Monday, March 30, 2015

The Greatest Acts of Defiance and Heroism

Tonight's marathon centers around the theme of the greatest acts of defiance and heroism. By that it means acts of heroism which was spontaneous and in the moment while standing up against the ultimate forces of evil. What makes this theme more unique is that all the stories are true ranging from the 1972 Black September Olympics incident to WWll showing Jewish brothers taking up arms and leading thousands of people into the forests to hide from the Nazi's, and finally showing the heroic acts of 40 passengers on Flight 93, the fourth plane hijacked on September 11th and the only one that didn't reach it's target. It was a heroic act of self sacrifice and a defining moment for those who perished on that fateful day. We have on our humble yet extroadinary lineup for this evening:

                                 Munich 2005, Defiance 2008, and United 93.

These three films are just prime examples of the acts of defiance and heroism that can happen in everyday life. The point of putting these movies together is to basically sell the idea and the belief that true heroes do exist. They don't need to wear capes or fancy outfits but heroes can rise from the darkest moments in history and defy the odds. Who knows how many lives those onboard United 93 saved by detouring it's target which very well could've been the Capital or the White House. The actos of two Jewish brothers who saved thousands of lives during the Holocaust was extroadinary given the magnitude of the situation, and became a real life Red Dawn scenario. This story is also landmark for the lineup because it shows a side of the Holocaust that many people don't know about which is that Jewish people did indeed fight back. We begin the evening with Steven Spielbergs 5 time Oscar nominated film Munich. Nominated for 5 academy awards including Best Picture, the film focuses on the true story of the Black September aftermath where five men choose to exact revenge on the ones responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics. The theme of defiance begins here where five men put their lives on the line to serve justice for the massacre. The second film in the lineup takes us back through time to World War ll in Edward Zwick's powerful Holocausrt drama titled Defiance. From the director of Glory, Legends of the Fall, The Siege, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond, Defiance now centers around two Jewish brothers played by Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber in a Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe who escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join forces with Russian resistance fighters. They plan led to them building a village in order to protect themselves and over a thousand Jewish civilians from the death camps. Drawing many parallels between real life and the story of Moses leading his people from bondage, the two brothers single handedly lead the Jewish community to salvation. The story behind Defiance is one of the greatest underrated stories of heroism and defience in World War ll. The final film of the evening brings it all together with the setting taking place on one of the darkest days in American History. In this hour, not only did it become one of the most horrifying events our nation ever experienced but it also became one of our defining moments. Paul Greengrass United 93 received unanimous acclaim from critics and audiences upon it's release for his remarkable depiction of the hijacking of Flight 93, and how 40 passengers sat down as complete strangers and stood up as one in the ultimate act of defiance. Even though the outcome is incredibly heartbreaking and boasts one of the most powerful endings in film history, it drives home the themes that all three films have been building up to that point.

So what are the messages behind these three films. Munich says that one violent act begets another. Defience says that with hope people can survive the most extreme circumstances. United 93 says that no one is safe from terrorism and that true heroes INDEED exist.

Our heroes for this evening:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When A Father Loves His Daughter

Tonight's marathon is about saving the world through the power of love. This love is between a father and his daughter. Three different films that pertain to saving the world are presented here along with subplots involving a father and daughter having a rough time relationship wise and their efforts to work through their issues while fighting for humanities existence. All three are popcorn blockbusters that not only come with tons of action and special effects, but carries with them an emotional punch. This evenings lineup showcases some of the wildest and most amazing space adventures in cinema. We have on our menu for this evening:

                        Deep Impact 1998, Armageddon 1998, and Interstellar 2014


With a lineup like this, an all star cast is guaranteed. Deep Impact utilizes the talents of Morgan Freeman, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Leelee Sobieski, and Robert Duvall. This one opens up the evening introducing the theme of disaster and the need to fight for survival. With disaster movies comes multiple subplots of all different kinds of individuals to give the audience a sense of what's at stake. Deep Impact centers around a comet heading directly for Earth with a space mission becoming necessary to destroy the comet with nuclear weapons. Unless the comet can be destroyed before colliding with Earth, only those who are allowed into the shelters will survive after winning in a national lottery. The question that the movie begs the audience to answer is out of all the characters introduced in the film, which of them will survive the impact. The film also begins the theme of a father and daughter having conflict but slowly come around to sharing a relationship again in the face of danger. The character of Jenny Lerner played by Tea Leoni experiences conflict with her estranged father but has to put aside their differences in order to face reality head on. It is a minimal subplot in this film but it engineers a pivotal subplot that gets progressively bigger in the later films. Deep Impact was the first disaster film released in 1998 that dealt with a Comet heading for Earth, and paying tribute to the great disaster films of the 1970's such as Earthquake and Poseidon Adventure. While the film was a box office success despite mixed reviews, it got completely overshadowed by the release of Michael Bay's much bigger in scope disaster film titled Armageddon during the 4th of July weekend in 1998.Nominated for a total of 4 academy awards including best visual effects and starring Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thorton, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Keith David, and Michael Clarke Duncan, this disaster tale focuses on an asteroid the size of Texas heading for Earth with only one option available to stop it. That option is to land a group of Astronauts/oil drillers on the surface of the asteroid and drill a hole deep enough to plant a Nuclear weapon inside the core of it and blow the asteroid to Kingdom Come. With Armageddon, everything is faster, bigger, exciting, and more dramatic. Michael Bay's technique for fast cuts, commercial shots, and relentless action is introduced here along with a strong father and daughter subplot between Bruce Willis Character Harry Stamper and his daughter Grace. Harry Stamper is a regular blue collar everyday man who gets summoned by NASA in a request to save the world. He takes the offer knowing what he's leaving behind to save humanity. Harry's daughter Grace has a rebellious nature and is secretly seeing one of Harry's associates behind his back named AJ played by Ben Affleck. Harry has to learn to cope with the realization that Earth is on the verge of extinction, and his daughter is going to defy his wishes and continue to see AJ. It is a sentimental father and daughter relationship which only get's bigger with Christopher Nolan's Interstellar. Featuring the talents of Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Troper Grace, David Oyelowo, and Matt Damon, the final film of the evening centers around a team of explorers traveling through a wormhole in the greatest space mission in NASA's history in order to find another inhabitable planet to ensure humanity's survival. Interstellar brings it all home in the drama department concerning a father having to leave everything behind on Earth to go on the ultimate space mission to save the human race, with his daughter holding a grudge for doing so. All the themes introduced in the first two films such as disaster, everyone coming together, the fight for survival, and a father and daughter reconciling their differences is presented in this film and brings it all to a stunning emotional close. Interstellar received a total of 5 academy award nominations with a win for best visual effects.

So what are these films ultimately trying to say? Deep Impact says that life on Earth can end suddenly as well as permanently and reconciling differences is very important because there may not be another opportunity to do so. Armageddon says that it only takes one person to save a planet but also that the love between a father and his daughter can overcome any obstacle. Interstellar's message ultimately says that love always will find a way to preserve human life.

Our fathers and daughters for this evening:

And the rest of our heroes:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Embracing Your Own Destiny

Tonight's marathon centers around historical times and focuses on three pivotal historical figures who not only embraced their own destiny head on, but altered the course of history for better or worse. All three of these people are now viewed as saints for their incredibly heroic stances, and powerful messages that defied the
nations and corruption that surrounded them at the time of each person's existence. These three individuals are Joan Of Arc, William Wallace, and Jesus Christ. We have on our powerful menu for this evening:

The Messenger: The Story of Joan Of Arc 1998, Braveheart 1995, and The Passion Of The Christ 2004

One word to describe this lineup of movies for the theme of embracing your own destiny is quite simply that it's powerful. Here we have three historical figures that appear larger than life and are driven by passion to get their messages across. Joan of Arcs mission was to unite the people of France and rise up against the English. William Wallace was about preaching to the Scottish that no one can stand between them and freedom, and that freedom always comes first and is worth fighting for. The message that Jesus of Nazareth left behind as seen in Passion is that you should love your enemies, no matter how badly they mistreat you, and there is no greater love than someone who lays down their life for another. The evening begins with Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc starring Milla Jovovich, Dustin Hoffman, and John Malkovich. The story centers around a young 19 year old girl who receives a vision that drives her to unite the army of France against the English. The English serves as the antagonists for the majority of the marathon with them being the oppressors in The Messenger and Braveheart. Directed by Mel Gibson and winner of 5 academy awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, the story focuses on Mel Gibson's character William Wallace whose secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her. Upon realizing that she's been executed by the English, he sets out on a revolt and leads Scottish warriors against the cruel English tyrant that rules Scotland with an iron fist. The film carries a strong supporting cast among the likes of Sophie Marceau, Brian Cox, and Patrick McGoohan. What The Messenger and Braveheart have in common is their epic scope and theme. Both movies have a grand feel to them and are beautifully shot in terms of cinematography, art-set decoration and costume design. The antagonists are the same but the heroes differ in gender and motives. Whereas Joan of Arc is about rising the nation of France against the English, she ultimately is executed for being accused of witchcraft by the English. William Wallace suffers a similar fate by the English but not before delivering the powerful message of fighting for your freedom, and that being more important than anything else. The third and final movie of the evening is the most visually stunning yet brutal film of the night. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ centers around the final 12 hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, covering his arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, and ultimately his resurrection. Gibson emphasizes the brutality of Jesus death to drive home the message that he had for humanity when he was alive which was to love one another regardless of issues. Gibson gives brief moments into his life prior making us understand what his mission on Earth was, but places firm emphasis on the ultimate sacrifice he made for humanity. Nominated for three academy awards, Passion of the Christ remains one of the most controversial films of all time, and one of the biggest blockbusters and R rated films in history. Passion alone created the modern christian genre that runs rampant today and sparked interest in terms of christianity for many people. The film remains one of the cinemas greatest movie theater experiences as well as one of the most moving.

So what do the films ultimately say as a whole? The Messenger: The Story of Joan Of Arc says that following your destiny can be dangerous. Braveheart says that nothing is more important than freedom. The Passion Of The Christ ultimately says that no matter how badly people mistreat you, you should always forgive them and love them regardless.

Our heroes for this evening:

Friday, March 20, 2015

What Does It Mean To Want To Be Human

Tonight's marathon centers around a simple question. That question is what does it mean to be human? Tonight's marathon is an attempt to provide an answer for that question while also presenting a straight forward theme for the evening. Here lies several different story arcs of outsiders who want to fit in with the rest of humanity. As human beings, everyone asks questions about themselves asking such ones as what their ultimate purpose is on Earth, and will they be accepted by any form of group. Through the filmmaking talents of Ridley Scott, Andrew Niccol, Michael Bay, and Luc Besson, they give us insight into these questions and present a gripping yet exciting struggle for acceptance when all the films are put together. For this evening, we have on our menu:

             Blade Runner 1982, Gattaca 1997, The Island 2005, and The Fifth Element 1997

Here lies an exciting and thought provoking lineup of movies that make the story of wanting acceptance a universal theme while placing the time period in the future. This run of films has action, drama, thrills, romance, comedy all rolled into one with the combination of great visual scenery and ideas about the future world. We begin the evening with Ridley Scott's science fiction classic titled Blade Runner. Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah centers around a Blade Runner whose assigned to pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and returned to Earth in order to find their creator. Their ultimate crime is wanting to be human like everyone else, providing the emotional core of the story. Generally considered a box office disappointment upon it's release, the film has gone on to become a cult classic through international praise and the releasing of several different versions of this film. A central subplot in the film that connects with the later films in the marathon is the character of Deckard played by Ford falling in love with a replicant named Rachael played by Sean Young. Though Deckard is assigned to terminate all replicants, he becomes conflicted when he establishes an emotional connection with Rachael's character. Blade Runner is the perfect film to open up this marathon because it introduces all the essential themes such as alienation, discrimination, wanting acceptance, while providing the hunt for the non humans. The second film of the evening is Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law. Nominated for an academy award for best art-set decoration and critically acclaimed, Gattaca's story focuses on a genetically inferior man who assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel. Gattaca is a more gripping drama than Blade Runner, ditching the mysterious and crime ridden feel and focusing on the characters and their struggle to break out. The chase element of Blade Runner returns in Michael Bay's underappareciated science fiction blockbuster The Island. Much like Blade Runner upon it's release, The Island was considered a box office flop in the United States but did amazingly well overseas. Generally considered one of Bay's better films in a rather controversial filmmaking resume, The Island centers around two runaway clones played by Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannsen, who escaped from a facility that gives misleading promises that those chosen by a lottery will be taken to an island, when in reality they are being killed off and body parts harvested for their actual human counterparts. The Island is different from the typical Michael Bay film because this one has a concept that goes in line with Blade Runner and Gattaca in terms of searching for answers and finding one's true self. Strong supporting roles from Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, and Djimon Hounsou, and Michael Clarke Duncan make this one an exciting yet gripping experience about two outsiders who simply want to live. The fourth and final film of the evening brings it all together while taking the scope further out to greater heights in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman. Much like Blade Runner, The Fifth Element takes place in a visually striking future where a cab driver unwittingly becomes a central figure in the search for a legendary cosmic weapon to save humanity from a ball of fire heading for Earth. What draws this film back to Blade Runner in terms of having a strong connection and coming full circle is the relationship between Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich which mirrors the one between Harrison Ford and Sean Young, making both relationships human and non-human. Jovovich's character also begins her own personal journey towards becoming human over the course of 24 hours, and learning about what is worth saving against the forces of darkness.

So what are all these movies trying to say? Blade Runner says that enslaving the replicants and killing them off is wrong. Replicants are misjudged and they can form strong bonds with humans. Gattaca says that you're more than the sum of your genes. The Island says that any life is worth saving to exist, and anyone will do anything to survive. The Fifth Element says that the human race will survive because of love.

Our main characters for this evening:

Monday, March 16, 2015

Biblical Night Part lll: The Power Of Love and Forgiveness And Witnessing True Miracles

Tonight's marathon continues the epic push towards Easter with the third night in biblical tales. To give a brief recap from last week, we were left with several major story arcs in motion or concluded beautifully. We witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead with Jesus of Nazareth demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that he is the true savior of humanity or as the first marathon would put it: The Deliverer. Part ll of the epic miniseries of Jesus of Nazareth ended with him declaring that he would go to Jerusalem to fulfill the
prophecy of the son of God being handed over to his enemies who would sentence him to death, only to be resurrected three days later. We also saw the Roman general turned slave in Gladiator named Maximus fulfill his revenge in killing the emperor and avenging his families death with them waiting for him in heaven. Add to that the story of Ben Hur concluded with Ben Hur getting his vengeance on Massala for the wrongful imprisonment of him and his family, with the latter becoming healed from Leprosy through the power of Jesus crucifiction. The interweaving storylines of those films brought forth a beautiful conclusion to that story arc. Tonight centers around themes of guilt, regret, forgiveness, and love. We have on our menu for this evening:

                        Jesus of Nazareth 1977 Part lll, The Robe 1953, and The Green Mile 1999

Whether it's through the arrest, torture, and crucifying of Jesus, a Roman General who puts him to death but later is haunted by his actions and ultimately feels regret, or a prison guard leader who didn't believe in miracles until the day he met one with an inmate, and spending his twilight years reflecting on the wrongful execution he committed, these themes take control of the marathon for this evening. It is by far the most emotional of the three nights so far, and really hits home the impact of the sacrifices and loss felt by these characters. We begin the evening with part lll of Franco Zefferelli's epic miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. The third act shows Jesus arriving to Jerusalem and being welcomed by most of the public, yet deals with hostility and scrutiny from the high priests. Characters such as Judas played by Ian McShane, Barabbas played by Stacey Keach, Pontius Pilate played by Rod Steiger, and Peter played by James Farentino, have important key roles in this one representing conflicts such as confusion, guilt, regret, and being ashamed for their actions. Judas motives for betraying Jesus is more fleshed out in this version of the epic tale than any other depiction of the story. His own uncertainty of his master's credentials and wanting to do what's right for Jersualem brought upon his own great sin which is betraying his master. Barabbas is depicted as a freedom fighter type who wants revenge on the Romans for their horrific acts against civilians but disagrees with Jesus approach of befriending the Romans. Peter's loyalty to Jesus is tested when he is told that he will end up denying Jesus by the end of the night of their last supper and Peter struggling with that realization. Key events such as The disciples last supper, Jesus arrest, crucifixion, and ultimate resurrection are done so beautifully here giving the third part the emotional pull that it needs. If the first two were Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, then this part def feels like Return of the King for this epic miniseries. The second film in the lineup is the classic tale The Robe. Starring Richard Burton, the film centers around a Roman Tribune named Marcellas whose been assigned to carry out the execution of Christ. What begins as a regular execution that ends with him winning the Robe of Jesus in a game of dice in the middle of his crucifixion, he begins to become haunted by the person he executed through the power of the Robe and slowly transcends from Roman Soldier to ultimately a follower of Jesus. Nominated for 5 academy awards and winner of two, The Robe came from an era where Biblical films ran rampant throughout the 1950's and 1960's, plaguing the big screen with some truly powerful stories about sacrifice and redemption. The third film of the evening brings the theme of wrongful convictions to modern times with many biblical undertones to be found in Frank Darabont's epic drama titled The Green Mile. Nominated for four academy awards and often considered one of the greatest movies ever made, this story centers around an old prison guard who reflects on his earlier life as a prison guard on Death Row, and having to execute a prisoner with extroadinary powers that can be summed up as being miraculous. The prisoner, being black, and charged with rape and double murder slowly turns out to be a miracle worker performing several miracles while altering the lives of the guards and prisoners around him.  The parallels between the story of John Coffey and Jesus Christ are undeniable, and the loss of both makes the impact strong.

So what are all these movies trying to say. Jesus of Nazareth part lll is a tale about a man who loved the human race so much that he laid down his life for it ultimately, and that we should all be appreciative of it and believe in his miracles. The Robe says that all sins can be forgiven and people can change if they really want to and really believe in it. The Green Miles message is ultimately that sometimes love can kill us, but we can also save ourselves and others with love.

Our heroes and tragic figures for this evening:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be A Firefighter or Hero?

Tonight's marathon is all about glorifying what's best in the human spirit in terms of firefighting. What is about these people that gives them the courage to run into a burning building and save the life of another person? Where does that courage come from? What does being a firefighter ultimately mean for those individuals and their loved ones and friends? This marathon is an attempt to answer some of those questions while also presenting different scenarios that not only get more intense as they go but also  show a side of human nature that brings out the best of us when facing danger. As humans, we desire to be cared for and saved when danger erupts. We look towards another person to deliver us from such a horrific scenario. Tonight's marathon is about exploring the theme of firefighting and the responsibility that comes with it. The films on the menu for this evening are:

        Always 1989, Backdraft 1991, Volcano 1997, World Trade Center 2006, and Ladder 49 2004

If you're going to do a marathon on glorifying what's best in firefighting or responding to emergency situations, then you got to go universal with it and not hold back. It should not only be an exciting experience but a moving one. We begin the evening with the underrated Steven Spielberg classic Always. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, and John Goodman, the film is a romantic adventure and drama centering around a legendary pilot's passion for dare-devil firefighting and his true love. During one of his missions, he ends up getting killed and becomes a ghost in the same vein as Patrick Swayze, and is left with the task of watching over the woman he loves and passing his knowledge down. Audrey Hepburn gives a triumphant final performance as his guardian angel. Often overlooked on Spielberg's resume due to it being more grounded in reality and a more personal drama than his reign of 80's spectacle films surrounding it, Always provides a heartfelt and moving beginning to a marathon that's all about shedding light into the life of a firefighter or emergency response rescuer. The second film in the lineup is Ron Howard's 1991 action classic titled Backdraft. Nominated for a total of three academy awards and boasting an all star cast among the likes of Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert Deniro, J.T. Walsh, Scott Glenn, and Donald Sutherland, Backdraft centers around two Chicago firefighter brothers who don't get along but have to work together to find a dangerous arsonist whose on the loose. Backdraft is the landmark firefighting film that's become the standard for all firefighting films to follow, even if it's action reaches over the top heights at times. Whereas Always introduces the drama and the idea of what is lost when taking on a job of firefighting, Backdraft introduces the action and suspense. The third film in the lineup is the 1997 disaster film Volcano starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle. The plot of the film centers around a Volcano erupting in downtown L.Z threatening to destroy the city, forcing all police, firefighters, and emergency response teams to come together to defeat such a natural disaster. Volcano didn't receive the best reviews upon release and generally considered a box office flop, however it provides for this lineup a larger scope of the action, and shows everyone putting aside their differences and coming together to battle the Volcano. The film also shows several different vantage points of the event happening through multiple subplots focusing on different areas of people in Los Angeles, and how they are ultimately connected through this natural disaster. A leader is also introduced whose in charge of handling this situation and there is no one better than Tommy Lee Jones to provide that leadership. The fourth film in the lineup is the emotionally uplifting but often forgotten Oliver Stone drama titled World Trade Center. Released in 2006 about five years after the actual event in New York, the film starring Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, Jay Hernandez, Marie Bello, and Maggie Gyllenhaal focuses on two Port Authority Cops who become trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center when the towers collapse. Rather than focus on the issue of terrorism or the effects of the attack itself on 9/11, the film glorifies the great aspects of that day such as firefighters, police, and emergency rescuers all uniting in a common interest and coming together to save our heroes from being trapped under the towers. Much like Volcano, this one enhances the emotion behind such a dramatic event while also glorifying it's heroes. The final film of the lineup brings it all back to the theme of firefighting with Ladder 49. Starring Joaquin Pheonix and John Travolta, the film focuses on a firefighter whose trapped in a burning building with no way out, and begins to remember his life leading up to that point. World Trade Center and Ladder 49 share many parallels with each other with men trapped inside a building and the outside world fighting to get to them, but also showing the men reflecting on what they value most in life.

So what are these movies ultimately trying to say? Always says that the love inside cannot go away and that if someone dies or goes away, they will always be there in your heart to guide you. Backdraft says that a brothers rift is a petty one and should stand in the way of family. Another way to look at it is duty calls. Volcano says that if everyone can put aside their differences and work together to fight a natural disaster then nothing is impossible. World Trade Center says that the worst situations imaginable can ultimately become our defining moments, and that love can give the strength to survive the most unimaginable and extreme circumstances. Ladder 49's message is that it requires a special type of bravery and courage to be a firefighter.

Our Characters for this evening: