A blog about general entertainment, fashion, and movies. And some random stuff too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soapbox: Banned Books Week

Next week (October 8th) "Howl" is coming to the Angelika in Dallas. I thought it was only fitting to go ahead and get on my soapbox and tie this movie into Banned Book Week, which is going on right now.

Banned Books Week is this week, September 25th through October 1st. This is a week where awareness is raised for books that have been challenged in some way in the past. Therefore, I've taken my freshmen down to the library so our librarian can talk to them about what all that means. I know that most students don't think about their right to read the books they want (assuming that any of my 150 students, indeed, would enjoy reading for pleasure), but I think it's important that they are at least aware that people are trying to censor and control that. The funny thing to witness is their turn from indifference or ignorance about this issue, to getting fired up about the the thought of someone taking away their choice to read a certain book, even if they aren't interested in the book. A lot of times, they don't care about their rights until someone tells them that their rights are being threatened.

While sitting and watching my librarian talk about the books that have been challenged, I can't help but squirm just a little bit. The reasons that people have challenged books are so petty and ridiculous in most all cases. For example, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstine was challenged because in one of his silly poems he mentions eating the baby and that encourages cannibalism. In Where's Waldo, there are ladies in bikinis, even though it is because they are on a beach. Madeline L'engle's Wrinkle in Time was challenged because it promoted evil and witchcraft, even though she is a well-known Christian author. Even Little House on the Prairie was challenged... I mean, mostly that book is about hugging your family and sewing dolls.

Now, do I think that each family has the right to choose what topics/subject matter they allow to be read within their own household? Of course, that right is reserved for parents to make for themselves and their children. But, do I believe that that choice should be made for every family in the US by one group who doesn't agree with a book's content? Absolutely not. I think it should be an individual decision, not something that is forced onto anyone. Don't take books off of shelves and deprive those of us who want to give it a try the chance to do that. 

As the presentation ends each class period, I find that my students are more interested in these banned books now that they know some of these titles are taboo. Perhaps if none of them had seen this presentation and were never informed of this censorship, they would have never wanted to read these books. My guess is, they wouldn't have. But because these books were challenged or banned, they in turn became much more interesting to my students than they ever would have been before. Which brings me around to my point, when people decide to complain and boycott most things, it usually has the opposite effect that they want. It just draws more attention to it and will eventually cause interest and awareness to rise. If it's a book you want no one to ever read, raising heck about it isn't the way to go about it. 

This reminds me of a situation that happened just a few years ago surrounding the release of The Golden Compass to movie theaters. There were all kinds of controversies with that, and a few groups (who most had never even read the book, so this was completely out of ignorance; many didn't even know the movie was based on a book!) thought it was a great idea to rally and boycott the movie. And what happened? It was on the news everywhere, raised more awareness than any marketing the film could have produced, and got some people interested in it that never would have seen it otherwise, had it not been for all the controversy.

I guess, with that in mind, I should be thanking those groups who have gone up against some of my favorite books and tried to get them censored and taken off shelves. If it wasn't for them, the controversy and hype surrounding them wouldn't exist and therefore the interest in them wouldn't continue to peak like it does. My students wouldn't be interested in reading these classic books now, that early today, before it was talked about in the Banned Books Presentation, they would never have thought twice about. Movies, such as "Howl" wouldn't exist. There wouldn't be anything interesting enough to write a script without it! So thanks censorship! I'm glad that a lot of the time, it back fires. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

Today, FINALLY, I got to see Keira Knightley in a movie, in a THEATER, for the first time in nearly 3 years! It's been MUCH too long. Now for anyone who knows me well, KNOWS just what Keira means to me. She's my #1 girl crush, my favorite actress of all time, and the person I would probably want to meet and hang out with most out of all the celebrities on the planet. I can't explain it completely, but I've been in love with her since I was 18 and it's only gotten worse since then. I've bought every magazine she's ever been on the cover of and every movie she's ever been in. Even the bad ones. Even the mini-series version of Dr. Zhivago (which I actually loved)!

To me, she can do no wrong, so going into "Never Let Me Go," I'd have to say I was severely biased. It's hard to be objective when doing a movie review, but in this case, I already knew I would be overly inclined to enjoy it just because of the sheer bliss of Keira being in a movie that came to America for a change!

With that being said, as I watched the film, I tried my best to look at it as subjectively as possible. Hah! Spoilers below... like, a lot.

This movie takes place in a dis-topian society that seems a lot like our regular world, but is NOT. Carey Mulligan's character, Kathy, begins by narrating her childhood and young adult life with her two closest friends, Ruth (Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). Ruth and Tommy end up being together, even though it was obvious that Tommy and Kathy were in love even when they were very young. The rest of the story unfolds to reveal that this boarding "type" school these children have been attending is actually just a humane place to raise clones who have been created specifically just for organ donations. Eventually these kids will grow to adulthood and then be forced to donate as many organs as they can before they die. Through learning, dealing with, and understanding their fate, these three characters begin to confront the undertones of betrayal, love, and jealousy between them.

This story asks a pretty obvious question about humanity. If it came down to this situation, where we'd be able to avoid cancer and other diseases by using organs collected from cloned humans, would we have any (humanity, that is)? When confronted with the question, the answer in this movie is 'no.' At the end, the Headmistress of Hailsham says that she tried to show that the students at her school had souls, but no one cared if they did. No one was even asking about it. She says "If you ask them if they'd want to go back to the darkness, to go back to a world that has cancer ... , the answer will always be 'no.'" These children were created, allowed to grow up, and kept healthy for the soul purpose of having their organs harvested. And even though it was as though they were cattle or crops, the rest of humanity didn't care. Who cares what happens to those clones even if they have souls, love, friendship, and everything humans are supposed to have? They are nameless and faceless, kept somewhere that is inconsequential, out of site and out of mind. Don't think about the injustices that are going on, as long as it serves you well, or doesn't bother you. This is the attitude I think a lot of people take on in real life today about other things. Maybe not as blatantly, but almost. 

I think this movie was done really well. It was beautifully acted by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. Each of them portrayed their characters very well. I especially enjoyed the twitchy awkward factor that Garfield added to Tommy. It really worked with his character. Some of the sweetest moments of the film were when we got to see the Hailsham students having to interact with people in the outside world. There was a scene where they had to order breakfast and none of them knew how. They were so nervous and scared that they all ordered what their friends did. It was so cute! They are, in their own ways, so lovable.

There were times that I wasn't sure how I felt about Keira's character, Ruth. Even when the characters were all being played by the children, Ruth seemed jealous and awful. But thankfully, for me, half way through the film she redeems herself. The scene where I was most impressed by Keira was when Kathy was working as a "carer" for those donating. She had traveled to a hospital to oversee one of her patient's operations, and it just so happened that Ruth was there, too. She had had her 2nd donation and was in bad shape. She had to use a walker to get around. As Ruth and Kathy walk down the hospital hall together, you can see a complete shift in Ruth's demeanor. After years of having not seen this girl (Kathy), her supposed best yet estranged friend, and nearly on the brink of death, Ruth seems more likable than ever. To me, this was some of the most genuine acting Keira did in the entire movie. I don't know why that scene hit me the way it did, but I really loved it.

In the end, of course, Ruth "completes" or dies after her 3rd donation. It's just AWFUL how it happens. She's on an operating table, unconscious, tube down her throat, eyes OPEN. As they remove her donation (which is her liver), she flat lines and dies. There are no frantic attempts to revive her, there is no urgency, no crash cart. They just seal up the liver in a bag, disconnect her oxygen, turn off the lights, and leave her body, open and still bloody, there on the table, as though she was just another tool in the operating room. She is not human. The image is haunting and unsettling. And that's the last we see of Ruth.

After that, there is one more powerful scene where Tommy releases a horrendous outburst after finding out that he and Kathy cannot defer their donations. The rumor was that couples in love could apply to have a few extra years together, and it was Ruth's last wish that Kathy and Tommy apply for this to make up for her keeping them apart all through school. They find out this possibility never existed and as his true fate sinks in, he lets his emotions out. Kathy tries to comfort him and hold him and it makes for a very beautiful, yet very tragic scene. It was very powerful in letting the audience see just how human these characters, who were viewed as things, really are. The music swells, and by the end they are both holding each other in the middle of the street, in the light of their headlights. 

With all of the elements of this film, the thing that stood out most to me was the soundtrack. And it's not just because the title "Never Let Me Go" comes from a song that Kathy plays over and over, but Rachel Portman's music fits this movie so perfectly. Beyond that, it also adds to scenes where perhaps something was missing. I certainly will be going and buying the actual hard copy CD of this one and adding it to my list of favorite instrumental albums.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was heartbreaking and unsettling, but very good. And I only teared up a bit on the way home. (Seeing Keira die always upsets me a LOT!) I hope it will eventually hit wide release and more people will get to see it. And I am satisfied that this is what is kicking off the new season of movies, especially since Keira is back! Hooray!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie Review: Easy A

I have been looking forward to this weekend for SO many reasons. Firstly, because I was going to get to see my cousin, Ben, do a speech in Austin... (Which was great). Secondly, because Keira Knightley's first movie in what feels like a BAJILLION YEARS, "Never Let Me Go," was being released this weekend... Sadly, however, it's not in Texas yet! And thirdly, THIS MOVIE, "Easy A!" I cannot begin to explain what a crush I have on Emma Stone... And this movie FINALLY allows her to be the center of a attention!

This movie was like "Mean Girls" meets "Saved!" but with its own flair. It was smart, funny, and cuuuuuute! I really loved it, and I don't think any other actress could have played Olive like Emma Stone did. She's seems so intelligent. Her delivery is always dry and witty. She's perfect. It's hard to believe that this was her first real starring role! The only reserve I had about her character is, "How could people not notice her? She's GORGEOUS!" But that is a great problem to have, haha. Also, the writing for this film was awesome. I wouldn't say that it was better writing than "Mean Girls," but it was still very clever. What a great vocabulary she has! I loved Olive's parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson). They were so hysterical. And I'm rambling, but whatever!

Overall, I would say this movie held its own very well, even with the hype and the comparisons to "Means Girls," etc. The modern day take on The Scarlett Letter was done really well and it worked. And lo! it may actually help a few of my fellow teachers from my school, who have a hard time making that book relevant to their juniors, present it this year. The movie isn't perfect; there was a musical number that was irritating to me even though they tried to joke that it was, in fact, pointless (Just because you know it doesn't fit and you identify it in the film doesn't make it ok), but it never lost me. Not once! I was entertained the whole time, and I LAUGHED a LOT! Win win win! Go see this movie! It's great.

P.S. 'Trollop' is my new favorite word.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cody's First Music Video

Awe, look how cute!
As many of you know that my little cousin is Cody Linely, who is most famous for his role as Jake Ryan on Hannah Montanna. I do what I can to spread the word about anything he's up to in his career, even though I know I only reach a small group of people. , I've got to do my duty as the older cousin! :)

With that being said, I knew I had to throw a blog post together in honor of Cody's latest. Recently Cody has been working with one of his friends, Capo, to cut some songs. I've heard a few of them and they are really great! I'm excited for what he has in store for his music in the future.

Cody just released his first music video today so I have to share it with my little group of followers! I am really proud of all Cody has done, and this is Cody's newest passion. Therefore, everyone check this out and be looking for more music from him! He'll be making announcements via his twitter page, please follow!

Monday, September 13, 2010

VMAs Red Carpet

Don't really have a top 5 best or worst of this awards show... it doesn't lend itself well to real fashion rules. So I'll just post pics and give my opinions. Enjoy!

Katy Perry looks AWESOME in this dress. It's kind of like it was made for her. The make-up, the colorful hair... This look is VERY Katy Perry, if I can be lame and just describe her as herself. But I think that's when she works the best. She is more of a commodity than her music sometimes, I feel, and if she keeps being all cute and goofy like she is, I bet she'll continue to be successful.

Jane Lynch is wearing some sort of Matrix-esque cape/trench coat. But even though it's really weird, it works for her, and especially at an event like this. She seems like a really cool, lesbian super-hero. Is that ok to say? Because I mean it in all the best ways! I love her.

Justin Bieber looks like he's trying REALLY hard to be Justin Timberlake. And Usher. At the same time. But little does he know, he's actually a teeny white douchebag. I HATE it when young, pre-pubescent-voiced white boys talk as though they are mid to late 20-year-old black men. It's DUMB. And I especially dislike when the aforementioned type of little white boy tries to dress much cooler than he actually is. It's like when he lip-synced on stage as though he's a real performer... but he's not. I try not to hate, because I understand the teeny-crazes. I mean, I was a Hanson fan when they were the teenies (and GOD do I still love them, so I know it can translate into real love some day)... and so I have always supported the Jo Bros... but I ... just... I just CAN'T with this one. Sorry!

Paramore! The boys look fine... like a normal band. But Hayley... um... I like the dress... the shoes are weird, but COULD work if it weren't for her make up and bad hair do. I always love her color, but slicking it back in a teeny bun to where only her bangs show... it's not flattering. And even if you do that... at least do her face up nice instead of making pale and washed out.

Selena Gomez caught some flack for this dress, but I think she looks BEAUTIFUL. It's sexy, but not slutty... it doesn't seem like she's trying too hard. She looks great! I'm excited to see Selena transition. I have a feeling she'll do it with much more grace and poise than some OTHER Disney kids. (Not referring to Miley... or am I?)

Um, Evan Rachel Wood... can we say ILL FITTING? This dress fits SO BADLY I cannot even tell what part of her body is what... where are her boobs?! And why is her waist/hips so strangely shaped? This dress loses. Sorry. End.

Ke$ha... I almost felt dirty spelling her name with a dollar sign, for the record... But this ENTIRE look is gross. Bad hair, dress that looks like it's made of a garbage bag, weird furry thing around her neck, and then make-up that makes her eyes look even squinty-er. Really? Why is dressing dumb all of a sudden supposed to be chic? Or maybe it's just that trash is in right now. The only good thing here are her shoes.

Lady Gaga, another whose fashion can only be described by her own name, actually looked more normal than usual for herself. This entire look, however, was not the first time she has ever worn this. She wore this in a photoshoot she did for Vanity Fair. I thought it was interesting that she chose to walk the red carpet in this. Though, perhaps this is the only one of the 3 she could actually walk in.
Love her!!!

That's all I have, now I want to hear your thoughts in the comments! Let me know!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book Review: Mockingjay

I just finished Mockingjay within the last hour and the way I have reacted to this book is surprising to me. I spent the next 15 minutes after closing the book dabbing my eyes and trying to keep from crying, but throughout the series, I never felt that I would ever be invested enough to react that way. It was a pleasant, yet heart wrenching surprise. As for my spoiler-free review, all that needs to be said is that this is an amazing ending to this series.


For the longest time I couldn't figure out exactly where this book was going. I knew for the most part that Katniss was going to lead a rebellion... I wasn't sure how... and that eventually she was going to kill Snow... again, I didn't know how. So while reading this book I didn't know what to expect. Is Collins going to do the whole Team Gale, Team Peeta thing? Is that even going to really matter in the end? There are no games, and so therefore no skeletal structure for the story to follow... I just didn't know what to think or where we were going.

In fact, for a while, I wondered how Collins was going to pull this whole CONCLUSION thing together in the amount of pages that were left. The more that happened, the more confused I was about how this could end. And how she could do it well. After reading thousand-page series for the past 7 years, I couldn't imagine how an entire rebellion and governmental overthrow could happen in just under 400 pages. And the real battle didn't even begin until the last 120.

What I never expected EVER was what happened within the last 60 pages. I kept wanting a real showdown between Katniss and Snow. I kept picturing her creeping into his Mansion and shooting him in his own bedroom after having an intense conversation with revelations and some kind of delicious vengeful last statement. But instead, 8 members of the team die, including one of my favorites, Finnick, before they even get close. TOTALLY shocked. And just as Katniss gets so close to arriving at the scene I had imagined and looked forward to the entire series, Snow's house and his impending death, she realizes her sister, Prim is there on the front lines... and then... she and Prim get bombed. And Prim DIES. WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

How about this: 
-The entire reason Katniss entered the games in the first place was to SAVE Prim.
-The opportunity for Katniss to grab those berries and spark the fire that starts the revolution was created because she took her sister's place in the games ... however, the thing she created when trying to save her sister, the revolution, is the very same thing that KILLED her sister!

I know it all sounds redundant and circular and obvious but that irony is SO AWFUL to me!That REALLY got me.

That moment was SO unexpected and heart breaking. I didn't believe it until pages later when Snow actually said it to Katniss. But then on top of this... it was Gale's bombs (his brainchild) that did it. Ruined relationship, right there. There is not going back after that. And even then, when we find out all of those things (that Prim has died, and Gale was distantly responsible because the rebels were killing children), Coin proposes to start up a new series of Hunger Games in the new world order. It was sickening and horrifying! I felt the same terror that Katniss felt that NOTHING has changed and nothing ever could.

With 20 pages left, I could not understand HOW Collins was going to wrap this thing up. Just within the last few page turns things had gotten astronomically more complicated than any other part of the story. But everything seemed to get much simpler when Katniss assassinated the new president instead of executing Snow. She never kills him! He just chokes on his own laughter and dies from his disgusting disease! But I was glad because Coin was just as corrupt and calculating (and heartless apparently) as Snow.

At this point, I didn't even care about the whole 'Oh will they, won't they, who's she gonna choose?' thing because so much trauma and confusion had happened. It didn't seem that that issue even mattered anymore. How could this poor tortured girl ever live a normal life again? And HOW is Collins EVER going to be able to end this story and make me NOT feel as though I want to jump off my balcony?!

Arguably the most beautiful writing is within the last 10 pages, when Katniss is secluding herself in her old house at District 12 and doesn't see anyone but Greasy Sae for weeks upon weeks. Then one night, Buttercup, Prim's old cat, find his way back and their mutual hatred for each other melts away. In that moment, Katniss finally admits out loud that her sister is dead and that she isn't coming back. And because of this, Katniss finally begins the process of healing ad calls her mother and starts moving throughout the house and on in life. The sweetest part is that night her and Buttercup sleep in the same bed and snuggle up and comfort each other. SO SWEET but definitely made me cry my eyes out. That was the boiling point. It was sad, but then that cat came back and started crying and Katniss lost it I was DONE.

Could anything be sweeter than this scene? Somehow Collins achieves an image even more touching on the last page where she describes why Katniss ended up with Peeta. It wasn't dramatic confusion or an eventful struggle of a choice. It was just the natural way of things. He balances her out and it only took the logic of one nicely written paragraph to explain. Then, in the epilogue they have babies because Peeta wanted them so badly, something Katniss never thought she would be able to do without the fear of the Games looming over her family. In this image, we see that everything she set out to achieve in the rebellion has been reached! So beautiful!

A good book leaves you feeling affected and I have a sufficient heart ache that will probably last me a good week. I think it's safe to say that this book is good. REALLY good. Way to go Collins! You did so many things I never imagined could be done!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Top 5: Best/Worst Dressed Emmys 2010

I know it's been a whole week and I am WAY late ... but whatever. Here are my top 5 Best and Worst dressed of the Emmys last weekend. Also, Guiliana Rancic was uber harsh on the Fashion Police and it was annoying. OMG. Get over yourself! You're becoming less and less likable!


First off, THE WORST:

5. Eva Longoria Parker in Robert Rodriguez: Um, can we say boring. Black, tired silhouette, tired hair do.... and she's carrying a clutch which for some reason really annoys me. I'm just... over it. Plus the fabric that the skirt is made of looks like tufts of lint. Her earrings were pretty though.

4. Tina Fey in Oscar de la Renta:  I love her but I'm so tired of this... and that hair do is really boring. Try color next time, Tina, and I may like it better. But black every single time... even with neat shapes, doesn't cut it. PS. Not the biggest fan of dresses with sleeves.

3. Christina Hendricks in Zac Posen: She is SUCH a bombshell, but this look isn't anywhere near as great as the green dress she wore last year to the Emmys, and the shape of this one isn't as flattering as it should be. The rousing is a nice detail, but it just doesn't come together completely. Also, again... the sleeves make me unhappy. I think the color is good for her, but that's about all this dress does well. Sad to say, not my favorite. Her make up and hair do also don't flatter her beautiful face. Not the best look.

2. Mindy Kaling in Aguri Sagimori: No... just NO. I Because her hair is SO out-there-80's-prom-do it makes the ENTIRE thing look stupid. The dress MAY have worked had she down played her hair... but she made some bad choices. It totally threw everything else off. I do like her shoes, though.

1. Rita Wilson in Prada: When I heard that this was a Prada gown, I was HORRIFIED. I could not believe it. But then again, perhaps on someone else, this would have been a vision. However, on this poor Mrs, it's just awful. I love Mrs. Tom Hanks as much as the next person, but I cannot stand by while she commits such atrocities in the fashion world. Rectangular shaped, not flattering, with a chain-mail-like drapery to finish it off? And the same irritating chandelier chimes on the shoes??? Ok... the shoes are kind of awesome, but still! And that HAIR? She hardly looks like herself... So disappointed in this. So strange.

And now, THE BEST!

5. January Jones in Versace: At first I couldn't decide if I liked this or if I really didn't like it. I think after a week of trying to decide, I really love it. It's weird... there ARE clams on her breasts... but the color is just too WOW to not enjoy. And I like the front and back and how you get the effect of both a short dress and a long one. She was bold and took a risk and she deserves a lot of credit for that. Because she also was successful!

4. Heidi Klum in Marchesa: Heidi is a freaking BOMBSHELL. I never get tired of seeing these legs on the red carpet, and regardless of age, if your legs look like this, SHOW THEM OFF. This little mini dress is bold, and although it's black, it has some awesome details to help it to stand out. Plus she pairs it with sexy pumps (that I would DIE for) and a beautiful bold necklace. Make up is flirty and sultry with a sassy updo. SO good. PS. The Fashion Police on E!, specifically Joan Rivers, said she was a slut for wearing this and too old. Sorry, bb, but YOU are the old one and if you had legs like this, I'd encourage even YOU to wear this dress. So suck it.

 3. Anna Paquin in Alexander McQueen: A lot of people had a hard time with this look, but I thought that Anna looked so great. It was bold and unique. I mean, how can it not be.. it's McQueen. The top is really interesting with details over the sleeves and bust, but then the black of the bottom balances it out and keeps it from being TOO much. Also, it still has its own flair by being held up in the front with a train in the back. Her make up was flawless and her hair was elegant. I loved this look! One of the Fashion Police guys said that (even though they said she was on the worst dressed, omg wtf) they loved that she was the only one who really wore 'fashion.' <3

 2. Claire Danes in Armani Prive: She looked AMAZING. This sparkle gown makes her look like a goddess. She really looked glamorous. Hair color, make up, spot on. Beautiful.

1. Lea Michele in Oscar de la Renta: Uhhhh, my vote for best dressed!! She looked so SMOKING hot in this little number. I can hardly handle it. The navy blue is so great with her skin tone, the shape and details (ruffles) are to DIE for. That sweetheart top really gives her more curvage... and those bangs. Sultry!!! So hot. Add the necklace... I swear its flawless. SO good.