Holiday Time is Movie Time

Posted by: Kari Bovee on Dec 23 2012, 2:00 am in , , , ,

It’s Christmas and Holiday time yet once again! It’s time for parties, goodies, friends and much merrymaking. It’s also the time of year when the newest movies hit the silver screen. 

I haven’t had too much time to visit the theater, but I did get to see Anna Karenina and Lincoln. While Anna Karenina had me tilting my head in wonderment at the theatrical interpretation of Tolstoy’s novel, Lincoln had me laughing, crying, mad and happy, all at the same time. Exactly what a good movie is supposed to do.  In my opinion, what makes a movie spectacular is not only the cinematography, editing and acting, but mostly THE WRITING. A good movie inspires me to learn more about my craft and become a better writer. I am going to share with you five of the movies that have made me want to write the next best-selling novel (with movie rights!)

#5 The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) starring Leonardo di Caprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne and Gerard Depardieu.

Aside from the awesomeness of the cast, this version is huge due to its being a conglomeration of Alexandre Dumas’ D’Artangnan Romances and The Vicomte de Bragelonne, the 1929 film version starring Douglas Fairbanks, and the 1939 film version directed by James Whale.

Although the movie diverges a bit from historical accuracy, it is still a riveting story about the militaristic and cruel King Louis XIV and his sweet-tempered twin brother Phillip.  When they are born, the twins’ father sends Phillip away to save France from dynastic warfare. For 21 years, he has been hidden from the world and must wear an iron mask to protect his identity. When Louis comes to power, retired and aging muskateers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan devise a plan to replace the despotic Louis with the more benevolent Phillip. Porthos  is entirely fed up with aging and is constantly thinking of ways to end his sorry life, but never acts upon it.  Aramis has become a devout Jesuit who masterminds the switch of the Princes. Athos a devoted father, whose son Raoul, a besotted soldier, has become caught up in a love triangle with the beautiful Christine and none other than Louis himself, must avenge the murder of said son by Louis. And D’Artangnan, ever steady and loyal to his beloved friends, lover, and King, is in great conflict with the overthrow plot and the ensuing threat to his friends.

This mish-mash of literary and film versions does not offer any great or awe-inspiring social commentary or profound message, but it doesn’t lack in action, love, valor and great story telling. 

#4 The Man Who Would Be King (1975) directed by John Huston, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer.

Again, another fabulous cast. This movie was based upon a novella written by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. The story is about Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, rouge non-commission British officers of the Indian Army who decide to resign from the army and set off for Kafiristan (somewhere in Afghanistan) – a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander the Great. They are certain that if they can only get there, their dreams of Kingship, wealth, women and an easy life will be obtained.

They fight blizzards, avalanches and numerous bandits along the way. In one of their battles, Danny is struck by an arrow and is miraculously unharmed. The arrow sticks into a bandolier hidden beneath his jacket. The people of Kafiristan decide that Danny must be a god. He and Peachy go along with the ruse in hopes of fulfilling their dreams. But, as the old adage goes, “beware what you wish for.” The rest of the story depicts the pitfalls of power, greed and Illusions of Grandeur.

When I was in college I attempted to write an adaption of this story for the stage, but as you can imagine, it was a bit more than I could handle!

#3  It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.

What Christmas season would not be complete without an annual viewing of this American masterpiece? It was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. It was based on a story called “The Greatest Gift” written by Phillip Van Doren Stern in 1939 and privately published by the author in 1945. I wonder why? Could he not sell it? If so, those publishing houses made a big mistake! Self-pubbed authors, there’s hope yet for the big block-buster!

 If you haven’t seen it, which I cannot imagine that anyone has NOT seen this film, but there might be some,- it’s about George Bailey, a man in a small town who has constantly given up his dreams for the sake of others. When he learns that all of his efforts have culminated in bankruptcy, George is ready to end it all. His dramatic suicide attempt of jumping from an ice covered bridge into frigid waters is thwarted by an angel named Clarence who has come from Heaven in the hopes of obtaining his wings. Clarence shows George what life in the community would be like without him and his sacrifices. Of course that life is bleak and heart -breaking, and George is finally convinced that the world is a better place with him in it.

Clarence is successful in saving George, thus obtaining his wings, and George returns to his life with renewed happiness and appreciation. This is a story about focusing on what you have, not what you want. A good lesson for everyone.

Clarence:  Strange isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings!”

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) starring (dreamy) Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall and Mary Badham (as Scout)

This American favorite was made from Harper Lee’s novel, published in 1960. The novel was an instant success and won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2003 the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. Who could argue? Wouldn’t you want Atticus Finch as your  lawyer, neighbor, husband or dad? Peck’s stoic portrayal of the controversial home-town hero is moving beyond words.

The story was based upon Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors during an event that happened in her small town when she was ten years old. It is a gothic story with the primary themes involving racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. It also addresses issues of class warfare, courage and gender roles of the deep South. From the view point of Scout, Atticus’s six year old daughter, the story unfolds about a black man who is accused of raping a white woman.  Atticus, a lawyer and man of honor, integrity, and strong convictions, agrees to defend him which causes mayhem in the small, fictional Alabama town.

Scout and her brother Jem also learn a life’s lesson in their dealings with the reclusive Boo Radley, a neighbor, who terrifies them and fascinates them at the same time. He is never seen outside but often leaves small tokens and gifts for the children in a nearby tree. Fueled by their imaginations, Boo, in their minds, is someone horrible and evil, but they soon learn that he is immensely brave and kind. This subplot of misconception, misunderstanding and prejudice dovetails beautifully with the main plot.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch

#1 Dead Poet’s Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir, starring Robin Williams.

The screen play was written by Tom Schulman based on his life at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Dead Poet’s won the Best Screenplay Academy Award in 1989. I had the great pleasure of once meeting Mr. Schulman at a Santa Barbara Screen Writers meeting. I don’t think he remembers the occasion quite as well as I do!

The movie is about English teacher John Keating who returns to his alma mater, the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont, 1959.  It is Keating’s ambition to inspire his students through is teaching of poetry in unconventional ways. His methods include, having his students call him “O Captain my Captain,” referencing the poetry of Walt Whitman. He also regularly takes them out of the classroom and meanders throughout the school instilling in them the idea of Carpe Diem, or living life to the fullest. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” He shocks and astonishes his students when he has them rip out the introduction of one of their books he thinks ridiculous, and has them stand on their desks to “see the world in a different way.”

This movie is an English Major’s dream. It’s full of references to the beloved classics we all studied and lost sleep over in preparation for numerous essays and discussions. It’s also aesthetically pleasing with a particularly surreal scene shot in slow motion of the boys escaping at night through the dense forest to start their own version of Keating’s former literary club, The Dead Poet’s Society.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” John Keating

 

And with that wonderful sentiment, I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and many visits to the magical world of movie-land!

               

6 Comments

6 responses to “Holiday Time is Movie Time”

  1. You know, I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life. Every season I think I should this year, but I’ve heard SO much about it that I think I’d be disappointed.

    The Man Who Would Be King rocked my world. Amazing movie.

  2. Tamra Baumann says:

    Kari this was great! I’d forgotten about some of these classics and may have to call on my Netflix account to watch some of these again. To Kill A Mocking Bird and It’s a Wonderful Life are two of my all time favorites as well! Merry Christmas!!

  3. Louise Bergin says:

    I have never watched The Man in the Iron Mask, but in Dumas’s stories, Raoul’s love is named Louise, not Christine. I always pay close attention to characters named Louise.

  4. Great list. I will have to add “The Man in the Iron Mask” to my Netflix queue. Jeffe, how could you not have seen “It’s A Wonderful Life” yet, it’s a fantastic movie! 🙂 I LOVE Dead Poet’s Society, the line “O Captain my Captain” always makes my heart swell.

    • Jeffe Kennedy says:

      I just never have! And now, after hearing so much about it for so many years, I know it would be disappointing…

  5. Muchas gracias, me ha gustado mucho. Un beso!!

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