Give Me a Child until He Is Seven

…and I will give you the man.

This is the premise of the British documentary series known as the “Up Series.”

In 1964, an English television director chose fourteen 7-year-olds from different socioeconomic groups and different geographical areas of England and filmed them, intending to introduce people to the future laborers and executives of the year 2000.

What started as a one-off program became a series. Every seven years, those who wish to participate are filmed, which means there are currently eight films. The last film, 56 Up, was released in the States in 2013.

I don’t remember when I watched the first one; it may have been Christmastime, because I was at my mom’s house. As I watched it, I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to make it through all of them because I could barely understand what those 7-year-old munchkins were saying! All of the different accents: the children were from London’s East End, wealthy parts of London, Liverpool, the Yorkshire Dales. They were all adorable and most of them were talking very fast.

I stuck with it, though, and I’m so glad that I did. There was something fascinating about watching them go through all of the stages of life. Carefree and thoughtful children, awkward teenagers, young adults, middle age. None of their stories are remarkable: almost all of them get married by 21 or 28, have kids by 35, bury parents by 42 or 49. Many of them get divorced and remarry. But as Nick said in 56 Up, “It isn’t a picture really of the essence of Nick or Suzy; it’s a picture of everyman.”

As filming continued, the director wanted to frame the story in a political way, showing the difference in the high and low classes. But that angle fell away at some point and the focus shifted to everyone’s personal stories. It was apparent, though, that the wealthier people were more reticent about being filmed and tended to stay married. That being said, most of the lower to middle class people seemed perfectly content with their lives.

Even though many of the participants weren’t entirely keen on being filmed and becoming “celebrities,” ten out of fourteen of them have participated in all eight films. None of them initially “volunteered” to be filmed; it was their parents or their teachers who signed them up to participate. Thank you, Bruce, Andrew, John, Lynn, Jackie, Sue, Symon, Paul, Nick, Suzy, Peter, Neil, Tony, and Charles, for sharing your life with the world.

If you enjoy watching documentaries, these are a must. Roger Ebert included them in his top ten greatest films of all time list, for goodness’ sake!

Up Series

Courtesy of dailymail.co.uk

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Steve Martin, Museum Curator

He’s a comedian, actor, producer, and musician. And now he can add museum curator to the list.

Steve Martin was in town last month to talk about the exhibit he helped curate at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Martin is also an avid art collector, and he enjoys the work of Canadian painter Lawren Harris. He must know someone at the Museum of Fine Arts, and I imagine they started talking about Lawren Harris, and the MFA person suggested that Martin help curate an exhibit, and there you have it.

My friend Tracy and I stood in line outside of the MFA on a March afternoon for two hours to ensure that we would get a seat at a free panel discussion about the exhibit. Martin, artist Eric Fischl, and writer Adam Gopnik sat on the panel, which was moderated by MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum.

Luckily the lineup was projected onto large screens, so I didn’t have to keep craning my neck to get a glimpse of them.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I listened to them speak, I imagined that I was really smart and rich and I was attending a cocktail party in New York City at which this type of conversation is commonplace. For an hour, they talked about Lawren Harris, the art world, and the MFA exhibit. Martin was serious most of the time, but he did crack a few jokes and made some signature faces.

It was totally worth the two-hour wait in line! I’ve been a fan of Martin since the ’80s and have always marveled at his many talents. It was a joy to see him in person.

So I have about six weeks to accomplish nine more things. Totally doable, right?

Two Different Worlds

I discovered English author Evelyn Waugh in graduate school. I don’t think I’ve read any of his books since then…even though I own a few! So I was delighted to find that a few of his books are on the Modern Library’s top 100 novels list.

I recently read A Handful of Dust. What I enjoy most about Waugh’s writing is the way that he subtly mocks upperclass Brits. This particular novel is about Tony Last, who has inherited a large country estate. He is married with a child and his life pretty much falls apart. He ends up accompanying a kooky explorer on an exotic exhibition to Brazil and…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

So I left the world of 1930s England for 1970s New York City when I watched Goodfellas soon after finishing Waugh’s novel. Goodfellas is #92 on the AFI top 100 films list and was nominated for six Academy awards.

The cast is top-notch: Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci play the leads. It is an immersive look into the world of the mob. Robberies, homicides, drugs, infidelity, more homicides. Ray Liotta’s character grows up in the “family” and when he is caught running drugs in the late ’70s…well, I won’t spoil it for you. I liked that it is based on a true story. Truth is often stranger than fiction, as they say…

It’s April 1, which means I have two months left to accomplish 12 things. Let the games begin!

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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