The Lion King

Ah yes. The Lion King. That very grown-up story masquerading as a children’s film. I recently re-watched it and was struck by the depth of the story. In all the Disney animated canon, I think this film may be the most grand. Beauty and the Beast will always be my favorite but The Lion King is such a large story, as befits a tale of kings on the vast African savanna. The travels are further. The stakes are higher. The animation is far more lush than its contemporaries. And death looms much larger.

Disney seems to have a thing for its main characters losing a parent. Belle and Andy came from one parent households. Bambi, Nemo, Cinderella, Elsa, and Anna lost one or both parents. And Simba is no different. But his burden is much weightier since he blames himself for his father’s death and watched it happen right before his eyes.

I don’t think I will ever be able to watch that scene without crying. The quiet after the noise and panic of the stampede. And then the dust settling as a little boy looks for his dad. And the tears start to well up when we see him, the king, lying still, as if in sleep. The little cub nudges him, uses the words that woke him up so many times before. But this king will wake no more for he has given his life to save his son. And when Simba’s tears fall, so do mine.

Mufasa-death-the-lion-king-28922008-640-433You know the rest of the story. Treacherous Scar manipulates Simba into running away. Run he does, straight into the arms of Pumbaa and Timon who teach him the wonders of Hakuna Matata, while the Pride Lands languish and decay under Scar’s despotic rule. And yet, the prince, the son of the dead king, hasn’t quite managed to subscribe to that happy-go-lucky philosophy entirely. He still looks up at the stars and hopes that the kings of the past are looking down on him. Hopes that his father is among them.

When his own past comes calling in the form of Nala and Rafiki, he is thrust into remembrance again. And all the pain and sadness and, yes even betrayal, he feels about his father’s death comes storming back. “You said you’d always be there for me! But you’re not.”

Then the ghost of his father comes back to remind him of something very important. This is the moment of truth here, the crucial juncture. Simba must face his destiny and decide whether to be who he was born to be or whether to take the easy way out. At this point in just about every other movie, either the hero or the hero’s mentor-type would say something along the lines of “You can do this! You are so strong! You have the ability to win this! Look inside yourself and find the strength to do the right thing!”

But this time is different. This time, the wise sage says something else. Mufasa, the great king, tells Simba to look inside himself and remember who he is. “Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king.”

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Did you catch that? The strength that Simba has is not his own strength. It is not something he has. It is who he is. He is the son of the king.

And so too are we. When faced with the difficult decisions and the impossible choices and the heartache of life, we too must look inside ourselves. But not to find our own strength. We must look inside and remember who we are. Remember that we are those for whom the King died. Remember that we are the children of the King Himself.

That is where the strength comes from. It comes from being the child of the King.

Snowpiercer

First things first. I am not one for violent films. Pulp Fiction, while it is brilliant storytelling, completely turned me off from seeing any other Tarantino films. I have no desire to see No Country for Old Men. You get the gist.

I went into Snowpiercer with two bits of information. Firstly, the trailer. Secondly, the hearty recommendation of friends whose movie sense is spot on. So, last night, my roommate and I went to see it at Cable Car Cinema in Providence. (Aside: that place is really flipping cool. I mean. They serve beer and they have couches in the theater. Definitely will be going there again.)

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that I utilize this space not as a traditional reviewer would. Rather, it is where I used my words to process my experience and invite you along for the ride. So, consider this your major spoiler alert.

This film is grim. The opening scenes take place in the tail of the train. This train contains the only living humans on the planet after a disastrous attempt to control global warming froze the Earth. The survivors are on this locomotive which circles the earth, one revolution per year. Oh yes. Revolution. That words means more than just a trip around the globe here. For this train is a strictly regimented class system, the Sacred Mr Wilford at the front, with the engine that keeps them all alive, and the poorest of the poor wretchedly scraping by in the tail. Mr Wilford rules his humanity with an iron fist. The tail has attempted rebellion before but never succeeded. They are kept in line by Minister Mason, Tilda Swinton in an absolute masterclass of a performance. Her overbearing soulless mindless cruel Wilford-devotee lords over the tail-dwellers. When their children are taken away for an unknown reason and a father dares to fight back, Mason comes to watch his arm be frozen off, delivering a speech degrading the tail-folk. “I belong in the front. You belong in the tail. Know your place. Keep your place.”

But there is Curtis. Chris Evans looking about as different from his Captain America persona as you can possibly imagine. And with good reason. This ain’t no Captain America, kids. This is a man hardened by life in the tail. A man who can’t remember what life was like on Earth. A man whose 17 years in the tail have sharpened within him the resolve to rise up and exact revenge on the man who lives in the lap of the engine’s luxury. Curtis draws his inspiration from Gilliam, John Hurt playing the wise and suffering sage. Curtis waits for bullets lodged in the protein bricks, telling him, black words on red paper, what to do next. And he is supported by Edgar, Jamie Bell in all his earnest young enthusiasm to follow his hero to death. Octavia Spencer is also there as Tanya, a mother whose son Timmy is also among the taken.

The action scenes of Curtis and his group of fighters clawing their way forward are stunningly choreographed and expertly filmed. They thrust us right into the center of the action. Truth be told, I had my eyes closed during several parts as the hand to hand combat became too much for me. Axes, spears, knives, guns. So much blood. And so much death.

As Curtis inches forward, he first seeks out Namgoong, the drug-addled genius who created the locks and gates of the train. He finds him, persuades him to come and help him get to the engine by promising him Kronole, an hallucinogenic drug made of very flammable industrial waste. Namgoong has one condition – Curtis must bring along his similarly addicted daughter, Yona. Yona is a train-baby who has no memory of earth because she’s never lived in it. Curtis is an earth-man who has no memory of earth because it is too painful.

The battles that occurred in the tail then in the car right before the water supply are increasingly bloody. The cohort of faceless goons who guard the water car put up a good fight. Mason stands behind them, encouraging them, enjoying the spectacle. But as Curtis prevails in getting through to her, Edgar is caught by a Wilford thug, except this one has a face, and it is marked by utter contempt for Curtis and Edgar. Mason lies on the floor in front of Curtis, incapacited by a dagger in her leg. Edgar stands caught behind him, begging for help. Curtis makes his choice and goes after Mason, effectually condemning Edgar to death. This is the moment I realized “Oh. I’m not sure that Curtis is the hero I thought he was.” Which, of course, he had been saying all along.

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The journey moves forward as Curtis’ group gets smaller and smaller, death the ever present specter. Tanya, Grey, and others give their lives to allow Curtis to keep going forward. Franco, the assassin who just won’t die, follows Curtis relentlessly. When the train rounds a curve, it allows Franco to start shooting at Curtis through the glass. Among the shower of bullets and broken glass, a snowflake drifts into the train car, right in front of Nam. A reminder that there is beauty among chaos, grace amidst sorrow. There can be stars behind shadow.

Finally, Curtis, Nam, and Yona, the only survivors, reach the engine. And there we hear Curtis’ backstory and understand who he was and who Edgar was to him and what Gilliam had done to preserve the humanity of the tail-people. Curtis, the baby-killer, who wanted to cut off his own arm to redeem himself, whose weakness prevented him, explaining to the Kronole junkie the horrors of the tail. And when he says “I hate Wilford” I think what he’s really saying is “I hate myself”. Underneath that desire for revenge on the man who created this system is unrelenting guilt about what he himself had become as a result of the system. He says he wants to kill Wilford but what he really wants is to redeem his shame.

Namgoong, after hearing his story, refuses to open the engine door. Instead he tries to persuade Curtis that life outside the train may be possible. That the snowflake he saw drifting in the air was the kind of snow that is ready to melt. And he wants to use the Kronole to blast open the door to the outside, the door to hope. A fool’s hope perhaps. But hope nonetheless.

But the engine door opens from behind and the child-taker informs Curtis, with her words and a loaded gun, he is invited inside for dinner. Inside, Mr Wilford cooks Curtis steak, which he utterly refuses to eat, while the brilliant engineer expounds upon how the system was created to keep everything in the proper balance. That even the revolutions were planned by him and Gilliam for the sake of population control. Curtis takes this news about as well as I did. Not Gilliam. Please no. Not the man who cut off his own arm to save a baby from being devoured. Not the man who propelled Curtis forward. Not him. Although maybe Mr Wilford was lying. Didn’t Gilliam say to not let him talk? Didn’t Gilliam tell Curtis to cut out his tongue?

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Finally Mr Wilford hands Curtis one more message in its metal capsule. It simply says “Train”. The black words stark against the red paper. Mr Wilford’s words on blood. A sick and twisted version of Mr Wonka and his chocolate factory. But these are not sweets that the master is offering to Curtis. This is the chance to become what he hates. The opportunity to be the Sacred Engine Master. When Yona, the clairvoyant, comes rushing in, begging Curtis for help against the encroaching murderous horde outside the engine room, she suddenly senses something beneath the floor. She and Curtis pull it up to reveal Timmy, dead Tanya’s Timmy, working in the engine. A disposable tail child in the mind of Mr Wilford, perfect to replace the failing engine parts.

But Curtis does not agree. He thrusts his hand into the whirring gears to stop them long enough to allow Timmy to get out. The horde comes closer. Namgoong is fighting. Yona has lit the Kronole bomb on the door to the outside world. Timmy escapes as the engine grinds against Curtis’ arm, slicing it off. He stands up, bloody and battered. The one-armed child-saver. Redeemed.

Then  boom.

The explosion rips the train apart, starting an avalanche, utterly and completely demolishing the train. And fade to black.

In that moment, I begged Joon-ho Bong for hope. Please don’t let it end like this. Please just give us a glimpse of hope.

And the screen lights back up, revealing Yona and Timmy. Alone in the bleak landscape. Please let there be hope. And there, up on the mountainside, a polar bear scaling the peak, a creature surviving.

Life after death.

This may be a film about class warfare but at its core, it about the search for hope. Curtis searching for redemption. Namgoong searching for a way out. And finally at the end, Yona and Timmy searching for home.

And the search for hope undergirding it all.

Sherlock’s Goodbye

Honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to get to this. Well. Not that surprised. Grad school manages to suck up a massive amount of time.

Here’s the thing. I am a Sherlockian. Yes, I’m a card-carrying Whovian as well. And it was Doctor Who that first inspired me to finally start this blog. But I only got into Doctor Who because Sherlock was on hiatus. For two years. After a series of only three episodes. Which ended on a cliffhanger to end practically all cliffhangers.

In my desperation for good BBC telly, I turned to the Doctor. In retrospect, an excellent decision. But I am not here to write about Doctor Who. I am here to write about Sherlock. I am here to seek to process “His Last Vow”.

I think you should know that I cry very easily at films and TV shows. Heck. I’ve even cried at a grocery store commercial. So it’s fairly easy to make me cry. Sherlock, though, had never made me cry.

I don’t know why I didn’t cry during “The Reichenbach Fall”. I wanted to. When Sherlock fell. When John’s heart broke and mine did too. I wanted to cry. But I couldn’t. I don’t know why. I couldn’t breathe. I know that. My hands were pressed tight against my mouth as he fell. There was no air exchange happening in my lungs when John stood at Sherlock’s grave, told him he was the “most human human being”, asked him not to be dead. But no tears. I felt like rather a failure of a fangirl.

Because I’m me, I have analyzed this quite a lot. The best conclusion I can come to is the fact that somehow I knew that Sherlock survived. I’m not sure if it had been spoiled for me somehow or if I just knew because of the books. Perhaps it was because I was aware that series three had already been confirmed. But I did know. And I think that stopped the tears. Somehow knowing that Sherlock wasn’t really dead made me unable to cry with John. I don’t know why. And that last moment, when John walks away from Sherlock’s grave and the camera pans to reveal a very much alive Sherlock watching his friend, even though I knew it was coming, the relief and excitement was massive.

Then, if you follow British television at all, you know that a two year hiatus followed. Two years full of survival theories, a fandom desperate for any scrap of news, a tumblr replete with fangirls making up wild fanfic. Then finally series three aired.

I am not going to address episodes one and two here other than to say I so enjoyed the way that the first episode focused on the reuniting of two very dear friends and the way the second episode proved that Sherlock does have a heart. That best man speech was perfect. Witty, charming, abrasive, full of love. I also came to love Mary very quickly in the first two episodes. She fit right in and rather than dragging Sherlock and John down, she encouraged them and brought them closer together.

sherlock-wedding-john-mary-sherlockSo in “His Last Vow”, I was as shocked as Sherlock was when Mary turned out to be an assassin, a cold-blooded killer with a past. And when she shot Sherlock, my hands flew to my face in utter disbelief and sadness.

I didn’t cry then. I just didn’t breathe. As Sherlock fought desperately to stay alive, my mind reeled. How could Mary do that? Who was she? And why did she shoot Sherlock?

The mind palace was brilliantly filmed. I loved that Molly showed up. Again, the one person he can count on. The one person he can trust. Earlier in the episode she slapped him out of anger, to shake him from his own selfish behavior. Now she slaps him to wake him up, to save him from death. Anderson shows up. An idiot. But this time the idiot has something clever to say. Then Mycroft is there. The brother who claims that caring is not an advantage but is inextricably linked to his younger sibling. The Holmes brothers. Two outcasts in a world of goldfish. And suddenly Sherlock is young again. A frightened little boy afraid he’s upset his parents. Again.

They tell him to fall. And he falls. If you listened to the music at this moment, it is the exact same music that plays when Sherlock falls off of the roof of St. Bart’s in Reichenbach. Except this time, there is no plan, no Lazarus option. Sherlock is falling to his death. He (and we by extension) are transported to his mind palace.

And his stalwarts, his Mycroft, his Molly, tell him to find something, anything that will keep him from going into shock. Control. Stay calm.

He searches for John. But finds Mary in her wedding dress and she shoots him again. Clearly he needs to go deeper. Then he sees Redbeard. His childhood dog. Little boy Sherlock. Did you notice the name? Redbeard. A pirate’s name. What might we deduce about his heart? I’ve no idea. But when he was young, he wanted to be a pirate.

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I still wasn’t crying at this point. I was still too much in shock and I had no mind palace to keep me calm.

The mind palace filming was fantastic in my estimation. So often, that inner dialogue, especially for a character like Sherlock who is not given to outward displays of emotion, is difficult to portray. The camera angles, the harsh lighting, the music all served to make the mind palace a haunting picture of Sherlock’s emotional turmoil and his love for his friend that was strong enough to bring him back from death.

Interesting how this time, Moriarty saved him. He had locked Moriarty away in the dungeons of the mind palace and in this moment of acute and utter despair, it was his enemy that gave him the courage to continue on, to come back from death.

As the truth came out later in the episode and John found out from Mary’s own mouth about her history, that brought tears to my eyes. John’s heartbreak mirrored my own sadness over her betrayal. And the two conversations between husband and wife, the first when he confronts her, the second when he forgives her, were some of the most heart-wrenching moments. But that wasn’t the most emotional moment.

A passing comment by Mycroft at the Holmes’ homestead on Christmas, “MI 6. They want to place you back into Eastern Europe. An undercover assignment that will prove fatal to you in, I think, about six months,” sets up that moment. And I didn’t even see it coming. After Sherlock’s murder of Magnussen, a scene which would require its own post, he is being exiled. We don’t know where. John and Mary come to say goodbye.

At this point, my throat was beginning to constrict and my vision was beginning to get blurry. I was holding it together fairly well. I made it through “William Sherlock Scott Holmes. If you’re looking for baby names.” Until Sherlock told John where he was going. A job in Eastern Europe that would last about six months.

“And then what?” John asks. Sherlock shrugs. “Who knows.”

And that’s when I lost it. Because I knew. I knew that fatal job in Eastern Europe that would claim Sherlock’s life in six months. I knew that it didn’t matter that series four had already been commissioned. Six months was plenty of time for another series and Sherlock would still die at the end of it. Really die this time. Not like Reichenbach. Not like Mary’s carefully calculated bullet. Really and truly die. And John had no idea. And that’s why I cried. For real cried.

Because he is saying goodbye forever and he doesn’t even know it. He knows he’s saying goodbye. But we all know in the back of his mind, he thinks he’ll see his friend again. And we know he won’t.

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Goodbyes are hard. Final goodbyes are even harder. And this goodbye ripped my heart out.

Of course, Steven Moffat being Steven Moffat, he can’t keep anyone dead for long so when Moriarty showed up again and Sherlock’s exile ended after precisely four minutes, my tears quickly dried. And instead I was left shaking my fist, not for the first time, at MOOOFFFAATTTT!!!!

Here’s hoping it’s not another two years before Sherlock graces our screens again.

The Dark Knight Rises

Usually, if you ask me what I was doing a year ago, I don’t remember. My memory is overtaxed and underpaid and it often doesn’t remember things like that.

However, today is different. I know exactly what I doing a year ago at this moment. A year ago, I was preparing to see the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. I have anticipated few films as much as I was anticipating this one. The genius of the previous two films had whet my appetite and I was convinced that Christopher Nolan would not disappoint. The four years in between the second and third film merely increased my expectations.

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(Before you keep reading, you need to know something. Earlier that day, I’d had a pretty significant emotional epiphany. My walk with God had been dry and I’d been feeling very far away from Him. I had a conversation that morning and God broke through in a major way, reminding me again of His love, care, and compassion for me. So as I was preparing to see the film, I was no longer emotionally constipated. Just know that.)

The film was a typical Nolan piece – excellent cinematography, stirring music, engaging story, good acting. I was totally engrossed. Then the final twenty minutes happened.

Now, I’m not a Batman comic book fan. I’ve not seen the other Batman movies (except, regrettably an hour of “Batman and Robin” which is an hour of my life that was completely wasted). I’ve seen episodes of the campy 1960′s TV show. However, Nolan’s Batman is, in my mind, THE definitive Batman. You can argue with me on that and you’re probably right but that’s how it is in my brain. So I had no preconceived notions of a Talia Al-Ghul or anything.

When Miranda Tate was revealed to be Talia, as she stabbed my Batman in the chest with that slow slow knife, my hands flew to my mouth. It’s a thing I do when I’m emotionally affected by something onscreen – I press my hands against my mouth and sometimes I stop breathing for a little bit. I tried to put my hands down but I just couldn’t. Every time I placed them at my side, they’d fly back up.

As the story unfolded in front of my eyes, the countdown of the nuclear bomb, the realization that the bomb would have to be taken away from the city, and Batman’s autopilot didn’t work so he’d have to take it at the cost of his own life, I began crying. As he clipped the bomb to The Bat, I began full-on sobbing (albeit quietly). When the bomb exploded, I lost it. I had guessed from the trailers that Batman would die but I’d been hoping against hope that somehow he wouldn’t. For all that hope though, I didn’t trust Nolan to keep him alive. When I saw the blast, I felt my fears realized and I felt all hope was lost.

Then, the words from A Tale of Two Cities sounded. One of the most powerful endings (and one of my personal favorites) in all of literature. “It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” Sidney Cartier’s words as he died in place of the husband of the woman he loved. Words that put Bruce Wayne to rest after he died for the city that had rejected him despite his love for it.

But then.

Oh yes. But then.

The music started soaring. The city honored their dead hero. John Blake goes to pick up his belongings which are filed under his real name. Lucius Fox discovers that Bruce Wayne fixed the auto-pilot months ago. Jim Gordon goes up to the roof of the police headquarters and sees the repaired Bat-Signal. I think it was at that moment that I started to hope again. “Sherlock survived,” I thought to myself. “Maybe. Just maybe…” John Blake rappels into a familiar cave, holds up his light, ducks as the bats come towards him.

Then Alfred at his cafe looks up, smiles. “Oh no!” My mind started racing. “He’s going to pull an Inception trick on us! The screen’s going to go black before we see for sure what Alfred is smiling about!” But it didn’t. There, right there on the screen in front of me, was Bruce Wayne. And he was alive. And he was smiling.

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It was at that moment that I (and multiple others in the theater) cheered. I couldn’t help it. I was so relieved and grateful and excited that I had to cheer.

And then there’s John Blake, in the Bat-Cave, sloshing through the water. He stands there and the rock slab underneath his feet begins to move. And he rises. And blackout. And I started breathing again. Although my hands shook for another five minutes because of all the adrenaline racing through my body.

Very few films have affected me the way that The Dark Knight Rises did. I think part of it had to do with my emotional state going into it. But I think another part of it was the Gospel imagery that I couldn’t help but notice. At the end of The Dark Knight, when Batman tells Gordon to “call it in”, to tell his guys that Batman had killed Harvey Dent, his son, who had seen Dent’s death and knew the truth, asked his father why they were chasing Batman. Gordon replied “Because he can take it.” Isn’t that what Jesus did? Taking the blame for something He hadn’t done for a people who were ungrateful? Then to have Batman “die” and be, for all practical purposes, resurrected brought to my mind the real Resurrection. After all, aren’t all good stories reflections of The Great Story?

And doesn’t The Great Story give us hope in the darkest night? Without the truth that Innocence has died but is no longer dead, there is no hope. But because the Righteous gave His life for the unrighteous, we have peace with God. And because the Righteous Innocent did not stay dead, we have hope.

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Postscript: It seems necessary to remember Aurora in this post. I’m glad I saw the film before Aurora happened. The horror the next morning when I woke up to a Twitter and Facebook newsfeed full of the tragedy was surreal since I had been in a theater watching that film at that time. It could have been me in that terror. Remember Aurora. Remember also that Death does not have the final say. Even in the darkest night, hope rises.

Monsters University

One of my greatest regrets in life is not seeing Finding Nemo in theatres. Twice. I missed it on the first go-round (stupid, stupid) and then I promised Kelsey I would take her to see it when it was in theatres for the tenth anniversary. I blew that one. Royally. We’re still on speaking terms though so that’s a good thing. I was as disappointed as she was since Nemo and WALL-E are tied for my all-time favorite Pixar films. However, to make it up to her, I promised (for realsies this time) to take her to see Monsters University when it was released. This time, I kept my word and took her on opening day.

Firstly, I have never been in a theatre with so many young children before. It makes for a much different (and much louder) viewing experience. Also, after watching the trailers before the movie, I realized (again) that the caliber of film that Hollywood makes for children is disgusting. Good films aimed at the whole family, or at least the younger parts, are hard to come by. That’s probably why Pixar has done so well. It doesn’t patronize the kids. It tells them good stories. But that’s a soapbox I should probably save for another day.

This film was good clean fun. That old Pixar sparkle was back. I must admit, after the misstep that was Brave (and I refuse to watch Cars 2 or even admit it’s part of the Pixar canon), I was leery of Monsters U. Sequels are hard to do well and although origin stories for well-known and well-loved characters are big right now (ahem, Batman and Superman), this is new territory for Pixar. We already know they did well with the Toy Story sequels. Toy Story 3, in my opinion, is the strongest of all the films and one of my favorite films ever. But I went into Monsters U with lowered expectations.

I’m excited to say it met and even exceeded them.

It wasn’t the strongest film Pixar has ever made. But it had some story twists that surprised me a bit. And it was fun to see well-known characters from Monsters Inc in their slightly-less mature and fun versions.

Mike Wazowski is not the wise-cracking guy from the original story. He’s a small one-eyed monster whose whole life revolves around being a Scarer. His plan since he went on a field trip in grade school and met a Scarer, a Monsters U alum, who took a brief but genuine interest in him (voiced by John Krasinksi – a fun moment for a Krasinski fan like myself), Mike’s plan has been to get to MU and then become a Scarer.

Monsters U Mike Arrives at School

But, as it turns out, he’s just not very scary. Through a series of events, he and Jimmy Sullivan (Sulley to his friends and a member of the famed Scaring Family, the Sullivans) end up kicked out of the scaring program together, which galls them both since they can’t stand each other, and their only hope of getting back in is to win the annual Scare Games competition with the hapless and frightening-as-butterflies Oozma Kappa fraternity. Oozma Kappa’s idea of a wild night includes mugs of hot cocoa on floral couches. Not your best bet when you’re trying to win the Scare Games.

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But Mike is determined. He whips these guys into shape and goshdarnit, they are actually getting better. They are staying competitive and Mike is becoming more and more confident that he will get back into the scaring program. Of course, as the Games progress, Sulley and Mike become friends.

Finally, it’s the last round of the Games, winner take all. It’s Oozma Kappa versus the mighty Roar Omega Roar. Oozma Kappa ends up winning the round thanks to Mike scaring the muffintops out of the robot-child in the scare simulator. However, during the celebrations, Mike realizes that Sulley has tampered with the simulator and set it to “easy”. Sulley defends his decision, saying he did it for the team. But Mike takes it to mean (and rightly so) that he’s just not very scary. So in a last-ditch effort to prove himself among the scaring elite, he goes on a suicide mission. He goes to the door lab, opens a door into the human world, and tries to scare a little girl. But she isn’t scared. Instead, she responds to his best effort of a scary roar with a mocking howl. Then Mike realizes he has stumbled into a girls overnight camp and there is a whole cabin full of girls there to mock him him.

Sulley, in the monster world, realizes that Mike has gone into the human world in an effort to prove himself. And he follows his friend through the door to try to save him. When he finally finds him, Mike is sitting at the edge of the lake, covered in mud, just staring. I didn’t cry watching this film but this exchange nearly brought tears to my eyes. Mike is absolutely and utterly dejected. His entire purpose and goal in life has just evaporated before his eyes. He has nothing to live for.

How many times have I had water’s-edge moments? Those times when I stopped, looked around, and said to myself “Self, what are you doing?” Now my moments may not have been as life-depressing and life-altering as Mike’s but that disappointment is a familiar theme to me. When I finally realize that that thing that I wanted so badly, that thing that I was sure I could achieve is I just kept working hard enough, that thing, that is taken away once and for all. I know that feeling.

And it’s here that the power of friendship comes into play. Because it’s here that Sulley finally opens up to his friend. Sulley, of the great scaring Sullivans, admits that most of the time, he’s terrified. He’s built to be a scarer but deep inside, he’s shaking in his boots. We all need a friend when those water’s-edge moments come. We need someone who will just sit with us and say “You know. I don’t totally understand what you’re going through. But I’m broken too. And I’m here for you.” A powerful image. It was also in this scene when I realized what a fantastic voice actor Billy Crystal is. There’s one line during this exchange, and I can’t remember even what it is now, but he delivers it with such pitch-perfect pathos that the viewer doesn’t even need the image to go along with it in order to feel the emotion. Excellent job.

Another motif that snagged my attention was that of fear. Obviously, not having discovered that laughter contains far more energy than laughter, the monsters hold up the humans as being toxic and something to be feared. Dean Hardscrabble (an excellent vocal performance by Helen Mirren) is feared by even her fellow professors. Mentioned several times during the Games and in training is the idea that children are the ones who the monsters go after because they are the ones that are able to be scared. Teenagers and adults are to be avoided at all costs.

However, while Mike and Sulley are in the human world, Dean Hardscabble orders the door turned off so that there’s no chance of human contamination coming through. But that also means that Mike and Sulley can’t get back either. In order to get home, they have to generate enough scare power to open the door from the human side. But the kids have all been evacuated. The only humans are the adults. Sulley and Mike employ every horror story cliche in the book – squeaks on the floor, blowing curtains in the windows, a wind-up doll crying “Mommy” as it walks around, moving shadows in the corners, all the classics. The fear is slowly being tightened like a violin string so that when Sulley finally jumps up and lets loose his roar, the screams and the fear and the energy from the adults is enough to not only open the door but explode it.

Isn’t that the way fear works though? It’s the things we can’t see that we fear. It’s the imagination running wild that gets us into trouble. When I was a kid, I used to think grown-ups weren’t afraid of anything. Now that I am one, my fears have morphed. They’re no longer concrete but they’ve become abstract. I fear rejection. I fear a bad economy. That doesn’t mean I don’t fear concrete things too – car accidents are very concrete – but fear has become more insidious. Now I don’t fear monsters in the closet but I do fear loneliness. Fear is a powerful emotion. One for which the only antidote is love.

Perfect love casts out fear. Not hate. Love and hate are not opposites here. Love and fear are. So love, people. That’s what kills our fears.

And go see Monsters University. It’s going to make you smile.

Monster-University- Mike Sulley

Bonus: The short before the flick is very sweet. It’s reminiscent of Paperman. I quite enjoyed it. And the animation is stunning, even for Pixar.

Also. I’m not sure if this was on purpose but I totally caught a Princess Bride reference. :)

Doctor Who: Doomsday

I am a Whovian. I was a Whovian before I even started watching the show and I knew it. I knew that I would fall in love with the characters. I knew that I would embrace all that the fandom is. I knew that I would be That Girl talking about timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly stuff, about the TARDIS, about Daleks and Cybermen.

I just didn’t know when the moment would be.

If you’ve ever been on tumblr for more than 17.4 seconds, you know it is comprised mostly of 14-year-old girls obsessed with television shows that give them “feels”. Feels, noun: a shortened version of the word feelings; used to express an emotional experience, usually sad, so deep that words fail the person describing it. Here’s the thing. I joined tumblr a while back so that I could follow Benedict Cumberbatch blogs (that’s a story for a different post). However, most people who are Sherlock fans are also Doctor Who fans. So I saw my fair share of Doctor Who pictures, gifs, and posts. And nearly all of them were described as producing “feels”. There was one picture in particular that I saw over and over.

doomsday wall

Walls. Something that all good Whovians cry just thinking about.

Since I normally watch my Doctor Who episodes at the gym, I did some intel gathering since I was afraid I might start crying at the gym while watching this episode. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The last three episodes of the second series of Doctor Who were clearly written to lead to the emotional climax of “Doomsday”. In “Fear Her”, two episodes before “Doomsday”, Rose tells the Doctor “I’ll be with you forever” and everyone watching knows that statement has just doomed her. Rose has traveled with the Doctor through time and space for two series, seen the Doctor transform and regenerate, has absolutely fallen in love with him. And when she tells him they’ll never be separated, one can almost hear the nails in her coffin being pounded in.

While watching “Army of Ghosts”, the first part of the a two-episode arc that is completed by “Doomsday”, the minute I saw the wall, I knew it, felt a stab of recognition in my chest.

While the Cybermen and Daleks fought it out, I watched but I wasn’t really so concerned with them. I know that the Doctor would somehow figure it all out. But I also knew that, unlike every other time, he wouldn’t find a way to save Rose and save the world. When Rose crossed back over the void to help the Doctor, leaving her family in Parallel Earth, I thought that maybe somehow something would work out. But I’d seen The Wall. I knew that Rose and the Doctor wouldn’t make it through this together.

Then when Rose’s hand started slipping off the lever that was keeping the void open, I started to get scared. At the last moment, Peter appeared, caught her, and brought her back with him to Parallel Earth, and the void closed. The Wall was a solid thing now, no longer allowing travel between universes. That’s when the tears started coming. My throat had been constricting for some time but the tears were definite now. But, I didn’t feel “the feels” the way that tumblr had led me to believe I would. I was sad, yes. But not devastated.

You see, I never was a massive Rose fan. She was my first Companion and I loved her for that but I never quite understood the dynamic between her and Mickey; I felt like she just kept leading him on even though she’d given her heart to the Doctor. And I never really really liked her accent. Cockney’s not really my thing. But for all that, the chemistry between Rose and the Doctor was crackling. She and Nine were good. She and Ten were superb. She brought a sparkle to his eye that wasn’t there any other time. They laughed so much with each other. And they always managed to stick together. Through all the moments when it seemed that there was no way they would both come through alive and together, they did.

And the wall devastated that. Utterly and completely. And I cried. But I was not prepared for the last few minutes of the episode.

Rose hears the Doctor in a dream and she follows his direction and travels, along with Peter, Jackie, and Mickey, to Bad Wolf Bay, and they arrive at the beach. At first, there isn’t anything there. Then when Rose turns and we see the Doctor standing there, looking like a hologram, my hands fly to my mouth and the tears start again.

“Where are you?” she asks him. “Inside the TARDIS,” he replies. He then explains that he’s orbiting a supernova just to maintain enough energy to send his image through this closing crack in between universes. “I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye,” he tells her. “You look like a ghost,” she says. He pulls out the sonic screwdriver, adjusts something, solidifies. She comes closer, about to touch his face. “I’m still just an image. No touch,” he says. “Can’t you come through properly,” she asks, a hint of pleading creeping into her voice. “The whole thing would fracture,” he explains. “Two universes would collapse.” “So?” she says? Yes, Doctor. Who cares?

There’s some small talk. The gap is in Bad Wolf Bay. They have about two minutes to say goodbye. She’s working for Torchwood. Jackie’s pregnant. He tells her she’s dead in his universe. How clever of the writers to give us this little break in the emotion. Give us a chance to catch our breath a little bit. Except they’re not doing that.

Rose is beginning to cry. The Doctor’s smiling at her, a broken smile. “Am I ever gonna see you again?” she asks through tears. “You can’t.” “What are you gonna do?” “I’ve got a TARDIS,” he tells her through the lump in his throat. “Same old life. Last of the Time Lords.” “On your own?” she asks. She’s crying so hard I can hardly understand her. It doesn’t matter. I’m crying too. The Doctor can’t speak either. He just nods.

Rose takes a deep breath. “I…” Her tears are too much. She tries again. “I love you.” I’m crying nearly as hard as she is. “Quite right too,” he says. “And I suppose, since it’s my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler…”

And then he’s gone. The gap is closed and the Doctor is gone.

Doctor crying Doomsday

This was it. The was moment I became a Whovian. I fell in love with Doctor Who slowly. Nine was fantastic. But I knew I loved the Doctor when Ten quoted the Lion King on Christmas Day. However, you’re not a true Whovian until the show has broken your heart. And my heart broke in that moment. I let loose a sob that I didn’t even know was welling up in my throat and I was done. In that split second, I understood the “feels”.

What is it about a television show that can do this to people? It’s just pixels on a screen. It’s not real. It doesn’t exist except on my screen, in my imagination, in my heart. But I think it’s the way that it tugs at what we know and reminds us of what is real that makes it so heartbreakingly wonderful.

The words that are left unsaid are the ones that hurt the most. There is not a single shred of doubt in my mind that the Doctor was going to tell Rose he loved her too. In “The Satan Pit” as the Doctor descends into Hell itself, he tells the person with him “Tell Rose…” “Tell her what?” “Never mind. She’ll know.”  She’ll know that he loves her. That if he dies, that he thought of her at his last breath. And yet she never hears those words. And she’ll never hear those words because he’s gone forever. And that’s what made me sob.

Walls don’t make me cry. But if you mention Bad Wolf Bay, be prepared for the waterworks.

doomsday-doctor-rose-beach2

[Confession: I rewatched the beach scene to refresh my memory for writing this. I sobbed even more the second time.]

Once upon a time…

I’ve thought about starting a blog like this for some time. People who know me (two persons count as people, right?) have encouraged me to do so. You don’t have to like it. Heck, you don’t even have to read it. But somehow, typing these words (because, let’s face it, it’s going to be pretty much the same theme every single time) is going to be good for me, a coping strategy, a method to deal with (or possibly stave off) the madness. And I’m inviting you to witness my catharsis.

Lucky you.

Be aware, since I’ll be delving into the emotions of the films and episodes and books and whatever other media I so choose, you may not want to read about it until you’ve gotten a chance to experience it yourself.

Welcome. And remember. Here, there be spoilers.