Catching Beth Cato at the Tucson Festival of Books and thoughts on Breath of Earth

IMG_20170312_1550525Hi Readers,

This post falls hard into that category of being long overdue, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to post it! In 2015, at Phoenix Comicon, I had the chance to meet and speak with steampunk author Beth Cato. Then, in 2016 , back at the con,  we had a chance to revisit her Clockwork Dagger duology, and to discuss one of her latest books, Breath of Earth, which came out in August 2016. Finally, after half a year of teaching, I caught Beth again at the Tucson Festival of Books to tell her how much I loved Breath of Earth, not just for its awesome steampunk setting, but also for its incredibly empowering characters.  Continue reading “Catching Beth Cato at the Tucson Festival of Books and thoughts on Breath of Earth” »

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Spoiler-Free First Impressions

batb06bWhen Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, I was five years old. It’s my favorite Disney animated movie, and Belle has been my favorite Disney princess for basically my whole life. About two years ago, when I heard that Disney was making a live action version, I was both excited and nervous. It was extremely important to me that it do justice to the original, even if it could never quite measure up to it.

I saw the new Beauty and the Beast on March 6th, eleven days before its official release, at a special screening at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX in Hollywood. My expectations were high, but I was still completely blown away by how good it was. All of the worries I had were completely unfounded. The movie is as close to perfect as I could have ever hoped for. I teared up throughout the movie, not because it was sad, but because I was so happy about how amazing and beautiful it was. It did justice to the original, and then some. Continue reading “Beauty and the Beast (2017): Spoiler-Free First Impressions” »

Modern Thoughts on Disney’s Classic Beauty and the Beast

BeautybeastdisneyHey Readers,

While I’ve got a forthcoming review of the new live action Beauty and the Beast; I couldn’t help think about all that’s been said about the animated classic, particularly in regards to the feminist outlook that Belle was a poor role-model for girls and young women. Now here is one of several articles written based on studies of this film over the years and the message that some say it sends to young girls, regarding the normalization of abuse. I on the other hand have a much different look at the movie.

The article above links to a video at the bottom of this post, and it’s worth a watch, even if I disagree with it. Because if I can put it bluntly, I don’t think the movie sends what the video calls a “dangerous message”. Continue reading “Modern Thoughts on Disney’s Classic Beauty and the Beast” »

All My Thoughts After Arrival

arrival-filming-locations-poster-e1485131647103Hey Readers,

With the Oscars only a few days away it seemed like a good time to offer up some thoughts on one of 2016’s films, that’s nominated for Best Picture, Arrival. Now a lot of people seemed to have mixed (and some confused) feelings after watching Arrival, but I’m definitely in the minority of viewers who thoroughly enjoyed it. Warning, spoilers below.

Now I typically try and leave my posts spoiler free, but considering the level of confusion some viewers had, and the level of layers to the plot, I just don’t know a way of doing this without explaining more than I’d rather. Some may say that I’ve made the wrong choice by giving away unwanted information, but after watching the movie it’s clear that sometimes the “wrong choice” by someone else’s definition is still the best, or right choice to make. Additionally, the following is in no particular order, I’ll just refer to it as non-linear blogging.

arrival-1391_1

Alright, if you’re reading past this point, spoilers are essentially in your predestined future.

In Arrival the setting is modern day, or so we think. But in reality it’s all a flashback with flashforwards (clearly the LOST fan in me is what loved this movie so much), and they’re interspersed in ways that by the end of the film, it really doesn’t matter if we’re looking at the past, present or future. And it didn’t really matter that there were aliens, or time travel, or a character with the ability to see bits of the future. What mattered is how well the story was told.

arrival.0Amy Addams’ character was one that I immediately related to, despite not being a communication expert, or a mother. It was probably because watching her explain how challenging it can be to break down a simple message like “What is your purpose?” felt fantastically similar to how I’ve explained to others how teaching is not just about giving information, it’s making sure that information is understood, and now that I teach children with communication challenges it felt like she was speaking my language when she described needing not just verbal communication, but pictures, words and examples.

Communication was at the heart of the film. It seems like such an easy concept, especially when the main characters (unless you count the aliens) all speak the same language. And yet, natural misunderstanding and conflicting objectives all move the plot forward (or backward… considering the focus on non-linear time)

Daughter-500Speaking of non-linear time, it’s impossible to talk about Arrival without talking about Dr. Banks’ daughter Hannah. It’s beautiful to think about all the ways that people can come together and become parents (even without you know… temporary alien invasions). Now, what was “the wrong choice” that she refers to when speaking with her daughter Hannah?

For me, it was clear that because she was responding to her daughter’s question about why her father (Ian) left, that the “wrong choice” was telling Ian that their daughter would die of incurable disease, and he would have rather been left in the dark. Others have speculated that the “wrong choice” was to have Hannah at all, knowing that she would die. Either way, the film was far more about the human condition than about aliens.

400px-Arrival_103In terms of overall plot, the disappointing or “wrong” choices that we observe the government officials making (such as refusing to communicate, or automatically assuming that an earth-ending attack was inevitable) serve to make viewers think about not only our current geopolitical climate, but our own assumptions and knee-jerk reactions to things. After all, there are actually few choices that are made (such as ceasing communication when you think a competitor has un-shared and dangerous knowledge) that I would consider unreasonable, even if I disagreed with them.

In terms of character development, viewers are asked to question not only what constitutes as a wrong choice, but the reasons why they’re made. If we would make the same choices, even if we know the outcome. Personally, I don’t know the answer, but I love movies that make people think, rather than just watch.

arrival-amy-adamsFinally, a lot of viewers drew comparisons to 2014’s Interstellar (another movie I loved), and the obvious connections would be that they’re both high stakes sci-fi with non-linear or paradoxical timelines. But I think what both of them had, that matters even more, is the human side of things.

arrival-still-590x245I loved that Arrival had the best pieces of sci-fi without losing the story in the scenery.

Sure the effects were realistic and I have no complaints about them, but too many movies focus on the big screen experience and forget the emotional experience.maxresdefault

Arrival had it all. Whether that “all” is enough for a Best Picture win this weekend remains to be seen… unless you can see the future. If you can, don’t tell me who wins I’d rather be surprised.

What were your thoughts about the movie?

Let us know in the comments.

Phoenix Comicon Shifts to Paid Staff Model in Surprising Decision

pcc-2017-logoHi Readers,

The last few weeks Phoenix Comicon has had a lot of volunteers and attendees talking about their initial plans to change their staffing model and only accept volunteers who paid to be members of the non-profit group The Blue Ribbon Army.

The initial reaction was not a positive one, but it did open up opportunities for Convention Director Matt Solberg to meet the volunteers who were concerned about the change. One possibility brought up was whether or not the convention would shift from volunteers entirely and move forward with a paid staff model, and volunteers were even given the option on voting on which model they would prefer. Now though, according to Phoenix Comicon, despite “what most of our volunteers selected” (this volunteer included), the convention has decided to move forward with a paid staff model, and I have mixed feelings. Continue reading “Phoenix Comicon Shifts to Paid Staff Model in Surprising Decision” »

Phoenix Comicon Paid Staff Press Release

January 23, 2017
After much deliberation, we have decided to shift to an all paid staff in the operation of Phoenix Comicon and all events associated with Square Egg Entertainment, including Phoenix Fan Fest, Minnesota Fan Fest, and Keen Halloween.
There are many individuals who helped make Phoenix Comicon one of the best run conventions in the country.  To them we owe our sincerest thanks and gratitude.  We hope that many of those who assisted us will apply for the new paid positions as we announce them.  In appreciation for everything you have done for us, those who served as volunteers in 2016 who are not selected for positions will receive two complimentary full event passes for Phoenix Comicon 2017 and 2018 as our gift.
We continue to support Blue Ribbon Army as a corporate member and through promotion of their group and activities.  We look forward to what they can accomplish and are excited to be a part of it.
While this was not the original decision as announced three weeks ago, nor was this the option selected by most of our volunteers, we do believe this is the best decision long term for our company and our conventions based on feedback and concerns raised.  It avoids further controversies as this industry changes, keeps us compliant with changing laws, and increases the professionalism and effectiveness of our team.
As this discussion consumed social media and news outlets over the past three weeks, we have continued to work behind-the-scenes on making our events for 2017 stellar.  We look forward to sharing announcements on our upcoming guests and content at all our shows.
Phoenix Comicon will continue to thrive and be a source of joy for thousands of attendees this year and in future years.
Thank you all for your discourse and feedback,

Matthew Solberg
CEO, Square Egg Entertainment
Convention Director, Phoenix Comicon

The Accountant A Surprising Must See

200096Hey Readers,

This week I FINALLY got around to seeing The Accountant, which is surprising by itself, considering my taste in movies typically ranges from Wes Anderson, to Tarantino, or anything MARVEL and Disney put out. So, thrillers or action films (unless someone’s in a cape) don’t usually make my list. Additionally, having heard that it was about an individual with autism, I was apprehensive about stereotyping. The Accountant however is the first film in a while that surpassed my expectations. It’s a movie I recommend to nerds and non-nerds alike (not to mention, as a special ed. teacher I would also recommend it to other teachers and parents).

How would I explain it to non-nerds? It’s exciting, well written and well acted. How would I explain it to nerds? It’s like Batman… minus the batsuit… because of sensory issues! Continue reading “The Accountant A Surprising Must See” »