Category: movies

Best Sick Day Movies

Throughout my life when I push myself I almost always get sick right after (doesn’t bode well if I ever have a honeymoon! 🙂 ).  Even when I was in high school after a swim meet or play I would get sick the next week.  These are not imagined illnesses but real legitimate sicknesses.  It is then no surprise after my 5k that yesterday I felt unwell all day.  I tried to fight it through lunch with an old friend but when I got home it was official.  I was sick.  I wish I could stop this from happening but it seems no matter how hard I try with the positive self-talk my body can only take so much and it becomes vulnerable.

Anyway, today I was sick and despite a few emails (it is impossible for me to not work a little in a day!) I had the whole day to hang around.  What do you do when you aren’t feeling well and need to get in some healing time? Watch some movies of course!

Everyone knows I have a large DVD collection and I have no problem watching a movie again and again.  There are movies I have that I could watch back to back repeatedly.  I have whole scenes memorized.

So what movies do I reach for when I’m sick?

1. Guys and Dolls- The song Adelaide’s Lament is probably the best song ever written about being sick.

2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- What we all wish we could do on our day off instead of being sick.

3.Disney Nostalgia movies like Parent Trap, Old Yeller, Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson.  Something about the nostalgic movies are comforting, like a hug from your mother.  I love these types of movies.  I wish that quality family films were more frequently made today.

4. BBC Miniseries- When you are sick you have lots of time in bed so what better than to watch a 7 hour movie from the BBC like good old Downton Abbey, North and South or Pride and Prejudice.  I can’t think of a much better way to spend a day even if you are sick!

5. TV on DVD.  I love to get out my series and watch a bunch of Simpsons, Cosby Show, Reba or The Golden Girls.  You can fall asleep for hours and just start a new episode.

6. Dorris Day romantic movies such as Pillow Talk or Calamity Jane.  Also Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday and Talk of the Town are favorite comedies that I could watch a million times.  Let’s be honest we are all a little depressed when we are sick and good laugh never hurt anyone.

What are some of your favorites?

Also- after a day of rest I’m thankfully feeling much better!

Grown Up Movies

So today I’m going to give you a few recommendations that might surprise you.  For years I had a no R rated movie rule. That was when I still had faith in the MPAA.  Now I have a different approach, I use screenit.com to find out what is in the movie no matter the rating.  There are many movies that only make an R rating because of language and while profanity is unfortunate I think it can be an authentic way of representing a character because let’s be honest some people kuss like sailors.  It just doesn’t bother me the way violence or sensuality does. I realize this is rationalization but there you go.

I think there are movies made for adults and are appropriate for just adults.  That doesn’t mean they are gratuitous or gross but just mature.

So 2 movies I would classify for mature audiences that I’ve really enjoyed lately are:

Friends with Kids- There is an unfortunate amount of profanity in this movie and some mild sensuality but I thought it captured quite well the changes that happens in adult relationships when children come into the picture.  Every couple seems to handle the stress and pressure differently.  Some need more support of friends, others find maintaining adult friendships to be a burden that they can’t deal with once the children come along.  This can be challenging for all involved.

Last year there was this article floating around facebook of a single woman complaining to an advice columnist about how her friend with kids never had time for her any more.  This letter made me mad because it was so over-the-top that any legitimate concerns the single woman (or other women in her situation) might have had  felt petty, selfish, cold and inconsiderate.  Surely they could have found a more nuanced letter expressing the same concerns?  I felt like the woman was a devil and all Moms were innocent angels.  Made me mad.  I felt marginalized by it and that the worst possible example of my lifestyle had been used to tar and feather us all.  After about the 30th read through I couldn’t take it any more and finally said something.

Quickly I started one of my longest facebook threads yet.  It was clear this change from urban tribes to having friends with kids is hard on both sides.  Each couple must deal with questions of how to manage their time, resources, love, and new families.  As a single woman,  I’ve had moments of true grieving when a friend seemingly moves on from me to their new family lifestyle.   I know young Moms have felt the same about their single counterparts. At the very least it can be suddenly hard to relate to people that were so relatable for years.  The problems of raising an infant can seem like another world from the problems of a single man or woman.  I’ve adapted and learned over the years but it can still be a challenge.

Even if there is no change in attitudes the differing time schedules can force a change in the friendship.  A friend you saw everyday or weekly may only be available for birthdays or special occasions.  This is reality and it has be adjusted to.  Certainly keeping the friendship is more important than anything else and worth any sacrifice but it can still be difficult for both sides.  So few movies or books really touch upon these transitions in a meaningful and enriching way.  In the end, I believe strongly that relationships can thrive after this transition and be even stronger as a result.

Anyway, that’s why I liked this movie.  I thought it  had a lot of good dialogue about the adjustment to parenthood or lack there of.  The story centers around Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeld who are friends that decide they want to have a baby and still date other people. They are tired of being left out of the parenting world that all of their friends are participating in (any singles or childless over 30 can relate to that feeling!).  They figure they can get all the benefits of raising a child without the messiness of dating, romance, divorce etc.  This is obviously a foolish idea but it works to get the plot rolling.

There are 2 other couples  that communicate with each other and with the group in a realistic manner, like I can actually picture all of them as real couples.  I particularly liked Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. They are the most functional of  the couples and handle the stress of child-rearing with a lot of humor laden chaos.  Jon Hamm and Kristin Wig are both good as a couple that begins to burden their friends with their marital problems, risking the happiness of the whole group.

I can’t say  I have a cohesive group of friends as shown in the film (at this time at least) but I have lots of married and single friends, and I felt like I could relate to the dialogue.  It is a dialogue based movie  with many scenes  set in one apartment but it worked.  It’s also very funny, with humor coming from realistic situations, not silly slapstick.

My only wish is that they had included a truly happy single within the group but you can’t have everything in the movie. I think Hollywood doesn’t believe the truly happy single can exist.  (We think we’ve come so far from the days of Pride and Prejudice but look at the mopey ladies of rom coms and I don’t know!).   Megan Fox plays a girl who has no interest in having children and it is as if she wants to kill puppies.  A woman not wanting to have children, how can that be! 🙂

It is also a bit predictable.  We all know that Adam and Jennifer’s platonic plan isn’t going to end well but I just found the dialogue so engaging that I didn’t care if the plot followed a formula.

In the end, I really enjoyed it and for adults (particularly adults in their early 30’s going through this transition) I think it is a great pick.

Descendents- I know everyone saw this last year before the Oscars but I didn’t get around to seeing it until recently.  It stars George Clooney as a man who finds out his wife, who is in a coma, was having an affair (who would have an affair on George Clooney but it works).   George has been trying to raise his children carefully but they have turned into selfish brats anyway.  He is also the descendant of a massive plot of land on Maui island and he along with his cousins must decide whether to sell the property.  So, basically poor George is having a tough patch.

Everything in this movie felt authentic to me.  It felt like an authentic version of Hawaii, one where people actually live and don’t just surf.  It felt like actual father/daughter conversations.  The teenage daughter felt like a real teenage daughter.  Not overly rebellious or overly cute.  Just a real person.

Judy Greer is also in the movie with a small but impactful part and Matthew Lillard plays a believable and cowardly other man (again who would pick Matthew Lillard over George Clooney but it works).

Part of what makes the Descendants so good is that none of the drama is over-done.  Really not a ton happens but at the same time everything happens.  There is no last minute conversation with the wife.  No over-the-top moment of truth.  Everything is subtle, soft and perfect.  At least in my life most of the things that should have loud music accompanying it in my eyes, most observers would think ‘that’s no big deal. Just an ordinary life’.  That’s the point.  The drama of ordinary life.

The thing that is amazing is with all of that sadness the movie is quite funny.  It doesn’t feel drab or depressing.  I’m going to give some of that credit to the beauty of the islands but the script is good enough to portray real life with all its mixture of laughs and tears- sometimes all at the same time.

The Descendants is only for adults as it does have a fair amount of profanity but again it did feel authentic to the characters and how they would probably talk when going through such difficult situations.  None of it was for show or to be shocking.  There isn’t anything else offensive that I can remember but if you want to check look at www.screenit.com.

For both of these movies go to screenit.com read the content and decide if it is something you want to see.

So, there you go.  2 movie recommendations.  Let me know what you think.  And if you hate them.  Sorry!

Mixture of Thoughts

So today has been a thoroughly strange day.  On one hand I woke feeling hopeful.  Drained but hopeful.  Things in my personal life and my health are looking up and for that I am deeply grateful.  I really felt a wad of stress I’d been carrying around settle and am looking forward to the future.

Wanting to process my life and having the PTO I decided to take some time off today and was feeling great.  I noticed a facebook post from my siblings about the Dark Knight premiere they had been to and how good it was.  It seemed like nothing could burst my bubble.

Then I turned on the TV…

“Massacre in Colorado Theater”.  Horrified I then saw details of the awful shooting at the Dark Knight screening in Colorado.  Initially my bright mood turned to anger, confusion and then finally despair.  I tried to make sense of it for a while but obviously there is no making sense of such an action.

Here are some jumbled thoughts

I think it almost goes without saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.  I can’t imagine facing such a shock and loss.

When it comes down to it EVIL exists. Satan is real and he wants all men to be miserable just like himself. If we let him, He can take a seed of anger or disappointment and work on it until it unfolds in true horror.  He wants us to hurt one another.  He wants us to be angry and resentful and there is no end to the anger if left unchecked.

My next thought I’m going to try to word carefully.  When such things happen people immediately jump to conclusions about mental illness.  That someone must have been ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’.

Here’s where I think we have to be careful.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness that are not going to kill anyone.  Mental illness is probably involved in such a case, but a shooter is a bizarre extreme symptom of an illness.  It would be like saying everyone who has the stomach flu is going to die because one woman does pass away. Its an abnormality, a mutant like distortion of the real disease.

The stigma and fears surrounding mental illness are only inflamed when such careful distinctions are not made and then situations like this become more likely.  People who have severe conditions do not get the diagnosis or the help they need because of the stigma and the community in general is not informed enough to encourage or even enforce such treatment.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and the occasional panic attack I will tell you it is a scary experience and I only was able to make healthy choices once I was honest and disregarded the stigma.  Not everyone can do that and not everyone has the overwhelming love and support I am lucky enough to have.

If I was king of the world I would require mental health check ups for all college students because it is such a great time of change and the time when most mental illness such as schizophrenia manifest themselves. Someone may have never dealt or thought about mental illness and then all of the sudden they are dealing with signs and symptoms and yet no treatment is sought out of shame or fear.

Mental illness is just another illness.  It’s a part of our anatomy and sometimes it gets sick just like anything else.

So there I said my peace on that.

One last thought.  My cousin Anne spoke her peace about the violent content in the Dark Knight movie after viewing it at the midnight screening.  She said quite movingly

“I am very saddened about the shooting in Colorado. The news article said they could not identify the shooter’s motivation…. How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bain was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”

Now did the movies cause some kind of hypnosis that made the shooter do what he did?  Of course not, but I do agree with her that as a society we have become increasingly desensitized towards violence.  I’ve felt this for some time.  I remember coming back from my mission and being shocked by the decapitated heads in the final Lord of the Rings movies.  I was horrified at first but then  I started watching 24 with friends.  Slowly I began ignoring more and more violent content until one episode Jack basically hung a terrorist on a chain to get what he wanted.  That was it for me.  My wake up call.

Violence stays in my head and never leaves.  The other day I was watching Project Runway and an ad for some terrible serial killer movie came on and before I could change the channel there it was in my brain.  Nightmares! Thanks Lifetime!

I resisted the temptation to see the 2nd Dark Knight movie for many months until it was out on DVD and finally caved because EVERYONE I knew loved it.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it completely terrified me.   I had nightmares for weeks.  I recognized that it was well made and acted but I did not feel a good spirit while watching and regretted it ever since. I really felt like the only one out of all my friends who didn’t love it.

Even a movie like Ironman that has some torture of the lead in the beginning I found quite upsetting.  As a single woman living alone I’ve found I must be very careful with what I view because it sits there in my head making mischief.  I realize not everyone is in my situation or has my sensitivity level but still I just don’t see how watching such things can be helpful or inspiring.

What really makes me crazy is we have this pretense of an MPAA giving movie ratings but they should just change it to the ‘counting swear words brigade’.  I don’t understand how The Dark Knights and Hunger Games (children killing other children) gets a PG-13 when Bully a movie that might actually help reduce violence is given an R because of 6 words.  How can anyone say that 6 words are worse than murder? It doesn’t make sense. Something has to be so over the top in sexual content and violence to merit the R rating but 6 swear words and an automatic R? Again, to me that makes absolutely no sense.

If I ran the world I would make the MPAA like http://www.screenit.com which provides incredible details of the content you are viewing so you can make an informed decision.  I think it is $25 a year or something like that and I would recommend anyone sign up kids or no kids.

As to whether there should be some type of censorship or monitoring on this type of violent content, I’m unsure.  I certainly think there should be a discussion and its effects should be taken seriously.  We have no problem acknowledging the negative effects of sexual pornography and that industry is regulated fairly strictly.  What’s wrong with applying those same standards to violence?  I’m not expert on stimulus addiction but violence seems as penetrating in the brain as sexual content and clearly can be as destructive to human life.

I don’t know the answer but the human mind has always been attracted to violent content.  That’s Satan’s job, that’s the natural man. In the past a salacious story of Western slaughter or war would excite readers but now the malcontent can be exposed to images, video, dialogue, again and again, with each time needing more intense portrayals.  How can that not have a damaging effect?  Do I have a solution to fix that in a free America?  No.

Except to say this- watch what you watch and what your children watch.  Watch how you rationalize things away and try to stop it. Stop spending your money on things that glorify violence.  Hug your loved one’s.  Resolve differences.  Forgive because you never know when things can change and you’ll miss out on the chance to make things better.

Please go to http://www.bringchange2mind.org/ to sign the pledge to end the stigma against mental illness.  Maybe if we all work together we can stop such tragedies from happening again?  That is my hope.

I started my day hopeful and I’m ending my day with hope. Hope in Christ and His great love. He heals the broken hearted and gives comfort to the weak.  I KNOW that is true.

Nora Ephron

I am woefully late on my tribute of Nora Ephron, one of my favorite modern authors.  While she wasn’t really  a novelist her scripts and essays had a way of commenting on life in a funny and charming way.   Some people might claim her to be a soft writer, overly nostalgic and romantic but to me this is part of her charm.  She gave us something familiar, something to smile at and taught us a lesson along the way. She passed away from leukemia on June 26th. My condolences go out to her family and friends.  I loved her work.

For example, in You’ve Got Mail she taught us the different ways human beings absorb conflict:

One character, Joe Fox says,

“Have you ever become the worst version of yourself. That a pandora’s box of all the hateful things, your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away… you zing them.”

While Kathleen Kelly says,

“No, I know what you mean, and I’m completely jealous. What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then, then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence?”

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve related to both sentiments.  I’ve even said the lines over in my head while making an expression choice.

Another favorite from You’ve Got Mail that I have to share:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

And one more I’ve turned to again and again:

“People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

I like when Roger Ebert said “Ephron’s dialogue represents the way people would like to be able to talk. It’s witty and epigrammatic, and there are lots of lines to quote when you’re telling friends about the movie”.  That is so true.  I wish I could pontificate charmingly about books, romance, New York City etc. Perhaps Ephron sets the standard too high but isn’t that the job of writers to elevate the language of the masses?

Not all of Ephron’s dialogue was witty.  In fact, her description of grief in Sleepless in Seattle is one of the most touching passages I have ever read:

“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while”

He then goes on to describe an ideal love:

“Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic. ”

Who doesn’t yearn for such a relationship?  Perhaps it is unrealistic but that is the type of fantasy I enjoy. More than swords or mystical lands, a fantastical view of life and romance.

When Harry Met Sally is another favorite and most of the memorable  stretches of dialogue are too long to repeat here but they are just divine. Watch it again and you’ll remember how great the conversation is. Some  feel such pithy dialogue is inauthentic but I totally bought the characters.  Sure maybe nobody really talks like that but I don’t go to the movies for realism (or total fantasy for that matter).  I go to the movies for heightened or at least exaggerated realism.

WHMS is probably Ephron’s funniest script, helped greatly I’m sure by a great deal of ad-libbing by Billy Crystal.  Of course, there is the famous scene in the diner with the classic line ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ and the long introductory debate over the plausibility of male/female friendship, but my favorite line probably goes unnoticed by many but it makes me laugh every time I hear it:

Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.

It is just sitting there like a big dead end  but at least with this line Ephron made me laugh about it!

I could spend this whole post listing quote after quote.  There are so many great movies.  I love what she did with Julie and Julia turning the insufferable book into a charming story by adding the life of Julia Child.  In that movie she  adapts from the wonderful memoir My Life in France by Julia Child, the most touching depiction of marriage I have seen in a movie:

Paul Child: You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life.

How beautiful is that? It’s perfect.

Paul Child is the ideal marriage partner because he sacrificed his whole life to make Julia’s dreams come true.  An artist himself, he was satisfied to work as a bureaucrat for years so that she could publish her book.  I love this speech in the movie:

“I’m not kidding you; I’m not. Someone is going to publish your book. Someone is going to read your book, and realize what you’ve done. Because YOUR BOOK is amazing. YOUR BOOK is a work of genius. YOUR BOOK is going to change the world. ”

I wish I had someone in my life who believed in me that way.  What a beautiful portrayal captured by Ephron of a beautiful marriage.

In addition to screenplays Nora Eprhon is a fabulous essayist. My favorite is her book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I bought it years ago at an airport bookstore and loved it.  Nearly every essay rings true and is funny without being over-the-top.

“Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won’t have to hide behind a stack of canned food…I dont mean to be too literal about this but the point is that I still think about them every time I’m tempted to leave the house without eyeliner”

But my favorite essay by far is on parenting.  I don’t have any kids but I still think it is brilliant:

“Back in the day when there were merely parents as opposed to people who were engaged in parenting, being a parents was fairly straightforward.  You didn’t need a book…You understood that your child had a personality. His very own personality.  He was born with it.  For a certain period this child would live with you and your personality and you would do your best to survive each other.”

She goes on:

…One day there was this thing called parenting.  Parenting was serious.  Parenting was fierce.  Parenting was solemn.  Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic.  It was unrelenting.  Parenting meant playing Mozart cds while you were pregnant, doing without the epidural…Parenting began with the assumption that your baby was a lump of clay that could be molded into a perfect person who would be admitted into the college of your choice…

and concludes with this profound thought

“Meanwhile every so often, your children come to visit.  They are, amazingly, completely charming people.  You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them.  They make you laugh.  They make you proud.  You love them madly.  They survived you.  You survived them.  It crosses your mind that on some level you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell.  There’ s no point.  It’s over.  Except for the worrying.  The worrying is forever”

I’m not even a parent but I found this to be the most touching description of parental emotion I’ve ever read.  I think it is perfect.

Well, that’s a lot of writing but what better way is there to pay tribute to a favorite author.  I’m sincerely going to miss her voice and the way she made me smile.  Thanks Nora!

6 Best Summer Movies

As the readers of this blog know I am a huge movie buff year-round.  Unfortunately sometimes I grow weary of the blockbuster movies that are usually popular in the summer.  For some reason I don’t usually like super hero movies.  I’ve always prefered characters that I can relate to, even in a complete fantasy.  For instance, Harry Potter may be in a complete fantasy world but his character and skill-set are mostly things I can relate to.   The Incredibles is one of the few super hero movies I like because it moves super heroes into a real world setting and it makes me laugh.  Most super hero movies are very show-offy and just for the fluffy special effects.

Christy Lemire, an AP movie critic I follow, recently posted a list of her top 5 summer movies.  I have to admit I’ve only seen 1 of the movies she lists but I thought the idea was a fun one, especially for me given my usual distaste for summer movies.  I had to make a list of 6 because I just couldn’t leave one off.  So here goes:

1. Up- Up is one of my favorite movies. It is the story of an elderly man that fulfills his dream to go to Paradise Falls (a promise he made to his beloved wife) by flying his house to South America.  It is a sweet, funny, endearing movie that never fails to move and inspire me.  Just the first 5 minutes are more moving than 90% of the current romantic movies made.

The reason why I think it qualifies as a summer movie is its focus on travel (I actually saw it in Hawaii and then loved it so much to see it 2 more times in the theater when I got home.).  The spirit of adventure and freedom also feels very summery.  I think without a ‘summer vacation’ you lose a little of that sensation as an adult and a movie like Up reminds you to be a little more bold.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/pixar/

2. When Harry Met Sally- I love Norah Ephron’s writing, whether in book or movie form I think she is hilarious. Hidden in the romantic banter is nuggets of wisdom and insight.  I could easily pick You’ve Got Mail as that is a favorite of mine but I went with WHMS because it begins with a road trip with lots of conversation. To me that is an ultimate summer experience.  I must admit that usually such trips are ripe with peril for me but the idea of hitting the road and enjoying the conversation of a good friend is very American and very summery.

Perhaps because so many weddings happen in the summer but it seems to me you have to pick one romance in such a list.  People always compare WHMS to Annie Hall but to be honest I like it better.  I think Annie Hall is kind of boring and it did not make me laugh near as much as WHMS.  It just didn’t- let the name calling begin. 😉

For more of my thoughts on romantic comedies check out these posts-

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/romantic-comedies-that-are-actually-romantic/

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/romantic-comedy-cliches-im-sick-of/

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/open-to-change/

3. Endless Summer- A summer movie list absolutely demands a beach movie.   I LOVE the beach and fantasize about it on a daily basis.  Endless Summer is a landmark documentary that introduced many people to the sport of surfing.  In 1966 director Bruce Brown follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August (perfect last name for a summer movie!) as they introduce people around the world to surfing.  They travel from Hawaii, New Zealand to Africa and Australia.   The idea is that by surfing around the world summer never ends.  What a glorious concept!  What a happy thought!

Having tried surfing myself it is amazing what these athletes can do and what a thrilling experience it must be.  Other good surfing documentaries are Step Into Liquid and Walking on Water.  All 3 films are available as an instant stream on netflix.  It will make you want to go to Hawaii and try surfing for yourself.

4. Inception- I picked Inception because for my money it is the best blockbuster type of movie ever made (was going to pick Raiders of the Lost Arc but this is even better).  It is the puzzle piece of a movie where Leonardo DiCaprio goes inside dreams to attempt to retrieve and ultimately change the behavior of the subjects.  Eventually an inception becomes so complicated that there are over 4 levels of dreams within a dream.  In fact, the final ending it is unsure whether there are even more levels.

I think Inception transcends the action movie genre because it has so many well developed characters surrounding the action and special effects. All of the acting is really good, especially Marion Cotillard as DiCaprio’s wife.  Her scenes give an emotional resonance to the film that is missing in most big budget action films.  I also love Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon Leavitt.

I also like that it is a movie 100 people could see and all feel differently about.  I like a movie that doesn’t spoon feed you a moral or a message.  I’ve seen it probably 7 or 8 times and I still don’t know what the ending is.  To me chatting about movies and books is a very summery thing.  Something you just don’t have time for the rest of the year, so Inception makes the list!

5. 12 Angry Men-  This may seem like an odd choice because it is such a small movie.  The reason it made the list is because heat is such a critical element to the story.  Told more like a play, 12 strangers (all played by amazing character actors) must deliberate on a murder case during a hot stifling summer day.  The more they talk the more heat is used to convey stress, emotion, loneliness and anger.

Henry Fonda is excellent as the stick in the mud who insists on conversation but his performance is really the easiest to pull off.  Lee Cobb and Ed Begley as the most explosive jurors are wonderfully nuanced but ALL of the actors are great.  Its remarkable that a movie set in one room with a mere table and some pencils for props can be so compelling.  Perhaps it is because human beings are compelling enough when written well without all the explosions and special effects.

You feel hot watching the movie.  I’ve always wanted to see this in the theater but haven’t gotten to do so.  I wonder if the power of movie to invoke heat and temperature would be missing in a live theater?

Still, an excellent movie for anyone interested in a good script, great acting and perfectly executed sets.

6. 5oo Days of Summer–  My last choice is another romance.  This movie uses Summer in a more broad sense.  Summer comes to mean the time of a romance; hence it lasting for 500 days instead of 90.   It is an artsy movie without being annoying telling the story of two young people Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gorden Leavitt who have a 500 day romance.  It’s a simple story but told so creatively that it does not feel simple.

First it is told in a non-linear way with days 5 followed by day 453.  This might sound confusing but it totally works.  There are also other creative touches such as a mid-movie musical number and a scene that floats into a charcoal drawing.  I also love the scene where a split screen gives two versions of an evening- what is actually happening, and what the character anticipates happening.  Brilliant.  All of these methods, however, could be incredibly irritating if done in a showy way but they aren’t.  It just melds into the picture and makes sense.  Plus, the chemistry between all the performers is really good.  This is especially important for Deschanel who plays a kind of unlikable character, but she’s so likable it works.

It also has the guts to end in a bittersweet but perfect way.  This is the movie I would recommend for someone that wants to feel summer all year round.

So there is my list.  What would you have on your list of summer favorites? Please share!

 

Bully / It Gets Better

This may be the post I am the most proud of. I hope it comes across the way I intend.  I hope it inspires someone.

Today for Family Home Evening I decided to see the controversial documentary Bully.   This has been something I’ve been a bit anxious for but knew I needed to do because of my own experience being bullied.  The odd part about the movie is I wasn’t that emotional while watching but then as soon as I got in my car I started to bawl. I felt all emotions of anger, frustration, despair and a little bit of hope.

Some have criticized the movie because it doesn’t go into the mindset of the bullies themselves.  My response is that every story cannot tell every story.  This is a movie about the victims and how futile the school system is in helping deal with these problems.  Granted their task is daunting but the attitude of ‘kids will be kids’ is far too present.

There is one scene in the movie where a principal actually forces a little boy to shake hands with his tormentor (a valid concept until you find out this has happened again and again with the bully feigning an apology each time).

The victim has the courage to not shake hands and the teacher says

“You’re just like him”.

The boy says “Except I don’t hurt people”.

Can you imagine if we expected such things of adults? Do we expect rape victims to shake hands with their accusers and if they don’t are they ‘just like him.”?  It made me so mad I wanted to throw something at the screen.  I actually said ‘unbelievable’ out loud and then 2 girls in the theater looked at me.

One of my favorite moments was the Mom of a boy named Alex meeting with a principal that despite proof of abuse on a bus claimed ‘I’ve ridden that bus and they are good as gold’.  The Mother says ‘When I was a child that bus would have been pulled over until the bad behavior stopped’.  That’s what we have lost.  Now I’m not advocating physical discipline for children but to pretend like adults have to sway over the behavior of children is just wrong.

Children should be safe and protected at home and school- in fact sometimes they need to be safer at school than in some homes.  I know in my case little was done to stop bullying that lasted for nearly 2 years despite repeated requests from my parents.

It is a complicated problem but a couple things I suggest:

1.  CHANGE SCHOOLS– My parents changing schools literally changed my life.  I was fortunate enough to be able to go to private school and then my family moved but there are always other options.  There are charter schools, online schools, homeschool, tutors, whatever.  Anything is better than someone being a in situation where they are tormented.  Its like sending an abused women into a closed building with their abuser 8 hours a day.  Be open-minded, pray for direction and you will find something else that works.

2. Teach your children about differences and expose them to a variety of people.  Talk to them about bullying and what they can do if they see someone who is being treated unkindly or most importantly being ignored.  Teach them to look for people that seem a little different and try to befriend them.  When they don’t like someone try to discuss what it is and how if possible they can learn to love that person.  I’m not saying they have to be friends with everyone, that isn’t realistic but each kid that tries is one less bully.

One of the Mom’s who lost her son to a bullying related suicide said ‘He cried and then it got to the point where he didn’t cry and then it became difficult to know what’s going on’.  Watch for those early tears…

3. Find something your child is good at and nourish that skill.  Everyone is good at something (or at least enjoys something) and usually you can find someone else who shares that interest.

4. Make sure your children have one person in their life who is an uncompromising cheerleader.  Parents have to discipline their children and say things they may not like but I was immeasurably benefited by several people who loved me unfailingly including my Grandpa Richards and my young women’s leader Sister Potter.  They never gave me ‘constructive criticism’.  I was always beautiful and perfect.  Everyone needs that kind of cheerleader.  Whether its a boys or girls club or a mentor look for that for your children.

5.  Speak out about your history being bullied.  Each of us that speaks adds another voice to the world, one more voice that says ‘It gets better’.  ‘It will be OK’.  ‘Don’t give up’. ‘God loves you’.

6. This is just my opinion but I think rough housing and mean joking should be avoided.  A lot of the bullying in the movie starts out as rough housing and honestly may be viewed by the bullies as just fun but it turns so fast.  One of the kids in the movie has a sister that teases him a little bit. At one point she says ‘LOSER spells Alex’.  Things like this are not helpful and should be disciplined when possible.  Again, I’m not a Mom so its just my opinion as an observer.

https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/memories/

Here’s my voice:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

(Just to be clear when I talk about my accomplishments its not to brag but just to say ‘you can do whatever you want in your life’)

Classic Disney

I have always been a huge Disney fan. I love Disneyland and eagerly look forward to new animated films each year. My favorite movie is almost always animated with Tangled being in my top 5 movies of the last several years.  I love the music, artistry and characters we get in any Disney film.  As a child my favorite movies were The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Recently I have been getting classic Disney films on netflix and watching them in order of release date.  It is a fascinating exercise.  I just finished Bambi and one of the things that stuck out to me is how dark the films all are.  All of them have near-deaths or deaths and are painted with a somewhat somber tone.  This is interesting because you would think the last thing audiences in the 30s would want is a sad picture?   Perhaps there was something cathartic about going to the cinema and seeing animated characters persevere through tough times?

For example, Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi are basically all about orphans.  There is also a very clear distinction between right and wrong.  In Pinocchio you are either lying or telling the truth, no in-between half nose growth!  In Bambi there is the menace of mankind that is always bad.  There are no friendly humans.  There is just evil and good, and the evil destroys the family.  Interesting.

Snow White is perhaps the most commercial of the early pieces but it still has some unusual touches.  Just as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi are all abandoned by their mothers, Snow White is left with no mother but one that wishes to kill her. I wonder if this is saying the people in the 30’s felt an extra need for the comfort of a mother’s nurturing, that somehow there was a void of this type of nurturing in darkness of the Great Depression?  Perhaps there were groups who wished they could fall asleep until true love saved them.  I can see how that would be a very appealing notion.

Also the dwarfs with their hard working, mining, singing ‘hi, ho’ must have been easy for a depression-era audience to relate to.  The idea of ‘whistle while you work’, a terrific notion for those that often did not have work.

Its fascinating that Disney did not produce another princess movie after Snow White until Cinderella in 1950.  Instead they proceeded to release one artistic, risky venture after another, with none of them having the same easy schtick as a Dopey or Doc in Snow White.  (They did not learn that lesson in the 90s with the ever wearisome sidekicks that muddled pictures like Pocahontas).  From all I can tell Walt Disney was a true artist as well as an entrepreneur and was not satisfied to make mere money but wanted beauty also.

Dumbo is particularly interesting especially when you consider it was released the week of Pearl Harbor.  As a modern viewer it feels very sad but it was looked at as the time as a hopeful piece. The New York Times described it as the “most genial, the most endearing, the most completely precious cartoon feature film ever to emerge from the magical brushes of Walt Disney’s wonder-working artists!”.  Strange how the tone in pieces can change when it is viewed in different eras?

I think Dumbo was hopeful because it was about someone facing insurmountable odds and becoming a star.  It is a very simple story and not much happens but someone who is different finds acceptance and success. The speech by Timothy Q Mouse to the crows must have been especially moving to a nation at war, facing a bully.   Its like Disney was talking directly to the Pearl Harbor bombers and Hitler in Europe.

“You all oughta be ashamed of yourselves. A bunch of big guys like you, pickin’ on a poor little orphan like him. Suppose you was torn away from your mother when you was just a baby. Nobody to tuck you in at nights. No warm, soft, caressin’ trunk to snuggle inta. How would you like being left out alone, in a cold, cruel, heartless woild? And why? I ask ya, why? Just because he’s got those big ears, they call him a freak. The laughing stock of the coicus. And when his mother tried to protect him, they threw her into the clink. And on top of that, they made him a clown! Socially he’s washed up! Aw, but what’s the use of talkin’ to you cold-hearted boids? Go ahead! Have your fun! Laugh at him! Kick him now that he’s down! Go on! We don’t care.”

Dumbo, like  other early films, is an artistic achievement.   Painted on watercolors it has a surrealist quality that is not found in any other Disney film.  Bambi is gorgeous using layered backgrounds and the most realistic animals that had ever been drawn (look at the difference between Snow White in 37 and Bambi and 42 and the animals are quite astounding).  Both Bambi and especially Fantasia were light on dialogue and heavy on music but as visual paintings they work.  In Fantasia they create whole ballets to classic music.

As a child I grew frustrated with Fantasia because of its lack of plot but as an adult I can appreciate it as the work of art it was intended to be.  It is remarkable to think that enough kids were interested in classical music to even justify beginning such a project.  You could never get a new movie like that made today (I know there is Fantasia 2000 but that was geared mainly to adults nostalgic for the original.).

Disney’s boldness in choice of subject, character and tone is especially interesting when you think of the small window of influence the films had.  There was no Disneyland, no large-scale product merchandising.  The film was it.  If it did not do well there were no DVD sales to back it up or large over-seas markets (especially pre WWII).  So the fact they would pick such bold and unorthodox pieces to work on is truly remarkable.

The only Disney classic that I must own to not caring for is Pinocchio.  I found it terrifying as a child, especially the part where the kids turn into donkeys.  Not that I was a lying child but its a pretty grim, scary scene!  Still, watching it as an adult I enjoyed the artistry and risk that such a film took.  The depth of the drawings and level of details are amazing. Also, the scenes inside the whale, while beautiful, are terrifying for a little girl!

I do love When You Wish Upon a Star. One of my favorite Disney songs ever.

I think such a song must have wrung true for the generation of 1940 with war, poverty and despair, a lot of wishing and hoping must have occurred daily.   In a world where we face some of these same challenges perhaps it worth while to view what uplifted them and see if it can do the same for us now?  At the very least its been an entertaining and enriching experience.   I highly recommend it!  Bambi and Dumbo go into the vault (such an obnoxious advertising technique by Disney) soon so act now while you have the chance.

What classic Disney do you like? Do you view them differently now than as a child?  What is your favorite all-time Disney movie?  Do you think we’ve lost something with the death of hand-held animation (I do)?

Snow White- 1937

Pinocchio- 1940

Fantasia- 1941

Dumbo- 1941

Bambi- 1942

Ichabod and Mr. Toad- 1949

Cinderella- 1950

Alice in Wonderland- 1951

Peter Pan- 1953

Lady and the Tramp- 1955

Sleeping Beauty- 1959

101 Dalmations- 1961

Wilde Wisdom

Today I have had a lot on my mind.  Trying to decide to have surgery, getting immersed in a new ward (which went great btw.  More on that to come)etc.  Where did I turn?- yes to the scriptures, prayer and friends but also to Mr.  Oscar Wilde and his play An Ideal Husband.  Who would have thought that a gay man from the late 19th century would have so much to to teach a Mormon girl in 2012.

The play is about a politician who has a past unbeknownst to all of his friends including the silly Lord Goring. Unfortunately this past is used as blackmail and all pandemonium breaks free.  Well, here are some quotes that made me laugh and some that made me think:

Lord Arthur Goring: Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself.

Lord Caversham: I don’t know how you stand society. A lot of damned nobodies talking about nothing.
Lord Arthur Goring: I love talking about nothing, Father. It’s the only thing I know anything about.

Lord Caversham: Do you always understand everything you say?
Lord Arthur Goring: Yes… if I listen attentively.

Lord Arthur Goring: I’m sorry, Father, but the truth is, this is not my day for talking seriously.
Lord Caversham: Well, what do you mean, sir?
Lord Arthur Goring: I mean that I only talk seriously on the first Tuesday of every month. Between noon and three.

Mabel: Lord Goring, I gather you’re to be congratulated.
Lord Arthur Goring: Well, there’s nothing I like more than to be congratulated, though invariably I find the pleasure immeasurably increased when I know what for.
Lord Arthur Goring: There’s somebody I want to you talk to.
Lord Caversham: What about?
Lord Arthur Goring: About me, sir.
Lord Caversham: Not a subject on which much eloquence is possible.

Lord Arthur Goring: Rather than risk losing your love, he would do anything. Has he not been punished enough?
Gertrude: We’ve both been punished. I set him up too high.
Lord Arthur Goring: Do not set him down now too low.

(I like this one when thinking of couples I know after a break up.  Someone once too high, suddenly becomes too low.)

Lord Arthur Goring: Gertrude, it is not the perfect, but rather the imperfect who have need of love.
Gertrude: You seem to know a great deal about it all of a sudden.
Lord Arthur Goring: Oh, I hope not. All I know, Gertrude, is that it takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it. And even more courage to see it in the one you love. Gertrude, you have more courage than any woman I have ever known. Do not be afraid now to use it.

I think that last one is true of yourself.  Don’t you have those moments where you see yourself in all its tainted glory? I do.  Have had those moments lately (something about turning 31. You must face your own mortality, your own value to the world).  I feel closer to God and Jesus Christ than ever before.  In fact, I haven’t felt their presence as palpably in my life since my mission.

It is certainly true that ‘it is not the perfect, but rather the imperfect who have need of love.’ I’m proof of that!  We all are.  (Unless the perfect man really is out there and if so please show yourself to me at once!)

It reminds me of one of my favorite speeches The Solitude of Self by Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

“To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to watch the winds and waves, and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman; nature, having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish.”

There are moments in life when you get to know yourself- Aren’t those tough? but we need them to see our true potential.  Working on that right now, the solitude of self…

Favorite Christmas Movies

Fa, la, la, la, la.  The special time of the year is starting next week with Thanksgiving.  I leave on Tuesday for California where I will be visiting my folks along with 4 out of my 5 siblings and their families.

It will be a challenging time for the diet (especially because I found out I gained 10 lbs in October 😦 I don’t know how that happened.).  There is so much yummy food at my parents house and being away from my gym is always tough.

At least I get two days next week off of my sugar fast- Thanksgiving and the day after.  I am so excited to eat pie!  My mother makes the best pie in all the world (I defy anyone to go up against her pies!).

The only pie I’ve ever had that I don’t care for is rhubarb but my favorites are apple, pumpkin and lemon meringue.  I can not make pies like my Mom.  Her crusts are so flaky.  Yum! (the sad part is my Mom can’t eat her pies any more because she is gluten intolerant. Sad story!)

Anyway, one thing that will hopefully keep my  mind off of food and give me a break from work is the beginning of the holiday film season.  I am an unabashed  Christmas movie geek.  I like all levels of seasonal films everything from sublime classics like Its a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street to Hallmark made for TV movies like The Town Christmas Forgot or the Christmas Shoes…

I think part of the reason I love Christmas movies is that I spend many holiday nights alone, which is fine with me but the holidays can feel a little lonely sometimes. It can be a little bit sad to not have a special person/children to buy presents for or start new traditions.

I have my own traditions such as going to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater or the Messiah Sing in but I still like the hominess and comfort that a Christmas movie brings.  (Hopefully that doesn’t sound too pathetic!)

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before I also LOVE any retelling of the Christmas Carol.  From Mickey, to the Muppetts, to George C.  Scott, I have never met a Christmas Carol that I didn’t love.  I find the story of redemption and hope through Christ (in the form of Christmas) so moving.  I even liked the most recent animated version with a very subdued Jim Carey (I had my doubts going into it but its great!).

I wager to say I have seen every non-R rated Christmas movie (sorry friends haven’t seen Bad Santa or the recent Harold and Kumar. You will have to go to another blog for those reviews).  From all of those movies I have whittled it down to a top 10 list, so that you can easily make your Yuletide viewing choices.  (Some of them I mentioned above)

1. Its a Wonderful Life- So moving.  The classic of the desperate George Bailey who hates his job, is tired of his family and has just lost a great deal of money.  As a youth he dreamed of doing something great and exciting but ended up saddled at his father’s business while his younger brother went off to see the world.  I think this movie is so widely viewed because George’s situation is universally relatable.

I don’t care how grand your life is every one has days where they feel discouraged and frustrated with the course of their life.  As we watch George get his gift of perspective (life without his presence) all of us take pause for a moment and remember how blessed we truly are and that we matter to the world. Make sure to watch it in the beautiful black and white- none of this terrible colorized print. Same is true for the next film

2. Miracle on 34th St- The classic tale of the little girl and her workaholic Mom who don’t believe in magic or Santa.  Edmund Gwen won a best supporting Oscar for his portrayal as St.  Nick as well as wins for the screenplay and story.  Natalie Wood is excellent as the little girl and the whole movie has a depth to it not found in most holiday romance pictures.  Its wonderful. (Is available right now as a stream from Netflix)

3. Christmas Carol (1951 and 1984).  As noted above, I love any version of the Christmas Carol.  My two favorite are probably from 1951 starring Alastair Sim and 1984 starring George C.  Scott.  In both of these versions the true Christian message of the book is brought out not just the cheerful holiday tone.  Again, I love the story of redemption and that no one is a lost cause with Christ’s help.  The Jim Carey version is available right now as a stream from Netflix and well worth your time)

4. White Christmas- I know the plot is contrived and ridiculous but who watches a movie like this for the plot? Its all about the wonderful Irving Berlin music from talents like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the amazing, over the top dance numbers from Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen.  So many classic songs like Count Your Blessings, Sisters, Best Things Happen While Your Dancing, and of course the title number White Christmas. So great!

5. Christmas Story- Some people in my family don’t like this movie but I think it is very funny.  I like the sarcastic tone of the narrator as little Ralphie schemes for his Red Ryder air rifle.  With all the laughs there are also moments of subtlety and tenderness particularly in the scenes between mother and son after Ralphie’s big fight with the bully.

6. Elf- A movie that should have been terrible but actually works.  Enjoying this movie entirely depends on whether you think Will Farrell is funny.  I happen to, so I love this movie.  Zooey Deschanel is wonderful as the love interest and James Caan hilarious as Buddy’s workaholic father.  Elf wrings out every possible joke it can and about 85% made me laugh so I’d say that’s a winner.

7. Dr.  Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).  One of the few Christmas movies I don’t like is the live action version of this wonderful animated short, based on Dr.  Seuss’s Christmas story of a monster Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas by stealing all the presents.  Every attempt they have made of updating Seuss just doesn’t work.

First of all, his books are short and do not stretch to a 2 hour running time.  Secondly, what is charming in drawing form looks bizarre and twisted in human form.  For example, the Who’s in the book/animated short are cute and cuddly; where in the live action they look like strange deformed pigs.  Anyway, the classic music from Boris Karloff makes this short truly memorable.

8.  A Charlie Brown Christmas- Who doesn’t have a soft spot for the brood from Peanuts (a name Charles Shultz always hated)? Snoopy, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Linus and of course Charlie Brown are part of most American childhoods.  This animated short is near perfect.  Vince Guaraldi’s wonderful music is practically synonymous with the holidays and whether it is Charlie Brown’s love for a sad small tree or the work kids do to put on the yearly pageant this film is sweet and perfect for Christmas.  (Its kind of sad that nobody would think of doing a Christmas pageant any more in a public school…)

9. The Shop Around the Corner- While not technically a Christmas movie, it is set during the holidays and selecting gifts proves a critical plot point.  The story is that Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan hate working together but are secretly cherished pen pals to each other.

You’ve Got Mail was adapted from this movie and I love both versions. However, The Shop Around the Corner goes a bit darker at points than You’ve Got Mail.  The incidents involving Stewart’s boss and a suspected affair are moving and balance out the witty, more frothy parts. These movies explore the idea of work and what value we get from our work and working relationships. I love movies about work.

10. So many I could pick for the last spot Polar Express,  Scrooged, Meet Me in St.  Louis, Love Actually, Little Women, Nightmare Before Christmas, Home Alone, Christmas in Connecticut, Christmas Vacation and even the trite but fun The Holiday (and don’t forget those stop motion shorts- especially the one about the island of misfit toys).

All good picks but I will chose a lesser known films, Joyeux Noel.  This beautiful movie tells the story of a ‘Christmas truce’ between the Scot/French troops and their German enemies in WWI.  This begins as a German opera singer starts singing Silent Night for his troops and others join in.

Eventually the soldiers meet and agree to a Christmas cease fire zone where good wishes and Christmas treats are shared between opposing sides.  It may sound cloying but its not.  Its beautiful and tender and does not necessarily have a happy ending.  However, to be catapulted back into the realities of war does not disturb the power of one moment of peace. Very good film that originally had an R rating (crazy!) but it was changed to a PG-13.

So that’s my list.  I hope you all have as much fun watching holiday movies as I will.  In fact, if you are in town join me for a viewing! I can’t promise the treats will be good but we can enjoy some wonderful, faith-filled, Christmas films.