Review: About Time

About Time (2013)
Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy. Written and Directed by Richard Curtis.

aboutTim Lake is just out of college and set to begin a career as a lawyer, moving to London from his family’s seaside home in Cornwall. His father has recently told him that the men in the family have the ability to travel in time, but only to places and times they’ve already been. An inordinately happy and peaceful man, Tim’s father strongly advises against using this ability to pursue money or fame. When Tim meets Mary at one of those dining-in-complete-darkness establishments, he falls in love and uses his skill to make things work (eventually) in his favor.

This is not at all the movie you think it is, with lots of traveling back and forth in time to make things work out okay–there is a kind of Butterfly Effect consideration, but that’s not where the real story lives. Instead, it imagines what you might use this skill for if things were already pretty much okay, or if the ability to move back in time weren’t enough to change some of the things you really want to change. Tim learns early that traveling in time won’t give him everything he wants, and ultimately certain people he cares about are saved by the love that motivates the main character. There is never really a cliffhanger moment of climax here; what we get instead is a nice, sweet movie about a man with a talent, and how the person wielding the talent is the critical element, not the talent itself. The greatest power of the atomic bomb was in its ability to convince us never to use it again. Tim’s time-travel isn’t exactly like that, for in his hands it is not at all a destructive force, but it makes you consider how good life is without it.

timeDomnhall Gleeson plays Tim, and you’ve seen him as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter movies. He and Rachel McAdams as Mary are wonderfully cast, playing young twenty-somethings with energy and sweetness, with wit and flirtiness and all the things that make you root for a young couple. They slide nicely into what must be their early thirties as the film moves along, and they are as likeable a pair as I’ve seen in a while. If you, like I, have been somewhat put off by McAdams’s recent efforts, here is a movie for you. And if you don’t love Bill Nighy, who plays Tim’s father, by the time this film is over, there’s just no hope for you. Nighy is almost always the best thing about any movie he is in, and this film continues the streak. If you’ve been missing the character he plays in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, grab this movie because here he mostly is again.

There are some films that seem to evade major mainstream success, and then to find their audiences slowly, over several years, as people who need to see them stumble upon them somewhere, and as word spreads gradually by people who’ve been touched by them. I can see all kinds of people whose tastes normally line up close to mine not enjoying this movie as much as I do, at least for the moment. But with absolutely nothing to support my suspicion, I have a feeling About Time is one of those movies. I found myself making all kinds of resolutions about my life, and how I’m going to change the way I think about the daily experiences of my existence, every time I saw this, and I’ve now seen it three times. It is objectively quite a good film. However, I’m throwing objectivity out the window and saying that I just love this movie, and I think there’s a fair chance anyone reading this (with the exception of one friend who I think will merely find it unobjectionable) will love it too. This movie makes me want to believe all the things my mildly cynical heart has slowly begun to crystalize against; it loosens up all the scar tissue, all the adhesions where I’ve Scotch-taped some of the wounds together so they won’t let anything in or out, and makes me think this second half of my life might possibly be better than the first.

9/10
93/100

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Thirty Minute Catch-Up

lost issueI’m giving myself thirty minutes to write as much of the stuff as I’ve been wanting to write as possible. If it’s rife with errors as you read it, it’s because I haven’t had a chance to edit yet. I’m trying to just make as much use of these thirty minutes before bed time as I can.

Sometime in August, Ryan hit me up in GTalk to verify that my friends and I attended the premiere of LOST ten years ago at a then-recurring local event called Sunset on the Beach, where movies are screened right on the beach at Waikiki. It’s where every LOST season premiere also premiered and where every Hawaii Five-0 season premiere has premiered, and it’s one of the best things about living in this city. Yes, I told Ryan. He asked if I’d be interested in being interviewed about the experience for a special commemorative issue of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (our city’s only daily paper now), and I declined, but I did put the writer in touch with one friend who agreed to the interview. Then, a few weeks later, before the special commemorative section was published, the editor of the entertainment section emailed me and asked if I would do a LOST-themed crossword for the section. I was flattered and somewhat daunted, but I said of course I can do that.

My first draft was rejected for not being LOSTy enough. I had tried to hold to certain established practices for themed puzzles in the current crossword market, but what the editor was asking me for was basically to discard one of those practices and go all-out on themed clues, even if it meant slightly less elegant “fill” (that’s crossword constructor jargon for the rest of the puzzle, the non-themed words). So I tried again, and within a day, we had something the editor liked. And on September 21, my first published crossword puzzle made its appearance in the pages of a major local daily. The answers appeared the next day, and a few days later, the Star-Advertiser released the content from behind the paywall, and it’s all here, including my puzzle, if you’re interested in checking it out. I can’t say I’m super proud of the work (it’s kind of obviously, to a practiced eye, the work of a beginner), but I’m proud of my contribution, and it pleases me enormously to have published this work.

Last week, I taught a three-day, eight-hour-a-day training session for the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health division of the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. It was a business writing course, and although I’m confident in my teaching ability and my knowledge of the subject, I had never taught anything like an eight-hour, one-subject day, and to do it for three consecutive days with the same group of participants was an insane concept. Of course, I said I could absolutely do it, and the days leading up to the training were insane. I had to put materials together and outline the course for a group of people I had never met. This went against everything I’ve known about good teaching, which is reponsive to the people in the seats, and it stressed me out something fierce. I slept just an hour Sunday night (the training went Monday through Wednesday) and three hours each the next two nights, and I was a mess, but the class went (mostly) quite well. The participants were great, and I feel very strongly that I could do this again, now that I have done it once. My course evaluations pretty much reflect my own feelings: I got high marks for teaching style and ability, but mediocre marks for relevant content. Strangely, I may have made a few friends there, too. We got along quite well.

I was then offered (on very very short notice) a one-day advanced grammar course for another state office, and I said I’d be happy to do it, but then the office requested the person who’d taught their course the last time, so I was let off the hook on that one. Still, I’m looking forward to other opportunities.

amandaA few weekends ago, I was finished with my paid writing and still sipping on my latte, so I flipped idly through the TV season offerings in the iTunes store. Always a dangerous situation, as I’m sure you know. Of course I bought something: Season One of HBO’s Silicon Valley, of which I will write a thoughtful review later. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. It’s funny and crude and fascinating, and as a bonus, the lone female character is one of my new favorites. The actress’s name is Amanda Crew, and she’s got kind of an Anna Kendrick thing going on. Just adorable. Season One is eight episodes, which feels like just the right length, and it’s been renewed for a second season. It’s from Mike Judge (the guy who did Beavis and Butthead AND King of the Hill) and I’ve now watched the season three times through, laughing aloud at least once in almost every episode. There is some really good writing here, and I love the subject matter.

Okay. Half an hour. Perhaps I’ll try again tomorrow night and get to the other stuff I’ve been meaning to get to.

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Review: Boyhood

Boyhood (2014)
Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelai Linklater, Ethan Hawke. Written and directed by Richard Linklater.

boSomething I have never understood about parenting (I don’t have any children) is the way all of my friends who have kids wish time would slow down, as if to say they never want these current moments of childhood to go away. This has never made sense to me: I understand that the innocence of childhood is a beautiful thing, but it disappears pretty quickly, and once that’s gone, it seems to me that kids get better as they get older. They become self-aware, thinking, complicated human beings moving toward some kind of enlightenment and purpose, people who make the world better or worse based on the choices they make. Since I have yet to meet the parent who thinks his or her child is making society worse, it baffles me that these parents aren’t eager to see their kids experience all the great things the world has to offer. Sure, a baby is a sweet, safe, cuddly thing, but it has never tried osso bucco, or seen The Princess Bride, or listened to The Dark Side of the Moon with headphones. Who wants to spend extended amounts of time with someone who can’t recite the Battle of Wits scene with Wallace Shawn and Cary Elwes?*

I think parents might really be made uncomfortable by Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a movie filmed across twelve years with the same actors, including the director’s own daughter and a boy who grows up in front of our eyes in a space smaller than three hours. I’ve seen the film twice, with two different groups of people, and almost everyone commented that there were moments when they were unaware whether, from one scene to another, a few hours had passed or several months. If you paid attention to popular music in the years between 2000 and 2012, songs in the soundtrack were indicators, but if you, like most parents I know, stopped paying attention to new music when you became a parent, the songs are all going to sound new, which I imagine is the way a lot of things seem in the time between their kids’ sixth and eighteenth birthdays, just this blur of passing interests, hobbies, fads, and styles.

yhoThe nature of time’s passage is the theme of Boyhood, which stars Ellar Coltrane as Mason, Lorelai Linklater as his older sister Samantha, Patricia Arquette as their mom, and Ethan Hawke as their dad. How does one mark the passage of time? How does one mark a human being’s growth? Seen one way, twelve years flies by, impossibly morphing children into adults and transforming young parents into empty-nesters. Seen another, it is a crawl, an inexorable process of trials and errors, of unseen, life-endangering near-catastrophes nobody thinks twice about, and of in-the-moment poor decisions that only with the perspective and distance of years can we look back upon as not that big a deal. Mason and his sister grow up before our very eyes, neither the same at the end of the film as at the beginning–in fact, neither young adult looks remotely like the children we meet in the movie’s first few minutes–and while we see the before and after and understand what has happened, we can’t definitely point to more than a few specific moments that contribute to their becoming the people they become. How does one character become kind of cynical and thoughtful, and how does another become responsible and level-headed, and why is yet another still kind of undefined as a person?

Yes, a lot of the mystery of how people become who they are in this film is the result of Linklater’s decisions about what to show us and what to leave out, but this is my point: the director has created a film that gives us the feeling, in three hours, of twelve years’ passing, and he’s left us with the same kind of baffled acceptance of how things are but only the haziest of ideas about how they got that way. He leaves in stuff we’d remember, but the stuff we remember is not necessarily the stuff that shapes us.

odI imagine there was really no way to tell what kind of actor Ellar Coltrane was someday going to become, but the early verdict points to some other career. He’s good enough for sure, and I imagine Linklater shaped the story in such a way as to put Coltrane’s personality, acting skills, and screen presence to best use. Lorelei Linklater is somewhat more talented, and a film career is certainly in the realm of possibility. Arquette and Hawke are really, really good, and Arquette is probably going to get some mentions when awards season rolls around.

There is a moment near the end of the film when Mason is leaving for college. He removes something from a box of belongings his mother has packed for him to take along. Mason doesn’t want it. It’s something he created when he was young, something that has no meaning for him today. It means something to his mother, though, and this disparity in the object’s significance upsets her. She has worked so hard, been through so much, and now at the precipice of new lives for them both, she has to accept that the things that mattered to her are not the things that mattered to him. Of course they aren’t. They are different people with different perspectives of these twelve years. In choosing the three hours’ worth of moments that lead to this one, whose perspective is Linklater offering? I don’t have an answer, but I suspect that a meaningful answer tells you what this film is really about. I’m okay with not knowing.

9/10
91/100

* I realize that not having children of my own disqualifies me in many people’s eyes from making a judgment about young men and women getting better (and more interesting) as they enter their teen years, but I taught teenagers for sixteen years, something many people (most of them parents!) have told me they could never do, and although I sent my students home at the end of every day, because of the nature of the teacher-student relationship, in many ways I have known them better than their parents have. So no, I do not have the perspective of a parent, but I have a different experience that lends my voice at least some creedence.

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Review: Tiger Eyes (2012)

Tiger Eyes (2012)
Willa Holland, Amy Jo Johnson, Tatanka Means. Directed by Lawrence Blume. Written by Lawrence Blume and Judy Blume.

tigerBefore 2012, despite more than eighty-two million sales in forty-one countries, no Judy Blume book had been turned into a major motion picture, a fact that confounds this lifelong fan. In these recent years, when the buying power of the American tweener has fueled fervor for sparkly vampires and wimpy kids’ diaries, you’d think that someone with Blume’s seemingly universal recognition would be a prime candidate for a good movie aimed at young people.

I suspect Blume’s being so far ahead of her time is to blame; at the height of her popularity, movies for young people avoided the frank and open discussion of topics that were then considered too personal for public discourse among teens. Now that the mass media is a bit more liberal with such calls, Blume’s work no longer stands out. It was more than enough, in the late Seventies and early Eighties, for a young adult novel simply to mention racism, bullying, menstruation, or masturbation to put it way out on the cutting edge. But in these years since the AIDS epidemic, since Donohue and Oprah, and since the verbal tiptoeing around a President’s impeachment, merely bringing up such issues doesn’t even qualify a novel for consideration on the After School Special. By the time America was ready for a Judy Blume movie, the source material was relevant only as a reminiscence for aging Gen Xers like me.

eyesIt shouldn’t have surprised me to learn that Blume’s 1981 Tiger Eyes was going to receive the big-screen treatment, but it did. It is Blume’s best book, with her most compelling plot, her best-realized characters, and her finest writing, and its subject matter, a teenaged girl’s dealing with the murder of her father, is generation-proof. Yet it came at the tail end of her prolificity, and it never gained the notoriety of many of its predecessors, so the built-in audience (and buzzy anticipation) that might have come with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was going to look very different, most likely much smaller, much older, and (forgive my ego’s saying it) much more thoughtful.

I looked forward to it with high hopes, mostly because I thought it was exactly the right choice.

Tiger Eyes is set in what looks like the current day, and it is directed by Lawrence Blume, the writer’s son, with a screenplay by Judy and Lawrence Blume. It stars Willa Holland as Davey, a teenager whose father was murdered in the family-owned coffee shop. Davey’s mother Gwen (Amy Jo Johnson) and little brother Jason leave their home in New Jersey to spend healing time in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with Gwen’s older sister. Gwen is a mess, retreating to her new bedroom to stay beneath the covers while her children are left to figure things out for themselves.

Davey enrolls at the local high school, but when your father has been murdered, she realizes, and you need time to recover, people will write you all kinds of passes for otherwise unacceptable behavior, so she spends a lot of time in a nearby canyon, where she meets a young Native American man named Wolf. Though neither mentions details, they can sense deep sadness in one another, and they speak instead in generalities about life, living, and moving on.

Those who have nothing personal already invested in this film will find it, at the very least, a competently made movie with a few interesting characters. It manages to be a quiet movie without dragging, and while it suffers in translation from a first-person-narrated novel to an outside-looking-in movie, it does a pretty good job of letting us see some of the complexities surrounding Davey’s immediate and extended families.

Viewers like me, who cannot help but compare the film to its beloved source, will find a few things to quibble with, such as changes in the way Davey’s relationship with Wolf is handled. The Blumes make a misguided decision about the film’s end that leaves me sorely disappointed, but even that is an understandable choice. As a movie about a suffering teen, I’m happy to say that it’s solidly above average. As the movie version of a book I read twenty times before I was sixteen, it gets almost everything right, and almost is really the best any of us can really hope for.

8/10
82/100

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Too Many Hands on My Time

I am still trying to figure out how to allocate time for all the things I need and want to do. I wrecked my car the Friday before Labor Day, so I have returned to bus rider status, something I don’t especially mind, but it does mean a lot of extra hassle to do certain things I’ve gotten used to, such as late nights at the all-night cafe (still doable, but so so difficult). And my morning swims at the beach, which I only recently added back to my life after finally releasing myself from my self-imposed grounding, are a no-go until I get some replacement wheels. It’s most inconvenient, but the accident was my fault, and I’m lucky I didn’t kill someone, so of course nothing I have to go through now is as bad as it could be.

I did come to an important realization this week, though, and it’s that I just don’t take sleep seriously enough. Which is weird for someone who had issues with nightmares and sleepwalking as a child and then horrible insomnia as a young adult. When I was teaching full time all those years, I was in a regular state of sleep deprivation, and I knew it didn’t have to be that way, but I just accepted it as part of the territory. Now, though, I sort of set my own hours, which means even if I don’t put myself to bed until 1:00, I can still get eight hours of sleep and then get all my work done.

So I am starting from there, with a commitment to getting seven hours per night, minimum, and eight or nine hours, ideally. And weekends? I’m going to allow myself even more if that’s what I think my body and brain want.

The sleep thing is not related to the accident, in case that’s what it sounds like. But it is one of the many things I was thinking about that morning.

It’s too early to think about results, since I didn’t make the commitment to myself until Thursday night. I got plenty Thursday night but was still a mess Friday day because I’d pulled a near-all-nighter Wednesday. I got a good amount Friday night and felt pretty good all day Saturday. Encouraging.

I can’t give details here and now, but I will by midweek, hopefully, about this little side-project (for a small amount of pay) I picked up. I have a Monday deadline, so once I know my work has been accepted, I’ll write about it here. I mention it now just to say that I’ve been a little stressed with the regular gigs plus this project, which has been pretty difficult to pull off. And then last week a friend (one of my sister’s high-school classmates) who runs a little PR firm called and asked if I’d help with some copy for an informational brochure my high school alma mater is working on. She said the principals specifically suggested that I might be able to help, which I found both flattering and touching. I thought I did a pretty good job with the copy, but then the PR person did her PR edits and basically stripped all the elegance out of my words. I understand that good writing in most of my usual realms and good writing in a brochure for potential applicants are quite likely two different things, but I was still mildly put off, in a good-natured way. Anyway, the principals liked my work and the brochure is off to the printer.

“The point, Charlie…is that she was thinking about me.” (Dead Poets Society)

My dad wants me to get a new car. As in shiny-new new. I’m 45 years old, he reminds me, and I’ve never had a new car. There’s a certain American dream element to the proposal that I totally get, and I won’t lie: who wouldn’t like a brand-new car? But I just got out of college debt last year, and I am not eager to get into any new debt, so if I get a new car, I’m paying cash for it, and that cannot happen for some time. So I am probably going to live a mendicant’s existence and then get anything I can afford at the end of November with whatever I’ve saved by then. I’d kind of like to get it at the beginning of November because of NaNoWriMo, but that’s kind of a stupid reason to settle for less car. Although I also think there’s probably little difference between a $2000 car and a $2500 car, which is likely what we’re talking about here.

Recently acquired a refurbished iPad 2 (32 gb), for professional reasons, and it has slowly been improving certain things about my play and work. I’ve never been a fan of videos on my laptop, for example, but converting media and then watching it on the tablet has been pretty enjoyable. I’m coming off a week and a half during which all of my content, personal and professional, was produced on the tablet, and I’m mostly pleased with the results. The prose fiction is much, much slower, but the quality seems to have improved, perhaps a result of that very slowness. Professional prose is slow anyway, so that hasn’t been too different outside the actual mechanics of composing on the tablet’s on-screen keyboard. I’ve had problems with spreadsheets, which I will perhaps document later, but honestly, spreadsheets make up very little of my regular work.

The nice thing with using the tablet for everything is that it’s so much nicer to carry around. I like that benefit so much that I’m even leaving my Kindle Paperwhite at home most days, even though I like it much better for reading. And you know what? Even for reading, the Kindle app on the tablet has some advantages. hIghlighting text, which I do a lot of for the professional reading, is a lot faster and smoother on the tablet (oh, that shiny, glassy touch-surface), and in some light, I actually prefer the way the tablet reads. It’s not as small, light, or portable as the Paperwhite, which is an issue, but when I’m reading for work, I prefer to read while seated at a table anyway, as opposed to the pleasure-reading, curled-up-with-a-good-book positions the Kindle allows.

This journal entry is my first typed up on the tablet, and I think I’m mostly pleased.

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Keeps Flowing Like a River (On and On)

My life has been a little strange since I switched jobs at the end of July.

My title is Curriculum Specialist, but that’s sort of a bureaucratic catchall title that means whatever the supervisor says it means. In this case, I’m doing an assortment of computer-related tasks, beginning with a revamped website for the program I work in (continuing education) but also stuff like flyers and proofreading. That’s eighteen hours a week, most of which I get done with in two days. I don’t clock all the hours, of course, but I’m sort of banking the over-hours for some time in the future when I’m short a few hours. I could almost take two weeks of vacation right now, based on how many hours I’ve put in outside the regulation.

To make up the income shortfall the shortened hours bring, I’m ramping up my work for RMA, starting with doubling my article output to two per week. This work is pretty challenging and I enjoy it, but I get paid for the product only, which lies in a realm outside my expertise. This means I spend a lot of uncompensated time (and money) reading books on subjects like work-life balance and working with Millennials. By the time you factor in the time I spend in cafes (since I still can’t work at home), it’s about a break-even proposition. Which I’m okay with for now.

The major challenge has been carving up my days so that I do what both pursuits need in reasonable and responsible amounts of time, and then making time for the other things, like swimming at the beach, taking walks, listening to music, personal reading, and writing. Oh, and sleeping. Sleep is a constant issue for me lately and I’m still figuring out the best way to get enough.

I want to take advantage of the flexibility of the hours to pursue the other things, not just the stuff I’ve listed, but a few of the other things I’ve put aside because teaching simply didn’t allow much of it. I want to continue to write puzzles (I just got a cool crossword puzzle one-off job that I’ll write about later) and I haven’t made any wine in a very long time. And certain web projects have stagnated in hiatus while I try to find sections of my life where there’s room to fit that stuff.

I’m not even sure how to begin organizing my thoughts and priorities as I try to make time for the things I need and the things I want, which is why I’m writing this here. I suppose I should start with the essentials, which are the two paying jobs plus the health and wellness stuff. Maybe once I find a schedule that works for them, I’ll know where the other stuff goes.

One of my problems is that the swimming involves my getting out of bed at 4:00 in the morning. This makes working late at night prohibitive, except that I work really well late at night. The result has been working late, getting three hours of sleep, then going for a swim, then doing a little bit of work with breakfast, then taking naps that last far too long, then trying to cram the two jobs in with the remainder of the day. It’s been inefficient to say the least.

This is so boring. I’m actually boring myself as I try to sort through this.

I think I’ve convinced myself to schedule the work hours and the sleep and exercise, and then see where in my day I have space for the other stuff.

But it’s 8:42 in the evening now and I guess I should get home and take care of my evening chores. That’s one routine I’ve managed to establish, something that lets me go to bed pretty satisfied that I got some personal stuff done.

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Haole to You, Too!

A text conversation a couple of weekends ago had @aipohaku and me challenging each other to create lists of our ten favorite movies set in Hawaii. I, of course, am late by a full week.

Note that I’m going for movies set in the Aloha State, not merely filmed here, so Jurrassic Park and The Karate Kid II are out.

10. Pearl Harbor (2001)
kateOkay, forget about the hype surrounding Pearl Harbor, the Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale pic that followed in the wake of Titanic as some kind of love story set against awful, historic events, and just look at is as an entertainment, and you’ll find some good stuff here, including a great recreation of the attack. I realize this is no masterpiece, but there’s some excellent Hawaii period footage like you don’t really see anymore.

9. From Here to Eternity (1953)
kerrThere’s that famous kissing scene on the beach, which I suppose is pretty good, even if it doesn’t live up to its iconic status. The real value in this movie are in seeing the streets of downtown Honolulu in its still-rough, WWII days, before it was cleaned up in the 1990s and before it was the sleaze-pit it became in the 1970s and 1980s, and in seeing this great cast when the actors were vibrant, young, exciting. It’s a great cast while not being a great movie, and it’s entertaining enough to keep you interested on one of those bad-weather play-hooky days, which I think are the conditions under which I first saw this when I was a teenager.

8. The Castaway Cowboy (1974)
I seem to be the only one of my friends who remembers this Disney film with James Garner, and based on reviews I’ve seen online, I may be the only person anywhere who remembers it fondly. Garner is rescued after being kidnapped from San Francisco and then tossed overboard in Hawaii. He sticks around to help his rescuing family with its farm. There is a memorable scene where the cattle are lashed by the horns to the sides of boats and then guided, while they swim, to some new location. I’m afraid to see this one again for fear of its being not nearly as good as I remember.

7. Goodbye, Paradise (1991)
goodbye paradiseLong-time Hawaii news anchor Joe Moore stars in this film set in an old neighborhood bar that’s about to be shut down. Part nostalgia trip longing for the way things used to be, and part let’s-see-if-we-can-make-Joe-Moore a movie star, Goodbye, Paradise is not remembered fondly by those few of us who saw it, but I liked it. There’s a little bit of double nostalgia with memories of this film because it’s the last thing I saw at the old Marina Theater, which many years ago became Hawaii’s only Red Lobster restaurant. The theater by that time was as much a run-down dump as the bar in the movie, but I remember both fondly.

6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
milaBias alert: I love Kristen Bell. I expected very little from Forgetting Sarah Marshall even though I admire the Apatow team for its effort if not usually for its product, but what really makes this film memorable is Mila Kunis, who for the first time kind of emerges as a possible star. She’s the rare non-local who manages to be convincing as kind of a local, and she’s really the highlight of a so-so movie.

5. Lilo & Stitch (2002)
To say I had low expectations of Lilo & Stitch, whose animation style I found boring and whose plot didn’t sound like the stuff of a Disney classic, would be a gross understatement. I went in determined not to like it. And I couldn’t help myself: I was charmed. The title characters, despite having every reason not to, won me over, and I left with renewed hope in Disney. I have known young men and women, cynics to the core, people who find something to dislike in anything conventional, who admitted the same thing.

4. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
emily and adamPunch-Drunk Love, with Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is set in Hawaii about the way Say Anything is set on a jet to Paris, which is to say not really setin Hawaii at all. However, it would appear that I haven’t seen as many films truly set in Hawaii as I once thought, and I only have the faintest memory of some of them, so I had to loosen my restriction just a little and include this in the list. Sandler and Watson are excellent in a movie whose main character resonates more with me than any other, except Paul Giamatti’s Miles role in Sideways.

3. 50 First Dates (2004)
There are about fifty stupid things in this movie, things that should offend me as a resident of Hawaii, where 50 First Dates is set. And in almost any other movie, I suppose they would, but Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore are just too good together, and there is a scene about midway through the film where we see Sean Astin and Blake Clark, as Barrymore’s brother and father, going to great, amazing, and genuinely touching lengths to make her amnesia.-like condition less traumatic. Sandler, at his most sincere and most earnest, does the rest, convincing us that he loves this happy girl in the saddest way. What’s good about the movie far, far outweighs what’s bad about it.

2. The Descendants (2011)
george and shaileneGeorge Clooney and Shailene Woodley are excellent in The Descendants, a movie that looks like Hawaii the way only people who live here can testify to. The story’s got some weird holes (which, it has been explained to me, are omissions from the source novel); however, they are easily overlooked when the rest of the film is so well done. This movie looks and feels like Hawaii better than any other, and that by itself should make it #1 on this list. Yet:

1. North Shore (1987)
niaFor about twenty hyper-subjective reasons, North Shore, for all its badness, is my favorite movie set in Hawaii (I actually like Punch-Drunk Love better, but it’s not set enough in Hawaii to count). For high-school crushes, Nia Peeples is only rivaled by Pat Benatar and Paulina Porizkova for duration and depth. For its many, many quotable bits of dialogue. For being in theaters the summer after my high-school graduation. For cameos by Makaha Sons of Niihau and surfers I actually recognize (because there aren’t many). I can’t help it. My head says a million things but my heart says, “You come back to the North Shore,” and then a second later, “Here on the North Shore, we treat our friends more better!”

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I had Ride the Wild Surf on this list before I remembered to include Goodbye, Paradise, so that would be my number 11 if there were a number 11. I would also like to re-see Aloha Summer and Goin’ Cocoanuts (the Donnie and Marie movie set in Hawaii) to see if they somehow could crack this list.

I promised myself I wouldn’t look at @aipohaku’s list until mine was done, so it’s time now for me to go do it. You are encouraged to do the same!

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