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In Flight Movie Reviews: Annie, Cinderella, 12 Years a Slave

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Living abroad for the last 10 months, I was looking forward to catching a few US films that I had missed, and our flight to America provided me with a personal screen and 11 hours of opportunity.   

I was drawn to family films, but thought perhaps I should seize the chance to watch things that the rest of my family would choose to avoid. I played a few minutes of a few different movies, but quickly ended each because I am unapologetically fed up with bad movies.

Seriously, I do not want to give any more of my time to: less than heroic heroes, crudeness as a substitute for cleverness, visual one-ups versus true beauty, and other things that don’t fit the bill of “excellent, admirable, true, praiseworthy…”etc.

So after initially avoiding the kid/family section, I revisited it and chose these 3 movies for my flight:

The new remake of Annie
Disney’s live action Cinderella
12 Years a Slave

I ended up loving ALL THREE so much that I chose not to watch a fourth but instead to write my thoughts about them for the final leg of the flight. Welcome to my tired but uplifted mind!

Annie

My heart is gripped for today's orphans!!!
My oldest daughter and I had wanted to watch this one together, so we started the flight by choosing to watch it simultaneously “1, 2, 3, PLAY!”
Personal tendencies would draw me to be a critic of this particular musical because during my senior year of high school I participated in a production of Annie. Once I’ve spent months with a script and a score and have taken on a character personally, I know it by heart and appreciate every tiny detail. Not only that, but it also holds a special place in my heart, which makes me sensitive when people mess with it, and consequently, makes me overly critical. 



But I did not criticize this—I LOVED IT! 

I thought the modern day setting gave a whole new spin and one that engaged my heart immediately. Instead of Annie being a story about optimism during the Great Depression, it became a story about modern day orphans, and the moment Pepper said her first line about how she would never get parents because she was about to be 13 and “no one wants a teenager,” my eyes filled with tears. Oh how I am gripped for today’s orphans! So on a heart level, I really appreciated the movie; on an enjoyment level, my daughter and I toe-tapped to the remix versions, sang along with the old songs, and laughed out loud (while wearing headphones on a plane mind you) at Jamie Foxx. 
And yeah, in my opinion, no one can beat Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan—that's a legendary performance, but Cameron Diaz has spunk enough for the has-been-pop-star Hannigan, and I respect her for taking on a role which shows her emerging wrinkles. Really.

Cinderella

Character of conviction

Cinderella is my favorite Disney princess. She possesses a strong character—one of patience, gentleness and endurance. I also generally like live-action Cinderella stories--I loved Drew Barrymore’s performance in Ever After in the late 90’s, but I was disappointed with that film’s end because her Cinderella character, Danielle, spites the stepmother and stepsisters in the end, and I don’t feel that keeping in character of Cinderella.
I rejoiced in my Spirit when this Cinderella movie ended with forgiveness. I loved the mommy-mantra that echoed throughout: “Have courage and be kind.” What fantastic qualities to emulate! And how refreshing that the film showed the inner struggle of Cinderella. She fought to CHOOSE courage and kindness. I am applauding Disney for temporarily abandoning the “follow your heart” doctrine and instead displaying the “have the character of conviction” doctrine. 

And Cate Blanchett was a great stepmother with much depth. Brilliant as always.

12 Years a Slave

Two emotions: grief and anger--Forced my eyes and heart to engage with injustice.
 
This one was hard to watch. But in light of recent events and tragedies in our country, I felt it really important to not turn a blind eye to this brutal yet true part of history. I thought about how, as a Southerner, I’ve visited several historic plantation sites. I have always enjoyed these tours—seeing the antique furniture, architecture, and a picture of American history. I remember touring the slave quarters and feeling sad at the site of them. As I watched 12 Years a Slave, it brought those former quarters to life, and I grieved much more deeply over their existence. I pondered what kind of Southerner I would have been—it’s easy to say, “I would’ve been a Brad Pitt”—the one who boldly speaks against injustice even though it loses him friends and puts him at risk. But what if it is more likely that I would’ve been the compassionate-yet-permissive character?--the one who treats people kindly, but who doesn’t make waves? I can’t pass judgment on those in the past without examining myself in the present. With so much racial tension remaining in our country, it is beneficial for me to ask:
How does this story translate today and where can I be speaking more loudly against injustices in the world?

I also had a secondary reaction to this film.
It angered me that men in this time period were using the Word of God inaccurately to manipulate their personal agenda. I mean, it really burned me inside that they twisted something so precious and revered to me, and something that at it's core is the embodiment of truth and love. I thought, “How could these people be SO BLIND? How could they not see other human beings as human?! How could they think God’s Word advocated their actions?! Or worse, how could they purposefully use it for evil?!"


It reminded me of what God’s Word says about itself that “wisdom of the world is foolishness” that people will continually twist and misunderstand the Word of God UNLESS they are reading it with a heart fully surrendered to Jesus. A heart searching for verses to back-up it's own agenda will always find an out of context verse to use. And one of the biggest sins of the plantation owners was the omission of critical passages of understanding God's full story of human redemption.

It reminded me of a quote from George Muller, 
"God showed me that His word alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things. The Word can be explained only by the Holy Spirit who is the teacher of His people.”



And I thought, “Well that translates today, FOR SURE.” It was all up and down my facebook feed with last week's Supreme Court decision about gay marriage. People will continue to misunderstand the Bible until they approach it with a prayer asking for Wisdom, with a humble heart that remembers John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh (i.e. human, i.e. Jesus) and dwelt among us." 

Jesus gives wisdom to understanding the scriptures.

My action point from this reflection will be to pray for people to approach the Bible with this attitude, looking to Jesus for help, and to earnestly dig in and read it for themselves. And I will continue to do the same. And to encourage you, dear reader, to seek the scriptures for yourself. If you don't know where to start, my suggestion is to start with the verses I referenced--John chapter 1, verse 1, and finish that book. You must truly understand Jesus, before you can understand any of the rest.

Also, my action point will be to not turn a blind eye to injustice, but to be a courageous voice, starting with this here post. 

Summary: There are no better movies than those that engage the heart!

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