Tag: movies


When it gets crisp in the fall…

Leaves trade their greens for gold, orange, and red. The chill in the air lures sweaters from closets and cabinets. The moon steals a few minutes of daylight from the sun each day. It’s autumn, my favorite season.I love autumn for its colors, flavors (there’s more to the season than pumpkin spice, y’all), fashion, weather—and spookiness. October marks the beginning of the spooky season, which lasts through January. Winter is spooky. (Telling ghost stories at Christmas is a tradition I want to see resurrected.) Ghoulies and goblins and ghosties, oh my! They feel out of place in the spring and summer. The autumnal equinox marks their return home. My viewing and reading habits shift in the fall. During the bright, sunny, warm times of the year, I seek out light, fun, breezy entertainment. My habits adopt a darker bent come fall. Bring on the horror movies, the ghost stories, the tales of the malevolent and macabre. What about you? Does your taste in books, movies, and TV change with the weather? What entertains you during these dark, chilly days?Comment here or hop over to the Facebook page to join the discussion

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What are you watching?

Holidays are over, winter us upon us, along with Hollywood awards season. What are you watching? To me, part of enjoying a movie is seeing it with the right person (and that may mean alone). Recently I saw The Greatest Showman with my parents, knowing they would enjoy the musical aspect. My husband is not on the musical movies guest list – ever since during the opening scene of Les Miserables he whispered, Are they going to keep singing? Graciously, I let him leave.  Last week I saw All the Money in the World, which was supposed to be a short writing break one afternoon. Instead, I spent too much time online, obsessively looking up details about the Getty family, trying to separate movie fact from fiction. What I learned – they’ve learned how to live privately. Good for them! (Favorite part of that movie – seeing Christopher Plummer. And the part where Getty shows his model for the Getty Villa in Malibu. This is an amazing place, even more so after the renovation.) I have plans to see The Post (which has strangely been absent from my local theater) and Molly’s Game (I love Jessica Chastain). Twice (TWICE!) my husband and I went to the theater to see The Darkest Hour. The first time it was the day before it came out (small online calendars can be tricky); second time, the theater was so full there were only two seats left, right under the screen. We declined. Still haven’t seen it. What movies have you seen? New favorites, old ones? PAULA: When I need a break from the book world, I watch movies and visit museums. With all the family complications this new year has brought, both good and bad, I won’t be visiting any museums any time soon, so I’m counting on Netflix to get me through. Starting with the second season of The Crown.  TRACEE: We have to add television to the list. So many good shows, there’s no reason to leave the house in the dark of winter. ALISON: The Crown was so wonderful. I think I went through a period of mourning when I finished it. ROBIN:  I went through that feeling of loss after binge-watching Mind Hunter. I’ve heard enough good things about The Crown that it’s in my queue now. CATE: I don’t have any movie plans, unfortunately. Though I watched Hidden Figures on a plane recently and cried tears of joy and frustration for the duration, annoying the person flying next to me (who was, fortunately, my husband and so didn’t request a seat change).   ROBIN:  Friends of mine throw a great Oscar party so I’ve been seeing movies I suspect will be nominated. I LOVED Get Out. If you haven’t seen it, drop everything and do it now. Jordan Peele is a genius. By the time this blog is posted I’ll have seen The Post. I just saw Darkest Hour and Gary Oldman is phenomenal. Aside from the Oscar buzz, I’ve worked with a couple of Getty wives in the past and was really curious about the fast-switch between Kevin Spacey and Christopher Plummer so I saw All The Money In The World the weekend it opened. There’s only one scene where you can tell it was shot after the fact and I’m not going to ruin it for anyone by telling you which scene. Molly’s Game is on my to-be-seen list – I love Jessica Chastain, too. ALEXIA: I can’t remember the last movie I saw in a theater. I know I saw Star Wars:The Force Awakens,  Fences, and Hidden Figures but I don’t think I’ve been since then. A combination of expense, inconvenience, movies leaving before I realize they were even out (didn’t movies used to stay in theaters longer before Netflix and RedBox?), and not making time to take care of myself. I prefer to see movies alone. I don’t enjoy a movie unless I can lose myself in the story and I find other people distracting. (Why do people always seem to want to chat during the show?) One of my 2018 goals is to make me a priority. That includes making time for first run films on the big screen. I have a movie wish list: Black Panther, Star Wars, Lady Bird, Murder on the Orient Express, The Greatest Showman, Molly’s Game, All the Money in the World, The Shape of Water, The Post, Roman J. Israel, Esq.  TRACEE: We would make good movie partners. I have no desire to talk and have a “two people watching alone” attitude toward movies in a theater. There’s plenty of time to discuss afterward. Anything on television you’re watching? ALEXIA: My Netflix queue is so long, there’s no way I’ll make it to the end before I did if I live to be 112. I also have an AcornTV queue and an MHz Choice queue. (And a Google Play library and a VuDu wishlist and a Sling TV favorites list…) I just watched Bright and loved it. I want to start the new season of Black Mirror but I know I can’t watch just one episode so I’m waiting until I have a block of binge watching time. Same for Stranger Things. I watched the first few episodes of season 1 of The Crown and liked it more than I thought I would so I’ll get back to watching the rest of it, eventually. I’ve got to catch up with the new season of The Brokenwood Mysteries on AcornTV. I’m always on the lookout for a good true crime documentary and I’m waiting impatiently for the next Hinterland series. I also discovered podcasts and have become a Small Town Murders junkie and am at risk of becoming the same with Two Girls and a Ghost. But since I only need my ears for podcasts, instead of my ears and eyes, I can multitask while I listen. Podcasts remind me of old time radio shows. ROBIN:  I have another movie to mention.  Lady Bird is fantastic. Greta Gerwig nailed the suburban teenager experience along with the mother-daughter thing. That’s another one to rush out to see. Best Original Screenplay is going to be an interesting race to watch in the Academy Awards. If Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig aren’t nominated, there’s something wrong with the world. SUSAN: I just watched Battle of the Sexes (on a plane) and liked it more than I expected. Billie Jean King is very inspiring, and I lately I find myself seeking out inspiring people. I have to put in a plug here for my son, Tom, who hosts a podcast about movies and New Haven, and there are more connections to movies and New Haven than you would think. I listen to it every week and always learn something new. deepfocusradio.com. ALISON: I’m terrible when it comes to movies. I’m a serious Star Wars fan, so I do see that on release day (or the night before), but most other movies I wait for until they come out in some format I can watch at home. Most recently, I’ve been loving Planet Earth 2. Not sure if that counts. I can watch The Princess Bride over and over. The same goes for almost all of the James Bond movies. Now, when it comes to popcorn… MICHELE:  I’m traveling so I am not watching movies at all. I’m having trouble streaming news here, so I haven’t considered doing movies. I really wanted to see The Post but it didn’t come out until after I left. I am reading and writing up a storm while in Mexico. I actually packed ten hardcovers from my towering TBR pile. It feels more homey with books around me.  Before my life became so mobile (I am not complaining about that one bit!), my husband and I liked to go to the Dedham Community theater where they show the movies not everyone is talking about. They have great popcorn topped with honest-to-goodness real butter. You can even buy beer and wine. I do miss that.  TRACEE: Michele, I like the idea of nothing to distract from reading. What a joy! And I’m going to have to tune into Susan’s son’s blog. What about everyone else? Stop by the MissDemeanors on Facebook and share your current watch list. 

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Oh Christmas Tree?

 A photo of FLOTUS’s White House Christmas decorations—a phalanx of up-lit, bare-branched white trees lining a black-tiled corridor illuminated only by a few pendant lamps and the lights on an equally dark Christmas tree at the corridor’s far end—generated lots of reaction on social media. Responses pretty much evenly split between “love it” and “hate it” (although I know of one person who said, “at least it’s different”). Many assumed that politics informed the reactions because, hey, everything is about politics these days. Right? Wrong, in my case. I voted “hate it” not because of political affiliation but because of—scary trees. I don’t think hip or trendy when I look at the photo of stark branches emitting an icy vibe. I think, “When are the flying monkeys going to attack?” “Where’s the Snow Queen hiding?” Jack Frost? The Abominable Snowman? Snow White’s wicked stepmother? The cast of an M. Night Shyamalan movie? Notice a theme? Forests, the woods, places filled with scary trees are places where evil lurks and bad things happen. They are not locations of holiday merriment. “Little Red Riding Hood”. The Princess Bride. “Hansel and Gretel”. The Blair Witch Project. The Cabin in the Woods. Deliverance. Do any of those stories stir the holiday spirit? Every time I pass a woods, I think of the news reports and true crime shows and episodes of “Law and Order” where a body was found in the woods by a hiker, hunter, dog walker, or Boy Scout. Don’t go in the woods. Add chilling darkness to the scary trees—as in the White House photo—and I cringe. When people talk about winter wonderlands I think “wonder” in the sense of “I wonder what I’m doing out here and I wonder where the nearest fireplace is”. I don’t do cold and dark. I can handle them each individually—cold or dark. Combined? No thanks. I moved from Alaska clear down to Texas to get away from a cold darkness that seemed to last forever. The dark is the worst. When it’s just cold, I can bundle up in stylish sweaters and fashionable coats, throw on a rakish scarf for some flair, and head outside to enjoy the bright winter sun. I’m a creature of light. I keep a light on the porch and a sting of fairy lights in my bedroom illuminated all night, to heck with the electric bill.  I’d make the world’s worst vampire. While some people bemoan it as a sign of light pollution, I think the sight of cities lit up as you fly over them on the red-eye is beautiful. Neon signs flashing over city streets are magnificent. I never fail to stop and marvel. My town illuminated all of its (not scary) trees around the train station and Market Square with thousands of miniature lights for the holidays. I love it. A forest of light is a forest where nothing lurks. I’m sure a folklorist or psychologist would explain how the forest represents our primal fear of the unknown and the danger that awaits those who dare venture away from the safety and security of the tribe/family/familiar. I’m not going to tell you any of that. I’m going to say there’s a reason, a reason that has nothing to do with holiday cheer, so many authors and filmmakers set their horror stories and cautionary tales in the woods—the colder and darker, the better. What’s the scariest place you can think of to set a story? What do you think of when you see woods in the winter?

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Left of Center

We recently completed mini-“personality type” assessments at work, sort of Myers Briggs Light. The assessment grouped us into four broad categories that corresponded to the Meyers Briggs acronyms. One group consisted of innovative rule breakers, another of detail-oriented rule followers, another of analytical loners, and a final group of gregarious harmonizers. (I fell nowhere near that last group, by the way.) While the survey painted a surprisingly accurate picture of our work and interpersonal styles, it didn’t delve into the descriptions we think of in our day-to-day, away from the workplace, sense of the term “personality;” descriptions like cheerful, moody, somber, and—my favorite—quirky. While writing about dysfunctional protagonists for yesterday’s post, I thought about my favorite characters, the ones I love, who jump out at me from the page or screen, who stick with me long after I leave the theater, turn off the TV (or exit the streaming app), or close the book covers. I realized they’re all quirky. Some are more unusual than others but they all peg out somewhere on the positive end of the quirk scale. Bobby Goren, Mike Shepherd, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe—they all exhibit unusual traits, odd characteristics, or strange habits that endear them to me. The quirks themselves are part of the appeal. They serve as mnemonics. He’s the one with the clockwork schedule, he’s the one with the outrageous mustache, he’s the one with the knack for ferreting out obscure patterns, he’s the one who talks to corpses. But, mostly, I’m drawn to unusual people, real and fictional. Remarkable people. People rooted left of center with peculiarities born of riveting backstories.
 I have noticed that, unlike in life, my favorite fictional quirky characters are all male. No quirky female characters come to mind as I write this. This is not a good thing. Female characters are allowed to be kind, supportive, devious, competent, or manic pixies but not quirky. Or are they? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe quirky women hide in the pages of books I haven’t read yet or in scenes of movies not yet seen. I hope so. How would you describe the personalities of your favorite characters? 

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B.O.A.T.S. (Based on a True Story)

 I heard information today at work that made me say to myself, “That would make a great movie.” (No details here–it’s an active project.) It got me thinking about other true stories that would make gripping fiction. The art world provides a plethora of material suitable for a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. Art isn’t nearly as sedate as those 6th grade field trips to dim, musty museums led you to believe. A search of Artsy turned up an article about an agoraphobic photographer who uses Google Street View to take screenshots of the people and landscapes she encounters in her virtual world travels. What if she grabbed a screenshot of a crime committed thousands of miles away? What would this homebound woman do? A deeper dip into Artsy’s archives turns up several articles on the hunt for, recovery of, and restoration of Nazi-looted art. What’s been described as the world’s greatest art theft has already inspired novels, movies, and TV shows: Portrait of a Woman in White, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, The Woman in Gold, and episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Father Brown, and Agatha Christie’s Marple, to name a few. Newspapers and magazines often feature stranger-than-fiction stories. The Telegraph and Business Insider report on professional mourners hired to grieve at funerals. (Rent A Mourner is a legit UK-based business offering “discreet and professional mourners”.) Turns out, this isn’t a new thing. Mourners for hire date back to ancient Greece and are traditional in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They’re called moirologists and in 1910, in Paris, threatened to go on strike, complaining of not being paid living wages. Imagine an experienced moirologist noticing something odd about the deceased she’s been hired to mourn. An unusual Mark on the body? A bruise not hidden by the undertaker’s makeup? A face she recognized? I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the Internet and good, old-fashioned eavesdropping as sources for strange-but-true material. Last week I listened, fascinated, as the man at the table next to me recounted how his brother witnessed a massacre during a coup and developed PTSD so severe he suffered violent outbursts that eventually led to a life-or-death fight with the storyteller. Literally life-or-death. Think broken bones, manual strangulation, and bystander intervention. Drama fit for a Man Booker prize. Google “can’t make this stuff up” and get 18 million hits: links to newspaper articles, listicles, blogs, and Facebook pages. Here’s a recent one from FB: a woman breaks into a celebrity’s house (Drake, if you must know) and steals Pepsi, Sprite, Fiji water, and a hoodie. What if an obsessed fan broke into a celebrity’s house and found Nazi-looted art or witnessed his idol committing a crime? What life-imitates-art stories would you like to see fictionalized?

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Movies or books? What's your fancy?

Hollywood award’s season came to a close this week and I realized how many of this year’s nominated films I had missed in the theaters. Many of them looked so good I need to find a way to rent or stream over the next months (Lion and Moonlight in particular, although I noticed that the winning documentary – The White Helmets – is on Netflix so I may start with that). I love movies, but I’m not an aficionada. I simply enjoy them. Movies let us enter an unfamiliar world, inhabit the space of another person or culture. Arguable books do the same – as writers we create a world expressed through words on a page that readers can inhabit and interpret. The reader sees and tastes and feels and hears. I asked my fellow MissDemeanors if they turn to movies for things not found in a book or vice versa…..and what about move adaptations? Cate Holahan – The movies in my head that play when reading are often better than the adaptations I see, later, on screen. There are exceptions. Harry Potter was pretty great in both forms, IMHO, probably because the filmmakers took such pains to keep everything true to the book. I tend to enjoy action stories more when watching them on the screen and mysteries more on paper. That said, I think adding Amy Adams to anything makes it better. She’s like the seasoned salt of Hollywood. One of my favorite films is Fight Club which I actually think is a better movie than a book. (I know, sacrilege for a writer to say). It’s not just because Brad Pitt spends half of the flick with his shirt off either. I think Ed Norton played the protagonist in an amazingly believable manner, an incredible feat since the main character is an unreliable narrator. I also think that the script had a fluidity that the actual book, which is broken up into vignettes, didn’t. I appreciated that continuity of story that the movie brought. I LOVE Chuck Palahniuk though. He’s brilliant and his dialogue is carved with an X-Acto blade. I try to read everything he writes.  Alexia Gordon – Why choose either/or? Be greedy and choose books and movies. I don’t have a strong preference for one form over the other except action/adventure. I prefer action movies to action novels, with one caveat–the movie action sequences must have awe-inspiring choreography. I like movie adaptations of books. (TV adaptations, too. I adore David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.) Sometimes the movie really is better (Field of Dreams vs Shoeless Joe being a prime example). Seeing the movie before reading the book doesn’t ruin the book for me. I don’t much care for book adaptations of movies. Screen-to-page adaptations don’t seem to have the same depth as page-to-screen. My favorite movie is Casablanca. Laura and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir are in the top ten. So are Hidden Figures and Rogue One. Laura, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Hidden Figures are all based on books and Casablanca is based on a stage play. And Ring Lardner, Jr. co-wrote the screenplay for Laura. Paula Munier – This is a dangerous question because there’s nothing I’d rather do than read books and watch movies. I love books and movies and TV and theater. Which is just another way of saying I love good stories. (But if I had to choose only one, I’d always default to books.)Many of my favorite films are based on my favorite books: Enchanted April, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Maltese Falcon, The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Princess Bride, to name just a few. Just as many are based on screenplays or stage plays rather than books: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Annie Hall, Gosford Park, Amadeus, Moulin Rouge, Singing in the Rain, anything by Shakespeare, again, just to name a few. And of course as a mystery fan I have enjoyed virtually every mystery series on television–from British cozies and Scandinavian police procedurals to New York cops and Los Angeles private detectives.But when it comes to the screen, what I love best are movies about writers: Midnight in Paris, Cross Creek, Barton Fink, Stranger than Fiction, Adaptation, Henry and June, Shadowlands, Becoming Jane, Impromptu, My Brilliant Career, Il Postino, Field of Dreams, Finding Forrester, Out of Africa, and more. These are the stories that inspire me to become a better writer…and they are the best of all! Susan Breen – The other day my daughter harangued me into going to see La La Land because she said she knew I’d love it, which I did. From the moment the story began, I was hypnotized, but part of what I loved so much about it was sitting next to her and sharing the experience. There’s something communal about movies that you don’t always get in books, though perhaps that’s why book clubs are so much fun. On the other hand, I genuinely feel as though some of my best friends are characters from books, and I don’t think you get to know actors in the same way. But the bottom line is, I’ll read or watch just about anything. I love stories. Robin Stuart – I have a go-to movie for reminders not to play games with readers. I practically studied The Departed. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it. The audience is clued into all but one twist within the first 15 minutes yet it’s still fraught with tension. I re-watch Silence of the Lambs periodically to see how Jonathan Demme (a genius) and Ted Tally (the screenwriter) encapsulated so much backstory into compelling scenes without data dumping and just a dash of misdirection. It’s remarkably true to the book, which is one of my favorites, but I like the movie more. I also gravitate to Jake Gyllenhaal’s films because he makes interesting choices that are almost exclusively character studies so I’ll usually see them several times to catch the layered nuances. The same with Ashley Judd’s films with Morgan Freeman, based on books by Joe Finder and James Patterson. High Crimes and Kiss The Girls are two favorites that are great stories where we see the evolution of believable characters. And I second Cate’s feelings about Fight Club. The book is great but the movie stands on its own. Unreliable narrators are tough to pull off in visual form and this movie accomplishes it beautifully. Michele Dorsey – I have lots of confessions here. I have to confess that movie going and television watching were casualties in my legal career, especially since I taught evening courses for thirty years. I’m looking forward to catching up on movies and television series. Of course, I haven’t missed everything and have found reading a book before seeing a movie works best for me. I’m often disappointed by the movie version, but like Paula, I am a book lover first. One of the exceptions was Mystic River, which I thought was very well adapted. And here’s another confession. I love romantic comedies, starting with the Jane Austen movies but anything directed by Nancy Meyers will do. I adored a rocom about a mystery writer called American Dreamer. Finally, my last confession. I love Cinderella movies, especially the ones where Cinderella is feisty. Ever After is my favorite. Whew, that was a lot of confessing.  What about the rest of you? Any favorite movie adaptations? Any love lost between movies and books?    

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