Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Movie Wednesday: Coco

Movie Wednesday Coco

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Miguel comes from a family of shoemakers and in the Rivera household there is absolutely no music allowed. Miguel’s great-great-grandmother’s husband abandoned the family many years before to pursue music and ever since then the family has forbade music on principle. But Miguel dreams of one day becoming a renowned musician. His idol is the famous Ernesto de la Cruz, who was a popular singer before his untimely death. And now it seems like it’s Miguel’s lucky break. During the Day of the Dead holiday there will be a music contest and Miguel hopes to enter. But magic is in the air, and when Miguel’s plan goes wrong, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead! Now Miguel must find his musician great-great-grandfather to receive his blessing and transport Miguel back to the living before sunrise or he will remain among his deceased ancestors forever!


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Coco is a 2017 Disney Pixar 3D animated film. As is the case with some films, Coco underwent extensive rewrites and re-imaginings before finally forming into the finished product we have today. That finished product is a film filled with color and whimsy as it tackles issues of family values, forgiveness, and identity, all through compelling characters, catchy tunes, and dazzling visuals.

Coco features an all Latinx cast and is considered a stride forward by many for representation, especially in a time where there is increasing social awareness around issues of whitewashing (which is the practice in film and television of casting white actors in non-white roles).

Discussion Questions

  • Miguel feels misunderstood and unsupported by his family in his dreams to become a musician for much of the film, which causes him to make rash decisions. How do you think his behavior might have been different if his family had been more supportive from the start?
  • Family history and family secrets are important themes in Coco. How well do you know your family history? Have you ever learned something about your family that surprised you? Explain.
  • Coco contains several plot twists. A plot twist is a device that produces an unexpected outcome or change in the direction of a story’s plot. Were you able to predict these twists or did they take you by surprise?
  • Disney landed in hot water for attempting to trademark “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), since the phrase was originally going to be used in the film’s title, drawing loud criticism from the Latinx community for cultural appropriation. Do you think it’s inappropriate for corporations to trademark culturally significant phrases and traditions? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

Remember Me – Official Lyric Video

What Mexicans think of Coco – YouTube video


Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: Howl’s Moving Castle

Movie Wednesday Howl's Moving Castle

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Sophie works in a hat shop and mostly keeps to herself, until one day after work she encounters a young handsome wizard who escorts her on her way to visit her sister. And, oh yes, he also takes her flying above the city streets on nothing but magic. However, that night the jealous Witch of the Waste puts a curse on Sophie, which transforms her into an elderly woman and prevents her from explaining what has happened to anyone. Sophie sets out into the country to try and lift her curse, but instead she finds an enchanted scarecrow who leads her to the dreaded Howl’s moving castle. Within the castle Sophie finds magical friends, a lot of housework that needs doing, and Howl himself, who is selfish and vain but also charming… and is none other than the wizard she met before being cursed. But outside the castle, war is brewing and the king has summoned all the witches and wizards to him and Sophie soon realizes that her own curse is not the only one that needs breaking.


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Howl’s Moving Castle is a 2004 Japanese animated film from Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki of Spirited Away fame. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones.

Howl’s Moving Castle is considered steampunk. Steampunk is a subgenre which utilizes a seemingly historical setting, usually vaguely 19th century around the industrial revolution, combined with anachronistic technology which is steam-powered but distinctly futuristic. This gives the piece the feeling of both being familiar and strange and works well with the rich visual style typified by Miyazaki’s work.

The film features themes of age, empathy, and the impacts of war. Sophie, the film’s protagonist, is not shown as being held back by the “curse of old age” as the Witch of the Waste intended, instead she finds a sense of freedom in being old. Howl’s “heartlessness” is shown through vanity and selfishness, but never cruelty, and he learns over the course of the film how to care more deeply for others.

Discussion Questions

  • It’s implied in the film that Sophie may have magic of her own. Do you think Sophie has her own magic? Explain your answer.
  • Why do you think Howl wanted to be without a heart?
  • When we first meet the Witch of the Waste, we rush to think of her as a villain. But as the film progresses, we see that really she’s just jealous and maybe a bit childish. Do you think there is a central villain to the story? If so, who or what do you think it is and why?
  • A common theme in Miyazaki’s films is flight. If you could fly, how would you use this power?
  • This film has a lot to say about wartime. Do you find yourself ever agreeing or disagreeing with what the characters say about war? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

DIY Glowing Calcifer – YouTube video


Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: Moana

Movie Wednesday Moana

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Long ago, there was a goddess named Te Fiti who had the power to create life, until one day a shape-shifting demigod named Maui stole the heart from inside her. A thousand years later, Moana is the daughter of the chief of the Island of Motunui. She has been told all her life that her destiny is to remain where she is and become the next chief. But the ocean has been calling to her ever since she was a little girl and now it’s up to Moana to set sail and save her island for something magical and sinister is destroying all their food. Moana must travel beyond the safety of the reef to find the seemingly self-centered “demiguy” Maui and restore Te Fiti’s heart and bring life back to her island.


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Moana, Disney’s 3D animated fantasy adventure film, was released in 2016. Starring the voices of Auliʻi Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson, with a song writing team including Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, Moana burst onto the screen with magic, catchy tunes, and an unforgettable heroine.

The film explores themes of identity and the importance of finding one’s own place in the world. It also shows its titular female protagonist as possessing inner strength and resourcefulness, and she is shown in the climax of the film achieving her goal through kindness and understanding rather than resolving her problems with violence, making Moana a role model for girls and boys alike.

Discussion Questions

  • Identity is a central theme in Moana. How do you think each of the main characters sees themselves at the start of the film vs. the end? Do their perceptions of themselves (and therefore others) change throughout the film? How so?
  • Well-rounded characters have both strengths and flaws. For example, Maui is both vain and heroic at the same time. What do you think Moana’s strengths and flaws might be?
  • Moana’s grandmother encourages Moana to listen to her own heart and leave the island, which leads to Moana saving her people. By contrast, Moana’s father continually forbids her to ever leave the island out of a desire to protect her. What do you think the film might be trying to say about allowing young people to make their own choices?
  • Diverse representation is important and Moana features not only diverse characters but diversity in its casting. The filmmakers have been criticized, however, for cultural appropriation and utilizing stereotypes in the film. How, then, do you think we should weigh the pros and cons of films like this?

Additional Resources

How Far I’ll Go (music video) – YouTube video

What Pacific Islanders Want You to Know – BuzzFeed YouTube video [does contain some brief war images]

Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: Annie

Movie Wednesday Annie

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Annie is a foster kid living in the “care” of the bitter and mean Miss Hannigan. Will Stacks is a rich business mogul turned politician determined to become mayor at any cost. But everything changes for both of them when one day Stacks saves Annie from an oncoming truck. A media frenzy quickly swirls around them. Seeing an opportunity to use the positive press to his advantage, Stacks takes Annie in. As the odd pair slowly get to know each other, Annie’s indelible and optimistic spirit begins to crack the armor Stacks has built around himself to keep others out and they each learn that first impressions can change.


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Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Annie is the 2014 reimagining of the Broadway musical classic of the same name based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strips. The film stars Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie and Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks alongside an ensemble cast. It features several familiar songs from the Broadway show, including the extremely famous “Tomorrow” as well as “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” but also features new music written exclusively for the movie.

The Tony Award winning original Broadway production of Annie first opened in 1977. The show was adapted to film in 1982 and again for television in 1999 before being brought back to film once more for a 21st century audience in 2014. In this remake the plot and characters were “updated” to reflect the time the film was made in.

One such update can be seen in the casting of the title character. The character of Annie is traditionally thought of as a white girl with freckles and red ringlets. Casting an African American Annie in the 2014 film was a step forward for diverse casting in Hollywood films. Watching this film can be a great opportunity to talk with your kids about the importance of diversity in storytelling.

Another one of the more noticeable changes is the way the film treats the character of Miss Hannigan, the cruel woman in charge of Annie’s care at the beginning of the story. Previously portrayed as a one-dimensional villain, in the 2014 film Hannigan is given humanizing moments and a character arc. In storytelling, an “arc” is when a character goes on a journey which results in some form of noticeable change. Basically, the character does not end the same way they began. Miss Hannigan goes on just such a journey in the 2014 film.

Discussion Questions

  • The character of Annie is a pop cultural icon. Did you grow up with her or is this movie your first exposure? How do you feel about the character?
  • If you’ve seen the older Annie films or the stage musical, how do you think the 2014 film compares?
  • Do you have a favorite song from the film? What is it and why do you like it?
  • The film was harshly criticized for its use of auto-tune, which is a process that can allow incorrect singing pitch to be digitally corrected but it can also simply be used as a stylistic choice. How do you feel about the film’s use of this?
  • In this version, Miss Hannigan is given a character arc. Did you find yourself feeling differently about the character by the end of the film? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

Annie Party Ideas

Movie Discussion Club

Introducing the Classics…Or Maybe Not

Introducing the Classics

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

I am passionate about classic literature, but as an adult I’m also a little resistant to reading it.


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I can trace this resistance to my teens when the idea that classics were superior to modern genre fiction began to pervade my social interactions. As a teenager, genre fiction was my bread and butter and a constant parade of sneers at my chosen reading matter ignited my stubborn streak and I flat refuse to read classics for all of my teen years (except for Shakespeare. You would pry Romeo and Juliet from my cold dead fingers). To this day, I still have not quite shaken off my resentment of the classics, which is honestly a tragedy.

My childhood, however, was a different matter. It was filled with Charles Dickens books (read aloud by my wonderful homeschooling mother), every Jane Austen adaptation available (especially Pride & Prejudice), and multiple film versions of Jane Eyre. In fact, my primary introduction and contact with the classics as a child came through screen.

There is a pervasive line of thought that holds to the notion that movies and television are inferior forms of storytelling and that “the book is always better.” Although the limitations of screen adaptation can certainly result in a film with less detail than or noticeable plot deviations from the source material, I do think we should be cautious in throwing the whole lot of them out entirely in favor of making kids and teens “read the classics.”

I am dyslexic and as a child experienced significant reading delays, so in many instances I either watched the movies or I didn’t experience the stories at all. I met Jane Austen’s heroines exclusively through screen and what a sadness it would be if I had never met them at all due to insistence that I read the books. And when I did start finally reading? I fed myself on a steady diet of Star Wars novels and Harry Potter; definitely not Homer. But my mother was simply thrilled that I was reading; what I was reading seemed to matter less than the act of reading itself.

I didn’t actually get around to reading Jane Eyre until my mid-20s, but my passion for the story is rooted in countless childhood hours comparing films. In fact, I probably would have never sat down to read Jane Eyre if it hadn’t been for those movies. I still have not as of yet completed reading a Jane Austen novel, I blush to admit, but Pride & Prejudice is still one of my favorite stories. I became passionate about the stage musical of Les Misérables in my early 20s and not only did I read Victor Hugo’s 1,400+ page masterpiece, I own five different English translations of it.

If the goal is to nurture a love of stories and a desire for literacy in kids,
I think it’s okay to take a backdoor approach.

That’s what worked the best for me growing up, anyway. I was allowed to consume the easiest versions of classic literature, which enabled me to sidestep my dyslexia and dive right into these stories which are considered important by so many people. Loving the stories first made me more willing to pick up a heavy book filled with tiny print that would otherwise send my dyslexia running and screaming.

When I was told as a teen that I was reading the wrong stuff and that my reading matter was inferior, it certainly didn’t make me want to go home and reach for the Tolstoy. It made me all the more stubborn in my reading choices and closed me off to things I genuinely would have enjoyed. In other words, it made me resistant. The exact opposite of the intentions of the people who were trying to get me to read classics.

Full disclosure: I am not a parent. But I do know what fostered a love of literature in me as a child and what didn’t. Shaming and blaming from peers and well-meaning adults was ineffective. Being allowed to compare different versions of Jane Eyre without the expectation that I had to read it was what eventually lead me to read it.

For me, the most important thing was loving the stories in whatever medium I could best handle them at the time. And to this day, my bookshelves are filled with Shakespeare’s works, Harry Potter, Les Mis, and Star Wars (a lot of Star Wars) all jammed in together.

Encouraging a love of classic literature might not look like a child reading Austen contentedly on the coach. It might look like movies, popcorn, and a whole bunch of science fiction books, but if there’s a love of stories plus a desire for literacy the classics will follow.

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