Family Movie Night
by Karyn Bowman
What is a sure sign of spring at my house?
When the weather is warm enough that I feel okay removing last year’s perennial stems. Usually I leave the stalks from the peonies and mums up over the winter. It gives the snow someplace to land that is not flat – and therefore – a little interesting.
This year as I cut away last year’s peonies stems, I thought about Roger Ebert who passed away last week. I grew up on Ebert’s and Siskel’s review show. I read his columns to find out how to write a proper review and to learn how to be better. But I also read his work because I enjoyed his writing style.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ebert and he was always gracious to me, especially when I was hugely pregnant with our last child and wanted an easy exit to the bathroom – just in case. That spot was right in front of him which most people never do.
More than that, Roger was always interested in what other people thought and asked questions to the room at large in between screenings. He believed everyone read as much as he did and was interested in what the rest of the room was thinking. For a man at his level of brilliance, it was humbling to know he wanted our thoughts.
If there was one thing that Ebert hope to inspire in people, it was to try a movie that may not have seemed like your cup of tea. He encouraged his readers to get out of their comfort zone, not only with his columns but with his Overlooked Film Festival, now known as Ebertfest, in Champaign, Illinois every April. While the festival started as one thing, it became a chance to Ebert and friends to pick out movies that were not seen for a variety of reasons.
One movie that was out of my comfort zone was the family friendly My Neighbor Totoro. This Japanese Anime movie tells the story of a family who moves out to a house in the Japanese countryside. It is filled with soot sprites that need to be scared away.
But more than that, it is near the home of a giant Totoro – king of the forest. However, the young girls are also dealing with an ill mother who cannot leave the hospital no matter how much they miss her. Hayao Miyazaki directs what I call a near perfect movie that explores Japanese folk tales and the emotions of two girls dealing with fear and grief.
I was blown away by the detail of the hand-drawn animation and the joyousness of the story despite the heavy shadow of the sick mother. It sent our family on a journey to find more anime movies by this director and we have never been disappointed.
While I may not have Ebert to thank for discovering this movie, I do thank him for the wonderful writing he produced that was always, always, thought-provoking and moving.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.