Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: January 2016

More Movies

On the flight home from Puerto Rico the other day I took in The Martian.  Of course the tiny screen did not do the film visual justice but it was immensely enjoyable nonetheless. The film was Hollywood at its best: big, beautiful, predictable and comfortable. It never fooled me about its impending happy end. What I liked best, though, is that it was a movie about grit and problem-solving. This is yet another wonderful movie with a message about how to live well on Earth. The key ingredients are science, love and faith.

There is practically no romance in this film beyond a few nods that do not distract us from the object at hand: the mission to Mars, how it goes awry, and efforts to rescue Mark Watney, efforts that do not go smoothly. It provides insight to risk management and the viewer is keenly aware that more often than not the players take excessive risks. They do so with their eyes open because for these choices it was better to die failing than not to have tried at all. Notice that big decisions are never taken lightly and come only after careful and rigorous analysis.  No one is winging it. Everyone does the math, even if it is back-of-the-envelope.

Just because there is no romance does not mean that the movie is devoid of love. It is full of it, particularly among associates who work together on a mission for a common and noble goal to save a comrade who was inadvertently left behind. They are cheered on by the world and those of us in the theater.

The film ends in a classroom, with Mark Watney delivering a sermon:

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”  


2016 Odds and Ends

I have been away from this blog for more than a year. Frankly, I miss putting pen to paper in this format.

This Christmas season was good for the movies. I got to see Branagh’s Winter’s Tale, Tarantino’s Hateful 8, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The last I saw twice, including one outing with my adorable niece, Sarah. I rode in a car with her driving for the very first time. This was hard because when I see her I still see a two year old who loved her doting tio.

I saw Tarantino’s flick with Dolores, which was followed by a lovely Indian meal. I took a crew of nephews, my younger sisters, and my mom to see Branagh’s production, which aired live around the world from London.

I do not regret any of these choices for all were excellent, each special in its own way. Tarantino captures America’s polarized dysfunction in his effort and Star Wars its best hope. These two balance each other quite nicely.

This year, prompted by good friends on Facebook who suggested that it is the Bard’s best play. So in 2015 I wrestled with Winter’s Tale on Audio (Arkangel production) as well as the text. It is a fine hard-hitting comedy that barely qualifies as such — tragicomedy is more appropriate. I genuinely loved it but cannot agree with my friends that it is his best play. (Macbeth, Hamlet and Lear are indubitably better). But it is in my personal pantheon of best plays (also add the Henriad).

From among the three movies I saw, The Force Awakens was the most evocative and poignant. Both times I saw it my eyes grew mistier throughout and a lump grew in my throat. I saw the original Star Wars when I was 10, more or less.

The Force Awakens took me back to a time when I was a big dreamer albeit still an innocent one. It took me back to the lofty ambitions that were slowly coming to the surface and would burst forth during my hard and messy early adolescence. It breathed life to youthful memories and passions that do not easily stir.

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