Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Have You Heard The Music of Silence?

“In my opinion, the only way forward in this world is with faith, which not only explains the reason for life but also fills it with joy and hope. Faith transforms what would be a tragedy into a marvelous story with a happy ending. If all of this is reflected in my singing, how happy that would make me.” —Andrea Bocelli Do you have a favorite singer? My mother requested that Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s rendition of “Time to Say Goodbye” would be played at her funeral, and ever since I’ve thought they have the most hauntingly beautiful voices in the world. So, I was delighted to discover that a movie has been made about this amazing Italian singer’s life. It’s an extremely emotional but inspirational story.  I always wondered how Andrea Bocelli happened to have a voice so full of passion and warmth but for some reason had never realized that he was blind…or that his faith in God had helped him overcome his blindness. His parents were advised to abort Bocelli before he was even born, warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects. However, his parents disregarded the surgeon’s advice. He was born with congenital glaucoma and became blind at twelve, yet today he’s one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records!  The Music of Silence tells the story of his birth to his incredible rise to fame by 2000 (although he’s still actively singing in the present). It’s a beautiful story of faith and love. I was a little sorry I did research, because his life from 2000 to the present is not as lovely, but I suspect he feels the same way, because the movie ends very happily around the turn of the century.  As the mother of a musician, I was especially intrigued by the title, The Music of Silence, and what that meant. Bocelli’s maestro explained how music can be found in silence this way:  “You [speaking to his blind protégé, Bocelli] have a great advantage, you’re already familiar with sounds. They guide your steps through life. But the music of silence will be your guide through the interior of yourself. And that, which you discover, you will express through the beautiful perfection of song.”  And that he does! I smiled when Celine Dion was quoted as saying, “If God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” I have definitely thought that if the Lord would give me any voice when I get to heaven, I would like to sound like Andrea Bocelli! (Or, maybe Sarah Brightman if I’m supposed to sound like a woman. 🙂  ) Even if you’re not a big fan of opera, I’ll bet you find yourself inspired and encouraged by watching The Music of Silence, the story of how one young man overcame one of the world’s most difficult challenges and became one of the world’s greatest singers!  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). If you want to hear Andrea Bocelli singing “Time to Say Goodbye with Sarah Brightman,” it can be found here:  https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_maps&hsimp=yhs-pty_maps&hspart=pty&p=sarah+brightman+singing#id=1&vid=68f961961443db9fb4c62c25d24f8778&action=click

What Do You Think of the Viceroy’s House?

Some movies I hear about and await with eager anticipation until they hit the video stores, but sometimes there’s a gem out there that nobody seems to have ever heard of, and I thought Viceroy’s House was going to be one of the latter!  I discovered it at Family Video and rented it because it was listed as a biography, which I especially love! The movie was a highly moving account of Lord Mountbatten, the English viceroy sent to help India with the transition from British rule to independence.

Viceroy’s House stars Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) and was based on the books Freedom at Midnight and The Shadow of the Great Game—The Untold Story of Partition (neither of which I’d read).  It was directed by Gurinder Chadha, an Indian woman who lost family members during the terrible conflict surrounding the partition (2017, not rated but I would give it a “PG”), so I assumed the depiction was fairly accurate.  Until! Until I got home and started researching the movie for this review. One of the harshest criticisms came from an article published in “The Churchill Project” by Hillsdale College, which happens to be a Michigan school with a reputation for scholarship that I admire.  According to the author, Andrew Roberts, “In one way, it is rather like a Downton Abbey of the East, with plenty of below-stairs intrigue—the palace had more than 500 servants—and Hugh Bonneville (who played the liege of Downton) portraying Viceroy Mountbatten alongside a crisp-accented Gillian Anderson as his Vicereine, Edwina.” “When the film concentrates on the melodrama of a handsome new Hindu manservant falling for a beautiful Muslim girl, it combines Bollywood romance with a good deal of period character.”  “But whenever it gets involved in partition politics, it is historically and politically repugnant, promoting conspiracy theories and peddling vile falsehoods.” Roberts goes on to set the political record straight according to his research, which completely convicts rather than exonerates Mountbatten.  Roberts goes even further than the movie in citing gory details of horrifying viciousness and atrocities between the Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, which makes me understand better how moderate Hindus today in India (at least according to our tour guide last fall) will marry Christians but not Muslims.  After a lot of study and thought, I was not only appalled by what I read, it made me keenly aware how easily I can be misled into believing something that is political fiction when mingled with facts. To me, this is most critical spiritually, where the world has become full of people who tout religious falsehoods as truth…and take in billions of people!

Do you have a source for spiritual truth? I believe the Bible is the only reliable resource for teaching true spiritual realities for many reasons, but perhaps the most important are: 1. When you study the life of Christ, he truly was morally good and wise. (Compare him to the historical biographies of other religious leaders. What did they teach? What did they approve? How did they actually live? Some were really awful! There were a few outstanding religious leaders out there, but no other who was without sin and blameless.) 2. Jesus, unlike every other religious leader, rose from the dead. He alone claims that He can grant us eternal life based on faith in His death to pay for our sins and His resurrection. Therefore, I choose to follow Jesus and believe that He speaks the truth, regardless of what others write or say about him today! How about you?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

“The number who died in the appalling violence following India’s independence and its partition is still disputed, but most historians believe it was a million civilians or more. What is not in doubt is that they died in the most horrifying circumstances. Arson, torture, mass rape, desecration of temples and indiscriminate murder were commonplace after the Indian Empire was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate nations, India (mostly Sikh and Hindu) and Pakistan (Muslim).

“As many as 12 million people were uprooted in the largest human migration in history, as civilians found themselves on the wrong side of the new border and traveled to their new nation state, often encountering—and butchering—those of different religious persuasions heading in the opposite direction. The bloodbath followed a nationalist struggle that had lasted for decades and will forever remain a dark stain on Britain’s colonial legacy, with accusation and counter-accusation being thrown over the question of responsibility” (Andrew Roberts, https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/fake-history-viceroys-house/(All photos from the movie, Viceroy’s House. In all fairness,  I believe it was the intention of the director to make the public aware of this horrifying historical event, although it appears that her political viewpoint may be quite skewed.)

 

Planet Earth and Planet Earth II

I suppose everybody on earth but me has seen the incredible nature documentary series, Planet Earth II, produced by BBC in 2016 as their first ultra-high-definition T.V. series, narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, and enhanced with theme music composed by Hans Zimmer.                          (Could it get any better than that combination?!) There are six episodes, including studies of the wildlife on islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and (believe it or not) wildlife in our cities. Our son Joel saw the documentary on “Cities” at a friend’s house and came home with such enthusiasm that we immediately discovered the series is available on Netflix (and probably other online sources).The photography is absolutely breathtaking, and they used innovative techniques, such as setting up to 25 “camera traps” in the remote mountains of India to trigger photographs of the elusive snow leopards.                               Every episode was mesmerizing and marvelous!                               What an amazing world God has created for us! If you watch all six episodes and are wishing for more, Planet Earth II is actually a sequel to Planet Earth, an 11-episode natural history documentary published by BBC in 2006 that was so popular it was broadcast in over 130 countries in 15 months!  The original series took five years to film and was the most expensive nature documentary series BBC had ever produced up to that time.                        It won many awards, including four Emmy Awards. Although the original Planet Earth series definitely showcases animals in each environment, I think the earlier series highlights the geographical marvels  of our world even more than the wildlife. The beauty of our earth blows my mind! “Our planet is still full of wonders…It’s not just the future of the whale that today lies in our hands: it’s the survival of the natural world in all parts of the living planet. We can now destroy or we can cherish. The choice is ours” (David Attenborough).  I believe God wants us to cherish His creation, tend it, and take care of it!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28).

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

 

Whom Would You Nominate As The Greatest Showman on Earth?

Did you ever attend a circus when you were young (or older)?  If so, and you’re looking for a light-hearted, highly rated (IMDb 7.7), family friendly (PG) musical this summer, you might enjoy The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman and based (quite loosely) on the life of P.T. Barnum. Can you remember what you first wished to become when you were little?

My oldest son, who’s now a managing engineer for LinkedIn, had as his first ambition (at the tender age of three) the desire to be garbage collector, because he thought there was nothing more exciting than the banging and clattering he heard while watching a powerful garbage truck latch on to huge dumpsters, hoist them high in the air, and empty their contents into the truck’s yawning belly.       However, when I was a little girl, I could think of nothing more glorious than to be one of those beautiful women who’d “float through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young (wo)man on the flying trapeze.”  Going to the circus was the highlight of my family’s summers back in the early 1950’s, and I felt quite ambivalent when the Barnum & Bailey Circus closed down on May 21, 2017 after 146 years of continuous operation! As a little girl, I didn’t consider how risqué some of the costumes were (which would also be an issue for anybody who wants to watch the movie),  nor did I think about racism, or the possibility of animals being mistreated, or people being exploited because of their unusual appearance, but such concerns really did cause the decline and eventual demise of circuses. Nevertheless, for nearly 150 years, traveling circuses such as P.T. Barnum’s “Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome” were a centerpiece of American entertainment and culture, and Barnum’s circus really did come to be known as the “greatest traveling show on earth.” I don’t want to ruin anything by telling you too much of the story, but I do want to correct a couple of fictions just in case you—like me—prize loyalty and faithfulness. Barnum married  Charity, whom he always loved dearly. He wrote that when they married, he “became the husband of one of the best women in the world,”    and she was his bedrock throughout their marriage until she died in 1873. The real Jenny Lind (known as “The Swedish Nightengale”) did travel with the circus for awhile and left after 93 performances, but only because she didn’t like being “marketed.” Her goal had always been altruistic, and she donated the entire $350,o00 in profits (worth about 10 million today) to endow free schools in Sweden. Isn’t that awesome?! Does it ever strike you as strange that Hollywood would take a perfectly good story and makes it worse because they think it will sell better? What’s that all about? It reminds me of people who brag about being bad or think they’re terrible, when in fact they aren’t as bad as they say they are. Do you ever do that? If you (or someone you loves) struggles with self image, can I encourage you with these words: Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:12-14). On the other hand, if you think you’re the greatest showman on earth, then I’d recommend this advice from Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” God doesn’t want us to think we’re terrible, nor does he want us to think we’re the best ever! He encourages us to Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). In that light, perhaps I would nominate P.T. Barnum as the world’s greatest showman, given that a “showman” is someone who “produces or presents shows as a profession, especially the proprietor, manager, or MC of a circus, fair, or other variety show” (Oxford Dictionary). However, I think Hollywood both glamorized and demoralized the real P.T. Barnum…which I think the world also does with Jesus Christ. Jesus is glamorized by some, demoralized by others, and all too often fictionalized. Do you know Him? If you don’t really know who Jesus is, please read the Bible and find out the truth for yourself. He was not a showman, but I do think he was and is the greatest man on earth!

And he shall judge the world in righteousness,
he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness” (Psalm 9:8).

(All photos from the movie, except the one of my oldest son and his wife!)

 

Saying Goodbye to Christopher Robin

Although I grew up cherishing Winnie-the-Pooh stories, my children grew up practically quoting some of the stories by heart, and a couple of my grandchildren remind me of Christopher Robin (like this one, whom I’ve been visiting the last while, and who’s recently become a big brother, again!),

I never knew much about A.A. Milne, who authored the tales of Christopher Robin and his plush playmates. Goodbye, Christopher Robin (2017, PG, rated 7.1 on IMDb) tells the heart-rending back story of the Milne family.                 A.A. Milne, and his wife Dorothy, were rich British socialites.

In the movie, the real Christopher Robin (nicknamed “Billy Moon” by his parents) appears to have been largely neglected by his mother, although according to his biography, it was his mother who came into the nursery and told him stories about what Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends did and said, and he felt that it was his mother who actually created most of the ideas for Milne’s books. However, it was absolutely true that little Billy was very devoted to his nanny, Olive, who was responsible for his daily care. (I gather this is often true for children who grow up with caring nannies!) Milne had suffered severely from (probable) PTSD after serving in World War I and wished to use his talents as an author to write something that would inspire the world to stop resorting to war as a way of “resolving” conflicts.

Although Milne published a serious plea against war, Peace with Honour, he became famous for was his playful, four-book series based on his son and the little boy’s stuffed animals. These books were incredibly successful, and the Milne family became extremely rich!

Billy Moon (aka Christopher Robin) didn’t mind becoming a celebrity as a child…until he was sent away to boarding school at age eight, where he was mercilessly bullied for his fame.

In response, Billy enlisted in the army during World War II, where he contracted malaria and took some shrapnel to his head (although he recovered completely). It was during the war that Billy came to terms with all the difficulties in his life, because he realized that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories helped people recover from the pain and disillusionment of war by allowing them to retreat into the happy bliss of childhood innocence. Since the original books were written (almost 100 years ago), they have never been out of print, and they have sold over 20 million copies in 50 languages! However, Christopher Robin never accepted royalties from any of the books.  Instead, he married his cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt, founded the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth, and wrote a book of his own, Enchanted Places, finding it more gratifying to make his own life rather than live in his father’s shadow.

Now, you may fairly criticize me for telling you so much of the story, but in order to experience all the depth of pathos and charm, I highly recommend that you see Goodbye Christopher Robin for yourself! It made me appreciate that life is always much more complicated and difficult than we can ever imagine, and even the joyous affirmations of innocent childhood—in the real world—often come at great cost.

I also want to say that, unlike Christopher Robin, who didn’t want to stand in his father’s shadow, I am eternally grateful for our loving heavenly Father, who invites us all to stand safely under His shadow! “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice” (Psalm 63:7).

               Beneath the Cross of Jesus
(Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1868)

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

 

 

I Can Only Imagine…Can You?

I Can Only Imagine is not only  one of the world’s most popular songs today, it’s been made into a fantastic movie sharing the painful life story of composer Bart Millard and his abusive father, who was transformed by the power of God’s forgiveness and love. The beauty of  I Can Only Imagine (2018, newly released to video, PG, IMDb 7.4), is in understanding the change that really can occur in someone who gives their life to Christ.             The movie is deeply moving, and I wish everybody could see it! We watched it on Father’s Day, and it would make a wonderful father-son bonding event (particularly if there’s been any strain in their relationship).  As Bart has explained in various interviews,“I got a front row seat to see this guy go from being a monster to falling desperately in love with Jesus.” “By the time he passed away when I was a freshman in college, not only was he my best friend, he was like the Godliest man I’d ever known.” “It’s literally changed the trajectory of my life.” “I guess I grew up thinking that if the Gospel could change that guy, it could change anybody. There was no denying it.”There were a few things that didn’t come out in the movie that I want to add, because it made some of the puzzle pieces fit together in my mind. Bart’s father didn’t drink (the usual precursor to abuse), but he suffered a closed-head injury at work that left him extremely impulsive (a common side-effect of closed-head injuries). Bart’s father never beat his mother, although he smashed everything she treasured, and he didn’t abuse Bart until after the mother left. (As a mother, I couldn’t imagine leaving my child undefended with an abusive father.)The chronology of events is also not exact. Bart’s father came to faith in Christ after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while Bart was still at home. It was during his high school years, while Bart cared for his father, that he learned how to forgive through God’s mercy and formed a wonderful bond with his dad. One of the happiest discoveries from research was finding that the love story between Bart and Shannon was probably very true.

They’ve been married now for 20+ years and have five lovely children!
(The romance is so special…reminded me just a little of Alan’s and mine.)If you get a chance, please watch it! I think it will touch your soul!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9

“I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I…”  (—Bart Millard)