Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Thank You Note to Nora Ephron

Tonight Nora Ephron passed away. Nora Ephron is someone I never met in person and yet I feel like I knew her through her movies, her interviews, her humor and her general point of view. A Daily Beast article posted tonight had the following description of Ms. Ephron:

Nora prided herself in knowing how to do things, where to get them, what was good & in what way it was good.

This approach to living life, to find the best in life & to know how to appreciate the discovery, is evident throughout her films in a million tiny exchanges (think of the famous When Harry Met Sally deli scene) where she focuses on the way we as people experience the little moments in life, how we express our likes and dislikes and how we convey those feelings to those with whom we interact.

Her stories resonate with audiences of different ages and generations because although they have neatly wrapped beginnings, middles and ends like a movie, all of the stuff in between is about the messy or imperfect moments that make life beautiful.

My Two Favorite Nora Ephron Films:

1. When Harry Met Sally

The first time I watched When Harry Met Sally I was in middle school and on vacation with my parents in South Carolina. My little brother and I were going to stay in while my parents went out to dinner so we rented this movie. We started watching it before my parents left for dinner and they began watching the opening credits as well. Soon, my parents who NEVER watch movies, were hooked. We all stayed in to enjoy the remainder of the story and barely came up for air in between all of the laughter. In the years following that night I  enjoyed the film with boyfriends, with girlfriends and on my own. I have had to repurchase the DVD a few times after earlier versions were scratched from frequent viewing. 

When Harry Met Sally is funny because it is true. Men & women start out thinking they know all the answers & that they are ready to start down the road of their adult life but we all reach that point where we realize we have no clue what the "rules" are and where we will be tomorrow. Harry & Sally show us that the enjoyment of the human experience is not achieved through the OCD planning of Sally or the "i have the philosophy of life" figured out attitude of Harry but through the acceptance eventually reached by both characters that they truly cannot control anything, that they know nothing and that they sure are glad to have someone who makes them laugh & celebrates their idiosyncrasies. 

I always think of When Harry Met Sally when:

I see the arch at Washington Square Park (so the entire time I was at NYU).
I am on a road trip.
I am eating grapes. 
On New Year's Eve or whenever I cannot locate a cab at a crucial moment.
I ask for something on the side when ordering at a restaurant. 
I fly on planes. 
I go to Karaoke bars.
I watch the musical Oklahoma. 
I see the Christmas trees on the city street corners at Christmas.
I pass Katz's deli/go to any deli, really.

2. You've Got Mail

I have watched You've Got Mail so often that I can no longer remember the first time I saw it. I do know that the first time I watched it the technology was fresh: the reference to recording with VHS, the black Mac computer that Meg Ryan owns, the dial-up connection, the AOL account and the big box bookstore were all seemingly permanent parts of my world. Years later, I watch You've Got Mail almost as frequently as when I first fell in love with it and, although the technology is dated, the movie remains relevant. The movie can be placed in the same league as classic comedies such as The Philadelphia Story & Pillow Talk, movies whose social norms or technology are expired but whose story resonates long beyond the expiration date. Kathleen Kelly & Joe Fox are at first drawn as heroine & villain or little guy versus big bad corporate America. Then Ephron takes Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice & weaves it into the film as the story that links their e-mail relationship and lets the audience know that stereotypes cannot be applied when we are talking about two people who, like all people, at times reveal the worst in themselves (Joe Fox fears he has become "the worst version of himself" and Kathleen Kelly frets over the fact that Joe Fox always instigates her to say something she later regrets) and at other times are at their charming best (bouquets of newly sharpened pencils). Again, it is a love story that is beautiful because it is human in its imperfection & Ephron perfectly illustrates the imperfections in a way that makes it impossible not to love the characters & the story. 

I always think of You've Got Mail when:

My friends buy me daisies (or I buy me daisies).
I walk on the Upper West Side or in Riverside Park.
I hang my ruby slipper ornament on my Christmas tree.
I go to Cafe Lalo for coffee & dessert. 
I order at Starbucks or catch a glimpse of the old Starbucks logo somewhere.
I eat at Isabella's on the Upper West Side.
I read Pride & Prejudice (which is quite often). 
I read books to my nieces or think of all my favorite books from childhood that I will read to my own children. 
At Christmas when I buy my first Starbucks holiday latte I can almost hear Kathleen Kelly saying "It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees..."

Things I Found Out About Nora Ephron Today:
She was 71 (and she looked much younger).
She was born on the Upper West Side.
She was an intern at the Kennedy White House & described herself as the only intern that Kennedy never hit on.
She was the person friends turned to for a recommendation (what doctor, what restaurant,what manicurist, etc. or Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP before there was GOOP).
She liked pie, baths, her husband & her kids.

I leave you with this image:

A 2010 Town & Country article on Ina Garten & Nora Ephron that I read over & over again in part because it was so, well,  comforting that Nora Ephron, the queen of comfort films, & Ina Garten, the queen of comfort food, had a friendship.

And this quote from Meryl Streep from the New York Times:

Nora just looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought, Hmmm how can I make this more fun? 

Thank you for bringing a little fun & humor into all of our lives. 

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