Blinded By The Light

This inspiring coming-of-age picture set in 1987 is based on the true story of young British college student Javed (real name Sarfraz Manzoor, played by Viveik Kalra) who is constantly torn between trying to find his independence and pleasing his very traditional Pakistani father. The movie opens with Javed (Jay) feeling lost with how to manage friendships, dating, bullying, racism, and keeping the peace within his family. That is until he meets Roops (real name Amolak, played by Aaron Phagura); a cool turban wearing Sikh who introduces Jay to the vocals of none other than The Boss. From that moment Jay’s spiritual journey resonates via the mystical lyrics in Bruce Springsteen’s music that for Jay cross the chasm of age, race, and religion. These words of wisdom expressed through song speak to Jay on an extremely deep level, taking him down the river to backsteets he could have never imagined. I think the primary message this film conveys is to remind us that each person is unique and needs to accept or deny what they want in life in order to achieve enlightenment. Just ask Abraham Maslow, creator of the five-tiered motivational theory/model – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs who attested that we ‘need’ to satisfy all levels of the pyramid (physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) to reach the upper echelons of our being, namely self-actualization (i.e. the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities). Tradition vs. Individuality – it’s important to pass on customs/beliefs through the generations but permitting flexibility allows for adaptation over conflict, and personal grow over conformism.

This stirring film was written/directed by Gurinder Chadha and it really strikes a nerve with anyone who has ever wanted to slip this skin for whatever reason. In short, anyone who has ever desired to break out of their present existence and live a self-directed life. I could unequivocally relate to this message as I know I’ve felt this way more than once in my life. However, take heed this evolution of change can be a baby-step process on the way to that secret garden. Though as Joyce Meyer’s reminds us, “I may not be where I want to be but thank God I am not where I used to be.” Amen! On this point, the main character Jay not only has to deal with trying to change the trajectory of his life, he also needs to contend with an extremely strict family dynamic that values convention above all (in real life Sarfraz never left his house socially until age 18). He finds his answers via the E Street Band’s many opuses (today Sarfraz is a successful journalist); another premise I, like most people, can relate to as music is such a great source for cathartic release.

This film also illustrates the plight of immigrants living in a foreign country and the chilling racism and discrimination faced. Given that humans are more alike than different it’s indignant to see when people are blind to the fact that individual differences are our most treasured gems we have to offer and share and learn from. It’s unsettling to know people treat others so poorly just because they appear different. That said, I really appreciated the balanced approach this film took in showing how others of all ages/races were so encouraging and helpful as well. Evidence to not give up on believing the best in people. Nevertheless, from start to finish Jay wants to leave Lutton England for a bigger better world. This for me was a bit woeful because, for the record, I love all of England so much. I’m always sad when I have to say goodbye to Blighty. Though it’s not uncommon for people to think that anywhere else is better than where they are at since the grass is always greener… right. And as The Boss would say, ‘baby we were born to run’ so if you must go – run fast and far and wide – whatever it takes to finish the race!

PS. Someone affably fastidious once told me that it is very important to always watch the credits roll in case of hidden Easter eggs (a.k.a. ad-hoc info). Since good things come to those who wait, you will want to do just that with this movie as great pics/script of the real-life people are shown at the end – a feature of true stories I love. BTW Bruce Springsteen gave permission to use his music in this winning film that might even get an Oscar nod; a nice endorsement indeed.

Knives Out

This hilarious movie will have women giggling and men roaring. One thing is for sure, this movie has some very funny moments that are just pure entertainment and good fun to watch. It’s a modern whodunit with surprises that have viewers guessing the whole time while trying to sort out the next move of each character. In relation to its moral meaning it’s fairly basic, so not too many messages to decrypt. Honesty is thrown up, but the key take-away this film hammers home is a warning to not count your chickens before they are hatched because life can change unexpectedly on a dime, and then what. Slothfulness vs. Diligence – think twice about pursuing a life of leisure on someone else’s coattails as the quest for lazy comfort leads to idleness. As proverbs states, ‘The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied…{and} will rule.’ True that.

This movie is written/directed by Rian Johnson who pays tribute to Agatha Christie, yet the film evocatively resembles the likes of sage gumshoe Columbo. Daniel Craig makes marvelous work of playing lumbering sleuth Benoit Blanc who ultimately solves the crime and gets his offender, albeit after a few blunders. Craig is surrounded by a stellar cast including Canadian actor Christopher Plummer (patriarch Harlan Thrombrey/85 year old victim) Michael Shannon (son Walt), Toni Collette (son Neil’s widow Joni) Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter Linda), Don Johnson (son-in-law Richard), and Chris Evans (black-sheep grandson Ransom) as well as Ana de Armas (nurse/caregiver Marta), all of which do an outstanding job in their roles. However, I must admit that since I’ve grown to really love Chris Evans as Captain America (he’s one of my favorite Avengers), it was not easy for me to dislike him. Then again, he plays the scoundrel so well it didn’t take long to buy into his ‘bad guy’ persona. A real testament to his remarkable acting skills.

In the end, this movie openly spells out why no one should rest on someone else’s laurels. Considering this, and the fact that old habits die hard, everyone should safeguard the activities they entertain/engage in because such conduct has a way of continuing, and can without doubt blow up in your face. As Gandhi famously stated,“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Words of wisdom kin and all should seriously contemplate. Relative to real life, anyone with a big family knows elements of this story certainly ring true. Big families can be challenging at the best of times. Back biting and jealously can be commonplace and if you throw money into the mix it’s no surprise competitiveness is bred. As Columbo would say, “Just one more thing…”. Alas another life lesson I learned through experience. How criminal! ha ha – funny not funny.

The Hart Family Late 1990s

Last Christmas

Since Christmas is soon approaching (2 weeks until Xmas Eve), I feel happily obliged to write about this newest holiday film to get everyone in a festive mood. I generally like Christmas movies as I love this merry time of year – add the British element in and I’m hooked (Love Actually is one of my favs). BTW this recent jolly RomCom is the #1 film in Britain right now. Yes, it is a syrupy somewhat cliché love story for sure – just the kind girls like, but guys can learn a thing or two as well from this movie. There is an interesting twist at the end, which makes watching this film worth it and may even tear-up a few viewers. In my opinion the main message of this movie is to live up to your true potential and to not waste a good heart on a frivolous pointless life. This movie gently demonstrates the importance of implementing intentional sincerity when helping others, particularly those in-need, and the intrinsic benefits one receives when no agenda is attached when doing so. This film expresses that altruism is the gateway to achieving independent wholeness of the self and that healing a broken soul can be expediated by focusing outward rather than inward. I like movies that send this type of message as I know this to be true firsthand. Other-centered vs. Self-Interested – focusing on self-seeking goals is often done without conscious regard for others whereas valuing human life leads to the betterment for all. With this in mind – Note to Self: Kindness begets kindness and giving begets giving so endeavor to think and act broader as often as possible.

This movie was written in collaboration with Emma Thompson (who appears in the picture) and is directed by Paul Feig. The story fixes on Kate (Emilia Clarke) and love interest Tom (Henry Golding) with George Michael music used as a backdrop throughout, though the tunes play no real prominent theme. Clarke as Kate does a good job displaying her talents in this film. She portrays a mid-aged woman whose life is going nowhere fast. That is until she bumps into an unusual chap (Golding as Tom) who starts to positively influence how she sees the world. The movie is meant to be a lighthearted uplifting Xmas flick, which for the most part it is. However, the storyline also includes some piercing life lessons about the work it takes to rebuild a shattered life and how humanitarianism can serve as the scaffolding, which benefits everyone involved. It’s a great message that some of our noblest thinkers have loudly echoed throughout the ages, anecdotally and empirically. Socrates and Plato come to mind as well as the founder of positivism Auguste Comte who wrote about ‘living for the sake of others’. Even John Nash’s Game Theory (basis of the movie A Beautiful Mind) offers a theoretical framework that demonstrates philanthropy can be a win-win for all players whereby everyone gets their desired outcomes met. And of course, I need to mention my favorite genius Albert Einstein, who stated, ‘Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’ Words to live by and words the OHF endeavors to uphold. Apologies for the deviation into theory but sometimes logic is needed for emotional appeals to incite societal giving. Let’s hope it works and people will help those who need it most this holiday season. Bless.

P.S. The city of London takes their Christmas lights very seriously and they regularly change them out, but the beautiful flying angels at Piccadilly Circus on Regent Street have made another comeback for the 4th year running and were lit on November 14th, 2019. They are absolutely beautiful! I am so happy I just got to see them again, and also that they were notably featured in this film – Last Christmas.  

London December 2019

Yesterday

Considering that today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death (8.12.1980), and given that I am in London England right now, I thought it would be fitting to write about this recent British flick that enchantingly explores the proposition of ‘what-if’ the Beatles never existed. This is an unconventional Rom-Com that requires the viewer to suspend reality somewhat in order to be completely absorbed into the subplot, which is easy to do with this film. The story concentrates on struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik (played by actor Himesh Patel) who seems to be the only person on the planet who remembers the Beatles’ incredible music existed after a worldwide power surge deletes elements of history. Once he realizes this fact, he runs with it. The common theme throughout is how people often take for granted the familiar because it’s consistently there, or so we think. But what happens if it slips away? This story weaves in a very sweet and endearing love story that also plays with the idea that sometimes the best things in life might be right in front of you. The main message of this film is to beware of missed opportunities and blindly pursuing the wrong things. In short, monitor what you value. Success equals accomplishments – but in what capacity? Life is full of smoke and mirrors, and illusions of grandeur, therefore we should all be careful how we measure success. Indecision vs. Action  – ask what your heart’s true desire is and what will produce authentic happiness, then just go get it. After all cowardliness is that Grand Canyon that lays between today and yesterday– so choose wisely what to chase in your quest for satisfaction.

This delightful film is written by Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle. Himesh Patel as Jack Malik is not your stereotypical heartthrob rock star, but he does a fantastic job developing into the most adorable and loveable character in the end. Ed Sheeran is also in the lineup playing himself; it’s a secondary role yet highly impactful. This film uniquely explores an alternate universe theme overall and it does it in a very fun way. I love films that explore content this way – the ‘what if’ scenarios. Movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Sliding Doors are some of my favorites (and yes, I even like cartoons that do the same – Rick & Morty lovers). I think audiences can relate to these types of movies because so much of our real lives are actually made up of ‘what if’ moments – ‘what if I never met this person’, ‘what if I never took that job’, ‘what if I hadn’t moved’… We regularly ask ourselves, if it wasn’t for the ‘what if’ occurrences what might life look like and what might my destiny be? There is one scene in particular in Yesterday that leaves viewers really wishing replacement universes were indeed possible. But then again how sad would it be if the Fab Four never were. Imagine. If that were the case, I would have missed out on meeting one of my all-time favorite entertainers Ringo Starr (who performed for the OHF in 2010), and traversing the legendary Abbey Road crosswalk made famous by The Beatles Abbey Road Album. Instead that renowned street would be just like every other road crossing in London. Nevertheless, the core of this film isn’t just about exchangeable lives, it’s about following your heart and doing the right thing. Both of which require a great deal of courage. The decision at hand remains; fall for what you really want and hope for the catch – or splat. Sure, it’s a risk, and it might not work out, but then again nothing hurts more than the endless and weighty soul crushing regret carried by the lack of action. Even those who make a wrong turn down life’s long and winding road sometimes get a second chance. Go ahead. Take your shot! All You Need Is Love – isn’t that the way the song goes. Maybe everyone needs to give those lyrics another listen.

P.S. What did the surviving Beatles think of this film? Hint, hint – permission to use the music was granted. Ringo reportedly stated, “I loved it. It’s a great premise — he’s like us but nobody knows him.” Curtis also received ‘sweet’ notes from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Olivia (George Harrison’s Widow). How nice. Also, let us remember to send warm blessings to John Lennon’s family today and everyday.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

This feel-good film set in the 1990s contains many top-quality life teachings and frankly it was designed to do just that. This movie wants viewers, upon leaving the theater, to ponder how they live their lives. The film is based on true life child entertainment host Fred Rogers with fictional content included. The story entwines Rogers with reluctant abrasive journalist Lloyd Vogel (fictional name – still this character is based on writer Tom Junod) who is broodingly sent by Esquire Magazine to profile Rogers about his exceptional good deeds, decency, and wholesome popular TV personality. The messages this film wants to convey are purposefully laid out – nothing hidden here – no lines to read between – no decoding or deciphering required. Though this upfront approach does not take anything away from this film’s ‘meaning of life’ directive. In fact, it’s a pleasure just to watch the story unfold, which allows you to consolidate the concluding implications and ruminate about how one might actually endeavor to live a better more fulfilling life as the movie suggests. The premise of parenthood is weighted heavily, and how parents fail their children but also how children can fail their parents – with both sides held accountable for reacting instead of acting and their inability to effectively express emotions; positive (e.g. love, gratitude…) and negative (anger, disappointment…). I was intrigued with this stance and secretly applauded it given that much of my professional work-related research centers on parenting/attachment and reflective functioning (the ability to understand one’s own thoughts and feeling while simultaneously understanding another’s thoughts and feelings and being able to verbally communicate this information) as we believe this is an essential component to successful parent/child relationships, and likely all relationships for that matter (ATTACH Program Website). So what is the moral message you ask? In my opinion it’s about considerate and sensitive operational communication – serve and return – speaking and listening. After all, it’s one thing to have all of your thoughts and feelings up in your head but if you don’t EXPRESS what you think and how you feel then what good is it. Humbleness vs. Pridefulness – all things good flow from humility such as forgiveness whereas pride hardens the heart and is the silent thief that steals our most valuable asset – time!

This movie is directed by Marielle Heller with a good supporting cast and Tom Hanks in the lead role – need I say more. Hanks does a wonderful job as Fred Rogers (who in real life was also a Minister) and let’s face it, any movie with Tom Hanks is almost guaranteed to be box office gold. He’s one actor who has certainly verified his great acting chops and has the Oscars… to prove it. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers imparts a great deal of wisdom rooted in taking the other person’s perspective – the famous quote ‘before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes’ rings true in the narrative. Hanks, like Rogers are very likeable people so it’s easy to accept the storyline as sincere, and I really liked that the plot’s focus was mainly on the male characters given our culture has traditionally promoted male toughness and repressing of their emotions. This rendition specifically explains that internal peace comes from self-awareness of thoughts and feelings for both men and women. In short, all of us. This movie helps us believe that the ideal is possible, and that maybe we can learn to accept each other, warts and all, because as Fred Rogers would say ‘you are a very special person… and people can like you exactly as you are’. Hey, with the current state of our modern world I am more than happy to accept a little idealism for a couple of hours. Bring it on!

P.S. Thank you so much Rick for recommending that I watch and give my take on the meaning of this film. Great choice and I’m so glad you did! Everyone please feel free to do the same.

Dr. Hart presenting ATTACH at the International Attachment Conference (IAC) in New York City

Rocketman

Since my movie blog is so fresh, I wanted to refrain from discussing less current films for a while, however given that Rocketman really moved me and because it will be a very hot Oscars 2020 topic I digressed. First let me confess – I am a huge Elton John fan, so I was waiting on pins and needles for this spectacular movie to be released. With that out of the way, let’s get to Rocketman’s meaning.

This film centers on a small-town bloke’s rise to fame and his quest to utterly dodge himself. He attempts this through a name change, several addictions, clever and endless wardrobes, different partners, sexuality, extravagance, and in due course the highest level of fame. This escapism theme feeds the ultimate meaning of this film yet its only one part. Elton’s desire to avoid his adult identity is fueled by the fact that he keeps bumping into his childhood persona Reggie Dwight (his given name), which emotionally torments him to no end and serves to only exacerbate the gap between his ideal and the real-life self. Elton fails to clearly see his enormous self-worth through his rose-colored glasses. Instead his mirror of choice only reflects a haunting figure consumed with crushingly low self-esteem. This despite overwhelming commercial success and multiple multiplatinum albums… So what is the take-away message of this larger than life true pic? In my opinion, it’s about achieving emotional intelligence the hard way! Life is trial by fire for everyone, but some people need to completely combust in order to break the chains. Going through the inferno forces the hard work of emotional house-keeping, and self-regulation with intention that only you yourself can do. Then alas the purge is complete, and self-love prevails. All that useless debris ignites into featherlight dust and the ghosts disappear. It finally lets you go – not the other way around. Mindful Freedom vs. Mental Anguish – it’s hard to believe that hurtfulness towards a child takes mere seconds to deliver but can take a lifetime to overcome – let us all be mindful of our actions lest they turn out to be someone else’s most insufferable burden.

Rocketman was directed by Dexter Fletcher, the same director that saved Bohemian Rhapsody (my favorite film from last year – so glad Rami Melek won the Oscar for best male actor – he was my first pick and I told this to anyone who would listen! ha ha) With this in mind I had to shield my temptation to compare the two films, which was a good thing because they are nothing alike. Bo Rap is a music biopic and RM is basically a musical. On this point, Taron Egerton blows the lid off of this role and will surely be nominated for an Oscar as a result. He is so convincing as Elton John it’s easy to forget he’s not the real person. Taron is definitely a triple threat as he is a tremendously good actor, singer, and even dancer in this movie. Additionally, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack/film score is extraordinary. It’s almost like being at one of Elton John’s concerts, which will soon be no more. A fact that makes me even gladder I had the privilege of seeing him twice live to date with my daughter and sister, and I plan to take my son for one of his last performances in London next year. All that to say, this show is a winner and one you may want to watch more than once, much like Bo Rap in that regard.

Motherless Brooklyn

The basis of this movie is a crime story set in New York City in the 1950s that largely centers on a private detective named Lionel played by Edward Norton who suffers from Tourette syndrome. On the surface the meaning of this film seems fairly straightforward – control – or the lack thereof it in every sense of the word. The main character has an unrelenting internal battle throughout trying to maintain control over his often inappropriate verbal and behavioral outbursts while he continuously attempts to unearth murderous corruption behind the powers that be who monopolize city planning by manipulating ‘control’ via their immense power/social status and impeccable public persona. But this is too obvious. There are also undertones of the importance of loyalty, but this is not the lesson either. In my view, the key take-away point of this film goes much deeper. It’s about how people who don’t fit the mold are treated; the ones who appear to have nothing of value to offer, the easily dismissed somebodies, the ‘freak-shows’. Outcast vs. Favored – dare not underestimate the unusual soul for thou shall be disappointed – things are not always as they seem, including people.

This movie is a multilayered slow-moving flick with a star-studded cast – the likes of Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin (who performed for the OHF in 2018), and Bruce Willis to name a few. The movie is based on a best-selling novel by Jonathan Lethem and was written, produced, and directed by Edward Norton, who also does a stellar job nailing what it’s like for those who suffer with Tourette syndrome.

As luck would have it a fellow with Tourette syndrome sat in front of me at the theater with his buddy and throughout this 2:30h long movie he would have odd uncontrolled outbursts. As I sat through the film, I actually thought it was really fabulous he was there! So much so I chatted with him and his delightful friend after the show and he turned out to be the sweetest guy ever! His name is Matt R***y (he said I could use his name) and I was truly impressed by how articulate and honest he was about his condition. His TS outbursts started to express around age 7 and had dropped off over time but then flared up again a few years ago when he suffered personal trauma. Even as we spoke Matt had a few loud surges, which surprisingly didn’t faze his friend Rick at all because he perceivably knows the precious person that Matt really is so therefore the TS displays seemed to be a non-issue. Matt mentioned how chewing gum, focusing on what he says, and other strategies help curb the flareups – just like the character in the movie had demonstrated, including random unannounced repeat touching of others on the arm or shoulder when conversing, which didn’t bother me in the least. I totally understood. In fact, by the end of our chat I too started not to notice or pay attention to Matt’s TS episodes. That said, despite Matt’s charm, he is a big built guy and when his TS takes over it could be construed as unnerving or even a bit scary to some. This is such a shame because he is truly so lovely – such a doll! He’s married, held normal jobs… But what stood out to me the most was when Matt mentioned his condition calms down if he feels his conversations are comfortable and genuine. Wow! I wish everyone could hear Matt’s words! I left the theater feeling blessed with having received a double dose message – don’t judge a book by its cover. Thanks Matt – for reminding me again of this absolute truth loud and clear! Bless.

Ford v Ferrari

I would say this movie would probably appeal more to a male audience as its title might suggest – the premise is centered around cars! Although being a female owner of a 1966 Ford Mustang myself that took 3rd place in the World of Wheels 10 years ago (see link below), I really enjoyed learning about the origin and history of how these popular and timeless muscle cars came into being. That said, automobile fodder was just a small part of the movie, and despite the heavy emphasis on machinery this true story underscores a wonderful life message! Without giving anything away this film explores what it means to display incredible grace under fire and how to not let other people’s bad behavior change who you are. Character vs. Conniver – when it comes down to it what guides your journey defines you – so choose your ride and your roads carefully.

Matt Damon gives a solid performance as race car driver/designer Caroll Shelby, but the star of the show is definitely Christian Bale who plays driver Ken Miles. This is an exciting show at times but it’s a bit long. If you didn’t already dislike how huge conglomerates can swallow up individuals in their pursuit of greed and glory then this movie may just push you over the edge. It paints a tail of ego-centrism over selflessness and how big corporations can and do ruthlessly build themselves up on the backs of others without a glance of reflection or care. It’s a dog eat dog world after all, and business is business – right! But does it have to be – you decide.

Mustang LegacyYouTube · 2 views · 2018-02-23 · by Calgary Sun

Joker

In my opinion this movie is absolutely amazing! This is a DC Film but don’t be fooled – it has nothing to do with Batman. Not even the Joker’s signature quote “why so serious” is included because this movie indeed deals with very serious content that is no laughing matter. It taps into the human psyche and how strong and fragile the human mind really is. To me the underlying message of this movie is to be kind to every single person you meet because you never know the pain someone might be carrying behind those eyes. Kindness vs. Cruelty – everyone has a breaking point – don’t be the reason that someone reaches theirs.

Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar for his role as Arthur Fleck 100%! He is absolutely incredible and he is officially my pick for best male actor this year! Currently I don’t think anyone comes close to matching his performance. It’s a brilliant yet extremely dark film, and quite sad really because it’s so true to real life. No one could have done a better job with it than Phoenix. His performance is impeccable – he dropped so far into this role that he may need therapy to recover, and I’m not even kidding. It would be disturbing for even the most sound of mind actor to play this Joker character. Well done Phoenix – hats off to you!! Truly!! Anyone that says otherwise does not have a clue what magnificent acting is! Bravo! And loving dance myself, I really appreciated his fancy foot work! What a star. https://www.facebook.com/397295833763099/videos/467053767217013/

Tango Anyone?

My First Blog Post

Every Movie Has A Meaning & A Message To Explore

Movies are a form of entertainment that tell a story through a series of images and sound that give the illusion of continuous movement. Doing so allows viewers to learn visually about the message each are trying to convey – often in a short period of time. Some movies are so powerful their meaning lingers, and many times it is in the smallest of details.

— Dr, Martha Hart.

Ever since I can remember I have loved watching movies and deciphering the hidden message and meaning behind them. Some movies inspire us, some make us sad or mad, and some are just good fun. I think my interest in the meaning of things comes from being a doctor in mental health. Human beings possess an innate desire to search for and find meaning. We crave to know purpose – it’s a big part of our humanism. I am also the founder of The Owen Hart Foundation and therefore I work with many individuals in-need so I am always trying to understand people in my quest to be as empathetic as I can to their struggles. As well I am the Vice President of the Monaco International Film Festival (seen below center along with MIFF founders Dean Bentley and Rosana Golden). In an effort to tie in all the aspects of my everyday life and given my love of movies I have wanted to create a purposeful yet casual movie blog for some time about cinema that has moved me or stuck in my mind for one reason or another. Not because I am a said expert in film – I’m not – but just because I love thinking about what the take-away message is in any situation and because I love discussing movies, and giving my Oscar picks… Once this blog is established I will try to do one post per week (time permitting) to explore the meaning of life through the movies we watch – so let’s get started!
AFA-MIFF founders Dean Bentley and Rosana Golden along with MIFF VP Dr. Martha Hart.