Movie Mom

Movie Mom

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Fury
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Moms' Night Out
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Release Date:
May 9, 2014

St. Vincent
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 For mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Earth to Echo
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
Release Date:
July 3, 2014

Dear White People
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for language, sexual content and drug use
Release Date:
October 17, 2014

 

Snowpiercer
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for violence, language and drug content
Release Date:
July 2, 2014

The Miracle Worker

posted by Nell Minow
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:NR
Movie Release Date:May 23, 1962

Today is the 142nd anniversary of the birth of one of the most extraordinary teachers in American history, Annie Sullivan, who gave a little blind and deaf girl the power of language. William Gibson, who wrote two plays about the teacher and her student, says that when people refer to “The Miracle Worker” as “the play about Helen Keller,” he replies, “If it was about her, it would be called ‘The Miracle Workee.'” Sullivan, herself visually impaired, was first in her class at the Perkins School for the Blind. When she went to work for the Keller family she was just 21 years old. And Keller, who was blind and deaf due to an illness when she was 19 months old. When Sullivan arrived, Keller was almost completely wild, without any ability to communicate or any understanding that communication beyond grabbing and hitting was possible.

Every family should watch the extraordinary film about what happened next, and read more about Keller, who, with Sullivan’s help, graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude and became an author and a world figure.

Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke won Oscars for their performances as Sullivan and Keller, repeating their Broadway roles and Duke later played Sullivan in a made-for-television adaptation. In this scene, after months of teaching Keller to fingerspell words, Sullivan is finally able to show her that language will give her the ability to communicate, with a new world of relationships, feelings, and learning. No teacher ever bestowed a greater gift.

Monday After the Miracle is Gibson’s sequel to the play, and Keller’s own book is called The Story of My Life. There is a photobiography of Sullivan called Helen’s Eyes.

DVD Giveaway: Pucca!

posted by Nell Minow

I have three Pucca DVDs to give away to the first people who send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com. Pucca is the daughter of Chinese noodle house owners. Her adventures combine light-hearted romance (she has an unrequited crush on a silent ninja), silly comedy, and kung fu.

(This one is for first-timers only, so if you have already won a DVD, please do not enter.)

Smart People

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated R for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, and for some sexuality.
Movie Release Date:April 11, 2008

A burned-out literature professor named Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) has written an “unpublishable” book called The Price of Postmodernism: Epistemology, Hermeneutics and the Literary Canon. Of course it is unpublishable. Everyone knows that the part of the title that comes before the colon in literary works is supposed to be self-consciously cutesy. A book like that should be called something like A Bad Slammin’ Groove: Epistemology, etc. I suppose it is a symptom of Lawrence’s ennui and disconnection that he has lost the essential ability for preserving that academic necessity: a snarky combination of smug superiority over popular culture and even smugger superiority over the ability to speak in its patois.

Lawrence, his college-student son James (Ashton Holmes from “A History of Violence”) and his college-applying high school senior daughter Vanessa (“Juno’s” Ellen Page) are each floating around in separate bell jars, suspended in space, all the air sucked out by anger and loss, all three unable to communicate and unaware of how much pain they are in. Lawrence’s brother Chuck (“my adopted brother,” he reminds everyone — played by Thomas Hayden Church) moves in. Yes, he will prove to be the life force confronting the dessicated souls so out of touch with their true feelings. But Church and the screenwriter, novelist Mark Poirier, give him more perspective and more spine than these characters usually display. “These children haven’t been properly parented in many years,” he tells one visitor. “They’re practically feral. That’s why I was brought in.” And he believes it.

Poirier appreciated literature and he knows how to create characters who talk (and don’t talk) about what is going on like educated people. He has not quite worked out the difference between a novel and a movie, however; he still tells too much and shows too little. An exceptional cast takes the material as far as it can go, but it still feels synthetic and its sense of tone is uncertain, biting here (faculty committee, unpublishable tome), sentimental there (how many times do we have to see a grieving spouse who can’t clean out the closet?). Quaid is especially strong and Parker lets us see her sweetness and longing, but Page’s and Church’s characters are underwritten and it feels like it all gets tied up too hastily. The characters might be too smart for their own good, but the movie could use a few more IQ points.

Interviews: The Visitor

posted by Nell Minow

“The Visitor” is the new movie by writer/director Thomas McCarthy. Like his award-winning “The Station Agent,” it is the story of characters from different backgrounds and with different interests who must overcome loss, fear, and isolation to find a way to connect to each other. Richard Jenkins plays a professor of economics who leads an isolated life following the death of his wife until he meets two illegal immigrants, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) from Syria and his girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) from Senegal. When Tarek is sent to a holding facility for detainees, Walter and Tarek’s mother, Mouna (Hiam Abbass) join forces to try to help him.

As with the earlier film, McCarthy involved his actors early in the process, working with them to develop the script. I spoke to McCarthy and the four stars of the film.

Who is the visitor? It seems that any or all of the four leading characters could be considered visitors.

Tom McCarthy: All of them are! Everybody in his own way is a visitor. Each of us is a visitor in his life in a way. Having the title in the singular gives the story a more individual touch. It is individual stories connecting to each other, nicer and more poetic.

Richard Jenkins: I think Walter [his character] is the visitor (laugh)! There is a program where you visit detainees. You can be a visitor to detainees you don’t know. That is how Tom was introduced to the detainees. So there is a lot of depth and complexity in that title.



Your character is a devoted mother but you do not share any screen time with your son. How do you convey that feeling?

Hiam Abbass: Sometimes it is so hard when you’re playing the mother of someone but you have no scenes with him, and still I had to believe. Out of the set we were such great friends, connected in a completely different level. I am not adult enough to be his mother in real life!

This is really how it connects. When I met Tom and he was writing he would ask me, “Not you but another traditional Arab woman in this situation, how would she react?” I was obliged to dig, forget modern ways of living, the way I live in Paris. There are so many things from you that you put in but limit them.

And your character is very reserved. You had to convey a great deal without using many words. Was that difficult?

Danai Gurira: It was very hard for me because I am a talker as these two know. I was playing a character who is a lot more still than I am. I am a kind of spastic energy type. It was refreshing to not be me in a way. I understood her. She lived in a world, where her experience was that running your mouth off is not beneficial as it has been for me. I enjoyed that transition, stepping into a stiller person’s skin. It added to the circumstances of the character. She’s the one who has dealt with the horrors Tarek’s now experiencing in a way that has made her more guarded and cautious. He is more exuberant. She does not feel powerful as the system exists.

Your character is exuberant, and he often expresses himself most fully through music. Are you also a musician?

Haaz Sleiman: I am a singer. Tarek and I had similar paths, very Arabic, moving from wherever you’re at to Michigan, moved to New York to pursue music. He represents the Arab culture, very welcoming, very hospitable. As soon as Walter lets them into the apartment, it’s almost as if he owes Walter his life. It is a natural thing for the friendship to grow. Music added depth and dimension to the relationship. And there is vulnerability in that, too.

What makes you laugh?
Hiam Abbass: Myself! If you can laugh at yourself you can laugh at other things. I work hard to have that distance from myself.

Danai Gurira: I laugh at her! The people I love make me laugh. There are different kinds of humor. Sometimes it is based in the idiosyncrasies of the culture, very specific to the world where people are coming form, sometimes universal. Some people who are bilingual can hook into my Zimbabwean humor quicker.

Hiam Abbass: From the first day, we have so much trust, that is important for laughter. The more you connect to different cultures, the more you develop your sense of humor in a universal way.

Haaz Sleiman: Making silly noises, cartoon-like, animal-like, being silly.


Why does music communicate so powerfully?

Haaz Sleiman: It always has, way back from when they were using bones, it’s another language.

Hiam Abbass: It’s a universal language, everyone gets it, feels it. It’s the least tampered with language, no motives rather than just connecting. You can be from two different cultures completely and love the same music, each for its own reasons.

Haaz Sleiman: The CD that Tarek gives Walter in the movie is the music of Fela Kuti. He is the Zimbabwean Jimi Hendrix, a great musician.

What do you want people to learn from this movie?

Haaz Sleiman: Embrace differences and be excited about the differences.

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