Friday, March 27, 2015

‘She’s Beautiful’ charts a culture-changing movement

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” (2014). Interview Footage: Alta, Chude Pamela Allen, Judith Arcana, Nona Willis Aronowitz, Fran Beal, Heather Booth, Rita Mae Brown, Susan Brownmiller, Linda Burnham, Jacqui Michot Ceballos, Mary Jean Collins, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Muriel Fox, Jo Freeman, Carol Giardina, Susan Griffin, Karla Jay, Kate Millett, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Denise Oliver-Velez, Trina Robbins, Ruth Rosen, Vivian Rothstein, Marlene Sanders, Alix Kates Shulman, Ellen Shumsky, Marilyn Webb, Virginia Whitehill, Ellen Willis, Alice Wolfson, Miriam Hawley, Jane Pincus, Joan Ditzion, Paula Doress-Worters, Wendy Sanford, Judy Norsigian, Vilunya Diskin, Pam Berger. Archive Footage: Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem. Director: Mary Dore. Web site. Trailer.

The impact of an idea can be considerable. When that notion is infused with the energy of a mass collaboration, it can become huge. And, when that initiative is linked with others of like tenor, a movement is born. So it was when the women of America united to get behind a cause that liberated them from the shackles of stifling limitation, a culture-changing crusade that reshaped society forever, the subject of the engaging new documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”

In 1963, author Betty Friedan set off a social and cultural firestorm with the release of her immensely popular book, The Feminine Mystique, which revealed that a sizable number of American women were dissatisfied with the limitations of their roles as wives and mothers. That literary spark, in turn, gave rise to what would become one of the most influential social crusades in the nation’s history – the women’s liberation movement.

The dissatisfaction Friedan chronicled went beyond the aforementioned role limitations, however. Once word of these sentiments began to spread, women started expressing their discontent with the way their gender was being treated (or ignored) on a variety of fronts, all of which quickly fed into the blossoming of a multifaceted social crusade.

Chief among the movement’s initiatives was the push for equal pay and job opportunities. Many women had grown tired of being relegated to the domestic arena and began seeking change. But things didn’t stop with these economic and vocational initiatives; campaigns aimed at securing equal rights of all kinds were subsequently launched.

Protestors gather to participate in the August 26, 1970 Women’s Strike march, one of the principal events of the women’s liberation movement depicted in the excellent new documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of International Film Circuit, Inc.

This new focus of the crusade was an outgrowth of the era’s civil rights movement, which had benefited tremendously from the participation of many formidable, strong-minded women, some of whom encountered gender-based discrimination of their own at the hands of their male counterparts. The indignation that these and other women experienced helped fuel their passion for feminist initiatives. It inspired organizers to rally and amass ranks of followers. And, with the rise of nonviolent public protests over issues like voting rights and the Vietnam War, women now had a model to draw upon to make their platform known – and their voices heard.

The other causes the crusade took on covered a wide range of topics, including the needs of minority women (particularly in the African-American, Latina and Lesbian communities), support for rape victims and women coerced into forced servitude, better funding for women’s health research and education, reproductive rights advocacy (especially in the areas of legalized abortion and access to contraceptives), increased child care availability, and political activism (including such areas as equitable representation in office and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment). This agenda made for a very full plate, but it was one that women in the movement eagerly pursued with vigor.

Members of the Lavender Menace, an organization devoted to addressing the needs of the Lesbian community of the women’s liberation movement, made their voices heard through provocative, innovative tactics, as detailed in director Mary Dore’s “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Photo by Diana Davies, courtesy of International Film Circuit, Inc.

Urban centers became significant hubs for activism, especially in cities like Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco and Berkeley. A number of advocate groups sprang up, such as the National Organization for Women, and their members became experts at networking and recruiting huge numbers of followers (a pretty amazing accomplishment, given that there was no Internet at the time). Public events also became important, such as the 1970 Women’s Strike, which attracted throngs of participants to raise public consciousness about the movement’s issues.

As successful as these conventional measures were, however, an array of innovative tactics were employed, too. A number of high-profile initiatives aimed at taking on bastions of the old order (and generating significant media coverage) were organized, such as protests at the Miss America pageant, a sit-in at the offices of the Ladies Home Journal, public bra burnings and performances of an all-female activist rock band (an innovation for the time). Many women used humor to make their points, too, as evidenced by the emergence of protest groups like the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.), an organization whose followers intentionally dressed like the namesake of their group’s acronym to taunt those who openly mischaracterized the liberation movement. Given the effectiveness of these efforts, those who condescendingly criticized the crusade (nearly always men) opened their mouths at their peril.

Performances by the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band, one of the first all-female rock acts, captured the attention of more than just curiosity seekers and supporters of the cause during the rise of the women’s rights movement, as seen in director Mary Dore’s engaging new documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Photo by Virginia Blaisdell, courtesy of International Film Circuit, Inc.

Despite the movement’s many successes, it was not without its challenges, either, some of which came from within as well as from without. For instance, minority women sometimes questioned whether their interests were being adequately represented within the movement, given that many of its leaders and members came from more mainstream economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Then there was the question of radicalism, which prompted many women to wrestle with the question of “How far is too far?” For example, suggestions put forth by radical Lesbians that all women should abandon the heterosexual lifestyle and willingly embrace their “innate” gay nature didn’t go over well with many of the movement’s more conservative members, who were eager to fight for equal rights but not anxious to be coerced into a change in their sexual orientation. Women who were mothers were similarly chastised at times, their critics contending that children bound them to a more traditional, “unliberated” way of life. When such issues became public knowledge, they sometimes discouraged women who were on the fence about getting involved, especially when word of them was gleefully spread by chauvinists in the backlash movement seeking to discredit and stymie the crusade. But, as the movement progressed, solutions to these challenges gradually emerged, allowing them to be addressed in their own time and on their own terms.

The impact the women’s liberation movement had on society was substantial, to say the least. The gains made between 1966 and 1973, the principal period covered in the film, changed the country in profound ways, something that becomes particularly apparent in film clips depicting American culture before the rise of the crusade. And, while it may be tempting to think that there’s no going back in the wake of these many accomplishments, the picture nevertheless makes it clear that there’s work yet to be done, especially in the area of protecting reproductive rights in battleground states like Texas. But, if contemporary women rise to the challenge in the same way their predecessors did, their opponents have cause for concern.

The movement’s achievements also make apparent its constituents’ proficiency as practitioners of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we each manifest our reality through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. As evidenced in the film, the power inherent in their impassioned beliefs is considerable. Indeed, such potent convictions aptly illustrate the contention of conscious creation author and advocate Jane Roberts that there’s more power in a focused intent than is required to send a rocket to the moon. They also depict what’s attainable when we employ the ability to envision desired outcomes, a notion espoused in The Lost Mode of Prayer by author Gregg Braden, who asserts that it’s entirely possible to reach our goals when we act as if the hoped-for results have already occurred. The visionaries who launched the women’s liberation movement obviously had these elements going for them, and the outcomes speak for themselves.

Members of W.I.T.C.H. (the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), an organization whose followers intentionally dressed like the namesake of their group’s acronym to taunt those who openly mischaracterized the liberation movement, caused a humorous stir during the emergence of the women’s liberation movement, as chronicled in “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Photo by Jo Freeman, courtesy of International Film Circuit, Inc.

Of course, much of the success behind these efforts stems from the numbers who got behind them. The women’s liberation movement is a prime example of a consciously created mass event carried out with confidence and determination. The fusion of multiple consciousnesses working together can yield unfathomable rewards, and this crusade illustrates this idea as well as any that society has ever witnessed. The movement’s capacity for invoking sweeping change on a mass scale is undeniable, and, if anyone were to doubt that, one need only look at some the picture’s archive footage depictions of once-commonplace attitudes and social conventions that would never be tolerated today.

The movement’s accomplishments also demonstrate how it’s possible for change to arise at the grass-roots level. Many of the milestones attained through these initiatives were launched by women who came from modest, everyday backgrounds. Their names aren’t household words by any means, but they had impact nonetheless. They saw needs, envisioned solutions and formed beliefs to bring them into being. So it was, for example, for abortion rights advocates Judith Arcana and Heather Booth, who helped women gain access to safe procedures in the days before the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. The same was true for those who advocated for the needs of women of color, including Fran Beal, Linda Burnham and Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was eventually elected to Congress. And then there were the authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves, who collectively compiled this quintessential work on women’s health and sexuality at a time when no comparable work existed. These remarkable women are just a few of the many liberation pioneers who are profiled in the film, and, even though they may not possess the same notoriety as movement luminaries like Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem (all of whom are depicted in archive footage), their contributions – and creations – are no less significant.

Eight of the 12 authors who created the quintessential women’s health and sexuality book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” reunite to share their experiences in creating this groundbreaking opus that helped launch the women’s health movement in director Mary Dore’s new documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” Pictured (from left) are Miriam Hawley, Jane Pincus, Joan Ditzion, Paula Doress-Worters, Wendy Sanford, Judy Norsigian, Vilunya Diskin and Pam Berger. Photo courtesy of International Film Circuit, Inc.

“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” is an excellent, capably packaged documentary that covers its subject thoroughly, tautly and poignantly, with a style that’s both informative and refreshingly humorous. Director Mary Dore has skillfully blended a mix of contemporary interview segments and archival footage, creating a finished product that’s both enlightening and entertaining. The film is playing primarily at venues specializing in independent and documentary cinema, with theater listings posted on the picture’s official web site.

When a great idea is blessed with recognition and acceptance, there’s no telling what it can yield. The women’s liberation movement is an example of one of those grand notions, one whose impact has spread far and wide, spanning the globe and even crossing gender lines, amassing support beyond the boundaries of its core constituency. Such success is a fitting tribute to those who gave life to it, and “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” effectively echoes those sentiments, providing viewers with a meticulous chronicle that fondly yet objectively recognizes the efforts of those who freely gave so much to benefit so many.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Check out Amazon Author Central!

Fans of can now see my updated Author Central Page by clicking here. The page lists all the editions of my books, my biography and Tweets from my Twitter feed (@Brent_Marchant). It also allows page visitors to follow me and to start discussions about my work and other related topics. Check it out!

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Friday, March 20, 2015

‘Gett’ puts perspective on trial

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” (2014). Cast: Ronit Elkabetz, Simon Abkarian, Menashe Noy, Sasson Gabai, Eli Gornstein, Rami Danon, Roberto Pollak, Gabi Amrani, Dalia Beger. Directors: Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz. Screenplay: Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz. Web site. Trailer.

To many of us, the resolution of certain types of situations may seem obvious. But are they really? Some might contend that such views are overly simplistic, that multiple impressions – and outcomes – are possible. This is especially true in courtroom settings, where the advocates for each side present compelling arguments for their clients. How everything shakes out depends on who makes the better case, a result that’s based (at least in part) on the beliefs employed in interpreting those contentions. That’s the scenario that unfolds in the engaging new Israeli drama, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.”

Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) no longer loves her husband, Elisha (Simon Abkarian), and wants a divorce. There’s just one hitch – she’s unlikely to receive it. As a citizen of Israel, where civil marriage and divorce don’t exist, Viviane can dissolve her union only with the approval of an orthodox rabbinical tribunal and her spouse’s consent. And, under such a male-dominated paradigm, circumstances are nearly always stacked against women; the chances of Viviane receiving her divorce (a gett) depend heavily on what the men want.

Ronit Elkabetz co-wrote, co-directed and plays the title role in “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” the saga of an Israeli woman who endures a painfully protracted proceeding to seek a divorce from her husband before a rabbinical tribunal. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

Viviane’s case is particularly problematic, because Elisha refuses to grant her request. As a devoutly religious man, he’s committed to upholding tradition, preserving the supposed sanctity of his marriage at all costs, despite an obvious attitude of indifference toward his wife. The burden thus falls on Viviane to establish why she should receive her gett.

To make her case, Viviane offers some fairly simple reasoning: She’s not in love with Elisha, and it sounds like she never really was, having been more or less coerced into the arrangement. In spite of these circumstances, she nevertheless devoted years to her commitment as a dutiful wife and mother. But, after putting up with that situation for so long, she’s now ready to move on with her life – provided her husband will agree to it.

While conducting the divorce proceeding, the rabbis (Eli Gornstein, Rami Danon, Roberto Pollak) ask Viviane if Elisha has ever been abusive or unfaithful or if he has ever failed to provide for her, grounds for which a divorce would readily be granted. Viviane freely admits that these considerations have never been issues but that she still wants her gett. The rabbis, in response, are dumbfounded – why would a woman willingly want to give up such “stability”? They thus side with Elisha.

Elisha (Simon Abkarian, right), an intractable, quietly vindictive spouse, refuses to grant a divorce to his wife, Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz, left), despite her best efforts and the fervent advocacy of her attorney, Carmel (Menashe Noy, center), in “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.” Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

But Viviane and her attorney, Carmel Ben Tovim (Menashe Noy), press their case, asking, “Why would a man want to stay stuck in a marriage with no love, passion or hope for the future?” Elisha’s response is, “because he can”; if he can no longer have a functioning relationship with his wife, at least he can take “comfort” in the notion that no one else will, either. Vindictiveness thus becomes the reasoning behind Elisha’s refusal, a decision that remains unchanged every time he’s asked.

Despite Elisha’s unwillingness to grant the divorce, Viviane appeals the decision, setting in motion a lengthy process through which family members, friends and neighbors offer their impressions of the relationship to the tribunal. During such testimony, the witnesses present their views of the marriage in response to an array of queries from the rabbis, Carmel, and Elisha’s advocate, Rabbi Shimon (Sasson Gabai). The inquisitors rely on these responses – which range from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous – to qualify the character of the marriage to determine whether Viviane’s divorce request is warranted. In doing so, Carmel makes an impassioned plea for common sense, while Shimon repeatedly and ludicrously suggests that there must be something wrong with Viviane for wanting to give up such an allegedly good deal.

After years of contentious courtroom proceedings and legal maneuverings, the embattled couple struggles to seek resolution. Will Viviane’s request finally be granted? Or will the couple stay perpetually stuck in limbo? With the institution of marriage and the integrity of personal character on trial, it remains to be seen which viewpoint will ultimately prevail.

Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz, second from left), aided by her attorney, Carmel Ben Tovim (Menashe Noy, middle), battles an often-buffoonish yet surprisingly convincing opponent, Rabbi Shimon (Sasson Gabai, far right), in attempting to secure a divorce from her husband in the absorbing new Israeli drama, “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.” Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

In examining this situation, one of the questions that arises is, “Why does everyone involved hold such differing views of the circumstances?” The answer, quite simply, lies in the nature of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we each manifest our own existence through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And, in this case, everything depends on each party’s fundamental beliefs and how they apply them in the creation of their respective realities.

To Viviane, divorce is the only logical course, since there’s seemingly no point in continuing the marriage. In her view, the relationship has outlived whatever usefulness it might have had, and it’s time to move on. She’s now seeking to materialize a reality commensurate with such beliefs.

For Elisha, however, maintaining a traditional Jewish marriage and household is paramount above all else, and he can’t fathom why Viviane won’t cooperate in that endeavor (especially in light of her onetime agreement to it and despite his personal indifference toward her). He sees divorce as anathema to the pursuit of this venture, so he can’t possibly agree to her request. And, to maintain that posture, he justifies his stance by drawing upon one of his most potent creations – the force of law – to galvanize his convictions and what springs forth from them.

As for everyone else involved, their views of these circumstances fall in line with their beliefs, too. Viviane’s attorney and witnesses, for example, hold opinions that support her thinking, while Elisha’s witnesses, his advocate and, to a certain extent, the rabbis side with his views. Since these individuals routinely apply their respective beliefs in the materialization of their realities, it’s only natural that they would do the same in viewing the character of the couple’s marriage. In essence, they employ the same metaphysical lenses and filters to both situations.

The diverse yet uniform character of these individuals’ manifestations – both inside and outside of the courtroom – suggest that these creations are products of their originators’ core beliefs, the intents that underlie most, if not all, of their respective materializations. Such beliefs, in turn, provide the basis of their prevailing perspectives, the overarching outlooks they hold, which all end up getting put on trial during these proceedings. Some of these perspectives are heartbreaking, as evidenced by Viviane’s emotional testimony. Some are indifferent, as is apparent in Elisha’s attitude toward Viviane. Others are impassioned, as seen in Carmel’s fervent advocacy. And others still are utterly laughable, as seen in Shimon’s often-absurd line of questioning. But, no matter what perspectives they adhere to, they’re all ultimately based on the core beliefs that spawn them.

Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz, left), a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, consults her attorney, Carmel Ben Tovim (Menashe Noy, right), in seeking a divorce from her indifferent husband in “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.” Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

As divergent as these perspectives are, however, they’re all part of the overall drama playing out here. They each feed into the creation of a mass event, the product of our collective consciousnesses joining forces to materialize a larger, multifaceted phenomenon. The manifestation of an event like this affords an opportunity to examine all of its component perspectives, thereby allowing assessments of the merits and drawbacks of each. Those who participate in such a scenario thus become champions for their respective causes and perspectives, something that accounts for the diverse range of events and emotions that emerge from it, which, in this case, spans a range encompassing everything from the heartfelt to the circus-like.

Given Viviane’s ordeal, one might wonder why she’s chosen to put herself through it. Yet, as a champion for her cause – both personally and for others similarly situated – it could be argued that she needed to create these circumstances as a means to draw attention to the issue. Indeed, to address what some would see as an inherent gender bias in Israeli divorce proceedings, advocates for amending the process must first expose and spotlight this inequity if a movement aimed at changing it is ever to gain a foothold. And, for a nation that claims to aspire to democratic principles, one could easily make a case that such reform is needed.

But, with that said, Viviane clearly faces an uphill battle, given that her opponents – Elisha, Shimon and even the tribunal itself – are equally ardent champions of their cause, the maintenance of the status quo. As anachronistic as their views may seem to some, they nonetheless firmly believe in the perpetuation of tradition. And, because conscious creation maintains that all lines of probability are equally viable, they believe they have a valid case. Whether they succeed, though, depends on how committed they are to their beliefs – and how well the opposition’s intents counter their contentions. In the end, though, as with any type of manifestation, it will all come down to which beliefs prevail.

Gett” is an absorbing drama, if a bit stagey at times (not entirely unexpected, though, given the courtroom setting of the story). Elkabetz gives a riveting performance, displaying a range of emotions reflective of the many moods that make up the narrative. The picture’s excellent script does a fine job of presenting different sides of the same story, effectively demonstrating how the circumstances of a situation may not always be as cut and dried as we might like to think they are. This affords viewers an opportunity to see how beliefs and perspectives allow a “single” scenario to be interpreted in multiple ways, something we should bear in mind when faced with having to make up our own minds under comparable circumstances. The film, a Golden Globe nominee for best foreign language film, is primarily playing at theaters specializing in foreign and independent cinema.

Situations whose character might seem self-evident at first glance can quickly become muddled when confronted with the slippery slope of perspective. Under such circumstances, different outlooks may emerge. We may become ever more convinced of our position. Or we could inexplicably find ourselves changing our minds. Or we might wind up perplexed, unsure what to believe. But, no matter what happens, we must always remember that our viewpoints stem from us, from the beliefs we hold and the perspectives we maintain. And, once we remind ourselves of that, we may find that it’s just what we need to see our way clear.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Check out BookDaily!

Find out about great new books and authors by checking out! And, while you're there, visit my author page and my book pages for Get the Picture?! and Consciously Created Cinema.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

‘Marigold Hotel 2’ says, ‘you’re never too old for an adventure’

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015). Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Dev Patel, Richard Gere, David Strathairn, Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey, Shazad Latif, Rajesh Tailang, Subhrajyoti Barat, Tamsin Greig, Fiona Mollison, Avijit Dutt, Atul Tiwari, Claire Price, Seema Azmi. Director: John Madden. Screenplay: Ol Parker. Story based on characters created by Deborah Maggoch in the book, These Foolish Things. Web site. Trailer.

Upon reaching a certain age, many of us may be tempted to settle in for the home stretch, getting comfortable while waiting for the inevitable end to come. But is that enough? Even though physical and financial limitations and personal fears might seem like impediments, should they be allowed to keep us from living life to the fullest, especially when the clock is running short? That’s the question for all concerned in the delightful new comedy sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

The permanent residents of the Marigold Hotel (from left, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy) enjoy a festive occasion in their return to the screen in the delightful comedy sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

This followup to the delightful 2011 comedy (reviewed in my book, Consciously Created Cinema) presents the continuing adventures of a group of British retirees and other colorful characters living in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful in Jaipur, India:

• The once-crumbling establishment, the brainchild of vivacious hotelier Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), has somehow stabilized its operations, thanks in large part to the invaluable assistance of manager and permanent resident Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith). In fact, with the hotel’s rooms nearly always full, Sonny is now looking to expand his holdings by acquiring another property for renovation, the first in a hoped-for chain of comparable facilities. Sonny and Muriel seek backing from an American franchising company headed by Ty Burley (David Strathairn), but the prospective investor says his final decision will depend on the recommendations of an undercover inspector he’ll send to check out the operation.

• For Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench), a widowed housewife who was forced into selling her residence back in England to pay a backlog of debts left by her deceased husband, life has taken some interesting twists and turns since relocating. She’s landed a job as a textile buyer, and she’s quietly taken a liking to fellow resident Douglas Ainslie (Billy Nighy), a retired civil servant and local tour guide. There’s just one problem: Douglas is married. And, even though he’s separated from his wife, Douglas is reluctant to pursue a relationship with Evelyn, especially when his estranged spouse, Jean (Penelope Wilton), who had previously returned to England, makes a surprise appearance. With the years running short, will Evelyn and Douglas allow their fears to keep them locked in place, or will they follow their hearts and move ahead? And why has Jean suddenly reappeared? What does she want?

• Onetime spunky skirt-chaser Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) has taken up residence with his new significant other, Carol Parr (Diana Hardcastle). But, despite Norman’s efforts to remain faithful, the old urges continue to surface. Will he be able to stifle his impulses, or will he give license to his feelings? And what exactly do these feelings entail? He has much to think about, especially when a variety of unexpected revelations come to light.

• Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) enjoys the freedom her relocation has afforded her. Having once been saddled with numerous demands on her time, such as frequent requests for babysitting her young grandchildren, Madge relishes her job at a local ex-patriot club and the attention she receives from two would-be wealthy suitors, Nimish (Avijit Dutt) and Abhilash (Atul Tiwari). But, even with these changes in her life, she still senses something is missing, feelings she quietly tries to sort out with her driver, Babul (Rajesh Tailang). Maybe Madge isn’t done making changes yet.

The marriage of Marigold Hotel owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, left) and his fiancé, Sunaina (Tina Desai, right), provides a colorful backdrop for events in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

These stories play out against the backdrop of several other events that affect all of the residents. In addition to pursuing his operation’s expansion plans, Sonny is preparing for his upcoming wedding to his fiancé, Sunaina (Tina Desai). His attention from the big event is often distracted, however, by the meddling of his often-overbearing mother (Lillete Dubey). He’s also suspicious that a suave interloper, Kushal (Shazad Latif), a friend of Sunaina’s brother, has eyes for his bride-to-be. Sonny believes he has reason to be worried about this, too, especially when it becomes apparent that Kushal could be undermining his business plans.

Compounding all this is the appearance of two mystery guests who arrive unannounced. When American Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) checks in, Sonny immediately suspects he’s the undercover hotel inspector Mr. Burley spoke of. Chambers insists he’s a writer conducting research for a book, but Sonny believes that’s a cover story. Sonny thus goes out of his way to show his guest every courtesy, even if it means routinely inconveniencing the other new arrival, Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Greig). In fact, there’s almost nothing Sonny won’t do to win over his guest, something that earns the consternation of his mother, appalls Lavinia and raises the eyebrows of virtually everyone else, all of whom believe Sonny’s wrongheaded actions make him look foolish. It remains to be seen who has the last laugh, however, both in this and all of the other scenarios as they play out.

Marigold Hotel owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, center) and manager Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith, left) look to expand their operations in director John Madden’s “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

As this film’s predecessor so aptly illustrated, we’re never too old for an adventure or a new beginning. Indeed, as the old adage maintains, as one door closes, another opens. But, given the magnitude of the changes these characters implemented for themselves in the original film, some of them wonder about the necessity or prudence of making even more alterations in the wake of their relocation. Wasn’t that change enough in itself? Or was that just the beginning? And are they up to the challenge of making more adjustments?

Those familiar with conscious creation philosophy understand that we’re all in a constant state of becoming, our realities ever shifting in line with the ebbs and flows in the beliefs we employ to manifest the existence we experience. So, considering that, why would this principle cease to operate just because we’re getting on in years? Age, in fact, has nothing to do with interrupting this process unless we purposely draw upon beliefs that impose such a state of affairs upon us. Is that what we really want?

If anything, it would seem that keeping an open mind about change is especially important for those nearing the ends of their temporal journeys. With the biggest adventure of all looming, maintaining such a mindset could prove highly beneficial in preparing for that grandest of odysseys. That’s something all of the Marigold Hotel residents must contend with to one degree or another, and how they respond will affect the satisfaction and fulfillment they realize.

The budding romance of retirees Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench, left) and Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy, right) attempts to blossom in an environment of hesitation in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

In tackling this task, it’s particularly crucial that we address an important consideration – our fears. Failure to do so can lead to stagnation, lost opportunities and regrets. This is true for both young and old, as the film illustrates, but it’s especially critical for those of advancing age. With the end of life approaching, they must ask themselves questions like “How many more chances have I got?” and “Do I really want the journey to end without having acted on impulses near and dear to me?” This is perhaps most obvious in the story line involving Evelyn and Douglas, but it’s apparent in virtually every other subplot in the picture’s narrative.

So how exactly do we go about this? One especially helpful tactic is to follow our intuition, because it gives us clues about how to proceed. All too often, though, we dismiss it out of hand, believing that its seemingly “illogical” impressions make no sense and that it will ultimately work against us. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. As one of the components aimed at helping us refine our beliefs, our intuition is a valuable source of guidance, and it would behoove us to listen to it.

We see this theme recur repeatedly in the film, especially in Madge’s story. Her choices regarding a suitor might “seem” evident, but are they really? If they were truly so obvious, then why does she have this nagging sense that something is missing from her options? And, in line with that, should she listen to those impressions, or are they just irrelevant nonsense percolating up in her consciousness? This is something only she can sort out, but, if she follows her heart, she just might find a very pleasant surprise awaiting her at the end of her deliberation.

Of course, in drawing upon these intuitional impulses, we must be careful not to let them become tainted by considerations like fear or doubt, as they can distort the information that’s trying to come through. This is territory where Sonny must tread cautiously. He claims to have a nose for sniffing out the truth, and he’s often spot-on in his assessments. But, on occasion, he lets his apprehensions get the better of him, giving him a skewed interpretation of his circumstances. Sometimes this can be chalked up to the inexperience of youth, a “shortcoming” that gets fine-tuned with age. All of which helps to illustrate why tapping into our intuition grows even more important as we grow older. Making use of it just might help infuse the gold into what should be our golden years.

Mystery guest Guy Chambers (Richard Gere, right) checks in to the Marigold Hotel under the watchful eye of Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey, left), mother of the operation’s owner, in the delightful comedy sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” does what a good sequel should do – continue the story without rehashing the original, despite the presence of familiar elements and characters. It also improves upon its predecessor by doing a better job of meshing the interaction of the characters, something that was somewhat lacking in the original. This can be attributed to the picture’s generally thoughtful writing, though a few of its story threads are silly, with plot lines involving overblown misunderstandings rivaling episodes of Three’s Company. The acting of the ensemble cast is generally good across the board (especially Smith and Wilton), though some of it is clearly overdone (most notably Patel, whose infectious effervescence could clearly use some tempering). The picture also features an impressive Bollywood-style dance number, an ethereal soundtrack, and beautiful depictions of local color and culture.

It’s been said that “When we rest, we rust.” This expression is most often used in connection with retirement, but it’s just as applicable to all of us in our conscious creation practices. If we were to allow this capability to atrophy, we would quickly find life a lot less interesting and immeasurably less fulfilling. And, given our finite time in this reality, let’s hope we never let things get to that point.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Conscious Film Reviews on Pinterest

Looking for one of my VividLife film reviews? Check out the Pinterest board that lets you find them all in one convenient location, available by clicking here. Of course, you can always find them on this page, too, but, wherever you read them, enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Check out GoodReads!

Want to ask me a question about my writing? See all of the available editions for my books, Get the Picture?! and Consciously Created Cinema? Read samples of my work? Find out about my latest blog? Learn more about my background? If so, then check out my updated GoodReads author page, available by clicking here. And, to see the GoodReads pages devoted to my books, click here and here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Latest from New Consciousness Review

Check out the new edition of New Consciousness Review magazine for my article, "Conscious Creation and the Silver Screen," my first submission to this excellent online magazine! To read more, click here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Check out Reviewers Roundtable

Interested in hearing about some great new books and movies? Then tune in for the latest edition of New Consciousness Review's Reviewers Roundtable on The Miriam Knight Show. Join host Miriam Knight and reviewers Cynthia Sue Larson and yours truly, available for on-demand listening, by clicking here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

‘Wild Tales’ looks at revenge, responsibility and karma

“Wild Tales” (“Relatos salvages”) (2014). Cast: Dario Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, César Bordón, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado, Ricardo Darin, Nancy Dupláa, Oscar Martínez, María Onetto, Osmar Núñez, Germán De Silva, Érica Rivas, Diego Gentile, Javier Pedersoli, Lucila Mangone, Héctor Drachtman, Diego Velázquez, Alan Daicz, Ramiro Vayo, Marcelo Pozzi, Margarita Molfino. Director: Damián Szifron. Screenplay: Damián Szifron. Web site. Trailer.

When we’ve been wronged, many of us no doubt want to seek restitution. But how far do we go with this? When do we cross the line between seeking redress and pursuing vengeance at all costs? Those are among the questions addressed in the hilarious Argentine anthology comedy, “Wild Tales.”

“Wild Tales” consists of six vignettes that explore different aspects of revenge and its consequences, five of which are wickedly funny, with a sixth that’s more serious in nature. The stories include the following:

Pasternak tells the story of an airplane full of passengers who all have a common – and unexpected – association with one another. Shortly after takeoff, Salgado (Dario Grandinetti), a music critic who once served as chairman of a panel of thesis judges at a conservatory, strikes up a friendly conversation with one of his fellow passengers, Isabel (María Marull), a fashion model. In the course of their chat, Salgado learns that he and Isabel have an ironic connection: Isabel’s onetime boyfriend, Gabriel Pasternak, a would-be classical musician, was once one of Salgado’s thesis candidates. He laughs and says he’ll never forget Mr. Pasternak because his work was so terrible, an opinion Isabel shares with an acknowledging chuckle. But, if this coincidence weren’t enough, another passenger who overhears their conversation (Mónica Villa) mentions that she was one of Gabriel’s high school teachers, noting that he was a bumbling student. The teacher’s admission subsequently gets the attention of other passengers and crew (Javier Pedersoli, Lucila Mangone, among others), all of whom say they know Gabriel, too, each acknowledging his quirks, faults and reputation. So how is it that all of these seemingly unrelated yet commonly connected people have ended up on the same plane? That’s what viewers will come to find out.

• In Las Ratas (The Rats), a stop at a roadside diner serves up more than expected. When Mr. Cuenca (César Bordón), a smart-mouthed malcontent, pops in for a bite to eat, he’s greeted by Moza (Julieta Zylberberg), the restaurant’s sweet young waitress. Cuenca’s insulting sarcasm unnerves Moza, raising suspicions that she’s met him before. It then dawns on her that he’s a loan shark who caused her family to lose their home, prompting her father’s suicide and forcing Moza and her widowed mother to move to a new town. In relating her story to the cook (Rita Cortese), a gruff, snarly ex-con, Moza says she’s going to tell Cuenca off. But the cook says a scolding isn’t nearly enough punishment for what he did. She suggests putting rat poison in his food, but Moza dismisses the suggestion, saying that her idea goes too far. The cook, however, has other plans. And, as serving time approaches, the heat gets turned up on more than just the stove.

• In El más fuerte (The Strongest), a pleasant drive in the country takes an unexpected dramatic turn. As well-heeled businessman Diego Iturralde (Leonardo Sbaraglia) embarks on a road trip in his new luxury sedan, he gets stuck behind a slow-moving road hog (Walter Donado) in a dilapidated heap. When Diego attempts to pass, the selfish motorist won’t let him by, either. The incident quickly escalates and turns ugly, and, even though Diego eventually manages to get past, he can’t help but hurl insults and flip the bird as he flies by. Not long thereafter, however, Diego suffers a flat tire, forcing him to stop and make repairs on the roadside. And, in no time, Diego’s nemesis catches up with him to exact revenge. The road rage that prevailed previously pales by comparison to what comes next, with results beyond anything anyone suspects – including the protagonists.

• Aggravating the wrong person can carry huge ramifications, as becomes apparent in Bombita (Little Bomb). Simón Fischer (Ricardo Darin), an engineer for a controlled demolition company, becomes irritated when his vehicle is towed while picking up a cake for his daughter’s birthday party. The reason? He contends he wasn’t parked in a no-parking zone. But, when he attempts to claim his vehicle, he’s met with towing fees, a parking fine and an uncaring bureaucracy. Then, when he arrives late for the party, he catches grief from his wife, Victoria (Nancy Dupláa), who says she’s tired of his excuses for putting his family behind everything else. And, if all that weren’t bad enough, things grow even worse thereafter. But everyone who wrongs Simón should remember what he does for a living; after all, he just might draw upon his skills and resources to get even.

• Making a deal with the devil is fraught with perils, as is evident in La propuesta (The Proposal). When Santiago (Alan Daicz), the son of a wealthy businessman, strikes a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run accident while driving impaired, he appeals to his father, Mauricio (Oscar Martínez), for help. Realizing that the car is likely to be implicated in the incident (even if the driver isn’t), Mauricio devises a plan to shield his son. He thus offers a proposition to his longtime groundskeeper, Jose (Germán De Silva): take the fall for the accident (an admission for which he’ll likely receive a short, “tolerable” jail sentence) in exchange for a huge payout. But, when Mauricio’s greedy lawyer (Osmar Núñez), a corrupt prosecutor (Diego Velázquez) and the victim’s husband (Ramiro Vayo) become involved, circumstances deteriorate rapidly, leading to an outcome worse than what anyone expected.

• It’s been said hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and that theory gets put to the test in Hasta que la muerte nos separe (Till Death Do Us Part). The wedding of Romina (Érica Rivas) and Ariel (Diego Gentile) should be a happy occasion. But, when the bride learns her new husband has invited a woman with whom he had an affair (Margarita Molfino), she flees in tears. Romina escapes to the rooftop of the hotel hosting the reception, where she runs into a kitchen worker having a smoke (Marcelo Pozzi), who quickly proceeds to “cheer her up.” Moments later, when Ariel arrives, he finds his new bride in a compromised position, but Romina expresses no guilt. In fact, she threatens to take Ariel for everything he has, at which point she returns to what’s left of the reception as a changed woman. That return, however, fuels additional incidents that make what happened previously look like a cakewalk by comparison. Still, they say “love conquers all,” and the potential for that outcome strangely hangs in the balance, despite everything that’s occurred. (What a world.)

If it’s not already apparent, the stories in “Wild Tales” are all exercises in “be careful what you wish for,” especially where matters of vengeance are concerned. As conscious creation practitioners know, the process makes it possible to manifest virtually anything our hearts desire through the deployment of our beliefs working in conjunction with the power of our divine collaborator. And, with all options on the table, it’s a scenario that can work wonders – or wreak havoc.

In situations in which we feel we’ve been wronged, it may be natural for many of us to feel as though we want to get even, to exact what we think of as our “rightful” revenge. With sufficient clarity and focus, it may indeed be easy to manifest what we want in this regard, too. However, we must be careful to consider that these actions carry tremendous responsibility, not to mention consequences. This is true for both the perpetrators and victims of these materializations.

It’s easy to see how this principle affects those undertaking such ventures. In El más fuerte, for example, does the road hog really think he’ll be able to get away with his actions without consequences? Most would probably look upon what he does and believe that there surely will be hell to pay. In considering Diego’s response, many might feel that he’s justified in his actions – not realizing that his actions carry consequences, too, no matter how entitled he (and others) might believe he is in carrying them out.

As tempting as it might be to get even, it may not always be the wisest course. This calls upon us to carefully pick and choose our responses. For instance, making one’s feelings known without pursuing an accompanying act of aggression could be the best choice in some circumstances, as Moza’s actions suggest in Las Ratas.

Of course, this is not meant to imply that those who are wronged should just roll over and capitulate, either. As Simón wrestles with the greed of the bureaucracy and its minions in Bombita, he doesn’t hesitate to make his feelings known, even if those similarly affected don’t. He refuses to accept the status quo, lashing out while others just put their heads down and try to make their way through their circumstances as quickly and easily as possible. Their acts of complicity, while understandable, unfortunately serve to perpetuate the unjust creations perpetrated by their transgressors. They thus contribute to the materialization of this mass-created event. In that sense, then, they’re as much a part of the problem as those who concocted it in the first place. Simón, by his acts, seeks to be part of the solution, though, given what he’s up against, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to accomplish his goal all on his own. But his creations still serve a purpose by drawing attention to an issue that, one hopes, others will get behind and support to realize a different outcome moving forward.

As the film makes clear, those in positions of wealth, control and authority should be especially cognizant of the foregoing principles. In all six stories, those wielding these powers without regard for others fail to consider their need to tread carefully where those affected are concerned. If they don’t, they’re sure to get their comeuppance at some point – and most likely in extremely damaging ways. Those who wronged the unseen central character in Pasternak, for example, may find themselves in for a rather rude awakening. Such is the case also for Mauricio and his cohorts in La propuesta, for Cuenca in Las Ratas and for Ariel in Hasta que la muerte nos separe.

The bottom line in all this is that we must be aware of the beliefs we hold and what we seek to create with them. As any responsible conscious creation practitioner knows, we run the risk of tremendous peril, both for ourselves and others, when we obliviously engage in acts of un-conscious creation, the practice where we either ignore the process and let life unfold “randomly” or where we’re so focused on the outcome that we fail to take into account any of the ramifications that potentially accompany our acts of manifestation. The can of worms that may open as a result of this can be substantial, frequently reminding us that karma can indeed be a bitch.

“Wild Tales” is a raucously funny offering, at least in five of its sequences. The sixth, La propuesta, is considerably more serious than the others and, because of that, doesn’t quite mesh with the rest in terms of tone (even if it is thematically linked). The writing and acting are spot-on throughout, leaving viewers with no doubt about what the characters are experiencing, especially in Pasternak, El más fuerte and Bombita. Credit writer-director Damián Szifron for a job well done.

With all that said, however, a strong word of caution is in order: This film is definitely NOT for the squeamish or those who are easily offended. Some viewers might also find themselves feeling guilty or embarrassed for laughing at things that they ordinarily wouldn’t find funny. The picture’s uncompromising nature, though never gratuitous or grotesque, makes its points abundantly clear, presenting its material in a style akin to a tempered version of a Quentin Tarantino film. If you believe this is something more than you can handle, then stay away from this movie. But, if you’re someone who can laugh at our own folly without regret, then check this one out – you’re not likely to be disappointed.

“Wild Tales” has received a number of significant accolades for its efforts. The picture earned Critics Choice and Academy Award nods for best foreign language film, as well as a Palme d’Or nomination at the Cannes Film Festival, the event’s highest honor. The film is primarily showing at theaters specializing in independent and foreign cinema, and some of its online marketing materials may be found under the alternate title “Savage Tales.”

When others have transgressed against us, we might find it difficult to hold our tongues (and, from a conscious creation standpoint, even more difficult to “hold our beliefs”). As satisfying as exacting revenge may seem in the short run, there could be long-term consequences that might be far worse than anything perpetrated against us. So, when faced with such circumstances, we need to assess our options and consider a measured response, one that makes it point without ricocheting back on us. To do otherwise runs the risk of having even more heaped upon us than what we initially suffered, leaving us to sort out far more than what we ever bargained for.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.