Notes on “Pete’s Dragon”

By Yu-Han Wang

Everyone needs a best friend , but can you imagine that it’s a dragon? Pete’s Dragon is an adventure of an orphan and his magic dragon, Elliot. They live together for six years after Pete survives a car accident and retreats into the forest. He is uneducated and isolated from the world until Grace finds him. However, he is not the same person he used to be, he shows emotion by howling, and climbs trees better than normal human beings. The movie teaches valuable lessons about friendship and persistence; it is great fare for LDS families with small children. Adults interested in the genre should also leave the theater uplifted. Friendship, as a dominant theme, almost assures an emotional uplift.

Grace is the daughter of Mr. Meacham, who delights local children with the stories of the dragon. Pete 3

The rumor is that the dragon lives in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. Grace assumes it’s just a tale until she sees Pete’s drawing of a dragon. She plans to take Pete to Social Services to find a home for him, however, her sympathy and curiosity stop her from sendng Pete away. Grace turns around and takes Pete back to his “home”. On their way back to the forrest, she decides to bring her father. Meanwhile, Grace doesn’t know her brother in-law follows them to the dragon; he makes a surprise attack and catches the dragon.

He pursues fame and attention. Pete TwoHe wants the world to know he’s the first of mankind to ever catch a dragon. However, self-centeredness is the first step to failure.
After Grace sees the dragon, she sees possibilities in all situations, and there is hope regardless of life’s adversities.

Pete leaves Elliot because he doesn’t have that magic power to be invisable like Elliot, so he doesn’t want Elliot to get hurt, because they will find Elliot if Pete is seen too.

The message is unfelfishness and sacrifice for your loved ones. Pete and Elliot see each other as family and best friends that their love bond is never lost. Pete chooses to leave Elliot eventually so it can live in a quiet life without humans. Pete’s Dragon is highly recommended, conveying several moral messages. It teaches us to be sympathetic, loving, caring, and unselfish. It is also a perfect choice for family night with children.

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Did Social Media Share the Olympic Spirit?

by Daniel LeBaron

Something resonates about the Olympic games. If we assume that threads of Mormon values are reflected in them,  Latter-day Saints will glean something in this international event. (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865659081/Local-athletes-prepare-to-represent-the-US-and-Utah-in-the-2016-Summer-Games-this-month.html). We celebrate when anyone emerges victorious, but a Latter-day Saint winner places us in the celebration circle of a world community.  (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865659391/Mormons-in-Rio-Who-to-watch-for-this-Olympics.html) This, despite the fact that Bob Costas and the NBC operation brought us the same dull commentary. Costas summarizes the day, a video of the winner is played, and then the interview. Hardly anything about the countries of non-American competitors. The chance to learn of other cultures is squandered. Social media, however, holds promise for a more fulfilling experience, as I share in this review.

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But The Olympics is more than sporting events–they compel families who normally could care less about sports to watch. So what is it about the Olympic spirit that captures our hearts?

Perhaps it is the familiar–memories of watching  with our families. Or is it the sense that even though we are competing with other countries, that we’re connected  to the larger world, whom we regard as brothers and sisters. We glimpse a hope of what could be.  Even when the feeling of unity is numbed by politics or economics, a spirit of respect and cooperation remains. For me, this time around, I felt the Olympics paralleled our beliefs and placed them in the  context of global experience, but through traditional news coverage.

This year my viewing experience was different given I don’t own a television, thus my exposure to official NBC coverage was limited. Most of what I saw and heard  was through social media. This organic and authentic portrayal of what my friends were resonating with was instructive. It also brought up questions of who has been shaping my view of the Olympics–this year I was able to see them through a much wider perspective (beyond Bob Costas) as a result of getting information from friends with connections and sources around the world. Social media may well show how the spirit in the games affects the everyday person.

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I’m not alone in the online world of the Olympics. Josef Adalian of New York Magazine noted that “Part of [their] problem is big defections among millennial audiences….among adults aged 18 to 34, it looks like Friday’s opening was down around 43 percent compared to London….” (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/08/rio-olympics-ratings-are-the-worst-theyve-been-in-years.html) Moreover, NBC itself has seen a large shift of viewers from television to digital consumption.(http://www.sltrib.com/home/4216100-155/nbc-says-rio-olympic-viewership-reaches)

Combined with what my friends were sharing, I saw what was trending across sites as a whole. There were posts tied to current political issues; this is the power of  discourse. As with many things on the Internet there was the superficial, or content meant for quick entertainment and humor. Nevertheless, on the whole, I saw the inspirational. There were stories of athletes falling down during their race, rising again, and achieving gold; of helping each other to reach the finish line; of showing true-sportsmanship. There were stories that showed the joy of a Chinese swimmer as she heard the news that she had exceeded her personal best, or the refugee who once swam to safety in her country–then swam to lead in her heat. Some of the most poignant moments for me were seeing a friends’ self-concepts beaming as their home-nations obtained their first medals.

At the core of these stories, is the belief that we can act in greatness in the face of hardship and seemingly unsurmountable hurdles (no pun intended). In this, our quest for something higher, we believe that perseverence is possible; that despite winners and losers we can all choose to succeed. It didn’t matter where the athlete was from, my friends shared these stories with me. Maybe the spirit in the games is the influence of the Holy Spirit teaching us to have joy in others’ successes and learn of the truth that we can participate in and achieve something wonderful with the rest of our brothers and sisters alongside us.

 

 

“Kubo and the Two Strings:” Teaching Kids about Family History

by Daniel LeBaron

Kubo and the Two Strings will spark meaningful discussion about family and the power of story in everyday life. It will also provoke deep thought about memory and how to present oneself to posterity.

Kubo is engaging both audio-visually and in storytelling. It is easy to forget that this film was created using stop-motion animation as the viewer is transported into a magically beautiful world. A scene near the climax, however, leaves a bad taste in the mouth as a large moon-beast puppet struggles across the screen.

The plot is basic (a young boy under threat from some opposition goes on a journey of 895992_007self-discovery while seeking three mystic objects); but, what the plot lacks in novelty it makes up for in a fresh, thoughtful recountal. It is ambiguous at times, but this enhances the overall beauty of the film. One can sense the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware, a gentle sadness about the transient nature of things. In this case it is tempered with an optimistic outlook for the future that draws strength from the past.

Although Kubo has substantial American influence in its creation and casting, it comes off as deferential to the Japanese style it uses–rather than merely co-opting it. The starkness of the film and a few frightening scenes, makes this a bit heavy for young children. But, make no doubt, there is plenty of lightheartedness throughout.

After viewing, families can discuss what it means to have each other as their quest. They can share how their own family history provides strength and vision in times of trial. Stories about our family show us ordinary people learning to face their own challenges. This vulnerability, knowing that our ancestors were human too, and seeing what they were able to accomplish gives us faith that we can do the same. Kubo and the Two Strings professes that seeing and sharing this humanity with each other is one of life’s greatest treasures.

For Mormons, with such a rich tradition of sharing and recording family histories, this film makes a worthwhile addition to video-libraries at homes everywhere.

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“Tallulah:” Loyalty even when Life Pricks the Fingers

by Kayna Kemp Stout

Tallulah is a contemporary drama about the increasingly stark conflicts between parents and adult children, spouses, and perhaps more arrestive, the battle to hang on and not let go of life’s whatfor. The film stars Ellen Page, Allison Janney, and Tammy Blanchard. Sian Heder directs. It was a hit at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Tallulah is a cynical young woman. She’s adrift and homeless, but uses her beat up van as her domicile. She’s paired up with an equally adrift young man who hasn’t been home for two years. He wants to live a more traditional life and return to NYC where the two of them can get jobs and even get married. Tallula freaks out at the thought of settling down and tells the guy to just leave if he can’t deal with her unconventional way of living.

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He departs while she sleeps; she then realizes and regrets that she has pushed him away. She shows up at the door of his mother’s apartment in Manhattan. The mother wants nothing to do with her. Tallulah uses her conning skills to gain entry into a posh hotel room, where she discovers a distressed socialite overwhelmed with caring for her baby. Tallulah who has no child caring skills is enlisted by the woman to babysit. Tallulah feels a connection with the helpless child.

Tallulah feels a connection with the helpless child. Despite her tough could-care-less attitude, she finds a soft spot for the innocent baby she is caring for. When the socialite returns inebriated and passes out on the bed, Tallulah takes matters into her own hands. Ever the con artist, she swipes a stroller and returns to the apartment and claims the baby as her own with her former boyfriend. This time the mother of her ex lets her enter under the pretense that she has a grandchild.

tallulah_unit_01017rThe three begin to bond. The vulnerabilities of the two women begin to be exposed as they together take care of the baby. They also forge a bond to each other. Tallulah has not had a mother figure in her life since being a small child herself. Her tough exterior is really covering up a broken heart and a painful past. Her ex’s mother is also suffering a broken heart from a recent divorce and her son’s disappearance. It’s beautiful to watch the developing love between the women and the child and to each other. The story line is in full swing and feels like a NYC subway speeding toward a derailment.

As TV news reports and newspaper photos begin to appear about the stolen child, Tallulah’s future and freedom begin to look bleak. The inevitable day comes when the hoax is over, but Tallulah has learned some deep lessons about what it really means to love someone besides one’s self. There is hope for redemption as Talula is handcuffed. This film explores the many facets of relationships. It looks at what true love and loyalty really mean not when things are rosy, but when the thorns prick the fingers. There are lessons about changing oneself, forgiveness, and progression woven throughout the story.

From the Film Vault: “The Dead Zone”

by Dean Duncan

There’s a brief, even glancing bit of gross-out in this David Cronenberg/Steven King semi-collaboration. They’re both specialists in that regard, or at least were specialists at1 that point in their careers. But beyond the fact that Colleen Dewhurst, beloved by millions for her performance as Marilla Cuthbert in the CBC’s 1985 production of Anne of Green Gables, and also twice married to the great George C. Scott, opposite whom she acted in Wm. Peter Blatty’s 1990 film The Exorcist III (which is actually pretty good), in which she actually plays the Devil, or at least the Devil’s voice, even though it’s Jason Miller (Father Karras) whom we see in the shot—

Hey! What was I saying? Oh, Colleen Dewhurst is indirectly involved in or with this gross-out moment, which is actually one of the less interesting and effective things here. The only competition for least interesting is Martin Sheen’s straw man political bad guy, or maybe the inversion of Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” that they come up with in order to get rid of him, unless it’s the crazy implausibility of all that tons of shooting, at a political rally, without a single law enforcement officer to be seen—

Wait! What was I saying? Oh, Cronenberg and King, and there are some nods to early/mid-80s generic conventions, and the probably expectations of the audience. But martin-sheen-the-dead-zone-movie-presidents-who-would-probably-be-worse-than-donald-trumpmostly, how unexpected, and how impressive! This version of The Dead Zone features a number of very impressive instances of basic, well-observed, kindly character interaction. The Johnny/Sarah situation is a case in point. It could have ended up a crass anti-chastity contrivance. As it is, because it’s played so delicately and respectfully, it attains a remarkable moral heft and emotional amplitude. There are deep feelings, and natural desire, and seemly continence, and then unexpected tragedy. Out of all that, really sorrow! And, cf. Henry King’s Stanley and Livingston, Welles’  adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the fact that mature people make sacrifices and, in doing so, sometimes experience terrible loss.

Up to this point Cronenberg had been a clever genre proponent/genre revisionist, an often reckless provocateur whose work could split the difference between promising insight, and promising to make you barf. It’s here, mostly, where he starts to raise his sights, to remain genre-true at the same time that he reached for and eventually, often accomplished greater heft and resonance. Greater attention to performers and performances were instrumental in allowing him to make that refining that change. Christopher Walken’s work here is emblematic of this strategy, and its great dividends.

He is some actor! And this is some character. Gentle, haunted, fearful, pitiable. It really is awfully too bad that hardly anyone ever saw or exploited these qualities in him. That’s a successful career, by any measure. But I think he had more, and different, to give us! Note also the subtle, autumnally affectionate interactions between the Johnny and Herbert Lom characters. Note also, finally, that southern Ontario appears to be about the least hospitable or appealing place in which a person could ever possibly live! Until Jonathan Glazer shot Under the Skin in Glasgow. Which is actually unfair, because Glasgow is a lovely place, which I should know, having gotten my PhD there—

Wait…