Friday, November 27, 2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

               In reading this review, understand what I mean when I say “We are a Peanuts family.” That means every Halloween and Christmas we have watched the Peanuts holiday specials. And I mean every. That means the first comic strips I ever read were Peanuts. That means I learned how to spell “beagle” (or how not to spell it) from A Boy Named Charlie Brown. That means the first real crush I had as a little girl mirrored Lucy and Schroeder. That means my brother used to call me Lucy because I had such a big mouth. That means my parents already refer to my long-future husband as Charlie Brown, because Charlie loved The Little Red-Haired Girl. That means we tend to take Peanuts pretty personally. Peanuts isn’t just a funny show anymore, or funny comics. Peanuts is a family tradition.

                In context, may be you can understand why I went into The Peanuts Movie with no expectations, and even a little bit of fear. Every time Hollywood takes a story I enjoyed in its original form and makes it for “the big screen” I end up sorely disappointed. I assumed the same thing would happen to Peanuts. I assumed they’d add garbage, change the characters I loved, and leave out signature moments, among other crimes. I assumed completely wrong. The Peanuts Movie was classic Peanuts. Everything that needed to be there to make the crazy fans like me happy was there.

                Here’s a synopsis stolen from Google: Life always seems complicated for good ol' Charlie Brown, the boy who always tries his best against seemingly impossible odds. When the Little Red-Haired Girl moves into his neighborhood, Charlie Brown develops a crush on her. Meanwhile, his best friend Snoopy embarks on an epic adventure in a fantasy world. As a World War I flying ace, the lovable beagle pursues his nemesis, the Red Baron, while also trying to win the heart of a beautiful poodle named Fifi.

                The entire film revolves around Charlie trying to do one thing well, one thing right to break his chronic streak of bad luck, so that when he finally meets the Little Red-Haired Girl, he doesn’t have to be ashamed of who he is: That Blockhead Charlie Brown. And if you know Peanuts, you know things never work out the way Charlie wants them to. This film is no different. Mishap after mishap ensues, until he basically gives up. But right as I was about to throw my hands up in disgust and frustration, (spoiler alert) there was the perfect happy ending.

                As far as classic moments, everything is there that you could possibly ask for. From the Flying Ace to the kite-eating tree to “It was a dark and stormy night,” it was riddled with inside jokes and scenes straight out of the comics and original specials.

While I’m not a parent, and parents would have to evaluate it for their own families I can honestly say I saw nothing objectionable in this film, not even the simple crude humor you seem to find in every. single. movie. Charlie’s crush is a sweet and simple schoolyard crush, not serious and adult in anyway. There was a very positive and obvious message about truth-telling even when it’s hard and a little lie would get you what you want. And while this was one movie I didn’t feel like I had to look for a hidden message in, if there was one it was that the people who really matter will see you for who you really are, even past accidents and mishaps, and that the best policy is to just live your own life honestly.

               In short, five stars. I highly recommend.

               As a little sidenote, for Peanuts fun off the screen, I ran across a website called Peanutizeme. It is exactly what it sounds like - a website where you can create a Peanuts "you." It ran a little slow on my computer, but the results were totally worth it. Peanuts fans young and old definitely need to check it out.

Have you seen it yet? Waiting for it to come out on DVD or streaming first? Are you a Peanuts fan?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Do They Know It's Christmas?

For the first of the Christmas songs that I decided to share, I’m picking one that may seem a little odd, but it really is one of my very favorites. The original “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the original 1984 super-group Band Aid. You could technically call it an 80s Christmas song, but for some reason, decades don’t really matter to me around the holidays, so to me it’s just a sweet and beautiful Christmas song. I loved this song before I was ever a fan of 80s music as a genre, but I have to admit I have a new found appreciation for it now that I'm more familiar with its generation. Every time I watch it or listen to it, I seem to notice another 80s popstar I had missed. The last time I heard it on the radio, I finally recognized John Taylor from Duran Duran. But it's hard to miss the 80s setting, especially in the music video. The size of the hair and the ridiculous amount of eyeliner dates it effectively. But as a recent convert to 80s music, I feel like that's part of its bizarre charm.

The lyrics have been recently criticized for everything from racism and stereotyping to outright lies. Some of the lyrics were rewritten and recorded by the new Band Aid, and I reject that version, not because of the lyrics, but because the new super-group didn’t seem that super to me. When this song was originally released, the lyrics were not criticized, the musicians not ostracized (at least not as much as recently) because everyone knew what they were hoping to do – bring attention to and raise money to help fight a terrible famine in Africa. And it worked. Save the Children and the Ethiopia Famine Relief Fund both profited greatly from the record.

Honestly? I can’t take it that seriously. Not seriously enough to criticize it for Western-colonialism, not enough to praise it for being a partial-Savior of Africa. They tried to do good, and they did, so good for them. We also got a really fun song out of the deal, that is completely different from any other Christmas song out there. I love it. But then I may be prejudiced by Bono and his solo. As a pretty rabid U2 fan, this is the first part of the song I bellow at the top of my lungs. Besides, any video with so many mullets is guaranteed to make me giggle. Always a bonus.

Politically incorrect? I don’t care. Odd? Probably. Awesome? Definitely.

What do you think about this song? A little too untraditional or awesome because it is untraditional?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Manic Monday XII

I’m baa-ack! Well, at least I hope I’m back. In theory this post should be the introduction of a new pattern of living into my everyday life. The last two months (over half of which this blog has been in silence) have been primarily spent in an attempt to formulate new good habits and behavior patterns. The next several months, I’m sure will involve trying to stick to them, but for now, I’m not worried about that.

And writing this post is the very start of what I think may end up being my very favorite good habit: scheduled writing time. I now have a daily appointment with my word processor, a compulsory date with my creative side. I know I’ve shared one of my favorite quotes on here before, from Auden. “The surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.” While I know this is definitely not true for everyone, and I believe you can overschedule, for me this works with the things I care most about making time for. I tend to wait to “find the time” to do something, as if it will just magically appear laying on the ground for me to pick up. Writing tends to take the brunt of this particular bad habit, and frankly, I’m tired of it. So (and it has taken me months to figure this out) I’m going to do something about it. Wish me luck! Thank you to all my friends and readers that kicked me in the pants and/or asked where I was and/or encouraged me to make the time.

So what else does life look like right now? A bizarre mish-mosh of fall decorations, Christmas lights, cornucopias, Christmas presents, pumpkins, and rosemary Christmas trees. I’ve never had quite such an odd overlap of holidays, but it just sort of happened. I can’t Christmas decorate full-on just yet, but wrapping needed to be done so gifts wouldn’t be stumbled across, and little Christmas decorations here and there just found their way into our shopping cart and then into our home. Helpful Hint: Never go to Home Depot around the holidays unless you assume you’re buying Christmas decorations…because you will be. A Charlie Brown Christmas tree anybody?

Our weather is schizophrenic as ever – freezing one week, scorching the next. I’m sure my Oregon friends are mocking my notion of “freezing,” but I acknowledge, SoCalifornians have no notion of real winter. We’re on a “scorching” week right now, but as long as the nights stay cold, I’m happy. Winter blankets, sweatpants, hot lattes…life is good. In the Disney film Frozen, the adorable little snowman Olaf sings an ode to summer. I can in no way relate to those feelings. Like Olaf, if I go in the sun, bad things happen. Unlike Olaf, I have no problem with that. Fall and winter come around and I greet them with open arms and cozy sweaters.

For me, fall and winter seem to blend into one wonderful season. Thanksgiving and Christmas also tend to end up a little bit united. There have been years in the past where I already had the Christmas tree up and decorated almost immediately after Halloween. Thanksgiving, as wonderful as it is, almost is just pre-Christmas to me. The two go so well together, and I see no reason they cannot exist in harmony, at least in my own little holiday world. I can’t bring myself to get involved in the ongoing argument over, “Which is better, Thanksgiving or Christmas?” I take them together, and that’s just how I like it.

However Thanksgiving will soon be past, but there’s still lots of time to settle into the Christmas mood. One of the regular posts I hope to do over the next month is to share one of my favorite Christmas songs each week. Some of them will be religious, some of them just fun secular ones, but all of them very, very special to me. I hope you listen along!

Even with the holiday rush, I hope to be able to pick up and keep up this blog once again. I’ve enjoyed it, and I think maybe some others have as well. I assure you, I have not abandoned this little endeavor, and I hope to be able to stay on top of it, without anymore long-term leave of absences. It meant a lot to me to hear other people encouraging me to come back, stick with it. My friends seem to be more patient than I deserve, and for that I am Thankful.