From the moment I first saw Belle on the big screen holding a book in her hand, I knew I had found a Disney princess I could relate to. Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” came out in 1991, and I was in the theatre with my friends, watching and listening. Belle, a lonely bookworm, lives in a small town, working hard to rebuke the dubious charms of Gaston, who wants to marry her simply because she is the most beautiful, which makes her the best. Her father gets caught in an enchanted castle, and when she goes to find him, she trades her life for his. Thus begins her time with the Beast.
What is there to admire in Belle? She is beautiful but she values that last of all. She loves books and has a thirst for learning, and wishes for a more adventurous life than her small town can provide. She reads to escape to far off places, and it I there that she and the Beast find common ground. She reads stories to him (for he has not read since he was a young boy), and they bond over their realization that they are both odd, but come to treasure that oddness in each other.
The live version, just released in theaters, is a slightly different retelling of the story, but many of the values and morals still hold. Belle is still odd, and she does replace her father as the Beast’s prisoner. But in this version, the Beast is intelligent, an avid reader, and prone to temper tantrums. Belle is the calming force in his life, and teaches him how to laugh again. They quote poetry together, and have conversations…and still bond over their oddness.
In addition to watching this new movie, I have read two books, works of fictions retelling the same story. In “As Old As Time”, by Liz Braswell, Bell’s mother was the enchantress who changed the Beast, and in trying to help her father, she is able to reunite with her mother as well. The Beast helps her to rescue them both, and the mother is able to break the spell.
In “Lost In a Book” by Jennifer Donnelly, Love and Death place a wager on whether or not Belle will fall in love with the Beast and break the spell. Death cheats by placing a book in the Beast’s library for Belle; a book that whisks her into a make believe world where she is excited to see new places and have an adventure. She still returns to the Beast, but every time she goes into the book she wants more and more to stay, just as Death had planned.
All the versions of this story end the same way: Belle rushes back to help save the Beast, who is being chased by either Gaston or the angry mob of villagers, and though he is injured and/or dies, her love brings breaks the spell and saves all the lives at the castle.
A beautiful fairy tale, but what can it teach us? The primary lesson, of course, is not to judge a person by their looks or what you think you know about them. Everyone jumps to conclusions based on looks: the Beast when he rebuffs the enchantress, who then casts the spell; the villagers who don’t try to get to know Belle or her father but decide they are both odd or crazy; Belle, when she meets the Beast; the Beast, when he meets Belle; and of course, Gaston, who believes anyone as beautiful as he is perfect. But all these conclusions turn out to be wrong as we begin to meet the actual characters.
The most beautiful scene of the movie for me was when Belle and the Beast share their common sadness of losing their mothers to death. Belle later finds out that his father treated him cruelly, resulting in his own bad temper, and she realizes he has not known love in his life. Having a loving father makes her feel more open to him and more patient at his tantrums.
In the end Belle and the Beast’s love for each other, for their true selves, is what saves everyone in the castle and in the village. The happy ending isn’t just fairy tale because the prince saves the princess; instead the bookworm and the Beast save each other.
And they live happily ever after.
As a self-confessed book-a-holic, I have realized that if a book has been made into a movie, I prefer to read the book first, and then watch the movie. An inevitable comparison then takes place, as I ask the eternal question…which is better, the book or the movie? Here are three new examples I have been exploring this month.
For family entertainment, I suggest the movie “The Descendants”, based on the book “The Isle of the Lost” by Melissa de la Cruz. Both center around four descendants of Disney villains, who receive a quest by Maleficent, Queen of the Villains. They are told that they are to complete this task by any means, but soon learn that the only way they can accomplish it is be using the skills each of them possess. They become friends and grow into a better understanding of friendship and what it means to be “good” and “evil”. The movie takes it a step further and includes any descendants of Disney heroes, and a lot of good music. Available on DVD, with a cartoon series also on the Disney Channel, this is one movie you and your kids will enjoy. Ms. de la Cruz even wrote a follow up novel, “Return to the Isle of the Lost”, and there are several spin off books written for younger ages in graphic novel style. A great series with lots of lessons, yet very entertaining!
VERDICT: I have to vote for the books. Much more was left to the imagination. Although I did enjoy the movie, there were then so many spin off cartoons and books that the original story gets lost. Ms. de la Cruz deserves the thumbs up for the idea, and for the creativity she shares in the books!
In October of 2006, the world was astonished when a shooting took place inside an Amish school in Pennsylvania, killing five young girls and injuring five more. This incomprehensible act is explored in the book, “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy”, and the Lifetime movie based on the story, “Amish Grace”, now available on DVD. Both book and movie spend most of the time not reliving the act itself, but focusing on the families involved and their life in the aftermath. Not only do we meet the Amish families affected, but we also meet the family of the man who committed the attack. It shares the beautiful grace that the families received I forgiving the perpetrator, and supporting his wife and family through their pain, while living their own. The movie’s scene where the bewildered widow answers the door, to find three Amish men, one of them the father of one of the deceased girls, who call on her to let her know they are praying for her is so heartwarming. The woman is riled with guilt for what her husband has done, even though she had no prior knowledge and doesn’t know how to accept their forgiveness.
The book is in three parts: the first tells the story, the second part focuses on the Amish beliefs about forgiveness, and the third part delves into other Amish principles, such as shunning. It is a glimpse into the world and faith of the Amish community, teaching us the value of letting go of pain and anger.
VERDICT: I am torn…the movie is very well done, and the characters very believable. To witness the pain each side of the family experienced is overwhelming and very authentic. At one point one of the mothers expresses her anger at the town forgiving the family of the shooter, and her anger and resentment toward her community seems very real. On the other hand, the book explores so much more, explaining the whys of the communities forgiveness, and shows the true meaning of faith. I have to call this one a draw.
Finally, I have just begun reading the book, but the movie has already gotten rave reviews. “Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan and are witness to a system that forces people to renounce their faith and lay down their lives for their faith. This work of fiction is heart-wrenching, but definitely worth the read.
The movie is not in wide distribution anymore in local theaters, but the estimated video DVD release is in April. Numerous articles have been written, as Fr. James Martin, S.J., renowned author writer for America Magazine, served as a consultant on the film. America Magazine published articles on the director, Martin Scorsese, and one of the stars, Andrew Garfield, and how they were affected by filming this movie. A link to these articles can be found at http://www.americamagazine.org/topic/silence-film.
VERDICT: I am reserving my verdict until I get to watch the movie. I will come back and update at a later date!
Disagree with my choices? Email and let me know!! [email protected].
Here are some online places I have found great Lenten activities and ideas!
The US Bishop's Website has lots of information and ideas for prayer: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/index.cfm
For children's activities:
Loyola Press: http://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/liturgical-year/lent
Sadlier Religion: http://www.sadlier.com/religion/lenten-resources-2017?hsCtaTracking=4e7d3a9e-e946-4145-87b3-da7b2cfdb5f8%7C2f64ec20-465f-4683-85f2-fae3b756cffc&__hstc=144900587.85aab4affb0d16ba34429af3651c61a4.1440605546200.1479244775890.1488316844326.4&__hssc=144900587.2.1488316844326&__hsfp=2734959328
RCL Benziger: http://rclbenziger.com/2017-lent-and-holy-week/
Catholic Mom: http://catholicmom.com/kids/lenten-activities-for-children/
For your own spiritual growth:
3-Minute Retreat: http://www.loyolapress.com/3-minute-retreats-daily-online-prayer
Pauline Media: online retreats, reflections, and apps for your phone to help in your spiritual growth!
Lenten Book Club: http://pauline.org/Pauline-Books-Media-Blog/ArticleID/2992/Pray-to-Your-Father-in-Secret-Lenten-Book-Club
Online Retreat, Creighton University: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html
Our Sunday Visitor: https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Practices/Article/TabId/665/ArtMID/13706/ArticleID/11461/Your-Guide-To-A-Catholic-Lent.aspx
And a great app is sponsored by Catholic Relief Services! The website gives prayers, recipes for Lenten meals, and wonderful resource for all ages. Don't forget to parcipate in the annual Rice Bowl collection!
Especially for women...check out "Walk In Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ's Passion Through the Eyes of Women", edited by Kelly M. Wahlquist, published by Ave Maria Press. Book is available through www.avemariapress.com, or on www.amazon.com.
January 10, 2017
Families in search of a great movie with a message don’t have to look much further than one of the latest Pixar movies, “Finding Dorie”. This sequel to the beloved “Finding Nemo” has Dory on the search for her family, and along the way she not only learns what family really means, but learns about forgiving others, and most of all, forgiving herself. You’ll laugh, you will cry, but share it with your family for some great conversations. Some of the greatest scenes are with Dorie and her personal revelations. Of course, first, she learns that even though she does not know her parents, she is not without a family. Her friends, Marvin and Nemo, are her family and she is now their neighbor. They watch out for her, and even though sometimes get very frustrated, they are always on her side. But the best moment for me came when (SPOILER ALERT) she is finally reunited with her parents, and she apologizes to them for getting lost. She believes it is her fault, for wandering too far away, and that all the pain of separation was on her shoulders. But she is received with love. Their reunion is so beautifully scripted, I couldn’t stop crying!
This movie is great viewing for children, teens, adults, and entire families. The jokes and themes are cross generational: we are all one family, and no matter what, we are loved. I absolutely will be watching this one over and over!
THE RED TENT
And if you are looking for something you can enjoy on those cold nights with a nice cup of coffee, reach for “The Red Tent”, by Anita Diamont. This historical fiction novel is great, especially for women of any age, telling the story of Dinah, the young daughter of Jacob, sister of Joseph of the colored coat. Her journey from the only daughter of a great family, to a midwife who outlives her husband and son, is inspirational and enjoyable. The focus during the book is on Dinah and the women in her life who teach her, her mother Leah, her aunt Rebecca, and the two slaves who were also married to her father. The four women have very different personalities and very different roles in life with their husband, Jacob. But above all, they treasure their time in the red tent, the week where they are at rest and can stay inside. They tell Dinah the stories of generations past, because it is through the daughters that the stories of women are kept in memory.
Especially interesting for me was when certain parts of the biblical story were interwoven into this book: when Joseph is given up, when Jacob’s sons attack the man they believed raped Dinah, and the death of her mother. I enjoyed seeing a portrayal of women in this time of history.
For those interested, a movie was made from the book, available on DVD for purchase through Amazon. The movie is also in our Diocesan Media Center, available for check out.
Til next time!
I have long wanted to write on this great Disney Channel series, but never imagined i would be writing after watching the series finale. Yes, at the end of season three, this wonderful show has been cancelled.
When the show first started, it was known as a sequel to the long loved “Boy Meets World,” which starred Ben Savage as the “Boy”, Cory Mathews who is coming of age and, along with his best friend, the practically orphaned and lost Shawn Hunter, is discovering his relationship with the world. Guided by his parents, their teacher Mr Feeney, and his super intellegent girlfriend Topanga, they have adventures, learn lessons, and grow up to be wonderful, kind and good natured adults.
And so “Girl Meets World” begins, with Cory and Topanga now married and living in New York. They have two children, Riley, who is the “Girl” and Augie. Riley has her own almost orphaned best friend, Maya, and attends school with a great teacher..her father, Cory.
Cory has the ability to guide his daughter and her friends as they pass from seventh through ninth grade, even following her to high school, as the wise teacher. Every lesson he teaches relates to what is going on in their lives, but he allows them the ability to figure it all out for themselves.
The problems they encounter are timely and cross generational. The most heart-wrenching one was called The Forgiveness Project. The students are told to write a letter to someone, forgiving them for something. Most write letters of a superficial nature: Riley’s letter is to her little brother, forgiving him for something even though he never apologized. In fact, upon reading the letter, is confused, as he explains to Riley, because he wasn’t sorry. He had a good reason; Riley never asked why. When she does, she learns something about her brother that she never knew, and ends up asking for forgiveness herself.
But the most poignant was Maya's letter, written to her father, who left when she was young and never looked back. For many years she thought her mother had chased him away but earlier had learned that he left without explanation. He now has a new family and a new life without making contact. After receiving her letter asking why she wasn’t good enough to be his daughter, he arrives to explain to her that he didn’t feel he was good enough to be her father, and had to leave to change and grow. She understands, but still cannot forgive him. She goes back to her teacher, Cory, to explain that she failed the assignment because she cannot forgive him. He simply asks, “But did you forgive yourself?” With that, she bursts into tears, and we see the true lesson.
There are many other episodes I could list as great ones, such as the episode where quirky Riley is bullied by someone who takes video of her doing something wierd and threatens to show it to the whole school. In a previous episode, their friend Farkle had been bullied and all the friends rallied around him and stood up to his bully. But somehow Riley is to embarrassed to tell even her best friend about her own bully. When they find out, she asks them to allow her to handle it her own way, and handle it she does, with grace, dignity, and her own quirky touch.
One of the best parts of this show for us adults is the return of many characters from the previous series. Unlike other sequels where the characters move forward in life without looking back, this show is based much on what Cory learned from his family and teacher, and they are still a part of his life, especially his best friend, Shawn. In the finale, when the family has a huge decision to make, everyone rallies around them and comes to give their help and counsel. Not just a reunion for a last episode, but each contributing to the storyline, teaching us the lesson once again that our support, our comfort, our blessing is our family and friends.
Thank you, writers, producers, directors, and especially the actors who brought these characters to life. They certainly made an impression on my life.