I watched a new movie this week that by any standards is brilliant and moving. And in my opinion, one of the most underrated films.
“Cry, the Beloved Country” is based on a heartwrenching book that deals with really complex topics in such a unique way. I can’t even remotely relate to the characters yet I still suffered with them. This movie deals with issues of segregation and protests against apartheid in such a beautiful and moving way, combined with topics of fear, corruption, death, and forgiveness.
James Earl Jones was incredible. He manages to convey and make you feel so many things through really minimalistic acting. He doesn’t waste himself on meaningless gestures & histrionics, he lets you see the suffering of his soul.
The movie does a great job illustrating the battered country of Africa– where the land itself is described to be the essence of a man– as he navigates through Johannesburg and experiences all its corruption and violence. Many of the political, economic, and societal issues within Southern Africa in the 1950s are brought to light in this film,
This is a movie about black and white. A well-known theme in Hollywood, but I’ve never seen a movie deal with this subject so excellent as this one. The plot is unlike anything I’ve ever read or seen before. Alan Paton, the author of the book it’s based on, is one talented man.
Beginning in the 1500s when Dr. Faustus was written and spanning to the modern era, the human race has pushed the boundaries of what is natural and tried to become gods. We invented the astrolabe, conquered the seven seas, built nations on the destruction of entire peoples, and constructed skyscrapers which seem to defy every idea of what is possible. Our health has improved, we’ve made life convenient beyond belief, but despite all this achievement we, like Marlowe’s arrogant celebutante “yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.”
For the past few hundred years mankind has become increasingly involved with the same internal struggle as Faustus. Each new level of knowledge we acquire we become more careless and ignorant. Everytime some new process or physic principle is discovered we slip deeper into the Faustian bargain we call progress. This rat race for discovery becomes paired with this nonsensical notion that we are the only important thing on the planet and that we deserve everything which we can fathom and more. This is the mindset which sent Faustus to eternal damnation, and this is the mindset which plagues the modern world. Regardless of all the power we may accumulate over the natural world we still are humans, flawed forever by stagnant ideas and held to earth by the unrelenting and unstoppable march towards death.
As private school educated students from generally wealthy families, fiscally or situationally, it is easy for us to fall into the Faustian mindset. I’ve been at fault of this, my friends, my family, and classmates––all at some point have looked at the world and thought “I deserve more”. This mindset ruins the last humanity which wisps gently between us, we become stale, ignorant, and spoiled, unable to understand that there are other people around, and even more so, other things. We all too easily divulge in the trap that we can do what we want to the world without consequence.
Just as Faustus enjoyed his twenty four years of power which ended in a no bit unexpected end, mankind is still enjoying its twenty four years marching towards an end we can all see and yet choose to believe is not real. Like Faustus, humans are just people who happen to be in situations of extraordinary power.
Im going to give a fair warning that this topic is very triggering and revolves around sexual abuse. You do not have to read this.
I am going to give a few quotes from my favorite book, it is about an abusive relationship between a 15 year old girl and a 42 year old man that is meant to be romanticized. This book is beautifully written and incredibly alluring. It is also twisted and deranged and made me question every single person in my life. The ability to manipulate as well as a sexual abuser is terrifyingly fascinating. This book made me nauseous, and can be painful to read but i think about it everyday and in no way regret a second of the time spent reading it.
“Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else’s mouth the word turns ugly and absolute. It swallows up everything that happened.”
“It’s strange to know that whenever I remember myself at fifteen, I’ll think of this.”
“I wonder how much victimhood they’d be willing to grant a girl like me.” This particular quote made me sick and furious because it is clear that he manipulated her into thinking every situation was her choice.
“Kneeling before me, he lays his head on my lap and says, ‘I’m going to ruin you.” I cried during this chapter, this feeling was so claustrophobic especially when having to watch Vanessa know nothing of what was being done to her, that was the most painful feeling.
“He touched me first, said he wanted to kiss me, told me he loved me. Every first step was taken by him. I don’t feel forced, and I know I have the power to say no, but that isn’t the same as being in charge. But maybe he has to believe that. Maybe there’s a whole list of things he has to believe.”
“He’s always going to be old. He has to be. That’s the only way I can stay young and dripping with beauty.”
“He’s the only person who ever understood that desire. Not to die, but to already be dead.”
“An older man using a girl to feel better about himself – how easily the story becomes a cliché if you look at it without the soft focus of romance”
“It’s easy to pinpoint when it all started, that moment of walking into his sun-soaked classroom and feeling his eyes drink me in for the first time, but it’s harder to know when it ended, if it really ended at all. I think it stopped when I was twenty-two, when he said he needed to get himself together and couldn’t live a decent life while I was within reach, but for the past decade there have been late-night calls, him and me reliving the past, worrying the wound we both refuse to let heal.”
“It’s just that I’m depraved, my mind so warped by Strane that I misinterpret innocent favoritism as sexual interest.”
“I think we’re very similar, Nessa,” he whispers. “From the way you write, I can tell you’re a dark romantic like me. You like dark things.”
My mind screamed throughout the entirety of this book, it begged for her to run, it wondered if she should stay. And in the end, I realized what this book was meant to do. It is meant to show you how hard it is to say who did it.
A few weeks ago I wrote about what it was like to have a crush. It inspired me to write about my perception of a broken heart. I think that the feeling of a heart breaking is different for every single person, simply because we all have different hearts. They are filled with different people and different places, some half full and some to the brim. In my eyes, no heart is the same. A heart can be broken by a girl, a boy, a mother, or a father. Anyone can take it and squeeze it until it cracks. I can not learn a lesson, the same thing will happen to me over and over and each time I let myself think that this time will be different. It never is. The first time I think my heart broke was when I was in seventh grade. When I was young, I was very close with my dad, and I spent a lot of time with him. When I turned 13, I had already begun to struggle with depression. It ran in my family and my dad had it bad. When I was growing I would try to talk to him and sometimes it felt like I was talking to a body without a soul. I never understood why I wasn’t enough to keep him afloat, why I wasn’t enough to chain his soul to his body. My days started to slow and I began to feel the separation between my skin and my spark, and slowly, I felt it float away. I finally understood why it was so hard to laugh. Nothing was funny. And I understood why he couldn’t say I love you, Because he couldn’t even love himself. I stopped trying and he started to get better. He would ask me how my day was and I couldn’t remember. So I said nothing. I watched as my dad formed that same hopeless look in his eye, as he watched my soul melt out of the bottoms of my feet. My dad sometimes says things he doesn’t mean but that doesn’t make them sound any less real. A few weeks ago he explained to me that it was tiring watching me get like this. “I don’t want to be your dad anymore.” He took it back. But I would have rather been slapped in the face. That’s okay. I know he tried for a long time and for a lot of that time, I wasn’t there. My mind was always elsewhere, drifting through the sharpness of the sea that he used to throw me into. I like to take myself to those places. Where I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders or holding his hand while I got off the ski lift. I get sad because I don’t want there to be a brick wall between my mind and his the last year and a half that I live in this house. I don’t know how to try to fix what we broke. Sometimes we sit in a room with a stranger as she tells us what we do wrong and how we can “communicate” in a healthier way. I watch him look out the window and think about a million other things. I won’t play the victim, even if I sometimes catch myself wondering what 10-year-old me could have done better. It’s not his fault and I know that. But it broke my heart to watch as the conversations grew shorter and his door opened less. It broke my heart to start hearing my name instead of honey. It broke my heart to not see him on the field at my soccer games. It broke my heart to watch him cry about his dad and the lack of love he received. I love you, dad. But after all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I try to clean once a week; today was the day I did that cumbersome ritual. I wiped my coffee table and picked up the clothes and paper that propagate atop the carpeted flooring. I grabbed all the trash on my bedside table and desk. I even made my bed (a task not typically high on my to-do list). Yet, there is dust all over my room, no matter how much a clean or wipe it off it never seems to go away. Every week I fight it and every week it returns, I mean how do you even get rid of it; when you wipe it away half of those pesky particles fly into the air, only to land back where you just cleaned just after you finish. Maybe the dust is why I keep getting sick, full Interstellar mode. The reason I’m thinking about dust though is that today during my incumbent chore the dust was floating through the air really beautifully, it was sparkling in the sunbeams coming through my window and just caught my attention. I wish it wasn’t so dirty, otherwise, I might add more dust to my room.
If I could have any superpower it would be the ability to press pause. I’d watch as vehicles stopped in their tracks, raindrops hung suspended from the sky and people froze like statues in a museum. I can picture it clearly. My world of chaos would dissipate, and calmness would take its place.
“statues in a museum” PC: The MET
Amidst this setting, I could finally organize the mess that is my life. I’d be able to complete all my homework, chores, and responsibilities, with time to spare. I’d spend hours devouring books, articles, and literature in all its shapes and forms, acquiring knowledge far beyond my years. I’d learn Calculus and how to paint; I’d try a new sport and play piano. I would live lavishly; taking bubble baths and treating myself to spa days. I’d finish all seasons of Gilmore Girls and binge Friends for the millionth time. I would cook myself incredible meals or waltz into a Michelin Star restaurant and help myself to the dishes balancing upon waiters’ hands. I would sit with my thoughts – something which I rarely have the time and space to do – and reflect on my past and my future; who I am as a person, and who I want to be.
Everything would be totally under control. I forgot my computer charger? Pause, and I’ll go pick it up. I’m almost dozing off in class? Pause, and I’ll take a long nap. I would do all this and so much more with all the time in the world. And when I got lonely, I would only have to press play, and my day would resume its natural course.
I’ve always appreciated music, but for most of my life, I never listened to it. I consumed what my parents and friends listened to, there were songs I liked, and artists I didn’t, but never did I voyage to discover “new” music. Even in high school, I was the kid who said “oh I don’t really listen to music”, then, one day, something changed. It came in leu of befriending Adam who I greatly looked up to, he, like the others who have surrounded me, changed me through pointed jokes towards my seemingly ever-lacking personality. The first songs I listened to I played relentlessly and then disposed of when they no longer brought me joy, were decades-old pop songs such as 99 Luftballoons, You Spin Me Right Around, and Kiss. I liked these songs and still do, but they still didn’t feel right for me. These songs have millions of plays on Spotify and thousands may consider them the best of all time—at least in their respective genres—but I still couldn’t connect to them in a way I now knew possible as a result of the passion I saw in Adam for excellent music. I didn’t know it yet but I was in search of the perfect song (something I likely will never find). After old pop, I moved into rap, not the good kind, honestly like bad music, although I do appreciate them for what they are artist like bbno$ and Young Gravy has no place in the search for the best song of all time. It’s not to diss them but they create music not for the soul but for the pleasure of the masses. Now, I think I know what you’re thinking, “this kid just said popular songs can’t be good, twice.” While I do think there is a correlation between production for mass markets and production for emotional expression, many popular songs are that way because they truly tap into a deep human feeling that people can’t turn away from. Latino artists do this incredibly well. I recently played mi gente in the car with Logan and he called it “cringy” still, that song, despite its incredible popularity infuses you with energy in a way most songs could never do. Is Mi Gente the perfect song? No. Is it worth listening to? Absolutely. Another artsiest who accomplishes this emotional feat is Lauryn Hill. I know I’ve already talked about her but she has the infusion into her music that grabs your soul and holds it right in the rhythm and beat of the music. I think this is the beginning of a formula for a perfect song. Though like John Keating with poems, I really don’t think there can be a “formula” to a perfect song, rather, qualitative aspects add up to create something perfect.
I hate the word crush because it feels so naive. A child should have a crush, maybe a 6th grader. But, the more you think about it, the more the purity spills out of it. For a long time, I forgot what it was like to have a crush on someone. The definition of a crush does change as you grow, but the feeling that comes with it stays the same. There is a very specific feeling associated with the word crush. The feeling of your stomach spinning like a washing machine, whirring and flipping at a borderline alarming speed. When my entire face glows with a deep pink with just the mention of their two-syllable name. When you have a crush on someone, you think about them all the time, especially because you barely get to see them. I think that makes it more exciting, to be honest. The phone calls at 10 pm go on till 3:15 am. The inability to hang up because time moves so fast that I feel like I could never hear his voice enough. They make you laugh at the dumbest things that really shouldn’t be funny, but coming from him it is. Driving home from the beach after dark with my hands and body rising out of the sunroof. A smile was constantly plastered on my face. It makes me wonder a lot of things about myself, did I find the person that makes me laugh on my off days? Why are my walls falling so fast? Why can’t I be away from him for more than a day without pacing around the closing walls of my room? We can sit in the most comfortable silence studying each other’s faces, running and filtering through a million thoughts that could be filling their head at that moment. In reality, we are both thinking the same thing. I like you so much. I wondered why I was able to be so comfortable, but I realized that it is because my inner child is at peace. I have the same crush on him that I had on a boy in 7th grade, so innocent and pure. Like a string of light bringing two people together, encasing the two of you together and tightening until you feel as though you have merged into that person’s body. And suddenly, that feeling is born and fills your entire body and soul. I didn’t know I could smile for the entirety of a four-hour phone call.
I wish I had the time to write something good but I am in a rush. Here’s part of an essay from earlier this year in English class:
What servicemen chose to carry revealed who they were. Select 3 of the characters. Explain what each carried and what was revealed about that character.
The Things They Carried is Tim O’Brian’s semi-fictionalized account of his time spent fighting in the Vietnam War. Told in a series of short memoirs, the author jumps from character to character, a story to story, in order to explore a range of themes: from death and ethics, to love and the relationship between truth and fiction. In Chapter I, O’Brien describes the physical items each soldier chooses to carry during their march. With this, the reader gets a sense of the characters, their emotional baggage, and their coping mechanisms; all of which are expanded on throughout the novel.
In just the first few pages of the book, the platoon leader is introduced through his chosen supplies. Jimmy Cross, simply referred to as Lieutenant, carries with him correspondence from a girl named Martha, who lives back home in Ohio. “In the late afternoon, after a day’s march, he would… unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending.” Among these letters are also two photographs and an oval pebble collected from the Jersey shoreline and gifted to him for good luck. The Lieutenant’s memorabilia expresses that he is lovestruck, and wishful and turns to his imagination in order to escape his dire reality. In fact, Cross will one day be so absorbed in his fantasies that when a fellow troop, Lavender, is shot on his watch, he blames himself and burns the letters. Because, while he may be a romantic, the Lieutenant also has a great sense of duty. As the unit commander, “Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books…and the responsibility for the lives of his men.” Altogether, the Lieutenant’s possessions reveal his sentimental and dutiful true nature – two qualities that he relies on during the intensity of warfare.