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September 23, 2020 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily

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Last spring, the Daily Film beat was

inspired by the doldrums of quarantine
and the introduction of Disney+ to watch
and review a number of Disney Channel
Original Movies — DCOMs for short. There
are many ways to look at DCOMs — as relics
of the 2000s, as problematic attempts at
representation, as textbook examples of the
power of nostalgia — but there is no denying
that they are somewhat trivial in the grand
scheme of things.

If we’re being honest, it’s been a while since

quarantine has felt truly idle: Between the
pandemic, protests and politics, the world
feels as though it is unraveling. It can feel odd
to talk about something as inconsequential
as DCOMs when these past few months
have been difficult for everyone in different
ways, and we would be remiss if we didn’t
acknowledge that. That said, there is a
difference between reprieve and perpetuating
ignorance. If you choose to go on this DCOM
journey with us, we ask that you keep this in

For us at the Daily Film beat, DCOMs

were a big part of our childhoods. The Disney
Channel has long been a staple of children’s
entertainment, churning out hit TV shows,
family-friendly pop stars and their beloved
original movies. Over 100 original DCOMs
have aired on Disney Channel since the
DCOM banner began in 1997, raking in
millions of viewers with each film. As a
beat, we’ve decided to watch and review
a number of these films, whether they’re
musicals, classics or generally unknown.
We all know that these aren’t exactly high-
concept — despite their charm, most DCOMs
are incredibly low-budget, filmed cheaply
in Canada with unseasoned child actors and
awkward dialogue. So instead, our reviews
are based on how much we enjoyed the film in
the context of it being a 90-minute TV movie
made for kids. We’re also aware that these
reviews are particularly biased, fueled by
nostalgia for the films, actors and music that
defined our childhoods.

The first installment of this series will

cover the first set of what we’re calling
“Classic DCOMs” — well-known DCOMs

that reached a wide audience through high
viewer ratings and perpetual re-airings.
Many of these DCOMs feature Disney
Channel stars, killer 2000s soundtracks and
iconic aesthetics. As you join us for this joyride
of nostalgia and charmingly low quality, we
only have one thing left to say:

“Hi, we’re the Film beat, and you’re

watching Disney Channel.”

— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer

“Halloweentown” (1998)
Disney Channel in October was always an

experience — fun, Halloween-themed movies
playing every day of the month and new
Halloween episodes of “Hannah Montana”
and “Wizards of Waverly Place” on Sunday
nights. What more could an eight-year-old
ask for? Obviously, the only thing better than
a month of Disney Halloween is to create
a universe where Halloween is through
the whole year; enter, “Halloweentown.”
Released in 1998, the film is the first
installment of four in which we meet the
Pipers: Marnie (Kimberly J. Brown, “Quints”),

Hostage”) and Sophie (Emily Roeske, “Fell’s
Redeemer”). The film also introduces their
mother Gwen (Judith Hoag, “Forever My
Girl”) and grandmother Aggie (Debbie
Reynolds, “Singin’ in the Rain”). For Marnie
and her siblings, the magic of Halloween is
marred by the fact that their mother refuses
to let them enjoy the holiday to the fullest, a
tragedy for anyone who understands the joys
of trick-or-treating. As the film progresses,
the audience learns about Halloweentown,
a world of warlocks, witches, trolls and other
fantastical creatures. “Halloweentown” is
one of the more impressive DCOM franchises,
second only to “High School Musical.” The
first film addresses how well we really know
our parents. As 10-year-olds, we’ve really only
been alive for a third of our parents’ lives, a
fact that becomes increasingly clear when
Marnie learns of her mother’s witchy history.
On top of that, the films successfully create a
whole other dimension with social issues that
parallel those of the real world (for example,
the prejudice towards “mortals”), all while
maintaining that signature Disney pluck.

— Emma Chang, Daily Arts Writer

“Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century” (1999)
“Zenon” is arguably one of the most iconic

DCOMs, with its neon color palette and
costumes that gave millennials a nostalgic
love of holographic outfits. The film is set in
2049 on a private space station that Zenon
Kar (Kirsten Storms, “General Hospital”) has
called home for eight years. Despite growing
up in space, Zenon is basically a normal
13-year-old girl: curious and unapologetic,
with boy band posters in her room and
a vocabulary of unique slang terms (like
“Zetus Lapetus” or “lunarious”). Clashes
with the station’s rules lead to Zenon getting
“grounded” — sent to live on Earth with
her slightly agoraphobic Aunt Judy (Holly
Fulger, “Anything But Love”). Adapting to
life on Earth is not easy for Zenon, whether
it’s understanding money, learning how to
ride a bike or making friends. To make it
harder, it’s suddenly up to her to save the
space station and everyone on it. “Zenon” has
a predictability to it, but it’s unique in terms
of creative worldbuilding. It’s fun to see the
idea of 2049 from a 1999 point of view: The
tech gadgets are advanced but the rock stars
still have frosted tips. The movie inspired two
sequels, making it one of Disney Channel’s
first franchises, and features Raven-Symoné
(“That’s So Raven”) at the beginning of a long
Disney Channel career. And while “Zenon”
may inspire some questions — are all of the
cars in 2049 Volkswagen Bugs? Did they really
give a Northwestern University astronomy
professor an unacknowledged cameo? How
do I pull off a high side-ponytail like Zenon? —
you can’t deny that this film is, as Zenon might
say, totally lunarious.

— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer

Smart House (1999)
“Smart” technology, beginning with

the smartphone, has certainly changed the
way we go about life — there’s little that isn’t
documented through the help of an iPhone
camera, and with the rise of technology like
Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google
Home, the idea of a smart house is no longer
just a cheesy 1999 Disney movie, but rather
our reality. In “Smart House,” technology
and the way characters interact with it are
surprisingly similar to today, regardless
of the fact that “Smart House” is over two

decades old. Ryan Merriman (“The Luck of
the Irish”) plays Ben, a teenager desperate
to make sure his family doesn’t forget their
late mother, mainly by preventing his dad
from ever meeting someone new. Part of this
plan involves winning, and moving into, a
“smart” house. And, at first, it seems to work
— Pat, much like Siri or Alexa, is programmed
to respond to whatever the family asks of
her. Whether it’s finishing up homework
or making a snack, this smart house can
do it. What’s interesting is the warning
that Disney gives regarding our reliance
on technology. Ben programs the house to
act as a surrogate mother, not realizing the
detrimental effects this may have on his life.
Expecting a computer to behave like a human
is a dangerous idea with which many science-
fiction authors have grappled. In spite of the
fact that it instills a fear of technology, Disney’s
“Smart House” deserves much praise, if only
because the dad (Kevin Kilner, “A Cinderella
Story”) is beautiful.

— Emma Chang, Daily Arts Writer

“Johnny Tsunami” (1999)
“Johnny Tsunami” is one of the best, most

literal takes on the DCOM fish-out-of-water
story, centering Johnny Kapahaala (Brandon
Baker, “One World”), who was born and
raised in Hawaii. His grandfather Johnny
Tsunami (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, “The Last
Emperor”) is a legendary surfer and has been
teaching Johnny to surf his entire life. The
Kapahaala family isn’t always on the same
page: Johnny’s father Pete (Yuji Okumoto,
“The Karate Kid Part II”) has a troubled
relationship with his father that extends to
his relationship with Johnny, while Johnny’s
mother Melanie (Mary Page Keller, “Duet”)
tries to keep the peace. When the family
moves to Vermont for Pete’s job, Johnny is
forced to adapt, leaving Hawaii, surfing and
his grandfather behind. He gets involved with
winter sports, but finds himself in the middle
of a bizarre turf war between private school
and public school kids: Private school kids,
known as Skies, are skiers, while public school
kids, known as Urchins, are snowboarders.
Even with the strange socio-economic
undertones (did the public school kids really
have to be called urchins?), it’s a status quo
that’s itching to be broken. Despite going to

private school, Johnny becomes friends with
Sam (Lee Thompson Young, “The Famous
Jett Jackson”), an Urchin who teaches him
how to snowboard. Together, they dare to
break the mold, hoping to unite the mountain
in the process. “Johnny Tsunami” can be
cheesy at times, but it’s generally delightful.
It’s a wholesome movie about taking on
challenges and being yourself, as well as a
beautiful mix of surfing and snowboarding
montages that make me miss the beach and
the mountains at the same time.

— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer

“Luck of the Irish” (2001)
The plotline of “Luck of the Irish” is bonkers:

15-year-old Kyle (Ryan Merriman, “Smart
House”) discovers that he’s half-leprechaun
after losing a family good luck charm. Kyle is
a relatively popular basketball player with a
lucky streak, so he finds it distressing when
he starts having bad luck, as well as getting
shorter and occasionally slipping into an Irish
accent — all side effects of losing the lucky
charm. He then has to work with his family
and friends to get the charm back from a zany
and maniacal villain (Timothy Omundson,
“Psych”), a struggle that concludes with a
bizarre Irish sports tournament. “Luck of the
Irish” is occasionally hilarious, sometimes
when the writers are trying to be funny and
sometimes when they really aren’t. The
writing is often awkward, and the strong Irish
accents are impossible to take seriously. It’s a
fascinating amalgamation that doesn’t always
work — part fantasy and part sports movie,
with a dash of Irish step-dancing and a strong
through-line about heritage that essentially
(and disappointingly) ends with “we’re all
American.” It’s interesting to see where Disney
tries to broach the idea of discrimination with
a very brief discussion of anti-Irish sentiments
in the 1800s, but it’s almost as interesting to
wonder why so many people are invested in
junior high school basketball. “Luck of the
Irish” is such a weird film, but it’s fun enough
to deserve some credit.

— Kari Anderson, Daily Arts Writer

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
12 — Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The film beat revisits Disney Channel Original Movies

The different forms of self within self-help books


Daily Arts Writer

Daily Arts Writer

I, like many other steadfast fiction readers,

generally would not touch a non-fiction book
with a ten-foot pole, preferring stories that
offer an escape from my own mundane life.
Once in a blue moon, I grudgingly venture
into the world of non-fiction, feeling like
I need to expand my repertoire of books,
only to mentally check out after the first
few pages. Why would I read about real life
when imagination can conjure up scenarios
that are so much more interesting? However,
this year marked a surprising change for me.
I entered the world of non-fiction books, and
this time, I stuck around.

This adjustment came amid a time

of extraordinary change, namely the
emergence of COVID-19. During the long
months of quarantine, many, inspired by
online blogs or extreme boredom, decided
to make use of their isolation by embarking
on self-improvement journeys. As COVID-
19 spread through the country and people
were forced to remain home, online yoga,
meditation and mental health resources
started popping up on social media
platforms like Instagram and TikTok. I
watched as my friends began undertaking
self-improvement journeys, posting about

their morning quarantine yoga flows,
mediation sessions and Chloe Ting workout

Unfortunately, I was not one of the


reading and baking a lot, I did not respond
to complete social isolation with increased
motivation like some others, who seemed
to be checking off every life goal during
quarantine (starting a podcast, really?).
Nonetheless, I surprisingly ended up
participating in the aforementioned self-
help trend. This summer I took a roadtrip
across the country, and eight hours into
the third day I was getting stir crazy from
the boredom and monotony of the drive.
Desperate for some entertainment, I looked
for free audiobooks on Spotify. The only
book I could find was Mark Manson’s “The
Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”. Having
nothing else to do, I started listening and
found myself immediately engrossed in the
author’s philosophy on life. Five hours later,
I had listened to the whole book, and it was
through this experience that I stumbled
onto a new genre of reading: self-help books.

After Manson’s book, I read two other

self-help books in quick succession, “Daring
Greatly” by Brenée Brown and “How to
Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale
Carnegie. What I found most interesting
about these three books was how different

each author’s message was. I found myself
wondering, how do I know who to believe?
Some ideas resonated more deeply with me
than others, and I tended to lean toward the
books that had practical applicability in my
life or related to the issues I was currently

Each author approaches giving advice

differently. Manson talks about his failures
bluntly, and explains the experiences that
led him to his current philosophy on life.
His personal style is straightforward,
unsparing and often raunchy. Rather than
telling readers to ‘be positive’ and ‘look on
the bright side’ like I had expected from self-
help books, he speaks frankly about what
he thinks is wrong with people nowadays,
and how they can fix themselves. Manson
does not have a background in psychology
or experience studying his ideas in practice,
he simply explains his theory on having a
fulfilling life and acknowledges his openness
to being wrong and having more to learn.

Brenée Brown, on the other hand, has

a somewhat different personal style from
Manson; she is understanding, relatable and
funny. I felt like I was having a conversation
with a friend, as she took me through
her own experiences with vulnerability
and opening up. Brown also has a strong
background in research and the study of
human emotion, vulnerability, shame and

leadership. She is therefore able to base all
of her ideas on years of meticulous research,
and grounds her recommendations in facts
and studies. This came through in her book,
as she references study after study that
support her suggestions. I found myself
trusting her due to the enormous amount
of research that she presented as evidence,
as well as her approachable and genuine
personal voice.

“How to Win Friends and Influence

People” by Dale Carnegie diverged the
most from the two other books. Carnegie
suggests psychology-based techniques for
becoming a more likeable and charismatic
person, proposing tips on ways to make
people like you, win people to agree with
your way of thinking and change people
without arousing resentment. I felt mildly
embarrassed to be reading this book, feeling
like I was being given insider information on
how to trick people into liking me.

In every book, I noticed the author’s



recommendation for how others could
transform their lives. They viewed the
world through the lenses of their own lives,
and as a result, their conclusions included
ideas that might not work for everyone.
For example, Brenée Brown spoke a lot
about her perfectionistic tendencies and

how to mitigate them. Personally, I am
not a perfectionist, so this portion of the
book went entirely over my head. Manson,
meanwhile, recounted his experiences
dropping everything to travel the world,
something I have always dreamed of doing.
His findings were extremely interesting
and clearly life-altering for him; however,
his methods may not be the most suitable
for everyone. Carnegie gave advice based
on psychological techniques on how to
make others like you. For me this did not
resonate, as some of the strategies that
Carnegie suggested seemed manipulative
and underhanded to me.

Reading these three wildly different

books helped me understand that self-help
books are not one-size-fits-all. Each book
was a bestseller and incredibly popular
among readers, and yet I had extremely
different reactions to each one. I ended
up picking and choosing the ideas that
fit my own life and disregarding the rest.
My struggles may not be the same as the
authors’, and so it only makes sense that
some of the techniques that helped them
may not be as beneficial to my own life.

Community culture artist profile: Kaitlyn Bondoni

The first thing LSA senior Kailyn

Bondoni learned about poetry was that it
rhymes. The second was that haikus existed.
The third was that free verse also existed,
which, in turn, erased the first lesson she

Bondoni’s journey to artistic expression,

particularly in poetry, began in her fourth
grade classroom. Her teacher read and
recited “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel

“He had this book fully marked up,”

Bondoni told The Daily. “Then he just
recited it from memory and spoke so fast.
It was so intriguing and terrifying for some
reason but like cool. Like when you say, ‘oh,
you fear God’: that was this man. So much
poetic power.”

After Shel Silverstein came angst-driven

poems in middle school and poems to aid
emotional processing in high school. At the

University, her time in the Lloyd Scholars
for Writing and the Arts (LSWA) and her
creative writing classes exposed her to the
wider spectrum of poetry’s possibilities.

“I originally thought of free verse and

not having to rhyme as freedom,” Bondoni
said. “Forms or rhyme scheme is its own
challenge and talent that I don’t think I had
enough respect for until coming into college
and actually trying it.”

Now, Bondoni double majors in Film, TV

and Media Studies and English with a sub-
concentration in Creative Writing, alongside
minors in Writing and Environment. Her
long list of interests pushed her to discover
poetry’s playful malleability.

Early in college, Bondoni took English

223: Introduction to Creative Writing on a
whim. Her LSA professor, Joseph Mahoney,
encouraged her to pursue the poetry track
of the English major’s creative writing
concentration. This year, she will take
English 428, the creative writing capstone,
to finish her concentration. There, Bondoni
hopes to write a poetry collection that traces

her changing poetry and style over time,
capturing her experiences from that fourth
grade classroom to the present.

LSWA also exposed Bondoni to poetry

performance. She recalled her first reading
as “an experience and a half,” full of shaking
hands and shallow breaths. But by the end
of her freshman year, poetry performance
became a playful experience for her, an
opportunity for laughter. At one memorable
event, she donned a winter trapper hat and
sunglasses and enlisted a friend to play the
bongos from the Donkey Kong game.

“I think that was kind of the turning point

where I was like, ‘okay, it’s not something
that I have to be nervous for because I’m
expressing,’” she said. “It can also just be a
release of tension.”

That artistic release provides a welcome

relief from the flurry of emotions that
college brings.

“It’s a good way of figuring out what

I’m feeling,” Bondoni said. “In college you
meet people and you’re thrown around
emotionally. College is a washing machine

that you have no control over; you are the
last sock in the washing machine. As that
sock, I find that poetry helps me kind of

Though poetry may seem divergent

or even in opposition to the visual nature
of her Film degree, Bondoni finds their
marriage in screenwriting. The first time
that she fully saw the connection was
actually over Twitter, when someone
tweeted screenshots from Greta Gerwig’s
“Little Women” script. The director is one of
Bondoni’s biggest inspirations.

“The way that she writes her action lines

and the script itself was beautiful. Some
of the lines just sounded poetic with just
a couple of analogies and metaphors that
would really allow an actor to sink their
teeth into the script,” she said.


approach allows screenwriters to leave
their creative mark. She quickly gravitated
toward TV writing — “There’s so much
more room for character development in
there,” she said. “You can really see so many

different angles, multiple characters, and
that really is so attractive to me.”

The playfulness of her poetry is not lost

along the way: Finding shows that combine
both heartfelt and comedic elements greatly
appeals to her. Bill Hader’s “Barry” hit the
right combination.

“Shows like that really inspire me to try

to write more of a real story with comedic
elements. I think that’s really the target
I’m planning to land on aiming for,” said

Though asking a senior about their post-

graduation plans can often cause anxiety,
Bondoni knows that the film industry path,
though challenging, is one she’ll continue
chasing. She plans on moving to Los Angeles
and holding onto her current screenwriting
internship as long as possible.



Daily Arts Writer

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