Saturday, January 20, 2018

Once Upon a Time {Seasons 1 - 6}


WHERE TO START.

I want to review this, but it's like . . . wow.  There's so much to cover. XD  So many mixed feelings, so many squee-worthy ships and cringe-worthy moments.  There was a lot that I loved about this show, and a lot that brought on multiple facepalms.

To begin with, I'm reviewing seasons one through six because I just recently finished the sixth season, and after season six the makers decided to "take it in a new direction," so season seven and on will be quite markedly different from the previous seasons, according to everything I've heard. 

I Am Not Pleased With This Idea.

I mean, I understand that some of the actors want to "move on" and pursue other roles (really, the nerve of these people -- pretending they should have any control over their lives), and that the show was getting a touch repetitive, but that's what TV shows do!  They're repetitive by nature.  SO DEAL WITH IT.


*le sigh*  Anywho, here I am.  I might try to keep an open mind about the "new Once" (if I'm feeling especially magnanimous), but I'm also quite ready to keep the first through the sixth seasons as "what really happened and how it really ended" if I need to.

Let's get on with the review!  (I think it'll be relatively spoiler-free; if I do include a spoiler, I'll also include a warning.)

// LES CHARRIES //


Okay, so the characters are, on the whole, AWESOME.  Yes, just about every one of them annoys the ever-lovin' heck out of me at times, BUT, I'm also pretty darn invested in seeing each of them get "a happy ending." 

If you hate black-and-white baddies and prefer "complex villains," then LET ME TELL YOU. There are so many of them that this show might actually make you wish they'd revert to the black-and-white idea. One moment you'll hate them and the next minute you'll love them till death do you part and cry your internal fangirl's eyes out over their miserable pasts.


Then, of course there are the "heroes" -- and even they're not exempt from grappling with "darker tendencies."  This is good, usually -- since everyone struggles with selfishness, hate, power-hunger, etc., not just those who give into those feelings -- but the way in which the makers did it leaves something to be desired at times.  I'll probably talk more about this in the "Messages" section, so I'll leave it there for now.

Regarding specific characters . . .

Well, let's start with Emma Swan.  THIS GIRL IS A TOTAL #BOSS, Y'ALL.  I'm a fan of her. <3


She's a solid character throughout the whole show, I'd say.  I mean, obviously, I wish she'd made some different choices (*aHEM*), but on the whole, she's great.  And guys, she is so strong.  I love it. <3  But again, I'll probably save it for the "Messages" part.

Then there's Killian Jones.  He's my other favorite. ;D  (One of them, at least.)


He probably had an edge on the other characters from the start because 1) I'm a sucker for "tortured soul" characters who've Made Bad Choices but then See the Light, and 2) he's Captain Hook, and I have a soft spot for Captain Hook to begin with. <3  HOWEVER, as much as I love him and am pleased with how he turns out, I AM STILL VERY UN-OKAY WITH THE WHOLE MILAH THING.  Like, excuse???  What?!  NO, MA'AMS.  Nope.  Nossir.  BADLY DONE.  (Plus, it's just . . . kind of disgusting?!  Like, she's clearly a lot older than him and THEY ARE CLEARLY NOT A GOOD COUPLE.  Uh-uh.)  So, anyway, yeah, just wanted to get that out there:  I love Hook to bits but I am NOT OKAY with his Milah thing, and I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for that aspect of his "tragedy."

. . . But I still love him. ;)


Oh, OH, and RE-FREAKING-GINA.  THIS GIRL.  I love her, too, because MAN, talk about a character arc.  Regina works so hard to change and overcome her darkness and I STAND AND APPLAUD, MAM'SELLE.


I also want to talk about Rumplestiltskin, but as I say below, he needs his own category. :-P

Suffice it to say that overall, this show has some fantastic characters.  I think it's neat how a lot of the secondary characters weave in and out of various episodes/seasons.

My personal faves (not necessarily in order):  Killian Jones (Captain Hook) // Emma Swan // David (Prince Charming) // Henry // Regina Mills (The Evil Queen) // Zelena (The Wicked Witch of the West) // Aladdin // Jasmine // Belle // Neal/Baelfire // Ruby (Red Riding Hood) // August (Pinocchio) // Jefferson (The Mad Hatter) // Roland // Elsa & Anna // Merlin

Villains that are the most fun to watch: Cruella // Hades // Peter Pan // The Black Fairy // The Snow Queen (even though she's more of a pitiable character than a straight-up villain)

// LE RUMPLE //

(Yes, he needs his own category.)


So, this guy drove. me up. the freakin' wall.  But he is a fantastic character.

He's unpredictable (until you get used to his shenanigans, and then you can basically predict that he's going to be unpredictable) and kind of a terrible person, but he's also complex and kind of a hurting person.  A lot of the time he's basically like:


But he's very necessary to the plot of the whole show, and life has definitely been unkind to him.  So . . . yeah.  THE EMOTIONS ARE CONFUZZLED.

I hated how self-serving he was, how deceitful he was, how much he profited by other people's pain, how he always seems to have a loophole to exploit, and all his other problems.  But I also felt for him and wanted him to redeem himself.  The one part at the end of S5 when he DID THE UNTHINKABLE THING with Killian/Emma made me really, really bitter against him for quite a while, heh. *nervous laugh*  But during S6 I started feeling bad for him again and wanting him to do good.


Since, like I said, he always seems to have a loophole, I still sort of have a suspicion that someday we're going to find out that he's been orchestrating absolutely everything that's happened in all the seasons for "some mischievous reason of his own".  BUT, assuming and hoping that I'm wrong in that suspicion and that he's actually just doing what he looks like he's doing, I say, "Bully for you" about the whole S6 finale.  I'll be so proud of him if it turns out to be genuine. <33  *SPOILERS!* (Plus, you know, he does end up having to kill both of his parents, and that's A Little Rough on just one guy.) *END OF SPOILERS*

Plus, there's the issue of Belle, and there are Many Feelings there. <333

// LES SHIPS //


THE SQUEE IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE.  

There are so. many. ships. in this show!  My favorites are Captain Swan (ALWAYS AND FOREVER), Aladdin and Jasmine (<333), and Rumbelle (even though I GET SO MAD AT RUMPLE).  I also ship Ruby and Dr. Whale, but we won't go into that.

As I mentioned in another post, S6's take on Aladdin and Jasmine made me unreasonably happy.  Like . . . I don't even know.


^^ This scene really Touched Me and I don't know if I could explain exactly why?

Rumbelle is a Laden subject, feels-wise and Rumple-himself-wise, but they're still beautiful and it still makes me sad (most of the time) whenever they're apart.


AND THEN THERE'S MY FAVORITE. <3333333333

I would just like it known that this is unfair.

Captain Swan is my favoritest of all favorite things.  (Not really, at all.  But they're one of my favorite things, sure.)

They're just . . . *happy sigh*  They're perfect.  (Ish.)  And that's all there is to it.


// LE SCRIPT //

The script is good in terms of plot twists (see below) and bad in terms of a few other things, such as corny lines, flawed messages, etc.  For example, the running line of "I will always find you."  StaaaAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHPPPPPP.  ENOUGH.  There were also times, especially in the S6 finale, where you could tell that someone was about to say something suuuuper cheesy and you were muttering under your breath, "Don't say it, don't say it," and then they did.  Like this:  " . . . A happy ending."  "No! . . . A happy beginning."

PLEASE DON'T DO THAT.


Really, though, you just have to take this show with a grain of salt.  (Several, possibly.)  A lot of the plot hole resolutions are rather silly (like that one part in S6 with Hook and a certain figure in Greek mythology . . . heh . . . ), so just bear with it.  (Unless you don't want to, of course.)

// LES PLOT TWISTS //

WELL GOOD GOLLY GOSH. O_O  This show sure has the element of surprise down pat!  A++ for the plot twists, script team!  I tell ya, they connect people in so many different ways that you lose track of who's related to whom and why.  


And it's always (or nearly always) really Cool and Dramatic.

// LES THEMES & MESSAGES //

The good stuff first:  This show is good about emphasizing the power of hope and the fact that light always wins in the end.  

I'm also always interested when a story incorporates a character struggling against some power that might be stronger than them, and how that character's will can help or hinder them in their battle.  So I liked how that came into several of the different plotlines, especially *SPOILERS!* in S5 when Emma is fighting to overcome being the Dark One.  Like the scene when Nimue is trying to persuade her to kill Merlin, and we see her struggle, but her desire to do what's right wins out and she's able to see through Nimue's lies.

"I'm not nothing, I was never nothing!"


I just . . . my baby. *wipes tears* :') *END OF SPOILERS*

It's cool how Once shows that "baddies" can change if they want to, if they're willing to work through setbacks and failures and get back up and try again, cliché as that sounds.


Now, obviously, all the villains are ultimately responsible for their own choices.  They can't blame everything on their circumstances.  But I think the picture above holds a lot of truth, too, especially for the villains of Once.  And what's really cool about the show, again, is how it gives these villains a chance to change if they want to.

There are bad messages too, I believe, but I'm actually kind of blanking on specifics.  Mainly, the bad thing about most of the messages is how overt they are. :-P  There's no real attempt to conceal them, which isn't always a bad thing, but when they're so in-your-face, it is -- it robs the good ones of some of their power by making them somewhat corny.  


// LE CONTENT //

*sigh*  Unfortunately, there's a lot to cover for this, too.

Magic:  Lots and lots of magic.  Sometimes the characters are "born" with the powers and sometimes they learn them, and there's not that big of a delineation between the two.  I was always relatively comfortable with it, except for one instance of what is basically a séance.  That crossed a line for me.  However, seeing as nearly an entire season takes place in the Underworld and I was mostly okay with that, perhaps I need to be more consistent. :-P  (Speaking of the Underworld season, yes, that's a thing, so naturally there's some inaccurate stuff going on, theologically speaking.)  There's a running theme in the show that "All magic comes with a price," which is good, at least.  And there is more of a distinction between "light magic" and "dark magic."  Anyway, I guess your level of okay-ness with the magic in this show will depend on your okay-ness with different kinds of magic in other stories.  I don't know exactly what I think of it all, myself, but as you can see, it didn't stop me from watching the show.

Language:  Your typical TV show stuff.  Nothing very strong, but there definitely is some profanity.


Sex:  *big sigh*  *facepalm*  Whyyyyyyy.   Okay, so, there are never any explicit sex scenes; it's only ever implied.  BUT it is implied, on a semi-regular basis.  Which is Quite Frustrating. :-/  Some of the "affairs" seem to be adulterous at first, and even though it's later discovered that most of them technically aren't, it's still rather disturbing that the characters -- whatever the extenuating circumstances may have been -- were willing to do that when they didn't know that it wasn't adultery.  (But, then again, there is at least one legitimately adulterous affair that Does Not End Well for anyone involved, but the fact of the adultery itself is still not shown to be wrong, per se, but rather a sympathetic, tragic sort of conundrum . . . *sigh*  I can't explain it without Spoiling Things. :-P)

They also include a lesbian couple (briefly, like one or two episodes) in one of the later seasons.  And I'd understand (though not agree) if it worked with the story, but it really didn't seem to?  It seemed a lot like a "token gay" moment, which didn't seem right on several levels.

Again, as you can see, none of this bothered me so much that it kept me from finishing the show, but it is something to be aware of, potential watchers.

Violence:  I mean, it's there, but it's never really disturbing.  It's kind of laughable sometimes, actually, due to the often terrible special effects, which leads me to my next point.

// LES VISUALS //



Ehh . . . not so much. So much of the show is CGI/other special effects, and so many of the special effects are just . . . so bad. And I'm like "why though" because it's a fairly popular show and I find it difficult to believe that funding is that big of an issue for them, so . . . why aren't the special effects better? Whyyyyyyyyy????

As for the costumes, some of them are quite nice and beautiful and some of them are totally unforgiveable. Like, the fairies (especially Blue). Get a load of this:


What?!?! What?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! That is just . . . no. (And y'all can't tell from the picture, but she has blue tights on underneath.) I just don't understand that costuming choice. xD

// LES SEASONS //



With the exception of the first season, I think most of the seasons follow a pattern of having two big "conflicts" per season, with the second one usually somewhat unresolved at the end of that particular season.  Am I right about that?  

Anyway, I think each season has been interesting and enjoyable in its own way.  My least favorite is probably the first one, just because of Reasons, but it's not bad, necessarily.  My favorites are prrrobably S3, S4, and S6.  But I also really like the second one, I think . . . BASICALLY I LIKED MOST OF THEM. :-P

(Oh, and the musical episode in S6?!  Like . . . I don't know whether to laugh or face-palm or both. xD  I mean, it was neat the way they incorporated it into the whole Emma vs. the Black Fairy thing, but . . . it was still pretty cheesy?  And like, what?  I do kind of wish that they hadn't used that song at the very end of the episode for the Rather Momentous Event which occurred (because how dare they make that cheesy!!!), but the rest of the episode was pretty cool. :)  It was fun to hear the cast singing, and most of them had such good voices!

// LE FINALE //



(I call the last episode of S6 the finale because it's the end of Once as we knew it. *cries a little*)

Without spoiling things, I think I can say that I was very pleased, overall, with how it turned out (even though some things seemed to be resolved a bit too easily).  I mean, it was a little bittersweet seeing the "preview" at the very end for the seventh season, but at the same time it was very Nostalgic and pretty Good. ;)  

AND THE PART RIGHT BEFORE SAID PREVIEW WAS ALLLLLLLLL THE FEELS-Y. <3333

// LES FAN VIDEOS //

Because what's a TV fandom without its quota of feels-inducing fan-made music videos?  Here are some that I love; I hope you'll enjoy them too.  (Because my evil plan is to Draw You In by showing you all these Cool and Emotionally Evocative videos. :-P)

Note:  There is language in at least one of the videos ("Wildest Dreams").  And I don't thiiiink any of these are unduly "spoiler-y," but there are clips from most of the seasons, so exercise caution and all that. :-P








// OVERALL //

On the whole, I love this series and I'm thankful I got to watch it.  Its weakness are the mediocre visuals, the annoying content, and some of the inaccurate messages; its strengths are the messages that are accurate, the ingenious plot twists, the gushy ships, and the thoroughly amazing and endearing characters.  <333

I'd recommend it (with a few warnings) to anyone who enjoys fairytales, retellings, character-driven stories, and fangirling!

Have you seen Once?
What are your thoughts?



Monday, January 1, 2018

Inspirational Heroes Blogathon | | What I find inspiring about "Secretariat" {2010}

Warning:  This post is long and rambling.


DIS MOVIE RIGHT HERE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES.  

That is, it's most likely one of a large pool of what I call second favorite movies -- not quite close enough to my heart to make it into, say, a top-ten list, but definitely favorites.  

Now, for those of you who don't know the plot:  Basically, this movie is the story of Secretariat (*collective gasp from the audience*), a horse who was a contender for the 1973 Triple Crown (which, in case y'all didn't know, consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes).  It's also the story of Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery Tweedy, and how she brought the horse into racing from the starting point of a failing Virginia horse farm.  It's about the team of people around this woman and her horse, and all the highs and lows of the journey.  (That sounds a little cheesy.  I'm not great at writing movie summaries. :-P)  

But why is it inspiring?

*SPOILERS FROM NOW ON*  (Although, really, you could easily just look up what happened at the 1973 Triple Crown, so I don't know how much "spoilers" apply.)


Well, you could say that it's inspiring that Penny Tweedy did what she did.  She risked a lot -- her parents' farm, her family, etc.  You could say it's inspiring that there existed on this earth a creature who could do what Secretariat did in the final race, the Belmont.  And all that's true.  As to why it's inspiring to me personally, since I know next to nothing about horses and have very little interest in horse racing -- well, that I'm not sure I could tell you.  You just have to see it.  

People could argue, "What's so inspiring about a woman taking a horse all the way through the Triple Crown?  What spiritual or practical value does that have?"

As I was thinking about this the other day in preparation for this post, I came to the conclusion that there are some things that are just magnificent to behold, and the reason they're so magnificent is that they're a reflection of the ultimately magnificent God who created them.


What Penny Tweedy did was give the world a chance to see what this animal could do.  God created a horse with unbelievable abilities, and Penny was able to make sure the horse used them.

Along the lines of what C.S. Lewis said about friendship, is there any survival value in a horse winning the 1.5 mile Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in under three minutes?  No, but, in a way, it's one of the things that give value to survival.   (Totally paraphrasing Lewis here.) 

I'm not suggesting that the story this movie tells gives meaning to life -- only God can do that.  What I'm saying is that I think there is value in it.  Not because there's anything terribly spiritual about it, but because it's such an amazing thing to witness, and because it's a testament to the awesome power of our Creator God.


Is this making any sense?  Oh, dear.  I'm not trying to make this movie or this story out as anything bigger than it is -- I'm not trying to glorify it or deify it in any way.  I'm attempting to convey what's inspirational about it, and since I'm not entirely sure myself, I'm rambling a bit. :-P

Anyway, let's look at a few scenes that are particularly Moving.  (I think I'm about to wax sentimental.  Prepare yourself.)


At one point in the film, Penny's father has passed away after a relatively long battle with dementia (the father, by the way, who first told Penny to "Let him [Secretariat] run his race"), and the inheritance tax on his estate is causing significant financial difficulty to Penny's family.  Secretariat is fairly well-known by this time and is already worth enough money to fix the money problems if Penny were to sell him.  But Penny, firmly believing that he will go on to win the Triple Crown, refuses to sell him and instead has to look for other ways to raise the funds they need.  To do this, she begins a risky venture to syndicate Secretariat's breeding rights (whatever the heck that means) for a price that potential shareholders are not exactly jumping at the opportunity of paying, since the horse hasn't won the Crown yet, and if he were to lose one of the Triple Crown races, his value would plummet.  So, long story short, Penny has struck out with all of the shareholders to whom she's offered the deal so far, and things aren't looking great.  After being turned down by yet another contender, she steps outside and looks around the family farm.  Her eye catches Eddie, the groom, giving Secretariat (whose original name is Big Red) a bath while listening to the gospel song "Oh Happy Day" on a portable radio.


As always, Eddie seems to have an innate, unshakeable peace and happiness, even when things aren't going well, and he and Penny have had a special friendship the whole movie.  Penny slowly walks over, picks up a rag, and starts to help, massaging Secretariat's coat with soapy water and scratching his face.  The joyous lyrics of the song seep out of the radio with a sense of gladsome victory and just a touch of pleasant static.



Afterward, Penny walks into the stable where she saw Secretariat being born a few years before.  Miss Ham, the family's faithful secretary extraordinaire, and Seth Hancock, the son of one of Penny's father's friends, who's been helping her with the syndication venture, follow her, concerned for the enormous pressure and stress she's experiencing.  Eventually Penny turns to face them, defiant and determined.


"I don't care how many times they say no.  I don't care how many times they tell us we can't do it.  I am not giving up!  I will not live the rest of my life in regret.  We are gonna see that horse run, and win!  And we are gonna live rejoicing.  Every day."


"Amen," Miss Ham responds with a tearful, proud smile.


Another memorable part in the film comes on the dawn of the Kentucky Derby (the first race in the Triple Crown).  Just days before, Secretariat lost the last pre-Crown race (which was kind of a big deal for various reasons).  It was later revealed that this was because he had an abscess which no one had been able to see.  He hasn't been eating like he's supposed to, and the whole team has been anxiously waiting to see if he'll be able to race the Derby.  Then, the morning of race day (following a little eye-to-eye communication between Penny and the horse the evening before), Eddie brings Secretariat a fresh bucket of feed, and he begins to eat.  Eddie notices that his previous evening's feed bucket has also been emptied.  And Eddie -- dear, devoted Eddie -- gets so excited that he goes out and shouts to the empty racetrack.

"Hey, Kentucky! Big ol' Red done ate his breakfast this mornin', and you about to see somethin' that you ain't never even seen before! So get ready!"



And then there's the final race day, the Belmont Stakes day.  THIS SCENE IS ALL THE EVERYTHING, FAM.  I won't be able to do it justice, but I'll include the link to a video of it so you can see for yourself (even though it probably won't have quite the emotional impact if you haven't seen the rest of the movie).  The best I could find was this one, although it cuts out before you can see much of the celebration at the end.

But on to my take on it. ;-P

Everyone's giddy with excitement and nervousness.  Penny and her family have so much riding on this.

When the race starts, Secretariat bolts immediately to the lead, instead of hanging back and coming from behind like he usually does.  This is so surprising to everyone that Penny cries anxiously to Lucien, "Why is he going to the lead?"  (To which Lucien articulately replies, "Because, I don't know!")


Secretariat and his "rival," Sham, pull into the front instantly and set a lightening speed, causing considerable agitation in the crowd.  "This is unbelievable; no horse can take this pace!" one reporter exclaims.  Even we as an audience get pretty worried, especially when Secretariat surges ahead of Sham and leaves him (literally) in the dust.  We're scared that something has to give; something in Secretariat is going to burst and it'll be awful.

And then . . . it doesn't.  He just keeps going, lengthening his lead incredibly.  

Finally, Penny, terrified though she must be, yells out,

"Let him run, Ronnie, let him run!"



(Ronnie is Secretariat's jockey, by the way.  Oh, also, as an aside, the music in this scene is really well-done.  The tension keeps mounting and mounting and the melody keeps building, refusing to let up.  A+, music team.)

Sham's owner, Pancho -- who thought for sure that the pace Sham was setting would leave Secretariat behind, not the other way around -- slowly losing his jubilation and realizing what's happening, whispers, "That's impossible."


Because it was. But it happened. (Because, y'know, God.)

Eventually, the sound cuts out and Penny's voice comes over, a restatement of some verses in Job which opened the movie:  "He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing.  He does not shy away from the sword.  He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds."

And then Secretariat rounds the final bend and "Oh Happy Day" soars out again.



It's amazing to see the impact this has on each of the characters, as the camera zeroes in on several key reactions. There's Seth, the young man who invested and risked a lot to help make this happen (and who is also, by the way, a Rather Nice young man).


There's Jack, Penny's husband, who's had to give his wife away, in a sense, to bring this dream of hers to fruition, and who didn't always deal with it well or support her fully, but who's since come around and has apologized and is now in it all the way.


That amazing gospel song keeps ringing out, and the horse keeps leading by an ever-increasing amount, and we're swept up in the splendor of it.



Secretariat ends up winning by a whopping 31 lengths, and everyone freaks the heck out.  (I do too, internally, just for the record.)

Penny, who's risked so much and sacrificed so much and learned so much, starts literally jumping up and down, as does just about everyone else in the crowd.


Two of the reporters who've been dogging Penny and Secretariat for awhile are so excited that they give each other a hug.


And Eddie?  The person who -- according to the credits -- spent more time with Big Red "than any other human being"?  The one who always believed quietly and steadfastly in him and his owner and his trainer and the whole team?  

Well, Eddie's just happy.  Deep-down happy. 


AND I HAVE ALL THE INSPIRED FEELINGS. <3


[This post was written for Hamlette and Quiggy's Inspirational Heroes Blogathon.  Click the link to see more entries!  (And also, Hamlette is participating in what looks to be an amazing giveaway.  Click here to check it out!)]

Happy New Year, everyone!!!  I think God has great things in store for us in 2018. :)