We all know and love J.K. Rowling for her incredible tales of adventure and triumph in the wizarding world. On a very different note, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination is the documentation of the speech she gave to the Harvard graduating class of 2008. We learn a lot about her life personally and how her experiences shaped her into the woman that she is today. She shares with us emotional moments and valuable life lessons as she attempts to demonstrate the importance of failure and the power of imagination. A quick read, roughly 70 pages with lots of imagery thrown in, it's more than worth the 45 minutes it will take to finish it. It can be found on the shelves of Acorn Public Library or requested through the SWAN catalog: https://swanlibs.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/ads/search/results?qu=Very+Good+Lives&te=
It's a rare treat to be able to sit and watch two Oscar winning movies in one evening in the short span of two hours but such a treat will be yours simply by taking home a copy of Big Hero 6. Now, some of you might be thinking, "But, I'm an adult and don't watch children's films!" To that, I simply must reply, "Like, OMG, you, like, totes have no idea what you're, like, missing, ya know! I mean, come on, what are you, like, forty or something?! That's barely elderly, so just, like, ya know, watch it already!"
What you would find upon viewing both the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, Big Hero 6, and the accompanying Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, Feast, are two films that will speak to the heart of every viewer. Themes of love, heartbreak, loss, friendship, loyalty and empathy are evident throughout...and that's only in the ten minute masterpiece of animation about a dog named Winston and his person. After that, you can venture into the animated feature where you will revisit all of those with the added themes of redemption, devotion, justice and vengeance mixed in, all swirling around in a colorful and beautifully rendered environment where both tears and laughter will be evoked in equal measure by a cast of relatable, lovable, and fully-embodied nerd-ly characters.
What more could you ask for...like, for reals?
And, honestly, take a look at that face up there...how can you possibly resist? Am I right? Why yes, yes I am.
A story of two men at opposite ends of their lives exploring their loves, their losses and the ultimate meaning of it all. Taguchi Hiro and Ohara Tetsu meet in a park and don't speak, lost in their own worlds for different reasons. But, once they decide to reach out, both of their lives, and the lives of all those around them, are changed in ways both large and small.
The work is simply beautiful and beautifully simple. Resonant in the same way a piece of music, caught in passing, or a comforting scent from your childhood can transport you through time. Melancholic poetry and elegiac prose swirling together in a vortex of emotional purity forming shapes, recognizable to all, before losing focus again only to reform into another heartfelt shape spelling out its message of hope to a disconnected world.
I'll admit, Scarlett Johansson is not my favorite actress. For me, she usually shines with a brightness and luminosity reminiscent of heavily scuffed linoleum on the floor of a decades-closed mental institution. So, imagine my shock when I found her starring in two of the more original science fiction movies to grace theaters over the last year...Under the Skin and Lucy.
While not masterpieces, both films are thought -provoking, imaginative, interesting and, strangely, involve black ooze. They reside at two ends of a spectrum. One end has an alien seeking out and discovering its inner humanity and evolving in the process while the other end has a human ultimately evolving into a creature only recognizable as alien to the world, if not the universe, it inhabits. Ideas of identity and what makes one human play through both movies in vastly different ways.
In Under the Skin, we follow the alien as it immerses itself in our world and habituates itself to our human (sometimes horribly too human) ways. The movie is definitely not for everyone. It's a slow build with nary an explosion or raygun to be found. It delves, appropriately enough, under the skin of humanity to show us our inner alien - that hidden part, the dark side, the ultimate id. And, in the end, when the skin is pulled away, we finally see the reality of our existence in the countenance of an exposed and vulnerable alien, the shell of what once was and what now can never become.
In Lucy, we envision the evolution of nothing less than the human mind. We enter one vision of what might be possible if humans accessed 100% of the power of the human brain. With a combination of science and philosophy (and a lot of gun-filled violence), we travel into realms seemingly beyond imagination but, then, is anything actually beyond imagination...beyond the reach of all human possibility? Here we reach for the ends of the universe and into the depths of time to see what humanity might become with Lucy, both modern and australopithecine, as our cyphers.
Both films have their mis-steps. Under the Skin will be the more difficult for many people to enjoy and many will find our projected future evolution in Lucy unbelievable but, for me at least, these films are more than the sum of their parts. Their gifts lie less in the concrete story shown on screen and more in the thoughts they provoke and the fact that those thoughts will be completely and utterly unique to each individual viewer.