Pick your movie of the week: Kick-A$$ Female Leads (Feb 4-10/18)

Ok, so there’s no question in my mind that the most kick a$$ female lead in the history of movies would be Ellen Ripley in the Alien series, played by Sigourney Weaver. There are other great ones to consider, such as Wonder Woman in the movie of the same name played by Gal Gadot, and Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter series, played by Emma Watson. But the following nominees are right up there with the greats as well. Which of these listed would you choose as your movie (or heroine?) of the week?

Kill Bill: Vol. 1
(2003, The Bride)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
(2003, Eowyn)

(2010, Hit-Girl)

Mad Max: Fury Road
(2015, Imperator Furiosa)

Do you want to build a snowman?

Here in New Brunswick, we love to hate winter. Back in the olden days when Red Green was on TV, I liked hearing his “It is Winter” poems: “It is winter. A time to pause. The driveway is half shoveled out. But I lay down the shovel and I pause to enjoy this moment. After all, this is my first heart attack.”

Here are a “few of my favourite things” in winter:

Being inside. This is not a pejorative way to express dislike of the cold, like a child who says their favourite subject in school is recess. No, this is a true time of enjoyment for me. It is the perfect time to play board games or card games, watch movies, or even write. Those things are all fun while sitting in AC when the outdoors is blazing hot, but it doesn’t compare with being in a warm house when outside the air hurts your face. Add to that, we are always stocked with a variety of hot drinks, whipping cream (along with mommy’s whipped cream maker), and sprinkles!

The sunshine. We all know how nice it is in the spring and summer when the sun is out. It’s such a welcome sight and puts everyone in a good mood. It seems to make an even more significant effect in the winter. For some of the winter season I find myself complaining about the cold and ice and dreariness of winter, often to the point where I daydream about spending winters in southern California. But when the sun is shining bright in the winter, it could be -30 and suddenly I’m Mr. Canadian, true north strong and free. These are the only days I get inspired to go cross country skiing or skating on a brook. But not that inspired I guess…

Hockey. I’ve lost touch with the NHL and televised tournaments, though I’m sure I’ll be immersed in it again sometime soon. My hockey watching has always seemed to come and go in waves. But even when I’m not watching it—as strange as this sounds—it is comforting to me to know that it’s on. Knowing that those moments when we’re all watching a game at the same time (e.g. a gold medal game, a Canadian team makes game 7 of the finals, etc.) will come soon enough makes me feel good. I look forward to the next one.

Camaraderie. I said at the onset that we love to hate winter. Honestly, I think that our love outweighs the hate we have for winter when you consider that it’s the time of year we talk to each other more. January to March is the time we will find ourselves striking up conversations with strangers. This is because there’s always a common bond we have, something to talk about: It’s freezing out there! We do get drawn together in the summer with barbecues, in the fall with Thanksgiving, and in December with Christmas, but there’s something very organic and homey with our wintertime togetherness.

Beauty. Snow is pretty. You know?!

Congratulations Frozen. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: I gotta hand this one to Idina Menzel. She’d been a professional singer since 1993 having some success with appearances in TV shows, most notably Glee. She tried out for the part of Rapunzel (Tangled, 2010) and didn’t get the part, but lucky for her a casting director remembered her and pushed for her a few years later for Frozen. Sure it would’ve been cool to tell people that you are Rapunzel, but to tell them you are the Elsa? Huge.

Best Actor: How on earth can one choose between Bill Murray, Steve Martin, and the late great John Candy?? I tend to favour Candy and Martin, so let’s go with Candy. I can hear that infectious laugh in my head right now.

Best Quote: No way. Not with a movie like Planes, Trains and Automobiles can I possibly pick one quote. Time for a top 10…

Top Ten quotes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles

  1. “If I wanted a joke, I’d follow you into the john and watch you take a leak. Now are you gonna help me or are you gonna stand there like a slab of meat with mittens?”
  2. “I didn’t introduce myself. Del Griffith. American Light and Fixture, Sales Director, shower curtain ring division.”
  3. “Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”
  4. “I’ve never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before. Lucky for you that cop passed by when he did, or you’d be lifting your snutz to tie your shoes.”
  5. “Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday.”
  6. (Del adding to the previous quote) “I can vouch for that.”
  7. “You know you nearly killed me, slugging me in the gut when I wasn’t ready! That’s how Houdini died, you know!”
  8. Neal: “Well, let me just close this conversation, saying you are a unique individual.” Del: “What is unique, uh…? Latin for ‘asshole?'”
  9. “It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back – you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh!”
  10. “Those aren’t pillows!”

Ohhhhh kaayyyyy byyyyyee…

Pick your movie of the week: Snow! (Jan 28-Feb 3/18)

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with winter. We hate the cold, but we love being snuggled indoors with hot chocolate during it. We hate driving in snow and having to remove it, but we like winter sports and the scenic look. Which of the following snow movies would you choose for this week’s movie?

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Groundhog Day (1993)

Frozen (2013)

It’s Movie Trivia Time!

Trivia is so fun, and hopefully you’ll find some of your favourite movies in the following bits of movie minutia:

1.  When Steven Spielberg showed John Williams the cut of Schindler’s List (1993), he was so moved that he could barely speak and had to excuse himself from the room for a few minutes. When he returned he told Spielberg the movie needed a better composer. Spielberg simply replied, “I know. But they’re all dead.”

2.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the most nominated film series in the history of the Oscars, with its 3 films collecting 30 nominations. Before 2003 the highest was The Godfather series with 28, with the Star Wars series in a close second at 21.

3.  Did you know that WALL-E’s name actually stands for something? It’s Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class. EVE’s is Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator.

4.  You’ll probably never look at the Alien (1979) monster the same after this… The tendons in his ferocious jaws were created with shredded condoms.

5.  When Coco (2017) was released in Brazil they changed the title (and character’s name) to “Viva” because in Portuguese “cocô” is “poop.”

6.  Most of us are familiar with the Citizen Kane (1941) and the fuss surrounding that movie. However, when it opened it was a box office flop and it was booed every time one of its nine nominations was announced at the 1941 Academy Awards. It  wasn’t until the mid-50’s that it was re-released and began to become accepted by critics and viewers. Today it often sits at #1, or at least in the top 10, on “greatest movie” lists.

7.  The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was inspired by a real-life relationship. Robert Keppel is retired today, but he was a law enforcement officer and University of Washington criminology professor and profiler. He not only studied serial killers like Ted Bundy, he also got Bundy to help him investigate the Green River Serial Killings in Washington, which lead to catching Gary Ridgway who plead guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first degree murder.

8.  Many of the actors who played Nazis in Casablanca (1942) were German Jews who’s escaped Nazi Germany.

9.  The first Pixar movie to reach the $1 billion mark was Toy Story 3 (2010).

10.  You may not have heard of the German-born actor Til Schweiger, but he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009). According to Tarantino, Til had always refused to wear a Nazi uniform for a movie role, but he agreed to do it in this one because he got to kill Nazis.

11.  You may have also never heard of the movie Metropolis (1927), but it was a highly influential silent film. It inspired the name of the city Superman continually saved, and it brought us the look of C-3P0.

12.  Robert Zemeckis used Norman Rockwell paintings to inspire shots of the fictional Greenbow, Alabama in Forrest Gump (1994). The scene where he’s sitting outside of the principal’s office as his mother speaks to the principal was a recreation of Rockwell’s “Girl With a Black Eye.”

13.  One of James Stewart’s most popular movies is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). It was not, however, popular with some. Congressmen, senators, and other politicians in Washington didn’t appreciate that it insinuated corruption in their ranks (eye roll). Many fascist states in Europe also banned the film because it showed that democracy works.

14.  In 2013 the Coen Brothers saw posters for The Big Lebowski (1998) in a movie theater in San Francisco. Ethan asked a teenage girl he saw there what was going on. She told him about how the theater was showing nightly screenings of the movie and that many people would come dressed in costumes portraying some of the characters. According to Joel Coen, she went on to add, “You should come. You’ll like it. It’s fun,” having no idea these were the two men who’d made the movie.

15.  3-D movies were a thing in the 50’s as well as today and Alfred Hitchcock shot one of his movies in this format: Dial M for Murder (1954). But the 3-D technology of the time was limited. There’s a close-up of a finger dialing 6 (or “M”) that the 3-D camera couldn’t focus on close-up. So Hitchcock ordered a giant phone dial and a giant wooden finger to get the 3-D effect he wanted for that shot.

16.  In Life of Brian (1979), 6 cast members played 40 different characters.

17.  Steve McQueen was the first black director of a movie awarded best picture at the Academy Awards for 12 Years a Slave (2013). The first black director to have his movie receive a nomination for the category was Quincy Jones (The Color Purple, 1985).

18.  Not only is a groundhog featured in the movie Groundhog Day (1993), an entire family of groundhogs were raised specifically for the making of the movie.

19.  It was very intentional for Belle to be a lover of books in Beauty and the Beast (1991). Not only was it used to depict her as intelligent—a characteristic not shown in prior Disney princesses—it was also intended to emphasize the film’s theme: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

20.  In Brooklyn (2015), Saoirse Ronan’s character is born in Ireland and makes a big move to Brooklyn, NY. In real life, she was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved when she was young to Ireland.

Congratulations Brooklyn. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Aside from Ronan, I think the best actress would be Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler in Hanna
Best Actor:
I really liked Emory Cohen (I had to look up his name) in Brooklyn, so let’s give him the nod this week.
Best Quote:I just missed your heart.” — Saoirse Ronan as Hanna in Hanna.

And, here are my favourite Ireland-based movies, followed by my favourite immigrant-based movies:

Top 7 Favourite Ireland-Related Movies

  1. Far and Away (1992)
  2. The Boxer (1997)
  3. Song of the Sea (2014)
  4. In the Name of the Father (1993)
  5. Sing Street (2016)
  6. Once (2007)
  7. My Left Foot (1989)

Top 8 Favourite Immigrant-Related Movies

  1. Brooklyn (2015)
  2. An American Tale (1986)
  3. Gran Torino (2008)
  4. Avalon (1990)
  5. Children of Men (2006)
  6. Gangs of New York (2009)
  7. District 9 (2002) — It’s metaphoric, but still…
  8. The Godfather Part II (1974)

Pick your movie of the week: Saoirse Ronan! (Jan 21-27/18)

You may be unfamiliar with her, so let me help out firstly with her name. It’s pronounced “SIR-shuh ROH-nin.” I remember back in 2008 when she got nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Atonement (2007). Since then she’s been consistently in the movie awards limelight, and deservedly too.

This year she’s received her third Oscar nomination for her starring role in Ladybird (2017). Which one of her prior movies would you choose to be this week’s movie?

The Lovely Bones (2009)
♦ Centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family—and her killer—from purgatory. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. ♦

Hanna (2011)
♦ A sixteen-year-old girl who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives. ♦

Brooklyn (2015)
♦ An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. ♦


I had known for a long time about the teenage boy who drowned in the Saint John River while attending a retreat at a camp with his church youth group. But it was surreal to listen to a friend who was there give her perspective and details of the story. Imagine being at a somewhat remote campground with a group of teenagers along with some other adults from your church, and you discover that something is wrong. You see panic on a handful of faces, desperately seeking help and direction. Fear takes over, but so does an innate reflex to stay calm and act wisely—for your sake and for the sake of the young campers—and the cocktail is made complete with a shot of adrenaline. You want to believe that there is some explanation and that somehow everything is ok. But a kid has fallen out of his canoe without his life jacket on. He had a seizure. He is missing somewhere under the water.

My friend told me what she, her peers, and the teens did while they waited for emergency assistance to arrive. They got in the water. They wanted to find him. They spread out in the general area of the river where his canoe was. A lot of painful minutes (far too many for comfort) had passed from the moment he fell in to this moment when they decided to try to find him. He could not possibly have survived, but she said everyone there was resolute and determined about getting in that water and retrieving their friend.

I was astounded by this. This was 12-18 year olds. This was a dead body. Wouldn’t they at the very least be squirmish, let alone petrified? And how could they think they would actually be able to revive his body? But my friend recalled that there was a such a strong pull to hold out hope and work together to save him. Not only that, how could they just sit and wait? They felt they just had to do something. Even if the possibility of survival was slimmer than the skin of an onion, that was enough for them to go on.

I am always struck by this kind of gut-level teamwork in the face of catastrophe, which we see played out so vividly in Apollo 13. The lengths we go in the desperate attempts to save one another as humans is astounding and profound.

I wish there was a happy ending for this story like there was for Jim Lovell and his crew. They never did find him. The EMT’s did. He was found in the very spot they were searching, which has led my friend to believe that God was saving the group from the trauma of finding their friend’s lifeless body.

His name was Jeff Choate. He is still remembered fondly as a kind, thoughtful, happy, cool kid. And his memory remains alive on Caton’s Island every time someone gets hungry and heads to the Choate Dining Hall. And for me, he’s not the only one who will be remembered. That group of teens and adults who were willing to do whatever was necessary, no matter how difficult it may be, to save a life will never cease to inspire me and restore my faith in humanity.

Congratulations Apollo 13. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Could we go with anyone other than Meryl Streep? I haven’t seen Bridges of Madison County, but I’m sure she was great in it. Plus, can you imagine Petrina if the chosen best actress was Elizabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas???

Best Actor: As much as I love Braveheart, the last time I watched it I found some of Mel’s acting a little phony, especially when he’s showing that he’s enamoured with Murron at the beginning. I think Tom Hanks is, again, the winner this week.

Best Quote:Well don’t you worry, honey. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.” — Jean Speegle Howard (Ron Howard’s mother) as Blanche Lovell (Jim Lovell’s mother) in Apollo 13.

Funny little memory… Just weeks before getting married Joy and I flew to Colorado to interview for a youth pastor position there. We were so shocked that the pastor not only took us to the movies (THE PASTOR!!), but did so on Sunday. And just weeks after our wedding I went to see a movie with one of our teens from the Blacks Harbour Wesleyan youth group to see Batman and Robin in Saint John. When I talked to his mother about it (She thought it was a great idea, of course.) I told her that I’d take him the day after I was officially off the payroll of the church just in case anyone had a problem with it. My how quickly things changed after 1995.

Pick your movie of the week: Golden Globes 1995! (Jan 14-20/18)


Today is the Golden Globes, so I thought this would be a good week to take a look at the films nominated for the year that Joy and I were married. In 1996 the winner for the year 1995 was Sense and Sensibility. But which of the losing nominees would you pick for our movie of the week?

Apollo 13 (1995)

Braveheart (1995)

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)