Friday, May 31, 2013

Fiction Friday: Hans & Greta Part I

Last semester I got to do a very fun creative final for my Folklore class and, since I had so many people ask to read it, I thought I'd share it!

Unless anyone is truly interested, I'll spare you the academic side of my final and share my twenty-first century version of Hansel and Gretel. Check back next Friday for part two of three!


Nicole Jeannette

 Hans &Greta:
A Modern Fairytale

Not so long ago in a peaceful valley far, far away, surrounded by rolling hills rife with lush trees of holly, stood a hustling and bustling village. It was filled with creatures from across the galaxy like lived winged monkeys, shape shifters, artists, heroic cowboys and even a few humans. This land was so beautiful that many of the stars made their homes there so that they could sleep during the day and head out to party at night in their flashiest outfits.  It just so happened that a woman named Carla and her twin children, Hans and Greta also lived in this magical land. Although Hans and Greta were very good children who looked after her, Carla didn't much care for her children. Instead, she wanted nothing more than to live in a castle among the royalty and stars. One day, as she as she walked down the street, a decree was published in the town paper announcing that a new prince in town was looking for a beautiful young woman to make his princess. 
            Immediately, Carla ran to her local magician and asked, "Magician, what must I do to catch the eye of the prince so that I can live in a castle and be celebrated by all of the people in the world?"
            "It is very simple," replied the magician, "You are very beautiful, but you are a little too old for him. We can however trick him into believing you are younger if you use this magic potion." The magician pulled a small jar out of his long sleeve and opened the lid. The serum inside sparkled like a million diamonds.
            "Give it to me! Give it to me quickly!" shrieked Carla.
            "Not so fast! First, you must give me ten thousand gold coins."
            "Ten thousand?" cried Carla. She turned away to leave, totally dejected. 
            "Momma! We could go to the bank! The trolls there will give you all the money you need!" suggested Hans. He had seen it work for countless others. Carla thanked the heavens for her intelligent child and hightailed it to the bank. However, before going inside she tore the children's clothes and rubbed dirt on their faces. 
            "Good afternoon, Sir," Carla dragged her pitiful looking children in behind her.
            "I need gold coins, as many as you can give me. My children are hungry."
            Looking down his long nose, through his tiny glasses the troll examined the lot of them. The children did not look like they were hungry, but the mother was so skinny, he took pity on the family. "I can lend you ten thousand gold coins if you give me the deed to your house as collateral."
            Elated, Carla handed over the deed and took the coins to the magician. Although the serum did make her look younger, the magician pulled her aside before she left his high-rise office, "Carla, one last thing. This prince. He does not like children. Get rid of your children and I can promise you he will want to marry you."
            Carla tossed and turned all night that night trying to figure out what to do. Finally, at the crack of dawn, she had hatched a plan.
            "Come along children, we are going to hike out past the hills today.” As the children got ready, Carla took some sleeping powder out of her nightstand drawer and hid it in her purse. The small family hiked for hours, Carla in front, Hans and Greta playing together behind her as they made the trek. When they had reached a shady glen on the other side of the hills, the children were tired and asked for a break.  Carla used this opportunity to sprinkle her sleeping powder into the children's water bottles and before long they were passed out in the grass. Carla made sure to take their cell phones before she ran as fast as she could back to her home.
            When the children awoke they were frightened to find their mother gone and even more frightened to be without their cell phones. "How will we ever get home without our maps?" asked Greta. 
            "Don't worry," announced Hans bravely, "I know how to get home! I learned this trick from a story I heard once!" As they had been traveling, Hans had been crumbling his Power Bar into little pieces on the ground, partially in case they got lost and partially because it was a flavor he didn't like. He knew that by following the crumbs they could easily return to safety and find their mother. However, although Hans did not like the flavor of his Power Bar, the forest animals did and they ate up all of the crumbs before the children had even woken up from their nap.  
            The twins wandered for hours until Hans finally admitted he was lost. Greta started to cry, "I'm hungry," she cried out. "Me too," Hans tried not to cry, rather unsuccessfully. Just then they heard singing. 
            "Do you hear that?" Greta stood up and followed the sound. It was a trio of deformed rats singing show tunes. The twins stopped and listened to the rats, clapping when they had finished their songs.
“Bravo friends!” exclaimed Greta, “We are hungry, do you know where we can get some food?” The rats motioned for the children to follow and scattered away. Before long, the small group came to a tiny clearing where they found a quaint little cottage. The children’s eyes widened when they saw a beautiful garden on the side. Famished, the children feasted on carrots, tomatoes, and berries until their bellies were about to burst.
            "Brother, do you think we will get into trouble for eating from this garden?"
            "I'm sure we won't! Look, here comes the gardener now! We will explain it to her!"
            Sure enough, a small woman with a blue bandana and clogs made her way into the clearing. She startled upon seeing the children, "Who are you?" she called out.
            "I am Greta and this is my brother Hans! We were lost in the woods and had nothing to eat!" The old woman surveyed her turned up garden, but hid her dismay.
            "Well, that I can see. Come inside," the old woman smiled and ushered in Hans and Greta. Hans thought he heard a lion roaring in the distance. 

Tune in next week for Part II!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chattanooga Vacation

JL and I took a MUCH needed mini-vacation last week and had a blast in Chattanooga, Tennessee a few weeks ago.

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We loved the car trip 

We went to celebrate with our friends Matt and Hannah Lee as they tied the knot in beautiful Flintstone, Georgia. Apart from getting stuck behind an overturned tractor trailer for two hours and realizing, half way there that WE FORGOT OUR CLOTHES; thus, making us late for the wedding, we had so much fun! 
(All I have to say is THANK GOD we budgeted for clothes this month and THANK GOD for Target.)

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After the short, sweet ceremony (during which baby goats were fighting with each other on the other side of the fence!)We partied at this beautiful farm with the newlyweds!

The aforementioned goats
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Blurry, but the barn was gorgeous 

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Me with the lovely bride, Hannah Lee

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Then we had the rest of the weekend to spend in beautiful and delightfully-artsy Chattanooga!
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Husband and wife on the walking bridge

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Lovely public art

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There are dance steps all around town and of COURSE we had to try them all out!

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The Chattanooga Choo Choo. <3 font="">

But as much fun as we did have, the highlight of the weekend was actually finding and rescuing this beautiful little girl.
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We went to Ruby Falls and did the zipline (they don't allow cameras... waaahh) and when we were walking back to our car we saw this beautiful husky running around, alone and clearly scared. J. L., my husband/dog whisperer, got her to come to him and we did our best to find her owners. When we couldn't find them, we found a guy who works at Ruby Falls to take her. He promised to see if she had a chip and take her to her original owners if she did and to be her forever family if not. We were heartbroken to leave her with him, but felt he would be a good pet parent.

Weekend getaways are the best!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Gatsby: The Movie

Exactly one year ago today I posted the trailer for the new Great Gatsby movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and the girl from An Education (aka Carey Mulligan.) I was REALLY excited for this movie and now after seeing it a few days ago, I'm still sorting how I felt. Was it good? Yes. Was the book better? Yes.

I think my hesitation in saying I LOVED the movie lies in the fact that so much was changed. In some ways the script writers manipulated changes that completely altered the way in which the viewer perceived the characters. On the one hand, I realize that it is a movie and cannot capture the brilliance of the novel as this medium only allows for so much content, but while I do think I like most of the choices/focuses, a lot was lost in the movie.

However, I didn't hate the movie because even though it greatly rearranged the book and left significant content out, it did get some very key elements totally spot on.

What the movie got right:

If this movie got one thing right, it was Gatsby. While the film dominated the way we saw Gatsby (see below), everything it wanted us to believe about Gatsby can be found in the book, either in print or through interpretation.
Leonardo DiCaprio was the absolute right choice for this role. He is handsome yet believable. He perfectly embodied the juxtapositons of Gastby's insecurities, madness, desperation, savvy, and shady behavior with his sweet, gentle, careful, and hopeful sadness.

I am always bothered that when people read The Great Gatsby they talk about how romantic(ally tragic) it is as though it were a golden standard of ill-fated relationships. Perhaps it is romantically tragic in a way, but I think the whole point of the book is to show a)the corrupting powers of money and b)the corrupting powers of love when turned into an obsession. Luhrmann got this totally right. It's easy to miss Gatsby's madness and romanticize his actions when carelessly reading the book, but when you think about the fact that Gatsby collected thousands of pictures/clipping of Daisy, compromised his integrity and became a bootlegger so she might be willing to marry him, found her house, moved in across the bay from her, stared at her green light every night and thought of her endlessly, knew all about Daisy and all of her friends/relatives without actually knowing them, threw parties hoping she would come, demanded she erased her past and pledge not only her undying love to him, but her entire lifetime of love to him, it is clear that Gatsby holds ever-slipping grip on reality as his love turned into an extremely unhealthy obsession.

My only criticism of Luhrmann's Gatsby is that I wish he would have included was Gatsby's relationship with his parents. In the book he cares for them financially even though he doesn't include them in his larger-than-life lifestyle, but as they are simpler people than he, it seems fitting. Also, I can't get over the line in the book where Gatsby's father tells Nick that as a child Jay/James made a list of ways to improve himself and included "Be nice to parents." I think that speaks volumes about his innate kindness and heart for others that is left out in the movie. 

The Visuals

 I mean wow. 

I was in awe of the fantastical and intricate detail in almost every scene. From the stunningly ornate dresses and jewelry and gallant three-piece suits to the old-world/new-world architecture, it is clear that this film was intended to be a visual masterpiece from its inception. Clearly Baz Luhrmann used wild color throughout the film to further drive home the over-the-top nature of Gatsby's world. Furthermore, I loved, loved, loved the way he incorporated actual writing onto the screen, making them colorful and out of control when drugs and alcohol were part of the story and clean and beautiful when expressing some of Fitzgerald's finer, more poignantly put points.

The Spirit of the Story... kind of...
While there is no singular point to any novel, for me, as metnioned above, this novel is all about reality that abused love, power, and money corrupts and distracts all. Of his own novel, Fitzgerald wrote, "The loss of those illusions that give such color to the world so that you don’t care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory."

While there were a lot of ways in which this movie rearranged and (in parts) destroyed, the overall message of the human mistake of confusing comfort and beautify for goodness does still prevail.

What the movie got wrong:
The subtlety
While the spirit of Gatsby and Fitzgerald's message is kept in tact in the movie, viewers completely miss out on the deeper layers/motivations of virtually every other character in the film. This is due in part to the fact that it's a movie and at 142 minutes it is already pretty long, but the loss is no less tragic. 

As in the speeding car scene pictured above, the story zooms along with very little time to reflect. Even worse, everything that is implied or nuanced in the book is literally and boldly spelled out in a way that leaves zero room for intreptation, thus using a dominating format to dominate the message received by viewers. As a result, the movie requires zero critical thinking skills. This might not be so bad if not for the fact that the genius, the real beauty, of Fitzgerald's masterpiece is the way in the story slowly, subtly reveals the gravity and depth of the story. Gatsby's every motivation, plan, dream, hope, and even his stalker-esque obsession is quite literally spelled out to the point that there is no room for the literary "other" in the text. Rather, Luhrmann makes sure the message is seemingly idiot proof.

I would argue that the subtlety of the storytelling is mimetic of the way in which the decline from morality that these characters experience. As I said above, I realize it's a movie and not a book. Perhaps because of the medium I need to realize we can't have our cake and eat it too, but regardless of the things this movie does right (and regardless of the fact that I really liked it) this element is what truly separates the book from the movie when the rubber hits the road.

I will be the first to say that I hated the choice to put Nick into a Sanatarium. He was disturbed by the whole summer of Gatsby experience, but I don't believe he couldn't recover, I like to read the story believing he witnessed the depths to which humanity can fall and chose to be better for it in writing his story. I guess that is what the whole sanatarium arc acheived and I realize it was probably just a means to an end, but still. I felt it added an unnecessarily dramatic tone to the movie.

The first time I read The Great Gastby I liked Nick. I thought he was a sweet, tender, homegrown kind of guy who happened to be from old money. Then to me he was some poor young man who got mixed up in this crazy world and saw these vile people for what they were worth. That is generally what the movie portrays.

However, upon a closer second reading, I found that Nick is not a bad person, but he also thinks very highly of himself to the extent that he isn't exactly truthful throughout the book. In fact, he reveals that he himself has made some heartless decisions to pursue the Buchanan-Gatsby stratosphere on his own after leaving Yale and then his family in California. (I'll let you find them the next time you read the book.) While I realize that to some extent even Nick is a means to an end within the telling of this tale and therefore has to remain somewhat passive in order to maintain his narrator/observer role, he is quite passive and has a multitude of opportunities to make a bad situation better but chooses not to.

In the book Daisy is, in a few words, dumb, shallow, and self-obsessed. Like most people, I read Daisy's character as shallow, manipulative, and passive. While not an all around terrible person, at the end of the day Daisy throws her tortured hopes and dreams to the wind when a diamond is dangled in front of her without care or consideration for the consequences of her actions. While not completely missing the mark, this is not the Daisy in the movie.  Mulligan was just too lovable as her Daisy is just a little TOO tortured and a little too sweet. In the end of the movie, Daisy is portrayed as a lovesick child, unsure of who will really love her and provide for her best, stuck in the middle of a power struggle which she has ultimately lost, hoping to atone for the sin of her affair by pledging herself to Tom once again. However, we never see what a terrible mother she is as she constantly blows off Pammy and allows her servants to raise her. We learn that Daisy, a child herself still, simply wants to be with whomever can make her most comfortable, excited, and feel most wanted. Furthermore, she lets Gatsby take the fall for Myrtle's death even though she was driving. Instead of telling the truth she "retreats into her money" and the reader has no indication that she feels any remorse.

 In the book, Tom is, also in a word, dumb. His parents paid for his Yale education so that he could play polo and live a life of grandeur. His old-money, racist, sexist behavior/comments could be found in the movie, but the way the movie was edited and the way Joel Edgerton plays him, the film is so focused on his power struggle over Daisy that his less-appealing traits were overshadowed. In fact, even I walked away wondering, "Does Tom love Daisy? Is he just a misguided, over-sexed dog who thinks he can have it all too?" But no. Tom is really a lummox who wants to own Daisy and have his fun on the side and not the seemingly brilliant evil mind he plays in the movie. Also, I was very sad to see the details of his affair with Myrtle Wilson and his relationship with George Wilson were glossed over. Again, contributing to the general lack of subtlety in the movie.

The Jordan/Nick fling

While the "girl back West" is mentioned, again, it happens to quickly that the line is easily drowned out by the speed of the movie. In the book, Jordan and Nick seem to fall for each other and yet even Nick starts things and breaks things off with Jordan feeling fairly unconcerned for her feelings. To me, the fling is an extension of Nick's corruption--using Jordan because he can, because it's convenient, but he does snap out of it in the end and the book makes mention of the possibility of either returning to or making amends with the girl back West.

George and Myrtle Wilson

First things first: Myrtle is much older and, ahem, thicker, in the book than Isla Fisher just so happens to be. Not that it should matter, but the way Myrtle looks makes the reader/viewer perceive Tom's affair differently, and thus perceive Tom differently. The book goes into great detail about the ways in which Myrtle felt she was tricked into marrying George because she thought he was rich, but turned out not to be. Much like he does Daisy, Tom uses his wealth to justify this ill-fated version of Daisy's need for him.
George is, in keeping with the theme, too good looking in this movie adaptation. Furthermore, the lack of dimension the viewer gains into his character makes his character almost completely irrelevant to the story. Whereas he seems like a pitiful/crazy/possessive guy in the film, the book explains why in a way that makes him oh-so-much-more pitiful and far less crazy.


How about you? Do you agree? Disagree?

Enjoyability: 10
Story in the movie apart from the book: 8
Visual Elements: 10
Music: 8
Overall movie considering the book and knowing the sacrifices made: 7

How would you rate The Great Gastby?