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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hanks’

I really have been trying not to over-rely on Youtube videos recently.  But in his commentary on Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Bishop Robert Barron offers a beautifully succinct presentation of the cardinal human virtues.

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Going to see this movie with family later today.  Hopefully it’s half as entertaining as this 🙂

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Polar_express

Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Polar Express” is not for those who are easily upset by sadness and nostalgia in movies.  But if you can manage it, you’ll find some gems worth pondering.

lonely boyFirst, there is the unnamed “Lonely Boy” who almost doesn’t hop aboard the Polar Express.  And when the train arrives at the North Pole, he remains on the train while all the other kids are being shepherded out to wait for Santa Claus’ appearance.

“Hero Boy” (Daryl Sabara), the main character, immediately goes up to the Conductor (Tom Hanks) and asks: “What about him (Lonely Boy)?”

The Conductor’s response is brief and to the point: “No one is required to see Santa.”

We could learn a lot about sin and hell from this part of the movie.  God excludes no one — it is we who enclose ourselves within our great loneliness by turning away from Him, by staying in our private trolleys while others go to see Santa (in this case, Jesus).

polar express bellNow I think I’ll skip to the end.  The narrator (also Tom Hanks), who is none other than Hero Boy as an adult, declares that he alone of all the kids on the Polar Express’ journey was able to hear the sound of Santa Claus’ bells into adulthood.  Even his friend Sarah (Isabella Peregrina), who was perhaps the biggest Christmas enthusiast on the trip, would slowly lose the magic.

I see a definite faith analogy here.  The wonder of the world as seen through the lens of faith in the Blessed Trinity is awesome.  But even when we maintain this faith intellectually, we, too, can gradually stop “hearing” once we cease to live as though we believed.

Fans of the movie will recall that at one point, Hero Boy loses the bell he is given when it falls out through a hole in his robe pocket.  Similarly, there are “holes” in our lives whereby at times, almost in spite of ourselves, we can begin to lose the precious gift of faith we are given.  We become lukewarm, and we lose sight of what is important.

Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. … They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. (Mark 4: 7, 18-29)

the polar express_santaFinally, some thoughts on the scene in which Hero Boy meets Santa Claus (also Tom Hanks).  This meeting occurs immediately following that decisive moment when he says several times, with resolve, “I believe.”

After seeing this movie, I admit I was momentarily overcome with nostalgia, with sadness, with such profound and unexpected longing.  I said to myself…

“I wish Santa Claus was real.”

Santa Claus (a.k.a St. Nicholas) is real, of course — just ask Brett Fawcett.  But I’m talking North Pole, man in the red suit with a stocking hat, elves, toy shop, etc.  Let me rephrase it this way: “I wish the king of the North Pole was real.”

With that childhood yearning resonating anew within me, something occurred to me about why children are so precious to us.  It’s not just their wide-eyed wonder, but the fact that they want a “shining start” to look to — someone or something wondrous and good, in whom/which they can place their trust even when good but imperfect parents, teachers, and other accessible role models let them down.

Even into adulthood, we all want someone like Santa Claus or Aslan (the Lion of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”)…a Messiah — a Christ.

Happily, that is precisely what we celebrate during the Christmas season.  The wonder of Christ is the wonder of Christmas.

Santa Claus (St. Nicholas), pray for us, that we may all discover — and never lose — that wonder.

Top image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search.

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This concluding segment will be very brief.  If you have not already read Parts 1 and 2A, please do so, as this final installment won’t make much sense otherwise.

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Returning to “You’ve Got Mail,” we should remember that Kathleen despises Joe Fox for a good portion of the film.

This, of course, is where the analogy with God ends – most of us would agree that Kathleen has good reason not to be too fond of Joe.  But what’s important here is that Joe wins Kathleen’s heart anonymously through the Internet – “under the radar,” as it were, until she is ready to love Joe himself.  To me this pointed to Christ, Who will often likewise solicit our love “under the radar” so that we may become ready for a relationship with Him on His terms.

Finally, in Kathleen’s final lines, we can see a form of wish-fulfillment that I believe can be translated in terms of the spiritual life.  I think this is worth looking at briefly, since it relates to something that I hope “Into the Dance” has, in its own small way, helped people to see.

Just as Kathleen wanted NY152 to be Joe, we could say to Jesus Christ:

“I wanted it to be You.  I wanted You to be the ground and cause of my freedom, not the enemy of it.  I wanted You to be the source of all creaturely beauty, not the negation of it.  I wanted You to be the Light reflected to me – however dimly and imperfectly – by all my loved ones, not a distant ‘Higher Power’ who is just arbitrarily demanding to be loved more than them as if they were to be forgotten.  I wanted You to be the Reason for my life and my desire.”

Good news: He is.

Image obtained through a Google image search.

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Sorry about this, but I was looking at Part 2 on a Word document, and it is still too long.  Therefore, “Part 2” will be divided into “2A” and “2B.”

The_mission

Before we look at what God’s “seduction” is like and how it is reflected in “You’ve Got Mail,” let’s take a quick U-turn into a completely different movie: Roland Joffé’s period film “The Mission.”

In Joffé’s film, the Jesuit priest Fr. Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) successfully converts a tribe of Guarani Indians to the Catholic Faith.  Before managing this, how does he connect with them?

Jeremy-Irons-in-The-Missi-003

By sitting on the ground and playing a flute.

It didn’t start with creeds.  In fact, it started with no words at all.  It began with an appeal to mankind’s universal openness to beauty (as expressed in the “universal language” of music).

And this came in the form of invitation, not force.  Fr. Gabriel remained in one place, unobtrusive, not forcing himself or his message on any of the Guarani.  His mode of communication was invitation, and his appeal was to his listeners’ desire.

Invitation entails working with people where they are.  It requires communicating with them in terms they will respond to.

To those outside the Faith, God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the Catholic Church, and the things of God can seem at best abstract, and at worst distant and imposing.  But God can – and, it seems, often does – help people to gradually see His truth, goodness, and beauty by way of their various reflections in the world.

God has a way of “teasing” us in the direction of knowing and loving Him.  In the end, the decision is ours.  We can respond to God’s summons by seeking to know Him better, trusting ourselves to Him in faith, or we can choose our natural inclination to focus on ourselves – which can include focusing too much on the things through which God tries to communicate with us.

C.s.lewis3

On that note, here’s something C.S. Lewis had to say on this subject, speaking of man’s hunger for God as a “desire for our own far-off country”:

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience.  We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it … Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past.  But … (i)f Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.  The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

-From the book “The Weight of Glory”

In addition to giving us an indication of how God tries to reach people, this also offers an explanation of why religious and spiritual significance can be found in movies, etc. without being explicitly intended by the artists.  As St. Augustine said:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.

We will revisit “You’ve Got Mail” in light of this tomorrow.

Image of Jeremy Irons obtained through a Google image search; other photos from Wikipedia.

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You’ll have noticed that the title of the post mixes the titles of two other entities — Nora Ephron’s 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” and this blog.

That’s because this post is about both.

You've_Got_Mail

First, let’s look at “You’ve Got Mail.”  What could more endear people to the digital age than the story of two people who hate each other in the real world but fall in love over the Internet?

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is a ruthless (though generally goodhearted) businessman whose new chain bookstore threatens to overtake the smaller, more personal “Shop Around the Corner,” owned by the very endearing, personable, and knowledgeable Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan).

Unbeknownst to both of them, Joe and Kathleen meet in an online chat room under the aliases “NY152” and “Shopgirl,” respectively.

you-ve-got-mail-original

I don’t think I need to expound the plot any further, other than to say that Fox learns the truth first.  The rest of the movie is a heartstring-tugging journey to finding out whether or not:

1. Kathleen will lose her bookstore; and

2. These two online lovebirds will finally connect in person.

SPOILER ALERT: She does, and they do.

What struck me most was the last half hour (give or take) of the film, in which Joe and Kathleen meet daily as friends — albeit friends with an awkward history — and Kathleen expresses her increasing conviction that “NY152” is her soul mate.  Joe, in his playfully facetious (or is it facetiously playful?) style, eggs her on and challenges her ideas about this guy’s greatness.

At the end, when Kathleen learns the truth, she says to Joe:

I wanted it to be you.  I wanted it to be you so badly.

Joe Fox is a lot like God in one key sense.  God, being love itself (1 John 4:8), is constantly soliciting our friendship – not because He needs it or gets anything out of it, but because He greatly desires our happiness and fulfillment:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength (CCC 1).

But of course, God will never use force on a soul.  Such a move would be more like rape than love, and God is no rapist.  He will, however, seduce.

See the connection yet?  Probably, but I plan on expanding on this a bit tomorrow.

Top photo from Wikipedia; second photo obtained through a Google image search.

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