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Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

We watched the Spielberg adaptation of “The BFG” last night. I felt that it was really well done and true to what I remembered from reading the book many years ago. With that and the release of the Netflix adaptation of Daniel Handler’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, I got to thinking about how wonderful children’s literature can be. Indeed, the best children’s fiction can be enjoyed by adult readers. When J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books were first published, a woman I worked with, in her late thirties at the time, who was a non-reader, really got into reading them. Good writing gets people reading.

In regards to the film adaptation of “The BFG”, the best part was that both of my step-sons were engrossed in the story, despite the protagonist being a little girl! But this is Roald Dahl’s style: he wrote stories that appealed to both girls and boys alike. I have also always liked that the juvenile characters in Roald Dahl’s work are so strong: it gives strength the reader. In “The BFG” it really is Sophie that shows the BFG how to be strong. It was also wonderful to hear Dahl’s ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ made-up, vocabulary on the screen.

Another thing about Dahl’s work in general is that much of it is quite subversive in it’s own way. In “The Twits”, the birds, usually destined to end up in Mrs. Twit’s bird pie, band together and outwit Mr. and Mrs. Twit. In “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, Mr. Fox saves his family and home, from three evil farmers, though it broke my heart, as a child, that he lost his beautiful brush. “The Magic Finger” is about an 8-year-old girl who uses her magic finger against people that upset her and make her “see red”. She detests hunting and by pointing her magic finger at them, she turns her duck-hunting neighbours into ducks and makes them mend their ways. (Of note, this was the first book I read that was written in first person.) I also recently watched “Matilda” (I have never read the book) in which Matilda has to overcome horrible parents (played magnificently by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) and an evil headmistress. Certainly Dahl’s work teaches us that not all adults, even parents, grandparents and teachers, are nice and kind. It is nice to see this, as well as the broad appeal, in other popular children’s books such as J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and Daniel Handler’s “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Certainly, not everyone in real life is nice and will be kind to you. It was a shock, even as an adult, to see Matilda’s parents, not just willingly, but gleefully, giving up Matilda for adoption by Ms. Honey, however, we see this in a less simplistic sense when children are given up on in real life through choices that their parents make.

Some may say Dahl’s child characters are insubordinate and that isn’t something that should be incited in children – for example, in “George’s Marvellous Medicine” George basically poisons his grandmother (I will never forget Rik Mayall’s hilarious “Jackanory” narration of this story!), however my grandmother lived to see 93 and neither my brother or I, after reading this book, felt the need to whip up a ‘marvellous medicine’ to give to her! (It probably helped that our grandmother was nice, unlike George’s.)

I was fortunate to come from a book-loving home. I can’t say the school system helped foster my love of reading though with the assigned reading they implemented. I have never forgotten not being allowed to read “Super Gran” by Forrest Wilson (I was about 8 I think), until I had finished the Ladybird “Jane and Peter” series, books that, even at that young age, I found rigid in their gender roles (that is another blog post!). There was an abundance of great children’s literature out there in the late 70s and early 80s that encouraged kids to read. I loved Jill Murphy’s “Worst Witch” series as well as the “Arabel and Mortimer” books by Joan Aiken (illustrated by Quentin Blake, who also illustrated most of Roald Dahl’s books) and then there were older books such as the “Paddington Bear” books by Michael Bond and the pirate stories of Sheila K. McCullagh. There continues to be an abundance of great children’s fiction as writer’s who grew up on the likes of Dahl craft and publish their own stories. It is authors such as these that foster a love for reading from an early age. Authors such as Dahl also do this but perhaps take things a little bit further. I feel that reading Roald Dahl’s work at an early age, helped me to develop an inquiring mind, to begin to question social issues. (Which has been reflective in my choice of reading material ever since.) Books as a sort of rebellion – most fellow bookworms can remember getting into trouble for reading in math class or when they were supposed to be sleeping! But the biggest rebellion is the acquisition of knowledge because with knowledge is strength and power. It all starts with a great children’s book.

 

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“Yes Man”, starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel and directed by Peyton Reed, is a light-hearted romantic comedy that is a lot of fun to watch and a film that I really enjoyed.  Carl Allen (Carrey) is living a stagnant life.  He is in a mundane position at work (as a junior loan officer with a bank he spends all day declining loans and is passed over for a promotion) and is still moping over his divorce.  As a result he avoids having a social life and spends evenings watching DVDs.  One day he runs into an old co-worker, Nick (John Michael Higgins), who had left the bank to live life and has been on all sorts of adventures including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  Nick attributes this to his becoming a “Yes Man” and gives Carl a pamphlet and invites him to the next “Yes” motivational conference.

Carl begins to take stock of his life after he misses his best friend Peter’s (Bradley Cooper) engagement party and Peter warns him that he’d better do something about his life or he is going to end up very lonely.

Carl attends the “Yes” conference which is led by Terrance Bundley (Terrance Stamp) and as a result, however with heels dragging and a lot of “nos,” Carl makes a covenant with Terrance to say “yes” to everything.  As he leaves the conference he gets to put this into practice immediately as a homeless man asks him for a ride in his car and then for money.  As a result Carl ends up running out of gas and walks to the nearest gas station where he meets Allison (Deschanel).

Then we watch Carl as he continues to say “yes” to everything even stuff he doesn’t like and his life gets better.  He gets the girl and their romance blossoms, he gets a promotion, he does things that make others happy, and he tries lots of new things and he prevents a man from committing suicide.

Then things start to go sour when Carl and Allison take a spontaneous trip to Nebraska and get caught by the FBI who think they are terrorists and have been following Carl.  As a result, Allison breaks up with Carl after finding out from Peter that Carl has been saying “yes” to everything, but he hesitated when she asked him to move in together.

After being released and being back home, Carl receives a call to come over from his ex-wife Stephanie (Molly Sims) who has broken up with her boyfriend.  He refuses her advances and bad things start to happen to him, which he thinks is due to breaking the covenant and saying “no” to Stephanie.  Finally he confronts Terrance Bundley to remove the covenant and Terrance states that there never was supposed to be a covenant and that it was a way for him to stop Carl from being so negative and that a person is supposed to only say “yes” to the things that matter, not everything!  The movie of course ends with a kiss as Carl finds Allison at her photography and exercise class and makes up with her as he explains his true feelings.

There are many things that I found resonated with me during this movie.  First of all I loved the scene at the “Yes” conference as it reminded me on a humourous level of many of the motivational seminars I have attended.

I also think that the old Carl is very telling as to the way many of us live our lives, we say “no” too much and get set in our ways or held back because of fear.  The life-changing scene for Carl was after being confronted by Peter about missing the engagement party.  There is a dream sequence in which Peter and Rooney (Danny Masterson) enter Carl’s apartment and effectively find him dead on the couch.  There is a saying that “if you are not growing, you are dying” and this scene reflects this beautifully.  Old Carl was certainly dying!

Then there was the covenant – Carl really believed that he had broken it by saying “no” to Stephanie’s advances and that was why so much bad stuff was happening to him, which shows how strong the power of thought is.  Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right?  Bad things happen to everyone, but those that have the positive, “yes” attitude are the ones that can deal with problems the best – a problem is just an opportunity to be taken.   They say that bad things some in threes, but if you think that way of course they do.  (The same principle applies to good things coming in threes as well!  What would you rather have?)

Whilst I won’t be saying “yes” to everything, I will continue to keep an open mind to new things.  What about you?

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