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My joy for today is Midnight in Paris.

We recently rented Woody Allen’s movie from last year, Midnight in Paris.  I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am not one of those people that have always longed to visit Paris.  Some movies that I love do feature the City of Light, such as The Devil Wears Prada, Something’s Gotta Give and Ratatouille.  However, they failed to convince me and I often felt that love of Paris was somewhat cliched and something the cool cats like to discuss.

Woody Allen got me.  In this film, Paris is the main character.  The opening is a montage of many picturesque and familiar locations in the city, which continue on much longer than necessary.  But this opening serves to inform the audience that this is a movie that takes place in Paris, and is also about Paris.  It really is a love letter to the city, and to the time that it romanticizes.

The main (human as opposed to city) character, Gil Pender, played by the amazing Owen Wilson, travels back in time, through means unknown, to the 1920’s in Paris.  He meets a whole slew of artists, including Picasso, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  This movie made me feel shockingly uneducated and uncultured, although not in an annoying or condescending way.  Many of the artists that Pender meets are undoubtedly extremely famous and revered, and Pender is appropriately awestruck.  But the real surprise is that the audience is not left behind if they are not fully aware of the talents of a particular artist.  Although this movie is clearly a “smart” film for the upper echelons of society, us regular folks can also appreciate the beauty of the cinematography, the music, and the simplicity of the plot and the characters.

Besides the love affair with Paris, the movie also explores the notion that a bygone time period is preferable to the present.  Personally, I have never been under this false assumption.  I have always rested in the assurance that all time periods have had their significant problems and challenges.  Like Allen alludes to in the plot, in each time period in history, there are those that would wish for time periods past.  In the movie, Pender longs for Paris in the twenties, but his love interest from the twenties longs for the turn of the century.  Are we ever happy where we actually find ourselves?

I am not a fan of a great deal of Rachel McAdam’s films.  That is not to say that I am not a fan of the actress.  She is one of the great chameleons of our time.  I do not enjoy the sappy, overly romantic version of her in The Notebook and The Vow.  I adore her in Mean Girls, The Family Stone and in this film.  She is best when she is bad.  She is hilarious in Midnight in Paris, as well as her snotty parents and friends in the film.  The film is entirely enjoyable because both the magic and delight of the twenties is as entertaining as the strained, distant relationships of the present.

Maybe one day, about thirty years from now, when our kids are grown and we have managed to save a few pennies in a vacation fund, we will see what all the fuss is about in Paris.  Until then, I will put Midnight in Paris on my birthday wish list, and live vicariously through Woody Allen’s eyes.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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My joy for today is a summer blockbuster with heart.

A few nights ago, my husband and I saw the first movie together in a theater since the last Harry Potter. It was a rare, spur of the moment night out, along with my family.  We went to see the latest installation of the Men in Black series.  When Men in Black II came out, I was a college student, unmarried, and without children.  Fast forward a decade later, a husband, a home, and four children added to my life, and I hoped Men in Black III could deliver the same carefree summer fun of 10 years ago. I was looking forward to seeing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones together again.

The film did not disappoint, and actually surpassed my expectations.  It is rated PG-13, which is warranted mostly because of disgusting bad guy and typical sci-fi violence.  We had a fleeting thought of taking our 7 year old to see MIB III, but were immensely glad we decided against that.  The opening sequence of the movie is surprisingly disgusting and I would actually turn my head away from the screen many times, along with “ewww-ing” out loud.  After the initial sequence, establishing the conflict, the audience was treated to the return of Agents J and K.  Although I have not seen Will Smith in much lately, I believe he is a classic movie star of our time.  He is handsome, funny in a witty and sarcastic manner, and a smart, capable character in this film.  Tommy Lee Jones reminds me of older men in my family, and his dry humor and straight laced persona are classic.  Josh Brolin is absolutely amazing as a young Tommy Lee Jones.  His mannerisms, humor, and voice are dead on.  It is hard to believe you are not actually watching a younger Tommy Lee in the flesh.  The actor playing the villain, Boris the Animal, is Jemaine Clement.  I was not aware of him before this movie, but he perfectly portrays a bad guy.  There are no torturous feelings about actually caring about him or wondering why he is so evil.  He is an alien, the last of his kind, and he should not be allowed to continue living.  Pure and simple; just as a popcorn flick should be.

There are several inconsistencies in the time travel plot, but it is overall easy to follow and believable.  I will not give away the best aspects of the plot, but there is an unbelievably heartwarming and touching culmination to the film.  I actually had to wipe away tears.  The final scene is musically accompanied by one of my favorite songs, “Empire State of Mind” and with that, a summer blockbuster is complete.    This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater.  Start your summer off right.

Enjoy your joys for today.

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