Category Archives: Films

Muse on the move

A few of the nifty buttons in the collections that grows each time I hit a museum gift shop

A few nifty buttons from the collection that grows each time I hit a museum gift shop

After years of daily blogging in “Stage Mom” mode, I’ve decided it’s time to pack up and move to a new writing home — a bigger house, if you will, filled with all things theater but also something more.

Think musings on film, dance, music, visual arts and assorted creative adventures in museum and library lands. Plus more guest posts, photos and news of other projects.

Just a few days ago, I made the move to ArtMusings.com.

Like physically packing up possessions and carting them off to a new home, moving from one bit of cyberspace to another rarely goes as planned.

My tech team consists of hubby James, who was game last year when I suggested that a website would make a lovely birthday gift, and a cat who naps through most of her duties.

Armed with only “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to WordPress,” James went to work. It’s a learn by doing enterprise, and so far he’s not only built my new cyberhome, but also flipped the switch on a new blog.

Like the last boxes to get unpacked after a move, new social media components have yet to be put in their proper place. But consider this your invitation to a housewarming party in progess.

You’ll find blogs and/or photos posted each day at www.artmusings.com.

Maybe once the cat gets more involved, we’ll master the finer points of adding buttons for liking Art Musings on Facebook and following Art Musings on Twitter. Seems I’m better at buying buttons than installing them.

Thanks for visiting my new home. I’ll save a seat on the cybercouch for you.

– Lynn

What I learned from the Golden Globes

Golden-Globes-header

These blunt objects are actually weapons against self-doubt, according to Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway’s Fantine is the best (Anne Hathaway, quoting her mom) • Studs and cutouts are appropriate at any age (Dame Helen Mirren) • Art generates conversations (Jessica Chastain)

Sally Field didn’t need a corset to rock that tiny waist for “Lincoln” • Black is still the best color for evening gowns • Ricky Gervais is no longer in show business (Tina Fey)

HFPA can lead to cervical cancer (Amy Poehler) • Iran is friendlier to outsiders than Boston (Tina Fey) • Hugh Jackman wrinkles his nose like a bunny when he thinks something’s funny

Young Daniel Day Lewis was E.T. (Tina Fey) • Leonardo DiCaprio is the new Susan Lucci • Pepsi makes me peevish • No one bothers to ask men what designer they’re wearing

Righty tighty, lefty loosey (Target) • Jewish rock angels really exist (Jay Roach) • The best journeys are always shared (Damien Lewis) • L’Oreal offers haircolor that matches my red velvet cupcake batter

I still don’t get Kevin Costner • Jennifer Lawrence beat Meryl (J. La) • Meryl Streep has the flu, and she’s amazing in it (Amy Poehler) • Necklines have merged with waistlines

Sally Field is a vanguard against typecasting (Anne Hathaway) • Jeremy Irons snuck into Lincoln’s closet • Merida’s hair in “Brave” inspired this year’s lipstick trends • Walking in heels is harder than getting tattoos

Being brave is about being true to yourself and allowing your loved ones that same freedom (Mark Andrews) • Amy Poehler uses Princess Leia’s hairdresser • Taylor Swift needs some “me time” to learn about herself (Tina Fey)

Jodie Foster channels Molly Shannon • It’s a “Girls” world • Target sells projectile groceries • Stage mothers never really die (Damien Lewis)

– Lynn

Note: Click here to explore this year’s Golden Globe nominees and winners

Coming up: Art meets MLK day

Oscar nods and nixes

Beasts-of-the-southern-wildAfter reviewing this year’s Academy Award nominations with our youngest daughter Lizabeth, who shares a fondness for film with sister Jennifer and a slew of pals in NYC, I realized I’ve got quite the cinema “to-do” list.

Thanks to local film festivals, “Talk Cinema” screenings at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the luxury of living near a theater that routinely shows foreign and independent films, I’ve seen a lovely diversity of nominated films.

But films are like potato chips. Once you open the bag, there’s always one more chip just begging to be consumed. So I’ll be looking in coming days for opportunities to see offerings that haven’t yet crossed my path.

Amour-movie-posterFolks are plenty willing to pop off about films they’ve never seen, but that’s like dissing politicians when you never found your way to the polls — or criticizing Oscar fashions when you’re watching at home in flannel pajamas.

It was a bad year for vampires and Tom Cruise, a thought I’d like to run with but suspect it’s best to savor in silence. And having an uber-celebrity cast wasn’t enough to get serious nods. Think Tom Hanks and Halle Berry in “Cloud Atlas” or Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen in “The Guilt Trip.”

Nor was plastering tv screens with “best movie ever” ads, which seemed to work about as well this year as campaign funding a la Karl Rove. I’m thinking “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Hyde Park on Hudson” and “Hope Springs.”

Life-of-Pi-poster“The Hunger Games” proved that films geared towards young audiences can have real teeth, but “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2″ clearly missed that memo. Lizabeth feels “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” deserves a nod rather than the nix.

Films deemed even remotely preachy, including “Bully,” “Promised Land,” “Struck by Lightning” and “Won’t Back Down,” had especially poor conversion rates this year, though that won’t stop the choir from singing their praises.

Offerings on the sweet side garnered more nixes than nods. Still, I confess without shame to having a soft spot for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”

lincoln-movie-posterOpportunities to see nominated films are still plentiful. “Amour,” one of nine best picture nominees, opened today at Harkins Theatres Camelview 5. An0ther best picture nominee, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is being screened Wednesday, Feb. 6 as part of ASU’s “Hollywood Invades Tempe” series (co-producer Matt Parker will be a guest for this screening).

I’m a few films shy of seeing every best picture nominee, but leaning at least tentatively towards Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”) for best actor and Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”) for best actress.

I’d have given far fewer nods to “Les Miserables” and recognized both Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman for their work in “A Late Quartet.”

What’s your take on this year’s nods and nixes? Which films are you planning to see, and what were your own personal favorites this season? Comment below to let me know…

– Lynn

Note: Click here to explore both 2013 nominees and a list of eligible productions, here for information on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures scheduled to open during 2016, and here for details about Student Academy Awards. The 2013 Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Coming up: Remembering Roosevelt, A double dose of Shakespeare

Once upon a “Quartet”

Casa Verdi in Milan (Photo: International Giuseppe Verdi Foundation)

Casa Verdi in Milan (Photo: International Giuseppe Verdi Foundation)

We associate Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi with many magnificent works from “Aida” to “Rigoletto” — but few know that Verdi considered the 1896 founding of a home for elderly singers in Milan one of his greatest achievements.

Movie that inspired the play "Quartet"

Movie that inspired the play “Quartet”

Casa di Riposo per Musicisti was established by Verdi to shelter “elderly singers who have not been favoured by fortune, or who, when they were young, did not have the virtue of saving their money.”

Since opening in 1902, it’s housed more than 1,000 retiring artists and musicians.

Swiss filmmaker Daniel Schmid made a documentary about what’s since become known as “Casa Verdi” — the 1984 film “Tosca’s Kiss,” which inspired Dustin Hoffman’s involvement in the 2012 film that marks his directorial debut.

Quartet” leapt from stage to screen thanks to Ronald Harwood, playwright for a 1999 play titled “Quartet” plus screenwriter for the film.

You'll find intriguing differences between play and screenplay

You’ll find intriguing differences between play and screenplay

I read the play before seeing the film, and found Harwood’s original ending profoundly shocking. The film’s ending feels infinitely more vague and allows for a softer sort of landing.

“Quartet” stars Maggie Smith (Jean Horton), Tom Courtenay (Reginald Paget), Pauline Collins (Cecily Robson), Billy Connolly (Wilfred Bond) and Michael Gambon (Cedric Livingston) — which is a majestic marrying of true equals.

They’re residents of a place called Beecham House, set on sprawling pristine grounds and decorated with all the elegance you’d expect in the lap of opera-laden luxury.

One’s ever the diva, another the perpetual tease. Two were once wed, and one dances with the dementia friends meet with tenderness and humor.

Hoffman, a veteran actor recently awarded the Kennedy Center Honor, was attracted by the film’s broader themes and optimism about old age, describing “Quartet” as a film about folks in the “third act” of life who’ve still got plenty to give. Hence the childhood photos of cast members included with the film’s closing credits.

"Quartet" is a lovely take on aging and art

“Quartet” is a lovely take on aging and art

The “Talk Cinema” series at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts was practically packed during December’s “Quartet” screening, where I moderated a post-show discussion exploring not only issues of aging, but also the film’s homage to opera and take on the very nature of art.

Harlan Jacobson, the NYC film critic who heads the “Talk Cinema” enterprise, shared audience comments on “Quartet” while in Scottsdale to moderate January’s screening of “On the Road” — noting that most folks described “Quartet” as an “excellent” film they’d recommend to friends.

I remember being struck during “Quartet” by the strength of each performance, the subtle humor that elicited a near-steady stream of gentle laughter from the audience, and photography that juxtaposes nature with the people who sometimes forget their place in it.

My favorite shots pay homage to a lovely grand piano, show the diminutive status of two aging men standing under a towering tree that’ll continue to grow long after the men make their way back to the earth, and capture the shared joy of an aging opera singer with a group of young students rapt by rap.

The soundtrack makes for a nice sampling of opera fare

The soundtrack makes for a nice sampling of opera fare

Folks who favor the soundtrack – which features works composed by Verdi, Schubert, Gilbert and Sullivan, Bach, Hayden, Rossini, Puccini and others — can find it on Decca Records (which is also home to soundtracks for “A Late Quartet” and “Anna Karenina,” plus music from Alfie Boe of “Les Mis” fame).

“Quartet” is rated PG-13 and runs 97 minutes. Click here for information on upcoming “Talk Cinema” screenings at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and here for news of Arizona Opera’s upcoming performance of “Tosca.”

– Lynn

Note: “Quartet” is produced by Finola Dwyer and Stewart Mackinnon. Cinematography is by John de Borman and editing by Barney Pilling, Production design in by Andrew McAlpine, music by Dario Marianelli and costumes by Odile Dicks-Mireaux.

Coming up: Oscar nods & nixes, Once upon a “Tosca”

Films explore Jewish themes

Scene from "Mabul (The Flood)," which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

Scene from “Mabul (The Flood),” which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is presenting eleven feature films during its 17th season of celebrating Jewish heritage through film. The 2013 GPJFF takes place Feb. 10-24. Films are being screened at three Harkins Theatres locations — including Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, Harkins Chandler Crossroads and Harkins Arrowhead 18 in Peoria.

Dramas featured in this year’s festival include “Kaddish for a Friend,” “Melting Away,” “Joanna,” “Blank Bullet,” “Mabul” (“The Flood”) and “The Other Son.”  Comedies include “The Day I Saw Your Heart,” “Dorfman” and the dark comedy/drama “My Best Enemy.”

Scene from "The Day I Saw Your Heart," which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival

Scene from “The Day I Saw Your Heart,” which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival

Documentaries include “AKA Doc Pomus” — which explores the impact of a childhood dominated by poverty, polio and pain on the 1940s songwriter whose hits include “Viva Las Vegas” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” — and “Hava Nagila (The Movie),” which traces the odyssey of a song that’s “practically the Jewish anthem.”

You can have a little fun with the song before the festival kicks off by entering a “Hava Nagila Music Video Contest.” Seems the festival is looking for folks to share their vocal or musical renditions of “Have Nagila” through videos posted on YouTube before the Feb. 3 deadline.

I’m imagining kazoos, phonetic spit, ukeleles, marching bands, American sign language, handbells, musical cheers complete with pom poms and all sorts of creative fare. I’d love to see music teachers run with this baby, but click here for contest details before you whip out the video camera lest my bright ideas don’t qualify.

Some screenings include an additional short film, such as Australia’s “The Bris” and Israel’s “The Gentle Dog.” Films are introduced by guest speakers who’ll lead post-screening discussions for viewers who want to stay for a bit of lively dialogue. Think filmmakers, experts in Jewish culture, film critics, rabbis and professionals who work with Arizona organizations serving the Jewish community.

Scene from "Kaddish for a Friend," which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

Scene from “Kaddish for a Friend,” which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

Topics addressed by this year’s selections include friendships that defy cultural boundaries, raising a transgender child, the impact of autism on family life, the role of tragedy in inspiring art, consequences of individual choices made during the Holocaust and more.

Planning for the 2014 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival is already underway. Filmmakers are invited to submit feature films, documentaries, shorts and animated films “with some relevance to Jewish themes, issues, history or culture” for consideration.

Scene from "Melting Away," which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

Scene from “Melting Away,” which is part of the 2013 Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival has also issued a call for entries to the 2014 GPJFF Student Film Competition, an international competition open to all college and graduate students. The winning entry will be shown at next year’s festival.

The festival also operates a community outreach program called “Films in the Schools,” which has already shared films with more than 3,500 students in more than 35 schools. They’re working this year to reach additional schools, so more students can explore issues of acceptance, diversity, tolerance and brotherhood through the medium of film.

Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival tickets are $10 per film if purchased in advance ($11 at the door). Folks can call 602-733-1278 to click here for information on tickets, ticket packages and group discounts.

Click here to read a related story about a special screening of the film “Nicky’s Family” to benefit the development of a Holocaust museum in Chandler.

– Lynn

Note: Please note that festival films are not rated and parental discretion is advised (you’ll find film trailers on the festival website).

Coming up: Exploring children’s film festivals, Art meets travel

Here a frack, there a frack

From left: Matt Damon (Steve Butler) and John Krasinski (Dustin Noble) in "Promised Land." Photo: Focus Features.

From left: Matt Damon (Steve Butler) and John Krasinski (Dustin Noble) in “Promised Land.” Photo: Focus Features.

Everywhere a frack, frack. That’s the alleged premise for “Promised Land,” a new Focus Features production directed by Gus Van Sant of “Good Will Hunting” fame. But the movie, set in a small Pennsylvania farming town where life revolves around a diner, bar and school gymnasium, is far more than mere fracking fable.

Promised Land” is a love story, though its characters are conflicted about what they love and how to protect it. Land. Career. Girl. Money. Family. Past, present, future. And self. The screenplay, written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski from a story by Dave Eggers, is a lovely exploration of what the title’s two words really mean.

Steve Butler (Matt Damon) heads from the big city to a rural community on a mission. He’s been sent by a natural gas giant to convince the locals to lease their land for energy development. Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) is his partner is crime, assuring they stop first at the local groceries, guns, guitars and gas store for the flannel shirts that’ll help them fit in.

Butler knows well the lay of the land, as evidenced by his “heirloom” boots passed down from a farming grandfather. But he’s been spoiled, like land too harshly drilled, by the thrill of the chase. He’s schooled in the fine art of benefit selling, opening each conversation started on a doorstep with “Are you the owner of this land?” The heart of this film lies in its answer.

Butler’s life is complicated by all sorts of folks. Biology teacher Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), who’s got some suprising credentials and his own brand of persuasion. Elementary school teacher Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt), whose massive property includes a humble garden for teaching kids to take care of things. Even a little girl (Lennon Wynn Kuznian) who rocks the lemonade stand vibe.

PL posterBut mostly Dustin Noble (John Krasinksi), who rides around in a green truck plastering the town with anti-fracking fare while touting the glories of environmentalism. Like Butler, he’s a slick fellow with a big smile. The film’s best scenes include Noble’s time in Alice’s classroom, where he uses the model of a farm, a large plastic bag, a classroom pet and a touch of fire to demonstrate the evils of fracking.

Also Noble’s sheepish speech during “open mic night” at Buddy’s Place, where the band insists he do vocals as they launch into Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” — a song whose title aptly describes the folly of folks on both sides of the fracking debate. Lyrics like “there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me” fit fabulously with the film’s unfolding.  The film’s score, by Danny Elfman, is elegant yet playful.

The film’s dialogue, sometimes best delivered by minor characters like store owner Rob (Titus Welliver), is smart, funny, well-paced and believable. “Promised Land” captures the heart and soul of farm folk like the Tripp, S.D. grandparents who once treated me to fresh eggs from backyard hens, bowling alley gossip, hometown parades and such. Issues like farm subsidies and wars over oil get a mere mention, proving this film is about people rather than propaganda.

“Promised Land” is filled with images of rolling hills, American flags, pick-up trucks and sturdy fences with peeling white paint. Even adorable animals from miniature horses to baby goats. Also songs authentic to lives intertwined with small town America. Details of rural life abound, but never clutter insights into characters whose dreams and motivations are complicated.

We might disagree on how to get there, but “Promised Land” makes clear our duty to place the well-being of future generations above our own.

– Lynn

Note: “Promised Land” is rated R for language. Characters do shots in a bar and use the F-word, but there’s no sex or violence (beyond one punch in the face). I’d have let my teens (all adults now) see it in a heartbeat. The film runs 1 hour, 46 minutes.

Coming up: An adoption tale

I resolve to…

January kicks off another year of amazing programming from PBS

January kicks off another year of amazing programming from PBS

Watch more television in the New Year. Not just any TV programs, mind you. And hopefully fewer talking heads of the political pundit variety. But definitely more public television. I’m thinking PBS, home of Big Bird and Downton Abbey — but also a great deal more.

I spent part of New Year’s Eve with a poised purple highlighting pen, marking up our copy of “Eight Magazine” for January 2013 — a publication of our local PBS station that lists programming by type as well as date. New Year’s Eve offerings included a “Live From Lincoln Center” tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, one of many musical greats we lost during 2012.

New Year’s Day selections include two new episodes of “Great Performances” — one featuring host Julie Andrews and the Vienna Philharmonic, another exploring the legacy of Jewish artists on Broadway musicals. Think Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

I shared news of a new Thursday night series called “Inventions That Shook the World” with our daughter Jennifer, noting that this week’s episode involves the 1940s. “I’d rather not think,” she quipped, “about life before the invention of cat litter.”

Some people would rather not think about the Holocaust — but another Thursday offering, titled “Swimming in Auschwitz,” is helping to assure we never forget by interweaving the stories of six women imprisoned at the Auschwitz-Berkenau concentration camp.

I still vividly recall the grad school gathering where I first heard Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album, so I’m also eager to see the new “Great Performances” episode called “Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey” that airs this Friday. Folks who favor jazz can tune in Saturday for “Big Band Vocalists.”

Though the third season of “Downton Abbey” doesn’t premiere until Sunday, Jan. 6 at 8pm, I’ll be tuning to channel 8 at noon for a new “Arizona Centennial Series” and 12:30pm for “ArtBeat Nation,” a new series showcasing music, dance, theatre, literature and visual arts “with stories from across America.”

“Reportero,” a film about risks to the free press in Mexico, airs this month on “POV.” Folks who follow Phoenix Art Museum film offerings enjoyed the chance to see it earlier this year. This month also brings the premiere of a three-part series called “The Abolitionists.”

A new six-part series titled “Shakespeare Uncovered,” which airs Fridays at 8pm and 9pm beginning Jan. 25, features “the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.” Each episode includes “interviews, visits to key locations, clips from film and television adaptations, and plays staged for the series at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.”

Happy New Year, one and all. I’m off to dig for the remote control…

– Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Eight, Arizona PBS offerings

Coming up: Children’s film festivals

Angst on demand

Rebel Wilson and Chris Colfer in "Struck by Lightning" distributed by Tribeca Film. Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film.

Rebel Wilson and Chris Colfer in “Struck by Lightning” distributed by Tribeca Film. Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film.

After Lizabeth suggested we hit a movie last night, we discovered the early evening shows had already started but didn’t have the oomph to tackle a late night offering. Instead, we started trolling through “on demand” offerings — and quickly agreed that “Struck by Lightning” was a fine choice for mother/daughter television time.

It’s the tale of Carson Phillips, a smart but saucy high school student whose take on life embodies an odd mix of cynicism and optimism. “Struck by Lighting” premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. It’s been available on demand through Tribeca Film since Dec. 19, and heads to select theaters next month.

Chris Colfer, known to many for playing Kurt Hummel on the Fox television series “Glee,” wrote the screenplay for “Struck by Lightning.” It’s directed by Brian Dannelly, co-writer (with Michael Urban) and director of the 2004 film “Saved!,” the tale of a teen who becomes pregnant while attending a Christian high school.

“Struck by Lightning” opens with shots of a “Clover City Limit” sign, a funeral rocking the nerd vibe and a little boy peeking through a staircase railing as his parents duel at high decibles. Phillips narrates the film, introducing viewers ealy on to the mom who can’t decide whether he’s her biggest mistake or her only hope. Sheryl Phillips is played by Allison Janney.

Struck-by-Lightning-movie-pOne moment she’s lamenting her decision not to get an abortion. The other she’s sabotaging his plans to move away and attend college. In between, she lies despondent on the sofa or makes animated demands of the neighborhood pharmacist. Phillips wanted to be Betty Crocker, laments her son, but ended up like Betty Ford.

The other women in Phillips’ life include a grandma (Polly Bergen) starting to lose her grip on reality and fellow writers club member Malerie Baggs (Rebel Wilson). Phillips heads the band of misfits, who’ve yet to meet a deadline for the school paper he decides one day to replace with a literary magazine. Malerie has a bad case of writer’s block, but she’s earnest and never stops seeking genuine inspiration.

Though words aren’t included on the cast and crew list, they’ve got a starring role in “Struck by Lightning.” Phillips does student editor duty in front of a mural featuring a large umbrella and dozens of letters falling from the sky — and Colfer’s landscape is littered with references to literary works. Phillips dreams of editing The New Yorker and similar adventures with language.

“Struck by Lightening” features fast-paced dialogue both funny and smart, plus zingers aimed at underfunded schools and overmedicated children. It’s also rife with midlife musings. “I was you,” Phillips’ mom tells a young, pregnant woman, “and now I’m this.” Seems one got pregnant to try and save a marriage, the other to force her fellow to the altar.

Phillips’ only encounter with his father, Neal Phillips (Dermot Mulroney), comes during a dinner held so fiance April (Christina Hendricks) can get to know him. Just two of the three escape with any degree of insight. The other merely explains that a person can say “I’m sorry” only so many times.

Five words from Shakespeare quoted early in the film reveal one of Colfer’s key themes — the importance of dreams. When, wonders Phillips, do we stop believing in our dreams, and in ourselves? And is a life without goals or dreams really worth living? Teens who groan when parents say such things may find they’re more inspiring wrought from Colfer’s pen.

Struck-by-Lightning-Book-CoColfer’s film is companion to “Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal,” released in November. His first novel, “The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell,” was released in July. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up, unlike the film you’ll want to save for mature tweens and up.

“Struck by Lightning” includes sexual content and colorful language that reflects the real-world experiences of plenty of high school students. Consider the third syllable in “valedictorian” and you’ll get a good feel for what to expect. Still, the mature content feels organic and authentic rather than gratuitous or contrived.

Our kids are all in college now, but the more existential among them would have benefited from seeing Colfer’s film while enduring high school classes that felt irrelevant and peers that seemed to value stupidity over smarts.

Both teens and parents can learn a little something from Colfer’s pearls — don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, listening trumps talking, we’re never too old for stories.

“Struck by Lightning” strikes the perfect balance of hope and despair across the generations.” It’s a playful, poignant piece confirming Colfer’s place in the pantheon of the precocious.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to enjoy Michael Schulman’s “The Many Hats of Chris Colfer,” published Dec. 21 in The New York Times and here to read “Chris Coffer: By the Book” published in The New York Times “Sunday Book Review” on Dec. 13. A preview screening of “Struck by Lighting” by Tribeca Film comes to FilmBar in Phoenix and Mary D. Fisher Theatre in Sedona on Jan. 6 (followed by a live simulcast Q & A with Chris Colfer) and Harkins Theatres Shea 14 on Jan. 11. Click here for details.

Coming up: Art from the heart, Musings on MLK

Down time with book time

A few of the books we gave a new home to during the holidays

A few of the books we gave a new home to during the holidays

Holiday shopping is easy for folks in the Trimble family, who’ve rarely met a book they didn’t like. After all our gifts were exchanged across three generations, these are some of the titles we came home with…

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson

Cut to the Corpse (A Decoupage Mystery) by Lucy Lawrence

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney

A little something from our Brooklyn baby

A little something from our Brooklyn baby

Holocaust Poetry compiled and introduced by Hilda Schiff

Larry in Wonderland by Stephan Pastis

How Music Works by David Byrne

Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard H. Minear, Dr. Seuss and Art Spiegelman

Red Velvet Revenge (Cupcake Bakery Mystery) by Jenn McKinlay

Peter and the Starcatcher: The Annotated Script of the Broadway Play by Rick Elice

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix by James D. Watson

More fun finds from the wide world of books

More fun finds from the wide world of books

Truth be told, there’s rarely any down time at our house. But a girl can dream — and books are patient companions.

– Lynn

Note: If you’re reading something especially interesting or unique, please share the title below to let fellow readers know

Coming up: Drive-by art, Got spark?

Silver linings

Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) and Bradley Cooper (Pat) in "Silver Linings Playbook" from The Weinstein Company

Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) and Bradley Cooper (Pat) in “Silver Linings Playbook” from The Weinstein Company

I got to chatting with my son this morning about various forms of family foibles, remembering the way a father and sports fanatic in the film “Silver Linings Playbook” insisted on keeping various remote controls lined up just so in a row.

Folks tend to notice such things about family members this time of year — laughing them off on good days, but mostly getting far more agitated than such little things warrant. Movies that remind us of other families’ idiosyncracies are especially endearing this time of year.

I tried reading “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick, who wrote the movie screenplay with David O. Russell, but only made it about half way through. I had a hard time telling real from delusion before seeing the story unfold on the big screen.

“Silver Linings Playbook” opens as a man named Pat (Bradley Cooper) makes the transition back to living with his parents after receiving inpatient psychiatric care. He’s son to Pat, Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver), who fret he’ll have a setback of some sort.

Jacki Weaver (Dolores) and Robert De Niro (Pat Sr.) in "Silver Linings Playbook" from The Weinstein Company

Jacki Weaver (Dolores) and Robert De Niro (Pat, Sr.) in “Silver Linings Playbook” from The Weinstein Company

Pat, like most people living with mental illness, is an ordinary guy. It’s a refreshingly realistic depiction during a week when far too many people have offered comments on “the mentally ill” — a term about as classy as “the cancerous.”

Apparently Pat’s experienced an acute episode triggered by something that happened with the wife he’s now estranged from. “Silver Linings Playbook” is his journey through the changes in that relationship and others, made fascinating by the finesse of each actor’s performance.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is populated by people who have all sorts of oddities that sometimes interfere with life, but other times enhance it — including a woman named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who recruits Pat to be her partner in a ballroom dance competition.

It’s a whole new world for Pat, who’s been surrounded his entire life by sports as near-religion. Pat’s idea of fancy dinner attire is his best football jersey. Pat’s family warms slowy to Tiffany, who has her own set of disquieting quirks.

I recall leaving the theater after seeing “Silver Linings Playbook” pleased by the lovely reminder that every family is weird in its own way. When time with visiting relatives feel too much for you, plop them down beside you inside the movie theater.

You’ll enjoy a couple of chatter free hours without having to drag out the duct tape (kidding). And maybe find some silver linings of your own.

– Lynn

Note: Academy Award nominations will be announced Jan. 10, 2013 and the Feb. 24, 2013 ceremony is being televised on ABC

Coming up: Art meets veggies, Tiny time