It’s the SUPERHERO year (part 2)

Superhero movies are on a roll this year. In fact, it’s Captain America week! I guess one can’t get enough of the childhood fantasy that opens up every time you watch a film like that. I remember liking Storm from X-men so much that I even daydreamed of what weather catastrophe I can unleash to defeat the imaginary bad guys in my head. Haha! 🙂 Anyway, I didn’t read any review about Captain America so please don’t spoil it for me. Actually, I don’t read reviews AT ALL before I watch a film. I want to appreciate/criticize the movie first hand. That being said, I want to give a run through about what I think about the other superhero movies I watched this year.

Let me start with Thor. Before watching the film, I had no clue about Thor’s story. My hubby was nice enough to spare me the details. When I asked him what the story of Thor is all about, he just said that it was about the Norse gods. Thus, with the element of surprise on my side, I was immediately captured upon seeing the grandeur of Asgard, the Norse gods’ counterpart of the Greeks’ famous Mt. Olympus. Chris Hemsworth perfectly suited the role. His thunderous voice and his overall look were tailor fit for the character. Not to mention he’s way too good looking—very god-like, I must say. 🙂 His arrogance was so effective that he was close to annoying. His humor was so funny that I even laugh up to now when I think of his punch lines. I really love his dead serious statement, “I need a horse!” Haha! 🙂 Another noteworthy character in the film was Thor’s brother, Loki, played by the amazing actor Tom Hiddleston. He was convincingly cunning and deceptive. I actually had those moments when I was not so sure whether he was telling the truth or not. Anthony Hopkins was in full regalia, literally and figuratively. He was a king in character and in craft. Finding yourself fearing and revering the old guy in the big screen says a lot about the actor’s exceptional portrayal of his role. Overall, the film was fast-paced without missing out on the character development of Thor. It was more than entertaining; it was at every level very engaging. If I can summarize my critique in one word, I would have to say that Thor was BELIEVABLE. It was authentic. In fact, it was so good I think it actually deserves a sequel. 🙂

Next stop, X-Men First Class. This movie is what you would expect X-Men movies to be—GREAT. But I have to admit, I like the trilogy more than this one. The trilogy was more intense and action-packed. I like the more mature characters, I suppose. Professor X is just made for Patrick Stewart. Just like Magneto is perfectly suited for Ian McKellen. Still, their younger versions in X-Men First Class, were brilliant actors.

I like this movie for two main reasons—first, simply because I love “origin” movies (those who-they-were-before-they-became-great type of films) and second, because it’s cast ensemble was unique and diverse. Each of them was given enough exposure to show their character’s budding greatness. James McAvoy portrayed the young Professor X with a twist, displaying quick wit and candor, which gave more life to his character. Professor X became more interesting and aggressive with his execution. Michael Fassbender exhibited more angst and attitude as the young Magneto, which created a more solid foundation to the way his character developed in the X-Men trilogy. Jennifer Lawrence provided the innocence and the tension needed in Mystique’s character. The mutant identity crisis that they all face was best portrayed by the young Mystique. She showed vulnerability yet exhibited boldness when called for. I must say that it is a tall order for the movie to exceed the expectations of the people who watched the box-office X-Men trilogy. However, instead of exceeding, X-Men First Class rose up to the challenge and matched the quality and depth of the previous X-Men movies. I cannot say that it was better but I have to admit, it was equally great. 🙂

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A League of its Own

It’s more than just waking up at wee hours in the morning or changing nappies. It’s more than just learning the art of pacifying and singing lullabies. It’s a league of its own. It’s called MOTHERHOOD, and it’s a major league.

I joined this league December of last year. A newbie with no previous experience whatsoever, I learned the ropes of motherhood as I experienced it daily. It’s a good thing that you don’t get disqualified from this league. Once you’re in it, you’re in it for the rest of your life regardless if you goof up every now and then. And yes, goof up I did. During Timmy’s first two months, I had a lot of those mishaps. There were times when I would feed him and make him burp then a few minutes after he would do the “hurl”. Next thing I know, my face and chest are filled with milk and he looks just as messy as mommy. There were days when he was just colicky. He would cry and cry for no apparent reason. He’s not hungry, wet, nor sleepy. I would sing to him, dance with him, rock him sideways, do the pillow-hug routine (which I invented), talk to him, pray for him, and everything else in between—but he would still cry to no avail. There were times when I felt like I was just not fit to be a mom especially when other people can calm him in a snap. Little did I know that one of the ways to pacify a baby is through what they call “change of arms”, which is simply passing the baby to another person. There are a lot of ways actually like change of environment (you go say from your room to the living room), walking, and change of arms. Too bad, I read about this when Timmy passed this stage already. I already took everything personally, thought that everybody’s against me, and cried about it needlessly. Haha! 🙂

Players in any league have substitutes, mothers don’t. I am a mother 24/7. I live and breathe this role daily and incessantly. I’m actually glad that no one can replace the role of mothers in our lives. My mom did an exceptional job in raising me and my sister. I saw the same thing in my grandmother and mother-in-law. These women showed unconditional love that is beyond measure. I truly hope and pray that I will be the same to my little Timmy. I’ve been a mom for 7 months and counting, and it’s only now that I’m able to grasp what unconditional love entails. It means having to get up every hour or two just to feed your baby. It means having to take care of him in the morning despite the lack of sleep. It means staying by his bedside whether he’s at home or confined in a hospital. It means speaking up for your child when the medical procedure is unbearable anymore (like when the doctors were needle-happy as they kept on missing the vein of Timmy for IV insertion). It means making ends meet to provide for the needs of your baby. It means skipping shopping and other personal leisure to be a good steward of your family’s finances. It means working closely and tirelessly with your husband in making sure that you’re on the same page in rearing your child. It means praying continuously for your little one. It means not giving up when you can’t pacify him or put him to sleep. It means being ready to play with him even if you’re tired. It means being cautious at all times to protect him from getting hurt. It means being patient with him when he’s too whiny or too playful (like when Timmy pulls my hair, earrings, shirt, and everything else he can grab on my face :)). Most of all, it means being sacrificial with your time, energy, and whatever you can give just to make sure that you’re able to communicate your love for him. I believe there’s a whole lot more to unconditional love than what I’ve written and I have yet to discover them as I stay on this league.

Players in any league stop playing when the game is over. But being a mom doesn’t end when your baby sleeps or when he’s with grandma and grandpa. Your responsibility extends even in those times when your baby seems not to need you. There will be times that you will have to be in the background, cheering for your child, encouraging him, and praying for him. Even when that once little crawler gets married someday and it seems that he won’t be needing you anymore, you will always be a mother to him—the way my mom remained as my inspiration and encourager even as I got married and bore a child of my own. The game is never over once you become a mom. I believe that you will always be on your toes when it comes to your child. You will always be protective at some point and you will never get tired of showing your concern whatever his age may be.

Just like in any league, you also have hall of famers you look up to. Being a mom made me appreciate my mom a million times more. I now understand why she would become over-protective regarding my health. I now see the deep love behind her discipline. I now value all the more the time she devoted in rearing us, giving up her job to become a full-time mom. I now see how beautiful she has become inside and out as she ages gracefully. I now know where the strength and tenacity comes from in the midst of adversity when she’s at my bedside and I’m very sick. I love her all the more now that I am a mother myself. But apart from my mom, I must say that the person I appreciated the most as I entered motherhood is GOD. This sacrifice of giving up your son for unworthy people is just beyond me. I can never do that, not even in my wildest dreams and noblest intentions. God is the perfect example of a sacrificial, gracious, and loving parent. He gave His one and only Son to die for us just because He wants us to be reconciled to Him. Only a God like Him can show such great sacrifice. He is patient, forbearing, merciful, forgiving, generous, and altogether perfect. I believe He’s the first hall of famer in this league of parenthood. 🙂

It’s a privilege to be a mother. It’s an honour to be a part of this league where glorified players called “mothers” give their heart and soul for their children. It’s a league where rewards are not trophies or championship rings but big smiles, twinkling eyes, precious hugs, sweet kisses, and encouraging words of affirmation. It’s a league of its own and the most fulfilling one at that. 🙂

Must Read: The Help

I like reading first-time novelists. There’s something about fresh raw talent that produces exceptional piece of literature. Some of my favourite debut novels are Aravind Adiga’s “White Tiger” and Audrey Niffeneger’s “Time Traveller’s Wife”. These novels were unique in all aspects and Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help” is no exception. I think I’ve done my fair share in recommending this book to my friends but I guess doing a review will even encourage more readers to pick up this good read.

When I found out recently that DreamWorks produced the movie adaptation of this book, my heart literally jumped! I couldn’t wipe the big smile on my face just thinking about these women characters coming to life in the big screen. So before you go and check out “The Help” this August in your local theatres, allow me to share with you why the USA Today named it “Book of the Year”, why Oprah picked this for her book club, why it’s been in the New York Times bestseller list for the longest time (since it was published in 2009), and why I’m raving about this excellent book.

I won’t spill the beans for those of you who plan to read this book. I’ll just share the reasons why I LOVED it and what’s pretty challenging about it. To start off, “The Help” is a novel about the poignant intertwined lives of Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Set during the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, this book gave a voice to the silent cries of black maids during that time. Aibileen, a middle-aged black maid, is probably the noblest help in the community. Raising her 17th white child, she is compassionate and devoted to the kids entrusted to her. It was at Aibileen’s voice that the novel began and ended. She is not your typical black help, Aibileen is wise and in her own way, regal. Minny is not your typical tongue-tied black maid. In fact, she has the biggest mouth in the neighbourhood. Her humour stands out in the novel yet it is her strong outspoken character that differentiates her from the rest. Skeeter is a 22-year-old aspiring writer, who is expected by her mother and everybody else to be married at that time. She is white but that did not stop her from exposing the debilitating situations of black maids in their town. Skeeter was also raised by a lovely black help named Constantine who apparently left their household and no one would tell why. It is in this process of discovery and brave exposition that these three women uphold each other to free themselves and the rest of the black maids from the prevalent social injustice.

Kathryn Stockett wanted to preserve the voice of the black maids by using their language when they are the one’s narrating the story. With that, I found it very challenging when I read the first page of the book, hearing it from Aibileen’s voice. Here’s an example of one of her dialogues,

And how I told him don’t drink coffee or he gone turn colored. He say he still ain’t drunk a cup of coffee and he twenty-one years old. It’s always nice seeing the kids grown up fine.

I find myself going slow on those parts where it is either Aibileen or Minny’s narrative. This is what I specifically like about the book; it is true to its origin and very organic. Never mind going slow, it is the raw voice that you will actually hear as you do that.

A true page-turner, this book piqued me in a way that it opened my eyes. It also made me laugh and pleasantly surprised me in many ways. The story line was seamless. The characters were distinctly memorable. The language was prolific regardless of the point of view. The author’s bravery in writing this piece is purely exceptional. “The Help” is BOLD, MOVING, and for a fiction read, it is ironically REAL.

If you will allow me to implore you, read the book then watch the flick. If in case the film fails, you’ll find comfort in having a great book in your hands. 🙂