Scary Films Are Hard to Watch

Movies can overwhelm me, and a scary movie will make me so uncomfortable that I cannot look. I have been watching the mini-series 11.22.63 based on a novel by Stephen King….yes, that Stephen King, master of the macabre.Screenshot 2016-03-25 21.26.02

I have read the book, so I know what is going to happen. Even with this “more-historical-than-horror” film series, I have (more than once) had to cover my eyes, or squeeze my eyes closed and hold my ears.

I am aware that there are elements in cinema that cause my brain to signal my heart to race or my hands to sweat. The psychologist Birgit Wolz, author of E-motion Picture Magic states,

“Because many films transmit ideas through emotion rather than intellect, they can neutralize the instinct to suppress feelings and trigger emotional release. By eliciting emotions, watching movies can open doors that otherwise might stay closed.”

I have interpreted this quote to mean that I should keep the door open so I can run out when the film gets too frightening!


Messing with the Iconic “Hur”

They are remaking the film Ben-Hur (for the 5th time)..a dangerous challenge to Director William Wyler‘s 1959 iconic cinematic achievement. The trailer was recently released; unimpressed reactions could be summarized as, “This looks like Fast & The Furious with horses.”

The basis for each film’s screenplay is Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The novel was published in 1880, and tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur and his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. There are allusions to the film’s chariot scene in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Pod Race), in The Muppets (“Ben Hare”), and in The Simpsons episode Saturdays of Thunder.

The many films of Ben-Hur have been parodied, but no parody was a successful as the ad for Turner Movie Classics that was created as a promotion for the Academy Awards in 2007. In this short commercial, second and third grade students perform scenes from the film: the slave ship, the leper scene, and of course the climactic chariot race. The juxtaposition of having these children recite such serious lines with deadpan delivery-all under the watchful eye of a teacher playing the accompanying soundtrack- results in a comic masterpiece.


Cat – Chat – Chapeau

Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday as part of Read Across America on March 2nd has meant revisiting some of my own “childhood” experiences.

Two of the schools held showings of the animated  Dr. Seuss‘s The Cat in the Hat . This short cartoon was a 1971 television special and by my calculations, I was 15 years old when it first premiered. That means that taking the average age of my brothers and sisters, the average age at my home for viewing this cartoon was 7 years old…exactly the audience for this cartoon.

Performing the voices of the Narrator/Cat and the Hat was the songwriter and lyricist Allan Sherman. As proof of his genius, the clever lyrics in this one song “Cat Chapeau” have stuck with me despite the years! I was singing the words as young teachers were hearing it for the first time….

1st verse:

CAT IN THE HAT:In English, cat, hat, In French, chat, chapeau.
It really is quite obvious, don’t you know.
In English, cat, hat, In French, chat, chapeau. Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, here we go.
I repeat, cat, hat, In French, chat, chapeau. In Spanish, el gato in a sombrero.
KIDS: He’s a cat in a hat, He’s a chat in a chapeau. He also is a gato in a sombrero. Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé-o.
CAT IN THE HAT: Cat, hat, in French, chat, chapeau. In Spanish, el gato in a sombrero.
And i’ll tell you something more now, you listen to me good. In German, I’m a katze und dies ist mein hut.
Ist das nicht ein katze hut?
KIDS: Ya, das ist ein katze hut! Katze hut! Katze hut! Ja, das ist ein katze hut!

Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat, and Allan Sherman, a shared experience from generation to generation.

Day #47-Netflix Guilt

Yes, I have a subscription to Netflix, and yes, I am frustrated when everyone else who has a subscription logs on at the same time to watch House of Cards. But I am more frustrated when the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, has suggested that the problem with public education is local school boards. Hastings is a big supporter of charter schools and an investor in Rocketship Education, a charter school network.

netflixThere are times when local school boards can be maddening, but they are a function of our democratic  society. I have been to Board of Education meetings in my town where issues are often contentious:  teacher termination, school policies, book censorship, building improvements, class enrollment. Politics can exacerbate these contentious issues. Hastings claims that because charter schools have boards that are not political, not elected, they have “a stable governance” and this governances allows charter school boards to get better every year.

I enjoy the Netflix service, and I am willing to pay the subscription service, but in this instance, I am not voting with my purse. I am aware that Hastings is much like the manipulative characters in House of Cards, and there is a twinge of guilt in knowing that in paying for a subscription to Netflix, the result, in real life and on the screen, is fueling democracy under attack.

Day 28: Last Minutes of “Love Actually” Not Acting

We are not TV people…we are movie people. We are also repeat movie watchers which means that more often than not, one of us is so familiar with the lines of a film that he or she is in sync with the actor or actress…Which means that either of us can identify a movie from the soundtrack while we are in another room entirely…. Which means that we can watch several films at once clicking through the channels as sort of a “best of” film  parts…. Which explains why Love Actually has been playing on the TV this past week.

My husband loves the film.

Hs admiration is not understood by The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr who condemned the film in his follow-up review Love Actually -em- Still Awful as

… almost two hours of rom-com porn, of grand gestures with little buildup and no follow through, of money shots. And I can’t help but wonder whether this is not, in part, why the movie seems to be more popular than ever. 

I can say with some certainty that this is not my favorite film either…except for the last  minute. The last minutes (at 2:41 in video below)are filmed at London’s Heathrow Airport, where instead of showing the audience the actors playing at “Love Actually,” there is a montage of real people  greeting each other at the arrival gate.

People hug. People kiss. People cry and greet each other with tenderness at this busy, impersonal airport. The montage of reunions is match cut to a series of split screens that split and split again forming a mosaic while the refrain “where would I be without you?” repeats from the Beach Boys,”God Only Knows.”

Not acting…actual Love.

Day 5 The DVR-How Much Can You Watch?


The commercial this morning featured a man asking couples how much they liked their present DVR services. The question was fair enough, after all, he was obviously selling DVR subscription services.  He was promoting his company’s advantages by comparison.

His tone was sympathetic, communicating his interest in supporting those poor families with such obvious substandard DVR services. He was reaching out to those subscribers who could only tape one or two shows at a time. He was offering a service that could tape FIVE shows (yes, five!) at a time.
“You can even be watching another show while you tape!” he triumphed.

Why? Does someone ever watch all those recordings?