Thinking About Joining The Film Industry?

The world film industry is at a leisurely high production rate, making job opportunity in this area. What are the prerequisites for joining the cinematography industry. Job factors, education and background are the key challenges when looking into this area.

In the modern era, young adults face a very open choice when entering the employment lane. The youth is targeted by a lot of contrasting views on where they should head in their future. Parents, government, teacher and idols bombard the youths with pressure as to where they should be. “Stay in school”, “work full time”, “Save every penny…” are old pieces of advice that are difficult to apply to the fast moving age that is the early twenty first century. The key is to work to learn, whether it be through Uni, school, work or experience, as long you are earning, the way that is most comfortable for you the money will follow. Thus with a strong education foundation you can make it in any profession and indeed film.

It remains a large question as to how one should go about learning the industry. There are many lines of work in cinematography (video art, sound, post production, sales etc.) and so it’s hard to know where to start learning. It’s what suits you, university will teach you a lot but learn while working will give you a better feel for that line of work, in Australia often neither is considered better. “…without the knowing the rules, you don’t know how to brake them…” post production Bundaberg Channel Ten. While you might consider not learning all the rules and foundations for your trade, It’s near impossible to create a style that works for you when you cant define different from the average. The difficult choice may revolve around opportunity shortage.

Uni is a difficult thing to get into. When trying to enter the arts it’s important to show your best side. Lecturer from the Queensland School of Film advises ” …the industry expects to see your best, if all you have to show that’s you best is 30 seconds of work, give them 30 seconds of work…”. It may be advisable to create a larger portfolio than 30 seconds however. Ring the nearest television station, document people in your surroundings, create a short film or as a general advis to all areas, work with what’s available, at least you’ll have done something productive. Male sure you make a Plan and set goals, if not it’d be like building a house without a design..it wont work.

Bully Nation / Bully World

“From out of nowhere the smallest kid came. Nobody knew him, not even his name. These mean guys laughed and ripped the kid’s shirt but this little kid refused to be hurt. He stood and looked ‘em straight in the eye, daring those bullies to even come try. There was no way they could hurt his pride. If he would find his strength from inside. Something happened no one could expect. By finding courage, he’d found his respect. Stand up, stand up for yourself.”

Excerpt lyrics from the children’s song Stand Up (to Bullies) by Caroline Figiel and Danny Jones

In recent weeks the Obama Administration reiterated its position to address the serious issue of kid bullying within our schools and communities. This is a fine gesture. I’m sure when we were kids, we’ve all suffered some humiliating experience in school in which “a schoolyard bully” has taunted us; picked upon us for being small, weak, different, or smart. Often these experiences leave an emotional scar that is more difficult to heal than any physical scar. I think we can all agree that cruelty to others should be reprimanded whereas civility and common decency toward others should be praised. However, does this political gesture truly address the root source of bullying in our American society? After all, where do kids learn these harmful habits? Might there be negative influences within our adult society? Before we focus on those influences however let me first define what is meant by bullying.

Bullying is a form of abuse. It involves repeated acts that attempt to create or enforce one person’s (or group’s) power over another person (or group), thus an “imbalance of power” is established. The “imbalance of power” may be social power and/or physical power. Bullying type of behaviors are often rooted in a bully’s inability to empathize with those whom he or she would target.

Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal and physical. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as psychological manipulation.

Bullying ranges from simple one on one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more “lieutenants” who assist the primary bully in his bullying activities. This bullying technique in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse.

So, what does a child learn when they observe a parent bullying a child, a spouse, or a neighbor, with impunity? What lessons are taught our children when they personally witness or hear their parents talking about certain government and/or business leaders who bully/harass their constituencies, their employees, their competitors, threatening retribution if they don’t get their way?

Bullying can occur in any context in which human beings interact with each other. That includes school, church, family, the workplace, home and neighborhoods. A 2007 WBI-Zogby survey found that nearly half of all workers (49%) have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker. In the majority of cases reported workplace bullying was perpetrated by management. This is often called corporate bullying where an employer abuses an employee with impunity, knowing the law is weak and the job market is soft.

Bullying is even a common instigative factor in coerced ethnic migration. Bullying can exist between social groups, social classes and even between countries, in the form of jingoism.

On an international scale, perceived or real imbalances of power between nations, in both economic systems and in treaty systems, are often cited as some of the primary causes of both World War I and World War II.

If children in school were allowed to study our true American history, they would discover that our nation has often employed a bullying style, whether through “manifest destiny” or recent neoliberal foreign policies, compelling lessor nations to do our bidding or suffer the consequences.

Today, bullying takes a world stage when America and Western European countries coerce developing countries to agree to policies set by the world institutions like the WTO, IMF and World Bank that are not in their citizens’ interest but in the international banks and multinational corporations’ financial interests.

Terrorizing is also a form of bullying for to terrorize is to coerce by using threats or violence, or to inspire with fear. Our War on Terrorism is a great distracter (as well as a great Military Industrial Complex money maker) from the true terrorists that reside within our country. Who promotes fear mongering in this country? Is it not bullying, or terrorizing, our citizenry when banking, oil and insurance corporations hold Americans hostage, employing their “lieutenants” such as Fox News and talk radio pundits, as well as bank-rolled politicians and lobbyists, to manipulate the American public through fabricated threats to national economic interest and fear mongering diatribes in order to extract more money from Americans, or get them to vote against their own common interests such as corporate abuse reform.

In truth, tyranny, intimidation and terrorism are forms of bullying and our adult society rewards this behavior. During last year’s televised political debates, did our children receive a valuable lesson in civil discourse or rather a lesson that he or she who shouts the loudest, most abusive vitriolic language toward their opponent achieves the winning edge. This certainly was the case in last year’s election in which Republican candidates emphasized fear mongering, a form of psychological manipulation bullying, over any constructive solutions to American society issues, in order to get elected.

What our society calls “successful capitalism” is often strong arm bullying tactics. Corporate press will shower accolades upon the “pillars of capitalism” CEOs who most successfully embrace Carnegie’s philosophy Social Darwinism, or survival of the fittest, without empathy or thought given toward those harmed in their wake.

Now you may ask yourself, how does one fight back against the bully? What recourse can an individual take?

In the schoolyard, sometimes the art of self-defense, such as a solid first punch to the bully’s nose or stomach will achieve justice, successfully silencing the bully. Other situations might require a strong person to stand tall in peaceful defiance, ultimately winning the bully’s respect and eventual acquiescence.

In the adult world, the means available for an individual to stand up against the bully may be more complex and more difficult, yet achievable.

Solely relying on legal recourse in our society as a means may prove futile. Remember, it’s OUR legal system that allows government institutions to coercively collect fees and taxes from its citizens. The only difference between federal, state, county and city agencies who utilize police agencies as bully enforcers to collect their inequitable fees and taxes, and the developing nations’ police who extort money from you directly is, in the United States its legal.

In the United States, comprehensive workplace bullying legislation has yet to be passed by the Federal Government or by any state governments, though, as of April 2009, 16 states have prepared legislation. The proposed anti-bullying bills typically allow employees to sue their employers for creating an “abusive work environment”, supported by the rationale that laws are necessary to protect public health. A strong support for these bills, putting pressure on legislators to advocate such legislation, would certainly be to the workers’ benefit. Maintaining vigilance toward continual enforcement would also be needed since even existing employee whistle-blowing laws are often halfheartedly enforced, creating vulnerability for the employee’s necessary protection from management retaliation.

Sometimes the individual alone must seek remedy. Since David challenged Goliath, our cultural myths and legends, here in the US and around the world, are often based on the many courageous individuals who have stood up against the oppressive tyrant, their tales admirably told through books and films.

Their heroic stories are legendary; Robin Hood and Joan of Arc to the lone brave sheriff who confronts the wealthy cattle rancher and his hired gunmen.

Less known yet no less brave, are these other individuals’ stories: Sid Hatfield and the Battle of Matewan in 1920 West Virginia in which Sid Hatfield stood up against the mining company and their hired police; Rosa Park’s peaceful defiance against The American South’s bully bigotry; Norma Rae’s heroic protest against her company’s poor working conditions, and Harvey Milk’s courageous peaceful defiance against San Francisco’s sexual discriminators.

Seattle’s downtown streets bore witness in November ’99 to the anti-globalization movement where people from all walks of life gathered to peacefully protest the World Trade Organization (WTO) bullying policies known as globalization, a laudable stance that would ultimately provide the moral backbone for the developing nations delegates to stand up against their intimidating American and Western European counterparts.

And of course, we can’t forget the heroic Nerds in Revenge of the Nerds and Bluto (John Belushi’s character) in the movie Animal House who stood up against their respective bullies, the Jocks and Faber College’s Dean Werner.

Challenging tyrant’s bullying power is no easy task. In recent weeks, from the Middle East to Middle America, Egypt to Wisconsin, citizens have taken to the streets; Wisconsin where teachers have been protesting their Republican Governor’s proposal to eliminate their right to collective bargaining.

In Egypt and Tunisia, motivated by poverty, lack of jobs, the people have had enough. Their dictator’s bullying tactics, coupled with deplorable living conditions, would be tolerated no longer. The protests were widespread among the citizens and largely non-violent; gaining support from such needed allies as the dictators’ military personnel, in order to achieve a successful revolution, with little bloodshed.

During the Egyptian protest, when President Obama stated this proclamation that “peaceful protest leads to dialogue, leads to reform, and ultimately leads to democracy” was Wisconsin Governor Walker listening?

As the poster boys for avaricious audacity, the billionaires Koch Brothers (Koch Industries) seem to have a grudge against working class Americans and any “will of the people” effort to limit their corporate hubris to pollute the planet for maximum profit. They are the predominant financial muscle behind numerous Republican Party and Tea Party member’s efforts, including Wisconsin Gov. Walker, to roll back social services for the working class under the guise to reduce state budgets. The coordinated, insidious plan however is to not reduce deficits so much as to transfer savings from reduced public servant’s pay and benefits and transfer the funds to wealthy interests like the Koch Bros. in the form of industrial tax breaks and reduced tax rates. The Koch Brothers are also the puppet master influence behind the recent effort in California, Prop 23, to reverse the state’s Clean Air Act passed by the majority of Californians.

Fortunately, defiant citizenry groups such as the California student sustainability coalition, through conducting peaceful demonstrations, educating the public and getting out the vote, helped defeat Prop 23 in California last year; a non-violent, symbolic punch-to-the bully’s nose victory!

Regretfully, the Obama Administration’s gesture toward stopping bullying may be more symbolic than substantial. At the state level, states such as Florida and Georgia have in recent years passed successful anti-bullying laws to protect children in school. One can hope that with a legal recourse established a gradual deterrence and intolerance to the bullying atmosphere, from the schoolyards to cyberspace, will prevail in schools and in the minds among our future generations.

Still, what justice awaits them in adult society? What real change can occur if our societal bullying problem is not also addressed? In a country overwrought with unnecessary rules and regulations, why does workplace or corporate bullying go largely unpunished? Why does our American vernacular have ample words to describe the bully (miscreant, tyrant, tormenter, oppressor, intimidator, villain, corrupter, spoiled brat, etc.) yet no words to describe the action “getting one’s way”? Are these subtle cultural signs our current institutions protect the bully, especially at the highest levels?

Societal institutions’ authorities can also bully, creating an underlining cultural atmosphere that intimidates, subtlety and not so subtle, the individual to conform, to obey societal demands or suffer the consequences. Who stands up for the individual who chooses his own peaceful path?

I leave you the reader with much to ponder and end this article with a song by the rock group Supertramp, a song that stands up for that individual.

THE LOGICAL SONG by Supertramp

When I was young seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so joyfully, playfully, watching me. But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep for such a simple man. Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned. I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am.

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal. Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night when all the world’s asleep, the questions run too deep for such a simple man. Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned. I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am!”

Adult Kidnapped!

Why is it, that the moment we discuss things that adults enjoy, away from children, it becomes taboo? The word adult has been kidnapped by hardcore porn sites, a bit like the Union Jack has been kidnapped by far right political parties. The sad thing is, the internet world had allowed the adult kidnapping to happen, whilst the British public allowed the Union Jack to have the same fate. I recently constructed a website, because my experiences tell me that adult’s love being with other adults, at certain times. The length and frequency of those periods varies from individual to individual.

Let me make my view on porn very clear, porn is NOT for children, no ifs – no buts, but nor are adult holidays, nor is the hiring of cars, taking out finance, buying and consuming alcohol, playing bingo, using casinos, etc. My view is very simple, the adult world is only for adults, and we should prevent children entering the world, but by censoring everything associated with adults, so you can “cut out the porn” is not done for the benefit of adults. It is done because of the stupid adults who don’t prevent their children seeing what they should not. These people are the very ones that will provide “porn for kids” and the generalised censorship that I and others face is, in my opinion wrong, as it won’t stop the “wrong uns” (as my mum calls them!)

A couple of years ago, in the UK, there were two young lads who did horrible things to two other young lads (and others), and it turns out that their father allowed them to watch porn, and violence, and that their mother gave them cannabis to make them sleep. No Google or anyone would have prevented this, and the loose screw has now been passed down a generation. Those of you who have booked a mainstream adult only holiday with a well-known holiday provider will have done so for two main reasons; 1 – You don’t want children around, and 2 – You do want adult company. I am a married man (30 years in November), with two adult daughters and 3 fantastic grandchildren. I love seeing my daughters, and my grandchildren, but they have a “slot” in my life. When that “slot” is completed, I move on to other slots. Sitting here, writing this article, I am in my “authoring slot”, in a couple of hours I will be in the pub in my adults’ only socializing slot.

Now back to my opening sentence “Why is it, that the moment we discuss things that adults enjoy, away from children, it becomes taboo?” Google, and many other sites, including many who want you to help promote them, will refuse your site when you include the private moments! So what is porn? This really is open to interpretation, and is a subject that has had its boundaries changed in all directions over the centuries. It varies in different countries, religions and cultures. Is the situation with consenting adults watching other consenting adults’ on TV porn? Are a man and his wife making love porn? Is this article porn? I live in Spain, and for the 1st 45 years of my life, I lived in the UK. At midnight, here in this very catholic country, several channels show, free of charge, uncut adult movies. In the UK there are loads of pay per view channels featuring these films.

The adult world is much more than just sex, but is dressing in sexy clothing the thing you would encourage your 16 year-old daughter to do as she “went to her mates house” on a Friday night? However what is wrong with dressing up for your partner in a private moment? Should you have to go to a back street sleaze balls shop or should you be comfortable looking on-line and ordering the clothes, shoes and toys that you fancy? Do you enjoy going out for a drink or a meal and there are no screeching kids? Mentioned above, but worth another mention, adult holidays – club 18-30 and Saga offer adult only holidays, and nearly all other big travel companies offer some form of over 17′s only experiences. Would you sit down and do your financial planning with your 9 year-old son? Would you buy a bottle of scotch for your 13 year-old daughters’ birthday? You know the answer!

Jurassic World Film Review

Jurassic World has set new box office records. The highest earner of the franchise and at the time of writing it is the fastest film ever to hit the billion dollar mark ($1 billion in twelve days). But is it any good?

I’m by no means a fan of the franchise. I saw Jurassic Park at the cinema back in 1993. I didn’t see the second one and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the third. Monster movies are not really my thing but if I was going to watch one it would be Jurassic park. It’s not something I’d go out of my way to watch today but if I catch it on the television I know I’ll watch it to the end every time. It’s not so much the monsters that interest me but the little Spielbergian touches and attention to detail that gets me every time. That water in the glass tremor scene, the race to climb the electric fence, Nerdy Nedry, ‘clever girl’ and so on and so forth.

I don’t go to the cinema as much as I’d like to these days. A Paul Greengrass movie will get me in the cinema – I saw United ’93, Bourne Ultimatum and Captain Philips all at the cinema – as will anything touched by the hands of Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Interstellar) or anything that breaks new cinematic ground (Avatar). I almost saw Furious 7 merely because it became the fastest movie at the time to make a billion dollars. I had never been interested in a Fast and Furious movie until Furious 7 suddenly became the most talked about film on the planet. It made over a billion dollars so it must be good, right?

And so it was with Jurassic World. It had already racked up half a billion at the box office within the first week of release and the word of mouth I was hearing from peers who had seen it was positive: ‘You have to see this movie’, ‘Gorier’, ‘Adult-themed’ ‘Bigger and better than Jurassic Park’ was the word on the street. And so on a Monday afternoon, with high expectations, I entered the world that was Jurassic.

First of all I’m going to say that on a technical level, this was a good movie. The effects were (almost) flawless, the cinematography fine, the acting perfectly acceptable. It was well directed, edited, designed and as blockbusters go this was a top-notch production. A film any producer, director and writer would and should be proud to have on their CV. So why did I come out thinking Jurassic Park was better?

For a start, leads Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were perfect. Too perfect. Chris Pratt’s epitome of the alpha male Owen (almost) intimidated me. I’m in pretty good shape but he was so perfect he only served to remind me that I needed to hit the gym harder and lose more belly fat. I couldn’t relate to him in the way I could relate to Sam Neill’s grouchy Alan. The flawless Owen did not make me feel good about myself. As a result I was not rooting for him. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sitting there willing him to be eaten – I just didn’t care either way.

Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire was a one-dimensional corporate ‘whore’ we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Hollywood films who values money and career over any meaningful relationships – a far cry from Richard Attenborough’s grandfatherly billionaire and unlike Laura Dern’s girl-next-door was almost robotic-like in her perfectness. This may have been the film’s point but it still didn’t make for a character I cared about. There was some ‘romantic’ sub-plot between Owen and Claire and they were arguing about a second date they never went on and who didn’t initiate it or something. Various other characters consisted of an Indian billionaire, an evil military man and a couple of kids. I don’t know who they were, what their names were or what they wanted and I didn’t really care.

Anyway, the main attraction. What we came to see. The genetically engineered super dinosaur Indominus Rex. It was big and impressive and I found myself constantly straining to see whether I could discern any flaws in the CGI (which I couldn’t). But where it impressed technically it failed to impress on any other level. What is an Indominus Rex? I know what a T-Rex (or King of Tyranny) is, it’s been hard-wired into my brain from an early age, but I don’t know what an Indominus Rex is other than what its name suggests – King of the Fierce? It just looked like a T-Rex with a longer snout and a higher IQ. Apart from the human ability to deceive its prey it didn’t do anything that the T-Rex didn’t do.

In 1993 coming face to face with a dinosaur was pretty awesome. No doubt due to the fact JP was the first of its kind in its day and because in 2015 we’ve already seen Godzilla, Transformers, even our own planet turn on us. Apart from an impressive sea dinosaur who eats Jaws for breakfast it was nothing really we hadn’t seen before. Yes CGI has come a long way in the twenty-two years since JP but still the experience felt somehow flat which brings me onto the next subject.

Whereas JP inspired awe, Jurassic World teetered dangerously on the ridiculous. That a dinosaur theme park would even be allowed to open after the disaster of the first one seems dubious to say the least. The velociraptors once terrifying have now become circus performers and loyal pets who run alongside their master’s motorbike. That silhouetted, sunlit kiss???

This was a film that felt like it was written by committee. Nothing wrong with that. The TV show ‘Friends’ was written by committee and I loved that show. I still do. It just felt like it was ticking all the right genre boxes in order to attract the widest audience possible – Romance, Thriller, Action, Disaster etc. Again, nothing wrong with that at all from a business perspective just as long as you can make it look like it isn’t all these things.

To date Jurassic World has surpassed any other film at the box office in so little time so why did I come out of the cinema thinking JP was better? More to the point with returns like these does it really matter?

The Big Issues of Living: Three Recent Indy Films

I keep thinking the three odd, non-mainstream movies I’ve seen recently, “The Tree of Life,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, and the newly released “Margaret,” (a 2002, post-911 film whose distribution was delayed), all have something crucial to tell us. Or rather, show us, because we have to figure out their messages for ourselves.

Or, these films are, at the very least, a reflection of part of our new century’s collective consciousness, as well as bulletins from our collective unconscious. I was drawn into the films though they were not as much “entertainment” as they were stimulants for difficult thought, and it is a bit if a challenge to articulate just what the three may have in common.

The first, Terence Malik’s “The Tree of Life,” I found so mesmerizing in lyrical imagery that the fragmented narrative didn’t bother me at all. And yes, there was a story there, a typical family drama of the early sixties. Brad Pitt is the father of three boys and we are perceiving mostly Jack’s world, the older boy’s, perspective, his chaotic and bewildering coming-of-age through adolescence to manhood under the somewhat stern dominion of the father played by Brad Pitt.

The ethereal Jessica Chastain is The Great Earth Mother beneath whom the three sons are sheltered, and the tensions between the parents, and the father and his sons, are fraught with the same incongruous conflicts many of us recognize from the emotional throws of growing up in small town America.

In the middle of the film there is an interlude of dazzling imagery, an explosion of nature’s growth and time’s passages, throwing us into thoughts of the Big Bang, the violence of earth’s natural movements, the tossing of seeds and leaves and light, atoms and molecules, sperm and ovum, the sense of time immemorial, infinite time and the great questions of time’s purpose. It doesn’t segue into or away from the narrative well but it gives us some hints as to the ambitious nitty-gritty of the film.

Jack is a poetic soul, struggling to understand his own existence, and the middle son is the sensitive would-be musician whose life is cut short by the Vietnam war. As the brothers grieve and the parents suffer and wound one another, we feel the vicissitudes, the anxiety and threats that persist alongside daily living. We believe in the “Tree of Life” of the title, the welling together at the root, the battering of the branches, the dappled summer light that brightens the buds of the heart and awakens the body’s mortal awareness.

How does one capture and interpret the secret of what it means to be human on this particular planet, to know the Self writ large? Who Are We? Jack wonders in voiceover. Can the far-reaching, archetypal symbol of the Tree hold us all, thread and root us into an interconnected whole?

Most of us never question why we’re here, but then, again some of us question constantly. As a poet, I read all sorts of approaches that speak to this question along with shapely and sinuous answers. And Malick’s film itself is poetry, and poetry’s response is often layered down to the bedrock, twisting with wishes, as on a Mobius strip.

Despite critical raves, in theatres throughout the country people walked out on this film, frustrated no doubt by the alternate mumbling and blaring of the soundtrack and the lack of linear storytelling, perhaps unwilling to give the film the attention it needs. I saw it twice, not wanting to miss any of the pieces the first time, and the second, to focus on how the pieces were put together. I found it visually astonishing and the acting excellent, earning Pitt an Oscar nomination. Pitt takes on a deeper dimension of himself as the frustrated father, and Hunter McCracken, plays Jack with universal truth in his every move.

In the finale of the film, a strange, surreal place (meant to be heaven?) emerges, complete with beach and lapping waves, for what seems a city population coming and going as if the sand itself were a New York sidewalk. The family we watched coming apart, comes together again in reconciled affection. Sean Penn, is the older Jack, who has found himself as a modern architect, and appears with his younger self, his lost brother, the mother who never ages, and Pitt as a more tender father. Between the shifts of light, the shapes, the colors, the abstract landscapes and the faces of the figures, it appears Malick is paying homage to our whole experience as beings on and of the earth, nothing less than eternal in the sheer mystery of soul travels.

Like “Tree of Life,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is also told from a child’s viewpoint. This protagonist, an untrained star of amazing power and depth is played by six-year-old Quvenzhan√© Wallis, a fascinating child to watch. In fact, the entire cast is without acting experience, and yet, each tapped into a larger self and found his or her character’s perfect center. As for plot, this movie possesses even less than Tree but is equally provocative.

The girl lives alongside her father on a small barrier island in New Orleans’ gulf, an area bordered by levies, called “The Bathtub.” The young child, “Hushpuppy,” narrates as we watch her alcoholic father’s health fail in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her mother “swam away” one day, though Hushpuppy still sees her in her minds’ eye, and calls to her from the water’s edge.

Her father raises her like a boy, won’t let her cry over his illness, (though both do at the unsentimental end) calls her “The Man” and exhorts her to stand up and cheer for herself, showing her “guns” (muscles). The film takes place in just a few days.
In the back of Hushpuppy’s imagination are the arctos, ancient, mythic creatures, huge in her fantasies. And when she finally meets several of them nose-to-nose, she is like Alice grown tiny. Yet through her confidence and self-reliance, Hushpuppy is able to dispel the enormous spirit-creatures with her own magical powers. As a metaphor for her own wildness, one could say these wild beasts further represent her own smoldering independence.

The film is disturbing. The ragtag group who cling to what’s left of their junky homes are nothing like proper parents. By any middle-class measure, these children would be taken away for their own safety. But though it disturbs us that Hushpuppy suffers both abuse and neglect, her father’s love for her is real, and vice versa. While he tries to shelter her from his illness, Katrina swings in, and the inhabitants of the island find themselves cut off from their self-sufficiency. Everything is dying around them. And when they fight the help they’re offered by government agencies, they are like primitives who can only survive in their natural habitat, preferring to die in it. While she observes her father under doctors’ care, Hushpuppy ironically remarks that when people grow sick here, “they plug them into the wall.”

After their escape from the hospital, she cremates her father and sends him off to a burial at sea on a homemade float just as the ancients did. One remembers the rituals of Avalon, and that the Nature that threatens this community’s life is also a part of its soul. The film speaks for a kind of Libertarian independence, against an intervening government civilizing society. The motley crew slips away from the Red Cross camp, and Hushpuppy conquers the primitive creatures in one triumphant moment of staring them down.

This is her fantasy of course, the way she sees herself, a girl-child raised like a boy, a loyal, devoted daughter, who grieves the loss of her mother and father equally. But Hushpuppy knows who she is. She tells us the scientists will look back 100 years from now and “they’ll know there was a Hushpuppy who lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub.”

Will she survive? Not by any dint of current cultural standards. But then, as she earns our respect and captures our hearts, we wonder about our own world, held as we are in its tightening, grip, more and more alienated from Nature. What if we don’t need banks? And lawyers? Or the Federal Drug Administration? What if we didn’t rely so heavily on the Powers-That-Be, those that seem to be serving themselves more than their constituency? Wise men tell us that this is now the era for us to outgrow the ubiquitous crumbling systems and shallow values of our over-materialistic world.

Hushpuppy is mythic, a magical child. She shows us an alternative life we would never choose for ourselves. But still, we sit in our silent tears at the end of the film, find strangers in the restrooms afterwards wiping their eyes as well. We know something’s been lost in our world that is not lost for Hushpuppy. She’s free and she’s confident and yes–she’ll probably grow disillusioned as she ages–but her faith in her strange foundation is steadfast. We’re sure we don’t want to live like her, but we’re not sure, how in our modern lives, we can find what’s been lost.

A few days later I picked up a movie in the supermarket on Redbox. I’d heard an NPR program on “Margaret,” and because of its length among other reasons, it had been held back from release. Based on a play by Kenneth Lonegrin “Margaret” tells the story of a fatal bus accident and the privileged, teenage, West Side Manhattanite, Lisa, played ferociously by Anna Pacquin. Lisa causes the accident by distracting a bus driver with her flirtatious interest in his cowboy hat. The bus driver, (Mark Ruffalo) runs a red light and runs over a woman, (Alison Janey.) As “Monica” dies in the girl’s arms, Lisa, (if she hadn’t discovered it by 911 already) learns that life can change in an instant. Although she readily admits to her math teacher (Matt Damon) that she cheated on his test, Lisa begins to think about “right” and “wrong” in absolutes.

She’s traumatized by Monica dying in her arms. In the aftermath of the accident, exchanging looks with the bus driver, she tells the Police the light was green. But Lisa develops an obsession about her lie and confides in her actress mother who has her own distractions as the star of a new Broadway hit.

We see Lisa in and out of school, arguing, manipulating and seducing teachers and friends. She lives an “entitled” life and most teenagers, she is passionately idealistic. When she tries, with the help of Monica’s cynical friend, to administer justice for Monica’s senseless death, by amending her statement, incriminating the driver and starting a law suit against the MTA, she only succeeds in drawing them into a settlement which benefits Monica’s greedy, distant cousin.

Still the driver gets to keep his job despite a previous record of reckless driving. But does Lisa recognize in herself the mountain of guilt she has projected onto him? Though she makes one admission that the accident was her fault, she has not taken full responsibility for her own reckless behavior, which continues throughout the film to the point of losing her virginity and claiming to her teachers that she has had an abortion. We do not think this is true.

Meanwhile Lisa’s mother is being courted by a rich Columbian man who dies of a heart attack shortly after she breaks up with him, leaving both mother and daughter finally with some things in common: guilt and grief. In the last scene mother and daughter attend an opera at Lincoln Center and at the sound of the diva’s voice, they are reduced to tears. Then sobs, then hugs. For the first time we see the love between them shows.

Lisa’s aware that the world isn’t fair. She is a feisty and courageous, persistent and operatic herself. The world seems to her a series of random events such as her mother’s lover’s death, the horrible accident and the ever-present memories of 911, which the filmmaker emphasizes by numerous pans of the skies over NYC.

All three of these films tell us something about the difficulty in reconciling the many opposing forces in our modern society. Tree of Life looks back with nostalgia for a simpler time as much as it looks through the eyes of a young man toward an unsettled future. Beasts gives us a young child’s endeavor to come to terms with her lost mother and dying father, and to transcend her immensely disadvantaged life with hard-won inner strength. “Margaret” (named for the a young woman’s realization of death in a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins) gives us the thin-skinned, self-centered insecurity of another dramatic young woman with scary close-ups of an adult world that offers no answers to injustice. The precariousness of living in our times is stated in each. Something’s not right with our world.