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american beauty

on sunday night shannon and i watched american beauty, which came out in 1999 and won 5 oscars, including best picture. it is interesting film, and i don't recommend it to those who are easily offended (one "christian" review i saw says that this movie has an "extremely offensive" moral rating, whatever that means). but, for those who are interested in good cinema, this is a very good movie.

it tells the story of lester burnham (the always incredible kevin spacey) and his messed up life and family. lester is a shell of a man, living an awful and nearly dead life, hating his job, out of touch with his wife and absent from his daughter's life. his wife (annette benning) is consumed with materialism and success. the movie tells the story of how burnham tries to change his life, and what he learns in the end. while it is full of potentially "morally offensive" material, the movie is not condoning the things that the characters do - it is showing the breakdown in relationships and in the american family. the movie is showing us that things are not always what they appear. lester seems like a loser, but he turns out not to be. his wife seems like a successful real estate agent, but she is a desperate housewife (literally). his daughter's friend angela seems to be a sex-crazed budding model, but she is only an insecure little girl. lester's neighbor seems to be some kind of homophobic colonel in the armed forces who abuses his son, but he turns out to be...well, you'll have to watch the movie for that. no one is what they appear to be.

as it turns out, after i was putting the dvd back into its case, i realized that the subtitle to the movie is: ...look closer.

look closer. things are not always what they appear to be. beauty is not always what we think it is. it certainly isn't always what our culture tells us it is. it might be simpler. or fatter. or darker. or just different from what you think. sometimes the things that we think are beautiful are well, not so much. that was the idea i had in my mind when i created this collage several years ago:

"american beauty"

paper collage

gregory a. milinovich

i think that each one of us ought to aspire to see more beauty in the world around us, and to surrender our status as slaves to a culture that tries to impose its ideas of beauty on us. yes, i mean that beauty is something different than glamour, elle and cosmo would tell us, but i also mean that beauty is more than we have always thought. maybe there is beauty in almost everything. maybe, as the movie suggests, if we would just pay attention, we would see so much beauty in this world that our hearts would nearly be unable to take it. and maybe, if we open our eyes to see the beautiful where we have not been expecting it, we just might find God in all of God's incredible mystery and majesty, robed in the regular, but breathlessly beautiful nonetheless.

anyway, that's what i'm looking for.



cathyq said…
This has been something I have been interested in for a long time. Authors have been dealing with this subject matter for years as well (think Elephant Man), and one of the most beautiful people I have ever met was a blind, rather shapless mound of a woman named Madge who could play the piano and sing like an angel. In the world's definition of beauty she was less than a nothing. She was a throwaway, sent to a county home to "live out her worthless life." She reminds me of the Lucille Clifton poem "Miss Rosie" in which the author refers to the old woman as a "wet brown, paper bag of a woman left on the curb like old potatoe peels" and yet, there was something noble about her brokeness and her past. It has been almost 30 years since I have seen Madge and yet I have never met anyone that comes close to her ethereal beauty. She never was one of the "beautiful people" of this world, but she was the most beautiful person to me. And yet, I don't want to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. NO, rather, beauty is a state of being, a consciousness if you will of whose you are. What could be more beautiful than that?

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