In The Help (in theaters now) we are faced with the stark reality of life in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. “Separate but Equal” is a club used by many whites to justify the injustice leveled at every turn against their black neighbors. We are invited to see this world through the experience of the black maids and servants. Special attention is paid to Aibileen and Minny. These two women are befriended by a white journalist, Skeeter, who asks them to risk breaking social convention and Mississippi state law to share the truth.
Within this story we see how the seeds of change are sown. In the midst of hatred, fear and bigotry, kindness and love continue to thrive. Whether it’s the care received by Skeeter from Constantine, by Mae from Aibileen, or by Celia from Minny, these courageous caregivers unknowingly create a hunger for genuine article in a world where the counterfeit is all around. Seeing these seeds bear the fruit of wisdom to reject counterfeits and community based on friendship, love and respect, gives insight on the genesis of change and provides the opportunity others to add their stories in support.
I would encourage you to take the time to see The Help with family or friends and after share some of your own stories with each other. The movie provides plenty of raw materials for conversation. Whether you give voice to memories of the era or reaction to the movie, sharing our stories is valuable.
To all of those attending the PPC Rendezvous I look forward to seeing you there.
I am pleased to announce the release of the Adviser’s Movie Companion. This complication contains discussion guides for 18 subjects common for financial and planning advisers to encounter with clients. The Companion is designed for advisers to enhance their existing tools by adding the use of the powerful visual mediums of movies and television. The topics included involve tangible assets, purposeful trusts, identifying potential heirs beyond the immediate family, helping a client who is stalled in the planning process engage again, legacy planning that empowers the next generation, planning in a situation when health concerns are a factor, helping the clients set goals/dream for retirement/estate planning, and transition preparation.
The discussions are designed to be around an hour each in length and are intended to give advisers additional insight into a client’s thinking to aid the adviser in applying his or her skills in a more effective way. This is done by leading the discussion with selected video clip closely related to the topic at hand and giving the clients the opportunity to respond with their own thoughts and intentions to what they have experienced. Each subject includes a short commentary on how the clip relates to the discussion and a few questions for the client to respond. The end of each discussion includes a number of possibilities for the adviser and client to continue the discussion that can be used or not as the adviser wishes.
While this is not financial or estate planning from A to Z, an additional tool which gives insight into our clients is incredibly valuable to advisers who are interested in the Adviser's Movie Companion. For information on pricing or more specific questions about the topics, please contact me at email@example.com
For the adviser who finds the idea appealing, but would like some additional help in using the discussions each guide purchased between now and week following the PPC Rendezvous includes 2 half hour consultations with me to answer any questions. Also, for those interested in how to use movie clips to start discussion with clients, please make plans to attend the session I am leading at the PPC Rendezvous next month.
The third in my posts about community focuses on the Harry Potter series. The final film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released this past weekend to good reviews and is making box office history with its record breaking opening domestically and worldwide. This series of 8 films (from 7 books) have generated billions of dollars in sales over the last decade (closer to 15 years for the books). With all the intricate storytelling and cool special effects the core of the story is how two similar young men took very different paths and ended up mortal enemies.
Tom Riddle, later Voldemort, was an orphan with great ability who sought power over everything else. As he rose to great heights through school and later the world he collected followers, not friends. His goal was to dominate everyone else because he judged them less than him. Harry was an orphan with great ability who was looking for a place in the world that he fit. He did not see his fame, fortune and resulting power base as a basis for him to control or manipulate others. As a result he made strong friendships. While a large theme in Harry’s life is his struggle to accept that being part of a community means that the people who care about him will risk their own lives to help and protect him. However, his membership in a community is the difference maker in his battle with Voldemort. As Dumbledore reminds Harry the thing Voldemort lacked was the experience of being loved.
Voldemort used fear and intimidation to get others to move on his request while Harry cared about the wellbeing of those close to him and kept finding himself in the midst of volunteers. Without Ron and Hermione’s friendship and help Harry wouldn’t have survived his first year let alone the final war. Having friends that understood their value and valued Harry created a ripple effect that changed Harry from an orphan to a member of a community that has the look and feel of family in the best sense.
This magical extended family changed Harry, raised up a persecuted children into heroes, and moved with a strength that the most powerful dark wizard ever known couldn’t defeat.
As a continuation from yesterday, today’s post is about the model of community that provides aid in overcoming difficulties. In The King’s Speech (out on DVD now) we meet Bertie a man happy to be just a prince in England. He older brother is in line to become king and this task is even more demanding because the country is on the brink of war that will lead the world into WW II. Support for Churchill and the rest of government by speaking words of courage and comfort to the people is part of the job as king. To his fair haired brother this duty is not difficult to perform but an annoyance that takes him away from an older woman that he wishes to find a way to run away with.
When his brother does just that he leaves his place in the line of kings to Bertie who ability to speak is interrupted by stutters and stammers. He sees himself as a disgrace bound to let down an entire people just when they are most in need of him showing strength and perseverance in the face a great evil. In desperation he engages the help of Lionel a speech therapist who sees hope for the soon to be king. The relationship between the two men mirrors Bertie’s speech: it starts, stutters to a halt, backs up and starts again. In the midst the fragile connection grows in strength. At the beginning Lionel understands past events shape and even cause Bertie’s difficulty, but when he meets resistance instead of forcing the royal into an ultimatum of keeping the family secrets or receiving the much needed help, he relents. He takes the opportunity to see the areas he can help in the immediate which creates a foundation for Bertie to risk trusting this man. Eventually Bertie shares the past neglect and verbal abuse in his family that shaped his beliefs about his ability to talk. Lionel takes this valuable gift and offers wisdom help his friend discern the truth. In the end their connection becomes a friendship and this friendship was a catalyst to help a king find his voice when his country needed it most.
Whether we call it friendship, coaching, counsel, mentoring, or even family all these words a ways we categorize community. These aren’t the only words that we use to describe this dynamic, but more importantly seeing the dynamic captured well inspires us. A connection that is a mixture of grace, truth, understanding, forgiveness and wisdom is a melody that rings the human spirit like a tuning folk responding to its matched call.
I have been sidetracked trying to get healthy from a virus for the last week but in the coming days I am doing a short series about the give and take of shaping and being shaped by community. This is leading up to the introduction of the Adviser’s Movie Companion. A compilation of clips and questions that is an aid to planning advisers on topics frequently encountered on the legacy journey. I will offer some thoughts about movies both current and past to help illustrate.
Today is about shaping a community. How do we avoid becoming stagnated as a community? Finding ways to introduce new to a community is a way to feed the growth of the members and the group. I see Super 8 a positive example of how to introduce new into a community.
Super 8 (currently still in theaters) is the story of a group of teenage friends who are helping a member of the group pursue a dream – to make movies. Joe, Cary, Martin, and Preston have found a “normal” rhythm following after writer/director Charles, who at times bulldozes the group to get what he wants. While the entertaining and fantastic events of the government secret that has invaded their town is an agent of change in the lives of these young men, the event that reshapes their community is the infusion of Alice into their troupe. She sees the community with new perspective and her boldness to not just fall in with the “normal” dynamics of the group causes the community stress. Instead of responding to the strong willed vision of Charles she sees the hidden strength and talent in Joe and gravitates toward it. Her interest in Joe is water on seeds made dormant by grief and lack of encouragement. These seeds lead to a new boldness, confidence and courage in Joe to confront the malfunctions in his family and with his friends. This new dynamic does upset the balance of the group, but after Charles and Joe confront change with each other the group benefits from the new strength. The changes also ripple outward to create positive change between Alice’s and Joe’s fathers.
I do not recommend change or new without discernment. There are many new things we can invite into our business connections, our friendships and our families which are destructive, rather than helpful. One way we gain the wisdom to tell the difference is experiencing it for ourselves, but another way is to see it play out for someone else. Movies are a way we can witness this dynamic in others, and the wisdom gained can be a great aid.
As Super 8 draws toward its conclusion, the theme of recovering from bad things that happen is a major theme. Tomorrow I will being looking at that theme using The King’s Speech.
Love. Based on the title some would assume this a teenage boy hormone manifesto that confuses the issue of attraction with true love. Some say it makes the world go ‘round. It is written there is no greater love than he who would lay down his life for that of a friend. The willingness to risk everything for freedom is an act of love. Of course writing this gives me pause to worry someone could read this and use a statement like that to justify doing horrible things. But I know the truth. Love is patient, kind, lacks envy and is not proud. Based on these things I think we all have the opportunity to discern the difference between a loving act and self serving one trying to disguise itself as love.
In Sucker Punch we meet a group of young women who fight for freedom against the evil in their world. They receive council, supply and care from a warm mysterious father figure who shows up when they are most in need of aid. Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber form a community in a dark, strange world that most of the time creates more questions than answers in the minds of the watchers. They take great risk, and pay the price for the one prize in their world worth the risk: Freedom - Freedom from abuse of all kinds and to meet someone who truly values them. In other words, they fight for the chance to experience hope, joy and affirmation even when they have mostly known only cruelty.
I encourage you to give them a couple hours to give you answers to some of your questions. The answers are worth it. I think they will win you over and reveal beauty among the ashes.
As the summer movie season is over for 2010 and the studios furiously gear up to get these movies out on DVD, I wanted to offer some thoughts on a handful of movies from the summer and some recommendations for a DVD to curl up on the couch and watch during the fall and winter evenings.
For some this was a great ride and for others a confusing and maddening exercise that took 2 1/2 hours. I have heard both. While I enjoyed the effort to build a complex platform to tell the story, it was not the thing that I enjoyed most or even think is most important to the viewer.
The coherent thread that runs through the film is the emotional journey of the main character, Cobb. Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man who has tried to run figuratively and literally from the tragic death of his wife. He struggles to separate fantasy from reality, but the mess created spoils almost every part of his life. Near the beginning of the film he is offered a chance to be reunited with his children, all he has to do is one last job. As they propare for the task, the new hire, Ariadne (played by Ellen Page), sees the danger in Cobb's unresolved past colliding with the present. She tells him to face the past, encourages him to find forgiveness and identifies a person who he can confide in to help him through. This forgiveness is not quickly embraced but ultimately stems from Cobb seeing the truth of the difference between his fantasy and reality.
The journey and inherent struggle to find peace with a past event is something I relate to and I know I am not the only one. INCEPTION takes the thoughts, dreams and memories swirling in Cobb's head and gives us the ability to see them in front of us. It also gives us the chance to watch a man"s journey through this confusing world and come out on the other side. What a hopeful thing to witness.
Other older films with related themes are: The Matrix (which is better; fantasy or reality), and The Shawshank Redemption (the journey of hope)
This is a story centered on a father and his three 'adopted' sons set in an over the top action movie wrapper. It is fun and well paced, but what makes this movie a meal worth repeating, rather than just a popcorn snack for the summer, is the illustration of a good father caring for the family he has formed around him.
THE A-TEAM is a great example of a positive family bond being formed within a military unit. John 'Hannibal' Smith (played by Liam Neeson) displays the abilities of a good father. He sees B.A., Face and Murdock as individuals and connects to each of them uniquely. Upon meeting B.A., he has lost himself to fear for Face's safety, and acts in great anger. The expected result is a string of macho, violent acts that Hannibal thinks will bend this lost young man to his will. Instead it is a wake up call that allows Hannibal to recognize B.A. as family and humbly asks for his help. This results in not only saving one son, but adopting a new one. These acts of fathehood permeate these relationships and are played out in Hannibal's trust of crazy Murdock, aid in guidance during B.A.'s search for identity and belief that Face can make a plan worth following.
Hannibal always reminds his boys, "I believe no matter how random things may appear, there's always a plan." Sounds a lot like our Father.
Other older films with related themes: Batman Begins (Father's impact on a son), Ever After (Father's impact on a daughter)
KNIGHT AND DAY
This film is an action/comedy on the surface and it gives us a glimpse of how God's presence can change someone. Though the story plays out in a romantic connection between June (Cameron Diaz) and Roy (Tom Cruise) and may confuse the metaphor at times. Ultimately the incredible and capable presence of Roy who seeks to protect and empower the people he is around comes through strongly.
Roy shows up in June's life as a mysterious presence that puts her in danger of being attacked by those who want to hide the truth, being lied to by those who want to prevent her from speaking the truth, being called to question her understanding of how the world works, and being drawn to risk everything in order to be connected to him, even though he is not fully understood. I have experienced all of these things about God's character and Roy often functions in the role that I best understand as the Holy Sprirt's intersection with our lives. The character, Roy, even has what I have experienced as God's sometimes infuriating, but hilarious gift of understatement, "June, I know this looks bad," (as he swings upside down by his ankles under armed guard while she is falling in and out of a drug induced stupor) "I've got this!" How they came out of that situation alive is a mystery to the viewer, but as one who can't understand the deliverance I have experienced at different points in my life, that is part of the beauty of being with Him.
Because this is a story about human beings told by human beings, the metaphor does not work with the entire film. I hope you can embrace the parts that work with the metaphor well, and enjoy the parts that don't fit as a fun and well done bit of storytelling because He provides grace and wisdom for both.
Other older films with related themes: Field of Dreams (the Spirit guiding a journey of healing) Taken (a faith journey from God's perspective)
Toy Story 3
Not that many of you missed this based on the billion plus worldwide box office total, but for those of you with young children and/or grandchildren you will probably be watching this one over and over again for the foreseeable future. The good news is there are some deeper themes at work in this movie to emhance your viewing experience, even if is the 50th time.
Ways of Giving - When giivng something away, whether old toys or wealth this movie illustrates the possibilities of givng to a place that you have fond memories, but only outside knowledge of (Toys to Sunnyside Daycare) vs. a warm hand to warm hand gift (Andy to Bonnie). This does not show a guaranteed result, but worth pondering when discussing how to share the blessings given to you.
True vs False Community - Andy's toys have formed a true community, they are there for each other, they allow each individual to be unique and are willing to risk in order to help each other. It is very beautifully shown whether they are trying to escape or Woody's refusal to just leave them because they believe the lie that they are no longer wanted. Lotso and his group show the false community of empty promises, hidden agendas and selfishness attempting to be masked as helpful advice: "No owners means-no heartbreak." The false community leaves out the fine print that abuse, pain and abandonment is a risk without the owners and shutting off your heart to connection leads to more pain, not less.
Other older films recommended: Monsters, Inc (Joy is more powerful than fear.) Up (Being seen through loving eyes can help us love others.)
A well paced action movie that revolves around a female CIA operative. There is an "is she or isn't she" mystery of whether she is a Russian sleeper agent bent on assassination and coup or a patsy American asset that someone wants to neutralize. There are some small pieces of the larger questions about love trumping duty and about identity and destiny mixed in for seasoning, but ultimately it is a summer popcorn movie of the adrenaline roller coaster variant. In short it created a couple of hours of fun and joy in my life.
I want to include this as part of my review because things that create joy in our lives are very important to our well-being and relationships. I understand that there are things that people can find joy in that are harmful to others. But that "joy at the expense of another" is a counterfeit form of joy because its fruit is bitterness and isolation, not greater connection. The fruit of true joy is great nourishment to the heart and soul.
So whether you find it in movies, TV, music, hiking, skiing, golfing, running, reading or one of the other myriad of choices: Seek joy for your heart and both you and those around you will reap the fruit of a great pursuit.
Other older films recommended: The Rock (Adrenaline Roller Coaster), The Bourne Trilogy movies (Adrenaline Roller Coaster + identity/overcoming theme) Burn After Reading (off-beat silliness)
Welcome, I’m glad you’re here. You won’t find a traditional movie review site. If you will indulge me I will attempt to explain.
Hopefully some of you remember the crystal or clear plastic triangles in school that would caught the clear rays of the sun from the window and project a rainbow, all the colors of the visible spectrum out the opposite side. It captured my attention. The thought that by simply understanding how to change the direction of the white sun light would reveal the hidden beauty of all the colors was fascinating to me.
As my enjoyment and love of TV and movies has grown over the years I have been blessed with a talent to reveal hidden beauty of the mediums as they pass through the prism of the viewer. Why does projected colors and sound move us to laugh, to cry, or to think? Now I could spend a great deal of effort trying to explain psychology and how the true masters of the art execute specific techniques to affect us, but that would be missing the point. Stories however presented impact greatly. It is my hope to provide insight to those of us who have ever had the thought, “I really liked that, but I’m not sure why” during the end credits or when trying to recommend a show or movie to a friend.
I will be posting a few times each month offering a few thoughts on movies/TV shows current and past. My first few posts are from an archive from the past year that I have put together. I hope it gives you a sense of the process and enhances the joy you experience in watching.