The Holidays in Film: National Sibling Day

Like Mother and Father’s Day, the not as well known Sibling Day looks to unite and celebrate siblings and the familial bonds that shape our lives. Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, National Sibling Day is not yet recognized as a federal holiday. The day was founded by Claudia Evart in honor of her younger siblings who had passed away.

In honor of the holiday, pop in a movie about these siblings real and fictional and spend some quality time with your own sibling!

I Love You Both

A quirky comedy about codependency and what it means to start growing up, I Love You Both is a look into a dysfunctional sibling relationship. The movie is directed, written, and starred in by two real-life siblings, the movie delves into how quickly their cozy codependency turns to unhappiness as they both fall for the same easy-going guy. It’s a short but funny movie, with distinctly millennial-type humor that focuses on the way the two siblings feel stuck in their lives. While the movie doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, it is an enjoyable film.

Lilo and Stitch

If what you want is a bit more kid-friendly, this Disney movie is the perfect way to go. The beautifully done cartoon focuses on the lives of two orphaned sisters, Lilo and Nani, as they cope with sudden changes to their lives in the arrival of the alien experiment Stitch. In typical Disney fashion, the movie is equal parts sweet and heartbreaking with a touching happy ending for the sisters and their family.

This is Where I Leave You

A hilarious and ridiculous comedy, This Is Where I Leave You centers around the Altmans, an estranged family brought together by the passing of their beloved father, Mort. In his will, Mort states that he wants the family to sit Shiva, a Jewish practice of mourning for seven days. For an entire week, the family is forced to tolerate each other, and what ensues is a relatable and hilarious story about a group of people that love each other but don’t particularly like each other.

Rachel Getting Married

This award-winning movie focuses on two sisters when the younger is getting married. Starring Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie goes into how addiction affects not just a single person’s life, but also their relationship with those that love them. The two sisters, Kym and Rachel, drifted apart due to Kym’s drug usage. Kym has been in rehab for a while and is allowed to leave for a few days for her sister’s wedding. The movie is fraught with a tension-filled love that frequently exists between siblings, and though the story makes it clear that their journey isn’t over by movie’s end, Kym and Rachel part on happy terms brought together by their love for each other.

Shameless

If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, Shameless is the perfect fit. Taking place in Canaryville neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, this Showtime show centers around six dysfunctional siblings and their egomaniac father, trying to make ends meet. This black comedy deals frequently with poverty and class struggle, dealing with the outlandish situations the Gallaghers get themselves into with a lot of humor, resentment, and love. The first seven seasons can be found at the Berwyn Public Library, with season eight on order.

 

To see all of these great stories and more, come check out our display for National Sibling Day right next to the Audio Visual Desk!

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Mary Shelley, The Inventor of Science Fiction

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of the classic gothic horror novel Frankenstein, didn’t just write a book – she invented a genre. The world of science fiction didn’t exist before Mary Shelley got her hands on it. There had been minor forays but it was Mary Shelley who took the concept of threading drama, theme, and theoretical science together to make a novel. To narrow down a handful of movies or books that were inspired by her would be nearly impossible; from Mr. Spock to Ellen Ripley to Han Solo and even to Tony Stark, characters involved in science fiction owe their existence to an 18 year old girl who had a nightmare one summer night.

The unfortunate thing is that not many know about this. Frankenstein was considered amoral and irreligious when it came out, so when the original film adaption came out, it didn’t include much of her original story about a Creator abandoning his Creature and the consequences of bringing life into the world. Despite the fact that there have been quite literally dozens of adaptions in the past decade alone, most of these movies take their inspiration from the original film, and not Mary Shelley’s original novel at all.

The initial inspiration for Frankenstein came from a nightmare Mary Shelley had at a cottage. Mary and a group of writers were staying at a villa together for the summer and the group decided to try their hand at telling ghost stories. Mary, who had already developed a fascination with life and death due to the passing of her mother, the miscarriage of several children, and the suicide of her lover’s wife, spent a while attempting to think of something, suffering from some sort of writer’s block. Finally, she had a nightmare – she saw a horrific human-like creature laid out on a table, and a scientist standing over the Creature. In her nightmare, the scientist shocks the Creature to life and then, horrified by the life he has created, he runs off as the Creature opens it’s horrible, yellow eyes.

And thus, Frankenstein  was born.

There are of course more obvious stories that take their inspiration from her. Some of theme even wind up being more faithful to her story and themes than the hundreds of adaptions that bare the name Frankenstein. In this list, you’ll find not just adaptions but also works that more heavily derive themselves from her story.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are so many similarities between the creature of Ultron and the creation of the Creature, it’s almost impossible to miss it. Tony Stark, in his bid to create an intelligent suit, winds up creating a robot that is bent on destruction. Two things stand out: firstly, that Tony literally brings Ultron to life with a bolt of lightning – an obvious homage to Mary Shelley. The second is less obvious but still notable: Ultron is an eloquent creature who frequently talks like someone out of the Romantics Era. Much like the Creature, he is an intelligent being with a violent streak.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The popular action sci-fi series that recently got a boot has a surprising amount in common with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Starting with a medical experiment gone astray, Rise of the Planet of the Apes focuses on the relationship between a Creature and it’s father, in this case the ape Cesar and his caretaker Will. Cesar, like the Creature, is capable of kindness and complicated thought, but because of the form he takes, is looked down on by humankind. Granted, Cesar’s life takes on a much happier theme than the Creature’s does, in no small part because Will refuses to abandon Cesar, and Cesar holds onto that feeling – compared to the Creature, who is promptly abandoned by the horrified Victor Frankenstein.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Like her classic novel, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combine many of the concepts that were popular with writers during the Romantics Era and threads them with science. Both novels focus on what happens when humans play God, with Shelley focusing a bit more on what makes us human and author Robert Louis Stevenson focusing more on unleashing the id.

The Hulk

The classic Marvel character, the Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner is essentially a modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which means it already bares many stylistic similarities. What’s more interesting is that both characters deal with issues surrounding childhood – the Creature is abandoned by Dr. Frankenstein and spends much of the novel hating his father for abandoning him. Bruce Banner’s childhood bares a striking resemblance – Bruce’s father frequently abused him to the point that Bruce started acting out at school as a way to cope with his own feelings of neglect.

Penny Dreadful

The sleeper hit show combines the stories of many gothic horror books including Dracula, Van Helsing, An American Werewolf In London, and Frankenstein. This story is much more faithful to the original book written by Shelley. Frankenstein is a young man instead of a mad old scientist, played by the then 28 year old Harry Treadaway. His Creature, Caliban, is terrifying and eloquent, even quoting literary novels and scripture. Their story starts out the same – young Frankenstein, horrified by what he has created and knowing he can’t control it, abandons Caliban when he first makes him, but Caliban seeks his creator out anyways, with disastrous results.

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Victor Frankenstein (left) and Caliban, Frankenstein’s Creature in Penny Dreadful.

Van Helsing

Despite being one of the most unpopular Van Helsing movies to ever come out, Sommen’s Van Helsing is in many ways more faithful to its adaption of The Creature than the majority of Frankenstein movies. The Creature in this movie  is not the grunting, slow moving Creature from many adaptions, but an intelligent man who seeks a purpose – and to be left alone. Van Helsing even outright states in the movie that while evil may have brought Frankenstein’s Monster into the world, the Creature himself is not actually evil.

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

Sometimes, when you want to grab a new movie, you’re not exactly looking for a new movie. Instead, you want new to you rather than new to the world. But of course, with over a hundred years of cinema, sometimes finding something interesting can be overwhelming – or difficult. So here for Throwback Thursday are some old favorites that might not be on the average person’s radar.

For all the romance lovers out there, Children of a Lesser God is the perfect movie to pop in and enjoy. Directed by Randa Haines and starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt, it is perhaps not as well known as many other more flashy and dramatic Best Picture nominees. Based on a play by Mark Medoff, the plot follows a deaf custodian named Sarah Norman and her relationship with a hearing teacher, James Leeds, at the school they both work at. Though the two get off to a rocky start, they enter into a relationship, despite James pushing that Sarah should start learning to speak instead of just signing.

William Hurt garnered much critical acclaim for his role in the film, but the movie belongs very clearly to Marlee Matlin. Matlin plays off Hurt well in what was her feature film debut, bringing a guarded fear and passion against Hurt’s playful vulnerability. Matlin’s performance is frequently described as being similar to a silent film actress and the comparison is apt – sice her character Sarah does not speak, Matlin conveys her emotion with soulful eyes and expressive gestures, to the point where the audience does not need Hurt to translate her signing.

Their romance is troubled but full of love and the journey they both take as they navigate what it means for a hearing man to be in a relationship with a deaf woman. The film is long, coming in at just shy of two hours, but it allows the journey between the couple to unfold both as a pair and also as individuals, delving into the struggles James faces as he wishes to protect Sarah and Sarah’s own need to stand as her own person apart from James.

 

Matlin went on to win Best Actress for her role in the movie. She is the youngest woman to ever win the award, winning it at the age of 21. She is also the only deaf performer to win an Oscar in any category, and one of two disabled people to win any Oscar (the first being Harold Russell in 1946).

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Marlee Matlin as Sara Norman in the movie Children of a Lesser God.

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Even though the games are heating up, that Olympic fever is in the air. As everyone waits to see who will win what, and not just our home athletes but also athletes in other countries. We also celebrate the spirit of the Olympics and the many historic moments that have taken place over the past week and look forward to what moments are still to come. But still, with all that energy and excietment, it’s natural to want to learn everything you can about Olympics past. To soothe that craving, we offer a number of DVDs on Olympics past and the history of the events.

Beijing 2008

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If you missed the 2008 Beijing Games or simply want to relive that wonderful summer again, the Beijing 2008 Highlights is a fun way to watch. Relive Shawn Johnson’s amazing gold win on the balance beam, Michael Phelps breaking the record for most medals won in a single games, or Usain Bolt’s amazing gold medal race at 100 and 200 meters. The DVD also includes the beautiful Torch Lighting form the Opening Ceremony, a ceremony that was so popular people still tend to use it as a comparison point for the games a decade later.

Eddie the Eagle

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If what you’re looking for is more Winter Olympics, then the true story of Michael Edwards, also known as Eddie the Eagle, is a good place to look. Eddie was the first British competitor to place in ski jumping since the 1929 Olympics and he did so on a technicality. Because there was no one else to compete against in Britain, all he had to really do to qualify was pass some sort of arbitrary number in order to place in the Olympics. He qualified as 55th in the world during the 1987 World Championships and went onto the Olympics where he placed last in every competition – but he still came back as a hometown hero. He also managed to get the OIC to pass a rule nicknamed the Eddie the Eagle Rule, that to qualify for the Olympics, a person had to place in the top 30% or top 50 in the world during international competitions before the Olympics. The movie details his downright unbelievable journey, with Taron Egerton starring as Eddie the Eagle.

Cool Runnings

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Another story of a win from a sport not widely known in their home country, Cool Runnings tells the story of the Jamaican National Bobsled Team’s debut in competitive sports. The movie is loosely based on the story of the 4-man sled team, fictionalizing the stories surrounding the characters and some of their journey to the Olympics. What is true is still fascinating: lacking the equipment and the weather needed to practice, the team had to borrow old practice sleds and eventually had to borrow one of the backup sleds from another country’s team. They placed last in the 4-man competition, wiping out in the snow during the final race. As the team walked the rest of the race, carrying their sled with them, they were met with applause for their efforts.

The Cutting Edge

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If the backstage drama of the Olympics is more your style, the romantic comedy The Cutting Edge is the perfect movie. The movie centers around two fictional athletes, Kate Mosely and Doug Doursey. Kate is a spoiled figure skater who has chased away every other partner she’s had with her attitude. After her partner quits, Kate turns to a former hockey player as her last chance to qualify for the 1992 Winter Olympics. Doug Doursey, who was forced to retire from hockey after an injury, joins along for the chance to get on the ice and compete again. Naturally, the two fall in love despite their differences as they train to qualify for the Olympics. The story is fictional and the focus rests on their relationship about as much as it does the figure skating but despite being over twenty years old, it remains a popular romance movie.

 

The Berwyn Public Library has many more titles relating to the Olympics, whether they be fictional stories, biographical movies, or documentaries on the subject, we have a variety of titles sure to fill that Olympic craze void this ending season is bound to have left. Come check out our display right by the Audio Visual desk!

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Oscar Nomination Race: Best Picture

Award Season is getting into full swing with the Golden Globes airing tonight. While there are a few frontrunners when it comes to the acting categories, this award season has been more than a little odd when it comes to predicting Best Picture. Usually, one or two films will win at film festivals and then that film will go on to win Best Picture. However, the wins have been all over the place this film season. Not just that, but a number of front runners didn’t get a nomination for Best Ensemble at the Golden Globes, which is statistically a must have for best picture. This makes it fairly difficult to predict a winner.

Despite the oddness of this season, there have been a number of films that stood out, and many more on top of that that were unique and successful in a way that might earn them an Oscars nod, if not an outright award. Here, we have a look at some of the movies that have been thrown around as possible nominations for Best Picture.

 

Get Out – available at BPL

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Considered the closest thing to a front-runner for Best Picture in this award season, Jordan Peele’s first go at directing is already considered to be a modern classic. Despite the fact that Peele has writing and acting credits almost exclusively in comedy, he believed that the genres were similar enough pacing wise that he could do a convincing horror movie – and he was right. The movie by and large refuses to rely on jump-scares, instead forcing the the viewer into the shoes of its main character as an incredibly chilling plot unfolds.

Get Out is not only a box office success, but also hugely popular with critics for it’s satirical base in plot and commentary on racism. This commentary is what seems to be pushing it ahead as a prime candidate for not just a nomination but also a win. Since The Academy added a large amount of younger and more diverse voters to it’s numbers, the movie seems to be resonating more with the voters than it might have in the past.

 

Dunkirk – available at BPL

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Dunkirk, which came out in July of 2016, has managed to carve out a name for itself in film history even before the Oscars. Not only is it considered by and large to be director Christopher Nolan’s best work, but it’s also considered to be one of the best war films ever made. The movie took in $525 million worldwide, which makes it the highest grossing World War II film ever made, and was subsequently nominated for 8 Critics Choice Awards and 3 Golden Globes.

Praise for it’s cinematography, screenplay, and musical score almost guarantees its nomination for Best Picture. What might push it past Get Out for the win will be it’s popularity with techies, as the film is a technical marvel. If it does win Best Picture, it will be the first Oscar Award that Nolan has ever won, a surprising fact considering how well known Nolan is.

 

 

The Shape of Water – released in theaters Dec. 1st

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Considered Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date, and a labor of love for the monster loving director, The Shape of Water has been winning over critics and winning at film festivals since August. The screenplay, which has been described as touching and “joyously free,” has been an idea in the back of del Toro’s mind since he was a child. The film is thus an ode to Classic Hollywood, while also working as a commentary on bigotry. Chief among the praise is lead actress Sally Hawkins, who seems a likely contender for Best Actress. But this praise is not just for the screenplay or acting, but for the makeup and prosthetic designs in it as well. The Amphibian Man, played by Doug Jones, has been getting a lot of attention from the makeup artist crowd as well. While it’s not exactly a top contender for winning Best Picture, it seems likely the movie will be getting a nomination nod at the very least.

 

I, Tonya – released in theaters Dec. 8th

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The biopic based off the life of figure skater Tonya Harding has been cast as a bit of a dark horse in the Oscars race. Margot Robbie’s performance as Harding has been getting a decent amount of attention, as well as the performance of Allison Janney. The strong acting, combined with the Winter Olympics coming up and bringing the movie into the spotlight a bit more, means that it is possible that the movie could get nominated. It’s chances are hindered by the fact that many are prediction Margot Robbie for a possible upset for Best Actress with the Golden Globes, and more than one upset for a single movie is not likely. However, it still does merit a mention.

 

Mudbound – released on Netflix Nov. 17th

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A heavy period drama that focuses on two World War II veterans, one white and one black, as they face their PTSD as well as racism in the American South, Mudbound earned itself a standing ovation when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The screenplay and direction have been complimented because of the timeless way the struggles of the characters have been captured. The acting has received much critical acclaim as well, snagging a number of Best Ensemble Awards, and actress Mary J. Blige has received a Golden Globe nomination for her role. Its the sort of serious subject matter that the Academy tends to eat up, and yet it doesn’t seem to be a favorite for Best Picture. Why? Because it released not in theaters, but on Netflix. Despite gaining ground for other awards, there has yet to be a single Netflix produced movie or show nominated for an Oscar. Many seem hopeful that Mudbound will be the movie that finally pushes Netflix into the Academy Awards however.

Wonder Woman – available at BPL

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It is true Wonder Woman isn’t exactly a likely candidate for a nomination, much less a win. After all, action and superhero movies aren’t exactly popular with the Academy. Despite that, however, the award for Best Picture was opened up to 10 nominations due to the snub of The Dark Knight back in 2009, and Wonder Woman was not only very popular with the younger crowd, but also broke box office records across genres. So, while it’s not a likely candidate, it is still in the running for a nomination nod.

 

The Big Sick – available at BPL

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Of all the movies being thrown out there for a possible nomination for Best Picture, The Big Sick is probably the least likely to be nominated. Based on the real life story of its writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick follows the young couples story as they battle with cultural differences and medical emergencies. The film is an indie movie and cost only $5 million to make. The reason it keeps being mentioned however, is because of how fantastic it did at the box office, making $55 million worldwide once it closed in theaters. The screenplay has been praised by critics and the film won a number of awards at various film festivals.

So while an indie movie isn’t exactly likely to get nominated, if anyone was going to, it would almost definitely be The Big Sick.

JRR Tolkien, the Father of Fantasy

In the long run, it would be easier to talk about what fantasy media that JRR Tolkien hasn’t inspired. Considered the “Father of Fantasy,” Tolkien redefined what high fantasy looked like. It has gotten to the point where it’s often hard to tell where inspiration form his work is meant and where it’s subconscious.
Still, in honor of his birthday, it would be fun to look at some of the ways he inspired other artists. Some of them are fairly obvious, but many are surprising.
 
Harry Potter 
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Michael Gambon as Dumbledore is pictured on the left. Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey is pictured on the right.
One of the most famous examples of Tolkien’s influence is the Harry Potter series. Some of these influences are more obvious; a wizened old magician helping to guide the protagonist on their journey, an object of power that has dark magic that affects the behavior of those near it, a Dark Lord who seeks power and immortality, and on and on. Some of the similarities seem to be an accident but are still similarities regardless; the protagonist’s best friend being a lower class boy who enjoys food or a secondary villain being a long haired wizard who uses his position of power to do evil. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The similarities are numerous enough that a search for “similarities between lord of the rings and harry potter” gets over 500,000 hits. Whether any of these references are on purpose or not is anybody’s guess – including JKR. While she has stated that he was a bit of an inspiration, she’s a bit fuzzy on whether she purposefully pulled that much inspiration from Tolkien.
Interestingly enough, Ian McKellen was offered the role of Dumbledore after the original actor died. Even more amusing is the fact that Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe have both spoken about how they’re often mixed up by fans.
Led Zeppelin
A number of songs written by the famous rock band include references to Lord of the Rings. The most notable references are in being “The Battle of Evermore” and “Ramble On.” “Ramble On” has the most obvious reference with lyrics like “but Gollum, and the evil one, crept up” and “‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor.” The Battle of Evermore does contain some obvious references as well. It discusses a dark lord, queen of light, dragons of darkness, and “ring wraiths ride in black.” The song also draws influence from Celtic music, and Tolkien based some of his cultures off of the Celts.
These aren’t the only songs that feature references although they are some of the most obvious ones. “Misty Mountain Hop” is a reference to the Misty Mountains that Bilbo travels to. Fans speculate that “Over the Hills and Far Away” references Sam and Frodo’s journey to Mordor throughout the books.
It’s no surprise to fans that the band draws influence from Tolkien so often. Robert Plant is a fan of Tolkien, even naming his dog after the character Strider. Jimmy Page, who writes most of the band’s lyrics, is a fan of magic and mythology, so many fans believe he has also read Tolkien.
A Song of Ice and Fire
Another obvious example of Tolkien influence is George RR Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. GRRM has stated that Tolkien influenced how he built up his world of magic. As GRRM explained, he ascribes to Tolkien’s feelings on how magic should be used sparingly so it stays magical. In Tolkien’s stories, people don’t use magic as if it is nothing. It happens in moments that make the magic seem amazing, such as Frodo’s healing after he is stabbed by a morgul blade or the rescue by the eagles. In a similar vein, ASoIaF turns into a story where magic is slowly coming back. First this appears as a dragon or direwolf cropping up here and there, to smaller acts of magic happening in isolated instances, all finally flowing into epic scale battles between dragons and wights.
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Pictured on the left are the eagles from The Hobbit soaring over mountains. Pictured on the right are Daenerys’ dragons in season 6 of the show, soaring over ships.
Of course, who can forget Sean Bean’s heartfelt performances as both Boromir of Gondor and Lord Eddard Stark? Or his very similar ends in both stories?
 
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
The fourth installment in the popular video game The Elder Scrolls pulls inspiration and even gives a bit of a shout out to Tolkien fans. The game draws inspiration from Tolkien’s orcs, using much of his original design as inspiration for the Daedra. The other most notable reference is The White-Gold Tower that appears in the game, which bears a striking resemblance to Orthanc, the tower that Saruman sets up in during the series. Additionally, there are a number of Easter Eggs that appear as a nod to fans of both series.
The first and most obvious is a character in the game named Boromir. This is a reference not just to the character, but also to the fact that Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the movies, voices a character in the game. Another reference is a ring the player receives upon completion of a quest which has the the same inscription as the One Ring.
The third and most involved reference is a character mentioned in a manifest the player receives. The character, who was killed by a villain, is mentioned by name. A description of what he had on him when he was killed is given also. The character’s name is Oford Gabings, which is an anagram of Frodo Baggins. The items he was carrying are also a reference to items that Frodo carries throughout the series. They include a travel cloak with a silver and green leaf fastener, an enchanted shortsword with inlaid writing,  a golden ring with an inscription, and a leather bound travel journal. These are references to, in order, the cloak given to Frodo in Llothlorien, Frodo’s sword Sting, the One Ring, and Bilbo’s journal, which Frodo took with him.
 
The Dark Tower
The epic saga by Stephen King takes its inspiration from many places, including Tolkien. The science fiction western pulls the bulk of its inspiration from a poem by Robert Browning, but there is an important element that Stephen King has said comes from Tolkien: the use of a fictional language. Tolkien had been fascinated by language since he was a teenager and spent much of his past time inventing languages. It was an odd past time to be sure, but one he excelled at.
This invention of language was a skill he demonstrated much of in the writing of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarrillion. Some of the languages he invented included Khuzdul, The Black Speech, Rohirric, Sindaran, Númenórean, Quenya, and dozens of others. In addition to inventing these languages, he also developed cultural backstories for the languages as well. This element of his writing, while not the first to ever exist, was the most involved and detailed example of it. The fascination with his language skills became so entrenched in fantasy that it’s expected for “artlangs” to be in contemporary fantasy. Stephen King, inspired by this, developed his own form of language for the world of Dark Tower called High Speech. He also took inspiration from Tolkien’s naming conventions, with his world being called Mid-World, in a similar fashion to Middle Earth.
written by: kassie

Family Fridays: Strange Magic

I saw Strange Magic for the first time in theaters, along with my then 15, 9, and 7 year old siblings, and our mother. They had come to visit me at college and we all decided to go see a movie. We originally weren’t even going to see Strange Magic – but my youngest sister and I had already seen Annie, Night at the Museum had sold out, and I refused to pay the full price ticket to see Paddington. So we all collectively sighed and went in to see the only other kids movie showing that none of us knew anything about.

And man, was it worth it.

Now in general, I’m a sucker for musicals. I’ve seen both professional and amateur productions of all sorts of musicals and I’m usually first in line to see them when they turn into movies. The beautiful singing – with a leading lady voiced by the criminally underrated Evan Rachel Wood – combined with colorful, beautiful, and unique animating style meant that right off the bat, Strange Magic had my attention. It also immediately snared the attention of my mother because it is a jukebox musical, meaning it uses songs that have already been released. The musical includes music from Dionne Warwick, Mickey and Silvia, Whitney Houston, and a lot more.

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The two main characters of the story: sisters Dawn and Marianne, voiced by Meredith Anne Bull and Evan Rachel Wood, respectively.

What finally turned it from good to great was the plot itself. The story centers around two fairy princesses. The oldest, Marianne, turns bitter and hardened after her fiance cheats on her, while her younger sister Dawn remains convinced that true love is out there. Dawn’s best friend, an elf named Sunny, gets talked into making a love potion for Marianne’s ex – but of course, the potion goes wrong, and Dawn gets hit and falls in love with the king of the evil fairies, Bog.

It’s silly and ridiculous but hear me out – there is absolutely nothing funnier than a creepy fairy king named Bog who crashes a party, yells at everyone there about how love doesn’t exist, continues yelling about how ridiculous it is that everyone keeps bursting into song for no good reason, but then steals everyone’s instruments and starts singing an Elvis Presley song anyways.

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The Bog King, voiced by Alan Cummings, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, voiced by Kristen Chenoweth.

And honestly that’s only the beginning of how absolutely ridiculous this movie can get. I’m fairy certain I enjoyed it more than my two younger sisters did; which isn’t to say that they didn’t enjoy it, because once it came on DVD they begged my mom to buy it and then watched nothing but Strange Magic for almost a week straight.

It’s true, it got pretty bad reviews by just about every critic out there but interestingly enough, a lot of moviegoers found it fun. Because, honestly, that’s what it is – fun. Not every movie is going to be a master piece like Moana – although for the record, the animation in Strange Magic was cutting edge for that year. Sometimes you just want to have some fun for an hour or two, and Strange Magic is a good way to do that.

-Kassie Marie

International Day of People with Disabilities

The International Day of People With Disabilities, or Disability Day, has been celebrated every year since 1992. Each year a theme is announced for that year. Each theme touches on ways the international community can continue to push for accessibility for disabled people. The theme for this year is, “transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.” To put it simply, the theme means that no one should be left behind when it comes to the betterment of society. This includes helping to pull down barriers that exclude disabled people while also encouraging disabled people to be active contributors of society.

To honor that theme, the included items on this list are movies that center not just on a disabled character but on those characters rising to the occasion and on the people around them helping to pull down the barriers that exist in society against disabled people. There is also a focus on actors and musicians who work to be active in the community as well.

Children of a Lesser God

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Marlee Matin (right), playing Sarah Norman, signing something to her on screen love interest James, played by Wililam Hurt.

Children of a Lesser God is a special case for many reasons. Much of the criticism when it comes to the way disability is portrayed in the media is two-fold: that the portrayal is incorrect and that disabled characters are being played by able bodied (or non-disabled) people. In this Oscar-winning movie based on a play of the same name, main character Sarah Norman is deaf and is in fact played by a deaf woman, Marlee Matin. It gives the film a bit more realism and ensured that the portrayal was true to the life of an actual deaf person as well. The story, based around new teacher James Leeds attempting to get school janitor Sarah Norman out of her comfort zone, is a touching romance that deals a lot with how isolating it can be to be disabled. Matin, for her part, not only won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, she is also the only deaf woman to ever win that award. She continues to speak for deaf people in the country, using her fame to contribute to the betterment of deaf people in the country.

The Station Agent

True fame didn’t come to actor Peter Dinklage until several years after this movie, when he was cast as the cunning Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.  Yet despite that his role in this small-budget film is one of his most lauded roles. A bit of an ensemble film, the Station Agent focuses on pulling Dinklage’s character, Fin, out of his isolation and into the lives of his neighbors and friends. Also included in the movie is a woman named Olivia, played by Patricia Clarkson, who deals with severe depression after the loss of her young son. The two characters, along with a peppy neighbor played by Bobby Cannavale, form a close bond that makes them realize they cannot continue to isolate themselves from each other and from the world anymore. In his personal time, Dinklage campaigns in a more quiet way that most for those with dwarfism. While he doesn’t necessarily give long interviews, he has in the past used his fame to bring attention to issues – most notably during his speech for his 2012 Golden Glob win, where he casually brought the issue of “dwarf-tossing” into the public eye.

Little Miss Sunshine

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Though the focus of this comedy is more on the entire family’s dysfunction than one person, part of that dysfunction involves the disability of Steve Carrel’s character, Frank. Frank has depression and attempts suicide before the events of the movie take place. His sister, Olive, feels unsafe leaving him home alone and so Frank is roped into a road trip for his niece’s beauty pageant. Much of Frank’s story centers around him attempting to deal with his own feelings. His ending is more realistic than happy; by the ending he has built a strong support system with his family. The importance of having a support system and how oftentimes, those without support systems can falter, is emphasized with Frank. He finds himself, if still depressed, then at least looking forward to the rest of his life more than he was before.

Tell Me You Love Me – Demi Lovato

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Demi Lovato’s new album cover for Tell Me You Love Me

Demi Lovato, former Disney idol and current pop star, has had a difficult journey to get to where she is. Since her big break in the Disney Channel’s Camp Rock, the star has dealt with eating disorders and severe mood swings. After an infamous confrontation in 2010 that ended in Lovato punching one of her back up dancers, Lovato revealed she had bipolar disorder. She started in therapy and on medication and since then has found herself living a much more stable life. Her new album Tell Me You Love Me, available on hoopla, dropped in late September to positive reviews. In addition to her music career, Lovato has helped with many charities and programs for mental illness. She even started her own, the Lovato Treatment Scholarship Program, to help pay costs for mentally-ill patients.

Pacific Rim

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Rinko Kikuchu as Mako Mori and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost.

A science fiction film is not the first place to look for disability representation, and yet Pacific Rim offers a unique look at disability. Most of the named characters suffer from PTSD, and all attempt to move about their lives despite their illness. Also included in the main cast is a physically disabled character and a cancer patient, both of whom play important parts in the movie. Between epic fight scenes the characters build each other up and create important emotional bonds. Sure, the movie isn’t a dramatic look at disability, but it incorporates disabled people into its story seamlessly. Above that, it shows that disabled people can rise to any occasion – even one that involves fighting sea creatures from the deep from the inside of a giant robot.

International Day of the Girl

International Day of the Girl is not one of the more well known holidays but it is an important one. Taking place on October 11th, Day of the Girl was started to bring awareness to the trials faced by girls. Yes of course steps have been taken to equal the playing field, but the fact is that many girls still face incredible obstacles and barriers. The day started as a youth lead movement to shed light on things such as underage marriage, inaccessibility of education, and barriers in the job market. The activists that organize the events – all ranging around 17 years old but some are even younger – work to emphasize raising girls in healthy environments and with a supportive community.

So how does that affect the average little girl in Berwyn? Well, it’s important for girls to know they can be heroes, can stand up for themselves, that they can be weird or sporty or heroic or vulnerable or strong. It’s important to show little girls that they can be whatever they want to be, no matter how odd what they want may seem to you. And since it has been studied that movies impact our sense of the world and our sense of self, maybe taking a day to watch a movie about a brave hero who also happens to be a girl could go a long way to helping your own girl believe in herself. When it comes to brave girls and heroes, these movies are fun to pop in and kid friendly – and may even inspire a conversation about what your little girl wants from her life.

Lilo and Stitch

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The main characters of Lilo and Stitch surfing together.

This classic Disney movie about an alien looking for a family is also an important study in girlhood. The movie hinges around the importance of family, so naturally, when Stitch crash lands on Earth, he is immediately adopted. The movie makes an interesting choice to drop Stitch into a family that is only made up of two orphaned sister: older sister Nani and young Lilo. Lilo, for all her charm and love, is an outcast among the girls her age. She does things like keeping voodoo dolls of her friends in a pickle jar, locking herself in her home and blasting Elvis Presley music to feel better, and coming up with a tragic backstory for a doll. Despite how over-dramatic Lilo’s oddities are Nani never tries to change Lilo and often celebrates her uniqueness. Nani, for her part, is hard working and honest. She puts Lilo before everything and works hard to keep her small family together. When celebrating girlhood, Lilo and Stitch is a fantastic movie to look to, a movie that makes it clear that it’s ok for girls to be silly and odd and strong and to value the bonds of family.

Annie (2015)

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The foster girls featured in Annie, with the titular character played by Quvenzhané Wallis front and center.

A modern day retelling of the classic radio show and musical, Annie is just as important now as she was decades ago. This version of Annie, starring trailblazer Quvenzhané Wallis, puts a focus on the impact the foster system has on young girls. At one point in the movie, Annie is prompted to read a speech aloud and storms off. She reveals to a heart broken Mr. Stacks that because of her time in foster care, she fell through the cracks in school and never learned to read. Considering the fact that girls still face barriers to education even today – the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai being the most popular example – it’s an important topic. Mr. Stacks and Miss Grace raise Annie and all the foster girls in her home up, allowing them to flourish and thrive and ultimately find families. On top of that, well – it’s just a really cute movie and Quvenzhané and Jamie Foxx play off each other fantastically.

Bend it Like Beckham

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The women’s soccer team in Bend It Like Beckham, with main characters Jess and Jules, played by Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, holding the trophy.

It’s easy to overlook this movie as nothing but a silly sports movie, but Bend It Like Beckham actually focuses on important topics relating to girlhood. Namely, the treatment of girls in sports. It’s true many women have broken into the the sports world but there are still barriers. In this comedy, the focus is put on the struggles of Jess as she navigates playing soccer and her desire to go to college. Jess faces much backlash from a cultural standpoint because of her family’s views on how a woman she act. Added to this are her struggles and the struggle of her father to be accepted in the world of sports because of their race. The movie focuses on the changing landscape and how many conservative views of sports and women were forced to change as women started making a mark for themselves in the world. The ending is, naturally, a happy one, where Jess’s parents start to accept that they must change for the sake of their daughter’s happiness.

Whale Rider

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Pai, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, wearing traditional Maori facepaint.

Easily the most serious look at sexism in this list, Whale Rider is a modern day classic and enjoyable movie nonetheless. While it’s not exactly the most obvious pick for a movie night with your young daughter, it is still kid friendly. At the very least, this writer enjoyed it a lot as a girl, if only because of my unhealthy obsession with whales. The movie focuses on a girl named Pai, whose family was killed several years before the movie takes place. Pai is the heir apparent of her people’s clan as she is descended from the whale rider Paikea, but cannot inherit this title because she is a girl. Pai spends much of the movie fighting with her grandfather over what she views as her destiny. Her grandfather blames her for many things including the deaths of her family, being better than the boys around her, and a whole host of things that aren’t actually Pai’s fault. The constant criticism weighs on Pai and she moves out of her grandfather’s home. Despite this, Pai remains determined to prove that she is a capable leader. The movie earned lead actress Keisha Castle-Hughes an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. At age 13, she was the youngest person ever nominated for the award – until Quvenzhane Wallis broke the record a few years later at age 9.

written by: kassie

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October marks the 36th year of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month was first started as a single day, called Day of Unity, that was meant to create connections across the country between abuse survivors and their advocates. In 1989 Congress passed legislation marking October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Since abusive situations flourish due to silence, much of the month is dedicated to spreading awareness and bringing the subject into the public eye. There is also an emphasize on helping survivors deal with a situation rather than shaming them for falling into the situation. Fresh off the heels of Nicole Kidman using her Emmy speech to dedicate her award to survivors, this October it is especially important to listen to the stories of abuse survivors and uplift their voices.

Big Little Lies

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Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, in a scene with Celeste’s husband Perry. Perry is played by Alexander Skarsgård.

The HBO miniseries, Big Little Lies, has been winning awards left and right this season. Nicole Kidman, for her part as Celeste Wright, has gained particular critics praise. Celeste, along with her husband Perry, seems to be the perfect suburban couple. The truth is that Perry is psychically and emotionally abusive of Celeste. Kidman and the writers for the show contacted domestic violence shelters when writing. They aimed to be as accurate as possible in their portrayal of an abusive relationship. This allowed them to explore the complexities of an abusive relationship and added to the nuanced portrayal. For her moving portrayal of Celeste, Kidman won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress.

No Way Out But One

Chronicling the true journey of the first American woman granted asylum in the Netherlands, No Way Out But One is a documentary where domestic violence is at the forefront. The film centers around Holly Collins who, in 1994, attempted to get custody of her children. Despite medical and legal documentation of the abuse she and her children faced the courts awarded her husband full custody. The abuse continued and the Collins children were even forced to hide their bruises by visitation supervisors. In desperation, Holly took her children and fled the country. They lived on the run for a few years before taking refuge in the Netherlands. Eleven years later the FBI came looking for them, expecting the Collins children to cooperate with the kidnapping charges. Instead, the children gave an impassioned story about how their mother was a hero, not a kidnapper.

Volver

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Penelope Cruz as Raimunda, pictured right, with Yohana Cobo as Raimunda’s daughter Paula.

The Spanish film Volver touches on many serious themes, combining elements of tragedy and magical realism to tell the story. The film starts with Raimunda coming home to find her daughter Paula has killed Raimunda’s husband. When Paula reveals she acted in self defense after he tried to rape her, Raimunda sets into action to cover up the murder and protect her daughter. As the movie goes on, it is revealed that this is only the next link in a cycle of abuse and death in their family that Raimunda tried so hard to escape. Raimunda and Paula, along with a cast of other women attempt to heal and repair their relationships with each other. The film is a look at how death affects a community culturally, from the point of view of women who have spent a lifetime coping with domestic violence.

Gimme Shelter

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Apple, played by Vanessa Hudgens, in an embrace with her estranged father Tom, played by Brendan Fraser.

Generally speaking, when people think of domestic violence, they tend to think of a husband abusing his wife. In Gimme Shelter, based off the true story of a group of runaway teens, the violence is not between spouses but between parents and their child. Apple Bailey, the main character, lives with her mother June, who is abusive and cruel. She escapes to her estranged father’s home, but he is ill-prepared to help his traumatized daughter. The movie chronicles Apple’s attempt to find a home despite a system that involves too much red tape and a family that is not supportive. The writer of the movie put years of research into the movie, going so far as to live at the shelter he based the characters around. Vanessa Hudgens, who plays Apple, also talked with the girls to prepare for the role.

written by: kassie