By Trevor Pacelli
Autistic movie reviewer Trevor Pacelli makes some interesting points about the son in the movie being on the autism spectrum, and offers some great lessons to think about. Read more . . .
By Trevor Pacelli
Aliens. Hollywood’s always been obsessed with them. As far back as Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon in 1902, the concept of life on other planets has been meticulously explored. Many film critics have pointed out numerous parallels between aliens and international relations, The Day the Earth Stood Still being a common example, but never pointed out a parallel that makes perfect sense: the similarities between aliens and autism.
Here are some examples:
War of the Worlds (1953)
Martians arrive with the intent of annihilating the human race. From the human’s perspective, they are here to cause chaos and mass hysteria. Think about how people looked at autism back in the 1950’s, as back then it was dismissed as the now unacceptable phrase, “mental retardation.” They too thought at the time that anyone who was mentally handicapped was a recipe for chaos in social order.
Star Wars (1977)
All the aliens speak different languages, yet can still understand each other’s words. The language barrier doesn’t help though in understanding what the other means (think of Han Solo’s exchange with Greedo). While the immediate interpretation would be other word languages, those on the spectrum possess an entirely different sense of body language and social cues that gets in the way of proper interaction from both ends of a conversation.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #16: They Don’t Read Other People Well.
Humans are curious about a creature from a world beyond their understanding. They go out to explore it, only to be killed one by one from the inside out by a hideous lifeform. In the same way, people at times feel somehow intrigued by autism, seeing how different it is, yet at the same time, they fear that getting too close to anyone on the spectrum will mentally destroy them from the inside out.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
He came here with a curiosity about the way people live. Yet his fear of blaring lights, loud sounds, and unexpected surprises overpowers curiosity. These are all traits to autism, especially when they’re in a place of frightening unfamiliarity.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #34: We are Socially Clumsy and Unaware.
Nobody knows what to make of these odd foreign invaders, so language interpretation becomes the means to communicate with them to see whether they’re dangerous or not. Many would also rely on interpretation of speech to understand somebody with autism, as it’s not always clear. You can read more in my autism lesson on the movie here.
So the next time you watch a movie with intelligent beings outside of Earth, such as Life, don’t just think of it as mindless entertainment. So much deeper meaning exists in sci-fi than what meets the eye.
By Trevor Pacelli
Moonlight, the 2017 Academy Award winner for best picture, shows us all the troubles that one boy goes through as he grows up feeling like he’s a homosexual. It is always a confusing place to be when you are young, when you feel uncontrollable romantic desires towards someone of the same sex, and yet are not mature enough to know what to make of it, especially when the other kids at school pick on you because they can sense that you are different.
So imagine how much harder it would be if somebody on the autism spectrum grew up thinking that they were gay or a lesbian?
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #31: Discrimination Can Surface in Various Forms.
Just like in Moonlight, a boy can become a fast subject of bullying because he’s different in two different ways: skin color and sexual orientation. But in the case of this movie, he’s in an all-Black school, but still has one of these differences from the crowd. Yet imagine if he was in another school of mostly White students, how much more the bullying would get to him? In that same way, anybody who is both autistic and gay would become a walking dartboard for bullies. Yet it’s different in the case of being autistic rather than being Black because those on the spectrum have a harder time putting their concerns into words.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic, Lesson #45: They Can’t Explain What’s Bothering Them.
Therefore, they simply let themselves get bullied for years by everyone at school, even the teachers in some situations, which always creates a dangerous effect on their mentality. They’ll start believing the lies everyone says about them, embrace these lies, and come to live a troubled existence gloating in the very thing they were bullied for.
I am not a homosexual myself, nor do I know of anybody who is both autistic and gay, but I have known people who were one or the other. So I understand the long-term trauma and effects that discrimination has on anybody who’s different. I’m not here right now to tell you whether homosexuality is a good or bad lifestyle, nor will I try to convince you whether it’s a method of choice or genetic makeup, but what I can tell you is that bullying anybody, whether autistic or gay, always leaves a permanent scar on the victim that dangerously skews the way they look at the world.
So then, what would you do as a parent if your child with autism comes out as being gay? I realize that the answer is different for every parent, as some support the lifestyle while others do not, just like how every child on the autism spectrum is different. But for every case, there is one easy saying that any parent can say to their LGBTQ child:
Your sexual preference does not define who you are.
I have known people who felt that their gayness made up the wholeness of their identity, and frankly, these declarations have never ended well from what I witnessed. It’s important for us all to know, parents, kids, bullies, teachers, that you are far more than a gay/straight label.
I know of a man who happens to be gay, and he is a phenomenal artist and singer, as well as being an all-around super friendly guy. I know of another man who happens to be gay, and he is a very passionate and compelling public speaker who can easily make friends with anyone. I also have a cousin who happens to be married to another man, and my family and I always enjoy the entertaining conversations we have with him. It’s not about their sexual preference that makes people good or bad, it’s how they treat others that defines who they are.
So it should be a requirement for all parents to make sure their kids remember that if they ever say, “mom, dad, I’m gay.” In the case of the child coming out also having autism, here are some helpful takeaways than can clear up the child’s confusion:
By Trevor Pacelli
It’s been a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme… Beauty and the Beast. It was one of the animated instant classics to trigger the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, defined an entire generation of Disney fans, set off some of the most iconic songs ever to grace the screen, was honored in several lists by the American Film Institute, was preserved in the National Film Registry the second year it was eligible (which is a huge deal), and was the first animated film in history to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
Here are my autism lessons from the film: “This is the first Disney film to feature an exclusively gay moment!” “If Emma Watson wants women to have equal choice, freedom, and liberation, why is she wearing barely any clothes in Vanity Fair Magazine?” We all know of the controversy that Disney triggered to get more people talking about this movie, which if you ask me, is unnecessary when you’re the most successful family entertainment industry in the world. So why do so many businesses and companies want to stir up attention based on sexuality?
Well, one thing’s for certain: In today’s age of mobile technology, information can circulate faster than you can take a breath, so talking about something that attracts a plethora of mixed heated opinions guarantees greater attention given to the source. However, just because a business can generate revenue that way doesn’t mean they should.
To prove my point, I’ll explain it from the perspective of autism.
I have seen plenty of news stories that circulated because somebody with a disability was discriminated against. Now, at this point, it’s no longer a heated debate from two sides, most everyone agrees that poor treatment towards somebody with autism or another disability is publicly unacceptable. Yet people still do it to generate greater attention.
You all remember when Donald Trump appeared to mock a man with a limb disability; I don’t know what his specific motives were in doing so, but the attention certainly helped him “trump” over the other Republican candidates, right? On a smaller scale, I recall a story when a boy with autism was beaten by neighbors in their house, and the video was posted online. Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact motives in posting the video online, but my guess would be because they wanted to show the world how stupid mentally disabled people are.
People with autism and other disabilities are used as substances of drawing attention all the time in the media, and it’s not always in forms of bullying that is commonly expected. At times, a publication could post an article about how they’ve hired somebody with a disability. Although their intentions are good, they ultimately (in several cases, not all) are using it to improve their own public branding. This is not okay.
Yes, we should always celebrate whenever somebody on the autism spectrum gets a high-paying job or is honored for their unique skills. But we should also be aware that these are people with thoughts and opinions as strong as anybody else’s. They do not want to be used as a marketing ploy or attention grabber. If a headline came up saying, “Person with autism hired by big business,” wouldn’t you think that it demeans the identity of the person a bit, diminishing them to a label?
While Beauty and the Beast may have received more public attention by its controversial marketing, at the end of the day, the way it’s marketed doesn’t matter: once people actually go see the movie, all that matters is whether or not they had a good time. In the same way, using autism as a means to draw attention to yourself is not going to always make your own productivity any better, all that matters is the services that people receive from what a business has to offer.
To read the full review of Beauty and the Beast, go to TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com.
By Trevor Pacelli
In the horror movie, Unfriended, from 2015, the execution and approach is typical at best, but it addresses one of the most important subjects of horror in our technological society today--suicide--which is currently the third leading cause of death for children aged 15-19. Cyberbullying continues to be a deathly serious issue that is attacking our adolescent generation, and Unfriended’s message is very clear: What’s put online stays online.
Our teens today need to understand the dangers of cyberbullying, especially when one considers the threat it has on kids with autism.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #65: Every School Has a Big Bully.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #29: Will Kids Make Fun of Him?
We already know that bullying is an undeniable threat to kids in schools all across the globe, and it would be common knowledge to comprehend the higher risk it has on any children with developmental disorders.
I can tell you this: I have been told that my autism was obvious, I have been told that I have no friends, I have been told that no one likes me, and I have been sweet-talked so that I could be made the butt of everyone’s jokes. Virtually all the bullying that has been done to me has been done in person.
While I personally have no recollection of someone harassing me over Facebook or other social media, it does happen all over, especially with autistic students, and it is a lot more common than you may realize.
The iSafe Foundation has estimated that more than 33% of teens have experienced cyberthreats, 25% of teens have experienced these threats repeatedly, and cyberbullying is far more common with girls than with boys. Even worse, only one out of 10 victims report these threats to their parents. Of all the teens that become easy targets for online threats and cruel comments, imagine how many of those victims are on the autism spectrum?
Autism is an instant shut-off from the expected personality traits of the average teenager. In high schools, especially for today’s youth, everyone is expected to have perfect hair, skin, clothing, be the best at whichever sport they play, be the life at every party they attend, hold a leadership position for the school council, get the most spirited during each of the spirit weeks, and most importantly, be the most up to date about what goes on with the rest of the students at school, by means of social media. If anyone is not in that list of criteria, they become easy cyberbullying targets.
Based on what I remembered in my high school years, there was always an isolated group of students with mental disorders who had special teachers with them and rarely interacted with the other students. These were students who simply developed more slowly and needed more aid in learning in a separate setting from the typical classroom. What made me stand out from the rest of them was that I still had the capability of learning in a traditional classroom setting, and I also had an active Facebook profile that I could comprehend the usage of.
It meant that I was at a level high enough for students to pick on me and not look like a jerk to their clique.
This explains why those with autism or Asperger’s are at such a high risk of bullying in all forms. As one of the Six-Word Lessons authors summarizes:
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #52: Aspies Don’t Possess Inherent Social Skills.
Kids will do anything to make themselves feel better than something they don’t understand, even if it means drawing another girl to suicide by sending her Facebook messages saying she’s fat, ugly, and useless. They even could go as far as telling a boy with autism that he will never have friends or get married.
If you are a parent, you may hate hearing that this could be happening to your autistic teenage child, but it’s most likely that this is the case. Therefore, due to the seriousness of this issue, here are not three but four applications for you:
For more information and resources on bullying prevention, check out this page on MomLovesBest.
Thanks so much for your time in reading! My book Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic is available on Amazon, Kindle, and iBooks. Be sure to subscribe to my site for more updates on reviews like this.
--By Trevor Pacelli, an autistic author who loves to talk about movies. Click here for the full movie review of Unfriended and more reviews with autism lessons.
By Patty Pacelli
How to Dance in Ohio follows a group of young people on the autism spectrum who experience nervousness and excitement in planning a spring formal dance. In the new HBO documentary, director Alexandra Shiva said she wanted to show similarities rather than differences of the teens and young adults highlighted in her film, and hoped the audience would feel a connection to the characters, whether on the autism spectrum or not. I believe they accomplished this goal in a unique and heartfelt way that portrays the characters with dignity and honesty.
As the parent of a 22-year-old with high-functioning autism, I found it fascinating to see an honest, revealing look into the group therapy sessions and family life of a group of teens and young adults on the spectrum. The story centered around 12 weeks planning for a dance initiated by their therapist, Dr. Emilio Amigo, of Emilio Family Counseling in Columbus, Ohio.
The film captured me right from the beginning, and I was immediately impressed with the counseling skills of Dr. Amigo and his staff, and the way he interacted with the autistic students. The students were so different, but got along well with each other and their therapy workers. I would have been thrilled to have that caliber of therapy for my son when he was a younger teenager. I enjoyed all the characters, but the film helped us to get to know three of the girls particularly well.
Marideth, 16 who had difficulty interacting, even with her own family, preferred to be on her computer and was fascinated with research and facts from the Guinness Book of World Records and other similar books. She had a patient, supportive and dedicated mom, dad and sister. It was so touching to see the whole family encourage her to sit and eat with them, make conversation with her, and most heartwarming of all--her sister Margaret brushing and styling Marideth's hair for her.
Jessica, 22, had an adorable personality and I loved how conscientious and hard she worked to live as an adult. She had a job at a bakery that specifically employed workers with autism (thank-you to this bakery!) and longed to be independent and eventually live on her own. She also had incredibly supportive and knowledgeable parents who treated her with dignity and respect while teaching her the necessary skills for her independence. One of my favorite lines from the movie was when Jess was at work in the bakery and her manager needed to have a talk with her about how she sometimes came across as being arrogant. She was very upset and hurt that she would be seen that way, because she didn't mean it at all. Her manager told her that she had a great work ethic, but that she needed to learn better work etiquette. This is so true for adults in the workplace with autism. They almost always have better-than-average work ethics, and do their jobs well, with reliability and integrity. However, they are challenged with the etiquette and social interaction that is also a part of the workplace. I loved this message and how it was portrayed.
Caroline, 19, the third main character, inspired me with her determination and goals. She was attending community college with a goal of going to Japan to work, and was studying the Japanese language. Watching her sitting in a corner of a campus building with her Japanese book perched on a pile of her belongings, diligently reciting Japanese words, made me well up with pride for her, seeing how challenged she was by this. She had a stammering issue, even when speaking in English, so it was amazing to see her practicing Japanese! Again, her parents were crucial to her success, and also shed light on concerns, such as when her mom patiently discussed with Caroline what to do if she didn't feel safe riding the bus, and described how Caroline had waited at a college class for the entire hour not knowing what to do because the classroom location had been moved.
My favorite scene of all was when Caroline and Jessica went to David's Bridal with their moms to shop for gowns for the formal. These two girls were friends, and they and their moms worked together to find the perfect dresses, just like any other friends with their moms. Jess was so cute when she said that the dress didn't look good at all, "on the hanger, but it looks beautiful on me!" Caroline was concerned about her strapless dress coming down, but was eventually convinced by the shop assistant that it was secure. It was so obvious that both girls felt beautiful throughout the process, a universal feeling that all young women can and should experience.
There were other aspects of planning the formal, including asking others to be their "date," practicing how to dance, whether to dance, and making conversation. The idea of asking for dates was confusing or undesirable to some, but a few students did pair up for the dance, including Caroline and Jay.
The girls finally had their hair and makeup done, put on their dresses, and were dropped off at the formal. They enjoyed dancing and singing to the music as much as any other teenagers and young adults would, and Caroline and Jay even held hands and kissed. The movie ended at the formal with the song by Katy Perry, "Firework," which perfectly fit the message of the movie. It's true that people with autism should never feel like a "waste of space." The words are so true for my son Trevor, and for all people on the autism spectrum. We have learned never to underestimate them, because you never know "what the future holds." These young people will definitely "ignite the light."
By Trevor Pacelli
The summer of 2014 has arrived, and the blockbuster season kicks off with Gareth Edwards’ newest adaptation of the world’s most famous behemoth, Godzilla. Every single reboot of this giant lizard has gradually made the simple story more extreme as technology has increased. This time, two other flat-headed creatures from a faraway island trigger most of the damage seen in the film, and set up the typical monsters-fighting-monsters scenario used in other reboots such as King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla, and many others. While watching this in the theater, I did feel the excitement and thrill intended by the director, and yet I was amazed at how indifferent it is overall from any other money-nabbing movie currently existing.
First off, the acting in this movie is just awful. I realize that no one should expect mind-blowing performances in a big-budget disaster movie like this one, but I also expect the acting to come off at least a bit believable. I mean this when I say it, but the best actor in the movie as well as the only one I felt compassion for was Godzilla. All of the human characters in this movie, from the leading male to the lady in the background, are completely wooden in delivering expression. As for the highly uninspired story, the whole concept centers around a government agency that detects mysterious tremors underneath Japan, Hawaii, and San Francisco, as well as one young father who has once experienced this exact same catastrophe as a child who is asked to participate. The story is not clever or different in any way, and the characters are so flat and cliché that I did not wish to root for anybody.
The technical aspects are not anything to get excited over either. The CGI figures of the giant beasts look intense, but fake; I always knew I was watching a bunch of computerized images, for their body movements are very unnatural looking. The cinematography is handheld throughout most of the picture, and used during the most inappropriate moments such as a conversation between two characters. The editing is jarred, commonly cutting off a character’s reaction too soon. The music, although appropriate, is not memorable in any way, and the set designs look too generic to be convincing.
But what this film lacks technically it makes up for with its incredible sound mixing and editing. Each scene of the movie really works to audibly transport the audience into the setting of the movie. I could really hear all of the details within each scene come through audibly--from the electric humming of the fluorescent lights in the laboratories to the cars whizzing by in the busy chaos of destruction. I believe some of the highlights of the movie are the deafening roars of Godzilla and the two flat-headed creatures. Every time the reptile makes its roar of triumph or pain, it shakes the entire theater and gives the closest concept of what a 30-foot-tall lizard would sound like.
Yet the greatest asset of Godzilla I feel is its ability to maintain thrill and suspense from when the opening credits roll to when the behemoth makes his final descent. Where Gareth Edwards lacks heart and character he makes up for in maintaining the viewer’s interest, and he accomplishes this through gradually revealing visuals of the monsters we hear about, as well as witnessing the damage done through the tremors. Our first hint of Godzilla is in the film’s opening scene, where a team of seismologists see a giant crevice in the ground of an island, and investigation reveals the colossal bones left behind. Then when we finally do meet Godzilla, he is introduced as rescuers are launching red flares in the air, and the lights drop up in front of the giant scaly form, introducing his great size and intimidation. So even while the story and characters are shallow, the viewer will become immersed while questioning what will happen next.
The content of this movie makes Godzilla most suitable for older kids, presumably ages 10 and up. The monsters are very frightening to look at, and the grand scale of destruction would overwhelm young viewers. However, I also do not believe this is suitable for anyone over the age of 15, excluding diehard Godzilla fans who want a slight twist added to the title character. The quality of the acting and story are just simply too weak for anyone with a high school education to find any entertainment value. After all, when compared to other blockbuster hits such as The Matrix, The Dark Knight, or Inception, which all have highly thoughtful writing that does not insult the viewer’s intelligence, then it reveals how dumbed down and ridiculous Godzilla really is.
Godzilla overall does have all of the expected blockbuster elements as seen from the trailers, but should you really bother with the ticket prices? My answer would be no. Although Godzilla does offer great strides in using a theater’s surround sound and keeping the viewer fully ingested from start to finish, and I genuinely can say that Godzilla entertained throughout the entire two-hour running time. But there are far better disaster movies out there, ones with good-quality acting, pacing, and visuals to remind how forgetful this umpteenth adaptation is.
By Trevor Pacelli
One of the intended money-making hits of 2014 is the sequel to Marc Webb’s interpretation of Stan Lee’s popular webslinger, The Amazing Spiderman 2. While watching this superhero action flick, I was no doubt entertained most of the running time, and did see some depth and insight placed into the characters, unlike most teen-targeted movies nowadays. However, the numerous flaws that make up this movie are so dominant, that they almost count all of the positive qualities as insignificant.
Alex Kurtzman’s screenplay for The Amazing Spiderman 2 follows right up from where the last film took off, structuring primarily around the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Since the last movie focused on Peter’s struggles to maintain a relationship with Gwen as Spiderman, the sequel centers around each of them leaving high school and facing the fear of separating for college, a fairly interesting scenario, even if overdone and unrelated to Peter Parker’s identity as Spiderman. But Kurtzman’s biggest flaw in the screenplay is the failure to present anything new and defining that opposes what other Hollywood films commonly do.
Director Marc Webb has proven by now that he defines acting as reciting lines from memory while placing a change of voice tone. Seriously, the performances were atrocious. The two leads Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) have zero chemistry as actors, and all of the so-called “romantic” moments between the two just left me groaning repeatedly after hearing their lines delivered without any inner monologue in mind. None of the other performers helped out much either- particularly Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, who literally overacts every single line that he delivers. The quality of the acting is a darn shame, as there were actually a lot of moments that called for a great deal of character depth and growth. Yet there was one actress who pulled off an exceptionally convincing performance: Sally Field, who played Peter Parker’s Aunt May. She put a real sense of firmness and morality into her role that clearly was carefully planned and played honestly. Too bad Field only takes up about 15 percent of the film’s running time, though.
While The Amazing Spiderman 2 fails uproariously on the philosophical side, it achieves very, very well on the technical side, as is expected of a tent-pole blockbuster. The cinematography, done by Daniel Mindel, actually created some very beautiful and impressive lighting setups that were appropriate and fit the tone of each scene. Trust me, if Mr. Mindel was working under a more credible director, then he would grasp an Oscar nod in no time. The editing, done by Pietro Scalia, also worked excellently in pacing the story so it’s clear and linear. The makeup effects were good, if not super impressive, and the computer effects were not half bad, even if they fail to stick out from the millions of other movies of a similar genre. But would this succeed to impress those in the technical field? My answer to that is a definite yes. The Amazing Spiderman 2 is both a visually and audibly impressive experience.
So who would The Amazing Spiderman 2 be most suitable for? This undoubtedly is intended specifically to entertain fans of the original Spiderman comics. Marc Webb has made sure to incorporate all of the bright colors, big-budget spectacles, fast-paced action sequences, tensional moments, and moral values that Marvel comics have always pulled off in the 2-D format. A lot of the time, I really did feel like I was watching a live-action comic book, and the overall plot stays true to its source material. So if you are a big fan of Spiderman or just Marvel in general, then this will be right up your alley. But if you’re not a comic book reader, then a small precaution should be made. As big and impressive as the film looks, it overall is a true cookie-cutter blockbuster that may not impress you.
Would I recommend The Amazing Spiderman 2 to other audiences? It mostly depends on who you are. If you want a completely new and unique experience, then this may be a letdown. If you are a hardcore fan of the Marvel comics and wish to see a faithful adaptation of the wall-crawling hero on the big screen, then you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something more lose in its message and does not force you to think too much, then you’ve come to what you have been searching for. And if you want something that achieves great strides in storytelling quality and worthy of an Oscar, then you will not miss anything if you choose not to see Spiderman swinging over New York yet again.
By Trevor Pacelli
If there was ever a movie that contained a highly innovative style of animation that has rarely been done before, in which it takes things that are already familiar and presents them in a totally new way, while at the same time telling an extraordinarily well written story, then that film would be Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s The Lego Movie.
The overall plot of the film is about a generic Lego man, Emmett (Chris Pratt), who lives in a Lego world as a construction worker. He always follows the instructions of how to live his life and although happy, he is also ignored and overlooked by others. But then he happens upon a special device that holds the secrets of the Lego world, and finds that he is in fact part of a prophecy destined to stop the world’s leader (Will Ferrell) from freezing everyone with glue. Along with him, he’s got the aid of secret agent Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and Batman (Will Arnett) to fulfill the prophecy.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was actually not looking forward to it. My immediate thought was that it was going to be a kid-targeted 90-minute commercial loaded with lame jokes and potty humor. But fortunately, it did not contain any of that.
Contrary to all the branded characters making cameos (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Abe Lincoln, and many others) this film did not feel like a toy ad at all. The supporting characters were used wisely without calling too much attention to themselves. While it would be very tempting for attention to be called to the brand itself and subliminally persuade kids to buy the Lego products, it certainly was not exploited here.
The animation in this film is breathtaking to look at. It was accomplished through a mixture of stop-motion animation and computer animation, and the two just flew together flawlessly. The animators showed the mind-blowing capacity to create heavily detailed Lego landscapes including robust cities, rough oceans, never-ending desert plains, and a tower that seems to never end in the sky. Everything- even the puffs of smoke coming out of the cars are made of Lego bricks. I said before that this animation style is highly innovative, but it is also a flawless piece of work worthy of the film historian’s textbook. If this movie does not revolutionize the film industry, I don’t know what will.
Most animated films that I’ve seen have had poorly executed product-driven stories with annoying characters and unfunny one-liners. But The Lego Movie has in fact a surprisingly smart screenplay with very memorable characters. Though this movie typically has a very fast pace, there are slower, more intimate moments where the character’s emotions and interactions are delved into. In addition, this movie actually has a message. Both kids and parents alike can pick up the significant message that everyone, no matter how average or boring they feel, are unique in their own special way. Despite what everyone may tell you, nobody is a nobody.
In addition to having a stupendously well written story, The Lego Movie is also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in theaters in a long time. Many gags were used that played around with the fact that everyone is a Lego character. For example, when Emmett is going through is morning routine, and he does jumping jacks to start his day. Since he has fixed joints that only move forward and backward, and not side-to-side, he does jumping jacks in a very “Lego-like” fashion. Other funny moments include characters taking human objects, mispronouncing their names, and a cameo by Han Solo and Lando Calrissian on the Millennium Falcon. Overall, the jokes follow a much more witty style of humor that takes full advantage of the fantasy setting.
However, there are some downsides to this film that the viewer should be aware of. One drawback is the excessive use of violence, including lasers going off, things blowing up, lots of really fast vehicle chases, and the death of a major character. But there is absolutely no blood or gore and the many action sequences have an incredibly cartoony feel to them (it is a Lego world after all, don’t expect it to look realistic). The content appeals mainly to younger boys, who upon seeing these excessive action sequences will want their parents to buy them more toy racecars and action heroes. It’s still a good idea to take caution with younger audiences, as the incredibly fast pace and excessive violence may be too much for them.
In conclusion, The Lego Movie is a monumental film in the era of digital effects and the recent surplus of toy merchandising for young boys. The special effects used to create the highly imaginative Lego world is a real treat for the eyes that has been missing for quite some time. This is not just another animated film, it sets a whole new standard for humor, writing, and creative storytelling that other animation companies should start to consider. I absolutely recommend this movie to anyone aged seven and up. Grown-ups, don’t feel awkward seeing it if you don’t have any kids, because The Lego Movie has the right dose of nostalgia and maturity that will keep adults as equally entertained as any child.
By Trevor Pacelli
Last night, I viewed the latest Oscar-nominated feature film, 12 Years a Slave, which discussed the issue of slavery in America's early 19th century. This film is a true story about Solomon Northup, an African-American free man abducted into slavery, away from his wife and kids. He faces all the difficulties and pains of slavery against very mean-spirited Caucasians, but above all, he longs to return home to his family. I say that this movie is a picture worth a thousand words because so many moments of this film paint an accurate picture that raises so much awareness about the issue of racism in America.
The directing, acting, and writing of this movie are absolutely top-notch. Solomon Northup is portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and his performance is nothing short of astonishing. Ejiofor has proven the uncanny ability to communicate to the audience without even saying a word; it only takes a brief quiver in the lips or slightly raised eyebrows to know exactly what Solomon is thinking, which pours a significant amount of emotion and power into the man's story. The rest of the actors are also nothing short of brilliant, and the strongest performance in my opinion comes from Lupita Nyong'o, who plays one of the African-American girls bound into slavery. As for director Steve McQueen, he maintains his focus on a theme that is worth remembering: the threats of racism are real, as it has been in all of history.
The rest of the aspects of the movie are also very passable in communicating the story. The editing and cinematography work harmoniously to deliver the proper emotions, and every single frame used in the movie is used thoughtfully in communicating its own individual meaning. However, there were some moments when the camera was out of focus, and it created a nuisance in viewing the image. But other than that, the production design, music, and sound all do exactly what is appropriate in the telling of the story without pulling attention away from the story and characters.
There are a handful of moments throughout the movie that stir up the audience's emotions and present a real reason to care about the events in the story. One example in the movie is an instance when Solomon has offended one of his supervisors, and is sentenced to be hanged. They are told not to hang him, but though his neck is strangled by the rope on a tree, the only thing keeping him alive is his feet, which are barely touching the ground to support him. The camera lingers on him for a while, an instance where there is no music or dialogue, just his choked gasps to struggle in his predicament. He remains on the rope until dusk, when he's eventually freed. Moments such as this really force a multitude of emotions onto the viewer, and the very image of seeing him on the rope speaks to more than just him hanging on for dear life; it exclaims his struggle for his freedom, his personal rights, and the family he may never see again.
As far as content goes, this movie is absolutely not for kids. There are exposures to both male and female nudity, but never done erotically and only used to represent the shame of the African-Americans brought into slavery. There's also at least fifty uses of the n-word, but are only used to indicate the cruelty the Caucasians had towards the African-Americans. There are malevolently violent moments throughout, and none of it is sugar-coated in any way. Two people get whipped, the gruesome slash marks are shown on their backs, and when one of them is receiving medicine for her wounds, she undergoes a lot of woeful agony. Lots of emotionally disturbing instances are featured, including one when an African-American mother is forced away from her two children, and one where a slave gets a vase thrown into her face. Overall, this movie is incredibly difficult to watch and even harder to digest, and suggested for adults and mature teens only. But would I recommend this film? Absolutely. It's an important film for everyone to see at least once, because they will then understand how our country's history has affected the present age.
2013 has been a year of African-American cinema, with feature films such as 42 and The Butler, which, like 12 Years a Slave, also tackle the issue of black significance in America. Why is this so much more common in Hollywood these days? I'd say it's because we now have an African-American president, and Americans in general have become more accepting of our cultural diversity. As a result, they would like to see films about how America has changed, in light of real stories about important African-Americans in history. But yet, not everybody accepts this message. I read a news report the other day about a fraternity at my college that held a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day party, where the whole theme of the party was black stereotypes: they wore basketball jerseys, flashed gang signs in pictures, and drank out of hollowed-out watermelon cups. Discouraging events like this prove that racism is still an issue in America today, even if we're comparatively more accepting than we were eighty years ago, and the purpose of McQueen's film illustrates how we have to watch our behavior or history will eventually repeat itself.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.