Owl Babies’ Day Out

It has been three weeks since I last posted about a first sign of spring: Grizzly bear coming out of hibernation. Now, spring is in full force. Another sure sign in my neck of the woods is Great Horned Owlets out to enjoy the sunshine.

First, let me play a little ‘Where’s Waldo’ with you. Can you find the owls in this photo? How many do you see?

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The obvious ones are on the top branch, mom on the right with her baby, and in the lower, closer to the trunk, another owlet.

Some are just born to be more independent. Take a closer look at this cool, furry owl baby perching on her own branch. Seeing me eagerly snapping her photo, she sits still for me, giving me a big smile even:

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She reminds me of those Ukrainian dolls.

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But don’t think she’s all innocent and vulnerable, look at her claws:

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And to the mother and the other baby in the upper branch, again, they know how to please us nature paparazzi, just by being themselves:

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And here, a little action for us, Mom preening her baby. The term of endearment is instinct:

Mom preening baby

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I can hear the baby say: “Thanks Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!”

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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 !!

Mother’s Day Picnic

Here we are, our clan of extended family, out for a Mother’s Day picnic.  The weather’s just fine, though a bit chilly.  But for a May afternoon in Cowtown, we think it’s acceptable.

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Well you got to eat out some time.  What better day than on Mother’s Day.  Why, our human neighbors have to cook… can smell their Bar-B-Q from far.  What a chore!   Wonder if it’s their Mom who has to clean up.  As for us, even though the grass is a bit dry, at least we don’t have to deal with all that trans fat and high sodium.

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Wait, this is just too good to pass up.

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And an evening stroll after dinner.  Ahh… Mother knows best.

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Hey, who’s that trying to take our pictures?  Haven’t you seen a deer family picnic before?  Oh right, not in your backyard… but, isn’t this our backyard?

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A Note About the Photos:  Arti took them in her neck of the woods, the shared backyard with the Deer Family, on Mother’s Day, 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

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Movies for Mom

Some good movies are on DVD now.  Great to spend the evening with mom at the comfort of home.  Here are Arti’s movie recommendations for Mother’s Day.

Georgia O’Keeffe (2009, TV)

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The cinematic biopic of the great American artist stars Joan Allen as Georgia O’Keeffe, and Jeremy Irons as her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  Both received Golden Globe acting nomination, while the movie got the nom for Best Picture made for TV.  The production is a visual delight illuminating not only the works of the artist, but her elegant poise, and her environs, especially the cinematic New Mexico landscape.  On top of the spectacular visuals, I’d enjoyed the personal narration and the quotable quotes.  My favorite: “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”  As for the tumultuous relationship between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, is it fair to say it is a case of iron sharpening iron?

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The Blind Side (2009)


If your mom still hasn’t seen this one, it’s a good time to watch it with her… if it’s just to give moral support to Sandra Bullock.  Like her predecessors (Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts), winning the Oscar Best Actress just proves to be too much to handle when the consequence is marital breakdown.  And what’s this about life imitating art (ok, let’s just call it art), Bullock attempts to live her movie role with her mixed-race adoption.  One thing that she’d find I’m sure, real-life mothering will prove to be a much more demanding role than in the movies.

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Crazy Heart (2009)


Jeff Bridges won the Best Actor Oscar as worn-out country singer Bad Blake. Spent and hopelessly alcoholic, Bad Blake is movingly revitalized by journalist Jane Craddock.  Even for one who’s not keen on country western music, I’d thoroughly enjoyed the songs performed by Bridges himself.  Song writers Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett won the Best Original Song Oscar with ‘The Weary Kind’.   As a bonus, you can also hear Colin Farrell sing.  Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a convincing performance as journalist Craddock, who starts from professional interest with the country singer to deeper, personal involvement.  But ultimately, her role as mother wins out.

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Arti’s other recommendations?  All the movies listed on the sidebar.  All of them are on DVD now.  To read my review, just click on the picture.

No matter which movie you watch with mom, do talk about it afterwards… that’s the best part of the experience.

Here’s Jeff Bridges singing the Oscar winning song The Weary Kind:

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To all who play the real-life role of mothering: A Happy Mother’s Day!  May you all get the nod and award you deserve!

Movies for Mom

If you’re reading this on a site that is not Ripple Effects, your’re reading a post that has been copied without permission. Stop reading and CLICK HERE to go to the original post written by Arti of Ripple Effects. https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com

OK, now that the little bit of housekeeping is done, we can start. Mind you, the above words are the only pink, or red, you’ll see here, because this is not your typical Mother’s Day post. I’ve checked on several Mother’s Day sites for good movie ideas. They’re all framed by pink templates. They all point you to movies as old as Gone With The Wind (1939), or as teary as Terms of Endearment (1983), or as dysfunctional as The Joy Luck Club (1993). I mean these are great, but, renting an old DVD for Mom on Mother’s Day? Hasn’t she seen enough Sleepless in Seattle (1993) on Encore Avenue?

By all means, take Mom out to the theaters to watch a movie on her special day!

And guys, you don’t have to sit there, endure and groan silently for two hours. Because here you’ll find iconoclastic, i.e., stereotype bashing, non-chick-flick-genre movies that you and Mom will enjoy watching. Who says mothers are naturally drawn to pink or chick-flicks anyway? I’m speaking from experience. Nothing can make me more proud than to have my teenage son accompany me to the movies. (Bravo to him for his boldness!) Yes, just mother and son. And nothing is more rewarding than to share an experience that we can talk about afterwards.

Here’s Arti’s list of current movie recommendations for Mother’s Day, 2009. As I said earlier, this is the stereotype bashing list, so you won’t see Shopaholic here. Thrillers, actions, sci-fi’s, dramas… who doesn’t need an adrenalin rush every now and then to keep the body functioning?

State of Play

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An absorbing story of corruption, deceit, and investigative journalism. The movie presents an interesting scenario: the old-school investigative newspaper reporter is pitted against the fresh-out-of-college blogger, both hired by the same newspaper to draw readership, a version of PC vs. Mac on the battlefield of journalism. When the female research assistant of congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is murdered on the day of a crucial congressional hearing, Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is drawn into the search for the truth. He has to partner up, reluctantly, with Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), a pseudo-journalist/blogger. That’s the executive order handed down by their feisty and no-nonsense boss Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren). As the investigation peels off layers of suspense, the pair is entangled with dangerous life and death situations. Adding to the intrigue is the role of Robin Wright Penn as the Congressman’s wife, and the colorful Jason Bateman as Dominic Foy, a crucial lead to solving the case. Mom would enjoy the performance by the stellar cast and the well edited screenplay. As to who saves the day at the end? I won’t spoil it for you… you deserve the credit for entertaining Mom.

Taken

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This may be in your second run theaters by now, well, so much the better. Don’t miss it on the big screen. After March 18, I look at Liam Neeson differently. Here in Taken, he embodies the superhero of parenthood. He shows us what a father will do to save his daughter, especially an ex-CIA dad against a human smuggling ring of bad guys. Bryan Mills (Neeson), a highly skilled agent who has retired early to make up for lost time with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), has to use all his resources when she is kidnapped while visiting Paris. The action-packed, fast-paced sequences leave you no time to be skeptical of the impossibilities. Mills’ expertly-trained speed and agility would make Jason Bourne drop his jaw (literally or figuratively). And, stand aside James Bond, you’re not in the league, it’s heart we’re talking about. Lose yourself, be swept away, it’s pure escape and fantasy. Any parent can identify with the fear of a child being taken and hurt and the feeling of helplessness that ensues. Liam Neeson just acts out the imaginary scenario, the omnipotent father coming to the rescue of his own, and he’s won my heart. (So remember, it’s great for Father’s Day too, but Dad will likely have to watch the DVD.)

Star Trek (2009)

Wolverine too hairy? Bad manicure? Bring Mom to Star Trek then, if she’ s up to pushing her way through the crowds. I’m sure she’d enjoy at least some elements of the movie. While you’re cheering for the young, new Kirk, she might be reminiscing the First Generation. This deserves a brand new post. So watch for it in the days to come.

Other recommendations have been reviewed on Ripple Effects. If they’re still on the big screen, Mother’s Day is a good time to enjoy them with Mom:

The key to making Mom happy: Spend time to talk afterwards.

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Photo Source: Taken, msnbc.com; State of Play, usatoday.com

Then She Found Me (2007)

 

Then She Found MeLet me guess, movie making is as demanding and draining as child rearing…and, if you’re doing both together, well…kudos to you.  Case in point, a gaunt and much thinner Helen Hunt.  Well, maybe that was on purpose for her role.  Anyway, after some intermittent hiatus since her second marriage in 2001 and the birth of her daughter in 2004, the Oscar winning actress (As Good As It Gets, 1997) comes out with a film that she co-writes, directs, and stars in.  Then She Found Me shows that Hunt is alive and well, and that she certainly can multi-task.

As a directorial debut, Then She Found Me is a gem of a film. Based on the novel of the same name by Elinor Lipman, TSFM has been on the drawing board for a long ten years.  To read NY Times’ Interview with Helen Hunt, Click Here. Hunt adapted the book into screenplay with Alice Arlen and Victor Levin throughout a few years’ period. 

Dramedy is the word for this genre of film.  The drama component of the movie spurs on some meaningful exploration:  of motherhood, adoption, marriage, parenting, faith, and God… But it’s a comedy, first and foremost, and we’re rewarded by its remaining so.  The movie is funny, smart, warm-hearted and entertaining…and best of all, we’re spared all the possible preachy sessions that could have come out from dealing with its subject matters.

Juggling motherhood and movie-making could have explained Hunt’s tired and thinner look.  On screen, such an appearance is suitably in character, for she portrays a 39 year-old kindergarten teacher April Epner, newly married, and in a desperate rush to become pregnant before time runs out.  As an adopted child, April is all the more longing for a baby of her own, thinking of the deeper relationship, bonding and meaning that can naturally come out from giving birth to and raising her own child as opposed to adopting one. To this view, her step-brother, the natural son of her Jewish adoptive mother responds, “No, it’s the same”.

Well, she soon finds out.  Her excitement of finally getting pregnant is not shared by new husband Ben (Matthew Broderick).  It is obvious that he is not eager to become a parent, or a husband, for that matter.  Actually, this news comes to him after he feels that he has made a mistake in getting hitched for life, and has moved back to live with his mother.  Sadly, Ben is still a boy, donning a baseball cap and expects everyone, especially his wife, to accept his Peter Pan confusion.

But that’s not all.  Just after her husband has left her, April’s Jewish adoptive mother dies.  And to top it all off, April encounters her birth mother Bernice (Bette Midler).  Well to be exact, her mother has found her.  But at this chaotic point in her life, April is ambivalent about coming face to face with her birth mother, especially one who is so brassy, imposing and self absorbed.  Bernice is a local TV talk show host.  After 39 years of absence, she suddenly decides she wants to find her daughter.  But upon questioning by April why she had given her up after a short parenting gig, Bernice may have understood April’s ambivalence.  And I like it when the film leaves the queries as queries… simple answers to questions like these are never easy to find.

Helen Hunt and Colin Firth

Confused and emotionally fragile, April finds new romance and support in Frank (Colin Firth), the recently divorced father of a student in her class.  His artist wife has left him for another guy and at the moment, she’s travelling the world with him. Underneath Frank’s calm and affable demeanor is a very hurt, confused, and anguished man.  If Colin Firth thinks he still has not shed his stereotyped Darcy image, this is the time to do it.  His versatility as an actor just shines through in this conflicting character.  Once bitten, twice shy.   Frank is emotionally vulnerable, yet he also yearns to establish a meaningful and loving relationship with April.  The intermingling of two fragile and affable characters is the springboard to some amusing and poignant moments.

As a first time director of a full length movie, Hunt has done a proficient job, despite some minor problems with pacing and congruence of scenes.  Certain shots could have been shortened to maximize the intended humor while some scenes ought to be connected more smoothly.  The audience may need to fill in the blanks at times.  Having said that, I feel that my enjoyment is not tampered a bit.  One note of caution though, the language is part of the reason it gets an R rating, and that might turn away some viewers.  

Kudos should go to the admirable acting by Hunt herself, as well as Firth and Midler.  Midler is effective as a self-serving intruder at first, yet is sensitive enough to change, especially as she empathizes with April’s anxiety … learning to be a mother after all these years.  And I must mention Salman Rushdie, yes, the Salman Rushdie, who plays a supportive role as the obstetrician.  He has effectively sprinkled in some subtle humor.

Further, I admire Hunt for not shying away from the problem of faith, loss, and God.  The plot lends itself naturally to the exploration of these complex issues, and Hunt has boldly dealt with them directly. The religious expressions and prayers uttered might be in Hebrew, but the yearning, and the angst, is poignantly human and universal. 

Well, Mother’s Day has come and gone, but motherhood lasts a lifetime.  As a devoted single-parent to his children, Frank in the movie has demonstrated that the marriage vow “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” can aptly apply to parenting.  And for all mothers, birth, adoptive, as well as those like Frank, who has to bear the responsibilities as one, it is in the nitty gritty of everyday realities that motherhood, or parenthood for that matter, finds its meaning and fulfillment. 

(The indie film is currently being screened on limited engagement in North America. It’s rated R in the U.S. for language and sexual content. In Canada, it’s rated from 14A to G, depending on the Province where it’s shown.)

To read my review of the book Then She Found Me, click here.

 

  ~ ~ ~ Ripples