#380. Musicians

If there’s anything Hollywood likes to glamorize, it’s sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s then no wonder that at least a few musicians have had their lives immortalized in film. Something about their rise to stardom and fall from fame provides a fitting story arc that works well in the movie format. While there are documentaries (like the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter (1970)) and mockumentaries (like Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap (1984)), the personal stories of musicians usually tend to follow the same narrative structure. Of course, this structure is ready-made for drama, since there is plenty of room for conflict with the extremes of notoriety and infamy. One thing is certain: these musicians didn’t arrive at their fame by accident. Their talent at an instrument or songwriting is what set them apart to become something greater. This week’s films highlight the lives of two famous musicians.

RayRay
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

While most people on the street would be hard-pressed to name more than three famous pianists off the top of their head, there seems to be an abundance of them in film. From The Pianist (2002) to Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993), some of these musicians are obscure pop culture references at best. Also, it’s not enough to be able to play the piano well, but there has to be some other element of the musician’s life that makes their music that much more impressive. Whether it’s being a tortured savant like in Shine (1996), or being blind like in Ray (2004), these challenges add to the depth of the story surrounding their success. Still, even though the piano is often seen as a classical instrument, the modern pull of drugs is an ever-constant presence in these musicians’ life stories.

Playing the piano requires finely-tuned senses. Not only does a pianist need to know where their hands are on the keys, but they also need to hear if their instrument is out of tune and be able to read sheet music to learn a new song. Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx) lost his sight when he was a child, so before he even had a chance to learn the piano, he was at a disadvantage. To compensate, he learned songs “by ear” and kept them locked away in his memory so he wouldn’t have to rely on sheet music to play them. While his talent was undeniable, his personal life haunted him. Aside from his blindness occurring at a young age, he still carried the burden of his younger brother’s death, which took place a short time before he lost his sight. His heroin addiction threatened to take away everything he had worked hard for. Over time, therapy, and rehab, he was able to kick his addiction.

Walk the LineWalk the Line
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 136 minutes / 2.26 hours

Some musicians have very prominent personalities. Even if films like The Doors (1991) only capture the public perception of a musician, there are others like Amadeus (1984) that are awarded Best Picture Oscars. Mostly, these movies tend to boil an individual down to what their personalities were like outside of the music scene. Were they heavily into drugs like Jim Morrison, or were they flippant prodigies like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Sometimes, these personalities attract a fan base, in part because of the music, but also in part due to who the musicians were as people. Does their music become popular because it represents the people who like it via the musician themselves? In any case, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone nearly as influential to country music as Johnny Cash was.

Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) was raised in the church on hymns and gospel songs. After the accidental death of his father, he joins the Air Force and soon finds he is at peace strumming the strings of a guitar and expressing his feelings through his own, original songs. When he returns to the United States after his time in the military, he works to make a living for his family but is still drawn to the music that soothes his soul. Using the song he wrote during his time in the Air Force, he quickly becomes a musical superstar. Unfortunately, his rise to fame puts his marriage in jeopardy when he falls in love with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Unable to be with June, he turns to drugs and alcohol to cope. This eventually leads to his arrest when he is caught with narcotics while returning from Mexico. However, his “outlaw” status speaks to the prisoners who love his first song: “Folsom Prison Blues.”

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 magnificent musicians

#379. Piano Men

Johann Sebastian Bach has said, “It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time, and the instrument will play itself.” While he’s likely simplifying the complex process of playing an instrument, at the very least the piano has all the notes readily available for a musician to play. Anyone can play the piano; this instrument is deceptively simple but can also be incredibly complex. With a single finger, a musician can plink out a recognizable tune or melody. However, some songs require up to 20 fingers to play, a feat usually reserved for two people. Having taught myself some piano, I can honestly appreciate the talent it takes to play this instrument well. Piano players can be a rare breed, but at least a few have become famous because of it. This week’s two films highlight some famous men who earned their notoriety at the keys of a piano.

De-LovelyDe-Lovely
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Anyone who thinks jazz piano isn’t a dramatic art clearly doesn’t understand jazz. Modern films like La La Land (2016) tout the potential purity of jazz played on the piano, but much of the roots of piano jazz have come from slightly more structured backgrounds. Few jazz songs actually have any lyrics, which is why those that do are much more recognizable in popular culture. While most people will have a passing knowledge of musicians like Dave Brubeck, more will know George Gershwin via his “Rhapsody in Blue.” Even more people can recognize multiple songs by Cole Porter. When Kevin Kline portrayed Cole Porter in De-Lovely (2004), he was able to understand Porter’s attraction to the piano. Kline said, “I totally related to Cole Porter’s magnetic pull to any piano that was in the room, which he was famous for doing . . . You couldn’t drag [him] away from a piano.”

If anyone ever had “fun” with music, it was Cole Porter (Kevin Kline). His catchy songs propelled him into fame and fortune, mostly in part due to his marriage to Linda Lee Porter (Ashley Judd), as she was the muse for most of his songs. At the end of his life, he has to admit that “not all” of the songs were about her since he was secretly engaging in homosexual relationships alongside his marriage to Linda. She was agreeable with the arrangement, even if his flings eventually drove her to leave and move to Paris. The irony was that he moved both of them to Hollywood to get over their miscarriage, but the temptation for his homosexual lifestyle in this hotbed of entertainment led to a moment used as blackmail against him. After Linda left, his music was never the same, and even more so when she died in 1954.

RayRay
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

Music is a very audible medium, but musicians need a modicum of visual prowess to play it. When learning an instrument like the piano, many will glance back and forth between sheet music and their hands on the keys to ensure they’re hitting the right notes. Over time, these musicians develop a muscle memory that will allow them to play more effortlessly. However, what happens when the musician is blind? In these cases, the other senses must compensate to help the musician conquer their disability. They must be able to hear the notes and know if they’re correct. They must know where their hands are on the keys by touch alone. I already admire talented pianists, but blind ones like Ray Charles are even more impressive. His inspiring story was brought to life through Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-winning performance in Ray (2004).

Ray Charles Robinson (Jamie Foxx) had a hard life growing up. Not only was he living on a sharecropping plantation in Florida, but he witnessed his younger brother drowning when he was just seven years old. To add insult to injury, his brother’s death was one of the last things he ever saw, as he went blind shortly afterward. His mother, Aretha Robinson (Sharon Warren), did not want Ray to be limited by his handicap. She insisted he discover something he could do with his life, which is what ultimately led him to the bench of a piano. This was where he soon learned he was a natural talent, even despite his blindness. While he showed he could play any number of musical styles, his fame came about when he was able to combine these genres into a style that was all his own. Did he play rock and roll or jazz? Country or gospel? He played them all, and sometimes all at once.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 piano players

#376. Washington D.C.

As the national capital of the United States, it’s no wonder Washington D.C. has been the backdrop for many films. It’s obvious that political thrillers would use Washington D.C. as their setting, considering the vast amount of politics that occurs in this city. However, there are plenty of other films that have capitalized on the notoriety of the nation’s capital. Whether it’s the historical adventure of National Treasure (2004), a sequel for America’s superhero with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), or the Die Hard (1988) reimagining of Olympus Has Fallen (2013) (not to mention the Die Hard sequel, Live Free or Die Hard (2007)), Washington D.C. has plenty to offer as a set piece. Heck, even sci-fi films like Independence Day (1996) have used it as a site for emphasizing alien dominance over humans. This week’s two films have Washington D.C. as their central setting.

Thank You for SmokingThank You for Smoking
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours

To get anything done in Washington D.C., you have to be part of the government. Even being a senator or representative isn’t a foregone conclusion either, as we saw in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). While pushing a political agenda might be difficult, there are ways to do it. Some might consider the “sleeper agent” tactics of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) to be preferable to the alternative: lobbying. Money talks, and when money is put in all the right places, all the right people start to push a particular agenda. In the end, the political machine is more like a business than a government, as money can influence the people in charge of the government to do the bidding of the wealthy. If money were removed from the equation, then maybe we might have a fair and unbiased group of representatives. Who knows when that will happen, though?

If there’s anything lobbyists are good at, it’s spinning the truth to fit their agenda. Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) has been talking his way around the fact that smoking kills by using studies funded by Big Tobacco to disprove this correlation. Even with his silver tongue attempting to convince consumers that smoking is safe, fewer people are smoking. Nick figures a few big-budget Hollywood films might be the shot in the arm cigarette sales need, but soon he has to defend against a bill being brought to the Senate that would put a skull and crossbones on packages of cigarettes. After Nick is abducted by his opponents and given a lethal dose of nicotine via nicotine patches, he still doesn’t change his mind or his message. Nick defends the public’s right to choose, even if the choice isn’t healthy. His years of smoking cigarettes saved him, but now that he’s unable to smoke ever again, he decides to start his own firm.

All the President’s MenAll the President's Men
Year: 1976
Rating: PG
Length: 138 minutes / 2.30 hours

The people who run the government from Washington D.C. can often be the most interesting topics of biographies. Individuals with as much power as a president certainly have stories to tell. Movies like JFK (1991) and W. (2008) look into these administrations and create an entertaining narrative from the events of their presidencies. Of course, there are others in Washington D.C. with plenty of power as well. FBI directors like J. Edgar Hoover (in J. Edgar (2011)) or FBI agents like Robert Hanssen (in Breach (2007)) have secrets to keep, and their stories are more interesting when these secrets are revealed. This can even be done to comedic effect, like in Burn After Reading (2008). When the government is out of control, though, the people need to know. That’s why films like The Post (2017) and All the President’s Men (1976) are important: they show us how the media should be keeping the government honest.

Shortly after The Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers, two reporters, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) are tasked to report on the Democratic National Committee break-in at the Watergate complex. As they begin to unravel the story, it soon becomes apparent how scandalous the implications are. Unfortunately, with no reliable sources, the two reporters cannot confirm anything. When Woodward uses his anonymous source, “Deep Throat” (Hal Holbrook), he is encouraged to “follow the money.” Digging deeper, the reporters find the conspiracy entangles much of the current administration, including the president. While the two round out their sources, the White House issues an evasive denial of allegations, which means The Post could be in trouble if their story is proved false. Confident in their information, the reporters write the article, and the rest is history.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different takes on Washington D.C.

#374. Fired!

It has been said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For the rest of us who do have to work, our job can be a means to an end, or it can be the uneven side of a work/life balance. Many people define themselves by their jobs, using their profession as an opportunity to subtly hint at their income. Even though most people need jobs, there are many reasons these people might be fired from said jobs. From incompetence to downsizing, an individual’s livelihood usually hinges on whether or not they have a job. Being fired from a job isn’t the end of the world, it’s merely a forced transition. These transitions can either be positive or negative, based mostly on how much the person liked their job. This week’s two films highlight the impacts of being fired from a job.

                                                       The Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Year: 2013
Rating: PG
Length: 114 minutes / 1.90 hours

The continual improvement of technology is both a blessing and a curse. While these new technologies often make our lives easier through automation, this simplification can take away jobs from hard-working individuals. Furthermore, as the world increases its reliance on the digital realm, many tactile products must make the transition from analog to digital to remain relevant. In the age where all information is easily accessible on a computer, the need for newspapers, magazines, and hardcover books is reduced in kind. Some people will still hold on to these relics due to nostalgia or other sentimentality, but when the producers of such physical media find themselves in need of an upgrade, there are inevitably jobs that will be lost in the transition. The march of progress can certainly leave people behind in its dust.

Life magazine has recognized its need to transition into the digital world. As a result, the final printed issue needs an exceptional picture to represent the end of an era. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is in charge of the photographs for the magazine and has just received a roll of pictures from famed photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Sean indicates that negative #25 should be used for the cover, but the image is missing from the roll. While layoffs are happening all around him, Walter travels the world to find the elusive photojournalist so the final issue can get its cover image. The transition team in charge of layoffs continues to lose its patience as Walter tries to track down the picture. Eventually, Walter is fired just after finding the photo. Along the way, he has realized his life needs to be more than just a job.

Up in the AirUp in the Air
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

Perhaps the most difficult part of a manager’s job is firing their employees. This can occasionally be made easier by the employee’s incompetence, but so many managers abhor conflict that employees can get away with incompetence and still keep their job (like in Office Space (1999)). However, when a company is struggling to survive, and layoffs need to happen, it is up to the manager to fire their employees. This can be much more difficult to handle for both parties, considering how many workers are still good at their jobs, despite the changes happening in the company. While some documentary films like Fired! (2007) discuss what it feels like to be fired from the employee’s side of the interaction, Up in the Air (2009) takes the opposite side of this equation and shows what it’s like to be the one facilitating the firing.

It’s never easy to fire someone, which is why many companies hire Human Resources consultants to do the dirty work for them. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is one of the best consultants, traveling across the country to help these companies fire their employees. His experience in the business has allowed him to recognize that people need a human element to the firing process. When a new video teleconferencing system is introduced by up-and-coming Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), Ryan feels obligated to show how the removal of the human element makes things worse. Natalie also learns this the hard way when her boyfriend dumps her via a text message. Of course, the real irony is when Ryan realizes he has not made any deeper human connections due to his job requiring him to travel extensively. Does he leave his career to put down roots?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 jobless gems

#373. Life

We all have one life to live. What we do with that life is mostly up to us. Sure, circumstances may limit our opportunities, but how often do we celebrate those who broke through those limitations and lived a full life because of their perseverance? Even in the realm of cinema, most characters only have one life. Unless the plot is more like a video game, or there’s a “reset button” motif, most films will have a certain amount of impact when a character dies. It has been suggested that people should live for their eulogy, and not their resume. Audiences are inspired by those individuals who lived a full life, especially when compared to those who do nothing more than pass through this existence with no impact to those around them. How then, should we define our lives? This week’s two films examine the lives of two different individuals.

Life of BrianLife of Brian
Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.57 hours

Regardless of your opinion about Jesus Christ and whether or not he died for our sins, most people agree His life was the most influential existence on the planet. After all, our whole calendar system is pinned to the year of His birth, even if it’s not referred to as anno Domini (AD) any longer. Many films have been created about Christ’s life, some even touting it as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Consequently, there are also many parodies of this Biblical story. Some might consider these films sacrilege, like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Others, like Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) take a more comedic approach in their parody. After all, it’s easy to make jokes when a person’s life is so well known that audiences will understand the references, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) lived a life adjacent to Jesus Christ (Kenneth Colley). While Jesus would go on to speak about love and forgiveness, Brian focuses his life on getting the Romans out of Judea. To impress a girl, he joins the People’s Front of Judea but ends up arguing with the members more than accomplishing the group’s ultimate goal. When the Romans finally pay attention, Brian has to blend into the crowd and does so by mimicking some of what he has heard from Jesus. Suddenly, a devoted following springs up and finds everything Brian does as divine, even if most events are pure happenstance. Unfortunately, because his disciples won’t leave him alone, he sneaks away and is captured. Despite being crucified, Brian is reminded to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

The Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Year: 2013
Rating: PG
Length: 114 minutes / 1.90 hours

One of the strongest forces on the planet is inertia. In terms of physics, Newton’s first law of motion states that an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity until it is acted upon by an outside force. This can apply to our lives as well. How often do we find ourselves in the same rut, day after day and year after year, with no ability to break out of our routine? If we let life slip by in repetition, how much of our experiences will be relegated to the mundane? When it comes right down to it, inertia is comforting. If we never break out of our comfort zones, we’ll never learn what life has to offer. Sure, we may be tied down to a job or to a family, but if we can break away every now and then, maybe we can experience life in its fullest capacity. After all, “to see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) spends an unreasonable amount of time in his head, daydreaming about a life much more exciting than his own. In his visions, he is confident and action-oriented enough to woo his office crush, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Both Walter and Cheryl work at Life magazine as it undergoes a transition into the digital age. Walter is in charge of the photographic negatives for the magazine but is unable to find the desired negative for the final cover. This picture was taken by elusive photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), so Walter sets out to use the remaining negatives as clues to find the cover photo. Along the way, he bravely takes on whatever life throws at him, no longer living his adventures via daydream. After locating Sean, he learns where the negative is, only to realize he accidentally threw it away. Returning home, Walter has a new perspective on life as the negative is found and the cover is printed.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 lived lives

#372. Few actors, many roles

For the most part, each individual who acts in a movie only has one character to play. To understand the amount of emotional depth of a single character, these actors will often devote themselves to this singular role. But what about those actors who portray more than one character? Furthermore, what if the whole cast needs to take on multiple roles? There could be many reasons to go this way, including funding limitations, comedic purposes, or thematic motifs. Whatever the reason, when a few actors take on multiple roles in a movie, it can either be a distraction or a fun treasure hunt as the viewer tries to identify all the roles these actors filled. This is even more pronounced when famous and well-known actors are taking on these multiple roles. This week’s two films highlight some examples of a few actors taking on many roles.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 172 minutes / 2.87 hours

When it comes to a specific character who is seen during different parts of their life, the standard way to show this growth is via different actors playing the same character. This has been done in many movies, including the 2016 Best Picture, Moonlight. Sometimes, a single actor may play the same character throughout the lifecycle, like Brad Pitt did in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). However, when it comes to portraying the same character archetype over centuries, the same actor can be employed to show the link between the timelines. During the silent era, Buster Keaton did this in Three Ages (1923), mostly because he was the star of the film. In a more modern context, Cloud Atlas (2012) chooses to use the same set of all-star actors in multiple roles throughout multiple timelines as an artistic technique to show the interconnectedness of the characters.

While most of the members of the ensemble cast of Cloud Atlas only have one segment where they’re the lead character, they do appear in most segments. The timeline starts with Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess), an abolitionist from 1849 who wrote a journal during his near-death experience. Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) read this journal while composing “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” for the elderly Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) found this piece of music in a record store in 1973 before surviving an assassination attempt due to the exposé she was writing. Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) would eventually read the novelization of these events in 2012, which would inspire him to write his own story. Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) would be inspired by the movie version of this book in 2144, starting a revolution in the process. Finally, Zachry (Tom Hanks) lives in a post-apocalyptic 2321 created by the revolution.

Life of BrianLife of Brian
Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.57 hours

Years after I saw Dr. Strangelove (1964), I came to the realization that three different characters in the film were portrayed by Peter Sellers. The acting was so superb, I hadn’t even noticed they were all the same actor. In general, comedies are more likely to use a small group of actors in multiple roles, especially if they’re known for short comedy sketches on television. Sure, you can have a small set of actors portray multiple characters through their voices, like in The Simpsons Movie (2007), but when it comes to live-action films, the guys from Monty Python are the de facto comedy group when it comes to multiple roles for individual actors. This is likely due to their success in the realm of sketch comedy. Even though there is a narrative thread that runs through movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and Life of Brian (1979), they’re essentially just a series of sketches.

Living life in parallel to that of Jesus Christ (Kenneth Colley), Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was born just one door down from the stable where Jesus was born. Years later, he would attend the Sermon on the Mount and become inspired to join the People’s Front of Judea to stand up against the Romans’ rule. Through his exploits, he tries to blend into a crowd by pretending to be a prophet, repeating some of Jesus’ teachings in his own words. This leads to Brian developing a devoted following which eventually takes everything he says as a lesson or parable. Even random events are seen as miracles in their eyes. After finally escaping his following, he is captured by Roman guards and brought before Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin). Pilate offers to release a prisoner, and Brian’s name is offered, but someone else claiming to be him is released while he is crucified.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 many roles with not as many actors

#371. Stories through Time

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is partly due to those people who don’t learn from history and are therefore doomed to repeat it. While most movies usually span a short timeframe, there are a few out there that manage to cover almost the entirety of human existence. Some even go so far as to speculate what the future would bring for humanity. After all, if humans keep making the same decisions and mistakes in the past, what could possibly change that habit in the future? These parallel storylines are often used to prove some point to the audience. While it can be interesting to see how people in ancient times acted in the same way we do, sometimes the message the filmmaker is trying to make is beaten home too much. This week’s two films use multiple stories throughout time to tell a story.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

In telling multiple stories that span a long time period, each individual story is practically a short film in itself. The epic scale of the run-time for these films is merely a product of the multitude of stories that need to be told. During the early days of movies, short films were the norm, so stringing four of them together to tell a larger narrative was certainly doable. D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916) manages to span a timeframe from 539 BC all the way to 1914 AD, stopping off around 27 AD and 1572 AD in the process. This film was so impactful, not only as a form of apology for The Birth of a Nation (1915) but for inspiring at least one parody: Buster Keaton’s Three Ages (1923). Both films highlight the fact that humans have remained the same for a very long time.

Throughout the ages, intolerance has been a problem for humanity. The similarities between Cyrus the Great of Persia (George Siegmann), the Pharisees of Israel, and the Catholics of France all show how being intolerant of others leads to great destruction, pain, and death. Sometimes, the people being affected by the intolerance have their own intolerance against their persecutors, with a few notable exceptions. Even in modern times, money fuels the prejudice between businessmen and the workers they exploit. In the end, this intolerance isn’t necessarily based on the color of one’s skin, but instead on how one group of people has a prejudice against a different group of people who might threaten the wealth and power they’ve grown used to over the years. Aside from the obvious lesson that intolerance has been around for a long time, we also see that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 172 minutes / 2.87 hours

While Intolerance covered about 2.5 centuries of stories, some modern films have gone from the beginning of time to the present day. The Tree of Life (2011) didn’t have nearly as many stories to tell, but the range was much greater. In contrast, Cloud Atlas (2012) only covers just over 450 years. However, Cloud Atlas examines the future as well via its parallel stories. While other movies that cover long timespans in short chunks will use the collective history lesson to sell a moral, Cloud Atlas speculates what the distant future will be based on what we know about human behavior. More to the point, Cloud Atlas shows us how individuals can span centuries in various forms, sometimes taking the spotlight or sometimes acting in a supporting role. Whether or not you believe in reincarnation, I think we can all agree humans have the same basic thought processes that affect global history.

Actions have consequences, even if they’re not immediately apparent. Individuals who support the abolition of slavery in 1849 could affect the post-apocalyptic world of Hawaii in 2311. For instance, the 1849 journal of Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) could influence Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), who gains credit for “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” via blackmail. This piece of music could influence Luisa Rey (Halle Berry), a journalist in 1973 San Francisco who escapes an assassination attempt after uncovering a nuclear conspiracy. Rey’s life could be novelized and read by Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who is accidentally committed to an asylum. Cavendish’s memoir could be turned into a movie that helps shape the revolution of the human clone known as Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) in 2144 Seoul. This revolution leads to Zachry (Tom Hanks) and his tribal people worshipping Sonmi-451 in 2331.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 timeless tales