Posts Tagged ‘Diversity’

Movie Wednesday: Next Gen

Brave Writer Movie Wednesday Next Gen

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Mai has never been the same since her dad left. Her well-meaning but self-centered mother tries to help, but it often feels like the mother and daughter are speaking two different languages when they attempt to connect. When Mai wanders off on her own, a chance encounter with a secret and experimental new AI changes her life.

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Next Gen is a Chinese-North-American CG animation science fiction film released in 2018. It stars the voices of Charlyne Yi and Constance Wu.

A common trope in stories is “the boy and his X.” The “X” can stand for robot, monster, or any unique entity. As the trope name suggests, these stories are often centered around boys who form a deep, unusual bond with another being as they come of age.

In Next Gen, the main character is instead a girl who forms a connection with a special robot, which helps her to heal and grow past her pain, allowing her to reconnect with her mother and finally form healthy relationships. The film is an interesting look at both the ways in which the trope changes around the main character’s gender and the ways in which it remains fundamentally the same regardless of gender.

A note to parents: Next Gen is rated TV-PG, but we would still recommend looking up the film on sites like Common Sense Media, since it does contain intense animated violence and implied swearing (no actual swearing is heard in the film), before deciding if it is right for your family.

Discussion Questions

  • Mai has a lot of misdirected anger over her father leaving, which she channels into retaliatory violence against the kids who’ve been picking on her. What is the difference, do you think, between standing up for oneself and simply becoming another bully?
  • Mai is a flawed character, who has to learn from her mistakes and heal herself emotionally. At which points in the film do you think Mai demonstrates this growth and how does she demonstrate it?
  • The film tells us that “memories make us who we are.” 7723 gives up his memories, essentially who he is, to save Mai. At the end of the film, Mai is shown “teaching” 7723. Do you think it will ever be possible for Mai to regain the friend she had, or is that version of 7723 gone forever along with the deleted memories? Explain your answer.
  • Molly, Mai’s mother, uses robots and technology to fill the gap in her life left by her husband leaving and much to the detriment of her relationship with her daughter. But by contrast, Mai’s friendship with 7723 (a robot) allows her to heal, confront her flaws, and repair the relationship with her mother. What do you think the film may be trying to say about the roles of technology in our lives and its healthy vs. unhealthy uses?

Additional Resources

Next Gen is streaming on Netflix

Next Gen soundtrack

Amy Frantz is a Brave Writer alum. When not over-analyzing Star Wars, she has a lot of feelings about fictional robots.

Movie Discussion Club

Happy Birthday, Andrea Davis Pinkney!

Happy Birthday Andrea Davis Pinkney Arrow Sale

In celebration of Andrea Davis Pinkney’s birthday on September 25, the Arrow based on her book, The Red Pencil, is:

HALF PRICE till Thursday, Sept 27 midnight ET ($4.95)!

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Born September 25, 1963 in Washington, DC, Andrea Davis Pinkney is an award-winning and best-selling author of children’s literature, as well as an editor and publisher. Visit her website to learn more.

[The Red Pencil is] the powerful story of one girl’s triumphant journey, inspired by true tales of life in Sudan. Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.Amazon

Take advantage of this special Arrow offer! Ends September 27, 2018 at midnight ET.

Also, if you’d like to buy a copy of the novel, it’s available through Amazon: The Red Pencil

The ArrowLearn language arts with the Red Pencil Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Wednesday: Fullmetal Alchemist

Movie Wednesday Fullmetal Alchemist

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

After the sudden death of their mother, brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt to use alchemy to bring her back to life. But when it goes horribly wrong, the young boys are left with dire consequences. Edward loses an arm and a leg in the attempt and must bind his little brother’s soul to a suit of armor to keep Alphonse alive.

Years later, Edward has become a renowned State Alchemist, known as the Fullmetal Alchemist because of his metal prosthetic limbs. Now bent on returning Alphonse to his proper body, Edward will stop at nothing to find the Philosopher’s Stone, which he believes will grant him the power to set things right. But strong forces outside the two brothers conspire to keep them from their goal.

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Fullmetal Alchemist is a Netflix original film and a fantasy science fiction movie released in 2017. Directed by Fumihiko Sori, it is a live action adaptation of the award-winning and worldwide best-selling manga (Japanese comic) series of the same name by Hiromu Arakawa.

In recent years, there has been a string of live action adaptations of Japanese manga, many of which have received heavy criticism for whitewashing. Fullmetal Alchemist is a notable exception to this trend. Although set in a fantastical, fictionalized Europe, the movie’s characters are all played by Japanese actors. A common argument against including representation in genre films has been that its presence would somehow need an explanation from the narrative. Fullmetal Alchemist never does this and simply centers Japanese actors without making it a narrative point.

Among the film’s central themes are familial love, trust and loyalty, perseverance, learning from mistakes, and that all actions have consequences that cannot be cheated.

A note to parents: Fullmetal Alchemist is rated TV-14 (roughly the equivalent of PG-13) and is intended for older teen audiences. Parents should be aware that it contains dark themes and intense fantasy violence (particularly in its last third). We recommend looking up the film on sites like Common Sense Media before deciding if it is right for your family.

Discussion Questions

  • A major theme of Fullmetal Alchemist is the principle of equivalent exchange; that in order to create something new, something old must be destroyed/given up. In what ways does the film illustrate this theme outside of the obvious alchemy?
  • Condensing and omission are necessities of the adaptation process, especially when trying to adapt a long-running comic series into a two hour film. Were there ever any moments in the film where you felt something wasn’t well explained or that something was missing, or did you feel the film’s narrative held together on its own? Explain your answer.
  • Towards the end of the film, one of the Homunculi observes that because she can die then she is human. What do you think this definition of humanity implies about her character?
  • At the end of the film, Ed decides not to use the Philosopher’s Stone to bring Al’s body back. Do you agree with his decision? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

Fullmetal Alchemist is streaming on Netflix.

Amy Frantz is a Brave Writer alum. When not over-analyzing Star Wars, she spent much of her teens building a rather large manga collection.

Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: Lagaan

Movie Wednesday Lagaan

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Once upon a time in India, in the village of Champaner, there is a drought making it impossible for the villagers to pay the British taxes that have been put on them. When the corrupt Captain Russell raises the taxes even further, Bhuvan, an inhabitant of Champaner, accepts the crooked captain’s challenge to a game of cricket. If the captain wins, the villagers must pay triple the regular taxes. But if Bhuvan and the village win, they will be exempt from taxes for the next three years. Bhuvan must unite his village if they will have any hope of learning the game and lifting the unfair tax.

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India is a 2001 Academy Award nominated Bollywood musical sports-drama film set in colonial India during the Victorian period. The film stars Aamir Khan, who also produced the film, alongside Gracy Singh and Rachelle Shelley.

The title, Lagaan, translates to “taxation,” and among the film’s many themes, including the importance of communal unity and support, Lagaan explores some of the injustices brought about by colonial oppression. Specifically, unfair taxation by the occupying forces.

Colonialism is a policy where a country is occupied, politically taken over by another country, and exploited often for its natural resources and labor. We see this in the film as Captain Russell attempts to exploit the labor of the Champaner villagers, necessitating Bhuvan to make a stand against him.

Lagaan was filmed on location near Bhuj. It was difficult for the film crew to find a location to shoot because they needed a place where it had not rained in some time. The film features beautiful costumes, sweeping music, a lavish film style, and uplifting messages about teamwork, love, and overcoming obstacles.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you have a favorite musical number from the film? Which one and why?
  • Many blockbusters of western cinema clock in around two or two and a half hours. Lagaan is nearly four hours long. Did you find that the length allowed the film to explore its themes more deeply or did you find the pacing slow?
  • A love triangle in stories is when three people have romantic feelings for each other. Lagaan includes a love triangle between Bhuvan, Gauri, and Elizabeth. Were you rooting for one of the girls to prevail in her affections? Were you happy with how the triangle resolved? Explain your answers.
  • In the film, the character of Lakha spies on Bhuvan for Captain Russell. When the villagers discover his betrayal, they want retribution but Bhuvan decides to give Lakha another chance after Lakha sincerely apologizes. Would you have made the same choice as Bhuvan? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

Lagaan is streaming on Netflix

Lagaan soundtrack

Amy Frantz is a Brave Writer alum. When not over-analyzing Star Wars, in her spare time you will find her belting musical numbers.

Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: The Darkest Minds

Movie Wednesday The Darkest Minds

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

In the near future, a mysterious pandemic has killed most of the world’s children. The children who survive develop superhuman abilities. In an attempt to control the youngsters and “protect” the populace, the government begins rounding up children and sending them to camps. Once there, the children are given colors which indicate the nature of their abilities and how dangerous they are; Reds and Oranges are “disposed” of immediately because their powers are too strong. Ruby Daly is an Orange who manages to disguise herself as a safe Green and survives in the camp for several years. But one day after a test, Ruby’s Orange status is revealed and she makes a desperate escape.

Once on the outside, Ruby meets Liam, Chubs, and Zu, children with superpowers who are on the run just like her. Together they search for a place where they can be themselves and safe from the government. But once there, they will learn that things aren’t always as they seem.

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

The Darkest Minds is a 2018 dystopian film and was released in cinemas on August 3rd. It is based on the YA novel of the same name by Alexandra Bracken. The first book in Bracken’s series was published in December of 2012. Somewhat inspired by Bracken’s experiences during 9/11 as an adolescent, the themes of the book include the resilience of kids and teenagers through crisis.

The Darkest Minds is dystopian science fiction. What does dystopian mean? You might be familiar with the term utopia or utopian. A utopia is the idea of a fictional world in which everything is perfect. A dystopia, then, is a fictional world in which everything is awful. Dystopian fiction as a genre typically deals with totalitarianism and/or environmental crises. The crisis in the Darkest Minds is a deadly disease that affects only children.

Nontraditional casting, more commonly referred to as colorblind casting, is a practice wherein the actor’s race or ethnicity is not a consideration in the casting process for a traditionally white role. Nontraditional casting is sometimes used to counteract whitewashing in film and television, which is a practice that prevents actors of color from landing parts by casting white actors in those minority roles instead. A famous recent example of nontraditional casting is the musical Hamilton. The Darkest Minds is also just such an example. The leading role of Ruby, although originally white in the novels, was given to Amandla Stenberg, who is an actor of color.

A note to parents: The Darkest Minds is rated PG-13. We recommend looking up the film on sites such as Kids in Mind before deciding if it is right for your family.

Discussion Questions

  • Colors in the Darkest Minds are very important. Did you notice that Ruby’s full name (Ruby Elizabeth Daly) is an acronym for red (R, E, D)? Other characters in the story have color related names (either actual colors, acronyms, or name meanings). This was done purposefully by Bracken. Which color names did you notice and what do you think these colors might reveal about who the characters are?
  • When adapting a novel to film, changes and cuts have to be made to fit the format and time restrictions, so some details can get lost. If you’ve read the book, was there anything that the film did not include that you wish they had kept? Explain your answer.
  • Dystopian fiction can often be seen as a warning that something like this could possibly happen. Do you think if there were an outbreak of a disease, like the one in The Darkest Minds, that the public would react the way they do in the story? Why or why not?
  • In the film, the kids are assigned colors that describe their powers and how dangerous they supposedly are. Reds and Oranges are considered the most dangerous, but as we see throughout the film even the supposedly less dangerous powers can be used to cause damage. Why do you think this fictional society sees telepathy/mind-control and pyrokinesis as so much more dangerous than, say, super intelligence and telekinesis? What makes these abilities seem more or less threatening?

Additional Resources

Official Movie Trailer – 20th Century Fox YouTube video

The Powers Behind the Darkest Minds – 20th Century Fox YouTube video

Young Minds with Alexandra Bracken – 20th Century Fox YouTube video

Amy Frantz is a Brave Writer alum. When not over-analyzing Star Wars, in her spare time you will find her…actually, she mostly just over-analyzes Star Wars.

Movie Discussion Club