Category Archives: Movies

Puss In Boots makes a surprise visit

One of our colleagues at Allied Integrated Marketing in Scottsdale emailed an unusual request.

“Can Puss In Boots stop by the RAK office?” she wrote.

Um, well…

“Sure!” I responded. And then my heart sank. We’re pretty boring at our office. We make phone calls and stare at computer screens. It can be pretty quiet for long stretches of time. What in the world could we do to welcome a furry feline who is starring in his own animated film?

And then I remembered our neighbors at Cortney’s Place. Maybe they would enjoy a visit from Puss In Boots!

We share a wall with Cortney’s Place, which  provides educational and enrichment opportunities for physically and mentally challenged individuals who have aged out of the public school system.

The staff at Cortney’s Place thought it was a great idea. “Our students have been wanting to go see the movie when it comes out!” I was told. But they decided to keep it a surprise until the moment Puss In Boots showed up.

I’ll let Dan Friedman’s wonderful photos tell the rest of the story. But before I go, I want to put in a plug.

Cortney’s Place is planning to expand so it can accommodate more than 50 students. The organization relies on donations to meet this growing need and there is a golf tournament and dinner on Monday, Nov. 7 to raise funds. Find registration information here.

Advertisements

Movies we remember

The first movie I remember seeing at a theater was The Sound of Music, which came out in 1965. I was 9 and going to the movies was, for my family, a really big deal. My dad was a full-time graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder. My mother worked as a secretary at our church. My parents struggled to make ends meet. So entertainment was typically anything that didn’t cost extra money — picnics in the mountains, neighborhood kickball games and potluck dinners at church.

With my parents and brothers during our Boulder years.

But at some point that spring, we all dressed up in our very best clothes, bundled into the car and turned onto the Denver-Boulder Turnpike for the drive into the big city (about 27 miles as the crow flies). We were with family friends Ivan and Doris Force, who were a bit older than my parents and always treated us like family. I don’t know (nor would any of the adults had told me) if the outing was the Forces’ treat, but I suspect it was.

What I do remember is my sense of awe as we entered the darkened theater and sat, quietly obedient, on the velvety seats. And my complete, enraptured attention as I watched the magical Julie Andrews sing and dance her way through a movie that touched on themes I was far too young to fully comprehend.

The lessons I took away from that experience were these: That movies are very special treats. That music, dancing and a positive attitude can fix almost anything. That falling in love is thrilling, especially if you are “16 going on 17.” And that love is stronger than grief, stronger than duty and stronger than evil.

I was just shy of being old enough to understand the bigger things that were going on that year. Malcom X was assassinated just weeks before The Sound of Music first opened in New York City. Six days after it opened, the first 3,500 Marines arrived in South Vietnam. Later that year, the Beatles released the Help! album and the world certainly needed it.

The narcissism of childhood — and perhaps overly protective parents — kept me blissfully ignorant of these matters. I hummed “Doe, a Dear” and “Raindrops on Roses” and all was well in my world.

So if someone asked me my favorite family film, I would have to say “The Sound of Music.” It is reassuring to know that, even in 2011, it still makes the cut.

We asked readers to tell us their favorite family movie for a chance to win tickets to one of the Valley’s UltraStar Cinemas. The Sound of Music was the movie most often submitted.

Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of others that were mentioned:

Airplane
Aladdin
Beauty and the Beast
Because of Winn-Dixie
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Chicken Little
Christmas Vacation
Elf
Gone with the Wind
Harry Potter (series)
Home Alone
Mary Poppins
Monsters, Inc.
Secretariat
Shrek
Tangled
The Incredibles
The Lion King
The Wizard of Oz
Toy Story
Up
Where the Wild Things Are
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

What is your favorite family movie–and your favorite movie memory?

Make my day: feedback

I was out of town most of the weekend, so I missed Saturday’s cover shoot with our 2011 Mother’s Day Cover Mom Contest winner. I’m eager to hear about it from Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Photographer Daniel Friedman when I get back to work on Monday.

Michelle notified our winner (whose name shall remain a secret until our May issue comes out). My job was to contact the two moms who were the runners up. They both wrote fabulous, heartfelt essays about their commitment to raising children who respect and protect our environment. So I felt very apologetic as I wrote to tell them they almost won.

“Your essay was a runner-up for our cover mom contest,” I wrote to each of the moms. “So while I’m sorry that you and your [son/daughter] won’t be on our cover, you will be receiving a gift certificate from Desert Ridge Marketplace/Tempe Marketplace.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect, but the messages that quickly came back were gracious and completely appreciative.

From Karen O’Regan of Clarkdale, adoptive mother of 12-year-old David:

Thanks so much!  I’m so pleased!!!  It is very exciting to be a runner-up! I have been a subscriber for years and appreciate your magazine. I especially appreciated the recent articles on adoption and handling grief.

From Molly Costa of Phoenix, mother of 1-year-old Keira:

How fun, that is so exciting we are a runner-up! I saw the [Facebook] post about the contest and figured, why not? It came at a perfect time because I’m just experiencing all of these “firsts” with my daughter and her enjoyment of nature and being outside. It is the best — amazing at what your kids teach you, right?

We give away a lot of great stuff each year — from cover opportunities to trips to tickets to new movies and live performances. We don’t always hear back from the people who win. So it’s very gratifying when we do. Shortly after I received those lovely messages from Karen and Molly, I heard from a mom whose family won tickets to the “Born To Be Wild 3D” movie sneak preview Saturday morning at the AMC Desert Ridge IMAX. (It opens to the public April 8.)

From Dana MacComb of Phoenix:

We had a great time! The movie was moving and lovely. We felt like we were right next to the animals.  I cried almost the entire time, very moving.  All of us agreed that it was a great family event.

And it was a great email weekend.

It could have been “Beastly,” but it wasn’t

A young girl who lives about as far north as you can get in the northwest Valley went to Tempe to see a movie with her dad.

There are movie theaters closer to their house, of course, but this particular movie, on this particular day, wasn’t playing anywhere else.

It was one of those movies they call “sneak previews.” Promoters, like Barclay Communications, make tickets available to media outlets, like Raising Arizona Kids. We help build “the buzz” about the movie by promoting ticket giveaways in print, online and through social media. Families who win tickets get to see a free movie before it opens to the public.

This girl’s mom won tickets to Monday night’s sneak preview screening of the film “Beastly,” starring teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Hudgens from “High School Musical” fame and Mary-Kate Olsen. (The movie opens in theaters on Friday, Mar. 4.)

The girl was really excited about this “date night” with her dad, who agreed to drive her across town (45 minutes each way) to see a movie marketed to tween- and teenage girls. They had guaranteed tickets, but for some reason the person they talked to at the theater didn’t understand and told them all the seats were filled. Disappointed, they went home.

That could have been the end of the story. But the girl’s mom wrote to me to tell me what happened. She was direct, but respectful. She was frustrated, but avoided blame. She told me her story, she said, because “I just wanted to give you this feedback. My daughter was in tears.” She didn’t ask for a thing, not even an email in response.

When I told Alison Frost, manager of Barclay’s entertainment division, what happened, she responded immediately, in the most positive and professional way possible.

“I am sorry to hear he was turned away but I don’t understand why,” she wrote. “I was there, and we had all the RSVPs for RAK on a list,  and [this name] was on it, and all seating was guaranteed. My guess is that there was some miscommunication between him and theatre…I was going back and forth escorting winners in, so I’m not sure what happened.  I would actually like to speak to him to see what exactly transpired, because I’m a bit surprised and would also like to apologize. I don’t know if you noticed, but I always include my cell number on all winner letters so if any problems arise, I can address them on site.”

I’m not using the family’s name because, well, it turns out the dad didn’t look at the ticket voucher and didn’t realize he had a cell phone number for the lady in charge. And I don’t want to embarrass him for not reading directions. (“Men!!” as his wife wrote back later, when she fully understood what happened.)

What I will do, however, is share how this incident ended. Because we at Raising Arizona Kids never want to be the source of any child’s tears, we are sending the family some movie passes they can use to see “Beastly” (or any other movie) whenever they like. And because Alison Frost feels the same way, she messengered over a box of “Beastly” promotional items — a T-shirt, a Wii game, a “Beastly” mask and other logo items — that a northwest Valley girl will be very surprised to see when it arrives at her home later this week.

Perfecting the art of letting go

My husband and I had seen only six of the 10 movies nominated for Best Picture for next weekend’s 83rd Academy Awards. So when a rainy afternoon thwarted our plans to go hiking, we decided to see a seventh: “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.

Portman plays New York City ballerina Nina Sayers, who is obsessed with the prospect of dancing as the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” When Artistic Director Thomas Leroy (Vinent Cassel) names her to the role — with no small amount of skepticism that she will be able to pull it off — she descends into madness in the struggle to portray two violently conflicting sides of her character’s (and her own) nature.

Thomas knows that the sweet, dutiful and repressed Nina will be able to play the White Swan with ease. But she tries so hard to perfect her technique during rehearsals as the Black Swan that she appears stiff and inauthentic. Thomas tries every which way (and some not-so-nice ways) to force her to harness her soul’s capacity for darkness so she can convincingly play the seductive and dangerous Black Swan.

At one point in the movie, Thomas tells Nina, “Perfection is not always about control. Sometimes it’s about letting go.”

Those of us who dream of doing something memorable would be wise to heed that lesson. Perfection is rarely possible. Fear that perfection is unattainable often leads to paralysis.

It’s easy to parrot adages: “You don’t know if you don’t try” or “Winning isn’t everything.” But our society rewards winners, which makes the rest of us, by default, pathetic losers. And prevents many of us from even attempting the struggle.

One of the reasons I signed up for the Post a Day Challenge was that I needed something to force me to keep writing, even when I wasn’t sure I had anything to write. For nearly 22 years I’ve resented the fact that my demanding job as a publisher and editor has gotten in the way of my real dream to be a writer. I have come to realize that nothing was ever in the way but me. So this is the year I put up or shut up.

Some nights, as midnight approaches and I still haven’t hit “publish,” I worry that I will break my streak, which is now 50 days strong. Usually what’s holding me back is the fear that what I’ve written isn’t very good.

But as I run out of time (and energy) I take a deep breath and let my words go, sending them off to the Internet with hope that the people who are kind enough to read them will forgive my imperfections.

And that I might learn, in the process, to forgive them myself.