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Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When trying to decide what to write about this week, I have to admit I was flummoxed.

I planned to write about movie musicals, one of my favorite genres, when the news came that Carrie Fisher died. Princess/General Leia was gone.

carrie-and-debbieBefore I could even think of recovering, I found out Debbie Reynolds, Fisher’s mother, passed away the next day. Suddenly, my Christmas of grief as I thought about my father all month seemed different. For Todd Fisher, Christmas will forever be about the loss of his sister and his mother. What a kick in the pants.

Now, my husband would tell you that it is ridiculous to be upset about a celebrity dying and he is partially right. I don’t personally know these people. But in another way, these people are a part of my life. I was 14 when Carrie Fisher first wore the side buns, portraying an incredibly strong woman. I was around the same age when I saw Singin’ In The Rain for the first time. It was a transformative moment for me as my love of movie magic was cemented.

These feelings would be reinforced over the years with actors such as Alan Rickman, Patty Duke Astin, and William Shallert. They were great performers. David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael were right there in the soundtrack. My life soundtrack.

I can’t imagine what the world will do when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever pass through the veil to the great beyond. Or when one of the Rolling Stones finally gives it up.

At supper tonight we tried to guess who might be next – Keith Richards? Stevie Winwood? Eric Clapton? Johnny Depp and Grace Slick are still kicking but for how long?

Just as we are attached to some celebrity because we feel some sort of connection, it also hurts when they die. Suddenly I am reminded that I am mortal, my family and friends are mortal. We, and I mean any of us, could go at any time. Some of you might be saying “You’ve had too much birthday cake and holiday regrets. Put down the fork, take a walk, and clear your head.”

You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.

rosalind-russell-as-auntie-mameIt’s their deaths that remind me to not take any of this for granted. It reminds me to remember the immortal words of Auntie Mame as portrayed by Rosalind Russell.

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

So what if most of us will never break into a parade in downtown Chicago or dance over cars in the middle of a Los Angeles’ traffic jam. Heck, most of us will never dance in the rain because of the sheer joy of being in love.

box-of-chocolatesThat doesn’t mean we have to quit. Each day is like that big box of chocolates. Maybe you pick out a cordial cherry or creamy truffle, maybe it is a chewy caramel or heath bar. But having the opportunity to pick one out of a rippled paper cup is better than not being able to choose at all.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Ending the Season

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The Christmas Season is almost over. Some of you might be celebrating later because of work schedules or travel schedules or various events.

Been there, done that.

christalkindl-marketThis past weekend we finally squeezed in a visit to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. The traditional German Christmas market is one I have longed to go to and not just because parts of my family are German.

I love the smells of roasting nuts and mulled wine. There were sausages, potato pancakes, and hot apple cider. There were beautiful knits from Germany, Ireland, and Guatemala. I saw incredible wooden works of arts including a Santa nut cracker. One booth offered up embroidered table scarves that were quite stunning.

The entire village was lighted in beautiful yellow glowing twinkle lights. The effect was magical under the watchful eye of the Picasso statue. We had a long walk back to the car but the market was totally worth it and I can’t wait to go back again next year.

while-you-were-sleepingBut now that the season is almost over, if you haven’t watched certain movies, this is your last chance before it feels a little weird and out of place. You might want to get While You Were Sleeping out of the way. This Sandra Bullock movie is about a lonely CTA worker who saves her favorite customer from being run over by train.

In order to see him at the hospital, she lies about being his fiancee so that she can visit with him. Unfortunately, Peter Gallagher is unconscious and unaware he has a fiancee. Then his family show up and embrace Lucy as family. The woman, who had no one but her cat and a wannabe boyfriend, suddenly is surrounded by family and has a stocking on the mantle with her name on it. It is a heady experience which gets complicated when she meets his brother, Bill Pullman.

Now you know what happens next. It is pretty clear. For me, this time the journey is totally worth the ride. Our heroine is sweet but a little goofy. Her main love interest is gruff and wanting out of the family business. And the supporting cast is phenomenal, especially the old family friend who has to tell the patient he is a putz.

But I love it. It makes me laugh and cry. There are sweet moments and funny one. There are times that I swear I know which neighborhood each scene was filmed in and others that make me wish for the dreamland of LaGrange.

In case this movie is too happy, too sappy, too girly there is always the Die Hard series.

Yippe-ki-yay, indeed.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend we went to get our tree. It is a family tradition.

We pile in the car and head out to Cupola House Tree Farm on 3000 West Road. This year we took the dog who loved every moment of jumping around in the snow. The rest of us wandered around until we found the perfect tree, a blue spruce.

After getting the tree, we stopped at my mother’s to shovel off her drive from all of this snow. And then we came home before more snow began to fall. While my daughter made cookies, I put on the lights and the multitude of ornaments collected over the years.

christmas-tree-farms- christmasgeek com

Image from Christmasgeek.com

I have various soldiers, and musical instruments and angels. There are lots of angels and snow men. But as I looked around it seemed as if I am missing a large box of decorations. This means an extensive search in the basement must be done and I am not looking forward to doing that.

In the mean time, I am looking at our tree and feeling happy with it. That is until I realize that a certain ornament would hang better if it was in a different spot. And one I do that, five other ornaments will have to be moved to make everything fit together again. This will happen every day until we take down the Christmas tree. Am I the only one who does this?

Perhaps I should by some tinsel so that I stop the foolishness. But I don’t think they sell tinsel anymore, I never see it in the stores when I go looking for it.

Listening to the radio, I heard a segment about the top ten Christmas movies. White Christmas was not on the list. A classic movie but somehow that didn’t surprise me. The people who know and love Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are decreasing every year.

christmas-carolThe other missing movie which surprised me the most was A Christmas Carol. Maybe I am old fashioned but I love this old tale by Charles Dickens. There are several versions and every few years someone feels the need to recreate it. Bill Murray did a comedic version. George C. Scott made one in the 90s. My personal favorite is the Alastair Sims 1951 edition.

In case you do not know the story, a very rich but miserly man is visited by the ghost of his former partner. He is told to expect three ghosts that might to help his examine his life. After that he will have a choice to make: to continue life as it is and suffer through the after life or change his ways to be better. Can this man, after a lifetime of coldness, learn to warm his heart?

Well, you might know the answer if you have seen this movie. You might know the answer if you have had to question your own actions. Is it better to be a miser or to give with a willing heart?

As Christmas comes nearer, I know what I wish to be and to do.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Another Birthday, Dear Jane.

Dear Jane,

Another birthday has past and yet you do not look a day older than 40.

Your nighttime routine must do wonders (snarkity-snark-snark).

birthday-cakeWell, happy birthday anyway.

It has been cold and snowy at times here. I drove home in snow that wasn’t quite snow, not quite sleet. It kept trying to freeze up on my window, i had to drive with the front defroster and window wipers constantly going.  Otherwise my windshield would have been a solid layer of ice.

Well, the good news in my life is that I start class for the Library Technical Assistant certificate in four weeks. The bad news is nothing right now. There are a few hick-ups but we are managing. Christmas may not be a shower of presents but that is not the important point.

I always ask about you and the responses are few. I hope wherever you are, you are getting fair swipes at the hypocrites who managed to get into the best rooms. Done here, Jimmy Bakker is selling heavenly mortgages and food stores so you have something to eat in heaven. The man is scamming people once more. All I do is hope I will never be like that. Gullible, I mean.

I can be taken in by a good story, especially if there is any bit of plausibility. A good story is a good story whether it is true or not.The thing is, I never want to be so cynical that I look at every story as if it could be false. That is not how I want to live. Oh, I love a good conspiracy theory every now and again. But to live on that on a regular basis is crazy.

donald-trump

It is next to impossible to find a good picture of this man.

I feel the same way about our current political climate. I am not a fan of the President-elect but I have a feeling he will not be thwarted by the Electoral College. So the next four years are going to be filled with constant strife and degradation. The money that man will make of off the office of the President will be legendary by the time he is through.

Oh, but that stuff is boring. I predict Hollywood is going to make many comedies and musicals for the next few years to take our minds off of the mess that is going to be Washington D.C.

One of the most disturbing things I have found in post election life is the use of the word snowflake. Trump supporters are using that word, along with cupcake, to belittle democrats who are protesting Trump’s win. Every time I hear them say ‘snowflake’ I can’t help but feel that they are a bunch of sore winners. Do they realize how they make themselves look – which is meaner and more stupid than they all ready are – when they use these derogatory terms? Probably not.

Well, I have bored you enough. Best wishes and I hope all is well wherever you may be.

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays,

your devoted friend, etc.

 

 

The Best of Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Do you have your must-watch movies during the holiday season?

I know I do.

Just like those must have treats, the holiday season doesn’t feel right without certain movies.

christmas-cookiesOne holiday treat I miss are the mini pecan pies one of my mom’s friends used to make. She used a cream cheese dough that was perfect with the custard and nut filling. But Chris has been gone for too many years and I never could re-create them.

However, I can make kolachi cookies and plan to do so this year. I think one Saturday will be spent in the kitchen rolling out dough and filling them with apricot or cream cheese filling. I wouldn’t mind making white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies as well. And I think the kids want those peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

One thing I have never been able to do is make a decent pie crust until I found a recipe that called for half butter and half shortening. Forget the Martha Stewart food processor version. This recipe never falls apart on me or make me wish I hadn’t attempted a homemade crust. Now I just need to learn how to make those pies with the beautiful leaves and vines.

A Christmas Story Peter IMDb com

Ralphie talks to Santa in “A Christmas Story”; Picture from IMDb.com

As for movies, it is never really Christmas without watching A Christmas Story. Will Ralphie get his rifle? Will his dad win the battle against the furnace? Will his little brother ever get to go outside without looking like the Michelin Man? I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t care if I have seen this movie a thousand times. I love spending time with this family. So much so that we have taken on a family tradition of going to the Chinese buffet for our Christmas meal – without the duck.

Another tradition I like to include is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sometimes I feel as if the music is too much of a minor key while other times it leaves me breathless and happy. But the story is the thing here as Charlie fights against the commercialization of the season. It is symbolized by his friends and family desire to be the biggest, brightest of the season and his rebellion of picking a Christmas tree that is the saddest one on the lot. Joy is the end result as we remember the Christmas story.

The Nativity Story poster IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com

With so many biblical movies in the past few years, the one I lean towards in The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac as Mary and Joseph. It shows the time in which Mary is betrothed – unwillingly- to Joseph. A message from an angel changes her life, puts her in great danger, and challenges Joseph to act with faith. While the movie was made quickly, I find it beautiful to watch and deeply compelling. Each character grows more precious in my eyes as I come to understand their bravery, knowledge, and wisdom.

All of these are watchable by many member of the family. But the one I love most of all is Love Actually. I watch it with the husband or girlfriends because it has enough swear words and sexual situations to be uncomfortable with my adult children or mother.

Love, Actually IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com.

That is despite it being a movie that is best for late-teen to adult viewing. And yet, what I love about this movie is its message of hope in most cases. That we can find love with the right person. It’s just that there are many definitions of love in this movie and not all of them are happy. Couples are challenged, find that while love exists it cannot work for them, or that the person they love the most is never who they expected. And all of this takes place during the Christmas season.

Without any of these my Christmas is a little more lackluster, a little less teary, a little less hopeful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Tales of Christmas Emotion

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some times a new book can shed light on an old subject.

jimmy-stewartThis week a friend shared an article about how Jimmy Stewart was affected by his service during WWII and how that brought something new and raw to his post-war movie career. That and many similar articles were based on the new book, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe.

Having read the article from the Chicago Tribune, I was curious to look at the movie again and see what hidden depths I could glean. After all, this book asserts that Stewart suffered from PSTD from his desire to keep his men safe, not a possibility for men bombing Europe in planes.

After two years of service in the Army Air Corps, Stewart came home for some R&R at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and back to Hollywood. After being gone for many years, Stewart was no longer leading man material, his spot had been taken by Gregory Peck. Finally, Frank Capra offered him the role despite Stewart really wanting a comedy. But this was the only offer he had at the time.

its-a-wonderful-life-bridgeStewart imbued his portrayal of George Bailey with desperation. He is a man who wants to travel the world, become an engineer who builds things, and get out of Bedford Falls forever. He sees his friends and neighbors and even his little brother get opportunities that George knows will never fall his way. And yet he has a great life with his wife, Mary, and their four kids.

Well, it takes time for him to recognize that, which is the basis for the movie. With the help of Clarence, George’s guardian angel, we find out that George helped more people than he ever realized. From saving his brother from drowning to providing loans to people to have nice homes and businesses, George has helped many people in his town.

Watching it this time around, I saw the fear in Stewart’s eyes. I saw the desire of a young man to not be stuck as he believes his father was. I also saw a man who passionately loved a woman and how their relationship would be the end of his hopes and dreams of leaving.

The word that came to me during various scenes was desperation. In the lowest moments, George seems desperate to solve his company’s money problems through the years, he is desperate to leave town and go on adventures, he does every last-minute trick to save the business after his father’s death. But the word that comes to mind whenever Mary is in the scene is hope. Mary is the beacon of light that guides George back to clearer thinking.

She saves him more than once in this movie, she saves him when all seems lost. Even coming home from the office on a terrible day, Mary knows something is amiss. She is his touch point, the center point, the sanity is a world gone mad.

Edmund Gween Miracle IMDb com

Edmund Gween as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Picture from IMDb.com

Donna Reed would report that this was not a happy set. It was not a set filled with laughter and jolliness as was ‘Miracle on 34th Street was reported. But they are two different movies. The latter told of the joy of Christmas that can be found all around us, it’s underlying message is of faith. But the former is about a man who sees no way out of trouble but to jump in the river and freeze to death. This movie is about the glory of the unknown blessings we can be if we choose.

As much as we need the simplistic joy that is Miracle on 34th Street, we also need the heart-rendering, soul searching agony that is It’s a Wonderful Life to remember that we touch many people in a day and we might be the only good interaction they have.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

During this first week of the holiday season, I can understand if people are not in that ‘holiday spirit.’

Last year at this time, I was not up for it. It was the first Christmas after my dad passed away and I really didn’t want to do much. It was bare bones decorating, hardly any cookies made, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do our traditional Chinese buffet meal for Christmas.

But I did everything with the hope that if I did it maybe Christmas would feel like Christmas. We attended Christmas concerts, chili suppers, and family gatherings. We sang and ate and praised God.

Somehow I made it through even with the help of my favorite movies.

home-for-christmas-lindaIt gave me a greater appreciation for those Hallmark movies that run non-stop during the months of November and December. I even watched Home For Christmas on Lifetime starring Linda Hamilton as a divorced housewife who lived in her car after losing her assets in one calamity after another.

I watched part of that one and other movies featuring young women who are facing emotional crisis such as one woman whose parents are Santa and Mrs. Claus. Another had an event planner trying to re-create a party from her childhood when the client wants something different. A third one featured a woman who has not celebrated Christmas properly for years until she comes to a winter resort her father recently purchased and wants her to evaluate. The problem is Christmas is the big deal at this wonderful winter wonderland resort.

I know these movies are cheesy, that they feature actors who used to be big or are never going to be stars but are solid performers. I know that there will be preposterous factors and everything will work out in the end. There might be a magical aspect or a meet-cute between our two love birds who hate each other on sight. But in the end, they will figure it out and live happily ever after.

As one of my daughter’s friend stated, these are addicting movies. After watching a few, I had a hard time staying away. But you might find you have to watch them by yourself or without the husband. These are sap fests that can make the toughest of cookies cry right into your eggnog.

christmas-in-connecticut-pictures-4

Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan

Oh, I will be watching my favorites this season. The first is Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan about a magazine writer who must entertain her publisher and an heroic sailor on her non-existant farm during the holidays.

The second is Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle who must prove he is the real Santa Claus in order to protect his sanity with the help of attorney John Payne. Meanwhile he is also trying to prove to a mother and child that Santa is real.

I might add a few of these Hallmark to the repertoire when I need to recover from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s not hard to do, I just have to find the Hallmark and Lifetime stations on my satellite service.

Here’s hoping that your holiday season begins and ends smoothly.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Smells of Home

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This is the week when we walk into the house and it smells good.

It is the smell of favorite holiday dishes cooking, simmering, and baking. As we walk through the door, even if it is the door to our own home, there is something wonderful and comforting about those smells.

It tells us that when life has handed you lemons, you have chosen to make lemon bars or lemon meringue pie or sangria with lemons, green apples, and grapes.

Movies over the years have provided us with so many images of food and drinking.

Eat drink man Woman IMDb comI think about Eat Drink Man Woman directed by Ang Lee about an Asian family who are about to go through many changes and all of these changes are announced over sumptuous dinners prepared by the father who used to work as a world class chef.

His three daughters live at home but all that changes as each one makes an announcement that forces changes. The movie is a wonderful tour-de-force of emotions that people want or don’t want known. But this movie comes with sub titles, not everyone wants to read at the movies. And it is really meant for adults, context wise.

But if you do get it, make sure to view in the letterbox formatting, it really is better that way.

Tortilla Soup Poster IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

There is an American version of this movie called Tortilla Soup. It stars Hector Elizondo as the retired chef. And true to form there are announcements during the weekly suppers. But his three daughters prove to be up for the challenge of growing up, becoming wiser, and learning how to enjoy their father.

There are wonderful moments such as when a pumpkin becomes a soup turine and a suitor tells the father about his connections to Dodgers’ stadium over a bowl tortilla soup. It is the young man’s reaction to the soup that makes the father realize he is ok. Again, this movie is for grown-up. And that is OK, we need movies meant for us.

ratatouilleThe kid’s movie I should recommend that is all about food is Ratatoille. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s the movie about a rat who wants to be a chef. Crazy, I know. If I were to be incredibly non-biased, I would have to say that the bones of this movie is very good although the idea is preposterous to say the least.

But I can’t.

I know this is a good movie but I hate rats. Can’t stand them. I get the willies watching this movie so why would I recommend it?

I can’t, just can’t.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Facts are Friends

There are times in our life that being right really matters.

My husband and I have this conversation often as another inane argument over some minor details rolls on until we are both yelling at each other.

It ends with me yelling “Is it more important to be right or do right?”

By that I mean sometimes it is important to give up arguing to prove you’re right when it doesn’t matter. Such as when your batty aunt insist the dinner plates are red when they are clearly blue. Just agree with her and keep her happy.

Sometimes, though, it does matter, and then being right and doing right is one and the same.

For instance, it is constantly coming up on my facebook feed that Trump won the popular vote as well as the electoral college. According to a false Google report Trump gained 62.9 while Hillary won 62.2. It’s usually followed by ‘Suck it up, cupcake. Your candidate lost. Big Time.’

You Trump fans want it to be true, I know. But this is one time where you’re not.  And it is a sad day when you have to lie about something that can so easily be fact checked. It took me all of five minutes as I went to a progressive site and choose to go to a more conservative site to have a second source.

The actual numbers run  at 62.4 million votes for Hillary and 61.2 million votes for Donald. That is according to The Nation, a progressive magazine who used The Cook Political Report as their source. Cook chooses to be non-partisan. And in case you think I am telling a fibber, it turns out that The National Review also thinks Hillary won the popular vote while losing the electoral college.  The National Review is one of those conservative bastions. (An expert stated on 11/20/16 that Hillary may have gotten nearly 2 Million more votes.)

So stop with the nana-nana-boo-boo bits. The woman won the popular vote, just not in the right places to make the electoral votes go in her favor. And we know that liking it is another thing all together. But when you lie about it, it makes the rest of us doubt every word you are saying about anything else.

Same goes with the story about the 11-year-old boy who was beaten-up in school. There is a video attributed to Fox26 in Houston. When I look for collaborating stories, I cannot find any. There is no other video or stories from other area TV Stations or newspapers in the area.

However, the amount of alt-right websites carrying this story has grown since  last week. Worse yet was when I thought I found call letters they started with a W. Any self respecting Texan who knows they are west of the Mississippi River knows that TV and radio stations begin with a “K” and not a “W.”

It is not necessary to make up these stories, as the young woman did in Louisiana regarding having her hajib torn from her head. Sure, you want to make people on the opposite side  look bad. Trust me on this, they don’t need your help. There is the real crime of a Trump voter who got beaten up in Chicago along with an uptick in hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, and others since the election.

Lying about something happening to you by a member of the opposite political party or about the numbers in which your candidate beat the other is not the way to be credible. You want to have something to say, prove your point about your view of things.

Then take my suggestion – use facts whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

Sweet Ringing of Hope

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

There is something a little sweeter in my neighborhood. The Presbyterian Church has a new bell tower.

For the last few years the belfrey was dismantled. It was kinda of sad to look at the church, wondering if the needed repairs to the original structure were ever going to be restored. I think I even said something to my husband about that.

A few weeks ago, Carol O’Connell shared on facebook the building of the new belfrey. Then I heard about a special dedication event for the bell. This past weekend as I searched the parkway for my dog’s choke chain collar (don’t ask), I heard the bell ringing and cheers from the crowd going up.

It was good to hear that ringing and not to hear any creaking as anything broke. (My head always goes to worse case scenarios so when everything works out it is like a double blessing.) To hear that ringing signals something more than a bell back where it belongs; it signals a rebirth of an organization that has struggled.

We all have that at some point in our lives. Situations get out of hand and we wonder if we can ever come back. Sometimes we fails and sometimes we make it in baby steps the whole way.

It makes me think about movies about the Great Depression when people wondered if it would ever get better.

cinderella-manI remembered watching Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe as a boxer who has lost his beautiful home and taxi company during the Great Depression. He and his wife and three children live in a basement apartment as he works as a day laborer while she takes in sewing and ironing. Life is bleak until a chance fight shows he might still have what it takes. That is when his former manager arranges a bigger fight.

Oh, this movie is filled with sports cliches that we love. But Crowe, Renee Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti give gritty and classy performances of people on the edge who find their way back in the middles of the 1930s when nothing felt as it was going to come back.

That movie may be too adult in context for the younger children in the house. That’s when you pull out Kit Kittredge. Based on the American Girl Doll character of the same name, this girl has spunk.

kit_kittredgeSet during the Depression, ten-year-old Kit learns that while her family has been wealthy, or at least well off, they are slowly losing everything. Her father’s business has gone under, her older brother has not returned to college. Her mother is considering raising chickens.

Kit is overly emotional as ten-year-olds can be, especially when Dad leaves for a different city to find work. She learns to accept the chickens and sells eggs, she deals with their house being overrun with boarders, and brims with the hope that her father will come back soon.

Both movies are filled with grit and determination of characters who know life will get better, even if they don’t know how that will happen or what it looks like. Sometimes when we take on great projects, we don’t know what the outcome will be. But why let something as trivial as that stop us.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.