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#ProjectRunway Results Musings

Brandon didn’t win. My faith in Project Runway is slightly restored. I will tune in this January for the next season of All Stars. (Veterans Vs. Rookies. Oh this could go very wrong.)

I’m not going to say who won (no spoilers here) but I am willing to talk about why Brandon and the others didn’t win. It all comes down to what is a collection and what is a runway “show.”

Now, this is what I said to Becca about the shows when I went looking for preview pictures. “ACK WHERE IS THE TASTE LEVEL someone did not take this seriously!!!, boring, mediocre, very 90s Japanese french fashion that I’ve already seen (very Yojimoto), blah so one note, MY EYES!” So, be aware that I wasn’t very impressed with any of the collections, including the one that won. I know why it won. I just wasn’t impressed by it.

Once the contestants get through all the challenges and are pushed to the limits of their brain power and endurance and the judges have decided what their taste is that season and what the designers styles are and who they want to see more of, the top six get 10,000 dollars each and a few months to go and prepare a collection that they must make by themselves with a strict set of rules about what they can spend their money on in the terms of outside help. And the judges want to see the designers put on a show that takes their styles to the next level.

So, what this means is that what viewers at home think who the winner might be in terms of clothes and what the judges decide on who the winner is in terms of a ‘fashion show’ are two completely different things. Viewers at home are about wearability and “would I buy it.” The judges are about pageantry and pushing boundaries and often the more artistic side of it. This isn’t about what you can take off the runway and put directly into a JCPenny store. (Hahahah, oh god no.) It’s about the higher end, early adopter, top 20% more extreme versions of fashion and putting on a show while doing it.

A fashion show and collection usually has at least 3 groups with different colors or materials. Now, these groups can definitely mix and match especially if they are meant to be sportswear, but they might not be that way. The bigger the show, the more groups. Groups can be up to ten looks in the same fabrications. But then there will anywhere from 30 to 60 looks. (At three pieces a person that can be up to 180 items!) There needs to be a beginning, a middle and an end and some flair. Not all these looks are meant to be worn by the general public. (In fact, Haute Couture shows none of the looks are meant to be worn by the general public.) It should s how range and variety going from day wear to evening to even formal. Different hem lengths and bottom types. Most of all, it needs to invoke some emotion. Excitement, reverence. Something.

And this is where Brandon lost. He had one group. One set of fabrications, one boring flat color scheme. There wasn’t even a bright or a deep tonal color to give us some relief for our eyes. Now, I’ve gone to the Academy of Art, which is where I assume he went, and when I went they didn’t teach how many items to a group, they didn’t even teach groups. They didn’t teach traditional runway colors for seasons. They basically told you, “look at other designer fashion shows and base your collections off the number of items they have in their shows.” And I stared at them completely baffled as to why if they were teaching fashion design they didn’t have these very simple numbers. It was like they were trying to teach calculus without having taught basic math. Just. Just. What? (And then once I left I bought a bookshelf FULL of books that actually have this information! Even if it’s spread out over two or three of them.)

So, Brandon even said on the show that he watched other runway shows and other designers that had 60 looks had 6 groups of looks of ten people each that used the same fabrications and he liked having 10 looks in the same fabrics. And I also know for a fact, because this is what happened when I went there, that for design projects you were told to come up with 3 to 5 colors and 3 to 5 fabrics and design all 7 to 10 looks of your project to those fabrics and colors. And you did three projects a semester over 15 weeks with different briefs (instructions, price points and customers) and different inspirations. All of this was supposed to be leading up to Design Level 6 where if you were one of the lucky ones, you got to prepare a collection for the Academy Runway. (I didn’t make it to Level 6. I got to Level 3. Having read the coursework for 4, 5 and 6, I’m not sure I missed much not taking those classes. Because it was more of the same.) So, he hasn’t been trained to think (as far as I know) in terms of “I need to make a collection of ten people with one major look at the end or middle and three groups of three people each in different fabrics.” He isn’t thinking that “Oh, I have to take what I saw in that 60 people fashion show and condense it to 10 people.” He didn’t make that leap.

So he created what he wanted to created. A ten look collection that used the exact same materials for every look. And it was mind numbing, blah and one note. Therefore, he didn’t win.

Granted, Tim Gunn and the judges didn’t help him that much either. No one went “Um, Brandon, you need more fabrics.” The judges obviously didn’t know, but Tim could have said something and didn’t. You could tell that he thought he was a shoo in to win and was very shocked when he came in third. (For a collection, dedicated to his girlfriend, that his girlfriend thought was too ‘sexy’ and didn’t like. Irony. Also naming collections makes me cringe for some reason. I do it sometimes, but still, cringe.)

The same could be said for some of the other designers. The one I said was mediocre was mediocre because of color palette, it needed something vibrant to pick it up and give it life. (Her inspiration place is very green, I didn’t see any green or even yellow given she had birches. Something please. WAKE ME UP!) Then the groups weren’t well thought out and it felt like there were a lot of pieces that were just there and could be bought anywhere. ACK MY EYES is just me going “that’s a lot of color and print girlfriend. And I applaud your color and print but MY EYES.” More Navy please to tone it down a little. And the one I said was very French Japanese designer from the 90s is well, me knowing a bit too much about Japanese fashion and knowing my fashion history so I wasn’t exactly impressed. (If he’d taken some of his looks from the season and taken the next step, but no, that probably would have bored him. Conceptual designers. Spare me.)

(Yes, one of those three won, which one I’m not saying.)

Being a designer and having been through the Academy’s “Design Courses” I know how challenging it is, especially if you’re an eagle/beaver like me and love lists. I’m surprised at some of the choices Brandon made in his fabrics too by the way. Given the fabric snobbery that existed in the Academy back when I went there, him choosing an upholstery fabric is pretty shocking. (This is what I call fabric shaming: You were in what section? No. Do NOT buy that. EVER. Me: It’s FABRIC. Who cares if you are supposed to “Sit” on it or “wear” it. So many fabrics of the past that were worn would be considered upholstery fabric now and did you miss my “I love medieval times” vibe? Yes. Apparently. MOVING ON.)

So, congratulations to the person who did win for putting out a collection that actually was a collection! They did a great job hitting all the right notes. -wink-

But really, getting to NYFW at all is a major accomplishment. Good luck to all the designers.

On that note, I might be putting up some of my projects into this blog. They’ll be truncated and full of watermarks. But, I should probably put my money where my mouth is, right?

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#fashionfriday: #ProjectRunway Thoughts

I’m almost done with Project Runway. Depending on the results of next week’s finale part two, I might end up parting ways with the new seasons and go hunting down older seasons on DVD. This is really difficult for me to write and say mainly because I went to school (at the Academy of Art) for Fashion Design. I love Fashion Design. And Project Runway actually put a flashlight into that world so people can start to understand what goes into their clothes. (I don’t care if you shop at Wal-Mart or Haute Couture, the process is the same.)

Personally, I’d never go on Project Runway. I know we should never say things like “I’ll never do this.” I said that I’d never publish an original book, but here I am. (Granted I’m self publishing so my reasons for not publishing aren’t exactly valid.) But I tried going the traditional route and querying agents (probably the wrong ones) and tried to get a book deal which was something I said I’d never do. But here is one thing I put my foot down on, I do not want and will not go onto a reality show like Project Runway or Fashion Star or 24 Hour Catwalk or Launch My Line.

These shows don’t do what they claim to do. Read the rest of this entry »

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E-Book Piracy is a problem.

Browsing through tumblr, Becca shared this post from a YA author with an actual agent, A list publisher and lots of sales about how piracy affected her livelihood.

(If I just insert the link you get the entire article. Not my article, not really my place to put it on my website.)

But in short, because e-book sales of her second book in that series dropped due to a pdf being stolen from her publisher (holy shit), the publisher decided to cut in half the amount of print books they were publishing for the third book. (Ebook sales drop so the print books get punished. Makes sense. Not.) And for the third book, she and her brother put up a fake pdf of the ebook  to prove a point that the piracy of the second ebook impacted her sales negatively. It worked. People went out and bought the book because they couldn’t find a “legitimate” stolen copy. And they ran out of the print run twice for the third book.

She’s outright said on her twitter that no matter how much more popular the Raven trilogy was on social media, her Shiver Trilogy was more successful in the eyes of her publishers because it sold more copies.

Sobering. And probably the people who need to see and read this, probably won’t ever see it or care if they do. In hyperbolic fashion they’d “rather die than buy a book.” (Me, I go wtf? GIVE ME THAT PHYSICAL PAPERBACK NOW. But, I read books mostly when I’m ill anymore. Otherwise, I’m writing. Creating. Working!)

Piracy harms creators. Piracy influences financial decisions of publishers. You want more of a series. You want to support your favorite author, get more content of the type you love. Buy their books. Buy their e-books. Buy their print books. Buy their audio books. Publishers respect one thing and one thing only. Numbers. Sales. Money. Profit.

It’s a spreadsheet world. (Thanks,  Excel. /sarcasm)

Profit isn’t a dirty word. If Publishers see that the masses want more fantasy/urban fantasy/science fiction, word gets back to the agents. Agents start looking for more good fantasy/urban fantasy/science fiction and either encourage the writers they already have to change genres or bring on new authors that send them queries of that genre. Publishers and agents don’t take risks. Period. There has to be a demand before they will step out on a limb.

A lot of the responses to her post on tumblr were about going to the library and asking for the books you love if you can’t afford to buy the book. Libraries buy more copies of the book if it gets requested often enough. Libraries also now do these things call e-book borrowing/rentals. And that’s great if you have access to a library.

There is another way to get free books.

Authors also have review teams. Authors need social credibility. They want reviews on Amazon and Good Reads and in book blogs that they can point to and go “See that, I have a five star rating.” (This author needs a review team.) But of course, this requires effort on the reader’s part. They have to not only read the book but analyze and say something about it for what they feel is probably nothing. (Nope. You got an $8 to $25 dollar value “book” for free. The author just lost 2 bucks of sales. Be kind. Write a review in exchange.)

There are people out there that require up to 50 bucks from the author on top of a free copy in order to review a book. Is this remotely logical? Not really. But many authors are so desperate for social credibility that they’ll do it. Personally, if you wouldn’t normally read my book and want to review it. I’m not entirely sure I’d want you reviewing my book for cash. (Sure, you spend anywhere from three to six hours reading my book. Guess what, I put probably close to two hundred hours writing it and then another eighty getting it edited. And you want me to pay you? Hah.)

Authors also do free giveaways. Go to Instafreebie and other “Free book” websites. Sign up. Download. Read it. Talk about it. Review it! Rate. Like. Reblog. Heart. Share! Sure, no one is obligated to do anything. You know that good feeling you get when someone likes your stuff. Authors get that too. And for authors and creators that can translate into one thing, sales and motivation to create more cool things their audience loves.

Pay for the things you love. That way you get more of the things you love. Even if by “paying” you’re going to the library and borrowing a copy or joining an author’s ARC team so that in exchange for a review and a blog post or tweet, you get a free copy of the author’s book.

Fortunately, right now, I’m just a no name indie author with no last name and no one cares enough to pirate my writing. I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a publisher and the only people who get free pdf arcs are those who are book reviewers/bloggers. I honest to god don’t have anyone to impress and the reasons I keep writing to the tune of fifteen dollars in sales a year has nothing to do with the money and everything to  do with my love of my characters.

Those fifteen dollars in sales don’t even pay back the time I’ve invested in developing my books, writing and begging Becca to edit them in barter for helping her with her books.

But this month is NaNoWriMo and as much as I’d love to spend it writing my books or holiday quests for the MMO Becca and I are working on. (I keep teasing with that, I know I am a horrible tease), instead, I have to focus on working out a fashion portfolio. Because, I need a job or investors to start something that will bring me money, part of it so I can divert money into buying ads on Amazon and Facebook to promote my books. And to get a job, I need a portfolio and a resume and social credibility that I can do the work I say I can do. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Action Movie October Edition: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Bonus Round! (Four weeks, but five movies, oh well.)

It is time for Action Movie October Edition, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2017
Genre: action, adventure, fantasy
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Paul McCaurtney, Anthony De La Torre
Director: Joaquim Ronning, Espen Sandberg
Writer: Jeff Nathanson, Terry Rossio,
Distributor: Disney
Budget: $230 Million
Box Office: $785 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%

Gingersnaps Rating: Three Cookies!

Summary:

A quest to end a father’s curse, an old warning that no doubt Jack doesn’t remember, and the dead in Devil’s Triangle have a message for Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow has hit a low note in his pirate career. It seems his luck, what he had, has abandoned him as every heist and pillage is going horribly wrong. Now Henry Turner and Corina Smyth need to get to an island that cannot be found except by a map no man can read in order to find the trident of Poseidon. Fortunately for them, Corina is a woman. Now, they need to race the dead in order reach the trident first.

Review:

Pirates Bonus Round!

To be fair, in comparison with the other Pirates movies, I’ve only watched this one once. It’s a fairly funny and engaging movie. Funny doesn’t exactly equal good. I got to the end of the movie and sat there through the credits for the end scene feeling very conflicted. Because, on one hand, it was funny and there were some things I really enjoyed. Then on the other hand, if this is supposed to be the last movie of the series, it did a shit job at it.

Look, my standards for story in an action film are pretty low. Is it plausible and is it coherent? And it feels to me on the fifth film of this franchise that the creators haven’t been able to find their feet after finishing the story of Will and Elizabeth. They have done this so badly, that they had to figure out a way by hook or by crook to reel them back into the story. (Dragging in a new writer doesn’t help.) And I also despise the mindset of “X amount of years has passed between when we released the movies, let’s have that amount of time have passed in movie time as well!”

Let’s delve into it, shall we? Dead Men Tell No Tales tells a story of an old enemy of Jack’s, an enemy he made when he first became Captain of the Wicked Wench before it became the Black Pearl and now that enemy is out for revenge. On the other hand, young Henry Turner has made a vow to his father William that he’s going to free him from the curse of the Dutchman. And he’s found a way to do it, find the Trident of Poseidon.

Now, finding the trident of a sea god sounds like a really bad idea to me. However, we’ve already freed a sea goddess bound in mortal form, explored Davy Jones’ Locker and destroyed the Fountain of Youth. So, this is pretty par for the course. However, here is where things start to get a bit dicey for me story wise. If we’re going after the trident of Poseidon (who while a rather jolly fellow also had a pretty decent and flashpoint temper), this should take, I don’t know, two movies? Because, even if Poseidon is supposedly dead, you’d think he’d have something to say about mortals trying to find his tomb or at least have some pretty good guards other than a map that “no man can read.”

That way we could get maximum mileage out of ghost pirates, Barbossa being a Commodore of Pirates and oh right, our four new characters, Henry, Corina, Salazar and “the Witch.” But it’s not, so instead of having two fun new adventures, we have one, somewhat fun and really rather straightforward adventure.

And I say straightforward in the most literal sense possible. Jack doesn’t feel or act like Jack from the previous four movies. I understand having his career as a pirate at a low note given that the Black Pearl is still stuck in a bottle (after five years, really?) and most of his crew has abandoned him after a series of jobs gone sour. He is so down on his luck that he falls into a pig pen (of his own accord) and ends up trading his compass for a bottle of rum. Which, of course, releases Salazar. And instead of making deals and working out double crosses and searching for the next way to get eternal life, Jack is demanding tribute from his own sailors. The writers have turned Jack into this parody of his own character.

Now, if there had been two movies where we got to see Jack pull himself out of this hole of idiocy. I would probably be more forgiving. Especially since the movie spends 50 minutes on setting up this whole tale before actually getting into the water and on with it. Including mistaking Corina for a witch and a plot about how the British Empire is going to rule the seas and have the trident that goes absolutely nowhere. (And who the hell is this former first mate of Jack’s and why do we care, don’t set up a backstory joke and have no backstory!)

From there, the story is pretty straight forward. Barbossa shows up, they release the Pearl and make a run for the Trident ahead of the British Empire and Salazar. Stuff happens, big climax! Stuff that would have been sadder if there had been more build up. Happiness all around. Ending!

The plot is at least coherent and plausible. The dialogue is funny, even if some of the jokes are run into the ground. So, half a cookie. (I told you I was conflicted.)

There was a big explosion of an English ship that wasn’t necessary because that whole plot wasn’t necessary. It was in there to show the power of Salazar. So, I’ll give it a cookie.

And strangely, there weren’t a lot of fight scenes in Dead Men Tell No Tales. At least, not sword fights. Henry did more fighting than Jack, who was actually the “gentleman” in distress here most of the time. The fight scenes weren’t entertaining because they really didn’t exist that much. There was one large scene where Jack was jumping about on canons but it felt more like a chase scene than a fight scene. Plus, Salazar was far too overpowered? I mean, just when it was getting interesting, he got his hands on the Trident and yeah. No cookie.

Once again, we get one main female character. (I mean, it’s not like we don’t have a bunch of other female characters running around. Calypso, this new Witch, Elizabeth, Angelica, Anna Maria…) Corina is interesting. Corina is an educated woman and an orphan who grew up in a poor house. Education is usually something reserved for the upper classes. However, she’s educated herself in Astronomy and the study of time, meaning she’s as good a navigator as anyone else on the Caribbean if not better. As a woman of “science,” she doesn’t believe in ghosts (much like Elizabeth didn’t) and is after solving the map because of her father’s gift to her and not because she really believes in the Trident of Poseidon. Like Elizabeth, she is confronted with the fallacy science trumps the supernatural. She handles it about as well as Elizabeth did, but then quickly gets over it because the plot needs her to. She’s a thinker rather than a fighter. But then half of her time is spent (once we get into the last 70 minutes of the movie) as being “the girlfriend.” Every other thing we learn about her gets compressed because of lack of time. She was very close to being an Evie from the Mummy series. But they threw too much stuff at her for one movie to handle. So, half a cookie.

Now my main grief thus far with this movie has been poor characterization and well, lack of time to fully explore the plot they came up with. And this really falls under the heading of “we didn’t do proper world building and threw our previous world building out because we’re pretending some of this stuff doesn’t exist.” For example, there were clear rules about the Captain of the Flying Dutchman and how if he followed the rules, Will wouldn’t turn fishy. So, why is Will fishy? Has he not been doing his job? (And now that the Trident is broken and the curse is gone, who is going to care for the dead of the sea? Um. Big problem!) Then, the compass problem. Tia Dalma said in Dead Man’s Chest that Jack bartered the compass from her. Then in this movie, we see the Captain of the Wicked Wench give it to Jack as a way of passing on Captaincy. (Though why Jack is going to be captain when he seems to be the age of a cabin boy, I don’t know.) Is this a plot hole, a plot loop, a “we forgot to watch our own movies before writing this one?” Plus, what Poseidon’s trident is and does isn’t fully explained and they just break it like “oh, this is just a fancy artifact and not one of the three most powerful items in existence that creates a powerful weapon that can take down Saturn and keeps him in Tartarus.” (Greek mythology lover in me is whimpering.) And Corina has an entire diary, but we have one clue to solve? Really?

On the other hand, I loved Salazar and his troops and the idea of undead fish and birds running around. The sharks were awesome (and wouldn’t an undead shark versus mermaid fight be cool? Oh, wait.) We also got to see some of Jack’s past and how he became Jack Sparrow. (Now how did he become the Pirate Lord of the Caribbean I wonder.) And the new Witch would have been more interesting if she just hadn’t been… there… doing… witchy things? (I mean, a courier could have given Barbossa the compass. Yeesh.)

So, again, half a cookie.

Maybe, they’ll make a sixth movie (I mean this one made money after all) and I’m sure they’ll throw out everything they did in this movie including the last scene after the credits that made no sense whatsoever and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see Jack finally get what he’s been searching for in a form that he desires and be conflicted over whether he wants it or not. But, I doubt it. (Because that’s actually the only way these movies could really conclude and conclude well, is Jack finding eternal life in a form he likes and then choosing to take it or not take it, damn the consequences.) And you know, Barbossa will return because Barbossa just can’t stay dead.

Dead Men Tell No Tales earns three gingersnaps for leaving this reviewer highly conflicted over whether she likes it or not. In  the end, it could have been two movies instead of one to fully do justice to the plot line and characters.

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Action Movie October Edition: On Stranger Tides

It is time for Action Movie October Edition, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2011
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane, Kevin McNally, Sam Claflin, Astrid Berges-Frisbey
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert, Tim Powers
Distributor: Disney
Budget: $411 Million
Box Office: $1.05 Billion

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 32%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Half cookies!

Summary:

Jack Sparrow is in need of a ship and a crew in order to find the Fountain of Youth on his quest for eternal life. But Jack Sparrow isn’t the only one looking for the fabled waters once found by Ponce De Leone. There is someone else claiming to be Jack Sparrow also searching for crew and when Jack finds himself pressganged by an old flame and aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the dreaded ship of Blackbeard. He finds himself on a hunt for mermaids and treasure and mixed up in a plot for revenge.

Review:

It’s my opinion that On Stranger Tides is a perfectly acceptable Pirates movie. And it would have been better received if it had come before Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Narratively speaking, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were Elizabeth’s and Will’s story. The audience, us, got attached to Elizabeth and Will given they are the hero types and Jack most certainly is not. So, without Will and Elizabeth in On Stranger Tides, without a true “hero” type that the audience was willing to root for, the movie didn’t do so well. If On Stranger Tides had come before Dead Man’s Chest etc, then the audience might have been more willing to sit back and watch a Jack Sparrow morally ambiguous pirate caper.

By the time On Stranger Tides came around essentially, Jack had been regulated to this goofy main side character that of the three main characters (Will, Elizabeth and Jack) he might have been the catalyst for everything but in essence he was the least important. They were so focused on the emotional elements of Will and Elizabeth’s story that they sort of forgot to develop Jack entirely.

So, On Stranger Tides is the first movie that truly focusses on Jack. Who isn’t a hero. Who has an agenda and a set of rules that he lives by and a past that is still influencing the story. Because here we get answers to two more of the lines from Curse of the Black Pearl. Do Mermaids exist? Yep. And why was Jack pretending to be a clergyman. And oh boy, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

My point is that I think we would have been better off with a movie that focused on Jack before Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, whether or not it was On Stranger Tides isn’t the point, but a movie that focused on Jack himself in order to give him the character development, so that once we finished with Elizabeth and Will’s story we could say “and now back to Jack” and have the audience be more comfortable with the notion.

Or it might be that I’m personally fascinated by the hints of Jack Sparrow’s past and how he attained the Black Pearl and his tumultuous past with Becket and the East India Trading Company. (It’s not that I don’t like Will and Elizabeth, but to be honest their story boils down to a romance novel.) I want to know more about Jack’s story.

The second mark against On Stranger Tides and why it or a story like it should have been before At World’s End is that it’s not as epic in feeling as At World’s End. So, we have a tonal shift from epic grand sweeping story about freedom fighting, to small scale pirate caper about Jack trying to find eternal life.

But on to the story. Here we are, in London, where Jack is trying to rescue Gibbs and find a ship and a crew to return to the Caribbean and find the Fountain of Youth, but you see, he doesn’t have all the information. Things go a bit sour, Jack finds himself in an audience with the King, manages a daring escape and ends up confronting his doppelganger in a tavern to be press ganged into service aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge under the leadership of Blackbeard and his beautiful daughter, Angelica. While Gibbs, ends up back in the Royal Navy under the leadership of Barbossa. And everyone is racing to the Fountain of Youth for different reasons. Barbossa desires revenge against Blackbeard (and the Queen Anne’s Revenge.) Angelica wants to save her father from death due to a prophecy. (As usual, the irony of in order to thwart a prophecy they cause the prophecy to come to pass.) And Jack, well, Jack is going for several reasons that change as he learns about the Fountain of Youth.

Instead of chasing after a macguffin like most of the previous movies, Jack is setting off on more of quest to gather the items needed to make the “profane” ritual of the Fountain work. They need a mermaid and a couple of goblets plus the water and it’s difficult to get to the Fountain in the first place. Complicating matters is a Catholic priest that is trying to save Blackbeard’s soul and that they need a mermaid who is alive.

So, while Jack and Angelica deal with old issues between them and Jack dances around Blackbeard being Angelica’s father. (Man, not the meet the parent date I’d want to be involved in.) The priest and the mermaid have an interesting little romance subplot of their own. That Angelica and Blackbeard cruelly use to their advantage. And once again, we see more of how Hector and Jack may be rivals but they are also friends. Though not even Hector fully understands Jack’s methods. And Blackbeard is definitely played as affably evil and a good contrast to Jack’s still morally ambiguous but not as low on the ranking scale of good to evil. As usual, there are some rather fridge horror moments.

Honestly, it’s a fun pirate caper movie that has funny dialogue and interesting characters. I have only one cringe moment but that’s more of a personal thing (Phillipe naming Syrena) than anything against the movie. One cookie.

The light house scene where Jack blows it up even after several viewings still makes me go “holy shit.” One cookie.

There are a lot of fight scenes in this movie between Jack’s inventive escape techniques, him fighting Angelica and others and the mutiny. They’re fun, they’re light hearted and you begin to wonder how many ways they can construct a set so Jack can swing around and do pirate flips. One cookie.

Now, let’s talk about Angelica! I love Angelica. Anna Maria, Angelica, can we have a movie with the two of them back in Jack’s life and causing trouble? (Not them fighting over Jack because Angelica is fit to kill him by the end of the movie, and I don’t think Anna Maria feels anything like romance for Jack.) The first time we meet Angelica, she’s impersonating Jack. (And Jack makes a rather crude comment about always wanting to kiss himself. Man, what a narcissist!) And for a while, Angelica manages to lead Jack about by the nose on the idea that she is conning Blackbeard into believing she is his daughter. Angelica is not a damsel in distress. She’s not the girlfriend. She’s a player in the game. Now, she’s not a very good one and obviously has some daddy issues. But she knows how to manipulate people and ugh, clearly, Jack and her love each other. (Which I like by the way, the ugh is for them  to get over their issues and get on with it already.) And I find it amusing that both of them use this emotion against each other. If they decided to work together for real, I’d pity the crew and royal navy that stood against them.

Syrena isn’t nearly as good of a character. She is “the prisoner.” And it’s really hard to have agency when you’re the prisoner trope. Syrena’s character is more of a moral quandary for Phillipe (who also gets very little development) than an actual character. Now, I find the story line to be rather cute and sweet. But that’s my hopeless inner romantic. Though I wish he’d asked for her name rather than giving her one. (Granted being a mermaid and something of a fey creature she probably wouldn’t have told him since names have power.) I think in a different medium, Syrena could have gotten more development and character agency. But, in a movie that is only so long, they ran out of time. I’m still taking a bite of the cookie due to lost potential.

This movie is really more of a stand alone movie in the pirate’s universe than having anything to do with Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. In fact, other than a few characters and items, most of the previous movies world building has been thrown out or ignored for an entirely new adventure. Voodoo, zombiefied pirates and ships in bottles were all well and good, but they also didn’t really do much with it. It seem more tossed in there because “oh, we had skeleton pirates and fishy pirates, we need to continue the tradition of supernatural pirates.” (And Dead Men Tell No Tails is also more zombiefied pirates in  the dead men walking sort of way instead of voodoo zombie sort of way.) So, the zombie pirates in this movie were more flavor than serving any actual purpose. That and I really wanted to see the Black Pearl being freed from the bottle. That was something that did not get a grand pay off and the movie suffered for it.

I loved the mermaids. I loved the idea of the Fountain of Youth. But for once, the supernatural things they added didn’t always quite gel with the rest of the story. So, one bite out of the cookie.

On Stranger Tides is a delightfully fun pirate caper movie with a strong female character and exploration of Jack’s character and motivations. Four and a half gingersnaps.

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#tuesdaythoughts: Child Friendly Themes, don’t always mean child friendly media.

A kid friendly logo does not always make for a kid friendly franchise.

I’ve been reviewing the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise this October. To state the obvious, Pirates is a movie franchise based upon a popular Disney theme park ride. (A ride that they’ve revamped since they put out Dead Men’s Chest to make it more techy and twenty-first century and include the characters from the movie.) And the movies have all come out under the well known Disney Castle logo umbrella.

The same Disney castle logo that is used for Disney princess titles such as Frozen, Moana and Tangled. Disney’s Tinkerbell properties, anything having to do with Pixar such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Lilo and Stitch are all very kid friendly properties put out by Walt Disney and use the very same logo in front of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The difference between these properties and Disney’s Pirates is the rating. All Disney Pirates movies have been PG-13, while Disney Princess movies and anything related to Mickey tends to be G or PG.

But despite previews with the ratings on the green screen and having them slapped in somewhat inconspicuous places on posters, people see the logo before they see the rating. And they see “Disney” and think “This is suitable for children” instead of going “Uh, Pirates, there is probably going to be some gruesome monsters and death and this isn’t suitable for my ten year old.” (I don’t really care about the gender here.) Because Disney has the reputation for the kid friendly franchises, right? They wouldn’t put anything out that was really meant for adults, right?

Obviously not, as the third movie took a deep left turn into grim and dark by opening with a mass hanging including a hanging of a child in Disney’s normal target market age group. I remember people being appalled because “this is Disney” and I’m sitting here going “This is about piracy on the high seas and hanging was a blessing for a pirate rather than some of the other things they did. Oh, and PG-13, not for your ten year old child.” Seriously, the opening of Dead Man’s Chest and the man in the gibbet at the prison was more disturbing to me than the mass hanging. (Shudder.)

Somewhere, sometime, our society and culture decided that kid friendly ideas meant that everything with those ideas are kid friendly. Or that certain mediums are meant for children, even though those mediums started out being targeted at adults. (Comics and cartoons I’m looking at you. Anime is in here as well.) There may be an argument for the fact that we’re protecting children too much. However, I’m willing to put forth the argument that there is a difference between reading say, Jules Verne or C.S. Forester or Daniel Defoe or Robert Louis Stevenson, than seeing something like a hanging depicted on screen (even in the cut away PG-13 friendly version.) There is a difference between a written and a visual medium and visual mediums often miss a nuance in written mediums.

Let’s be honest. There are more franchises now owned by Disney that aren’t kid friendly that parents, as adults, love and want to share with their children even though their children may not be old enough for them such as Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other companies are “guilty” of this as well. Fox’s X-Men franchise. Spider-man. Warner Brother’s DC’s Batman and Superman. These were all franchises that started out in comic form for adults, were turned into cartoons for children and then were reclaimed by movies for adults again. However, because there were toys and cartoons and Halloween costumes, instead of paying attention to the ratings, adults saw the name, they saw the brand and thought “child friendly!”

When they really, really aren’t.

There was a time when big studios like Disney would have separate houses for their adult and child fare. Then the current system of big money, big budgets and big tent poles has to some extent changed that system.

I’m not talking about franchises that aren’t child friendly and never claimed to be child friendly and adults still buy them for their children anyways because that M or R logo on the box seems to elude them. Things like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Halo, Overwatch, Red Dead Redemption. These are specifically computer game mediums created by adults for adults. And once again, computer games have been branded as “for children” since the 80s, instead of “For the family and adults too.” Adults will buy their children a computer game that they aren’t mentally or emotionally prepared for that involves a lot of violence and wonder why their kids are acting out.

Yes. There is a difference between a pretend game of cops and robbers and playing Grand Theft Auto.

And it does not help that many of these computer game franchises that are for adults have action figure dolls in the toy aisle!

The solution isn’t “stop making material for adults with themes that children love like pirates and super heroes.” The solution is the usual solution, take responsibility for your viewing choices, preview what you want your children to watch. Remember that ratings have meanings (even if we don’t like the way the rating system works.) And be aware that not all people are going to think the same way you do and let their children watch different things and your children may be exposed to it anyways.

Which of course, is a great jumping point for several discussions about the movie itself and about parenting and how other people do things different ways. The dichotomy exists and it’s not going away.

I mean, I remember in fifth grade my parents didn’t want me to see Casper (CASPER of all things) because it had a ghost in it. Then I went to a Halloween themed sleep over at my church school and saw it anyways. I don’t remember if we ever had a conversation about why they didn’t want me to see it after that. But I do remember that my father wasn’t happy. I also remember after a certain age, my parents decided Halloween was bad and it became a “forbidden fruit.” (And that really does explain a lot about me in some ways and why I adore Halloween as much as I love Christmas.)

The great thing about talking about movies and their content and what is good and bad is that it allows everyone including your children to think and to come to their own conclusions on what is going on. It allows us to ask questions and explore our world and what is and isn’t in good taste versus being appropriate. And as long as it doesn’t turn into a gambit for control that everyone needs to think the same way that you do, a little conversation is a good thing.

Now, I need to bring this back to my writing.

I’ll admit that I had a pause when my teenage nephew bought my first werewolf biker book. (Not that bikers are actually child friendly themes.) My book has swear words in it and violence and nude guys standing behind counters and all in all, it is somewhere between a PG-13 and R rated movie. (I’m not entirely sure on what side of the line it falls on.) Was this really appropriate for my 14 year old nephew to read? And was that really my call? I was reading Star Wars and such at his age.

No. Not really. That was up to my sister. Who I have no idea if she’s read my book or not. Her house. Her children. Her rules.

My other stories right now are about fairy tales and not the white washed Disney versions either. But children love fairy tales. However, children loving fairy tales doesn’t mean my books belong in the children or young adult’s section. I’m not going to stop writing fairy tales for adults. I have to trust my readers to be discerning enough to go “I shouldn’t give this to my eight to ten year old.” It’s all I can do.

That and recommend Becca’s books when she publishes them. “Oh, you aren’t old enough for my books, go read about the girl who defends unicorns…”

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Action Movie October Edition: At World’s End

It is time for Action Movie October Edition, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2007
Genre: action, adventure, fantasy
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathon Pryce, Lee Arenburg, Mackenzie Cook, Kevin McNally, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Chow Yun-Fat, Keith Richards
Director: Gore Verbinksi
Writer: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Distributor: Disney
Budget: $300 Million
Box Office: $963 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45%

Gingersnaps Rating: Five Cookies!

Summary:

With Captain Jack Sparrow and his beloved ship, the Black Pearl, imprisoned in Davy Jones’ Locker, Lord Cutler Beckett has taken control of Davy Jones, The Flying Dutchman and of the seas. The newly resurrected Captain Barbossa has a plan, free Calypso, a sea goddess that the original nine lords of the pirate court locked away to tame the seas, and destroy Beckett. But for his plan to succeed, he needs Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl. They must undertake a voyage to the World’s End and rescue Jack. But what of Jack’s own plans and his quest to live forever.

Review:

Of the three pirate movies I’ve reviewed thus far, At World’s End is the one with the most epic quality about it. The story opens with our heroes having to go through the labyrinth and into the world of the dead to rescue Jack Sparrow. Not that anyone has the purest motivations to rescue Sparrow. In the end, it is Jack’s rather twisty way of thinking that frees them from the world of the dead and returns them to the world of the living.

And from there, the story turns into a series of betrayals and counter betrayals and Jack manipulating and making deals to get others to do what he wants them to do. And where in Dead Man’s Chest, the story felt tangled and unnecessarily complicated (though still enthralling). In At World’s End it doesn’t feel quite as complicated because our heroes are together more often and we don’t need a map and a pin board to keep track of them and what they are doing.

Having plots where characters are trying to pull things over on each other and manipulating each other and betraying each other is fun! It creates conflict. But in order for that conflict to work well, the characters have to be around each other. At World’s End accomplished this enough that when you got to the end it was satisfying and didn’t feel like a jumbled mess.

And once again, we are still referencing things brought up in the very first movie. Singapore! The dog with the keys! And the Pirates’ Code. Accidentally genius or on purpose? Only the writers know. But in At World’s End, the explanations of Jack’s past life that were casually mentioned in Curse of the Black Pearl don’t feel like they are dragging the story out and are unnecessary. Jack Sparrow has been to Singapore and insulted Sao Feng which leads Sao Feng to betray them all. And leads him to betray Beckett again when he is led to believe that Elizabeth Swann is the goddess Calypso.

But that is what the story wants us to believe pirates do to each other. And because the story does this consistently, we believe it as well.

In Dead Man’s Chest, the story got rather caught up in setting up plot points. And in at World’s End, the story finally gets back to what makes those plot points interesting, character motivations and character interactions. We get to see the Jack and Hector Barbossa were, once upon a time, good friends. And despite their rather petty, childish (mostly on Jack’s part) competition against each other, they can work well together if they choose to do so. That Will and Elizabeth are almost torn apart at the seams due to their conflicting goals and refusal to communicate. (Which is really difficult to do on a ship that isn’t that large.) The love between Calypso and Davy Jones, and Jones’ ability to rules lawyer around his geas. And the conundrum that is Pirate Ragetti.

The end of At World’s End, wisely calls back to both the beginning and the end of Curse of the Black Pearl, giving the trilogy story of Jack and Elizabeth’s journey a circular and closed feeling to it. This is a hallmark of a well written story. It could end here and we’d all be happy.

However, we know it didn’t because the movies were such a financial success and Disney likes franchises, they set up On Stranger Tides before the credits even rolled. (And Dead Men Tell No Tales after the credits rolled.)

Before I award the story and dialogue cookie to At World’s End. I do want to make a caveat that this is the most ‘grim’ and perhaps one of the more ‘horror’ filled movies of the franchise. There were deaths of major characters and it opens with a very grim mass hanging scene (that illustrates how easily rights we take for granted can be taken away with a swift stroke of the pen.) And some of the ‘on screen’ deaths of not major characters are very gruesome outside of the hanging scene. If this movie had used actual blood, it would have earned a R rating. This movie, while it has pirates and swashbuckling and swords swinging and explosions, is not for children. Ratings have meanings and this movie pushed its PG-13 limit as much as it dared.

Disney has always stuck grown up things into its child’s franchises and movies. This franchise was definitely for adults and I think the Disney logo can make people forget that. (I feel a blog post coming on.)

Anyways, At World’s End has a gut wrenching, emotional and rather fun story that while it may be complicated it doesn’t feel that way. One cookie.

Yes, there was an explosion that wasn’t necessary in this movie. It was in the beginning and set off by Tia Dalma and involved fireworks. Her grin matched my grin. One cookie.

The fights in this movie are more plot oriented rather than campy bits of fun from previous movies. (Yes, fighting in a water wheel is a campy bit of fun.) For a pirate movie, we don’t really see a lot of swashbuckling fights until the climax. There are a lot of fights, but it’s not the same as the one on one or three way duels from the previous movies. The climax fight between the crews of the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman made up for it. Especially a certain scene with Will, Elizabeth and Barbossa. One cookie.

Speaking of Elizabeth, Elizabeth redeemed herself as a character from the previous movie. She finally, after betraying and killing Jack, figured out her actions have consequences. And her story didn’t become about freeing Jack or reconciling with Will, it became about the lengths she would go to ensure that there is freedom. She became a pirate captain and the pirate king and used that position to inspire the pirates to fight for their freedom rather than hide away. (With judicious help from Jack.) This could also be used as a parallel of women at the time fighting for their own freedoms to choose their life instead of having men choose it for them. And they managed to do this without having her be raped and she managed to fight of Sao Feng quite nicely thank you.

Tia Dalma played more of a roll in this movie. She is the witch, the mentor type figure. There was a bit of wisdom in her story of her love and Davy Jones. That you should love the person for who they are and not try to change them. She was never developed much as a character and still more of a plot device than an actual story, but I felt it was clear she was a power and the pirates needed her more than she needed them.

So, the women remained strong in this story. One cookie.

It’s really hard to fault Disney’s world building, especially when they rely less on gimmicks (once again, pirates fighting in a water wheel like mice, entertaining, but a gimmick) and more on actually what was available at the time. (Yes, cannonballs with chains between them really were used to take out masts.) Seeing the man break off his frozen toe always makes me cringe. (I can’t watch it. Ugh. I hate hearing the pop!) And the fact that they showed that the pirates were an extremely diverse group of people both European, African and Asian, and Mistress Ching is based upon a real pirate (like many of the characters) who was extremely powerful in China. While much of what we modern movie goers love about pirates is pure fantasy constructed by Hollywood, I’ll give Disney a lot of credit for taking real history and mixing it in with their fantasy enough to give it a feeling of truth. Up to and including, that it wasn’t who really had the most cannons, it’s who shot them off first that mattered. One cookie.

At World’s End is full of gut wrenching character arcs, lofty goals being pursued and won by strong women and a satisfying conclusion to the present story of Will and Elizabeth. Though, I don’t think Jack will ever get his proper conclusion until the movies stop making Disney money. Five cookies.

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