I often brag about visiting my Minn home in January, the coldest month of the year. But this year it rarely dipped below the teens and several times reached the thirties, barely requiring gloves. As usual, I mostly saw family, including my nieces, who are both big basketball players. I’ve been watching them play since they were tykes, so it’s fascinating to watch their skills develop each year.
The one in middle school is on a traveling team that played one weekend at the massive Wayzata High School, the largest school in the state in terms of enrollment and physical size: the gymnasium accommodates eight full size basketball courts. The other niece is on the JV team at Visitation High School. Visitation is part of the Tri Metro conference, part of a dizzying array of 59 conferences that don’t include 46 independent teams. These conferences are divided into 4 classes–A through AAAA–based on enrollment.
The tournament to determine state champions in the 4 classes takes place in March. St. Paul Central, my alma mater, won the championship 4 times, the last being in 2008. In recent years Hopkins, a suburb just west of Minneapolis, (famous for its Raspberry Festival which I attended last summer), has dominated girls 4A basketball. Since 2004, they have been in the finals 11 times, and won 7 championships.
Beyond basketball, I was inspired to go see Little Women with my dad. The inspiration came from an NPR report that men felt the need to see the film with a woman, so I set out to counter the trend. Also, because the Landmark Theater in NYC is so inconvenient, I had given all my Landmark passes to dad, who has a Landmark theater near him in Edina. So we headed there for a matinee showing, only to find that Little Women was not showing. Instead, it was showing at the Lagoon Cinema, a Landmark Theater in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.
We had arrived a little after 1:20, when the film was scheduled to start, but dad was confident that we would have plenty of time to drive to the other theater since there are always so many trailers. When we got to Lagoon Cinema it was nearly 2 pm, so I asked the cashier how long ago Little Women started. “Twenty minutes,” she replied. “Even with the trailers?” “Yes,” she confirmed.
Dad was undeterred, and we headed into see the film. We arrived just as the girls were celebrating Christmas, the traditional start of the novel, so I was surprised at how little we had missed. I later realized that Gerwig structured the film as a series of time jumps that begins with the sisters as adults, so we had indeed missed the first twenty minutes of the film.
Soon after we sat down in the back row, I heard a default iphone ringtone and realized it was coming from dad. I nudged him and whispered “your phone.” After fumbling in his pocket, he managed to silence it–but not completely–I continued to hear it bing from new email notifications. About ten minutes later it rang again. Embarrassed I looked around for scolding eyes, but I resisted my desire to take dad’s phone and put it in silent mode myself. Instead, I just laughed it off.
Despite these setbacks, the movie quickly entranced me. Gerwig’s stylistic choices brought surprise and energy to a story that has been dramatized on screen at least a dozen times. I later read comments criticizing Emma Watson’s British accent, but we can assume these commentators have no clue what a mid 19th century middle class New England accent would have sounded like. The accent that stood out to me was Saoirse Ronan’s, who’s Irish brogue seemed to break through while she negotiated with book publisher Mr. Dashwood played by Tracy Letts.
Although I admit not seeing the other films nominated for best director, I was shocked that Gerwig did not receive an Oscar nod. Luscious costume drama, original reimagining of a first wave feminist classic, how could the academy not fall in love. Both my dad and I certainly did. I will definitely see it again, and not just for the first 20 minutes.