The idea of something around the corner, gives radiance to everything. – G.K. Chesterton
Two movie events coincided for me this spring.
[And then, I saw Tomorrowland.]
In my mind’s eye, though, those two movie events collided. It was one of those moments – or double moments – when you get an overarching glimpse of the patchwork quilt of your life.
[And then, I saw Tomorrowland.]
In April, Twentieth Century Fox began big screen showings of the epic 1960s musical, The Sound of Music. We celebrate, in 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Rogers and Hammerstein film; and I was one of the celebrants.
A few weeks later, we got around to viewing The Theory of Everything, the 2014 Academy Award winning film about renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
[And then, I saw Tomorrowland]
Fifty years is a hefty chunk of time. Fifty years from when I first saw The Sound of Music. News of the movie coming out again registered on my mind, briefly, with thoughts such as: Hmmm…really? Another mega-year-anniversary of a film classic. Wasn’t last year The Wizard of Oz?
But, I had little chance to dismiss its reappearance. My son’s fiancée invited me to go see the film with her, her sister and her mom. Some 500 theaters across the nation were showing a restored version on April 19 and 22.
I’m glad I said I’d go. Certainly, you can’t beat the power of the big screen in a darkened movie theater. No one could see me smiling in the darkness, but I was secretly relishing this new adventure. Here I was, sharing an amazing movie moment – an inter-generational movie experience alongside my new future family members.
Reliving the film five decades later, as if it were 1965, I watched the familiar story play out before me. Immersed once again in the magic of mountains and music, I’m smiling; and I’m thinking: When The Sound of Music debuted, my life as a grownup was just beginning. I was scared and exhilarated all at the same time, just like Maria. I didn’t have any future family yet. And, now I’m adding new family and new adventures.
The wonder of it all. The wonder of looking back through this window in time. In the days after, I’d discover memories popping up — thoughts about that time, and events in between. All the patches in the quilt field began coming into view.
I was still basking in the glow of The Sound of Music memories when we saw the Stephen Hawking story. Naturally, it dawned on me that his story played out on my own timeline. Hawking and Jane Wilde were students at Cambridge when I was studying here in Michigan at Alma. It had never occurred to me that Stephen Hawking and I are contemporaries – until that film. Maybe, and most probably, Stephen and Jane saw The Sound of Music over in the U.K. In 1965. It’s fun to imagine.
For me, The Theory of Everything began to look like Back to the Future. Suddenly, at movie’s end, in the zooming back sequence, I felt myself again hurtling back in time. I could have been Marty McFly. The patchwork field began spreading out in a great expanse beyond the mountain… the mountain I viewed, like Julie Andrews’ Maria, in 1965.
I remember that I related to the character of Maria von Trapp at that venturing out time in my life. I remember absorbing all the songs from the musical, carrying them in my heart as I left home for my own big, wide, scary world.
Both films – stories of the von Trapps in World War II and Stephen Hawking, of my generation – capture the themes of hope and persistence in the face of adversity. Both reflect the value of an optimistic outlook– of keeping on keeping on. For me, both films thread that continuity and inspiration.
[But then I saw Disney’s Tomorrowland]
I was expecting Tomorrowland to build on these recurring themes of inspiration and vision for the future. The subtitle (I noticed, glancing back at the movie poster as I exited the theater) was: Remember the Future. That has definitely become a reflection for our time.
What I want to know is– where was that theme? I so wanted the film to complete a trio of of inspiring films, leaving me with goose bumps to keep the good vibes going. Why was I thinking this film would bring me full circle?
I suspect it’s because of growing up with Disney. Back in those days, in the first patches of my life quilt pattern, Tomorrowland was more than the theme park. Tomorrowland was how I imagined the future could be. Like the mountains for Maria in The Sound of Music, like the mathematics of the universe Stephen Hawing, it’s the anticipation of discovery and that radiant something around the corner that keeps us going as travelers on the journey.
The Sound of Music is a classic film because its theme is classic. It appeals, it seems, not to just my generation when it was created, but to the millennials among us. That surprises me a bit. But, then a true classic film is timeless.
I liked what Myles von Trapp Derbyshire (30) and great-grandson of Maria von Trapp, said about The Sound of Music in an interview with ABC News:
What blows my mind, he said, is how much it’s continued and how much people still value the story, and the people that I meet, how much it’s affected their lives. It’s great to be part of a story that’s proven itself to be timeless.
Myles believes that the story of his great-grandmother Maria – as one of the the main, real-life inspirations for the movie — is about being strong and facing adversity head on. I felt that same sense of upliftment in the story of Hawking. I marvel at the accomplishments of both their lifetimes.
As for Tomorrowland, the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis fits what viewers may have been expecting:
From Disney comes two-time Oscar (R) winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award (R) winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world-and them-forever.
But their critics consensus is this: Ambitious and visually stunning, Tomorrowland is unfortunately weighted down by uneven storytelling, as was expressed in nearly every review I’ve seen.
The Rotten Tomatoes description matches what we thought as we exited the movie. “Ambitious and visually stunning,” and “uneven storytellling.” Not even fave actor George Clooney could save the day in our minds. I wanted Tomorrowland to live up to the Disney hype I’d felt 50 years ago – about the promise and possibilities. I wanted it to be a movie I’d like to see again– like Interstellar or Avatar.
I don’t know about your Tomorrowland, but in mine Oz is a beautiful place and we’re here to make it better, as we act out our personal movie script.But maybe it’s good that we leave the theater perplexed, dangling and a bit disillusioned. Visually stunning just isn’t enough. My sister-in-law suggested maybe they’re leaving room for a sequel.
Maybe the idea is to emphasize the allure of our own self-fulfilling prophecies. Will we feed our optimism about solutions to global problems? Or will we go with our never-ending narratives of doom? Or, will we write a different story?
I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Entertainment Weekly writer Jeff Jensen, who wrote about his involvement with the film. In My Journey to Tomorowland, he describes a fascinating tale of the film’s creation. So, I was eager to see it.
I have to believe the filmmakers wanted the story to be as Jensen put it: a story, one that encourages us and challenges us to live optimistically amid uncertainty, fear, hurt and anger.
Okay, so maybe what’s bothering me is that, for me, Tomorrowland is already here. I realized it the day my 50th college anniversary packet came in the mail. Yikes, I remember now. I remember the future as I envisioned it. Things haven’t panned out exactly like that, but maybe I’ve been living my personal vision as best I can, all along. Despite the naysayers, I’ve always been bolstered by the underlying beauty of the Disney mantra…anything is possible if you have a dream.
Movies can be tools that help us find our direction in life. Looking back, I can see where The Sound of Music was a movie of influence. Living in anticipation of something around the corner, seeing the hills alive with possibility, with the radiance of everything.
I may not appreciate the way Tomorrowland the movie turned out, but I’m happy with my own. I’m happy with the patterns of existence in the patchwork quilt of my life, the patches syncing with patches, often in amazing ways. Now more than ever, I believe in the magic… and keep it close to my heart.