The Director’s to Blame

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some birthday popcorn
for a beloved director.
** Linger to peruse my list
of favorite movies directed by women.
** Savor a last ½ cup
trying your hand at a game of 5 words!
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First Sip:

One of the best things about directing movies,
as opposed to merely writing them,
is that there’s no confusion about
who’s to blame: You are.

– Nora Ephron 1

Slice of Cake:

Journalist, Novelist, Screenwriter, Director:

Nora Ephron wore a lot of hats.
(And a lot of scarves.)

Nora Ephron’s first screenplay Silkwood (1983), co-written with Alice Arlen,
stars Meryl Streep and is based on the short life of Karen Silkwood,
a whistleblower who reported hazards at her plutonium plant job.

Ephron’s second screenplay, Heartburn (1986), again starring Meryl Streep,
adapts Ephron’s own autobiographical novel, also called Heartburn (1983).

Both these movies are directed by Mike Nichols.
Nichols remembers encouraging Ephron’s idea about becoming a director:

Not only did she have a complete comprehension
of the process of making a movie—she simply soaked that up—
but she had all the ancillary skills, the people skills,
all the hundreds of things that are
useful when you’re making a movie.
Mike Nichols 1

Before she took on the job of directing,
Nora Ephron wrote a few more screenplays—including the wonderfully perfect
When Harry Met Sally (1989) directed by Rob Reiner
Talk about a re-watchable movie!

Her first directing effort was in 1992. It’s called This is My Life.
Ephron herself described it as a flop.1

Her second try was directing Sleepless in Seattle (1993).
(Not bad for a beginner…)

It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess.
It will be complicated,
rejoice in the complications.
It will not be anything like what you think it’s going to be like,
but surprises are good for you.
And don’t be frightened,
you can always change your mind.
I know. I’ve had 4 careers and 3 husbands.

– Nora Ephron
Wellesley College Commencement Address
June 3, 1996 2

I think my two favorite films directed by Nora Ephron are…

Michael (1996)
John Travolta plays a memorable archangel—
but the best part is when Andie MacDowell sings ‘I Love Pie.’

Julie & Julia (2009)
Ephron not only directed but produced this, and she wrote the screenplay, as well.
I’d say if you don’t already love Julia Child, this movie will besot you.

It was during the making of Julie & Julia
that Ephron learned—and then told almost no one—that she had a
fatal form of leukemia. She died less than three years later.
She was only 71.

Friends and co-workers describe Nora Ephron as
talented, exacting, warm, funny, and tough.


She was famous for firing people. She fired children.

– essayist Karen Karbo
in her book In Praise of Difficult Women 3


You could call on her for anything: doctors, restaurants,
recipes, speeches, or just a few jokes…
She was an expert in all the departments of living well.

Meryl Streep 4


Sitting at a table with Nora was like being in a Nora Ephron movie.
She was brilliant and funny.

– writer Sally Quinn 4


Happy 78th Birthday
* ** Nora Ephron
** *

– born May 19, 1941
in New York, New York


Linger Awhile:

Been thinking this week how it’s been more than four (4!) months
since I had a post about movies. Time to remedy that!

Me, waiting
for the show to start.
(Photo by Prof B)

Over the last couple of years, I have been seeking out movies directed by women.

Here’s the list I’ve come up with—so far.

My 9 Favorite Women-Directed Films
(in chronological order by release date)

Side note:
Yes, I did try to
stay spoiler-free
I can honestly say: I’ve done a much
better job at it than the official trailers do!

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005)
directed and written by Jane Anderson (based on a memoir by Terry ‘Tuff’ Ryan)
Hero mom, weak father, lots of kids. This one hits close to the bone for me.

Then She Found Me (2007)
directed by Helen Hunt (based on a novel by Elinor Lipman)
This film is funny, Bette Midler’s character is unforgettable, and it’s astoundingly real about parenting.

Cairo Time (2009)
directed by Ruba Nadda
Patricia Clarkson + a travel film = win/win.

It’s Complicated (2009)
directed & written by Nancy Meyers
This re-watchable film is pure fantasy for fully grown women. And it’s got Steve Martin!

If I Were You (2012)
directed and written by Joan Carr-Wiggin
I love this one and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of re-watching it.

Learning to Drive (2014)
directed by Isabel Coixet (written by Sarah Kernochan)
I like how just-right the ending of this movie seems. Plus late-night host Samantha Bee acting in a movie? who knew!

The Dressmaker (2015)
directed and co-written by Jocelyn Moorhouse (based on the novel by Rosalie Ham)
Starts with Parisian fashion in small-town Australia and goes…not at all where I expected it to go.

The Intern (2015)
directed & written by Nancy Meyers
We need more movies about women at work. I love this story about a young entrepreneur.

Twinsters (2015)
co-directed by Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto, written by Samantha Futerman
What a surprise and a delight this documentary is.


“Half Cup More”

In her 1996 Wellesley College commencement address,
Nora Ephron talked about a game that her family and friends liked to play
at restaurants, while waiting for a table. 2

Fun aside:
When Ephron talked about this game at Wellesley,
she didn’t mention her semi-autobiographical movie.
And yet…
In the movie Heartburn, there’s a restaurant scene where two couples,
Stockard Channing, Richard Masur, Meryl Streep, and Jack Nicholson,
play the exact game that she describes .

Here’s the game:

Write the 5 things that describe you on a piece of paper—
Five things, one word each.
Then everyone, in turn, reads their list aloud.

So…sound easy?
Or tough?
I think it’s good there’s a time limit!

And speaking of time, Ephron’s point in telling the graduates about this game has to do with time:
Time and change.

She said:

Whatever those 5 things are today, they won’t make your list in ten years.
Not that you won’t still be some of those things,
but they won’t be the five most important things about you.

And Ephron calls this ability to change “delicious.”

I would love to hear your list.

Here is minefor today, anyway:



Take-Away Box

The Director: You can’t quit!

Actor 1: If you quit, they have to cancel the play!

Lead Actor: I don’t want to disappoint everybody, but…
I’m exhausted!
I mean, maybe if I was their age…

The Director: No, no. If you were their age, you
understand the part!

Actor 2: You have learned so much more about life.

Actor 3: That’s the best thing about being old—
You can finally play the juicy roles!

Actor 2: Well, men can…

Actor 4: Please don’t make us cancel it…
I memorized all my lines!

dialog from If I Were You (2012)
directed and written by Joan Carr-Wiggin


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

notes & footnotes

Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing
and Other Reflections
(2010) in the chapter titled ‘Flops’

Wellesley College Commencement Address
by Nora Ephron
June 3, 1996

In Praise of Difficult Women (2018)
by Karen Karbo

Charles McGrath,
New York Times, June 26, 2012


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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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