Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence
Film Review by Kam Williams
Father Thomas Keating is a very influential theologian despite the fact that his is not as much of a household name as some of his contemporaries like the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra. That’s because the 91 year-old cleric got a late start after having spent the bulk of his life under the radar as a Trappist Monk withdrawn from the world and operating under a vow of silence.
How exactly did he land on that Spartan path? Well, as a sickly 5 year-old, Thomas had promised God to enter the priesthood if he were allowed to survive a life-threatening childhood disease. So, upon completing his studies at Yale University, he kept his word by joining an ascetic order located in rural Rhode Island.
However, he would resign in 1981 and start talking again in order to be able to share his unique brand of Eastern-influenced Catholicism with the masses. He subsequently moved to an abbey in Colorado where he founded the Contemplative Outreach program.
Over the intervening years he also wrote 30+ books about his meditative approach to spirituality. His Earth-friendly philosophy basically suggests that “The more we know about nature, the more we know about God.” In that regard, it reminded this critic of a passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It which reads “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
Co-directed by Peter Jones and Elena Mannes, Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence is an endearing biopic whose only flaw is a slight tendency at times towards hero worship. For, although the endearing documentary’s humble subject obviously has little interest in such glorification, the filmmakers can’t help but gush, cinematically, in the process of placing him atop a virtual pedestal he probably wants no part of.
The picture is at its best during relatively-introspective interviews conducted with Thomas which intermittently arrive between glowing accolades from colleagues and distracting reminders that, as an Ivy League grad, he could’ve written his own ticket had he gone the conventional materialistic route.
But it was apparently hard for the directors to leave well enough alone and just let Thomas speak for himself. A poignant portrait of a transcendent figure for the ages with a simple message that ”Forgiveness is at the very center of Christianity.”
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Distributor: Temple Rock
To see a trailer for Thomas Keating, visit
Film Review by Kam Williams
Everybody knows blondes have more fun, but what about redheads? They have the least pleasure according to Scott Harris, the producer, director and primary subject of Being Ginger. In this bittersweet expose, the ostracized underdog explores his plight in particular as well as that of his fellow, so-called “Gingers” in general.
We learn that the 31 year-old filmmaker has apparently been saddled with low self-esteem ever since being mercilessly teased about his hair during his formative years. He sets about illustrating that point by confronting one of his former schoolteachers who, rather than stepping in to stop the torture, had joined in the bullying.
The inept educator even admits on camera to having threatened to hang Scott on a hook, if he didn’t stop blubbering, so that his classmates could pummel him like a piñata. As a result of such repeated mistreatment, the poor boy ended-up an adult lacking in self-confidence, especially when it comes to the ladies.
Scott claims women don’t find redheads appealing due to a basic look which is more goofy than virile. Consequently, he’s never been in a long-term relationship. Convinced that his soul mate must be out there somewhere, he decided to shoot a movie chronicling his desperate search for the girl of his dreams.
To that end, Scott looks for Ms. Right everywhere he goes, whether in a nightclub, on a college campus, at a redhead convention, online (at www.DateGinger.com), or by boldly walking down the street wearing a sandwich board advertising that he’s available. Which, if any, of these approaches works? Far be it from me to ruin the resolution of a delightful documentary’s denouement.
Actually, as a black man born with red hair and freckles, what I found far more thought-provoking was the question of whether I might have been emotionally scarred during my own childhood in a way similar to Scott. After all, I’d often been referred to as “Carrot Top” and “Kraut” as a kid, and was not particularly popular with the opposite sex.
Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that those hair-related nicknames never bothered me as much as being the brunt of racial epithets. And I doubt that most females are so superficial as to reject a guy out of hand just because of his hair color.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize the trauma Scott suffered since he did such a fine job, here, of illustrating the source of his angst. Ronald McDonalds of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your Cheetos-colored coiffures!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 69 minutes
Distributor: Garden Thieves Pictures / Quad Cinema
To see a trailer for Being Ginger, visit
The “Life in Motion” Interview
with Kam Williams
Born in Kansas City, Missouri on September 10, 1982, Misty Copeland
Is a soloist at the American Ballet Theatre. A recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, Misty is also an inductee into the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Hall of Fame.
She lives in New York City and can be visited online at www.MistyCopeland.com and followed on Twitter at @mistyonpointe. Here, she talks about her memoir, ‘Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.”
Kam Williams: Hi Misty, thanks for the interview. I really enjoyed your autobiography.
Misty Copeland: Thank you.
KW: What inspired you to write it at such a young age?
MC: I didn’t expect it to happen this soon, but it seemed like the right time when I was approached by Simon and Schuster, based on the way it was presented to me. It wasn’t going to be an end-all to me career, like “This is what I’ve done.” Rather, it’s more focused on how I feel about all my experiences in life and what I’ve learned from them, while I’m still in the midst of my career. So, it’s almost like I’m sharing that, inviting people into my world and bringing them along on a journey that I’m still on.
KW: You suffered a half-dozen stress fractures in 2012. Did having the time to write while recuperating play a part in your decision?
MC: Absolutely! [Chuckles] I had a lot of time recovering from my surgery.
KW: The book is so well-written and you were so forthcoming that I already feel like I know you before speaking to you.
MC: Good! [Giggles]
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Film Review by Kam Williams
Wes Anderson films are sui generis, one of a kind affairs as easy to identify as, say, a Thelonious Monk piano solo or a Frank Sinatra vocal. You can spot one of his works by watching just a snippet of celluloid.
Anderson’s latest offering, The Grand Budapest Hotel, not only stays true to his vibrant visuals and tongue-in-cheek narrative style but rates right up there with the best of the bunch, including Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Darjeeling Limited which was this critic’s pick as the #1 film of 2007.
Ralph Fiennes seems perfectly cast to play the picture’s protagonist, and he is ably assisted in that endeavor by a dramatis personae comprised of an abundance of Anderson alumni, including Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel, Waris Ahluwalia and Scott Rudin.
The droll dramedy is set in 1932 in the fictional Eastern European nation of Zubrowka which is where we find unctuous concierge Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes) playing his trade at the eponymous titular establishment. There, he lavishes his attention and affections on vulnerable ladies, provided they’re rich, blonde, elderly and needy. Narrating the blow-by-blow is Gustave’s game protégé, Zero (Tony Revolori), a loyal, lowly “Lobby Boy” learning the tricks of the trade.
Just past the point of departure, we learn that one of the hotel’s guests, Madame D. (Swinton), has just died mysteriously. A swarm of relatives, close and distant, show up for the reading of the wealthy widow’s will by her attorney (Brody), each hoping for a sizable chunk of the estate.
However, it turns out that the dearly departed left “Boy with Apple,” the only valuable painting in her entire art collection to the gigolo Gustave. So, when an autopsy reveals that Madam was poisoned with strychnine, he is summarily arrested and charged with murder.
It’s no long before he hatches an elaborate jailbreak with the help of Zero, and soon the chase is on, with the heirs, the authorities, a hired assassin (Dafoe), and even Nazis in hot pursuit, as Gustave desperately attempts to clear his badly-besmirched name so he can hold onto the priceless portrait.
A sublime whodunit designed for cinephiles with sophisticated palates.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and violence
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
To see a trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel, visit
Film Review by Kam Williams
Anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible is undoubtedly familiar with the story of Noah and the Ark. That scriptural passage, found in Genesis, revolves around a righteous patriarch recruited by God to build a big boat before the arrival of a flood being meted out as divine punishment for man’s many wicked ways.
Heeding the word of the Lord, he proceeded to construct the mammoth vessel before herding two of each species of animal into the hold. It subsequently rained for 40 days and 40 nights, with water covering the entire Earth’s surface, thereby drowning all of humanity except for his family.
So, until now, the tale of Noah was basically a simple one about God’s decision to completely wipe the planet of sinners and start over. Leave it to Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan) to come up with a novel and intriguing reinterpretation of the popular parable recasting Noah as a complicated soul wrestling with inner demons during his quest to do the Lord’s bidding ahead of the impending deluge. The movie also has an ecological angle, plus some computer-generated monsters ostensibly designed to holds the kids’ interest.
The film stars Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe (for Gladiator) in the title role, and features a talented supporting cast which includes fellow Oscar-winners Jennifer Connelly (for A Beautiful Mind) and Anthony Hopkins (for The Silence of the Lambs), three-time nominee Nick Nolte (for Warrior, Affliction and The Prince of Tides), as well as Emma Watson and Ray Winstone.
The picture opens with what is essentially a Sunday school lesson, a refresher course about the creation of Adam (Adam Griffith) and Eve (Ariane Rinehart) who begat three sons: Cain, Abel and Seth. The evil one, Cain, slew his sibling Abel, and those descending from Cain’s demon seed continued to do the devil’s work by generally exploiting the planet’s natural resources.
Noah, by contrast, as a son of Seth, learned how to live in harmony with nature. He and his wife (Connelly) raised their sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and Ham (Logan Lerman), with the same eco-friendly philosophy.
Eventually, of course, Noah gets his marching orders from God, and the plot thickens when the steady drizzle develops into a neverending downpour. Suddenly, his nosy neighbors no longer see constructing an ark as such a nutty idea anymore, and it’s going to take a miracle like an army of animatronic angels to keep the desperate hordes from climbing aboard.
Meanwhile, a visibly-anguished Noah agonizes over what’s about to transpire, and consults his sage, berry-imbibing grandfather, Methuselah (Hopkins). But anticipatory survivor’s guilt ain’t about to alter God’s plan one iota.
An alternately introspective and breathtaking Biblical epic, every bit cerebral as it is panoramic!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content and disturbing images
Running time: 138 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
To see a trailer for Noah, visit