Feb 10 2017

La La Land: Conflicting Dreams

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La La Land is about contrasts and choices. The film starts with lots of light, a bright color palate, and an energetic, upbeat a song and dance…hopes and dreams. The film ends in a dimly lit club, with bluesy jazz…regret and acceptance. The film communicates a contrast between the pure joy of developing a talent and engaging in art and the self-aggrandizing, greedy, prideful world that promotes and monetizes art. It juxtaposes homages to mid-20th century musicals with modern-day challenges of pursuing an artistic career in L.A. The story centers around relationship of an actress and a musician who meet and fall in love in L.A. and on the tension created as they try to balance their relationship with pursuing their separate career dreams. La La Land considers the difference between the romance of dreams pursued with the reality the dreams realized. Continue reading


Oct 5 2014

Destiny, chance, and choice in the motifs in Forrest Gump

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gump shoes“I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I, I think maybe it’s both,” Forrest tells Jenny as he stands over her grave. Forrest Gump begins and ends with the feather caught on the breeze. Yet this seemingly random feather lands at Forrest’s feet and he picks it up.

It lands there as he waits for the bus that will reunite him with Jenny twenty-something years after their first meeting. He picks it up and puts it in his Curious George book, the book his mother read to him when he was little. Later it falls out of the book at another bus stop and is carried away by another breeze. (Notice how many films begin and end with bookend scenes like this.) 

A motif is a repeated image, symbol, object, or word in a film that points to a theme. When something is repeated several times in a film it usually is important. Forrest Gump has a number of motifs including the feather and the chocolates that point to the themes of destiny, chance, and choice.  Continue reading


Sep 13 2014

Reflections on Forrest Gump: Forrest knows what love is

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Forrest Gump says “I’m not a smart man but I know what love is.” And he does. He loves his Momma, Bubba, Lt. Dan, and, most of all, Jenny.

Forrest shows his love for his mother by remembering and respecting what she teaches him. Mrs. Gump equips Forrest with an outlook that marks the way he processes the things that happen to him throughout his life. It is Forrest’s acceptance of whatever comes out of the “box of chocolates” that allows him to become a participant in historic events without questioning whether he belongs there. He accepts himself and believes he has something to offer because His mother instilled worth and confidence in him. He values other people in the way Mrs. Gump teaches him to value himself.

Forrest rushes into the Vietnam jungle to save his friend Bubba and ends up saving four other men. Forrest honors Bubba by following through with the plans they made to go into the shrimping business even though Bubba is dead. So deep is Forrest’s connection to his friend that he shares his fortune with Bubba’s family even though he doesn’t know them well and they think he’s stupid. Continue reading


Jul 20 2014

RIP James Garner and thanks for The Notebook

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NotebookR.I.P. James Garner. I loved him as Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, but he won my heart as Duke in The Notebook. Duke is the epitome of the faithful husband. Garner’s nuanced performance makes profound lines that could have come across as maudlin or trite completely relatable.

The film begins at a nursing home as the elderly Duke reads a story from a notebook to an elderly woman patient. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Allie doesn’t know Duke is her husband and has no memory of their life together. The love story that Duke reads sometimes seems vaguely familiar to her. As Duke reads the film flashes back to the action in the story.

SPOIILER ALERT: (Do yourself a favor and see The Notebook. Even if you are a guy. Not only the acting really fine, the directing and cinematography is amazing. The repetitive use of water and birds as motifs is masterful. And the romance is far deeper than your average Rom Com. It’s about the stuff that happens after happily ever after that defines real love.) Continue reading


Feb 13 2014

10 romantic movie scenes and why I love them

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Karl and Ellie from Up
What I love about it: The wedding is just the beginning of the love story.

Jerry and Dorothy from
What I love about it: Making mistakes doesn’t make it “too late” to mend love.

Robbie and Julia from The Wedding Singer
What I love about it: Love is about taking care of the other person.

Jamie and Aurelia from Love Actually
What I love about it: Love makes being together feels so much more right than being apart.

Jack and Rose from Titantic
What I love about it: Trust is a huge part of the decision to love.

Noah and Allie from The Notebook
What I love about it: Love keeps promises even when it might not matter.

Harry and Sally from When Harry Met Sally
What I love about it: Love makes dear those strange little quirks that annoy everybody else.

Lloyd and Diane from Say Anything
What I love about it: Love sometimes involves waiting and holding up heavy things for the other person.

Beauty and the Beast
What I love about it: Love involves risk, vulnerability, and accepting imperfection in another.

Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings
What I love about it: Receiving what another must sacrifice is as much a part of love as making sacrifices.

 


Mar 14 2013

Silver Linings Playbook and wounded healers

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May 5

Silver Linings Playbook is about two people who are both facing emotional challenges. Both Pat and Tiffany face mental health issues that concern their families and friends. Both are experiencing pain and loss and making destructive choices to deal with those. Continue reading


Jun 30 2012

Love and loneliness in Moonrise Kingdom

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SPOILER WARNING:

Sam and Suzy are both social misfits who feel alone and apart from other people. They meet at a church production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, an opera about Noah’s Ark, and make an immediate connection. Sam is only on the island for scout camp so they become pen pals. After a year’s correspondence they meet again and run away together when Sam returns for camp. As a huge storm approaches everyone pursues them to bring them back.

Moonlight Kingdom’s director and co-writer Wes Anderson’s storytelling involves attention to detail. Music, sets, and props all support the script in telling the story and communicating theme. Even the name of the town, New Penzance, is carefully chosen. The opera The Pirates of Penzance is about an orphan boy who falls in love at first sight. Continue reading


Mar 17 2012

An open letter to my young friends about the Invisible Children drama

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What happened with Invisible Children may have left some of you feeling disillusioned. Some of you may feel manipulated and disappointed and maybe a little foolish. I don’t want to see you discard your idealism and enthusiasm at the altar of discernment. Learning to give is as important as learning to think. My prayer for all of us is in I Cor. 13. May we be able  “to bear all things, to believe all things, to hope all things, and to endure all things.”  Continue reading


Dec 8 2011

Admonitions to love the misfits from Dan Pearce and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Yesterday a couple of people I know reposted the same article on facebook entitled I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay . Despite the title, the author, Dan Pearce, is not issuing an indictment against the prejudices of the Christian Church but rather a call to love others. Even if we disagree with another’s beliefs or lifestyle, even if we don’t like something about another’s cultural or religious practices, Pearce contends that hatred is not an appropriate response and does not reflect the nature of Jesus. In fact he lists admonitions to love from every major religion.

Pearce also lists groups of people who are frequent victims of rejection and disgust: “gay people, people who dress differently, people who act differently, fat people, people with drug additions, people who smoke, people with addictions to alcohol, people with eating disorders, people who fall away from their faiths, people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion, people with non-traditional piercings, people who just look at you or me the wrong way.” Maybe it’s because it’s Christmastime but as I read through Dan’s list I had this vision of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. As a sometime inhabitant of the Island I appreciated Dan’s passion and kindness. Continue reading


Nov 11 2011

My favorite American movie veterans

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Thank you to our veterans who are changed forever to preserve our freedoms. They go when they would rather stay home, they bear the marks of war on their bodies and their psyches. They are our friends and neighbors and our heroes. Here’s a list of my favorite veterans from some of our major wars.  Who are yours?

Benjamin Martin (The Patriot) – Revolutionary War. Brings not only his experience, but his wisdom and regrets to his second war. He won’t fight until it’s personal, leads reluctantly as a citizen soldier standing with his neighbors. It’s not about power.

54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.(Glory.) Civil War. A black regiment led by an idealistic white captain learn to put aside distractions and disagreements and focus on the cause. When one fell another took up the flag, a symbol of their determination to win freedom.

Sergeant York – World War I. Kinda hokey but I love this guy. He resists violence but he fights when his default setting is peace and love for his fellow man. Continue reading


Aug 14 2011

Harry Potter, Chosen Ones, and Heroic Sacrifice in Movies

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In my last post I wrote about Harry Potter as a messianic figure. He responded to his unique role as Voldemort’s nemesis by willingly sacrificing himself to defeat evil. He joins a distinguished list of sacrificial movie heroes. Some are chosen ones, some just choose. Continue reading

Jul 15 2011

The theme of death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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CONTAINS SPOILERS. Since he was marked by Voldemort as a baby it’s been clear that Voldemort’s defeat rests on Harry Potter’s shoulders. The prophecy states that “neither can live while the other survives.” Harry’s  already made the choice between what is right and what is easy. His decision to face Voldemort is not “if” but “when” and “how.”

Along with good vs. evil, and the burden of being “the one,”  death is a looming theme. Dumbledore paints death as a great adventure. Voldemort fears it and seeks to power over it. Throughout the series and especially in this last installment beloved characters die heroic deaths in the battle against Voldemort. Loved ones grieve their loss. This is the nature of death.

In the first movie Harry gazes into The Mirror of Erised (desire backwards) and he sees his dead parents. Quirrell/Voldemort is mistaken or lying when he tells Harry he can bring them back in exchange for the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Sorcerer’s Stone offers fortune and immortality but it’s the Resurrection Stone that brings back the dead. Since he loves no one, the only person Voldemort would care to resurrect is himself; it is immortality of the Sorcerer’s Stone that Voldemort is after but it is destroyed in the first movie.

In an attempt to gain immortality to go with his quest for absolute power Voldemort tears apart his own soul and commits murders to create horcruxes to house the pieces of his shattered soul. Fear of death motivates a few wizards to choose life as ghosts. Nearly Headless Nick tells Harry “I know nothing of the secrets of death, for I chose my feeble imitation of life.” A ghost is merely an imprint of a departed soul, but having splintered his own this is no longer a possibility for Voldemort. Continue reading


Jun 12 2011

Mystery, perspective, and the root of bitterness in Super 8

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SPOILER ALERT – This review contains spoilers.

STINGER ALERT – When you do see the movie stay until after the credits!

In Super 8 Abrams manages to tell an emotionally engaging story about his characters’ journeys without compromising on mystery, plot, or action. The mystery begins when a group of middle school students witness a train crash and find their science teacher in the wreckage with mysterious instructions for the group. It builds as two of the kids, Charles and Joe, actually watch what their dropped camera has caught on film.

Joe’s father, Deputy Jack Lamb wrestles with his own set of puzzling clues. There are mysterious power outages, all the town’s dogs run away, and then townspeople start disappearing. Meanwhile Jack and Joe are grieving the death of wife and mother and trying to establish some sort of working relationship without her. Continue reading


Jun 6 2011

Why The Tree of Life is a film but should have been a movie

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The Tree of Life is a film, not a movie. Films make you work harder than movies. Some movies are also films. If it wins a Best Picture Oscar it’s usually a hybrid. Movies that aren’t films hardly ever win. Films win Oscars but not usually for Best Picture.

If the audience rating is high but critics hated it, it’s definitely a movie. If the critic rating is higher than the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes it might be a film.

If it’s a trivia question in a bar, it’s probably a movie. If it’s a trivia question on Jeopardy it might be a film.

If the wordless parts are car chases it’s a movie. If the wordless parts are ethereal looking women looking at trees, it might be a film.

Continue reading


Apr 20 2011

Celebrating Easter with 15 Moments of Redemption in Movies

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Sometimes truth dawns slowly and change comes in fits and spurts. We begin thinking about eternity and seeking purpose. We recognize our baggage and want something better. We find ourselves inching toward truth in the choices we make and the causes we embrace. We want peace and reconciliation and community. While redemption happens in a moment of decision, the journey toward that decision and transformation that follows  is often a process.

Jules Winnfield – Pulp Fiction. Jules recognizes that redemptive forces are at work though he has not yet connected the dots. He finds himself longing to change his role from avenger to shepherd.   They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Rom 2:15

Charlie Babbitt – Rain Man. When Charlie realizes that Raymond is the secret friend, the “Rain Man” of his childhood, his self-centeredness and greed begins to break down. It’s not the moment of truth but the truth that leads to the moment.  Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34 Continue reading


Mar 15 2011

Fables and Proverbs in Please Give

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SPOILERS. What are our motives for charity? Does giving out of guilt cancel out the good we do? Nicole Holofceners’ award-winning screenplay explores motives behind acts of charity with Please Give. She may not have intended them but I saw lots of little fables in her storytelling.

Kate and her husband Alex run a trendy mid-century furniture store on 10th Ave. They purchase items at estate sales for a fraction of what they make reselling them.  Alex gleefully explains to customers who ask where they get their stuff, “we buy them from the relatives of dead people.” Business is good enough for Kate and Alex to purchase the apartment of their 91-year-old neighbor Andra so they can expand their home after she dies. Kate feels so guilty that much of her life hinges on the grief of others that she becomes obsessed with charity.

Continue reading


Feb 14 2011

Top 10 Favorite Romantic Comedies

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My husband knows how lucky he is. I’d rather watch a mountain blow up than watch a relationship blow up. I’ll admit it. I haven’t seen Blue Valentine, Black Swan, or any of the Twilight Movies. Once in awhile a dramatic love story comes along that actually captivates me. Once in awhile a film captures a truth that makes me nod my head, maybe nudge my husband, and seriously examine my sense of romance. Most of the time, though, if I’m going to watch a love story I’d rather watch a romantic comedy. Continue reading