Even if I'm aware that Mother's Day is yet another attempt by greeting card companies to part me with my money, I can't refuse an opportunity to honor the woman who brought me into this world. But getting things done with plenty of time to spare just doesn't seem possible in this modern, chaotic world of mine. So, by the time I went out and looked for one, the only Mother's Day cards I could find said things like "To the best Cleaner-Upper in the world!" which, if you know her, is just not my mom, and the only gift I could have gotten delivered in time would have been The Emergency Bra which doubles as a handy gas mask, just in case. Yeah, it's that strange...
So this time around, I am resorting to what I do best: dinner and a movie, or in this case, brunch, a playlist, and some super cool indie films that are opening this weekend. But you can also celebrate mom by giving her a day in, make her tea and stream a couple of personal favorites that I know any woman with a heartbeat will enjoy.
Check out the slideshow and, to get you in the mood, listen to the tracks inspired by each film from the Spotify playlist below.
In the upcoming Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, filmmakers Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson explore the role our mothers play in molding our personality and views of the world. The result is a wonderful film, opening at Cinema Village in NYC just in time for an intimate outing with mom this weekend. When Sara discovers that she is pregnant, she begins a road trip to find her elusive mother and come to terms with their rocky, impersonal relationship. But what awaits her is more of a journey of self discovery than a predictable mother-daughter love fest and therein lies the beauty of this film. I asked both Howell and Robinson what their own mothers have taught them and to dedicate them each a song on this Mother's Day. Annie J. Howell: My mom was able to instill in me an easy confidence -- a way to approach the world that's more or less "keep moving forward and pay no attention to what's distracting." I dedicate the song "Ease on Down the Road" (from the musical THE WIZ, performed by Michael Jackson) to her, for her commitment to forward motion and her passion for theatricality and musicals. I remember her dancing around the living room to this song. Lisa Robinson: My mother has a steady and unshakeable strength in certain types of stressful situations; it is a physical grounding and matter-of-factness that made a big impression on me. Maybe the fact that she was born in the middle of a war and later immigrated to another country contributed to this. The image that sticks with me (and this is just one) is my mother driving calmly in the middle of a blizzard. I felt totally safe. I dedicate “What a Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong just because I like it… and I think she will too. Image courtesy of Long Shot Factory, used with permission
Nadine Labaki dedicated her latest project to her baby son. Where Do We Go Now? which Sony Classics is releasing in NYC and Los Angeles on May 11th, is a film about peace, and learning to walk in our neighbors' shoes, so that we may become more accepting of what we mistakenly call "the other" -- everything that is different from us. I loved the film at this year's Doha Tribeca Film Festival and got to sit down with Labaki for an interview. In honor of Mother's Day, this is what Labaki said about her film at Sundance: When you see politics and politicians failing in their mission to find a solution, you are pushed to take the matters in your own hands and to be political in your own way. In my case I decided to make a film, believing that cinema can be one of the most powerful nonviolent weapons for change. With every scene or idea that I wrote, I felt like I wanted to change the world, to express my frustration, my anger, my obsessions, my needs. I worked with actors that were not actors, ordinary people from everyday life, trying to be as close to the truth as possible. They spoke out the desire of every citizen to live in peace. Film acted as our medium for change, to stand up for the injustice we see around us. "Where do we go now?" became our cry for help. Our hope for change. My message to my son. To all our sons. Check out the beautiful Where Do We Go Now? (Et maintenant on va où?) soundtrack from the film, by Labaki's husband Khaled Mouzanar, with a couple of songs performed by the filmmaker herself. Labaki does Bollywood? You decide... Photo by Rudy Bou Chebel, courtesy of the Doha Film Institute
While Egon Schiele's "Portrait of Wally" may seem to us today nothing more than a beautiful, haunting portrait of the woman who was the artist's longtime lover, to Lea Bondi it represented her most valued possession. At the onset of WWII, Schiele was simply admired for his daring, sexually charged artwork and was not fetching the kind of multi-million dollars price tags his paintings and drawings sell for today. Yet to Bondi, a successful Jewish art dealer in Vienna, that small, precious piece of art was like the daughter she never had. Until, one horrible evening, her most prized possession was forcibly removed from her home by Nazi art expert and dealer Friedrich Welz in 1939, shortly before Bondi herself fled Austria. It is there that the story behind the artwork begins. In the upcoming documentary Portrait of Wally filmmaker Andrew Shea follows the adventures of the painting that managed to become a legend. But also a pawn in the hands of men without scruples, before finding one hero on a white horse (or rather one elderly DA in Manhattan, with white hair) who brought justice to those who deserved it. While Bondi herself may have never come across her beloved painting again, decades later her heirs, now based in New York and London, all became witnesses to a quest to bring home what was rightfully theirs. The result makes for a film that feels more like an edge of your seat thriller than a documentary about an early Expressionist portrait. The film opens at the Quad Cinema in NYC on May 11th, just in time for Mother's Day. Check out a more lengthy feature about it on the Huffington Post For "Wally" I chose a couple of composers from Schiele's time, Alban Berg and Gustav Mahler. But don't forget to break out the tissues for these tracks! Image courtesy of Seventh Art Releasing, used with permission
I still remember the first time I watched Cairo Time and fell in love with the Egypt it depicted and the handsome Tareq, whom actor Alexander Siddig calls "my Arab man", in his sultry, soft-spoken tone. The film is available on DVD and through Netflix and iTunes and while Egypt may never look, feel or sound the same again, the film's ageless story of love between two strangers will always exist for me. It's undoubtably a film that will make any Mother's Day sizzle. For the film's release in 2010, I had the opportunity to sit down with Cairo Time filmmaker and writer Ruba Nadda, who shared some insight on her own mom, the initial spark for the story of her film: When I first was in Cairo, the airport was so insane. My mother is Palestinian, she is blonde with blue eyes and when she walked up ahead of us, all these Arab men swarmed her, in 5 seconds. My mother was like, swearing in Arabic and they saw my father... In the Middle East, in Cairo especially, sexes are very segregated. Girls and boys do not interact since the age of four, it's two very different cultures. It's pent up from both sides, both sexes. When they see an attractive woman, whether she's covered up or not, they cat call. And a blonde is unique. It's not violent, it's just appreciative. And about getting the perfect songs for her film, Nadda said: I grew up with Arabic music and movies and Oum Kalthoum is like the Mother of Egypt. As Abdel Halim Hafez is the Father of Egypt. Getting those two songs was a nightmare. It's the Middle East. Order as we know it here does not exist, is not how you would think it works there. We couldn't figure out who owned the rights to the songs. and finally we tracked something down and my producer had to pay in cash for the rights and got a paragraph, a contract in Arabic, which I sent to my father and asked "Dad is this right?" and he said "I think so"… It's very vague. In Cairo, in 2008 it was a battle, there were like 11 different levels of bureaucracy and just because level three said you've got the OK, level ten was like "No, we don't think so today." Image courtesy of IFC Films, used with permission
For any music loving mother, John Turturro's Passione is a must-watch. When I brought my own mom to a screening of this film, for last year's Mother's Day, she came out exclaiming -- in her typical dramatic flair -- "Now I can finally die!" While your mom may not be Neapolitan and so probably not prone to such outburst of histrionics herself, she will enjoy the passion and infectious rhythm of the music, the beauty of the city of Naples and the undeniable charisma of its people, all of which Turturro skillfully portrays. If you have not watched this film yet, you are missing out on a truly magnificent piece of cinematic art. It is available through iTunes and streaming on Netflix. In a 2010 New York Times interview, the very private Turturro briefly talked about his parents, Katherine (a singer) and Nicholas: My mother was dry and precise and could hold your attention for hours with details that were sometimes shocking, sometimes funny. My father liked to exaggerate and embellish and push an anecdote to its limits. He never told jokes. He didn’t like jokes. I don’t, either. I prefer revealing stories that make me laugh. Three tracks from Passione, the soundtrack, give a taste of Turturro's taste and excellent pairings in mixing the old and classics, with the new. Check out the half-Arabic rendition of "O' Sole Mio". Image courtesy of Beta Cinema ©2011, used with permission
All images used with permission
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