Monday, July 21, 2008

Arts and Entertainment

A rollicking conversation took place in my family room few nights ago. My favorite cousin and his wife were in town for a visit and we were all discussing recent movies we’d seen, each person offering up their own critiques. It seemed that one after another, my favorite movies of the past year were on the “most hated” list of my cousin’s wife, a fact which we all found completely funny. I thought Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in There Will Be Blood was one of the most fascinating portraits of narcissistic greed ever captured in any art form. And, to me there could not be a better illustration of the truth, “the love of money is the root of all evil”, than that contained in No Country For Old Men. But to her, these were movies to be endured, not enjoyed. She wanted happy endings, and I had to concede, these had none. Laughingly we talked about the differences in what we seek from movies. She wanted entertainment, and I wanted illumination. She looked for happily ever after, I looked for truth. Now, before I portray myself as a brooding old bluestocking, dark and devoid of humor or fun, let me be the first to admit that I love a light, happy story as much as anyone. Babe is on my top ten list, Harvey the white pooka, pictured above with his friend Elwood P. Dowd, is quite real to me, and The Wizard of Oz changed my life as a child. However, while I will buy my ticket to see beautiful Meryl in Mamma Mia , I am waiting with bated breath to see her in the upcoming film version of the play, Doubt. I will enjoy both, I am sure, but the latter will more likely be the one I carry with me and ponder for days to come.

It’s amazing how many movies are released every month, every year. Incredible really, when you think of the money and time involved in each. But how many actually leave us with something to take home? Ideas, truths, revelations of ourselves and the world around us, controversies to argue over. Film is a powerful art form, and truly great acting is such a transcendent thing. Compare the performance of Dame Judi Dench in Ladies in Lavender with the one in Notes on a Scandal, for example. How does she do that? To create such complete portraits of two such diametrically opposed characters and to do it so believably. One doesn’t see her acting, she has become the women in the stories so completely. The first heartbreaking, the other diabolical, but both amazingly real. How is it that the aftorementioned Meryl Streep could have followed up Sophie’s Choice with Silkwood? Or, gorgeously sexy Helen Mirren could actually morph seamlessly into Queen Elizabeth II? It just fascinates me. The true art found in these performances is, to me, that they allow us to see into the lives of other people and, in turn, see better into ourselves and how we fit into the sphere of humanity. Little Miss Sunshine was so funny to me because it was so painfully true. Each character was someone I knew in one way or another.

Ah well, it seems my sweet cousin-in-law is in for more of these art versus entertainment conversations, as her eldest son is currently studying for a career in film-making. However, I can’t think about that now, I’m off to an afternoon showing of Batman!
Oh, but do share some of your favorite recent films, won’t you?


  1. What a lovely post. I really enjoyed the way you looked at how your tastes were opposite of those of your cousin's wife. I am with you, I seek truth. Most of the time. Sometimes, I want some cotton candy for my brain.

    Non-cotton candy in all ways was "Reign Over Me," a movie I saw yesterday with Mr.OM. We were both moved by it.

    Have you seen that one?

  2. You know how much I love film, so you know I loved this post! There are so many elements that must come together in order to produce a good movie. I usually don't go for the "happily ever after" mainstream entertaining type, either. Although, just like an occasional dessert, I must watch one once in a while! :)

    The most recent movie I've seen is "The Duelists" 1977 with Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. It is truly a piece of art.

  3. We just watched Notes on a Scandal( with my top two favorite actresses) last weekend which I thought was fabulous! Judi Dench was so deliciously diabolical! Cate Blanchett gave a stellar performance as usual. We're seeing Batman on Friday and my favorite actor of all time, Gary Oldman, is reprising his role as Lt. Gordon..Funny, he's not exactly known as an actor that takes light and happy roles but Gordon may perhaps be the nicest "nice-guy" role that he has taken...Great post!

  4. Judi Dench is fabulous. I could watch her act in anything. I loved her in "As Time Goes By." Funny you mention "There will be blood" around same timeWillow was writing about it in her blog!

  5. Ahhh... Next time you pay a visit to Oakcrest Castle, we must have a Colin Firth Film Festival. Now there is some enriching and enjoyable film experience!

  6. This reflects how different people can be, and how diverse and interesting.
    I don't go to the movies, -maybe once in a while, like once every few years- but I watch a good number of DVDs borrowed from our local library.
    Most recently we've seen:
    The Shop Around the Corner; Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Gosford Park. It's so wonderful to be able to choose what you see, that's why we have no television channels and we rarely see a movie in the cinema.

  7. Daniel Day Lewis was incredible in There Will Be Blood, and I did watch No Country for Old Men b/c I love Tommy Lee Jones. But... when it comes right down to it, I'm happy to fix a big bowl of popcorn and watch The Thin Man or Some Like It Hot.

  8. enc and willow: You've both mentioned movies that I am unfamiliar with. Thanks for the interesting suggestions!

    rebecca and mmm: Cate, Gary and Judi...the cream of the crop, no?

    janathan: you're on!

    theelementary and liz: The Thin Man, Top doesn't get much better and Gosford Park is an all time favorite at the House of Edward! Of course, Asta - star of The Thin Man series- is one of Edward's heroes!

  9. I'm just going through my latest Johnny Depp binge with Sleepy Hollow, The Ninth Gate, and Sweeney Todd. Depp has such a talent for creating memorable characters!

    Another of my favorites is Edward Norton. He made two wonderful movies: The Painted Veil and The Illusionist. I have watched them over and over.

  10. Best two movies this year, so far, are: "The Lives of Others" and "Mongol" Both have a happy ending of sort, I suppose.

    I am with you Pam, I am looking for a movie that will stay with me and make me wonder and ponder, and that can be discussed with others. Comedies and musicals just don't provide that for me.

  11. Just dropped 4 high school boys to see the Batman movie- My daughter & I saw Kit Kitridge and we loved it!

  12. Pamela, it's so interesting to me, this post. I think watching and enjoying a film depends alot on one's mood. Sometimes one is in the mood for unabashed romance, other times for comedy, or something quite dramatic.

    The last film I watched was "The World Of Suzie Wong", made in the 1960's, with William Holden. Shot on location in a Hong Kong that was so incredibly gorgeous, but has now disappeared, to be overtaken by a modern metropolis.

    I adore William Holden, and I greatly enjoyed this film. As for the ending, it was both happy and sad....

  13. Judi Dench was stellar as "M" in the James Bond series.

  14. I love foreign films and some of my favorites are Cinema Paradiso, Il Postino, Life is Beautful,Panne E Tulipani, Amelie. Das Boot, Maria Full Of Grace,Whale Rider,The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Abre Los Ojos,The Scent of Green Papaya ....there are so many! I always watch them in their native language with English subtitles (some are in accented English) There is no distraction when I am reading subtitles and somehow the experience feels richer.

  15. Walking into a dark cool theater always gives me a thrill. If it has been a long time since my last visit I always wonder why I have waited so long to come back. I enjoy all genres of movie but my favorites are the ones that make you think.

    Recently, I took my granddaughters to see Kit Kitridge and I loved it too. It made me think about all that we have lost because of entertaining ourselves and family and friendship. It made me think about life's simple pleasures and helping others. It made me cry. I'm a sap.

  16. I've heard Mama Mia is wonderful so I hope you have a great evening, think I shall have to store up that treat till I go to the UK in the Autumn.

  17. I am afraid I am not a movie buff at all. I will watch You've Got Mail each year they put it on but so would your cousin in law by the sounds of it. :) I only watch historical dramas like Cranford or a Jane Austen but my favorite is any Bronte filma drama. I love the dark moors and struggle of life back in the 1800s. So perhaps I don't always need a happy ending after all. The Brontes are not popular like Jane is because they protray life more realistically with its intense struggles and strife. Look at Jane Eyre...she ended up with Mr. Rochester but had to take him with physical scars in order to gain him as a 'free' man showing life is not perfect in love. Okay, I am going off to deep here now. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    Hugs ~

    p.s. ~ I prefer doing my patchwork by machine and quilting by hand but this project I am not showing is patchwork by hand too. I sew the blocks each weekend while we are at Cranberry Cottage.

  18. The last movie I saw in the theatre was 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and I did like it very much. I would have to say the movie I have been watching over and over lately is 'Silk'...I just saw it on DVD for the first time, this summer. I don't even know when it came out. I think two of my favorite movies this year we're 'Becoming Jane' and 'Once'. I like movies that move my heart and make me yearn for something more, and for their beauty. I love to watch a beauty-full movie.

  19. Thank you for calling by at my blog and yuor kind words. My computer has been poorly for a few days and I am going away now for a few days more but I have bookmarked your lovely blog so I can have a good look round when I return.

  20. Hello!

    I just stumbled on your blog and have to say, it's just as lovely as can be.

    And your dog is adorable.

    I will be by to visit again. Also, if you get a chance, please come by and visit my new blog at

    Thank you.

    Sunbonnet Cottage

  21. Pamela, I love Meryl Streep too. I once saw her in person at a classical music concert 2 decades ago. It was odd seeing her as herself because she's so good at becoming the character. She was beautiful - her skin glowing against a black dress. What a chameleon she is to shed that gorgeous skin.

    Mirren was totally convincing as Elizabeth II. Even my English husband was fooled. Little Miss Sunshine was a favorite movie of mine. It's fabulous seeing women in great parts other than the girlfriend. It's both art and entertainment at the top notch.

  22. Thanks for the stop by ... our doggie thinks the wabbets are play toys and off he goes whenever he sees one.

    Regarding relatives, other than two grown children I have none. Relative peace.

    Favorite films - if you read several of my recent blogs about "Mulholland" then I can only say: Chinatown!

  23. I'd be interested to know what you thought of The Dark Knight? My husband and I saw it the other day and came out of the theatre thinking we're just getting too old for these sorts of movies. Special effects and CGI just don't do it for us.
    I do prefer to be entertained rather than held to a depiction of the grim realities of this world. Mind you, for some reason, I am drawn to dark, psychological drama and still love a morality tale in a good western. I do enjoy war movies as well, so I can't explain why some movies are just too over the top for me. I loathed Pulp Fiction and I will not see No Country for Old Men. So I guess I'm on the fence in your family debate. I do love Harvey - it's just so good!


  24. You do have such a way with words! I enjoy reading your blog very much.

    Some of my favorite movies from last year were not what one owuld consider "blockbusters". They did however each receive Oscar awards: La Vie en Rose and Once both captured my heart. Like you,I also thought Daniel Day Lewis was brilliant. I agree with you there. Some of my all time favorites: Life is Beautiful, Chocolat (Johnny Depp), The English Patient, Out of Africa....I think you could call me a romantic!

  25. Well said, and I agree with your movie choices. I like to be entertained, but the movies that last with me are those that are enlightening - making me see things or think about things in a new way, or those that have ideas that resonate with some of my own unspoken thoughts. The Bell & The Butterfly was completely wonderful - not as depressing as I expected, but uplifting.



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