May 16

Captain America and the Size of Government

captain america

 

I saw “Captain America: Civil War” last night and there’s lots of things I could say about the movie. I loved the action, the performances, the dialogue and especially the new characters that are now in the Marvel Universe. I highly recommend seeing the film as one of the most fun and interesting Marvel films to date. But apart from all that, Civil War has got me thinking lots about one of the big issues central to the film – the pros and cons of big and small government.

Now, I don’t think this is a spoiler as it is revealed in the trailers and all the advertising, but the tension in the film centres on legislation that is proposed to regulate superheroes and their powers. It is called “The Sokovia Accords” with the subtitle of it being a “Framework for the registration and deployment of enhanced individuals”. Basically, the idea is that superheroes are expected to either retire or sign the document and if they sign then they can’t do any superhero work without the permission of an international panel that will monitor them, regulate them, send them out when required and prevent them from going out when deemed necessary.

Now, I was very impressed with how the movie presents the argument that this is a good and necessary thing, showing the destruction and death that many of their past actions have caused. Sure they were trying to save the world, but they ignore laws, international borders and in the end innocent people died due to their actions, and sometimes (like in the case of Ultron) they were saving the world from a threat that they themselves created.

Captain America has some concerns though. He is worried about the restriction of their personal freedom to not only fight evil, but also to make choices for themselves about how to regulate their power. He is also skeptical that a government panel would always make the best choice in how to use and regulate superheroes. As he says, it runs by people with agendas and agendas change… If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

Now, for a series of movies that are often simply a bit of popcorn entertainment, it was interesting to see one that tackled a debate about political philosophy that is very relevant for our world today. The debate is about the idea of small vs big government.

SMALL vs BIG GOVERNMENT

If you’ve never heard of this debate before, it’s basically asking how much control, influence, involvement or power should be given to the government and how much should be given to individual citizens or private organisations (like businesses, churches, families, private schools etc.).

A small government approach is one where the government has as little involvement as possible in the affairs of its citizens. Small governments may still provide basic, necessary services (military defense, police, fire, water, electricity, sewerage etc.) and they may also provide services like welfare for those that cannot obtain work or health services, but the weight of the power and responsibility rests on individual citizens and organisations.

Big government, as you can probably guess, is the opposite approach. The government has a substantial level of involvement and regulation, and the weight of power and responsibility does not rest on the citizens but the government that presides over them.

Now, each of these approaches or politics philosophies have their pros and cons. Small government focuses on people’s individual libertarian rights to live their own life, raise their own kids and express their own values. Generally, most individual people want small government because they don’t want to be told what to do, especially by a government that may not share your values. Generally, small governments create more prosperous countries as they aim to encourage and empower enterprise and individual creativity. The problem with small government is that people’s individual values can be pretty selfish. Small government allows for the rich to get richer with no concern for the poor if they don’t want to have any. Also, small government creates a society of mixed values and behaviours, which means that tolerance is very important and social harmony can be challenging.

Big government has its own set of challenges. On a positive note, big governments aim to prevent the poor from getting poorer and the rich from getting richer, and through government regulation and oversight aim to create a more equitable society that is free from the individual abuses that small government can bring about. The problem with big government is that it can be just as abusive as individuals. The big government approach assumes responsibilities that, under a smaller government, are distributed to individual citizens. This often involves raising taxes and taking power and freedom away from its citizens, which can kill enterprise and may encourage bigger businesses to take their industries off shore where they can prosper in a country with less restrictions. Also, in an attempt to create social harmony and restrict the values of individuals and businesses that it deems bad for society, a big government will inevitably seek to enforce its own set of values on society and it will have the power to do so. This may be ok if its values are good, but who doesn’t believe that their values are good? As Captain America says in the movie: “it runs by people with agendas and agendas change”.

Basically, both big and small government philosophies are wanting the same goal – they aim to help create a prosperous society where all citizens can flourish and where evil is restricted. They simply represent two opposite ends of the spectrum of how to achieve that goal. Small government primarily gives that responsibility to individuals and free enterprise and aims to make the government have as little power as possible, and big government gives the government the primary responsibility and consequently much more power and influence to achieve that goal.

BIG & SMALL GOVERNMENT IN MY EXPERIENCE

Personally, I believe, as most do, that a balance between the two is necessary. In regard to gun control for example, I am glad that I live in Australia which has taken a big government approach to the issue. Guns are extremely restricted and the only guns I know of anyone owning, are rifles used for shooting pests (like rabbits and roos) out in the country. This means that I also don’t personally know of anyone who has been shot, either deliberately or accidentally, and Australia – with a population of over 23 million – in 2014 experienced only 230 gun-related deaths. The US in contrast, has a population of 316.5 million, which is 14 times the population of Australia, but in 2014, the US had 146 times the amount of gun-related deaths (33,599 deaths).

So when it comes to guns, I am happy that the government restricts my and others personal freedom to own, carry and use guns. The big government approach in this situation has literally helped lives to flourish and has created a better society for all citizens (except arguably for those who wish to own guns of course).

Another area of big government that I have benefited from is Australia’s healthcare system. Although I may not agree with everything my healthcare tax dollars are put towards (abortion for example) I think we have a great system that allows pretty much everyone to receive the care they need. Important medicines (like the diabetes medication I take daily) is majorly subsidized and I can see diabetes educators, nutritionists and other health specialists free of charge because of this soft form of universal healthcare that we have. It’s not without its problems, with the public system overrun and susceptible to overuse, but I am glad we have this semi-big government approach to this vital service.

So, I see the good of big government, but like Captain America, I also see its dangers. Captain America’s concern in the movie “Civil War” is primarily about how a government body may have a different set of values to an individual citizen (or superhero) and how their increased power and influence may be used to serve their own agenda rather than the citizens themselves. Captain America suggests that the big government approach is a form of “surrendering our right to choose” and proposed some theoretical examples where this might be a problem: “What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the big government approach in its potential effect to and restriction of religious freedom. In a big government, if the government deems certain beliefs or values to stand in the way their particular view of what makes a “good” society, they may use their increased power and influence to restrict or even criminalize those beliefs. This may seem extreme, but it happens in many countries even today.

In 23 out of 49 Islamic countries, it is illegal to convert away from Islam and it is also illegal for non-Muslims to share their faith in such a way that they might encourage a Muslim to convert. In Malaysia, it is illegal to leave Islam in every state other than Negeri Sembilan. In this state you have to apply to the courts if you want to convert and the vast majority get denied. This is what it looks like when the big government approach takes over religious expression in a country.

This is not only a problem if a religious government gains control and establishes a big government. It is also an issue in socialist secular countries as well. In China for example, freedom of religion is majorly restricted to only five government-sanctioned religions. Of this five, there is only one protestant group allowed which the government has called the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement”. It’s teaching, appointment of leaders and ability to meet freely is tightly regulated and defined by the government. Naturally, they do this because, as every government does, they want their country to flourish and be prosperous for all its citizens, and they believe that complete freedom of religion would jeopardize that goal. Politicians of any country’s government may have this concern, but it is only those that have a big government approach, that are afforded the power to be able to enforce it.

Now you may still think that examples like Islamic countries and socialist China are extreme and bear no resemblance to democratic Western countries, but in the last decade the threat to religious freedom has been growing. Generally, Western countries have been influenced by Christianity, which at its heart teaches that faith in Christ is something that must come freely and can not be forced or enforced (although I acknowledge at times in history this has been foolishly attempted by some rulers). Countries influenced by Christianity have therefore encouraged a separation of Church and State and have enshrined a freedom of religious belief and expression into many of its laws.

THE BIG GOVERNMENT TREND IN THE WEST

What we are now seeing, as Western countries peel off the Christian veneer and as more secularist politicians gain power and influence, is that governments are finding their values and the values of many religious people are starting to become more and more in conflict.

In London earlier this month, some Orthodox Jewish schools were investigated by government education inspectors and have now been told by the courts that they must promote “fundamental British values”. Presiding judge Hugh Brayne said that the ruling was to ensure that students at the Jewish school would “be equipped to enter modern British society, which accepts as part of its diversity civil partnerships, gay marriage, families with same-sex parents and acceptance of transgender persons”.

In the States, just last Friday, in a classic big government approach, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a decree that told all public schools in the country that they had to provide access to toilet, locker room and shower facilities to students based on the gender they identify with rather than based on their actual sex. It wasn’t a law (as schools are under the legal jurisdiction of the state not the federal government) but they have said they would withhold federal funding for those schools that do not comply.

In Australia, these issues are also very relevant with a similar thing happening with the Victorian Labor government pushing its values about sexuality and gender by enforcing the controversial sexuality education program “Safe Schools” in all public schools, whether or not school staff, parents or even students wish to sign up to the program. Also, an article last week in The Daily Telegraph calling to remove the tax free status of churches unless they meet the criteria of a government review. “What is necessary now is for all religious organisations to submit annual financial reports and for the government and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission to review their tax-exempt status.” Now, as much as I think it is valid to stamp out any abuses of the tax free status by religious organisations, it is concerning if financial incentives were ever used to influence churches to align with the values of the government.

In regard to the push for reform of the legal definition of marriage in Australia, questions about big vs small government are integral to the debate. On one hand, a small government approach would suggest that individual citizens should have the freedom to marry however and whoever they choose, or to define marriage however they want. Unfortunately, the parties that openly support the change, such as Labor and the Greens, are generally also supportive of the big government approach. This makes many Christians very concerned that once the change becomes enshrined in law, they will not have the freedom of religion to teach what the bible says about marriage, sexuality and gender in Christian schools, Universities, public forums or possibly even churches. Such teaching will be deemed “hate speech” and “offensive” and a big government approach will see it potentially being legislated against in order to enforce conformity to the government’s values.

A similar concern is felt for Christians involved in businesses that provide services for weddings, such as bakers, wedding planners and photographers. In a small government approach, these Christians would have the freedom to conscientiously object to supporting an event that they believed was morally objectionable based on their religious convictions. I’m still thinking through my position on this, but it is clear that under a big government approach, there will be no debate – they will have to conform to the government’s new definition of marriage or they will be fined for discrimination. We have already seen this happening in some Western countries. Possibly the most well known was a little bakery in Oregon run by a Christian couple who informed a lesbian couple that they couldn’t in good conscience make a cake for their wedding, and a court ordered they pay $135,000 to the couple for the emotional damage caused.

LIKE A TREE BESIDE THE RIVER OF TRUTH

If Western countries don’t want to end up like the oppressive governments mentioned earlier, then they need to be wary of the way the big government approach is being used and accepted more and more. As I explained earlier, the big government approach can be at times helpful. It is definitely a powerful strategy which can use its influence for great good, but at the same time it can be used for evil and oppression as well.

That is why I think the movie, Captain America: Civil War is so interesting in today’s climate. It raises a debate that some people don’t realize needs to be debated. It points out the danger of giving the power over many into the hands of a few. It has made me think through where I stand – be it Team Cap or Team Iron Man. It’s actually a hard choice at the start as both sides make their case quite well, but in the end, Captain America’s concerns are shown to be valid.

Now, I may think through these issues and come to my own conclusion, but in the end, I see my own country slowly sliding towards a bigger and bigger government. With a federal election only a couple of months away, this debate could not be more relevant. I only have one vote though, and so my calling is to simply what I think is right. As the government gets bigger and uses its increased power to try to restrict views that it disagrees with, I will try to remember the words in the movie that inspire Captain America as he sat in that solemn church – words that, in the original comic, Captain America spoke himself:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, YOU move.’”

I don’t know what saying “No, YOU move” might look like in my own circumstances, but I guess over time, I’ll find out.  I also don’t know exactly when a big government approach is better than a small government approach, and visa versa. It’s very complex and I hope I haven’t presented the issues in an unfairly simplistic way. I guess, the more I think about it, the more I feel I side with Team Cap and a small government philosophy. At least in a general sense. Small governments can seem cold and harsh to the poor and the weak, but at least they don’t restrict individual citizens and charitable organisations from caring for those in need. It seems to me that a big government that is corrupt can do much more harm than a small government that is cold. But hey, what do I know? I’m no political analyst. I’m just a guy who saw a cool superhero movie. I’m just someone who is thinking through his position on all these issues. I’m just a Christian. I’m just an individual citizen.

you move

  (638)

Share Button
June 16

The ALIEN & JURASSIC Quadrilogy Parallels

alien park

With the fourth instalment to the Jurassic Park film franchise now in cinemas, I have been musing about its parallels to another great series – The Alien Quadrilogy. Now, as you start thinking about parallels between any two things, you will often see connections that don’t actually exist. I heartily guarantee that that is what I have done here. But hey, if you like movies like I do, and you don’t mind having fun comparing two awesome film series, then read on! (Also, it is worth noting that I may be discussing some key plot points or themes from all of the movies, so **MULTIPLE SPOILER ALERTS**)

THE “MONSTERS”

alien_vs_raptor_avr_by_vytorThe first, and simplest parallel is that they are both sort-of “monster” movies, and the beasts in each series are called that as well. In Aliens, the young girl named Newt says: “My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are.”, and in Jurassic Park, the young girl named Lex says: “Don’t let the monsters come over here.” The movies follow a lot of the standard monster movie plotlines, with scary things lurking behind every corner and people in peril trying to fight or flee from strange and deadly creatures. In both series, the threatening monsters are lizard-like, generally standing on two legs, with a long tail and a mouthful of sharp teeth. In a real stretch, trying to parallel these two monsters, I even recall that in Alien 3 one of the characters, Golic, calls the alien a “dragon” and there is a theory that dragons became part of our mythologies across the world in various cultures due to ancient interactions between humans and dinosaurs.

Having said that, the reason why I say they are “sort of” monster movies, is because in both series the young girls are actually wrong to call them by that name. As Dr Grant says in Jurassic Park, “They’re not monsters, Lex. They’re just animals.” In neither series are the creatures portrayed as mythical or magical. They are simply a different species (however physically superior) to humans – one being an alien and the other being a dinosaur. In regard to storytelling, this adds to the drama in a way that wouldn’t be as effective if they were actually “monsters”. You can imagine them being real and you can put yourself in the shoes of the humans. Fortunately though, because both aliens and dinosaurs are not part of our present lives on earth, their separation from our experience makes them more fantastical and open to more interpretation. This of course makes for great cinema, as both aliens and dinosaurs can be grounded in reality and fantasy at the same time.

THE THEMES

Man vs Nature
There are many common themes scattered throughout the Aliens and Jurassic quadrilogies. There is the whole “man vs nature” battle, exploring the folly of human beings to think they can control a powerful natural force, as represented by the aliens/dinosaurs. For the Jurassic series, this is the #1 main theme in Jurassic Park as Dr Ellie Sattler says, “The question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it?” It is also a small theme in The Lost World, where the character Sarah Harding thinks she can only “observe and document, not interact.” and Ian Malcolm points out that that is “a scientific impossibility. Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. What you study, you change.” It’s not so much of a theme in Jurassic Park 3 (the weakest of the quadrilogy) but it definitely comes back as a big theme in Jurassic World, where there are characters trying to train dinosaurs, contain dinosaurs, genetically modify dinosaurs and use them for a variety of evil purposes. In the Aliens series, this theme is strongest in the second instalment, Aliens, with the arrogance of the marines thinking it will be easy to kill the aliens, but like the Jurassic series it definitely comes back in the fourth film, Alien: Resurrection, where there are characters trying to train aliens, contain aliens, genetically modify aliens and use them for a variety of evil purposes.

Genetics
Touching on “genetic modification”, I would actually say is its own theme worth discussing as it plays into both series in important ways. In the Aliens series, the alien takes on the genetic characteristics of the species that it bursts out of. This is not pointed out in the first two movies (though it is consistent with their humanoid arms and legs), but it is demonstrated in Alien 3 where the alien bursts out of a dog (or a bull in the far superior director’s cut version) and consequently runs around on all fours. This genetic modification means that the alien can improve upon and have an advantage over the species in its vicinity (if a ridiculously fast life cycle and acid for blood wasn’t enough). In the Jurassic series, the dinosaurs only exist because they have been genetically combined with the DNA of frogs. This genetic modification meant that the dinosaurs could spontaneously change gender to get past the “all dinosaurs are girls” limitation and ensuring their advantage over the humans. In both cases “life will find a way” for humans to be on the menu.

indominus-rex-environment-boxAs well as this, the writers of both series apparently run out of good ideas and in the fourth film of both series, the arrogant humans begin making genetically modified hybrid creatures. In Alien: Resurrection, Ripley (or the clone of Ripley) is a genetic hybrid of human and alien and there is also a big bad alien that is a genetic hybrid of human and alien as well. In Jurassic World, the big bad Indominus Rex is a genetic hybrid of T-Rex, Velociraptor, Carnotaurus, Giganotosaurus, Majungasaurus, Rugops, Cuttlefish and tree frog. And why did the scientists in both series use genetic modification in their respective fourth film? So they could turn their monster into a weapon to be used by the military. Yikes! If that’s not a parallel, I don’t know what is! Personally, I think both series were just trying to “increase the wow factor” and by the fourth movie in the franchise, they didn’t leave themselves many places to go other than creating weaponised hybrid monsters. It may have nicely fit in the overarching “men vs nature” theme, but as I’d have to agree with Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady when he says, “Probably not a good idea.”

Corporations
A big theme in both quadrilogies is the Corporate Machine. In the Aliens series, the corporation is Weyland industries – a company that travels to distant worlds and turns them into financially viable habitats. In the Jurassic series, the corporation is InGen – a company that travels to distant islands and turns them into financially viable theme parks. Both companies are greedy, idealistic, deceptive and interested primarily in how they might use the creature, rather than protect the people it might kill. In the first movies of both series, there is no one person who represents the coldness of the company – In Alien there is the robot, Ash (who is cold but not really human) and in Jurassic Park there is Dr John Hammond (who is human but not really cold). In the second movie of both franchise they really bring in perfectly slimy, corporate villain in the character Carter Burke (Aliens) and the character Peter Ludlow (The Lost World). Both of these villains are not personally violent or aggressive. They simply represent the interests of the corporation and in the second movie of both series, they share the storyline of being willing to put people in harms way in order to try to capture the creature and bring it back to the general population.

Women
Another theme in both quadrilogies is women and motherhood. This wasn’t going to be the way for Alien, as the iconic lead female character of Ellen Ripley was originally a man named Martin Roby in the first draft of the script, but the producer decided to change it to a woman, casting the then-unknown actress Sigorney Weaver in the role, and the rest is history.  Aliens, the second in the series, saw the return of Ripley as the kick-ass female heroine, but they added a new element, the little girl, Newt. The maternal themes are very strong as Ripley does everything to protect and rescue Newt from the other motherly figure in the film – the Queen Alien. The final battle involving Ripley, the Queen and Newt is fantastic and a great scene of feminine strength, containing the most awesome line of the entire quadrilogy… “Get away from her you BITCH!”. This motherhood theme is even more emphasised in the director’s cut of Aliens, where we have a scene that was cut from the theatrical release. In it, we find out that Ripley had a daughter back on earth, but sadly, as Ripley was in hypersleep for 57 years (between the first and second film), her daughter had died at the age of 66, only 2 years before Ripley was woken up. This grief of the lost of her child, was clearly supposed to be part of the maternal driving force behind her desire to look after Newt at all costs.

In the next two Alien films the motherhood theme continues with Ripley being impregnated with a Queen alien in Alien 3, which she discovered while getting an ultrasound (evoking a very maternal scene) and even when the alien bursts out of her in the final scene she holds it to her breast lovingly. In the fourth film, Alien: Resurrection the final scene shows the hybrid alien rejecting its real Alien mother and turning to Ripley believing she is actually her mother.

In the Jurassic quadrilogy, womanhood and maternal themes are also present. In almost all four films there are strong female characters: In Jurassic Park, there’s the strong, intelligent paleobotanist, Ellie Satler who doesn’t mind digging her hands into a giant pile of dino poop, and has the funny line, “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.” Alongside her, there’s also the young, sassy character of Lex, who is a computer hacker and ends up saving the day by getting the security system back on line.  In The Lost World, we have Dr Sarah Harding, a rouge behavioural paleontologist who doesn’t worry about being around dinosaurs because, as she says, “I’ve worked around predators since I was 20 years old – Lions, jackals, hyenas.” There is also the annoying 12 year old character, Kelly Curtis, whose gymnastics scene is regarded as one of the most ridiculous in the entire quadrilogy, but she is also noted by fans as being the only person in the entire series who successfully kills a velociraptor, so she’s not at all a damsel in distress – just a terrible actor.

The Lost World, also has the theme of parenthood amongst the dinosaurs at its core. Dr Sarah Harding says that the reason why she is on the island is because she is “trying to change 100 years of entrenched dogma. Dinosaurs were characterised very early on as vicious lizards. There’s a great deal of resistance to the idea of them as nurturing parents. Robert Burke said that the T.rex was a rogue, who would abandon its young at the earliest opportunity… I can prove otherwise.” And the conclusion of the movie is that she does prove otherwise as shown by the very final scene of T-Rex couple caring for their young, along with other dinosaurs doing the same.

In Jurassic Park 3 & Jurassic World (the two Speilberg didn’t direct), the themes of motherhood are present, but sadly they drop the ball in terms of strong female characters. In fact, recently there Jurassic-world-1has been much discussion about Jurassic World’s character, Claire Dearing, and whether her character is in fact, a sexist caricature. After seeing one scene with her in it, Joss Whedon (writer/director of Marvel’s Avengers) tweeted that he was “wishing this clip wasn’t ’70s-era sexist. She’s a stiff, he’s a life-force – really? Still?” In Jurassic World, Claire is a hard working single woman who manages an enormous theme park, but instead of being portrayed as intelligent, strong and resourceful, they made her emotionally stagnate, incompetent, ignorant and generally a bad person for being too busy to look after her nephews. In a conversation with her sister over the phone she pines for the sad reality that she thinks she’ll never have children, and he sister quickly encourages her, “Don’t talk like that. It’ll happen for you. One day.” and a little later her sister begins crying and tells Claire that she’d understand if she were a mother. I’m not saying that the desire to be a mother isn’t a worthwhile theme. It just wasn’t done with any sophistication or with respect to single working women. If this weren’t enough, the velociraptors, which were untameable female killing machines in the first film, are in Jurassic World, able to be trained by Owen Grady because he is the “alpha” and in the end, Claire seems to get her wish of being a mum when Owen tames her as well, grabbing and kissing her in that painfully old fashioned mucho man way. The one glimmer of hope was when the comic relief character, Lowery Cruthers, swoops in to give his female coworker a similar kiss and she stops him and explains that she has a boyfriend. It was probably the funniest moment of the film and for me, it redeemed a little bit of the 2-dimensional gender stereotyping.

THE QUADRILOGY

Now you may think I’ve just been cherry-picking themes that match and ignoring the themes that are different between the two series… and you’d be absolutely right. There’s heaps of things I’ve ignored because they don’t line up. I make no claim that these films were deliberately trying to copy each other. I’ve just been noticing some things that do seem to match. I’ll finish this post with a summary of each film, side by side, so you can see the parallels that I have been noticing.

Film 1/4: “Alien” & “Jurassic Park”
A small group is requested to travel to a distant, isolated place where they discover an amazing species they never believed could exist. This lizard-like creature then begins killing everyone and they spend the rest of the movie hunting, running away, hiding and trying to escape to safety. This movie is the first of the series and it is a simple, classic and brilliantly directed movie. It is regarded by the fans as the best one of the quadrilogy.

Film 2/4: “Aliens” & “The Lost World”
One character from the first film is vowing never to return to the place where the lizard-like creatures were, but after they are told that other people have already gone there and they have lost contact with them, they are convinced to go there to try to rescue them. As a sequel, this film tries to be bigger and badder than the first. Naturally, therefore it contains more creatures, more colourful characters, more explosions and more dramatic action sequences. It has a slimy corporate sleaze-bag as the main villain who wants to take the creatures back to civilisation, but who in the end, gets eaten by the very creature he is wanting to exploit. This film also reveals that the creature is not just a dumb animal, but it also has a human-like parental desire to protect its young.

Film 3/4: “Alien 3” & “Jurassic Park 3”
Characters get accidentally stranded on an isolated place where they – and everyone else – is in danger of being eaten by one of the creatures. As this film is the third in the series, they creators felt the need to make it more interesting, and so the creature is different from the previous films and can do things that has not been seen before. Due to this straying from the formula, this third film was not received well and by many is regarded as the worst of the quadrilogy. They couldn’t even think of a clever title! They just got the name from the first film and put a number 3 on the end. Oh, yeah, one last thing… The first name of the main hero is “Ellen/Alan”.

Film 4/4: “Alien: Resurrection” & “Jurassic World”
Set many years after the last films, now the corporation is keeping many creatures in captivity where they are observed by humans behind the safety of glass walls. Everything is now quite commercial and driven by the greedy desires of the big company that believes that they own the creatures and can do with them what they wish. This arrogance leads the humans to experiment with genetically modified hybrid creatures, mixing various species together in order to try to make something completely unique. Their ultimate goal is to weaponise the hybrid creatures so they can be used by the military. Naturally, their arrogance leads to their own destruction as the creatures escape captivity and begin killing everyone in their path. A small group, led by the one person who has a special bond with the creatures, sets out to hunt down the creatures and save the day, but the final big confrontation actually happens between two of the creatures – one, the new genetically-modified hybrid creature and the other, an old-school female creature, harkening back to the earlier films. This last film draws together many of the themes of the previous three, but is not as well crafted as any of the others in my opinion.

Film 5?
There is talk of the series continuing, but we will see if anything eventuates.

So, there you have it. My musing about some of the parallels between two awesome quadrilogies.

If you can spot any more parallels, please put them in the comments below!

 

(1394)

Share Button
August 12

A Poetic Reflection on Robin Williams’ Death

robin_williams_img_704

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Another sad and tragic case
Of outward smiles and funny face
Hiding a pain no one could hear
Over the laughter, praise and cheers

Two times divorced would take their toll
Depression, drugs and alcohol
He slipped into a darker hole
He’d gained the world but lost his soul

But wipe away the comic mask
And deeper questions there you’ll ask
Is what this world will call “success”
Enough to cover up our mess?

The crowd’s applause his talent brought
His breathless death has now made naught
He has escaped only to run
Before an audience of One

Farewell Robin, you made me laugh
But now I’ll weep on your behalf

(1841)

Share Button
April 3

Simon’s review of “Noah” – the film

noah_sad

This is titled “Simon’s review of Noah – the film” because my last blog was titled, “Jesus’ review of Noah“. If you haven’t read it, please do, as I talk a bit about the movie (before I had seen it) and I discuss what I think is a fascinating topic – namely, what Jesus said about the original Old Testament story of Noah. If you’d like to read it, CLICK HERE.

About 40 minutes ago I had just finished watching Darren Aronofsky’s new film, “Noah”. I went into the film with a few clear expectations…

1. It was not going to be biblically accurate.bible
Even Aronofsky called his own film, “the least biblical biblical film ever made”. So there was no way I was going to get offended by the fact they were going to stray from the source material.

2. It’s directed by Darren Aronofsky.
This is the same guy who did Requiem for a Dream  and Black Swan. So, I knew it was going to be a bit weird.

3. Darren Aronofsky is an atheist.
I’m Godless.” He has said, “And so I’ve had to make my God, and my God is narrative filmmaking.” So I didn’t expect a reflection on biblical themes or a portrayal of “the Creator” (as God is constantly referred to in the film) from the perspective of someone who has an intimate relationship with God.

4. It’s had mixed reviews.
Some have said it’s amazing. Some have said it’s just a bad film. Lots of Christian commentators have critiqued its distortions of the Bible and its message. So I was going in with not very high expectations.

5. There are rock monsters.
These creatures are very loosely inspired by the “Nephilim” from Genesis 6:4. I didn’t know how much of a part they played, but I knew they had been getting lots of flack. So I was at least prepared for their presence in the film.

So, having all that in the back of my mind, I went to see it tonight with my wife, ready for anything. I thought I was prepared. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. Here are a few of the things that surprised me…

(Spoiler Alert! I will be conscious that you may not have seen the film, but I probably will reveal a few details that you do not get from the trailers. I’ll try not to spoil anything that would spoil the experience if you do go see it)

1. I hated the rock monsters.original
Not because they were an unbiblical and unnecessary silly addition to the film. I just thought they looked crap! I can cope with an atheist butchering a bible story. What I can’t cope with, in this day and age, is an esteemed director like Aronofsky letting such shockingly bad CGI get on the silver screen! They looked like they were either puppeteered against a green screen or done with stop motion! Maybe they were animated in that way to pay tribute to Ray Harryhausen (the master of stop motion monsters) who died last year. Personally, I think they added very little to the film and were more of a weird distraction that made me feel like I was watching Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth” at times. Hey, Jennifer Connelly was the lead actress in both those films so maybe it was intentional!

2. It was pretty cool.
It had a consistently interesting and cinematic look to it. The costumes were cool, the sets were cool, the acting was cool, the actors were cool, the sound effects were cool, the visual effects (apart from the rock monsters) were cool. It was a cool movie. Well worth seeing on the big screen for the visual feast that it was.

3. It wasn’t at all Godless.
I had heard some criticisms that God is absent in the film just because the word “God” is not used. But the “Creator” (as God is called) is not only mentioned throughout the film, he clearly and unambiguously makes things happen. I was worried they were going to sort of make out that it was all in Noah’s head. Now, sure, he received the message to build the ark through dreams (whereas in the Bible God just speaks to Noah), but God is very clearly acting when a forest miraculously appears and all the animals come to the ark and the worldwide flood comes along. Even the rock monsters are evidence of a divine being. There’s no hint that Noah is just making it all up or it was just a localised flood or something like that to turn it into a Godless story. God is depicted as just and merciful, directly active and working through the lives and choices of people. There is a reoccurring theme of characters asking why God is silent (it’s mentioned by at least three separate characters), which was disappointing because that’s the exact opposite of what the original story says, but at least God was present throughout. If you know your Bible, he was a lot more obvious in this film than he is in the Book of Esther, that’s for sure!

God’s direction and command was an interesting theme in the film I thought. When Noah is given the command to build the ark because the flood is coming, that is all pretty clear (albeit given through a series of dreams). And it’s the right thing to do, no question. But later (spoiler alert) when Noah feels that because humans are so sinful, even he and all his family should not be spared and so he plans to kill his granddaughter so the human race will die out, abraham-and-isaac-on-mount-moriahthere is no dream from God. There is a sort of dream sequence where he sees the evil of mankind and realises that he and his family have the seed of evil in them as well, but the idea that everyone must die to save the earth, is one mission that he concludes on his own. He feels that that is what God wants him to do, but everyone else disagrees with him and he has no vision or sign to prove otherwise. Just is own convictions. It has echoes of Abraham being commanded to kill his son Isaac, just without the command.

I thought it was great reminder to not just conclude what God might want you to do when he has not given you instruction on the matter – especially when it comes to something you can’t take back, like killing someone! I’ll try not to spoil what he does with his moral dilemma, but I was a bit disappointed with how they handled it. There were lots of opportunities for the message that “mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13) to shine through, from the rock monster who asks God for forgiveness and then is saved, to the act of a character being healed from her barrenness, to the perfect provision of the girls (it’s a bit creepy but you have to see the film to understand the point of that one). But in the end, it all sort of got watered down to, “mercy only triumphs over judgement when it’s mercy for your own cute granddaughters that you’re feeling loving towards”.

4. It was all about how sinful humans are.
Now, some have criticised the film for being just environmentalist propaganda, and sure it laid it on pretty thick especially with Noah and his family all being vegetarians (though correct me if I’m wrong, but were they wearing leather?). Despite this, the idea of humans destroying the earth was just one of the ways that “Man” is shown to be corrupt. They rape, steal, kill, covet and generally are just plain bad… except the girls of course. Interestingly, the women are all good in this film. There was not one really evil woman in the entire story. But that aside, the theme of how bad we really are, was scattered throughout. The flood itself is seen as a just judgement for mankind’s wickedness. The big question that is raised, is “Are Noah and his family innocent?” At first Noah is content to ride along with the animals (who are deemed innocent because they live as they did in the Garden of Eden), but about half way cainthrough the film, he realises that even he and all his family have mixed motives and sinful inclinations. His wife tries to get him to see that there is also good in all of them as well (I had flashbacks of Luke Skywalker trying to convince Darth Vader), but he concludes that the world would be better off without us. Even in the end, when it doesn’t all end in humanity’s extinction (shock horror), Emma Watson’s character asks him to stick around and not kill everyone so he can be a grandfather and help us all be better this time.

The funny thing is, we know the rest of the story! Noah’s descendants are not much better! The whole point of the environmentalist theme is to convict us about the fact that we still kill and ravage the planet and we are still full of sin and conflicted desires. The question of the “goodness” of humanity is sort of concluded with a message like: “HUMANS – WE REALLY ARE SINFUL, BUT WITH LOVE IN OUR HEARTS WE DESERVE ANOTHER GO”.

Now, if you know the original story, this has elements of the truth. Noah is described as a “righteous” man, but this doesn’t mean he was perfect. It means he was “right with God”. But he was still sinful, and so was all his family. This is most clearly shown in the fact that the very first thing they did when they got out of the ark was make a sacrifice. (see Genesis 8:18-21) That’s right! They killed an animal and offered it as an act of humility and appeal to God for mercy. And God responds to their sacrifice by promising not to wipe everyone out with a flood ever again “even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Nothing has changed in the human heart by the end of the biblical story. God’s justice and mercy has been clearly shown, but mankind’s sin remains the same. That’s why the sacrifice was needed.

In fact, the sacrificial system (though only a new thing back in Genesis) was a bigger part of the Noah story than people realise. It definitely was completely skipped in Aronofsky’s version of the story. You see, Noah wasn’t actually told to put two of every kind of animal in the ark. Check out Genesis 7:1-4. He was told to put two of every kid of “unclean” animal, but he had to put SEVEN of every kind of “clean” animal. Why more “clean” animals? Because they were the ones you were allowed to sacrifice. Even before the flood came, the biblical story tells us, God was providing a way for Noah and his descendants to remain in righteousness (right relationship with God). It wasn’t through being more good than bad. It wasn’t through puttin’ a little love in your heart. It was through sacrifice and the mercy of God. It’s actually the sacrifice of a “clean” animal in the place of an “unclean” sinner, that makes way for God’s mercy to a people that actually deserve judgement. This theme is carried all the way through the bible and is ultimately fulfilled in the one person the whole system was pointing to – Jesus. The original story of Noah concludes with the message that “mercy triumphs over judgment through sacrifice”. Which is a very simplistic, but accurate, description of the New Testament gospel.

I wasn’t surprised the Aronofsky missed this message in his film, but I was surprised of how much he explored the theme. Apart from his weak ending, I thought he explored it well and raised great questions and moral dilemmas about the sinfulness of the human heart and whether we can overcome it.

noah sacrifice

5. My last surprise is that I can heartily recommend this film.

Now, if you’re the sort of person who gets offended by films like “Life of Brain” and “Constantine” due to their biblical inaccuracies, then give it a miss. On the other hand, If you’re the sort of person that bases your knowledge of the bible on films like “The Da Vinci Code” and “End of Days”, then please also give it a miss. Remember Aronofsky’s comment that it’s “the least biblical biblical film ever made” and just go read the Bible itself. Noah’s story is only 4 short chapters (Genesis 6-9).

But if, like me, you are interested in what a weird atheist director like Darren Aronofsky might do with a tale like Noah, and you’re fascinated by how the world explores issues like judgment, mercy, love, sin and human nature, then you don’t have to boycott this film to make some sort of protest. If you have the ability to think and critique and discuss and reflect, then go see this film with a big bag of popcorn and a good friend to chat about it afterwards!

(2789)

Share Button
March 31

Jesus’ review of “Noah”

Noah movie

There’s lots of movie reviews about the new film “Noah” by director, Darren Aronofsky. Some praise it, some can it, some grieve that it’s not a close enough depiction of the actual Bible story, and some have even said that the film is “the least biblical biblical film ever made”. Actually, that last quote is from the director, Darren Aronofsky himself (see here), so I don’t know what some Christians are getting so offended by. It’s not a biblical film. End of debate. The film has even been released by Paramount with the following clarifying statement:

“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”

NoahAndTheFloodWell, I think it’s maybe a bit of a stretch to say the story of Noah is a “cornerstone of faith”, but at least they point to where you can actually read the biblical account.

Some people debate whether the story of Noah is true history or just a fable. Whether it can be adapted with rock monsters, or whether it is just totally irrelevant for modern audiences. What interests me, as a follower of Jesus, is whether Jesus has anything to say on the topic.

You might not worship Jesus as I do, but most people have a general respect for Jesus and his teaching. Christians are criticised if they ignore things that Jesus clearly taught on, like caring for the poor, and they are also criticised if they focus too much on topics that Jesus didn’t specifically talk about, like homosexuality. And rightly so, I say. Jesus’ teaching matters, and if he taught on something clearly, it should be acknowledged as a core part of Christianity.

Now, Jesus didn’t give a movie review of Aronofsky’s film, but it may surprise you that he did give a commentary on the source material. In both the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Luke it is recorded that Jesus referred to the story of Noah and taught how we should apply it to our own lives. Aronofsky, said in an interview with MTV (see here) that the biblical story of Noah is “the first apocalypse story – it’s about the end of the world” and Jesus picks up on this exact theme. When Jesus reviewed Noah, he uses it as an analogy of the last apocalypse story – the actual end of the world – referring to his Second Coming.

Now, if you have never read the actual original story of Noah, you should probably read it before you hear Jesus’ review of it. It’s not that long and you can find it in Genesis 6-9. But if you are familiar with it, let’s read Jesus’ teaching from the gospel of Matthew (you can find the same account in Luke 17:22-36).

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:36-42)

Now, for a bit of context, this passage fits in a larger section where Jesus is teaching about the “coming of the Son of Man”. This is referring to the idea that jesusbrb-434 copysome time after his death, resurrection and ascension, he will return as judge and saviour of the world. If the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus or “Judgement Day” is new to you, then you might want to read other places in the Bible that talk about it (like the whole of Matthew 24-25, or much of the Book of Revelation, or even the end of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament) Hebrews 9:28 sums up the first and second coming of Christ very nicely I think: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

So if Jesus is teaching about the “Second Coming”, why does he talk about the story of Noah? What do they have in common and what aspects of the Noah story does Jesus apply to us as relevant for our lives? He says in verse 37, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” So basically, he uses it as a simile. It’s a sermon illustration. Jesus is saying, experiencing his Second Coming will be like experiencing Noah’s flood. But in what way? Well, Jesus mentions 3 aspects:

1. It will be unexpected.

That seems to be Jesus’ main point. He stressed that only God the Father knows when the Second Coming will happen and concludes with the warning to “keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”. The story of Noah is used by Jesus as an analogy of this. People were just going about their daily lives (eating, drinking, marrying etc.) and were completely unprepared for the flood to come. In the verse after the passage above, Jesus uses the analogy of a thief coming to rob a house to make the same point. And what is the point? Don’t be like them and be unprepared. You won’t know when it’s going to come, so make sure you are ready for Jesus’ Second Coming. Everyone around you may be unprepared, but don’t you be.

2. Some will be taken away for judgement.

Jesus isn’t in any way afraid or embarrassed to talk about an ultimate final judgement. The idea that God will one day separate all of mankind into two groups – one to live with God forever and one to be separated from God forever – is a reality that is spoken throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament. Anyone who wishes to engage with Jesus’ teaching (and especially anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus) must engage with the fact that Jesus taught very clearly about Judgement Day. He spoke about hell. It’s unpleasant. It’s unfortunate. But you can’t argue that it’s un-Jesus. The most foolish thing to do would be to simply live your lives – eating, drinking and marrying – without engaging with this part of Jesus’ teaching. That would really miss Jesus’ point! Jesus uses the story of the flood that took some away to point us to a future event that will also take some away. Not all will be saved and Jesus is warning us to so that we might not be in that group.

3. Some will be left.

The other parallel to the story of Noah and the Second Coming is that not all will be taken away. Some will be left. Some will be spared. Who are these people? Well, in the story of Noah Jesus says it’s those who “entered the ark”. This is quite similar imagery to the parable of the “Ten Virgins” that Jesus tells in the very next chapter (you can read it in Matthew 25:1-13). In both this parable and the story of Noah, those who are prepared go inside something and those who are unprepared are stuck outside the door. Jesus links both of these as analogies of his Second Coming. In the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus is represented by the returning Bridegroom. In the Noah story, who is Jesus? Is Jesus saying he is like Noah, ushering people into the place of safety in preparation for the coming judgement? Or is Jesus saying he is the ark itself, and that only in him are we protected from being taken away? Either way, he uses the story of Noah to point to himself as the one who can bring salvation.

JusticeandMercyIn his MTV interview, Darren Aronofsky said of his film, “It’s about justice. And over the course of the film, mercy and grace are learned.” Now, I know as a staunch Atheist he has taken a lot of liberties with the text and probably doesn’t care what Jesus thinks about the message of the story of Noah, but I think the above quote is pretty on the money. Both the story of Noah and the Second Coming are not simply about judgement and justice. They are about mercy and grace as well. That is what the Christian gospel proclaims. That is why Jesus came. That is what we see in the crucifixion of Jesus. Justice as God condemns sin in the sacrifice of Jesus, and mercy as Jesus dies in our place and we are offered forgiveness.

I might be seeing Aronofsky’s interpretation of Noah later this week. If you want a review of it, there are tons on YouTube (here’s one I like). But in the end, I’m more interested in Jesus’ interpretation of Noah. Jesus’ review is that the biblical story of Noah is an action-packed, dramatic morality tale that also has a redemptive theme and makes relevant commentary for a modern audience as to how they should live and what their future may hold.

I think Jesus would give the biblical story 5 Stars.

 

  (1583)

Share Button
June 2

Living “Free-to-air” Free

Break glass BLOG

I’ll never forget how my Year 10 Media Studies teacher described television: “TV is a series of programs to keep you watching in between the commercials.” It may have been a bit of a cynical view (I’m sure there are many artistic purists in the television industry), but from that point on I began noticing how much advertising was on television.

TV+addictAn average prime-time show on tv has about 20 minutes of advertising PER HOUR! That means 1/3 of your viewing time is filled with companies telling you that you need to buy their product or service. That is why “free-to-air” TV is not really free. You have to pay in time and brain space as your mind is filled with messages of materialism, greed, dissatisfaction and the woes of “first world problems”. And the hope is that you will continue to pay when you step into your nearest shopping centre or drive past your local car yard. If the marketplace was a church, then TV commercials are their never-ending sermon!

For many years I wanted to try an experiment… to live “free-to-air” free. I realised that free-to-air tv did not hold much interest for me. This was not always the case. When I was young, it was a real family treat to sit down and watch “Hey, Hey it’s Saturday” or “Murder She Wrote” or even “Neighbours” when it first came out. But over the years, as more and more “reality television” shows filled the time slots and it became easier to purchase tv series that I liked on DVD, I came to realise what tv had become in my life – Plonkvision. It was the thing I turned on in the morning as I had my breakfast and it was the thing I turned on when I came home from school or Uni or work as I plonked on the couch. It was mindless background noise.absloute-reality-tv

I wondered what my life would be like if I didn’t have free to air tv. I wasn’t so radical as to consider getting rid of the tv altogether. No way! My dad had brought me up on a staple diet of classic movies and my love for cinema is something I really enjoyed. I also had purchased a playstation 3 and a nice tv, so the bold move of getting rid of all that was probably not on my radar! But I did muse about whether I really needed the aerial. That little cord that connected me to the plonkvision world of two thirds reality tv and one third commercials. Would I really miss it?

Well, at the beginning of 2012, as I was moving into the apartment where my soon-to-be wife and I would live, I asked my then-fiance Cat what she thought of the idea. She liked it, as she also wasn’t really interested in tv shows other than the ones she had on DVD (which she had heaps of). So when we got married on the 21st of January 2012, we tried it as an experiment. It has been 16 months since then, and I thought I might share some of our findings so far.

 

1. IT’S NOT EASY TO WEAN OFF IT.

Despite the fact that I didn’t really have an interest in the actual shows on tv, I discovered that I had developed a habit of turning on the plonkvision whenever I had some down-time. In the first few days I literally became anxious and agitated, like a smoker trying to give up nicotine. And really, that’s what had happened – I had become addicted to free-to-air tv.

tv-brainThe consistent practice of turning on the tv when I got home and plonked on the couch had trained my brain to expect that stimulus. It became a soothing and relaxing practise. A way of winding down. Not because of any content that was on the tv – that was almost incidental – but it was the action itself, the bright colours and the familiar noise of brainless programs and commercial that my brain had grown dependant on.

So initially, when I took it away, my brain craved it like a baby crying out for its security blanket. I was actually surprised by this at first, as I hadn’t realised it had become such a habit in my life. But my commitment to the experiment forced me to find other things to do. Fortunately, I loved to play the piano, practise magic tricks, write blogs and do lots of other things that relax me, and those other hobbies were not filled with commercials! Imagine if they were. Imagine if every 6 minutes of me playing the piano, someone came into my house and told me to buy stuff for 3 minutes and then left for another 6 minutes or so. What hell that would be!

Weaning off free-to-air tv has helped me develop lots of other healthier and less time-wasting ways of relaxing. I still plonk for an hour or so at the end of the day, which is a habit I also may need to break (especially when I have kids), but there are other reasons why I am glad I don’t use free-to-air tv to do it.

 

2. CHOICE RATHER THAN DISCOVERY

The main benefit that I have found in living “fre-to-air” free, is this one powerful reality: If I turn on the TV I am choosing rather than discovering what is going to go on the screen.

The TV is no longer a portal to the free-to-air tv world. It is simply a monitor. It is plugged in to my playstation so I can watch a movie or play a game of my choosing  It is also plugged into my Apple TV device – which we most often use for its online radio function and to bring up what’s on my iPad on to a larger screen (for example, I use it in Bible Studies, to bring up the text we are working on or to show relevant YouTube clips).

I still use the tv heaps, but now it is simply a screen. I choose the quality and the appropriateness of the content that it will display, not a television network that has less than my best interests at heart.

In regard to relaxing, this does require a little more effort as you have to actually think about what movie or game you are in the mood for. But that’s a great thing I find! Consider this senario… Cat & I are in the mood for watching a movie after dinner (or during dinner if we’re feeling more lazy). Now, whenever we feel like this when we’re on holidays and we’re in a hotel room with free-to-air tv, we say “Well, let’s see what’s on tv.” We turn it on and discover the only thing half worth blurayswatching is a trashy 80’s horror flick which we inevitably get sucked into and then HAVE to watch it to the end just to see how the stupid plot concludes. Cat is left feeling crap (she doesn’t really like horror) and I am left feeling like we paid all this money to stay in a hotel room to pay for 90 minutes that I will never get back!

At home on the other hand, where we live “free-to-air” free, instead of saying, “Well, let’s see what’s on tv”, we ask each other, “What sort of movie are you in the mood for?” It gives us both the opportunity to love and serve each other as we offer suggestions and try to find a movie that will both enjoy. Some nights we watch “Sister Act”. Some nights we watch “Die Hard”. And because Cat doesn’t really like scary movies, we almost never watch horror. A movie night becomes a way of consciously choosing for the sake of the other, rather than simply discovering what is being offered to us by someone else.

 

3. IT’S GOOD FOR PURITY

Apparently, due to a recent study, it’s said that men think about sex around 19 times a day (much better than the myth of “every 7 seconds”). Whatever is the case, one thing I know is that for a Christian guy in this sex-saturated world, the thing you have to think about  – is purity. Christian guys (and increasingly girls) are getting sucked into, shaped by and addicted to this pornified culture and although internet porn is probably the biggest problem, tv can also be a particular trap.

1156296_vector_warning_sign copyI used to find late night tv a real danger as I was getting tired and my other housemates had gone to bed. I’d start thinking, “It’s late. I need to get to sleep” as my zombified brain would be mindlessly flicking channels. Suddenly, I’d come across something that warned me of the nudity and sex scenes that would be featured in the upcoming movie. My mind (and the Holy Spirit) would say, “turn it off now”, but like the fool described in Proverbs 7:22-23, my lustful heart would be stirred and the weakness of my lack of discipline would be proved once again as I get led off “like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose.”  This scenario is not uncommon for Christian guys and all Christians who care about avoiding it and other areas of sexual temptation should consider what they can do to simply reduce the chance that they will be exposed to it.

In regard to the “forbidden woman” being talked about in Proverbs, Solomon’s advice is “Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house.” (Proverbs 5:8). Jesus gives an even more radical teaching on the subject of sexual purity, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-29)

The message is, don’t put yourself in temptation’s way. Run from even the potential of sexual immorality. Be radical! Walk on the other side of the street, gouge out your eyes, or if you struggle with sexually explicit stuff on free-to-air tv then why not like me, get rid of the aerial. Living “free-to-air” free does not change the lust in my heart – that is a cooperative work between me and the Holy Spirit over time – but what it does do is removes a source of temptation, which is always a wise thing to do. Like I mentioned in the second point, having to choose what you watch on tv rather than just discovering what’s on, may be good for you and your marriage in more ways than one.

 

4. YOU’RE NOT LOCKED IN

As Cat & I weaned ourselves off of watching free-to-air tv, we compensated it by watching a lot of tv shows on DVD. I know that illegally downloading tv shows is pretty common nowadays, but as Christians we didn’t want to do that and so we would either watch online shows on something like ABC iView or we would buy the series we were interested in.

We’d often wait for a sale at JB HiFi and pick up a few and then work our way through them over many months. Or, we’d give ourself a prize or a treat for some other area of discipline that we were working on by buying a BluRay of a tv series from Amazon UK (If you didn’t know, the UK has the same BluRay region as Australia and Amazon can sometimes be a lot cheaper).

2012-07-30-Olympic-wrestle-for-the-remote-600

Now a lot of people don’t want to spend money on buying tv series that they could watch on free-to-air tv, but we have found the financial investment is not all that huge and in the end it’s really worth it. The lack of commercials chopping up the show is fantastic and the addition of special features is also pretty cool, but one of the major things I like about watching a tv series on DVD is that you are not “locked in” in the same way you are on free-to-air tv.

What I mean is, when it comes to watching a show on free-to-air tv, even if you are not in the mood for it, you feel forced to watch the show because the time it is on is set. The potential of missing a show actually causes some people a fair bit of anxiety and can cause arguments between those who live together. Some people solve this conflict by buying a tv recorder, but that can sometimes create an even worse scenario. You then have the freedom to record every show that you want and I know Christian married couples who now fight over making time to watch all the shows that they have now recorded!

Also, different shows create different types of moods. Some shows are light and fluffy, others are heavy and disturbing. Watching a show on DVD allows you to turn the show off or put off watching it if you don’t feel it would be helpful to you or those you live with.

Breaking-Bad-S1

For example, Cat & I love “Breaking Bad”. We have bought the first 4 seasons of it and we think the performances and scripting is amazing. But the show is really intense and the themes are very heavy and at times quite unsettling. Cat & I watched the first two seasons and began watching the third but found that we were being left in a dark place after watching the show. It even was causing me to have bad dreams about divorce, marital conflict and infidelity (some of the side themes in the show). It was so interesting and captivating to watch, but we were finding it not healthy for our marriage or our personal mood, and so we stopped watching it. We now haven’t gotten back to watching it for months and are contemplating getting back into it. We couldn’t have made that choice if we were locked in to watching it on free-to-air tv.

Living “free to air” free has allowed us to continue to watch the shows we love, but with the freedom of choosing when they would be good for us to watch. It gives us an another opportunity to serve each other and our marriage and that makes the financial cost of buying a series when they come out on special, worth the money. Also I expect, when we have children, this ability to choose will be even more beneficial.

 

5. CATCHING THE NEWS

Some people watch free-to-air tv in order to catch up with the news. When I was living at home my parents used to watch news on tv from the 6:30 Report to the “current affair” shows which finished at 8pm! It was painful as they all contain fluff pieces to fill it out and the actually important news was repeated on every show.

online_newsWhat I have learnt by living “free to air” free is that if the news is important enough, you will hear about it on social media. When Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister, came into power, I found out while sitting with my brother Tony in a cafe in Bendigo as I looked at Facebook on my phone. In fact, even the news programmes on free-to-air tv sometimes get their news from a tweet or a facebook post they they find. Social media is a powerful and unfiltered tool for communicating important news.

Due to this reality, I don’t feel like I will ever miss any important news that I need to know about. I also read the newspaper when I can and keep an eye on a lot of online news from a variety of sources, so that keeps me on top of the topics I am interested in. Also, some of the topics I am interested in will never she shown on free-to-air tv, but I can learn lots about what is happening from a variety of perspectives online. On the internet, news is instant, varied and world-wide. The ability to access this news is a freedom and a privilege of our modern world, and it means that the corporately owned free-to-air news programs don’t have to be my only source of information.

 

6. KEEP THE AERIAL HANDY

25oscar-best-speech1One last thing to point out is that Cat & I keep the aerial handy. It’s actually plugged into the wall and tucked under the couch so that whenever we want we can plug it into the tv. We do this for the rare occasions that something special is being shown on free-to-air tv that we want to watch – the Grand Final, the Oscars, the Melbourne Cup, an Election Night, etc.

The aerial is not something we see as “evil”. Rather we treat it like a projector. Many people have a projector that they bring out on special occasions, but that generally lives in its case in the cupboard. That’s why I used the picture at the heading of this blog. The aerial is something that we use “in case of emergency”.

The key thing is that we know the cost. Free-to-air tv is not free. It is not free of commercials. It is not free of dangers. It is not free of a culture of consumerism and apathy. It has a cost. On occasion we are willing to pay that cost, but we do so knowingly and rarely.

 

FIRST WORLD SOLUTIONS TO FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS

I do realise that to find alternatives to free-to-air tv also includes a cost. We have bought DVDs, Blurays and an Apple TV device to fill the space that free-to-air tv used to occupy.

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMI want to acknowledge that this whole conversation is really about me suggesting “first world solutions” to “first world problems”. Bloody hell! There are heaps of people in Australia who can’t even afford a tv and on a global scale, only 20% of people own their own tv.

If you so have a tv, but you’re doing it tough or you don’t want to waste money on DVDs and the like, then please accept my apologies and enjoy free-to-air tv to your hearts content! Or give us a call and you can borrow some of the DVDs we have purchased! Either way, I definitely hold no judgement against those who choose to watch free-to-air tv. I just want to suggest a slightly alternative lifestyle for those that like the idiot box, but feel like free-to-air tv may be making them too much of an idiot.

One thing I do want to say is that over time, Cat & I have even stopped watching tv shows and movies, and I almost never play playstation games any more. The effort to choose what we want to view on the tv has encouraged us to spend more time doing other things that don’t involve the tv at all… Now if only I could do the same for YouTube and Facebook! (Hmmm. Maybe that’s another experiment to try!)

 

TRY THE THREE “FREE” FREE EXPERIMENT!

If you’re in the same-ish demographic to me and you find free-to-air tv is wasting a lot of your time or causing conflict in your relationships, why not try it for yourself! I’m calling this challenge the THREE “FREE” FREE EXPERIMENT! The idea is that just for three weeks you pack up the aerial cord and put it away. See what happens! Maybe you’ll hate it. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Maybe you’ll go mad and realise you have an addiction! Or maybe you’ll want to try it for longer than three weeks.

It’s not that extreme really. I’m not saying throw all your technological devises out the window and join a commune! It’s just an experiment. If you’re married or you’re living with housemates (or even if you’re still living at home with your parents) why not talk to them about the idea and suggest giving it a go. If you want to be even more hard-core, you could make the “THREE” represent three months rather than three weeks.

If you try it (or if you’re already living “free-to-air” free), please tell me and post your comments below. I’d love to hear what you have discovered along the way.

Who knows… over time, we may actually be able to get out of this culture of just plonking infront of a screen altogether and begin using our down-time to pick up a book or play a musical instrument or… shock horror… even just talk to the person sitting right next to us on the couch.

couple-talking-on-couch

(3034)

Share Button
April 16

REAT MOMENTS IN CINEM

20130416-202415.jpg

 

I went to see Jurassic Park 3D at Village cinemas in Doncaster the other day and I was very excited.

When the movie first came out in 1993, I was 15 and it was one of the most impacting cinema experiences of my life! I actually saw it 11 times at the cinema (a number I have never since beaten) and I have seen it many times since then. So you could say I knew the movie pretty well.

I realised something was wrong with the film when the tops of characters’ heads came dangerously close to the top of the screen. At first, I put it down to a possible necessity of the post-conversion process of turning a 2D movie into 3D, but then one of my favourite scenes came up and I knew someone had majorly stuffed up… and it probably wasn’t Spielberg.

The scene was the one shown above, where the first dinosaur we get to see in glorious CGI rears back and takes a chomp from the upper branches of the tree. As it reared on its hind legs, its head popped up past the screen and the above image shows exactly how it looked in the cinema.

After the film, I informed the manager of the issue and after checking he informed me that yes, the film had accidentally been showing for their entire season projected in the wrong ratio. To their credit, they immediately set about fixing the problem and gave my wife and I two complimentary tickets as hush money… I mean, as compensation.

I posted this story on Facebook and a friend, Roger McLean, asked the great question, “What other movies would lose their impact from bad cropping?”

Below is a few I have thought up.

See if you can pick all the movies as well as what has been cropped out. Leave your answers in the comments below.

Also, if you have any more suggestions, email me your cropped movie moments and if I like them, I’ll add them to the list!

 

NEW FEATURE!
If you can’t guess the movie, click on the photo and see the answer!

20130416-204106.jpg

20130416-204142.jpg

20130416-204224.jpg

20130416-204253.jpg

20130416-204605.jpg

20130416-204657.jpg

20130416-205008.jpg

20130416-205114.jpg

20130416-205143.jpg

20130416-205222.jpg

20130416-205257.jpg

20130416-205325.jpg

20130416-205352.jpg

20130416-205422.jpg

20130416-205444.jpg

20130416-205619.jpg

20130416-205647.jpg

20130416-205715.jpg

20130416-205748.jpg

20130416-205822.jpg

life-of-brian_610

rrrrr

sw_ripley_alien-3

Snow-White-evil-queen-apple

Count_Rugen's_right_hand

Thelma_Louise_cliff-1

eebab277_HannibalVictim004

karate-kid

princessbride-love-09

matrix-red-pill

les

mylfoot

usual-suspects-1995-10-g

its_a_wonderful_life_02

akatheu

Darryl Hannah as a mermaid in the 1984 film "Splash."

court-jester-kaye

hzbmb1tdufrodb1m

anchorman

1327297569_1350592712

men-in-black-3-back-in-time

large_up_blu-ray81

back-to-the-future-hoverboard

independence-day-ship-cropped

(1870)

Share Button
October 27

My Statement of Unfounded Beliefs

Businesses, organisations, clubs and even individuals often get to a stage where making a clear decisive statement of what they truly believe can be helpful. This is called their Statement of Beliefs. My theatre company, The Backyard Bard wrote up our Statement of Beliefs many years ago (you can read it here).

On this blog, I often am trying to explain, defend, explore and articulate my beliefs. I hope the testimony of this blog is that they are founded on Scripture and my own experience of life and God. But I also acknowledge that I hold many unfounded beliefs. Beliefs that I hold to dearly, that are founded on very little if anything other than my own imagination, superstition or paranoia.

I thought it good to state my unfounded beliefs (the ones I am aware of, or at least, the ones I could think of in the last few hours). May they be recorded for posterity, reflection and understanding. May I live my life admitting and uncovering the beliefs that I hold without foundation.

 

SIMON CAMILLERI’S STATEMENT OF UNFOUNDED BELIEFS

 

1. DAIRY PRODUCTS WILL IMMEDIATELY GO OFF IF LEFT OUT OF THE FRIDGE FOR ANY MORE TIME THAN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

I think this one was instilled by my father who insisted that the milk be put away immediately after use. I also have many distinct and fond memories of mum or dad coming home after a big shop at the supermarket and as soon as you heard the car horn beep it was all hands on deck! We all had to run out to help bring in the bags of groceries and re-enforced every single time was the important principle that all the fridge stuff had to be put away first and as quickly as possible.

As you can imagine, every time I go on a church camp I experience great angst when during breakfast the jug of milk is just sitting on the table for the hour or so while everyone eats. Every time I can hear my internal Statement of Unfounded Beliefs screaming “PUT IT BACK IN THE FRIDGE!!”.

 

2. SPIDERS WILL JUMP ON YOUR FACE IF YOU LOOK DIRECTLY AT THEM, AS OPPOSED TO RUNNING PAST THEM WITH YOUR EYES DIVERTED.

You would think that this arachnophobia was caused by some traumatic experience as a child when a spider jumped on my face, but no, a spider has NEVER jumped on my face, but I would put that down to the fact that I never look at them directly and I run past them with my eyes diverted. See! It works! Just like I save myself from being eaten by sharks by not spending to much time in the ocean and I avoid being attacked by bears by not going to Russia. It all makes perfect sense to me.



3. GETTING THE PERFECT SEAT IN THE CINEMA IS VITAL TO AN ENJOYABLE MOVIE GOING EXPERIENCE.

Dad, I must once again attribute this principle to your training. You know how when you go to the movies they rip your ticket and then you go to find your particular cinema, well, back when I was a boy you used to have to line up outside of your cinema before they ripped your ticket and let you in. My dad loved (and still loves) the movies and we would get to the cinema as early as humanly possible in order to be as close to the front of the queue as possible to get the best seats in the cinema. On the tragic occasions that we arrived at the cinema after a long queue had already formed, I distinctly remember on more than one occasion, my dad would instruct me to sneak to the front of the queue so that I could get in and save seats for the rest of the family. I would have to have only been around 6 or 7 years old at the time.

So there I was, a young innocent child carrying four large jackets ready to claim seats for my parents and my two older brothers (and maybe my baby brother, I can’t remember). Not conspicuous at all! Well, I sort of felt less than convincing as I tried to sneak in to near the front of the queue. So, of my own cunning, I developed a technique. I used the fact that I was a child standing alone and I simply stood near an adult so the everyone else thought I was with them. If the adult or family I was standing with got suspicious, I would simply lean a little closer to another adult and their suspicions would subside. So my life of crime and deceit began, and so Number 3 on my Statement of Unfounded Beliefs was written in stone.

My friends (and especially my wife) know that if you’re going to a movie with me then you’re going early or you’re booking online. If there’s a big group of friends meeting before the movie, I will abandon all the social catchup and unhelpful human relationship building that traditionally goes on as you wait for everyone to arrive. I will grab my ticket, get into the cinema and save the best seats for everyone. I think in my entire life (which must involve around 1,000 movie-going experiences) I can only remember 3 times that I have had to endure crappy seats – “The Witches” in 1990, “Twister” in 1996 and “Paul” in 2011. I guess 3 out of a 1,000 ain’t too bad.

 

4. I CAN DO FULL-TIME WORK, PART-TIME MINISTRY AND PART-TIME THEATRE, WHILST MAINTAINING A HEALTHY MARRIAGE AND AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE… AND HAVE TIME TO BLOG.

Back in my twenties I seemed to be able to juggle all these things… or at least that’s what I believe as I look back with nostalgic eyes at the “glory days” when I had so much time and energy and could do so much. But come to think of it, even that is an unfounded belief. I never worked full-time in my early twenties. I worked part-time as a checkout chick at Safeway for most of it! I did do part-time theatre, but that was my main involvement in ministry, whereas now I lead the Bible Reading Ministry at my church, run a support group for guys struggling with porn addiction and am getting my “Elephant Room” ministry off the ground. I also hope to co-lead a Bible Study in my home with my wife next year and am getting more involved in various leadership roles as my church stretches its legs in its new church building. As for my marriage, well I was married at 23 and it ended in divorce! So I guess I shouldn’t really look on my twenties as my “glory days”. They sorta sucked. 

I am older and more overweight than I was, but I’m also a lot more busy with more important things, and now that I am married again, I want to invest in it and prioritise it. So I do need to realise I can’t do it all. I sometimes think of it like I’m driving on the freeway of my life, and parallel to my freeway is another freeway, where another Simon is driving a different life. At some point, I made a choice at some junction and now I am on this path. There are multiple freeways all travelling along next to each other. On one freeway I travel the world doing storytelling. On another freeway, I moved to the US to study to be a psychologist. On another freeway, I spent my days single, pursuing reconciliation with my first wife. On another freeway, I went back to Uni to study to be a teacher. I can not live every possible life and then at the end of them all see which one glorifies God the most. I must chose a freeway. And I have. And I love the freeway I’m on. So, when I’m reminded of all the things I could be doing and I look across at the other Simons driving on the other freeways, I can just smile, give them a wave and keep driving. 

 

5. A CHICKEN SCHNITZEL SANDWICH IS A HEALTHY LUNCH BECAUSE IT HAS SALAD IN IT.

My efforts to eat healthier are full of unfounded beliefs and the world of marketing is full of lies from “Mars Bar Lite” to Nutra Grain being “Iron Man Food”. Over the years, I have worked jobs that have required me to eat at a shopping centre food court, which has always kept me looking for the newest top rated weight loss supps – but enough is enough. I have come to believe that if I can avoid KFC and the Fish n Chips outlet and stick to the healthy Sandwich Bar, I am safe… not matter what I buy from them. I have a particular fancy for Chicken Schnitzel sandwiches, with swish cheese and mayo… oh, and lots of salad as well, which clearly makes up for all the fat that I consume from the other stuff.

I recently saw at my regular lunch venue, just how they fry up the chicken schnitzels that I love so very much. They guy lathered on at least a centimetre or two of pure margarine across both sides of the crumbed schnitzel and chucked it on the hot plate. After witnessing that, this unfounded belief just became a little more unfounded!

 

6. IT’S GOING TO BE A STRUGGLE FOR CAT & I TO LIVE ON JUST MY WAGE NEXT YEAR.

In 2013, Cat & I will try to live on just my wage and have all of her wage going into savings. This is partly because we want to save but mostly because we’re hoping to start a family in the next year or so and Cat wants to be a stay at home mum for the first few years. If that is going to be our life, we thought it best to start getting used to living on only one wage. This seems hard. It’s going to be a real challenge. It will take a lot of budgetting and financial planning and luxury sacrificing to pull it off.

What a load of first-world baloney! Here in Australia, we have very little concept of real poverty and real struggle. When we think of the poor, we think of people who have a beat up old car, live in a crappy high rise apartment with mould on the walls and who are unemployed. But (not to diminish the suffering of anyone who is in those circumstances), on a global scale that is still incredibly wealthy. Half of the world’s population lives on around $2 a day. 

I don’t have any concept of what it means to live without clean drinking water, access to a toilet or to actually feel real hunger that could endanger my life, and the truth is, it is almost impossible in Australia that I could ever be in that position. Even if both Cat & I lost our jobs tomorrow, we would realistically never end up living on the streets. I enjoy the luxurious benefits of material possessions, money in the bank, University education, a wide social circle, and general health (despite the chicken schnitzel sandwiches). But even if I lost all those things, I live in a country that provides water, sanitation, education, health services and employment assistance to anyone. I am truly rich. I am filthy rich. I have no right to complain about the potential “struggle” I may face by living off only one income. That income still puts me in the top %1 of the entire world, and if I have to make some petty sacrifices to adjust to a slightly lower income, they will be very superficial on a global scale.

It is so so easy to compare your plight with the wealthy around you. As we may shake our head and laugh at someone who thinks he is doing it tough if he has to travel business class rather than first class, I would look even more ridiculous to the majority of people in the world. I must always keep that in perspective and my blindness to my own privilege and wealth has earned this unfounded belief a place on the list. 

 

7. I CAN MAINTAIN A HEALTHY, INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD WITHOUT READING THE BIBLE REGULARLY.

This is actually not something I consciously believe. I mean, I would never say this or teach this or encourage this, but I guess the real test of what we believe is not what we profess with our mouths but what we actually do. Like the guy who says, “I love you honey”, but treats his wife like crap, our words are pretty shallow expressions of our beliefs if they are not backed up by action. The Bible is full of this principle. Like Isaiah 29:13 where it says, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'” or 1 John 3:17-18, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”, or if you want it from the mouth of Jesus himself, check out the challenging passage in Matthew 7:15-28, where Jesus warns that it’s not enough to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and listen to his words, you have to put them into practise.

God doesn’t want just lip service, he wants wholehearted discipleship, and it is by our fruit that we will be known. If you say you believe that God hears our prayers and that he is powerful to act, and yet you do not pray, then something is very wrong. As Samuel Chadwick, the Methodist preacher said 100 years ago, “Prayer is the acid test of devotion”.

Well, I find the same hypocrisy in my own life when it comes to Bible reading. I very rarely read the Bible to commune with God. I read it often to look up something, or to prepare for a study I’m writing, or for a biblical storytelling performance that I need to practise. But the Bible is not simply a text book of useful information. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. What that means is that although the words of the Bible were written down by ordinary people, God’s Spirit had a hand in guiding and at times even dictating directly what they were to write. As Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). So the Bible is a collection of writings that are inspired by God. They are, as Paul puts it, “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)

But they aren’t simple a record of things that God once said (or wanted to be said). They hold ONGOING truths. Truths that are unchanging and must be engaged with by all people. The greatest example in the Bible of this truth is found in Hebrews 3:7 where it talks of an Old Testament scripture as something that the Holy Spirit “says” not “said”. The tense is present/continuous not in the past. Now, you have to be careful to seek wisdom as to how you understand and apply scripture and Christians may disagree profoundly on this, but what we must not disagree on is the fact that the Bible is Scripture – it is sacred. It is God speaking.

Now all that is fine and dandy to write in a blog with such confidence, but what do I actually believe? If I actually believe that God is real, and I have a relationship with him that is real, and the primary way in which he communicates with my Spirit is through the Bible, then why on earth aren’t I reading it more often?? Does it simply come down to a lack of discipline? Is it laziness? No, not really. I seem to fill my days with lots of other stuff I deem important enough to fit in. Is it because I find the Bible boring or difficult to understand? Not at all! My years of doing and teaching Biblical Storytelling has given me great tools for enjoying and understanding the Bible, along with my involvement with the Christian Union and my own church, Bundoora Presbyterian, both of which have helped train me in how to study and interpret the Bible. Is it actually a sign that everything I just wrote about the Bible being God’s Word is a big lie – an unfounded belief? I don’t think so, but I have to test my heart closely on that one, because as I said earlier, a person’s true beliefs are shown by their actions.

I actually think one of my problems is pride. I have read the bible lots over the last two decades and I have studied most of its books in depth. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of Scripture and so I go to the Bible with a sad expectation that I have heard it already. I know God will speak to me if I read the Bible, but I also arrogantly think I will know what he will say!

I recall my first few months as a new believer at age 16. I consumed the Bible like a starving child that had been just given a banquet to eat! I read it with passion and real spiritual hunger. Have I lost that hunger? Do I just feel full and think it now not all that necessary to feast. Maybe a snack now and then, but I’ll rely on what I took in yesterday to get me through tomorrow. In the end, if that is the source of my lack of regular bible reading, I really need to wake up. 

I can maintain a healthy, intimate relationship with God without reading the Bible regularly just as well as I can maintain a healthy, intimate relationship with my wife without ever communicating with her. Or imagine if I just wanted to talk to my wife Cat, but I made no time to listen to her (don’t ask Cat if that is ever her experience… please). In the end, we may still be married, but our relationship would definitely not be healthy and intimate. But I want a healthy, intimate relationship with my wife, and I want a healthy, intimate relationship with God. And so, I must talk and listen to Cat, and I must pray and read the Bible with God. Let’s hope I will learn this lesson, be shaken out of my pride and my true beliefs (backed up by action) will be revealed.

 

 

So, that’s my list… so far.

I’m sure there’s lots of unfounded beliefs I still hold. Some petty, some profound.

Why not reflect on your own life and bring out into the light some of your own unfounded beliefs. You may not have to throw them out (I think I’ll always try to get a good seat at the cinema, and I’m not going to start staring at spiders) but you can at least own them for what they are. It also has been a lot of fun and it has helped me identify those beliefs I hold that I actually do think have a foundation.

 

  (14278)

Share Button
February 16

The Wolfman – Review

I saw The Wolfman the other day, and although I had heard it wasn’t all that great, I still had high hopes.

In general, the movie gave me what I had hoped for – cool special effects, great acting, dark cinematography and lots of scenes with the wolfman doin’ his wolfman thing (running, hunting, feasting and even howling).

I am a big fan of An American Werewolf in London and always love to see modern takes on the old monster movies. I can also appreciate the idea of paying homage to an old move like the 1941 classic, The Wolf Man. I actually liked Peter Jackson’s homage to the original King Kong.

But whenever you pay homage to some classic movie of the past, you run the risk of being so concerned that you treat the original with respect that you make bad creative decisions, and this is sadly what the modern version of The Wolfman did.

Critics have complained that the acting is lackluster and almost boring and that the storyline is painfully predictable (the supposed “twist” about the identity of the beast that bites the main character was so obvious I worked it out very early on). But my main problem was with the look of the Wolfman himself.

If you’re going to make a werewolf movie, you have the challenge of chosing what a half man/half wolf looks like. Some movies, like An American Werewolf in London (and it’s late 90’s sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris), as well as Twighlight : New Moon, go with the complete transformation, and either go with large puppetry (back in the good ol’ days) or more recently in complete CGI.

This leans on the side of the wolf, but there are movies that lean on the side of the man. Naturally, the original Wolf Man falls in this category, as does another great contribution to the genre, the 1985 comedy, Teen Wolf starring Michael J Fox (there was a lame sequel to this movie as well, called Teen Wolf  Too and starring Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman) along with the simply titled, Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfieffer.

Unfortunately though, when you go for the “man who looks sorta like a wolf” style, it can come across as funny, it can come across as sexy (as in Nicholson’s Wolf) but it is not easy to come across as scary.

The Wolfman tries to go for this look while really striving to be a scary movie and it just doesn’t work. Whenever I saw the Wolfman roar facing the camera, it was just painfully obvious that it was just a guy with lotsa hair and makeup and big monster teeth in his mouth. The scenes where you see the beast as a silhouette racing through the forest are really cool and the transformation scenes are absolutely amazing, but when you turn the lights on and look at him fully transformed, he just looks like a nasty Wookie, or more accurately, he looks like a tribute to the original Wolfman.

The one thing they didn’t think about was that if George Waggner, the director of the original Wolf Man, had the budget and the special effects of Hollywood today, he definetly would have made the Wolf Man look better than a guy dressed up for halloween. He used everything he had and came up with the best he could at the time, and so it’s silly to pay homage to his film by making a monster that looks cheap and fake by today’s standards.

Personally, the style of movie werewolf that I like the best is the wolf/man hybrid, where they don’t lean on the side of the wolf or the man, but try to create a completely unique mix of the two.

The easy way to do this is just put a big wolf’s head on a muscle-bound actor and you can do this on a low budget (like in the movie Dog Soldiers) or you can do it with a big budget (as in the Lycans in the Underworld Series).

The problem with this look is that the fake wolf head never looks very realistic and never moves with the fluid dynamics that a real beast would. Often they avoid using CGI and go for an anamatronic head and face, but no matter how big the budget, they never quite get it. See for example, the above clip from the 2009 film Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. It had a budget of 35 million to play with and this is as good as it gets?

As for CGI werewolves, I have to say that my favourite is actually the one that Hugh Jackman turns into in the 2004 crap movie Van Helsing. The movie flopped and the werewolf was in unconvincing CGI, but it had the physique of the sort of werewolf that I would love to see more of.

The only movie I could find that did a strong, scary, non-CGI werewolf that is pretty decent is a 1996 film called Bad Moon. The anamatronics are not very sophisticated, but even with only a 5th of the budget of Underworld, they came up with something genuinely scary. I haven’t seen the whole movie, but this clip might show you what I mean (be aware, this clip is a little bit gory).

What I would really love to see is someone combine both a physical actor and a CGI wolf head to create a truly realistic werewolf creature. We’ve seen this combination of live action and CGI improve increadibly over the last couple of years with movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Where the Wild Things Are, both of which include live characters with CGI heads or faces. I’d love to see what they could you using this technique to create a memorable monster.

Sadly, The Wolfman, in its efforts to pay its respects to an great old cheesy movie, ended up making something that came off as old and cheesy, but definetly wasn’t great.

In its desire to honour a classic, it sadly missed the opportunity to become a classic itself, and so while the 1941 Wolf Man will forever be remembered as one of the great original monster movies, the 2010 Wolfman will very quickly be forgotten.

(5184)

Share Button
Category: Movies | LEAVE A COMMENT