What to watch next

A few recommendations on what to watch next

If you find yourself stuck at home with not many places to go for some reason (like I don’t know…Coronavirus has shut everything down) and you’re looking for what to watch next, here are a few suggestions.

Undone

When I saw that the series is set in San Antonio, it became a must-watch for me. I love seeing my hometown in its animated form, but the interesting story and well-developed characters are what kept me watching.

Undone is about a young woman trying to find her way in the world. She doesn’t want to get married and have kids and do all the “normal” things most people want to do (and her mom wants her to do).

When she survives a near-fatal car accident things start to get weird. Nothing is as it was before, like time, the natural world, and what she knows of her own family history. Undone, Season 1 (8 episodes) is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Click here to go to the series page on Amazon.com.

Miss Americana

The Miss Americana site says it best: In this revealing documentary, Taylor Swift embraces her role as a songwriter and performer — and as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.

When I see superstars like Taylor Swift I don’t usually think about what got them there, the sacrifice, price of fame, and what it takes for them to stay at the top of their game. But this documentary shows all that, from footage of a little girl dreaming of being a singer to the very real disappointment at not being nominated for a Grammy (that one time).

We see Taylor Swift’s story as a gifted singer-songwriter who grows up in the scrutiny of the public’s eye, works hard, wins a ton of awards, experiences heartbreak, struggles with body image and, through it all, discovers who she is and what she stands for.

Miss Americana is a Netflix original movie. Click here to go to the movie page on Netflix.

Babies

Also on Netflix, this 6-episode series explores the science of babies’ development in their first year of life.

Episodes titles are:

  • 1. Love
  • 2. First Food
  • 3. Crawling
  • 4. First Words
  • 5. Sleep
  • 6. First Steps 

Fascinating stuff and as a grandma of an infant : ) this show is teaching me a lot.

Click here to go to the series page on Netflix.

American Factory

An Ohio town is hit hard when the big manufacturing plant in town shuts down.

So when a Chinese manufacturing company reopens the factory, people are excited and eager to get back to work. American Factory is about the struggles the workers and leadership face to make the venture a success.

And it’s about how culture is deeply embedded in each of us, in what each of us does, thinks, believes, and behaves. In ways we don’t even think about. 

Click here to go to the movie page on Netflix.

Need more ideas about what to watch? 

I saw this article and slide show published on the San Antonio Express News website, mysa.com, but it was first published on Stacker.com.

How long it takes to binge ‘The Office,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ and 50 other famous TV shows  

The list is extensive and includes run time of each show. Hours and hours of entertainment!

I’d love to hear from you! What movies or shows can you recommend?

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

4 Great movies from 2019 you might have missed

From the movie recommendation files, here are 4 great movies you might have missed from 2019.

Brittany Runs a Marathon

I had no idea what to expect from this movie. Had seen the previews and it looked like a sweet film about a young woman named Briattany who—guess what—runs a marathon. 

What I hadn’t expected was what made the movie so endearing to me.

Brittany’s decision to run a marathon puts her on a journey of self-discovery that force her to face some longstanding limiting beliefs about herself (like body image and trust issues) and how deeply those beliefs are ingrained in her.

Still, Brittany is all in and committed to go from couch potato to marathon finisher.

But, as in life, complications ensue and that’s when she’s faced with her most difficult challenge of accepting that she is worthy of love and acceptance. 

Brittany’s struggles were so relatable. I found myself totally invested in her success and wanted to cheer her on to the finish line.

For more information: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Yesterday

What would happen if there were a worldwide blackout and somehow The Beatles and all their music were wiped out of existence and memory. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo weren’t a thing. What if no one had heard of them, except for one guy?

That’s what the premise of Yesterday.

The guy who, by some strange and magical force, knows who they are and knows their music is a struggling musician himself. Crazy things start happening when he starts playing all The Beatles music as his own. His career takes off.

Suddenly, everything is awesome! He’s a global sensation. More popular than he ever imagined.

But his new-found fame turns his world upside-down. He knows he must examine his own values, to decide for himself what makes a life worth living at the end of the long and winding road. 

The premise of Yesterday is completely implausible and will not stand up to the scrutiny of examination (how could he be the only one who remembers?) but if you can accept the story as fiction and just go with it, you may find the ride as wonderful as I did.

Movie page: Yesterday

The River and the Wall

There are so many things I loved about this movie that chronicles the 1200-mile trek along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to the Golf of Mexico.

The River and the Wall captures the breathtakingly beautiful, rugged wildlife and scenery of the area. That, alone, makes the movie worth watching.

If you have a chance to see it on a big screen, I highly recommend it. The open spaces are breathtaking and I felt a deep sense of protectiveness for the land and a deep sense of our connectedness.

For me, it complicated the whole issue of border security and immigration. And that’s one of the things that makes the movie outstanding. It takes this simple idea of a river and a wall and shows you how it’s not all that simple.

You have this big issue of immigration and protecting US borders and those are important.

But then you look at the people affected by a wall and the stories about how it will change people’s lives and their livelihood, and about birds and animals don’t know anything about treaties and undocumented migration.

The issue seems way more nuanced.

The land was here thousands of years before we got here and will be here thousands of years after we’re gone. To build a wall feels like the most excessive, ridiculous way to solve the problem. It’s like performing surgery with a sledgehammer. An expensive sledgehammer.

Movie website: theriverandthewall.com

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

When I first saw that Tom Hanks was playing Mr. Rogers, I thought, Tom Hanks can’t possibly pull it off. 

Well, I was wrong. He pulls it off beautifully. But what surprised me more was the way the story came about and how the movie wasn’t really about Mr. Rogers. 

The film is based on a true story about a reporter who gets an assignment to write about Mr. Rogers. He’s not a fan and tries to get out of it, but he can’t so he approaches the whole thing with a “let’s get this over with” attitude. 

The movie is about what how that assignment changes everything for him. So it’s about Mr. Rogers but not a biopic.

This was one of those movies that when it ended, I thought, Omg. Everyone should see this movie.

The message of love and compassion and forgiveness and the way we’re all connected and capable of building each other up is something we need so badly right now.

One line that I think about often is when the reporter meets Mrs. Rogers and asks, “What does it feel like to be married to a saint.” Her reaction is a kicker. She says she doesn’t like when people say that because it makes it seem like what he does is unattainable. But it’s not. He works at it just like we can all work at it. 

I loved Mr. Rogers (the real Mr. Rogers) and didn’t expect to love this movie, but I found it uplifting and beautiful and powerful. A must see.

Official website: abeautifulday.movie

What do they have in common?

I found myself wondering what theme or message ties these together and resonates with my own writing?

You definitely will see the character arc, but the big message is how we can build up or break down. That our actions, beliefs impact us, yes, but also the people around us and maybe people we’ll never meet, that we create a ripple effect in the world. We’re connected and our actions (or inactions) affect others.

We each have our own stories to tell. And they may not make headlines or create a buzz, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. You never know who you’re inspiring with your actions.

In case you missed my recent post about going to the movies, check it out here.

Movie theater

A movie at a movie theater is still the best

I want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about going to the movies. I know, it’s kind of a strange thing to talk about because what’s there to say, really? You either like it or you don’t. 

But I want to dive deeper into this activity, going to the movies, not just the medium. Sure there are a gazillion movies you can stream at home for a fraction of the cost of going to a movie theater. 

And depending on the circumstances, that can be fine. 

But I believe there’s nothing like the experience of watching a movie at a movie theater so I’m going to talk about why it’s still the best way to experience cinema.

The screen.

Mark and I went to a special screening of Jaws last year and I don’t think I’ve been as scared of that mechanical shark since I first saw it in 1975 when it was first released.

Jaws was a summer blockbuster that year. My cousins and I waited in a line that wrapped around the Century South Theater building. (You don’t see that much anymore)

I’ve seen Jaws on TV tons of times. Still good, but not scary. 

But omg. ***spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen Jaws**** When the shark comes after the guy at the end, his blood-curdling, high-pitched, agonizing shriek made me cringe for real. It was horrible. Maybe the sound system added to the experience. 

And one scene when they’re out on the boat and it’s twilight, I never noticed in all the times I’ve seen the movie, what a beautiful shot that is or the shooting star flashing across sky. 

Nothing can make a bad movie good, but a good movie is better at the theater. And maybe intended to be experienced on the big screen. 

It’s a communal event.

Getting out and seeing people and sharing the movie experience is a thing. You may not talk to fellow movie-goers, but you now have a shared experience. Mark and I usually sit through the credits and we always talk about what we saw.

Sometimes it’s a short conversation, like Wow that was really good. And then we talk about why. I’m not saying this type of dialogue isn’t possible at home, but at home we’re more likely to switch it to something else immediately and it’s just not the same.

At one of the movie theaters we go to there’s an older crowd and I believe they must have a movie club. I think that’s a great idea, like book clubs discuss what you read, movie clubs discuss what you saw, what you liked, what you didn’t like. What a great way to connect with people. 

Gets you out of the house.

You know the animated science-fiction Pixar movie Wall E? Earth has been destroyed and humans hover on a home ship waiting for the all clear to go back to earth. Well, in the Wall E world, humans don’t have to get out of their chair for anything, not even a drink, because they have an AI/robot doing everything for them.

Does that sound just a teensy bit familiar?

We can stream just about everything from home, get our fast food and groceries and whatever else we desire delivered…it’s almost like we’re conveniencing ourselves right into the Wal E future. Agh!

It might be easier to stay home and watch a movie, but easier is not always better. Going to the movies gets you out of the house. And there are tons of theaters now that will serve you once you’re there. 

The many elements of moviemaking

Years and years ago, I took a film class at San Antonio College. It was a summer session class and our final assignment was to make a short film, 4-5 mins. We shot on an 8 mm camera and had free reign of the campus. Of the 7 or 8 films made in that class, only 1 came even close to being decent (not my group’s) which was suprising as heck because we’d seen the raw footage. Terrible. As bad or worse than the rest.

Somehow, that crappy footage was pieced together to be funny and interesting. The magic was in the editing.

Making a movie is really hard to do.  When you watch a movie you’re watching the result of maybe years of effort, collaboration, coordination, prepation, and work. All for you.

It’s kinda cool when you think of it that way, isn’t it?

I’d love to know what you think. Do you go to the movies? If not, why not? If you do, what about it do you like?

Read more about going to the movies on the blogpost: Going to the Movies

The Greatest Showman Movie Review

The Greatest Showman is a musical dramatization of the life and career of P. T. Barnum and the creation of his “Greatest Show in Earth”.

Before the movie started, Hugh Jackman and the director (I think that’s who it was), thanked us, the audience, for our presence at the movie theatre, saying something to the effect that we had chosen to watch the movie on the large screen as it was intended to be seen. Well … you’re welcome.

And they’re right. The movie would not have been the same on a small screen.

The costumes were stunning, the scenery beautiful, choreography amazing, and the musical score captivating. One of the opening dance scenes was a sweeping number that reminded me of old Hollywood and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

There were CG effects, but they supported the scenes instead of overpowering them.

A strong cast, especially the headliners, made the movie. Hugh Jackman (He can really sing!),  Zendaya (stunning) and Zac Ephron (also stunning) all amped up their on-screen chemistry that brought the story together.

Reality vs. Art

I’ve got to say, though, I found myself wondering how historically true the movie was to actual events, especially in relation to the use of animals and the lineup of “human curiosities” P. T. Barnum featured, such as the bearded lady, the Irish Giant, and the dwarf he dressed as a little general. If you’ve read books like “Water for Elephants” or “The One and Only Ivan”, you know that the circus has a history of not treating people very well and treating animals even worse.

That’s the realist coming out in me.

And if you can get past all that and take the movie for the sheer entertainment value, it’s a great show about Phineas Barnum, a dreamer who started off with nothing and created something extraordinary. It’s not a documentary, not meant to be a history lesson, even if it is “inspired by actual events”. 

Getting back to the pre-movie show of appreciation by the makers of “The Greatest Showman” – I like that they thanked me for being there.

No doubt making a movie like The Greatest Showman was a huge gamble in itself. They certainly faced tremendous obstacles along the way. I thank them for sticking with it, believing in the project, and seeing it through.

The result is a great show in itself.