Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Jana's Most Inspiring Films of 2012!


If anyone is still out there, my apologies for not keeping up on my reviews. I have been seeing movies (my life blood) and living at the Loft Cinema, but my writing has consisted of composing cover letters for my job search. But it is that time of year that beckons me to write my most inspiring films list - and I couldn't resist!

 (Note: this is not a complete list by any means. I am not including the big epic motion pictures, "Anna Karenina," "The Hobbit," and, "Les Miserables." The trailers for, "Amour," "The Impossible," and the documentary, "Chasing Ice," look pretty inspiring, but I haven't seen them yet.)

10) "The Bicycle Thief" While in search of his "stolen" bike, a boy discovers that his father has abandoned him. The hard reality sets in -  not all parents do what is best for their kids. This movie deals honestly with how that neglect affects a child and causes them to make bad decisions. And yet one understanding, committed adult can make a difference - even if they can't solve all the problems.

9) A twenty-something novelist with writers' block creates the perfect girlfriend in, "Ruby Sparks." Sure, it's reminiscent of, "Stranger than Fiction," but the love story actually works better here. What makes it stand out is how truthful the characters' relationship seems. There's one fight that sounded just like me and my ex-boyfriend. Ruby's reactions to this situation are so original and yet some how they don't seem contrived. They seem as real as she is. As a writer myself, the idea of a character coming to life for the author doesn't seem that far fetched. But what really inspired me was the theme that we "literally" (hehe) create our own world.

8) "The Sessions" is the story of a man in an iron lung (with the soul of a poet) who enlists the help of a professional sex surrogate to lose his virginity. I've heard nothing but good things about this festival crowd-pleaser. (Come to think of it, they were all men and Helen Hunt's naked body certainly would inspire more than just the main character.) Just the idea of a priest encouraging this arrangement and hearing the intimate details at confession is entertaining. And John Hawkes' self-deprecating portrayal makes it easy to believe that women could fall for him. If that doesn't give you hope, what will? One of the best feel good movies of the year.

7) I didn't expect to have half as much fun as I did at the off-kilter biopic, "Hitchcock." Director Sacha Gervasi sets the tone from the opening scene with Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopklins) outrageous, tongue-in-cheek humor. Like some of Hitchcock's later works, the genre is hard to classify. The synopsis refers to it as a love story between Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, (the flawless Helen Mirren) during the making of "Psycho." But what would a movie about Hitchcock be without hints of suspense and other fiendish delights. I found the details of Hitchcock's unorthodox directing style especially alluring.

6) In, "Moonrise Kingdom," a misfit scout escapes an absurdly corny New England camp to run away with his girlfriend – another troubled foster child. Hilarity ensues as they are pursued by a troop of weapon-wielding boy scouts and clueless adults. By making this delinquent adolescent couple sympathetic, director Wes Anderson finally delivers a film, in his definitive quirky style, that is accessible to movie audiences and highly entertaining.

5) As an aspiring filmmaker, I couldn't resist, "Argo," the story of a CIA-Canadian who used the guise of making a sci-fi flick in Iran to get to the embassy employees trapped there during the hostage crisis. Sounds like a Hollywood plot device, but it really happened! The real power of film lies in it's ability to educate and create understanding while entertaining. "Argo" succeeds on that level by sharing important insights into what motivated the crisis.

4) In, "The Other Son," two young men – one Israeli and the other Palestinian – discover that they were accidentally switched at birth during a raid in the Gulf War. This film transcends the usual melodramatic movie of the week by incorporating authentic Palestinian and Israeli attitudes and culture. The young men question their identities. Are they Jewish or Palestinian?  What makes you Jewish? Can a sworn enemy be accepted as a member of the family? Will they find that they have more similarities than differences?

3) I generally don't include big Hollywood epics, (Spielberg doesn't need my help anyway...) but, "Lincoln," is such an important movie. While dealing with a wife battling debilitating grief and the burden of the Civil War, Lincoln fights tirelessly to pass a law that will abolish slavery and hopefully end the war. This was not a popular cause. He even had opposition from his own party. But he did it because it was the right thing to do. Today's politicians could learn something about moral courage from this man. In addition to the timely theme, I enjoyed being transported back to the Civil War Era through authentic costumes and set design. I found the back-story about the first lady and Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln) absolutely compelling. Daniel Day Lewis refrains from chewing the furniture (which I usually enjoy) to give us a subtle, lived in performance of the determined and often witty Lincoln.

2) One film on my list isn't a film at all - but a play. I've included the National Theater Live production of, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," because it was one of the most moving big screen experiences I had this year. In director Marian Elliot's hands, Simon Stephen's stellar adaptation of Mark Haddon's award-winning novel is theatrical in the best sense of the word. We get a glimpse of the inner life of a teenage boy with high functioning autism. Christopher (Luke Treadaway in a devastatingly real performance) sees the world in terms of mathematical equations and must brave the terrifying world outside his home to investigate the death of the neighbor's dog that he has been accused of killing. Through his search, we come to a better understanding and acceptance of this courageous young man.

1) My favorite film of the year was the documentary, "Searching for Sugarman." A South African music critic sets out to find out what happened to the obscure American rock musician who became the voice of Apartheid. His compelling search leads him to rumors that this eccentric  rock poet (who had the promise to be the next Dylan) had shot himself on stage after vanishing into obscurity at the failure of his first visionary album. I found it so inspiring that if you follow your calling – it can have a far reaching impact beyond your own awareness. Should have gone home and written a review, but I was inspired to write lyrics for a song!

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Monday, April 23, 2012

Arizona Filmmakers and Reel Inspiration finalists screen at FUSIONFEST

FUSIONFEST April 28 & 29, Pima Community College Northwest Campus, 7600 N Shannon Rd. Featuring culturally diverse independent films and topics centered on global issues. SATURDAY, APRIL 28 11am - "Starbuck and the Bandit" by Dick Fisher and Sarah Sher, 12:30pm -Film Discussion with Elhad Ndoye, "The Forgotten Children-Focus on West African Culture" 2pm - "What You Need" - Film by Nickolas Duarte, 2:30pm- "Deseo" – film by Richard Wyland (Q&A by Ty Matthews) 3pm - "389 Miles: Living the Border" by Luis Carlos Davis, SUNDAY, APRIL 29 11am - "Vicenta" - Film by Angela Soto, 12:30pm - Reel Inspiration Contests Finalists: "The Mysterious Mystery of Something Important" by Jacqueline Véissid, "Solace" by Bill Kersey, "87 Topaz" by Bill Kersey, "Garpenfargle" by Bill Kersey & Edward Kim, “Somebody Loves Me” by Derek Griffith, "Morning Submission" by Justin Mashouf, "Just Coffee" by Roberto Gudino, "Linear Progression" by Kat Kosmala, "Not to be Toyed With" by Hal Melfi and Steve Bayless, "Have Coffin, Will Travel" by Sarah Sher, "New York City Spirit" by Muriel Stockdale, 2pm - "How like an Angel" - Film by David Sands & Elizabeth DeVries, 3pm - What You Need – Film by Nicholas Duarte.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Arizona International Film Fest Opens!


April 13 - 29, where will I be? The Arizona International Film Fest!

Last night I attended the Opening Night Carnival surrounded by film friends and circus acrobats. The best part was seeing the movie, "Shouting Secrets." Most of the audience, including some extras from the reservation near Globe, AZ. stayed after to express appreciation for this profoundly moving movie during the interesting Q & A session with Swiss Filmmaker Korinna Sehringer.

When Wesley’s mother suffers a stroke and falls into a coma, he returns home to the San Carlos Apache Reservation to be with her. Once there, he learns that his family has never forgiven him for leaving or for using their likenesses in his novel. Sehringer’s poignant drama exposes the dysfunction in an Apache family straddling tradition and modernity when the center of their world lies dying in a hospital bed. Past grudges come to the forefront as the family attempts to rediscover their emotional connections to one another.

http://shoutingsecretsmovie.com/Movie_Trailer.html

This film screens again today and Tuesday. I highly recommend you see it while you can.

Saturday, April 14th at 1 p.m. at Crossroads Festival and Tuesday, April 17, 7:00pm at Desert View Theater. SATURDAY April 14th at the AIFF. One of the shorts, "Stardust and the Bandit" was shot right here at Old Tucson Studios by my friend Dick Fisher! I suggest that you check out the schedule because there are just so many wonderful films for every taste: animated shorts, dramatic shorts, documentaries, films for kids, edgy films, films from Arizona Filmmakers and from around the world! http://www.filmfestivalarizona.com

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

KIDS! SHOOT MOVIES ON THE MOON!


Participants (ages 9-18) in the Short Movie Workshop will learn to use their own camcorders or cell phones to create short silent pictures with the fantasy world of Valley of the Moon as their set location. (An extra camera will be available for those who don't have your own.) We'll enjoy the beautiful spring weather while being inspired by whimsical castles and elf villages. We'll have a blast playing theater games while learning techniques for acting for the camera, script writing, storyboarding, and simple rules of video production. In the process we'll develop creativity, communication skills, confidence and concentration.


When: Saturday, May 5th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Valley of the Moon
Address: 2544 E. Allen Rd. (Tucson Blvd and Allen Rd.)
Cost: $55 (includes pizza lunch)
Contact: Jana Segal
Phone: 520- 325-9175
E-mail: reelinspiration@hotmail.com
Website: http://tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com/

INSTRUCTOR JANA SEGAL
Jana Segal earned her BA in Speech and Theatre from Avila College. Her musical, "Seeker" won third place at the American College Theatre Festival. She went on to receive her MFA in Dramatic Writing from Brandeis University. Her script, “Model T Biscuits” won first place at the IFFF and Moondance screenwriting contests. Jana wrote, directed, and produced the comedy short, "The Bath-a-holic" and the Western short, "Desert Angel." Jana has taught workshops in screenwriting, storyboarding and filmmaking for children. Jana organized the Reel Inspiring Film Contest and professional level directing, acting, and screenwriting workshops for Reel Inspiration.

Technical support provided by Andy Taylor Technology and Media.

http://tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com/

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"Most Inspiring Films of 2011!"


Here it is! My "Most Inspiring Films of 2011!" list. These inspiring stories stayed in my heart and mind for months after I had seen them. A reoccurring theme this year - is the incredible strength we get from of our connection with others to overcome even the greatest loss. I would love to hear about the films that moved you too! Please, share your thoughts and favorites in the comment section below.

10) "Midnight in Paris" is Woody Allen's love letter to Paris. For me it's total wish full-filling escapism - a guilty pleasure. It is the story of a Hollywood screenwriter who joins his fiancee and her family on a business trip to Paris. The trip rekindles his dream of being a starving writer in Paris - much to the dismay of his financee. He takes a midnight walk and ends up in 1920's Paris. This is a dream come true for the aspiring novelist as he mingles with great artists (Picasso!) and his literary idols including Hemingway himself! One of the most enjoyable Woody Allen films to come out in years.

9) In "The Tree," eight-year-old Simone is riding in the back of her father's pick up when it goes off track and rolls into the sprawling, twisted tree shading her house. Her family's world is turned up side down - not only by of the loss of their father, but also by the loss of their mother when she retreats into a deep depression. Unable to accept that her father is gone, Simone begins to hear her father's voice in the tree. To be near him, she climbs high into the branches and sets up house. At first her mother is worried, but then she finds comfort in the idea that her husband is there. The next morning, the children discover their mother curled up in the roots of the tree. These roots threaten to destroy the very foundation of the house. Mom must grow up and find the strength within herself to protect her family. "The Tree" is captivating in its beauty, rivetting in its action sequences and poetic in its symbolism. It has a valuable theme on the importance of pulling together as a family to survive loss.

8) “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” "The Tree of Life" is a reflection on the meaning of life. The filmmaker uses the opening narration to give us a handle on how to understand the nature images and memories to follow. The mother meditates, "There are two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. We have to choose the way we will follow.” Basically, nature is competitive and only cares for itself while grace relies on a sense of oneness with all of existence. Soon after the opening images and narration, we witness the family getting the news that one of their three sons has died. They try to make sense of the loss. This brings on a lot of soul searching about how the children were raised and inspires prayers requesting understanding of the meaning of life, suffering, and death.

7) Distracted by the appearence of "Another Earth" in the sky, Rhoda drives into a family's car killing mother and son and leaving the father in a coma. After being released from prison, Rhoda seems to be serving a self-induced penitence when she accepts a job as a school janitor. The radio announcer confirms that the earth has been duplicated. “There's another you out there. Has that “me” made the same mistakes as I made? Maybe the other me made a better choice." Recognizing the opportunity for a second chance, Rhoda enters an essay contest to win a shuttle ride to Earth II. But everything changes when she sees a man leaving a toy robot by the side of the road where the accident happened. "Another Earth" looks like sci fi, but it is actually a very human drama. The discovery of Earth II acts as the framework to explore the life we create with our bad choices, the inherit regrets, self-forgiveness, and redemption. Despite the tragic circumstances; it is really a story of hope.

6) First off, I will admit that I am a fan. I am completely captivated by the fanciful flights of the imagination in the magical world of Harry Potter. If it were on TV right now, I would be watching Harry and his friends' quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes (the instruments of his power.) Because, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" was one of the most compelling, suspenseful, awe-inspiring movies of the year and definitely the most satisfying ending to a franchise EVER.

5) Best Picture winner, "The Artist" is more than a homage to the silent film era, it transcends the form. Bigger-than-life movie star George Valentin (Oscar winner Jean Dujarin) fades into oblivion with the decline of silent pictures as his young love interest, Peppy Miller, rises to stardom with the talkies. French director (Oscar winner) Michel Hazanavicius reinvents silent pictures by using a naturalistic, charismatic acting style and exquisite cinematography. You can see the love in every frame.

4) In "The Help," recent college grad Skitter is hired to write a housekeeping and cooking column – a subject she knows nothing about. She asks her bridge club friend if she can interview her maid Abigail. Upset by her friend's mistreatment of Abileen, Skitter is inspired to write a book on the maids' perspective of working for a white family. Her editor reminds her that it is 1960 Jackson, Missippi. She will never be able to get any maids willing to risk their jobs or their lives to talk to her. Skitter explains, “We are raised by our black maids. They love us and we love them, but they can't use the same bathroom.” But it's the maids that make the story. Viola Davis, as Abileen, adds gravity to every scene she is in. In her carriage we see the weight of generations of suppression. But it's her friend Minnie (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) you have to watch. After working for the segregationist bridge club president, Minny has had enough. She is a fire cracker ready to explode. These women are survivors. But they have risen above that. They have stood up to their fears. They are heroes in their own civil rights protest and free women.

3) In, “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne and Oscar winning co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, present a flawed main character - absentee husband and father Matt King (played with good humor by George Clooney). Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to shake us awake after sleep walking through life. When his wife ends up in a coma, Matt is absolutely clueless about how to handle the life shattering situation and his two troubled daughters. Matt must come to an understanding of his wife's infidelity before he can fully be there for them.

2) "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" - According to his dad, the way Oskar sees the world is a gift. Oskar's overly active mind continuously scrutinizes the connections he observes in order to make sense of the physical world. Things he can't observe – like people's feelings are elusive and frightening to him. His dad would challenge him by sending him on reconnaissance missions (to learn to talk to people.) When his father is killed in the 9/11 tragedy, Oskar is ill equipted to make sense of the senseless act. Then he discovers a key in an envelope with the word BLACK written on it and a newspaper clipping indicating that he should keep looking. Did his father leave him one last message locked away somewhere in the city that only this key can open? As Oskar compulsively traverses the five boroughs in search of the lock, he inadvertently learns the lessons his father set out to teach him about connecting with other people. The quest gives him a concrete method to deal with a tragedy that makes no sense.

1) "Buck" is a pret'near perfect picture. You have your likeable hero, Buck Brannaman, a wounded soul who overcame an abusive childhood and personal weaknesses to forge a better path in training horses. His experience taught him to be an empathetic, intuitive reader of horses and people. The thing that really stands out in this film is it's humanity. Through working with their horses, the owners are transformed. They learn to let go of trying to force their will on others. “If you find a way to fit this thing right here, it'll make you better. It'll make you better in areas you didn't think related to horses.”

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

*SCROLL DOWN FOR LONGER REVIEWS OF THESE MOVIES BELOW.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Painfully Late Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2"

OK. I know this is a tad late and the Harry Potter franchise doesn't need my help promoting it anyway. But I wanted to include it on my "Most Inspiring Films" list - so here it is. First off, I will admit that I am a fan. I am completely captivated by the fanciful flights of the imagination in the magical world of Harry Potter. If it were on TV right now, I would be watching Harry and his friends' quest to find and destroy Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes (the instruments of his power.) Because, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" was one of the most compelling, suspenseful, awe-inspiring movies of the year and definitely the most satisfying ending to a franchise EVER.

Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves nicely tie up all the story-lines and resolve relationship issues while sending us on roller coaster ride of adventure. But what makes Deathly Hallows so satisfying is that Harry is no longer isolated in his quest. My heart cheered as the whole school of Hogwarts united in the fight against Voldemort - in one of the most suspenseful sequences I've seen in a long time.

Perhaps one of the reasons that it is so suspenseful is that I've really grown to care about these characters - hogwarts and all. In this final installment of the series, Harry finally comes to grips with his darkside. In fact, he gains greater strength and wisdom from conquering it. There is a deep satisfation in knowing that our heroes are as flawed (if not more so) than the rest of us, yet they still make a difference in their world.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Enjoy the trailer at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mObK5XD8udk

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Jana's Guilty Pleasure Review - Midnight in Paris


"Midnight in Paris" is Woody Allen's love letter to Paris. For me it's total wish full-filling escapism. I can watch it over and over just to be in Paris during artistic Renaissance of the 20s and hang out with the visionary artists of the time. It is the story of Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter, (Owen Wilson in the Woody Allen role) who joins his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and her family on a business trip to Paris. Being in the "City of Lights" rekindles his dream of living in Paris while he writes his novel. Unfortunately, his fiancee and her parents have more lucrative plans for him. In an effort to escape the ensuing conflict, Gil takes a midnight walk and ends up in 1920's Paris. This is a dream come true for the aspiring novelist as he mingles with great artists (Picasso!) and his literary idols including Hemingway himself! His heroes become his peers and even give him advice as he pursues the enchanting young model who eventually becomes his muse.

I'm not sure if this lite-weight romantic comedy deserved an Oscar for Best Original screenplay - though it is highly original. At least Allen has placed his alter ego in a fresh new setting. And the action shifts effortlessly back and forth between two time periods. That takes real writing chops. But this is one of the most enjoyable Woody Allen films to come out in years.

Have you ever had the feeling that you were stepping back in time as you strolled down a narrow cobble stone street or visited the old haunts of a favorite writer? Then "Midnight in Paris" should delight the romantic in you and maybe even inspire you to follow your true passion.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Enjoy the trailer at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTrMX5Hk554

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reel Inspiration review, "The Artist"

O.K. I didn't want to like "The Artist." I've had it up to here with Hollywood remakes. Even Broadway is adapting Hollywood blockbusters for the stage. Is there an original idea out there! At the last Screenwriting Expo, more than one manager insisted that to break into the biz, you should take an old story and put a new twist on it. And to be honest, it worked reasonably well for the Cinderella remake, "Enchanted." (Though the over the top Alladin climax was a mess.)

So I should be morally opposed to "The Artist" because it puts two old stories together – the over done, "A Star is Born" and "Singing in the Rain." Bigger-than-life movie star George Valentin (Oscar winner Jean Dujarin) fades into oblivion with the decline of silent pictures as his young love interest, Peppy Miller, (the lovely Bérénice Bejohe) rises to stardom with the talkies.

French director (Oscar winner Michel Hazanavicius) chose to make a black and white silent picture. I'll admit here that I'm not a big fan of silent movies because I can't stand the fake, theatrical postering and mugging. But "The Artist" transcends the limitations of the silent form. Michel reinvents silent pictures by using a naturalistic acting style, exquisite cinematography, and modern storytelling devices such as opening with a silent film within a silent film. But what really makes it stand out are the clever, charming moments. In a touching moment, Peppy snuggles up to Valentin's jacket on the coat rack as if she is embracing the man. The actress is so totally invested in the hug that when Valentin catches her, he flashes a surprised, then amused grin that lights up his whole face. Sigh. Did I mention the incredible chemistry between these two charismatic actors?

A facebook friend complained that Dujarin won best actor without uttering a word of dialogue.(Did he actually see the film?) But, as they taught us in Film 101, a movie is moving pictures. You should be able to understand the story with the sound turned off. Jean Dujarin as George Valentin goes through a full character arch from arrogance to falling in love to hitting rock bottom without the crutch of dialogue. And he kept me engaged in every scene. And he can tap dance! I'd say the Oscar was well deserved.

"The Artist" is more than a homage to the silent film era, it transcends the form. It presents a universal theme: When the old ways no longer work, ego may hinder us from adapting to the new ways, but in the end love conquers all.

You can see the love in every frame of this film.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Enjoy the trailer at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8K9AZcSQJE

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reel Inspiration review, "The Descendants"


There are times in our lives when our world comes crashing down and we are completely unprepared. Shocked and clueless, we grope around making awkward attempts to deal with the overwhelming situation or to just get by. Like the day my whole life was thrown out of whack when my husband of 25 years announced he wanted a divorce and moved out that afternoon. I did my share of groping to find my footing - not always handling it with the best of grace.

I guess that's why I relate to Alexander Payne's, “The Descendants.” Payne (and Oscar winning co-writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) aren't afraid to present a flawed main character, Matt King (George Clooney), who is absolutely clueless about how to handle the life shattering situation he finds himself in when his wife ends up in a coma as the result of a boating accident. To add insult to injury, he discovers that she was cheating on him at the time. It's a one-two punch that leaves him stunned and reeling.

Matt lives in Hawaii, in paradise, but has been so caught up in business transactions that he can't take in the beauty around him. His time has been spent negotiating deals with vacation resorts and condos to sell the pristine forest entrusted to him and the other descendants. This piece of land represents all that he has lost in his life. There was a time that he took his family on regular camping trips there. But he has lost his connection with the land and his family. He has become an absentee husband and father. In fact, he is absent from his own life.

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to shake us awake after sleep walking through life. (It took my husband leaving me...) Having been JOLTED awake, Matt is ill equipped to deal with the fall out the from the accident on his two troubled daughters. George Clooney brings out the humor as his character gropes around trying to make some sense of the whole mess. When he hears that his wife was cheating, Matt, still in shock, charges off in his clumsy flip fops around a ridiculous circular drive – in search of answers, anything... Later, we can see the inner turmoil in his eyes even as his daughter splashes in the ocean and life goes on around him. Once he has dealt with his own issues, he is better equipped to help others cope with the tragedy. Finally fully awake, Matt sees that he is a part of something bigger than himself. He realizes his responsibility to the land, himself, and those around him. Procuring his place in the world puts his problems in perspective.

As for me, I'm grateful to be awake and learning life's lessons.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

See trailer at:
http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thedescendants/

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reel Inspiration review, ""Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"


What you might not know about me is that despite a fairly embarrassing learning disability, (I was the one kid in my school who was in both special education and the gifted program) I actually have a very active problem solving mind. I loved unraveling the enigma that was the "Tree of Life" for my review on reelinspiration.blogspot.com. I loved every minute spent solving the puzzle of what really happened behind the gunfight at the OK Corral for my Tombstone comedy. So it's no wonder I greatly enjoyed, ""Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." It basically takes the audience on a problem solving reconnaissance mission. To be honest, I relate to it in other ways as well.

According to his dad (adorably played by Tom Hanks), the way Oskar sees the world is a gift. Oskar's (Thomas Horn) overly active mind continuously scrutinizes the connections he observes in order to make sense of the physical world. Things he can't observe – like people's feelings (including his own) are elusive and frightening to him. For a boy in need of concrete answers, even the inconclusive results of his Aspergers Syndrome test are unsettling.

His dad's gift was to find creative ways to challenge his son. Their favorite games were reconnaissance missions. One such mission was to search the five boroughs of New York for something from every decade. In the process, Oskar spoke to people from all walks of life. The purpose being to overcome his fear of interacting with people. True to form, Oscar comes up with a concrete answer to the riddle – a rock made up of something from every decade.

When his father is killed in the 9/11 tragedy, Oskar is ill equipted to make sense of the senseless act. His mother burries an empty coffin in an awkward attempt to make his father's death more real for him and Oskar is outraged at yet another senseless act. Searching for some part of his father to hold onto, Oscar digs through his father's closet and discovers a key inside an envelope with the word BLACK written on it and a newspaper clipping indicating that he should keep looking. Did his father leave him one last message locked away somewhere in the city that only this key can open? The audience is invited along on one last reconnaisssance mission. We observe as Oskar constructs an elaborate filing system to chart all the people in the city named Black and set off with him in search of the answer.

Oskar becomes obsessed with this mission because it is the only way he can feel connected to his father. As Oskar compulsively traverses the five boroughs in search of the lock, he inadvertently learns the lessons his father set out to teach him. He makes connections with other New Yorkers with their own stories of heartache from 9/11. The quest gives him a concrete objective enabling him to deal with unmanageable feelings of guilt, fear, grief and redemption. He faces physical manifestations of his fears – such as crossing a bridge - that he can overcome. The quest gives him a concrete method to deal with a tragedy that makes no sense.

Thomas Horn does a fine job creating a sympathetic character with some very unsympathetic Aspberger traits. The young actor handles both the intensity and humor effortlessly. But not all the credit goes to the actor. For the benefit of the writers out there, I'll share a writing device that the was successfully used by screenwriter Eric Roth. Considerable time was spent setting up the father's love of the boy and his gifts - so we are already rooting for Oskar well before we witness his negative traits (being rude to the door man and the intense meltdowns.)

One of my readers suggested that I include more of my opinions on the films. There was one thing that bothered me a bit. The movie went on well beyond the point where I felt there could have been a satisfying ending – presenting several resolutions. But that was the result of the multi -layered story. That's a price I'm willing to pay for a story with depth.

I believe one reason we go to the movies is to find meaning in the senseless events of our lives. Perhaps there is no way to come to a solid understanding of the senseless act that was 9/11. But "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" offers hope that we can find some comfort in our shared experience and our connections with others.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

For the trailer, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_quK9SEGYE

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reel Inspiration review, "Buck"


As a rule, I don't review documentaries. But I'm making an exception because Buck is one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen.

Buck is pret'near perfect picture. You have your likeable hero, Buck Brannaman, a wounded soul who overcame an abusive childhood and personal weaknesses to forge a better path in training horses. When he started his horse clinics, he couldn't even look people in the eye but he grew to be a gifted teacher. And, boy, is it entertaining. At six, Buck was a professional trick roper. There are nostalgic clips of him on “What's My Line” and as the spokesman for Sugar Puffs cereal. He was the inspiration behind the movie, “The Horse Whisperer.” Robert Redford talks about working with Buck on the set. When the Hollywood trainer couldn't get the trick horse to perform the action needed for the scene, Buck got his own horse to do it in 15 minutes. The horse came right up to young Sharlett Johansson and put it's head against hers. It brought the whole crew to tears.

Buck is very intuitive in his understanding of horses. He demonstrates a way to train the horse that the animal can relate too. “It is all a dance,” he says. It's about trust and balance, not about force. He's looking for the horse to follow his “feel.” Before he even gets on the horse, he has the horse on the end of the lead rope (with a bit of slack) and directs it.

There is a history of abuse in training horses - the very idea that a man has to “break” this big animal to show that he is stronger. It takes a tortured soul to understand the abuse these animals have gone through. Having survived being abused himself, Buck is sensitive to their reaction to being “broken.” Buck explains “When something is scared for it's life, I understand that.”

Buck has risen above his traumatic upbringing. His experience taught him to be an empathetic reader of horses and people. And he deals with all kinds – colts that have never been ridden to troubled stallions. “A lot of the times instead of helping people with horse problems, I'm helping horses with people problems,” he shares. “All of your horses are a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see.” In a dramatic, heartbreaking sequence, he confronts the wounded owner of a vicious, out of control animal. “Maybe there's some things for you to learn about you. Maybe the horse is gonna be the only damn way you're gonna learn it.”

The thing that really stands out in this film is it's humanity. Through working with their horses, the owners are transformed. They learn to let go of trying to force their will on others. “If you find a way to fit this thing right here, it'll make you better. It'll make you better in areas you didn't think related to horses.”

You don't have to be a cowboy to enjoy this film. I took my city-slicker boys to be inspired by Buck.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCMm5uoZtXw

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reel Inspiration review, "The Tree"


Despite their shared theme of dealing with loss, The Tree is a very different movie than the hard to watch, impressionistic, The Tree of Life. I found it much more heartfelt and accessible.

Eight-year-old Simone is enjoying a joy ride standing up in the back of her father's pick up when it goes off track and rolls into the sprawling, twisted tree shading her house. She finds her father dead inside the cab.

The family's world is turned up side down – not only by of the loss of their father, but also by the loss of their mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) when she retreats into a deep depression. The oldest son tries to keep things together, but it is more than he can handle with his own grief and anger.

Unable to accept that her father is gone, Simone begins to hear her father's voice in the tree. To be near him, she climbs high into the branches. This frightens her mother out of her isolation. The girl sets up a bedroom cradled in the tree branches to spend more time with her father. At first her mother is worried, but then she does something startling – she listens to the tree and hears his voice too. She finds comfort in the idea that her husband is there. The next morning, the children discover their mother curled up in the roots of the tree.

The family experiences a rare moment of joy when funny yellow frogs emerge from the toilet drain. The roots of the tree have blocked the pipes and it is almost like their fun loving father is trying to say it's time to lighten things up, there is still joy in life. The little girl seems to have learned that lesson. When her friend asks her why she isn't sad anymore, she replies, “You have a choice to be happy or sad. I choose to be happy and I am happy.”

The root incident motivates the mother to finally go out into the world to find a plumber. She manages to get a job with the plumber (and possible new beau) George (Marton Csokas.) That night a huge branch breaks through the window into her room. Unfazed, she crawls into her bed with the fallen branch and wraps its limbs protectively around her.

When her plumber boyfriend comes to survey the damage, he is shocked by the degree of damage that she has been living with. “You didn't tell me it was so bad.” But he is even more shocked by her reply, “I don't think it was trying to hurt me.” It becomes evident that she is overwhelmed with adult responsibilities when she says, “I know I need to do something, but I don't know where to start.” She leaves it to her new boyfriend to handle. But when George arranges for a tree service to remove the tree, she sends the workers and George away. Her attachment to that tree threatens to destroy the very foundation of their home. Mom must grow up and find the strength within herself to protect her family.

The Tree is captivating in its beauty, compelling in its action sequences and poetic in its symbolism. It has a valuable theme on the importance of pulling together as a family to survive loss.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

official website:
http://www.thetreefilm.com/

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts on Larry Crowne (an "in time for DVD" review)


by Guest Reviewer Josh Valentine
http://indiebum.wordpress.com/

Tom Hanks’ “Larry Crowne” is a film that your mom goes to see with her girlfriends. It’s what appears run-of-the-mill romantic comedy starring everyman Tom Hanks and America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts. In some ways, that is the film. But the miracle of “Larry Crowne” is its immediacy and its passion for the human experience. This is a film that came and went in the theaters and it will be forgotten. It shouldn’t.

The film, co-written with Hanks by Nia Vardalos (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”), and directed by the man himself, is about finding purpose. For most people, it is through purpose that life’s meaning is found. For some, raising a family is their purpose and that gets them through their existential woes. For others, they find this solace in their work. This is the focus of Larry Crowne’s life at U-Mart until he is laid off due to his lack of a college education. Crowne (played with dependable pluck by Hanks) faces a new chapter in his life – a chapter he never expected. He enrolls at the local community college where he meets Mrs. Mercy Tainot (Roberts), a speech and communications professor who’s at her wit’s end of a terrible marriage. He also meets Talia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a free-spirit who introduces him to the comfort of being cool. Larry begins to re-experience the life he’s felt he missed after his 20 years in the Navy. “Larry Crowne” is very much a film that encourages the idea that the experience of living is in itself what must be appreciated. For the three major characters, the achievement of purpose is what enlightens their existence.

Hanks, Roberts and Mbatha-Raw all portray their own character arcs to exhibit the theme of purpose. Hanks’ Crowne is generally optimistic, but never felt his past had any merit worth mentioning. He hides from his passion of cooking, because he felt he had done it too long in the Navy. His re-invention is a catalyst for his return to his passion and he is able to grow, even in middle age. Roberts’ character is borderline depressed, and wants to find purpose in her teaching. Thanks to Larry Crowne, she not only re-discovers her enthusiasm – but also finds the grown up man she’s been looking for. The character of Talia is pure optimism but is seemingly lost. When she drops out of college to pursue her dream of owning her own business, she finds her purpose. All of these character arcs seem relatively inconsequential, but really show how something so meaningless can actually change a person’s life forever. The film is surely fantasy, but it’s ideas and main themes of finding purpose are essentially human. This is a human film.

“Larry Crowne” ended its theatrical run recently, but will be on DVD and Blu-ray in November. It’s not essential viewing, but highly recommended. It might even help you find you your purpose.

Movie trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mERICxC7R9c

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Inspiring Films Create Understanding

I remember when 9/11 happened, I sobbed for what I thought would be a loss of what makes us American - our freedom. Fear is such a powerful weapon! But I believe that films of substance have power too. That's why I promote meaningful films that show that we are more alike than different.


Inspired by that principle, I organized the Reel Inspiration film contests. There were two shorts that especially made it worth the effort. 2004 finalist Morning Submission by Justin Mashouf creates understanding with his powerful three minute film on why Muslims pray. This little wonder shows that their prayers are much like ours. And 2006 "Best of Tucson" winner, Have Coffin, Will Travel by Sarah Sher shares how Dale Clark, an 83 year old artist and activist from Bisbee, Arizona, hitchhikes with a coffin to bring attention to the approximately eight thousand children of Afghanistan and Iraq who lost their lives as a result of war. This whimsical short is a gentle reminder that we aren't the only ones affected by the war and that these are our children too.

Watch Have Coffin, Will Travel at:
http://current.com/groups/vc2-on-tv/76441202_have-coffin-will-travel.htm

On this anniversary of 9/11, we can honor those who died by choosing not to be defeated by fear, but choose instead understanding over hate and connection over separation.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Reel Inspiration review, "Another Earth."


It is as if ANOTHER EARTH illuminates the night sky in celebration of Rhoda's acceptance into MIT's astrophysics program. But her dream is shattered when she drives into a family's car instantly killing mother and son and leaving the father in a coma.

Released after five years in prison, Rhoda (co-writer Brit Marling) wanders the streets an outsider in her home town. She is a stranger in her own room, even in her own skin. She seems to be serving a self-induced penitence when she accepts a job as a school janitor so she won't have to talk to anyone. Should she be allowed to live when she took another person's life? Filmmaker/co-writer Mike Cahill creates a feeling of being outside herself by photographing her through windows and odd angles. This is one of those movies where the experience is enhanced by what the viewer brings to it. And there are plenty of silences to allow the audience to ponder what would have been had they made another choice in their own life.

Cahill uses the device of distant radio and TV broadcasts about the newly discovered Earth II as a way to share Rhoda's self reflections. The radio announcer confirms that the earth has been duplicated. “There's another you out there. Now you begin to wonder - has that “me” made the same mistakes as I made?” Maybe the other me made a better choice. Rhoda has an opportunity for a second chance. She enters an essay contest to win a shuttle ride to Earth II. She writes how the first explorers of Earth II should be the disenfranchised and criminals (like herself) because that's who first settled the New World – people who had nothing to lose.

Everything changes when she sees a man leaving a toy robot by the side of the road where the accident happened. She does a google search and finds that the boy's father (John Burroughs), previously a music professor, concert musician, and gifted composer, has come out of his coma. She becomes obsessed with the life he's lost. She goes to his house and finds him sleepwalking through his life and self-medicating. Consumed with guilt, she knocks on his door to confess, apologize, anything. She ends up offering him a free trial of her housekeeping services.

It is genuinely touching watching as the connection between these two wounded souls begins to bring them back to life. But what if Rhoda is chosen to go on the shuttle to Earth II? Will she find a smarter version of herself who made a better choice? Is it an opportunity for a second chance or suicide?

Another Earth looks like sci fi, but it is actually a very human drama. The discovery of Earth II acts as the framework to explore the life we create with our bad choices, the inherit regrets, self-forgiveness and redemption. Despite the tragic circumstances, Another Earth is really a story of hope.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8hEwMMDtFY

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reel Inspiration review, "The Help."


In the prelude, Abileen stoically tells an unseen interviewer that her grandmother was a house slave and her mother was a house maid. She, herself, has raised 17 white children. A naive voice asks if she ever thought of being something else. Her answer is the blank stare of resignation passed on from generations of subservience.

The movie proper starts with recent college grad Skitter (a wide eyed Emma Stone) being interviewed for her first newspaper job. Skitter is hired to write a housekeeping and cooking column – a subject she knows nothing about. No matter. While at a bridge club meeting, she asks her friend permission to interview her maid. Ironically, the maid, Abileen, is the only one she knows who keeps house. It becomes clear that her friend sees Abigail as her property when she catches Skitter affirming Abileen's contribution to the household. She tells Skitter that Abileen will be unable to continue working on the project.

Upset by her friend's mistreatment of Abileen and the unexplained absence of the beloved maid who raised her, Skitter is inspired to write a book on the maids' perspective of working for a white family. Her editor warns that she will never be able to get any maids willing to risk their jobs or their lives to talk to her. It is dangerous. It is 1960, the dawn of the civil rights movement. Jim Crow laws make it illegal to even print civil rights material. Tensions mount as a black activist is killed. The fear is palpable as black passengers are thrown off the bus near the murder sight and Abileen flees for her life past race riots.

This movie is about the shared delusion that blacks and whites in the South were separate. In 1960s Jaskson, Mississippi, Jim Crow laws and bridge club etiquette rule their lives. The laws were designed to separate the whites from the blacks, but black women had always worked very close to white families - preparing their food, cleaning their bathrooms, and changing their babies' diapers. For generations, the black “maids” raised the white children. Skitter explains to her publisher, “We are raised by our black maids. They love us and we love them, but they can't use the same bathroom.”

The setting is the domestic world of kitchens, nurseries and bathrooms which gives ample opportunities for kitchen (and bathroom) humor. On the whole, writer/director Tate Taylar does a good job balancing comedy and drama. The 146 minutes flies by with some laughs, tears, and dramatic tension. But sometimes the comedy goes a bit over the top. Hilly starts a petition initiating a law to have separate bathrooms for the help - even though her feisty maid, Minny, is the envy of the bridge club for her great cooking. This gives new meaning to the phrase, “Don't crap where you eat.”

There are multiple storylines. Care is given in showing the intertwining lives of the blacks and the whites. The writer seems to be saying both races are enslaved by the cultural restrictions of the time. Even Skitter's mother couldn't stand up to the bigots in her social club. She admits to Skitter, "Sometimes courage skips a generation." But it's the performances of Viola Davis as Abileen and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Minny that holds it all together. Davis adds gravity to every scene she is in. In Abileen's carriage we see the weight of generations of suppression as well as the personal risk she is taking with her involvement in the taboo book. Minny is different. After working for segregationist bridge club president Hilly, Minny has had enough. She is a fire cracker ready to explode. These women are survivors. But they have risen above that. They have stood up to their fears. They are heroes in their own civil rights protest and free women. I can't say so much for Hilly and her bridge club.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Official site: http://thehelpmovie.com/us/

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jana's Favorite Inspiring Films of 2010! (Better late than never...)


The movie year started off sloooowly. There were few Hollywood films that I wanted to watch, much less review. Luckily for me, I had the Loft Cinema where I could enjoy enchanting foreign films and documentaries. Ah, the docs! Is is amazing how documentaries have come into their own – even being screened in mainstream theaters – as entertaining (sometimes more entertaining) than their narrative counterparts. Generally, I don't review docs, but some of my favorite films of the past year happen to be docs so I'm including them on, “Jana's Favorite Inspiring Films of 2010” list. And as long as I'm breaking my self-imposed rules, I'll throw in a couple of wonderful animated films as well. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: In the delicious Italian treat, "Mid-August Lunch" the unemployed fifty-ish bachelor Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio) shows respect for his ninety-something mother by taking good care of her and lovingly preparing their meals. The landlord is willing to forgive their growing dept if they take in his mother so he can get away for the Mid-August holiday. He drops off his mother AND his aunt. Soon their doctor's mother joins the mix. So Gianni must survive the weekend playing good host to four strong-willed shut-ins. What impressed me most was how he never loses his manners but treats these woman with the respect earned by those who have reached a certain age. This film illustrates the isolation that comes with aging and our continued need to socialize. There is an Italian saying, "A tavola no s'invecchia," that articulates the theme perfectly, "The passage of time is suspended with experiencing the pleasure of good food, good wine and company."

12. “Four Lions” – There aren't that many comedies about terrorists. But “Four Lions” boldly turns a hilariously dark parody about extremist values into a moving tale about the innate cluelessness of the human-race.

11. “Toy Story 3” - A touching, nostalgic adventure for adults who remember what it's like to be kids - through the eyes of their toys.

10.“Afghan Star” – a documentary on Afghan's version of American Idol. After being suppressed by 30 years of war and Taliban rule, the Afghan people are finally able to gather around the one TV in the village and enjoy their favorite show. A female contestant risks her life for a greater cause – to share with her fellow countrymen the expression of the human spirit through dance.

9. Sci-Fi Meets Immigration Debate in the award winning indie, “Sleep Dealer.” Director Alex Rivera sets his tale in a third world country and a big city. When their water is taken by international corporations, the local people are forced into hard labor to survive. The clever executives have invented a way to exploit their labor from afar so they don't even have to see the workers in their neighborhoods. The worker is connected to a machine where he becomes a puppet master, his arm movement controlling the arm of a robot at a distant construction sight. Even their private memories are bought and sold for mass entertainment. A truly original slant on immigration issues.

8. “The Fighter” – is one film I wish I had reviewed when it came out. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but the fighting world was just so familiar and common. It didn't feel original. When his older brother fails to become the champ, the weight of the family is shifted to Micky's (Mark Wahlberg) shoulders. His fighting career becomes the family business with his drug addicted brother (Christian Bale) as his trainer and his over-bearing mother (Melissa Leo) acting as manager. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo gave Oscar winning performances in this Best Picture nominated film about overcoming personal adversity and the bonds of family.

7. “Lebanon” - When this came out, it was one of the best movies I'd seen in a looong time. It showed the confusion and human tragedy of war from the claustrophobic view of a tank soldier.

6. “Don't Let Me Drown” -(I also didn't get a chance to write a review of Cruz Angeles' Sundance indie because I was busy watching more films at the AIFF.) Two young people are brought together by the 9/11 tragedy that touched both of their families in this refreshingly real love story. It is good to see normal Bronx teens for a change rather then the juvenile delinquents commonly portrayed in movies. The filmmaker takes his time setting up their world so the audience becomes invested in what happens to these kids in this moving, touchingly funny coming of age film. The naturalistic acting enhances the experience.

5. “How to Train Your Dragon” – Spectacular scenery, thrilling flight and combat scenes. An inspiring tale of how one person can lead the way to positive change when the old ways don't work anymore.

4. “The King's Speech” - England is on the verge of the second World War and the newly appointed King (Colin Firth) must give a speech rallying the country. But before he can speak for the people, he must manage his own debilitating stammer. His Majesty must overcome his mistrust of his therapist (Geoffrey Rush) and grow to trust that he is the powerful leader the country needs. This story is about more than making "The King's Speech." It is about the making of a King. I recommend this Best Picture winner for it's clever writing and inspiring story, Colin's Firth's dynamic, Oscar winning performance and Geoffrey Rush's hilarious take on the eccentric therapist.

3. “Winter's Bone” – my favorite for Best Picture. When her father disappears after putting the family house and farm up for bail, sixteen year old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) must traverse the dangerous backwoods of the Ozarks to bring him back. “Winter's Bone” was filmed on location in the Ozarks giving it an authentic feel by using their music, language, and customs. Writer/director Debra Granik and writer Anne Rosellini gave us a strong teenage heroine who showed loyalty, determination and strength as she did what had to be done to protect her young siblings and taught them the necessary survival skills in case she failed.

2. From the trailer, “Big River Man" appears to be a entertaining character study of an overweight Slovenian endurance swimmer in his fifties who drinks two bottles of red wine a day even when swimming. In 2007 Martin Strel began an insane attempt to be the first person to swim the entire length of the world's most dangerous river, the Amazon, supposedly to create an awareness of our polluted rivers. But his real driving force seems to be the pursuit of fame. When the river starts affecting his physical and mental health, we see that something else is driving him – a mystical quest for unity and mastery over nature. Don't let the trailer fool you. This is one of the most compelling, moving docs ever. Hilarious, disturbing, powerful.

1. My favorite film of the year was, “Even the Rain.” I was so moved by this picture that I stayed for a second screening. A production crew has come to Bolivia to shoot the story of how Columbus conquered the new world by suppressing and enslaving the indigenous people. Ironically, the crew is there to get cheap labor by exploiting the indigenous people to work as extras for $2 a day (and also have them build the sets). So they are actually exploiting the descendants of the very people the Spaniards exploited. During the filming, Spanish decedents are still suppressing the indigenous people by taking their most precious resource – their water supply. The director unknowingly casts a charismatic, outspoken local to play one of the natives - who turns out to be the leader of the water protests. As a filmmaker, I was inspired by the attention to detail that the fictional as well as the real director, Icíar Bollaín, gave to the Spanish and Inca history. And I find it admirable that despite having the scope and feel of a Hollywood epic, director Bollaín chose to tell this story in Spanish – accentuating Spanish responsibility in suppressing the Incas. Whew! I love this film!

Perusing this list, I can see that 2010 was great year for film.

Movie Blessings from 2010!

Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Friday, July 08, 2011

“QUEEN TO PLAY” IS THE RIGHT MOVE


guest reviewer Chuck Graham, TUCSONSTAGE.COM

Watching “Queen To Play” is a lovely way to sink into the comforting darkness of the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., in the reassuring company of intelligent friends to enjoy an adult fairy tale of life’s possibilities in middle age.

While it is annoying enough that the boomer generation has forced the indulgence of its life cycle on all of us -- from the discovery of sex to the fear of dementia – there are certain unique opportunities during one’s 40s and 50s that don’t occur at any other time in life.

The children are grown, one’s own economic level is defined, daily routines are well established. As the days seem to speed up in their determination to push us toward old age even faster, a new spark of resistance is struck…one much like the teenager’s first resistance to authority.

Adding urgency is the conviction this could well be the last chance to strike out on a new, potentially life-changing, adventure. American movie makers will no doubt fill their movies for this middle-aged market with lots of screaming digital special effects thumbing their collective noses at AARP.

“Queen To Play” is a French film much more gracious than that. Sandrine Bonnaire as Helene begins her story as a responsible maid at a family hotel in sunny Corsica. Her life is set. There isn’t much money, but her husband is handsome, hardworking and loyal. Her 15-year-old daughter is prickly, but she doesn’t have any tattoos. Yet.

Upon arriving at work one lovely morning, Helene is invited to clean the room of a couple out on the balcony enjoying a game of chess and very much enjoying each other. Their lives seem so magical to Helene. In one moment she realizes how the chains of routine and the obligations of necessity have combined to lock her into the cell of compromise, denied forever any opportunity to enjoy any fuller use of her personality.

The shock is palpable. When Helene later discovers the lovely woman has accidentally left her silk dressing gown behind, Helene takes it home. She also buys her husband Ange (Francis Renaud) an electronic chess set for his upcoming birthday.

Ange quickly rejects any interest in learning to play chess. In the middle of the night Helene is reading the instruction book and playing a solo game against the electronic chessboard.

Awhile later, while cleaning the home of the perpetually grumpy and retired Dr. Kroger (Kevin Kline, always speaking French), Helene discovers his chess board. Drawing on all the courage she can muster, Helene asks if Dr. Kroger will teach her to play, in return for free housekeeping services.

Dr. Kroger may be living more comfortably, but his life does seem empty. Yet, he is not a philandering man. In his life, propriety is king. For Helene, chess is queen – for she is fascinated by a game where the king’s mate has the most power.

The enjoyment in “Queen To Play” is in finding so many delicate layers of possibility within the story. As the doctor teaches the student, she quickly discovers a natural aptitude for the game. The more quickly she learns, the more he admires her.

The more he admires her, the more she feels ignored by her husband Ange and unappreciated by her daughter Maria (Valerie Lagrange). Gently we are brought to see in their story how easily the daily life we make more or less by accident and coincidence becomes hardened into the life we cannot change.

It is Dr. Kroger who suggests Helene enter an upcoming chess tournament. She has become the better player, so he will become her trainer, sharpening her skills to win.

Helene’s toughest battle is at home, where husband and daughter selfishly don’t want their wife/mom to get so distracted from taking care of their own personal needs.

There is more to the plot, but this is not a plot-driven film. The enjoyment is in the portrayal of the changing relationships, and the layers of implication in each change. Nicely enough, “Queen To Play” is slowly paced with plenty of time for reflection on all these changes.

In French, with subtitles.

Check out Chuck's other reviews at:
http://www.tucsonstage.com/FILM/film.html

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Reel Inspiration review: Bill Cunningham New York

It's already been a long, hot summer in Tucson, AZ. It's 110 outside and I'm dying to get into an air-conditioned theater. I scroll down the movie listings. Nothing but a bunch of unimaginative, dried up remakes (some of which you couldn't pay me to see in the original version) and a dumbed-down romantic comedy that I've already seen.

Thank Heavens for my oasis in the desert. During Hollywood's intellectual and emotional drought, the Loft Cinema offered a stream of refreshing foreign dramas, thrillers and comedies. And when I had seen all of those, there were the documentaries. Watching documentaries is a fairly new theater experience for me. When I thought of documentaries, I thought of dry educational programs. But a new kind of doc has emerged - quenching my thirst for fascinating characters and compelling storytelling. One such documentary is, "Bill Cunningham New York."

While watching the trailer, I knew I was in for a good time when Vogue editor Anna Wintour (made infamous by, The Devil Wears Prada) quips, "We all get dressed for Bill." The trailer is full of testimonials from fashion icons and socialites on photographer Bill Cunningham - the schwinn-riding octogenarian who weaves through Manhattan traffic trying to capture the latest "street style" fashions. Cunningham obsessively documents fashion trends and society charity events for the style section of the Times. I didn't expect much more than a interesting character study, a love letter to NY, or a tribute to a by-gone era of high society. But it was more than that. It was one of the most inspiring films of the year.

Bill Cunningham. This man lives his passion. He initiated the concept of "street style" when he started snapping flower children's threads in the sixties and went on to document emerging street trends through the decades. In his column, Bill presents the definitive fashion show taken right, "On the Street." His meticulously arranged fashion layouts can be read like a thesis in urban anthropology expressing the styles of the times. And in his show, everyone one is treated equal - from societies' grande dames to colorful eccentrics. The only thing that matters is fashion.

This is a man who unapologetically lives life on his own terms. He lives fashion. He sleeps in a tiny studio, his bed squeezed in between file cabinets full of every photo he ever took. He even refused payment for his moon-lighting magazine gig so he wouldn't have to take orders from anyone or "sell out" his vision. He doesn't do it for prestige, money or fame. (He is notoriously camera shy.) He does it for the beauty of the art. On one of the rare occasions where he agreed to accept an award, he tearfully gushed, "You can find beauty if you look for it!"

I found beauty here.

If you love NY, you won't want to miss it.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

VISIT THE OFFICIAL MOVIE WEBSITE:
http://zeitgeistfilms.com/billcunninghamnewyork/

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reel Inspiration review: The Tree of Life



“Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

A beam of light unfurls.

THE TREE OF LIFE is a reflection on the meaning of life. What is the filmmaker trying to say? That is highly subjective. Aside from an opening narration that cues us in on the theme, the director leaves it to the audience to form our own conscious or subconscious impressions on the images he presents. Each audience member brings their own experiences which informs the meaning for them.

This is a challenging film because of the nonlinear structure that shifts between time and space, three different character's points of view, and nature photography. After the screening, I overhead someone respond, “What the Hell was that?” This review is for the “What the Hell was that?” crowd or anyone else who could benefit from cliff notes in order to enjoy this surreal film. I don't pretend to understand it all. This is just my interpretation drawn from my own memories and recounting similar images from science programs.

The filmmaker uses this opening narration to give us a handle on how to understand the nature images and memories to follow. The mother meditates, "There are two ways through life – the way of nature and the way of grace. We have to choose the way we will follow.” Basically, nature is competitive and only cares for itself while grace relies on a sense of oneness with all of existence.

Soon after the opening images and narration, we witness the family getting the news that one of their three sons has died. The Father, Mother and their oldest son try to make sense of the loss. This brings on a lot of soul searching about how the children were raised and inspires prayers requesting understanding of the meaning of life, suffering, and death.

This may be a good point to see the movie yourself to create your own impressions.

139 minutes later. Now, for my take on it....

The Mother's narration suggests that there are two ways of experiencing life – one through nature and the other through grace.

The Mother represents the “way of grace”- our connection with all things, unconditional love, empathy, and freedom of spirit. Scenes of the Mother and her children playing and exploring the wonders of nature are interwoven with footage of nature showing that they are interconnected. The Mother teaches them to see the world through the eyes of the soul.

The Father represents “the way of nature” that is competitive and only out for it's own survival. The father tries to toughen up his sons by teaching them to fight. He demands that they hit him harder, “Hit me! Hit me!” and finally knocks the older boy to the ground. He lectures that you can't be too good if you want to get ahead. “It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world.” But the Father forces his children to bend to his will by enforcing overly strict rules. “The way of nature” is also represented in the animal world by a scene where one dinosaur happens onto a wounded dinosaur. He demonstrates his dominance by holding down the weaker animal's head before walking away.

But the father's competitive nature isn't working. He is unsuccessful in his life. He never misses a day of work, yet he is laid off his of job. He never even pursued his dream of being a musician. He has lost the connection with his sons. They are so suppressed that when the Father goes on a trip, the family celebrates by running free and purposely breaking all his rules.

The older son struggles to find his place in the world. “Father, Mother, always you wrestle inside of me. Always you will.” As the architect of his life, he designs skyscraper buildings with steel walls separating him from nature and relationships. It is only when he sees a tree being planted outside the building that he remembers the tree that his parents once planted for him.

I believe the true message of the film is that “the way of grace” and “the way of nature” are connected through unconditional love. At one time the family was very close - embraced by both the Mother and the Father. The Father and the Mother loved their young children unconditionally. It was only when the Father tried to impose his competitive will that the family fell apart.

The film interweaves happy memories of the birth of the children, the family's early years, and exploring the wonder of nature with spectacular images that show the formation of the universe such as planets, the big boom, volcanic activity, and the beginnings of life under the ocean. In all this grandeur we sense the presence of God. If we just let go, it's almost as if our consciousness is connected with the beginning of time.

The branches of that tree now reach up to the sky – as if nature is reaching to touch God.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Movie trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXRYA1dxP_0

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reel Inspiration review: Is the Traditional Role of Father a "Win Win" Scenario?

In honor of Father's Day, lets look at three recent movies that illuminate the role of husbands and/or fathers in the family. With the inherit stresses such as financial responsibilities, can a man find fulfillment and happiness in being a family man? Is all the hard work worth it?

“Soul Surfer” is about a traditional family with a new twist – family life revolves around their passion for surfing. The mother (Helen Hunt) home schools her daughter, Bethany, (AnnaSophia Robb) to allow her to train to be a championship level surfer. The film hints that the father (Dennis Quaid) is no longer able to surf at that level because of a knee injury. But he doesn't have time for regrets. The sport isn't his whole life. This close knit family has created a balanced life that also includes family, friends, and church. So when tragedy strikes (a shark bites off Bethany's arm), the family finds strength in God and each other. The father tries to protect his daughter from the over zealous press. He watches with concern and pride as she struggles to surf with one arm. When she decides it's time to train for the championship, he coaches her. The way the family deals with the tragedy brings them closer together. Supported by understanding parents, Bethany finds her true path and meaning in her life. (It's cool to see a true story about a teenager who embraces a calling greater than herself.)

In “Everything Must Go,” Nick (Will Ferrell) is fired from his job as a result of a dumb mistake he made during a drunken business trip. He comes home to discover that his wife has left him, changed the locks, and thrown his belongings on the lawn. Somewhere along the way, he has forgotten everything that brought him joy – like baseball, his sales career, and having a loving relationship with his wife. Instead, he filled the void with alcohol and the meaningless pursuit of possessions. Without the strong foundation of family to support him, his stupid mistake shatters the marriage and wrecks his life. He has no place to go so he sets up house on the lawn. To buy himself a few more days, he enlists the help of a lonely, aimless boy to organize a phony yard sale. He becomes a sort of pathetic father figure to the kid as he plays catch and teaches the boy sales techniques. In exchange, the kid reminds him of what he lost – the good in himself.

“Win Win,” seems to be about a traditional family with the husband, Nick, acting in the traditional role of bread winner. Nick (Paul Giamatti) is so stressed by financial troubles that his life has become strained and stagnant. Everything he once held dear has lost it's meaning – his role as a husband and father as well as his career as a lawyer for the elderly. He has even lost all joy in coaching the high school wrestling team. He also seems to have lost his moral compass when he becomes a lazy, apathetic custodian of one of his elderly clients for the easy money. He gets more than he bargained for when the old man's teenage grandson (played by wrestling champ Alex Shaffer) shows up to escape his drug addicted mother. The last thing Nick needs is another responsibility. But helping the troubled teen turns out to be a win win for all involved. When the athletic teen joins the wrestling team, it revitalizes the team and the makeshift family. When Nick's stupid mistake is uncovered, will there be a strong enough family foundation to weather the storm?

These three films present a compelling argument that a man can find fulfillment (and, yes, happiness) in overcoming life's struggles through the strength of his family.

Father's Day Blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Monday, June 06, 2011

FREE SCREENING SERIES - FILM FORWARD ADVANCING CULTURAL DIALOGUE

Sunday, June 5 - Thursday, June 9 at venues around Tucson.

What a great opportunity to see theses amazing films for FREE. They are the epitome of what Reel Inspiration promotes - inspiring, thought provoking and diverse films. This is a second chance to see two films that Reel Inspiration reviewed. Just scroll down to read my reviews of: "Winters Bone" and "La Mission." ("Winter's Bone" was one of my favorite films of the year. I rooted for it to win the best Best Picture Oscar. The more I see it, the more I love it.)

FILM FORWARD creates cultural exchange with ten films in fourteen locations around the globe. Tucson was selected as one of the seven U.S. cities to host this cultural initiative, with The Loft Cinema being the presenting venue!

"Cinema, both fiction and non-fiction, has shown over and over that as human beings, we share values beyond any border, real or imagined." - Robert Redford, Founder of the Sundance Institute.

SUNDAY, JUNE 5:

5:00 p.m.
FILMMAKER MEET AND GREET
Location: Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.

7:00 p.m.
A SMALL ACT
Documentary, United States,(Director: Jennifer Arnold)
A young Kenyan’s life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.
IN ATTENDANCE: Producer and cinematographer PATRICIA LEE.
Screening location: The Loft Cinema

7:00 p.m.
AFGHAN STAR
Documentary, Afghanistan/UK,(Director: Havana Marking)
After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing.
Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road.

MONDAY, JUNE 6:

7:00 p.m.
WINTER’S BONE
United States, rated R (Director: Debra Granik)
An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her missing father while trying to keep her family intact.
IN ATTENDANCE: Co-Producer Kathryn Dean
Screening location: The Loft Cinema

7:00 p.m.
FREEDOM RIDERS
Documentary, United States,(Director: Stanley Nelson)

The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called the Freedom Riders who in 1961 creatively challenged segregation in the American South.
IN ATTENDANCE: U of A student May Mgbolu, one of 40 students from around the country who recently retraced the route of the 1961 Freedom Riders, and Jimmy Hart, Director of African American Studies for TUSD and YWCA Social Justice Project participants
Screening location: The Dunbar School, 325 West 2nd Street.

TUESDAY, JUNE 7:

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
FREE FILMMAKER TO FILMMAKER WORKSHOP
Featuring A Small Act producer/cinematographer Patricia Lee.
Topic: Using dramatic narrative techniques in documentary filmmaking.
Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 North Stone Ave. Lower Level Meeting Rm.

6:00 p.m.
SON OF BABYLON
Iraq, (Director: Mohamed Al-Daradji)
In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a young Kurdish boy and his grandmother venture through Iraq on a quest to find their missing father/ son.
Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 North Stone Ave. Lower Level Meeting Rm.

7:00 p.m.
BOY
New Zealand, (Director/Screenwriter: Taika Waititi)
When his father returns home after many years away, 11-year-old Boy and his little brother Rocky must reconcile reality with the fantasy dad they created in their imagination.
Screening location: The Loft Cinema

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8:

7:00 p.m.
LAST TRAIN HOME
Documentary, Canada,(Director: Lixin Fan)
Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants, to reunite with their distant family.
Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 West River Road.
Featuring a tasty Chinese Finger Food plate, available for only $5.00

7:30 p.m.
UDAAN
India, 138 min.,(Director/Screenwriter: Vikramaditya Motwane)
Following his expulsion from boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur. After 8 years away, he finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half-brother whom he didn’t even know existed.
Udaan explores deep-rooted family dynamics and a triumph of the human spirit.
Screening Location: Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave.

THURSDAY, JUNE 9:

7:00 p.m.
AMREEKA
United States, (Director/Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis)
When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois, they find their new lives replete with challenges.
Screening location: The Loft Cinema

8:00 p.m.
LA MISSION
United States, 117 min., rated R (Director/Screenwriter: Peter Bratt)
A traditional Latino father in San Francisco’s Mission District struggles to come to terms with his teenage son’s homosexuality. La Mission is credited by Latino media as being both authentic and genuine to various aspects of American Hispanic cultures.
Screening location: Cinema La Placita, 110 S. Church Avenue.

Watch the Film Forward Trailer: http://www.sundance.org/filmforward/

More information no screenings: www.loftcinema.com

For more information on FILM FORWARD, and all the films being screened, please visit:
http://www.sundance.org/filmforward/

SCROLL DOWN TO CHECK OUT REEL INSPIRATION REVIEWS OF: "La Mission" and "Winter's Bone."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Reel Inspiration review: “The King's Speech - Better Late than Never or Jana Eats Crow...n"


“The King's Speech” begins with the future King of England, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, stammering into the microphone at his first public address. In the next sequence he is further humiliated by a speech therapist who requires the Duke to hold marbles in his mouth while attempting to enunciate. Fast forward. England is now on the verge of the second World War and the newly appointed King George VI must deliver the most important speech of his life.

I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to review this inspiring film. I actually saw it on opening weekend, but had some misgivings that my prevented my complete involvement in what seemed to be an enchanting film. Here's the rub. My head was clouded by stories of how my uncle had overcame his own debilitating stammer - so something about the therapy sessions in the film didn't ring true for me. I brought my uncle with me for my second viewing. He confirmed my doubts about the effectiveness of the therapy. He explained that the cure for his stammering was to become less self-conscious of his speech, and that the speech exercises shown in the film would only succeed in making a stammerer more self-conscious. (We still enjoyed the film - making allowances that this may have been the only therapy available at the time.) At my third viewing, I finally got it. The technical exercises were never intended to correct the stammer. The King, who had previously deemed the technical exercises ridiculous, actually requested them because that was more comfortable than working through his feelings in therapy. The therapist, knowing that the useless exercises would give the determined King something concrete to work on, scheduled daily exercises to create an atmosphere of comfort and confidence that would eventually lead the King to trusting his therapist and himself. Trust was the important factor in uncovering the source of the stammer and facing it.

After my new realization set in, it all made sense. The whole story is built on trust. At their first meeting the Duke tests the therapist. The therapist's first task is to overcome the Duke's resistance by demonstrating his expertise. He insists from the onset that they forgo formal titles such as, “Your Majesty” or “Doctor” because trust can only be built on a foundation of equality. But the Duke refuses, holding steadfast to the trappings of his position as a barrier from dealing with his fears and insecurities. But his frustration with his speech and his deep commitment to his family responsibilities keeps bringing him back. Finally, there is a break-though. The tragedy of his father's death brings up painful memories and the Duke finally opens up about his past. But an even greater fear causes him to retreat again - the possibility that he may become king. He bellows at the top of his lungs that a King's only duty is to speak for the people and he can't bloody speak! When he discovers that his therapist is not officially a doctor, the King hides behind a shield of mistrust accusing his therapist of being a fraud. But, his therapist is right. In order to find his voice, his Majesty must overcome his feeling of unworthiness and trust that he is the leader the country needs. This story is about more than making, “The King's Speech.” It is about the making of a King.

I highly recommend the very worthy Best Picture winner, “The King's Speech,”(better late then never) for it's clever, insightful script by David Seidler, Colin's Firth's dynamic, Oscar winning performance and Geoffrey Rush's hilarious take on the eccentric therapist. (I guess Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture is confirmation enough for director Tom Hooper.)

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

More evidence of how wrong I was about the speech therapy at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King's_Speech

Trailer:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi806197529/

www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reel Inspiration review: Certified Copy

In Tuscany to promote his new book, middle-aged British writer James Miller (William Shimell) is taken for a ride in the country by a gushing fan - a charmingly authentic French woman named Elle (the luminescent Juliette Binoche.) They debate the thesis in his book about copies of fine art having value. He argues that even a copy is a work of art. It is all a matter of perception. "Copies have worth because they lead us to the original." To lighten things up, she takes him on a day trip to the village of Lucignano where young couples go to get married and pledge their undying love. At a coffee shop, the owner compliments Elle on her "good husband" when he leaves to answer his cell. Angry at her real life husband, Ellie takes advantage of the mistake to vent about her husband's many faults. James returns and they keep up the pretense. But James doesn't appreciate that he has been cast as a distant husband. Perhaps it hits too close to home. When she mentions his family's absence, he responds, "They have their lives and I have mine." This infuriates Elle. They both fall easily into their roles of a couple who has grown apart. The presence of adoring newly wed couples shines a harsh light on their relationship. James complains to Elle that it's unreasonable for her to expect for them to act the same as the young married couples.

"Certified Copy" seems to suggest that relationships, like art, are a matter of perception. James squawks when Elle insists that a statue of a woman leaning her chin on a monster's shoulder is a masterpiece. But a wise, older man explains to James that all Elle needs is for him to put his hand on her shoulder as they walk – to have the perception of being connected. I soon forgot that this was just an act (or copy) of a marital relationship and rooted for this couple to resolve their issues so they could renew their love. Like the copies of the great masterpieces, this copy of a marriage has worth as long as it leads them back to the original.

"Certified Copy" by renowned auteur Abbass Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry) is a smart, enchanting romance about marriage and the true course of love. Juliette Binoche (deservedly) won Best Actress at Cannes for her vulnerable, sensual portrayal.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal
www.reelinspiration.blogspot.com

Trailer:
http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3646593561/

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bridesmaids - A Women Driven Comedy for Men.

At first glance, "Bridesmaids" seems like just any other female driven comedy. The main character, Annie, is in a bad rut. Her negative attitude has caused her to lose her job and get stuck in a one-sided relationship with a jerk. On the bright side, she can always depend on her childhood friend. Until that friend announces her up-coming wedding sending Annie into a downward spiral. She is afraid that she is losing her best friend and competes with another bridesmaid (a rich event planner, no less) for the role of maid of honor. "Bridesmaids" is a shiny, new hybrid that Hollywood is taking on a test drive – a star vehicle for women that men can also love.

In her article, “Why Bridesmaids is Important,” Jamie Denbo writes, “But here's why it's actually important to see Bridesmaids. On opening weekend. (Twice if you can afford the admission, time and babysitters). I don't know a female screenwriter, TV writer, actor or comedienne who hasn't heard this statement in the past few months with regards to future projects: "Well, we'll see how Bridesmaids does..." That sentence means that every creative, brilliant, funny woman in Hollywood is (unfairly) being held hostage to a single film's opening weekend box office. Meaning no studio is likely to take any sort of chance on any new projects perceived to be "female driven comedy" unless they have proof that it can perform. And perform well.”

When this article popped up on f.b. I promptly re-posted it. I'm a strong believer that we send a message to Hollywood by how we spend our entertainment dollars. I even have a blog that encourages movie goers to see thought provoking films on opening day. Also, being a woman writer, I am all for anything that gets more women writers working. But after seeing "Bridesmaids" - on opening day no less - I re-read Jamie's article. I agree with it now more than ever. And it bothers me more.

First, I agree that the movie is hilarious – or has many hilarious scenes. I hope it launches the film careers of some very funny comedians: Kristen Wigg (her expressive, painfully honest responses make her come across – mostly - sympathetic) and Melissa McCarthy who really demonstrates her physical acting chops.

But the idea that every brilliant, funny woman in Hollywood is dependent on it's success is shocking and ridiculous. I agree with Ms. Denbo's statement, “When a super hero movie flops, studios never seem to stop making them. Nor do I see do or die pressure applied to what's considered to be regular (male?) comedy.” Bridesmaids has been sold as the "female version" of "The Hangover.” The strategy is to attract men by adding rated R humor. So, if it is really tailored for men's taste, why should female driven comedies be penalized? Wouldn't it be fairer to stop making movies with potty humor?

Hollywood still doesn't believe that women movie goers will bring in the big dollars. Didn't they learn anything from the recent success of, "Sex in the City?" Was it a freak phenomenon? Aside for the built in fan base, there is another reason that it was popular that may have been overlooked. Women enjoyed seeing loyal, close female friends portrayed on the big screen. This brings to mind the so-called chick flick, "The Women." I strongly encouraged people to see this smart comedy starring all women with a woman writer/director at the helm. While there were many hilarious comic bits,(I'll never forget health conscious Meg Ryan chomping down on a bar of butter dipped in chocolate after discovering her husband's affair) there was a big problem with the movie – the women were bitches! The main action was about the women being catty and mean to each other. While I was laughing, I looked around the theater and saw other women with pained looks on their faces. I got some serious backlash from my campaign supporting this film because many women HATED that one of the few movies for woman showed them in such an unlikeable manner. Women like to be liked! That doesn't mean there can't be some unlikeable characters -we love women villains - but not nearly everyone in a movie named, "The Women!" To it's credit, "Bridesmaids" shows some heart by developing a close relationship between the two women friends. This could be one reason that it has been a hit with women.

I wish I had done a review of the more original, creative 2008 wedding comedy, "27 Dresses." It better represented the so-called "female driven" comedy since it was more of a traditional romantic comedy with a strong female voice (although the trailer flaunted her potty mouth - probably to appeal to the R-rated comedy fans.) And it was the vision of two talented, up and coming women. It was written by Aline Brosh McKenna who also wrote the 2006 smash hit, "The Devil Wears Prada" and directed by Anne Fletcher who directed the big 2009 hit, "The Proposal." Two more examples of female driven comedies that made big money.

It's too bad Hollywood feels a need to dumb down the comedy so men will enjoy it. This is insulting to men because it means they can only appreciate adolescent humor. An example is the gratuitous gross-out throw-up scene in "Bridesmaids." When I didn't hear any laughter, I looked around and saw pained looks on both the men's and women's faces. Actually, this throw up sequence is just insulting to everyone. I know plenty of twenty-year-old movie going men who love smart, romantic comedies. Someone, please, bring back great stories that both men and women enjoy like, “Private Benjamin” and, “When Harry Met Sally.”

Hollywood is looking at this all wrong. The female driven romantic comedy isn't dead. There are plenty of fans who are just waiting for some original stories with great characters. Stop making the same old tired romantic comedy and we will come. And, please, give some of those creative, brilliant, funny women a chance! We need them!

Why “Bridesmaids” Is Important, by Jamie Denbo
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-denbo/bridesmaids-movie-review_b_855805.html?ref=fb&src=sp