Movies to Watch with Mom

Best time to enjoy some mother-child bonding is to watch a movie together and afterwards, talk about it. The following are Arti’s recommendations for Mother’s Day gifts, DVD’s or Blu-ray’s. Click on the links to read my review for more details.

The King’s Speech (2010) – New release on DVD and Blu-ray, just in time for Mother’s Day. You want to keep this Oscar Best Picture not just for the excellent performance by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, but all the special features that come with: Director Tom Hooper’s commentary, Q & A with principal cast, behind-the-scenes featurette “An Inspirational Story of An Unlikely Friendship”, historical speeches of the real KGVI (and see how good Colin Firth is), and interview with Lionel Logue’s grandson.

True Grit (2010) – Mom might remember the 1969 John Wayne and Glen Campbell version. But tell her this is way better. The Coen brothers have breathed soul into this remake adaptation of Charles Portis’ Western novel. Time well spent if only just to watch the then 13 year-old Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, handling and being handled by Jeff Bridges. 10 big Oscar noms.

Made In Dagenham (2010) – Based on the true story of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant in England, where female workers went on strike to protest sexual discrimination. Sally Hawkins leads a historical, landmark victory for women workers to achieve equal pay. What efforts, torments, and costs to the individuals and their family just to claim something that’s so basic and reasonable.  Remember Sally Field in “Norma Rae” (yes, that’s 1979). This is the modern, British version.

Beauty In Their Eyes (2009) – Won Oscar Best Foreign Language Film. From Argentina, the film offers a gratifying experience, a layered, affective, and captivating combination of crime, suspense, and human sentiments. A retired legal counselor writes a novel based on an unresolved case he handled. While doing that, the flood gate of memories and unrequited love bursts open but in a moving and restrained manner. I was touched by the superb performance, the thematic element, and the heart-stirring music.

And if you’ve missed these ones, now is the time to catch up with Mom together on the comfy couch:

Nowhere Boy (2009) – Biopic of  a teenaged John Lennon (Aaron Johnson). I wrote these words in my review: “I’ve particularly enjoyed the mother-son relationship depicted so poignantly in the movie, and the tug of war between the one who has given birth to and the one who has raised the child.” Kristin Scott Thomas as Aunt Mimi and Anne Marie Duff as Lennon’s birth mother Julia give life to this delightful rendition.

An Education (2009) –  Superb performance by Carey Mulligan who deservedly received an Oscar nom for Best Actress. A coming-of-age story of 16-year-old Jenny when a suave and seemingly classy man twice her age befriends her and captures not only her heart but the trust of her parents. Adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoir. Links to Granta’s interview and excerpt from Barber’s memoir in my review.

Easy Virtue (2008) – Based on Noel Coward’s play, this one is a frothy, light-hearted take on a family feud. If you’ve enjoyed Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas together (a rarity after The English Patient), then this is a must-see. Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes co-star. You’ll see some unlikely feats, like the Firth and Biel tango. But, what are comedies for, if not to highlight the improbable?

Broken Flowers (2005) – I missed this one when it first came out, not a big commotion. Glad to have caught it on DVD. With Bill Murray, you know what to expect, deadpan but also deeper than it looks. An interesting and original story.

Howards End (1992) – I’m a fan of Merchant Ivory productions. So for Mother’s Day, I say, get any of their film adaptations of literary classics, anyone will do: A Room With A View (1985), The Remains of the Day (1993), The Golden Bowl (2000). But “Howards End”, adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel probably is the best for Mother’s Day viewing, with wonderful performance by Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave… Give Mom the Criterion Collection where you’ll find lots of special features. Click here to my post “The Merchant Ivory Dialogues”.

Thelma and Louise (1991) – This year is the 20th anniversary of this ‘classic’ film. Female friendship strengthened on a road trip with no road blocks. I rewatched it recently and find it still relevant. Best Oscar original screenplay. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are heading to Toronto in June for a charity appearance to celebrate the anniversary. If Mom’s a fan, send her a ticket to the event. Not possible? The 20th Anniversary Blu-ray might do.

Girl WIth A Pearl Earring (2003) – Both book and film are fine. Delightful gifts for Mother’s Day. Colin Firth as painter Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson as Griet the servant girl. Subtle yet dynamic, cinematography to match Vermeer’s works.

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And to all who play a mothering role:

Happy Mother’s Day !!

More Gifts … Books and Movies

Continue from last post… succumbing to the Boxing Day craze.

Other than the art calendars, I found these bargains, books that kick off my 2011 reading plan and some DVD’s at very collectible prices:

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

Already made into a movie (Elle s’appelait Sarah by French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner) premiered at Cannes and TIFF last year.  A journalist discovering a holocaust story about a ten year-old Jewish girl who tried to save her younger brother from the police by locking him in a cupboard.  The key will play a major part in a moral dilemma.  This much I know and it’s already captivating, especially with Kristin Scott Thomas playing the role as the journalist in the film.

 

 

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

The winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize.  Here’s the description from the Man Booker’s official site: “a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.”  I’ve enjoyed reading some of the past winners and look forward to this one.

 

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I got this over the holidays and have already finished reading it.  I have mixed feelings about it. The 9/11 story from the POV of a 9 year-old boy is poignant, and the way JSF presents and illustrates (the visuals) it is a new reading experience for me.  A movie is in the works with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock co-starring.  Mmm…

 

 

Music of Chance by Paul Auster

I have quickly devoured this one over the holidays together with the turkey.  The reason I was looking for this book is because of the movie.  I first saw the film adaptation a few years back and it stirred in me an unsettling resonance beyond words.  It’s a modern day Sisyphus story pitting man against chance, absurdity, and himself.  You must read it and then see the film, which unfortunately, is so overlooked that you’ll have a hard time finding it. But it deserves high acclaim, especially the performance by James Spader.  The film is also one of the best ‘Book Into Movie” adaptations I’ve seen.

 

 

In Search of Lost Time (Vol. 1) Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Translated by Moncrieff and Kilmartin.  I know many of you have read Proust and some may be Proust scholars, let me know what you think.  As for me, its attraction is simple.  How can you resist a beautiful Modern Library Classic edition with such an appealing cover?  It’s comforting just to see and touch it.  I’ve downloaded an e version into my Stanza app some time ago, but could never get into it by reading it on my iPhone.

 

 

The Early Work Of Philip K. Dick, (Vol. 1): The Variable Man And Other Stories

The main reason I got this, yes, it’s also a bargain at $5, hardcover… but the main reason is it contains a story I was looking for: ‘The Adjustment Team’, which is an upcoming movie (with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt).  I’m not a Sci-fi fan, but did enjoy some of Dick’s works adapted into films, like Minority Report (2002).  Others including Blade Runner (1982) and Total Recall (1990) are all ‘classics’ now in the Sci-fi film genre.

 

 

 

And some very collectible DVD’s:

When Harry Met Sally


I finished Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections not too long ago.  It’s a revealing and amusing memoir.  That’s what prompted me to grab this DVD when I browsed the 50% off table at Chapters (Canada’s equivalent of Barnes & Nobles), about $5.  When Harry Met Sally (1989) is Ephron’s breakout screenplay in the romantic comedy genre.  After that is history… Sleepless In Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), and most recently, Julie and Julia (2009).  But do you know she also wrote the screenplay for Silkwood?

Children of a Lesser God


This is probably one of the most forgotten films that deserves more mention.  There is inherent difficulty in the execution of a film where one of the two major characters is a deaf-mute.  But the relationship and the communication conflicts between Marlee Matlin as a student in a deaf school and William Hurt as a speech teacher just show how realistic these obstacles are.  Marlee Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1987 for her role, not bad for a debut. Her affective performance was made even more poignant due to her real life impediment.  It has been decades now since I first saw it in the theatre. I was delighted to be able to find a copy to keep, $4.

Scorsese: The Martin Scorsese Film Collection


A classy box set of four films:

  • Raging Bull — Special 2 Discs Edition, lots of special features. Classic Scorsese that gave Robert De Niro the Oscar, plus seven noms for the film.
  • The Last Waltz — Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris… this is rock history in film.
  • New York, New York — Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro, a spectacle.
  • Boxcar Bertha — Barbara Hershey and David Carradine… historical too.

And the best is the price: I paid $10.

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Now let me shift gear to the 68th Golden Globes this Sunday, January 16…

Gifts to Myself

December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada.  Like Black Friday in the US, that’s the time to pick up bargains, and pay half the price you did just two days before.  And like Black Friday, it’s the time for legitimate self indulgence for the common good, our economy.

In recent years I’ve avoided shopping on Boxing Day. I know some people getting up at 5 am to line up for a store opening at 6.  My own experience of the Boxing Day craze had been standing 3 or 4 people deep, stretched out my arm to the sale table and grabbed whatever I could out of it, hopefully something I needed.

Out of curiosity, I gave it a try again this time around… and sure glad I ventured out.  I didn’t have to fight the crowds, and waited just a bit longer in line-ups . But well worth it.  Here are some of the gifts I got for myself at half price: wall calendars which I won’t be hanging up.

I know, prices here are not as low as in the US… we’re always paying a few dollars more in printed products. But just about $10 each, these beautiful art calendars are good buys for me. Best of all, I found all my favorite artists.  Those familiar with Ripple Effects would know.  I’ve posted on Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-75) here, Edward Hopper (US, 1882-1967) here, and images of René Magritte (Belgian, 1898-1967) here and here.  So I was really excited to be able to find big prints of their works.

VERMEER 2011


 

The 12 paintings are some of Vermeer’s well known works.  The cover of course is the most famous, The Girl With The Pearl Earring (1665).  If you’re interested, you might like to read my reviews of the book based on this painting and the film adaptation here.

I have seen two of the paintings in the calendar, The Lacemaker (1669) and The Geographer (1668-69), both at The Louvre.  Interesting that the calendar prints are about the same size as the originals, or maybe even a tad bigger, for The Lacemaker.  Here are my photos of them hanging on the wall in the Louvre:

 

But the July print stands out, the only one that has an exterior view.  It’s my favorite of all the twelve months.  The Little Street (1658):

 

 

Edward Hopper 16-Month 2011 Calendar


 

I have 16 prints of some of my favorite Hopper paintings.  A few of them I’ve posted before, asking readers’ opinion on them. Here are a couple more that I’d like to elicit your views:

People In The Sun (1960)

 

 

 

Chop Suey (1929)

 

Magritte 2011


 

The cover is the Belgian artist’s work in 1953, Golconda.  Just wondering… is this the origin of the term “rain man”?  Or, are the men going up like balloons?

René Magritte was born just 16 years after Hopper, and died the same year, 1967.  So contemporaries they had been for some years, but a world of difference in terms of style.  I like the realism and existential elements hidden in Hopper’s works, but I also enjoy Magritte’s surrealist and whimsical images, openly challenging our sense of reality:

The Treachery of Images (1929)

Ceci n’est pas une pipe:  This is not a pipe.  Your take on this?

 

The Interpretation of Dreams (1935)

 

In the past years, I’ve saved up a lot of visuals just like these calendars, as teaching materials for adult ESL.  But this one definitely cannot be used for vocabulary building.  Just hang on… that may well be what Magritte is saying: ‘In a dream world, a horse can be a door, a jug a bird…’  And for that matter, how do you know you’re not dreaming right now?  Mmm… just wondering, has the movie Inception included Magritte in the credits?

 

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