Category Archives: Life

Thoughts On The 26th Anniversary Of My Girl

Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of the initial release My Girl.

Set in 1972, Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) is a young lady on the verge of her teenage years. She lives with her widowed father Harry (Dan Aykroyd), who runs a funeral home and spends her free time with her best friend, Thomas J. Sennett (Macaulay Culkin). Life seems pretty steadfast, but things about to change. First there is her father’s new girlfriend, Shelly DeVoto (Jamie L. Curtis) and then there is Vada’s crush on her much older teacher, Mr. Bixler (Griffin Dunne). It’s going to be an interesting summer.

This movie, is both unique to two distinct groups of audience members and universal, if such a thing is possible. For those who were Vada’s age in the early 1970’s, it’s a trip down memory lane. For my generation, it is a reminder of our late preteen years and how long ago that feels. But it is also universal because we were all that age once and we all had to deal with a new set of complications and grey areas that we were not aware of previously.

The movie also has a killer soundtrack with some of the greatest songs ever produced.

I can’t believe it’s been 26 years since this movie hit theaters. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend that you do. I would also recommend that you have a box of Kleenex nearby. Trust me, you will need it.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

A Christmas Carol is the progenitor of every Christmas story has been published since 1843.  The Charles Dickens novel has not only become synonymous with the holiday, but also with the idea of being kind to our fellow mortals.

The new film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens. With the recent success of Oliver Twist,  Dickens is under pressure to write his next novel. But with the creative well running dry and his bank account running equally as dry, he has to do something. Soon the idea for his next novel will start flowing, but so will the tension with his wife, Kate  (Morfydd Clark) and his father, John (Jonathan Price). He must also contend with the characters that are talking to him, including the man who will soon be known to the world as Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and face his own past.

 

As a writer, it is always fascinating to see how other writers go on their creative journey to create their work. As an audience member, for me at least, it is fascinating to watch how a screenwriter can expand not just upon the myth, but on the everyday human struggles of their characters, especially ones that are as well known as Charles Dickens.

I recommend it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is presently in theaters. 

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Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures Book Review

A celebrity autobiography is a funny thing. It is part confessional, part life story and part point of view that can only be told uniquely by the celebrity who is writing the book.

Joely Fisher is the daughter of Connie Stevens and the late Eddie Fisher, in addition to being the half-sister of the late Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher. Recently, she has published an autobiography entitled, Growing Up Fisher: Musings, Memories, and Misadventures. Written candidly and openly, Ms. Fisher talks about what it was like to grow up in a famous Hollywood family and how that experience shaped her career and her adult life. She also writes about her sister, as only a devoted and loving family member can.

I really loved this book. I loved it because Ms. Fisher is not afraid to reveal her faults and her missteps. She is also talks about what is to be the daughter of Hollywood and how it affects how one’s view the world.

I recommend it.

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Lady Bird Movie Review

The year before we graduate high school can often be described as trans-formative. Especially when we know that the last thing we want to do is going to college near home.

The new movie, Lady Bird, written and directed by actor/director/writer Greta Gerwig, is about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Set in Northern California in 2002,  Lady Bird is starting her senior year of high school and wants nothing more than to go to college out-of-town. She does not get along with her equally strong-willed mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and has a decent relationship with her father, Larry (Tracy Letts). As the year goes on, both Lady Bird will learn a few things about life and relationships.

I really enjoyed this movie. I enjoyed it because Lady Bird’s character arc and narrative feels universal. The struggle to find herself, the need to get away from home, the arguments with her parents, it all feels normal for a 17 year old girl.

I recommend it.

Lady Bird is presently in theaters. 

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Time And The Conways Review

Family, if nothing else, is f*cked up.  Just because we love each other and we have the same DNA does not mean that sometimes we can’t stand each other.

The revival of the J.B. Priestley play, Time And The Conways, is set in two different time periods, 1919 and 1937. Mrs. Conway (Elizabeth McGovern) is the widowed matriarch of an upper middle class family in Britain. She has six children: Alan (Gabriel Ebert), Hazel (Anna Camp),  Robin (Matthew James Thomas), Kay (Charlotte Parry), Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) and Madge (Brooke Bloom). The rest of the cast includes two family friends, Joan (Cara Ricketts), Gerald (Alfredo Narciso) and a friend of Gerald’s, Ernest (Steven Boyer).

A friend who saw the play a few weeks ago said that these characters need to be in therapy. I couldn’t agree more. Mrs. Conway is not a bad mother, but her parenting skills need some improvement. I’ll be frank, I saw the play because Downton Abbey is and will always be one of my favorite television shows. I was not going to pass up seeing Elizabeth McGovern live and in person. What I liked about the play is that the playwright not only plays with the grey areas of life, but also that family is not the picture of perfection that we, as an audience almost expect.

I recommend it.

Time And The Conways is at The American Airlines theater until November 26th, 2017. Check the second link above for showtimes and ticket prices. 

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Throwback Thursday-Reba (2001-2007)

Life, if nothing else, is full of surprises.

In the television series, Reba (2001-2007), country musician Reba McEntire plays Reba Hart, a suburban wife and mother whose world takes a complete 180.

First her dentist husband, Brock (Christopher Rich) has an affair with his hygienist and gets her pregnant. Then, if that was not enough change to make your head spin, her teenage daughter, Cheyenne (JoAnna Garcia-Swisher) announces that not only is she also pregnant, but she and her boyfriend intend on keeping the baby.

While this was not my favorite sitcom, I appreciated the reality that it reflected back to the audience Sh*t happens, and we have two choices. We can lock ourselves in the emotional closet and hide, or deal with that sh*t.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

*Warning: this review contains minor spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the film. 

Winnie The Pooh is one of those childhood books that we all cherish. Written by A.A. Milne in the 1920’s, the world of Winnie The Pooh and the characters who inhabit that world have lasted generations.

The new movie, Goodbye Christopher Robin,  is not only the story of how Mr. Milne came to the idea of Winnie The Pooh, but also the eventual toll it took on his son, Christopher Robin Milne.  Domhnall Gleason plays A.A. Milne and Margot Robbie plays his wife, Daphne. Their son is played by Will Tiltson at age 8 and Alex Lawther at age 18. Kelly Macdonald plays Olive, the nanny who is like a second mother to Christopher Robin.

While the narrative went a little overboard on the drama at certain points, I really enjoyed the film. I enjoyed it because the characters were alive, flawed and thoroughly human.  The marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Milne was not all sunshine and roses and Christopher Robin, known to his family as Billy Moon, did not escape the fame came with his father’s success unscathed. I also appreciated that the filmmakers focused on the PTSD that affected Mr. Milne after he returned from World War I. It added another layer of humanity to the character and the narrative.

I recommend it.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is presently in theaters. 

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Once Upon A Time Character Review: Regina Mills/The Evil Queen

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the previous seasons.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

No one goes through life without heartache.  The question is, do we let the heartache consume us or do we let it fade into memory? In the world of fairy tales and Snow White in particular, The Evil Queen is the female villain we love to hate. Her main goal is to kill Snow White, she will stop at nothing to see Snow White dead. On Once Upon A Time, The Evil Queen or Regina Mills as she is known in Storybrooke, is played by Lana Parilla.

As with the original fairy tale, The Evil Queen hates her stepdaughter, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and will like nothing more than see Snow White in the ground permanently.  But in this version, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills goes beyond the 2D character we think we know.

Regina does not hate Snow for her youth or her beauty, but blames Snow for the death of her first love and her forced marriage to Snow’s widowed father. We are introduced to Regina as she interrupts Snow’s wedding to Charming (Josh Dallas) and curses all of the inhabitants of the realm. Their memories are wiped clean, they remember nothing of their lives before the curse.

But as everyone who watches Once Upon A Time knows, “magic comes with a price”. The price, for Regina is her inability to move forward with her life and not let the past hold her back. She will eventually find love again, with Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), but not before facing her demons and confronting her past. She will also become the mother to Henry (Jared Gilmore) that she was unable to be when she was consumed by anger and grief.

 

 

To sum it up:  The reason that fans have latched onto Regina’s character arc over the first six seasons is because despite the world she lives in, we can relate to her. No one is all good or all bad. A good writer is able to flesh out a character in such a way that both the good parts and the bad parts of the character’s makeup are given the chance to be in the spotlight. While Regina has done some bad things in her life and made some mistakes (and truth be told, haven’t we all?), she has proved to be loyal and loving to those who knew her best. That is why we love her and that is why we remember her.

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Throwback Thursday-Flash Forward (1996-1997)

Our pre-teen and early teenage years are some of our most trans-formative years.  The growth from childhood to young adulthood can be traumatic, but also life changing.

The short-lived television series Flash Forward (1996-1997) told the story of four best friends, two of whom have known each other since they were little. Tucker (Ben Foster) is the goofball. His best friend, Becca (Jewel Staite) is the serious one. Miles (Theodore Borders) provides the reality check. Christine Harrison (Asia Vieira) is the listener.

While this show only lasted one season, it still stands out because it spoke to the audience, who were the same age as the characters.  It spoke to the audience because the audience understood the characters and visa versa. Unfortunately, the show was not given the opportunity it could have had.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

 

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Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil Book Review

One of my favorite phrases from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

During World War II, while most non Jews either turned their backs on their Jewish friends and neighbors or openly collaborated with the Nazis, a few brave souls dared to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors. They knew that if they were caught, the punishment for not just the individual, but his or her entire family was execution.  But they still put their lives and the lives of their families on the line.

Writer Yvette Manessis Corporon was raised on her Greek grandmother’s stories of saving the lives of a Jewish tailor and his children during the war. But she didn’t know much beyond the story, until she started doing some research.  Her research and her experience while doing this research led to the memoir, Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil. While in the midst of fleshing out her grandmother’s story and trying to locate the living relations of the family whose lives were saved by her grandmother, Ms. Corporon was hit by a personal tragedy. In Overland Park, Kansas in April of 2014, three people were killed by a Neo-Nazi outside of a JCC. While none of the victims were Jewish, two of the victims, a young boy and his grandfather were cousins on her husband’s side of the family.

The thing that strikes me about this book is that it reminds me of the choices that we have in life. We can either waste our time and energy and hate someone because they are different or we can accept someone for who they are and move on with our lives.  The author’s grandmother could have easily said no to saving her neighbors, after all, she still had to take care of her own family. But she said yes and in doing so, became a faint light in the darkness of World War II and The Holocaust.

I absolutely recommend it.

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