Archives for Movie Mentoring

Mentoring

The Real Story Behind Whiplash

Yup.

Former career-minded musician that I used to be, I finally watched the movie "Whiplash."

I had been told to watch it because I might be able to relate from my own years of intense musical practice.

In this, my best friend in particular warned it might have a "few scenes" I might find disturbing.

After about five minutes, I assumed she was referring to all the scenes.

I loathed this film from the start.

I hated everything about it - from the inaccurate portrayals of drumming and musicianship, to the seeming decision by screenwriters and producers alike to skip over meaningless steps like fact-checking jazz history, to the gratuitous displays of vile meanness that are already so prevalent in society today. However, in the midst of all this, one important actual fact did stand out.

In the opening scene, we meet the main protagonist, first-year aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neyman.

Neyman desperately wants to rise above the mediocrity he sees in his family and those around him. To achieve this, he practices until his hands literally bleed.

His drive attracts the attention of the story's main antagonist, Shaffer Music Conservatory conductor and bandleader Terence Fletcher.

As a teacher and mentor, Terence Fletcher is as vicious and abusive as it gets. He quickly singles out Neyman for special attention.

At first, young Andrew seems to fold under the pressure. But then he surprises us (or at least me) by coming back for more....and more....and more.

Somewhat late in the development of Andrew's story, a minor character named "Sean Casey" is introduced.

We don't ever actually meet Casey...this is because he is dead by the time we first hear his name. 
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Celebrity Mentors

John Nash and How He Changed My Life


On Saturday, May 23, 2015, John Nash & his wife, Alicia, were riding through New Jersey in a taxi.

They had just returned from the Abel Prize awards ceremony in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. Nash had accepted his prize from the King of Norway himself.

For those of you who may not know this, I dedicated a whole chapter and several more pages of my first book, "Beating Ana: how to outsmart your eating disorder and take your life back," to Dr. Nash's story.

Even though I consider him one of my longtime mentors, we never met, but he and his wife were instrumental in stabilizing me in recovery nevertheless.

From Dr. Nash, I learned there really is such a thing as "mind over matter" (at least my personal matter, that is), and that it can be life-saving.

In this, he helped me increase my daily practice of "putting my mind on a diet," a regimen he credits with helping him overcome the effects of paranoid schizophrenia.

And reading and watching his story (through Sylvia Nasar's biographical book, "A Beautiful Mind," and then the Ron Howard movie by the same name), forever cemented my commitment to keeping my own counsel - about my chances for a successful recovery AND a successful life.

My whole life is better because John & Alicia Nash refused to listen to anyone who claimed he could never overcome his mental illness. 
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Inspirational

A Makeup-Free Year


The other day I was scheduled to do a media interview.

I hadn't done one of those in awhile, but I still remembered the drill.

RULE #1Wear makeup on camera, or risk appearing to have actually died during the interview.

(Not ideal under any circumstances, but especially not when you are filming a television spot about eating disorders!)

And I was totally prepared to make sure I looked alive and kicking on camera....except for one tiny detail.

I couldn't locate my makeup.

To make matters worse, the day before I had finally taken the plunge and dyed my hair raven black with purple highlights.

Which meant the most likely outcome would unfold as follows:

Pale skin + black hair + harsh TV lighting = on-camera Zombie.

Otherwise, however, all this was pretty cool.

I've pretty much been makeup-free for months now, and I hadn't even noticed!

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure it started last fall when my boyfriend and I were driving down to Galveston (where Houstonians like us go when we want to visit the beach). We were talking about a show we'd seen on dramatic makeovers, plastic surgery, etc.

I shared how I'd seen some of my Facebook friends posting pics of themselves without makeup to celebrate "Makeup-Free Day." He laughed and said, "Makeup-Free DAY? How about Makeup-Free YEAR?!"

I thought that was a pretty cool idea.
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Movie Mentoring

(Not) Sexy Baby

Netflix can be a blessing or a curse.

Truthfully, sometimes I have trouble figuring out which is which on any given day.

Case in point - the other day, I loaded a movie called "Sexy Baby" into my queue.

The synopsis stated: This provocative documentary examines what it's like to be female in today's sex-obsessed culture from the viewpoints of three very different women.

Okay....interesting, right?

And also depressing, frustrating, mind-boggling, rage-producing, and "I'm so over this issue" fatiguing.

The film centers around the completely separate lives of three women:

A NYC tween named Winnifred, 12 years old.
An assistant kindergarten teacher named Laura, 22 years old.
A former porn star/pole dancer named Nichole, 32 years old. For reasons likely having to do with both interest and footage, the film largely hones in on Winnifred, who at 12 (she is 14 when the film closes) admittedly has the toughest challenges of her life yet ahead.

Near the end, she says:

I think this is the same with every teenager. You are going through so many changes, and it is so freaking confusing to figure out how you want to portray yourself. And there's a lot of girls just exploiting themselves and putting themselves out there to be judged by guys and other girls. But at certain point, if you don't want to become a prop in some guy's life, you have to find a goal and a path. And I do want to change people's lives. Um...and I'm not going to do that by being sexy. 

Winnifred is right. However, the fact that she knows this, and can articulate it, at age 14, is an insight many teens her age likely yet lack.

As well, it is easy to forget while watching "Sexy Baby" that these three women are people first and "props" (for the filmmakers to explore an issue common to all three) second. There is a lot of nudity, no small bit of rank language, an uncomfortably bloody moment in the operating room (Laura opts to have her labiaplasty on camera), and a number of terms from the adult film industry all jumbled in with the human beings living amongst it all.

Yet each woman has her own life that she is doing her best to live with what she knows in each moment as it unfolds.
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Mentoring

Traveling Along the Continuum

If you ask me, I think Netflix is one of the most wonderful inventions ever.

It has everything from nature documentaries to crime dramas to sci-fi thrillers - in short, all my favorites!

Since I find great mentoring through movies and television programs, this means a) I am choosy about what I watch, and b) I watch a lot of things to find what I am looking for.

Recently I've been absolutely hooked on a series called "Continuum."

nything that goes through a gradual transition.

I never used to think I liked time travel movies or television shows, but somehow this one really resonates. Perhaps it is because I see myself in Kiera.

Even in 2077, Kiera somehow seems a lone wolf, slow to trust, vulnerable to those she has allowed in to her inner world, with a warrior spirit she doesn't always understand.

In the year 2012, watching her attempts to find her place in a city both vaguely familiar and totally alien reminds me of myself.

From the time I was old enough to call myself "me," I have felt a little separate, apart, alone. I have struggled not to play the "lone wolf," to accept my place here, to permit myself to bond, to connect, to fit in.

So as I watch Kiera struggle to make a place for herself, forge new connections, find patience with her situation, and work for good because that is how she is wired (no matter how much she misses her family and her home in 2077), something in me resonates. 
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Movie Mentoring

What it Means to be Divergent


When I looked up the definition of "divergent," I found these interpretations:

a) having no finite limits (a mathematical expression).

b) tending to be different or develop in different directions.

c) farther apart at their tops than at their bases (of plant organs).

I was doing this, of course, because over the holidays I finally got the chance to watch the first film in the "Divergent" series, and I have been pondering it for some weeks since.

In the film (and the book series by the same name by Veronica Roth), there are five segments, or factions, of society.

These factions are:

Abnegation (serving others selflessly)
Erudite (thinking, using the intellect)
Amity (pursuing peace)
Candor (honesty, truthfulness)
Dauntless (bravery, pushing limits)

But there is also a sixth faction - the "factionless," or divergent, group of people.

These folks have strong elements of more than one faction present within them, and as a result, a) tend not to fit in, and b) tend to be hunted and destroyed mercilessly by those who do fit in.

Of course.

I say this because I am divergent. 
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Celebrity Mentors

Navigating Big Changes


In my last post, I shared that so far, 2015 is a year of big changes in my life.

This time last year, I was still at the helm of MentorCONNECT, the nonprofit I founded in 2009.

This year, as of January 1, the reins are in the hands of a new group of leaders - people I know and trust, but they are still not me.

This time last year, I was broken up with my boyfriend, miserable yet resigned, stoic yet heartbroken.

This year, we enter a new year together and we are - remarkably - stronger than we've ever been.

And these are just two of the really big changes accompanying me in 2015.

A few days ago, a friend and I watched a movie called "Birdman," starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.

Aside from an instant fondness for the title (feathers are always a win-win for me), I found the movie itself somewhat hard to digest.

For instance, there were quite a lot of scenes with dudes running around in their tidy white undies.

Also, actors were portrayed as (yawn) self-centered, a theme I find both overdone and unfair (i.e., are actors truly more self-involved, or does their profession simply cause them to be unable to so easily hide that aspect of our shared human condition?)

Plus, frankly, I really thought the "Birdman" costume could have been better.

All that aside, the most beautiful part of the film for me was a scene where Norton agrees to play "Truth or Dare" with Keaton's daughter, Sam (played by Emma Stone).

In the scene, she asks him - flirtatiously - what he would do to her if he was not afraid.

His answer was both violent and beautiful, and has kept me thinking for days. 
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Movie Mentoring

Contact, Part 2: The Importance of Interstellar

If I had to pick just one favorite hobby (that didn't involve feathers or shells), I would have to go with "watching movies."

In fact, in my first book (which is about mentoring for eating disorders recovery), Beating Ana, I included an entire section of mentoring tips based on my favorite movies.

Those movies are some of the best friends I've ever made in life.

Over the years, movies have taught me it's okay to make mistakes. They have helped me learn about myself and the world. They have given me ideas for how to handle different situations with more grace than I would have otherwise.

Most of all, they have offered me hope - hope to grow from my past rocky start into someone wonderful, someone I'm really proud to be and know.

One movie I have watched over and over (and over and over) through the years is "Contact," starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey (yes, there is a chapter in Beating Ana about "Contact").

The characters in "Contact" feel like "my people" - in other words, we don't fit in, we try to pull off the impossible, we cannot resist wondering "what if?," we are willing to give everything for life's most meaningful experiences.....

So many nights when I would feel so alone, I would pop in that movie and feel better right away.

Now there is "Interstellar," which (to me at least) feels like "Contact's" younger, super excitable sibling (and in fact, there is an actual connection between the two films that goes back to Dr. Carl Sagan himself).
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Mentoring

Who Wouldn’t Love This?


Such goes my favorite line from one of my new favorite movies, "The Sapphires" (2012).

The film is based on the true story of an all-girl singing troupe who entertained the troops during the Vietnam war.

As aborigines living in their native Australia, the girls were marginalized - even hated. They were not even classified as people by their own government, but instead were considered part of the "flora and fauna."

A chance meeting with a white talent scout puts them on the road to stardom, but even before this occurs, it is so clear they already have what many stars-in-the-making (and people, for that matter) will never have - a solid foundation of self-esteem to live from.

In fact, when the film opens, one of the future girl singers has just been left at the altar. Even while crying it out in the presence of her mom and sisters, she looks at her face in a hand mirror and bravely says to her mother, "Who wouldn't love this?" (technically, she names her former fiancé here, but one can substitute any name with the same effect).

And throughout the film, in similar fashion, the girls pull no punches with one another, their scout-turned-manager, or themselves.

They may be young....they may be inexperienced in the ways of the world....but they are not letting any of that get under their skin. 
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Inspirational

Our Place in the Universe


I don't typically pay much attention to daily news.

This is because I know if really big news hits, I will hear about it from someone.

Such is the case with Nature's recent discovery.

It would seem our universe is quite a bit more vast than we may have previously assumed it was.

With study results titled, "this is the most detailed map yet of our place in the universe," I eagerly scanned the results.

Then I wondered - with surprise - why I wasn't feeling surprised.

Perhaps is it because I have watched and rewatched the movie "Contact" for years (this movie, of course, is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel by the same name).

In the film, budding scientist (Jodie Foster) asks her dad if there is other life "out there."

Her dad wisely responds, "Well if there isn't, it would be an awful waste of space!"

I guess this has always just made sense to me. 
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