Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Art of Reviewing Movies in the Rain



Professional movie reviewers often have cobs up their butts, don’t they. Nothing short of a Schindler’s List or The Tale of Two Cities would qualify as good enough books to adapt into their precious films. Take what the reviewer at RogerEbert.com said about The Art of Racing in the Rain (adapted from Garth Steins' wildly popular 2008 book by the same name): “Anyone who cherishes a dog will be drawn into this story, and even the most hard-hearted will be moved by the dog's devotion and the grief of the humans around him. But the narration that might feel poetic as we read can seem gratingly pretentious when spoken aloud while it is acted out…” I suppose he means lines like: “There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.” Okay, I admit that I used a yellow highlighter on that line in the book and when I heard it spoken in the movie I didn’t have to think about whether or not it was a metaphor for living life because I already knew the book was littered with metaphors like that. 

Mr. Two-Stars Reviewer went on to say, “…The storyline relies on the built-in emotion pet lovers will bring to it and the soapy details of Denny's struggles and loss. Only the most sentimental pet lovers will be able to get past the self-indulgent pretentiousness of the narration, and even they may find it troubling to be told a dog's highest purpose is to become human.” If anyone had seen me crying during the entire last five, life-affirming minutes of the movie they’d know I bought into the premise that some dogs do desire to be human in their next reincarnation and this dog made it come true. Heck, sometimes I’d like to come back as a pampered dog! Doesn’t the grass always look greener on the other side of the street? 

I read a lot of books written in a dog’s voice. It’s one of my favorite genres. Heck, I even kept a blog written in the voice of my deceased dog who was at the Rainbow Bridge and looking down to earth narrating Levi’s puppyhood plus having conversations with dogs I’ve had in my adult life. It ticks me off that so many reviewers poo-poo what they consider to be formula written, sappy dog stories like the above mentioned movie, yet let Hollywood produce a film full of car chases, pyrotechnics and flying heroes stretch pants---which are every bit as ‘formula driven’---and the reviewers fall all over themselves heaping on the praise. What are they? Twelve?

IMDb sums up the storyline of The Art of Racing in the Rain this way: “Through his bond with his owner, aspiring Formula One race car driver Denny, golden retriever Enzo learns that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life.” Kevin Costner is the voice of the dog, Milo Ventimiglia (from This is Us) plays Denny and Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia) becomes his love-interest and wife." I wasn't sure Costner was the right casting for the voice-over but at least one reviewer I read thought that was the only aspect of the film they got right.

I went to see the movie with one of my Gathering Girls friend. She’s not a dog/cat person by any stretch of the imagination but she’s a movie buff---sees almost all the new stuff that comes out---and we both left the theater glad we saw the film. It won’t change the world but it was uplifting and life-affirming. It wasn’t particularly deep but there were moments of great depth. It wasn’t full of puppy antics like Marley and Me nor do you have to suspense as much disbelief as with A Dog’s Purpose where the dog was reincarnated several times over. It's an afternoon’s worth of entertainment that deserves more than two stupid stars and snubs by more than one reviewer hiding cobs up their butts. Any movie that isn’t featured during Shark Week is worth three stars, for crying out loud! So who’s got the cob strategically placed now, she types one-handed with the other raised in the air. 

At least CommonSenseMedia.org had the good sense to give The Art of Racing in the Rain three stars. They pretty much give any kid friendly film three stars if it doesn’t have sex, swearing and drugs in it. It’s a family friendly review site, a cool place if you have kids because they rate movies for positive messages and positive role models and they give parental spoiler alerts to anything that might upset little Jack and Jill. For this movie, for example, their parental warning was: “It's not just a dog who dies in this movie, but also the---" Oops, I'd better not share the rest of that sentence and spoil the movie for anyone planning to see it and who hadn't read the book.  ©


38 comments:

  1. I don't know if I'll see the movie, but I listened to the audiobook twice. And mostly I prefer history and biography to fiction.

    I've subscribed to The Great Courses Plus for a year and that's mostly what I've been watching. At the moment I'm watching The Ottoman Empire by a professor who is passionate about it and thinks it has been underestimated by Westerners. The audiobook I'm listening to is The Boys in a Boat, about nine working class boys who won a gold medal in rowing at the 1936 Olympics. The writer does a great job describing the backgrounds of the boys and also gives us a feel for what life was like during the Great Depression. That's the kind of biography I like, one that makes history come alive.

    When Andy and I were going together years ago we went to a lot of movies. We would read the reviews and usually discard the ones the critics liked best and instead would choose the movie based on what the critics hated and what we liked. They gave enough details so it worked just fine.

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    1. 'The Boys in the Boat' is a popular book club selection. Everyone in my club liked it including me. I get tired of reading stuff with in depth characters analysis sometimes and I need to mix it up with lighter stuff.

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  2. I don't like Movie Critic's reviews, it's just their personal opinion and like anyone else, what appeals to them or doesn't is entirely subjective. One of my favorite Blogs was written by a Cat Owner that made the Blog seem like it was written by her very pampered Feline with attitude, it was adorable and you could almost believe the Cat was creating the Posts... it was so well done to give the Animal such personality and presence. I haven't seen that movie, I haven't gone to the movies in a dog's age... pun intended.

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    1. There used to be an entire blog community of people who wrote in their dog's voice---several hundred of us. I loved that place. When you write that way you can say things about yourself through your pet's voice that you can't say writing an ordinary blog. It's also fun to write that way and image what your dog/cat is thinking.

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  3. It tickled me to read that you often read books written in a dog's voice, and sometimes employed the device yourself. I'm as fond of animals as anyone (although I do favor the kitty-cats), but when one of several people I know decide it's time for a blog entry written in their pet's voice, I can do suspension of disbelief, but I guess that's where I come up against my limits.

    I am glad to know about CommonSenseMedia and their reviews. If I had kids or grandkids, I'd probably know about such things, but they're completely off my radar. You're right about it being somewhat ironic for some reviewers to go on about formulaic pet movies, when so many movies today are exactly the same.

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    1. I usually read 5-6 movie reviews of what I go see. Sometimes before and sometimes after I've seen them but always before I write my own. I ran across CommonSenseMedia.org a few years ago. They don't do as thorough a job of relaying a movie or book's plot as other places but if I were a parent or grandparent I'd be checking in with them for sure just for their spoiler alerts because some kids can handle certain things better than others. They even rate movies for product placement ads within.

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  4. Your review rings true with me. I've not read the book, but will watch the movie when it hits Netflix. I get tired of the pretentiousness of film buffs who know it all about how a movie-- excuse me, film-- should be. Light fluff is wonderful, too. Not everything in life need be deeply meaningful and significant.

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    1. Exactly! Sometimes the light, fluffy stuff is what we need to distracts us from the reality of what's going on in the world.

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  5. Not a movie I would set out to see because I believe I would be an emotional wreck after the movie. Not my idea of a fun afternoon. I may go read the book though now that I know it's a book.

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    1. The ending is very uplifting and happy, Peg. Emotional but a good kind of emotional. The dog dies of old age, determined to come back as a human and you are left with a scene eight years later that makes you believe that he accomplished that.

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    2. oh well that's not so bad. the trailers made me think this beautiful dog was going to die from something far worse than old age.

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  6. Those aren't my kind of movie (or book), but I certainly appreciate the popularity of the genre. I also don't care for action/adventure or horror, so I just don't watch those, either.

    Movie critics are a mixed bag. Some of them are impossible to please; some of them really do look for good writing and acting, no matter the subject of the film. I generally disregard them all and see what looks interesting to me.

    I have, however, stopped seeing more Serious stuff since about 2-3 years ago. I need more fun and laughs.

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    1. I don't think I've ever let a movie review sway me to see or not see a movie. But I read them because I want to know how others digest a two hour plot down to an article or better yet the one line synopsis. I also feel sorry for those movies that get two stars when they put so much time and money into movie and they get panned.

      Between the movie and lunch club and the book club that I just recently dropped out of I used to see/read a lot of things that took me out of my comfort zone, as they say. But given the current state of the world, I need the fun, laughs and feel good movies and books now.

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  7. I read the book and loved it. I am glad you reviewed the movie for I usually ignore critics reviews and go with someone I know who has seen it. I will most likely see it though will have to wait for the DVD. No close theaters here.

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    1. I'm rereading the book now that I've seen the movie. Better than watching the news at bedtime. LOL

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  8. If the dog dies, I'm not going to see it.

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    1. spoiler alert: They don't show him dying, but you do get to see his last run around the race car track before he gets put down. That's a tear jerker.

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  9. I never read reviews before I go. Too often if a movie is hyped, I am a bit disappointed. And vice versa. Usually just read the recap and take my chances.

    Now that I'm starting a Flick Friend group, I may ask YOU to suggest a movie for us!!

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    1. I've got bad news for you, since you're starting a Flick Friends group you'll have NO choice but to read a few reviews so you can at least quote a synopsis of what you'll be seeing.

      I can't/won't recommend movies for you but I can tell you how our Movie and Lunch club works. We always go the 3rd Friday of the month when all the new releases are out. And on the Wednesday before two people decide between what's new to see. They send out an email of where to meet and what the movie is with RSVP required. If you wait until later in the month you'll get less attending because movie fans will go on their own to the films people are talking about. We have 50 on the email list but only 15-20 show up but not the same ones each time. It helps to do a little questionnaire to find out what genres people love and hate, then you pick movies accordingly. You can't please everyone.

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    2. I will read a synopsis of each movie but not written by movie reviewers. Too much slant for me. Or maybe they just like things that I don't.

      Good to know you choose the movie two days ahead! I don't know how many interested members we will have ... you've never had an issue with getting 20 people in at one sitting? I was thinking more like a dozen.

      Time will tell and I'm sure you will read all about it!

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    3. In my opinion, you need a big mailing list because everyone will not go to every movie. With us doing lunch too, people go RSVP for the movie and/or lunch which worked out great. Sometimes I had no interest in the movie but wanted to try the restaurant. They always pick the new places in town.

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  10. Dear Jean, when "A Cat's Life: Dulcy's Story" was published back in 1992 by Crown, I met a number of people who discounted animals as companions. Some even felt that animals have no feelings. So I'm not surprised at the reviewers.

    I can't help--as a former editor and teacher--to note that in the blurb at the top of the posting there is an incorrect word: compromised needs to be comprised. Having spent so many years copyediting, one--meaning myself-- becomes somewhat anal-retentive!!!! Peace.

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    1. At least it wasn't MY mistake or incorrect word. I grabbed the quote off the internet, but you are right and I never noticed! Once an copy-editor, always an copy-editor.

      Yes, Dulcy's Story...you know the pleasure of writing in a pet's voice.

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    2. P.S. in case anyone is wondering what Dee and I are talking about, I removed the meme with the mispelled word.

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  11. I just ordered the book. We'll see how the book goes before we see the movie.

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    1. Hope your mom writes a review when she's finished with the book, Molly.

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  12. Okay, you convinced me... I must read this book! And, see the movie, too.

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  13. Can't handle 'dog dies' movies -- ever since Old Yeller. Ha. My sons read the book and both said they cried, which made me think it must have been a real tear-jerker. I miss a lot of movies because of my late in life over sensitivity to sadness.

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    1. Old Yeller was a tear jerker. Only the hard-hearted could not cry with that book and movie.

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  14. Since my first Lassie movie, when I was 4, and had to be removed from the theater by my Grandma and Mother, because of my loud screaming and crying, I think I will pass on this one.

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    1. To me, I think a good cry in an acceptable venue like a movie is cleansing and good for us. Sometimes we avoid crying at home when we're sad or unhappy because we're trying to be strong but if we can let loose in a movie it feels good afterward. I don't think I've ever avoided a movie because I was afraid of my own emotions. Interesting how many people do and I seem to be odd man out on this one.

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  15. I have that book and am planning to read it, and then eventually watch the movie. Thanks for telling me about commonsensemedia, I will bookmark it for film reviews. You are right about the critics often overpraising violent soulless movies; this sounds like a good one.

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    1. I lot of book clubs selected the book back when it first came out. That's where I read it. Being all women in our club, some didn't relate to or like the racing aspect of the story but I kind of like learning in fiction about stuff that I'd never research and study otherwise.

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  16. Dog movies always having me crying especially when either the person or the dog dies. This movie looks interesting Jean. Take it easy my friend. I am.


    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I think guys would like this one more than women, Paul, because there are some great cars and racing scenes in the movie and action in the pits.

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  17. Ï usually like reviews by a person I "know" more than a reviewer. Sometimes they hit it, but sometimes not for me!

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