Movies I’m Thankful For:  Erin Brockovich (2000)

Erin Brockovich is the ultimate underdog.

She’s a broke single mother with three kids and no skills, but she guilts her lawyer Ed into an office job after he loses her traffic accident case.

Soon she’s stumbled upon a massive corporate coverup about how the Pacific Gas and Electric Company are knowingly dumping cancer-causing poisons into the groundwater in Hinkley, California.  Erin attacks the case—and PG&E—with a foul-mouthed ferocity that shows just how far tenacity and ingenuity can take you.

My favorite scene is when she meets with Charles Embry, a former employee who may have documents that tie the local branch to the main corporation.  Proving that the corporate headquarters knew about the poisoning is the key to their class action lawsuit.

Erin, who spends most of the movie charging around like a bull in a China shop, suddenly goes quiet.  She knows how important this is; she knows she has one chance, and that if she blows it, the people of Hinkley will never get justice.

It’s the best role of Julia Roberts’s career, and she was rightly awarded an Oscar for it.

About a year after the film, I saw the real Erin Brockovich speak when I was a student at Penn State.  Julia Roberts had captured her mannerisms, her defiance, and her sense of justice perfectly. 

We loved her.

During the Q&A, people asked her about the film.  She said it was accurate, and had only one complaint about it.

There’s a scene when Erin is arguing with her boyfriend—he’s tired of taking care of her kids all the time and wants her to quit the job.  In the film, she says she doesn’t want to quit because she finally had people respecting her.

With colorful profanity, the real Erin said she didn’t do any of  it to gain respect.  She did it for the people of Hinkley, and only for the people of Hinkley.

And you know what?

I believe her.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! |  How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years | Shakespeare In Love |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love poster (1998)

Winning the Oscar for Best Picture is the worst thing that ever happened to Shakespeare In Love.

Because instead of celebrating this quick-witted fictional tale of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write Romeo and Juliet, all any movie buff ever talks about is how (now convicted dirt bag) Harvey Weinstein’s full court press campaign for Shakespeare robbed the award from its rightful owner, Saving Private Ryan.

I’m not here to bag on Saving Private Ryan—without question it would’ve been a worthy winner.  But the Academy did itself no shame by awarding its top honor to a film that smartly threads together romance, comedy, and drama in its Shakespearian love letter to the creative process.

Young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has no money and a case of intense writer’s block.  He’s getting nowhere on his new play—a comedy he calls Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter. 

Meanwhile, Lady Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow—whose Best Actress win had the haters blowing a second gasket) is desperate to star in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  As women were not allowed on stage in the Elizabethan era, she disguises herself as a man and wins the role of Romeo.

When Will discovers her true identity, the two embark on a passionate affair that ignites his muse.  Everything Will hears, does, and sees becomes grist for the play.  Anyone who writes (or does anything creative) can appreciate that elusive zone when everything you take in is giving you new ideas and driving your latest work.

As it becomes clear that Will and Viola have no future—he’s married, and she’s promised to marry Lord Wessex and move to Virginia—his play turns from comedy to tragedy.

But in the end, their love will live on through Shakespeare’s pen, and when Queen Elizabeth commands that his next play be a comedy, Will knows just what the plot will be—a beautiful woman survives a shipwreck on a journey to a foreign land.

She disguises herself as a man for protection as she explores a strange new world.

Her name?

Viola, of course.

And thus begins Shakespeare’s next play, Twelfth Night.

Shakespeare in Love


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat | The Last Five Years

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940):  Critics Then and Now are Wrong

Lucille Ball and Maureen O'Hara in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) opening

At the time of its release, Dance, Girl, Dance lost money.  Dorothy Arzner’s penultimate film was a flop, dismissed by critics and ignored by audiences.

Yet today it is undoubtedly Arzner’s most well-known and respected film.  It was rediscovered in the 1970s when scholars praised its “female gaze” point of view and crowned Arzner a feminist icon.

The film is neither as bad as the critics of 1940 said, nor is it the tale of empowered womanhood that modern feminists want it to be.

Lucille Ball in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Arzner took over the film when its original director, Roy del Ruth quit over creative differences with producer Erich Pommer.  Arzner could see that the script lacked direction, and worked with the writers to focus the story on the differences between two up and coming dancers.

Frenemies Judy (Maureen O’Hara) and Bubbles (Lucille Ball) dance together under the tutelage of Madame Basilova.  Judy is a gifted ballerina who wants a serious and respected career.  Bubbles has less artistic talent, but she’s got a nose for what sells and eventually starts raking in the money playing “Tiger Lily” at a burlesque theater.

When Judy falls on hard times, Bubbles offers her a part in the show, playing the stooge—July does her ballet routine to a crowd that boos and demands the return of Bubbles.

Resentment simmers between the women, and boils over when they both fall in love with the same louse, Jimmy Harris, who is himself still in love with his ex-wife.

The film earns its feminist street cred when a fed up Judy stops in the middle of her act to lecture the heckling crowd:

“I know you want me to tear my clothes off so’s you can look your fifty cents worth.  Fifty cents for the privilege of staring at a girl the way your wife won’t let you.  What do you suppose we think of you up here—with your silly remarks your mothers would be ashamed of?”

She goes on (and on) in the same vein before ending with:

“…so you can go home when the show’s over and strut before your wives and sweethearts and play at being the stronger sex for a minute?  I’m sure they see through you just like we do.”

It’s a stinging indictment and makes for a great isolated YouTube clip, but it feels wildly out of character for Judy and out of place in the film.

And it seems doubtful that a room full of men in a 1940s burlesque club would give her a standing ovation as they do in the film.

Maureen O'Hara in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

This lauded display of feminism is immediately followed by an epic on-stage cat fight between Bubbles and July (Bubbles is jealous of Judy’s ovation, and Judy is tired of playing second fiddle to Bubbles).  They slap, punch, kick, pull hair and roll around on the floor in front of a stunned crowd.

It’s funny, it’s truer to the characters, and it winds them both up in night court with black eyes and eventual apologies.

In the end, they both get want they want—Bubbles tricks a drunken Jimmy into marriage and makes a fortune off their quickie divorce, and Judy finds love and creative fulfillment when she meets kindly Steve Adams, who offers her a role in his ballet.

It’s a good, funny film that should be enjoyed as such. 

It’s not a polemic against male chauvinism, and the truth is the film would be better if Judy’s scolding speech had been left on the cutting room floor.

But if it had, we likely wouldn’t be watching Dance, Girl, Dance today.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) Verdict:  Film Buffs Only

Sources

  • Mayne, Judith.  Directed by Dorothy Arzner.  1994.

Want more?  Click here for an index of all posts in the series, as well as source notes and suggested readings.

Movies I’m Thankful For:  The Last 5 Years (2014)

The Last Five Years (2015) film poster

The Last 5 Years charts the relationship of young lovers Cathy and Jamie.  It’s based on a two-person play I saw in 2015 at the intimate 300 seat Front Porch Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. 

As in the play, the film opens on Cathy (Anna Kendrick) alone in their apartment, lamenting in song that Jamie (Jeremey Jordan) has left her.  The next scene jumps without warning to Jamie’s point of view, where he and Cathy are laughing and about to sleep with one another for the first time.

This clever musical switches back and forth from Cathy to Jamie…she starts their story at the end and works her way backward, while Jamie starts at the beginning and progresses forward.

They begin with a whirlwind courtship in New York City.  She’s an aspiring theater actress pounding the pavement and doing summer stock theater, while he’s trying to write the Great American Novel.  But they grow apart as Jamie’s career soars and Cathy’s never gets off the ground.

Is it Jamie’s growing ego or Cathy’s jealousy that tears them apart?

Is Cathy grieving Jamie or the loss of her dreams?

It depends on who’s telling the story.

Their heady early days are tinged with melancholy because we’ve already seen how it will end with bitterness on both sides.

In the play, the two lead characters only interact with one another once, when their stories meet in the middle on their wedding day.  The film has them together throughout but still manages to convey the idea that these two were never truly on the same page.

The acting is top notch, and you may find yourself (as I did) downloading the soundtrack onto your phone.

Anyone who loved Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect (ie; everyone) should give this overlooked little gem a shot.

The Last Five Years


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters | The Heat |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  The Heat (2013)

What’s the funniest part of the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy buddy cop comedy The Heat?

That’s the easiest question ever.

It’s when rough-around-the-edges Boston cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) cuts off the sleeves and pants of straight-laced Federal Agent Sarah Ashburn’s (Bullock) clothes so that she will fit in better during their undercover nightclub sting and is horrified by Ashburn’s spanks.

No, wait!

It’s when Ashburn tries to perform an emergency tracheotomy on a choking victim after watching a video about it on television.

Or maybe it’s when Mullins throws a phone book at a perp during Ashburn’s investigation.  Or  when Ashburn and Mullins accidentally drop a perp off a balcony.

But maybe it’s when Mullins chases down a perp and throws a watermelon at him.  Or when she’s looking for her captain’s “really, really tiny” balls.  Or when she calls a perp’s wife to tell her that her husband’s been soliciting prostitutes.

Maybe it’s when Ashburn dances like a freak to cozy up to a suspect so that Mullins can bug his phone.

Or when she pretends the neighbor’s cat is her own.

No wait – it’s gotta be when they get drunk together all night at a bar.

The funniest part of The Heat?

Maybe it’s not such an easy question after all.

Including The Heat on this list is a no-brainer. This R-rated comedy is filled with F-bombs, outrageous gags, and just enough heart to make their eventual friendship satisfying but not sentimental.

Here’s a better question:  How is it possible they haven’t yet made a sequel?


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away | The Magdalene Sisters |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

The Magdalene Sister (2002) poster

The first time I watched The Magdalene Sisters, I was tired and half expected to fall asleep during it.

By the final credits, I was wide awake with outrage.

I was completely ignorant of the history of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries—institutions run by the Catholic Church for “wayward” girls. 

As an audience, we learn about the laundry through the introduction of its three newest members:

Margaret is sent after she is brutally raped by her cousin.  Bernadette—who has never kissed a boy, much less had sex with one—is kicked out of her orphanage for being too pretty and flirtatious.  And Rose?

Well, she’s your garden variety unwed mother.

At the laundry, the head nun tells the girls:

“You can redeem yourself by working beyond human endurance to remove the stains of the sins you have committed.”

Their sins which were no sins at all. 

Without the ability to leave, the girls are subjected to physical, emotional, and in some cases sexual abuse.  They are forced to work in silence in the harsh conditions of the laundry.  They receive no pay and no education.  They are routinely humiliated and disobedience is punished with beatings or by forcibly shaving their heads.  The word “whore” is constantly thrown at them, a weapon in and of itself.

They’re slaves.

We watch as a deep sense of injustice grows inside Margaret, and the scene when her brother arrives after four years is one of the most powerful in the film.

Rose suffers yet remains a Catholic—as many of the inmates did—until the end of her life.

And Bernadette survives by becoming as cruel and cunning as her captors.

The film is brutal and difficult to watch; but it exposes a stain on the Catholic Church that has been too long hidden.  The final laundry did not close until 1996.

I will never forget the The Magdalene Sisters.

I promise you that.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors | Far and Away |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Far and Away (1992)

Far and Away (1992) poster

Far and Away was the second of three films Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman made together, and the first after their ultimately doomed marriage.

The film’s critics say it’s a bit corny, has a contrived plot, and that Cruise and Kidman don’t have the greatest on-screen chemistry.

I can’t say these critiques are inaccurate, but they don’t matter to me.

Sometimes you just want an old-fashioned, big budget romantic melodrama about the American Dream.

And when you do, you can’t do better than Far and Away.

Ernest and sentimental, Ron Howard directs this tale of Irish immigrants traveling to America for the Oklahoma land race of 1889.

Cruise plays Joseph Donnelly, a poor Irish peasant who sets out to kill the landlord who burned down his father’s home for unpaid rents.  Instead, he ends up running away with the landlord’s daughter Shannon (Nicole Kidman), a spoiled rich girl bored with her life who insists to a skeptical Joseph that America has so much land they’re giving it away for free.

They pose as brother and sister to get a room they can afford, and both deny their growing attraction.  America suits the hard scrabble Joseph, who soon has a job, a roof, and a chance to save enough money to get to Oklahoma in time for the land race.

It’s tougher for Shannon, who’s grown up with servants waiting on her hand and foot.  She’s dismayed to have to work in a factory plucking chickens and sleep on a dirty mattress.

Joseph thinks she’ll turn tail and run back to Ireland the first chance she gets.

But it turns out Shannon is made of sterner stuff.

There’s bare-knuckle boxing, Tom Cruise riding a horse, romance, adventure, and a dramatic reenactment of the Oklahoma land race.

What a time to be alive in America!

It checks every box for me.

I could hardly make a list of films I love short enough to not include this one.


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella | Sliding Doors |

Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift, and the Fight of My Life

Headlines about Taylor Swift Eras Tour Ticket Sales

Ticketmaster claims that no one could have predicted the immense demand for Taylor Swift concert tickets that crashed their website, disappointed fans, and had congress threatening to investigate them for antitrust violations.

Too bad they don’t read this blog, because last week I predicted this concert was going to be The Big One.

I’ve written here before that missing Taylor’s Red tour is the greatest regret of my life, one I vowed never to repeat.

My best friend Nina, her daughter Adrienne, and I have to see the Eras tour.

I knew luck would be the determining factor in obtaining tickets to the event of the decade. 

But I also knew there were things I could do to improve my chances.  I couldn’t sleep on the sidewalk to ensure I was first in line like in the old days.  This was a modern war that would take wit over brute force to win.

The way I saw it, there were two critical hurdles to overcome:

  1. Obtaining a Presale Code
  2. Avoiding the Ticketmaster website crash

The presale code was absolutely critical.  For two weeks before the tickets went on sale, fans could sign up with their Ticketmaster account to enter a random drawing for a code to participate in Tuesday’s presale.  The chances of any tickets being available for the Friday public sale were slim.  If we didn’t get selected for the presale, our fight was over before we ever stepped onto the battlefield.

Nina and I tapped everyone we knew who wasn’t interested in going to the concert to sign up for the presale drawing.  Parents, brothers, friends.  We got 20 email addresses signed up, and I knew that wasn’t enough.  I opened up 15 new Gmail accounts and signed them up for Ticketmaster accounts.

On the eve of the presale, we frantically refreshed our browsers, waiting for the e-mail that would detail our fate.

Out of 35 chances, we got 2 presale codes.

We were in the game.

I set six different alarm clocks for the next morning.  The tickets didn’t go on sale until 10 am and I haven’t slept past 7 in years, but I was taking no chances.

I had a Jack Reacher style breakfast and wrote out a pep talk for myself in my diary.

Page from my diary encouraging me to fight for the tickets

Now that we had our code, the second hurdle would be getting into the online queue before Ticketmaster’s inevitable crash.  I set up my personal and work laptops, and borrowed 3 more computers from friends and family.

At 9:15, a full 45 minutes before the tickets went on sale, I began logging into Ticketmaster. 

It was already crashing, but I didn’t panic.

Like an old lady at a row of Atlantic City slot machines, I logged into Ticketmaster on each computer one at a time, and by the time I got to the last laptop, the first one had errored out and I began again.

5 computer screens with error messages

I got in with 5 minutes to spare.

Six minutes later I was in the queue.

My heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, but at this point I was filled with optimism.  I’d cleared the two most difficult hurdles—surely we’d get tickets now.  We were hoping for good seats, but we’d be there, even if we had to settle for the nosebleed section.

Wouldn’t we?

One hour ticked by.  Then two.  I had Twitter open on one screen checking for updates from Ticketmaster, and the stadium seating chart up on another screen.

Taylor Swift ticket queue - 2000+

I was terrified of letting my screen go to sleep.  Every two seconds, I moved the cursor to make sure it stayed alive.

Nina and I kept in constant contact through text.  We hadn’t thought we’d need to use the second code, but the horror stories were coming through online—people getting kicked out of the queue for seemingly no reason after hours in line. People making it all the way through—picking out seats and then getting bumped out before they could pay.

I knew if we got in that I had to move like a Navy Seal on an extraction mission—in and out before the enemy bots knew I was even there.

Nina’s husband Tony had the second code, and I texted him at 12:30 pm and told him to try to get in line.  We’d have little chance with him logging on so late, but if I got bumped out of the queue at this point, we were dead.

At 12:54 I started hallucinating. 

I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.  I was afraid to take my eyes off the computer for even a moment.  I rescheduled work meetings.  I ignored critical emails.

My world shrunk to the size of the dot representing my place in line.

I was in the fight of my life.

In my favorite novel by Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, the character Mike says that he went bankrupt two ways.  “Gradually, then suddenly.”

That’s how it was for me and the Taylor Swift tickets.

At 1:57 pm, after 3 hours and 57 minutes of the screen saying that my place in line was “2000+,” it suddenly changed to 1,352.

Taylor Swift ticket queue - 1,352

I was on a mandatory work conference call.  With my heart pounding in my ears, I very calmly said, “I need to step away for a personal emergency” and hung up without waiting for permission.

Within seconds my place in line dropped to the 800s, then the 300s, then I was at 2….then 1.

Then I was in.

My hands shook but I pulled out my notebook with our preferred seating sections.  There were three tickets available in our 3rd choice—good seats at face value where we’d be able to see without watching the jumbotron all night.

This felt like a fever dream.  I wasn’t sure if it was really happening. 

Texts were coming in fast and furious from Nina demanding to know what was going on but I ignored everything.

It could still go sideways, I knew.

I couldn’t blow it with one false move.

I clicked the section, clicked 3 seats, and clicked “buy.”

I waited while the hourglass spun around and around.  I held my breath.  It was the longest moment of my life.

And then I saw the sweetest picture on my screen:

I’d done it.

I’d beaten the odds and the bots.

I’d survived a war of attrition that had taken out so many worthy adversaries.

I couldn’t believe it.

Neither could Nina.

ARE YOU SURE? she kept asking.

I wasn’t sure!

I couldn’t log into Ticketmaster to confirm, because it kept crashing.  But I had their confirmation email.

“Call the credit card company,” she told me.  “See if the charge is on there.”

I did, and it was.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep us from Acrisure Stadium on June 16, 2023.

The maximum number of tickets you could buy was six.  But I only needed three, and I only bought 3, even though I could’ve bought 3 more and sold them at 10 times their face value on Stub Hub.  But I left them behind.

Probably the bots got them.

But I’d like to think that someone else who wanted to see Taylor Swift just as much as I did picked up three tickets at face value for her and her young daughters.

I worked hard to get those tickets, but so did a lot of others who walked away empty handed.

Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am.

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Sliding Doors (1998)

Sliding Doors (1998) poster

All this time I’ve been taking the wrong message from Sliding Doors.

The movie depicts the parallel paths of Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) on the day she’s fired from her PR job—in one universe, she catches the train on her way home and finds her boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch) in bed with another woman.  In the other, she misses the train by seconds and remains unaware of his infidelity.

Quite helpfully, the first thing catch-the-train Helen does is get a pixie haircut so that we can easily tell which universe she’s in as the film bounces back and forth.

Pixie Helen meets sexy stranger James (John Hannah) on the train, opens her own PR firm, spends her time laughing and basically forgets that Gerry exists. 

Long-haired Helen eventually finds out about Gerry’s infidelity, but since she never got on the train, she’ll never meet James, the true love of her life.

Both universes end with Helen winding up in the hospital after life-threatening tragic accidents.

We leave Pixie Helen with James at her bedside.  Long-haired Helen kicks Gerry to the curb, walks into the elevator at the hospital and meets…James!

I always took away the heartening message that though the details may change, in the end you’ll always end up where you’re supposed to be.  Your destiny will find you even if you miss the train.

But that’s not what the movie is saying at all!  Because on my most recent viewing, I saw what I’d missed (or repressed!) before.  While James sits by Pixie Helen’s hospital bed, her eyes drift closed.  I thought she was just resting.  But in the background, the EKG quietly flatlines.

Pixie Helen dies!

How did I miss this?  What does this mean? 

The message has gone from, “everything will work out in the end” to “if you’re happy, death is imminent!”

I’m just not sure where to go from here.

Next thing you’ll be telling me there’s no Santa Clause.

Or that Ticketmaster cancelled the public sale of Taylor Swift tickets.

Helen dies in Sliding Doors (1998)


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women | Cruella |

Movies I’m Thankful For:  Cruella (2021)

Cruella (2021) Poster

Despite my fears, the pandemic didn’t kill the movie theater, at least not yet. 

After 15 months away, I returned to the movies.  It was chicken-and-egg time; studios didn’t want to release their biggest films until they were sure audiences would turn out to see them; audiences were waiting for something worth turning out for.

I was in a celebratory mood—I was out of the house, among people, and had a larger-than-life story on the screen in front of me.  May I never take it for granted again.

I wanted a popcorn movie—fun, loud, and over-the-top.

I wanted Cruella.

Cruella ticket stub

Emma Stone stars in this origin story of one of Disney’s most notorious villains—Cruella de Vil, the black and white haired woman who murders and skins dogs to make their pelts into a fur coat in 101 Dalmatians.

This version’s Cruella starts out as Estella, a rebellious girl with obvious creative talent.  Early in the film, a pack of vicious Dalmatians kill Estella’s mother, leaving her orphaned and out on the street.

Estella comes of age in the 1970s, a countercultural grifter who steals to eat.  Still rebellious, still talented. 

She wants to be a fashion designer and gets her chance when she gets wasted and redecorates the front window of a department store that catches the eye of The Baroness (Emma Thompson), a fashion world icon.

She and The Baroness become rivals with more than just fashion between them.

Estella’s not exactly a villain.  But she’s a far cry from the Disney princesses of my youth.

As Cruella herself tells the audience:

“The thing is I was born brilliant.  Born bad.  And a little bit mad.”

But don’t worry, no matter what the papers print about her, she never kills any dogs.

It’s still a Disney movie after all.

Emma Stone as Cruella


This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November. 

Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry:  Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge!How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic | Schindler’s List | Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol | Stardust | The Man in the Moon | The Others | Little Women |