The Films We Love, Actually – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the May 22, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

The 2003 holiday hit. “Love Actually” is one of my favorite movies.  That explains to a few people that it’s obvious I have no taste in movies. “A few” people include my dearest oldest daughter.  She loathes “Love Actually” and she is not alone.  Critic Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in Salon (December 2012) that “Love Actually” is “one of cinema’s nastiest, most depression commentaries on love.”  Other reviewers call it the worst Christmas movie of all time.  Ha, what do they know? My youngest daughter and I adore watching it several times each year.

I have my favorite movies, actors and actresses and I’ve had a long-standing crush on Anthony Hopkins.  This grossed my daughters out in their pre-teen years.  They still shriek “ewww” but I can’t help it. I’ll also watch any movie with Pierce Brosnan, Harrison Ford, or Ryan Gosling.  And watch them again and again.

Meryl Streep is my idea of an actress.  I even loved her in “Mamma Mia.” (See above comment about Pierce Brosnan.)

I rarely get a chance to view movies in the theaters anymore.  The popcorn’s terrible for you, of course. I prefer to watch movies when they are released on Netflix, On Demand, or off the shelf at the library.

So, it’s no wonder I was completely out of sync with the Academy Awards this past April.  The only nominated movie I had seen was “Captain Phillips.”  I persuaded my daughters to see it with me when it was released last October. My eldest was due to give birth to my first granddaughter and I had hoped that the tension of “Captain Phillips” would move labor along. (It didn’t; she was still in labor two days later).

I liked the movie, even Tom Hanks’ fake Boston accent.  I read that the Somali actors (who were terrific) responded to open casting calls.  They snagged marvellous debut roles in some amazing performances. Barkhad Abdi was nominated as best-supporting actor (but lost out to Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club.”) That said I’m not sure the movie was worthy of a nomination for an Oscar for Best Picture.

The Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role also went to “Dallas Buyers Club.”  I watched it one day this spring when I was home with a fever and cold.  It wasn’t the most upbeat movie to watch while fighting off a wicked bug, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t more depressing. Matthew McConaughey’s performance (he won an Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role) as a painfully thin representation of himself was pretty stunning. Besides admiring the true story of dedication to providing life-saving medication to AIDS patients, I was gratified to see him spend many hours in the library. (McConaughey portrays real-life AIDS sufferer Ron Woodward who researched drugs and medicines in 1986 to come up with his own combination to fight AIDS.)

Time spent in libraries, of course, remind me of books; several of the 2013 nominated movies were adapted them.  “The Wolf of Wall Street,” written by Jordan Belfort, featured Leonardo DiCaprio, nominated for Actor in a Leading Role, and Jonah Hill, nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role.  It was also nominated for Best Picture but won none of them. I actually have to admit I stopped watching “The Wolf of Wall Street” halfway through it. While the critics loved it, others like myself found the story of modern-day excess, and the celebrity given to wolves of Wall Street, upsetting. Author Belfort, the wonder boy himself, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Speaking of the American court system (and right and wrong), Warner Brothers (producer of the movie “Gravity”) is being sued by author Tess Gerritsen, author of a book by the same title. When the movie was in production, Gerritsen (author of medical and scientific thrillers) denied any connection to the it. When it was released, however, she found the story suspiciously familiar. Writer and director Alfonso Cuarón denied basing it on Gerritsen’s book. The movie was nominated in many categories and Cuarón won an Oscar for Best Director.  I was happy to see that it did not win for Best Picture because I thought the movie was senseless, unbelievable  and silly.  But that’s me and it was science FICTION, after all. It won many other awards, including Best Cinematography and Soundtrack; star Sandra Bullock, nominated for Best Leading Actress, lost out.

Other 2013 movies nominated for awards based on books were “Monuments Men” (based on the story by Robert M. Edsel), “American Hustle” (based on “The Sting Man” by Robert W. Green), and“The Book Thief,” based on the young adult book by Markus Zusak.  Also based on a book was “12 Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup, the film that won Oscar for Best Picture.

“August: Osage County” was based on the play by Tracy Letts (performed 648 times on Broadway.)  The intense story of a family at odds with itself has been described as darkly comedic. I found the movie disappointing with the exception of some amazing performances by actresses Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts who were both nominated for Oscars but didn’t win.

I’m glad that I took the time to both watch “Philomena” and read the book that inspired it, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith. After reading the book, it was mildly distressing to realize how much license the producers took with the screen version.  There are many reviews of the movie that point out these inconsistencies and I won’t belabor them here. I did think it was a story that needed to be told.  If you are looking for “Philomena” in the library catalog, there are a few copies of the original longer-titled book.  I urge you to search for the short-titled movie-tie-in version because those copies are more plentiful in the Minuteman libraries’ collections.

Other notable films this year that were nominated for Oscars were “Nebraska” and Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” and Disney’s “Frozen” (winner of Best Song). True to my sentimental and cloying taste in movies, Disney’s “Frozen” is now in my own personal movie collection. Someday in the next few years I plan to watch it alongside my granddaughter, Phoebe.  I also plan to pass along some of Nana’s bad, sappy taste.

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