Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson starred in ‘The Remains of the Day’

How do you waste your life emotionally? How do you waste your life politically? These two questions were clearly at the heart of the quiet despair raised by the movies The Remains of the Day (1993), an adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro 1990 book by the same title. The film garnered eight Academy Award nominations.

Remains of the Day 2 - Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson(Anthony Hopkins, left, and Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day).

The central theme of the movie The Remains of the Day, as was true with the book as reviewed by Matt Lynn Digital, was exploring how to waste your life emotionally and politically. Anthony Hopkins, starring as head butler Mr. James Stevens, was central to the service functioning of the home of one Lord Darlington of England. Starring opposite Hopkins in the same household was Emma Thompson as Ms. Sally Kenton/Mrs. Sally Benn. These two served professionally in the home of Lord Darlington for many years, including through the period leading up to World War Two.

Remains of the Day 5 - James Fox(James Fox as Lord Darlington in The Remains of the Day).

James Fox portrayed Lord Darlington, a wealthy British gentleman and amateur statesman seeking to help avoid the war that was looming through much of the film. Through the course of the movie, we see Mr. Stevens and Ms. Kenton serving the household of Darlington, who in aiming to steer England away from involvement in the second Great War of the twentieth century pursued a course of appeasement that smeared his reputation and left him broken later in the film. Lord Darlington was perhaps the clearest example of a wasted political life in pursuing his ends in the manner he did.

Remains of the Day 4 - Christopher Reeve(Christopher Reeve as United States Congressman Jack Lewis).

Christopher Reeve played the moral and political voice arguing most strongly and consistently against the political stance of Nazi appeasement in the question of war and the Nuremberg Race Laws. Lewis was movie into Darlington Hall both in the beginning and closing frame of the movie, and was part of the reminiscing trip that Mr. James Stevens was taking to Mrs. Sally Benn (aka Ms. Sally Kenton) near the movies conclusion. The example of Lewis was the affirming notion of a life well lived that contrasts with the notions of a life wasted.

Remains of the Day 6 - Peter Vaughan, Anthony Hopkins(Peter Vaughan, left, and Anthony Hopkins).

Part of the emotional waste in the movie was the exploration the movie took into the relationship Mr. James Stevens had with his father, also a butler. Peter Vaughan portrayed Mr. William Stevens (aka Mr. Stevens Sr.), who had slowed down yet insisted on the dignity of work and duty that came to exemplify the cold exterior of reserve for his son, Mr. James Stevens. The younger Mr. Stevens expressed little emotion to learning of his father’s passing during a function hosted by Lord Darlington, and showed an inappropriate human response to the significant loss of a loved one.

Remains of the Day 3 - Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson(Anthony Hopkins, left, and Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day).

This inability to express emotion came about repeatedly through the film (and the book), including 20-years later when congressman Lewis granted Mr. Stevens a trip to see Ms. Kenton/Mrs. Benn to reminisce in person about where their lives had gone in the time since they had separated. Mrs. Benn would not be coming back to Darlington Hall to rekindle an unrequited relationship with Mr. Stevens, though both agreed through the metaphor of place and time that their evening chats were a worthwhile and strong bond the two would continue to have.

Remains of the Day 7 - Kazuo Ishiguro(Kazuo Ishiguro, author of the book and co-writer of the screenplay for The Remains of the Day).

The film and book can properly be called a period piece of time and place for the particular questions of appeasement, a part of the formal British response to the rising tide of war in Europe, and the questions of strategies against a dictatorial scourge of hate rising on the European continent between the two major twentieth century European wars. I’ve called out some of the examples for how emotional and political life was wasted in the film. Others were not explicitly called out in this review, though their examples were specifically called out to the characters in scenes and stories that have not been referenced within this review.

Remains of the Day 8 - Anthony Hopkins(Anthony Hopkins as Mr. James Stevens in The Remains of the Day).

The film closes with Mr. James Stevens getting the home ready for the family of the now former United States Congressman Jack Lewis’ family coming to England to take residence at Darlington Hall. Staffing the home is on the mind of Stevens to the approval of Lewis, who is present and fully present in his moral life, both emotionally and politically. What comes next isn’t clear, though the cautionary tale for how, as a viewer of the movie to avoid wasting ones life, has been successfully told. My rating of the movie is 4.0 stars on a scale of 1-to-5 stars.

Matt – Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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David McCullough and his book ‘Truman’

In 1993, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to David McCullough for his 1992 biography of the 33rd president of the United States of America. Truman is the telling of the country upbringing of Harry S. Truman of western Missouri, who ascended to the presidency following a term in the United States Senate before being named to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt ticket before the death of the 32nd US President in office.

Truman 2 - David McCullough(David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winner for the book Truman).

The late-blooming Harry S. Truman became president  in April 1945 following the death in office of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died after winning an unprecedented fourth term as President of the United States. The United States was embroiled in World War Two. V-E Day would come in May 1945 with Truman as president, as would V-J Day in September of that same year.

Truman 6 - Hirohito(Hirohito is Japan’s longest reigning emporer).

Hirohito was controversial within Japanese circles for surrendering Japan’s interests in continuing to fight the Allied Forces in World War Two following Truman’s ordering of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and then a second atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. The description of these events in Truman were concise, graphic, and of a chilling nature that seemingly cannot the horror and destructive quality of the act that ended the war.

Truman 5 - Nagasaki & Hiroshima(The atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima).

The Truman biography, of course, gets into some of the family history of the 33rd president, including some unflattering thoughts the in-laws of the president had before and even during the presidency. We get a sense in the biography that Truman was the kind of man envisioned by the founders of the United States, a man of the people rather than of the ruling or business elite classes. This argument is made with an awareness that Harry S. Truman had served in the United States Senate.

Truman 3 - Harry S Truman(A painting of former U.S. president Harry S. Truman).

Truman the man and president was immensely popular after forcing the end of World War Two. America was as strong an economic force as it had ever been from the perspectives of employment, wage growth, and growing political prestige in the world. The Truman Doctrine of offering political, military and economic assistance democracies threatened by external or internal authoritarian forces, was soon followed by the Marshall Plan for restoring Western Europe after the war.

Truman 4 - Dewey Beats Truman(The famous photo of Harry S. Truman holding a Chicago Daily Tribune headline that incorrectly proclaimed Thomas E. Dewey the 34rd US President).

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan were just plans that mostly won the public’s support. Rising tensions in Korea would prompt a police action with drafted United States troops, ostensibly backed by the United Nations. The draft was unpopular for it represented, at least to the citizens of the United States. New York Governor and candidate Thomas E. Dewey had been assumed by the media that to win. A whistle stop campaign by train was taken upon by the 33rd president has been chipping away at the lead by the Republican Dewey. The infamously wrong headline by the Chicago Daily Tribune would be extolled by the reelected president.

Truman 7 - Douglas MacArthur(General Douglas MacArthur  commanded the Southwest Pacific Theatre during World War Two while enjoying popularity among the US citizens back in the United States).

The conflict in Korea, which persists into the present day with the two countries of North Korea and South Korea. The presence of war along with a willful personality in the form of General Douglas MacArthur. Insubordination of a provocative nature to the president Harry S. Truman forced the president to progressively seek to increase punishment. Ultimately, Truman fired MacArthur due to it being correct. Eventually the public came to dial back the negative responses to the president. This firing, combined with keeping the handling of the atomic bomb in the hands of civilians, were strong outcomes of the Harry S. Truman presidency.

Harry S. Truman comes across as late to the political scene of Washington, DC. yet in attuned to the needs of the public. The reading for me was quick if not a bit plodding. Overall, my rating is 3.75-stars out of 5.

Matt – Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ succeeds, for men

Christopher Nolan makes quality films. Three-time Academy Award winner Dunkirk (2017) is the most recent example that I had the opportunity to screen with both pleasure and appreciation. With five other Oscar nominations to its credit, take this as evidence that the world is standing up and taking notice.

The Dunkirk Evacuation as a historic event reflects the evacuation of primarily the British Expeditionary Force, along with some intermingling of the other Allied troops, from the French seaport of Dunkirk (spelled Dunkerque in France) to England in May and June of 1940. At this point in the war, the United States was not supplying troops, sailors, airmen or other combat support. (The USA would become involved after the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor in December 1941).

Using his characteristically complex movie-telling style, Nolan tells three main stories intermingled with one another. Those three events included events the beaches of Dunkirk, the civilian fishing ships and ferries crossing the channel, and the Royal Air Force pilots of the United Kingdom battling the German Luftwaffe in the skies above and surrounding the seaport town of Dunkirk.

Dunkirk 2(Kenneth Branagh)

Largely using age appropriate actors to fill the ranks of the military branches represented in the film, the film is largely inhabited by actors that are lesser known. The most well-known actor in the lot is likely Kenneth Branagh, who besides playing Commander Bolton in Dunkirk has acted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and multiple productions based on the writings of William Shakepaere. Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, one of the small boat captains at the heart of Operation Dynamo,

Dunkirk 4(Mark Rylance)

The film Dunkirk itself depicts a handful of personal stories in near real time. The directorial aim for the aim certainly seemed to be showing the reality of being in this place at this time in history. At the real history as well as in the film, the German army had surrounded the Allied forces to the point of potential surrender. Large naval ships could not pull into the harbor for being drafting too deeply. Had the forces been unable to vacate the seaport, the tide of the war could have swung to an irrevocable Axis advantage.

The experience of the movie Dunkirk is much less about war than Saving Private Ryan (1998), Apoczlypse Now (1979), or Platoon (1986). Dunkirk is the ensemble experience of surviving a military disaster to fight another day. That so much of the force survives is part of what makes the story remarkable. That the movie is told with a largely male audience in mind is also, perhaps, what made the movie one without sufficient crossover appeal to be the Academy Award winner for Best Picture.

Dunkirk 3(Christopher Nolan)

As the reviewer of the movie Dunkirk, it is confession worthy for myself that I originally saw this in a movie theater shortly after its release with a group of male friends. While we watched, the wives of the married folks in the group went shopping at the mall while waiting to join us for dinner. I had come from training earlier in the day. In another confession, I fell asleep in the theater. In watching the movie on Blu-Ray for this review, that disclosure probably isn’t fair to my level of enjoying the film.

My overall feeling is that the historical story of the Dunkirk Evacuation is worthy storytelling. My further belief is that the portrayal of said story in Dunkirk also passes muster if you are interested in larger projections of how history occurred. To me, that there wasn’t a love story attached to the telling is not fatal. If you would prefer that, then I might suggest seeing Pearl Harbor (2001) instead. My preference, given these two, is Dunkirk.

Matt – Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Year 2017 in Reading: 35 Books (The Gold Books)

In joining a friend in the aim to read 24 books, or two books per month, you learned with my last blog that we exceeded that goal. 17 books received a bronze rating. On a rating scale of 1-star to 5-stars, Matt with Matt Lynn Digital rated three books with a rating of 4.5 stars or higher.

Ranking at 5.00 stars in 2017 included this one (1) top ranked book that stands alone as the most significant and accomplished book that I read this year:

winesburg-ohio-1

As I said in the opening paragraph of the review that you can link above still holds true for me now.

“Sherwood Anderson really accomplished something in tone, language, structure, and accessibility with Winesburg, Ohio that really tickled me. The detail and insight into character here are contemporary because they influenced 20th century American literature.”

If for no other reason than enjoying a book with honest narrative, consider reading Sherwood Anderson.

Ranking at 4.50 stars in 2017 included these two (2) books:

The truth-telling of Night by Elie Wiesel is the emotionally-wrenching firsthand telling of survival through unspeakable psychological trauma when faced with the most atrocious forms of hate and violence perpetrated by humans against humans.

The overriding purpose of the material in Night is that you need to feel and experience it firsthand to truly emotionally connect; these emotionally real and dark qualities that Wiesel shares honestly with raw detail demand the high-rating granted this book.

Do not allow the lack of detail with the included review diminish your consideration for reading Night. For the graphic and psychologically necessary quality of the learning, engage this book with one or more readings.

night

The ground of The Noonday Demon contemplates entrenched taboos of culture and place from a different though also truth-telling perspective. This firsthand sharing of Andrew Solomon‘s depression, mental illness, and anxiety bring in other people’s experience while also incorporating scholarship. The overriding sense of advocacy combined with sincere attempts to convey the depressive experience connected with me.

The linked review includes perhaps a bit more information than I would want to include if reviewing the book again. Capturing detail on the nature of depression and anxiety, the causes of depression along with Solomon‘s disagreement of said causes, and other subjects like self-medicating, suicide, and the role of society in supporting those who suffer are all relevant advocacy items.

The goal to understand the real human quality underpinning disease makes this sincerely offered book worth the reading. That my high-rating props up the book by advocating for its quality, if nothing else, should offer you some curiosity and interest in reading The Noonday Demon.

Noonday Demon 1

The above listing of books reflects the gold listing of books that I read in 2017. The bronze listing was published on Friday. A silver listing followed yesterday. In a bit more positive tip of the hat to my year in reading than Joan Didion experienced with The Year of Magical Thinking, I found this to be a year of magical reading.

Matt – Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Year 2017 in Reading: 35 Books (The Silver Books)

In joining a friend in the aim to read 24 books, or two books per month, you learned with my last blog that we exceeded that goal. 17 books received a bronze rating. On a rating scale of 1-star to 5-stars, Matt with Matt Lynn Digital rated these 15-books with a silver rating of 4.0 stars.

Ranking as a silver rating with 4.00 stars in 2017 included these fifteen (15) books:

Something that strikes me is that each of these books had something to teach me that was both unique and distinct from some experience that I had experienced previously.

Mans Search for Meaning 1

In the Garden of Beasts and Man’s Search for Meaning both look into the larger experience of World War Two from quite different perspectives and motivations. Seeking a relationship with the cultural concept of America is at the core of A Walk in the Woods and  Team of Rivals, at least for my reading of these two works this year.

a-walk-in-the-woods-1

A deep and soul-searching self-examination were important for the works by Joan Didion and Khaled Hosseini. The larger arcs of history were examined in Dava Sobel and Virginia Woolf, both for women and for culture. Dickens and Ishiguro share a cultural review of wealth and British culture, stoicism, and an interest in uplift.

A Room of One's Own 3

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is perhaps a demonstration of the best newer author that I have read on the list of those included in our list of writers. The many perspectives and internal dialogues are quite engaging, nuanced, and prompts me to want to seek out more. For this result, I offer praise.

The Secret History

The above listing of books reflects the silver listing of books that I read in 2017. The bronze listing was published yesterday. A gold listing will follow soon.

Matt – Saturday, December 30, 2017

Vision Overcomes Hardship in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor E. Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning introduced me to the writing of Viktor E. Frankl, a 20th century psychiatrist and holocaust survivor. In the mood for seeking larger meaning, vision, and an inspiration for a recent testimonial for overcoming adversity with psychological strength, I was drawn to Frankl‘s best-selling work.

I found the reminders and echoing of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the treatment of Frankl‘s Man’s Search for Meaning reassuring. Frankl builds his logotherapy with an awareness of Kierkegaard‘s will to meaning. That Frankl further counterpoints Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler by arguing not for drives of pleasure or power but for meaning strikes me as a truly remarkable accomplishment.

Mans Search for Meaning 2(Viktor E. Frankl)

The book itself starts first with not so much of Frankl‘s experiences in the concentration camps throughout Europe during World War II as an exploration of some of the personality profiles of those that experienced the concentration camps. The editorial consideration here was not as much to downplay personal narratives of those that had come. The decision was to offer something different.

Man’s Search for Meaning then introduced the psychiatry of logotherapy. The edition that I was reading was a later version that aimed to make modifications based on the learning and growth within this branch of psychiatry, which again advanced upon focusing on meaning rather than “not the drive to sex or pleasure, as Freud theorized, or power, as Nietzsche and Adler argued” (www.goodtherapy.org).

Friedrich Nitezsche was a philosopher in his own right that focused in no small part on human drives and passions as central to a meaningful human experience.

Mans Search for Meaning 3(People define meaning!)

A powerful aid and benefit that I took from Man’s Search for Meaning came with the exploration of logotherapy. In discussing self-actualization and experiencing meaning, Frankl mentioned three different ways to discover meaning:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed.
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone.
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.

The first of those is self-explanatory. Offering the world a new thing like a smartphone, or a best-selling book, or the means for two friends that later become husband and wife, are examples.

The second could involve experiencing the goodness of an act of kindness, the truth of an uplifting statement of gratitude, or the beauty of the autumn colors as leaves change from green to golden, brown, or red. Loving another person offers meaning and connection of its own.

When facing circumstances that you cannot change and which cause tangible pain, anxiety, or both, your approach to that pain can transform the experience of suffering into bearing witness to that pain and transforming it into a human achievement. The example Frankl offered on this score was that of an aging medical doctor who had been suffering greatly after his deceased had died. There was comforted when he realized that his wife’s passing first meant she would not suffer the grief that he was feeling.

I came away with the reward of new insight and encouragement. Viktor E. Frankl further rewarded me with a deeper structural understanding of psychiatry along with distinctions between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.  I give Man’s Search for Meaning 4-stars out of 5.

Matt – Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hearing the President Elect of Toastmasters speak…in person

Does seeing the President Elect of Toastmasters International speak sound interesting to you? What if I said that the leader of an organization of more than 345,000 people in 142 countries was coming to speak? Might you listen to that?

Would you want to see this gentleman speaker from the island country of Sri Lanka? What if I mentioned that this man would speak about how his country gained independence from Great Britain after World War II? Perhaps he will talk about how Sri Lanka recently freed itself of the ugliness of a 30-year Civil War in less than ten years ago. Would hearing about his experiences surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake of 2012 interest you?

President Elect of TM 3

Today, I get to hear Balraj Arunasalam, Distinguished Toastmaster and president of an organization serving almost 350,000 others and me speak in my community about leadership, communication, service, and possibly some of the life experiences that formed his passion for all three of those interests.

President Elect of TM 2

Today’s events bring Mr. Arunaslam from Sri Lanka to my midwestern US community. For a volunteer organization in 142 countries, you can imagine that visiting us is a significant event. In addition to a keynote speech of more than an hour, Mr. Arunasalam will perform another hour of education for our club. Other educational events will be included in the day. A minting of Distinguished Toastmasters occurs today, as does a pair of contests for an area serving more than 100 of the over 15,000 clubs in the larger Toastmasters organization.

As a person that has spoken about Toastmasters International before, today is an exciting day.

Matt – Saturday, April 29, 2017