Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dr. Sallie Watkins: In Memoriam

Losing a dear friend and former colleague like Dr. Sallie Watkins makes me very sad indeed. Sallie was a real-life hero to me and to many others. I will never forget her generosity of spirit and willingness to help during crisis situations.

My husband Larry and I loved Sallie, mostly because of her marvelous sense of humor which we enjoyed tremendously. But we also admired and felt inspired by her intelligence, her compassion, her courage. It was a blessing to know such a wonderful person!

Our world is a better place because of Sallie’s splendid contributions as a nun, scholar, teacher, administrator, and humanitarian extraordinaire.

Dr. Sallie Watkins will be sorely missed by everyone who came in contact with her.

May she rest in peace.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Holiday Film Treats

Merely thinking about certain movies can boost my holiday spirit. No, I don’t mean IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I know I’m being sacrilegious, but that’s not one of my favorites. I’m talking about movies like the original MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn. Or MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS with Judy Garland. Or A CHRISTMAS STORY with Darren McGavin. Or THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Michael Caine. Those are the old traditional ones. But get I the same feeling when recalling some off-beat flicks like SCRPPGED, TRAPPED IN PARADISE, STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY, THE GRINCH, ELF and THE POLAR EXPRESS.

What do these films have in common? Most of them deliver stories filled with humor and messages of hope -– all wrapped up in an entertaining cinematic package. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, ELF, and THE POLAR EXPRESS tell us we shouldn’t stop believing in the spirit of Christmas, no matter how old we are. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and A CHRISTMAS STORY celebrate the importance of love, family and friends during the holidays, while STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY emphasizes why someone from a dysfunctional family is also “good enough and smart enough” to deserve a Merry Christmas. TRAPPED IN PARADISE highlights the way kindness can change even the most highly motivated robbers (Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz); THE GRINCH illustrates the power of a child’s innate goodness to bring about redemption; SCROOGED depicts a modern-day Scrooge’s (Bill Murray) change of heart; and THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL gives that classic Dickens tale an amusing Muppet spin – with expert help from Michael Caine as Scrooge.

Wonderful scenes from many of these films pop into my mind during the holiday season: Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) daydreaming about how impressed the teacher will be with his essay describing what he wants for Christmas (A CHRISTMAS as STORY); Stuart Smalley (Al Franken) telling his good friend he’ll be her father when she needs one, and she can be his mother when he needs one (STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY); Judy Garland warbling “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS); Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (ELF); Jim Carrey, as THE GRINCH, trying to turn his dog Max into Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer; and most touching of all –- Robin the Frog, as Tiny Tim in THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, shouting “God bless us, everyone!”

Fortunately, most of these films are available on DVD and can be enjoyed over and over again.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

HUGO: A Love Letter to Movie Buffs

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo marks a complete change in content for this acclaimed director. As we all know, Scorsese usually deals with gritty, violent topics. In fact, my husband expressed concern over the “gratuitous NON-violence” in Hugo. And it’s Scorsese’s first 3-D movie, which I thought would make it difficult for me because my eyes don’t adjust very well to this process.

But I have to admit watching Hugo was an amazing experience for me. The incredible production design and remarkable cinematography made me feel I was right beside the young hero during his adventures in a train station clock tower back in 1931 Paris.

My friend and colleague Diana Saenger, editor/creator of Classic Movie Guide, wrote a beautiful review of this unusual motion picture, and I can’t help echoing her comment -- “Thank you, Martin Scorsese, for delivering a film we can finally savor this year.”

I particularly enjoyed the film’s section about one of cinema’s early filmmakers, Georges Méliès. Clearly, Scorsese’s new offering ends up being a love letter to movie buffs everywhere.

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