Support Small Publications

write

Writers tend to dream big. There’s nothing wrong with this, I dream of things that are far out of my reach because those goals bring about good motivation. However, when writers decide to publish, their thoughts go to the big leagues. They think of publications who are known for reaching an audience of thousands. No one dreams of publishing something they’ve worked so hard on in a magazine that may only reach a few hundred or even just  fifty. I get it, people want their work noticed. They want to feel rewarded for a job well done, but small publications have feelings too and some wonderful readers.

I firmly believe in supporting the smaller magazines and literary journals. For one, they’re always looking to grow their audience and brand. By submitting and promoting your publication, you’re helping them gain a voice among the literary journal world. They’re also giving you a voice by printing your work. I’m not saying you’ll always get published, but you have a better chance when you’re submitting into a smaller pool.

The size doesn’t mean poor quality either. Literary magazines aren’t as commercialized as other forms of media so it’s more difficult for a journal to have a household name. The smaller publications usually don’t come with a cash prize either (they also don’t normally have submission fees, which is nice for the starving artists out there), but from what I’ve read, the smaller magazines have some of the best stories in them. These publications are fantastic at choosing work that’s gorgeous in it’s most natural and raw form.

There is nothing wrong with aiming for the big publications, but don’t be so quick to cross the smaller ones off your list. They’re just as important because they produce amazing work and deserve proper support. Give them a voice. Give yourself a voice. Support your art.

 

The End of Superhero Movies?

avengers

I’ve heard people jokingly (and not so jokingly) ask if the end of superhero movies is near. The thing is, superhero movies have become their own genre so to ask for an end would be like asking for the end of romantic comedies, horror movies, or spy thrillers. Also, superhero movies aren’t anything new. They’ve existed long before the Avengers hit screens, and they’ll be around long after. I have no complaints about a new movie or two being released each year, but I can understand the exhaustion people are having. We don’t need an end though. We need variety.

One of the issues is that every recent superhero movie is linked together and all done through the same company. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is impressive, it doesn’t allow much separation because there are movies for each of the main Avengers leading in to the Avenger trilogy. Viewers are stuck in the same universe over and over again even though they’re able to see different stories taking place in that universe.

deadpool

One of the reasons people praised Deadpool was that it felt separate. It wasn’t done by Marvel so it didn’t connect and it kept itself apart from Fox’s other franchise, the X-Men (there were jokes, but that was a given). Deadpool also took on a wildly different tone, which made it a refreshing addition to the genre. I’d like to see more films follow suit either by making superhero movies that are separate from the MCU or making ones that explore different tones, styles, and storytelling.

DC does well in making their movies different from Marvel, but they’re also trying to build a connected universe that will carry on the same dark and gritty feel of Batman Vs. Superman or the Dark Knight trilogy. I’d like to see DC heroes star in films that aren’t always trying to be edgy or grim, and I’d like to see Marvel films that take on a different spin without requiring a marathon of movies from the ever growing MCU.

sad batman

I feel like the TV series are doing well with separation though (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Agent Carter, Supergirl, etc.). Every show has it’s own unique feel that is connected to another show in some way, but it connects in a subtle way. One that invites the viewer to check out the other series/movies, but doesn’t require them to. Someone can watch Agent Carter without seeing the first Captain America and understand the plot completely. The show also takes advantage of its 1940’s setting by giving the series a vintage aesthetic and plays with issues of the time. It’s connected to the MCU, but it feels complete by itself with a unique look and feel.

I love superheroes. I love superhero films. I don’t want to see the genre die, but I would like some variety. We need more content like Deadpool or Agent Carter that finds its own path rather than following a worn down trail. There’s no need for an end, but there is need for creativity and growth within the genre.

agent carter

 

The Dreamer

broadchurch

Sleep came to her slowly and gracefully, but felt painful and loud

In a dream she trudged through damp grass

Toward the edge of a dock

Morning birds screeched

The hound wailed

The dreamer did not respond

But her bones did quiver

She swayed back and forth until she was falling

Slowly, slowly

At last she collided with the pond

Water pierced itself into her every pore

It ran through her lungs and cradled her veins

Darkness dripped onto the pale blue

Light flickered in and out from the mourning sun above

Shadowed hands reached from the sand and grabbed onto her legs

More rose from the bottom of the lake and gripped her bones

They clawed at her face and pulled at her hair

Water filled her every sense and chilled her mind

She was sinking

Further, further

The shadows pulled her down into their world

They held her and suffocated her with their faceless bodies

They drank from her skin

They inhaled her breath

They broke her apart

Piece by piece

Until there was nothing left.

Signs You Might be Having a (Not-So) Adventurous Summer

summer nights

Ah, summer. A time for poolside tanning, romantic walks along the shoreline, movie nights, and iced coffee. The summer aesthetic is grounded in a sense of adventure, and everyone is expected to have the time of their lives. Unfortunately, not all of us can live up to this summertime daydream. Here are 5 signs that your summer isn’t quite as eventful as the movies:

1. ) You’re taking road trips to work instead of Disney World or some of the other happiest places on earth.

mr. tastee

 

2.) You’re spending those summer nights with Netflix instead of a Danny Zuko on the beach.

summer nights

 

3.) Your summer plans include organizing your Pinterest boards and sleeping instead of hiking and swimming.

lisa simpson

 

4.) Your 4th of July plans look like they’ll include a sparkler and McDonalds instead of fireworks and an all-out barbecue.

cap A

 

5.) That sun kissed tan and bikini body of yours closely resembles the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

stay puft man

Remember that no matter what kind of summer you’re having, always make the most of it. Even if it’s not an adventure filled with romance, musical numbers, and a surf competition, don’t worry. Chances are you’re not alone.

Running Away While Staying Put

bttf

When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flight. Always. Without a doubt. No matter the situation, my first instinct is to run. Avoiding any problem feels like a genius solution that will surely return the zen I’m missing. I normally daydream of cross country road trips that will bring about adventure worthy enough for Instagram. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

Sometimes it is, but running blindly towards that greener pasture won’t solve life’s problems. I wish it did, but sadly I’ve yet to have that lovely experience. More often than not, running away isn’t an option due to finances or those pesky things called responsibilities. Issues are inescapable even if I convince myself that they aren’t. No matter how far I drive, they’ll be waiting like some poorly dressed hitchhiker. So how do I run if I must stay put?

Read. Watching TV is a glorious distraction, and believe me when I say I love my shows. Still, reading normally does better at calming me down, and it doesn’t require electricity.

Write. Writing is the best way to organize the chaos in our minds. It helps me to understand life and all of its bizarre situations. It’s a creative way to vent when I long for the outlet.

Go Outside. Fresh air does wonders for the soul. Even if someone lives in an awkward place to walk around in, opening a window can be just as helpful instead of sulking behind dark curtains. I need to enjoy cozy, rainy days or bask in the sunlight. Even in the bug ridden summer, a little bit of nature oddly reassures that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

Aroma Therapy. Light candles, find  incense, or brew some coffee. Creating a sweetly scented place for yourself.

Create. Art is my favorite part of this world. I love all forms of it even if I’m not talented in any of them. I believe in finding a piece of art and immersing yourself in it. Be productive, imagine, and create. Never stop producing art. It’s another way to vent and comprehend problems happening in the real world. Only it’s done in a way that makes an impression, and there’s  beauty in it others will see too. Even for someone who feels like there’s no longer a point, they should keep creating. This is important.

I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to take a 13 hour drive to the coast to be free. I’d still like to some days, but making a creative place and finding inspiration in it helps me to stay put. I want to run toward something calming, productive, and helpful. I want to run without leaving.

roads

 

Love, Marriage, and Heelys

I tend to be someone who lives in the future rather than the present. I’m always thinking about where I’ll be 5 or even 10 years from now, and I think about what I’d like to accomplish or where I’d like to go. Lately, my Facebook feed and real life conversations have been revolving around family, marriage, and any topic related to the two. Since I can’t seem to escape these topics, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want out of them and what I don’t want.

When some of my friends started getting engaged, I wanted to jump on the bandwagon. I wanted to be a bride too and not because I was in love with someone, but because everyone else was doing it. I didn’t want to miss out on the fun of engagement pictures or dress shopping. I mean, look how happy they seem in their Facebook photos. Who wouldn’t want in on that action? Isn’t this just the thing to do in your twenties?

I think the idea of getting engaged can be related back to the mindset people have at age 10. You see all your friends wearing heelys, and it looks like they’re having a grand old time. They’re skating to school or out at the park. They’ve upgraded their lifestyle from the boring act of walking to practically flying down the street. Before you saw them, you knew heelys were a thing, but you didn’t think that much about them. After all, you can’t skate, and it’s not like  you’re terrified of riding a bike because you hate falling. Yet, when you see your peers with these things, you want a pair too. Not because you love the idea of your sneakers acting as roller blades, but because you don’t want to be the only kid without them.

At first you beat yourself up for not being part of the trend, but as time goes on you realize that you don’t actually care about the heelys. Soon you’re even grateful that you didn’t get a pair because you’d probably be happy for a week before tossing them into the back of your closet.

This is how I feel about people my age getting engaged and starting families. I hated feeling left out because it’s difficult watching your friends move on to this part of adulthood without you. For me, I also felt like not having a ring by 24 meant I wasn’t maturing quick enough. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I finding the man of my dreams or even getting a simple movie date? Am I defective?

Now I’m starting to grow out of the “I think I want this because everyone seems to want this” mindset. I’m remembering that I don’t care much about marriage, and that it isn’t something I’m choosing to actively go after. If I end up meeting someone and we get together, great. If I don’t, well, that’s fine too. I don’t want to feel like I’m worth less because I haven’t found someone to be with. Not to mention that I don’t ever want the debate about changing my last name (because I don’t want to. My name is part of who I am), and I don’t ever want kids. More and more, I think I’m better off not following the trend.

Some people love heelys. Some don’t. Some think they need to love them. I say always be true to who you are (yes, I know this sounds cheesy). If you want those heelys, then go get them. Don’t let people stop you. If you don’t, then don’t. Don’t go after something because it seems to mark a section of adulthood or because you feel like it will give you value. You give yourself value – heelys or no heelys.

jackie and fez

Let’s Talk Aesthetic – Jessica Jones

jj.png

Lately, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about aesthetic. Almost always, I’m thinking and reading about various superhero shows/movies coming out or already existing. The more I dive into the superhero genre, the more I notice how these on screen adaptations represent themselves to the public. DC strives for a gritty realism while also becoming entangled with philosophical material. Meanwhile Marvel steers into a brighter appearance and relies on a good dosage of humor.

Then of course the TV series for both franchises go on their own paths. Agent Carter seeks out a vintage style, Supergirl is a little more bubblegum, and Daredevil places itself in the shadows to illustrate the dirtiness of Hell’s Kitchen. Then there comes along Jessica Jones which I think has the most unique style because it incorporates the above aesthetics while also molding itself into something new while still having an air of familiarity.

One of the most evident elements in the Jessica Jones aesthetic is the noir theme. This captures that vintage style which has been finding its way into more pop culture. People like the look of older times while not always wanting to be there. Think of the 1950s ideal where people look at photographs of girls in big skirts and sweaters sipping a milkshake at the diner with their main squeeze. Those people want to go back there, but they don’t want the values and mindset of the 50’s – just the look.

Jessica Jones answers that need by placing a modern story with modern ideals on a stage with vintage decorations. She is the classic detective sitting in a dank office waiting for a case to walk in. The office itself is set up like one you’d see in an old noir film, but it still manages to stay within its time while replicating the style elements people yearn for. It’s the single desk in front of a window, dim lighting (possibly to capture that black & white feel), the straight man delivery of lines, and the typical customers one might see strolling in. Only this time the detective is a woman who also saves the day as a hero (though she wouldn’t want to be called that). This series mirrors that past aesthetic, but it doesn’t forget what and where it is. That’s partly why I was drawn to the series.

Another aesthetic this show uses is the grittiness that DC has been experimenting with. The show is dark both in manner and appearance. Hell’s Kitchen is a dirty, run down place with little sun and often seems cold judging by the heavy jackets the characters wear.Yet somehow the show never feels dark or lost in the shadows. There’s actually quite a bit of color popping onto the screen, most noticeably with purple. Even in the darkest moments of the show, there’s one vivid color standing out. This could represent a ray of light/hope in the worst times or even present a warning of danger (after all, Killgrave is the man in purple).

It’s refreshing to see how they take the gritty aesthetic and add in a splash of color. Just take a look at the poster for the series – it’s on a darker pallet, but the pallet still exists. It finds color in the shadows and satirizes those shades to make it stand out. The series never felt to me like the characters were trapped in a dark room – there was plenty of room to breath in the noir feel and bring it into day’s world.

What’s in a Backstory?

lost

The type of character background you’re given in a story depends on the story being told. In Lost each character has their own past which is seen in glimpses over the course of six seasons, but it takes much longer to learn the full story for a few while others can be told in one or two episodes. Also, some characters have their backstory presented early on while others remain a mystery for a better part of the season or series.

Sometimes the technique works because there are characters who are defined by where they come from and the audience needs to see this before they can move forward and feel attached to them. While this method doesn’t ruin a story, I think it does have the potential to weaken it.

Then we have characters like Ben Linus who’s backstory takes time to get to which works perfectly for him. Mainly because we’re first made to believe he’s a different person, but also because Ben is a character defined by what is currently happening on screen. All the audience and the other characters need to know is what’s given by the way he acts and the small details presented of his past. A lavish backstory isn’t necessary with Ben just yet.

When his backstory is given, it feels earned and comes at a point when he’s going through some major character development. It flows more smoothly to have this reflection on where he started even before he was introduced. Even if Ben’s story was never given, the audience still has a clear idea of who he is and where he’s coming from based on dialogue, facial cues, and basic actions or reactions. His development is all done within the now and I believe that’s how it should be.

You should feel like you’re on this journey with the character and not as though you missed it all and need a recap before jumping into a new story arch. A backstory should feel like a bonus to see more of this character and explore their personality and not be the only thing holding this character up and giving them a sense of worth or personality.

When some people watch a movie, I think they expect this fancy and detailed backstory for each main player and then feel disappointed when it isn’t given to them. To see where a character began their journey in a flashback and compare it to where they are before the credits roll presents a shortcut to character development. Instead of letting the character be looked at the way they progressed purely in the main story, they’re being judged on how they developed off screen.

Once in a while the backstory is needed immediately depending on the technique the writer is choosing to use, but in Lost I felt more attached to the characters who had their backgrounds given later on. This was because I got to know them as who they were based on their general behavior and not from what brought them to this point or influenced them aside from small hints here and there.

I do love a strong backstory, but I think they need to be waited on. If one is elaborate enough it should either be the story itself or it should be given near the end of the arch as a treat for staying with this character for so long. To understand the character as is makes the backstory all the more interesting to watch. Otherwise it feels like a long prologue that most would rather skip to get to the main plot.

 

 

 

Movie Soundtracks

star wars tfa

What makes for a memorable movie score?

Typically when people hum cinema tunes, it’s always something original. No one ever hums a pop song that found it’s way into the credits of a film unless they just stepped out of the theater and it’s still lingering in their mind. I understand why popular songs of the time sometimes work for films. Granted sometimes those popular songs make the film (think Guardians of the Galaxy). But they work because the songs become part of the movie. They aren’t simply “sad Adele song plays while girl breaks up with boy and walks out into the rain.” There’s a purpose to the score and there has to be an emotional value behind it.

The soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy works with the theme of nostalgia which is a vital part of the protagonist, Peter Quill, as a character. It creates an atmosphere with meaning and the film also mixes in some original music as well. The same goes for Full Metal Jacket. The soundtrack consists of songs that were popular or came into being during the time of the Vietnam War. In this case, they help with constructing that time period and creating an atmosphere that works with the story rather than playing popular songs for no other reason than that they’re popular. This is one of the reasons why I’m continuously unsure about how I feel toward the most recent Great Gatsby film.

One of my favorite movie composers is Hans Zimmer who I appreciate most for his work with the Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean. Most people know the main theme to Pirates of the Caribbean well and I’ll admit, that song still makes me feel pumped up every time I hear it. It works well for the film because it shows the excitement and the fun Disney is having with a film based on an amusement park ride. Yet the score still has this dark undertone to it to represent the more grim areas of the film series. Yes, this is a Disney film about pirates, but it’s also going to aim itself at a slightly more mature audience. This is a tale of adventure on the high seas and it’s going to be a fun ride. Zimmer’s theme perfectly captures that feeling. To have songs from the Top 40s list at the time would ruin the atmosphere this film created for itself and also runs the risk of making it dated.

Original music or music that ties into the story allow a film to become timeless. The problem I have with the 2013 adaptation of the Great Gatsby  is that while the music plays with atmosphere, it also feels more commercialized than meaningful. Honestly, each time a new song play in the movie I was taken out of it. When I look back on it, it feels very 2013 and that’s not good especially with such a classic story that many people admire.

Perhaps is they took popular songs and redid them to sound like they were from the 1920’s it would have worked better aesthetically. Instead, it felt more like they were taking something vintage and trying to bring it into modern day without updating the plot or setting itself. As a result, it was jarring. Does this mean the movie is terrible and should never see the light of day? No. It just means that it lost a sense of meaning and atmosphere it could have easily had, had it been done in another way.

I think Star Wars also did well because of its score. The music from the original trilogy has become so iconic and the movies themselves are a large piece of pop culture. I was relived to see that John Williams had returned for the Force Awakens and that this series wouldn’t tamper with the music in order to market it to a modern audience. They kept the classic, timeless, and unique aesthetic that it seems only Williams can do for Star Wars. Rey’s theme specifically illustrates her character perfectly from the moment it first plays when she is introduced to simply hearing it on Spotify. This soundtrack does not tie the music to the year it’s being released, but to the environment of the story being displayed on screen.

Movie scores have a stronger effect on the audience than the audience may even realize. And because of this, it helps a film to create something timeless that also works with the plot, characters, and settings. These things cannot be separate of each other and the music needs to play with emotions, build ups, and ultimately place the audience into this world for just a little while.