Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Directed by Ben Stiller

   Spoiler Alert!

Inspiring and beautiful are the words I would use to describe this film. I meant to write a review on its airing date, but I wanted to go see it again. Walter Mitty to his family and to his job, with little room to explore the world and try new things. He often escapes the monotony through the use of his imagination, and he daydreams the most exciting parts of his life.

I find myself relating and sympathizing with the character from the beginning. In fact, I would dare say many of us have felt dissatisfied with the monotony of life, which we usually beat with some sort of escapism (reading books, television, etc). The average person works long hours and has family depending on them financially. Things like travel, spending time with family, spontaneity, or even meditation become matters that depend on the expanse of the person’s finances. It shouldn’t be the case, but it’s a reality for many people. It’s not that we shouldn’t be grateful for what we have. It’s a matter of having or finding the time to enjoy the little things.

Life magazine is about to go paperless, and Mr. Mitty might be facing his last year as the Negative Manager of the company. Mitty must carry all financial responsibilities for his retired mother and for his sister. He’s discouraged from deviating from his normal routine, anything that is not considered financially safe. At least not until negative twenty-five disappears from his desk. Sean Penn plays an iconic photographer, and an admirer of Walter’s work at the magazine. He personally requests that Negative Twenty-five is used for the last paper issue of the magazine. It’s up to Walter to find out what happened the negative before he definitely finds himself without a job. The mystery of Negative Twenty-five takes him in a memorable, spiritual, and beautiful adventure.

There’s a great cast. Adam Scott plays Ted Hendricks, Mitty’s new self-absorbed and demeaning boss. I love him on Parks and Recreation, and it was interesting to see him play this role. Ben Stiller’s performance as Walter Mitty is fantastic and emotive. He put a lot of work into this film, and it shows. Kristen Wiig plays Cheryl Melhoff, a funny co-worker and mother of one. Walter wants to get to know her better since the day she started to work at the company, but doesn’t know how to introduce himself. Personally, I do wish she had a more complex and involved role. She was Mitty’s love interest, and a bit like the manic pixie dream figure. All the female characters in this film have important roles in Mitty’s life, but limited involvement. And to be fair, this is a man’s journey, so the lack of female representation is understandable. (The world needs more women in film. Women make wonderful films Hollywood!)

The film was well-directed, the cinematography is beautiful, and the story inspiring. Must reviewers have called this film “the best film to end the holiday season and begin a new year.” I completely agree, but I would also add that this film is more than a holiday film. I LOVE The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and I expect to see Ben at the Oscars (from home of course).

Thanks for reading. Go and enjoy this film.

Best,

Steph

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Wadjda – Film Review

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.  –IMDb

I first heard about this film through Girls’ Globe, a site dedicated to raising awareness and educating others on global issues about the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.

Wadjda is the first feature fully filmed in Saudi Arabia. Haifaa Al-Mansour is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature film. This was not an easy task. Women are not supposed to work with men in public. Haifaa directed all exterior scenes from the inside of a van. She watched the actors on monitors and communicated with them via walkie-talkie. Nonetheless, she received government approval to complete the film in the country. Although cinemas are not permitted in the country, audiences can see the film on television.

Wadjda is one of my favorite films this year. The film is thought provoking. It carries a heartfelt message about what it means to grow up as a woman in a country where women have plenty of restrictions. For example, women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive. Wadjda wishes for a bike, but she’s constantly told that girls “should not drive bikes.” The notion of a giving a girl a bike is frown upon by society. “You will not be able to have children,” her mom tells her when Wadjda persists on getting a bike. It’s a beautiful metaphor about a girl’s pursue for agency in her society, to make her own destiny, and find her voice.

It features great actors. Waad Mohammed plays Wadjda, a ten years old girl living with her mother in a middle class suburb. Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah (Wadjda’s mother) deliver a wonderful performance. The moments between mother and daughter are sweet and transcend all cultural differences.

This film depicts the life of men and women under the politics and spaces given to them in their society. Wadjda’s mother is devoted to her husband, yet her movements are restricted to what’s expected of her as a married woman. She fears that she will lose her husband due to her invalidity to give him a son. Wadjda’s school plays a big role in enforcing gender restrictions, where a strict principal sets the rules and expectations how girls should behave.

Wadjda is now playing in selected theaters. I urge everyone to go and see this film. You will not be disappointed.

And no, this is not a “girl’s movie.” It’s a film about women’s issues, which happens to have a female lead. Please, do not feed on this idea that films about women (or female leads) are only for female viewers…  Plus, women watch plenty of superhero films. Go watch Wadjda. It’s a wonderful film

Also read: Dana Stevens’ Review

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Adventures of a Rookie Blogger

I’m a rookie blogger. 😦 

I decided to start my blog about four years ago. At first, this idea wasn’t quite appealing. Perhaps, it wasn’t alluring at the time because my idea of blogs consisted of only one type: personal dairies. A few friends and mentors advised me to get a personal journal instead.

Nonetheless, after checking out a few blogs and speaking to bloggers– I decided to start one. A blog, I thought, would give me the opportunity to practice my writing, improve my grammar and editing skills. (English is not my first). At the time, I also thought that it would give me the opportunities to write about the topics that interested me, such as education, women’s issues, writing, film, and books.

My first tries at blogging looked like this: Link.

These are embarrassing to read now. I look back and realized that my attempts were poor at best. Granted, I still think my attempts at blogging are poor. I don’t update often, and my topics are quite scattered. I’ve written attempts at film and book reviews, on trending news about women, and written personal observation on random topics. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was doing everything wrong. After doing some research, I learned that most popular blogs concentrate on one topic. These are often about specific music or books genres, travel journals/guides, writing, photography, etc. Sometimes blogging actually feels like writing a journal. I started to wonder if those friends I mentioned were right after all.

Regardless, here are the five things I learned from my adventures as a rookie blogger:

Grammar/Editing. As mentioned, English is not my first language. I started writing a blog to hone my writing and editing skills. Why? If I’m putting my writing online for the world to read, then this means I need to put more effort into my writing and editing.

It’s not a secret that grammar and editing are essential when it comes to blogging (writing anything actually). Communication is a great factor of our lives and our careers. It’s the way in which we engage with others and present ourselves to the world (in whichever language we speak). Readers might be put off by poor grammar. It’s essential to write as clearly as possible. After all, writing is rewriting, and practice is the only way to become skilled at those things.

Book Reviews.  In the beginning, writing reviews for me consisted on writing only positive reviews and withholding my negative opinions of what I read. My reluctance on writing negatively about books comes from the knowledge that writers put a lot of work into these books. My first reviews were short and badly edited. Although I have not mastered the skill of writing book reviews, I understand that these should not be mean, but honest. Readers like to read honest reviews. If they believe to share the same feelings about a book reviewed on my blog, these readers will likely come back for more reviews. This type of blogs are wonderful for avid readers. It’s also a great way to exercise critical thinking. Again, all of this is partly an observation.

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Have You Met Jay Gatsby?

              Hello!  I’m back after a long and well needed break from blogging. Today we have a guest post by  Maggie’s Camera. A photographer and blogger. Check out her blog. Enjoy!

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The last time I was this excited for a film, it was The Dark Knight. I am a HUGE Christian Bale fan. I was absolutely captivated by the Heath Ledger tragedy, and I had grown fond of the Batman character as I got older. I am so excited. I think I send Steph a message about once a week reminding her that I am excited about it! Which led to me writing a guest post for this blog about the movie remake of The Great Gatsby.

In preparation for this post, I tried to watch the original 1974 movie version of The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford. (The Sting is probably one of my favorite “old timey” movies.) And ended up getting about an hour into it before I had to stop.

I had forgotten about how slow the beginning of the story was, and kept getting distracted while watching it. However, watching the 1974 version made me more excited for the movie for a variety of reasons.

Number 1: Baz Luhrmann, the director

Baz Luhrmann is known for his over the top style. When I think of Luhrmann as a director, Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet are the first films to come to my mind. Moulin Rouge is a wonderful movie, a work of art, and I can’t picture any other director being involved. On the other hand, Romeo + Juliet is a trainwreck. My friend, a theater major and Shakespeare enthusiasts, watched it with me for her first time, and she kept saying “what am I watching” over and over again and not in a pleasant way. So when you realize Luhrmann is directing a movie, you pause and wonder, “will this actually be a good film.” However, I think that doesn’t need to be the case with The Great Gatsby. The character, Jay Gatsby, himself was rather over the top and very showy. This comparison between the character Gatsby and Luhrmann’s directing style suggest that Luhrmann will enhance the story instead of pulling it into the realm of “how did this get made?”

Number 2: Leonardo DiCaprio

I had been a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio even before I ever saw him in a movie. (I was unable to see Titanic and Romeo + Juliet in theaters). The image he projects in the media is a gentleman with excellent tastes. Most importantly, he’s lovable. These combinations of characteristics and people being enthralled by him match the Jay Gatsby character perfectly. I can’t imagine another actor in Leonardo’s age group playing this role. (George Clooney would have been the best choice 10 years ago, but not today). Hopefully this film will score DiCaprio the oscar he seems to always be shy of. (My theory is that one of the reasons they delayed the film was so Leo would not go against Daniel Day-Lewis’s amazing performance.)

Number 3: The Music

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Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures is an adaptation of the first novel in the popular Caster Chronicles series, written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town. ~Imdb

I  was disappointed. Beautiful Creatures had good moments, but overall I can’t stop thinking that it could have been better.

Please, keep in mind that there are 24 book-to-movie adaptations expected this year (2013). I think many people expect that the Caster Chronicles will replace Twilight. Mainly, because these are supernatural “boy meets girl” stories, where mortals fall in love with immortals (vampires & witches/casters).

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