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January 24, 2009

Props

Maria and I went to see Rachel Getting Married last night and I've been sorting through the themes and threads ever since, even in my dreams, which were very active last night. I always think a sign of a good movie is when it won't leave you alone after you've watched it, even in your subconscious.

Without giving much away, if you want to go see the film and haven't, the main conflict of the film is between Kym, who has just been released from rehab, and her sister Rachel who, as you might guess, is getting married. Rachel, of course, wants the perfect wedding, and that means people behaving in a particular sort of way. Kym has her own drama to play out.

I've said for a long time that weddings are about power and status. They're about who stands next to whom, who sits at what table, who does what at what time, etc. Rachel's wedding, though idyllic in so many ways, is the same.

Key to the conflict is that Kym and Rachel so desperately love each other and share so much loss and pain together but they treat each other like props in their personal dramas - Rachel's wedding drama and Kym's recovery drama.

It was poignant and refreshing to see a movie in which no one was the bad guy and no one was the hero. I found myself identifying with all of these flawed characters in turn and loving them and being repulsed at the same time. Pretty human, really.

May 11, 2008

Speed Racer

Remember Saturday morning technicolor-and-sugar-induced moments of psychedelic hysteria which bordered on an orgiastic state of religious clarity? Speed Racer brought all that back to me.

It's clear that the Wachowski brothers grew up loving the same stuff I did. Most people won't get Speed Racer, and it's clear from the reviews that the critics don't, but I loved it. It's 1960's pop culture that has grown up, went through a period of existential angst, discovered western philosophy, eastern meditation, art, and sushi, had a few bad romances, and then woke up one day and realized that deep inside it really, really loved itself. This is a perfect film for people who want two hours of utter escapism and be transported into a world where the laws of physics are just slightly askew.

So grab some junk food, get really caffeinated, and prepare to spaz out.

May 3, 2008

Stick Around Through the Credits

ironman.jpgI went to see Iron Man yesterday with my buddy, Russ, and was pleasantly entertained. It was a nice rendition of one of my favorite comic book heroes. Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow was... sigh... so beautiful. Probably my favorite scenes in the movie were between these two actors, especially the one in which Stark needs his personal assistant, Pepper Potts, to assist him personally with a delicate, little life and death procedure.

But here's the thing you have to know. If you go to see the movie stay until the very end. There's a fun scene after the credits. I will say no more. Trust me. It's totally worth it.

March 29, 2008

"I have a feeling this is going to be just delicious."

Moonstruck is now up in full on Hulu and I was reminded that it has just a gangbuster ending scene.

November 27, 2007

Who will watch the Watchmen?

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I will. It's the comic book movie I've been waiting for. I just hope they don't let me down.

Watchmen is the comic book I always hand to people who don't think they like comic books. It's gritty, smart, relevant, and real. What I loved about Watchmen when I first read it was how seriously it took its subject matter. What if masked vigilantes and caped crusaders were real? What would the world look like? How would that affect their psyche? What kind of person would put on a cape or a mask? What if they, like us, had their own agendas, their own foibles and fetishes, their own sins and virtues?

I'm hoping that the movie is at least a fraction as good as the comic book.

[Picture from the backlot of the film as it starts production.]

July 14, 2007

The Only Winning Move

I just watched WarGames with my kids for probably the first time since I saw it back when I was a teenager in the early 80s. I distinctly remember watching it over and over again at our local cinema in my hometown.

While I had to explain some of the Cold War references in the film the three of us were amazed at how well the film stood up 24 years later. The message is still timely.

Emma wasn't mortally offended by the fashions, though she thought the computers in the war room looked more like washing machines. Simon guffawed at the floppy disks but he was excited to see someone actually playing the arcade version of Galaga in the same way a car enthusiast gets giddy over seeing Model T Ford in working condition.

July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Wicked Hot Summer

harry-potter-phoenix.jpgI went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my kids this afternoon. It was a good film and a very decent adaptation of the book with several stand out performances and a jolly good fight scene to cap it off in the end.

That said something happens in the opening scene that could make my blood boil, or nearly so. The opening shot is of suburbia not too far from Number 4 Privet Lane and a voiceover of a British announcer with the weather, letting the audience know it's a hot hot summer with temperatures in the 90s and may even hit 100. Really? In Britain? 100 degrees is way past hot, it's boiling... literally. The British, as well as nearly the rest of the world, has been using Celsius for temperature readings for over 30 years. So why is this opening voiceover using Fahrenheit? It would be like Harry going into a shop and pulling dollar bills out of his pocket instead of pounds.

I expect the answer is that this is the U.S. version of the film and that people in the States are, apparently, too dumb to understand that the rest of the world uses Celsius, or at least the film industry thinks so. This kind of pandering is just infuriating to me. It perpetuates the idea that the world will conform to our point of view and simultaneously dumbs down the American audience by refusing to rock their boat.

Frankly, our boat needs rocking.

Okay, end rant.

July 1, 2007

All Those Moments

Blade Runner was released 25 years ago this week. I thank On the Media for reminding me of that.

I remember first seeing this film while attending a summer session at Harvard and was floored by it as a teenager. I think I need to see it again.

What lingers with me are the cityscapes and the music by Vangelis. I remember the mishmash of humanity where cultures collide and merge in a way that seems startling familiar. Of course, the whole philosophical question of "What does it mean to be human?" is at the core of the movie, and it gives no easy answers. Does Roy truly die? Did he live? Does he feel or have simply a simulation of feeling? Is there a difference?

So much to ponder. So much to relish.

February 12, 2007

"Play the Marseillaise! Play it!"

When Victor Laszlo strikes up the band in Rick's Cafe to play the French National Anthem to sing down the Nazis in Casablanca he shows the power of voices raised in song. This is easily my favorite scene out of a wholly remarkable film. When you know the history of how this film was made it is astounding that it got made at all, much less how it became one of the truly iconic films of all time.

Laszlo shows the weakness of totalitarianism in this scene. It can bear no dissent. If it is not in complete control, it reels. And even token, sentimental resistance like singing La Marseillaise can make it nervous. For totalitarianism is about control of symbols, to overlay its meaning on all the symbols of life. As such, symbols are no longer malleable but are static. It means what it means because we tell you what it means.

Totalitarian regimes can withstand bullets and bombs, because it can understand and subsume those things into its propaganda, but voices raised in song, they cannot withstand. And to that I say, Vive la France!

40 for 40, #4

January 31, 2007

Into the Moral Labyrinth
A Theological Review of Pan's Labyrinth

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Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) is a new fairy tale, but it's also from the pre-Disney world of fairy tales. As such it is magical, brutal, gruesome, mysterious, and full of wonder. This movie is honest about its R rating and is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is also one of the best cinematic studies of dealing with violence I have seen in quite some time.

The film is set in 1944 Fascist Spain right after the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia, a young girl, and her pregnant mother go to stay at a military outpost to be with Ofelia's new stepfather and the father of her unborn sibling. Her new stepfather is a Captain charged with hunting down the remaining rebels hiding out in the woods and he does so brutally and without remorse.

Ofelia is entranced by fairy tales which she reads constantly. She finds an ancient labyrinth in the woods near the compound which she visits one night. At the center of the labyrinth she encounters a faun who tells her she is the long-lost daughter of the King of the Underworld and gives her three tasks to prove her royal lineage. These are also a test to make sure that her soul hasn't gone native to this realm and that she is still worthy of her royal title.

[Warning: Major spoilers follow. I completely give away the ending. Read on only if you've seen the film or never intend to do so. You've been warned.]

Continue reading "Into the Moral Labyrinth
A Theological Review of Pan's Labyrinth" »

January 18, 2007

Night at the Museum Review-o-Rama

You know, it's interesting what people decide to blog on. My daughter, my son, and I all went to see Night at the Museum and we all independently decided to blog on it. Go fig.

Emma's Review
Simon's Review
My Review

December 9, 2006

Fate, Life, and Art -
A Theological Review of "Stranger than Fiction"

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Harold Crick has a problem. He is aware of his fate.

Well, not entirely, but one morning as he is going through his paces he suddenly hears a disembodied voice narrating his every move and commenting on the mundaneness of his routine. He soon realizes that this voice is narrating a story that will culminate with his ultimate demise... and soon.

He sets out on a desparate odyssey to find this disembodied voice and convince the owner not to finish the story. Along the way he contends with his number obsessed colleagues at the IRS, an anarchist baker who becomes the object of his affection, and a professor of literature who tries to guide him through the narrative of his life.

[Spoiler Alert - Plot spoilers ahead. You've been warned.]

Continue reading "Fate, Life, and Art -
A Theological Review of "Stranger than Fiction"" »

July 11, 2006

Davy Jones and the Fear of Death

priatesrun-5.jpgMichelle Hargrave has an excellent theological review of the new Pirates of the Carribean film on her blog, 33 Names of Grace. I foresee Michelle and me becoming Siskel and Ebert meets Tillich and K√ľng.

July 2, 2006

Preaching an Inconvenient Truth

Al GoreI had two big takeaways from watching An Inconvenient Truth:

1) Al Gore may be more in love with his Apple laptop than I am with mine. (Note: Al Gore is on the board of Apple.)

2) Al Gore is a very good preacher.

The second point came to me when I was leaving the film and my friend mentioned how good the film was and how she appreciated that Al Gore wasn't "too preachy." And I realized that while he wasn't preachy, he was, in fact, preaching in the best sense. The whole film has a sermonlike quality and structure to it.

Continue reading "Preaching an Inconvenient Truth" »

June 29, 2006

Messianic Superman: Why the World Doesn't Need a Comicbook Savior

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I watched the new Superman movie last night and thoroughly enjoyed it as a film, but less so as theology. Before I go there though let me say, go see this film. It's brilliantly conceived and directed by Bryan Singer with a good story and fantastic performances, especially by Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey.

The movie goes boldly into theological turf, and that's where it runs into trouble.

[Warning: Mild spoilers follow.]

Continue reading "Messianic Superman: Why the World Doesn't Need a Comicbook Savior" »