Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Blog

This blog - an examination of movies from a Buddhist perspective - is closed. Visit my new blog, "Bonnie Ferrante - Books for Children", on Wordpress for writing tips, book reviews, contests, tips on reading to/with children, and more. http://bferrante.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Movie Review of A Single Man (2009)

How would you deal with the death of your spouse?...Pain is inevitable, suffering is not. If any of these tragedies strike you in your present state of mind, you will suffer… Buddhism does advise you to invest some of your time and energy in learning to deal with unpleasantness, because some pain is unavoidable. When you see a truck bearing down on you, by all means jump out of the way. But spend some time in meditation, too. Learning to deal with discomfort is the only way you’ll be ready to handle the truck you didn’t see.
- Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

This is the story of an English professor in the 1960s who has lost his life partner and decided, after eight months of mourning, to kill himself. Thankfully, the characters were well acted and interesting because the plot was thin and predictable.

Colin Firth does a tremendous job as the grieving lover, Julianna Moore is excellent as his frustrated female friend, and the supporting cast is great. However, it may be that this territory has been covered so often that it has lost its power but I suspect there was something missing in the writing. The audience was not truly emotionally engaged as they were in “Milk” or “When Did You Last See Your Father?”

Movie Review of Alice in Wonderland (2010)

In teaching, the Buddha never spoke of humans as persons existing in some fixed or static way. Instead, he described us as a collection of five changing processes: the processes of the physical body, of feelings, of perceptions, of responses, and of the flow of consciousness that experiences them all. Our sense of self arises whenever we grasp at or identify with these patterns. The process of idenification, of selecting patterns to call "I", "me", "myself", is subtle and usually hidden from our awareness.
-Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart

This movie is not geared toward children. Not only does it have many frightening scenes but the plot is confusing and the language obscure. It is supposed to be an exciting adventure with heroines. I found it boring in several spots.

For adults, it seems to play with the concept of imposed self-identity, but this is weak. Alice, in the real world and in Wonderland, is continually told who she should and should not be. The minions of the Red Queen disguise themselves as freaks in order to meet her approval. Although the Red Queen's head continues to grow (one would assume representing ego) she is extremely insecure and aching for love. She can trust no one and comes off as sad and pitiable instead of the cold, domineering queen in Lewis Carroll's books.

Tim Burton does the usual odd and unique set and character design. Johnny Depp makes a freaky Mad Hatter. The special effects are notable and the costumes will probably be nominated for awards. The story depends too much on the special effects, bizarre creatures, and chase scenes to keep the viewer's interest.

The story is a combination of Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and invention. The Red Queen’s people are chess players while the White Queen’s are cards. Although the White Queen is good and beautiful and loved by her people, they never really justify why the elder sister did not have the right to the throne. The story jumps about in confusion. To top it off, Dodgeson’s obscure poetry is recited in a mumble almost as though Depp is bored himself.

Not worth the price.

Move Review of Amreeka (2009)

Movie Review of Amreeka (2009)

Because of their ignorance, all people are always thinking wrong thoughts and always losing the right viewpoint and, clinging to their egos, they take wrong actions. As a result, the become attached to a delusive existence.
- The Buddha

Muna Farah (Nisreen Faour), a single mother, and her son Fadi (Malkar Muallem) are Christian Palestine refugees move to Illinois and face prejudice and persecution. Muna, with two degrees and ten years of banking experience, can only land a job in a burger joint. There are funny moments and moving moments. The movie ends on a note of hope.

This movie examines in a microcosm how war, in a far off country, can impact people’s family, relationships, and culture, in America. Well worth watching.

Movie Review of The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

Everything changes,
Everything appears and disappears,
There is perfect tranquility
When one transcends both life and extinction.
- The Buddha

The Time Traveler’s Wife is first a romance and second a scifi/fantasy. Henry De Tamble (Eric Bana) is a time traveler who is uncontrollably and periodically flung naked into the past or future. This is physically dangerous as well as emotionally traumatic. His first time travel was out of his mother’s car while it was involved in a horrible crash. His only joy is the acceptance of Annette (Michelle Nolden), whom he meets over her life in small time travelling moments.

Is it possible for him to have a life-time loving relationship? What about children? When/if will the dangers of time travel cause his demise? Henry’s dilemma arouses compassion and suspense in the audience. Some of the logistics of time are a little confusing but, all in all, a brilliant movie.

Movie Review The Proposal (2009)

Imagine walking along a sidewalk with your arms full of groceries, and someone roughly bumps into you so that you fall and your groceries are strewn over the ground. As you rise up from the puddle of broken eggs and tomato juice, you are ready to shout out, “You idiot! What’s wrong with you? Are you blind?” But just before you catch your breath to speak, you see that the person who bumped you is actually blind. He, too, is sprawled in the spilled groceries, and your anger vanishes in an instant, to be replaced by sympathetic concern: “Are you hurt? Can I help you up?”

Our situation is like that. When we clearly realize that the source of disharmony and misery in the world is ignorance, we can open the door of wisdom and compassion. Then we are in a position to heal ourselves and others.

- B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) coerces her assistant Andrew Paxton ( Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her so that she will not be deported to Canada. After fifteen minutes, the audience can easily predict how the plot will unfold. The comedic moments (most of which were revealled in the trailer, are often awkward and lame. The only impressive part is Sandra Bullock’s physical shape. It is a waste of her talent.

Review of Television Series My Name is Earl (2005+)

The Buddha identified karma as volitional activity. That is, each volition in the mind is like a seed with tremendous potential. In the same way that the smallest acorn contains the potential of a great oak tree, so too each of our willed actions contains the seed of karmic results. The particular result depends on the qualities of mind associated with each volition. Greed, hatred, and delusion are unwholesome qualities that produce fruits of suffering; generosity, love, and wisdom are wholesome factors that bear fruits of happiness.

The Buddha called the understanding of this law of karma, the law of action and result, the “light of the world,” because it illuminates how life unfolds and why things are the way they are. The wisdom of this understanding allows us the freedom to make wise choices in our life.
- Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

Earl believes in a simplistic concept karma - “If you do bad things, bad things happen to you. If you do good things, good things happen to you.” While this is a simplistic understanding it does motivate Earl to change his life. He creates a list of all the bad things he has done in his life and sets out to make amends . In addition to experiencing better luck, Earl discovers the joy of making people’s lives better.

Although some of Earl’s previous actions were criminal, the series shows that even smaller actions have long term consequences. Earl develops awareness of cause and effect. The series is laugh out loud funny but also poignant and thought-provoking.