Film Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I recently saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a film based on the same titled book by Swedish Stieg Larsson. At first I was a little weary because I had to grab my glasses in order to be able to read the Swedish subtitles, but I quickly forgot that I was even reading when I became absorbed in the movie. It was honestly one of the best movies I have seen all year. I love the kind of movies that require you to think, or to at least be forced to pay close attention to details in order to be able to follow the unfolding of events taking place in the movie.
The central theme of the film is the unraveling of an unexplained disappearance of a young girl which leads to the chasing of a murder mystery. Meanwhile, the audience gets a preview of what the main female character, Lisbeth (the girl with the dragon tattoo), goes through on a daily basis‰غسharsh abuse and degradation by males. Many of the issues throughout the novel involve the sexual abuse of women. Lisbeth is one of the most interesting female characters I have seen in a long time. Instead of being an unrealistically strong woman who can overpower men, she instead uses her brains and patience in order to seek (justified, in my opinion,) revenge against them. As weird as she seems, there is something about her that is likeable and keeps the audience rooting for her‰غسperhaps it is sympathy for the unfortunate, undeserved beatings she endures, or maybe it is the glimpse of helplessness in her eyes that angers me even more for what is being done to her. Many of the scenes were very disturbing to watch, but at the same time, I think it‰غھs important for people to realize that abuse is something that women all over the world still face on a daily basis. I later learned that the original Swedish title translates to “”Men Who Hate Women.”” That would have been an appropriate title to keep because the film is filled with abuse towards women.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in Stieg Larssson's trilogy followed by The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. If the books are anything like the movie, then I am sure I will also like them. I recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to anyone who enjoys mystery/thriller films and can handle some unsettling images. It is definitely meant for a mature audience.

My film rating: 4.5/5

Controversy Over Short Film Revisited

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog about a police raid during the early days of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and I said that the film may have been the Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow). I have been informed that although I Am Curious did cause quite a controversy, and was even banned in the state of Massachusetts, the actual film that was shut down was Jack Smith‰غھs short film Flaming Creatures (1963), and it was actually shown by the Cinema Guild (CG), the oldest student film society on U of M‰غھs campus.

It was January 1967, and according to an interview in the Fall 2008 Department of Screen Arts & Cultures newsletter (see pages 10-11) with film professor and Cinema Guild Faculty Advisor, Hugh Cohen, he was contacted by an Ann Arbor Sheriff and told not to show Flaming Creatures, only after CG showed another controversial film, Jean Genet‰غھs Un Chant D‰غھAmour (1950) two weeks before.

As can be imagined if a film running for a packed auditorium of students is stopped short, uproar was caused with the police seizure. Not only was the reel confiscated though, a few CG board members were also arrested after disobeying police orders not to show the film. On January 20, 1967 The New York Times reported that about 100 students demonstrated outside the police station afterwards. It wasn‰غھt until over a year later that the CG members who had been taken to court for misdemeanors were dropped of the charges. Ironically, after the charges had been dropped, the State of Michigan published a report saying that the members shouldn‰غھt have been arrested and that the film was much too dull to be considered pornographic.

What I found most interesting about the information brought to me is the number of controversial films that were being shown underground during the 60s and 70s. I watched Flaming Creatures to see if the film was as provocative as had originally been described, and although it may have been considered to push boundaries in the mid-to-late 60s, it would be considered amateur by today‰غھs standards. I was actually bored watching the film, and its filming was rather choppy and dizzying. It‰غھs amazing how far we have come today in being able to exercise artistic freedom. It‰غھs also incredible how desensitized people have become over nudity and violence. The quick flashes of breasts and intertwined legs in Flaming Creatures that was deemed too sexual a few decades ago would be seen as trite today.

It‰غھs fascinating how much of the history embedded in the clubs and organizations on U of M‰غھs campus are concomitant with the changing views and practices of the general public during those times. It just goes to show that Michigan has always been on the forefront when it comes to taking an active role in the issues about which they feel strongly. Even when negatively deemed rebellious, and sometimes even faced with more serious consequences (like jail), those involved with U of M do not back down from voicing their opinions. It seems that Michigan students are often a step ahead in movements of change, and that is something to be proud of.

Coach Purse Design Competition

As a customer of Coach Leatherware for several years, I regularly receive email updates about their latest designs. I usually try to immediately delete the weekly email blasts because the colorful pages full of cute new purses and accessories make it difficult for me to just browse without yearning for everything I see. One recent email I received though titled, “”Online only, blogger-designed bags”” especially caught my attention, so I had no choice but to satisfy my curiosity. After all, I myself am a blogger, so I was naturally a bit intrigued, and secondly, any description containing the words “”online-only”” or “”limited edition”” make me giddy with delight like I've just exclusively been told a secret.

After going to Coach's webpage I gathered that Coach held a competition in which independent designers could submit design ideas. The winning bags are showcased and available to purchase online only. There are four designs for sale: Krystal's Fringe Shoulder Bag, Emily's Satchel, Karla's Clutch, and Kelly's Drawstring Pouch. I'm not going to lie, I'd be real happy to own any

of them. They are each hip, unique, and represent a style of their own. I wasn't able to copy any pictures of the bags into my blog post, so I encourage everyone to check them out by clicking the link above. After all, they'll only be available for a limited time, and it already looks like Kelly's putty colored Drawstring Pouch (that has a design resembling a grenade) is already sold out.

My personal favorite is Emily's Satchel. The description alone is tantalizing:
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“”Equal parts food, fashion and fun, Cupcakes and Cashmere delights women around the world with daily doses of style. Emily Schuman, the girl behind the beauty, defines “”sweet”” with this delicious blog. Her Doctor-bag inspired satchel is as pretty and luxurious as both, well, cupcake and cashmere.””
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If I had $500 to spare, which is what the light pink satchel is going for, then I would absolutely add it to my collection, but until then I'll just have to admire it on the Coach website.

The Cove

I recently watched a documentary, The Cove (which also happened to be the Academy Award winner for the Best Documentary of 2010), about dolphin slaughtering and captivity in Japan. The combination of horrific facts about how many dolphins are killed per year and seeing the actual slaughterings was heartbreaking to watch. What is even more disturbing was the fact that the Japanese government was covering up the mislabeling of the whale meat sold in the markets. Since dolphins are higher up on the food chain, they contain higher levels of mercury poisoning, and the general public had no idea that the food they thought was safe was actually highly poisonous, causing many birth defects and damage to the central nervous system and kidneys.

It baffled me that such dire information could be kept from such a large general public as Japan. At the same time, it made me very grateful to those who exposed the health issue and needlessness of dolphin killing. The activists risked going to jail or even worse, death, by trying to uncover all the facts. Those courageous individuals are the type of people that I look at for inspiration. I admire the fact that they are living their lives trying to make the world a better, more organic place, without succumbing to societal pressure to get a “”real,”” higher paying job. It's often the people who make less who make the largest contributions to society.

The documentary made me ponder ways in which I can be a better person. Animal rights isn't the only issue that needs to be addressed. I did sign the petition on The Cove webpage to help save the lives of hundreds of dolphins, and I also browsed at some of the other issues on the Take Part website. As one of my favorite quotes goes, “”Be the change you wish to see in the world.”” – Gandhi

The Cove was very eye-opening for me, and I'm very glad I watched it. It was on my Netflix queue for a few months, and I kept putting off watching it because I never felt in the mood to watch something I knew was going to be so soberingly serious. I guess I was clinging to the “”ignorance is bliss”” idea. But, I finally sat down and watched the documentary in its entirety, even during the parts when I felt so sad, bitter and angry and wanted to turn it off.
No one can force you to do anything, you have to want to do something on your own, and that is the only way someone can make an impact. I feel that education is most fundamental in evoking people to care and want to make

a difference. Although I surely wasn't happy by the time the film ended, I was happy I was informed about the situation. And what I do with that information is in my hands now…

(The picture on the left is a cove in Taijii, Japan where hundreds of dolphins are lured into and trapped by nets to be slaughtered for their meat.)

Entranced in Wonderland

So last night I finally saw Alice in Wonderland, and it was nothing less than amazing! I literally sat inches away from my television screen in order to absorb everything. Some who I asked before I had the chance to see the movie said it was “”weird,”” but that’s the point, isn’t it? A fantastical dream should be imaginative and bizarre. I absolutely loved the vivid colors and the unique variety of characters. I actually think I enjoyed Tim Burton’s modern version of Alice in Wonderland more than I did the Disney version when I was a young girl.

Another aspect of the film that I enjoyed were Alice’s dresses. Check out this Alice in Wonderland fashion spread in Vogue. It’s actually from December 2003, but it’s still so chic. I’ve never liked the color blue as much as I did throughout the movie and in the Alice fashion spread.

Below is Mia Wasikowska who plays Alice. At first I thought she was kind of homely looking, but she grew on me, and now I think she was a perfect fit for the character. It kind of annoyed me that her name isn’t even on the front of the DVD box considering she is the main character. Only Johnny Depp’s name was listed. While I do think Depp did an excellent job as well, I don’t think his name and only his was deserving to have the cover all for himself. Even Anne Hathaway surprisingly got shafted.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) was a creative and modern twist to a beloved Disney tale, and it is definitely a movie I plan on watching again as well as recommending to others. I also really liked its stress on the message to follow your heart and be daring, even if that means doing something that others may not understand or disapprove.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Warning: This May Not Be Safe to Consume

I thoroughly enjoyed the food and beverage warning labels that three creative artists came up with featured in the New York Times. I wonder if such blunt packaging would actually deter consumers from buying the products. Check it out for yourself!Even though the Food and Drug Administration requires food and beverages sold to the general public to be labeled with the ingredients and nutrition facts, many people simply don't care to look or they don't know what to look for when deciding if something provides enough nourishment. I decided to go to the FDA's website to learn a few things myself, but I quickly felt discouraged as I gazed at the overwhelming amount of information. I particularly wanted to know the FDA's requirements in listing nutrition facts on packaging, but instead of providing clarity, the site actually make me question the administration we trust and rely so heavily on.Four Loko, the highly

caffeinated alcoholic energy drink which over a dozen people had to be hospitalized after consuming, reinforced my skepticism. It was only after the media stirred up concerns about the safeness of the beverage that the FDA stepped in. If the beverage is too highly caffeinated and alcoholic to be consumed, then why was it even allowed to be sold in stores across the U.S.? And would the FDA have even issued a warning if the news hadn't been publicly released that dozens of people got sick from it?(Photo from http://www.theworldsprophecy.com/poisonous-foods/)

HTTP://FASTHOMEWORKK.COM/

The recent controversy over

I hardly ever read food labels, but I've read enough and watched enough documentaries to have a pretty good idea what is “”healthy”” for me to eat and what I actually want in my body. Unfortunately, many people don't realize that just because something is being sold, it doesn't mean it should be consumed. If we want Americans to be healthier beings, we're going to have to start thinking for ourselves more and about the things we put in our body rather than taking the easy way out and relying on others to decide for us. After all, just because a food label may say “”Nutrition Facts”” doesn't mean there's actual nourishment in it.

Book Review: Commencement

I just finished J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement, and I enjoyed it. I bought it because having recently graduated myself, I thought the book might give me some inspiration and encouragement for my future. The cialis from india book is kind of like a more adult version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants without the weird, unwashed rotating pants that magically fits four differently sized girls.

The book dives into the lives of four girls -Celie, Sally, Bree, and April- who meet at college and become best friends and shows how their lives are still entwined even as they move to different cities and uphold differing careers. The girls attended a very liberal woman's college, Smith, and a large part of the novel deals with issues of feminism. Each of the girls hold varying views about certain feminist topics, with April being an extremist and Bree, Sally, and Celie falling somewhere in the middle, taking turns leaning towards the left depending on the issue.

Although Commencement didn't really speak words of wisdom to me, I still got wrapped up in

the characters' lives and was engrossed in the novel. Sullivan did an excellent job of going beyond simply introducing the four main characters. She allows her readers to really get a feel for each of the the characters' personalities so that by the end of the novel I felt like I knew how each would react in certain situations. The only part of the novel that I became annoyed about was how Bree let her life go and gave up everything she had worked so hard to achieve when she was going through a difficult time. Everyone handles grief differently, but I was surprised that her friends and family didn't tell her that it would be foolish to throw her dream job away.

Additionally, I like how Sullivan was able to weave in important issues like equality for women, homosexuality, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking without taking focus away from the characters or storyline. I would say Commencement deserves a fist pump for representing the array of women in the world who are strong, independent, driven, and ambitious and aren't afraid to make up their own rules. Although the review by New York Times is a little more critical for not exploring other issues in the novel such as Celie's difficulty with male intimacy and possible alcohol abuse, I didn't think it needed to be dwelt upon. Confidence should be placed in the readers to be able to read into those things and make their own judgments – that's simply a part of the reading process.

My book rating: 4/5 stars

New Year Eve Hubbub

Good New Year's Eve. Every year everyone makes so much hype about New Year's Eve plans–First it's choosing which group of friends you wish to spend it with, then figuring out where you're going, what you're wearing, who you'll be kissing at midnight, etc. It's frazzling.

This year (partly due to the fact that I was stuck in an airport for 24 hours and made it back to the city already exhausted with only two days to spare before the ball dropped) I didn't really have the same anxiety about my NYE plans. Yes, I did buy a sequins dress for the occasion two months in advance, but I really hadn't given it much thought besides expressing my adamance not to go to an obnoxious, overcrowded club and to not pay more than $50 to get in any bar.

Having no expectations when it comes to NYE seems to be the best way to go into it. Just think of it as another day–well it is, but it also just happens to be a night celebrating the first day of a new year and “”new beginnings.”” No, I did not have an “”epic night”” in which I had an awesome buzz and was magically kissed by a handsome male as everyone yelled “”Happy New Year!”” but at the same time no, I did not have a horribly disappointing night. I was with friends simply enjoying myself and their company just like any other night I'd meet up with friends for drinks.
I'm not saying one shouldn't hope for an epic NYE. Everyone should have at least one of those. But we should be realistic about our expectations and that way we won't set ourselves up for disappointment. I think the same goes with New Year's Resolutions. If one has to really contemplate a resolution to implement in the new year, it's not genuine and will most likely be given up after a month or two

into the year. No one is forcing you to make a resolution, so there's no use in making an empty promise if it's not something you really want to do. Last year I didn't make a resolution. This year I simply said that I'm going to try to eat more fruits and vegetables. I make no promises that are unrealistic or unachievable. I feel content and I'm truly looking forward to all that 2011 brings.

Happy New Year!

Volunteering for New York Cares

This past weekend I completed my first project with New York Cares, the city's leading volunteer organization. I decided to sign up with New York Cares when I realized that I actually have more free time now after having finished up with school even with a full-time job. As a student my work was never really done. Not only was I a full time student but I also had an internship and was involved in several other extra curricular activities. There was always more reading or studying to be done for one class or another, so it was often difficult me to fully enjoy myself on weekends with the nagging in the back of my mind that I still had work to do in advance of classes on Monday. Now that I don't have work to do on weekends, that frees up my schedule tremendously, and I figured that it was time for me to give back and make good use of some of the new free time I've acquired.

There are numerous different projects you can sign up for with New York cares including: reading to younger kids, teaching older adults basic computer skills, practicing English with immigrants, working at soup kitchens, playing bingo with the elderly at old folk homes, and raking/gardening work. For my first project I decided to go to East Harlem to play sports with over a dozen first and second graders.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the volunteer project, and I was definitely a bit nervous about traveling all the way to E. Harlem by myself and trying to find where the school was located, but my newest thing since moving to NYC is to challenge myself on a consistent basis and force myself to try things that I'm originally uncomfortable or hesitant about. I'm not really used to playing

or even being around young kids, but I figured that since sports are something I'm familiar with, that would be the easiest way to be able to relate to the kids.

Overall, I had a pretty good time. The kids were, well,…kids. I forgot how hyper and rambunctious they are! Boy do I wish I had that much energy. They were running around as if they had an IV of Red Bull coursing through their veins. We started off the day by breaking into teams of 4 and having relay races to get warmed up. I was with one other volunteer and two second grade boys. I cheered on our team and encouraged everyone to run as fast as they could so we could win. I tried hard not to laugh when one of the little boys flagged down the male team leader and “”whispered”” in his ear that he didn't want to be paired with girls for the relay race. His attitude quickly changed though when our team won, and I finally got his approval. I then spent the next two hours playing soccer and football with the boys. They were aggressive little ball-hogs and liked to make up their own rules as we went along, but I just went with the flow of things, and the time passed fairly quickly.
By the end of the two hours I was exhausted and definitely ready for a nap. I'd like to commend anyone who works with young kids because, as cute as they can sometimes be, they sure require a lot patience, and you must always stay alert while keeping track of each individual. I really do believe that it requires a special sort of person to be able to teach and supervise young children. I feel like it's like life guarding on land.
During the last hour I spent with the kids, the other volunteers and I helped them make a healthy snack. I'd occasionally find myself simply observing the kids interact with one another. By the end of the three hours I was becoming familiar with their distinct personalities, and I thought it was cute how quickly seemingly attached they became to some of the volunteers in such a short time. Their innocence and vulnerability was so refreshing. It made me reflect on my own childhood.

While the first thing I did when I returned home from volunteering was to crawl into bed and relax for a few hours, I'm still very happy that I completed my first project with New York Cares. Isn't it funny that I feel like I took just as much away from this experience as I gave? I suppose that's what making a difference is all about in a way. When doing something makes you contemplate life and appreciate the thing you're doing, it becomes a mutual exchange with both parties benefiting.

The American Museum of Natural History

It is quite possible that I had more fun at the American Museum of Natural History looking at all of the ancient animal bones as an adult than I did when I was a little girl. I forgot how cool dinosaurs are until I was face-to-face with a skeleton of a T-rex towering above me.

Unfortunately I didn't get to the museum until 1.5 hours before closing, so I had to rush a bit in order to see the majority of displays on the four floors. It was fascinating just observing the things on display at the museum, but next time around I will definitely plan on staying longer in order to read the descriptive texts about each one. I especially loved the atmosphere in the Milsetein Hall of Ocean Life. It was dimly lit and the walls were dark blue making it feel as if I were in a giant aquarium. In addition,

“”The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is home to the Museum's beloved
94-foot-long model of a blue whale, a powerful evocation of the massive yet graceful nature of the largest animal ever to roam the planet.””

Considering my love for animals, especially and whales, seeing the giant blue whale in person was pretty Milstein Hall and looms over the exhibit from above.
I'd definitely recommend checking out the American Museum of Natural History. People of all ages find it truly enjoyable, which is a rare thing to accomplish. What keeps the museum fresh and full of life are the changing exhibits and museum's calendar full of events. One event that especially caught my attention and is coming up soon is Adventures in the Global Kitchen: The Lure of Chocolate in which a food historian will lead a tasting while discussing chocolate's history. Sounds delicious to me!
In case you'd like more information, The American Museum of Natural History has

a good website too with descriptions about the permanent exhibits, limited time exhibits, upcoming events and lots of other information.