The Beauty of Irony in The Zookeeper’s Wife

While everyone was still flocking the cinemas for Marvel’s Guardians on its second week, R & I went to see a less popular flick, The Zookeeper’s Wife, because we heard of its heroic connections to saving the Jews during the Holocaust (I was coincidentally carrying a copy of Elie Wiesel’s Day in my bag that time). Rated R-13 for nudity, violence, and mature themes, most of the moviegoers were mature Filipino and American audiences.

There is something chilling about anything connected to the Holocaust, and the beauty of the Polish petting zoo and its inhabitants were soon marred by the arrival of bombs. Antonina and Jan Zabinski, along with their son Ryszard, witnessed the heartless killing of their animals by the Nazis because the bombing set the zoo inhabitants loose. In comes the villain in the guise of a friend, Dr. Lutz Heck, Germany’s top zoologist who wants to work with Antonina and use the zoo for his experiment. On the other hand, the Zabinskis thought that they could raise a pig farm as a way to extract the Jews from the ghetto by covering them with the fruit peelings they collect at the mentioned camp as food for the pigs. In the zoo’s premises is an underground passageway that served as quarters and hiding place of the “fugitives” of war.

The movie tried its best to not sugarcoat the cruelty and harshness of the true-to-life accounts, especially the rape, but it artistically diverted the heaviness by always juxtaposing goodness right after. There was a lot of emphasis on the empathy and the care for others in the midst of great danger. In the Warsaw Zoo, the animals were loved as much as the humans while the war treats the Jews as helpless creatures. The couple managed to save 300 people, and what courage they had to shield them from death!

Jessica Chastain, who played the role of Antonina, met the couple’s daughter, Teresa, during the premiere.

If there’s any film that could show compassion, include The Zookeeper’s Wife in your list. This world needs real-life heroes like them.

The Beauty and the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

It’s the most successful live-action Disney remake to date, judging from the box office records it smashed and everyone’s hangover with its merchandise, photos, and scoring. My Instagram feed was filled with Beauty and the Beast photos from all over the world, and it took me the second weekend of screening the chance to sit down and watch it in the cinema.

I was crying like a baby from start to finish.

The Beauty of It All (Spoilers ahead)

The Music Served the Backstories

I already spoiled myself rotten by listening to the pre-released soundtrack on YouTube, but I still didn’t expect the impact the new songs had on the actual film itself, especially “How Does a Moment Last Forever?” Disney was able to convince the iconic Celine Dion to sing again for the live-action soundtrack, and I’m going to make a prediction that this particular track will be nominated for Best Song for next year’s Oscars.

How does a moment last forever?
How can a story never die?
It is love we must hold onto
Never easy, but we try
Sometimes our happiness is captured
Somehow, our time and place stand still
Love lives on inside our hearts and always will

Minutes turn to hours, days to years and gone
But when all else has been forgotten
Still our song lives on

Maybe some moments weren’t so perfect
Maybe some memories not so sweet
But we have to know some bad times
Or our lives are incomplete
Then when the shadows overtake us
Just when we feel all hope is gone
We’ll hear our song and know once more
Our love lives on

How does a moment last forever?
How does our happiness endure?
Through the darkest of our troubles
Love is beauty, love is pure
Love pays no mind to desolation
It flows like a river through the soul
Protects, persists, and perseveres
And makes us whole

Minutes turn to hours, days to years then gone
But when all else has been forgotten
Still our song lives on

How does a moment last forever
When our song lives on

Of course, we all know Ms. Dion is not in the film, so it came as a sucker punch that Kevin Kline, who plays Maurice, Belle’s father in the movie, sings a portion of this in such a gentle, sweet way to remember his long lost wife as he repairs his daughter’s music box. *cue waterworks*

This age-old fairy tale managed to gain more depth as the screenplay made the creative license to present a backstory on why Belle doesn’t have a mother. It turns out that she died because of the plague in France after her daughter was born. Watson sings a reprise of this tune when she time traveled with the Beast to Paris to know the truth about that painful topic for her father.

This is the Paris of my childhood

These were the borders of my life

In this crumbling, dusty attic

Where an artist loved his wife

Easy to remember, harder to move on

Knowing the Paris of my childhood is gone

 

The inventor role also went to Emma Watson instead of Kline, for the latter was more of the artist who longs to preserve the memory of the deceased wife. Somehow, it made sense that Belle is an inventor because she would likely read anything and learn a lot from theory.

Meanwhile, it is not just Maurice who had the chance to sing of his loss. In “Days in the Sun,” the cast are able to reminisce of their lives as human beings since their time as living creatures is dwindling if nobody breaks the curse. It starts with young Beast singing to his dying mother, then Stanley Tucci’s new character, Maestro Cadenza, lovers Lumiere and Plummette, Mrs. Potts. Belle then interjects, empathizing with their state in life, where Audra Macdonald’s gorgeous soprano voice responds to being hopeful to the very end.

Last but not the least, “Evermore,” which I wrote about previously. It was heartbreaking to see the Beast sing of his sadness on his way up his towers to let go forever the girl he has fallen in love with. I also predict this in the list of Best Song because a movie can have two songs in the Oscar category! I’ll be waiting, Academy Awards!

The Wit Goes to LeFou

Josh Gad’s lines are the funniest if nobody else noticed.

And his name’s G-A-S-T… I believe there’s another T… It just occurred to me that I’m illiterate and I’ve never actually had to spell it out loud before…

Hilarious!

Luke Evans Is a Singing Revelation

Acting-wise, he’s perfect as Gaston. I’ve heard some feedback that he’s still “thinner” than the animation. Peeps, he’s not supposed to look like Johnny Bravo. Anyways, in the song “The Mob,” I could hear the grit and arrogance in his voice that just gave the chills. And you’ll really get mad at him when he starts taunting the sad Beast you’d really want to punch him in the face. As a singer, he was a delight. In the promotional videos, he and Gad just have so much fun it’s great. In one interview, he said he’d really have to internalize narcissistic Gaston or else he’ll burst out laughing or cringing doing the scenes!

The Moment Everyone Stood Still

It was easy to imagine this in the animated film; the hurried goodbyes, the fact that they were “dying.” Despite their deaths, everyone was grateful to each other for a life well-lived. That scene was set-up beautifully, considering they were just collateral damage to the consequence of the ill tempers of their master.

Overall, the visual effects met my expectations. It felt like home in the original, this is only grander. Even the Beast’s transformation was almost the same thing!

Belle and Maurice are Stuck in a Time Loop???

A recent fan theory went around the internet explaining why Belle stuck out like a sore thumb in the provincial life. In “Little Town,” she sings,

Little town in a quiet village. Every day, like the one before…

It apparently explains why she’s bored and aims to break free from the routine (but she still did run into a trap of slavery of rights with the Beast, eh?).

The Ugly Beast of Issues

  • There was too much criticism of the protagonists’ non-singer voices, Watson and Stevens. I appreciate Disney’s move to not cast professional singers because some would just tend to oversing (yes, it could be a tendency, just listen to Ariana Grande for the pop version).
  • LeFou’s sexual orientation reveal was blown out of proportion. Wouldn’t you think that his idolizing Gaston so much in the original animated movie would have made sense because he has a crush on him other than being a blind follower?
  • Overreading the fairy tale to be a dangerous example of Stockholm syndrome. Can’t you guys just have fun and be a kid at heart once again to not make everything a literal interpretation?
  • People disliking Prince Adam’s real face than the water buffalo. SERIOUSLY?

On a more academic note, The Atlantic wrote an article on the topic of the love for animals and arranged marriages.

“Beauty and the Beast,” Tatar writes, is a love story about “the transformative power of empathy,” but a dark and weird one. Coded inside it are all kinds of cultural neuroses regarding the social and emotional structure of marriage: fear of the other, fear of leaving home, fear of changing oneself by forming a new partnership.

These neuroticisms, however, is a way to show adults and children alike “a desire to transform fairy tales from adult entertainment into parables of good behavior, vehicles for indoctrinating and enlightening children about the virtues of fine manners and good breeding.” Belle and Prince Adam/Beast contrast in values despite going through the same maternal loss. It’s just helping each other conquer the monsters within.

I think I’ve made my case, and I think I’ve been obvious in explaining this is a favorite adaptation at this moment. If the next live-action remakes tops this, I’ll let you know.

P.S.

Mulan is in shambles now, so it has huge shoes to fill in terms of expectations.

Sometimes Guardians are Monsters

When I saw the trailer a few weeks back, I made a mental note that this film was a must watch. My two girl friends and I went to the cinema to watch it on the last day before the film switch for the week, and the movie did not disappoint. It also made us weep quite a lot!

Thoughts on the Film

The visual effects were spectacular. It was a delight that the three tales had its own kind of animation. Liam Neeson’s voice fits the low, gravelly sound of Papa Groot (sorry, can’t help it), and while there was a lot of authority and command, he/it sounded gentle and consoling enough for the troubled boy.

Its emotional appeal and tug at the heartstrings were beautifully executed in the narrative. It just had the right kind of nostalgia for Conor’s confusion with his attachment and detachment to his mother and her terminal illness. Felicity Jones had the perfect kind of tenderness for a (dying) mom. Despite little or limited screen exposure, she was very effective.

Somehow, when thinking of guardians of children facing life issues, I am reminded of The BFG and My Neighbor Totoro. But since we’re dealing with illness and death, the Hayao Miyazaki classic has similar elements here for the protagonist to survive difficult emotions.

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While Totoro and the sisters had secret adventures, Conor’s realizations were challenged by stories. These stories mostly dealt with themes of justice, prejudice, belief, and choices. In the end, he had to tell his own story: the truth.

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It was a nice closure for Conor to discover his mother’s artwork…and how, it seems, that the monster was the guardian that she had designated for him.

Thoughts on the Book

The title was out of stock in all branches of National Bookstore, so I went to Fully Booked to search for it. I was excited to read again about the three tales, and the book had a more menacing monster yet still fantastic illustration.

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The only major difference of the book from the movie adaptation was that there was no mention of Conor’s mom as an artist. Because the author, Patrick Ness, also wrote the film screenplay, I think it was a good move that the last few scenes had contextualized what was missing from the original text.

A minor omission from the book came in the form of Lily, Conor’s sort of female best friend. She fiercely protected him, and he was more vulnerable in that sense. It worked in the screenplay, though, that book character Lily was absent so that the focus would be on Conor’s solitude.

For a YA novel, the book on its own could be heavy material for anyone. My friend, who read the book first before watching the film, had to process herself after finishing the sad but inevitable end. Therefore, my recommendation would be to watch the visual form first before reading it.

This is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2016.

The BFG film review

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I’m a big Roald Dahl fan so I was super excited to see this film. The BFG wasn’t my favorite book, though. I needed to see this movie for me to fall in love with it. And fall in love I did.

The critics were kinda harsh on Steven Spielberg’s storytelling so I wanted to see it myself. I didn’t find it tough to follow, and I immediately got swept away into fantasy land, like Sophie. The moment Sophie started complaining and arguing with the big friendly giant, I thought, “There it is.” Ruby Barnhill, who played the heroine, had the perfect cuteness with the spunk of British little girls.

She was “kidnapped” and brought to Giant Country where the slimy snozzcumbers were featured and are typical Dahl level of grossness. As the BFG and Sophie got comfortable with each other, so did I in their adventures.

My favorite scenes, which happens to also be the most magical parts, are related to the colorful bottled dreams and best of all, the tree where it all came from.

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I wanted to cry happy tears as I witnessed a beautiful friendship blossom enhanced by beautiful visuals. It was magical. I haven’t felt that wonderful magical feeling in quite a while. Since it was the legendary John Williams who provided the music, you’re in for a wonderful ride.

Mark Rylance’s CGI face as the BFG is very expressive, and his voice makes such a delightful play on Dahl’s invented words that’s confusing at first but believe me, you’ll manage to catch up.

The supporting cast is also good, and I was happy to see some funny moments when Sophie and the BFG managed to get an appointment with the Queen. I recognized the actress who played the Queen because she also played a strong female leader in Doctor Who! Penelope Wilton, the Queen in this film, played Harriet Jones in my fave British sci-fi TV series so it was fun.

On a more serious note, the film was able to perfectly capture the sad reality of bullying because the BFG had to deal with bigger, uglier, and nastier giants. It champions the bond of friendship, for even as the two led separate lives in the end, each person cherishes and remembers fondly the love that transcends two worlds.

It’s a family film. Go see it!

Photo source: Facebook | The BFG Movie

 

Fortunately, the Milk

milk

My fondness for Neil Gaiman’s works gravitates towards his children’s literature. I recently grabbed this thin and affordable book for just Php 199 (I think) because I forgot about Chu’s Day. So what is it about?

 

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Excerpt from http://www.mousecircus.com

It is about a dad who went out to buy milk from the grocery for his children’s cereal and came back with fantastic adventures on a time machine that involved aliens, dinosaurs, a talking volcano, among others. His adventures were, apparently, the cause of the delay of the precious milk.

Yup, that’s basically it! 🙂

Filled with wonderful illustrations by Skottie Young, this can probably be a fun substitute as a bedtime story for kids (as long as they don’t ask you to explain what the space-time continuum is).

 

Demigods & Magicians Review

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I’ve read these three short stories online before I bought it in novel form, but I gladly re-read it again and enjoyed it immensely. The crossover stories are expectedly exciting because it intertwines the Egyptian and Greek mythology and magic together in two sets of contrasting (teen) warriors of the modern age. The Kanes were definitely counterparts of Percy and Annabeth in terms of personality so the conflicts in their encounters are always interesting.

Is Uncle Rick preparing us for a consolidated heroes universe? That’s a far-fetched idea though because am not sure if there is a unifying thread among the different mythologies of the world, but Riordan does prep us in this particular set of stories of commonalities we don’t know of in our histories. He amazingly knows history well enough to find a convergence in facts to spin understandable snippets of history with elements of fantasy. In this trilogy of stories, Riordan spun a tale about Ptolemy, the Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent. See what he did there?

To defeat a villain who wanted to fuse the dark magic of Egyptians and the Greeks will need the assembly of heroes who’ll naturally have to combine their strengths and save the world. Percy and Sadie are the kick-ass warriors, Carter and Annabeth are the strategists. Their initial meetings were hilarious because they met their opposites and thankfully were able to trust each other before anyone killed each other off. FYI, in the Riordan universe, the Greek territory/Mount Olympus is in Manhattan while the Egyptian descendants reside in Brooklyn. Setne, a magician who’s the descendant of Rameses, comes back from the dead to fuse the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt by mixing Greek and Egyptian magic to become a god and rule over Governor’s Island (still in New York).

It’s a short but exciting read for Riordan followers. I can only imagine what it feels like to control elements of the Earth like water and it must be terrifying to “host” a god inside of you (especially a carnivorous one). These teens’ lives were changed for good once they’ve experienced (literally) going through hell, and Setne was just another day of fighting an evil entity. Heroes don’t ever get to rest. Or study in peace. Or have a normal, quiet love life.

Thank the gods I’m not one. I’d rather just read about their adventures!

 

Me Before You review (novel)

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I saw the trailer go viral a few weeks back on my FB feed even before I picked up this book last week. It was a reverse comparison then of me thinking of Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin’s faces when I was reading this. Let me post the trailer first before I share my thoughts.

 

As far as the trailer goes, it’s pretty faithful to the text. The lines are almost verbatim, and Clarke and Claflin seem perfect as these two would-be lovers in a doomed mess. Yes, you read that right. The book might as well have been titled “Love Does Not Conquer All” lest you want the trailer to lead you to high hopes of romantic success. Sorry to spoil anyone reading this entry at this point so turn away if you must. Strong emotional reactions from a friend and from the writer under me who wrote an entertainment story about this already revealed to me the plot twist. The trailer made me weep twice, and armed with my knowledge of what will happen in this friggin book, I gathered the courage to read it knowing it’s not gonna be a happy ending.

I still cried a bit.

The romantic part of me was in anguish and frustrated. There are matters that love cannot fix (especially a depressed human mind). Love can be a balm, but daily physical and complicated pain in an invalid’s life can sometimes be unmendable…Will Traynor is always close to death every time there is a medical complication on how his body cannot deal with its injuries. By now, you will get what I mean, so I’d have to see if they stick to the book’s ending in this film. I’ll be both glad and sad if they do.

Now, for a bit of feedback on the protagonist, Louisa Clark. Lou is quirky, which is cute and acceptable. I truly do get the girl-living-an-ordinary-sheltered-life aspect, but yes, maybe her intellectual blandness did need the juxtaposition to Will’s daredevil history for our female lead to come out of her shell and see that the world is a big playground. At 26, she was forced by circumstances to see the world and to actually seek a stable job. So yeah, yeah, it’s a reality that other people influence or inspire us to be greater beings. I guess it’s true, though, how Lou, like middle-class women like me, would actually settle for stable and okay jobs for a time to get finances going before actually taking a leap and dare to follow a dream. I can imagine Will scoffing at this thought because he was a man of privilege where he could do whatever he wants, travel to places on a whim, ya know, rich guy things. Money can be a catalyst to settling or succeeding on an economic level.

Lou did make the most of all her earnings. She even learned how to manage her time properly and even wildly because a clock was ticking. Maybe some women will turn out like her in her shoes. How do you live the remaining time to save the one you love?

Will’s situation is very tricky. There are moral and ethical issues at stake, and I dare not discuss his decisions as a quadriplegic and what people in this state go through lest I become insensitive.

Read the book or watch the movie. This bestseller makes sense and it will push you to make a stand. The most neutral way is to be emphatic. It’s up to you on its moral and ethical bearings.