Summer Movies 2011

I love going to the movies.  Unfortunately, as with many things that I love to do, seeing movies took a back seat to raising five kids plus a few boarders along the way, managing a household, and working outside the home.  There is only so much time in a day.  And I like to sleep occasionally.  Yes, you’ve heard that here before.

While we often couldn’t manage to go out to the movies, we have rented a lot of them.  A lot of them that were returned unseen.  Some that we did play, I fell asleep watching.  Did I say I like to get sleep occasionally?  Yeah, that was me slouched on the couch with my mouth hanging open and drooling at about 9:00 p.m. every Saturday night.

I love nearly every movie genre including war movies and Westerns.  The only genre that I steer clear of are horror movies.  Oh and animated movies.  I’ve seen enough animated movies to last me a lifetime.  Thank you very much.

There are four horror movies that continue to haunt me – The Beast With Five Fingers (1946), and Psycho (1960) are two of them.  Both of these I watched with girlfriends during sleepovers.  Scared me out of my wits.

The Exorcist came out in 1973.  I was 16.  I stood in line in the middle of Winter in the freezing cold to see this movie.  The first time Linda Blair’s head turned and she vomited, I was outta there.  I sat in the Ladies’ Room for the rest of the movie along with several dozen other young girls and women until the movie was over.  I had nightmares for years.

A few years later, I watched Carrie with a bunch of my mother of twins club friends at a convention.  Big mistake.  This 1976 classic comes to mind every time that I see Sissy Spacek in anything.  Speaking of Sissy Spacek, I saw her in one of the four movies that I saw this Summer, The Help.  I couldn’t help thinking about the bucket of pig’s blood pouring over her head at the prom.

Other than horror movies, I also have a really hard time with films that deal with violence toward women and children.  I have to be in a certain frame of mind before watching these movies because, inevitably, I will not be able to sleep for several nights after watching them.

Which leads me to my Summer movie list.  I actually saw four movies this Summer – one of them I saw twice.  They are Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 2; Captain America: The First Avenger; Cowboys & Aliens; and The Help.

What can I say about Harry Potter that hasn’t been said before?  I’ve loved each and every one of these movies.  Not since the 6-film Star Wars series, have I so eagerly anticipated seeing the next movie in a series.

Of course, the books preceded the HP movies and, while the movies were great, they didn’t quite live up to the books.  How could they?  I accepted, early on, that they would have to stand alone and have enjoyed them immensely.

I spent the week before the release of the final HP film watching and rewatching the previous movies.  I admit it.  I do this with the Stars Wars movies, too.  I usually plan a marathon cooking session which helps me justify spending so much time with the television on.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 2 – thumbs up.  Can’t wait to add this one to our movie collection.

My son-in-law took me to see the Captain America.  According to the reviews, this movie followed the original 1940s comic book superhero fairly closely.  While I read comic books when I was a kid, Captain America was before my time (no kidding).  Rather then comics about super heroes, though, I read Archie Comics (okay also from the 1940s, but what young girl didn’t love reading about Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and Jughead?).

Captain America was a really fun movie, and if you were smart enough to stay through to the very end of the credits, you got to see a clip for The Avengers which is coming out in 2012 and will unite the Marvel comic superheroes including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Black Widow, and Hawkeye.  Looking forward to it.

Captain America: The First Avenger – thumbs up.  Great fun.

I was prepared to love Cowboys & Aliens.  Who wouldn’t love a movie in which you can see both Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig?  I love SYFY movies, so the twist with tying one together with a Western seemed appealing in a weird sort of way.  Unfortunately, they don’t really pull it off.  I thought it was dumb.  About the only redeeming feature was getting to see Daniel Craig in chaps.  That, alone, might have been worth the price of admission.  I’m just sayin’.

My favorite Daniel Craig movie so far has been Defiance which is based on a true story.  I just wish he didn’t use the same familiar snarl in every dramatic scene.

Harrison Ford.  What can I say?  He will be forever etched in my mind as Bob Falfa (guess which coming of age classic movie), Han Solo, and Indiana Jones.  Just call him my teenager crush.  Okay, my young woman crush.  Okay, I still love him.  Just don’t tell my husband.

Cowboys & Aliens – wait for the video release.

I was prepared to not like The Help.  I read the book, enjoyed it, and recommend it, but I believe it fell short because, in my opinion, it presented a sanitized version of events with a too-tidy ending.  Having lived, as a young girl and woman and experiencing this era in our American history firsthand, I know that the people who paved the way for change paid a very high price, and I don’t think that was reflected in the book.

The movie, on the other hand, presented the grittier events in the book and glossed over the tidy parts.  That is what made it a great movie to me.  Many have criticized the movie because they say it is hard to believe that a young, white girl would befriend black women.  I say this is ridiculous.  Sisterhood is powerful, and I see women having the capacity to cross lines of status and ethnicity to support one another all the time.

There are so many things I can say about this movie.  I loved that the Emma Stone character, Skeeter, shows us how women in the 1960s started to overcome the expectations of going to college only to get an MRS degree and could choose a life and career outside of marriage.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly plays a perfect antagonist.  The hate and evil that she can convey with a look and an eye twitch was incredible.

Cicely Tyson is only in the movie for a few short minutes as Constantine Jefferson, the elderly maid for Skeeter’s family, but she is marvelous.  The scene where Skeeter’s mother is unable to be courageous enough to defend her maid, whom she clearly loves, represents the majority of us who go with the flow so as not to rock the boat and thus maintain the status quo when maybe the status quo needs changing.

Woman of all colors, who have faced violence in their lives, can relate to Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Minnie Jackson, a woman with an abusive husband, who is a renowned cook and baker with a mouth that gets her in trouble.  Just don’t eat her chocolate pie if you have made her angry.

Viola Davis’ portrayal of Aibileen Clark touches those of us who have raised children, especially other’s women’s children.  She shows us that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Her character, in both the book and the movie, was my favorite.  Perhaps because I can relate to her on so many levels.

There are also some great cinematography moments.  The scene where Yule May is arrested and man handled by the white cops is a true reflection of what black people feared most.  The terror in Yule May and Minnie’s eyes is palpable and then you see the baton raised and hear the thunk.  The fact that you don’t see the actual strike makes it more terrifying.  The audience gasped aloud at this moment.

The scene where Minnie is made to get off the bus and must walk home through a riot is interesting.  The cinematographer shows the scene from above and, as she crosses the railroad tracks, you see the stark contract between the haves and have nots.  Brings the meaning of “from the other side of the tracks” to life.

Finally, the Celia Foote character shows that class bias did not just cross lines based solely on the color of your skin.  Celia was ostracized not just because she stole Hilly’s former boyfriend but because she was “poor white trash.”

Every character adds to the story, and there are many more powerful scenes.  Powerful in sometimes subtle ways.  Powerful because they showed that there was also a lot of love that existed between the white folk and their maids as well as a ton of injustice.

As to the criticism that a girl like Skeeter wouldn’t have befriended the maids, I say ridiculous.  Ridiculous because, as a young girl, I remember thinking, very clearly, that treating people differently based solely on their gender or the color of their skin was just wrong.  It just takes a few brave souls to help the rest of us to be courageous enough to help effect change.

The Help – a big thumbs up.  Take your kids, friends, and other family members to see this movie.  It will generate a lot of good dialogue.

Which movie did I see twice?

Captain America: The First Avenger.  Why?  I wanted my husband to see it, because I knew he would really like it.  He’s more of a steak and potatoes movie lover.

Believe me, he has watched more than his fair share of chick flicks living in a house full of women, but he is also not so much into intellectual movies either.  Just give him a movie with clearcut good guys and bad guys and a little bit of action, and he is happy.

FYI – Bob Falfa was the name of Harrison Ford’s character in American Graffiti (1973).  This was a small role, but one which put him on the map.  As a hunk.

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