Movies, march, maple … and more!


I guess I am now living on Sesame Street – this column seems to be brought to you by the letter M! Most of what has been recently crisscrossing my attention begins with the 13th letter of the alphabet.

Movies were on my mind as I sort of watched the Academy Award presentations the other night: I dozed; I flipped channels; I made a couple of phone calls. I saw enough, however, to make some observations.

Although the overlong acceptance speeches – the ones containing the name of everyone the winner has ever known – are boring at best, I do appreciate the passionate ones. I like hearing from people who commit themselves fully to their careers as they share the ideas and dreams that make them tick.

However, one question pops up every year at Oscar time: if the nominated films are the best of the year, why have I heard of so few of them? I poked around on Google and found what I have suspected. Film companies release their top flicks as close to nomination time as possible, so that these films are fresh in the minds of voters. Of the nine films singled out for this most recent round of awards, seven were released in November or after. It is an explanation, I suppose; but I have yet to see any commercials for the eventual winner, The Shape of Water.

The Gloria uptown, now back to the quality venue of my childhood, does a great job of showing the latest and greatest films. My sister and brother-in-law, regular patrons, viewed three Oscar-nominated films there: Dunkirk and Darkest Hour; they also spoke about the unusual audience applause at the conclusion of The Post.

Speaking of films, I was shocked a while back to see the trailer for a modernized version of Peter Rabbit. The 3D live-action/computer-animated movie released last month is purportedly based on the stories of Beatrix Potter’s title bunny and his siblings Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-Tail.

Mother often read us the endearing story from a tiny book with charming illustrations. It was full of quaint expressions and plot twists: “currant buns” and “fortnight” and “chamomile tea” as well as “beyond Mr. McGregor was the garden gate” and “Mr. McGregor hung up the little jacket…to frighten the blackbirds.”

Imagine my horrified surprise to see today’s Peter and his friends trying to electrocute and dynamite the nephew of the now-deceased Mr. McGregor! Chicago Tribune reviewer Katie Walsh lamented the “violent mayhem” of the current film, which has earned a PG rating, rather than a G.

I suppose I am something of a purist when it comes to literary classics, but I wonder why filmmakers feel the need to mangle such a gentle story meant for tots. Why not just create a whole new band of bunnies – say, Reggie Rabbit and his pals Rodney, Rory, and Rupert?

On the other hand, Beatrix Potter might not have minded. I read that the British author/illustrator was one of the first writers to cash in on her work by patenting a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903. She was also responsible for other related merchandise including tea sets, wallpaper, and a board game.

Another M on my mind has been our new month of March and its weather that keeps us guessing as to when spring will actually spring – and remain sprung. I lulled myself into thinking the gentle season had arrived, or was at least right around the corner. Based on the crocus sightings and warm breezes of February, I even rescheduled my annual performance of “April showers … bring flowers that bloom in May” – there I was singing about February raindrops and March posies!

My optimism was given another boost when a high school classmate now living in Georgia posted Facebook pictures of his neighbor’s pear tree in full, beautiful bloom. I was also encouraged by the lion-ish arrival of March, not a full roar by any means, but enough to expect a lamb-like exit in a few weeks.

Thus, I really did not want to hear from another friend that thunder in February means frost in April. Then snow reappeared on Wednesday – enough to briefly obscure the view from my living room windows. To add temporary insult to nature’s seeming withdrawal from an early spring: we are now on Daylight Savings Time. Gone for a while are the early, sunshine-filled mornings I have come to relish.

My friend in Georgia also sent gorgeous photos of red maple “helicopters.” Those fascinating little whirly-gigs reminded me of the big maple tree behind the old milk house on River Road. My father would attach an old shortening can to the tree about this time of year to collect its sap. My memory can almost taste the resulting maple syrup we ate on my dad’s buckwheat pancakes.

I will add just a brief note about my last M, the mail. Beginning in July, our new driver’s licenses will be mailed to save money and increase security. I will reserve judgment about the security aspect, but I have regularly received great service at our local BMV. I always walked away from that office with my new license in a reasonable amount of time. I did read that 41 other states already use the mailing procedure, but I tend to subscribe to the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it philosophy.

May March Make us Merry!

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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