Friday, November 28, 2014

‘Theory of Everything’ choreographs the grand cosmic dance

“The Theory of Everything” (2014). Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Harry Lloyd, Charlie Cox, Christian McKay, Abigail Cruttenden, Maxine Peake. Director: James Marsh. Screenplay: Anthony McCarten. Book: Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. Web site. Trailer.

They say it takes two to tango. It’s a concept that we can apply literally, metaphorically and even metaphysically. But nowhere is this notion more applicable than in the expression of the grand cosmic dance, a principle explored on multiple levels in director James Marsh’s inspiring new biopic, “The Theory of Everything.”

In 1963, cosmology student Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) seemed to have everything going his way. As a doctoral candidate at England’s storied Cambridge University, the somewhat-geeky but incredibly brilliant and deceptively charming graduate student was enrolled in one of the world’s most prestigious post-graduate programs. What’s more, before long, he met a beautiful and charming language arts student, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), with whom he fell madly in love. And, with the support of his loving parents, Frank and Isobel (Simon McBurney, Abigail Cruttenden), his jovial friend, Brian (Harry Lloyd), and his program advisor, Dennis Sciama (David Thewlis), Stephen apparently had what he needed to succeed in pursuing his goal – devising a simple, eloquent explanation for the existence of the Universe, in essence, a theory of everything.

But no sooner had Hawking embarked on this journey when he was blindsided by a major setback: He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), a condition that would cause his muscle function to deteriorate while leaving his mind and brain intact. Faced with the prospect of being irretrievably trapped inside his own body and a projected life-span of only two years, Hawking lapsed into a deep depression. However, Stephen’s peers would have none of that attitude. And, before long, neither would he. He resolved to carry on with as “normal” a life as possible, a feat at which he succeeded beyond measure.

In his personal life, Stephen married Jane, despite their knowledge of what they would be up against. Meanwhile, in his collegiate life, Hawking would become inspired by the theories of physicist Roger Penrose (Christian McKay), which would subsequently lead him to the topic for his doctoral thesis, a paper that earned him his degree in 1966. In the ensuing years, the Hawkings would become the parents of three children, and Stephen would write a number of books, including the immensely successful best seller, A Brief History of Time (1988).

Despite these triumphs, however, life was not without its challenges. As Stephen’s health deteriorated, he eventually developed pneumonia, necessitating a tracheotomy that left him unable to speak on his own. Stephen and Jane also began experiencing marital difficulties as years of increasingly stressful living conditions piled up on them.

But the Hawkings also managed to come up with solutions to these challenges. To give him the ability to “speak,” Stephen was fitted with a special keyboard that translated his words into sound. And, on the home front, even though Stephen and Jane were unable to resolve their marital issues, they divorced and each found new partners; Stephen married his caregiver, Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), while Jane was wed to longtime friend Jonathan Hellyer Jones (Charlie Cox). But, through their many travails, Stephen and Jane managed to remain friends. And, as for that two-year life-span prognosis, Hawking triumphantly beat it – by 50 years.

So how do individuals like Stephen and Jane beat such staggering odds so convincingly? As in any other conscious creation scenario, it all comes down to our beliefs. Given the Hawkings’ commitment to their convictions, they were able to successfully achieve seemingly implausible accomplishments, despite what the conventional wisdom and others had to say. Their noteworthy personal and professional achievements clearly illustrate the tremendous power inherent in our beliefs, conceptions that can indeed make the virtually unattainable entirely possible.

But what specifically makes our beliefs work so effectively under such trying circumstances? Two qualities come to mind: (1) leaving ourselves open to a range of myriad possibilities, no matter how unlikely some of them may seem, and (2) having an unshakable faith in the eventual fulfillment of those prospects, regardless of how heavily the deck may seem stacked against them. Based on how Stephen and Jane have lived their lives, these qualities have been undeniably present in their beliefs, even if they haven’t always been conscious of them, and those attributes have played a huge part in the realization of the Hawkings’ goals.

Moreover, Stephen and Jane have collectively made full use of the underlying components that drive the assimilation of our beliefs, namely, our intellect and intuition. Interestingly, in many ways, they each embody these traits as well, with Stephen representing the intellect and Jane epitomizing the intuition. Stephen’s profound scientific insights into matters of cosmology and physics have led to his many brilliant theories. By contrast, Jane’s spiritual devotion and love of all things expressive have resulted in her accomplishments as a writer and educator. Together, the synergy of their relationship inspired each of them to help one another in continually pushing the boundaries of their respective capabilities. With elements like this in place, their relationship thus symbolizes the grand cosmic dance that perpetually takes place between the intellect and the intuition in the formation of our beliefs and, subsequently, in the creation of our reality. And, given the dance that Stephen and Jane have engaged in over the years, they’ve jointly choreographed quite an astounding routine, one that’s beautiful, inspiring and enlightening in so many ways.

By engaging in this dance, Stephen and Jane each made it possible to show the other where they excel and where the other is in need of remedial enlightenment. For example, Jane, with her devout orientation, helps to illuminate the intellectual Stephen on the ways of spirit, an issue about which he often vacillated, depending on where the existence (or absence) of a God might fit into his equations for understanding the nature of reality. Stephen, meanwhile, used his knowledge of science to provide a tangible dimension to Jane’s spiritual musings, helping her understand the mechanics of what make her ethereal principles work. And, in their own way, they both came to appreciate the wisdom of Albert Einstein’s contention that “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

All that aside, one still can’t help but wonder why Stephen and Jane created these trying circumstances in the first place. Undoubtedly there were life lessons involved, and these particular conditions may have been just what was called for as part of their ultimate unfolding, results that may not have been realized under other circumstances. For example, would Stephen have been able to come up with his brilliant insights if he hadn’t been confined to a wheelchair? Indeed, would he have achieved the same results if he had created a more customary lifestyle for himself, one in which had to contend with all the typical responsibilities of a traditional husband and father? Having imposed such conditions upon himself may have been just what he needed to concentrate the bulk of his attention on his work. And yet, despite the creation of these extraordinary circumstances, he was still able to enjoy some of life’s more conventional experiences (like becoming a parent), even if he didn’t realize them in quite the same way as most of us would.

By facing both life’s joys and sorrows, Stephen and Jane also afford themselves the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of what existence has to offer. This, too, is another permutation of the grand cosmic dance, showing the protagonists both sides of life, which makes it possible for them to more fully appreciate the qualities that characterize each. This, in turn, enables them to experience life’s richness and to dance their own tune – and in their own remarkable way.

“The Theory of Everything” thoroughly inspires from start to finish, eloquently showing us what’s possible when we employ the power of our beliefs to create masterpieces of existence. The overall tone is uplifting and engaging, if a bit overly earnest and borderline schmaltzy at times. Nevertheless, this is easily overlooked in light of the picture’s overarching message and outlook.

Perhaps the film’s most notable attribute, though, is its outstanding performance by Redmayne, whose incredible portrayal makes him a very strong contender for best lead actor in this year’s awards competitions. The role’s physical demands alone are astounding, yet Redmayne consistently rises to the occasion in his convincing portrayal of the enigmatic protagonist. Credit Jones as well with a fine performance as the film’s tireless heroine, one who takes on a heavy burden in the search to find herself.

When we go out steppin’ in this thing we call life, we have a wide range of dance moves to choose from. No matter what we select, though, we’d serve ourselves well by making choices that employ a wide range of steps. Doing so will certainly make the routine enjoyable for us as participants and for all who watch from the sidelines. But then that’s what happens when we make use of everything the grand cosmic dance allows.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Learning To Trust

Having doubts about your conscious creation/law of attraction experience? Here's one way to bolster your faith. Read "Learning To Trust," my latest Smart Women's Empowerment post, available by clicking here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Check Out Radio Out There

Now airing through November 28 -- check out my podcast interview on Radio Out There with host Barry Eaton. Our lively conversation about conscious creation and the movies is available for on-demand listening by clicking here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let Me Inspire You Today!

I'm pleased to announce that I'm today's featured brilliance on! Click here to read more.

Friday, November 21, 2014

‘Rosewater’ unlocks freedom from fear

“Rosewater” (2014). Cast: Gael García Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Golshifteh Farahani, Claire Foy, Amir El-Masry, Nasser Faris, Hamza Muhaisen, Jason Jones. Director: Jon Stewart. Screenplay: Jon Stewart. Book: Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival. Web site. Trailer.

Fear can be a crippling emotion that keeps us locked in place, unable to move forward in our lives. Under dire circumstances, those feelings can become debilitating, preventing us from extricating ourselves from what we’ve manifested and creating anew. For a foreign correspondent returning to the oppressive regime of the land of his birth, those notions get put to the test, as seen in the fact-based new biopic, “Rosewater.”

In 2009, Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) traveled from his home in London to Tehran to cover the nation’s presidential election for Newsweek magazine, a contest principally featuring hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and progressive reform candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Bahari left behind his young pregnant fiancée, Paola (Claire Foy), believing that he would be gone for only a week. However, the trip turned into a much longer and more difficult journey than he ever imagined.

Bahari’s return to Iran evoked mixed personal feelings. On the plus side, it afforded him an opportunity to visit his aging, adoring mother, Moloojoon (Shohreh Aghdashloo). But, at the same time, the trip brought back painful memories of the incarceration of his free-spirited sister, Maryam (Golshifteh Farahani), who was jailed as a political prisoner by the fundamentalist government of Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s, and of his father, Baba Akbar (Haluk Bilginer), who was arrested for being a Communist during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi during the 1950s. Still, being the professional that he was, Bahari focused his attention on the task at hand – covering the election.

The 2009 Iranian presidential contest was a watershed moment in the country’s history. In the days leading up to the vote, Mousavi was believed to be steadily gaining momentum, giving the incumbent a genuine run for his money. However, when the results were announced, Mousavi was soundly defeated, an outcome many disbelieved, including Bahari, who received a jubilant phone call from one of Ahmadinejad’s campaign staffers (Amir El-Masry) enthusiastically proclaiming the president’s glorious re-election – before the polls even closed. In the ensuing days, claims of widespread election fraud circulated, and violent protests erupted, which Bahari documented with his video camera and released to the Western press. The intrepid journalist, who operated with official government accreditation, was simply doing his job – but that’s what got him into trouble.

Not long after the release of his protest footage, Bahari was taken into custody by the Iranian government. He was charged with being a Western spy and subjected to intensive, sometimes-brutal interrogation by a “specialist” (Kim Bodnia) seeking to coerce a confession out of him, a nameless captor who Bahari only knew by the ever-present scent of rosewater, a fragrance commonly used for cosmetic and ceremonial purposes in the Islamic world. The interrogator, who Bahari nicknamed for his signature bouquet, used seemingly every tactic imaginable to get his subject to confess, but Rosewater made little progress, especially since the allegations against his bewildered captive were rarely made clear and often based on laughably faulty “evidence.” Given the slow progress, Rosewater was increasingly pressured by his superior (Nasser Faris) to get results, and, over time, Bahari’s resolve gradually began to weaken; he was reaching the point where he was increasingly willing to do almost anything to secure his release.

To cope with these circumstances, Bahari frequently envisioned himself engaging in conversations with his sister and father. Having both been captives themselves, Bahari believed they might be able to provide him with insights from their experiences to help him get by. And that coping mechanism proved valuable, eventually providing him a key to outwit his captors. Drawing upon the advice of his sister, Bahari decided to follow her recommendation that he tap into his sense of internal freedom, a strategy that enabled him to strengthen his will to survive – and to shrewdly turn the tables on those who imprisoned him.

The intimidation inflicted by Bahari’s captors was undeniable. In fact, they came incredibly close to breaking him. But Bahari knew there was no basis behind their contentions, and his personal conviction successfully sustained him through these trying times. Indeed, the power of his beliefs in his personal truth enabled the creation of conditions necessary for preventing his interrogators from psychologically crippling him. And the employment of one’s beliefs in attaining a desired outcome, such as this, is the very essence of what conscious creation is all about.

As anyone familiar with this practice knows, we create the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, intents and beliefs. And Bahari, as someone who was utterly convinced of his innocence, wielded tremendous personal power with his beliefs, a circumstance that ensured his eventual triumph.

Rosewater and his minions, by contrast, tried to achieve success by employing beliefs that they knew were disingenuous, tainted by unsupported claims, at best, and outright fabrications, at worst. They were so hell-bent on achieving their desired outcome that they were willing to disregard such considerations in their pursuit of success. The use of un-conscious creation (also known as creation by default) in this way rarely yields hoped-for results, especially if the practice rests on a foundation of beliefs tinged with doubt (as is often the case here, as depicted in several scenes in which Rosewater is visibly conflicted about what he’s asked to do, knowing that such requests are inherently foolhardy).

Is it any wonder, then, that Bahari’s captors are destined to fail? It’s a lesson we can all benefit from for those times when we try to force outcomes into manifestation, especially when we’re well aware that we don’t have adequate belief support to make them possible.

Part of the reason for Rosewater’s failure is due to the co-created nature of these circumstances. While he obviously had certain results in mind when employing his conscious creation skills, so did Bahari, and the captive’s objectives were clearly at odds with those of the captor. In an event like this, the presence of contradiction as part of the mix kept Rosewater’s desired outcome from being realized. Of course, contradiction also kept Bahari’s results from materializing, which raises a significant question for all involved – exactly why did they create these conditions in the first place? What’s to be gained from such a seemingly intractable stalemate?

In scenarios as complicated as these, there are often multiple motivations behind the creation of the attendant circumstances. But, in many instances, they often involve the manifestation of conditions needed for each party to learn various life lessons. In Bahari’s case, this scenario enabled him to learn much about fear, the freedom from it and what such liberation makes possible. Rosewater’s experience, by contrast, provided him with an opportunity for a valuable lesson in the perils of un-conscious creation. And, in tandem, Bahari and Rosewater each materialized the means for gaining a significant new understanding of the importance of integrity.

The degree of success we attain in pursuits like those outlined above depends on how well we pay attention at recognizing what we create. After 118 days of interrogation, it becomes apparent that Bahari and Rosewater achieved mixed results in their respective endeavors, and one need only look at the outcomes to see how this played out. For them, like us, when we succeed at a particular undertaking, we’re able to move on to new ventures; and, when we don’t, we often find it necessary to revisit the lesson in question, re-creating comparable conditions in the hope that we just might get it the next time around. In either case, though, it ultimately depends on what beliefs we employ and act upon in realizing whatever outcomes unfold.

“Rosewater” is an excellent debut feature from first-time writer-director Jon Stewart. The picture is something of a surprise offering from the host of Comedy Central’s bitingly satirical Daily Show, which probably helps to heighten the film’s overall impact. Yet, despite the unexpected subject matter probed here, Stewart has nevertheless infused portions of his excellent script with his signature wit, making his points with effectively nuanced humor that never becomes gratuitous. This nicely paced, skillfully edited release features great portrayals by Bodnia and Aghdashloo, as well as Bernal, who has quietly added yet another fine effort to his growing resume of first-rate performances.

When fear threatens to imprison us, we must have the wherewithal to realize that it arises just like any other creation – from the power of our beliefs – and that we can change our circumstances at any time we wish, as long as we allow ourselves to do so. Making such a change, however, requires us to envisage a different path and to draw upon our internal freedom to choose it. And, as long as we retain our vision of such possibilities, we can move forward confidently into the future – no matter what obstacles may seemingly block our way.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Master Your Life!

If you weren't able to tune in live for my appearance on Life Mastery Radio with Todd Alan and Debby Handrich this past Tuesday, check out the archive version of the broadcast, available by clicking here.

Get Some Positive Living Vibrations!

Now airing through November 24 -- check out my podcast interview on Positive Living Vibrations with host Sara Troy, available by clicking here.

New Consciousness Review Broadcast Archived

In case you missed my appearance on New Consciousness Review with Miriam Knight this past Tuesday, you can catch the archive broadcast by clicking here. Tune in for a great conversation about conscious creation and the movies!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Check Out These Great Titles

Some interesting choices here, and several of them are featured in my books about enlightened cinema. Two of them appear in Consciously Created Cinema ("Cloud Atlas" and "Samsara"), and one is featured in Get the Picture?! ("Waking Life"). Check out these and many other fine titles by clicking here.

Dancers from "Samsara." Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tune in to New Consciousness Review

Tune in on Tuesday at 12 pm Eastern when I'll be a guest on the New Consciousness Review Radio Show with host Miriam Knight. We'll discuss my books and how they illustrate conscious creation in the movies. Click here for some lively chat!

Introducing the New Edition of 'Get the Picture'

I'm thrilled to introduce the upcoming release of the new revised and updated edition of my first book, Get the Picture?!: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies, coming soon in print and ebook formats from all major online retailers! My thanks to Paul L. Clark of for such a terrific cover design!

Cover design by Paul L. Clark,

Check out the Updated Facebook Page

Check out the updated "Get the Picture" page on Facebook, available by clicking here!

Page banner design by Paul L. Clark,

Master Your Life!

Join me for a lively conversation about conscious creation and the movies when I'll appear on Life Mastery Radio with hosts Todd Alan and Debby Handrich on Tuesday November 18 at 1 pm, Eastern. We'll discuss how film illustrates the principles of conscious creation (also known as the law of attraction). Click here for some fun and inspiring chat!

Friday, November 14, 2014

‘Dear White People’ probes personal, racial identity

“Dear White People” (2014). Cast: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P. Bell, Brittany Curran, Justin Dobies, Marque Richardson, Malcolm Barrett, Dennis Haysbert, Peter Syvertsen, Brandon Alter, Brian James, Katie Gaulke. Director: Justin Simien. Screenplay: Justin Simien. Web site. Trailer.

Finding our place in the world can be a daunting task, both personally and in our respective peer groups in society at large. This can be especially challenging in racial and cultural contexts, particularly with ever-changing shifts in attitude and relations among various constituencies. And, for those with limited life experience, the task can be confusing, perhaps even overwhelming, as they seek to define their identity, a challenge brought to light with biting wit in the satirical new comedy, “Dear White People.”

“Dear White People” cleverly weaves threads from the lives and relationships of a group of black, white and multiracial students and administrators at Winchester University, a fictional upscale American college loosely patterned after the hallowed halls of an Ivy League institution. Told primarily in flashback format, the film follows the principals through a series of on-campus events leading up to a Halloween party where racially charged tensions explode with consequences that are both troubling and farcical. It thus offers an intriguing, somewhat unorthodox look at a number of important contemporary social issues – and takes no prisoners in doing so.

To say more about the narrative would reveal too much of the plot. But knowing something about the characters would definitely give viewers a sense of what they’re in for:

• Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), a mixed-race media arts major and host of an often-inflammatory college radio show titled Dear White People, seeks to find her way in life, both personally and in the world at large. Her multiracial heritage has left her conflicted, however, torn between two cultural sensibilities, an internal struggle evidenced in everything from her taste in music to her taste in men, including two would-be suitors, Gabe (Justin Dobies), a white teaching assistant in the media program, and Reggie (Marque Richardson), a black computer science major and avid supporter of the views she expresses on her radio show.

• Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell) seems to have everything going for him. The gregarious, popular African-American political science major seems to be on the fast track for success. He’s also paired to an adoring Caucasian girlfriend, Sofia Fletcher (Brittany Curran), daughter of Winchester’s president (Peter Syvertsen). Troy’s father, the Dean of Students (Dennis Haysbert), is proud of his son’s many accomplishments, but he demands a lot, too – even if those expectations aren’t necessarily in line with what Troy wants. But, then, dad’s expectations aren’t always driven by simple paternal pride, either; sometimes they’re tied up in his longstanding rivalry with President Fletcher, a contentious relationship that began years before, when the two administrators were Winchester students themselves.

• Colandrea “Coco” Conners (Teyonah Parris) desperately wants to make a name for herself, but she’s frustrated that her public profile and web video presence are overshadowed by the eminently more popular Ms. White, whom she smugly chastises as “a bougee Lisa Bonet wannabe.” To elevate her public persona, Coco seeks the attention of Helmut West (Malcolm Barrett), a reality TV show producer looking to create a program based on Winchester campus life – one driven by drama and controversy, no matter how incendiary or contrived it might be.

• Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), an unfocused undergrad who has yet to declare a major, looks for direction in his college life. The reserved gay sophomore feels like a fish out of water much of the time, not really part of his own community but not really part of mainstream campus society, either. He’s also culturally conflicted, sporting an enormous ʼ70s style Afro while simultaneously professing to like the music of Mumford & Sons and the films of Robert Altman. But, by becoming a writer for the campus newspaper, he begins to find himself (not to mention a potential romantic interest, the paper’s white editor, George (Brandon Alter)). How it all works out for him, though, depends on what Lionel makes of his opportunities.

• Kurt Fletcher (Kyle Gallner), son of the aforementioned university president, fancies himself a prototypical BMOC. As the editor of Pastiche, Winchester’s highly influential humor magazine, Kurt is a raucous, loud-mouthed party animal who believes he can get away with just about anything (mainly because he knows dad will bail him out if trouble arises). Unfortunately, Kurt’s lack of discretion extends to expressing his opinion, too, something that increasingly gets him in hot water when it comes to matters of race and sexual orientation. But, then, none of this should really come as a surprise, since he’s also the one chiefly responsible for organizing the ill-fated Halloween party.

The mix at work here is quite a volatile one, to say the least. And, as all of the elements blend together, the students of Winchester University are setting themselves up for some notoriety – and consequences – they can’t even begin to fathom.

Given the film’s subject matter, the question of beliefs comes squarely front and center, and that’s significant not only for the picture’s exploration of its core social issues but also for its metaphysical underpinnings. Considering that our beliefs dictate the manifestation of our reality through the conscious creation process, it’s easy to see how the various characters experience existences directly in line with their particular thinking.

In light of the movie’s central premise, this is obviously most apparent when it comes to matters of race relations and racial identity. For instance, those who believe they see racism at every turn will experience a reality commensurate with such beliefs. By contrast, those who are convinced that such views are overblown or overly intellectualized observations will find their existence characterized accordingly. In either case, these varying viewpoints aren’t intended to suggest that one outlook is necessarily any more “correct” than another; they both merely point to the differing beliefs that fostered their respective materializations in the first place.

However, in many ways, the characters’ struggles with racial identity issues are a pretext to some deeper, metaphysically oriented matters. In seeking to define their views on these questions, the students are also seeking to define themselves as individuals and the nature of their respective realities. These pretextual considerations lead the characters to ask themselves questions like, “Who am I, really?” Their beliefs, of course, will help to provide the answers, not only for the surface issues addressed in the film, but also for the much more personal questions that lurk within the consciousness of each character. And that can be quite a learning experience, as they each discover for themselves.

Given the learning experience nature of the story line, it’s only fitting that the narrative play itself out on a college campus, a haven for healthy debate and personal exploration of a host of topics, including those examined in the film. Of course, the academic environment, as a place of open discussion, makes it possible to explore these topics from a variety of angles, including everything from the noblest of enlightened dissertations to the shallowest, most cynical, most hypocritical, most self-serving belief stances.

One might easily question the breadth of such discourse, given that it may engender some “distasteful” notions. But, in true conscious creation fashion, the “universe-ity” environment makes it possible for all viewpoints to be addressed, no matter how politically incorrect some of them might seem. Now, this is not to suggest an implied endorsement of some of those less open-minded viewpoints (regardless of who endorses them), but it is a defense of the right for them to be aired, heard and debated. After all, conscious creation places all options on the table, all of which have their own intrinsic validity and their own rightful claim to expression, no matter how far out of fashion some of them may fall. And, in the film’s exploration of such matters, it doesn’t hesitate to probe them all, praising those with merit, deriding those that are questionable and unabashedly poking holes in all of them where warranted, regardless of how seemingly well intentioned (but inadvertently misdirected) some of them may be.

Exercises in self-exploration like those depicted here benefit immensely when approached with the aid of certain attitudes. For instance, taking on this task courageously often yields more satisfying results and produces desired outcomes more quickly. But those who allow their thinking to be clouded by fear or doubt are likely to stay stuck in place longer, as many of Lionel’s experiences illustrate, for example. However, those who step up forthrightly and without fear, as often happens with Troy, are likely to see their desires manifest more expeditiously. Now, this is not to suggest that no one ever backslides, either; we all make “mistakes” as part of our learning curve. Troy’s dealings with his father, for instance, sometimes cause him to back down and compromise his values. But, then, such incidents subsequently help to empower him, galvanizing his faith in his beliefs and making it possible for him to move forward with greater courage and confidence.

It also helps if we approach this task from a sense of personal integrity, for it promotes outcomes that are genuinely in line with our core being. But, while we’re learning our life lessons, as often happens when we’re still of college age, we might not always be able to identify our beliefs as clearly as they need to be. We may even convince ourselves that we’re being entirely sincere with ourselves when nothing could be further from the truth. However, by experimenting with our manifesting beliefs, we give ourselves an opportunity to work through the clutter and come ever closer to personal awareness. Such experiences, again, might be viewed as mistakes, but, instead, they should be seen as exercises in honing our skills as conscious creators. And what better place to learn how to be oneself than in the relative safety of a university setting, an environment that, at least theoretically, encourages us to robustly engage in such experimentation and exploration.

When all of the dust settles in scenarios like those depicted in the film, it becomes painfully apparent that divisive outlooks get us nowhere, regardless of how justified we might feel in buying into them. No matter how these outlooks may be clothed, they ultimately speak to a sense of selfishness and separation when, in fact, we’re all inherently and undeniably connected. This shortcoming is often drawn into sharp focus when viewed through the lens of race relations, especially when they’re strained, as they often are in this picture. However, the sooner we realize our intrinsic linkage to one another, the sooner we can move past these limitations and become everything we can be as one united people, no matter what our racial makeup.

“Dear White People” is a smartly satirical look at these issues, drawing upon an approach that’s very much in your face but that never goes over the top, successfully resisting the temptation to adopt a soapbox stance. Filmmaker Justin Simien, named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch,” has come up with a winning formula in his first feature outing, producing a picture that’s well directed, nicely paced and capably edited while getting the most out of a cast of talented, up-and-coming performers. The film is generally well written, despite some occasional lapses into overly intellectualized dialogue, but that drawback is more than compensated for by its ample poignant laughs and razor sharp insights. As the winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, “Dear White People” is easily one of the best (and most underrated) releases of the year.

As we enter adulthood, we take our rightful places as individuals and in society at large. We have a wide range of choices available to us in doing so, and it’s in our best interests to choose wisely, for the decisions we make about which beliefs to embrace can have far-ranging implications. Just ask those in the university communities identified in the closing credits who underwent experiences of their own not unlike those depicted in the film. Suddenly, the abstract becomes startlingly real – and eminently disturbing. The cautionary tale served up in “Dear White People” should give us all pause to think about who we are, what values we seek to embrace and what kind of world we want to create for ourselves.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Get Some Positive Living Vibrations!

Tune in for some lively chat about conscious creation and the movies when I appear on the Positive Living Vibrations Radio Show with host Sara Troy. The show will be available for on-demand listening by clicking here November 18-24, after which it will be available through the site's archives. Sara and I will discuss how films illustrate the conscious creation process, as well as my two books, Consciously Created Cinema: The Movie Lover's Guide to the Law of Attraction and the upcoming re-released edition of my first book, Get the Picture?!: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies. Enjoy!

Cover designs by Pail L. Clark,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lackluster ‘Citizenfour’ implies much, delivers little

“Citizenfour” (2014). Cast: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, Laura Poitras, William Binney, Jeremy Scahill, Julian Assange. Director: Laura Poitras. Web site. Trailer.

When presented with one of the biggest news stories of the century, one would hope that those covering it would make the most of the opportunity to inform the public about its scope and implications. That’s especially true when those ramifications have impacts that are far-reaching, both in our everyday lives and our metaphysical deliberations. Unfortunately, when it comes to coverage of one of the most significant milestone news events of recent years, those goals never reach the fruition they deserve, as becomes regrettably apparent in the recently released documentary feature, “Citizenfour.”

In January 2013, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras received an email from an intelligence contractor working for the U.S. government who identified himself simply as Citizenfour. In the message, the contractor revealed that he possessed highly sensitive information that would create shockwaves if released to the public. The anonymous source made it clear that taking the information public involved significant risks but added that its ramifications were so staggering that it needed to be published.

So why did Citizenfour contact Poitras? Having made a name for herself with two acclaimed and provocative documentaries, “My Country, My Country” (2006), about the Iraq War, and “The Oath” (2010), about the Guantánamo Bay detention center, the anonymous contractor believed she would make the ideal cinematic scribe for telling his story. And so, after several months of encrypted correspondence, Poitras agreed to meet this mysterious source at a hotel in Hong Kong. That source would subsequently identify himself as Edward Snowden.

What ensued at that meeting would shock the world. Snowden and Poitras, who were now joined by reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian, one of the United Kingdom’s most influential newspapers, thus embarked on several days of meetings in which the contractor detailed – with documentation – extensive revelations about the spying activities of the National Security Agency. Greenwald and MacAskill wrote a series of articles outlining the revelations, while Poitras captured the meetings on film as they happened, creating a cinematic record of one of the most historic events of the young century.

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden (left) is interviewed by journalist Glenn Greenwald (right) of the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper in a Hong Kong hotel room in the new documentary, “Citizenfour.” Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

Through Snowden’s revelations, the world learned of the NSA’s intrusive and secret surveillance tactics involving the collection of customer information and user data from telecommunications and Internet companies like Verizon, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, AOL and YouTube, among others. The news set off a firestorm of controversy and a tidal wave of media inquiries, thrusting Greenwald into the limelight. And, when Snowden was publicly identified as the whistleblower, the story positively exploded.

With Snowden exposed, however, concerns over his safety, freedom and legal liability emerged, prompting him and his media associates to begin making plans for what would come next. He wanted to ensure that the information he had collected would continue to be disseminated. He also sought to find a location that would provide political asylum, a protracted odyssey that would eventually take him to Russia. The filmmaker follows Snowden through this process, chronicling his departure from Hong Kong and his eventual resettlement in Moscow, where he resides to this day.

Regardless of what one thinks about Snowden and his tactics, his revelation of the information in question raised the public debate about government involvement in surveillance activities both domestically and overseas. And, to have a real-time cinematic accounting of these disclosures, is indeed significant, if for no other reason than providing a documented record for the history books that will one day be written.

Revelations about the National Security Agency come under heavy scrutiny as a result of the whistleblowing activities of former contractor Edward Snowden, the subject of the new documentary feature, “Citizenfour.” Photo by Trevor Paglen, courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

The real-life drama playing out on screen also raises a number of significant questions related to the conscious creation process. For instance, why did everyone involved in this story – including all the principals and the silent, unseen masses who are affected by its ramifications – create these contentious circumstances in the first place? What effects will the revelation of this information have on our collective existence going forward? And how will we respond to the continued unfolding of this story? Clearly, the implications here go deeper than just the exposure of information about government surveillance programs; they also have impact on the kind of world we create for ourselves.

As in any conscious creation-related scenario, everything depends on the beliefs involved, whether that relates to an individual’s particular manifestations or the mass-created materializations of a major public event such as this. These circumstances thus prompt us to take a hard look at the beliefs in question: Why have we allowed such secrecy to hold sway? Why have we allowed the agencies responsible for these actions to have such unchecked power? And, perhaps most importantly, why have we changed the game by prompting the exposure of such details now?

On a purely metaphysical level, some would say that this is part and parcel of the general global awakening in consciousness that has been transpiring in recent years. From a conscious creation perspective, it also sheds a bright light on such issues as our power of choice, our concerns about fear and courage, and our exercise of personal integrity. But, perhaps most significantly, it has much to do with the exploration of our value fulfillment, the principle associated with being our truest, best selves for our own benefit and the well-being of those around us. The actions Snowden took in making these revelations, and the efforts of Poitras, Greenwald and MacAskill in documenting his actions, speak volumes about the roles they each play in the manifestation of their value fulfillment and personal destinies.

From the foregoing, one might easily assume that “Citizenfour” is a compelling and suspenseful piece of filmmaking. Regrettably, however, its exploration of the foregoing notions is largely by implication, with the picture itself often falling far short of the mark. With a story as seemingly absorbing as this, much of its “witness to history” impact is lost in a glut of plodding footage desperately in need of editing. What’s more, much of Snowden’s on-camera explanations of what’s transpiring is shrouded in jargon-ridden technospeak, and, while that’s somewhat understandable in light of his professional expertise, it often obscures the meaning and implications of the events and revelations involved. A lack of further clarification and elaboration on these points thus keeps viewers from getting as much out of the film as they might have otherwise.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras chronicles the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in “Citizenfour.” Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC.

This is not to suggest “Citizenfour” is without its merits, however. The production values and cinematography are top notch, exceeding the quality often found in many independent documentaries. Its inclusion of material from other parties related to this story, such as the insights of investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and former NSA technical director William Binney, adds some much-needed elucidation to the film’s central narrative. But these attributes, unfortunately, aren’t enough to save the picture from its other shortcomings, which is disappointing, given the magnitude of the story involved here.

The kind of world we create for ourselves is obviously crucial to our continued well-being. But the responsibility for that falls squarely on us and the manifesting beliefs we maintain – in all areas of life. When we stumble in our efforts at this, it certainly helps to have resources (like movies and books) that undeniably show us the errors of our ways and where we need to make adjustments. It’s too bad that “Citizenfour” comes up short on this front, for it could have helped make us aware of changes we need to implement – while we still have the chance.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.