Thursday, September 30, 2010

For Whom the Tears Fall

This week I cried.

Matthew 16:19, 
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  
King James Version

I try to keep my tear quotient at very minimal levels, but alas dear friends, sometimes the waterworks just gotta flow.

The trick is: are the tears worthy of the cause?  

In my case, the answer was a pejorative no. 

There I was, cutting an onion up for dinner.  Now, usually the effect of onion slicing on my tear ducts is slight.  On this occasion, however, this particular onion had some sort of super potency.  It clearly was visited by some great onion god and bestowed an unruly amount of power.  This onion could be the Onion King, I tell ya.  And the worst of it was that this was no small event.  I was deluging out all the water my sad sack of a body could muster.  Had I not finished my way with the onion, it would have extracted every last milliliter of viscosity from my innermost being.  Understand me, this onion meant business.

As I stand above the chopping block, eye-vomiting salt droplets, I think to myself, "Well Dante, if you're going to cry like this, you might as well cry over something more consequential than an onion.  The onion doesn't deserve our tears."

The trick is: what is worthy of my blubbering?

My mind turned to the film Becket.  The film positions itself under the reign of King Henry II.  Henry surrounds himself day and night with his most loyal Saxon, the honorable Thomas Becket.  The major turn of events in the flick occurs when Henry, as a play to keep the Church in England trustfully under his arm, plants Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As things go, Becket becomes a martyr for the church.  I am being intentional when I call him a martyr for the church.  I have not called him a martyr of God.

Should I cry for Thomas Becket?  Well, that all depends.

As far as I could tell, Becket went down to uphold the 'Honor of God'.  To a certain extent, this confuses me.  I don't see God's honor as something that can be tarnished.  Becket seemed concerned almost to the point that it seemed like he believed God could be disgraced.  How could that be?  Our God seems to me to be impervious to our chastisements.  He is not so mutable that He can be slandered by an 11th century, worldly king, is He?

Then there's the devil's advocate position (or is God's advocate?).  It may be true that God cannot be put into a place of dishonor by His creation, but it may be nevertheless our duty to defend Him upon attack.

From my perspective, it seemed that Thomas Becket died for the pride of the church.  If he hadn't chosen martyrdom for this issue, could not he had lived to serve God in many more ways that would turn hearts to Jesus Christ?  When I convey a sense of callousness about God's honor, it is only because rather than debate and die over such issues, I'd rather leverage those moments to bring up Jesus.  To die for the pride of the church seems silly when you can die for the proclamation of Jesus.

The trick is: to what extent does the church represent Jesus?  

The idea gets muddled further when you recognize that the Church (Big C), in the 11th century was seen only as the often corrupt Catholic Church.  I look at that thing which man created and say,

"I don't want to die for that!  Let me die for Jesus alone!"
But are such thoughts accurate?

And so, as it inevitably always does, my tears fell as splashes of confoundment.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mindshot: The Graduate/Citizen Kane

Movies are full of life lessons.  

Just yesterday, upon my freshman viewing of Hitch, I learned that the guy should move 90% of the way for a first kiss, and then hold it.  Apparently the 90/10 rule is important.  Non-observance of this rudimentary criterion is surely why none of my past relationships have had swell-like third acts.

One gentleman who certainly didn't discipline himself to the 90% precept, was the one, Mr. Benjamin Braddock.

Young Ben, manipulated by the powers-that-be to take out the daughter of his mistress on a date, has decided to be cruel.  He pays no attention to the beautiful, naive girl, choosing rather to beeline through crowds, hiding his inner angst behind a large pair of sunglasses and a too-cool-for-school expressionless mug.  Then the cruelty.  He takes her to a strip club.  She cries.

This impressionable, clearly demeaned young lady rushes out of that damnable place.  Ben, perhaps finally exhibiting some kernel of remorse, chases after the girl.  He catches her.  She asks to go home.  He asks her to stop crying.  She won't.  She can't.  And so then naturally the thing to do to ease the tension is to kiss her, right?  Apparently.  After the snog, everything is hunky-dory, and the two little love birds are free for the moment to connect with one another in a personal, soul-mateish fashion.  It's all so sickly sweet... because he went the whole hog outside of the strip club.

Perhaps I am just a schmuck, but I've never eased out of any tense moment by slopping on a quick make-out scene, nor have I ever watched this successfully take place in my real world.  In the world that I dwell within, I feel like there's a pretty decent chance I'm getting pepper sprayed as soon as I enter that 91% realm unannounced.

The Graduate was based on a novel by a dude, adapted into a screenplay by two other dudes, and directed by another dude entirely.  The whole layout of the scene strikes me as a male chauvinistic wet dream.  Ben Braddock is able to solve the moment's riddle by giving the girl what she clearly really wants: strong physical affection! 

So then I wondered; if The Graduate is on the boundaries in the male spectrum of romantic pipe-dreams, what would the female version of that look like? 

I found my answer with Charlotte Bronte.

In Jane Eyre, the sterling Edward Rochester has, for ages, treated the humble, plain, and passionately loving Jane Eyre as nothing more than a mere friend.  Jane has been led to believe that Edward here is wooing some stupid rich dingbat who's lineage is something very glittery indeed.  Glitter was very important to 19th century Brits.  Mr. Rochester comes to Jane one afternoon to inform her that her services (Jane tutors Edward's daughter) are no longer needed.  She is free to leave Edward's abode.  This, understandably, leaves Jane in shambles.  Edward plays the fool, inquiring as to why Jane could ever be so bent out of shape.  Jane capitulates.  She confesses her devotion to the man.  His reply is to ask her to marry him.  This statement confuses Jane.  She asks why Edward had ignored her and flirted so much with that other haughty vixen.  Edward admits,

Jane, to make you as in love with me, as I am in love with you.

And the women in the room swoon.  Don't you see?  When men treat women poorly, it's just because they are testing their love!  Us men folk don't want to show our vulnerabilities, so we hide it behind deception and cruelty!  Yep-yep-yep!  Hip, hip, hooray!!!

Jane Eyre, as well as The Graduate, appear to me to be two sides of the same coin.  This is perhaps an Achilles' heel for story.  Under the story universe, our dear protagonists have these predispositions to activism.  Very seldomly are characters sketched out through passive decisions (my apologies to the cast of Driving Miss Daisy).  No, good storytelling requires a confluence of acts of boldness.

Life, perhaps, is story with long bits of inaction mixed in.  Those moments of inaction stay with us.  They define us too. 

Even (or especially) in the realm of romance, I find those illustrations of passiveness, of 10%ness rather than 90ness, as particularly true and poignant.  Enter Citizen Kane.

Whilst trying to uncover the mystery of Rosebud, Mr. Franklin chooses to interview Charles Foster Kane's right hand man, Mr. Bernstein.  Bernstein has no idea where the iconic word comes from, or why it would be Kane's dying word.  Then Bernstein, hired his whole life as a problem solver, hypothesizes that perhaps Rosebud represented something Kane lost.  He goes on;

A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl. 
Perhaps it is our actions that dictate the story of our lives, but it is our acts of passivity that continue to haunt us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie Bible Study: The Sacrifice

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and 
the Word was God. 
John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word… why is that, Papa?
            The Sacrifice

A young son’s words at the end of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice are hard to decipher, but reflect a well-choreographed ballad between Father and Son and essence and material.  Tarkovsky’s world bears much resemblance to our own.  People exist, things exist, art exist, and so does evil.  Evil bears with it calamity of all sorts, including all the many plebian inconveniences and accidents of life.  

This world, 
as depicted
           by Andrei Tarkovsky, 
           is visually splendid, 
                     as it reflects the omnipotent artistry 
                                                                      of its Creator, 
                     but narratively murky, 
                                as it’s characters have imbibed themselves 
                                                   with sinful reasoning.

Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God.  Before the foundations of the world, this was so.  The Sacrifice paints a lens in which the created material world is made to give way to, to bow down before,  that immense awe-full presence of the Divine Origin. 

The narrative set-up is this: a man, upon hearing the news that the end of the world is coming by means of a global war, prays to God that God would save the man's family, specifically his son.  As a form of payment for this mercy, our protagonist promises that he’ll give up his family.  He'll release them from himself.  What does this mean?  We, the audience, are kept in the dark until the final scene as to how this man will practically fulfill his promise.  

The morning after the solemn prayer, sure enough, mercy has been bestowed.  The global war has been eradicated.  The family is saved.  Most importantly, the son is saved.  Now we must watch this man rid himself of his family.  What follows is an observation of a process of extraction.   

By journey's end we've been made witness to a means of salvation.  We are shown a deep allegory of the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  We feel the cost of God's grace.  Jesus paid a wretched price for us.

I and the Father are One.
John 10:30

The Sacrifice can certainly be viewed as a form of horror film.   

A monstrous thing occurs in the form of apocalyptic war.  We watch solemnly the response of people to this dreadful news.  If you were told the world was ending today, how would you respond?  

Tarkovsky's people are instantly drawn to the very precipice of insanity. Fear and regret march prominently in their spirits as the trumpet sounds.  They all speak of regrets; they are not living the lives they should have lived.  Now they mourn death for ridding them of the ability to change it all.  With no future left, all that remains is the past; the regretful past. The sacrifice, in the end, frees everyone not so much from the physical act of death, but rather, delivers them from a mental and emotional hell.   

Those saved have become free to re-craft their lives the way they now desire.  

Besides the obvious salvific allegory that Tarkovsky animates, he is also casting a scornful eye on our reliance on the stuff of life.  Often did Jesus talk about the possessions of this life being a stumbling block to salvation.  Tarkovsky insinuates in his film that everything, from material possessions to inter-relationships, all of it; it all separates us from the great Unmoved One.  Read John chapter one.  It is timeless.  God is the Word.  God is Light.  And God is Jesus Christ.  The whole history of life is chiseled down to this simple story.  Our eyes should stay ever focused on the Divine.

Tarkovsky leads us to the conviction that just by being in the world we are training our souls to focus on the materials of this world, rather than the stuff of God.  Has he a point?  Is the rhythm of our lives slowly seeping us into perilous customs of sin?  Is the mystery of God’s transcendence hidden somewhere deep between the mildew of the matter of this earth?  Dwell on this: what creates a wedge between you and perfect faith?

Let us remain diligent to seek God in silence and space.  Have you not yet found sufficient proof that all things can be addicted?  All things can be perverted.  This is our disease; we twist goodness into silly blather.  We take in the beauty of the world and shit it out, a bastard deconstruction of God made it.  The world was made good, so we should not simply become Luddites and Ascetics.  Rather, let us be diligent to seek the Word above all else, and let all us come then to the table of the world, seeing it only as a refraction of that good Light.

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’"
Exodus 3:14

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
John 8:58

How glorious it is that our God is the Word.  He is Truth, and we are made in His image.  He is the Word, yet no words can describe Him justly.  Perhaps John introduced the Son in His gospel by calling Him the Word because by doing so, John illustrates how indefinable God is.  As soon as one tries, you use Words to do so.  So you’ve already undone your progress by trying to define Him by using Himself.  
How great is Our God that He bears us in His likeness, yet we cannot begin to fathom His being.  How great is He that He is in the breath of all that begins to describe Him.  Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit today for being as big as He is, and yet still He chooses to dwell with us.  My Emmanuel, thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fractals and Subplots

The dragon is hungry.


I don't have any ill will towards Pontius Pilate.  I think the Gospel of John presses implicitly that we should not pity Judas Iscariot, but I still wonder about this Pilate fella.  What a fascinating question to ask: what is truth? (John 18:38)  For a man in Pilate's position, that seems like a fair question to assert, no?  And who better to ask this question of, then the King of Kings!

I am reminded of my 7th grade reading of an abridged version of Beowulf.  I distinctly recall, after a follower of Beowulf betrays him and ultimately is destroyed (perhaps by Grendal's mother?), all the town's people were slamming the dead man's memory.  Beowulf is asked to say a few words, and only a few words he uses; He was a man to be pitied.  Does Pilate belong in that camp of pitiable men as well?

I often wonder what happened to Pilate after those three days.  Surely he would have heard of Jesus' undeath.  Surely.  Christ's brothers didn't believe him during his ministry, yet James the brother of Jesus ended up martyred as the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  Perhaps Pilate's question of truth led him to the Truth.

This thought wells within me not because I question what truth is, but because I am ever so curious as to understand what the main plot of my life is/will be.  What does my plotline consist of?  What is that truth?  Consequently, this also leaves me pondering, 'What are the subplots in my life?'  How can I decipher between what shall/should be center stage, and what is sufficiently contained as a footnote?

Recently, I was asked to make a video for Avant Ministries, proclaiming in some manner what it is I am bringing to the table uniquely as a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.  I came up with this: watch here now!.
(I will pause now as you watch said video.) 

Annnnnnnnd, we're back.

But do I believe it?  Do I believe these words that slip out of my mouth?  Of the many Biblical mysteries I have struggled to bear, the compositing of James' words on faith and works with that of Paul's has never bothered me.  It seems straightforward enough to me: true faith (or belief) by necessity, bears fruit.  This fruit will be seen often by the human observer as action.

Do I believe it?  Do I hold to the words I say?  Yes.  Yes I do.  Assuredly.  Absolutely.

BUT!  I, being amongst the number of the chiefest of sinners, remain ever ready, at almost all times, to cause what must be my chief end in life, to fall to the realm of mere subplot.  My actions convict me.  I do not in earnest seek, in all moments, to worship my God and spend all my effort glorifying His good Name; that name which has been too sacred to even be uttered by the lips of us sinful mortals. Remember how Isaiah, in his great vision had his lips burned and cleansed before he could offer to serve the Lord (Isaiah 6:6-7)?  Do you remember?  Do you really?

I am a slow learner.  Daily I need to be reminded (I must remember!) to put that which must remain in focus at the center of my vision.  Nothing comes first, but Christ alone.  Oh, but how I forget!

These are pleasing words, but it paints a picture that is crisper than life.  Words can be unscrambled and set in assembly in such a way as to draw the eye towards a pristine, HD image of a perceived truth.  But life is much more like a Monet -- a later Monet -- a going blind Monet.

Each day, as I make room to accomplish certain tasks which seem good for me to fulfill, how am I to discern what avenues will lead to major plots, and which are subplots?  To put plainly, what paths are inspired with meaning, and which roads are just roads, for the sake of being roads? (All clear now, right!)

As a Christian, I strive to be earnest in my pursuit of obedience to my Father.  What does daily obedience look like?  Is obedience related to micro-managing?  Is choosing to watch one film over another a moral disposition of obedience or defiance?


Another question that has been laying eggs in my brains, is that of evil.  Google's work slogan has famously been published as, "Don't be evil".  That sounds nice, especially for an all absorbing entity like the google monster, but in practicality, how is it done?

Sister Aloysius says to her struggling sister in Doubt: "When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service."

Is that true?  Adam and Eve, when they were still good, knew nothing of evil.  They were naive of its being.

To desire to glorify God, should I wash myself clean of all evil, so as to once more become naive to its very presence?  How am I to interact with that?  Can I touch it, see it, hear it, without being some sort of conduit?  The good Lord renews all things.  He is in the process of redeeming the whole earth.  After our lips are burned, what part do we play?

I have long felt right in viewing many films, many books, and many lives -- I felt that I could do this chiefly to mine what is still fragrant within them.  I still can hold to the conviction that this is a good, honorable task, for our Lord Jesus Christ hung out with the scum of Israel society, and yet he brought salvation.  "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good... to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)  Is this power held only with the Messiah, or can we too access it?

When speaking with conservative minds that wish only to do the Lord's biding, Philippians 4:8 is frequently quoted to me. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  This is recited to me as some sort of proof against smutty films.  My only response is that I see the hope of beautiful things in films like Even Dwarfs Started Small.

Over the weekend I indulged my filmatic mind by intoxicating my brains with the Red Riding Trilogy.  These are three films released last year that focus on a series of crimes in Yorkshire, England in the years 1974, 1980, and 1983 (each film covers a year).  The tagline for the films:

Evil Lives Here

Catchy, no?

Primarily, the films deal with the absolute corruption of the Yorkshire police.  It's like 5 hours of insanity.  No one is kind to anyone else, ever.

I barreled through these films.  One problematic,  grim scene after another, the themes of greed and sheer evil soaking slowly through my scalp hour by hour.  And then a miracle.  In the last ten minutes of the last film, there is this thing of absolute beauty.

I won't describe it.  That would do the scene an immense injustice.  After five hours of dread, this light floods in, and a song is sung in comfort through tears.

Ah, the salvation therein!

There are no words for such moments.

Five hours of loving people followed by that scene would have produced nothing.  I would have been numb to goodness.  Only in this world of filth and sickly detestable creatures does a moment like that barrel through the body.  It pummels the heart.  You can't hold it.  The scene is but a few seconds long, but it is all I can remember now.  What bliss!

What bliss.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I am in mourning.  
Just like this old man version of Private Ryan, I'm a wreck.

Unlike the Hebrews of old, I don't shave my head and cover myself in sackcloth and ash when sorrow afflicts my spirit.  No no.

When I mourn, I let the beard devour my face.  It has its way with me.

at my confidence all day long.  

through my facial follicles.

It grows,
it grows

Why do I mourn?
For 100 games the San Diego Padres baseball organization was triumphantly in first place in their division.  With less than three weeks to go, they have fallen from that pedestal.  They are dashing six months of hopes and expectations... and the sorrow of 40 years without a world series victory.  This is why.

The current rivals to my beloved Padres are the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies.

Now, let's say, for the sake of argument, that at the beginning of the season, the San Diego Padres came out and said, "This year, and every year for the rest of eternity, our goal is to stop the San Francisco Giants from winning the division."  Well, that's a pretty darn negative goal.  As a fan, why would I bother to be personally invested, if the stakes are only ever to stop a negative force.  The only drive that exists under that strata is a fear of the consequences if my opponent prevails.  If the Padres were never striving to gain a world series championship, then I wouldn't care.  I wouldn't follow that wagon.

This, and no more, is what Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice throttles its magic fusion rings about for 100 minutes.  You see, there are these evil guys, and if they ever get free from their babushka doll prison trap, their gonna do bad stuff, like, kill everyone in the world bad stuff.  This is all that propels the movie.  Okay, okay, there's also some distant mythology about searching for the new 'one', that wizard which will take up the mantle of ol' dead Merlin himself.  But the only reason this 'Prime Merlinian' is being searched for --- is to give him the opportunity to stop the bad dudes.

Why is it that the bad folks want to destroy the world?  We are never told.  Nope.  They have no motive.  They are merely obstacles to be overcome by the forces of anti-evil.  Maybe they found their Disney-created cosmos a bit boring.  I can't blame them.

I can't really call the Nic Cage Sorcerer Guy Good, because he doesn't really do anything positive except stop the bad guys.  And in my mind, Tom Hanks was right in Saving Private Ryan.  In order for the Private to be a good guy, it's not enough just to kill Nazis, he needed to invent a longer lasting light bulb as well.  That was the point of that movie, right?  That's why the old guy is crying at the cemetery; guilt for never coming up with that light bulb idea.  So, Nicholas Cage the Sorcerer cannot just rely on his banning of villains into babushka dolls.  He must also save the whales (just like the awesome Enterprise crew of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), or kiss a baby or share his hand fusion trick with scientists or, of course, create a longer lasting light bulb, dammit!

If I cared about the good people at Walt Disney like I do for the Padres, I would be fancying myself a  beard the scope of Joaquin Pheonix's monster, for the level of mourning would be cataclysmic.

Do good, Disney.  Do good.  Stop only doing not-evil.  That's just not good enough.

Gut Reaction

I will someday soon write about evil in cinema.  I will work to diligently make a case that no film is evil.  I will tell you that a movie is nothing more than images and sound.  Neither of these things can be evil in and of themselves.  I will go further and say that nothing is evil in this world that we can see except people themselves.  Even then I may make some caveats.  I will make my case well.  My arguments will be sound.  I will believe the words I write, and I will be right. 

But that's all bupkis.

Those images find their form from perverse acts.  They bore into us things that shouldn't be.  

As I watched this young, teenage boy be touched in the nude by one of the most acclaimed actresses in the world, I couldn't help but feel the implications of that act for the boy, the actor himself.  Surely I can divorce myself from the film and the actors, right?  No.  I imagine a young man wandering about, perhaps trying to find work in front of the camera, and suddenly, he gets offered a gig for a little flick called, in this case, The Reader.  The job is to play the part of the young boy with whom Kate Winslet's character has a lurid affair with over the course of several months.  The boy, not only eager to get such a top-bill in an Oscar contending film, is also excited to be with, and touch, the woman who iconicized the role of the young Rose from Titanic ten years prior.  Remember when she posed for Jack... when she wore nothing but that diamond?  So he takes the part.  And there is much touching.

There is much touching, and we watch it.

When I think of voyeurism, and the ramifications therein, my mind turns to the work of Brian De Palma.  I've come to view the breadth of his cinema manifesto as a callous assertion that voyeurism is a universal human trait.  Particularly, I think of the film, Hi, Mom! starring a bouncy young Robert De Niro as Jon Rubin.  Rubin's ambition, it seems, is to reach the high life as an amateur pornographer, but he quickly fails at that profession, and thus has a go around as a 'black' militant, and eventually masquerades as a lone anarchist.

Voyeurism in dramatic films is a strange little demon.  In one excruciating scene in Hi, Mom!, a interactive theater production is enacted entitled "Be Black Baby", in which black performers invite opened-minded liberal white folks to see life from their perspective.  The black actors put on white-face and throughout the evening treat the white attendees with more and more hostility.  By its climax, I can hardly face the screen at all.  The attendees are beaten, humiliated thorough, and one is sodomized.  But then the play is over.  Though stunned, the intellectual attendees admit that they learned something that night, and are even singing the artwork's praises.  The girl who was (presumably) raped speaks fondly of the evening's events.
What am I, the audience, supposed to do at this point?  I chuckle nervously.  When the film ends suddenly with Jon Rubin gleefully shouting Hi Mom! at the evening news, I realize the joke.  It's a cruel one.  We all watch these things.  We let unnerving, deprecating images soak into our skulls on a daily basis.  And then we say, "Thank ye sir, may I have another?" 

But De Palma isn't quite clean either, is he?  Though perhaps I learn my lesson that everyone is, by nature, a peeping tom, I only learned this lesson by him vividly giving me more stuff to peep at.  He's liable too, isn't he?  Michael Haneke shouldn't have a free reign to bludgeon the hell out of every piece of human tissue on screen just because his aim is to show the world how disgusting our appetite for silver screen bloodshed is (Funny Games).

The question arising is this; when does your visual content supplant your good intentions?

Let's shift to the more absurd analogies.  The Exorcist has been called a cursed film.  Nine people associated with the film died during the long production.  Though not much is spoken about it, it is also widely believed that the young Linda Blair experienced a traumatic emotional breakdown while on set.  Have you sniffed where I'm going with this one?  The story that The Exorcist is based off of, is a well documented event dating back to 1949.  In that case, after playing with a Ouija Board, a twelve year old boy obtained a snake-like neck, levitated, spoke in latin, and several folks around him ended up dead.  Supposedly, Linda Blair was asked to play with a Ouija Board on set to help her get into character.

I think The Exorcist is an excellent film; a superb case study.  You walk out of that film knowing that evil is evil -- you don't want anything to do with that type of stuff.  It isn't a flick where the devil is a cool looking dude.  This is no scantily clad Elizabeth Hurley sporting cute red horns (Bedazzled).  Nevertheless, what was the collateral damage of The Exorcist?  At what cost did we learn these lessons?

All this spilled out of a gut disgruntledness.  I'm tired of seeing Kate Winslet naked.  She's a fantastic actress, perhaps the best in the biz, but I don't need to see all of her in like, every single movie.  I don't need that for my life.  She should just keep her body parts to herself.  Keep them underwraps.

Only this man is allowed to show skin.
Oh yeah, as long as I'm being a prude and complaining about body parts -- I didn't need to see that li'l German kid's penis either!  Goodness gracious, people!  Just keep your lewd acts to yourself, man.

Note: besides my need to vent my frustration with sex scenes today, The Reader was quite an absorbing film.  It felt like the Debby Downer version of The Lives of Others.  That film had some sex in it too, but it ended in a freeze frame, so all is forgiven. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Haste: A River Runs Through It

Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me, "Norman, you like to write stories." And I said "Yes, I do." Then he said, "Someday, when you're ready you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why."

Recently, I was brought to wonder how one tells a story gently.  Robert Redford, as director, was the first auteur to come to mind; specifically, the Montana based fly-fishing period drama "A River Runs through It" came to mind. 

Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song. I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms. 

I tossed the movie in to test my hypothesis that the film was a gentle one, in that it dealt with difficult, piercing subject matter in a prudent, refined manner.  Initially, all signs pointed to affirmation of my prognosis.  Norman, our protagonist, is a writer.  He narrates the story from his perspective, and in doing so, intoxicates the viewers with his lovely-form prose.  He subdues the caustic moments with his word play based on the natural world (as the quote above indicates).  It is all refreshingly lulling.

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy. 

But then a strange thing occurred.  The last line of his narration.  The last breath of the film, potentially supplants all my notions of gentleness.

I am haunted by waters

Haunted?  That's how we are left.

Can hauntings be gentle?

In Haste: The Long Good Friday

I am no Britaphile.  The Lock, Stock crowd tends to not hold my interest.  The problem in general is that the protagonists are so unseemly, so convoluted in their own desires, that I never really have buy-in.  Perhaps I'm putting my American 'Save the Cat' fedora on here, but when I can't enter into the protagonists world, and the world outside of him is varnished only by druggies, gunnies, bunnies, and mafiosos, my eyeballs tend to become sooner fixated on the scary faces I can form out of popcorn ceilings.

In the case of this film, almost in spite of itself, the film is completely engrossing.  The director, John Mackenzie, wisely gave his actors plenty of time to breathe within the big scenes.  This is largely a film of responses.  We watch Bob Hoskins reaction with each notification of horrid news.  We sit there with him.  He breathes.  His eyes dart here and there.  He breathes.  He fumes.  He breathes.  And then he calculates his next move.

Now, I'm not a man who often says that the British scare me, but the meat factory scene, tossing us in a sudden upside-down POV shot is pretty darn chilling.  And it lasts a good long while... or rather, a long good while.

Check it out: Hoskins even sports his bicuspids in the shower!
Alright, alright, alright -- I'm throwing sand in your eyes.  All that stuff is swell and all, but this film is about one thing and one thing only. 

Bob Hoskins.  Watch him work his silly Brit magic underbite to perfection!  And here I thought Hoskins invented that full-frontal display of his lower quadrant incisors for his Hoover impression in "Nixon".  No sir!  There it is way back when in 1980.  This is 110 minutes of Bob Hoskins spouting hoop dreams about the future economic vitality of London and then progressively seething more and more ingloriously as the film unfolds.  It's a thing of magnanimous beauty.  I enjoyed my travels through the film immensely.

And now -- since I am sure that you have not had your fill of Hoskinsy good, I present to you now:

A Very Merry Bob Hoskins' Ivory Tribute


We must learn from this man while there is still time.  We must.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Remember those who led you.

 From the letter to the Hebrews.
 Remember those who led you, 
who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct, 
imitate their faith.  13:7

...we must pay much closer attention to what we 
have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  2:1

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, 
but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him...

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

For Jesus is able also to save forever 
those who draw near to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them.

 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the men of old gained approval.  11:1-2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding
us, let us also lay aside every encumberance and the sin which 
so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith...  12:1-2

Therefore, since we have a great high priest 
who has passed through the heavens, 
Jesus the Son of God, 
let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest 
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, 
yet without sin.
Therefore let us draw near 
with confidence to the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy 
and find grace to help in time of need.  4:14-16

But encourage one another day after day,
as long as it is still called, "Today," so that
none of you will be hardened by the 
deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become 
partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the 
beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

For indeed we have had good news preached to us... 
for we who have believed enter this rest...  4:2-3

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once 
and after this comes judgment, so Christ also,
having been offered once to bear the sins of many,
will appear a second time for salvation 
without reference to sin,
to those who eagerly await Him.  9:27-28