Love Comes Softly (2003)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Love Comes Softly (2003) from Hallmark Entertainment
Rated TV-PG. Drama, Historical, Romance, Family Film

1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on Janette Oke’s best-selling book series, and directed by Michael Landon Jr., Love Comes Softly is inspired storytelling for the whole family. Marty and Aaron Claridge (Katherine Heigl and Oliver Macready) travel west in search of new opportunity. But when tragedy strikes and Marty is suddenly widowed, the young woman must face the rugged terrain, bleak weather, and life among strangers—alone. That is until a handsome widower named Clark Davis (Dale Midkiff) suggests a platonic “marriage of convenience” until Marty can return home. As the months pass, though, Marty and Clark discover an unexpected new love where there was once only loss.

My thoughts: The first and strongest movie of this series. The acting isn’t always the best, but the story holds its own. It’s wholesome and a good reflection of the much-loved novel it’s based on. There’s a relevant faith thread, of course, as Clark is a man of faith, but he doesn’t go spouting scriptures or shouting “hallelujah” all through the movie or anything. 😀 Faith is an unpretentious, natural part of his character, and it’s thus woven naturally into the story.

Now, the seven related movies that follow this one go gradually downhill in some ways, and not because the stories stray further and further away from the original novels (which is kind of a pity but doesn’t bother me so much because they’re movies, not books.) I think the overall quality goes down, in large part due to the virtually never-ending music that plays through the background of most (or all?) of them, sometimes at an excessive volume. An all too obvious attempt to push the emotion, and I have to tune the music out as much as possible to focus on the characters and enjoy the movies for what they are.

Fortunately, that’s not a problem with the first movie. And if you’re like me, you may want to go on and watch the following seven anyway, if you appreciate family-friendly, life-affirming flicks.

My corresponding reading: Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke.

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The Chosen (1981)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Chosen (1981) from Chosen Film Company
Rated PG. (Contains some disturbing Holocaust footage.) Drama, Faith Theme, Historical

Description (from the film case): Set in 1940s Brooklyn, The Chosen is the story of two teenage boys who become best friends despite huge differences in their upbringing. Danny (Robby Benson) is the son of an orthodox Hasidic Rabbi (Rod Steiger). Reuven (Barry Miller) comes from a progressive Jewish family whose father (Maximilian Schell) stands at the forefront of the battle for Israeli statehood. Danny’s every moment is devoted to religious study, while Reuven plays jazz piano and is intensely interested in changing the world around him. Their family differences soon force both to make difficult choices.

My thoughts: A film based on one of my all-time favorite books.

Although politics are a passionate part of the story, I don’t like it for the politics. (You know, sometimes I almost hate to use the word, for its connotations. It can be easy to minimize or brush off a complex and crucial human issue by saying it’s “just politics.”)

Anyhow. I like this story for the way it portrays how there are differences within groups, behind the broad labels. “I thought you people only studied Talmud.” You people. One Jewish young man speaking to another.

I like this story for its reflection of fathers and sons. Of friendship. “It is not easy to be a friend.” Especially when your friend is someone you don’t understand.

Reuven has an appropriate level of understatement, Danny has an appropriate level of strangeness. Now, what hit me as the most powerful scene in the book didn’t need as severe a close-up as the film generously gives it. But it still has its own power onscreen, and I can otherwise forgive the moment’s over-generosity for being a product of 1980s filmmaking.

A compelling coming of age story indeed.

My corresponding reading: The Chosen by Chaim Potok.

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I’m not a super-fan of the trailer, but, hey. Maybe it’s also “1980s forgivable.” 🙂

 

The Book Thief (2013)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Book Thief (2013) from Twentieth Century Fox
Rated PG-13. 
Drama, Historical, War
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.) Although she arrives illiterate, Liesel is encouraged to learn to read by her adoptive father. When the couple then takes in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew hiding from Hitler’s army, Liesel befriends him. Ultimately, words and imagination provide the friends with an escape from the events unfolding around them…

My thoughts: A pretty good adaptation with some nice casting. Though it isn’t a happy-go-lucky tale, of course, it’s somewhat brighter and tamer than the novel, in a way, with almost a storybook feel to some of it.

I would’ve liked to hear a little more from Death in the film, but maybe from a different voice, as Death’s occasional narration is part of what feels storybookish. And some of the potential power is lost here as the story doesn’t convey both sides of the “power of words” theme as well as the novel does.

Nevertheless, I try not to base my judgment of film adaptations solely on their related novels, since, to state the obvious, films aren’t books. Can’t measure such different mediums with the same stick.

Hence, as a film, I give it a thumbs-up. Not sure yet if I’d watch it again, but watching it was worth it.

My corresponding reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

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Will TVs, Movies, Gadgets, and Gizmos Make Books Obsolete?

I suppose my short answer to the question at hand is: no. No, TVs, movies, gadgets, and gizmos will not make books obsolete.

And to explain a bit…

With the way technology is advancing and media is shifting nowadays, people have increasing options for entertainment, and plenty of folks don’t do much book reading unless they have to. Sure. Nevertheless, increasing options for entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon.

Take motion pictures and television for example. When the television was invented, people worried about what would happen to motion pictures. Why would anybody take the trouble of going out to the movies anymore when most of those people would have screens to entertain them right in the comfort of their homes?

Yet, for some odd reason, people kept on going to the movies anyway.

And now, even with the availability of YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, DVD and Blu-ray, the ability to watch movies on our TVs, tablets, and smartphones, movie theaters still have yet to become obsolete. We have more options, but those who enjoy going to movie theaters still go.

Has technology changed things? Absolutely. Filmmakers knew they’d have to raise the bar on their art because people would have the option of staying home to watch this new thing called television, if the movies coming out weren’t any good. So filmmakers did just that, raised the bar, and the “silver screen” lived on and still lives.

Yeah, most movies don’t remain only in theaters for as long a time anymore. Subsequent DVD, Blu-ray, and Netflix releases follow original releases sooner. Yet, going out to the movie theater still gives people an experience they can’t get by watching a movie on their tablet or phone.

I’m of the same mind as fellow bookworms I’ve heard from who believe that people who truly love to read books are going to read books. It gives us an experience we simply don’t get from TV, movies, video games, social media, and other forms of entertainment. Besides how enjoyable they are to read, books help us to strengthen our reasoning and critical thinking skills, to keep our imaginations sharp, to become more empathetic human beings, to see and consider ideas from different angles, and to become better at expressing our own ideas through words, when we need to write or articulate.

That’s not an exhaustive list of the benefits of reading, by the way.

As entertainment options increase, though, it becomes more important for readers to deliberately stress and demonstrate the value and importance of books, especially to generations coming up behind us, in the age of all things digital. When I was growing up, my parents made sure my siblings and I had a TV and movies we could watch. They bought us toys and sporting equipment and video games. And they bought us BOOKS. They made sure we had library cards and took us to the library. They started a reading club where the whole family participated. They sat down and read in front of us, so my siblings and I saw our parents reading, not just telling us that we kids should do it (“Go read a book, kid. Get out of here.”) while the two of them vegged in front of the TV all day. 😀 Our parents constantly kept the option of reading before us, and even with all the options my sibs and I have for entertainment and learning now, we still read books.

So, fellow authors and publishers–or “book makers,” if you will: we have to be intentional about keeping our art excellent and improving our craft, as past filmmakers did in their changing times. Book lovers who know the importance of reading have to be intentional about conveying that importance to other people, knowing that there are more entertainment options available, and the options will likely increase with new technology.

Naturally, people who just aren’t into books can’t be forced into loving them. While, of course, everyone should be literate, literate folks are still entitled to whatever methods of entertainment and information consumption that suits them best. But don’t be fooled. Don’t see all the TVs and movies around and people fiddling with their digital gadgets and gizmos, be fooled into thinking it’s impossible for anyone to love or focus on books anymore, and throw up your hands and say, “Welp. I guess books are over.” I might not have discovered my love for books, especially not so early on, if somebody hadn’t deliberately stressed and maintained the awesome “option of books” to me.

And let’s not even go into all the advantages that digital gadgets and gizmos have brought about for books, or we’ll need another blog post to expound.

Books will only become obsolete if book lovers and devotees somehow let it happen. And I don’t think we’re going to do that.