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"Reel Spirit" is copyright by Raymond Teague, and is featured on SpiritSite.com. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"It reinforces the importance of the power of thought to influence our experiences."

 

Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
(2002, 140 minutes, PG) 

The galaxy may be far, far away, but the spiritual principles are close, here and now. Throughout the Star Wars series, creator George Lucas has been fashioning a powerful tale about universal energy or divine power, called the Force, and its use. Individuals, we have learned especially from Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, through thoughts of anger, fear, and depression can use their share of the Force to take themselves over to the "dark side."

The newest episode in the saga does little to expand our knowledge of the Force, but it reinforces the importance of the power of thought to influence our experiences. Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) cautions the young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), "Be mindful of your thoughts" and Yoda advises "clean your minds."

Fittingly, since Attack of the Clones chronicles the growing love between Anakin and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), there is a brief lesson about love and the Force. Anakin says that attachment is forbidden to a Jedi knight, one trained in the use of the Force, but not compassion, which is essential for unconditional love.

Life or Something Like It
(2002, 95 minutes, PG-13)

When is life not truly life, but "something like it," a kind of substitute for real life?

Worded another way: When are we really living, as opposed to just existing?

Life or Something Like It is a pleasant enough romantic comedy, written by John Scott Shepherd and Dana Stevens, but it is outstanding as an enlightening examination of the meaning of life and as a primer on how to live to the max.

In the film, a talented but vain and career-possessed Seattle TV reporter, Lanie (Angelina Jolie) interviews a street prophet (Tony Shalhoub), who tells her that she will die in a week.

Prophet Jack's pronouncement, as such time limits on life do, sets Lanie to thinking, apparently for the first time, about the meaning and value of life.

Lanie's self-examination is aided by a TV camerman Pete (Edward Burns), a former lover with whom she doesn't get along but who is free with his observations about Lanie's character. In effect, he holds up a mirror in which Lanie can see herself during this time when she has been frightened into reflection.

Pete tells Lanie that she is self-absorbed and self-indulgent and that her life has been "a meaningless quest for the approval of others." He not only helps Lanie see herself better, but he also gives her the self-empowering advice she needs to make changes.

"You're in charge, Lanie," Pete says. "You make your own life." Pete says that perhaps Prophet Jack is merely reading the energy pattern that currently exists. Maybe, Pete says, "if you change the path you are currently on, the outcome's going to be different."

Lanie wants to know what Pete would do in her circumstances. "I'd try and live every moment," he says, and see the people he cares about and say the things to them that he would like to say. Faced with the possibility of only a week to live (she's not totally convinced about Prophet Jack's reliability, although other predictions he has made have come true), Lanie begins evaluating her life, her character, and her relationships.

She asks her fiance, a hotshot baseball player, "What is it that connects us? . . . What is it about our beliefs, our dreams, our values?" Such questions make him uncomfortable and give him a headache, and he thinks something is wrong with Lanie.

"I'm not drunk - I'm free," she tells him. Lanie considers herself "free" because she is getting in touch with her real self, rather than the superficial persona that she has perfected. This newfound freedom is seen not only in self-evaluation but also in reaching out to others (such as her sister and father), in appreciating Pete's goodness, in caring about situations beyond her own career (such as when she relates to striking transit workers and leads them in a rousing rendition of "Satisfaction"). Lanie comes to realize that a part of her has indeed died - "the part of me that didn't know how to live."

Like many who are given a specific time to live, usually with the diagnosis of an illness, Lanie turns inward and finds strength, peace and faith, and comes to understand the things that really matter in life, including love, family, friends, and service to others.

Lanie's transformation includes a completely new outlook on life, in tune with the old saying that a person should live every day as if it is his or her last day, because some day will be the last day.

The film is filled with what some might call cliches focusing on the value of finding the meaning of life and living fully in the now. However, such cliches serve an important function of reminding us to connect to the Truth of who we are; to not squander life in meaningless, empty pursuits; and to give and receive love and life from the heart.

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