Archive for the ‘Frank Capra’ Category

I recently rewatched Family Man with Nicholas Cage in a story similar to It’s a Wonderful Life.  But instead of seeing how the home town would be changed if he hadn’t been born, Nicholas Cage’s high powered, cheerfully selfish character sees what his own life would have been like if he married his college girl friend.

I’d forgotten how heart warming this movie is.  As a modern movie, there are one or two words or comments or scenes that I wish had been sweeter, but overall, the message is great.  And Tea Leonie portrays one of the most realistic overworked but still happy moms that I’ve seen in film.  Some of her interactions with the kids are so realistic, they made me laugh as well as remind me of my own little ones (not so little now) with a hint of tears.

She made a regular mom look sexy and fun, even though she often had frumpy looking clothes and hair.  It gave me hope.

This can be considered a Christmas film because the movie starts at Christmas time.  I think Christmas works well as a background factor in plot development, because it’s a time when characters can feel lonely or have increased family interaction — both can rachet up the tension.  My novels Baby Comes First and The Baby Tree have have important developments hit at Christmas.

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I was recently a member of a jury on a murder trial, which was sad because of the facts, but fascinating, too.  I was impressed with the attorneys — all did fine work — and the members of the jury who took their duties seriously.

Because of this, I was reminded of several romances that have courtroom scenes.

Cover of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Remaste...

Cover of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Remastered)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) .   Is the hero crazy or just really sweet?  Very fun competency hearing in a courtroom.  I love Jean Arthur as the cynical reporter who becomes a little pixelated by love.

Witness for the Prosecution (1957 film)

Witness for the Prosecution (1957 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Witness for the Prosecution (1957).  This is not technically a romance in my mind (SPOILER) because it doesn’t end happily, but WOW, what a story.  Marlene Dietrich is beautiful and brilliant in this.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947).  The courtroom scene is played for humor with only a little romance.   That said, I like Santa Claus and I like the judge who doesn’t want to make a ruling.

A  side note:  These films make me want to buy some prettier suits.

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Although the Christmas season is over and New Years Day has almost passed, I wanted to discuss one last Christmas movie.  No doubt I’ll cover more next year, too.  My favorite movie is It’s a Wonderful Life, which contains enough romance to be considered a romantic Christmas movie as well.


English: Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna...

English: Screenshot of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the American film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written about this movie before, so I will mention one thing that I noticed as I watched it this year:  Good writing lets the viewer fill in the blanks.

Early in the movie, Mary (George Bailey‘s future love interest) says to George “I will love you till the day I die.”   Now she’s only about 8 at the time and she’s talking into his deaf ear, so he doesn’t hear her, but we, the viewers, hear her.  Since we know that about her, all she has to do is look at George meaningfully in later scenes and we fill in the blanks.


At the high school dance, she looks at him and we know she wants to dance with him because she loves him.    After the dance, when she’s flirting with him and smiles mischievously, we know she loves him.   She tells George that she’d like to live in the ratty old house.  Then when she throws the rock to make a wish, we know that she’s wishing to someday live in that ratty old house with George.


It really is wonderful what a few well placed hints in a screenplay can do.   Part of the joy of fiction is having our expectations met.  We feel clever when we figure things out before the protagonist does.  Which is not to say that we don’t want some surprises, too.  But the best surprises are ones that we realize had been hinted at earlier — if we’d only paid attention or understood.


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A Norwegian Christmas, 1846 painting by Adolph...

A Norwegian Christmas, 1846 painting by Adolph Tidemand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How did it get to be December 22nd already?  I’ve been working at my newish job, commuting, driving kids around to places, revitalizing an exercise program, thinking about The Hobbit, and suddenly Christmas is upon me, when in my mind I should still have a week or two, maybe three to get ready.

Am I going to get everything done that coulda, shoulda, oughta be done before the big day?  No.  But thanks to internet shopping, I might be able to make a credible showing.

And, I’m going to schedule the rest of the few days remaining, carving out time for a few traditions: driving around to see Christmas lights and spending one evening watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

And I’m going to slow down and count my blessings.

Life is good.

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It’s the time of year to watch It’s a Wonderful Life again, although arguably, it should be watched year ’round.

Poster for IAWL

Poster for IAWL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I watch this film, I am reminded to be thankful for the many blessings in my life.  George Bailey, although an admirable man, isn’t as thankful as he should be in the beginning of the film.  It’s only when he loses what he has that he realizes how wonderful his life really is.

I don’t want that to happen to me.  I want to enjoy life and be thankful right now.   But that requires some attention.   To explain:

Before my wedding I was given some wonderful advice that I’ve tried to pass on to other brides.

Your wedding day is going to be hectic and distracting.   If you’re not careful, you’re going to go through the whirlwind and not really remember much of it, except for the photographic evidence.  So take time, several times during the day, to be still and observe what is going on, so you will have distinct, clear memories of this important day.

Two men wearing morning coats at a wedding. 1929.

Two men wearing morning coats at a wedding. 1929. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The point of this is to slow down and be mindful.  I have several very clear, very sweet memories of my wedding day, one of which was sitting down quietly alone with my mom.  I wore her wedding dress,  and we talked about that and my great love for her.   In the twenty-something years that have passed since that day, the memory of that conversation has remained a sweet and tender moment for me,  giving me strength and comfort.  There were no photographs, but the memory is there.

I want to make good memories now in other areas of my life.  Slowing down and being observant is good, but I’m also trying to write significant moments down in a journal.  Some people keep diaries, others keep gratitude journals, others scrapbook or blog.

Life is more than a never-ending to-do list.  I believe that gratitude is key to happiness.

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Ever since I mentioned Jim Hutton in my blog post yesterday, I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy him in Walk Don’t Run.  He is tall, thin, and moves in a lanky, endearing way.  I looked up his height and he was 6’5″

Since I’m 6 feet tall,  I tend to notice tall, lanky dudes.

Cropped screenshot of James Stewart from the t...

Cropped screenshot of James Stewart from the trailer for the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I thought about other tall, lanky dudes.  My favorite is James Stewart (6’3″).  He was particularly lanky in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.  I love it when he stretches out his hands and arms to express himself when he talks.

And although Richard Armitage is tall (6′ 2 1/2″), he doesn’t look  “lanky.”  He’s too  muscular for that, although he was almost lanky in Spooks Series 7.

A modern lanky actor?  Paul Bettany (6’3″).  I understand that he bulked up for some recent roles, but I think naturally he has a thinner look.

Which is not to say that short, stocky men can’t be charming, too, but that’s a post for another day.  And with The Hobbit looming, I might mention a dwarf or two.

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There is a wonderful scene in Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts and Joan Cusack where Joan tells Julia that she’s quirky, and Julia says, “You’re quirky, too,” but Joan corrects her.  “I’m not quirky, I’m weird.  There is a world of difference between quirky and weird.”  (I’m paraphrasing this).

Film poster for Runaway Bride (1999 film) - Co...

Film poster for Runaway Bride (1999 film) – Copyright 1999, Paramount Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This scene was hilarious and insightful to me, because I felt weird through much of my adolescence (who doesn’t?) and as I’ve gotten older, I am becoming more confident, and therefore, more quirky (hopefully less weird).

Which made me think of weird and quirky heroes and heroines.

Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby — rotates between being weird and quirky.

Katharine Hepburn in  Holiday – quirky and sweet.

Jean Arthur‘s entire family in You Can’t Take It With You — quirky.

Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping — quirky.

Jim Hutton in Walk Don’t Run — quirky.

Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire — quirky.

Often “quirky” is left for the humorous sidekick characters.  But I like quirky.

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