What Harry Potter Means to Me

/ June 26, 2017

On June 26th, 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone turns officially turns twenty years old. As a devout Potterhead, I tried thinking back to the time when I was a kid during the very beginning of the series J.K. Rowling had created. I don't remember much about the nineties, and maybe that's a good thing, just by the lack of coherent trends that took place then. The memories that came to mind was just how much Harry Potter means to me, and the weird road it took from pre-fan to a hardcore one.

Unlike an almost entire generation, I didn't grow up with Harry Potter in a typical way - dressing up and queuing at bookstores, anxiously reading each new adventure, chatting and befriending other Hogwarts students on forums and websites until the new book was released. Ultimately, being apart of the fandom culture that is so much more well-known and celebrated today in the open.

As a pre-teen, my little town was very hush hush about the wizarding world. In classes, kids who were given permission by their parents to read the books were as odd as the ones who were forbidden. My classmates chatted about their favorite characters, but it all felt very off-limits; that even though it was allowed, it was still wrong. It didn't help matters much that the quiet protest at school was only amplified on the news with groups hailing the Rowling's fantasy saga as 'evil' and 'satanic' burned copies, and the increasing controversy that the series was recruited impressionable children into worshipping the occult.

Either from the library or my mother, somehow I managed to finagle Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. I don't remember reading them in secret, one after another, but being shy, I hardly ever vocalized what or how much I loved the books. If my mom took me to the mall, of which Warner Bros. used to have stores filled with Loony Toons, Animaniacs, and Harry Potter merchandise, I'd usually oggle everything knowing it was too expensive to buy but secretly wanting it anyways. She knew I was interested, but we didn't really know how much by a long shot.

Then, the one time I really expressed my love of Harry, everything changed.

I was on an errand run with my devoutly religious grandmother and aunt from my father's side, and shared how much I loved the boy who lived, his strange new school and the adventures he was going on with Hermione and Ron. That wasn't such a good idea, as the monumental 'ethical' controversy towards the books was mirrored back at me by my own family. My grandma, not the soft and fuzzy kind you might be thinking of, but hardened and stubborn, made me me believe that by reading about wizardry I would end up going to hell. To even have a granddaughter associated with a source of sorcery seemed inconsequential and inexcusable, like something that had to be Avada Kedavraed immediately or risk spiritual contamination and damnation for herself too.
harry potter movie meme
Growing up in my family, there wasn't a lot of talking, sharing, or me being a kid. I didn't know I could say anything to anyone about how my grandma made me feel. I was sheepish, my dad and his side of the family ruled all, and there was a lot of pressure to please. On my kindergarten report card, my teacher wrote 'people pleaser' and 'perfectionist'. So doing the one thing my relatives told me not to do seemed like the right thing - in response to them and their beliefs instead of my own.

As far as I could tell, there was certainly reason enough for kids question the so-called moral safety of fictional kids learning how to use magic and defeat evil - as evidenced by the protests on the news and classrooms divided between the freaks who read the books and those who didn't. When I told my mom years later the reason why I had grown distant from Harry, she was infuriated towards my now-distant relatives, to say the least. To give myself the benefit of the doubt, I was still a kid, but it's still something I wish I had spoken up about.

I watched the fandom grow from afar. Every time the next book was available at the library with a waiting list as long as a scroll, I wanted to put myself on it but didn't. Like clockwork, I even knew when to leave some of my friends alone because if they got a copy, especially one from a library, they only had a few days to read it all before returning it. As the movies came out, I usually stopped whatever I was going to watch trailers. Funnily enough, as much as my family went to theaters when I was a teenager, and it was a lot, previews of new releases were rarely played, maybe a continuing sign of the quiet ban my town held. Sneak peaks of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were the most significant cause an inevitability of knowing the series was one movie (then two movies) away from officially ending, and I had already lost out at being on the same page as everyone else when the books had finished two years earlier.

My acceptance letter to Hogwarts didn't officially arrive until a month before last movie was released.

ABC Family (now FreeForm) was holding one of their Harry Potter weekends, airing all of the movies from Friday to Sunday. Catching on through the wizarding wireless network that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was about to hit theaters was my be-all-end-all last attempt to be an unofficial part of history. My sister and I poured everything into the marathon, throwing caution and years of fear aside (my sister who never had any sort of attachment to the books but went along with the ride for or because of me - thanks sis). We squeezed in all of the movies before going to theaters that fateful weekend to see the final installment.

Its posters touted 'It All Ends' but the strange thing was, I never felt for a second like I had been away. All of the characters and story felt so organic to who I was as a person as if I had always been queuing for every book and seen every movie, had special Potter birthdays and years of fangirling behind me. I cried just as much as graduating Hogwarts students when beloved characters were killed, Hogwarts was decimated, and Harry used the Resurrection Stone to face off against Voldemort. Somewhere inside of me, I had always been wearing my Hogwarts robes, and now I could finally take off the invisibility cloak.

When everything was ending for fans, for me it was a beginning, which was a curse and a blessing. It was only the former because the excitement and anticipation with other fans had weaned. Gone were the years of talking about theories on forums the second a new book came out or fangirling over breaking news about cast announcements. It wasn't easy recognizing how much I missed out on when I was reading the books for the first time and didn't have many to anyone to turn to share the same epiphanies with.


But then I got so much back. I had grown up without Harry Potter, or at least with it from afar, but my childhood was rebooted. My love is hardcore and remains the biggest fandom I'm a part of.

A whole new side of me has grown from the books, movies, theme parks, and the post-Potter universe like Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child. The books helped me get through some of my toughest years of college, and gave me the courage to want to be a fictional writer. I've started blogs 'cause I wanted to share my thoughts about what I read and get the feels over news, and from that, I've made friends, reviewed products, had the courage to become a member of the press for conventions when the hermit in me probably yearned to stay at home. If my anxiety wants to take over and paralyze me into fear, I remember the magic and hope in the world and all is well.

Rowling created such a magical world of escape that, sadly my relatives never figured out, goes beyond witchcraft and sorcery, but has characters everyone can relate to and life lessons to learn, things that have helped me cope and given inspiration. It's cliche to say but I feel at home in Hogwarts no matter what form it is from re-watching old documentaries or looking at fanart, to going back to the books and movies or visiting the theme parks and never wanting to leave. Every time I search something new, even if it's crafts on Pinterest or theories that are still going on here and there, it doesn't seem so silly to be invested in something that's given the world so much, let alone little old me.

Thanks to JK Rowling and Bloomsbury for taking a chance on a book with a big idea that taught us all about friendship, bravery, politics, social justice, bullying, and good versus evil. It's taught me to speak up and not be afraid to be myself, or love what I love. The series helped me embrace what a nerd I am now, how comfortable I am in blogging, cosplaying (not even as Harry Potter characters but other people), and enjoying fandom from Star Wars to The Walking Dead. It's such a huge part of my life and I'm proud to call myself a Potterhead. Harry Potter means everything.

On June 26th, 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone turns officially turns twenty years old. As a devout Potterhead, I tried thinking back to the time when I was a kid during the very beginning of the series J.K. Rowling had created. I don't remember much about the nineties, and maybe that's a good thing, just by the lack of coherent trends that took place then. The memories that came to mind was just how much Harry Potter means to me, and the weird road it took from pre-fan to a hardcore one.

Unlike an almost entire generation, I didn't grow up with Harry Potter in a typical way - dressing up and queuing at bookstores, anxiously reading each new adventure, chatting and befriending other Hogwarts students on forums and websites until the new book was released. Ultimately, being apart of the fandom culture that is so much more well-known and celebrated today in the open.

As a pre-teen, my little town was very hush hush about the wizarding world. In classes, kids who were given permission by their parents to read the books were as odd as the ones who were forbidden. My classmates chatted about their favorite characters, but it all felt very off-limits; that even though it was allowed, it was still wrong. It didn't help matters much that the quiet protest at school was only amplified on the news with groups hailing the Rowling's fantasy saga as 'evil' and 'satanic' burned copies, and the increasing controversy that the series was recruited impressionable children into worshipping the occult.

Either from the library or my mother, somehow I managed to finagle Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. I don't remember reading them in secret, one after another, but being shy, I hardly ever vocalized what or how much I loved the books. If my mom took me to the mall, of which Warner Bros. used to have stores filled with Loony Toons, Animaniacs, and Harry Potter merchandise, I'd usually oggle everything knowing it was too expensive to buy but secretly wanting it anyways. She knew I was interested, but we didn't really know how much by a long shot.

Then, the one time I really expressed my love of Harry, everything changed.

I was on an errand run with my devoutly religious grandmother and aunt from my father's side, and shared how much I loved the boy who lived, his strange new school and the adventures he was going on with Hermione and Ron. That wasn't such a good idea, as the monumental 'ethical' controversy towards the books was mirrored back at me by my own family. My grandma, not the soft and fuzzy kind you might be thinking of, but hardened and stubborn, made me me believe that by reading about wizardry I would end up going to hell. To even have a granddaughter associated with a source of sorcery seemed inconsequential and inexcusable, like something that had to be Avada Kedavraed immediately or risk spiritual contamination and damnation for herself too.
harry potter movie meme
Growing up in my family, there wasn't a lot of talking, sharing, or me being a kid. I didn't know I could say anything to anyone about how my grandma made me feel. I was sheepish, my dad and his side of the family ruled all, and there was a lot of pressure to please. On my kindergarten report card, my teacher wrote 'people pleaser' and 'perfectionist'. So doing the one thing my relatives told me not to do seemed like the right thing - in response to them and their beliefs instead of my own.

As far as I could tell, there was certainly reason enough for kids question the so-called moral safety of fictional kids learning how to use magic and defeat evil - as evidenced by the protests on the news and classrooms divided between the freaks who read the books and those who didn't. When I told my mom years later the reason why I had grown distant from Harry, she was infuriated towards my now-distant relatives, to say the least. To give myself the benefit of the doubt, I was still a kid, but it's still something I wish I had spoken up about.

I watched the fandom grow from afar. Every time the next book was available at the library with a waiting list as long as a scroll, I wanted to put myself on it but didn't. Like clockwork, I even knew when to leave some of my friends alone because if they got a copy, especially one from a library, they only had a few days to read it all before returning it. As the movies came out, I usually stopped whatever I was going to watch trailers. Funnily enough, as much as my family went to theaters when I was a teenager, and it was a lot, previews of new releases were rarely played, maybe a continuing sign of the quiet ban my town held. Sneak peaks of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were the most significant cause an inevitability of knowing the series was one movie (then two movies) away from officially ending, and I had already lost out at being on the same page as everyone else when the books had finished two years earlier.

My acceptance letter to Hogwarts didn't officially arrive until a month before last movie was released.

ABC Family (now FreeForm) was holding one of their Harry Potter weekends, airing all of the movies from Friday to Sunday. Catching on through the wizarding wireless network that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was about to hit theaters was my be-all-end-all last attempt to be an unofficial part of history. My sister and I poured everything into the marathon, throwing caution and years of fear aside (my sister who never had any sort of attachment to the books but went along with the ride for or because of me - thanks sis). We squeezed in all of the movies before going to theaters that fateful weekend to see the final installment.

Its posters touted 'It All Ends' but the strange thing was, I never felt for a second like I had been away. All of the characters and story felt so organic to who I was as a person as if I had always been queuing for every book and seen every movie, had special Potter birthdays and years of fangirling behind me. I cried just as much as graduating Hogwarts students when beloved characters were killed, Hogwarts was decimated, and Harry used the Resurrection Stone to face off against Voldemort. Somewhere inside of me, I had always been wearing my Hogwarts robes, and now I could finally take off the invisibility cloak.

When everything was ending for fans, for me it was a beginning, which was a curse and a blessing. It was only the former because the excitement and anticipation with other fans had weaned. Gone were the years of talking about theories on forums the second a new book came out or fangirling over breaking news about cast announcements. It wasn't easy recognizing how much I missed out on when I was reading the books for the first time and didn't have many to anyone to turn to share the same epiphanies with.


But then I got so much back. I had grown up without Harry Potter, or at least with it from afar, but my childhood was rebooted. My love is hardcore and remains the biggest fandom I'm a part of.

A whole new side of me has grown from the books, movies, theme parks, and the post-Potter universe like Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child. The books helped me get through some of my toughest years of college, and gave me the courage to want to be a fictional writer. I've started blogs 'cause I wanted to share my thoughts about what I read and get the feels over news, and from that, I've made friends, reviewed products, had the courage to become a member of the press for conventions when the hermit in me probably yearned to stay at home. If my anxiety wants to take over and paralyze me into fear, I remember the magic and hope in the world and all is well.

Rowling created such a magical world of escape that, sadly my relatives never figured out, goes beyond witchcraft and sorcery, but has characters everyone can relate to and life lessons to learn, things that have helped me cope and given inspiration. It's cliche to say but I feel at home in Hogwarts no matter what form it is from re-watching old documentaries or looking at fanart, to going back to the books and movies or visiting the theme parks and never wanting to leave. Every time I search something new, even if it's crafts on Pinterest or theories that are still going on here and there, it doesn't seem so silly to be invested in something that's given the world so much, let alone little old me.

Thanks to JK Rowling and Bloomsbury for taking a chance on a book with a big idea that taught us all about friendship, bravery, politics, social justice, bullying, and good versus evil. It's taught me to speak up and not be afraid to be myself, or love what I love. The series helped me embrace what a nerd I am now, how comfortable I am in blogging, cosplaying (not even as Harry Potter characters but other people), and enjoying fandom from Star Wars to The Walking Dead. It's such a huge part of my life and I'm proud to call myself a Potterhead. Harry Potter means everything.
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Actress Nicole Kidman
Since I was a teenager head over heels for Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman has always been a star that I've loved. Known for her eccentric, classy red carpet style and longstanding career, she's never been far from the limelight or committing to various projects.

From a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in Lion to her praise-worthy performance in HBO's Big Little Lies,  and festival support for Sofia Coppola's remake The Beguiled, 2017 has been quite a fabulous year for the acclaimed actress. Since today is her birthday and has been on my fangirl heart lately, it's time to rave about the Australian native.

From comedies to dramas, epic westerns, and musicals, her filmography ticks off a lot of boxes. Critics have often considered her career unexpected and hard to pin down, and by all means, it really is. Since breaking out from smaller Australian roles to international waters by fighting off Billy Zane in Dead Calm (1989), she continued to up the ante with a tremendous performance in Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995) and then changed tunes with Moulin Rouge (2001). She's churned out captivating characters ever since, causing her career to ebb and flow like the rest of Hollywood, hitting all the right notes as well as low.

So if you talk about a box-office career, then I'm a disaster. But somehow, you know, I still manage to find my way to work.

Often when we consider great actresses, Hollywood would like us to believe we can only think of a few. A measuring stick for women puts them squarely in the classics like Bette Davis or Audrey Hepburn, to today, where Meryl Streep stands alone as the most heralded Oscar-nominated star in film history. Like Naomi Watts, Amy Adams, Kate Winslet, and countless others, Kidman has had her own durable, colorful career not often praised enough except when truly exceptional work catches the media's attention.

Her credits dip into every genre, the whimsical sisterhood Practical Magic (1998), ghostly horror The Others (2001), to straight dramas Birth (2004) and the eccentric biopic of photographer Diane Arbus in Fur (2006). A four-time Oscar nominee (one-time winner), and eleven time Golden Globe nominee (three wins), she hasn't navigated a thorough plan of the roles she'd like to helm; only to keep taking chances and craft a character that is neither wholly good or evil, but struggling with their identity, mental health, motherhood, marriage, relationships, and even the supernatural.

To me, the strength of Kidman's work is usually determined by the director. If they don't know what they're doing, she can still make a salvageable performance but is capable of doing more. If she's in a bad movie, it's not that she's bad; the production value doesn't translate from filming to the final product i.e. Nora Ephron's Bewitched or Chris Weitz's The Golden Compass. But when the director is good, she's amazing: Rabbit Hole, Stoker, Dogville, Birth, Lion. If the movie fails on some level either critically or box office, she's rarely the one to blame unlike a lot of other celebrities who are on the receiving end of complete flack. She always seems to be subtly on the cusp of reinventing her own talents and seeing how far she can go.

I think someone said my career defies all logic [laughs]. Because I choose the sort of strange little films, and somehow they're the things that make my career.

As much as Kidman branches out with the women she'd like to play, equally, it seems, she's surprised when directors use her as part of their vision. Her turn as Virginia Woolf in The Hours was an opportunity to not only challenge herself again, but champion writers and directors to create interesting roles for women. Critics, at the time, wrote off her sharp, pleading portrayal as an iconic author stuck in the deep depression and turbulence of her mind. The prosthetic nose she bore gained more traction instead of the brilliant performance she mastered. Nonetheless, Kidman held onto "the game plan" of playing meatier roles and recognized as much as she loves to disappear into a character and express her full range, fellow co-stars should have the same opportunities.

The chances she takes isn't just limited to acting. Off-screen she throws fear aside to skydive, drive 200mph around a race track and swim with the sharks. Her hobbies and appearances are a surprising contrast to the demure, chameleon persona established during her thirty-year-plus career. Her honesty is refreshing, in the sense, that it doesn't feel like a brand, from admitting that she used Botox, and admitting her experiences with miscarriage, adoption, and infertility. Some of her golden moments include admitting Jimmy Fallon blew his chances on going on a date with her to pointing out prepared food on Ellen with Chef Giada De Laurentiis isn't good. By journalists, friends, and co-stars, she's often been described as surprisingly down-to-earth, candid, funny, and spirited. She has as much modesty and grace as she does eccentricity and wit reminding me of the timeless stars from classic Hollywood.

[on receiving her star on the Walk of Fame] I've never been so excited to have people walk all over me for the rest of my life.

Her looks, described as anything from delicate to fiery, and her work as "a thoroughbred", was one of the first longstanding hurdles she's faced, especially during her marriage to Tom Cruise. In love and ready for world box-office domination in the early 90s, profiles often referred to her as "Mrs. Cruise", insinuating more than anything else that she married him for money and fame. Often losing roles for speculation about her private life, Kidman's desire to be taken seriously for her talent kept her going when the torrid dissolution of their relationship could've been disastrous for others.

Like the fiery red hair she naturally sports, Kidman scorched any chance of Scientology ruining her to persevere in her own way and eventually rekindling normalcy with second husband Keith Urban and their two daughters. Hardly ever disappeared completely from the spotlight, she takes genuine delight in motherhood, even acting as a matriarch to co-stars, as much as acting. It's always fascinating to see where she's going to go next. She doesn't necessarily know, and that's half the fun.

5 Favorite Roles

There's plenty of roles I'd love to add here, but decided to limit it down to five. What are your favorite Nicole Kidman movies? Feel free to share in the comments below!

To Die For
Though she had already received critical praise for Dead Again, she had to truly fight for her performance as Suzanne Stone-Maretto. Breaking from the publicity known as Tom Cruise's arm candy, Kidman plays an ambitious media monster committed to doing anything to get the next big news story. She's absolutely magnetic in her first Oscar-worthy performance.

Moulin Rouge
Kidman stars as cabaret actress and courtesan Satine caught in between her first love affair with a young English poet (Ewan McGregor) and being sold off to a Duke (Richard Roxburgh). The romantic jukebox extravaganza directed by Baz Luhrmann earned her a first Academy Award nomination. Animated, naive, sultry, funny and tragic, it's hard to not fall in love with this role that comes completely out of left field.

Fur
Like glimpsing into a keyhole to another world, Kidman portrays photographer Diane Arbus, who is known for her fantastical portraits of dwarves, circus performers, nudists and transgender people, in one of the more quiet roles of her career. It's not so much of a biopic, as a unique fictional account with Kidman journeying through Arbus' intimate connection to people too often depicted as surreal.

Cold Mountain
In a modern-day Gone With the Wind epic, Ada Monroe learns to survive the brutalities of the Civil War as the love of her life (Jude Law) fights to come home from the frontlines. Kidman beautifully reminds me of fellow do-it-yourself Scarlett O'Hara, naively but voraciously picking life up by the hoop skirt and doing everything she can to build a future for herself when all seems lost.

Big Little Lies
From one of her biggest roles of 2017, Kidman lays it all on the line as Celeste Wright, a former lawyer stuck in an abusive relationship. Physically and emotionally, it's one of her most raw performances yet. Exploring female friendships in a confessional drama centered around a murder, the HBO hit connected between motherhood, marriage, and self-worth. Kidman delivers a poignant, complex portrayal of abuse and strength, surely putting her on the Emmys radar come next season.
The Arrangement season review
When we're getting ready for summer or going on a vacation, we usually take along a trashy book to read to kick back and relax. E! channel's tabloidesque drama The Arrangement is a tv-version of those addictive pageturners, and its simple cheesiness has me hooked.

Aspiring, struggling actress Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) auditions for a lead role in a Jason-Bourne-esque action flick starring opposite A-List hunk Kyle West (Josh Henderson). Their sizzling chemistry-at-first-sight inspires his team to present a $10 million marriage contract, which includes West's close ties to his self-help guru Terence Anderson (Michael Vartan) and his Institute of the Higher Mind. Acting more like a Big Brother cult than a competent health-based center, the new couple is quickly challenged by IHM's control and the minutiae of living in the public eye.

E! channel touting their original series as similar to Fifty Shades of Grey might not be the right foot to start off with, especially for those who don't like the E.L. James' novels or films. The two general premises have a lot of common both in the worst and best way. For the former, The Arrangement features a general contract, the tacky dialogue, and silly side-plots. For the latter, it has luxurious production design and the actors do the best with what they're given.

Thankfully unlike Fifty Shades's Ana and Christian, this duo has a lot of issues to deal with, and none of them come close to abusive behavior passed off as "BDSM" or inner goddesses. Problems from Morrison's disturbing past comes back to haunt the contract's "morality clause" as she tries to navigate this crazier side of Hollywood, while West struggles with superficiality versus authenticity as a person and an actor. Standing in the middle of their relationship is IHM, which she doesn't fully trust, and ultimately creates the creepy suspense around this fantastical 'romance' and the cult-like organization West is fully involved in.

Most of us know Hollywood isn't perfect because scandals slip through the cracks all the time. One of the series's biggest sources of highly-theorized inspiration was  Katie Holme's marriage to Tom Cruise and the influence of Scientology which led to its demise. The show coyly cashes in not on how actors market and brand themselves but which all-seeing, all-knowing Powers That Be wield its power over Tinseltown. With humor (intentional or otherwise), a flair for drama, and suspense, it takes what we think we know of the entertainment industry - feuds, deals falling apart, scandals created for publicity or to cover up other juicier scandals, Scientology - and leaves us wondering what actually goes on behind the scenes.

A big reason why this show works is its leading lady Christine Evangelista, who makes a compelling performance in every episode. Realistically, her character is too easily influenced to just sign her life away because West is good in the sheets and they like each other. Her career needs a serious upgrade and she has the talent to go far, so when the opportunity presents itself (aka the money and hot guy), it seems like a good deal. Quickly, Morrison has to adjust to the convenience her new life has brought her - travel, wardrobe, a new boyfriend - and face the sacrifices she's made for a lack of privacy, freedom, and the convenience IHM affords. This wild ride makes her question if her future is worth the expense of autonomy. Morrison's feisty, independent, and personable as hell; and Evangelista can act circles around the cheesy dialogue thrown at her. Both the actress and character are destined for stardom, and it's strange that her acting chops exceed what this show can be and also fits this particular bill. Henderson doesn't seem like much in comparison (sorry dude) but over time with more re-watches, you can see why they were cast and make a convincing duo.

The Arrangement aims to be meta, and for the most part works, even if it's exceptionally corny and indulges in what we see through the grapevine online or at grocery stores. Evangelista and Henderson's chemistry is playful and fun, while the Insitute's unethical operation delivers unexpected twists. If one would be looking to enjoy a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, sign on up for The Arrangement. It's a sweet deal.

Rating: ★★½☆
Contains sex and language
For Me and My Gal movie review

Directed by Busby Berkeley, known for his intricate choreography and majestic set pieces, creates a smaller-scale movie completely unattached to his typical extravaganzas. Recognized as a musical first, For Me And My Gal is also an underrated war movie, fairly different from propaganda movies at the time which encouraged joining the efforts in or examining the effects of the military for both men and women.

As a budding vaudevillian act, song and dance duo Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) and Henry Palmer (Gene Kelly) slowly fall in love as they tour the U.S.  in pursuit of making it to the big time. As World War I commences, and Palmer schemes his way to avoid the draft and keep them on top, breaking away from their dreams to perform at the frontlines threatens to tear them apart.

Coming out during a year most hailed for the sweeping classic Casablanca, this drama-musical subtly touches on the showbiz and the war, and those who served their country or tried to evade that service. Berkeley's change of filmmaking is well-done, especially since he limits scenes, both dramatic and musical, to very few camera angles; the music isn't flashy and glamorous but buoyant and catchy, fitting right into the era of vaudeville and "clowns with the baggy pants" for who the movie tributes itself to.

Earning top billing, Garland was twenty years old at the time and stuck by the studio powers-that-be to prove herself as a mature actress capable of more than slapstick (which she loved performing) or blooming romances. Just a year before she starred as a teenager in Babes on Broadway alongside tween-pal Mickey Rooney, and wasn't yet the young woman swooning over her neighbor in Meet Me In St. Lous two years later. But Garland's range in song, dance, and acting can't be praised enough in making Hayden a mature, bubbly, and courageous character.

Hayden's primary romantic relationship may be with Palmer, but she also cares for her brother Danny, performing as a vaudeville star to put him through medical school. "No, I'm not good but I will be, someday," she says to Palmer, describing her own ambitions, which change after Danny enlists and she must sum up the courage to continue her dreams down a different path. The quiet moments when she is talking to him about his future, or seeing him leave for the front lines, for perhaps the last time ever, offers a real weight to the film's war angle. It's not just a backdrop threatening to tear Hayden and Palmer apart, but something that affects her deeply. She might be the girl with a big voice, but Garland knew how to be subtle, both in breaking your heart and lifting your spirits.

The finest all-around performer we ever had in America was Judy Garland. There was no limit to her talent. She was the quickest, brightest person I ever worked with. - Gene Kelly

Unlike Hayden, Kelly's Palmer is a little harder to warm up to. As his screen debut, he delivers a good performance balancing exuberant performer and self-absorbed opportunist. But his character is hard to root for along the way. Right out the gate, Palmer over-exudes his ambition to be a big star, latching onto Hayden and admitting to treating her like a sap to leave her current troupe Jimmy Metcliffe (George Murphy) to be with him. For her own reasons, Hayden is head-over-heels for Palmer despite his greater love for show business and shady decision-making. There's a slight opportunity between Garland, Kelly, and Murphy for a bigger love triangle, but it's nixed halfway through to lengthen Palmer's attempts at redemption and reduce Murphy's presence. This is mostly due to the script changes, where Hayden originally was going to end up with "the nicest fella you'd ever meet" Jimmy. The shifts in the plot's tone can make it quite the conundrum of who you think she should end up with if anyone...

Garland, on her own has some beautiful sequences like in performing 'I Want a Beautiful Doll' alongside George Murphy, to a heartbreaking rendition of 'After You've Gone', and hamming it up for 'Down on the Farm'. As a pair, Garland and Kelly strut their collective talent in 'For Me and My Gal' and Ball in the Jack', and a few other charming numbers. In rightful measure, Kelly might be known as one of the greatest silver screen dancers ever, but Garland is arguably one of the many female stars who made you take notice of them. It's a shame she never quite took notice of what a great, triple threat she was.

Similar to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Garland and Kelly belong on screen together. Their chemistry matches perfectly, and arguably, this is the best-directed movie between the duo prior to critically-slammed The Pirate, and entertaining but mismatched Summer Stock. Their shared exuberance and execution of songs and conflict might be due to the fact that Kelly was new in Hollywood and Garland took him under her wing. Their confidence, enthusiasm, and friendship jump from the screen. And as much as this puts Kelly on the map as his first feature film, Garland continued to prove her song, dance, and acting chops.

This post was my entry for Crystal's Judy Garland blogathon, where bloggers participated in celebrating Judy Garland's birthday on June 10th. She's my all-time favorite movie star, so it was a real treat to celebrate herin this way. Check out all of the amazing bloggers over at the official page here.

One of my favorite movie bloggers Mettel Ray just celebrated her seventh blogging anniversary. Reminiscing about how our favorites change over time, she rebooted one of her previous blogathons: My Movie Alphabet, where participants share their choice of favorite actors, movies, directors, etc.

I thought this would be so fun to participate in, but didn't know where my picks would lead. Classic Hollywood has been on my mind lately, but more modern movies and musicals squeezed their way in too. This was so much fun and helped me think out of the box, and I honestly could've kept this going over and over again. See any of your favorites below? What movies or actors would you put on your list? Feel free to give a shout-out in the comments! Be sure to head over to her blog to join!

* photo for Dakota Johnson by Nino Muñoz and Zoe Kravitz by Warwick Saint
For decades, frustration mounted as Hollywood churned out franchises, reboots, and spin-offs for male superheroes while a comic book icon Wonder Woman was shelved. Sometimes it felt like her time would never come, but it's moments like this when we realize the anticipation, worry, and excitement was worth it. Everything had to align with the director, actors, and story, not so we could just get a female superhero movie just to have one, but because it needed to be good.

Thank the movie gods. Wonder Woman isn't just good, it's amazing.

No longer waiting on the sidelines, director Patty Jenkins dives into the origin story of the Amazonian goddess Diana Prince (Gal Gadot). As a daughter of Zeus molded out of clay, Prince was born on a paradise island Themyiscra populated by female warriors and hidden from the modern world. Though shielded from mankind's penchant for destruction, she trained for the day when another war would arise. When trouble swings by in the form of spy-pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) revealing humanity's fate in the midst of World War I, Prince departs from her homeland to put an end to the brutality.

Blending an origin fable and fish out of the water into an empowering warrior, Prince is the heroine of her story. Told through a splendid cast, deep well-rounded script, and sharp direction, Wonder Woman blazes a trail for superheroes and movies in general.

Leading the movie with ease, Gadot in the titular role is absolutely effervescent. It's not just the inspiring qualities her character possesses which makes her so damn lovable and invigorating, it's the actress's innate ability to be funny, endearing and bad-ass. Critics might point out her sheer beauty as an asset to play this icon, which she is, but her performance is everything Wonder Woman's reputation is based on: graceful, courageous, animated, and wise. As natural as it is for Chris Evans to don Captain America's shield or George Reeves to don Superman's cape, Gadot was made to wield the Lasso of Truth.

Her performance is aided by a glorious script which gifts Prince with the hero-myth treatment typically reserved for male protagonists of any genre. By her looks, personality, and prowess, she might be labeled as perfect, but Prince's beliefs grow and shift; she's confident as well as doubtful; her empathy is a virtue but a liability; she's human as much as she is a goddess. As much as we are obsessed with superheroes, their humanity makes them relatable. And to superheroes, humans are their way into understanding their purpose. Impressively, she journeys from a young girl holding onto glorified idea of combat to an idealist struggling to understand humans less-than-kind motivations, to a matured super warrior.  In the midst of such an ugly world filled with death and destruction, she is a source of love, sacrifice, and compassion as an agent of good. It's impossible to not walk away feeling like you've witnessed an incredible transformation. AKA THE FEELS.
Smash those expectations!

In light of the ridiculous backlash to the women's only screening, and the complete ignorance that women and people who identify as women, in general, aren't as worthy as men, Wonder Woman is an acceptable example of feminism, and what it can look like in the world, especially movies. Equality is not the irrational idea of opportunities being taken advantage of at the expense of others; it's women and minorities moving into open spaces that are, by default, possessed by men. It's offering everyone the ability to identify with characters in all of their glory and flaws; who are fully dimensional and well-rounded; showing a woman can take the lead with confidence and not to feel belittled or others to feel less than; for a man to not always be in control. Though it definitely could've had more diverse representation, the legacy of the comic books and television series lives on, no doubt making women's dreams come true on the big screen.

Prince wouldn't be as impactful if it wasn't for the supporting players backing her up all the way, whether their screentime is limited or lengthy. For the former, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright as mother and aunt, respectively, set Prince on her path of valor and warmth. They're protective, loving, and ruthlessly skilled in combat. For the latter, Pine as Trevor is aware he's there to support Gadot but also be her leading man, and melds wonderfully opposite Gadot. Their friendly banter grows seamlessly into a sweeping romance, building a perfection combination of ying-yang, head vs heart, cynical vs optimistic, but bonded in their resolve to do right in spite of unspeakable horrors. Prince might be holding the reigns, but she doesn't do it alone.

Jenkins, and screenwriter Allan Hellerman, craft a marvelous heroine and supporting cast, and a gorgeous production in the cinematography, setting, and message. The transition from the secretive, lush Themyscira to 1900s war-torn Europe is such a remarkable juxtaposition of Wonder Woman's arc; not to mention the contrast of Prince owning who she is when women couldn't even vote at the time. The fight scenes, in particular, are beautifully choreographed with special effects and slow-motion to emphasize her speed, agility, and strength to exude grace and power. The story itself has a great equal pace, drawing parallels to another origin film Captain America: The First Avenger, which encourages the little guy towards a destiny greater than himself; where their heroics have to find a balance to the evil some people are capable of. Mixing action, humor, and romance, Jenkins makes the superhero movie fun again, more focused on the adventure than dropping easter eggs and tying franchises together.

Wonder Woman, both the character and the movie, comes along at a time where inclusiveness is being lost to hate and putting 'the other' in their imaginary place at the bottom of the totem pole. It's the superhero movie we didn't just deserve, but wholeheartedly needed. Her kindness, strength, determination, and power is a symbol for everyone who identifies with their sheer humanity. Jenkin's tough, funny, smart, and powerful flick possesses the power to make us all heroes just like Diana Prince: compassionate, curious, brave, and bad-ass; to own who we are and to believe in each other. At the end of the day, we're all in this together.

Rating:★★★
Have you seen Wonder Woman?
What did you think?
Thanks for tuning in for part two of my experience at MegaCon, one of the biggest conventions around. Here is part one of my MegaCon coverage if you want to take a look at some awesome cosplay. Today I'm sharing picture and videos of my experience attending the panels with Star Trek's Brent Spiner and The Rocky Horror Picture Show cast. Two more parts are coming soon to my MegaCon Orlando experience: Stan Lee and Back to the Future's Tom Wilson. Hope you enjoy!


The first panel I attended at MegaCon was with celebrity guest Brent Spiner. Many will know him as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek, or other roles such as voicing characters on South Park and Family Guy . Aside from Data, I know him as Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day - one of my all-time favorite blockbusters.

He answered every fan's question personally as if he was having a one-on-one conversation with them and without making other attendees feel left out of what he was saying.

One of my favorite questions he talked about was how he got the role for Independence Day- that the intention with his character was a dull, practical doctor without any eccentricities, but Spiner felt that Okun would be someone from the sixties who attended Berkely, dropped a lot of acid, and ended up in Area 51. That's how he developed Okun's laidback attitude and misplaced enthusiasm from the aliens and their discoveries when the world is under attack from their mother ships. He noted that that the wig he wore was custom made for him just to add a bit more pizzaz to the character too.

Spiner also shared a few stories about Data, and one of the fans most beloved companions, his feline friend Spot. Though the actor admitted he loved cats and has nothing against them, he doesn't like working with furrier co-workers because they can rarely get the scene done on the first take let alone the hundredth. Getting the scripts sometimes caused dread because the writers would plant fake scripts with Spot getting more and more screentime, only for the real script to come later in the day. The only time Spot managed to get his take done once was when Data opened a can of tuna for him. You know they say don't work with chilren or animals in Hollywood. I guess that goes for space too!

If there's one thing that can be said about The Rocky Horror Picture Show panel, it would be eventful - to say the least. What occurred will likely be on fans minds for a long time. Guests Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell, and Patricia Quinn were invited out on the stage. It was only minutes later before the end of the first question that things took a rocky turn.

A fan from the audience, as most panels at MegaCon are Q&As with the fans, asked the cast about the memorable experiences they had with LGBTQ fans sharing stories of coming out or finding comfort in the movie. Nell Campbell was the first to respond (without interruption by Bostwick or Quinn) about a young woman who realized she was transgender and almost committed suicide from her parents' rejection, but the movie gave her hope and saved her life.

Quinn began a story about a young woman who had written a play called Patricia Quinn Saved My life when she was interrupted by fans hooting and hollering at Campbell who proceeded to take off her shawl, scarf, and plain shoes to put on tap shoes, as well as Campbell making faces. Quinn issued a few warnings to Campbell about interrupting her story and drawing attention away from what she was trying to say. The tension grew into an uncomfortable staredown between the two before Quinn warned that she would walk off and not come back. Campbell countered with more funny facial expressions, and Quinn left the stage. To a lot of fan's disappointment. She did not return.

As the panel went on, Campbell and Bostwick shared sharp, innuendo-heavy banter. They were both exceptionally funny, even inviting a young kid on stage and everyone did the Time Warp.

When asked about what they thought of the Fox live production, Bostwick said, "I caught the show, but I was on an airplane and couldn't leave". The duo led panel also took some shots at Quinn leaving the stage, which I can probably only imagine added fuel to the fire.

In terms of Quinn, I spoke with fans who met 'Magenta' and said she couldn't be a more lovely person taking the time to autograph all of their belongings and talk about their experiences with Rocky Horror Picture Show. For Quinn's story to have been interjected, after Bostwick and Campbell had answered their questions uninterrupted, was a disappointment. We all would've liked to have heard the end of her story.

Before the panel closed, Campbell also apologized on behalf of Quinn to say that they always have this type of sense of humor in previous appearances and expect audience participation. Both Campbell and Quinn was pint-sized English woman with very eccentric personalities and tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, so the panel going down the way it did was surprising. All in all, these panels were one of a kind.
MegaCon Orlando
MegaCon Orlando is one of the biggest pop culture conventions in the U.S. Growing stronger every year, the event draws over 100,000 fans from all over to the Orange County Convention Center in Florida for one of the most epic weekends in all of comics, gaming, sci-fi, and anime. Its location is the second biggest conference site in the U.S. next to McCormick Place in Chicago with miles of large auditoriums and showrooms the size of airplane hangars. Over the course of four days, attendees enjoy panels, photo ops, autographs, workshops, and a marketplace stocked with retailers, charities, and artists.

Armed with a shiny press badge, I was so proud and happy to cover the event. Thankfully, I've been to this site before with FanFest starring The Walking Dead so attending the convention wasn't too daunting. But there was so much to see and do in so little time.

One of the biggest attractions at MegaCon is the marketplace, which is over 400,000 square feet. Divided into sections for 500+plus vendors for independent artists and comic book authors, autograph signings, photo-ops, tattoo parlor, and charities raising awareness for good causes, it's the perfect place to get your bearings. Lined with red carpets, cosplayers strut their hard work around the room and strike a pose for inquiring photographers and fans.

Conventions garner a lot of passionate buzz and infectious energy from the cosplayers who wear their love of inspired characters and fans wanting to share in a good time. I thought they were a perfect place to start with the first part of my experience. This is a collection of the amazing cosplayers who were kind enough to stop for a photo opportunity over the course of the weekend. Hope you enjoy!

Newt Scamander with Credence Barebone, who handed me a pamphlet from New Salem Philanthropic Society. Another Newt with his good pal Pickett was hanging out Sirius Black.

Classic Belle and new Belle with her faux-beau Gaston.

Jim Burch Captain Barbossa Cosplay
Jim Burch as Captain Barbossa. He didn't feel the gush of air conditioning on his face
nor enjoy the flesh of the apple.

Velcro: The Ninja Kat book author
Conventions bring people together. After five years of blogging and tweeting each other, I finally met Chris at Artists Alley, author of one of my favorites this year Velcro: The Ninja Kat.

Doc's Interactive Delorean Time Travel Experience
In the Community Zone, organizations fundraise and offer awareness for important causes. Doc's Interactive Delorean Time Travel Experience invites fans to travel to Hill Valley 1955 with professional actors impersonating Doc, Marty or Biff. A portion of their proceeds benefits St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

MegaCon Orlando Doctor Who
Want to become the Doctor? Dalek Builders offer support both in person at events and online for Doctor Who fans who want to create their own life-size Dalek. Me? I want that Tardis.

MegaCon Cosplay Star Wars Leia  R2D2
Ellis Belle Cosplay Julie Douberly as General Leia. And Steampunk R2D2.

MegaCon Orlando Disney Cosplay
Prince Eric rolling Ariel along on her rock as Ursula trailed behind.

This is part one of my coverage for Mega Con. Though I had planned to attend the entire weekend, I was unexpectedly hit with food poisoning (from an allergy-friendly meal I brought with me ironically), which cut my trip short by about two days. Some of my dreams to see Felicia Day and Meat Loaf in person couldn't come to fruition, but I had a blast and plan on going next year either as press or an attendee.

In the next few posts, I'll be sharing videos and photos from panels with the legendary Stan Lee, Star Treks' Brent Spiner, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Tom Wilson from Back to the Future. Stay tuned!

Have you attended MegaCon? Which cosplayers are your faves?
Wonder Woman Artwork Gallery
The Wonder Woman movie is on its way. And if you haven't seen the trailer, but I know you have, right? RIGHT?! It's sparked bold, beautiful and kick-ass artwork across the web. Warner Bros Studios created a beautiful collection of submissions from all over the world. I like to do the same thing around here, so let's celebrate the new release with amazing fan art collected from talented and creative artists. All credit is given to their owners. Click on any image or the link underneath to see more work by the original creators. Like what you see? Feel free to share in the comments. Hope you enjoy!



ChickenzPunk

HamletRoman
Yin Yuming