Archive for November, 2017


Christmas Hope and Faith

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Every year on Thanksgiving day or soon after, there is one movie I must watch. It is a movie full of sentimental feelings, of earnestness and faith.

It is not a favorite with most of my family but slowly they are all around watching the movie right down to the bitter end.

Miracle Parade SantaOf course I am talking about Miracle on 34th Street. And as far as I am concerned the best version is from 1947 in the original black and white.

Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his performance as a man named Kris Kringle. He looks like a real-life Santa who knows more about the North Pole elf than even the most dedicated Santa-geek.

In the movie, we meet Kris as he discovers a drunken Santa on the float of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. He becomes the Macy store Santa who brings his own costume and charm along with a customer service attitude that surprises both customers and store leadership.

Miracle on 34th StreetHis grace and actual interest in others makes friends with many of his co-workers including Mr. Macy. Mrs. Walker who organizes the parade each year works to find a home for Kris. Meanwhile, Kris sees this as an opportunity to teach Mrs. Walker and her daughter, Susan, how to trust and have faith.

But when an incompetent psychologist is offended by Kris and works to have him committed, it takes Mrs. Walker’s lawyer neighbor, Fred Gaily, to keep Kris from being sent away forever.

This is a movie I have known by heart since I was in my teens. I know every scene, maybe not word by wordt, but certainly by how it all feels. Every time I watch it I notice something different. Maybe it is the way Kris and Albert talk to each other or how the rooms are decorated.

What never fails to catch my attention is how hope and faith are the focus of the story although we are never told if the Walker family are Christians or non-religious. These two parts of the story, the bedrock, depends on how we interact with others. They depend on how we treat others, what we expect, and what we expect to get back. In this case, we come to realize that Kris is motivated by the joy he sees in others when he gives them presents that have real meaning.

Edmund Gween Miracle IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

This movie reveals the true meaning of the holiday, even for non-believers. It was a sentiment needed after a long war that was hard on many families. Hope, faith, joy. It’s all there.

The movie was an instant hit when it was released in June of 1947 and stayed in theater till the holiday season of that year. People needed, wanted the emotions displayed in this movie. And I think we are looking for all of that today. The question is how do we make this happen in our lives?

After all, not all of us can find a Kris Kringle for a Christmas intervention. Sometimes we have to create the intervention for ourselves.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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Waiting and Watching

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

There are so many great movies out right now, I am not sure which one I want to see first.

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

There is a new Justice League movie and the adaptation of Wonder starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. Kenneth Branaugh plays Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. There’s the movie about the three billboards and another about the special relationship between mother and daughter.

But the holiday movie I am really excited about won’t hit theaters till the middle of December.

That’s right, it is The Last Jedi which is Episode 8 on the Star Wars trilogy trilogy.

I will be honest when I say that I really don’t like episodes 2 or 3. These are bland movies that never allowed whatever chemistry that Natalie Portman and Hayden Christopher might have had shine through to the screen. The battle scenes are tremendous but there should have been something more to make us love Pademe even more.

The Last Jedi CFWhat I am excited about is the chance to see Carrie Fisher one more time. The actress passed away last year during the Christmas season which was made worse by her own mother passing away a few days later.

But now we get to see her final bit of work, her final time as General Leia. I know it will be heart-breaking and sad, that I will cry when I see her on that screen. I feel as if Carrie Fisher has always been in my life in some form and her brilliance not being available anymore is sad.

It wasn’t just her work in Star Wars, I admired that she was the person movie makers called when they knew their script wasn’t quite right. She became a script doctor, making a variety of movies better because of the dialogue she wrote.

She appeared in some movies uncredited and made them better by showing up. She made When Harry Met Sally better by being the misguided friend who didn’t get that the married men she dated were never leaving their wives which was a supporting role.

In getting ready for this next movie in the Star Wars series, I am very tempted to watch every movie, starting with Episode IV:A New Hope. It will always be Star Wars in my head because this is where we start, this is where we meet Luke, Hans, Chewy and Leia. This is where we learn to fear Darth Vader and revere ObiWan.

The Last JediAnd when we get to The Force Awakens I know I will be crying for a variety of reasons. But I want to see them again in this new movie as I have never wanted to see them before. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley may be the new generation but Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are the touch points of the older one.

I want to see how they will pass on the torch.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

In the Service

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Making movies about war situations to me is a difficult thing.

There is the intense planning and choreography of people and debris and bullets or bombs.

It is why I appreciate war movies even if they are not my favorite genre. To give a compelling performance while hearing the sounds of warfare, to perform as things blow up around you must be quite difficult. At some point, despite knowing it is all pretend, this must feel real. The bombings and the dust and the potential to lose limb or life.

I remember an interview with Charleston Heston who stated that in one movie he had to walk through a crowd as they cheered him on and how it was easy to walk along feeling proud. All of these people were cheering for him and it was great!

Megan LeaveyOne of the newer movies to come to the home video market has me intrigued but my attempts to see it without buying it have been unsuccessful. Megan Leavey is about a young woman who becomes a marine in order to escape the troubles of her life.

Disciplinary problems follow and one of her jobs is to take care of the cages of the military dogs. One of the most incorrigible dogs is Rex, a huge German Shepard bomb sniffing dog. Somehow, they bond and become a team. Woman and dog work well together till one day a bomb goes off too close and both are injured.

Another movie that came out last year set during an active theater is Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield. Directed by Mel Gibson who has always had a knack for war scenes, this movie tells the story of a conscientious objector who managed to save 75 men during the battle of Okinawa.

Hacksaw RidgeThe man is a soldier who doesn’t want to shoot anyone so he is the group medic. When does his fellow soldiers begin to like him? Right about the time that Desmond proves his worth and saves this large group of men during a nasty, nasty battle.

It is these aspects that non-veterans may not understand but we try. We see these movies and grow to understand how bonds are built through the work of war. You don’t have to agree with war to be a great co-hort with the rest of your troop members. You don’t have to get along with people to discover a useful role within your platoon.

While us civilians may not understand everything it takes to be a soldier, to be a good soldier, we do try. And in that trying, we hope that we give the respect deserved to the men and women who make the sacrifice to serve our country and serve it well.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Revisiting Salem

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As what seems to be fitting for the season, I have been listening to an audio book called How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.

How to hang a witch

It is a young adult novel about a 16 year-old girl who moves to Salem after her father’s health issues require less expensive care in Boston as opposed to New York. The problem is she is a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, the guy who wrote the book on how to discern witches just before the Salem witch trials. Nor did he ever try to stop these witch trials other than to say spectral evidence is not true evidence and should not be used.

For Samantha, everything becomes worse when a group of girls called the Descendants hate her almost on first sight. These girls are direct descendants of the original victims of the Salem Witch Trials. Lizzie, Mary, Alice, and Suzannah blame the trials on Cotton Mather, making Samantha guilty by association.

But of course things happen that make Sam realize she needs to work with the Descendants. Conversely she is on the constant edge of thinking everyone is betraying her in some way, including her somewhat new boyfriend, Jaxon.

I love the idea of this book but the heroine could get so tedious at times with her lack of trust. That is until you get to the final chapters with the big fight and you just need to see how it all ends.

With the setting being at the most famous trial in the country, it is easy to imagine how quickly people can go down the rabbit hole of fear and suspicion. And you begin to feel awkward about what happened to those people so long ago.

Salem_tv_series-wide.jpgInterestingly enough, there used to be a show on WGN TV just last year called Salem that focused on the period of the witch trials. If you happen to watch it, what fascinates me is how that era was depicted. Wood buildings, dirty walk ways, forests that seem wild and dangerous and filled with evil.

The story is about a young man named John Aldin (played by Shane West) who returns to Salem after a nine year absence, What he finds is the start of the witch trials and people being put to death for crimes with little or no evidence. Worse yet, the woman he loves is now married to a man who forced his departure. That is not the worst,

The worst is seeing his hometown moving into a frenzy to find the head witch and killing innocent people along the way.

This show has been canceled but it is available on Netflix. A part of me could binge on this program, another part of me hears the creepy music and sees the setup with that dread feeling that things are not going as smoothly as I thought things would. And nor are all of the characters who or what you thought they would be.

It is one of those shows that moves from somewhat realistic to the fantastical. While I have watched this show without the kids around, it is one I might watch with my teens but not my younger son. There is just enough realism to stick in a kid’s or the easily affected mind to cause some nightmares.

Not everyone will agree with me, not everyone will feel this way. I like a spooky show every now and again just like anyone else. This one is crazy and ridiculous most of the time. But I would only suggest it to people who know what they’re getting into. Accusing people of using ‘magic’ to cause bad feelings or supernatural actions is too close to real life.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.