The Pursuit of Happyness

Monday, April 30, 2007


Quick tidbit: Did you know that Will Smith actually learned how to solve the Rubik's Cube in under 2 minutes just for this movie? Apparently he trained with world class speed cubers in order to accomplish this, nearly impossible for most, feat. He was on Oprah and finished during the commercial break. ::sigh:: Charming and a superhero. :)

When I first saw the title of this film, I had a minor freak out thinking that all my life I had been misspelling 'happiness.' Then I realized that, no, h-a-p-p-i-n-e-s-s really is how you spelled 'happiness,' it must just mean something significant in the film, which of course it does.

The Pursuit of Happyness tells the story of Chris Gardner and his struggle to survive in 'the jungle.' After making a few wrong decisions with his savings investments, he is forced to live on the streets with his son, all the while working as an unpaid intern at a stock brokerage. He hopes that this internship will be a stepping stone toward attaining a better life for himself and his young boy; the American Dream.

So as our Forefathers stated in the Declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." People are entitled do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal that will enrich their lives. The Forefathers didn't say 'Life, Liberty, and Happiness.' It's the act of pursuing that makes our country free. These words have such a symbolic and strong significance, and it kindles such fervent imagery that we forget that this act of pursuing is actually quite difficult and demanding. This is what The Pursuit of Happyness is about. Its about the obstacles and sacrifices that one has to give up to make a better life. Its about making those "y's" become "i's," but does not disregard the endurance of those "y's."

Pursuit offers such a great story of hard work, determination, and conviction, and I can only wish that given the circumstances that faced Gardner, I would be able to do the same.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 4:56 PM 0 comments  


Monday, April 23, 2007


Bobby. Such a simple nickname for such a remarkable person. Rather than remembering him as a prestigious "Robert," people remember him as Bobby. He was everybody's friend, neighbor, and confidante. He fought for you, for your rights and your pride. Bobby would help you because he knew who you were. He was just like you, so you called him Bobby, just as you would nickname a close friend.

This was what Robert Kennedy was to the American people during a time when the country was angered over the Vietnam war, empowered by the Civil Rights Movement, and divided over idealistic values. "[There's] nobody left but Bobby, nobody" said Dwayne. At least, that's what the film tells us.

Emilio Estevez wrote and directed Bobby, the story of Senator Robert Kennedy's assassination. Although the overlying plot is of the shooting, the full impact of the tragedy is only absorbed through the surrounding subplots of 22 people and what they were doing/thinking on that day. This was not the world of the 1950's where the economy was booming, where men and women focused on having the perfect family, where teenagers hung out at the local diner. This was a time of rebellion and awareness. Surrounded by war and oppression, things that were shielded or brushed under the rug in the innocent/oblivious 1950's was ignited and fueled during a time when people were losing faith in their leadership. Estevez used 1960's archetypes to illustrate these ideas and show how the United States lost one of its greatest hopes.

I loved the use of real footage of Robert Kennedy, and how it was spliced seamlessly into the movie. Not to mention that the last 15 minutes of this film were edited so dramatically that it gave me goosebumps. A perfect montage to culminate such a pivotal moment in history.

Some criticized this film for its unnecessary subplots. Most of the characters never meet, and many of them aren't directly affected by Kennedy's death. Or are they . . .? Aren't we . . .? I believe that every single character was vital to this movie's theme and overall message. There was a time in our history when the country wanted to change the world and then lost its only hope.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:37 AM 0 comments  

Into Great Silence

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Sound in deliberate absence is a very powerful symbol in film making. It can evoke anxiousness, tranquility, or self discipline; represent anger, meditation, or solace. Chronicling six months of life in the brotherhood, Into Great Silence is a documentary about the life of Carthusian monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in France. The filmmaker, Philip Groning first sought film permissions from the monastery 16 years prior to the making of the film, but the monastery declined stating that they were not yet ready. Sixteen years later, they said they were ready. Change works slow in the Catholic church.

Artistic and meaningful, the film is 95% silent, and it is a 100% diagetic movie, meaning no overlaying commentary or narration, no background music, and no sound effects. Shots are long, drawn out, and juxtaposed in a way that creates a senselessness of time. Sometimes its night, then its day. They're praying together in the dark, then they're alone. Its winter, now its spring. Its winter again. He's chopping wood, another monk is working on the garden, another praying and eating lunch. Is this a different day? Now its early morning . . . or is it dusk? One day rolls into another, and we are captured in this spell of seemingly non-existent time. These are how the monks live, and for three hours, so will we.

This is definitely not a popcorn movie. It's a meditation. To paraphrase what the Prior said to the novice entering the Order, "our way is of silence and solitude, and through it becomes one everlasting prayer." Great silence it is.

Art cannot be appreciated if not in the right mindset, so if you do decide to go see it, know that its the experience that makes this film special. That was the only way I was able to sit through a three hour, silent, monk documentary. I wonder how many "Hail Mary's" I could have said in three hours?

For more information on Carthusian monks:

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:13 AM 1 comments  

Happy Feet

Monday, April 16, 2007


How can you not like a movie with cute, fuzzy penguins dancing and singing in unison? Unless you're a sadist, you really can't, and its only for the fuzzy penguins that I enjoyed the movie. I guess that means I'm not a sadist.

Happy Feet is about a community of Emperor penguins whose signature talent is singing. However, poor Mumble is unable to sign, but instead, he can dance up a storm. Of course, his differing talent is shunned by the Emperor penguin society, and his father, reminiscent of the archetypal, masculine "my way or the highway" kind of man/penguin, is embarrassed by him. He also has a southern accent (haha get it? He lives in the South Pole). Mumble then finds friendship with a different community of penguins. I'm not quite sure what kind of penguins they are, but since they have Mexican accents, I'm assuming that in real life these penguins life further south than the emperor penguins do. Clever, huh? In the process, Mumble realizes that "aliens" are taking their fish, but the Emperor penguin community blames it on Mumble, saying that his dancing is angering the fish gods. Aliens don't exist like the fish gods do, duh.

Although the movie had some witty jokes and some superbly designed dancing penguins, the writing department was definitely hurting, probably because 90% of the budget went to the witty jokes and superbly designed dancing penguin department. Classic movies of this same genre like Toy Story and Monster's Inc. are only good because the story bases its plot on what it would really be like if toys came to life or if monsters got their energy from scaring kids. If penguins could dance or sing and the humans found out

*******SPOILER WARNING*********

we wouldn't make an effort to stop fishing in their waters for that sole reason. We'd probably try and take a few more specimens from their natural habitat, bring them back to our civilizations, and try and teach them an act for Sea World. There would be no political debate about it, as was briefly alluded to in Happy Feet. We would justify it as "learning" about nature, and take them. Maybe there would be some grass root organization like "Dancing with the Emperors" that lobbied for penguin rights, but the world would not stop, as it did in the movie, to spark world debate regarding the matter. Not to mention that this vital section of the plot only lasted about 10 seconds in the actual movie.

Although Happy Feet was a fun popcorn movie, it lacked in storytelling, and without a story, you have no movie. Happy Feet will never be Toy Story caliber, but I think the filmmakers knew that this movie was just about dancing penguins and nothing more.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 3:01 PM 1 comments  

The Nativity Story

Thursday, April 12, 2007


A lot of critics didn't like this film, but I thought it was exquisite. Whether or not you believe that Jesus is the messiah/saviour or even the most basic fact of his actual existence, this film provides such a charming take on the story of the birth of Jesus, factual or fictitious.

There were some weaknesses in The Nativity Story. I think that many of the critics were expecting a film of epic proportions, mainly because of the reputation this particular story possesses. However, this movie was somewhat opposite, and I can see why some critics might have felt let down. What this film also lacked was a strong villain. There was the king who attempted to prevent the new messiah prophesy from coming true, so he had all the first born male children killed. However, his role was, in my opinion, very de-emphasized.

Yet this movie sparkles is in its depiction of Joseph and Mary. This film brings such humanity to these characters. They are simple yet remarkable, humble yet righteous. There mission was not just to take care of the unborn child, but to take care of one another and to grow in their relationship together. People who are familiar with the story of Jesus' birth may forget that Joseph and Mary probably did not know each other very well when they were married. We see them as adults looking over baby Jesus, absent to the idea that they were children themselves.

I imagined the nativity story to be just like this, very raw and real, yet soft and comforting, but never did I imagine Joseph and Mary's love toward one another to be as respectful, deep, or profound as it was in The Nativity Story.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:07 AM 0 comments  

Blood Diamond

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Quoted from the iconic Marilyn Monroe, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." They totally are. A diamond is dedicated. She will always make you look good. She will always make you feel like a princess. She won't ever steal your boyfriend, and she listens with patience, never saying a word. She never complains. You'll never argue with her (unless she snags your dress, but hey, no one is perfect). She is someone you can trust, rely on, and admire. But if you knew that she was the cause of a person's missing hand, child militia, separation of family, slavery and or death, would she still be your friend?

A blood diamond "is a diamond mined in a war zone and sold, usually clandestinely, in order to finance an insurgent or invading army's war efforts." Blood Diamond raises awareness toward the ongoing suffering of the African people in regard to diamond trafficking and rebel militia. African rebels torment and torture local African tribes, often taking children and turning them into soldiers or turning able bodies into slaves.

Solomon, a farmer, was captured and forced to mine for diamonds. In the process, he finds a very large, rare, pink diamond. Solomon manages to flee and is recruited by a diamond smuggler, Leonardo DiCaprio, who insists that he can help Solomon reunite with his family if Solomon shows him where the diamond is.

The film focuses on key themes: redemption, family, and greed. Blood Diamond brings humanity to an issue that many consumeristic Americans may not be conscious of. To paraphrase Jennifer Connelly's character "people in the States wouldn't buy diamonds if they knew it cost someone their hand." One of the beauties of film is that it can suck you into a reality that isn't your own. Hearing about it on the news is one thing, but living vicariously through the silver screen is something completely different. This movie sutured me in so fast that I was already yelling at the villagers (i.e. the TV) to run faster and hide just 10 min into the plot.

It's kind of stressful to watch, though not nearly as intense as Hotel Rawanda or Children of Men. I don't think this was necessarily a fantastic movie, but it's worth seeing. Moral of the story, be politically aware, don't be greedy, and purchase conflict-free diamonds.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:25 PM 0 comments