Silicon Valley Season 6: Information Sovereignty

Silicon Valley’s 6th season continues the technologically subversive vein illuminated in previous seasons and ends consistent with Mike Judge’s hilarious free falls from short lived pinnacles of success.

SPOILERS BELOW!

Silicon Valley‘s first episode makes it clear to the audience that they will not stray from confronting polemic issues. The opening scene shows Richard Hendricks, founder of Pied Piper, in a government hearing arguing for the benefits of a decentralized internet. It is impossible for one not to immediately think of the recent scandal involving Facebook’s misuse of user data and Mark Zukerberg appearing before the government when seeing this mirrored scene in the show.

The significant difference, however, is that Zuckerberg defended Facebook for its practices sharing user information with 3rd party companies without consent, while Hendricks argues for user control over data. He daringly challenges the tech monoliths that are Facebook, Amazon, and Google in his speech and proclaims in liberalistic rhetoric that an internet controlled by the people and for the people is democratic and the only way to subvert the tech “kings.”

Profits and Moral Dilemmas

Taken from Episode 2 of Silicon Valley Season 6

Success is never long-lived in Silicon Valley though, so issues quickly arise after the speech is given. A video game company using Pied Piper’s Network secretly archived user conversations without Hendricks knowing. Hendricks, bound to his moral high ground, apposed the video game company’s practice even though it was Pied Piper’s most valuable asset.

Hendrick’s morality is also called into question though, in his response to Galloo Games; he utilizes the Pied Piper technology to analyze the data and systemize by keyword in order to blackmail the CEO of Galloo Games, who coincidentally bugged himself in the process of collecting user data. The blackmailing fails, however, as investors in Galloo Games overlook the CEO’s morally questionable acts in favor of perceived profits from exploiting the player base. The proposed exploit by the development team at Galloo Games adds ads in real-time as players speak into their mics; mentioning pizza re-skins a nearby building in the medieval world to a Domino’s storefront.

The utilization of people’s microphones in the background to cater to ads is not something particularly new in this day and age. I am sure you have had a conversation with someone about something and found that when you go to search it on google or amazon that it appears to magically appear before your eyes with the entering of a few letters. While users can turn off personalized ads on Google, targeting never seems to fully go away. With elections coming up, Google has even amended its policies towards political ads; political advertisers will no longer be able to direct ads based on public voter registration records indicating affiliation. They still have access to our age, location, gender, and what content we view online, so it’s not like Google is making that much of a move.

Morality over Profits

Taken from Episode 5 of Silicon Valley Season 6

While Hendricks acts questionably immorally in blackmailing the CEO of Galloo Games, he promptly has an opportunity to redeem himself in the following episode. He ends up turning down a billion dollar investment because the man who proposes to invest in Pied Piper inherited his fortune from a grandfather with ties to the Chilean dictator Pinochet. The implications of denying such a large sum of money can not be ignored. You can ask yourself, would you have been able to say no with that kind of money at stake? Regardless, Pied Piper is shown to be a virtuous company at its core.

Gavin Belson, Hendricks’s long time rival and foil contrastingly epitomizes a lack of morals. He ironically launches a manifesto called “Tethics,” asking all tech companies to sign and promise to make “best efforts” towards achieving ethical practices. The words in the manifesto are essentially empty and don’t tie companies to action. Companies like Amazon claim to provide workers with safe conditions and living wages, but workers suffering mental and physical trauma under the extreme pressure of maximum efficiency attempts to unionize illustrate Amazon’s empty speech.

Written by: Nils Ljungquist

Behind The Mic: Here We Go For The Last Time with Julie Cappiello

Thanksgiving break is a roughly one week period prior to finals week where students head home to enjoy some home-cooked meals and wind down before a dreadful couple of weeks of finals.

We rest, recover, and rejuvenate our bodies with food that is not sold on campus or the adjacent food places so that we can come back energized and ready to take our exams head-on.

Future KCR College Radio Hall of Famer and host of both her self-titled radio show and a satirical news web series “Here We Go Again,” Julie Cappiello started her final few weeks as an undergrad on a rough note. Monday evening on her flight back from her hometown of Lyndhurst, New Jersey trouble arose as they were rerouted to land in LAX as opposed to her initial destination of San Diego, California.

This reroute came after spending two-plus hours on the runway before takeoff, and also having to ride a shuttle from Los Angeles back down to San Diego. To top it off, Cappiello arrived back at four AM on Tuesday, just 13 hours before her final radio show and 15 hours before her final taping of “Here We Go Again.

What a way to start the beginning of the end, right? Well, luckily for Cappiello this was all a mere speed bump on the road to success. She has 4 finals standing between her and the Harry Styles Fine Line Live: One Night Only concert on December 13. Cappiello is a self-proclaimed Styles Stan and this is her graduation gift to herself. She will be finished with her school career at SDSU by the time Harry hits the stage; she too will be hitting the stage soon, walking with her fellow December graduates along with the spring graduates in May 2020. 

Wait, we are at the end of the road already? *Cue Boyz II Men* Before we look too far into the future, let’s take a look at Julie’s journey from Jersey to sunny San Diego. 

She only applied to four colleges in high school, three of them being in her home state of New Jersey and the final being the home of the Aztecs. She found SDSU because The College Board told her it was a literal perfect fit. Now she had long joked with her parents about the thought of moving to this corner of the country, yet she never knew things would work out the way they did. 

On The College Board’s website, she input her requirements and let the search run nationwide. Away from home? Check. Solid Journalism program? Check. Can I have a car? Check. Everything else? CHECK!

She told her parents that she really felt like attending SDSU and though it seemed like a distant dream, she applied anyway. Her high school guidance counselor discouraged her a bit by alerting her that State rarely accepts out of state students, which is a bogus statement, but that did not stop her. She took time out of school just to make sure her application was as respectable and illuminating as her personality.

Then, one day in mid-late December 2015, everything changed. She received the acceptance letter she had long-since hoped for and, “I remember opening it and screaming!” An acceptance letter is not the end all be all in the college world, but her intuition showed her this was not just a dream, but reality. 

“I had this gut feeling when I applied and I had this gut feeling when I got the acceptance email, I’m going there.” She walked into her parents’ room where she and her mother looked at each other in the eyes in agreement, “I’m going there.”

When it came time to visit her future university, Cappiello recalls her flight touching the ground at midnight. With her parents accompanying her, she saw her first palm tree and knew she was home.

The transition from hometown Jersey girl to living 2,760 away from home in a completely new environment did not start off on the best foot. “I felt a bit foreign,” she says as she details the hostile living situation within University Tower. On top of being immaturely bullied by her roommates, she also felt physically ill. So much that her asthma condition that she had long since gotten over, came back to the forefront of her health problems. That’s a note to all of the incoming freshmen of the future, try to live in the new dorms. 

That one year was not all bad, just mostly. She and her mom both wondered upon the start of year two at SDSU, “I don’t know how I made it through.” Her parents kindly urged her to come back home but she refused. Both because of pride and because of that same gut feeling that got her here in the first place.

So when does this dynamic person finally feel like she belongs within the confines of the university? Just like her acceptance date and the times at UT when she felt at her worst, the turning point came in the Winter.

This time it was the Winter of 2017. As a writer for The Daily Aztec, the organization came up with an opportunity to collaborate with KCR College Radio in an effort to do a joint news show. “I thought about it, and I always wanted to do radio, but at my high school we only had a newspaper.” 

She called her mother, who she lovingly speaks to various times throughout each and every day, and told her that she had another gut feeling about this opportunity. Her mom replied, “Every time I think I’m getting you back, San Diego reels you back in.” This was both a truthful and loving statement as she knows Julie knows what is best for her. 

The collaboration between the two student organizations did not fare so well, but within the experience, she befriended former KCR News Director Natalie Bucher and the two hit it off. Bucher was soon to move up the management totem pole and told Cappiello that she should apply for the position of News Director, however, there was also an editor position opening up at The Daily Aztec. She had a tough decision to make and she chose to take a shot at the position for the school paper; unfortunately, she did not receive the job. 

Everything happens for a reason though, and despite choosing to go after the other position, she was still very much interested in becoming KCR’s next News Director. This was all in the Spring of 2017 where she went through some troubled times. Her Godfather passed away on her birthday and she did not get an internship on “The Tonight Show” that she greatly desired. Within the storm of her troubles at the time, she found comfort in Bucher and other members of KCR while also earning the position of News Director.

After heading home for the summer and having an out-of-body experience where she watched herself while getting her wisdom teeth removed, Cappiello came back to Southern California and got herself two new jobs. The self-reflective newly Interdisciplinary Studies major took a look in the mirror and saw that her life is exactly where it needed to be. 

“I just felt so in my power. Nothing can stop me. I’m very content. I’m very happy with my life.” 

She reflects on her hellish first year as an Aztec saying, “Two years ago, freshman year, I never thought that I would be here.” she continues, “I didn’t think that anything like this would happen. 

Cappiello currently works in the legal world at a company she ironically cannot legally disclose. In March of this year during the interview for said position, she and the interviewer were both wearing the same pair of shoes. Not just that, they were both from New Jersey. She ran away with the interview and an hour and a half later she received an official job offer.

“There was something weird about that day. I got up, and I looked on social media and one of my favorite shows had just announced that this season would be their final season.” That show is “Supernatural” on The CW, and she loves it like I love “Entourage,” with a passion. So much that she would leave high school functions just to go home and watch. She and her friends joked during high school that in order for her to survive the halls of hell she needed this show to get her through. Naturally, it has been a staple in her life throughout her tenure here in San Diego and it can’t be made up that as she’s finishing her final days here the program is also going on its victory tour before bidding fans adieu in Spring 2020.

Her favorite show coming to an end on top of finishing her final courses as an undergrad as well as accepting a wonderful job that will lead to a solid career means she is becoming a full-fledged adult. That did not hit until December 4 when her supervisor told her, “You have to get a California’s drivers license now.” Something so simple as an ID can speak volumes about one’s life-shifting into the next gear. What hits the hardest for Cappiello is not being able to keep in touch with her dogs the way she does with her family. She often speaks to both of her sisters and, “My mom and I speak seven times a day.” However not being able to call and connect with the pups, in the same way, makes things a bit difficult at times. With that being said, Ms. Julie Cappiello is definitely on the right path to the future. 

Now, before we here at KCR say our final goodbyes to our esteemed colleague, let’s recognize a couple of her projects that have cemented her legacy within the organization.

Her newest work that she began in the Spring of this year is right here on this website, Sexcapades.

Sexcapades is a sexually open and reflective series where she discusses everything in and around sex with no shame in an effort to allow others to feel that same comfort to have much-needed discussions. I especially like her newest piece titled, “TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT / WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT.” where she advocates for open communication about sex. 

This series was created because of the lack of education provided in her high school sex education class where abstinence was the curriculum and no talk of safe sex left the mouths of her instructor. Self-taught and informed by her mother, Cappiello has had conversations with her family and aims to make Sexcapades a more inclusive and informative series where members of the LGBTQ+ community can also come for guidance and advice. She even wrote a piece on her sister Justine who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community that is a must-read

Before Sexcapades, was her “baby,” her passion project, “Here We Go Again.” The satirical news program has been running 3 seasons strong and was almost not greenlit, but the trust management had in Cappiello paid off as we can see now. Taking a concept from one of her other favorite shows, “The Daily Show,” Cappiello aimed to translate the ethos to Aztecs and college students across the nation. She has had a lot of success within those three seasons along with those growing pains.

This past season Chantel Mesta and Emilio Tina joined as writers and lifted both the show and Julie to new heights. Busy with graduation, her final classes, work, and having a social life, Cappiello pushed through and created some of her best work with one of her best teams. The final taping was bittersweet for her as things are finally coming to a close, but she has a lot to be proud of.

 “I’m leaving it in good hands. I hope that they continue it, and if not it’ll just be like my little stamp. That is Julie Cappiello, I did that.” 

Julie once thought about transferring schools, but joining KCR led her to new opportunities and a new family. She remains friends with members who have since graduated, maintaining Snapchat streaks and bi-weekly convos. Natalie Bucher even gave her the greatest gift she could ever ask for. “She said f*ck on the air and we couldn’t find the dump button.” The two had always thought the other would be the first to drop a bomb on-air, so Natalie doing so first brought an immeasurable amount of joy to Julie, tying the bow on the gift that KCR has been in her life. 

“It feels weird, now it’s becoming a little bit more real. I’m not scared.” she finishes off by saying something her chiropractor told her, “You might enjoy your professional life more than you enjoyed your student life.” If that’s the case, she has a bright path in her sight. She is not worried about controlling the future, she is taking it day by day and enjoying the journey.

This won’t be the last time we hear of Julie Cappiello, that’s for sure.

Written by: Alexis Camel
Photos by: Alexis Camel

Interview with Jesse Thorn

Jesse Thorn is a business owner, fashion blogger, radio host, and podcast Bailiff laying down fake internet justice. Thorn began his career as a broadcaster on UC Santa Cruz’s college radio station, KZSC. On KZSC Thorn hosted “Sound of Young America” with his friend Jordan Morris. “Sound of Young America” eventually morphed into “Bullseye with Jesse Thorn” which is distributed by National Public Radio. On “Bullseye,” Thorn has had the opportunity to interview some of the greatest creative minds pop culture has had to offer including: Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Waters, and Chris Rock. 

On top of hosting, Thorn is also the founder and owner of MaximumFun.org, one of the first ever podcasting networks. Alongside Jesse’s own projects, “Bullseye” and “Jordan, Jesse, Go,” MaxFun also produces shows such as “The Adventure Zone,” “Heat Rocks,” and “One Bad Mother.”  

Thorn currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife, the equally talented author and host Theresa Thorn, and family. He was kind enough to conduct an interview with KCR via email, the transcript of which can be found below:  

You grew up in San Francisco and have lived much of your professional life in Los Angeles. How do you think these two places have shaped your creative process? Growing up who were the people you took inspiration from? 

I heard the director Marielle Heller the other day explaining why growing up in the Bay was important to her. To boil it down: she always felt like the expectation was that she would be different. Not just that difference would be tolerated, but expected. I feel really strongly that growing up in San Francisco made me feel like I had full permission to do something interesting, and in fact if I failed to do so, it would be a disappointment.
Los Angeles, well… that’s where the entertainment industry is. It’s wild to think that I could be out to dinner with four different comedy geniuses every week. Of course, like most Angelenos, I don’t ever leave the house.
As far as people I took inspiration from – my parents, obviously. Both of them went to graduate school when I was a kid, neither of them had any problem with doing important work even if it meant not making much money. Both are totally brilliant geniuses who transcended abusive homes.  

You began your broadcasting career while attending the University of California, Santa Cruz. Can you tell me what your experience at KZSC was like and what compelled you to join? What skills did you learn in college broadcasting that you took with you into your professional career?

KZSC was and still is an incredible place. It’s a real radio station – with a pretty big transmitter that covers a lot of people. So if you do a good job, there are actually people listening. It’s also deeply dedicated to diversity of all kinds. There were four or five different types of reggae shows. I didn’t get a lot of training there, but they really let us do whatever we wanted, and that was a real thrill. 

Jordan Morris has been your collaborator since you were both at UCSC. How has your creative partnership evolved over the years and what do you believe is the secret to the chemistry between you and Morris?

Jordan is a genius. I mean, he is a real genius. He’s the funniest guy I’ve ever known, and I’ve known a lot of really funny people. He’s also a very committed good dude. In a lot of ways, he and I are very different, but I think what’s held us together is that we are the kinds of guys who show up and take care of business. So I know I can rely on him being there and doing his best and vice-versa. We’re also both profoundly conflict avoidant in very different but oddly complimentary ways. That helps, too. 

I know you taught a radio course at UCSC for awhile. What were some of the skills that you tried to impart to your students?

The journalism program was being shut down, and there was no radio or broadcasting program, so it was really the most basic basics. Ones I’d essentially taught myself. I used the This American Life comic book as a text, and just taught people how to gather tape, the basics of writing for radio, and got them on air every week. I was only a few months ahead of them in my own radio experience, so we just did what we could. 

You’ve interviewed some of the greatest minds of pop culture through your show, Bullseye. Which guest has impressed you the most and why?

There’s a thousand ways I could answer this, but I’ll go with recently: Rosie Perez. I didn’t know her life story until I booked her on the show – I just loved her work. She grew up in a group home and an orphanage and went through incredible challenges as a child. But she’s so irrepressibly brilliant you can’t imagine she’d be anything other than a great artist. Her passion is so deep and clear.

What was the original vision behind Maximum Fun? Was it difficult making the transition from radio personality to owner of a company?  

The original vision was “Jesse doesn’t get another secretary job when he moves to Los Angeles.” Advertising was a zero at the time in podcasting, so I thought I’d build it like a public radio station or a non-profit. Every day it is immensely hard for me. Running a business isn’t necessarily my personality type. But I do what I can because I actually do believe in it.  

Why did you make the decision to make MaxFun listener supported rather than relying exclusively on advertising revenue?

As I mentioned, in 2007 there was almost no ad money in podcasting. Besides that, I didn’t want to be making phone calls trying to sell ads.  So if I was going to do it for a living, I had to find another way. My dad worked in non-profits and organizing his whole life, and my roots were in community and public radio, so member-supported always made sense to me. 

You have another life as a men’s fashion blogger on your site, putthison.com. What is the source of your passion for menswear and what can the average college student do improve their wardrobe? 

It’s always been something I’ve loved. When the internet hit, it was something I could share with other people, both as a learner and a teacher. It started as a video project, and the blog took off immediately, so I kept it up.
As far as what a college student can do – I’d say simplify. Don’t get involved in the churn of fast fashion. Buy simple stuff – good jeans, good chinos, good t-shirts, some good oxford shirts – that fits you. And build the rest very slowly over time. 

 What are you currently watching, reading, and listening to? 

I just started watching The Mandalorian. It’s a blast. I’ve been watching Fleabag, which is amazing. I’m really excited about the return of Joe Pera Talks to You, which is a really special show. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of 70s New York salsa music – Fania Records stuff. And classic country music, I really love George Jones and I just got to interview Tanya Tucker. I’m reading the comic book Black Hammer, and The Power Broker when I’m feeling more serious.   

What advice do you have for young people interested in new media?

Make something, take a look at it, think about how it could be better, go again. 

You’re a proponent of something called “New Sincerity.” Can you explain what that is and how it relates to the world we presently live in?

It was a sort of philosophy made up as a goof when I was in college. Named by a friend who was frustrated she could never tell if I was joking. The basic principle is a rejection of irony as a lifestyle that still allows for an embrace of the grand and ridiculous. Dolly Parton is a great example.
Obama was Old Sincerity. Trump might be New Sincerity, though I can’t say he was what I was thinking of when I made it up. 

You’re the co-host (or should I say, Bailiff) on Judge John Hodgman. How did your relationship with Hodgman begin, who first had the idea to lay down “internet justice,” and what is your favorite case thus far?

I interviewed Hodgman about his first book, before he was on TV, and we hit it off. I just thought he’d be some McSweeney’s guy (which would have been fine), but he really blew me away. And he liked me! Then he got famous, somewhat unexpectedly, but we maintained our relationship.
When I started doing Jordan Jesse Go years ago, we had Hodgman come on for fake court segments about real stuff. I think the first might have been about whether chili was a soup (it’s a stew). It was his idea to turn it into a stand-alone show. He’s the main creative force behind it, I’m sort of like an executive producer, and Jennifer Marmor runs it on a day-to-day basis.
I think a lot about the Bat Brothers, two guys in Kansas who bought a house to save money (which is a thing in Kansas, I guess). The bathroom had a hole in the wall, and bats were getting in. One brother wanted to patch the hole. The other brother thought that was too expensive, and wanted to put a phone book by the toilet so you could smash the bats if they bothered you. It was wild. 

What has been your favorite fan interaction while touring? 

I really like meeting kids. These sweet little precocious dorkwads who are sometimes kind of shaking and they stick their hand out to meet you, it’s amazing. My own kids have mixed feelings about me ;).

You have pursued a creatively rewarding, yet unorthodox career while also raising a family. How do you balance those two things while being true to yourself?

It’s really hard. I have an amazing partner, my wife Theresa. We’ve been together for more than 20 years, over half our lives. That helps. But every day it’s really hard. You just kind of muddle through. 

Thank you once again to Jesse Thorn for his time and generosity. Be sure to visit MaximumFun.org and listen to Judge John Hodgman, Jordan, Jesse, Go and of course, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.

The State of the Movies: Are the Frozen Films Really Worth all the Trouble?

Frozen is one of the most culturally significant movies to have been released this decade. With Frozen II now out in theaters, is this film able to retain the magic the first one had or does it “Let it Go”?

I remember when Frozen was released into theaters. I was a freshman in high school and was going through a bizarre “Disney fandom” phase. It was my favorite film I saw in theaters that year due to its songs, characters, animation, and magical sense of adventure present through every frame. To my shock at the time, the film would go on to be the highest grossing animated film of all time, before being overthrown by 2019’s remake of the Lion King, and a cultural phenomenon. Audiences simply could not get enough of Frozen and they too fell in love particularly with the songs and characters. In fact, Elsa’s main song in the film “Let it Go” was played so many times on the radio and any kid’s talent show you went to, people who weren’t fans became sick of it fast.

Further, once Disney saw the financial incentive that came with promoting Frozen as a franchise, it went onto become of the most recognizable brands and one many audience members, including myself as a fan of the original, became sick of. Naturally, Disney sought to expand the market of Frozen with a brand new original film made for theaters. This is a first for Disney as generally whenever a sequel to an animated Disney princess film is made, it is released under the now defunct “Disney Toon Studios” brand and sent straight to home video. This film is brought to you by the same animators who created the original film six years ago and sent to theaters as well. But with that being said, let’s go ahead and look at both Frozen 1 and 2. Are either of these films actually any good?

Frozen is a film that is by no means flawless, but it still is incredibly enjoyable years later.

I’m not sure if I need to explain the plot of the original film, but just in case it tells the story of two sisters named Anna and Elsa who live in the kingdom of Arendelle. It is revealed that Elsa was born with “magical ice powers” in which she can summon ice at will using her hands. She uses the magic at first to play with her sister Anna, but things turn ugly after Anna is struck in the head by Anna’s ice powers. The two are then separated for the rest of their childhood as Elsa is forced to live within the confines of her bedroom while Anna talks to her from the door. With Anna’s memory of the incident having been wiped by “rock trolls” in the forest in order to treat her injury, she lives the rest of her childhood unaware of Elsa’s powers and what she is capable of.

By the time Anna and Elsa are all grown up, the parents have now passed on and Elsa is crowned the new queen. But after Elsa refuses to bless a marriage between Anna and a prince she met that day, her powers are accidentally revealed to not only her sister, but everyone in the kingdom. This then forces Elsa to run off into the mountains where she brings an eternal winter onto the sunny kingdom and it’s up to Anna to get Elsa to bring back the summer.

I re-watched Frozen again before I went out and saw its sequel, and although I do not love this movie as much as I did when I was in high school, I still think it’s pretty good. Frozen is a very fun and delightful adventure that has some fantastic songs, great animation, and fun characters. The film follows the formula we’ve all grown used to from these classic Disney fairy tale movies, but it also modernizes it and does something new with it. It’s a shame the songs were as overplayed as they were because they are admittedly really good songs. Say what you will about “Let it Go,” when you listen to it as its own song, it really is empowering and Idina Menzel’s performance as Elsa is spectacular. She is an extremely talented singer and I have been hooked to whatever project she has decided to take ever since I saw her in this film for the first time.

All the other voice actors do a good job too. Kristen Bell as Anna is really strong, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff isn’t bad, Santino Fontana (who would later play Greg in the television series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) has a fun role as Hans, and Josh Gad is surprisingly funny as Olaf. In fact, Olaf, a talking snowman created by Anna and Elsa as children, is not annoying as you would expect a comic relief snowman character in a kids film to be. He whispers a lot of his line and much of his humor comes from sarcasm rather than stupidity or annoyance. I remember the 3D presentation of this film being particularly strong as well when I saw in in theaters for the first time.

Although it is annoying to see a children’s film like this be as over hyped as it was, it’s not hard to see why it was. The film is very well crafted and further a very fun enjoyable adventure for the whole family. And I suppose if Disney were to annoyingly shove one of their films onto all its products it releases, this isn’t a bad choice. It’s a very strong movie, I just wish it was not as exposed to the mainstream which therefore ruined its magic for me.

As for Frozen II, it’s hard to see the potential the creators see with this flick, and it’s clear that the only incentive for this blockbuster was to make a few extra dollars.

Despite me being critical of some of the business decisions Disney has taken within the last few years (decision to launch their own streaming service, decision to purchase the entirety of 20th Century Fox, and their reliance on releasing mainly animated sequels and live action remakes being some of the examples of questionable business practices), I was still very excited for Frozen II. I did not go into this movie expecting to dislike it, I was merely hoping for and expecting a fun adventure with the characters I’ve grown to love. The good news is that despite being a vastly inferior film to the original, this does make some attempts at creating a fun adventure. The animation is still spectacular and Elsa performs many creative “tricks” and “spells” with her powers.

Although I feel like everything in this movie is fine, it is all inferior to the original and even feels hastily rushed. The songs aren’t as good, the story is nowhere near as good, and the characters have gotten less interesting as well. The only aspect that I feel has gotten improvement was the animation. It’s spectacular to see what they have accomplished with the animation and think it looks gorgeous. The 3D this time around was good too. To discuss my issues with this movie though I will need to go into spoilers. If you do not want this movie spoiled for you, click away now. The overall recommendation I have for this movie is if you want to see this movie because you are a fan of the original and are excited to see these characters again, you may find some enjoyment in this. If you are skeptical about this film and was never a fan of the original anyways, you can easily skip this one.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD******

The first notable issue I can pin point about Frozen II is that it’s very complicated and at times hard to follow. This is especially concerning given that this is an animated adventure dedicated to families. I watched this entire movie and at times struggled to comprehend and make sense of the narrative. The reason for this is that so much lore is introduced and not all of it receives the amount of screen time it should. With the amount of conflicts set up in this film, they could have almost made this an over two hour movie. Everything in the film though is so rushed since they cannot make this movie over 100 minutes given that it is made for children. But what is this movie about exactly? Well here’s the best way I can describe it.

Frozen II takes place three years after the first film ended. The gates of the palace are now wide open and civilians get to enjoy Elsa’s ice powers while still feeling secure under her rule. Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven meanwhile are all living happy lives together with Elsa at Arendelle and Kristoff is even hoping to propose to Anna soon. Problems start to arise though when events from the kingdom’s past start to affect them in bad ways. Elsa feels compelled to follow a mysterious voice which accidentally awakens elemental spirits which leaves the kingdom without resources and forces them to evacuate. It is now up to Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf to go north towards a mysterious forest and find out how to bring Arendelle to its once prosperous state.

They enter into the forest, that apparently no one is able to escape from (this movie kinda rips off Annihilation), and find soldiers from Arendelle still in conflict with the Northuldra tribe, which shocks the team given that they had always believed there was a treaty set in the form of the building of a dam. They then are forced to call for a truce as they discover Anna and Elsa’s mother is of Northuldran descent while the father is of Arendellian, a marriage it is assumed would bring the two warring states at peace. You can already start to tell how jam-packed with detail this plot is. You would expect this much lore and background from a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie that’s well above two hours, but to see it in a Frozen movie that’s a little over an hour and a half long is so bizarre to me.

Kristoff and Sven then stay with the tribe as Elsa continues north with Anna and Olaf. She ditches them, however, after she discovers a map to an island known as Ahtohollan which apparently holds the answers to how to end this conflict and how it began in the first place. Elsa goes on her own hoping she can also find the answer to how she got her powers in the first place. It is also in this moment that the ship their mother and father drowned in was found as it turns out they were traveling to this island so they too could help their daughter understand why she has her powers in the first place. Anyone who hoped that they were going to Rapunzel’s wedding is going to be very disappointed when they see that.

Once Elsa reaches the island, though, she finds that the dam was actually built to block resources and halt the growth of the Northuldran civilization. She becomes a sculpture while on the island and Olaf vanishes as Anna is given a sign that the dam is what started the conflict and without much thought, fully acknowledging that Arendelle will perish, she leads a bunch of giant rock trolls to the dam to destroy it. They’re successful in doing so, but Elsa is able to unfreeze at the very last second to stop the water flow from hitting the kingdom and putting it underwater. Elsa then decides Anna is now queen and she decides to live with the Northuldran people forever away from Arendelle. And I didn’t even get to mention that there are five “elemental spirits” that being earth, water, fire, and air and the fifth is Elsa and her powers which were granted to her as a peacemaker and gift to others after her mother married an Arendellian prince to bring the two nations together.

Wow, this is clearly too much lore for a kid’s film. Where do we begin in dissecting all this?

Whenever the film focuses on being an adventure with these characters we’ve all grown to love, the movie is fine. Whenever it takes itself as seriously as it does and decides to delve into its complex lore, the film falls flat. I just don’t understand why the filmmakers felt the need to jam pack as much information about this world’s universe as they did in this movie. Although I respect the filmmakers’ intent to invest its audience into the world and respect their intelligence, it is all information that isn’t necessary in furthering the narrative of this film along. It just feels like “fluff” to make this movie more confusing for children and even adults. It’s also unlikely that any children or even adults are going to be compelled to discuss the politics of the Frozen universe. Children are smart, but they certainly are not smart enough to understand treaties, governmental relations, and the complications of war.

I understand and respect the filmmakers who take their audience seriously, but I think if they want to have this much lore in this universe, it either needs to be saved for a television show or built up and discussed in future movies. Maybe the filmmakers introducing as much lore as they did gives them an excuse to make more movies in the future (which would be a bad idea probably), but even if they want to simply set up this lore, the film should still probably be over two hours. And again, if they’re concerned about the film being too long for kids, take out some lore and don’t make it so complex, because the end result is that this film feels incredibly rushed and convoluted.

The rest of the film and its elements (aside from the animation) are average.

Every other element in this film feels like a downgrade from the first. The songs are good but nowhere near the quality of the songs from the original. One of the worst songs in the whole movie is a song Kristoff gets about how he’s afraid to propose to Anna. The sequence is accompanied with singing reindeer and an early 2000’s boy band style music video. That’s not to say I did not like any of the songs. “Into the Unknown” was an nice song that I hope the radio stations can have remain unknown to the mainstream.

As for the characters, Kristoff does not have much of a character aside from the fact that he wants to propose to Anna but can’t find the right time to do so. So many other movies, especially animated flicks, have done this before and I’m sick of it. It’s not cute or quirky anymore, it’s just annoying. Olaf is annoying this time which is super unfortunate because he was not in the original. His humor is now comprised of how annoying he can be and how much of a bumbling idiot he is, which is odd because they specifically did not do that in the original movie. In fact, they recreate the bit from Shrek 2 where Donkey annoys Shrek and Fiona on their way to the city of Far Far Away. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it’s just annoying and cringe-worthy. Anna and Elsa are still alright characters though. I really liked the relationship they had with one another, and if anything is to be explored in future films, it should be that. Other than that, though, everything feels rushed and as if not much care was given to its production.

Frozen II is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen in a while.

It represents the corporate commercial nature that many grew to hate about the first film and doesn’t actually feel like a film but rather a product made by a large company like Disney. Had this film been funnier or more engaging (had a simpler narrative that still took its audience seriously), it probably would have been better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney is on a downward spiral and bad movies like this do not help its case. With the exception of Toy Story 4 and some of the Marvel movies, I have not liked a single Disney film I’ve seen released this year and that is a shame. Yeah, all of their movies have made money, so I guess this was a successful year for them, but I really wish they would focus on art and creativity rather than profit. There’s no soul in any of these movies. This is polished garbage released by a company that we’ve all been brainwashed to trust.

The thing is if they were to focus on the creative aspect of their films, they would still do well. People love going to see a new Disney movie whether it’s a reboot or an original concept. Don’t believe me, how did Zootopia, Coco, and Moana all go onto be successful? I trust Disney so little lately that I still am reluctant about subscribing to Disney+ because I specifically do not want to promote the idea that a single studio can just release their own streaming service.

Disney is a company, not a corporate empire, the idea that they care about you or your enjoyment about any of their products or your approval of their actions is crazy. As long as we continue to give money to them, they are only going to continue to grow. They have money to burn, they can make whatever movies they want. I swear Lars Von Trier could create a disturbing surrealist film under their name that completely abandons their image and likeness and their profits would barely be impacted. If you care at all about Disney and want them to take more risks with their projects, show that to them. Don’t support the crappy movies they put out and don’t give them money to encourage them to continue doing so. Only give them money if you feel them releasing this project in question is beneficial for the industry.

So my final thoughts on this movie though are that if you still really want to see this movie and want to see where these characters end up, you can see it. Just don’t expect the movie to be a masterpiece. If you’re on the fence about this one, skip it. The movie isn’t awful and I understand I’m treating it as if it is awful, I just wish Disney would make good movies again because they are on a downward spiral once again and it depresses me to see.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

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