Archive for December, 2012


Making Do

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

One of the problems of renting movies from the store in town is that the movie I want to see is not always back and ready when I am ready.

Case in point, Sunday I was ready to watch The Odd Life of Timothy Green starring Jennifer Gardner and Joel Eddgerton.

I wanted to watch a life re-affirming movie, one that reminds me a of the joys that are mixed in with all of the sorrows.  The story is about a childless couple who write down all of the aspects of their dream child that they have not been able to conceive. Then they take the papers, put them in a box and bury the dream in the back yard. Imagine their surprise when a child comes from that spot who slowly reveals himself to be all of the things they dreamed. That was the movie I was hoping to see.

What I saw instead was the movie box with an empty hook for the tag.

Someone had beat me to the movie, someone was enjoying it but I was not.

Bummer.

That is when I went with my second choice, Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp.

I had put this movie on my list of safe scares. Trust me, there are things here to scare a little kid but not a tweener or anyone older.

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

A re-vamp of the 1960s soap opera, this movie brings Barnabas Collins (Depp) back to his mansion in Maine after being trapped for nearly 200 years. His goal is to bring greatness back to his surviving family members. Elizabeth Collins (Michelle Pfeiffer) is the strong matriarch raising her daughter while Roger (Jonny Lee Miller) is the weak willed patriarch more interested in lifting money than making it. Nor is he interested in his son, David,  who misses the mother who died at sea.

The family appears to be plagued by a curse. Their livelihood has failed, they are barely keeping the manor together. Elizabeth hires a new nanny for David who fits in perfectly, maybe too perfectly. But the curse is really a series of problems caused by vengeful former lover of Barnabas who has lived as long as he has and worked to create a fishing empire.

What works is Johnny Depp as Barnabas. He delivers lines well and remains true to the character, with the exception of one or two scenes that are entertaining but do not work. However, when he is paired with Pfeiffer the air crackles and pops. They share the same goal and intensity of saving the family. There are hidden layers for nearly every character that makes you want to keep watching.

However, I find there are some glaring problems with big holes in the plot and characters that do not stay true to themselves. I wanted more Victoria, David and Liz, less Doctor Hoffman. I wanted more gothic atmosphere and less killing.

For me this movie was a miss while my 15-year-old thought it was a hit. Perhaps it is a case of great style, little substance.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

La, La, La, La, Laaaaa

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

This past weekend, some of the women at my church got together for a different kind of women’s fellowship.

We had a cookie party.

Each woman brought either cookie dough or frosting. We had sugar cookies, gingerbread, ranger cookies and red velvet cake cookies. In four hours we made dozens of cookies with nine varieties in total. After cookies had been frosted and decorated, each woman took a variety of cookies home. We had the ovens going until all of the dough was gone.

Somehow the cookies lasted through Monday evening at our house. I am not sure they will last another day. But what was important was not coming home with a ton of cookies, it was the fellowship with other women.

We talked about family traditions, Christmas legends and Susan Boyle. Then there were discussions about jobs, blood drives and church events. By the end of the evening we got around to talking about Les Miserable which opens at the end of the month. Soon we were making plans to get together to watch this spectacle.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Have you seen the commercials? Just Anne Hathaway singing sends chills up and down my spine.

The story is about a man who escapes parole and makes a new life for himself. But then a factory worker who has become a prostitute to support her child makes him promise to care for her child. He agrees and that decision leads to trying events in the future. The Oscar buzz for this movie is already crazy and all we have seen are the trailers and various clips.

While this movie is more of an opera because most of the dialogue is sung, it is still considered a musical. Most musicals have songs as interludes, pushing forward the emotions of characters.

The best musical of all time does just this with songs that were not written specifically for the movie. Singin’ In The Rain was a collection of songs that directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen liked and wanted to use for a revue-like movie. Each song leads us to know how a character feels at that moment.

One of my favourite musicals is Mamma Mia! Perfect for when I am cleaning house, I love watching this adaptation of the Broadway show starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan because most of the music is toe tapping fun. Perhaps it is too hedonistic for some, it also delves into the emotions of those who are wondering if life has passed them by while they were simply living and raising a family.

Another musical I love is Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Set in 1899, McGregor is a young man who comes to the big city and immediately falls in love with the star of a show. But, being that this is based on La Boheme, she is a courtesan. She should not give in to love as she supports the theatre and allows Kidman to star in the shows.

And like most operas, she has a secret. One that is not that secret and will kill her. We know this going in but who care? The songs, modern and anachronistic, are major spectacles. Even the simple songs fills the heart while the dancing is incredible.

That is what a musical should do, lift your heart, take you to a higher level of emotion, make your spine shiver because the singing is incredible.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Belated Birthday Wishes

Dear Jane,

Please accept my belated birthday wishes to you. I meant to get this letter out much sooner but you know how it goes with a busy family.

I hope you were able to celebrate in high style. A trip to London, high tea, a night at the theater, perhaps a stroll in the public gardens; these are great activities in my eyes. My birthday is in a few weeks, as you well know, and I have no idea how we will celebrate that event.

Jane AustenI have been thinking of you lately as I work on my first novel. I try to write 500 words a day and right now I am at Chapter 8 of 15. But recently, I looked back at Chapter 2 in order to present it to my writing group. I have not sent anything in for a while despite making real progress on the book. While going over the pages to take out any passive verbiage and tighten it all up, I realized that most of this chapter is terrible.

More truthfully, it sucks.

I am now considering re-writing it or ditching the chapter all together. It does not seem to fit or make sense with the rest of the novel that I have written. I think that I have not introduced the problem soon enough. Worse yet, I no longer love my heroine.

Did that ever happen to you? Elizabeth is so lively and charming that I would find it hard not to love her. Elinor, on the other hand, I can imagine getting a bit weary despite her wonderful qualities. Then again, she was a poor woman in Regency England who had known a better life. Her sadness at the loss of her father and potential husband must have been great.

Since working on this novel, I notice how I read a book has changed. I no longer simply enjoy the prose. I am paying attention to how characters are introduced. I listen to how different characters speak. I look at when the problem becomes a problem. The dead body does not always seem to show up by the end of Chapter One but one issue or another is presented that eventually leads us there.

I do no enjoy reading novels any less. I recently finished Kipling’s Captain Courageous and enjoyed the transformation of the rich boy saved by a fishing boat crew. Right now I am re-reading Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford in which you are a vampire.  I am discovering little things I did not notice before and quite enjoying it, which is the whole reason why I re-read books. Sometimes in my rush to read a book, I miss details.

Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

One book that has been quite difficult for me to get through is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I know her writing is wonderful and I enjoy the descriptions. I know the book was ground breaking for talking about mental illness – battle fatigue in particular – and making that character sympathetic as opposed to a maniacal fool.

It is the stream-of-consciousness style of writing that gives me a headache and I have to put the book down after a page or two. The jump between characters happens so quickly that I am not always so sure who is speaking. I hope that the book I am writing does not give others headaches should I ever finish writing it.

I appreciate any words of wisdom you can send me in this matter. And please let me know about your birthday celebration; I want all of the juicy details.

As always, your devoted friend, etc.

Related Posts:

Wishing the Best on Your Birthday

Wishing the Happiest of Birthdays

 

 

 

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I had a column written and ready to go. It was about a major customer service failure that occurred to me over the weekend.

Sometimes, even when a perfectly good column is done and ready to send off you have to set it aside because something better happens. (If you really want to know the story, ask me sometime when you see me out and about.)

Image by Puddleduck

Image by Puddleduck

Monday night was the Christmas Pageant concert at the grade school. And, once again, I am reminded how lucky we are to have Mr. Smith as the band teacher. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone better out there but until I see it, I am not a believer. When I listen to a middle school jazz band sound as good as both jazz bands did, I know it is because of the effort of the teacher in charge.

When I see the wall of awards, hear how kids asked for a second jazz band, and carry the instruments of my own band students (I am on no. 3 right now) because they want to be there, I know there is something special happening in that music room.

It is a simple reminder that the arts really matter in the life of a student. These things add to our life, help us appreciate what is around us. Perhaps you cannot describe with words how a movie or a song makes you feel but you might know your way around a car engine or how to program a computer. Make no mistake those are art forms as well.

It all becomes a matter of finding your talent, the thing that makes you special. Knowing how to fix things, knowing how to create things, knowing how to teach or bring out these skills in others are great skills to have.

White Christmas IMDb comFor whatever reason, the concert made me think of the 1954 Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye musical White Christmas. Perhaps it is a stretch but the post WWII musical tells the story of two performers who are returning to the stage after serving in the army. By chance they meet up with their former commanding general and find out about his Vermont Inn that is not doing so well.

Crosby and Kaye use their skills to help fix up the inn. They also entice a sister duo to join them for the show. Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen make up the sister act and what great singing there is with Rosemary taking the lead. That there are romantic entanglements and mis-understandings is par for the course as is the triumphant ending.

By the time the movie ends, you feel so happy and wonderful it really does not matter how hokey the movie can be in places. That is why this movie remains one of my ‘must-sees’ during the holiday season.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

This past weekend, our church women’s group came together for a cookie baking session.

 

Image by Cohdra

Image by Cohdra

Each woman was to bring two batches or more of pre-made cookie dough along with any pans and decorations they had on hand. I made three different cookies doughs: Sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and M&M cookie dough. At the end of the night, each woman took home a variety of cookies. Four hours of baking ended with nine different kinds of cookies that included ranger cookies and red velvet cookies.

 

The amazing thing is I still have some of those cookies as of Monday morning. I suspect they will all be gone by the end of the day.

 

At the end of the evening, we decided we needed to have another fellowship time and a movie seemed like a good idea. It was also unanimous that Les Mis should be that movie. Just the commercial with Anne Hathaway singing gave me chills up and down the spine.

 

Then again, I have always been a fan of a good musical. The first one that I remember as being life changing was Singin’ In the Rain which starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner. This movie about the change over from silent movies to talkies focuses on how one leading man is able to transition well while his abhorrent leading lady is not. To make matters worse, he has fallen in love with a chorus girl who has a great voice.

 

I believe it is universally accepted this is the best musicals of all time as well as being one of the best movies ever made. For the last ten years, however, it seems as if we are treated to a new musical every Christmas. While Les Mis has continual singing, making it more opera than musical, the songs break your heart with their beauty.

 

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

One of my favorite musicals in the past few years is Mamma Mia starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. This musical featuring the songbook of ABBA is a happy, zippy movie that exists in a very adult world that might be a little hedonistic at times. I love putting this one on when I have to do housework.

 

Another musical in recent years that I love is Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The story is a familiar one to opera fans. A young idealistic man falls in love with a beautiful woman who is a courtesan. She also has the dread disease of the early 1900s which is consumption, aka tuberculosis.

 

What I love about this movie is how director Baz Luhrmann uses modern songs in a period piece and somehow it all works out. You have a great love story, fantastic musical pieces and the sage wisdom given by tough people trying to look out for a young man who is writing his first show that must be a block buster. The sets are bright, eclectic and over-the top which matches the movie and it all works.

 

While these movies are not exactly little-kid friendly, they are something you can watch with your teens if they happen to like musicals. Otherwise, you can always join me. I am happy to have a sing-a-long at my house any time.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

I Remember Every Detail

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

“You played it for her, you can play it for me.”

 

That line and many others come from Casablanca which opened in theaters seventy years ago this week. The movie was released just a few weeks after the war opened on the African front, which explains the map sequence at the beginning of the 1942 film.

 

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

If you have never seen the movie, the story is this: A man runs a tavern and secret casino in Casablanca. Every day more refugees from Europe come to the French colonial city in Morocco hoping to get the necessary papers to leave the county, a stop away from America.

 

One night a famous resistance leader comes to the club looking for such papers for himself and his wife. But what the husband does not know is that his wife and the club owner have a past that occurred during the time everyone thought the leader was dead. The owner has papers everyone wants but the question is what will he do with them as the Germans are breathing down his neck.

 

It is a movie you can watch with your teens but be aware that there are no car chases or crash sequences. There are innuendos about sexual favors and two murders occur on-screen. Dialogue runs this movie and the great lines seem never-ending.

 

“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

 

I always wonder if a creative person knows they are writing or working on perfection as they do it. The Epstein twins may not have thought they were doing that at the time. This was just another movie they were writing when the studios put out hundreds of movies a year.

 

There are great legends connected to this movie such as Ronald Reagan originally being cast as Rick. Personally, I do not think he had the right amount of dark disappointment to play the casino owner. Bogart, with his string of gangster roles, displayed a man who hid his heart with a layer of toughness.

 

Admit it, you guys. Once you have seen Bogart perform in just about any movie, you want to be as cool as all that. This role defines that elusive male who is tough but able to be so crazy in love that years later he is still angry at the woman who got away. And instead of taking that anger out on the world, every now and again he performs an act of kindness that allows young love to continue on to the new world.

 

This was Bogart’s first truly romantic role. He was given a partner who gave him everything back that he dished out. I am not sure if I ever saw Ingrid Bergman more beautiful, more glowing than in this movie. She is a woman who appears divided between two men of similar standards. She is willing to go to extremes to protect the man she loves but we are left guessing who that man is for the majority of the movie.

 

“Round up the usual suspects.”

 

Perhaps the best judge of any movie is whether or not you would watch it again. Some movies make me feel embarrassed that I ever liked them. When I watch Casablanca I want to be there in the hot and dry African city – going to the club every night, attending Resistance meetings, and looking as stylish as Elsa did in every scene.

 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 762 other followers