I’ve been in a movie mood for the last couple of months and attribute the feeling to my perception that the new releases in the late fall are usually the award contenders and I love the Golden Globes and Oscars, SAGs and even the People’s Choice Awards when my BFF Ellen wins a total of 14 over her career – the last ten years in a row for most popular talk show host.
The political activist me loves that an open lesbian is a woman of the people, by the people and for the people. If you ever doubt who she is and why she is so highly regarded, watch her show for a week. I guarantee you’ll be a believer in her populist appeal. But enough about Ellen.
Let’s talk movies. The intensity of the suspense in Gravity drove me into therapy. Well, I’m not sure about the timing exactly, but I am in therapy and when I saw George Clooney lost in space and Sandra Bullock left alone to navigate a large can containing herself through a gazillion miles of treacherous atmosphere toward earth, I admit I decided right there in the movie theater that I’d needed therapy for a while and now was a good time to start. I’d do anything I could do if Sandra Bullock could just make it home.
Captain Phillips was also spellbinding and nerve-wracking in its own way, and whenever a movie is based on a true story, I watch in a slightly different mindset. Tom Hanks was terrific as usual, and the supporting cast superb. It wasn’t your typical swashbuckling pirate movie of the Golden Years of Hollywood, but I thought it was a super action movie that told a powerful story of an incident that received worldwide attention as the Americans attempted to rescue one of our own civilian sailors from Somali pirates and bring him home to his family.
In another Tom Hanks film based on a true story, Saving Mr. Banks, Tom played Walt Disney who tried valiantly for twenty years to convince PL Travers to release the movie rights to her Mary Poppins books. Emma Thompson played the reclusive Ms. Travers who resisted the idea of leaving her comfortable home in England to make the pilgrimage to Hollywood to participate in the production of her stories by a man whose major claim to fame was a mouse. A mouse that roared, however – and a movie that entertained.
Another movie based on a true story is Philomena, and I wanted to see this movie for the same reason I go to see many flicks: the star. Judi Dench is one of my all-time favorite actresses, and I can’t decide if it’s because I think she’s such a great actress or because she looks like my paternal grandmother Ma. Regardless of the reason for my attraction, I was happy to watch her give another excellent performance in this movie about a woman who searches for a son she was forced to give up as a young teenager in a time when options were few for young single mothers who were good Catholic girls. Her urge to reunite with her son drives Philomena to a life-changing adventure that redefines her idea of family.
Occasionally I go to a movie and when I come out of the theater I think to myself, Wow! I could go see that picture again. It was that good. And guess what? I’ve had that feeling twice in the past month and through the magic of free passes Teresa earns at work, gift cards at Christmas and the advantages of being a senior citizen – I’ve done just that. Gone to two movies two times.
Nebraska was a film I wanted to see because I’d seen the previews at our local indie arts theater, the nickelodeon. I am a lukewarm Bruce Dern fan and didn’t know Will Forte or June Squibb so I didn’t go for the stars. I went for the story. The difficulties of caring for the elderly in their varying stages of dementia are very real to me as a caregiver who survived five years with an aging mother who was obstinate on her good days and impossible on her bad ones. I felt for this family and expected to be moved by the motion picture.
I was moved all right. I couldn’t remember laughing this much in a long time. Of course the story was tragic, but the screenplay elevated the tragedy to the glorious comedy that only occurs when we interact with our family, the people we can never really leave because we are forever bound to them by our shared genetics. Hawthorne, Nebraska was Anysmalltown, USA and the people of the town created a place as real as my hometown of Richards, Texas. I had been there. These people were my people. I would see it again.
Finally, this past weekend I went to two different local theaters to see the same movie, August: Osage County. I admit to going primarily to watch two of my favorite women on the silver screen – Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, but I also went for the story. One house without air conditioning surrounded solely by the Plains of Oklahoma in a hot August summer contained enough family secrets to capture the undivided attention of a William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams and it certainly captured mine. The complex relationships between mothers and their daughters and sons, between husbands and wives, between sisters and brothers…and everything in-between were fascinating, funny and the performances flawless in a flawed family. I vowed to stay in therapy.
As I thought about these movies and why I liked them, I noticed two universal themes. Home. Family. For me there are no more powerful words. No words are more inspirational. No words can make me more introspective. Home. Family. They are words that both comfort and challenge me to be kinder to the people I love.
As often happens when I sit down to write, I don’t end up at all where I planned to go. Today I ended up at the movies. Tomorrow I’ll be on Worsham Street with the Huss Brothers. Life is good.