May 3, 2013

If Life Were a Movie Review




The recent passing of movie critic Roger Ebert got me thinking one of my odd thoughts: what if our satisfying retirement was like a movie review? Others watched your life unfold and gave you two thumbs up, or down. Rotten Tomatoes gave you a 65 or 75 or .....45% approval rating.

Actually, in a sense, this happens everyday. You are on stage, in all sorts of public settings where others are observing you: the coffee shop, grocery store, auto repair shop, or drug store. OK, in most cases people are not "reviewing" you. Actually, most of the time, they are so focused on themselves they are ignoring you.

But, if we can imagine for just a few moments, what would a "person reviewer" say about your life? Let's take a few of the normal ways a critic judges a movie and apply it to our life.

Originality: in a movie it is usually important that there be something original about the plot or the characters. The director has found some different way to tell a familiar story that the audience finds memorable. Sure, there are sequels that work well, but even they need a fresh twist on the original story.

A life well lived is very similar. If we try to copy someone else, live someone else's life, or just follow the standard path even if it doesn't suit us, we will miss what being truly alive is all about. Each one of us has a unique set of skills, gifts, and personality. Our lives must reflect that to be truly alive.

Character Development: I am sure we have all seen movies where the characters never come alive. Either the words they speak are wooden and unnatural, or the plot never forces them to change. The movie is no more than a still photo repeated for two hours.

One definition of character I found says it is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As we age, we change. We gather life experiences. It would be unusual for someone to be exactly the same at 20 or 30 as he is at 50 or 60. Life has its effect on us, both for good and bad.  And, like a well-written movie script, we deepen and grow because of what happens. The key question becomes whether your character is developing in a way that represents the core of who you are. 

Musical Score: Music and sound can really enhance a movie. In some cases a certain musical presentation is what is most memorable. If I mention the movie, Jaws, don't you think of that sound when the great white is getting closer to the swimmer? Or, how about the theme from Star Wars? For many of us those notes are filled with memories.

Most of our lives aren't quite as dramatic as those two examples. But, think of a musical score as that part of your life that enhances the main story. Maybe it is a beautiful smile that lights up a room. It could be you are always there when a friend needs help or comfort. You can tell a joke at just the right time to defuse a tense or uncomfortable situation. These attributes aren't all your life is about, but they certainly add color and meaning to your life story.


Comparison to others in the same genre: Movie critics will often compare a particular type of movie to one that came before. Romantic dramas may be compared to Casablanca. A new tough-guy male actor has the performances of Clint Eastwood or Sylvester Stallone lurking in the shadows. Who else could play Indiana Jones other than Harrison Ford? While sometimes unfair, it is inevitable that a new movie will have to compete with the past.

In human terms, we are always being compared to others. What type of career did we have, how big is our home, what do we drive? Our consumer-driven economy is based on creating desires for things we don't have. However, a satisfying retirement is very often built around a rejection of that mindset. As we mature and realize what really makes us happy, things we buy or possess often retreat into the background. Experiences, contentment, a more simplified lifestyle, or stronger relationships with others become the "things" we care more about.


Ultimately, we may see a movie even if a critic give it two thumbs down. Personally, I tend to disagree with the "experts" most of the time. Movies that score poorly I like while blockbusters often leave me cold.

Should I (or you) care what type of "review" others may give my life? No, not really. I am confident enough in my own decisions and self awareness to not worry too much about a less than blockbuster review. Importantly, though, I try to listen whenever an opinion or suggestion is offered. Improvement in all areas of my life is my goal. That may be impossible if I'm not open enough to a script suggestion or a new way to enhance the music score that enriches my life.

Lights - camera - action!



12 comments:

  1. Love this analogy Bob. We can only hope, as we age, we care less about outside critics and more about our inner critic. It's never about things. It's about character.
    b

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    1. The only critics I concern myself with anymore are family and close friends. As you know, in radio we were constantly being judged by ratings services or advertisers and market research. I am soooo glad to be out of that very frustrating environment.

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  2. I notice as I get older that I could care less what others think of my life, the reviewers as you state in your musings this morning. Others probably feel the same as we get more and more comfortable with our lives, who we are, and so on.

    As for my life in general, I used to think it was somewhat boring. But people always tell me about milestones in my life, how I always seemed to be in the middle of interesting events, how the craziest things happened to me, and so on. In many ways I have had a fairly exciting life, and I have enjoyed a heck of a lot of it. Hopefully I would get a thumbs-up from the people that counted.

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    1. "...the people who counted" is the only measuring stick we need, right Chuck? Everything else is opinion and we know the old saying about opinions and how everyone has one.

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  3. An interesting (and original!) analogy, but yikes, you're making me very self-conscious. I'm sure I would rate lots of thumbs down. Don't we have enough critics without being judged on our humble existence?

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    1. I think most of us would get more praise than we think. The person in trouble is the one in denial.

      Thanks, Tom.

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  4. Sometimes I feel like my life is like one of those old Burns and Allen radio shows (though I often feel way too much like the Gracie role). In that vein, there were many situations when I wish I had someone (of my choice) to write me a proper script. And provide me with a laugh-track. :)

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    1. Wouldn't that make it easier!

      What was the old radio show with the closet that was always overfilled and every time someone opened it stuff spilled out? Some days I feel like that.

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  5. Hi Bob,

    At this point in my life, I could care less what people think. However, it did make me think of something I have told my daughter when she is wondering what direction to go, and that is: If you were writing a book, what would you write for the next chapter? That can be applied to our lives as well. Are we happy with the chapter in our life we are currently writing? That is all that is really important.

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    1. That is a great analogy. What will our next chapter (or 30 minutes of screen time) be about? Will we be happy when we read it?

      Are we happy now with how our story is unfolding? Good, Donnine!

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  6. I've been following your blog for about a year, and have not felt the need to comment before today. While my husband and I are not retired yet, your blog - and the links to others that you follow - are truly informative as we prepare for this next adventure in a few years. While reading this post, I immediately thought of Donald Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years". If you have not yet read it, I hope you will find time to. It is a wonderful, immensely read-able tale of finding your story, and living on purpose. And, the making of a "life" into a movie. I think you would find much to inspire your readers with.

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness in the material you present.

    Pat from Canada

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    1. Thanks, Pat, for your readership and support. I will take at look at Mr. Miller's book.

      Have a great week.

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