Hacksaw Ridge is a True Story of Heroism and Conviction

Last night, I finally had an opportunity to watch Hacksaw Ridge, a Mel Gibson film based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector during World War II, who served his country without a weapon:

HACKSAW RIDGE is the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss [Andrew Garfield] who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. He was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon, as he believed that while the war was justified, killing was nevertheless wrong. As an army medic, he single-handedly evacuated the wounded from behind enemy lines, braved fire while tending to soldiers and was wounded by a grenade and hit by snipers. Doss was the first conscientious objector awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Featuring an exceptionally talented cast, with Andrew Garfield in the role of Desmond Doss, the film portrays the horrors of war and its effect on everyday people in multiple ways. Desmond’s father, who harbors resentment and bitterness over losing his buddies in World War I, directs his anger in violent ways toward his wife and sons; Desmond’s mother, who deals with her husband’s cruelty with grace and strength while protecting her sons; and Desmond himself, who recognizes the call to fight evil and protect freedom, but stands strong in his convictions to do it in his own way.

He almost never gets his chance, thanks to unforgiving higher-ups within the military. Even members of his own unit scorn his aversion to guns and doubt his usefulness in the “hell-fire of war.” Among other things, he endures physical abuse, serves time in a military prison, and misses his own wedding before he is cleared to accompany his unit to Hacksaw Ridge, where he earns their respect through his unyielding acts of courage, which result in 75 lives saved.

Gibson does not sugar-coat the atrocities of war, even when justified – his graphic portrayal of blood, guts and severed limbs makes you feel as if you’re right there in the middle of the battle. In one scene, when the enemy comes out waving a white flag in what turns out to be an act of deception, you can almost feel the conflicted emotions of the American soldiers in the seconds before they realize they must return fire. It provides a stark contrast to another scene in which Desmond shows mercy toward a severely wounded enemy soldier who regards him with suspicion. One of the most poignant scenes in the film comes when Desmond’s former nemesis, now in awe of the man he once considered a coward, asks for his forgiveness.

With all of the insanity currently unfolding in our country, Hacksaw Ridge was a great escape, even if it pulls no punches about the brutality of conflict and the existence of evil. Above all, it celebrates true heroism and a man who refused to let anyone interfere with his calling to serve. Desmond didn’t organize an anti-war protest, nor did he ridicule or spit upon the men who took up arms in the defense of the United States Constitution. He saw clearly the distinction between good and evil, and held firm to his mission to serve in way that was compatible with his conscience. He stands out among The Greatest Generation.

 

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Help Water Signs Go Hollywood!

Help Water Signs Go Hollywood!

I just created an IndieGoGo Campaign to help fund my dream of bringing Madeline and Ken’s story to the screen:

It’s every writer’s dream to have their book turned into a movie. And now that dream is coming to fruition and I need your help.

Water Signs, my first novel, which is a loosely autobiographical tale of first love and second chances has the opportunity to GO HOLLYWOOD! My book has been called “A Truly Great American Romantic Novel,” but how it came into existence is a story unto itself…

In 1994, after relocating to Florida I discovered that the man I was deeply and wildly in love with was engaged to another woman. Too painful for my heart and soul to bare, I forced myself into having amnesia about him. Summoning all my strength, I accepted the experience as a catalyst for personal and spiritual growth. I embraced the Sunshine State as my new home.

Or so I thought.

Fourteen years later, on a Sunday afternoon, a psychic blew the floodgates of memories wide open by speaking his name and describing the relationship. Everything I thought I’d forgotten about him and about “us”, came rising back up to my consciousness.

I didn’t have a choice. I had to write about it. With the help of detailed, handwritten journals I had kept, I began the story; within four months, I’d written the first draft and a few months after that, I published Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal.

I had no idea the impact my autobiographical tale of first love and second chances would have on others. One reviewer says, “Water Signs is one of those rare books that makes you feel like you want to meet the characters in person. Yes, they are that real. It is beautifully written with passion for our country and romance. It is one of those books that is just like a good movie, where you hate to see it end.”

I want to get this story out to the world in a huge way! It’s my dream!

Making my book an Amazon Bestseller and building a platform of engaged readers could mean the difference between a producer green-lighting the project or tossing it into the garbage.

Please consider contributing to my fund to help bring this beautiful story to a larger audience through the magic of movie-making. I am grateful for any amount you can donate and have created some perks as my way of saying “Thank You.” Check them out on my page.

Blessings,

Daria

I’ve created some perks on the site, beginning with donations as little as $5, since every dollar counts. Click here to see my IndieGoGo Campaign.

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A Review of Ben-Hur

Last night, I saw the epic 2016 version of Ben-Hur in 3-D. While the film has mostly been disparaged by critics, I thought it was excellent — and not just for its outstanding cinematography and special effects.

Based on the bestselling novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the film tells the story of  a Jewish prince whose family is betrayed by his adopted Roman brother, after he is falsely accused of sedition. These events unfold in parallel with the ministry and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus Christ, played by Rodrigo Santoro.

As Judah Ben-Hur and Messala Severus, actors Jack Huston and Tony Kebbell offered gritty, realistic performances as brothers torn apart by political circumstances. Playing Ben Hur’s wife, Esther, the beautiful Nazanin Boniadi  comes across as genuine, strong, and feminine. As the film progresses, her character becomes a devout disciple of Christ.

While most critics have paid homage to the spectacular climax of the film, if nothing else, I was just as moved by its themes of love, betrayal, redemption, hope, and faith. It was also striking to witness the utter brutality of the Romans (just as in The Passion of the Christ), borne of a lust for power and a thirst for blood. Morgan Freeman, the only actor I recognized, turned in another compelling performance as Sheik Ilderim. I especially loved the scene in which he advises the former galley slave, Ben-Hur, to beat the Romans the only way he can.

Intertwining history, human fallibility, and spirituality with beautiful scenery, breathtaking special effects, and excellent acting, Ben-Hur is a must-see film…preferably in 3-D.

 

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The Blind Side: Inspiring, Illuminating and Instructive

Published by Parcbench on February 11, 2010:

As someone with a strong aversion to liberal orthodoxy — no matter how subtle — masquerading as entertainment in major motion pictures, I can count on my hand the number of yearly visits I make to the movie theater. Contrary to popular media opinion, even politically astute conservatives enjoy a little escapism every now and then, whether in the form of action, adventure, drama, romance or historic films. Alas, with so few worthy offerings at the cinema, an activity that was once an enjoyable addition to my leisure time has become a  rare occurrence.

That’s sad because there’s nothing quite like viewing a great film in the Palace Premier at Muvico in Boca Raton. The problem is, like most conservatives, I don’t want to be lectured about how “greedy” (like those “evil” Hollywood executives or overpaid actors, perhaps?) our corporate CEOs allegedly are, or how careless with the environment our middle-class citizens supposedly are (compare and contrast the condition of D.C. after the inauguration, and after the 9/12 March on Washington for the real story).

Those of us who proudly cling to our God, guns and patriotism, or at least appreciate our country and military, know that America is mostly made up of decent, hard-working, charitable people. While far from perfect, we recognize that the USA truly is “the last, best hope on earth”, even if our moral superiors in Hollywood don’t.

And when we fork over our hard-earned money for two hours of entertainment, we expect to be entertained, not demeaned for rejecting the “values” of Tinseltown and believing in the goodness of Americans, including our military members — even those who happened to hail from the south, a typical target of Hollywood derision.

Which makes my review of The Blind Side all the more satisfying to write: not only is it based on a true story of Christian charity and faith, it takes place in Memphis, Tennessee, in a part of the USA liberals refer to as “flyover country”. Or in other words, a vast, non-coastal area populated with nothing but racist rednecks who shoot off their guns indiscriminately and inbreed with close relatives.

Academy Award nominee Sandra  Bullock stars as Leigh Anne Tuohy, an upper-middle-class interior designer and married mother of two who lives a comfortable life in an upscale neighborhood.  One cold, late-fall evening, while driving home with her husband Sean (played by country singer Tim McGraw) and son S.J. (Jae Head) from a Thanksgiving play at her kids’ prestigious Christian school, she encounters homeless, shivering “Big Mike” (Quinton Aaron), the latest addition to the student body.

What begins as an act of compassion leads to a positive, life-altering experience for both Michael and the Tuohy family. In a definitive demonstration of the superiority of decent, determined  and committed individuals over the failed policies of the nanny state, Michael flourishes under the care of his “adopted” parents and siblings, who recognize his potential as a human being, athlete and scholar.  And while the newest addition to the family confronts seemingly endless obstacles on the way to his ultimate triumph, none of them are a direct result of racism — at least not on the part of his caretakers, for whom the color of his skin is irrelevant.

Michael himself is a living, breathing testament to the enduring spirit of the individual. In spite of the circumstances of his birth to a welfare mom living in deplorable government housing, he never succumbs to the anger, bitterness and violence that consumes his peers in the projects. Instead, he develops into a young man with a remarkable protective instinct and a heartbreakingly gentle disposition that endures, whether he’s rinsing out his only shirt in the washtub of the laundromat or quietly seeking shelter in the cold, long after the school day has ended.

In one telling scene toward the film’s conclusion, Leigh Anne — having  just spent hours searching for her “son” amid the slums of Hurt Village — asks how he managed to survive in such a soul-killing environment. Michael explains that whenever something bad would go down, his mother would instruct him to close his eyes and not open them until it was all over, until it was “good again”.

“I only saw the good,” he tells an emotional Leigh Anne. And it’s precisely that ability to block out the pain of the past and stay focused on whatever good he can find, that prevents Michael from descending into a life of crime and despair. As an individual, he manages to rise above the dire consequences of oppressive statism masquerading as government benevolence.

And in the Tuohy family, we witness the results of faith in action. While I fully acknowledge it’s not necessary to believe in God in order to have the capacity to demonstrate meaningful compassion toward others, given Hollywood’s proclivity to denigrate Christians, it is gratifying that the real people behind the story just happen to be followers of Christ. Oh and yes — they also happen to be southern. The more I think about it, the more amazed I am that the powers-that-be in the entertainment industry even made this incredible film in the first place. Lucky for us, even Hollywood hypocrites embrace the “dirty”, capitalistic concept known as profit — something they’d make more of, if only they’d produce more positive, uplifting films like The Blind Side.

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