Archive for October, 2012

Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Mike Meyers are just a few of the names that have made James Bond great.  However, Daniel Craig has brought about a nuance to the James Bond character and some say he’s the best Bond ever.  What do you think?

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The title may be a bit puzzling, but each of these topics have recently converged leaving me with a burdened conclusion. That conclusion? Christians are lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean lazy in the sense that we’re sitting on the couch. Christians are busy – often busy with the wrong things, making us lazy with eternal matters. Let me take each of these issues in turn and explain.

Machine Gun Preacher is a film that was released last year and was reviewed at RT by Brian Godawa. I hadn’t been able to watch it until recently and was deeply moved/troubled with the realities of the world we live in. While it is an immensely disturbing film, I think most Christians should watch it so they are disturbed. The movie deals with the murdering of innocent children and their enslavement by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

After my wife and I watched the film, I said, “So, what do we do now? Are we just going to be upset that thousands of innocent children are dying and do nothing? What are we to do as Christians?” Which leads me to my second topic.

Diarrhea was an issue that deeply convicted me as I read Matt Chandler’s new book, The Explicit Gospel. In the book Chandler makes this comment:

Something that has always bothered me is how many kids in third-world countries die of diarrhea. You and I could go right now to a gas station and buy medicine that would save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in lands just a plane ride from here. But do you know why we can’t get that medicine into their hands? We can’t because of the greed of men, lust for power, and political ambition. Now, these are systemic issues that the simple gospel comes in and unravels. Only the gospel can change the hearts of those holding back access to medication.

I read the above statement around the same time I saw Machine Gun Preacher. Shortly thereafter some thoughts on abortion surfaced at a breakfast with some men in my church.

Abortion is an issue I am against because I am a Christian. I believe life starts at conception, therefore, abortion murders that life. As I was discussing blind-spots in our Christian walk with these men, one of them pointed out the fact that abortion is our blind-spot. He went on to say we get real upset about babies being murdered and we say we’re against it, but what are we actually doing to stop it? Tim Challies had an excellent post not too long ago, getting Christians to ponder the same thought. In that article he makes this statement:

If we imagine Christians a century in the future, or perhaps two centuries, how will this kind of action, or inaction, appear to them? What will the verdict of history be? How will we be able to explain our complacency? They will read our words, all perfectly preserved in digital media, and they will know that we wrote and spoke about our hatred for abortion and our desire to see it abolished. But will they see actions to go along with all of those words? Maybe we are just waiting for it to die a natural death.

Christians, including myself, are very good at getting angry at injustice, but we don’t always take action to fight against it. Right now Sudanese children are being murdered, diarrhea is ending the life of others, and doctors are murdering infants. What do we do with these realities? I guess the better question is, what are you going to do about it?

Snapshots

Posted: October 29, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , ,

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

Every Monday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment. Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

Wreck-It Ralph – A video game villain embarks on a quest to become a hero.  Genre – animated, family, comedy; content – rude humor, action violence.

The Man With the Iron Fists – Warriors, assassins, and many others, travel to a village in search of gold, and it isn’t a happy get-together.  Genre – action; content – bloody violence, strong sensuality, language, and drug use.

Flight – A heroic pilot’s actions are investigated and lead to some troubling news.  Genre – drama; content – intense action, drug/alcohol abuse, sexuality/nudity, and language.

Cloud Atlas and the power of stories

Posted: October 26, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized

A major aspect of Cloud Atlas is how the different storylines are connected through the media of books, letters or even movies. For example, Tom Cavendish in the present is reading a book written by Luisa Rey about her spy-like adventures in the 70s. Luisa Rey read letters written to Sixsmith by Frobisher in the 30s… and on it goes, backwards and forward in time. You get the drift.

There are some spoilers ahead; just so you know.

What is especially interesting for believers is the recognition of the power of stories to inspire, to encourage, to illuminate. Every story is influenced by an account of an older story. And that is how life really works! You all have been there: movies that help you understand your own day, give you boldness to act, make you see more clearly your mistakes, help you understand better a certain point of view. Books and stories that make you reevaluate life through new lenses. In Cloud Atlas there is reliance in the power of stories and at the same time a suspicion that they cannot act in our place, even if they offer hope. One character says “Books don’t offer real escape but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.”

Our stories are in great part who we are; our worldview is to some extent defined by our life story. In the book, Frobisher, the man who wrote the Cloud Atlas Sextet, eventually says “Wish I were being immodest, but I’m not. Cloud Atlas Sextet holds my life, is my life, now I’m a spent firework; but at least I’ve been a firework”. He understands that the creations we leave behind are powerful to change and inspire.

This is very much true; especially concerning a certain book. The Bible is the ultimate book that tells the one story that is the most important, the life changing story: the Creation, Fall and redemption of God’s people through the mediator Jesus Christ.

In the end we learn from the stories; we cry over them and are inspired by them; and in the case of the biblical story, it is definitely capable of influencing your life and the one to come. Cloud Atlas shows us over and over again people having their lives changed not only by the actions of their contemporary, but by the recorded stories of the ones who came before.

Let’s look again at something that Frobisher writes, this time in his final letter, which proves to be his suicide letter. He finishes by taking comfort in what he has produced. He quotes a mysterious and much debated phrase from the Aeneid: “Sunt lacrimae rerum” – literally, “these are the tears of things”. While there is controversy about what Virgil meant, it seems that Frobisher is finishing his letter and life with a profound sense of how there is pain, there are tears in all things, and yet we do leave beautiful things behind us.

The final story teller (also the first one) is Adam Ewing. After surviving intense ordeals and betrayals, tasting the kindness and foulness of the world, he reflects on his diary about deciding to take on the evil of slavery. His final journal entry: “He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

Christ, the ultimate sufferer, in his true and world changing story battled the worst of human race and sin. One man, one drop in the bucket. But a drop of infinite value.

In his book, he is able to change us and offer real escape.

“Hold out your Hands

Look.”

An atlas of the clouds

Posted: October 25, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Drama, Thursday's Thoughts
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An Atlas is basically a collection of maps from a certain geographic area. I always loved atlases, and still greatly enjoy getting one of such books and browsing them, looking for cities, routes, lakes, mapping my own knowledge and imagination.

Today flying from Salvador to Brasilia (look up on an atlas) I was observing the clouds and considering how foolish it would be for any human to try to map the clouds. This idea is at the background of this movie. At a certain point in the book from which Cloud Atlas is adapted, a character muses: “What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds”. It would indeed be great to know in advance how actions and reactions shape us, the others and the world.
This is an adaptation of the superb novel by David Mitchell, a British author who is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest writers. I have read the novel but not seen the movie yet, and just by the trailer I know a couple of things are different. Nevertheless Mitchell worked closely with the screenwriters and approved of everything; so I do not expect major thematic changes.

From now on expect some mild spoilers; but know, that in this story the “how” is as important as the “what”.

So, what happens? The stories follow similar patterns of people fighting against difficult situations and being helped by someone’s kindess. There are mean deeds, suffering, and exploitative people, and yet there is hope in difficult and complicated times. There is very evil behavior, no rose-colored glasses here; one character even says “You underestimate humanity’s ability to bring such evil into being”. The story is comprised of six different stories, set apart in time and space. At least in one story soccer saves the day (please filmmakers, do not change this to baseball).

The six stories are:

– 1850 – An American shipwrecked in the southern seas hopes to return home and writes a diary telling his adventures;

– 1931, Belgium – an English musician writes letters in which he tells about his days as an amanuensis to a famous composer;

– 1975, California – an investigative reporter looks into the secrets of a nuclear plant;

– Current time, England – a publisher deals with gangster related problems;

– Future time, Korea – A clone waitress becomes more than what she should be;

– Distant future, Hawaii – A post-war society dealing with life after the cataclysms

In the book, the story is construed in a very clever way, we begin with the oldest story and then it is interrupted, moving on to the second one. This goes on until the final story and then we begin to go back in time and see how the previous stories ended. The stories are encapsulated into the next one, like a Russian doll.  And it is all beautifully connected. The movie takes its title from what Robert Frobisher, the musician from the second story, says about his masterpiece, a sextet for overlapping soloists, the Cloud Atlas Sextet: “piano, clarinet, cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color. In the first set each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is continued, in order.”

The movie will follow a different pattern, alternating stories from the very beginning.

Here is the very first images we had of it, a 5 minute behemoth trailer that made it clear to us all that this was not some ordinary storytelling or industrialized plot.

Here it is:

This all may sound very complicated, but I assure you the book is not confusing at all, and I hear the movie does a fabulous editing job of keeping you knowledgeable about what is what.

Be warned: The movie plays with the idea of reincarnation, an element that seems to be stronger in the movie than it was in the book. By using the same actors in different roles as the stories overlap, the authors display the idea that we relate and change as we go on living life after life. Of course the whole issue of reincarnation is completely anti-biblical. Any human sub-creation will necessarily resemble God’s truth while at parts distorting truth for its own purposes. But as it is with any forgery, it takes a resemblance of the real thing even though distorted. The Biblical principle that is real and could be the answer to what is going on is that indeed our actions will influence the future generations and the ones who come after us. And that there is not much new under the Sun or as the novel says “We cross, crisscross, and recross our old tracks like figure skaters”. The Biblical truth that reincarnation distorts is: actions have consequences over many lives; not yours, but others. Our lives are profoundly affected by the actions and choices of people near and far, in the present or past; we just do not see it.

This idea of actions and consequences is one of the main themes of the story. The film deals with how one simple act of kindness can reverberate through history and change lives hundreds of years after the fact.

Think about how simple acts of service and kindness change history: In the Bible, consider prophet Nathan taking courage and dealing with David’s sin. How much did that mean to David, Israel and the world?  Think about Barnabas, who came to Saul of Tarsus and took him under his wing; providing a place for the newly called apostle to begin growing into the most important missionary/theologian in history. The Bible is full of little actions that result in much; Romans 16:4 records Paul talking about how some people risked their lives for his sake, and for that not only Paul is grateful, but the whole of the gentile churches are and should be grateful. Your church is a direct descendant of the choices and risks taken by those people Paul mentions in that verse.

Sometimes the actions are more than little deeds, they are life defining events; things happen that leave us speechless and we know life will be always different. A character in the novel says:”Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage”.

Indeed, sometimes a single act will forever change the whole world; and this is mainly true in the place of the skull, where the universe’s master was slain in the action that is simultaneously the vilest and the kindest action of history.

If we could know how far our actions would go, how they would reverberate, how our words and deeds would echo through generations, we would be more careful and sober about such things. If we could, as it were, knew the movement of the clouds, measure and predict the ineffable, we would know we would weight, we would delight in what is to come and we would have solace about what is so tragic out there.

In the story set in future Korea, an interviewer asks the clone that led a rebellion: “Why does any martyr cooperate with his judas?” She correctly responds “We see a game beyond the endgame”. Jesus knew his story would not end with his betrayal, he, unlike the Pharisees, could see what the gathering clouds would bring.

I am glad to remind you that our Lord has an atlas of the clouds.

Many have said that the film, Cloud Atlas, is one of the most ambitious film projects in movie history.  So much so, some have insisted that the story should never be made into a movie.  Therefore, people are saying this movie will fail, but others are saying it will be an amazing cinematic experience.  What do you think?

Movies and connectedness

Posted: October 23, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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Do you know what a hyperlink movie is? The term refers to a movie in which several storylines, which are apparently disconnected, yet somehow have unexpected, unforeseen connections. In the end of this week we will look at a new film like this: Cloud Atlas.

While we do not get there, let me ask you: Why is it that such movies, while never very frequent, now and then come and bring us to a place of commotion? Let me remind you of a few of the most recent ones:

A few years ago Crash won the Oscar for best picture, and Paul Haggis’ movie sought to show how it is that racism is everywhere, and in familiar and unfamiliar forms.

The amazing and disturbing Babel showed that we can be in Morocco, Mexico, USA or Japan, but we are connected, sometimes in very direct ways.

Before that, Soderbergh had showed us that the reality of drug trafficking is vast and complex, touching many facets of life we do not know about. You should see Traffic. More recently he did it again, this time dealing with pandemics in Contagion.

Of course, even romantic comedies can get the hyperlink treatment such as in Valentine’s Day

In Cloud Atlas we will look at hyperlinks that go not only sideways in geography, but forward and backwards in time. Amazing Stuff.  Be sure and check those posts out on Thursday and Friday.

Snapshots

Posted: October 22, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , ,

snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

Every Monday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment. Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

Cloud Atlas – Is a look at how individual lives impact others past, present, and future (basically, this movie is going to blow your mind). Genre – sci-fi, fantasy, action; content – violence, language, nudity.

Chasing Mavericks – A young thrill-seeker enlists the help of a surfing legend to chase after big waves a.k.a. mavericks (oh! now I get it). Genre – cheesy, action, drama; content – some intense scenes.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D – This is just a tiny idea of what eternity will look like for those outside of Jesus Christ. Genre – horror; content – the previews claim it’s a “3D ride through Hell”…so, yeah.

I was introduced to Chad Gibbs through his first book, God & Football. It was just as funny as it was challenging and I recommend it to anyone who loves God and enjoys football. He recently published Love Thy Rival, a book I have not finished reading, but has been equally as funny and challenging as GF. Buy his books, you’ll enjoy them! Anyway, when I asked Chad if he would be willing to write a post for us, I was thrilled that he said yes. Enjoy!

When I was asked to guest post on Reel Thinking I was a little hesitant. I don’t watch a lot of movies. We don’t even have Netflix. I do read a lot though, in part so I can occasionally watch movies that are based on books, then snootily say, “The book was better.”

Of course the books aren’t always better, Gone With the Wind and Forrest Gump are two films that many agree were greater than their literary sources (I cannot make this claim, because I actually haven’t read either book.)

But every once in a while an amazing film is adapted from an incredible book, as was the case with one of my favorite novels of all-time, To Kill A Mockingbird.

~~~

My wife gave me Harper Lee’s masterpiece just after I finished college. I devoured it in a few days, and was actually moved to try writing myself, a career that has since earned me tens of dollars.

I wrote Harper Lee soon after, thanking her for her gift to the world, and for the inspiration to pick up a pen and paper (I actually write on a computer, but you know what I mean.)

A few weeks later I received a postcard from Harper Lee, postmarked New York City. The note was kind and gracious, and I framed it and it still sits on a shelf in our bedroom. Then weeks later I received another postcard from Harper Lee. This note was kind and gracious as well, and while I hoped it signaled the beginning of a pen pal relationship, it was fairly obvious that Ms. Lee had mistakenly replied to my note twice. Even so, like Scout and Jem checking the hole in the tree, I check the mailbox every day for a note from my friend Harper.

~~~

For this post I was asked to write about film and theology. Writing about film was scary enough, never mind the fact that I’ve been told by more than one Christian publishing house that my writing doesn’t really have any spiritual takeaway.

To Kill a Mockingbird has spiritual takeaway though. Perhaps more subtle than films labeled ‘Christian’, but for me all the more powerful. It’s a film that shows what it means to love thy neighbor. A film that shows what it looks like when we fight injustice and hate. A film that shows us how creepy a young Robert Duval can look when he’s hiding behind your door.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this; if someone asked me to point in film to a character that best exemplifies how a Christian should live, I would point them to Atticus Finch. And if they were to ask me whether they should watch the movie or read the book, I’d tell them they can not go wrong either way, which is about the highest praise I can give.

And now a question for you. Not counting Jesus in the variety of films about his life, who is the most Christ-like character in film?

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Chad Gibbs, former baby, is the best-selling (okay, regional best-selling) author of God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC and Love Thy Rival: What Sports’ Greatest Rivalries Teach us about Loving Our Enemies. He has written for The Washington Post, CNN.Com, RELEVANT, and has made multiple (okay, two) appearances on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. If you’d like to talk to Chad about his books, or about life, or about how to lose baby fat, he can be reached at emailchadgibbs@gmail.com or by raven.

Here are a few questions for this weekend’s new releases…


Alex Cross
 
(Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Edward Burns) – “A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain” (imdb.com).

1. Madea VS Jack Shephard?  I don’t know if I like the idea of Jack the hero becoming a sadistic serial killer – what about you?

2. Creatively evil characters like Picasso (Matthew Perry) have become common place in movies (e.g Silence of the Lambs, Seven, Law Abiding Citizen, and The Dark Knight).  How should Christians think about the glorification of the criminal?

3. Is there really such a thing as “good” and “evil” OR is everything just differing shades of gray?

4. To what end(s) would you go to protect the ones you love?  What biblical categories should guide the Christian’s have when answering this question?

Paranormal Activity 4 (Katie Featherston, Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Brady Allen) – “It has been five years since the disappearance of Katie and Hunter, and a suburban family witness strange events in their neighborhood when a woman and a mysterious child move in” (imdb.com).

1. Why is it that movies like this are so popular?  How do you explain the pervasive fascination with the occult in popular culture?

2. Should Christians watch movies like this?  Why?  Why not?

3. How should Christians respond to our horror-movie-loving culture? How do the Scriptures inform this?

4. Many believe that scary movies are just innocent fun.  Is there a point in which the movie crosses a line and becomes dangerous?

The Sessions (John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy) – “A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest” (imdb.com).

1. A priest giving the thumbs up to fornication?  Really?  Where did he go to seminary?

2. What is the difference between a “sex surrogate” and a prostitute?

3. What is God’s view of sexuality?  Is the Bible too simplistic to speak to the circumstances of this story?

4. At what point should Christians avoid movies with sexual content?  Is this an individual choice?  Are there biblical principles that are helpful in making this decision?