Tag Archives: Movies

(209) Tribute: Amy Schumer

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I went to see Trainwreck the other day with my sister. It was hilarious and heartwarming and a bit tear-jerking. And we owe it all to Amy Schumer.

I may be slow to get on the Amy bandwagon, just as I was with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, but it surely doesn’t mean I am not a huge fan. All three of these women are amazingly funny and direct and get it right every single time. I am in awe of their talent.

Amy Schumer is authentic and dares to be fully human. She has a schtick which is gloriously her own, and worked well in the RomCom she wrote. Yes, only her name is on the screenwriting credit, which means every bit of dialogue and entire plot was designed and written by her. That alone is amazing to me. Getting something done in Hollywood usually ends up being an intermingled affair. Somehow, she held control.

And I’m glad she did. I came out of this movie feeling like I did at the end of You’ve Got Mail, written by the late great Nora Ephron. I had tears in my eyes at times for sadness, and other times welling tears of joy. I smiled huge the last ten minutes of the film.  And just like the Harry Nilsson music in YGM, as well as the ending with “Over the Rainbow,” I will never hear “Uptown Girl” or “I Think I Love You” without thinking of Trainwreck.

Of course, being from Cleveland, I’ve gotta love this brilliant scene between Lebron James and Amy’s love interest in the film, Bill Hader.  It’s just one example of the terrific writing Amy does. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

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(172) Cycles and Seeds, Part Two

This is a continuation of songs about fathers and sons, with connected poems and other text.

*4*

RECOGNITION

“Cat’s in the Cradle” written by Harry Chapin and Sandy Chapin

Recorded by Harry Chapin

Significant Lyrics:

Well he came from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say,

“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while.”

He shook his head and then said with a smile,

“What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys.

See you later, can I have them please?”

My thoughts: Perhaps it is just a sappy song from the seventies, but when Chapin had a hit with “Cat’s in the Cradle,” it was something that was finally being talked about.  During that time there was a lot of awareness about how our personal habits affected others — now that may seem commonplace, but the psychology of our interactions was just being brought to light. The recognition that a son has picked up not only good habits but bad habits from his father was blatantly clear in the song. Chapin was a wonderful storyteller, and although some of his songs might be a bit cheesy, he was always sincere. “Cat’s in the Cradle” pairs beautifully with a poem by W.S. Merwin called “Yesterday,” about a man relaying a conversation he had with a friend, who was telling the story of what a bad son he was. I have quoted the ending segment of the poem to go with the Chapin tune.

Text Connection:  last section from “Yesterday” by M.S. Merwin

…and my father turned

in the doorway and saw me

look at my wristwatch and he

said you know I would like you to stay

and talk with me

oh yes I say

and says my father

said maybe

you have important work you are doing

or maybe you should be seeing

somebody I don’t want to keep you…

…I told my father it was so

and I got up and left him then

you know

though there was nowhere I had to go

and nothing I had to do.

*5*

APPEAL

“This Is It” written by Cindy Walker, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and V. McCoy

Recorded by Kenny Loggins

Significant Lyrics:

Are you going to wait for your sign, your miracle?

Stand up and fight

This is it

Make no mistake where you are

Your back’s to the corner

Don’t be a fool anymore

The waiting is over

No where to run, no where to hide

No time for wondering why

My thoughts: In May of 1998, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  His prognosis was good, but he didn’t seem to think so.  He shut down. Quit going to work, spent most of his day in bed, and within a couple of weeks stopped eating. At the time I was caught up in losing him, and had forgotten all about this song by Kenny Loggins, one that he wrote as a message to his own father with a cancer diagnosis. I have no idea what happened to Kenny’s dad, but mine didn’t last the month. I understand the plea here, as we made the same appeals to our father. It won’t change things when someone has made up their mind that “this is it.”

Text Connection:  last stanza from “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

*6*

INHERITANCE

“My Father’s Gun” written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Recorded by Elton John

Significant Lyrics:

From this day on I own my father’s gun
We dug his shallow grave beneath the sun
I laid his broken body down below the southern land
It wouldn’t do to bury him where any Yankee stands

I’ll take my horse and I’ll ride the northern plain
To wear the color of the greys and join the fight again
I’ll not rest until I know the cause is fought and won
From this day on until I die I’ll wear my father’s gun

My thoughts: This a song from Tumbleweed Connection, an early album of Elton John’s that was a concept album placed in Civil War era America.  It has always been my favorite album of his, although it is largely ignored. “My Father’s Gun” is all about what is left when dad is gone. What mantle does the son pick up and carry?  In this case, it is the cause of the South in the Civil War. The gun is a touchstone for all his father believed and fought for.

Text Connection:  last several lines from “For, Brother, What Are We?” by Thomas Wolfe

We are the sons of our father

Whose life like ours

Was lived in solitude and in the wilderness,

We are the sons of our father,

To whom only can we speak out

The strange, dark burden of our heart and spirit,

We are the sons of our father,

And we shall follow the print of his foot forever.

(171) Cycles and Seeds, Part One

It happens to be Father’s Day weekend, but that isn’t why I approached this topic.  I was looking to dissect a couple of John Fogerty’s songs and then all of a sudden, I was on a different mission.

I am a sucker for father/son stories. They have pulled me in since I can remember. It is the reason I love Hamlet the most out of Shakespeare’s plays and why Field of Dreams remains my favorite film of all time. The father and son connection — it’s ups and downs, ins and outs, and struggles, has been well-documented throughout literature and film since the beginning of storytelling.

My starting point was “Someday Never Comes” by John Fogerty, a song that I think is one of the saddest ever written.  It caused me to think about all the other songs I knew that were written about fathers and sons.  The list kept growing until I had eight that I thought showed as many different facets of the relationship that I could possibly conjure up.  I then named the key word for each, and decided on a piece of text to go with each one.  In that text I have included some various poems as well as dialogue from Field of Dreams. Since this is part of my Lyric Series, I will include selected song lyrics, as well as my own short commentary.  When including the video, I will attempt to include lyrics, either in the video itself or on the information with the video, if available.

Today’s blog will address the first three, and the rest will be posted tomorrow and Monday.

*1*

CYCLES

“Love Without End, Amen” written by Aaron Barker

Recorded by George Strait

Significant Lyrics:

Let me tell you a secret

About a father’s love

A secret that my daddy said was just between us

You see fathers don’t just love their children every now and then

It’s a love without end, amen.

My thoughts: This is probably the easiest song to listen to of all the selections here. It is a sweet story about the cycles found in the father/son relationship.  This one even includes God the Father. But it isn’t an overly religious song — it is simply about how we feel we fail our father figures.  That is very human and down to earth.

Text Connection:  from Field of Dreams, the opening monologue:

Ray Kinsella: [voice over] My father’s name was John Kinsella. It’s an Irish name. He was born in North Dakota in 1896, and never saw a big city until he came back from France in 1918. He settled in Chicago, where he quickly learned to live and die with the White Sox. Died a little when they lost the 1919 World Series. Died a lot the following summer when eight members of the team were accused of throwing that series. He played in the minors for a year too, but nothing ever came of it. Moved to Brooklyn in ’35, married Mom in ’38. He was already an old man working at the naval yards when I was born in 1952. My name’s Ray Kinsella. Mom died when I was three, and I suppose Dad did the best he could. Instead of Mother Goose, I was put to bed at night to stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the great Shoeless Joe Jackson. Dad was a Yankees fan then, so of course I rooted for Brooklyn. But in ’58, the Dodgers moved away, so we had to find other things to fight about. We did. And when it came time to go to college, I picked the farthest one from home I could find. This, of course, drove him right up the wall, which I suppose was the point. Officially, my major was English, but really it was the ’60s. I marched, I smoked some grass, I tried to like sitar music, and I met Annie. The only thing we had in common was that she came from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa. After graduation, we moved to the Midwest and stayed with her family as long as we could… almost a full afternoon. Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later, Karin was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m thirty-six years old, I love my family, I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. And until I heard the Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.

Voice: If you build it, he will come.

*2*

WARNING

“Someday Never Comes” written by John Fogerty

Recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Significant Lyrics:

When daddy went away he said try to be a man

And someday you’ll understand

Well, I’m hear to tell you now

Each and every mother’s son

You’d better learn it fast

And you’d better learn it young

Cause someday never comes.

My thoughts: I think this is one of the saddest songs ever.  I cannot listen to it without remembering something a student wrote once: “The last thing I remember about my dad is his back walking out that door when I was five-years-old.”  The cycle of trauma in this song is simply devastating, as it reaches down from father to son to grandson.  I know too many people who never knew their own fathers. I have seen women twist themselves into pretzels trying to stay in marriages that weren’t working because they knew the father would desert the children. I think Fogerty’s bravery in speaking up is impressive. We always think that someday the children will grow up and understand.  It isn’t always true.  Sometimes there is never understanding.  Acceptance maybe.  But don’t be fooled.  It is an endless weight that can never be lifted off their shoulders.

Text Connection:  last stanza from “The Weight of Sweetness” by Li-Young Lee

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches

his father has entrusted

to him.

Now he follows

his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.

See the look on the boy’s face

as his father moves

faster and farther ahead, while his own steps

flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors

under the weight

of peaches.

*3*

BREACH

“Father and Son” written by Calvin Massey and Cat Stevens

Recorded by Cat Stevens

Significant Lyrics:

(Son)

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,

it’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.

If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away

I know I have to go

(Father)

Stay, stay, stay, stay, why must you go and

make this decision alone?

My thoughts: This song came out when I was in high school, on Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman album, and perhaps that is why I gained an emotional attachment to it which has never left me. I still get goosebumps at the end when the son is taking a stand, and the father is gently saying, Stay, stay, stay.  This lyric was the first time I heard a song in two voices, and I thought it was masterful then, and I think it is masterful now. The fact that I fell in love with this song as a teenager when I was doing my own separating, doesn’t fully explain why I still find this song so compelling today.  I have to chalk it up to excellent songwriting.

Text Connection:  from Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella: By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was 14, I started to refuse. Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father.

Terence Mann: Why 14?

Ray Kinsella: That’s when I read “The Boat Rocker” by Terence Mann.

Terence Mann: [rolling his eyes] Oh, God.

Ray Kinsella: Never played catch with him again.

Terence Mann: You see? That’s the sort of crap people are always trying to lay on me. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.

(I particularly like this video of Cat Stevens, even though there are no lyrics attached.)

(124) Man Crush Monday–Al Pacino

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It’s Al Pacino.  It has always been Al Pacino.

Robert DeNiro. Dustin Hoffman. Yes–fabulous actors.

But for me, for that time period, it was Pacino.

I loved him in The Godfather movies. Serpico. And Justice for All. Sea of Love. Devil’s Advocate. Scent of a Woman.

Yesterday I saw him as an aging rock star in Danny Collins. Always he moves me.

And what I remember most is that at some awards show he thanked his 8th grade teacher for making him learn to recite the Psalms.  Although I cannot find the speech on the Internet, it has lived in my heart. When I heard Al thank a middle school teacher, it helped me know what an impact I could have on a young person. I have never forgotten.

Thank you, Mr. Pacino, for years of fabulous entertainment and for never forgetting what made you who you are. It matters to me and to the young people I teach. You are forever my crush, even at the glorious age of 74.

(58) It Was a Different Time (or was it)?

This morning I was struck with a bout of flu, so left school before it even started. I have spent the day reading, sleeping, and movie watching. I could have chosen a new film, but I saw that Amazon Prime recently added Stand By Me to their list of films. I have not seen it since the 1980’s, and for some reason I have been thinking about it a lot lately.

I remember I had read the novella The Body by Stephen King well before the movie ever came out. It was an exceptional work. I remembered it had the four boys and they walk a long way to see the body of a dead boy. I remembered nothing else about it.

Much to my surprise, it is about a writer who reads in the paper that his childhood friend had been murdered trying to break up a fight in a fast food restaurant. The story is his remembrance of the journey they took, and how they were there for each other through some pretty rough stuff. It was a different time in 1959, but the problems the boys faced were not a lot different than today. Abusive or neglectful parents. Unfair comparisons. Being blamed for things just because of who you are socially and economically in the town. And the part that really struck me–knowing that you and your friends are viewed differently by the educational system, a system that is about to separate you into different tracks.

In the end, it is the friendship that helps one of the characters pursue a different life than he was targeted for, according to the outside world. And it would be his constant inner goal for peace that would get him killed.

The characters are about to enter junior high, and since that is the age group I teach, I was really paying attention. The take away for me was that I have to remember that the young people I teach are desperately afraid of their own humanness. They see a world that might not care about them very much. And certainly, so much of what is happening in education does continue to separate them from their peers, and make life difficult. It is easy for many of them to feel like the boys in the film–just plain dumb.

We have a system of labels now that consist of the numbers 1 through 5.  We have reading level numbers as well. Kids know their numbers, and so do their peers. Just like in 1959, kids know who the smart ones are, and where they stand in the pecking order. The most we can do as educators is try to minimize the damage through true caring, listening, and encouragement.

I hope this message will stay with me for a long time.