Tag Archives: Ron Howard

The Missing

The Missing showcases a side of Ron Howard I never expected to see, and brings a wealth of stunning performance moments from an all-star cast in an epic adventure about family, race, and survivorship. Starring Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Eric Schweig, Val Kilmer, Aaron Eckhart, and Jenna Boyd, the story follows the long journey home of a homesteading family in New Mexico after a renegade Apache brujo and his men attack in search of girls to sell in Mexico. Along the way, the white women of this family learn the hard way that their ignorance of Apache values and Apache claims to the land where they live cannot continue to go unchallenged.

My favorite scene in this movie is still the very first one, but I won’t give that away if you haven’t seen it yet. This poem, based on the 79th Psalm, is in Lilly’s voice (Evan Rachel Wood), ruminating in captivity about her odds of being rescued by white soldiers.

What has become of my mother? Strangers
have fouled our ranch with monstrosities,
nothing is sacred to these traffickers.
Our homestead reeks of violation.
the men of our household are carrion,
unburied and impossible to mourn;
their witch cooked Brake alive to feed wild crows.
The land we called our own soaked up their blood
through leaves and snow, as naturally as rain,
and no one left behind to dig their graves.
Before we were the butt of townsfolks’ jokes,
but what we’ve been reduced to – I’ve no words.
How can this have happened to me? How long
will my life be dragged through the mud, how long?
Why don’t these catastrophes strike people
more deserving of contempt, know-nothings,
people with no curiosity,
those who would’ve amounted to less?
Are there not enough fools and laggards
to surfeit their dens of iniquity?
Am I to suffer for my father’s crime?
surely the army will come for us,
for without their help, we are done for.
Someone is bound to attempt to save us,
for we have been stolen from Christian homes,
and no one dare blame us for going along,
so long as we fight in our hearts for grace.
These outlaws and drunks mock our hopes and prayers.
But when cavalry troops come, they’ll turn tail,
eager to outrun avenging lawmen.
When the officers see us bound and gagged,
they’ll be quick to cut our ropes and help us.
They’ll show these shameless bottom-feeders scorn,
and drive home their regard with bayonets.
We here are all that remains of our homesteads.
what we pray for is the barest minimum.
In our mothers’ names we cry for revenge.

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Filed under Acting, Directing, Dream Ensemble, Poetry, Roll Credits

The Missing

So the 64th Psalm turned out to be a dead ringer for Val Kilmer’s cameo in The Missing – pretty tickled to be able to write this poem. I really enjoyed Kilmer’s short appearance in this gem of a Ron Howard movie, opposite Cate Blanchett and Tommy Lee Jones.

I haven’t seen his newest release, but I’m eager to check out the material included on his long-awaited project about the connection between Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy. I honestly don’t know what the connection is, but I can’t wait to find out!

I once read a book written by the hypnotist who first introduced Miss Eddy to altered states of consciousness during her long, drawn-out ordeal with chronic back pain. Not too many copies of that one in circulation these days, but it’s housed at the Arts & Sciences library of Johns Hopkins University. It was fascinating, relating the story of a hypnotist who could raise a blister on your arm using only an imaginary heat source. Makes an interesting kind of backstory to the origins of Christian Science, a religion my father and his siblings were raised with – and those were definitely some troubled kids.

But back to The Missing, and the deadpan drollery of Val Kilmer’s lieutenant, when he encounters the search party looking for Maggie’s kidnapped daughter.

Look, ma’am, I’m just a lieutenant to this lot.
We, too, are hunted by Apache raiders.
These are enlisted men – turn aside your eyes,
I do not condone the clumsy thieving here,
and some would speak harshly of my command,
letting fly words of contempt for this disorder,
but such back-biting slanders innocent men,
and without a second thought, careers are up.
Men seek to climb the ranks by spreading mischief.
Already a few sulky men have laid traps.
They suppose me ignorant of common pranks.
“Search me!” such fools proclaim, “turn out my pockets!
What insurance I’ve laid by is hidden well,
and though you rake for it in my very breast,
not a jot will come to light – my cares are safe.”
Little enough do these men know of command.
As quickly as they speak up, they’ll be tossed out.
Their loose tongues will be their own undoing then,
and the rest will merely nod and mock at them.
The stolen valuables will all be paid for,
and by and by, they’ll learn to watch their missteps,
if only to grasp the likely consequence.
My duty and my means constrain my hand, ma’am,
I would offer you protection otherwise.

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Filed under Acting, Corruption, Directing, Dream Ensemble, Poetry

A Beautiful Mind

This poem is an adaptation of the 31st Psalm to describe what was going through John Nash’s mind when he went to greet his wife, Alicia, for the first time since his initial psychiatric admission at a Harvard medical center. The mood is doggedly optimistic, leading up to the moment when she is about to interrupt him to show him that his drop box has never been opened, and all his classified documents are still sealed. Working on this poem, which is based on the 31st Psalm, meant watching A Beautiful Mind again for the first time in a long time. Definitely triggering, but worth it.

John’s pugnacity as a student in this story really inspires me, abrasive and nonconformist though he is. I love the idea of chasing a theory of everything, at all costs. That’s where you want to be, if you go in for higher education – you want to be at the leading edge of discovery, but you want more than just an original idea – you want it to all make sense.

I’ve been reading another pugnacious mathematician’s science writing lately, and her enchanting way of writing about the need to reconcile truth with beauty, measurement with intuition, in the expressions of quantum physics gives the impression that in her own way, she anticipated the work of mathematicians like Nash – even if only by stating the need for the solutions they found, before they had taken up the problems themselves. Her name is Simone Weil – highly recommend anything written by her.

In these, the images of truth, I shelter.
In this language hides my eloquence and pride.
From proportion comes grace, from leverage, freedom.
These governing dynamics speak, they listen.
But time is running short for them to save us.
Stand by me now, more solid than thought – be strong,
for we are under siege – your arms are my fortress.
At your hand alone can I grasp for safety,
and in this, I will need you to be my guide.
Help me escape this trap that they laid for me,
help me, for you are my only stronghold now.
My life’s work, our futures, are safe in your care.
You know me as no one else can – I trust you.
I hate this terrible secrecy, the lies.
But through everything, I trusted in our love.
Let me relax for an instant with you here,
relieved that you came for me, that you can see
what these people are putting me through, the loss.
I know you are not the one who betrayed me,
you can discover a way to get me out.
Help me find the axis of symmetry.
My mind is exhausted and numb from these shocks,
my throat and my belly convulse every time.
I was in despair even before – worn out,
trapped in secrecy, hunted, afraid for us.
I faltered because I had too much to hide,
my body was failing me, broken by nerves.
To my old colleagues, I must seem a disgrace,
the same to our neighbors, a threat to our friends.
Those who see me walking by draw back from me.
They have emptied their hearts of feeling for us,
and I have been drifting, unpiloted, lost.
I heard their whispers, the slander and mocking,
but terror consumed all my thoughts regardless,
so when this conspiracy closed around me,
I knew already they meant to take my life.
Deep in my mind, I build a refuge for facts.
I said to myself, “the truth will set us free.”
Our lives hang in the balance – I can save us
from the secrecy and lies, if you’ll trust me.
Take my hand, and use your genius for magic,
be my rescuer from this insane impasse.
Help me lift my head and show my face again.
Shame is for the double-dealing, wretched spooks
who tried to drag me down with them with death threats.
Somehow I will outmaneuver these liars,
silencing their self-important, unjust slurs
– they treat us with such arrogance and contempt!
Somehow I will justify your faith in me,
that you hid from these, my gaolers, to see me.
You have wrought miracles – keeping me going
under the noses of hostile observers.
Keep your voice low, though – your presence is enough
to rally my strength – they may be listening.
Hide your hopes for our future from my captors
and ignore the slanders heaped on me for this.
We must join our faith in the impossible,
for against all expectation, truth will out
even through the darkest of our night terrors.
A day ago, my racing thoughts misled me:
“I have been banished here because you left me.”
But you must’ve heard when I cried out for help,
pleading my case with anyone, everyone.
Trust me, now, to appeal to a higher law,
a system of probabilities that clinch
the most elusive codes imaginable.
Lend me the strength of your heart, for my hands shake –
ours is a chance no one can spirit away.

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Filed under A Beautiful Mind, Poetry