Crazy, Stupid, Corrupted, Sexuality

I must begin this post by telling you that I am not trying to write a movie review necessarily. I am not going to tell you at the end whether you should see it or not or give  number score. I am rather going to explore an idea that I found interesting while viewing “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

I was in FYE browsing for some used movies that I had been wanting to own. They were doing a promotion where if you purchased two, you got a third one for two dollars. Naturally, I had two movies in my hand, and so I began my search for a third. I came across “Crazy, Stupid Love” and I bought it remembering that some friends had said they liked it. Also, I will watch anything with Ryan Gosling in it  because he’s the best. After watching it for the first time with several friends, one of them made a comment that started an interesting train of thought for me. He said, “what a sad ending…” Naturally, people rejected this opinion with “What do you mean? Everyone’s happy and in love at the end.” To which my friend replied, “I don’t mean that the movie’s ending itself is sad, I mean that the idea of the movie itself is sad to me.” As a critical movie-goer myself, I must say that I agree heartily.

Let us begin with the good. This movie is somewhat progressive in terms of romantic comedies (although, I haven’t watched that many to begin with). To make things clear, Steve Carell plays a man who’s wife leaves him, and in the end a lesson has been learned about the value of real love and romance in a marriage and that fighting for your marriage is a worthy pursuit. Ryan Gosling’s character learns that sleeping around and being a womanizer is not as valuable as having a real relationship built on mutual interest and connection. The movie also shows how people can have a double standard. For example, Carell’s character freaks out that Gosling is dating his daughter because he’s a “scumbag” even though just before that Carell saw Gosling’s character as a wise teacher. A paradigm shift occurs when his daughter is involved.

These things may be quality values for the secular audience, but there’s an overwhelming number of ideas in this movie that simply show the depravity of man in our views of sexuality and love. Firstly, Carell’s character Cal Weaver sleeps with his sons’s teacher, and when he gets back with his wife there is an extremely uncomfortable scene in which the teacher interacts with Cal and his wife. What I found shocking is that it seems as if the filmmakers are saying that the worst consequence of Cal’s fornication is that he has an uncomfortable interaction with a teacher. Cal’s wife finds out eventually, and because she’s also had an affair, in the end, all is forgiven. Marriage prevails in the end, but were the means necessary? I think not.

Cal also holds himself to a much lower standard than Jacob (played by Gosling). Jacob has been sleeping around, and thus, Cal is outraged that his daughter would date him, when Cal himself has also slept around, and yet, because his wife did too, then it’s ok? What a sad reality we live in when people can sleep around and think it’s ok due to their poor circumstances.

Perhaps the most troubling theme in the movie is in the interaction between Cal’s son and his babysitter. In the end of the movie, I coiled in horror when I realized that the babysitter was going to give Cal’s son her nude pictures in order to, “get him through high school,” and ultimately get him to leave her alone. The movie makes this interaction seem cute. What world are we living in when the distribution of child pornography can be deemed cute as long as it’s between a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old. This is the most clear and disturbing element of this movie.

What world are we living in when the distribution of child pornography can be deemed cute as long as it’s between a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old?

There is a professor at Biola University who refuses to watch any romantic comedies because he believes it will skew his views on romance and sex. He believes in the idea of cumulative narrative in which it is understood that the more we engage in stories together, the more we will collectively believe that they hold truths. I can’t stand the corrupted view on sexuality and love that Hollywood spits out in their movies over and over again, and it’s for these reasons that I normally choose not to watch romantic comedies or even just thematically romantic movies in general.

As fun as this movie was at times and as much as I love Ryan Gosling, this movie is deeply troubling, and I would not recommend it to many. However, If you are prepared to think critically, then you might actually learn something about the state of mankind and our current attitude towards sexuality and love, which might be a good insight. More than likely though, it will just make you depressed.

Judging you


#disneydaydecision

My iPhone has at least three 20-minute background area music loops from Disneyworld on it. In fact, I am writing this blog as I listen to a podcast featuring binaural audio of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. I could also tell you in great detail about the three destination choices at the end of Horizons, an Epcot attraction which I’ve never even experienced first-hand because it closed in 1999, years before I ever visited Epcot. I know that I am a geek when it comes to this Disney parks obsession that I have. I do feel a little guilty about writing two Disneyland related blogs in row, but there is a good reason, I assure you.

One stormy night long ago, four people climbed into a green van with “Bug Juice” and Spy Kids VHS tapes in hand, to drive through the night and make it to Disneyland the next morning. This Thursday, that door is opening once again, but this time the circumstances are a little different. Firstly, “Bug Juice” is called “Tum-E Yummies” now, and it breaks my heart because now when I see those little multi-colored drinks in the fridges at convince stores, part of the nostalgia is lost due to the fact that they are called something different. Secondly, I haven’t watched a Spy Kids movie is years, nor do I plan on watching one on this trip. I’ll probably try to make some progress reading Game of Thrones instead. Also, this time we aren’t driving the green van (Praise God!).

If you haven’t caught on yet, this week, three of my friends and I are making a tiring journey down to Anaheim for a single day of enjoyment in the happiest place on earth. We will drive through the night, arrive on Friday morning, spend 16 hours in Disneyland, and finally sleep for a few hours at a friend’s house before driving home on Saturday. I am anticipating the fact that this trip will likely be simultaneously the best and worst trip of my life. We will be driving for twice the time we will spend in Disneyland. As horrible as that sounds, it will be an opportunity to form memories which will last a lifetime, at least, thats what I’m hoping.

There are a few things that I’m excited about for this trip. Firstly, It’s Disneyland. I can never get enough! Last time I went there, Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn, and Thunder Mountain were all closed. This time, I will be able to experience Thunder Mountain in it’s new glory as a completely new experience. I have thus far refrained from watching any videos which would spoil all the new special effects that have been added. Also, I’m always excited to continue my tradition of asking for bread as I pass the restaurant on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I am still unsuccessful in actually having a roll thrown to me. Also, Haunted Mansion is a classic, and I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m excited to ride it again. I could write a whole blog on that ride. It’s rich with details and nostalgia. I have much of the narration committed to memory… It’s embarrassing.

All this goes to say that I will be in Disneyland on April 11th. I will be live tweeting and instagraming throughout the day, so if you’re not subscribed to my accounts, you can click on those underlined words to get there. You can also view my latest instagrams on the side bar of this blog (pretty nifty, huh?). It is likely that I will write a trip report after I get home, so make sure to check up on that later. Until then, thanks for reading. I hope you have a magical day full of nice memories and other happy things.

John Nissen IV


Disneyland in General

My goal for this blog is to validate my opinions, and sometimes the thing which I like and surprisingly gets the most scrutiny is not Inglorious Basterds, Drive, or my affinity to melodic metal-core, instead it’s my love of the Disney Travel Destinations which seems to get me the most confused looks. People will say (or at least I hear them saying it in my head) “You’re going to Disneyland again?! haven’t you been there already?” And while it is true that I’ve spent over a month of my lifetime in the house of mouse, I never get tired of it. I’m going to tell you why. This is my validated opinion of the Disney Parks.

I went to Disneyland twice last year. The first was a family vacation and the second trip was a graduation road trip that I payed for on my own dime (for the most part). For me, the decision to go to Disneyland has always been an easy one. I can’t get enough. I’ve been to the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Hawaii, and Yosemite, but there’s something about Disney that I really connect with unlike any other. I believe this may have to do with my passion for film and media arts. The Walt Disney Company has created a theme park which so richly envelops you into their world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy that you begin to feel feel like you’ve stepped into a movie.

Walt Disney and his team of imagineers were all filmmakers and animators. This is why when the parks first opened on July 17th, 1955, they had countless structural problems. They knew how to build a temporary movie set, but a permanent theme park with 28,000 visitors tramping through in the first day alone was not something they had prepared for. Many of these structural problems were combed out in the first years, but traces can still be found of the structural testing that was happening in Disneyland before opening day, or “Black Sunday” as it’s also referred to. This all goes to say that Disneyland was made by filmmakers and as a result, the parks have a distinct movie “feel” to them which, until the opening of Harry Potter World in Universal studios, was unmatched by any theme park.

If you’ve ever been down one of the many “Main Street USAs” in the Disney parks around the world, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. The sounds, the smells and the sights are all so precariously managed to control your experience as you walk through any part of the park. Some might find it unsettling that Disney pumps the scent of waffle cones through a vent on main street but for me, this not only enhances the experience but also is so much better than the alternative. People get sweaty in the summer heat and if Disneyland wasn’t regulating the smells then you’d have a hard time smelling anything nice in the tightly packed summer days. There are also rumors that Disney has cloud makers to almost control what the sky looks like, and as skeptical as I am, I saw a hidden Mickey in the sky once and I’m still gathering my thoughts on that experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Perhaps the best way to explain my love for the Disney parks is by telling you why I love the Indiana Jones ride. If you haven’t been on it, The Indiana Jones ride is an intense dark thrill ride unlike any other (except it’s dinosaur themed twin in Florida). The queue area is so well themed to the Indiana Jones franchise that you truly feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a previously unreleased film. An eery temple stands looming above the entrance and as soon as you enter the details get richer and richer. It all culminates in a jeep tour gone horribly wrong through the interior of the temple’s passages. The entire experience is extremely cinematic. It’s loaded with special effects, booby traps and actual film paraphernalia. Disney takes you for a few minutes out of reality and puts you into a completely 4D environment which is, in the words of Sallah himself, an experience “unlike anything you’ve experienced I assure you.”

Finally, there’s something about being in Disney that escapes all explanation. In Sam Genneway’s Book Walt and the Promise of Progress City, Austrian Architect Christopher Alexander is quoted calling this “the quality without a name… a central quality, which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building or a wilderness [or a theme park?] This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.” When you are standing in the middle of Adventureland with the sounds of “Jungle Boat Tours” on one side and the smells of tropical pineapple Dole Whip on the other, with your complete circle of vision taking in all the sights of this manufactured jungle, you feel something that doesn’t have a name. It’s similar to the feeling you might get from watching a movie from your childhood or perhaps it’s the feeling you get when you are completely enveloped in a book that you are reading. It’s a sense of everything being just right, even if for just a moment. Either way, it can’t be distilled to simply being labeled nostalgia or anything else. I’m not saying this only happens at Disneyland because everyone is different. I’m not trying to convince anyone to feel the way I do, but rather help you understand my perspective. If you love going to concerts or Hawaii then by all means, do what makes you happy. But if you’ve never been to a Disney park, then I would encourage you to make it a life goal to visit at least once. Who knows… It could change your life. It certainly has affected mine.


The Lego Movie is Not For Kids

I recently saw The Lego Movie and my overall takeaway is that this is not only the best movie of the month, but will be in my running for movie of the year overall. After seeing The Lego Movie and Frozen in my last two theatre visits, I have come to a conclusion about the supposed “kid’s movie” label that we slap on most family friendly animated movies; It’s unnecessary! If you reduce The Lego Movie to a “kid’s movie” then you are doing yourself and everyone else a huge disservice because The Lego Movie is certainly NOT a “kid’s movie.”

Of course, if by “kid’s movie” you mean that it is a movie that children will enjoy, then you would be right in a way. However, “kid’s movie” carries a lot of negative connotations that would defer a lot of people from seeing it in theaters. “Kid’s movie” means in our minds that its a movie made just for kids. The Lego Movie will be enjoyable for most children, but while I was watching, I was amazed by how much of the humor was aimed at a more mature audience. I don’t mean that the humor was raunchy or inappropriate, but rather so many of the jokes were references to lego franchises that I played with when I was a kid. There are also multiple subtle visual jokes in store if you pay attention.

A lot of this movie feels like it was written for adults with a young audience in mind as well. In this way, The Lego Movie really hits a home run. There are many other reasons why you should see The Lego Movie, but this isn’t a movie review so I’ll be brief. The visuals are not only stunning, but so carefully crafted that if you don’t know in advance, you will assume that it is stop motion animation. Take, for example, the greasy thumbprint that glistens on Will Ferrel’s character’s hair or the scratches that show up on the faces of the lego figures faces just as they do in real life. The movie has heart and will make you laugh out loud. It’s very good. Go see it. (Frozen is still playing right now. See that first if you haven’t already.)

I wish we could stop using the term “kid’s movies” as a genre. If it’s an animated movie, just call it an animated movie. If it’s accessible to children, then call it family friendly. There are plenty of men and even young boys who will probably not see Frozen simply because it gives off a “Princess movie” vibe. And while Frozen does fit that mold in some ways, it is much more than that, and it can be appreciated by anyone (Read my full review for more details). Certainly there are adults that will still not like Frozen for reasons which I cannot comprehend, but that doesn’t mean that it will not be enjoyed by most adult and child audiences. In a similar way, The Lego Movie is capable of entertaining a young audience, but will likely fail to entertain most children due to it’s subtle inside jokes aimed at the generation who played with NBA and space Legos. I know this to be true, because when my parents went to see it, there were multiple children crying and complaining the whole time.

For these reasons, our “every animated movie is for kids” mindset is only causing harm. I don’t expect people to change there mindsets instantly, but I hope that people will start being a little more open-minded about movies. Because honestly, if I hear “I won’t watch that. It’s a kid’s movie,” one more time, I’m going to stab someone.66051-Parks-and-Rec-April-angry-gif-We0z


Home (A Personal Narrative)

This was a paper I wrote for my writing 121 class. It got a good response, and since it’s about something I really like, I thought I might as well post it here for you to enjoy.

 

I am Standing in the dead center of the street. Looking straight ahead, the sounds of possibly oncoming cars does not worry me in the slightest. I am anxious, but for entirely different reasons than my own safety. I have that excited nervousness in the pit of my stomach that only comes when you are returning home from a great departure. I am in Disneyland, my second home. I cannot seem to wait to get to the first spoke on the wheel which makes up the lands surrounding the statue of Walt and Mickey at the center of the park. Nonetheless, I restrain myself in order to fully take in every detail of Main Street, USA, which is the entrance path leading straight to Sleeping Beauty’s bright pink and blue castle. I am mesmerized by my surroundings. There is no other place on this great spaceship that we call Earth in which I can connect to memories of my past as well as my present aspirations like I can in Disneyland. I am taken captive by the sights, sounds, and smells of Main Street, USA.

The buildings, which give the clever illusion of being tall, seem to tower over either side of me. To my left I see a penny arcade adorned with a massive arching doorway complete with flashing lightbulbs and a bright red and blue paint job. Every structure is a different color scheme, but they all seem to match each other simultaneously, creating a wonderfully diverse and colorful experience unmatched by any rural street in my hometown. I see people. They are dressed in costumes which call back to a time when barbershop quartets entertained on street corners and everyone in town seemed to know each other. Small trees inside ocean teal colored iron fences line the sidewalks periodically. These trees are more green than any I have seen in Los Angeles, which further takes me out of reality and into a magically manufactured pseudo-reality that far exceeds what life is like at home.

Visually, I am astounded, but that’s far from the end of my experience. Sounds dance from hidden speakers into the streets like joyful memories of times past. Big band orchestral pieces and instrumental covers of classic disney tunes are playing just loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to make you forget that it’s not organic. When the music doesn’t play from the tops of buildings though, it emerges from the actual marching bands, barbershop quartets and street performers that frequent the streets at different intervals through the day. The sounds enter my heart like a thief in the night and leave only an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a time and place that I’ve never even experienced first hand.

I inhale deeply as I walk past one of many bakeries and confectionaries along the street. The scent of freshly made waffles and vanilla are too strong to mistake. I am drawn further into a  world of smells in which I can almost taste the brownies and chocolate chip cookies that are sold in this bakery. I am taken back in time once again. This time however, I remember a young me waiting in line at a churro cart down the street from where I stand now. My uncle is about to buy me my first authentic street cart churro. It is red. Strawberry is not a flavor often associated with the Mexican pastry but it’s delicious nonetheless. The flavors are so defined, that I am left to this day with an emotional imprint. Whenever I eat a churro, I remember my uncle who I don’t see very often because he moved to Indiana for a job opportunity.

Standing beside me is my best friend, Austin. He’s never been to Disneyland before and I can’t help but worry that he won’t enjoy himself as much as I always do when I’m here at the happiest place on Earth. My worry quickly fades as we walk side by side down Main Street. As I study Austin’s facial expressions, a look of complacency disappears and a grin creeps onto his face as wide as his face will allow as we begin our trek into a land of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. Throughout our entire day, his sense of childlike curiosity and wonderment makes my experience twice as magical. Something clicks in my mind. All my preconceived notions of what I want to do for a living pass away as I begin to realize what I really aspire to do. By experiencing disneyland through the new eyes of a friend, I know that this is not just a place that I adore, but a place that anyone can love as well, and I want to be a part of it for the rest of my life.

 

 


One more song!

“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.”- Kate Chopin

In writing class a few weeks ago, we talked about that quote and one of the realizations that we came to was that tradition can be negative. While traditions can retain cultural identity, they also have the capacity to be harmful. Take racial segregation for example. While at a a concert recently I became aware of a tradition which frustrates me to no end.

The encore: Bands leave the stage in a hush only to return after the crowd starts chanting, “One more song, one more song!” I have no problem with the idea of the encore, but it’s the fact that it is so ingrained into our concert culture which bothers me. I’ve never been to a concert where the encore didn’t feel planned or rehearsed, and there lies the problem. An encore is supposed to be a surprise or an extra treat at the end of a set, and at this particular concert, it was anything but. The band gave no goodbye or bow. They rushed off the stage and stayed for about two minutes before returning to play more songs and then take their bows.

At what point did this tradition become so commonplace that we now fully expect a encore to happen. Does that not ruin the entire point of the act? That is exactly what it has become; an act. It’s a meaningless, trivial, and inconsequential act of vanity. “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”-Ecclesiastes 1:2. I don’t mean to sound so brutal or judgmental, but I’m just speaking my opinion. If you don’t mind the tradition of the encore, then that’s fine, but for me I just feel like I’m being treated like a child when a band acts like I don’t know that they will come back on stage. That’s why I don’t like cheering for an encore as if the band is going to base their decision to play another song on my cheering. I feel like at that point I’m just worshipping them. I don’t mind cheering for a band at the end of concert, but if we cheer twice aren’t we just giving them more praise than they deserve?

It’s for these reasons why I didn’t care about getting senior photos taken. I’m not opposed to pictures, but to pay a professional to take photos of me which hold no intrinsic value seems pointless since in this iphone era my family has hundreds of photos to document the fact that I was a senior last year.  I don’t think senior photos are a vain pursuit, but I didn’t care about them enough to warrant making an appointment and paying for them.

Maybe I’m being a hipster D-bag, or maybe I’m seeing something that bothers me. Either way, I hope I didn’t offend anyone with this blog, and I understand the fact that writing a scathing criticism of concert tradition is also meaningless in its own way considering that there are much bigger issues at hand in the world. I’m just trying to understand the culture we live in, and in this case I was just feeling cheated and confused by my experiences at concerts.

Let me know what you think. Is this the kind of thing you want me to write about, or would you rather see more reviews like the one I did of Frozen? Thanks for reading,

John Nissen IV


My “Frozen” Review

Last week my parents and I wanted to go to the movies, but with so many good ones out right now for Christmas break and the Oscar season, no one could make up their mind. In the end, at my mother’s request (she had seen it once already)we ended up seeing Disney Animation’s newest film, Frozen and I must say, I’m glad that we did.

I liked Tangled and I really liked Wreck it Ralph, so going into this movie my expectations were relatively low ( I say relatively, because my expectations are always very high for Disney or Pixar films). I was completely blown away. This might just be Disney’s newest masterpiece. In short, Frozen is an incredibly beautiful, funny and heartwarming (see what I did there?) emotional journey that brought tears of joy and sadness and joy the likes of which only Up and Toy Story 3 has done for me before. All the while presenting a postmodern take on the classic disney princess story.

Of course, you don’t have to think that hard to enjoy Frozen. It’s funny, it’s pretty to look at, and of course the music is great. So if that sounds good to you, go see the movie right now and look no further. Otherwise, I’m going to dig a little deeper and tell you why this is not just a kid’s movie but instead something far more universal.

It’s my personal belief that the goal of all art at it’s core should be to inspire emotion in the beholder. Frozen accomplishes this in more than one way. In the first few minutes of the movie there is a song called “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” which I would challenge anyone to sit through and not shed at least one tear. Within minutes after that, Kristin Bell’s character Anna sings a duet with her soon to be prince which is a hilariously nostalgic call back to all things disney princess while also being completely different. I almost shed a tear during this song as well, but that was just because of the nostalgia. Frozen will make you feel so many emotions in the all the best ways and for that, I left the theatre satisfied.

Secondly, this revolutionary spin on the Disney princess story. While I won’t say that the whole movie is post-modern, it definitely has those elements. Disney has successfully made so many movies based on the whole “princess gets saved by a knight in shining armor” that it’s nice to see something that turns those tables completely. For example, when the central character, Anna needs to be unfrozen, the “act of true love” to save her is not a kiss from the man she loves, but rather an act of self-sacrifice which saves her sister’s life (It seems like no good art can escape the narrative of the Gospel). This movie kept me guessing the entire time, which is why I’m glad I chose not to know much about it before I saw it. What I found most interesting about the post-modern jabs at common princess story tropes, was that it is Disney itself which has singlehandedly fostered those pastiches into the western mindset. Of course I understand that most of the disney “Princess” movie are based on old source material like Hans Christian Andersen, but still, at least in film, Disney seems to have has made the same movie many times. I know that Frozen isn’t the first movie to take on a new perspective to the princess movie (Shrek, Princess and the Frog for example) but that does’t matter because Frozen does all of this so damn well that it blows everything else out of the water.

Finally, Frozen is a movie that will stand the test of time for more than one reason, and If you haven’t seen it, go and see it a soon as possible. One last plus side is that unlike other movies out right now (Ehem… Wolf of Wall St, I’m looking at you), this movie doesn’t have any language, sex, or crude humor (except one booger joke, but that was hilarious). If you’re not willing to spend the money to see this masterpiece in theaters at least once, then I hope that a little kid beats you up and steals your money to see it for himself. That’s just how good it is.


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