Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Considering a New Year's resolution? You might want to think about that before you make it. Read more about it in "Be It Resolved: Making Every Day New Year's Day," my latest blog post at www.smartwomensempowerment.org.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Intent, integrity get put on trial in ‘American Hustle’

“American Hustle” (2013). Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Röhm, Paul Herman, Danny Corbo, Sonny Corbo, Robert DeNiro (uncredited). Director: David O. Russell. Screenplay: Eric Singer and David O. Russell. Web site. Trailer.

Getting what we want out of life often takes considerable moxie. But all the chutzpah in the world won’t matter a damn if it’s not properly backed up with traits like personal integrity and sound intent. That can be a difficult lesson to learn, too, as a coterie of colorful characters finds out all too well in the new, fact-based, period piece comedy, “American Hustle.”

The plot of “American Hustle” is rather complicated, and revealing it in detail would give away too much of the story. In a nutshell, however, the picture is loosely based on the 1978 covert FBI operation known as Abscam, which sought to expose corruption among political power brokers, including members of the House of Representatives and a U.S. Senator, with the aid of professional con artists.

In this fictionalized account, the film follows the exploits of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner-in-crime/sometimes-lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Together they routinely and convincingly scam desperate borrowers in search of hard-to-find cash. Their racket is quite successful, too, until they cross paths with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who nabs the duo in an undercover sting. DiMaso makes them an interesting offer, however; he’s willing to trade jail time for their assistance as consultants on a high-profile white collar crime operation he’s planning. Irving and Sydney agree to the overzealous, opportunistic agent’s offer, but, as things get under way, none of them can possibly envision what awaits them – especially when the stakes spiral wildly out of control.

What ensues is an elaborate con game in which everyone hustles everyone else, both in “business” matters and in romantic dealings. This applies not only to the scheme’s three principals but also to virtually everyone else connected with it. This tawdry cast of supporting characters includes Irving’s brassy, loud-mouthed, neurotic wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence); the well-meaning and well-connected but woefully naïve mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner); DiMaso’s mild-mannered but overly officious boss, Stoddard Thorson (Louis C.K.); a politically ambitious federal prosecutor, Anthony Amado (Alessandro Nivola); a Latino FBI agent, Paco Hernandez, who feebly poses as a phony Middle Eastern sheikh (Michael Peña); a pair of mob-connected casino operators (Robert DeNiro, Jack Huston) and their crooked attorney (Paul Herman); and an array of Congressmen eager to grant political favors in exchange for generous “campaign contributions.” And, as events unfold and plans go wildly astray, the results give new meaning to concept of “the best laid plans of mice and men.”

The conscious creation experiences of this film’s characters shine a very bright light on the notion of intent and what underlies our manifestation efforts. The beliefs we employ in materializing our existence get reflected back to us with sparkling clarity, even if we’re not always clear about what those beliefs inherently involve. So, if we willfully engage in intentional acts of deception, as Irving, Sydney and, ultimately, Richie do, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the results we realize are in line with that thinking, the outcomes often containing elements where the deceivers themselves wind up deceived. The aftermath of that can make for some rather bitter medicine to swallow.

These circumstances thus lend considerable credence to the importance of integrity in our creative efforts, particularly when it comes to striving for the results we desire. If we fudge the essence of our beliefs, for example, we’ll attain outcomes commensurate with such obfuscation, for better or worse. And, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, this really shouldn’t come as any surprise, either, yet it’s amazing how often we’re shocked when we get precisely what we put forth. Nevertheless, as consciousness pioneer Jane Roberts often wrote, we get what we concentrate upon. That’s frequently a painful lesson for the film’s protagonists, but it’s especially devastating for Carmine, who periodically engages in willful wrongdoings, even when he knows better, because he assumes such acts are just part of how things get done. He justifies his conduct by holding fast to the belief that it’s sincerely intended to serve an allegedly higher purpose, but these actions still raise all sorts of thorny questions about the ends justifying the means.

By contrast, the one character in the film who’s unabashedly truthful to herself is Rosalyn. She knows what she wants and doesn’t hesitate to make her wishes known, no matter how embarrassing, inconvenient or undermining the expression of her intents may be to others. She knows she’s in touch with this notion, too, even going so far as to brag about having read a book on the subject written by Wayne Dyer (a fan I’m sure he never knew he had!). And, in Rosalyn’s efforts to operate from her own sense of integrity, she keeps everyone else honest, whether they want to be or not.

It’s ironic that these issues come up so pointedly for these characters, especially since, on some level, most of them are legitimately seeking to reinvent themselves. However, the act of genuine reinvention requires sincerity and truthfulness, personal qualities these players seriously lack. With little or no experience in this area, their attempts at making such changes ultimately represent major life lessons for them. And, in that regard, one probably can’t fault them for any of their efforts that go awry since such foibles are an intrinsic part of their learning curves. For their sake, though, one can only hope that they learn from their missteps and make real forward progress.

All of the foregoing considerations make clear just how important it is for us to get in touch with the tools available to us to aid in our personal evolution, particularly our intuition. Not only does it help guide us in our own belief formation and manifestation efforts, but it can also provide a valuable hedge against potentially disastrous pitfalls. I’m sure all of the victims of Irving’s scams wish they would have tapped into it before they got taken to the cleaners. But, then again, I’m sure Irving wishes he’d drawn upon it, too, before his plans, fittingly enough, came back to bite his own posterior. (Would-be scammers take note.)

In my view, “American Hustle” is easily the best picture I’ve seen so far this year. Not only does it make its metaphysical points well, but it’s also an expertly crafted film in virtually every regard. The ensemble of performers is one of the best assembled casts I’ve seen in years, and everybody is terrific in their respective roles (it’s hard to single out anyone in particular, but Bale and Lawrence are especially noteworthy). These stellar portrayals are made possible by the superb writing and the excellent direction of filmmaker David O. Russell, who has arguably turned out his best work in this picture. But, as remarkable as these attributes are, the movie positively nails its take on the ʼ70s in everything from its evocative soundtrack to its tacky clothes and, especially, its hideous hairstyles. The result is a campy, kitschy, nostalgic romp that provides as many laughs through its visuals and its attitude as it does through its many hilarious one-liners. Indeed, as Irving routinely explains to his initiates, “success is in the details,” and that principle is aptly reflected in the filmmaking on display here.

This picture deserves every bit of praise that it earns, and that’s apparent in the many accolades that have already been generously heaped upon it. The film has captured 7 Golden Globe Award nominations, 2 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and a whopping 13 Critics Choice Award nominations, many of which involve honors for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best acting ensemble, and individual acting nominations for all of the principals, particularly Bale and Lawrence. But, considering the quality involved, it’s easy to see why.

Qualities like integrity and truthfulness are often the first casualties in manifestation efforts governed by self-serving expediency, even when veiled in fabricated attitudes that seemingly espouse the contrary. However, if we’re ever to attain what we truly say we desire, those absent traits must be put into place. Failing on this front can carry grave consequences, as the Abscam offenders painfully found out for themselves. And so, to that end, then, as anyone who grew up in the disco era of the ʼ70s well knows, “hustling” is something best left for the dance floor, not the dance of life.

Copyright © 2013, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 20, 2013

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ celebrates the magical nature of our personal reality

“Saving Mr. Banks” (2013). Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Kathy Baker, Melanie Paxson, Andy McPhee. Director: John Lee Hancock. Screenplay: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Web site. Trailer.

Have you ever looked at something one way only to find that everyone else sees it completely differently? That might seem improbable to some, but, if we accept the notion that we each create our own reality, the idea doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched. In fact, it might even be seen as downright magical. However, if we’re unable or unwilling to recognize the existence of such personal distinctions, we set ourselves up for trouble, as illustrated by the new, fact-based docudrama, “Saving Mr. Banks,” a chronicle of the back story behind the making of the beloved children’s film, “Mary Poppins” (1964).

In 1961, children’s author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) faced a serious dilemma: She was broke. Despite having published a number of best-selling titles (most notably the Mary Poppins books, the endearing adventures of the Banks family and their magical nanny), revenues and royalties from those works had dried up. Confronted with the prospect of losing her London home, Travers’ situation had become quite dire. But, in spite of this looming misfortune, she had a way out – if she chose to make use of it. Availing herself of this safety net was easier said than done, however, because it involved a decision that pained her greatly.

World-renowned movie producer Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) had been a fan of Travers for over 20 years. In fact, he was so taken with the Mary Poppins books and the favorable impact they had on his daughters that he promised them he would one day make a picture based on those enchanting works. To that end, he aggressively sought to obtain the movie rights to the books, and, as someone accustomed to getting his way, he was confident he could achieve that goal. There was just one hitch – Travers hated Disney’s movies and was loath to sell him the rights to her works.

Travers thought most of Disney’s films (especially the animated ones) were little more than inane, overly sentimental, saccharin-encrusted pap. She felt their simplistic, unrealistic narratives did a grave disservice to their audiences, leaving the hordes of children who watched them ill-prepared for the harsh realities of everyday life, and she wanted no part of that. However, Disney was willing to pay handsomely to secure the movie rights, enough to solve Travers’ financial woes. So, with her back to the fiscal wall, she reluctantly made a trip to Hollywood to discuss Disney’s proposal, holding her nose the entire way.

Despite a warm and accommodating welcome from Disney and his staff, Travers had her guard up from the moment she arrived. She agreed to discuss a movie project in principle, but she was unwilling to sign over the rights until she knew exactly what Walt had in mind. She met with script writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and songwriters Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman), but she was adversarial from the outset, insisting on approval of every detail. In fact, she was so mistrustful of her would-be collaborators that she required all of their sessions together to be tape-recorded as a hedge against any misunderstandings.

To make matters worse, Travers was exceedingly belligerent and condescending in her objections, which ran the gamut from major issues, such as a prohibition against the use of animation, to the smallest of minutiae, such as one of the characters being given a previously nonexistent mustache. At one point, she even went so far as to express her dislike of the color red, insisting that it not be used anywhere in the film. Such unreasonable and unrealistic demands finally prompted the mild-mannered Disney to step in to find out what was really going on.

Through discussions with Walt and her collaborators, Travers gradually revealed that she was reluctant to subject her beloved characters to Disney’s proposed treatment, mainly because it didn’t accurately reflect the image she had long held of her cherished creations. And the reason for this was that Mary Poppins and the Banks family were based on Travers’ own childhood experiences. Thus the war of wills between Travers and Disney was not one based on creative differences; it was personal.

To gain Travers’ support, Disney and company needed to engage in what essentially amounted to some impromptu counseling. They needed to understand where Travers was coming from to get a better handle on the nature of her objections. Viewers of this film become aware of that through a series of intercut flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in rural Australia, most notably episodes depicting the bittersweet relationship between her younger self (Annie Rose Buckley) and her kindly but alcoholic father (Colin Farrell). The challenges associated with those difficult daily living conditions eventually prompted her overwhelmed mother (Ruth Wilson) to seek outside help to bring order to the household. That assistance was provided by Travers’ Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), a stern but loving woman who provided the necessary stability – and who would one day become the inspiration for Mary Poppins.

As Travers revealed more about her personal story, Disney and his creative team also came to see that they had misunderstood the intent underlying the narratives of the Mary Poppins books: They had innocently, but mistakenly, believed that the title character showed up in the lives of the Banks family to help out with the children. However, as Travers gradually and painfully made clear, Mary Poppins’ arrival was instead predicated on saving Mr. Banks, a fictionalized version of her father, and it’s that storyline that she insisted the film must depict. Thus began an intense, heartfelt process that would transform the movie project, not to mention Travers herself.

The central misunderstanding at the core of this story, ironically enough, is very telling about the nature of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we create our own reality through our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Travers was troubled (and, arguably, somewhat justifiably so) that her beloved characters were being unacceptably misrepresented. But, then, that’s understandable, because she created them based on her beliefs – impressions that, quite obviously, differed markedly from those of her readers and of the Disney staff, who created their own visions of Mary and the Bankses based on their own beliefs. And, because Travers’ creations arose from beliefs based on such personally touching experiences, their proposed alterations were difficult for her to fathom.

As unintentionally inoffensive as those alternate interpretations may have been, they were nevertheless painful for Travers to contemplate, especially since many of the conflicted feelings associated with the beliefs and experiences that gave rise to her creations remained unresolved, even after all those years. In fact, the author was so clear in her own mind about her vision for the characters (and unaware of the discrepancies between that and the views of others) that it never even occurred to her that Mary Poppins and the Banks family could be seen in any other light than the one she had intended for them (hence, her resistance and antagonism).

This, in turn, points out one of the potential pitfalls that can come with conscious creation – the possibility of developing tunnel vision with regard to our beliefs. Our focus can become so one-directional that we lose sight of the myriad other options the philosophy makes possible. We thus run the risk of falling prey to the practice of creation by default, or un-conscious creation, wherein we become locked into one way of thinking (and creating), one that keeps us from seeing other equally viable possibilities.

Travers’ experience with Disney and his associates thus helps to open her eyes to never-before-considered options. In that respect, then, she has her horizons broadened in much the same way that Mary Poppins helps expand the vistas of those she touches. In particular, this experience teaches Travers that she, like all of us, must learn how to let go of outmoded beliefs and creations when they no longer serve our interests.

For instance, the difficulties of Travers’ childhood, which helped give shape to her writings, also helped frame the course of her own adult life. The tampering that Disney and company proposed for her characters and narratives represented a symbolic threat to the beliefs she had employed all of her life in creating the reality she experienced, and, in her view, changing the means by which her existence arose – no matter how unfulfilling or even detrimental that reality may have been at times – was not an acceptable option. On some level, however, Travers also knew she needed to change her beliefs to change her reality. As a student of Buddhism and Gurdjieff, she was clearly in search of answers, but nothing she investigated seemed to work.

That’s where Disney’s involvement proved invaluable. Specifically, Walt and his colleagues showed the author that it was okay to embrace beliefs about being happy, that life needn’t always be seen as being full of despair. They employed this tactic on several levels, too, including everything from how they respectfully intended to portray her characters to how they treated her as a person (thanks in large part to the courtesies extended her by Ralph (Paul Giamatti), the affable chauffeur Disney assigned to Travers during her stay in Hollywood). In this way, Disney did justice not only to her characters, but also to their creator herself.

The film adaptation of “Mary Poppins” went on to become one of the most endearing children’s films of all time, winning 5 Oscars on 13 nominations and 1 Golden Globe Award on 4 nominations. Even if Travers wasn’t entirely pleased with the finished product, the experience helped change her life and the beliefs she drew upon in creating her existence. And all it took was a little metaphysical magic, the kind that her brainchild routinely employed in transforming the lives of those with whom she interacted. In that sense, Travers’ experience went full circle, creating a character who helped change the lives of others and whose influence, in turn, helped change the life of the one who created her. Given that, then, “Saving Mr. Banks” could just as easily have been titled “Saving Mrs. Travers.” In either instance, the designation would have been just as appropriate.

I’ll admit to having had some strong reservations about this film going in. Based on its trailer, the picture struck me as a lightweight, self-congratulatory piece of fluff, but that impression, thankfully, is far from the truth.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is an excellent movie in virtually every regard. It’s surprisingly substantive for a Disney release, one that honors the subject matter on which it’s based but that successfully avoids slipping into an exercise in studio propaganda. It’s a superb period piece, effectively capturing the look and feel of both 1960s Hollywood and turn-of-the-century Australia. Its razor-sharp writing is spot-on, especially in the incisive barbs casually tossed about by Travers and in its more emotional moments, evoking feelings without being manipulative. But, most of all, this picture is an actors’ showcase, featuring tremendous performances across the board, particularly by Thompson, who has richly earned best actress nominations in the upcoming Critics Choice, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award competitions. The film itself picked up three additional Critics Choice Award nominations, including best picture.

Our awareness of how and why we create our reality as we do is one of our most precious metaphysical birthrights, and we’d serve ourselves well never to lose sight of that. “Saving Mr. Banks” shows us what can occur when that happens, as well as what it takes to get it back. But, even more importantly, the film celebrates the boundless joy that comes from creating our personal reality. And that’s pretty magical if you ask me.

Copyright © 2013, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beliefs, self-discovery take center stage in ‘Philomena’

“Philomena” (2013). Cast: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe, Peter Hermann, Sean Mahon, Anna Maxwell Martin, Michelle Fairley, Charlie Murphy, Cathy Belton, Wunmi Mosaku, Kate Fleetwood, Tadhg Bowen, Saoirse Bowen. Director: Stephen Frears. Screenplay: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. Book: Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee. Web site. Trailer.

When we go looking for something, sometimes we find more than we anticipated. Searches driven by heartfelt, introspective concerns in particular often lead us to unexpected revelations and discoveries. Such is the case for an unlikely duo in the touching, fact-based comedy-drama, “Philomena.”

Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), a retired nurse living in London, harbors a painful secret, and she desperately desires to unburden herself. That opportunity finally comes on what would have been the 50th anniversary of a significant, though closely guarded event in her life – the birth of her son out of wedlock in the seclusion of an Irish convent. It was an incident that, at the time, was looked upon as nothing short of an eternal damnation sentence, at least in the eyes of the Church and its sanctimonious minions, most notably Mother Barbara (Ruth McCabe) and her relentless attack dog, Sister Hildegarde (Kate Fleetwood).

As penance for her “sin” (and in reparation for the discreet care she received from the Sisters), the young Philomena (Sophie Kennedy Clark) was required to spend four years working at the convent, performing chores for no money under the ever-watchful eye of the nuns. She had few pleasures in her life and even fewer allies, though she could always count on the support of her best friend, Kathleen (Charlie Murphy). She also took great pleasure in being able to spend a little time each day with her son, Anthony (Tadhg Bowen), a happy little lad who was highly protective of, and virtually inseparable from, Kathleen’s young daughter, Mary (Saoirse Bowen).

But, despite these small joys, Philomena, Kathleen and the other unwed mothers all had a perpetual threat hanging over them – the prospect that their children could be taken away at any time by would-be adoptive parents with deep pockets. When that fate unexpectedly befell Philomena, she was devastated. Her only remembrance of Anthony was a single photograph that had been clandestinely slipped to her by one of the more compassionate Sisters. And it was all she would ever have, even 50 years later.

Philomena long wondered what happened to her little boy. When she finally works up the nerve to reveal her secret to her adult daughter, Jane (Anna Maxwell Martin), she explains how desperate she is to know that Anthony grew up safe and sound. She even expresses hope that she might meet him somehow, despite the odds against that. As a concerned daughter, Jane wants to help her mother in any way that she can, and, fortunately, a highly fortuitous synchronicity presents itself shortly thereafter.

While attending a cocktail party, Jane meets Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a one-time BBC reporter and former government communications director who left office after becoming embroiled in a scandal involving a very public (and very embarrassing) news leak. With no job and no clear career path, Martin has been floundering about, futilely searching for his next journalism gig. That soon changes, however, when Jane and Martin cross paths. She pitches him on the idea of writing a story about her mother’s plight. As a former foreign affairs correspondent, he’s initially reluctant, claiming he doesn’t write human interest stories. But, once he’s introduced to another party guest, Sally Mitchell (Michelle Fairley), an editor always on the lookout for noteworthy stories to publish (especially from writers with high-profile pedigrees), Jane’s proposal suddenly doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched.

Before long, Jane arranges a meeting between Philomena and Martin. The unlikely duo seems a decidedly mismatched pair to embark on such an ambitious undertaking, especially since Philomena has precious little to offer Martin in helping him find her son. But, given that he’s in need of a job and having been effectively swayed by his subject’s touching story, Martin decides to forge ahead with the assignment. Thus begins the saga of an intrepid reporter and a heartbroken mother to locate her long-lost son, an odyssey that ends up spanning two continents and taking the determined investigators on a journey filled with numerous twists and turns.

Thematically speaking, the film’s greatest strength rests with its exploration of our ability to control our beliefs – or to let them control us. Whichever of these choices we make subsequently affects the nature of the reality we experience as conscious creators. This is particularly true with religious-based beliefs and how we allow them (or don’t allow them) to help shape the manifestations that comprise our everyday lives.

It’s especially interesting to see how this plays out with the two protagonists, both of whom were raised Roman Catholic. For Martin, a recovering practitioner, he’ll have no part of the Church’s seemingly arbitrary and capricious dictates about how we must live our daily lives. He wants nothing to do with the subjective commandments that it routinely and dogmatically passes off as unquestionable, absolute truths. Consequently, he frames his thoughts and creates a reality based on beliefs driven by rational, logical notions, those that can be “proven” only with substantive, evidentiary facts. In doing this, however, he also tends to throw out the baby with the bath water, giving short shrift to whatever beneficial teachings the Church might have to offer, something about which he periodically needs to be reminded.

Philomena, by contrast, was raised a good Catholic girl, one who dutifully abided by its decrees, even if they caused her personal anguish, pain and suffering. However, she also couldn’t help but quietly question much of what she was taught to believe. For instance, the Church made it abundantly clear that sex was something dirty and sinful, yet Philomena pondered why God would give us something so eminently pleasurable if it was meant to be viewed in such a wholly negative light. And, if the Church could get something like that wrong, she wondered, what else might it have erred about? For example, was it really necessary for Anthony’s disposition to be handled as it was? Or were other, equally viable options available that weren’t offered to her? But, whenever such radical thoughts would arise, the beliefs premised on all those threatening old lessons would come racing back to her, quickly quelling such upstart, “unacceptable” notions.

The net effect of all this was to leave Philomena perpetually conflicted. Did she do the right thing by letting the Sisters handle Anthony’s circumstances as they did? Or should she have cast aside those beliefs and taken a more proactive approach to things? The doubt that lingered for half a century tortured her terribly, which is why she eventually had to find out what happened to her son if she were ever to have any peace of mind – not only with regard to how she handled herself, but also with respect to her feelings about those who handled matters for her.

Of course, Philomena’s story also shines a light on the intents behind the beliefs being put forth by the Church, both as teachings to its followers and as the means of creating the institution’s reality. One can’t help but ask why did the Sisters do what they did? Were their beliefs driven by compassion and the well-being of those they cared for, or was there something more self-serving involved? That’s something Martin and Philomena must wrestle with as their investigation unfolds, both in terms of what actually happened and how those events are to be reconciled with their personal beliefs.

In reaching the answers they seek, Philomena and Martin frequently find themselves following hunches, those intuitive flashes that sometimes seem illogical but that often lead to remarkable revelations and starling synchronicities. For Philomena, a woman of faith, this isn’t as much of a stretch as it is for Martin, a man of reason, who is nearly always astounded whenever such discoveries make themselves apparent. By readily drawing upon this faculty, both protagonists are able to sharpen the clarity of their beliefs and the effectiveness of their conscious creation skills to reach the objectives they seek to fulfill. It’s an example we’d be wise to follow, too, especially for those of us seeking to improve our manifestation proficiency.

Through their amazing odyssey together, Philomena and Martin eventually reach their goal, but what they find may not be what they (or audiences) had envisioned at the outset of their journey. In arriving at what they’re looking for, they discover much more than the specific answers they initially sought; they also discover parts of themselves they never knew existed. In that sense, the journey to find Anthony is just as much a journey for them to find Philomena and Martin as well. It’s quite astounding how the quest for fulfilling a particular objective ends up revealing others that we never knew we were meant to go looking for. But a process such as this often brings us face to face with the beliefs that not only created the circumstances in question but that also helped to shape our overall existence and being – including those parts of ourselves that we never knew existed but were ultimately meant to find.

On its surface, “Philomena” might seem like a formula feel-good movie, but it’s much more than that. In many ways it’s a mystery, a road trip story and an unconventional buddy flick, one that’s delightfully warm and touching but filled with a delicious sense of unpredictability. Credit director Stephen Frears for a deft touch in his handling of the material and the superb writing of screenwriters Coogan and Jeff Pope for delivering an affecting, humorous, heartfelt script. But, most of all, give major kudos to the superb performances of Dench and Coogan, who are terrific individually and together. Dench’s portrayal is already chalking up considerable awards season buzz, and she’s deserving of every bit of attention she receives, including her recent nominations as best lead actress in the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award competitions. The film has also received Golden Globe nominations for best dramatic picture and best screenplay.

It’s been said that, in finding others, we find ourselves. Given their journey together, Philomena and Martin can certainly attest to the truth of that, and the film that tells their story brings it to life for all to see. May we all one day be so fortunate to have such an enlightening experience.

Copyright © 2013, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Additional Web Site for My Work!

I'm pleased to announce an addition to the family of web sites featuring my online writings. You can now find my works posted to the web site of the Smart Women's Empowerment program, available at www.smartwomensempowerment.org. The first of my contributions has been posted, and others will follow soon. Stop by and give a look to my posts, as well as those of the many other fine experts featured there!