Pragmatic Presents and a Kubo Review

Have I mentioned that my boyfriend is awesome? I managed to miss Kubo and the Two Strings in theaters and was super bummed, so when I saw it playing at our discount theater, I jumped on it. I asked him to get tickets and be there before me since he had the day off from working the weekend and I’d join him at the showing ASAP after work. I got there with a couple minutes to spare and was greeted by his smiling face with tickets in hand AND two of my choices of movie candy to pick from. I probably didn’t need a bag of sour patch watermelon, but it made my day in thoughtfulness. I’ll segway into thoughtfulness in gifting now and end with the Kubo Review (scroll down if gift giving thoughts sound booooring)…

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there is the topic of holiday shopping. Minimizing this year has left me with a more sensible eye and part of that is wanting to give (and receive) pragmatic presents. It matters more than ever that my gift is both thoughtful and useful. I used to search out the most unique gift I could find for people because I felt that it showed the most effort. However, many of these unique gifts, while meaningful, didn’t really have a purpose outside of looking pretty or being different from the rest. I’m consciously removing things like stuffed animals, nerdy notions that are too novel to use, nic nacs, dime-a-dozen beauty/fragrance/accessories, seasonal decor, and clothing that hasn’t been requested. While those items may fit a particular person and situation, they will no longer be items I purchase as general gifts.

The hardest part for me to mentally tackle was the fact that for some people, a thoughtful gift IS a gift card or cash because that’s what they really want or need. I personally used to think if I didn’t give them an item I wasn’t showing an effort or that I truly cared. I finally understand now that I’m wasting my time and effort to get something they may or may not use verses letting them pick out something perfect. I can easily express that effort in a handwritten letter/card that goes with the gift or by including a little something I personally know they enjoy with it. This is something that requires discretion, of course, but many times, people who want gift cards are vocal about it or extra particular about what they want.

Here is my holiday gift thought process:
1) Is it something they will like?
2) Is it something they will use?
3) How often will it be used? How practical is it?
4) Will it bring them joy?

If I were to let others know what/what not to get me, it would be please no clothes, scarves, ponchos, socks, lotions, nail polish, and body sprays, and yes please to books, art supplies, experiences, and music. The older I get the more I like gifts that require the gifter to do something with me. I like “take you to lunch/movie/beach” gifts because their true gift is their company and quality time spent together. I also like when the gift is sharing something they really love with me. That might be getting me a CD from their favorite artist so I can experience them too (even if I don’t end up liking them as much or just think it’s “ok”) or perhaps making me a meal that involves a family recipe passed down from generations.  I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m straining their wallet and at the same time I do feel like they are priceless gifts.

Now for Kubo and the Two Strings. This movie blew away my expectations. For one, the stop motion quality and imaginative design was breathtaking. It also doesn’t fit the emotional but safe trope of children’s animated films. Loss, identity, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude are very difficult themes to tackle and it gives the film a sense of maturity As a lover of fairy tales, I appreciate when tragedy isn’t sugarcoated but is overcome. The idea of bad things happening but looking for good and continuing to do what’s right is not only important in storytelling but in life. I also loved the sense of community felt at the end.

I wasn’t sure how to feel initially. There’s this little boy and his mom dies and his aunt and grandfather want to pluck out his eyes. Yeah – that premise is super creepy and doesn’t sound like something parents would want to take their kids to. But it all makes sense in time. There are some scary elements and the loss of a parent, so it’s not something I’d recommend for children under 10. But for the kids old enough, it is a journey for the eyes and the heart.

Concert Vibes: The Dear Hunter & Eisley

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to a concert! I love living near a big music scene where I know most bands I love will hit on their tour.

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LACMA is practically my art home away from home, and I was surprised to find out  how close in proximity the El Rey Theater is to my art stomping grounds. I’ve been to the El Rey before, how did I not know this?!

My friend J is now a nurse at a children’s hospital and since she moved about 2 hours away, this was the first time I really got to hang out with her and catch up on life. She got to explore the La Brea Tar Pit area as she waited for me to navigate through the heavy traffic. We grabbed dinner at a fantastic burger place and chatted away until the concert was about to start. A four minute walk later, and voila!

This was first time seeing The Dear Hunter live and my second time enjoying Eisley. I tried to give J a rundown of the acts and the the story in TDH’s music, and it sounds like a crazy soap opera when you put it in a nutshell. Haha.

The Dear Hunter played a great set: everyone in the crowd cheered as they heard the first few seconds of instrumental and knew another favorite was about to play.

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My new Eisley gear! I was worried the t-shirt wouldn’t fit as they only carried small and large, but it fits like a glove since it’s a unisex slim fit. How gorgeous is that design? I sent my boyfriend this pic and he said, “It’s you!” 😉

Seeing Eisley this time was quite different now that Chauntelle and Stacy have moved on to pursue their own music, but it was magical all the same.

I’m not sure if there were issues with the audio. It seemed like the instruments were a little overpowering and Sherri’s mic wasn’t as loud as it needed to be, but they rocked it. I was ecstatic to hear Golly Sandra and Smarter in their set. Sherri is my band spirit animal. I love her sense of wonder and whimsy and that she also draws and doodles. She proudly brought up her hubby and two daughters and thanked the crowd for letting her be a touring mom who gets to do what she loves. ❤

They announced they’ll be releasing new music and touring LA around February. Guess what I’ll be adding to my birthday list?

Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I was incredibly excited at the announcement of this film and I’m so glad I was able to see it in theaters with one of my best friends.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the book and how surprisingly fascinating it was. I touched on the fact that it was rather dark in some areas and that the vocabulary [and curse words] made it more suitable for an older teen on up. I’d say the film also fits that recommendation, but more on that later…

The movie opens up with Jake, the protagonist, working at his family’s chain store and how the events of that evening changed his life. His grandfather, Abe, is a stoic soul with a soft spot for his grandson. He shared “tall tales” with Jacob when he was younger and his family believes he is suffering from dementia. When Jake goes to check on him in his home after a whirlwind of a call, he discovers that his grandfather was attacked. Abe, with his last breath, gives a final message full of nonsensical instructions. This riddle is shrouded in more mystery when Jake sees an otherworldly creature momentarily.

Because of the traumatic experience, Jacob is going to therapy and trying to sort out the details of that fateful night and the creature he thinks he saw. He believes that venturing to Cairnholm, the children’s home his grandpa once resided at (and the place of many of his tales) will give him a sense of closure. Instead, he discovers a gateway to the past, literally, and meets the peculiar folk of his grandfather’s stories.

As Jake spends time with the headmistress, Miss Peregrine, and the children, he begins to figure out they are not the only ones gifted with an incredible ability…

Tim Burton did an incredible job portraying an ordinary world with extraordinary people and creatures. The contrast of familiar with peculiar really made the visuals shine. And of course, true to the book and Burton’s genius, there are very morbid and gothic elements as well. The powers are not magical, particularly fanciful, or supernatural, and that is exactly right. Eva Green made a magnificent Miss Peregrine.

I promise not to give any particular information away, but there are some spoilers below. Continue reading if you want me to give more detailed information without revealing specifics.

****

****

****

****

****

If you’ve been pushing yourself to finish the book before enjoying the movie, don’t. In fact, tuck a bookmark in your spot, forget the second half, and go to the movie and enjoy it as it is. Please know that the author of the book, Ransom Riggs, is reportedly very happy with the creative direction and that many of the details you are wrapped up in may not be in the movie. I have to say this is genuinely the first time I regretted reading a book before the movie because I expected so much synchronicity.

My one criticism of the film is that there are weak spots in the storytelling and that the story, despite a two hour exploration, doesn’t give too much room for character development. There are minute but important parts of the film you just won’t fully understand unless you’ve read the book (but don’t, don’t force yourself to finish!) and the limited character development of secondary people may make you assumptive of one’s motives. If you leave the theater wondering why Jake’s parents are so “terrible,” just know that you’ll have several “aha!” moments as you read the book. If you’re wondering how Emma and Jake could really have feelings for each other based on screen time, also know the book covers that in more detail.

Some of the ages and abilities have been swapped, for better or for worse. I wish that Emma’s ability stayed true to the book, as it fits her personality better. I do, however, appreciate that the person with the creepiest gift (in my opinion) is an older child in the film as it would be much darker given a more innocent age.

I’m curious to see how someone who sees the film first, then reads the book reacts. The ending gives just enough room for a future sequel, but ends on a very different note.

There is no sexual content. There are a couple curse words, including an unncessary G-D*mnit. The discretion factor falls primarily on some of the more gothic/darker ideas and danger. I could see a very mature 12 year old enjoying it, but I personally feel this is a age 15 on up feature.

I would give this film 7 out of 10 stars.