Coco, Marjorie Prime, Robot & Frank – Memory is a curious thing!

I’m beginning to see a pattern here – In the last little while I’ve watched 3 movie/theatre events that addressed Memory Loss among the aging – and trust me, this is a very nervous subject.

As an aging senior – and my 70th birthday is fast approaching – I’m getting more and more concerned about what I can personally do to keep my memory intact. But I’m clearly not alone on this – clear evidence being Marjorie Prime, Robot & Frank, and surprisingly the kid oriented Coco. I’ve seen all 3 in the last month, and trust me – they have more in common that one can imagine.

First a quick summary of what I find ring similar about these three theatre pieces.

First Marjorie Prime. I’ve seen it both as a movie, and as a play. Of the two, the play is actually superior in so many ways. In fact, the movie just skims the surface of the play’s content. In the play, there are a series of ‘Prime’s’, not just the one in the movie. This makes an enormous difference in how one sees the Prime’s. For those who haven’t seen the movie or play, ‘Prime’s’ are Robots who recreate the key people in the lives of aging seniors – who thru the aging process are losing their memories, and whose ‘care-givers’ have decided to help them out by acquiring the ‘Primes’. So you are looking at the problem thru 3 lenses – the view point of the aging senior, the view point of the caregiver (generally a child of the aging senior), and the view point of the ‘Prime’.

Second is Robot & Frank. This I’ve only seen as the movie – and again you have the three lenses – the view point of the senior (Frank), the view point of the caregivers (his wife and kids), and the view point of the Robot.

Third is Coco. This animated movie is primarily told by the young great grandson of the aging Coco, but the focus of the story is the interaction of the Dead (who live thru the memories of those who knew them) and the living. As Coco’s memory fails her, her father who ‘lives’ in the land of the dead only because she remembers him, is increasingly alarmed that when she finally dies, he will no longer ‘live’. As the young great grandson learns who the father of Coco really is – he makes the decision to remember him.

So memory plays a key role in all three. Who do we remember, what do we remember, how do we remember them are really important questions. Will my kids remember me? Will their kids? Will their kids kids? I never knew my great grand parents, nor of course their parents – and there is nothing in our society that helps us know to know them. Compare that to my daughter’s in-laws. Her mother-in-law has made an effort to trace back her and her husband’s family back as far as she can – and has gotten back to at least 1100 AD.

But worrying about being remembered is only a small part of concern. What will I end up forgetting? And once it’s forgotten – it’s only if my kids remember that things are going to be remembered. Will my kids think I’ll need a ‘Prime’ or a ‘Robot’ to help me remember. Will the technology be there to support me? I’m not so sure, and so I worry.

As the optimist that I am, I’m ending this blog with ideas of how to keep your mental health as you age. These come from googling “Improving your memory” on the internet.

1) Play Games, Do puzzles, Do mental exercises. I like bridge and silly games like Criminal Case. But Chess, Backgammon, Tai-Chi, even Ballroom dancing are all ways to stay alert.

2) Be social. I’ve read this many times in many places. Folks who make an effort to be social are generally healthier – and age ‘happier’.

3) Exercise. Hey – very few of us really get enough exercise as we age. So get up and do something. Dance, Walk – and my sister’s favourite – Tai-Chi. Believe in the Nike Slogan – Just do it! I’m a fan of an app called “7 Minute Workout”. You can find it in the App Store, and it gets me up and moving every morning. Makes my heart beat faster too!

4) Master a new skill. Seriously – that sounds harder and harder to do as we age, but it’s a really good way to improve your mental health. I have friends who at 70-80 are taking on new degrees at university, or like me – have opted to get serious about bridge. You are never too old to try something new, and your kids will be amazed.

5) From Harvard Health ( we get the following recommendations: follow a healthy diet (fruits and veggies people – eat those fruits and veggies), don’t smoke (you will smell better too), and keep those key medical indicators under control – that’s blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. They also suggest getting a pet, because caring for a pet gives us something to do – and definitely correlates with metal health. If getting a pet seems too challenging – then caring for a grand-child (or someone else’s kid) is also good for your mental health.

6) Make life style changes. If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, smoke, don’t exercise, eat poorly – you know who you are. Stop. Re-think what you are doing, and make those life style changes. All of these negative things have been correlated with decreasing brain function – ie: memory loss.

7) Here’s one that apparently cuts both ways – Multi-tasking. One source suggested stopping multi-tasking as a way to help your memory, but the Harvard Health site suggests that busy people who do lots of different things have less memory loss. I’m thinking that Harvard is more likely to have it right.

8) Stop taking certain over-the-counter medications. There are clear indications (generally written right on the boxes) that these can negatively impact your mental health. I’m not going to quote the lengthy article on the subject – but here’s the link (Click here). The drugs to avoid deliberately impact the parts of your system that helps the brain and nerve cells process information.

I know that none of this is really new information – all of us have heard from our mothers that it was important to eat right and exercise. But if avoiding or delaying memory loss is as important to you as it is to me – clearly taking this advice to heart is important.

Signing off to go do some more physical exercise.. and play some more bridge … and do some traveling..

The Soup Lady

Complete Unknown – Sundance 2016

Imagine walking into a dinner party and coming face to face with someone from your past – but being told they have a completely different name, different history, different life.

Complete Unknown puts Tom (Michael Shannon) into this exact position – and forces him and the audience along with him to examine not only their current happiness – but what it means to ‘be someone’.

Alice (aka Jennifer, aka 8 other people) is played with convincing sincerity by the lovely Rachael Weisz. An over-the-top brilliant young woman with incredible talents – she has come to realize that life can be boring – and one way to eliminate the boredom is to become someone else.

Which leaves the audience to wonder – would I be happier/more fullfilled/less regretful if I just re-invented myself. Is it even possible to just suddenly decide to be a nurse, or a doctor, or a research technician – and after carefully doing the required research – pass yourself off as same to an unwary world?

Would we – the unwary world in which Alice swims – even recognize the foolery – or do we make decisions about folks without doing the hard double checking? Do you really know who were the guests at your last dinner party? How would you re-act to a new person coming to dinner – would you accept them at face value – or wonder if they really were who and what they said they were.

Talented director Joshua Marston sets out to ask us to reconsider the enigma of humanity – and in doing so creates a completely engrossing and challenging film.

It seems easy to think that we’d be smarter than Tom’s family and friends – but I’m not so sure. I think I for one could be easily fooled – and if the ‘fooler’ was determined to carry on the charade – I’d probably go along for the ride.

And here’s a stunning thought – is being a re-enactor so very different from what Alice is doing? When I introduce myself as M. le Docteur Jean Vivant do Clairmont – am I not inventing a past and a career that of course has nothing to do with reality.

Something to think about surely!

Our plan – when the film comes out on DVD – as it surely will – we’ll organize a dinner party – and challenge our guests on the topic. When are you sure you really know someone – and when do you get surprised?

Signing off to see even more movies… The Soup Lady

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Sundance Must See

No Joke – I laughed till I cried at the outlandish things that happen in this run-away comedy by Taika Waititi. It’s an absolute must-see – and it’s playing 4 more times here at Sundance before it hits the distribution circuit – If you are also here in Park City – Go Check It Out! Otherwise – keep your eyes peeled for this film to hit a screen near you.

The plot is pretty simple – its the twists and turns and great acting that will totally rock you. As a member of the audience pointed out – it’s a buddy film – complete with a car chase. But this is only the frame work on which Taika has hung one amazingly wonderful film.

A 13 year old boy – called “A really Bad Egg” by the hare-brained and wildly offensive Social Worker – is delivered into the hands of a tacturn husband and his overly gragarious wife living at the edge of the New Zealand bush – nothing but glorious trees and vines and roots for miles and miles and miles in all directions. Naturally the boy is hardly happy to be there – but the wife of the family is willing to go the distance to help him get settled in. Bounce forward past some hilarious scenes including boar hunting – and the wife suddenly dies, not surprisingly leaving the husband (played to perfection by Sam Neil) on the run from an increasingly outrageous cast of characters – and of course that wild and crazy social worker.

It’s funny, it’s endearing, it’s delightful – and you will be quoting scenes – particularly the bits with non-so-psycho Sam – over and over.

One of the reasons one comes to Sundance in the first place is to see films that you’d never get to see in the real world. But this film is going to be distributed widely – so when it comes to your ‘art house theatre’ – Go!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Remember it.

Signing off to go to more films – and do much more skiing – The Soup Lady

Business Class ROCKS – or what a difference a Plane Reno Makes

I knew that they had changed something about my long leg – the flight from Paris to Singapore. When I went to print my boarding passes – my seat assignment was different – and when I went to change it back – the seat map was completely different.

So no surprise that there were changes – but I was still stunned by the difference!

But before I get to my flight – a quick review of the Charles De Gaul Hilton. I arrived in Paris at 8:00 AM – and had to fly out at 7:30 PM – and I can’t sleep on airplanes. So I knew I was going to need to find a bed when I arrived in Paris. My husband encouraged me to stay at the Hilton – he’s used it before on these airport stays – and thinks of it quite fondly.

So – expensive reservation made (I opted for the room that gave me access to the executive lounge, figuring I’d grab breakfast before hitting the sack) – I arrived in Paris – terminal 2E. There’s a shuttle every 15 minutes from 2E to the hotel – but who knew. Despite telling the hotel when I was arriving – the only instructions they gave me had me on the airport metro – a short 4 stop metro between Terminal 2, Terminal 1 and 3, and a parking lot.

So – I got off the plane – walked thru passport control and luggage claim, out to the airport, back towards the center of the airport, got on the metro thingy, go off 2 stops later, then walked around that building until I spotted the Hilton. It was a huge problem – but the entire thing could have been easily avoided had I known to grab their shuttle from terminal 2. Good news – used that on the way back – dropped me right off at my gate.

Breakfast in the Executive Lounge was ok – but not worth what I paid for the upgrade. Message to self – next time don’t bother. I got to the room – nice comfy bed – great bathroom – and collapsed. 4 Hours later – I awoke – really to boggie. Had a very refreshing shower – took the shuttle to the airport – and found the Air France Executive lounge. All good!

On to the flight.

On January 1, 2015 – Air France introduced brand new seats in Business Class on several of it’s long haul flights – and mine was one of the lucky ones. Oh – what a seat. I’ve walked past these egg shell shaped curved seats many times – this was the first time I got to press the buttons!

My seat was awesome. No seriously – really amazing. It was a full Flat bed – which means that it goes completely flat – so comfy for sleeping. The TV screen is huge – and close enough to my face for me to see it easily – and it was clean. And touch sensitive. They provided a fancy touch sensitive remote – but I never actually used it. One part of the egg hold the TV, and a shelf that becomes part of the bed when the chair is extended. Super large – super handy for my purse and back-pack. On the other part of the egg – the part with the chair – there was a very large area for putting stuff – and a cabinet that opened. It held the provided headphones (dearly wish they were more comfy – my ears were in pain by the end of the 19 hours) – and was large enough for me to tuck in my ipad. There were 2 plugs – one a multi-plug outlet that accepted not only my US connectors – but also the connectors for a multiple of other countries. The other plug was a USB port – which would charge my iphone – but not my ipad. Oh well.

So – I sat down – and my neighbor quickly realized I was new at this – and was very happy to demonstrate all the bells and whistles! Up down, into a bed, into a chair – move the back of the chair – what fun. Only thing missing – built in massage!

Standard amenities (how many cheap toothbrushes does anyone need), little slippers – and those socks that fit no one. Nice blanket, big pillow – I was in heaven.

And the food was pretty darn good too! I loved the amuse Bouche of peas and cream, the shrimp was ok – but the winner was the Cod with black Rice. It’s a celeberty chef’s dish – and it was yummy. And the fish was properly cooked – amazing for airline food. Standard cheese course (and great bread), plenty of water – this time wihout needing the constant reminders, and a very light dessert completed the dinner portion. The staff passed several times during the night – and if you were obviously awake (ok – I slept a total of 5 hours – which is probably some kind of record for me) – they gave you little bowls of rubarb-apple sauce. Very refreshing.

Entertainment – watched 3 films – Magic in the Moonlight by Woodie Allen – great film – you have to watch it, and 2 smash ‘m up films – Milifcent and Guardians of the Galaxy. Not sure why I watched the Guardians of the Galaxy – it’s quite silly on a tiny screen. But it is what it is.

Breakfast was a waste – terrible coffee (I forgot to ask for the hot chocolate – and they didn’t offer it either), and unlike the flight from Montreal – the bread was cold. I did enjoy the Broiche though.

Fussy about breakfast aside (I think the big problem for me was the abundance of fancy mushrooms on the omlet. I love omlets – hate mushrooms), I was dutifully impressed. Absolutely worth every penny to get that seat and that food for that long of a flight.

We were a bit late departing from Paris – which put us in late to Singapore – but I had no issues with the transafer – in fact the new gate was directly accross from the old one. One thing surprising about Singapore – the gates are all encloed in glass (floor to ceiling), and the security check is INSIDE the glass. So about 40 minutes before departure – the gate opens and you must go thru security at that point. This despite the fact that you had to have cleared security before getting on the plane you just got off. I guess they have decided that having 2 machines at every gate is more efficient that having one big line at the spot where people enter the entire gate area. Interesting.

Ok – enough of this – I’m waiting for my flight to Bali – making good use of their free internet here in Singapore. It’s 30 degrees C outside – that’s 50 degrees WARMER than what I left 2 days ago in Montreal. But you can’t tell that from here – the airport is of course air conditioned – and people don’t look much different from how they’d be dressed for a Montreal summer. Sandles and flip flops are the norm – but only one gal is wearing a tank top – everyone is pretty conservatively dressed for that hot a climate.

Moving on – The Soup Lady

Robin Williams – for me he was the voice of my times

I sometimes don’t do news – it’s so depressing, often boring, frequently silly. So somehow I didn’t know that the world lost Robin Williams until the morning. And it hit me hard. Very hard.

He was just 3 years younger than me – effectively a contemporary. His humor was our humor – we laughed at Mork and Mindy because going into space was something we all dreamed of doing. I remember when Russia looked like it might win the space race – and laughing at Mork was our way of laughing at Russia. And just like his role in Moscow on the Hudson – he captures what we’re afraid of – and makes it funny. Looking back – maybe we shouldn’t have been afraid – but Robin was there for us when we were.

Vietnam was our war – and Good Morning, Vietnam was how I wanted to think of it after the fact. Crazy, nuts, but with real people trying hard to do the right thing – and maybe not winning even a battle. But trying.

I can’t hear it’s a Beautiful World without Robin’s face flashing into my head – so strong is the association between Robin and my history and that movie. And he doesn’t even appear when that song plays.

I didn’t see every movie he made – but I was at Sundance in 2009 when he briefly stopped in to chat about his newest movie – World’s Greatest Dad. In some kind of not very funny world loop – it’s about a father whose son kills himself.

Reach out – right now – and hug someone you love. It’s the best way of celebrating his life and his memory.

Signing off for now – The Soup Lady

Best Movie on an Airplane – EVER! “Fly Away Home”

I can’t believe that this is my 5th long haul (over 5 hour) flight in 3 weeks. Nuts I tell you, nuts. But here I am – stuck in a tiny seat with no fresh air headed to Munich. At least I have one of those individual TV sets – nice they let the slobs in economy enjoy them too, eh?

My choices are not great – I watch Monster University – which is predictable but fun, and then I try several other losers. Honestly – what garbage. But eventually I happen on the best movie I’ve seen in quite some time – a surprisingly sweet charmer called “Fly Away Home”.

Remember – it’s a tiny screen and it’s the middle of the night. You want a memorable story that is easy to understand and visuals that are captivating. Action movies on a tiny screen are lost in translation!

And from this point of view – “Fly Away Home” delivers. The story is based on a true story – a young gal (13 turning 14 in the movie) from Ontario adopts 16 Canadian wild goose eggs. She manages to hatch the eggs, and the babies adopt her as their mother. So far – so cute. But the Canadian Goose migrates – and normally the parents take the children south the first time, showing them the route. From then on – the young geese find their own way back home in the Spring. So the gal and her single parent father must figure out how to get those geese south.

The solution – lighter than air airplanes that fly slowly enough to keep the birds company. Since the birds will literally follow their ‘mom’ anywhere – they follow her thru the air, heading south.

It’s a charming story – and the visuals are stunning. The rather silly confrontation with the developer at the end is pure movie imagination, they didn’t think that people would be happy with a simple happy ending.

Bottom line on this – don’t pay a fortune, but if this movie shows up on your local free channel – go for it. It’s way cute.

6 Movies in 10 Hours! Why would one do that?

Clearly – I was stuck on an airplane with individual TV’s! So I indulged: Stardust, Star Trek Into Darkness, Parental Guidance, the Big Wedding, Legend of Sarila, and finally The Internship.

The only seriously good movie on the list was Stardust – and that’s based on the awesome performance by Michelle Pfeiffer as the wicked witch. I can’t help but feel sympathy when she tries to ‘magic’ away an age spot – and ends up with sagging breasts! I also must admit to a fondness for Robert de Niro’s “poffy” captain of the airship. Charmont to say the least.

“The internship”, my second favorite on the list, is a fairly predictable but still amusing outing by Owen Wilson – typecast as the hopeless endearing shaggy mop-man, but still a glimpse into what it must be like to do an internship at Google with a job as the high-stake prize. Having super smart kids who are struggling with the shrinking job market – their predicament is all too real. If only it was as easy as winning a soccer match, or selling a pizza place on advertising with Google.

The worst of the bunch – and that’s saying a lot because it’s hard to find something good to say about Parental Guidance, is the Star Trek mishap. Fancy visual effects aside – and managing to take down a good portion of San Francisco without ‘killing’ anyone is a pretty weird bit of story telling – the fake romance between Uhura and Spock is so decidedly off-putting and off-story that it makes the rest of the movie ignor-able. How can I believe Kirk is real when there’s this strange back-story? I’m amazed to see that Rotten Tomatoes managed to get past that bit of insanity, but I just couldn’t.

Middle of the road – and really the saving grace is the believable scenery – is the ‘cartoon’ feature – Legend of Sarila. I’ve actually traveled into Northern Quebec, Nunavik, and Greenland. And I can tell you first hand – it actually looks like that. Even the oil lamp/bowl looks exactly like items we saw the Inuit using. Yes it’s a legend – but the story it tells – and the people it portrays are real. Problems? Well – it’s too clean, it’s too simple, and Sedna – a major goddess to the Inuit – is too easy to please. But as a kid friendly introduction to a life that most of us can’t imagine trying to live – this movie does work.

As for Parental Guidance and the Big Wedding. Skip’m!

“English – Vinglish” – Great Movie – Love the Content

I can’t sleep on airplanes – in 1969 I was on a propeller plane, crossing the Atlantic ocean, when I watched one of the engines catch on fire. The plane did a slow 180 degree turn, we landed in emergency mode at Shannon airport and spent 3 days waiting for parts. Not something you forget – so no sleeping on planes for me.

Why the story? Well – I just flew from Korea to Montreal – 12.5 hours in a plane with nothing but the video system as company. So I watched 5 movies – and this was easily, hands-down, my favorite. It’s a must see movie if you travel to countries where you don’t speak the language – or if you live in a big city and have ever run into a tourist trying so hard to manage without a clue. Trust me – this movie is an attitude changer!

Here’s the link to trailer:

I leave it to better users of Google to figure out how to watch the movie – I’m pretty sure you can do it – I’m just not that good at video links!

On to the review.

The story line of “English – Vinglish” is simple – a Hindi wife and mother of 2 children living in India is embarrassed by her lack of knowledge of English – a lack that is made critical by the fact that her sister’s daughter is getting married in New York City, and as auntie she is expected to help organize the event. This puts her in New York City for 5 weeks – with literally no grasp of English and not much to do. So despite her conservative up-bringing, and very shy nature – she decides to take English lessons, one of those ‘Learn English in 4 weeks’ immersion courses. The story then follows the class and what happens there and contrasts it with what is happening in her family life, both in New York and in India.

Why did I love the movie? Because I just experienced exactly the things they so carefully show her trying to survive. Going thru immigration, ordering a meal at a restaurant and having to ‘see’ the food to order, getting flustered if the service person rushes you, and worse, getting embarrassed when you realize your stupidity is holding up a line.

Been there – done that!

The Intrepid Traveler and I didn’t have the heroine’s ability or desire to learn a language (Korean in our case) in under 5 weeks – but we did learn to avoid lines – to wait till there was a break before attempting to place an order, knowing that it might take us a bit longer. And we got really messed up on the ‘metro’ system – it’s not easy to know which train to get on – thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Even on our last day in Seoul – someone over heard us saying where we wanted to go and kindly directed off the ‘wrong’ train and onto the right one.

Like the heroine of “English – Vinglish”, we know the palatable relief you experience when suddenly someone speaks to you in your language! You immediately go from being an idiot – to being intelligent.

The movie takes the bird-eye view on her classroom situation, and if you’ve ever taught, you can readily appreciate how frustratingly hard it is to learn to communicate complex thoughts in a foreign language.

Watching the movie – and thinking about how terribly hard and scary it can be to travel in a country where you don’t speak the language – is a bit of a game changer. And you might even be nicer the next time you realize that a visitor to your home town is having a challenge. Trust me – they will appreciate the smile, and the effort to help them help themselves!

Signing off – the Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler.