Movie: Frozen River

I never would have seen Frozen River had it not been nominated for an Academy Award in 2008. I’ve seen it only once (TV Stevie sees every nominated film he can, and I happened to catch this one with him), but the images and messages have stayed with me. The film was nominated for Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. It won several other awards, mostly for Best Actress.

I never realized the underlying story until I overheard a TV program my husband was watching about female directors. Frozen River  was mentioned as being a film about motherhood. When I heard that, all the images came crystal clear.

Mexico isn’t the only point of entry for undocumented immigrants. When the St. Lawrence River freezes, it becomes a smuggler’s route between New York State and Ontario/Quebec–especially since the Akwesasne nation (St. Regis Mohawk tribal land) straddles the river between the two other countries.

Two single mothers–one white, one Native American–both desperately poor, want better lives for their children.  They live on the New York side of the Frozen River. This unlikely pair team up  with disastrous consequences. There is a happy ending, just not in the traditional sense.  The film ends on a note of hope. Yes, their partnership brought dire consequences, but in the end, the same partnership will help them create the better lives they want for their children.

The movie is dark. Grim. Yet as a mother, I identify with their anguish.  We will do anything for our children.

 

 

Movie: Hidden Figures

The movie Hidden Figures is on my top 10 list of favorite movies of all time. I saw it three times in the theaters when it first came out. I cried every single time. When I watch it again, I’m sure I’ll cry again.

As Leslie Jones asked on SNL when the film came out: “Why didn’t I know about this?” Super intelligent women who made going into space possible. Black women who served their country despite all obstacles put in their way. These are people to celebrate.

I have always felt John Glenn was “my” astronaut. He became the first American to orbit Earth on my birthday. I was home sick from school and watched the coverage on TV. He gave me a wonderful birthday present that year.  In the movie, when he said, “Get the girl to check the numbers,” I nearly swooned.   My personal hero acknowledged girls could be smart.

Why didn’t any of us know about this?

 

 

 

MJ Monday-Movies: The Ref

The Ref, a 1994 flick (Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis)has become one of my favorite Christmas movies.

This is not a movie for children.

A thief whose heist goes awry takes a bickering couple hostage on Christmas Eve. Much comedy ensues as we see the underside of family holiday gatherings. The visiting in-laws (including Glynis Johns in a completely different portrayal of the mother-in-law than she was in While You Were Sleeping), the criminal child, a drunken Santa Claus, and an inept sidekick all come together for a laugh fest.

For those who think just because a movie is set at Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie will probably argue that The Ref is in that category. But the underlying story is what matters, and although this is a black comedy, the story is deeper than laughing at a dysfunctional family.

MJ Monday-Movies: The Women

My husband thought I would like The Women, a 1939 movie directed by George Cukor, who was known as a woman’s director. The film is based on a play by Clare Luce Booth and adapted for the silver screen by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin.  There are 130 speaking parts–none of them male. The cast is stellar: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, and so on.

While the movie has only women in it, the story is all about men. That’s all the women talk about. All they think about. Their worlds revolve around the men in their lives. The movie is supposed to be a comedy, a satire of wealthy Manhattan-based women and their marriages. Maybe it was for its time.

Today, I thought it was sad. Pathetic. It also made me angry that the men could be forgiven everything, but if the women had done the same things, they would be ostracized. Again, for the time frame of the movie, this was acceptable.

On the positive side, if my husband hadn’t told me there were no men in the film, I might not have noticed. The actresses conversed directly to the camera as if it were the person to whom they were speaking. The dialogue was scripted in such a way that the viewer understood the male responses as if one had heard them.

Although I didn’t love the movie, watching it wasn’t a waste of time.

MJ Monday-Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2:  This is a must see double header. I saw the first one in a movie theater and loved it. When Vol 2 came out on DVD, we all trooped to my nephew’s home theater for a double header, as my sister hadn’t yet seen the first one. It was an amazing experience.

Flash forward several months. My critique partners and I were enroute to a retreat in the woods when we learned at least one of our group hadn’t seen either movie. Out came the cell phones as we searched every Barnes & Noble, Target, Wal-Mart, Red Box etc. between where we were on the highway and our final destination looking for copies of both movies. As luck would have it, the Wal-Mart very near our destination had both. I purchased them and had another double-header night with my besties. I laughed as hard as  I had the first time seeing the films.

Action films sometimes bore me because they depend too much on special effects and bang-bang-shoot-em-up instead of plot. Guardians brushed against that threshold for me. But just when I would start to squirm and yawn, the boring stuff ended.

Solid plot, solid acting, solid humor, solid action.