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Sean P. Means: Celebrating 10 great movie mothers

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Courtesy photo Homer and Marge Simpson in “The Simpsons.”

Obituaries can make you cry. The one that ran two weeks ago in The Oregonian, the newspaper in Portland, Ore., for Margaret Groening made me smile.

Groening, 94, was the mother of Matt Groening, the cartoonist and creator of “The Simpsons.” And reading through her obituary (reprinted this week by Gawker.com) reveals names familiar in “The Simpsons’ ” fictional home of Springfield.

Margaret (or Marge) was married to Homer Groening. Her maiden name was Wiggum (also the name of Springfield’s police chief). She had a sister named Patty and daughters named Maggie and Lisa.

Just goes to show that you never know how or where a mother will inspire creativity.

With Mother’s Day looming this weekend (have you sent a card yet?), you might be in the mood for movie viewing with a maternal theme. So here are 10 movie moms, taken from the past 20 years, who are worth another look:

Ada McGrath • “The Piano” (1993), played by Holly Hunter • Without saying a world, Hunter’s Ada conveys the unbreakable bond she has with her look-alike daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), in Jane Campion’s sumptuous drama.

Margaret “Marmee” March • “Little Women” (1994), played by Susan Sarandon • With her husband away during the Civil War, Mrs. March sees her daughters through rough times with patience and enduring love.

Marge Gunderson • “Fargo” (1996), played by Frances McDormand • Not a mother yet, the pregnant sheriff of the Coen brothers’ murder tale proves through her common-sense police work and firm sense of justice that she’ll be a firm-but-fair mom.

Annie MacLean • “The Horse Whisperer” (1998), played by Kristin Scott Thomas • Scott Thomas doesn’t sentimentalize her role as a mother who will go to great lengths — from New York to Montana, in fact — to find a way to heal her injured daughter (Scarlett Johansson) and restore the girl’s bond to her horse.

Elaine Miller • “Almost Famous” (2000), played by Frances McDormand • Told you Marge Gunderson would make a great mom. In Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of a budding rock journalist (Patrick Fugit), McDormand’s Elaine is the symbol of what he and his sister (Zooey Deschanel) are rebelling against — and the home to which they can always return.

Sarah Sullivan • “In America” (2002), played by Samantha Morton • As an Irish immigrant raising two daughters and mourning the loss of her baby boy, Morton perfectly embodies the joys and sorrows of motherhood in Jim Sheridan’s poignant drama.

Helen Parr (a k a Elastigirl) • “The Incredibles” (2004), voiced by Holly Hunter • Being a mom can sometimes require superheroic abilities, and the super-stretchy Helen turns out to be the glue that holds together a family of “supers” in this Pixar treat. (It’s interesting that Hunter’s other mention on this list, in “The Piano,” has her mute — when in “The Incredibles” the only thing you get from the actress is her voice.)

Juno MacGuff and Vanessa Loring • “Juno” (2007), played by Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner • Is motherhood a matter of biology or desire? Ponder that question while watching this charmer of a comedy, with Page as the pregnant teen who agrees to give her child up for adoption to Garner’s childless woman.

Hillary Lichten • “Phoebe in Wonderland” (2008), played by Felicity Huffman • Nobody’s a perfect mother, and Huffman’s portrayal of an exasperated mom — trying to maintain her academic career while dealing with a daughter (Elle Fanning) with an undiagnosed disorder — nicely grounds this fantasy-tinged drama.

Peggy Dodd • “The Master” (2012), played by Amy Adams • Peggy, the wife of burgeoning cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s drama, is great with child. But her maternal instincts are already sharp, as she protects Lancaster’s reputation from critics with the ferocity of a lioness.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at spmeans@sltrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seanpmeans.

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