When life hands us lemons, the only thing we can do is make lemonade.
In the 2008 film, Sunshine Cleaning, single mother Rose (Amy Adams) is in a bind. She wants to send her son to an expensive private school to ensure that he gets a good education. But it is not within her financial means to do so. She starts a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service with her sister Norah (Emily Blunt).
Norah is to Marianne Dashwood as Rose is to her elder sister Elinor. Rose is determined to succeed. But she knows that it will not be easy. Especially when she is working with Norah and their father, Joe (Alan Arkin).
This movie is charming and adorable. It speaks to the ingenuity that kicks in when all seems lost. It also has two female lead characters in which romance takes a back seat to getting by on their own two feet.
The behind-the-scenes stories of the inspiration of our greatest literary work are fascinating to me. As a reader, it allows for a deeper understanding of the work and the psyche of the author.
The 2004 film, Finding Neverland, is based on the origin story of Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie‘s (Johnny Depp) career as a writer is near its breaking point. The failure of his latest work has threatened to destroy his career. Seeking inspiration, he goes out for a walk.
Randomly he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet). Sylvia is newly widowed with four young sons. Her third son, Peter (Freddie Highmore) has not yet gotten over the death of his father. As J.M. becomes close with Sylvia and her boys, there are two obstacles to their friendship: his wife Mary Answell (Radha Mitchell), and Sylvia’s mother Emma Wightwick ( Julie Christie).
J.M. becomes a paternal figure to the boys and is trying to bring Peter out of his grief. As this is happening, a germ of an idea comes to him. When it seems that Peter is finally turning the corner, his mother gets sick.
This film is lovely. It is well-written, well-acted, and the perfect tearjerker without being too schmaltzy. Winslet, as usual, is gold. Depp is at the peak of his career. Unfortunately, his reputation as an actor and a human being has taken a hit that is of his own doing.
The workplace, in its various forms, is red meat for writers. There is so much material to work with that it is too tempting to not look away.
In the 2009 film, Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), spends more time traveling than at home. As a downsizing expert, his job is to help corporations reduce their staff. On the cusp of earning ten million frequent flyer miles, his world is shaken up by two women.
The first is Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga). She is essentially the female version of himself. Though he is an avowed bachelor whose entire life is his job, Alex makes him question his decisions. The other is Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). She is young, ambitious, and has ideas that threaten to shake up his professional normal.
Released at the height of the great recession, the overall narrative reflected a cynicism about the corporate world and the truth of white-collar jobs. We are expendable and replaceable (despite the promises of a family-like atmosphere coming from some managers and higher-ups).
What I liked was that both Alex and Natalie are given equal weight to Ryan in the narrative. However, there is a scene in which Alex is momentarily reduced to a sex object and Ryan is not.
Other than that, it is enjoyable and entertaining.
When it comes to family sitcoms, there are two distinct categories. The first (a la the 1950s) is a complete fantasy that has nothing to do with reality. The second is one that reflects the everyday lives of the average family ( i.e. Roseanne).
From 1995 to 1999, The Parent ‘Hood was on the air. Robert Peterson (Robert Townsend is a college professor who is balancing work, marriage, and parenthood. As anyone who has gone or is going through this knows, it is far from easy.
I think it goes without saying that there was enough of an audience to keep it on the air for four years. But looking back, it was just another sitcom. While it was not a complete boilerplate, it stuck to the script just a little too much.
Sometimes love comes in the least unexpected of packages. The choice that stands before us is the following: do we follow our heart or listen to those who tell us to walk away?
Love After Lockup has been on the We TV schedule since 2018. This reality show follows former felons as they try to return to normal life and maintain their romance with their significant other.
As usual, the program is full of drama and complications. As with all reality television, some of the narratives seem to be a bit hyped up for the sake of ratings and keeping eyeballs on the screen. I personally find this show to be appalling, brain-draining in the worst way, and not worth watching.
One of the myths about gay men is that they are more stylish and culturally aware than the average straight man.
The Netflix show Queer Eye (2018 to 2021) is a reboot of the early aughts reality makeover show of the same name that aired on Bravo. As with its predecessor, five gay guys with expertise in various areas (fashion, food, grooming, culture, and design) helps (mostly) hapless heterosexual males to improve their physical appearance and their lives.
This show is so much fun to watch, mainly because the stars of the program are having fun. As an audience member, I am rooting for that episode’s subject, wishing that they get everything that they want from this experience. It also opens the door to see the LGBTQ community as something more than stereotypes and boogeymen for those with conservative beliefs.
I think that it’s pretty safe to say that reality television has spread its tentacles into every sort of competition.
Making It aired on NBC from 2018 to 2021. Hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, a group of craftspeople faces off in hopes of winning $100k and being named “Master Maker”. Each episode contains two challenges. As with every program within this sub-genre, one contestant is sent home every week until the winner is crowned.
Though it is a reality show, it is not as mind-numbing and brain cell-killing as other shows. Though I am sure it is not 100% “real”, the participants have a genuine talent and seem to love what they do.
When an IP is successful, the expectation is that there will be a continuation of it of some sort. That does not guarantee, however, that it will be as successful as its predecessor.
Flip or Flop Nashville (2018) aired on Hulu. As with its HGTVreality showoriginator, the purpose of the program was to follow a couple who purchased, rehabbed, and then resold homes that desperately needed a makeover. This spin-off, it took place in Nashville. Formerly married couple (now business partners) Page Turner and DeRon Jenkins took on the task of revitalizing properties that needed much more than a cosmetic update.
As expected, there are unforeseen problems that may delay the project’s completion and drive up the costs. The hope is that when all is said and done, the house will be sold for a profit.
Like all reality television (and television in general), the program is formulaic. As much as I enjoyed the show and the buildup to the final product, it becomes repetitious and boring after a while.
I find this topic fascinating. Though outwardly, it is straight out of a fairy tale, there is obviously much more than the happily ever after. The number of moving parts that could have ground everything to a halt is a topic that deserves the spotlight.
In the 1990s, one of those television shows was Frasier. A spinoff of Cheers, the show followed Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) as he returned to his hometown of Seattle. Working as a radio host/psychotherapist, he dispensed advice to listeners.
While being the guru for those who called into his show, his personal life was a bit messier. Among those who he dealt with outside of work were his equally neurotic younger brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and their father Martin (the late John Mahoney). Adding a female voice to the mix was his producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) and their housekeeper Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves).
I never really watched it back in the day. On the rare instances when I did watch, I found it mildly appealing. There was an intellectual bent to the comedy that made it more than the average sitcom. Obviously, there was enough of an audience to keep Frasier on the air for 11 years, but I wasn’t among them.
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