Thursday, June 7, 2012

Movies and Books and More Books...Oh, My

Spent a most enjoyable afternoon with a remarkably appreciative audience watching "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", one of the best movies I have seen so far this year... and I've seen several good ones. This delightful British film focused on the later-life decisions of a number of "elders" to spend out their remaining years in Rajasthan, India, at this hotel which had been advertised as a place for the elderly and beautiful. The sights and sounds of India are beautifully presented, as are the intricacies of relationships when people are thrust into life with strangers. To me, this lovely film has at its heart the ways in which past and present can so wonderfully merge...focusing on dealing with and letting go of the past and daring to live fully in the present, regardless of age. The audience in our theatre, composed mostly of people of a certain age, burst into applause at the end, which gives you some idea of how fully this movie spoke to us. I laughed heartily and shed tears more than once.

One further word: the cast was amazing, with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, and Penelope Wilton demonstrating just how beautiful women can be as we age. Wrinkles are visible, makeup at a minimum, and no attempt it made to disguise less-than-perfect figures. These are REAL women...genuine women...and that, in itself, made me want to stand up and cheer. The Brits do this so well: Hollywood, are you paying attention?

Have also recently completed three very different, remarkable books which I commend to your reading. Though I am a fiction afficianado, two of them are non-fiction; memoirs, actually. The first, entitled Love, Life, and Elephants was written by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, widow of environmentalist and animal activist, David Sheldrick, who spent his life in Kenya working for and defending wildlife, ably assisted by his wife and daughters. Having visited the David Sheldrick Baby Elephant Rescue Center just outside Nairobi, as well as having spent time in that beautiful country the past two summers, I found this book especially meaningful, though I think anyone interested in the animals of Africa and the ways in which we humans too often treat our fellow beings on this planet would be transported by Sheldrick's very readable prose.

The second book is Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen, another excellent memoir which had me laughing and crying, but most of all, envying the writing skill of the author at every step of the way. Divided into "chapters" which are actually personal essays on a variety of topics having to do with aging (the author wrote this book as she was turning 60), this book can easily be read a chapter at a time without losing the overall theme of the book, which is a celebration of aging.

Last, but not least, is the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, A Lesson in Secrets, by Jacqueline Winspear, an English author whose work I discovered several years ago. Set in post-World War I Britain, these books are intelligent, well-written, with finely-drawn characters and believable plots. Indeed, in reading some of the earlier books in the series, I became so interested in World War I that I visited our public library and did considerable reading on the topic, about which I was sadly woefully ignorant. Maisie is a great character, and following her from book to book has been a delight. But don't let the fact that this is a series put you off; each book can stand on its own, though I suspect that other readers might get "hooked", as I did, and will want to read the earlier volumes, all of which are now available in paperback versions.

Now that I've offered some summer suggestions for your viewing and reading pleasure, I am including the names of several additional films for which I've seen previews and which look like must-sees for me...perhaps for you, too:
  •  "The Intouchables"- already released, this French film looks like one which really should not be missed. In French, with subtitles, don't let that put you off.
  • "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"- released on June 22, this possibly off-the-wall film, billed as a Comedy/Drama/Romance starring Steve Carrell and Keira Knightly looks like it could be quite amazingly good...and I am not a Steve Carrell fan.
  • "Ruby Sparks"- to be released July 25, this film goes into the realm of fantasy, as an aspiring writer creates a female character who suddenly appears in his life.
  • "Hyde Park on Hudson"- not coming until December, this film about FDR stars Bill Murray (yes, Bill Murray!) as the late president and Laura Linney as his secretary and the previews looked amazing.
  • And last, but not least, "Les Miserables"- this musical version, with the fantastic music from the stage version, is due out in December, too, so we have somethings really great to look forward to near the end of the year.
Happy viewing; happy reading...have a wonderful summer. Now I'm off to the library again.

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