I didn’t want to see “1917” because I have two sons, and for a mother, realistic war movies are really horror movies.  I see all kinds of movies but not horror movies.   But with everyone talking about the amazing cinematography, the ‘Best Picture’ nomination, and some of my girlfriends (also moms) seeing it, I decided, bracing myself, that I would go.

Also, Duane and I toured the WWI battlefield in Ypres, Belgium, on a cold rainy June day a few years ago.  We marched around mounds that were once trenches filled with mud soaked soldiers, and saw the fields where some of the millions of horses died.  The opening scenes of 1917 exactly reproduced that landscape of hell.  I watched with eyes squinting to not feel the full impact of the brutality of that war.

Two soldiers are on a mission to reach a major with a life saving message, was what I understood the film was about, without anyone giving away the ending.  I debated whether it would be a story of heroes or a story of the hopelessness of war; the first always inspires me, the second I can do without.

It won the Oscar for best cinematography because the visuals, like a bombed out town lit in the dark by fires and flares,  were amazing.  It was up for best picture because in the details of the story man is portrayed in his humanity: good and evil.  It was a story of two sons; each had pictures of their mother safely tucked inside their uniforms. Was one picture hidden in his small Bible?  One of the soldiers is desperate to find and see his brother.  In meeting a convoy of soldiers, an officer warns, “Be sure to give your message in front of others.  War makes men too eager to fight.”

I often wonder where a film gets its story.  The more fascinating ones are usually based in reality.  Most inspiring, In the end credit, Sam Mendes honors his grandfather, Alfred Mendes with his full military title, as the basis for the idea of “1917.”  We need to share our family stories.

My grandfather, Andrew Telford, served in the Canadian Army in France in WWI.  He had become a Christian the previous year and spent time preaching the Good News, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have eternal life,” to men who were going off to die.  They respected him; enough that they asked him to keep their gambling money safe in his Bible.

Five stars.

 

 

In June 2019 we sold our house with a pool and moved to the condo that had been our ‘beach place’.  We wanted to simplify life.  We turn 65 in 2020. 

Duane was still taking care of kids at North Pinellas Children’s.  We were loving our small group and friends at church.  I planned to continue serving in BSF.  And the mailings from Medicare arrived on a daily basis.

I loved our condo at the beach. Yet now when we were living here full time and friends smiled, “Aren’t you living the dream?!” I didn’t feel like it.  Maybe it was the mess of the first weeks, but even after the floor was done and closets installed and filled, the unease remained. As I looked out at spectacular sunsets from the bedroom window, instead of marveling at the beauty, the unspoken idea that this might be our last place made me feel sad.  Life felt smaller, which had nothing to do with square footage.

Duane and I talked about what God’s future plans for us would be.  His friends were starting to retire, and that was making him think about what he wanted 

to do.   Duane knew from little things I said, that I was struggling with the change to full time life at the beach.  We asked our friends to pray for us.  

In December, our daughter-in-law Elizabeth mentioned enjoying listening to Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership  podcast.  On a Monday night, while Duane was watching football (again!), I listened to Carey’s 2 hour interview with Gordon MacDonald. He authored the bestsellers “Ordering Your Private World” and “Reordering Your Broken World.”  His thoughts about his life and marriage when he was in his 60s were so inspiring I urged Duane to listen.  We listened to their conversation three times. 

We started talking.  We spent hours asking each other questions about what we expected in the next few years.  We said the things we had been thinking but were afraid to say.  We went to sleep past our bedtime and then woke up in the morning with another fresh idea.  

In 1975, when we began dating at Wheaton, Gordon MacDonald had taught a Special Services week at Wheaton, on “Relationships.”  His ‘appearance’ now, with pivotal insights, was a ‘nice touch,’ God.

We had been looking to God for a new opportunity.  That wasn’t happening.  The only possibly new idea was starting a young couples group at church.  I wasn’t sure how we would do that, since our condo wasn’t too far for us but too far for some.   

“Have you had any answer to prayer about your future plans?”  asked one of the ladies in my BSF group, when we got together after the Christmas break.

She knew we were praying for direction, even with a specific, “We’d like to know what to do by January 1.”  

One morning at BSF, in a hallway conversation, a mom of one of Duane’s patients mentioned how often his work had been a ministry to their family.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that.  Then, a few weeks later, a favorite uncle, now 80, counseled, “The years I worked from 65 to 75 were some of my best.”

We kept searching, as January 1 came and went.

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

“I’m hesitant about living full time at the beach,”  It felt good to confess to a friend.  A little scary, too, as I didn’t have an easy solution.  She wasn’t a bit shocked.  She told me she and her husband, who had downsized, were considering adding on. 

“You need more room, too.  You and Duane like having people over.”

“He’ll flip out,”  I answered.  

She just smiled.  “I’ll pray for your conversations.”

A few Wednesdays ago, on one of those rare, empty of time constraints, open afternoons, we plunged into talking more specifically about what we’re doing, and where and how.   We talked about the size and location of our condo, church ministry plans, and Duane’s work.  

Duane didn’t flip out.  Instead, we figured out new ways to meet our goals.  Age wise, we’re five years shy of seventy, but still in excellent health and love being actively involved with work, friends, church and family.    

Last Sunday afternoon, we visited an Open House at a two bedroom villa (no maintenance!), near work and church.   I could see us hosting friends for dinner in the spacious dining room.  Within a few days, we were under contract.  We’ll keep the beach condo, but  split our time, as we were doing before.  Duane loves his patients at North Pinellas Children’s, and plans to keep on working.  Thursday afternoon we’re meeting with our pastor about a small group opportunity.

We’re ignoring the number 65, with gratitude that we do have our health and Duane has a flexible job.    

I’m glad we’re not dead yet.  

Thank you for praying for us.

 

We Will Dance

     -Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes

And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain

You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong

You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go

We’ll see them come and go again

But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze

One thing will not be changin’

We will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight

Sometimes we feel so far apart

Sometimes we dance as one

And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet

Some days we’re bouncing off the walls

No matter how this world may turn

Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

The music will play

And I’ll hold you close

And I won’t let you go

Even when our steps

Grow weak and slow

Still I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we, will dance

5-star-movie reviews

“Just Mercy”‘s lawyer, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), heroically fights for truth and justice for his death row clients in Alabama.  Based on a true story, the film exposes flagrant racism too close in time, only twenty five years ago, for comfort. Aren’t we past all that?  Five stars for subject matter: truth and the fight for justice.  Also, a graphic portrayal of the death penalty with a worthy plea to shut it down, in the name of justice and mercy.

However, on a cinematic level, although the acting was believable and writing hammered home the film’s message, the pace of the story in the first half was slow, and visually, something I could have watched at home on a TV screen.  Hence the three stars below.  Best supporting actor for Tim Blake Nelson,  whose characterization of the guy whose lies put innocent Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) on death row sparkled.

The movie could have ended where Foxx’s character realizes that the truth has set him free, while he is still incarcerated.  Powerful scene.  But doesn’t.

Duane wondered why the title was, “Just Mercy”:  Real justice stands alone on the truth, and in this story, that’s all the man needed.  

 

“Parasite,” Oscar nominated for Best Picture and International Feature Film, among other categories, is the story of two nuclear families: father, mother, son and daughter.  The poor family lives in honest, harmony, hungry and dependent upon each other, in a hovel in South Korea.  The rich family don’t know or even like each other, living in an architect designed dream house, with a basement.  (Foreshadowing; there’s lots of it in the movie.)

What happens, when, through the appearance of a metaphoric rock, the lives and hopes of these two families intersect?

You have to see the movie to find out.  Discover how peach fuzz and morse code, American Indians and the danger of cell phones, combine in a story that consistently surprises while at the same time, is relatable.

“What’s the plan?” the poor son asks his father, as they lay side by side on the floor of a gymnasium, after their hovel is washed away in a rain storm.  Throughout the film, the family had worked many plans.

“There is no plan,”  the father replies as he gazes hopelessly at the ceiling.

But that’s not the end of the movie.

A must must see.  Because the details are so creative: like how the wrong smell can give away a scheme.   And because the characters are so finely written.  Especially the father, who appears at the beginning as an out of work loser.  Then becomes the suave chauffeur of the rich family.  He fools the rich family, til even the rich father says, “There’s something I like about him:  ‘he knows not to cross the line.'”

And who’s fooling who?  Another big theme.

We saw lots of horror movie previews before this film; thought we must have been going to see a horror movie.  The tone shifts from comedic to satire to – well there is lots of blood at the end.  Not for kids, at all.  Too dark.  And it has subtitles.  But brilliantly told truth to ponder.

I karaoked to this album on Dad’s Fisher stereo at full blast whenever I had the house to myself, in high school.  The power of that orchestra, led by Mort Lindsey,  created a magical musical world with hit song after hit song by Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, Dorothy Fields and on and on, topped with the icing of Judy’s full throttle voice.  “We’ll sing ’em all and we’ll stay all night!”  Judy exclaims before the second to last showstopper.  I brought the album with me to college.  I listened to it as a young mother while walking.  Now it delights me as I drive in my car, preferably in a Chrysler car because somehow their sound systems are better.

I adore Judy’s voice.

Her life was a train wreck.  Renee Zellwegger is not my favorite actress as she seems self- conscious.  “I’m on screen and I love it.”  Now that she’s up for Best Actress I forced myself to watch the movie.

The film was brightly colored, contrasting her bright, not drab,  black hair and dark fake eyelashed eyes with a rainbow of colors.  For the first half hour that was fun to watch.  In the second hour, it was tiring to see close ups of the Judy face with the pouty lips impersonation.  The story of her childhood/teen years at MGM was briefer than expected.  I’m not sure if the filmmaker intended that those loveless and demanding years were an excuse for Judy’s drug, alcohol and anxiety issues.  Or is it that people that are talented to genius artistic level are just impossible to live with?

Either way, it’s a depressing story, a gifted person turned into a victim of her own life.  Was it well told?  The pace, after the first half hour at that pace, was too slow. And not enough of Judy’s life was told, in a 2 hour story.  Tell a story instead of so many many close ups of Renee’s face.

I apologize for being tough on her, but we’re talking about a legend. And Renee’s singing voice, on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being Judy, was a 0.  Find the Judy at Carnegie album and listen to it. You’ll see I’m right.

Nominated by the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, “Knives Out” doesn’t make the cut of ‘best’ or ‘original.’  The film did have a screenplay – which fits into the category of ‘been there, done that,’ like a game of ‘Clue,’ as alluded to in the film, with the typical caricatures who have a possible motive for the preposterous murder.

An entertaining film has a clever story but just as important, if not more, is how the screen delights the eye.  I’ve never seen a mansion with more maroon carpeting and walls, dark brown woodwork and olive (yuck) green.  Enhanced with only the light from the windows on a cloudy winter day, the lighting budget was obviously nil.   The drab, colorless scenes don’t get any help from the ‘action’ (?) of the film: mostly actors sitting in chairs talking to each other.

Daniel Craig’s southern drawl didn’t work and the puking was gimmicky.

 

 

“Little Women” treads on sacred ground.  I grew up reading and re-reading this classic in the yellow spined  ‘classic of the month for children’ edition my mother bought for her four girls.  (Each month’s spine color a different color of the rainbow which looked classy when they lined our bookshelf).  I was in sixth grade when I fell in love with Jo March; not because she wanted more than anything else to be a writer, but because she was independent and unafraid to break the feminine falsities of the day.  She was a woman with an ‘attic of her own.’  My kingdom was in the basement; a desk, bookshelf and bulletin board, under the stairs.

So, wouldn’t I love this feminist “Little Women” flick?  The visuals: settings, home decor, costumes and hair are gauzily beautiful.  They made Americana look as elegant as Downton Abbey.  The writers chose to keep the storyline, if somewhat back and forth in time.

Where it fell completely flat was in the writing of the dialogue of the four sisters.  I didn’t believe any of the words that came out of their mouths, which makes working off a script dicey for an actor.  Oh, except one or two of the lines, which came directly from the book, like, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents!”  Funny thing, that, the charm and brilliance of Louisa May Alcott’s actual writing, which Greta Gerwig mistakenly thought she could fill in, with her own political beliefs about women and marriage in the 19th century.  The only other thing missing from the film was the emojis that should have accompanied the end of each sugary syrup scene.  Those round yellow faces wouldn’t fit the period, so the creators of this sermon on the injustice of marriage to women substituted a musical soundtrack of over obvious crescendos and sappy sentimentality.  Women who made this film, are you trying to work your way out of your jobs back into your meaningless marriages?

The Laurie character is always a tough one… Chalamet fit at the younger Laurie stage, but looked too young for the more mature Laurie.  Also, the Amy character looked too old for her younger part and overplayed those scenes.  Is it ‘looks’ or is it ‘acting?’  And horrors! The March girls never wrestled each other or punched a friend, even in play.  For all the efforts in scenery, costumes and staging, to have the characters act like hyperactive children was offensive to the dignity that Louisa May Alcott instilled in her characters.

I’m trying to remember why I loved reading her books so much when I was in 5th or  6th grade;  I also adored her second book, “Jo’s Boys.”  I wanted to run an orphanage for boys, too.  Her stories inspired because her characters were real people who lived ‘ordinary lives’ with courage, creativity and love.

I’m sorry that for Greta that wasn’t enough.

Oh, and my baby sister, like Amy, took her ‘fancy drawings’ and turned it into a thriving design business!

This is a movie review about the film “Marriage Story.”  We watched the film on Netflix, not in a theater.  Starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, the title could be “Divorce Story.”  This movie is truth truth truth.  If you know anyone who is on the road to divorce or in this painful place, you must see this film.  It will be up for all kinds of awards; acting, writing, directing, editing, film work, best picture, etc.  Standout performances by all, including Ray Liotta and Laura Dern as divorce lawyers.  You know a film is true when it captures reality so that even in sad and painful places there are glimmers of humor and hope.

Fast racing cars in France.  And Daytona, Florida.  Phenomenal true story of family love and fiery dedication to winning, sets  our present fad of ‘cooperative learning’ and ‘being a team player’ on its’ fanny.  “Ford v Ferrari” features the idea that an individual can change the world, whether it’s Henry Ford, or Henry Ford II, Carroll Shelby or Ken Miles.

Matt Damon (Shelby) and Christian Bale’s (Miles)  ‘fine as a furry frog’ characters shine against Ford’s phony and Ferrari’s arrogant executives.  An inspiring facet of the film:  Mile’s devoted father/teenage son (Caitriona Balfe) friendship.  That’s one of the evidences of solid writing, and this flick lists four screenwriters! (which I usually feel is too many).  However, two of the four are my favorites:  the British Butterworth brothers, Jez and John-Henry.

Fun fun fun, without a simplistic ending, which is quite a feat.

5-star-movie reviews

It’s sounds so simple.  A good movie combines two elements: visual interest and story.  And so many fail at either one or the other.  Not ‘Joker.’

‘Joker’ works so brilliantly because while remaining true to the DC comic style and story, its’ star is no caricature but a multi faceted suffering, society critiquing and yes, insane, real person oops I mean character.  Thank you, Joaquin Phoenix.  Place all bets on him winning all the awards this year.  He bounces between pathos and a frighteningly beautiful madness with every scene stealing suck on the cigarette glued to his bony fingers.  Oh, he’s grotesquely thin, but as he dances down a flight of city stairs in the full Joker regalia he could be Fred Astaire…

Violence, murder,  and that dangerous line between good being evil and evil being good.  Some thought provoking scenes about how a city in chaos treats those who are down and out.  Not a children’s comic book story.

Glad I saw it; sorry for the late review.

 

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