Category: Things To Love

Netflix Hidden Gem: April and the Extraordinary World

The weather has turned cold and many of us are preparing for the long winter – filled with hot cups of tea, ill-fated attempts to wear 6 sweaters at once, and spending snowy evenings with your dear friend, Netflix.

And that’s where I come in. I’m a firm believer that Netflix time should be quality time. Until their algorithm improves, I’m hoping to spare you some time searching through their catalog and point you right towards the good stuff. So in this edition of Netflix Hidden Gems, I present you with April and the Extraordinary World.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The US and Japan are not the only countries telling great stories with interesting and dynamic animation. Just a little digging can easily find top-level animation with dubbing performed by both gifted and well-known actors – April and the Extraordinary World is a perfect example of this.

A French-Belgian-Canadian production, April and the Extraordinary World takes place in an alternate reality where scientists are disappearing. Robbed of their genius and technological discoveries, the world remains dependent on coal, wood, and steam. A young girl named April who lost her parents as child, strives to complete their work by recreating a serum that can grant eternal life. With the help of her talking cat, April discovers the truth behind the missing scientists.

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Image: Studio Canal / GKIDS

I’m not sure I’m giving the story justice here because I didn’t want to give too much away, but I can say that it’s familiar and inventive in the best ways. April’s world is one that is both beautiful and ugly, shining and polluted. The adventure plot elements are energetically paced while the story still provides enough character development to allow the viewer to see the events of the story from differing perspectives. As I watched it, it reminded me of other period adventure stories like Tintin or Indiana Jones. But this time, our hero is a lady…and well, that’s pretty awesome.

The visual style is much like the imaginary world in which it takes place – gorgeous and off-putting at the same time. Styled after Jacques Tardi’s work, the characters have exaggerated features unlike the large-eyed designs you see in major American and Japanese studios like Disney or Ghibli. Instead, main characters have oddly large noses and tiny eyes that almost seem like they were just hastily added at the end. And yet it all works. The expressions remain clear and have a subtlety that I think can be hard to find in animation in general.

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Image: Studio Canal / GKIDS

That isn’t to say this film is perfect. With a strong cast featuring Susan Sarandon, Paul Giamatti, and Tony Hale, I was surprised that there were a few times when the delivery felt stilted. Whether this was the result of dubbing over the original French or just my own perception, there were some moments when it managed to take me out of the film a bit. It did cross my mind that it might have been a stylistic choice to mimic the delivery and style of acting in classic films, but it wasn’t always consistent enough to make that clear.

Overall, I would argue that this film is a breath of fresh air and a great alternative for those looking to watch something that is both high in quality and a bit different. It’s a solid bit of storytelling and world creation that it deserves your attention. So really, treat yourself and check this one out. There’s a great chance you’re going to enjoy it, and not just because it has that awesome talking cat in it.

 

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Looking Back at Mr. Hooper

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Brought to you by the letters J and M, the number 5, and the fact that life isn’t fair. (Source: Muppet Wiki)

It’s been over thirty years since one of Sesame Street‘s most memorable episodes: the one that deals with the death of Mr. Hooper. For children of the early 80s, it’s a generational touchstone, something nearly everyone has a personal memory of. But decades later, there are generations who know little to nothing about Mr. Hooper. Even people who did see the episode may not remember much about it or anything else about Mr. Hooper. So today, we’re looking back at Mr. Hooper, the actor who portrayed him, and the episode that came from the passing of both. Continue reading

3 Spooky Podcasts

If I know anything about our readers, it’s that as soon Labor Day has passed and a slight chill hits the air, it’s time to get ready for Halloween. Suddenly your Netflix queue is filled with scary movies, your house is covered in fake cobwebs and real animal skulls, and all you want to do is suck the marrow out of this all too short season as much as possible.

Well friends, let me add to your current atmospheric choices by suggesting a few things that are a bit unnerving and creepy to keep you company during your darkening commute and warm mugs of pumpkin-spiced drinks.

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Image: Snap Judgement and WNYC Studios

Spooked – What I love about this podcast of true-life supernatural experiences is that each experience is told by the person who experienced it. The variety of voices is engaging and the fear in their voices rings genuine. Regardless of whether you believe in curses, hauntings, or the like, these stories are fascinating.

Suggested episode: This podcast is barely 2 months old, but my favorite episode so far is “The Curse.” A man tells the story of how his mother was cursed. It’s not only creepy to think of the powers some people claim to have over others, but it’s also heartbreaking to hear the story of a small child who believed he was witnessing the death of his mother.

 

 

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Image: https://www.nocturnepodcast.org/about-nocturne/

 

Nocturne – Less about ghost stories and more about all the things that happen in the world while most of us are asleep. The stories range from being lost in the inky blackness of the ocean to big rig night runs, but regardless of the content, each episode illustrates how nighttime experiences are unique and intriguing.  If you want a podcast that is filled with ambiance and is perfect for listening to while drinking tea and watching the sunset, this might be a perfect match for you.

Suggested episode: “Episode 16 – Standing Over the Bed” tells the story of a man who suffered from night terrors and paralysis so brutal that they not only threatened his grasp on reality but also caused him to question his relationships with his loved ones. This episode disturbingly graphic as it describes how sleep can become your enemy.

 

 

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Image: https://player.fm/series/stuff-they-dont-want-you-to-know-1659658

 

Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – I know there are an awful lot of “How Stuff Works” podcasts out there, but if you really want to stay up at night worrying about things you can’t control, then this might be the podcast for you. I mean, I’m personally not much for conspiracy theories, and with the world as it is right now, I’m not even sure why I have this on my list. I suppose I just want to be sure I’m covering enough ground to creep everyone out. The episodes range from the silly (The Search for Bigfoot) to the timely (how vulnerable is your personal information online).

Suggested Episode: “The Sick, Sweet Secret of the Sugar Cover-up” I personally find the things that have a direct effect on my life to be the most worrying and upsetting. This podcast covers the history of sugar and how it was deliberately sold as an essential part of our diets by powerful lobbies/trade groups and backed by a lot of money. Sugar is in so much of what we eat that it’s interesting (and important for some of us) to make sure we are aware of how free sugars can affect our health.

What creepy or spooky podcasts are in your playlist? Share below to make sure that none of us get any sleep this season!

 

 

 

Henchgirl Review

Back in July, Smalerie shared a recipe for a hamburger. What it lacked in deliciousness it made up for in creativity and in its physical resemblance to the product that inspired it – the Cthulhu burger in Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl. At the time, she mentioned she wasn’t going to review the book; the focus of the post was the horrifying delicacy she’d created. Since then, we’ve discussed the book at Comicazi Book Club, and hosted Kristen as one of our guests of honor at LadiesCon.

Kristen at LadiesCon 2017.

So it seems like a good time to review the book and let you know that if you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, you should.

Henchgirl is the story of Mary Posa, a somewhat aimless twenty-something. She’s a pretty typical young adult on the surface – she lives with roommates, has a bit of insecurity about her looks, and is stuck in a job that she’s not sure her heart is really into. On the other hand, one of her roommates has started manifesting weird powers, her sister is one of the hottest up and coming superheroes, and her dead-end job is working as a goon for Monsieur Butterfly, a supervillain. Even Scott Pilgrim’s life wasn’t quite this weird and complicated.

One of the real strengths of Henchgirl is that it handles some pretty heavy themes – identity, parental expectations, and free will – with a playful sense of humor. There are background jokes aplenty, as the Cthulhu burger attests. Mary’s roommate Tina develops a strange power that is at once humorous, disturbing, and ultimately world-threatening. There’s a scene where Mary is delighted to be mistaken for someone named Consuelo…until she realizes the person in question shares a name with her grandmother. Even some of the very darkest moments, such as this world’s mightiest hero and Superman analog, Mr. Great Guy, losing his beloved in a tragic accident, have humorous results.

This approach can be cynical and overdone (I’m looking at you, Garth Ennis’ The Boys), but in Gudsnuk’s hands it never teeters over that line. Instead, the humor serves as both a relief from the potential angst and also serves to underscore how deeply weird it is to be human, especially a young adult. Your problems in your twenties certainly feel momentous and world-ending – Gudsnuk just makes that literal for poor Mary. One of my favorite running gags is Mary’s fervent desire to be a taxpayer – a symbol of a “normal” life.

The other thing I love about this book is its unapologetic girlyness. A major plot point revolves around a magical girl in the style of Sailor Moon, Lovely Celestial Angel Amelia. Mary herself has a fondness for pink glitter, and of course, she works for a supervillain whose shtick is butterflies. Mary’s doesn’t worry about being tough or hard – she just does her job and if she can look good while doing it, she will. At the same time, no one in the cast is limited by their gender roles. Men love butterflies and women heft heavy objects with ease, and it’s never a big deal – it’s just how things are.

So, if you’re looking to read a complete story about the pains of growing up, complete with family drama, romance, and carrots, pick up Henchgirl. If you’ve already read it, tell me what you thought in the comments!

My favorite character. Explaining this artwork would only spoil it.

LadiesCon 2017: Recap and Revelry

I once had a teacher in grade school who told me that she loved to read my essays because she could tell that I was enthusiastic about learning and the subjects I would choose to write about. There was just one problem though. If everything I wrote about was “the absolute worst” or the “absolute best” that wasn’t going to give me a lot of space or freedom to really make careful and thoughtful comparisons. So why is this little anecdote important to my recap of LadiesCon 2017? Because I’m about to throw that advice out the window and use superlatives like crazy. Wanna know why? Because LadiesCon 2017 was THE. ABSOLUTE. BEST.

For those of you familiar with our event last year, the first LadiesCon was essentially a testing ground to see if our vision of an inclusive Con would even be something that the community wanted to see. In a donated office space, we managed to catch lightning in a bottle and learned just how dedicated the Boston comics community was to making an event that was for everyone.

This year, we took that to a whole new level. We tripled the number of panels and doubled our space, guests, and vendors. We reached out to artists and creators who were making things that were original, beautiful, and even a little terrifying. The response from the community was once again warm and enthusiastic, and together we created a colorful and vibrant Con.

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And again this year we were able to focus on what sets LadiesCon apart from other cons – creating an environment of inclusion and having a great time while at it. Thanks to our sponsors and fundraising over the last year, LadiesCon remained free to the public ensuring the event was affordable for everyone.

I could spend this entire post going on and on about what a fun day this was. And how happy-tired we all were by the end of the night. But I have this feeling that some of you are here for the pics. So here we go!

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If you want to see more about the Con and programming we offered, feel free to check out the LadiesCon website. This is also where we’re going to start posting info for next year’s event.

If you want to continue to support any of our vendors or artists, check out our Vendors page. Many have online shops and schedules of other events they attend throughout the year.

Lastly and certainly not least I want to just thank everyone who was involved this year. There would be no LadiesCon without you and we are thankful every day to know you and have your support.

 

5 Fun Facts about LadiesCon

Word is out and LadiesCon 2017 (or as I like to call it LadiesCon II: The Revenge of LadiesCon) is coming at you on Saturday, September 16th. The guest announcements have begun and our social media is buzzing with excitement. In the case that you’re itching for even more info about the Con, here’s a little something to help tide you over – 5 Fun Facts About LadiesCon.

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1) LadiesCon is for Everyone

We’re often asked if LadiesCon is just for those who identify as women. While we do strive to highlight the contribution of women in pop culture and the community, you don’t have to be a woman in order to support and be a fan of work featuring women or created by them.  This means that everyone is welcome, including all ages. Inclusion is very important to us whether it’s our guests or vendors.

2) LadiesCon is FREE again this year!

That’s right! Admission to the LadiesCon 2017 is completely free.  There are a few reasons why The Ladies have insisted that it be this way. The first reason goes back to the previous fact – LadiesCon is for everyone. We don’t want high admission prices to prevent anyone from coming to our Con or even just stopping by out of curiosity. We want to expose as many people as possible to our guests, vendors, and panels. Letting people in for free helps us do just that. Another reason we keep admission free is that we want those attending LadiesCon to spend their money on our guests and vendors. Purchasing books, art, etc. from the creators directly is more than just a chance to get your hands on some really wonderful stuff. It’s also a chance to support them financially, allowing them to create even more wonderful things. So seriously, we want to you spend your money, just not on getting in the door.

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Happy Guests and Attendees = crazy wall art.


3) LadiesCon is run by volunteers

LadiesCon is proof that if you get enough passionate people together, amazing things can be accomplished. By the time we open the doors at the Armory, dozens of people will have already contributed their time, skills, and community spirit to creating LadiesCon. In fact, a lot of those people will then be running around all day at the Con giving one last push to make everyone’s LadiesCon dreams a reality. If you see them in their Staff shirts or buttons, feel free to say “hi” or “thanks.” Without them, there would be no LadiesCon.

Want to know what else is fun about this being run by volunteers? It gives you a chance to get in on the action as well. The Ladies are always looking for people to partner with whether it’s for the Con, our blog, or any of our other events. Remember, you don’t have to be a lady to contribute. Warning though, once you’re in “the family” who knows what else we might try to rope you into… *wink

 

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We have ways of making sure our volunteers get their work done. Trust me, you don’t want to make Mr. Flibble cross!

 

4) We have some big changes and surprises planned for this year

I’m not the kind of girl who enjoys spoiling surprises, but let’s just say that our new space gives us a lot of elbow room to add some more content. We are also reaching out to new potential partners and guests every day. We are reaching for the stars in hopes of making our little Con as special and fun as it can be. Who knows what goodies you might find yourself taking home with you this year?

Also, remember those VIP events we had last year? The early admission lunch and the after-party? Keep your eyes out for those as we have not only listened to the feedback we received last year, but are also hoping to make them even more fun and interactive this go round.

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Our 2016 after party focused on creativity. This, my friends, is more than just creative, it’s hilarious.

 

5) You can still support LadiesCon even if you can’t join us on Sept 16.

The Ladies work all year to support LadiesCon – this is especially true financially. If you can’t be at the Con this year, you can show your support by attending other events or fundraisers we host throughout the year. Looking for something more specific?  Here are some ideas:

  • Shop at Comicazi and maybe purchase one of our bracelets up at the register
  • Attend one of the Comicazi Yard Sales and drop by our table (The next one is Sunday, June 25th!)
  • Come to any of our upcoming events and purchase a snack or raffle ticket

A great way to stay up to date on what we’re up to is to get on our mailing list.

Not local or want to support LadiesCon another way?  Easy, spread the word. Honestly, the more people who know about the Con and our mission, the easier it will be to have bigger and better events.

So, what are you most excited about this year? What would you like to see added? Let us know in the comments below!

Cartoon Sara Listens to Three Podcasts: Faith in Humanity Edition

Hardly a week goes by where I don’t see some friend on my social media accounts looking for new podcast recommendations. Personally, I’ve been seeking out podcasts that highlight the positive, tales to soothe a troubled mind in an increasingly troubled world and remind me of the good that still exists in it. These are three that have made it into my listening rotation and may be just what you need to add to yours.

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Honorary Lady of Comicazi: Shoshannah Stern

It’s been a while since I’ve done an honorary lady post, but I think it’s time. For those of you new to these posts, this is where we want to highlight and all attention to those who are out there fighting the good fight, highlighting issues, blazing paths, creating, and building community. You get it, yeah? We want to give some love back to Ladies (and some non-ladies) who are doing things we love and want to see more of. There is a lot to be said for positive reinforcement and I feel like these days it’s even more important to acknowledge those who make a positive impact on you and prompt you to learn more about something that you might not be totally familiar with. So my Honorary Lady this time around is Shoshannah Stern!

Copyright CW

So, who is she?

Shoshannah Stern is a deaf actor and writer who has most recently been on Supernatural (but has also been on other shows like Lie to Me, Jericho, and the lady-led comedy Another Period). I’m gonna keep this write-up spoiler free about that because really this post is about the actor, not the character. But suffice to say, Shoshannah has made a huge impact on the SPN fandom in her few appearances with her portrayal of Eileen Leahy, a hunter who happens to be deaf. This is an important distinction as deafness is not what defines the character, but rather is merely one aspect of who Eileen is. Not having deafness as the central character driver is a point of representation that Shoshannah feels passionate about. So often when deaf characters are represented in entertainment being deaf is what defines their character and their story is a discussion of struggle or hardship solely around being deaf. Deafness is often seen as something that one must overcome to be successful. It can have an encompassing hold on the character and prevent other aspects of a character from being explored. This type of representation can carry over to how how people see deaf people outside of the media, and that’s not great.

Another Period, Season 1, Episode 1. Copyright http://www.shoshannah-stern.com

How is she helping representation?

Shoshannah works hard to push back against one dimensional representation of deafness. In her own writing characters are deaf because they are, and that’s because people just are. There isn’t a point to be made about being deaf except to show that while being deaf is a minority experience, within that experience there are many levels of how deafness is part of ones life (and many different levels of deafness itself).  Shoshanna has played character with more or less levels of hearing than she herself has and her character on Supernatural can read lips much better than she can. Her most recent work The Chances is a series about deaf characters written by deaf people. The hope is to highlight the intersectionality of the lives of deaf people and move toward portraying them as full 3-dimensional characters rather than ones with only one note. Like all representation this can also help educate those who may not have interaction with deaf people on a regular basis about the different aspects of the deaf experience. But more, and perhaps most importantly it helps to break down stereotypes about deaf people and opens doors to new opportunities and experiences.

A cool thing she did that you should know about.

Shoshannah established the Eileen Leahy Scholarship, named after the character she played on Supernatural. Shirts and mugs were sold and the majority of the proceeds from these items support the scholarship that will help a deaf woman attend Gallaudet University, the premier university for deaf students and Shoshannah’s alma mater.

 

Netflix Hidden Gem: Ernest and Celestine

French animation isn’t something that’s on a lot of radars in the US. With major houses like Disney, Pixar, Illumination, and Dreamworks (and even Ghibli for a bit) taking up the major real estate in theaters and awards shows, it can often seem surprising when a quiet French animated film starts to get even a little recognition. And when it gets nominated for an Oscar, chances are quite good that the film is going to be worth your time.

When I saw that the English dub of Ernest and Celestine was available on Netflix, it was a no-brainer. The only choice I needed to make was what type of tea to drink while watching.

Based on the book by Gabrielle Vincent and made on a shoestring budget, Ernest and Celestine tells the familiar story of two unlikely friends who manage to create a home and family together. It’s familiar, yes, but it’s also warm, sweet, and perfectly crafted.

Celestine is a young mouse living beneath the streets of a city inhabited by bears. Each night she sneaks into town to steal the teeth that young bears leave under their pillows for the Mouse Fairy.  These teeth are then used by other mice to repair their own damaged and missing teeth. Sadly, she’s not great at her job and the dentist she works for threatens to fire her if she doesn’t improve. Desperate to make her quota, Celestine gets caught in the city above and finds herself in the paws of Ernest the bear.

First things first, the animation is gorgeous. With hand painted watercolor backgrounds and matching Flash animation, the soft tones result in a visual style that is extremely enjoyable to look at. Everything feels soft, cozy, and dreamy. It’s a children’s book come to life with mice scurrying across pages and bears quite literally lumbering around. Yes, it’s very cute, but it’s never cutesy or sickeningly sweet. The tone and the stylistic animation complement each other, and it works just as well during the darker moments as it does during the lighter ones.

Additionally, this movie is funny. It’s hard to explain why, but there is something about the slapstick and physicality of the characters that made me smile a lot. The timing and pace never feel heavy, so when a character trips or runs into a wall, the audience is given just enough time chuckle without feeling as though the movie is waiting for you to congratulate it on how clever and funny it is.

Lastly, the voice acting in this film is great.  The cast is filled with distinguished, talented, and familiar names like Forest Whitaker, Lauren Bacall, and Paul Giamatti. Celestine herself is voiced by Mackenzie Foy, who does a charming job of making Celestine both empathetic and brave.

So, go ahead and add Ernest and Celestine to your Netflix queue and maybe someone other than me will start gushing over it to her friends and online. Hey, it could happen!

Already seen Ernest and Celestine and looking to expand your horizons when it comes to animation? Specifically French films?  Here are a few recommendations (many of which can be found on Netflix):

Triplets of Belleville
A Cat in Paris
Tales of the Night
The Rabbi’s Cat
Secret of Kells (French-Belgian-Irish)
The Little Prince (2015)

Lady Vendors We Love: FanMail

In honor of Women’s Month, we thought it would be a lot of fun to take a moment to feature one of our favorite vendors: FanMail.

If you’re a fan of subscription boxes, are proud to be a geek, and want to take the opportunity to support a business owned and run by women, you really can’t go wrong here. A subscription to FanMail means that every other month you are going to get a box of unique, curated items picked specifically for today’s lady-geek. There is a focus on featuring other small lady-owned businesses within the items as well. Seriously guys, this stuff is so great that I’m doing this post not because they gave us a box in trade, but because I’m a happy subscriber and am pleased to give them my money.

One (or should I say two) of the things that makes FanMail so special are the owners Rose and Jenny. Rose and Jenny share The Ladies of Comicazi’s mission to celebrate women and the community in which we create, forge friendships, and experience our fandoms. They are dedicated, friendly, and are responsible for a lot of people getting their hands on some really amazing stuff.

In an attempt to convince you, I wanted to share the unboxing of my February Box. This month’s theme was Familiars and Companions.

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Oh the suspense!

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Getting warmer!

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PAY DIRT! EUREKA! *commence olde timey prospector dance

Items: Bookstr Notebook, Avatar/Totoro Cross-over T-Shirt, Doctor Who Donna Noble quote sticker, Luna-inspired Sailor Moon Necklace, and adorable Eevee Pokemon (or is that a Flareon?)

 

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*dies of squee

Item: BB-8 throw pillow case. So gorgeous!

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Just making sure a certain someone isn’t a Niffler in disguise…  I’m still not sure since they both seem to have suspicious duck faces.

Item: Niffler pouch – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I realize my photos don’t seem to do the items justice, so if you want to see more, you should head on over to FanMail’s Instagram.

Oh, and if a subscription might be more of a commitment than you are ready for, you can browse their shop for past items and boxes. I got my eyes on these sweet but subtle Hogwarts House mugs. Hufflepuff forever!