ir.gif

The Sound of Music

Posted on November 8, 2010 at 8:00 am

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Tension as the family escapes, Nazi threat
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 1965
Date Released to DVD: November 9, 2010
Amazon.com ASIN: B003VS0CX8

The Sound of Music is out in a gorgeous new 45th anniversary edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo. The beloved family musical is the fictionalized story of Maria von Trapp (Julie Andrews). It is an outstanding family film, filled with glorious music (“Do Re Me,” “My Favorite Things,” “Eidelweiss,” So Long, Farewell”), a real-life love story right out of Jane Eyre, a courageous moral choice, and a heart-stopping escape.

As a postulant, Maria is “not a credit to the Abbey.” While she means well, she is constantly in trouble. The wise Mother Abbess sends her away to be the governess for the seven children of a stern widower, Captain von Trapp. Obedient to their disciplinarian father, the children are uncooperative with Maria until she wins them over with her own high spirits, as well as her kindness. She also shares her love of music, and her joy in the beauty around them, and they become devoted to each other.

The Captain’s friend Max (Richard Hadyn) hears the children sing, and wants them to perform at the local festival. But the Captain refuses, thinking it is foolish and inappropriate. Meanwhile, the Captain is considering marriage to a titled and wealthy woman, and his oldest daughter, Leisel, is beginning a romance with Rolfe. And as the Nazis threaten control of Austria, the Captain knows that his military skill and experience will lead them to him. He knows that they will ask him to join them, and that they will not accept a negative answer.

Maria, realizing that she has fallen in love with the Captain, runs back to the Abbey. But the Mother Abbess counsels her to follow her heart, and she returns to the children. The Captain realizes that he loves Maria, and they are married in the Abbey. They return from their honeymoon to find that an invitation to join the Nazi navy is waiting.

Max has put the children on the festival program, hoping the Captain would relent. He forbids them to participate and makes plans to escape. But when the Nazis arrive to stop him, he explains that they are just on their way to perform at the festival. The Nazis escort them to the festival, where they win first prize, and use their encore number to camouflage their escape. On their way out of Austria, they are betrayed by Rolfe, now a Nazi, but protected by the nuns in the Abbey, and they leave for Switzerland, over Maria’s beloved mountains.

Discussion: A number of people in this movie must make important choices when they face challenges that are completely unexpected. Maria and the Captain both thought they had established what their lives would be like. Maria planned to be a nun, and to live in the Abbey all her life. The Captain expected to continue with the life he had, a loving but stern father to his children and a respected aristocrat and military leader. His family had always lived in Austria, and he expected his children and grandchildren would live there, too. Maria’s unexpected challenge comes from within herself. She is lucky to have the wise Mother Abbess to help her examine her heart to learn that she is better suited for a life outside the Abbey.

The Captain is used to being in control. It may be that his regimental approach to the children is as much prompted by a need to feel in greater control following the loss of his wife as it is by his military training. His original inclination to marry the Baroness seems to be led by his head rather than his heart; it feels more like an alliance than a romance. But he finds that he cannot resist Maria’s warm and loving heart.

Just as all of this is happening, every aspect of the life they had known in Austria is challenged by the Nazis. Unlike his friends, the Captain does not have the option of making a slight accommodation to the Nazis. He must fight for them, if he wants to keep his home. He gives up every material possession he has to get away, preserving freedom for himself and his family.

Everyone in Austria has to make a choice when the Nazis arrive. Rolfe becomes so committed to the Nazis that he is willing to betray the young woman he cared for. Even the nuns in the Abbey must make a choice. They decide to protect the Von Trapps and impede the Nazis, risking their own freedom. Children, especially young children, will need some background to understand what these choices involved and what the risks were. It is also worthwhile to discuss with them the sweet song that the Captain sings to Maria, telling her that he must have done something good in his past to deserve her love and the happiness she has given him.

Questions for Kids:

· Why does Maria have a problem fitting in at the Abbey?

· What does the Captain learn from Maria?

· The same people wrote the song about “My Favorite Things” and “Whistle a Happy Tune” in “The King and I.” How are they alike? (Think about when it is that Maria sings the song.) If you were going to write the song, what would be on your list of favorite things?

· What is the difference between the way the Captain, Max, and Rolfe react to the Nazis?

· What does the song, “Climb Every Mountain” mean?

Connections: Sister Sophia is played by Marni Nixon, a rare onscreen appearance by the off-screen singing voice from “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story” and “The King and I.”

Activities: Kids who enjoy this movie can read more about the real-life family in one of the books written by Maria von Trapp, and can visit the Trapp family’s lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Find Austria, Germany, and Switzerland on a map but do not try to trace the family’s escape route. If they had climbed over the mountains they took in the movie, they would have ended up in Germany.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a play Based on a true story Classic DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Family Issues For the Whole Family Musical
ir.gif

Tribute: Erich Segal

Posted on January 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Erich Segal, who died today at age 72, was a classics scholar who studied ancient literature. He also wrote a blockbuster movie script that became a blockbuster novel, Love Story. We know from the first sentence that its irrepressible heroine is going to die, leaving the narrator, her young husband, devastated. And her explanation to him that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” became a cultural phenomenon. (Ryan O’Neal, to whom the line was delivered in the film, got to say it as a joke later on in “What’s Up, Doc?”) Segal also contributed to the deliciously witty script of “Yellow Submarine” and wrote several other novels, but he will always be best known for Love Story, corny, yes, but one of the all-time great tear-jerking romances.

Related Tags:

 

Tribute Writers

500 Days of Summer

Posted on December 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual material and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, characters get tipsy
Violence/ Scariness: Emotional confrontations
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 17, 2009
Date Released to DVD: December 22, 2009
Amazon.com ASIN: B001UV4XUG

Like its winning hero, this movie wears its heart right on its sleeve. It lays it out for us right at the beginning, making it clear that “this is not a love story.” Oh, and it is a work of fiction. The usual disclaimer from the closing credits appears up front, letting us know that none of the characters should be confused with anyone in real life. Especially one named young woman in particular. Who is then described with an epithet often heard in a kennel.

It’s wrong about one thing; it is a love story. But that does not make it a happy love story. This is, as the narrator obligingly informs us, the story of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who believes in love and believes that he will find true love and it will make him happy, and Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who does not believe in love and thinks that her 20’s should be about having fun. A match made in heaven? In the movies, maybe, but not this one.

It has been a long time, perhaps since “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” since a movie evoked the joys and pains of first love with such art and delicacy. We know from the title that the romance will last 500 days. The movie shows us that period thematically rather than chronologically so that we go from a day near the end of their relationship to a day near the beginning that explains what the later one was about. By the time we see those first, early moments of heady connection, we realize how the sweetness of those initial feelings will become almost unbearably poignant. In one encounter late in their relationship, when he comes to a party she is hosting, we see a split screen, one marked “expectation” and the other “reality.” The differences between them are subtle, but telling.

Director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber think very cinematically, using the unique attributes of film to evoke the feelings and experiences of the characters. And Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are two of the most appealing and talented young performers in Hollywood and they create characters who are vibrant and real. We may not know whether they will stay in love with each other, but the audience will fall in love with them.

Related Tags:

 

Date movie DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Romance

Life is Beautiful

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This Oscar-winner for Best Actor and Best Foreign Film is a “fable” is about a father’s love for his wife and son in the midst of the Holocaust. Writer/director Roberto Begnini stars as a Chaplinesque character who charms a beautiful teacher by creating a world of gentle magic around them. The first half of the movie is their sweet love story, with only faint foreshadowing of the tragedies that lie ahead.

But then Begnini and his wife and child are sent to a concentration camp. To protect his son’s life, he teaches him to hide from the guards during the day. To protect his son’s heart, he constructs an elaborate fantasy that they are participating in a very difficult contest to win the ultimate prize, a real tank. And his son finds that this make sense, and he goes along with it.

This movie inspired a lot of controversy from people who said that it was an inaccurate portrayal of the Holocaust, and that it was wrong to set a comedy, even a gentle bittersweet one, in a concentration camp. But the movie is never less than respectful of the suffering during the Holocaust, and of the impossibility of any kind of real portrayal of that experience. Even “Schindler’s List” is not a portrayal of the Holocaust. That experience is fundamentally incomprehensible. The best we can hope for from art is that it gives us glimpses. This movie gives us such a glimpse, but it is really about love, and the indominability of humanity even in the midst of inhumanity.

We often see in life and in movies that people react to extreme adversity by magnifying whatever sense of control they have left — think of Mrs. Van Dam’s focus on her coat in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” absurd in light of the fact that they never go outside, so she has no real need for a coat, but important because somehow she has chosen the coat as a place to locate her sense of herself as not having lost everything. In “Life is Beautiful,” the father focuses on his special talent for creating a feeling of magic to protect his son from the worst reality of the Holocaust, the sense of utter betrayal. Very importantly, he gives his son a sense of control, by letting him think that he has made the choice to participate in the contest. And knowing that he has kept his child’s faith intact gives him a sense of control, and purpose, that keeps him going.

This is an excellent movie for families to watch together, to discuss not just the historical framework but challenges that parents face when they see their children learn about tragedy and unfairness.

Related Tags:

 

Classic Comedy Drama Family Issues Romance Tragedy
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik