Me and Harry Potter


715b1ed5ec0956f1db5e008cf3187e5bGrowing up in a Christian environment, there were certain things I just didn’t get to do growing up. My parents sheltered my sister and I twice as much than any other family I knew growing up: I didn’t go trick or treating, I didn’t have many good friends, I didn’t go to Sunday School after my eighth birthday; I didn’t see most of your standard Disney and Pixar movies, I didn’t listen or watch Adventures in Odyssey, and I rarely got to paint my nails until after I reached my mid-teens.

Now, I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, but to show you where I have come from. It gives gravity to my journey. Growing up, I didn’t get to do a lot of normal things and I saw that as just what my family did.

Although we didn’t much talk directly about big Christian taboo topics, I grew up under a strong, firm impression that magic, especially in fiction, was bad. Like, really, really bad. Magic could look good in fiction, so my parents didn’t even let me read Narnia, even though our pastor’s children were allowed to enjoy them. Magic became something that I feared, in a way, as though Aslan or the play witch’s hat in Wal-Mart at Halloween was going to hurt me with their evil-ness if I looked too long. Sadly, my family didn’t really discuss the topic heart-to-heart that much and besides, most of the time I was too afraid to even ask that many questions. This unspoken-ness lasted till up to only a couple of years ago.

41a5cf2a5e1ffc9da9f19ff9b237d0ecWhen I was about sixteen or seventeen, my dad decided to read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe aloud–“for fun”. We didn’t discuss what had changed in the unspoken family rules, just of all of sudden, years waay too late, it was time to read a children’s fantasy story. It wasn’t that enjoyable; just, randomly, Narnia was “okay” with no explanation. (Mid-teens to late teens was such a confusing period of my life for so many reasons!) This was difficult because Lord of the Rings still seemed forbidden, and–oh yeah, don’t anybody even mention those two really, really, really bad words.

Harry Potter. Oooh, as a child and even as young adult, it was such a literal “he-who-shall-not-be-named” situation. Harry Potter was our Christian community’s Voldemort.

Although I couldn’t watch Harry Potter then, I knew I would watch it at some point when I was so old nobody could stop me. That wasn’t really a super-conscious decision, though, and I didn’t go about flashing my thoughts off to people I knew: “When I grow up, I’m going to watch Harry Potter!” It was never in the plan to tell anyone even afterwards either. Of course, it took a lot of inward struggle for it to actually come about.

66f8c998c3556a82724246dc5a40f238When my parents separated for a second time in early 2013, I didn’t immediately run to the Harry Potter series–“Dobby is free! Dobby is free!” Even though Mom had and continues to become way more relaxed about things, I still kept away…

You simply don’t walk away emotionally or mentally free from years of fear of trying to make sure people aren’t questioning your Christian conviction by what you are or aren’t avoiding. I was very afraid of what people would think of me for watching Harry Potter–from my confined social circles, I didn’t know anybody who liked Harry Potter, so I felt very outnumbered for a long time. 

I was afraid of having to own my decision of choosing to watch those eight movies–especially since during my teen years, my family became very soaked in the Patriarchal culture where fathers were in complete charge of their daughters and, in my personal case, pretty much thought for them too. So, for the longest time, even though I could have investigated, I only dabbled in other shows or movies instead.

dumbledore_edited-1In the mean time, I started maturing. Although it had started back about 2012, my thinking process really changed gear in 2013. I slowly stopped inwardly judging other people for their own personal choices and opinions. I realized everyone’s story is different, so God takes people down different roads at different times in their lives–why should we all look the same and do the same things at the same time?

I learned people are just not going to agree over everything, so I just had to do what I felt I needed to do despite fear. That’s being courageous. I realized I was an individual soul with individual needs that needed to be voiced and that that was okay. I learned the world was not actually black and white but millions of shades of grey. I learned the no matter what, many people in my lifetime are just always going to hold up a yard stick and see how I measure out–but how they feel doesn’t need to tell me how to feel.

I learned that I was not a bad Christian for deciding that I needed to watch Harry Potter and form my own personal opinion for myself. That in and of it self was very monumental.

Finally this past year, I got to meet Harry Potter.

b6117ad8d9bbcacac6dd83ea80a38613Harry was not at all what I imagined him–I’d always known what he’d looked like, of course, but I hadn’t known other things–what his personality was like or what his story was about. He turned out to be quite ordinary while at the same time quite extraordinary. He was an orphan, a survivor of neglect, who, through his gift of magic, was able to be who he meant to be and defend himself from abuse and evil, one new year after the other.

By the time I watched the Harry Potter series, I was tired of trying to mentally weigh EVERYTHING the movies communicated in an attempt to catch some secret agenda they may be trying to feed me. (This was something my dad pushed too hard at my family, making movie watching a chore instead of a family pastimes, and ruining initial movie glows–like after watching the first Iron Man.) In many ways, I’m still tired of having to justify myself for liking certain movies to other people or to myself. However, what with how taboo HP can be perceived, I decided I wanted to say what I thought of it–to own my own choices and let people take me or leave me for how I truly think.

4e8c2d6df1994797d913f2d21a0240d1The world of Harry Potter was full of magic, of course. Magic was everywhere. The fact that most of the films took place in Hogwarts, the school that taught witchcraft and wizardry, simply meant that magic was a strong part of the story. However, I didn’t come away from a Harry Potter movie feeling, “Gosh, they really think magic is something I should be seeking out in my regular life. Maybe If I join the Occult my life will get better.” I never felt that the film series actually promoted witchcraft in real life. The films themselves knew they were a made up story and magic was just a part of that story, like the characters and the made up version of London, ect.

Ultimately, in the end, magic turned out to not be a big issue for me; shocker! It didn’t really matter to me that they attended a school to learn how to control their magic (something they were born with–and isn’t it a good thing to be taught how to properly handle your gifts given to you, guided by teachers wiser than you?) used wands, and other magical items. That wasn’t the make or break element. What I thought was a big deal was the characters themselves. The fact that they actually turned out to be great heroes and role models really, really surprised me and that’s what made the series worth watching.

c14598173a3099105b113e9e45338f1bHarry strove to do what was right as often as he could; he tried his hardest to be respectful of teachers and fellow students, and learned to stand up for what was right, even though he made mistakes. Hermoine was a fantastic student who took her school seriously and who could hold her own ground mentally and emotionally. Ron, and his whole family, was very supportive of neglected Harry; Ron was always a friend who pulled through at the end. When it was all said and done, the cast of characters who weren’t bad guys all upheld decency, kindness, pluck, friendship, bravery, and a will to do good. It was truly surprising to walk away from each movie thinking, “These are actually great characters, why was I supposed to dislike them again?”

I can hear people of my past, saying, “But that’s what makes it so dangerous! It looks so good.” If you’re one of those people, check this article out sometime; I mostly agree with it. I’m mean, sure, I wouldn’t let my brother watch these till after his eleventh or twelfth birthday and he was critically thinking, but at that point I think it would be a great series he could enjoy.

At that age and up, as young people, the stronger impact comes from the characters who are of similar age. We can watch as they make mistakes and grow from them, in relate-able ways of demonstrating noble character and plucky spirit and it leaves us encouraged. The magical school is simply a unique setting for those uplifting character traits to be put on display.

6fc2a3d620af012ec3b5141b040d4f5cSomething I heard forever, and this would still capture my dad’s thinking, would be “If I want my children to have good fictional role models, I’ll give them Christian books.” Having grown up with many of those type books, I can say that I find great characters and character development strongly lacking in a lot of Christian books, and movies too–I’m sorry, but it’s true. I had a hard to time relating to many of those characters’ journeys or finding them convincing yet was inspired to stand up for myself and what I thought was right, after watching the Harry Potter franchise. The irony is ridiculous here but extremely true.

I cannot cover or defend everything on the element of magic of course, nor would I necessarily want to hash it out for days and days either, but I think you all understand what I value more from a film. To me, I decided that for the story, there was little difference between Harry pointing either a wand or a gun or heavy-duty baseball bat at Lord Voldemort. What mattered most was that he knew Voldermort was evil and needed to be stopped because he was hurting people. So, just like in any other movie I would watch, the characters were the make or break point, and I found the cast of Harry Potter characters to be the making of the series!

bccc2e6cce8e4d824f7c7af2ac902957Now, sure, the Harry Potter series has its dark moments and it isn’t Star Wars or anything, but I enjoyed them all. The final film was especially fantastic and is still one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. The characters carried the series forward in a way that was very satisfying by the time it all ended and Harry himself is my favorite character. He could definitely make my top fifteen favorite fictional heroes. I’m often mad to think about how long I associated his name with an idea of evil, when really he’s a selfless, kind character–someone who dealt with temptation but rose above it, rallied friends together to fight evil, and eventually survived neglectful and verbal abuse.

I have come a long ways since I was a little girl who didn’t understand Narnia or watch a Disney movie that contained a little bit of magic, or couldn’t read Harry Potter like the rest of my generation. Please don’t misunderstand me; this is not me saying “HARRY POTTER IS FOR EVERYONE” because, sure, it’s maybe not, and this is not me saying real witchcraft is something to not be concerned about…but that was never the topic of this blog post anyway. This is only my story of how magic made me stronger.

Nowadays, Harry is a good friend of mine. I own seven of the eight Harry Potter films and I hope to read the books someday. In Hogwarts, I would be sorted into the Hufflepuff house (thank you, Pottermore, for making it official!) a house which I hold in high esteem. On top of it all, I still have a long ways to go in life; I’m still afraid of the dark sometimes and I’m still working on being open about myself. But that’s okay. My story of magic is a very strange one but it’s taken me to a safer place from where I started and left me encouraged in my journey to Spiritual freedom from legalism and fear. I only hope I can continue to be as brave as the little boy who lived beneath the stairs.

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~Jamie

My Summer with Studio Ghibli


studio-ghibliWhat sets this Japanese animation company apart from most other studios is their ability to perfectly capture the precious moments in life; like good food, affection between friends and family, and respect for neighbors and nature. If you are into movies or animation, then most of these films I saw this summer are must-sees, all drawn in the most enchanting animation style!

This summer, I got introduced to Studio Ghibli’s anime films; I ended up watching nearly all of them too fast because they were so good! Even the overrated ones displayed some of the most beautiful animation. I want to bring more attention to these movies, so I’ve compiled single paragraph thoughts on the ones I’ve seen below. They are presented in the order I watched them and are spoiler-free! I’m also incredibly proud of this post as it took about a month to create, write and design! I don’t do this for everything, so consider this a demonstration of how strongly I feel about these movies (many of which I now own on DVD!)

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A strong shout out and thank you needs to be said to my best friend, James, for suggesting I give Studio Ghibli a try and for recommending Whisper of the Heart so many times. ;) Ghibli has definitely been a big highlight of my 2014 summer! The studio definitely changed how I look at anime and animation in general and greatly expanded my film world (and Top 100 Favorite Movies list!) Thank you so much, James!

Notes: The only Ghibli films I haven’t seen include Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea. I have seen Nausicaa, but since it’s technically not Ghibli, I opted to leave it out. Just a personal choice on my part.

arrietty-disneyscreencaps.com-1368The Secret World of Arrietty || 2010 || G 

“Human beings are dangerous. If we’re seen, we have to leave. My parents said so.”

My first Studio Ghibli film. It appealed to a childhood love of mine for tiny people, so it turned out to be perfect starting point. Arrietty was whimsical, breathtakingly beautiful, and quite endearing. I found it very enjoyable, even though it wasn’t a rousing epic or a heart stopping adventure. It was a very sweet tale that elevated your boring objects like sugar cubes and sewing pins to a completely new perspective within the hands of a Borrower. Everything was just very delightful, from endearing heroine Arrietty (many of Ghibli’s films are filled with some of the most wonderful female leads!) and her unique little family, to the most gorgeous animation. A highlight for me was the original score that was a very gentle Celtic. It definitely lifted the story to special heights as it guided the emotion of the story. Overall, this is personally special to me because it was my first Ghibli film, so I give it an extra half a star. :)

Final Comment: A Whimsical Wonder || 5/5  stars

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mimiWhisper of the Heart || 1995 || PG 

“Take me home, concrete roads!”

This was highly recommended to me, a beautifully told coming-of-age story. Set at the point when the libraries were preparing to computerized their systems, Shizuku’s interest in piqued by seeing a familiar name on all her checkout cards-she eventually meet the person and their stories become entwined. The atmosphere of Tokyo’s neighborhoods, antique shops, apartment complexes, and the people who pass by them, made for a very comforting backdrop for the story to unfold and one that I was fascinated to watch. The film handles young romance exceptionally well, never once feeling awkward or weird–a gigantic plus! I loved Shizuku as a female lead and would certainly love to revisit her life in a sequel if it could be handled well. At times, Whisper of the Heart can feel rather slow at the beginning but do not let your impatience get in the way of the perfect character handling and atmosphere. By the end of this movie, I was in puddle of tears from happiness and I’m still trying to figure out how they made such a small ending feel so monumental.

Final Comment: Sneak Attack On The Emotional Zone|| 5/5 stars

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216299-the-wind-rises-1The Wind Rises || 2013 || PG-13 

“Airplanes are beautiful, cursed dreams, waiting for the sky to swallow them up.”

This is one of Ghibli’s most beautiful films to date! I consider it almost a “sin” that Frozen took the Oscar this past year instead of The Wind Rises, especially when I saw how the Academy voted. A loose biopic, the film beautifully depicts the a life of Jiro Hirikoshi, who helped develop aircraft for the Japanese right before World War II and how his life’s passion was taken and used for harm. Airplanes have never been so interesting to me as they were throughout the running time of this film. The romance that developed during the second half  was so heartbreakingly beautiful that I ended up crying from the pure emotion. The animation in and of itself was basically flawless (especially character designs; for the most part, Ghibli creates some of the most pleasant and innocent looking characters I’ve ever seen that’s refreshing to the eyes!) A surprise was hearing John Karinski’s voice in this film (Jim Halpert of The Office, people!) and I actually liked Joseph Gordan Levitt’s acting too! The highlight of this film was simply the entire story and how it was presented. It was incredibly enjoyable and moving to behold in it’s entirety. Personally, I am still battling my temper that this film is so unknown compared to Disney’s very lacking ice and princess flick.

Final Comment: Oscar Worthy || 5/5 stars

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QualitŽ: deuxime gŽnŽration.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.The Cat Returns || 2002 || G 

“Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

As this film is loosely connected to Whisper of the Heart, which I loved terribly, I ended up watching this sooner than later. Sadly, it does not live up to what Whisper of the Heart delivered. The cat, The Baron, who originated in Whisper, was the best part; sadly, the rest of the film I didn’t enjoy half as much. It was a decent kids film, it simply tasted different from the previous three Ghibli films I’d seen. It wandered into more children’s stereotypical territory in a hit and miss type fashion. Overall, it was alright but I probably won’t watch again. (I should note that it is still better than some of America’s extremely cheesy and crude kids movies.)

Final Comment: Meh, Kids Will Like It || 3/5 stars

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Howl’s Moving Castle || 2004 || PG 

“Here’s another curse for you – may all your bacon burn!”

Very imaginative and fantastical, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of Studio Ghibli’s more popular films with a very large fan base, which at points has caused me to scratch my head to a degree. Frankly, I think it’s rather overrated but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable watch. I did love the fantasy elements a lot; for example, the magical walking castle was really neat. The cast of characters was great; the fire demon Calcifer (English voice done by none other than Mike Wazowski’s voice, Billy Crystal!) was an imaginative fantasy creature and entertaining without being too silly. Christian Bale was great as the wizard Howl too! The film starts out quite strong, but gets too busy with different story threads during the final half, ultimately failing to resolve a major problem set up in the beginning. So, sadly I was left rather disappointed when the film ended. Still, it’s a good watch, especially for fantasy lovers.

Final Comment: Fantastical but Overrated || 4/5 stars

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neighbor-totoro-disneyscreencaps.com-3771My Neighbor Totoro || 1988 || G 

“There was a great big Totoro!”

Easily one of Ghibli’s most recognizable films, this is one of the best animated films I have ever seen in my life. Not only is it a timeless classic, but it’s depiction of family and sisterhood was pulled off better than in nearly any Disney film I’ve ever seen. This is by far the best and most realistic set of fictional sisters ever and that definitely made the film for me–they were so endearing! Little moments in the girls lives as they moved into a new house, settled into a new community, and glimpsed the forest spirits, was what made the film so monumental in heart and soul–it’s a quiet movie with massive heart. It’s also very entertaining, as little Mei is incredibly adorable and says and does some humorous things. The animation is a little old but it doesn’t hurt the film at all–in fact it has a charming, timeless quality to it that adds to the film’s quaint, sweet atmosphere of childhood. I’ve rewatched this film many times now with my seven year old brother and have teared up nearly every time by end. In short, this is a must-see.

Final Comment: Definition of Your Timeless Classic || 5/5 stars

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Ponyo || 2008 || G 

“That’s the most boring goldfish I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

I fell in love with this movie almost instantly and I would rank it highly among one of my top favorite Studio Ghibli films. The animation of the water blew me away, as it looked so fluid and soft! The world of and above the sea, and their meeting together, was captured in perfect detail, charm, and awe through the story of two little children. Title character Ponyo was enthusiastic and strong willed without being obnoxious, while the little boy Sosuke was adorably mature, bright, and kindhearted for his age; with such lovable leads, it was very hard not to adore this film! I absolutely loved the flow of the story’s plot and the level of emotion it took me to. The cast of characters was relatively small but also incredibly enjoyable and memorable; Ponyo’s wizard father and Sosuke’s spunky mother were both especially fun characters. In many ways, words fail me to describe how beautiful this movie was. From the combination of thrilling adventure, heart-tugging moments of joy, breathtaking animation, and a beautiful score, this was simply a masterpiece. Talk about going above and beyond for a children’s movie!

Final Comment: Favorite Tale From The Sea || 5/5 stars

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Spirited AwaySpirited Away || 2001 || PG 

“I finally get a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. That’s depressing.”

Boy, this movie is loved to insane heights but I didn’t click with it on the first watch. While I was sick, I gave it a second try. While I still hold to my opinion that it’s kinda overrated, I did enjoy it more the second time through. It is a great feat in the animation universe. Incredibly bizarre yet solid, we get to follow human Chihiro as she becomes stuck in the nighttime world of a bathhouse for spirits, separated from her parents. Yep, this film is your classic fantasy adventure! Although some of the characters are a little ugly to look at, mostly the animation is fascinatingly interesting and hard to look away from. Spirited Away also manages to communicate emotion that gives the adventure some gravity, which overall helped it while on my second watch. I did have a problem with a poorly presented back story of one character, but I cannot go into detail without spoiling things. Overall, it’s… an interesting movie; it will probably grow on me a little bit at a time with each rewatch.

Final Comment: Crazy but Worth The Time|| 4 /5 stars

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kikis-delivery-serviceKiki’s Delivery Service || 1989 || G 

“You’d think they’d never seen a girl and a cat on a broom before.”

Kiki’s Delivery Service perfectly captured what a family film should feel like, hitting a well-balanced mark that some animated films miss; it was not too silly yet also not too serious. It was deliciously delightful and quaint, thoroughly soaked in a nostalgia for a simpler time. Kiki was a fantastic character to get behind as her simple journey of becoming an independent young adult unfolded through adventures, mishaps, and lots of heart. Her talking cat Jiji was adorable and funny without being ridiculous or weighing down the film with too much silly dialog. In fact, the whole cast of supporting characters were great! Kiki herself was a big highlight; I really wanted my younger brother to watch this film as she displayed an optimistic, strong will to work hard for herself, without seeming perfect or unrealistic. The film continues to grow on me with each rewatch, of which I’m very happy!

Final Comment: Wonderful Family Film || 4.5/5 stars

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960__castle_in_the_sky_blu-ray_x04_Laputa: Castle in the Sky || 1986 || PG 

“Oh, no! There goes my crystal!”

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is Ghibli’s first film and it’s a great children’s fantasy adventure, packed with space pirates, a lost civilization, a magical necklace, puzzles needing solving and a roller coaster of adventures that almost never stop. However, in some ways, it felt a little young for me, so I didn’t enjoy it  quite as much as, say, Kiki (my brother would LOVE this film though, and I need to show it to him soon!) There was just a tad more silliness mixed in–not in a bad way; it just felt a little hit and miss to me personally. However, for Ghibli’s first official film, it’s pretty decent! Lead characters Sheeta and Pazu are easy to get behind and were fun to follow throughout the story. Mark Hamill’s voice acting as a certain character was a pleasure to hear, too! I’m probably ranking this a little too long but until I can give a proper rewatch, I’ll have to stick with how I feel right now.

Final Comment: Decent Kids Adventure || 3.5/5 stars

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Princess Mononoke || 1997 || PG-13 

“You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”

The versatility Ghibli has to tell so many different types of stories is amazing–from children’s adventures to bizarre fantasy to heartfelt drama. Ghibli is a master at their craft of storytelling! This versatility is especially evident in this rather mature epic, Princess Mononoke. Although the environmental theme became so overpowering that it felt more a sermon than a plot theme, the film still delivered a solid fantasy epic. Led by the likable but doomed Ashitaka, we get to watch as he’s caught up in a battle over the forest, some fighting to keep it safe and others wanting what it can give them, with little regard of the spirits that live within it. A extremely fascinating part of this film was that there practically no ‘bad’ side. Nearly all the characters were cast in shades of grey, each having good and bad motivates that gave a very large, telling image of humanity. I hope to revisit this film in the future, to form a more solid opinion of it, and to enjoy the animation, of course.

Final Comment: Preachy yet Epicly Beautiful || 4.5/5 stars

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poppy-hill-disneyscreencaps.com-3998From Up on Poppy Hill || 2011 || PG 

“There’s no future for people who worship the future and forget the past.”

This made me think of Whisper of The Heart, in a small ways. Poppy Hill, for some reason, isn’t that popular, so I’m among the few who really enjoyed this movie. As a high school attempts to save their clubhouse, we get to peek into the private lives of a couple of students in particular and their budding relationship; all with the backdrop of Japan’s struggle to move forward after WWII without loosing touch with their heritage. Like most Ghibli films, it handles the sweet beginnings of romance wonderfully. As a period piece, the bits of drama throughout the film were enjoyable to watch, as was the look into the Japanese culture. My only complaint was that the end felt a bit abrupt–but only because I wanted see more! Like Whisper, I could have sat for hours watching the lives of these characters if the movie had kept going! So, overall, this was a very pleasant animation!

Final Comment: A Precious Throwback to What Was “Whisper” || 4.5/5 stars

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Porco-Rosso-porco-rosso-29177479-1200-713Porco Rosso || 1992 || PG 

“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.”

Drenched in playful romanticism of yesteryear and accompanied by sea planes, air bandits, big Italian families, hidden coves, lost loves, and oh! a man cursed to have the face of a pig? Yes, you read that right; while that part felt random, somehow it still managed to work. Porco was an endearing yet serious character; I found myself drawn into his story and really enjoyed the stay, watching him handle pirates, his delicate sea plane, and eventually fight for honor. The plot, once it got going, was a fantastic ride and beautifully delivered. A special highlight was the smart and optimistic young engineer Fio and I consider her one of Ghibli’s most underrated characters. She was an absolute joy to watch, but I never see her mentioned by most fans.  Overall, except for a less than satisfactory last ten minutes, I was pleasantly surprised by this film and almost instantly in love!

Final Comment: Yes! The Pig Thing Does Work!|| 5/5 stars

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968full-my-neighbors-the-yamadas-screenshotMy Neighbors The Yamadas || 1999 || PG 

“The reason the Yamadas get along fine is because all three adults are nuts. If one of you were normal it would unbalance the rest.”

Very different from Ghilbi’s other films, this film was a comical commentary on your regular, middle class family. Although it’s almost two hours, it plays out like a bunch of shorts, rather than your typical, single overarching plot. It was a sweet film, with some fun moments and some wonderful watercolor-like animation, perfectly capturing each family member’s perspective of life. Although I wouldn’t consider it a favorite of mine, I would consider it worth watching if you consider yourself a Studio Ghibli fan or an animation buff in general. It had a very unique feel to how it’s told and how it looks and even it’s own sense of humor. Being an animation geek myself, I did make the effort to watch this one.

Final Comment: Had Some Good Moments || 3.5/5 stars

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pompoko-4592Pom Poko || 1994 || PG 

“I have no face!”

Of all the Studio Ghibli films I’ve watched, this is the one I’ve liked least of all, and I think it’s almost universally unpopular. Following shape shifting raccoon-dogs fighting for their forest, those shape shifting moments were pretty much the only enjoyable parts for me. Sadly, I didn’t like the rest, as it was unbelievably strange and weird to say the least. You would not believe what part of the male anatomy they decided to animate in this film–I did not care for that part. 8O The all-too familiar environmental message was quite in-your-face, which I always find intrusive of my mental personal space–if that make sense? Overall, the film felt very odd. It’s the only Ghibli film I actually completely dislike.

Final Comment: I Shoulda Skipped It || 2.5/5 stars

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la-tumba-de-las-luciernagasGrave of the Fireflies || 1988 || NR 

Once again, Ghibli’s ability to deliver a variety of stories is shown by this epicly devastating yet somehow beautiful piece of animation. Following two siblings and their will to survive after their city is bombed near the end of WWII, the price of war is depicted very clearly through their struggles, nothing sugarcoated to say the least. The two main characters are breathtakingly realistic, endearing, and well balanced. Little Setsuko is a heart-stealer, unbelievably cute and sympathetic. Seita, the older brother, is also an easy hero to get behind as he attempts to shelter his sister from the effects of war. On an overall scale, everything is fantastic in this film, from voice acting, to animation, to story flow. However, I must note that the film got so depressing that I had to stop near the end before finishing it later. The fact that I never want to watch this film ever again lowers the score just a little bit. I think everyone should see this at some point in their lifetime but it should not be expected to be an easy watch and rightfully so. Well done, Ghibli, well done.

Final Comment: The Definition of a Tear-Jerker || 4.5/5

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Shall we tally the scores? Out of sixteen movies, there are four that were marked under 3.5 and two the acceptable 4. With the remaining ten films all being above average/raising the bar of the animation genre, with four gaining near perfect 4.5, and six claiming 5 out of 5 stars, I say, where have you been all my life, Studio Ghibli?! Sure, they’re not perfect, just like every other film, but that’s not why they’re marked so high. What they are is genuine. Imaginative. Relate-able. Gorgeous. Touching. In the end, to me, they’re priceless and well worth the time sharing.

This summer will definitely be one I’ll remember as the year I realized I could watch anime and love it. I now happily own (yes, I put my money where my mouth is) My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart, The Secret World of Arriety, and even Howl’s Moving Castle on DVD. I hope to buy The Wind Rises, From Up On Poppy Hill, and maybe even Spirited Away in the near future! That’s how much I love them and need them accessible, right at my fingertips!

If even one of these films piqued your interest, I strongly recommend you find a way to watch it! Hopefully Studio Ghibli can bring happiness to your life as it did mine! If you’ve already seen some (or all!) of these films, what did you think of them? Did you like them as much as I did? I surely hope that you did!

~Jamie

Currently:


 

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Currently liking: my new bedroom–the ceiling is higher so it feels more airy and I have a closet and dresser again. A proper bedroom just makes life nicer! So glad I put the work into all that painting when I did–and see my wall of posters^^?! Also currently happy that I remembered the children’s mystery book series Nate The Great that I grew up reading. Nate dressed like Sherlock Holmes and ate pancakes with his dog Sludge and solved quirky mysteries that happened around his quirky friends. I put a whole bunch of the old books on hold at the library to read to Nathan. He’s at the perfect age for them!

Currently listening: to several songs on repeat: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift–because that song is just awesome–and Chandelier by Sia because it’s tragically gorgeous and rather hypnotic. Also lots of Ghibli movie soundtracks, because sweet feelings! This piano medley is especially relaxing and comforting.

Currently drinking: lots of water to help get the very last of this cold to go away!

Currently reading: Journeys of Four on Kindle by my friend Rebekah Jones; I’ve been enjoying it so far!

Currently writing: I got stuck in my blog writing this past week (you probably noticed it was quiet around here!) and you know what I did about it? I opened a word document, picked up a fan fiction story that I had dropped about four years ago and actually wrote something for it! It felt very weird but the words flowed and then I was able to write/finish several big blog posts afterwards! So, that is my current advice to my writer friends who are feeling stuck: flashback to something old you used to write and dabble with it–it will feel so new you might awaken your creativity again!

Currently sitting: in my new room!!!! I have my white board up in front of me telling me I need to hang up laundry and watch more anime after I finish this post. :P

Currently watching: Psycho-Pass on Netflix. I’ve been a little obsessed with it recently. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone as it’s TV-MA, it’s a great watch for mature viewers so far. It reminds me a teeny bit of my sci-fi short story I’m writing right now, at least with the atmosphere of the city and the technology level in society.

Currently obsessed with: PC computer game Fate: The Cursed King. While I was sick I remembered that I used to like the old version and so I and my brother have been playing this new one together. I like seeing all the magical creatures as they’re giving me ideas for my novel-on-hold, The Twisted Book. :)

Currently tired: from staying up later than usual the past two nights. Friday night I stayed up till 1 watching Return of the King and last night I was up till 12 finishing my Studio Ghibli post. Hopefully I can get to bed at a decent time tonight so I’m fresh for tomorrow.

Currently excited: about tomorrow! The Hugh Howey Booktrack Contest Winner is announced tomorrow and I’m very excited! Much of my summer was with this contest, so it’s thrilling for it to be nearly over, especially since I’m a finalist! Looking forward to what tomorrow brings, no matter the outcome.

Currently failing: at getting to this Netflix DVD that has been sitting on my desk all weekend. I really need watch it and send it back…. I should write that on my white board…

Currently scaring myself with: I’m not scaring myself with anything at the moment–I suppose redoing the room mostly by myself was a little scary for fear of messing something up, but that was a couple weeks ago already, so I don’t think it counts any more.

Currently stuck in my head: Shake It Off, of course! That song is so fun and catchy!

Currently wishing: good luck to all the finalists, including myself, over tomorrow! There was some very good competition, so I feel blessed to have gotten this far in the contest!

Currently praying: that I don’t miss the contest announcement tomorrow while I’m at school! It would be my luck to be gone for two hours that morning and miss it! So, praying that it gets announced either before or afterward! :P

~Jamie

Because I’ve Been Sick…


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Although I wanted my Studio Ghibli post to be next in line here, I haven’t been able to give it proper attention during my cold, so an update post will simply have to do.

If we want to go back to around my birthday; I had a smashing one but life as a twenty year old brings on more reminders that life is harsh and brutal–for example, I was stung on the shoulder in my sleep by a scorpion. My family has lived with scorpions in the house for five years–spraying them outside, smashing them or catching them in jars and sticky traps inside–but I’m the first to actually be stung.

If you’ve ever wondered what a scorpion sting feels like–when it happened it felt like I’d been shocked by electricity! There’s no mark left on the skin, which confused me when I jumped out of bed and tried to look at it in the mirror. My shoulder (and finger, as I’d tried to scratch myself in my sleep and disturbed the scorpion, who must have climbed on my shoulder) felt both hot, tingly, and numb, and it was very very painful.

Over the phone, poison control had me take ibuprofen and keep a cool washcloth on the area (no ice! they said, no ice!) Thankfully, outside of a lot of crying, some swelling, and hot pain, I did not develop other symptoms like swelling throat and tongue and I didn’t have to go to the hospital. It was a rather traumatic experience; Mom and I found the little devil under my bed the next night and did away with it. My room is full of fresh traps and my bed is pulled away from the wall so they can’t reach me that way. :)

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My Lord of the Rings readers will be happy to hear that I bought the extended versions of the LOTR Trilogy after my birthday and so far have seen Fellowship of the Ring. Although I can’t say that film instantly turned me into a Ringer, I did enjoy it to a degree and look forward to watching The Two Towers. So far my favorite characters are Frodo, Gandalf, and Sam. I didn’t really connect with any of the other characters and I’ll be waiting for the next two movies to do their job and make me care about them. :)

I’ve been redoing my old bedroom upstairs so I can move back into it. Boy, after that scorpion in my room downstairs, I’m ready to leave the basement as soon as possible! I’ve spent several days preparing it for fresh coat of paint–mostly by myself! There was a lot to do, like stripping wallpaper, filling nail holes, washing the walls and baseboards, cleaning the fan, and picking new curtains for the windows. I would have started painting expect that 1) the upstairs air conditioning quit and would have made painting a misery and 2) I caught this wretched cold.

Summer colds are awful because it’s like, where did you come from?! It’s not winter-y and cold, why is there a cold going around?! I bitterly hate colds. Murder mysteries of Miss Marple and Hecule Poirot, Ghibli, and Youtube has kept me company in my room during the day and Finding Nemo and Peter Pan during the night. I even rewatched the two epics The Ten Commandments and Camelot. I will hopefully get to The Two Towers before long as well. I’m hoping to be better soon so I can get back to working on the room, school, and my normal schedule. Right now I’m past the horrid sore throat phase and in the even worse congested nose and hacking cough phase.

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Because I’ve been sick, I have had a chance to watch YouTube and discover trailers for upcoming movies. Since seeing Guardians of the Galaxy (more on that later!), I’ve not really had anything to look forward to in the film world besides Age of Ultron and Mockingjay Part 1. Except, now I do; I’ve linked to each trailer below! While I will probably watch most of these at home with DVDs, I’m still very excited as the genres are wide in variety, from zombie, to several different types of thrillers, to WWII, to a vampire, a British spy thriller, to westerns, to Biblical epics, romances, to just movies featuring actors I know like Dan Stevens! I’m really pumped for many of these and I hope they hold up!

The upcoming films Fury (starring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shai La Beouf and Jon Bernthall of The Walking Dead), The Homesman (starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank), Horns (starring Daniel Radcliffe),  The Guest (starring Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey!), Dracula Untold, Life After Beth (starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHane!), Kingsman: The Secret Service (with Samuel L Jackson and Michael Caine), A Walk Among the Tombstones (starring Liam Neeson and Dan Stevens again!), Exodus: Gods and Kings (starring Christian Bale as Moses!), and several others all have me very excited! All the trailers look great and appeal to me in some shape or fashion and I can’t wait to watch them all! It will be interesting if I like any of them enough to add to my DVD collection.

Speaking of my DVD collection, I was able to get some DVDs after my birthday that I’d been wanting and it was very exciting! Saving all my money really paid off. Besides The Extended Versions of Lord of the Rings, I bought My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, Porco Rosso, Whisper of the Heart, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Kiki’s Delivery Service so that my little brother could watch them whenever he wants to and have a proper childhood experience. Totoro and Ponyo especially have made a great impact on his movie life and he rewatches them all the time. I adore them strongly myself and look forward to playing them all often! More on them all soon!

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And before I finish, as I said above, I got to see Guardians of the Galaxy on it’s first Friday in theaters! I went by myself and had popcorn and Sprite and propped by feet up on the chair in front of me. Outside of a few quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and highly recommend everyone who is interested to go see it while it’s still in the theater as it’s a fantastic experience! Chris Pratt as Peter Quill was my favorite character, along with Groot. The whole team, actually, was really great. Outside of my problem with some of Rocket’s dialouge, some of which I just couldn’t buy, it was overall incredibly hysterical, breathtaking, surprisingly emotional, and just fifty gallons worth of fun! Definition of an instant classic. :)

Well, I’m running out of things to say. So let’s end here on a strong note. GO WATCH THAT MOVIE. :) And keep me in your prayers, I really do hate being sick. :(

~Jamie

Busting Writer’s Block with Thankfulness


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I’m thankful for self control–it was hard not spending my money for the past five or six months since January but the delayed gratification was very worth it! When my birthday came and I was able to go on shopping sprees without emptying my bank account–that was satisfying! It definitely made the whole occasion more special! Self control pays off.

I’m thankful for temporary tattoos. I consider tattoos, especially real ones, to be such a fascinating art form. I myself have yet to host any serious thoughts on getting a real tattoo, so temporary tats are perfect for the now. Especially ones that sparkle. :)

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I’m thankful for Netflix. I can keep my favorite shows close *hackingcough-Family Guy-The Office-Adventure Time-The Walking Dead-Warehouse 13-cough* and discover new ones too *cough-Parks and Recreation-anime-anime-anime-Princess Jellyfish-Fate/Zero-Ouran-anime-anime-anime-PARKS AND RECREATION-cough* (Also I discovered two of my most favorite movies ever on Netflix: Thelma and Louise and Clue.

I’m thankful for piano finger warm ups. They are fun and challenging without being overwhelming, so they’re an overall encouragement to my piano playing.

I’m thankful for the Internet. Not only is it full of interesting nooks, sources of income, and fun entertainment, but also can host things like blogs and Skype. One of my favorite things is getting to make new friends and keep in touch with old ones. I mean, the Internet has it’s downfalls, but I’m looking at the bright side here and this is a big bright side.

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I’m thankful for the rain storms. My part of town has had at least three good storms the past month, which is more than the past few years. I LOVE IT; I wish it rained more! It smells so good. The mood it sets is fantastic for writing or getting stuff done. It makes the air more invigorating, the ground more green, and life just more exciting–at least, here in the Tatooine desert!

I’m thankful for that crackling soda fizz that lingers in the throat after you drink too much at once. It’s sharp but I always go back for more because it’s just such a small but fun delightful part of day-to-day life. It makes the slow moments more special.

~Jamie

PS. Also snap bracelets!

Liebster 2.0 (a sorta birthday edition!)


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(Note: I’ve redone my blog theme! I needed a change even though I loved the old old. I do like the new header feature: I was able to find many free, fabulously high quality pictures to use. Refresh or jump through my pages to see the different pictures I found!)

No matter how many times this blog award comes around (and it seems to come around a lot!) I always flip out when I see that I’ve been tagged by someone and that they thought of me! That feels so good! And today I thought I would use the latest tag to share some of the awesome stuff that happened over the past few days around my 20th birthday!

A big thank you, first, to Miranda for tagging me! And–just a quick plug! I don’t follow fashion or photography blogs; it’s just not my main interest–well, okay, except for just ONE blog and that is Little Gold Pocket Watch. I discovered this blog when it was just starting out and I absolutely loved Miranda’s photos and outfits. She has the brightest smile and the sweetest online voice! She recently came back from a blogging hiatus which made me really happy. Thanks for tagging me, Miranda!

My Eleven Birthday Facts:

1. I helped buy myself a brand new laptop for my birthday; a shiny touchscreen Windows 8 laptop! I’m still figuring out the short cuts, but it’s so beautiful, thin, and shiny! I know I will be using it to the max! It actually got me to really notice Kindle, so I’ll be reading a few books on there as well now (including my friend Rebekah’s latest released book Journeys of Four! I’m so excited to read the published version!)

2. Kayla and I saw “Lucy” together on Friday as an extension of my birthday; I ate Chiclets (sorry, fellow movie goers, that the candy rattled so loudly) and we soaked in Scarlet Johanson’s awesomeness. (The movie itself was enjoyable but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it at theaters.)

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3. I had my favorite foods on my birthday; hamburgers with chips and ambrosia salad (Aunt Linda, it was your recipe and it was so good!) and Chinese! Fool’s Toffee and pink lemonade also made guest appearances. :P Oh, and doughnuts for breakfast.

4. I watched four movies on my birthday–I multi-tasked through them, of course. I played Porco Rosso for Nathan while I updated my new computer system and installed an anti-virus–Nathan enjoyed it a lot, which made me happy. Then Kayla and I watched Shaun of the Dead, Murder by Death, and Clue all that evening. It was awesome.

5. My sister was very generous this year with birthday presents; gifting me with The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, The Cornetto Trilogy, Murder by Death, The Croods, Harry Potter posters, Captain America The Winter Soldier poster, Hot Topic gift card, and some beauty products! I was floored!  I <3 Kayla.

6. This is the second year in a row where I’ve received a zombie film for my birthday. I would like to keep this tradition up if possible.

7. After my birthday, Kayla chauffeured me around to a few stores I had gift cards too; I made out like a bandit at Target with a magnetic white board with accessories to plot stories on and keep day to day notes in sight, to brand new headphones, Catching Fire, Despicable Me 2, school supplies and Lindsey Stirling’s latest album Shatter Me! Her music is fantastic!

8. On my birthday morning, I planned to sleep in but ended up waking up at about 6:30 and was unable to fall back asleep. 8-O

9. I got one dollar shipping on Hot Topic’s website and I was so thrilled! Ordered myself two Adventure Time tops for my new favorite Cartoon Network fandom and a couple other things too!

10. Besides the four movies, I and the family also watched Duck Dynasty during dinner. SO MUCH TV.

11. I had a fantastic birthday, not a bad thing happened and everything was very enjoyable. :)

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Miranda asked some great questions, several that I’ve never had to answer before here on my blog so I’m excited to answer them now!

1) What is your personal style like? I’m now usually in a jeans and t-shirt style but I also like to wear some nicer tops and capri pants. Overall, I’m very relaxed and wear comfortable clothes with Minions or fandom related things on them. X) So, I suppose I’m a pretty casual dresser overall.

2) What got you interested in blogging? Writing on my mom’s blog back in 2010 got me interested in starting my own personal blog–along with reading other girls blogs during that same year. I’ve always liked to write so it definitely appealed to my strengths!

3) Any pet peeves? Several–besides the ones listed in this post–include people leaving shopping carts just outside the cart holder instead of taking the extra two steps to put it out of the way and going to a store (and now at the theater!) where there are lots places to be checking out (or in!) people but the store is only utilizing one or two, making everyone wait longer then they need. SERIOUSLY WALMART. YOU HAVE ABOUT 35 CHECK OUT SPACES AND YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO HAVE MORE THAN FIVE OF THEM OPEN AT A TIME? I DON’T HAVE TIME TO STAND BEHIND SOME FINICKY PERSON WITH THEIR COUPONS AND THREE OVERLOADED CARTS. Well, thank goodness for self checkout.

4) Celebrity crush? So, the very, very, very first name to pop into my head when I read this question was Benedict Cumberbatch. Heehee. Others would include Tom Hiddleston, Nicholas Hoult, Chris Evans, Simon Pegg and Sylvester Stallone.

5) If you could go back in time, which era would you choose? Gaslamp Victorian England. The classic Sherlock Holmes time period! And then maybe visit the 20’s, 40’s, and 50’s afterwards out of pure curiosity…

6) Morning hair and makeup routine? With my hair on the shorter side now, I usually will throw on a band to keep it out of my eyes. I actually don’t have a makeup routine as I rarely wear any, however I’m practicing with eyeliner. I suppose the closest thing I have to a makeup routine is applying some EOS lip balm on my lips before moving on with my day to keep them moist.

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7) Favorite movie? CLUE. There are few movies that I can rewatch over and over and over again and not get bored of; Clue is one of them. Much more recent favorites also include The Cornetto Trilogy and Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and The Secret World of Arrietty; the former are a fantastic comedy/satirical set of British films and the latter some of the best animated films I’ve ever seen.

8) Where have you not traveled that you would like to visit and why? London, England. Hands down number one place I’d love to visit!

9) Morning person or night owl? Although I am trying to get my morning scheduled arranged so I’m getting up earlier, I am definitely more a night owl! I love staying up late!

10) What’s something you’re passionate about besides blogging? I really love animals. I’m not all high on animal rights or being a vegetarian or anything, I simply, really enjoy the company and energy I receive from just about any animal. I would love to work with animals more often.

11) What is one of your life goals, big or small? A big term goal, which I actually just accomplished, was to save money for six months to keep my bank account from emptying out and I was able to do it!! It feels really good to save money! A small term goal is try watching more anime-there are several shows on Netflix that my anime sensei has informed me are well worth the watch and he’s yet to steer me to a bad piece of media. ;)

Tagging, tagging, I FEEL LAZY BUT TAGGING CAN BE SO HARD. :P The first eleven people to comment on this post can answer these 7 questions on their own blogs or in the comments if they so wish.

Do you sleep with your bedroom door open or shut?

Have you ever won a contest of any kind? If you have, what was it?

If you could build something out of Legos right now without all typical obstacles, what you would build?

What’s your favorite type/flavor of gum?

If you choose between visiting the moon and mars, which would go to?

What is the scariest movie scene you remember seeing when you were little?

What’s your favorite theme song?

~Jamie

This Summer’s Bucketlist


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What I’ve already done:

Rewatched Death Note | Began watching Studio Ghibli films | Attended my first Comic Con | Gave Parks and Recreation a try (and it’s awesome!) | Read more books to my brother | Completed the 100 Favorite Movies blog series | Caught up with Doctor Who | Skyped with friends | Bought The Lego Movie | Learned lots of math for GED |  Discovered EOS Lip Balm | Discovered Adventure Time (also awesome!) | Entered another Booktrack contest |

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What I will now hopefully complete:

More math at school | Have an awesome birthday | Catch up with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD | Finish the rest of the Ghibli movies | Learn Windows 8 | Play more music on the piano | Keep up my blog | Reorganize my bedroom shelves | Watch another movie at the theater | Hopefully host a giveaway at the end of summer | Give my blog it’s every-six-month makeover | Hopefully buy My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and Arrietty (all awesome!) | Begin a rewrite to my futurist sci-fi short story | Read some books | Go swimming just once | Do something creative | Continue to figure out my life |

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