Category Archives: movie reviews

A Born Storyteller


Just for giggles, I had to share this.  She has so many aspects of storytelling down pat, even at three!  The gestures, the eyes, the inflection.  Sign this girl up to be the next Robert Osborn!



Missed Moments


Okay, I’m not a movie reviewer, but it just so happens that this post, like the last one, is inspired by a movie. I went to see Valkyrie recently. Whatever you think of the film itself is not the topic of this post. The story is incredibly compelling. It centers on what was probably the most famous failed attempt on Hitler’s life by some of his own top military leaders and advisers. It makes for fascinating drama to watch these people who were desperate to wrest their country from Hitler’s insanity and certain destruction, to salvage whatever they could for Germany. The movie does a good job of portraying the agonizing question that such a dilemma would pose for anyone: At what point is such rebellion and treason an act of honor?

However, the thing that struck me most was the thunderous impact of silence and inaction. There were several moments in this story where history would have changed significantly had a small handful of people or, at times, even just one person acted. Hundreds of thousands of lives might have been saved. It is a staggering indictment of fear and profound illustration of the destruction our sins of omission can cause. The Book of Common Prayer general confession reads, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” This film is a perfect picture of what it looks like when we leave undone those things that require courageous action.

In one scene, for example, a commander of a communications post has a choice, by continuing to send messages, to aid those attempting to overthrow Hitler–or he can send through the counter commands coming from Hitler’s command post. At that moment, the power lies with him as to which communiques will be considered legitimate. He hesitates and then chooses the “safe route,” siding with Hitler. Had he chosen otherwise, it is quite likely the coup would have succeeded. I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of this particular scene, but the scene was a great illustration of the difference–for good or evil–that one soul makes. I recommend the film if for no other reason than to see this point depicted in such frightening terms.

By the way, the official site for the film provides some good visual time-lines and background on all of the players in the conspiracy against Hitler. For teachers, it could be a compelling starting point to explore the topic further or to introduce primary research.


© 2009 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.

Yes Man


Leaping Bride and GroomI just went to see Jim Carey’s new movie, “Yes Man,” and YES, I recommend it. The main character makes a covenant to say “yes” to anything that comes his way. ANYTHING. Of course, the fun is in watching that idea played out to its ridiculous extreme, but I admit it really made me think about how playing it safe is a learned, and sometimes dangerous, behavior. Just a few weeks ago, Barry and I were getting ready for a trip, and in the madness of wrapping up work projects, arranging for the dog sitter, cleaning house, paying bills, and doing all kinds of last-minute errands, I suddenly remembered the days when I could just throw a change of clothes (or not), a clean pair of underwear (or not), and a toothbrush (or not) into a bag and GO!For our honeymoon, we had a plane ticket to Greece and the first two hotel nights booked. That was it. And we had 4 weeks off! Nevermind that the trip turned out to be a total disaster. We’ve enjoyed years of storytelling mileage from it. And even though that trip ended with us literally panhandling on a German train to get back home to Amsterdam (long story), we have great, albeit quirky, memories–like waking up to a Mediterranean sunrise on a ship to Crete. Or like the waiter in Crete who kept giving us the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” and asking us how many times we “did it” when he found out we were newlyweds. Or the old men who sat around the open squares gossiping and playing with worry beds. Or the lone mountain goats on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Australian hitchhikers who were grateful for a lift in our rental half-car. Bored cafe owners who would send us into the kitchen to point to our dinner selections. If we had not said yes to the disastrous bits,we’d have missed all the fun bits.

I can think of two reasons we learn to say no: 1) We are wiser. We’ve been there and done that, and we SHOULD say no, OR 2) We are afraid. We have been there and done that and we are scared. We’re afraid to be vulnerable to hurt, pain, loss of control…whatever. Maybe the good thing about getting older is that if we are really honest, we can know when we are being wise and when we are just chickening out. I think risk-taking is probably like the “use it or lose principle” in exercise. The less risk we take, the less we are able to take. I’m going to work out my risk-taking muscle a little more by challenging myself to one new “yes” a day. I’ll let you know how it goes.


© 2009 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.