...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

December 30, 2004

The Terminal - 3

This is a sub-par Spielberg film. It has some funny moments, but is a travesty of a story based on true events. Just whne you think something is going to develop plot-wise, you get thrown for a loop and something else starts to develop, etc. The only somewhat redeeming quality is that it picks up on the Spielberg theme of lost boys (e.g. A.I., E.T. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, etc). But instead of the characters finding a home and a place in the world, they are left with alienation. All the characers leave the terminal in their seperate ways still searching for something more, when that something more was right in front of them. This death of distance has only contributed to our being lost in the cosmos, rather than imagining and building a true home.

December 29, 2004

Phone Booth - 4

This movie started a good discussion of responsibility and power of a telephone conversation. This particular phone conversation in the movie is somewhat different than most, but what is the right and good human response and action to influence others, and possibly their life or death. It's just a phone right, and just communication. These topics always give insight into truth and lying, and are we really in the know about these things and are do we take action or are we reserved into apathy? This is not a problem to be solved but a story to be lived, and ultimately a matter of moral meaning. Does my life mean anything at all, and why does the possibility of the question make me think that it does? Living and learning.

December 28, 2004

Adaptation - 7

A great movie about the meaning of life. Are we significant at all, or are we just a chemical composition? This movie does a good job of getting across the human experience of imagination and human obsessive in our thinking process. How is that we perceive others and ourselves, and does that correspond with anything in reality and if so how and why? What is the story we are living and what of the one we are making up in our head. I like the use of narration in this movie as it gives the viewer a view into the thoughts of the character rather than having to go just on the actions. It is able to point out the disjunction that most people deal with between what they think and what they do. Overall, this movie cannot help but engage the viewer with questions of meaning, of love and life, and our own unfolding story.

Confidence - 4

A somewhat typical caper movie, where lying, manipulation and trust are the main issues. The main complaint that I have is that movies of this sort cannot help but try to manipulate the audience as well, since we are in that world for two hours, we have to make up the characters life story and traits during the movie, rather than letting the characters develop through the story in order to help us understand what is going on. Once the director and writer decide that you, the viewer are on a need to know basis, then one can become lost in whatever they happen to be spinning. This seems to me to be deceptive storytelling and entraps one's imagination rather than opens it to new possibilities. Better to initially trust someone than to distrust even those closest to you. In movies this gets you killed, but in real life you share in others moral meaning and storied living, and ultimately learn to know yourself better. Love would be impossible if we lived in total distrust. A good dose of reality will not make us all-trusting, but rather better discerning of who others are and how to live in a world inhabited by a diversity of people connected though their human condition.

December 25, 2004

Office Space - 6

This film is a classic, in my opinion, in the satire and comedy genre. If you haven't seen this movie, uhhmm, yeah, I'm gonna have to ask you to...uhhmm, yeah, go ahead and... head to the rental store, and uhhmm, yeah, rent this film. If you have spent any waking moment working in any office environment, or know others who have, you may feel like they were filming at your work on one of your sick days, the 2.5 that you are allotted a year. And like any movie about work, questions of ethics always come to the forefront of the conversation, as it does in a funny way that seems to all work out in the end. A little simplistic for real life, but hilarious to watch and quote among friends and family afterward. Finally, when "PC Load Letter" pops up on your printer menu you will have a laugh instead of a mental breakdown where you beat the electronic current out of it.

Shrek 2 - 5

A very funny sequel, even or better than the first film. It makes great rips on Hollywood, like the first one ripped on fairy tales and Disney. Amazingly they have developed characters that are coherent enough to be interesting, and are not trying to manipulate the audience. Who couldn't love a donkey that wants to make you waffles:-) I', not sure they leave room for a third one, but knowing filmmaking, they will probably attempt it. If it continues to mature as it has, the next one will be rated PG-13 and even more of an adult movie, I be sure to check with the marketers on that one... It's worth watching and it would be hard not to have a good time laughing at the system you are helping to create.

December 23, 2004

Dodgeball: A true underdog story - 3

This is a half decent movie given its inherently funny subject. It would be impossible to make a serious movie out of the game of dodgeball. Added to this is the fact that they have written a very funny script, and only cast half of it well enough to make you laugh for most of the movie. It repeats all of the jokes that you and your friends already made back in grade school, while adding some macho and gay jokes. If you want to see a better satire of real live events watch Best in Show, or other mockumentaries by writer Christopher Guest. Its worth a laugh, but I didn't go out of my way to see it.

December 21, 2004

The Bourne Identity - 4

Mostly a spy movie with an amnestic (yes, that is the adjective form of amnesiac) twist. What is our fascination with forgetfulness, don't we have old age for that? Is it that we want to forget things, or remember things? Or forget bad/remember good?
In the end it is not his identity that is found, it is just the chic. It seems also that in this film killing chooses you and not vice versa. In the sequel it reverses this theme. I much preferred The Bourne Supremacy.

December 20, 2004

The Body - 4

What is the meaning of faith? What does doubt do to one's faith? This film explores these themes through bringing up the possibility that Jesus did not rise from the dead. The implications for the different characters is interesting to watch. It also discusses how people believe things, with the heart, mind, character, story, experience, etc. It challenges one to think about the wide open possibilities for knowing, and the finitude of human knowledge. How do we live with meaning, without it killing us? Will the truth really set you free, or just another sort of prison? At some point you will just have to be.

The Beach - 3

So, are escapism and hedonism the keys to happiness? That's what this film tries to figure out through a conversation about community, lying, and the pursuit of pleasure. In the end, it is not the pursuit of the end that brings about happiness, but rather the result of pursuing something as an end in itself. This film makes a good example of how lying will end in selfishness, the destruction of a community, and an unhappy existence. Selflessness is a worthy pursuit, why? Because it is non-violent way of existing with other people. Always easier said than done, and the human possibilities of this are very low. But, what is the alternative?

Instead of watching this film, I would recommend either reading or watching William Golding's Lord of the Flies, somewhat similar themes, and better thought out. (or at least, The Simpson's spoof episode of Lord of the Flies.
"It tastes like burning" - Ralph Wiggum.)

December 18, 2004

Pieces of April - 5

Sometimes a comedy and sometimes serious, this film points to human fallibility. This film deals in restorative relationships. Relationships are broken for all people because humans are a species that judges, mistrusts, is jealous, hateful, etc. We tend to characterize these due to our own self-interest, rather than trying embrace others in their weakness, as we hope to be embraced in ours. To actively work for good relationships, it is going to take a lot of grace. This means that at some point we are going to have to let the world, with all its foibles, in. Not a pleasant prospect, but needed if we are to love in truth. So, when visiting with family over the holidays remember, you're probably just as screwed up and in need of restoration as the rest of them.

Reservoir Dogs - 5

Being a Tarantino Film it is dark but that also means that it has a interesting story and method of storytelling. The audience only knows what the author wants them to know. In this case it is as little as possible, just enough to know what is going on and making you think and conspire just like the characters in the film. The main characters are developed well in this film, and in the end you have to ask yourself who is it that you trust? And what truth is worth dying for? Nothing predictable in this film, which is what makes watching it bearable.

December 17, 2004

Today's Lyric

We've done nothing wrong,
But we've done nothing!
We can't look away,
But we're just looking in!
It's second nature to say,
Hey hey hey, we've done nothing but -
Nothing but take what's handed down
Said nothing but words approved to shout
We wanna know that we own the cake we're eating
Spit it out! Out, out...

- from the song Nothing Wrong on the Jimmy Eat World album Futures

Higher Learning - 3

A very cliched movie trying to single-handedly deal with many issues in higher education, like race, gender, sex, and alcohol. All of this only leads to violence, and healing doesn't look like it is anywhere near this fictional college campus. It is an awfully exaggerated picture of what ideas are important and relevant, but fails to give complex issues their due. Seeing that this is my area of study at the moment, this film was helpful only in so far as to say that there are indeed places of pain in the area of life known as higher education.

December 16, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - 7

This film is about love, loss, memory and the pain involved in fallible human relationships. It also has the weirdest casting of any movie I have seen, with Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, etc. The connection between love and memory is an interesting one. In fact, Yale professor Miroslav Volf has a book dealing with this issue, called "Exclusion and Embrace." He ties together the idea of memory and identity. Amnesia is only bad if you have a good past to remember, similarly memory can be a place of blessing or one of curse. This is shown well in this film. Maybe the embrace of pain is an ethic that we should live by when it comes to relationships with others. Sounds like the definition of compassion, one of the virtues.

Narratives in general have a strong sense of memory. The present moment is just between imagination of a future and the memory and learning of the past. So, what's your story, and how does that shape the character of your living? Is is faithful, or just an incoherent beautiful mess? Most likely, for me at least, it is "somewhere in between what is real and just a dream."

December 15, 2004

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 6

Since I am on a roll... This is another film that is for all ages and deals with issues of faith. That is how is that we come to believe things? What do our senses tell us about the world around us, and is that all there is? Or can more be said of reality than that? What kind of behavior will our beliefs shape? All interesting questions, and an intense and exciting film to watch, no boredom here.

Tender Mercies - 7

In the same vein as the previous post, This film is also "family friendly." It has the theme of the gift of life and love. Somehow we as human beings cannot figure out how it is that anything good happens at all. We philosophize about suffering and the bad things that happen, but what of the good things, why is life not complete hell, we are alive and we can love and are loved, it seems stupid that we do not talk more about the gift and beauty of life, love and the world we live in.

Places in the Heart - 7

I have realized that the movies I have on my site so far have not been, as some have said, "family friendly." So, I am recommending this movie which is not only "family friendly," but also a great story. It talks about the struggle that is thrown on us by life's circumstances. It is in the response and reaction to experience that truly brings out one's character. When we ask ourselves who we are, we look at our life story and the experiences and choices that have shaped our character throughout life.
This film also has a crazy and powerful ending. Hopefully a conversation starter even for the young and the young at heart.

December 14, 2004

The Bourne Supremacy - 5

A somewhat classic spy film, fits with a lot of other films in this genre. With a stark distinction, and that is that killing has meaning in this film. While most spy movies take killing for granted and is hidden in its portrayal, this film deals with it as it is, the taking of human life, and that is never just a thing to do, or an easy choice. In fact, it is a choice. In 007/Bond movies, James has a "license to Kill," he uses this excessively and the audience doesn't care, most video games have the same apathy toward killing. I think this film is distinct and right to bring out this deeper theme.
(note: this is the sequel to The Bourne Identity)

The Purple Rose of Cairo - 6

A film that deals with the issue of the distinctions between fiction and reality, between the idea of image and symbols and their correspondence with physical realities. The question is do we want stories and fiction to become real to us, "to be fleshed out?" Or do we want to escape reality in exchange for the illusion of perfection and happiness? And is that really where it is found? This film brings out the theme of imagination and inspiration, which I think is a key to human existence, without these there would be not feeling and knowledge of hope. Another question that the characters ask is about the creator of the story, whose story is this? A work of fiction, are we are own authors? This film is a great discussion starter that asks important and interesting questions.

December 13, 2004

Closer - 6

This is an interesting film about trust and distrust. About knowing, and how this brings relationships together and drives them apart. This movie is able to show that truth and love are inseparable. In the beautiful mess that we live in is often hard to do both at the same time. To truly love another is to be truthful about yourself as well as the other, and to live with a renewed kind of knowledge on a daily basis. Always easier said than done, but then pain and joy are experienced realities, not just words on the page. This film fails to see the insight that "to know is to love..." And that this means the embrace of human suffering and pain, not the numbness and stoicism that we are somehow above it all. You are not up on love for someone, you are "in" love "with" someone, until the Story is told, happiness is but a muddled utopia.

The foundational question of the film is this: Are there forms of knowledge not worth having? This is the same sort of storied living that Adam and Eve had to think about when faced with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But Grace always makes its way into the question, and makes moral meaning all that much more confusing and intricate.

On the drive home I was listening to Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head, which I found as a suitable soundtrack to the discernment of the film. In some ways they both have similar themes.

December 11, 2004

Dr. Strangelove or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb - 4

This film being 40 years old now says a lot about the lasting nature of history. This movie makes our current administration look like geniuses. The theme of the movie seems to be that we haven't fully realized the consequences of the technology that we develop. Another theme is that we are still in the modernist mindset, which in Kubrick's mind makes us somewhat like the nazi's, or at least we have remnants of the nazi mind set; to build the master race through technology. Mars Hill Audio's latest issue talks about the current eugenics in biotechnology. The paradox of that this film brings to mind is that the US just invaded a country trying to develop nukes, while we are the current owners of the biggest stock pile in the history of the world! Somehow we are able to walk the moral high ground, because...? This film none the less brings up good questions 40 years later, in the current times that we are living in.

December 10, 2004

A Poem

Creed - By Steve Turner from Up to Date, 1968-1982

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during
and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy's OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything's getting better,
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe that there's something in horoscopes,
UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher although we think
his good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same --
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
because when you ask the dead what happens
they say Nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

We belive in Masters and Johnson.
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth
that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust. History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds.

The Ladykillers - 6

This is one of the Coen Brothers best films in my opinion. Not only is it funny and outrageous at times, it also serious and deals with issues like justice and the providence of God. The characters are multi-dimensional and none of them are unlikable. The plot twists are great. This is a fictional story, but gets at some of the core emotions and motives that humans have for their actions.
(note: there are many literary references that can make or break the enjoyment of this movie)

Dirty Pretty Things - 7

This film is about being a stranger in a strangeland; being lost and looking for home. It is also about the abuses of power of those that are recognized as citizens. It begs the questions of hospitality and the respect and love of neighbor. It also takes ethical questions seriously by showing the inner struggle of trying to do what is right. Why is it that we so seldom treat others as if they are human, while holding on to our own self-hood as beyond being wronged? It is strange thing to be human. And sometimes we don't even know how to be what we are. Always good thoughts to ponder, not easy, but worth remembering.

City of God - 6

A stark look at city life in Rio de Janiero. This is a rather gruesome movie, based on the gang stories of the slums in Rio, which is known as the City of God. It is a story of death due to poverty, drug dealing turf, and gang wars. There are some scenes that are very hard to watch, especially since gangs are recruiting kids from age 7-10 and giving them guns. The film is not full of hopelessness, rather it shows how peoples choices within a situation start to shape the course of their lives. It is a powerful movie.

December 09, 2004

Today's lyric

"The more you see the less you know
The less you find out as you grow
I knew much more then than I do now"

Bono, from the U2 song City of Blinding Lights

Things you can tell just by looking at her - 6

This is one of the few movies that looks at the issue of loneliness. Not a common topic of film. This film does a good job of telling a few connected stories about women who find that their life is filled with people, but loneliness is still present because there is no depth of relationship, and where there is depth, there is death to take that all away. I think one of the insights of this movie is the connection between what we choose and how that influences relationships. We have to ask ourselves how do we choose rightly? And can we?

December 07, 2004

Saved (5), Thirteen (6), and Mean Girls (4)

About two months ago I decided that I would try to connect some of the current movies coming out at that time. It so happened that within a couple of weeks of each other, these three movies were released to DVD. So, in the course of a week, I rented and saw each of these three movies. I found that these movies had distinct similarities as well as some differences.
It seems to me that these films are fundamentally about being female in high school in contemporary american society. These films once again bring up the issue of whether popular culture is reflecting society or vice versa. Of course it is never that simple, but the questions surrounding this interplay is interesting. I think that only Thirteen is truly realistic in trying to understand this culture, while Mean Girls and Saved! are trying to point out funny and critical aspects of this culture. I think it would be dangerous to just assume that these movies have things right. I think it would be more productive to engage in conversation about these films in order to better understand the blessings and curses of the media and culture in the lives of youth culture, especially in schools.

December 06, 2004

Big Fish - 6

This is a great film about fish, what would it be like to be a fish? What if you were that important and mysterious fish that people talk about? What if you had been caught, and hung on a wall? How would that make you feel? Actually this movie doesn't deal with any of these questions, but you just thought about the making of a story, is it a true story, fiction, or just "a perspective?"

Really this film is about stories, hence the title referencing the common exaggerated fish stories. It is ultimately a story about stories, and what people think and believe about truth. Not only are some of the scenes in this movie colorful and outrageously unbelievable, they are plainly and blatantly believable. That is the paradox. Stories are mysterious, they are both inside of the human mind and floating and pin-balling around in the bigger reality of our lived experience, our storied living. This film also explains how fear is one of the most experienced emotions that humans feel. It has to do with the doubt about the stories that we have lived that others have lived and the connections that are both hidden and revealed. How is that we enter into a story that gives meaning to our lives?

Elf - 2

This movie is not a comedy. Now that may seem odd, but my definition of a comedy is that the story is funny. For example, Bruce Almighty is a funny story with funny characters. Elf on the other had is a formulaic story with a funny actor, Will Farrell. It is humorous to watch Will Farrell, and I think that he is funny, but the story is outrageous and not creative. Finally, it also portrays the message that faith is by sight only, faith is merely a from of empirical knowledge. They could have simply changed small parts of the story to transform it into what I would call a true comedy.

The Last Temptation of Christ - 6

This is a good movie that deals with the questions what does it mean that Jesus was both fully human and fully God? Despite the controversy that surrounded it's release in 1988, I did not find the movie offensive at all, but rather a helpful insight into the life and story of Jesus. It is important to remember, as even the authors make a point of, that this story is based on fiction, but I think that it gets at some truths that the gospels and other biblical films do not get at. I think that it is a faithful response to the gospel by the makers of this film, and the critical viewer may just find that their faith is enlarged by the viewing of this film.

December 04, 2004

Three Colors: Red - 6

I think that this is the best of the trilogy. It is able to connect all three films in an interesting way, and has the most obvious parallelism of the films. It also has some very memorable moments and lines, that defy the usual fast paced dialogue of most american films. Its vision of life is so open. In other words it portrays the idea that the possibilities of life are greater and more abundant than the scripts that we live our lives by. If we could just catch a glimpse of real joy, and recognize even the smallest suffering, our lives could be freeing. Our choices would mean more, and life might be more full. The future that we walk into is an opening; not free from what is behind us, but an expanse that has far less limits than the human mind can conceive.

(In relation to this film read the Thomas Merton quote further down this page)

Three Colors: White - 6

This film deals with the issue of equality. Through the use of choices that the characters make there is the idea that somehow the good and the bad equal out. This sounds rather simplistic and it is. But I think that the movie explores these issues and shows how with a rigid view of equality we end up with harsh and manipulative relationships. It leaves room only for judgment and self-interest. I think the viewer is challenged to reject this equality, for a more dynamic view of the self, and the relationships that one has with others.

December 02, 2004

13 conversations about one thing - 7

What is happiness? And why does it seem to directly and indirectly shape the way we live? This film is able to give great insight into the pursuit of happiness and the human struggle, through guilt and suffering, to live a more full life. To understand happiness is to understand the human condition, and to ask what is it that we are living for/against/toward/and maybe away from?
Interestingly enough Aristotle deals with happiness in his Nicomachean Ethics , which begs the question, how are the moral life and happiness connected? This film is not going to give you some grandiose idea of how to find happiness, but it asks the crucial questions along that journey.

"...living the question..."

Do you have a telos sufficient, personally and publicly, to orient your praxis over the course of life? - Steven Garber

November 30, 2004

Mystic River - 6

How are stories and belief connected? This movie shows how what we believe about the world is influenced by the history and story behind our lives, the lives of others, and by the connections we make to in forming opinions about truth and reality. This movie is sad, precisely because the viewer has to step outside of the perspectives of the actors, and therefore has a different sort of knowledge and thus a different sort of pain and sadness about the story. Is this movie a tragedy? Yes, because to try to make sense out of life is to make judgments and then to respond with justice, peace, grace and forgiveness, and most often a sort of reserved numbness. Human fallibility lead to distortions of how this ought to take place. Finally, we have to ask ourselves how do we live and be responsible in an often non-sensical world?

November 29, 2004

House of Sand and Fog - 7

A great movie. It challenged me to live a more Grace filled life. To try to live with hospitality toward others. It is always easier to live for one self, than to enter into community and relationship with others.

Fight Club (6), U2, and postmodern consciousness

Last night I watched Fight Club once again. It was more poignant this time around because I am also reading a book, The Truth about the Truth, about postmodernism for my class. The view of the self and consciousness in postmodernism, the authors say, is a malleable one. It is not an essence, but rather a description, a linguistic construction, of who we are and want to be. This to me resonates well with Fight Club who also seems to view the self this way. It also connected with a U2 Lyric from the song "A Man and A Woman" in which Bono sings, "The only pain is to feel nothing at all." Fight Club does a good job of showing how this may be believed in the extreme. This film asks the great questions about what is the self, how do others perceive us and how do we perceive ourselves? And also how do we fight off the numbness of everyday life, and how is this related to the U2 lyric, that we need to feel something, but what?

November 23, 2004

Kill Bill (Vol. 1&2) - 5

This divided story into two volumes by Quentin Tarantino is just what we need after being over inundated with revenge movies that make going to war against terror the best idea since...you get the idea. Although gruesome and bloody, hence having "Kill" in the name, it makes revenge complex and really a question of morality. While Arnold movies make him out to be the hero and who every he kills to be nobody, or just plain evil, Kill Bill steps back and asks what are the consequences of my actions and what really is better for me, but also for those close to me, that I care about. A good question to always ask yourself is what do I love? In the case of this movie we discover that pursuing what you love can be as painful for ourselves as it is for the others involved in our lives. Ultimately we have to deal with a response of the hatred of others, not always an easy matter, this movie shows that complexity.

Hero - 6

This is a great movie. (note: It is in Chinese with subtitles). It deals with the idea of telling stories. Stories can be used to lead others into the truth, but also to deceive and manipulate. The filmmaker uses color to help the audience keep track of the stories. This is helpful and by the end one is not left confused, but rather informed about the power of stories and the human need to tell them.

American History X - 7

One of the few movies that has made me cry. This is powerful film about the hate and evil that can make its dwelling in the human heart. It also has the theme of the influence of one's story on others. When others look up to someone, that persons character and actions take on greater meaning, and with that more responsibility. Storied living is a hard task, and made harder by our passions which lead us toward great things as well as horrendous and despicable behavior. This leads to living with regrets and can lead to a transformed living to help others learn from our mistakes and joys. Learning and character are connected, this is the puzzle of knowing who we are and what we are to become.

The Matrix (trilogy) - 7

These films have been reviewed to death. There are even a few books on it. For example: The Matrix and Philosophy, Taking the Red Pill, and Like a Splinter in your Mind.

All I have is one question. If this reality were true, what kind of transforming vision would it give to how we live our lives? It seems that this is the cucial question, If we truly want to live storiedly, then the question of our existence is framed in an anthropology of imprisonment. What are we liberated from and to what? Is liberation possible?

This film not only is technically excellent, it also should engage viewers in serious and enlightening discussion.

Yesterday's Qoute

"...if you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for." - Thomas Merton

Qoute of a lifetime...

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously commiting evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the dividing line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart?" -- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Love Actually - 7

This is not a chic flick, this is a collection of stories about love. There is a difference! Chic flicks are female based fantasies about what female/male relationships should be, they get some things right, and other things wrong, just like the rest of us. From my perspective true chic flicks make human relationships to simple, complexity is a more realistic picture of these stories.

This movies should help us ask good questions about sexuality, friendship, what kind of love is important, and the connections between fantasy and reality. Since Christmas is approaching it a good commentary on the contemporary ritual that we have created. This movie epitomizes the title of my blog by engaging viewers with the idea of storied living and how love enters into people's lives and how they flesh out love in their life, in funny and sad ways.

Babette's Feast - 7

An amazing film. Slow and cute, but involves big idea's like hospitality, stewardship, finding one's calling in giftedness, lost love, community, and a theology of the body. The characters in this movie are so human, flaws and all. They could be your next door neighbors. It ask one to think about how we live in our story and also beyond it, into the stories of others, and ultimately the cosmos. This movie can involve a long and deep conversation.

The Pianist - 6

This is a WWII movie, that juxtaposes the suffering and horrible world of Poland during this time, with the wonderful gift of music of the pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. While the rest of his family is sent to the death camps, he is saved by a German officer who is touched by his music. This movie like Schindler's List is able to show that even Nazi Germany was not a place where one could easily separate out good from evil, human nature is too complex for that(See the quote above). This film shows how mysterious music is to us, and the aesthetic and the ethical are connected somehow. If only beauty could become a guide to our action, we might live more fully with ourselves, our neighbor, and with nature.

Vanilla Sky - 5

Although confusing at first because of the strange story and the psychological dream sequences, it is a good movie that is insightful about human psychology and what we hope and dream for and about.
There is a great conversation about the meaning of sex and love. It has the capacity to make you ask alot of questions about your own life. It also makes that introspection a little scary.

The Chronicles of Riddick - 4

The story is not the main part of this film, although it raises some good points about faith, tolerance, and animal/human nature. There tends to be a strong eastern religious influence, they talk about the balance of the universe, between evil and another kind of evil. It also tends to hold scientism to be the enlightened view, and as the only possible good way for history to unfold. WARNING: contains alot of violence and killing, it is the war for control of the universe after all.

November 18, 2004

Three Colors: Blue - 5

This is a interesting film that deals with questions of death, and how we deal with others death. It also has as a theme of the making of a story, in this case a musical composition, and the responsibility to those we love to continue to live in the story. This film also has a great moment of grace, you will have to see it yourself, no spoilers here:-).

Philosophy of Film and Cultural Engagement

Taking the advice of my friend Keith, I am going to post movie ratings and hopefully helpful questions about the movies that I have been watching. I hope that this site can be a sort of forum for movie discussion and insight about cultural engagement.

But, first I want to give readers a disclaimer. I like movies based on the story that they are telling. In other words, I think movies make claims about the human condition. The give us insight into some kind of moral meaning, and a storied kind of living. So, in my mind movies can do this well, which makes watching them a joy and blessing, and others either fail or miss the mark, leaving me with a bad taste and a sense of a deceptive reality.

So, technical effects and famous names aside, you may be confused as to why some movies are ranked higher than others. I will be ranking them from 1-7. 1, being the kind that I do not enjoy; and 7, telling that I think these are great movies that can lead to great conversations and maybe even changed ways of knowing and doing.

Finally, I am not advocating the watching of any of the movies that are on this site, but am interested in engaging in converstations of discernment in culture, movies in particular. All movies are not for all people, we need to be aware of our own limitations in knowledge, discernment, and emotions. As, well as the level of responsibility that we have in the world, toward our neighbor and ourselves.

Also, for movie reviews check out: www.rottentomatoes.com .
And, for articles and discussion questions on a large list of movies, check out: www.ransomfellowship.org .