Hey, guys! You may have noticed that it’s been over a week since my last blog post. I just wanted to give you a brief update — I’ve been really, really busy (mostly due to drama camp), so it’s been hard for me to find enough time to sit down and write a well-thought-out post. I’m still planning on plenty more content, don’t worry! Just give me another few days or so and I’ll have another post for you. At the latest, the first week of June, after the play I’m in is over.

Thanks for your patience!

Ranking the “Star Wars” Films

I’ve been a Star Wars fan almost since I can remember. I’m pretty sure I was five years old when I first saw the original film, and I was absolutely mesmerized. Over the course of a few more years, I saw the rest of the original trilogy, followed by the prequels.

I think all of the films are worth seeing at least once, but of course some of them are better than others (in some cases, much better). I thought it might be fun to make a post with my personal ranking of the current six films, from worst to best. Let’s begin!

6. The Phantom Menace (1999)

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By far the most widely disliked Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace is definitely the weakest of the saga. Just as a few examples: the film as a whole needed a rewrite, it suffers from a significant amount of stale acting, and it tried too hard at times to be funny (I’m looking at you, Jar-Jar). It’s not without its merits, though. It has several exciting sequences, not the least of which is the thrilling duel with Darth Maul toward the end. If only they hadn’t killed him (and Qui-Gon, for that matter) off so quickly.

5. Attack of the Clones (2002)

The second prequel is definitely better than the first, though it still suffers from many of the same problems, along with the added one of the cheesy romance between Anakin and Padme.

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On the plus side, though, it’s got a more interesting plotline than its predecessor, has better humor, and a pretty sweet lightsaber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku.

4. Return of the Jedi (1983)

This film was overall a very satisfying conclusion to the series, mostly due to Darth Vader’s moving conversion before his death. On the other hand, it has its issues — it’s probably the cheesiest of the original trilogy, mostly due to the Ewoks (I’m sorry, but they were just a little over the top for me), and I have to admit that the whole “second Death Star” thing just felt like lazy writing to me. Oh, and they killed off Boba Fett way too soon. Just sayin’.

3. Revenge of the Sith (2005)

This one is the best of the prequel trilogy. The cheesiness, clumsy writing, and so-so acting are not as prevalent this time, so they don’t detract as much from an enjoyable film experience. In addition, this film tells the tragic story of Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader and the birth of the Galactic Empire very well overall.

2. Star Wars (A New Hope) (1977)
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The original film is still one of the very best. Sure, it has issues — Leia’s on-and-off British accent along with some other so-so acting, some cheesy writing, and dated visual effects. But it tells a very exciting story of a small group of rebels having their first major victory against the Empire, and the beginning of a new era for the characters.
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
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This is it — the best current Star Wars film. It improved on its predecessor in pretty much every way — overall filmmaking quality, acting, story, etc. It’s the funniest of the films, thanks mostly to Han and Leia’s banter and C-3PO. At the same time, it’s a darker story in which Luke must figure out who his worst enemy is: Darth Vader… or himself? And while it ends on a seemingly hopeless note, with Han in carbonite and Luke agonizing over Vader’s true identity, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Well, there you have it! That’s my list of my opinions. So what are your opinions? How would you rank the films? Also, what are your hopes/expectations for Episode VII?

 

Lessons from “Frozen,” Part 3 of 3: Everyone’s a Bit of a Fixer Upper!

And now, it’s time for the third and final installment of “Lessons from Frozen!” In this post, I discuss a very important point that Frozen makes — a point that really needs to be heard in this day and age. (By the way, just because this is the last of this “trilogy” of posts does not mean I’ll never write about this film again. Just so you know. :P)

Everyone has heard the phrase “nobody’s perfect” countless times in their lives. It seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? We’re human, and being imperfect is part of our fallen human nature. So if that’s true, I have a question: where the heck did the idea of a “perfect companion” come from?

This idea has taken hold of today’s culture. Single (and sometimes not) people everywhere are constantly talking about what their ideal spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or what have you would be like. Many of them even make lists of their traits. “He has to be tall, dark, and handsome.” “She has to have blonde hair and blue eyes.” “He has to be able to sing and cook.” “She has to be a good kisser.”

Many people are guilty of doing something like this at some point in their lives. They create a personal fantasy in which, someday, their “perfect companion” will come into their lives and sweep them off of their feet. Happiness. Rainbows. Unicorns. Blah blah blah. You get the point.

Why do people do this? People desire love, of course. Everyone desires to be loved, as I pointed out in Part 1 of these posts. Everyone desires to “be completed” by someone — a perfect individual who will satisfy all their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Siiigh. It sounds soooooo romantic, doesn’t it?

Well, maybe so. However, I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but I’m gonna lay down the truth right now.

There is no such thing as a “perfect companion.”

NO ONE on this earth will ever completely satisfy us. NO ONE on this earth will always be there for us. NO ONE on this earth will completely understand and relate to us.

Thanks, Mr. Sunshine, you might be thinking. Way to lift everyone’s spirits.

But wait. Notice how I said no one on this earth will ever complete us. As it turns out, it is God that people are truly longing for. There is a God-shaped hole in everyone’s heart. When people try to fill it with anything that is less than God — meaning anything but God — they are left unsatisfied.

Men and women complement each other. They do not complete each other. Only God completes people.

That is an important point, but it’s secondary to the main point of this post, which is this: Frozen makes a very clear and wonderful message concerning the problem of “the perfect companion.” This message mainly takes root in the rousing number called “Fixer Upper.”

Before we get to the song, though, a little bit of background. Anna meets Hans and “falls in love” with him early in the film, as discussed in Part 1. He seems perfect — handsome, funny, romantic,  a good dancer, etc. (These are traits which probably have appeared on many people’s “perfect companion” list.) She’s ready to marry him as soon as he proposes to her.

Soon, though, reality slaps Anna in the face when Elsa refuses to bless the marriage. An accident happens, Elsa runs away, and Anna goes after her, as we all know. On her way up the mountain, Anna meets a guy who sells ice by the name of Kristoff.

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Kristoff, to Anna, is nearly the opposite of handsome Prince Hans. Kristoff speaks somewhat roughly, treats his pet reindeer like a person, and says that all men pick their noses and eat their boogers. Ew. Not to mention, he’s just like Elsa in that he simply cannot believe that she got engaged to someone she had just met the very same day. Anna can’t wait to reach her sister and thus be rid of her earthy mountain guide.

As the journey up the mountain continues, however, the two do begin to grow more tolerant of each other. Still, though, Anna is in love with Hans and she can’t wait to get back to him and marry him. But when Anna is struck in the heart by Elsa’s powers, Kristoff takes her to see his friends — the “love experts,” as he referred to them earlier.

These love experts turn out to be a troop of rocky, mossy, big-nosed trolls, and they’re absolutely thrilled to see that Kristoff has brought a girl. He hastens to clarify the situation, but they don’t seem to listen. When Anna also insists that there is nothing between her and Kristoff, the trolls begin their song — “Fixer Upper.”

In the song, they ask Anna why she’s “holding back from such a man,” and proceed to list several of Kristoff’s less-than-perfect qualities. Among them are the “pear-shaped, square-shaped weirdness of his feet;” that though he “washes well, he always ends up sort of smelly;” “that he’s socially impaired;” and “his unmanly blondness.”

They sing:

“So he’s a bit of a fixer upper / so he’s got a few flaws…”

“So he’s a bit of a fixer upper / but this we’re certain of:

You can fix this fixer upper up with a little bit of love”

This becomes the glue that holds the message of their song together. The bridge goes like this:

“We’re not saying you can change him, ’cause people don’t really change

We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange

People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed

But throw a little love their way… and you’ll bring out their best

True love brings out the best”

Now that’s very interesting. How many times have you heard of people wanting to get into a relationship with someone who’s not quite up to standard, and they say: “Oh, I’ll change him/her!” The message here, though, is that you can’t change other people. What you can do, however, is bring out the best in others by truly loving them.

And finally, the clincher:

“Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper / that’s what it’s all about

Father, sister, brother / we need each other to raise us up and round us out

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper / but when push comes to shove

The only fixer upper fixer that can fix up a fixer upper is true love”

Wow. I want to give whoever wrote this song a cookie.

Read those lyrics! Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper! Everyone’s got a few flaws! But while that may be true, we can build each other up and push each other to become the best we can be through love. True love. What a great message for today’s culture.

Anna finds out that the trolls are right. After she discovers Hans’s plot, and that Kristoff loves her, she falls for him, which she never would have dreamed of earlier in the film. Sure, he’s got a few flaws. He’s not perfect. But neither is she. And they can both help each other grow by loving each other to the best of their ability.

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I am so, so grateful to Disney for making this film. In the midst of a culture that promotes the idea of a “perfect companion,” along comes a film that happily proclaims that nobody is perfect. Everyone’s got flaws. Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper.

And that’s okay. Because true love brings out the best in everyone.

Bravo, Disney. Bravo.


That’s all for “Lessons from Frozen!” I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts and maybe learned a thing or two from them.

Got anything to add? Comment, please! I’d love to hear from you. :D

That’s all for now. Until next post, friends!

 

Lessons from “Frozen,” Part 2 of 3: Conceal, Don’t Feel

Welcome to Part 2 of “Lessons from Frozen,” in which I discuss a very prominent element of the film’s plot: Elsa’s blessing/curse which eventually freezes Arendelle and moves Elsa to isolate herself from everyone.

Some people have claimed that Elsa’s personal torment contains a hidden pro-gay agenda. Allow me to offer a different interpretation of it.

So, the conflict of the story begins the moment that Elsa accidentally hits Anna with her winter powers. You’ve seen the film, so you know what happens — Anna’s memory of the incident is wiped away and Elsa proceeds to hide herself from Anna. Not sometimes, but nearly always — for years.

Early on, we see that Elsa’s ability to hide her powers from her sister isn’t developing well. So her father gives her a pair of gloves. As he puts them on her hands, he tells her that they will help, and there is an exchange of dialogue that becomes the backbone of Elsa’s character arc:

Father: “Conceal it.”

Elsa: “Don’t feel it.”

Both together: “Don’t let it show.”

This is partially where the whole “hidden gay agenda” accusation comes in. But think about it for a minute. Doesn’t everyone have the temptation to simply “conceal, don’t feel” at some point in their lives?

Feeling left out? Conceal, don’t feel.

Stressing out over just about everything? Conceal, don’t feel.

Thinking that nobody cares about you? Conceal, don’t feel.

In other words, whenever we have personal problems that nag at us, we have a decision to make. Do we reach out to those around us, asking for their love and support? Or do we hide it, trying to deal with it on our own?

Moving on for the moment. Elsa’s and Anna’s parents die, and eventually the day comes for Elsa to become queen of Arendelle. We see her still struggling to conceal her powers. She sings:

“Conceal / don’t feel / put on a show / make one wrong move and everyone will know.”

During the coronation, she has to take off her gloves when she picks up the scepter and the orb-like thingy that I don’t know the name of. Her hands tremble. Ice begins to form on the objects and she puts them back down as quickly as possible, slipping her gloves back on immediately.

What are we seeing here? Why can’t she control her powers?

Fear.

Elsa’s torment is caused by her fear. She fears that she might accidentally hurt Anna or someone else again. She fears that everyone will fear and hate her if they find out about her powers.

Anna knows that Elsa is afraid of something, but she doesn’t know what. When Elsa refuses to bless Anna and Hans’s marriage, she shouts at her.

“Why do you shut me out? Why do you shut the world out? What are you so afraid of?

The Coronation Day has already pushed Elsa extremely hard. But this has pushed her to her limits. She turns sharply about, yells “I said ENOUGH!” and inadvertently releases a wall of razor-sharp icicles.

Everyone stares at her in horror. Some whisper, “Sorcery.” Elsa can think of only one thing to do: run.

And run she does — far away, up into the mountains. And thus begins the most famous number from the film: “Let It Go.” I think pretty much everyone knows the lyrics by heart, but please bear with me as I break apart some of the song.

“Let it go / let it go / can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go / let it go / turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway”

What is Elsa saying? “Turn away and slam the door?” “Let the storm rage on?” Hmmm. Does this sound familiar? Going back to what I was saying earlier about concealing our hurt from others, what do we do when people do find out that we’re hurting? Often, we isolate ourselves. “Leave me alone,” we say. And we wallow in self-pity, and sometimes anger. This is not to say that wanting to be left alone sometimes is unhealthy — I can personally vouch for it being a good thing. But do we eventually come out of ourselves and reach out to others? Or do we stubbornly refuse to do so?

This is Elsa’s problem. She doesn’t want to share her hurt and fear with anyone. She wants to deal with it on her own. This ties into Elsa’s fear. She’s afraid of what people will think of her. She’s afraid of rejection.

“It’s funny how some distance / makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me / can’t get to me at all”

In other words, running away from our problems makes them seem smaller, and Elsa believes she has escaped her fear. But does this really work? We’ll see in a moment.

Some people see the “Let It Go” sequence as a triumph for Elsa. They see it as a turning point — that she finally is accepting that she has these powers and is not afraid to hold them back anymore. While that might seem like a good thing at first glance, what is she really doing? She’s building up walls around herself, both literally and metaphorically. She’s imprisoning herself to avoid running the risk of hurting anyone anymore. While this is a noble goal, we can see that she is going about it the wrong way. She still lives in fear. She has deceived herself.

This becomes apparent as the film continues. While Elsa hides in her icy citadel, Arendelle remains completely frozen. When Anna finally reaches her sister and tells her this, Elsa is distraught. She thought she had solved everything on her own, but she has made matters worse.

Things get worse still. When Anna insists that she can help Elsa overcome her problem, Elsa despairs, screaming “I can’t!”

And Anna is struck by Elsa’s powers again — but this time in the heart. In panic, Elsa creates a snow monster to chase Anna and her companions away before she hurts anyone else. Not long afterward, Hans reaches her palace and sends in his men to seize her.

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The men, however, have been ordered by the Duke of Weaseltown (ahem, Wesselton) to kill her. She lashes out in self-defense, but to no avail. She is captured, thrown into a dungeon, and chained. Hans comes to her and asks her to stop the winter, but she insists that she doesn’t know how. Later, she manages to escape with her powers, and runs out onto the frozen river, where a blizzard is taking place. She doesn’t know it yet, but Anna is out in the blizzard, dying and calling for Kristoff.

Hans soon catches up with Elsa and lies to her, saying that Anna is dead because of her. And a funny thing happens as Elsa is overcome with remorse and grief: the blizzard stops. This is a hint at what is to come very soon.

With the blizzard stopped, Anna can see clearly, and thus is able to save her sister from Hans as discussed in the previous post. And it is then that Elsa realizes how she can stop the winter and be in complete control of her powers.

Love.

It makes sense. The blizzard stopped moments earlier because of Elsa’s outpouring of grief over her sister whom she loves and believed to be dead. It also brings to mind a Bible verse, 1 John 4:18a:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (RSV)

Elsa has let her fear control her all her life. It led her to remove herself from her sister and later conceal herself in her own icy prison. Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let it show. Don’t let them know.

But now, Elsa has learned that this is not the way to live. Love is the answer. Love will thaw. Perfect love casts out fear.

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Disney has gotten it right once again. I hope that everyone who sees this film is inspired by Elsa’s transformation.


Sorry you all had to wait several days for this post! Let me know what you think. Agree? Disagree? A little of both? Sound off in the comments!

I promise the next post will come more quickly. When it comes, I hope you enjoy “Lessons from Frozen, Part 3 of 3: Everyone’s a Bit of a Fixer Upper!”

ADDENDUM: Someone rightly pointed out that I didn’t discuss why Elsa’s torment isn’t pro-gay propaganda enough in this post. Well, to summarize, I can see why people might interpret it that way. Elsa has lived in fear, isolating herself and holding back her powers to the best of her ability — some see this as a parallel to someone who is “in the closet,” and thus cheer for Elsa when she triumphantly sings “Let it go, can’t hold it back anymore.”

But, in my opinion, that’s where the gay view stops. If this movie is pro-gay, why does it make it so clear that what Elsa was doing was wrong? Elsa “lets it go,” which only makes matters worse for her in the end. I believe that the writers’ intention was to show that when we are troubled about something, we should reach out to others rather than conceal it within ourselves. I’m sure that gay people can relate to Elsa’s feelings, but I simply don’t see how her personal transformation fits into the whole pro-gay agenda. Thoughts?