Saturday, May 20, 2006

An Unwilling Gilligan

Dh Eddie and I watched the movie Cast Away on dvd last night. Despite Tom Hanks' starring role (I've never seen a movie of his that I've completely disliked), I wasn't expecting to really get into this one; the man-on-a-desert-island theme just never was my thing. I mean, even as a young, voracious reader and lover of classics I never got all the way through Stevenson's book Robinson Crusoe.

Well, I did like it, and very much. What's more, there were parts of it that I didn't like, which in my book is positive, since it means I was using at least semi-critical thinking skills. I didn't like the crash scene or the part where Hanks' character Chuck Noland was adrift in the rubber raft -- those parts were genuinely scary. I assume that was the filmmakers' intention, so it was very effective.

My real disappointment, though, was the great religious hole in this movie. Never once was there a reference to God. Polls show that a majority of people in the United States (where the Noland character was from) believe in a supreme being ... and even if you didn't, wouldn't you be likely to at least have yearnings towards one if you were cast away alone on a desert island after going through an ultra-traumatic plane crash? If the character had had a bad experience with religion in his former life, would he not be much more likely to at least be angry with God than to never once make reference to a deity? The saying "there are no athiests in foxholes" is somewhat trite, but it's pretty much true. This film's story is good, but it would have been much richer if this very real aspect of humanity -- religion -- had been included.

Having said that, and while religion and God had no place in it, the movie did have a great spiritual theme of hope. Though the Noland character suffers devastating loss, he comes through it with an enduring sense of hope in the future. This was a twist that, at least for me, was unexpected and very uplifting. How easy it would have been to have left the end of the story fatalistically tragic, or even neutral ... but it is definitely hopeful. We need a lot more stuff like this in popular culture nowadays, stuff encouraging people to live rather than to choose death and destruction.

Noland is alone on an island for several years, which means Hanks is the only actor on the screen for much of the the film. I never felt bored with this, though, or that another person was needed. Tom Hanks acted superbly once again. The images of the island, the ocean, and Noland's island life were very well done as well. The old writing adage "show, don't tell" was evident here; we see how hopeless it seems that Noland will ever be rescued and how tedious and uncomfortable life on the island is, even without any dialogue to say so. The "Wilson" character, too, is wonderful; Noland's creation of this imaginary friend speaks beautifully about our need for human relationships and leaves a tantalizing thought in one's mind about the origin of idol worship among our "primitive" ancestors ...

So thank you, Eddie, for bringing this movie home from the rental place and watching it with me. You choose really good movies sometimes. :-)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Advice from My Mom that I Actually Follow

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Here in Mexico, Mother's Day is always on May 10th, regardless of which day of the week that falls on. This year it was Wednesday.

A few years back I got to thinkin' about all the things my mom has taught me that has actually turned out to be very useful. I wrote a little about it here. Have a look and see if your mom gave you similar advice. :-)