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Hector and the Search for Happiness March 22, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew, Uncategorized.
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urlI recently saw Hector and the Search for Happiness about Hector (Simon Pegg), a quirky psychiatrist, who has a good business, a beautiful girlfriend, Clare (Rosamund Pike), who does everything for him, and an expensively furnished apartment. Yet he isn’t satisfied with his life. Everyday he listens to his client’s problems, yet he feels like a fraud because he’s giving them advice and they aren’t getting happier.

The pressure within Hector builds as he listens to a client’s seemingly “trivial” problems until finally he explods and yells at her.

After another incident where Hector overreacts, he decides he needs to take a journey to figure out what happiness is and to resolve some issues from the past. Clare is too busy at work to come on the trip with him and her immediate reaction is that he wants to break up. He says he doesn’t and asks her if she’ll be there when he returns. She asks him how long he’ll be gone. When he replies that he doesn’t know, she says then she doesn’t know if she’ll be there or not.

Clare gives him a journal as a parting gift and he uses it to write down his own insights into happiness. He also asks the people he meets what they think happiness is and jots down their answers. His journey takes him to different places in the world with his focus being on interacting with people not on seeing the sites.

The story is told with humor mixed with some real insights into life and the different ways people look at happiness. In the journey Hector is confronted with life, death, illness, love, wealth, poverty, sex, family, and nostalgia.

The movie is good in that it makes you reflect on what happiness means to you. It shows how each person defines happiness differently and how some people aren’t happy now but think they will be in the future after they make a lot of money or retire or are healthy etc.

As I watched it, I thought about my own concept of happiness and how to live a happier life. I realized I have many good things in my life, but I often don’t see them. For me being happy should be in the moment, in the here and now, not in some time in the future. I don’t have to wait for something to happen to be happy. I also don’t have to let other people’s actions control my happiness. I’m happier when I see the blessings in my life and the gifts that are all around me. I also realized love is the key to happiness.

We’re all like Hector in that we are each on our own journey of self-discovery to find the meaning of life and happiness.

What makes you happy? Have you ever longed for something thinking it would make you happy and when you got it, discovered that it didn’t give you the joy you thought it would? What does happiness mean to you?

Here is the official trailer of the movie.



Bel Kaufman, An inspiring woman at 101 February 21, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized, Writing.
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From time to time we are asked the question: “What if this was your last day?”  Instead I was wondering: “What you would do if you knew you were going to live to be 100?”  How would you live differently?  Would you still retire at 62 or 65 or even 70?  What interests would you pursue if you knew you had another 35 or 40 year to pursue them in after retirement?  What ways would you contribute to the world during those 35 to 40 years?

ImageRecently I was sent a delightful YouTube of 101-year-old Bel Kaufman. She said that retiring is like retiring from life and is quoted to have said, “I’m too busy to get old.”  At 100 she taught a college class on Jewish humor at Hunter College.  Even she seemed impressed by being asked to teach a class at her age.  She still has a sharp mind and a great sense of humor, as you will see on this YouTube on fascinating elders.


Bel Kaufman was born in 1911 in Berlin, Germany where her father was studying medicine, but her native language was Russian.  She was raised in Odessa and Kiev (present-day Republic of Ukraine) until she was twelve and her family immigrated to the US.

Bel is best know for having written a best selling 1965 novel Up the Down Staircase that was turned into a movie.  The book was based on some of her experiences as a high school teacher.  Her grandfather who wrote the stories that were developed into Fiddler on the Roof and who corresponded with other Russian authors such as Leo Tolstoy influenced her.

Here is a talk she gave at Iona College.  It well worth listening to the YouTube. Bel talks about humor, her novel, and her experience of having her novel being made into a movie.


“What you would do if you knew you were going to live to be 100?”  Did these YouTubes change your idea of what it is like to be old.  I hesitate to say senior since Bel said being called a senior reminded her of senior prom.

Examining Rules February 9, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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My husband and I spent the week before Christmas in court.  A property we had a small ownership share of was sued.  The jury didn’t rule in our favor, so on Friday night we decided to escape into the pleasure of watching a movie.  The first movie we saw Cider House Rules (1999).  After the movie was over I was still agitated over losing the lawsuit, so we watched Billie Elliot (2000). 

Both movies explored the theme of rules and whether there are times when a person is justified in breaking them.  Our experience in court also involved rules. During our law suit the judge decided many of the decisions in the courtroom like what evidence was admissible in court, and if one lawyer objected to a question the opposing lawyer asked, the judge sustained or overruled the objection.  To some degree the judge influenced our losing the case.  The plaintiff used the court system to extort money from the owners, and the judge seemed more interested in the rules than justice.

ImageCider House Rules explored right and wrong rules. The main character Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) was raised in an orphanage. Dr Wilbur (Michael Caine) who worked at the orphanage took him under his wing and trained him as his assistant.  Part of the doctor’s jobs was delivering unwed mother’s babies into the world. Sometimes the doctor performed illegal abortions.  Homer helped with the births but didn’t approve of abortions and wouldn’t assist with them. Dr. Wilbur broke the law when he performed the abortions, but he did it to save the life of pregnant girls who might otherwise have an unsafe abortion.

Eventually, Homer decided he wanted to see the world and left the orphanage with an unmarried couple after the woman had an abortion.  They invited him to work at a cider house.  A traveling group of fruit pickers came each year to live in the cider house and pick apples.  The house had a list of rules on the wall, but the migrant workers were illiterate.  Homer was educated at the orphanage and read the first rule loud.  The rule was to not smoke in bed, which one of the men happened to be doing.  The head of the migrant workers told Homer to stop reading the rules as they didn’t apply to them.

The list of rules was only a symbol for the much more profound rules that Homer must decide if he would follow.  He ended up breaking many rules some of which have profound consequences.

ImageThe second movie we watched was Billy Elliot (2000) set in 1984-1985 during a miner’s strike in Durham, England. Eleven-year-old Billy (Jamie Bell) was a miner’s son.  Both his father and older brother work in the mine, which was on strike.  Billy’s mother died and his senile grandmother lives with the family.  Billy’s father paid for Billy to take boxing lessons, but Billy had no interest in boxing.  When a ballet class started meeting in the same building as where Billy took boxing lessons, he found himself attracted to dance even though it’s an all-girl class.  The teacher encouraged him to dance, but insisted that he pay.  Billy skipped his boxing lessons and used his boxing money to pay for ballet dancing.  Eventually his father found out and was horrified that his son was doing something as unmanly as ballet dancing and wouldn’t let him continue. 

Meanwhile the whole town was on edge.  The miners were picketing and the mining company had hired scabs.  Billy’s older brother protested the scabs and got beaten up by the police and arrested. 

The dance teacher believed in Billy and she started teaching him privately for free.  She thought he had the talent to get a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School in London, and helped him develop a dance routine so he could audition. 

Getting into the academy in London would not only be a chance for Billy to dance, but also a chance to break out of the bleak future of becoming a miner.

Billy broke his father’s rules when he used his boxing money for dancing lessons.  Even after his father found out and forbid him to dance, Billy disobeyed his father and continued to take dance lessons because he loved dancing.  He said dancing was like he had this fire in his body, flying like bird, like electricity.

Both of these outstanding movies had powerful stories and great characters.  Billy Elliot also has fabulous dance sequences. Both movies caused me to think about rules long after I’d watched them. Rules are needed in a society by parents, teachers, governments,  etc. and most should be obeyed.  Yet some rules are bad ones or there are legitimate reasons for breaking them. 

What rules have you broken in your life?  When is it all right to break a rule and when is it wrong?  I’d enjoy hearing your feedback.   

Billy Elliot trailer


Billy Elliot dance scene

Cider House Rules trailer