Tag Archives: Mormons into media

“All the Light We Cannot See,” A Novel for the Pensive Mormon

By Daniel Stout

Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” is in the slow-read category, but not in the monotonous sense of the word. On the contrary it is a lively fascinating book; it just demands a thoughtful pace. This reviewer is drawn to the pensive reading experience where a page-a-day can be immensely satisfying. That is if one adheres to Anna Quindlen’s thoughtful reading concept. Reading is in the mind, and some books let the imagination wander. All the Light is such a book.  Mormons that enjoy perusal of a sentence followed by gazing-out-the-window rumination should enjoy this tale. If you’re lamenting the lost art of thinking, allow Doerr’s artful prose to come to the rescue.

51wG7x-S+0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It is the tale of two teenagers in World War II France: A blind girl and a male member of the Hitler youth. The latter figuratively eyeless. These are disparate worldviews, but their lives eventually converge. The merge of mindsets not only makes a good story, but forces the reader to confront delicious dilemmas avoided in our religious lives. Why don’t we recognize the limitations of authority?  What is it about evil that makes it so difficult to discern?

It’s a novel about life’s ironies.  Happiness is somehow drawn from contradiction, and ultimately there is no happiness, only an arduous journey.  All the Light holds a mirror up to our journeys eliciting reflection of readers’ earthly sojourns. It raises more questions than it answers, but that that’s the goal of the author. It’s a a book to think with.

I had heard that All the Light was a literary achievement, but was unprepared for the elegant use of metaphor and well-crafted writing. Varied sentence length and brevity are but a few of the peruser’s delights. Doerr’s artistic workmanship is present in line after line. Take this sentence, for example. Four words, but a hundred interpretations:

Still night. Still early.

Ultimately, it is a book about the paradoxes of nature, i.e., so nurturing yet so cruel. Doerr schools us on a vital subject.  ________-__-____-2644Life may impair us, but never obstructs our drive to uncover love in its dark recesses.  Read this novel, and don’t be afraid to take a year.

 

“Parrot Heads:” The New Trop Rock Film

Former Eagle Timothy B. Schmit, coined the the term “Parrot Head,” a reference to fans of the rocker Jimmy Buffett. Parrotheads don tropical shirts, sunglasses, and grass skirts; jimmy-buffett-2015-ab2c8ca49025539csome bring inflatable sharks to concerts and even haul in sand to simulate a beach in parking lots. The new Netflix documentary, “Parrot Heads” transcends the foundational; it’s a look at “Parrot Head 2.0,” which has spawned an entire rock genre, “trop rock.” Trop rock bands and festivals are a vestige of Buffett culture, supporting an argument of this blog that this is truly pop culture religion.

If religion is reduced to belief, community, and ritual, the Parrot Heads qualify.  Songs elicit feelings about tropical paradise and the need for escape. florida-keys-trop-rock-playlistConsiderthe song, Fins; fans sway in unison and repeat various hand movements.

Parrotheads advocate a simple life that respects nature; many support environmentalist causes. It’s a search for a laidback lifestyle and the reclamation of spontaneity, which they find missing from a nine-to-five, overworked society. Many Parrotheads are critical of institutions; Buffett himself has a particular aversion to authority.These communities are neither superficial nor ephemeral. Parrotheads exist outside the concerts through parrothead clubs, informal gatherings and websites.

imagesThe documentary is riddled with compelling facts such as $42 MILLION raised FOR CHARITIES. Parrott heads  DONATED MORE THAN THREE MILLION HOURS OF VOLUNTEER TIME SINCE THEIR INCEPTION 25 YEARS AGO. What could be more religious than that?

New Joe Cocker Documentary: “Who was that guy, anyway?”

Mormons, when hearing the name, “Joe Cocker,” are likely to draw a blank, unless you’re an LDS child of the sixties. What Zoobie can’t sing, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” or as Cocker wails, “…from me friends…” in that instantly recognized Cockney – that is Cockney so heavy it demands a translator.

Unlike the 1971 film, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” the new Netflix – produced, “Joe Cocker: Mad Dog with Soul”  joe2is no meager concert film.  Yet performance footage compels, and to our liking, songs play for more than thirty seconds. While paling in comparison to the more mature “Eagles History,” and Peter Bogdonovich’s “Tom Petty: Runnin’ Down a Dream,” there is much here in terms of the compelling question, “Who was Cocker?” Filmmaker John Edgington lays it out there for fans to pass judgement.

Universally, he’s considered the “nice guy.” Shockingly though, Cocker leaves a trail of friends in the dust once their value wanes.  Stunning is Woodstock organizer Michael Lang, who invests a career in Joe, only to feel the cold shoulder of abandonment – not even a returned phone call for decades.

Few watch the Woodstock performance without sensing genius. Rasping wails and spastic arm movements. Joe_Cocker_-_Festival_du_Bout_du_Monde_2013_-_003Starred boots pigeon-toed in. Yet how far should a “single-single” carry one? “With a Little Help” is like Pure Prairie League’s “Amy;” the band would do it ten times if they could. Making things worse, it was a Beatles cover. Cocker had other songs, but few are likely to endure. As for the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” project of the seventies, success was more Leon Russell’s than Joe Cocker’s. See the new autobiography of the Ban’s Robbie Robertson of you doubt Russell’s superior songwriting.

Jennifer Warren aka the “Love Lift us Up Where we Belong” one-hit wonder may have turned Cocker into the Truman Capote of rock. That duet kept him in the Chicago and Rod Stewart cohort of “never-to-make-it-to-stage-two.” Like Oskar in Gras’s novel  “The Tin Drum,” the infant genius never progresses.

The documentary is not polemical; the gravelly-voiced Cocker is left to the viewer’s judgment.  One thing can’t be debated; Cocker left it all on stage. Every note got his best effort. But, is that enough

“Moana” gets Mixed Reviews

by Danny Stout and Gunnar Christensen

The much-promoted Moana debuted this week with fodder for film critics and giddy kids alike. Disney animation delivers a bouquet of folding color, and a clear moral message; parents and youngsters content with Saturday afternoon euphoria on the way to the post-theater ice cream cone. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker deserve modest praise. Unique in film history, millions will see a version of Polynesian culture for the first time. There’s a lot at stake for Pacific Islanders if Moana is the only introduction to Oceana. Tēvita O. Kaʻili, Indigenous Oceanian Cultural Anthropologist at Brigham Young University-Hawaii said in the The Huffington Post, “Minutes into Disney’s Moana, it became obvious that despite its important girl-power message, the film had a major flaw. It lacked symmetry by its omission of a heroic goddess. By failing to do this, Disney resorted to reducing the mighty god Māui to a one-dimensional selfish borderline abusive buffoon to foreground the strength of the movie’s protagonist Moana.”

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/goddess-hina-the-missing-heroine-from-disney%CA%BCsmoana_us_5839f343e4b0a79f7433b6e5>.

moana-disney

As Ka’ili points out, whimsy overrides the integral message; Disney’s versions are usually dilutions of the engaging age-old truth tales even children long to see (See reviews of Krampus, and The Real Beauty and the Beast on this site ). Again, a swing and a miss despite the cerulean ocean and lush green mountains interjected with upbeat music by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, especially the snappy tune, “You’re Welcome.”

Despite underlying values of family, following your calling, and taking risks, Moana shows that even a Pixar movie with all its technological trappings, can miss and even offend Polynesian audience members.

Looking at it from a superficialmoana-movie perspective, there’s continuity of emotion— laughing, then sadness, and optimal tension  appropriate for children. It personifies various parts of the earth, as does Hawaiian belief. You see a sassy and loving side of the ocean, the earth’s anger at its mistreatment, and its gratitude when honored with love and respect.

Moana is a colorful joyful ride, but an immature view of Polynesian culture. Despite its inaccuracies and stereotypes, however,  it places Oceana on the media map so to speak. Polynesia has entered the popular discourse, and it is up to audience members to clarify for misguided fans what they missed in this perfunctory effort.

 

 

 

“American Housewife:” Plus Size Beauty and a Big Heart

By Kayna Kemp Stout

161006-american-housewife-1American Housewife is a new sitcom with an old formula, but with a relevant commentary on body image from a plus size point of view. Mom Katie Otto, played by Katy Mixon, is a size 14 living in an upscale California community of size 2’s. She’s got three quirky kids and a seemingly supportive husband willing to indulge her crazy sounding schemes. American Housewife is a Kapital Entertainment–ABC Studios co-production set in Westport, Connecticut.

She’s the driving force of the three viewed episodes. I’ll continue to watch it on Tuesday evenings after The Middle, one of my all time faves. Similar to The Middle, the plot lines draw material from the sparring between siblings and parents engaged in the minutiae of family life. Unlike The Middle, Otto deals with her weight issues in each episode. That resonates with the 65 per cent of American women who are a plus size, but rarely represented in today’s media landscape, especially sitcoms. As with all sitcoms, success hinges on the writing. The concept is fresh and quirky enough to leave me anxious for next week’s episode.

57b11c327a1ea

Kudos to the high school teen daughter Taylor, middle school son Oliver, and elementary aged daughter Anna-Kat; the director coaches them to fine performances.

 

 

New sitcom on heaven: “The Good Place” (but what if you’re there by mistake?)

By Kayna Kemp Stout

“The Good Place” (NBC) starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson is a new sitcom about what happens in the afterlife. Mormon viewers will chuckle, squirm, and nod their heads in unison at the portrayal of the grand beyond.

The Good Place - Season 1
THE GOOD PLACE — “Tahani Al-Jamil” Episode 103 — Pictured: (l-r) Ted Danson as Michael, D’Arcy Carden as Janet, William Jackson Harper as Chidi — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

For starters, we believe the afterlife is a busy place with comings and goings as we know it now, which is how The Good Place portrays it. We LDS adherents also believe we will be with like minded souls who have a similar goodness quotient. This also is a commonality with the show. However, the show has a twist. A few mistakes are made in the admissions process; there are unworthy clandestine members of the righteous neighborhood who were accidentally admitted. This creates havoc in an otherwise perfectly functioning afterlife. Can heaven or kingdoms as we Mormons say have flaws in them? After viewing three episodes, there are six main characters orchestrating the shenanigans in the holy neighborhood.

 

Ted Danson is the architect of the community with a human-like robotic assistant that knows everything, and can procure whatever is needed instantly. A modern-day version of 50001417Samantha without the nose-twitching from Bewitched. Add to the cast the two interlopers who are each paired with a benevolent member of the community, and you have the basis for many scripts about honesty, authenticity, and consequences. One of the amusing consequences of the misfits is their inability to swear in the good place. “Fork” substitutes for other four-letter word involuntarily replacing what they intended to say. I also enjoy informative lectures about ethics from the character whose former life was a college philosophy professor. He is tutoring the misfits in doing what’s best for the others in the neighborhood instead of just selfishly caring about themselves as they were accustomed to on earth. This makes for some good Sunday School lessons, which most Mormons would appreciate.

 

 

 

In Hawaii, it’s beaches, waves, and Kahuku High School football!

by Jasmine Weng

Football is immensely popular in the U.S., but few in the Mainland know its cultural role on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Kahuku High School football draws thousands to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, and on September 17 more than 2,000 “Red Raider” fans flew to Las Vegas for a game against Bishop Gorman, the number one high school in the nation. Gorman prevailed, but not the Kahuku spirit that is traced to ancient traditions of family, community, and excellent gamesmanship.

For those born in the North Shore towns, Kahuku football is the center of gravity. It owns the most championships, and sends the most players to the NFL. Red Raider fansweb1_20160822_kahuku_touchdown purchased the 2,000 available tickets for the Las Vegas game within an hour. The stadium holds 5,000 people and the Kahuku faithful had a huge presence in their red t-shirts as they waved Red Raider flags. Fans back on the island watched the game on TV or online in ritual gatherings in homes and eateries. Pounders Restaurant at the Polynesian Cultural Center streamed the contest for Kahuku fans while providing Kalua pork and other game “grinds.”

Pounders was packed that night with red t-shirt clad supporters, some wearing the classic Red Raider headband. Beyond Pounders, thousands found somewhere to watch the live stream. Fans rarely watch games alone as TV broadcasts become ignite luaus up and down Kamehameha Highway.

Although Bishop Gorman has a big budget and superior equipment, they’re no match for Kahuku spirit that echoes the ancient warrior legends; Devotion to the game may derive from ancient dance rituals. Service activities and community fundraising is often tied to football.

web1_spt-kahuku-spirit-1-300x200Aofaga Wily, a 21 year old Kahuku alumnus and football player says he felt like a celebrity while on the team. Even as a high school player, people sought his autograph and photo. “The attention did not make me big-headed or conceited, but made me humble and willing to be a good example for the younger generation”, said Wily. He expressed how football is a big influence on other players’ lives; it teaches hardwork, humility, and how to build a family with teammates. While Kahuku lost the game, they gained great experience by playing Bishop Gorman. Red Raiders of the North shore always hold their heads high; they are “Red Raiders for life.”

Dancing with the Stars: “Lochte, look out!”

by Stephanie Soto

Ryan Lochte, a famed Olympic swimmer, got blindsided by two protesters during the first night of TV’s Dancing with the Stars. The protesters were protesting against Lochte due to Lochte’s lie he made during the 2016 Rio Olympics about being held at gunpoint at a Rio gas station. Lochte has now been banned from swimming professionally for the next ten months.

Lochte has been known for being a large partier athlete with his short lived reality show on E network and pictures of his extreme lifestyle popping up over the internet. The young thirty-two year old’s money and fame has been causing controversy for some time, but not on such a world scale.

Lochte had signed up to do Dancing with the Stars before the incident in Rio even happened. ryan_lochte_set_to_join-f87afebdba100f992fee5d2bff2884d3The protestors luckily never touched Lochte, but got all the way on stage to where Lochte was standing until tackled by security guards. This is not all, female protesters stood in the stands yelling boo and liar to Lochte on stage until fellow dancer, Derek Hough, told them to leave. Although the protest was a non-violent one, it still made a statement. Interviews from the cast and Lochte himself show that some thought it was a stunt, while others were upset that the protesters decided to make a fun family show about politics.

The protesters have gone on record saying they did it for America and wanted to show that Lochte is a liar and a criminal.

Lochte has gone on record apologizing for the incident in Rio, but people are quick to judge and not so quick to forgive. This makes me think of the verse Luke 6:37 “Judge not and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”

Did Lochte do wrong, yes. Does he deserve to be harassed forever, no. People makect-ryan-lochte-protesters-dancing-with-the-stars-20160912 mistakes all the time, not on such grand a scale, but people make mistakes. Unfortunately, the money and fame does not make you any smarter or help you deal with situations more. Most seem to think it does – it is usually opposite the case.

Lochte will and has been reprimanded for what he did, but going onto Dancing with the Stars is not only putting Lochte in a difficult spot, but his partner and the rest of the dancing with the stars cast and crew too. This is not the best way to go about doing things.

We, as human beings, need to show forgiveness and compassion to those who have wronged us. Not to make them feel worse than they already do.

New Film on the Greatest Costume Designer, Orry-Kelly

by Kayna Kemp Stout

“Women He’s Undressed,” a documentary about Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly, may sound scandalous, but it’s a film that can be enjoyed by diverse audiences. Those who womenhesundressed3are fans of classic films will take notice of the many clips from among the 285 movies that Australian born Kelly has designed including Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, Auntie Mame, and Oklahoma. He left his small seaside village in the early 1920’s for New York City and landed in Greenwich Village and the bohemian lifestyle of an artist who hand painted ties to make ends meet. He got a toe hold on Broadway, which led to his first costume designing jobs for the lavish musicals popular at the time. He moved to Hollywood to be a part of the burgeoning film industry. He was hired by the Warner Brothers Studio and began living a lavish lifestyle.

For audiences who enjoy costume design, this documentary rewards with many behindveda-ann-borg-and-orry-kelly-ca-1937-in-women-hes-undressed-courtesy-of-wolfe-video-1 the scenes details about costume choices for a litany of stars during the golden age of Hollywood, such as Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, Barbara Stanwyck, Angela Lansbury, Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda. Orry-Kelly possessed a masterful eye for choosing colors, draping fabric, and disguising the figure flaws and assets of the starlets who became his friends. His personal life as an out of the closet gay man had its share of drama during a time when that was expected to be kept hidden. His early co-habitation with Cary Grant was a carefully guarded secret even in his autobiography. Grant played by the Hollywood rules and requested that their liaison not be written about and Kelly obliged.  Grant was a pallbearer at Kelly’s funeral in 1954. The years of his life 1897-1954 provide a time capsule that illuminates Hollywood in its hay days. Interviews include Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Catherine Martin, Leonard Maltin and Ann Roth.

In “Sully,” worries are set aside for a miracle.

By Kayna Kemp Stout

The word miracle gets tossed around lightly these days in reference to diet pills, wrinkle creams, and even football victories. So there is always reason to be cynical when the media dubs something a miracle. However, after viewing the film “Sully”, I believe the media got it right when they called the incident, “The Miracle on the Hudson”.

The film, expertly directed by Clint Eastwood, gives viewers an insiders look into why the unnamed1emergency landing of the airliner by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is nothing short of miraculous. Much of the film focuses on the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the emergency landing on the Hudson River after both engines are hit by a flock of birds shortly after take off from LaGuardia) Airport in NYC.

Could the disaster have been averted if Captain Sully had returned to LaGuardia? Computer simulations seemed to say yes. Sully’s training of 30 years as a pilot said no. The investigation hearings are stressful for Sully because he could lose his retirement pension if found negligent. While the 155 saved passengers and crew are hailing him as a hero, and the national media is touting him as a savior and miracle maker, the behind the scenes drama feels much different with so much at stake for Sully, including personal financial challenges concerning an outside business. He simply puts these worries aside, and focuses on the goal. Averting distractions is a God-given talent, or perhaps should be better developed in us.

1408319_1280x720-1Tom Hanks portrayal as a calm professional airline pilot is spot on as are the other leading performances by Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan and Jerry Ferrara. The film is not over when the credits begin to roll, so stay seated until you’ve witnessed the entire miracle.