Film Strip

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In my house there’s a cardboard box filled to the brim with old photographs. Most don’t mean much – mostly pictures of old pets and landscape. The more I dig through the more I find and the older the photo, the more character it tends to have. When I find a picture of me riding a bike at 7, I can see that blur that comes with old film. I can’t tell if I love that blur because it cries out vintage or because it cries out nostalgia. Either way, the flaw of a 90’s camera creates unintentional charm.

Left over film strips are littered across the bottom of the box. If I hold them up to the light, I can just scarcely make out the photos that were meant to be developed. Pieces of life trapped in a root beer colored rectangle.

That’s what inspired me to edit the image above. On the surface, those three sunsets are nothing more than the trial and error of grabbing the perfect photograph (which unfortunately, didn’t happen). I was just about to hit delete, but as I looked at the different coloring of a quickly fading scene, I was brought back in time. There’s too much shadow, the edges are blurred, the color is off, but there’s character to it. Each one looked like it belonged in the box.

Three images holding a different point in the sun’s time before it vanished for the night. Something that may not be beautiful at first, but over time allows rose tinted memories.

 

Creative Ways of Dealing with Writer’s Block: Part 2

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A few weeks ago, I made this post talking about a unique way to beat writer’s block. For this week, I have a different method that might help. If you’re stuck on what to write next, maybe the best thing to do would be to write something else. Take a step back from the story your working on and try creating a flash fiction piece instead.

That advice might sound odd. Why throw yourself into another project when you can’t get past the one you’re on? It could be you’re stuck because these characters aren’t grabbing you, the plot isn’t interesting you, or the pacing is too slow at this point. The story just isn’t moving along, but you want to write. Why not put that energy into a different piece of work?

The nice thing about flash fiction is that it’s short. It takes less time to reread it and revise it than it would a 200 page novel, which is nice when all you want to do is be at that finishing point. I get writer’s block for a number of reasons, but sometimes it’s not because I have a lack of ideas, but because I have too many ideas. There’s an abundance of plots and characters that I want to put on paper, but I don’t know how to make those notes coherent. When I do, it becomes a mess that I have to gradually sort through until the story appears and sometimes that feels like an impossible task. It can be incredibly refreshing to turn your attention towards a project that deals with one character and one setting. It’s like stepping out of a crowded hall and into an empty room with open windows. There’s fresh air and you can finally breathe.

Turning over to a flash fiction piece (even if you’re having writer’s block on a flash fiction piece) can be a less time committed way to exercise your writing and give your thoughts a chance to spread out. When I use flash fiction this way, I normally write whatever comes to me. I don’t try to create anything complex or even entertaining. I’ll pick a particular setting, drop a random character into it, and see what happens. Sometimes, the piece ends up being awful, but I can keep revising until I get better ideas. Those ideas can spark my motivation and before long,  I’ll be ready to dive back into the story I’m avoiding.

It may also help to use a character from your main story on and work solely on developing their personality or drive through flash fiction. Only need to expand the setting?Use it as a backdrop for this piece to better understand the layout. Eventually the ideas will come and you’ll be able to continue working with a clear mind.

No matter what, you’re being productive and not banging your head against the keyboard.

Pulteney Bridge – Bath, England

Considering the freezing temperature here in IL and the lack of lakes, rivers, and ocean, I decided to search my folders for better scenery.

These were all taken at the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England. It’s a beautiful location and (something I got overexcited about) was used in the film adaption of Les Miserables.

I hope I’ll get the chance to go back soon with a better camera.

My Favorite Spider-Man Film

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One of my top 10 favorite films of all time is Spider-Man 2 directed by Sam Raimi which made its cinematic debut in 2004. I’ve been a fan for about a decade now and because of that, I’ve heard every possible complaint for the movie.

And yet, I still love it more than I can say.

I think what makes the Sam Raimi trilogy special for me is that these are movies I grew with. I remember my dad renting them and I’d come into the living room and watch pieces of it here and there. When I was 12/13 I thought I’d outgrown superheroes until I spent the night at a friend’s and she put on the first Spider-Man. It was late and I remember the other girls falling asleep half-way through, but I was up until the DVD looped back to the title screen. I was blown away by this story of a nerdy Toby Maguire acquiring spider powers. The next weekend I rented the sequel and at the tail end of my freshmen year I went to see Spider-Man 3 in theaters and walked away as happy as could be (I honestly can’t find it in me to hate the third one.)

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Apart from the nostalgia factor, I see these films as having their own unique charm. I think that’s what helped draw me in. There’s a silly comic book vibe to them, but they still maintain a basis of reality. For example, Uncle’s Ben’s death scene. Some poke fun at Maguire’s acting there because he isn’t the most graceful crier, but who is? His reaction felt normal to me and it still does. It doesn’t appear as a perfectly executed cinematic weeping, it appears raw and uncontrolled. It’s ugly. He comes across the most important figure in his life lying on the cement with a bullet hole in his chest. I would be crying like that too. It’s shocking and painful and Maguire delivers that.

What made Spider-Man 2  land of my top 10 was that it worked off these two aspects – it kept the fun comic book theme while still creating quiet and serious moments that didn’t feel forced or rushed.

My favorite line is something Aunt May tells Peter:

Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.

I find this line incredibly sweet and it explains the whole trilogy for me. Each movie slid directly into the next and each deals with the same idea – that Peter is seeking out balance. He’s learning to be a hero, if he wants to be a hero. Even though he gets a big head over his fame, in the end it’s all about supporting those around him. Learning to take sacrifices, to not give up, to forgive, to help and make a difference. Not to say the other movies didn’t touch on this, but the lessons and growth shown in this particular trilogy was achieved at a natural pace. Viewers see so much of these character’s lives that suddenly it becomes less of a superhero movie and more of a movie about people growing into better people – realizing that what they think they deserve may not be what they need and taking mistakes from the past to mold themselves into something heroic for the future.

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Spider-Man 2 especially shows this with Peter believing he doesn’t need to be Spider-Man anymore. The city’s issues are not his issues. When he sees a man being mugged in the alley he turns away because he doesn’t see a crime as his business anymore. Yet he ends up rushing into a burning building later on because try as me might, he can’t turn a blind eye. The costume is a way of projecting that message out. Peter can act as a reminder to the public to help each other out. He encourages them to be a  “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”

Apart from that the movie has great one-liners, a perfect Jonah Jameson, some great action sequences (even if a little outdated now), cliffhangers, and, above all else, heart.

Spider-Man 2 is charming. I can’t help, but smile when I watch it. I get teary eyed during the bus scene. I love the “Harry finds out who Peter really is” bit. I like the inclusion of the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.” This movie is flawed, yes, but there is nothing else like it. I even love the cheesy moments because that’s all part of the film’s atmosphere. It allows itself to be goofy, but it also allows itself to be serious. It can become melodramatic at times, but those high emotions fit perfectly into the comic book vibe I mentioned earlier.

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Am I ready for another reboot? No. I enjoyed the Amazing Spider-Man and I honestly didn’t hate the sequel. I wish we could have gotten a proper conclusion and while it’s best that Spider-Man return to Marvel, it still feels too soon for a cinematic return.

All I can say is that Toby Maguire will forever be my Spider-Man. No matter how many years pass, this trilogy will have a special place in my heart because it’s impossible for me not to be charmed by this film.

Creative Ways to Deal with Writer’s Block

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Sometimes I think I get writer’s block more than the average person should. I’m constantly writing one line, closing my Word tab, and then opening it up again ten minutes later only stare blankly at the screen or write another sentence before repeating. All in all, I still manage to get my words on paper, but having issues with writer’s block for so long has allowed me to get creative.

One thing I’ve recently started doing is using a Pinterest board. I know that once I wrote Pinterest, some of you rolled your eyes, but hear me out. I’m a visual learner and sometimes that trait carries into how I handle general tasks. I need to be able to see a picture of what I’m doing or what I should be doing. Even with writing, I often need to be staring at an image of a tree to describe a tree. My mind can’t always come up solutions without clear imagery. It’s been this way since I was a kid.

I got a Pinterest after having my mom nudge me towards it. I wasn’t sure what to pin and left my page relatively blank for months. Then I got the idea to start finding images that fit the stories I was trying to write. So far it’s helped tremendously in grasping the aesthetic I’m looking for. If I have a character who wears a baseball cap, I type in baseball cap and place it in the *insert story title here* board. From then on out the hat stands for the character who wears it and I can build the personality or motives around that one image. Same goes for the town I want to create or even just a building.

It’s a nice way to break away from writing while still doing something that involves your current project. Then there’s always the chance you’ll come across a pin that might inspire you for your next story that you can keep archived until needed. You can also keep the boards locked so that only you can view them if you feel the need for privacy.

Pinterest may not be your thing or it might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. The choice is up to you, but I know for me using it as a loose story board has been incredibly helpful and kept me on track. I love being able to open up a board, look at what I’ve found, and be reminded of where I want my story to go and get inspired to continue writing.

The Roman Baths

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I loved visiting Bath last year. The city itself is beautiful and filled with old buildings history which are two things to grab attention and make me consider never leaving. The Roman Baths were the main attraction and I mostly remember seeing signs after every step demanding that no one touch the water.

Of course, I never did. Partly because I’m as much as a rebel as the “cool” kid on a Saturday morning cartoon and partly because the water didn’t look touchable. It was this minty green and there were exhibits in the museum telling us how many people died in the baths because they’d catch diseases from one another. If this information still has you reaching out to the water, then you have bumped yourself up to being as rebellious as the villain in a Saturday morning cartoon.

I saw countless people dipping their hands in and laughing. I’m sure the water isn’t as disease ridden as it used to be, but maybe I was born with a sincere lack of courage. Although, I did drink the water.

There was an area near the gift shop where the water was being filtered through a faucet for people to drink out of. A few girls and myself walked by it only to find one of our professors handing us a paper cup with warm water in it. She said something along the lines of “be daring.” Well, as daring as you can be when there’s a sign specifically inviting you to do something relatively safe.

I remember the water tasting somewhat like dirt. I can’t explain it. It was hot water that someone sprinkled soil into. It was a weird taste and I’m sure I dumped the cup out after one sip. Enough daring adventures for me that day.

Otherwise, it was just a lot of fun walking around the city. I hope I get the chance to go back one day.

The Return of Hey Arnold?

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A few weeks ago there was a podcast interview with Craig Bartlett (the creator of the 90’s Nickelodeon show, Hey Arnold!) who expressed interest in rebooting the series. So far an air date has not been stated or even an entire plan, but the idea is there.

When I first heard the news I immediately thought of Girl Meets World (the Disney channel sequel to Boy Meets World). A popular show from the 90’s returning to reach out to a new audience in a new decade. I always remembered Hey Arnold! being quite clever for it’s demographic and a series that always stood out to me. I loved the set up, I loved the city they created, the variety of characters, and the dialogue. To this day I can still recall the Pigeon Man episode or Stoop Kid or the Christmas special that I couldn’t watch with my family because it made me tear up at the end. The plots were unique, fresh, entertaining, and definitely ingrained themselves into my memory.

Even when I catch a rerun every now and then, it still holds up pretty well. Yes, it is slightly dated and yes, some of the plots come off as a bit silly, but it’s still good. As much as I can complain about reboots or continuations, I think that Hey Arnold! could work. If put into the right hands (and having the creator on board) it could be pulled off quite nicely. It would be great for younger audiences to discover the show and experience the quick wit and realistic situations hidden under the goofiness.

I always found the home lives of these characters interesting, especially Arnold and Helga. The writers never shied away from displaying the heartbreaking pieces of these character’s environments. While Helga’s parents do love her, she is still in a home where she’s often dismissed. There’s an episode that shows her as a child going to preschool only to walk their herself because her parents forgot about her. In another episode she comes home from school to find that there’s no food in the house because her mom forgot to shop (and her mom seems to be taking something, but that could be reading too far into things).

In addition, there’s an episode where she temporarily has a nanny  and once the nanny leaves she tells Helga that she holds so much anger in her heart. She hopes that she eventually finds happiness. Helga is 9 years old. Her anger issues are nothing new, but to have an adult confront her makes her situation all the more upsetting. After reading the letter, Helga picks up a sewing project the nanny had taught her which is meant to bring her some peace. I appreciate that ending now that I’m older because Helga wasn’t magically fixed. Instead she began playing with a needle and thread which demonstrates a desire to escape for a moment and choose a path that can lead to a healthier mental state.

The same idea would happen to Arnold or almost anyone. With Arnold, it was always a struggle to have all the residents in the apartment get along, but they always found a way to work out their differences. The situation wasn’t always easily corrected and a few episodes later another argument would arise, but the characters would often come to an understanding. That’s important for young viewers because it shows them that there is no magical cure to disagreements or a poor situation. It takes listening to the people around and finding the ability to move forward.

Those ideals were never done in a way that felt like they were beating me over the head. They were simply placed there and I believe that this would be perfect for an audience of any decade.Perhaps an updated version is just what new and old viewers need.

Despite my feelings on reboots, I say go for it. I would love to see a modern Hey Arnold! find it’s way to a fresh audience.

 

Dreaming of Spring

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When I look out my window, I see piles of snow and a harsh wind battering the trees. Not to say there isn’t beauty in winter, but the drop in temperatures and lack of green isn’t my ideal choice of scenery.

I took these photos back when I could walk outside without taking 10 minutes to bundle up and walk across the yard without the threat of frost bite. I never posted these before because I found images I liked better and I didn’t feel these had the right sense of quality. I realize a few are blurry, but I find myself drawn to the colors and the softness. I’m brought back to a lazy spring afternoon which I would love to have back at this moment.

I did brave the frigidness to get some winter photos, but I’ll save those for another time. For today, I’d rather take in the  floral and the dream of 60 degree weather.

Musicals in Film – Stage vs Screen

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Broadway musicals being adapted into film isn’t a new trend, but it’s still exciting to see stage productions make it to the big screen. Although, do they lose anything during the transition? As much as I love watching a new adaption, does the stage show have a unique sense of charm that doesn’t translate into film? Or is the film superior because of the sets and camera tricks?

The truth is, I’m not sure. I love both, but there is an evident difference between the two complete with their own pros and cons.

I’ve gotten the chance to see Wicked in Chicago and there is something to be said about watching a live performance. It’s a true experience, but I felt I could still capture some of that essence through watching the stage productions of Jekyll and Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, and Into the Woods on the internet. I’m someone who likes hearing the audience react to the actors. I also love the sets some of these crews can create on a stage. When I saw Wicked, they had an enormous dragon head over the stage that would move and open its jaw. It was actually unsettling while sitting there because I thought it would break free and run around the theater, but I still enjoyed it.

The stage has a sense of reality grounded into it that won’t appear in a film. The costumes are more realistic because nothing is CGI. There are no camera tricks for stunts because each segment is happening live. The stage is a vulnerable element – it’s the actors, their props, and the audience. There are no cameras to hide them or to cut away if they make a mistake. There are no edits or second tries. It’s essentially a relationship between the viewers and the actor. That’s an atmosphere that is difficult to replicate and the essence of that bareness can still be reached for at home viewer watching on Netflix.

Film, on the other hand, can show close ups and create more intricate sets. The viewers can see the opera house, they can see skid row, they can travel with these characters to different locations all within a few shots. And while there are rotating stages, it’s a much different experience to walk down a real street with a character as opposed to a street that is framed by a stage and curtains.

In addition, a film can switch scenes in a matter of seconds while a stage production will need more time to alternate the backdrop. This moves up the pace which is needed for viewers who don’t want to sit through a temporary black out. Also, as I said, the viewers get close ups. It’s sometimes hard to see the facial expressions of actors on stage even in a recorded performance. With film, the audience can see every reaction and every emotion. Sometimes this is vital to how a viewer will receive the story.

Although, sometimes the film will cut songs or the music may not as well done. In film, the actor’s first priority is acting. On stage, the actor’s priority will be singing well. Not to say the quality drops in one medium though. One aspect is simply more prominent.This trend is more noticeable when I’m listening to the soundtracks side by side without the rest of the show. If I want something that sounds cleaner in the background, I’ll listen to the stage cast. If I want the added emotion I’ll listen to the movie cast.

The best example I can give is to listen to the Les Miserable film’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and then listen to the original London Cast’s “I Dreamed a Dream.” The London cast is absolutely beautiful, but there is a lack of emotion. In the film’s version, you can hear the tears in her throat. She raises her voice at one part to scold instead of to sing and the overall product is chilling. Both versions are well done, but which one you choose depends on what you personally prefer.

All of that being said, which is a better medium? I say both. I believe they both have something unique to offer and I feel it’s important for a viewer to experience both. When I saw the Les Mis film, I hated Javert. I thought his character was poorly built and poorly executed. I then saw a local production of the same show and fell in love with the character. There’s always something to gain from each experience whether it’s shedding light on a character or getting that added emotion. Maybe it could even be discovering a song that was cut or added. Both matter and have their own charm.

It’s great that musicals have been getting adapted into film. Sometimes the movie will get the show more recognition. Someone may fall in love with musical theater after being exposed to the film version. Perhaps this peson would never discover this story if it wasn’t presented as something they were used to. Hopefully more stage productions can be filmed for those that aren’t able to make it to a live showing and hopefully the films will bring in a new audience.

In the end, both mediums are different angles on the same story which I find intriguing and truly amazing.

Hyde Park in London

One of the last places I visited before leaving London was Hyde Park. A few other girls and I walked around the entire area it seemed like, but it was worth it. I loved seeing the statues and while the giant Mr. Darcy had been taken out of the water, we still found Peter Pan (who I was most excited about) and a few others. I wish that the lighting had been better and maybe the sun had been out, but it was a nice time.

Looking at these images  now, I find myself enjoying the darker sky because it fits the mood of that day. It was a bit of a lazy day for us all because were tired from the walking tour in the morning and we were also wishing that this wouldn’t be our last night in London. Especially considering we’d be returning to a snow covered and freezing Chicago. Even though I didn’t snap as many photos as I had planned to, I was enjoying good conversation and taking in what I could before heading home.

Not to mention, I have never seen so many dogs and ducks before in my life and it was wonderful!