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James Franco stars in the upcoming “127 Hours” as engineer/mountaineer Aron Ralston, who was climbing alone in the Utah canyons on what he thought would be a day trip when a boulder fell on his arm, pinning him against the canyon wall. For six days, unable to move, he tried to chip or push it away. Finally, he understood that in order to survive, he would have to lose his hand and lower portion of his arm. He performed a self-amputation with only a dull knife, rappelled one-armed down the side of the mountain, and walked six miles to get help. His book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place tells the story.

Writer-director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) has made this extraordinary achievement into a movie of great power, touching, moving, exciting, and inspiring. And Franco gives one of the best performances of the year.

Here is the real Aron Ralston, who now uses his story to help audiences think about what we can do to survive, how to analyze and solve problems, how to think about priorities, about healing, the importance of taking responsibility and how to be fully alive, which means being fully grateful.

Read other stories of defining moments and share your own.

The gospel world and everyone who loves music that lifts the spirit had a double loss this week with the passing of the magnificent Albertina Walker and “King” Solomon Burke. They will be deeply missed. But their glorious recordings will continue to bring us joy and inspiration forever.

Twelve new episodes of “Shalom Sesame” are out on DVD, Welcome to Israel and Chanukah: The Missing Menorah. The creators of “Sesame Street” produce this series with Israel’s Channel HOP! to bring the vitality of Jewish culture and tradition and the diversity of Israeli life to American children and their families. The “Sesame Street” characters and guest stars like Debra Messing and Jake Gyllenhaal introduce children to Hebrew letters and words and Jewish values, mitzvot (good deeds), and holidays. The DVDs are supported with teaching materials.

I have one copy of each to give away to the first person who sends me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Shalom: Israel or Shalom: Chanukah in the subject line. Don’t forget to include your address!

A snowstorm at Christmas time makes a busy woman stop and reconsider her priorities when she is stuck in her apartment with two people she has just met: a little girl who does not want to be there and a homeless man who tried to protect her from some muggers.

Catherine Mary Stewart plays Kathleen, a successful restaurant-owner. Ever since she was a little girl, when her father walked out on Christmas, she has hidden her hurt and feelings of abandonment with a brisk and businesslike manner. She is not unkind, but she is brusque and unapproachable.
And then the single father she is dating asks her to take care of his little girl, Lucy (the terrific Cameron Ten Napel). And a homeless man named Sam (Muse Watson) with a quiet, peaceful demeanor is hurt when he tries to protect her from some muggers, so she brings him back to her apartment, just for one night. And then the three of them get snowed in.

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Snow has a way of helping us separate the urgent from the important. The weather outside may be frozen, but Katherine begins to thaw. And as communication with the outside world is cut off, communication inside her apartment begins to bloom. When Sam reads aloud his favorite passage from the Bible, Simeon’s words on seeing the infant Jesus, a small place of peace begins to take hold of all three. And without electricity or phone they return to the simpler pleasures of the past including the meaningfully named s’mores and a board game called “Break the Ice.”
But there is still a hard pain in Kathleen that she just can’t let go. Sam has one more lesson for her that will help her understand that the only one who is hurt by a refusal to forgive is the one holding onto the anger. This is a touching story with humor and heart and a little wisdom, too.

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