Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016

Wishing you all a new year filled with purpose, wonder and delight! In 2016, my goals are to make some movies. finish writing my novel, and tell entertaining and inspiring stories.

Here are some Christmas greetings I created for the season. One is called Polar Bear Express. I'm a huge fan of polar bears, and no, my fan-girl status has nothing to do with "Lost." The other is a vintage Christmas card montage. I think our family may have used some of these cards in days of yore. Blessing to you all!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making movies with my iphone

I'm planning some film projects for work and thinking about shooting the videos on my iphone. Came across this award-winning video by Jason Van Genderen. If this is the kind of quality I can expect from using an iphone to make movies, I think I'm going to give it a try. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Joy Luck Club

Joy Luck Club (1993)

Director:Wayne Wang

Writer: Amy Tan 

Screenplay: Amy Tan and Ronald Bass

The first time I saw this movie, I was blown away by so many things at once. The cinematography, the setting, the story, the drama, the humor, the poetry. It captivated me as a filmmaker, a writer, a historian, an artist, a daughter and a mother. 

The film is about the relationships between mothers and daughters, and while the Chinese culture is woven throughout, the story of these relationships transcends culture.

Some people might call it a "chick flick" but I do not. This is a film about reality, truth and the brutality of the world in which we live. It is also about love and hope. The universality of the story is what makes this film a meaningful experience for all audiences.

I cannot begin to describe how skillfully this film captures the story told in Amy Tan's novel. I read the book after watching the film. She is a superb writer. Read the book. Watch the movie.

If you watch this movie, I would love to know what you think.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Napoleon Dynamite Experience

It's funny how a movie that didn't really make much of an impression on you years ago, suddenly, upon watching it again, becomes deeply profound and relevant.

Such was my experience with Napoleon Dynamite (2004).

I first saw this movie a few years ago on TV. It was entertaining, but I didn't really get it.

Recently I saw it on Netflix. It got me in a choke-hold and wrestled me to the ground. My cinematic eyes were opened. I saw things that just popped off the screen and fired up my synapses like Eddie Morra in "Limitless."

First of all, the opening credits are visually captivating. Names are spelled out on plates of food, library cards, school I.D., pencils, notebooks with doodles, etc. The whimsical soundtrack pulls you in and sets the stage for what lies ahead.

The opening scene of Napoleon standing in front of his house waiting for the school bus is shown in a full front static shot. Napoleon is almost like a statue. Just standing there. This type of shot is repeated throughout. Napoleon slouches and exudes an air of boredom, however, underneath this facade is a creative, sensitive person. The first glimpse we get of Napoleon's eccentricity is when he tosses an action figure tied to fishing line out the school bus window and we watch as it drags along the ground behind the bus.

The irony is that each scene is slow paced and intentional with minimal action. Yet the story moves forward and keeps our attention. So much happens visually, without any dialog at all. That is movie magic.

The music is so nerdy that it is cool. Like Napoleon himself.

Now let's talk about the characters.

We don't know anything about Napoleon's parents. Napoleon and his older brother, Kip, live with their grandmother in Idaho. Grandma's pride and joy is her pet llama, Tina. Napoleon also has an Uncle Rico, who lives in a van (a Dodge Santana) in the middle of a field.

Napoleon doesn't seem to have any friends at school and he plays tetherball alone. He gets bullied, but still has enough self-esteem to be involved in activities like FFA and a musical sign-language group. He has a vivid imagination and makes up stories about hunting wolverines with his uncle in Alaska. His favorite animal is a liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger. He draws fantasy creatures like the Pegasus, and even has a "Pegasus Crossing" sign on his bedroom door.

Once he meets Pedro and Deb, his world begins to change for the better. You might say that they save him from the boredom and frustration that has become his life.

Pedro has moved to Idaho from Mexico and is the new kid in school. The principal introduces Napoleon to Pedro and asks Napoleon to show him his locker. They become friends right away. Pedro is quiet and unassuming, yet he has the confidence to ask the most popular girl in school to the dance and to run for class president. When Napoleon and Kip go to a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, Napoleon learns that you need someone to have your back. He knows that Pedro has his back. They are friends for life.

Deb likes Napoleon but she is extremely shy. She slowly comes out of her shell. All through the movie she is wearing pants and pastels, with her hair in a tight ponytail. Her style is a metaphor that represents her shyness and insecurity. At the end of the movie, her hair is down and she is wearing a bright red dress. Talk about transformation!

Napoleon has a crazy family. His grandmother is a daredevil that rides motorcycles and likes to party with the younger crowd. Napoleon's brother Kip spends all his time chatting online and training to be a cage fighter. Napoleon's Uncle Rico lives in the past, continually reminiscing about his high school days playing football.

Now let's move beyond character. This movie is about life. Nothing happens, but everything happens. The film chronicles a few weeks in the life of a teenage boy. There is despair (Napoleon dealing with his crazy family, the bullies at school, the apathy of life). There is hope (Napoleon's new friend Pedro who has his back, and his girlfriend Deb who likes him for who he is).

The turning point when things start to look up for Napoleon is at the school assembly when Pedro is giving his final campaign speech. Napoleon gets the idea at the last minute to do a dance for Pedro's skit. The dance is a hit and the whole school gives Napoleon and Pedro a standing ovation.

Happy Ending: Pedro becomes class president. Grandma is back at home with Tina. Unlce Rico is reunited with his girlfriend, Tammy. Kip meets his online girlfriend, LaFawnduh, and they get on a bus to Detroit.

And as for Napoleon, the last scene says it all. He asks Deb if she wants to play him in tetherball. She says "yes" and they play as the camera pulls back. Fade to black.

There's so much more to say about this film. It's a film that makes me laugh and makes me cry. The humor is on the surface, but underneath is the truth of life. Some people are content with just the superficial top layer of a story like this and they don't take the time to delve beneath the surface and mine for hidden treasure.

Not me. This is why I like movies. Movies can give us different perspectives on life and they deal with the heart, soul and mind.

Vote for Pedro.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

War Room: Lessons in Prayer

I first heard of the film "War Room" a few weeks ago on Facebook. I saw the trailer and knew I had to see it. High quality Christian films are few and far between when it comes to theatrical release.

I was shocked when it became the number two film in its first weekend and then number one the second weekend. Who would have thought that a Christian film would make such an impact?

This movie dealt with real issues that families face ... and how they overcame through prayer. The War Room is a metaphor for prayer. Interceding to God in prayer is like going into battle. The War Room is where we learn how to strategically fight the Enemy of our souls.

This is what the Bible says about spiritual warfare:

 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." - Ephesians 6:10-13

This movie inpsired me to make some important changes in my prayer life. Especially using Scripture to give my prayers more power by proclaiming God's Word over the people and situations I pray for.

I am ready for War! I am ready to Fight!

MISS CLARA: It's time for you to take the gloves off and fight for your family!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fat Boy Chronicles

Another cinematic treasure on Netflix. The Fat Boy Chronicles (2010) is about Jimmy, an overweight  teen who is bullied by his classmates. He befriends Sable, a loner goth girl who cuts herself, and Paul, a boy whose parents are alcoholics. Jimmy decides to change his life but continues to be bullied. He learns to persevere with support from his family and friends.

Director: Jason Winn
Writers: Michael Buchanan and Diane Lang
Stars: Christopher Rivera as Jimmy; Kelly Washington as Sable; and Chris Bert as Paul.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Letters to God

I've been watching Christian films lately and am delighted at the quality of these movies. In the past, faith and inspirational films overall, were not well done.

The best I had seen were the The Perfect Stranger films where Jesus appears on earth as a man in our modern era. He has dinner with a woman who is a skeptic, and he simply answers her questions about God. Kind of like, if you could have dinner with God, what would you ask him?

As a Christian, I am pleased to see quality acting, scripts and cinematography in faith-based films. Although there still seems to be an overabundance of "the end of the world" scenarios. I'm not a fan of these types of film in general (the Revelation Road series is the exception).

There are quite a few Christian films on Netflix and Amazon. This weekend I watched Letters to God (2010) and really enjoyed it. It is inspired by a true story about a boy who has cancer. He writes letters to God and sends them in the mail. A postman who is struggling with alcoholism and its effects on his family, gets the letters and they begin to change his life. And not only the postman's life, but the lives of the boy's family, friends and the entire community.

My favorite scene is where Tyler (the boy) talks with his friend's grandfather, played by Ralph Waite. The grandfather tells him that he is hand-picked by God to be a warrior. A warrior to help others and lead them to faith.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Denzel Scrapbook

Welcome to my Denzel Washington Tribute. I recently watched The Equalizer on Netflix and although I'm not a fan of graphic violence and profanity, the character of Robert McCall, played by Washington, was inspiring. This tragic story tells of  McCall's desire to live a "normal" life, yet he realizes that "you gotta be who you are in this world."

I'm watching the movie and rooting for McCall all the way through because these bad guys are the absolute WORST! The final scene in Moscow is a total mind blower. McCall destroys the entire Russian Mob single-handed. Where else can this happen except in the movies?

Robert McCall in The Equalizer (2014)
"You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what."

Whip Whitaker in Flight (2012)
"This is going to sound real stupid coming from a man in prison.
But for the first time in my life, I'm free."

The Book of Eli (2010)
"It doesn't have to make sense. It's faith, it's faith. It's the flower of
light in the field of darkness that's giving me the strength to carry on." 

Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters (2007)
"I am here to help you to find, take back, and keep your righteous mind."

Rubin Carter in The Hurricane (1999)
"Hate put me in prison. Love's gonna bust me out."

Jake Shuttlesworth in He Got Game (1998)
"No I'm not like everyone else, Son. Everyone else ain't your father."

Dudley in The Preacher's Wife (1996)
TRIVIA: This film was a remake of the
The Bishops's Wife (1947), starring Cary Grant.

Lt. Commander Ron Hunter in Crimson Tide (1995
 "In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself."

Joe Miller in Philadelphia (1993)
"With all due respect, your honor, we don't live in this courtroom, do we?"

Gray Grantham in The Pelican Brief (1993)

TRIVIA: The rights to "The Pelican Brief" were bought before the 
book was even written, John Grisham had written a sample 
from the book and the rights were bought on the spot.

Malcom X (1992)
"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

You never know what treasures you will discover in the world of cinema. One such treasure is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008). It's about the young son of a Nazi commander who befriends a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. 

The film is based on the novel of the same name by John Boyne and directed by Mark Herman, who also wrote the screenplay. It features Asa Butterfiled as Bruno (the son of the Nazi commander), and Jack Scanlon as Shmuel, the Jewish boy. 

Beautiful cinematography by Benoit Delhomme, haunting music by James Horner and masterful editing by Michael Ellis, this film is truly a masterpiece of cinema. 

 The ending is powerful and horrific. Be warned.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Morgan and Diane

Morgan and Diane as Ruth and Alex in 5 Flights Up (2014)

My two favorite actors star together for the first time in 5 Flights Up,
a romantic comedy about a long-married couple who move out of the
home they've lived in for years. I haven't seen this film yet.
I'm waiting for it to come out on Netflix.

Take a peek at my Morgan and Diane scrapbook:

Diane in Annie Hall (1977)

Morgan as Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Diane as Nina Banks in Father of the Bride (1991)

Morgan as Sgt. Major John Rawlins in Glory (1989)

Diane as Bessie in Marvin's Room (1996)

Morgan as Red in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Diane as Annie in The First Wives Club (1996)

Morgan as Detective Somerset in Se7en (1995)

Diane as Georgia in Hanging Up (2000)

Morgan as God in Bruce Almighty (2003)

Diane as Erica Barry in Something's Gotta Give (2003)

Morgan as Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris in Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Diane as Daphne Wilder in Because I Said So ((2007)

Morgan as Lucius Fox in Batman Begins (2005)

Diane as Bridget Cardigan in Mad Money (2008)

Morgan as Carter in The Bucket List (2007)

Diane as Colleen Peck in Morning Glory (2010)

Morgan as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009)

Diane as Beth in Darling Companion (2012)

Morgan as Monte Wildhorn in The Magic of Belle Isle (2012)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Train Wreck

Boy oh boy, there's nothing like a train wreck sequence!

It all started with Buster Keaton's The General (1926)

The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957)

Silver Streak (1976)

Runaway Train (1985)

Back to the Future III (1990)

The Fugitive (1993)

Unstoppable (2010)

Super 8 (2011)

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Story of Film: An Odyssey

Last year when I subscribed to Netflix, I was browsing through titles and came across a documentary series called The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2012). As a film buff and life-time student of the art of cinema, I was intrigued. This series is controversial to some as it tackles traditional ideas of filmmaking and cinematic history and turns them on their heads. Not everyone will agree. 

I find this series fascinating, educational and inspiring. Take a look at the trailer to get an idea of what you'll be getting into if you decide to watch the series.

What inspires you most about cinema?

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for Zane Beadles

Welcome to the 2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge! Each day for the month of April I will be posting alphabetically from A to Z and my theme is Wyoming.

Zane Beadles was born in Casper, Wyoming in 1986. He played football for the University of Utah and received All-American honors. He was considered one of the best offensive lineman available for the NFL Draft in 2010 and was picked up by the Denver Broncos. Here in Cheyenne, we love the Broncos. It's considered our home team. In 2014, Zane left Denver to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Are you a football fan?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yellowstone

Welcome to the 2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge! Each day for the month of April I will be posting alphabetically from A to Z and my theme is Wyoming.

My first and only trip to Yellowstone was in the summer of 1976. I was 19 and traveled with Hubby and his parents (who were visiting from Pennsylvania). We stayed in a rustic cabin, caught trout at Yellowstone Lake and saw the magnificent water falls. We checked out Old Faithful and the hotsprings. We saw bears, moose and deer. One of these days I will return. It's my destiny.

Have you ever been to Yellowstone?