Wonder Woman and the Strength in Femininity

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My husband and I went to see Wonder Woman on Friday, and it was amazing. I had a Studio Movie Grill gift card, and we'd been wanting to spend some time together, so it worked out perfectly. 

There were so many things to appreciate about the film. Of course, it was fantastic that for the first 20 minutes (at least) of the movie, there were nothing but women on screen. The movie was directed by a woman, the amazing Patty Jenkins, and the entire film is dripping with female empowerment.

I loved that they didn't over-sexualize Diana. Her outfit was armor and not just glorified spandex. Of course, she was beautiful, but she wasn't overly made up. You could tell that she had on blush and eyeliner, but the rest of the movie makeup magic was very understated. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Gal Gadot is gorgeous anyway. And speaking of Gal, I very much appreciated that she's Israeli. A couple of years ago, when whispers of a Wonder Woman film were first circulating, I for sure thought that they would cast a well-known white actress as the lead. I'm glad that they cast a lesser-known Middle Eastern woman instead. And Gal was incredible, by the way!

I also appreciated that there were Amazons of multiple races. Some were black, some were white, some could have been hispanic. They were of varying ages, too, and every single one of them were beautiful. None of them were wearing much makeup, which is realistic because they're warriors. And it's even more cool that they cast professional female athletes as some of the Amazons!

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There are spoilers from this point forward, so if you haven't seen the film yet and you still want to, stop reading now.

As for the story, I like that it wasn't necessarily centered around a man. Steve (played by Chris Pine) appears in Diana's life and is sort of the gateway to her destiny, but the story isn't really about their love. It's about Diana learning who she is and becoming that person. Everything she believes and knows to be true is challenged, and she has to decide what she's going to stand for, and what she'll actively stand against.

At the beginning of the movie, which has modern-day Diana talking about how she "used" to want to save the world, you think that she's given up hope for humanity. But at the end of the movie, you find out that it's because of her hope in humanity that she fights for justice and truth.

The only thing that I didn't like was that Steve sacrificed himself and died. I guess I understand why they did that, though. I mean, Diana is a demigoddess and apparently doesn't age, and Steve is mortal, so what kind of life could they realistically have together? But it did almost seem like they had to give the leading man his hero moment too, which may have been to appease male movie-goers. For comparison, you don't really see the female love interest in most male-centric superhero movies doing anything that heroic. They're mostly just damsels in distress. 

Overall, the movie was fantastic! It left me feeling like I'm capable of anything, and that my femininity isn't something to suppress or overcome in order to be successful or to do great things. The world needs femininity just as much as it needs masculinity. It needs brave, strong women, just as much as it needs brave, strong men. And bravery and strength aren't exclusive to men. Anyone and everyone can have courage and do the right thing when given the chance. 

Have you seen Wonder Woman? If so, what did you think? Let me know your thoughts!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Beauty & the Beast and the Lessons to be Learned

This weekend, my husband and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. Major stud points given to my husband for letting me take him on a date to see it! Though it's quite funny, charming, and has it's action moments, it's not exactly a guy movie.

But it was lovely all the same. With a great cast, great costume and set design, great music and great one-liners, the live-action Beauty and the Beast gets two thumbs up from me.

Aside from the usual captivating Disney magic of the film, I wanted to talk about something deeper that stuck with me from about halfway through the movie until the end...

"Kill the Beast"

When it came to this part in the movie, where Gaston is riling up the crowd, effectively turning them into a mob, I was struck by a sudden sense of deja vu.

We don’t like
What we don’t understand
In fact it scares us
And this monster is mysterious at least...
...We’ll kill the beast!
— Kill The Beast, from Beauty and the Beast

I thought of the sad state of the world, of my country (the U.S.) in particular. I was reminded instantly of the terrible things that people have said and done to people they deem to be "different." I thought of racism and sexism that I've personally experienced. I thought of the Muslim Ban. I thought of how, for thousands of years, people with darker skin have been marked as evil, dirty, trash, less human…

It's the same burn-the-witch mentality that people have had for centuries. They don't like someone different. They don't like what they cannot relate to or understand. They don't like what makes them uncomfortable. So they create an enemy out of someone who means them no harm. They shut their eyes and ears, they erase the face and the voice, until they've completely dehumanized a person, and relegated them to a number, a statistic, a derogatory term.

Bring your guns
Bring your knives
Save your children and your wives
We’ll save our village and our lives...
— Kill The Beast, from Beauty and the Beast

People who are dissatisfied with their own lives are always looking for someone to blame for their unhappiness. They think all Muslims will come blow up their children at school. They think "illegals" are keeping them from getting jobs. They think affirmative action kept their child from getting a spot at a university. They blame environmentalist organizations and programs for the death of their particular industry. And I don't presume to know every single person's circumstances, but true instances like the ones I just mentioned are few and far between.

The truth is that the world is changing. It changes everyday. Are things the same as they were when I was child? Absolutely not, and I'm still in my twenties. I come across people all the time who live in a way that I don't personally understand or even agree with. But does that fact alone make them my enemy? No. They may live their life differently than I do, but if they are not harming themselves or anyone else, then they are not a threat to me.

There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question, but I fear the wrong monster’s released…
— Kill The Beast, from Beauty and the Beast

You see, there are beasts in this world. People who would rather stir up chaos and create controversy than have peace. People who would rather win at any cost, than see good prevail for the many. People who deal in fear and hatred, handing them out like tokens at a birthday party. There are those people…

Live-action Gaston reminded me very strongly of someone. I don't know how much of a spoiler this is, but Gaston was his own greatest fan and biggest admirer. He couldn't see anything or anyone beyond what he wanted or needed. He couldn't take 'no' for an answer (we all know that guy). And when attention was turned to him for a negative reason, he created an enemy where there wasn't one. He couldn't get what he wanted, and he needed someone to blame for that.

Let me tell you something. You can spend your life searching for an enemy, always looking over your shoulder and pointing the finger at someone you deem to be a monster. But keep living life that way and, pretty soon, you'll find yourself in a hall of mirrors where the only beast you'll see...is you.

And let us not forget that Gaston doesn't win in the end. 

The moral of the story is, we absolutely should kill the beast, just not the beast we immediately think of. We should kill the beast within ourselves. The beasts of hatred, jealousy, racism, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia.

You can't kill the beast by trying to change or get rid of others' differences. You have to kill the beast within by finding the courage and strength to change yourself and your perspective. The truth really will set you free, and the truth is that we are all human, despite our differences.

I really did love the movie, and I hope you'll go see it. You never know what you may learn from a movie made for kids…

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Interracial Couples are Inspiring

Today, I wanted to talk about something that doesn't get enough attention in mainstream media or film, but is very much a reality for millions of people all over the world.

Let's talk about Interracial Couples. 

According to Pew Research, 12% of newlyweds in the U.S. married someone of a different race in 2013. Also according to Pew Research done in 2015, about 7% of the U.S. population is multiracial. 

I'm sure those numbers have gone up in the last two years, but with numbers like that, why do we still see so few representations of interracial couples and multiracial families in movies and television?

Most Rom-Coms feature both a white male and female lead, or a black male and female lead. Rarely ever do you see leads of different races, unless the male lead is Will Smith. Seriously. When was the last time you went to see a romantic comedy with a male lead who was white, and a female lead who was black? Or Asian? Or Hispanic? 

Obviously, my husband and I are in an interracial relationship. Our son is biracial. And while companies like Target and Ikea are quick to include multiracial people in their TV ads, movies and TV shows are slow to this kind of progress.

That's why I appreciate music artists, such as Adele and Ed Sheeran for diversifying their music videos. 

Has Adele ever dated a black man in real life? The world may never actually know. But the male lead in this music video is black, and while many people may not think much about it, I appreciate it. I like when artists use subtle ways of showing that people of color are worthy of love, too. People of color are beautiful. People of color are funny. We are intelligent, talented, good cooks, good parents. We have relationships too, and not just with other people of color. 

I especially love Ed Sheeran's music video because it features a woman of color. If you ever see black and white interracial relationships represented in film and television, it's usually between a black man and a white woman. Now, it is true that black men are more likely to date and marry outside of their race than black women are, but there are still black women who do. Rarely ever do you see a black woman as the love interest in film. If you do, it's always some kind of forbidden love type of vibe, which pretty lame, if you ask me. 

The main reason for this is because white women are still considered to be the standard of beauty. Don't get me wrong, I know many beautiful white women, and am now related to some by marriage. White women are beautiful, but they should not be the standard that every other race of women is measured against. 

The fact of the matter is, the percentages of interracial relationships and multiracial families are steadily growing, because race shouldn't be an issue when it comes to dating. Everyone has physical qualities they prefer, but to exclude an entire race of people based solely on their skin is so ridiculous to me.

I would like to see my relationship represented in mainstream film and television. I would like for my children to grow up knowing that multiracial families are just as "normal" as any other color of family. 

It all starts with the viewer. Production companies are not going to make films that they don't believe will sell, and they don't believe movies featuring couples of different races will sell, especially if there isn't a big name like Will Smith involved. White viewers usually aren't lining up to see movies (or TV shows) without a predominantly white cast. Why is that?  

Tell me, what are your thoughts? Have you ever dated outside of your race? What do you think about it's place in mainstream media? Let's discuss!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Movie Monday: Moonlight

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Joshua and I went to see Moonlight on Friday evening, and my goodness, it was such a good movie.

It's the first film I've ever seen where the movie isn't built around a leading actor, but rather the lead character. The lead character, Chiron, is played by three different people, and somehow each of them manages to capture the essence of the character. They really do make you feel like you're watching the same boy at three different stages in life. They all portrayed Chiron excellently, using the same facial expressions and body language. It feels like you're a part of Chiron's life, watching him grow into a man along the way.

As far as the cinematography goes, this film was beautifully perfect. The lighting and the camera angles help to tell the story with incredible detail. It's not an overly-produced film, meaning there aren't car chases and explosions, or lots of CGI graphics. Even still, you're totally enveloped into the story, feeling every scene and not just watching it. 

The score was so well-composed, evoking the proper emotion with every scene. It built the drama in all the right parts. The lack of sound was impressive as well. There were moments where all you could hear was breathing, or the slamming of a door, or the waves in the ocean. It allowed you to feel the weight of the scene, as if you were there in the movie, but the weight wasn't so heavy as to drag you down.

The story was so beautiful and so poignant. It takes you on a non-traditional journey of self-discovery. It truly was deserving of Best Film at the Oscars. It was so good, that I'd go see it again.

It's a movie that I never thought I would have been interested to see a few years ago. I mean, it's a complicated story, with aspects of the black community, poverty, drugs, and the LGBT community. But I am so glad that we went to see it. All things considered, it is one of the best, most artistic and creative films I've ever seen, and I have seen a lot of movies in my life.

If you haven't seen it, please make plans to go see it before it leaves the theaters. You won't be sorry.

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Hidden Figures

My husband and I went to see this film Saturday evening, and it was SO good! It is literally the most inspiring movie I've seen in a long time, and I saw Collateral Beauty in December. It's the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Goble Johnson, and Mary Jackson, who were integral parts of launching John Glenn into orbit in 1962.

The movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae as the main characters, and they did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of the incredible woman behind the story.

As far as film goes: I loved the soundtrack! The costumes were fabulous. I mean, I would wear everything that Janelle Monae wears in this movie in a heartbeat. The cinematography was wonderful, and the acting was superb! I would pay to go see it again in theaters, it was that enjoyable to watch. 

But more importantly, I want to talk about the women that this film is about...

These women worked for NACA (later to become NASA) at a time when segregation was still very much alive. Not only were opportunities not given to people of color, but opportunities for working outside of the home weren't given to many women in general. Dorothy, Katherine and Mary were in an extremely small minority of educated black women who worked in a white-collar profession. 

They paved the way not just for black women, but for women of all races. They proved that women were worth more than getting married and having babies (even though those are incredible accomplishments too). They proved that women of color were just as smart (if not smarter) than any white man. They are an inspiration to little girls everywhere that you can do and be anything you want in life if you work hard enough, and despite the odds not being in your favor.

It was hard to watch how Mary, Katherine, and Dorothy had to deal with segregation. I am so incredibly thankful that I grew up in an age where segregation is dead, though racism and racial tension are still very much alive. I am thankful that I was able to go to college wherever I please. I am thankful to these women for paving the way for future women of color who are brilliant and just as capable as anyone else. 

We still have a long way to go in this country before women of color are seen as truly equal to anyone else. But I'm proud of the black heritage that came before me. Dorothy, Mary, and Katherine paved the way for generations of women, and I am so proud, humbled, and thankful that they were willing to be the "first." 

Cheers,
LesLeigh J. 

Music Monday: Soundtrack Edition

I don't know about you guys, but it's a little bit of a manic Monday for me. The semester is new and already there are so many assignments to be done, yet so little time. 

In light of the mania that is most Mondays, I decided to share a couple of soundtracks that I love for a little inspiration. I am a sucker for a good soundtrack; in fact, I have an entire playlist of music from my favorite soundtracks, which you can check out on Spotify!

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First up is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty...
I haven't actually seen this movie yet, though I very much want to. But I am notorious for looking up soundtracks as soon as they are released, whether or not I've seen the film that they belong to. I listened to this soundtrack in its entirety about a week ago, and I fell madly in love. As my dear dad would say, they did the damn thing with this soundtrack. It is phenomenal.

1. Step Out- Jose Gonzalez 2. Dirty Paws- Of Monsters and Men 3. Stay Alive- Jose Gonzalez 4. Far Away- Junip 5. Don't Let It Pass- Junip 6. Lake Michigan- Rogue Wave 7. Escape (The Pina Colada Song)- Jack Johnson 8. Don't You Want Me- Bahamas, The Weather Station 9. The Wolves & The Ravens- Rogue Valley 10. Space Oddity (Mitty Mix)- David Bowie, Kristen Wiig 11. #9- Jose Gonzalez 12. Maneater- Grace Mitchell

1. Step Out- Jose Gonzalez
2. Dirty Paws- Of Monsters and Men
3. Stay Alive- Jose Gonzalez
4. Far Away- Junip
5. Don't Let It Pass- Junip
6. Lake Michigan- Rogue Wave
7. Escape (The Pina Colada Song)- Jack Johnson
8. Don't You Want Me- Bahamas, The Weather Station
9. The Wolves & The Ravens- Rogue Valley
10. Space Oddity (Mitty Mix)- David Bowie, Kristen Wiig
11. #9- Jose Gonzalez
12. Maneater- Grace Mitchell

Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave was one of my favorite songs when I was in high school and remains one of my favorites today, so when I saw that it was on the soundtrack, I was automatically sold. Grace Mitchell's rendition of Maneater (originally by Hall & Oates) is absolutely amazing! Give the entire soundtrack a listen here. I promise, you won't be sorry. 

Second, third, and fourth up are three of my favorite soundtracks of all time...

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The A Walk to Remember soundtrack was the first soundtrack I ever bought (I was in middle school), and there my love for soundtracks began.
[500] Days of Summer is simply fantastic, as is the movie, so if you haven't heard the soundtrack or seen the movie, I highly suggest you buy, borrow or steal (just kidding) a copy and enjoy the wonderful. 
August Rush is another soundtrack I listened to before ever seeing the movie. A friend of mine put the soundtrack on my Zune mp3 player my sophomore year of high school, and it was probably six months or more before I actually watched the movie. I was absolutely enthralled by the music, and loved it all the much more because there are so many classical elements involved. I am really an orchestra dork at heart. When I finally the saw the movie, I loved it because it was all about the music.

So, relax, take a deep breath, and have a listen to all of these amazing soundtracks. If you don't shed a tear, I believe you will at least feel refreshed and inspired throughout the rest of your day. And what a good day I hope you have!

Cheers!

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