Every movie a children’s movie?

My sister reminded me this week that Grease was the first movie she’d seen without an adult,  My mom dropped my brother, sister, and me off at the theater.  In June of 1978 that meant I was not quite eleven and she was a few months from turning seven.

Which led her to exclaim, “Who let’s a six year old watch that?” and reminisce about my mother’s look of shock when her tiny daughter danced and sang along to Greased Lightening.

Then I listed several more entirely inappropriate movies which I remember watching as a very young child.  Either my mother did not think about it at all, or she assumed that if the actors were clothed, we were clueless.

Even a naive child could not remain entirely clueless watching Natalie Wood steal her mom’s skeevy boyfriend in This Property is Condemned, and, unlike my sister, I knew full well that Gigi was being trained for prostitution.

Not that this is surprising.  I’ve told my husband for years that I never saw family tv as a child.  My mom only watched cop shows, variety shows, and MASH when I was little.  Quincy, Rockford Files, Starsky and Hutch, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher, those I remember.  The Waltons?  Never.

Not that it seems to have harmed either of us, but my sister and I both exercised more caution with our own children.  I wonder if her girls have even seen Gigi?



Educate girls; change the world.

Yesterday we, along with a small group of girls from my daughter’s Sunday School class, went to see Girl Rising.

The film is rated PG-13, but I would have felt comfortable with my children seeing it as young as ten.  However, there were families that did not let their middle school daughters come with us, thinking the content would be too upsetting.

Frankly, the content is supposed to be upsetting.  Nobody should be delighted by the obstacles in a girl’s quest for education.  Nobody should find poverty amusing.

I was surprised at how softly the most sinister issues were handled.  Although the facts concerning child marriage, rape, and slavery were honestly stated, they were not graphically depicted.   I think a much younger or naive child might even miss the references within some of the stories.

The girls, writing about their lives with assistance from writers of their individual lands, emphasized the transformative power of education or their own strength.  These young people did not want to be (or be treated as) victims.  They want opportunities to learn and grow.

I’m not sure what the girls in our little group took away from the film.  Most of them seemed moved by it, but they didn’t relate to the girls in the movie.  These aren’t things they think about, living in middle class America.

A couple of the adults with us commented that they hoped, if nothing else, the girls would appreciate what they have.  I doubt that.  Those types of feelings don’t last long, and my goal in suggesting the film was not to induce guilt in a bunch of teens.

I hope they don’t forget what they heard.  I hope they heard stories of resiliency, stories of people reaching out to help others, stories that said, “You, girl, are important to society.  You have a brain and a voice.  Use them.”

If that thought guides them to become a leader, an activist for those without a voice, fantastic.  If it encourages them to be a better student or citizen or friend, that’s great, too.

Girl Rising is only showing in theaters for a week.  If it’s playing near you, try to see it with a girl you love.

Let’s All Be Irish Today

Nothing says Happy St. Patrick’s Day like a Scotsman singing about Irish girls.

As you know, I’m a redhead.  So are my sons.  This makes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a given for us, as people would assume we’re of Irish descent no matter what.

Why do people associate red hair with Ireland?

According the experts in everything, Wikipedia, the highest concentration of gingers is in Scotland.  Thirteen percent of the population have red hair, and 40% carry the gene for it.  Ireland is second, with 10% of people having the hair, but maybe 46% carry the recessive gene.

In the US, we only make up 2-6% of the population. It makes spotting your kids easy in a crowd.

An Irish BlessingHow do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Not with green beer, or green food.  We celebrate the way we do every holiday:  with small gifts or candy!  I bought the boys shamrock boxers and my girl green fake-keds.

If I was home, I’d coerce my daughter into watching The Quiet Man instead of Star Trek tonight, but since I’m at my mom’s, no coercing will be needed.  She owns the dvd.

In case you don’t recognize it, this Sunday Song is from Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Sean Connery’s best movie ever.  😉 If you watch the dvd, don’t miss the bonus feature about the special effects in this movie.  It is fascinating to see how they achieved those effects pre-CGI.

Reading makes me look bad.

You probably recognize this Nat King Cole classic.  Did you know that John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons wrote the lyrics, in 1954, to go with an instrumental piece written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 movie Modern Times?
Failure is unimportant.  It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.Chaplin really was a genius, wasn’t he?  I’m a fan.  Have you seen any of his movies?

I’m not actually a believer in hiding every sadness.  Sad things are sad, I say, so let yourself be sad over them.

However, I also believe in choosing happiness whenever and where ever we can.  And I believe that when we fall down, the only thing worth doing is standing back up, laughing at ourselves, learning from our mistakes, and moving on.

I am an essentially happy person, yet, I have to admit, I’m not a smiley person.  My “normal” expression is more dour than I feel.  I never knew this until I had a daughter.

What does this have to do with reading?

Thank goodness she’s outgrown this stage, but we spent a year at the beginning of adolescence where this conversation took place regularly, when my girl entered the room while I was reading:

“Nevermind, you’re angry.”
“I’m not angry.”
“You’re frowning at me.”
“I’m not frowning.”
“You look angry.”
“I’m not angry.”
“You have lines on your head like you’re angry, and your mouth…”
“I’m not angry.  I’m old.  When you get old, you get wrinkles and your mouth droops.’

Apparently, I knit my brow when I read, so I do have prominent vertical lines between my brows, making me look cross.

I don’t know what to blame for the droopy mouth.  I probably need to laugh at myself more often.

Books v. Movies: 5 Close Calls

I’ve only seen one of the films nominated for an Academy Award this year, Les Mis, so I didn’t realize that half of them were based on books until I read this article on Goodreads today.  Of those five books, I’ve read one, Life of Pi.  I listened to portions of Team of Rivals on last summer’s road trip, but I admit I slept through more than I heard (we drive through the night – well, my husband drives, while I drift in and out of sleep).  I have not read Les Miserables, the one movie I’ve seen.

So I have no idea how any of this years books compare to the movies they inspired.  I love both books and movies.  Usually, if I’ve read the book, I don’t go to the movie, but I sometimes want to read the book after seeing the film.  Although I usually find that movie adaptations of books fall short, there are exceptions.   Here are five moves that are worth watching, based on books that are worth reading.

Rebecca, book and movie


1.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier was adapted into film by Alfred Hitchcock, winning him his only Oscar for best picture.  (It also won for its cinematography.)  Both Du Maurier and Hitchcock were masters of suspense, and Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers was pitch perfect.  She should have one best supporting actress.  She still gives me the creeps.

Breakfast at Tiffany's book v. movie2.  The iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s directed by Blake Edwards was adapted from the novella by Truman Capote.  I can see why he was unhappy with the resulting film.  His novella about a troubled  and promiscuous teenager did not have the Hollywood happy ending, or even romance.  His was the better story, but who can resist Audrey Hepburn, either bedecked in jewels or  singing Johnny Mercer’s Oscar winning “Moon River?”

To Kill a Mockingbird book v. movie

3.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee should be required reading, and the film should be watched for its Oscar winning performance by Gregory Peck.  (The screenplay adaption won a well deserved Oscar, too.)  Classic book, classic movie.  What else can I say?  Fifty years from now, nobody will remember The Help, but To Kill a Mockingbird will still be relevant.


Sleeping Beauty grimms v. disney4.  I unabashedly love fairy tales, in all their good and evil glory, and Sleeping Beauty is Disney’s best adaptation of one of the classics.  Here, Disney retained all the original elements of the story, while heightening the drama and romance.  Why have an unknown prince hack through some thorns when you can have true love fighting a dragon/evil witch?  Add a score adapted from Tchaikovsky, and you have fairy tale nirvana.   On second thought, this one should be listed as “movie better than original story.”  It’s a shame it flopped at the box office, putting Disney off fairy tales and subjecting us to animated Robin Hood.

5.  I am torn about including Gone with the Wind.  Gone with the Wind book v. movieGrowing up in the days before video recorders or cable tv, Gone With the Wind was an annual two-night event.  I’d seen it many times before reading the book in my teens.  However, I never liked Scarlett until I read it.  Vivien Leigh, for all her beauty and charm, did not convey a sixteen year old girl with a childhood crush.  She captured the strength and conniving, but I always wondered, “What does she see in Ashley?”  Reading it, I understood the concept of being emotionally stuck, even when you appear to be intelligent, ruthless, and driven to success.  I enjoy the movie more for having read the book.

What book-movie pairs would you add?

Have you seen any of this year’s Oscar nominees?

St. Valentine’s Day – Isn’t it kinda fun?

Do you do anything special for St. Valentine’s Day?

My husband doesn’t really like holidays, but I enjoy spreading a little extra love in honor of St. Valentine.  I like to make homemade cards for him and my kids, or buy them something sweet.  Nothing big, just a little something to remind them how much I love them?

Sweets aren’t as special now, but when they were little, and I did not routinely keep candy in the house, they were a big deal to my children.

This week, I want to put together a care package for my son who lives on a campus back east.  I’ve already bought him a water bottle, and I’ll include some of his favorite candies and a grocery store gift card.  I might bake cookies, but, then again, I might not.  I’m also sending him photos of his dog.  (Costco sells those great Contigo water bottles in a three pack for $20.)

My mom is also getting a handmade card and photos of her grandchildren.  She’ll be surprised, because I rarely send cards in the mail.

I printed off some vintage Valentines for the occasion.  (I love vintage Valentines; I have a few framed that I enjoy all year round.)  I’ll send Valentine’s to my sister and nieces, too.

For you, I will be sharing vintage, not so serious, love songs every Sunday this month, starting with this one, “Isn’t It Kinda Fun,” by Rogers and Hammerstein.  This clip is from the original film version  of State Fair.  (State Fair was their only production not written for the stage.  There was a later version filmed in the 60’s, and it was pretty awful.  So if you’re going to watch one, watch the 1945 production.)

You may have noticed the blog’s new look.  That was a Valentine for myself.  This time of year, surrounded by brown, I crave flowers.  The cherry blossoms I photographed last spring seemed the perfect pick-me-up.

Movie Makeovers, 1958 Edition


I’m a Hitchcock fan, so when a film historian hosted an Alfred Hitchcock film series at the library, I went.  I had seen all the movies, but I enjoyed the lectures afterwards, with the little tidbits of behind the scenes gossip and film analysis.

The night we watched Vertigo, the professor (he teaches at a university) emphasized the absurdity of the Academy Award for Best Picture being awarded to Gigi that year.  Vertigo was not nominated, but is today ranked 66 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies list.  (Gigi is no where to be seen.)

There are things to be said in favor of Vertigo, but the one the professor chose was bizarre.  He bashed Gigi as an example of a frothy but chauvinistic depiction of women as objects.  There are a lot of valid arguments for Vertigo as a film, but feminism is not one of them.  I was left thinking, “Did he see the same movies I saw?”

A conservative suit doesn’t make a woman strong, and a pretty dress doesn’t weaken her resolve.  A makeover cannot change a person’s heart, their strength of character, or their lack thereof.  Brooding doesn’t equal intelligence, and happiness isn’t shallow.

Holding on to who you are while you pursue your dreams can be difficult, but you won’t live Happily Ever After without it.


Do you remember pet store monkeys?

Remember the days when people kept leopards and cheetahs and other exotic animals as pets?

Neither do I.

All my knowledge of big cats as pets comes from movies like Bringing Up Baby.

(If you have never seen it, you should.  Not only did Bringing Up Baby star Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and a leopard, but it also stars Asta, the best canine actor ever.)

I am, however, old enough to remember monkeys being sold in suburban pet stores.  Nobody I knew had one, but I did have an memorable encounter with a pet store monkey once.

I was quite small, and we were there choosing replacement fish for our tank.  I’m not certain, but I think my brother and I were on our own in the shop while my mother was buying groceries next door at the A&P.  That might not be true; I suspect my various memories of that pet shop have merged into one, but in any case, I know my brother and I were in the pet store, choosing fish.

I am certain I chose an angel fish, because I never chose anything but angel fish.   Free of decision making, I could roam the store looking at the puppies, kittens, and monkeys.  That was the best part of the pet shop, the puppies and kittens.  The monkeys were a novelty, but I didn’t want one the way I wanted a kitten, which were forbidden due to my brother’s allergies.

The monkey cage was front and center in the shop, with the cash register between it and the door.  I was standing by the cage, simultaneously waiting for my brother to choose a fish and watching the door for my mom.  So my back was to the monkeys.

One of the little imps reached out and grabbed my hair!  He yanked his arm back in the cage, slamming my head against it.  Monkeys are strong and tenacious!  He was not going to let go.

I did what any little girl in that situation would do:  I screamed as if that monkey were about to eat my brains!  The pet shop man ran over and pried my hair out of the monkey’s grasp, while the monkey and I both continued to shriek in horror.

Never again did I stand near a monkey’s cage.

Also, I decided to stick with dogs and cats….or, maybe, a cheetah or a jaguar or a herd of baby elephants, like the lady in Hatari.

What about you?  If you could have an exotic animal as a pet, would you?  Which would you choose?

(Since this is make believe, pretend it is not cruel keeping wild animals as pets, and pretend nothing is in danger of going extinct.  However, do not pretend that tigers are herbivores or that monkeys won’t pull your hair or anything crazy like that.)

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

My favorite Christmas movie has always been Miracle on 34th Street.  The original 1947 version starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and Natalie Wood.  (That is a link to the full movie, free to watch online.)

Every year, I’d tear up during the scene where Kris speaks Dutch to the little refugee girl and they sing Sinterklass Kapoentje together. (If you’ve always wondered what Kris and the little girl are saying, it is translated here for you.)

I love the message of the movie – the belief in kindness, in love, and joy, and all the other intangibles – “the only things that are worthwhile.”  Believing even when you don’t get what you want the first time.  Even when common sense tells you not to.

I loved watching Susan come to believe, watching Doris, her mom, believe, too.  I loved watching Macy and Gimble try to use Kris as a marketing ploy, and Mr. Sawyer try to take him down, only to get his comeuppance.

It was all magic to me.

Yet, I never believed in Santa myself.  We woke to presents under the tree, but I don’t recall any talk of Santa bringing them.  He was fun; we loved all the Christmas specials, but he was a non-issue.

With my own children, we read the same Santa stories, watched the Santa specials, had photos taken with him at the mall to give to my in-laws, and it was all just fun.  We didn’t pretend Santa was real, but we enjoyed him just the same.  My family loves Christmas, and we all spent the day together, playing games, talking, eating, just being together.  It was all exciting to my little boys.

I thought it would be that simple.  Just like my own childhood.

The pressure to make my kids believe in Santa Claus took me by surprise.  I did not realize how many adults felt they had a vested interest in Santa.

My in-laws thought I was some sort of anti-Santa fanatic.  The fact that my husband hated Christmas celebrations of all sorts seemed to escape their notice.  If it had been left to him there’d have been no tree or presents, either.  (I do not believe his feelings about holidays are related to Santa or any other holiday character, but I’ve never asked.)

It wasn’t just them, though.  Strangers would ask my tots what Santa was bringing them, and the poor boys would look confused or say, “Santa is make-believe.”  Then the adults would argue with them.

Who argues with a random three year old in the grocery store?

By the time they were talking, I had informed them that they were not to tell other children that Santa was pretend, explaining that some parents liked their children to believe he was real.  They understood, and were good about it.

The children were never the problem, though.  It was the adults who were determined to make an issue over believing in Santa, and who perplexed my kids and me.  Why did so many of them keep asking about Santa?  It wasn’t like any of them believed in him; my kids weren’t spoiling their Christmas.

It didn’t stop when they were little, either. People were still asking them if they’d made lists for Santa when they were nine and ten years old.  By then, they were thoroughly puzzled because none of their age-mates still believed in Santa.

It was a complete reversal of the Miracle on 34th Street I’d always loved.  Or maybe it wasn’t.  Adults were still trying to take away Christmas joy from my boys.  They were forcing materialism on them by asking about wish lists when what my sons were truly excited about was having all the family over and playing with their new toys.  (What child does not love to whomp the aunts and uncles at a game of Hungry, Hungry, Hippos?)

I think those people had forgotten about the lovely intangibles that Mr. Gailey lectured Doris about.  They were so concerned about doing things their way, that there was no room in their minds for people who just wanted to bake – and eat – dozens of cookies, go to church as a family, and play games all day long.  They had a formula for Christmas success, and we were not following it.

I once asked my mom if she’d dealt with the same thing, and she said no.  She’d never heard of such craziness.  Apparently Santa was not such a hot issue in the 60’s and 70’s as it was in the 90’s.

Every year, people would lecture me on how I was robbing my children of their childhood.  Really?  My kids seemed happy, not deprived, and they really didn’t care who was buying the lego sets or action figures.

To this day, I still do not get the controversy.  I have never once quizzed someone on the reasons they do Santa.  I’ve never suggested to a child that he is not real.  I’ve never accused the Santa adherents of ruining their child with lies.  It would have been nice to have been treated with the same respect, but not everyone seems capable of that.

That’s okay.  I had Miracle on 34th Street to comfort me.  I knew that the Sawyers of the world would be shown up in the end.  No matter how hard they try to make others fit their mold, to see problems where there aren’t any, to create discord, they are the ones who will ultimately suffer for their small minded meanness.  Our Christmases were splendid.

I hope yours are, too, whether Santa visits your house or not.

I wish Disney had bought Lucasfilm years ago.

Say what you will, but Disney knows women.

If this had happened earlier, we would have all been spared the Anakin-Amadala romance.

Because, seriously, if Padme’ had been a Disney princess, she’d have realized he was evil-crazy when he killed all those Sand People.  She’d have married Obi-Wan instead.

Of course, earlier than that, people would have realized that the Jedi system was Doomed to Fail because taking babies away from their families and forbidding them to ever have a family of their own is Just Plain Wrong.

That makes the Jedi the witch in Rapunzel.

Disney would have been better with continuity, too.

Padme’ giving up the will to live while still on the delivery room table?  A Disney Princess does not give up the will to live because her man has gone wrong.  Well, she wouldn’t have chosen the wrong man to begin with, but, had she, she would not have wimped out at motherhood.

Think of Dumbo’s mom.  Did she give up without a fight?  No.

Aurora’s parents were willing to spend sixteen years away from their daughter to save her from Maleficent, but they didn’t die of unhappiness.  They waited.  Ariel’s dad, king of the merpeople, was willing to risk everything for his wayward child.

In a Disney film, if you want a parent out of the picture, you have to murder them outright, like Mufasa or Bambi’s mom, because Disney knows that parents do not give up.

So Padme’ would have kept on fighting the Empire, and died a violent death, allowing Leia to remember her like she said she did in Return of the Jedi.

I am sorry to say, however, that if Disney had taken over earlier, Jar-Jar Binks would have had a larger role in those last couple movies.  It’s a trade-off.  Choose your evil.

I’ll suffer with annoying talking animals for a romantic, but strong female lead.  Like Mulan.

Geek rant over.