Wife M and I watched “Hell or High Water.” I loved it.
On its own, it was an attention-holding story. I worried about the two boys (whether they’d get caught when they were trying to take care of their family), the two rangers (when the one was just a few months from retiring I had a suspicious there would be a potentially-tragic showdown) and the people along the way. I was rooting for the boys to pull themselves out of debt, but also for the likable police officers (who reminded me of the two DEA agents in “Breaking Bad” and/or the two Sheriffs in “No Country For Old Men”).
It also had many great social comments. It mentions poverty (“like a disease”) and small towns dying and humans being controlled by the bank. There was definitely a point that a bank could take advantage of an impoverished old woman and that is legal, but two men robbing that same bank to protect the old woman’s land was not. Or that it was humorous for the Ranger that the waitress was upset she’d lost her $200 tip to evidence, even after she’d made the comment she was trying to keep a roof over her family’s heads. Also, in old Westerns you got the sense that American towns were on the path towards growth and prosperity, but in this “modern western” you got the sense that American towns were decrepit and dying.
We live in an age where exploding wage inequality will mean the vast majority of Americans will not have the money to cover illness and old age, and so will do things like take reverse mortgages for pennies on the dollar to cover those costs, which means the wealthy (who give the money for these reverse mortgages) will continue to take a larger share of the pie (e.g. houses for pennies on the dollar) all the while justifying this. (This was actually one of the root causes of The French Revolution – the wealthy were foreclosing on the poor, who were struggling to cover the rising costs). It’s not fair and is a huge flaw in the system, and the movie points all this out very well.
I’d love to watch this movie again. I was too busy enjoying the story and noticing the social commentary to look for other things (symbols, etc.).
On Friday we went to the movie Moonlight, and saw it at the Sundance theater, where we can have a cocktail and a pizza with our movie. I loved that movie, and here is why:
- The performances. From top to bottom, amazing. All were great, but I really loved the performance of the grown up Shyrell(?, the main character), who did a great job of being street tough and hardened one moment then seeming vulnerable and that lost little boy again the next minute, mostly in his expressions and mannerisms.
- The characters. I loved them all, including the character Blue, the best friend and even the drug addict mom and her speech at the end.
- The symbolism. There is a great line, where the drug dealer tells the boy how when he was younger an old woman started calling him “Blue” because he looked blue in the moonlight. “Do you still go by Blue?” the boy asked. “You can’t let anyone else tell you who you are,” the man said. The rest of the movie, I was noticing the spots of blue everywhere. My favorite was when the mom was bathed in red light as she yelled, then that red light turned to blue when she closed the door – wow!
- The feelings. I felt sadness when I realized the drug dealer had died. I was touched by the way he’d reached out to the boy, and so was touched when I realized he was dead. The whole movie was touching.
- The subtle way the movie was pulled together. When the drug dealer told the boy you can’t let anyone tell you who you are when the boy asked if the drug dealer went by “Blue,” then when the boy asked the drug dealer if he (the boy) was gay and the drug dealer said the boy would just know one day if he were or weren’t, then when the grown up friend came out putting on the blue sweater – I was amazed at the subtle way the director put that all together without putting it in our face. Amazing.
It was a wonderful movie. One that I continue to think about two days later.
I have to admit that when the US attacked Iraq in 1991, my friends and I had a burst of patriotic pride and talked about enlisting. I was in my senior year of college, but my friend Bill and I talked about that if the war wasn’t going well and we were needed, we might need to enlist. Luckily, the war was quick and we were never put to the test as to whether we would enlist… Anyway, in our modern age, so few young people who are benefiting the most from our society — the upper classes — are the ones who do the fighting. It is the wealthy who benefit most from war, but the days of the warrior kings are long past. As much as anyone I know of, Dick Cheney and Haliburton (and Boeing) benefited most from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet I have a feeling that there are no last names ending in “Bush,” “McNerney” (the sociopathic Boeing ex-CEO) and similar names on the enrollment list, at least not ones directly related to such families… So in many ways I am glad I did not enlist in 1991 (not to take any of my gratitude to those who did), and I do wish that Americans would insist that anyone and everyone — regardless of wealth — had to put in a mandatory time in the services so everyone was doing equal time and duty.
I have not been in battle (knock on wood) so have limited credibility, but it seems to me that for every war hero who does something fanatical (like charging a machine gun nest) and survives, there are a thousand would-be heroes who are flat out killed, but we only hear about the one survivor (partially due to propaganda). So the last thing I would ever do if an army of soldiers was passing by my house is race out with a gun and fire at said army (being part of a militia might be one thing, but an individual and overt act is quite another). Yet, here is a German soldier’s diary excerpt from the Battle of the Frontiers in World War I, compliments of history.com: “Nothing more terrible could be imagined….We advanced much too fast—a civilian fired at us—he was immediately shot—we were ordered to attack the enemy flank in a forest of beeches—we lost our direction—the men were done for—the enemy opened fire—shells came down on us like hail.” I truly wonder what that unfortunate civilian was thinking. Had he given up hope? Was he suicidal anyway? Did he have a fleeting moment of invincibility? A burst of desperation? One of my favorite lines about war is from The Civil War (Ken Burns), who quoted someone: “War is all hell.” I can’t think of a worse human instinct than war, especially since it is so often “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”
I taught high school for only a few years, but lost three students along the way. One died of suicide (which was perhaps the worst day of my life), one died of a freak illness and another died in a hiking incident. It has been nearly 20 years, but rarely a week goes by that I don’t think of them and feel for them. I can still see and hear each of them, and I will (barring brain damage) never forget them.
When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example. So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity. For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before). If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too. Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students). But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed. I loved that moment. It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students. Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today. Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.
Before lung disease forced my retirement, I loved play softball and flag football. And when I was a kid I loved playing basketball. What I remember are the day and moments before games: I’d control my diet, pre-game activity and mindset all day long, and then in the moments before a game I tried very hard to focus on the game, to visualize it, to not allow myself to get distracted by chores, work, etc.
When I interview for a job, it is the same way. I make sure I get enough sleep the day before, I try to rest as much as possible the day before, then the day of I regulate my caffeine, diet and exercise to maximize my performance at the time of the interview. In the moments before the interview, I think through all the questions, I put away my phone and I focus on my breathing/energy so that when the interviewer arrives/calls and starts asking me questions I am at 100% of all I can possibly do. For awhile, before my illness, I didn’t have to worry about it quite as much, but now all those things are extremely important. The actual job can be done with inertia and experience, but the interview takes 100% clear thought and energy.
I am glad I played sports. I feel like it was a good prep for interviewing. Along those same lines, one of my favorite feelings in life are in those final minutes before tip-off in basketball: the sounds, smells (of oiled hardwood), and the possibility of a great game. My favorite moment in sports has always been lacing a line drive over shortstop where I know I have a chance to turn a single into a double, and when a shot basketball starts to fall through the rim into the net.