Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)

 

 

Choosing Appropriate Movie Content

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to finish recording Phoebe and my recent movie-spree. However, as I continued, I found myself defending my choices, which took away from the post too much. I also realized that I subconsciously had a rubric I ran the movies through before suggesting them to Dipper. I decided that instead of bogging down the other post, I would make this one separate.

There have been people who have questioned my choices, even though Dipper has approved them all. It may not seem like there is a system at work, but truly, there is. You see, I love Phoebe very much. I don’t think I could love her more if she were truly my flesh and blood. For all intents and purposes, her and Dipper are Family. And I would die for either of them, just as quickly as I would die for Tkout, my husband. I realize that since Dipper and I are so close, and she and I are so close, I’m one of the people she looks to as a role model. When I struggle with my depression and anxiety, she’s told me that I’m a superhero, because she sees me push through and do my best, even if that varies based on how sick I am that day. To that end, I believe the movies and images she’s exposed to now will help shape the woman she’s going to become. My hope for her is that she never forgets her own power and strength, and that she has the courage to push forward and meet her challenges head-on, and take her defeats with grace and no small amount of learning. She’s an amazing girl, and I think the world of her. To me, she’s already a superhero. The challenge is going to be to get her to see it herself.

The movies I show her are meant to entertain her, and sometimes teach her a lesson. Other times to give her positive role models. Every movie that we watch has gone through a checklist, provided below.

Content to Avoid: This obviously will vary a little in terms of what you find acceptable, this is just what I look for.

  • Sexual: I don’t know how much she’s heard from her schoolmates, if anything. I’m also not sure what her mom screens for. Kissing and other PDA is fine. The most sexual scene she’s seen with me was when Alice and Spence are rolling around on their bed in Resident Evil. It’s in a flashback, so it’s choppy, and even though you get the idea of what’s going on, there’s nothing graphic. It’s enough to suggest the nature of their relationship, and easy enough to pass over.
  • Sexuality: I consider myself open-minded. But I don’t want to get into a discussion about sexual identity with a 9 year old who hasn’t hit puberty yet. She’s smart enough to handle it, and her parents are open-minded as well. But unless I’m asked, I’m not going to be the one to enlighten her.
  • Explicit Violence: Here’s the thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is vicious and bloody, but much of it happens off-screen. For instance, when Franklin is sawed in half, it’s in the dark. You don’t see it in bright light and CGI effects. I try to keep away from overtly gory content.
  • Rape: Sexual content and violence. This one I stay away from, even if it’s hinted at, because I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. There is never an excuse for rape, it is never justified. NEVER. Also, I don’t want to be the one to tell her that the world is that ugly.
  • Religion: Some of the movies have religious themes, or plot points, but they aren’t overly religious. I will answer any questions she has about my faith, but that being said, I don’t show her movies that are heavily steeped in religion. Dipper has expressed his intent to help guide her in that path as he sees fit, and I willingly agreed to leave it to him.
  • Race: Children aren’t born racists. I’m trying to find content that includes different nationalities, rather than highlights their differences. I in no way deny that racism exists, but I think that going out of my way to point it out is a form of racism. She’s going to see it in action at some point in her life, and that will be a teachable moment.

Priority Content

  • Badass women: When I was growing up, you had to kind of pick and choose to find your strong women. Phoebe needs to grow up seeing Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) kick xenomorph ass in Alien, Alice battle hordes of zombies, Marian refused to be Indiana Jones’ damsel in distress (in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and so many others. The occasional damsel in distress is fine. But, she needs to grow up knowing she can be her own superhero, and that being a girl doesn’t mean you are a plot device in someone else’s story. (Not to mention, the behind-the-scenes, such as Milla Jovovich designing most of her Resident Evil gear, which is probably why she gets progressively more badass as the movies go forward. Oh, and her stunts? Most of the time they’re really her.) Not to mention, the Resident Evil franchise is loaded with strong women. There are main characters Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Even female characters who have supporting roles in one or two films are just as strong. There’s Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), Nurse Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Crystal Waters (Kacey Clarke), Becky (Aryana Engineer), and Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). Not to mention, there’s representation in the franchise. There are strong women of Asian, Hispanic, and African heritage. Not just Caucasian.
  • Healthy male/female interaction: Look, I know this post sounds a little man-hatery. Rest assured, I don’t have anything against men. My best friend is a guy. But that being said, Phoebe will have to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in terms of earning respect, working together, and living in general. She has plenty of time to learn those things, but I want to combat the idea that she isn’t complete without a man. Or that she always needs a helping hand to get things done. I want her to strap on her own shitkicker boots and march confidently into situations. That’s another reason I love Ghostbusters and Alien so well. In both, the women work alongside men, but don’t rely on them. They work as a team, relying on their own smarts and teamwork. Suicide Squad comes to mind for this criteria too. When you look at the movie, it’s primarily female-driven. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together the Suicide Squad. She gets Harley Quinn and Enchantress/Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). All of whom are really capable and diverse women. The supporting cast is pretty kickass too. Diablo’s wife, Grace (Corina Calderon), casts her shadow from the grave, as the only person who could curb her husband’s gangbanger side. Similarly, little Shailyn Pierre-Dixon shines as Zoe, Deadshot’s daughter.
  • Healthy friendships: Finding a good friend is really difficult. It’s important for her to grow up seeing people take care of each other. Especially women. Most women are raised to fight each other, to compete, to constantly view other females as enemies rather than allies. Again, I look to Resident Evil. Alice and Claire Redfield come to trust each other, and rely on each other as allies throughout the rest of the series. The Ghostbusters reboot, while heavily panned by critics and “fans”, was based on the premise of four women combining their smarts and talents to stop the destruction of the world. They’re not focused on their looks, or having sex with their stupid (and stupidly handsome) secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth.

  • Healthy body image/self-worth: There are a few movies I could site for this, but Ghostbusters is my favorite. The main women are varied in size and shape. Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, are all powerhouses. They share the screen and the gags well. Not to mention, the gags aren’t about who’s fat or sexy or stupid. All women are shown with talent, capability, and once Abby and Erin settle their initial differences, they proceed with a healthy and loyal friendship.
  • Life lessons: Yes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is terrifying. But you know what else it is? A life lesson. Don’t pick up people on the side of the road, and in a larger sense, don’t get too friendly with strangers. “Stranger danger” as it was called in my day, is a real thing. Possibly moreso now with the advent of technology that allows us to remain connected 24/7 to people around the globe. Phoebe needs to know basic truths to protect herself.

Soothing the Beasties with Screams

The first pet we adopted when we moved into our new house was Chloe, our Bengal cat. We got her right after we moved in. We tried to add another cat, but she wouldn’t put up with it. A year ago, we decided to adopt a Boston Terrier, that we named Zelda. They were alright with each other, but not friends yet. Zelda enjoyed (and still does) pulling Chloe around by her ears, and Chloe for the most part took it in stride. As time goes by, they’ve gotten closer. The last few weeks, after I was stuck in bed for a week solid with a strep throat infection, they started to make peace with each other. Even though I’m better and have since gone back to work, they are getting closer still. Zelda cries if Chloe isn’t in the bedroom with us when we go to bed, and when we wake up, if Chloe has spent the night in the basement, she makes sure we let her out so she can see her friend.

A new development that Tkout and I are really pleased with has been their penchant for snuggling. Although they aren’tpuddle quite a cuddlepuddle, they are still inching closer. We joke that they’re trying hard to keep up appearances like they aren’t friends. I think the real issue is that Zelda still has puppy tendencies, and sometimes gets a little too ardent, which results in her dragging Chloe around by the ear. If you’re Zelda was hanging out, and Chloe decided to get up on the futon and snuggle with her. (Our futon is always down like a bed, and yes, I am a compulsive sheet-straightener.)

The entire week that I was sick, I layed on the futon in our finished basement and watched horror movies. More accurately, I layed there like a sack of potatoes while the fuzzies watched the movies. Now that I am no longer sick, they still hang out on the futon, and when they are restless, Tkout and I can rely on a few movies to keep their attention. (I’m not making this up – they really do sit and watch movies!) Some they prefer more than others, but the list of Comfort Movies that they seem to enjoy best are…

FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) – I’m honestly not sure why the fuzzies love this movie so much. It could have something to do with the nonstop action and killer soundtrack. All I know is that once it goes on the TV, they both lay down and watch.

ALIEN (1979) – Chloe seems interested in what Jonesy, the space-cat, is up to. As for Zelda, this is one of her sleeper movies. I can count on her grabbing a chew toy, settling in on the futon, and falling asleep in about 20 minutes.

dreamcatcherDREAMCATCHER (2003) – This fast-paced Stephen King sci-fi flick is always a good one for getting the fuzzies settled down. Clocking in at an impressive 2 hours and 16 minutes, I think the reason they prefer this movie is they know they are guaranteed a long snuggle session.

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) – This is another guaranteed snuggle session whenever it goes on the TV. Other than that, I think they enjoy the werewolf noises, and the people panicking. (Chloe, especially, seems enamored of people in a state of panic.)

JAWS (1975) – This movie takes place on land, on the sea, and in a boat. There’s lots of action, and colorful characters. Not to mention an awesome orchestral soundtrack. Chloe and Zelda make it about halfway, before they both fall asleep. But putting the movie on almost always brings them to the futon.

What movies do your fuzzies enjoy watching?

 

Where’s the kitty?!

Subtitled, “Watching Alien With My Nine Year Old Cat-Obsessed Niece”…

I spent the summer watching my niece a few days a week, which was awesome. She’s super smart, sweet, and very fun to hang around. But I have to say, you can only see so many Scooby Doo episodes before you begin to question your sanity. I brought up the idea to Dipper of starting to introduce her to more adult horror movies. He gave me the green light.

The first movie we watched was the 1979 classic, Ridley Scott’s Alien. Dipper and I figured it wouldalien be good to start with. Interesting but not overly-verbose plot, strong female lead character, suitable horror with little gore, and the pièce de résistance…a cat. My niece will watch ANYTHING, so long as there is a cat involved.

Phoebe and I piled up the blankets and pillows in the living room, got my Boston Terrier a few toys so she’d stay with us, and snagged some snacks from the pantry. Capri Suns in hand, curtains drawn, we began the movie. The opening parts kept her interested because she was looking to see the cat. The real fun began once the crew of the Nostromo encountered the alien ship.

When Kane began descending into the egg chamber, Phoebe turned to me, furrowed her brow, and asked, “Miss Holly? Is he stupid?” I explained he wasn’t stupid, he was exploring. She wasn’t quite convinced, but agreed to keep watching. When the facehugger attacked Kane, she said “That’s what you get for not being careful!” Try as I might, I couldn’t disagree.

Fast forward. The Xenomorph is rampaging on the ship, the crew are starting to die, and Ripley’s damn cat is nowhere to be found. After the captain gets killed in the airshaft, Phoebe paused the movie. I asked her if it was too scary.

“Miss Holly?” she asked.

“Yes, Phoebe?”

“Why is everyone so stupid?”

I sat there staring at her, literally unable to answer. I thought she was kidding. I burst out laughing, and she took offense. Apparently she was serious.

“What do you mean? Why do you think everyone is stupid?”

“Because they are. They’re not really fighting the alien and it keeps killing them. And nobody is looking out for the cat. They better not hurt the kitty!”

Phoebe LOVED this scene!

Phoebe LOVED this scene!

I couldn’t really argue with her logic. I am an animal-lover, and Xenomorph or not, my animals would be on my mind too. I tried to reason with her. Then, in order to restore peace and order, I had to spoil the movie. I told her the biggest secret of all…JONESY LIVES. All the way to the end. She thought a bit on this and then…

“If they weren’t stupid, we wouldn’t have a movie.”

In case you didn’t know, there are some arguments you don’t win against a nine year old. Especially not a smart one. I thought that was the end of our discussion on the merits of having smart horror movie characters. We continued watching.

Prior to putting on the movie, I had prepped her for the chestburster scene. Truth be told, it was the only scene Dipper and I were unsure of her reaction. I felt like I was spoiling it for her, but I told her a little about it, and that the cast didn’t actually know what was coming. The reactions in the scene are priceless – most likely because they’re genuine. Irregardless, Phoebe loved it. She leaned forward, and watched with rapt attention as Kane writhed and screamed. Her eyes got as big as saucers when the chestburster appeared, and she roared with laughter when it ran amok. I couldn’t help but laugh with her. Though it was a serious scene, there was a certain charm and hilarity watching the ugly little bastard run through the set.

According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching.

According to Phoebe, these are the only two characters worth watching.

Fast forward. It’s now just Ripley, Jonesy the cat, and the rampaging Xenomorph. Phoebe again pauses the film.

“Yes you could,” she says confidently, apropos of nothing. “You could have a movie where everyone wasn’t stupid.”

“I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be very fun, would it?” I wasn’t sure where she was going with this line of inquiry.

“Yeah it would! They could find the alien, fight it smart, kill it, and move on. With the kitty.”

I told her I would have to think about that and get back to her.

Her final take on the movie was that it was excellent, but she wished there was more of Jonesy the cat. She loved that Ripley took charge and (for the most part) made smart decisions. She was shocked to the core that Ash turned out to be an android, and asked why Ripley didn’t know that. She thought that was silly, considering androids were part of their everyday norm. She was suitably horrified that Ash had been tasked with bringing back an alien organism, and that she was glad it hadn’t happened. Most of all, she wanted more Jonesy. In the end, it turns out that my niece doesn’t care about the human body count, especially when they’re stupid humans, she just wants to know the animals make it out alive.

She is very interested in seeing the other Alien movies, though at another time. The second one is more of an action flick, and she’s significantly more curious about “hardcore horror” movies. Preferably with cats. Our movie watching has continued, as I see her twice a week, and every other weekend. Be on the lookout for more of Phoebe’s take on popular horror and sci-fi movies!

 

 

An Easter Movie Extravaganza!

Super 8 (film)

Super 8 (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Easter day, I sat down and watched “Super 8” for the first time.  (If you haven’t already guessed, I’m from an atypical family, and we don’t always watch sappy movies on the appropriate holiday…)  In any event, the enigmatic trailer combined with a rave review from a class of 5th graders at my previous school caused me to accept the invitation to watch “Super 8”.

At first, the movie seemed to go pretty slowly.  I sat there crocheting for most of the first half hour, positive that I wasn’t missing anything.  From what I could tell, it was a slightly updated version of “Stand By Me” – a bunch of boys running around doing their thing while the parents don’t watch them.  So far, so good.  The fact that the children were using a camera to make a zombie movie added a very nice touch.  Then there was the train crash scene.  I don’t think I have ever seen a more terrifying train crash scene in any movie.  I immediately dropped my crochet and watched as tons of metal went flying across the screen, all to the tune of various (glorious) explosions.  Absolute and unabashed awesome.  Arguably one of the best wreck scenes in any horror film I’ve seen in awhile.  It seemed to last forever, but never get boring.

From the train crash onward, it was hard to look away from the screen.  Each scene got progressively more interesting, and the plot thickened.  The usual suspects were in abundance: freaky military personnel, absentee father, crazed alien.  What was unusual about the movie, was the unexpected twist in the storyline.  “Super 8” gleefully transcends every alien movie you’ve ever seen, while retaining shades of “E.T.” and “Aliens“.

I wish I could tell you more about the plot, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  This movie really is THAT good.

While you’re watching, you might recognize some familiar names in show biz.  (Fortunately, recognizing them doesn’t mean that they’ll stick out to you as a particular character to the point of it ruining their current role!)  The project was spearheaded by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg.  You  may remember J.J. Abrams from “Armageddon” and “Lost”, and if I have to tell you who Steven Spielberg is, well then you’re not fit to be reading this article.  Other familiar faces include Ron Eldard (who played Dodge in “Ghost Ship“), Joel McKinnon Miller (“Men in Black”, “Just Like Heaven”, and others), Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights“, “King Kong” and “Early Edition”), Amanda Michalka (AJ of “Ally and AJ”), and Elle Fanning (little sister to Dakota Fanning).  Whew!

If you’re looking for a movie that is out of the ordinary and very entertaining, I highly recommend watching “Super 8”.  The movie is well-acted, the plot is interesting, and the train crash is not to be missed.  If you do choose to view “Super 8”, make sure you stick around for the credits.  The kid’s zombie movie is included as part of the credits – and it’s actually pretty good!