December 31, 2014

Sometimes What We Want Isn't What We Need: Happy Christmas (2014)

Every now and then, we all need a gentle (or in some cases not so gentle) reminder to get us back on track. I find this to be especially true when something traumatic has happened, like a breakup or loss (like a job). Regardless of what initially sparked the change in your life, however, it was likely the very thing that you needed to jolt you back into reality and on track, even if you wished otherwise. This is exactly what happened to the main character in the movie Happy Christmas (2014). A lesson we all sometimes need a little reminding about, particularly when we are facing change in our lives.

Happy Christmas poster.jpgIn the movie Happy Christmas (2014), a broken-hearted 27 year old named Jenny (Anna Kendrick) moves to Chicago to live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), sister-in-law Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and nephew after a devastating breakup with her boyfriend. The problem was, having been emotionally raw and still reeling from her breakup--although she contended the complete opposite, she immediately began engaging in self destructive behavior that not only affected herself but also the people that she cared about. Deep down, Jenny knew she needed to get her life on track and find a worthy cause or purpose, which ultimately she did find with helping Kelly write a romance novel; something that proved beneficial and much needed for Kelly as well.

From the first introduction to Jenny in the movie, there was no real indication that she had just experienced a devastating breakup, despite her brother mentioning it to his wife. That is, until she went out with a long time girlfriend and ended up drinking herself into a stupor. This was the first and perhaps biggest indication that Jenny was not in fact alright. After that introduction to the emotionally fragile Jenny, we saw her begin to consider her brother and his family more, although she wasn't 100 percent cured from her destructive behavior, but it did diminish. This was particularly evident when she began to casually date a friend of Jeff and Kelly's (whom she meant while he was babysitting for the couple) as well as helping Kelly with a new book idea. She had a purpose and a budding new life that she was building in Chicago and therefore her need to self destruct started to dissipate.

Movies like Happy Christmas (2014) serve as a great reminder that sometimes life is a little messy and we seemingly get thrown off track as a result. The thing is, that is probably exactly what we need in that moment in our lives: something big to get us back on track to finding what would really make us happy.

December 28, 2014

Live Your Beliefs: Saved! (2004)

Saved! movie poster.jpgWhen I first started school, I went to Catholic school. I don't remember too much about it, except for how awkward I often felt. I was always so confused about what was going on and the crazy thing is I was brought up Catholic and went to service almost every Sunday, so it wasn't like it was completely foreign to me. I also had a lot of questions about what I was being taught to believe, but in those days and where I grew up, you didn't question anything like your religion; especially if it meant challenging the status quo for the sake of self discovery. Simply put: you went with the herd.

When I saw the movie Saved! (2004) recently, it took me back to my days in Catholic school. Although I never dealt with any fanatics at school (we were way too young), I did remember that the people who made the biggest impressions on me about my faith as a child, were the ones that were out to influence people with their actions not aggression or intimidation. As I grew older, I realized that no matter what my beliefs are, whether they changed or remained the same, they are my beliefs and the best way to honor them is to live them. The same is true for you as well.

In the movie Saved! (2004), a Christian high school senior named Mary (Jena Malone) ultimately begins to challenge her beliefs when she ends up pregnant after attempting to so-call "save" her gay boyfriend. However, the joke is on her when she eventually learns that being gay isn't something that one can be "saved" from and that her energy was better spent on focusing on herself and what she personally believed instead of what she was told to believe. She learned that questions were a good thing that helped strengthen her beliefs, and in doing so, she was able to serve as an example of open-mindedness to others.

This movie was obviously religious in overtone, but I feel the message can resonate with any sort of belief that one can have. If you believe in feminism, animal rights, vegetarianism, etc., you not only have the right to have the belief, but also the best way to honor that belief system is to live a lifestyle that is conducive to that belief system. As I learned at a very early age, this is the best way to impress your beliefs upon others. Sometimes, people don't want to be preached at and in the end who doesn't respect someone who practices what they preach? Peace.

December 23, 2014

Always Take the High Road: The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)

The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.jpg
The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and sharing, but for a lot of us, it just ends up being a big stress inducing blur that we try to forget after New Years. For some reason, getting families together tends to do that.

Why is it that nearly every time families get together there is always some sort of drama; especially among the larger families? I don't know; but maybe it's inevitable with so many different personalities, or maybe it's out of habit for some, but it seems like the holidays just aren't complete without it. The thing is, it doesn't have to be that way. We could opt out of the unnecessary drama, by simply choosing not to reduce ourselves to ugliness. The movie The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012) is one of the best reminders that we all have the power to keep the peace by taking the high road and in turn, have a happier and more enjoyable holiday as a result. 

In the movie The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012), general nice guy and eldest sibling Gerry Fitzgerald (Edward Burns) is overwhelmed, and quite frankly tired, of being the organizer and peacekeeper of the entire family. To make matters more complicated, this particular Christmas, Gerry finds himself struggling with his own hurt feelings after his dying father has requested to spend the holiday with the family that he selfishly abandoned twenty years prior. Although initially the prospect of the father returning to spend the holiday with everyone was met with mixed emotions, ultimately, we saw the family come together and offer forgiveness to the man that wronged them, in the true spirit of the holiday.

In the beginning of the movie, when we first meet Gerry, he was attempting to gather all of his siblings together to not only celebrate his mother's 70th birthday, but to also discuss how his siblings felt about their father joining them on Christmas Day. Unfortunately for him, his attempts failed miserably and not long after, everyone learned the reason why their father was so desperate to rejoin his estranged family for the holiday. With a house divided on the issue, mostly due to issues of past resentment and hurt, it came down to the matriarch to decide whether or not the dad would be allowed back into the family home for their traditional holiday dinner.

In the end, the entire family came together to not only forgive the father for his past mistakes (as hurtful as they were), but also welcomed him back into the family; particularly in light of his health issues. It wasn't easy, especially for the mother (whom was arguably most affected by the father's past choices and actions), but they all chose to take the high road. This serves to remind us all that forgiveness knows no boundaries and no matter what the circumstances, we can all choose to take the high road.

December 21, 2014

Always Make Time for Loved Ones: Everybody's Fine (2009)

Everybodys fine.jpgWith over 7 billion people on our planet, one thing is for sure: we are meant to be social beings. Sometimes we lose track of that part of our existence, well because we're so busy with our lives and all, but the truth of the matter is that whatever we're doing, it can wait....some of the time. Obviously, our jobs and appointments can't wait, but the other stuff can, like staring at the wall or losing countless hours of watching Netflix.

We have time, but for whatever reason, we don't always use it wisely to connect with those we love and care for. Why? I'm not entirely sure; maybe it has something to do with the fact that interacting with our family and friends can sometimes be taxing on us, particularly when we withhold the truth for fear of upsetting status quo. But, the point is however, that we should always make time for people, because that's one of the reasons we're all here, as social beings, and because it makes us feel better while we're alive when we interact with others. The movie Everybody's Fine (2009) is a great reminder of what can happen when we neglect our social responsibilities, particularly where family is concerned.

In the movie Everybody's Fine (2009), widowed father Frank Goode (Robert De Niro) embarks on a solo trip across the country to visit with his adult children, David (Austin Lysy), Rosie (Drew Barrymore), Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and Robert (Sam Rockwell), when they all don't show up for a scheduled visit. He learns several things including that his children have been withholding information from him for years and that they never felt comfortable talking to him about what was really going on in their lives, like they did with their mother, for fear of his disappointment. Ultimately, he had to stop holding his adult children to nearly impossible standards and embrace them for the individuals that they have become; although, it was too late to tell David he was proud of him, as he had already passed away. 

From the beginning of the movie, when we first learn that Frank's children all cancel their trip to visit him in the family home, we immediately feel sorry for the elderly father. His wife had passed away and he had no one and yet his children didn't want to make any time for him. That is until he forced them to spend a little time with him when showed up unannounced in their respective cities, for an impromptu visit. Even then, Amy, Robert and Rosie still dodged a prolonged visit from their father. Although in their defense, they did so for fear of discussing the unknown whereabouts of their brother David, whom we later learned had died from a drug overdose in Mexico.

In the end, after a heart attack scare, Frank was able to establish new relationship grounds with all three of his remaining children, which included honesty. Amy, Robert and Rosie learned that sheltering the truth from their father was not only causing him to worry but also wasn't what he wanted from his children. He wanted them to "bother" him with their problems as well as share their happier moments, because ultimately, he just wanted to be a part of their lives.

This serious tearjerker is a great reminder to us all to get our priorities back on track, especially during the holidays. Specifically, we all should make the effort to spend time with friends and family, because after all, we are social beings.

December 17, 2014

There is No Stronger Bond Than Among Siblings: Your Sister's Sister (2011)

Growing up, I thought there was no greater annoyance than my siblings. I have a younger sister and she was really good at her job...following me around and trying to emulate me. That is until she realized, she would have a much better time doing her own thing. My brother, on other hand, thought I was the one that was annoying and took every opportunity he could to remind me of how good he had it before I came along.

Your Sister's Sister poster.jpgFast forward to the present day, and my relationships with my siblings is profoundly different and better. I consider the two of them among my closet friends and am quite grateful to have them in my life; although it wasn't always easy. That's the thing that people tend to forget about siblings: they take just as much (if not more) work than some of our other relationships. But, if you do the work with your siblings, you can have a rewarding friendship that will not only take you through life, but also teach you how to survive anything that comes your way. This is precisely what happened in the movie Your Sister's Sister (2011), which is an excellent reminder that all siblings go through tough times, but the bond of siblings is strong enough to bring you back together, so we should cherish it.

In the movie, Your Sister's Sister (2011), two friends Jack (Mark Duplass) and Iris (Emily Blunt), both struggle with their relationships with their siblings. Although Jack's brother had been deceased for a year, he continued to grapple with reconciling the person he knew his brother to be versus how everyone else remembered his brother. Iris, however, had a great relationship with her sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt). That is until she found out that Hannah slept with Jack (whom she had just confided in her sister that she was in love  with), which created serious tension, unlike ever before, among the siblings. Though it didn't last very long, Iris and Hannah were able to find their way back to each other before Iris and Jack embarked on a romantic relationship together.

The first time we were introduced to Jack, he was alone and sulking in the corner during a commemorative celebration of his late brother, whom Iris dated for years. He then proceeded to make a toast that called into question the perfect image that everyone else in the room chose to remember his late brother by. After a consult with Iris, he decided to take up her offer to go and spend some time alone in her family cabin where he could be work on himself. The only problem was that Iris's sister, Hannah, was there when he arrived and the two ended up spending the night together despite her being a lesbian. This ultimately created all the drama between the three; especially when Iris found out what transpired between the two and that Hannah had purposely tried to get pregnant.

By the end of the movie, it was crystal clear that nothing could come between Iris and Hannah. They  were able to get past the hurt that was caused by Hannah's indiscretion with Jack as well as Hannah outing Iris' feelings about Jack in front of him. Even Jack had apparently reached a new resolve with respect to his relationship with his own brother, which then prompted him to remove himself from the imploded situation so that Iris and Hannah could work things out. He wanted the two to repair what was broken between them because he knew the importance of their relationship.

This movie is a great reminder to us all that no matter what, a sibling bond is strong enough to survive anything. Sure, our siblings may make us angry from time to time, but they also help us to be better individuals by forcing us to look beyond the faults in others and helping us to exercise forgiveness.

December 14, 2014

Be the Leading Lady in Your Life: The Holiday (2006)

Every now and then, I think we all get so caught up in our lives- just going through the motions- that we loose track of what we're doing or why we were even doing it in the first place. I've been there and I'm sure you've probably been there as well. Whether you're working a job you could no longer stand to work or you're in a relationship that no longer was fulfilling, trust me, it happens to all of us at some point.

The thing is, it's not necessarily a bad thing to get to find yourself in such a predicament, because if you look at it from a different perspective you could see the potential opportunity to turn things around for yourself. Contrary to what some may think, no one is ever stuck in a situation and there is always a way to get back to (or find) your own happiness. You just have to make that the priority and essentially take the lead in your life. You're not a supporting cast member, but rather the leading lady in your own life, so own it. The movie The Holiday (2006), is the most perfect example I can think of to remind us all of this powerful life lesson.

In the movie, The Holiday (2006), a timid and pleasing editor named Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet), impetuously decides to take a life changing vacation (or holiday). She ends up house swapping with a stranger by the name of Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz), after learning of her lover's impending marriage to another woman. Although the initial goal was to leave everything that reminded her about her life in London behind, and Jasper Bloom (Rufus Sewell), Iris ended up spending time with a few strangers who helped her to see that she should be the leading lady in her own life. She also managed to find love in the process; though she wasn't looking for it.

From the first moment that Iris arrived at Amanda's L.A. home, she was hopeful and excited about the possibilities of what could happen while she was there. She was free from her life in London, and more importantly she was free from Jasper...that is until he decided to show up and surprise her because he needed something from her, yet again. But by then, Iris had made new friends in the likes of an old Hollywood actor Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach) and a friend of Amanda's ex, by the name of Miles (Jack Black), who both helped her to see that she is worthwhile, just the way she is.

By the end of the movie, Iris was well on her way to being the leading lady in her own life, for the first time. She had finally mustered up the gumption to send off Jasper for the last time and had made promising connections with Arthur and Miles, both platonic and romantic respectively. As if that wasn't enough, Iris had managed to strike up a friendship with Amanda, whom was able to shake off her past relationship fears and embark on a serious relationship with Iris' brother Graham (Jude Law), who also happened to be a single parent.

We may not always get the opportunity to go on an life changing holiday excursion, but we all still get opportunities to make changes in our lives, especially for the better. We have to remember that we are not supporting characters in our own lives, but rather the lead role, and as a result we should never let anyone or any situation make us feel anything less than. Talk about a happy ending.

December 10, 2014

Make the Most of Each Day:12 Dates of Christmas (2011)

We can't always do or say the right thing all the time. Wouldn't that be nice if we could? Then we could avoid awkward run-ins with people and not be forced to avoid going to some of our favorite places. Unfortunately, the real world is not like the movie Groundhog Day, even though sometimes it seems like we relive the same day over and over again.

In real life, we make all sorts of mistakes when we meet people for the first time, we forget to show up at events or when we do, we're late. We forget to call people to check in on them, even though they are in our hearts and minds. We're constantly discombobulated and spread thin. This doesn't make for a very enjoyable life, but we all get used to it, right? The thing is, we shouldn't get used to it. We can and should be better and what better time than the holidays than to get back on track with what's really important to all of us. The movie 12 Dates of Christmas (2011) is a great reminder of this very valuable life lesson.

In the movie 12 Dates of Christmas (2011), which is sort of a holiday version of Groundhog Day, a woman named Kate Stanton (Amy Smart) is forced to repeat the same Christmas Eve- and the blind date on that day- until she finally learns the real meaning of the holidays, thereby breaking the cycle of the day repeating. Initially, when Kate began repeating Christmas Eve, she focused on all the wrong things. She tried to force a reconciliation with her ex-boyfriend and tried everything in her power to ignore the blind date with Miles Dufine (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) that her stepmother set her up with. However, as the repeating continued, she eventually learned that the holidays aren't just about her own happiness, but the happiness of those around her as well.

When we first meet Kate, she is obsessed with trying to win back her ex-boyfriend. She fails to see and appreciate the people in her life; she even re-gifted a jar of jam to her best friend, instead of buying her something special and from the heart. But then something magical happened. Kate was forced to relive Christmas Eve, along with her blind date and consequently was forced to see the error of her ways. Although she did try to repair some of her obvious mistakes, she also made new ones, which eventually provided her with opportunities to have a more meaningful impact on others.In the end, that is exactly what happened by the end of the movie.
While this movie is an enjoyable holiday treat, it is also a great reminder of an important lesson that we can all employ in our lives: make the most of each day. Sure, there will be times when we will make mistakes and forget things; after all we are only human, but the point is that we should at least try to make each day better than the day before. We may not literally have a groundhog day, but who says we can't act like we do by continuing to try to be our best with each passing day?