Tag Archives: Movies

The glorious picture of Yosemite

Yosemite valley

Look closely and you can see Bridalveil Fall, and behind it Half Dome

 

“Pursuing my lonely way down the valley, I turned again and again to gaze on the glorious picture, throwing up my arms to inclose it as in a frame. After long ages of growth in the darkness beneath the glaciers, through sunshine and storms, it seems now to be ready and waiting for the elected artists, like yellow wheat for the reaper; and I could not help wishing that I were that artist. I had to be content, however, to take it into my soul.”

These words are naturalist John Muir’s, but if I were more eloquent, they could have been mine. The vistas at Yosemite National Park seem to prove the existence of God. I couldn’t preserve it, especially with my little phone camera, so I had to be content to take it into my soul.

We visited Yosemite earlier this year for one reason: El Capitan. It’s the sheer rock face on the left in the valley view above, and it was made famous (to me anyway) in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Trekkers: Can’t live with ’em, can’t understand ’em.

Shake your head if you must.

el capitan

El Capitan is nothing if not imposing. That’s our little truck there at the bottom right.

The scene to which I’m referring occurs early in the movie. Capt. Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Spock are camping at Yosemite. Having been there now, I can imagine Star Fleet officers stationed at headquarters in the San Francisco area taking shore leave at nearby Yosemite. Very little else about the 1989 movie makes any sense, but this does.

While free-climbing El Capitan (which is rich with irony—a Star Fleet captain climbing El Capitan), Kirk loses his grip and falls (foreshadowing?). Spock, who is hovering nearby wearing jet-powered boots, catches him before he smashes at the bottom.

It’s a great scene that puts one of Earth’s natural wonders in the spotlight. So when I had the opportunity, I had to see it myself. “Because it’s there!” (That’s Kirk’s line in the movie for those of you who don’t memorize such trivia).

As you might expect, seeing Yosemite in person is nothing like seeing it in a movie. Set in the Sierra Nevada mountains, it’s remote, but it was worth the trip. It’s a beautiful and wild place, and surprisingly busy in mid-April. I can’t imagine how crazy it must be there in July.

yosemite-meadow.jpg

Even crowded, the meadow near the foot of El Capitan in the Merced River valley is wide open and relatively quiet. This is a good place to take in the majesty around you. Unless you intend to free-climb El Capitan. Good luck to you.

For a review of The Wild Muir, a book of Muir’s adventures stories from which the opening quote is taken, check out my author blog.

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A sweet sports movie serves up perfect excuse to escape July’s heat

There’s the underdog athlete (or athletes). Impossible odds. The coach who needs redemption. The funny supporting characters. At some point, all is lost. Then the music rises and our hero triumphs (cue the tears).

I’m a sucker for the heartwarming sports dramedy. It’s a formula, I know. But I love them. I watched another one of them last night — Eddie the Eagle — and I was reminded I’m a sucker for sports cliches. So be it.

If you are, too, here’s a short list of can’t-be-missed sweet sports movies:

 

  • Eddie the Eagle: A Brit with more perseverance than talent strives to be an Olympian.
  • Million Dollar Arm: A hack sport agent turns a couple of Indian cricket players into baseball stars.
  • Cool Runnings: A ragtag bunch of Jamaicans form an Olympic bobsled team — even though there is no snow in Jamaica. I could watch this one once a year, just for John Candy.
  • The Rookie: An over-the-hill high school teacher gives professional baseball another shot — and lands a minor league contract.
  • A League of Their Own: An all-female baseball team playing during World War II seeks redemption. Bonus: Tom Hanks’ line “There’s no crying in baseball.”

All of the above are based on true stories, which makes them all the better in my mind (I just love nonfiction). But if you’re up for a little fantasy and baseball (only a rube would hate baseball), these two movies are great, too:

  • Rookie of the Year: In a freak result of elbow surgery, a 12-year-old becomes a Major League Baseball pitcher.  
  • Angels in the Outfield: This one breaks the mold a little bit, because the main character — a kid from a broken home — is not the athlete but a fan. Throw in a little of the supernatural, and you’ve got a hit. Tears, every time.

The Big Short sickens, as only an award winner could

If  you need any reason to dump your limping stock portfolio and invest in liquor and bullets, The Big Short will give it to you.

I sat in the darkened movie theater feeling literally nauseated. Our nation’s institutions are rife with fraud, and the doomsday prepper in me wants a house with a moat and a year’s supply of clean water (Flint, Mich., need not apply).

When a movie about collateralized debt obligations can evoke an emotional punch in the gut like that, you know it’s good.

The Big Short is among eight movies nominated as best picture in the Academy Awards and as I do every year, and usually fail, I’m attempting to see all of them before the Oscars on Feb. 28.

Three down, five to go.

I saw The Revenant a week and a half ago, and though I needed to shield my eyes more than once, I highly recommend it. The award-worthy cinematography makes winter look beautiful (and who couldn’t use more of that the third week of January, universally known as the worst week of the year?).

The Martian, another pulse pounder, would have been the first nominated movie I saw. Did you know it’s based on a book that was originally self-published?

My mother recommends Joy, so I wish it was a nominated film but rather, Jennifer Lawrence is nominated as best actress. So what’s left on my best picture list?

  • Room
  • Spotlight (alas, I suspect I will leave the theater as nauseated as after The Big Short)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (really? Didn’t I see this was playing on Cinemax?)
  • Brooklyn
  • Bridge of Spies (maybe I’ll save this for last; can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks!)

 

It’s about time

I finally saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

I say “finally” because the movie had grossed in excess of $700 million before I plunked down my $9.50 (plus the cost of a buttery popcorn and a Perrier — yeah, it was that kind of theater).

And then I read a couple chapters from Donald Trump’s Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again before I went to bed (I’ll have a lot more to say about the book when I finish it).

And then I dreamed all night of Donald Trump in the desert (he was winning, I’ll tell ya!) Which was better than the dream the night before that I was drowning under a house, but not much.

I liked the movie though the plot was a bit, well, workmanlike. It hit all the right notes, but I can’t say I was surprised. What surprised me most was the conversation I heard in the ladies bathroom after the movie.

A crowd of four senior couples filed into the theater seats behind us after was sat down for the movie, and by “senior” I don’t mean “senior in high school.” The female members of the group gathered in the ladies restroom post flick and discussed it through the stall doors. Three out of four of them had never seen a “Star Wars” movie.

This shocked me. Never seen a “Star Wars” movie? How can that be? I’m a science fiction fan, I guess. “Star Wars” is de riguer viewing.

“Did the first one come out in the ’70s?” one asked.

“My boys saw it, but I didn’t have time,” said another.

Ah. That’s the real difference between me and those women. They were mothers. Mothers who were juggling 100 different priorities while raising their children in the ’70s. Seeing a movie when there’s ironing to be done, homework to help with, dinner to make? Unthinkable. It was probably a luxury of time they didn’t have.

Which explains why these 70-somethings had spent three hours of their evening in a movie theater watching the seventh installment of a movie series they’d never bothered to see before.

It wasn’t because they had the interest necessarily.

It’s because they had the time.

Surprise! ‘Furious 7’ sparks surprising sorrow

I spent my Easter Sunday not listening to a stellar rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” or dining on ham and or hiding Easter eggs.

Instead, I washed sheets (a lot of sheets) and cried so many tears this afternoon, my eyes are still red.

My family came to visit for Easter weekend, but because we live seven to nine hours away from them, they left early this morning in order to get home in time to face Monday morning. Our Easter dinner was celebrated yesterday and included brisket (who needs ham when you have a smoker grill?) and an epic Easter egg hunt (surely, a scavenger hunt with clever clues is better than hard boiled eggs hiding under bushes, no?).

So I spent the day re-assembling my guest beds. But we found a couple of hours to check out the latest installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, “Furious 7.”

I know. How festive. Blame the producers who decided this was a good weekend to open the film.

I have come to know the details of this movie sequel machine because of my 20-year-old Adored Stepson, who has cultivated an appreciation for fast cars. So I have seen every F&F movie at least once and, with some of the better installments, several times.

[By “better,” I feel compelled to make it clear that Adored Stepson’s definition of a good “Fast & Furious” sequel features a particular model of car and stunt driving requiring high speeds, not distracting tricks. We don’t judge this franchise on, for example, acting. Or dialogue.]

In any case, F&F movies do have interesting plots (however cartoonish they may be), humor and compelling characters.

Even bystanders might be aware that one of the primary actors, Paul Walker, died during the filming of “7.” So I arrived at the theater interested in how they managed to piece together a performance.

What slammed me like a race car into a guard rail was the way the movie makers paid tribute to Walker. I wasn’t even particularly invested in his character, and I mourned for him for the last quarter of the film.

It’s tough, this getting old stuff, when we realize death does us all in, not just actors with lead feet. I think my tears were not so much for Paul Walker as they were for my family, my Beloved, myself. We all meet death at some unplanned point.

It’s a little bit ridiculous that a car racing movie would cause these deep thoughts about death to bubble up inside of me. But the writers and actors get credit for creating a beautiful tribute to the actor through his character that is worth seeing if you have any interest in Vin Diesel or fast cars.

Welcome to the darkness … where we serve sardines to the neighbors

“I think the message to, uh, psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, uh, ‘do not mess with suburbanites.’ Because, uh, frankly we’re just not gonna take it any more. Ya know, we’re not gonna be content to look after our lawns and wax our cars, paint our houses. We’re out to get them, Don, we are out to get them.”

~ Art Wiengartner in The ‘Burbs (1989)

I’ve used this quote before here at Minnesota Transplant to illustrate the fastidious nature of suburbanites who look after their lawns. Today, I’m reminded of paranoid Art Wiengartner in The ‘Burbs because I suspect the psychos, fanatics, murderers and nutcases in the world may not be a threat to us from the outside. I’m afraid of something far worse …

“We’ve traced the call … it’s coming from inside the house!”

~ Sgt. Sacker in When a Stranger Calls (1979)

Thank you, When a Stranger Calls, that quote perfectly echoes my thoughts, too.

I live in a quiet neighborhood I would describe as normal as whitewash. The freakiest neighbors around here go overboard on Halloween decorations and yard gnomes — that’s as weird as it gets around here, which is to say, not very weird.

But yesterday, someone shot out a car window with a BB gun, and suddenly I feel like I’m a character in The ‘Burbs or maybe Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Yes, I know broken car windows and BB guns sound pathetic compared to, say, Chicago’s South Side, where 10 people were killed last week. But in Hampshire, this is a crime spree. The gross domestic product of neighborhood gossip and rumor-mongering has gone up 500% in 24 hours.

We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How’s that for a bit of homespun philosophy?

~ Stella in Rear Window (1954)

Probably what we suburbanites really need is a distraction. Maybe a good contemporary movie about neighbors. Oh, Neighbors in out in theaters, you say?

“You guys just woke a sleeping giant. You have no idea what you just started. Welcome to the darkness, bitches.”

~Teddy in Neighbors (2014)

Has it really been 30 years?

Some pieces of music are like scents to me: Evocative.

You’ve heard how scent is a powerful memory trigger, right? A whiff of Love’s Baby Soft, and I’m back in the ’70s. But certain music is like that, too.

I heard on some morning show the other day this year is the 30th anniversary of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Instantly, I was making out with my first boyfriend on my parents’ sofa. The Purple One is full of raw passion anyway, but “When Doves Cry” with its wild guitar, heartbeat drum track and Prince’s singing screams is sensuality set to music. Lyrics like “sweat of your body,” “animals” and trembling stomachs of tied-up butterflies add to the heat.

An instant later, I just felt really old, but that first instant was a good memory.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Purple Rain” with Prince (“wow!” I wrote of it later), I’m sharing a diary entry from the night I saw the movie:

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 1984

Dear Diary,

Shawn and I went to “Purple Rain” tonight. Prince is so neat. And so is Shawn. And I told him tonight that I want him back. That I wasn’t going to date Brent anymore. He wasn’t reacting so I said, “I guess I shouldn’t assume anything. I guess I shouldn’t assume that you’re going to take me back.” We were driving around after the movie and he screeched to a halt and kissed me. He did want me back.