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Archive for the ‘Guest Blogger’ Category

And Now With a Dose of Reality…

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

I’m pleased to introduce, once again, my sister Anne.  These days she’s writing for Heart of Gold Girls, which is a wonderful site dedicated to helping girls pursue their goals.  She’s guest posted here once before and can always be counted on for a thoughtful and/or pithy response to popular culture.  In conjunction with the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic Hollywood is all a-twitter with the 3D re-release of Titanic the movie.  Anne was quite the fan of the movie when it was released, and today she’s here to provide her view of the film as someone who has successfully survived adolescence.  Thanks, Anne!

I was a part of the demographic that made Titanic an international success.  I wish I were the demographic that flocked to an edgier, more hip groundbreaking film.  Pulp Fiction, perhaps.  But nope.  In 1997 I was a cliché with no shame who saw Titanic 5 times in the theater.

I could defend myself.  I could tell you, for instance, that despite its totally lame dialogue, Titanic restored the grand tradition of epic films a la Doctor Zhivago or Gone with the Wind. But who am I kidding?  I spent over 16 hours of my life seeing Titanic on the big screen for primarily 3 reasons…

  1. The love story
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio in a tux
  3. Kate Winslet’s clothes

But how about today?  Does Titanic hold up over time for this former swooning 17-year-old?  In an article for The Huffington Post, a kindred Titanic groupie saw the 3D version, and compared her thoughts while viewing the movie at age 12 to her thoughts as a now 26-year-old.  I haven’t seen the 3D version yet, but I popped in my VHS(!!!) copy of Titanic the other day so I could do a similar comparison.  Here are my thoughts:

Age 17: I wish people still dressed like that.
Age 32: Kate Winslet looks uncomfortable in those corsets.

Age 17: I wish I had red hair the color of Rose’s.
Age 32: I hope my daughter ends up having red in her hair. My ship has sailed.

Age 17: Leonardo DiCaprio is hot.
Age 32:  Thanks a lot, Titanic. Because Leo was stalked by teenage girls after Titanic came out, he never played heartthrobs after that. Please, oh please, let the new Great Gatsby be as good as I want it to be. Maybe he’ll be pretty again. No more J Edgar please.

Age 17: Jack seems kinda nerdy when he shouts about being “King of the World”.
Age 32: Good instincts, “Anne-at-17”.  It was indeed nerdy. Your cringe was worthy.

Age 17: I just love Kathy Bates; she’s so nice and friendly.
Age 32: Kathy Bates is always a hoot! Should I start watching Harry’s Law? Nah.

Age 17: I hope I meet a wandering artist someday and have a wild fling.
Age 32: How on earth do they think they’re going to travel the world if they’re broke?

Age 17: Jack is so fun-loving, getting Rose to dance an Irish jig!
Age 32: Jack can pull it off, but Rose looks like a doofus dancing that faux jig.

Age 17: Eeek!  Kate Winslet is really gutsy to show her breasts like that!
Age 32: Clearly Kate Winslet had not nursed any babies when she shot this movie.

Age 17: Ugh, I have to watch the ship sink now.  The good stuff is over.
Age 32: Oh god, I forgot they killed off that old couple in bed together.  I can’t watch.

Age 17:  Why doesn’t Jack try harder to climb on that friggin’ board?
Age 32:  Why doesn’t Jack try harder to climb on that friggin’ board?*

Age 17: What a dramatic gesture throwing that necklace into the ocean!
Age 32: Throwing that necklace in the ocean served no purpose whatsoever. It ticks me off.

Age 17:  I must buy the soundtrack.
Age 32:  Did I really buy that soundtrack that sounded like Enya but wasn’t Enya?

And, with that, I need to find someone willing to go see it with me again in 3D.

*I’m with the Huffington Post on this one…

Did you love Titanic or hate it?  Leo-lover?  Am I alone in thinking James Cameron should find a screenwriter and stick with the special effects?

Censoring a King

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Happy Monday.  I’m excited to announce a very special guest blogger today.  Many of you know my sister Anne from her time over at Life in Pencil.  Though she has recently stepped back from the blogging world, she knows she always has an open invitation to post here, should something thought-provoking speak to her.  I was thrilled last week when she mentioned a certain inspiration, and am honored to be sharing her words with you today.

It’s the kind of film the Oscars adore.  Pedigree cast, period costumes, and British accents.  The King’s Speech had Oscar written all over it, and win it did.  But added to the usual trappings of an Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech had something else…mass appeal.  Beneath the thick London fog, there’s a crowd-pleasing underdog film we Americans love to love.  You can’t help but root for the stammering monarch, and his supporting cast of feel-good characters. This is one of those rare Oscar winners—unlike The Departed or The Hurtlocker—that you can truly call a “family film”.  Oh, wait.  Except for that pesky cussing and the R-rating.

If you haven’t seen the King’s Speech, then I have two things to say to you.  1)  See it.  You’ll like it.  2)  SPOILER ALERT!!  And with that, I’ll proceed.

In the film, Colin Firth’s Duke of York has to let go of a few inner demons (namely, Daddy) that plague his speech.  The straight-laced Duke cuts loose in front of his speech therapist and unloads some serious f-bombs with – surprise! – no stutter.  It’s not only funny, but illuminating.  It’s a moment that tells us as much about his character as maybe any other moment in the film.  But if you’re the ratings board, you don’t care.  It’s the F-word.  Rated R for, “don’t bring your kids.”

As it turns out, the Weinstein Company has a fool-proof plan to deal with the R-rating, open the film up to more families, and make caboodles of dollars.  They’re going to censor it.  Harvey Weinstein, usually a champion of artsy and gutsy films, has released a PG-13 version of the film in theaters, in which Colin Firth’s landmark cussing is softened and cleaned up. In this article, Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman discusses this decision, and presents it as a problematic precedent, mostly for artistic reasons.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of the well-placed cuss word, and not a big fan of awkward editing.  I don’t enjoy excessive cussing, and it can certainly become distracting if used poorly.  But when used correctly, the 4-letter word can also bear artistic merit.  Ever tried to watch Sex and the City on TBS?  Don’t.  Samantha is all but destroyed.  Numerous famous movie lines contain some colorful language, and one need look no further than another Oscar contender this year—True Grit—to find the famous Rooster Cogburn yelling “Fill your hand, you son of a BITCH!!” at a critical moment in the film. (No doubt riskier when it was uttered by John Wayne in 1969).  “Son-of-GUN” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?  The language makes these scenes memorable and quote-able years later, and the words themselves also make a statement about the character and the moment that no genteel sentence can match.

If you believe this sanitization tarnishes a piece of well-developed character development, then you’re against the PG-13 release.  But how about examining it from a parenting perspective?  According to the Motion Picture Association of America, an R rating means, “Under 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian.”  So, what in the name of popcorn and jujubes, should prevent a parent from doing just that?  Why not accompany under-17 children to see the (otherwise squeaky clean) film, and then simply talk about the use of language if they’re concerned?  I’d venture to say there’s not a single word in the film that a kid over the age of 10 hasn’t heard before, and in a much less artistic and meaningful context.

Studios these days produce plenty of trash, but trash this isn’t.  It’s well-made, uplifting, and chock-full of fine acting and clever writing.  While the Weinstein Company just started marketing The King’s Speech as a “family film”, it was all along. No editing necessary.

Homebodies and Rolling Stones

Friday, June 4th, 2010

For those of you who are fellow bloggers you are familiar with the site swap.  For those of you who do not blog, permit me a bit of explanation.  While I write this blog for myself – to satisfy my own curiosities and explore the things I find interesting – I would be lying if I said that the feedback, insight, and sense of community I’ve grown to love from my fellow bloggers wasn’t also a big part of my affinity for writing, and more specifically, blogging.  Over time we come to know snippets of each other.   And while sometimes names, hometowns, and other identifying details are conspicuously absent, the heart of the matter (whatever that matter may be) is always fully explored. 

Kristen at Motherese is one such fellow blogger whose words I look forward to and whose insights I value.  And so today, I’m honored to post her words here, so that you may get a glimpse of her perspective on life.  In turn, a post of mine is up on her site, so when you’re finished here, stop by her place for my post.  And stick around and pilfer through her archives.  I know you won’t be disappointed.

Homebodies and Rolling Stones
by Kristen @ Motherese

Flying home on a Sunday afternoon in January after another week away, I was actually a bit sad to see the trip come to an end.

That is unusual for me: I usually prefer to stay home than to travel.  I enjoy planning vacations and mapping out an itinerary, but, as often as not, I find myself counting down the days until I can return home once I am actually on the road.

I traveled a lot as a kid and as a young adult.  I’ve visited almost all of the states and many countries.  I’ve had my breath stolen by natural wonders and by man-made structures.  I’ve biked on glaciers in Alaska and gulped apple wine at Oktoberfest in Offenbach.

I treasure these experiences, but sometimes I feel like a collector of memories – more interested in tucking them away and looking at them in pictures, rather than in living a trip as it occurs.

Feeling somewhat nostalgic for this recent trip that was coming to an end, I happened upon two bits of literary inspiration – one lofty, the other not so much – that helped me name these phenomena.

The first came through the typically direct words of Olive Kitteridge, the title character of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel-in-stories, and a companion of mine on my trip to Florida.  Olive’s grown son Christopher invites her for a visit.  She declines his request to have her stay “for a couple of weeks” with the rejoinder: “Three days…After that I stink like fish.”

And I wondered if Olive’s rule of thumb for houseguests might just apply to travelers as well – and if the best vacations are those that contain – almost like the best meals? – just enough to fill you up, but still leave you wanting a bit more.

This trip to Florida was just that for me.  I was delighted by the sunshine and the warmer temperatures, by the chance to walk and play outside in January, by the time with my parents and brothers.  I felt full of all of these good sensations, then drove away from those people whom I love wishing for more of all of them.

For me, the ideal time away was a week.  For Olive, it seems to be three days.  For others, it might be more or less.  The key, I think, is knowing your travel tolerance and planning accordingly.

The second piece of worldly and wordy wisdom came from one of Big Boy’s favorite book series: Toot & Puddle.  These porcine roommates and best friends have different perspectives on travel.  Toot has been bit by the travel bug and spends most of his time on-page globetrotting – from Provence to Nepal, from Egypt to the Solomon Islands.  Puddle, meanwhile, is a homebody.  He occasionally joins Toot on his adventures, but is usually happier in the rhythms of his day-to-day life.  At the end of Toot & Puddle, the first book in the series, the pigs are reunited at home for a December celebration.

“Here’s to all your adventures around the world,” said Puddle.

“Here’s to all your adventures right here at home,” said Toot.

And perhaps that is the distinction right there: some of us find adventure through travel and some of us find adventure through staying put.  And maybe those proclivities bend and evolve as we age, as our destination changes, and as our sense of home shifts.

But maybe some of us shy away from adventure altogether, evincing a preference for home but really masking a fear of the unknown?

Could it be that my own deep connection to the idea of home makes me tend toward a static life?  Could it be that my risk-averse nature causes me to miss out on the brighter and deeper dimensions of living?

What is your travel tolerance (i.e. how long can you be away from home before you want to return)?  Are you a homebody like Puddle and me or a rolling stone like Toot?