Anl. Cultural Stereotypes in My Big Fat Greek Wedding

While it is endearing,  My Big Fat Greek Wedding relies on stereotypes to communicate the difference between Caucasians and people of color. It is refreshing to see a family like Toula’s. However, I wonder about the portrayal’s accuracy. As a woman of color, I don’t think the society presented is realistic.
 It would have been more convincing to have different kinds of people of color. Maybe some Greeks are not meat eaters  Or, maybe some Greeks don’t over-share. Yes, there are stark differences between cultures, but not everyone within a culture is identical to others in that community. In a way, it is a gloss over all people of color as the “same.” It’s not as complex as I would have liked it to be as a story.
Conversation Starter 

It is still incredible to watch a story with so much diversity and culture. It’s rare to hear the perspective of people of color, without trivializing our views and dismissing them. This is a good start. The film comes from a well-meaning place. It is about acceptance of one’s background, culture, religion, and family. It is about familial love. I enjoy watching Toula get to accept her family and be proud of them. I know for me, it is challenging to be okay with how different we are as people of color.

Intergenerational Cultural Clash 

The cultural norms I grew up with are different from that of my parents, too, and I think this is partially what Toula experiences in both films. She is not like her sister: perfectly Greek. She’s a combination of Greek and American. So, she doesn’t quite fit into the mold of the perfect Greek girl or the perfect American girl either. I can relate to this a lot, because I grew up as a mix between middle eastern culture and American culture. And, even then, I come from a displaced family; wars tore through the routine, which is something touched upon through the character of Mana Ya-ya who is confused by her new surroundings.

Self Actualization: 

Another neat thing to see is Toula’s  growth as a person, as a girlfriend, a wife, and mother. She finds herself in the first and second film. Women are often told that they need to be “pretty” to “get a man.” It is nice to see a story where the characters are focused on more than just marriage. Toula goes to college, the first in her family, and tries to work somewhere other than the family’s restaurant. It’s a reasonable portrayal of the difficulties women of color face when it comes to career-related ambition.

Gender Realization: 

The challenges of gender relations is also refreshing. I like that the women are not presented as quiet shy “things” to be had. They are headstrong sometimes, they are confident and passionate. They’re not overly sensationalized as this exotic different “other,” a refreshing take on people of color for sure. I feel so happy to see such a presentation of a culture so close to my own.

Overall: 

It definitely sends good messages to people balancing different cultures. They don’t have to be at war; they can coexist in the way a person carries his or herself. She is a proud Greek American and this portrayal of a happy, proud and strong Greek American family certainly opened my mind to the idea of being okay with myself as an Arab American and I am grateful for these movies and Nia as a writer because she presents a different voice in a mostly white narrative regarding women (which is often also told by men, unfortunately).

 

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Anl. Life Lessons In Star Wars

I watched The Force Awakens and I have been a fan ever since that late December of 2015. Afterwards, I have managed to acquire the original trilogy and the newest film on DVD and have been watching the daylights out of them.
Mental Power

What I truly love about these films is the lessons they posit, and the wonderful characters who are exposed to such pressures that push them to learn or at least understand difficult ideas. One of the most interesting lessons in Star Wars has to do with developing an understanding of one’s mental and emotional strength. The Force is not a literal blunt physical strength. It is invisible and yet very powerful. Darth Vader is seen choking people with the Force. Kylo Ren pauses a blaster in midair with ease by the Force.

But, as Han Solo puts in the original trilogy, the Force is part of an old religion and is all woo woo. Yet, by The Force Awakens, he openly admits otherwise: that it is all real. The Force is not too far from the imagination; it is a metaphor for spiritual and overall mental strength. It can lead to great strength, but one must train to be mindful and meditative. In essence, this is what Luke Skywalker and Rey learn eventually. They learn to still their minds in moments of fear and stress, and they concentrate.

Here and Now

In other words, the lesson is to stay present in the here and now.

Yoda teaches this lesson in the original trilogy: anger leads to hate and hate leads to destruction. Ultimately, he depicts various wisdoms: first, looks can be deceiving. Rey was shown as a scavenger who is inexperienced when it comes to the Force. Somehow, her awakening is registered on Kylo Ren and Snoke’s radar. She is an equal if not a superior Force user to Kylo, a man behind the terror across the galaxy. The same can be said about Kylo Ren, who is presented as a threat to the universe and yet, when Rey sees him without his mask, she finds him sympathetic and “sensitive.” This is very important to note because Rey’s initial assumption is that he’s just a “creature in a mask.”

 

Identity and Independence

Identity and independence are also themes in the Star Wars stories. We see it on both sides: Rey breaks free from Jakku scavenger life to become a Force user. Luke becomes a Jedi master after wanting to be a simple pilot with the resistance. Kylo Ren wants to achieve what his Darth Vader failed to do, and he rebels against his family in doing so. Finn was a nameless stormtrooper and yet Poe gives him a name, an identity, and they together accomplish missions for the resistance.

Love

The biggest weapon to be used in Star Wars worlds is love. It is Anakin’s love for his children that ultimately gets rid of the Emperor. Luke’s love for Leia drives him to save her in the first place (and even later on, he loves her and Han enough to save them from Jabba the Hutt). Compassion is a driving force (no pun intended) in these movies. Snoke accuses Kylo Ren of being too kind to Rey because he can relate to her. Why is this a negative thing? Well, it’s mostly a “light side” trait. Luke understands his father and is compassionate enough to believe the best in him is yet to come, which turns out to be the key to Darth Vader’s demise and the triumph of Anakin Skywalker (who knows what will happen to Ben Solo. I choose to believe that the best of him is yet to come. But, even if that’s not the case, I find his struggle so, so meaningful and powerful).

Friendship is another strength in these movies. There are epic relationships, iconic, throughout Star Wars. The companionship of cute droids, nonhuman beings, and even humans make the main characters have lots to lose. The stakes are higher than ever. R2D2, C3PO, and even BB8, they are all endearing that I wonder if there is a lesson there, too. After all, the most enduring friendship in the series is that between a human and a wookie. Always, this universe was able to bring to life wonderful characters and break down barriers in its vastness. In the new installments, we see female stormtroopers, black stormtroopers, female force users, and young people part of both sides. I cannot wait to learn what else these films have to offer.

For More:

Lessons from Jedi Master Yoda 
Star Wars Is Not About Good and Evil 
What Star Wars Can Teach Us 

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Set in 1960, the film opens with the death of Ellie's mother as she prepares

MR: Growing up in Laggies

I am a big Keira Knightley fan. I adore her so much. So, a while ago, I was perusing the Internet and found this trailer of her movie Laggies. It just spoke to me on a deep level, because, well, I feel kind of lost right now. It feels like everyone is moving on and I am not fitting in with the group of people I thought I’d be with for the rest of my life, sort of like Keira’s character in the film.

So, I bought the movie. It’s one of my favorites now because it is endearing and sweet. It is touching and thought provoking. Maybe loss should not be so negative in my mind because, we all lose things in life. It is kind of the point of growing up: losing things is natural. We let go of things and then new elements kick into our lives, and all we can do is accept these changes, or change life even more. Again, we are not really the boss of our lives, I get that, but what’s the point in forcing things that are no longer there? We all change over the years, and so…why cling to people and ideas that are just old and tired, stale and stiff over the years.

Now, I love the humor of the movie, too, and the beauty in the relationships. Things are complicated and Meg (Keira Knightley) has to figure out stuff. And, she does it over the course of a week. Is that too short? Maybe. Is it possible? Maybe. It has taken me years to accept my illnesses, and sometimes, I still reject them as part of my reality. By the same token, I also reject that some of my friends are no longer a good fit for me. I do get it, every time I watch this movie, I realize that it is okay, it is acceptable, it is fine to just move on and stop trying so hard to keep relationships alive. It takes two to tango, as they say, and I am tired of dancing alone with inanimate objects.

Meg broke off from her friend group entirely, and so have I (unintentionally). I don’t think you have to break up with people. I used to think that way, but sometimes, you just have to let go and not say much, because, well, some things are better off unspoken. This film taught me to laugh, to accept my growth and my journey, and to let go of the hurt and harm of toxic relationships. It has taught me that being an adult doesn’t mean that there’s no fun to be had. You can be young at heart and still be a functioning member in society. Totally doable.

Do check out the film. It is awesome and underrated.

I love the way women are portrayed in BBC's Sherlock. It is refreshing to see
I watched The Force Awakens and I have been a fan ever since that late
Community is a show that is amusing, sure, but it is also about growth and development.

About Time

There are things in my life that were constant. One of them was a fascination with time. I never liked time traveling stories, though, because it was something I could not comprehend. Time was complicated and cruel. It made me feel not only used, but empty, trashed, in fact. It feels like time mocks us all. It certainly has not played fair for me, especially the past four years. They have passed so quickly and yet so slowly. It is a paradox, I know. Too often, there were days where I just felt breathless–lifeless, if I am being honest.

So, when I watched a movie about a time traveling man, I was surprised that I loved it. “About Time” is a wonderful story about appreciating life as it comes. It is about relishing things thrown our way and not losing a pep to our step. Not ever. Even despite the losses, the pain, the awful days we experience sometimes, it is important to always try to be graceful. Try to be happy and full of love. For me, as someone with depression, I think this is difficult to accomplish, but not impossible. Maybe if I step outside the haze of sadness and grab life by the coattails, I’d be up for a happier time on this earth. Honestly, the movie was so, so beautifully made.

I think, there is something else to consider from this film, which is that love is a wonderful force to behold. Romantic love comes when we least expect it, and sometimes we love people who are not good for us (Like Kit-Kat’s situation or Charlotte). Sometimes, we think we’re in love, but we really aren’t. I have never been in love, so I don’t know what that is like. I cannot speak of what I do not know. However, I can only imagine what that might be like. And, yes, it sounds tricky. It is like trying to bottle up a rainbow or something. The neat thing is that Tim loves his family, too, and he does not forget about them after falling in love. Instead, Mary is integrated into the family very quickly.

One more thing about time travel from this film: it is not necessary. It is not important to impress people. Those who love us do love us completely (I hope so, at least). There is no need to perform an act or two to make good impressions. Being earnest and honest is more worthwhile.  There will always be people who do not like us. It is fine. I know, it is so much easier to say this than actually accomplish it. I may kick myself in the face (somehow) for saying this. Mostly, though, I am appreciative of the lesson.Strongly recommend watching the film. It is one of my favorites for sure.

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia
While it is endearing,  My Big Fat Greek Wedding relies on stereotypes to communicate the difference
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Ruby Sparks: On Fiction and Love

Since What If is one of my favorite films, I decided to pick up Zoe Kazan’s film Ruby Sparks. Having read the synopsis, I was interested in how the film would handle the way love is, the nature of identity, emotion, and personal space. It is a story of a writer faced with a block because of his heartbreak. Given an assignment to write about someone who loves his scared puppy, he writes about a girl named Ruby Sparks.

Now, what is really cool about this story is that she is not perfect at all. In fact, she admits that she is a mess. She is lovable, though. She is sweet, kind, understanding. Even when Calvin resents his family, she accepts them and loves them wholeheartedly. She gives them her attention, her love, her openness. In turn, they love her back. I adore her.

This story complicates the traditional view of identity. We often hope for control over others, want them to be happy, want them to rely on us, love us unconditionally and faithfully (often exclusively, too), which is not realistic. People have free will and they don’t always want to be with their loved ones all the time. This perception of love as a co-dependent thing is not healthy. Spending all time with a significant other is not good for either person in the relationship. The movie certainly raises this point and taps into insecurities people tend to have about their relationships. The moment Ruby makes friends, Calvin writes her as dependent on him as possible, and she is miserable. She is crying all the time and clings to him desperately. He is also unhappy seeing her this upset. So, he tweaks her further. So, she is happy all the time. Flinching, he writes her back and forth, toying with her and it breaks him (and her).

It is not until he sets her free, and writes about it, that he meets her again on equal terms. The field is even again. He does not have the upper hand, which is awesome and much healthier to see. I love, love, love this film. It can be hard to watch sometimes because seeing someone being controlled that much is rough. I can say that it is really well written, well shot, well acted, and well directed. It hits home right away. I highly recommend it!

When I first heard of Me Before You, I was drawn to the cast. Emilia
While it is endearing,  My Big Fat Greek Wedding relies on stereotypes to communicate the difference
When I approached Since You've Been Gone, I slacked and hesitated. Then, one night, I

Anl.: A Birder’s Guide to Everything

A Birder’s Guide to Everything is a small movie with many credits to its accomplishments of brilliance. Well acted, beautifully shot, and wondrously written, the film spans over 86 minutes full of awesomeness. I thoroughly enjoyed it, to put it bluntly, because I felt that the film was executed well, but also because it has universal themes transcending age, race, and gender.

 

Nature and Its Beauty
David is a nerd. There is no denying this fact. His friends are in a birder club, where they talk about nothing but birds. Tim tells a disgruntled member of the club, “This is not a dating service” insinuating the seriousness of the club’s tone. Losing said part of the group, the trio are stuck with Ellen as they try to photograph an extinct duck. 
Obviously, nature plays a huge role in the film. The friends can be seen identifying birds by their physical features or their sounds. And while there is plenty of beautiful scenery in the film, there is also an understanding of nature’s cruelty presented. As a vegan, I interpret the death of the duck as a symbol of humanity’s ignorance and disrespect to all beings, really. 
 
In a way, though, this demise leads David to understand that his quest is not realistic. You can’t live a life watching birds without dealing with humans and all their baggage. We see this through his grief of his mother’s death, his father’s marriage, and the death of the duck. 
Adulthood and Maturity 
 
He also has to deal with the growing changes he and his friends face: adulthood and maturity. Throughout the film, Tim mocks Peter for not being brave enough. Tim was super interesting to me, because he reminded me of myself a bit…okay, a lot. The foul mouthed, show off, who is lying about his awesomeness resonates with me. Ellen is a challenger to his beliefs and attitudes as a young man trying to find his place in school’s society and in the grander scheme of things. He gives her grief throughout the story until the annoying birders attack her which is when he defends her, “Her name is Ellen.” The tension between them could be because he sees her as a sexually mature person, and it makes him uncomfortable. In addition, he does sense that she is interested in his best friend (David) and that is unnerving. 
 
Aside from all of this, it is a funny, poignant movie. It has beautiful relationships and endearing characters. Definitely one of my new favorites, for sure. 
 
 
 
Set in 1960, the film opens with the death of Ellie's mother as she prepares
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