“Lessons in Witchcraft” [PG] – 1/9

 

“LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

RATING: PG
SUMMARY: The Charmed Ones discovers the limitations of their knowledge on witchcraft. Set after “The Staff of Fire” – AU between S5 and S6.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills, thankfully, are my creations.

NOTE: This story was written out of my growing frustration with the series’ portrayal of witchcraft and the supernatural.

Chapter 1

Paige Matthews read the last page of her new book and slowly closed it. A sigh left her mouth. She had purchased it during her trip to Scotland, two weeks ago. After reading the book, she came to the realization that her knowledge of witchcraft was at best . . . minor. Worse, she could honestly say the same about her more experienced sisters. 

A feeling of inadequacy overtook her. Paige had not experienced such a feeling in over six months. Not since last fall. Back then, her great desire to learn about the Craft had been about escaping the long shadow cast by her late sister, Prudence Halliwell – namely the uberwitch of the Halliwell family. The one sister who knew everything and could kick butt like no one else. This was the sister whose place that Paige had allegedly usurped. Who, in at least Piper’s eyes, could not replace. After nearly a year, Phoebe, Leo and Piper had finally convinced Paige that Prue had not been as perfect as she had originally been led to believe. They also convinced Paige that she was regarded as a member of the family. But they still continued to treat her as a novice witch. Even after two years.

Slowly, Paige made her way downstairs and found her family watching television in the Sun Room. Piper glanced up at the younger woman and frowned. “Hi honey. Is there something wrong? You look a little upset.”

“It’s nothing.” Paige settled in one of the empty wicker chairs. “I just finished reading my new book.”

Leo gazed her. “What new book?”

“The one I had bought in Scotland, last month,” Paige continued. “‘Drawing Down the Moon’. Olivia’s mom had recommended it.”

Phoebe asked, “Is it any good?”

Paige heaved a mournful sigh, drawing stares from the others. “It’s great. It . . . I don’t know. I guess it’s made me realize how little we know about witchcraft.”

Her comment drew protests from the two older Halliwells. “What are you talking about?” Phoebe demanded. “Uh, may I remind you that we’re the Charmed Ones? The most powerful witches, ever? And after five years, we’re not exactly amateurs anymore.”

“I thought that Wyatt was the most powerful witch, ever,” Paige commented. She gazed at her nephew, wriggling in Piper’s arms.

Piper heaved a sigh. “You know what Phoebe meant. I mean, c’mon Paige. We had defeated the Source. Three times.”

“Piper, did you ever think that being the Charmed Ones doesn’t exactly mean we know a lot about magic? Besides, as the Bearer of Aingeal, Olivia is just as strong as the Power of Three.” As she spoke those last words, Paige noticed that her sisters’ bodies had stiffened. “And the other McNeills are also pretty strong. And very talented.”

Piper began to rock Wyatt. “Really? And I thought we were the talented ones. Right Leo?”

The whitelighter, whose attention had returned to the TV, looked up. His blue eyes widened. “Huh?”

“Didn’t you once tell your old whitelighter friend, Natalie, that we were talented witches?”

Leo nodded. “Yeah, I did. And I was right.”

“See?” Piper flashed a triumphant smile.

“Of course, I have to admit that the McNeills are also talented,” the whitelighter added. Piper’s smile disappeared. “I mean, they do know a lot about witchcraft.”

Disbelief creased Piper’s brow. “Are you saying that we could learn a lot from them? Even now?”

“Well . . .”

Piper continued, “Well what? Is that what you’re saying, Leo?”

Paige came to her brother-in-law’s rescue. “I would say that. Heck, I’ve already learned a lot from Olivia during the past seven months.”

“Meaning?”

Uh-oh, Paige thought. Trouble. She recognized that arch tone in her oldest sister’s voice. And judging from the expression on Phoebe’s face, the latter did not obviously care for her praise of Olivia McNeill. But Paige realized that someone had to speak out. She took a deep breath. “Look, have you guys ever considered asking the McNeills to teach us more about witchcraft? Considering their long experience?”

Both Piper and Phoebe stared at Paige, as if the latter had grown a second head. “You’ve got to be kidding?” Phoebe retorted. “Right?”

“No, I’m serious!” Paige protested. “Didn’t both of you once believed that you needed to learn more about the Craft?” Out of desperation, she turned to her brother-in-law. “What do you think, Leo?”

The whitelighter squirmed with discomfort. He looked as if he wanted to bolt for the nearest door. “Well . . . um . . .”

“Leo, don’t tell me that you agree with Paige,” Piper demanded.

Coughing discreetly, Leo finally said, “Actually, it’s not a bad idea.” Both Piper and Phoebe greeted his words with dismay. He interrupted, “However, I have to admit that you’ve all accomplished a lot on your own, these past few years. So . . . maybe you don’t really need further lessons.”

Disappointed by her brother-in-law’s stance, Paige glared at him. “Chicken,” she muttered.

“Leo’s right,” Phoebe added. “We’re doing okay on our own. Actually, we’re doing more than okay. So, I don’t see why we need ‘lessons’ from the McNeills.”

Paige retorted, “Oh really? I seem to recall Olivia teaching you how to summon a premonition, when Portia Della Scalla had kidnapped Bruce. And you ended up doing it without straining yourself.”

“Paige . . .”

Frustration building within her, Paige shot to her feet. “Well, I’m going to ask Olivia if she’s willing to help.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “Help you do what? Become a witch? I thought Phoebe and I had already trained you.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Piper. But after reading that book, I realized that all of us don’t know enough.” Paige paused, as she stood over her sisters, hands-on-hips. “If you guys are gonna let pride get in the way of more knowledge – fine. Be my guest. But I won’t.” She marched toward the door, imagining the dark expressions on her sisters’ faces.

———

“Honey, I’d love to help you,” Olivia declared over the telephone. “But am I the right person? I doubt that I know everything there is to be a witch.”

Paige replied, “You know a hell of a lot more than any of us. Since tonight’s Thursday, can I come by your place on Saturday morning?”

Olivia hesitated. “I’m sorry Paige, but I don’t think that Saturday would be a good day. Cole’s taking me to this antique auction in Modesto. We probably won’t be back until later that night.”

“Oh.” Paige tried not to sound disappointed.

“However,” Olivia continued, “I think my grandmother might be available on Saturday. Let me give her a call.”

Keeping her enthusiasm in check, Paige said, “Could you call me back, as soon as you get her answer?”

“Sure. But I’m certain that she wouldn’t mind giving you a few lessons. I’ll get back to you in a few minutes. Bye.”

Paige said, “Bye,” and hung up.

———–

Two days later, Paige found herself seating opposite Elise McNeill, in one of the wicker chairs situated in the McNeills’ garden, on a bright Saturday morning. The elderly woman eyed the younger one with a thoughtful expression. “When Livy told me about your desire for more lessons in the Craft, I was a bit surprised. Didn’t Piper and Phoebe already teach you, when you first started practicing magic?”

Paige nodded. “Yeah, they did. But after reading that book, ‘Drawing Down the Moon’, I realized that I didn’t know enough. And after knowing your family for the past seven months, I figured Olivia or the rest of you would be the perfect ones to teach me.”

Nodding, the older witch said, “I see. Well, let’s start the lesson, shall we? First, tell me what you know about being a witch.”

Paige hesitated. “Oh . . . okay. Um, a witch is a practitioner of magic.”

A silver brow formed an arch. “That’s it?”

Feeling slightly unsure of herself, Paige added, “Oh, ah . . . and a witch is also a protector of the innocent. You know, saving the world from magical evil bei . . .” Her voice faded, as she became aware of the stunned expression on Mrs. McNeill’s face. “Is there something wrong?”

“Goddess!” the old woman declared heavily. “Do you honestly believe that a witch is some kind of supernatural crime fighter?”

Paige’s sense of worth sank a few notches. “Well . . . isn’t that supposed to be our duty? Kicking evil’s ass?”

Mrs. McNeill replied in a sardonic tone, “I doubt it very much, considering that being a witch is not what one would call a duty.”

Paige blinked. “Oh.”

“First of all,” Mrs. McNeill continued, “a person generally chooses to become a witch. People become witches because they want to, not out of some family or supernatural obligation to battle evil.”

Shaking her head, the Charmed One asked, “But if witchcraft isn’t for fighting evil, what . . .?”

Mrs. McNeill heaved a sigh. “My dear Paige, do you know what the word ‘witch’ means?” When the younger woman shook her head, the former continued, “It means ‘wise one’. Witches are basically healers, teachers and spiritual leaders.”

“But what about fighting evil? Vanquishing demons?” Paige demanded. “Isn’t that important?”

Hesitating, Mrs. McNeill gave Paige a look that seemed to tinge with pity. “Paige? Why is it so important for you to fight evil? What do you think you’re going to accomplish?”

Paige opened her mouth . . . and then closed it. Mrs. McNeill’s expression left her feeling slightly uneasy. Then, “Well . . . to protect innocents from evil. Right? I mean, aren’t we supposed to be in a war against evil?”

“Are you referring to a war in which we’ll never win? Or lose? A war that the whitelighters are so determined that we take part in?”

“But we’re supposed to help people!” The outburst came out of Paige’s mouth before she could stop herself.

The elderly witch smiled wryly. “I never said there was anything wrong in helping others, Paige. Why do you think witches are healers, teachers and spiritual guides? In fact, our role as healers makes it important for us to learn the art of herb craft, in the first place. Yes, we might have to deal with the occasional daemon, warlock, or whatever that crosses our paths. Just as they have to deal with us on several occasions. It’s the price we all pay for dealing with the supernatural. But the primary function of witches isn’t to fight them.”

Paige’s first instinct was to reject Elise McNeill’s words. They went against everything that her sisters and Leo had taught her. Besides, the idea of being a witch who protected the innocent and fought against supernatural evil, appealed to her. Gave her a purpose. And the opportunity to atone for the past, which included the misery she had caused her late step-parents and old friends. Quite simply, being a witch gave her the chance to erase the image of that adolescent troublemaker/alcoholic.

“But . . .” Paige began. Unfortunately, she found herself tongue-tied at the moment.

A sigh left the older witch’s mouth. “Look Paige, I realize what you’re thinking. I gather that the idea of being some kind of supernatural heroine must be very appealing. But that is not what being a witch is all about. It’s about finding the opportunity to reach out and experience the oneness of all Life through our honor of the old Gods and Goddesses, through magic – whether we’re Wiccan, Stregheria or any other kind of Pagan religion. In other words, it’s about spiritual self-realization.” She paused, as a small smile formed on her lips. “And not about ‘kicking evil’s ass’.”

Paige finally found her voice. “In other words, we shouldn’t bother to fight demons?”

“If we have to . . . sure,” Mrs. McNeill replied with a shrug. “Mind you, not all daemons are evil. After all, I’ve dealt with my share of the supernatural evil over the years. Daemons, warlocks, trolls, wizards, sorcerers, witches and God knows what else.”

“Witches?” Paige frowned.

Mrs. McNeill nodded. “Well, yes. I’ve encountered witches who have turned away from the path. Gwen’s sister, Rhiannon, was one example.” She peered at the younger woman. “Has Olivia ever told you about her?”

Paige nodded. “Only that she was the one who had killed Olivia’s fiancé. Piper was the same way . . . after Prue’s death.”

The elderly woman added, “And don’t forget Nick Marcano.” She sighed. “But the main thing I wanted to point out is that being a witch is not all about fighting evil. It’s much deeper and personal. Spiritual.”

“Oh.” Paige felt silent. She glanced around the room.

Shrewd blue-gray eyes observed the younger witch. “Is there anything else you want to ask?” Paige shook her head. “Okay. As you know, many people trace modern-day Wicca back to a scholar named Gerald Gardner, in the early 20th century. I’m sure you know that it goes a lot further back. The history of Wicca goes as far back as the pre-Christian era . . .”

Paige barely heard the older woman’s words. Her mind continued to brood on Mrs. McNeill’s views on witchcraft. The Charmed One knew that once she told her sister what she had learned this morning, they would have a fit.

END OF CHAPTER 1

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“LES MISERABLES” (2012) Review

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“LES MISERABLES” (2012) Review

There were a few movies released in 2012 that I was very reluctant to see in the theaters. One of those movies turned out to be “LES MISERABLES”, the recent adaptation of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s 1985 stage musical of the same name. And that musical was an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel.

Directed by Oscar winning director Tom Hooper, “LES MISERABLES” told the story of early 19th century French convict Jean Valjean released from prison on parole by a guard named Javert in 1815. Nineteen years earlier, Valjean had been imprisoned for stealing bread for his sister’s starving family. Because of his paroled status, Valjean is driven out of every town. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne, but steals the latter’s silver during the night. Valjean’s former prison guard, the police captures him. But the Bishop informs them that he had given the silver to Valjean as a gift. The former convict eventually breaks his parole and Javert vows to capture him. Eight years later, Valjean has become a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Some of Valjean’s factory workers discover that one of their own, a woman named Fantine, one of his workers, has been sending money to an illegitimate daughter named Cosette. Fantine uses her salary to pay an unscrupulous innkeeper named Thénardiers, his equally shady wife and their daughter Éponine to take care of Cosette. However, Valjean’s foreman dismisses Fantine and she resorts to desperate measures to support her daughter by selling her hair and teeth, before becoming a prostitute. Javert, who has become the town’s chief inspector, arrests Fantine for striking an abusive customer. Valjean saves her and has her hospitalized. He also learns that a man believed to be him, has been arrested. Refusing to allow an innocent man to become condemned in his place, Valjean reveals his identity during the man’s trial. Then then returns to the hospital and he promises the dying Fantine that he will look after Cosette.

Javert arrives to take Valjean into custody, but Valjean escape with a jump into the local river. He then pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take Cosette. The pair elude Javert’s pursuit and begin a new life in Paris. The story jumps nine years later in which the grandson of a wealthy man and student and named Marius Pontmercy becomes involved in a growing revolutionary movement following the death a government official sympathetic to the poor named Jean Maximilien Lamarque. He also falls in love with Cosette, much to Valjean’s dismay, who believes he is an agent of Javert’s. Meanwhile, Marius is unaware that Éponine Thénardier, the daughter of Cosette’s former caretakers, has fallen in love with him. Most of these storylines – Valjean’s reluctance to acknowledge Cosette and Marius’ love; Éponine’s unrequited love for Marius; and Valjean’s problems with Javert, who has joined the Paris police force, culminates in the long and detailed sequence that features the June Rebellion of 1832.

After watching my DVD copy of “LES MISERABLES”, I cannot deny that the movie has some great moments and struck me as pretty damn good. The sequence featuring Fantine’s troubles greatly moved me. After winning an Academy Award for her outstanding performance as the doomed woman, Anne Hathaway had expressed a hope that one day the misfortunes of Fantine would be found only in fiction in the future. That is a lovely hope, but knowing human nature, I doubt it will ever happen. And watching Fantine’s life spin out of control, due to the narrow-minded views of society and male objectivity of her body, I think my views on human nature sunk even further. Some critics had the nerve to claim that Fantine’s situation was something from the past and could never be considered relevant today. I am still amazed that adults – even those who considered themselves civilized and intelligent – could be so completely blind and idiotic. Even Valjean’s attempts to make a life for himself, following his release from prison struck me as relevant – echoing the attempts of some convicts to overcome the criminal pasts and records in an effort to make a new life. Usually with little or no success, thanks to the chilly attitude of the public. Hugh Jackman’s performance beautifully reflected the struggles of many convicts – past and present – to make new lives for themselves – especially in the movie’s first half hour. Although many people tend to view the police officer Javert as evil, I suspect they view his villainy as a product of any society that creates rules – at times rigid – to keep the general population in check. While watching “LES MISERABLES”, I realized that I could never view Javert as a villain of any kind. He merely seemed to be a foil or object to Valjean’s chances for a new life. More than anything, Javert seemed to be a victim of his own rigid views on good, evil and upholding the law. Russell Crowe did a beautiful job of expressing Javert’s inability to be flexible in his views on morality . . . even when his own flexibility comes to the fore when he allows Valjean to finally escape in the end. And it is a shame that he never earned an Academy Award or Golden Globe Award nomination.

“LES MISERABLES” has a running time of 2 hours and 38 minutes. Yet, only 50 minutes of the film focused on Valjean’s early years as an ex-convict, his tenure as mayor of Montreuil-sur-Merhis, Fantine’s troubles and young Cosette’s time with the Thénardiers. The rest of the movie is set in 1832 Paris, leading up to the outbreak of the June Rebellion. And if I must honest . . . I found that a little disappointing. Mind you, not all of the 1832 segment was a waste. Thanks to Tom Hooper’s direction, the segment featured a well directed and detailed account of the June Rebellion – especially from Marius Pontmercy, Valjean and Javert’s viewpoints. It featured more fine performances from Jackman and Crowe, as Valjean and Javert continued their game of cat and mouse. It also featured an excellent performance from Samantha Barks, who made a very impressive film debut as Éponine Thénardier, the oldest daughter of Cosette’s cruel caretakers. Many filmgoers and critics had complained about the romance between Cosette and Marius Pontmercy, claiming that it seemed forced. I do not know if I could agree with that assessment. I thought Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne did a pretty good job in conveying the young couple’s romantic interest in each other. The problem with their romance centered on Cosette’s character.

I realized that Seyfried did all she could to infuse some kind of energy into the role. I could say the same for Isabelle Allen. Both Seyfriend and Allen gave first-rate performances. Unfortunately, both were saddled with a one-dimensional character. At times, I found myself wishing that Éponine and not Cosette had ended up with Marius. In fact, I felt the movie could have explored Cosette and the Thénardiers’ relationship with a little more depth. As for the Thénardiers, they proved to be the story’s true villains. Unfortunately, Helen Bonham-Carter and Sascha Baron Cohen injected a little too much comedy into their performances. The couple came off more as comic relief, instead of villains. And I blame both Hooper and the screenwriters. Cosette and the Thénardiers were not the only problems. Although I had complimented Hooper’s direction of the June Rebellion scenes, the entire sequence threatened to go on and on . . . almost forever. I ended up as one relieved moviegoer when the sequence ended with quick violence and Valjean’s rescue of Marius. I have a deep suspicion that “LES MISERABLES” was really about the June Rebellion. Many claimed that Hugo was inspired by his witness of the insurrection. Which would explain why the story’s earlier period between 1815 and 1823 were rushed in a span of 50 minutes or so. Pity. Other moviegoers complained about Hooper’s constant use of close-ups in the film. And I have to agree with them. For a movie that was supposed to be a historic epic wrapped in a musical production, the balance between wide shots and close-ups somewhat unbalanced. During Valjean’s death scene, he envisioned not only the long dead Fatine, but also the insurrectionists who had fought alongside Marius before getting killed. One of those insurrectionists turned out to be Éponine Thénardier. Only she had died before Valjean had arrived at Marius’ barricade. So . . . why was he experiencing images of her?

I could comment on the singing performances of the cast. I thought they had more or less did a pretty good job. Many had criticized Crowe’s singing, but I honestly felt nothing wrong about it. Hathaway’s acting during her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” impressed me a lot more than her singing voice, which struck me as pretty solid. I had expected Jackman’s singing to knock my socks off. It did not quite reach that level. Like Hathaway and Crowe, his acting impressed me a lot more than his singing. Both Redmayne and Seyfried sang pretty well. So did Helen Bonham-Carter and Cohen. But the one musical performance that really impressed me was Samantha Barks’ rendition of “On My Own”. The actress/singer has a beautiful voice.

I liked “LES MISERABLES” very much. The movie featured fine performances from the cast. And Tom Hooper did a very good job in directing the film, despite the many close-ups. And I do believe that it deserved a Best Picture nomination. Do not get me wrong. I enjoy musicals very much. But I simply could not endure a musical that not only featured songs, but dialogue acted out in song. It stretched my patience just a little too much – like the drawn out sequences leading up to the violence that ended the June Rebellion. I would like to say that I regret missing “LES MISERABLES” in the movie theaters. But I would be lying. I have no regrets . . . as much as I like the film.

“ONCE UPON A TIME”: Relationship Mystery

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“ONCE UPON A TIME”:  RELATIONSHIP MYSTERY

Since the seventh episode of “ONCE UPON A TIME” called (1.07) “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” aired, many viewers have assumed that the relationship between the Evil Queen aka Mayor Regina Mills and the Huntsman aka Sheriff Graham was one of rape. They believed that after ripping his heart from his chest, Regina used it to force him into having sex with her. Ever since that episode aired, many have accused Regina of being a rapist.

I had believed this as well, until a few weeks ago. While reading a Tumblr account, someone posted an exchange between one of the show’s producers, Adam Horowitz, and a fan. The latter accused Regina of not only using the Huntsman’s heart to have sex with him after she ordered her guards to take him to her bedchamber. The fan also accused Regina of using Graham’s heart of continuing their sexual affairs after the curse led them all to Storybrooke, Maine. Horowitz hinted otherwise in this Twitter exchange:

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If Regina did not use Graham’s heart to coerce him into having sex with him – as claimed by Horowitz – how did their sexual affair begin?

“LIFE OF PI” (2012) Review

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“LIFE OF PI” (2012) Review

It has been a while since Hollywood went into a tizzy over a movie directed by Ang Lee. His latest opus turned out to be“LIFE OF PI”, an adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 fantasy-adventure novel. The movie earned at least eleven nominations and won at least four, including a second Best Director Academy Award for Lee. 

“LIFE OF PI” begins in early 21st century Canada; when a local writer is advised to interview a middle-aged immigrant from Puducherry with a very interesting story to tell. Pi Patel then proceeds to tell the writer about his family and childhood in Puducherry. According to Patel, his father owned a zoo and it was there he first met the zoo’s new Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. When Patel was 16 years old, his father announces his intention to move the family to Winnipeg, Canada. There, he plans to sell the zoo animals and live. Pi, saddened by the idea of leaving his family and his new love, does not tell the news very well.

The family books passage aboard a Japanese freighter called the Tzimtzum. During the voyage, the Tzimtzum begins to founder during a heavy storm, while Pi is on deck. Before he can find his family, a crew member throws him into a lifeboat. As the ship begins to sink, a zebra leaps into the lifeboat and injures himself. The rest of Pi’s family along with other passengers and crewmen die as the Tzimtzum sinks. Once the storm is over, Pi discovers that other animals had made their way into the lifeboat – an orangutan and a hyena. The hyena angers Pi by killing the zebra and then the orangutan. Before he can do anything about it, the tiger Richard Parker suddenly emerges from under the lifeboat’s tarp and kills the hyena. Pi is left alone with Richard Parker, in which the two continue the journey as wary adversaries. By the time their journey ends on the Mexican coastline, they have become friends before Richard Parker disappears into the jungle.

When I first saw the trailer for “LIFE OF PI”, I did not want to see it. Period. Despite my knowledge that the movie had been directed by Ang Lee – of whom I am a fan – I did not want to see it. I did not want to see a movie about a boy surviving God knows how many days in a lifeboat with a tiger. End of story. When the movie was finally released in theaters, I went out of my way to avoid it . . . despite the positive press from the film critics. And even when it accumulated so many Golden Globe and Academy Awards nominations, I still refused to see it. I finally came around and saw “LIFE OF PI” when it was finally released on DVD. Did I regret missing it while it was in the theaters? Hmmmmm . . . not really. But I must admit that it was a pretty damn good film.

One . . . it had a good story. Lee, along with screenwriter David Magee did an excellent job in setting up Martel’s story on screen. The movie devoted at least a good half hour into Pi’s family background and his childhood. They especially took care in revealing his parents’ philosophies – something that would profoundly affect his harsh ocean journey from Puducherry to Mexico. They also did an excellent job in utilizing the literary device of the flashback, using middle-age Pi’s interview with a journalist. In fact, I believe that this device, along with Pi’s first-person (whether he was the 16 year-old boy or the middle-aged man) narration help keep the story alive for me.

There were other aspects of “LIFE OF PI” that impressed me. Mychael Danna won a much deserved Academy Award for writing the movie’s score. Mind you, I could not remember it for the likes of me. But I do recall how perfectly it meshed with the film’s narration. I also have to commend the beautiful visual effects created by the now bankrupt Rhythm & Hues Studios. Their visuals – especially of the animals featured in this movie – struck me as breathtaking. Although some of the animals, like those featured in Pi’s lifeboat, seemed real; while others like the meerkats on the floating island seemed more artistic than real. I especially enjoyed the sequence in which Pi’s lifeboat encountered a breaching Humpback whale and the school of dolphins.

I can see many shaking their heads over my review so far. How could I have enjoyed this movie so much, if I did not regret missing it in the theaters? Remember my reason why I originally avoided the film in the first place? I did not want to see a movie about a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat. While watching the movie, I found myself wishing that the entire sequence featuring Pi and “Richard Parker” could be shorter. It almost seemed to go on . . . forever. This sequence also brought back some not-so-pleasant memories of Tom Hanks and a volleyball named Wilson in the 2000 film, “CASTAWAY”. I felt relieved when Hanks’ character was finally rescued by a freighter in that movie. While watching “LIFE OF PI”, I eventually fell asleep before Pi and “Richard Parker” reached the floating island of the meerkats and Mexico. I woke up just in time to witness the escape from the meerkats island. Why did it have to take so long? I realize that the movie was about Pi’s emotional and spiritual journey. But did it have to take so long? Oh well. It was still a damn good movie that ended on a very satisfying note.

From what I had read, Ang Lee personally selected 17 year-old Suraj Sharma to portray the 16 year-old Pi. And I must say that Sharma gave a stupendous performance. Along with Lee’s direction and the visual effects, Sharma really made that movie. He did an excellent job in conveying Pi’s journey from innocence to heartbreak to spiritual maturity. And I am astounded that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate him for a Best Actor award. What in the hell were they thinking? I realize that the competition was pretty tough for 2012, but still . . . he should have been considered among the top three nominees.

The cast also benefited from excellent supporting performances from Irrfan Khan, who was excellent as the mature Pi. Rafe Spall was charming as the Canadian writer who interviewed Pi. Tabu gave an emotionally satisfying performance as Pi’s mother Gita Pitel. And I was certainly impressed by Adil Hussain’s commanding portrayal of Pi’s father, Santosh Patel. Gérard Depardieu was certain memorable as the Tzimtzum’s unpleasant cook. And James Saito added a great deal of intensity to the heartbreaking scene featuring an interview between Pi and the older Japanese insurance investigator. It was good to see him again.

What else can I say about “LIFE OF PI”? It was a beautiful and heartbreaking adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel. Once again, Ang Lee proved to the world that when he puts his heart and soul into a film, he can create something beautiful. And he was ably supported by an excellent cast led by the very talented Suraj Sharma, Rhythm & Hues Studio’s visual effects and Mychael Danna’s score. I do not think I would ever love this movie. I am sorry, but I could not deal with so many minutes devoted to a boy and a tiger in a boat. But I must say that I enjoyed it very much.