Wednesday 1 February 2017

Ryerson: Spaces of Blue: Week One Overview

In addition to other postings, I will be using this site for eight weeks to provide weekly overviews for a course I am teaching for Later Life Learning at Ryerson University

Gate by Jim Hodges
 Week One: Thematic Overview: Reconciling Spaces of Blue with our Better Angels of our Nature

"In the eye of the hurricane the sky is blue...The eye of the hurricane is in the very middle of a destructive power, and that power is always near, surrounding blue healthy and threatening to invade it...

In a world of moral hurricanes, some people can and do carve out rather large ethical space. In the natural world and social world swirling in cruelty and love we can make room. We who are not pure ethical beings can push away the choking circle of brute force that is around and within us. We may not be able to push it far..., but when we have made us as much room as we can, we may know a blue space that  the storm does not know."
Philip Hallie, 1986  

"Man cannot do without beauty."

 —Albert Camus

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

 —Abraham Lincoln

“Only the willfully blind can ignore that the history of human existence is simultaneously the history of pain: of brutality, murder, mass extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror. No land is free of it; no people are without their bloodstain; no tribe entirely innocent. But there is still this redeeming matter of incremental progress. It might look small to those with apocalyptic perspectives, but to she who not so long ago could not vote, or drink from the same water fountain as her fellow citizens, or marry the person she chose, or live in a certain neighborhood, such incremental change feels enormous.”
 —Zadie Smith, New York Review of Books, December 22, 2016                                               

Spotlight tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world's oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper's tenacious spotlight team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a tense investigative
dramatic thriller.

Shawshank Redemption explores what happens to a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins)who is convicted in 1946 of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), gradually befriends him.The ugly realities of prison life are quickly revealed as Andy is harassed and beaten. But Andy’s perseverance and his smarts allow him to prevail behind bars. Quiet and introspective, he uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for the warden's illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red. Although the film is a gritty drama, it also shows inmates forming a community of friendship and support despite oppressive conditions.

The Good Lie is a well-told tale that illuminates the experiences of the 20,000 “lost boys” (and girls) of Sudan, with grace, insight and humor, even though it occasionally veers into sentimentality. Unfortunately, the promos feature Reese Witherspoon because her character, a sassy employment counselor named Carrie, even though she doesn’t show up until about 40 minutes into the film. The three young Sudanese men are the real stars of this film. Two of them were part of the “lost” movement, as was Minnesotan Kuoth Wiel, who has a small supporting role as the sister of one of the men.


The Visitor (2008) is a powerful, moving film about a lonely widower and college economics professor who undergoes an emotional rebirth when he befriends a pair of illegal immigrants, one of whom has recently been threatened with deportation by U.S. immigration authorities. One reviewer has said: “The best movies are those that understand the human condition and have a personal vision. The Visitor is one of those rare creations." 

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