Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"About Time" to Revel in Your Extraordinary, Ordinary Life

It's been way too long since I've blogged. It's funny... two of my blogs are about life, and the reason I haven't made any entries in a while is because LIFE has gotten in the way. But THIS blog is called "Filmspiration"... and today, a movie finally inspired me to get back to what I love - writing about how movies move me and hopefully you. "About Time" tells the story of a young man, who is informed by his father that he, just like his dad and other male members of the family tree, can travel back in time to re-do situations, decisions or conversations in life that just didn't go as well as they could have. I don't know about you, but I've lived my life never regretting anything. Sure, I've made mistakes like all of us, I've wanted to smack myself for handling situations poorly and I've sometimes asked myself "What the Hell were you thinking?" However, I've always said there's no sense in regretting actions, because it's already done and if you spend your life going over and over in your head how things could have been different, you're never going to get anywhere and you certainly won't be "living". It can't be changed. We CAN'T go back in time. But I truly believe that if you learn from your actions and don't make the same mistakes in the future, there was a point to it. It's all a part... of life. But what if you COULD go back in time? What if you WERE granted a do-over... or more than one? Would you have asked your dream girl to prom? Would you have apologized to a friend before you lost a year or more of your friendship? Would you have truly appreciated the simple things in life like a stunning sunset, a deep chat or a hug when you needed it the most? Would you have told someone you loved them without worrying about how they would respond? Would you take back something cruel you said to someone in the heat of the moment? Would you have told a co-worker to go f@#* themselves, even if you knew it could cost you your job? Would you have followed your dream, even if you didn't think the career would be lucrative? Would you be married to someone else right now? Is there something crucial you would have told a loved one, who has passed away? They say hindsight is 20/20, so today's YOUR day with X-ray vision. This is where you can share all the things you would have done differently, IF it's something you can safely share publicly. If it isn't, I'm granting you an invisible time machine to go back in time in your mind and think about it. Time machine or not, all I know for sure is that it's about time I live MY extraordinary, ORDINARY life... and that sounds pretty darn good to me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ted and the Toy Box

While many of us may have wished that our dolls or stuffed animals could come to life when we were children, we probably never imagined they would stay with us into adulthood. In "Ted", the title character transforms from a fuzzy and friendly Teddy Bear into a pint-size bad boy spewing foul language in his now deep voice. (And it's darn funny!) He and Mark Wahlberg are best friends forever, so it got me thinking about my favorite toys growing up. The first one I really remember was Baby Alive. I don't think I was hooked on it simply because it was the hottest doll at the time. It was my fave, because I could play jokes on my relatives! I remember one Christmas we were visiting Boston (where my family is from and incidentally, where "Ted" takes place) for Christmas. I might have been five years old. I went up to my Aunt Valerie and said "Baby Alive wants to sit on your lap." She said "Oh, that's so sweet." What she didn't realize is that I had just fed Baby Alive her bottle and this doll was so amazing that it actually peed!!! Yes, it peed on her lap! I thought it was hilarious. Sorry, Aunt Valerie!!! Apparently, I've always been a jokester. I, of course, was a HUGE Barbie fan. I mean, what little girl wasn't? I had the Barbie Corvette, Barbie Townhouse and the Barbie Airplane. I didn't think about it then, but dang! How did Barbie get so rich??? Anyway, when I was seven, we moved from Hermosa Beach, California to Malibu. We were moving from a house with an enclosed garage into an apartment, so we were getting rid of some stuff. I remember thinking "I'm seven years old. I'm too mature for Barbie now. So, I gave them all to my Aunt Nancy's friend's daughter. In hindsight, I wish I had kept them another couple years. It's ok though, because now, I have four little nieces I can play Barbies with! I had two beanbag dolls that I had gotten when I was really little - they had hard heads and beanbag bodies. One had an orange outfit, one had yellow. My plan was to keep them and hand them down to my future daughter or daughters; however, I'm sad to say that will never happen. I can laugh about this story now, but I was NOT happy at the time. When I was maybe eight or nine, my dad took my older brother out to Gorman to ride motorcycles. I wasn't around when this conversation happened, but my dad apparently asked my brother if he had anything for target practice. I guess they were shooting bebe guns. Now, in my brother's defense, I'm not sure that he knew I was planning on keeping those dolls and I had grown out of them, but still! My bro says "Yeah, let's take these dolls." When I found out, I was PISSED! THEY SHOT MY DOLLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! REALLY?????????????????? Don't worry. I'm all right. I'm over it now. If only I could have made his G.I. Joe dive off a skyscraper onto a freeway. KIDDING! When I was a little bit older, my Aunt Nancy gave me a Pot Belly Koala Bear - a big, soft, squishy bear. I LOVED it. I slept with it every night. When I was in junior high school, my aunt died from breast cancer and I continued sleeping with it, because it reminded me of her. I'm pretty sure I had it through college, but unfortunately, it fell apart. Oh, I had a really unique name for it too. I called it "Koala." All in all, I was more of a game person than a doll and stuffed animal person growing up. Clue, Life, Sorry!, Yahtzee and my all-time favorite... CANDYLAND! In college, I did my field study at an elementary school and always tried to sneak in a game of Candyland. Even the kids would be sick of it, but not me! I was a freak about video games too. Every year, my Aunt Mal (all my aunts are getting a mention in today's blog!) would ask me and my brother for a Christmas Wish List. She would get us each a bunch of separate gifts (she's VERY generous) and one gift that we could share. One year, we asked for the PacMan handheld game. We wanted it sooooooooooooo badly. The gifts always arrived early and would sit under the tree until the 25th. My mom was working at the time and we were old enough to stay home by ourselves. We opened the gift at the beginning of our winter break and played it all day every day when Mom was at work, then we'd wrap it back up again before she got home. By the time we opened it on Christmas Day, we were tired of playing it! My Mom was puzzled, because she thought we'd be super excited to get it. I don't think we ever told her or our aunt what we did. I guess they'll know now! And by the way, I still play Ms. PacMan when I go to the car wash and I always get the high score. Now, here's when I have to defend that statement. Some of my friends give me a hard time saying that they disconnect the machine every night and clear the high score... BUT I REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT. In my mind, I am the Ms. PacMan Master. Unlike Mark Wahlberg in "Ted" though, I wouldn't want Ms. PacMan to move in with me, because she'd eat me out of house and home! OK, now it's YOUR turn to share. What toys do YOU remember most???

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

People Like Us: The Importance of Unimportance

I recently saw "People Like Us" and though I'm not convinced the characters are like ME, I am a fan of the six rules of life that Chris Pine teaches to Elizabeth Banks' young movie son. I'll give you the six, so you can take a look, but my personal favorite is number three. 1. If you like something, because you think other people are going to like it, it’s a sure bet that no one will. 2. Most doors in the world are closed, so if you find one that you want to get into, you damn well better have an interesting knock. 3. Everything that you think is important isn’t. Everything that you think is unimportant is. 4. Don’t shit where you eat. 5. Lean into it. The outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were there for it, whatever ‘it’ is - good or bad. 6. Don’t sleep with people, who have more problems than you do. I relate to number three, because I feel like so many people in this world spend oodles of time stressing and worrying about things that, in the grand scheme of things, are NOT important. They stay up nights freaking out about things that are out of their control, and what may be worse is that they waste other people's time talking about it and talking about it and talking about it. Shut up already! I'm sure we've all had someone special in our lives suffer from or die of cancer or another terrible disease. We know people, whose children were born with a serous medical issue. Making the most of every single day while we can and making our relationships the best they can be? That's important. Focusing on the fact that a seemingly great guy, who asked for your number in a bar hasn't called you? NOT important. Making sure that your family has enough food to eat? Important. Getting that promotion that would have allowed you to buy that snazzy new Mercedes you've been eyeing? Not important. We all wish our lives could be better in one way or another. Trust me - I'm right there with you. But I think we all need to take a step back, remove ourselves from our own little world for a bit, and REALLY think about what's important in our lives. At the end of your life, what will matter the most???

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paul Williams: Still Alive... and Thriving

If you grew up in the 70s, there's no way you don't remember Paul Williams. Sure, the name alone may not immediately bring up the face these days, but if someone says "You know, Paul Williams! Short, pudgy, funny, brilliant songwriter, who wore big sunglasses, had scraggly, long blonde hair and appeared on just about every tv show, talk show, variety show and game show in the seventies?!?" They go "Oh yeah! Of course! Paul Williams!!!" He was everywhere back then, even cracking up the legendary Johnny Carson on a regular basis. And that's got to be pretty hard to do. When he wasn't entertaining us in front of the camera, he was busy writing some of the most heartfelt songs of the last few decades. "The Rainbow Connection" most famously sung by that adorable and charming frog named Kermit is one of my all-time favorites and that's not ONLY because I like to sing it in my best Kermie voice. But what about classics like "You and Me Against the World" by Helen Reddy, "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand and "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters? This guy had it all... and then it all came crashing down. I bet you can guess what's to blame. You got it. Drugs and alcohol. The good news is Paul Williams IS alive and seems to be doing extremely well. He's been sober for 20 years, he's touring... and you can see his rise and fall and rise again in the new documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive". I saw it with my mom today and not only was it a fantastic trip down Memory Lane for us both, it was a well-told, honest and entertaining story about a man, who defied the odds, found his voice and ran with it. The movie may be hard to find right now, but I'm guessing it'll spread to some more theaters very soon, so keep watching for it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Celebrating the Imperfections in a Perfect Family

I had the pleasure of seeing "The Perfect Family" at the Newport Beach Film Festival the other night. Kathleen Turner stars and executive produces. Sure, she's not the sexy young minx she was in "Body Heat" or "Romancing the Stone," but come on guys... she's 57 years old. She has reinvented herself, much like former sex symbol Alec Baldwin has done in his older years... and I'm so glad. We didn't see a lot of her in starring feature film roles for a while, but it was so fantastic watching her leading the cast again on the big screen. Her comedy chops are in full force reminiscent of her highly acclaimed performance in "Serial Mom." Emily Deschanel from tv's "Bones" plays her daughter, Jason Ritter from tv's "Parenthood" plays her son and we also get solid performances from Elizabeth Pena, Sharon Lawrence (though too young to play a former high school classmate of Turner), Michael McGrady and Richard Chamberlain. But remember, this blog is NOT about movie reviews. It's about what we take away from movies. So... let's talk about "perfect" families. Those of us from divorced or poor families tend to look at other families and think they have it all. Oh, they're so lucky. But if you ever peel away the layers, I think you'll find that many of those "perfect" families are the most IMperfect of all. I've fallen into the trap myself, where I've looked at people, who live in the gorgeous homes with the beautifully manicured lawns and white picket fences with the fantastic children and the most fabulous dog, and thought "Man, they have it all." But often behind closed doors, the PTA mom is cheating on her husband with her trainer, the man of the house is embezzling from his company and the high school valedictorian is popping pills. The things that happen on "Desperate Housewives" may not be so far from reality after all. So, instead of dreaming we had a "perfect" family for ourselves, we should probably just celebrate the family we do have, appreciate them and make the best of sometimes challenging situations. Let's put the FUN in dysfunction!!!

Getting Your Swerve On

The Newport Beach Film Festival comes to a close today and though some would say I'm a film connoisseur, not to mention I lived in Newport Beach throughout college, I must admit that this is the first time I ever attended. I'm so glad I did, though I wish I had time to see more films and take part in all it has to offer. I'm looking at it as an appetizer for years to come. The first movie I saw there is called "Swerve" and comes to us from Australia. That means no subtitles for those of you, who turn away from foreign films!!! The movie reminds me a bit of "No Country for Old Men" or "A Simple Plan" starring Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton. It's the story of money and honesty. If you found a large sum of money, would you keep it or turn it in? If you decided to turn it in, would it be because it's the right thing to do or because you were afraid of the circumstances that could follow? Karma really can be a bitch! On the flip side, if you decided to keep it, how far would you go to get away with it? Starting over in a different country? Breaking other laws to keep your secret? Committing murder? Depending on your answer, chances are you won't admit the truth here on a blog. But this may be a good time to think about it. How important is money to you and what lengths will you go to to get your grubby little hands on it? As for the actors, David Lyons, Emma Booth and Jason Clarke do a fine job. Lyons should soon become a movie star here in America. Yes, he is a real dream boat (did I really just say dream boat?), but he certainly has the acting chops to back up his physical attributes. Booth is sort of a Nicole Kidman or Jessica Chastain type, though sexier, and Clarke plays a solid heavy. All three could easily make a successful transition to film and television here in the U.S., so watch for these Aussies getting their "Swerve" on... on a big or small screen near you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bully... King of the Playground

"If I were king of the United States, I’d do away with popularity... because then everyone would be equal." That's one of the lines that stands out most in the highly-publicized "Bully" in theaters now. I blogged about it before it came out and now that I've seen it, I feel compelled to say more. First off, I can't remember a movie that has left me with tears in my eyes throughout nearly the entire length of the film. Sure, "Sophie's Choice" made me cry my eyes out and "Schindler's List" left me speechless for most of the afternoon, but "Bully" really hit me. Parents should not have to find their teenager hanging in the closet, eleven year olds should not have to see their best friend buried, school should not be a place students are afraid of, so WHAT IS HAPPENING? I can't say that I'm shocked to see the behavior of the kids in the movie, because I, of course, went to school and I remember the name calling, fights and ridicule. It's worse now with the internet, texting and cell phone video, but it's been going on forever. What DID shock me was the behavior of some of the administrators, teachers and bus drivers. Yes, kids will be kids, but bullying should not be tolerated. I know that there are schools that take bullying very seriously, I know that there are teachers, who don't turn a blind eye, I know that administrators have rules they need to follow, but come on! We adults should know better. We're supposed to be the role models. Let's figure this out. Just say NO! This is not right. It broke my heart to see these children going through the daily ritual of being picked on and beat up, because they're too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short, too smart, too dumb, too masculine, too feminine, too different. Guess what, bullies... YOU'RE NOT PERFECT EITHER! At one point, Alex from Sioux City, Iowa is asked by his mom if it feels good to be pushed and hit and stabbed with pencils and he responds with "I'm starting to think I don't feel anything anymore". The little boy is bullied so often that he's becoming desensitized to it. Let's not become desensitized to bullying as a society, because these kids deserve a chance to grow, smile, laugh, thrive and make it past their 18th birthday. It's time to take a stand. Each and every one of us. How will YOU help make a difference?