Author Archives: Jenny Sullivan

Wonder

What is the value of wonder?

This is something I have been reflecting on lately, and the idea was brought into sharper focus when I was running along my usual route. The path beside the water was dappled with winter – there were icy patches in the pavement cracks and streaks of frost on the grass. But the landscape was not yet consumed by winter’s silence: it was still alive and visible beneath this surface layer of cold and snow. The water was also not subdued: it moved with great freedom, waves that rolled in sharpened wind. 

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The Free Heart

Knowledge and power:
The words that would
supply us with lies
about what it means to be human
Telling us the things we should
reach out, to hold, to have

To succeed and to live
The good life
is to follow the logic of more
To do and to take
To give and to make
And in the good work
that is measured above
is found the good life
that is foreign to love

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Arrival

Warning: This review contains some spoilers, so only read on if you have already seen the movie, or don’t mind finding out some revelations of the plot.

Science fiction is not a genre with which I have much familiarity, and for the most part I avoid it in favour of other movies. Arrival, however, defied both my expectations and what I thought of before as typical conventions, and I think of it now as a film universal in its scope and its reach. This film could be described in so many ways, since the number of its themes continues to expand the longer I reflect. But to me, I think of Arrival most of all as a beautifully filmed meditation on life, on language and on unity.

I suppose that doesn’t really help in narrowing it down, so I’ll try to be a little more specific. The movie follows a linguistics professor, Louise, (played by Amy Adams) at a time of great global upheaval, after a series of spacecraft have landed at various locations around the world. Louise is tasked with decoding the language of these alien creatures aboard the spacecraft; they communicate, however, through symbols rather than through the spoken word. Over the course of the film, a number of flashbacks are interwoven amid the narrative, which are eventually revealed to be flashforwards, reflecting in a mysterious way the nonlinearity of time as experienced by the aliens and, through their intervention, by Louise as well. These short vignettes of Louise’s future life with her daughter were beautiful glimpses of the ordinariness of life, in which the surrounding sounds of nature were crisp and clear, and infused with peace.
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A Motivating Urge

I have been recently reflecting on the “heroes” who have appeared throughout my life as significant influences. Some of these figures are far removed by distance and time, such as great saints and writers. However, there are other people in my life for whom the appellation of “hero” might seem misplaced or exaggerated, since we both live in the same time and there is not a legacy to speak of in the same way. A better word to use, perhaps, would be “inspiration,” and this label is frequently applicable to people I encounter in my everyday life, even if based only on one particular interaction during which a person behaved in an inspirational way.

What I want to reflect on in this post is what attitude we should adopt when faced with inspirations, in any sense of the word, whether they be a hero of great fame and repute, or an acquaintance we talk to briefly at a party. I think that there is both a negative mode of response and a positive mode of response, and which one we choose has great impact regarding our ability to stretch beyond ourselves and grow in the direction of whatever has inspired us.
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La La Land

La La Land has recently enjoyed great critical success with its dominant performance at the Golden Globes. In my opinion, this movie deserves every form of recognition it receives. The film was not only visually and musically dazzling, but also dealt deeply with its themes of artistry and integrity.

When it comes to musicals, I feel that the general population is divided into two camps: one which expresses excitement and delight at the prospect of bursting into song, and the other which is more inclined to roll their eyes and complain about an excess of cheese splattered across all the musical numbers. Although I tend to fall into the former group, I can certainly see why many musicals have earned the label of “cheesy,” and why they might not be seen as serious films.

I think that La La Land, however, accomplishes an impressive feat, in that it delivers fun and abundant joy to its audience, while still feeling organic and retaining its seriousness. I think it could even be said that La La Land has revived or is in the process of reviving the movie-musical genre. And it does so by reaching into the past. Throughout, the film pays tribute to classic musicals, including a couple of scenes that seemed to me directly reminiscent of Singin’ in the Rain. As well, this focus on the past is present in the interests of the two main characters, beautifully embodied by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Stone plays an aspiring actress with an appreciation for classic films like Casablanca. Gosling, on the other hand, is a jazz pianist inspired by the “greats,” rather than the novelty and artificiality of synthesized music. The whole movie is also infused with the feel of Old Hollywood, from the choreography to the costumes and sets.
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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is a novel that, to my mind, admits of no comparison, and the recent feature film could not boast of being nearly as impactful or masterful as its source material. In this review, I’d like to talk a little about both the book and the movie, which premiered in 2012 and features Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Domhnall Gleeson (among others).

To proceed justly, I’ll start with the novel, written by Tolstoy and published in 1877. In my previous review of War and Peace, I reflected on the tendency of literary masterpieces to appear intimidating and even unapproachable when viewed from a distance. And yet War and Peace is a spellbinding and engrossing work which could hardly be called inaccessible if length is not considered an impediment. Anna Karenina is also deserving of all its renown, and is also very accessible. However, it differs greatly from War and Peace. While the latter is more epic in style with its historical sweep over the Napoleonic wars, Anna Karenina is a novel focused primarily on relationships and individuals; on love.
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2016 in Review

Even though it’s been quite a while since I’ve added new content to jensul.ca, I still wrote over 40 posts during 2016, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and so I thought I would make a post now reviewing some of my highlights from the year, as well as looking ahead to the “re-launch” of jensul.ca I’m anticipating for 2017. One of my major projects that I have been focusing on as of late in lieu of this website is my current novel. I have been working on this book, which I would class as literary and philosophical fiction, for the past year and a half, and decided to devote my writing energies principally towards its completion. On that front, I am excited to say that I am only a few short chapters away from finishing. It has been an intense and engrossing journey, for while it will be the fourth novel I have written, it is the most extensive in terms of the world and cast of characters it encompasses, as well as the style and philosophical ideas I have tried to include in its pages. With this end in sight, I am excited to be able to invest more time and attention into writing regular posts for jensul.ca again.

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The Jungle Book

The new live-action Jungle Book is not a movie I would have professed myself overly excited to see. I recall watching and enjoying the Disney animated version (and from time to time find myself singing about the necessities of life, bare as they may be). However, that particular movie does not hold such a place of reverence in my mind, as it does for others of my generation. When I first heard about this new 2016 Jungle Book film, I supposed it was primarily intended for children. Yet the buzz around the movie sparked my interest, and after watching a startlingly thrilling trailer, I decided the movie was worth a watch.

My experience with the film completely subverted my initial expectations, starting with this one: it is not only a children’s movie, or maybe not even for children at all. I was certainly startled on numerous occasions throughout my viewing experience. The tiger (voiced by Idris Elba) is frankly quite terrifying, and really makes for a powerful adversary. (If anything, this movie reinforced my fear of tigers, and made me feel more warmly towards bears, as a result of Baloo, who was lovably voiced by Bill Murray). Shere Khan, the tiger, aptly points out to the wolf pack who have adopted Mowgli as their own, that Mowgli is distinctly unlike them. Mowgli is a human, a young boy who will soon become a man, and as such, he does not belong in the jungle but among his own kind.
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The Mother’s Love

The mother does not love in broken parts
As one divided by the strains of self
But as the voice of nature’s purest art,
Divine in spark yet with the glow of health.
For love that speaks, “you are my very own”
Can cross with ease the gulfs that wind between
We island people biding time alone
And drowned within the dream’s unearthly sheen.
For love like this thinks nothing of exchange,
Instead it lavishes upon the shore
These waves of light and life that can arrange
To calm the world’s incessant ocean roar.
The mother loves with love that, whole, can bear
Those children who abide in her soul’s care.

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