Things That Are Bettered by the Addition of Tamarind Sauce:

  • chicken noodle soup
  • ramen
  • scrambled eggs

I plan to add it to poutine later this week.  Will report back.

Music:  Guess what I’m going to put here.  Just guess.

Also, this one’s just plain catchy.

See y’all next week!

Mirror, Mirror: Alternate Selves and Identity in Star Trek Beyond

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I just really love this poster, lurking Krall and everything.

(Fair warning:  spoilers GALORE)

In Star Trek (2009), Spock briefly addresses the staggering implications of the alternate universe the movie creates:

Spock:  …Nero’s very presence has altered the flow of history, beginning with the attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin, culminating in the events of today, thereby creating an entire new chain of incidents that cannot be anticipated by either party.

Uhura: An alternate reality.

Spock: Precisely. Whatever our lives might have been, if the time continuum was disrupted, our destinies have changed.

For the rest of the movie, however, the crew of the Enterprise is a little too focused on “kicking Romulan arse” (RIP Engineer Olson, gone too soon) to properly consider what being in an alternate universe really means for them.  Star Trek Beyond, on the other hand, is pretty much all about this subject.  The movie explores the ramifications of alternate universes, particularly with regards to identity and selfhood, through two intertwining motifs–mirrors/reflections and mortality.  Ultimately, it puts forth a definition of identity that, in true Star Trek fashion, is not individualistic but rather communal.  Unity, as Uhura tells Krall at one point in STB, really is strength.

The entire concept of alternate universes, of mirror selves, in Rebootverse is linked strongly with life and death.  Obviously, as I alluded to above, Rebootverse is ushered into existence not just by George Kirk’s death but also by Jim Kirk’s simultaneous birth.  In that moment, George and Jim mirror each other in a way, balance each other out.  Simon Pegg and Doug Jung set up the ways in which the mirrors and mortality motifs interact with the first few minutes of STB.  The first few seconds of STB are strikingly similar to the first few seconds of Star Trek:  a generous sweeping shot over the body of the ship, that particular beeping sound (just once this time around, but once is all it takes).  Our first shot of Kirk is one of him staring morosely into a mirror.  All his command shirts are freakishly identical, too, so his closet looks like one of those infinite mirrors.  There’s Kirk’s “episodic” comment, as well–every day on the Enterprise, the way he sees it, is a mirror of the day before.

All of that culminates in the bar scene with McCoy and Kirk.  Kirk’s got mortality on the brain–he comments that his upcoming birthday will make him older than his father ever was–but in the ensuing conversation, he holds himself up as an imperfect reflection of his father.  McCoy’s subsequent comment cements the question that will anchor the rest of the movie:

You spent all this time trying to be George Kirk, and now you’re wondering just what it means to be Jim.

Who is Jim Kirk, really?  Is he a concrete person, or is he just a distorted reflection of… of something?  That’s an especially relevant question to be asking on a metatextual level, too:  reboot!Kirk is already a reflection of TOS!Kirk, both in-story and out-of-story.  The new crew will always be thought of alongside the old crew, even if the two groups aren’t necessarily being directly compared.

So are reboot!Kirk and TOS!Kirk the same person?  Have circumstances changed them too much, or is there some core Kirk essence there, deep down?  When there are God only knows how many versions of you running around in alternate planes of reality, how much claim do you really have on being you?  Pegg and Jung mainly explore this question through three characters:  Kirk (obviously), Krall/Balthazar, and Spock.

At first, it seems as if Kirk might never escape his father’s shadow, escape the feeling that he’s nothing more than a messy, flawed reflection of George Kirk.  The destruction of the Enterprise is an almost agonizingly extended callback to the opening of Star Trek.  Kirk follows in his father’s footsteps in a few big ways.  He tries his best to fight off the invading force, despite the ship’s rapidly failing systems.  He gives the order to evacuate and stays on the ship while his crew leaves.  But then his path diverges–he’s able to get in a Kelvin pod (side note, ouch, that hurts my heart) and escape his dying ship, rather than going down with it.  The camera angle used here is particularly poignant; we only see Kirk’s face reflected, translucent and a little distorted, in the Kelvin pod’s window, overlaid first with the Enterprise’s bridge and then with the saucer as it falls to the ground.  And he thought he was an imperfect reflection of his father before?  That’s nothing compared to this moment.  Once he crash-lands on Altamid, though, he’s basically free of his father’s shadow.  Repeating his father’s trauma brought things full circle, in a way, and he’s no longer reflecting on or reflected by his own past.  Instead, the movie shifts and shows Kirk what he could become, in the form of Krall AKA Balthazar Edison.

Balthazar is a better reflection of Jim Kirk than even George Kirk was.  His one-liner during the climactic fight–“Peace is not what I was born into”–perfectly describes Kirk, who in this universe was born amidst a lightning storm and a giant battle.  Like Kirk, Balthazar is a captain who got lost in space (forgive me) and lost himself, physically and spiritually.  The funny thing about Balthazar, and the thing that makes this comparison to Kirk work so well, is that he’s a nearly perfect embodiment of the Ship of Theseus paradox.  Plutarch puts this question forth in Plutarch’s Lives, and I’m paraphrasing here:  if you have a ship and then slowly replace each of its parts with new parts, does it stop being the original ship?  Where’s the tipping point?  Is there some essence to it that makes it the original ship, even if none of the components are original to the ship?  To see how Balthazar embodies this paradox, we’ve got to bring the life/death motif back into the equation.  He uses a technology he found on Altamid to extend his own life, and the lives of just two of his crewmates, by draining other people of their life force.  As Sulu and Uhura are unfortunate enough to witness, every time Krall drains somebody, the process of transferring their life to his makes his appearance shift.  The implication, once it’s revealed that Krall was Balthazar Edison once upon a time, is that he’s done this time and again, and it’s distorted him a little bit more every time.  Balthazar may be prolonging his life, but he seems to lose more of himself each go-around.  He cheats death by becoming death, in a way.

Balthazar’s status as Kirk’s mirror image turns more literal near the end of the movie, when he sees his own reflection in a shard of glass in the maintenance chamber.  It calls back to Kirk’s own staring-in-a-mirror moment at the start of the movie, and it’s also visually significant in a couple other ways.  For one thing, Balthazar doesn’t even see his whole face reflected in that shard, and for another, the face that he does see isn’t his original self.  He’s lost too much of himself, and he can never go back, not completely.  In that sense, he provides half an answer to the Ship of Theseus paradox:  there was a tipping point for him somewhere.  He’s not the ship he used to be, and he can never be that ship again.

So if Balthazar has lost himself forever, whatever himself was, where does that leave Kirk?

Well, Kirk has to get lost a little more before he can find everything again–physically this time, not just emotionally. For a while, he only has two other crew members with him, first Chekov and then Scotty, similar to how Balthazar eventually only had Manus/Anderson and Kalara/Jessica left with him. But he finds his people again, little by little, and only with their help is he able to get everybody out of trouble. The ensuing shenanigans, while very much in the nail-biting action movie tradition, don’t lack symbolic fodder either.  Jaylah’s astral projection technology, in particular, plays a significant role in Kirk’s arc.  When Kirk uses the tech to duplicate himself God knows how many times, in order to create the diversion for the prison break, it makes the general idea of infinite parallel selves, as I mentioned briefly above, physical rather than just theoretical.  What’s more, it hearkens back to the moment when Kirk looked into his closet and saw all his identical command shirts, bringing that bit of symbolism full circle, closing one set of parentheses in this equation.

Only when the crew escapes Altamid, though, can Kirk’s arc truly conclude.  Kirk takes the exact opposite of Balthazar’s path during their final battle in Yorktown (in which, ha, the world turns upside down. Sorry, I absolutely could not pass that up).  He chooses more-than-probable death when he goes up into that chamber to get the Abronath out into space.  Instead of sucking out other people’s lives to extend his own, he’s ready to give his life to save others (and he even says as much to Balthazar’s face).  His fate and Balthazar’s are opposites, as well; Kirk lives, not by his own machinations but because Spock and McCoy save him just in time, and Balthazar dies alone in space, consumed by his own weapon.

That’s the funny thing about mirrors:  they reflect, but they don’t duplicate.

And then, somewhat far removed from all the Kirk and Balthazar drama, there’s Spock.  He deals with both of the main motifs near the beginning of the movie, when they arrive at Yorktown and he learns that Spock Prime has died.  When he looks at that tablet, with the image of Spock Prime and his lifespan right below it, he’s face to face with his own mortality, both metaphorically and literally.  That’s the open-parens of his arc.  The close-parens of his arc is what really hammers home the central thesis of the movie, though.  When the crew is back at Yorktown, Spock looks through Spock Prime’s belongings in a room walled with little diamond-shaped mirrors. That’s the very first angle we get on that scene, and a visual connection to Kirk’s earlier astral projection moment is easy to draw. In the mirror chamber, once again Spock is confronted with his own reflection in the form of an image of Spock Prime–but it’s not just him in the picture.  The camera starts out focusing on Spock Prime, but then it pulls out to show the picture of the whole crew.*  The implication is that this picture is just as much a reflection of Spock as the tablet was, that the other crewmembers are part of his self, his identity as well.

There are so many other moments in the movie that work to support this conclusion.  When the crew splits up, a lot of the pairs are mirrors for each other in some way, shape, or form:

  • McCoy and Spock: they’re more like their normal diametrically opposed selves when they first end up stuck together, but in that scene when they’re sitting side by side in the temple thing, they take on each other’s best qualities.  Spock opens up emotionally, and god, never let it be said that McCoy doesn’t say what he feels.  McCoy, meanwhile, gets calmer, more philosophical, and he really cuts to the quick of human nature when he says “fear of death is what keeps us alive.”
  • Kirk and Chekov:  both of them were/are whiz kids.  We never learn much about Chekov’s background, but he strikes me as a fresher, younger, less burdened version of Kirk.  Maybe that’s what Kirk Prime was like in his younger days.
  • Scotty and Jaylah:  aside from the obvious mechanical genius parallel, both of them were abandoned in a sense.  Going back to the first reboot movie, Scotty was left all alone in that Starfleet base on the Arctic wasteland Delta Vega.  In general, Scotty’s never quite been part of the Three Musketeers, in TOS or in the reboot movies, and he’s usually off in engineering rather than on the bridge with the rest of the main crewmembers.  Jaylah has obviously spent a lot of time alone as well, what with her Tragic Backstory.**

Furthermore, each pair of crewmates wouldn’t be able to do as much without the other.  Spock is injured and needs McCoy, but Spock is also the one who figures out the Abronath came from Altamid, probably in no small part because he was the one who logged it in the ship’s computer.  Kirk wouldn’t have been able to trick Kalara without Chekov as backup.  Jaylah wouldn’t have been able to fix the Franklin without Scotty’s help, but by the same token, she’s lived in the Franklin so long that she knows it like the back of her hand, and they might not have found Kirk and Chekov without her traps.  Sulu and Uhura each might have been able to come to the conclusion that Krall had hacked Yorktown on their own, but it would have taken them twice the time.  The prison break works so well precisely because so much of the crew is able to help execute the plan.  They’re able to get almost the whole rest of the crew to safety, as well; the only casualties (seen on screen, anyway) are poor Ensign Syl and the two crewmembers Krall drains.  The penultimate scene of the movie, the crew reunited at Kirk’s surprise party, underscores this message as well, as does the ending voiceover.  Every single main character reads part of Space, the final frontier…, which, to the best of my knowledge, is unprecedented for a Star Trek movie.

Star Trek was never just about Kirk, about the individual.  From its conception, it was a show about facing the unknown hand in hand with allies, with friends.  That’s ultimately what it means to be Jim Kirk, to answer the question McCoy posed at the movie’s outset:  to be part of a crew, one of many on the Enterprise.  There is strength in unity, as Uhura said, and that’s the very DNA of this movie.  For that reason and so many others, Star Trek Beyond feels like the reboot movie we’ve deserved all along.

~~~

*I cannot be the only one who almost screamed aloud when that happened.

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**Side note, can we appreciate that for once a female character got a Tragic Backstory that doesn’t involve losing her boyfriend or husband, losing her kid, or being on the victim end of some form of sexual violence?

Beautiful Objects: Fathers, Daughters, and 2013 Animated Movies

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So it looks like Hotel Transylvania is getting a sequel.  I’ll be honest:  every reminder of that simple fact sets my teeth on edge.  Heck, my teeth are on edge right now just from writing this.

But why? you might be asking.  Well, as it so happens, I’ve just rediscovered a thing I wrote back in 2013 about this precise subject!  I’ve cleaned it up a little bit and gif-ified it.  Here goes:

In a nutshell, movies like Hotel Transylvania and The Croods infantilize their teenage female characters by sympathizing unduly with their overbearing and at times creepy fathers.

Hotel Transylvania, I’d say, is the more egregious example of the two. The entire movie was basically Dracula and Johnny running around, getting into trouble, and discussing Mavis without her actually being present. Drac in particular made a concerted effort to keep Mavis in the dark about everything… in multiple senses of the word, actually, if you’ll forgive the vampire pun.

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For goodness’ sake, he specifically creates a fake town of scary humans so that Mavis would be tricked into thinking the human world was really as bad as he’d always made it out to be.  And it works, too.  She runs back to Daddy’s castle and Daddy’s loving arms, and Drac is satisfied.

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That is an unbelievably low, manipulative thing for Drac to do.  But the film doesn’t focus nearly as much as it should on how wrong that is. Instead, we get an entire movie’s worth of borderline-fawning character development for Drac.  “Oh nooooo, my tiny helpless baby girl might have her own ideas!  What a tragedy!”

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This might have been more forgivable if Mavis had gotten just as much character development, but her agency throughout most of the movie is blatantly disregarded. She’s just kind of clueless (not of her own volition, either, like I mentioned), and the movie and all its characters seem far more concerned with Drac’s feelings than hers. Good grief, people, if this is going to be a story about a girl gaining agency and becoming a full-fledged adult (which it REALLY should have been), then she needs to be the frickin’ heart and soul of that story.

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The Croods is in this same vein, but the theme of a father losing power over his daughter is sort of a sub-theme of the larger story: a set-in-his-ways patriarch falling in the face of change. That doesn’t excuse, however, the crappy way this film handled the Eep/Guy romance, and just Eep in general.

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YOU WASTED EMMA STONE, PEOPLE.  HOW COULD YOU.

For one thing, all Eep’s character development (which really wasn’t much, compared to Grug’s) was related somehow to the men in her life – her repressed-emotion relationship with her dad, her obvious crush on Guy, her bickering relationship with her brother. I can’t recall one scene in the movie where Eep had a quality conversation with her mom or grandma, or even where she played with Sandy or something.

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Regarding Eep/Guy, it felt as if Guy and Grug were competing to be the dominant man in Eep’s eyes, which is weird and creepy on a lot of levels. Another disturbing thing is that Grug’s systematic denial of Eep’s agency was often played for laughs – I’m thinking in particular of the scene where Grug shoves Guy-trapped-in-a-log away from Eep and sleeps between them. Just from the way that’s framed, you can tell that’s meant to be funny, but to me it was literally the exact opposite of funny.

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Yes, the entire concept of the movie is kind of that Grug is really overbearing. But he still gets much more quality character development than Eep does, and that sucks.

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But you know what?  Epic actually had a far healthier model of a father-daughter relationship than either of the above movies.

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This one, in case you had no idea what I was talking about.

I won’t deny that it had its own problems – the fridging of the only black character, the subsequent damsel-in-distress-ness of that seed-fetus-thing, and the repeated apparently-comedic come-ons from those two slugs come to mind immediately.

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Seriously, whose idea was it to kill off Beyoncé’s character?!

But Professor Bomba was the farthest thing from overbearing when it came to his daughter M.K. He assumed at the beginning that M.K. would be all too willing to help him research his mysterious forest creatures, but (1) that seems to have stemmed more from a scientist’s obsession than anything, and (2) once M.K. told him she wasn’t interested, he backed right off.

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M.K. is never fridged, either – her disappearance definitely advances Bomba’s character development, but it also facilitates her doing her own thing, having her own adventure. That’s something neither Mavis nor Eep really gets to do. The fact that Bomba was right about the Leafmen’s existence does imply a sort of father-knows-best attitude, but that’s mitigated in a sense by the presence of scientific inquiry rather than just a deep-seated and ill-supported belief. Furthermore, Bomba is shown to be perfectly fine with M.K. and Nod’s relationship – no overbearing-ness here.

Now that is how you dad.

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Somehow, though, I doubt ol’ Drac Attack is going to learn that before movie #2.

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And with that…

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P.S. Speaking of Drac Attack, I swear I’ll get around to finishing Dracula soon!  I’ve been toiling away at job applications lately, but I’ll try to go back to livetweeting this weekend.

 

3 superhero movies that need to happen yesterday, and who I’d like to see in them.

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Complete with pictures!  (Original images are NOT mine, but I put them together.)
  • Spider-Man movie with Miles Morales as the protagonist, starring Jaden Smith.
    Why?  I love Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker (actually, I just really love Andrew Garfield, period), but come on – hasn’t Peter had enough movies already?  It’s about time we had more minority representation in superhero movies.  Falcon being in Captain America 2 is a great step, as is Nick Fury getting a race-lift, but we need more than that.  (I’m also really hoping Marvel comes through with that Black Panther movie, because that would be brilliant.) Image
  • A Deadpool movie, starring Alexander Ludwig (really, though, I’d settle for anyone but Ryan Reynolds).
    Why?  Alexander’s already played crazy Cato, and he acted the snot out of that part to boot.  I’m sure he could pull off Wade’s off-the-wall personality.  Honestly, I don’t think Ryan Reynolds is funny enough to play Wade.

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  • Lastly, a Batwoman movie, starring Alexandra Breckenridge.
    Why?  One, Alexandra Breckenridge was practically made for this part.  (See the picture below.)  Two, I just really want to see what would happen if a cinematographer tried to mirror J.H. Williams’s art style.  Three, LGBT representation.  Enough said.

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(But really, though.  She was made for this part.)

That’s my two cents!  Thoughts?

Movie Night with Whitney: La Belle et La Bête

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Jeez, it’s been ages.  I’ve decided to make a habit of blogging about the movies I watch for my fantasy fiction class, so here goes.

Tonight we watched La Belle et La Bête, Jean Cocteau’s surrealist take on “Beauty and the Beast.”  One of the things I noticed about the film was its use of images related in some way, shape, or form to hunting.  This may seem obvious, given that one of the title characters is a beast, for heaven’s sake, but the ways Cocteau uses that are fascinating.

We never see the Beast hunting in the film, but it’s heavily implied that when he isn’t being civil to Belle, the Beast is out indulging his darker nature.  When Belle’s father first meets the Beast, he takes special note of a deer carcass on the ground.  Later, the Beast has to restrain himself from chasing after a deer while in Belle’s presence.  Perhaps most memorably, Belle sees the Beast come back to the castle with his clothes all torn and bloody and tells him to act like a civilized person.

The decor inside and around the Beast’s castle reflects the beastly part of him.  The chair in the dining room has carved lion heads on its arms.  The gardens are filled with stone dogs that very much resemble typical hunting dogs – pointers, setters, the like.  Nature seems to overrun the castle in places, blurring the line between civilization and beastliness.  All of this is reinforced by the source of the Beast’s magic – a place on the castle grounds that he calls Diana’s Pavilion.  This is an obvious reference to the Roman goddess of hunting, and indeed when Ludovic and Avenant (Belle’s brother and his friend) break into the strictly off-limits Pavilion, there’s a statue of Diana inside.  Like the rest of the statues in the castle, Diana can move, so she raises her bow and shoots Avenant in the back.

It could be just me, but I think there’s a certain significance to the goddess being the Roman Diana rather than her Greek equivalent Artemis.  In my critical reading and writing class, we’ve been talking about Roman civilization in conjunction with Ovid, and my professor mentioned that the Greeks were great at intellectual pursuits like math and science, but not so awesome at empire-building.  The Romans, however, were all about conquest and empires.  In light of this, it’s fitting that Cocteau chose Diana rather than Artemis – the goddess of a people bent on hunting power rather than hunting knowledge.

Another unrelated thing that interested me was the implied comparison between Avenant (the Gaston-like character, for those of you who are more familiar with the Disney version) and the Beast.  The movie basically begins with Avenant asking Belle to marry him and then trying to force her to kiss him when she says no.  That’s sexual assault right there – not something a civilized person should do.  The Beast, however, is quite restrained compared to Avenant.  True, he asks Belle to marry him every night at dinner (the myth that “no” means “convince me” gets really old really fast), but he says explicitly that he’ll never force Belle to do anything.  As far as he’s concerned, Belle is the one in charge at the castle.  So we have this really interesting comparison of the two characters, where the Beast is the civilized person, and the “civilized” person – Avenant – is a beast.

Normally, I might doubt whether Cocteau did this intentionally, but the events at the movie’s end make me think he was fully aware of what he was implying.  When Diana shoots Avenant, he transforms into a beast and falls, dead, onto the floor of the Pavilion.  At the same time, the Beast transforms into a prince – who looks strikingly similar to Avenant.  Belle even comments on it.  I just checked IMDb, and sure enough, Jean Marais plays both Avenant and the prince.  That, to me, implies that Cocteau meant for the two characters to be two sides of the same coin.

(Ludovic’s story was left hanging at the end, but I have this notion that seeing the Beast’s magic made him go insane, and he wandered around the castle for the rest of his days, gibbering senselessly… I may have to write that fanfic.)

Overall, I liked this movie.  The cinematography and costume design were positively swoonworthy, and the story was different enough from Disney’s version to hold my interest.  I’d definitely recommend it.

I’ll be back with another movie night post in two weeks, when we watch The Seventh Seal.  Now I’m off to read The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus.  Au revoir!