Friday, January 12, 2018

"All the Money in the World" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "All the Money in the World" as well as DVDs "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Atomic Blonde."  The Book of the Week is "Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Nightmare of Elm Street."]




All the Money in the World


Dramatization of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, the grandson of J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world.

People might be more familiar with the scandal surrounding the making of this movie than the name J. Paul Getty.  Kevin Spacey was slated to play Getty, who was not only the richest man in the world in the 1970's, he was the richest man EVER.  The kidnapping of his grandson, J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) for a $17 million dollar ransom was a news sensation in 1973 and the centerpiece of this film.  But the allegations of sexual assault against Kevin Spacey led to his being fired from this movie after being featured in the trailers and only a month before its release and 88-year old Christopher Plummer (no relation to Charlie) stepped in at the last minute.  Spacey was edited out and Plummer edited in as if Spacey had never been there. And seeing this film, ironically, it's difficult to imagine anyone else besides Plummer playing Getty, especially comparing Spacey in the original trailer and his over-the-top make-up to Plummer, himself who in reality is much closer in age to what Getty would have been.

J. Paul Getty made his money from oil.  Everyone seemed to know there was oil in Saudi Arabia but nobody could figure out how to get it.  But Getty did.  He made a deal with the Bedouins and discovered oil there four years later. But then how to get the oil out of Saudi Arabia so that he could sell it?  Getty invented the supertanker.  And that, folks, is how you become the richest man in the world.  But Getty was also a miser.  He famously had a pay phone in his house so visitors would not run up his phone bill. 

But when Italian thugs kidnapped Getty's 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III, known as Paul, they didn't know that.  They kidnapped Paul, demanded $17 million and were confounded by the fact that Getty said he wouldn't pay.  In fact at first, everyone thought Paul had engineered his own kidnapping to get some money from his grandfather, but when Paul's ear (yes, his actual ear - I will let you use your imagination) appeared at a Roman newspaper, everyone realized the kidnapping was indeed real.  But even then, the elder Getty wouldn't pay, priding himself on his deal making and not wanting to part with the cash.

Paul's mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) was divorced from Getty's son who was a failure and had given his life over to drugs, drink and general hedonism.  When they divorced she had given up any claim to Getty's money in return for custody of her children so when the kidnappers contacted her, she had no means to pay them so the film concentrates on Gail's frantic attempt to get the miserly Getty to pay and to save her son.

Directed by Ridley Scott (with a screenplay by David Scarpa adapted from the book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty" by John Pearson), this is a smaller film than we are used to from Scott, who famously directed "Blade Runner (the first one)," "Gladiator" and more recently "The Martian," but Scott shows his skills in his ability to reshoot and edit Plummer into the film at the very last minute as well as his evocation of 70's Europe. But the film is not just a biopic but a thriller and a film with a message - a reminder that all the money in the world can't buy happiness.  Money also can cause people to do bad things.

The film focuses on Williams as the mother desperately trying to save her son, and she is reliably good and gets the most screen time, but Plummer has been at this game longer and just steals the show as the misanthropic and miserly Getty who, disappointed by people, only finds comfort in beautiful objects and dies miserable and alone. It's also nice to see Mark Wahlberg playing a straight dramatic role as Fletcher Chase, the ex-CIA agent the elder Getty hires to find Paul, instead of his usual action heroes fighting transformers or oil rigs.

Speaking of Wahlberg, did you hear about the big flap concerning how much money Wahlberg received to do the reshoots versus what Michelle Williams received? - something like 1000 times more - and Williams was the star!  So I guess Ridley Scott not only suffers from gender discrimination but didn't seem to learn from his own movie - you know, that part about money making people do bad things.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling story with a performance by Plummer that deserves a Best Actor Oscar nomination.





***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD







War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)



Number three in the Planet of the Apes prequels.

This is the third in the prequel trilogy which began with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," where the genius ape, Caesar, was created and a Simian flu killed most of humanity.  That was followed by "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," where Caesar and his ape friends try to get along with the few remaining humans. However, Koba, a rogue ape, attacked some humans, which in turn caused a war, so now with film #3 the war continues 

However, you don't need to have seen the first two to enjoy this one, because this film does a good job with an introduction that brings you up-to-date but if you haven't seen the original film - and I'm talking about the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston - you absolutely must see that one.  That one is the inspiration for the three films that followed so that you would understand what happened before Charlton came along.

As film #3 begins, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, is trying to save himself and his fellow apes who are being hunted by the mean old colonel (Woody Harrelson) who had found Caesar's command center and killed Caesar's wife and child.  But the Colonel is not just mean, he's crazy.  The Colonel believes that the Simian flu has mutated and is turning people into apes, so he is bent on wiping out the apes.  But the Colonel is also a rogue and an army is on its way to arrest him, so he is building a wall and getting ready to fight them off so he can continue his genocide on the apes. He says that if they lose against the apes, the world will become a planet of apes.  Get it?

Since the Colonel and his men have found Caesar's secret command center, Caesar leaves the camp so that his followers can escape and find refuge somewhere else while at the same time seeking revenge on the Colonel because he killed his wife and son.  So with two trusted soldiers, Maurice (Karin Konoval), the wise Orangutan and Caesar's right-hand-man and the gorilla, Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Caesar goes after the Colonel.  Along the way they encounter and join forces with "Bad Ape (Steve Zahn)," a scared, formerly abused zoo chimpanzee who believes that's his name (I don't even want to think about what he went through to get that name) and a young girl who can't speak who they name Nova (Amiaha Miller).  Unfortunately, Caesar gets captured and is put in a work camp overseen by the Colonel and forced to work on building that wall.  His motley crew now must save Caesar.

The best thing about these movies is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar and who despite all of that ape make-up is still able to evoke drama and pathos.  Some people have said he deserves a Oscar nomination for his performance and he is very good.  The tender moments in the film actually got to me. Naturally, the apes are more human in a good way than the humans so this is also one of those "what makes us human" films.  It's also a tense thriller with lots of action and a dramatic story with depth and tenderness. The CGI and make-up also certainly play big roles.  I had to laugh that the ape make-up is so good that the only way to tell the girl apes from the boy apes is that the girl apes wear earrings.

Directed by Matt Reeves with a screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bombackthis is a great action film that pays homage to war films, most notably "Apocalypse Now" with Woody Harrelson seeming to channel Brando's Colonel Kurtz.

Rosy the Reviewer says...You will be rooting for the apes.






Atomic Blonde (2017)



An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and to recover a list of double agents so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands.

And that undercover MI6 agent is a badass blonde named Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who wears sexy clothes, beats guys up with her stilettos and says things like "I'm my own bitch now!"

All I could think at first while watching this film was "Why? Charlize, you are an Academy Award winning actress.  Why are you playing this part?"

But then as I got into it, I thought, "Who wouldn't want to play a beautiful stiletto-wearing badass woman who gets all of the best quips and gets to beat the crap out of the bad guys?"

It's Berlin, 1989, right before the fall of the wall.  A British secret agent has been killed and MI6 spies have been compromised.  A watch that includes a list of all of the MI6 spies has disappeared and Lorraine needs to go to Berlin and find it before it falls into the wrong hands, read: KGB, especially since the list contains the identity of Satchel, a double agent.  Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy) who is undercover in Berlin as a skinhead.  He is a bit dodgy and has actually taken on the skinhead lifestyle, but Lorraine teams up with him anyway to find Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a guy who has committed the list to memory, and get him safely out of Berlin.  There are lots of fight scenes - there is one fight scene starring Lorraine that literally goes on for 15 minutes.  Well, maybe not literally but it felt like it.  There are also car chases and the usual other spy movie stuff but there is also a very big twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Directed by David Leitch, with a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, the film plays like a graphic novel (and in fact it's based on the graphic novel "The Coldest City" written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart) filled with glamorous cartoon characters, but that's OK because the 80's music is terrific, the pop culture references are fun, we get to see Charlize in a series of body suits, thigh high boots and garters, and it's just a very stylish, thrilling ride.  

As over-the-top spy movies go, I actually liked this.  When I saw the trailers for this film, I originally thought it looked shallow and silly, but Charlize pulled it off.  I guess that Best Actress Academy Award Theron won was actually a testament to her acting abilities.  She had the skill to take this shallow character and make me care about her. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...unexpectedly good. 






***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***



160 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)



A serial killer has this penchant for killing people in their dreams.

I know, I know...I can just hear you saying, "What?  You never saw "Nightmare on Elm Street?!" No, I haven't because unlike some people I am not particularly fond of blood and guts and slasher films.  Anyway, that's the reason, but despite my fears about that kind of thing in a movie, it seems that when I do actually see it, I am often shocked at how tame the film was and wonder what all of the fuss was about.  And this one was no exception.  In fact, watching it I had a very hard time figuring out why this film is considered one of the best in the horror genre.  I know it's Wes Craven and all of that but it was really dumb.

Though Craven had already directed "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Swamp Thing," he was far from a mainstream director when he brought us Freddy Kreuger.  But the success of this film started him on the road to fame as one of our foremost horror film directors and which led to "Scream."

The basic plot features Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her teenage friends who all live in a quiet, seemingly safe little town. When her friends start dying and Freddy starts appearing in her dreams, Nancy is convinced Freddy is the culprit.  Who is Freddy?  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is a nightmare character who infiltrates these kids' dreams. He was originally a former child killer who was burned to death by a mob of furious Elm Street parents. I would be mad, too, if some weird guy killed my kid. Years later, he has returned from the grave obsessed with revenge on the teen offspring of those parents by getting into their subconscious and attacking them as they sleep.  If they fall asleep, they all have the same dream and get killed while they are asleep.  Once the kids figure this out, they must fight a seemingly hopeless battle to stay awake.

The film has the classic teen horror film tropes:

  • Good looking young people in skimpy attire
  • A seemingly safe middle class neighborhood where nothing bad could possibly happen
  • Cheap shots of people jumping out of the shadows that make you jump in your seat
  • Lots of fake blood
  • Killer bent on revenge
  • Teens getting killed after having sex because we know that's BAD
  • One final good girl left to fight off the forces of evil

The best thing about this film is seeing a very young Johnny Depp in his film debut before he developed all of those Johnny Depp mannerisms he has now.  The worst is Ronee Blakley as Nancy's mother.  Her performance is so flat and unemotional that she makes this film look like a zombie movie.  It is just unbelievable that nine years earlier she had been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in "Nashville."

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] creatively combined horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary.  And it let loose a new monster in America's pop culture: the wise-cracking, fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Kreuger."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I think the deeper meaning here (if there is one) is that growing up can be scary.  Or maybe it's just "Don't fall asleep!"  This film may have been something special back in 1984 but it just doesn't hold up today unless you really like campy bad acting.

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, so now I've seen it.



***Book of the Week***





Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Jaffe (2017)


A biography of singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell.

For all of the impact Joni's music had on my young years, especially the albums "Blue" and "For the Roses," reading this biography, I was surprised how much I didn't know about her.  I didn't know she had polio as a young girl; that she was married again after Chuck Mitchell (to a much younger man); that Prince was a huge fan of hers; or that she had such a healthy ego. I'm putting that nicely.  Suffice it to say that David Crosby said "She was about as modest as Mussollini," and that's saying a lot coming from him because he is no slouch in that department either.

She also had strong opinions. According to Yaffe, she couldn't stand Joan Baez; was disappointed in Dylan; she called Madonna "Nero;" she thought John Lennon was a mean drunk; and Jackson Browne was just mean, especially to women.  She also wouldn't give Judy Collins any props for making a hit of her song "Both Sides Now" which helped Joni become a star in her own right and she even made some snarky remarks about CSN's harmonies.

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada, Joni knew early that she was going to be someone and her belief in herself, her innate poetic talent and single-mindedness led her out of Canada to become one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our generation.

Yaffe does an excellent job of outlining Mitchell's life and career with interesting details about the making of each of her albums and how her career changed from the successes of the 1970's to some strange choices in the 80's to an inability to write in the 90's. 

She was a chain-smoker (four packs a day and a smoker since she was 9) and  in recent years suffered an aneurysm and is currently still recovering from that.

Yaffe paints a picture of Mitchell as a rather angry person with an opinion on everything and in most cases found her peers wanting.  Unlike the biography of Stevie Nicks that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago where the author gushed, Yaffe is a bit irreverent about Mitchell, which I think is healthy for a biographer, and in so doing, has created a very complete picture of Mitchell's life and career while still acknowledging her importance.  I just can't help but wonder what Mitchell's take on this would be.  I am sure she would have an opinion!

Rosy the Reviewer says...one of the best biographies I have read this year about one of the most influential singer/songwriters of my generation.



Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of 


"The Greatest Showman"



 and
  
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)



 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 


 I Die Project." 


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.







Friday, January 5, 2018

The Best and Worst Movies of 2017: Rosy the Reviewer's Top 10

I certainly can't say that I have seen every movie that was released in 2017 and there are sure to be some that would be on my best list had I seen them and are already on some Best Lists now - "The Post," "The Shape of Water" or "Call Me By Your Name," but haven't seen them yet so can't comment. 

So my list is really my best and worst movie experiences this last year rather than a comprehensive list of the best movies of 2017, but hopefully I can point you to some movies you will enjoy and steer you away from some that gave me heartburn.


In no particular order, here are my favorite movie experiences of 2017:
(click on the movie title for my complete review)





1.  The Big Sick




Why it's one of the best: A romantic comedy that is actually romantic and a comedy, as in funny, which is what we expect from a comedy right? - a funny comedy is actually something that is not easy to find these days.  It's also original and smart and Ray Romano is a revelation. He can actually act. The best comedy to come along in a very long while.





2. Dunkirk






Why it's one of the best: This will stand as one of the greatest war movies with its personal stories of heroism, especially the British civilians who tried to help.  Mark Rylance put in another brilliant performance.  Even if you think you don't like war movies, I promise you will love this one. 






3. Lady Bird





Why it's one of the best: A fresh and unexpected take on the coming of age  story that even old folks will be able to relate to written and directed by the talented Greta Gerwig and with stunning performances especially by Laurie Metcalf (remember her on "Rosanne?").







4. Wonder Woman




Why it's one of the best: Because Wonder Woman is a wonder!  This is no ordinary super hero movie. There is excitement, there is drama, there is violence (but nothing really scary), there is romance, there is humor -- and there is Girl Power!  This Wonder Woman is a wonderful role model for women and girls and the story is compelling.  And then there is Chris Pine...I'm just sayin'... 






5. Wind River




Why it's one of the best: The investigation of the murder of a young Native American woman also sheds light on the plight of Native Americans in the U.S. especially Native American women.  The screenplay was tight and original and the performances were so good I even like Jeremy Renner now. 






6. Victoria and Abdul



Why it's one of the best: A beautifully presented little known story about Queen Victoria brought to life by an extraordinary performance by Judy Dench.






7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri




Why it's one of the best: With stellar performances from Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell (as you have never seen him), and, yes, even Woody Harrelson and a very original screenplay, I predict this film will clean up at the Oscars.







8. Baby Driver




Why it's one of the best: Baby is hired to drive the car for a heist in this new kind of musical, where Baby is a new kind of hero.  He doesn't say much as he listens to his mixed tapes and goes about his business of driving.  The film is choreographed to his soundtrack with gun shots, villains walking off to commit robberies and even text messaging, all cued to the beat of the music playing inside Baby's head. Fast, original and exciting.





9. Get Out


Why it's one of the best: This is a very smart social commentary on racism and white privilege dressed up as a horror film but don't be scared. It's also funny and pays homage to horror films of the past, while at the same time commenting on where the true horror lies in the everyday lives of African Americans. 





10. L.A. 92



Why it's one of the best: A documentary on the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict with shocking never-before-seen archival footage skillfully edited into a fine, important film about an event that happened over 25 years ago but still resonates today. 




And now for something completely different:

My worst movie experiences of 2017







1. A Bad Mom's Christmas



Why it's one of the worst:  What do you get when you take a really funny and cute idea about overworked moms who decide to not try to be perfect moms anymore, and because it made a lot of money, rush a sequel into production?  You get this really bad and unfunny movie.





2. Ghost in the Shell





Why it's one of the worst: This movie was so bad it made me question whether or not Scarlett Johansson can actually act.  I mean, how hard is it to play a Cyborg?






3. Rough Night




Why it's one of the worst: This one also starred Scarlett Johansson.  Do you see a pattern here?  Another really unfunny "comedy" that came out at the same time as "Girl's Trip."  Unfortunate because "Girl's Trip" was actually funny.  See that one.






4. mother!




Why it's one of the worst:  I give director Darren Aronofsky credit for trying to do something different and make a movie with a message but it was a confusing mess.  How bad was it? Let's just say that star Jennifer Lawrence and Aronofsky were an item when they made this movie together and now they aren't together anymore.  Enough said.






5. Table 19




Why it's one of the worst: A disparate group of people are put together at the "loser's table" at a wedding.  When one of the characters asked "What am I doing here?" watching this film I had to ask myself the same thing.  I am not a fan of Anna Kendrick and I am not a fan of old people jokes, both of which star in this snooze fest.







6. Unforgettable




Why it's one of the worst:  This is one of those "if I can't have him, you can't have him either" woman-stalking-woman movies that the Lifetime Movie Channel does so well, and let me tell you, this movie employs every single cliché from that genre but doesn't do it as well.  Unforgettable?  I have already forgotten it.






7. The Book of Henry


Why it's one of the worst: Now let me get this straight.  You are just an ordinary single Mom, but when your young son dies and leaves you a book where he outlines step-by-step how you must kill the guy next door because he is abusing his daughter -- you decide to do it!  I think that speaks for itself here.






8. T2 Trainspotting



Why it's one of the worst: Another sequel that we could have lived without. Twenty years ago we cared about these guys.  Now we don't. 





9. Murder on the Orient Express



Why it's one of the worst:  An old-fashioned who-done-it that doesn't hold up well today.  By the time this movie was over, it was a who-cares-who-done it.  And you know a movie is bad when the best thing about it is a moustache.  Kenneth Branagh's Poirot sports a mustache that is so big it should have its own Twitter account and, oh geez, he is talking about doing a sequel.  Noooooo...






10.  The Circle




Why it's one of the worst: An expose of the horrors of working for Amazon and Google, er, I mean, The Circle, and the evils of technology, except the film took too long to get to the point.  By the time the movie ended, I was ordering something on my phone from Amazon.



There you have it -
 

My best and worst movie experiences of 2017. 



Wishing you more good than bad movie experiences in 2018
(and if you want to avoid the bad experiences, be sure to check in at Rosy the Reviewer every Friday). 


See you at the movies!


Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of


"All The Money in the World"


 and
  
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer



 
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My Mother's Diary (and a Meaningful New Year's Resolution for You to Consider)

When my sister and I were clearing out my mother's house after her death in 1999 at the age of 91, I came across my mother's diary and brought it back home with me, and though I dabbled in reading it back then, it's only been lately that I decided to actually read it all.






Mark Twain said:

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

When we are young, we don't seem to give much thought to what is going on with our parents, who they are or whether or not they are happy.  We tend to take them for granted. Perhaps that is why we end up knowing so little about our parents. 

I actually don't think I gave my mother any credit for "learning" anything until I was in my 50's.  Oh, yes, I tried to talk to her from time to time and find out how she felt about things, but we were not only from very different generations but we were on a different wave length.

You see my mother was born in 1908 and she was 40 when I was born.  That puts me at 21 in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War and the sexual, social and political revolution that was taking place around the world.  My mother had absolutely no idea what was going on with me and pretty much wanted me to stay her sweet little 1950's goody-two-shoes.  That wasn't going to happen.

But it wasn't all my fault.  I remember when I was in middle school, sitting on the edge of my parents' bed with my Dad and asking him why I didn't know him as well as my best friend.  Even then I was trying to make a connection between him as a Dad and him as a person. He said something about parents not wanting to worry their children, which looking back now, was an interesting comment.

I read something recently that said our children will never love us as much as we love them, and now that I have had children of my own, I understand that, and it actually gives me some strange comfort.  It's like it's not ME my children have rejected by not hanging on my every word or asking me if I am happy or not; it's the nature of things. Children just don't wonder if their parents are happy.  They are too busy wondering when they are going to be happy.  When we're young we take our parents for granted and don't really give them much thought unless they are getting in our way.  I literally know nothing about what really made my mother tick other than what she didn't like about ME.

Now as I near 70 I would give anything to have her here to ask her questions about her life and marriage.

But I have her diary.

The diary documents my mother's life from 1930 through 1933, age 22 to 25, which was also the time that my mother and dad were "courting (they married when they both were 26).




My mother's entries in her diary consist of mostly pretty mundane stuff.  Each entry was only a few lines per day, but I was able to glean some things I didn't know:

  • When I was growing up, my Dad was a musician and played trumpet in various bands right up until he died.  But I didn't realize how much he did that as a young man.  My mother is always mentioning in her diary that my Dad, Frederic, was playing this evening or that evening but it added up to quite a few evenings per week.  And he was also in college during that time.

  • My mother also talks about her friend, Rosella.  She is the person I am named after, and I didn't know anything about her because by the time I came along, she had moved away. Likewise, it was fun reading about my mother's other friends whom I only knew as old ladies.  I thought it was wonderful that my mother still had all of those friends all of her life.

  • I didn't realize how close my mother was to her own mother.  My mother's mother died when I was around five, so I don't remember her very well, but my mother talks lovingly of her in her diary.  I knew that her mother had gone back to Sweden to visit her family but had not realized it was for three months.  My mother writes in her diary, "Mother has been gone for a week and it seems like a year."  I think that was partly because my mother's older sister was married and no longer lived at home but her five brothers did, so looking after her Dad and her brothers probably fell to her.  I found it interesting that my mother had told me about an unsettling incident that had happened to her during that time her mother was away but no mention of it in her diary.



  • Reading my mother's diary, I was happy to see that my Dad was just as thoughtful a boyfriend as he was a Dad.  He was always writing her letters and giving her gifts and she called him "My darling" and "My Sweetheart" throughout the diary. That made me happy and sad at the same time.  It made me happy because they clearly loved each other when they were courting, but sad because it was clear to me growing up, that by the time I came along, my Mother and Dad were not that happy together.  Though their marriage lasted until my Dad's death - almost 60 years - something had gone wrong somewhere but I never found out what it was.

  • My Mother's diary had all kinds of little keepsakes in it and clippings from the newspaper: announcements about programs at the YWCA or the Women's Club that she was a part of but also pictures of things she liked and things she wanted to remember such as cards and notes.


  • Ironically, though reading someone's diary should be like reading their thoughts, just as she was in life, my mother's diary didn't reveal very much about her inner thoughts.  Her diary is mostly a few lines each day about what she did - she came home and took a nap, her friend came for dinner and she would describe what they ate, she went to a concert, she received a letter from my Dad-to-be or she didn't.  Nothing very revealing and very little about what she actually felt about her life.

And that is not surprising since my mother was never one to talk about her feelings and she didn't deem it an appropriate topic of conversation either.  I remember as a teenager saying to her, "Mom, I am feeling depressed," and her response was "What do you have to be depressed about!"  It wasn't a question.  It was a statement.  She probably added "Count your blessings," and that was the end of that conversation.  Isn't it funny and ironic that I was a teenager who actually wanted to talk to her mother, but, also ironically, unlike most mothers of teenaged girls who wanted their daughters to share with them, I had a mother who didn't want me to.  So that was that.

She was also very practical.  When I was having problems in my marriage, I remember calling my mother and saying, "Mom, he has been cheating on me and is in love with someone else," and she replied, "Well, you can't fight that."  And she was right.  I couldn't.  So that was that.

So my mother's diary very much reflects her reluctance to share feelings and her practicality.  Except for mentioning the occasional spat with her husband-to-be, my Dad, my mother's diary reveals little of her thoughts, no soul-searching, no sad stories, no doubts about herself, so if I was expecting revelations about her life, they are not there.

But I am comforted by the details of her life as a young woman, a young twenty-something who would one day marry her sweetheart, my Dad, and give birth to me. I enjoyed reading about her daily life: she was an active young woman who was the secretary to the president of the local bank; she read books and went to concerts and plays; she was active at the YWCA, and at her church and belonged to a young women's business club; loved her mother and her family and she was always on the go.  She didn't appear to have a bad word to say about anyone. In fact, she spoke lovingly of her nieces (her older sister had already married and had children) and friends. She would mention my Dad's parents or her brothers and sisters but never revealed how she felt about any of them which is odd, because later in life, she had plenty to say!  But in her twenties, she seemed happy and hopeful, with her whole life ahead of her.

I am glad I have my mother's diary and can spend some time with her as the young woman she was.  I just wish I had spent more time with her older self, when she was still alive, so that I could have found out more about her.  I wish I had let her little criticisms of me go over my head and not cloud our relationship.  I let those criticisms bother me and because I was busy living my life far away and raising my own children, I didn't make the effort to visit her much or talk with her on the phone more than once a week. 

But I loved my mother and I know she loved me.  When I finally did get a divorce and asked her to come and help me, at 74, she dropped everything and traveled by herself to California from Michigan to help me with my two-year-old son and to help me get back on my feet, and it was comforting to know she was always there for me - and she was.



Now that I have grown children too, and am in a position similar to my mother's, I have time to reflect and feel regret that I never had talks with her about her true feelings (though I can remember trying upon occasion), what drove her to do some of the things she did, how she felt about her 50+ year marriage at the end and if she had any regrets in life.  Though I am glad to have her diary and glad that she did share some important things with me over the years, I still have so many questions.  I wish my mother was still here to answer them.

But now it's too late.

Since my parents are both dead, it's too late for me to ask them questions that I have, but it's not too late for those of you whose parents are still alive.  I urge you to try to find out about them.  I'm not talking about their accomplishments or the family tree, I am talking about finding out why they raised you the way they did, why they married who they married, how they feel about getting old, what they have learned about life, what they regret.  All of those things that make them who they are.  You will learn about them but it also might shed some light on who you are too.

So here's an idea for a meaningful New Year's Resolution.

Make a resolution that in 2018 you will have some meaningful conversations with each of your parents to find out about who they really are and how they feel about their lives.

It's too late for me but it's not too late for you.

Don't wait.  Do it now. 

Do it before all you have left is a diary.


Thanks for reading!



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