I’ve been thinking a lot about the context of history in recent weeks, mostly in terms of books, but other people and events are added into those thoughts. When news arrived of Doris Day’s death, I was saddened. When I was young, her movies were considered family-friendly. The El Lago showed every one. Ms. Day produced good-hearted TV shows. She went on to dedicated work with animals. She didn’t have a smooth life, showing how effective the Hollywood marketing departments were. I’m grateful for the joy her work brought to my life and for the example she provided as an extraordinary woman … in the context of history.
Some days (most days), I am in need of a movie that leaves me feeling like I can tackle anything and make it better. Steve and I watched a movie last night that left us cheering: The Kid Who Would Be King. A just-right film for kids, families, and adults who remain connected to childhood, it’s a superhero film without the modern cliches of cartoon characters or endless war or thoughtless carnage. Good battles evil with gratifying results. I am grateful for Joe Cornish, Patrick Stewart, and the young actors in this movie: well done!
I cannot let this day slip away without expressing gratitude for Star Wars. When the original film was first released in 1977, I was leaving a job I’d had for seven years with a public library system. It was my first job so it was bittersweet to be moving on to a new path. Individually, a number of my co-workers wanted to treat me to something meaningful as a going away gift. Each person thought it would be a treat to take me to Star Wars. I saw the movie 13 times without letting on that I’d seen it before. It was the first time that I’d been to a movie more than once. The observations I made were mind-opening about film, storytelling, and acting. The story was well-crafted … and it began a mythology that persists worldwide. My life would not be the same had this movie not been imagined. May the Force be with you!
I have long appreciated how the search for knowledge begins with one specific hook. As a young reader, I set off on some wacky journeys to learn everything I could about any number of topics, absorbing as much as I could, sometimes writing reports so I could do something with the knowledge, making my interest fit the assignment, but always feeling a hunger satisfied.
I am grateful to “Woman in Gold,” a good, not great, movie with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds that follows the attempt to recover a stolen work of art. The movie led me to find out everything I could about artist Gustav Klimt. I had been been aware of him but that’s different than purposefully researching his life and learning about the influences on his art. This is the “Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer,” finished with gold leaf. Isn’t it beautiful?
My home town had a movie theater, the El Lago, which showed films starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson, nature movies, and anything featuring Elvis Presley. We never missed a show. My friends and I would walk downtown to the theater, buy some popcorn, and revel in people and places outside our daily life. I first saw Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis, Joan Blackman, and Angela Lansbury, when I was eight years old. That last wedding scene is emblazoned in my mind. I immediately developed a fascination with Hawaii. I researched and wrote reports about it during my school years. I read everything I could find, both fiction and nonfiction. I watched every movie and TV show that featured Hawaiian scenery (“Book ’em, Danno.”) I haven’t made it to Hawaii yet. It’s on my bucket list. I’m grateful for the Christmas song, “Mele Kalikimaka,” sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. It transports me to sandy beaches in my Christmas imagination … someplace warm.
When I was 10, our school librarian put Mary Poppins in my hands. “I think you’ll enjoy this.” She had no idea. The book lit a fire inside me. I fell in love with this cranky nanny and the family she was determined to help. I read all of the books published up until that time and wanted more. I wrote a letter to P.L. Travers, asking if there would be more books. She answered me with a postcard. I cherish that card to this day.
On August 27th of that year, Walt Disney released the movie version. It wasn’t exactly like the book. This Mary Poppins was stern but you could tell she had a sense of humor. Her loving nature was more apparent than the book’s Mary Poppins. What’s more, there was singing and dancing. My mother took me to the movie and she bought me the LP. I look at the LP now and it’s quite worn. I remember every word to every song in that movie, most especially “Feed the Birds.” We didn’t have access to interviews from every angle about everyone in and behind the movie. It was all magical.
And now there will be a movie sequel. It’s about time. I am grateful that I still feel the magic so strongly that I’m excited to see the new movie! That’s just one of the powers that books have.
Some days are challenging enough. At the end of the day, I crave the comfort of a Hallmark Christmas movie. I’m grateful for them. Now you know.
How does a society descend into horrific intolerance? I grew up in a school system that emphasized the history of the Holocaust. We learned through reading, lectures from Holocaust survivors, film, but it was this movie, Cabaret, based on Chrisopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories and the play based on those stories, I Am a Camera, that put all the pieces together for me. I was a senior in high school when it was released. My friends and I saw it several times. We cheered when it won so many Academy Awards (although it didn’t win Best Picture). The images from the film, the scenes, the music still play in my mind today. I am grateful for this movie for opening my mind and heart.