Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Movie Review: Ides of March

Every now and then, I find a movie that eludes the standard categories and predictable plot lines, a movie that sticks with me for months, if not years.

Ides of March was such a movie. The phenomenal acting, intense plot, and captivating lines combined to create a memorable story, brilliantly directed by George Clooney. Stephen Meyers (played by Ryan Gosling) is a young idealist working on a presidential primary campaign for the driven, intelligent Mike Morris (George Clooney). Conflict in the movie arises as the personal, political, and professional ambitions of the characters collide and the Ohio presidential primary draws near.

Although I won't give away the ending, I will warn any potential viewers that the movie was not light-hearted. The themes are heavy and the ending is dark. Some movies allow viewers to walk away with a bright vision of the world. Not so with Ides of March.

In a good story, the characters have choices. In Ides of March, the characters consistently make the wrong ones. Not once, not twice, but every time a character in this movie is faced with the choice between their welfare and the well-being of another, between ambition and compassion, between an easy lie and a hard truth, they take the wrong turn.

And the most terrifying part of this movie is that the bad choices, the wrong choices, even the inhumane choices, are never hard to make. It's easy to relate to the characters and sometimes it's even easy to justify their choices. And then when disaster strikes as the moral fall-out from their decisions ensues, viewers will feel awkwardly surprised because, like the characters, they didn't see the fall-out coming.

I walked away from Ides of March feeling uncomfortable, not because I was shocked by the behavior of the characters, but because I didn't feel shocked enough. In the world of Ides of March, betrayal was all too easy. Audiences will walk away uncomfortably uncertain that, faced with the same choices, we would behave any differently. And this discomfort is possibly the most redeeming feature of Clooney's movie.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Year Ago...

A few evenings ago, as some friends and I sat in my living room talking, each of us reflected on the changes that had occurred over the past 12 months in our individual lives. This was the second time in just a few days that the topic had arisen, so I made a list.

Here are just a few things that have changed in my life in a brief year. One year ago, I:
  • was planning (what I thought would be) my last semester of graduate classes.
  • was expecting to finish my M.A. in English in May 2011.
  • was spending a lot of time wondering what people with two English degrees did to produce income.
  • had no idea that I was about to agree to move 500 miles away for a job entirely unrelated to my degree.
  • was writing a lot of idiotic things in my journal.
  • was writing a lot of true things in my journal.
  • never dreamed I would agree to rappel off of a cliff.
  • had never made bread.
  • was a lot less brave.
  • had never eaten crab-cakes.
  • knew a lot less about grace.
  • had never lived without a mental deadline.
  • didn't know that I could successfully navigate a busy weekend without electricity.
So here's to another year filled with good books, coffee, friends, unplanned adventures, grace, and lots of good stories! What surprising changes has the past year held for you?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Friday Linkage

Enjoy these links while you're keeping warm on this brilliant cool autumn weekend!
  • In a world of narcissism, this woman's tale of her birthday provided a refreshing contrast.
  • One quote from Relevant's recent article on inevitable failure particularly resounded with me: "Because of my failures, I don’t deserve anything good. But good keeps coming my way. That’s not a reflection of my character or timing or anything else. But it is a reflection of the character of God."