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Life of Pi (2012)
A Christian Perspective of Life of Pi
It is not uncommon for a Hollywood produced movie to question spirituality, the existence of God, and supremacy of religion, but rarely are these doubts projected in such a powerful way as they are in Ang Lee's Life of Pi. The Oscar winning film is based on Yann Martel's 2001 novel of the same name. The movie centers around a 17-year old Indian boy named Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, the son of a zoo keeper, who survives a shipwreck aboard a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.
Prior to the shipwreck, Pi, who was raised Hindu by his mother, had experimented with both Christianity and Islam. Pi discovers Christianity and Islam and incorporates the philosophies of these faiths into his Hindu lifestyle, culture, and spiritual pursuit. For example, in his prayers, Pi thanks Krishna for the salvation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Pi's father, who has thoroughly rejected any religion, thinks that Pi is ridiculous and actually says something that seems to make the most sense of anything in the movie. Pi's father tells him, "Believing in everything at the same time is the same as believing in nothing at all." However, throughout the film, Pi's father is cast in a negative light. Pi's father decides to move his family, and his animals, by ship from India to Canada to start a new life. But a savage storm ensues and the ship sinks, killing all its passengers, save for a few animals and Pi.
After the shipwreck, Pi shares a lifeboat with a zebra, who suffered a broken leg, a female orangutan, who lost all her children in the wreck, and a cackling hyena. Before long, the hyena gets scared and hungry and begins to attack the defenseless zebra. The hyena kills the zebra and then begins to attack and kill the orangutan. While the hyena is in the process of killing the orangutan, Richard Parker jumps out from underneath a tarp and kills the hyena, while also trying to kill Pi as well. Pi then builds an inflatable life raft and attaches it by rope to the side of the lifeboat in order to distance himself from the tiger. But he knows that tigers are very good swimmers, so he catches fish in order to keep Richard Parker fed and to prevent the tiger from eating him.
Amazingly, Pi and Richard Parker are able to both stay alive as their lifeboat washes up to shore in Mexico. While recovering in a hospital bed, Pi must tell his story to two of the ship's insurance adjusters who have come to question him about the incident in which no one survived but himself. Pi tells them his fantastic tale of how he survived 227 days in the Pacific Ocean with a hungry Bengal tiger. The insurance adjusters don't believe Pi. They ask him to give them "the truth". Pi then gives them a similar story, but changes the animal characters to humans, casting the tiger as himself. The insurance company chooses the more fantastic story with the animals, to which Pi responds, "And so it goes with God".
This movie is the embodiment of post-modern philosophy and thought. The prevailing sentiment of post-modernity is that there is no ultimate truth. Everyone must choose their own truth and must not infringe their truth on others. All religions lead to the same truth. Pi seems to emphasize that we are to choose the story that we like the best and believe that one, although it will ultimately lead you on the same path as the other stories and religions. Everyone's spiritual path leads to the same outcome. Everyone worships the same God.
This same type of thought is expressed by Pilate in John 18:38. Christ had just said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate then condescendingly retorts, "What is truth?" Pilate responds in a very post-modern relativistic manner. Pilate proves that he is not a believer because Christ had just said that those who hear His voice will recognize the truth. Such is the case today. Only the elect of Christ will be able distinguish truth from falsity. The reality is that there is only one truth. Christ says in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There is no other way to experience truth and salvation except through Jesus Christ. All other religions offer false hope.
Life of Pi, while visually stunning and entertaining, is an allegory of a young man trying to find spiritual truth in this world. Truth is very real and literal. It is not an allegory or a metaphor, but is presented in very clear and precise statements in the Word of God.
High Expectations Dashed By Bad Acting And Writing
The movie "Titanic", written, directed, and produced by James Cameron centers on the sinking of the RMS Titanic, while also focusing on a fictitious love story between two forbidden loves.
Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is a 17 year-old first class passenger who is engaged to be married to Pittsburgh steel magnate Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). Although she says she loves Cal, Rose feels pressured by her mother (Frances Fisher) into marrying him. Rose's mother acknowledges the fact that the marriage is a way to solve the family's secret financial problems. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins a ticket aboard the Titanic in a poker match. Rose first meets Jack when he saves her from throwing herself overboard in an act of suicide. This rapidly starts a love affair between the two.
A common theme in this movie is the contrasting differences between the first and third class passengers. The first class passengers are made to appear ignorant, arrogant, and self-centered, while the third class passengers are kind, charitable, and altruistic. While this may have been true of some first class passengers, others were very generous, giving up their seat on the lifeboat for those who needed it. I feel that the story played too much into the greed of the upper-class.
This movie is a good movie in many ways. The direction, music, production, camera-work, and set creation are especially good, as is the acting by Kate Winslet. However, I was not very pleased with the work of the other actors/actresses, especially that of Gloria Stuart, who received an Academy Award nomination for her role as an elderly Rose. Her acting was cheesy and mediocre, yet she earned a nomination due to the hype surrounding the film at the time of its release. The screenplay was also lacking. Although the dialogue is pretty good, the lines are unbelievably predictable and corny. I expected better from a James Cameron film.
Overall, I guess I had extremely high expectations going into this movie (wouldn't anyone?), and my hopes were dashed by bad acting and writing.
Grand Hotel (1932)
Grand Hotel: A Character Study
After 80 years, "Grand Hotel" is still a very significant and noteworthy film. It was recently selected to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.
The film is a character study of five different people who spend the weekend at the Grand Hotel in Berlin. Baron Felix Von Geigern (John Barrymore) has wasted his inheritance and results to jewel thievery; Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore)is a man stricken with an incurable disease who decides to spend the last days of his life in pleasure; General Director Preysing (Wallace Beery) stays at the hotel to close an important business deal; Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) is employed by Preysing as a stenographer (typist). Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo) is a Russian ballarinist whose career is threatened by her lack of drive and motivation.
The film centers around these five characters and how their lives intertwine in romantic, compassionate, and even deadly ways.
The quote at the beginning and end of the movie says it all: "People come and go. Nothing ever happens". When, in all actuality, many important things happen at the Grand Hotel that just go unnoticed by most people.
Rain Man (1988)
An Average Movie About an Above Average Man
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a very successful young entrepreneur. But when his father dies, and the will is read, Charlie finds out that he has an autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), to whom his father has bequeathed his million-dollar estate. Looking for revenge, Charlie kidnaps Raymond and takes him on a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles.
The only good thing about this movie is Dustin Hoffman's acting. Hoffman, as he does in most of his movies, makes the character believable. If I had not known that Hoffman was acting, I would have thought that he really was autistic. He was very much deserving of the Best Actor Oscar. With this performance, Hoffman cemented himself as one of the greatest actors of our time.
Cruise's performance, on the other hand, made me want to turn off the TV. Cruise seems to play the same spoiled-brat, punk character in all his earlier movies. Throughout the movie, his character continuously berates Raymond for his behavior. Raymond does not understand when Charlie scolds him. Charlie is loud, foul-mouthed, and downright annoying. I know that Charlie is supposed to be the antagonist, but this portrayal took it too far.
The move making quality of the film was good, but not above average. The soundtrack and score offered a variety of selections.
This movie could have been a feel-good film. Instead, I found myself annoyed at the foul language and ignorance of Cruise's character in the film.