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Distraction via Cinema

Posted by on October 14, 2010

Well, today’s the day of the big “procedure” and, while I know absolutely that it’s the right course, I can’t help but feel a little glum.  In an effort to stay out of the gray mist of melancholy, I thought I’d distract myself with some movie project updates.  I’ve watched a whole slew again and have some catching up to do!  And…we’re off!

I watched the film De-Lovely for a multitude of reasons: I love Cole Porter’s music, I was intrigued by his life story, and I was in the mood to do a little semi-relevant research for my own book writing.  I was hoping to get some insights and inspiration.  And…well, I was pretty disappointed, actually.  The story is naturally based on the songwriter’s life as a semi-closeted man-about-town in the 1920s.  Despite the open secret of his sexuality, he meets and marries Linda Lee Thomas, a divorcee widely regarded as the loveliest woman in Paris at the time.  The unconventional love story depicted in the film was beautiful, I thought.  Linda knows about Cole’s sexuality, but the two are utterly devoted to one another and remain married until death parts them.  In the film, they sometimes share intimacy (I don’t know if this was the case in real life) and Linda is portrayed as having a tolerant, if sometimes testy, reaction to Cole’s liaisons.  I’d like to think that I’d be as conciliatory in her position, but I don’t honestly know how she remained so secure throughout the relationship.  They are the best of friends, and their companionship (and Linda’s facilitation of Cole’s musical career) is authentic and stunning.

 

The film went awry for me in its format.  While Kevin Kline was (surprisingly) incredible as Cole Porter, and Ashley Judd was a fine Linda Lee Thomas, and the music and costumes and scenery were scrumptious…the structure was jarring.  It was as though Porter was watching scenes in a stage show, flashing back on events in his life, and the whole thing was so contrived.  Also?  They used modern-day singers (I use that term lightly because…Alannis Morrisette?  Like she would be chosen from the chorus to sing a lead?  Um, no.) and it was a disaster.  I don’t want to see Robbie Williams in my period film.  I can’t stand Natalie Cole.  Even artists I like (Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow) made me wince when they appeared in a nightclub band.  The movie, as a whole, missed its mark because of this contrivance.  Bummer.

Next up was a movie recommended by good ‘ol Charlie: A Town Called Panic.  Wow, what a weird and wonderful little movie this was!  It’s a stop-action animation sort of movie, in French with English subtitles, and I watched it one night with my three little dudes.  We all really loved it.  If you want to see something unique, funny, silly, and French, watch this.  I asked Maxwell if he’d been reading along quickly enough to get it, or if he’d just been watching the action of Horse, Cowboy, Indian, and friends and he said he’s been able to read everything AND watch the little figures doing their absurd thing.  If a 7-year-old can enjoy a subtitled film, then so can you!  Though as Ollie and Seth proved, the action stands alone and is very enjoyable.  In the words of Maxwell, “Please tell Charlie we really liked A Town Called Panic, and thank him for the recommendation.”

The next movie I watched was a documentary called A Walk to Beautiful.  This story followed several young mothers in Ethiopia who had suffered a childbirth injury called a fistula and were on their way to a special hospital in Addis Ababa in the hopes of being cured.

If you have no idea what a fistula is, you can read here but I really encourage you to see if you can watch this film.  I got it streaming from Netflix, so for those of you with that capability, check it out.  I’ve read that this particular malady is likely to have also been present in our own country and everywhere when our nations, and medical care, were still developing.  It’s shocking that a relatively simple procedure can be done to cure these women but so many cannot get to the care they require; even more, prevention is entirely possible with education and more medical professionals to assist in complicated births.  So, if you like, you can learn more, and then see what might be done to help.

Then I watched another silly movie with the kids, Muppets From Space, and it was good fun.  I mean, the story focuses on Gonzo.  Enough said.

My friend Jodi had long ago recommended a movie called Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day.  I actually got to watch this one with her in her home theater room, complete with electric reclining movie seats, cozy down throw blankets, and popcorn.  And the movie itself?  Did not disappoint.  Oh, how I loved this movie.  It was incredibly charming, just like its stars (Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. So much love.)

Guinevere Pettigrew is a down-on-her-luck former governess who stumbles into a position as a social secretary for the indefatigable Delysia LaFosse, whose unwavering desire to be famous has her involved with 3 men, only one of which she actually loves.  This movie is a throwback to all the quick-paced comedy-of-errors films of yore.  The score was fantastic, as were the costumes and settings.  Then again, I’m a sucker for pre-WWII era anything.  This movie is the height of fun; please see it!

Next I settled in with my sister-in-law’s copy of a movie I’d been wanting to see: The Holiday.  What can I say?  I’m a fool for Kate Winslet and Jack Black.  Too bad they were the only halfway redeemable element in this movie.

I almost hate to say this, because I know my girl liked the movie enough to buy it, but I thought it was pretty awful.  My brother even tried to warn me, calling it “terrible, just terrible”.  I can see why some people would find it appealing, but…I don’t know.  I felt like it pandered to what women are supposed to desire in a movie.  I should have liked it; the premise of house-swapping was interesting, the sets were beautiful, the stars are pretty and charming enough.  Jude Law was okay, but Cameron Diaz?  Is just awful.  I mean…terrible.  I never thought her a talented actress by any means, but this movie demoted my opinion of her.  If that was even possible.  It’s too bad, because the movie was written and directed by a woman and anytime that happens I get excited by the possibilities.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a typical girl in any sense, but it did not work for me.  Sorry, Ang…I have to go with Mark on this one.

Babies!  Just what I’m trying not to think about today.  I watched this documentary on my birthday, and my husband was good enough to watch it with me in honor of my special day of specialness.  This film was…incredible.  It followed four babies “from their first breath to their first steps”.  The babies were from Mongolia, Japan, Namibia, and the U.S.  Only the Mongolian baby was a boy and guess which baby I was most in love with?

The really fascinating thing about the movie is that, with little to no language, so much of the first year of the human experience could be expressed.  And while there are certainly differences in the paths to toddlerhood, every baby makes it through that year of growing, sleeping, peeing, eating, playing, communicating, and loving.  So while the parents of San Francisco-based Hattie would never in a million years be working and chatting away while their baby dug in dirt and put unidentified bones in her mouth, Namibian mother of Ponijao is unconcerned.  This movie got both Joe and I thinking a lot about the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting”, which we try hard not to do, and how constant interference with the exploratory nature of children makes us look ridiculous.  Because Bayar, sometimes tied to the bed frame and left to play with an older brother while his parents worked their farm, finally takes those triumphant first steps just like the others.  P.S.  I wept when he did.  Is there anything more beautiful than the beaming face of a successful child on the brink of that freedom?  So I encourage you to watch this movie and think about the universality of babies, of humans…and what we might learn from other ways of parenting.

And finally…at the end of this very long post…Onegin.  This was a film that, once again, suffered from a distracting lead actor.  Also the other lead actor’s hair.  It’s a movie based on a really interesting verse story by Pushkin.  The film stars Ralph Fiennes, whom I’ve always admired, sporting a very unnatural and unbecoming hair color.  Apparently men in 19th century Russian aristocracy preened and went to the salon.

It’s set in St. Petersburg and rural Russia in the early 19th century, and tells the story of a bored society man (Onegin) who meets a young girl (oh God, not Liv Tyler!)  The girl, Tatyana, falls in love with Onegin and professes as much in a letter, which was highly unbecoming of a women in her situation in that environment.  Onegin perhaps feels for her as well, but he’s too much of a dandy to settle for provincial married life.  The events that follow are undoubtedly tragic, and had Joe watched this movie with me he would have dubbed it “Ethan Frome-like”.  That’s his way of saying that the painful impossibility of love is unbearable and, ultimately, stupid.  Poor Joe, not understanding social conventions of centuries past.  Or poor me, for constantly falling into this trap.  The story was compelling, but I was too distracted by Arwen Liv Tyler and her lack of emotional range.  She can do: pouting, looking broody, pouting insolence, and melancholia.  And pouting.

Well, that’s it from me today.  Finally.  Joe and I hope to watch some movies together during his convalescence, so look for more updates soon.

6 Responses to Distraction via Cinema

  1. Boompa

    With Secretariat now in the theaters, can I suggest some other horse/horse racing movies? Remember Phar Lap? How about Seabiscuit? Or maybe some bicycling movies–or better yet bike racing movies? I’m sorry Joe, the urge to think about you, thinking about being ‘astride’ just about anything was too much to pass up. Nana and I have had you in our prayers as you prepared for today and we hope the whole bunch of Juvlands comes through this with flying colors.

  2. Crazy Aunt Laura

    I saw Miss Pettigrew months ago at the cinema and loved it! I think CALi was with me. Can’t remember. Also, some time ago you mentioned Sunshine Cleaning. Another winner. Have you watched Whatever Works with Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood? You’ve got to see that one. Also the one that’s a true story about a senior citizens choral group that goes around entertaining folks? Li would remember the name of this one. Keep up the good work, even if you only mention 1 of 10 that I’ve seen! No surprise there.

  3. m/n

    You mean he will be watching movies in his reclining chair while you bring him tasty convalescing morsels?

    I agree with you on the Liv Tyler and the Cameron Diaz thing. Cannot stand them. Cannot cannot. I haven’t seen either of those films and feel pretty confident that I never will. At least Liv has an excuse– her mouth probably drags itself down and she doesn’t have the strength in her face muscles to lift it; hence, the perpetual pout. But Cameron Diaz has no excuse. She should just stop putting everyone through the misery of watching her.

  4. Crazy Aunt Linda

    There is only 1 of these movies that I have seen and, surprisingly, it is NOT Muppets in Space. Which I just know I would love. Nope, it’s The Holiday and it’s been a while but I think I enjoyed it! And, whether or not Cameron Diaz can act, I think she is HOT. So sue me. Have wanted to see Babies ever since I heard about it and REALLY thought it would come here but, no. Laroo, again, no to me and you and Miss Pettigrew but I would like to see that and we have seen some other good-uns together! The true story about the senior citizen’s choral group is called: “Courtney’s Future”. OK, not really but I forgot to look it up. Is VERY good! Brer Mike, I have seen Phar Lap and it was very good. I had to see it after a friend here on the island, who is an Aussie, was at a party where we were doing some funny fake horse races and I was in charge of naming the horses. Suddenly he shouted at me: “You MUST name one Phar Lap! YOU AMERICANS KILLED PHAR LAP!” Sometimes it is very hard being an American in a foreign country. Anyway, I watched the movie and it seemed to me the Mexicans killed him. Or the Mafia.
    So that is all I know about that. Once again, I am longing to get back to the land of available cinema and I am hoping the patient is resting peacefully. Love to All.

  5. Angie

    OK, I must admit – I really do like the Holiday . . . a lot. It’s mindless, and has pretty scenery, things I enjoy in movies from time to time – and I love Jack Black! BUT I also deny buying it . . . as it was a gift! From none other than . . . . Mark! HAHA. I am sorry you didn’t like it, but now you know! CALi – I am glad you like it – and I agree Cameron Diaz is HOT!

  6. Charlie

    I love Max’s feedback on A Town Called Panic. My favorite character is the verbally abusive husband and farmer with the anger management problem who lives next door. He and his wife have a strange love/hate relationship.

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