Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rocking at Hogwarts

"Snape. Snape. Severus Snape. DUMBLEDORE!"

Today is Harry Potter's birthday. In reality, it is JK Rowling's birthday. I'm wishing a very, very happiest of birthdays to both, the Boy Who Lived and the wonderful woman who created him.

I can vividly remember when I was assigned to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I was eleven and in fifth-grade gifted classes and I was irritated that I had to read this fantasy nonsense, as someone who preferred realistic fiction ala Judy Blume. However, after reading the first chapter aloud in class (back when my teacher assumed Hagrid was the only British one, with his thickly written accent), I was hooked. I begged my grandparents to take me to the bookstore to buy my own copy of the novel and I finished it the next night.

If only then I knew this was child's play of my Harry Potter reading records (Hello, Order of the Phoenix, done in 14.5 hours). There was something magically hopeful about Harry and his world. It was the stuff of fantasy, but realistic enough to not completely turn me off. To this day, I'm not sure Hogwarts doesn't exist and maybe I'm just a run of the mill Muggle, living in quasi-ignorance.

This also stands out to me, because JK Rowling and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is what made me realize writing was what I wanted to do. It just made so much sense, it was something I hadn't thought of before reading the series. Really, it wasn't something I had thought of prior to hearing that JK (because we're on a first name/initial status at this point) started the series on a train, writing it on napkins. Clearly it wasn't fruitful at first shot, but it was life-changing. I wanted to change lives, too.

When I think of my childhood in terms of literature, two things stand out: Watership Down and Harry Potter. When thinking about the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in theaters, it makes me a little misty-eyed. In July 2011, my childhood is officially over (especially fitting, since I graduate from college in May 2011). It was also eerily appropriate when the novel was released the summer after I graduated high school, weeeeeird!

I cried when I watched the trailer. I got PISSED when I sat through nine hours of Twilight garbage and didn't get a Deathly Hallows trailer. I cried when I saw Eclipse a second time, mostly for the Deathly Hallows trailer. Every time I go to the movies, I'm a little sad if I don't see a Deathly Hallows trailer. I didn't even LIKE Deathly Hallows that much. It's the most bittersweet anticipation I've ever experienced.

Ranking the books is hard. It's hard and so easy at the same time. I love talking about the books with people and seeing how my favorites stack up to theirs. As it is:
  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
However, after watching and rewatching the film adaptation of Half-Blood Prince, I might need to reread that and reassess my ranking.

It's a phenomenon. It's great literature. I'm sad to see it end. It has staying power. It's more than just a fad. It's the story of a generation, yet it is satisfying to all. How many stories can do this? Yes, I challenge you, Twihards. My mom could not get three pages into Twilight, but she finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and is hungry for more.

I'm sad to see this end, but I'm so happy it happened. Thank God, it did.

"Rocking at Hogwarts" by Harry and the Potters; 2003

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

"Who is Salt?"

That seems to be the inevitable question throughout this movie. I saw Salt the day after it came out, of course I had to, I'm in love with Angelina Jolie. This movie, contrary to what critics are saying was actually pretty good. It's an action movie, I don't know why critics have such high expectations for them in terms of plot. They are good for explosions and outrageous stunts, not much else.

That being said and despite plot holes, I thought this plot was excellent for an action movie. Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, CIA officer. One day, Salt and her friend Ted (Liev Schreiber) interrogate a Russian defector who informs them that a Russian spy/sleeper agent is going to assassinate the Russian president at the American vice-president's funeral. The defector, Orlov, informs them that the Russian spy's name is Evelyn Salt.

Salt is concerned about her husband's safety and runs off, resulting in the CIA, specifically Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to think she's guilty. The rest of the movie is a roller coaster ride that leaves you out of breath and for most of the movie unsure of who to trust.

I figured this was just a little action movie, and critics seem to think that's all it is. Critics seem to have high expectations for action movies and I still don't know why. By and large there are epic plot holes and things that happen for no reason. I understand that I'm supposed to suspend disbelief in most movies, ESPECIALLY action movies (and horror movies). Yes, there are plot holes. Yes, at the end I was like "WHAT?" in a different way than I was afterInception. However, I think the plot was still very strong for an action movie.

The cast was also really good. I had read that Tom Cruise was supposed to be Edwin Salt, and I couldn't have been happier when they rewrote the script for Angelina Jolie. Beyond just being over Tom Cruise at this point (really, man, maybe you should just retire and enjoy being a Scientologist), it was great to see the role given to a badass woman. Women can kick ass and take names just as well as a guy can. Her fight scenes weren't unrealistic, there were times that she got her butt kicked, but she recovers. It was surprisingly empowering. My mom and I left the theater like "Yeah! Let's go for a run!" ...but it was like 97 degrees outside so instead we went home and watched TV.

It was a really great action movie, one of the best that I have seen in a while...I'd go so far as to say in years. The plot is more complicated than it seems. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief, you really think Angelina Jolie can hop off of a bridge and land on a moving truck and go further as to keep hoping from car to truck all while being shot at? Exactly. It was refreshing and fun. I'd probably go see it again, but it's not like Inception, where I absolutely must go see it again. I'd give this a B...maybe a B+ because I really did enjoy this :) I think most people won't be disappointed in this film.

"Who Do You Think You Are?" by The Spice Girls; 1997

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dream On

"You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling."

So, I saw Inception on Monday and it's taken me this long to assess the movie. It wasn't bad, quite the contrary, it was on of the best movies I've seen in a really long time. However, there's just so much. Each day, I thought of something new about this movie, and it was great.

Frankly, I'm seeing this movie again. Next week cannot come fast enough and I think everyone should see this movie. Well, if you like this type of chaotic, makes you think movie. If you only really like Disney films and vapid romantic comedies and simple plots with lots of explosions, this isn't for you.

Let's start with the cast. Perfect. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb, our protagonist who is able to get into people's dreams and extract information. He works with Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Ariadne (Ellen Page) directly. Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, and Michael Caine also star. They are all excellent and this was an excellent example of great casting. This movie could've been crap and this cast would've salvaged it.

Now, let's talk plot. It's very complicated, yet very simple. Cobb can slip into people's dreams and extract information, which, when used for corporate espionage, is illegal. For some reason (no spoilers here!), Cobb is unable to go home and Saito offers to clear his record if he can manage inception. Inception is planting an idea in someone's subconscious and Arthur thinks it's impossible. Cobb says you just have to go deep enough and hence begins our adventure.

I was afraid that this would be more complicated, but it was surprisingly simple to grasp, while being remarkably complicated. At the beginning I was a little disoriented, unsure of what was a dream and what was a reality, however I liked it. I won't lie, I was worried this would be a heaping piece of shit like that movie from a few years back Stay, with Ewan McGregor and Ryan Gosling, but this was infinitely better.

This film is visually magnificent. The two standouts to me all took place at the same time. I loved the fight featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the zero-gravity hotel corridor. It was mesmerizing and awesome. I appreciate it even more after hearing Gordon-Levitt (my future husband, ps) say in an interview that they shot it in a rotating box. SUH-WEET. The second standout was the way Christopher Nolan handled the time-frame of the three dreams. How the van dropped in slow motion, the hotel lost gravity, and the rest was in normal time (as far as we're concerned). Brilliant.

I'm starting to wonder if Leonardo DiCaprio is trying to tell us something with his latest role choices, but they are great movies (if you haven't seen Shutter Island, stop reading this and go Netflix/On Demand it right now) and they really make you think twice. They are movies that you leave debating with whoever you see it with, which is refreshing.

A+, Christopher Nolan! A+++! As someone who doesn't really care for the new Batman series (I won't lie, I wasn't too impressed with The Dark Knight, with the exception of Heath Ledger), I was a little nervous going into this. It definitely did not disappoint. I'm going to see it again next week. Make sure you don't doze off or have to run to the bathroom during this, you need to pay close attention to everything. It flies by and is a lot of fun. Fab movie.

"Dream On" by Aerosmith; 1973

Monday, July 19, 2010

Can't Smile Without You

"'I've missed this,' Marcus thinks, 'I've missed you.'"

I want a love like Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie.

Happy Birthday, Marcus Flutie. Well, technically it was yesterday since it's after midnight, but whatever.

In honor of the birth of a fictional character I'm in love with, I'm telling everyone that you must read Megan McCafferty's series about Jessica Darling.

I started reading these while I was still in high school, the perfect time to read them and I find that I really did kind of grow up with Jessica Darling (not as much as I did with Harry Potter, but still). Her outlook on life is strikingly similar to mine and I really appreciate her as a character. Written diary-style (sans Perfect Fifths), you really get into the mind of Jess, which makes her become a part of you. She's raw and candid and real, something missing in a lot of books I read with characters this age. Jess is authentic, rather than generic.

Marcus Flutie is perfect. He's a mess, but so deep and...he's fascinating. I hope that one day I meet a boy like Marcus, even if we don't fall in love. Marcus could be my best friend and my lover.

Sunny steals the last book. You can find out more about her later, but she's a pleasant addition to the characters I love so much.

I was really sad when reading what I heard to be the final book, but Jessica's a grown up. Marcus is a grown up. She's done with college and has a steady job. She knows people getting married. In many ways I'm where Jessica is at the beginning of Perfect Fifths. I so very wish they'd make movies of each novel, but at the same time, I don't want it damaged by Hollywood.

GO READ THIS SERIES. It's not cheesy and stupid, it's smart and funny. It's sophisticated. It tells the story of a young adult without the stereotype of being a young adult novel. It's grown up and it's real. In some ways, it feels like McCafferty just made her name Jessica Darling for the sake of the novel, because I can't believe this reality came from a subconscious (though, after seeing Inception, I may be wrong).

It is a light, fun read, but it'll also touch you. I cried when I finished the final book because it was over. In an earlier book (I think Second Helpings), I wrote Jess's valedictorian speech down on construction paper and taped it to my door. This is a coming of age story in the best form and I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it as much as I do. I honestly can't imagine my life without Jessica, Marcus, Hope, Cinthia, Bridget, Percy and even Manda.

I wish I could go into more detail, but I don't want to ruin it. Just go check it out. They're in the Fiction/Literature section of Barnes and Noble or they can be found online: Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds, Fourthcomings, Perfect Fifths. All are worth it. Some more than others, but that differs per person. Perfect Fifths and Second Helpings are my two favorites, I think.

While J.K. Rowling may be the author that inspired me to write, Megan McCafferty is the author that's inspired me to not give up.

"Well, this will make a good happy story," Marcus says. "Whenever you decide to tell it."
At first Jessica nods in agreement, the top of her ponytail striking his chin with every head bob. But then she corrects herself with a decisive head shake. "We," she says.
"Whenever we tell it," she says. "Because it's
our story."

"Can't Smile Without You" by Barry Manilow; 1978

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Single Ladies

"You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie."

I've never actually seen Sleepless in Seattle (but it's on demand, so I'm starting it tomorrow), but this quote has always been glued into my brain. It's true. For as much as I think I want to be in love, I really don't. I want to be in love in a movie.

I recently joined 20 Something Bloggers and one discussion board topic asked the impossible question: Why are you single?

Why am I single?

For my first three years of college, I hated this about myself. There were girls everywhere that were meaner than me and not as pretty as me that were with really attractive, really sweet, really smart, really funny guys. What was the problem?! Besides the fact that, you know, I'm socially awkward sometimes. This is especially maddening, even still, since I had a level of confidence that bordered on arrogant in high school, but that seemed to have left me the minute I stepped foot on campus the first time.

Then, after joining a sorority, I met quite a few girls in serious relationships, 3/4 of the couples are now engaged. ENGAGED?! I'm old enough to know people that are getting married?! When did that happen?? More importantly, how do I make it stop? I realize part of this is because I attend a Catholic university, where a lot of my peers grew up with the expectation and desire to be married with a baby or two by twenty-five.

That's when I realized I wouldn't want to be in a relationship. Why am I single? I'm afraid of commitment, first and foremost...and most importantly. I have zero desire to be in a serious relationship. I have zero desire to be married by the time that I'm twenty-five...I'm not even sure I want to be married when I turn thirty. I definitely don't want kids. If I could get my tubes tied tomorrow, I would. To be frank, the only reason why I want a relationship is because I'm still a virgin and I don't want to remain one until I'm married. No, thank you. It's just not for me. If you're going to do it, GOOD FOR YOU!

It bothers me that I feel like people my age are dating to get married, because that doesn't interest me in the slightest. I'd like to have a serious relationship to say that I've had a serious relationship post-high school, where nothing seems to be considered serious, anyway. I feel as though when you're in your twenties, though, and you start dating seriously, people start wondering when you and said significant other are going to take the next step. Why do I have to? I have my entire life ahead of me.

I also think I'm single because I'm too passionate. I have several beliefs and I'm very vocal about them and they are deal breakers. I'm very liberal, for instance, and I don't think I could date someone actively (politically) conservative. I like cats, which sounds silly, but I can't see my life without a cat in the future. I don't want children (yes, this could change) and I don't want someone who would want children right away. I love musical theater and I couldn't be with someone who couldn't at least tolerate it for me. I don't want to stay in my city, so what's the point of finding someone right now?

Why am I single? I'm an emotional trainwreck. I want to get close and will get needy and clingy if I'm feeling neglected, but then when I get too much attention, I feel suffocated and want, no kind of need to cut and run. I'm more trouble than I'm worth, it seems - my words, no one else's.

I'm single because I spent Monday and Tuesday stalking Taylor Lautner outside of a local high school and accidentally ended up on the news. Because I have a bad temper, because I sometimes like to play games, and because I'm the girl next door, one of the guys - not the girl of your dreams.

I used to hate this about myself and tried to become a girl of one's dreams,'s easier to just be me. I'm just glad I'm realizing this at twenty-one instead of forty-one. I'm embracing being single because there's a ton I want to do. I want to travel Europe. Move to New York. Maybe move to San Diego. Get my Ph.D in Cinema Studies from NYU. Make a name for myself. Publish a book. Be my own security blanket. Being in a relationship won't help make any of that possible.

I'm single because I don't want to be considered selfish at the expense of someone else. I'm single because I'm twenty-one and deserve to be selfish. Besides, casually dating is seriously underrated and makes life fuller.

I'm single for my own good.

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" by Beyonce; 2008

Sunday, July 4, 2010


"This isn't the time to make hard and fast decisions, this is the time to make mistakes. Take the wrong train and get stuck somewhere chill. Fall in love - a lot. Major in Philosophy because there's no way to make a career out of that. Change your mind. Then change it again, because nothing is permanent."

I realize that in my previous rant, I never actually REVIEWED Eclipse. So, Bella and Edward aside, I actually liked this movie and it makes me wish that "The Twilight Saga" was only a trilogy, so that it would end on a high note.

I think that this was the best acted, funniest, most action packed Twilight film so far. I think it did lack the immediacy that the original had, but it didn't make it less exciting, though it would've added to the action. I never really felt the rush to train and the impending terror from the newborn army. They were just kinda there.

I missed Rachelle Lefevre as Victoria, a lot, but Bryce Dallas Howard wasn't as horrendous as I thought she would be, frankly. Xavier Samuel kind of stole the movie as Riley. He was GREAT. Billy Burke also made this movie. This was by far his best performance and I found myself becoming more Team Charlie than Edward or Jacob.

That being said, as an adaptation, I thought the movie kind of fell flat. Eclipse was my favorite book and it made me laugh and cry. I didn't feel Jacob's pain of being in love with someone in love with someone else nearly as much as I did in the book. My heart didn't break like it did in the book and that was disappointing.

Yet, as a standalone, I thought the writing was really stepped up. I LOVED Jessica's valedictorian speech. Some parts were still melodramatic (Edward saying "my reason for existing" instead of "the girl I love" for example), but it was toned down considerably between New Moon and Eclipse.

Eclipse, in my opinion, earns a solid B. Let's be real, none of these movies are going to win an Oscar any time soon. They're fun, fluffy little films and the sooner people realize it, the less scary Twi-hards will be. I wish that Summit had the same faith in Twilight fans that Warner Brothers has in Harry Potter fans. I would have waited until Deathly Hallows was over for Eclipse and I feel that the rush to get it out is why I'm so neutral about the film adaptation of my favorite book in the series.

As an aside, Taylor Lautner is filming in Pittsburgh. He surprised Eclipse viewers at the Waterfront theater. I wasn't there. I want to die. If he leaves Pittsburgh and I don't manage to get a glimpse of him...I will die.

"Ours" by The Bravery; 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Never Think

"He's like a drug for you, Bella. I see that you can't live without him now. It's too late. But I would have been healthier for you. Not a drug; I would have been the air, the sun."

This is kinda long. Sorry, I have a lot of beef with this idea.

So, I've been thinking a lot about Eclipse lately. I went to see it at midnight and then again yesterday, wondering why it didn't really have an effect on me the first time. Surprisingly, this cheap, silly, fluffy film has got me thinking a lot about myself. Why was it rubbing me so wrong? This was my favorite book in the series, everyone was declaring "The best Twilight yet!" and somehow...I felt nothing.

Then, towards the end of yesterday's viewing of the film, I realized what it was that I don't like about it. I really detest Edward Cullen. I can hear crazed fangirl hearts breaking all over the world and plots of my death right now, but...I'm sorry. I just don't like the guy. This goes beyond my being on Team Jacob (sorry, I am), to the fact that he's kind of a huge douche.

Yes, I've said it. Edward Cullen is a douche and his relationship...Bella and Edward's relationship embodies everything I don't want. Ever. He's a lying, manipulative douchebag. Things he admits to in Twilight ("Everything about me invites you in.") and New Moon ("You can't trust vampires, trust me."), only solidify these in Eclipse when he lies to Bella not once, not twice, but continually throughout the movie/book. He lies about Alice's vision, even though it directly affects her safety. He screws with her engine. He won't let her visit Jake, her best friend who stopped her from killing herself when Edward went MIA. He manipulates her into telling Jake she (stupidly) accepted Edward's marriage proposal. Maybe he should be a little more appreciative to Jacob, since this kid saved his "reason for existing" when she was suicidal because of HIM. There is nothing honest about this guy.

His possessiveness is borderline abusive and the first sign to look for in abusive relationships. He's so clingy, it makes me sick. And don't even get me started on Bella. She's a sad and sorry excuse for a modern woman. I despise the way the reader/viewer is tricked into thinking she's really making this decision for herself because she feels "more like myself" in the vampire world, rather than making such a rash decision by being a horny teenager, like she actually is.

It's a melodramatic action, to be willing to throw one's entire life away family, friends everything, just for a boy you love at seventeen, to entirely change for the boy you love. A melodramatic action that only a naive seventeen year old would make, which is why this is kind of believable. What isn't is Charlie's acceptance of all this. Yeah, I know Bella's legally an adult, but there's NO WAY Charlie would be okay with this. Ever. He's actually a decent parental unit. He would've stepped in.

But that gets me on the tangent of Breaking Dawn, which I'm not even touching right now (you're not Harry Potter).

The thing that really trips me up is...are there really girls that feel this way? That find this possessiveness romantic? I remember being infatuated with Edward Cullen (until New Moon happened, because I am a modern woman and Jacob is the more modern man) when I was in high school. Thank GOD I didn't read this when I was more impressionable. Thank GOD I don't have a crappy mom. Who knows what I'd believe about the sanctity of marriage and falling in love in high school.

I was very much in love in high school. I still love him very much, but I'd never in a million years want to marry him. At least not without experiencing my twenties first. Who knows, we very well could end up together, but if we do, at least I won't be wondering "What if?" like Bella Swan (more than likely) realistically would in ten years when it's too late and she feels what Rosalie told her.

It's obviously not just me, but it's also, in some ways, just me...I think if you get married that today's day and're throwing your life away. I know, there's that "OMIGOD! YOU JUST HAVEN'T MET THE ONE. IF YOU MET THE ONE, YOU'D KNOW!" romanticism, but...I don't think I would. I could very well meet the one and that's great, but I wouldn't let myself marry him. Not now. My life is just beginning. There's so much I want to do that I don't want to be tied down for? I want to move to New York and live in a crappy apartment above an Indian restaurant, which makes the whole place smell like curry. I want to lay on the beach in LA and write a book. I want to go to grad school. I want to go to Paris for six months. I want to live alone for a little. I want to live with roommates a little. Most importantly, I just want to live.

Is there nothing Bella wanted to do? Did she not want to live? Because ultimately, she is begging for her murder...asking for suicide. Yeah, it's morbid when it's tossed in your face in such blunt language, isn't it?

Obviously, everything worked out great for her and she managed to get it all so why not get married to the boy that makes your palms sweat and your cheeks rosy junior year of high school? Everything will come up roses if you follow that plan of action. You change for the boy of your dreams (UGH) and magically it's for the better. You get the best friend. The family...and most important the guy you changed for at the end of it all. And maybe a "little nudger" to make your family complete.

Maybe it's just my cynicism, but just that thought makes me itch. I can't imagine being twenty-one with a child and a husband. Jacob was actually right in Eclipse when he said something along the lines of "I can't believe you're ending your life before you really even lived." Jessica elaborates in her valedictorian speech: "Now is the time to make mistakes" (kudos screenwriter, you knocked that out of the ball park). It is the time to live, it is the time to make mistakes. Not change for your husband and abandon your support system.

I'm just offended by Stephenie Meyer setting us back in time. I'll end this with the same Facebook status I had after I saw New Moon:

Bella Swan: Setting women back since 2005.
Thanks for nothing.

"Never Think" (aptly titled) by Rob Pattinson; 2008