Midnight in Paris (Movie 2011)

5 Kernels

Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen

I will admit that I occasionally find no interest in movies based on their title and cover.  “Midnight in Paris” happened to be one of those that I had no desire to watch. Frankly, I’m not that interested in vacationing in Paris, so I thought the movie wouldn’t interest me if that happened to be the subject matter.  I knew it did well in Oscar nominations and wins for Woody Allen, but it didn’t incite me to watch it anyway.

So here we are, four years later, and I rent it on Amazon Prime streaming instant video.  What a fantastic romantic comedy with a message that, for me as an author, goes straight to my heart.

Meet Gil Pender, a screenwriter and hopeful novelist, who is vacationing in Paris.  He is somewhat like me in the fact that he fantasizes about eras past. For him, it’s the 1920’s in Paris, while for me I’m stuck in the Victorian Era.  Gil thinks that life must have been really peachy in Paris with the great upcoming artists of its time like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Picasso, and many others.  In fact, he is so in love with Paris, that he tries to talk his fiancee to moving there to live after they marry. However, she’s more of a realist and really wants to stay in the states in Malibu and Hollywood.

One evening, when his girlfriend would rather go dancing than walk back to the hotel with him, they go their separate ways. Gil wanders around the city trying to find his way back.  A classic car from the past pulls up and stops. The occupants encourage him to take a ride with him, so he climbs in for fun, drinks, and the time of his life. They arrive at a party, and low and behold, he’s been transported back into 1920 meeting the people he has admired his entire life. When he returns to reality, his fiancee thinks he has a brain tumor. Nevertheless, each night he goes back, and when the clock strikes midnight, his ride returns for another adventure.

The story is filled with wonderful themes, and for me as an author, I laughed, oohed, and awed, over some stellar lines.  When Gil asks Hemingway to read his book, he replies, “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.” 

However, the most poignant part of the movie is the theme that those who are nostalgic about former eras, thinking they were better than the present, are misguided.  Michael Sheen, who plays a know-it-all vying for the affections of Gil’s girlfriend, states this one spot-on statement.

“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Of course, as a writer of historical romances, and understanding the need for women who read them, it is quite true. The magic realization is that each generation feels the same. A woman that Gil falls for in the 1920’s, dreams about living in the Belle Epoque time period (the overlapping era of Victorian and Edwardian). That generation probably fantasized about the Regency era.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. It was lighthearted, thought provoking, and some of the lines were diamonds.  Woody Allen is a genius at times, and his multiple awards for the screenplay were well deserved.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Movie 2014)

4 Kernels

Stars: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ricky Gervais

All right, setting aside serious movies about war, death, and intrigue, let’s talk about Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. I went to see this last week when I felt depressed and sat down, ate popcorn, drank water, and had a good laugh.

Like any other kid, I enjoyed the first one when everything in the museum comes alive at night after the sun goes down. It was a unique story that brought laughs. I missed the second one (I don’t know why) but am glad I tuned in for the third.

Ben Stiller is great as Larry Daley.  When he discovers that the mysterious Egyptian tablet that brings the museum to life is corroding and turning everybody back to wax, he and the crew (Teddy Roosevelt, Jedediah, Octavius, Ahkmenrah, Sacajawea, and Dexter) come to the rescue. Apparently the only one who knows the secret about the tablet is Ahkmenrah’s father, who is on display in the British Museum with his mother. Larry convinces Dr. McPhee to let him go to London and take a few of the exhibits with him. He packs them in wood crates filled with Styrofoam, and Larry, along with his teenage son head for the British Isles to save the museum’s occupants from dying.

They get past a dorky security guard at the British Museum. As soon as I saw the inside I screamed,”I’ve been there!” It was a familiar scene of the sweeping staircase to the left and right in the lobby.  Of course, walking into the museum with the tablet causes everything to come to life for the first time, which starts the hilarity of the show.  Not only is Larry running for his life, but so are all the other characters from the New York Museum. Some of the lines spoken and scenes are downright hilarious, which brought a lot of out-loud laughs from me and the audience.

A new character in the mix is Lancelot who comes to life, played by Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey.  Yes, he’s alive, and handsome as ever his his armor, long hair, and blue eyes. It’s his nose, however, that will have you in stitches toward the end. He, like the others come alive for the first time but don’t quite get what has happened to them.

Ben Stiller is looking rather handsome in the flick, and Robin Williams has a hollowness about his eyes that will break your heart. The movie was dedicated to him and also Mickey Rooney, who died before release. Mickey had a bit part at the beginning, as well as Dick VanDyke. Speaking of bit parts, even Hugh Jackman turns up in a scene with Dan. Another new character is a Neanderthal, who looks like Larry. The bantering between Larry and the cave man is a hoot.

Needless to say, if you’re looking for a good kid-friendly and adult humorous movie, you’ll love all the new creatures coming to life.  The old ones will warm your heart, and the sacrifice they all make at the end will touch your heart.

To quote Teddy in the movie, which made me think instantly of Robin, I thought this line poignant under the circumstances. Makes me teary-eyed.

Teddy Roosevelt:“Smile, my boy. It’s almost sunrise.”