Suzanne and I saw Hidden Figures recently. It’s an excellent, well-crafted movie about the successes of three black women in the pre-integration South. The all-star cast includes Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst. Hidden Figures is based on the true stories of Katherine Goble, later Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), […]
Suzanne and I saw Hidden Figures recently. It’s an excellent, well-crafted movie about the successes of three black women in the pre-integration South. The all-star cast includes Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst.
Hidden Figures is based on the true stories of Katherine Goble, later Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), Mary Jackson (Monae), and Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer), who were instrumental in the early days of the space program. When we meet them, they are driving to work at NASA Langley in the Norfolk area, in 1961. Their car breaks down and a policeman comes by. Eventually, they manage to get the car fixed and be on their way.
The women are working in the “colored” computing section in the East building on the Langley campus. They aspire to bigger and better. Dorothy is the supervisor, but does not have a supervisor’s title or pay. Instead, that title belongs to Vivian Mitchell, a white woman (Dunst.)
We watch the three women as they move in their careers. Katherine is assigned to an all-white, all-male computing unit where she is supposed to be checking the other employees’ calculations. Instead, she figures out the launch angles needed to ensure John Glenn (well played by Glen Powell) gets in orbit and home again – especially when his mission has to be cut short. In a meeting, Glenn specifically requests her to check calculations. Mary goes to court to get permission to take engineering classes at an all-white school. Gloria borrows a FORTRAN book (“FORTRAN is the wave of the future”) from the “white” section of the library and reads it, then winds up working on programming the new IBM mainframe computer.
At one point, Katherine’s boss, Al (Costner), tells her that there is more to going to the Moon than simply mathematics. You have to believe it. Later, he asks her why she disappears a couple of times a day for 40 minutes at a time. Katherine explains that she has to run all the way across the campus back to the East building because that’s where the “colored” bathrooms are. Al takes down the “white” and “colored” sign and announces that “we all pee the same color.” At the sloe of the movie, after Katherine’s calculations bring Glenn safely home, Al asks her “Katherine, do you think we can get to the Moon?” She responds, “We’re already there, Sir.”
The real Katherine Johnson is still alive, 98 years old. Today, there is a Katherine G. Johnson Building at NASA Langley.
There are a number of metaphysical themes in this movie. Obviously, unity is a theme in the removal of the color distinctions for the bathrooms. (History records that the cafeteria remained segregated for a while.) Reaching for a dream is central to New Thought. As Oscar Hammerstein asked, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
All three women are doing that. Mary’s dream is to be an engineer. Gloria learns programming and becomes essential to the operations there, with several people working under her, including her former supervisor. And of course, Katherine’s exchange with Al at the very end of the movie shows the power of having a vision. “We’re already there.”
This is a well done movie that won several Golden Globe awards and is nominated for a number of Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s inspiring and well done. I think you’ll enjoy it. This is definitely a movie worth seeing.
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for? – Robert Browning
The best stories are not really about their characters, but about us.
Suzanne and I saw the opera L’Amour de Loin live from the Metropolitan Opera. It’s a relatively new opera for just three characters : Jaufré Rudel, Prince of Blaye; a Pilgrim; and the Countess of Tripoli, Clémence. They were brilliantly sung by Eric Owens, Tamara Mumford, and Susanna Phillips, respectively, along with the always-wonderful Metropolitan Opera Chorus.
The opera, composed in 2000 by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with a libretto by Lebanese librettist Amin Maalouf, is based on a centuries-old legend. It is set in Aquitaine in the 12th century.
Jaufré has been dreaming of a “faraway love” whom he has never met. He writes poems and songs to her. His friend The Pilgrim, a world traveler, hears his songs and poems.. The chorus tells him that no such woman exists, but The Pilgrim says that she just might. However, she remains a dream, an ideal. Although Jaufré can think of nothing else, he also believes he will never meet her.
The Pilgrim goes to Tripoli and tells Clémence that a prince-troubador sings of her, his “love from afar.” At first, Clémence is offended, but then she begins to dream of her “faraway lover.” The Pilgrim, returning to Aquitaine, tells Jaufré that his “love from afar” knows about him. Jaufré decides that he must meet her.
Jaufré and The Pilgrim set off on a journey across the sea to Tripoli to meet Clémence. Jaufré is both excited and terrified of this meeting. Although he is eager to meet Clémence, he is worried that he might be disappointed and the meeting could ruin his image of her. This conflict and anguish makes Jaufré quite ill, and by the time he arrives in Tripoli, he is dying.
When the ship arrives, The Pilgrim tells Clémence that Jaufré has arrived, but he is near death, and that he wishes to see her. Jaufré is carried in unconscious, but revives in Clémence’s presence. They declare their love for each other, then Jaufré dies in Clémence’s arms. This sends Clémence into a rage at Heaven, but she finally decides to go into a convent and prays to God, to her “faraway lover.”
This opera is about love. It is about romantic love and Divine Love. It is about passion that drives us to reach for the object of our desire, the thing we are passionate about, regardless of the consequences – even if we have to give our lives in the pursuit. It is about following our star, no matter how far it takes us. What is your star? What is your “love from afar” that won’t let you not pursue it? What is the thing you cannot not do? And are you willing to let it drive you, no matter the cost?
The story of Jaufré and Clémence reminds us to listen and follow this, that no matter the cost, the pursuit is always worth it. And sometimes, when you catch it, it really does live up to your vision of it. There is no better time than now.
She loves me,
True, she doesn’t show it
How could she,
When she doesn’t know it?
– Jerry Bock, She Loves Me
Earlier this year, the Roundabout Theater Company mounted a wonderful revival of the 1963 musical She Loves Me, with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. It is one of many adaptations of the play Parfumerie by Hungarian playwright Miklós László. The play also gave rise to the 1940 movie The Shop Around the Corner (starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan0), the 1949 movie musical In the Good Old Summertime (starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson), and the 1997 movie You’ve Got Mail (starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.) If you have seen any of those, you know the story.
Recently, Suzanne and I were fortunate enough to see a “captured live” performance of the Roundabout production, starring Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel, Byron Jennings, and Tom McGowan.
The show mostly takes place at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest in 1934. It centers around the clerks at Maraczek’s. A woman named Amalia Balasch comes in looking for a job, but the shop’s assistant manager, Georg Nowack tells her there are no openings, but Amalia proceeds to sell a music box that Mr. Maraczek bet could not be sold. She is hired.
As the months go by, Georg and Amalia work together, but develop a chilly animosity. Sipos, an older clerk, tells the young delivery boy that they bicker because they secretly like each other. Both are writing to unknown lovers through a Lonely Hearts Club.
Meanwhile, Ilona Ritter, a thirty-something clerk, has been having an affair with another clerk, the ladies’ man Stephen Kodaly. But Kodaly’s relationship with Ilona turns sour. Kodaly, it seems, has found a new lover.
On the very day that Georg tells Sipos that he will be meeting his “dear friend” that evening, Amalia tells Ilona that she will be meeting hers that night. Mr. Maraczek gets on Georg for some minor things, and he winds up quitting the job. (He winds up getting it back in light of some new information that is presented to Mr. Maraczek.)
You can probably guess what happens when Georg goes to meet his “Dear Friend”. Let’s just say that both of them are quite shocked when they eventually discover each other’s identity, and it changes each character’s day-to-day interactions.
So other than a delightful musical, what does She Loves Me give us? There is one simple point: Sometimes the good that we’re seeking is right in front of us and we can’t even see it. It may be disguised, or we may not be looking at it correctly. But in any case, we need to open our eyes, take a good look, and discard our preconceived notions about people and circumstances. You never know the good that may await.
She Loves Me is a wonderful little gem of a show, and if a production comes your way, it’s definitely worth seeing. You would likely enjoy it very much.
There is an old joke: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, man, practice.” Apparently, not if you’re Florence Foster Jenkins.
Oscar Hammerstein wrote,
You’ve got to have a dream.
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?
Florence Foster Jenkins, based on a true story, is the story of a woman with a dream, one that would seem ridiculous to most other people. She dreams of being a singer, even though she has a terrible voice. What she does have is determination.
Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep) was a piano prodigy from Pennsylvania who married, contracted syphilis, inherited the family fortune, and became a patron of the arts. She was a major patron of the classical music scene in New York for many years. But she wanted to be a performer, and she simply did not have a good sense of either pitch or rhythm. (Her insistence on adding operatic coloratura to her performance only adds to the effect.)
Nonetheless, her second husband, St. Clair Bayfield, a failed actor, would try to book concerts for her. She performed an annual recital at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, in the Grand Ballroom. In the movie, she is also seen performing occasionally at the Verdi Club, an arts club she helped found. But her dream is to perform at Carnegie Hall.
The movie takes place in 1944. With America at war, Florence is still in pursuit of that Carnegie Hall concert. Eventually, she and St. Clair book the place, partially by giving a thousand tickets away to members of the armed forces. Unfortunately, unlike her engagements at the Verdi Club or the Ritz-Carlton, tickets to her Carnegie Hall performance are available to the public. One ticket buyer is the New York Post critic Earl Wilson, who gives a devastating review in his column, “It Happened Last Night”. But Florence has had her performance at Carnegie Hall.
Although it’s played somewhat as comedy, Florence Foster Jenkins is the story of getting where you want to go by guts and a dream, even when nobody else believes in your dream and everyone says it can’t be done (and perhaps shouldn’t).
What dream are you deferring because people said you can’t do it or perhaps shouldn’t do it? What have you stepped back from trying because you “don’t have it”? Remember Florence and her concert at Carnegie Hall. If Florence Foster Jenkins can sing at Carnegie Hall, then what can you do that you’ve been dreaming about doing?
I think you’ll enjoy this movie, and watch for the power of determination and a dream.
The other day, Suzanne and I went to see Star Trek: Beyond. As long-time Trekkers (Suzanne especially), we were eager to see the latest in the Star Trek reboot series.
The movie has many typical Trek elements. As usual, the Enterprise gets in a major scrape. On a mission, the Enterprise gets drawn into uncharted territory. They pick up a distress signal. As it approaches the planet, the Enterprise is attacked by a large cluster of hostile ships. They are under the command of an alien named Krall, who has a deep-seated hatred of the Federation. Krall is after a bio-weapon called the Abronath. But Krall finds it has already been taken.
Krall captures Uhura and Sulu, along with the rest of the crew. After Krall threatens to kill Sulu, a crew member, Ensign Syl, gives up the weapon. Krall takes Uhura and Syl into a chamber where he unleashes the Abronath, causing Syl to disintegrate.
Scotty encounters an inhabitant of the planet named Jaylah, who inhabits an early-generation crashed Federation ship called the USS Franklin. Jaylah traps Kirk and Chekhov, but releases them when Scotty says they’re part of his crew. Scotty, meanwhile, fixes the transporter on the Franklin, enabling him to transport Spock and McCoy there.
Unfortunately, Uhura and most of the crew are at Krall’s headquarters, and Scotty says he can’t transport them from there. So they head to Krall’s headquarters. Kirk creates a diversion while the rest fight Krall’s men. Krall and his men head towards Yorktown, where he can activate the Abronath. The crew heads to Yorktown also, and a battle ensues.
Eventually, they find information leading to Krall’s true identity from decades ago. I won’t reveal it to avoid spoiling the plot, but suffice it to say that Krall has what he considers very good reasons to carry a long-standing anger at the Federation (you may agree), and he was not always the monster that he is when the Enterprise finds him.
It is that anger that turned him into the vicious monster. He has been stewing in this anger (perhaps legitimate) for decades and it has warped him. Kirk, of course, tries to save him from what he has become, but to no avail.
Needless to say, Kirk and the Enterprise crew save the day, but again, I don’t want to spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that Krall meets a very unhappy fate. The crew then helps Jaylah get into Star Fleet Academy.
What is the lesson of this movie, aside from never mess with James T. Kirk and the Enterprise? It’s a very stark reminder of the power of anger, of how it can warp us if we let ourselves stew in it rather than letting it go. Krall is transformed by his anger at the Federation into the monster we see for most of the movie. Had he just let go of his righteous indignation, he might have been able to make a better life on the planet, perhaps lifted himself and the inhabitants. Instead, he became the vicious Krall, who is a danger to everyone.
Being angry is occasionally justified and always destructive. But it’s best to let it pass through, or become a stimulus to constructive action. When you hold onto it, it is extremely harmful. Letting go can empower your life; holding on can bring out the worst you have. As Raymond Charles Barker tells us in a chapter title from The Science of Successful Living, “Resentment Is Ruin”. Let it go, and you can “live long and prosper.”
This is definitely a movie you will enjoy and it will teach, as well. It’s one to see.
One of our favorite movies is coming back to theatres. To celebrate this year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of author Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory will be shown in movie theatres on Sunday, June 26, at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, and again on Wednesday, June 29 at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM. It includes specially produced commentary by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. The showing is distributed by Fathom Events.
The movie is based on Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It concerns Charlie Bucket, a poor boy who lives with his parents and his bedridden grandparents. He hears about a promotion at the Willy Wonka chocolate factory: five Wonka bars in the world will include golden tickets, entitling the holder to a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.
Four tickets are found, and then a fifth one is reported to be found in Paraguay. Charlie is disappointed. But the fifth ticket turns out to be a forgery.
One day, Charlie finds some money on his way home from school. He buys a Wonka bar and another for his Grandpa Joe. One of them has a golden ticket! He and a family member are going to get to tour the Wonka chocolate factory! The golden ticket causes Grandpa Joe to rise from his bed and walk. He is going to accompany Charlie on the tour.
The song that he sings, “Golden Ticket” (part of a brilliant score by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse), is a wonderful prosperity song.
I never dreamed that I would climb over the moon in ecstasy
But nevertheless, it’s there that I’m shortly about to be
‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it’s a golden day
Grandpa Joe and Charlie join the other families on the tour. Each family has been approached by Wonka’s archrival, Mr. Slugworth, asking them to give him the secret of Wonka’s newest creation, the Everlasting Gobstopper.
During the tour, various children meet various unusual fates. Notably, watch the humorous but pointed exit of the spoiled Veruca Salt who sings the song “I Want It Now!” The lines, “Don’t care how/I want it now” sum up her attitude.
Two other songs are notable from a metaphysical point of view: the well-known “Candy Man” and the theme song of the movie, “Pure Imagination” (which has been covered by singers such as Jackie Evancho, the “Glee” cast, and others).
Early on in the movie, Bill, the candy store owner, sings “Candy Man” as kids are buying Wonka bars. He sings:
Who can take a sunrise, Sprinkle it with dew
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?
The candy man, The candy man can
The candy man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.
The song ends with this line:
And the world tastes good cause the candy man thinks it should.
“Pure Imagination” is the song Wonka sings as the tour of his chocolate factory is beginning. It is his introduction to the tour, inviting the children and their chaperones into his world. According to Wonka,
If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Wanna change the world?
There’s nothing to it
There is no life I know
To compare with Pure Imagination
Living there, You’ll be free
If you truly wish to be
What is the takeaway from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, other than a very good time?
First, the power of pure imagination. Wonka’s world is filled with miraculous things like a chocolate river. Miracles are all around. Do we notice? Imagination can help us see the miraculous and bring it forth. It is the thing that truly brings us freedom. But we have to let it flow. It takes what Walt Disney used to call “Imagineering”. Perhaps it can even cause the bedridden to “take up his bed and walk.” Do we believe it?
Second, we see the power of putting energy into what we want. Charlie is determined to get a golden ticket and he gets one, simply (it seems) on the power of knowing that he will. This is what we do in spiritual mind treatment. We state our desired effect or state of being with energy and allow God to work as and through us to achieve what we focus on. We see what happens when we insist on having it right away. God works in God’s time, and that isn’t always the time frame that we have in mind. But if we know that it is done, if we let God do it, what is ours comes to us. If not, well, hopefully we don’t end up like Veruca Salt.
Finally, Willy Wonka reminds us, as Fathom’s promotional page says, of “the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart.”
This is a must-see movie. It’s a lot of fun, and it will open your heart and inspire you to see the miracles and prosperity all around you – a very worthy way to enjoy a couple of hours. And you’ll likely head home singing.
Suzanne and I went to see the movie “Miracles from Heaven”. We were a little dubious, suspecting that it might be a bit preachy. It was not. Instead, it’s a movie that will restore your faith and deepen it – literally. The movie is an inspiring story of faith, mindfulness, and miracles.
The movie is adapted from the book by Christy Beam, and she is a major character (beautifully played by Jennifer Garner). Many of you have undoubtedly heard the story, so I won’t worry too much about spoilers. It concerns Christy Beam’s daughter Annabelle (Anna), who is struck by a rare degenerative disease that brings her constant pain. There is no cure.
At first, several doctors misdiagnose the condition. Finally, at Christy’s insistence, the doctors take another look and find the rare, incurable condition. The Beams live in Texas, but the best doctor for the condition is in Boston. So every six weeks, Christy and Anna fly to Boston to see the doctor. But there isn’t a lot that helps. The doctor does all he can, and he is caring and funny.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Christy’s husband Kevin is caring for their other two girls and trying to figure out how to keep the house running financially, since he had taken all the equity in the house to start his veterinary business.
While in Boston, Christy and Anna meet a waitress named Angela who shows them around. They re-connect with Angela every time they come back to Boston. She becomes their friend and is very supportive.
Anna shares a room in the hospital with another little girl (whose name, we find out later, is Haley). Haley is dying of cancer. Anna gives Haley her cross medallion. Amidst all this, Christy is losing her faith.
Anna’s sisters try to cheer her up and make her life better any way they can. One day while climbing a hollow tree on their property, Anna falls in – the equivalent of a three-story fall. It takes three hours to pull her out. She’s rushed to the hospital and treated. It turns out that she’s bloodied and bruised, but otherwise unharmed – and her incurable condition is gone! Her doctor in Boston calls it “spontaneous remission” (the medical term for what they can’t otherwise explain).
Anna explains that while in the tree, she came out of her body and spoke with God, and she was told she would be healed. Needless to say, Anna becomes a big news story. Her mother makes a speech in church about having faith and seeing the miracles all around you. She even quotes Albert Einstein’s famous statement that you can live as if everything is a miracle or you can live as if nothing is a miracle.
The story of Anna Beam will make you cry, make you smile, and inspire you. There are many important things that we can draw from it.
First, always have faith. Jesus told us that faith “the size of a mustard seed” can move mountains. It certainly did for this little girl. The simple, quiet faith that all is well is self-fulfilling. It is an attitude that can eliminate the incurable, that can change any condition. We know that the use of the Law of Mind, in faith, can change conditions. Anna Beam serves as a reminder of that.
Second, be aware of the good around you. Angela, the waitress, is a miracle to the Beams. So many others who, as Christy Beam says, “barely touch our lives” are miracles waiting to happen.
And that brings us to the third point. A Course in Miracles says it well: “miracles are natural. If they are not occurring, something has gone wrong.” What are the miracles occurring in your life today? What miracles occurred in your life recently? Be aware of them and be thankful that miracles really are all around us. If you don’t believe it, ask Anna and Christy Beam.
This is a terrific movie that will touch your heart. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen lately. Go see it and be inspired.
In the late 1990s, there was an article about George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, in the New York Times Magazine. In the accompanying photo, he is shown in front of a bookcase, alongside one of his children. His son is dressed as a Jedi warrior. There is only one title that can be clearly read in the bookcase: The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes. So it’s no wonder that in the new Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we are told that “The Force is in and around all living beings.”
Suzanne and I recently went to see this movie. I should tell you that it’s a bit on the long side, but it is gripping, so you really don’t notice.
Without revealing too much plot, I’d like to discuss a couple of points I saw in the movie. The basic premise is that thirty years after the destruction of the last Death Star and the collapse of the Galactic Empire, the ashes of the Empire have given rise to an even more dangerous group known as the First Order. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, one of the last remaining Jedi, has disappeared after a failure in training one of his classes of Jedi students. General Leia Organa (the Princess of the destroyed planet Alderaan) sends her best pilot, Poe Dameron, to find Luke.
As Poe tries to carry out this mission, he encounters an escaped First Order storm trooper, FN-2187, whom he calls Finn. Dameron’s droid, BB-8, has part of the map to where Luke is. When Finn and Poe crash, with Finn the only apparent survivor, BB-8 attaches himself to a scavenger on the planet Jakku named Rey. Neither Finn nor Rey really wants to get involved in the Resistance. Finn just wants to escape the First Order and Rey just wants to go back to scavenging on Jakku.
Eventually, the First Order comes after Rey and BB-8, who escape in an old, poorly maintained ship called the Millennium Falcon. It gets swallowed up by another ship, piloted by Han Solo and Chewbaca. The four of them set out to find Luke.
There is a tribute to the original Star Wars bar scene, when Han decides to visit an old friend, saloon keeper Maz Kanata, who has a light saber in a box that calls to Rey. It is the light saber belonging to the legendary Jedi master Luke Skywalker. Of course, Rey runs, but eventually, she cannot get away from the power.
When she is captured by the First Order, lead storm trooper Kylo Ren (in the black Darth Vader suit) attempts to force the information on Luke’s whereabouts out of her. He reports to the Supreme Leader that “she is strong in The Force – untrained but stronger than she knows.” (Wait until you find out Kylo Ren’s identity – it’s as surprising a Darth Vader’s was.)
Eventually, Finn and Rey, along with Poe Dameron, Han Solo, and Chewie, find themselves in the middle of things as they search for Han’s good friend and brother in law. The First Order keeps attempting to capture or kill them.
R2D2, who has been inactive since Luke disappeared, connects with BB-8 and discovers that he carries valuable information, which is greatly helpful to the Resistance forces (the Republic) in their efforts to find Luke.
It seems that Poe, Finn, Rey, and R2D2 are all called to step up when their moment demands it. Rey is called by the lightsaber; R2D2 is called by the awareness that his service and information are of value. BB-8, Finn, and even Han all have their moments when they must step it up.
What does this teach us? Well, for one thing, each of the characters comes to a crossroads and learns to step into his or her greatness. Each is called at some point and even if they try to run, they cannot get away from their mission. Similarly, we are called to fulfill our work in life and step into our greatness.
We must do what we are called to do, whether it’s writing, music, ministry, parenthood, or anything else. If we do not, it keeps following us. We can’t get away from it. As I like to say, your calling will keep calling until you answer. Commit to being who you are called to be and you just might lift up the world. You will be the channel for Right Action, and the world needs what you have to give. We don’t all have to save the world from evil empires, but we all have something important to do.
When you work with The Force (or whatever else you choose to call the Allness, the One), you can achieve greatness and though your path may contain numerous hazards and obstacles, focusing on what we must do smooths the way. And of course, it is much easier when we remember that It is “in and around all living things.” Including you and me.
You will likely enjoy this movie very much, and keep an eye out for the metaphysical metaphors that abound in the movie.
It’s that time again. On Thursday, December 3, NBC will be presenting The Wiz Live (8 PM Eastern). The Wiz is a product of that period in the 1970s when Broadway was producing “all-black” versions of everything. It is an urban, African-American version of The Wizard of Oz. The show gave us the popular song “Ease On Down the Road”.
In a nice casting touch, Stephanie Mills, who originated the role of Dorothy in the 1975 Broadway cast, will be playing Auntie Em. The production will also feature Queen Latifah as the first female Wiz.
By now, the plot should be familiar to most readers. When we first encounter Dorothy, she’s wishing to get out of Kansas and see distant places. Auntie Em is telling her that she has everything she needs right where she is. Then a tornado blows through and suddenly Dorothy and her dog Toto find themselves not in Kansas. The house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her power.
Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, shows up. Dorothy just wants to get home, and Addaperle suggests that her best bet is to go see the Wizard. She gives Dorothy the Witch of the East’s shoes and tells her not to take them off because they carry a powerful magic.
As she sets off down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City of Oz, she encounters a Scarecrow who is looking for a brain, a Tin Man who is looking for a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who is looking for courage. Eventually, they make their way to the gates of the Emerald City. They are admitted to see the Wiz because Dorothy is wearing the shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wizard agrees to give them the things they are looking for if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West (named Evilene in this version).
As they approach Evilene’s realm, she sends her Winged Monkeys to kill them. They destroy Scarecrow and Tin Man and they bring Dorothy and the Lion to the castle, where they and Toto are forced to do menial work and Evilene tortures Toto and the Lion in front of Dorothy. Finally, Dorothy throws water at the Wicked Witch and she melts. This frees the Winged Monkeys from the witch’s spell and they restore Scarecrow and Tin Man to their prior states.
They return to the Emerald City, where the Wizard reneges on the promise made. The screen that hides the Wiz is overturned and the Wizard is exposed. The Wiz confesses that he (in this production, she) is just a balloonist from Kansas who drifted to Oz by accident and they made him Wizard. The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and the Lion are given symbols of what they are seeking.
The Wiz takes off for Kansas, but Dorothy misses the balloon. Addaperle appears, suggesting that Dorothy ask Glinda, The good Witch of the South, for help getting home. They are transported to Glinda’s palace. Glinda tells Dorothy that the shoes have always had the power to take her home, but that she had to believe it for it to work. “The magic is in you.” Dorothy bids farewell to her companions, clicks her heels three times, and returns home.
What do we learn from this? Well, for one thing, what you ask for, you get. Dorothy wants to see distant places, and she gets to see Oz. Then she wants to go home, and she winds up back at home in Kansas.
The Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion receive symbols that remind them that they had the things they were looking for all along, but didn’t recognize them. They had to be shown that they possessed these qualities. But during their adventure, Scarecrow demonstrates his brains, Tin Man demonstrates his heart, and the Lion demonstrates his courage. All you need and all you’re seeking is already there, waiting to be recognized.
And finally, there is the magic of the shoes. To activate the magic in you, you must believe. But as Dorothy learns, the magic is in you. Will you recognize it? What will you do with that magic? In Dorothy’s case, it takes her home – both physically and in the metaphysical sense of being where you belong, where Divine Order is playing out in your life. And Dorothy recognizes the blessing of home.
And there is no place like home. In every sense of the word.
Suzanne and I went to see The Peanuts Movie. (Yes, we like kids’ movies. They often contain metaphysics. I have long said that one of my very favorite metaphysical movies is the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.) I love Peanuts, so this movie appealed to me.
The Peanuts Movie centers around Charlie Brown’s pursuit of The Little Red-Haired Girl, with a delightful subplot regarding Snoopy’s latest novel, in which he, as The World War One Flying Ace, is chasing a female canine flying ace named Fifi. Fifi gets shot down by the Red Baron and Snoopy, of course, has to rescue her. There are many funny Peanuts complications to that and he just misses several times before he manages to bring Fifi back to safety on his doghouse Sopwith Camel, to the cheers of his crew (Woodstock and his bird friends).
Meanwhile, we have Charlie Brown’s situation. The movie opens in the winter with all the kids playing hockey, except Charlie Brown, who, on a snow day, is still trying to get that kite in the air. If you know Peanuts, you know how that goes. Lucy is showing off her figure skating.
All of this is interrupted by a moving van. The name of the moving company is a bit of an inside joke. (See if you pick up on it.) It turns out that a new family is moving in across the street from Charlie Brown. Their daughter, of course, is The Little Red-Haired Girl.
Charlie Brown tries many things to impress her. He tries to learn to dance and has some impressive moves before disaster strikes. He draws her as a book report partner, finds out that she’s away for the weekend, seeks out “the best novel”, and winds up with War and Peace. Somehow, he manages to read it in a weekend and writes a report. The first draft is typically plain: “This report is about War and Peace. First there was war. Then there was peace.” When that report gets destroyed and Charlie Brown has to start all over again, he writes what Linus calls “the finest piece of literary analysis I have ever read.” Of course, it gets hilariously destroyed, leaving Charlie Brown in desperation.
A few more embarrassing complications ensue in his pursuit of The Little Red-Haired Girl. Finally, we arrive at the last day of school. Everyone is to select a pen pal for the summer. They draw names and when Charlie Brown’s name is drawn, nobody wants to be his pen palt. Finally, one student speaks up: “I’ll do it.” It’s The Little Red-Haired Girl. So Charlie Brown works up the courage to go over and speak to her (and return her chewed-up pencil), only to find that she’s heading to summer camp. (Doesn’t it figure?)
He finds her at the bus and asks her why she chose him, the clumsy, incompetent, inept blockhead. She says she doesn’t see him that way, citing the dance, the book report, and a few other things. He hands her her pencil, which she has been looking all over for, and she gets on the bus, promising to write him.
What do we learn? Well, persistence pays. Charlie Brown is so focused and persistent in his pursuit of The Little Red-Haired Girl that he does things he wouldn’t ordinarily have tried to do. As a result, who he really is comes shining through. Also, Snoopy’s dedication in his pursuit of Fifi ultimately wins the day.
And we learn to look at ourselves through new eyes and see the best. All the kids view Charlie Brown as a loser and a blockhead, but The Little Red Haired Girl sees him differently, and her view encourages Charlie Brown to see himself differently.
And of course, through both Fifi and The Little Red-Haired Girl, we see the power of love. Love is a great driver to make us reach higher and farther.
Oh – and stick around for the closing credits, not just to see how very many people it took, but for Meghan Trainor’s song that runs under the credits, “Good to Be Alive”. The lyrics are quite upbeat and positive, very much in tune with our philosophy. (You can read them at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/meghantrainor/goodtobealive.html)
All in all, this is a delightful day at the movies with a sweet, humorous, metaphysical tinge. I highly recommend that you get some good popcorn and reacquaint yourself with the Peanuts gang.