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Movie Review: “The Little Prince”

ec4e725b6d1c1d6faf94e3a956f7a7e4Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Version: 2015; starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco

Genre: children’s; animation

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Growing up, my mom had two copies of the French classic “The Little Prince.” One was in French (and incomprehensible to me), the other in English. Neither interested me very much.  The pictures looked bland and too unbelievable.  I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy the story.

Not too long ago I saw that Netflix had made an animated version of the book and I didn’t mind sitting down to spend an evening that way. I was mildly curious.  I was not prepared to be blown away.

I think I was drawn into it from the first notes of music. The art, the plot, the script were beautifully done.  The old phonograph playing was enough to melt my heart alone!  I was nearly crying by the end of it.  And now I want to read the book very much.  It isn’t often that film versions inspire me to read the book, but when they do…  🙂

This movie is actually told in two stories. One is of a little girl who is expected to live a life where childhood is forgotten.  She unexpectedly meets her next door neighbor, an eccentric old man (and self-proclaimed ‘hoarder’) who used to be an aviator once upon a time.  He begins to woo her friendship by telling her the story of the Little Prince he met in another world long ago.  The story of the Little Prince and his rose is told through stop-motion animation, and I loved every bit about it!  I enjoyed it even more for it’s nuances, and thought-provoking lines about life that are hidden like gems throughout where you have to mine them to interpret the meaning for yourself.  Wonderful!

5dc9afdfecd8144ffddd97bd0c8b18e9There are many who abhor this film because they say it takes too many liberties with the book. Apparently the story of the little girl trying to live the expected life of an adult is not in the original.  Since I’ve never read it, I don’t even know if the part of the Little Prince is told faithfully.  But I know I loved the film and that it has inspired me to pick up a book I never knew I needed to read before.  I would say that is the effect of a well-told, don’t you?

One of my favorite lines comes from the Aviator consoling the little girl when she tells him she doesn’t want to grow up. He responds, “Growing up isn’t the problem– forgetting is.”  I wish someone had been able to tell me that when I was a kid and afraid of graduating to adulthood.  This wisdom makes a world of difference because it is true!  I have found that becoming a true adult is really only becoming the person you were meant to be, which includes the parts of childhood that are good and pure and young in heart.  Idealistically, the aim is to shed the ‘juvenile’ ways we used to think and act.  Juvenility is to be differentiated from being childlike in that it is immature, selfish, and narrow-minded.  (1 Cor. 13:11)  Childhood, on the other hand is essentially joy, wonder, and innocence.

1631c1a78f3a24aa2c2690874535b559I have met older adults, even Christians in their 60’s, behave like juveniles. I have met adults who have completely forgotten what is childhood, instead exuding joylessness, hyper-practicality, and busyness.  But I have also met other adults who have retained their openness to life, wonder at the world, and quest to learn and grow- the mark of a true ‘child at heart.’  That is what God means for us to be, I think.  And for us believers, we are all to be trusting children in relation to Him.

And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

I do have a qualm about the movie’s plotline, and that is although it is an indie flick, it does not escape the usual Hollywood storyarc of children being better-knowing than their parents (or more often single parent): rebelling against the ‘status quo’, and teaching the parents they do not know what is best for their kids. See an excellent article on this topic here.

But the voices (esp. Jeff Bridges’ for the Aviator) were great!  Bridges has a voice that has aged well, resulting in a friendly, comforting effect.  I also loved the Fox, voiced by James Franco.  So adorable!

I recommend this glimmering, luminous movie for family viewing, young and old alike. If you approach it being prepared that it’s more loosely based on the book, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Friends & Books

I recently watched an interesting documentary and wanted to quickly recommend it to you.  But first, a little backstory…

I bumped into someone I knew last Sunday evening and we got to talking on the subject of books.  I had happened to like the past year’s women’s book club our church held this summer; she had not been so enthused over it.  But she told me about a really good book she had finished that had her gushing.  It was called “And Ladies of the Club,” by Helen Hooven Santmyer, a book that had taken the author all of her life to write.  Apparently, it is a fictionalized account of a women’s book club spanning several decades.

Later this week, I decorated our Christmas tree.  This may sound abnormal, but for the last three years I’ve made a tradition of finding time to watch documentaries as I decorate.  It used to be traditional Christmas music, but seeing as how I am very particular and take many hours (or sometimes days) just trim our tree, the music gets annoying very quickly.  So documentaries it is…  While browsing my library’s hoopla (a new resource and worth checking to see if your library has it or something similar), I stumbled across a film simply called, “Book Club.”  It happened to be the true life story of a group of dear women who had formed a book club early on in their young, married lives as a way to improve their minds.  As the years passed, their club continued as new members arrived and others moved on.  But always a core membership remained.

It was such an interesting story, and ironically reminded me of the book my acquaintance told me about (although the two are unrelated, as far as I know).  A few things struck me about the documentary.  I noticed was that when the film showed clips of the women reading passages from their favorite selections they read clearly, smoothly, and comprehendingly.  Not choppy, disjointed, with ignorant pronunciation.  This is because they had lifetimes of practiced skill.  These ladies were well into their 80’s, and admittedly did not read as intellectually deep as they formerly had.  Yet, they were still reading literary fiction, memoirs, and other books of depth.  I believe this is because once their minds were used to quality reading, even at an old age they could not develop a taste for anything as fluffy as “Amish fiction” [yes, I’m ranting again!].  Comment was made on a few members’ determination to read books on self-improvement, though it may not make sense to the world at large why ladies of such an age would be.  But the results were evident in that the women had a large love for life and many interests.  It was not born overnight; their zest was began many years ago when they were still young.  They had felt worn out, underappreciated, maybe a bit isolated at a time when many women did not work, the world was at war, and they had babies and husbands to take care of.  But they deemed friendship and reading in community to be important enough to make the time and effort, and many emphasized that those things meant more to them than the books themselves.

It was interesting to hear of their different backgrounds, perspectives, and education.  Not all of them were the reverent or pious grandmother you may expect, and in a way it was sad some of them obviously did not have the joy of Jesus Christ in their life.  But part of a book club means learning from others that do not hold the same views as ourselves, I am learning.  I hope you will become curious and inspired by watching “Book Club” just as I was!

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Fall 2017)

I just realized I have not posted my favorite non-fiction books for this fall yet!  So I will squeak them in the tail end here before December.  My dashboard has not been cooperating with me the last few weeks, so pictures and links are not as I would like but I’m trying to work with it.  So read on for some books about spiritual journeys that I’m sure will be inspiring!

Until We All Come Home, by Kim de Blecourt~  I am finishing up this book (about 90% of the way through it), but am blown away by the incredible journey this ordinary woman of faith endured while she and her husband were in an international battle to adopt their Ukrainian-born son.  I feel it is easy to connect with this woman because A) she does not live too far from my corner of the world; B) she works in voice over; C) it seemed that almost everything imagineable was determined to block her path.  If you find yourself easily frustrated by myriad details, this book might not be for you.  Still waiting to see how this ends, but it is wonderful seeing how God worked in the middle of her long waiting period, during which she battled depression and severe spiritual oppression in a dark part of the world.  I often find myself praising and thanking God for how He answered her prayers, even if her story wasn’t easy.  I hope to meet Mrs. de Blecourt one day.  I highly recommend this read! 

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning~  Do you find yourself running on fumes spiritually?  Need a cup of refreshing water in the middle of your desert?  I had heard a lot things about this author, Brennan Manning.  I’ve heard good; I’ve heard bad.  I know people I respect that that admire his work, and others view it with fear.  I determined to read at least one book by him and find out for myself what I thought.  I started with this particular book because it is his most famous.  To be honest, my opinion of it alone is an elevated one.  I found such encouragement in his word pictures, his simple eloquence.  It is imaginative, well-written, and a classic in it’s own right.  It seemed I’d read a passage in a chapter right when I needed it at that time.  The major theme it dwells on is the grace of God.  Manning reflects the easy yoke and light burden God offers to us “ragamuffins”.  I could quote my favorite parts, but would much rather you tried it for yourself.  Does this mean I would agree on everything with Brennan Manning?  No, I will not commit to that; I believe it is always wise to test instead of blindly accept anything we come across.  There were one or two things I’m not sure I would completely agree on even in this book.  And yet, I found the good far, far outweighed those areas.  My advice is to be prayerfully engaged while reading.   

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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~Quote for September 2, 2017~

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in Quotes

 

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Non-Fiction I’m Liking (Summer 2017)

If you’re still looking forward to taking your summer vacation and searching for inspiration in a non-fiction read, consider one of these as your beach companion!:

“At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life,” by Jennifer L. Scott~ Wanting a little more French elegance in your everyday life? The second of Jennifer L. Scott’s non-fiction trilogy (so far) was a memorable read for me a couple of years ago.  Of course I wanted to read this after having read her first book, Lessons from Madame Chic.  I so enjoyed reading about creative ways to establish a lively routine at home.  Conversational in style, Jennifer feels like a trusted friend and I also am a devoted follower of her blog and youtube videos.  I really can’t think of anything to nitpick about it and I’m hankering after Book #3 (Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic)!  This book is perfect for stay-at-home mamas, but not relegated only to that stereotype.  All of us can benefit from living more consciously and happily when we’re at home.

“The Creative Habit”: Learn It and Use it For Life,” by Twyla Tharp~ Speaking of creativity, anyone who claims or aspires to be any type of artist will heartily enjoy this book, written by a NYC dance choreographer. At first I was going to pass on by this, but after taking a closer look I realized it had contained within it lots of encouragement for achieving my dreams of becoming a VO artist.  I’m only on Chapter 5 and I’ve already taken pages of notes and there are even interesting exercises for discovering how you are hardwired creatively.  I was afraid that perhaps the content would be too over my head, but I found it to be easy reading and am having a hard time putting it down.  Having a block and don’t know how or if you should continue forward?  I think you will find the author quite reassuring with a lot of good advice.  This book is a must-read for you!

 
 

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Audiobook Review: “A Curious Mind,” by Brian Grazer (Read by Norbert Leo Butz)

22669010Genre: non-fiction; self-help; motivational

Story Review: I picked this audiobook up on a whim while on a trip to my local library.  The very first thing that attracted me to it was the title: A Curious Mind.  I think the word curiosity describes me.  Even when I’m disgusted or repulsed by something, curiosity drives me in further to explore.  I love to learn!  I love anything interesting.

I tend to gravitate toward non fiction when it comes to audiobooks. I don’t have as much time to listen to fiction on audio, I get bored when I do, and I envy the reader because I want to vocally create the story myself.  Non fiction is different.  If it’s interesting it has my attention from the beginning, and I’m an avid note-taker.

I had never heard of the name Brian Grazer (Hollywood film producer and self-called ‘storyteller’) before, but I was surprised that I was familiar with some of his films. Some of them include A Beautiful Mind, 24, and In the Heart of the Sea. I wasn’t really sure what his book would be about, but it turned out to detail Grazer’s technique on how he approaches life.  In a word, with curiosity.  It wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a few tips on staying open to learn new things, taking opportunities as we come across them, and being humble and grateful in this world.  There are so many interesting things to learn and people to meet!  I liked Grazer’s reasoning that curiosity leads to success, and his list of benefits stemming from curiosity.

I probably would have appreciated a little more practical advice on how to apply curiosity to one’s everyday life. Not all of us have the leverage or opportunities to meet the kinds of people Grazer has (which have included Princess Diana, Isaac Asimov, and Fidel Castro).  But I took six pages of notes, so I think I enjoyed the book!

Thoughts on the Narrator: The preface is read by Brian Grazer himself, but the rest of the book is narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.  I’d never heard of him, either, but his reading never lost me or bored me.  His voice was clear-cut and stage-practiced.  Since this was non-fiction, I have no idea how he would do performing fiction with voices and dramatic emotions.  I am very picky when it comes to narrators (another reason why I listen to so few), but his was a presentation I could well tolerate.

I think it would be hard to listen to this without at least a pen and notebook. This is for anyone who desires to achieve goals in life!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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