French Set Films

France, a country known widely for its cuisine and fantastic history. I am currently learning French at school. Today I will be letting you know about some of my favourite films that are set in France.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Film

Firstly, I would like to talk about the new remake of the Disney Classic: Beauty & The Beast [DVD] [2017] Emma Watson, (who also starred as Hermione Granger in The Harry Potter Series) took on the role of Belle in the new Disney film. This is a live CGI animated and live action version of the now classic 1991 animated Disney cartoon. It was very popular and millions of tickets were sold! The film is based in a small, yet beautiful village called Villeneuve in France and it is about treating people equally like the old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover!” Belle is very keen on reading in the film and perhaps serves as a metaphor for this phrase. Belle is clever and spirited and kind and is less concerned with vanity even though she is naturally pretty herself. She is not interested in the most handsome man in the village; ‘Gaston’ who is vain and arrogant. Belle is also extremely loyal to her father making several sacrifices for him. Even though it seems that she is a prisoner in the Beast’s castle she makes the best of the situation and looks for things to occupy her mind whilst she is there.

Les Miserables 2012 Film

Another of my favourite films set in France is Les Misérables [DVD] [2012] adapted from the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. Although many people think that this story is set in the time of The French Revolution it is actually not! It is set in Paris in between 1815 and 1832 (the time of the June Rebellion). This was a time of great social and economic difficulty; there were poor harvests, food shortages and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera. These difficult conditions exacerbated the revolutionary feeling of the poor in France who then fought the rich for equality. This may be why some people think it is set during the French Revolution. In Les Miserables you see scenes where the rich feast on expensive food, whereas the poor struggle to even buy a loaf of bread! Although originally a book, this was adapted for the stage into a musical in 1985 and has been running ever since (it is the longest running musical in the West End and the second longest running musical in the world!) The film is adapted from the musical keeping most of the songs. I like the way that this story uses music and acting to highlight the difficulties of this turbulent time in French history.

These are two of my favourite films set in France that I have watched so far. I look forward to watching many more in the future!

The Wonder of Studio Ghibli

Japan is a lively country, overflowing with life. It is filled with many aspects of interesting popular and traditional culture. I have chosen to focus on the popular culture aspect and write about two different films by one of it’s most famous exports, the animation studio ‘Studio Ghibli.’

Studio Ghibli rose to prominence in the West with Spirited Away [DVD] [2001] in 2002/3 in the US and UK, but has been producing films for many years before that in Japan. Studio Ghibli has many animators and is largely known for the work of its two directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata who have produced the bulk of Studio Ghibli output though the tradition of animation sets to continue with the son of Hayao Miyazaki, Gōro Miyazaki directing the Ghibli films Tales From Earthsea [DVD]From Up On Poppy Hill [DVD] and the new TV series Ronja the Robber’s Daughter find the original novel here. In Hayao Miyazaki’s films it was said that he only allowed a maximum of ten per cent of his films to be computer animated and the bulk of it was hand drawn and coloured! This shows an incredible amount of skill, dedication and hard work which shows in the final product. When you compare the quality of the animation on Studio Ghibli films with their contemporary US or UK equivalents, you can really see the difference in the quality of the art work. My Neighbour Totoro compared to The Little Mermaid is a good comparison as they were both created at the same time (1988 and 1989 respectively). When it comes to animation they were streets ahead of the US and UK in Japan at the time, although the increasing use of computer animation makes this harder to compare today.

My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro [DVD] is one of my favourite Studio Ghibli fims. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in Japan in 1988, it still holds today in the quality of the animation. The film is about two sisters, Satsuki and Mei who have an ill mother in hospital. They move to the country with their father in hope that the cleaner air would allow their mother to recover and come home. When out on an adventure in the garden Mei, the younger sister, discovers a tiny Totoro dropping acorns and that is where the story begins… This story is full of magical adventures with the two sisters and the large Totoro (a tree sprit creature) plus a crazy cat bus! It is a tale of love and adventure between two sisters and is really all about change. What is lovely is that there are lots of examples in animated films where moving house is seen as a stressful and anxious time for children (Toy Story is an example of this), but in My Neighbour Totoro despite the mother being ill in hospital and the family having to move to a totally different area, the girls embrace the change positively and have adventures. The film shows that a potentially stressful change such as moving house can be fun and full of adventures. As an example of the incredible detail used in Ghibli films; there is a scene just before Mei finds the small Totoros, where she sees some tadpoles and puts her hand in the water and they swim away, this scene which lasts a few seconds took a whole month to animate!!

When Marnie Was There

The second film I would like to write about was produced much later and is called When Marnie Was There [DVD] [2016] When Marnie Was There is a story adapted from the book of the same name which is originally set in Norfolk but is set here in a rural area of Japan. This is a story about a girl called Anna who has to move to the country for the Summer to stay with an aunt and uncle in hope that her asthma will improve. When she is away, she uses a boat to sail across a lake to a mansion and meets a young girl called Marnie who dresses differently and looks as if she is from another time in the past. She continues to meet her and is concerned for her, as she cannot always find her as sometimes the house is shut up and deserted. She wonders if Marnie is a dream or something created from her imagination. She is very confused but in the end she finds out the truth which surprised me! Unlike most of the Ghibli output, this film is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi but still looks similar to Miyazaki’s artwork.

These are just some of my favourite films by Studio Ghibli. There are rumours that Hayao Miyazaki has come out of retirement to create a new film called Boro the Caterpillar! Some rough cut animation exists of this work and I hope that this does find the funding to get made as it looks good!

Chinese Cultural Favourites

China is an extremely large country full of over one billion people. Within this large country there are so many interesting aspects of culture we could examine.

The Bamboo Plant

Firstly I would like to talk about my favourite plant associated with China. This is the Bamboo plant see Bamboo (Botanical) The bamboo is often thought as being a very special plant in China (where more than a thousand species of bamboo are found). Bamboo may be thought of as a lucky plant as it provides so much enjoyment for people as the wind rustles through it and it is also edible is a common ingredient for Chinese stir fries (and of course it feeds Pandas!) In other parts of the world such as regions of Nepal, India and Bengal however, Bamboo is avoided because it has associations with ghosts, evil spirits and death! I like to think of Bamboo though as a friendly helpful plant that tastes good too!

Mulan

Mulan [DVD] is a Disney film released in 1998. The film is based on an ancient Chinese legend called the ‘Legend of Hua Mulan’ that was sometimes sung. Mulan is a brave girl in Ancient China. There is a war and her elderly frail Father is expected to fight but she vows instead to go in his place disguised as a man. There are many battles and challenges that she faces along the way. She has the help of a friendly but misguided dragon called Mushu. (The dragon is a legendary sacred symbol and creature in Chinese culture as it represents one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac). Mulan is ultimately a story about growing up as she has to face many challenges along the way and learn to be brave and strong. Whilst she is on her journey she meets her ancestors spirits and discovers her true self. I would recommend Mulan as a great film to watch!

The Chinese Zodiac

I like to read and learn about astrology and star signs. In common with the Western zodiac, the Chinese Zodiac also has twelve signs that each correspond to different personality traits but that is where the similarity ends. Instead of having one of the signs every month per year the Chinese Zodiac had one sign per year so you have to wait twelve years for your sign to come around again. All of the signs are animals too, most of them are real animals apart from the Dragon. Myself and Jo are both Roosters which is fortunate because 2017 is the year of the Rooster: Magical Rooster: Stories of the Chinese Zodiac, A Tale in English and Chinese Within each sign there are five elements (Water, Fire, Metal, Earth and Wood) which rotate every two years. Amongst the other contributors here, Ross is a dragon and Kyle is a Goat! Chinese New Year is a great celebration which has happened recently. It celebrates the new Lunar Year, according to the start of the new Zodiac sign. Many fireworks are lit to celebrate this special time. The Lunar New Year begins roughly at the end of January or beginning of February each year.

These are my favourite aspects of Chinese Culture but there were so many others that I could have chosen.

Ten Questions for Grace

This season we’ve been answering a getting to know us a bit more questionnaire and for this post it’s Grace’s (our Kids and Young People Rep’s) turn in the hotseat!

1. What are five things that make you most happy?

Being around friends and family.
Having a nice meal or drink like iced tea!
At Christmas time when we all have fun!
Doing a sport or subject I enjoy like Food Tech/ Home Economics or Ice Skating. Achieving success and for other people to achieve their dreams and seeing other people happy!

2. What would be your dream job and why?

My dream job would be an interior designer because I like the style and think I’d be good at putting it all together!

3. List five things that you are passionate about:

I am passionate about making things neat and tidy and organised.
Decorating rooms.
Making food for lots of people to enjoy.
Making people’s hopes come true.
Making sure that everybody is happy and doing things they love!

4. What are your pet peeves or annoyances?

I really dislike when people make a mess of something beautiful or organised and when people don’t try their hardest just because they want to be ‘cool.’

5. If you were an animal what would you be and why?

I would like to be an elephant because they travel in large groups so I’d never be lonely and they are quite friendly. [I remember when Grace was little that Elmer was on of her favourite stories – sorry for embarrassing anecdote – Ed!]

6. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

I would like to like in Austria because the houses and streets are very cute and cosy and they get a lovely winter, I would love to go there on holiday again like when I was little.

7. If you could choose to have a superpower what would it be and why?

I would choose to be invisible so that when somebody was annoying me or I was embarrassed I could just vanish!

8. If you could invite three or more guests from history and or the present to a dinner party who would you invite and why? Do you think your guests would get on well or not?

I would invite: Marilyn Monroe Robin Williams and Michael Jackson because I think that they are all very inspirational and I think that they would get on well!

9. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

I think that there is a popular belief in the world that money is the only thing that can make you happy instead of your friends which I don’t believe. I also think that there is a common belief that if you’re ‘not perfect’ that you are not good enough, I don’t believe this and think that this should not be believed.

10. What do people most misunderstand about you?

I think that people misunderstand me in different ways for different people. Some people think I’m very serious and can’t laugh at anything but for others, they think I’m just there to laugh about it and can’t be serious!

Thank you Grace for enlightening us with these interesting answers:)

Halloween Stories for Kids!

Happy Halloween to all those celebrating! I thought I’d write a brief post about my favourite Halloween stories and films that relate to nightmares for our topic this Autumn.

Coraline

One of my favourite films is Coraline (2D Version Only) [DVD] [2009] which is excellent (one year I actually dressed up as Coraline for Halloween!). Coraline (from the novel by Neil Gaiman) is a story about a young girl who is trapped in an endless nightmare from which she cannot escape. Coraline and her parents move into a new apartment and she finds a secret door there which leads to a parallel universe where she has an ‘Other’ Mother and Father who look similar to her parents except that they have sinister shiny black buttons for eyes! The other Mother and Father spend more time with her and make her all her favourite food whereas her real Mother and Father are too busy with their work in the real word to pay Coraline much attention. Her other Mother invites her to spend more time in the other world but only if she has black buttons sewn onto her eyes! Does Coraline escape? You’ll have to watch it to find out!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Special Edition) [1994] [DVD] is an animated classic by Tim Burton is one we have discussed before but it is a great Halloween film which is about Halloween characters that find out about Christmas. Jack Skellington a skeleton from Halloween Land discovers Christmas Land and wants to celebrate it too as he is bored with always celebrating Halloween. His attempts at celebrating Christmas include him taking the part of Santa and delivering Christmas presents that terrify children! All in all, it’s not a good idea but there are some great songs and scary moments that entertain!

Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday [DVD] [2003] is a film about a teenage girl who switches bodies with her mum. There are two versions of this film and Jo remembers the earlier film but the one I’m more familiar with is from 2003. The film is funny and also a quite scary prospect about changing lives with your mother or other family member and not being sure if you would change back!

The Goosebumps Series of Books

I love the Goosebumps series of books about different frightening characters, some of which come to life! My favourite Goosebumps story is probably the Night of the Living Dummy (Goosebumps) because it’s really creepy and builds the suspense well. Goosebumps have been around since the 1990’s (Jo remembers them too and also the ‘Point Horror’ books which were very popular at her secondary school).

These are some of my choices for the nightmares of Halloween! Hope you have a great celebration and as much fun as we will!