movie review

Daybreakers: What happens when adjusting to the new normal doesn’t work anymore?

I’m not generally a fan of horror films. Gratuitous violence, gore, or mindless action bore me and I’m not entertained by the shrieking and shrinking terror of those who are still developing their pre-frontal lobes in sylph-like form. However, like so many, I am fascinated by vampire and lycan mythology, and often enjoy watching movies about vampirism and lycanthropy, in spite of the inherent violence and gore which accompany them. Movies containing moral and psychological conflict where the characters have to wrestle with their own beliefs, prejudices, and outcomes of choices they made really intrigue me. When a new mythological context for telling the vampire or werewolf story happens, and new dilemmas and complexities are explored, I can really sink my teeth into it and draw a lot from it.

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

“Daybreakers” is such a movie. When I saw the previews for it before finally seeing “After Earth” last week and I saw Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe, and Sam Niel were portraying principal characters in the movie, I knew I wanted to see it. The quality and caliber of other characters I’ve seen them portray and movies they have been in served to whet my appetite and intrigue me about the movie.

I was given the opportunity much sooner than I expected when I told my cousin about it. She loaned me her new, unopened DVD on Friday, when Luna and I visited her on the spur of the moment and wound up hanging out for two or three hours. When LaLa and her SpiritLove decided to take Luna with them on their excursion yesterday, I finally had a few hours to myself and decided to watch the movie.

The year is 2019 and the world has changed and adjusted to what appears to have been a pandemic of vampirism. An infection that has left the nearly extinct, highly endangered human species as the only source of sustenance for 95% of the population.

The striking thing is that the people in the 95%, once becoming infected, adapted, adjusted, and accepted the change that stripped them of their so-called humanity. They continued operating and functioning as if nothing had fundamentally changed in their lives. There was little, if any, recognition that absorbing the changes and accommodating their new normal was a massive societal agreement to operate in denial of the inevitable devolution and destruction of themselves and their society.

Maintaining the facade of normality by getting up everyday, going to work, hiring military and police to round up and keep those affected by lack of access to the critical resource, called Subsiders, who are no longer able to fit in, appears to be the primary concern of most.

As human blood becomes more scarce and unobtainable, more and more of the population degenerate and devolve while the effects of the infection affect their brains and bodies and they are reduced to instinctive attack mode toward those who still appear to have what everyone needs to survive.

The symbolism and metaphors in this movie can be drawn in many ways:

• Amorality of corporations in conjunction with government preferring to seek answers that maintain status quo.

• The role and motivations of the power players in big pharma focusing on creating dependence on substitutes for symptom treatment over looking for cures, since cures will inhibit profit.

• People make awful choices, overriding the wishes, free will, and convictions of their loved ones, out of self-certainty, fear, and the need to be right.

• On a societal level, it’s easier and more acceptable to believe in and hide from the overt and immediate personal danger of a less privileged population fighting for survival than to recognize and hold our individual selves accountable for the part we play or taking personal action to create solution. We want someone else to blame, someone else to be responsible, and someone else to save us from our own folly, without expecting us to change.

The correlations of how members of our society criminalize the actions of those marginalized and devalued by the effects of poverty, mental illness, and the physical and psychological effects of these things are unmistakable.

One of the things that I truly appreciated about the movie is that it doesn’t oversimplify the cost and sacrifice necessary in order to hold onto hope, achieve solutions, and fight for the things that matter in affecting change. The solution and cure is unexpected and risky. Once cured, survival is not guaranteed, because the fight isn’t about obtaining a cure as much as it is about going against the established rule of might and those who have invested themselves in personal gain by maintaining the status quo.

The true horror in this movie is how easy it is to accept the unacceptable. The redemption comes once the hero understands his own capacity for change and acts on his convictions and values.

“Daybreakers” is rich and complex. This is a movie that has appeal to more than fans of the horror genre. It has sufficient violence and gore to satisfy them, but the exploration of relational dynamics between parent and child, siblings, societal classes, and racial tensions means it can appeal to a wider audience as well.



The Nothing, The Swamp of Sadness, and The Neverending Story

It’s hard to realize that it’s been almost 30 years since The Neverending Story premiered.

A young boy feeling lost and alone after the death of his mother in the home of a single father who is widowed and doing his best to keep life on track for them both is bullied and chased by other kids and finds his way into an obscure bookstore. In this place he is initially chastised and rejected by the crotchety and cantankerous bibliophile who speaks critically and disdainfully. A set-up to pique the interest of this child who will be the ultimate savior of the dying Empress and Fantasia, the embodiment of human imagination and aspiration.

Keith just ordered all three movies in the series for our little Luna, who, without any conscious influence or encouragement from me is currently enamoured with Barbie movies. She really wasn’t into watching this movie or anything she hadn’t picked out for herself. Four year olds may not know much, but they certainly know their own minds.

I guess that can be said of most of us at various points in our lives, right?

And so, Keith and I wound up watching it together while Luna decided to play and watch other things in another room. I was having difficulty concentrating and had a lot of distractions disrupting my focus, but two different scenes really grabbed my attention.

The first was when Atreyu, the hero in the book young Bastion is reading, is struggling through the dark, dank, and dreary Swamp of Sadness with his pony, Artax.

You're letting the sadness of the swamps get to you. You have to try. You have to care. ~ Atreyu to Artax, Neverending Story, 1984

You’re letting the sadness of the swamps get to you. You have to try. You have to care. ~ Atreyu to Artax, Neverending Story, 1984

I really identify with Artax: sinking ever slowly, motionless, being pulled under by the inertia and drag of the muck surrounding his feet, in an environment imbued with the greying darkness of sadness and despair. The poignant begging and pleading of the one who loves him most can’t reach into his mind and heart to get him to keep moving forward. He. Just. Stops. Moving.

Yeah, I can relate.

The next scene that slapped me into conciousness was the exchange between Atreyu and G’mork.

The Nothing Explained

Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.

This is the thing I keep fighting in my life, inside of myself, this Nothing: “the emptiness that’s left. Its like a despair.”

The good news is that movies like this and interactions with my loved ones and the numerous folks that are present in my life, both IRL and online, are continually reminding me to try, to care, to focus on my hopes and dreams, to engage and not give into The Nothing.

One such friend posted a video of a 15 year old, Jack Andraka, who has created a way to detect pancreatic, lung, and ovarian cancer with a sensor that costs 3¢ and only takes five minutes. I was intrigued and decided to watch it, although my anachronistic brain still doesn’t really like watching videos on my phone or computer.

My 3 Cents

Click on this image to go see: Jack Andraka My 3 Cents On Cancer, TEDxSanJoseCAWomen

If a 15 year old, using nothing more than the information available on the internet, his own questioning mind, and a persistent determination to make a difference, find answers and create solutions can find a way to create a sensor to detect three of the deadliest forms of cancer, what can I do?

What can you do?

What can we do?

One thing I know I can do. I can refuse to let current events and the constant bombardment of tragedy, terrorism (domestic and foreign), and the onslaught of emotional and psychological manipulation dictate whether or not I succumb to The Nothing and allow myself to sink below The Swamp of Sadness.

This month’s peace challenge from Kozo at everydaygurus is a focus on children. Create a post that focuses on teaching the newest generation about generating peace.

I was at a loss, especially after the recent events in the U.S. this month, which just triggered much of the same miasma of fear-based vitriol that has been floating around and seeming to increase exponentially with every new incident.

Then I read a couple of posts by Amy West: A word on parenting after the violence in Boston and Hating Dzhokhar Won’t Help. She offers some very basic and foundational truths for teaching peace to our children:

Show your kids that compassion is always more helpful than judgment. Because it is.

Be kind to your kids. Believe in their good intentions. The way you treat them teaches them how to treat other people.

She suggests that, “We can choose to act from outside of the fear response (the one that says hate him, that eye-for-an-eye logic),” and shares about an African tribe that approaches rehabilitation of those who have chosen wrong and harmful action. “The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

I will work to remember to sing Luna a song of compassion, empathy, acceptance, and forgiveness as often as I am able. I will continue to focus on the things that help me think and act out of the love and peace that exists within me and reach for love and peace in those around me.

I will allow Luna to choose the terrifyingly pink brightness of Barbie movies and follow her lead to dance and play and focus on what she wants to do and enjoy, rather than focus on the fears of society and what I’ve learned to believe is wrong and distorted. I can refuse to pass my hangups, assumptions, and false beliefs onto her.

I will teach her about empathy and compassion. I will show understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness over judgment, criticism, and vengeance and teach her how to cope with the painful, bewildering, and overwhelming things in this world.

Now, what will you do to try, to care, and to fight against The Nothing?

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Wreck It Ralph: Validation, Acceptance, and Belonging

I’m Bad, and that’s good, I will never be good and that’s not bad, there’s no one I’d rather be…than me. ~ Wreck-It Ralph

So, I finally got to see Hotel Transylvania and Wreck It Ralph in the local second run movie theater last night. I could really identify with the main character in Wreck It Ralph. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, there may be some spoilers in this post. If you’ve debated about seeing it, it’s actually a fun little movie and worth the time.

I think the thing I identify with most is how stuck Ralph feels in his program code to always be the guy that breaks things. 30 years of doing the exact thing he was designed to do and doing it perfectly according to his program code and designated character role while never experiencing any validation or acceptance for doing the very thing and fulfilling the role and purpose he was intended to.

He and his fellow arcade bad guys are in what appears to be a Twelve Step meeting for bad guys, Bad-Anon. It’s a great tool for telling the audience Ralph’s back-story and character motivation. However, perhaps I’m being nit picky, I was a little uncomfortable that the other bad guy characters completely broke all boundaries of sharing in a meeting by jumping in with unsolicited advice and voicing judgements. The point of Twelve Step meetings is to support people working through to overcome addictions and compulsions, not to necessarily learn to accept the status quo and who they are in the context of it. Since these meetings are integral to the movie, I think it would have been better to have them as a group therapy session as opposed to an Anonymous meeting. This is really my only complaint about the movie.

Back to Ralph. He needs validation, acceptance, and inclusion. He is designed, programmed, and built to be a bully. He’s huge, has a loud voice, a short-fuse, and lives in a dump. If he weren’t a cartoon game character, he would be the hygienically challenged, scary, and destructive homeless guy everyone avoids. He wants to have what everyone else seems to have, especially the good guy, Fix It Felix Jr., acceptance and belonging.

Acceptance and belonging are the themes of the movie, I think. Ralph believes if he can obtain one specific object, then the other people in his world will have no choice other than to include and welcome him into their midst. He thinks that his desire to be other than what he is and his quest to prove he is not who everyone knows him to be is going to be the solution to his problems.

Consequently, he makes things a whole lot worse each time he makes a decision that is about his need to change how others see him. He gets manipulated, he betrays one he cares about and, because of his single minded quest for external validation and acceptance, he nearly destroys the worlds of everyone he comes into contact with.

I have surely been Wreck It Ralph in my own life and the lives of others, despite my best intentions and strongest efforts. I suspect I am not alone in this. Actually, I know I’m not.

The thing is, that along the way, because of his journey, his mistakes, and his misguided efforts to change and fix things that were really out of his control, other characters changed, connected, and things that had been twisted and flawed by less benign characters were revealed and restored.

The self-centered journey that began because Ralph was rejected by others and he had started rejecting himself taught him things like empathy, compassion, and cooperation. Without learning those things he would not have reached a point where he could recognize the things that made him who he was were always going to be with him and could be used for good purpose.

In the end, his role to play in his world didn’t change as much as how he decided to play it.

I think this is my journey as well.

Instead of fighting against who and what I don’t want to be, instead of scrambling to alter others’ perception and attitudes about who I am, finding ways to accept and validate all of me, especially the things I dislike most about myself, is key in my internal healing and recovery process. I’m getting there.