Tag Archives: Steven Spielberg

I’ll Always Give Thanks for the Movies

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, the time when we take stock of our lives and acknowledge the amazing gifts we’ve been given.

Like most well fed, well cared for, comfy Americans, I have more things to be grateful for than I can list, especially this year, as my husband and I welcomed into our home a magical and mysterious creature, a now 10-month-old daughter who keeps us on our toes.

On a more playful note, and with no disrespect intended to the One our thanks is owed, I’ve been reflecting on my many movie-related blessings. It may be silly, but film is an important part of my life, helping me celebrate what is good and process what isn’t, shining some light into a dark world.

I’m grateful that for 15 years I was privileged to work at my dream job at a local newspaper. Over the course of my career, I performed many different tasks, some of them tedious, but I never grew tired of writing about movies.

Being a film critic is, hands down, the best job ever. I got paid to drive to Los Angeles and see the latest releases before anyone else did. Most Friday afternoons, I’d pop my head through the door of my boss’s office and say, “I’m going to the movies,” before strolling out of the building long before quitting time.

Pondering over, analyzing, nit-picking and discussing films is my favorite pastime and I got to do it for a living, in print, which often resulted in lively debate with readers.

Though I worked on the fringes of Hollywood, I had the opportunity to indulge my passion for movies with a wide spectrum of assignments. I interviewed fans at midnight screenings, talked to actors and directors by phone, covered film festivals, went to museum exhibit openings, delved into Tinseltown history and maneuvered my way onto film sets in the middle of the desert.

I perturbed Steven Spielberg by sneaking onto the Palmdale set of “The Terminal” (at least that’s what his publicists told me). And I passed out right in front of “Man of Steel” star Henry Cavill at a local premiere (but that’s another story).

After all these adventures, I’m surprised at how much I don’t miss my newspaper job, but I do miss spending every day immersed in the silly, strangely satisfying world of Hollywood.

That’s why I’m thankful I still get to go to the movies fairly frequently, thanks to a pair of wonderful grandmothers who don’t mind babysitting. And I’m blessed to continue writing about what I love on this blog, so if you’re reading this post, thank you.

Going to the movies wouldn’t be half as fun without my two moviegoing partners in crime. My husband, Nick, and I spend almost every date night in front of a flickering screen. When I traveled to L.A. for screenings, he was usually at my side, even though those nights could be tiring.

He gamely allows me to drag him to “artsy” fare like “Nightcrawler,” sits through the documentaries I put on our Netflix queue, briefs me on the horror movies I don’t have the nerve to watch and makes sure I’m up-to-date on the latest action flicks.

Best of all, as we leave the theater, he listens patiently while I chatter away, deconstructing everything we’ve just seen. I don’t know if anyone else would be willing to put up with my pompous, opinionated rants.

When I can’t convince Nick to come along with me, I can always count on my fellow film buff, Kristy. She’s the one who goes with me on a Tuesday night to see “Laggies” or “Tracks” or “Boyhood” when no one else will.

When I worked at the paper, she often rode shotgun with me to those exhausting L.A. screenings, hashing out the merits or lack thereof of what we’d just seen during the long drive home.

Kristy and I are gearing up for Oscar season, our favorite time of year, when we spend much of our time tracking the results of awards shows, handicapping the various categories and checking off the list of films we have yet to see.

We also spend way too much time, energy and money organizing the best Oscar party ever, at which someone is always guaranteed to do something crazy, like run down the street wearing a trash bag or dress up like Jennifer Lawrence.

This brings me to the next item on my list of blessings — the fact that one of the best seasons of the year is rapidly approaching.

With the holidays looming, Hollywood is ready to inundate theaters with long anticipated, must-see movies, including “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (opening Friday), “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “Into the Woods.” It’s like Christmas. Wait, it is Christmas.

Even when January rolls around and the studios clean out their closets, resulting in one lackluster weekend at the box office after another, I’ll still have much to be grateful for, thanks to my go-to movies, the films that are a constant presence in my life, always there to comfort or enlighten or provide a bit of escape.

It’s not possible to list them all, but I’m grateful for the irrepressible hopefulness of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the soulfulness of “Lost in Translation,” the gothic atmosphere of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” the comedic brilliance of “Bringing Up Baby.”

I’ll never take for granted the perfection of “Casablanca” or “Almost Famous,” “Roman Holiday” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

For these and so many other cinematic gifts, I will always give thanks.

Lavender Kristy trash bagsLavender Vroman and fellow film buff Kristy Rivas take a jog around the block in honor of “Silver Linings Playbook” at a 2013 Oscar party. 

Image at top: Lavender Vroman on one of her moviegoing adventures. Photo by Fawn Kemble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the Movies, Baby Girl

It’s a time-honored right of passage in the modern age — a child’s first movie.

Dad’s got the booster seat and popcorn. Mom’s praying they’ll make it to the end credits without a meltdown. The kid is simultaneously awestruck, bored and overwhelmed by the need to pee. It’s a beautiful thing.

I have hazy but evocative memories of my early cinematic experiences — the horror of Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty,” the trauma of “Bambi,” unimpressed by “Annie,” bewildered and fascinated by the stop-motion monsters of “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.”

My daughter is nearly 9 months old and far too young to go to the movies, let alone watch them in earnest at home. But this movie-loving mama is dreaming of the days when she’ll be old enough that I can share my favorite films with her.

In anticipation, I’ve penned this letter.

Dear Baby Girl,

You may think now that the world is a pretty wonderful place, but wait until you discover a little thing we like to call the movies. Your life will never be the same.

Here are the movies I can’t wait to show you, just as soon as you’re old enough.

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The Original “Star Wars” Trilogy,” 1977-1983: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … there was “Star Wars,” and the Force was with it and it changed your mommy’s life. At the late-blooming age of 14, your mama saw “Episode IV — A New Hope.” It wasn’t even in the theater. It was on TV, but the spectacle of this galactic battle of good vs. evil sparked in your mother an enduring awareness of the power of the movies.

It’s gratifying to see that, all these years later, kids are still discovering and loving George Lucas’ little space opera. If I had my way, you’d never hear a word about those so-called “prequels,” but for better or worse, “Star Wars” lives on, and on, and on, and on … . There will soon be yet another “Star Wars” trilogy for your generation, my dear. I hope it’s worthy of you.

(And once you’ve met Han, Luke and Leia, there’s a certain fedora-wearing archaeologist I’m dying for you to meet.)

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“Beauty and the Beast,” 1991: Child, let me tell you a story. You know how everyone feels about “Frozen”? How they can’t stop singing the songs, can’t stop talking about Anna and Elsa and Olaf, how they get excited every time they hear “Let It Go”?

Well, child, that is how your mama feels about “Beauty and the Beast.”

For some of us, it remains the quintessential Disney animated classic, having hit theaters at that pivotal point in our childhoods when we believed in magic and true love and happily ever afters. Gorgeously animated with unforgettable music — Idina Menzel’s got nuthin’ on Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson — and a peasant-turned-princess who is smart, compassionate and loves to read, this fairy tale can’t be topped.

I hope you adore it and want to be just like Belle. The end.

Except that’s not the end because there are dozens and dozens of other Disney classics I can’t wait for you to experience, from “Snow White” to “The Little Mermaid” to “Tangled.” And then there are the Pixar movies, and the Disney-Pixar movies, and the live-action Disney movies, like “Mary Poppins” and “Pete’s Dragon.” Thank Walt — these movies will bring you joy for a lifetime.

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All the Miyazaki Movies, 1984-2013: Once you’ve seen the Disney movies, baby, it will be time to graduate to the beautiful, dreamlike world of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, films like “My Neighbor Tortoro,” “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle.”

Yes, these exquisitely hand-drawn marvels can be dark and strange, but it will be good for you to discover that there are different, more inventive ways to tell stories, that other cultures are full of delights to discover and that imagination is boundless and will transport you to new and exciting places.

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The “Harry Potter” Movies, 2001-2011: You’ll read the books first, of course, and when you do it will be one of the definitive moments of your life. I’m a firm believer that J.K. Rowling’s epic series of heroism, magic and wonder is timeless, a classic any generation will respond to. Warner Bros.’ fine movie adaptations will help you relive the enchantment.

Unlike some parents, I don’t worry that you’ll pick up some witchcraft by watching them. I only hope you’ll learn what it means to be a friend, to be loyal and to choose the light over the darkness.

For that same reason, I can’t wait until you’re old enough to be spellbound by Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. These movies brought comfort to your mother and millions of others in dark times. I hope they’ll do the same for you.

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“Casablanca,” 1942, and “Singin’ in the Rain,” 1952: When it comes to classic movies, honey, your fate has been pretty well sealed. It just so happens you were born to a mother who binges on Turner Classic Movies instead of soap operas or the CW.

There are so many old movies I want you to see  — “Bringing Up Baby,” “Roman Holiday,” anything starring Fred and Ginger, everything by Hitchcock. I don’t want you to be one of those kids who automatically dismisses a film because it’s black and white or because it’s too “old-fashioned.”

I’ll start with “Casablanca” because I’d like you to know there is at least one perfect movie in this world. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

And I’ll finish with “Singin’ in the Rain” because it is one of the most exuberant, funny, irresistible musicals ever made. I hope you sing “Good Morning” and “Moses Supposes” to me until my ears bleed.

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“Alien,” 1979: If I have anything to do with it, you won’t be seeing Ridley Scott’s supreme sci-fi thriller for many, many years. I don’t want you to have to go to therapy to get over the sight of one of the slimiest, nastiest, scariest movie monsters in cinema history.

But when you’re old enough, there will be a time to watch “Alien.” I want you to know that, like Sigourney Weaver’s tough, resourceful and determined Ripley, you can be the hero of your story.

And here are just a few more, because it’s so hard to narrow down this list:

“The Princess Bride,” 1987: Because someday when you’re no longer a child, this hilarious and sweet fairy tale will help you find that childlike joy again.

“Back to the Future,” 1985: If you don’t see Robert Zemeckis’ ultimate time travel romp, it will cause a rift in the space-time continuum and Marty McFly and Doc Brown will have to go back — or is that forward? — and fix it.

“The Goonies,” 1985: This ’80s classic will inspire you to seek your own adventures. And because the Truffle Shuffle. And Goonies never say die.

“E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” 1982: At first, Steven Spielberg’s kid-pleasing gem will scare the living daylights out of you. E.T. is cute, but also creepy in a wrinkly sort of way. Once you overcome those fears — and a possible aversion to Reese’s Pieces — this kiddie classic will teach your little heart how to feel.

“Hugo,” 2011: This film is so lovely and whimsical and tells the story of the movies that mommy loves in a way I think you’ll understand. Besides, this is the only film by the great Martin Scorsese that I want you to see until you’re at least … I don’t know … 35?

All my love,

Mama

What movies were you most excited to share with the kids in your life? What movies are you looking forward to showing them?