Saturday, September 2, 2017

But I Digress... Harnessing Hope

By Cat


I hope today finds you and those you care about safe and sound – or on the way to that state of being.

My original thoughts for this Digression floated along the lines of presenting a list of storms in movies or weather-related disaster movies. That was, of course, as I was merely watching Hurricane Harvey begin to approach landfall. What has happened since then, with its demented game of ‘sit and spin’ over Texas and Louisiana’s gulf coast and its continued path of destruction through the country, was so far beyond imagining of the typical tropical storm situation.

Now, after worried message exchanges with friends and family in the affected areas; and countless hours of monitoring news coverage and weather reports – I find that I don’t have the stomach to bring you more of the same this week.  There are too many harrowing struggles for survival in reality right now.

People are STILL being evacuated from areas of high water; and, in spite of the fact the rain has stopped, there are areas the water is still rising further before it will recede again due to river cresting and the like. Of course then there are all the other hazards that go part and parcel with flooding on this magnitude – such as fire ant flotillas, snakes, escaped alligators, and the general foulness of grey water.

I have remained heartened by the swift response of community and people helping each other both as a matter of survival and general human decency. Such things have rekindled some hope for the state of humanity – these days that can sometimes be hard to come by.

Selina suggested I might give a list of movies about community, hope, and inspiration – and I thought that was a fantastic idea. With that in mind; I have compiled for you, in random order, a list of 5 movies with an inherently inspirational message, showcasing triumph over adversity, and hope.
There will be some SPOILERS ahead so please keep that in mind before reading further.

5) The Postman (1997)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu, Xfinity Subscription (Cinemax)
Director: Kevin Costner
Actors: Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 177 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: A nameless drifter dons a postman's uniform and bag of mail as he begins a quest to inspire hope to the survivors living in post-apocalyptic America.

This is an inspirational movie on a few levels which resonate with recent events. Even though this, as with most dystopian tales, takes place in the future; the core theme of people trying to find some sense of community and connection to one another in the wake of calamity is relevant here.

While the title character here may have begun on his path by chance or even selfish reasons;  there is considerable character development throughout the tale so that the story is ultimately about spreading hope rather than a successful con-job. The Postman’s choices ultimately show his heart and true nature as the story unfolds.

4) Volunteers (1985)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Channels (Cinemax), iTunes, Xfinity Subscription (Cinemax), YouTube Movies (Purchase)
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Actors: Tom Hanks, John Candy, Rita Wilson, Tim Thomerson, Gedde Watanabe, George Plimpton
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Length: 106 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: Lawrence is a rich kid with a bad accent and a large debt. After his father refuses to help him out, Lawrence escapes his angry debtors by jumping on a Peace Corp flight to Southeast Asia, where is assigned to build a bridge for the local villagers with American-As-Apple-Pie WSU Grad Tom Tuttle and the beautiful and down-to earth Beth Wexler. What they don't realize is that the bridge is coveted by the U.S. Army, a local Communist force, and a powerful drug lord. Together with the help of At Toon, the only English speaking native, they must fight off the three opposing forces and find out what is right for the villagers, as well as themselves.

This movie is one of two on this list that I haven’t actually seen. I’ve read mixed reviews – but, honestly, I felt that regardless of that, it’s worth a spot here. (I also plan to watch this one as soon as I can.)

Keep in mind here that the film is from the mid-1980s and campy movies were king. Things weren’t always politically correct.

All the same, the core of the story is a guy that gets into the Peace Corps for the wrong reasons, and ends up helping a community against armed militants, and other ‘wolves at the door.’ The hope lies in the message that even spoiled and entitled people can find personal growth to help their fellow man.

But seriously, it’s the Hanks-Candy connection that brings hilarity and laughter is the best medicine of all.

3) Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Channels (STARZ), iTunes, YouTube Movies (purchase), Xfinity Subscription (STARZ)
Director: Terry George
Actors: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte, Desmond Dube, David O'Hara, Fana Mokoena, Mothusi Magano
Genre:  Biography, Drama, History
Rated: PG-13
Length: 121 Minutes
More Information Here.

IMDb Blurb: Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.

Admittedly, this story is about people coming together in the face of genocide and political upheaval and not picking up after a disaster. It is, however, the story of a man that is faced with an impossible situation and goes above and beyond to help his fellow man.

This movie – for all of its darkness and the horrors wrought on the people depicted in the tale (based on a true story) – reminded me about a beacon of hope and light in the current Harvey situation. There’s a gentleman in Houston, TX that owns a chain of furniture stores. He has opened up his locations as shelters so that people in need can utilize the comfort and safety of his showroom furniture and facilities. My hat’s off to you, Mattress Mack, for being a beautiful soul.

The movie is about a man who turns a 4-Star hotel into a refugee sanctuary.

2) WALL-E (2008)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, YouTube Movies (purchase)
Director: Andrew Stanton
Actors: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, Bob Bergen
Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Family, Science fiction, Animated
Rated: G
Length: 97 Minutes
More Information Here.

IMDb Blurb: In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

The little robot in this movie is picking up after we trashed our planet. I’d say that’s cataclysm enough, right? Yet, even after forecast models told the corporate mucky-mucks that Earth wasn’t fixable; the itty bitty trash compactor distant descendant of Johnny Five gives humanity hope when he finds a tiny plant. There’s a fight for the future involved and humans have the choice to get off their lazy hover-chairs and take command of their own destiny or remain at the mercy of their robot overlords.

1) Sing! (2016)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube Movies (purchase), Vudu
Director: Garth Jennings
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Musical
Rated: PG
Length: 108 Minutes
More Information Here.

IMDb Blurb: In a city of humanoid animals, a hustling theater impresario's attempt to save his theater with a singing competition becomes grander than he anticipates even as its finalists' find that their lives will never be the same.

We recently reviewed this one, but it’s a good example of perseverance, resourcefulness, and hope so it bears repeating. Besides, with so many kids catching all the press about the horrors of Harvey, it’s a good idea to have a few go-to family movies around to help the younger generation process.

When everything quite literally is destroyed and all of the plans seem to go bust for the talent competition, they find a way to make things work. The characters harness ‘necessity as the mother of invention’ and get the job done to rebuild and carry on. They put their passion for music, their friendships, and community ahead of the money, and kick ass.

If you would like some information on how you can help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, some sources of information and resources are listed below.

  • The Rolling Stone published a very helpful article.
  • The Texas Tribune also had this information to share.
  • The following tweets direct from the Red Cross and Salvation Army are also good sources to start with:

If you're still curious about the floating nightmare fuel of 'fire ant armadas,' take a look here.

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!