Category Archives: Editor’s Column

The Wind Rises

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The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki’s goodbye to us. It’s a visually stunning piece that takes its time, indulging in the narrative about finding what you love to do, no matter what. It speaks volumes about Miyazaki’s dance with cinema, his passion and devotion to the dying style of 2D hand-drawn animation (embodied by the character of Naoko in the movie).

It’s his farewell to us. And it’s beautiful. Gorgeous. Poignant. Heartbreaking. Moving. Miyazaki is a genius and I hope against hope that goodbye is just a substitute for we’ll meet again.

“I’ve loved you since the day the wind brought you to me.” ~ Naoko
[I drew a color swap with her hair and her wedding kimono.]

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Upcoming Dystopian Teen Films: Hit or Miss?

Ever since the box office success The Hunger Games hit theaters two years ago, movie companies have been scouring for YA adventure/fantasy/dystopian novels to bring to the big screen. Seeking to emulate Lionsgate’s massive success, the book to movie adaptations come and go, from The Mortal Instruments to The Host to Beautiful Creatures to Vampire Academy, all of which either failed at the box office or were panned by the critics. In 2013, the only one that really scored huge wasThe Hunger Games’ successor: Catching Fire. What an incredibly well-done movie! But the question is, can the 2014 YA dystopian novels-turned-movies beat their 2013 failures? Let’s take a look.

Divergent

Pros:
With an extremely large fan base from the novel by Veronica Roth as well as Lionsgate’s widespread publicity marketing, I predict that this will be a box office success. Many fans are planning to go to the midnight premiere. The premise is fascinating with a future city in which teens are separated into factions or categories in which they learn to develop a certain virtue. It also helps that Theo James (Four) is, in the words of my peers, extremely attractive.

Cons:
The initial reaction will not be as big as The Hunger Games, but ultimately, perhaps this is beneficial to the movie—going in with a high expectation may ruin the experience. In addition, some fans are upset that Theo James is approximately 10 years older than his character. How high is the worry level that this will turn out to be another Percy Jackson, with the wandering plot and miscast of characters? High. (But no worries, because this reporter has already watched the movie and thinks it really does justice to the book!)

The Maze Runner

Pros:
Again, another enthralling plot about a community of boys living in a maze in a post-apocalyptic setting. The author of the book, James Dashner also wrote the screen play. Even so early in the year, Fox is already releasing promotional images and will soon release their first teaser trailer, dangling bits and pieces for fans to leap up and hungrily grab. The cast may be young, but by no standards inexperienced, with Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf), Will Poulter (The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Ferb from “Phineas & Ferb”). Can this movie come out already?

Cons:
So the cast is great, but how about the crew? Wes Ball is better known for his work in the art department rather than his director credits. James Dashner, although he is an amazing author, has never written a screenplay before. Will the crew be able to handle bringing to screen a story that involves vicious creatures called Grievers and hundred-feet walls that move at night? We will simply have to wait and see—and pray that they don’t botch our beloved book and characters.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Pros:
The cast has already proven itself many times over, the crew is nothing short of phenomenal—Lionsgate could merely sit back, relax, and not even promote the film at all, yet there’ll be hour-long lines just to get into the theaters during opening week. We already know that the movie will do justice to the book as proven with Hunger Games 1 and 2. The gaps in between the franchise release dates are not excruciatingly long, so fan hype is still going strong.

Cons:
However, with only a year in between Catching Fire and Mockingjay, will the cast and crew have enough time to produce the movie to their best effort? Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has thrown a wrench into the production with 7 days left of filming. Going back to the very first pro I mentioned for Mockingjay—perhaps fans’ high expectation could be the movie’s ultimate pitfall. Even if it is, we will still very much enjoy Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss trying to find her way around District 13.

Divergent is in theaters March 21, 2014. The Maze Runner is in theaters September 19, 2014. Mockingjay Part 1 is in theaters November 21, 2014.

Moments

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My family never met him, but it’s almost as if they had.

“You should be more like Ajay,” I would say constantly to my ten-year old brother. “He’s always holding the door and so gentlemanlike.”

I must have told my family about Ajay countless times, a classmate who I believe was the only uncorrupted guy at our school. His encouraging Facebook comments, posts, and messages never failed to cheer up his friends.

Ajay and I met at the beginning of seventh grade at our art school, OCSA (Orange County School of Performing Arts). A typical day included academics, our talent classes (conservatory), music blaring during lunch, dance classes, and climbing the stairs to the seventh floor. I had always admired Ajay’s talent as a photographer and an Artist. Most of all, I loved his big smile and unmistakable laugh that completely fit in to what we both had in common – a love of arts and our unique, crazy school.

In seventh grade, we were grouped for a history project. “Come on, guys, we need to concentrate here,” I barked, taking charge of my new tablemates. “Focus!”

Ajay wouldn’t. He and my other friends kept laughing at something. Although they never did focus, I couldn’t help but join in the laughter. He taught me that sometimes, you have to learn to laugh at yourself.

When eighth grade rolled around, Ajay was in two of my classes. He never failed to greet me with his warm trademarked smile and “Hey Cassie,” one of the few people who used my nickname. We sat next to each other in Science and had weird talks about nights out at Souplantation to the Aurora Borealis.

So on a Friday in February, when the bell rang excusing us to lunch, I didn’t think too much of the commotion surrounding the classroom next door. A teacher told us to clear the hallways.

“What happened?” I asked my friend later, who was at the scene.

“It’s Ajay,” she said tightly, her voice strained. “He had a seizure.”

2013-02-06_1360123240That night, I Googled “brain aneurysm.” On Instagram I found photos of Ajay with the hashtag “prayforajay”. I reposted the picture, praying to God that he’d be back soon. At the time, my biggest worry was that he wouldn’t be sitting next to me in my classes and that I’d have to wait until the next school year to see him. The teacher said we could write letters and she’d deliver them to him.

On Wednesday, in Creative Writing class, we fell into a discussion of death. Where was the line in literature concerning being humorous and being offensive in the area of death? My classmates shared their own tragic experiences with a lost loved one. I said that I had never experienced death before.

That night, I wrote a letter to Ajay and planned my outfit for the event “Wear White to support Ajay” that was taking place on Friday.

Then, I logged onto Facebook.

When I read my friend’s post, my first thought was, there’s got to be a mistake.

I felt the familiar burn in my chest that always hurts when I cry.

I cried into the arms of my mom and I cried until I fell asleep.

Tears wouldn’t stop as I rode to school in our carpool the next day, our car deathly silent. Grey clouds blanketed the sky. The only sound that echoed in the hallways of our usually noisy high school was the sound of hearts crying out in unison. Strangers became family as we hugged and wrapped our arms around each other. In one class, for an hour and a half, we reminisced, cried, laughed and shared stories of the amazing ways Ajay had impacted us all.

I couldn’t believe that he was gone. I wrote a little note on the envelope of my card – this time, addressing his family and sending my prayers. My friend and I spent an entire class in the girls’ bathroom, comforting each other and wiping away our never-ending tears.

The next day, Friday, the entire school showed up in white. We crowded around the steps leading up to Symphony Hall, a church-like building that housed our theater. One by one, we pushed our way up to the front, dropping off flowers and letters until the whole staircase was covered. It started drizzling as Ajay’s favorite music played softly in the background. We stood there, crying quietly, gazing at the display of love for Ajay as his family stood at the side, clinging onto each other. Then, the clouds parted and gentle rays of sunlight touched our faces, illuminating us, a flock of angels on earth. Ajay’s angels.

2013-02-08_1360302469Skies were never the same shade of blue again. His unexpected death hit me like waves crashing against the shore. Even though I’ll never understand God’s reasons, I know God wanted a professional photo-shoot up in heaven.

From the smallest seventh grader to the toughest senior, Ajay had united us. We were all brought together by his smile. He’s personally touched my life in many ways – all the moments in between laughs and tears that I’ve shared with and without Ajay. I’ve come to treasure every second of life, but instead of counting every second, I hope to make every second count. As my fourteenth birthday passed, I decided to take the time to enjoy the journey. To take the scenic route. To slow down and admire a flower by the edge of a road. Even though I know I’m inevitably headed towards 15, I’m determined not to let life pass me by in the blink of an eye. And although some people don’t get a chance to live to a hundred, Ajay has lived a hundred times a more fruitful life.

“Fifteen there’s still time for you

Time to buy and time to lose

Fifteen, there’s never a wish better than this

When you only got hundred years to live”

– Five for Fighting

 

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