Movies in mid-winter

Montage of images from 5 movies

5 movies. As usual, quite different from each other. Except maybe they’re all about thinking outside the box:

  • Blink and be totally lost in this financial shell game.
  • When life falls apart, is there a 2nd act?
  • Faced with a great wrong, what can one person do?
  • A journey out of this world.
  • Mind over matter is just a saying, or?

Let’s dive right in:

The Laundromat


The Laundromat poster

Let’s start with a biographical comedy-drama film. Although, as you get into watching the film, you’re not quite sure if you’re supposed to laugh or cry. 

Meryl Streep plays a woman clearly on the wrong end of the money laundering schemes and shell companies, while all she wanted was to enjoy retirement together with her husband.

There are strange things going on here, in the guise of “it’s just business” that seriously hurt individuals and businesses, while also massively benefitting those behind all the shell companies. It’s money laundering, stashing it offshore, away from any prying eyes or regulatory oversight.

Throughout the film we get a primer on money laundering, offshore shell companies and the tangled webs people weave to hide their gains.

The film is based on the Panama Papers scandal.

The film is engaging, entertaining and manages to clearly explain complicated concepts that us regular mortals might otherwise ignore. Because surely offshore companies in Panama or elsewhere will have no impact on my daily life… 

Maybe think again!

Holiday in the Wild


Holiday in the Wild poster

Christmas and rom-com. Worth watching? Definitely.

Right after son Luke leaves for college, Kate surprises her husband Drew with plans for a second honeymoon in Zambia. Except Drew has a surprise of his own for Kate: He’s leaving her. Says he’s no longer in love with her.

With her world falling apart, Kate decides to go to Africa by herself. After all, the arrangements are already made.

Once there, Kate finds herself dropping the role of tourist as she by chance visits a wildlife sanctuary. 

Slowly, her life finds new meaning as she discovers a cause worth fighting for and work that she is uniquely qualified for.

Turns out her second act in life is maybe even better than the first.

Amazing Grace


Amazing Grace poster

Slave trade in the British Empire was outlawed by Parliament in 1807. 

That act was the culmination of a long and often bitter fight. William Wilberforce was a key player. When he considered leaving politics to study theology, he was persuaded by friends that he was doing God’s work by taking on the slave trade (a quite unpopular position at the time). 

This film follows William’s long fight and the struggles along the way. For many people in the UK, the slave trade was something that happened way over there, in Africa and the West Indies. Nothing that concerned them at home. Never mind that products used daily in the UK were produced overseas by slave labor.

It was thus quite eye-opening when an actual slave transport ship came to an English port and Wilberforce cleverly arranged a tour right by it to show regular people what the slave trade actually looked like.

The movie takes us along on the faith and moral journey of Wilberforce and we have plenty of opportunities to wonder: What would I do? What should I do? For human trafficking is still with us. As are the effects of slavery in the U.S.

Apollo 11


Apollo 11 poster

Where were you when Apollo 11 landed on the moon? I was in Sweden, in front of a TV in the very early hours of the morning. Watching live images transmitted all the way from that bright orb in the sky.

A few years ago I visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where I saw the Apollo 11 command module in real life. As well as a lunar lander. It’s striking how fragile (and small) they all look. Seems incomprehensible that they could travel all the way to the moon and make a landing there. Eventually safely bringing the crew back home.

The Apollo 11 documentary is a worthy celebration of a major accomplishment that, 50 years later, still is unparalleled.

What makes the documentary so unique is there’s no narration. We’re hearing actual voices from the time. And all the footage is from 1969. No reenactment. No visiting the key places again, years later. 

Just awesome footage of superb quality. Because apparently someone had the foresight back then to shoot documentary footage on 65mm film. We’re talking the really wide film only used on big-budget blockbusters like The Sound of Music.

All that makes watching the documentary an immersive experience. It’s like being part of the anticipation and the journey all over again. 

I marvel at how what started with a challenge from President John F Kennedy in 1962, became reality in under 7 years. During a turbulent time for the US and with lots of events that could easily draw all attention away from a space program.

“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, […] and then return it safely to earth, […] and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.” John F Kennedy, Moon Speech, at Rice University, September 12, 1962

Bold indeed. The question is could we make something that bold happen today? Can we now as a nation set aside everything else and focus on a totally out-of-the box goal and achieve it?

The Theory of Everything


The Theory of Everything poster

If you are a fan of the Big Bang Theory, you will have heard of Sheldon’s great idol: Stephen Hawking.

But who was this guy with an artificial voice and in a wheelchair?

The Theory of everything takes us all the way back to university days when a young, though brilliant, Stephen Hawking is searching for a thesis topic that will engage him for more than a couple minutes. He also happens to run into Jane Wilde, who definitely seems to engage his mind for multiple minutes. 

Before long, Stephen’s health begins to deteriorate. Muscle weakness turns into failure. After a severe fall, doctors give him 2 years to live. They also explain that the disease will not incapacitate his brain. He will continue to think, but the thoughts will be stuck inside his head as his body fails and he can’t communicate.

In all this, Jane decides she wants to marry Steven.

Eventually Stephen becomes wheelchair bound, yet also becomes a world-renowned physicist. Meanwhile, Jane meanwhile pulls everything together for their family and has long since given up her thesis and study goals.

This is truly a film and story about going against all the odds. Coming down with a major, debilitating illness at a young age, Stephen would be forgiven for just giving up. After all, he was only supposed to live a couple more years.

Instead he went on to have a family and a successful career. Though not without challenges as he and Jane eventually divorced.

It’s a film that affirms the value of every human being, regardless of their physical ability. Sure, you or I may not have a superbrain as sharp as Hawking, but we can contribute in our own way. Making the world a better place. 

When the doctors first give Stephen Hawking 2 years to live, there’s an (unspoken) suggestion that he just give up. Because what do studies matter? He won’t be there in a couple more years. 

Instead he went on to seriously beat those odds and passed away in 2018, at the age of 76! He lived with his disease for more than 50 years!

Maybe the thing that all these movies have in common is that the “out there” affects us all. Even right at home.

Who knew that some offshore company you never heard of could ruin your life?

Or that going on a trip by yourself to another continent could lead to you discovering who you really are and what you’re truly capable of?

Surely, what goes on over there doesn’t matter, as long as we have sugar for our tea. A small group of people begged to differ and eventually changed the world.

One small step for man… Away out there, on another heavenly body. A massive waste of government money or a monumental achievement? I convinced, the latter. Thinking outside-the-box at its finest.

A mind that was truly “out there”, grappling with explaining the universe. In the process overcoming a debilitating disability by decades.

Several things there for us to think about. And act on. We all have our own “out there”…