Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: friendship

Book Review: Flash the Donkey Makes New Friends

flash-the-donkey-makes-new-friendsFlash the Donkey Makes New Friends, Rachel Anne Ridge, Tyndale Momentum, 2016.

Flash is a donkey on his own. He and his blue wagon make the rounds around town as he collects discarded items that he sees value in. Then, as he and his loaded wagon make it up a hill, Donkey and the wagon crash into a tree.

Three Good Samaritans stop when they see Donkey with a bump on his head. They discuss the best options, including taking Donkey back to his home. When they find out that Donkey has no home, it is decided that he will go home with them.

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Project Nim (2011)

In her early work with chimpanzees, Jane Goodall concluded that chimps represented all that is good about humanity. But as she continued her work, she witnessed an unbelievable amount of chimp-on-chimp violence. And she realized that chimps represented the bad aspects of humanity as well. They are, Goodall has stated many times, a lot more like us than we realize.

And that’s possibly why chimpanzees, and apes in general, fascinate us so much. Whether it’s the Planet of the Apes franchise, National Geographic-like TV specials, or even an episode of NBC’s Harry’s Law, we are fascinated with these animals and their human-like nature… as was behavioral psychologist Herbert Terrace of Columbia University in the 1970s.

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Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Kill_Your_Darlings_posterIt is a bio flick, centering around the college years of some of American literature’s greatest minds: Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. Their story is framed around a little-known murder that took place in 1944. As the film opens, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) is carrying a body into a river. The film tells you where it is going.

But to get there, we have to go to New Jeresy and get a glimpse at Allen Ginsberg’s home life. Brilliantly portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe, it is a performance that reminds us that Radcliffe is not Harry Potter anymore – and does not want to be. Ginsberg is ready to get away from his family, his poet father Louis (David Cross) and mentally wary mother Naomi (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Their dysfunction has gotten the best of him. He needs to escape and live his own life. His escape comes when he goes to Columbia University.

As a freshman Ginsberg meets Lucien “Lu” Carr. Carr is at the center of this story. His background and his story is just as dysfunctional as the family Ginsberg left behind. It is through Carr that Ginsberg meets the jock Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and the always dapper William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster). The four form a friendship and seek to transform the literary word around through a new movement that would be called the New Vision. The movement will tear down the stuffiness of what was, and give new life to American literature.

Ginsberg is escorted into a world of sex, drugs, and jazz, by exploring parts of New York that his straight-lace roommate from Danville, Virginia tells him to avoid. It does not take long before Ginsberg is missing classes and failing to complete assignments. Nor does it take long before he finds himself in an awkward love triangle with Carr and his older partner David Kammerer (Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall). Kammerer worships Carr. In exchange for companionship and sex Kammerer writes Carr’s papers and other assignments, sometimes going over the required page limits. Kammerer sees Carr’s relationship with Ginsberg and with Kerouac as a potential rivalry.

Ginsberg finds himself falling for Carr in the same way that Kammerer did. However, Ginsberg wants to liberate Carr from the awkward and oppressive relationship he is in with Kammerer. What Ginsberg does not realize is that Carr is playing everyone off of each other. It is only after Carr kills Kammerer, that Ginsberg realizes he has to liberate himself from Carr’s tangled web.

How often do we want to help our friends out to point of taking ourselves down too? It was difficult for Ginsberg to leave Carr behind bars, but in order for Ginsberg to be free himself, he had to let Carr go. There are relationships that come and go, they come for a season and we grow and learn a lot about ourselves in that season. But that season ends, and another season arrives. As hard and difficult as it is, sometimes it is best.

Snake and Mongoose (2013)

movie-posterSnake and Mongoose is an independent film showcasing the sport of drag racing and how it got to where it is. The film tells the too often untold story of the two Southern California drag racers that made the biggest different: Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. The film uses actual footage from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

Snake, excellently portrayed by Jesse Williams (Gray’s Anatomy and Cabin in the Woods), is living in his father’s shadow. Williams is consistent in his portrayal of Snake, pretty stability to the character and to the film. He paints cars with his father during the day, and at night he builds and races. He has the unique gift of knowing what to do with a car to improve it just by listening to the engine.  Snake wants more out of life. He is searching for purpose.

Mongoose, portrayed by Richard Blake (Dragonball Evolution), is a husband and father of a growing family. Blake’s performance is shaky at best. During certain scenes, Blake gives a demanding performance, one that leaves the viewer wishing they had experienced in other scenes. He too is searching for more in life. He too is searching for purpose.

The two men are talking one evening about their dreams and aspirations for the sport. Mongoose looks up and sees the golden arches of McDonald’s in the sky. As if they are some prophetic sign from the heavens, the golden arches inspire the two men to think big.

While sitting at a table with his boys, Tom (Mongoose) gets an idea. His kids are playing with Hot Wheels. He gets Don (Snake) onboard, and they meet with the Mattel guy to pitch the idea. The Mattel guy goes for it, and Hot Wheels becomes the first ever sponsor in the racing enterprise. The set up was that Snake and Mongoose would race against each other. Each would have his car be sponsored by Hot Wheels.  And each would have a Hot Wheel version of his car being sold to the public. It was a marketing masterpiece.

As the racing picked up and the marketing got bigger, Don’s life became to take shape. He found a steady girlfriend, whom he would later marry and have a family with.  “I don’t think about it,” Don says, “I just drive.” Tom, on the other hand, faced a mountain of struggles and heartbreak.

Throughout the film, as Tom chases his purpose in life, his wife sees her vision of a family running away. She becomes very discouraged with Tom as he is gone all the time and because he is spending less and less time with his sons.  “I though you’d change,” she yells at him, “This is your dream, not mine!” Tom sees himself working hard to provide for his family. But the racing world has seemed to consume his life.

The struggle with his wife affected not only his relationship with his sons, but also is racing. He began losing more races to Snake. “Trouble is,” Don would tell him, “you’re a loser. The racing . . .. Your wife . . ..” Harsh words for a harsh time in Tom’s life. Tom had reached a point where he was crashing and burning. Nothing anyone said would make him realize what was going on. Don’s words did not come from a mean and spiteful place, but from a deep loving and caring heart of a friend.

That is who these two men are. Like Jonathan and David in the Old Testament, they were the most unlikely of friends. Yet, they were. And they were better for it. They knew each other, cared for one another, and there to support one another.

The film has a smooth movement to its storytelling. It spans over a few decades of racing, but it does not, as some films do, make it choppy. There is no awkward “fast-forward” through years moments, which this viewer was grateful for.

© 2018 Jason C. Stanley

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