Reaffirming a Crucial Message

Some things bear repeating, especially when they’re important and have been disregarded or not taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how many times or how emphatically the message has been said, either. If the word is not getting through as effectively as it should be – or at all – then it needs reiteration, particularly when the stakes are high. Disparaging as that might be, that’s the point being driven home once again in the latest installment of a long-running sci-fi movie franchise, “Jurassic World Dominion” (web site, trailer).

Picking up where this film’s predecessor, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018), left off, the planet has fallen prey to a case of dinosaurs gone wild. In the wake of a catastrophic volcanic eruption that destroyed the creatures’ home on Isla Nublar, site of the Jurassic World theme park, the surviving dinosaurs are transferred to the estate of the park’s co-founder, from which they ultimately escape. And, as this sequel opens, the prehistoric beasts have managed to infiltrate the four corners of the world, wreaking havoc as they and humanity attempt to cohabit the planet.

With escaped dinosaurs running amok, creatures like the undersea mosasaurus have contributed to an increased number of attacks on humanity, as seen in “Jurassic World Dominion,” the latest installment in this storied movie franchise. Photo Copyright © 2022, courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

The presence of the freely roaming dinosaurs serves as a backdrop – and constant threat – for the various plot strands that play out in the film, all of which echo the fundamental issue that gave rise to the underlying theme of this storied movie franchise: the potential dangers inherent in genetic manipulation. All of these diverse threads eventually converge, including the following:

  • Former dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and onetime Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) live in a remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as caretakers for Maisie Lockwood (Isabelle Sermon), the cloned daughter of a deceased high-profile research geneticist and granddaughter of the theme park’s co-founder, the one who harbored the surviving dinosaurs before they fled his Northern California estate. As Maisie enters her teenage years, she feels trapped in her isolated surroundings, hindered from exploring the wider world. However, Owen and Claire keep close tabs on their adopted daughter, knowing that there are forces desperate to get their hands on her because of her unique genetic identity. Owen and Claire are also informal caretakers of the last surviving velociraptor from Jurassic World, a dinosaur who lives in the adjacent wilderness and has apparently been able to asexually produce an offspring, making the creature a valuable commodity for poachers seeking to capture and sell it to the highest bidder.
  • Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) runs the multinational genetics corporation Biosyn, a company that claims to have the world’s best interests at heart yet secretly harbors agendas that are anything but beneficial to mankind. Much of this research is conducted on dinosaurs in hopes that discoveries involving their DNA can be tapped and made use of in the areas of health, medicine, agriculture and other endeavors. Dodgson is aided by his right-hand man, Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie), an astute young corporate go-getter who’s being groomed for Biosyn’s future, unaware that he’s being played in order to help fulfill his boss’s nefarious agendas. And those secret plans have a wealth of significant implications for both man and nature.
  • Paleobotanist-turned-agricultural scientist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), one of the experts charged with evaluating the viability of Jurassic Park, the predecessor of Jurassic World, is troubled by the mysterious and highly selective destruction of crops by swarms of enormous, incredibly aggressive, allegedly extinct locusts in the American heartland. She soon learns that the spared crops are genetic hybrids produced by Biosyn, an initiative she suspects may be driven by the company’s intent to corner the seed market for high-profile agricultural commodities. She grows more suspicious when she discovers that the locusts in question may also be genetically modified, possessing altered DNA from insects of the Cretaceous Period, a clue that also hints at Biosyn’s involvement.
  • Once-renowned paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) has quietly slipped out of the public eye, content to spend his days in relative seclusion working on one of his dinosaur digs. But his life is upended when he receives an unexpected visit from his onetime research partner (and former romantic interest), Ellie Sattler. She relates her suspicions about the genetically modified crops and locusts and wants to see if she can collect definitive evidence linking this curious coincidence to Biosyn. She asks for Grant’s help, hoping that trading on his reputation will help to get them inside the corporation’s isolated headquarters in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. The duo also hopes to secure the assistance of a former colleague, chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who now works for Biosyn and hopes that his position within the company will help him expose the corporation’s questionable agendas, particularly those hatched by former Jurassic World (and now Biosyn) geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong).

Former dinosaur trainer-turned-prehistoric animal wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) chases down herds of these escaped creatures in director Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World Dominion,” now playing in theaters. Photo Copyright © 2022, courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

Thus begins the multipronged adventure that is “Jurassic World Dominion.” In addition to the foregoing story threads, the film takes viewers to a dinosaur black market facility on the island of Malta and follows the exploits of would-be kidnappers as they pursue Maisie and the baby velociraptor.  The film also introduces other characters who become caught up in the fray, including Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), a tough-as-nails cargo plane pilot; Soyona Santos (Dichen Lachman), a broker in precious and unusual commodities; Rainn Delacourt (Scott Haze), a relentless poacher; Dr. Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a dinosaur veterinarian and welfare advocate; Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and Barry Sembène (Omar Sy), a pair of deep cover intelligence operatives; and Charlotte Lockwood (Elva Trill), Maisie’s late mother, who makes a number of remarkable revelations in videos from the past.

Explaining how all of these elements and characters ultimately come together would reveal too much. Suffice it to say, however, that the unfolding of this story yields a rip-roaring tale, punctuated by familiar but nevertheless stellar special effects and outstanding action-adventure eye candy. And, in its own singular way, the picture remains true to its core message, one that we should heed as science continues to advance, even if our species’ emotional maturity doesn’t always keep up.

The importance of that message can’t be overstated, either. Beginning with author Michael Crichton’s novel that inspired this franchise and all six of the movies that have been spun out of it, the caution has been the same. I wrote about it, too, in my review of the series’ original film, “Jurassic Park” (1993), in my most recent book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies, but I went beyond the genetic manipulation issue to discuss a deeper, more fundamental matter – the question of responsibility. Indeed, as the creators of the reality we experience, we’re in charge of what we manifest through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents, which means we thus carry the accountability that comes with such undertakings. But, as the films in this franchise have asked, are we truly paying attention to what we’re doing? Because we have an infinite range of options for materialization available to us, it’s possible to conceive of virtually anything. But, just because we can envision something, does that necessarily mean we should proceed to bring it into being?

Former dinosaur research partners Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill, left) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, right) reunite to investigate the genetic heritage of aggressive, allegedly extinct locusts in “Jurassic World Dominion,” the latest installment in this storied movie franchise. Photo Copyright © 2022, courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

This notion has been present in the “Jurassic” films from the beginning, most notably through the impassioned assertions of Dr. Malcolm, who has steadfastly maintained that efforts to trick nature into fulfilling our whims won’t work because “it will always find a way” to achieve its own destined results. In all of the character’s movie appearances, he has posed this question. Unfortunately, it has largely fallen on deaf ears. In pointing out the potentially dire consequences of such actions, his contentions have nearly always been countered with such superficial retorts as “Yeah, but isn’t this cool?” or “Think of how much money we’ll make out of this.” Malcolm’s warnings have come as cautionary tales that have been blindly ignored for the sake of immediate and self-serving considerations, payoffs that pale in comparison to what could result.

What’s lacking in this discussion is a thoughtful sense of discernment. This element is essential to the manifestation process, because it provides much-needed perspective about what is being proposed. It goes beyond the beliefs behind what’s driving the core materialization; it delves into all of the beliefs caught up in this process, including those that may be present but less apparent. For instance, if the profit motive is the principal reason for creating dinosaurs for a theme park or for hybridizing seeds and insect predators, does this take into account what else is also possibly at stake? If the beliefs associated with those potential side effects are overlooked or willfully ignored, allowing outcomes to effectively trump accountability, we run the risk of opening a can of worms whose fallout vastly overshadows whatever “benefits” may be attained by initiating those ventures in the first place. This is crucial, for example, when examining the endeavors launched in this film by the likes of Lewis Dodgson and Dr. Henry Wu.

This principle is by no means limited to the grand morality play on display here. It’s equally applicable to the countless everyday scenarios that come up in our lives. We should be cognizant of addressing it in all of our proposed undertakings, no matter what the scale involved. “Jurassic World Dominion” provides us with an obvious example of what’s at stake in a grand creation, but the underlying concepts are just as potentially pertinent to smaller, more mundane matters.

Former Jurassic World theme park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has an uneasy encounter with one the creatures she used to oversee in “Jurassic World Dominion.” Photo Copyright © 2022, courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

This is not to suggest that we should never attempt the untried, either. If we adopted such an overcautious stance, we would stall and stagnate, and there would be no forward progress in the evolution of almost any area of life. However, we need to make a concerted effort to be clear with ourselves about what we’re intending and what beliefs underlie those intentions, something that’s noticeably absent in the scrutiny (or lack thereof) of a number of the initiatives here.

Moreover, this is not to say that such ventures always yield negative results. Positive outcomes are possible, too. But, again, the underlying considerations must be taken into account. Maisie’s cloning, for example, might be seen as dangerous territory. However, when the process that resulted in her conception, birth, growth and maturation is considered, there are tremendously beneficial aspects associated with it that shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed out of hand. Indeed, is it wise to summarily squelch such an undertaking in light of what it might yield compared to what it actually does? This is where the practice of temperament, an outgrowth of the discernment process, comes into play.

In the end, this story also shows us that we can learn valuable lessons about ourselves and our existence through experiences like this, difficult though they may be. If we grasp the messages that come out of these scenarios and actively apply them to our reality as we move forward, we can potentially reap great rewards. For instance, the experience of the “Jurassic” series of stories forces mankind to learn how to better coexist with the world around us. By developing a better relationship with nature and all of its components, perhaps we might adopt the same mindset when it comes to our coexistence with one another as a species. That could be seen as an unexpected, unintended side effect of this greater undertaking, but, considering what it might mean for humanity, wouldn’t that be worth it? It’s certainly food for thought.

Chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, left) engages in a tense encounter with his boss, Biosyn Corporation chairman Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, right), and his right-hand man, Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie, center), in director Colin Trevorrow’s “Jurassic World Dominion.” Photo Copyright © 2022, courtesy of Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit up front that I wasn’t expecting much from this sixth installment in this storied, nearly 30-year-old franchise. And I’ll also admit that I wasn’t exactly bowled over by the result. However, I also wasn’t effusively disappointed by it, either, much to my surprise. While director Colin Trevorrow’s second offering in the franchise’s current trilogy admittedly goes on too long and has its moments of needless convolution, tedious pacing, monodimensional character development and tenuously strung-together plot threads (especially in the opening act), it’s nevertheless a vast improvement over the filmmaker’s laughable first effort in this series, “Jurassic World” (2015). In this outing, which features both returning “World” principals (Pratt,  Howard, Wong and Sermon) and the reunion of the original trilogy’s protagonists (Neill, Dern and Goldblum, who is still in his top-notch quasi-creepy form), the film has found a better footing for mixing its action-adventure elements and decidedly campy moments. In addition, the picture effectively (though sometimes heavy-handedly) presents its points about the potential dangers of genetic engineering, the less-than-subtle need for all of us (both humans and nature) to get along, and the perils of unbridled corporate greed (disingenuous though that argument may be coming from its well-heeled producers/distributors). But, given what most viewers are here to see – the thrills and spills of grand adventure and superbly executed special effects – the picture handily delivers the goods throughout, even if some of them should have been pruned back somewhat. In all, this is a moderately satisfying summertime popcorn movie, one that truly doesn’t deserve to have been unceremoniously dumped upon to the degree it’s been denigrated (though don’t expect groundbreaking cinema, either).

And, as for all that talk about this being the finale in the franchise, I don’t buy it for a minute (just as I didn’t buy “The Rise of Skywalker” (2019) as being the last installment in the “Star Wars” franchise), so you can ignore those comments from critics and the film’s distributor about this offering being the end of the “Jurassic Park” mythology; it will almost assuredly be back when there’s as much revenue at stake as there is with this box office and merchandising cash cow. It may take some time to retool and come up with a new angle to breathe new life into it and this may be the last on-screen appearance by the original cast members, but the extinction of the franchise is not an option. Just ask the bean counters who are eagerly tallying the proceeds of this already-successful theatrical release.

When it comes to tackling an ambitious venture, implementing a little prudence may be a wise measure. Granted it might dampen one’s enthusiasm and be seen as timid in the face of bold experimentation. However, when efforts are left unchecked, matters can easily get out of hand and leave us with more “excitement” than we bargained for. So it’s with that in mind that we must ask ourselves, “Is that what we really want?” It’s disappointing when the best laid plans of mice and men go awry, particularly if scuttled in the planning stages. But that disappointment is nothing compared to the turmoil that can result when caution is recklessly thrown to the wind, as the “Jurassic” franchise has shown us so many times now. As Dr. Malcolm has long observed, dinosaurs disappeared because nature selected them for extinction. Let’s hope our own careless ways don’t trigger the same result.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

The Road to Reconciliation

When life doesn’t pan out as we hoped and believed it would, it can be disillusioning, if not devastating. It can even lead to tremendous strain among those who thought they could count on one another when it came to living up to expectations. Such exchanges can turn into seemingly irreparable estrangements filled with bitterness and no hope of reconciliation. But need that be the case? Isn’t it possible that the damage can be undone and that harmonious relations can be re-established? It all depends on what we believe is possible, as seen in the French-Belgian LGBTQ+ domestic drama, “Lola” (“Lola vers la mer”) (web site, trailer).

Eighteen-year-old Lola (Mya Bollaers) has been going through the process of transitioning from male to female for the past two years with the support of her mother, Catherine. She’s been fortunate to have that backing, too, given that her close-minded father, Philippe (Benoît Magimel), refused to recognize or accept this development, choosing to continue to view Lola as Lionel, the male child to which his wife gave birth years before. And ever since “Lionel” went ahead and made that allegedly foolhardy, exceedingly embarrassing decision (at least in Philippe’s view), Lola and her father have been estranged from one another. Catherine, meanwhile, continued to assist her transitioning daughter throughout that entire time, providing financial support and accompanying her to medical appointments.

When 18-year-old transgender woman Lola (Mya Bollaers) learns she’s been intentionally excluded from her late mother’s funeral by her close-minded father, she’s positively livid, as seen in the LGBTQ+ domestic drama, “Lola” (“Lola vers la mer”). Photo courtesy Les Films du Losange.

During that time, Lola had been growing accustomed to living as a woman in terms of her appearance, sensibilities and outlook. And, having gone through that, she’s now ready to complete the process with gender reassignment surgery. But, just as she’s on the brink of having the procedure, Catherine passes away, leaving Lola on her own. She moves into a home for similarly situated LGBTQ+ youth, hoping that she can still carry through on her plans. However, before doing so, she wants to achieve closure by saying goodbye to her late mother – a gesture Philippe is determined to prevent.

When Lola seeks to attend what she believes is supposed to be her mother’s funeral, she discovers that the ceremony has already been held. Philippe’s plan to intentionally exclude her from it has succeeded, and she’s positively livid. But, even when she assumes things are all over, she learns that they’re not – that there’s one final act to be performed.

Lola discovers that Catherine’s last wish was to have her ashes scattered at her childhood home along the Belgian North Sea coast. Philippe has made plans to carry out the deed by himself, but Lola insists on accompanying him, forcing herself on her father as an embittered but willful traveling companion. She knows it will be a tension-filled journey, but she doesn’t care. Lola feels the need to be part of this pilgrimage and asserts her resolve to make it happen.

Thus begins an unconventional road trip movie. While elements typical of this formula are certainly present here – the disagreeable duo, the outrageous incidents, the influence of unexpected outsiders (in this case of both a real and surreal nature) – given the polarized yet also familiar qualities that both separate and bind them, Lola and Philippe make for a decidedly unusual pair of highway comrades. They both spew more than their share of venom toward one another. They each engage in over-the-top behavior. They collectively aren’t above making scenes in public when events become particularly overheated. And, given that many of these events occur in close quarters, like the confines of Philippe’s car, there’s a decidedly uneasy, claustrophobic feel to developments as they play out.

Philippe (Benoît Magimel, foreground), the close-minded father of his transgender daughter, Lola (Mya Bollaers, background), faces a difficult and unplanned reunion with her after two years of estrangement, as seen in director Laurent Micheli’s LGBTQ+ domestic drama, “Lola” (“Lola vers la mer”). Photo courtesy Les Films du Losange.

At the same time, however, there are moments when hints at reconciliation surface. Given that Lola and Philippe share the same degree of fervor for carrying out this reverential task, they both want to honor Catherine properly despite their anger toward each other, a mutually held quality that deep down can’t help but nudge them into going about this endeavor in a civil and dignified manner. There may even be hope for something more, like an amicable resolution or reunification. But, for that to happen, there’s much that they need to get past.

That’s not to say this can’t happen. Indeed, there are guides who interact with them along the way who provide insights that might help make these outcomes possible. This is perhaps best seen at an unplanned late night stop at a gentlemen’s club/guesthouse run by a wily, no-nonsense owner (Els Deceukelier) who doesn’t hesitate to call things as she sees them, especially where Philippe is concerned. Empowerment advice is also doled out by one of the pole dancing performers, Kaatje (Anemone Valcke), who joyfully and playfully asserts that we should all be happy with who we are, guidance that’s undoubtedly encouraging for Lola in light of all the scorn she’s faced from Philippe and so many others during her transition.

But, even as circumstances evolve, there’s still the difficult task that Lola and Philippe face at the end of their journey, a destination that raises old issues for both of them. This includes flashbacks to Lola’s youth as Lionel (Thao Maerten), showing that the hurts s/he experienced are older than what has arisen in the recent past. The implications of these revelations are almost as staggering as those that emerged throughout the duo’s journey to the seacoast and in the two years that preceded it. There’s much on the line for both Lola and Philippe with regard to what lies ahead – and what form it will take.

As this story opens, the walls built up between Lola and Philippe are quite formidable. Neither is willing to budge an inch, and they see no possibility for that to change, despite their common goal of wanting to participate in the dispersal of their loved one’s ashes. One might think that such common ground would help facilitate a resolution, but, as they begin their journey together, no possibility of that seems likely. That’s because each of them has become so entrenched in their hatred for one another that their beliefs are virtually intractable. And that’s important to bear in mind, given that our beliefs govern the nature of our existence.

The walls between Lola and Philippe are initially solidly reinforced by the power behind those beliefs. They’re so unshakable, in fact, that they make those enclosures surrounding Jericho look like picket fences. But, because beliefs are alterable and because they have the potential to make an infinite number of probabilities possible, there’s no telling what can happen if those notions begin to shift in the consciousness of father and/or daughter. Indeed, breaking through limitations (or, in this case, more precisely, barriers) in our beliefs can help anyone realize changes in the outcomes and realities they experience. So why should it be any different for Lola and Philippe?

Expecting such sweeping change to materialize instantaneously is probably unrealistic, despite the kinds of miraculous results that are often depicted in Hollywood movies with supernatural themes. The process tends to be gradual, one that evolves over time, usually as a result of the unfolding of new understandings of how the prevailing conditions at the outset managed to come into existence in the first place.

Journeys like the one Lola and Philippe embark upon frequently provide opportunities for reflection, assessment and dialogue in connection with such matters. Their travels give them the time, space and solitude to examine the existing conditions and to tune out the distractions that might interfere with getting a better handle on the beliefs driving one another’s interpretations of reality. Again, change may come slowly, but the evolutionary process that begins through ventures like this could prove revelatory, eye-opening and even earth-shattering. And, if something valuable and meaningful could come out of it – especially when mutual interests are involved – why not give it a chance?

While on a journey to scatter the ashes of her late mother, 18-year-old transgender woman Lola (Mya Bollaers) experiences a range of emotions and memories in director Laurent Micheli’s LGBTQ+ domestic drama, “Lola” (“Lola vers la mer”). Photo courtesy Les Films du Losange.

A large part of this process involves wrestling with preconceived notions and beliefs. For example, when Philippe considers Lola’s decision to transition, he has difficulty getting past an idea that he sees as untenable, perverse and unnatural. He’s also upset at how that decision will impact the ways others see him as a father and as a person. But, perhaps most of all, he’s hurt over the loss of a son whom he had hoped to raise to adulthood, a blow to his own perception of himself as a dad. And in none of this does he consider the reasons why Lola has chosen to pursue the course she’s on to become the person she knows she needs to be.

At the same time, Lola gives little consideration to how her decision affects Philippe. She doesn’t appear to take account of his feelings and what impact her actions will have on them. This is not to suggest that she’s being selfish; she has every right to become her true, realized self. But, if she expects Philippe to respect her wishes, shouldn’t she be willing to do the same when it comes to making an effort to understand her father’s feelings?

With both Lola and Philippe having been blind to these concerns before beginning their odyssey together, it’s not surprising that they were unable to appreciate and understand one another. Consequently, if they ever hope to repair the gaping rift between them, they at least have to begin at a point where they’re amenable to trying to grasp where each of them is coming from, and that starts with attempting to recognize and fathom their respective beliefs. Doing so increases the potential for opening doors to understanding – and the possibility of moving their relationship in a healthier new direction.

If our beliefs make virtually any scenario possible, one might legitimately wonder why anyone would purposely manifest a situation as toxic as this. That’s an argument with genuine merit, but it also introduces an intriguing possibility. Circumstances like this, as difficult and challenging as they may be, afford opportunities for learning valuable life lessons. If the purpose of our soul’s existence, growth, development and evolution is to experience a range of scenarios, all of which intrinsically have their own validity, that would include situations like this. That’s true not only for what it’s like to go through them, but also to see what comes out of them, including both positive and negative results.

As noted above, it’s not as if Lola and Philippe aren’t without help in this venture. The gentlemen’s club manager and pole dancer, for instance, each step in to offer guidance intended to aid the process as it unfolds. Catherine’s intangible presence is also in place, not just in terms of the task she sets forth for her daughter and husband, but also in more subtle ways, such as during times of particularly combative crisis. Such divine intervention helps to smooth out these argumentative incidents, providing a gentle, loving touch to point things in a better direction. It helps to remind Lola and Philippe of why they’re on this journey to begin with, both in terms of its ritualistic resolution and the hoped-for reconciliation between them.

As with many road trip tales, the characters in these stories often end up becoming very different people by journey’s end. The developments that occur during these odysseys frequently help to forge new relationships and to enable individuals to transform themselves and become the people they were genuinely meant to be. Such possibilities as forgiveness and reconciliation, for instance, are indeed possible. But no one will ever see such results if they never make the effort to find out, and it always begins with examining and assessing our beliefs and those of others. As contentious as this duo’s relationship may be at the outset, there could be much in store if they pursue this path and make the most of the opportunity. We can only hope they do so.

Eighteen-year-old transgender woman Lola (Mya Bollaers) experiences an empowering reaffirmation of self during an unplanned late night stop at a gentlemen’s club/guesthouse as seen in the LGBTQ+ domestic drama, “Lola” (“Lola vers la mer”). Photo courtesy Les Films du Losange.

Significant and dramatic life events often make for strange affiliations. So it is in this intensely moving, often-outrageous road trip story of a pre-op transsexual and her estranged father. Their stormy journey is replete with a series of arguments, revelations, flashbacks and attempts at reconciliation, along with a touch of the surreal and subtle hints of otherworldly intervention. Some elements of the story are admittedly predictable, and portions of the second act tend to lag a bit at times, but director Laurent Micheli’s second feature offering also takes some unexpected and deliciously intriguing twists and turns in getting viewers to the film’s destination. Punctuated by a crisp screenplay loaded with biting, no-holds-barred dialogue, incisive insights, and more than a few genuinely heartfelt moments, as well as the superb debut performance by transgender actress Mya Bollaers, this touching Belgian/French co-production is a delightful, affecting watch that, while not wholly original, nevertheless comes across as a warm, feel-good story without ever becoming schmaltzy, manipulative or saccharinely sentimental. Bravo, “Lola”!

Viewers in Europe and Canada will be pleased to learn that this offering is widely available for streaming in those countries. In the US, however, the film has no general distributor, regrettably making it somewhat harder to come by. It has been playing at film festivals (especially LGBTQ+ events) stateside, but it has yet to secure mainstream theatrical or streaming agreements. That’s unfortunate, especially at a time like Pride month. Nevertheless, interested domestic viewers who have an opportunity to screen this release should avail themselves of it.

Bridging gaps may be far from an easy process, one for which there’s no guarantee of success. Yet consider what’s to be gained by attempting to do so rather than just leaving things as they are. Unimagined benefits can come from such efforts in areas like healing, well-being and meaningful personal growth, none of which may materialize without the attempt at trying. Lola and Philippe could learn a lot from such an undertaking. And so could many of us.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Ode to a Visionary Author

Various fields of artistic expression often go through radical conversions as a result of the visionary works of a handful – or sometimes even just one – maverick figure. Through the singular works of these individuals, entire genres are frequently transformed. In filmmaking, for example, the name Stanley Kubrick comes to mind. In music, it’s the Beatles. And, in science fiction literature, many often cite the writings of author Ursula K. Le Guin, the subject of the engaging documentary, “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” (web site, trailer).

Director Arwen Curry’s in-depth documentary of this insightful writer provides viewers with a razor-sharp look at an author whose body of work drastically changed the sci-fi landscape, reconfiguring it from a genre that wasn’t taken seriously to one that has become one of the most respected, creative and prescient in the field of contemporary writing. Through interviews with the author not long before her death in 2018 and a number of her peers, we see a picture emerge of someone who did much to change how sci-fi literature was viewed, along with what constituted accepted and respected work in that field.

Director Arwen Curry (left) and author Ursula K. Le Guin (right) discuss the writer’s prolific body of work in the superb documentary, “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

While in college at Radcliffe and for a time thereafter, Le Guin was recognized and regarded by editors and publishers as an excellent writer – but not as one who was especially marketable. The reason: at the time, science fiction/fantasy was regarded as pulp fiction, not looked upon credibly as serious literature, and her writing was seen as too high brow to effectively fit into that market. Also, it was a field largely dominated by White men, a demographic that didn’t match who she was. She was thus essentially written off as a square peg who didn’t fit into any of the established round holes.

Le Guin wouldn’t have it, though. She was part of a group of new sci-fi/fantasy authors who were not cut from the traditional cloth. This new breed consisted largely of women and minorities who had different perspectives and, consequently, different stories to tell, often with unconventional outlooks, and Le Guin was at the forefront of that movement. This resulted in large part from the influence of her father, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, who specialized in the history and culture of California’s Native American peoples. His work on how White culture led to the disappearance of indigenous people inspired his daughter’s thinking and was reflected in the ideas she sought to express through her works, such as The Ekumen series.

As illustrated by the foregoing, Le Guin’s works often dealt with many themes that had not been previously addressed in literature, particularly through the lens of science fiction/fantasy, where they were expressed metaphorically. Many of her works delved into thought experiments, prompting readers to ponder the issues she raised and not always providing definitive answers or resolutions. For instance, she often dealt with scenarios involving the value and importance of freedom from restrictions, but such stories also simultaneously asked, “Can such freedom be realistically maintained?”

Le Guin is often remembered as an author who addressed feminist and gender equality issues in her works. However, this came about somewhat slowly where feminism was concerned, given that her own personal views on women’s rights didn’t always align with the radicalism of the women’s rights movement. She was a wife and mother and not ashamed of it, as evidenced through interviews with her husband Charles and her children Elisabeth, Caroline and Theodore. This prompted Le Guin to be somewhat defensive in the face of the movement’s more activist leaders who were disappointed at her lack of more definitive support. Her personal life came into conflict with the changing views of society, and it took some time for her sensibilities to catch up. This process caused her to rethink her views and expand her perspective, qualities subsequently reflected in later writings. She came to be an author who wasn’t afraid to question and reassess her own values and make adjustments accordingly in her later works. Such philosophical and literary evolution thus became another hallmark of her outlook and practice.

Writer Margaret Atwood, one of author Ursula K. Le Guin’s contemporaries, offers her insights on the impact her peer has had on the writing community, as seen in director Arwen Curry’s excellent documentary, “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin.” Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

Ultimately Le Guin’s works were seen as radically experimental, something she scrupulously employed in her writing and in the advice she imparted to others, observing that “Every story must make its own rules – and obey them.” In doing so, she opened the doors for other aspiring writers to do the same, and, in this way, she influenced the works of all writers, not just those in the genres in which she specialized. At the same time, her efforts forced sci-fi and fantasy out of the closet and into the light of respectability as legitimate literature. At the same time, her efforts forced sci-fi and fantasy out of the closet and into the light of respectability as legitimate literature. As one of the film’s commentators notes, the Harry Potter series wouldn’t exist were it not for the doors Le Guin opened through such works as the EarthSea series of novels.

Throughout her career, both in her writings and otherwise, Le Guin became more outspoken in her views and rarely held back in making her thoughts known. In 2014, for instance, she received the National Book Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. In her acceptance speech, she was candid about her feelings on the changing nature of the publishing industry (especially the role of Amazon), particularly for its emphasis on profits at the expense of supporting literary artistry. This, as in many other aspects of her life, reflected her willingness to speak out on issues that were important to her and that others were reluctant to talk about.

Such qualities came to characterize the views and writings of this visionary author, one who reset the chess board for the many who followed in her wake. She expanded the scope of what constituted not only science fiction but literature in general, and generations of writers and readers have her to thank for it. And, thanks to this superb documentary, we have an excellent record of those accomplishments to chronicle just how much of an impact she had.

Given the approach Le Guin took in her writing, she was obviously attempting to do more with it than simply tell good stories. Her works became vehicles for addressing issues that went beyond merely playing out entertaining narratives. There was purpose behind her words, using them as tools to make meaningful statements, in essence pushing the perceived limitations of what a writer is typically expected to do. But that’s important in light of what she believed she was supposed to do through her art. Her efforts were genuine, intentional acts of creativity, initiatives that draw upon the power of our beliefs in materializing what we seek to manifest.

Her writings embodied one of the key principles of this notion – that of pushing the limitations of creativity. This applies not only in terms of the content of her works, but also in terms of what they were intended to evoke among readers and, by extension, in the world at large. The impact of truly great literature is not limited to just the words on the page but on what those words inspire among those who take them to heart and subsequently put into practice. Le Guin lit the match with her prose, and the sparks took on a life of their own, both in the writing community and the wider world of which she and her peers were a part.

From a young age, author Ursula K. Le Guin was a lover of books, as chronicled in director Arwen Curry’s documentary “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” available for viewing at special screenings and for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

A big part of pushing limits involves providing different perspectives to audiences that may not have been previously exposed to them. Her efforts to make science fiction more respectable, for example, was in direct contrast to the prevailing view that it was little more than pulpy, campy, even tawdry schlock. That aim was bolstered tremendously by her inclusion of more sophisticated notions and characters in her work, individuals who possessed wisdom and insights and not merely stockpiles of ray guns and armies of robots. Given that few writings expressed such ideas before she put pen to paper, it’s no wonder that editors and publishers believed her works didn’t stand a chance against the typical fare the industry was producing – that is, until they discovered that there was an eager audience awaiting books like those of Le Guin and others. Alternate perspectives thus pushed the limits that opened up new and previously unforeseen markets, and it all began with the imaginative ideas and groundbreaking beliefs that were rolling around in Le Guin’s consciousness.

Through her works, Le Guin used her art to raise awareness for new ideas. She inspired readers to explore new territory, producing empowering works that helped them realize they had more going for themselves than they had been led to believe. She introduced audiences to individuals of far different character, helping to build bridges to different cultures, traditions and practices. And she exposed the unenlightened, albeit metaphorically, to the challenges, plights and inequities faced by others, such as those affecting Native Americans, as prompted by her interest in the aforementioned work done by her father. She believed these ideas could be conveyed through her writing, and she proceeded to make it happen.

When all of the foregoing is taken together, it becomes apparent that there was a deliberateness behind what Le Guin was doing. It’s as if she were fulfilling a destiny, one designed to achieve certain objectives, both among her readers and her fellow writers. She opened new vistas for each constituency, setting an example for them all to draw upon for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. Le Guin certainly personified those values and made the most of them through her achievements, an accomplishment we should all hope to emulate.

This superbly crafted chronicle provides an excellent overview of the author’s life, her inventive writing, her visionary outlook and how they all integrated to create an impressively prolific and inventive body of work. Through numerous insightful interviews with the author, as well as incisive commentary from biographer Julie Phillips, Le Guin’s family, and an array of such noteworthy authors as Margaret Atwood, Samuel Delany, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and Theodora Goss, among others, viewers are given a comprehensive look at Le Guin’s groundbreaking repertoire. The film deftly explores her evolution both as a writer and as a thought leader, one who ultimately had subtle but considerable impact in helping to shape public opinion on a variety of topics while simultaneously enabling aspiring authors to experiment in an art form often restricted by convention and a publishing industry obsessed with profit motives. The narrative is beautifully enhanced by a wealth of gorgeous animation, enlivening Le Guin’s material in ways that mere words cannot. This is must-see viewing for devotees of the author and an excellent introduction to the works of a writer whose substantial fan base could always use more followers of her thoughtful poetry and prose.

In a series of rare interviews, author Ursula K. Le Guin speaks about her life and work not long before her death in 2018 as seen in the insightful documentary, “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” available for streaming online. Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

If I had any complaints with this film, it would be that it sometimes tends to give short shrift to some of the author’s books. For me, that’s particularly true with Le Guin’s epic The Lathe of Heaven, which is relegated to little more than a passing reference. Given this work’s tremendous popularity and its status as a beloved 1980 cult movie (one of the films featured in my debut book, Get the Picture?!: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies), it genuinely deserved more attention than it received. In the overall scheme of things, however, this is somewhat insignificant compared to everything else the picture has to offer.

“Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” is readily available for those who are interested in seeing it. The film originally aired as part of the PBS series American Masters in 2019. Since then, the documentary has played (and still does) at film festivals, such as the Brooklyn Sci-Fi Film Festival, where I screened it late last year. It’s also been featured in numerous special showings at bookstores and libraries and is available for streaming online.

Trailblazers don’t come along very often, but, when they do, they’re worth paying attention to. They may not be readily recognized at first, but they often have much to say, much of it groundbreaking and revelatory. Whether it’s individuals working in the arts or some other field of endeavor, they often carry with them the capacity to be game changers, and virtually always for the better. Ursula K. Le Guin was one of those pioneering innovators, someone who set many of us on a new course, be it as artists, activists or advocates. She set the kind of example that the world could use more of these days. But, at the very least, we can be thankful for having her in our midst for as long as we did – and for the lasting legacy that she left behind, one whose impact will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Copyright © 2021-2022, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.