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Category Archive: Movies

Apr 19

Hunger Games, cookbooks, genres and movies

“I read a lot – and I read a variety of genres” – Nora Roberts

The young man ahead of me in line at the movies had his nose in one book and was holding another one.

Hunger Games, I asked, fairly certain of his answer.

He grinned and said, “Yes, I am reading Catching Fire (book two in a series of three), but I am almost through with it so I brought along the last book Mockingjay.”

“Ah, can’t wait until you get home, right,” I offered.

And thus began a rather engaging conversation about how we both could become so absorbed in a good book that nothing short of Mega Millions would entice us to stop reading. Perhaps, not even a slapstick, side-splitting movie like The Three Stooges, the one we came to see.

The young man’s sister laughed and explained that he did the same thing with the Harry Potter series.

“So did I,” I admitted, “I read them during dinner and once or twice on trips across Kansas, but I don’t believe I ever read any book during a movie.”

As we laughed about that, it occurred to me that the wildly popular Hunger Games series had a familiar ring to it. Reminds me of a short story I read in high school years ago, I told the young man.

The story I remembered was titled The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson and first published in 1948. Initially, it was not well received, no doubt because of its shocking subject matter in which the ‘winner’ of a lottery drawing was stoned to death.

Similarly, Hunger Games is about a lottery in which people must die. However, unlike The Lottery, the Hunger Games trilogy was well received and quickly became a runaway blockbuster.

I can see why The Lottery upset folks because it haunted me for days after I read it. By the 1960s, however, it was considered to be a remarkable short story, one that high school English classes studied.

No, he had not heard of it, the young man said: “I pretty much just read young adult science fiction.”

“Well then, you might like that short story”, I suggested and began to tell him the plot.

The head of each family in a fictional small town drew a piece of paper from a black box. If the slip had a black spot on it, that family was selected as the winner of the town lottery. The family members then drew slips of paper among themselves until one slip with a mark on it was drawn. Sadly, the mother in the ‘winning’ family drew the marked slip. Immediately, she was led to the center of town where her children and husband were expected to stone her to death along with the rest of the townspeople.

“That is one shocking story,” the young man said, clearly horrified.

“So what else do you read,” he asked, changing the subject.

“I read from a lot of genres,” I answered. “ Lately, I guess you could say humor, guidebooks and cookbooks are my favorite genre.

“What, they are all one genre,” he asked?

The young man stared blankly at me and nearly became comatose when I related, from memory, the titles of three books I am currently reading and enjoying so much they make me laugh out loud (Authors: Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays).

Title 1—“Being Dead Is No Excuse, The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral.”

Title 2—“Somebody is going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding.”

Title 3—Some Day You’ll Thank Me For This, The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Being a Perfect Mother.”

The young man’s nose went right back into the Hunger Games book when I told him about the recipe for the perfect egg salad sandwich that I found in the some-day-you’ll-thank-me book.

I think we might have a generational gap here, although we both loved The Three Stooges movie, and I have no idea what to make of that.

Jan 26

Town’s effort to save historic theatre touches hearts across the country

“He who loves an old house never loves in vain.”
– Isabel La Howe Conant, late 19th Century author.

Saving a small town landmark is no easy task when the digital world changes the rules and if you are in the fight by yourself.

Small town theatres, such as The Davis Theatre, circa 1934, in Higginsville, Missouri, are faced with such a reality because movie studios will no longer offer 35 mm films and will require digital equipment that can cost nearly $90,000 per movie screen.

The Davis Theatre has four screens requiring that a minimum of $300,000 will be needed to upgrade the entire complex.

This is a Herculean task for many small-town theatres that are break-even enterprises at best. In a nutshell as technology changes, small town movie theatres will be forced to close, an outcome that is already happening across the country.

However, word of this west central Missouri town’s dilemma spread fast this past week (fueled by social media networking and media reports). The plight of the historic art deco Davis Theatre in Higginsville, 30 miles east of Independence, drew attention from scores of folks wanting to know how they could help.

The Friends of Davis Theatre, a volunteer non-profit organization, and others from across the country are taking on the challenge to keep the historic theatre from closing. The Friends organization is currently seeking 501c3 IRS status with the intention of one day buying the theatre to operate it as a movie house but also as a performing arts center.

Besides the bake sales and benefits, the Friends are involved in a mammoth fundraising project, a Reader’s Digest contest titled “We Hear You America”. First prize is $50,000, and currently Higginsville is in second place with online voting. It’s simple—visit wehearyouamerica.readersdigest.com and enter zip code 64037, then your email address and vote. Anyone 18 and older can vote unlimited times.

Higginsville has recently passed the 2 million-vote mark.

I visited the theatre one recent afternoon before show time because I wanted Fran Schwarzer, owner, to give me a “real” tour of the building and tell me about the history behind its walls.

She looked at me a little perplexed when I said, “Take me to the bowels of this edifice. I want to see the ‘inner sanctum sanctorum.’ For the record, that is the Latin translation meaning the “holy of holies” or the most holy place in the building.

Fran understood what I wanted to see and led me to an unremarkable door that opens off the lobby and takes you to a steep, concrete incline toward the dark basement beneath.

I was expecting the Phantom of the Opera to appear any moment.

For movie history buffs, what she showed me was breathtaking.

Categorized by alpha and topic, Fran showed me rolls and rolls of movie posters.

Fran said when they bought the building in 1998 and began its restoration, she and George found movie and boxing match posters thrown in a pile and covered with trash. Instantly, they knew they had a “find”.

Over the years, Fran and George Schwarzer added to their poster collection so that today the halls of the theatre feature a virtual museum of movies from the past.

As Fran walked me through the lobby, she explained each poster, stopping to point out her favorite–the original War of the Worlds movie poster. I was speechless.

There are so many others, but here are a few I loved: White Christmas, The Ten Commandments, Gone with the Wind, the complete collection of Spider Man posters, the complete collection of Lord of the Rings posters, The Hideous Sun Demon (remember that creepy, B movie of the 50s), Bus Top with Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray, and the Harold Lloyd posters (He was the silent screen star known for his stunts such as sitting on a flag pole on a New York skyscraper.)


And the pièce de résistance, an original Sugar Ray Robinson fight poster.

Fran says that back in the day people got their news at the movies from newsreels and posters. Fights, for example, were advertised on posters at theatres.

The Davis Theatre and its fascinating history, its gallery of posters and ambiance makes it indeed a rather magical place, I would have to say.

After all, movies are all about magic, aren’t they? But magic can’t last, at least for this small town, without the reality of making big plans and aiming high.

Note: If you would like to help the Friends of the Davis Theatre, vote online at the address above or send tax-deductible donations to:

Mainstreet Higginsville, Inc., a 501c3, mailed to
First Central Bank,
P.O. Box 718,
Higginsville, Mo
noting in the memo line that it is for Davis Theatre.

Dec 29

Top reasons why it’s time for 2011 to end

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language.?And next year’s words await another voice.?– T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

For the past two years at the end of December, I shared with you my top ten reasons why I was ready for that year to end. And here we are again at the close of another calendar year that was filled with just as many jaw-dropping, ludicrous, important events or not so as the year before.

I imagine you are ready for the year to end, too.

It is always fun to look back, however, so here they are: my top ten reasons why it’s time for 2011 to end.

10. The 2011 designation I give to ‘too much of someone or something’ goes this year to the media circus surrounding two high-profile legal cases, Casey Anthony and Conrad Murray’s in particular.

Cardiologist Conrad Murray, convicted of killing Michael Jackson, is now being vilified to Hannibal Lector status, according to the New York Daily news. And meanwhile, Casey Anthony who has never been seen since she got off with a wrist slap in her murder trial, is now the subject of fun-filled parlor games, a Facebook page, and movie sure to come all asking the burning question “Where in the World is Casey Anthony.

9. The ‘Pits of a Sports Moment’—NFL lockout and NBA lockout.

8. One word—Bieber. Yes, Bieber wins this one-word distinction once again this year, but it is not his hair that put him in the headlines this time. No sirree, it is an alleged paternity suit from a groupie, although he still looks 12 to me.

7. Two words—Rally Squirrel. Actually, I love Rally Squirrel’s antics and look forward to him reappearing in 2012, perhaps in Kansas City this time?

6. Three words—This is a tossup between ‘Occupy Wall Street…or whatever’ and Charlie Sheen’s Tweets.

5. The ‘Fall from Grace’ winner this year goes to the ‘Not-So Fashionable Dead Dictators’ and the unfortunate loss of the comic relief their fashion choices once provided:

  • Kim Jong-Il – could be one of the most poorly dressed emperors on the planet. However, he never lost his swagger, always decked out with giant sunglasses, his signature brown jumpsuits and fav platform shoes.
  • Muammar Gadhafi—This dictator had some crazy and colorful clothes, hats and makeup, and I am sorry to say, his fashion statement will be sorely missed. He has been deemed, in some circles, the Lady Gaga of the evil dictator crowd.
  • Bin Laden – wore sheets and there really isn’t much else to say about that fashion statement.

4. Movies—the end of Harry Potter and the almost end of Twilight. However, 2011 could be deemed “The Year of the Movie Sequel” with these summer blockbusters hitting the silver screen: Scream 4, Pirates 4, Mission Impossible IV, Cars 2, Transformers 3, Spy Kids 4, Hangover 2, and my personal favorite Kung Fu Panda 2. I am tired of some of these but not Kung Fu Panda, huh uh.

3. Fashion—itty, bitty thin feathers clamped into hair to make hairdos look better? Enough said.

2. Food trends—although 2010 could be considered the year of the organic, 2011 has to be the gluten-free-everything year. Gluten-free labels are turning up on many foods that are already naturally gluten-free, such as coffee? So what is this all about? Gluten is being blamed for a host of maladies with some people saying going gluten-free has changed their lives for the better and others reporting no difference whatsoever. Guess we could say the jury is still out on this one. We will stay tuned.

1. My number one reason for wanting 2011 to end has to be Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the Kardashian hype, the wedding, the divorce, the family 3-D Christmas card, and their book ‘Kardashian Konfidential’. If you are not in the Kardashian know, simply search the Internet for “Who are the Kardashians” and you will find entertaining blogs with all the answers. One of these is my favorite because it gives a humorous answer to the burning questions, why are the Kardashian sisters famous and why have they been cluttering up my television?
What could possibly top all this in 2012, you may wonder? An election year perhaps? Hold onto your hats New Year’s Eve revelers, it could be quite a ride.
Happy New Year!

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