tom hanks

Spielberg and “The Post”: Some thoughts on truth and the movies

I saw “The Post” last night. And the first thing I did when I got home was fire up the computer and test it. How close to the real story was it? What liberties did director Steven Spielberg and his team take with the story of the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War?

Film Fanatic


‘Captain Phillips’ Not Quite Accurate According to Crew Members 

Whenever a major Hollywood film depicts a real-life story, there’s usually some liberties taken to make the film a little more dramatic.  This usually means altering the story a bit so that audiences favor a particular character more or fabricating scenes partially, or entirely, to increase the suspense.

Following the release of Argo last year, Ken Taylor, Canada’s former ambassador to Iran and a character in the film played by Victor Garber, was upset by the downplaying of Canada’s involvement in the mission to free six Americans trapped in Iran.

“In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner.  But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats,” said Taylor.

Captain Phillips, Tom Hanks - Getty Images
Richard Phillips, Tom Hanks | (Getty Images)

After talking with director Ben Affleck, Taylor was able to get a postscript line changed at the end of the movie.  Originally it suggested that the CIA did all the work and the Canadians took all the credit but it was ultimately changed saying, “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran.  To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international cooperation between governments.”

Affleck and Taylor amicably worked out the inconsistencies, but a new film that also depicts a dramatic real-life story is having some difficulty with people who witnessed the actual event. 

Nine crew members of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship that was hijacked by Somalia pirates in 2009, have filed a lawsuit claiming Capt. Richard Phillips ignored warnings to sail clear of pirate-infested waters off Africa.

Phillips was eventually taken hostage by the pirates in a lifeboat for five days until being rescued by U.S. Navy SEALs.  The captain went on to write a memoir chronicling the experience which was then adapted into the film starring Tom Hanks.

Phillips was hailed a hero following the incident, but the crew members say the ship was traveling too close to the Somalia coast at the time due to the ship’s owner, Maersk Line Limited, and the operator, Waterman Steamship Corporation, wanting to save the company money by traveling on a faster route.

Scene from 'Captain Phillips' - Sony Pictures
A scene from ‘Captain Phillips’ | (Sony Pictures)

“To make him into a hero for driving this boat and these men into pirate-infested waters, that’s the real injustice here,” said attorney Brian Beckcom, who is representing the nine crew members.  “The movie tells a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened.”

Captain Phillips, which is directed by Paul Greengrass, looks like an outstanding thriller and it’s been getting great reviews ahead of its October 11 release date.  While I take every “Based on a true story” movie with a grain of salt, to have half of the crew members accusing their captain of “…knowingly, intentionally and willfully…” sending them into a dangerous area is a pretty big accusation and drastically changes the film’s perspective and possibly its perception.

But I’ll still be going to the theater to check it out because at the end of the day, all movies are fiction.  Some, perhaps, more than others.

Box Office Prognosticator: Gravity

After four years and new technology invented specifically for it, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is finally hitting theaters this weekend.  Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the space spectacle is getting some of the best reviews of the year (98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but the big question is, how well will it do in its debut at the box office?

The film is being smartly marketed as a stunningly visual experience meant to be seen on the big screen and with the star power of Bullock and Clooney, the film will easily be number one.  Shockingly, the film cost just $80 million to make (In comparison, R.I.P.D. cost $130 million.  Every dollar from Gravity is on the screen.  I don’t know where $100 million-plus of R.I.P.D. went) so it will certainly earn its money back, but the opening weekend is always what everyone wants to talk about.

If you look at the other original Sci-fi films that were released this year (After Earth, Oblivion, Elysium, Pacific Rim), all of them opened in the $27-37 million range.  With Gravity being released in the Fall, a historically down period for opening weekends, the film is expected to gross at the higher end of its contemporaries.

Sandra Bullock - Collider
A scene from ‘Gravity’ | (Collider)

But those other films were geared toward male audiences and the science fiction they were portraying involved aliens, monsters and robots.  While Gravity is classified as a Sci-fi film, it exists in a real world with modern-day astronauts.  It’s more of a thriller than a futuristic movie and with Sandra Bullock appearing in the majority of the film, a female demographic will certainly be stronger for this film. 

Box Office Mojo has Gravity earning between around $40 million by Sunday.  I’m going to be a little more optimistic and say it will make $45 million and possibly a little more thanks to the theater experience (not to mention 3D and IMAX ticket sales).   I want to say more, but with kids going back to school, football season in full-effect and the return of Fall television, Gravity has a lot of competition outside of the cinema.

This movie will end up being a monster hit, but it will ultimately get there thanks to sustainability in the weeks after its opening weekend.  Great reviews and strong word-of-mouth are usually key factors in that occurring and Gravity looks primed to have that kind of success.





The Kindness Of Others


Growing up on the rock (Revillagegado Island – AKA Ketchikan, Alaska)  One of our goals (mine anyhow) was to get off it and into the “real world”  which meant “down south”.  It was right up there with getting our drivers permit when we turned 14 (yes you read that right) 14 years old and then of course the biggy was our drivers license when we turned 16.

Aerial View of Ketchikan, Alaska
Aerial View of Ketchikan, Alaska

You may have read in my last column piece my experience flying to Alaska last week to see my family and the rough ride (cough – understatement of the year – thought I was going to die flight) into Ketchikan. My plan was to stay a week.  I got up the morning I was scheduled to leave (Thursday) to check on my flight and my reservation wasn’t there, the plane wasn’t even there!  What?  I found out that I should have never been booked on that flight because it was taken out of service for the winter 4 days prior to my scheduled trip off the rock!

I looked online to see if there were other flights that I could get onto, all were packed.  Maybe one seat available here or there but only one seat.  I was flying on a pass (given by a friend in order for me to go up in the first place) so I was low man on the totem pole on any flight.  I started to stress because I needed to get home and didn’t see a flight in my future for at least 3 more days.

Airport Ferry  Ketchikan, Alaska  Image | Sandy Harris
Airport Ferry Ketchikan, Alaska Image | Sandy Harris

Keeping an eye on the flights I decided to take a chance and try to leave on Saturday.  It looked like my best chance to get out.  My son brought me to the ferry that would take me across the Tongass Narrows to the airport; we said our good-byes and I headed down the ramp and onto the ferry.  The flight I wanted to leave on was leaving at 9 a.m.  Once I made it to the ticket counter I told the gal I was flying on standby, she took a look at my confirmation and said she couldn’t help me because I didn’t show up for my flight (that didn’t even exist) and I needed to call reservations.  She gave me the number making it sound like all would be well in my world once again (its 8:00 a.m. now and the plane is boarding at 8:20) I called reservations, thankful that my cell would go through (I hadn’t been able to talk on it since I arrived 9 days ago).

“I can’t help you ma’am. You didn’t show up for your flight.  You now need to go online and rebook your flight”.  The voice on the other end said to me.

Me faking a smile while riding back to Ketchikan on the ferry
Me faking a smile while riding back to Ketchikan on the ferry

I explained to her the flight didn’t exist but she seemed unresponsive to my story.  It did sound ridiculous but it could never be more true… My life.  Getting  a little frustrated at this point I did what I was told and went online.  There was no way I was going to be flying home today, all the flights were full.  As I shut down my computer and packed up my belongings I heard over the intercom “Last call for so and so and if you do not show up at the gate in two minutes your seats will be forfeited”.  My heart sank.  If the gals could have helped me, I could have possibly been on that plane.  Feeling completely deflated I headed to the ferry to go back to Ketchikan.  It’s hard to say good-bye in the first place, but to have to do it repeatedly does not do a body good!  I called my son to come back and get me.

Friends had heard of my troubles and offered their miles to get me home!  Now, I’m a pretty tough person but when people do things like this out of the kindness of their heart, without blinking an eye or being asked it brings emotion out.  I burst into tears! I am probably looking like an emotional basket case but thats okay.  I love my family and friends dearly and begin to miss them the very moment I see them each time I arrive, already knowing how hard it will be to say good-bye but I had to get home to my life; my responsibilities.  I graciously accepted their very kind and generous offer and within a few moments my travel woes were solved.  I would land in Eugene at midnight Sunday.   I made a few rounds to see my friends one last time.  My plane would be leaving the next afternoon at 1 p.m., landing at SeaTac.

Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris
Ketchikan Airport Image | Sandy Harris

I barely make it on board due to the fact that there are spiders hanging from the ceiling near my gate entrance but I did it (halloween) Once onboard I found a teenager sitting in my seat.  I told him it was okay, I would just sit in the isle seat, his friend sitting next to him.

“Scuse me you are in my seat”  Turning my head, I realized she was talking to me.

I’m in 8D and that was the seat she was claiming.  My eyes darted to the kid at the window (my seat).  He should have been in the middle, so I looked at the kid in the middle, and told him I needed to see his ticket (I put on my flight attendant hat for a second)  “I’m actually in 6F” he states.  Before I knew what was happening I started laughing, my finger automatically wagging at him directing him to his seat.  The 4 of us looked like a three ring circus doing the dosey doe in the isles for a few moments but we got it figured out.

A SeaTac barge  Image | Sandy Harris
A SeaTac barge Image | Sandy Harris

It was a packed plane, one of the last people to board the flight was a woman with three small children all under the tender age of about 5 settling into the row in front of me and my new buddies in row 8.  The smallest being around 2 years old, a tiny thing she was.  I am not sure if she was claustrophobic but she let out this blood curdling scream that would freak anyone out.  My heart went out to the mother.  I put myself into her shoes and would hate my life had that been me.  I think we have all heard horror stories of little kids on flights crying.  The thing with kids crying on a flight is they can get away with it!  I know there have been times when I wanted to pitch a fit but have to hold it together because I’m an adult, kids get to cry and scream and it’s automatically the parents fault.

This poor little girl was in obvious discomfort the ENTIRE flight.  The sounds coming from her tiny body was scary.  I just knew if I looked over the seat I would find Linda Blair practicing for the Exorcist.  All I could do was laugh because it was seriously freaking me out.  Towards the end of the flight, a man across the isle from her was not happy and decided he needed to give the mom his opinion.  It was then that I could feel the atmosphere in the plane change.  This is when people go mad in flight.

The poor kid who sat next to me in 8E kept cracking up and said something to the affect that the little girl was sucking all of the oxygen from the cabin.  Bursting out in laughter every once in a while at the ridiculousness of the situation, I’m pretty sure he was convinced of never having children.

Kicking back at SeaTac
Kicking back at SeaTac

It was a pretty bumpy flight into SeaTac.  I had to elbow my seat mate once.   He was joking about the plane flipping upside down, seriously not funny after my flight into Ketchikan.  We finally touched down and relief washed over me.  I was in no hurry to get off the plane, I had 7 hours before the next leg of my trip.  With so much time on my hands I decided to ride the train back and forth between the N and C gates at SeaTac for a while until I found a great spot to kick back, plug in and write.  After a few hours I started to feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

I began to learn the ropes around there, found the good spots to plug in (C gates) at the very end of the terminal, you can go down to A gates for some quiet time.  My only problem there was I found myself singing and wanting to bust a move while listening to my music on my head phones!

After 6 hours I was done playing, I just wanted to go to sleep and my plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11 p.m.  I decided to walk around to wake up when I heard this thunderous roar… I looked out the window and it was as if there were buckets literally being dumped outside.  It was storming and I knew then I was in for another extremely fun ride in a plane.  Tim Chueys article about planes came to my mind.  It was another rough flight home.  The flight attendant came over the intercom and said “If we get up in the air safely (Excuse me?  There are some things you shouldn’t say, just my opinion) we will have a very short inflight service”   I passed on the snack and drinks.  I realized then that it is best to keep my eyes shut until we touch ground, this way I didn’t have to see the plane twisting or the people and chairs shaking, I could just imagine it.


SeaTac - my home for 7 hours
SeaTac – my home for 7 hours

I didn’t climb into bed until 3 a.m., but I was in my bed.  Waking up way too early I was pretty much dead to everything and tried to relax all day Monday.  Realizing I was hungry, I put my flip flops on (I’m in denial about the rain right now) and headed out my front door, I wanted some fresh picked tomatoes from my garden.  I opened the door and found a bag of groceries, a container of home made chicken soup and a note from my wonderful friend Sonja.

“I figured you hadn’t had a chance to go shopping yet.  Glad you are home!  Talk to you soon!”


I was exhausted from the last few days and to find this on my front steps was a small miracle in itself.  I reached into my refrigerator earlier for some butter and found some items my friend Janet had placed inside for me as well and I am still finding things she has done for me.  My heart is overwhelmed by the people in my life and “Thank you” just doesn’t seem enough.  Often times we can’t begin to imagine what we mean to others.

Because of the rough flights I endured on my trip to and from Alaska I can say I don’t want to step foot onto another aircraft for some time, unless it is headed for the Bahamas.

See you out there!