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Face the Truth of Mortality and Allow ‘the Bucket List” to Guide You

In “The Bucket List,” Jack Nicholson plays the rich, mean-spirited, over-bearing Edward Cole. In any other context, he would be considered a bad guy. He’s mean to his assistant. He treats people poorly, and he uses brutal honesty as a weapon. However, the fact that the viewer knows Cole is going to die, changes how he is perceived. It’s hard to be angry with someone who is going to die. But isn’t that the crux of life?

We are all going to die. Life is a journey toward death. No one survives. No one knows when his or her death will be. We don’t have to be diagnosed with a terminal illness to face death. If we can realize this core truth of humanity and life itself, we may be able to harness the sympathy for others that comes with realizing they are going to die.

Imagine knowing that everyone you meet is going to die and that death is imminent. If we can all face that single truth, maybe we can find it within us to be kinder to everyone we meet. Death is never far off for anyone. Treat them well, and you won’t have to regret any of your actions.

Nicholson is brilliant in this role, he’s played before – the loveable curmudgeon who somehow redeems himself. (“You make me want to be a better man.”) His chemistry with Morgan Freeman is fun and funny. Cole still treats his assistant poorly throughout the film, but finally finds redemption in the embrace of his grandchild and estranged daughter.

We don’t have scripts that allow us to have these outcomes, we have to write our own scripts. That means we have to find our own character arc and have the courage to change our inner narrative. Only then will we be able to find who we truly are, and as Edward Cole proves, we can create a better, more meaningful life with our loved ones as long as we’re willing to embrace what’s important, like forgiveness, and throw away everything that is crass and wrong with our society, including greed and selfishness.

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‘The Bucket List’ Redefines and Revolutionizes the Use of Flashback

The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman is a stellar film. Sure, it’s about death, dying and cancer, but the film portrays in such a way that its inspirational rather than depressing. Even better is the film’s game changing use of cinematic devices that are usually reserved for poor writing and boring narratives. If you haven’t seen “The Bucket List,” go find it on Netflix or wherever you stream your movies on and get treated to an amazing performance from to old guys that have great chemistry. Spoilers after the trailer.

I hate flashbacks and dislike voice over narration almost as much. So, when Morgan Freeman’s voice begins the film telling us that Jack Nicholson’s character is dead, I was ready for this to be one of the worst films ever. I mean, sure, aside from the premise that these two old guys have terminal cancer, there’s no reason to start the film off showing us the ending. A story should be told from the beginning… except when knowing the ending serves a storytelling purpose.

Generally, poor writing starts off by showing the most intriguing situation possible: a bomb explodes, a character is in the middle of a martial arts battle, the aliens are invading and a laser is bearing down on Earth from the sky, some traumatic event that will grab your interest. Then the film or story rewinds to show you how it got there. If a story has to start in the middle or with an event to engage the viewer’s interest, it’s usually a sign that the actual beginning of the story isn’t good enough to keep the viewer engaged. If it isn’t good enough to start the movie with, it should be left on the cutting room floor. If you can’t trust your viewers or your characters to find their way to the “exciting” parts, then you need to rewrite the story until you can – or drop it altogether.

Flashbacks generally create an entire time period during the story where no danger to the characters involved matter because they are going to make it to the traumatic event. That squashes the tension and results in too much redundancy in the film. “Arrow” has used flashback effectively to enhance its storytelling, and strengthen its themes, but it has 22 hours in which to tell its stories. A 90-minute film should avoid the flashback almost every time.

However, the flashback angle works in “The Bucket List” because of the way it’s used. With Morgan Freeman’s first words, the viewer hears that Edward is dead. The scene shows a man in a cold weather suit climbing on top of the Himalayas with a can of ashes. Because we know that Edward is going to die, we gain sympathy for the cantankerous old man before we ever meet him. We are softened towards him as a person; it’s hard to be angry at someone who is going to die. We also know that his death is coming, so we are able to protect ourselves from it.

The next 88 minutes are filled with laughter, great characters, hardship, and fun. They are heart-rending but not heart-breaking. And then you get the twist at the end. Yes, the film was a flashback, but not in the way the viewer was led to believe. The twist is beautiful and amazing, and for this film, it is part of the reason why the story was so effective. As writer, it’s important to remember that the flashback can be an effective tool as long as we don’t use it lazily. It’s only one of the lessons in “The Bucket List.”

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‘Oblivion’: Come Face-to-Face-to-Face with the World’s Worst Nightmare

With a plot as predictable as “Oblivion’s,” telling you that this article contains spoilers is questionable. After all, if you know what’s going to happen, me telling you isn’t really a spoiler, is it? It seems as ridiculous as this movie and its ending. Still, there may be spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Oblivion,” yet. I would suggest avoiding it altogether, and with a domestic gross total of just under $90 million for this 2013 release, it appears that’s what many people did.

That doesn’t mean that “Oblivion” is without merit. Sure, it may leave you wondering how Tom Cruise continues to get acting jobs and why Morgan Freeman decided to get mixed up in this 2-hour sleep pod. The film may even have the same effect on you as a sleep pod.

Still, it does give you cause to ponder and imagine thousands of Tom Cruises coming out of a spaceship on a mission to eradicate humanity from the planet, or at least, destroy enough people to make the planet harvestable. If the idea of thousands of Tom Cruises as an invading army doesn’t give you nightmares, I’m not sure what will.

The stunning visuals and effects were wasted on Cruise and his lack of acting ability. There wasn’t even a good running scene – he does run, but the angle that it’s filmed from doesn’t allow you to make too much fun of it. The movie’s end scene, which was supposed to be touching and beautiful, had me laughing out loud as “Oblivion” slipped into the absurd one final time.

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13 episodes in: ‘Salvation’ Won’t Come from Shoddy Work

After 13 episodes of “Salvation” the most unforgivable action came from an assassin. He shoots his target at close range in the shoulder, then shoots a bystander in the chest and head. He had surprise on his side, so this should have been an easy task. Instead of checking on his target to see if she was still alive or dead, he douses everything in flammable liquids and starts a fire.

Dude. Seriously? You’re an assassin. Your next move after shooting the bystander would’ve been to go around the desk and finish off the target. Morgan Freeman in “Nurse Betty” said it best, “Three in the head, you know their dead.” (I use the quote in “The Pirate Union.”)

Because this professional killer and cleaner didn’t do his job, the target was able to send an incriminating email and accomplish the task, her death was supposed to prevent. We aren’t 100 percent sure that she’s dead, so it might be that this assassin did not complete his mission at all.

Maybe, this makes the story more interesting, but come on. All I want is for people to do their jobs well. Whatever your profession, whatever work you do, do it well. Even if you don’t like it. Until you quit, you need to instill in yourself the habits that will transfer to any other work you choose. Doing the job correctly should be a top priority for everyone who is employed.

And, I guess, I also want a story that’s a little more believable. The fate of the world is in question; this assassin knew that the target needed to be eliminated. He should’ve completed the job correctly.