Happy Mother's Day from Midday Movies
You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. Mother's Day is just around the
corner, and our midday movie critics thought it would be fun to suggest some films themed to the holiday,
but, of course, with a twist. So instead of sentimental favorites like I Remember Mama or Little Women,
we have some less conventional picks that reveal diverse range of moms. So joining me today with a
lineup of Mother's Day movies are KPBS Cinema Junkie Beth, Accomando. Hi, Beth.
And Moviewallas’ Yazdi Pithavala. Welcome.
So, Beth, when the idea of Mother's Day movies came up, one film immediately jumped to mind for you,
but I'm not sure it would be everyone's go to pick. Would you like to explain?
Well, certainly. So when you say Mother's Day, I say Psycho. So Mrs. Bates, to me, is simply one of the
most memorable mothers of all time. I mean, her presence hangs over the film. Even if we don't see her,
we feel her watching over everything from the creepy house on the hill, and Norman talks about her with
this, like, great intensity. The film is from 1960 and has been discussed in great detail, so I don't think it's
really a spoiler for me to say that Mrs. Bates turns out to be the double twist of this film. So first she's the
killer in the infamous shower scene and others, and then we discover that she's actually been dead for
years and has taken over her son, Norman. And it's Norman as his mom who commits the murders. I
want to play a little bit of my favorite scene. And this is the final scene from Alfred Hitchcock's
masterpiece. And we see Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, sitting in the police station. And
then we hear his mother's voice in a voiceover at the end.
It's sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son, but I couldn't allow them to
believe that I would commit murder. They'll put him away now, as I should have years ago. He was
always bad, and in the end, he intended to tell them, I killed those girls and that man. As if I could do
anything except just sit and stare like one of his stuffed birds. They know I can't even move a finger, and I
won't. I'll just sit here and be quiet, just in case they do suspect me.
That is a mother whose presence is felt throughout the entire movie.
Okay, well, I think I've got a mother son duo to actually rival Psycho. It's James Cagney and Margaret
Wycherly in White Heat that mother and son are the center of a ruthless gang of criminals. Ma Jarrett
would do anything for her boy Cody and James Cagney. Cody almost goes mad when she dies in this
clip. Mom has just nursed Cody through one of his killer headaches.
CLIP WHITE HEAT
It's going, yeah. Are you sure? Yeah. It's like having a red hot buzz. Always thinking about your Cody,
So, what do you think? Does that give Psycho a run for the money?
It does give Psycho a run for the money, but I will say Mrs Bates gets to exert her influence not only
during her lifetime, but after. So I give her an extra point for that.
Maureen. And your pick actually reminds me of another memorable mother, which is Angela Lansbury
and The Manchurian Candidate.
Also a mother who really, in every way, reigns over her son.
But your first pick, Yazdi, is in the horror genre. You turn to a more genuinely protective mother figure
than poor Mrs Bates, one that you call the Mama Bear.
Yeah. I really love movies where motherhood displayed in terms of the mother trying to protect their
children, and I can think of no better example of that than Sigourney Weaver across the Alien series, but
particularly in Aliens, the James Cameron directed film. And James Cameron, of course, is famous for
many mother figures, including Linda Hamilton in Terminator Two. Also memorable mother. But what I
really like about the Sigourney Weaver character, Ripley and Aliens, is that she's kind of reached the end
of her rope. She's literally dealing with this all evil alien creature on a spaceship, and she also has to deal
with the corporation which owns the spaceship, which wants to keep the alien alive for its own nefarious
reasons. And while she's kind of dejected with the state that she is in, oddly enough, her being forced to
become a surrogate mother for this little girl who is found on the ship gives her that extra power to kind of
take things in her own hands. So I love this idea of a heroine who is almost raced to becoming a
superpower through her becoming a mother, when usually we see mother motherhood being as
something of a burden in movies year, it elevates the heroine. And we have a clip here from Aliens for the
first time that Ripley meets the little girl, Newt.
I like that. I'm Ripley. It's nice to meet you. What about your brother? What's his name?
Ripley is not the only mother figure in this movie.
No, it's really a battle between two super mothers. The other mother in the movie is the alien mother itself,
which has been hatching its own offspring around the spaceship, and she's fighting to save her own alien
kids as well. We are led towards the comics of the movie to this great battle between two iconic mothers.
Now, Beth, I am not surprised that you have another horror pick for us for Mother's Day, but this mom is a
little more sympathetic and less scary than the one in Psycho. You're going with the Babadook?
Yes. I love this film. And The Babadook basically has all the trappings of a boogeyman thriller. It plays on
our universal childhood fears of something lurking under the bed or in the closet or out in the dark just
beyond the nightlight. But writer director Jennifer Kent turns this horror formula into something much
creepier and emotionally more disturbing. Because what her film is really about is what I see as a
damaged bond between a mother and her son. So we have young Samuel, who bluntly says that his dad
got killed in a car driving his mom, Amelia, to the hospital to have him. And so this death hangs over
Amelia, who wants to try and deal with it, but it's this deep down, like grief and loss that she doesn't know
how to cope with. And so, to me, the core of the horror in this film is what if you're a mom who doesn't feel
like you can love your own son? I give credit to this film. They do not hold back on making Samuel a kid
that can test even a saintly mother's patience. So here's an example. This is Samuel in the car having a fit
while his mom is trying to drive.
CLIP THE BABADOOK
Get out. Mommy. Get out.
This is the Mother's Day edition of midday movies with KPBS cinema junkie Beth Accomando and
Moviewallas’Yazdi Pithavala. Yazdi, your next pick is not horror film. It's on a similar theme, though, in the
sense of a mother who's feeling overwhelmed. And that is Charlize Theron in Tully.
Yeah, I really like this movie. We are so used to being mothers portrayed a particular way. They're either
portrayed as heroic or they're portrayed as somebody who sacrifices everything for their children. Rightly.
So it's very rarely in cinema that we see characters acknowledge how utterly overwhelming and downright
paralyzing it can be when you are in the thick of the hardest parts of motherhood. And Tully plays this so
well in kind of letting us realize how the central character who has to deal with a child who has special
needs is so consumed by it that she pretty much loses herself and loses her grip on reality. And here is a
clip from the movie where, as a mother, she's already at odds, completely overwhelmed, and she's
brought into the school to meet with the educator who tells her that her son is perhaps not welcome at the
There are places that are better suited to kids like Jonah. What does that mean, kids like Jonah? Well,
he's quirky and he needs it. What is this quirky thing? Everybody keeps saying it's so stupid. What does it
even mean? Do I have a kid in Ukulele? Just say what you mean. You think Jonah is retarded? No. Yes.
And he's ruining it for everybody in his class who's reading, like, The Iliad or whatever they read. I'm sorry
about my retarded son, Lori. Oh, I'm sorry, Quirky. No, Jonah is bright. He's great.
So, Beth, that's not a horror film, but it is a pretty scary scene.
Oh, I think that deals with what we might call real world horrors, which is dealing with motherhood
sometimes is really challenging. And in this film, it deals with the idea of postpartum depression. And on
top of that, how do you cope when you're barely getting any sleep with a newborn and also another child
who is difficult? So I consider this real world horrors.
Okay, so, Yossi, for your final pick, you're going with an empathetic mom, and you actually get two moms,
one played by Annette Benning, and then another played by Julianne Moore as her partner in The Kids
Are All Right.
Yeah. So I really am a great fan of The Kids Are All Right, mostly because I think it presents motherhood
as something which is messy and something that is just how you deal with life on a day by day basis. And
what we have here is a wonderful story about a same sex couple, and they have grown kids, and their
grown kids decide that they want to reach out to their biological father. And so you see, both of the moms
struggle as their own relationship is threatened. They make horrible mistakes. They distrust each other.
But at the end of the day, it is really being mothers to their grown kids, which brings them back together.
And I think the closing scenes of that movie are some of the best and very quietly and almost wordlessly
depicting what your responsibility is ultimately as being a mother. And I love that movie for that. And here
is a great scene from the movie where the two mothers, completely unsettled by what's playing out in
their lives, try to be sympathetic to their son.
CLIP The Kids Are All Right
Your mom and I sense that there's some other stuff going on in your life. We just want to be let in.
Okay, so now we go from real problems mother's face to something way over the top. A real mom, a very
famous one, delivers an over the top melodrama. Miss Joan Crawford.
So Mommie Dearest is great because we kind of get two levels of mom in this. It's based on the real life
of actress Joan Crawford. So on the screen, she gave us some bonkers moms, from the self sacrificing
mother in Mildred Pierce to the murderous one in straitjacket. But in real life, her adopted daughter,
Christina Crawford, claimed that Joan was a sadistic mother. So Mommie Dearest serves up high camp
melodrama, and I do not know where the actual truth lies, but for this discussion, who cares? The film is
famous for adding to our pop culture lexicon no wire hangers. So I want to play that scene and just
visualize this. It's Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. She looks monstrous in this facial cream with her
huge, arched eyebrows. And she discovers that her daughter has put a beautiful dress on a wire hanger.
CLIP MOMMIE DEAREST
What's wire hanger doing in this closet? Answer me. I buy you beautiful dresses, and you treat them like
some dish rag. You do $300 dress on a wire hanger, we'll see how many you've got hidden from here.
We'll see. Get out of that business. All of this is coming out. Out. We're gonna see how many wire
hangers you've got in your closet.
Okay, there may be other moms who merit mention here, but I give Dunaway and Mommie Dearest the
top spot for the over the top, in your face, best anti mother's day mom ever.
Well, that was an eclectic, some might say crazy collection of mother's day films. I want to thank my
guest, KPBS cinema junkie Beth Accomando and Moviewallas’ Yazdi Pithavala. I want to wish you a
happy mother's day. I want to wish your mothers a happy mother's day. And I hope you have a lovely
weekend. Thank you for being here.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Maureen.
Midday Movies Mother's Day Film Recommendations
Beth Accomando, Cinema Junkie
"The Babadook" (2014)
"Mommie Dearest" (1981)
Yazdi Pithavala, Moviewallas
"The Kids Are All Right" (2010)
Maureen Cavanaugh, Midday Edition
"White Heat" (1949)
Mother's Day has not always existed. It only became a holiday in the U.S. in 1914 because Anna Jarvis decided moms needed to be recognized for the sacrifices they make for their children.
Fair enough. But then the holiday was quickly commercialized to sell cards, flowers, chocolates, and encourage people to spend money on their moms.
Well, for me, such forced sentimentality inspires a contrary response. So when you say "Mother's Day," I say "Psycho."
The film is from 1960 and has been discussed in great detail, so it's not really a spoiler to say that Mrs. Bates turns out to be the double twist of this film. First she is the killer in the infamous shower scene and then we discover that she's actually been dead for years and has taken over her son, Norman. So this mom exerts her influence from beyond the grave.
Host Maureen Cavanaugh offered a film to rival "Psycho." It's James Cagney and Margaret Wycherly in "White Heat." This is a mother and son who are the center of a ruthless gang of criminals.
"Ma Jarrett would do anything for her boy Cody and James Cagney's Cody almost goes mad when she dies," Cavanaugh said.
Yazdi Pithavala of Moviewallas went to the sci-fi horror genre for his pick but not to find a scary mom but rather to show us what he calls a "mama bear."
"I really love movies where motherhood is displayed in terms of the mother trying to protect her children, and I can think of no better example of that than Sigourney Weaver across the 'Alien' series but particularly in 'Aliens,' the James Cameron directed film," explained Pithavala.
Plus you get a face off between iconic moms as Weaver's Ripley battles the Alien Xenomorph mom protecting her alien eggs.
Listen to the podcast to hear about all of the Midday Movies' unconventional picks for your Mother's Day film viewing on May 14. Wire hangers optional.