In Fairness: CAPTAIN AMERICA – The Winter Soldier

 

In Fairness: 8/10 (as always, spoilers ahead)

With the highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War landing in theaters next month, I decided to revisit one of the definitively best Marvel movies yet, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Here is an interesting entry to the Marvel franchise because it is both a standalone film and a sequel; a continuation of the overarching story-line as well as an individual chapter. Someone totally new to the superhero genre or the Marvel Cinematic Universe could watch this film and still understand what is going on – but it will also work perfectly for all the avid fans who have seen the previous films and read their namesake comic books.

The smart thing that was done with Winter Solider was to make it a human story dressed up in a superhero film. It’s not so much about the wow factor as it is about the people within the story. And since then Marvel seems to have caught on to this principle and started to apply it to its other films. What this ends up doing is elevating what might have been just a typical action flick, a superhero bonanza, and turning it into a real story worth telling, and a movie worth watching.

While it has its slow moments, a first viewing will be anything but boring if you can decide to care about the characters. The thing I find all too often these days is that people won’t watch a movie for the characters, they’ll just watch it for the spectacle. The film’s pacing is excellent, and it harkens back to spy thrillers of the Robert Redford area – Redford himself appearing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. government administrator as if to validate the tone of the movie. There are some moments of real tension mixed in as well as quite the epic building-smashing finale, although you actually care about the destruction a good bit more than you did in The Avengers. What you have here is a well-directed, well-crafted thriller that happens to be taking place in a superhero world. And since superheroes are “super” it does add certain heights to this kind of movie that you wouldn’t have if it was set in the real world.

CRAFTSMANSHIP: As with all the Marvel films, craftsmanship of the film is very sufficient and quality. The music, production design and sound design are all professional and quality. But what really stands out is the directing. The Russo brothers have crafted a film here that has real moments; of excitement, of tension, of despair – here is the superhero film that actually flows like an artful movie. Their unique take on this superhero escapade turns it into a white elephant among the genre, a superhero film that tackles topics of government control, civil liberty and grey morality in a modern world where things are no longer clearly black and white.

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In Fairness: INTERSTELLAR

SPOILER ALERT ( as always )

Interstellar is a widely disputed film, with true sci-fi fans loving it, and realists hating it.

And this also depends on what lens you are viewing Interstellar through. For entertainment value I thought it was pretty good. As a work of storytelling, however, I thought that it was superb. And as a science-fiction movie, I thought it was brilliant. But as a film I thought it had some problems that took it just below being perfect. Although some of this does have to do with my bias going into the film. I knew that it was obviously a sci-fi film, depicting space travel and other fictional events. However as there seem to be two different types of sci-fi, the realistic and unrealistic, this was where I was thrown. What started out as a gritty and realistic sci-fi, through the course of its 2 hour and 49-minute runtime gradually became an unrealistic sci-fi with moments where I found myself almost cringing.

Hence my problems with the film.

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CRAFTSMANSHIP: Interstellar is a superbly crafted film. The sound design, the visual effects, the set design, the practical effects, and almost everything else involved in the production are top notch. As an example of a well-crafted work in the medium of film, Interstellar is a masterpiece.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: The cinematography takes strong cues from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but still feels genuinely Nolan-esque with its faded palette and flesh tones. It also has a certain vibe of Americana to it that lends to it’s post-apocalyptic tone. However, unlike the large quantity of artistic shots in Nolan’s Inception, the cinematography here is more practical, showing us the reality that these characters are living and mostly passing up on the sprinkles. It does contain some really spectacular visuals though, including a mind-blowing wave sequence on another planet, a scientifically accurate portrayal of a black hole & wormhole, and some dazzling planetary footage.

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Food For Thought

Once upon a time there was a cattle rancher. And there was also a cattle rancher’s wife. One day the cattle rancher’s wife started giving names to the cattle. The cattle rancher said, you shouldn’t give them names. But she did anyway.  As the cattle rancher’s wife began to recognize the cattle by name, she also began to know their individual personalities. And she began to care about them and love them, not just as “cattle” but as pets.  Sometimes she would sing to them, and they would contentedly lay down right next to her and just listen. The cattle rancher was upset with his wife. How can we run a cattle ranching business and kill the cattle for meat if all the cattle have names and are pets?  Then the wife stopped eating meat and become a vegan and showed her care for the living beings!  Now there was real friction in the marriage, and the cattle rancher and his wife didn’t get along. The cattle rancher’s wife started a blog about her life as vegan.

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She tried to an example of how we should live life – not as a cruel master or even an exploiter, but as a caretaker of all living beings. In other words, she tried to live a life based on karma yoga where one dedicated his or her life for serving God and others rather than living for just to oneself. She began to earn money from it, and offered to buy all the cattle from her husband. But after thinking about it, the cattle rancher began to agree with his wife.  He liked having the cattle as pets, and he even became a vegan too. And now the cattle rancher and his wife and all the cows and bulls live happily together on the ranch, which has become an animal sanctuary where animals are never killed for meat. See this video embedded below which speaks about how we can achieve the true happiness and realize the futility of the superficiality.

The life of cattle couple is a real, true story. But it’s an unusual and rare story. It’s one nice story in the midst of innumerable sad stories about farm animals in America. Most cattle, indeed practically all farm animals in America, do not get to live out their lives safely and happily at animal sanctuaries.  They are raised for food for human beings on factory farms in conditions which are filthy, cruel, and inhumane.  Their life is full of pain, misery, and suffering, and at the end they are transported and slaughtered in ways that most people would be shocked and horrified to hear about, let alone see.  But of course, most of us rarely see or hear about or see these things, it’s just too unpleasant.  And it would be terrible for business. you can learn more about real love and the science of yoga & identity from here.

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In Fairness: SPOTLIGHT

I almost have nothing to say about Spotlight. It was an underwhelming good movie. It was good pizza. Not great pizza, not bad pizza, just pizza. Solid and reliable entertainment, but nothing special. Competent film-making but nothing that wowed. However considering the true-life-story limitations it was under, I suppose it was the best iteration of the story they could achieve.

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One of the powerful moments for me came in the credits, when they thanked the real life members of the spotlight team, and I saw their names lined up on the screen – but suddenly I had to think twice: the names at first were just the same character names I had been hearing the whole movie; now they were being shown to be names of real people, still alive and functioning today. This brought some of the relevance back to the story as well as refreshing it’s date. The events of spotlight happened not so long ago, and they really happened. The spotlight team is still around, and the effects of their work still continue to be felt around the world for what are undoubtedly countless thankful individuals and families.

CRAFTSMANSHIP: The movie, like previously stated, was good. Not great, not bad, just good. It was well made. The sets were very adequate. The period setting plenty convincing, down to the constant reminder of flip phones and horizontal phone belt cases. The acting was sufficient, not quite amazing to me, but showing seasoned actors that could do their job well, and that could give staunchly good pizza some pizzaz.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: The movie employed a common mixture of mounted and handheld shots to tell the story as well as it could. Once again it was something that I did not notice; good enough to get us to the finish line and not distract us once on the way there.

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Bird Rescue

Not so long ago as I walked up from the waterfront back towards my home I spied a small bird in the grass on the verge of the footpath. It wasn’t a canary, but the yellow on its chest certainly was, as they say in the interior decorating world, canary yellow. It was an attractive little thing with a moss green back, a white throat, black head and bib and that bright yellow chest and belly. I slowly edged closer for a better look and was surprised it didn’t fly off. In fact it seemed almost tame, so that I wondered if someone had lost a pet, but on further observation I decided something was not right, it seemed a bit shaky and uncoordinated. Perhaps it had a broken wing? If I left it there it would be prey to passing cats and dogs, and while such things are inevitable in nature, being red in tooth and claw, I couldn’t just walk by and let it happen. So I took my scarf (the morning’s still were chilly at that time) in both hands and slowly brought the scarf closer to the bird, which sat, seemingly calm, until I had gathered it up in my hands, and I carried it home cradled against my chest.   Twice on the 15 min walk home it gave a half-hearted protesting wiggle and peck, but the rest of the time stayed still, and allowed me to stroke its head and look into its little eye as it snuggled in the scarf, and I felt that protective and nurturing feeling that small, cute bodies engender in the female psyche, talking to it as one does to a young child.

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I didn’t feel its heart beat through the thickness of my scarf, but it would have been many times mine. The smaller the animal the faster the heart. This bird was canary sized, and their heart beats an incredible 1000 times a minute. Compare that to the sluggish human heart, with a resting rate ranging from 60-100 beats per minute. Mine runs even slower than normal – and my 40th year I had a full health check and the doctor was concerned to measure it at 50 beats per minute. I was clearly not an Olympic level athlete, who’s well trained hearts push more blood per beat. However I was not worried as I recalled how my brother played with his slow heart rate, finding his doctor’s reaction amusing, after he had sat in the waiting room, intensely relaxing and slowing his breathing and heart. The doctor had told him he should be dead. So my 50 beats sounded lively enough to me. Still, I was sent to a cardiologist “just in case” – no problem detected. In fact it was probably a good thing. And Real Vedic teachings concur: according to Vedic information, life span is measured in heart beats. One has an allotted number of heart beats in any one particular life time, and when they are spent, the body dies. Some yogis can slow their heart rates to barely perceptible levels and sit in meditation in mountain caves for incredible periods of time, apparently ageless.

So a slower heart rate may extend your life. (And indeed some western scientists are researching this currently.) There is no need to fear exercise driven speeding up your heart, however, like a factual Anse Bundren, the character in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, who wouldn’t work because he thought he’d die if he sweated. As the cardiologist told me, my low heart rate could in part be because of athletic activities during my past life (I refer to the past of this particular life… his expertise didn’t give him insight into my previous incarnations!). Regular aerobic exercise, while raising your heart rate temporarily can lead to a lower heart rate over all.

When one considers how one’s time is limited, whether one thinks in terms of heart beats, hours, days or years, one begins to appreciate that our time in this body is limited. And a limited resource is a valuable one. A million dollars cannot give you back one moment of time. Why does this matter? After all, once we realise that we are not this body, that we are eternal living entities who exist both before the birth of this body, and after the death of it, why should we be concerned about time… we have eternity? This is a fair question. But do we want to spend that eternity moving from body to body, suffering birth, disease, old age and death, sometimes in the body of a cockroach, sometimes in the body of a cat, sometimes in the body of bird, with no shelter when the cat has seen its canary yellow and pounced? Or do we want to use the time we have in this amazing human form, where we have the intellectual capacity to consider these issues, and the ability to use our understanding to advance spiritually to the point where we can leave the cycle of birth and death altogether and be re-situated in that realm where our eternity is fully expressed, timeless, deathless, without suffering and pain, and suffused with love and joy? All these point to the most difficult questions relating to spirituality. In regard to this, the answers to the above confusion is explained in a very simple and detailed manner, you can explore the real facts and more about ancient yoga wisdom given in the website of Jagad Guru. Continue reading Bird Rescue

Music for the Stranded

If you were stuck on an islands , with only one song or album to listen to, what would it be? Now, how long would it take for you to go insane after listening to it over and over again?

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Not very long.

It’s like our favorite song as a kid; might be Barney’s “I Love You, You Love Me”, or “Row Row Your Boat”, or that children’s album you got for Christmas…but a few years down the road when you become a teenager, you gag at the sound of that music which you were once head-over-heels for. And then as adults, the music we loved as teenagers becomes boring too, and on it goes. That is the nature of music, and pretty much everything else in this world.

From a young age we acquire different tastes and establish our “likes” and “dislikes” as we go along living, but these are constantly changing, because we can never land that one thing that makes us happy day in and day out. One week we hate zucchinis, and the next week we’re eating them raw every meal. Or we might just be the kind of person that does the same thing, eat the same thing, and listen to the same thing for our whole lives, but still, inside we’re not truly fulfilled

If we examine what the cause of this dilemma is though, we find it has everything to do with matter. What?

Yes material energy, or matter, is temporary and constantly changing , and we know that. We experience it daily. A seed grows into a tree, which then produces flowers, which then become fruit, which are then picked, until they finally get to your breakfast table as your morning oranges and bananas.

A beautiful monumental building in 1000 years won’t be what it is today. Our favorite toy, car, shirt, or whatever it might be gets replaced by the next favorite thing. We go along life with the “What’s Next?” syndrome, yet we can’t help it. It is the nature of matter, and we just don’t seem to jive with it so much.

The bonafide Vedic Literature , as well as many other ancient scriptures of the world, state very clearly why this is the case. In the Bhagavad Gita it states:

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” BG Chapter 2, Text 20

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