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Mona Lisa Smile

Description: A non-conformist teacher, a conformist university in the 1950s. An interesting play on the formula in which things did not play out entirely as I expected.

I liked that our Julia/Mona Lisa was not entirely in the right. A movie discussing life as art. Asking what is art? Who decides? And when? In 50 years, what will people say? What is the “right” way to live your life? And how does history judge that “right” way.

It was only afterwards that I realized that the actress playing Giselle was the main protagonist in The Secretary. I expected this and I expected that from this character’s fate and got neither. Once again the actress, and the character she played, ultimately impressed me with the power of her unconventional spine. She’s living her life and by many lights it seems a self destructive life and yet there is that scene at the end, where I was ready for bitter unleash, and there was only unfolding compassion.

You can't help watch the movie through the lens of The Dead Poet’s Society and a thousand other unconventional teacher stories (not to mention the ballet Giselle). Think this and this and this and get…questions. What is truth?

What does Mona Lisa’s smile mean? What is conventional? Things and people change and here is this world very much in transition. The emphasis that the adults of the 50s are the by-product of this great wracking conflict that changed, changes everything. Rosie the Riveter left her job when the GI’s came home. Bought a washer and a dryer and girdle to set her free. These young women, and all their educated potential, being funneled into these narrow venues. Getting their M.R.S degrees. The comment by the nurse, that five years previous she’d have just been wrist slapped for giving students contraceptive devices. But this is five years later, a world in recoil. The genie’s out of the bottle. The bomb has dropped. Rosie did rivet.

Peter Pan

Description: A boy, who will never grow up, takes three Edwardian children to a land that never was.

They did all sorts of things right with this movie. Peter is actually played by a 13 year old boy. Not a girl, not a man, not a woman, a boy.


Also, per the way it is played on stage, the same actor who plays Mr. Darling, plays Captain Hook.

These two choices incredibly enrich the flavor of the story. The sense of young girl awakening to adulthood.

This is a beautiful land that never was, which really is beyond the second star to the right and straight on till morning.

I never really saw Peter Pan as a story of awakening sexuality, but there it is, trembling on the vine. Almost teenager. Almost adult. It’s there in Peter’s boyish glances, all uncomprehending. In Wendy’s mouth. Mother. Father. These two teen actors have tremendous chemistry.

It's there in Tink’s jealousy. In Hook’s color and moods and words. I never realized, of course, Hook wears red. Rich, soft, deep as hearts, red. And cold blue eyes that Wendy sees and is not afraid. How could she, when Hook is her father.

For some reason, I always saw this as Peter’s story, but it isn’t. It’s Wendy’s. Little girl growing.

Wendy, who dreamed of being a pirate once upon a time and is being told that she must grow up, put on a corset and be a woman. Wendy, who stands on the edge of this skerry of the Dreaming and tells stories that we see realized in characters. Pirates with hands on backwards and all over tattoos and Indians and mermaids. But the mermaids here are not sweet,  they are dark dreaming creatures of the deep. And this is not a sanitized children's story. Which is to say that is a world that any child would recognize. Children aren't particularly sanitized.

It didn’t take much to spin out of the theatre and believe in black castles under cotton candy clouds and vast seas that hold stars and words and stories and skerries on the edge of Dreaming. To say, “I believe.”

Return of the King

Description: Your kidding me right? The epic end of an epic quest.

Now then, some serious appreciation, brought to you by the letter T.

T is for Trebouchet.

1. “I am no man.” The reason I tried to read the books when I was a kid. Afraid, wounded, but facing the Witch-king anyway.

2. Legolas, Legolas, Legolas. Oliphant. Legolas. Good stuff.

3. Gimli, Gimli, Gimli, “Certain death, no chance of success, well sure let’s go.”

4. The Rohirrim in a thin crescent charging the vast sea of enemy was the narrow edge by which we hold onto hope. “Rohan will answer.” Theoden’s speech before the charge. Well, I may be a woman, but I cried the manly tears.

5. The oliphants.

6. Pippin’s song, as all unseen soldiers to obscure death rode. Not once more into the breach, but over top into no-man’s land. Sweetness in shire and love’s flowers behind and darkness ahead.

7. The lighting of the signal fires. Connection written in distant lights strung from peak to peak.

8. The use of lighting in general. Old, worn symbols are the best.

9. That army of the dead sweeping like a plague. Their longing to  rest tied nicely with Gandalf’s explanation of the next step in life’s journey.

10. “Don’t you leave me behind where I can’t follow.” Sam as the heart of the story, supporting the failing, and increasingly angelic, Frodo. Fellowship indeed. Sniff. Purely manly tears.

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