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

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 .