Forgiveness in Volver and Casablanca

Volver & Casablanca
The film Volver begins with a wonderful scene in which all the women of a small rural village scrub the tombstones of their dead. An unrelenting wind blows and threatens to overwhelm their efforts. But the women persist. What a stunning visual metaphor for the performance of the mundane tasks of life in the face of overwhelming grief.
We are told that these winds also fan fires that burn out of control in the village. Raimunda and Sole’s mother and father were consumed in such a fire. This is another powerful metaphor for rage and grief, the core of which is revealed in a stunning confession toward the end of the film.
After Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Dueñas) clean their parent’s tomb along with Rainmunda’s teenage daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo). The women then visit Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) and we learn Raimunda was estranged from her mother and Aunt Paula raised her.
Aunt Paula is nearly blind, mentally confused and forgetful. It’s a miracle she can still manage on her own. The old woman insists that she doesn’t. The girls’ dead mother, Irene (Carmen Maura) helps her out. When Aunt Paula dies, circumstances dictate that Sole attends the funeral alone. She returns with the ghost of their mother, Irene, in the trunk of her car.
Volver is a powerful story about how loss and grief are, at last, resolved. This is a very specific process that is present in every layer of laughter, horror, sadness and love in the film. It opens the path to forgiveness for Rainmunda and her mother.
We learn that Rainmunda’s father was a philanderer and a sexual predator. He sexually abused Rainmunda when she was a teenager. Rainmunda got pregnant and had her daughter, Paula, as a result. Rainmunda has kept this a secret all these years.
Rainmunda could never forgive her mother for not knowing what was happening and not protecting her. She turned her back on her mother and refused to have anything to do with her. In order to resolve her anger, grief and loss Rainmunda must revisit the past to:
1. See the situation as a whole
2. See her relative place in the situation
3. Speak the unspoken emotional communication
4. Cherish the positive
5. Let go of the rest
This process is key to resolving any loss and is outlined in great detail in The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. It is an approach that is vital to any story about finding the courage to forgive.
Let’s look at how these steps are applied in Volver:
1. See the situation as a whole.
As the film opens, Rainmunda is an overburdened and overworked mother, just as perhaps her own mother was. In a repetition of the past, her own husband drunkenly attacks Rainmunda’s daughter sexually. Rainmunda has no idea this sexual attack is coming; she could not prevent it and she could not stop it.
In a stunning confession later in the film, Irene admits that she discovered Rainmunda’s abuse by Raimunda’s father/Irene’s husband. Irene killed her husband and set the building on fire. Her husband was with another woman and everyone assumed that the woman’s body was Irene’s. Irene was forced to become a “ghost,” hiding in Aunt Paula’s large rambling home and caring for the woman who took care of her daughter.
Raimunda now sees the whole situation. Her mother loved her and was as fierce on her behalf as Rainmunda was on her daughter’s behalf.
2. See your relative place in the situation.
Rainmunda couldn’t possibly understand her mother until faced with the horror of such a situation herself. Irene could not forgive herself until she saw how powerless her daughter was to prevent the same situation. Rainmunda and Irene now see one another in each other’s eyes. Each woman sees her relative place in the situation by seeing the relative place of the other.
3. Speak the unspoken emotional communication.
The unspoken communication is, of course: “I love you. I have always loved you.” As mother and daughter begin to understand each other, they rediscover the deep bonds of love and sacrifice that connect them. The power of love and the powerlessness of love bind them together. Their hearts open and they forgive each other.
4. Cherish the positive.
Rainmunda has a wonderful moment of cherishing the positive in a very funny scene about her mother’s farts. This is a stellar example of Almodovar’s quirky unsentimental portrait of these women. It is the kind of little memory that makes us love and cherish each other in all our weakness and human frailty.
5. Let go of the rest.
When Augustina, their Aunt Paula’s long-time neighbor, becomes ill with cancer the women return again to the village. Irene slips into Augustina’s house and is greeted as a welcome ghost by Augustina, who is near death herself. Another grief in the story is about to be resolved.
The body that was found in the burned building was Augustina’s mother. Irene will be able to reassure Augustina that her mother didn’t disappear on a whim to leave her alone and unloved. Irene takes charge of Augustina’s care and slips back into her purgatory world as a ghost. Her daughters let Irene go to do her penance with a quiet and simple grace.
The movie’s title song, a tango made famous by Carlos Gardel is sung by Rainmunda (Cruz), Estrella Morente provides the dubbed vocals.
I am afraid of the encounter
with the past that returns
to confront my life.
I am afraid of the nights
that, filled with memories,
shackle my dreams.
But the traveler that flees
sooner or later stops his walking.
And although forgetfulness, which destroys all,
has killed my old dream,
I keep concealed a humble hope
that is my heart’s whole fortune.
www.planet-tango.com/lyrics/volver.htm
Lyrics translated by Walter Kane
Volver is a profoundly hopeful film, despite being filled with rape, murder, incest and death. The hope that is the heart’s whole fortune is the generosity that allows human beings to forgive. Forgiveness is our amazing power to reject the poison of the past, redeem our lives and reconstruct our bond with those whom we love. (For it is those we love who have the power to hurt us the most deeply.)
This same process is also at work in Casablanca, another powerful film about resolving anger, grief and loss. When Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks back into Rick Blaine’s life (Humphrey Bogart), Rick goes through the same five step process to resolve his anger, grief and loss.
1. Rick must see the situation as a whole. Rick learns Ilsa had to send him away to save him from the Nazis. She had to keep her marriage to Victor Laszlo secret to protect him and others in the resistance. She had to go to Victor (Paul Henreid), who was deathly ill outside of Paris.
2. Rick must see his relative place in the situation. Victor was the hope of the whole resistance movement. The resistance would die if Ilsa didn’t go to Victor and save him. Ilsa made the only choice she could possibly make under the circumstances.
3. Rick and Ilsa speak the crucial unsaid emotional communication. They love each other, they have always loved each other and their hearts will always belong to each other. Ilsa says: “I said I would never leave you.” Rick replies: “And you never will.”
4. Rick and Ilsa are able to cherish the positive: Rick says: “We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have it, we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.” By truly cherishing that time together they have rekindled and reclaimed their love for each other.
5. Rick is able to let go of the rest: Rick says: “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” He sends Ilsa away just as she sent him away. Rick says: “If you don’t go with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” “Where I’m going you can’t follow. What I’m going to do you can’t be any part of.”
Like Volver, Casablanca puts Rick in Ilsa’s situation. He now fully understands her choice. He validates Ilsa’s choice by making the same choice she did. Rick sends Ilsa away with Victor because Victor’s work in the resistance cannot continue without her.
Although they are not physically together Rick and Ilsa will live forever in each others’ hearts. Their grief and loss are resolved and they are both free to go on with their work and their lives.
Here’s how to implement these steps in your film:
1. See the situation as a whole. Have your character learn, discover or expose something that fills in a crucial missing piece in the story. Your character has made some assumption that was false, incomplete, misguided or ignorant. His or her bitterness and/or anger is built on an assumption that isn’t the whole truth. He or she doesn’t fully understand what was in the other person’s heart or what the full circumstances were. A revelation, discovery or realization fills in the gap.
2. See your relative place in the situation. Your character’s bitterness, anger, loss or grief stems from a single-minded and narrow personal perspective. His or her feelings or situation were just a part of what was going on at the time. Instead of seeing things just from a personal perspective, force your character to see the broader canvas. Put your character in the other person’s situation or position. Make that person’s choice more understandable by forcing your character to make a similar kind of choice. Force your character to “walk awhile in the other person’s shoes.”
3. Speak the unsaid emotional communication. This is some form of: “I love you. I have always loved you.” Those we love have the power to hurt us most deeply. Remembering and reclaiming that love is crucial to forgiveness. Please note: This communication is not “You have hurt me deeply.” It is a positive affirmation of the other person and how deeply the character feels about him or her.
4. Cherish the positive. There is a reason nearly everyone in the world knows the line: “We’ll always have Paris.” It’s because Rick’s line speaks to the power of positive memories. No one can take those transcendent moments from us. They remind us of all that was good, true, funny and/or wonderful about a person or time we loved. Force your character to embrace and cherish what was positive about the person or situation.
5. Let go of the rest. Forgiveness is not an emotion. It is an action. Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt, bitterness and/or disappointment of the past. Forgiveness demands that we let go of that which we cannot change. It requires us to be generous with ourselves and let go of the destructive bonds that bind and imprison us. Force your character to let go of bitterness and anger. Give your character an action that offers the gift of generosity.
I often ask my students to think of someone they love who has hurt them deeply. I ask them to think about how hard it would be to take each of those five steps themselves. Then I ask them to make that process equally as hard for their characters. When you force your character to confront and resolve loss you give an amazing gift of generosity to your audience. Volver gives that gift now. Casablanca has given that gift for decades. It is your turn next.

volver8The film Volver begins with a wonderful scene in which all the women of a small rural village scrub the tombstones of their dead. An unrelenting wind blows and threatens to overwhelm their efforts. But the women persist. What a stunning visual metaphor for the performance of the mundane tasks of life in the face of overwhelming grief.

We are told that these winds also fan fires that burn out of control in the village. Raimunda and Sole’s mother and father were consumed in such a fire. This is another powerful metaphor for rage and grief, the core of which is revealed in a stunning confession toward the end of the film.

After Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) and Sole (Lola Dueñas) clean their parent’s tomb along with Rainmunda’s teenage daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo). The women then visit Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave) and we learn Raimunda was estranged from her mother and Aunt Paula raised her.

Aunt Paula is nearly blind, mentally confused and forgetful. It’s a miracle she can still manage on her own. The old woman insists that she doesn’t. The girls’ dead mother, Irene (Carmen Maura) helps her out. When Aunt Paula dies, circumstances dictate that Sole attends the funeral alone. She returns with the ghost of their mother, Irene, in the trunk of her car.

Volver is a powerful story about how loss and grief are, at last, resolved. This is a very specific process that is present in every layer of laughter, horror, sadness and love in the film. It opens the path to forgiveness for Rainmunda and her mother.

We learn that Rainmunda’s father was a philanderer and a sexual predator. He sexually abused Rainmunda when she was a teenager. Rainmunda got pregnant and had her daughter, Paula, as a result. Rainmunda has kept this a secret all these years.

Rainmunda could never forgive her mother for not knowing what was happening and not protecting her. She turned her back on her mother and refused to have anything to do with her. In order to resolve her anger, grief and loss Rainmunda must revisit the past to:

1. See the situation as a whole

2. See her relative place in the situation

3. Speak the unspoken emotional communication

4. Cherish the positive

5. Let go of the rest

This process is key to resolving any loss and is outlined in great detail in The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman. It is an approach that is vital to any story about finding the courage to forgive.

Let’s look at how these steps are applied in Volver:

1. See the situation as a whole. As the film opens, Rainmunda is an overburdened and overworked mother, just as perhaps her own mother was. In a repetition of the past, her own husband drunkenly attacks Rainmunda’s daughter sexually. Rainmunda has no idea this sexual attack is coming; she could not prevent it and she could not stop it.

In a stunning confession later in the film, Irene admits that she discovered Rainmunda’s abuse by Raimunda’s father/Irene’s husband. Irene killed her husband and set the building on fire. Her husband was with another woman and everyone assumed that the woman’s body was Irene’s. Irene was forced to become a “ghost,” hiding in Aunt Paula’s large rambling home and caring for the woman who took care of her daughter.

Raimunda now sees the whole situation. Her mother loved her and was as fierce on her behalf as Rainmunda was on her daughter’s behalf.

2. See your relative place in the situation. Rainmunda couldn’t possibly understand her mother until faced with the horror of such a situation herself. Irene could not forgive herself until she saw how powerless her daughter was to prevent the same situation. Rainmunda and Irene now see one another in each other’s eyes. Each woman sees her relative place in the situation by seeing the relative place of the other.

3. Speak the unspoken emotional communication. The unspoken communication is, of course: “I love you. I have always loved you.” As mother and daughter begin to understand each other, they rediscover the deep bonds of love and sacrifice that connect them. The power of love and the powerlessness of love bind them together. Their hearts open and they forgive each other.

4. Cherish the positive. Rainmunda has a wonderful moment of cherishing the positive in a very funny scene about her mother’s farts. This is a stellar example of Almodovar’s quirky unsentimental portrait of these women. It is the kind of little memory that makes us love and cherish each other in all our weakness and human frailty.

5. Let go of the rest. When Augustina, their Aunt Paula’s long-time neighbor, becomes ill with cancer the women return again to the village. Irene slips into Augustina’s house and is greeted as a welcome ghost by Augustina, who is near death herself. Another grief in the story is about to be resolved.

The body that was found in the burned building was Augustina’s mother. Irene will be able to reassure Augustina that her mother didn’t disappear on a whim to leave her alone and unloved. Irene takes charge of Augustina’s care and slips back into her purgatory world as a ghost. Her daughters let Irene go to do her penance with a quiet and simple grace.

The movie’s title song, a tango made famous by Carlos Gardel is sung by Rainmunda (Cruz), Estrella Morente provides the dubbed vocals.

I am afraid of the encounter
with the past that returns
to confront my life.
I am afraid of the nights
that, filled with memories,
shackle my dreams.
But the traveler that flees
sooner or later stops his walking.
And although forgetfulness, which destroys all,
has killed my old dream,
I keep concealed a humble hope
that is my heart’s whole fortune.

www.planet-tango.com/lyrics/volver.htm
Lyrics translated by Walter Kane

Volver is a profoundly hopeful film, despite being filled with rape, murder, incest and death. The hope that is the heart’s whole fortune is the generosity that allows human beings to forgive. Forgiveness is our amazing power to reject the poison of the past, redeem our lives and reconstruct our bond with those whom we love. (For it is those we love who have the power to hurt us the most deeply.)

casablanca1This same process is also at work in Casablanca, another powerful film about resolving anger, grief and loss. When Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks back into Rick Blaine’s life (Humphrey Bogart), Rick goes through the same five step process to resolve his anger, grief and loss.

1. Rick must see the situation as a whole. Rick learns Ilsa had to send him away to save him from the Nazis. She had to keep her marriage to Victor Laszlo secret to protect him and others in the resistance. She had to go to Victor (Paul Henreid), who was deathly ill outside of Paris.

2. Rick must see his relative place in the situation. Victor was the hope of the whole resistance movement. The resistance would die if Ilsa didn’t go to Victor and save him. Ilsa made the only choice she could possibly make under the circumstances.

3. Rick and Ilsa speak the crucial unsaid emotional communication. They love each other, they have always loved each other and their hearts will always belong to each other. Ilsa says: “I said I would never leave you.” Rick replies: “And you never will.”

4. Rick and Ilsa are able to cherish the positive: Rick says: “We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have it, we’d lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.” By truly cherishing that time together they have rekindled and reclaimed their love for each other.

5. Rick is able to let go of the rest: Rick says: “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” He sends Ilsa away just as she sent him away. Rick says: “If you don’t go with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” “Where I’m going you can’t follow. What I’m going to do you can’t be any part of.”

Like Volver, Casablanca puts Rick in Ilsa’s situation. He now fully understands her choice. He validates Ilsa’s choice by making the same choice she did. Rick sends Ilsa away with Victor because Victor’s work in the resistance cannot continue without her.

Although they are not physically together Rick and Ilsa will live forever in each others’ hearts. Their grief and loss are resolved and they are both free to go on with their work and their lives.

Here’s how to implement these steps in your film:

1. See the situation as a whole. Have your character learn, discover or expose something that fills in a crucial missing piece in the story. Your character has made some assumption that was false, incomplete, misguided or ignorant. His or her bitterness and/or anger is built on an assumption that isn’t the whole truth. He or she doesn’t fully understand what was in the other person’s heart or what the full circumstances were. A revelation, discovery or realization fills in the gap.

2. See your relative place in the situation. Your character’s bitterness, anger, loss or grief stems from a single-minded and narrow personal perspective. His or her feelings or situation were just a part of what was going on at the time. Instead of seeing things just from a personal perspective, force your character to see the broader canvas. Put your character in the other person’s situation or position. Make that person’s choice more understandable by forcing your character to make a similar kind of choice. Force your character to “walk awhile in the other person’s shoes.”

3. Speak the unsaid emotional communication. This is some form of: “I love you. I have always loved you.” Those we love have the power to hurt us most deeply. Remembering and reclaiming that love is crucial to forgiveness. Please note: This communication is not “You have hurt me deeply.” It is a positive affirmation of the other person and how deeply the character feels about him or her.

4. Cherish the positive. There is a reason nearly everyone in the world knows the line: “We’ll always have Paris.” It’s because Rick’s line speaks to the power of positive memories. No one can take those transcendent moments from us. They remind us of all that was good, true, funny and/or wonderful about a person or time we loved. Force your character to embrace and cherish what was positive about the person or situation.

5. Let go of the rest. Forgiveness is not an emotion. It is an action. Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt, bitterness and/or disappointment of the past. Forgiveness demands that we let go of that which we cannot change. It requires us to be generous with ourselves and let go of the destructive bonds that bind and imprison us. Force your character to let go of bitterness and anger. Give your character an action that offers the gift of generosity.

I often ask my students to think of someone they love who has hurt them deeply. I ask them to think about how hard it would be to take each of those five steps themselves. Then I ask them to make that process equally as hard for their characters. When you force your character to confront and resolve loss you give an amazing gift of generosity to your audience. Volver gives that gift now. Casablanca has given that gift for decades. It is your turn next.

Vintage Cop Shows – Why Is The Cop On The Job?

Andy-Sipowicz-etbscreenwriting

I recently had a question from a reader about how different Character Types do the same job OR how the same Character Types might do a job differently.  This previous post answers both questions.  I love questions from readers.  Be sure to submit yours.

Three cop shows changed forever how police work is depicted on television. Each show was original and iconic in its own time. Each remains an example of emotional storytelling at peak intensity and engagement. Let’s look at Hill Street Blues, Homicide: Life on the Street and NYPD Blue and the lessons that can be drawn going forward.

Hill Street Blues redefined the cop/crime genre through intertwined partnerships that combined police officers’ stressful work lives with the conflicts in their private lives. Very few investigations or interrogations were ever featured on the show. Instead, each episode charted a “day in the life” of the precinct from the early-morning roll call to a late-night rehash of the day’s events. This recap was usually in the bedroom with lovers Captain Furillo and Public Defender Joyce Davenport. Hill Street Blues focused almost exclusively on the interpersonal relationships between the core cast members. The show also introduced a more “documentary” look and feel to the genre. Real-life personal issues and situations were explored in a raw and more explicit manner than previously depicted on earlier shows such as Columbo or Kojak. Real-life street slang was used throughout the program.

Homicide: Life on the Street exploded television racial stereotypes with multi-dimensional complex depictions of African Americans. The show was set in Baltimore, a predominately black American city. The storylines managed to cross racial barriers that were previously taboo on television. Homicide also broke many of television’s editing and narrative continuity rules. Jump cuts were numerous and unpredictable shifts in the narrative marked it as one of the most unconventional programs at that point in the genre. With a sharp unflinching honesty about race, prejudice and violence, the detective’s job is depicted as repetitive and emotionally draining. The show examined the enormous toll that policing took on individuals and on partnerships.

NYPD Blue was set against the backdrop of urban decay in New York City. Career cops were depicted as complicated, complex and often deeply flawed human beings. Although the show featured risky adult material, most of the stories were about families and the terrible emotional aftermath of violence. Less attention was paid to the crimes than how the crimes affected the relationships in the core cast. NYPD Blue was really about one man’s journey toward redemption. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) began the show as a drunken abusive racist cop who is about to be thrown off the force (for good reason). Seventeen years later, he’s earned the top position in the precinct and, although still Andy, is fit to lead.

Each of these classic cop shows focused on the “Why” of the human cop story rather than the “How” of the crime story. That’s what made them successful. And that’s what separates these shows from the current generation of procedural cop shows like Law & Order (and all its varieties). But even in the Dick Wolf Law & Order universe, “Why” each person does the job is based on the individual’s very clear Character Type. For example: Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), over many years on the show, still wrestles with the same questions of ethical principle vs. political expediency and law vs. justice. His “Why” is clearly driven by the Power of Conscience.

In a one-hour drama it is only possible to do one thing well– procedure or personal relationships. There isn’t time to do both well. There currently is lots of procedure on television. Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to emotional personal relationships in cop shows.

Clear true emotions travel. They connect with the audience and move them week after week to watch a show. The definition of “to be entertained” is to feel something. In the classic cop shows discussed above, the mechanics of “How” a crime is solved is so much less important than “Why” the cops are doing what they are doing and “Why” they are affected by the job. If there is no “Why” it’s just cops going through the motions, which can make a story feel by-the-numbers and hollow.

The “Why” provides the passion and inter-personal conflict between the individuals in the story (and all the internal conflict within the character). Too often writers simply project their general idea of being a cop and the mechanics of “How” to put the cops through their paces— Instead of being specific about “Why” one particular individual is a cop.

There are four basic categories of “Why” anyone becomes a cop (or anything else for that matter):

1. It’s a job. Being a cop is solid union employment and a way to make a living or support a family. The cop does what is expected and punches out. The cop puts in the time and is concerned and responsible on the job. But he or she doesn’t take the job home and retires as soon as is feasible.

2. It’s a career. Being a cop is a good opportunity for advancement. The cop is working to achieve something else. The job is a means to an end (rising through the ranks, running for political office, becoming a consultant etc.) It is a stepping- stone to something else and worth the hard work and extra effort to achieve a larger goal.

3. It’s a vocation. Being a cop is a life mission or a higher calling. The cop is there to make a difference, have an important impact or change people’s lives. The work is a consuming passion for the cop. There is no dividing line between work and personal life. Work is the cop’s life.

4. It’s a mistake. Being a cop is not a good fit. The individual is a cop for the wrong reasons or the wrong motivations. Or the reality of the job doesn’t conform to the idea of the job or the fantasy of being a cop. In any case, the individual puts in the time and effort, got the job and now is trapped.

Any kind of employment, but particularly policing, has a variety of people who look at the “Why” of doing the job very differently. All individuals naturally assume their “Why” is the most valid reason or, if everyone else was honest, is the real motivation “Why” anyone works at the Station House or Precinct. This is a great opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in cop shows (or shows featuring any profession) everyone is doing the job for the same reason. That isn’t the case in life and it shouldn’t be the case in your drama.

Layered onto “Why” someone is employed as a police officer (it’s a job, a career, a vocation or a mistake) is the “Why” of the individual’s Character Type. Looking down on nine different police officers toiling away long into the night it might be easy or convenient to believe they are all working hard for the same internal motivation or with the same value system and world view in mind. Every one of the Nine Character Types sees the world very differently, believes very different things about how the world works, and sees the primary role of a cop from a unique perspective.

1. Power of Conscience cops believe policing is a duty and a responsibility to make the world a better place. Doing the right thing is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what is the higher duty or the most right—law or justice. (These two principles are not the same thing). Hill Street Blues‘ Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel) is this kind of character. Howard Hunter (James B. Sikking) is the comic version on the same show. Homicide’s Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) is also a Power of Conscience character. Rylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant) is a more recent example.

2. Power of Will cops believe policing is a matter of strength and the ability to dominate the situation. The use of power is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what actually constitutes strength or power— excess or restraint. (Does compassion and tolerance make you stronger or weaker?) NYPD Blue’s Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is this kind of character. A more recent example is Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on The Shield.

3. Power of Ambition cops believe policing is a matter of winning or losing. Appealing to other’s self-interest is the way to get things done. Their struggle is with short cuts vs. the long hard patient slog—results or process. (If no one else plays by the rules why should they?) Hill Street Blues‘ John “JD” LaRue (Kiel Martin) is a Power of Ambition character. A more recent example is Lieutenant Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) on The Wire.

4. Power of Love cops believe policing is caring for others and helping them succeed. Compassion and understanding is crucial to how they get the job done. Their struggle is when to employ “tough love” or just give up on someone. (When does empathy or understanding simply enable bad or destructive behavior?) NYPD Blue’s Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) is this kind of character. Another example is Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) on Hill Street Blues.

5. Power of Idealism cops believe policing is a matter of individual style and personal excellence. Use of unique talents and refusing to buckle under to stupid bureaucrats is crucial to their method of policing. Their struggle is how to maintain their individuality and still be part of a larger organization. (When does being a maverick or a rebel cause more harm than good?) Homicide’s Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) illustrates the Power of Idealism character as a cop.  A more example is Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) on The Wire.

6. Power of Reason cops believe policing is a matter of keeping personal self-control and maintaining the social order. Objectivity, expertise and a depth of knowledge are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to connect with their own emotions. (When is objectivity actually alienation?) Dexter’s title character (Michael C. Hall) is one of the best recent examples of this kind of character on the police force. Monk’s title character (Tony Shalhoub) is the comedic example.

7. Power of Truth cops believe policing is a matter of uncovering secret agendas and avoiding hidden pitfalls. Establishing trust, knowing who your friends are and being attuned to conspiracies are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to accept the ambiguity of the job and the possibility of never finding real certainty. (Is the “truth” a moving target or something fixed and certain?) Homicide’s conspiracy obsessed Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito) is this kind of character. Hill Street Blues’ loyal to the core Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) is another example.  Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) on the UK version of Wallendar is a more recent example.

8. Power of Imagination cops believe policing is a matter of listening to your instincts, following hunches and special intuitive clues. Often access to what others cannot see or hear or a quirky special kind of insight is crucial to doing their job. Their struggle is how to interpret their unusual intuition or how best to communicate it to others. (Do they take me seriously or do they think I’m crazy?) This kind of cop is rare on television. Hill Street Blues’ Michael (Mick) Belker (Bruce Weitz) is an uncouth ruffian version of the Power of Imagination character.  A more recent example is police consultant Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) in Medium.

9. Power of Excitement cops believe policing is an adventure and a thrill ride. Their charm, good-humor and ability to get themselves in and out of traps is crucial to how they do their job. Their struggle is in following orthodox rules when it is so much more interesting to play fast and loose, improvise and shoot from the hip. (Are we having fun yet?) Beverly Hills Cop’s Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is the quintessential example of this character.

The “Why” of policing combined with Character Type creates a variety of complex and interesting individuals. It would be possible, for example, to create four very different Power of Conscience characters depending on whether they view policing as a job, as a career, as a vocation or as a mistake. Their values and their world views would not change but their attitudes would clash. For example: How these characters define their “higher duty” or what is the “most right” is hugely influenced by the reason they are on the job. Those different perspectives provide enormous potential conflict. Here is the breakdown:

1. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a job would probably believe the higher duty is owed to family. This cop would follow the rules, be conscientious and not take the job home.

2. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a career would probably believe the higher duty is owed to the organization or society. The higher the cop rises, the more effective the position becomes to do good and improve the larger situation. This cop would be relentless in seeking opportunities to advance a larger moral agenda.

3. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a vocation probably believes the higher duty is owed to the victims of crime. This cop’s passion would be justice for the victims and punishment for the criminals. His or her personal life would be consumed by this life mission.

4. A Power of Conscience cop who see policing as a mistake would probably believe the higher duty is owed to one’s self. Policing can be a murky business where there often is no right answer and true justice is hard to find. This lack of clear-cut black and white or right and wrong would probably be an unbearable burden on this individual– giving rise to external moral outrage and internal guilt or self-loathing. How can I be good or worthy in a cesspool?

Creating an ensemble which clearly addresses “Why” the cop is on the job combined with Character Type provides an endless source of internal and external conflict. Making use of the full variety of human experience in specific combination creates memorable partnerships, unforgettable enemies and extraordinary individual characters.

Battleship

I arrived at the WGA screening expecting to see an arty, cerebral, independent film, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and realized something was odd when Hasbro got a big credit in the first few moments of the opening.  I had the times wrong and Battleship was playing on the screen.

My expectations were low, my aisle seat afforded me a quick painless getaway, and yet I stayed.  I actually enjoyed the movie.

imagesPower of Idealism bad boy Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights) is a colossal screw-up. It’s love at first sight when he spots Sam (Brooklyn Decker) at a bar.  She won’t give him the time of day.  He makes a big over-the-top romantic gesture of getting her an after hours chicken burrito in ten minutes just to talk to her. This is involves a breaking into a convenience story through the roof, falling a full story several times but beating the time limit imposed by her impossible request.

Power of Idealism characters are misfits, mavericks and rebels. They believe that life and love should involve a grand passion, big romantic gestures, and an individual heroic destiny (even if it others see their actions as doomed, crazy, or just being a jack-ass).

images-1Alex’s Power of Conscience brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), demands Alex get some discipline and learn responsibility by joining the Navy.  The two brothers serve together on a destroyer. The story opens during NATO exercises and international competitive sports.

Power of Conscience characters know instinctively if something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt or out of line. Their judgment and response is swift and immutable. These characters believe they are their brother’s keeper. They feel responsible for the greater good and for doing good.

As he rises through the Navy, Alex continues to be a grandstander and a rebel lone wolf hero. He tries to kick a goal by himself after he is injured by a competing Japanese officer.  Alex misses and the Navy loses the game to Japan.  Alex and the offending Japanese officer develop an intense animosity off the field that explodes into a brutal fist fight.

Meanwhile, the egg heads at NASA try to contact other life forms in deep space after they discover an earth-like planet light years away.  Naturally, a hostile alien invasion ensues. The alien’s superior technology and advanced weapons systems terribly out-match what earth has to offer.

81836-29574Power of Love Seaman Jimmy ‘Ordy’ Ord (Friday Night Lights Alumn Jesse Plemons) is Alex’s reliable side kick.  Jimmy comes up with a crucial bit of information about a possible alien personal weakness.

Power of Love characters are the helpful best friend, the loyal sidekick, or adoring love interest who devotes him or her self to helping the hero succeed. They will always tell the hero the hard truth when that’s what he or she needs to hear.

Brooklyn_Decker_Battleship_Profile.jpg_0Alex’s now girlfriend, Power of Love Samantha, turns out to be the daughter of Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). She sticks by Alex through thick and thin.  Sam is a physical therapist on Oahu, working with wounded post-amputation Navy veterans who are relearning life skills and coping with their loss.  One of  her patients is Power of Will Lt. Colonel Mick Canales (real-life veteran and double amputee Gregory D. Gadson).

Power of Will characters fear showing any sign of weakness or vulnerability. Mick Canales feels he is now half a man because he is unfit to be a soldier.  Mick turns weakness into strength and is a key player in battling the aliens on the ground near their communications center.

battleship_rihanna-500Rihanna is the cool sarcastic Power of Reason gunner and expert shot in the crew.  Power of Reason character always try to maintain a sense of cool detachment and personal objectivity.  They excel in their area of expertise.

I found the film goofily charming and agree with the review in Time Magazine:

The creative team behind this ocean-bound thriller decided to fill the narrative black hole with a few ingredients all but absent from today’s summer tent poles — namely mystery, nostalgia and a healthy dose of humility. Just as blockbusters have made the hard turn towards fantasy heroes who solemnly go about their business in high-def-but-low-impact 3D cage matches, Battleship is an unapologetically goofy, surprisingly enigmatic, refreshingly self-deprecating deviation from the norm. I hesitate to confess that I had more fun here than I did at The Avengers, because low expectations surely had a lot to do with it, but it’s the truth.

In order to best the aliens Alex must learn team work and, at times, defer to the Japanese officer who was once his adversary.  The two men develop mutual respect and Alex learns to pick his shots. Cleverness, timing, making the most of what you have, good instincts and most of all teamwork between young and old and Japan and America is what ultimately saves the day.

Unlike most action heroes, who simply possess expert skills, Alex is learning as he goes, and we learn through his eyes. As his crew develops a new attack plan for the final climactic brawl, there’s something slightly more fulfilling about a strategy that’s evolved throughout the film.
There’s something decidedly retro about the grid sequence, where winning the war at sea has less to do with technology than with instincts, trigger fingers and the equipment at hand. In fact, there’s something delightfully old-school about all the action in Battleship. As classic rock blasts in the background, the movie increasingly shifts its attention away from the spinning, glowing alien ships to the inner workings of mankind’s floating fortresses, paying tribute to veterans and the ingenuity of those in the armed forces. Sure, it’s slightly jingoistic, but when the aliens are calling for backup, we want to cheer for our side.

Unlike most action heroes, who simply possess expert skills, Alex is learning as he goes, and we learn through his eyes. As his crew develops a new attack plan for the final climactic brawl, there’s something slightly more fulfilling about a strategy that’s evolved throughout the film…

…There’s something decidedly retro about the grid sequence, where winning the war at sea has less to do with technology than with instincts, trigger fingers and the equipment at hand. In fact, there’s something delightfully old-school about all the action in Battleship. As classic rock blasts in the background, the movie increasingly shifts its attention away from the spinning, glowing alien ships to the inner workings of mankind’s floating fortresses, paying tribute to veterans and the ingenuity of those in the armed forces. Sure, it’s slightly jingoistic, but when the aliens are calling for backup, we want to cheer for our side.

If you want to read the full Time Magazine review go to http://entertainment.time.com/2012/05/17/battleship-more-f

#TypesTuesday – The Avengers

The Avengers is a continuing box office smash hit.  The clarity of the characters, their witty on-point interactions, and their specific personal conflicts with each other contribute just as much to the movie’s success as the smash-em-up-whiz-bang action.

The character moments were my favorite parts of the movie because, I confess, the 3-D gave me a splitting headache and the action scenes go on a tad long for my personal taste.

The movie begins with the premise that humanity will be annihilated if Loki, the bitter banished demigod, opens a hole in space to let in an invading mechanized army. Loki is adopted, hates his brother, Thor, and wants to destroy the earth Thor loves and protects.

This crisis brings together the reluctant Avengers teammates.  Each portrays his or her Character Type with nearly pitch perfect attitude and dialogue.

The-Avengers-2012-upcoming-movies-29945637-1280-1024Loki is a Power of Idealism demi-god villain:  Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and these Character Types believe they are meant for some kind of heroic destiny.

He says: I am Loki, of Asgard. And I am burdened with glorious purpose.

These characters are “divas” and want to be seen as special, unique, and extraordinary– something out of reach for Loki, who is always in the shadow of his more perfect “brother” Thor.  It was Thor who got all the glory and Loki is furious about that. A bit of dialogue says it all–

Tony Stark: Loki wants everyone to see what he’s doing.
Steve Rogers: Yeah, I caught his act at Stuttengard.
Tony Stark: That was a preview, this will be opening night. Loki’s a full-fledged diva, everything’s got to be about him. He wants a parade, flowers, anything that’ll bring in an audience. He needs someplace where everyone can see it’s him and he’s doing it, somewhere where his name is up in lights!
[pause]
Tony Stark: Sonofabitch!
[heads to Stark Tower]

Tony Stark: Loki wants everyone to see what he’s doing.

Steve Rogers: Yeah, I caught his act at Stuttengard.

Tony Stark: That was a preview, this will be opening night. Loki’s a full-fledged diva, everything’s got to be about him. He wants a parade, flowers, anything that’ll bring in an audience. He needs someplace where everyone can see it’s him and he’s doing it, somewhere where his name is up in lights!

chris-hemsworth-thor-movie-costume-mjolnir-hammer-488x341Thor is a  Power of Love demigod:  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) uses his strength and power to care for and protect the earth.  Despite everything, he still is attached to his adoptive brother, Loki, as evidenced in the following exchange:

Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.

Thor: Have a care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.

Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.

Thor: He’s adopted.

Thor is the son of Gaea, the nurturing mother earth herself. In his comic book backstory Thor is a caring doctor, Donald Black, who is willing to defy the might of Asgard for the woman he loves.  Power of Love characters are incredibly strong characters and are ferociously unstoppable when something they love and care for is in threatened.

iron_man_the_avengers_2012_movie-t2Iron Man is a Power of Excitement man-made superhero in his mechanized suit:  In his own words he is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. In addition, he’s a jokester and an agent of chaos, who loves to stir things up. He’d especially like to see the Hulk get unleashed.

He says: “Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

Stark speaks frequently in the movie about escape or wanting to escape. Steve Rogers, Captain America, chides him for that saying Stark doesn’t have it in him to make the “sacrifice play” that puts others first. Tony Stark’s rakish push-the-envelop devil-may-care attitude continually presses everyone’s buttons in the story, but his charm, ready wit, and natural talent as an improvisor helps save the day.

Chris-Evans-in-The-Avengers-2012-Movie-ImageCaptain American is a Power of Conscience government laboratory experiment turned superhero: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a super-soldier who believes in following rules, following orders, and the importance of the chain of command.  He can seem a little stiff and humorless at times but he is 100%  reliable, trustworthy, and always puts the good of the team first. The difference between Rogers and Stark is summed up in this exchange:

Steve Rogers: We have orders, we should follow them.

Tony Stark: Following’s not really my style.

Steve Rogers: And you’re all about style, aren’t you?

Tony Stark: Of the people in this room, which one is A – wearing a spangly outfit and B – not of much use?

Stark surprises Rogers at the climax. And Rogers learns to improvise more, following Stark’s example.

imagesThe Hulk is a Power of Will gamma ray experiment gone-wrong superhero:  Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), in his Hulk state, is all angry impulse. He is primitive. He’s strong. He is a mass of instinctual drives and impulses that only finds satisfaction in “Hulk smash!”  In his normal human state Banner controls his anger enough to be a protector (as a doctor in remote India) rather than a destroyer. But his raw uncontrollable instinctual side is never far away.

Steve Rogers: Doc… I think now is the perfect time for you to get angry.

Bruce Banner: That’s my secret Cap, I’m always angry.

The-Avengers-Black-Widow-Headshot-360x273The Black Widow is a Power of Truth super-spy: Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t have super powers per se but she is as skilled a warrior as any of her other Avengers teammates. She lives in a spy vs. spy world that is filled with hidden dangers, secretive enemies, and concealed pitfalls. With the Black Widow– “Things are never what they seem.” “Trust no one.” “Question everything.” “Watch out for secret agendas and hidden pitfalls.” Just when an adversary thinks she is most vulnerable she is actually conducting a brilliant and treacherous interrogation.

hawkeye-the-avengers-01-610x458Hawkeye is a Power of Reason ultra-expert archer:  Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is a loner and a bit alienated, the perfect combination for his backstory and continuing role as sniper. He is a cold and calculating and spends the first half of the movie under the mind control of Loki.

There isn’t time for very much character development in The Avengers, but what there is is spot on.  Each hero is absolutely true to his or her Character Types in both word and deed. When every bit of dialogue and action has to count as character development, the Character Types will help you be as economical and on target as the characters here.

#ThinkpieceThursday – The Hunger Games & Twilight

Young Adult fiction and the subsequent movie adaptations have been a saving grace for Hollywood over the last few years.  Box office blockbusters based on the Twilight series and The Hunger Games series have smashed opening weekend records.
I thought it would be interesting to compare the characters in the two books and analyze how each story works. The material on The Hunger Games is excerpted from my upcoming book on thrillers, mysteries and suspense story. These are all Power of Truth stories
The Hunger Games is a classic Power of Truth Story Type and protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a picture perfect Power of Truth Character Type.
Power of Truth stories deal with secrets, lie or conspiracies, what is hidden or concealed, and the larger issues or covert agendas that are secretly manipulating the story world and the characters in it.
In the Hunger Games the Capitol government runs a huge annual televised reality show featuring young contestants who fight to the death.  The fighters are recruited in an involuntary “reaping” from each district. The games are a way to keep the districts separate and in adversarial competition with each other.
The set of the Hunger Games reality show is electronically generated– it is a manufactured 3-D world that doesn’t really exist. The conditions, terrain, rules, and contestants are secretly manipulated to generate the most interesting show and to covertly target contestants the Capitol favors or dislikes.
The games are a metaphor for how the Capitol manipulates and punishes or rewards the various districts as a whole. Nothing is quite real. Nothing is what it seems. Boundaries are artificial and arbitrary. There are hidden traps and pitfalls everywhere. The Capitol sees everything but reveals only what is useful to control the population.
Power of Truth stories also chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. The story twists and reversals eventually change everything the character believes is true.
Hunger Games contestants form temporary alliances, knowing there can only be one victor. Every one is suspect.  No one can be trusted. Each contestant tries to use others to their own advantage. It is a cut-throat world where loyal is a ploy and betrayal is the norm.
These kind of stories explore the very nature of truth and whether it is ever possible to know or understand the complex mysteries of the human heart.
Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her much younger sister’s place at the annual reaping. Like most Power of Truth Protagonists, Katniss is cautious, wary, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything. She can be combative and impulsive, shooting an arrow through an apple at the skills demonstration. The apple is in a roasted pig’s mouth in the middle of a feast for the sponsors. Katniss is impatient with the group’s lack of attention.  She can also be silent and withdrawn, keeping her own counsel and playing her cards close to the vest.
Peeta Mellark, the other contestant from her district, is chosen involuntarily. He is scared but seemingly unnaturally happy to be accompanying her. Early on he declares he has been in love with her from afar since they were children.
Katniss can’t be sure Peeta’s declaration isn’t some kind of ploy to gain an advantage or trick her.  Early on in the games he seems to be working against her. Then he saves her and later is willing to die with her and for her. Still she isn’t clear about her feelings for Peeta.  Chronic self-doubting and second guessing are trouble traits for a Power of Truth character. These character don’t trust anyone and don’t even trust themselves.
Complicating matters is Gale Hawthorne, the hunting partner who has helped Katniss prevent her family from dying of starvation in the district.  Katniss has strong feelings for Gale and feels a profound loyalty to him. This makes her doubt her feelings for Peeta.
Gale is a Power of Conscience character and becomes key in the revolution against the Capitol in later books.  Power of Conscience characters are moral crusaders.  They fall to the Dark Side when they became willing to use any means necessary to promote their cause.  Gale does this when he plans an attack on innocents to spread the revolution. He is willing to betray anything and anyone for the good of the cause.
The Hunger Games are a rich, complex Power of Truth world.  The characters have amazing external conflicts and obstacles (in the world of the games), they have intense relationship conflicts (filled with powerful issues of  when loyalty looks like betrayal and betrayal looks like loyalty) and they have deep internal conflict as they struggle between what they want and what they need (and the complex mysteries of the human heart.)
Twilight is a much simpler Power of Love story and less complex characters

katniss-cpYoung Adult fiction and subsequent movie adaptations have been a saving grace for Hollywood over the last few years.  Box office blockbusters based on the Twilight series and The Hunger Games series have smashed opening weekend records as the books topped the best seller charts.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the characters in the two series and analyze how each story works. The material on The Hunger Games is excerpted from my upcoming book on thrillers, mysteries and suspense stories. These are all Power of Truth stories.

The Hunger Games is a classic Power of Truth Story and protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), is a picture perfect Power of Truth Character Type.

Power of Truth stories deal with secrets, lies, conspiracies, what is hidden or concealed, and the larger issues or covert agendas that are secretly manipulating the story world and the characters in it.

In The Hunger Games, the Capitol government runs an annual televised reality show featuring young contestants who fight to the death.  The fighters are recruited in an involuntary “reaping” from each district. The games are a way to keep the districts separate and in adversarial competition with each other.

The reality show set is electronically generated– it is a manufactured 3-D world that doesn’t really exist. The conditions, terrain, rules, and contestants are secretly manipulated to generate the most interesting show and to covertly target contestants the Capitol favors or dislikes.

The games are a living metaphor for how the Capitol manipulates and punishes or rewards the various districts on a larger scale. Nothing is what it seems. Boundaries in the Panem district states are artificial and arbitrary. There are hidden traps and pitfalls everywhere. The Capitol sees everything but reveals only what is useful to control the population.

Power of Truth stories also chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. The story twists and reversals eventually change everything the character believes is true.

During the reality show, contestants in The Hunger Games form temporary alliances, knowing there can only be one victor. Every one is suspect.  No one can be trusted. Each contestant tries to use others to his or her own advantage. It is a cut-throat world where loyalty is a ploy and betrayal is the norm.

josh-hutcherson-peeta-mellarkThese kinds of stories explore the very nature of loyalty and betrayal and whether it is ever possible to know or understand the complex mysteries of the human heart. Sometimes loyalty looks like betrayal in the series.  And sometimes betrayal looks like loyalty.

Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her much younger sister’s place at the annual reaping. Like most Power of Truth Protagonists, Katniss is cautious, wary, and deeply suspicious of everyone and everything. She can be combative and impulsive, shooting an arrow through an apple at the skills demonstration. The apple is in a roasted pig’s mouth in the middle of a feast for the sponsors. Katniss is impatient with the group’s lack of attention.  She can also be silent and withdrawn, keeping her own counsel, watching and waiting, and playing her cards close to the vest.

Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the other contestant from her district, is chosen involuntarily at the reaping. He is scared but seemingly unnaturally happy to be accompanying Katniss. Early on he declares he has been in love with her from afar since they were very young children.

Katniss can’t be sure Peeta’s declaration of love isn’t some kind of ploy to gain advantage or trick her.  Early on in the games he seems to be working against her. Then he saves her and later is willing to die with her and for her. Still, she isn’t clear about her feelings for Peeta.  Chronic self-doubting and second guessing are trouble traits for a Power of Truth character. These characters don’t fully trust anyone and don’t even trust themselves.

movies_the_hunger_games_gale_hawthorneComplicating matters is Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the hunting partner who has helped Katniss save her family from starvation in the district.  Katniss has strong feelings for Gale and feels a profound loyalty to him. This makes her doubly question her feelings for Peeta.

Gale is a Power of Conscience character and becomes key in the revolution against the Capitol in later books.  Power of Conscience characters are often moral crusaders.  They fall to the Dark Side when they become willing to use any means necessary to promote their cause.  Gale does this when he plans an attack on innocents to help publicize and spread the revolution. He is willing to betray anything and anyone for the greater good of the cause.

The Hunger Games creates a rich, complex Power of Truth world.  The characters have amazing external conflicts and obstacles (in the treacherous and shifting world of the games), they have intense relationship conflicts (filled with powerful issues of  loyalty and betrayal) and they have deep internal conflict struggling between what they want and what they need (and the complex mysteries of love, loss, and hope). For more on Power of Truth stories and characters CLICK HERE

bella-swan-twilightTwilight is a much simpler Power of Love story featuring far less complex characters.  Power of Love stories are about lovers or partners who appear to be antagonistic, opposites, or entirely inappropriate for each other. The adversarial partners not only manage to bring out the worst in each other but also the best. The lovers grow and change through the conflict and questions in their relationship. How much must I change to accommodate you? How far can I compromise before I lose myself?

In Twilight, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a high-school girl who falls in love with a 104 year old vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).  He is powerfully attracted to her but fears he or his family will harm her. Bella’s blood is sweetly irresistible.

Bella’s love and her confidence in Edward’s restraint is unshakable.  She  refuses to heed his repeated warnings to stay away from him. She stumbles into harms way several times but Edward always swoops in to save her. As a result, when Edward leaves her, Bella seeks out danger to attract his attention.

Bella is a Power of Love character. Throughout the series she is willing to risk injury, death, and the loss of her immortal soul to be with Edward.  When he hurts her while making love to her as a human, Bella refuses to be deterred and wants him to make love to her again.  When she almost dies carrying his child she refuses to save herself and get an abortion. She is so damaged by the birth that finally there is no choice but to turn her into a vampire or surrender her to death. Bella does almost all of the changing and accommodating.

Power of Love characters see their own value reflected in the eyes of their love object. Their philosophy might be stated: “I am nothing without you.” (“And you are nothing without me.”)

20100730010244!Edward_CullenPower of Love characters believe the way to get love and keep love is to be helpful, useful, loving, kind and, above all, necessary to the other person. They fear that if you don’t put others first you won’t have good relationships. If you don’t have close personal relationships, then life isn’t worth living. Bella always puts Edward first, over her safety and over her life itself. For more on Power of Love characters CLICK HERE

Edward Cullen is a Power of Idealism character. He is a poetic, musical, and sensitive young man who is in love with someone forbidden to him.  This longing for what one cannot have is a hallmark of a Power of Idealism character. In contrast, Bella always believes they will eventually be together.  Edward’s appearance, scent, and voice are enormously seductive to Bella, so much so that he occasionally mesmerizes her by accident. She becomes even more compliant and swooning.  Edward’s intensity and his rebellious, slightly dangerous, nature is also typical of Power of Idealism characters. For more on Power of Idealism characters CLICK HERE

jacob-black-stillJacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a shape-shifting member of a local Indian tribe, also competes for Bella’s love.  He is a Power of Conscience character.  He is a fierce defender of what is right and what is traditional. Yet he overcomes his tribe’s hostility to vampires to come to Bella’s aid even after he is rejected by her.  Power of Conscience characters feel a profound sense of responsibility and duty toward others. They value what is the fair, honest, and decent thing to do. For more on Power of Conscience character CLICK HERE

Unlike The Hunger Game, which fully explores Power of Truth territory and deals with many complex levels of conflict, Twilight falls short in creating a well articulated conflict-driven Power of Love story.  Here are the Twilight series shortcoming as I see them:

1. Love interests in a romance should take an instant dislike, have a deep distrust, or be separated by major philosophical, or personal differences. Love interests should have opposite world views and views on what life and love is or should be. They should not agree on anything. Their values should be diametrically opposed. Bella is immediately attracted to Edward and he to her. The forbidden nature of their love story in Twilight has to do only with physical or external differences rather than deep  differences in values, philosophy, or world view.

2. Both love interests must grow or change through their relationship with one another. Something profound should be missing in each love interest’s life, character, and/or personality. This missing piece is an important personal deficiency leading to overall unhappiness. The problem isn’t just that the character is missing someone to love. It should be key to his or her genuine difficulties in life. Nothing, other than love, is missing in either Bella’s or Edward’s personality or character. Neither character needs the other to grow or change.  Bella simply wears Edward down in her insistence to become a vampire. Her transformation is almost entirely physical.  Edward has little real transformation at all.

Bella & Edward3.  In order for a love story to work well the lovers have to overcome obstacles on three levels.

a) The external forces, that keep the lovers apart (i.e. differences in culture, class, status, ethnicity, race, gender, age, religion, or social convention). Twilight gets this right and a human and vampire union is strictly forbidden. It is punishable by death.

b) The conflict with others, that keeps the lovers apart. There is some resistance from Edward’s family but it is fairly easily overcome. There is no real resistance from her own family, because her father is generally unaware of the Cullen family’s heritage.

c) The internal forces, that prevent the lovers from getting together (internal values that make each lover question and reject the initial advances that each receives from the other). This most important obstacle is entirely missing in Twilight. The focus is almost entirely on the physical external difficulties. There is nothing within Bella that makes her struggle with her choice.  Edward struggles more internally but again his dilemma mostly revolves around the vampire-human conundrum.

Romances work best when there is a strong personal impediment posed by a relationship with an appropriate mate. An appropriate mate is a person who, for a variety of external reasons, SHOULD be a perfect match but isn’t.  Jacob also vies for Bella’s love but he’s not a perfect external match (being a shape-shifter) and he is a much weaker contender than Edward. Early on in the first book Jacob is not fully realized as a character. He becomes more important in later books but never stands a credible chance of winning Bella.

In Moonstruck, a near perfect romance, the above three elements work wonderfully. Cher (Power of Love) is no-nonsense, practical, caring, and responsible about all her obligations. This is demonstrated in the opening scenes where she visits her bookkeeping clients. She is so practical she is about to settle for a man she doesn’t love but who is a solid member of the community. During a very unromantic proposal he tells her: “You take care of me.” What she needs is passion, inspiration, and the fiery spark of life.

Nickolas Cage (Power of Idealism) has passion and fire to the extreme. He needs someone to provide more of a stable base and an even keel. He needs to let go of his nearly operatic anger and bitterness and move on in his life. The two lovers challenge and learn from each other. Their exchange of gifts makes each a better, more well-rounded, and complete person.

In a classic love story two imperfect halves come together to form a more perfect whole. Each character brings something that is vitally necessary to the other’s overall well-being and completeness. That critical exchange of gifts is obtained through clash and conflict with the love interest.

Nevertheless the Twilight characters are well enough drawn to compel readers.  Emotion and character development pretty much always trumps plot and story structure, in my view.  That said– The Hunger Games has completely eclipsed Twilight at the box office and on the best seller list. The Hunger Games series has great characters and a rich, complex, well realized Power of Truth story structure—that is an unbeatable combination.

Having problems with your story? Read How to Evaluate Stories and find your story problems and fix them fast. CLICK HERE

The Paris Wife

Hadley-and-Ernest-Hemingw-007After a long vacation and time away, I am back.  One of the books I read while on a relaxing dreamy vacation in Greece was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

This fictional story of Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson is a wonderful read.  It is a fascinating portrait of a Power of Love character (Hadley) and a Power of Will character (Hemmingway) living and loving in Paris of the 1920’s.

Hadley supports the soon-to-be great man with all the patience, determination and tenacity of a true Power of Love character.  But she’s not a victim or a martyr.  The gift he gives her is strength, confidence and the ability to live without him when their marriage is done.

When Hadley and Hemmingway meet in Chicago.  Hadley is visiting a long-time school friend.  She is a shy spinster type, living in her married sister’s house after caring for their long-ailing mother.  She is resigned to a quiet existence at the mercy of family obligations.

After her trip to Chicago, Hadley returns home to Saint Louis convinced that Hemmingway is “a beautiful boy” but isn’t all that interested in her.  She is surprised and delighted to get a letter from him after only a few days time.

The two fall in love via long letters (sometimes two or three a day).  They marry and go off to Paris where she encourages, helps and becomes the emotional pillar supporting his work.  Hadley has a life with Hemmingway filled with interesting people, places and parties.  Her voice (and influence) is clear, steady and practical in a world filled with posing and posturing and the brittle gaiety of post World War I Paris.

Hemmingway is the lusty, larger than life Power of Will character who sweeps Hadley off her feet and off to Europe.  He’s a man’s man, fascinated with boxing and bull fighting.  He is immensely talented, hard drinking and hard-working.  He can also be belligerent and a bit of a bully (eventually alienating  many of his early mentors and supporters).  Hadley gives him the loving forgiving nurturing that was so crucial to his early uncertain years as a writer.

This is a wonderful portrait of the dynamics between two very clearly drawn Character Types.  They are absolutely true to type but wonderfully unique as individuals.

Punch Drunk Love – Day Thirty Six – #40movies40days

Punch-Drunk Love _LPunch Drunk Love, another Netflix Watch Instantly selection, is a dark romantic comedy written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  It’s a fascinating portrait of a Power of Love protagonist and his Power of Love girlfriend.

Adam Sandler plays Barry Eagan a small business owner who markets themed toilet plungers (“fungers”) and other novelty items. One of his best selling products is a “funger” with dice and shredded money in the clear lucite handle.  It’s a hit in Las Vegas.

Barry has seven overbearing sisters who love him, check on him, try to set him up and ridicule him regularly.  Barry is a nice, quiet, shy, soft-spoken guy who explodes with violent uncontrollable rage on occasion. Barry is a Power of Love character.  This is a Character Type that Adam Sandler plays often.  Carla Meyer writing in the San Francisco Chronicle says:

Sandler is quite winning, but he doesn’t stretch so much as deepen the same character he always plays. “Punch-Drunk” takes the patented Sandler role and strips it of comic accoutrement — the toys, the frat-boy buddies, the sudden riches. Barry is emotionally stunted like the others, just more heartbreakingly ordinary.

Except that he’s got seven sisters, none of whom has any boundaries. As the only boy in the family, he’s been pummeled by their love and their bossiness all his life. They all call him at work and say, “Hi, it’s me,” then hassle him about his love life and his clothes. Sandler shows a lifetime of such treatment in the gingerly way Barry handles his siblings. The audience winces with him when he enters the chaos of a family gathering.

punch-drunk_love-05Power of Love characters are sweet unassuming people, easily put upon because they lack the confidence and self assurance to stand up to others. They believe that if they aren’t hypersensitive to others needs they will be rejected and abandoned. They often have a lot of suppressed anger when they feel they give and give, are taken advantage of or are not fully appreciated.  It’s hard to be “nice” all the time.  Power of Love characters are constant people-pleasers who avoid conflict. The irritations and resentments suppressed can build to the breaking point and explosion occurs.

Roger Ebert writing in the Chicago Sun Times says:

The way to criticize a movie, Godard famously said, is to make another movie. In that sense “Punch-Drunk Love” is film criticism. Paul Thomas Anderson says he loves Sandler’s comedies–they cheer him up on lonely Saturday nights–but as the director of “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” he must have been able to sense something missing in them, some unexpressed need. The Sandler characters are almost oppressively nice, like needy puppies, and yet they conceal a masked hostility to society, a passive-aggressive need to go against the flow, a gift for offending others while in the very process of being ingratiating.

Barry unleashes his ingratiating hostility and aggression when he calls a sexy phone chat line for a little companionship and ends up being harassed, followed and beaten– He explodes. Barry fights back with incredible ferocity and tracks his bully to a sleazy mattress store for a strangely aggressive but polite show down.  A good part of why Barry is able to stand up to the bully is his love for and protectiveness of his new girlfriend. (She is hurt in one of the attacks on Barry.)

Emily Watson plays Lena Leonard, another Power of Love character.  She falls in love with Barry when she sees his picture in one of his sister’s office cubicle.  A tryst in Hawaii between the two shy timid people is set to the Harry Nilsson song “He Needs Me” sung by Shelly Duval (orginally featured in the move Popeye.)  This song could be the official Power of Love character’s theme song.  Listen to it here or read the lyrics below:

And all at once

I knew, I knew at once

I knew he needed me

Until the day I die I won’t know why I knew he needed me

It could fantasy oh… or maybe it’s because…

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me!

Da da da da da da da dum dat dat dat da da da

It’s like a dime a dance

I’ll take a chance I will because he needs me….

No one ever asked before, before, because they never needed me

“But I do”

But he does!

Maybe it’s because he’s so alone

Maybe it’s because he’s never had a home

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me!

For once, for once in life I finally felt that someone needed me…

And if it turns out real

Then love can turn the wheel

Because…

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me

He needs me!

Da da da da da da da dum dat dat dat da da da

The dark side of a Power of Love character is played by Kathy Bates in the film Misery.  James Caan will need her even if she has to break his legs to prove it.

owns a company that markets themed toilet plungers (“fungers”) and other novelty items. He has seven overbearing sisters who ridicule him regularly, and leads a very lonely life punctuated by fits of rageowns a company that markets themed toilet plungers (“fungers”) and other novelty items. He has seven overbearing sisters who ridicule him regularly, and leads a very lonely life punctuated by fits of rage.

Monsters Inc. – Day Twenty Nine – #40movies40days

monsters_incMonsters Inc. is set in Monsteropolis and in its main energy supply company.  An assembly line of closet doors on the company’s “scaring floor” provide entry to the monsters to pop out, scare children and generate the screams that power Monsteropolis.

Protagonist, James P. Sullivan “Sully” (John Goodman) is a genial, lovable and caring big blue furry monster.  He is a Power of Love character and the top performer in the company, followed closely by  his main rival Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi).  Sully’s manager/trainer is Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal).  He is a fast-talking  short green cyclops who is a publicity hound Power of Ambition character.  Mike basks in Sully’s reflected glory and assists Sully in his duties.

The problem in Monsteropolis is that children are becoming harder and harder to scare.  The joke is that the monsters are actually terrified by children. An elaborate containment routine is triggered when so much as a child’s sock enters their world.  Complete chaos ensues when a little girl, Boo, accidentally follows Sully back to Monsteropolis.  She isn’t afraid of Sully at all and calls him “kitty.”

936full-monsters,-inc.-photo.jpgAfter the initial shock, Sully immediately protects, hides and cares for the child.  Boo falls into the clutches of the Chairman of Monsters Inc., Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn) and Randall Boggs in a plot to enslave children and forcibly extract their screams. Randall is a chameleon-like Power of Truth character.  He possesses the ability to change color in an sneaky stealthy shape-shifting way that truly terrifies Boo.

In uncovering the plot and rescuing Boo, Sully and Mike also discover that more power is generated by laughter than by fear.  Randall and Waternoose are exposed and defeated.  Monsters Inc. revamps its approach and generates even more power.  Mike finally graduates to having his own door and Sully reunites with Boo for a final tender good-bye.

This wonderful Pixar movie made me wonder what in my life is powered by fear.  It made me wonder what would happen if I turned off that switch and changed tactics, like Monsters Inc.  It’s my belief that any decision generated by fear is the wrong decision. Fear always speaks to the worst in us.  What leap of faith would I need to take to generate more power through joy? What would I need to change in my life to do that?

The Mating Season – Day Twenty Four – #40movies40days

g_the-mating-season-gene-tierney-john-lund-76c98The Mating Season is a good old fashioned Power of Love story in the best sense of the word.

Ellen McNulty (Thelma Ritter) is forced to sell her hamburger stand, so she decides to visit her son Val (John Lund), who lives in another city. Val has recently married a socialite, Maggie (Gene Tierney). To help her out, her husband hires a maid and promises to send her over right away. In the meantime, Ellen arrives. Maggie, her daughter-in-law, mistakes her for the maid. Ellen begins to tell Maggie who she really is, but she is worried that saying anything might cause Maggie embarrassment, so she doesn’t reveal who she is and decides to pretend to be a maid. The next morning Ellen arrives with her things. She wakes Maggie up and when she realizes that her son didn’t explain everything yet, she keeps pretending to be a maid. She tells him that she will only be underfoot if she lives in the house as a mother-in-law. She eventually talks him into the idea but he doesn’t like it very much.
Maggie’s mother (Miriam Hopkins) decides to come for a visit and she is nothing like Maggie. She is a snob and she doesn’t like Val one bit. While helping Mr. Kalinger (Larry Keating), Ellen realizes that his son, Kalinger Jr. (James Lorimer), is taking credit for work actually done by Val and tells Mr. Kalinger the truth.
Mr. Kalinger then invites Val and Maggie to the party. At the party, Maggie gets into an argument with an important female guest (Cora Witherspoon) after the woman insults her, and Maggie storms out. Val, realizing that this woman carries a lot of influence, forces Maggie to call the party to apologize to the woman. She does so unwillingly, leading to another fight.
The next morning, Val and Maggie make up and steal away in a closet for a kiss. Ellen’s friends are at the door and ask to speak to “Mrs. McNulty”. At this point it is revealed that Ellen is Val’s mother. Maggie is furious with Val for hiding his mother’s identity from her. She and her mother leave for a hotel. Maggie later confronts Val at his office. Val tries to explain himself but Maggie won’t listen. She tells him that he has become a snob and that she is moving to Mexico.
Mr. Kalinger decides to get Val and Maggie together. He convinces Maggie to come to the hotel bar with him for a good-bye drink, knowing that Val will be there for a party. When Maggie sees Val, she again scolds him for trying to hide his mother and leaves the bar. Val leaves the party and rushes to retrieve his mother. He brings her back to the party and begins introducing her to the ‘snobs’. Maggie, who has come back to the bar, witnesses Val introducing his mother to the woman who had insulted her at the earlier party. Ellen tells Maggie’s mother that it is time for both of them to leave the apartment. Ellen lands on her feet, however, as Mr. Kalinger decides to marry her.

Ellen McNulty (Thelma Ritter) runs a hamburger stand that’s underwater with the bank.  She can’t afford the payments and it’s not worth what she borrowed. (Some things never change.)

Her son, Val  (John Lund), has been asking Ellen to come live with him.  She hitchhikes from New Jersey to the Midwest, where her son has a good job in a large manufacturing company (some things have changed drastically).

Ellen’s son, Val, is an upwardly mobile junior executive (Power of Ambition) who has recently married Maggie (Gene Tierney). His new bride is not rich but grew up in the diplomatic corps and has very wealthy and important friends and political connections.

Val hires a maid to help Maggie with their first big dinner party. In the meantime, Ellen arrives unannounced. Maggie, her daughter-in-law, mistakes her for the maid. Ellen (Power of Love) wants to spare Maggie embarrassment, so she doesn’t reveal her true identity.  Instead, Ellen decides to make herself useful and to just go along pretending to be a maid.

137px-Thelma_Ritter_in_The_Mating_Season_trailerEllen convinces Val that she will only be underfoot if she lives in the house as a mother-in-law. She knows Maggie needs help as a young wife and convinces Val to continue the ruse.  Although Val loves his mother, there is something inside him that is deeply embarrassed about his humble beginnings and his unsophisticated mom.

Maggie’s drama queen mother (Miriam Hopkins) arrives for a visit. She is a (Power of Idealism) snob who doesn’t think Val is good enough for her daughter. She is more impressed with the boss’ son Kalinger Jr. (James Lorimer).  Jr. is a playboy and a cad (Power of Excitement), who is also in love with Maggie.  Jr. is also passing off Val’s hard work and ideas as his own.

During the negotiations of an important contact, Maggie (Power of Conscience) takes exception to the rudeness and  snobbery of the main client’s wife (Cora Witherspoon).  After confronting the woman, Maggie storms out of an important social outing surrounding the deal. Val, realizing that the client’s wife carries a lot of influence, forces Maggie to apologize. Maggie does so unwillingly, leading to another fight between the newlyweds.

Ellen skillfully intervenes in the angry aftermath. The young couple make-up with a romantic duck into the closet (the only place they can really be alone). Ellen’s friends arrive at the door unexpectedly and Ellen’s ruse is exposed.

matingMaggie is furious with Val for hiding his mother’s identity from her. She and her mother leave for a hotel. Maggie later confronts Val at his office. She tells him that he has become a snob and that she is leaving him and is moving out of the country.

Mr. Kalinger Sr., who has fallen for Ellen, arranges for Maggie to meet him at hotel bar for a good-bye drink. Val proudly introduces to Ellen to the important clients. Maggie sees how much Val loves his mother. Her heart melts.

Ellen tells Maggie’s mother that it is time for both of them to leave the newlyweds to themselves. Ellen lands on her feet as the fully smitten Mr. Kalinger Sr. asks her to marry him.

No matter how high you rise, nothing is as important as family, no matter how humble or unsophisticated. It’s a timeless lesson.

Dogtooth – Day Two – #40movies40days

dogtooth03Last night I saw Dogtooth, the 2011 Academy Award nominated Best Foreign Language Film from Greece.  There’s going to be no rhyme or reason in selecting the films for my 40 movies in 40 days project.  I’ve decided to go wherever the spirit leads me.  Once I start watching a film I am going to view it all the way to the end and see what it might have to say to me.

Last night, my random choice was Dogtooth, mostly because I could stream it instantly on NetFlix, but also because I had heard good things about it as an overlooked Oscar nomination (mostly from my alt film friends).

WARNING: this film is not for everyone.  It is strange, perverse and quite disturbing– but fascinating after some slow-going.  My opinion reflects the common consensus and the film has a 93% fresh critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the “strange perverse” caveat.

The film enters, without explanation or set up, into the insular world of a reasonablely wealthy family in Greece.  Three adult children (without names) live with their parents, completely isolated from the outside world.

The first scene opens on  a vocabulary lesson, via cassette recorder, providing the definitions of a number of words whose meanings are arbitrarily switched– the word “sea” the adult children are taught means “armchair.” When asking to pass the “salt” the word they are taught to use is “phone.”

They are also taught the outside world is extremely dangerous and even fatal.  (A non-existant fictional “older brother” they are told ventured outside and was devoured by a housecat– one of the most dangerous and ferocious animals on the planet who feeds on human flesh).  The father returns with ripped clothes and smeared head to toe with blood to report the grim news.

dogtooth2The family compound (house, pool, large garden) is located inside a tall hedged fence that completely obstructs the view.  Only the father ventures outside, in the safety of his car.  He owns a large factory and is a dead-pan but accomplished and probably expert business man.  He’s made up a variety of stories about why no one ever sees his family and why no one is ever invited to the house.  (He is a Power of Reason character and alienation vs connection is a common thread through-out the movie.)

The mother is an obsessive Power of Love character.  She willingly goes along with the father to protect the children from outside “bad influences” and to keep them safe, secure, always in her orbit and completely dependent on her.

The family television only plays video cassettes made by the father which depict family scenes and family events.  When the father buys groceries all the product labels are carefully removed and discarded before any item is brought into the house.  The father “translates” an English language Dean Martin record, which the children are told was made by their “grandfather,” as an ode to family loyalty, fidelity and trying hard to please your parents.

The mother never leaves the compound but does have access to a rotary telephone, which is hidden and locked away in the parent’s bedroom.  The adult children believe she occasionally retreats to her room to talk to herself.  When one of the girls sneaks into the bedroom she has no idea how the phone works or what it is.  When she accidentally dials a number and hears a voice, the girl is terrified and immediately hides the phone again.

The adult children live a strange bizarre life and have no real context for anything.  They are at the edge of rebellion but when they question the parents the adult children accept the warped answers they receive.  The parents aren’t depicted as evil or horribly abusive (well maybe a couple of times).  They are strange, inappropriate and consumed with constructing a completely insular world of rather twisted innocence.  They enthusiastically celebrate all sorts of family events.  They laude their children’s achievement goals (all sorts of little contests are devised). They are mostly benevolent despots.

dogtooth_15bThe only stranger the family sees is the female security guard who (while blindfolded) is occasionally driven to the compound to have joyless mechanical sex with the adult son.  When one of the daughters gets hold of her contraband videotapes of American films (Rocky, Jaws and perhaps Flashdance) the daughter begins to quote from the movies and acts out the dance sequence from Flashdance.  The isolation is shattered and things end as strangely as they began.

So where exactly did this lead me?  Lots of metaphors have been offered about the film– but as I thought about the film I wondered my own unquestioned assumptions, definitions and fears.   How much of what I believe did I inherit or do I accept without examination?  How many of my beliefs are warped or distorted by someone else’s experience that is presented as fact or “truth”?

pa1b10_cola_basted_ham_lgIt reminded me of the old story about the ham in the pan.  The story goes like this– A woman is cooking Easter dinner for her family and cuts off the ends of ham before tucking it into a very large pan and putting it into the oven.

Her small daughter asks her why she cuts the ham like that.  The mother answers that it is the way it’s always been done.  But then the mother wonders about this.  She asks her own mother about the reasons for cutting off the ends of the ham.

Her mother replies that it was how she was taught to prepare a ham.  They finally ask the family matriarch and she says that the oven in her home was too small to accommodate a large ham so she had to trim either end to make it fit in the pan and in the oven.

How long after the reason is obscured, has changed or become irrelevant do our assumptions and behavior patterns remain the same?  Sometimes what we are told is false, like in Dogtooth, and the warnings, information or attitudes passed on simply represent someone else’s fears, good intentions or experience, without any true contextual basis in reality or in our own experience.

1wJ4VAE4iooCFor example, how many of my attitudes and assumptions toward money come from parents who were born just after the Great Depression?  I am revisiting a wonderful book, The Energy of Money, during this 40 days.  The book’s premise is– everything about who you are is intensified in your attitude about money.  Money is just a form of energy– how much energy you expend getting it, holding on to it or spending it.  Like all energy, it has a flow.  This flow can be blocked or squandered in response to fears, false assumptions or living in a way that is not intentional (not paying attention!)

How should my energy flow be focused in pursuing my projects?  How do I not squander or dissipate my energy by frantic activity.  How do I assess just what I want in evaluating and pursuing each project?  How do I do that intentionally and in reflection of who I want to be?

I am incredibly lucky and very blessed.  My father was extemely proud of me.  As a creative person I was never told that I should have a “back up plan” or I should study something “practical.”  He and my mother always believed I could do whatever I set out to do– no matter that I was a girl.  All good!

One of the last things my father said to me before he died was that he was only sorry he wouldn’t live to see my “great” success.  By that time I had been in a long-term mostly happy marriage (I still am), I helped raised one of my siblings (in my home) who was going through a rough patch in young adulthood, my husband and I owned a house, I had a law degree and a Masters Degree, I enjoyed a flourishing teaching, writing and consulting career and I had written several books– wasn’t that great success?

I know my dad meant that remark in a kindly way.  But maybe I have been chasing something that is always just beyond my reach and not defined by me.  I am not done by any means.  There are always further mountains to climb, bridges to build and to cross and obstacles to overcome– In this next 40 days I want to make sure those mountains, bridges and obstacles are mine– and not the unexamined reflections or desires of someone else.  I want to pursue only those projects that represent the best of what I can offer and which reflect the best of who I want to be.  I want to live more intentionally– at least during this 40 days of time.

How do you go about being intentional in your work?  Who defines you and your beliefs?  Do you ever wonder about that?  What fears or false assumptions might be standing in your way?  Comment here or on my ETB FaceBook page.

DAY ONE  POST- RANGO- IS HERE