Everybody has a story. They are all worth telling and worth witnessing. I love being that witness.
This article first appeared on my personal FB page in February 2018 – which should help orient you when you realize I’m talking about specific movies (and I provide a cheat sheet at the end for those who are curious) – but my overall message still stands, which is why I’m sharing it, anyways!
It’s Oscar Season – Hurray! February is always one of my favorite months of the year and it is definitely not because it’s my birthday month. It’s because blustery weather is the perfect excuse for me to stay inside and indulge one of my ultimate guilty pleasures – the movies. Oscar nominations make me downright giddy – so many stories, so little time.
Whenever I hear someone sneer about “spoiled Hollywood types patting themselves on the back – why don’t we celebrate real heroes?” my heart breaks a little bit. Because yes, of course, everyday people should be celebrated but that is what the movies do. They tell our stories.
To be fair, I am also a voracious reader who will debate until the end of time that the book is always better (the only exception to that rule being “The Princess Bride” since it is perfection in every format, but that’s an essay for another day). Being realistic, though, not everyone has the time or inclination to read. Which is why I love that the movies, as a medium, are a great equalizer. Anyone with 2 hours to spare can immerse themselves fully in someone else’s story and, ideally, come out of it having walked a step or two in shoes they’d never otherwise be able to imagine themselves wearing.
So far this season, I’ve fallen in love with a merman and a mute, two angst-ridden teenagers coming of age in different times and places, a lonely Queen and her loyal Indian companion, some circus performers, a fussy English tailor’s spinster sister, a girl in a coma and the boy who loves her, a pile of mischievous lost and found items, some frogs, a black photographer who should definitely follow his gut instincts, some justifiably and not so justifiably very angry mothers, a complicated, brilliant and fallible historical orator and even some plucky heroes in a galaxy far, far away*.
These films all pull you into their world, encouraging you to embrace the crazy, tragic, beautiful mess that makes up human experience and to recognize that we all strive to fulfill the same basic desires – love, acceptance, a sense of belonging, a higher purpose, a deeper meaning.
Everybody has a story. They are all worth telling and worth witnessing. I love being that witness. My middle son is like me in that our emotions and empathy are very big. It is hard for his little body to cope with all of these big, messy feelings and he currently finds that to be a curse. I have grown to see it as a blessing – being able to embrace so many different worlds, so many different viewpoints – it makes my own life experience much richer.
My feelings about the storytellers are summed up beautifully in Emma Stone’s love song to artists in “La La Land;”
“A bit of madness is key to give us new colors to see. Who knows where it will lead us and that’s why they need us. So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters and poets and plays. Here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that break. Here’s to the mess we make.”
So please, go to the movies, or in these crazy times, go to any screen that can play a movie. Enjoy, embrace, empathize and celebrate all of our stories, captured through the eyes of some of our most powerful storytellers. Then go forth and be both a witness and your own storyteller – I, for one, can’t wait to hear your story.
*Movies I reference: The Shape of Water; Call Me By Your Name; Lady Bird; Victoria & Abdul; The Greatest Showman; Phantom Thread; The Big Sick; Lou (Pixar short); Garden Party (animated short); Get Out; 3 Billboards outside Ebbing, MO; I, Tonya; Darkest Hour; Star Wars, The Last Jedi.