Feel Good Movie Review: ‘The Bear’ Is a Cubs-Eye View of Survival in the Wilderness

Feel Good Movies is an ongoing series reviewing films from past and present that we’ve selecting based on their ability to uplift the mind and soul. Not all movies we review are on the surface “feel good” – while some may be happy, others may be sad – but the objective is always to motivate, enlighten and uplift. 

Rarely is an animal the lead in a live-action movie. Since the days of Steamboat Willie, cartoons have made it routine, but it’s always been a rare feat for flesh and blood movies. Partly because filmmakers are reluctant to work with animals and partly because we like to think we’re the only interesting species in the world.

The Bear (1989) gets it right in bold and innovative ways. An orphaned bear cub must beat the odds to survive in the wilderness after his mother is accidentally killed. Usually, the story of an animal is told from an overriding human perspective. Basically, how the creature must survive in our world. There are easy caricatures of good guys, bad guys, and the animals stuck between them. While there are certainly many all too real stories that could be spun from that basic idea, they almost never are.

With The Bear, the entire movie takes place somewhere deep in the wilderness. The story is told from the cub’s point of view and it’s riveting. There is little dialogue, supplied only from the few humans present. And the humans themselves are neither good nor bad. They are hunters – typically painted as the bad guys in animal movies – but here, they are gray and human and vulnerable and learn as they go. Kind of like all of us. And in an unusual twist, they are the outsiders here.

Based on the 1916 novel The Grizzly King, a true story by hunter-turned-naturalist James Oliver Curwood, the movie uses a Curwood quote as a recurring plot point and as a way to clinch the movie’s climax: The thrill is not to kill, but to let live. It even includes the true event the book was based on to illustrate the point with a particular twist. That I won’t reveal, but it’s a key moment in the movie.

Yes, there are some Hollywood contrivances that certainly exist to help the narrative, but even if you know better, it’s hard to mind. No, bear cubs don’t typically sound the way this cub does. Clearly, he’s been humanized a bit. But it never gets in the way. And no, in the wild, an adult male bear would likely never be a big brother to a strange cub. He would almost surely kill it.

In life, there is killing to eat. There is in some cases, killing to end suffering. Then, there is the plethora of other moments where killing takes place. But the movie is ultimately about survival on multiple levels, with its lessons applied to bear and man – a wishful and somewhat allegorical appeal to live life a little lighter. A lesson which could [...]

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Commentary: 4 Scientific Ways We Can Learn from Nature

In our modern civilization of high-tech gadgets and instant gratification, it’s easy to miss the lessons nature can provide. Yes, even in the realm of science.

We forget that many things created in a lab were once first seen in nature. Here are some interesting examples of how nature continues to teach us every day:

Beavers Teach Scientists How to Improve Tooth Enamel
Beavers use their teeth for everything, and they don’t even need to brush or floss. And yet they’re known for their powerful chompers that don’t seem to decay. A new study has found iron as one of the key minerals that keeps a beaver’s teeth from rotting.

Enamel infused with iron is even more durable than enamel treated with fluoride, the study shows.

“Nanowires” are the main structure that makes up enamel, but researchers found out it’s the material which surrounds the nanowires that controls the enamel’s acid-resistance. This is where minerals rich in iron and magnesium reside that control the enamel acid-resistance. This study of beaver enamel could lead to better health practices for humans.

Enamel has been hard to research and this is the first study to really detail its physical structure. In experiments using rabbit, mouse, rat and beaver enamel, researchers were able to image the never-before-seen structure surrounding the nanowires.

Taking a look at how our furry friends naturally get by with perfect teeth could give humans a new perspective on their own dental care.

A Grizzly Diet
When it comes to wild animals, it’s tough for a doctor to put them on a weight-loss program – you try telling a mountain lion or grizzly that he needs more exercise. So when two Alaskan grizzlies at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo were obese, nutritionists got creative and put the bears on a regimen called “nature’s weight management plan.”

The basic ideas was to replace their existing food (including processed dog food and ground beef) with seasonal foods they were more likely to eat in the wild – whole animals like fish and rabbit. And they hid the food around their compound rather than placing it in their cage at a specific time. This made the bears move around and exercise more in finding their food. And guess what? The bears lost weight.

By dispersing the food, the bears could hoard less food in caches. Food caches are natural to all animals. Humans have their food caches stored at work, home, in purses and cars. Eliminating excess caches and shopping for food more regularly (rather than bulk buying) can help keep us from overeating when food takes a bit more work to get to.

We need to take a lesson from the bears and return a little more to our caveman roots in how we consume food.

Human and Animal Parents Have Similar Nervous Systems
Human and animal parenting share many nervous system mechanisms, according to a study from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Understanding this relationship could lead to improved social development for future generations of humans and animals to come.

Scientists viewed the biological mechanisms at work after [...]

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