Happy Oscar Day

It’s here! The Oscars, the 90th Academy Awards. The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California is full of excitement and anticipation, and people who love what they do.

My heart is full too. This is one of my favorite nights of the year. Truly. No one has to understand it. It is enough that I know it and enjoy this award show. Movies have had a huge impact on my life. From attending 10¢ matinees as a child, to discerning deeper messages within the stories as an adult, to finding personal symbolism and meaning for my life from films, this industry is important to me. It has been Happy Oscar Day for me all day. I’ve had fun whispering the words aloud to people, just for the sheer delight of expressing joy over this “holiday”.

Happy Oscar Day

I am blogging tonight as the Oscars unfold, making full use of commercial breaks. I have a pot of thyme, fennel seed and lemon balm tea. I have veggie rolls for dinner and an assortment of healthy snacks. And…here we go!

Jimmy Kimmel is hosting for the second time, after a successful show in 2017. He immediately addresses last year’s major goof…the mixup that resulted in the wrong winner being announced for Best Picture. And he gives voice to the movements against sexual harassment that are changing Hollywood and creating safer environments for women and men…#timesup, #metoo and #neveragain.

It’s a historical show. A record setting 40 women are among the nominees tonight. The youngest and oldest ever nominees are up for awards. And tonight is the 90th anniversary. Old movie clips are part of the show. Legendary actors, such as Eva Marie Saint, are presenting. So many amazing memories for me. I love it.

The first award is for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Although Christopher Plummer would break a record by winning this Oscar, the competition is fierce. And the winner is…Sam Rockwell, for an outstanding performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I agree with this choice.

Thunderstorms are rolling through my area. I lost electricity and tv signal for a short time. Thankfully, both came back on in a few minutes, just in time for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award. I have not seen Mudbound or I, Tonya. Both are on my “must watch” list. I’ve picked Allison Janney for this Oscar, based on the few clips I have seen. And the winner is…Allison Janney, for her performance in I, Tonya.

Best Animated Feature Film award goes to…Coco. This is another movie on my watch list. Three of the five nominated songs have been performed. They are all beautiful. I’m looking forward to This is Me, which will be sung by Keala Settle. I’m hoping the power and tv signal stays with me! The storms are moving eastward and away.

Host Jimmy Kimmel takes a group of actors and director Guillermo del Toro to the Chinese Theater across the street, where attendees are catching a sneak peek of A Wrinkle in Time, to say “Thank You!” to the movie goers. Without people watching the films, there would be no Academy Awards. They hand out candy and hotdogs to the shocked attendees. The audience explodes with screams and cheers. I smile over this, and suddenly I tear up. I feel thanked as well, for my years of movie viewing.

Two tough categories tonight were Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. The nominees all created powerful stories. Winners were James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name – Adapted Screenplay, and Jordan Peele, Get Out – Original Screenplay.

There were five powerful performances tonight, for Best Original Song. Keala Settle was phenomenal, singing my favorite, This is Me. Remember Me, from the animated film Coco won the award. I cheered for This is Me, however, I appreciated all of the songs. Coco goes on my watch list.

We are down to the final categories.

So many great films, and directors. Greta is the only woman nominated for directing. And the winner goes to…Guillermo del Toro for Shape of Water. It’s his first Oscar. I love this film. Guillermo is well known for his monster movies. I am excited for him, for his win.

This is another competitive category. Strong performances by each actor makes a decision difficult. I can list reasons why each one should take home the Oscar. I am hoping Timothée Chalamet wins his first award. On my ballot, however, I picked Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. And the winner is…Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. It’s Gary’s first Oscar, and well deserved.

More riveting performances, by such talented women. I am torn between Frances McDormand, Sally Hawkins and Saoirse Ronan. I selected Frances but I will applaud any of these fine actresses. The Oscar goes to…Frances McDormand, for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Frances has all the nominated women stand, in every category, and that is an impressive sight. “We all have stories to tell!” she enthuses. Yes!

We are to the final award. Others may snort, but to me, the evening has gone by so fast! I chose Shape of Water as my top pick for Best Picture. However, I appreciate each movie and cannot feel disappointment, no matter what the outcome. It’s a big moment! And the winner of Best Picture is… … … Shape of Water! I whoop. I laugh. I tear up. I do love this film.

Guillermo del Toro gives an emotion filled acceptance speech. He says, “I want to dedicate this, to every young filmmaker, the youth that are showing us how things are done. Really, they are. In every country in the world. Everyone who is dreaming of a parable, of using the genre of fantasy to tell the story about things that are real in the world, you can do it. This is the door. Kick it open and come in.”

What a great Academy Awards. And what a huge difference it made for me, watching all of the Best Picture nominated films before the Oscars. I understood more. I got the references, the jokes, and I felt I had an investment in the outcome. And, I successfully picked all the winners in all the major categories. I think that is a first for me.

My experience changes things. Going forward, I will watch all of the Best Picture nominated films ahead of the show, always, and as many of the other films and documentaries as I can, in all of the categories.

When he accepted the Oscar for Best Director, Guillermo said, “The greatest thing our art does, our industry does, is erase the lines in the sand. We should continue doing that.”

Yes, please continue. And I will continue watching and being moved to erase the lines with you.

Happy Oscar Day

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This was the day for the final movie in the Best Picture category. And, I did it…seven movies in seven days, plus two of the nominated films before this week, equals NINE movies. I’ve never seen all of the Best Picture nominated films ahead of the Academy Awards before. And I realize now what a difference it makes. I will be watching the Oscars differently this year, thanks to this fun experience.

Movie Review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Woody Harrelson, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Sandy Martin, Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes. This crime drama, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is rated R for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score, Best Actress in a Leading Role (McDormand), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harrelson and Rockwell both were nominated).

Mildred Hayes (McDormand) has experienced the unthinkable. Her daughter Angela was raped and murdered seven months ago, and the case appears to have gone cold. In the grieving process, Mildred is stuck in the rage stage. No arrests have been made, and in her opinion, Ebbing Police Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) is not doing enough to find the killer.

She takes matters into her own hands and rents three billboards just outside the city limits. The billboards express her frustration by calling out Chief Willoughby and asking, Why?

The Chief is a well liked man, respected by his men and the community. He explains to Mildred, with sincere sympathy, that although they have DNA evidence from the crime scene, there isn’t a match, not locally, not in Missouri, not anywhere in the US. They have no leads and the investigation seems to have hit a dead end. He reveals to Mildred that he is dying from pancreatic cancer. He doesn’t want emotions stirred up and the town in an uproar because of her billboards.

But Willoughby’s request to take down the messages is met with anger and a determination to keep the public aware of her daughter’s unsolved murder. Mildred’s wrath spills over on everyone, including her surviving child, a son named Robbie (Hedges), and her ex-husband Charlie (Hawkes), who blames Mildred for their daughter’s death. A somewhat rebellious teenager, Angela and her mother fought so frequently that the girl asked to live with her father. The dad told her to stay with her mom. Although there was a great deal of tension between mother and daughter, Charlie convinced Angela that her mom really did love her. A week later, Angela was dead.

The person who most resents Mildred and her signs is Officer Dixon (Rockwell). He is a complex person. Tough, with a bullying demeanor and a smart mouth, inwardly he doubts his abilities and feels unable to become the man he really wants to be. He lives with his controlling mother (Martin), looks to Chief Willoughby as a father figure, and has a very difficult time controlling his temper, which makes him a less than ideal police officer.

The whole town gets riled up by Mildred’s billboards, and her oft times unreasonable expectations. Underneath all her gruffness and sharp words though is a woman living in excruciating pain and guilt. Deep down, she blames herself also for Angela’s death. Rage is so much easier to keep honed and focused than grief and sorrow. But will anger fuel her determination long enough to find the person responsible and bring him to justice? And who decides what justice to mete out?

Pain is the word I would use to describe this movie. Everyone is in so much pain. For Mildred, the lack of closure creates a pain of loss that is unending and time is moving too slowly. For Chief Willoughby, the pain of cancer is literally eating him away and destroying the life he loves, and time is moving too quickly. The son hurts every minute of every day, because of his sister’s brutal death. And Dixon covers the pain he feels over his inadequacies and thwarted ambitions by hurting others.

There is humor sprinkled throughout the film, primarily through Dixon’s childish outbursts or his mother’s crude remarks, but this is a dark story. James (Dinklage) lightens the tone of the film in the scenes he appears in, until he feels rebuffed by Mildred on their one and only date. And then his pain rises to the surface as well.

I have to say that I was relieved to learn that this is not a true story, but loosely inspired by an event that happened twenty years ago in Texas. Ebbing, Missouri is a fictional town.

The acting is incredible in this film and all three actors deserve the nominations they have received. For me, however, this was a depressing story with no redemption or transformation for anyone. The characters are in pain, and they stay there. Chief Willoughby is the most likable of the major characters, a good hearted man with a wife and two young daughters, but his impending death drives him to choose the time of his demise.

Dixon has an opportunity to shift and grow and for a moment, it appears that he will become the man he really wants to be. But disappointing results from his attempt to do a heroic deed dump him back into reactionary mode. And Mildred…heartbroken, guilt ridden, furious with life and the world Mildred…well, she at last decides to take the law into her own hands and act. Or will she? As the movie screen fades to black, I saw just a hint of softening, and the tiniest release of long held tension.

Nine amazing films, and a host of incredible performances. It must have been difficult to choose which movie wins the Oscar. I’m still considering in what order I would rank the movies. How grateful I am for the privilege of watching so many fine films this week. And I am grateful to Regal for presenting the opportunity through their Best Picture Film Festival, and I am thankful I have a Movie Pass card.

I’ll be watching the winners Sunday night, at the 90th Academy Awards. Watch for my review of the evening!

Movie Review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Movie Review: Get Out

Down to the last two movies as I watch all of the Best Picture nominated films this week, today I saw Get Out. I purposefully avoid reading about the movies before I see them, so that I can watch without others’ opinions clouding my perspectives. I therefore knew nothing about Get Out. And now…I can’t stop thinking about it.

Movie Review Get Out

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root and LilRey Howery. This psychological thriller, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is rated R for language and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes.

Get Out is nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kaluuya) and Best Original Screenplay.

Chris (Kaluuya) is headed out for the weekend with his girlfriend of five months, Rose (Williams), to meet her parents. It’s often a nerve wracking experience, to meet the parents for the first time. Chris feels even more apprehensive when he realizes Rose has not told her mom and dad that he is black. She assures him that her parents are not racist and they will welcome him with open arms.

Rose appears to be correct. Dean (Whitford) and Missy (Keener) Armitage embrace Chris, figuratively and literally, claiming to be huggers, and also make it known that they admire and respect former President Obama. “I would have voted for him a third term!” Dean says with a laugh. Missy is a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnosis and Dean is a neurosurgeon. They live on a beautiful estate in a remote location.

However, as Dean shows Chris around the property, he begins to wonder if all is as it seems. A black couple, Walter (Henderson) and Georgina (Gabriel), works for the Armitages, as a grounds keeper and cook, respectively. Although they seem friendly enough, always smiling, Chris notices there is something “off” about the pair. His attempts to have conversations with them are unsettling.

And Rose’s younger brother Jeremy (Jones) walks a fine line between being welcoming and making disparaging remarks, couched in obnoxious humor. Worst of all, there is a huge party scheduled for the next day, and friends of the family will show up. Chris, who is an excellent photographer, had hoped to spend a quiet day capturing nature photos.

Later that night, after a strange encounter outside with Walter, Chris feels forced into a hypnotic session with Missy, who wants to help him quit smoking. He finds the experience disturbing, and although he now dislikes cigarettes, he has strange dreams about being in a sunken place, paralyzed by fear.

The next day, the Armitages’ wealthy friends arrive. They fawn over Chris, trying to relate with comments about Tiger Woods, or by saying that black is in, but they also make inappropriate remarks as well. Chris grows increasingly uncomfortable, although he remains polite and somewhat detached. He meets a blind art gallery owner (Root) who envies Chris’ photographic eye, and another black man, who is about his age. This man, Logan (Stanfield), looks vaguely familiar, but he is awkward in his conversation and manner, just like Walter and Georgina. When Chris takes his picture, the flash causes Logan to snap. He screams at Chris, “Get out! Get out!”

Chris’ best friend Rob (Howery) becomes extremely concerned when he hears about the weekend over the phone. He begs his friend to leave. Chris sends him the photo he snapped of Logan, and Rob, who works as a TSA at the airport, uses his detection skills to uncover that Logan is really a jazz musician named André, and he was reported missing six months ago.

Convinced he needs to leave, Chris finds it may be impossible, after all, to get out. And, he at last discovers the horrifying truth behind all the odd behavior at the Armitage Estate.

As thrillers go, this one is well done, reminiscent of the 1975 film, Stepford Wives. I jumped more than once, and some of the scenes, coupled with the music and the timing, were genuinely creepy. Humor is interspersed throughout the movie, provided primarily by Chris’ friend Rob, breaking the tension when it needs to be broken. And Chris is a genuinely nice guy, devoted to his lady, so much so that he strives to rise above the remarks that get tossed his way.

The actors portraying the Armitages and their hired help do an excellent job of playing people who are more than they appear to be. There are frightening moments captured perfectly through their odd behavior or dead pan expressions.

I enjoyed the film. And yet, I confess that at first, I couldn’t understand why it was nominated for Best Picture. This genre normally isn’t. As I thought about the film, and discussed it with Greg, I realized its proper category is social satire. Satire is defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose stupidity or vices, especially in the context of contemporary politics or other topical issues.”

As a satire, the perspective on this movie shifts dramatically. Get Out brilliantly exposes our current social situations in regards to race, by examining the wealthy liberal white and how some put out an appearance of not being racist, while yet attempting to exert control over minorities. This is a deep, and complex subject, that needs to be discussed more openly. Without revealing the ending of this shocking film, I can attest to the fact that it certainly caused me to think and feel and question.

It could be agued that racism goes in multiple directions, and that is true. However, Jordan Peele makes a heartfelt statement that needs to be heard, and in doing so creates in me a desire to listen…really listen. That’s the mark of a great movie, and an invitation for social change.

Satire comes from the Latin word satura, literally meaning poetic medley. Get Out is that, indeed…a poetic story that brings a variety of elements together to offer truth, if we will have the ears to hear.

Movie Review Get Out

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Another Best Picture nominated film and a Netflix TV series prepared me for this movie about British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Season One of The Crown, a series about England’s royal family, gives a glimpse into Churchill’s final years as prime minister. And the film Dunkirk dovetails perfectly with Darkest Hour. Together those two movies cover a historical event from two perspectives, creating a bigger picture.

Movie Review Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldham, Lily James, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Samuel West, Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane. This historical drama, directed by Joe Wright, carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Darkest Hour is nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Oldham), Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Cinematography.

In the early months of WWII, Hiltler’s armies are advancing across Europe. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Pickup) is forced to step down. He appoints Winston Churchill (Oldham) as his replacement. This story gives an account of Churchill’s first 30 days in office.

And what a dark time indeed to become prime minister. England faces the prospect of invasion as countries fall to Germany. As Churchill gets his feet under him and formulates a plan of action, he encounters resistance and opposition, from King George VI (Mendelsohn) and Chamberlain and his own newly appointed war council.

Supporting him are his loving wife, Clemmie (Thomas), Sir Anthony Eden (West), whom Churchill grooms as a future prime minister, and Miss Elizabeth Layton (James), Winston’s new personal secretary.

As battles rage in nearby France, Lord Halifax (Dillane) pressures Churchill to seek peace. He makes arrangements for Italy to host negotiations between England and Germany, as the British and French troops are forced onto Dunkirk Beach, with little hope of rescue. Although Churchill feels strongly that they should fight to the end and defend themselves against “that man”, as he called Hitler, he begins to doubt himself.

King George comes to Churchill privately, after much reflection, and offers his support. The turning points, for Churchill, come after he launches a campaign that sends 860 private boats across the channel to rescue trapped troops, and when he loses himself among the British citizens and asks for their honest feelings and opinions.

In one accord, England’s people declare their desire to fight against invasion and protect their homeland and their families. They would rather die, they vow, than surrender to a mad man. With renewed strength and confidence, buoyed by the fierce courage of Londoners and the looming successes at Dunkirk, Churchill addresses Parliament, giving a hastily prepared speech that secures his place as Prime Minister, and in history.

I sincerely enjoyed this film. I love historical dramas, and this one was incredibly well done. Gary Oldham was convincing as Churchill. I appreciated the humor and complexities he imbued this towering figure of a man with. I’ve seen many portrayals of Winston Churchill, and this one is my favorite. Gary became Churchill.

I learned new things from this movie as well. I had no idea Churchill had such opposition as he assumed the role of prime minister. It makes what happened in his first thirty days all the more extraordinary. And, I didn’t know how close we came to seeing a different outcome early in WWII, that could have changed the world as we know it. So much hung in the balance. What a tremendous weight on this man’s shoulders and heart.

Most of the time, I propose peace, and I endeavor to live at peace with myself and my fellow humans. But sometimes, we must fight for what we believe in and fight for what we hold dear. By the end of this story, I felt deep gratitude for the man who fought, who stood against opposition and against Hitler, and ultimately ensured freedom and peace, not only for England, but for the rest of the world.

Movie Review Darkest Hour

Movie Review: The Post

Today the movie adventure shifted into “based on a true story” genre as I experienced The Post. In fact, the next couple of movies fall into this category. In creating a schedule, I inadvertently grouped most of the historical dramas together.

Movie Review The Post

The Post stars Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood and Matthew Rhys. This historical drama, directed by Steven Spielberg, carries a PG-13 rating, for language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

The Post is nominated for two Oscars, Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Streep).

Set in Washington DC in 1971, this story follows the Vietnam War cover up that involved four presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. War analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Rhys) hands over copies of top secret documents, detailing the depth of involvement and deception, to the New York Times.

Scooped by the Times, the Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) sends his reporters out to find Ellsberg and any other info they can, to get a major headline out as well. Meanwhile, the Times receives a federal restraining order, preventing them from posting further.

This presents a window of opportunity for the Post to get a story out. Journalist Ben Bagdikian (Odenkirk) meets with Ellsberg himself, securing 4000 pages of the security documents, known as the Pentagon Papers. The Post now has a decision to make.

Movie Review The Post

Kay Graham (Streep) is the owner of the newspaper. Her father created the company and passed it on to Kay’s husband. Upon his death, Kay became the sole owner. She has a board, all men, who advise her and oversee decisions, such as taking the company public. In particular, board member Arthur Parsons (Whitford) has a difficult time working with a female owner. Kay seeks support from her friend and ally, Fritz Beebe (Letts).

As the journalists sort through the papers at Bradlee’s house, and begin crafting a breaking story for tomorrow’s newspaper, Kay is faced with the huge task of deciding whether to actually print it or not. She is friends with Bob McNamara (Greenwood), former Secretary of State. He urges her to hold on to the story, as do her legal counsel and the board.

Under threats from President Nixon, Kay and Ben face imprisonment if they publish. More than that, Kay could lose the newspaper company her family has built. Should she back down, to protect her company and her family? Or publish and fight for the freedom of the press?

I calculated that I was 13 years old when this historical event was taking place. Which means I was oblivious to it and the significance it held. When I became more aware of the war in Vietnam, it was winding down. I was fascinated by this movie and the story as I watched it unfold.

The 70s don’t seem so remote to me. I was therefore surprised by the notion held then that a woman couldn’t competently run a company. I enjoyed watching Kay gain confidence in her decision making abilities and her surety that she was doing the right thing. One of my favorite scenes occurred when Kay turned to her doubting board member and declared, “This isn’t my father’s company. This isn’t my husband’s company. This is MY company.” She had to believe that first, before anyone else could.

The real Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee.

I enjoyed The Post. It was well acted and moved at a fast pace, so much so that it was strangely tense as the story unfolded. And at the satisfying conclusion, my fellow movie attendees and I clapped and cheered. I loved that shared moment between us.

I realized that I recognized several in the theater audience. They appear to be doing what I am doing…watching all of the Best Picture nominated films…and they happen to be tracking with me, appearing at the same movies at the same times. I so appreciate that Regal Theaters opted to create the Best Picture Film Festival this year. They had a poster up today. There was even a special price for the series, although I used my Movie Pass card. What a great idea, though, and no wonder others are taking advantage of this fun opportunity.

As I shared previously, I had no prior knowledge that this festival was coming. I just expressed a desire to see all of the best picture nominated movies before the Oscars aired…and voila!

I sincerely hope this is a yearly event!

Movie Review The Post

Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

Who would guess that at 4:00 on a Monday afternoon, I would have the privilege of watching one of the most moving films I have ever seen. With a small group of 20 or so people, I sat quietly watching a love story unfold, while a host of emotions swirled around my heart. Today was Best Picture nominated film number five, Call Me By Your Name.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar and Esther Garrel. This romantic drama, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is rated R for adult themes and sexuality, and has a run time of 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Call Me By Your Name is nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song “Mystery of Love” and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Chalamet).

In 1980s Italy, seventeen year old Elio Perlman (Chalamet) is spending the summer with his parents (Stuhlbarg and Casar) in their gorgeous 17th century villa in the northern part of the country. Elio is a gifted musician, an avid book reader and well versed in a variety of subjects. Elio has been raised in a culturally rich home, well loved by his father, who is a professor specializing in Greco-Roman art, and his mother, a learned woman who is a translator. Their idyllic estate is surrounded by fruit orchards.

Twenty four year old Oliver (Hammer) arrives from the US to work with Mr. Perlman over the summer as an intern. Handsome, charismatic and good hearted, Oliver attracts a great deal of attention from the local community. Elio finds him arrogant, and turns his attention toward the young woman he has been flirting with all summer, Marzia (Garrel).

However, as they get to know each other better, feelings shift, and a romance begins between Oliver and Elio. Over the long months of that beautiful summer Elio learns the joys and heartbreaks of falling in love. In the process, he ultimately discovers who he is.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

This was an incredibly well done film. The backdrop of Italy was especially poignant for me, as it is such a stunning country. Timothée Chalamet, whom I just watched in a minor role in Lady Bird, delivers an outstanding performance. If he wins the Oscar he will be the youngest, at age 22, to ever take home the golden statue for Best Actor.

This coming of age story focuses on several relationships…that of Elio and Marzia, Elio and his parents, and Elio and Oliver. And you know what? A love story is a love story. I appreciated that no one in this film was labeled in any specific way. Elio was Elio. He loved. He experienced joy. He experienced pain.

Armie Hammer, who portrayed Oliver wonderfully, said in an interview: “Anybody, regardless of your orientation or identification or age or race or whatever, you can watch this film and you can remember the first time you felt infatuated with somebody. Or the first time you felt comfortable enough to sort of present the open and honest, raw, unguarded version of yourself to somebody else and to have it received and appreciated and then reciprocated.”

How beautiful it is to experience such love. And how much it hurts when the relationship ends, or the love isn’t reciprocated, or the feelings simply fade away. We can all identify with the challenges of intimate relationships.

Which made the speech that comes near the end of the movie all the more powerful. Elio’s father sits with his heartbroken son, and offers these words with a quiet strength and complete compassion. It’s lengthy. But it’s too important, too crucial, to edit it.

Look, you had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!

I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it, and with it, the joy you’ve felt.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

It has been amazing this week to watch these films on the big screen, as they were meant to be experienced. And to watch with an audience creates an energetic intimacy, as we share in the story. After that speech, the theater erupted with sobs and sniffles. Two older gentlemen sat near me, crying into their hands. Why? Because those are the words we all want to hear. That love can be both beautiful and painful. But it’s real. The pain makes us want to tear away huge chunks of who we are, so we won’t feel any more, so it won’t hurt. But don’t, Elio’s wise father says. Don’t. Stay in it. Feel. Feel the joy and the sorrow.

I choked up during that speech. A single tear coursed down my cheek as my heart thudded in my chest. I want to spend some time thinking and free writing my thoughts around those words. I’ve still got a lump of raw emotion caught in my throat. Writing and reflection will help me to process it.

I am undone by Call Me By Your Name. And that’s a good thing, I believe.

Movie Review Call Me By Your Name

Movie Review: Phantom Thread

Today I viewed movie four of nine, on the Best Picture nominated film list. Up today was the 1950s period piece, Phantom Thread. As is my custom, I don’t look up any info about these films before viewing. I’ve seen a couple of movie trailers, so I knew the fashion industry was central to this story. That’s all the knowledge I had as I took my seat in the darkened theater.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville. The romantic drama, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, carries an R rating, for language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. Phantom Thread is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Music Score, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Day-Lewis) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Manville).

In 1950s post war London, Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Manville) are at the center of the fashion industry. Reynolds caters to the rich and famous as women order dresses from the gifted and fastidious man. Cyril manages their large London house and oversees the details of her brother’s life, including the team of women who painstakingly sew the garments he sketches.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

A man of many moods and routines, Reynolds nevertheless attracts a steady stream of women as lovers. He quickly becomes bored with each one, or finds them tiresome and a distraction from his creativity. Until he meets the charming Alma at a restaurant near his country home.

Alma is young, soft spoken and yet strong willed. Reynolds is enchanted, and inspired by her natural beauty. He immediately takes her measurements and his creativity ignites. Reynolds finds her body to be perfect for displaying his creations.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

Alma is charmed as well, by the handsome older man who creates such magnificent dresses. She discovers that Reynolds learned to sew from his mother, who died while he was a young man. To honor his mother, Reynolds sews messages or small items into his garments. He carries a lock of her hair within his jacket lining, so that he has his mother near him always. He feels that the dead continue to watch over the living, and he hopes his mother is pleased with him.

Reynolds moves Alma into his house, where she continues to inspire him artistically. The young woman is thrilled to be there, at first, and seeks to fit into Reynolds’ schedule and routines, which she defines as “fussy”. While she finds the man she loves difficult to get close to, Alma and Cyril become good friends.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

As is his pattern, Reynolds soon loses interest in his latest muse. He begins to find her habits annoying and her desire for attention frustrating. When he reaches this stage in a relationship, he typically has his sister remove the woman, gifting her with a Woodcock original dress as a parting “gift”.

However, Alma, while quiet, is much more resourceful than that and will not be cast aside like a worn dress. She loves Reynolds best when, exhausted and vulnerable after spending himself in his latest creation, he must retire for a few days to recover. Alma learns to create that situation at will, moving Reynolds into the space of needing her to care for him until he covers, both physically and artistically. Although totally unconventional, their unique relationship not only works for them, Reynolds, who is aware of her wiles, marries Alma and they look forward to spending the rest of their lives together.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

This was an exquisite film, visually, with all the beauty and grandeur of the British fashion culture mid century. I appreciated Reynolds’ artistic gifts and his love affair with both the female body and the clothing he created to enhance it. He spoke with such eloquence and passion about fashion. It made me want to dress up, and to experience the wonder of having a garment custom made.

Reynolds was not as gracious when it came to relationships. A confirmed bachelor, he claimed he was too set in his ways to change, nor did he want to. When he was in artistic mode, everything else became a distraction, which caused his mood to sour.

He met his match, however, in Alma. While she enjoyed being Reynolds’ muse, she longed for the chance to get to know the brilliant man in her own way. She constantly challenged him, something he came to dislike. I was cheering for Alma, right up until she decided to manipulate him and circumstances, for her own gain. The unexpected twist in the story has a dark undercurrent to it, and while it worked in their relationship, I found it unsettling.

Movie Review Phantom Thread

One of the signs of a good movie, for me, is that it makes me think…not just about what I saw, but about my own life as it connects to the story or characters. I thought about Phantom Thread as I drove home.

What I realized is that in relationships, all types including romantic ones, when we get bored or stuck in a rut or overly challenged by it, we tend to disrupt it somehow. We pick a fight, or withdraw from each other, or try something new. Consciously or unconsciously, we create change by creating disruption, often doing anything that will move us into a different space. Granted, it’s not the ideal way to strengthen a relationship. Such tactics can ultimately create more harm than good. But I understand how it can happen and even why it does.

Peering into my own relationships I can certainly see that while I have never attempted anything as drastic as Alma does, I have disrupted and manipulated in an attempt to dislodge old habits or create a fresh start. I am grateful that I have grown past the need to do such things. It was good today to be reminded of old behaviors and to go inward for a reality check.

Watch Phantom Thread if you enjoy gorgeous dresses, appreciate creativity, or want to witness an outstanding performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, who says he is retiring after this film. Watch this movie as well if you feel a bit stuck in life, and want a different perspective. And be prepared for a surprising…and unsettling…little twist!

Movie Review Phantom Thread

Movie Review: Lady Bird

Tonight launched seven days of movie watching at my local theater, as I accomplish something I’ve never done before. I am viewing all nine of the Best Picture nominated films, ahead of the Academy Awards, which airs next Sunday evening.

Here is the list of nominees:

The Shape of Water

Dunkirk

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

Darkest Hour

The Post

Call Me By Your Name

Get Out

I saw The Shape of Water and Dunkirk before this amazing opportunity arose, to see all of the nominated movies on the big screen. Tonight, I viewed Lady Bird.

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothee Chalamet and Jordan Rodrigues. This comedy drama, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, carries an R rating, for adult themes including language and brief nudity, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes. Lady Bird is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ronan) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Metcalf).

The year is 2002 and Christine McPherson (Ronan), who has given herself the name Lady Bird, is a senior at the Catholic High School in Sacramento, California. Lady Bird is an old soul…artistic, creative, fiercely independent…who longs for more than the life her parents live on “the wrong side of the tracks”.

Her dad, Larry (Letts), a gentle man who has struggled with depression for years, has just been laid off from his job. Her mom, Marion (Metcalf), a tough woman who works double shifts at the psychiatric hospital, seems hard on her daughter. They rarely agree on anything. And Lady Bird’s older adopted brother, Miguel (Rodrigues), has moved back home, bringing his girlfriend with him. The slightly dysfunctional family shares a small crowded house with one bathroom.

Lady Bird wants to get out of Sacramento, a town she finds stifling, calling it the “midwest of California”. She dreams of attending an artsy college in New York City, drawing her mother’s ire and criticism. With the help of her more understanding father, Lady Bird secretly applies to colleges in the east, including several in NYC.

Lady Bird and her best friend, Julie (Feldstein), attend classes in their strict school, audition for parts in a musical, and spend much time discussing boys, life and their futures. The two relationships she enters into during her last year in high school, with fellow thespian Danny (Hedges), and musician Kyle (Chalamet), don’t unfold as she had hoped. She discovers Danny is gay, and fears coming out to his family, while Kyle is so indifferent to her and the things she cares about that she can’t create a deeper connection with him.

At the core of the movie are two more crucial relationships…the one between a daughter and her mother, and the one Lady Bird is creating with herself.

This was a wonderful film, funny on the surface, and heart stirring on a deeper level. Anyone over the age of 20 can watch this coming of age movie and connect with it. The teen years are so hard as we struggle to find our way through school and relationships and figuring out what we want to do next. My heart ached, watching Lady Bird sort through it all.

I’ve been the teenaged daughter…and I’ve been the mom of teenagers. I could relate to both characters. I wanted to hug Lady Bird and sit with her and say “take your time…you don’t have to figure it all out at once…stay true to yourself”. And I wanted to put an arm around Marion and say “ease up on your kid…listen to her and trust her…give her space to grow”. Fear drove this mom to push her daughter, while also attempting to keep her close. She wanted better for her child, and yet she wanted Lady Bird to appreciate what she had and be grateful.

Lady Bird asked her mother if she liked her…not loved her, she assumed that…but did her mom like who she was? Marion skirted the question by replying that she just wanted Lady Bird to be the very best possible version of herself. “What if this is the best version?” Lady Bird asks. Wow.

I realized as I watched the story unfold that Lady Bird didn’t so much hate the town she lived in or the family she had. She was trying to find the place where she fit in. Isn’t that all of our stories? It’s not about what we appear to be running from, but what we are running toward. And when our journey takes us deeper within, to discover who we are and where we belong, then we are headed in the right direction.

Whether we are 18, or 38, or 58…we all experience coming of age moments that shift our lives. I appreciate the movie Lady Bird, for helping me to think about mine.

I’ll See You at the Movies

This is a short story with a sweet little twist to it. I just posted last night about the upcoming Academy Awards and how each year, I watch all of the Best Picture nominated films. I typically watch those movies after the award show airs.

I expressed this hope in yesterday’s post: “My desire this year was to view all of the films before the award show, which airs March 4. Although my local theater brought in the majority of the nominated films, for one or two weeks, it was unfortunately during icy weather. I made it to see The Shape of Water.”

This morning I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on seeing all nine movies before March 4. Doing so would not only be fun for me, it would be a first. I’ve never accomplished such a feat before. I began to search nearby cities, to see which movies were playing where and map out a plan.

A theater in Bella Vista, Arkansas was looking promising, when suddenly the word “Joplin” caught my eye. With a little thrill of excitement I saw that the film Darkest Hour was scheduled to play at my local theater Saturday afternoon. This film had a brief run in Joplin and then disappeared before I could see it. If it was returning…were the others as well?

I pulled up my theater on the Fandango app on my phone and began searching ahead, day by day. All of the Best Picture nominated movies are playing next week, on a rotating schedule. All. Of. Them. Even Dunkirk, that I rented via Amazon last night, is back in the theater.

I know, I know. This is not big news to most people. To me, it is incredible. I don’t recall that my local theater has done this before…re-released all of the Oscar potentials right before the ceremony. And truthfully, I’ve never attempted to see all of them ahead of the show before. This year, my desire aligned with the theater’s intention.

And that…that makes my heart and soul expand. These kinds of seemingly insignificant occurrences show me that nothing is unimportant or impossible. It all matters. Even our smallest desires can be met with fulfillment, often with a little flourish that comes with a “ta da!” These gifts are a delight to me, and reveal the love and playfulness of the Divine. “Oh…you want to see all of the films before the Oscars? You really thought you missed your chance? Well….here you go. Enjoy yourself.”

See, the Divine knows me. The Divine not only gets the strong connection that I have with films, and understands how I receive deeper messages from within the story, El-le designed me this way. I am simply being me. And I didn’t give up. This desire to catch the films on the big screen before March 4 came from somewhere. I don’t understand all the significances of that desire, yet. But when it appeared the opportunity had passed me by, I looked to other options, without getting hung up by it. Open to everything, attached to nothing. I think that’s when the Divine likes to surprise me the most, when I’m in that fluid space of being open, without making demands.

Beginning Sunday, I will be watching a film a day, for the next seven days. I will be not a movie critic, but a movie reviewer, looking for and sharing the messages and ahas in the films. In another amazing synchronicity, I recently joined Movie Pass and just received my card. I can watch up to 30 movies a month at the theater, for a monthly fee of $9.95. Without a hint of guilt, I can go to the theater every day next week, without it costing me extra. You can find out about Movie Pass HERE. They currently have a special running.

I am ridiculously excited about watching these movies, in the theater, as they were intended to be viewed. I may even watch Dunkirk again, on the big screen this time. I am humbled once more to know that no sincere desire of mine is too large…or too small.

I’ll see you at the movies!

Movie Review: Dunkirk

It’s that time of year again. The Academy Awards is fast approaching. And with its arrival, I enjoy a tradition that I have observed for five years. I watch each of the Best Picture nominated films. My desire this year was to view all of the films before the award show, which airs March 4. Although my local theater brought in the majority of the nominated films, for one or two weeks, it was unfortunately during icy weather. I made it to see The Shape of Water. Dunkirk is so far the only film currently available to rent. I watched it tonight via Amazon Prime.

Dunkirk stars Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Tom Hardy, Tom Glenn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy and James D’Arcy. This historical drama, written and directed by Christopher Nolan, is rated PG-13 for war scenes and mild language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes. Dunkirk is nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Original Musical Score.

This film depicts the true story of the evacuation of allied forces trapped on Dunkirk Beach in France, during WWII. Approximately 400,000 French and British men have been driven to the sea where they await rescue by Destroyers. The situation is exceedingly grim, as German aircraft pelt the beach with gunfire and bomb the few big vessels that make it to the beach. Many of the injured who are evacuated first end up perishing in the sea after their rescuers are hit.

The story is told through four perspectives. We follow young Tommy (Whitehead), a soldier trapped on the beach who forms alliances with other groups as they all seek a way off the beach, two RAF fighter pilots, Farrier (Hardy) and Collins (Lowden), Commander Bolton (Branagh) and his right hand man Colonel Winnant (D’Arcy), and a group of civilians on a small vessel, Mr. Dawson (Rylance), his son Peter (Glenn-Carney) and Peter’s friend George (Keoghan).

Hope appears to be lost, as the men stand in long lines peering toward the horizon. The large Destroyers are being picked off before they arrive or bombed as they depart, spilling men and oil into the choppy sea. Commander Bolton knows with a sinking heart that his troops are too exposed on the beach, and that they must get as many men home as possible to protect England. He fears that if they fall at Dunkirk, England will fall next.

Newly elected Winston Churchill puts out a plea for small vessels to cross the channel and bring the stranded men home. More than 800 fishing boats, yachts, leisure craft and small boats set out on the rescue mission. Mr. Dawson, having already lost a son in the war, captains his small boat, Moonstone, himself, with the assistance of his younger son Peter and seventeen year old George, who fears he will never do anything important with his life. Their bravery and compassion compels them to rescue a soldier on the hull of a boat who is suffering from trauma (Murphy) and fighter pilot Collins when his plane crashes into the sea.

The other pilot, Farrier, becomes pivotal to defending men caught on the beach and protecting those fleeing by boat. Tommy struggles to get off the beach. His first two attempts to leave, aboard a Destroyer and then a small Scottish vessel, are both thwarted by enemy fire. He is at last picked up by the Moonstone, just as a downed German plane sets the oil covered sea aflame.

Dunkirk’s movie subtitle is so appropriate. 400,000 men couldn’t get home, so home came for them. Ultimately, 338,226 men were successfully evacuated.

War movies are not high on my list of favorite genres. And yet, invariably, each year there is a film depicting war on the list of Best Picture nominated films. I typically watch them first, to get them out of the way. I am grateful that I made a pact with myself to watch every movie on the list, in spite of my perceptions or personal preferences. Because…I would have missed some excellent films otherwise.

Dunkirk is no exception. I found it to be a compelling watch, full of hope and courage. As war films go, this one is not overly violent. It is instead, tense and dramatic. The musical score is wonderful and helps to keep the storyline taut.

My heart clenched over the despair in the situation. The trapped men were portrayed as being so young. My eldest grandson is 18, the age of many these soldiers, and I can’t imagine the agony of having him in battle. How truly incredible that help came from home. What astounding bravery and determination those civilians had. Without them the war might have gone differently.

I noted with interest the reactions of the rescued troops as they arrived home by boat and then train. This morning I spent time writing on the subject of shame. The young men were so grateful to get home. And yet, they expected to be jeered and spit upon when they returned. They felt like they had failed their country in having to be rescued. They felt shame. “Wars are not won by evacuation”, Tommy laments.

But the crowds welcome the men home, with expressions of gratitude. And Churchill himself praises the evacuation. I like that the story ends on a high note. Dunkirk is a cheer worthy movie, made all the more poignant in knowing it actually happened and was a turning point, historically. As a result, I made a promise to myself tonight that I will never complain again about watching a war movie, especially one nominated for an Oscar.