Friday, December 13, 2013

A Review of Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music

Hey everyone, Dana here. Once again, I apologize for the lack of blog posts. Last week I was preparing for presentations, final papers and final exams, and the week before was Thanksgiving, so blogging was rather minimal. Well, I'm back! A few weeks ago, I put in my two cents on Disney Princesses and how they affect the self esteem of young girls. This time, I got another review! Last week Thursday, Carrie Underwood participated in a live performance of The Sound of Music on NBC. I shall once again put my two cents into it.

Okay, so around Thanksgiving, I was watching TV one day and saw coming attractions of a live performance of The Sound of Music on NBC...with Carrie Underwood portraying Maria von Trapp. Personally, I'm not a fan of Carrie Underwood. And no, it's not because she's not a rock artist. No, it's not because I'm "closed-minded." I just personally don't care for her voice. I watched American Idol when I was thirteen, and I vividly remember her as a contestant on Season 4 of American Idol. I remember she was just a typical twenty-year old girl who lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere and auditioned for American Idol and ended up winning at the close of the season. After that, I never paid much attention to what she does or when she performs. So, since I happen to love The Sound of Music, I was somewhat interested in how she portrayed the musical governess for the von Trapp kids. I may not like Carrie Underwood, but I'd give her a try.

So, after viewing The Sound of Music featuring Carrie Underwood, I was not surprised to find myself not thoroughly enjoying it as much as I thought. I may not care for her voice or country/pop music, but I must say I can see why she became the American Idol finalist in Season 4. She's got something going for her, but she's personally not for me. But acting isn't for her either. I think singing is what she should stick with instead of acting. She's no Julie Andrews, no one can compare to her as Maria von Trapp; but she didn't seem very motherly towards the kids portraying the von Trapp children. I felt like I was watching an older sister or a baby sitter singing with them. She seems a bit young to be a motherly type character. Give her a couple more years and maybe try again, but I wasn't too thrilled with her as a motherly-type character.

As for singing wise, I wasn't impressed with her singing "The Sound of Music," "Do-Re-Mi, "My Favorite Things," etc. As a ex-chorus student, I was taught to sing with vowels that sound more vertical than horizontal.  For example, when Carrie Underwood sang the lyric "the hills are alive with the sound of music,"she did not make the lyrics sound like someone that was chorally trained to sing it. Let's look at the lyric "The hills are alive with the sound of music," for instance. The words "alive," "sound" and "music" have vowels in them. If vowels are in  your lyrics, you need to enunciate them thoroughly in order to make it sound beautiful. The word "alive" needs to sound more like "" instead of "uh-lie-ve." The word "sound" needs to be pronounced like "psalm," instead of "sow-nd"(like sour) and "music" needs to sound like "m-oo-sic" instead of "m'you-sic." She failed at that.

The song "Do-Re-Mi" is another perfect example to analyze her singing. The syllable "do" is actually not supposed to sound like "dough" or "d'oh!" It's properly sung like "d-aw-oh" as if you had a Lifesaver candy held up vertically in your mouth. The syllable "re" is not supposed to sound like "ray." It's properly sung like "reh." The syllable "mi" isn't supposed to sound like "meee,"(as if you're saying the word cheese) but supposed to be sung like "me" with your mouth shaped as if  you were to sing "you." Try it. Say the word "me" but shape your mouth as if you were about to say "you." You'll see the difference. Carrie Underwood obviously  didn't. Her syllables were not very good, to be honest.

Now, my opinion may be different from the ones who gave her nothing but praise. Other people may agree with my views and opinions of Carrie Underwood's portrayal as Maria von Trapp. This, ladies and gentleman is called "constructive criticism." Every artist gets it and needs to learn from constructive criticism. I'm nowhere near close to getting anywhere towards the music scene and I get constructive criticism in almost everything I create; whether it's a research paper for school, a song I sang, or heck, even a blog post. I didn't take any of those things personally. Constructive criticism is supposed to help you. Carrie Underwood, on the other hand, was clearly hurt and felt personally attacked by the negative feedback. 

According to Twitter, she tweeted "Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight...1 Peter 2:1-25" Uh, what? Constructive criticism is considered "mean?" Okay, if they were deliberately insulting her with insults and petty curse-words, alright, I understand if she thought that those critics were mean. But seriously? Lady, you're a pop artist in the music business. Not everyone is going to fall over you and love every single performance you do. Just because you won American Idol, a popularity singing contest, doesn't mean that every single person in the world is going to love everything you do. There was no need to put up a passive aggressive tweet about constructive criticism being "mean." Take the constructive criticism as a learning experience and move on. And no, I don't "need" Jesus in my life, nor do I need to be prayed for. 

Carrie Underwood's portrayal as Maria von Trapp wasn't her best performance, but I'm sure if she performed in a musical as a character that was closer to her age, I'm sure she'd nail it. This just wasn't for her.

Thanks for reading, and look for posts in the near future! Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Disney Princess and the Self Esteem of Young Girls!

Hey everyone, Dana here. Last week, I posted my thoughts about gender segregation placed on toys and other consumables at Toys R Us. If you recall, I briefly touched upon Disney Princesses in the Barbie dolls, but I didn't really go into depth about it. Well, today...I feel my feminism re-emerging again, so it's time to really go into depth on Disney Princesses and how I feel that they ruin the self esteem of young girls. There are two Disney Princesses in particular that do this: Cinderella and Ariel. I'm warning you now, I'm gonna be brutally honest with what I think of these movies, so if you're faint of the heart, kindly close the tab and carry on. Thank you.
Alright, so I feel that the Disney Princess represents the identities of young girls that feel that they have to be attractive in order to be accepted by other people in this society. All of the heroines were portrayed as beautiful, intellectual, and ambitious women, while all of the antagonists were ugly, selfish, and cruel because they were jealous of the heroine’s beauty. This identity is portrayed in Walt Disney’s 1950 film Cinderella: the story of a young woman who lives with her mean-spirited step mother and step sisters.

Let’s talk about the time period this film was released, shall we? The 1950’s was a time that during the Cold War, women were being urged back home with imagery of ideal wives and mothers. Nearly every movie or television show that was either made in the 50's or took place in the 50's portrayed women as housewives or mothers. Look at Pleasantville, Father Knows Best, and The Honeymooners for instance; all of the women are housewives or mothers. Cinderella is no exception and is clearly unhappy about it. To break free from the poor living conditions, she sneaks out of her house to go to a party and falls in love with a handsome prince at first sight. 
The prince reciprocates that love with Cinderella and makes her his Queen solely for her looks, and for his personal gain: to become a king. Wow, selfish much? Since her amplified beauty was given to her by a fairy godmother, Prince Charming fell in love with her solely because of her appearance. He was completely smitten with Cinderella’s beauty and goes out of his way to find the “beautiful woman” with tiny little feet who can fit into the slipper. In other words, Prince Charming fell in love with her because of her looks; he didn’t even know her name or even bother to get to know her name. He did not get to know her personality or her ideal dreams for the future. Are you kidding me? That’s not “true love” or anything remotely close to being called “romantic.” Really, is he in love with Cinderella based on her personality, intellect and ambition, or how she looked at the ball? Which makes me wonder…who is the real Cinderella? The ordinary house servant, or the simulated princess? Is the servant, an identity forced upon her, more real than the woman so perfect her foot fits the glass slipper? Well, ladies and gentleman, it seems that only the perfect girl would fit in the glass slipper and would become the future queen of Prince Charming. In other words, if another woman cannot meet his expectations, i.e. fit the glass slipper, she isn’t good enough for him. That sounds like a great self esteem boost—not. 

You know what? What if Cinderella wanted to be more than just a housewife or a princess when she’s married to Prince Charming? This leads to the conclusion that since the film was made in the 1950’s, that’s all a woman was allowed to do. She couldn’t go outside of her home to get a well paying job because all of those jobs were occupied by men who applied to those jobs long before women were allowed to. But this message is still given to young girls who watch Disney Princess movies today. The 1950's was a completely different time from what we have now in soon-to-be 2014.

 From 1950 to 1989, society changed for women in America and the time period for Disney Princesses also changed. Yes, they have more opportunities than the woman portrayed in Cinderella, but Disney Princess movies still share the concept that a woman must be beautiful and perfect in order find a perfect man to marry. From what I get out of The Little Mermaid, the film encourages a pervasive world view that sees pure evil, not human fallibility, as the chief source of conflict. But you know what? The film fails to realize that Ariel had bad judgment on trusting Ursula’s deal, and chooses to change herself for her own personal gain: to fall in love with a Prince who only loves her for her appearance and singing voice. Selfish acts would not make a woman better than anyone else. Oh, but Ariel is a princess, so she doesn’t suffer consequences in the end, right? Yeah, sure, that sounds fair. So, in 1989, Walt Disney Pictures made The Little Mermaid, the story of a mermaid who must change herself to be accepted by Prince Eric, her future husband. Because Ariel is a mermaid, she can’t marry him unless she and Ursula sign a contract that is clearly reminiscent of a pact with the devil.

Let’s read between the lines here: she isn’t accepted for who she is, so she’s forced to sign a contract with an evil person to change her appearance so Prince Eric can fall in love with her. What the hell kind of love is that? Why can’t Prince Eric see Ariel for who she is as a person? He sees her as a beautiful woman, but nothing more. Not to mention she loses HER VOICE, you know, the thing that you use to state your opinions, give constructive criticism and to back up your beliefs. Unless Ariel digs shallow men like Prince Eric, no woman should ever pursue a guy who will only marry her unless she was beautiful. Also, Ariel is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. What the hell kind of sixteen year old is already planning on getting married? 
 The message that The Little Mermaid gives is that if you want to get married, you have to be more attractive for your fiancé. From what is perceived in this message, inner beauty doesn’t matter and a young girl doesn’t need to get a job or do anything productive in order to be successful. As long as she’s beautiful, she will have a happily ever after like every damn Disney Princess ever made. So tell me, how does this story affect a young girl’s self esteem? Not every girl in the world is going to become a super model or have a perfect body with flawless skin. With messages that the Disney Princess movies create, a young girl may develop an eating disorder because her first crush said she was ugly. Her dream of finding her “Prince Charming” would be crushed because she wasn’t beautiful like Cinderella and Ariel. So, how can a Disney Princess be a role model for young girls who want to be successful in life? Why should beauty be the only successful trait that young girls have? What about her intellect, ambition, and other productive skills that she may possess? This also ties into my severe distaste for beauty pageants; why are women being subjected to have the "perfect, hour glass shaped body" in order to be classified as "beautiful?" If this is apparently the meaning of success, then I don’t know what success means.

 So how does this tie in to youth culture? Young girls are in love with the idea of falling in love with “the perfect guy,” and expect him to just appear out of thin air. I noticed that in both Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, both Prince Charming and Prince Eric fall in love with Cinderella and Ariel, respectively before knowing their names. They base their “love” solely on appearance and beauty rather than knowing her name, interests, intellect, ambitions and dreams. Prince Charming wants to find the beautiful woman from the ball making each woman try on the glass slipper while Prince Eric tries to figure out who saved his life by listening to a woman’s singing voice. Again, these are just minor traits a woman can have. If I have a young daughter one day, I will not allow her to absorb delusional messages that Disney Princesses give to young girls. Physical beauty and appearances do not make a good role model. 

After viewing these Disney Princess movies, girls should fall in love a person based on personality, intellect and ambition regardless of physical appearance. The most attractive man in the world can be mean, shallow,  dishonest, selfish, pretentious and rude, while the average looking man can be funny, smart, honest, compassionate, romantic and faithful. If he can make her laugh, has good taste in music and treats her as if she's the only woman in the world, I'd give her my potential future daughter(s) my blessing! If it turns out that the ideal personality of a man matches physical beauty, then it looks like that girl is the lucky winner. I will teach my future children a phrase that I was taught when I was a young girl: don’t judge a book by its cover.

Well, there you have it, people. Thank you all so much for reading, and have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dana takes a trip to Toys R Us!

Hey everyone, Dana here. As you can see from last week's blog post, I did an "old v.s new" review of the 2002 Spiderman movie and it's 2012 remake, The Amazing Spiderman. Today, I'm gonna review something completely different than any of the last blog posts I made. It isn't a movie review, it isn't a TV review, and it isn't a music review! That's right people, I'm gonna be discussing youth culture at Toys R Us!
Alright, so yesterday afternoon, my Teen TV class decided that class will take place at a Toys R Us in Rego Park instead of the classroom because last week, we discussed an essay called "Toys R Us" by Ellen Seiter. In that reading, Seiter tells us her findings of what she sees when she goes to Toys R Us. She claims that there's a "wall of pink" or a "strictly girls section" of the store right near the entrance! Seiter even goes people watching too; she observes how mothers are with their children while shopping or browsing for various toys. Since Seiter got to write a long essay about her findings and observations at Toys R Us, I think it would be appropriate to write a blog about my night at Toys R Us!

First and foremost, this Toys R Us was completely different from other Toys R Us stores I've ever been to. This store was in an outdoor mall! All of the other Toys R Us stores I've been to out in Long Island were in gigantic buildings that were far away from other stores. This one was literally to the right of the up escalator.

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with CANDY. Not your typical "sweets," but "kets!" You know, giant lollipops, Pez dispensers, Double Bubble gum balls, Skittles, all different kinds of confection candy! Also known as, "candy that's marketed towards kids" and not for adults like Ghiradelli brand chocolate, Altoids and Ferrero Rocher.  Kids certainly love their candy, so what's a better way to draw their attention to the entrance of Toys R Us? CANDY! 
There were also seasonal Christmas candy since Christmas is right around the corner. We see candy canes, Santa Claus related items with chocolate inside, those giant candy cane shaped things with Hershey's kisses inside, essentially the usual Christmas candy we used to get when we were little! How ironic, it's not even Thanksgiving yet, and here is a ton of Christmas stuff thrown at us as soon as we walk in the door. Retail at it's finest, ladies and gentleman! Gotta love it, right?
Well, it looks like both seasonal and non-seasonal candy "greets" the shoppers and the consumers. Honestly, that's a pretty smart idea. That kind of set up attracts not only the shoppers, but their kids as well!

Aside of the candy greeting the shoppers, a "wall of pink" also shot at me as well. Right above the girls' section is a giant pink and white banner that's like a halo. So many doll houses, kitchen play sets, baby dolls, and at least fifty different kinds of Barbies! Holy crap, the variety of Barbie dolls was absolutely unbelievable. Back when I was a little girl, there were only the typical blonde princess Barbies or a Barbie dressed as a nurse. Now we have Twilight Barbies, Disney Princess Barbies, Hannah Montana Barbies, etc. But I noticed a couple of interesting things while looking at the labels and packaging of these pink boxes. When you get a doll for a little girl, there are images of young girls playing with the doll that is contained inside the package.  

Aside from the pictures of the little girls playing with the baby dolls and The Little Mermaid toy instruments, there's a rare chance that a boy would be featured on a toy that's marketed towards girls.
Well would you look at that?! A boy is shown on a toy-kitchen box that normally girls would play with! And surprisingly here, a girl is shown on an Exploderz box, right next to one that has a boy on it. And a girl is portrayed on Nerf gun box; wow. What I really liked about this store is that the girls section and the boys section were right next to each other, if not in the same aisle as each other. Other stores I've been to had the girls section on one side of the store, and the boys section would be on the complete opposite side of the store. No wonder there were so many temper tantrums in the other store! (Maybe one or two were crying last night.) They wanted to go to the other side of the store because they felt trapped being in a section that they don't belong to. But with this store, boy toys and girl toys were right next to each other!

It looks like toys aren't gender segregated anymore! Hallelujah, girls aren't only portrayed on packages of easy-bake ovens and baby dolls! And boys are shown playing with girls that are having fun using their play kitchen sets! I mean, really,look at that girl shooting hoops with the little boy. I remember when I was little, only boys were playing outside playing basketball or shooting at each other with Nerf guns while the girls were inside playing with their Barbies and playing house with their easy-bake ovens and play-kitchen set! I sure am glad that there are changes being made in the toy marketing industry. I really don't think there should be any gender segregation in the toy market. If candy displayed at the front of the store isn't gender segregated, neither should toys. 

Call me weird or crazy, but I think there is nothing wrong with a girl playing with toys that are marketed for boys and I certainly don't think there is anything wrong with a boy that plays with toys that are marketed for girls. 

When I was a little girl, I had no interest playing with Barbies, easy-bake ovens and kitchen sets. If I wasn't outside playing Manhunt, Capture The Flag and street hockey with the boys on the block, I was inside with my older brother playing Sonic The Hedgehog on Sega Genesis or playing with super hero action figures like Batman, Spiderman and the X-Men.
I will end this blog with one last long as kids are happy, getting along, and not fighting with each other, gender shouldn't be placed on toys.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Old vs. New: Spiderman

Hey everyone, Dana here. First, let me apologize for the lack of blog posts. Due to writer's block, I didn't make a blog post for the past three weeks. But if you caught my last post three weeks ago, I did a review of Joan Jett's new album, Unvarnished. Tonight, I'm gonna do something a little different. Yes, this is gonna be another movie review, but it's gonna be an old vs. remake movie review. Who would have thought that a ten year difference can make a movie so different, yet so similar at the same time. Without further-ado, let's dive into the 2002 movie Spiderman, and the 2012 movie The Amazing Spiderman!

So, I'm gonna break this review down into pieces. I'm gonna compare and contrast the two categories of each segment...and which ever I like better gets a point. By the end of the review, I will have decision about which version I liked better.

Let's start with this one...
Who is the better Peter Parker? Tobey Macguire or Andrew Garfield?
Let's take a look at the original version first. During the first scene of the 2002 Spiderman movie, we see Peter Parker running after the school bus as everyone laughs at him and makes fun of him for trying to run after the bus. Even when he gets on the bus, no one allows him to sit next to them. It was essentially a complete carbon copy of the bus scene from Forrest Gump! The only difference was that Peter never ended up sitting next to his love interest. His potential love interest just glanced at him and then never gave him the light of day until later on. In this version, Peter Parker is a victim of bullying from essentially everyone in the school except for his only friend, Harry Osborn. Everyone makes fun of him for being such a dork! He's a scrawny, socially inept, nerdy guy with black-rimmed glasses who is fascinated with the sciences and is not afraid to flaunt it. He's also very sensitive, but very clumsy before he inherits his spider-powers. This is the kind of character anyone can relate to; especially if you're a loner or if people call you a "dork" or a "nerd." Tobey Macguire clearly portrayed the comic book version of Spiderman in this movie. If you were to put a name/face to a definition of the word dork, Tobey Macguire's interpretation of Peter Parker is spot on. No questions asked. 

In The Amazing Spiderman, with the exception of Flash Thompson, his peers think he's a decent guy and like that he's a photographer.  In the  first film, girls would scoff if he's seen with his camera. Meanwhile in this version, girls would come up to him and compliment his photography. He even has a skateboard! Since when does a dorky, clumsy guy like Peter Parker have the balance and grace to know how to skateboard? So yeah, right off the bat, Andrew Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker doesn't hold true to the original comics. Also, the only reason why he gets physically beaten up by Flash is because he tried defending someone else who was getting bullied. From there, Gwen Stacy immediately takes an interest in him. Meanwhile, in the 2002 version, Peter Parker does everything in his power just to get Mary Jane to even have a conversation with him! Peter Parker is known to have bad luck with women. Needless to say, Tobey MacGuire clearly did a better job portraying Peter Parker over Andrew Garfield.
As of now, the older version takes the lead.

Old: 1
New: 0

Now, let's take a look at this one.
Who is the better Spiderman? Tobey Macguire or Andrew Garfield?
When Peter Parker wakes up the next morning to discover his spider powers in the original 2002 Spiderman movie, he's amazed that his vision significantly improved, became more muscular, has more stamina and is no longer clumsy. In essence, he became a total stud over night and takes it in stride. With the exception of the confrontation with Flash Thompson, Peter really doesn't have any problems controlling his new powers. He even beats Flash Thompson in a fight and from that moment on, the bullying comes to an end. Afterwards, he catches on quite easily. Even though things tend to look up for him in the story, I wasn't too thrilled with him as the role of Spiderman. He's too busy being "Mr. Good" and doesn't have any funny or well known one liners that made me chuckle. He kind of irritated me as Spiderman in a way. Spiderman is supposed to be Peter Parker's alter-ego; a funny, good looking dude. In this, not so much. 

Meanwhile in the remake, Peter's new spider powers cause a ridiculous amount of commotion and ends up fighting the other passengers in the subway. He had no intention of causing any problems to anyone but ends up making things worse because he literally couldn't take his hand off of that woman's shirt since his hand was stuck. The confrontation with Flash Thompson is also different. There is no fight at all; Peter challenges Flash to take the basketball from him and is essentially trolls him! "Come on Flash, take it." With that, the roles are reversed; Flash is the victim and Peter becomes the bully! After discovering his new powers, he hand makes web shooters instead of them magically appearing from his wrists like in the original 2002 movie. When Spiderman catches his first criminal, he's cracking one liners at them, makes fun of them while webbing him to the wall. I legitimately laughed at some of the things Andrew Garfield said while in the new, flashy Spiderman suit. In the comics, Spiderman was known to piss off his victims  by not only catching them in the act, but also taunting them and making them feel even more stupid. THAT, ladies and gentleman, is Spiderman! So, even though I prefered Tobey Macguire as Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield is a much better Spiderman.
Looks like we have a tie going on now.

Old: 1
New: 1 

Now, let's take a look at the story itself...this will be the tie breaker.

With the 2002 movie, Peter lives with his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Since he's constantly bullied and ridiculed for being so geeky, there's a darker, sadder tone with this film. When he has a fight with Uncle Ben, he blurts out "then stop pretending to be" after Uncle Ben acknowledges that he's not Peter's father. And those are the last words Peter ever says to Uncle Ben before he dies. Ouch, that's heavy. When he gets cheated out of winning money from the wrestling tournament, he deliberately lets the thief rob the promoter; repeating the words "It's not my problem" to him.  Unfortunately, revenge on the promoter who cheated him out of winning money was the worst decision he ever made; that thief murdered Uncle Ben. Not only did Peter lie to his aunt and uncle about where he's going, but he could have stopped that thief from murdering Uncle Ben.
That, ladies and gentleman, is heart-wrenching story telling. From that moment on, we see Peter as Spiderman; avenging Uncle Ben's death and making sure no one ever has to feel the pain that he had to deal with for the rest of his life. The main antagonist of this film is The Green Goblin, who just happens to be his best friend's father, Norman Osborn. So not only did Peter lie about his identity to his best friend, but he killed his best friend's father.
This is a very heavy movie. Heavy acting, heavy dialogue, heavy storyline. Job well done.

With The Amazing Spiderman, I sensed that the tone was much lighter; more comic relief, and a storyline that isn't as deep. The story is essentially about a guy who who grows up looking for his parents but ends up finding himself. I noticed that this film was more about Peter Parker's back story instead of Spiderman himself. With that kind of storyline, this movie was extremely dragged out. I mean, the appearance of Spiderman didn't come into the movie until roughly one hour in. When I see a Spiderman movie, I expect to see more Spiderman than Peter Parker. Which is exactly why I'm not too big on the Chris Nolan Batman movies; I saw more Bruce Wayne than Batman. I also felt Uncle Ben's death wasn't as heartbreaking as this one. Peter got into a fight with Uncle Ben because he forgot to walk Aunt May home from work. Then when he goes to the convinence store to get a bottle of milk, he couldn't pay the last two cents he didn't have. Because of that, the cashier refuses the sale.
Alright, I call bull on that. I work at CVS. I work retail. If some kid wants to get something and he's short a cent or two, I give the guy a break. Two cents isn't gonna get me fired. The next guy in line robs the store after pushing stuff off the counter and takes money from the register while the cashier's back is turned. After the thief runs off, he trips and drops the gun with Uncle Ben in clear sight. Uncle Ben is shot and killed, solely because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, he was looking for Peter, but the fact that Ben's death was caused by the lack of two cents is less believable than getting cheated out of prize money from a wrestling tournament. Also, there were people around when Ben got shot; where the hell did everybody go when Peter found him? I don't know, as much as I prefered the lighter tone in this film, I have to say that the 2002 Spiderman was much better than the remake. I think ten years is a little too soon to release a remake of a movie. Take a look at True Grit and The Karate Kid for instance. Those two remakes were released 41 and 26 years, respectively, after the first two movies were released for the first time.

Old: 2
New: 1

I must say, even though I prefer the original over the remake, The Amazing Spiderman was not a terrible movie. All movies have flaws, but I just feel ten years is just too soon to remake a movie. If a Spiderman movie had Tobey Macguire play Peter Parker and Andrew Garfield played Spiderman, that would be awesome. I just want to thank you again for taking the time to read my blog posts. Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Review of Unvarnished by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Hey everyone. Dana here. As you can see from my previous blog post, I did a movie review of one of the worst films ever made, The Room. This time, I'm reviewing a CD made by my musical inspiration, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. They released their new album, Unvarnished, a few weeks ago and I thought it would be appropriate to review it.  Heck, maybe she'll even see this! (Yeah, in my dreams, haha!) Since there was a Deluxe Version of this album for only two bucks more with extra songs and some stickers, it was definitely worth it. Well, here it is, everyone! Joan Jett's new album, Unvarnished! *insert applause here*

Let's take a look at it track by track.

Track 1: Any Weather (606 Version)

 I definitely love this as an opening track. The wall of sound that emanates from the speakers right when you press play means that there's a lot to say when words don't cut it. 

"Any Weather" has an upbeat, pure rock n' roll sound, but also has classical music thrown in there too. But what really struck me was the lyrics of this song. The chorus, "we can stay together through any weather, we can stay together through anything" can be interpreted in a couple of different ways.
Since Joan made
Unvarnished an autobiographical album, there's a chance that this song is about Hurricane Sandy since she lived through it. She's from Long Island, and it took a toll on her town, Long beach. But at the same time, the "weather" can be interpreted as a metaphor. The weather can represent rough times, good times, anything that affects normality. No matter how bad things get, you've got friends/family/loved ones that will stick by you and stay with  you. If that isn't a beautiful message to send out to fans, I don't know what beautiful is.

Track 2: TMI

This one is another favorite of mine off of this album. In August 2012, me and my boyfriend, Eddie, went to see her in Coney Island and this was one of the new songs she played for us aside from her hits and other songs from previous albums. I remember singing along to TMI when I was up front against he barricade and I remembered how catchy it was. Aside from the catchy sing-along type chorus, melody and heartfelt lyrics that anyone can relate to, I love the bass intro that plays along with the drums. Since I'm a bass player, I'm a sucker for bass breaks, bass solos, and bass intros. 
From what I get from this song, the title of the song pretty much speaks for itself. Not everyone wants to know every last living detail of everyone's lives. It's all about how stupid gossip, rumors, shit-talking and not having any filters is a waste of time, breath, and energy. People post passive aggressive Facebook statuses and everyone wants to know who it's directed to instead of just, oh I don't know, talking DIRECTLY to the person you got a problem with. With every waking detail about someone's day at the tip of our fingers, it reminds me of how teenagers are; always wanting to know who is sleeping with who, who has a problem with another person, blah blah blah. In other words, Joan says high school gossip is pathetic. I couldn't agree more.

Track 3: Soulmates To Strangers

Soulmates To Strangers...does that phrase sound familiar or what? Really, who can't relate to that?! I didn't even have to listen to the song to know that it was about drifting from someone. I mean, seriously, everyone has had someone that that they loved dearly and then drifted to nothing at all. Whether it was a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend, a husband, a wife, any kind of significant other...everyone has dealt with this at least once in his/her lifetime. I've had my share of boyfriends, "best friends," or people that I was close with. We used to talk every day and now, we're strangers. Some of them I haven't talked to in years because we either had a falling out, or we just talked less and less to the point where we don't even know each other. It's as if we never existed in each other's lives. Obviously, Joan lost someone special and it inspired her to write this song. If anything, she probably lost a lot of special people in her life since her songs are from the heart. Any song that speaks from the heart should be heard. I'd recommend this song to anyone that's currently dealing with a break up or a fight with a close friend. You're not alone. I promise.

Track 4: Make It Back

As soon as I heard the first few seconds of this song, it reminded me of songs that she wrote on her debut album, Bad Reputation. The guitar riff sounds something Chuck Berry would have written in the 1950's, so I can totally hear roots from older musicians in this song. The typical "one-four-five" chords that you hear in punk songs are heard during the verses as well. It's like I'm listening to a mix of 50's music and late 70's punk music.
With the lyrics, it sounds something along the lines of making through some kind of struggle, whether it was the hurricane or a personal struggle. But what I heard while listening to 102.3 WBAB while driving home from school tonight, this song really is about her experience during Hurricane Sandy. The opening verse about the sky getting dark, the wind getting stronger, houses going on fire, I was able to see everything in my mind while listening to those lyrics. The main chorus reminds me of the first track. Joan sings  "I know this train won't fall off the track 'cause I'm gonna make it back" many times throughout the song. The message pretty much says that despite the storm, things are gonna be okay and you're gonna make it through. Another inspirational song to listen to when things get rough. Really, why can't there be more musicians like her?

Track 5: Hard To Grow Up

Once again, the title speaks for itself. It is hard to grow up. Whether it's graduating college, looking for a full-time job with 40 hour week days, or having to grow up fast due to hardships, growing up is quite hard. But this one, was definitely an autobiographical song. Before this album was released, Joan's mother passed away. She was extremely close with her mother when she was alive, and "couldn't fathom" losing her back then. But now that she passed on, she really feels like growing up is hard. Losing a parent is one of the most heartbreaking things anyone can ever go through. I'm pretty sure every musician has written a song about the death of a loved one. For instance, I wrote a song about my friend, Casey Falconer, who died in a private plane crash on May 9th, 2012. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day wrote the song "Wake Me Up When September Ends" as a memorial to his father who died when he was only ten years old. When a loved one dies, writing a poem, a song, or anything is the most therapeutic thing anyone can ever do when something this upsetting happens to someone. Even if you're not so good at writing poems or if you're not musically inclined, just write your thoughts down. If you don't feel like speaking about it, write it. 

Track 6: Fragile

What I like about this song is the diversity of sound I hear from the other songs on this album and other songs from previous albums. There's a string trio (i.e, a violin player, a viola player and cello player) on this song. What rock n' roll song has a string trio accompanying a rock band?! It's brilliant! Roughly two minutes into the song, there is a string trio solo in lieu of a guitar solo. With the exception of "Sons of Liberty" by Frank Turner or multiple songs by celtic punk band Flogging Molly, I've never heard a classical string instrument like a violin, viola or cello (or all of the above) replace an electric guitar for a solo. How cool is that? Aside from the instruments, the lyrics struck me. 
Since life is fragile, it really does make you think about your own mortality, like what she sings in the second verse.While listening to them, I think about all of the things I accomplished or attempted and if I regretted any of those things or not.  Anything can happen to you and could potentially change your life. It can happen in seconds, it can happen many years from now. In short, never take your life for granted.

Track 7: Reality Mentality

This is another song I remember hearing when I went to her concert August 2012. Mainly because the melody of "Reality Mentality" stuck with me for the rest of the night. I remember singing the chorus because it was so damn catchy. Not to mention that phrase "reality mentality" is repeated multiple times throughout the song. From what I get from this song, it pretty much says that people in society live in a "reality mentality" instead of mentality that isn't based on what they've just seen. In other words, people believe everything they see on TV; whether it's a stupid ass reality show, Fox News, or anything that appears to be real when it really isn't. About two weeks ago in my Political Communications class, I watched a video by Professor George Gerbner called "The Electronic Storyteller," which pretty much means that people who watch TV are more prone to believe that everyone acts like what they see on the screen. For instance, news stories that depict crime and violence make viewers believe that there is crime and violence right in their own neighborhood. With that being said, the more reality shows and one sided news stories you watch, the chance that you believe everything you see significantly increases. Listen to this song and some how, watch the video "The Electronic Storyteller," and tell me that these two forms of media share the same message

Track 8: Bad As We Can Be

The wall of sound returns! Is it just me, or can you hear pure punk rock while listening to this? I hear Ramones and Misfits influences while listening to this. It makes me wanna mosh and maybe one day cover this song with my band! I'm usually not too huge on guitar solos, but I absolutely love when a guitar solo sounds like the chorus and it isn't just shredding all over the fret board  From what I get out of these lyrics, "I'm no good for you, you're no good for me, we're as bad as we could be," I can't figure  out if it's about breaking up, or both being bad to the point where they're meant to be together. I guess, interpret the way you want to. There's no right or wrong.

Track 9: Different

With the exception of the cowbell at the beginning of the song, the intro sounded just like "I Hate Myself For Loving You." I may love loud, lightning fast, upbeat songs, but this one is slower than the other ones. What I love the most about it is the lyrics. It's all about BULLYING; my biggest pet peeve. It's the biggest out of my other big pet peeves. Joan is to-the-point on this one. People stare at you, make fun of you, and treat you poorly solely because you're DIFFERENT. Oh hell no, NO ONE should ever be treated poorly for not conforming to the popular scene. No one should ever be alienated, excluded or get insulted for liking different music, wearing different clothes, having a different accent, or having anything that apparently threatens "normality" or whatever is considered "normal." Sounds like what I went through in high school! Why didn't this song come out when I was in high school, God dammit?! This would have been my anthem! But it's alright, Joanie, I forgive you. The fact that this song exists makes everything better. Apparently being different is "weird" or "isn't normal." Remember ladies and gentlemen, normality isn't universal.  At the close of the song, It ends with the drums imitating a heart beating. It sent shivers down my spine.

Track 10: Everybody Needs A Hero

Wow. Can you say surprise? For the first time, there's a ballad accompanied by a symphony orchestra. Holy crap everyone, this is pure diversity at it's finest. You begin an album with a wall of sound and close an album with a ballad. Holy crap. This is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I feel like this song is played for a slow dance at a prom or a wedding. When I thought Joan couldn't amaze me enough, she managed to surprise me by adding a ballad to this album. I'm at a loss for words with this one. She says everybody needs a hero...well, I have a hero. Her name is Joan Jett.

Overall, this is one of the finest albums I've ever listened to. What I love is that these lyrics are really mature and addresses serious issues like love, death, tragedies and hardships instead of lyrics that she used to write in her older albums from 25 years ago. Lyrics can be set to any kind of music, but all of these lyrics were appropriately placed with the right rhythm and melody. Every song sounded different; there were times where I'd listen to an album and one track would sound almost exactly like an earlier track. When I first heard that Unvarnished was going to be an autobiographical album, I had no idea that it would be so close to home and being able to relate to what she went through. Raw emotions is the only way to create something beautiful, and that's what I intend to do with my band. Joan Jett once again gave me a reason to keep doing what I'm doing, and I hope one day everyone has someone they look up to the way I do.

That's all, everyone. Thank you so much for reading. See you next week.
Until then, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Review of the Worst Film Ever Made: The Room

Hello everyone, Dana here. If you are reading this, congratulations. You're reading my first official blog post! I figured I'd start out with a movie review! What you are about to read is a thoroughly thought out review of one of the worst films ever made in the 21st century. I will be reviewing the 2003 independent film The Room.
Alright, so I have come to terms that this film is a prime example of what a movie producer should not do! The story is cliché, the use of stock footage is excessive and inappropriate, there are several plot holes regarding minor characters, the dialogue is redundant, and the acting is extremely poor due to the cast’s lack of acting experience.

Let me begin with a brief summary and back-story to this film. The Room is directed, executively produced, and written by Tommy Wiseau, the actor who portrays the main character in the film. The story of The Room takes place in San Francisco, and
revolves around a successful banker named Johnny who has a fiancé named Lisa. However, Lisa falls in love with Johnny’s best friend Mark, and has an affair with him because she thinks Johnny is “boring.” Johnny eventually finds out about it and ends up shooting himself in the head. With that kind of a story, the film is pretty much a soap opera that’s been extended to an hour and forty minutes. Every melodrama has a love triangle, but that love triangle shouldn't be the entire premise of the film. There are three sex scenes that occur within the first 25 minutes of the film and sappy ballads are dubbed over the sex scenes along with moans and sighs. If I didn't know any better, I thought I was watching a porn film with a high budget.

Films have establishing shots that show where the scene is supposed to take place. During the opening credits of The Room, there are multiple exterior shots of ambiguous places before there is a well-known shot of skyscrapers and trolley cars that tell us that it takes place in San Francisco. There are also multiple establishing shots before dialogue commences. There is so much stock footage of exterior shots, but 98% of the film takes place in Johnny and Lisa’s apartment. For example, Tommy Wiseau decided to take a wide shot of a church in San Francisco as an establishing shot. Meanwhile, the interior scene takes place in the apartment. This throws off the audience because they expect the scene to take place inside of the church. More unnecessary stock footage is used when Wiseau decided to take a pan shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from left to right and visa versa for 15 seconds each. Another example of unnecessary stock footage is used towards the end of the film; Wiseau takes an extreme wide shot of buildings and skyscrapers at night and pans to the left for a total of twenty seconds. Meanwhile, the next scene takes place in the same setting as the previous scene.

There are subplots in every film and television show since the emergence of the cinema. All subplots are supposed to have a resolution at the plot’s conclusion. However, there are several plot holes throughout the entire film. None of the minor characters in the film are introduced nor have any back story. The first plot hole in the film takes place when Lisa confides in her mother, Claudette, about having an affair with Mark. Suddenly, her mother nonchalantly says “I got the results of the tests back…I definitely have breast cancer.” The breast cancer subplot is never brought up nor is it ever mentioned again. The next plot hole takes place when Lisa’s friends, Michelle and Mike, walk into Johnny and Lisa’s apartment to engage in sexual activities. They were never mentioned prior to that scene, nor do they have back stories. They are not introduced until Lisa and Claudette walk in on them, so the audience wonders why these unknown characters are engaging in sexual activities in a random apartment. Claudette even asks "What are these characters doing here?" to Lisa after they walk in Mike and Michelle. I think this was not only a rhetorical question to Lisa, but also a question the viewers are trying to ask while watching this scene. However, the most significant subplot that occurs is a confrontation between a college student named Denny and a criminal named Chris R regarding a drug interaction on the rooftop of the apartment. Chris R holds Denny at gun point screaming where the money is. Johnny and Mark suddenly appear and take Chris R to the police after a brief fight. Denny never mentioned anything about drugs prior to the confrontation Once again, that subplot was never brought up nor is it mentioned again. There are also multiple scenes where Johnny, Mark, and their friends just toss a football around for no apparent reason. There is no significance to the football nor does it have anything to do with the main plot or the subplots.During the last twenty minutes of the film, a character that has no name nor was he ever mentioned throughout the film begins to chastise Lisa for cheating on Johnny with Mark as if he was in the film the whole time.

A good screenplay is supposed to have flowing dialogue throughout the film; lines shouldn't be repeated over and over again nor should the characters talk about the same thing they discussed in the previous scene. Most of all, lines should have significance. Lisa is always talking about how she doesn't love Johnny anymore and always says “I don’t want to talk about it” after someone argues with her. Whenever Claudette is having a conversation with Lisa, she constantly advises Lisa to stay with Johnny for financial support despite the lack of romance. Every time Lisa seduces Mark, he always questions Lisa why he is seducing him despite his knowledge that she no longer loves Johnny. Although the dialogue between the minor characters and co-stars are redundant, the things that Johnny says during his interaction with the other characters are even more repetitive.

Johnny starts every conversation with “oh, hi (insert name here)” and ends almost every sentence with a strange laugh even when serious subjects are brought up. There is a scene where Johnny takes a trip to the flower shop to buy Lisa a dozen of red roses. After he asks the clerk for the bouquet of roses, the clerk responds with “Oh hi Johnny, I didn't know it was you.” How in the world can someone not know who he is if the clerk knows him on a first name basis? After he is notified of the price, he just nonchalantly says “Here you go, keep the change; hi doggy!” and pets the pug on the counter in the same breath. That line of dialogue was so incredibly pointless that it was humorous.

There is another scene where Johnny is on the rooftop after hearing a rumor that he abused Lisa. He just rants by saying “I did not hit her; it’s not true. It’s bullshit; I did not hit her! I did not—oh hi Mark” after he sees Mark sitting on the rooftop. After a few lines of dialogue, Johnny randomly exclaims “I am so happy to have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much.” The audience already knows how much he values his romantic relationship with Lisa and his friendship with Mark, so why does he have to announce it? Oh wait, that’s right; Tommy Wiseau couldn't have been sober when he wrote this disaster of a story.

The final element that makes this film incredibly horrible is that the acting is so bland and so unbelievable that an elementary school play can be more professional than this film. At the beginning of the film, Lisa tells Mark that she doesn't love Johnny in the most monotone and unenthusiastic way that a sane human being wouldn't buy her “act.” Even though the majority of the cast lacked acting experience, Tommy Wiseau’s acting was far worse than any other actor or actress who starred in this film.

Roughly twenty minutes into the film, Johnny arrives home with his bouquet of red roses for his “future wife.” When he announces that he didn't get his promotion, he is so lackadaisical about his rejected promotion that no one in the audience would believe that he is angry and “betrayed” by his bosses and co-workers.

When he confronts Lisa about her rumor that he abused her, he over exaggerates his frustration by yelling “you’re lying; I never hit you. YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, LISA” and later says calmly and quietly, “Don’t worry about it. I still love you.” How does one make a huge fuss about his future wife “tearing him apart” yet calmly and peacefully tells her that he still loves her anyway? At approximately fifty minutes into the film, Johnny overhears Lisa and her mother discussing her infidelity with an “unknown man.” He then says out loud “How can they say this about me? I don’t believe it. I show them. I will record everything.” A professional actor would be devastated to overhear that his future wife had an affair with another man; if anything he would confront her and have her confess her infidelity to him. Instead, Tommy Wiseau speaks so calmly and emotionless as if he thinks it’s a sick joke. No, his acting is a sick joke. The entire film is a sick joke.

Now that I have critiqued the film in its entirety, I must say that despite its failures and lack of professionalism, I never laughed at a movie to the point of tears throughout all of the years I've walked this earth. The Room is one of those movies that is so incredibly horrible that it’s truly entertaining.  A person just can’t help but laugh at the poor dialogue, the unprofessional acting, the excessive stock footage and those strange “one liners” that one of the characters say out of random. Even though Tommy Wiseau truly sounds like a drug addict and looks like a washed out rock star, he is a genius. I can’t think of any other director/producer/writer that can create something so horrible that it becomes a cult following. I have watched this movie with my friends numerous times, and I end up laughing every single time. If you have never seen this movie nor have ever heard of this movie, please check it out on YouTube or purchase it on for ten bucks. It may not be an Academy Award winning movie, but it can at least put a smile on your face when you have been “betrayed” or had a bad day.