Slowly but surely, we are making our way through all of Regina Spektor’s fantastic studio albums (I believe there’s only two to go after this!) Today, of course, we are tearing apart her most recent album, the 2017 goodie Remember Us to Life. Regina, if you’re reading this, we need a new album pronto!

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Per usual, I’m going to go through the album song-by-song and give you all of my unfiltered thoughts on the melody, lyrics, and themes of the pieces. I genuinely love every song Regina has ever put out into the universe, and I’m fascinated by her unique writing style. 

One of my favorite things about Remember Us to Life is the political undertones Regina incorporated into most of the songs. Although she’s done several political pieces in the past, this album in particular really struck a powerful note in me between her analogies to power and the broken corporate beast that is America. She also discusses themes of motherhood, aging, and the general concept of time passing, which I will get into more specifically later in the analysis. 


Track 1: “Bleeding Heart”

“Bleeding Heart” is the leading single of Remember Us to Life, and it’s also one of the only songs which is also accompanied by a music video on the album. It’s a bit more fast-paced than some of her usual pieces, and subsequently, I often find the melody is stuck in my head. My interpretation of the lyrics is that Regina is reflecting on her childhood and adolescence, and the feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem that come with that period. She discusses feeling like an outcast, her outfits being a “crime,” and begins every chorus with “Nevermind your bleeding heart,” perhaps as a way of self-soothing. My favorite part of the song is the bridge, in which Regina recites the following:

How long must I wait till you learn that it’s not too late?

How long must I cry till you know that you really tried?

How long must I try till you learn that dreaming’s hard?

How long must I dream till you heal your bleeding heart?

Never mind your bleeding heart

To me, this is about Regina talking to her ‘younger self,’ and wishing she had the opportunity to go back and share some of her future wisdom. The themes do resonate with me enormously, especially since my own emergence into adolescence was vulnerable and painful. Additionally, the music video is filled with photographs and video clips of Regina when she was a young girl, and ends with an old clip of Regina playing her piano at a talent show/recital. It’s a bittersweet song, and a beautiful introduction into the rest of the album. 


Track 2: “Older and Taller” 

“Older and Taller” is another faster-paced, cheerful melody, but this song unfortunately does not have a music video like “Bleeding Heart.” The first couple times I listened to the album, I specifically remember this track being my absolute favorite. There’s something about the strings and the guitar that sounds reminiscent of her older work, and in that sense, the song struck me as so sweet and nostalgic. Similarly to “Bleeding Heart,” I believe that this song is an ode to youth and the yearning one feels for it as they grow up. In particular, there is one satirical part of the song that really speaks to me: 

‘Enjoy your youth’ sounds like a threat

But I will anyway

In a deeper sense, I believe that the song is also exploring the phenomenon that we think aging will be so glamorous and satisfying, but the reality is, it rarely pans out the way we imagine it will. It’s a beautiful song about finding peace in growing old, and even though I myself am small and youthful, the song means quite a lot to me. 

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Track 3: “Grand Hotel” 

“Grand Hotel” is one of those classic storytelling pieces by Regina Spektor, and upon each listen, you discover a deeper meaning or a metaphor you hadn’t realized before. As with several of the other pieces, it has tones of nostalgia and reflects on older times using several dark, beautiful metaphors. One of my favorite things about Regina’s lyrics is how they read like poetry, and “Grand Hotel” is a beautiful example of this:

Under the floorboards there’s a deep well

That leads to a spring that sprung up in hell

That’s where old devils danced and kissed

And made their blood pacts in the ancient myths

And running through forest they screamed in chorus

While piercing fair maidens’ chests with their horns

And then they lay in the grass ’til the dawn came

Sleeping away ’til the dawn came

Lay in the grass where now stands the Grand Hotel

I chose this stanza to transfix on because I love the juxtaposition of the polished hotel description and the words she uses to describe the people of the past- “old devils.” It’s a mischievous exploration of the evil that may lay below the floorboards of the Grand Hotel, haunting the modern world with memories.


Track 4: “Small Bill$” 

“Small Bill$” is another track accompanied by a music video, and to date, it’s probably one of my all-time favorite Regina Spektor videos (behind “Ne Me Quitte Pas” and “Fidelity”.) It’s a bit more fast-paced and upbeat than some of the other tracks on the album, and the piano is not as prevalent as it is in her other songs. I consider Remember Us To Life to be a relatively politically charged album, and this song in particular really criticizes advertising and capitalism. She warns that our current economic climate could lead to fates such as poverty, hunger, and class consciousness, such as with the Russian Revolution. It’s always a learning lesson for us listeners when Regina spits out her Soviet-remnisent tracks, and the visuals of the music video really add to the entire aesthetic.

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Track 5: “Black and White”

“Black and White” is a beautiful, ballad-y track which once again uses juxtaposition to tell a story within the lyrics. Usually, when we hear someone say that something is “black and white,” it translates into something being crystal clear and easy to understand. However, Regina’s lyrics seem to suggest that things are left unfinished or complicated. The song discusses themes such as love and heartbreak, and how, just like a black and white photograph, love can feel antique and ‘out of time.’ Alternatively, her lyrics can be interpreted as a reflection on how little photographs are able to actually capture the full spectrum of emotion that is attached to memory. It’s slow and beautiful, and certainly sad, but I truly think it’s one of the most underrated songs on the album. 


Track 6: “The Light”

This particular track holds a very special place in my heart, as it is nothing short as a tender, loving ode to her husband and her newborn baby. Throughout the song, which primarily relies on the piano, Regina sings about her memories of the past and the curiosities she has for the future, and particularly, how her past decisions have shaped her into the woman she is today. The song does feel a bit melancholy at times, particularly when she’s singing about the unfamiliar grounds of motherhood and the depression which comes with it, but there are also uplifting lines. In particular, this one is my favorite:

So many stories, I want to tell you

I wish that I could show you the many things I’ve seen

You and your daddy, you both look like poets

Your eyes are open wide while you are in a dream

For me, this stanza represents how motherhood has affected her view of herself, and even her view of her own music. It’s truly a gift to watch your little baby grow and develop into his or her own independent person, and begin to see the world through their own little eyes. And yes, Regina’s husband, Jack Dishel of Only Son, really does have that poet look to him.


Track 7: “The Trapper and The Furrier”

Now that we’ve had that brief sentimental interlude, it’s time to jump back into something politically motivated. After listening to the song a few times, I came to the conclusion that it is about the unfair social structures and injustices throughout the world, but particularly in the United States. Throughout the song, she tells three stories: the tale of the trapper and the furrier, the owner and the manager, and lastly, the lawyer and the pharmacist. Unlike the softer songs on the album, this track is accompanied by howling strings and intense vocals, which really add to the menacing overtones of the lyrics:

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

And all the sick were around them with fevers unbreaking

Crying and bleeding and coughing and shaking

And arms outstretched, prescription-collecting

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise

Pressed suits in a courtroom, aroma of chloroform

And they smiled at the judge, disposition so sunny

Cause they didn’t have the cure but sure needed the money

I don’t think it’s a secret at all that this song is about the greediness of corporations and the lack of care which goes into patients who actually need support. I would have loved to have seen a music video for this track; I think intense visuals would have really complemented the hard-hitting nature of the song, similarly to how “Small Bill$” tells such a vibrant story of capitalism. 


Track 8: “Tornadoland”

I love so many of Regina’s instrumentals, but the instrumental for “Tornadoland” might be my favorite off the entire album. Actually, that’s a lie. “Obsolete” is my favorite instrumental, but “Tornadoland” is a close second. Unlike many of Regina’s metaphorical, abstract songs, I think Tornadoland is pretty straightforward and literal. To me, it sounds like she is singing from the perspective of being inside of a tornado, or even being a tornado, and the song comes and goes without even so much as an intro. She sings about wanting to be heard and wanting to be “louder than the storm,” and the tornado is a reminder that we, as individuals, are insignificant. My favorite thing about the song, however, is the melodic interlude of swirling sounds and flutes, as if a tornado is actually spiralling through the middle of the piece.


Track 9: “Obsolete” 

This is my absolute favorite song on the album, and maybe my favorite Spektor song of all time. If it’s not my #1 favorite, it’s at least in the top three. The song is quite long and slow in tempo, and she drags out the words in a way that sounds both hopeful and dismal. I believe the song, similarly to Tornadoland, is about feeling insignificant and perhaps even left behind by life as time passes you by. I think the other reason I love this song so much is because it analyzes the feeling of not being understood, which is a sensation I have grown up with and hold close to me:

Minds grow dark, so suddenly

I was lost on your street

Hey I’m talking to myself

I can hear you listening in

To my thoughts, to my dreams

What I want, can’t compete

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The most beautiful portion of the song comes towards the end, when her voice unexpectedly rises like a wave and the ethereal backing vocals increase as well, adding to the overall feeling of desperation and pain. It gives me goosebumps every time, and I could probably listen to this song on repeat forever. As quoted by Regina, there can sometimes be beauty found within sadness:

“Sometimes when I feel happy, for whatever reason, it just feels very good to listen to sad songs. I feel very comforted by beauty, especially when it overwhelms you with all its colours and sounds.”

Regina Spektor tickles the ivories and tugs at the heartstrings ...


Track 10: “Sellers of Flowers” 

Every single Regina song contains beautiful imagery, but this piece in particular reads like sweet poetry for the ears and the mind. In short, however, I think this song is just about death. Winter represents the oncoming and inevitable ending of everything, here to claim the roses that die before the morning. The changing phases of the sun represent how even the happiest, brightest lives will come to the same tragic demise:

Cause winter is coming

Soon after summer

It runs faster, faster

Chasing off Autumn

We go from a warm sun to only a white sun

We go from a large sun to only a small one

It’s really a substantial, meaning-packed song, so I recommend giving it a few listens to really get a handle on the full scope of the song. That is, if you’re into exploring the beautiful but twisted mystery that is life and death. 


Track 11: “The Visit” 

The last official track on Remember Us To Life is “The Visit,” as the next three songs are actually bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the album. “The Visit” is an absolutely lovely and sweetly penned reflection on the dynamic of friendship, and how the passing of time can often weaken our relationships with others. The lyrics are upbeat but melancholy, and discuss Regina’s happiness upon reuniting with someone from her past. It reminds me a bit of one of the bonus tracks, “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left,” and in fact, I actually mix them up sometimes. I appreciate the hopeful overtone of the song, and as usual, I enjoy following along with the story when I listen to this piece. 


Bonus Track: “New Year” 

For late 2016, I think this track was a pretty timely addition. Not only because the subject is reflecting on her life experiences and the years ahead, but because it comes at a time of turbulence and unrest in the United States after the presidential election of Donald Trump. Even though 2016 was a pretty terrible year for most of us, the song is a reminder to focus on the good this year brought, and that we should (and must) be hopeful for what the next years will bring us:

She sets her alarm five minutes to midnight

And wakes just in time to say her goodbyes

Thanking the old year for all it has brought her

No mention of the things it took away

It’s really a beautiful song and an ode to hope, and even though I’m sure Regina is playing a character in the piece, as usual, it does feel like she herself is wishing the audience a very happy new year. So thank you, Regina! 


Bonus Track: “The One Who Stayed and the One Who Left” 

As I said earlier, I sometimes get this track mixed up with “The Visit,” or, at the very least, I think of it as a continuation or alternative perspective. This song discusses the story of two old friends who meet again after being detached for a long while, and how, even though they did end up going in separate directions, they are satisfied with their decisions to do so. I think detaching and moving in new directions is sometimes coupled with a negative connotation, so I actually appreciate that this song offers a more positive, healthy perspective on the notion of moving on in life, even if it means leaving people behind along the way.


Bonus Track: “End of Thought” 

Last but certainly not least, the fourteen track on Remember Us To Life is a chillingly deep, yet comforting piece about the vastness of our existence and how our problems are essentially meaningless. Upon first listen, the melody is simplistic and maybe not even memorable to most listeners, but once you really notice the words, the song becomes quite powerful. Here’s a particularly beautiful stanza:

You cannot make a mistake

The universe is too big

This song has been particularly comforting to me lately, as I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the vastness and mystery of the universe, and how terrifying that is. However, it’s also such a beautiful thing, knowing that our actions are essentially meaningless in the long run, and we can’t really hurt people as badly as we think we do. If that makes sense.


Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed reading my analysis. I know it was an absolute monster of a post, but I’m really trying to pour all of my true thoughts and feelings into these album reviews. Remember Us To Life is utterly gorgeous and powerful, and the work Regina put into this album truly shines through to me as a listener. Let me know what you guys thought of the album in the comments!

If you’ve stuck around for a while, you know that I love writing super thiccc, in-depth reviews about films I’ve grown up with. I’ve covered everything from Coraline to The Truman Show, and now, I’m super excited to talk about one of my favorite childhood movies: Ella Enchanted.

So, here’s the thing. Netflix RUDELY removed Ella Enchanted from the site without telling me, so now I can either rent it for $3.99, or try to hunt down my DVD copy at my dad’s house. Either way, you’re welcome in advance, and Netflix, please bring this movie back!

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Before I even get into the plot of the movie, it’s important that you know how fantastic the cast/acting is. Anne Hathaway (once again) plays a perfect to-be princess, and Cary Elwes, for once, plays the villain in a fairytale. Who saw that coming?

Obviously, Ella Enchanted is a children’s fantasy movie, and the directors probably didn’t intend this film to be a satirical metaphor for systematic racism. I have always just been drawn to Ella as a character- a strong, educated female, who certainly doesn’t need no man, but can have one if she wants. And seriously, who wouldn’t want early 2000s Hugh Dancy? As a lesbian, even I can indeed agree that I want him.

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I’m going to try to cover the plot as quickly as possible, which, by the way, is slightly different from the book. I’m pretty sure Ella is fourteen or fifteen in the book anyway, so…there’s that.

Anne Hathaway stars as Ella of Frell, which is a quaint little village in some sort of magical kingdom. There are humans, such as Ella and her family, but this universe also includes fairies, elves, giants, and ogres- many of whom are being enslaved and (racially?) oppressed.

We’ll get there.

Given this is a magical universe, it’s only natural that fairies can cast spells on humans. And for whatever reason, Ella is given a “gift” when she is born,  from a fairy named Lucinda: the “gift” of obedience. No matter what the task is, Ella has to do whatever she is told, even if it means committing robbery. Or, say, murder.

Heh.

Oh, by the way, this movie is a musical!

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It’s not a gift to Ella, obviously. It’s a curse. And this movie covers Ella’s imperious journey to locate Lucinda and beg her to take back the curse, but of course, things don’t go quite to plan. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we?

The annoying thing is, Ella can’t tell anybody she has the curse. Ella promised her mother on her deathbed that she would never tell anybody about it, in fear that someone would use it against Ella. Which is valid and all, but how did she expect Ella to get through her entire life without telling anybody? That doesn’t seem too fair, either.

While on her journeys, Ella has a couple encounters with the 2000s-hot Prince Charmont, who is soon to become king after his coronation. The two quickly become friends, and eventually lovebirds after about… 24 hours. I mean, that is the recipe for a classic fairytale love story. Combine a prematurely dead mother, a romance that forms in less than a day, evil stepsisters, and boom, you have the perfect family film!

Even though Ella and Char do end up together, she kinda gives him a hard time throughout the movie. And honestly? I’m here for it. She hassles him relentlessly about his apparent uninterest in becoming king, and the newfound privilege he is going to be wielding. Like I said, the kingdom is plagued by unfair policies and prejudice against the creatures, and Char appears to be oblivious to all of it. I guess it’s not really his fault, because his uncle, Sir Edgar, is currently running the country.

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At the beginning of the movie, we find out that Char’s dad, the original king, apparently died after he was attacked by ogres. The kingdom is now being run by Sir Edgar, who quickly gives off those creepy evil villain vibes. It’s Sir Edgar who has enforced unfair restrictions on the creatures; for example, he bans elves from all career paths, except for singing and dancing. This doesn’t sit well for Ella’s elf friend Slannen, who has dreams of becoming a lawyer. The restrictive laws put in place by Sir Edgar are not too far off from the laws we place on actual human beings in today’s day and age, especially when they are built on discrimination.

We also find out that the giants, who have always been peaceful, are being forced to work the fields as some sort of form of slave labor. You’d think that being giants and all, they’d be able to resist this, but I guess not. Hey, it’s just a movie.

Still, the themes of discrimination in this movie are in fact very real, especially when we learn about the giants. The kingdom is trying to essentially smother citizens with false rumors that the giants are vicious, rebellious beasts, while covering up the slave labor they are forcing the giants into. It just reminds me a lot of the scare tactics our own society uses against minorities- warning us that all people who are different than us must be lesser.

It is Ella who opens Char’s eyes up to these realities, who slowly falls in love with her and tells ol’ Uncle Edgar that he’s going to propose to Ella at his coronation ball. Unfortunately, Sir Edgar has caught wind from Ella’s evil stepsister about the curse, which, by the way, Ella has been unable to tell Char about. Sir Edgar tells Ella that she will stab Char in the heart with a dagger at the ball, and of course, she can’t get out of it due to her curse, no matter how much she loves Char. Also, Edgar throws in another wrench and commands Ella to tell no one about this plan.

So, great! That’s great. Not only does Ella have to murder the love of her life, but she also can’t tell anybody that Sir Edgar is the one who put her up to it. Edgar also tells Ella that the reason he’s doing this is because he wants to be king, and it was he, in fact, who killed Char’s father and blamed it on the ogres. Does this all make sense now?

Ella tries to get out of this by ordering Slannen to chain her up to a tree, which is actually pretty hilarious, considering she can’t tell Slannen why she has to do this. She then commands Slannen to go into the forest and rally as many fairytale creatures as he can find, in an effort to protect Char from Edgar. Unfortunately, things once again do not go to plan.

By some incredible and unbelievable coincidence, Lucinda the curse-giving fairy stumbles across Ella chained up to the tree. First of all, she refuses to take back the curse and free Ella from obedience, because she thinks that Ella is simply just ungrateful for the curse. Which, to be honest, I would be too if it meant I had to literally go stab Hugh Dancy in the back. Lucinda tells Ella that if she doesn’t like the gift, she has to get rid of it herself. Then, to make matters even worse, Lucinda unchains Ella from the tree, magically puts her in a fancy dress, and happily tells her to go attend the ball.

Oh, the situational irony!

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Ella unwillingly (and literally) drags herself to the ball, where Char takes her to the hall of mirrors and proposes to Ella. I’m not kidding when I say this scene was the most dramatic moment of my childhood, so if you haven’t seen it, go watch it RIGHT NOW.

As she physically fights back the curse to kill Char, she reflects on Lucinda’s words, and commands herself in the reflection of the mirror that she will no longer be obedient. She drops the dagger, and boom, she’s free from the curse. Turns out it was that simple all along!

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Of course, when Char sees the dagger on the ground, he immediately realizes what was about to happen, and Sir Edgar and the guards sweep in to take Ella away. She gets locked away in some sort of dungeon-y cell, and Sir Edgar forbids Char from going to see her.

Meanwhile, Slannen has returned with some woodland fairytale friends, and once they find out Ella is in trouble, they storm the castle and rescue her from the dungeon. Then, they all sneak to Char’s coronation, because it’s no secret by now that Char’s life is in grave danger. Sure enough, Sir Edgar has poisoned Char’s crown, but right before Edgar is about to place it on his head, Ella and the gang bust through the doors and stop the coronation.

Real quick: wouldn’t folks find it a little suspicious that Char’s dad died years ago, and now, coincidentally, Char just happens to be poisoned by his crown? I’m a little surprised Edgar thought that would work, but hey, you have to do what you have to do to get the throne.

In the midst of fighting off the guards like a total badass, Ella explains everything to Char, from the curse she received at birth to Edgar’s plans to kill him. In a fit of frustration, Edgar admits that he did indeed kill Char’s father because the crown belongs to him, and, forgetting that the crown is poisoned…he puts it on his own head, and collapses.

The movie ends with Ella and Char kissing, him proposing again, and in the last scene, a musical montage of their wedding. What better way to end a movie with some Elton John?

They ride off into the sunset in a horse-drawn carriage, with Char being the new king, and Ella free of her curse. It’s safe to assume that all the discriminatory bans were lifted, the giants were freed, and Slannen was able to become a lawyer. And that’s more or less the entire movie, summed up as well as I can in three pages!

There are a handful of themes I’d like to delve into here- power, wealth, society, and class. Those with the most power and influence- Sir Edgar, and even Char, are directly responsible for the image of the underprivileged. Unfortunately, when power gets into the wrong hands, it’s easy for those in power to slander those who are “less than”, and funnel damaging rumors into the media. I don’t want to make this article super political, but I’m sure many of you will agree with me that certain political powerhouses tend to negatively portray immigrants, Mexicans, feminists, and members of the LGBT+ community. People like Donald Trump love to smear minorities, especially when it comes to fake news and outright lies about these vulnerable communities. And of course, people will believe him, like how people automatically believe Trump when he makes prejudice remarks about those who are different than him. In my opinion, it’s all a disturbing self-mission for him to gain even more power and control.

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On a somewhat related note, this movie also touches on the theme of power, and how much control we actually have over our own lives. Ella is serious and strong-willed in her plight to protect her independence, and reminds me, in the 21st century, that I need to do the same. Ella is educated, strong, and willing to sacrifice her own safety just to know the truth. Like I’ve said many times, I know this is just a fairytale comedy movie, but Ella’s emotions and frustrations are very real things that women go through- the desire to be independent and respected.


Pictures: https://www.bustle.com/articles/114123-24-things-you-notice-when-you-re-watch-ella-enchanted-aka-anne-hathaways-first-post-princess-role

https://rock-cafe.info/posts/ella-enchanted-prince-char-actor-656c6c61.html

Ella Enchanted

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0327679/mediaviewer/rm2444406784

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/ella-enchanted


Coming up next: My 2019 Summer Lookbook

 

*Spoilers*

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous Movie Meaning Mondays, you may have noticed that the topics I’m writing about are pretty random. There’s a reason for that. For the most part, all of the articles I write that answer some sort of big question are topics I’ve googled in the past, but couldn’t find any answers to. In the past I’ve written about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being an allusion to Nazi Germany, and why The Sims is such an addicting game. Today, the topic I’d like to see explored is themes in Coraline. I’ve always viewed this movie as being a warning for domestic abuse, or at least an allusion to it. Like I said, I haven’t been able to find any other articles about this opinion, so I’m going to pioneer it right here and now.

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Per usual, I’m going to re-watch the movie, sum up the plot, and then plug in all of my personal opinions and thoughts. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve seen Coraline so many times, I can literally quote it word for word. It’s genuinely an incredible movie, and one that I’m excited to spill the piping tea on. If it was even remotely possible for me to get in touch with Neil Gaiman, or even Henry Selick, I would totally include an interview with them. Alas, they’re probably busy doing famous people things, and the chances of them ever acknowledging my writing are slim to none.

If you haven’t seen Coraline by now, you’re probably either a thirty year-old man, a ten year-old girl, or simply just living under a rock. For my age demographic, we millennials were essentially hit over the head with the release of Coraline. It was beautifully innovative, it was released to theaters in 3D, and in a nutshell, it was nothing that any of us had seen before. Coraline has grossed $192 million dollars worldwide since its release in 2009, and since then, has become a familiar piece of nostalgia for other 18-22 year-olds. Animated horror fantasy films almost always seem to do well (Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc), and Coraline is no exception.

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In the first scene of the movie, we see some creepy needle hands taking apart a rag doll with button eyes, remodeling it, and then sending it back out into the world. It seems like a random scene for a while, but around the halfway point of the movie, the story starts to make sense.

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So after that weird interlude, where does this story actually start? At the Pink Palace Apartments, where the Jones family is moving into their new apartment unit. Coraline is a spunky, rain boot-wearing, blue-haired explorer, who ignored and (in Coraline’s opinion) emotionally neglected by her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Jones are overworked writers for a gardening magazine, and as the stereotype goes, are much too involved in their work to pay any attention to Coraline. To cope with her frustration and loneliness, Coraline sets out on an adventure around the apartment complex. While exploring her gloomy, desolate surroundings, she comes across Wybie Lovat and his sassy black cat sidekick, who remains nameless throughout the film.

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Like many other oddball characters throughout the film, Wybie mispronounces Coraline’s name, and then teases her for her strange mannerisms and broad imagination. Needless to say, Coraline and Wybie don’t get off on the right foot, with Coraline left feeling stubbornly offended. In between their back-and-forthing, Wybie reveals his his grandmother is the owner of the Pink Palace apartments, and that she usually doesn’t rent to people with kids. When Coraline asks why, he replies reluctantly that he’s really not supposed to talk about it. Spoooooky. Wybie rides off on his bicycle, leaving Coraline with more questions than answers, and the “dowsing rod” she’s holding in her hands leaves her with a nasty case of poison oak.

The next day, Coraline receives a strange, wrapped-up item from Wybie, with a note that reads, “Hey, Jonesy, look what I found in Grandma’s trunk. Look familiar? Wybie.”

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Ah, yes, remember the doll from the beginning?

Rightfully, Coraline is pretty confused to receive a ragdoll doppelganger, but she surprisingly doesn’t seem too creeped out. Still feeling ignored by her parents, Coraline takes the doll with her on an excursion around the apartment, exploring every nook and cranny. Eventually, Coraline comes across a small, suspicious looking door, covered up by wallpaper. Coraline somehow manages to get her mom’s attention for a few minutes, who uncovers the door and opens it, revealing bricks on the other side. Coraline is disappointed, and unassumingly goes to bed that night, making nothing of the events of the day. UnTIL…

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In the middle of the night, Coraline finds herself awaken by the sound of a mouse. She follows the mouse down the stairs and into the parlor, and watches in amazement as the mouse goes behind the tiny door. When Coraline opens the door herself, there are no longer bricks- it’s a beautiful, ethereal-like tunnel, leading into the darkness.

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Coraline crawls through the tunnel, and pushes through another tiny door, and finds herself in an exact replica of the room she was just in- the only difference is, it’s a lot nicer. The paint is fresh and new, the house is now decorated, and a delicious smell is wafting from the kitchen. As Coraline quietly ambles into the kitchen, she is met by another surprise- her “Other Mother.”

Nightmare Fuel: 2.0.

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Essentially, The Other Mother is an exact copy of Coraline’s mother back home, except nicer, prettier, and equipped with button eyes. Coraline’s Other Father is also just as charming and personable, and throughout the night, the Other parents entertain Coraline and shower her with attention. After feeding Coraline a delicious meal and giving her some magic mud to make her poison oak clear up, the Other parents send Coraline off to bed in her Other bedroom, which is also beautifully decorated.

Coraline falls asleep, but wakes up to find herself back in her regular room. She might have just brushed it off as a dream, but notices that her poison oak is indeed completely gone. Escastically, she gushes about her experience to her parents, who more or less pass it off as a dream. Determined to find someone who will listen, Coraline sets off on an excursion to meet the other tenants of the Pink Palace. She first comes across Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, weird-ass blue guy who claims to have a jumping mice circus living in his house. Upon further research (Wikipedia), Mr. B was apparently a “former Chernobyl liquidator.” Maybe that’s why he’s blue? And also batshit crazy?

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Anywho, after that odd encounter, Coraline meanders onward to chat with her other neighbors, two retired burlesque actresses named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. The nature of these two old gals’ relationship isn’t really mentioned, but I like to believe they’re two aging lesbians, spending the rest of their life together. Once again, Coraline is warned of foreshadowing danger, which she more or less snubs off.

And, as if we couldn’t hit Coraline in the head enough with the notion that the Other apartment is dangerous, Wybie comes into play. He may not be aware of the door’s existence, but he explains to Coraline that his grandmother’s sister was “stolen.” And no, it’s not spoiling the plot for me to tell you grandma’s missing sister has something to do with the Other apartment. If you hadn’t inferred that by now, well, I’m not sure where you thought this movie was going.

Despite these overwhelming warnings, Coraline indeed embarks to the Other apartment the next night. This time, she’s introduced to Other Wybie, equipped with button-eyes and also a lack of speech, much to Coraline’s delight. Coraline’s adventures continue in the Other apartment, where she explores the beautiful garden with her Other father, and witnesses Other Mr. B’s jumping mice circus with Other Wybie. It’s fantastic and thrilling, but much to Coraline’s dismay, she once again wakes up in her regular room the next morning.

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Now back in the real world, Coraline spends some “quality time” shopping for school clothes with her mother. Her parents are still constantly busy, but it’s at this point in the movie you realize their business doesn’t come from ignorance. They just moved into a new apartment, Coraline’s mother is dealing with the stress of a neck injury, and their biggest concern at the moment is just to work hard and give Coraline a better life. And, admittedly, Coraline is kind of an obnoxious kid. Coraline’s mother obviously feels guilty about overlooking her daughter, but Coraline continues to be ungratefully pissed. After Coraline’s mother leaves to go grocery shopping, Coraline once again visits the Other world. And today, Coraline’s adventure in the Other world includes…scary animated boobs!

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Seriously?! Isn’t this supposed to be a kid’s movie?

Context: Coraline gets to see a burlesque performance of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, who then, uh…strip out of their skin?

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It’s a very, very weird movie. But I love every minute of it. It kind of feels like a weird, nightmarish dream you’d have when you’re seven years old, but never forget about.

Later, the Other mother tells Coraline that she can stay in the Other world forever if she wants, eternally showered with entertainment and lavish gifts. There’s only one tiny condition- Coraline has to have buttons sewn into her eyes, to which Coraline essentially replies HELL NO.

Finally! Coraline makes a morally agreeable decision in this movie.

Officially creeped out of her mind, Coraline decides it’s time to hit the road and peace out, but the Other mother has trapped her. The tiny door is blocked, and Coraline, who now realizes that the Other mother is evil, gets thrown into a dark, dingy cell, behind a mirror. It’s here she meets the souls of three dead children, who reveal themselves to be the past victims of the Other mother -or the “Beldam”, as they call her. In a nutshell, they all suffered similar situations to Coraline- the Beldam spied on their lives through the doll, lured them into the Other world, and then…ate their souls?

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That’s f*cking dark for a kid’s movie, man.

To save Coraline from meeting a similar fate, the dead children urge Coraline to win her escape and free their souls while she’s at it. That’s not a lot to ask, right?

As Coraline agrees, probably scared out of her shit, the Other Wybie rescues her from the other side of the mirror, and helps her to escape back through the door and into her regular apartment. But don’t worry, the story is nowhere near over.

Basically, Coraline figures the Beldam kidnapped Coraline’s parents in order to lure her back into the Other world. It’s not ever really revealed how she kidnapped them; my assumption is that her parents didn’t go through the tiny door, but that leaves a whole lot of nothing for alternate explanations. Did the Beldam just magically teleport them into the Other world?

Furthermore, Coraline comes to this conclusion when she and the sassy black cat discover another one of the creepy dolls, except this one is for her mother and father. She tries to explain the situation to Wybie, who calls her crazy (understandably). I mean, he hasn’t first-hand witnessed any of this. Why would Coraline expect him to believe her?

Ultimately, Coraline decides she must go back to the Other world to save her parents, on top of unearth the souls of the dead children. The cat also comes along, for no apparent reason other than moral support. Which I can understand, because can you imagine the PTSD Coraline must have been developing?

Before she embarks back to the Other apartment, Miss Spink gives Coraline a small stone with a hole in the middle of it, with the reasoning that it’s good for “bad” things, or something along those lines. I know that seems like a tiny detail, but bear with me, because it’s important to the story.

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Coraline crosses back to the Other apartment, and bravely strikes a deal with the evil Beldam. The game goes as so: if Coraline is able to locate her parents and the souls of the ghost children, the Beldam will let her go. But if she fails, Coraline will have to stay in the Other world forever, and have buttons sewn into her eyes. It seems like an unfair deal to me, considering the Beldam is definitely not going to let Coraline go even if she wins, but we’ll get to that eventually. Coraline plays the game cunningly, using her hollowed-out stone as a tool to help her find the eyes of the ghost children. While having a heated argument with the Beldam, who’s now pissed at Coraline for finding the eyes of the ghost children, Coraline discreetly notices that her parents are hidden inside a snow globe. She throws off the Beldam by throwing the cat at her, then grabs the snow globe, and narrowly escapes from the Other apartment. And don’t worry, the cat escapes too, albeit really pissed that he was used as a diversion.

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Coraline safely makes it back to her apartment, where her parents are safe and apparently don’t remember anything that just happened. You might think that the movie ends here…but once again, you’re wrong.

So, while Coraline was escaping from the Beldam, she somehow managed to sever off her weird needle hand in the process. The lone hand is now after the key to unlock the door, which Coraline is now conveniently wearing around her neck.  

While Coraline is asleep that night, she comes into contact with the ghost children in her dream. They thank Coraline for freeing their souls, but warn her that the Beldam is still out there, on a hunt to get that darned key.

So Coraline wakes up, and in the middle of the night, decides she needs to go drop the key in an old well a ways away from the house. The severed needle hand catches up to her and almost gets the key, which is a terrifying sequence, but out of nowhere, Wybie comes flying in on his bike to save the day. He smashes the Beldam’s hand with a rock, and they throw the whole mess, key and all, down the well. The well, I think, intentionally mirrors the tunnel to the Other world, which is an interesting touch in the movie.

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Finally, the movie ends on a happy note. The next day, Coraline and her parents throw a garden party, where all the neighbors meet to plant the garden. Wybie also shows up with his grandmother, to whom Coraline plans to tell her experiences. The movie ends with the black cat sneakily walking past the Pink Palace apartments sign, and then disappearing into nothingness. The end.

Hopefully, you saw the movie before you read this review. If not, I’m sure that sounded like a whole bunch of unsettling madness.

Coraline is described on Wikipedia as a “3D stop-motion animated dark fantasy horror film.” It’s a fitting enough description; I wouldn’t say Coraline is an primarily “kid’s movie,” but the fantastic animation and spine-chilling creativity makes it fascinating for youngins. And, although many of us millennials did see the movie when we were in elementary/middle school, Coraline has managed to age with us. I love this movie just as much as I did when I was ten, if not more. The story is told in a mystical fantasy realm, but the themes of the movie are powerful and hard-hitting.

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A notable chunk of Coraline is the symbolism of bugs and insects. As the Other mother progresses and becomes more and more distorted, she takes on a bug-like, creepy-crawly form. In literature, spiders often represent power, mystery, and sometimes, manipulation. The spider lurks on her victims and traps them in her web, just as the Beldam attempts to feed on Coraline. Noteworthy, Coraline wears a firefly clip in her hair, perhaps representing the vulnerable pray. Although the spider represents powerful female energy, she is merciless and hungry for game.

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There are quite a few deeper interpretations of Coraline, but one that I’ve formulated myself is the metaphor for domestic abuse. Similarly to how the Beldam showers Coraline with “love” and attention, an abusive partner/friend will manipulate their victim with similar tactics. In order to gain the trust of their target, abusers will often overshadow their intentions with gifts, compliments, and entertainment. The ghost children, unfortunately, have taken on the role of victims in this movie. They agree to let the Beldam sew on button eyes, so that they can continue to receive “love” and attention. It’s an extremely dark subject, especially since those being preyed upon are children.

That being said, I don’t think this movie is fundamentally supposed to be a warning against domestic abuse to children. That’s certainly a valid takeaway, but the general theme of the movie is much more broad than that. In a nutshell, the movie is reminding us not to trust everything that seems good and positive. It’s difficult to know somebody’s intentions, especially when you’re young, and it’s easy to be manipulated by someone who presents themselves as being wonderful. Eventually, however, the true colors and intentions of the abuser will shine through, past all the glitz and gaudiness.

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I recently re-watched the movie with a friend of mine, who suggested that the movie could also be a metaphor for drug use. I think this metaphor applies in a shortened sense, particularly for the kaleidoscopic garden scene, but is maybe not applicable for the entire movie. That being said, Coraline’s “escape from reality” is definitely comparable to the thrill one experiences when using drugs, probably psychedelics. As someone who’s never used drugs, I’m not the best person to ask about this, but maybe someone reading this can clarify those experiences for me. Do you see a metaphor for drug use in the movie Coraline?

As I said before, Coraline is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, and I always enjoy taking the time to analyze it and break it apart. I feel like every time I watch it, I notice something new, make a new connection to real-life situations, or simply just understand the film on a deeper level. Now I’m interested to hear your interpretations of the movie, and how it has impacted your life. Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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Coraline movie trivia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0327597/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

Some more interesting Coraline interpretations: https://vampiresquid.co.uk/heres-undeniable-proof-that-the-other-mother-from-coraline-is-actually-satan/

https://www.shmoop.com/coraline-book/literary-devices.html

https://janimationsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/coraline-movie-analysis/

Coming up next: Self-Care Collab with Brad Krause

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“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.” -Christof


*SPOILERS! Watch the movie first if you haven’t already!*

Have you ever seen a movie that’s so, so good, it’s almost painful to watch? That’s how I feel when I hear the first few bars of The Truman Show theme.

If you tuned into last week’s movie review, you know I had a bitch of a time trying to find Chitty Chitty Bang Bang online. Luckily, The Truman Show is currently on Netflix, so you can head over there yourself if you’re interested in seeing this movie. And seriously, you have to. If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t watched the movie, close this page and watch it right now.

I was purposefully very sarcastic and cynical in my last review, but I’ll try not to be in this one. The movie is already so cynical and dark, it pretty much speaks for itself. So what is The Truman Show?

Well, it stars none other than the eclectic Jim Carrey. You know him for his slapstick humor, but did you also know him for his more serious performances? (As far as I’m concerned, he only has a few.) Jim Carrey’s performance is raw, singular, genuine, and above all, emotional. He slides into the role of Truman Burbank so quickly. Carrey really brings him to life in a seamless, authentic manner. You almost forget Truman is just a movie character. Though the film is marketed as a satirical comedy, that label is hardly the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it’s a comedy, but it’s also a cynical exposé of religion, media, government surveillance, and reality television.

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Essentially, the movie is about a television show called The Truman Show. Truman Burbank, the star of the show, has lived his entire life unaware of the fact that his entire life is being filmed and broadcast to the entire world. His wife is an actress, his best friend is an actor, and everybody in his city, “Seahaven”, are actors as well. And the city, for that matter, isn’t even really a city at all. It’s a giant freaking set, inside a dome, installed with 5000 24/7 secret cameras. Despite the fact that we, as viewers, know Seahaven isn’t real, it’s easy to consciously forget. We ourselves often forget to distinguish reality from fantasy, and Seahaven is a sharp reminder of that.

I feel like at some point in our lives, we all worry that the world revolves around us. I myself have been secretly worried in the past that my entire life is like Truman’s- a conspiracy that everybody is in one, except for me. Maybe it is, but I think the more likely scenario is our fight-or-flight instinct. We all have a desire to feel like we are in control of our own lives, for primarily survival reasons. It’s a very “you-can’t-get-me-if-I-get-you-first” feeling, in a way. The directors of the movie could have very easily glazed over this and made a pure comedy out of this conspiracy, but Peter Weir is a genius. The movie is funny, but it’s a dark, slightly uncomfortable humor. Humor isn’t the primary point of the movie, the point of the humor is to make the sadness of the film more bearable and accessible for viewers.

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Everyone is tuned in to watch Truman’s unassuming life, who, like I said, has no idea his entire life is a television program. At least, for the first thirty years of his life. If Truman never figured out his life was all a reality TV show watched by millions around the world, that wouldn’t be much of a movie, would it?

This does raise an important question. We (hopefully) know that what is happening to Truman is immoral, so why do millions of people tune into The Truman Show? Why does almost nobody see anything wrong with this? Because we’re fascinated by human behavior. It makes us feel more normal about our own habits; it comforts us. It’s not much different than turning on a reality TV show or tuning into your favorite content creator- we crave to see every element of their lives and compare its normalcy to our own.

In order to keep Truman from trying to get out of Seahaven, creators of the show instilled a traumatizing fear of water into Truman when he was very young. Truman witnessed the death of his “father” in a boating “accident”, forever leaving him with intense aquaphobia. Of course, there was never a real boating accident, and the man playing Truman’s father is just an actor. Nonetheless, Truman’s intense fear of water effectively prevents him from ever leaving. As I said before, all Seahaven’s residents are actors. They either have a set script to read, or they are fed lines to repeat via microphone by Christof, the creator of The Truman Show. Christof has overwhelming power over Truman’s life, but gives Truman just enough freedom that the audience can see his true emotions and natural human behaviors.

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Despite the fact that all of Truman’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were technically real, Christof did manage to Truman’s personal life intensely. When Truman is in college, the Christof and the show crew have already picked out a future wife for Truman, Meryl. Despite Meryl suddenly appearing in Truman’s life and essentially pushing herself onto him, Truman falls in love with another “student” on the campus. The actress, whose real-life name is Sylvia, sneaks Truman out on a secret date so that they can spend one evening together before she is “taken away.” Sure enough, an man who introduces himself as Sylvia’s father, shows up immediately and drags her into a car. As she is being pulled from Truman, Sylvia tries as quickly as she can to tell Truman the truth about his life (“It’s all fake, none of it’s real, it’s a set,” etc.) Despite her efforts, Truman isn’t able to figure out what she means, and is left completely shocked when Sylvia’s “father” announces they’re moving to Fiji.

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Translation: Sylvia is being removed from the show.

Truman, of course, in his unknowing obliviation, really believes that Sylvia is in Fiji, waiting for him there. Even after his marriage to Meryl, he spends years planning an escape to Fiji where he can reunite with Sylvia. And if that’s not the most f*cking tragic, heartless thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. Truman even uses scraps of women’s magazines to try to recreate her face, so that he can find her when he gets to Fiji. Outside of the show, Sylvia is now a member of the “Free Truman” campaign, which demands that Christof end the show forever.

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Side note: the show’s adamancy to make sure Truman falls in love with a pre-picked actress never sat right with me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to let Truman fall in love with whoever he wanted, to make his feelings and human behavior more authentic and enjoyable to watch?

Anyway, fast forward past college. Truman is thirty, still working a desk job, married to Meryl, and still secretly planning his adventure to Fiji to find Sylvia. Around this time, Truman begins to notice strange, unexplainable events that all seem to revolve around him. A spotlight from the set falls in front of him, a circle of rain only follows him, and the radio in his car appears to be describing all of his movements. And then, shit kind of hits the fan when the actor playing Truman’s dad sneaks back onto the show and surprises Truman. Although Truman’s “dad” is quickly removed by other actors, Truman is decidedly suspicious and wary of his life. With nothing holding him back any longer, Truman decides to take his first trip out of Seahaven, and subsequently drags Meryl on an impromptu car trip.

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Though he has a deathly fear of water, Truman’s determination pushes him through, and he crosses the bridge out of Seahaven with Meryl (who is freaking the FUCK out, by the way.) Ironically, the scene in which Truman and Meryl are driving out of Seahaven is the most genuine moment they ever have together. Obviously, Meryl is just an actress who never felt any authentic emotions towards Truman, but on this car ride, they’re both screaming and having a wild time together. It’s fascinating, and twinged with humor as well. Of course, there is no freaking way Christof is going to let Truman get out of Seahaven, and he blocks Truman’s path with a series of implausible accidents. Truman floors it through warnings of a “forest fire”, but his journey is stopped short when he reaches “a leak at the nuclear power plant.” Though Truman jumps out of the car and tries to run into the woods, he is captured and held down by workers in hazmat suits. It’s genuinely disturbing to watch, and broadcasts a terrifying truth: those who dare to speak the truth are often seen as dangerous to society. And, similarly to how the show creators manufacture fears for Truman, our own government/society manufactures fears to keep us in line.

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After being returned to their home in Seahaven, a heated argument breaks out between Truman and Meryl. Truman, now fully convinced that he is being watched under some conspiracy, lashes out at Meryl when she denies his accusations. In a moment in panic, when Truman grabs a knife from Meryl’s hands, she screams out, “Somebody do something!” and breaks character, before being quickly removed from the show. He reflects on his strange life experiences with his best friend, Marlon, who is secretly being fed replies by Christof. “Truman, if everyone was in on it…I would have to be in on it.” We appear to see some wavering in Marlon’s eyes and voice, as if he himself is struggling to keep up this lie from his closest friend.

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Truman’s growing suspicion and awareness of the world around him reminds me of a book quote I’ve always loved. When we stop focusing on the small things in life and turn our attention to the big picture, when we question things, we see life in its painful, beautiful glory. I’ll insert the quote here, and let you chew on that for a while.


“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.” When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead.


In an attempt to keep the show together and prevent Truman from leaving the Seahaven, Christof re-introduces Truman’s father, who uses amnesia after the accident as the reason for his prolonged absence. As Truman cries and falls into the arms of his “father”, audiences around the world cheer, and the show ratings skyrocket.

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After Meryl moves out and leaves Truman, he begins spending his time sleeping in his basement. One night, a member of the production team notices that Truman is sleeping slightly out of sight, and remaining seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli. Christof sends in Marlon to wake Truman up, but when he pulls back the blanket, the world is shocked to see that it’s only a dummy. Upon further searching, Marlon discovers a makeshift tunnel in Truman’s closet.

With Truman now missing in action, a city-wide search in Seahaven breaks out. Arm in arm, flashlights in hand, hundreds of cast members marched through the streets calling Truman’s name. To make the search easier, Christof cues the sun to rise in the dome, even though it’s the middle of the night. We watch Christof take control of the sun, and once again, a biblical allusion is made. His power as an almost celestial-like being is getting out of control, and he’s destroying reality with every move. Panicking, Christof realizes the only place they haven’t searched for Truman is on the water, despite his life-long fear of it.

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Sure enough, when Christof turns on the “ocean cams”, we see Truman sailing across the sea on a small boat, looking surprisingly happy and at peace. The world once again cheers at Truman’s discovery, but it’s unclear if they’re happy that he’s trying to escape, or just happy that Truman is back on TV. Nonetheless, Christof is pretty pissed that Truman is trying to escape, and simulates a dangerous storm to try to coax him back to land. Christof sends in lightning, thunder, rain, wind, and even capsizes Truman’s boat at one point in an apparent effort to kill him. “We can’t kill him in front of a live audience!” cries one crew member. “He was born on a live audience,” replies Christof coldly.

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Despite capsizing and risking his own life for the sake of truth, Truman somehow manages to pull himself back onto the boat and keep sailing. At this point, completely dumbfounded, Christof stops the storm and watches Truman sail onward. It’s amazing how despite the fact that he’s so close to death and losing everything, Truman appears to be, like I said, the happiest he’s ever been. He is finally pursuing his freedom, his right to a true life, and he’s clearly willing to die for it. He sails on peacefully, now having overcome Christof’s storm. And then, Truman’s boat hits the wall of the dome.

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My favorite element of this scene is that it’s completely silent, except for intense, instrumental music. We can’t hear Truman as he smashes his fists on the wall of the dome, gazing up at the sky in despair, the integrity of his life and trust now completely destroyed. It’s a physical manifestation of challenging fate and reality, physically touching what has restrained you for all your life, and coming face-to-face with your greatest fear. As he begins to walk around the inner perimeter of the dome, he appears to be walking on the water, as if he has taken on a newfound celestial form. He finds a stairway leading up to an exit door, which is really just another theological allusion- the stairway to heaven.

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Before he can push through the door, Christof speaks to him for the first time in his life through a loudspeaker coming from the “sky”,  and actually tries to convince him to stay in Seahaven. It really does come across like God is speaking to Truman, because all Truman hears is a man’s voice coming from the parting clouds. He introduces himself as the creator of the show. “And who am I?” replies Truman.

He tries to tell Truman that there’s no more truth in the real world than there is in his little dome world, but does ultimately reveal to Truman that yes, his life is a television show being watched 24/7 by millions of people. Christof attempts to comfort Truman by telling him that he is real, and so were his feelings, despite the fact that his entire life was artificially monitored. Irritated by Truman’s dumbfounded silence, Christof laughs and says, “Come on, say something! You’re on television.”

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With a slight smile, Truman looks up at the sky and repeats his famous catchphrase one more time: “And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!” He spreads his arms, bows, and unflinchingly exits through the door. If you pause the movie at the right time, with his arms spread open wide, Truman appears to look figuratively crucified. As Truman leaves the show, Christof is flabbergasted, crowds across the world go wild, and Sylvia springs up and out the door to finally reunite with Truman.

That’s where the movie ends, and it feels so right. Christof has finally lost his battle to Truman, and Truman’s unconditional desire for accepting life beyond what is in front of him has won. We don’t know what happens to Truman after he exits the show, and it’s perfect. I nearly cry every. Single. Damn. Time.

We’ve now established this is a pretty hefty drama/comedy film, but the thing that makes The Truman Show so singular and remarkable is its cynicism. The Truman Show may just be a fictional movie, but it’s also social commentary on Christianity, metaphilosophy, simulated reality, existentialism, and reality television. This movie came out about twenty years ago, but it’s still relevant to our own modern society and personal relationship with media. With technology as our catalyst, we are the stars of our own Truman shows.

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As you may have picked up on by now, the character of Christof does take on some form of an analogy for Christ. He is the controller of Truman’s universe- the overseer of all, with the power of utter surveillance on those literally below him. It’s also noteworthy to mention Truman’s own namesake: is he really a true-man, we wonder? Yes, his emotions and thoughts are real and his own, but will he ever be able to accept a life beyond his false simulation? Will he choose danger, real pain, and freedom over the safety of what he thinks he knows? Truman basically answers that question in the intense sailing scene- he would die for his own freedom. He represents, a dark, desolate future where we repeat history again, but this time in the form of government surveillance. Truman really doesn’t give a shit, he’d rather be dead than live in a fantasy where nothing is what it really seems.

What we can infer, however, is that Truman and Sylvia will soon be finally reunited. Sylvia, the catalyst for Truman to lift the corner of his veil and see beyond what is in front of him; Sylvia, the only true thing in Truman’s life.

As I said, this is is hands-down one of my favorite films of all time. It’s entertaining, it’s funny at times, and ultimately, it’s extremely powerful. I’m excited to hear your thoughts as well on the film, and if The Truman Show has had a similar impact on your life. This movie is 10/10.

Movie trivia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2 

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loTIzXAS7v4 

Coming up next: Tips for sensitive skin

*Spoilers, duh.*

Y’all, I have happy butterflies in my stomach today. I am so, so excited to start Movie Meaning Monday, and even better, kick it off with one of my favorite movies of all time. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is really one of those movies that will hold a special place in your childhood, assuming you grew up watching it. I’ve tried to show it to friends my age, and the truth is, the magic just isn’t the same when you watch it for the first time as an adult. It’s slightly tragic, but it’s the way things are.

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I’m generally not a big fan of musicals, but there’s something about this 1968 film that I love. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been forever preserved in my memory as an important movie from my childhood, no matter how old I get. It’s vintage, it’s creative, it’s catchy, and the character development is there. Even the film itself has some deeper, darker allusions planted in it, but we’ll get into that later.

Basically, I think this is how the article’s gonna go down: I’m going to rewatch the entire movie in one sitting, and then step-by-step analyze the plot, characters, themes, etc. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so I’m curious if I’ll notice things I hadn’t picked up on before.

First of all, this was nearly f*cking impossible to stream online. Even more annoying, I own a physical copy of the movie, but my laptop doesn’t have a disc drive. Nice!

The movie opens with in 1907 with a montage of the European Grand Prix, which was a popular car race at the time. One particular car is seen winning the races again and again over the span of two years (hmm, wonder where this is going), until the car tragically crashes and essentially burns to a crisp, effectively ending its racing career. Growing up, I actually thought Dick Van Dyke was the race car driver, and frequently wondered how he could have survived such a horrific accident.

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That being said, the racing montage is more or less not relevant to the plot. In fact, about 25% of the movie isn’t even relevant to the plot, but, uh let’s carry on.

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So, our ‘ole friend the dilapidated race car ends up in an old garage in rural England, where brother-and-sister Jeremy and Jemima Potts fall quickly in love with it. And so we enter the cliché subplot of “Children of a Poor Single Dad Beg Him to Make a Financial Exception for Them.” Their father, eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, struggles and toils over how to afford the car. We’re also introduced to crazy old Grandpa Potts at this time, who isn’t too active now, but trust me, he comes back, so remember that name.

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Soon, another subplot arises. Jeremy and Jemima, out playing hooky from school, meet a beautiful upper-class belle named Truly Scrumptious. Yup, that’s her real, spankin’ name.

Admittedly, I had a major crush on Sally Ann Howes, but who wouldn’t? Have you ever seen such an angelic face before in your life?

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In her true snoody, upper-class manner, Truly Scrumptious marches Jeremy and Jemima back to Caractacus to blow the whistle on their evil, hooky-playing deeds. We experience some awkward romantic tension while Truly chases Caractacus around, complaining that he doesn’t manage his children well enough, while Caractacus fires back that she should keep her nose out of other people’s business. Insert the next cliché of “Beautiful Woman and Outlandish Man Start Out on the Wrong Foot, But Inevitably Fall in Love.” While this awkward argument occurs, Caractacus leads Truly around his…laboratory? Invention room? Factory?

Interjection: There is something I really admire about Truly Scrumptious. I know the movie is trying to introduce her as being a snoody bitch, but I personally think she’s just a smart, independent woman. A 1910s beauty with her very own motorcar, a newfangled mind, and a free-thinking attitude? 

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Anywho, after that intense introduction, and Truly storms off, Caractacus finds himself down in the dumps over how he’s going to be able to afford this sloppy jalopy for his ungrateful, hooky-playin’ children. And so we enter the scariest frame in the entire movie (which is really saying something)- the family dog takes one of Caractacus’ failed inventions- a piece of candy- and starts blowing through it like a flute in the still of the night.

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NIGHTMARE. FUEL. Seriously, is that a dude in a dog costume? My eyes cannot unsee this. That’s not a dog, that’s the f*cking Abominable Snowman. 

And so the seed is planted in Caractacus’ head! He can package up these sweets, market them to a major company as “Toot Sweets”- the magical candy you can also use as a musical instrument, and make some big bucks. All thanks to a terrifying dog who somehow became self-aware of the gift of music!

The following day, Caractacus and his two (hookying again?) children embark on a journey to a prestigious sweets factory, where Caractacus tries mercilessly to sell his idea to the CEO, Lord Scrumptious. And low and behold, Lord Scrumptious is no other than Truly’s dad.

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In the midst of Caractacus excitement about his candy, and maybe to add some filler in the movie, we’re interrupted by a catchy dance and song number in the factory. The friendship between Truly and Caractacus continues to blossom, and Lord Scrumptious is so close to giving in to Toot Sweets when of course, disaster strikes. The sound of the candy’s whistle causes a pack of dogs to go crazy and infiltrate the candy factory, and Caractacus loses his chance. By the way, none of this is really relevant to the plot at all yet, but we’re getting there.

Back in the depths of despair, and unsure how he’s going to buy this LOAD of CRAP for his children, Caractatus sadly watches the sunset on rural England while a windmill slowly spins behind him. And that’s when we see it- a carnival, far in the distance, and Caractacus’ next chance to make some fast cash money. He breaks into the carnival and decides to disguise himself as a barber, of all things, using yet another one of his inventions as a hair cutting tool. Are you surprised when his hair-cutter turns this poor guy into Kevin Malone? Because I’m sure not.

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In a fast-paced chase, Caractacus escapes the rightfully angry customer and hides himself in a random carnival tent. This tent happens to be a song-and-dance act, which Caractacus nearly perfectly performs on the spot, and of course, we have another musical intervention: The ‘Ol Bamboo. Not gonna lie, The ‘Ol Bamboo is kind of a bop.

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Finally, finally, after charming the audience with his sexy Van-Dykiness, Caractacus raises enough tips to pay for that burnt huck of shi-cough, I’m sorry, I mean the race car at the junk garage. He purchases the car, drives it into his secluded barn, and spends many days and nights bringing the car back to life. And so, after an undisclosed amount of time and about 4,384 irrelevant plot points, we are introduced to…this sexy piece of metal. Uh, I mean, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. For those of you who are confused, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” refers to to the sound the car makes as it drives. And yes, it does have its own musical number.

Finally, the plot of the movie begins.

Caractacus, Jeremy, Jemima, Truly all pile into Chitty on their first trip in the new car- a trip to the beach. It’s here that Caractacus and Truly start to get a ‘lil bit more friendly, and we even see some weird 1910s variations of flirting…

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While relaxing in the car, Caractacus begins to tell a fictional story to Truly and the children about an evil tyrant named Baron Bomburst, his country, Vulgaria, and Bomburst’s imperious quest to steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Why the tyrant ruler of a fictional country would want a loud car from  rural England is a mystery to me, but oh well, it’s a fictional story, right?

Maybe.

Okay, this is when things in the story start to get kind of weird, in a sense that reality starts to merge with fantasy. Because while Caractacus is telling this story about Donald Tru-*COUGH*, uh, I mean, Baron Bomburst, things take an unexpected turn, and the car is suddenly surrounded by water. And who is that we see looming in the distance on an evil pirate ship? None other than Baron Bomburst himself!

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So okay, if you’ve gotten this far, we’ve accepted that we are now in the story. Which means that this evil tyrant is really gonna try to sail on over and steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So Chitty does what any average vehicle would do- it automatically deploys huge flotation devices and transforms itself into a power boat. Chitty and her passengers swiftly return to shore and narrowly escape Baron Bomburst, who then proceeds to send out two spies after the car.

This movie really sounds like a madlib, doesn’t it? I promise you, it’s real film that I genuinely enjoy.

So let’s recap: Caractacus Potts renovates a dilapidated race car and turns it into a glorious chitty-chitty-chonking machine with automatic flotation pads. And somehow, Ford was the leading car manufacturer instead of this guy?!

Anyway, the spies. Oh, the spies. They’re the classic buddy duo that every comedy (and musical) needs. The entire movie is pretty much comic relief, but these guys are pretty much the icing on top of the cake. Predictably, they’re pretty shitty at their job, and accidentally kidnap Grandpa Potts instead of Caractacus. Remember him?

Okay, hold on. Weren’t they trying to take the car? Why did they decide to take Potts captive instead?

And they don’t just take Grandpa Potts captive. That would be far too mundane. Instead, they attach a hook to his weird little shack and transport him to Vulgaria via giant blimp. That’s not inconspicuous, right?

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Of course, as Caractacus, Truly, and the kids are driving down the road in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, they see ‘ole Grandpa Potts being airlifted away in a giant blimp. So what’s the best course of action? Drive after the blimp!

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And then, during the chase that was doomed anyway, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang accidentally flies off a cliff!

No, seriously, the car flies. The fucking car sprouts magical wings and propellers and shoots off into the sky after the blimp. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The journey takes about a nice, based on evidence that the sun sets and rises, but eventually, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lands in the fictional country of Vulgaria. It’s not actually disclosed why Caractacus Potts knows to go to Vulgaria, but hey, movie magic, right?

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Now, if you were confused by the title of my article, it might start to make sense from here on out. Like I said, we had to cover a lot of fluff first to actually get to the plot of the movie. As they land in Vulgaria, Caractacus, Truly, and the kiddos find themselves in this quaint-looking little village. There’s no sign of any civilization, and there certainly isn’t sign of Grandpa Potts and the giant, evil blimp. Confused and probably freaking the fuck out, the quartet is taken in by a toymaker, who spills the piping tea on the magical land of Vulgaria. Essentially, it is illegal for children to be in Vulgaria, and if any are detected, the Baroness Bomburst will abhor and imprison them. All the remaining children are hiding underground in tunnels and safety camps, where the kind-hearted toymaker goes to bring them food and clothes.

A shunned population of people, hiding from the government in underground camps and tunnels…interesting. Oh, did I mention that everyone in Vulgaria speaks with a thick German accent?

Because Jeremy and Jemima are children and thus at risk for being imprisoned by Baroness Bomburst, the toy catcher hides them underneath the floor in a secret lair while Caractacus and Truly go off to find some food. Considering most of the movie so far was light-hearted and kind of goofy, this weird, anti-semitism hinting allusion comes off as quite a shocker. And it’s not just me who figured out this allusion- I’ll link some other articles about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with similar points below.

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Anyway, back in Baron Bomburst’s castle, Grandpa Potts is stressing big time because this evil tyrant thinks he is Caractacus Potts, and expects him to build a flying car. Alas, to avoid being executed, Grandpa Potts goes along with the whole weird situation but continuously bluffs his abilities. This brings us onto our next song and dance number: a group of old man prisoners singing about rising up from their terrible fate and trying to build a car that none of them know how to build. And, yet again, it’s truly a bop, and truly some movie magic filler.

Back in the village, Baron Bomburst and his raiders have seized Chitty, and this terrifying dude named the CHILD CATCHER seizes Jeremy and Jemima. Seriously, where the fuck did this guy come from?

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Yes, once Baroness Bomburst hears a whiff that there are children in the village, she sends out this terrifying dude to lure them into a trap by using the classic “hey, I have candy!” line. Sure enough, Jeremy and Jemima fall for it, and Truly Scrumptious gets to see them being snatched away in a giant cage. Surprisingly, this scene doesn’t include a musical number, though I hear Robert Helpmann is an excellent dancer.

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With Jeremy and Jemima kidnapped, and Grandpa Potts on the verge of being executed, Caractacus and Truly put their heads together and plan to secretly infiltrate the Baron’s castle. The toymaker brings them to an underground grotto, where all of the village’s remaining children are hungrily hiding together (again, with the allusions to Jews hiding from the Nazis, you might be getting the picture a little clearer now). After hanging out with the hiding children and hearing about their experiences, Caractacus declares he is going to rescue all the children and free them from the Baron. The children, in turn, agree to help him rescue his family. And rescue Chitty, for that matter.

Oh yeah, remember Chitty? The car that this entire movie is named after?

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This upcoming little tidbit is actually my favorite part in the entire movie. The toymaker sneaks Caractacus and Truly into the castle disguised as life-sized dolls, the former as a puppet, and the latter as a doll on a music box. They each perform their own little routines- Caractacus dances around does a pretty convincing job pretending to be a giant puppet, and Truly performs a lovely little song as a doll spinning on the music box. If you watch interviews with Sally Ann Howes, you know that this scene was incredibly difficult and required a lot of concentration on her part to remain robot-like at all times. Somehow, she managed to pull it off in one take, which makes the scene even more magical. You really see the chemistry between Caractacus and Truly go as well, especially when he starts singing about how much he loves her in sync with her music box song. It’s hard to describe, but if you watch the scene, it makes more sense and it’s extremely adorable.

After charming Baron Bomburst into thinking he’s a puppet, Caractacus pulls a wild one and attaches the Baron to a giant pulley hook when he’s not looking. And so, while Baron Bomburst is flying around in the air attached to a giant rope, hundreds of children infiltrate the castle and wreak havoc. They capture the Baron and the Baroness, and the child catcher, and the evil tyranny of Vulgaria appears to be over now. With Chitty Chitty Bang Bang back in their hands, Caractacus, Truly, Jeremy, and Jemima begin the long flight home.

In the next scene, we’re back on the beach in England, and Caractacus is finishing his story. Oh yeah, remember that 75% of this film is a fictional story being told on a beach?

As Caractacus drops Truly off at the Scrumptious Manor, she asks him if he could envision the two of them having a future together. Then Caractacus kind of fucks up and says nah, probably not, and Truly basically accuses him of being a snobby loser.

Later, when Caractacus arrives home with his children, he discovers that Lord Scrumptious (Truly’s dad) is waiting for him with news that he wants to buy the Toot Sweets, and use them as…dog treats.

Nonetheless, Caractacus and his family are ecstatic with the news that they’re now super rich. Caractacus runs off to tell Truly the news, and apologizes for being a dick, and then…he asks her to marry him!

Aww. But didn’t they just meet, like, yesterday?

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The film closes with Caractacus and Truly riding off in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who takes off into the air again. As the car rides off into the sunset, Caractacus discusses the importance of pragmatism, and the movie ends.

So! Here’s my general analysis of the movie, which I’ll try my best to keep short and sweet. I think the overall theme of the movie is pretty innocent and enthusiastic: an energetic, quirky family musical, about a flying car and a wild adventure. On the surface, it is a pretty tame movie. But beyond that, if you analyze the subplot, there is a deeper meaning. At least, in my (and my other) opinions, there is.

Allegedly, though I haven’t found proof of this, Chitty screenplay writer Roald Dahl was supposedly anti-jew. I read another article about this issue, published on a Tumblr page called “Sometimes I lie awake at night…”. I can’t find an author name, but I’ll link the article at the bottom of the page. One of the most interesting paragraphs goes as so…


“Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with the fascist militarism of Prussia and Nazi Germany in mind. Vulgaria’s elite are characterized by overwrought Germanic stereotypes – the accents and costuming gives it away. Having children is illegal in Vulgaria. Cognizant of that terrible policy, the lederhosen-wearing parents that we encounter in Vulgaria hide their children in a subterranean cave and the toymaker helps hide Jeremy and Jemima knowing full well the Child Catcher will do anything to root any children out. Some of the language the Child Catcher uses refers to certain pests and equates the children to these savage, animalistic terms. The Child Catcher and his de facto Gestapo are a force even the adults fear with all of their funny moustaches and comically crooked noses. The Holocaust-tinged allegory is too obvious to ignore. All of this history will easily escape children but, for adults, it comes off as the most sanitized treatment of such horrific issues. Co-screenwriters Roald Dahl (yes, that Roald Dahl) and director Ken Hughes preserved Fleming’s metaphors and illustrations. Again, keep in mind who this film is intended for.”


The Child Catcher does indeed have a quote alluding to Jews hiding to escape the Nazis. In the scene before he takes Jeremy and Jemima, he says to the toymaker, “You have to know where to look. Like cockroaches, they get under the floors, in the cracks in the walls, in the woodwork…” If that’s not a Holocaust metaphor, I don’t know what is.

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Furthermore, when the Child Catcher introduces a caged Jeremy and Jemima to the Baron, he describes them as “Unique Specimens.”

Although the toymaker is unable to protect Jeremy and Jemima, he is definitely something of a hero- hiding all the abandoned village children in underground cellars and grottos. It’s definitely an interesting plot point, but I find it somewhat distasteful that the writers decided to weave an anti-semitic allusion into a family. It’s just a little weird to me.

Besides that, however, I really do enjoy this movie. And maybe that is because I grew up on the film and it forever holds a soft spot in my heart. And though I’ve hammered on and on about the odd themes in the movie, it is just a family film on the surface. It’s one I continue to find intriguing, interesting, and forever classic. 8/10 from me!

Further reading and sources: https://pome-mag.com/chitty-chitty-bang-bang-and-the-weird-antisemitic-subplot/

http://dweemeister.tumblr.com/post/89821726976

Movie trivia about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang:  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062803/trivia

Picture Credits: https://hammer.ucla.edu/programs-events/2010/08/family-flicks-film-series-chitty-chitty-bang-bang/

http://dgbhjhgjyft.blogspot.com/2013/03/if-you-wanted-to-see-most-similar-races.html

(And LOTS of YouTube screenshots)

Coming up next: Winter Reading List: What I’m Reading Right Now