Tag Archives: E.T.

My own little movie list

Lizabeth called the other night as she was preparing to fly home from college for the holidays, sharing that she had just one final decision to make before getting on the plane — which movies to purchase for the five-hour flight.

Turns out she chose three of them, including one on my short list of “must see” movies for families who like to do films with friends and family members visiting during the holidays. It’s “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 film still playing at just a few Valley theaters.

“Dolphin Tale” is based on a true story. It recounts the adventures of a wounded dolphin named Winter and a wounded veteran, follows the developing friendship of two tweens and offers a touching glimpse into the heart of a mother learning to let go as her son pursues his rather unconventional dreams.

I have my own little list of movies to watch during the holidays, including one my grown son loved enough to see twice when it was in theaters. It’s “Up!,” a 2009 computer-animated film featuring Ed Asner voicing a grumpy old widower whose house floats away as a young boy he’s just met stands helpless on the front porch.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll revisit the 2011 “Winnie the Pooh” film. It’s a lovely homage to literature, and reminds me of all the Pooh paraphernalia that filled Christopher’s room when he was young. Also “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” a 1982 film I first saw with my mom without knowing I’d lose to cancer the following decade.

Lizabeth is already planning to watch the final “Harry Potter” movie with me while she’s home. I somehow managed to miss the movie theater run, so it’ll be my first experience with 2011 movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.” We’ve been watching these movies together since she was ten years old.

I’m also determined to finally see “The Help,” a 2011 film that’s still showing in a small number of Valley theaters. It stars one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis — and actress Emma Stone, who once performed at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix.

I’ve got a whole other list for new movies. It’s topped by two Spielberg titles — “The Advenures of Tin Tin” (opening today, Dec. 21) and “War Horse” (opening Sun, Dec. 25) — but also includes “Carnage” and “The Artist” (both films open Fri, Dec. 23). Two of the four are based on Broadway plays, which doubles the fun factor.

If you’ve got a new or classic movie to recommend for families who like to share films this time of year, please comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Note: If you share my fondness for Winnie the Pooh, you’ll be happy to know that Valley Youth Theatre is performing “A Winnie The Pooh Christmas Tail” at VYT in Phoenix through Fri, Dec. 23. Click here for details.

Coming up: Musings on 2012 movie fare

Spielberg tales

I lived with my mother by the ocean for many years — first in Alaska, later in Hawaii and California’s Bay Area. She found the beach infinitely more appealing than the water itself, due in large measure to the movie that introduced us to the work of Steven Spielberg. It was “Jaws,” released in 1975.

I vividly recall the afternoon we hit the theater to see “Jaws” together – though saying we actually “saw” the film is a bit of a stretch. We spent most of the movie huddled together trying to hold back our screams. It’s one of the few things I remember actually experiencing with my mom at that age. I was on the cusp of a difficult phase and convinced she was the barrier to all my bliss.

I lost my mother to cancer more than a decade ago, but plenty of things still call her to mind. Even the 1982 Spielberg film titled “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” I remember her watching “E.T.” often once it was released on video tape, and getting especially teary-eyed during the “phone home” scene — perhaps because her only child was off at college and readying to wed when the movie first opened.

Among films directed by Spielberg, my own early favorites include “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”– released in 1977. My three children enjoyed a “close encounter” of sorts with Spielberg and his family one day after we watched them pile out of a minivan and file up the pathway to a neighbor’s front door.

Apparently the little gingerbread-like house we once owned on a quiet Arcadia street was right across from the home Spielberg lived in while attending Arcadia High School. When our children simply couldn’t contain their excitement, James walked them dutifully across the street to say hello to the man whose movies they found simply enchanting.

Millions of us grew up with Spielberg’s own unique spin on storytelling, from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) to “Jurassic Park” (1993) – and beyond. Another generation can now do the same, thanks to two films being released in late December.

“The Adventures of Tintin,” based on a beloved comic strip by a Belgian who used the pen name Hergé, is directed by Spielberg — and opens in American movie theaters on Dec. 21. It’s a bit of history meets mystery featuring “Billy Elliot” actor Jamie Bell as “the young reporter whose love of a good story thrusts him into a world of high adventure.”

“War Horse,” a Spielberg-directed film scheduled to open in the U.S. on Dec. 25, is a love story of sorts – between a boy and a beloved horse sent with soldiers into battle during World War I. It’s based on the children’s book by Michael Morpurgo and the 2011 Tony Award winner for best play.

I saw “War Horse” performed earlier this year at Lincoln Center, with my youngest daughter Lizabeth. We held each other and got teary-eyed throughout, moved by the power and beauty of the story we’re now eager to enjoy together on the big screen.

Lizabeth is a freshman studying acting at Pace University in New York City, living on a dedicated “film floor” inside one of the school’s dorms — where students routinely gather to watch and discuss a diverse selection of films. She’ll get to attend tapings of the Bravo television series “Inside the Actors Studio” featuring James Lipton.

The show — which features interviews with famous folks from the crafts of theater, television and film — is taped at Pace University, home to the Actors Studio Drama School (which offers the M.F.A. in acting, directing and playwriting).

Still, I know nothing will ever match Lizabeth’s excitement at running across the street in bare feet to meet the Mr. Spielberg she considers not only a legendary filmmaker, but also — quite simply — a very gracious man.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “The Adventures of Tintin” and here to learn more about “War Horse.” To enjoy a Michael Cieply piece titled “What Makes Spielberg Jump?” from The New York Times, click here.

Coming up: Mask-maker musings, Tales from a fourth world, A leaf of faith?

“Harry” tales

Like so many teens, my now 17-year-old daughter, Lizabeth, grew up reading J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books over and over again – cracking each one the night we bought it and finishing the first read-through by daybreak.

I’ve never made time for the series, aside from ten minutes spent hidden in a small upstairs bathroom the night we brought home two copies of the last book in the series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Even then, I only read the last several pages. But I feel more inspired now having seen the first part of series finale. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” presents an intriguing storyline with interesting characters, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other movies out there these days.

I’m always most fascinated by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) because I find his motives and intentions so hard to read. Knowing he despised Harry’s father but adored Harry’s mother gives me one piece of the puzzle, but I’m eager to find that final piece. And, truth be told, I find his black garb and brooding brow strangely appealing.

Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), whose “control freak” qualities have long been evident, is especially endearing when trying to lead her male partner on the dance floor – and when she fidgets for all sort of gadgets to save the day deep within the recesses of her bottomless handbag of sorts.

It felt a little like my mind at times, which seemed constantly to be finding snippets of other stories within this boy wizard saga.

First, there’s the larger historical context – both past and present – in a world of competing ideologies and powerful propaganda.

But also, so many other stories I’ve enjoyed during earlier trips to the movie theater.

Watching Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and friends cross over a tall mountain in escape mode conjured images of Maria (Julie Andrews) escaping with her VonTrapp family from Nazi Germany in The Sound of Music.

I invited my husband James to play an impromptu game of “free association” with me when Lizabeth and I returned home from Monday’s press screening.

One by one, I described scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that felt eerily familiar. For every one, he quickly offered names of corresponding movies like E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial and The Wizard of Oz.

This seems to confirm one of Lizabeth’s oft-made observations about my movie-going experiences. Apparently taking in a movie as a simple way to enjoy a bit of good clean fun is never enough for me — or feels too great an indulgence.

There’s always some deeper meaning and a myriad of connections to other things housed in my head or my heart.

Perhaps that’s the real joy of movie-going. It’s at once a chance to delve farther, dig deeper – both within the small realm we call home and the larger world that is home to us all.

As for this one piece of cinematic art, it’s clearly the best so far in the Harry Potter series.

I wouldn’t take the little ones because there’s some pretty frightening visual fare (it’s rated PG-13). But do take the action-adventure lovers in your life – they’ll love the many chase scenes on land and by air.

Between fairy tales and the “Harry tales,” there’s a whole world of storytelling out there that speaks to us on all sorts of levels.

Are you listening?

–Lynn

Note: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opened today at midnight throughout the Valley so check your local listings for theater locations and times.

Coming up: Preview of upcoming film festivals in Arizona, Musings on our “Les Mis” movie-going experience

Family-friendly symphony

I had a lovely Sunday afternoon, enjoying the semi-staged, narrative-style performance of “The Music Man” — the first venture in a multi-year collaboration of the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre.

Think charming sets with lattice-laced blue and yellow porchfronts sporting charming screen doors. A barbershop quartet and gentlemen donning newsboy caps.

Think  tall white pillars topped with spring bouquets of gentle pastel tones. Ladies wearing crisp white blouses buttoned staunchly with cameos and adorned with large hats boasting fantastic feathers.

French horn meets mouse

We’ve been enjoying Phoenix Symphony concerts as a family since about the time our oldest could spell the word “symphony” — and they never disappoint.

Once we saw them perform while an artist created a giant original painting on stage. Another time they performed cartoon-theme music with cartoons rolling on a huge screen behind the musicians. The Phoenix Symphony has always excelled at family-friendly music and performance art.

I’m pleased to present a sneak peek at the 2010/2011 “Target Family Series” — followed by a look at pre-concert activities for children.

Enchanted Tales: Brundibar and Peter & the Wolf. Oct 10 at 2:30pm. Special guest: Phoenix Boys Choir. Both folk tales follow friends who come together in the face of those who bully or menace others. And “Peter & the Wolf,” with various animals represented by different instruments, is the perfect introduction to orchestral music.

"Peter & the Wolf" meets piano lessons

Hocus Pocus Pops. Oct 30 at 2:30pm. An afternoon of “tricks, treats and suspenseful music” including a murder mystery for children — Lemony Snickett’s “The Composer is Dead” — which also teaches children about instruments of the orchestra. Kids and grown-ups are encouraged to come in costume.

Orchestra from Planet X. Jan 29, 2011. Two “devious but somewhat bumbling space creatures” attempt to take over the concert as the symphony plays music ranging from “Symphony X” by Don Gillis to John Williams’ “Flying Theme” from the movie “E.T.”

Cirque de la Symphonie. Feb 26, 2011 at 2:30pm. “Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and strongmen” perform as the symphony plays both popular music and classical masterpieces.

The Rhythms of the Earth. March 19, 2001 at 2:30pm. A concert dedicated to “our amazing planet” from desert to jungle — to include music from the “Grand Canyon Suite,” “Songs the Plants Taught Us” and more. Children leave with seeds to plant as the community prepares to celebrate Earth Day 2011.

Opera meets "Wild Things"

Pre-concert activities start in the Symphony Hall foyer an hour before each of the above concerts — and feature activities ranging from storytime and arts & crafts to a musical instrument “petting zoo” where children can try out various instruments. The cello and horns were always big hits with my kiddos — who went on to play flute, piano, saxophone and violin between them.

I’ve also chaperoned many an elementary school field trip to the symphony, but hadn’t realized until I visited their website recently that they also offer programs that send musicians to perform at schools. 

I was struck today by just how magical the venue can be for children–with a perfect blend of formality that makes the occasion feel special and a more casual ambiance that still feels warm and welcoming.

We’ve also experienced the music and musings of individual symphony members, who chat and perform periodically in venues like bookstores where children can see and hear just a small number of instruments up close (and for free).

Phoenix Symphony meets Ib Andersen's "The Nutcracker"

Lizabeth still recalls many other experiences with the Phoenix Symphony — seeing friends play in the “side by side” concert coupling the Phoenix Symphony with the Phoenix Youth Symphony, hearing Tchaikovsky’s music as Ballet Arizona performs “The Nutcracker” each year.

My favorite Phoenix Symphony memories are of lazy afternoons or evenings when Lizabeth and I would go to hear musical greats like Itzhak Perlman. At first I fretted when she only made it through half of a concert before falling asleep on my shoulder.

But then I realized it was a rare and special gift — Lizabeth drifting off to slumber amidst the tender sounds of the symphony, and me feeling the warmth of her cheek nuzzled against my neck.

There’s really nothing quite like it.

–Lynn

Note: Intermissions at Symphony Hall have a charm all their own — with impressive chandeliers and other interesting design elements to explore, a gift boutique with diverse offerings (my favorites this time around were miniature animals playing various instruments) and a choice of snack bars (including one with over-the-moon cheesecake and chocolate-dipped strawberries).

Coming up: My “first love” in theater is rekindled

Ballet Arizona photo by Rosalie O’Connor