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Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

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Joyeux Noel

The video above is from my second favorite Christmas movie (first is “It’s a Wonderful Life”), Joyeux Noel. It is the story of the French, German and Scottish soldiers on the frontlines in World War I who call a truce on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas together. I don’t want to give too much away, other than to say that the experience transforms the soldiers. The clip above is of Christmas Eve night, as a German opera singer stationed on the frontline sings “Silent Night” to his fellow soldiers. The first song is the Scottish soldiers singing “Dreaming of Home”. It occurs a couple of times in the movie, and reminds us that at Christmas, our celebration is rooted in our longing for Home.

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500 Days of Summer

The wife saw this tonight and I listened in.

Tom, asking Summer about previous boyfriends:  “What happened–why didn’t they work out?”

Summer responds:  “What always happened:  life.”    The whole train of thought is that it’s okay when we break up and move on, no matter how precious and meaningful it all seemed at the time; no matter how formative a relationship has been for our life.  We have to enjoy what we get, as long as we get it.  Moving on sucks, but there will (probably) be somewhere else to head, and hey, we had some good times, didn’t we.  Thus the coda of every relationship will always be, “I enjoyed you, I learned from you, I moved on.”

But rolling back to The Smiths produces a sort of whisper of the haunting lostness of the moment, a moment that we’ll have to cling to, because there’s not much to look forward to as these relationships disintegrate.  You can’t go from hit to hit without sooner or later feeling that you’re veering into an endless miss…

[[NB:  that’s only part of the gist of the movie; the remainder is a grasp at “true love,” which gets equated with a sort of providential happiness in the final two scenes.]]

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I must make a public confession- I watched some of the oscars on Sunday night. There is much to comment on as Christians should reflect on the way our culture celebrates Hollywood and the “achievements” of those who make tinsel town what it is, the extravagance with which some people live, the window into the hearts of our culture as to what we hold out as our standard and what we celebrate together, the remarkable gifts of creativity men and women possess, and much much more. But what I wanted to reflect on here involves the casualties, or unfairness, of our consumption. Let’s be honest, Hollywood is what it is because we the people put it there. We pay for the movies with money from our budgets, we watch the movies with time from our day, and we are formed by the theatre we are so drawn to (case in point, you will not get more than one day from me where I do not quote Raising Arizona). It is our consumption of what Hollywood produces that endorse what was celebrated Sunday night.  As Sunday evening passed I could not help but reflect on what happened to the child stars of my favorite movie of 2009, Slum Dog Millionaire. I guess I was not the only one wondering this as CNN ran a story on it the next day. Freaky. The story they put together (in video below) raises many questions that Christians need to wrestle with. I am an example of someone who saw the movie in the theatre and then got a DVD when it came out. I am one of millions who did this and the result was that the movie made hundreds of millions of dollars. But the movie was made on the backs of the poor, literally, in one of the worlds biggest slums (and VERY little has changed as far as the restoration of dignity of the stars, their family, and just as important, their community). The movie, like many of the other luxuries we enjoy in life and luxuries we consume on a regular basis (chocolate, clothes, shoes, technology, jewelry, ect…) does not go to the lengths it should to restore the dignity of the people who make the luxury possible. This example from Hollywood is only a window into the reality of our consumption and the effects, or lack there of, on the poor who make it possible. My question- should the concept of Justice Matt talked about in his last post effect the way we consume? I will post something from Calvin later in the week. For now, check out this video and tell me what you think:

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Thoughts on Avatar

Avatar is now the highest grossing film of all-time in the U.S., and is well on it’s way to doing the same worldwide.  It is overwhelming and beautiful and another quantum leap in what is visually possible in a movie.  There are mountains of reviews and analysis out there, discussing every possible angle of the movie- religious, anti-war political overtones, racism, eco-terrorism, etc.- in every media outlet from Christianity Today to Oprah to MTV. What all of the reviews agree on, besides it’s technological genius, is that the director, James Cameron, set out to make a deeply spiritual movie. 

Cameron’s story centers on the mineral that the humans have come to Pandora to get. Unobtainium. The humans think that more Unobtainium and the wealth it will bring is What They Need. That it will fill their deepest desires. This is contrasted with the contentment of the Na’vi. As the human protagonist, Jake Sulley, says “What do we have to offer them? Light beer? Blue Jeans? They will never leave the Hometree [their sacred land]. We have nothing that they want.” The movie makes it clear that this desire for wealth comes at terrible cost to themselves, the environment, and anyone who gets in the way. As implied by the name, their true desires cannot be satisfied by more wealth, it is Unobtainable. Or maybe we could say it this way: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Another key to the movie is the phrase “I see you”. It is used by the Na’vi throughout the movie to express an acknowledgement of the dignity, value and “connectedness” of the person (or creature) to whom it is directed. It is looking past the surface to see into the other person- to truly respect them, connect with them, to “know” their true self. Once experienced, Jake and the viewers want more. It is a longing to “know and be known”, and having been known to be not just accepted, but loved. What Cameron is looking for is the unconditional love that leads to true community. This is the universal longing, to love and be loved.

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.
Mother Teresa

I believe that the critical and box office success Avatar is experiencing is not just due to the technological brilliance of the movie, but also to the hunger our culture has for a greater sense of purpose and authentic community.

As we think about these questions, perhaps the biggest flaw of the movie is the one-dimensional nature of the “bad guy” humans. They are so unreservedly and thoughtlessly destructive that no one watching the movie will possibly relate to them. With a few moments of doubt, with some emotional depth and respect for the humans, we could have walked away questioning ourselves. Instead, we will all be cheering for the Na’vi, and leave the theater thinking about the ways that we too are oppressed by ignorance and corporate greed. We will not see ourselves as the perpetrators, but as victims. And there’s the problem. The questions we need to leave asking are “what do I really desire?”, “at what cost  am I seeking it?”, “am I truly ‘seeing’ my neighbor?”. As we seek to “no longer conform to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2), these are questions well worth exploring.

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