Morgon Newquist

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

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Review: Beauty and the Beast

Spoilers ahead!

I will begin this review stating that I absolutely adore Beauty and the Beast. It has been my favorite Disney movie and fairy tale for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have a novel I’ve been working on for many years named Beast Child that I hope to be able to share with you all in the future.

I fell in love with the live action Cinderella film released several years ago, and so my excitement went through the roof when Beauty and the Beast was announced. If they did Cinderella so beautifully, whimsically, and perfect, perhaps they would do the same with my beloved tale.

Beauty and the Beast is not, unfortunately, as wonderful as Cinderella. However, I greatly enjoyed it (especially several aspects of it) and it was not as terrible of a message fiction mess as I feared it would be. I was worried – especially with a lot of the news coverage in the days before the film’s release. The points, as is common with journalism, were overstated.

First, to address the controversies. You’d have to really examine the film with a magnifying glass to find this groundbreaking “exclusively gay” moment. In fact, I am not entirely sure what it was supposed to be, though I have my guesses. This is good, as I wanted to be able to take my young children to see it. I’m suspecting it was a pure publicity grab to talk about it at all – and already those who care about that kind of thing are decrying how it wasn’t good enough. Otherwise other than some “wink wink nudge nudge” moments it is not a huge influence on the plot.

LeFou is most definitely gay, but not in a way that children are going to notice, and he’s mostly really funny. His character has been expanded well and I enjoyed him.

Belle “being brought into the 21st Century” to be a strong, independent inventor woman (apparently being a book worm isn’t enough anymore) is a bigger problem. And that brings me to the weak link of the movie, which is Belle. Emma Watson, despite her turn as Hermione in Harry Potter, was a poor choice. She is pretty, but not beautiful, and they had to auto-tune the hell out of her voice to make it merely passable. Her acting is good but not great. Many of the weaknesses of the film could have been fixed just by casting someone else in this role. Someone who could take a little of the edge off. Belle actually doesn’t do all that much inventing, so that also seems to be kind of tacked on to deflect criticism about her not being “modern & smart enough”.

I have mixed feelings on Belle as a character in this movie, to be honest. She is kind of an elitist bitch in the beginning of the movie – but in doing this, she is actually given a character arch as well. She doesn’t have much of one in the original film. She grows and softens, especially once the Beast embarrasses her for her inflated ego. I would have preferred that she wasn’t quite so unlikeable during the first third of the movie. This could have been done while still preserving the spirit of the character arch.

One scene in particular was heavy handed and out of place and could have been altered or left out. The villagers dump out Belle’s laundry because she is teaching a little girl to read. It was overly feminist, and literacy in France for women in the 17th century was actually quite high.

Gaston is, quite honestly, the highlight of this film. He is charming, arrogant, masculine, and perfect. I loved watching him. I liked the new bits to his character – like that he is a returning war veteran ready to settle down in life.

There are only two issues with him in the movie: 1) Belle and Maurice’s treatment of him in the beginning of the movie is atrocious. It’s like the movie forgets that he has not been established as the villain yet – he is arrogant and entitled, but he hasn’t actually done anything wrong. He doesn’t throw Belle’s book in the mud, he doesn’t harass her about reading – he is honestly attempting to woo her because of her personality and her beauty. And she is a complete bitch to him, as if he was as oafish and offensive right off the bat as he is in the animated film. Later on, Gaston goes out to help Maurice when he asks (instead of throwing him out of the tavern) and Maurice is an asshole to him. This bothered me, because in that universe, he might have been a little arrogant, but he had done nothing to deserve that treatment except apparently the cardinal sin of being attracted to someone who wasn’t interested in him. 2) The changes to his death scene are anticlimatic and he deserved better.

The film is beautifully romantic, from Maurice’s sad and quiet mourning of his wife, to the separated Cadenza and Garderobe, Lumiere and Plumette, and finally to Belle and the Beast. Their connection is much better done in this expanded version of the story. I love that it starts with the Beast teasing a haughty and offended Belle about not actually being as well read as she thinks she is. In an age where so few movies are romantic (especially not most “romance” movies) I appreciate that writers didn’t shy away from making the movie that way.

Some of the tiny story details added or expanded on are right on point. The addition of the servants losing more and more of their humanity as the end of the curse nears adds a wonderful dimension to the film. The scene where the last of their humanity vanishes and they “turn into antiques” despite their victory against the villagers is surprisingly moving.

The castle and its grounds being in eternal winter is a nice touch. And my personal favorite was perhaps one of the best of these additions – the shuddering and breaking of the castle every time a rose petal falls. Several plot holes from the original are closed – as part of her curse, the Enchantress makes everyone forget about the Prince, the Castle, and its inhabitants, including their own family members that were working in the castle.

The visuals are stunning, and I like the period feel – right down to the white powdered wigs in the beginning. The character design of the castle servants is really neat as well.

The new songs are a good addition, particularly the melancholy “Days in the Sun”. I still prefer the Beast’s soliloquies from the original broadway show to “Evermore”, however. Evermore is a touch emo for me.

Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are two of my very favorite actors, and like I told Russell…Ewan McGregor singing Be Our Guest is about one of the only things that could make me like that song. (Yes, I love Beauty and the Beast but hate Be Our Guest. Well, I don’t hate it any longer, but the most I can ever summon for it is “meh”.)

So my final verdict: I enjoyed it significantly more than I thought I would, but it was not as wonderful as I hoped it would be.

Coming soon, a refutation of the common, snide criticisms of the Beauty and the Beast story.

My Top Five Disney Villain Songs

This is a fun little post I was thinking about as my kids and I listened to a Disney villain song collection in the car. It was a little random and missing some good ones, but it got me considering it.

Here are the best Disney Villain songs, ranked by me.

#5 Be Prepared – The Lion King

This song on the list was almost a given, as The Lion King is one of the best of the Disney animated films. Scar (with the exception of Ursula, who was originally Triton’s sister, a relationship removed from the movie but restored to the stage musical) is family to the characters he is destroying. He is kills his own brother in order to be king, and is completely willing to also permanently psychologically damage (and then kill) his own nephew for it too. Jeremy Irons is perfect for this song, and it is ominous as he plots the coup of the royal family. It’s also full of Nazi imagery, which should terrify today’s snowflakes looking for swastikas around every corner.

 

#4 Mother Knows Best – Tangled

I almost ranked this one higher – it was a little bit of a struggle, but the next song is a little shocking for a Disney song, even a villain, so this one ended up at #4. Mother Gothel kidnapped the baby princess Rapunzel to use her magic hair to stay young and beautiful forever, and has kept the child locked up in a tower her entire life. This song is the epitome of feminine abuse – catty comments, underhanded jabs, and most of all, scaring and manipulating a young woman to stay completely dependent on her. She is crushing Rapunzel’s self confidence and self reliance, all so she can be beautiful. Take note at the end of the song, when Mother Gothel tells Rapunzel “I love you most” she kisses Rapunzel’s hair and not her.

#3 My Lullaby – The Lion King II

So this is a movie that has mostly been relegated to the dustbin, as it was one of the direct to video sequels of the late Eisner years at Disney. I haven’t watched it again as an adult, but it isn’t too bad if I remember it correctly. It has had a tiny bit of a resurgence lately as they’ve chosen not to totally trash the canon from it; Simba’s daughter Kiara is in the new television show The Lion Guard. The music in it is actually quite good, and this song is one of the reasons.

The plot is that several of Scar’s followers were expelled from the Pridelands by Simba, including Zira and her three children. Her youngest son, Kovu, was chosen to be Scar’s successor. She is singing him to sleep in the song My Lullaby.

The corruption of a child, and her celebration of violence and wrath also make it noteworthy.

#2 Friends on the Other Side – The Princess and the Frog

This is The Shadow Man – Dr. Facilier – trapping Prince Naveen with voodoo in The Princess and The Frog. Keith David’s talent makes this song, as does the willingness to be explicit and creepy with his shadow summons. He is tempting both Naveen and his manservant Lawrence with their heart’s desires – money and respect. I also find it noteworthy  for using the temptation of a gamma – a cowardly man who cannot stand up for himself wanting to take the power and respect of another man. He thinks he deserves what Naveen has, despite never making any effort to improve his own lot in life.  He would betray and destroy Naveen in order to get it.

“In your future, the you I see…is exactly the man you always wanted to be,” sings the Shadow Man as he shows Lawrence a card with him as the king, abusing his master.

 

#1 Hellfire – The Hunchback of Notre Dame

With the exception of #3, this is likely to be one of the songs on the list that has been heard the least. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is – generally quite rightfully, I feel – scoffed at for the “Disney” changes made to Victor Hugo’s classic novel. And on the other side of the divide, many Disney fans didn’t like it because it didn’t have the requisite happy ending. But the music in it is incredible (Don’t believe me? Go listen to it). The musical, which changes the plotline to be at least slightly closer to the original story, also has amazing music.

Rumor is that Roy Disney gave the creators permission to push the envelope and do something different with this movie, and in Hellfire, you can see it. It is an intense song about Frollo condemning Esmerelda to eternal fire for not returning his affections.  

 

That is my ranking of the Disney Villain Songs! There are a couple of good ones (Poor Unfortunate Souls, Oogie Boogie’s Song, and The Mob Song, for example) that just missed the top five. What are your favorite Disney Villain songs and why?

 

Even Cinderella Had Haters

This is a post that’s been rolling around in my head for a while that I’ve been meaning to write. I think it is important to remember. I try to keep it as a sort of mantra (along with the tagline from the live action movie, “Have Courage and Be Kind”).

I like most people on an individual basis. I’m not a saint, there are some I can’t stand or don’t want to deal with. I’m generally unconcerned with whatever they choose to do with their time or attentions.  I can also see most people for the interesting and good things about them, even if I don’t want to be BFFs.

I spent a rather embarrassingly long time of my life naively thinking this is how most other people were. It is not.

It does not matter how charitable, how smart, how kind – how completely and generally unoffensive you are as a person. Someone will not like you. Someone will take shots at you, try to tear you down, or just make your life uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because they are bitter and hate everyone. Maybe they are jealous. Who knows?

The crabs in a bucket theory is real. Many (even most) people actually behave this way. You won’t escape their cruelty, jealousy, or dislike, even if you try to be nice and try to make everyone like you. Hell, sometimes the act of trying to make everyone like you makes someone hate you. It’s impossible.

You will not make everyone happy. Everyone will not like you. The end.

Cinderella was kind, beautiful, courageous, helpful, and loving. And even someone – her steprelatives – hated her. In fact, they hated her because of who she was. There was nothing for her to do about it.

If not even everyone loved Cinderella, a perfect fairy tale heroine, they will not all love you.

I get it. It is hard to accept. I still struggle with it, particularly because I am rather mild mannered and make a concerted effort to be kind. I have been a people pleaser for most of my life.

But it still hasn’t made me universally beloved. All her wonderful qualities did not save Cinderella from her stepmother and stepsisters.

Be who you are – whoever that is, and stop worrying about everyone else. It’s hard to do. I am trying to become that way. But I am sure it will make my life better.

The Cinder Witch

The Cinder Witch has been released! I am remiss in posting this as it happened right around the holidays, but the third School of Spells and War story is finally out. You can purchase it at Amazon. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited!

Months ago, Alis joined with her new friend Cahan to fight a dragon beneath the School of Spells and War. Now she fights something altogether different: fame. Worse, her newfound notoriety has resulted in a mission to the far north. As if it weren’t bad enough that it’s so cold, she also finds herself in a tiny village whose residents innately distrust spellcasters of all kinds. Yet they tolerate her because she comes with Cahan – and because something is threatening their children. Can Alis and Cahan save them?

Please enjoy this 45 page story that is the next installment in the series.

More stories, and a big announcement about the School of Spell and War stories as a whole, will be coming soon. Please stay tuned!

A Midsummer’s Party

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I am pleased to announce that the next short story in the School of Spells and War is now available on Amazon for 0.99! You can purchase it here exclusively through Amazon. It’s also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

It’s Cahan’s birthday and Alis didn’t know it! Now she has only a matter of hours to choose the perfect gift for him. But what do you get a man like Cahan? The answer involves shenanigans and BREAKING THE RULES…something that Alis has never done!

A Midsummer’s Party is what I’ve come to calling an “interlude” story – shorter than the novellas, just a fun one-shot adventure with the characters.

Down the Dragon Hole, the first story in the series, is free on Amazon until tomorrow, so you might as well pick that one up if you haven’t started the stories yet! The School of Spells and War is a fun, slightly tongue-in-cheek tribute to the old sword and sorcery stories. I’m humbled that it has been compared favorably to the wonderful Terry Pratchett. Check it out if you’re interested!

You won’t have to wait long for more Alis and Cahan either. The Cinder Witch is coming down the line soon!

School of Spells & War Update

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I have updates for my series of short stories and novellas The School of Spells & War. The first story about Alis and Cahan, the wizard and warrior duo, was originally published in the anthology Make Death Proud To Take Us, and later released on its own.  I’m happy to announce that two more stories – A Midsummer’s Party and The Cinder Witch – are scheduled for release over the next couple of months! There are also three other stories on deck in varying degrees of completion that should be out over the next six months too.

They’re a long time coming, I know, but newborns tend to put a crimp in book writing plans. There should be many more after these, too, so keep an eye out.

Art From Life

The real problems came with toddlers – when the parents had waited to have their kids baptized for one reason or another. Sometimes the parents were recent converts to the church. That he understood, and he always welcomed them, challenge and all. But most of the time it was just lazy parents who couldn’t be bothered – the “CE Catholics” who only came on Christmas and Easter, or who waited a year and a half until Grandma was in town to do the baptism.

Baptising toddlers was a pain in the neck. Most of them were just frustrating. The little tykes just couldn’t sit still. But some of them were downright infuriating. He’d had children sit on the altar giving him the stink eye.

That is an excerpt from my husband Russell‘s short story Knight of the Changeling, that can be found in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire (which is an awesome collection by the way, if you need some new reading material). A deacon is talking about his experiences baptizing children after he just witnessed a supernatural occurrence at one.

I thought I would post the inspiration behind it, because it cracks me up and I like to see how life inspires art.

Our eldest son, S, was not baptized until he was a toddler. Russell and I joined the church at Easter in 2011, and we waited until we were full Catholics before having the ceremony.

And this happened:

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We printed a copy and gave it to the priest, who just laughed and laughed.  And there is photo proof of that throw away line in the short story.

Pink, Purple and Sparkly

I tweeted about this a couple of days ago, but I feel like it needs a full blog post, because this is something I’ve been bothered by for a long time.

The tweet was in response to this article, about a woman who was offended that Target had a two signs on their aisles – “Building Toys” and “Girls’ Building Toys”. Cue the general outrage you’d expect from such a heinous sin. Thankfully, Target didn’t fall all over themselves to correct it – just commented that customers preferred the signs because it made navigating the store easier.

So beyond the practicality of that – how novel an idea, labeling aisles according to toy type, in a logical matter – I’d like to talk about this feminist inspired idea that is plastered all over the media as of late.

The idea that girls who are, well, girly – are broken and must be fixed.

Let me preface this with my belief that kids should be able to play with whatever they want to. Your son wants to play with dolls? Ok, sure, let him have fun. Your daughter wants fatigues and a gun? Let her have fun with that too. Life is too short to micromanage what your children enjoy, whether you’re feminist or traditional.

So now that that is out of the way – why does it matter if there are “Girls’ Building Toys”?. We saw a similar backlash over the newly released LEGO Friends Line, as if because this set of Girl Legos existed it immediately disqualified children with two X chromosomes from playing with any other Legos.

Now it isn’t – “Hey, let’s make sure that there are girl options for toys”, or even “Girls should be allowed to play with boy toys”, it is “Girls must only play with gender-neutral or boy toys. Girly toys are bad.”

This is an issue anyway, but it bothers me personally because my little girl – who is funny, smart and creative, and just fine exactly the way she is – is girly and now  many people (at least the main stream media/feminists) are acting like she is less of a girl for being this way, that she is illegitimate and must be changed. That she is not ok the way she is, and should be shamed because  her favorite colors are – in her words – pink, purple and sparkly. She also loves Princesses, and Mermaids, and dressing up, and playing with her play kitchen. And, horror of horrors – she helps me make dinner many evenings, because she wants to. I know. I should hang my head in shame for such a travesty.

Now, as I am sure someone will think this, no one has directly said it in those words…”shame your daughter for liking girl things”, but it permeates every article that condemns the availability or creation of toys that would appeal to her. Her likes aren’t right. Her likes don’t serve the cause. So even though she’s three, she should be changed to better fit the proper feminist mold of a girl. How is this remotely ok?

Pink was my favorite color growing up, despite being very tomboyish, especially from mid-Elementary School through Middle School. For whatever it is worth, I would have loved the Lego Friends when I was younger. I didn’t play with Legos, other than at my grandparents. But a couple Christmases ago, my husband bought me this Lego set because I’d never put one together, and I loved it. I think the girl colored Nerf things are awesome too.

Because why should a girl have to become a boy to like “boy” things? Or building toys, robotics, weapons, or science toys? So what if E wants to build with pink and purple Legos, or get the Sleeping Beauty princess Lego set? This is even ignoring the push to get more girls to enter into STEM subjects – if it gets girls playing with “boy” toys, why should they care what color it is? It is accomplishing their goals.

Of course, most if it is just because the type of people that get upset at signs accurately labeling the location of toys in a store are the kind of people that always find something that offends them.

But beyond that, my daughter is great. In addition to all her girly likes, she plays superheros with her brothers, likes cars and trains, and has just started taking Karate.

And do you know what color her new Karate gi is? Pink. Because she asked for it.

Stop telling her it isn’t ok for her to be the way she is. Let her enjoy her childhood. And if your daughter doesn’t want girl colored building toys – great. Buy her blue and green ones, or even plain wooden blocks with no color at all. I hope she loves them. But don’t make it out like my daughter is a lesser woman because she doesn’t innately jump towards feminist-approved activities, desires, and colors.

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Meet the Family

Here is a quick introduction to my husband and kids, to make it easier to follow whenever trip diaries/daily life posts happen to appear.

disney vacation 1272This is Russell (pictured when our youngest was a baby). I go ahead and use his full name as he is a fellow author and hosts a blog here.  We met at a Karate studio, and have been married since 2007. He is a joy to share my life with, and I will never allow him to cut his hair, since people seem to think that I’m just itching to make him do it. You remember what happened to Samson, right? On the plus side, everyone remembers him once they see him, so we meet (or re-meet) people all the time.

We converted together to Catholicism after much discussion, and joined the Church on Easter 2011. We continue to journey together, learning more about our faith and working to structure our lives around the seasons and requirements of the church after both of us growing up without a lot of that. He is a Sandan in Shin Nagare Karate and runs a school teaching it. In his day job he is a programmer.

Our oldest son was born in January 2010. S is rambunctious, smart, and helpful. He lovesIMG_9412 Batman, Legos, Minecraft, Star Wars, and lots of other nerdy things. We frequently have movie nights with him, and so now he has seen all the Star Wars movies, all the Harry Potter movies, the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia movies, just about all the current superhero movies (minus The Dark Knight, a fact which irks him very much) and more. His next goal is to learn how to read, because we promised him he could start playing World of Warcraft with us once he learned. Stay tuned because S gets to take his first trip to Dragon Con this year, and he has lots of costumes planned and is very excited.

Our middle child and only girl is E. She was born in December 2011. She is a tiny pixie of a blonde girl that is alreIMG_0802ady excellent at using her cuteness to get favors from strangers. Luckily (or unluckily, as she probably currently sees it) for her that it doesn’t really work on her parents, especially her daddy. She is as girly as one can be, but she also loves our movie nights and is able to hold her own against her two brothers (one of which is affectionately called “wrecking ball” in the church nursery). E currently loves Rapunzel, Ariel, mermaids and The Princess Bride.

The youngest was born in May 2013. A is a beast of a kid who will gladly share his special brand IMG_9942of aggressive affection with you. He is as tall as his big sister and heavier, and now I often get the question if they are twins. A is a clown, who will keep doing anything that makes someone laugh. Mickey Mouse is his best friend, and we now have more stuffed Mickeys in the house than children. He also has a unique and amusing way of grumping about things, so the phrase, “A, no more demon voice,” is commonly used in our household. He absolutely loves playing with balls and climbing, and is rather skilled at getting around various types of childproofing and gating to get what he wants.

So that is our household for now. Hopefully we can have fun sharing stories and experiences about ourselves. Now you know who everyone is when you start to read recaps and posts :).

Hello! Obligatory Introduction Post time!

Good morning! What follows is the obligatory introduction post for a new blog. I’ll try to get through this quickly so we can get on to the interesting stuff 🙂

My name is Morgon, and I am a writer, videographer, wife, mother and martial artist. In case you thought that covered everything, it doesn’t really…among other things, we can add gamer, singer, actor, devout Catholic, and more. If you think that is an odd mix of things, well…it is.

And that is how this blog will be. It will be an odd mix of things. Part mommy blog, part reviews & pop culture, part author blog, part homeschool/DIY/homesteading, and part anything else I happen to find interesting. It will be eclectic, but I hope that will serve to keep things interesting, rather than just all over the place.

I own and operate a special event videography service that specializes in Weddings named Ever After. I started that in 2010, and how I got there is probably another blog post. I also co-own and help teach at my husband’s Karate dojo Madison Martial Arts. I teach one of the preschool karate classes. My other business hat is as an author for the publishing company Silver Empire. I have several published short stories, and also have a novella and novel that should be forthcoming. My husband blogs here if anyone is interested.

But I mostly stay at home with my three kids, even though it may not sound that way from the resume that I wrote above. All these businesses cater well to me being able to adjust them to fit into our family life, where I am not away from the kids too much, either literally or figuratively while I am working on my computer. It’s a hard balance that I struggle constantly to keep.

I read and watch a lot of TV. My family also makes an effort to eat paleo/primal/Weston A Price foundation (I basically pick and choose between them all based on my own research and what works for our family) so I’ll have discussion, posts and recipes pertaining to that. I love food, and to cook, and I also love food history, so those topics will make an appearance as well.

We live in a brick rental house, and are working our way towards purchasing our own land and building our own house, and heading in the homestead direction. I can’t say how hard-core we’ll end up being, or even what we’ll do on our land, but it is a goal and also something that I am interested in.

Thanks for coming to my corner of the web. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Since this will be sort of a mommy type blog, I’ll also have a following post introducing my husband and my kids, and then we’ll jump all the way into this blogging venture.

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