The Soloist – A Hollywood Movie That Raises Our Consciousness About Schizophrenia?

I watched the 2009 movie The Soloist with my friends Lisa and Frank on their boat the other week. The movie, based on the book by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, stars Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers, a cello prodigy who drops out of the Juilliard School of music and becomes homeless in the streets of Los Angeles because of a schizophrenic breakdown.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, the sensitive reporter who, always on the lookout for an interesting story, befriends Ayers after hearing him play the violin on the streets. The Soloist reminds me of the movie A Beautiful Mind, where brilliant mathematician and economist John Forbes Nash also suffers a similar mental breakdown. (I wonder what he would think of our country’s economic situation now.)

While I enjoyed The Soloist’s music and cinematography, I do not think we can conclude from this movie what made Nathaniel suffer a break in his consciousness and drop out of school. While it was shown that Nathaniel heard voices in his head, the voices were random, senseless, poltergeist-like ramblings that seemed to have little to do with his reality. I am not a psychologist, but from what I know, this film does not seem to portray schizophrenia accurately. If this is indeed so, the film does a disservice to schizophrenics and those who are trying to help them.

Although I do not work in the field of psychology, I studied consciousness enough to offer another way of viewing schizophrenia: a condition where a marked disconnect exists between what one instinctively knows to be true, what is touted as the truth in the outer world, and the inability of the personality to deal with the disconnect.

This idea seems to concur with a dictionary definition of schizophrenia: “A psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought, and conduct.”

After the movie I was reminded of the eye-opening story of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who lived from 1818 to 1865. Semmelweis practiced medicine in two clinics in Vienna and came to be known as the “savior of mothers” when he discovered how to drastically cut mortality rates of women giving birth. Perhaps Semmelweis’s story can help illuminate at least some cases of schizophrenia.

Before his discovery, Semmelweis was (quite understandably) severely troubled that the incidence of puerperal fever and the high subsequent mortality rates of women in his two clinics (10-15% in the First Clinic, and 4% in the Second Clinic) were significantly higher than the mortality rates of women giving birth in the streets of Vienna. This fact was known outside the hospitals, causing women to beg to be admitted to the Second Clinic (where midwives worked) rather than the more prestigious First Clinic (where medical students examined cadavers in between births). Some women even preferred to give birth in the streets.

After much study and contemplation, Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be reduced ten-fold (from 18% in April 1847 down to 1.2% in July 1847 in the First Clinic) by the practice of hand-washing. But Semmelweis’s hypothesis about the importance of cleanliness was considered by the experts at that time to be extreme, so it was largely ignored and ridiculed. In fact, Semmelweis was dismissed by the hospital and harassed by the medical community.

Though Semmelweis was outraged by the ignorance and outright arrogance of the medical community and wrote open letters to prominent European obstetricians, his colleagues (and even his wife) suspected that Semmelweis was losing his mind. In 1865, he was admitted to a mental asylum where he died only fourteen days later.

I suspect that while Semmelweis was “losing his mind” the voices in his head were not random, poltergeist-like mutterings but the accusations and indictments of his colleagues, including his own unsettled thoughts and feelings of failure, betrayal, and inadequacy in protecting women from whom he termed “irresponsible murderers.” But… years later… voila! Semmelweis became known as a pioneer of antiseptic procedures!

I feel the Semmelweis story can be used as a classic case study. If Semmelweis did not die so suddenly, would he have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and given “medicine” claiming to control it? At which point in an individual’s life challenges does the personality begin to “break down?” What makes one individual cope with extreme challenges when another breaks?

These are interesting questions to ponder and explore–especially in these interesting times when so much on this planet is breaking down. However, this Hollywood movie prefers to attend to silly stereotypes instead.

By the way, my friend Lisa did not care for The Soloist either because it did not give a realistic portrayal of the homeless. But that’s another issue.

Hollywood Movies and Character Depictions of Famous Figures in the Bible – A Look at the Movie Noah

It is always interesting to me to see how the left-leaning movie makers and screen writers deal with Biblical re-creations on the Silver Screen. Indeed, I am sure you, like me, have watched a number of such movies during your years here on Earth, and we both know it’s hard to keep everyone happy. There are so many religious organizations which call themselves Christians and they all differ slightly, sometimes greatly, on the interpretations of the Biblical storylines. Let’s talk.

In the movie, Noah came off as a delusional psycho mad man out to murder due to a vision he thought he had and his interpretation of it. Today, we’d jail such an individual, not honor him as some sort of a hero to humanity. Okay so, the question now; was the character in the Bible story supposed to be a psychotic individual? Today, of course, we cannot interview the author of that chapter in the Bible on CSPAN TV Book Review to ask him; “What in the hell (pun intended) were you thinking when you came up with Noah as your main character?”

Seriously, I’d sure like to know after watching Noah at the IMAX, as he was larger than life and really a scary dude. I wondered if I was watching a Science Fiction horror flick of a meaningful biblical movie, no mind I had plenty of time to consider this as the movie was a real ass-flatner at over 2-hours. If you’d like to see the movie, you might want to watch this YouTube Trailer:

“Noah – Official Trailer (2014) [HD] Russel Crowe, Emma Watson,” posted by Film Trailer Station.

And, I guess, you know how the story ends, so there is not a possibility of needing to worry about a “Spoiler Alert Disclaimer” in my article here. We both know as per the story that the boat makes it and the animals too, and I suppose that’s about the same as saying you cannot give away the ending of the Titanic Movie in that the “ship sinks” in the flick.

Nevertheless, in the movie was a scene and tip of the hat to evolution, and a few other changes to make the movie worthy of movie goers and their $8.17 average ticket price here in the USA. But, the movie had to piss off any fundamentalist Christians regardless of the sub-branch religion, and it must have worried non-church goers as to the psycho-Noah played by Russel Crow. Please consider all this and think on it.

Writing Screen Play Scenes and Novel Chapters for Big Hollywood Movies

Are you considering writing a screen play or a novel that you want to turn into a screen play or perhaps be ready in case Hollywood calls one day? If so you are in luck, that is if you are using the new Microsoft Word 2007, because you can download a formatted template for your next screen play and then simply write into that word template and then when you are done convert it all into a .PDF file and presto you have a screen play successfully written and ready to distribute.

Well first you have to write it of course and writing a scene for a screen play or a conversation for one of the chapters of your novel with two people conversing is not as hard as you might think. They are indeed very similar tasks. If you are writing a novel which will be converted into a Movie for the big screen then you probably wish to have four to six scenes per chapter.

Some novelists who are writing only for the movies will work hard to get it down to two or three scenes per chapter, short fast suspenseful chapters. When writing a screen play you have probably seen a paragraph at the top of a screen play chapter that says “Scene Opens Up with” and a description of the some sort of visual imagery depicted in words.

For a writer who likes to write novels or books, even if they are only eBooks of fiction writing a screen play, at least one makes a lot of sense, because it is excellent practice and it helps you mentally prepare and be ready to write a novel that can later be turned into a movie quite easily, so consider doing one simply as an exercise, and it may later very much help your career as a writer?

Psychological Complexes in Hollywood Movies

There are a pair of movies that spring to mind when I think of this particular subject. One was incredibly successful and the other pretty much disappeared without a trace. It hadn’t really occurred to me why one would do so much better than the other, especially since both had stellar casts, but I may now have an idea why.

The first of the two movies was released in 1991 and starred Billy Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. In “What About Bob” Murray played a multiphobic person who had difficulty leaving his house for any other reason than to visit his psychiatrist. When the doctor has to go on vacation, Bob goes into a bit of a tizzy and ends up stalking the good doctor and his family at their vacation spot. It’s there that the craziness ensues, with the family far more accepting of Bob than the doctor, which isn’t that difficult given how egotistical the Dreyfuss character is.

The biggest problem here was that the psychological issues that Bob suffered from were somewhat glossed over for the sake of the comedy. The complex issues of the main character were painted like a caricature and made so big as to be totally ridiculous. You never really felt that he was under any real personal stress, which I guess no-one wants to see in a light comedy of this sort. The movie did make money, but I believe that’s simply because of the popularity of Bill Murray at the time rather than any great love for the flick in general.

The other movie that I think of when it comes to psychological disorders is the 1998 Jack Nicholson movie “As Good As It Gets.” Ironically, the character that Nicholson plays in the movie has many of the same issues that Bob has in the aforementioned Bill Murray film. The difference here is that Nicholson’s problems are given a very “real” treatment. His character is very difficult to like from the get go, but you end up pulling for him because you can see that it’s his psychological issues that are affecting all of his relationships. So unlikeable is his character, you are surprised when a neighbor’s dog take to him so quickly. Of course, we find out later that he was stuffing bacon treats in his pocket so that the dog would come to him.

The scenes in the movie that show the problems of the character are subtle, yet it’s still very apparent how big of an impact they have on his life, as well as the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. You can see and feel that he wants to change, but that doing so isn’t going to be easy. Yes, his problems are played up for laughs, but you also get a bit of an insight into the life of a person suffering from these sorts of psychological issues. You see the pain he is creating, as well as his inability to stop it happening. Maybe I’m looking at all this a little too deeply, and it’s just as simple as people liking one movie over another, but I think the reason that “As Good As It Gets” scored big at the Academy Awards is because it was able to successfully mix the psychological madness into the comedy.