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A little bit of hope for the New Year

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As the New Year begins, I've been thinking a lot about hope, a condition that I struggle to maintain. Some times are easier than others. Right now, with all the economic and financial market mayhem, a bitter cold winter, and a head-cold to boot, I'm a little short on hope.

But I've seen three new movies in the past three days which have inspired me a bit, because they share at least one theme: hope.

Sometimes hope leads us to take great chances, and is rewarded, as in Slumdog Millionaire, one of two films I watched New Year's Eve.

Sometimes hope leads to a greater good, as in Milk, the second film I watched New Year's Eve (before I went to dinner with friends, feeling hopeful.)

And sometimes, hope doesn't appear to have done any good at all, until it's judged by history. This might be one of the lessons of the much-maligned film Valkyrie, which I enjoyed far more than I expected. There's a triumph of hope for you.

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This is a wonderful time of year for movie buffs. Great films are usually released around the holiday season, so we can feast before the Oscars. There are several this year that I've wanted to see and of the films I have seen so far, I haven't been disappointed.

I must admit that I had low expectations for Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise. It's based on a true story about an (obviously) ill-fated plot by high-ranking German military officers to assassinate Hitler. I'm a history buff and must confess that I'm interested in strategic studies, war and conflict (and peace-making and peace-keeping, the other side of that coin.)

Still, I initially chose Valkyrie because it was playing at the right time in the theatre next to my office, so when I left work early Monday it was an easy pick. The reviews haven't been great -- Cruise doesn't even try to fake a German accent to play the patriotic aristocrat Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who becomes thoroughly disillusioned with Hitler, his war tactics and his Nazi party. But the plot is remarkably suspenseful, given the fact we all know how it will end!

It's quite fascinating to watch the conspirators devise their plan for a full coup, because they realized that after killing Hitler, they would need to take control of the government and the war effort. To this end, they implemented Operation Valkyrie, a contingency plan that had been conceived by the German military as a way to control Berlin if anything were to happen to Hitler.

The conspirators -- 200 of them in reality, although not all are shown in the movie -- were ultimately executed, and Hitler carried on. But for only about 9 more months, before he committed suicide as the Second World War was closing.

So where's the hope in all of this? Well, I would argue that the conspirators' fight to try to save their country from Hitler, despite overwhelming odds, is a story of heroism and of hope for change even if it cost them their lives. They didn't win, but at least they tried.

Slumdog Millionaire, the second film I watched during my marathon, is also about trying, and trying and trying for a better live and for love. It's absolutely gripping, told in flashbacks by 18-year old Jamal who is on a winning streak on the Mumbai TV series "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire." Incredibly, this orphan kid from the slums knows the answers to a wide range of questions, on subjects from religion to poetry to cricket, because of all the cruel, violent and demeaning twists his life had taken.

Slumdog is constantly described as a visually rich, feel-good movie. To me, that's far too simplistic. But the story is rich, believable, horrific and hopeful.

Milk, much the same. Like Valkyrie, we know how it ends. But the story that takes us there is rich.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He fought hard for gay rights and civil rights in San Francisco itself, but also with an eye to the impact his fight would have across North America. For that, he was assassinated in 1978.

Much of the beauty of this film is in the acting. Sean Penn is remarkable as Harvey Milk, whose fight ended abruptly but whose work has inspired so many. (The above photo, from the SF Chronicle, shows Penn with extras on one of the last days of filming.)

Milk talked often about hope, the importance of giving people hope that life could be better -- for gays, for minorities, for seniors, for the disabled...."and if you help elect...more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone."

You can't do much without hope. I think that'll be my New Year's resolution.


Comments (17)

What a coincidence. I was just thinking about how much hope I have for the New Year right before I opened your blog! I think hope is a great New Year's resolution!

Interesting reviews on your marathon movie night. Here's hoping for a New Year full of good things. AND I hope your head cold is gone soon!!

Wonderful post! It's a perfect NY resolution. And all three of these movies sound great...the only one I'd heard of before was "Milk."

It's funny because the upcoming PhotoHunt theme is "hope" and I was looking thru photos today with that word in mind. I looked up the word in the dictionary and even got out my moldy old Bartlett's Quotations to look for some quotes about hope!

Your movie marathon sounds like a great way to start the new year!

sandrac:

Thanks Girasoli, I'm feeling better already. With Obama taking office in a few weeks, 2009 could finally be a year of real hope!

Annie, I didn't realize the photohunt theme was "hope"! Now that could be a challenge, to find photos to illustrate that concept. (Other than photos of Obama, of course.)

I'll be watching this week's hunt with great interest!

Eden:

Happy New Year, Sandra,

Coincidentally, a very good friend of mine went to see Slum Dog Millionaire and become depressed mid way through the movie so went on to see Milk. She enjoyed the second choice much better ... I thought GMTA!

Hope is a wonderful thought for the new year; thanks for a beautiful post reminding us of that...

Anne:

Ok, this is almost spooky, I wrote about hope last night, and had commented to girasoli about Obama bringing a hopefulness that has been missing a long time. Then saw on girasoli's site the photohunt theme this week is hope, then read your entry above and comment about Obama - I'm listening for Twilight Zone music with all these coincidences going on!
Hope really is abounding at this time - AMEN for that!

Happy new year Sandra and thanks for this great movie review! I really want to see Slumdog Millionaire.

sandrac:

Eden, that's a shame that your friend lost hope in Slumdog -- things really do end on a more positive note than you would expect midway through the film!

Thanks, Dana. Here's to hope!

Anne, it does seem to be on a lot of minds as the New Year begins. Maybe we're all realizing how badly we -- and the entire world -- needs some hope. And you're so right -- amen to hope!

Thank, Chiocciola, and happy new year. Slumdog is a good way to start 2009, it's a movie with a lot of love and hope, but low on saccharine -- which I like!

Happy New Year, Sandra!
Here's hoping for you a lovely year in 2009!
Thanks for the reviews...I've wondered about Valkyrie, thinking I'd like to see it, but because I already know the ending, it's almost too depressing to consider.

Thanks for the wonderful reviews. I was going to see Slum Dog Millionaire yesterday but the theater was so packed that I changed my mind. I'll try during the week. Hubby and I saw Frost/Nixon. IMHO, a fascinating film with superb performances by the two protagonists.

On Christmas Day we saw Kinky Boots. I didn’t know about this movie until you mentioned it in the thread on the '10 movies you could watch over and over'. We so enjoyed this movie, that as soon as it ended, we watched it again. All-around great performances (loved Lola and Charlie Price!) and fabulous music. The musical number in Milan got us almost to stand up and dance. I’ll be looking into buying the DVD and not only for the music. ;)

I missed your birthday, but I’m sure it was a very happy one. Wishing you a wonderful year!

sandrac:

Happy New Year, Brenda! And Valkyrie isn't really depressing (although I realize it certainly sounds that way!)

Maria, I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed Kinky Boots. I actually bought the DVD before Christmas -- as much for the music and the dance routines. The big number in Milan was so great! also just ordered the CD, the music is so much fun!

Frost/Nixon is also high on my list of films I want to see before the Oscars, it looks fascinating.

lkvanz:

I wondered what you were up to - and after a lot of digging (too many entries for you) - I found this blog - I have only read a little -- I'm pretty sure it is you (purple bear entry) it is -31C with the wind chill in Edmonton - the Florence photos look great - we loved climbing everything in Italy 2004 - all the best in 2009 (wherever you are)

Brad'll Do It:

Hope. What is it but the belief that things can be better? It's a fundamental part of our makeup as human beings, because it's what we do: try to make things better... for ourselves, for those we love, for the world in general.

Sometimes our efforts to make things better are thwarted, or blocked, or frustrated, but we do not lose hope. We can certainly misplace it for awhile, but because it's WHAT we are, we can never really lose hope.

So, Sandra, my wish for you is a year FULL of hope, and I "hope" to meet you in person sometime soon.

sandrac:

lk, thanks for posting! But you have me at a disadvantage....you'll have to let me know who you are!

Brad, thanks for your kind wishes -- here's to hope! And I also hope that we can meet this year.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Happy New Year Sandra! This is a really wonderful and thought provoking post for the New Year. I also enjoyed reading your movie reviews. I've heard of Valkyrie but had not heard of the other two films you reviewed. They seem like really interesting films to watch.

Thank you for this great post. And I hope you're feeling better.

Sandra - loved this. I wanted to see Valkyrie on the weekend but was talked into Benjamin Button (which was very good and hopeful too). Now Valkyrie is back up on my list.

sandrac:

Happy New Year to you too, Kathy! And thanks, I am feeling better.

I'm really hoping to win an Oscar pool this year, so I'm making a concerted effort to see most of the films that I think will be nominated. (A girl has to have a goal!)

Jerry, thanks for the BButton tip, I've been debating whether to see it and now I definitely will (and I'm sure it'll get some Oscar nominations!)

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