Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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Barbie Movie Review

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Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence.

Why did I come to this movie again?

I’ve actually wanted to see this film since I first saw the trailer. It looked ridiculous, and that sounded like fun to me. My interest only piqued when people started freaking out about the fact that they thought it was sexist (to put it in general terms).

5 of 5

Characters

Barbie is…perfect. I mean, that’s the way we’ve always seen Barbie, so it wasn’t a surprise. Neither was the ridiculous nature of Barbieland and the Kens. I’d never thought about the fact that Ken was basically an accessory for Barbie, but it makes perfect sense that in their world he’s there for her. Is it a blatant flip of how women feel they have been treated in the past? Yup.

Stereotypical Barbie was exactly as I imagined. At first, I found her interesting because she couldn’t see that her world was both boring and broken (while at the same time looking perfect) and no one noticed. Then, when she started having thoughts of death and despair, she became even more interesting. The fact that she didn’t actually want to go into the real world was perfect.

Ken. Poor Ken. All he wanted was for Barbie to love him, but she didn’t. It seemed like he didn’t have a choice in the matter, which was kind of sad. His discovering the patriarchy in the real world was hilarious. His need for respect after that was totally believable. The fact that his whole plan was to get Barbie to love him was kind of adorable.

The people from the real world were great, including all of the men who were running Mattel. 😊

5 of 5

Did I care what happened?

Strangely, yes. I was excited to watch Barbie learn that there was more to life than being pretty and perfect, and I was excited to see how Ken dealt with the sudden need for respect.

I honestly wasn’t terribly interested in the woman and her daughter that came from the real world. They weren’t a distraction, and I understand the need for them for the plot plus the actors did a good job, but I felt like they were utilized like a hammer to the face. The woman’s rant about the pressures women face everyday was brilliant, but I also think men face plenty of stuff too.

4 of 5

Plot Holes

Meh. This is basically a fantasy film about a child’s toy, so I expected plot holes. There was some stuff with Weird Barbie that could have been explained better. The sense of time in the film was basically nonexistent, which was jarring.

4 of 5

How many times did I yawn?

I remember wanting to reach for my phone once or twice, which is what I do when I get a little bored watching stuff at home, but it only lasted a minute or two. And no, I didn’t touch my phone in the theater! What kind of heathen do you think I am?

4 of 5

Cool Factor

The cool part of this film was Barbieland. The houses, the clothes, the different Barbies, the moment Margot Robbie steps out of the shoes and her feet don’t go flat…all of it! Growing up I mostly ended up with my sister’s Barbie stuff, so I never had the cool houses or anything like that, but I still loved all the references.

The Ken battle at the end has to be one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen! I’m still laughing about it.

5 of 5

The End

I wasn’t totally satisfied with the end of the film, but I did like that it gave us hope that Barbieland could change, which in turn gives us hope that our world/lives can change.

4 of 5

Overall Enjoyment

With all of the controversy about this film, I paid attention to the political undertones of the story, and I came to my very on conclusion on the matter…this film can fan the flames of basically any agenda that you tout.

Down with the patriarchy? It’s in there.

Down with feminism? It’s in there.

Up with feminism? It’s in there.

Our world sucks and it’s men’s fault? It’s in there.

Barbieland sucks and it’s woman’s fault? It’s in there.

Here’s what I got out of it:

A lot of people/groups say they want equality. Which I totally support. What I don’t support is when people who want equality get power and then turn into the thing they claimed to fight against. (Animal Farm anyone?) They get the power and instead of keeping everyone on even ground and enjoying a new fellowship with those that they didn’t before, they decide that they want the people who had so long repressed them to feel the pain that they felt, so they push them down.

This is what happened with the Kens, and what could have happened with the Barbies at the end when they put the Kens back in their place. However, the film gave us a hint that things would slowly change until everything balanced out.

All in all, an almost silly film that really makes you think.

5 of 5

Total: 36

That’s a Black Belt!

White Belt: 1-10
Yellow Belt: 11-19
Purple Belt: 20-25
Green Belt: 26-30
Brown Belt: 31-35
Black Belt: 36-40


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Princess Mononoke Review

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On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Why did I come to this movie again?

The hubby and I are fans of Mayazaki’s work, and decided to see this again in the theater! It had been a long time since I’d seen it.

5 of 5

Characters

Eastern films are very different than the ones we’re used to. This one is 25 years old, and it has better characters than a lot of the movies that are produced today.

For instance, the bad guy (gal, in this case) is very nuanced. Yes, she’s ruining the environment, but she’s also freed a bunch of prostitutes and given them a place they can work and call home without having to sell their bodies. She also employs lepers. Is she using them? Yes. Is she also helping them? Yes.

The hero was courageous and kind, as I like them.

Princess Mononoke was less interesting than I remembered, but still cool.

5 of 5

Did I care what happened?

Yes. There were multiple plot threads being pulled at the same time throughout the whole movie. I did get confused about who was working for who and why a few times. That threw me out of the story.

4 of 5

Plot Holes

It’s anime. There were plot holes.

4 of 5

How many times did I yawn?

The film felt 20-30 minutes too long. And that’s from a girl who doesn’t mind spending that much time in a theater.

I figure it’s the differences between eastern and western storytelling that’s the issue. I’m used to a certain pacing and this story didn’t always follow it.

The film is still super watchable, but long.

4 of 5

Cool Factor

The animation was excellent.

The story ideas were interesting.

The blind boar at the end. Ugh. So amazing…also gross.

5 of 5

The End

The end was both hopeful and not.

The lady ruining the environment is going to rebuild (did she learn nothing??), bringing hope to the people she leads.

Princess Mononoke still hates the humans and is going to go back into the forest.

All I could think was that this was going to happen again. That was probably the point, but I didn’t love, love it.

4 of 5

Overall Enjoyment

This was really fun to see again after so many years. The theater was filled with fellow geeks, and we had a great evening.

It’s almost always worth the time to watch one of Mayazaki’s films!

5 of 5

Total: 36

That’s a Black Belt!

White Belt: 1-10
Yellow Belt: 11-19
Purple Belt: 20-25
Green Belt: 26-30
Brown Belt: 31-35
Black Belt: 36-40


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Random Act of Fiction

The other day, while cleaning out my husband’s office, I happened across a binder full of old stories that I wrote for a writing group that I used to be in. These stories have to be at least fifteen years old, maybe twenty.

It’s nice for me to see that, in those fifteen years, I’ve learned a few things about sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, passive voice, and pacing. A few parts of this one made me wince, but it is what it is.

I have no idea what the prompt was, but this is the story that emerged.

A New Day

The sun beat down on the barren landscape, baking the soil into cracked clay. A lone tumbleweed rolled down the quiet, dirt street, leaving tiny dead branches in its wake. There were a few people walking along the boardwalks, but they all studiously avoided each other’s eyes. No one paid Thaine any mind, which was probably a good idea.

Sitting on a bench, Thaine stared across the street, not really seeing anything. He felt the heat, he squinted against the glare of the noonday sun, and he absently stroked the handle of his gun, which was strapped to his thigh, but Thaine’s mind was somewhere else entirely. It was not until a shadow fell across his face and a pair of old boots with spurs on them came into view that Thaine blinked and looked up.

“Thaine Whetsone,” a voice from another life said, “I heard you were dead.”

Raising his eyes, Thaine found a familiar face staring down at him. The man was tall, taller than most, with weathered features, bleached blond hair topped with a cowboy hat, and blue eyes. Leather pants, a once white shirt, and a dark leather vest adorned the strong body, and a cigarette was hanging out of the corner of the man’s mouth. He too had a gun strapped to his thought, along with a formidable looking knife.

“This isn’t Hell?” Thaine asked, surprised first that a joke had come to his mind and second, that his voice had actually worked.

The other man laughed heartily, a sound that filled the street and threatened to shatter the fragile buildings. “You always could think of a quick one.” Without an invitation, the other man sat down on the bench next to Thaine. He offered Thaine a drag from his cigarette, and after a moment of hesitation, he took it.

“What are you doin’ here, Emory?” Thaine asked, passing the cigarette back. “I heard you went down south.”

“I did,” Emory said through the cigarette, “but there weren’t much there.

“Not much hear either.”

The two men sat on the bench, staring across the street for some time, the sun beating down on them mercilessly, before Emory spoke.

“How may times have we fought together?”

“More times than we fought each other.”

Emory snorted. “Remember that time in Dodge City?”

There weren’t many things that Thaine had nightmares about, but Dodge City was one of them. Trapped in a hovel with more than a dozen people, including women and children, against an entire band of mercenaries. Thaine, Emory, and one woman along with her two children were the only ones to survive. From either side. Screams from the dying and the blank stares from the dead still haunted Thaine’s dreams.

“Never was sure who the bad guys were in that one,” Emory mused.

“Doesn’t matter who’s right.” Thaine repeated his own adage. “When you’re dead, you’re dead.”

“True.”

Silence again.

Thaine’s mind wandered to another time he and Emory had stood back-to-back, shooting their way out of a saloon in some forsaken town in the Colorado mountains. How many fights had he shot his way out of? How many times had they both escaped death? Thaine had felt death come for him on more than one occasion, but he had always managed to dodge the bullet. He was a survivor.

“Sorry about the shot to your leg in New Mexico,” Emory said after a minute or two.

“Just a graze,” Thaine lied. He still limped in the cold from the shot, but there was no way he was going to let Emory know that. Besides, it wasn’t personal. The two of them had been recruited by opposing sides of a clan feud. Business, that was all. And Emory had probably owed Thaine for knocking him out with a club when went through Utah. The lump was still visible under Emory’s hair.

“So, what’s it gonna be today?” Emory asked, dropping the question as a knight would throw his gauntlet onto the ground.

Thaine swallowed, but found his throat dry. All of the moisture in his body seemed to be coming out in his palms, and he wiped them on his trousers, not caring if Emory saw.

“You really think you can do this?” Emory prodded.

It was a simple question, but one loaded with meaning.

Thaine never thought himself a bad man. He’d always tried to stay on the right side of the law, and he never killed unless someone else pulled the trigger first, but in this lawless country no one was perfect.

No one had to be.

There had been more towns, more gambling, more beer, and more women than Thaine could ever hope to remember. Life was simple. Thaine took care of himself and no one else. Even friends like Emory knew how things worked. The rules, as they were, were known.

But then things changed.

Emory didn’t ask again, and the silence was enough to make Thaine shift uncomfortably on the bench. Men with guns and fists did not frighten Thaine, nor did wild animals or the great western frontier. He had never thought to be afraid until recently.

He wasn’t afraid for himself, but he was afraid of what might happen to someone else.

The image of Edith’s smiling face, with her wispy brown hair and dark eyes, came to Thaine’s mind, and he couldn’t help but smile himself. Thaine had never known he could care so much about anyone or anything. After Edith had stolen his heart, he had decided that he would give up everything he had, or wanted, to spend the rest of his life with her. The resolve answered Emory’s question.

“Can’t be a gunslinger forever,” Thaine said with a grin, turning to meet Emory’s eyes.

Emory glanced down at the gun on Thaine’s leg with a frown.

“Well, she doesn’t mind the gun.” Thaine patted the gun affectionately. “As a matter of fact, it was her that gave me the new holster.”

Emory studied Thaine for a few seconds before grinning. “Then I’d say you found yourself a good woman.” Standing, he tipped his hat to Thaine. At the same time, music came from the church behind them, and the doors opened.

“Looks like it’s your turn,” Emory said.

“You should come to the party,” Thaine stood, trying to brush the dust from his best, and only, suit. “We’ll be at the saloon after the ceremony.”

“I might stop by.”


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July Book Update

I made the goal to read 30 books this year.

As of today I’m at 33.

I talked about this last month, but figured I could elaborate.

In the six or seven years before 2020 and Covid19, I averaged reading maybe 12 books per year, and 80% of those were from Audible.

During lockdown, like most people, I found myself with extra time on my hands, so I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, and started reading books in the genres I write. (Sci-Fi, fantasy, and clean romance)

I made a goal to read a book per week for two months during lockdown. After that was successful, as well as fun, I decided to keep making reading goals.

Thus the yearly amount of books to read. The fact that I may have set the bar low only makes me feel good about myself. Sometimes I need that. 🙂

Here’s the list of books I either read or listened to in June.

Adult Science Fiction
It took me a minute to get into this one, but once the actual story got started I was hooked.
The shadows of WW1 were haunting, and the addition of mech suits(ish) was very cool. Solid characters.
I listened to this one and wasn’t in love with the narrator’s accents.

Contemporary Fiction
A hilarious look at the residents of a nursing home that are just a little bit rebellious!
My mom has dementia and is in a care facility, and a couple of times I could totally see her and the other residents.
Delightful.
Sweet and Clean RomCom
I love this series, and this book did not disappoint. Plenty of LOL moments, amazing chemistry between the characters, and a great friends to lovers story!
Non-Fiction
(Gasp, Jo reads non-fiction?)
I’ve read a whole pile of “how to write a book” books, and like most of them, this one offered several bits of excellent advice on planning a story. It was especially helpful for character background.


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