Category Archives: Movies

Choose Kindness

On Good Friday Dave and I watched the movie Wonder. I had read the book and so I knew the plot, but the film still engaged me totally and had me weeping. Although there are some credible critiques of the film, particularly this one in The Atlantic I thought the message of the movie and the excellent performances from its main actors Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay, far outweighed the fact that it probably didn’t paint a totally realistic picture of a family and a school community impacted by a fifth grade boy named August who has a severe facial disfigurement. 

teacher in the movie wonderAugust’s home room teacher Mr. Brown puts precepts on his chalkboard for his students to discuss and consider.  The precept that grounds the story of Wonder is from Wayne Dyer, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” 

This is something August’s schoolmates, their families, August’s own sister and August himself must struggle with as they deal with their tendencies to react in less than kind ways. 

Choose-Kind-Facebook-Share-Posts-1200x630pxI found out the movie Wonder has sparked a Choose Kindness campaign.  School classes or individuals are encouraged to have a Choose Kindness jar.  Each time they do something kind a marble, or coin, or some other marker goes inside till the jar is full.  Kids have been coming up with their own precepts that encourage kindness, writing stories about kindness, designing kindness T-shirts and doing all kinds of projects that inspire kindness. 

The movie made me think about my own behavior.  Sometimes when I write or speak I let my belief that I am right get in the way of being kind.  I need to be more conscious of that. 

Wonder was really the perfect movie for a Good Friday, because its story reminds us to be as compassionate and kind as Jesus was to the people hanging on either side of him on the cross, to the people who killed him, to his mother who was grieving and to the many marginalized people he encountered during his time on earth. 

Other posts…….

Acts of Love and Kindness

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

Four Things You Can Do To Be More Empathetic

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Filed under Movies, Religion

Best Picture? You Must Be Kidding!

phantom thread movie posterWe saw Phantom Thread in Lagos Portugal last week.  There were no characters in the movie I liked or cared about. 

reynolds woodcock in phantom threadCertainly not the self-centered, chauvinistic 1950’s high-end fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock who was not only cruel and demanding but eccentric and anti-social as well.  He had a creepy obsession with his dead mother that reminded me of Norman Bates in Psycho. Was Reynolds Woodcock the villain of Phantom Thread or the protagonist? His toxic behavior towards women could make him a poster child for the#MeToo movement. 

I sort of admired Reynolds’ sister Cyril who was essentially the brains of his fashion empire taking care of all the organization and paper work and customer relations to keep the family business thriving. But it was hard to like Cyril because she was way too devoted to her crazy brother and tolerated his ridiculous behaviour. I wanted to shout at her, “Make a life of your own.  You are smart and confident. You have what it takes. Ditch that neurotic sibling of yours!”

SHOWBIZ Film Reviews 083028

Reynold’s sister Cyril supervising the hardworking seamstresses in the film

I felt sorry for all the very talented seamstresses who worked in Reynolds’ fashion house. Without them his business would have been nothing. It was their skill and expertise that made his illustrious reputation possible.  They all lined up like frightened soldiers to cater to their boss’s every whim.  Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson never really let us see their individual personalities. 

I had no respect for the rich women who came to buy Reynolds’ dresses. They seemed to care about nothing more in life then what social event they would attend next and what they would wear to it that would make everyone else jealous of them. Their main concern in life was whether they looked beautiful or not. 

Phantom-ThreadFinally we have Alma, a simple waitress who becomes our protagonist/villain’s mistress and then wife.  Initially she is besotted with this man who introduces her to his upper crust London life. But even when she fully understands his crippling obsessiveness and cruel nature she doesn’t leave him but cultivates a sadomasochistic relationship with him that keeps him in her life. 

fashion 1947-57

Photo I took at the Golden Age of Couture exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in 2009

The only thing I found mildly interesting about the movie was its historical signficance. In 2009 I visited a fascinating exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum called…. The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947–1957. It featured more than a hundred fashionable outfits from exactly the time in which Phantom Thread is set. The exhibit touted 1947 -1957  as the most glamourous and remarkable decade in fashion history. It happened right after World War II when people were beginning to have an interest in things like fashion again and it celebrated designers like Dior and Givenchy. Phantom Thread is firmly set in that golden fashion decade. I applaud the film’s costume designer Mark Bridges who so faithfully recreates the outfts of the golden fashion decade for Reynold Woodcocks’ clients and his wife Alma to wear in the movie. 

Phantom Thread is nominated for best picture at the upcoming Academy Awards. Except for its costumes I have no idea why. 

Other posts……….

The Golden Age of Fashion

Inuit Fashion Show

The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission


Filed under Movies, Portugal

To Understand Yourself: Is That a Discovery or a Creation?

I always like to read novels set in the countries we visit. I started my two months in Portugal with Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon. It’s the story of Raimund Gregorius, a 57 year old ancient languages teacher in Bern, Switzerland who encounters a Portuguese woman about to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. He saves her life and aburptly leaves his own career and home to pursue her to Lisbon taking along a Portuguese book he finds in a second hand book shop. It is called The Goldsmith of Words and was written by Amadeu de Prado a deceased Portuguese doctor.  

Raimund reads the book and becomes obsessed with finding out about the author. He goes to visit many of the people who knew Amadeu de Prado. As Raimund learns about Amadeu’s life he is inspired by the doctor’s  passion, courage and strong personal relationships. To Raimund it seems the very antithesis of what he views as his own plodding lonely existence back in Switzerland. 

jeremy irons and lean olin

Jeremy Irons plays Raimond in the movie version of Night Train to Lisbon and Lena Olin has the role of the former lover of the doctor who wrote the book The Goldsmith of Words 

The book exams the idea of how the choices we make in life impact us. What were the turning points that could have changed everything? Is it possible even at an older age to throw off our current existence and begin anew? 

There is a lots of heavy talk in this book and huge excerpts of rambling philosophical thinking from The Goldsmith of Words. Sometimes I felt like skipping these sections to get to the plot, but they did have some thought provoking ‘gems’ I bookmarked in my Kindle as I read. 


We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. 

Sometimes, we are afraid of something because we’re afraid of something else

To understand yourself: Is that a discovery or a creation?

So, the fear of death might be described as the fear of not being able to become whom one had planned to be

There were people who read and there were the others. Whether you were a reader or a non-reader was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people.

Why do we feel sorry for people who can’t travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can’t multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become

night train to lisbon movieMy friend Rudy helped me find the movie Night Train to Lisbon on his Apple TV and we watched it.  The film took HUGE liberties with the plot, leaving out many characters and simplifying the long passages from The Goldsmith of Words into short statements. It resolved a number of loose ends the book didn’t pursue and was much more plot driven than the book.  

One of my favorite things about both the book and the movie was……. that having spent a week in Lisbon I was able to identify many of the places in which the story was set. Dave and I left for the Algarve in the very same train station where Raimond arrives on The Night Train to Lisbon. 

Other books………..

Reading My Way Through Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Where I Live Now

Seeing The Post in Lisbon


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Filed under Movies, Portugal

Seeing The Post in Lisbon With People Who Truly Understand What Freedom of the Press Means

We saw the movie The Post in a large packed theatre in Lisbon.  The film was in English with Portuguese subtitles. It tells the true story of how President Nixon tried to stop American newspapers from printing information from the Pentagon Papers- stolen documents that revealed a government cover up of damning information about the Vietnam War.  The Washington Post published stories using Pentagon Paper materials even though the President threatened legal action, including possible imprisonment of The Washington Post editor and owner. I intitially wondered why so many Portuguese citizens,many of them my age, were so interested in a movie that was essentially about freedom of the press in America. As I thought about it I realized they were probably interested  because they could identify.  Antonio Salazar’s Estado Novo political party held power in Portugal from 1932-1974. Salazar appointed a goverment censorship committee that strictly controlled all forms of media including newspapers. A revolution in 1974 ousted the Estado Novo party and full freedom of the press was restored.  People in Portugal my age can identify with The Post because in their country’s recent history they have lived both through times of complete supression of the free press and complete freedom of the press. 

The Post is considered a particularly timely film for 2018 when the American President is repeatedly attacking the freedom of the press in his country.  According to a rating scale on a website called Reporters Without Borders Portugal actually has a freer press now than the United States.  

Interesting how the country in which you watch a movie can add meaning to its message. 

Other posts………

Cambodia Revisited 

Three Lessons From the Movie Arrival

Childbirth and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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What is Your Body Saying?

Shape_of_Water_3Non-verbal communication can be so powerful.   Actress Sally Hawkins playing a mute cleaning lady named Elisa Esposito, doesn’t utter a word in the movie The Shape of Water but she speaks volumes. In her unbelievably expressive face you can clearly see love and frustration, anger, humour and intelligence. All Elisa need do is shrug her shoulder, soften her eyes or let a tiny smile begin to play at the corner of her lips and you know exactly how she is feeling. Using only sign language and body language Elisa does her job capably and has won loyal friends. 

the shape of waterBecause she can’t speak the romance she carries on with a merman, an exotic water creature being kept in the lab where she works, is even more intense and emotional than it would have been had the love affair been conducted in words. 

As I watched The Shape of Water I was actually reminded of something actor Will Smith said in the movie Hitch where he is coaching a man trying to pursue the love of his life. “Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal body language; thirty percent is your tone, so that means ninety percent of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth.”

dave bargains with sellers in a saigon marketI was also reminded of this picture of my husband Dave carrying on price negotiations in a market in Saigon using only a calculator and his facial and body expressions.  He didn’t speak the women’s language and they didn’t speak his but Dave was so good at communicating with his body language.  Dave is a very funny man and he can be funny without saying a word. 

Sally Hawkins may not win the Golden Globe tonight for best actress but her ability to play a woman who speaks without speaking was exceptional and reminds us all that we communicate with far more than just our words. 

Other posts about communication…….

Heart’s Content- The Fishing Village That Changed the World

I Had My Toes Read

The Language of Flowers

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Filed under Movies, People, Reflections

Imagine Having A Memory Like That at 88 !

We went to see the movie  All the Money in the World.  It tells the story of the kidnapping in 1973 of J.P. Getty’s grandson and namesake.  The senior Getty was at the time one of the richest men in the whole world but refused to pay his grandson’s ransom.   The movie certainly makes the point that all the money in the world can’t make you happy, or buy you love or respect.  It shows how in the end the accumulation of things leaves one cold and lonely.   

What I admired most about the film however was Christopher Plummer’s performance.  At age 88 he was called in after the entire movie had been shot to play the part of J.P. Getty because Kevin Spacey, the man who had filled the  starring role had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.  In just nine days all the scenes with Spacey had to be filmed again with Plummer in his place.  It wasn’t until I saw the film that I truly realized what a feat that was.   Plummer’s part was HUGE!  The number of lines he had to learn in short order is amazing.  At 88 he claimed it wasn’t that hard.  After years of memorizing scripts  he’s become quite adept at it.   Plummer memorized the longest sections first and then worked his way down to the shorter ones.

It made me wonder if I shouldn’t take up drama in my old age if it helps you retain such a remarkable memory.  I think many octogenarians  would give an awful lot of money, though perhaps not all the money in the world,  for a memory like that!

Other posts……

The Rememberer

The Constructed Mennonite

He Just Disappeared

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Flaws Make the Character

When you start writing fiction one of the first things you learn is that even your heroic characters will need to have flaws if they  are going to be interesting.Three-Billboards-Outside-Ebbing-Missouri-filmIn the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri everyone is flawed and that makes each character a puzzle.

EbbingsThere’s the courageous but grieving mother played by Francis McDormand.  She’s grieving because her daughter has been murdered and raped. You want to feel sorry for this woman but her flaws make it tough.  She blows up a police station, attacks her dentist,  drop kicks a couple of teens she’s angry at, insults her pastor and is constantly embarrassing her son.  Plenty of flaws there. 

THREE-BILLBOARDS-OUTSIDE-EBBING-MISSOURIThere’s the cheerful but fatalistic sheriff played by Woody Harrelson. He’s fatalistic because he is dying of cancer.  You want to feel sorry for this man but his flaws make it tough.  He doesn’t curb his foul mouth in front of his two little daughters, he leaves the girls unsupervised by a river to have sex with his wife, he thinks its okay to have racist men working for him, he commits suicide and you get to see the devastating impact that has on his wife, co-workers and community. Plenty of flaws there. 

sam rockwellThere’s the childlike but angry police officer played by Sam Rockwell.  He’s angry because his father died when he was young and he lives with his mother who is a chain-smoking, snivelling  crone.  You want to feel sorry for this man but his flaws make it tough.  He spouts politically incorrect insults directed at minorities, beats up a billboard salesman and throws him out a window, arrests a black woman on a bogus charge, and plots to kill a man.  Plenty of flaws there. 

My husband said the flawed characters in this movie were intriguing and they made him like  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.  I found the flawed characters in this movie sad and they made me feel unsettled.  

Other posts………..

Why Do We Share Our Worst Selves With Those We Love the Most? 

He Watches. He Listens. He Thinks. He Writes

Now I Really Want to Go To Botswana


Filed under Movies