The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, October 01, 2007

More on Adulthood

The Kingdom (2007)

The new Jamie Foxx/Jennifer Garner film directed by Peter Berg is most certainly not a political film with action. It is an action film with political context. Those looking for Syriana will be disappointed. But if you want a movie with one of the tensest final 20 minutes I’ve ever seen on film, you’ve come to the right place. It’s set in Saudi Arabia, and begins with a pocket history of the region, and the discovery of oil. The attempt to establish a holy kingdom is instantly corrupted by a level of wealth so fantastic that even saints would be tempted, and the Royal Family are hardly saints. A movement to overthrow the royals is thwarted by western allies, especially America. And fanatics like Bin Laden don’t like this—culminating in the 9/11 attacks. History in a thimble. Flash-forward to an American oil worker compound in Saudi Arabia, attacked by terrorists. An FBI response team weasels and blackmails its way past pencil-pushers to investigate, and from there on it’s pretty much a formulaic Hollywood movie, with Arabs either impenetrable enigmas, insanely wealthy and distant aristocrats, helpless onlookers or vicious revolutionaries in a shooting-gallery. Great fun, and because they have the obligatory “good” Arab for Foxx to buddy-team with, by my definitions they skirt overt cultural bigotry. But just barely. Exciting stuff, and insanely topical. I’d give it a B for the water-cooler conversations alone.

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“Eastern Promises” (2007)

Very John Woo-ish film dealing with a driver for the Russian Mafia in London (Viggo Mortensen) who meets a midwife (Naomi Watts) who delivered a dying teenaged prostitute’s baby. The diary left behind by the dying mother is…explosive, and entwines their fates. Violent, darkly sexy, well-directed by David Cronenberg and featuring one truly memorable fight scene (yes, THAT one), the less said about “Promises” the better. I loved it. It was a good weekend. “A-“

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More on Adulthood.

Got this note this morning from a student who moved his family from one coast to another, only to find that the guy in the mirror is experiencing the same problems…

“I think I get part of it now.

The struggle that I am going through with (my wife) and life in general here in (the new city) mirrors the struggle that I am having inside? So long as I am not balanced within myself, nothing else that happens in my universe will be balanced. I’m beginning to understand that we create the worlds we live in. If I am not happy on the inside, then the outside cannot be happy, by definition.

But then it also makes sense as to why we are so close to losing our house. Inside, I don’t want to be here, so I am shunning part of the responsibility for being a home owner. And instead of building my business and doing something I care about that will pay more, I am choosing to stay in a job that is guaranteed to keep us from having the money we need.

It also stands to reason that should we lose the house, I will then have a built in excuse that the job and its bad pay caused the problem, and it allows me to shift blame away from the real reason: me…

Wow, how insidious…”

Indeed. And this is one of the reasons why I consider adulthood to be the first step to enlightenment. And adulthood requires accepting responsibility for our own actions. Look around: most of the people you see around you, of whatever religion, political orientation, gender or race, are children. They are not fully responsible for their own emotions or actions, and are terrified of the gap between their essence and their self-image. They blame society, their parents, their spouses, or the “other” for their happiness or lack thereof.

Taking the position that the world outside us mirrors the world within us opens a different door. Positing that we are mirrors of our spouses, that we create the world we experience, that until we can trust ourselves to keep our own word, we have no right to complain when others lie and cheat…these steps are painful, but create bridges of understanding, interpersonal and intrapersonal connections. It allows the various levels of our personalities to communicate with each other, rather than our past fears and angers breeding in the dark like rabid rats, ready to chew up our dreams and spit out nightmares.

This stuff isn’t funny. And the demons will devour your life if you aren’t careful. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

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