Anna Schonauer

“Bully” Hits the Big Screen

March 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm , by

Have you heard about Bully? The documentary, which opens in select cities this week, follows kids and their families as they experience the devastation of being, well, bullied. After Bully received an R rating by the MPAA, the filmmakers are now releasing the movie without a rating, so individual theater owners can rate the documentary themselves. “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” says Bully director Lee Hirsch. “It’s what children who are victims of bullying face on most days.”

We talked to Hirsch about the film—and why for some parents and kids, it might be the most important movie they see this year.

LHJ: Why make a documentary about bullying?

Lee: I was bullied myself as a kid. I felt like I could give a voice to that experience, not just for the 12-year-old me but also for all the people who are going through it today.

LHJ: What shocked you most while filming this movie?

Lee: The physical bullying didn’t surprise me because I remember going through that myself all too well. But I was surprised by just how many people are struggling with this issue. When you’re being bullied you think you’re alone and you don’t have a voice. This film is helping band people together who’ve had this experience—whether they had it themselves, or its something their kid sister is going through. There’s not one family that bullying doesn’t touch.

LHJ: Why aren’t teachers and school administrators doing more to solve this problem?

Lee: I screened the movie for a group of administrators and one of them said to me afterwards, “To be honest, not one of us hasn’t gotten it wrong at some time.” But for me, the point is not to create division or fault. Instead, it’s to create an important conversation for educators to have about the value of social and emotional learning, about teaching empathy. I’d love to see school climates considered to be just as important as test scores and athletic victories.

LHJ: What advice do you have for parents whose kids are being bullied? 

Lee: I encourage your readers to visit our website where we have resources for victims of bullying. Parents should know that it’s your right to make sure your kid is not being bullied. If the teachers are not being responsive, you have to go to the principle, the superintendent, the school board, the office of civil rights, the local media. Just keep fighting. Some parents feel like they can’t win and they pull their kids out of school. But the most important thing is to let your kid know you’re fighting for them.

To learn more about Bully and what to do if your child is being bullied, go to www.thebullyproject.com.


Rachael Harris’s Surprising New Role

March 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm , by

You may know her from comedies like The Hangover and Kicking and Screaming, but in Natural Selection Rachael Harris proves she can do more than just make us laugh. In the indie drama, which hits select theatres today, she plays Linda White, a housewife whose world is turned upside down when her husband suffers a stroke. What unfolds is a road-trip tale with a bit of a twist as Linda sets out to find her husband’s out-of-wedlock son. Harris’s touching portrayal earned her the SXSW award for Breakthrough Performance at last year’s film festival, as well as a nomination for an Independent Sprit Award. We caught up with Harris, 44, to talk about her career-changing film.

LHJ: You’ve primarily done big feature comedies and TV sitcoms. Were you purposefully trying to do something different, or did this just kind of fall into your lap?

Rachael: I told my agents I don’t want to just do comedy, and I’m a big fan of actresses like Frances McDormand, Kathy Bates and Meryl Streep because they can do both comedy and drama. I knew it would be a tough sell but when they read the script for Natural Selection they thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone.

LHJ: You’ve said that the director, Robbie Pickering, wasn’t really interested in seeing you for this role at first. How did you change his mind?

Rachael: Well, luckily I didn’t know that he didn’t want me for the role, and I’m really grateful to the casting people who insisted that he take a meeting with me. During our meeting I talked to him about the script—in particular the scene where she’s brushing her teeth and Abe is at the hospital. She’s so overwhelmed and just trying to be normal and she can’t. She’s consumed with fear and loneliness and she has to turn on the water just to feel normal. So I was telling Robbie about my divorce and how I understand this character and he was like, “Oh wow, she’s been through a lot.” Then I read for him and I got the part. I’m glad he took that meeting!

LHJ: How did you get into the mindset of being Linda? She’s much more vulnerable than a lot of characters you’ve played.

Rachael: I think what I connected to the most was Linda’s faith in the beginning that everyone is good. She’s described in the film as “this perfect little angel in a puffy coat” and that’s how I thought of her, as this person that’s just very unconditional and eventually has to learn that people can still be really good even though they make bad decisions from time to time.

LHJ: Was it harder for you to play a dramatic role?

Rachael: I don’t really try to do anything different with comedy or drama; I just try to be real. The movies I respond to are the ones where the performances are so heartfelt and you can really relate to the characters and feel what they’re feeling. When I’m acting I always trying to be truthful in the moment and hopefully the audience feels that.

LHJ: Natural Selection swept the SXSW Film Festival awards last year. Were you surprised?

Rachael: We didn’t expect it at all. It blew us away. We weren’t even sure how many people would see it, so we certainly didn’t expect to sweep the whole thing. And then the Independent Spirit Award nomination was even crazier! It’s crazy that I was nominated with Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Olsen. I mean, it was a big deal for me. I’m very proud of the work that I did in this film, so to get this response feels really, really good.


Work Out Like an Olympian In 15 Minutes or Less

February 29, 2012 at 11:00 am , by

If there is anyone I trust to give me advice about how to stay in shape, it’s an Olympic athlete—after all, it’s their job to keep their bodies in perfect condition. So when I was invited to my first event as an intern for Ladies’ Home Journal, I was thrilled I’d be hearing four-time Gold Medalist and Olympic swimmer Janet Evans talk about how she stays healthy. Remember her? That’s her with her medals, which earned her the nickname “Miss Perpetual Motion.” Now at 40, Evans is still going strong, training for her fourth Olympic Games.

Since her last appearance in the 1996 games in Atlanta, Evans’ main focus has been her husband and two children, Jack and Sydney. (She’s also partnered with Metamucil to teach women about the importance of getting enough fiber in their diets—something we should all do). Now she’s pushing herself harder than ever—spending five hours in the pool every day, and usually starting by 5:30 in the morning. “You don’t have to work out like me—that’d be crazy! But even just 15 minutes a day can be really good for you,” she said.

As a busy student, I know that after I’ve spent 8 to 10 hours of my day at work, class, or sometimes both, it’s hard to motivate myself to get to the gym. But guess what? You really don’t have to! She recommends doing basic planks, squats and lunges at home or outside. After hearing Evans’ encouragement (she should really consider coaching), her Olympian-approved exercises seem really doable. Planks are great for working your core muscles, she says. And for your lower body, squats and lunges always get the job done. “Even I still get sore from those,” she adds. (That’s me, below left, with the Journal‘s health editorial assistant Amelia Harnish practicing our lunges. How’s our form?)

Planks

  • Lie on your stomach with your elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, with your palms down and fingers facing forward.
  • Slowly lift your torso and thighs off the floor. Be sure to keep your torso and legs rigid. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows. Try holding this position for 5 seconds or more.
  • Keeping your torso and legs stiff, slowly lower your body back toward the floor.

Squats

  • Begin standing with your feet positioned slightly wider than hip-width. Your hands should be by your side with your palms facing inward.
  • Slowly hinge at the hips, shifting them back and down. Your hips and knees should bend simultaneously. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
  • Return to start position by slowly pushing your feet into the floor through your heels. Start with 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps and try to increase that as you get stronger.

Lunges

  • Stand with your feet together. Lift one foot off the floor and find your balance on the standing leg. Step forward, landing on the heel first. Slowly shift your weight onto your front foot.
  • Continue lowering your body to a comfortable position or until your thigh is parallel with the floor.
  • Push off with your front leg to return to the upright starting position. Repeat with your other leg. Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, alternating each leg, and work up from there as it gets easier.

For more simple exercises you can do at home, check out the American Council on Exercise’s collection here.


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