Saturday, October 28, 2017


(you'll float too)

It, 2017. directed by Andy Mushietti; screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman; based on novel by Stephen King

" A group of bullied kids band together when a shape-shifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children. "(IMDB)

Well let's get the obvious out of the way: this was a redux of a highly popular work repackaged for today's audiences that played heavy on the nostalgia factor to entice older fans into seats, and it seemed to work. According to Scott Mendelson at Forbes, most filmgoers on opening weekend were females above the age of 25 (!) The marketing campaign was pretty brilliant---a solid, everyday object (red balloon), an easy-to-remember tagline ("You'll float, too!"), and a bigger, scarier clown all launched just in time for October, when everyone, present woman-over-25 company included, starts going through the horror list.

Did he "wear" it better?
Fans of the book have said the changes in decade and liberties taken with locations, dialogues, and character development weren't great; fans of the original 1990 miniseries, while admitting its cheesiness, have expressed preference for Tim Curry's more personable clown and insight into the characters as adults (as opposed to a separate film sequel, as this filmmaker has chosen). The book, for me, was way too long and I had a pretty big problem with the "group bonding activity" (aka 12YOGB) at the close of the kids' segment, but still a great story. The mini-series was poorly acted, poorly produced, and cheesy as hell, but understand that it was all we had, back in the day. Many of us needed a good remake of this, and I suppose the bottom line is that you'll never please everyone, especially when it comes to book adaptations or remakes and let alone both. My personal take on this (2017) production is that it competently told the story, tamed the edgier violence themes, and played successfully to the strengths of its young actors.

Setting the story in the late 80s instead of keeping with the original 60s opened up a ton of new possibilities for fashion, banter in dialogues, and best of all, music. The Cult, NKOTB, and Young MC provided a secure anchor for the era, but there were several other significant throwbacks from previous decades as well. The filmmaking captured a great balance between the dark inner worlds of the children Pennywise exploits (Ben's library, Beverly's incestuous apartment and bathroom, Stan's father's office and evil painting) with the bright, wide open landscapes where the kids learn bravery, compassion, and enjoy occasional light-hearted moments and humor. 

Bev shows inner strength

The horror parts were carried mostly by the creepiness of Bill Skarsgaard's not very personable Pennywise, the aforementioned dark environments through which he flourishes, and several well-placed jump scares. Truth be told however, the most disturbing segments of the film weren't when the kids were battling a killer clown but were dealing with real-life danger such as bullying, incest, and the death of a sibling.

One of the first films I saw, at age 6, and I'm
Which brings me to the social aspect of all this, but first I'll throw out the disclaimer that we have 4 neurotypical non-nightmare-suffering kids who all singly expressed desire to attend this film (which afterward they all said they enjoyed). Many people are politely horrified when they hear what we let our children watch, and this film was no exception. Our youngest is 8, oldest 13, and though they all grew up watching Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora, Diego, and all the other kid shows, they've gravitated toward the television and films that Matt and I watch, which is exactly how my brother and I experienced media growing up. They can appreciate Disney films, they have been exposed to silent and foreign films, and they've learned to ask questions and to make comparisons and connections. Where this film is concerned, they had seen half the scenes online before we ever set foot in the theater, so there's also something to be said for familiarity and prepping in stages.

It's my opinion that empathy and humanity aren't only learned from the people in one's life, but in the stories of others, too, outside one's circle. The best way to experience this, for me, is through books, but in a lot of ways, films and more recently, television, have provided opportunities for this as well. Do we teach our kids what honor is? Or bravery? Yes, we do, or at least we try. But having specific memories, verbal or visual, to which they can attach abstract concepts might be helpful someday should the occasion arise.

On a basic level, this film can facilitate discussion about:

1. How to respond to bullying
2. How friends or loved ones can support you when times are tough
3. How being different is okay

Of course I can't say that every horror movie has this ability; I'm hard-pressed to identify any kid-specific, useful life lessons imparted by The Shining or Psycho, (other than maybe "Survival Through Avoidance") but whatever.

I won't shield my kids from the world because I expect them to take an active part in fixing it someday.

Friday, October 27, 2017

All the Updates

I tried to take a picture out the front and back doors as so to document the fact that it is snowing today, October the 27th, 2017, but the camera on my phone couldn't capture it and I thought posting a picture with superimposed snow (even though it is happening) would be a fake, cheater thing to do.

I've never not loved the piano.
Someone asked me today where my film review of It was, which means that this one person must have enjoyed my film reviews at some point over the years and therefore this validates me as a person, as a writer, and as someone who paid for and is still paying for a (mostly useless) film degree. The truth is, I haven't done many film reviews because I took a full-time job two years ago with Americorps as a reading tutor, and then just last May started full-time graduate school at Augsburg University for a masters degree in music therapy, which is to say my spare moments are all pretty much spoken for. In addition to piano, my at-one-time major instrument, and violin, my at-another-time second major instrument that's been left to sit way too long, I'm learning guitar, ukulele, and . . . (shhhhhh) voice. The interesting thing about this is the fact that my voice is not particularly ideal for singing, it's low and nasally, so more equipped for things like humming, ranting, or annoying people but it's coming along.

The education piece been exciting, challenging, and at times, very scary, but I really do love it, and have found myself more than once appreciating all the years of writing at Iowa's Summer Writing Festival and The LOFT Literary Center, because as it turns out, graduate school, even for music, is a shit ton of writing. Although in an interesting side note I'll add that chemistry, biology, and anatomy (all prerequisites for my admission) did not draw upon any writing, liberal arts, or narrative-based skills at all, and having to re-learn how to be tested on solid, scientific facts was somewhat of an adventure for someone whose main scholastic efforts tended to be, "GOOD ENOUGH," or "ALL MY BULLSHIT SOUNDS LEGITIMATE WHEN WRITTEN OUT THUS," (see former).

Regardless of my life, work, and educational commitments, I have missed writing about film and television. I taught a film appreciation class for Minneapolis Community Ed for five years and had to bow out this semester, and I find myself missing that, too. Funny how the things you tell yourself are too much seem to find their ways back to you if they're important enough.

We've started The Walking Dead and everyone loves it, especially the dynamics between Rick and Negan, which are admittedly very graphic, very unpredictable, and kinda sick. Here's the reason I'm okay with it: YOU CAN USUALLY ACCEPT AN ENEMY AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A SOMEWHAT WINNING/UNSTABLE-YET-NOT-ABRASIVE PERSONALITY. And I think a bit of comedy is also necessary. Some favorite examples:

  Howard Payne in Speed. Intelligent (he makes bombs), mildly unstable, but high on the comedy factor. Loved this guy.

  Bobby Peru in Wild at Heart. Not terribly smart, quite abrasive, and extremely unstable but enough comedy to carry him through (and by comedy in a David Lynch film I mean grotesquerie.) 

  Annie Wilkes in Misery. This bitch is crazy AF but still finds time to play with her pet pig, listen to Liberace records, and watch The Love Connection. Bonus points for being a dedicated fiction reader.

There's just something about a bad guy/girl who manages to entertain you while being bad. You don't necessarily root for them, but you get a little excited when they come on. This isn't always the case; there have been tons of terrible, disgusting villains that you really just wish would piss off and die. Scorpio in Dirty Harry, Martin Keamy in LOST, or Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones. Gross, abrasive, and no redeeming qualities therefore prompting wild applause in their respective deaths. Do you have any favorite villains? Or any you absolutely hated? I'd love to talk more about this, Walking Dead, or any other similar topics!

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I don't like you, Negan, but I don't want you to go, either.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about It: why I loved it and why I took the family to it.