With each New Year come new beginnings, new hopes and new dreams – and, perhaps less welcomed, but not less important, change. But, change – as unsettling, disconcerting and frightening as it can be – is not always bad. In fact, change is good. It is necessary; it is what pushes and advances us. It is instructive; it teaches, inspires and transforms. After all, as Henri Bergson once said: “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” And Confucius: “They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”
It is in this spirit that ATG puts forth two “must see” movies of the New Year (see below), both of which underscore the necessity of hope and the transformative power of change. We *hope* you enjoy!
Two entirely different movies, Wild and The Imitation Game share a similar quality that one might not expect from such unrelated stories – that of the sheer determination and will of the human spirit, fueled by hope and renewal, even in the most challenging of circumstances. It was this that was so beautifully captured in both films by their main characters, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) in Wild and Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) in The Imitation Game.
In 1995, with no experience or training – and driven only by blind will – Cheryl Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail* in an attempt to come to terms with her shattered life that had followed in the wake of her mother’s death. Based on her New York Times bestselling book Wild (2012), it is a journey utterly captivating and powerful, exceptionally well done for a film of its nature. And anyone questioning Reese Witherspoon’s talent as an actress is sure to be impressed with her performance, as she skillfully exhibits the range of human emotion, from sheer joy and elation to utter darkness and despair – only to find herself whole again after hiking alone in the wilderness for nearly three months.
*The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles from Mexico and Canada, traversing through California, Oregon and Washington. It was conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932 and designated in 1968 as a National Scenic Trail, officially declared finished in 1993, just two years before Cheryl Strayed began her journey. You can learn more on the PCT website here: www.pcta.org/discoverthetrail. Also check out Cheryl Strayed’s website here: www.cherylstrayed.com
During the Second World War, challenged with the top-secret task of breaking Nazi Germany’s enigma code, British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954)* and a team of men (and woman) worked tirelessly to create what would become one of the world’s first computers – and what would help lead the allies to victory in the Atlantic in 1945. Based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Benedict Cumberbatch** gives an outstanding performance as a mathematical genius whose determination and refusal to quit in the face of varying obstacles helped create history and save millions of lives.
*Of interest: The book Turing’s Cathedral (2012) by George Dyson – son of famous physicist Freeman Dyson and brother of influential digital technology consultant Esther Dyson – is an account of “how the digital universe exploded in the aftermath of World War II…with a small group of men and women at Princeton, led by John von Neumann, who began building one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine.”
Some interesting quotes and information from the book are below:
- “Turing’s paper, ‘On Computable Numbers’ signaled a fundamental shift. Before Turing, things were done to numbers. After Turing, numbers began ‘doing’ things.”
- “’Search engines’ are ‘copy’ engines: replicating everything they find (when a search result is retrieved, the data are logically replicated).”
- “An Internet search engine is a finite-state, deterministic machine, except at those junctures where people, individually and collectively, make a nondeterministic choice as to which results are selected as meaningful and given a click.”
- “These inputs are then incorporated into the state of the deterministic machine, which grows ever so incrementally more knowledgeable with every click. This is what Turing defined as an ‘Oracle’ machine.”
**Here’s a great article on Benedict Cumberbatch in the New York Times: “Showing the Smarts to Play the Genius”
Other movies worth seeing before the Oscars? Fury (with exceptional performances by Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal) and Unbroken (directed by Angelina Jolie). Check out the article in the NYT Magazine on Laura Hillenbrand, author of Unbroken, which has remained on the NYT bestselling hardcover book list for 4 straight years – that is, 185 continuous weeks: “The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand.”