Foyle’s War

Oh yes!  This is going to be the summer of Foyle’s War for our family.  We have only watched two episodes but we are loving this uncommonly wonderful British mystery series, set in Hastings, on the coast of England, in 1940.  The writing, the music, the cinematography, the acting–they are all quite good. 

Michael Kitchen plays Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, a man one can’t help but admire.  I particularly like the way he questions suspects.  There is solid strength behind his quiet, unassuming manner.  Honeysuckle Weeks plays his spunky driver “Sam” Stewart.  You can see, just in the way she walks, that her small body is harnessing untold energy.  Fun. Intriguing. Foyle’s War

It Will Be All Right, Lu

We’re back from watching Prince Caspian.  Lucy (Georgie Henley), as always, steals the show.  When I see Lucy, I am reminded of Donna’s Katie.  Lucy’s transparent faith, her playful grin, her devoted love, her tender heart, are all too wonderful.  Lucy holds nothing back. Casting Georgie Henley as Lucy was the most brilliant decision in the making of the Narnia movies.  I just couldn’t have born it if they had gotten Lucy wrong.

Peter Dinklage plays a might fine Trumpkin. His sad-looking face works perfectly for both the skeptical dwarf and the believing dwarf.  And we all loved Reepicheep.  Who can resist the chivalrous charm of a brave mouse?  Caspian isn’t at all how I pictured him, but we all see things differently, eh?

The movie isn’t flawless; there are many add-ons and annoying nods to egalitarian nonsense which never existed in the book.  Classics students: have you ever heard of female centaurs?  Isn’t that a contradiction to the essential character of centaurs? 

Lucy, Trumpkin and Reepicheep are all positives which overruled the negatives. Not to mention Aslan!

In the end, I left the theater thankful.

I Am David

Not since Sweet Land have I been so captured by a movie.  I Am David,  based on the book North to Freedom, tells the story of a twelve year old boy who escapes from a Communist labor camp in Bulgaria with instructions to deliver a mysterious sealed envelope to Denmark.

After leaving a gray, grim and grimy life of picking up rocks, David is introduced to brilliant colors, freshly baked bread, rich music, family, prayer, fields of sunflowers…a beautiful life.  He hardly has the capability of understanding truth, beauty and goodness.  He has to learn how to smile.  Read that sentence again.  He doesn’t know how to smile.

The slow transformation of David follows a series of cleansings.  Washing up plays an important role in this film.  I saw in David what I’ve seen in the lives of several friends who have come out of toxic and abusive marriages.  It has taken a series of cleansings to wash the grime and grit and dirt and lies out of their souls. 

It is a process to learn to trust again.  A series of encounters help David trust someone enough to open himself and tell his story. The women who does the most to convince David to trust her is aptly named Sophie (Sophia is Greek for wisdom).

Ben Tibber plays this role to perfection.  His serious face will stay with me for weeks.  Stewart Copeland’s soundtrack captures both the bleakness of life behind wires with ethereal vocals and the movement of the open road with some dynamic harp and orchestra.  You can hear soundtrack snippets and see the trailer here.

I highly recommend this film.


Mistaken Identity

“Whitney, you got to watch a video of your own funeral.” 

It hardly seems credible that a mixup like this could happen in 2006, but it did. 

A high speed collision took the lives of five people from Taylor University.  Five weeks after the crash, when the Van Ryn’s daughter came out of a coma, they eventually realized that she was not their daughter.  This is a compelling story, sad and happy, a picture of two families trusting God through the most agonizing drama imaginable.

That drama was told last night on a two hour Dateline NBC program.

A fine moment:  Lisa Van Ryn put the pieces together first.  After a physical therapy session, as she was wheeling the girl she now suspected was not her sister Laura back to her room, she got eye level and asked her what her name was.  The girl replied, “Whitney.”  She asked her to say her parents’ names.  After she did, Lisa was convinced this wasn’t Laura.  Her response was, “That’s very good, Whitney.  You are doing so well.  You are really doing great.”

Matt Lauer commented on Lisa’s generosity to Whitney at that moment.  He was surprised that Lisa didn’t start screaming and running down the hall.  Lisa looked at him with a smile, “But I loved her! Why would I do that to her?”  The love she demonstrated, putting Whitney’s needs before her own…amazing grace.

In the last few years, some stories have gripped our imagination because the participants’ faith has been so clearly displayed in the midst of their grief.  Do you remember the national spotlight on Frank James when the Mt. Hood climbers were missing?  In this program, what I found so winsome was a complete lack of bitterness and blaming.  The Cerak and Van Ryn families were gracious in every word spoken.  All of grace.

Something the Lord Made

Something the Lord Made, the story of two pioneers of open heart surgery, was an excellent film.  When Dr. Alan Blaylock (Alan Rickman) hired Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) to be his lab assistant he never anticipated the pivotal role Thomas would play in his medical research.  When Dr. Blaylock inspects a shunt and bypass performed by Thomas,  he exclaims, “this looks like something the Lord made.”

The drama of overcoming hurdles and performing the first heart surgery on a “blue baby”  kept my interest from flagging; however, the personal dilemma of Vivien Thomas and his response was riveting.  He had been given unprecedented  freedom as a black man who was a brilliant but uneducated assistant, unofficially an apprentice surgeon.  However, he was grossly underpaid and received no recognition for his medical breakthroughs.   Watching his struggle to humbly stand up for his rights and provide for his family and seeing the honor ultimately given to him by Johns Hopkins University was the thrill of this movie.

Heart surgery is so common today that we take it for granted.  My good friend Sue is getting a mitral valve repair, a five hour heart surgery, this afternoon at Stanford.   The surgeon who slices open and remodels her heart is the descendant, medically speaking, of Dr. Blaylock and (hon.) Dr. Thomas.  Highly recommended.

Nicholas Nickleby Redux

Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it,
but to delight in it when it comes.

We watched Nicholas Nickleby this week and I had forgotten what a great movie it really is.  Full of trademark Dickensian characters, suffering, pathos, humor, justice, romance, cruelty, compassion, a lecherous old man and a indignant older brother who defends his sister’s reputation, family love and fabulous quotes, it is a movie that bears an annual re-viewing. 

My husband remarked that the movie begins at the grave of a broken Nicholas Nickleby, the family in grief and distress; it ends at the same grave with a new, redeemed Nicholas Nickleby who has restored and extended the family.  Redemption always comes with two things: evil is judged and put down, and righteousness is lifted up.  We all rejoice when good triumphs over evil. 

Whose heart can remain unmoved at these words between Nicholas and the young orphan Smike?

Where is your [Smike’s] home?

You are my home.

I transcribed the final toast, the glorious recap of the movie:

In every life, no matter how full or empty one’s purse, there is tragedy.  It is the one promise life always fulfills.  Thus, happiness is a gift, and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes; and to add to other people’s store of it.

What happens if, too early, we lose a parent, that party on whom we rely for only…everything?  What did these people do when their families shrank? 

They cried their tears. 

But then they did the vital thing: they built a new family person by person.  They came to see that family need not be defined merely as those with whom they share blood, but as those for whom they would give their blood.

I am a fan of Rachel Portman’s soundtracks.  When I first heard the music, I requested (and received!) this.  If you haven’t seen this movie, you need to watch it.  If it’s been a while since you have, check it out again.  You’ll be glad.

Chasing Freedom

My sister Margo and I often compare Netflix notes during our phone conversations.  She recommended Chasing Freedom, the story of an Afghan woman seeking asylum, with the caveat that it was hard on the emotions.  There is one unpleasant scene of a beating, which earned the movie an R rating.

I was interested simply because it was about Afghanistan.  Ever since I’ve read The Kite Runner, my heart has been turned toward the Afghani people.  Chasing Freedom has several domestic scenes from Meena’s life in Kabul.  Just getting a visual of a (surely recreated) Kabul street and neighborhood was valuable for me.

The story focuses on two women. Meena Gardizi, an young Afghani woman
who is seeking asylum from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, arrives in New York only to be held in a detention center which looks much like prison. Libby,
the attorney who takes the pro bono case in order to pad her resumé, is introduced as a big-shot lawyer who eventually realizes that she’s not good enough. The softening-of-the-lawyer theme reminded me of Regarding Henry
Watch Libby’s hairstyle as the movie progresses.  The big draw in this
movie was Layla Alizaba in the role of Meena.  She played a wide range of emotions with understated intensity and created a very sympathetic character.    

While I enjoyed the movie, the plot lacked contour.  Later I noticed that it was a made for television movie; that made sense. 

Our family is always looking for the message, the point, the telos if you will, of the movie.  Obviously the producer believes America should have a different system for checking and detaining immigrants. This movie about immigration and asylum portrays the INS in a poor light, typical jail-keepers. While it plays on the emotions, we need to think clearly. It could be a great springboard for discussing the pros and cons of our current immigration policy. 

A Cozy Talk About Pornography

Saturday morning the man I adore and I sat down for a cozy breakfast together.  We reviewed the past week, talked about our plans for the upcoming week; the conversation moseyed hither and yon. Of all places, we landed on pornography; another Christian we know is jumbled up in this morass.  

“God is so faithful,” my wise husband remarked. “He’s told us that if we persist, he will give us over to our sin.”

We sing Great is Thy Faithfulness with full hearts and think about the provision and mercies of God.  I don’t  normally think about God’s faithfulness relative to hardening hearts, keeping His word, and giving people over to their lusts.

But my people would not hearken to my voice;
and Israel would none of me.
So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust:
and they walked in their own counsels.
Psalm 81:11-12

The heart has devices for getting its desires. Porn is available and it seems “harmless” in the privacy of our home.  It’s far too easy.  I think fear is a good motivator here.  Not as good as love, but fear works. 

We need to talk openly about this sin with our kids.  We need to be approachable so they can tell us they need help. Do you know how to check the history on the computers in your home?  Do you? I like the idea Netflix has where you sign up as “Friends” with others and they have access to your viewing history.  It also works to see what your friends like.  If you are interested in being Netflix friends with our family, message me.

Women are not exempt from this problem.  Many novels are pornography of the emotions.  Benjamin Disraili said, “A woman guanoed her mind by reading French novels.” 

A church leader in our town resigned/was arrested because his pornography habit expanded to making secret videos of girls in the showers at the church camp.  His words to his congregation haunt me: “I thought I could handle this.” 

Lord, have mercy.


Some people care about shoes.  They buy them often, they consider carefully which pair to wear, and they notice other people’s shoes, perhaps even judge others by their shoes.  I notice fonts.  I just do.  For the most part, I notice the gag-me awful ones and the perfectly fitting fonts.  A realtor in our small town just established his own business: his signs are the most artless, ugly, horrific, disaster of graphic art.  My daughter-in-law and I just point and groan when we see them. 

I used to make the common mistake of using multiple fonts in a document when so many first became available. (cringe) I remember my first encounter with Helvetica back in 1988: the Director of Admissions sat at my desk and rhapsodized about the clean lines, sans serif, readability, attractiveness, etc. etc.  I don’t fuss with fonts much with blogging, but with other documents I spend time clicking, trying different fonts, judging their appeal.  I will not use Times New Roman.  Comic Sans seems too childish, a good choice only if you’re typing a thank you note from a six month old. 

Using Netflix’s Watch Instantly, I enjoyed Gary Hustwit’s documentary, Helvetica.  The 80 minute film gives the history of the font designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 in Switzerland. You meet two dozen graphic designers, who discuss their use or non-use of Helvetica. 

The parts I enjoyed the most were the three-minute sequences of signs –street signs, business signs, slogans on clothes, billboards, civic signs– which were interspersed between the interviews with the designers.   Helvetica is truly ubiquitous.  Even the IRS tax forms are printed with it!  Here are some tidbits I scribbled down as I watched:

         ~  “Creating order is typology.”

          ~  the DNA of letter forms (these designers are passionate; but I loved that turn of phrase)

          ~  “Graphic designers can’t see historical movies because the fonts are always wrong.”

          ~  If you are heavy in the middle you wouldn’t wear tight tee shirts.  Helvetica is heavy in the middle and needs lots of white space around it.

          ~  ABH = anything but Helvetica

          ~  Helvetica came out of modernism.  Grunge typography came out of postmodernism.  Designers today are swinging back to Helvetica but are using it in unique or more creative ways.

Now, it was an enjoyable DVD for a cold, January Sunday afternoon while my husband napped, but I wouldn’t spend money to watch it.  There was a sprinkling of salty language and a few salty images (especially in the grunge section.)  If you get off on graphic design and fonts, you may enjoy it.

What is your favorite font?

Dear Da, Dear Frankie

When I wrote about our upcoming trip to Scotland, I asked for books you would recommend.  Alfonso commented, recommending Dear Frankie.  It is seldom that I find more than one movie I really, really like in one season year.  And after Sweet Land, I believe I’ve filled my quota. 

Let’s get the problems out of the way:  there is some language, the worst kind (I’d rather hear a f-bomb before a casual muttering of the Lord’s name – and I loathe the f-bomb).  The ending wasn’t credible from my point of view and lacked consistency with the tenor of the entire movie.  In one sense it was too neat and tidy; however, it left one key relationship unresolved.

What this movie illustrates is a profound father hunger which I believe we are all born with.  Some are blessed to have that hunger assuaged, others know the gnawing bite which takes up residence.  I’ve said before that the most attractive traits in a potential husband are the ones which would make him a good dad. 

The silences in this movie are full of drama and tension.  Much can be communicated without words. 

The dialog is delightful – in heaven I’m sure we’ll speak in a lilting Scottish brogue, swallowing our tees and ending sentences with an upward tones.  If you have a hard time catching the words, try watching it with subtitles. 

This movie gives a great view of the Edinburgh residents see – the city outside of the Royal Mile. 

Thank you, Alfonso, very, very much.