Tag Archives: movies

My favorite things: Winter discoveries

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Carl Schurz Park, our neighborhood park, after a recent snowfall

After what felt like six months of winter, today it is sunny and a glorious 48 degrees outside (who would’ve thought 48 degrees could feel glorious?). We’ve started our Saturday with homemade peanut butter oatmeal banana pancakes and French press coffee, I’ve been cuddling with Ali and reading a fascinating book (Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick), and this afternoon I’m taking Charlie-dog for a walk. As it turns out though, all this time cooped up has been a good opportunity for making discoveries.

Here are a few of my favorite (new) things:

1. The ‘Before’ film trilogy (Before SunriseBefore Sunset, and Before Midnight):

Before SunriseThese are some of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen (Sean enjoyed them too! added bonus!). In Before Sunrise (1995), young 20-something American Jesse crosses paths with French college student Celine on a train crossing Europe, and the two end up spending a day and night together wandering the streets of Vienna. Most of the movie is just the two talking about everything and nothing together, and the dialogue is just fascinating. The kind of conversations you’d love to eavesdrop on the bus and would be saddened when the two got off an earlier stop than you. And the chemistry between the two is just so palpable, you’re dying to find out if they get together in the end.

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In the sequel, Before Sunset (2004), Jesse and Celine, now in their 30s, reunite in Paris for an afternoon — nearly 10 years after that fateful night in Vienna. Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke are just as wonderful together, as always.

before-midnight-1And in the final installment (although I hope it’s really not the final final installment), Before Midnight (2013), we follow Celine and Jesse, now 40-somethings, for a day in southern Greece. We just watched this one last night, and let me tell you, these movies just keep getting better and better. I won’t spoil anything about this one for anyone though. It is just such a cool idea to follow the same two characters and their changing relationship over the decades; Delphy and Hawke also helped write the scripts for the second and third films. I just love both these characters so much, and each film is a wonderful emotional journey full of comedic, poignant, and bittersweet moments. The series seems to be both answering and begging the questions: Is there such a thing as a soul mate? Or is love just a matter of chance? Are relationships dependent upon some amount of fate, or are they ultimately the product of intentional commitment?

2. Brushing up on my French on Duolingo

tumblr_n19bpkxqWP1sgr8axo1_500A few of my college friends were getting really competitive about something called “Duolingo” about a month ago, and I had no idea what they were talking about. It turns out it’s a free language learning website/app that provides free education and also harnesses brain power to translate web pages into various languages. I took the French placement test and have been hooked ever since. I don’t think it’s so good for learning a new foreign language, but it is pretty effective for review. I have bought a few French review workbooks over the past couple of years, but nothing has motivated me so much as a little friendly competition and game-like elements. Some of the sentences are laughably random though, since I’m pretty sure they’re pulled from eclectic websites. C’est la fille qui peut lire un menu. “This is the daughter who can read a menu.” Okay, then.

3. Nora Ephron’s writing

IMG_2648I can’t believe it took me approximately a half-million views of You’ve Got Mail to realize that Nora Ephron also has published collections of essays. I borrowed a copy of I Remember Nothing from the library and positively devoured it in one day. I’ve loved David Sedaris’ essays for what feels like ages, and Nora is the female equivalent of that. She had one essay, in particular, “Journalism: A Love Story,” which I really loved. She writes about her enchantment with the speed of the newsroom, and her rise from mail room clerk in an era when female college graduates were confined to the lowest ranks of news organizations, to successful byline-boasting reporter.

I feel like Nora Ephron and I could have been really good friends, despite the age difference. She writes that her ideal afternoon would be a frozen custard from Shake Shack, followed by a Lactaid, followed by a walk through Central Park. Yes, we would have gotten along just splendidly.

4. Bob Dylan

IMG_2695I’m positively dying to read Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles, Part One, but after fruitless attempts to obtain either a library or a bookstore copy, I’m settling for the lovely box set of Dylan’s records Sean bought with some of his birthday money. This is another one of those things, like Nora Ephron, that’s I’m kicking myself for taking so long to try out. I love American folk music, and Bob Dylan is one of the originals. Of course, everyone and their mother has heard a Dylan song at some point in their lives, whether they were aware of it or not, but I never really listened to it, you know? I’m considering listening to all his early stuff an education in and of itself. Major props to the movie Inside Llewyn Davis for kindling my newfound interest in Greenwich Village of the ’60s and the birth of the American folk movement.

5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

191132747_0322_Bernadette_Where_tcm20-1862557This book was so much fun! I’ve been wanting to read it for quite some time now, after much praise among my neighborhood book club. This is the zany tale of eccentric middle-aged mother Bernadette, who lives as a practical recluse and then disappears altogether, just days before a family cruise to Antarctica, leaving her gifted 13-year-old daughter, Bee, to follow a hilarious paper trail of emails, memos, news articles, and more to find out just what happened to her mother.

The author, Maria Semple, was a writer for the TV show Arrested Development, whose quirky humor I adore, and that really shines through in this book. It also predominately takes place in Seattle, and I recognized a surprising number of restaurants, cafes, and notable places from our honeymoon there, which only added extra appeal for me. Unlike Gone Girl or some other mystery thrillers I’ve read recently, this book manages to remain lighthearted. The core story of Bee’s admiration of and loyalty to her mother, despite all of her flaws, is charming too, of course. Recommended for anyone who enjoys chortling and smiling; also good for childhood fans of Nancy Drew.

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Let’s hope that spring is just around the corner!

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Don’t you love New York in the fall?

“It makes me want to buy new school supplies. I’d buy you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” – the best movie ever (or maybe not, but one of my personal favorites, so pretty close to the best ever)

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I feel like I talk about You’ve Got Mail too often, and I apologize, but it is my go-to “comfort” movie. You know how people have comfort foods? Chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes, baked mac ‘n cheese — usually something not so good for your body, but perfect for your soul? That’s what “comfort” movies are. They might not be life-changing or Oscar-worthy, but they fill your insides with warm happiness and make you go back for seconds.

And usually you know the whole film’s script by heart. *raises hand*

I have seen You’ve Got Mail what must be at least 50 times since it came out in 1998, despite never having actually owned this film on VHS or DVD. I just borrow it from the library or rent it at least once a year, and retreat to my happy place. There is just so much to love about this movie! But for simplicity’s sake, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 reasons.

12021906341. Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelley, owns the most adorable children’s book store. And her attitude about children and reading is just so great. “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”

2. This is one of those movies that romanticizes New York, to borrow Woody Allen’s words, “all out of proportion.” And I love it! You can even see a nod to how unrealistically romanticized it is when Kathleen is opening up her shop at the beginning of the film and says, all love-struck, “Don’t you just love New York in the fall? Isn’t today just a beautiful day?” and in the background, a cab driver and another automobile driver are shouting their lungs out at one another. Just like the real New York.

It shows all the charming aspects of the city — the picturesque change of seasons, the cozily decorated shop windows, the bustling street fairs and farmers’ markets, the tiny cafes where you could meet the love of your life — and none of the grime or grit. The Upper West Side, where the story takes place, is truly lovely. Those brownstones!

3. Having now lived in the city for more than a year, it’s fun to spot New York institutions that are still around and seen in the movie. There’s H&H Bagels, Grey’s Papaya, and Cafe Lalo, for starters. It’s also very true to life that even though it’s easy to hate on corporate coffee like Starbucks, everyone seems to go there before work (isn’t it ironic that Kathleen is so bent out of shape about megachain Fox Books moving into the neighborhood, but happily pays for an overpriced Starbucks latte?). I don’t go to Starbucks often, but when I do, it’s usually a block from my office, and I always run into one of my co-workers.

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee, but an absolutely defining sense of self. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!”

(I’m either a tall, skinny dirty chai latte or a tall blonde coffee, black. Coffee orders sound kind of like you are ordering up people. Don’t think about it too much.)

tumblr_mu0v7rs8IN1sjd89no7_12804. I adore the nods to Pride and Prejudice in the story. It’s not just that the characters discuss the book (or that it is one of my favorites), it’s that their feud-turned-romance parallels the story of Darcy and Elizabeth, right down to their contrasting socioeconomic classes and lifestyles. The movie is also a nod to the black-and-white holiday film The Shop Around the Corner, in which two shop associates unknowingly pen love letters to one another. So that’s cute.

5. Meg Ryan’s character’s adorable, shabby chic apartment! Her adorably simple and monochrome wardrobe! I’m pretty sure this fictional character is responsible for my lifelong obsession with cardigans and a brief stint with turtlenecks, too. Did I mention her adorable children’s bookstore? So much adorable!

6. Tom Hanks in this movie is just so impossibly charming. When I think of Tom Hanks, I usually think of him as a “dad” figure because I’ve grown up with him as an actor and he’s done some kids’ movies, and honestly, he’s not the stereotypical hunky Hollywood romantic lead. He’s got that goofy curly hair and the big laugh, but Nora Ephron’s dialogue just makes him impossible not to like!

I mean, that line! The heartbreaking line. You know the one. “Well… if I hadn’t been Fox Books and you hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well, met… I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, ‘Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?'” Hello! Marry him. Marry him right now, Kathleen Kelley. You could totally see falling for his character via email, and then just deciding once you meet him that the goofy hair isn’t so bad. Also, I hear the guy does a great Woody the Cowboy impression.

7. I love how outdated all the technology in this movie is now. Dial-up internet! AOL Instant Messenger! Macbooks that could double as door stops! People sitting at home waiting for their land lines to ring! References to VCRs! The next time you watch this movie, pay special attention to the fact that the only two programs Kathleen and Joe appear to have on their laptops is a shortcut to email and another to AOL’s strangely primitive form of “the Internet.” No word processing programs, no Solitaire. Nothing else. That really makes me laugh.

8. Also some of the New York stuff is outdated, too. Mainly the great line from Christina, the 20-something sales associate at The Shop Around the Corner: “If we fold, I won’t be able to find a new part-time job. And then I won’t be able to afford my rent, and I’ll have to move! To Brooklyn!” Said with much horror. Brooklyn is where all the cool kids go these days, Christina. And it’s actually becoming more expensive to live there at a faster rate than Manhattan. Who would’ve thunk?

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9. Speaking of Brooklyn, I’m pretty sure Kathleen’s boyfriend in this movie is the original hipster. Here he is with a typewriter! No laptops for George! He here is celebrating the virtues of radio over television! Here he is using phrases like “Jeffersonian purity” to describe independent businesses! Here he is fearful of dating Republicans! I bet he lives in Williamsburg these days.

10. The ending to this movie is just so perfect. Not to spoil it for you or anything, but it is a rom-com, and *big gasp* THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS END UP TOGETHER. And no other movie’s ending makes me feel quite so warm and fuzzy inside except for maybe the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s because not only do Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak kiss in the rain, Holly also recovers her lost cat, Cat, from the dumpster in the alley. This ending mainly moves me because I find it very upsetting that she would disown her cat and throw him out into the alley, so I am deeply relieved when she finds him again. (Oh, by the way, there are no alleys in Manhattan!!! Way to go, Hollywood writers.)

Anyway, the ending to You’ve Got Mail involves a dog, so it’s also a winner.

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Do you have a favorite movie you could watch again and again? Even if you know it isn’t exactly a “good” movie, per say?

I’m also a huge sucker for the Little Women version with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. I especially love Christian Bale in it as Laurie, a fact that disgusts most young men in my life, who prefer to think of him only as Batman these days.

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5 Date Night Movies

500 Days movie theaterMovie date nights are my favorite. I love going to the theater and the overwhelming buttery popcorn smell and the loudness of it, but I also like watching movies on our couch with a blanket and unlimited snacks. Sometimes it can be hard to decide on a movie that both of us want to watch, however. I think when it comes to rom-coms — the classic date night movie genre — the key is to find films that have strong male leads, not just the cookie-cutter Perfect Boyfriend of chick flicks, as well as the type of female protagonist you’d want to be friends with yourself.

Here are 5 of our favorites, listed in order of release date from most recent on:

Silver Linings Playbook (Dec. 2012)

Silver-linings-playbookWe just went to see this last Thursday, to see what all the Oscars hype is about. It was a really worthwhile movie. Sean hated the ending (I loved it), but we both definitely enjoyed everything up until then. Pat (Bradley Cooper) has just been released from a psychiatric hospital with a late diagnosis of bipolar disorder and is living with his parents while he tried to get his life back together, including making up with his estranged wife. Then he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow dealing with emotional issues of her own. The two quickly become friends, and it soon becomes clear there is a little something more developing between them.

I love how real the two protagonists in this film were. Neither was anywhere near perfect, but you couldn’t help but liking them and rooting for them to end up together (our theater actually applauded at the end of the movie, haha). While any movie dealing with mental illness is going to have some heavy overtones, there are many laugh-out-loud scenes. And don’t even get me started on Jennifer Lawrence. She is perfection in this film, and she completely deserves her Oscar nomination.

Moonrise Kingdom (summer 2012)

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Wes Anderson’s most recent film is my ideal summer movie: whimsical and nostalgic. Suzy and Sam develop a romantic plan to run away together, setting off a lot of parental concern. While it’s clear that the two kids have a definite affection for one another — and identify together in their “outsiderness” — it’s also funny to watch them develop their relationship by the book because they have no idea what they are really doing. Moonrise Kingdom is a fun, carefree movie that is sure to bring a smile to your face. I promise. It’s also one of those films that’s just really beautiful to look at.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Film Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This might be more of a “guy movie,” but I love it. Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a loser who plays bass in a bad rock band and lives in a basement apartment with his much wealthier, gay roommate when he meets Ramona Flowers, a mysteriously cool girl from the States (Scott’s Canadian) with neon hair and a crazy past. Before he can date her, he must first defeat her seven evil exes. Based on the quirky graphic novel series, which I also loved, the film combines elements of comic book and video game storytelling. It’s quite creative, I think, and has so many quotable lines that you’ll catch yourself repeating for years to come (our favorite is “BREAD MAKES YOU FAT?!?”). I’m 100% for any movie that is timelessly quotable.

500 Days of Summer (2009)

500-days-summer-2009--large-msg-130281966589My roommate didn’t like this movie because it doesn’t have the stereotypical Hollywood ending, and also she thought the two main characters were “weird.” Whatever. I know a lot of guys who really love this movie, and I know that every girl except my roommate will love it because it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tom (JGL) falls head-over-heels for Summer (Zooey Deschanel), his new co-worker, and everything seems like it’s going great…until things fall apart. You know the relationship is doomed from the beginning, because the story is unconventionally told in nonchronological order (and you know, that whole “500 days” thing in the title), as Tom desperately tries to reason out what went wrong.

Some feminists critique this movie because Summer isn’t a fully fleshed-out character so much as the manic pixie dream-girl stereotype, who cutely flits in and out of the frame as Tom works his life out. I think this is true, but I also think that’s kind of the point. Tom had fallen in love with the idea of somebody, instead of the girl herself. Fun fact: The filmmakers chose a very blue-centric color scheme for Summer’s wardrobe and a lot of the sets (like Summer’s apartment) to emphasize the color of her blue eyes. This not only makes visual sense but also thematic sense to me — for Tom, the entire world has been constructed around this girl. He sees no one else out there for him, even if he should.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie HallThis movie is a classic, with good reason. New York comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) falls for ditsy, whimsical Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Their banter is charming and awkward. This film also does so many groundbreaking things for its time, like breaking the fourth-wall by having the characters directly speak to the camera, and incorporating the contemporary characters into flashback scenes and having them comment on the memories as they walk through scenes of yesteryear. So good!

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Holly Golightly’s New York

If a movie begins with a scene like this, with a woman in formal evening wear enjoying a Danish in front of a famous fine jewelry shop, you know it will be good. At least if you, the viewer, have a second X chromosome.

I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, know all the lines by heart, and the fact that this film is now available on Netflix Instantview is not helping. One time freshman year, I was out of my dorm for an evening, and later learned that my roommate and another friend had decided to watch one of my DVDs while I was gone. I didn’t mind at all, until I learned that they stopped about 30 minutes in because they determined they didn’t like it. Naturally, I had to ask which movie that had selected. The answer? Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (As you can tell, this disagreement in opinions about this film has stuck with me for a LONG time. I wasn’t offended, I promise. Just surprised.)

I know “old” films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I had a hard time understanding why two such fine young women — I love them, I really do, and they were both bridesmaids in my wedding — could not appreciate this iconic film. From Audrey Hepburn’s classic Givenchy wardrobe to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” I found it impossible to believe that there was not something that would have held their attention. Was Audrey not the epitome of sophistication as she brandished about her long cigarette holder and drank milk for breakfast out of a crystal wine glass? Couldn’t her innocent, doe-like eyes make you almost forget she was playing a call-girl (or as Capote categorized his famous protagonist, an “American geisha”) in this film? Isn’t Paul Varjak such a dreamboat, hacking away at his typewriter?

Makes me cry. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t you cry every time at the end of the film, not because Holly and Paul inevitably profess their love for one another, but because she finally finds Cat again?

Aren’t we all a little bit like Holly sometimes — trying so desperately to find our place in the world and at times, suffering from the “mean reds”?

…or is it just me who feels this way?

This seemingly random post is somewhat motivated by the fact that I learned the copy of Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman is finally IN TRANSIT to my local library branch. I’m so excited to learn more about this movie that I’ve already determined I’m a wee bit obsessed with (and, admittedly, a little defensive about).

The other part of my motivation has to do with the fact that while walking back to the office from my new favorite lunch hour spot (Greenacre Park, remember?), I noticed this:

This is a fountain.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Um, Rebecca, that is just a really ordinary fountain in front of a boring corporate building on Park Avenue.”

Wrong, so very wrong.

Ladies and gentleman, because I am a freak, I knew in my bones that it was THIS:

Look at Holly and Paul, classing up Corporate America by sitting on one of its fountains.

In another shot right before this one, you can see more of the bench pictured in the first photograph of the building. OK, so I thought I might be a *little* crazy, but I did a lot of Google Mapping and normal Googling to determine that this is the Seagram Building Plaza at Park and East 52nd, and because buildings in NYC are sooo important, they have their own websites to tell their whole history, which confirmed my suspicions that this was a filming site in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Now I know this film is supposed to take place on the Upper East Side, so I’m determined to see more of Holly Golightly’s New York. I’ve already been to the Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue (“I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s!”), but I did a little online research today and learned that the facade of Holly’s brownstone, a.k.a. Chez Golightly, is located at 169 E. 71st St, between Lexington & Third. That’s not very far away from me at all! I must go and potentially creep out the current residents by taking pictures.

Here Holly and Paul are classing up the Upper East Side. Which, if you must know, is already pretty classy.

While we are on the subject of classy, old school NYC locations, allow me to subtly change topics and mention the bar where my co-workers invited me to join them at the end of my first week this past Friday for happy hour. This dark-hued bar at Third & 55th, P.J. Clarke’s, was once a favorite of Jackie O, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. No, this is not your college-type bar. This is a grown-up bar that screams class. Also, Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band penned a song called “Stolen Away on 55th and 3rd,” inspired by a girl he met at P.J.’s, and Johnny Depp gifted Keith Richards a guitar here. So that’s pretty darn cool, too.

P.J. Clarke’s at night.

I honestly didn’t realize the rich history of the place until nearly a week later, when finishing up Valley of the Dolls. One of the main character’s husbands claims to have a business meeting at “P.J.’s” when he is actually having an affair. I read those two initials and thought, “P.J.’s? That can’t be the P.J’s I went to, can it?” A bit of Googling — oh, Google, what would I ever do without you? — and I learned that little bar on the corner, just two blocks from my office, has many famous patrons.

Moral of the story: Midtown New York is a lot cooler than I previously thought.

And sorry to do this, but one more screenshot from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am convinced that this is the most utterly perfect ending to any movie ever. Do not even mention to me that in Capote’s original novella, Paul (the anonymous narrator) is openly gay. I know, I read the book, and I’m trying to forget that little detail. That’s unimportant. Feast your eyes on some timeless Hollywood romance:

So totally and completely perfect. Modern-day rom-coms ain’t got nothing on the classic cheesiness of older films.

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