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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unconventional Characters Drive the Story—A Valentine’s Day Film Festival

It’s been a nagging question for years. What is Valentine’s Day really about? A chance to patronize the candy, flower, card, and jewelry industries? An opportunity to get out of town for an extended "holiday"? An overdue excuse for treating your spouse to a lavishly prepared meal at the local diner? One surely can’t deny any of these questions.

I know that thousands of Americans across the country will be renting DVD's to watch on the starry, starry Saturday night so I’ll add a further luxury - Valentine’s day provides an opportunity to watch cool, interesting film.

Here are four picks for Valentine’s Day 2009:

Be My Valentine Charlie Brown (1975): TV ABC- USA. Charles Schultz

It’s fun and refreshing to dig up this well-known animated comedy. Sometimes we forget just how important Charles Schultz was to a generation of children including myself. Sorry Charlie Brown, but Snoopy and Linus steal most of the spotlight in this classic tale of missed opportunity and unrequited love.


Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
ABC Special

Who Am I This Time (1982): TV PBS American Playhouse- USA. Directed by Jonathan Demme

Sweet and charming theatrical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr's popular short story features early acting prowess of Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken. I really loved this simple, small town look at how community theater brings people out of their shell. Walken’s stage transformation fulfills toward the end of the play. Another reason to remind local school boards that cutting arts programs can have unintended results. This film debuted well before Christopher Guest’s outrageously funny Waiting for Guffman.

Quote from the film-

Harry (at Helene's insistence, reading a passage from Romeo and Juliet, which she has given to him as a gift after the final performance of A Streetcar Named Desire): I take thee at thy word, call me but love... and I'll be new baptized. Henceforth... (to Helene) — I never will be Romeo — never.

Helene (exasperated, wanting to speak to him directly, but returning to the lines of the play): What man art thou that thus bescreen'd in night so stumblest on my counsel?

Harry: By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am: My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself, because it is an enemy to thee... (continues reading from Romeo and Juliet)]

"Who Am I This Time" also provides an early glimpse into Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme’s directorial skill. He’s well known for his work in Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads Concert), The Silence of the Lambs, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Agronomist (Documentary).

All Movie Guide Synopsis

Eagle vs Shark (2007): Independent- New Zealand. Directed by Taika Waititi

Napolean Dynamite notwithstanding- awkward, romantic bauble features malls, costume parties, and unfinished high school business. I admire Loren Horsley (Lily) and Jemaine Clement's (Jarrod) dedication to character in this truly one of a kind film. We all know people like this and that's the point. The female perspective clearly wins here.

Indie rock soundtracks continue to be a focal point in small films and Eagle vs Shark is no different in this respect. Taika Waititi takes liberty to enhance M. Ward's version of David Bowie's 80's classic "Let's Dance" at a pivotal point in the film.

Eagle vs Shark

St. Therese of Lisieux (2004): Luke Films-USA. Directed by Leonardo Defilippis

Poignant family-friendly drama reveals how Therese of Lisieux became one of the most beloved saints in modern history. Known as the little flower of Jesus, St. Therese’s child-like spirituality and unassuming prayer life became a model for many seeking to know God.

Up and coming film director Leonardo Defilippis addresses the question why Therese is so popular,

"Thérèse Martin's short life as a 19th-century French nun might have been buried in obscurity if she hadn't written down her story and her spiritual philosophy before her premature death from tuberculosis at age 24. Her sister, who was also the mother superior of the monastery, asked her to write down her childhood reminiscences, and out of obedience Therese complied. What followed was not just a charming story of her early life, but also a clear explanation of her "little way" to get to Heaven. This little book spread like wildfire throughout the world, because of the simple ideas that Saint Thérèse presented: how ordinary people can grow close to God through the day-to-day tasks in their lives. After her death in 1897, miracles attributed to the young nun's intercession began to be documented almost immediately, and the Carmelite nun was put on the fast track to sainthood and canonized in 1925." National Review Online, 2004.

Before seeing this film for the first time, I was apprehensive about who would be cast for the lead role. My understanding is that after hundreds of auditions, Defilippis found Catholic convert Lindsay Younce- a perfect fit for the part. Younce is the reason to watch this film, but don't overlook Defilippis who plays the role of Therese's father.

Despite serious criticism from secular and religious media, the film still works as a testament to faith. Good set locations and a superb musical score should lift most spirits in the end.

Therese the Movie
St. Luke Productions

I’ve always enjoyed films that present unconventional, gifted, unique, and original characters. Labeled as awkward and sensitive, the lead’s in these films rise above todays definitions of "character". In a way, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about—a celebration of the uniqueness of each and every person. Posing the question another way, what should Valentine’s Day lead us toward? To recognize and honor love between adults and children not just on the second Saturday of February, but everyday. This year I promised myself more opportunities to express love in ways that go beyond the superficial. In February, that means going on a spiritual retreat.

Ethnic 2020 illuminates: "Beyond the roses, chocolates and historical ties to a pagan fertility festival, you'll find the real meaning of Valentine's Day. It's the true love that compelled a young Christian to give up his life rather than stop sharing his faith."

Have a love-filled Valentine’s Day

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