Holiday Shopping Spot!

Today, I have a very proud announcement to make. My enterprising nieces and crafty nephew have opened a small business on Facebook called the Sonshine Smiles Shop! Find it here: https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop

The holidays are coming and this is a wonderfully cheap way to get some lovely gifts-I’m their loving aunt and some of these things are even more gorgeous and special than I even expected! So, if you know of anyone who would love to trick-or-treat in a beautiful Snow Queen dress…

Niephews_snowqueen

Or a baby in need of a fancy pink princess/birthday/holiday dress….

Niephews_pinkdress

Or some young ones who could use some sweet-smelling play-doh with jewels to find and decorate with…

Niephews_playdoh

Or anyone in need of special Mama Necklaces, organic wool dryer balls, toddler-safe Jedi light sabers, or $4 aromatherapy bath salts, please stop by https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop today! And they take special orders, too! Tell your friends!

Niephews_facebook

Disney Family Time

As many people will be reuniting with family members soon for the holidays, let’s take a look at how these reunions could be just like a Disney fairy tale. Disney movies offer a lot of advice about this topic, but it may or may not be worth anything.

Disney Family Reunion Tips:

1. Bring a sword.
2. Get a private train car.
3. It’s okay to argue over pets.
4. It’s totally okay to ignore your family for a guy.
5. Don’t bring up any legal matters, like contracts.
6. Don’t try to sell anybody on anything.
7. Bring your own cup.
8. Realize there’s probably a long distance between you and parental approval.
9. Don’t get stuck in bottles of alcohol.
10. It’s helpful to build a fire.

(20 points for every reference.)

Here’s hoping your holidays need no such advice.

Fairy Tale Food for Thanks

Today is a day to be thankful that:

 

1. There is a variety of food instead of simply a house (full) of dessert.

2. The cooks both appreciate and use salt, but it is not the only gift they’re serving.

3. There are enough greens without attempting to steal, beg, or barter them from anyone, let alone a witch.

4. Even if someone did ruin the loaf of bread, or side of potatoes, or pie, no one sunk down through the earth to be tortured as a statue in a realm more creepy than hell.

5. Since the family is gathered around the table, you can be sure that you didn’t accidentally imbibe the flesh of your son, sibling, or other relatives.

6. No matter what path you take to your family’s house, or how many wolfish problems you encounter on the way, there’s now insurance for that.

7. If you find a piece of jewelery in one of the dishes, you won’t have to try it on half the people in the realm before returning it to the right owner.

8. Even ducklings that grew up as just ugly ducks still taste delicious.

9. If a piece of food like apple, poisoned or not, becomes lodged in your throat, odds are someone will know and employ the Heimlich maneuver instead of imprisoning you in a coffin-like display case.

10. No matter how sleepy the meal makes you, you WILL wake up in less than a hundred years.

 

So raise a glass and give thanks that your holidays are not a fairy tale come true!

(Twelve points for every fairy tale reference you know.  Twenty-five points for any more fairy tale thanks left in the comments that fit the theme.)

Prince John and Sir Hiss’s true colors

Three things I now know after spending most of today with my niece:

1. My motto that “Dragons never go out of style” is alive and well.

2. I have every reason to be proud of her observation skills.  Watching “Robin Hood” (for the second time in her life, both viewings with me), Niece pointed out that whenever Sir Hiss goes out in public he wears blue, but when he thinks he’ll be alone with Prince John, he wears red.  This is something I have never noticed, after much more than two viewings!  Also, it presents interesting things:

-Does Sir Hiss prefer royal blue, but Prince John commands him to wear a less regal color when he’s with him and only allows the blue garments when he needs to present a united villain/court face to the peasants?

-The robe Robin Hood stole from Prince John was red, and for the rest of the film John wears a blue one.  Is Sir Hiss taunting John by wearing his red garments in front of him, since Sir Hiss knew the robbery was about to happen and was ignored?

-Does Sir Hiss really prefer red, but is forced by Prince John to wear clothes that match his whenever they’re in the public eye?
3. She is already clearly about character-driven stories, which I greatly approve of.

Also, sadly (thus not on the list), road construction is now so prevalent it’s officially become part of imaginative games.

Wild Locks and the three Brave movies

There are too many differing things about this film.  You see, there’s really three different movies all packed inside Pixar’s latest release (expect non-specific spoilers):

The Good Kid-Flick: Brave is a beautiful film.  The soundtrack is lovely.  The attention paid to bringing out the Celtic flavor makes me smile.  The humor with Merida’s triplet brothers gets a bit half-assed at times, but it works for the intended audience, so who am I to knock it?  The family/clan humor works better, if through cliches.  The scene with the witch is wonderful, particularly her old-time voicemail system.  Disney’s trend of making horse companions increasingly helpful until they became the horse/dog/craziness that galloped through Tangled came back to the lovable realm, which I deem very important.  The overall story is cute and the main characters are likable.  Plus, King Fergus is just a really cool dude.

The Bad(ly) Anticipated Movie: My issues with this film began retroactively with the trailers, it turns out.  They clearly misled people to believe that Brave involves a great adventure.  The phrase “A Hero Will Rise” was clear claptrap to draw people in.  This story was about family, teenage/parent relationships, and vaguely one could argue it was about tradition.  What Brave is not about?  What people think of as a magical adventure with a young girl pitted against great forces in order to take charge of her own life.  If I’d known more of what the real plot was I probably would have seen it, but I certainly wouldn’t have been so excited or seen it so soon.  My next issue is the name itself.  Bravery is nobody’s issue here.  It’s not even a big theme.  You could argue that you need different kinds of bravery to do many of the things that happened in this film, but then you could also make that argument about maybe half the movies out there.  It just seems like one more ploy to direct audience expectations along more adventurous routes than what Brave actually delivers.

I also had trouble with a lot of aspects in the film itself.  First and foremost, I hated the way they invoked “fate.”  Frankly, there was no reason to bring fate into any of this-so a typical family squabble got a bit magical, it’s still a simple family trouble.  My main reason for disliking it though, is that it framed the whole story as if this is Merida taking charge of her fate.  I’m sorry, if running to a witch for a spell when you get frustrated and asking her to change circumstances for you is the same as getting empowered or taking charge of your own life, than I quit.  Nothing Merida did after that really had to do with deciding her own life, either.  Those actions had to do with other uplifting messages about relationships, but not freedom, empowerment, or “fate.”  Even at the ending Merida never really thought anything through or stepped up to the front herself, as far as her destiny goes.  Ultimately, that stupid spell thing worked and that, I cannot forgive.  Second, the whole storyline with the actual “villain” was so sketchily done it could lift right out.  It seemed like one of at least a hundred things they could have added to the plot to amp up the drama, that it was drawn out of a hat and none of the film makers really cared about that part.  There was never any real suspense, he’s barely there, and the movie expends no effort on getting us to really care.  Third, I felt like the characters didn’t develop enough.  Only three of them were fleshed out at all.  The two females evolved a little, but it felt like the end just brought them back to versions of themselves they’d been before and the whole thing was nothing but effects of a stressful time.  Fourth, I really did love Merida…as a rebellious fourteen-year-old.  Any older than that and her beginning choices seem so irresponsible and brattish that it’s hard to take seriously.  Particularly for the time period, when even fourteen was old enough to be married and pregnant.  On the other hand, at fourteen for the modern audience the idea of marriage would be alarming enough to appropriately invoke these reactions, but then the queen’s stance would be disturbing.  Merida is a princess, no matter how she feels about acting like a lady, it shouldn’t take so much for her to at least glimpse the big picture here.  Fifth, everything that happened felt like a cliche.  Princess unhappy with life, botched magic wish, family turmoil, princess causes political problems…what’s new?  Not that everything has to be new, but it should at least feel more fresh than stale.  Particularly if it is being marketed as a unique, new brand of princess tale.

The Ugly Feminist Film: As Pixar’s first female lead and a movie claimed to possess a new kind of princess story, Brave has a lot to say about gender issues in our society.  First off, is Merida really a new type of princess?  Chapman’s original idea was to make a new type this way: “Merida is not upset about being a princess or being a girl. She knows what her role is. She just wants to do it her way, and not her mother’s way.”  Well, in the film I saw living under the pressures of being a princess and conforming to the role of a girl/”lady” is pretty much what Merida was upset about.  Moving on, a lot was made of the fact that there is no love story.  The fact that this is a big deal says a wealth about society, already.  While it’s true there’s no romance, did it really leave the building?  The suitors are important, traditional gender roles are upheld, and love is upheld and promoted as the key to Merida’s ending.  Is Merida really an empowered, strong, female protagonist?  In physical prowess, she certainly is.  She’s very strong and stubborn in her choices, but I have doubts as to whether they show real empowerment or independence rather than simple teenage frustration and immaturity.  Bringing “fate” into the equation lends every doubt I have about Merida’s learning and sense of freedom more weight.  If this is the best Merida can do to grab hold of her own life, than I don’t really think so.

On the other hand, Queen Elinor’s habitual control over herself , her husband, and her kingdom demonstrates what a strong heroine can do.  Her relationship with her husband stayed practical and believable instead of being just a stereotype.  Her love of tradition and conventional roles never stops her from doing what needs to be done.  She is a woman of her time and a feminist who believes that a strong woman doesn’t need to break out of anything, she can simply be who she is and still get everything her way.  That, to me, is a much more powerful feminist statement than anything that happens with Merida.  Merida needs things to change around her in order to “change her fate.”  Elinor just makes hers, no matter what.  I really hope that after the events of Brave, she’s able to pass that on to her daughter.  If she’d done so in the movie, perhaps the talk of seeing your own “fate” would have fit in.

After reading http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/movies/pixars-brave-how-the-character-merida-was-developed.html?_r=1 I think I’ve figured out why they had such a hard time trying to make a “new” kind of princess tale.  First Pixar heroine and what do they seem to have spent most of their time on to get across the aspects of “freedom” and “wildness”?  Merida’s hair.  I rest my case.  (Well…at least that hair was awesome.)

Family, film, and flippancy!

Today I got to introduce my seven-year-old niece to Aladdin!  My niece had some insights:

1. First impression: “Who’s singing?” Me-“The man on the camel.”  Niece-“But what’s his name?…He’s tiny.”

2. “It takes Jasmine an hour every day to brush her hair.”

3. You should feel sorry for Jasmine when she thinks Aladdin got beheaded.  (Movie Jasmine: “It’s all my fault, Rajah.  I didn’t even know his name!” Niece: “His name’s Aladdin, princess!”

4. On Jafar: “He’s using hypnotism!” Also, “He’s calling him “Abooboo” on purpose!”

5. The genie is “hilarious.”

6. After that most romantic of songs, “A Whole New World”, “I wish I could’ve seen that Chinese dragon up closer.”

 

As this was officially a Movie Date and my sister gave us permission to watch two films, Aladdin was followed by The Swan Princess, which the niece had seen before.  I think it just made her think about it more.  Also, it made her helpful.  She explained several things to me.  She informed me that Derek was sad because he wanted to marry Odette, that King William’s not really there during his voiceover, Derek’s just remembering, and other helpful tips.

 

1. Odette introducing Puffin: “I’m Odette, princess Odette.  And these are my two best friends in the whole world-Jean-Bob and Mr. Trudgealong.” Niece: “No-your best friend should be Prince Derek!”

2. Question: When Odette’s flying to find Derek as a swan, why does she whisper “Derek” when she sees him instead of saying it aloud?  My answer was that humans can’t understand her when she’s a swan and she didn’t want to startle him.  Any thoughts?

3. Question: Is that hag character Rothbart’s “true daughter”?  I said no, it was just his assistant, who I think joined him because she had a crush on him before she met Chamberlain.  There is debate about the crush-any votes?

4. Question: Can the hag character talk?  I said that I thought she could, but refrained herself to noises because that’s what Rothbart preferred.  After a particularly emphatic noise at the end of the movie my niece also decided that the hag probably could talk.  Yes?

5. Odette: “I’ll never give you my father’s kingdom!” Me: “Actually, her father’s dead, so she shouldn’t call it ‘her father’s kingdom’.  It’s really all hers!”  Niece: “But she should still call it ‘her father’s kingdom’ because she’s not married, so she can’t be the queen yet.”  I’m not sure if I should be glad the niece is brilliant enough to pick up on this medieval idea or be alarmed that she sees this so clearly.

6. Rothbart: “You’ve forgotten one very important thing.  Tomorrow there is no moon!” Niece: “How can she know the weather!?”

 

So, in short: I should watch more things with the niece.  She won’t let you get confused on the one hand, and on the other she comes up with good questions.  Hurrah!

 

The Grand Sophy

The Grand Sophy

By: Georgette Heyer

(http://www.georgette-heyer.com/)

Harlequin 1950

An historical fiction romance review

 

When fate (and family) toss a monkey, a terrier, and a parrot at your household and the girl who brought them still causes the most havoc, she must be The Grand Sophy.  Accustomed to running her father’s house and being left to her own affairs, Sophy believes that a little resolution is all that’s needed to solve everyone’s problems.  When she puts her powers of resolve, observation, and charm to the task of managing her cousins’ difficulties not a lot goes smoothly.  From illegal debts to romantic kerfuffles, nothing can daunt Miss Sophy Stanton-Lacy.  On the other hand, Sophy’s tactics daunt her acquaintance and infuriate her eldest cousin Charles.

Heyer’s twists and endearingly flawed characterizations keep readers surprised and entertained.  Facing the world through Sophy’s eyes makes obstacles moot and conventions easily manipulated.  Quick tempers add drama and a galloping pace to this family story.  The mistress of meddling, The Grand Sophy brings the regency era to life in a whole new light, and her own story to a rollicking finish that’ll leave you wanting more.  No matter who tells her what to do, or what her temper demands, this is one heroine who isn’t about to let it get her down, or allow her readers to put down this book.