ODE TO JOY – LOVE STORY WITH A TWIST

 

AUDIO PODCAST OPTION OF “ODE TO JOY – LOVE STORY WITH A TWIST” REVIEW

SHORT TAKE:

How do you manage a romance if being happy makes you pass out? This is the conundrum with which a cataplexic man struggles when his perfect woman unexpectedly appears.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

Mature older teens and up for language, comedic miming of sex, and attempts by the main characters to physical intimacy, though there is no nudity or anything graphic.

LONG TAKE:

What do Sherlock, Deadpool, Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live and a Bob Fosse docudrama have in common? The best of the supporting cast of each of these film projects in an adorable little rom com, directed by Jason Winer and written by Max Werner and Chris Higgins called Ode to Joy.

A friend of mine has often teased that EVERY movie could be described as “a love story with a twist”. But Ode to Joy really is.

SPOILERS

Martin Freeman, (Watson from Sherlock) is Charlie, a man who suffers from a neurologic condition called cataplexy, a condition in which any strong emotion, but for him especially joy and happiness, will cause him to — basically faint. Watching a cute cat video could render him unceremoniously unconscious, and while it may initially seem funny, the movie points out how dangerous, both physically and emotionally, the condition can be for those who actually suffer from this condition.

The script is based upon a radio interview (which you can listen to HERE) with a man named Matt Frerkin, himself a neuroscientist, who discovered he had this condition after becoming unable to move whenever he experiences strong emotion.

So Charlie keeps himself in constant emotional check, leading a quiet life as a librarian — until the girl of his dreams storms in.

Jake Lacy (featured as Gwen Verdon’s second string love interest in the mini-series about the life of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, Fosse/Verdon) plays Cooper, his watchful but fun love ‘em and leave ‘em brother.

Morena Baccarin (Deadpool’s fiancee) is Francesca, the woman who breaks into Charlie’s well encapsulated life.

Melissa Rauch (the loud but loveable Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory) is Bethany, a mousy eccentric woman, who rounds out the quartet.

Jane Curtain (an SNL charter member) is Francesca’s Aunt Sylvia, who is full of life despite her terminal illness.

There’s more than meets the eye to this un petite affaire de coeur. At one point Charlie yells at his brother, plaintively wondering if he understands what it is like to live every day afraid of making a fool of yourself. The answer is, of course, yes. Everyone does. We all have our burdens to bear. And when anyone falls in love, as Charlie has, they expose themselves to the ultimate vulnerabilities.   It doesn’t take cataplexy to make you aware of the potential hurt and humiliation, rejection and risk of falling – in Charlie’s case literally – head over heels. Charlie’s cataplexy is merely an extreme physical manifestation of the chance we all take with that bold step out to admit we love.

What can leave us more exposed than being unconscious, especially unbidden and unexpectedly? And that is a perfect analogy for the leap you must take in a commitment. You lay your life, your heart and your unconditional willingness to accept rejection out on the floor, undefended to whatever might happen beyond your control. God, Himself, takes that risk with every human’s Free Will when He offers us Grace and unconditional Divine Love. Though there are consequences to turning our back on this Love, God never ceases to offer that Love. And ultimately this is what Charlie realizes he must do to pursue the good of another – genuine Love, Love without a sense of entitlement, what Plato would call philia born of eros, or a Catholic might call Charity – in order to find true — Joy.

There are scenes in which Charlie experiences true Joy, but is not “Happy” in the emotionally excited way which most of us think of as “happy” or which would trigger his cataplexy. Charlie, during these scenes, is noticeably joyful, pointed out by the other characters, even while we the audience members know he is sad, as Charlie attempts to bring Joy into the life of someone else even at his own expense. He unwittingly discovers what is true Love, even though neither his friends or even Charlie really understands this.

As for Francesca, she is a woman who prefers to set herself up for romantic failure. Having lost her mother to hereditary breast cancer and on the verge of losing her beloved Aunt to the same disease, she tends to keep things superficial, moving frequently and choosing shallow men uninterested in a permanent relationship. But Francesca too instinctively knows true Love and Joy as, though sad, she Joyfully visits and helps her Aunt, who she describes as her best friend. And counseled by her open-hearted, Bucket List accomplishing Aunt Sylvia, Francesca also wrestles with the idea of what it means to Love and commit.

It occurred to me that the characters were what an adult version of Inside Out might look like from the mind of someone “in love” who matures from adolescent infatuation to true altruistic Love. From Francesca’s often unfettered enthusiasm and Cooper’s libido, to Bethany’s confused obliviousness, Charlie’s hyper-awareness of his vulnerabilities, and finally the wisdom of Aunt Sylvia who, more than most, understands the ephemeral preciousness of life and the importance of altruistic Love, they rotate about each other examining the question of the importance of living well and FOR someone you love – even if you have to risk pain and loss.

The music by Jeremy Turner is simple, the cinematography by David Robert Jones uncomplicated, but the story is neither. Although Ode to Joy is in that familiar niche of quirky romantic comedies with some unique obstacle to the main couple’s happiness, Ode to Joy is also an intelligent and clever story which surprises, offering quite a bit to think about.

The language is occasionally adult with completely unnecessary profanity. And  two unmarried couples try to go to bed together, though no nudity and ultimately, and wisely, nothing happens because of — comic reasons.

My only real complaint about the movie is it leaves the outcome of one of the characters unresolved and unaddressed, especially frustrating as that character was unfairly treated and earned a conclusion.

But overall Ode to Joy was – a joy to watch. So if you have a rainy afternoon to spend with someone you love, you could do worse than spend it watching and talking about this lovely little film with the big heart that is an Ode to Joy.

THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON – MARK TWAIN MEETS ST. AUGUSTINE

 

SHORT TAKE:

Delightful loose retelling of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn with “shades” of St. Augustine’s philosophical wisdom.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Mid-teens and up as, while there is no sexual content, the film contains some rough language, and brief scenes of violence and tension. Also, younger kids would probably be bored with the slow and thoughtful pace of the story.

LONG TAKE:

Some reviewers have noted the similarities in the The Peanut Butter Falcon to both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, especially Finn’s trip down the Mississippi with the run away slave, Jim. And while this is true, this aspect of the debut feature length script, as brilliantly and simply co-written and co-directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, inspired in part as a love letter to the people of the Outer Banks, is only the superficial structure to a story with far deeper and more complex theological implications.

St. Augustine once said: Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to His Providence. The Peanut Butter Falcon is the embodiment of this lesson as it brings to life three unusual but very relatable people who collide in one of the most charming and delightful movies I have seen in a long time.

Tyler, namesake of the co-author, played by Shia LaBeouf, is a darker version of Huckleberry Finn‘s Jim. Tyler is a walking guilt trip, desperately in need of mercy, an unhappy man with a tragic history looking to punish himself for the regrets in his life. He is the only one for which we see flashbacks, underscoring Tyler’s obsession with the past. An unsuccessful fisherman, he is angry with the world, especially himself and runs away from his responsibilities, one step ahead of justice for his petty and vengeance-inspired crimes as well as the rough and dangerous men who he has infuriated.

But there is also a blunt honesty about the way he treats his fellow man. In Act 5 of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle rebukes her bombastic tutor Henry Higgins, complaining that the manners of Higgins’ friend Colonel Pickering are better than Higgins’ manners because:  “He [Pickering] treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess.” To which Higgins retorts: “And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl.” There is a bit more than a little of Henry Higgins in The Peanut Butter Falcon’s Tyler.

Tyler is the best role of LaBeouf’s career to date. His character looks at the world with sad eyes but squarely. When Zak, to garner a bit of sympathy, announces to Tyler that he has Down Syndrome, Tyler tells him he doesn’t care. And Tyler means it. With gruff respect for his new tag-along companion, Tyler genuinely does not care one way or the other that Zak has “special needs”, but treats Zak the way he does everyone, including a nervous grocery clerk, the blind preacher who gives them shelter, the lovely Eleanor, the man who gives him a hitch, the employer who has just fired him – all with the same respect – meeting everyone at eye level, not caring what they think of him,but offering each a measure of decency the best way he knows how.

Zak, the main character in this film with the quirky title, is a wonderful modern day Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn. Brave and adventurous, Zak even spends much of the first parts of his journey, like Tom and Huck, barefooted, walking down country roads with his ersatz “Jim”. Zak had been stuck in a nursing home as, abandoned by his family, no other place would take him. But Zak is also the personification of unconditional love, a sweet soul with an indefatigably happy outlook on life, who lives in every present moment with trust in God, unbounded enthusiasm and an open heart. Played brilliantly by a young man who actually has Down’s Syndrome, the clever and adorable Zack Gottsagen, some of whose clever ad-libs were included in the script, is charm personified.

The chemistry between the three leads is obvious both on and off screen. Gottsagen’s co-stars LeBoeuf and Johnson, in the “Making of” featurette HERE and interviews like the ones HERE, and HERE, and HERE, express what seems to be genuine fondness for their new fellow thespian, as well as admiration for his natural acting abilities and instincts.

The film’s titular Peanut Butter Falcon, Zak, also looks squarely and honestly at the world, but sees it very differently from Tyler. More than anything in the world Zak wants to be a professional wrestler like Salt Water Redneck, (Thomas Hayden Church) whose videos Zak watches ceaselessly with his friend and endlessly patient roommate, Carl (Bruce Dern – classic veteran of stage and screen whose now elderly and experienced presence I have been delighted to see cropping up in such divergent films as Chappaquidick and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Zak flees the nursing home in pursuit of his dream.

Eleanor stands in the place of Tom’s Aunt Polly. Like the Biblical Martha, Eleanor is worried and upset about many things, fearful of the bad things that can happen to the people about and for whom she cares, not the least of which is the “flight risk” Zak, as this escape is not his first. Eleanor is a young widow who spends her time volunteering at the elderly home. She worries over Zak like a mother hen, fretting exclusively about his future, blinding herself to Zak’s immediate needs and manifest abundant abilities. When Zak goes missing, Eleanor strikes out on the seemingly impossible task to find Zak and return him to what she believes is the best place for him – the safety of her ever watchful eye.

The actress who played Eleanor looked extremely familiar, though, in a rarity for me, I could not place her. Then I looked her up in the vast electronic cinematic library that is us.imdb.com only to find she had been in a trilogy for which her face was plastered everywhere, but which movies I had not seen. Dakota Johnson made her name as the notorious co-star of the rather infamous Shades of Gray films. But fear not, as my husband wittily suggested I assure you, this is NOT 50 Shades of Peanut Butter. However, there IS  a completely innocent but rather amusing Easter egg reference to the Gray films for those familiar with this portion of Ms. Johnson’s repertoire.  Assessing her filmography, I believe this is likely the best performance of her career and certainly the nicest movie she has ever been in.

Duncan, (John Hawkes who has appeared in such varied features as the comedy TV show Psyche, as the Union colonel Robert Latham in Lincoln, and the frighteningly abusive husband in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), is most obviously this version of Tom Sawyer‘s Injun Joe. Duncan hunts relentlessly for Tyler and, by extension, his companions, bent on revenge.

Together the three friends – Tyler, Eleanor and Zak – embark upon a Twain-ian adventure which literally places them, for a while, on a raft down a river.

The cinematography is like a stylized home movie. Beautifully filmed in Savannah, Georgia, making best use of the natural biodiversities from man-tall grasses and long stretches of sandy beaches to inviting swimming holes and Spanish Moss-covered oaks, much of the story is set along the Outer Banks – a series of barrier islands and spits along the east coast of North Carolina and Virginia, as our characters make their way to Florida.

The music is very reminiscent of O Brother, Where Art Thou? – a mellow  expression of Southern culture featuring a soundtrack of banjo picking and fiddle music, with folk songs and Gospel tunes sprinkled throughout, like stars in the black velvet sky of a summer night.

The language is occasionally quite rough, but not gratuitously so, and certainly in keeping with the customs of the financially precarious crab fishermen who live from hand to mouth on the outskirts of civilization, in the wilds of Georgia.

There is no sexual content aside from the underweared attire of the purely innocent Zak’s escape ensemble, and a chaste kiss between our other two protagonists.

So go enjoy this wonderful expression of both a modern Mark Twain tale and the personification of St. Augustine’s admonition to seek God’s mercy, love and Providence,  as seen through the eyes and adventures of a very special Huckleberry Finn and his two companions.

I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE – MUST SEE MUSICAL COMEDY FOR MARRIED COUPLES

SHORT TAKE:

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is a very very funny musical comedy revue about dating, marriage, men, women and relationships.

WHO SHOULD GO:

For adults in general and married couples in particular. Might be an awkward first date but is positively a MUST SEE for married couples.

AND IF YOU LIKE THESE REVIEWS PLEASE SUBSCRIBE! THEN YOU'LL GET     EVERY NEW REVIEW SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR E-MAIL!!

GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LEFT HAND SIDE AND TYPE YOUR E-MAIL IN – IT (SHOULD BE) THAT EASY. ANY PROBLEMS PLEASE SEND ME A COMMENT AND I'LL DO MY BEST TO RESOLVE YOUR ISSUE.

LONG TAKE:

I Love You, You're  Perfect, Now Change is the latest play showing at ACTS Theatre from August 3 through 12 at 7:30pm, and Sunday matinees at 3:00pm. I was privileged to get permission to attend the dress rehearsal and must say it was some of the most fun I have ever had in the theater!

A musical comedy revue of twenty skits with over 40 characters and costume changes, are played by four very gifted actors. Clay and Markie Hebert, Kelly Rowland and Casey Doucet make up the intrepid quartet who sing and act up a storm of laughs and a few bittersweet tears.

They all have AMAZING and powerhouse voices with NO INDIVIDUAL MICROPHONES! They sure don't need them. I would have sat for 90 minutes and enjoyed listening to them sing random songs out of any Broadway collection but each of the diverse vignettes is fitted with a catchy song crafted specifically for the tone of the short story it tells sung by its own unique characters. The wide story range stretches from poignant to snarky to slapstick to tender and all will make you smile as they lead you, not only from the beginning of relationships through their maturities, but guide you through every possible emotion a romantic might have.

Clay Hebert does double duty as director, aided by his assistant Ashley Mayeux. Clay was most recently in Godspell. Markie Hebert was the female lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Casey Doucet just won an ACTA for his Shrek in the play of the same name. Kelly Rowland is a powerful mezzo-soprano with a flare for comic timing. There is a fifth member of the troupe who is not seen but heard. Andrew Steiner delights the audience with live piano accompaniment, expertly blending these four strong voices.

This is a hilarious send up on the loneliness and difficulties of dating, the challenges of marriage, the tragedy of divorce, and the optimism that it is never too late to find love. With twenty musical vignettes presented for your approval, there is something for everyone involved in the marriage adventure. 

Kelly Rowland and Casey Doucet portray an ecclectic collection of characters who are, at turns: hilariously ridiculous, heartwrenching, and adorable.

Clay and Markie Hebert also have a wide variety of personalities to perform, but the scenes where Clay and Markie play man and wife are especially charming as they are married in real life with three little boys. So, for them, this play isn't an observation but a strange kind of out-of-body experience, as they humorously have an opportunity to re-emerse themselves in the excitement, pratfalls, heartbreak, frustrations, and soul fulfilling contentment that highlights the different stages of dating, and varied relationships, with the hope of culminating in the lifetime marital committment.

Make your plans quickly as you'll likely want to see this gem more than once and it only runs through August 12. Get your tickets at ACTS THEATRE

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR – THE STORY OF FRED ROGERS AND HIS NEIGHBORHOOD

SHORT TAKE:

Lovely, delightful and moving documentary covering the life of both Fred Rogers and his Neighborhood.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT:

Absolutely everyone. No really – unequivocally, no holds barred, universally, unabashedly, and without even the smallest reservation – EVERYONE!!!!

AND IF YOU LIKE THESE REVIEWS PLEASE SUBSCRIBE! THEN YOU'LL GET     EVERY NEW REVIEW SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR E-MAIL!!

GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LEFT HAND SIDE AND TYPE YOUR E-MAIL IN – IT (SHOULD BE) THAT EASY. ANY PROBLEMS PLEASE SEND ME A COMMENT AND I'LL DO MY BEST TO RESOLVE YOUR ISSUE.

LONG TAKE:

When I was a kid, I had a brother and sister who were 9 and 10 years older, respectively, than I. Come to think of it, they STILL are 9 and 10 years older. Also, my Dad and I were buddies. I’d go to the hardware store with him, and I would hang around and “help” him with construction projects around our house. He was 40 when I was born. My point is that when we turned on the TV it was “Fractured Fairy Tales” on Rocky and Bullwinkle, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Abbot and Costello, The Great Escape, Wagon Train and The Magnificent Seven. The quiet and gentle wisdom of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and his cardigan sweaters was just not on my radar. So later, when I had kids, while I respected the show, and thought he was doing something nice for kids, I just wasn’t that interested.

So I was surprised by my own emotional reaction to Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I realized then that Fred Rogers had seeped, ever so slowly, into my consciousness with his gentle, joyful manner over the last 50 years. He was simply a kind and decent man who both advocated as a motto of his show and lived by the personal  ethic: “I like you just the way you are.” Fred Rogers spent his life wisely, as the personification of Jesus' answer to the question which preambled the parable of The Good Samaritan: "Who is my neighbor?" There is no doubt in my mind that the name of his show was intended as an incarnation of that answer – that, to Mr. Rogers, everyone was his neighbor. And Fred Rogers' personal Inspired ministry was to bring God's Love to all people in a very practical, first hand way – by demonstration.

St. Francis famously advocated to: “Preach always, sometimes even with words.” Fred Rogers, through his actions, showed himself to be an avid disciple. Though the subject of Fred Rogers’ specific spiritual beliefs came up sparingly in the documentary, aside from the fact of his ordination as a minister, his adherence to the foundational Christian belief that all men are brothers, beloved of and equal in God’s eyes, comes out boldly and profoundly in everything Fred Rogers did, or said.

The documentary dips into the very deep well of video on which he appears. Not just the copies of almost 1,000 shows, but his personal appearances on interview programs, at schools, and even before Congress! There is no lack of documentation of Fred Rogers’ progress from his early philosophical musings before a piano on teaching children about serious issues, probably filmed by his wife, in 1962, all the way through the blooper video clips from his very last show in 2001 and his PSA in 2002 on 9/11.

The documentary interviews his wife, his sons, John and Jim, his co-workers, friends, associates, and other interviewers. They come from many walks of life, and life styles. But all people were equal in Fred Rogers’ eyes. Rogers maintained a tight ship, monitoring every aspect of the show, and required understandably scrupulous behavior, watching over the reputation of the show with care and affection for everyone involved in the production. Mr. Rogers, for example, forbade one actor from frequenting a particular bar and Betty Aberlin (Lady Aberlin) from appearing in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. However, Rogers’ fatherly supervision of his cast and crew did not discourage a certain level of good-natured juvenile behavior amongst those Mrs. Rogers remembered he called his “playmates”, such as practical jokes on set or a poster made from a tasteless but amusing photo clandestinely left on Rogers’ camera by a mischievous member of the crew.

SPOILERS

Back in the 1960's, there were topics, it was understood, that children’s programming just would not explore. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’s stock in trade was the places where angels would fear to tread. He tackled issues head on that many adults avoided: death, divorce, lost children, serious illness, and disabilities. He had guest stars, wrote books, made appearances, did interviews, and performed puppet plays intended to translate these complex topics in ways which children could understand, talk about, and express their confusions and concerns.

The cast and crew were close and the show was very personal to everyone involved. Daniel the Tiger, the avatar most close to Fred Roger's heart and personality, according to those who knew him best, often spoke of insecurity and self doubt. King Friday XIII and his Queen dealt frequently with parental concerns. Everyone on the cast was known by a real name. Lady Aberlin's name was Betty Aberlin, Officer Clemmons was, in real life, the powerhouse singer, Francois Scarborough Clemmons, and the name Mr. McFeely, though played by David Newell, was Fred Rogers' middle name.

In the ‘60's, when black people were forced out of public pools, Fred Rogers pointedly invited Francois Clemmons, a black man portraying Mr. Rogers’ local police officer, to come join him on a hot day as he soaked his feet in a child’s plastic pool and to share his towel. Fred Rogers went out of his way to rinse Officer Clemmons' feet with his hose and offer him his towel. There is no mistaking the reference to Jesus' washing of his disciples feet nor of the point Mr. Rogers made. I couldn’t help but laugh as Mr. Rogers looked up at the camera from contemplating their cooling feet. There was an expression I'd never seen on the face of this usually sweet, impeturbable man –  just a glimpse of his righteousness anger at the injustices which inspired this demonstration, as though, for a moment, he was staring down anyone who would dare question his actions. I hoped those at the time, he was silently addressing, had seen and squirmed in shame. Mr. Roger and Mr. Clemmons re-enacted the event some years later.

When Bobby Kennedy was murdered, Fred Rogers’ show had Lady Aberlin and Daniel the Tiger discuss what the word “assassination” meant. When the Challenger blew up in front of millions of kids, Fred Rogers was there to confront the topic with his beloved puppets in ways small children could understand. When the horrific attack on our country was made by Islamic terrorists on 9/11, Fred Rogers came out of retirement, ill with only months left before he would pass away, to offer comfort to 33 years of children who had grown up watching him.

Mr. Rogers was the personification of kindness and the exemplification of Jesus’ instruction to his apostles as he sent them to preach, to be: “…wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Rogers  loved and put at ease everyone he met, but was uncompromising in his beliefs and could talk anybody into anything he believed was right.

Rogers’ powers of persuasion were legendary. Mr. Clemmons, during the documentary, explained that just portraying a police officer as a black man at the time was initially out of his comfort zone, because he had grown up afraid of police. But Clemmons put on the uniform and gave good example, portraying this character for decades. Mr. Rogers could reason anyone into doing the right thing, including convincing an extremely prejudiced and skeptical Congressman Pastore out of the 20 MILLION dollars needed in 1969 to keep a fledgling Public Broadcast System afloat, by simply being reasonable. See the Youtube of Rogers' appearance before the subcommittee here.

Mr. Rogers recognized what a force for good the power of the television medium could be and how its worth was being wasted on frivolous, violent and brainless assaults on children’s senses. His mind set was to minister to children of all ages by taking their feelings and thoughts seriously, and help them cope with the normal struggles of life. He featured everyone from the profoundly physically challenged Jeffrey Erlanger to a young Wynton Marsalis to the famous Julia Child to Koko the Gorilla. Yo Yo Ma, the famous cellist, not only appeared several times on the show, but was a friend, was interviewed for the documentary, and is credited by the director, Morgan Neville, as being the inspiration for the documentary. While interviewing Mr. Ma for a different project, Mr. Neville asked Mr. Ma how he dealt with fame. Ma's response surprised him – that he learned it from Mr. Rogers who, it turned out, assured Mr. Ma that fame was not an inherently bad thing, and mentored him on the appropriate ways to use this gift.

Like Colonel Pickering, who treated even a flower girl like Elisa Doolittle as though she were a lady, Mr. Rogers treated everyone alike, to be valued as a child of God. His love for every man was carried out in his prison ministry, and his outreach to adults, Old Friends, New Friends which aired during the hiatus of his Neighborhood during 1967-8.

He was a missionary of fraternal love to mankind and The Good Samaritan to the world. I am so glad his ministry lives on in his shows, in the memories of his friends, family, co-workers and those children, now adults, who watched him and were positively influenced.  The picture of humility, his wife remembered how on his death bed he wondered if he would be accepted into Jesus' sheepfold. Known world wide, recognized and admired by celebrities, all he thought of himself was God's unworthy servant.

In this, the 50th anniversary year of his show’s debut, not only will a commemorative U.S. postage stamp featuring Fred Rogers be released, but work has begun on a biopic of the legendary minister, starring Tom Hanks, planned for release in 2019.

Jesus said the second half of the greatest law is to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rogers was an ordained minister, so it was obviously not a coincidence that in the world of his “Neighborhood,Fred Rogers' declared, by word and action, daily, that he liked his fellow man, with a Christian love, just the way they were. St. Francis should be proud.

MIDNIGHT SUN – WHOLESOME STORY OF COMMITMENT BETWEEN TWO – LITERALLY – STAR-CROSSED LOVERS

SHORT TAKE:

Midnight Sun is a great first date movie about genuine love through commitment between two lovely young people despite challenges and tragedies.

WHO SHOULD GO:

Appropriate for anyone but younger kids would get bored.

LONG TAKE:

SPOILERS

Midnight Sun is a movie about two star-crossed lovers. A cliched term to be sure but in this case quite literally true. The star in question being our own Sol at the center of our solar system. The story is about a young lady, Katie (Bella Thorne – talented actress and singer) with XP, xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare but real genetic disorder wherein the sufferers are unable to repair DNA damage caused by UV radiation. XP makes even brief sun exposure life threatening from cancer and neurologic cascades. Any variation of XP occurs in only 1 of 250,000 people. The extreme kind necessary to the plot that Katie has is 1 in 1,000,000 and only 40% live beyond 20.

The acting is good. Ms. Thorne as Katie is quite adorable and has an excellent singing voice. Katie lives with her widowed father, Jack. Jack is portrayed by Rob Riggle, the real life American hero who I last saw in 12 StrongRiggle's performance of Jack is a kind, gentle but appropriately protective homeschooling dad. (As Katie walks out the door for the evening to play guitar at the train station in her small home town he playfully reminds her to text him when she gets there and that if she is not home in time he will be going down there and making Youtube history with a Why One Should Not Break Curfew video.)

Her best, and pretty much only regular, friend is the typically teen-emotional and humorously dramatic Morgan (Quinn Shepherd) who hangs out with Katie and works in a local ice cream parlor.

Katie has had a crush on a young man, Charlie, (Patrick Schwarzenegger – you guessed it, the progeny of Dad Arnold and Maria Shriver) that she has watched walk, skate and bike by her house every day for the last 10 years.

The movie deals with the fall out that occurs because of XP to Katie, her Dad and all those who care about her. This sounds like it could be depressing. In fact it's not. It's quite funny and delightfully charming. The young people involved seem very familiar to me. They remind me of our homeschooled kids and their friends. They're open, intelligent, honest, genuinely caring, subject to the normal foibles relating to hormones and impatience with the world to which any normal teenager is subject. These kids are portrayed as creative and wonderful young people with tremendous promise.

Because of Katie's condition and some natural shyness she is homeschooled, and aside from Morgan, lives a quiet sequestered life with her dad, writing music behind heavily tinted windows. The night of her graduation she goes out to play guitar at her favorite train station. Charlie hears her, they meet and the rest of the story is about their relationship.

The love story is certainly a wonderfully acted, well written but traditional tale which has been played out many times: Jenny and Oliver in Love Story, Camille and Armand in Camille, Fantine and Jean Valjean in Les Mis. Many publically viewed real life instances abound: Christopher Reeves' wife stood with and for her husband after he was paralyzed following a devastating fall from a horse, Gene Wilder cared for Gilda Radner through her ovarian cancer as did Pierce Brosnan through his wife's terminal illness.  Diane Cavandish kept her husband alive and thriving for 36 years longer than predicted after he contracted polio. CS Lewis married Joy Gresham knowing she had terminal bone cancer. And I am sure that everyone reading this blog knows of or has personally experienced a private example of this kind of self-giving love. My own mother cared for my father at home through his terminal illness.

Midnight Sun is a cinematic personification of Corinthians Ch 13: "…Love…does not seek its own interests…It bears all things … endures all things." I only wish Midnight Sun had more overtly acknowledged a basis in theology and an acceptance of God's Will. The closest we get is when Jack takes a picture of Charlie and Katie and requests humorously that they leave a little space for the Holy Spirit.

This is a story of real love. There is a moment in the musical 1776 when Abigail Adams reminds her husband, as he is experiencing a rare moment of low confidence, that one of the things she most loved and admired about him was his commitment. Charlie, in Midnight Sun, had lost his swimming scholarship because of an injury and wanted to give up. Katie reminds him to persevere and to re-commit to what he has worked so hard for, for so many years. Charlie, in turn, commits to Katie despite all the obvious obstacles, loves purely for the limited time they have and opens doors for her singing talents she did not think possible.

 

There is no easy resolution to a story of a young girl with a terminal illness. But there is a lot positive to be taken away from an example of commitment to a relationship despite the fears of the unknown – much like a marriage.  Nothing untoward happens, the boy is trustworthy and the father watchfully gives his blessing to their relationship. There is no gratuitous acts of casual sex as in other movies like The Fault in Our Stars where illness is used as an excuse to gratify yourself with someone else. And although these young people in Midnight Sun have but a brief time together, these characters, as written, demonstrate the kind of sacramental commitment one would pray for in any young couple.

 

Every one of the main characters is created as a powerful witness to the altruism in true love. Katie never complains or bemoans her fate. She is, instead grateful for what she has and her main concern is always for the people around her – she worries about her father's future lonliness, Charlie's scholarship and her best friend's budding romance. Jack only wants to see his daughter happy for as much and as long as he can make that happen and to that end never lets her know how devastated he really is but is the rock to which she can cling. Charlie only thinks of ways he can be strong for Katie and bring her comfort. These are good kind people.

 

CS Lewis wrote often of the problem of pain – why do bad things happen and the answer is always – to bring about a greater good. Midnight Sun implies this – that even in the darkness you can bring your own light with you. Katie is the Midnight Sun that radiates joy and inspires love in everyone around her through her gratitude for every day she has and in her genuine love of others.

 

There are no guarantees in life or in love. No one knows the hour or the day that God will call us home. And when we choose to love we step out on a limb in faith. All one can do is to commit to stand by those we love for as long as we are permitted. The script writer of all these lovely characters understands that and presents us with a beautiful example of what committed love should be. Not for gratification. Not for what you can get from the other person, but an altruistic self-giving love that lifts up and encourages the other person to strive for worthy dreams and to accept what God gives you after you have done your best. As Jack explains to Charlie – what you end up with is an understanding that everyday is a gift. I wish Jack had added the two words "from God," but there is nothing in the movie that would deny that truth either.

 

There can be no more stark contrast than between the altruistic "other"-focused genuine LOVE in Midnight Sun and the extreme self-gratification masquerading under the guise of the word "love" in movies like Love, Simon. Movies like Midnight Sun inspire us to aspire – encourage people to be more and stronger and more courageous than they might otherwise think possible for those they truly love: to sacrifice, forgive, accept and be grateful.

 

 For a positive and real/reel example of what young romantic LOVE should be – go see Midnight Sun and avoid the garbage that fakes it.

TRIFECTA OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, LOVE, SIMON AND ****BLOCKERS

 

 

SHORT TAKE:

The movies: Call Me by Your Name, Love, Simon and C***blockers (recently released as just Blockers with a picture of a rooster attached) are, in a phrase, child pornography.

WHO SHOULD SEE THEM:

NO ONE!

LONG TAKE:

Now here’s a truly offensive Trifecta for you:

DUE TO THE UNFORTUNATE NATURE OF THIS REVIEW AND PHOTOS NECESSARY TO MAKE MY POINTS,  PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW MINORS TO READ THIS!!

Pornography: From the online Dictionary: "Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings."

I have been freshly disturbed by the succession of child-sexploitative movies recently released.

In full disclosure, I have not seen and do not intend to see any of these movies. Blockers, as it so happens, is not even in theaters yet so my information was limited but easily accessed and assessed merely by the unfortunate happenstance of seeing the trailers.

As to Call Me by Your Name and Love, Simon – I am of the philosophy that you do not have to shoot yourself in the foot with a nailgun to know doing so would have unpleasant consequences. I can, however, figure out the destructiveness of a storyline based upon its synopsis, which you can read for free either at wikipedia or the movie spoiler. You can also get details on the explicit content of a movie from a subscription to screenit – everything about a movie is available, from jump scares to smoking to exact numbers of which profanities are used to explicit descriptions of sexual and imitative behaviors.

I would certainly not pretend to be able to comment on cinematography, effectiveness of the music score or the acting. Then again, if I only read a book or the screenplay I would not be able to assess that either. However, I CAN tell you, after due diligence research, without question, about the extremely vile, sexually exploitive, pedophilia-promoting agenda of these stories.

First there was the Oscar darling Call me By Your Name which featured an older man seducing, sexually using, then abandoning a 17 year old boy. This movie featured graphic displays of male-child sexual behavior and one grotesque event involving a peach which I will leave to your imagination. Not only does the 17 year old boy persuade his even younger girlfriend to have sex with him multiple times but he switches between her and the grown man, putting both members of the young couple at risk for whatever other contacts the grown man has had, not to mention risking pregnancy for the girl. The parents go blithely along with the abuse of their son by this much older grown man. The girl finds out about his homosexual extra lover and, understandably, breaks up with him. The grown man takes advantage of this boy’s raging hormonal state to use him as a sex toy for the summer, then abandons this now damaged youth to his confusion and solitude. This movie, predictably, got all kinds of positive attention from Hollywood and liberal intelligensia for cinematography and acting. It has also been pointed out to me that sex with a child this age is legal in Italy.

Well, if sex with sheep was legal it would still be bestiality. And sex with a child is pedophilia whether it is legal or not. And in our country if you put photos of this behavior on your cell phone you could end up in jail.

Onto the stage appears Love, Simon a story about a young man who is also confused, as most boys are, about the raging inferno of hormonal emotions churning through him. With no adult guidance he decides he is homosexual and spends the entire movie secretively embarking on a quest to find out the identity of and "hook up" with the "other" "gay" boy –  Bram – who has anonymously come out via electronic social media in their high school. There are a few exchanged emails to justify Simon's infatuation with someone who could be anyone, including an adult predator. Simon rebuffs any romantic consideration of a girl who is already a friend, with whom he shares similar interests and who likes him. Instead, Simon pursues an anonymous gay "other," whom he knows little about, objectifying him to use him to gratify a sexual fantasy. In short, Simon refuses to pursue a promising and meaningful relationship with a friend to pursue someone solely on the basis of a shared sexual fetish. 

His parents are shown to be clueless and non-judgementally accepting of a decision which has far more long-reaching and permanent consequences than college choice or purchase of a car, which you know DARNED well they would have had PLENTY to say about.

Tipping the hand of the script writer and directors’ intentions, without question, is the choice of high school play. In the source material book Simon vs The Homo Sapien Agenda, the high school play to be performed is the innocuous musical Oliver! based on the Charles Dickens story of the orphan boy. For the movie, Love, Simon, Oliver! is thrown out and Cabaret is chosen. CABARET! One of the singularly most sexually graphic and disturbing musicals in the mainstream.

THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONTAINS GOOGLE PHOTOS FROM THE MOVIE AND THEATRICAL VERSIONS OF CABARET. THEY ARE OFFENSIVE. BUT THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT THE CHILDREN IN LOVE, SIMON ARE TO BE IMITATING ON STAGE. CHILDREN!!!:

Cabaret is set in Germany just before World War II breaks out. It takes place primarily in a seedy bar and dance hall from which the movie takes its name. The lead is Sally Bowles who sings about her life of promiscuity ("Mein Herr") and lives it. She sleeps randomly with men and during the course of the play "hooks up" with Brian, a bisexual who also, during his relationship with Sally, has sex with another man and impregnates Sally. (Brian’s a busy boy.) To his credit, Brian wants their child but Sally doesn’t so has an abortion. This ends their relationship (no surprise) and she finishes up the musical singing about life being a cabaret. During the play there is a number where a man is sandwiched by two women ("Two Ladies"), a song and dance about a man in love with a Gorilla ("If you could see her through my eyes") where the punchline is "She wouldn’t look Jewish at all" – a double punch of bestiality and anti-Semitism. And in the musical there is a LOT of sexually suggestive Fosse-dancing of scantily clad women and men. These are not the only unsavory parts of the movie but they are certainly highlights.

Regardless that the original intent of the movie was to demonstrate the degenerate disintegration of German society in tandem with the rise of Nazism, there IS no way to clean this musical up to be appropriate for children to watch much less perform. And THIS, Cabaret, is what the scriptwriter and director chose for a group of HIGH SCHOOLERS to perform, in public, to memorize, to repeat over and over as they rehearse, and then to act out in front of their family and community…..That alone is the lionizing of child – sexual exploitation.

It appears from photos on Google from the movie Love, Simon that the children in the movie did, in fact, act out these sexually explicit scenes.  This alone tips the hand of intent of the pedophiliac sexual objectification prevalent in Love, Simon.

During the course of Love, Simon, along with the lovely Cabaret, there is a plethora of profanity and bodily references, some rather creatively but not constructively, used, including an adult using the word "virgin" as an insult. There is also excessive drinking, homosexual kissing, casual references to masturbating, and casual sex amongst teens.

There is also a montage in which Simon fantasizes that straight kids have to "come out" to their parents. This montage is not challenged. There is no one and nothing in the movie to point out the obvious – that a child coming "out" as straight to the negative reaction of their parents would be the equivalent of a child "revealing" to his parents that they have: normal eyesight, made the honor roll, or do not have juvenile diabetes and having their parents react negatively. Like the reverse of that stupid Geico commercial about people who enjoy sitting on gum or walking into a glass door.

Regardless whether you believe homosexuality is a genetic or learned behavior, only the most deeply entrenched in blindly held propaganda would deny that homosexuality is a biologic disadvantage – never mind the medical, emotional, social, and spiritual repercussions. But logic has nothing to do with anything involved in this movie – only objectification of the children in various sexual connotations.

And now soon to arrive on the scene is C***blockers. Can’t even put the full name of the movie in this blog in good conscience. The premise, according to the trailers, is a group of parents, after translating emojis left on their daughter’s laptop, correctly figure out that their children plan to have sex on prom night. Simple solution: mom and dad go with them to the prom or they don’t go. Problem solved.

Do they do this? No, of course not. Then there would be no opportunity to: show parents as incompetent boobs, have one of the fathers engage with one of the high school boys in a colonoscopy style beer chugging contest, listen to underage girls talk explicitly and with blasphemous language about how they plan to lose their virginity, (with GREAT regret I heard the young ladies express their plans during the trailer in an open public theater in far more graphic language than that I just used), and watch scenes with CHILDREN drinking and carousing in a Caligula-like orgy.

These movies are all designed like a pedophile's dream and every one of the people in these movies should be arrested for sexual exploitation of juveniles. While the kids in the first two movies, Call Me and Simon were, and this is small consolation, JUST 21 when the movies were made, portraying a child who performs sex acts even if you are not in fact a child is still a demonstration of pedophilia. And it seems to me that the film makers knew darned well that what they were doing WAS pedophilia or they would have not chosen the age of the actors so carefully. Had they genuinely thought what they were doing was wholesome they could have hired underaged performers.

The third movie, Blockers, interestingly does not post the age of the teen actors on us.imdb.com. I suspect THEY think they can get away with underaged sexuality because it is a "comedy".

So there we have it – examples of explicit pedophilia, sexual objectification of children and the advocacy of sexual promiscuity amongst children!!

Arriving just in time for Easter.

It is a frustrating and disgusting phenomenon that this kind of debauchery – even against children – can masquerade as entertainment with impunity. Despite the romantic implications of the names of the first two films – Call Me by Your Name and Love, Simon, and the pretend to comedy of the third – Blockers, to paraphrase Mae West, a jaded performer who likely would have been horrified at the proceedings of these movies – Love and humor had nuthin' to do with it, dearie. 

Don’t go.

If you do, don’t say you weren’t warned.

A WRINKLE IN TIME – RE-REVIEW – A GLOWING EXAMPLE OF LIBERAL COMMON NON-SENSE

I have long maintained that liberals in Hollywood were willing to throw money away on financing abyssmal movies if they think it will further whatever agenda they are after: socialism, destruction of the definition of marriage, sexualization of children, artifically inflammed racial divisiveness, atheism. I have had a lot of conversations with people who don’t believe me – that they think “Hollywood” will learn their lesson when this or that movie fails.

I hate to disabuse them of the notion that liberals have the slightest bit of common sense but one only needs to read the following article on the deserved thrashing A Wrinkle in Time is getting to understand how far liberals will go: A Wrinkle in Time:…$100 million…Disney…Bomb

In this article you will read quotes by the sneering and smug Ava DuVernay, a stridently vociferous anti-Trump liberal and the director of this $100 million turkey. “I don’t care what anybody thinks about it,” she told the Times. “I know it’s $100 million for the studio. They’ll be fine.” In typical liberalese – she doesn’t care that Disney may have just lost $100 million so she could display her little propaganda tantrum – why SHOULD she care? It’s not her money she is wasting.

For a more detailed review about the movie in general go to my previous review of this waste of celluloid at: A Wrinkle in Time – Disturbing and Repulsive

I don’t feel sorry for Disney. After all they knew what they were getting into when they funded this bomb. But let’s be clear about what it is they have done.

Many of the reviewers went right along with Ms. DuVernay’s sentiment, bending themselves into pretzels attempting to avoid saying A W.I.T. is a BAD movie:

Marie Claire of the Hollywood Reporter: “’A Wrinkle in Time’ isn’t a great movie, but that’s completely irrelevant.”

Yolanda Machado, a free lance film journalist said, “Because of this film, my daughter will never question that she can be strong.”

The FOX article reads: “One reviewer called it a ‘big bold beautiful mess’ before praising DuVernay for ‘swinging for the fences’ with a ‘not great’ script.'”

Ms. DuVernay CLAIMS she is trying to demonstrate that black women can be shown as strong leaders. This is all a massive load of what Biff Tannen and his relatives kept falling head first into in the Back to the Future movies.

For the purpose of the following points some acquaintance of the original book’s story is necessary – check out: Wikipedia Synopsis of: A Wrinkle in Time

First, Meg’s race is irrelevant. Storm Reid is terrific as Meg. The only ones who care what race she is are the liberal racists. The story of A Wrinkle in Time depends on a daughter’s love for her family and not at all on the race of the family members. As long as the genetics are logical or there is a mention of adoption, the young lady could be Chinese, Hispanic, white, black, Indonesian, Aleusian or any combination. (As in, if two white people have a black baby or two black people have a white baby some mention of adoption would need to be thrown into the script for the sake of practicality.) Meg being black has NOTHING to do with the story one way or the other and I couldn’t have cared less. All that is required is acting ability which Ms. Reid has. Meg’s race is irrelevant.

Second, the original story HAD a strong female character that everyone followed. At the risk of SPOILERS, in the end, not even Meg’s father could go back and save Charles Wallace. ONLY – and I repeat this emphasized emphatically ONLY Meg could or was even allowed by the Mrs. W’s to return for her younger brother. Meg was the only one whose love was strong enough. (It was explained that her father had not seen his son in four years and Calvin had only just met him.) Calvin, in the book, followed Meg like a puppy the entire way. He was a strong character in and of himself, but recognized Meg’s purpose and inner vigorous soul. What Ms. DuVernay proposed was nothing Madeleine L’Engle had not already put in the original source material. In other words DUVERNAY IS TAKING PLAGERISTIC CREDIT FOR SOMETHING ALREADY IN THE BOOK!

Third, and most importantly, even if what Ms. DuVernay said was true or even believed was true – that she had sought to make a movie which showed a strong black woman in the lead – there was ZERO reason to make the single change which has made this movie such a spectacular BOMB. Ms. DuVernay has stripped the flesh off of the reason the story was written. She deliberately, and I believe with malice, removed every iota of Christianity there was to be found in what is essentially a Christian allegory.

I really didn’t care one way or another about The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass was another child’s story which was filmed as an anti-religious tome and bombed. The G.C. was written by Philip Pullman, a self-described atheist, as an atheistic yawner and was so filmed, receiving the attention it deserved – earning less than half of its production budget.

But A Wrinkle in Time was created as a CHRISTIAN allegory by a devout CHRISTIAN and DuVernay has gone out of her way to brutalize it. You’d think Disney, if not the agenda-driven Ms. DuVernay, would have exercised more foresight and not dumped quite so much money into a movie which shoves a middle finger in the face of the very demographic who made the source book a children’s classic. I mean – from a business P.O.V. alone you’d think they would have filmed it with the intent with which it was written to bring in the moolah from the audience who liked the book in the first place! But, in keeping with longstanding liberal “ethics,” as long as it is someone else’s money, they do not care if it is thoughtlessly and carelessly fizzled away.

Yes, make the lead child a black girl – make her Tibetan or Hawaiian – who cares one way or the other?  I LOVED Storm Reid as Meg. She brought a fierce intensity to the role as the determined and dogged young lady who devotedly goes to rescue her father in the face of tremendous uncertainities and great evil. It is a tragedy that DuVernay took a great performance and threw it away on her trash fire of New Age proselytizing.

DuVernay is a poster child for my now proven assertion that Hollywood is willing to throw away a fortune to foist their own ungrateful dystopian indoctrination into the very culture that tolerates them the way no other culture would. And until and unless they manage to chokehold us into sponsoring their ideologies through taxation or forced attendance, the movie going public will likely continue to vote with their closed pocketbook.

To sum up – Ms DuVernay is using the race of this lovely child actress as a smoke screen to hide her anti-Christian agenda. And to me this is not just nonsense – it a demonstration of racism, child abuse and religious bigotry. SHAME ON YOU MS. DUVERNAY!!!