Birdman: The Voices In Us All

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Birdman might win Best Picture Oscar this year. No really it could. The constantly moving camera, the Keaton performance, the excellent cast surrounding him, the great direction, the nods to the actors struggle, it is certainly a powerful contender.

Based around the failing career or Keaton’s Riga’s we follow his journey to have one final attempt at stardom via  writing, producing, directing and starring in his self funded Broadway play. Riggans is a man with a past, a faded career following his success as the superhero Birdman. This is clearly the only thing of note he ever did and is now recognisable for.

Riggans is haunted by his former success and as the film develops we hear a gravelly voiced narrator chipping away at his confidence reminding him of past glories and how they used to be the only show in town. The character of Birdman haunts him but more than this he is haunted by the voice of who he used to be.

We all hear those voices.

The voices that remind of past mistakes.

The voices that tell us no one will read this blog so why waste the time?

The voice that says you could do better.

The voice that questions your ability as a parent, husband, wife, friend.

So many of us listen to that voice and believe its every word.

There is however another voice.

The voice that tells us we are loved.

The voice that tells us we are accepted even with our faults.

That pushes us forward.

The voice that calls us on.

The voice that encourages us to be better.

The voice that called the light into being.

The voice that screamed it is finished.

The voices are always there. The choice is which one we listen to.

Selma, Russell Brand and Me

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‘I’m not doing it any more’ I said in disgust. ‘I’m not wasting my time voting when there is no one worth voting for!’ another comment I have made recently.

The reason for these and other statements over the last few weeks was that I was tired and disgusted at the state of Northern Ireland politics. The constant bickering, the sniping from the long grass at political opponents . The disrespect for other cultures in our country. Conscience clauses. They had worn me down.

Russell Brand and his mantra of don’t vote it is a pointless waste of your time, we the people can make the change around us and ignore the powers that be and live in some form of harmony outside of their control was starting to take hold and make sense.

I felt it was possible to love my neighbour, as I am commanded to do,  without the input from politicians who seem to have lost all regard for the common good. I don’t need them, they don’t serve us as they should so why waste my energy and vote for them was my logic.

Then I watched Selma.

As the film progressed I became more and more uncomfortable in my seat. Not only simply due to the depiction of the events  but more so the reason for the events in Selma.

Martin Luther King went to Selma to get something for his people that they were being denied. The right to vote. It was their entitlement made inaccessible because of the actions and prejudice of others.I have never been denied that opportunity. From the age of 18 I have faithfully and prayerfully gone to the polling station to do what I considered my duty as a citizen. My recent wobbles aside I believed that my vote was the one that could make a difference.

Selma reawakened that belief in me.

As I watched there was the uncomfortable realisation that not everyone here may have the right to vote. The many immigrant families, for example, who may never register or be eligible to register. Who speaks for them? Who knocks their door? Not everyone here has their voice heard.

The cry of the common good is that EVERYONE is taken into consideration, NONE are denied.

I HAVE to vote again. I have to try again to find that person I believe can do the best job for ALL communities, ALL people who live here.

To those that have already given up (which is  a substantial percentage in NI) I fully understand how you feel. The thing is this is bigger than us. Bigger than our own personal issues and gripes with the system. It may never work out the way we hope.

However if we don’t use the rights afforded to us it may turn out a lot worse.

Whiplash: Are you rushing or are you dragging?

 

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‘Are you rushing or are you dragging?’ a question screamed by J K Simmons in the face of his drum pupil/protégé repeatedly in Whiplash.

When a line of  dialogue becomes so quotable you have to wonder why. What has made that line stick? What in that particular line has struck a chord with the audience?

This line is used to keep Miles Teller in check to question the validity of his presence in Simmons band, to test his understanding of what he is a part of.

My question then is simple ‘Are you rushing or are you dragging?’ Life can become so busy that we can very easily fill our time day to day with multiple forms of business and entertainment, rushing from place to place to meet different friends that by the end of the day we find ourselves exhausted. By rushing through our days though are we actually doing any good? Those friends/meetings that we flit between do they really get the best of us? Do they get our full attention? Be honest even when we are with others we check our phones for the next appointment, next ‘funny’ tweet or status.

So the question is are we rushing?

The flip side of this though is are we dragging?

Are we dragging our heels, putting off the important things to do the minor task. Are we trudging through meetings / coffee dates when the reality is we would rather be elsewhere because equally these things and these people are not getting the best of us either.

Where do your passions lie?

Where is your time best invested?

Who is your time truly invested in?

At the core of Whiplash is the pursuit and the achievement of brilliance and the fight (literal at times) to achieve this.

Wouldn’t the greater achievement be to do the things we WANT to do WELL?

Who does it benefit to rush or drag yourself through things?

Surely it is better for those around us to experience the best of us rather than a watered down, mediocre, shadow of who we could be?

So I ask again.

Are you rushing or are you dragging?

Paddington: More gospel than marmalade sandwiches

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They will not have forgotten how to treat strangers.

Paddington is a special film. Yes it is a quintessentially British film, yes it is for kids (and adults) and yes it reeks of nostalgia for those of us who remember the stop animation TV tales or the stories themselves. Paddington is much more than that.

Paddington has heart, Paddington has soul and whether it is conscious of it or not Paddington has gospel intent.

The key to Paddington is the quote from Paddington’s Aunt  Lucy ‘they will not have forgotten how to treat strangers’. Paddington comes to London with an expectation of how he will be treated. Initially he struggles to come to terms with how he is ignored and rejected on his arrival and downcast takes up residence in Paddington station deflated and with little more than an emergency sandwich to sustain him.

It is at this point that he is spotted by the Browns or more specifically Mrs Brown who takes him in, gives him a bed, feeds and clothes him and offers him help on his journey.

I had a deep reaction to this part of the film as I watched I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Matthew 25 where Jesus gives us clear instruction on how the stranger is to be treated.

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me;

My second (and stronger) reaction was the realisation of how poor I am at carrying this out. My reaction to the stranger is more akin to that of Mr Brown who advises his children not to make eye contact and walk on. How many strangers do I ignore? How many of those in need do I walk past? Paddington is a highly enjoyable cinema experience but more than that it had the power to convict me of my failings.

At a time where sections of the media and politicians pour untold negativity on immigration and those who come to our shores in need of a new start longing for a better chance for their families it may be that  Aunt Lucy is wrong in her understanding of London. We may have forgotten how to treat the stranger not only in London but wherever you read this.

Thankfully Paddington is a great reminder.