Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Bella" A film...a story about real love

There is an independent film showing in theaters in Roseville for the next few weeks that is worth seeing because its message permeates dismal cynicism is ways most films never touch. It tells a story that is universal but hardly acknowledged. Its reverberating heartbeat sounds off like a clanging bell waking Hollywood out of its collective mediocrity. Yeah, it’s good. You should see it.

“Bella” favors the audience and leaves its critics scrambling for a reason not to like it. When a filmmaker decides to make a film that is artistic, delivers a positive message, a happy ending while touching at the heart and emotions of human conflict, Hollywood is generally not too interested, which is why the Toronto Film Festival awarded its “People’s Choice” award to the production and every other national film festival followed along with their collective thumbs up.

Despite its PG-13 rating, it’s a film that the whole family should share together and discuss. Much in the genre of “Life is Beautiful”, the film examines the beauty of why we are here, despite all the bad stuff that happens to us. The film makers decided that they wanted to make something worth seeing and worth sharing. A true cinematic gift comes along with this film. Isn’t a nice to see something on screen that speaks to the heart of the audience and not the “business” of films?

Press reports indicate that the momentum of the film is truly independent of the press it has not received. Truly, the internet and word of mouth has lent a hand toward ensuring that people see this movie and because of that, you know it has to be a really fine film.

Director Alejandro Monteverde weaves an emotional tale of self-discovery. Eduardo Verastegui (Chasing Papi) and Emmy award winning Tammy Blanchard (The Good Shepherd) deliver performances worthy of Oscar (even though we know that Hollywood won’t like them very much- reminiscent of Jim Cavaziel’s performance in another well known movie) but who cares, the ovations of the viewing audience as the credits roll are satisfactory enough. Those who experience “Bella” get it, even if Hollywood doesn’t. We haven’t seen the last of this cast or this director. It’s what makes the idea of Indy films truly a breath of fresh air.

A film that examines two people whose lives are changed forever in a single day in New York City, this film is about a simple discovery. Perhaps losing it all is what one needs to finally appreciate the things that truly matter.

Bella is a heartwarming story about life, family, relationships and the capacity for real love in the face of the unexpected. It’s playing at the Century 14 Theaters, off Eureka Blvd. in Roseville. Go see it this weekend and don’t forget to bring those you love and a box of Kleenex, I might need some.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@sbcglobal.net or on the web at http://www.familyfare,blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leave it to Birdy

I had to smile listening to my 11 year old daughter laugh while watching Season One of “Leave it to Beaver”, the original classic television show starring Jerry Mathers, as the Beaver. She’s hooked. I was too as a kid. Eddie Haskell’s monologues and digs remind of a child I know at my kids’ school. The themes in this show are as timeless as human nature. Birdy likes this show…No wonder at all. She’s my “lemonade stand” kid.
I asked Birdy what some of her favorite dialogues were from the show. She just loves the main character. He is sweet. Beaver is the epitome of 'purity of thought' in childhood. Come to think of it Theodore Cleaver reminds me a lot of my 11 year old. Beaver’s formal name is Theodore. Birdy’s name is Bridget (but we call her The Bird). One of the first episodes features some kids teasing Theodore when he goes to school about his nickname and they asked him who named him “Beaver”. In his little boy voice, he replied “yeah…my brother Wally named me that and it kinda stuck.”
No one is more hilarious than Eddie Haskell’s multiple brown-nosing comments to Mrs. Cleaver “Hello Mrs. Cleaver, you look lovely today. Your hair is particularly beautiful. Where do you get it done?” and in the same breath he punches Beaver in the stomach and mutters under his breath “Scram dog breath or get lost in traffic you little squirt!"

Birdy has her own ‘Eddie Haskell’ at school; a real ‘chumster‘ who also happens to be equally charming whenever I visit the school. What would the world be without the Eddie Haskell’s, the Lumpys, Whiteys, Tooeys, Chesters and Larry Mondellos…Everyone knows a Larry Mondello….Moreover, where would we be without the moral dilemmas of the Cleaver clan. Any fan of the series will remember great episodes like Captain Jack, Beaver gets ‘spelled, Water anyone, Wally’s girl trouble, New neighbors, and the all-time great “The Haircut” and “Short pants”. The series spanned 234 episodes…I readily admit that I never get tired of watching them, aw shucks.

June and Ward Cleaver are a sociological study all by themselves. The show’s repetitive moral messages would stand up easily today: obey/trust your parents, tell the truth, develop self-esteem, have pride in your family, help (or don't hurt) others, and accept responsibility for your actions. The parenting techniques incorporated in the series writing were right out of Dr. Spock’s “Baby & Child Care” handbook. The show was completely built around the importance of family, occupation, marriage and education. Ward wasn’t the only family sage. Wally had his words of wisdom for his little brother occasionally. One of my favorites was the following Wally speech from the episode, “Miss Landers’ Fiance”: Said to Beaver in a serious tone…while folding his sweater carefully on his bed.

“In a couple of years, you'll go to high school, and then you'll go to college and meet a whole bunch of girls. You'll probably marry one. Then you'll have a whole bunch of kids and a job and everything.”

Wally was master and commander of great words like "stuff, neat, gee whiz, golly, scram" words that definitely need to be resurrected and soon.

However, nothing could be as eloquent as Beaver’s ad in the paper for a dog he found:

I found a dog. The dog is brownish with no hair. I got the dog from my friend Larry but it was not his because Whitey found him in his garbage pail. If the dog you lost is the one I found, I'm the one who found it. Signed Beaver Cleaver

As we watch for the rest of the series to be released on DVD, I am sure Birdy will be watching much more of 'Leave it Beaver'…because so much of it smacks right in the middle of her 11 year old chops. The nice thing is that it is completely predictable. Ward is always home on time for dinner. Dinner is always on the table. Ward and June always agree. June is perfectly coiffed , Ward always wears his tie to work, the boys manage to get their homework done, their prayers said and their teeth brushed and the Cleavers will always come out on top, no matter what, because they have each other. Finally, kids will be kids forever and the toils and struggles of kids are what make adults. Thank God for that.

Tammy Maher is resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at familyfare@scbglobal.net or on the web at www.familyfare.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Let’s say my life expectancy is 88 years old. That’s a nice number. Double digits, couple of eight balls. Not exactly 90, a little after 85. I like it. I think my life will come to a final curtain when I’m 88. If I’m thinking in these terms, then this Tuesday, I’m at the halfway mark. In the immortal words of the pastor who called the Sunday night bingo games, in his thick Irish brogue, “G- farty-far….G-farty-far, does anyone have that lucky number?” I’m about to be officially 44 (farty far) years old. It’s halftime. Where does the time go? Death isn’t something I think about much. Maybe I should. If I did, I’d make some special requests for the end of the game, if possible.

If I had a choice, I’d order a nice early bed-time, a cup of Chamomile with honey, a soft warm blanket; my rosary and I would simply fall asleep after saying my prayers and never wake up. Hopefully I would die with a smile on my face after dreaming something really wonderful. I would recall when my kids were born, or when J.D. and I were married…these would all bring back great memories that would make me smile. But perhaps, at that age, I would be dreaming about the day my grandchildren were born and the very first time they called me “Nanny.” But we don’t really know the day or the hour, do we? I’m just speculating on all this because in my ‘Life Span’ class I had to take a life expectancy test this week, and based on my lifestyle and my medical history, the test told me that I would live to be 91 years old! I find that incredible. The double eights make much more sense. I never thought I’d live that long. When I was in the insurance business, the tables always told me I was checking out around 74. That’s entirely unacceptable. That’s young!

I was amazed to realize that as we are getting older, the whole population seems to be living longer, much longer than the generation of my great grandparents. My dad’s parents are still alive, both of them and he will be 70 in January! That’s phenomenal and it should take into consideration several things, not the least of them, advances in modern medicine, fitness, diet and nutritional advances.

As I enter the halftime, I can’t believe the changes that are ahead. Going back to school gave me new perspective on how beneficial life long learning is, especially in the aging population. There is nothing more encouraging than to see people in my parent’s generation returning to school and learning for the sheer joy of it. Most of the women in my study groups for organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology are my age or younger. The conversations at home are a little more intellectual now that Mom is in school too. It makes us all think a little more about the world around us.

As I age, I find that the older I get, the younger the old folks appear to me, not only physically, but emotionally too. The conversations get more interesting with the life perspective broadening. When I was young, I used to laugh at the silliness of my grandmother and all her mannerisms. I can still hear her voice like it was yesterday. She had a simple life, but I think it was rich because she shared so much of herself with others. I hope I achieve that kind of openness and willingness to meet people where they are at. I hope when I am 88, I can look back on my life and say, “everything’s just fine” and then slowly step into the next life, with God’s grace. If I’m meant to suffer, I hope I can still have that smile.

The first half of life was a great. The game was full of touchdowns and setbacks but, since its only halftime, I guess I’ve got a little more time left. In the meantime, I’ll get on with it. There is still so much to see, so much work to do and at least farty far more in the bag.