Category: Movies (Page 3 of 38)

3 Very Different Empowering Movies for Girls

Last week I saw three empowering movies for girls that were very different from each other, but had valuable messages.

I’m a member of Generation X, raised by Baby Boomer parents. My mother was part of the first generation of women who were encouraged to work full-time and have a family. I’m not naturally inclined to domesticity, so I grew up dreaming about goals and achievements instead of decorating and cooking.

However, I still struggle with my identity. Am I a stay at home mom? Or a career woman? Is there something in between that won’t tear me into pieces? Not so far. But, every day, I strive to find that balance.

Meanwhile, I have a son and daughter who are watching every move I make. I don’t want my son growing up to think that his wife (if he chooses one) will bear the burden of all the housework and child-raising. I also don’t want my daughter to think all that is entirely her responsibility (if she gets married or has children). I want her to have confidence, opportunity, drive, ambition and a dozen other things that will see her become the amazing woman I know she’ll be. She’s crazy smart, so I dream about her being a scientist, an engineer, a physician or some other brainy career.


I also want her to love herself. The struggle for a girl to maintain a healthy body image and self-esteem in today’s world of multimedia is well-documented, in written studies and films. I try desperately hard to walk the line between encouraging her to take care of her appearance, while not prioritizing it above, say, competing in Math 24. I know I’ve failed many times and said the wrong thing. The older she gets, the better I get at not saying anything about her appearance. Kicking old habits, and life-long misconceptions, is very difficult.

Lucky for me, the world is slowly — so slowly — waking up to the same reality. My generation is the tiniest bit more removed from the false idea of the 1950s housewife than my mom’s. I’m hoping my daughter’s generation will be even further removed, but it’s so hard to fight the influence of the media that surrounds us. For instance, in my house, we don’t have fashion magazines. I don’t weigh myself all the time or talk about all the improvements I want to make to my face and body. I don’t comment on other women’s looks or even compare myself to other women. Yet, when my daughter was 6 years-old, she made a comment that took my breath away. We were looking at an Athleta catalog (don’t ask me why, I stupidly assumed I’d find something that was structurally sound enough to wear) when she asked me if she was skinny. I said no, thinking she was beautifully rounded and strong. She looked devastated. I quickly said what I was thinking and assured her that she was perfect just the way she was. When I asked why she wanted to be skinny, she said, “Because skinny is better.” It was my turn to be devastated. I had tried so hard to protect her from that kind of thinking, but it snuck in anyway.


That’s where Embrace comes in. Embrace is a documentary that was born from Taryn Brumfitt’s Instagram post that went viral. She posted a “before” picture of herself in a body-building contest and an “after” picture of herself, naked, in all her post-three-babies glory. She flipped the stereotypical concept of “before and after” and women everywhere responded. She realized she had touched on something important and decided to do something about it.

Embrace Movie

She teamed up with a documentary team, traveling the world to talk to magazine editors, fashion models, burn victims and all kinds of other women, about their feelings about their bodies, and the pressure to be stick-thin, no matter the cost.

Embrace is reaffirming, eye-opening, funny, sad and wonderful. I encourage every woman, especially if you have a daughter, not only to see this film, but take every girl and woman you know with you. A friend and I took our daughters, and I was so happy I did. My daughter is uncomfortable talking to me about gnarly things, but we discussed a couple of the most astounding scenes in the movie. My hope is that the message sunk into her head (because — you may not know this — children frequently tune out their mothers, can you imagine?).

Some might be shocked that I took my 10 year-old, because there are lots of images of naked women, even their most private parts. But I rejoiced! Of course she should see what real women look like! Seriously, it’s a tool that every mother of a daughter should use, nudie shots and all.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

Only two days after seeing Embrace, I took our Girl Scout troop to see Hidden Figures, which was paid for by our local Junior League. The movie didn’t start until 7 p.m., so I figured not many of my girls would come. Happily, almost all of them came!

I’m so glad to have shared that experience with them. I guarantee that most of them, if not all, had no idea what African-Americans endured only 50 years ago, let alone African-American women. I loved that they learned about three women who used their brains to get ahead. I loved even more that they watched how those women had to fight to use their brains to get ahead.

The racism and sexism they encountered didn’t exist in big gestures or thematic ideas, which is how I think the girls see those -isms, because they’re so removed from all of that. (We also live in an affluent, fairly insulated area.) They witnessed racism in small ways, like not being allowed to use the same restroom or drink the same coffee. They saw the surprise on men’s faces when these women solved impossible equations and learned programming that the men didn’t understand.

Hidden Figures was also eye-opening and reaffirming, for the girls as well as myself.


Tenacious teenager Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) recruits a demigod named Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) to help her become a master wayfinder and sail out on a daring mission to save her people. Directed by the renowned filmmaking team of Ron Clements and John Musker, produced by Osnat Shurer, and featuring music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, “Moana” sails into U.S. theaters on Nov. 23, 2016. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The last movie my daughter and I saw — during possibly the biggest movie week of her life — was Moana. She had been wanting to see it and actually said so! (She rarely tells me what she really wants, unless it’s in direct contrast to something I’m telling her to do.) I love Disney movies, as a rule, so I was game to go.

I did not expect to love Moana as much as I did. I was so moved, and so impressed with the message. There wasn’t a prince in sight (thank God!) and not a single character commented on Moana’s looks. In fact, Maui makes a joke about her being a princess, and Moana declares, very firmly, that she is not a princess.

And the characters were complicated. Maui, Moana’s counterpart, was kind of a jerk. She schools him, big time. There were no easy answers and I truly didn’t know how the story would go.

Plus, Moana was set in the islands, so it presented a completely different culture than Disney films usually do. Moana looked nothing like Ariel or Belle or even Elsa, and I loved it. I loved the whole thing. The girl saves the world! (I don’t think I’m giving anything away there. I mean, it is a Disney movie.)

So, there are three empowering movies for girls I discovered almost by accident. In searching out movies that would have powerful messages for myself, I found movies that had powerful messages for my daughter, as well.

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Bail Organa in Rogue One

Bail Organa in ‘Rogue One’

I finally saw Rogue One! Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa, as predicted, was awesome!

(This was a two-part post. The following was posted after Rogue One was released.)

Update, Smitizens! I have seen the movie!

Okay, Bail Organa didn’t say, “This party is over! I’m going back to Alderaan where nothing can hurt me!” But he did say something along the line of, “Captain Antilles! I have a job for you!” as he sort of walk-jogged to an off-screen Captain Antilles. And the job was to find Obi-Wan, not carry the Death Star plans. So, that was interesting.

First off, who is Captain Antilles?

He’s the Captain of the Tantive IV, the ship that the Star Destroyer is chasing at the beginning of Star Wars. And Captain Antilles is Darth Vader’s first on-screen kill, a moment forever burned into my mind when I was 7. Vader lifts Antilles up by the throat and throttles him while saying,“If this is a consular ship, where is the ambassador?” That must have been a super weird last thing to hear.

Just a random thought? Maybe that’s the moment where Darth Vader tired of manually choking people and decided to start Force-choking? We see him choke like five more guys, but always with the force.

So thanks a lot, Bail Organa, you got Captain Antilles killed! Well, for the cause, I guess.

But to take this seriously for a moment, Jimmy Smits nailed the role. Bail Organa seemed just the right combination of smart and convincing, and showed where Leia learned some of her diplomacy. I really thought that Bail Organa, unlike, say, Dr. Evazan, really brought something to this movie, showed that the Star Wars universe can hold together and that characters from the prequel trilogy can work in the new Disney world. Is Smits King Organa? Leia’s a princess. It sort of clocks.

(The following was posted before Rogue One premiered in theaters.)

Smitizens, unite!

Do you still think of Bobby Simone every time you go to the dentist? Whenever you meet a lawyer, are you secretly figuring out which LA Law character they most resemble? Did you think that Matt Santos was going to be a much better president than that blowhard Jed Bartlett? Was Cane cancelled far too soon? Is your favorite fictional serial killer not Dexter, but his buddy, ADA Miguel Prado? If so, perhaps you are a Smitizen, one of the hoard of Jimmy Smits fans who recently had all their dreams realized when it was announced that Bail Organa is in the next Star Wars movie, Rogue One.

Who is Bail Organa?

Bail Organa is, of course, the adoptive parent of Leia Organa, aka Princess Leia, aka the Skywalker twin who always got the best stuff. Compare Luke’s parents, who were jerks who live in desolate squalor, to Leia’s parents, who are royalty who live in a palace and want nothing more than the love of a child. Leia married Han Solo, the coolest guy in history. Whereas Luke joined a monastic celibacy cult.



Bail was also buddies with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, enough so that they trusted him with a baby that they knew would grow to be strong in the force. Bail’s part in the prequel trilogy is basically, “Oh, hey, Yoda. How are you?” and then someone hands him a newborn baby and he gets in a speeder with no car seat.

But of course, Bail is Jimmy Smits, so he nails the part with a down-to-earth, devil-may-care attitude and debonair good looks, rocking capes, fuzzy vests, and a huge metal necklace that even Worf would have thought impractical. In one scene, Bail has the greatest turtleneck in the history of the garment, one that would have choked a lesser man than Jimmy Smits. And let us not forget, he has the galaxy’s best goatee. Say what you want about the prequel trilogy, but George Lucas is a man who knows how to dress up a faux-16th Century dandy.

What about Rogue One?

Okay, first off, let’s temper our enthusiasm. I don’t think Bail is going to be in Rogue One very much. Smits himself has called the role a cameo. However, I, for one, had always wondered how involved the elder Organas were in the illegal rebellion against the lawfully elected Empire. If we get even a glimmer, I’ll be pleased. Best case scenario, Bail will have a hilarious, memorable line, “Now that these Death Star plans have been stolen, I’m going to back to Alderaan where it’s safe!” Worst case scenario, his scene is cut before the movie is released.

There is one great thing about all this, it’s proof that the prequel trilogy is not verboten at Disney. There has been an implication in a lot of the talk about the new Disney Star Wars that they were going back to what made Star Wars Star Wars, aka the original trilogy. But there was some great stuff in the prequel trilogy, like Jimmy Smits, of course, Darth Maul, Ewen MacGregor’s Obi-Wan, Palpatine and Goddamn Qui-Gon Jinn. I wrote an article about how I don’t think anyone is ever going to say “midi-chlorians” ever again in a Star Wars movie. But let’s not throw out the good with the bad. I think whoever did character design in the prequel trilogy deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Darth Maul? General Grievous? Those guys look awesome. Anyway, the most important thing, for me, about this small piece of news, is that if the prequels are still in play, then maybe we will finally get the Ewen MacGregor Obi-Wan movie. Or we get a movie explaining the still murky specifics of the trade federations taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems dispute. Kidding about that second one!

The way this article is going, even I can’t tell when I’m being sarcastic. I do like Jimmy Smits. And I love Star Wars and am really looking forward to Rogue One. I guess there is something funny about how every little piece of news is picked up by all the web sites I’ve looked at, including what is probably a small moment with Bail Organa. In other words, I don’t think there is any other context that Media Medusa would be writing an article about the next Jimmy Smits movies (A sequel to the Jane Austen Book Club!). Anyway, Smitizens unite! Jimmy Smits is back in Star Wars!

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Dr. Evazan and Baba

Why is Dr. Evazan in ‘Rogue One?’

Rogue One theory about Dr. Evazan, a minor character, who appeared in the original Star Wars movies.

File this theory under “longshot,” but I kept asking myself, Why did Dr. Evazan appear in Rogue One? Could it have been just a cute cameo for the hardcore fans or did it actually serve some kind of purpose? The only reason I can think of is that it was just a fun Easter Egg. But then, it was such an intrusive moment that I had to think that there was probably more to it.

Who in the hell is Dr. Evazan?

Everyone in the world knows who he is, but his name is a little obscure for some reason.

Dr. Evazan is the guy in the first Star Wars movie who accosts Luke in the cantina, “He doesn’t like you!” Luke says he’s sorry. “I don’t like you either! You just watch yourself. We’re wanted men. I have the death sentence on twelve systems.” Luke says he’ll be careful and Dr. Evazan says a quote I use all the time, “You’ll be dead!” And then Obi-Wan Kenobi ignites his light saber in defense, takes off Baba’s arm and slashes, though doesn’t kill, Dr. Evazan. Boy, did Dr. Evazan and his buddy Baba pick on the wrong guys!

In Rogue One, Dr. Evazan literally runs into Jyn Erso on the planet Jedha. Truthfully, I didn’t notice if Baba was with him, but he probably was. It’s a small moment, but really intrusive and the kind of thing that would usually end up on the cutting floor first unless there was some reason to not cut it.

For instance, the director, Gareth Edwards, could be the world’s biggest Dr. Evazan fan and had it in his contract that the guy had to be in the movie. Or, and this has happened before, England is a surprisingly small island and a lot of people are related. Edwards could be related to the actor who first played Dr. Evazon, as Ewen McGregor turned out to be related to one of the actors who played Wedge in the original trilogy. But both of those things seem unlikely, so I’ll come up with some perhaps equally unlikely.

So what’s my theory?

I think Dr. Evazon is going to be the Waldo of the Star Wars extended universe. As in, Where’s Dr. Evazan? I bet he shows up in the Han Solo solo movie in two years and in the— and this is complete supposition on my part, another theory— solo Obi-Wan Kenobi movie in four years. So I don’t think he’s going to be in any of the numbered episode Star Wars movies, just the unnumbered Star Wars stories.

Why are they going to do this?

It just seems like a fun thing to do. I have a 3 year-old and he loves those look-and-find books. That moment with Dr. Evazan and Jyn in Rogue One just seemed right out of a look-and-find book, and I’m assuming it’s on purpose. And remember, we’re in the early days of the Disney / Star Wars movies, there was probably a committee meeting sometime where they wanted to have a connective thread in the movies and someone suggested Dr. Evazan and they went with it.

Just for the record, moments like that do bring out my insufferable geek know-it-all qualities and I almost said to my wife, the beautiful Kelly, during the movie, “Hey, it’s Dr. Evazan!” But I managed not to because, well, I was watching Rogue One and wanted to drink it all in.

Speaking of my geek credentials, I should admit that I did NOT know Dr. Evazan’s name until a few years ago when my sister got me the Star Wars pop-up book, which had Dr. Evazan and Baba’s name in it. Baba’s name is super easy to remember because I like to think that he’s a grandmother.

My only wish is that they had given Dr. Evazan a more memorable line since I don’t remember his line. I believe it was something like, “Hey, watch where you are going!” Perhaps he’ll have a bigger role in the young Han Solo movie!

And there is a history in the Star Wars universe of peripheral characters as witnesses to the main action, being there at the significant moments. Lucas was somewhat inspired by Hidden Fortress, a Kurosawa movie where two peasants witness significant moments for rich people. R2-D2 and C3-PO are loosely modeled on those farmers. And certainly, not to bring up Jar Jar, but he actually nominates Palpatine to be Supreme Chancellor! So it’s very Star Wars to have Dr. Evazan be at the places where R2-D2 can’t be. And what the heck, he needs his C3-PO, so throw in Baba.

Don’t bet the farm on this one, but it’s fun to imagine!

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