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.

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

Going to the Movies

I used to spend a lot of time at the movies.

My 1st real job, besides the one I got fired from when I was 15, was at a 6 screen movie theatre. That was lots of screens back then.

Every Friday and Saturday midnight screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show  was an event. People dressed in character and sang along with the movie.

I worked there for months before I ever saw the movie and when I finally did see it I thought it was fun but very strange to my very young, very naive, Catholic school mind. I’m sure I had no clue what it was about.

My area was the concession stand; I loved popcorn then and I love popcorn now.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Movie theater popcorn: so expensive and so delicious.

When I was a student at UT in Austin, I worked at a movie theatre walking distance from my apartment. Riverside Twin Cinema. That theatre was lot smaller and a lot quieter.

At the movies all the time.

One of the best perks about a theatre job back then was the movie passes.I loved it! And so did most of my work friends so we’d go to movies and discuss what we liked and what we didn’t like.

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Hours at the movie theater

My co-workers and I would discuss movies, sometimes heatedly. I remember a discussion about a David Bowie movie and I don’t even remember the title and one of my co-workers was like,  “It’s a comedy”  and I said,  “No, it’s a drama.” It was really funny that I don’t remember the details about the movie at all but I remember this discussion and I realized that maybe I was taking things a little too seriously and that’s what kept me from seeing the humor in this foreign film that I can’t remember at all.

Or maybe he was full of crap and it was a drama and he didn’t get it.

Another memorable moment was when my co-worker friends and I were waiting for a movie to start and overhead a conversation about how bad a movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was. One of my friends was so agitated by the negative review, we had to move out of earshot. He loved everything about that movie.

Memorable movie theatre moments:

My parents would drop us off at the movies and come round us up after. I distinctly remember going to the movies to watch Walt Disney’s “The Aristocats” and my little sister must have been too young, probably only about 4 or 5, and not ready to be left in our charge because I remember her crying her head off in the middle of the movie and we didn’t know what to do with her. I was probably only about 7 or 8 and my oldest brother would have been around 11.

It was a different time. Imagine doing that now.

Watching Rocky for the very 1st time when I was a freshman in high school.  That was the original Rocky and the best. I was floored and my friend kind of shrugged her shoulders and said, “It was alright.”  Are you kidding me? Certainly she was nuts or maybe she didn’t get it. When it won the Oscar for best picture, I wasn’t surprised. And then to learn the story behind the making of “Rocky” and how it came to be! Amazing.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Sylvester Stallone

Superman with Christopher Reeve. What a great movie. Sure, Superman’s flying scenes and the super action-packed Superman-to-the-rescue scenes were clunky, but it didn’t matter because the chemistry between Christopher Reeve was Superman. The chemistry between the characters sold the story lines. And the musical score. Holy cow. I got a Superman t-shirt that Christmas and wore it proudly for years.

Conan the Barbarian. That was the only time I’ve ever walked out of a movie and I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness this is so very bad. Why am I here?” Who would’ve guessed that Conan would launch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s long movie career. I could hardly understand what he was saying, although I don’t remember him having a lot of lines.

Studying film

Film History 101 at University of Texas at Austin. Sounds like a blow off class right? It wasn’t. The course examined the film industry and how the industry impacted history and vice versa. Starting with silent movies and to the then modern movies. When the film industry first began, many people didn’t believe that an audience could follow a story’s development, movement, changing scenes, and evolving characters with moving pictures. In class we watched film segments in class including great American films like “Birth of a Nation” directed by D. W. Griffith and “Stagecoach” directed by John Ford and saw the impact newsreels made during WW II.

Film history courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Film history

A film class I took at San Antonio College taught me an important lesson with one simple group assignment: make a short film using an 8 mm camera. That simple assignment helped me realize how difficult it is to make a film from start to finish. My group’s film ended up being a scene. We didn’t have a story. It was terrible. Another group’s film didn’t have much of a story either but the editing saved it and created a very entertaining character. That lesson transfers to all forms of art, really – film, visual art, plays, poetry, novels.

There’s an old exercise in which you create your perfect job. Mine always involved sitting around talking about books and movies. Mostly movies. I had no idea people actually did that for a living.

How things have changed

Technology’s advanced oodles as has the movie going experience. Lots of movie theatre Megaplexes offer various forms of entertainment now, not just movies.

One thing is the same as I learned years ago, creating something from nothing is a major accomplishment on its own. Creating high quality, interesting, smart, thought provoking, and multi-layered material requires the stars to be aligned and lots of time, tenacity, and pushing forward.

Film production photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
The creative process at work

I usually have strong opinions about why I like or dislike a movie, but I try to remember my own experience making that short film and how so many factors influence the final product.

In that way, making a movie must be a little like running a marathon: finishing is winning.