The Hours

Recently my friend Tom and I had a discussion about the best films that show depression well.  I have a short list.

  1. Pi – Depression and mania populate this odd and disturbing Darren Aronofsky film.
  2. Mary and Max – Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Aspergers all shown so beautifully in this partially true claymation story about accidental pen pals.
  3. The Hours – Depression, See Below.
  4. Little Miss Sunshine – Seriously  Michael Scott  Steve Carell looks so weary and done with the world at the beginning it almost breaks my heart

The Hours is in my DVD library, and I am always astounded by it.

I was caught in the very beginning by the way the three stories are cut together over the repetitive and haunting Phillip Glass soundtrack. The piece is edited in such a way that you see these profound connections between the three streams before you even know how they are intertwined.  Flash from one person lying down on their side, to another waking up in the same position. Flowers put on the hall table, to flowers in another story.  Without telling you the whole story it is difficult to tell you just how this happens.  You should watch it.  It is well worth it.

The three streams come from different periods in time.  One is Virginia Wolfe, struggling with her crippling depression outside of the city of London. She’s played well here by Nicole Kidman, who doesn’t seem to mind becoming dowdy at all.  She looses her elegance, and pulls off a woman weighted down from the inside. She is beginning her last novel, Mrs. Dalloway.  Clarissa, Meryl Streep’s character, is a modern woman planning an epic party.  Her life, without her really embracing it, seems to be the very echo of the novel Wolfe is writing.  The third story is Julianna Moore’s character Laura, a 50’s era housewife pregnant with her 2nd child, and feeling life close in around her.

There is a nuanced conversation about life and sexuality in this movie.  It makes me want to go back and read the book to see if this is meant to be a current, or if was a liberty taken by the director.  Regardless, this movie is populated by a variety of seasoned and excellent actors and actresses.  Each does their part to hold taut the tension lines of the film.  Ed Harris’s haunting gaze from a disease riddled face so closely mimics the howling pain you see in the face of Laura’s 5 yr old boy, trying desperately to hold on to his mother as she slips from him.  It’s breathtaking to see that raw pain.  Every single time the conversation, between Virginia Wolfe and her husband, on the train platform catches me.  It reminds me of conversations I had with my mother, as she struggled so hard against the disease in her mind that took her hope from her.

I actually did take the time to learn the Phillip Glass pieces from this  movie.  Some time ask me, and I will play you into melancholy. Then we can watch this movie.  So good, but so very sad.

Florence and the Machine wrote a song about Virginia Wolfe and her opening act in this movie, filling her pockets with rocks, and walking into the river to end it all. It is called “What the Water Gave Me”. I’ll leave you with it today.  I’d say enjoy…but somehow that’s the wrong phrase.  Perhaps, let it get under your skin.  That’s what it, and this movie do to me.


Merryl Streep Month: Out of Africa

When I (Bekki) first saw this movie it was my senior year in High School.  I went to this parochial school for a Christian denomination that didn’t believe in dancing.  Ok it was a Mennonite School.  So instead of Prom we had “Banquet”. Yeah.  It was as good as it sounds.  Contrary to popular belief I was not exactly popular in school, but I did have some good friends, and we decided to skip the after banquet party for a lovely evening of conversation, and Out of  Africa.

Poor Meryl Streep.  She seems to get the rough end of about all the movie relationships she’s in.

When I saw this movie long ago I thought it grand in its scope, and sad in its relationships.  Now, after just finishing a degree focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa I find this movie to be much more nuanced than I originally figured.  Karen getting on her knees in order to find a place for the Kikuyu tribesfolk that worked for her was just so moving.  She thought she was so gracious and upright in the beginning of the film. By the time the movie was done she had been quite transformed by the people she worked with every day.  Didn’t see them as lesser at all, but as friends.  This, to me, was the stellar part of the film.  The weaving in of the interaction of the English colonists with the Kikuyu and the Massai peoples was so very good.  I liked that Denys’s character points out some of the ridiculous attitudes and actions.

Karen.  She was a feminist to the core.  She ran that farm while her husband took off to chase the wind. And yet she was so at the mercy of the men around her.  So frustrating.

I was captivated by her storytelling too.  Makes me want to do that with the little girls in my world.  Telling stories is a beautiful art.

Maybe I’ll just up and go to Kenya for my 40th birthday.  That really would be an adventure.  I could come back and tell the story.

“I once had a birthday in Africa….”

To Kill a Mockingbird

Bekki Here:
I would marry Atticus Finch. Atticus Finch looking like Gregory Peck? Pure bonus.
I think he is the literary man with the most integrity that I’ve ever read, or seen in my DVD player.
I don’t think I could do this film justice. Mostly because it awakens such a sense of justice in me. Every time I watch it I want to be a better person. I want to be a person of courage and integrity.
Things I loved.
Scout. Could she have been better portrayed? I think not. I love her innocence and delight in life. Her outrage at things that are wrong, and her wholehearted rushing in, even when she’s being stupid. A highlight for me is when she broke up the lynch mob at the jail by just being herself. It was such a picture of innocence bringing light to the darkness, and making men remember themselves again.
When Atticus goes to tell Tom’s widow that she was, well, a widow, I always am so impressed. His compassion causes him to see people as people. Even the white man whose false accusation set the whole thing in motion. He really is a good man.
The only thing that didn’t really gel with me is Boo Radley. The actor playing him did his well, he’s just not like I saw him in my head.

I may just have to own this film.

Bekki Makes Contact

Steve’s literary adaptation was the movie Contact based on the Karl Sagan book by the same name.

I’d seen this movie when it first came out in theaters.  It’s a good story. The despite the older technology depicted in it the movie was lush and captivating. I’m not going to lie though, I am not a big Matthew McConaughey fan.  It says something about the material that I didn’t hate him in this movie.

I am a bit of a science geek myself, and yet I struggle so much when people say (from both sides of the debate) that faith and science are mutually exclusive.  That’s not so much a position I espouse myself.  Anyway. I loved that this movie was, at its heart, a discussion of the collision between belief and science.  I loved that Ellie was on this journey from one side of the debate to the other.  She had to allow room for belief when proof was exhausted, and yet the very people who were adamant that faith was essential were the the ones who couldn’t take her testimony on faith.

Such a luscious and fascinating story.  Full of the great mysteries that are the origins of life and the universe.

I hadn’t seen this movie in a long time, and I am very glad that Steve made me watch it again.

Also, I’m not going to lie, it was very good to see David Morse play a good guy again.  He, like Sean Bean, usually gets cast in these cruel roles, because they do it so well, yet they play loving and compassionate so feelingly.

My favorite part in this film is during the opening salvo when you get further and further away from earth, and the broadcasts get fewer and fewer until there is radio silence.  So powerful an image. I love it.


Bekki on North by Northwest

[apparently this never posted originally.  I do apologize for the lateness.  I did write it back in the day]

There are two iconic Hitchcock movies that I had not seen before Flickbuddies.  The Birds (still unseen) and North by Northwest.  What a fun movie?  Cary Grant is so delightful, and the rest of the cast is dutifully creepy/sinister/funny/mysterious. Surprisingly the iconic moments, like that plane coming after Grant in the field, was eclipsed for me by the rest of the story.  I thought it was good, but not the most taut moment.  I really liked all the scenes in the house on the rock.  Classic Hitchcock missed connections, and breathtaking timing.

This movie had a myriad of things that caught my attention. For instance.  A large part of this movie takes place in my neck of the woods.

Michigan City, Niles, Dowagiac, Kalamazoo. Did you hear that folks?  That train literally goes right past my back door.

I also very much enjoyed Cary Grant’s smooth talking character.  Although when he was in the Chicago Hotel room in just his boxers, and was using the phone, his leg crossing was about the most effeminate I’ve seen in a very long time. I loved that the more angry he got, the more suave his conversation became. So very fun.

This was the first of our series where I actually saw the Hitchcock Cameo, in the opening sequence when the bus closed in his face.

Eva Marie Saint and her character are by far my favorites so far in this series.

I liked this movie a lot. It was well worth the hype.

Bekki’s view on the Room

The first time I watched A Room With a View was in high school.  I had this little Swiss Mennonite woman who was my German teacher.  She also lead my “SALT” (Sharing and Learning Together) group.  One day she brought A Room With a View for us to watch.  I was curious.  This movie leaves things unsaid, and makes you have to work for it.  I didn’t really like it as a 14 year old.  I only got a really huge kick out of seeing my teacher try to cover the screen with her little hands during the bathing scene.  Her tittering laugh and her excuses that it was so European and just good fun will be with me every time I watch this movie.

Somewhere mid-college I read the book, and wanted to rewatch it.  I was just amazed at how beautifully the world was recreated.  Merchant and Ivory had since done the two more in the loose series, Howard’s End (Also a E.M. Forrester Novel) and The Remains of the Day (based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel). I had seen both movies and was impressed, so I came back to see A Room With a View for the 2nd time.  I loved it.  I think I rented it from the Video store about 3 times a year.

Still, to this day, I love this movie.  I love Helene Bonham Carter’s Lucy was just that lovely combination of naiveté and spoiled rich girl.  I love it when Mr. Beebe, quite possibly my favorite character, speculates that when she lives as passionately as she plays the piano, she will really be something to behold.  She really does become in this movie, despite herself.

Daniel Day Lewis’s Cecil is delightfully snobbish.  So repressed, and yet quite the catalyst in Lucy’s becoming. I love Rupert Graves as Freddy.  It’s hard to believe it is the same actor who plays Inspector Lestrade in the brilliant 2011 Sherlock reboot.

Far and away the best actor in the movie is Maggie Smith.  I love her turn as Poor Cousin Charlotte, whose bumbling chaperonage turned into a lasting friendship.  I loved her foray though inner city Florence with Dame Judy Dench’s portrayal of hack authoress Elinor Lavish.

Such a good movie.  I revisit it on a regular basis.  It is so delicious.

That bathing scene doesn’t hurt either 🙂

The Hours

Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for this, but I think Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep both did a far better job.  Which is not to say that Nicole Kidman was horrible, but if you’re in a movie wither either of them, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be outclassed.  And both?  Yes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not be the best.  Or second best.

Anyway.  This is a depressing as all hell movie but at the same time a really, really good one.  It’s set in three different time periods—the ’20s (with Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf), the ’50s (with Julianne Moore as Laura Brown) and the early 2000’s (with Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan).  Mrs. Dalloway is a recurring theme through the movie—Virginia Woolf is writing it, Laura Brown is reading it and Clarissa Vaughan is inadvertantly living it.  I read Mrs. Dalloway right after seeing the movie for the first time (right after it came out on DVD) but I don’t remember anything about it.

I think it was Thoreau (or Emerson; I always get them mixed up) who said that we live lives of quiet desperation.  That is definitely true in this movie.  Everyone is miserable and suicide is a recurring theme.  (It’s no spoiler to say that Virginia Woolf kills herself, and we see it in the beginning of the movie; I won’t go further into Laura and Clarissa’s lives because that WOULD be a spoiler.)

This is such an amazing movie and I need to start watching it more often than once a decade.


When A Room With A View premiered in 1986 the first digit of my age had just turned to a “2” and there was absolutely zero chance that I would have gone to see it in a theater.  Zero. Zip. Nada. I can guarantee you that I would have just gone to see Aliens again instead.

This was the one film in August’s list (other than the just-released Savages) that I had no previous experience with either as the novel or film. I had a vague expectation that it took place in Italy… and that there was a room… and that it likely had a view… and that it was probably some sort of love story… and… that’s it. I had no idea who was in it or what time period it took place in. I’d gotten to having a “4” as the first digit in my age without ever…

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