The Roman Baths


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


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!

5 Films of 2014 – Mini Reviews

2015 is officially here, but I wanted to take a moment and look back on the films I saw in theaters this past year with brief reviews. Here are my top 5 memorable cinema experiences for 2014:

1.) Godzilla


I grew up with Godzilla movies and I love the franchise. I was little hesitant about the new film coming out considering what happened the last time American studios brought the King of Monster Island back into theaters. However, I found myself enjoying this film quite a bit. The writers and directors paid homage to the originals and did a notable job at maintaining the spirit of Godzilla in a new and modern setting. I would have liked to see the antagonist monsters look more fantastical and a little less Cloverfield, but I was impressed by the motivation of these beasts. I liked that they were coming together out of a mating ritual and saw the humans as interference into their animal kingdom.

I found the red smoke scene with the Ligeti piece playing particularly haunting and I loved that Godzilla returns to the water as he classically does in many of these films. I also enjoyed the world tour aspect and the final kill was highly entertaining and left my jaw dropped.

I only wish that the human characters were a little less bland. I found it difficult to get attached to the main family and felt bored when they were the only ones on screen. I would have loved to follow Bryan Cranston’s character throughout the entire film because he had the most personality and motive. I was fond of the idea of this ESL teacher in Japan slowly going crazy trying to find Godzilla only to be proved right.

2.) X-Men: Days of Future Past


Again, I grew up with the X-Men movies and cartoons. I love X-Men and my favorite so far has been First Class. I liked how this movie combined the original trilogy and the new films. Even though there were some gaping plot holes and a great deal of unanswered questions, none of that bothered me. I simply enjoy these characters. James McAvoy does a brilliant job in portraying a young Professor X and brings more light into this character. It’s interesting to see Charles turn into the man he is the trilogy and McAvoy’s performance shows that transgression in a natural way.

The rest of the cast is wonderful too, but this film needed a little more Quicksilver. My favorite scene by far was when the audience gets a look inside his mind while he’s running at top speed. The world slows down and he’s almost swimming through the room while Time in a Bottle plays in the background. It’s a brilliant scene and one of the many beautifully done shots. While I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more of the X-Men veterans (Storm, Rouge, Ice Man, Kitty, Colossal), I’m looking forward to the next installment. In the meantime I’ll be holding my breath until Nightcrawler makes a much needed return.

3.) Guardians of the Galaxy


This movie was a blast. From the second the title appeared with Come and Get Your Love gracing the background, I knew I was in for a treat. Some of the pacing felt rushed, but nothing that was overly distracting. I never thought I could become attached to a raccoon and a tree, but I also didn’t think that a movie labeled Guardians of thee Galaxy could make me shed a tear and it did. Never have I been more thankful of the darkness in theaters than I did during the first five minutes of this film.

The actors were obviously having a good time and the chemistry was perfect for characters that were trying to figure one another out. The villain (as much as I love Lee Pace) fell flat and he could have been built up more. The same could be said for Nebula, but again, it was nothing overly distracting.

A sequel has been confirmed and I will be happily waiting with my own Awesome Mix.

4.) Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier


I’ve never been a big Captain America fan. I don’t dislike the character or Chris Evans, I just don’t find myself particularly drawn to him. I found myself spacing out during the first film unless Peggy Carter or Bucky Barnes were on screen. For that I blame the writing, but Captain America 2 redeemed the adequacy that was the First Avenger. While there were still parts that couldn’t hold my interest, there was more material that did.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is wonderful and I felt that his character was more humanized in this entry. The audience learns more about his family and his thought process so Fury becomes more than just “that bad-ass guy with the eye patch.” Falcon and Bucky were also highlights in this film. Falcon had the most personality and was instantly likeable for me. I was glad he was treated as more of a comrade to Black Widow and Captain America and not shoved into the “goofy sidekick” category. Here’s hoping he’ll get his own spot on the Avengers soon enough.

Bucky was a fantastic villain because he wasn’t truly a villain. I knew that he would become the Winter Soldier when the First Avenger came out, but I wasn’t sure where the writers were going to take his character. Despite having little dialogue, Bucky’s facial expressions said everything for him. Every emotion and thought was in his eyes and it was remarkably done. The after credit scene of him standing in front of his sign at the Captain America exhibit was haunting. It lasted less than a minute, no one spoke, and yet I could see the gears grinding inside his head. I could see him holding back 50 years of built up rage, panic, and tears. All within under a minute. It was scenes like this that made me confident about putting Avengers 3 into the hands of the Russo Brothers.

5.) The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies


Once more, this is a franchise I grew up with. I’ve seen the Rankin Bass adaption of Tolkein’s the Hobbit quite a few times and part of me believes they handled the pacing much better than Peter Jackson. My biggest concern is that the Hobbit did not need to be expanded into three films. I could understand splitting it into two, but even then it wouldn’t be necessary.

Battle of the Five Armies would be a difficult movie to watch all on it’s own because it’s one battle sequence. It’s the climax to a story spread out into three hours. Some of the affects felt off and while I was in the theater, I noticed that scenes warranted laughter that weren’t meant to. There was something that didn’t feel quite right about this installment and I’m not sure if it was the lack of character interaction or that (for reasons unknown) the ending actually felt rushed.

Despite concluding a trilogy, the resolution seemed to be tacked onto the end of a battle scene. There is little time to see the characters mourn over their losses or adjust to life after this grand adventure. Due to this, the consequences of the battle felt undermined. There aren’t enough quite moments to let the price of these actions sink in. Instead the audience and characters are taken from the silence all too fast causing the emotion to fade before it can make any sort of impression.

Was it a bad film? No, there were some good lines and some pleasant scenes. The fighting was well down and Martin Freeman was the perfect Bilbo as always. I also enjoyed the auction scene at the end and, again, I wish we could have lingered more on Bilbo’s homecoming. Still, the acting was great and it is worth watching if you enjoyed Lord of the Rings or the first two Hobbit films. There just seems to be something missing.

The one film I regret not being able to see in theaters was Birdman, but I will be renting it the second it arrives on DVD. As for 2015, so far I’m looking forward to The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Here’s to a new year of film!