Sunday, December 30, 2007

Double Feature

Since we got gift cards for the movies, we thought about taking in a show yesterday, but in the end we decided that what we really wanted to do was be home after 5 days away. We had one DVD from Netflix, and Cindy had a coupon for a free movie at Blockbuster. So after a trip to town for a few groceries and picking up the second movie, we were all set for a double feature. Cindy made some pasta while I set up the TV trays and got all the other paraphernalia we like to have for movie watching, i.e. her pistachios and a bowl for the hulls, the portable phone, a blanket, drinks, etc.


The first movie we watched was Wordplay which features Will Shortz, the puzzle king. The documentary focuses on crossword puzzle players in the 28th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament which turns out to be surprisingly entertaining and informative subject matter. I've been listening to Shortz for years on NPR on Sunday mornings, and though I'm not a crossword puzzler, I do have fun trying to guess the word puzzles Shortz does on the air. Cindy, on the other hand, enjoys doing crossword puzzles, especially while traveling on planes or trains though she admits that she regularly cheats. The folks featured in this movie don't cheat. They are ultra serious about doing puzzles and train by timing themselves doing the New York Times puzzle. What's fun about this movie is that I learned a lot about puzzle construction and about the attributes of good puzzlers. Did you know that the best puzzlers are musicians and mathematicians? The movie explains why and features The Indigo Girls as an example of musicians who both enjoy and are good at doing puzzles. The movie garnered a 95% among reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, and I'm sure it's because the characterization of the various puzzlers is deftly managed. Also the suspense that develops at the tournament offers a terrific climax because by that time viewers undoubtedly have chosen a favorite to win. This movie gets a thumbs up.

Two Weeks

Cindy and I are Sally Fields fans, so we thought we would enjoy Two Weeks even though we knew that the movie was about a woman who is dying of cancer. Fields plays Anita Bergman whose impending death brings her 4 children to her bedside for the last days of her life. We recently watched a similar movie Evening, which I loved, but this film hit me differently, managing to sound every emotional chord in my body. Maybe I needed to cry which is what Michael said about the movie we gave his family for Christmas, another tearjerker about a mother dying. An hour-and-a-half spent watching a woman die a painful death is definitely tough, and we cried a lot. But director Steve Stockman has depicted family dynamics around grief with such honesty that I think everyone should see this movie. The death of a family member is not easy, as Cindy and I well know, but we also know that such times bring out the best and the worst in us and that there are also surprising moments of laughter as well as bittersweet moments remembering. I think Two Weeks poignantly captures the whole picture of a family sitting with a loved one through death. Pick a time when you need to cry and watch this movie. Oh, and don't forget to grab the box of tissue along with your other viewing paraphernalia.


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