THE REAL HERO OF BTTF

Hang onto your knickers girls. I'm not into political correctness. As a matter of fact, for any of you who have any respect for the N.O.W. gang – you should probably sit down.

(Quick quiz: What year did the first BTTF come out?)

I'm also not into brevity but I AM into being entertaining as well as informative. So I hope you enjoy this tribute to Back to the Future……..

Not all educational moments are for children. This one is for the moms, more particularly wives — or even just women in general. Do you remember Back to the Future – the story of the fairly cool Marty – played by Michael J Fox – who comes from a very dysfunctional family, accidentally goes back in time, inadvertently keeps his parents from falling love and getting married, and puts his own existence in jeopardy? The rest of the movie is about Marty trying to fix this. But have you ever considered that, while Marty is the titular hero, and I suppose he is in a way, that everything really pivots, not on Marty, but on his dad – George?

(Answer: It's the 30th anniversary this year. I remember seeing it with my Dad at the movie theater. Boy do I feel old.)

Up next:  Refreshers

 

Ree/eal Life – THREE THROUGH FIVE OF FOUR REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH MOVIES — WAIT?! WHAT?

REASON NUMBER THREE OF FOUR

Another reason movies are fascinating and why you should watch them is that they compress experience into condensed versions of that REAL life to which my husband alluded in the previous posts. In a well made movie nothing happens except that which forwards the vision/theme/goal of the film. One of the basics of screenwriting is: if it does not forward the motion of the plot then, even if it is a really good scene, cut it. It's called "killing your darlings". A painful but necessary process. If you have a story about a baseball pitcher, then having a long interlude on how his wife reconfigured the family recipe for orange muffins may not be in the best interest of the story, no matter how cute or well written. You want to stick to the thread of your idea and not wander too far off the trail that will get you from Point A to Point B. Films are not the lengths of real lives (though I have sat through some that were so dull they SEEMED to be closing in on that long). They are, by and large, a maximum of 120 minutes. So getting to and staying ON topic is pretty essential to good story telling. As a result, often what you see is fairly intense – intensely felt love affairs, exciting car chases, pivotal incidents in an otherwise mundane person's life, watershed moments, historic turning points. The rest is left on the cutting room floor. What you see in REEL life is a purer, or at least concentrated, experience than what you would normally have in REAL life.

REASON NUMBER FOUR OF FOUR

Another reason I find movies worth the time is that watching a protagonist or antagonist face a decision gives you an opportunity to test your own mettle – what would you do in that situation? Of course, you do not personally have the vested interest of stepping into a boxing ring, or racing from an exploding volcano. But if the film maker has any skill at all and you are the least bit cooperative in the effort, he will help you become emotionally invested in the scenario: Will the guy admit to the girl he loves that he is the biological father to over 500 children? Will the Olympic champion have the moral courage to refuse to run on Sunday? Will the man step into an apparent abyss to save his father's life based solely on the instructions written in his father's diary? What would you do in each of those cases? Would you: Admit? Refuse? Step forward? (Quick quiz: name each of the movies those scenarios come from, answers below.)

Now while it is unlikely one would face ANY of those specific situations, we likely WILL be asked to choose between: admitting a hard truth or adopting an easy falsehood, deciding on something we want versus God's Will, going forward with something that frightens us for a loved one or turning your back in fear. Were they clever? How did they work that courage up?

We are all interested in how others face challenges. Family stories of Grandpa's fishing expedition or how a cousin approached a job interview or how your best friend proposed to his girl can be the inspirations to how you will face your own challenges. Movies help expand our pallet of experience. And getting an opportunity to preview that issue, to get a good example or observe a horrible warning are helpful REEL life exercises running up to the REAL life lessons we will face.

REASON NUMBER FIVE OF FOUR ……WAIT??!!…WHAT?

That's four reasons there. But are there any others? Well – yeah! Of course!!! Because they are darned FUN! They make us laugh, cry, jump in fear and shiver in admiration. The best of them can make us proud to be American, thoughtful about the weaknesses of being a human, awe struck by the power of God or the capacity of people to be selfless. They can also take us out of ourselves for a while to offer us perspective or simply a vacation from our daily stresses. Or they can reinforce the importance of the simplest most mundane actions of decent people.

These are some of the reasons movies are important to me and why I think you should watch movies. But the impact – long and short – they can have on our attitudes, our psyche or even our children's dreams are why it is important  – as one of the characters in the quick quiz warns – to "choose wisely". See you at the movies!!!!!

Answers: Starbuck (story stolen by Delivery Man), Chariots of Fire, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

And — FYI, the caution to "choose wisely" comes from the knight of antiquity in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But you'll have to watch it to find out why.

 

Ree/eal Life – TWO OF FOUR REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH MOVIES

In the previous posts I explained my love of movies. Today, I'll begin to explain the why and source of that affiliation.

REASON NUMBER ONE OF FOUR

To me there are at least four reasons to watch a movie. For one thing, it is the only proven use of telepathy that I know of. What you see on the screen is the public visualization of someone else's dream. OK. To be more accurate the vision is more of a group effort – costume designer, cinematographer, location scout, casting director, and dozens or hundreds of other "chefs" add their ingredient to the stew. But USUALLY the final party plan is the director's; his or hers the vision that you get to see. For the most part, the "final cut" is the director's, he the one who makes what you see on screen most like what he has envisioned. Now granted that can be a good or bad thing, depending on whether the director is Ed Wood or Frank Capra. Then the choice is yours as to whether or not you want a peek into that person's mind. But it is a kind of telepathy – a (literally) "feeling from afar" as the term "telepathy" was originally coined by English psychologist Frederick Myers in 1882, even though that feeling is "limited" to visual, auditory and emotional.

REASON NUMBER TWO OF FOUR

Another reason why you should watch movies is that they are cathartic. You can, via sympathy, experience situations and events, that you may never personally get to do first hand. For example, I will not likely ever get to float in zero gravity watching the earth spin from miles above, but there are any number of movies which, with a little imagination, can help you vicariously get that experience, including Gravity and The Right Stuff.

………..Next – Reasons three, four and five out of four —— wait??!! what???…………..

 

 

Ree/eal Life – I DO NOT LOVE ALL MOVIES

I DO NOT LOVE ALL MOVIES

Continuing with the previous post…..

In the first part of this post, I described my love affair with movies. Let me clarify that point a bit.

I do NOT love or even like ALL movies. The kids say I would watch the washing machine go around, but that is not actually true. It would HAVE to at least have a good soundtrack.

But there are movies and genres I just do not much care for: soap operas and slasher movies would top that list – though there are some movies that would break even that rule, making the grade despite their parentage. I confess to the guilty pleasure of Titanic in the first case and the novelty of the concept behind Freddie Krueger in the case of the original Nightmare on Elm Street in the latter case. (One of the Elm Streets was definitely enough, however.)

And when I watch movies I try to remember something a friend of mine – a little known writer/producer named Phil Kirksey – told me about 30 years ago: "NO one sets out to make a bad movie."

Even the poorly made ones I have to, on some level, admire. At the very LEAST those people had a vision which they carried out.

I have been on a number of sets. I have written and tried to write a bunch of screenplays. I have participated in a few amateur film shoots and a couple of professional ones. It's NOT a cake walk. Even the simplest, dumbest pieces of dreck have to be planned, scripted, costumed, lighted, filmed, edited…not to mention convincing a bunch of other people to: act, give permission to film on their property, lend you props, bring or lend expensive often delicate equipment. The actors have to be: transported, fed, kept safe and comfortable, provided with potties. Need I go on?? It's not easy and it takes commitment. And anyone who can get ANYTHING up on a screen, whether professional or for the local film fest, I have to give them some respect.

WHY WATCH MOVIES??

But WHY do I watch movies? My husband often teases me: wouldn't you rather (fill in blank) than watch someone else do it? The answer is — well, that depends. Yes, I would rather eat a piece of chocolate cake than watch someone else eat it. Yes, I would rather rock my own baby than watch someone else rock theirs. Yes, I would rather take a nap than watch someone else sleep. But the topic of a film does not usually revolve around the kind of mundane activities most of us mortals engage in on a day to day basis.

On the other hand, I would rather watch someone else run away from a 60 foot Tyrannosaurus Rex than actually do it myself. I would rather observe someone else's technique for surviving the sinking of the Titanic than put that to the test personally. And as for comedy – well, think of the Three Stooges. Yeah, more of a spectator sport if you ask me.

Do I choose to watch a lot of movies? Yes. Do I choose to watch ANYTHING? No. Of course not. But, the $64,000 question remains —— WHY?

…………..To be continued………..

 

Ree/eal Life – I Love Movies

I LOVE MOVIES

I love movies. I love everything about them. I love hearing about the possibility of one coming out. I love finding out it's coming to a theater near me!  I love buying the popcorn, watching the trailers (though I admit that sometimes I end up enjoying the previews more than the movie I came to see. LOL). Then when the theater lights go down and the screen lights up, there is something magical about the descent into darkness and allowing the vehicle of your imagination to be chauffeured by someone else for a while – see where THEY want to take you and to go along for the ride.

Before the advent of TIVO, online streaming, DVDs or even VHS tapes, I remember, as a kid, biking down to the local grocery store once a week to pick up the latest copy of TV GUIDE! I'd thumb through it – sometimes not even waiting to get home but check it out on the sidewalk outside, in the shade of the awning, straddling my bike keeping it balanced while I scanned the movie titles for that week. I'd scour the list to find out if any movies that I wanted to see, or had missed at the movie theater, were going to be coming on and PRAYED it would not be on an early bedtime school night.

Movies I was not allowed to see at the movie theater I might be allowed to watch on TV because, back then, the sensibilities were less jaded, editing was pretty strict and an R rating would be knocked down to a tolerable PG when shown in the American home between Oreo cookie and Mr. Clean commercials.

The movie would also have to be on a channel we could get with my Dad's pivoting satellite antenna. He had a tower attached to the house and you could control its direction from inside the house, often getting – especially late at night – channels normally FAR outside of the regular viewing geography. Living in New Orleans, why, sometimes we could even get a channel that originated in Baton Rouge!

OK. This REALLY dates me. Boy what I wouldn't have given at that time for just the ability to copy onto a scratchy VHS the badly hacked movies shown on TV, even crudely truncated to make time for the interminable and poorly placed commercials. Because your choices back then were: catch it at the movie theater, see it on TV at a random time assigned by the station and hope it isn't too chopped up to make time for the advertisements, or …………….. Well, there were no other choices. You could read the "Book based on the movie," listen to the sound track on an 8-track cartridge and hope it included snippets of the dialogue, ask a friend with a good memory and gift for story telling to describe it to you….but really….there were no reasonable options. If you loved movies you could get pretty frustrated.

And I love watching movies – and rewatching them. My Dad used to carry around old beloved paperbacks in his back pocket. He said rereading his favorites was like visiting old friends. I feel the same way about movies.

I'm often told I talk too much. I suppose that bleeds into my writing too. I also understand that one shouldn't write into a single post more than one could read while sitting on the — well, while one is otherwise occupied. So, I have broken this rather loquacious blog into a series and see if that is more user friendly. Please let me know if you like this idea better or would rather get it all over with in one swell foop.  🙂 So, as in the old days………….

…..To be continued

 

3 Movies I Liked But You Should Not See

Some movies just should not be made —- or should have been made differently. Every now and again I plan to clue you in to movies which I actually liked and were very popular but I think have inherent flaws which make them unwatchable.

BE WARNED – FULL DISCLOSURE: I plan to spoil the living snot out of them for two reasons: given the nature of the evaluation it will usually be necessary to tell the ending – the outcome of the characters often strongly informs the value of the movie. If the bad guys do not get a comeuppance then the movies’ ethical and educational quality should be closely scrutinized. Second, frankly I want to tell you enough about the movie that it kills your curiosity and makes you not want to see it.

Three this time: Grease, Pretty Woman and Risky Business. I have seen and liked all three; all three are classics in a way, were extremely popular in their time,  and, in retrospect I realized they were just not very nice movies.

Risky Business: All that being said, there IS ONE scene that is pretty terrific which is fine to show anyone. If you have grown up seeing Tom Cruise in Minority Report, Live-Die-Repeat, or one of the Mission Impossible movies it is hard to resist watching one of the early scenes in Risky Business. He is just a puppy at this time and plays a high school senior who is tasked with watching the family home while his parents are on vacation. Being left completely alone for the first time he sliiiiiiiides into view with a faux microphone wearing nothing but socks, underwear and a long shirt lipsyncing to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”. It is SO darned cute…….. But then, during the course of the rest of the movie, he: hires a hooker, allows her to manipulate him into so much debt she convinces him to put his rich Ivy league friends together with her friends, effectively turns his family’s home into a bordello, bribes a college evaluator with a questionably aged prostitute, lies to his parents and…..GETS AWAY WITH IT! He is accepted to his dream college and keeps the hooker as a girlfriend. Charming example of how to get ahead.

Pretty Woman: Edward (Richard Gere) hires a hooker (a lot of that going on) named Vivian, played by Julia Roberts, as eye candy for an important negotiation. To make her a convincingly appropriate escort he styles her up. The scenes that follow deliberately echo My Fair Lady, including a posh scene at a racetrack. But the analogy becomes offensive to me for a number of reasons. For one thing, in My Fair Lady, Eliza is virtuous. Instead of the easy cash she could make as a comely lady of the night she scrapes out an honest living selling flowers, then seeks to better herself with elocution and social lessons. Henry’s interest in Eliza ranges from that of a scientist analyzing an interesting form of fungus to paternalistic/fraternalistic protector. In Pretty Woman Edward takes full advantage to use Vivian for that which he has paid her. As for the supporting cast, instead of a Freddie who becomes infatuated with Eliza, there is Philip, a loathsome colleague of Edward’s, who beats and tries to rape Vivian. Now, just before credits, Edward does propose marriage, but it’s a band aid on a gun shot wound. Sadly, I could have accepted pretty (if you’ll excuse the pun) much almost all the rest of the movie if Edward had simply not had sex with her. Duh. If he had rebuffed her attempts to “fulfill” her part of the bargain, if he had done the Higgins’ thing and held her at arm’s length, if Edward had simply been a VIRTUOUS EXAMPLE, there could have even been some rather funny moments from this scenario. Instead Edward is a cad. It is unfortunate, because there ARE some nice moments in this movie, and it had potential. There’s even a very cute scene (which IS watchable but in the middle of the movie) where Edward takes Vivian  to a VERY elegant clothing shop. Edward pulls the manager aside and tells him, referring to Vivian, that Edward wants the manager to do some “serious sucking up,” intending to bolster Vivian’s self-ego. The manager misunderstands and immediately goes into this oozing complimentary patter to Edward. Edward stops him in mid sentence: “Not ME! Her!” It is quite funny. Also Hector Elizondo’s portrayal of Barney, the hotel manager/Pickering-type character is stand-out charming because HE treats Vivian as a LADY. Barney would have been a far better Higgins to Vivian’s Eliza. Had that latter pairing been made it might have been a really good story. As it is, it is a preposterously unrealistic portrait of a (definitely NOT) lady.

Grease: Wow, the archetype story of corruption. Olivia Newton-John plays Sandy, a clean cut virgin girl from Australia who had met Danny, (John Travolta), the high school BMOC, the previous summer in an exchange program for high school students. Thrown back together in an American high school, Danny at first doesn’t want to admit he likes her and in true ’50’s fashion they sing and dance their way through boy loses girl, boy eventually gets girl humor trials and tribulations. For those who have grown up first seeing Travolta play tough guys and psychos in movies like Broken Arrow, Face Off, and Pulp Fiction it must be a bit of an amusing shock to see him in a goofy good guy roll and discover the boy can both sing and dance! However, during the course of the movie, some obviously over-aged supposed teenaged girls smoke, sleep and drink their way around Sandy, eventually convincing her that the way to win Danny back is to act like them. (“Good-bye Sandra Dee”) So, to make a long story short, at the end of the movie, Danny admits he loves Sandy and even agrees to go to college, which is fine. But Sandy, as her part of the bargain, becomes a stiletto wearing, Cat Woman leather-outfitted, drinking, smoking party girl. WHAT!? Where’s the cute girl who should have been the good example for the rest of the movie’s layabouts, slackers, and promiscuously behaved degenerates? Danny falls in love with Maria from Sound of Music but takes home Fergie to meet his mom??!! Somehow I think they got that one backwards. Also keep in mind that Danny does not marry the girl but drives off with her. Had they saved the “Better Shape Up” song – costume and everything – for a post-wedding – on the way to the honeymoon scene – where they maybe show Sandy as now ready to let her hair down for her husband, I could have accepted the routine. But as it is – it was hollow and depraved. I remember seeing a Mad Magazine spoof on this movie which pointed out this exact perversity: So to win your guy, you should become a slut?? Even Mad Magazine saw the ludicrous fallacy in that argument. It’s certainly not a good example to set for your children.

Of the three I found  Grease the most offensive. Risky Business pushed a questionably ethiced young man over the brink. Pretty Woman lionized prostitution, making it appear a path to success and happiness with your dream man. But Grease encouraged the deliberate corruption of a nice young woman.

Similarly to the point I made about being careful to screen what you encourage others to watch and not rely on the reputation or past history of the filmmakers, just because a movie is considered a “classic” does not make it wholesome.

6-13-15

Cataclysm as Marital Therapy

I love disaster movies. Armaggedon, Independence Day, Poseidon Adventure – both 1972 and 2005 versions, the Terminator series, World War Z, Earthquake, San Francisco, Knowing, Deep Impact, Outbreak, Towering Inferno (released in 1974), The Tower (very similar story made in Korea in 2012), I Am Legend, Day of the Triffids (1962 and 2009 – though I haven’t seen the 2009 version it’s on my list of things to see), War of the Worlds (2005 and 1953), even that awful environmental wacko film Day After Tomorrow, and the poorly done TV series The Stand (though the book was well written). These movies span generations (San Francisco was released in 1936), cultures, and geography. The reasons for the disasters range from extraterrestrial aliens to homegrown superbugs, from man made robots to natural disasters. From world wide to the confined space of a single building these films are visual and emotional roller coaster rides that scare the daylights out of us, give us the good example of the protagonists who follow a moral code even in the face of great danger, and the horrible warnings of the characters who do not.

They also provide perspective. Being late for work because of a traffic jam or facing yet another April 15th tax season certainly isn’t as bad as being on the menu of a 50 foot ant or knowing your job is irrelevant because the city is about to: blow up, freeze over, or be incinerated. When you wake up to a city that is not overrun with zombies it’s not hard to face even Monday with a smile.

Disaster movies generally follow a certain formula – meet an ensemble cast of characters you learn to like, then watch as they face obstacles created by: monster, disease, natural event, etc. and wait breathlessly wondering who will make it to the credit roll. The challenges bring out the best and worst in people – some you expect, some you don’t. There are elements of humor and romance, LOTS of suspense and usually plenty of special effects. And there is not usually a lot of surprise in them once you have twigged to the familiar scenarios. But for me that is OK – it’s like the path of a favorite thrill ride.

However, there is one fairly recent theme phenomenon I have noticed cropping up of late with a handful of movies and I thoroughly approve of the addition.

SPOILERS – THOUGH I WILL TRY TO REFRAIN FROM GIVING AWAY WHO DOES AND DOES NOT SURVIVE.

Over the weekend, on our 33rd wedding anniversary trip Bryan and I went to go see San Andreas, the new earth shaker flick. The main protagonist, Ray (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson) is a divorced emergency responder. Ray is on good terms with his ex – Emma (Carla Gugino) but is freshly coping with her having a new – and rich – boyfriend.

(Quick quiz – Gugino has a habit of playing stressed out moms in weird situations. She was the mater in a trilogy of rather spoofy espionage films about a husband and wife facing outrageous life threatening situations with their kids. Answer below).

Disaster happens and in the course of Ray’s endeavors to rescue his wife and teenaged daughter, he pretty much shows up his rival to re-win the respect of his child and the affections of his wife……. and I suddenly thought –  hold on —– this scenario sounds AWFULLY familiar. Didn’t John Cusack do the same thing as a limo driver in 2012? In 2012 Cusack’s character gets advance notice of the coming Mayan-predicted end of the world so grabs wife, children and wife’s boyfriend to adventure out into a struggle against the obstacles between them and survival. Cusack ends up re-winning the affections of his ex-wife ……..and —– wait a minute – in Independence Day Jeff Goldblum realizes the visiting aliens aren’t ET so grabs his wife and her boss – who just happens to be the President of the United States (who is NOT a boyfriend, but her boss, though Goldblum’s character at one time THOUGHT they were involved so it counts) and together manage to rescue the world, and in the process re-wins the affections of his wife and ……….wait just a second!!! In Jurassic Park III William Macy and Tia Leoni are estranged. She has a boyfriend who is conveniently dispatched early (not much of a spoiler because we barely meet him in the beginning of the movie before he gets eaten). Together they go to outrace and out smart dinosaurs to rescue their son who is stuck on one of these dinosaur islands and before the movie is done they —- reconcile. Is there a pattern to be detected here?

This dovetails nicely with a two part post I’m working on which is  coming up soon, near Father’s Day. But suffice to say that Hollywood, for all its inherent contempt for traditional families, seems to understand the life affirming fundamentally satisfying solidity of the traditional family structure.

There is an analogy here for all of us. Many families work, struggle, love and thrive with single parents, children of broken homes, and of homes headed by widows and widowers. There is great nobility in these homes because they are operating at a huge disadvantage. These four blockbuster movies reflect in concentrated microcosm the difficulties of daily living. I may not be leaping in front of an ultrasaurus or racing ahead of a 1000 foot tidal wave or blowing up a 6 mile wide meteor but as families we all face obstacles that seem potentially world shattering. These movies touch on our core instinct that understands the strongest template for protection, for success and for survival is the mom plus dad plus kids. There is something basic in our nature that recognizes almost anything can be accomplished, any obstacle overcome, any challenges can be broken by a mom and dad fighting for their children. While not all of us have the blessings of that armor, it is a structure we can teach our children to strive towards for their own protection and the protection of their own families against the tidal waves, the dinosaurs, and the natural disasters to come.

Answer – Spy Kids, Island of Lost Dreams, and Game Over

6-10-15

Should You Trust Me?

Of course not!! When evaluating anything for your own children you should review it first hand! Even within our own close knit family, opinions differ on what is and/or would be appropriate for one’s children.

Let me tell you a story. Full disclosure here. When my oldest daughter was going on a date with her, then boyfriend, now husband, I made the grand mistake of suggesting a movie I had not seen. They were both in their twenties, almost graduated from college. I was making the recommendation based upon the director and a trailer and thought – they’re big people, this group makes fun movies, what could be the harm? It was their first movie together. And let’s just say it was —– memorable. Neither of them would consider themselves prudish but the movie was so filled with raunchy sexual humor that even they were embarrassed. I was, of course, horrified and am still needled about this poor choice to this day. I won’t tell you the name because I don’t want to give it ANY kind of endorsement, even from curiosity or some kind of reverse psychology. Suffice it to say — don’t assume every movie will be good even from a director/writer whose work you have seen before.

So – moral to the story — when I suggest something, while I can assure you, I HAVE seen it, before passing along the recommendation or showing it to your children, YOU SHOULD SEE IT FIRST!

My memory for films is quite good. Family members know better than to bet against me on movie trivia and my husband has only bested me ONCE in 37 years on ONE question, and I am kind of the family walking film encyclopedia. However, knowledge isn’t wisdom. I might forget or neglect to mention some detail that could be important to you. Or maybe I saw it BC – before children – or without the children and was not, at that time, being as attentive as I might otherwise have been about language or dialogue content. Or there could be something in the movie that could be a specific hot point for your family or for a particular child.

MINOR SPOILERS

For example, Poltergeist (the original 1982 one – haven’t seen the new version) has a really scary scene with a clown doll. In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s father, frightened for his daughter and angry she has been concealing trinkets from the world of people who killed his wife/her mother destroys a room with all of Ariel’s most precious possessions. In Lord of the Rings some of the Orcs EAT each other.

While every movie needs an antagonist – be it human or other – and family conflict often will move a plot along, you might not mind a roller coaster scare for a child, but you don’t want them up with nightmares for a week, or shunning a family member because of a movie they saw. And only you would know – or should know – what your child could/should watch.

So – trust me? No. Trust your own judgment. But even then, as President Reagan said – “Trust but verify”. And I hope these articles help give you the tools to do just that.

6-5-15

Rob Roy: Prolife Historical Action Adventure

Rob Roy is the story of the Chief of the Scottish Clan MacGregor. Set in early 1700’s Liam Neeson plays Rob Roy, an honorable man who seeks only to protect his family and better his Clan. Towards this end he borrows money from Montrose (John Hurt) in hopes of making a go of purchasing and breeding cattle which the MacGregor Clan has heretofore only eked out a living protecting from rustling.

SPOILERS

The borrowed money is stolen and Montrose offers Rob Roy an opportunity to wipe the debt clean if Rob Roy would falsely testify against one of Montrose’s competitors. Rob Roy refuses and what befalls the MacGregor clan and how Rob Roy fights to regain his honor and defend his family provides the bulk of the rest of the action. There are chases and intrigue, sword fights and near escapes.

But there is one thing that makes this movie stand apart in a way that, sadly, few movies do. Cunningham (Tim Roth), a brutal penniless aristocrat, is hired by Montrose to torment the MacGregors. Cunningham goes to the MacGregor estate and rapes Rob Roy’s wife, Mary (Jessica Lange), in an effort to provoke Rob Roy into an open fight. (Rightly) fearful her husband will hunt Cunningham down and probably get himself killed in the attempt to revenge her, she conceals the attack. Months later, while on the run, Rob Roy finds out about the rape. When he returns home Mary confesses she had thought to abort the baby (unfortunately abortion was not invented in the 1970’s) but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Rob Roy says: “It’s not the child that needs killing.” The baby – and I emphasize baby – is innocent. The child in the womb, created from a violent act of rape, is recognized as innocent. In this world there are no exceptions for rape (and presumably not incest). A child is a child. Such an acknowledgement is rare as hen’s teeth in a Hollywood film and a breath of fresh air in a culture that discards “surprise” children as one would a wart. Furthermore, as Rob Roy leaves his wife to go to an honor duel against Cunningham which will clear his name, and wipe the debt but almost certainly end in his death, Rob Roy tells Mary: If the baby is a boy name him after me, if a girl, name her after you. He not only recognizes this “product of rape” as an innocent human baby but with an open heart accepts the child into his family.

(Quick Quiz: There was another movie which dealt with a mistreated Scottish clan chief who was inspired to action by the abuse of the woman he loved. Made in the same year, 1995, it massively overshadowed Rob Roy, garnering 10 nominations and winning both Best picture and Best director, where Rob Roy only won a best supporting nomination for Tim Roth, which Roth didn’t even win. What was this other movie?)

The rest of Rob Roy is a great story too. Excellent historical drama. The cinematography is lovely. Filmed on location in Scotland the landscape is breathtaking. But this one intimate scene between Rob Roy and Mary at night in a cabin by a simple fire has always stuck in my mind as the most beautiful.

WARNING

The language is occasionally coarse and there are some truly vulgar sexual scenes involving Cunningham. The scenes, including the rape, are not gratuitous as Cunningham is awful and these scenes define his loathsome character, but they are NOT for the kiddies. There are also some gory bits, including a man literally being cleaved in twain by a broadsword.

SO — I have, on occasion, simply shown my kids isolated appropriate scenes in movies that are otherwise too old for them. Those scenes would have to be worth the trouble, and the scene between this husband and wife who recognize the preciousness of infant human life irrelevant of origin or biological parentage is one of those scenes. Delicate and gentle in a movie full of cruel men and fierce retaliation, it is a small film unto itself.

6-3-15

Answer: Braveheart

Screenit BEFORE you Screen It

I have seen the movies I review – kind of obvious. But what if you HAVEN’T seen it and you plan to go with your: grandmother, kids, first date, or priest? Or what if there are elements YOU just find offensive or unpleasant? If certain things ruin your suspension of disbelief: graphic violence, specific profanities, whatever is your personal family definition of explicit sex, or even smoking or scary “jump” music, what do you do? Call every friend you know who might have seen the movie to scour their memory for anything that you might not like? Go see it and hope for the best? Skip it?

There is a FABULOUS website called Screenit (www.screenit.com). They document ever profanity – how it’s used, the number, whether it is complete or whether it is partially used or done with humor – as in Shitaki mushrooms instead of s*** (InstaQuiz: what movie is this from? Answer below).

Screenit describes in detail every salacious scene. Is the shirt on, shirt off, position of camera, proximity of characters to each other, context of naked (are they showering or — engaged in another activity?), who are they with?……………..OK, yes, that IS kind of a funny, almost oxymoron if you’re trying to AVOID that kind of thing. But forewarned is forearmed – better to read about it than be surprised with a 22 by 52 foot wide visual AND if you read one that is a “deal breaker” there’s no law that says you have to read the rest. The morality of how you USE the information: alert or titillation is entirely up to you. LOL

Screenit documents if there is smoking and context. Movies set in World War II, for example, would be incomplete without it given the culture of the day. Violence: is it cartoonish? graphic? show beginning of a violent act but cut away for the “final blow” or is it “in your face” gory. They discuss “tense family issues”. Does the movie involve divorce, death of a close family member, alcoholism, animal abuse, loud arguments, job loss, terminal illness, etc? Is there gun use or “imitative behavior”. Will the movie feature kids jumping off the roof of a house for fun or swaggering around a school yard in a way and by a character they might want to imitate? If there is “scary” music or “jump”
scenes where creatures leap out or camera cuts happen with the intent to startle or frighten, this site warns you.

Anything that might put you off from a particular film or make you decide to be more discrete about who you would show it to is in this site. Of course, DO keep in mind, that means this site is almost nothing BUT spoilers — just so’s you’ll know.

I use it for almost everything I see. The only downside is that it does not cover many classic old movies, many of which have a lot of the above. Even a child’s film, like Bambi has: fire engulfing the protagonist’s home, the violent sudden death of the protagonist’s mother, mild derision of a handicapped creature – Thumper laughs at Bambi as he is trying to walk. Dumbo has the famous “pink elephants  on parade” scene – intoxication of a child, violent arrest of his mother, abuse by neighbors – the other elephant moms make fun of his ears and shun Dumbo. I mean, I saw all these films as a child. I’ve shown them to my kids as I find value in them. But everyone has their own hot buttons and it is best you avoid those things that bother you. This is where Screenit comes in handy.

They even list the topics that, should you choose to see the movie, you might want to discuss either before or after the film with your companions or, especially, your children: was the FBI agent justified in crashing through a large display glass window in pursuit of an escaping convict? should the kids have gone to their parents before trying to help the alien? would you have come back to fight if someone called you “chicken”? these are the kinds of issues Screenit  flags. (And, for the record, I wrote each “issue topic” based upon a specific movie. Can you identify them? See below for answers.)

It’s not just a cookie cutter one-size-fits-all broadband rating. They provide you with the tools to make your own personal decision for you and your family. Screenit DOES have an “Our Take” spot where they review the movie and tell you how well or badly it is presented, no matter whether the content is banal or egregious, but for the most part their raison d’être is to give you a heads up based upon your own personal, detailed family and religious codes of ethics. Even within a religion two families can have different sensitive spots depending on their history, family make up and interpretation of appropriate.

Screenit used to be free but they now charge a modest $7.95/month membership fee. I find the price WELL worth it. You can hardly buy a movie ticket, much less popcorn and drink for that. So before you queue up for popcorn, check out screenit.com to be sure the money you’ve spent on your ticket won’t be wasted by disappointment or shock or embarrassment.

So, the moral to THIS story is:     www.screenit.com BEFORE you screen it.

Answer: Spy Kids

The Rock, ET, Back to the Future.

6-1-15