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Movie Mom
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Cable series about desperate circumstances do well because they put our daily lives into the sharpest possible focus. Somehow, they make characters who deal in drugs (“Weed,” “Breaking Bad”) or mental illness (“United States of Tara”) or even the compulsion to murder (“Dexter”) seem if not normal at least accessible. The latest addition premieres this week and the first episode (slightly edited) is available on YouTube.
Laura Linney stars in “The Big C” as a wife, mother, and teacher who has always taken care of others and colored in the lines who discovers she has terminal cancer. This causes her to think carefully about who she is and what she wants and needs. She had organized her choices based on having a lot of time. When she discovers that her time is limited, she tells a waiter, “I’m just having desserts and liquor.” She does not tell the people around her about her illness, but she begins to tell them the truth about other things. The cast includes Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious” as an outspoken student and Oliver Platt as an affectionate but needy husband. I especially like her interaction with her young doctor. Even he is relying on her for support because it was the first time he ever had to tell a patient she was terminal.
This may be a comedy, but it is no sit-com. It is an adventure with a woman trying to maintain some sense of control and achieve some sense of meaning. It is the way her diagnosis liberates her that makes the show bracing, provocative and yes, even funny.
Linney is one of the finest actresses in Hollywood and it is a treat to see her show us how a woman finds that the prospect of death makes her begin to understand for the first time what life really means.

As “Eat Pray Love’s” saga of Elizabeth Gilbert finding herself after a devastating divorce comes to theaters, Slate has a terrific gallery of classic post-divorce movie moments, with women signaling their liberation through dancing, revenge, substance abuse — and of course a new love in films like “An Unmarried Woman,” “Learning to Exhale,” “Living Out Loud,” and “The First Wive’s Club.” (My recollection, though, is that the ballet in the underwear dance sequence in “An Unmarried Woman” comes before she gets dumped, right?)
Certainly, themes of second chances and renewal are important in movies and life after heartbreak is something everyone can relate to. There’s an entire genre of “movies of re-marriage” with classic romantic comedies about divorced or almost-divorced couple re-uniting in movies like “The Philadelphia Story,” “His Girl Friday,” “Adam’s Rib,” and “The Lady Eve.” The lesser-known “Perfect Strangers” is a favorite of mine, about a dull married couple (Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr) who come alive when they separate to fight in WWII. They do not know how they will be able to stand their old life and are afraid of getting back together. But they are overjoyed when they meet to find that separately they have come to the same realization that they wanted to feel more vitally engaged with the world and with each other.
There are many, many movies about people who feel as though they are on automatic pilot in their lives and marriages until they discover love again, sometimes with the spouse but more often with someone new. The under-appreciated “Twice in a Lifetime” has Gene Hackman in a comfortable but dull relationship until he meets Ann-Margret on his 50th birthday. In “The April Fools,” Jack Lemmon falls for the wife of his arrogant boss. In my favorite scene, Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer show them the beauty of a deep, long-lasting love. Cary Grant is married to social-climbing hypocrite Kay Francis and then he meets warm-hearted Carole Lombard in “In Name Only.” And Walter Houston does his best to be loyal to his selfish wife in “Dodsworth” in spite of his attraction for the lovely Mary Astor. In classics like “Casablanca,” “Bringing Up Baby,” “An Affair to Remember,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Out of Africa,” “Now Voyager,” “Back Street,” “It Happened One Night,” “Titanic,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Brief Encounter,” and “Moonstruck,” married or engaged characters find love elsewhere. Watching them, we experience again the tremulous thrill of falling in love. If we’re lucky, we bring those feelings back to enlarge our own relationships.

Ranker has a great list of the most over-used songs in movie trailers. I’d add “Bad to the Bone” and “Carmina Burana.” If you ever get stuck trying to identify a naggingly familiar song in a movie trailer, check Soundtrack.net, which has a terrific list of the 100 most frequently used music cues, where you can see how music associated with one popular movie is used to sell as many as 19 others.

Julia Roberts has been the top female movie star for what seems like decades. She has a smile made for the wide screen and an open-hearted laugh that feels authentically happy and unguarded. As her 43rd movie opens today, how well do you know her work?
1. One thing she can’t do is sing very well. What all-star movie had her try a sad love song?
2. Which of her movies was originally titled “$3000?”
3. In which movie does she play a military officer with a child?
4. In which movie does she rehearse for playing a military officer with a child?
5. She is usually cast in contemporary roles. But in which movie did she play a 19th century housemaid?Julia-Roberts_0.jpg
6. Name two movies where she played a movie star and one where she played a movie star’s sister.
7. In which movie did she describe her “signature colors?”
8. She played characters in which two movies based on classic children’s stories?
9. In which movie was she kidnapped?
10. In which two movies did she play a photographer?