Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Review: 42

As more generations continue, the more the Civil Rights movement becomes "ancient" history.  But we have to remember that there were pioneers in the fight against racism even before the movement.  Jackie Robinson was one of those pioneers.  Like many individuals who were not world leaders but whose actions still led to important changes in America, Jackie Robinson's name will rarely (if ever) appear in a history book.  That does not, however, lessen the significance of his contribution.

42 takes us through Jackie's life from the time when Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey (fabulously portrayed by Harrison Ford--I see an Oscar nomination and possible win,) was choosing one man from the pool of talented Black players from the minor leagues up until the end of Jackie's first season in the majors.

There are 3 things that make this film great:  the cast, the pace, and the slice of time being shown.

Each member of the cast, from the gruff and salty Ford, the determined Chadwick Boseman as Jackie (a breakthrough performance,) to the teammates, managers, and Nicole Beharie who plays Rachel Robinson--is giving 100%.  Ford is the most recognizable, which is a good thing, because you focus more on the characters.

The pace was very well done.  The love story, the highs and lows of what Jackie dealt with that first year were just enough to educate and entertain, while still moving the story forward.  At the end, a few sentences of information were given on those who were profiled. What I already knew about Jackie Robinson was enhanced greatly by seeing this movie, including some very special information about the #42.

Some things to know if you plan to take your kids:  the film runs 2 hours, but is never slow or boring.  There is "PG's" worth of swearing, but the "n" word is used frequently (especially in one scene where the Pittsburgh manager was being particularly horrible.)  Still, that word was used a lot at the time, so it felt more historically accurate than offensive. (Of course, others may feel differently.) That is probably what earned the film a PG-13 rating. The only violence is a scuffle outside a hotel and a scuffle on the field. There is no nudity, no F-word.  One sh-word.

If you plan to discuss the film and its story with your child, I recommend it highly.  I think it is appropriate for kids as young as 10, but make it a learning experience.  I was especially touched by a scene in which a father and son were sitting in the bleachers, and the son was taken aback at everyone shouting at Jackie to get off the field until his father joined in, at which point the son joined in too.  It was a short, but very powerful, commentary on the influence parents have on their children's beliefs.

Again, a very worthwhile film to see, perhaps even one that will eventually find its way into classrooms.  I hope so.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Observations in This Week's Wake

Maybe I'm feeling things deeper than usual because of an unexplained sleepless night, but I cannot help thinking about this week in America.  The Boston Marathon Bombing, the poisoned letters in Washington D.C., the factory explosion in Texas, and, of course, North Korea and their ongoing threats.  The world's feeling a little bit scary right now.

Eric needed to go to Seattle for work, so with an extremely free day today I decided to drive down to Portland and go to the temple.  In the wake of everything happening lately, it was the most peaceful place to be.  I had planned to go today anyway, and now I'm especially glad.  The experience made me feel centered and calm, things that are difficult to feel when the media want you to feel otherwise.  The photo above is one I took as I arrived this morning.  I found it a poignant reminder.  And, like the Mr. Rogers quote that is circulating, notice the helpers.  It is during these tragedies that you see people rise to the occasion and help perfect strangers, carrying them to safety, offering them water, or simply comforting them.  We need reminders of the good.  There is a lot of it.

Interestingly, I saw some odd things during my drive.  Heading towards my destination early this morning and just off the freeway, I watched as a truck's wooden beams went sliding right off the bed and onto the ground.  It was like what you see in the movies. Fortunately, there was no car behind the truck as it was making a left turn when the beams slid off.  They were about 15 feet long. 

A few hours later I marveled at the heavy traffic on the other side of the freeway.  Then I saw the cause.  Another truck had dropped part of its load on the ground.  Small, unidentifiable items were scattered all over the place, with the driver scrambling around the cars and picking the items up by hand.

Still, I feel like I was in the right place this morning.  I arrived extra early for the temple session, so I picked up the Book of Mormon and started reading in Helaman.  I came across two very comforting scriptures that I had never paid much attention to before.  Helaman 3:27-28:
27  Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon His holy name.
28  Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, [even to those] who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Honestly, just finding those two verses during my wait made the drive worth it today. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Spiritual Weekend

Twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has something called General Conference.  It is held on a weekend in April and October.  Instead of going to our church meetinghouses we have the opportunity to listen to our modern-day prophet, Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, apostles, and other church leaders.  It is a chance for us to feel connected to the Church and leaders on a world-wide level, to receive counsel, and to hear about some of the the things the Church has been doing around the globe, like building new temples and missionary and humanitarian work.

This past weekend was General Conference weekend.  And on Saturday, April 6th, it was also the 27th anniversary of my baptism.  Sometimes, though, I feel like I've only been a member for 17 years, because I wasted 10 of those years being inactive.  One this weekend's talks was on the light of Christ in our lives, and while I never really let the light of Christ extinguish completely, I will admit that I spent many years letting it stay dim and not basking in its full glow.

Happily, those days are behind me.  I don't want to let that happen again, which takes work, humility and, did I mention work?  For many years on Conference weekend I saw it more as a vacation weekend.  I would watch it sporadically or not at all, sometimes reading random talks when they were published in The Ensign (the Church magazine for adults) the following month.

Last October I made the commitment to dedicate all of Conference weekend to watching Conference.  That's 2 two-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  And you know what? I appreciated it in an entirely new way.  It wasn't boring.  I listened intently to every talk and took copious notes, which forced me to be an even more active listener.

OK, I will admit that by the end of the last session on Sunday I was tired.  But it was a happy, uplifted, tired.  I learned a lot and was able to recall those things in the coming months, both in my own life and when they were brought up in our local church meetings.

This weekend I did the same thing, getting up by 8am or earlier so I could be showered and dressed, armed with the iPad to take notes, and having the TV all set up on time for the first session at 9am PST.  It was a good decision.  A decision I want to make again and again. 

I plan to write about the talks in more detail on my other blog Improvise the Harmony, but I will say that the running theme this weekend seemed to be obedience to the commandments.  I know our church leaders look at the world sometimes with dismay at the lack of morality, greed and materialism.  It is hard not to.  I do it too.  But the wonderful thing about the way their talks are presented is that, even though the messages are powerful and thought-provoking, they are always presented with love and a feeling that there is always hope--hope for the world and hope for us as individuals.

As I said, I will post more about the talks at a later time, maybe tomorrow, on my other blog, but I will leave you with 2 things:  A link to listen to the talks yourself and a video of one of my favorites from the weekend.

If you are not LDS, let me assure you that these talks are for everyone of every faith.  The messages are universal because we are all imperfect, we are all trying our best, and we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us.

This is my challenge to you.  Watch just one and see if you are uplifted in some way.  I want to share with you a little of what I got to see and feel this weekend.  And if you are uplifted and want to see more, click on the link that takes you to the index of talks from the conference.  I was particularly impressed with the one on the light of Christ by Pres. Uchtdorf, which I will post below.  The one on chastity by Elder Bednar was fantastic, Elder Clayton did a wonderful talk on marriage, Elder Holland spoke on faith and how to gain and nurture it.  These are just a few.

As I said in one of my Facebook posts, my spiritual cup is full, very full, and it is a great feeling.

You can view any of the talks HERE.

And now one of my personal favorites. (Pres. Uchtdorf is so eloquent, I find myself gravitating to his talks all the time, and I know I'm not the only one!)