Friday, October 3, 2014

The Patriot, Fighting Grace


the patriot, family pic

Note: This article first appeared in the July/August issue of Femnista, found here. This is my opinion on one of my favorite movies of all time. It deserved such a long post--and deserved the long time spent mulling over it. 

the patriot tavington
  Benjamin Martin sits at the end of the stairs having put his children to bed, overwhelmed by all he has lost that day. He saved his son Gabriel, lost his son Thomas and all he owned—and his children's innocence. They have seen the brutality of war on their front steps. In his pain and in his rage, they have seen him, a bloody man who long ago butchered his own innocence. His story will coincide with the that of a nation trying to stand tall, proudly, free. It needs those who believe in something more than present safety, who understand what is really being fought for.

"You have done nothing for which you should be ashamed," Charlotte, his sister-in-law, tells him.

the patriot jonathan
"I have done nothing," he replies. "And for that I am ashamed."

There are few stories that stick at the forefront of my mind when I think of a truly good movie. The Patriot is one that with every time I see it, I see something more, something deeper, a truth that gives even greater meaning to the trials that the characters face—most notably, Benjamin Martin's. The man whose sins, he knows, will surely come visit him again someday, and exact vengeance. The cost is a steep one—a terrible one. 

But it isn't all that comes to pass.

In the beginning we see him as a widower, a father. His heart aches for his departed wife, his motherless children—and the past that he cannot forget. He is still a wounded soldier, who knows that the drums of war are beginning to sound again. Benjamin Martin refuses to vote for a levy, refuses to fight. Yet he knows the men around him, and what they strive for. The War will most definitely come. 

Standing before them he states, "But mark my words. This war will be fought, not on the frontier...or on some distant battlefield...but amongst us. Among our homes. Our children will learn of it with their own eyes. And the innocent will die with the rest of us." 

the patriot father and son
War comes quickly, like a thief, until it is in his home. When Col. Tavington of the Dragoons coldly shoots Thomas in the back for attempting to free his brother Gabriel, Tavington looks down at Benjamin's stricken face and says, "Stupid boy." Tavington has just stripped something from Benjamin, not just his son. Benjamin and Gabriel will never forget those words. This is the making of what Benjamin will become.

It is shortly after this Benjamin realizes that he has to protect his family a different way. Joining Gabriel he joins the army, easing right back into the soldier he had once been, savvy and knowing. He knows what he's defending, and he has the strength to see it through—I think that is what so many of his men respect—not just his prowess, but his steady belief in what he's fighting for. For home. Many fought for that simple reason, completely aside from the idea of freedom, although there were so many who filled the ranks because they did believe in that ideal. 

the patriot john billingsThrough the course of the movie you see Benjamin Martin really coming out into what becomes known as "The Ghost", the nemesis of Col. Tavington. Through it we see how there are times when the brutal life he knew is coming back to him, but it is his son Gabriel that reminds him that they are better men. Men that stay the course, do the honorable thing. And when Martin loses him, it is the flag that Gabriel has faithfully mended that reminds him of the worthiness of the cause for freedom. It is that, which enables him to carry on. He stays the course. He returns to fight alongside his men, leading them valiantly in the next battle where he confronts Tavington again—that man that now has taken two of his sons. Yet, even as he first glimpses him, Benjamin's comrade in alarm alerts him that the line is faltering—the men are turning back. He must make his choice. Benjamin turns aside, and seizes a flag and waves it high, yelling for his men hold. Boys, men, old men—they turn back after him, to the fight, and they take the ground. This is the power of faith and belief. Many people just need someone who will enable them to hold the course. That day Benjamin Martin was that man, for everyone there fighting for everything that mattered: family, friends, freedom. 

the patriot battle flag

Benjamin Martin still has his brutal fight with Col. William Tavington. The battle is being won, but it looks like Benjamin might die, seeing the soldiers rush past in jubilation even as some keep on fighting. Tavington does not have that satisfaction—and neither does Benjamin Martin. Not in the way that he had originally intended. He set out for vengeance. It has been his sons, and his faith that has endured through it all, that has changed him. 

In the moment when he is sure of his personal victory, Tavington sneers, "Kill me before the war ends, will you? Well, it appears that you are not the better man." Benjamin ducks and twists, thrusting him through. He then picks up a bayonet piece from the burning wreckage. "No. I'm not. My sons were better men." He slits Tavington's throat. 

the patriot daughter
Benjamin continues to stay the course fighting until the end. I constantly mull over the feeling of personal grace, aligned with the fight for freedom in this movie. I think it has much to do simply with showing The Man—his sins, his fears, and his fight for his own spiritual freedom, to escape from the wretchedness of his own sins. The man that needs to feel grace. To be forgiven, and to forgive himself, to an extent. Needs a new start. I believe Benjamin reached his freedom when he realized what was truly worth believing in, fighting for—Gabriel and Thomas taught him that. They believed in the chance to make a better nation—to an extent, grace for their country, a new birth.

Benjamin truly emerged as a defender of freedom, and as living evidence of true grace. He found his place. And I'm happy to say, that it was worth it. Freedom for a nation, grace for The Man. 


 Hope you enjoyed the article! Now go watch the movie, and please tell me your own thoughts when you're done!


  ~Elora Carmen Shore

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saving More Than Mr. Banks~My Experience

saving mr. banks poster
  I am delighted when I am surprised. Saving Mr. Banks was something that surprised me. I only was aware of it, before it came to theaters, from a trailer a friend had shared. I thought it looked fun and interesting, intermingled with sweetness--and it had Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks! I immediately felt like he'd make a perfect Walt Disney, and I was intrigued to see Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility) play something different than what I knew her from most.

  But I did not expect it to be about Pamela Travers' father. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked this story better than what I had assumed it would be about--although to be honest, now I'm not sure what I was expecting. I think I was expecting something goofier, more--chipper. I knew nothing of the history of the stories, had never read them--had bare memories of the classic movie. But what made me realize how much I truly liked the movie was the fact that I couldn't stop thinking about it, about how her relationship with her father fed the story--in fact, drove it. Her whole world centered around the person she had loved over everything else, the person she wanted redeemed so badly. Her father had given her the gift of a childhood of imagination and joy, but it all went downhill when he lost faith in himself, and could not keep it together. That was what hurt her most--the fact that not only had her father lost his own faith and joy in life, but that she lost him altogether in the end, broken and sad.

  When I finished watching the movie this evening, I thought about how suited the title was. And then I smiled. Because it isn't just about saving Mr. Banks, or saving the memory of Travers Goff and all he stood for. It was about saving Pamela. It was about saving her from the clutches of her heartbroken past. About her stepping forward to something new. Having faith.

  That said, being the most important thing--now I'm just going to comment on the rest. I loved it all. I loved the sixties environment, loved the natural, human cast, and LOVED Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers with her smart quips, Paul Giamatti as Ralph, (one of the most memorable characters--his loving, sunny and likable character I felt added even more life and beauty to the movie) and Tom Hanks was absolutely perfect as Walt Disney. Truly memorable. Stellar performances by everyone.

  I am grateful that this movie was made. And I can't wait to have it on my shelf.


  ~Elora Carmen Shore

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

American Youth~George Lucas and American Graffiti


george lucas american graffiti
Image via kitbashed
  Finally, today I was able to watch one of George Lucas's first movies--American Graffiti. Ever since reading about it when I was studying Geroge Lucas's early work, I really wanted to see it. Especially once I read about how he had wanted to build the story around a "playlist", if you'll allow the modern term, of songs he felt had defined that time in America. Interesting idea! It intrigued me more, because I had thought before how times of my life could very well be defined by the songs my parents would play at the time. There's music that I have distinct memories tied to--and I felt like that came across in the movie, how the music was a part of the story. You get a feel of the rhythm of the times, the youthfulness and hope. The story is spearheaded by the fact that two dudes are about to go back to college the next day--they want one last night on the town, one last chance to kick up their heels and burn rubber on the strip.

Image via Drafthouse
  You come to love the characters, just because they're normal, relatable and--stupid. At times. I just had to laugh at the foolishness and complete likeability of the whole story. It was fun, and it was real. Goofy, with young adults getting into scrapes just as we'd expect. American youth. If ever there was a term to perfectly describe a movie, that'd be it for American Graffiti. Looking forward to watching it again.

  Especially for the gorgeous cars. And a young Harrison Ford. Always been a fan of his movies, and it was fun to see something from before Star Wars IV: A New Hope. And Richard Dreyfuss--that was fun! The most intriguing thing must be, I think, is that you can't help but watch the movie and see George Lucas himself in his youth. After all, before making movies he wanted to be a racer. It's interesting to learn more about someone, to see things you didn't expect.


  ~E. C. Shore

Friday, August 29, 2014

Among the Beasts


man and the beast, the island of doctor moreau

  I just finished reading The Island of Doctor Moreau. I was first intrigued about the story when I was introduced to it by the book Doctor Franklin's Island by Ann Halam. It was a terrific story, and to be honest, I prefer it to H.G. Well's book. That's not to say that his was not great--it was. I enjoyed it immensely, and loved the intrigue and examination of what made the inhabitants of the island so different--or rather, not. It spoke of the animal in all of us. The biggest example, arguably, is Moreau. The man who can coldly set aside any empathy for a fellow creature's senses, and feelings, to cut them apart while alive and rebuild them into something they didn't even understand. Yes, I find that fascinating. He is the predator that takes his prey as he needs them, uses and disposes them according to the requirements of his curiosity. Montgomery is the man caught in between--he understands both, he is Moreau's creature in that he has let Moreau desensitize his empathy to a great extent. Prendick, our main character, is the story's creature. The island is is torture chamber, his mental hell where he challenges and struggles against all he encounters, human or humanoid...in many ways, he is the man who has been cast adrift on his own inner terrain, taken by the things that make us regress in what we, as a "civilized" people, view as morals--bring out the animal stirrings. The fear of the unnatural, the instinct of what is a natural enemy, etc. Daily clashing with horrors and fear, with evidence of things that challenge his and others' "humanity", Prendick is a good representative of Humanity itself.

  But what intrigued me most (and if I seem to be using that word too much, I'm sorry--it's one of my favorites, and I do so like to be intrigued) was the ending. Even if it was something I expected. Once you see the animal, see the jungle--you tend to see it everywhere else. It's hard to go back to what you were, and for many, you never do. Prendick struggled to not see his neighbors as animals--to fear that he saw the Creature that was furtive and fearful and dangerous in their faces, in their gestures. It took so long for him to acclimate again, and even then, he had times where he regressed. But I was surprised by the very ending. Hope? I do believe in it--something one must hold onto, if they are to survive, in my opinion, but I did not expect Prendick to end with a refrain of humanity's hope.

  "My days I devote to reading and to experiments in chemistry, and I spend many of the clear nights in the study of astronomy. There is--though I do not know how there is or why there is--a sense of infinite peace and protection in the glittering hosts of heaven. There it must be, I think, in the vast and eternal laws of matter, and not in the daily cares and sins and troubles of men, that whatever is more than animal within us must find its solace and its hope. I hope, or I could not live.
     And so, in hope and solitude, my story ends.  --Edward Prendick"

  A swift read, The Island of Doctor Moreau is an interesting examination of Humanity and the Beast.


  ~E.C.Shore

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Remembering Robin Williams: The Joy of My Childhood

robin williams remembered
  I was stunned this morning when my mom gave me the news. For a moment I thought I wasn't hearing right. Robin Williams is dead? The man who I was always eager to watch as a kid, and even as an adult...it seems incomprehensible. But the first thing that went through my mind--after the thought of what his family must be feeling--was the realization that I wasn't off the mark when I had recently seen a picture of him on the red carpet or at some other photo shoot, and I had thought he looked sad. I don't really look up celebrities--not much. I tend to study other things. But still...the news shocked me. And like many others, it's been a sad day.

  My brightest memories of his work are when, as a child, I'd be visiting one of my dad's friend's house, and I'd be able to watch their Jumanji movie, on VHS. I knew Robin Williams first as Mrs. Doubtfire, (he really won me over, he was just so likeable) as Peter Pan, and as the Genii in Aladdin. Anything new I saw, I was always excited to see more of him. More of his joy, his funniness--his own personality. He was the type of person that you just wanted to give him a hug, I felt.

  On Fox News, on The Five they were talking about how Robin Williams had said before that when a celebrity commits suicide, or dies--I don't remember the exact phrasing--many of them are mythicized.  But I think it is safe to say, that so many people aren't going to be exaggerating when they say that he was such a kind, generous person, and he freely gave of what joy he could. He made us laugh. That's a gift, isn't it? To be able to make people forget for a moment all the trash that goes on, and laugh until our bellies hurt--or even, as he said in his own words, to take the dark and the absurd and to turn it into something you can laugh at. As a means of dealing with it.
robin williams remembered


  I think it is believable that so many comedians are often depressed--I wonder, from a bit of personal experience that isn't even of the same depth, if they ARE so funny because they are desperate to find lightness where they see the dark. To find a way of escape. It's a coping mechanism that they share, getting their joy from actually making others genuinely laugh. I know I love making people laugh. To inspire others, to give them joy--that is an incredible gift to have for yourself as well as others.

  I spent today thinking over and over again how just the day before yesterday my family and I were watching RV, wherein Robin Williams plays the dad trying to reach his family once again after getting caught up in his job, and I thought then, "It would be so cool if someday I was able to meet Robin Williams and tell him how much I've enjoyed his movies since I was a kid. How they always made me laugh, and I was excited to see something new--I was always excited to see what joy he'd show me." And little did I know what would happen the next day. I just can't imagine what his family is going through.

  It's a sad time for all of us. But we'll all remember and love that crazy manic man that is impossible to forget.

  Robin Williams, we'll remember you. And you'll always be my Peter Pan.

robin williams death and remembrance, family


  ~E.C. Carmen

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Makes It Matter~The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Trailer

  This was late in coming, even if only a few days. I've been superbly busy, let's just put it that way. But I'm sure the whole of geekdom and those who just passionately love a good story were flipping out and wallowing in the depth of sorrow and fear of the first teaser trailer of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. I had been haunting TORN for awhile, with thousands of others, waiting impatiently for the coming out of the much awaited trailer. And when that post came up, I was just there. And by the end, I was so sad. Not because it wasn't good. But because it was awesome. Right from the beginning it grabbed my heart, and would not let go. You feel the fear of Bilbo, his sorrow for the people that are under the burden and consequence of the choices of others. And all that he is afraid that will come to pass, and what they all--whoever will survive--will forever live with.




  It is also an example of why I want to make films. Their capacity to blend elements into a story--themes that make it breathe with such emotion, such reality, that it makes us believe in something. And that, in the end, we find that our heart has been broken, and put back better than it was, even if wounded. That's a story that matters. And I want to tell stories that matter.

  It isn't too much to say that when I finally see the defining chapter of The Hobbit, I will cry. Not only because it's the end, there will be no more--but mostly because it will have been a story truly worthwhile. You don't always have the privilege of coming across them, being blessed by them.


     ~Elora Carmen Shore

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stimulate My Mind, and Dance With Me

great writing quotes


  I've been reading my brain into a dribbling mess. It feels bruised. But strangely, not just because I've been reading so much, but because I haven't had the stimulation of streamlined productivity in awhile. I'm coming to think that the lack of proper work for the brain is as tiring, if not more so, than the abundance of it. Sometimes the new stimulation of productivity just comes from a new angle on what is already present, but I find that often enough, I feel as though I'm starving for new experiences, a new store of revelation and point of views to get a mental adrenaline rush from. Honestly, sometimes my brain says--is there not anything new at the moment? Come on, show me something new. Send my suppositions, assumptions, perceptions for whirl. Life, dance with me for a moment. 

  Ah, the dance. Sweet addiction. It makes you understand why so many authors traveled extensively. Studied widely. (The second of which I do myself--endless curiosity provides you the trail to many answers).

And I also suppose you're also asking what the point of the post is. A very logical question. I was asking it myself--and the answer is I don't have a clue. Perhaps it's just an expression.


  ~Elora Carmen Shore  


  "This case alone ought to destroy the absurd fancy that these modern philosophies are modern  in the sense that the great men of the past did not think of them." ~ Chesterson

P.S. I meant to publish this the other day--since then, I've been making some progress. That's just how it goes. ;)