Category Archives: Entertainment

The Groundhog Way

Here’s the burning question: Did any of Wiarton Willie, Balzac Billy or Punxsutawney Phil see a shadow yesterday? According to national news (yes, this makes national news), the forecasts made by various notable rodents across North America yesterday certainly varied. In other words, not too reliable. But it’s a fun tradition – so long as, I suppose, you don’t ask the groundhogs who’re thrust into the spotlight. Another tradition: watching Groundhog Day the movie, inevitably aired on TV this time every year.

In case it isn’t part of your own holiday tradition, here’s the run-through: The flick, made in 1993, features the incorrigible Bill Murray as an arrogant, egocentric weatherman stuck in a time loop. He’s destined to repeat Groundhog Day, over and over, until he gets it right. What does that mean? He’s got to become a better person, doing more acts of niceness and fewer of narcissism.

Hubby and I have seen this motion picture more than once. But this was the first year our 12-year-old daughter watched along with us. We got to dissect the storyline to death afterwards, discussing personal development and moral character and noble virtues and junk and stuff. Good times.

By the way, anyone who doubts Bill Murray’s sense of humour should take 10 minutes for this video spoof about fact-checking, which has for years made the rounds in writers’ and editors’ circles. For further evidence, check out his self-deprecating cameo in Zombieland (you’ll never look at Purell quite the same way again). That’s all I’ll say. Happy Groundhog Day, and may you always be of noble character… and junk and stuff.

A scene from the Groundhog Day movie

Bill Murray and his woodchuck chum take a joyride without consequences in Groundhog Day.

Breaking Bread with Bon Jovi

What’s not to like about Jon Bon Jovi? Good looks: Check. Musical talent: Check. Altruism? Check-check-check-check-check-check… (wait, I think that’s the sound of my heart beating faster…)

Bon Jovi’s new restaurant, Soul Kitchen, opened last month in Red Bank, New Jersey. Its catchy tagline: “Hope is Delicious.” Well, if hope comes grilled to perfection and drizzled in a balsamic glaze, then I’d probably have to agree.

The premise of the place is that whether or not your pocket’s full, your belly is guaranteed to be. Everyone hungry is welcome, and no prices are printed on the menus. If you’re down on your luck, you can pay little or nothing. If you’re in a position to fork over more than the basic cost of your meal ($10), you’ll help subsidize another person’s salmon fillet. Anyone, whether flush or flat broke, can work off the restaurant’s costs by volunteering as kitchen or serving help.

Bon Jovi says his idea was inspired by a Colorado café called SAME (So All May Eat), where people in need can nosh, then volunteer in lieu of paying their tab. “At a time when 1 in 5 families are living at or below the poverty line and 1 in 6 children in NJ are food insecure, this is a restaurant whose time has come,” he writes on his blog. Bon Jovi hopes Soul Kitchen will spark similar initiatives in other communities.

I’m not sure exactly which desserts are on this restaurant’s menu, but clearly there’s no shortage of sweetness in this establishment. Rock on.

Sing and the Whole World Sings with You

Today’s a good day for turning up the tunes. Know how I know? ’Cause every day is music day. Don’t you just love the smell of sixteenth notes in the morning?

Back in January, I posted about inspirational quotes from well-known names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

More lately I’ve been thinking about songs that inspire kindness, compassion and a general wellwishing for other living creatures.

Well, it’s hard to compare the likes of the Dalai Lama to Three Dog Night – it’s like comparing apples to orangutans – but do I think some song lyrics can be just as uplifting as those wise old sayings.

Today I’m posting just a few of my musical picks. But in the spirit of Fun Friday, I’m not divulging the titles – you have to click the links to find them out!

1. Put what in my where? [click here]

2. For those who don’t like peas… [click here]

3. You just can’t go wrong with an American Hasidic Jewish reggae artist. [click here]

4. The best kind of math… [click here]

5. When you’re feeling askew… [click here]

6. And finally, leaving out Satchmo would be just plain wrong… [click here]

I’d love to know what songs make you feel like hugging your friends, helping your neighbours, spreading the joy, picking up litter. Feel free to share!

I’d Turn off the TV

Have you seen the television show called “What Would You Do”? The hour-long program airs on ABC on Friday nights. Actors are planted in public settings where they play out some kind of interpersonal conflict: a shopper behaves cruelly towards a grocery bagger with a disability; an interracial couple announces their engagement to racist parents who freak out; a waitress applying at a restaurant is told she can’t wear a Muslim head covering on the job.

The storylines are completely fake. But unwitting bystanders overhear these exchanges, and the question to viewers becomes: Will they intervene? Will they come to a stranger’s aid? Will they stand up for what’s right? Or as host John Quiñones puts it, “When you think no one is watching, do you step in, step up or step away?”

The premise sounds promising. After all, we know people are mostly kindhearted. So wouldn’t this show simply demonstrate the best side of humanity?

It certainly involves a whole lot of hidden cameras, disguises and intrigue. But the only real mystery on this show is how long it will take before a variety of unsuspecting Americans are revealed to be bigots or wimps. They’re the ones who hang back, maybe grimacing in disapproval or whispering to their friends when they see a disturbing altercation, but never really getting involved. And then there’s all the make-you-squirm scenarios that are acted out specially for the show: An over-the-edge mom throws her squabbling young children out of the car and drives away. A badly battered woman walks into a restaurant followed by an abusive boyfriend who berates her. Why do we want to watch people make this stuff up? Sure, maybe some of them were inspired, as the host says, by real-life news. But hello: who really needs to see them re-enacted in all their gory details? Isn’t that a bit like gaping at a car wreck?

Unfortunately this kind of setup not only brings out the best in people, but also the worst in a few folks who take the wrong side, or just hang back in apathy. And that seems to play right into what the producers are going for: The WWYD website promises to “draw outrage” and make you “cringe.” Sure, high drama makes great reality television. If helpful bystanders stepped in every time, there wouldn’t be any show.

But, see, I don’t think we need to fabricate more ugliness. Although I like the idea of a TV show that makes us think about when and how we offer a helping hand to someone in distress, this one doesn’t do it for me.

What Would I Do? Probably turn off the TV.

Feel-Good Flicks

It’s a long weekend – feel like taking in a movie? I caught a few minutes of a Nicolas Cage flick last week, that one from the 1990s in which he wins the lottery and splits the proceeds with a waitress. It’s called It Could Happen to You. (Could it? Really?) And while I don’t want to spoil the ending, let’s just say that for someone who takes an interest in random acts of kindness (and revenge on the rather self-centered characters – come on people, let’s ’fess up), the story scores points.

That made me think about other examples of good deeds on film. There’s Pay It Forward (2000), in which the “I-see-dead-people” kid comes up with a scheme to perform kindnesses to others who will in turn pay the favours forward, instead of paying them back.

I also loved quirky Bill Murray in 1993’s Groundhog Day. Murray rarely disappoints – it’s impossible to overemphasize how much I adored his cameo in Zombieland – and in Groundhog Day, he’s true to form. In this movie Murray’s stuck in a kind of time loop until he can improve his character. And, of course, acts of kindness do factor into the plot, big-time.

Then there’s Defending Your Life (1991), an Albert Brooks film I’ve only seen once. As I recall, the theme of character-building ran through this story as well. And can I just take a time-out here to ponder a point: What’s with this 1990s obsession with good deeds? Or am I forgetting a few gems on kindnesses from other eras?

So I’m turning it over to you. What movies do you recall or recommend that have to do with helping others, or making a difference?

Please feel free to chime in. Most of us have got a four-day weekend ahead of us, and a DVD player in the den just waiting for a good time.