Top 12 Worst Love Stories

Valentine's Day

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

While I do have a soft spot for romance every now and then, I’m one of those people who get picky about the love stories I expose myself to. And while there are some good ones out there, we also have romances that are awkward, awful, or just plain stupid. They could either be part of a story or the whole darn thing. And I’d like to count down the top 12 of them.

#12: Stardust

I’ll try not to step on too many toes since a lot of people like this movie, but it’s not my cup of tea. The movie’s one purpose is to get hopeless romantics to buy the DVD. That’s it. The leads are boring, the exposition is clumsy, and its cheesiness is on par with a Diet Disney movie.

#11: Richard Castle and Kate Beckett in Castle

Don’t get me wrong, I love this TV series. From the outstanding writing to the well-rounded characters, it’s all wonderful. But if the show does have a flaw, it’s in the romance between Castle and Beckett. First of all, there’s hardly any originality in how they get together. They meet, they start hating each other, they date other people, they debate whether or not they want to get together, etc. And when they do get together, their intimate moments are so awkward that you just want to change the channel whenever it happens. Thankfully, they don’t have a lot of those moments…just enough to earn a spot on the list.

#10: Willy and Indiana Jones from Temple of Doom

I admit I haven’t seen the whole movie. But the bits I have seen were just painful, solely because of the flick’s leading spoiled brat, Willy. She’s the typical damsel in distress, and she’s fallen in love with the role. When she doesn’t scream, she throws tantrums that can put Veruca Salt to shame. If this is the kind of girl you’d fall for, I have these requests for you: either donate your brain to science, or get help.

#9: The Notebook

I added this story to the list for one simple reason. It claims that it’s okay to date people you don’t care for, get engaged to them, and then cheat on them with the people you want to be with. I know it’s not the only one that does that, but this one made me cringe the most.

#8: Peter and Mary Jane in Spiderman

I’m not that familiar with the comics, so I’m mostly going by the original film trilogy with this. He’s the awkward guy who cries at the drop of a hat and matures about as much as Peter Pan over the course of three movies. She’s the character who accomplishes nothing except look pretty, date every male character she can get her hands on, and play damsel in distress. On top of that, they spend all three movies debating on whether or not they even want to date. Okay, one movie I understand. But three? There are no words to describe the awkward stupidity of it.

#7: Hunger Games

In the first book, the triangle is acceptable. The whole concept of the Games is a satire of reality TV. Katniss has to pretend to love Peeta to literally survive, but at the same time Gale is her best friend, and she can’t help but wonder if she could’ve had a future with him. So to have a love triangle that served a purpose in the story added to the intelligence of the series. But in two and three, it went from ingenious to just plain awkward. Katniss not only falls in love with both of them, but she also manipulates them over and over again. And they eat it up like it’s no big deal. Need I say more?

#6: Cinderella

Cinderella has too many adaptations that have no idea of how to either keep the story fresh or make it better (with a few exceptions. Ella Enchanted, for example). Because of its unfortunate popularity, it’s too easy to make an adaptation out of Cinderella and make it popular. And because of that, we’ve turned the classic into a formula for success. There are a lot of other reasons I could give for hating Cinderella, but I still have five other love stories to insult.

#5: Zac Efron and Taylor Swift in The Lorax (2012)

Thanks to the idiocy of modern-day Dr. Seuss movies, this one doesn’t even get the heart of the story. The crux of The Lorax is the message, describing how easy it is for people to take too much from the environment, the consequences of such situations, and how we have hope as long as “someone like you cares a whole awful lot.” This film, like the other dumb adaptations, decided to focus instead on exploiting the lowest common denominator as well as celebrities who had nothing better to do.

#4: Almost everything related to Disney Channel

Whenever a DC movie has a romance, it follows every storytelling cliché in the book. They have love triangles, they have nerds pining for the cute girl/guy in school, they have a boy and girl hating each other before loving each other, they have the glorification of the commonly misunderstood version of Romeo and Juliet, etc. The only feature you can use to distinguish the films and TV series from one another is either the setting or the parts of the plot that don’t involve romance.

#3: Twilight

I’m not the first one to bash the Twilight saga, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, so I’ll make it simple. It’s awkwardly written, it promotes everything wrong with humanity, and it proves how easy it is for a book to be popular without being good. Now, Twilight is famous for being one of the most hated stories of all time. But believe it or not, there are two that are much worse.

#2: Fifty Shades trilogy

Ladies, word of advice: If his fetish involves controlling your life and treating you like a captive, do yourself a favor and don’t waste your time by agreeing to be his favorite toy. Instead, knee him in the crotch, punch him in the nose, and make a break for it. That summarizes my thoughts on this series best.

#1: Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor

First of all, it’s a rip-off of James Cameron’s Titanic. Second, most of the characters are boring beyond all reason, even the ones that existed in the time period (seriously, how do you make a reenactment of history boring? HOW?!?!). Third, it disrespects everything from the military to history. Fourth, it has fans who don’t seem to mind how insulting this movie is. And finally, Michael Bay realizes that Pearl Harbor was a mistake mostly because he thought, and I quote from the speech he meant to give, that “history was cooler than it actually is” (http://popwatch.ew.com/2014/01/09/michael-bay-ces-speech/). Say whatever you will about this movie, but it is one of the worst love stories ever created.

Photo sources:

http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-best-valentines-day-coffee-20140204-story.html

http://bslcrane.blogspot.com/2012/10/movie-review-for-stardust.html

http://canadagraphs.weebly.com/polls-and-awards-blog/best-of-tv-awards-2012-winner-best-couple-richard-castle-kate-beckett-caskett-castle

http://indianajones.wikia.com/wiki/Willie_Scott

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332280/

http://davaflava.wordpress.com/tag/spider-man-2/

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/cinderella-and-prince-charming/images/19641027/title/cinderella-prince-charming-screencap

http://theswiftagency.com/2012/01/26/taylor-swift-and-zac-efron-to-appear-on-ellen-in-february-to-promote-the-lorax/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Channel_(Ukraine)

http://mashable.com/category/twilight/

http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2012/10/fifty-shades-of-grey-movie-hires-screenwriter-kelly-marcel/

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/pearl-harbor-2001

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The Film Adaptation Theory

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

The book versus movie argument (which I’ve decided to name the Film Adaptation Theory) has fascinated me since I was a kid. Most people I know would automatically say “it’s so different from the book!” without giving much explanation as to what the movie was like, or even explaining why the book was better than its medium transfer. Even in cases where I’m inclined to agree, just hearing the phrase “they made too many changes!” makes me stop and think “…really?”

Okay, I can understand some examples of this. For instance, the live-action Cat in the Hat movie wasn’t just the worst movie based on a book ever made; it was one of the worst movies period. But what about the Mary Poppins movie? Every time someone mentions the title, we almost always talk about the movie and not the book. In fact, aside from PL Travers, I’ve never heard of anyone who thought the movie was flawed, even with its deviance from the book.

I know a lot of people support the Film Adaptation Theory, but I have two problems with it. One, a book and a movie are two completely different modes of storytelling. They rely on different ways to get their point across, as well as different methods of reception. For example, a book can be as long as it wants, and its audience can always take a break if it needs to. In that way, it could take some people days—even weeks—to read a book. A movie, however, can only fit into a three-hour timeslot without a break, and even three hours is pushing it. So in order for an adaptation to work, the source material needs to undergo a few changes in order to fit the new mode of storytelling.

Two, books aren’t always perfect. I know I sound like a heretic for saying it, but it’s true. The best example I can think of to illustrate my point is the Hunger Games franchise. Yes, it’s no secret that Suzanne Collins is a brilliant writer whose books were just as much a critical success as well as a financial success, and for good reason. But that didn’t mean the books were perfect, and I’m sure I don’t need to bring up the most common complaints people have had about the story. Funny thing is, when I talk to Hunger Games fans about the films, all I’ve heard from them is how much the movies not only captured the spirit of the books, but also made smart changes to the story in order to fix some of the problems it had. For instance, the love triangle in the books wasn’t that interesting, particularly in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Every time it comes up, it brings the story to a halt rather than keeps it moving forward. In the films, they don’t spend nearly as much time focusing on the romance. It’s referenced here and there, but only enough to let us know what’s going on. And honestly, it was a welcome change.

Despite the problems I have with the Film Adaptation Theory, I kind of understand why so many people treat it like the Golden Rule of cinema based on literature. I had this conversation with a friend of mine over a year ago. I asked her why people feel like a movie based on a book is bad if it digresses from the original source. She reminded me that such movies are adaptations of original stories, not original stories themselves. So if film adaptations don’t tell the story the way the books did, they demonstrate a misunderstanding of the source material. And…yeah, it’s hard to disagree with that. One of the reasons adaptations such as Ella Enchanted and the live-action Cat in the Hat didn’t work was because they completely misinterpreted the spirit of the original stories. It’s almost as if the movies had never even heard of the sources they claimed they were trying to recreate.

So yeah, I’ve complained so much about the theory, and I’ll probably continue to make fun of it in the future. But on the whole, I have to admit that it still carries a grain of truth. A film adaptation isn’t an original story, but one that’s loosely based on an original story. And film directors who wish to make such adaptations need to have a good understanding of the stories they want to recreate.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://www.raegunramblings.com/2013/07/best-and-worst-book-to-movie-adaptations.html

Farewell to Robin Williams

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I have to admit, this is a hard week for me to be a blogger. Earlier this week, Robin Williams was found dead in his home, supposedly of suicide. On one hand, Robin Williams was the very first celebrity I had ever heard of, as well as one of my favorites. On the other hand, depression is a touchy subject for me. A lot of people have shared their own thoughts about depression and suicide since his death. It might be easy for me to jump on the wagon and share my opinions on the subject, but I’m not going to for two reasons. 1: So many people have talked about it in the last week that I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t already been said. And 2: While I agree that depression and suicide should be talked about, that’s not why we should remember Robin Williams.

We should remember Robin Williams because of his passion. I can’t name a single person who thought Robin Williams was bad at what he did, and there’s a good reason for it. He was 100% invested in his work, both as an actor and as a comedian. I’ll admit I’ve only seen two of his stand-ups; one on Whose Line is it Anyway? and one when he was a guest star on a special Idol Gives Back episode in 2008. But in both scenarios, he had so much energy in his performances. He just looked so happy to be there, making people laugh, and his energy was contagious. And as far as his acting career goes, he appeared in his fair share of both good and bad movies. But even in his bad movies, no one can say that he just gave enough to make a passable performance. He gave it his all every time he showed up to act, no matter what.

We should remember Robin Williams because of his heart. His talents filled us with pride, joy, and laughter, which I think was what he intended. He also supported charities like Comic Relief, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, etc. (for more on Robin Williams’ charity work, click here: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-robin-williams-charity-work-20140811-story.html). When he died, many of his fans donated to some of his favorite charities out of respect for him. And if his death was the catalyst to get people talking about a complicated topic like depression and suicide, maybe some good can come of such tragedy.

We should remember Robin Williams because, to put it simply, there’s only one Robin Williams. The Willy Wonka quote “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” can only be said of a handful of people, people who were brave enough and smart enough to stay true to who they were in a world that encourages conformity and popularity for all the wrong reasons. People who appreciate taking chances, even if they don’t always pay off. Robin Williams was one of those people. Not only did he create his own identity, one that’s nearly impossible to recreate, but he also encouraged us to do the same. One of his finest moments was in a little comedy bit known as ‘Little Spark of Madness,’ which I’ve inserted a link to at the end of this post. He opens with his usual slew of wit, which of course entertains the audience. But then he takes a moment to get serious and start talking about something he calls a little spark of madness. He says, “You’ve got to be crazy. It’s too late to be sane. You’re only given a little spark of madness. If you lose that, you have nothing. From me to you, don’t ever lose that because it keeps you alive.” And the fact that everyone was silent during that speech spoke volumes.

Now, I don’t know what his story is. Since they’re still investigating his death, it might be too soon to tell if he was depressed and he did kill himself. Or maybe that is what happened, I don’t know. But what I do know is that he was the first celebrity that, for me, was given a name during my childhood. He was funny, he was smart, he was dedicated, he was compassionate, and he was his own person. And he will be missed for all of those reasons.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “We love you, Robin Williams.”

Photo source: http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Robin_Williams

Why is Ella Enchanted Genius?

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Anyone who understands my taste in literature knows that I despise Cinderella with a passion. Almost every adaptation of the fairy tale tells the same story over and over and over again. It’s a boring, uninteresting burden that I’d gladly defenestrate any day. With that said, by all outward appearances, I should hate Gail Carson Levine’s magnum opus, Ella Enchanted. Had I known before reading the book that it would be another retelling of the fairy tale, I don’t think I would’ve touched it.

And yet, as the title indicates, Ella Enchanted is in fact genius. Not only is it the best retelling of Cinderella; it’s one of the best books ever written. How is that even possible?

One, Ella Enchanted not only stayed true to the fairy tale setting, but it also expanded on it, adding mythical creatures like ogres and giants and fairies. They’re not just characters to set up the background, either; every type of creature plays a different role in the story. And given how many of them Levine reimagined for the world she created, that’s saying a lot.

Two, Levine added clever exposition, finding ways to explain different aspects of the original story. How come the glass slippers never broke when Ella danced in them? They’re fairy-made. How did one pair of shoes fit only one girl in the whole kingdom? Ella has a bit of fairy blood, which causes people like her to have ridiculously tiny feet. If the stepmother was so horrible, why did the father marry her to begin with? It turns out he’s as selfish as the stepfamily, and he only marries the stepmother to increase his fortune. If the Fairy Godmother could get her to the ball, why couldn’t she also make the stepfamily nicer, or turn them to different creatures at least? Mandy—the fairy godmother—explains that big magic can cause unpredictable consequences, so it’s safer to use smaller magic for things like strong medicine, unbreakable glass, and good cooking.

And finally, the characters are different here than in other adaptations, thus changing the story while staying true to the spirit of it. Most adaptations portray the stepsisters as stupid and vain, and the stepmother as conniving and cold. Here, Hattie—the oldest stepsister—is the conniving one in the family, doing the most to secure her position over Ella even before their parents marry. The Fairy Godmother’s role has expanded a lot, allowing her to act more like a caretaker than in earlier adaptations. Char, the prince, expanded here too. While he’s not that different from other versions, he does more here than in other stories. He hunts ogres, he visits peasants, he travels to other kingdoms, he trains centaurs, and he even introduces Ella to his family during one of the balls. The book is also clever in giving Ella and Char time to fall in love, rather than just have them meet and decide they’re meant for one another. They meet at Ella’s mother’s funeral well over a year before the balls, and they develop a realistic friendship long before realizing they’re romantically attracted to each other.

And then there’s Ella herself. In the original as well as most early adaptations of Cinderella, the heroine is the typical nice girl next door. But she was also limited to the roles women were expected to have at the time. Later adaptations made her smarter and more ambitious, but still not interesting enough to remember years later. There’s only one Ella. She’s stubborn, funny, intelligent, fearless, and rebellious. She’s certainly kind, but only to those she believes deserve it. She’s still a role model, but she’s a different kind of role model in that she marches to the beat of her own drum. Char still rescues her from a life of drudgery, so to speak, but she still has to save his life when she realizes her curse could be a danger to the crown prince. Unlike other versions of Cinderella, Ella tries everything she can to rid herself of her circumstances, even going so far as to go on a journey to find the fairy who cursed her. And the climax is not just one of my favorite moments in the book; it’s one of my favorite moments in all of literature.

In short, Ella Enchanted is genius because it’s smart, it’s imaginative, and it changed the story enough to make itself stand out while still staying true to it. If you want a refreshing take on Cinderella, this is the book to go to.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Enchanted