Wednesday, February 1, 2017
“Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that's why we're all interested in movies- those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it's actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.” ― Tim Burton
I don’t ordinarily do movie reviews as everyone has different tastes. I only have two criteria for a movie to be “good” in my book: 1. It entertains me, and 2. It makes me think. Now even movies the critics have all panned can meet one or the other of my criteria, so I like a lot more movies than the critics do. There are rare movies that both entertain me and make me think and those I usually recommend to others. Because I am still a member of the Writer’s Guild of America, I get to download all the Academy Award nominees just in case I might influence someone who gets to vote (I wrote for Hollywood when I lived in L.A. in the seventies and still have scripts in the vault there). The other day I watched two movies that are up for Academy Awards. One has all the buzz and will probably get the most Oscars—I hated it. The other really deserves to be recognized but probably won’t be, because the Academy is known for not doing what it should. Dustin Hoffman should have had three Oscars by the time they finally gave him one for a so-so movie, “Kramer vs. Kramer” which was not his best work.
The movie I didn’t like (nor did my wife and son) was “La La Land” a musical about the movie industry. It didn’t have a single memorable song (unlike “Les Miserables” or “Oliver” or “The Sound of Music”), and it didn’t have any big production numbers, and its stars are not known for their singing and dancing. It was supposed to be a return to the musicals of the fifties but, in my opinion, it failed miserably. It did not have a happy ending although they tried to show what that would have been like as if to justify their not ending it like that. It was thoroughly disappointing, but as the Academy loves to reward movies about making movies (like “Argo” before it), it will probably win “Best Picture” but it is certainly not—at least in my opinion.
The movie that all three of us loved and are still talking about was “Lion.” This is based on the true story of a small Hindu boy who gets lost in India and is later adopted by an Australian family. Without giving too much away, the boy, as a grown man, tries to get back to India to find his real family. Now there is nothing overtly Christian about this movie. It’s about a Hindu and if the family in Australia is Christian, it is never spoken of nor shown. Yet, it shows so many of the things that Christ thought and taught were important: love of strangers, unconditional love of mothers for their children whether natural or adopted, and how people you don't know can be kind and love you. It shows the love of brother for brother in more than one context and made me realize what I had missed in my own sibling relationships. It shows that there is evil in this world (it’s not a movie for children), but it also shows that love and kindness can conquer that evil and prevail. One of the most powerful scenes isn’t even in the movie but is included while the credits are rolling—a scene so powerful that all of three of us were in tears (so do watch the credits at the end). This is a movie that will entertain you and make you think. It’s a movie you will be talking about for quite a while, so, naturally, it will not get the Academy Awards it so richly deserves. But life is like that, isn’t it? Christ did not want us to love others as He loved us in order to get awards but because it was the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the thing that would please the loving God who created us all. This movie, “Lion,” is emotionally engaging from the opening scenes to the end of the credits. Karen had trouble watching the first part as she was crying thinking of how she would have felt if that had been one of her children. There were parts that bothered John and me as well, but they should have bothered us. They should bother everybody to the point that we work to end that kind of evil wherever we find it. So, as a former writer for Hollywood and a student of literature and the arts, I recommend the movie “Lion” and will tell you to save your money and your time by not seeing “La La Land” which was easily forgettable--except for the jazz scenes since I like jazz. It was also kind of cool that the jazz club they featured in the movie was one that Karen and I used to frequent in Manhattan Beach called “The Lighthouse” where we had many happy memories. Unless you, too, have good memories of “The Lighthouse” jazz club, maybe you should just skip this movie and instead challenge yourself to watch something that will resonate with your understanding of Christ’s teachings and life, like "Lion," as it did with ours. And you can take that to the bank.