Recipe for Bad Remakes

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Disney has been trending on reboots for a while, hasn’t it? From Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast, they insist on translating their animated features to live-action remakes, whether we asked for them or not. Most of the time, they range from passable (101 Dalmatians, Cinderella) to absolutely terrible (Maleficent, Beauty and the Beast). What is it that makes them fail almost every time these days? What is it about the art of the remake that’s so bad? Well, I’ve got three theories, so let’s take a look.

#1: Bad remakes misunderstand the original source material

Almost none of the Disney animated movies are original stories. They take a lot of liberties here and there (*cough* Pocahontas *cough*), but the stories are almost always loosely based on a fairy tale, a folklore, or something else. And the thing to remember is, no matter how many liberties they took, the best of these animated movies stayed true to the heart of the original story—or at the very least, they reflect what we love about the original source material. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast is meaner, more unrefined, and more aggressive than his original counterpart, but the theme of seeing more than what’s there is still present in the animated movie. And as much as I believe that Cinderella is done to death, I will acknowledge that the animated classic (while not the greatest version) shows how kindness, perseverance, and faith are more rewarding than we give them credit for.

Sadly, the remakes have a habit of forgetting that they’re an adaptation of an adaptation. They’re more concerned with glorifying/”fixing” the animated movies than engaging with the source material. The live-action Beauty and the Beast is an almost shot-by-shot remake of the animated movie, down to its first teaser trailer. It looks like the story and sounds like the story, but it fails to portray the story. It fails to recognize that the characters and relationships were more captivating and magical than the song numbers and animation. Because of this, the chemistry between characters is so weak that we as audience members can’t get invested, and thus the movie is reduced to an emotionless cash grab.

On the flip side, the live-action 101 Dalmatians is more effective than we originally gave it credit for. The book was a story about cute puppies, the animated movie was about cute puppies, and the remake is about cute puppies. The adults have more prominent roles in the live-action movie, and Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil is a national treasure. But the heart of the story (the adoration for puppies) is present in every version. The remake didn’t need to give the adults an attention-grabbing drama. It didn’t need to make Cruella more unscrupulous than she already is—she wants to kill puppies, for crying out loud! It knew how to tell the story, and it knew how to do it right.

#2: Bad remakes always play it safe

This one kind of ties in to my next point, so I won’t focus on it too much. But it’s worth pointing out the myth that Hollywood has run out of ideas. For a few years, we didn’t see a lot of original stories trending. They were overshadowed by spinoffs and reboots and sequels and callbacks to the 90s. But the myth is exactly that—a myth. There are still tons of original stories that can explore what it means to be human, and thankfully we’ve been successful in the last year or so. As stressful as world events have been, they’ve reshaped the way we connect with one another through different modes of art, and the art of storytelling is more alive than ever before.

#3: Bad remakes put money over artistry

Many of us grew up with stories—both in books and in movies. They’re a break from daily life, they give us something to invest in outside our own sets of joys and problems, and they influence the way we think and feel about the things happening around us. Because of this, classics like Willy Wonka, Cinderella, and others hold special places in our hearts.

That said, it’s easy to forget that Hollywood is—first and foremost—a business. And the thing we have to remember is that even the best of those in business are most likely to make decisions that will financially benefit them the most. Sadly, most of these decisions involve taking shortcuts, undermining hard work, and overlooking passion for the work itself. Just as dancers are passionate about dancing and authors are passionate about storytelling, businessmen and women are passionate about making money. Because of this, they’ll take anything we love and exploit the living snot out of it. That’s what’s happening with these reboots, that’s why they’re terrible, and that’s why the trend of bad remakes will continue for the foreseeable future.

Despite the bleak outlook, good remakes are possible. We’ve seen it with 101 Dalmatians, the Lord of the Rings series, and Cinderella with Brandy (nice try, Lily James, but no cigar). We could see more like these in the future, but it’s not likely. What can we do in the meantime? Celebrate original stories as they come out. There’s a reason Shape of Water and Get Out won Oscars. There’s a reason Children of Blood and Bone became an instant bestseller. We still have a million stories to tell, a million experiences to share, a million perspectives to explore. So let’s get started.

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Ten Random Facts: Avengers

Avengers-Infinity-War-Trailer

So apparently Marvel decided to bump its release date for Avengers: Infinity Wars from early May to April 27 (only fifteen days from the release of this blogpost). To celebrate its early arrival, I’ll be sharing some trivia about the heroes we know, love, and in some cases laugh with.

  1. During the first Avengers movie, Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. improvised many of his lines, including—but not limited to—offering food he happened to have on set, and the line “Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?”
  2. Shawarma scales increased after the release of the first Avengers.
  3. According to Loki actor Tom Hiddleston, the code name for the first Avengers was “Group Hug.”
  4. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Natasha Romanoff gets a scene where she talks about how she was sterilized during her training as an assassin. During the filming of this movie, Romanoff’s actress—Scarlett Johansson—was pregnant.
    1. Sub-fact: to hide Johansson’s pregnancy, she had stunt doubles who bore such a strong resemblance to her that they supposedly confused Chris Evans (Captain America).
  5. In Age of Ultron, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen co-starred as twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (“he’s fast and she’s weird”). Prior to this movie, they had both appeared in the 2014 movie
  6. Evidently, Age of Ultron included Stan Lee’s favorite cameo.
  7. Joss Whedon (director of the first two Avenger movies) claimed it’s difficult to juggle so many characters who come from different storylines and universes. Because of this, he opted not to direct Infinity War or next year’s Avengers Movie.
  8. In the past, Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman expressed an interest in reprising his role in a Marvel film (he wanted to see his character fighting Iron Man). Though he’s moved on to different projects, Jackman still wants to see Wolverine and Iron Man fighting each other.
  9. At least two characters who change their look for Infinity Wars are Natasha Romanoff and Captain America.
  10. Infinity Wars will be the 19th movie in Marvel’s arsenal, with a grand total of (according to Thor actor Chris Hemsworth) 76 comic book characters making an appearance. Have fun!

Sources used:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/trivia

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2395427/trivia

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4154756/trivia

http://www.slashfilm.com/avengers-infinity-war-characters-list/

What Every Girl Should Know About Being a Woman

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In the movie Secondhand Lions, the three main characters often allude to Hub McCann’s “What every boy should know about being a man” speech. Though we only hear a snippet of it, the idea of becoming an adult still ties into the coming-of-age story unfolding for our young main character, Walter. But this got me thinking: if there are things a boy needs to know before growing into a man, does the same hold true for girls becoming women? What does it mean to be a woman, emotionally and mentally? So, being at the wise age of twenty-six, I put my thoughts on womanhood together and came up with a three-part speech. Maybe I’ll add to it as I get older, maybe it won’t change, or maybe I’ll downsize it. And if you have any thoughts you’d like to add (again, taking anatomy and biology out of the equation), feel free to comment down below. For now, here is what I’d tell girls about being women.

1: Take Care of Yourself Too

You’ll hear a lot about caring for others, as well as various “_____ lives matter” slogans. It’s such a strong topic that it even has various extremists. On the one hand, you might hear the “every man for himself” extremists who believe that the people around you are only out there to take what they can, so you should treasure what you have and guard it with your life. It’s a lonely viewpoint that nearly led Ebenezer Scrooge to his demise in Christmas Carol. But on the other hand, there might be other extremists who expect you to give everything you have even if you have nothing. It was a mindset Fantine applied in Les Miserables, and it was only by miracle that she wasn’t alone when she died.

The best compromise to these two extremes is this: take care of everyone, including yourself.

Your parents might’ve taught you it’s good to care for others, and that’s true. If you see someone hungry, give them something to eat. If they’re thirsty, give them something to drink. If they’re sad, sit with them. If they’re sick, tend to them. Do what you can to bring comfort and joy to others. But there may be times when you yourself are hungry or thirsty or sad or sick, and you might not have the strength to continue. There’s no shame in indulging every once in a while. Don’t let anyone belittle you for taking a break. Take care of yourself so that you can care for others. Never forget that your life matters too.

2: The Opinions of People You Trust Matter More Than Those You Don’t

Constructive criticism is how we thrive in every aspect of life. But everyone around you will be eager to give it, even if they’re complete strangers to you. This is one of the many reasons you keep your loved ones close. Those who truly know and love you the most will have your best interests at heart. They want to see you grow and discover all that you can be. They want you to have the best life can give you and explore all there is to see.

Exercise caution around those whom you don’t trust. They might have good intentions, but their goal is to mold you into their version of a perfect human being. They won’t have your hopes, dreams, or experiences in mind. They won’t care about your potential. They won’t wait to meet the woman you can be. All they know is that they’re not perfect, and they want to ignore it by focusing on making someone else perfect. So trust the people you know, love, and look up to.

3: There’s a Time to Compromise and a Time to Say No

You’ll be asked to do things you might not want to do. In some cases, it’s best to simply do what they ask. If they ask you to work on Saturday, do it. If they ask you to walk a mile with them, do it. If they ask you to bake a cake for them, bake an extra for good measure.

But in other cases, they might tempt you to go against your morals. They’ll try to convince you that hurting others is for the greater good. They’ll tell you your body is theirs to command and not yours. They’ll ask you to believe that something wrong is something right.

In these cases, don’t do a damn thing.

Stand your ground. Harness that anger into a shield to protect the people and values being threatened. Look them in the eye and say no.

The Pod

So I thought I’d do something different with my blog and try my hand at short stories. Why? Because it’s my blog and I can. Enjoy!

The Pod
A short story by LG Alfonso

Wake. Submit. Sleep. Repeat.

This is my life.

I wake up and always see dark. A voice is always there, whispering to me. “The world is dangerous,” it whispers. “Here in the pod, you are cared for. Here in the pod, you are provided for. Here in the pod, you are safe.” I become drowsy and go back to sleep.

Then everything starts all over again. The same darkness. The same voice. The same words. The same sleep. Again. And again. And again.

Sometimes it feeds me while it whispers. Sometimes I feel a touch—a stroke of my hair, my face, my shoulder. I’ve known nothing else.

I wake. There’s the darkness. There’s the voice…no food this time. I ignore it, waiting to go back to sleep.

What’s that sound?

The new sound is faint, coming from outside…not the voice. I fight to speak, but the sleep takes over.

I wake, and I hear noise again. There’s something else, too…then the voice.

“Pay no attention,” it whispers. “The world is trying to lure you in. Remember: here in the pod, you are cared for. Here in the pod, you are provided for. Here in the pod, you are safe.”

But not free.

This goes on for a while. I hear something new from outside every time I wake. It tells me to pay no attention, but I can’t help myself. I’ve never seen the world outside this darkness. Every time I hear something new, I can’t help but smile. But every time, the sleep becomes harder to fight.

Once, I speak as soon as I wake.

“Let me see.”

I’ve never heard my own voice before. I sound cracked, underused, dry.

Something wet pours into my mouth. I choke.

“Seeing is dangerous,” it whispers. “The world is trying to lure you in. Remember: here in the pod, you are cared for.”

I struggle to sit up, but my body feels heavy.

“Here in the pod, you are provided for.”

I can’t lift my head anymore.

“Here in the pod, you are safe.”

I start to yawn. “P-please…let…mmm…”

Next time I wake, I try to move before it speaks. My limbs are too heavy. I roll and fall on something hard. I feel something touch my shoulders.

“The world is trying to get to you. Tune out the world. Forget about the world. Here in the pod, you are cared for.”

Shut up.

“Here in the pod, you are provided for.”

“Shut up.”

“Here in the pod, you are—”

“SHUT UP!”

Silence. No voice. No touch on my shoulders. No sleep. What happened?

I hear the outside world again—voices. I smile at the sound. Oh, how I wish I could see the world!

I wait, but it doesn’t return. Neither does the sleep. What now?

I struggle to sit up, then to stand. My legs wobble. I reach out to steady myself. A wall of glass meets my fingertips. Something gives. The wall opens up.

So much light. I lift my hands to shield my eyes. A moment or two to adjust. I look back. A bed—my bed. A small table. No sign of it.

I turn back around and gasp.

The world is beautiful. So many colors and shapes and other things I can’t name, yet I love them all. I feel the wind in my hair and I want more. The sweet air tickles my nose. I inhale as much as I can.

I hear the voices again. I see things that look like me…kind of. One or two are shaped differently, some have different hair colors, some even have different skin colors. They all look happy. I wish I could join them.

Could I? The ground under my pod looks soft. If I jump now, I shouldn’t get hurt.

But what would I say? Would they still be happy if I joined them? Could I be happy if I joined them?

“You don’t want to join them.”

It’s back.

“You don’t know what would happen if you left the pod and went to the people. They would hurt you, destroy you, leave you for dead.”

“…maybe they won’t.”

“You’ll never be one of them. You don’t belong in the world. Where would you go? What would you do? Where would you find shelter and food? Do you really think they would give you what you need? They owe you nothing.”

They…maybe…

“You won’t last long in the world. You don’t belong in the world. Stay here in the pod. Stay here, where you are cared for.”

I feel my head getting heavy. The glass wall closes again. The light is gone.

“Stay here, where you are provided for.”

Something picks me up and puts me back on the bed. My eyelids flutter closed.

“Stay here, where you are safe.”

I never see the world again. I want to, but it beats me every time I try to fight. I want to see the shapes and colors. I want to breathe the cool, clean air. I want to see the happy things that look like me. But every time, it reminds me that the world isn’t safe. That I don’t belong in the world.

I’m cared for. I’m provided for. I’m safe. But not free.

Wake. Submit. Sleep. Repeat.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Leah

are you there god

My parents got me a copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret for my last birthday. I read it in a day and finished with mixed thoughts. I mulled over the fact that the main character talks to God despite belonging to no religion. She looks for him in a variety of churches and doesn’t find him, yet she doesn’t hesitate to tell him what’s going on and what she’s thinking.

I remember the first time in my life the idea of God’s presence was addressed. To prep us for prayer, my first grade teacher looked at the open door and said “I think I see Jesus coming in right now.” I looked, then said “I don’t see him.” One of the other kids said “That’s because Jesus is air!” Of course, my six-year-old mind believed him. As a result, believing in God isn’t an issue.

But talking to him and gleaning a response? That’s a whole other ballpark.

One of the issues getting in the way is how to see and/or address God. Everyone in my life suggests treating him like a revered leader, a parent, and a close friend. Absolutely none of that computes. There are things I’d say to my friends that I’d never say to my parents (favorite swear words, for example). Plus, I generally talk about leaders, revered or otherwise, with the expectation that I’ll never meet them in person. And just imagine the hubris that would come from treating God—the king of everything and everyone—like a parent.

Another issue is everything I’ve been told about what we’re allowed to say to God. Just this week, my prayer group at work studied the first chapter of a book by Francis Chan, who argues that God is just and fair, so his judgment is absolute. And if we disagree—or even dare to argue—then it means we’re arrogant. That doesn’t mesh well with what I’ve learned from my mentor, which is that God prefers we be honest with him even if we’re angry with him.

Once again, it doesn’t compute.

And then there’s the issue of closure. A few nights after reading Blume’s book, I decided to try telling God everything that was on my mind. All that was left was this feeling of “Now what?” But it’s not the only time I’ve been left confused or hanging. When I pray for guidance, it takes months to get an answer. It’s easier to get a clearer answer if I’m praying with a second party, but I can’t expect people in my life to drop everything every time I have a question only God can answer. Once or twice someone will feel moved to speak to me on God’s behalf, but in those cases I have no idea what to do with what they’ve given me.

When I was a kid, a woman visiting the school shared a story of how she lay her broken heart at Jesus’ feet and was showered with his love. In college, a friend told me about how she prayed for guidance and was answered on the spot. Me? Sometimes it feels like I’ve got nothing. Then I hear the last thing I want to hear. And in those few times I hear what I want to hear, it feels less like God talking and more like wishful thinking.

The truth is, when I started writing this I didn’t know how to finish. I couldn’t think of a realistic conclusion without sounding negative. So I closed my laptop, left the phone and 3DS alone, and lay in bed for a while. With nothing else to do I decided to focus less on when I heard God and more of when I felt him nearby. I thought of the Hunger Games song “Deep in the Meadow,” and the image of lying in the grass under a willow tree. I thought of the bishop from Les Misérables showing mercy to Jean Valjean when no one else would. I thought of my mentor, and the fun yet insightful conversations we can always have. I thought of the aftermath of the first Charlottesville march, and the people in my hometown coming together on Monday night and asking “What can we do about this?” I thought about my favorite comedians drawing attention to things going on in the world. And I thought about my alma mater, the place where my faith became real to me even though I dared to wrestle and ask questions.

I’ll never fully understand God. But maybe I don’t need to.

12 Tips for Honoring Consent

Consent

Over the last few months, we’ve had a lot of women come forward and share stories of how (and in some cases, who) they were sexually harassed or assaulted. The response to the #MeToo movement…varied, to say the least. Some negative responders opted not to leave their vacation home in DeNile. Others vocalized Mike Pence’s rule of women, which is to not be alone in the room with a woman without his wife holding his hand. Neither of these responses are helpful. Denial and shaming are exactly why victims don’t come forward, and the “all women are sexual pieces of meat, so don’t catch yourself alone in a room with them” theory doesn’t help women in their careers.

People, if we want the assault accusations to stop, then we need to get better at teaching consent and respect. To get the conversation started, I would like to offer twelve tips for accepting the word “no.”

1. If they don’t want to have sex with you, don’t have sex with them.

If you ignore this rule, you are committing a crime. Plain and simple.

2. Don’t try to blackmail or persuade someone to have sex, especially if they’ve already said no.

Despite what bad chick flicks and horrible fan fiction will tell you, the cat and mouse chase isn’t romantic. When people say no to sex, they mean it.

3. Ask.

Even if you don’t think it’s romantic, ask for permission before plowing through. Even if you think it’s okay to move forward, just ask. Better to be safe than sorry.

4. Don’t make the other party feel guilty for saying no.

Sex might be fun, but it’s not the only way to pass the time. And if you are that upset, try the Scream into the Void app. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

5. Catcalling isn’t flattering.

Drooling over a stranger’s body parts doesn’t make you look like a cool dude, it makes you look like an entitled prick. So stop it.

6. Work is not an appropriate place for sexual activity.

Most workplaces see romantic relationships between coworkers as conflicts of interest anyway. So contrary to what Michael Scott will tell you, the workplace is neither a dating website nor a mating ground.

7. If they’re underage, DON’T EVEN GO THERE.

It’s illegal. It’s disgusting. It’s illegal. It’s emotionally scarring. Did I mention it’s illegal? Bottom line, just don’t.

8. If they’re drunk, unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated, they aren’t in a great position to give consent.

True, we haven’t quite worked out the “what if both parties are drunk?” problem yet. All the more reason to start the conversation now.

9. Regardless of what gender you are, you’re allowed to say no to sex.

Even if you’re halfway through, you can say no. And if you’re asked for sexual favors you’re uncomfortable with, you can refuse.

10. If you are guilty of assault or harassment, don’t lie or make excuses.

Despite what some might think, human beings aren’t allergic to humility. We all need to get better at making smart choices as well as taking responsibility for our actions. And sometimes, that means admitting we did something wrong, accepting the consequences for those choices, and taking steps to make sure we don’t do it again. The more we work on it, the better we can get at it.

11. Don’t support people who’ve been accused.

Not only does it make you look bad, but it enforces an environment where victims can’t come forward. If there’s no weight to the accusations, then there’s no harm in investigating them. Better to investigate a hundred potential lies than to ignore one undeniable truth. He might be the nicest person you know, but if he’s guilty of a crime then he’s guilty of a crime.

12. Bottom line, don’t be a jerk.

Enough said.

Top 11 Nostalgia Critic Editorials

When you think of online personalities, who comes to mind? For me, it’s the Nostalgia Critic. Since 2008, he’s posted reviews of movies from the past. When he’s not losing his mind over bad screenplays, he’s losing his mind over bad comedy. If he isn’t going crazy about strange CGI or poor decision making, he’s going crazy about bat credit cards. It’s almost impossible to imagine the Nostalgia Critic without a freak out coming to mind.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post discusses the times where his serious side comes out to discuss topics in film-making or dissect what worked or didn’t work in certain movies. To put it simply, this is about his editorials.

Since I’m sharing video links, I’ll only talk about it when I want to say something he hasn’t already touched on. But for the most part, I’ll just let his editorials speak for themselves. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 11 Nostalgia Critic Editorials.

#11: Where’s the Fair Use?

Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of controversy going on with YouTube channels getting copyright strikes. Sometimes it’s just for posting movies without Hollywood’s permission, but other times channels got hit just for talking about these movies. Here, the Critic explains what the law says, how it’s being exploited, how YouTube is handling it, and the Critic’s own experiences with battling claims and strikes. While he’s had some of those resolved and he’s managed to put reviews back up, this is still an ongoing issue for many YouTube users.

#10: Why Do We Holiday Too Early?

#9: Top 11 Strangest Yet Best Couples

#8: Can Hype Kill a Good Film?

#7: Is White Washing Really Still a Thing?

#6: Should We Scare Our Kids?

#5: When Is Something So Bad It’s Good?/Can a Film be so Good, it’s Bad?

Since they’re somewhat tied together, it only made sense to have them share a spot.

#4: Top 11 Good Things from the Star Wars Prequels

#3: When Does a Joke Go Too Far?

#2: WTF is with the ending of The Graduate?/Does Romeo and Juliet Suck?

Again, they’re pretty similar, so they share a spot.

#1: A Farewell to Roger Ebert