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Blogathon Theme Day: Five Movies that Influenced My Blog

Sake glass in Yanaka Cemetery, December, 2011
Just like last year's first theme day - Five Favorite Writing Books - I found myself a bit stumped for this post. We don't watch as many films as we used to, and I tend to doze off now when we do. (I'm not that old, but I am that busy, I guess.) When we moved to rural Michigan in 2002, theaters were a goodly drive away and we didn't have a television. (We haven't had one, actually, since 1995. No regrets.) The Clinton Theater opened a year or so later, and we gladly went along to support that historic venue's efforts. It was in those days, too, that this blog began. All this is to say that movies do influence my writing and my life now and again, and I'll share a few here that sprang to mind for this theme.

Big Night (1996) - This was the first movie I saw that told its story via food as well as culture. And the music was fantastic. I began to think about food in a whole new way - as part of heritage, as a beautiful thing, as something to be passionate about. Near the same time we joined our first CSA and I met Swiss Chard, burdock, and a bounty of other vegetables fresh from Henry's Farm. Henry's family shared recipes and the stories of how they came to be in a weekly newsletter that I still have in a box in America somewhere. Something in me woke up then, started stirring the pot of my imagination as I pored over those recipes and started experimenting on my own with growing things and food combinations.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - I saw this movie before we moved to Japan and loved it. We picked it up somewhat randomly from the library, I think, and were enchanted. The imagery, the sentiment, and the story were utterly charming. It's the kind of story that makes you wish it was true. It hurts to see it end, and then you're sure it must be true because how could something so wonderful not be? I think it made me even more determined to be an organic gardener, and probably even set me on the road to permaculture that I seem to be traveling now. A slightly disorderly looking space is full of cozy green nooks and crannies that Totoro would find inviting, and chemicals of any kind would only hurt him. Clearly, I could choose no other path.

Super Size Me (2004) - Eden Foods, headquartered in nearby Clinton, sponsored a free showing of this movie at the Clinton Theater in an effort to raise awareness of America's growing food crisis. Each showing was packed to the brim, and we, of course, went. Morgan Spurlock graphically illustrated what fast food was doing to us as a people, as individuals, and as a community. I was sick to my stomach and in my heart. I still can't eat at McDonald's, truth be told. The silver-lining of the evening, though, was a 'first date' with a couple who farmed nearby and remain among our closest friends to this day. There'd be no marmalade, eggplant pickles, or probably even much a garden if it wasn't for Ambry Farms and Morgan Spurlock.

The Secret Garden (1993) - I saw a BBC version of this when I was a kid still living at home with my mother. (We were big into PBS then.) I, unfortunately, hated gardening much to my mother's disappointment, but I loved books and reading and this was a great story. (I also had a budding passion for England based on a youthful enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes and anything considered a 'classic.') I still remember Mary Lennox joyfully digging in the beds, seeing the first white snowdrops, and wandering about this green place that was all mysterious and a child's dream where anything seemed possible. I suppose, now that I'm writing this, that it's not so different than Totoro. I still want to shape my garden into something wild like Mary's was, so alive with possibility, dreams, and joy in the little things.

Big Fish (2003) - Ewan McGregor is cute as a bug's ear, I have to say, and that made this movie even more endearing, although I had no idea he was even in it when I walked through the door of the Clinton Theater that night. We were living in rural Michigan, and I needed to get out of the house. I went alone (a not unusual practice as solitude in those days didn't happen very often and I deeply craved it) and sat in the dark as the tale unfolded before me. I like a bit of fantastic realism (I think life is richer, really, for such fantasies and who's to say whether these things are any more or less real than what I see before me? I can't see the bacteria and fungi working away in my compost bin or soil, but they are there supporting my efforts to grow, literally and figuratively, and setting good food on our table daily.) and I'm not above a good romance, either. I cried like a baby as rich story-telling and beautiful imagery swept my heart away and helped me remember how vibrant life is. I suppose it is what I hope to give my readers a taste of, too.

Ok, so let's hear tell of a movie that influenced your writing, farming, gardening, or whatever it is that you do.


Rhizowen said…
Have you seen Babette's Feast?
Maša said…
I love Secret Garden! it's one of my favorite movies.
Anjuli said…
I was stumped by the post and opted for another were stumped by the post and took the challenge...and I must have hit this one way out of the ball park!!! CHEERS!!!!!! Really great selection of movies and I loved your write up about each....I loved the gardens in Secret Garden...made me want to dive through the screen and be right there!
Traci said…
I LOVE My Neighbor Totoro! It's definitely one of my favorite animated movies of all time. So innocent and lovely. Every time I see it I get lost in that world. So enchanting!
Rhiz, I've not seen Babette's Feast, but I want to say that the title is ringing a bell in the dusty reaches of my mind. Do you recommend it?

Traci, I can't even begin to tell you how it captures life in Japan. I'll be riding the train or walking along, and nearly be stopped dead in my tracks by something I saw in one of the Ghibli movies. It's amazing.

Masa and Anjuli, I'm so glad to find other fans of that movie! I listed to it as an audiobook a few years back, and loved it as much then, too.
Van Waffle said…
My Neighbour Totoro is one of my absolute faves. It is the movie I watch when I am in distress and need comfort. I love the portrayal of childhood wonder and playfulness. I also have two daughters, who are grown now. When my marriage was breaking up I used to have nightmares about my younger daughters, who was only two at the time, running into traffic. I suppose Totoro is such a potent movie for me because it heals my worst grief. The film's sense of place and natural light through the course of a day is magical.
Van Waffle said…
By the way, I also recommend Babette's Feast.
Martin J Frid said…
I love "My Neighbor Totoro" but you should check out "Local Hero" a classic film from 1983 about a small town in Scotland that decides to not go along with oil drilling... Great music by Mark knopfler from Dire Straits. You can probably find it on Youtube.

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