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foster a strong sense of identity


• Halloween (the chipmunks meet the wolfman, my favorite seasonal movies)
• Murder, She Wrote (qualms, how I think it's improved) / The A-Team (development of: storylines, characters)

My favorite time of year! I love Christmas/New Years too, and I've got to say there's something magical about having a fire while the world (.......Michigan) is buried under three feet of snow. But I love, love, love, the Fall, and Halloween is like all of society embracing things I love all the time: kitsch, cheap scares & thrills, spooky stuff, genuine angst/fear, living in a reality that is surreal, and then like cartoon ghosts & werewolves & dracula & graveyards & fog machines & caramel apples & pumpkins & dead leaves. I say this stuff every year, I forced black & orange crepe paper on my whole dorm and made people buy me chocolate pudding so we could make graveyard cake and they spent HOURS putting up those decorations and decorating cupcakes -- yeah, I feel like most people who know me know I love Halloween.

I wasn't really in the spirit this year because I don't get to do much that's fun (although last year my experience with actual Halloween events was pretty lame/disappointing) and I'll probably be thinking about packing for China unless things go disastrously awry (which is not so much an impossibility, it's like 50%, whatevs) so I've got a lot of other things on my mind. But, by accident, I got The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein & The Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman from Netflix (I've finished Arrested Development, so I meant to put more of The Golden Girls at the top of my queue but I didn't get on it quickly enough). The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is like a typical kid's cartoon, some moderate humor and decent animation, but nothing especially remarkable. The Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman is so far on the other end of the spectrum that I think it's a real shame they're being marketed together.

some differences:
-CMtW has the Chippettes (I love how all of the characters get different, individual personalities; I think Theodore and Eleanor are really cute together, and it's fun to watch them all interacting. Their conversations are so normal and real and they manage to fit a lot of humor and character into short scenes)
-CMtW has a pretty realistic setting. In CMF the Chipmunks get locked into a theme park at night, there's a mad scientist who hits on Dave for his kidneys, events are loosely connected and occur obviously to advance the plot, the Chipmunks have no real obligations (they don't need to go to school, Dave leaves them alone at the park while he sits at home looking like Aladdin -- I'll admit, I think he's pretty cute for a cartoon character), laws of physics are broken, etc. But, in CMtW, the Chipmunks go to school, their elders keep an eye on them, give them boundaries, expect them to accept the consequences of their actions, etc. As I said, their interactions are realistic and the story develops organically.
-Even further than that, in CMtW, everything comes together and serves multiple purposes. Alvin buys a Madame Raya chemistry kit for the play, he likes Madame Raya because he's become obsessed with monsters because he's playing Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, the play exposes Theodore to bullying, Theodore gets the necklace he gives to Eleanor from stuff Alvin orders from Madame Raya, participating in the play shows how Theodore changes... I really like Simon, and, though it doesn't sound like he fits in well, he does. He encourages Theodore, moderates Alvin, etc. Dave is also awesome and gets some good lines.
-Although CMtW only has 3 songs with the Chipmunks singing, the soundtrack is great. I was going to buy the songs because I liked them so much, but they're not commercially available (that I could find), so I had to get them elsewise (and I only got 2 of 3). Some people listen to musical soundtracks a lot, ok?

Anyway, I totally recommend it to anyone who has some spare time and a fondness for Halloween/the Chipmunks. Some cartoons I used to love I no longer find enjoyable in my old age, but this one matured well.

my favorite halloween movies~
(a lot of lists offer up horror/scary movies in general, but I like things with a specifically spooky kind of atmosphere, not necessarily tons of blood and senseless suffering)
1. Sleepy Hollow
I've probably watched this one 5-7 times by now. I love Johnny Depp and Christopher Walken and the plot twists and the atmosphere and the crazy tense climax + resolution.
2. Hocus Pocus
Haha it's just awesome! By turns fun, dramatic, and sad, it also has a great atmosphere.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas/The Corpse Bride
I like the music and the stories are enjoyable through repeat viewings. When I was younger, I really disliked the Nightmare Before Christmas and refused to watch it. I think it really scared me?? The character designs are awesome though and Jack in his tattered suit falling into the angel's arms in the graveyard is visually so striking~
4. Beetlejuice/Ghostbusters/Casper/The Addams Family
Apparently I liked Beetlejuice a lot when I was younger, but I can only remember having watched it once when I was older. (maybe two years ago?) I watched Ghostbusters at my 11th birthday party, which was a sleepover and 20% debacle, 80% awesome. Casper... I watched once, a long time ago. It has a ghost! I love the Addams family and I wanted to be Wednesday when I was younger. I think these all have a similar kind of feeling & aesthetic, despite the difference in subject matter, and they're appropriately spooky, kooky, & ooky.
5. Trick 'r' Treat
I actually haven't watched it yet, but I've been waiting for three years to watch it (I was sooo disappointed when I heard it was being released on DVD only!!!) and it's already gotten some impressed reviews, so I'm including it on this list and I'll only remove it if I can't stand it so much I stop it halfway through.
6. TV shows with seasonal episodes (Scooby Doo & Courage the Cowardly Dog are often thematically appropriate; Garfield's Halloween Adventure; It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; Pushing Daisies had a great Halloween episode, Buffy had some good ones...)
I love halloweeny-themed television shows! When they don't acknowledge Halloween at all (for example, Gilmore Girls never did) I'm super-disappointed.

*Movies on a lot of other lists: Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, the Lost Boys -- yeah, they're about the undead, but it doesn't need to be Halloween for you to watch them! (28 Days Later and the Lost Boys are two of my favorite movies, btw, because I keep up the creepy 24/7-365.) Not that it necessarily must be Halloween for you to watch Halloween movies, but somehow, they're better when it's this time of year. Movies like Ghost Ship and It are played around Halloween as well, but I definitely believe that there's a division between Halloween and the horror genre (and even further, between horror/thriller/mystery/slasher (gore)/supernatural creatures, even if those are more like subclassifications than individual genres).

*I could make a case for movies like Harold and Maude, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and the Rocky Horror Picture show (gruesome suicides, serial-killing sleepwalkers, the many alien transvestites appearing every Halloween), but I think that's not a fair appraisal of everything they offer.

My favorite Halloween experiences: volunteering at a haunted trail and a haunted hallway, the production of Sleepy Hollow at Gennessee (it's probably one of the reasons I so love the movie), the Sonnenberg haunted gardens event (Jamie if you're reading this are you the person who was with me when I had to go through twice because I developed a ridiculous crush on the band they had? If so, I'm sorry). Trick-or-treating in Mason Valley was really cool, too, like, I was never able to have a comparable experience in Michigan, and I'm glad I was a kid before they started implementing those hateful 6 or 7 PM curfews. (Or is that just Michigan, because most states can be trusted not to start fires and riots once it gets dark?) I know in my old old neighborhood in Pittsburgh someone had a porch with a blue & black strobe light and dressed up as a skeleton/scarecrow and hid in a coffin with a live boa constrictor because that neighborhood was the shit, but, unfortunately, I can't remember much else. I'm sure it was totally awesome (I think every time I move my Halloweens get progressively more uninspired - this will only be remedied when I'm kidnapped by werewolves and/or vampires). I've also been on two spooky-themed walking tours, a Maine(?) tour of local haunting spots (at night, lit by lanterns!) and a London tour of Jack the Ripper's crime scenes! Our tour guide looked like Johnny Depp circa the Haunted Window and we spent the whole time up front talking to him and he said we were like the ideal American tourist family and it was awesome~ but also super-creepy and at night and when we rode the Underground back I was like "ANY OF THESE PEOPLE COULD BE A SECRET SERIAL KILLER" because I was 12 and really high-strung.

Oh my god I could talk about how much I love Halloween probably without stopping for hours on end. Since I got into the spirit, I've been drawing weird fauxsters for movies that will never exist.

is the best.

Murder, She Wrote
When the show started out, I found it generally inoffensive yet infuriating. There are two major problems:

1. Jessica Fletcher is never wrong
2. Jessica Fletcher is smarter and more capable than anyone else (including the police)

These issues were frustrating multiple times in each episode. With such an inhuman (robotic, rather than supernatural) main character, how can the audience identify? But, towards the end of the second season, we stop being told over and over that Jessica is a famous, wealthy author and everyone's heard of her and loves and admires her. Then, the show begins referencing how the police bow to her "expertise" in a very self-aware manner, and the secondary characters tend to be hilarious and well-developed for appearing once in one episode for less than three minutes (I'm thinking specifically of Buffum from the Joshua Peabody society, but I think there were others). As the show becomes more established, Jess spends more time in Cabbot Cove; her friend with the boat disappears, but the sheriff shows up more often and the cranky doctor is introduced - he's great because he's rude to everyone and even makes fun of Ms. Fletcher (and refuses to worship at her feet! awesome). Her airhead nephew gets into trouble with each new job and Joshua Peabody is referenced many times. I like the way that her world is being established, and, so far, the changes they've made make me enjoy it a lot more. She can still be pretty irritating, but I feel like that's being toned down.

Also, in one episode, this guy is displayed pretty prominently in the background and he makes a series of awesomely weird faces. I love that they didn't shoo him off the set.

The A-Team
Again, it's fun to watch the show evolving! There's less emphasis placed on breaking Murdock out of the Veterans Psychiatric Hospital, and I feel like the tone of the show is somewhat darker, with more complex issues and plots. It's interesting to note that only in the third season do we get any kind of explanation for the crime they were accused of - they attacked a bank in Hanoi, but their commander was killed and they took the fall for his decision. Face mentions it verrrry briefly and Hannibal's basically like, "Whatever." (I think if it were a "modern" show, resolving that conflict would be like a season-long arc, more of a concern to the characters.) We do see how everyone has moved on - Hannibal plays monsters in movies that require full-body costumes, Murdock's living in the hospital, talking to his invisible dog, Face runs a series of cons to get jobs and cars and money and dates, and B.A. helps underprivileged kids play baseball/football/develop self-esteem. There are more moments of interaction between two characters on their own, most notably Murdock speaking with one of the others. I love his interaction with the Faceman and he says some of the show's funniest lines when he's making fun of B.A. (not in a mean way. For example, because B.A., who usually drives, is out of town in one episode, Murdock gets to drive instead. He discovers that B.A. changed the van's suspension to make up for the weight of his gold chains, so Murdock wears a bunch of jewelry and puts bricks under the driver's seat).

One thing I really love about the show is that, for all of its violence and simple plot formulas, it doesn't treat the audience like a pack of idiots. In one episode, Murdock decides B.A. is his hero and begins referring to him as "Baa." When B.A. tells him to cut the jibber-jabber, Murdock says to Hannibal, "That was iambic pentameter! The man speaks in verse!" There's no stupid line like "That's the ten syllable style of verse Shakespeare used," the audience either knows what he's talking about or doesn't. Another time, Hannibal is knocked out and kidnapped, but a tiny tape recorder in his watch picks up on a bunch of sounds. We're shown the things that make the sounds and B.A. later uses the sounds to plot his course on a map (using a red pen and a protractor), but no one ever says, "Wow, it's great we had this watch to record all those noises so we can figure out where Hannibal was taken!" I think a lot of shows find it necessary to state explicitly what they're doing and why, and that, to me, is always clunky and annoying and a little bit condescending.

Also, sometimes this happens:

It's a really fun show. When I was younger I liked the idea of it and I tried to watch it online via youtube (I started with the chop shop episode, with Murdock's plant and B.A.'s van getting kidnapped) but it didn't really grasp my attention. Now, I really love a lot of things about it and I hope to finish it before I leave.
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haha what did you think of american psycho? sometimes when I'm feeling blue I watch that huey lewis scene. the little shimmy... and, "Feed me a live cat!" and his phone call!!! "I guess I've killed 20 people, maybe 40."

(full disclosure: I watched a somewhat censored version and have no desire/intention to see the more gruesome scenes)
the gruesome scenes aren't really that bad, but i fucking loveee that movie ahahahah, especially the phone call & huey lewis & cat v atm scenesss