movies with a death theme

I am an infrequent viewer of Hanna Montana. Mostly I scan to make sure that it isn’t too age inappropriate for the wee daughter while keeping in mind that children are instinctively attracted to stories and shows about kids who are older than themselves. It’s a phenomena that makes sense when one remembers that we learn primarily by example, but it puzzles and irritates parents who would rather their children stayed children with no aspirations of growing up.

On the show, Hanna lives with her dad and her older brother. I have never heard mention of her mother or why she is no longer with the family. Being a Disney product, I should have at least suspected that Robby Ray (Hanna’s dad – don’t you just love sitcom versions of the two name Southern tradition?) was widowed. The movie doesn’t dwell on it, treats the death as just a life event that everyone still quietly acknowledges at pivotal moments but not in the melodramatic way of drama shows, which really sets my teeth to grinding with the whiny spiritually mauled but enduring in the face of personal tragedy way that defines survivors in popular culture anymore.        

BabyD didn’t miss the references though she only commented once and hasn’t mentioned it again. I would imagine that having a dead parent in common with Miley/Hanna will only further cement her adoration.

So having had my media death reference for the day, I tried to convince Rob that we should watch the war movie we’d gotten from the bookmobile this week as opposed to  the Sean Penn film, Into the Wild, in which the main character starves to death after arrogantly trotting out into the Alaskan wilderness, thinking that his experience as a modern day hobo in the lower 48 had equipped him with the “right stuff” for the wild. Even if I didn’t know going in that the young man had died, I could have guessed the outcome anyway. I wouldn’t last long either in that situation and I have been following the Way of the Rob for over two years now. This guy had Jack London and Thoreau as his guides (and really, nearly every one of London’s more famous main characters are crushed by the superiority of the wild and Thoreau was a huge poser who lived off the generosity of his friend Emerson – Walden Pond was in his back yard after all).

But Rob wanted Into the Wild.

I did not like the main character, Chris McCandless, from the start. It took me a while to figure out why, but I eventually pinpointed the two main reasons.

One, he reminded me of my brother, CB. His wild ideas and proselytizing and the way he used people by exploiting the holes in their lives that his presence managed to fill for long enough to make them more aware of this gaps than they had been was so like my brother. Charm. Self-delusion. The ability to pan-handle by allowing people to feel as though they have been touched by an angel in the process. Classic.  

The second reason was that he was nearly the definition of Gen X angst. At some point I realized that McCandless was just five years younger than I am, the same age as my baby sister and the same peer group of Kurt Cobain, who still retains this impossible aura of generational representation that the disenfranchised find so appealing. For the record, I have no patience with the “my parents were such cock-suckers that I must be a complete dickwad myself in order to set my universe right” theory of life. Gen X is nearly as whiny about that as the Boomers can be, and I have never find being sandwiched between such narcissistic horse-shit easy to tolerate.

Long story summed up, McCandless was an upper-middleclass college grad who’d never faced much personal adversity aside from the fact that his parents had a very bad marriage and weren’t grown up enough to keep their kids out of it. Because of this, Chris actively dropped out of the mainstream upon his graduation, partly as a statement about what he thought was an empty, consumer-driven, greedy society but more as a way to punish his parents for not having been perfect.

The film tries to address the fundamental flaws in Chris but I thought it erred too often on glorifying his idiotic behavior and making him appear more enlightened than the rest of society.

Chris McCandless was selfish, cruel and ultimately he learned a very hard lesson – that happiness is about others more than it is about yourself.

I was ready to quit the movie with about twenty minutes left to go, but Rob wanted to push on. We both knew what was coming, but I decided to hang in – hoping that the director would not dramatize Chris’s death. No such luck. The last moments are played out to the eerie  sound of a heartbeat like sound that began to beat faster and faster until finally the young man exhales sharply and is gone. My first husband’s last moments were nearly identical. I felt his heartbeat racing like footfall under my hand and the last breath was so forceful, it seemed as though he was pushing his soul through a crack in a sidewalk.

Fortunately, the film did not get the facial expression right. Movies never do or maybe it is not possible to fake the vacancy on the face of the living even with make up and special effects.

Afterwards it was hard to fall asleep. I worried a bit about my own brother who is making self-extinction noises again. And I pondered my own changed self.


I am back from vacation as promised. I didn’t really go anywhere nor did I do much by way of organizing or creating a system for order in my life as I thought I would. Basically, I just took a week off. Which is okay. A person needs to do that every now and then. It’s not like blogging is a real job though I must admit I enjoy it more than any real job I have ever had and put more time and thought into it than Idid my last months teaching. Truthfully, I did accomplish quite a bit. My daughter is registered for kindergarten, ballet and is fully supplied, outfitted and raring to go. I tackled the immigration paperwork and have just the medical exam, photo id’s and photographic evidence of the “genuine” nature of my marriage to complete/collect. And in case you were taken aback by the “photographic evidence” part, let me assure you that while it is tempting to take the Canadian immigration authorities literally, I am not. The pictures are a collection of shots, some of which are here on this site, that simply depict our wedding, trips we have taken, and those ordinary celebrations and events in our lives that we all have.


We decided on a vehicle. The Chevy Equinox. Rob’s daughters didn’t exactly laugh at our choice but they did insinuate that it was a lame, middle-aged one. That’s okay too. I am middle-aged. In my mind this puts me beyond the need to be cool. I am above it, as I would tell my students. Most of the choices I make anymore are weighed from a viewpoint that puts little stock in being trendy and doesn’t see measuring myself against others as productive or healthy.












We celebrated Rob’s birthday. Katy and I threw him a little party complete with decorations and cake, and then later that evening Rob and I met the older girls for dinner in the city. We went to a new place. Tiny and, I guess, chic. The food was excellent and like most little hole in the wall places, the portions were not American-sized but rather took into account what a normal person can realistically fit into their tummies. While we were waiting for the girls to arrive, I noticed a couple just across from us who were obviously waiting for additional dining companions too. They were younger than Rob and I, maybe in their early thirties. Married because I noticed rings. And sitting next to each other with their backs to the wall as though they were two strangers waiting in a doctor’s office. Not touching, Not talking or even appearing to notice the other, but lost in some far away thoughts. I wondered how long they had been married and why she looked so angry and he seemed resigned. It was interesting to me. Rob’s hand was on my knee and our legs were touching from hip to knee, and even though we were both looking at the menu, I was fully aware of him and the look on his face indicated that his thoughts were about as far away as the menu on the table.


What else? We watched DVD’s. ElizabethTown and American Dreamz and kept the streak of movies with death as a theme or reality alive for another week. Rob made more progress on the back 

landing. We may actually have the new doors

 in soon. And, I got my hair done. Went to a

 salon/spa recommended by a new friend. The

 stylist was good but like most people here 

when they find out I am from the states, he 

had questions. His were political and I wonder 

what happens to Americans abroad when they 

are asked about our country’s politics and they 

haven’t any answer because the majority of my

 fellow Americans don’t think much beyond the 

sound bites they are fed. 


All in all it was a pretty good vacation, but it’s nice to get back to writing. Not that I didn’t write. I finished my first short story. It’s a tiny science fictionish piece that I started a couple of months ago. It still needs tweaking, but I have close to 3,000 words and I got a thumbs up from Jordan, so I am pretty proud of myself. I am like most writers in that I need to be read in order to be happy. I am not the Emily Dickinson type who writes only for herself. I am shameless in my need to be read.


So, back day early and hopefully still having an audience.