luni, 15 ianuarie 2018

Hud, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, directed by Martin Ritt, with Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, 10 out of 10

Hud, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, directed by Martin Ritt, with Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas
10 out of 10

This will be a look at this extraordinary film, using Positive Psychology glasses or said otherwise:

Through a Glass Brightly

1963 was the year of 8 ½, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and Tom Jones, the Best Film at the Academy Awards
But I would say that Hud was just as good, if not better, even if it won three Oscars, without getting nominated as Best Motion Picture

There are three generations in this superb artwork and they have a complicated relationship with each other
Paul Newman is outstanding, as always, in the role of Hud Bannon, a complex personage that has a more prominent negative side

Homer Bannon is Hud’s father, who does not like this remaining son, responsible for the death of Lonnie’s father.
Lonnie is the third generation, grandson to Homer and an important moral and working support in his old age

Homer I not without faults, as a father he has been rather hard, we would call this abusive today
However, he has plenty of the Character Strengths identified by the father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman:

Integrity, Persistence, Bravery, Perspective, Citizenship, Fairness, Mercy, Leadership, Modesty
This hero also proves:
Vitality, Love, Kindness, Social Intelligence, Gratitude, Hope, Self- regulation, Spirituality and Prudence

Hud on the other hand stands accused of being:

Selfish…you only think of yourself
That’s why you can’t be with others…says Homer Bannon

Indeed, the main character I almost a negative hero, the bad guy that would need someone to fight him
Not that Hud engages in too few fights

The “hero” is Brave, has Vitality, Persistence, some Perspective, maybe Love of Learning and Social Intelligence
But he I not at all Modest or Fair, he shows no Gratitude, on the contrary, he thinks his father was rough with him

Hud might have gotten at least some of that right
Nevertheless, he now tries to get control of the farm, by having his father declared unfit to manage it and get the land under his administration

Lonnie is seventeen and in the first part of the film admires Hud, wanting to be pretty much like his uncle.
Nevertheless, when he sees the way Hud treats his father, contributing to his collapse and ultimate downfall, Lonnie rejects his uncle

Furthermore, Hud I violent and repulsive in his treatment of Alma, the woman that is hired as house cleaner and cook at the farm.
One night, after harassment and pestering the hired help, Hud gets drunk and attacks Alma, trying to rape her.

The escape is narrow.

In fact, it is only the intervention of the nephew that allows the woman to get off the floor and eventually leave the place all together.
Hud has an affair with a married woman, whose husband arrives just as the lover was leaving the house.

It is very early in the morning and the husband is sure there is something wrong with strangers leaving at that time
Bud blames this event on…Lonnie

Somehow, the charm of Paul Newman transfers to his character in the film, but I think this helps make the movie more intriguing an interesting, with a character that is not all despicable.

There are glorious performances from all those involved in this memorable motion picture, winner of three Oscars.

duminică, 14 ianuarie 2018

Darkest Hour, writer Anthony McCarten, director Joe Wright, with Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas

Darkest Hour, writer Anthony McCarten, director Joe Wright, with Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas

Even if this is the Darkest Hour, this note is intended to have a look at it Through a Glass Brightly

Positive Psychology is not about being Panglossian or Pollyannaish and it also deals with Adversity and Trauma
Darkest Hour, as the name suggests, represents a nadir in the history of Britain and the whole world

But luckily, someone like Winston Churchill rose and took the lead in the fight against Nazism and its leader, the corporal…
The Character Strengths of this extraordinary man make him the ultimate role model, except for some normal, human shortcomings:

Leadership, Bravery, Persistence, Creativity, Open Mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective, Citizenship, Fairness, Mercy, Integrity, Vitality, Kindness, Appreciation of Excellence
Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Spirituality, Self-Regulation- well, perhaps without considering the alcohol-

These are all Signature Strengths that the glorious statesman had and that was the saving of Europe
Speculations can be made

Indeed, even Churchill, in one of the most famous and brilliant speeches ever, mentions the Americans
If Britain fights- and he made sure that it did- and it would be occupied in large part, then the rest of the Empire would continue the struggle

And the Americans would have intervened at one point, but who knows how late, if not after the Fascists would control too much of the world
The ascension of Winston Churchill has been far from a sure, easy thing and he was not the favorite to become Prime Minister

Darkest Hour presents many of the details that concerned the backroom deals and conflicts, even after the great man became leader
Neville Chamberlain maneuvered with Lord Halifax to prevent Churchill from pushing too far and they wanted peace

It is also true that the situation was grave in the Darkest Hour and it looked like the whole British Army would be wiped out
It took the Visionary Churchill and his majestic, outstanding decision to order private ships to engage with the Dunkirk evacuation

Otherwise, the generals estimated that only 10% of the soldiers and officers would have been brought to Britain
One of the other best films of 2017, Dunkirk, deals with that part of the World War II in detail

The Prime Minister had to take another excruciatingly painful decision regarding the Calais unit.
The British had about 4,000 men there and they were needed to fight the Nazis in order to allow precious time for the main operation, the repatriation of the 300,000 troops from Dunkirk.

The soldiers and officers at Calais had to sacrifice themselves in order to allow the saving of more men
The leader of the British Empire writes a letter to their commander, specifying that there would be no evacuation for those at Calais.

His secretary, Elizabeth Layton aka the excellent Lily James, cries while typing that letter that would be sent to Calais
If glorified, admired as one the Greatest leaders and statesmen of all time, Churchill was loathed by many before becoming Prime Minister
His heavy drinking habits were notorious and disliked: he started the day late, with alcohol and continued till the late hours of the nigh

Churchill is said to have drank a quart of scotch and a bottle of Champagne on an average day
But he was almost never drunk and it has to be emphasized that nobody can be perfect and the other qualities of this man make him an Absolute Hero

This Ubermensch is the one who gave one of the best, most inspiring, important and motivational speeches ever:

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

sâmbătă, 13 ianuarie 2018

The Dreamers, based on the novel by Gilbert Adair, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, with Eva Green, Michael Pitt, 8 out of 10

The Dreamers, based on the novel by Gilbert Adair, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, with Eva Green, Michael Pitt
8 out of 10

This note is intended to use the lens of the Science of Happiness to look at the Dreamers with “good intentions”…

-          Through a Glass Brightly!

This is a very erotic, exciting story of three young people, their love and sexual explorations that reach new limits
Viewers and critics are likely to be divided on the manner, the style of rendering this narrative to the big screen

The frequent references to major, classic films could be seen as proof that this film is sophisticated
It could also puzzle and send off subject some who could perceive this as a self-indulging effort…

The director had been under attack for the making of Tango in Paris that has involved violence and physical abuse
According to the actress in the leading role, the memorable Tango was very hard on her and Bertolucci seemed to act, if not like Weinstein, in the sense of trying to get intimate, the director was still abusive

The protagonists of The Dreamers are – the American in Paris Matthew, the resplendent French girl Isabelle and her Siamese twin brother Theo, the latter inviting the American to stay with him and his sister.
They all involve in games

A classic of Psychology is called:

-          Games People Play and it was written by a formidable thinker- Eric Berne

The Games of the trio involve films and acting scenes from masterpieces, inviting the others to guess…
Where does this scene come from…?

There are penalties for not guessing the correct chef d’oeuvre
And this is where it gets physical and for some in the audience it can even be challenging, or hard to take

In the first instance, Theo is unable to identify the work of art that is played by his sister and he gets punished:

-          He has to masturbate, then and there, in front of the sibling and the intrigued American, who would confront the hosts on the subject

 At different points, Matthew sees the brother and sister sleeping naked, in the same bed! And he sees that their relationship is way beyond the natural, family closeness and it has long become a serious, perhaps clinical matter…

-          Have you ever gone on a date? Without Theo? Don’t look at him!
-          You know I haven’t! Why do you ask me this?

 After this dialogue between Matthew and Isabelle, he asks her on a date, which is going well, until they come back and they find the brother with another girl, listening to a tune that drives Isa mad!
Apparently, at least this is what I think, that song used to mean something special for these incestuous siblings

So Isabelle, who was in the process of making love with Matthew, the latter busy between her legs, performing oral sex, starts shouting:

-          Theo! Theo! Theo! …while banging at the door

This is definitely in the realm of outré…this is not just a ménage a trois, but a complicated, provoking story
Be a merit finder, not a fault finder! This is one of the mantras proffered by Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar

And indeed, even the very special parents, accept in an astonishing manner the situation that most would find outrageous…
When they come home from the countryside, they not only stumble upon filth, incredible waste, bottle of expensive wine and a house that looks like it had been through a tsunami, but they also contemplate:

-          Their naked daughter, sleeping between the brother and the American guest, all in the same titillating posture and garb

 And there are other, perhaps even more challenging images, like when Isabelle loses her virginity, and the blood is wiped all over her face and that of Matthew, while they kiss with passion…
At another time, the three lovers- albeit the relationship between the young men appears to remain platonic- are all taking a bath, at the same time and in the…same tub, finding themselves in water that has…menstrual blood…

-          Hey, it is only happening once a month! Says one of them…

Planet of the Apes, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle

Planet of the Apes, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle

The first film in this ever longer series could well be the best
That happens often or even most of the time, for the effort to cash in on a successful work is not at the level of the first try.

Taylor is the hero of this motion picture and he is portrayed by Charlton Heston.
This was an actor that had quite a few excellent roles, but in real life, his positions were often not admirable for the undersigned.

At the start of the film, a space ship lands on an unknown planet.
The screenplay is based on the book by Pierre Boulle, the author of another memorable book that inspired one of the best films ever:

-          The Bridge on the River Kwai

The humans on the spacecraft are all well, with the exception of the only woman member of the crew.
The latter we learn during the film that was destined to be the new Eve.

On whichever planet they would land, the men of the team and the woman would procreate...
But she is dead on arrival, on account of a hole that was punctured in her equipment.

When one of the team mates reproaches Taylor:

You do not seem sad
Well, mourning comes too late now...she has been dead for about one year...answers the hero

They talk about their ages and the time that passed on Earth during their space travel.
Given the speed, the discovery of Einstein, they say...

-          You are...what was it? Two years older...
-          But two thousand years have passed on Earth

And we are astonished to find later what happened on our planet in the meantime...
Well, I say astonishing, but is it really?

If we consider the climate change, the reckless treatment that the "thinking" species has been giving to its only home, it should not be all that unexpected.
After their ship sank, the three remaining members of the crew travel through inhospitable terrain.

They reach a group of human-like creatures that are however very primitive.
They do not speak and their IQ levels do not rise much higher than those of dogs.

If we look at the way they voted for an orangutan and keep supporting him in a place near the location of this story, we could say that these IQ levels are frequently encountered today.

Dominating the landscape we find...

-          Simians!
-          And not just that, but they hold in supreme contempt the human, idiot race

There will be some explanation in the final chapters of the movie, but I will not introduce any spoilers.
Humans are captured and treated with violence.

They are even tortured and one of the members of the spacecraft crew suffers a lobotomy that renders him in a vegetative state.
Taylor on the other hand manages some spectacular escapes and becomes something of a celebrity.

He is befriended by Zia, a professor that studies humans and later by her fiancé, Doctor Cornelius.
These are scientists with many Signature Strengths:

Curiosity, Love of Learning, Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Bravery, Hope, Gratitude, Wisdom and many more.

Alas, the Simian authorities are very determined to make Taylor another vegetable.
One of them knows a terrible secret and he makes every effort to prevent catastrophes from happening again.

They have a Religion that resembles the Christian tradition, only human aspects are replaced with Simian heroes and rules.

I will end by saying that there may be some hope, but the facts revealed towards the ending are horrendous...actually, without saying more, the value of this film rests a lot in the powerful message delivered with The End!

Local Hero, written and directed by Bill Forsyth

Local Hero, written and directed by Bill Forsyth

This film has been included on the New York Times list of Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made

And Local Hero is indeed an interesting, enjoyable production.
It has the God of Cinema, Burt Lancaster in one of the important roles.

This was not a challenge on a par with what the artist had to portray in Atlantic City, Elmer Gantry, The Leopard or any of the major roles of Burt Lancaster, but it is still memorable.
We have here a powerful man, with a top position in a Big Company, but who is past his prime.

At least in some ways.
The beginning of the movie finds him snoring in a key meeting.

Since this man is controlling the corporation, nobody says anything.
In fact, they try not to bother him.

There is something strange with this protagonist.
He is actually seeing a sort of therapist.

The latter is more outre than his client.
In order to solve problems, this analyst thinks he must provoke reactions, responses by any means...

No matter how outrageous.
When his client throws him out, the therapist is actually...happy!

He has provoked a determined response.
And so he climbs the top of this sky scraper where the headquarters of the client are and he gets in front of the windows of the client's office.

He posts on these windows the message:

You are a mother fuck**

Now that provokes again a reaction...
The protagonist calls his secretary and says

Call the police
There is a lunatic on the building
Tell them to shoot to kill...

and the film is only starting...
The hero, who is a younger man than the boss of this company, is sent to Scotland.

In a small village, on the coast, the big corporation intends to build a massive facility for oil tankers.
The main character is sent down to negotiate a deal.

He meets first with the owner of the small motel.
The owner is also the waiter, the financial consultant and a man of paramount importance for this place.

In fact, I am in two minds regarding the Local Hero.
Is he the American or this local negotiator?

The villagers are ready to sell and quickly.
The wiser, cannier motel owner knows that they should not hurry.

Evidently, when the buyer sees that you are so willing to sell, he is not tempted to think a lot of money is needed.
Nevertheless, the American begins to like the small place on the coast.

One night, granted, aft he had too many drinks, he proposes that the hotel owner trades places with him...

I have a nice place in Boston, money in the bank, fast car...anything you want.
You go in my place, I will stay here.

Local Hero is a very good comedy, with many important themes:

How relative and ultimately less important money is...
Life in the country, or better said, on the coast versus life in the big city.

Watching the sky as more rewarding that accumulating wealth...

luni, 8 ianuarie 2018

The Rainmaker, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on a novel by John Grisham, with Matt Damon, Danny DeVito

The Rainmaker, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on a novel by John Grisham, with Matt Damon, Danny DeVito

-          This note will concentrate on the Positive Aspects of this motion picture, using a Positive Psychology lens
-          And I think that this motion picture has at its core one of the most important elements of a Happy Life:

-          Calling

-          And this could be a challenge, given that not only the hero, but quite a few of the other personages are…
-          Lawyers!

-          This is the most Negative Profession imaginable, with the highest rates, at least in America, of:
-          Suicide, depression and divorce

-          There are of course plenty of jokes, with sharks and professional courtesy and even the hero jokes about them
-          Looking at his Best Possible Self- which is a Happiness Exercise by the way- he fears he could become like

-          Leo Drummond, who has been his opponent in court and throughout the film and is the epitome of the greedy lawyer
-          This profession, like any other, can be looked at in different ways, even if it is auspicious for negativity:

-          In almost every domain, there would be three groups of people choosing an activity that the first set:
-          Will see as a job, just get there and stay, work, whatever between nine and five and get the paycheck

-          The second class of individuals will be interested in a little bit more than pay and that will be a career

-          The most fortunate and Ultimately the Happiest are those in the third category that have found their:

-          Calling!

-          And this is where the protagonist of this film, Rudy Baylor aka Matt Damon is placed, Passionate as he is about the law
-          This young lawyer, who has just passed his bar exam and is faced with a very difficult trial has most of the Character strengths and Virtues identified by Martin Seligman and his colleague Peterson:

-          Integrity, Bravery, Persistence, Vitality, Kindness, Social Intelligence, Appreciation of Excellence
-          Gratitude, Hope, Humor, Self-regulation, Prudence, Modesty, Mercy and Forgiveness, Fairness,

-          Perspective, Love of Learning, Open-mindedness, Curiosity and let us end the list here with Creativity
-          Love is the most important of all these traits and Rudy loves his job aka calling and Kelly Riker, the woman he saves

-          Donny Ray Black is dying because of his leukemia, but perhaps most of all on account of the greed of a big corporation
-          The insurance company where he has a policy has denied his treatment eight times and thus killed him

-          They even went as far as to write to his mother, in their eighth rejection that:

-          “you are stupid, stupid, stupid”

-          In court, it is the job of the novice, but Resilient and Persistent Rudy to make the insurance company pay
-          It is no easy task and the film is interesting as one of the best courtroom dramas, with a reputable lawyer in the enemy camp

-          He was already mentioned as representing Evil, the Devil who has no ethics, values other than Big Money

-          There is a repeated joke that refers to the salary of Leo Drummond aka Jon Voigt which is supposedly

-          $ 1,000 per minute…

-          Notwithstanding his reputation, experience, gravitas, knowledge of the law and the ways clients can win no matter how guilty, this heavyweight is defeated by a rookie, a lawyer at his very first case
-          It is David fighting Goliath

-          But more crucial, it is a conflict between Good and Evil, Greed and Dedication, the Devil and the good Angel

Wondrous motion picture!

duminică, 7 ianuarie 2018

My Left Foot, based on the book by Christy Brown, 10 out of 10

My Left Foot, based on the book by Christy Brown
10 out of 10

-          This is an extraordinary film about Resilience, Persistence, Creativity, Bravery, Humility and many other Character Strengths
-          It is also a very relevant example for the phenomena called by Psychology – Hedonic Adaptation

-          It is the story of a real hero:
-          Christy Brown

-          For this phenomenal role, Daniel Day-Lewis has won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and other important awards
-          Brenda  Fricker as Mrs. Brown, Christy’s exceptional mother has also won the Oscar, golden Globe and other prizes

-          Christy is born with cerebral palsy at a time when this was a condemnation to a life of turmoil
-          Indeed, the doctors tell the parents that this is going to be a life long ordeal and the son will be a legume

-          Surprisingly, a humorous moment is associated with this, even if we do not really fall off chairs laughing
-          Mr. Brown is upset after hearing the news and goes to the pub…well, actually he goes there often anyway

-          One of the men in the bar come to the upset father and starts making “funny „comments on the situation:

-          So Brown, this is the end for you, hey?
-          How is that?
-          What will you do, tie a nod around it…hahaha?
-          And Mr. Brown hits the jester with his head in the mouth:
-          A closed mouth catches no flies…words to that effect

-          Christy and his mother are phenomenal characters, Super humans and Role Models to a great extent

-          Instead of self- pity and indulging into a life of suffering and depression, the hero becomes an artist
-          It is a long, difficult journey and like everyone else, Christy has traumatic experiences that he overcomes

-          In Hedonic Adaptation terms, tests with paraplegics have shown that we adapt to almost anything
-          Including serious conditions that sends one to the wheel chair- it is an example given in another mesmerizing film:

-          Before Sunset, in which the main character talks about paraplegics and lottery winners and says something like
-          Research showed that it does not really matter, if you were and ass hole before winning the big prize, it is the same after the jackpot and it the same with people in wheelchairs- we return to a set level of happiness

-          Having said that, it must be highlighted that Christy had to surpass terrible obstacles in his life
-          He has to use The Left Foot from the title, for nothing else seems to work in his body and he is helped around by his family, especially his mother

-          To render an accurate portrayal, Daniel Day-Lewis broke two ribs during filming and would not go out of character for the duration, being helped to eat at the canteen and even making his agent depart because of this courageous decision
-          Even if he was given no chances for anything resembling a normal life, Christy shows his remarkable intelligence early on

-          As they discuss mathematics, the question is raised regarding a quarter of a quarter- what is that?
-          The father says this is nonsense, but his son who is not yet speaking then and can barely use his foot to write, takes the chalk to write:

-          1/16!

-          Christy Brown will not become a mathematician though, but an acclaimed painter first and then a writer

-          This is not a story about pity
-          Milan Kundera explains in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that there is a big difference between

-          Pity and compassion
-          The former involves an attitude of superiority- we feel pity for someone that sits lower- while compassion is felt at the same level

This is a glorious film about: Vitality, Kindness, Social Intelligence, Appreciation of Beauty, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, and Spirituality- on top of the aforementioned Signature Strengths!