Film Review: “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens

A tribute documentary explores the complicated mother/daughter relationship

The poster for Bright Lights, the documentary about Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher“Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” wasn’t meant to be a postmortem tribute. Directors Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens originally wanted the documentary to center around the quirky, sometimes volatile, relationship between actress Debbie Reynolds and her equally famous daughter, Carrie Fisher. It was supposed to be a lighthearted glimpse into the unusual lives of a star-studded Hollywood family.

Everything changed in December. Both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died, just one day apart, on December 27 and December 28, respectively. Their deaths came as a shock to their loved ones and their fans. Although Reynolds had been struggling with some health issues in recent years, she continued to schedule performances and award-show appearances. Similarly, everyone assumed Fisher was in good health. Nevertheless, she had a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She died days later at a hospital.

Shortly after their deaths, the “Bright Lights” directors decided to release their film earlier than expected, and to edit it into a loving tribute to both women. The documentary is a perfect memorial piece. It captures Reynolds and Fisher at their best and their worst, allowing the audience rare insight into the intimate details of their lives.

Actress Debbie Reynolds posing for the camera and smiling

Credit: Wikimedia.org

We see the regal Debbie Reynolds put on a poised smile for the cameras, hamming it up for her audience. We also see her struggle with occasional fainting spells and the cumulative effects of old age. As Carrie Fisher says in the film, “She’ll forget that she’s not 35.” These scenes hit close to home for anyone who has experienced the turmoil of aging, or who has witnessed a loved one slowly lose autonomy as they get older.

Carrie Fisher’s bold personality is also on full display in the film. For many years, Fisher had been open about her bipolar disorder. (Her ashes are in an urn shaped like a Prozac pill.) In the documentary, we see her fast-paced manic state (which she nicknamed “Roy”) as well as her gloomy episodes (nicknamed “Pam”).

What the documentary really shows is how much Fisher and Reynolds leaned on one another for support. Fisher had an almost parental concern for her mother. Whenever Reynolds was feeling under the weather, Fisher would dote on her with extreme care. In one scene, Reynolds insists on attending a Life Achievement award ceremony against the wishes of her doctors. We then see Fisher in tears backstage as she tries to keep her mother safe and comfortable. Their tenderness toward one another is palpable.

Actress Carrie Fisher posing and smiling

Credit: Wikimedia.org

They had an unusually close relationship with one another. Fisher’s house was next door to her mother’s, separated by a winding garden. In one scene, Fisher walks to her mother’s house, and sums up their relationship as, “I always come to her.”

Yet we see the same level of unconditional love extending from Reynolds to her daughter. The filmmakers captured the twinkle in their eyes when they looked at each other, showing us that neither woman would be complete without the other.

This fact is mirrored in their deaths. After Fisher’s fatal heart attack, family members confirmed that Debbie Reynolds was beyond distraught. Not only had she lost her daughter, she had lost her best friend. She reportedly told her son, Todd Fisher, “I want to be with Carrie.” Shortly thereafter, Reynolds suffered a stroke and died hours later at a hospital. Todd told journalists that his mother “didn’t want to leave Carrie and did not want her to be alone.”

“Bright Lights” beautifully captures this close, complex mother-daughter relationship. Although the two were sometimes at odds with each other, they ultimately shared a deep, unwavering love.

This documentary reminds the audience how short and precious life is, and that there is still plenty of humor to find in the darkness. It’s a touching tribute not only to two Hollywood icons, but to the intense bond that forms between mother and daughter. “Bright Lights” reminds us to hug our loved ones a little more closely today, since none of us are promised tomorrow.

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Noise, Air Pollution Increase Risk of Dementia

A new study links proximity to auto traffic with higher dementia risk
Auto traffic spews pllutants into the air increasing dementia risk

Credit: elinussbaum.com

The scientific community has known for years that air pollution is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Numerous studies have shown that men and women who live in heavily polluted cities develop cognitive deficits at an earlier age than those who live in more rural areas. Additionally, a small study out of the University of Texas recently linked the pollutant magnetite, an iron ore, with the presence of amyloid deposits in the brain. (Amyloid plaques are a key factor in Alzheimer’s disease.) Air pollution has even been linked to inflammation and changes characteristic of dementia in the brains of children and young adults.

Now a large-scale study, this time from Canada, has shown a correlation between dementia and exposure to heavy automobile traffic. Coordinated by Public Health Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, the study examined the medical records of 6.5 million Ontario residents aged 20 to 85. Researchers looked at the occurrence of three major neurological disorders — dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis — in the context of where people lived.

The results showed that people who live within 50 meters (.03 miles) of a busy street have a 7 percent higher incidence of dementia than those who live at least 200 meters (0.12 miles) away from heavily traveled roads. The risk of dementia decreased 4 percent for those who lived between 50 and 100 meters away from high-traffic areas. This appears to confirm the link.

Where the subjects lived had no effect on the rates of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, the study showed.

Implications for Public Health 

Infographic shows correlation between air pollution and dementia

Credit: Public Health Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences

The correlation between air pollution and dementia does not establish causation, of course. Scientists theorize that multiple factors, including genetics and lifestyle, contribute to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, the Ontario study has serious public health implications, the study authors said.

“Our study is the first in Canada to suggest that pollutants from heavy, day-to-day traffic are linked to dementia,” said Dr. Ray Copes, a co-author of the study and the chief of environmental and occupational health at PHO. “We know from previous research that air pollutants can get into the blood stream and lead to inflammation…This study suggests air pollutants that can get into the brain via the blood stream can lead to neurological problems,” he explained.

Copes suggested that city planners might use this information to inform decisions about traffic routes and residential building design. Moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to power our automobiles might be a good idea, too.

 

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Our Monthly Tip: Give Away Small Memorial Gifts

Keep your loved one alive in the hearts of friends and family

Our Tip of the Month

Choose small memorial gifts to bring memories and comfort to family, friends and loved ones. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but it’s a nice gesture to give mementos to those who attend your loved one’s memorial service. There are several small gifts you can offer.

memorial candies are nice small memorial gifts

Credit: chinapieces.net

How-to-Suggestion:

The gift can be as simple as a piece or two of your loved one’s favorite candy. Several different websites offer personalized candy bar wrappers. You could have them printed with your loved one’s name and a favorite quote. If your loved one wasn’t fond of candy, choose a different kind of food. You can also give out your loved one’s favorite recipes.

seedlings are an example of small memorial gifts

Credit: pinterest

Another example of small memorial gifts are smooth stones with your loved one’s name inked onto them. Again, these are available on several websites. You may even be able to find a local craft person to do them. If this is cost prohibitive, give out rocks from your loved one’s garden. Some families also offer preserved flowers and autumn leaves. To stay with the nature theme, you may also give each guest a seedling. Be sure to give the recipients instructions on how to care for their new plants.

The death of a loved one is a sad event. Sometimes having something tangible to remind you of your loved one can help ease the pain and grief. Giving small memorial gifts to those who attend your loved one’s services will help them keep your loved one alive in their hearts.

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Were There More Celebrity Deaths in 2016 Than Usual?

Two things may explain the apparent rise
Hollywood Sign

Credit: wikipedia.org

Many people felt that 2016 had an increase in celebrity deaths over prior years. “C’mon 2016!” and “Not again 2016!” were uttered constantly throughout much of the year. It seemed that we couldn’t go a week without hearing that a famous person had died. Some of the more notable people we lost included David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali and Carrie Fisher.

Public displays of grief and sadness about celebrity icons appeared to become the norm. And in some ways, it did. Indeed, you’re not alone if at one point during the past year you found yourself asking, “Why have so many celebrities died in 2016?”

According to the BBC, we weren’t being dramatic about celebrity deaths. The BBC compiles and writes obituaries for people who are deemed to be “celebrities” (though they admit it’s a bit arbitrary.) The number of celebrity obituaries published from January 1 through March 31 during the years 2011 through 2016 increased every year. By far the largest leap was from 2015 to 2016. Twelve obituaries were published during those months in 2015. That number doubled to 24 in 2016.

Reasons For The Apparent Rise

There are two main reasons for this uptick in celebrity deaths, and they are undoubtedly connected. First of all, most of the celebrities we have seen die recently are baby-boomers. Many of them were born between the years 1946 and 1964, when the world saw massive population growth. All of the celebrities listed above (except Muhammad Ali, born in 1942) fall into this category.

This generation also truly became the “celebrity” generation. The advent and rise of television and popular music into our everyday lives gave more people the opportunity to become famous. Before TV and popular music came into the picture, the only real celebrities were movie stars.There were no long-running sitcoms, chart-topping singles or nightly news broadcasts.

Box of popcorn spilt next to candy to symbolize entertainment.

For both of these reasons, there are many more famous people these days, and most of them are getting older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 there were 76 million baby boomers in the United States, roughly 23 percent of the population. And death is more common as people age. 

Celebrities and the entertainment business are huge parts of many peoples’ lives. They offer us a chance to escape our personal difficulties and can pull us out of a funk every-so-often, if only for a short time. Of course, most of us have never actually met our celebrity idols, crushes and heroes. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve them when they die.

If a person’s art has had a profound impact on your life, then why shouldn’t you grieve when you learn of their death? It’s easy to feel a connection to the artists you admire, particularly now in our ultra-connected world. Celebrities are more than just famous people. They are, for the most part,  highly-skilled craftsmen who bring light and happiness to those who enjoy their work. It’s appropriate to be thankful for the happiness they brought to thousands, if not millions, of people throughout the world, and to celebrate them when they die. 

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“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

- Dalai Lama

Couple with arms around eachother staring into sunset

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Page Hodel creates beautiful hearts as an ongoing celebration of love
Sweetness and Light

Sweetness and light

It’s an honor for SevenPonds to share with our readers the story of the Monday Hearts for Madalene project, a true account of the power of love in the midst of death.The project’s origins take us to 2005: the moment Page Hodel encountered Madalene Rodriguez and fell “instantly, dizzyingly in love with her.” The couple’s first meeting was electric, and Page felt inspired to do something unique for the woman who captured her heart. So, she began leaving handmade hearts – made from flowers, leaves, and other materials – on Madalene’s doorstep.  The hearts became a ritual, and they were there to greet Madalene as she left for work every Monday.

“To start her week with a visual reminder of our beautiful love.” Page Hodel

Just seven months later, Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away on June 20th, 2006. But Page’s love for her hasn’t ceased, and she continues to make a heart for her every Monday in celebration of her life.

If you would like, you can also receive Page’s “Monday Hearts for Madalene” by emailing her at page.hodel@gmail.com with “subscribe” written as the subject. Images of the hearts can also be purchased  in her beautifully compiled book, Monday Hearts for Madelene. Please also visit her website and Facebook  page. A portion of all sales will go to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California (www.wcrc.org). See more Monday Hearts for Madalene here.

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