Category Archives: Movies

How Realistic are Romantic Comedies?

atkins-bookshelf-moviesOne of the most popular romantic comedies of all time is When Harry Met Sally… (1989) written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. In 2008, The American Film Institute ranked it as the 6th best romantic comedy of all time. The film, inspired by Reiner’s return to single life after his divorce, revolves around the critical question that Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) asks Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) during a cab ride early in the film: can men and women ever just be friends — platonically, without the benefits? Harry and Sally passionately disagree (Harry doesn’t think so; Sally does). Over the span of many years, the two bump into each other and a friendship gradually grows into a romantic relationship. Outside of the deli scene (with Rob Reiner’s real mother delivering the famous line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”), one of the film’s most memorable scenes is when Harry professes his love to Sally on New Year’s Eve: “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Hand me the box of tissues…

Romantic comedies like this also beg the larger question: how realistic are romantic comedies? How do they compare with real world relationships? Do people really have Harry-Sally relationships  — transitioning from the dreaded “friend zone” to a romantic relationship? The folks at Daily Infographic reviewed surveys and laughed and cried their way through the top 150 romantic comedies to come up with a snap shot of romance, titled: “Hollywood vs. Real Life.” Interestingly, out of all those movies, only one dealt with online dating (You’ve Got Mail, released in 1998; also written by Nora Ephron and starring Meg Ryan ). Here is a look at romance by the numbers — and how unrealistic romantic comedies truly are:

Experienced “love at first sight”:
Hollywood: 10%
Real life: 45%

Experienced unrequited love (loving someone who doesn’t love them back):
Hollywood: 6%
Real life: 78%

Lied to someone to get them to like them:
Hollywood: 21%
Real life: 53%

Experienced an “opposites attract” relationship:
Hollywood: 29%
Real life: 66%

Experienced a Harry-Sally relationship (growing from a friendship into a romantic relationship):
Hollywood: 7%
Real life: 72%

Have experienced online dating:
Hollywood: 1%
Real life: 48%

Read related posts: Famous Love Quotes from Movies
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The Most Visually Stunning Movies

atkins-bookshelf-moviesEach year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, the average number of movies released in the United States is about 600. Of those, only a tiny portion enter the pantheon of the most visually stunning movies — movies that feature a masterful blend of cinematography, art direction, and composition that you could turn the volume off and be mesmerized for its entire running time. One director known for his brilliant, captivating visual style is Tarsem Singh, who seems to paint his films; he has established himself with unforgettable films like The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006).

The editors of Screen Rant developed this list of 12 movies so visually stunning that you could watch them on mute:
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Skyfall (2012)
The Revenant (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Life of Pi (2012)
Interstellar (2014)
Gravity (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Fall (2006)
Ex Machina (2015)
Avatar (2009)
Amelie (2001)

Not to be outdone, the editors over at Taste of Cinema created a list of the most visually stunning films of the past five years:
Her (2013)
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Melancholia (2011)
The Great Beauty (2013)
Frances Ha (2012)
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
The Tree of Life (2011)
Gravity (2013)
Weekend (2011)
The Grandmaster (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Nebraska (2013)
Life of Pi (2012)
Elena (2011)
Only God Forgives (2013)
Spring Breakers (2012)
Stoker (2013)
Post Tenebras Lux (2012)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Master (2012)
Ida (2013)
Oh Boy/A Coffee in Berlin (2012)
Upstream Color (2013)
Pina (2011)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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The Importance of Great Teachers

atkins bookshelf quotationsA great teacher has little external history to record. His life goes over into other lives. These men are pillars in the intimate structure of our schools. They are more essential than its stones or beams, and they will continue to be a kindling force and a revealing power in our lives.

The tribute on an engraved plaque given to William Hundert, a beloved classics teacher, by his grateful students who are now adults. The scene appears in the film, The Emperor’s Club (2002) written by Neil Tolkin (based on short story The Palace Thief  by Ethan Canin) and directed by Michael Hoffman.

Read related posts: What Makes A Great Teacher?
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Deke’s Poem from 11.22.63: We Did Not Ask for This Room or This Music

atkins bookshelf quotationsThe scene: the dimly-lit interior of a high school gym decorated for a formal dinner to honor the former librarian of Jodie High School, Sadie Dunhill (now 80 years old), who is being honored as “Texas Woman of the Year.” The room is packed with former students and colleagues. 

Former student: “Ms. Sadie, I’d just like to say that all of us here in this room… we’re all here because you have touched our lives in some special way, and, for all of us, I would just like to say thank you.”

Sadie Dunhill: “Well, we never know which lives we influence or when or why, but I am so very grateful to be part of yours. You older Jodie [High School] grads who are here tonight, you might remember [beloved principal] Deke Simmons. And some of you may recall that little poem that he loved, that he kept copies on his desk so that he could hand them out to troublesome students or students that were troubled. Well, this was the poem:

We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. 
Therefore, because the dark surrounds us,
Let us turn our faces toward the light. 
Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. 
We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. 
We have been given life to deny death. 
We did not ask for this room or this music. 
But because we are here, let us dance.”

The scene and poem appears in the last episode (of an 8-part mini-series) of 11.22.63, Hulu’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about an English teacher who travels back in time to the 1960s to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating John F. Kennedy. The screenplay was written by Bridget Carpenter, one of the show’s developers (King and J.J. Abrams were the executive producers), and her team of writers. The poem did not originally appear in the novel, but Carpenter felt that the poem, that echoed the themes of the novel was a, ahem… poetic way to wrap up the series. When King reviewed the final script, he made minor edits to the poem.

Find Your Passion

atkins-bookshelf-movies“If you really want something you gotta work for it. Greed doesn’t take you anywhere good…

Do you love [what you are doing now]? Be honest with yourself. [If not, ask youself] what do you love so much that you would do it for free?”

Spoken by Edward Collins, an avuncular short-order cook in the film Waffle Street (2015). The film, based on the memoir Waffle Street (2010) by James Adams, chronicles the life of a successful hedge fund manager who is fired for doing exactly what his bosses wanted him to do: maximize profits. Adams feels guilty for selling junk bonds to a client; the client would lose millions of dollars, but the firm would reap millions. Although the transaction was legal, deep down he knew that it was unethical. Adams looks for redemption by doing honest work, working as a server at a busy 24-hour diner. It is humbling, hard work but at the end of the day, he respects himself. Collins, played by Danny Glover, is an affable ex-con who loves to grill waffles; over time he becomes a mentor and friend, helping Adams to find his true passion.

Cinematic Influences on Stranger Things

atkins-bookshelf-moviesNetflix’s Stranger Things, created by Matt and Ross Duffer, has received a fair share of attention by viewers and the media during the summer of 2016. While watching season one, you can’t help but feel a strong sense of deja vu — “I have seen this before.” It’s as if the Duffer brothers took every key cinematic reference from the 1980s, tossed it into a blender, and out poured a truly strange thing — a new, but eerily familiar concoction. A Time magazine television critic referred to the series as “a mixtape of borrowed ideas.” Part of the fun of watching the series is identifying the numerous obvious and subtle pop culture references. Several websites have taken up the challenge of identifying all the ingredients in this alluring nostalgic concoction; however, the editors of Vulture have assembled the most comprehensive list. In the introduction, writer Scott Tobias notes: “[The Duffer Brothers] have created something more like an immense nostalgia bath, drawing on the work of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Stephen King, and a host of others from a familiar era in popular culture.” Here are the many references, or homages, to the cinematic classics, mostly from the 1980s:

Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
Altered States (1980)
Blowup (1966)
Body Double (1984)
Carrie (1976)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Firestarter (1984)
The Fog (1980)
The Goonies (1985)
Jaws (1975)
The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Manhattan Project (1986)
Minority Report (2002)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Poltergeist (1982)
Scanners (1981)
Stand by Me (1986)
They Live (1989)
The Thing (1982)
Under the Skin (2013)
Videodrome (1983)

Read related posts: Cinematic Influences on Lost
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Cinematic Influences on Lost

atkins-bookshelf-moviesTelevision may never see a show like Lost again. The critically-acclaimed series, produced by J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse for ABC, first premiered on September 22, 2004. Over 121 episodes, more than 11 million fans, known as Losties or Lostaways, came to love or hate the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 as well as the island’s inhabitants — human, animal, and supernatural. In the end, the show defied a simple label — it was an exotic blend of adventure, science fiction, supernatural, horror, mystery, and drama. 

And as many critics, fans, and students of the series have all noted, the writers of Lost consistently paid homage to the show’s many influences — literature, television, cinema, music, and pop culture. In several interviews, the producers of the show acknowledged that the novels of Steven King, particularly The Stand, were the greatest influence on the show. Here are some of the key cinematic and television influences on the ABC series Lost:

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (Fox TV series)

Alias (ABC TV series)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly (WB TV series)

Castaway (film)

Crossing Jordan (NBC TV series)

Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno (films)

Forbidden Planet (film based on novel)

Fringe (Fox TV series)

Gilligan’s Island (CBS TV series)

Jurassic Park (film)

The Langoliers (ABC TV miniseries based on novella)

Lost Horizon (film based on novel)

Nash Bridges (CBS TV series)

The Prisoner (British TV series)

Solaris (film)

The Stand (TV series based on the novel)

Survivor (CBS reality show)

To Kill A Mocking Bird (film based on novel)

The Twilight Zone (CBS TV series, 1958; revived in 1985 and 1994)

Twin Peaks (ABC TV series)

The Wizard of Oz (Film based on novel)

The X-Files (Fox TV series)

Read related posts: The Literary Works Referenced in Lost
Who are the Most Influential Characters in Literature?
Most Influential People That Never Lived

For further reading: Lost’s Buried Treasures by Lynnette Porter, David Lavery, and Hillary Robson (2009)

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