Monthly Archives: September 2012

Coming of Age — The Young Adult Experience

I always have liked the coming of age story – the character is a young person who moves through innocence into a more   mature view of the world either by experiencing a life changing relationship or event, assuming responsibility or learning a   lesson.  Two books I read recently and one movie I saw all fall into this realm.

I’ve decided that, while all three of these stories (the film is based on a book) are coming of age pieces, they differ in each seems to tackle specific aspects of life.

Looking for Alaska by John Green.  I’d heard about this book when it was first published in 2005.  I heard it compared to the novel Catcher in the Rye, and if it had some of the same sardonic tone, I was curious. Miles, the central character, is sent to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama, the alma mater of his father.  Miles had been something of a loner during his first year at his local high school and when his parents suggested he go away and live at this private school he actually thought it would be a good thing.  At Culver Creek he develops close friends, learns how to maneuver both the academic and social maze of the private school environment, and finds that life does goes on after loss.  One of this novel’s strong points is that it’s told in first person.  In my opinion, also, it’s a book that is most definitely worth a person’s time, whether he or she is 14, 40 or 80.  Yes, that good.  It’s coming of age emphasis is friendship and academics/school.

Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins.  Never before can I recall a book being read by such a diverse group of people (teenagers, librarians, and parents to name a few) and all of them being enthused by it.  Again a strong point is it is told in first person.  Central character, Katniss Everdeen from lowly District 12, is a very smart young person whose mental acuity and physical agility is brought to an extreme test.  A science fiction story that blends a character’s awakening with the dynamics of a totalitarian future and the ever constant striving for individual and familial survival, the book is exciting and consistently fascinating.  Its coming of age aspect is competition/survival and familial concern.

White Oleander – the film (based on the book by author, Janet Finch)  This film was an eye opener, to say the least.  A young girl’s relationship with a beautiful artistic unstable mother is tested when the mother is sent to jail for murdering the mother’s boyfriend.  The young girl never knew her father and has no siblings or other relatives.  She is placed in foster homes as well as a home for abandoned children who cannot be placed in foster care.  As she begins to have experiences away from her mother’s ever watchful eye, the young girl begins to realize that her mother is a dangerous person whose strength is often used to destroy others.  A painful exploration of relationship difficulties along with probing deeper truths, this story has significant impact.  Its coming of age theme is relationships, trust and love.

                                  

Iconic Movies & their Iconic Songs

                   

It all started with seeing recently the movie “To Be or Not to Be,” the original 1942 version.  A funny and memorable film, I remembered that Mel Brooks had remade this film in the early 1980s starring himself and actress, Anne Bancroft, his wife in real life.  I’ve actually haven’t seen yet the Mel Brooks 1983 version of “To Be or Not to Be.”

Anyway for some reason at this point I began to do research on actress Anne Bancroft – I’ve always admired her work.  It turns out at her funeral in 2005, musician Paul Simon played the song of his “Mrs. Robinson” as a tribute to Anne Bancroft and the role of Mrs. Robinson that she played in the 1967 movie “The Graduate.”  Made now some 45 years ago, the film “The Graduate” along with the song “Mrs. Robinson” has reached, in my opinion, something of  iconic stature in modern culture.

It occurred to me that there are actually several iconic movies that have equally iconic songs connected to them.  I’m not speaking of musicals of the Oscar & Hammerstein variety or more recently the animated musicals of Alan Menken & Howard Ashman – I’m referring to films where a song that is played in the film possibly captures people’s emotions as much as the film does.

I’ve decided here to make a list of what I consider iconic films along with their equally iconic songs.  I know I’m going to miss a few.  I’m going to start with one from the 1940s and try to move forward chronologically.

1940s

Film: Holiday Inn (1942);    Song: “White Christmas”

Film: Casablanca (1942);    Song “As Time Goes By”

1950s

Film: Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955);    Song “Love is a Many Splendored Thing”

Film: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956):    Song “Que Sera Sera” (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

1960s

Film: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961);    Song “Moon River”

Film: Days of Wine and Roses (1962):    Song “Days of Wine and Roses”

Film: Alfie (1966);    Song “Alfie”

Film: Thomas Crown Affair (1968);    Song “The Windmills of Your Mind”

Film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969);    Song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”

Film: Midnight Cowboy (1969);    Song “Everybody’s Talking at Me”

1970s

Film: Shaft (1972);    Song: “Shaft”

Film: The Sting (1973):    Song: “The Entertainer” (instrumental theme song from the movie)

Film: The Way We Were (1974);    Song: “The Way We Were”

1980s

Film: Fame (1980);    Song: “Fame”

Film: Arthur (1981);    Song: “The Best That You Can Do”

Film: An Officer and a Gentleman (1982);  Song: “Up Where We Belong”

Film: Flashdance (1983);   Song: “Oh, What a Feeling”

Film: Ghostbusters (1984);   Song: “Ghostbusters”

Film: Back to the Future (1985):   Song: “The Power of Love”

Film: Top Gun (1986);   Song: “Take My Breath Away”

Film: Dirty Dancing (1987);    Song: “(I’ve Had the) Time of My Life”

1990s

Film: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991);   Song:  “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”

Film: Toy Story (1995);   Song: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”

Film: Titanic (1997);   Song: “My Heart Will Go On”

2000s

Film: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000);   Song: “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”

Film: Shrek 2 (2004) – the Shrek concept is “iconic”;   Song: “Accidently In Love”

James Bond Films

It occurred to me that many a James Bond film has a song that is attached to it and maybe these need a section all of their own.  Here are some of these films and their iconic songs.

Film: Goldfinger (1964);   Song: “Goldfinger”

Film: Live and Let Die (1973);   Song: “Live and Let Die”

Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977);   Song: “Nobody Does It Better”

Film: For Your Eyes Only (1981):   Song: “For Your Eyes Only”

I know there are more films with their accompanying songs out there – it’s occurred to me that it’s often in retrospect that films and their affiliated songs achieve “iconic” status.

The 3 Threes: Movies about Men and Women

This summer I saw three movies that depicted “threesomes” — not of the menage a trois variety, instead there were situations that reflected in my mind much of the “era” and time each of these movies were made.

     “Two-Lane Blacktop” (1971)

DIrected by Wim Wenders, this film stars James Taylor (the musician) as the driver and Dennis Wilson (of Beach Boys fame) as the mechanic.  This movie has developed, I’m told, something of a cult following.  The female character is a young hippie played by actress, Laurie Bird who gravitates first toward one of the guys and then the other.  The film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and the main concern of the males is to drive their souped up 1955 Chevy across the U.S., making money by drag racing along the way.  The woman was in some ways secondary to the men’s purpose and concern with the car, however she does manage to have an impact nevertheless.

     “Cutter’s Way” (1981)

A drama with memorable acting, this film is the story of a physically and psychologically damaged Vietnam vet played by actor, John Heard, his wife, actress Lisa Eichorn and his best friend, Jeff Bridges.  The plot concerns what happens when Jeff Bridges finds a dead woman stuffed in an alley garbage bin and is able to identify the culprit who put her there.  When he tells his best friend and his best friend’s wife about what he saw, the friend (John Heard) gets caught up in trying to catch the murderer.  All of these characters are flawed in one way or another — John Heard is a bitter hard drinking man; Lisa Eichorn is his caring yet disillusioned and cynical wife who finds refuge in drinking as much as her husband does.   Jeff Bridges is something of a ladies man who is loyal to his best friend yet yearns for his best friend’s wife’s affections.  What redeems these three people is that they care about one another deeply — their friendships are longstanding and complex.  What eventually occurs in the movie is unsettling and sad.  In many ways this film depicts the heaviness of the post Vietnam War years of the mid-to-late 1970s.

    “Savages” (2012)

In Oliver Stone’s most recent film there are two best friends, Ben and Chon, and their shared girlfriend, Ophelia (referred to as “O”).  Business partners (they grow and sell pot) as well as friends, these two young men are as different as night and day.  It is their differences that balance them, however, and also partly why O is able to love both of them.  When O is kidnapped by the Mexican drug cartel who are looking to take over Ben and Chon’s pot business, there is no question that these men are going to try and bring her home safely.  The dynamic between these three characters stems from the openess of their relationships that in turn seems to foster free flowing communication among them.  How they eventually work through their harrowing ordeal with the drug cartel as well as the interaction among themselves forms the ending of the film.  This current day movie is both a romanticized depiction of a freer lifestyle and a reflection of the dangers of doing business in what continues to be illegal, the growing and selling of marijuana.