Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Moneyball Review

Moneyball is a movie about a man who almost single-handedly made baseball even more boring than it already was.  Yet I loved it.  I am not a baseball fan; the only way you can get me to watch a game is if I’m only giving it cursory glances in between laughing with my friends, enjoying the energetic atmosphere of a ball field.  The back of a baseball card, covered in stats, means nothing to me.

 

But the back of the card is exactly what powered Billy Beane’s revolution of the baseball world.  Facing the daunting financial competition and the discouraging patterns of building stars only to have them bought away, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics (great name, huh?) decided to think outside the box.  Instead of replacing his best players who were transferring to other clubs, he set out to build a team.

 

The team-based experiment drew me in, as did Brad Pitt’s excellent performance as Billy.  Moneyball centers on him and his life, his doubts and courage and confidence, all subtly motivated by his desire to improve the game he loved, especially for the little guy.  Funny moments balance with touching.  Family, friendship, rivals, and enemies populate the Oakland world of Billy Beane, circa 2002.  He set out to gather partners who didn’t think so traditionally about big money and big names – while still reaching out to the old school veterans that had built his ball club.  The social dynamics in an endeavor like that – contrasted with the window into the trades and deals worked by general managers in the fast-paced, high-stakes business of baseball across the country – made for a really interesting movie.

 

Restraint from showing too much of that slow-paced nuance of the actual game of baseball also helped the movie to expand its appeal beyond baseball fans while still capturing the “romance” of the sport.  Rated PG-13 only for language and minimal drinking/tobacco use, I didn’t find it hard – though I was surprised – to enjoy Moneyball.  Thanks to my friend, Nick, for persuading me to go with him and his wife to watch it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

There is a movie called Leap Year, and I can’t recommend it because of a couple scenes that just aren’t beneficial for holding on to good morals.  But like some sort of hypocrite, I watch it occasionally.  It is thought-provoking, but then my brother says everything makes me think.  This in-control woman (whose control issues are a response to an out of control childhood) is tired of being disappointed and waiting on her boyfriend to propose.  They’re living together already, but she still dreams of commitment and forever-love.  So she decides to take advantage of an Irish tradition and propose to her boyfriend herself, on Leap Day, in Ireland where he is at a conference.  So she sets out to surprise him.

 

But there’s a detour of more than her travel plans.  Miss get-her-done responds to a series of difficult situations with great skill.  But when things keep going wrong, and she can’t do anything about it, she finds herself in need of being more reactionary but in a trusting way instead of a plan for every contingency sort of way.  This reveals some flaws in her relationship with her boyfriend, and also in her plan to deal with it.

 

Guiding her both geographically and psychologically is an Irish pub-owner with wounds and disappointments of his own, but with much more common sense.  He isn’t so good at trusting, either, but at least he knows it’s the way to go.  Sit down, pull out an apple, and wait.  There’s a castle near the bus stop.  Why not climb to the top?  You might have to put up with some rain, but the walk is worth it, right?

 

Being thrown together, forced to work together to accomplish their goals, the heroine and her guide start to fall for each other, despite her mission to propose.  (Yeah, it’s another one of those movies.)  For one thing, the guide has confidence that if the boyfriend wanted to get married, he would have asked, and that rather than chasing him down and trapping an unwilling husband, the girl should reconsider entirely.  But they also start to reach out in totally selfless ways, taking interest in each others’ lives and motives.  There is realistic resistance, but a persistent direction towards understanding and friendship.

 

Near the end, the beautiful American doesn’t have to propose because her boyfriend asks her to marry him himself.  Mr. Irish Guide has his bit of disappointment, but he’s benefited from the experience, from the friendship, from being forced – through her – to think about his own choices in life.  In a way, he’d been holding out just as much as she had.  Things are not quite as happy for the heroine, who finds out that the proposal was brought on not by real desire to get married, but by social pressure from people selling them an apartment together.  She stands in the middle of her dream home and realizes that she has everything she wants and nothing she needs.  So she flees.  What makes a person leave everything they know and have dreamed of?

 

This time our heroine, who feels she has learned something but still hasn’t really learned, flies to Ireland pursuing another man.  In the middle of his pub, she confesses the way the time she spent with him changed her life, and invites him to “not make plans” with her, just to see where this “thing” goes.  But Irishman, common-sense, slightly cynical, guide-guy pub proprietor rejects her proposal.

 

It’s the kind of movie that could have ended unhappily and still been meaningful.  The filmmakers timed the scenes well so that I got to imagine such endings, the implications, and how I still feel satisfied, like there was a message that was useful anyway, experiences not wasted even if the end wasn’t happily ever after.

 

But she’s standing on a beautiful cliff on the coast of Ireland and he comes after her, and tells her he doesn’t want to not make plans; he wants to make plans.  And he gets down on one knee.  In the end it isn’t the having a dream that’s to be rejected – it’s an empty dream, a selfish and shallow life, that doesn’t deserve all that effort and pursuit.  Make plans to deal with contingencies together, with more to guide you than a destination.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Divided the Movie

 

Made by a young pair of brothers, Divided the movie is the film version of the Family Integrated Church propaganda.  Careful oversight was given by Scott Brown, of the NCFIC, and he was also interviewed extensively in the documentary.  The film follows the research of Philip  Leclerc into the fruits, philosophies, and history of the youth ministry church model.

 

Divided consists mostly of interviews.  It begins by talking to the authors of Already Gone, Britt Beamer and Ken Ham, who discuss the statistics about youth leaving the Church and at what age they stopped believing orthodox Christianity.  One problem they identify with modern youth ministry is the lack of substance being presented in lessons and sermons at events.  This leads to man on the street shots of students after a Christian concert, and surveys of various youth leaders and conference directors for youth pastors, showing the pervading philosophies of being relevant and giving the students an emotional experience – intentionally not dealing with points of Christian doctrine beyond Jesus’ love and sacrificial death.

 

Some former pastors and youth leaders are interviewed about why they left the youth ministry model (much as the filmmaker’s parents had chosen to do).  An enlightening testimony suggested that teaching the “right things,” worldviews and Christian theology, still resulted in a majority of students leaving the faith by the end of high school.  This presents a contrast to the first segment, where the flawed worldview of average youth ministry was uncovered.  One church planter stated that if you just read the Bible, you would not think of doing church the way we do it today; his church is trying to function more biblically, and one aspect of that is to eliminate youth ministry.

 

Next is what I see as the strong point, the most useful part of the documentary, dealing with the history of age-segregated church, beginning with the origins of Sunday school classes for children.  The rest of the movie seems unlikely to enlighten or persuade anyone, as the philosophies of each side (pro-youth ministry and pro-family-based discipleship) are not tested against a biblical standard.

 

Afterward, Philip Leclerc interviews a series of leaders in the FamilyIntegratedChurchmovement, who point out that the Bible’s prescription for discipling children is that their parents train them up, and that youth ministry – separate from the main meetings and activities of the church – is never mentioned in the Bible.  Questions are brought forward, like the argument that since parents are not taking responsibility for training their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if the Church doesn’t, the youth will fall through the cracks.

 

I found a few things lacking in Divided.  At the end of the movie, I felt that the criticism against youth ministry was directed at its fruit: people who abandon belief in God and the Bible.  But the alternative put forward is not judged by the same measure.  I remain curious how successful family-centered discipleship and family-integrated churches are at retaining the next generation.  The filmmaker’s mentors are full of ideals which they claim are biblically based.  If the fruit is different from what statistics show for youth in the past several decades, this gives us hope.  If the fruit is the same, perhaps more is going on than negligent parenting and segregated churches.

 

The movie relies on the worldview of its audience to refute the postmodernism of most youth ministries which is put on display in the first half of the film.  Though presented as the unwanted results of age-segregated ministry, we are left to judge what is wrong with the youth interviewed based on our own notions – whether we would judge them for their style of music or dress, for their poor communication skills, for holding to false doctrines about creation, for caring about authenticity and relationship, for lacking discernment, for laziness, for postmodern relativism.  And if we only notice a couple of these, perhaps we are absorbing the rest of their subtle messages as true – or maybe we are judging everything they say as wrong because of the other things they are packaged with.

 

This highlights the next difficulty I had with the movie: some of the youth and youth leaders made really good points about what is valuable to people, what they expect – even need – to find at church.  When a student says he is looking for people who will tell him the truth and be real with him, and that he values a mentor for being involved in his life, surely the Church could learn from those needs.  A woman who leads training for youth pastors points out that they need to be relevant to the everyday lives of kids.  True – who has more relevance to the ins and outs of a young person’s life than the family he lives with?  Who is more real to him than his own parents?  But this point was not made, this challenge not extended to parents who are choosing to take up the biblical mandate to be spiritual leaders to their children.  Also, those concerns recognized by the representatives of youth ministry are really universal needs, not applicable just to teenagers, but also to adults.

 

Throughout the movie, the experts skirt the issue that the way we do church is fundamentally unbiblical.  We have not sought God’s design for our gatherings and Christian life.  The Church that was intended to be a community has become an institution full of programs, and people fill slots and categories and statistics instead of being directed by needs and gifts in the Body.  Perhaps parents are abdicating their spiritual roles because the Church isn’t allowing discipleship to happen among its members, leaving parents ill-equipped to train their children – but also leaving pastors ill-equipped, unsupported by the edification they are supposed to receive from the rest of the Church.

 

Finally, there is the question of whether people who are middle school, high school, and college age ought to be considered adults, invited and expected to contribute their spiritual gifts (if they are believers*) to the unity and edification of the whole church just as the rest of adults ought to be (but often are not).   I say “the rest of” because until the last hundred years, people in their mid-teens and beyond were counted adults.  In the very least they were not considered children.  And on the assumption that youth ministries are dealing with children rests the crux of the argument made by the Family Integrated Church proponents.  They argue that parents own the responsibility for the spiritual growth of their kids.  But if they’re not kids, in the biblical sense to which the commands would apply…

 

And even if they are children, if they are saved*, they are members of the body of Christ and the instructions about Church should apply to them.  They ought to receive instruction and admonition from any believer who is so gifted and led.  Parents are responsible, and not to shirk their duties towards the children God has entrusted to them, but they are not alone, and do not own exclusive rights to their child’s discipleship.  Perhaps they ought to do “catechizing” and “worldview training” at home instead of expecting it to be done at church.

 

I appreciate the call Divided puts out to parents to fulfill their God-given roles in the family.  The documentary shows the variety of people who believe in family integration, and the different reasons people practice it.  Exhorting the Church to be unified by ending age segregation is a great start.  When asked about children whose parents are not believers (the original target of Sunday schools), Family Integration proponent Scott Brown suggested an intense, personal solution: sound families should bring those children into their home during the week to witness to them and disciple them (sending them back to their own families with deference to the parents’ authority), and have those children sit with their family during church meetings.  The family is upheld as an important player in education and morality.  Ultimately, Divided exalts God for designing well, however dismal the results of man’s corruptions of church and family.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

*If a child is not yet a professing follower of Christ, should he be required to attend Church gatherings with his parents?  Should he be allowed to participate if he is there?

Read Full Post »

This cinematic remake of Jane Austen’s Emma is delightful, from the music to the shadows.  It is less comic than the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, focused instead on watching characters develop.  I think that Emma is the most realistic of Jane Austen’s novels, the most relevant to an average person’s life.  Other renditions of the potrait of humanity in Emma do not leave this out.  However, Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller delve deeper.

Emma has never been challenged, never been exposed to new places or new ideas.  She honestly thinks she is always right.  And she wants to excel.  As the movie progresses, she discovers she is lonely.  Playing with one’s own creations ends up dissatisfying, however painful it is to relate to real, independent people.

Mr. Knightley has also been content with his life, set in a routine that keeps him happy enough.  Everything he’s known could change, though.  Disruption is not impossible.  And what if he is wasting his life?  On the other hand, should he want to change something, is it even possible?  He cannot control Emma, this he knows – Emma who is ever declaring that she shall never marry.  What will give Mr. Knightley the confidence – or desperation – to try to win the heroine’s heart?

Surrounding the main characters are all the other inhabitants of Highbury: Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. and Mrs. Elton, Mr. and Mrs. Weston, Jane Fairfax, Harriet Smith, and Frank Churchill.  Each is shown with their own struggles with identity, love, and managing their friends.  Staying in Highbury or leaving it has shaped their lives.  They all fear change, while simultaneously fearing that change may never come again.  Can good friends help them endure whatever life sends their way?

Watch as Emma goes from playing with dolls under the table, to arranging flowers, to arranging matches, back to arranging parties and managing a house – and her own heart.  See Mr. Knightley through the window, gradually approaching Emma’s loneliness.  Experience the light and seasons shift.  Feel the restrained emotion at the ball.  Dream of what might be.  And fall humbly into the beauty of what really is.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Avatar

I posted a blog earlier this week that mentioned Avatar, and I was planning, when I wrote the entry a month ago, to balance it with a description of the value in Avatar: heroism.  But I didn’t write the post while I had the thoughts, so there isn’t one.  Just this.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – 1 Peter 3:4

Quietness is hard for me.  I like to talk.  I like to be busy.  When I long for God, I long for His action – for evidence that He is involved in my life.  That verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” is comforting, commanding, and challenging.  Stillness is also something I am not good at.

Most of the time I pray for quietness, to feel at peace.  I want that inner contentment and focus.  Lately I’ve been realizing I need to behave peacefully, to be intentional about being quiet.  And it seems too common, too human an effort, to apply this to how I talk.  But it isn’t.  I need to practice biting my tongue when I have nothing edifying to say.  To first ask myself, “Have I listened?”  Is my need to talk a need to bless and build up others, or is it something selfish and impulsive?

These are the things I was thinking about while I watched the movie, Avatar.  Reflecting the vulgar culture common to the military and Hollywood, the film employs cussing.  Such words are, in context, meaningless grunts of emotional expression.  Because they are cuss words, they also indicate that the speaker is at a state of minimal restraint and no respect for his audience.  He is speaking because he feels he must, not because he wishes his hearers to understand.

Even when the vocabulary itself is not profane, the dialogue is not very deep.  Often I got the impression that the main character, Jake, was jabbering because he was used to talking, not because he had something to say.  He would speak in English when no one around could understand.  The natives, aliens to us, were always making noise: hissing at enemies, crying out with enthusiasm for war, ululating for unexplained reasons, chanting repetitive hums at religious ceremonies.  I wondered why the moviemakers would put such scenes in the script.  Partly I believe they were imitating cultures that are foreign to Americans as a mere device to convince us the tribe was “primitive” and unfamiliar.  On the other hand, maybe the writers and director function in that way themselves, and see nothing unusual about a noisy movie that says nothing.

Indeed the movie itself spent over two and a half hours showing off imaginative landscapes, fanciful machines, and big fires.  There was a story, but I didn’t find it captivating and this is why: I don’t think they were saying much of anything.  Imitating storylines that worked in other movies, Avatar was an unconvincing performance of people learning to live by impulses, to fulfill themselves as told by their bodies, not by any transcendent principles.  They spoke, acted, felt, and thought because they wanted to – which if any of those things had been possible without purpose, would not be profane.  But each of those things does have value and direction, given by the Creator.  Even in a myth, where storytellers are not describing the true world and its true God, they must bow to this truth or be found profane before the Creator they are imitating.

And I must either speak as the oracles of God or, as Job, place my hand over my mouth.  God is the original.  If I do not reflect Him well, I am an abomination, an insult to the sacredness He has placed on words, on thought, on feeling, and on work.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »