Anika Goes to the Movies: Mr. Holmes

I know I have been absent and neglectful of this blog. I am sorry. I am not so faithful a blogger as I would like to be. But how about this, I tell you about my rather lovely date night movie and promise to catch you all up on my comings and goings for the summer in a series called, What I did instead of blog?” Sound good? Excellent, here we go, then!

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What do you get when you put Laura Linney, Sir Ian McKellen, and an adorable new actor named Milo in a post WWII period piece about a retired Sherlock Holmes? BEST. STORYTELLING. EVER.

Okay, the Quick rating for Mr Holmes: 4.8/5.0 stars- Go see it! Now. No, seriously, stop reading this post and go watch Sir Ian doing Sherlock Holmes losing his memory. Then come back and we chat.

Mitch Cullin (the writer of the original novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, which now I must read) and Jeffery Hatcher (the screen writer) have much to be proud of. This piece is the definitive proof that good storytelling does not need sex or graphic violence or foul language. Those are the crutches of the limping writer who does not know their characters or have the necessary drama in plot and character to carry a full novel. When the story is good, really good, all that other stuff would just get in the way.  This was lovely. I actually gasped twice (but then, I’m kind of a drama queen in the right circumstances, so take that as you will).

The acting is just, I mean, look at those names. It is a rare thing to see Laura Linney or Sir Ian botch something they are in, and they do not disappoint. The tension and the motivations and the give and take are just so great. And the kid, Milo Parker, he is darling. So stinking cute!! And he has some real skill. I hope he turns out to be one of those  child actors that takes it slow, keeps his head on his shoulders, and continues to turn out excellent work for years to come.

So spoilers, kinda. This is not the fast paced Holmes of the modern Cumberbatch and Downey Jr. persuasion. This is a methodical, well paced character piece. Don’t get me wrong, mystery and intrigue abound, and you do find yourself asking the right questions in all the right places, but this is not a fast paced adventure. So don’t go expecting one or you will be disappointed. This is about who Holmes is and what his life of crime solving and isolation have done to him in the twilight of his life. He is realizing that his legacy will mostly be remembered in the fictionalizations of Dr. Watson and grappling with the knowledge that he is losing his memory and that his retirement was more than a function of age, but the result of a massive miscalculation on his part. A forced exile of sorts.

If I had a gripe to make it would be that they didn’t take full advantage of the cinematographic opportunities of filming in East Sussex and Kent, so so lovely. And also the whole wasp v. bee thing is a bit heavy handed (granted this thing is rated PG so I suspect they are trying to target a younger audience, but still, kids aren’t dumb either). The role it plays later on is not a shock, the way it is revealed it shocking to be sure, but the idea was so heavily laid on throughout the film that there was hardly any guesswork involved. Maybe that was intentional so that the mystery didn’t overtake the personal drama. It was a choice, I could have done without it. Whatevs.

Anyway, this was wonderful, well worth the $20.00 for a night out with the hubby. And it prompted some conversations between us afterward that I enjoyed. We have decided that someone needs to write a story involving the flashbacks of an older man to his younger days in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays the younger Sir Ian. YOU GOT THAT HOLLYWOOD?! Let’s make this happen.

All right, well, I will see you soon with tales of the exploits that kept me from posting here, but frankly, my twitter feed was pretty good, so I don’t feel too bad.

See you soon,

Me.

Anika Goes to the Movies: The Second-Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Quick review: 4.25 stars, Super freaking adorable. Go see it with someone who likes to laugh.

And now for spoilers.

This movie manages to add more romance and be less about sex than the first. WHICH. I. Love!! Way too often in our cultures offerings we are given the choice between no romance at all or an eye-rolling lust fest. But Second-Best does the favor of assuming its audience’s intelligence and implies rather than shows. Moreover, it gets into the emotional complexities of relationships at any age.

No one actually dies this time. But the shadow of Maggie Smith’s impending departure hangs over much of the film, and then is poignantly and tear-jerkingly wrapped up in a letter written to Dev Patel’s character Sonny and his fiancé Sunaina. They are leaving for their honeymoon after a series of disastrous pre-wedding parties and half a dozen or so of Sonny’s screw-ups, and Mrs. Donnelly says a final goodbye. We don’t see her pass, but the feeling is certainly that she will not be there when they get back.

The not-quite-budding relationship between Norman and Evelyn played by Bill Nighy and Judi Dench (who is seriously just lovely) is perfectly frustrating and simultaneously delightful. And the random appearance of everyone’s least favorite ball of negativity, Norman’s wife, adds to the hilarity and gives Evelyn a chance to show her backbone.

It was, I think, just as good as the first. Which is very hard to do in a sequel. And since there was the addition of some bollywood style dancing at the wedding, it managed to be the same and different. Can’t wait until it comes out on video.

Happy watching!

Anika Goes to the Movies (on her couch): The Hundred-Foot Journey

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Quick review: 4.75/5 stars- SEE THIS MOVIE!! I love it. So much. The characters are well developed and fun. The plot is believable and still totally, “Aww, my feewings.” One of the best rom-coms to be released in recent years.

There will be spoilers. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Ok, first a confession. I love food movies. “Julie and Julia,” “Chocolat,” and “No Reservations” are always among my go-tos when I’m feeling down and need a little reassurance that life is beautiful and tasty.

I also have a budding love (as does most of America) for the Indian aesthetic. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “Million Dollar Arm” were both thoroughly enjoyable, and I can’t wait to review BEMH’s sequel in March.

So when you combine those two and set them in France and add Helen Mirren you have essentially created my ideal rainy day movie.

The characters are lovable from the very beginning and your heart goes out to them. You appreciate their capacity to adapt, move forward, and resourcefully deal with the conflicts in front of them.

If I had a place for improvement, I wish the film were just a little longer so as to develop the romance between Hassan and Marguerite a bit more. Also, if I may draw your attention to the poster, Helen Mirren’s character, Madame Mallory is not the main character. She is simply the biggest actor and therefore gets her lovely mug in the middle. I love Helen Mirren. And she does not disappoint in the film at all, but the advertisers could certainly be a bit more honest about the balance of the film, as well as give the due credit to Om Puri and Manish Dayal, who have become two of my new favs, and I hope to see them often in the future.

Manish’s portrayal of Hassan, the young man with the potential to be a great chef, is balanced and endearing. He is manly and a little arrogant, but not overpowering. He is deep and thoughtful and proud, but not so prideful as to close himself off to the possibilities around him. He is, simply put, one of the most sympathetic and well rounded male characters in a romance that I have ever seen. He makes me happy.

The fact that Marguerite, played by Charlotte Le Bon, doesn’t just fall all to pieces over him is wonderful. She likes him, she wants to be close to him, but she has her own ambitions and life before he ever comes to her small French town. In the end though she welcomes the chance to be his partner, in business and life. And it is beautiful to see them so well paired: independent, discerning, ambitious people who have realized their mutual passion for fine food and each other. It’s delicious. *rolls eyes at self, a little*

And unlike other rom-coms where the balance between the romance and comedy can be iffy or forced, this is just brilliant. So much to laugh out loud about, but with real stakes in the plot and relationships of the characters. I never felt put off by a joke or felt like the romance was over the top or the comedy out of place. It was all harmoniously synchronized.

See this movie!! Own this movie! It is funny, it is heartfelt, it is clean, and my husband liked it, too.

P.S. If you would like to ignore the following rant scroll no further. On the subject of awards: too often, way too often, those who are considered the gatekeepers- the ones handing out the shiny trophies- completely overlook the best performances, the best actors, the best writing, plots because they are too well, good. And by good I mean in an all around, decent, uplifting, and moral sense. When you walk away from a film feeling really pleased that you continue to be part of this little planet, chances are that film will get snubbed. I cannot begin to imagine all the reasons why, but a large one seems to be that those in charge of telling us what is award worthy have been chewing on edgy and dark for so long they have lost their sense of taste. The more I live my life, the more I appreciate good drama that doesn’t rely on the graphic, vulgar, and obscene. I respect great acting wherever it is found, but turning aside some of the best acting in the biz for the sake of seeming trendy and “on,” only proves that the gatekeepers have forgotten how to do their job. They are no longer the discerning folk to be trusted with handing out the medals. Yes, Helen Mirren was nominated for a golden globe as best actress in a comedy, but I’m not sure she deserved that particular nomination, especially given that Puri and Dayal’s acting was superior (in my opinion) and neither of them were acknowledged. Moreover, as it so often does, the Academy turned a blind eye to “The Hundred-Foot Journey” entirely, along with “Belle” and “The Good Lie.” (Not to mention about a dozen others that seemed right up the Academy’s alley, but no go.) I guess what I am saying here is that I would like to see moral films, uplifting films, performances that make us better people win. I want, as I always do, the good guys/gals to win. And if they can’t win, they should at least have a horse in the running. Rant over for now.

*poster image from IMDB.com

2014 Reflections and 2015 Prognostications

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I don’t know about most of you, but for me 2014 was a real mixed bag. There were some amazing things: pulling off the ANWA Conference in February, the birth of my sixth (and last) child in August, the baptism of my oldest son, and the publication of my first novel in October. I also discovered Mexican hot chocolate, The Pioneer Woman (and thus the concept of adding cream to nearly everything), and Pinterest.

There were hard things, too. Some of it very personal, some ephemeral in nature, and some that is just par for the course when you have a romp (a large group of otters)of children under the age 8. I’ve developed severe reactions to certain social situations. I have panic attacks (less so now that medications and essential oils are on board). I feel like the Lord has spent 2014 trying to teach me about humility and compassion for individual people. I’m not sure how effective it’s been, but I do feel changed.

I’m just not sure it’s for the better. My New Year’s tweets from last year were all about making it through by the skin of my teeth and being ready for something lighter in 2014. I really hope God got a good laugh out of those because this year has just been hard. Even the good stuff was taxing. And now that I am looking into 2015, I feel like I am peeking around the cracked open door, more than a little trepidatious of what lies in store. If what lies ahead isn’t healing and warm and fuzzy in nature, I’m not sure I’m ready. I need a year of comfort, a year that convinces me I am in the right place and safe, again.

I am choosing to take the rain (it’s raining here in AZ) as an omen. See, in the desert rain is hope. Rain is the promise that tomorrow we won’t wither away, and that the place we have put our roots will nourish us a little longer. Rain is life here. I have also had more than one encounter this year with hummingbirds. Most of you will shrug and say, “So?” For me and my family hummingbirds are also a sign of hope. They are a sign that we are watched over and loved from above. They signify that we are not alone in our journeyings and that heaven is aware of us. Moving to a home with a hummingbird feeder and the flowering plants that attract them in AZ was not coincidental. It was part of a decision to draw closer to the Spirit. And I know this year will see me filling my cup with that which is, “lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.” –LDS Articles of Faith 1:13.

So as far as 2015 goes, I think in some respects it’s going to get harder. I will be out and about in the world (at least a few times) selling my book and me as an author. I will be diving into the task of writing the next book in the series, The Ideal Apprentice, as well as a middle grade piece I am working on. I still have kids to raise and a house to clean. I have a husband who has taken just as large a hit over this year as I did, and could use a little T.L.C. But I am confident that somethings will get easier, and that I will find ways to sustain myself so that this coming year leaves me feeling full and ready for 2016.

I hope your goals leave you feeling optimistic, as well. Happy New Year, everyone!!