Being Awake

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” – Patricia Graynamore

One of my favorite movies is “Joe Vs. the Volcano,” which stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (with a cameo by none other than Abe Vigoda to boot!).  This sometimes silly movie has some great quotes and a deeper meaning than many perceive upon first viewing it.  One of my favorite quotes is printed above, and I think it was this quote that gave me the answer I often give when people ask me how I am.

When people ask, “How are you?”  I will say (about 90% of the time), “ I am awake.”  I mean this on two levels.  First, I am actually awake and not asleep.  But on a second and more important level, I also mean that I am trying to live my life in a state of awareness.  While originating from Buddhist teaching and practice, I also find it an appropriate way of trying to live as follower of Christ.  I want to be aware and awake to the world around me, especially when it comes to my fellow travelers on the journey of life.  Only then can I truly be Christ to those I encounter.

If only I could practice this as much as I say it.

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My Favorite Movies of 2009

Below you will find a list of my favorite 16 films of 2009.  Why 16?  Why not.  Let me know what you think.

16. ‘Watchmen
An intriguing adaption of Alan Moore’s graphic novel that raises some great questions for watchers to consider.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

15. ’Bright Star’
A lovely love story that is quietly and exquisitely told and beautifully filmed.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

14. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
We see a grown-up Harry Potter and a movie in which violence and love abound.  This is the best adaption of the Potter books since Cuaron’s third installment in the series.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

13. ‘Coraline’
A beautiful stop-motion animated film from the strange and imaginative mind of Neil Gaimen.  The movie lives up to his book.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

12. ‘The Princess and the Frog’
A traditionally animated film that features Disney’s first African-American princess.  A charming, fun movie for all ages.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

11. ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
Spike Jonze  does a great job of adapting Maurice Sendak’s original, and very short, work.  The music alone is worth the price of admission. Let the wild rumpus begin.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

10. ‘Up’
A touching and delightful film.  The opening section is worthy of a full movie all by itself.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

9. ‘The Blind Side’
An inspirational film of love and acceptance and hope.  It succeeds in conveying its message without being preachy.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

8. ‘Zombieland’
A bloody (what do you expect from a zoombie movie) but fun movie.  Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are great in their roles and Bill Murray’s cameo is priceless.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

7. ‘District 9’
As another has said, “Neill Blomkamp’s first feature gave us something new: a sci-fi movie with brains.”  It is a brilliant allegory against segregation, it is also one of a few movies that deserve a sequel.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

6. ‘Star Trek’
An exciting movie and great reboot of ‘Star Trek’ by J.J. Abrams.  It would be rated even higher if it hadn’t erased all of future history of the all the Star Trek series and movies.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

5. ‘Avatar’
The story is nothing new, but the movie is still amazing.  It needs to be seen on the big screen and in 3-D, if at all possible.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

4. ‘Inglourious Basterds’
It has been called a Jewish revenge film, and maybe it is, but this movie, set in an alternate history of WW 2, is vintage Quentin Tarantino.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

3. ‘The Road’
This faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book by the same name is both horrifying and beautiful.  A father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee) try to survive in a post-apocalyptic America, and we are mesmerized watching their story.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

2. ‘Up in the Air’
Jason Reitman, 32-year-old director extraordinaire has now made three fantastic films:  ‘Thank You for Smoking,’ ‘Juno’ and now ‘Up In the Air’.’  A near perfect film featuring great work by George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

1. ‘(500) Days of Summer’
A romantic comedies that is not, I repeat not, a love story.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel give great performances. The most fun I had at the movies this past year.
Watch the Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes Reviews

And here are some movies that haven’t seen yet that very well may cause me to reorder and redo everything listed above.

The Hurt Locker
Precious
A Serious Man
The White Ribbon
An Education
Adventureland
Moon
Gran Torino
Sunshine Cleaning

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Must See Film: No Country For Old Men

As a recently converted fan of Cormac McCarthy’s fiction (I have read The Road and All the Pretty Horses and will soon read The Crossing) and a long-time fan of the Coen brothers’ films.  I am very intrigued about the upcoming release of  the film No Country for Old Men. Set for release on November 21st, No Country has been making the rounds of various film festivals.  Nathaniel R. of  Film Experience Blog had this to say after watching the film at the 45th Annual New York Film Festival.

“From all reports it’s adapted quite faithfully from the acclaimed novel by Cormac McCarthy. The Coen Bros 12th feature doesn’t compromise. There’s no musical score to speak of and little to comfort the audience within its bleak world view beyond the well judged comedic grace notes that are character based rather than jokey.  . . . Mesmerizing movie.  More later as Oscar season approaches… but there’s one inevitable element: Javier Bardem will be nominated (Lead or supporting though, who knows? The cast is strong across the board but his character, the violent sociopath Anton Chigurh, dominates the film the way Hopkins dominated Silence of the Lambs or Daniel Day-Lewis dominated Gangs of New York though neither were in fact the “lead”).

If you are interested in seeing the most recent theatrical trailer for the film, the best one can be found here, though you can find many low quality versions on youtube.  Many people are raving about this film.  One reviewer on IMDB gives all of the performances a “thumbs up.”  He writes:

Perfectly cast is Tommy Lee Jones. He nails it, the crowd goes wild etc… That’s expected though. . . . Kelly Macdonald will have to do something else to prove to me she really isn’t the Clara Jean character she portrayed even though I know she is a Scot. Woody Harrelson, who I think gets too much praise sometimes, is at his best here and actually manages not to get blown off the screen (well sorta) by Javier Bordem. [And] Mr. Bordem’s performance is a force, much like the character he portrays. His Chigurh is a representation of the lunacy of violence that exists in society. There is no negotiations with it, it has always been here and it will always be here. It/he leaves us in shock and terror and all we can do is… ???

James Rocchi, who saw the film at Cannes in May, praises the cinematography and goes on to add:

No Country for Old Men is one of the most suspenseful films the Coens have ever made, which says a lot. Cormac McCarthy’s novel has also been impressively well-adapted . . . [But] with all of the seemingly standard-issue thriller plot devices in the piece — money, guns and trouble — there’s a dim chance that some might not catch the smaller, subtler themes of No Country for Old Men, which would be a shame; this is a story about death, not just murder; this is a story about want, not just money; this is a story of principle, not just pursuit.

No Country for Old Men is a morality tale written in blood and muzzle flashes, but all of the shock and power in the close-quarters lunge and rush of it can’t hide that it’s also a serious, thoughtful work of art that lies uneasy in your mind long after it’s stirred your blood. The film may have headlong gun battles down dark alleys and range across borders in as the characters follow each other through the West, but what it really explores is the human soul: How we live, how we die, what we regret, what we fear.

Finally, if you want to read more of the early buzz about the film, I suggest visiting its page on Rotten Tomatoes here.  I don’t know where you will be and what you will be doing the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I do know where I will be and what I will be doing.  I will be at my local cineplex, watching this film.

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