The new biography, Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, by Robert Matzen, tells the story of a portion of the late Ms. Hepburn’s life that is sometimes overlooked: her childhood during World War II. She was born in 1929 to a British father and an aristocratic Dutch mother. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her father left the family soon after and Audrey was raised by her mother.
When she was a pre-teen, World War II started. The Dutch believed that because their country was neutral during World War I, nothing would change. Little did they know how history would forever change their country and affect the future film icon that is Audrey Hepburn.
I loved this book. I was aware previously that Ms. Hepburn was a child during World War II, but I had no idea of how much the war would have a life long affect on her.
The best characters are the one who catch you off guard. You think they know who this person is and where their narrative is going. Then there is a switch in the narrative and the character goes off in a surprising direction. When done well, this out of left field change in the character arc has the potential to shock the audience and up the dramatic ante by 100. When not done well, it can turn off the audience.
The new Star Wars firm, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in December. As they are during the lead up to every film in the franchise, Lucasfilm is mostly mum on the details. But then they slip a delicious nugget or two into the trailers.
At this point, there are any number of theories about Dark Rey (Daisy Ridley). Is this a vision of what will or could be? Is this the ultimate manipulation of the dark side? Will we learn that Rey is actually a descendant of the late Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDairmid) and has a family?
At this point, there are so many possibilities. I could theorize all day, but I think I will let J.J. Abrams work his magic and tell us in December.
Warning: this post contains mild spoilers about Blinded by the Light.
74 years ago, World War II ended. Millions were dead and it seemed like the evils that brought on the war were dead. But instead of remaining in the past, the evils of hate and prejudice are alive and well in our world.
I recently saw the new film Blinded by the Light. The film, in case you have not see it (and if you haven’t you should) is about a Pakistani-British boy who wants to be a writer. It is set in late 80’s Britain, at a time when both economic uncertainty and hate are on the rise. One of the neighbors of this young man is a World War II veteran. Upon finding one of these boy’s poems about the local hate groups, this man proudly states that he fought for Britain during the war.
My question is, if we (when I mean we, the cultural we) fought for freedom and democracy 70 years ago, why does this battle seem futile? According to an article on NPR from February, hate groups have risen 30% over the past few years.
I wish we lived in a better world. I wish that we treated each other as human beings. I wish that we judged each other as individuals before seeing someone’s skin color, ethnicity or choice of religion.
At some point in our adult lives, we have to take responsibility for our actions.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is the directorial debut of writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Based on the story of a friend of his, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is in her late 20’s and living in New York City. She has a job, but it is neither professionally or financially fruitful. She drinks too much, sleeps too much and is overweight. Her life, in short, is a hot mess.
Hoping to score a prescription of adderall, Brittany visits a doctor. Instead of receiving the prescription, the doctor recommends that she lose weight. She initially balks, but follows through and starts running. She is encouraged by her neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and Seth (Micah Stock), whom she met in her running group.
The running opens the door to other goals, including running a marathon. But doubt and insecurity gets in the way. Can Brittany succeed?
This movie has it’s pluses and it’s minuses. On the plus side, the characters and the narrative are realistic. Brittany speaks for many people, regardless of size, who are hindered by unseen emotional scars. We live in a world which is dominated by social media. The image that many of us put on our profiles may not reflect reality and may cause those who look at our profiles to compare their lives to ours.
On the minus side, the film is a little longer than I think it should be and is a little predictable story wise.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is presently in theaters.
As we get older, certain books take us back to our childhood and simpler times.
In 1973, the beloved children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White was made into an animated film starring the late Debbie Reynolds as the titular spider. Through her wisdom and a flair for marketing, Charlotte is able to save a pig from ending up on the dinner table.
There is something magical about this adaptation, no matter how old you are. The lessons apply to young and old, but are couched in a way that does not feel like a lesson. It feels like a gentle maternal nudge in the right direction is that neither forced or sudden.
Secrets, especially family secrets, have a way of coming out.
In the new movie, After the Wedding (based on the 2006 Dutch film of the same name which I have never seen), Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in India. In need of additional funds, she travels to New York City. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is the owner of a very successful media company and is interested in making a large donation to the orphanage.
But before Theresa can discuss the details of the donation, she and her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) must walk their daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) down the aisle. Theresa invites Isabel to the wedding. Instead of it just being an enjoyable evening, it opens the door to a couple of difficult and emotional revelations.
Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (who is married to Julianne Moore IRL), this film is a story of family, secrets and choices. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the narrative. The film tries to be dramatic, but does not reach the dramatic heights that the trailer promises. The narrative and what should be the big dramatic reveal was also a little predictable. Though I appreciated the gender swap of the main characters from the original film, it does not make up for what is essentially an underwhelming movie going experience.
When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.
His story is told in the new movie,Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.
Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?
I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.
Little Women is one of those books. It is the literary gateway drug that for many young bookworms (myself included). I remember reading an abridged version of the novel when I was around eleven or twelve. I loved it then and almost thirty years later, that love has blossomed into a life long affection.
The trailer for the reboot written and directed by Greta Gerwig was just released earlier today. Stepping into the iconic, universal and beloved roles of the March sisters are Emma Watson (Meg), Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Eliza Scanlan (Beth) and Florence Pugh (Amy). Supporting and sometimes bumping heads with the March girls are Marmee (Laura Dern), Laurie (Timothée Chalamet ) and Meryl Streep (Aunt March).
As a friend stated on Facebook, about this trailer and the film’s potential success, ” If anyone can top Winona’s Jo, is DEFINITELY Saoirse”. I have an incredible amount of love for the 1994 adaptation, but if this version can top that love, I will love this film forever.
The topics of race relations and the relationships between parents and teenagers is often complicated.
In the new movie, Luce, (based on the play of the same name) Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is the perfect teenager. He is a star athlete, an A student, respectful, humble and hardworking. Born in the African country of Eritrea, Luce was adopted by Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), a middle class Caucasian couple.
Everything seems hunky dory until Amy is called by Luce’s history teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). One of his papers has caught Miss Wilson’s eye and not for the right reasons. This paper opens the door to suspicion, questions about trust and who these characters really are.
Having never seen the play, I can only judge the narrative by the film.
The word I would use to describe this film is disappointing. There is so much potential in this film and yet it is wasted. The subjects spoken of in this film are so powerful and timely. Instead of using these subjects as a subtle teaching moment, the drama and the tension in the narrative is wasted. As is the the on screen talent.
As the film came to a close, the narrative threads did not come together. I don’t know if this was done on purpose or just laziness on the part of the screenwriters. If it was done intentionally, it was not done well. It was as if the individual parts of the narrative worked together on their own, but never quite gelled as they could have.
Mental health, like any disease does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, celebrity and non-celebrity.
Five years ago today, mental health took the life of one of our most beloved performers: Robin Williams.
He was more than a comic who could do impressions. He could play drama, he could play comedy and everything in between. Underneath all of his performances was a huge heart that was evident to anyone in the audience.
This past week, his eldest son, Zak, spoke to CNN about his father.
When it comes to those who are no longer with us because of suicide, there are always questions that start with what if. While the question is certainly valid, at a certain point, we need to ask other questions. I firmly believe that we need to not only accept mental health issues as a valid disease, but treat it as a valid disease.
When confronting a problem, the first and hardest step is to ask for help. The issue with mental health is that many are afraid to ask for help because of the backlash they may receive.
Mental health and the diseases that fall under the categories of mental illness are real. The sooner we accept that, stop stigmatizing mental illness and open the doors to treatment, the better our country and our world will be.