Monday, July 9, 2012

Cool Movies

by Joan

Over the past week, the country has been in meltdown mode. A glance at the weather map on the back of the Metro section showed virtually an all-orange United States. My friends and family in Maryland boiled and broiled, some without power for days. In the top half of the country, it reached over 100. Many times over the past week I scrolled through my phone’s fantasy spots—London, Santorini, Kyoto, Santa Barbara—dreaming of blue skies and a soft breeze (or even a cool UK shower). 

What do we do in Dallas when it’s over 100 degrees? Walking is out of the question and it’s too hot to swim until after the sun goes down. Normally, I’d plaster myself in front of the computer and write or revise, but I’m in that in-between phase. I’ve finished manuscript #4 and it’s parading in front of a few agents as I write this. I’ve started accumulating research materials for my next project, but its cast of characters has yet to introduce themselves. So until I commit to an idea, I’m getting caught up on lots of reading and movies, always looking for lessons to apply to my own writing.

In the past 48 hours, I've seen 6 movies (4 of 6 were at the incredible Angelika Theater in Plano). The last time I saw so many films in such a short time, I was about to deliver my now nineteen-year-old and knew that my free time would come to a screeching halt. (Is it any surprise he's a big movie fan, like his mom?) Once I dive head first into my next WIP, I’ll become obsessed with another new baby and will likely not dip out to the movies. 

Meantime, what did I learn in my latest movie extravaganza?

Moonrise Kingdom – Paint a perfect picture, then hit your audience with the unexpected. I don't think I've seen a movie quite like this one. It's campy (pardon the pun), quirky, surprising, endearing, and adventurous. 

The Intouchables – Set up an impossible situation and make your audience believe it won't work any other way. Devoid of all pity, this story is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Omar Sy gave an Oscar-worthy performance, as did Francois Cluzet. Julie liked it, too! This was my favorite of the bunch, until I saw #6. 

My Sister’s Sister – Keep it real. I read somewhere that the actors didn't follow a tightly written script. That must have been why the dialogue felt so honest.

This film is quirky, raw, and hilarious. Emily Blunt is fabulous as usual as she finds out her best friend (who she secretly loves) has slept with her sister. It started out slow and just as I thought it would be another predictable rom-com, it turned the corner and surprised me.  

Beasts of the SouthernWild – Everyone loves a character who hasn't an ounce of self-pity and refuses to quit.

This tragic story illustrates the strength of the human spirit. In the marshes of Louisiana, in an area called “The Bathtub,” a resilient 6-year-old deals with life as she knows it, scrounging for food, a dry night’s sleep and the memory of her mother. I found this one painful and depressing, but still worthy of all its praise.

The Amazing Spiderman Just like Peter Parker, we're all just searching for the truth. I avoided the 3-D version (as I always do) and sat back to enjoy this predictable, but fun new take. 

It’s always a treat to watch Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans (Pirate Radio and Danny Deckchair) was an added bonus.

Through the charm and wit of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy (one of his subtlest roles yet), and a cast of other fine actors, I learned a writer must draw from deep inside characters, to push them farther than they believed possible, to give them strengths they didn't know they had.

Some sage advice from Sonny (Dev Patel) and later, Evelyn (Judi Dench): "Everything will work out in the end. If it doesn't work out, then trust me, it's not the end."


  1. Anonymous09 July, 2012

    Hi Joan,
    Thanks for the critique of the movies you saw. The only one I've seen is Hotel Marigold, and I loved it. My friend, who's visited Jaipur, said it was very true of the place. I'm visiting there in October, so can't wait.

    I'm still editing my FIRST manuscript. An editor recently tore it to pieces, so I'm trying to make something artful of it. Congratulations on your 4th!!! It'll happen soon, and please announce it immediately.

    Enjoy your blog.

  2. Hi Shirley!

    I think Jaipur looks fascinating and scary at the same time. I hope you enjoy your trip--you traveling queen!

    Maggie Smith's character grew the most, wouldn't you say?

    Thanks and best of luck with your manuscript as well!

  3. I remember seeing the trailer for The Intouchables at Bernie and wanted to see it. So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the review of movies I only hope to see. I recently saw Brave. :( I'll put these on my to-rent-later list.

  4. Pamela--

    I remember those days of waiting to rent! As soon as your youngest is driving, you'll be free to hop out to the movies anytime!

    Oh, I loved Bernie, also! Great summer for movies.


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