I haven’t posted on this blog for two years :00000. But I’ve been writing frequently on tumblr. You can check those posts out here: ritzpicsandwords.tumblr.com
I’m having a series called, Mentorship in the Movies, where I talk about different perspectives on mentorship in cinema. Instead of Reposting those old articles here, I will be finishing up the series on this blog.
Also, for this summer, I have new goals for this blog and just for what I want to do in the future.
I want to work on things relating to my finished novel and also my new WIP. For my finished novel, I want to work on querying and finding an agent. For my new WIP, I want to brainstorm, write 2 short stories relating to it, and then start drafting.
I want to blog on a schedule. I want to have some of my writing featured on other websites. I want to engage with other bloggers.
I’ve been reading a lot recently and yaya, but I want to analyze the books I read more. I also want to engage with the works outside of just reading it. Relating back to blogging, I want to write reviews that aren’t reviews, do some art relating to what I’ve been reading– or at least do art while I’m reading–and just talk more about what I’m reading in general.
I want to start conceptualizing pieces for the upcoming semester. This year, I really want to focus on dioramas and printmaking, so I want to start brainstorming and prototyping now. Also, I made a game for my video game class. I want to polish and redo art and dialogue for it and publish my student work.
These are all goals I have this summer. I’m going to write deadlines for some of them and update you guys on my progress.
I used to watch documentaries all the time. It was a pastime of sorts. I would come home from school, and after watching my 4 to 6 Oprah-Tyra block (which I still contest is the best block of television EVER), I would change the channel to PBS or the History Channel, and watch whatever documentary they had on that afternoon. There were a few of them that really stuck me. With the History Channel, I was obsessed with “World War II in Color”, and with PBS, I was captivated by any and all of their “This American Life” documentaries, specifically anything that had to do with the Civil Rights Movement. Those moments were markers of my childhood, and reading Brown Girl Dreaming and We’ve Got a Job, I was reminded of the stories that sparked my love for history, my obsession with books, and my passion for the arts.
Befriending strangers through literature
As a kid, I don’t think I had ever been touched by emotions very much. My emotions seemed to run in extremes; I was either extremely angry, positively happy, or decidedly indifferent. To me, emotions were something to conquer: if I was stubborn enough, I could bend them to my will and if ever I was moved by something either uplifting or disparaging, it was a sign of weakness. Sure, I’d always loved art, movies, books, video games, and music, but I’d never been moved by them—never let them move me—until I read the Diary of Anne Frank in eighth-grade.
(The first painting I ever made was a recreation of this picture)
We hadn’t read it for class, I remember that. Instead, we’d been reading the play in my English class. At the same time, we had been learning about the Holocaust that year in Social Studies.
They showed us gruesome images of the Holocaust, had played the documentaries and explained to us what life would have been like as a Jewish child back then. I had thought it was all very horrible, all very sad what a person could do to another person. I understood, I told myself, I got it, but still, I hadn’t truly grasped the gravity of their suffering, hadn’t felt a fraction of their pain as my own.
It wasn’t until I’d read Anne’s account for myself, that I really felt what I had thought I had understood.
Reading Anne’s diary, I found myself. I found a best friend. I saw pieces of myself in a girl who had been forced to leave her school, her friends and relatives behind as her family fled from the war outside their door. In two days I read her diary. When I got to her final entry before she was taken by the Nazis, and later arrived at the images of her on the beach with her sister, teasing her family and playing with her friends—when I saw the photographs—I sobbed.
I remember it clearly, laying in my bed, covering the blanket over my head, and wringing the fabric as I chocked down tears. Anne, my best friend, was dead.
It was history come to life for me. It was generalizations, overviews, and political injustices embodied in a girl who I had found kinship with. It was the first time I had truly empathized with the suffering of another person. It was the first time I could sympathize with the frustrations, the sadness and the pain of people in the present. These realizations hit me for the first time in eight grade, and when I watched the PBS Civil Rights documentaries, they came again.
Finding a Connection through History
In my history classes, all of the mentions of slavery and the civil rights had always been very detached. My teachers talked about the political climate of the 1800s, spending days, long, arduous lessons, debating whether or not the Civil War was caused by slavery or states rights.
When it came to the Civil Rights movement, and as AP tests dawned closer, they emphasized bills and court cases: Brown v. Board, Plessy v. Ferguson which led to separate but equal–you know the drill. We memorized their dates, studied how the rulings effected national and local laws, but we didn’t touch the people. We never touched the people, not unless they’re names cried out to us. ROSA PARKS, MARTIN LUTHER KING, J.F.K. Malcom X.
It wasn’t until I went home one day, watched my Oprah-Tyra block, and then caught a PBS Documentary streaming called “We Shall Overcome“, that I saw the people.
(Trailer for the Freedom Riders, another moving documentary about the Civil Rights Movement)
I learned the names of the people who sang the songs, the people who had marched on the streets, had held hands, prayed in the parks, and rode on buses together into the deepest heart of the south. I watched black-and-white images of children, younger than me—my brother’s age even—being hosed down by firefighters, their clothes being torn off their backs as they marched for freedom. I listened to their stories, took in their songs, and I saw the faces behind the bills, the stories that made up the history that had seemed so distant from me.
Brown Girl Dreaming and We’ve Got a Job
I picked up both audiobooks a few months ago, back when I’d first started this new illustration.
(WIP of the drawing I did while listening to Brown Girl Dreaming and We’ve Got a Job.)
I’m writing this now because I’ve finished Brown Girl Dreaming and after it—maybe because of it even—I starting reading We’ve Got a Job. Now, after completing the illustration as well, I finally wanted to post my thoughts on these pieces.
I’m not sure if this is a review, or a personal essay, but after reading these works, I remembered those moments with Anne Frank and those sweaty summer days watching marchers walked hand in hand, singing We SHALL Overcome.
It’s easy in a way, to detach ourselves from history, to remove ourselves from people’s suffering, joy, and pain when we see it as a generalization—a list of facts and dates that happened to some bodies, some time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. But when we see their faces and hear their stories, the past doesn’t seem so far way, their problems not so remote from our own.
In the audiobook, Jacqueline Woodson recounts her childhood through whispered and spoken word, song, and whimsical rhyme. She does it with an intimacy, one that reminded me of my own home in the same way she spoke of hers. I remembered my father and all the stories he told me of his life growing up in Ghana, and I remembered all the documentaries I watched of the Civil Rights Movement, the American history I thought of as mine as much as my Ghanaian one. As I listened to her recount her days in school and her afternoons playing in the streets, I found a sort of peace in her words.
Her story isn’t my story, her songs not my own, but they’re familiar. Her verses speak to something deeper than experiences, they ring of a melody that calls to feeling, and memory, and heart. Woodson’s words move me not because I relate to them, or even because I understand them, but because I can feel them.
The intimate and honest nature of Woodson’s prose, and the heartfelt accounts of children like Audrey Faye Hendricks, Washington Booker, Arnetta Streeter in We’ve Got a Job, allowed me to befriend strangers again, in the same way that at 13, I had found a friend in Anne.
I love knowing that even now, when I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable with myself and who I surround myself with, I can still find new friends in stories, and they can still inspire and teach me about myself.
Notable cast Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan
Production company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, New Line Cinema and Chartoff Winkler Production
Creed is a unique prospective on mentorship in the genre of sports films, because it’s a film about lineage. It pits Adonis as the son of the great boxer Apollo Creed who, because of his death, exists in Adonis’ life as a mentor only through footage of his previous fights. In the film, Adonis finds tutelage from his father’s rival Rocky Balboa who, once a student of boxing himself, now finds himself in the position of being a mentor. As their relationship develops, the film showcases how mutual respect, admiration, and understanding, can make a partnership out of the traditional mentor-student relationship.
I saw Creed in theaters recently and I have to say, I was completely blown away by it.
The cinematography is glorious. It captures the characters in their most intimate moments, and renders Philadelphia as not just the setting of the film, but as a character itself. Watching the film, I was as invested in Adonis’ journey as I was in the growth of the community he found himself in.
Michael B. Jordan, is spellbinding as Adonis. This is a film were even if you recognize the main actor, if you know their face and have seen their other films, you’ll find yourself wondering whose life it is your watching on screen. Adonis may be a character, but Michael B. Jordan makes him a person.
I love this movie. I was moved, uplifted, and pumped up. It’s one of those films that leaves you hungry. It isn’t just the future of the character you’re excited for, it’s your
own goals, your own dreams, and ambitions that you want to chase after.
For me, this film is another reason why representation in media is so important, not
because Adonis looked like me (I wish I looked like Michael B. Jordan), but because the team that came together to produce such an amazing film, is as beautiful and black as the world depicted in it. If you want to box, it says, if you want to write, or direct, act or produce, then do it. You might have to take hits and undergo beatings, but if you’re willing to fight, there’s a place for you in the ring, and we’ll be here—coaching you along the way.
So, I’m not going to reference any Rocky films here because…I’ve never seen a Rocky movie. I was inspired to after watching Creed, but then I got in the car and realized Adonis wouldn’t be in any of them. I pretty much lost my motivation to watch them after that. But hey, maybe one day.
Remember the Titans is one of my favorite sports movie. No question about it. It stars Denzel Washington. Denzel, Washington. DENZEL, WASGHINGTON. Need I say anymore? He’s brilliant in this movie as Coach Herman Boone, brilliant and complicated, and raw.
Based on a true story (that’s all I ever need to tell my mother to convince her to watch a movie. Hey, mom, want to watch American Hustle? It’s based on a true story. Mom, let’s watch the Hunger Games. It’s based on a true story…), the movie follows Boone as he attempts to integrate a segregated football team. Filled with laughs, sorrow, and emotion, there are ups, downs and every other direction as the team navigates they’re way to a win..
*IMPORTANT NOTE. I just found out the Ryan Gosling was in this film. My life will forever be changed.
Jerry Maguire is nobody’s mentor. He’s selfish and conceited, a sports agent who cares more about money than the players he represents. That is, until he has a life changing revelation the night after one of his players receives another near death concussion. Born again, McGuire leaves his job (though, not quite so voluntary) and begins his career as a free agent, with only one client under his belt. What precedes is a lot of laughs, and stress, and gut-wrenchingly emotional moments.
My sister always said that Tom Cruise is more of himself in Jerry Maguire than in
any of his other movies, and that’s probably the reason why I love this move. Jerry is DRIVEN. He’s a bit manic, slightly crazy, and entirely loveable. His passion exudes off the screen and because of it, you want him to win, even when he shouldn’t.
Cuba Gooding Junior SHINES in this movie. Like, where is my Rod Tidwell movie? Why hasn’t that happened yet? In an era of prequels and sequels, why hasn’t anyone in Hollywood drafted this script?
With probably the most romantic scene ever made in a movie–in a sports movie none
the less–the best supporting characters to ever grace cinema’s screens, (Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger, need I say more?), and an amazing script, Jerry Maguire is an impression of what a perfect film might look like, if there ever was such a thing.
While not a sports movie, per say (I don’t know about you, but typing is a pretty exerting sport to me), Popularie is as intense as one. This intensity isn’t in long montages of characters sweating, or marching, or yelling, though there are plenty a typing-montages in the film. Instead, the passion the film renders is between its two main characters, Rose and Louis. Popularie is a romantic comedy, but the slow burn of the relationship sits up there with the most gripping of romance films.
Rose and Louis have so much fire in them, so much passion, and as they butt heads, the audience falls in love with them—before the two get the chance to fall for each other.
Populaire is fun. It’s whimsical, and curious, with a flavor of weird that leaves you wanting more. A period drama set in 1958, when competitive type-writing was at its peak, Populaire weaves a seemingly random plotline with a cast of funny, and interesting characters, brought to life by Romain Duris, and Deborah Francois. If you liked Coco Channel (how can anyone just like Coco Channel), and loved Amelia (adore is more the word), then Populaire will fill that gaping hole in your heart before it leaves you craving more.
Bend it Like Beckham is pure, unadulterated, sickly sweet fun at its best. Sure there are some messages in there, about friendship, tolerance, culture, and identity, but at its heart, Bend it Like Beckham is about joy. It’s about being unapologetic about the people and things you love. It’s about taking pride in who you are, where you come from, and what you want to be.
The film follows Jess Bhama (Parminder Nagra), as she pursues a career in a semi-pro
soccer team (football for those of you who live in…well, basically everywhere else in the world). What starts as just fun, slowly develops into an obsession and then, a passion. Eventually, Jess finds herself having to hide her new ambitions, and her growing romantic feelings for her coach, from her parents.
This movie doesn’t ask you to take it seriously. It isn’t looking for praise or even acknowledgement for what it is. Instead, it takes everything—from its messages, to the East Indian heritage of its main character and her family, and the largely female cast—and runs with it. It leaves viewers either eating its dust, or hurrying to catch up with its cast of charming characters and upbeat story. This isn’t a movie for YOU, it’s for US, the movie declares. Celebrate our difference, or get out.
One of the many iterations of the Pygmalion narrative, Kitty diverges from the crowd of Hepburn musicals and the teenage makeover flicks in its wiliness to depict the more sinister side of the mentor and protégé arc. Kitty is a comedy, but it’s as sharp as it is unforgiving. As Kitty is passed from suitor to suitor, all beneath the watchful gaze of her stricken mentor Sir Hugh March, questions of grooming, emotional and physical abuse are left out in the open–even if they aren’t addressed directly by the film. Charming, funny, and filled with subtext, Kitty presents viewers with compelling arguments about the nature of the mentor-protégé relationship.
Kitty was the first black and white movie I fell in love with, and though it was only made in 1945, I’ve always felt it was much older because of this distinction in my memory. My favorite insult will always be “Gutter-snipe”, and I’ll always burst into laughter whenever I think of all the scenes in which Kitty’s husbands meet their demise (their deaths were always so random, so ridiculous, that you couldn’t help but laugh). I was never a fan of Sir Hugh March (it’s hard to romanticize that mess of a person) but I’ve always loved Kitty for being strong and for taking no prisoners.
Rather than similar movies, here are a list of other renditions of the Pygmalion story for your viewing pleasure. Most of these have a lot of the issues and themes that Kitty seems to have/bring up, but they’re all very fun in their own right, at least, from what I can remember.
I love this Hepburn musical of course, but I’ve always felt like Kitty was the stronger character, or at least, maintains a stronger sense of self throughout her transformation. It’s hard to compare though, and I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison to make. At the end of the films, both women are so brutally sculpted into the image of a “finely bred woman”, that they seem like shallow renditions of their originally sassy selves.
That being said, I like to give their characters more credit than their source material lends them. Though it tries to fashion these strong women into demure pets for their mentors, the girls always seem to maintain a bit of that spark that made them so strong in the first place.
Basically, My Fair Lady follows the story of flower girl Eliza Doolittle as she transitions from resident gutter-snipe to a proper ladydoll, equipped with shinier dresses, a brand new accent, and inoffensive manners to go with her.
Why do I feel like the people who made this product wrote these movies…
Jokes aside, I love the costumes in this movie, along with the music and of course, Audrey as Eliza. Though not my favorite Hepburn role (that goes to Roman Holiday thank you very much), it’s a fun one, with a grand score to go along with it, even if the voice wasn’t Audrey’s herself (they replaced her singing without telling her initially. Can you believe that? or at least I heard that somewhere…)
(who knew there were so many My Fair Lady memes, I must use them all now…)
A modern rendition of the Pygmalion story, plus a parody of basically every makeover movie ever (or at least, I think it is, tell me its a parody, I hope it’s a parody…) I don’t remember much about She’s all that, just that it was funny, and she took off her glasses and suddenly, she was a goddess, but did I mention it was funny? Also, early 2000s rom com with early 2000s actors, what more could you ask for?
Okay, so I don’t know if Nodame is a variation on Pygmalion (I didn’t think it was when I first watched it but now that I look back I guess you could say that it might be. Maybe. Kind of?) but it’s a great movie.
It follows Nodame, an aspiring pianist who falls in love with Chiaki, a senior in her school whose talent for the piano almost outweighs his arrogance (almost). The movie follows the two after the TV show’s conclusion, but the duo are still a lot of fun to watch as they bicker and plot in this two part film. Before the movie though, you should watch the show. Also, Nodame’s love of food is my love of food. That is all.
Rather than an iteration of the Pygmalion story, Clueless is a modern take on Jane Austen’s Emma. Clueless, is of course, hilarious. Cher is arrogant, entitled and spoiled, and I should hate her but I don’t. How can anyone I ask? With her style, and her good-ish intentions, she’s the lovable rich girl that you can’t help but love.
Clueless is about her misguided attempts to hook her friends up with one another. If you haven’t watched it, then you’re one of the lucky ones because you get to see it for the first time, and then watch it a second time so you actually get all the themes that its touching upon. I still don’t think I’ve caught onto to it fully, which just showcases how timeless this film really is.
For my next post, I’ll look at Creed, but if you want to read my original overview of this season, check out my post here and my update here.
One of the most compelling aspects of cinema is its ability to render the human
condition, the various bonds that bring people together and dissonance that
pits them against one another. From the dynamic portrayals of friendship, the complicated pursuits of romantic dalliances, and the turmoil of family, cinema is at its best when it can take conventional relationships and convey the emotional truths, questions and realities of them.
One form of a relationship that is often rendered through cinematic lens, is of the mentor and the student, the teacher and the protégé.
The relationship has taken on many forms, such as the Pygmalion story, the rising star narrative, and the tale of the fallen athlete. Every rendition showcases the intricate power play between the mentor and the student, where admiration and influence can fortify the relationship or morph it to unrecognizable, and even deadly, ends.
The films selected for this month are a spin on this relationship, from the classic Kitty to
the modern Creed, each of these films examines the various dynamics of mentorship. Some, like All About Eve, look at how admiration exists within the boundaries of the fandom, while others like Memoirs of a Geisha take a broader approach to the concept of mentorship by examining how it is fostered and quelled by a community.
Whether your mentor is your parent, as seen in Beyond the Lights, or a friend, mentorship plays a pivotal role in how individuals develop over the course of their lives. These films offer viewers an insightful and often hard look at how the relationship exists in spectrums of class, race, gender, and culture.
Click these links to read about each movie in this month of mentorship.
Note: Links will be updated everytime a new post goes up.
So I haven’t posted for a while, but recently I’ve been building a lot of content (mostly from writing papers for my classes and a few personal projects of my own.) So, in light of that, I’ll be posting a few pieces I’ve writteng recently from my class and also some artwork and things I’ve done outside of it.
First, I’m going to introduce a little series I’m playing with for this month, which is something I wrote for my film class. Basically, I had to write as if I was creating a program of films for a broadcast channel. I really enjoyed working on the assignment, and I liked what I came up with (so I might even do more of these later on), but for the next 5 days, I will be posting up commentary I wrote for my season of films.
I will include images, gifs, and even extra commentary about the movies in my posts as well so it will be (hopefully) a little more fun than my “professional voice”. So, without further ado, here it goes 🙂
The film All About Eve presents a meaningful look at mentorship, particularly in our growing culture of celebrity worship. Bettie Davis stuns as the distant by kind Margo Channing, an actress whose stardom is on the decline, while Anne Baxter brings a subtleness to her portal of the fanatical Eve Harrington. In the film, Eve’s aims for fame bring her falling to great lengths as she plots, ploys, and schemes her way to the top using Margo’s pedestal as her platform. The film examines the boundary between admiration and obsession, asking viewers what the costs are for crossing that sacred line.
note: classic movie trailers are either ridiculously dramatic, painstakingly slow, or completely unrelated to the actual story of the films themselves.
All About Eve has some of the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a film. The characters are sharp, smart, and full of wit, and the actors play it off with a mixture of charm, sass, and sincerity that sparks on the screen. While the film doesn’t address (and notably so) the role race plays in its gender and class critique, Eve Harrington is for all intents and purposes, the embodiment of white womanhood in play. With her “good” intentions and quiet ambitions, Eve strikes her way to the top, weaponizing her vulnerable position in society in order to participate in the system (the male dominated film/theater industry in this case) that so shut her out. Eve’s act may have won her fame and accolades, but it’s the audience and Margo Channing that’s left standing once her curtain falls.
Side note: Marylin Monroe is in this film. If you’ve seen her performance in this film, then you’ve pretty much seen 75% of her movies. The girl has no range, but at least in this film, she’s at her best.
Working Girl follows Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) a receptionist looking to advance her career as she navigates the realm of office politics under her boss Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). When Tess’ idea is stolen by Katherine, she becomes determined to build her own road to success, one that exists outside of the sterile pathways of the office. Dawning Katherine’s position and prestige, she initiates a major deal with an investment broker (Harrison Ford) that has Tess falling in more ways then one.
I’ll be honest, the first time I saw working girl was exactly three days before I wrote this. I caught a glimpse of it on TV, and I managed to record and watch it on the next showing. After watching the film, I kind of have to say that I’m obsessed. I pretty much loved it, except for that awkward and entirely uncomfortable scene where Tess wakes up in Harrison Ford’s bed unsure of what happened to her the night before. (I’m still not sure what happened there…). Tess’ initial admiration for Katherine as her boss and as a woman, and the disillusionment that occurs after she’s betrayed, addresses a an interesting element about mentorship that many of the movies avoid: What happens when the person you admire disappoints you? How do you react, how do you move forward, and most of all, how do you come to terms with relying on yourself?
Working Girl is funny, cute, but above all sharp in the way the film it’s structured. In the beginning of the film viewers are discontent with the quiet knowledge that Katherine really isn’t a mentor for Tess, but by the end, they can feel a sense of pride knowing that Tess will be the mentor she always needed, for herself and others.
Roxie Hart is a “STAR”, or at least, she dreams of becoming one. When she’s arrested and charged for the murder of her lover, Roxie finds herself on death row along with stars like Velma Kelly, a Jazz performer who Roxie once worshiped. In Chicago, stars don’t shine as bright as they do behind bars, and the line between fame and infamy is blurred as Roxie and Velma dance and sing circles around the chopping block.
Chicago is witty, it’s funny, and the musical numbers are a blast. Queen Latifah stuns as Moma, the corrupt prison warden whose kind gestures come at a price, and Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones shine as Roxie and Velma, their snarky banter always keeping viewers on their toes. The film portrays greed, backstabbing, and the antics of the most conniving in society, in a way that cleverly skirts the line between glamorization and condemnation. The cast is exceptional, and while I could have gone with less Richard Gere and more of Lucy Lu (like really, only a small cameo? How you gonna play Lucy Lu like that Chicago?), the film starts and stops with a bang.
Trading murders sounds like a good idea, until it doesn’t. At least, that’s what Tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) realizes when the proposition somehow comes up (like really, when does this happen?) during a conversation with a stranger on a train. When Bruno, the stranger with sinister intentions, actually goes through with the murder plot, Guy finds himself being blackmailed to fulfill his side of the deal.
Strangers on a Train is chilling. I remembered being entirely engrossed when I first saw the movie way back when. Now, I’m finding myself looking back to the film, questioning the role women played in it as props to men’s ambitions. I don’t know if the film tackled the questions (knowing Hitchcock, I doubt it), but notwithstanding these uncertainties, there is an excitement to Strangers on a Train that never dies down. The film poses the question of whether a crime begins at the conception of the thought and takes it to interesting (if not fully realized) lengths.
Mariah Carey’s Obsessed: not exactly a movie, but I’d consider it the theme songs of all these movies
For my next post, I’ll look at Beyond the Lights, but if you want to read about Creed, Kitty, and the other films featured in my mentorship series, click the links below!