Archive for April, 2013

SLPlaybookIf you’ve read some of my other posts, you know how much I love “mental illness” movies.  As a Biblical counselor, I often weirdly wish that I could have the opportunity to offer help to the fictional characters in these films.  And, when an entire dysfunctional family is on display on the big screen, it really gets my attention!  So it was inevitable that I find the time on our recent family vacation to watch Silver Linings Playbook.  Even though there was way too much foul language and one sadly explicit sex scene, it was worth seeing.  The acting was outstanding.  Bradley Cooper impressed from beginning to end as the lead mentally ill character, Pat Solitano.  Pat’s parents, played by Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were superb.  Although I’m not a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence, she did play her part extremely well.  The only thing lacking was I wish that the very funny Chris Tucker would have had a bigger role!

Silver Linings Playbook centers on Pat’s life after a stint in a mental institution.  He moves back home with the dual goals of getting his teaching job back as well as his wife (mainly his wife).  This is Pat’s “silver lining playbook”–his master plan to find a way to better himself and find the little bit of sunshine amidst the clouds of his life.  Instead, his silver lining turns out to be Tiffany, another person with significant mental problems.  And, in the middle of all of this, the drama unfolds with Pat’s OCD father and co-dependent mother, as well as sundry other characters with issues.  The bottom line is that there really isn’t a “normal” person in Silver Linings Playbook, including Pat’s psychiatrist, Dr. Patel.

And I really think that’s one of the main messages of the movie–that we all have mental problems.  Or to be more specific: We all have mental problems and there are very good reasons for them, thank you very much.  For starters, Pat became labeled as having Bipolar Disorder after he caught his wife having a steamy affair, beat the man senseless, and lost his teaching job.  Tiffany developed all of her problems after her husband was killed (she blamed herself for it).  We are also led to deduce that Pat developed issues from growing up in a family with an OCD father and enabling mother.  His friend Ronnie, one of my favorite characters, was immensely stressed out from his job and marriage.  And, the list goes on.  Silver Linings Playbook really captures the Biblical reality that all human beings are fallen, weak, and broken.  What is most refreshing about Pat and Tiffany is that they don’t try to hide it, but attempt to deal with it instead.

A second major message in the movie (although some may disagree) is the futility of the various methods of dealing with mental problems.  Pat Sr. and Dolores (Pat’s parents) represent the approach typified by denial and avoidance of the problems (wonderfully connected to professional football, I might add).  The mental institution seemed pretty ineffective, as well as psychological medication (the side effects outweighed the help).  At one level, Dr. Patel was a very “normalizing” influence on Pat, but his counseling was fairly useless.  Pat’s “positive mental attitude” efforts to get his health back,  job back, wife back also fall short.  This futility motif really made much of the movie very depressing!

The last message of Silver Linings Playbook is a worldly form of redemption and restoration.  Due to one last complicated gamble, Pat Sr. gets his money back so he can finally start his own restaurant.  The family as a whole appears to open up and be  a bit more functional. Even Pat’s friends seem to solve their problems.  At the center of this redemption is the new-found love relationship between Pat and Tiffany.  Sure, Pat doesn’t get his wife back, but at least he gets to move on and find love again.  And, to be honest, Tiffany really manipulates and deceives Pat in order to help him fall in love with her.  Even his family helps her out with this strange “intervention.”  But, hey, these are people with mental problems living in a fallen world, so what do you expect?  A little silver lining is better than constant cloudiness!

All this pseudo-redemption (falling in love seems to be the primary form of the world’s redemption) should lead Christians to be deeply thankful for the better redemption in Jesus.  We are all broken and fallen, with no hope in this world.  Jesus is more than just a silver lining in our altogether cloudy lives.  He is the Light of the World!  He is the Bright Morning Star!  His life, death, and resurrection dispels all of the clouds and darkness and hopelessness.  Our “playbook” reveals our eternal victory in Christ!

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Snapshots

Posted: April 29, 2013 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.

Iron Man 3 – After Iron Man 2 promised us that Ivan Vanko was Tony Stark’s toughest villain, it seems that Iron Man 3 informs us that IM2 was wrong and ‘The Mandarine’ is the toughest villain…pinkie swear. Genre – action, sci-fi; content – intense action and violence throughout, and some suggestive content.

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Pain & Gain opens this weekend. The trailer promises humor, action, and plenty of flexing. I don’t know about you, but physical fitness is a struggle for me. I call my exercise plan the “binge and purge” method.  I exercise pretty consistently for a season and then take a year off – not exactly the most effective way to get or stay in shape.

I am curious to see just how much that fitness plays into this film. It is certainly one of western culture’s top areas of concern.  Just peruse the cable channels to see how many times the P90X or Insanity informercials air.

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All of this got me thinking about fitness and faith.  Is there a distinctly Christian perspective when in comes to fitness?

My fellow contributor and founder of Reel Thinking, John Perritt, recently wrote a great post about this issue for The Gospel Coalition website (www.thegospelcoalition.org).  Take a moment to check it out here.  Consider it gain with little pain.

Some thoughts and questions for this week’s new releases…

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Pain and Gain –  “A trio of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong” (IMDB.com).

1. Great…another film to make me feel physically inferior.  My loss…Tony Horton’s gain.  Alternate title = Robin Hood: Big Guns Edition.

2. Seriously though, check out the tagline. “Their American Dream is Bigger than Yours.”  How does this strike you?  Yes, I know it is a comedy.

3. Daniel Lugo’s (Mark Wahlberg) definition of the “American Dream” = “If your willing to do the work, you can have anything.”  How does this jive with biblical truth?

MV5BMTcwODUwMjg2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTc2NzkxOA@@._V1_SX214_The Big Wedding – “A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding” (IMDB.com).

1. Nothing says family…like faking it. Unfortunately, this is often too true.

2. In some situations laughing can be a good alternate to tears.  When is it good to laugh at broken marriages and dysfunctional families?  How should we deal with these realities?

3. Some advice from the trailer…Don (Robert De Niro) says, “Piece of wedding advice kid?  Stay single as long as you can.”  Obviously Don has issues.  What would you say to Don?

4. What Scripture passages inform a biblical view of marriage and family?

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Mud“Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love” (IMDB.com).

1. The opening line from the trailer, “There are things you can get away with in this world and there are things you can’t.”  Well, maybe for a while, “for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26 – see also Mark 4:22 and Luke 8:17)

2. This film looks to be one that will ask questions relating to situational ethics.  Would you help a man who is running from the law?  Why or why not?

3. Is it ever morally right to lie?  If so, when?

4. What wouldn’t you do to protect someone you love?

Since there aren’t any good movies being released this weekend and Iron Man 3 is coming out next weekend, we figured we’d discuss which 3rd film is the best.  Go ahead and take your pick from the list below or add a film we left off (there are plenty more).

FLIGHT-POSTERWouldn’t you love to see a great film that communicates truths such as forgiveness, love, and repentance?  Of course.  What if you had to wade through explicit nudity, drugs, and profanity to get at it?  Hmmm.  This is the problem posed with a film like Flight.

Denzel Washington gives his most recent Oscar nominated performance in his portrayal as the substance-abusing pilot, Whip Whitaker.  Not only is his performance excellent, but the entire story is ultimately a picture of God’s irresistible grace.

That may be true, but…

Even though the movie communicates some great truths, I don’t want to downplay the explicit nudity in the first five minutes of the film, as well as one other scene.  While I think the director put that in the film to illustrate the depravity of Whip’s character, the same could have been accomplished without the explicit scene.  Fortunately I read about the content first and had my wife tell me when I could stop looking at the floor.

The nudity, however, isn’t the only rough content in the film.  The drug use and language are other concerns to wade through.  I must say that I appreciated the depiction of the drug use in the film.  It was not glorified and it displayed the emptiness and horrors associated with that lifestyle.

As far as the language goes, I know we can’t “earmuff” every offensive word that is uttered by the characters, therefore, you will subject yourselves to a lot of rough language if you choose to watch Flight.  However, you may hear some of the same language visiting a local restaurant, attending a sporting event, shopping at the mall, or witnessing to your neighbor.  This is one area Christians should be challenged on.  We understand the depravity of human nature but seem to forget to carry that over to film.  We know our world is sinful, but we somehow expect our movies to be sinless.

I believe some of our misunderstanding lies in the fact that we can equate disturbing content with corruption.  Just because a film disturbs me doesn’t mean that it has corrupted me.  My own heart corrupts me, but watching the sad effects of an alcoholic father ruining his marriage and family disturbs me.  They are different.  And to be perfectly honest, I know many Christians who need to be disturbed a bit – I am one of them.

We are charged to be radical in our Christianity, to fight against our cul-de-sac Christianity (which I agree with), but somehow we don’t see how film can be a catalyst here.  Film can disturb us in a good way.  The offensive brokenness viewed can move us to greater zeal to preach the gospel.  We see brokenness in the world and it disrupts the comfortable lifestyle so many Christians cling to with white knuckles.  God didn’t promise us a happy, easy life and we shouldn’t expect our movies to be that way either.

Can’t we just read God’s Word to hear the same truths?

There is no doubt that a purer form of the truths communicated in Flight can be found in Scripture.  But when God gives us both, we might do ourselves some good to reflect on them.  God was too transcendent for lowly humans to figure him out, but, in his grace, he has revealed himself to us.  He doesn’t just reveal himself in one way, but two: Scripture and creation.  While Scripture [special revelation] is to remain primary, God has still given us creation [general revelation] to communicate how great he is and Flight does just that.

Whip’s character ultimately represents us [spoilers].  Whip is a liar who has given himself over to his idolatry.  He worships the bottle and his devotion is so strong that he’s thrown away almost every earthly relationship he has.  It isn’t until God, literally, turns his life upside-down in a plane crash that he wakes up.

As his plane careens to the ground, it crushes the steeple of a church while an outdoor baptism is going on – symbolic of Whip’s own baptism.  Whip’s old self, however, fights against this “act of God” in his life.  Lies and substance abuse are his weapons against the bitter providence God has brought about.  Whip’s lies corrupt others around him and it isn’t until the night before his trial that the Lord completely gives himself over to his idolatry.

As Whip is wakened in the night by a knocking sound, he discovers the adjoining hotel room unlocked.  Opening the mini-fridge he discovers its contents filled with alcohol.  He then drinks himself, nearly, to death.  After he cleans up and makes his way to the trial, he is provided with the perfect lie to escape imprisonment.  However, he can’t tell one more lie. While on the stand, Whip cries out, “God help me.” and tells the truth for the first time.

The truth lands him in prison for manslaughter but he confesses, “..for the first time in my life, I’m free.”  Whip fought the truth the entire film, but the truth prevailed.  Flight beautifully depicts the depravity of our own heart and the irresistible love God displays to his rebellious children.

As the movie closes, Whip’s son makes a visit to the prison.  He’s writing an essay entitled, The Most Fascinating Person I’ve Never Met, and asks him a question we all must answer, “Who are you?”  The movie closes without an answer, but we can answer that question for Whip and ourselves – I am a sinner redeemed by a beautiful Savior.

Snapshots

Posted: April 22, 2013 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.

Pain and Gain – A trio of body-builders get caught in a  kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.  Genre – action, comedy; content – bloody violence, sexual content, drug use, nudity, and language.

The Big Wedding – As a family reunites for a wedding, a long-divorced couple pretends to be married.  Genre – comedy; content – language, brief nudity, and sexual content.

Mud – Two teenage boys form a pact to help a fugitive elude the authorities and reunite with his lover.  Genre – drama; content – sexual references, some violence, and language.

Oblivious to the truth

Posted: April 19, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday we discussed a bit about how we can be led to doubt what we know about the world. Today we continue on similar waters, but spoilers will come. You have been warned!

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Jack (Tom Cruise) is doing the cleanup service after humanity left Earth. He is nowhere as cool as Wall-E, but at least he is not alone. What he knows (or thinks he knows ) is that Eath fought a brave war against aliens and eventually had to relocate to Titan, while a ship called Tet was left orbiting the planet and commanding the cleanup crew (not their official name) that makes sure the resource harvest gigantic machines work properly. They are concerned because some mean aliens are still in the area and they want to blow up everything, ye of mean spirit.

But something is going on that rattles Jack. He has some weird memories, some remembrances of a lady on top of the Empire State Building. Eventually he learns that his life is a lie, that the aliens he is supposedly hunting are in fact the only humans left on Earth. Nobody is living in Titan. And that big ship on orbit? THOSE ARE THE ALIENS!!!

Wait, who is he then? Throught some events he comes to learn that he is not even who he thinks he is – the hard reality is that he is a clone, what he thinks to be true is false and he has to re-evaluate all that he thinks he knows. His co-worker/lover refuses to believe and is eventually desintegrated by the flying evil chubby eye.

Now, what about the Gospel? When it comes to this kind of experience (see Matrix), we can easily compare this coming to the knowledge of truth to the comprehension of the Gospel. Let’s see – you live in a lie, you think you know who you are, who those weirdoes are, who is good, who is evil and your life is somewhat settled in such knowledge. And yet you somehow know things are not wuite what they should be, like a splinter on your mind (whoops).

Yet when you come to the knowledge of truth is because this happens:

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

The same God who said “Let there be light”speaks into our hearts and there is light made inside of us to trust in Jesus Christ. When we come to this knowledge of truth, we also re-evaluate everything: our own place in the world, the claims of tuth we have been fed by this evil world and even the weirdoes who keep sayig they are the real humanity. It hurts! This process hearts. But there is life in it.

Oblivion

Posted: April 18, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Sci-Fi, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

For one of those weird reasons, Oblivion was released in Brazil two weeks before the USA. So, I have seen it already.I thought it was old news. Until I saw that only now it is being released up north. Well, let us discuss it then!

Here is the trailer. I warn you however that having seen the movie without a single trailer in my mind, and now coming back to the trailer, I found that many of the reveals are pretty good, except for those who have already seen them in the trailers. So there. Make your choice.

Tomorrow we will have a mores spoilerish discussion. Today let’s focus briefly on the issue of whom to trust and what happens when we are faced with world shatterig news. We will discuss some plot details, but nothing you can’t see in the trailer above.

In the movie Tom Cruise’s character is faces with the tough issue of having everything he ever knew being brought in check. His life, his mission his knowledge is challenged. How should he look for the truth? What is the answer?

First notice that there is a truth, there is an asnwer. It is not simply a matter of perspective. It is not simply a matter of cultural preference. One side is right and the other side is wrong. Either what he knows is true or what he jsut learned is true. That is rather refreshing.

Second, notice that there comes a time in which he has to question not only the facts, but the worldview that he uses to interpret and see reality. When new information comes to light, at times it does not fit our paradigms, does not fit the plausibility structure of our minds (fancy words huh?).  Our past, our memories, our experiences all shape what we consider to be normal and possible. That is the world as Cruise’s character sees it. We learn the world through his eyes. This is what is happening, or so we think. Then together with the character our worldview is put into questioning. How do you know that? Who told you this and this? What proof do you have? When we are presented with the Gospel, we are called to accept objective, external facts that do not depend on opinion. And yet, we are also called to reevaluate the whole way in which we aprehend the world. For the Gospel involves Earth-shattering and Earth-rebuilding news that require us to completely see the world with new eyes, in fact, new eyes that God’s Spirit gives us. After conversion the whole world seems different to us; things that were primary become secundary. Things there were worthless acquire value. What seemed to be the world to us, becomes a different place. That is good news.

This weekend Oblivion releases, which kicks off the trend of big-budget summer blockbusters.  Iron Man 3 will follow in a couple of weeks, as well as, many others in the month of May.  All of that to say, which April and May releases are you most excited about?