Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

birdmanposterBirdman was definitely your unconventional Best Picture Winner.  It will, no doubt, be viewed as strange for most moviegoers.  While it definitely has it’s fair share of unusual qualities, I don’t really find it all that bizarre.  I’m pretty certain I’m not the only person that talks to myself, and it’s simply this introspective communication that makes up most of the content that’s viewed as “weird”.

Let me first say that I think Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Riggan/Birdman deserved the Oscar for Best Actor.  While Eddie Redmayne did a fine job, there are plenty of other actors that could have pulled that off (In fact, fellow nominee Benedict Cumberbatch also portrayed Stephen Hawking).  I felt that the character of Riggan had greater depth and Keaton did a phenomenal job.

However, I was simply blown away with the extended shots this film contained.  It was unreal how few cuts this film actually contained – I’m sure if I googled it, I would find out.  The complexity of extended shots is overwhelming for the actors and film crew.  If one person misses a line or one of the set crew is out of place, the whole scene is blown and they have to go back to square one.  All of this to say, it’s really hard to do what director Alejandro G. Iñárritu did.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

The film follows the story of Riggan.  A former big-budget movie star who’s attempting to redefine himself through the theater…and I don’t mean movie theater.  Riggan is determined to break the image that’s been assigned to him, by writing, directing, and acting in a Broadway play.

Riggan’s character – as many of us can identify with – has become obsessed with other’s opinions of himself.  This initial obsession led to him donning the Birdman mask.  And, while it produced fame and money, his newest endeavor seeks to destroy the mask that constantly plagues him.  Much of the plague manifests itself in an inner battle between Riggan and Birdman.

This film doesn’t sanitize the depravity of the theater – both on and off the set.  In my estimation, the viewer gets an accurate portrayal into the world behind the theater curtain.  To put it bluntly, it ain’t pretty (viewer be warned).  Debauchery and vice are an aspect of each and every character as we get a front-row seat into their lives.  The flaws of these characters even manifest itself onstage, making the viewer assume the play will be an enormous failure.

Riggan’s attempt at theater, however, becomes a success.  Even as he’s guaranteed a devastating review from New York’s most notable critic, his efforts seem to win the audience over.  Yet, as we come to expect, Riggan has a surprise left for the audience.  During the climax of the play, Riggan’s character commits suicide.  While the gun has been a prop throughout the rehearsals, Riggan takes a loaded gun onstage for the live performance.  Sure enough, he puts the gun up to his head and pulls the trigger, moving the viewer to assume he’s just killed himself in front of a live audience.

The next scene opens in a hospital room, where we discover that Riggan is still alive.  As he fired the revolver, he actually blew his nose off instead of his brains out.  As he regains consciousness, Jake (Zach Galifinasakadkjas) informs him that the play has been a huge success.  What’s interesting, however, is that Riggan now has a new mask.  Blowing his nose off resulted in plastic surgery and we see him covered in gauze and bandages, resembling a mask.  He’s succeeded in ridding himself of the Birdman mask – which was beloved by fans – only to don the Surgical Mask which is also beloved by a new audience.

To be completely candid, Birdman is a film I don’t completely understand (there’s much I’m still processing).  What I do know is that it contains excellent dialogue that will resonate with most humans, because Riggan is us in so many ways.  We are shaped by opinions of others and we’re longing for acceptance.  Because of this, we put on mask after mask, hoping to find significance in the eyes of others.  For the Christian, however, we already possess something no audience can take away.  And it’s not a mask but a robe.  We just need to talk to ourselves more often about it.

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legend

This might sound strange, but I Am Legend has proved to be one of my favorite films.  Maybe it’s only strange to me, because of the low expectations I took into that film for my initial viewing.  I’ve written other posts on this film here and here, so check those out if you want a little more depth.  Today I’m simply musing about the “saddest” scene in the film.

[MAJOR SPOILERS]

As is this case with any film, the saddest scene is up for debate.  After watching this film multiple times with large groups of people, however, I’ve found that often times the audience is more saddened by the death of Sam (whose full name is Samantha….who’s also a dog) in comparison to the other sad scenes.

I too am sad at this scene, but is it the saddest?  I mean, Robert Neville (Will Smith) loses his wife AND daughter in the film.  Not to mention his own life.  This film is filled with death, yet it’s the dog that gets the memorable death.  Why?  Maybe it’s because Robert has to kill Sam?  Still though, I’ll take a dead dog any day of the week over my wife and children (which actually isn’t saying a whole lot, but you get my point).

On the other hand, I understand the sadness.  Most of us can identify with the loss of a pet.  And, while I still don’t mind losing a pet in comparison to a human (!), death is always an unnatural reality for Christians.  While humans are image-bearers of God and our death is more significant, the death of anything still leaves a big impact on creatures that were designed for eternity.

What do you think?  Why is Sam’s death such a big deal?  Did you find her death the saddest?  Let us hear from you.

Trailer Tuesdays: Spectre

Posted: April 14, 2015 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Drama
Tags: ,

The new James Bond trailer has been out for a few weeks, but in case you missed it here it is.  Also, be sure and check back tomorrow for Movie Musings on “Quality Porn”.

The Longest Ride opens in theaters April 10th.  It’s another cheesy, heartbreaking, fornication-saturated movie adapted from the mind of Nicholas Sparks.  I watched the trailer and thought, “This is Fifty Shades of Grey meets bull-riding.”  While the film won’t have the onscreen bondage associated with FSG, it will fill the mind with sexual fantasies off-screen as one leaves the theater.

Here’s my problem with this movie: a 13-year-old can watch it.  Let’s be honest, pre-teens will be watching this film, because – last time I checked – they don’t card people going to see PG-13 movies.  Some of you may claim that I’m overreacting, but that’s simply because we’re growing up in a pornified* culture that’s becoming more accustomed to fornication at every turn.  I know I’m coming off a bit like the “Church Lady” from Saturday Night Live, but I’m simply being honest.

So, give the trailer a look below and tell me what you think.  Am I overreacting?  Should I adapt with the times?  Or, do you agree that maybe we shouldn’t take our cues from the MPAA rating system and accept the fact that The Longest Ride is indeed porn for teens….and middle-aged women dissatisfied with their marriage.


*To borrow a term from Pamela Paul’s book, Pornified.

 

[NOTE: This was originally published in June of 2012, but is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the up-coming release of Fifty Shades of Grey.]

Yesterday we considered many thoughts that surrounded the movie Thor, centering on lust. Is it okay to watch a scene that highlights a certain actor’s – or actresses – physical attributes? Does it bump up too closely to lust? In my opinion, the scene from Thor was designed to make you do so, and other similar scenes do so as well.

These thoughts came about from a post I read on Facebook, the rise of female pornography addiction, and the release of Magic Mike. Here is the synopsis of the film: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money. Classy! I promise to stick to some of the same concerns from yesterday and stay away from the question of, why Steven Soderbergh is continuing to throw away his career by making bad movies?

I guess this is the main question I have with the release of Magic Mike, is this a preview of what’s to come? Will films like this become common-place because of the rise in popularity of female porn?

I may be wrong, but I cannot think of a film that has marketed male nudity this explicitly, at least in recent years. The content says “brief graphic nudity”. Some may think, ‘at least it’s brief.’ Yes, but it’s still graphic. This film is dangerous for at least two reasons.

First, the cast is made up of notable actors. Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey are guys that have catered to girls idolatry of love in many romantic comedies. Now, they are going to be leaving little to the imagination in MM, but women will flock to the theaters.

Secondly, the story seems to follow your typical romantic-comedy plot. Rom-coms usually depict rank fornication, but do so in a cutesy way which sells tickets. And even though the story of MM follows male strippers, the added rom-com subplot makes this pill easier to swallow. It makes porn seem cutesy.

To me, a line from the film sums up everything. Dallas (McConaughey) is giving his fellow narcissistic strippers a pep talk and states, “You are the husband she never had.” This statement is wrong on so many levels, but let’s just pick one.

Husbands and wives make a vow before God that death will be the only thing to separate them. Because of this covenant, the man commits to the wife and visa versa, no matter what. In light of the current discussion, this means the wife holds the husband as her standard of beauty – not some stripper.

And this is the true danger of films like this, creating lustful covetousness of a fantasy. You see, many men and women can remain in a marriage, while fulfilling fantasies through movie stars and make-believe characters. The new, exceedingly popular, pornographic novels Fifty Shades of Grey have proved that. Walt Mueller, President of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, recently wrote an article about the literary porn phenomena. Read what he witnessed at the book table at Costco one afternoon:

A younger woman was holding the book and pondering the purchase. She had an inquisitive and slightly guilty look on her face. An older women standing nearby happened to see the same inquisitive and guilty look and decided to engage the younger lady in conversation. . . . a conversation that pushed the latter to a tipping point. “Thinking about reading it?”, the older woman asked. “Yes, but I hear it’s a little dirty,” the younger woman replied. At that point, the young woman’s husband appeared behind her with their cart. Noticing her husband was now privy to the conversation, the young woman turned a little red and muttered something about her husband showing up. . . as if the conversation needed to come to an end. She looked like a guilty kid who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The older woman. . . probably in her mid-60s by my estimation. . . looked at her, gave her a little wink, and said, “It’s ten dollars well spent.” With that, the young woman placed the book in her cart. . . . and I watched her exchange a sly little smile with her husband. That was an interesting mentoring moment that says a lot about who we are and what we’re becoming as a culture [read the full article here].

One can never point out the deceitfulness of our sin enough. Whether it’s Thor with his shirt off, Magic Mike struttin’ his stuff, Twilight vampires glistening in the sun, or new explorations in bondage from Fifty Shades of Grey, we must be cautious of toying with our sin. Remember, sin wants to destroy your marriage, lead you down a path of adultery, and, ultimately, drag you to hell, so be wary of the lie it’s telling. Should you go see Magic Mike? Will it help you appreciate your husband? Will it cause you to lust? You might not have to search your heart too long on this one.

familyIf you’ve followed this site much at all, you know that The Family Man is a film I watch every year around Christmas time.  I know, I know…Nicholas Cage is the star, but this was before he got to be the Nicholas Cage who stars in Left Behind.  For those of you who’ve only grown up with this Nicholas Cage, I need to remind you that he won an Oscar for Best Actor.  And, I would also say that his acting is good in this film.  Therefore, if you haven’t seen this film, give it a shot.

With that endorsement, however, comes a warning.  There is some questionable content, but I would argue that the content isn’t needless – it’s illustrative of the overall message.  The movie shows the emptiness of worldliness, but it must do so by accurately depicting worldliness.

However, a specific aspect of this film I enjoy is its depiction of marriage.  I was helped to see this through a conversation I had with a friend.  While I was sharing my enjoyment of this film, my friend exclaimed that he didn’t like it.  As I inquired further, I discovered that his dislike was due to the fact that the husband and wife “argued too much.”  I would simply say that this is part of the reason I do appreciate it.  Many Hollywood films sanitize marriage, love, and relationships to such a degree, the audience ends up being lied to – given a false hope for what marriage should be.

Listen to the opening words of Tim & Kathy Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage:

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage.  At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card.  While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental.  Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.  No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true.

This is the strong point of The Family Man.  It gives a truthful and glorious picture of marriage.  The exhaustion, the frustration, the joys and the blessings are on full display in this movie.  While husbands and wives can grow in areas of their marriage, marriage is work and TFM is a film that shows this.  However, TFM doesn’t only display the difficulties, but the blessings that come about because of the work.

So, anyone can understand why we long for a sanitized image of marriage.  Scripture tells us that marriage was designed to communicate Christ’s love for his church. (Eph. 5:22-33)  Our desire for the “perfect marriage” will only take place in the new heavens and the new earth.  This, again, is why I appreciate TFM.  It reminds us that marriage will not be heaven on earth.  Yes we get tastes of that, but it reminds us that we still need redemption and – I don’t know about you – but I like films that point us to our need for that.

Document 1People sometimes quip, Ministry would be easy if you didn’t have to deal with people.  The same could be said of relationships – they would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with people.  The subtitle to Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane’s book entitled Relationships aptly reads A Mess Worth Making.  If anyone were to sum up the story of Two Lovers in a word ‘Messy!’ would prove fairly accurate.

Two Lovers tells the story of a heart-broken man, Lenard Creditor (Joaquin Phoenix).  Lenard suffers from depression after his fiancé left him.  He now lives with his parents and works at his father’s dry cleaning business.  With little prospects in sight, he comes across Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw) and Michelle Rausch (Gwenyth Paltro) within a day of each other.  He is drawn to both of them, providing Lenard (and the viewer) with a difficult decision.  That is, until you get to know them.

The film accurately portrays the complexities of relationships.  Not so much through cliches of your typical rom-com fare, but by getting down to a heart-level.  It accurately displays the brokenness present in every human heart.  It accurately displays the truth that we all display a facade of tidiness towards those we meet in order to conceal the depths of depravity below the surface.

In a sense, Two Lovers is your anti-romantic comedy.  It wars against the cliched one-liners the male fires away at the female.  While those lines are fired away in Two Lovers, they often come out awkwardly and fall on deaf ears.  Not only are the lines not received well, but relationships aren’t sanitized, cookie-cutter style either.  There are deep problems of drug addiction and past sins, that display a difficulty in relationships that aren’t a quick fix.

Not only does the film capture the complexities of relationships, it also captures the deep need for them.  As Tripp and Lane explain in their book, we were made for relationships.  Being created in the image of a triune God – who is in perfect relationship with himself – we don’t have a choice but to be in relationship. Sharing in fellowship with other individuals is something that’s in our DNA.  Sin, however, doesn’t make this relating all that easy, but it doesn’t keep it from being a human necessity either.

Two Lovers is a messy film.  It has content that will bother some Christians (utilize the fast-foward).  That being said, its display of sin wreaking havoc in individual’s lives, as well as, the need for humans to be in relationship with others, gives a realism that’s often cleaned up before its portrayal on the big screen.  I think a film like this proves that we want redemption.  We don’t like messy stories.  We often want stories that are cleaned up and have a happy ending.  And while you can say there is a happy ending in Two Lovers, the rocky path on the way there will prove too bumpy for most.

In case you missed it last week.

12_Years_A_Slave_PosterArtI’m very hesitant to write about such a sensitive historical event.  Prior to watching this film, I had told myself that I wouldn’t be doing a post on this.  In many ways, writing eloquently about a topic such as slavery is something outside of my gifting.  However, instead of writing in-depth about the film, I thought I would simply highlight a few themes that struck me while watching.  12 Years a Slave falls into the category of movies everyone should watch.  Below are a few reasons why:

Depravity

If this movie teaches us anything, it is the depravity of mankind.  My wife and I couldn’t help but ask, Were people really that wicked?  We both know our theology and we believe in the the doctrine of original sin, but how could people be that cruel?  How could people treat fellow image bearers in such a wicked way?  This movie displays the depths of wickedness we are all capable of.  It shows the dark, evil that lurks in all of our hearts.  It should humble us all to know that we are capable of those same sins.

Freedom

In a conversation between Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Bass (Brad Pitt), I was reminded about the gift of my freedom.  Bass makes the statement that his freedom is “everything to him” and remarks of his taking for granted being able to walk off the plantation at any time.  This too, made me realize how often I take my freedom for granted.  To be honest, I rarely give a passing thought to the cost of my freedom and the luxuries my freedom offers me.  This film gave me a small glimpse into the blessings I’m afforded every day.

Hatred

If this movie doesn’t move you towards hatred, I don’t know what will.  Of course Scripture commands us to be angry (Eph. 4:26), but we are to guard towards sinful anger.  This movie caused me to feel anger towards racism, slavery, wickedness, but I had to be cautious not to hate white people, in general.  Movies like this – if we’re not careful – can stir up feelings of hatred over past sins.  While I’m baffled by the blind racial hatred by our previous culture, I was reminded to guard myself against hating those responsible.  Rather, I’m forced to think about the blind-spots of our current culture?  What sins will the next generation hate us for?  How are similar sins currently being manifested?

Enslavement

This film also helped me to grasp a deep theological truth.  Towards the end of the film, the proper authorities show up presenting Solomon’s freedom papers to his slave master – Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender – btw, phenomenal performance by Fassbender!).  As Epps views these authorities taking his “property”, he becomes furious.  He screams, he threatens, his rage spews through his words and actions, but he can do nothing to Solomon.  In fact, Solomon is told, Pay no attention to that man.

As Christians, we too were enslaved.  We had a hard master who still screams at us, mistreats us, and makes us live in constant misery.  However, the truth is, we have One who calls us out of slavery and tells us to pay no attention to that man.  All the devil can do is threaten and disrupt our peace.  While that causes us misery each and every day, we no longer belong to that master.  We have a master whose yoke is easy and burden is light. (Matt. 11:30).

While I don’t think it was my best picture, it was deserving of the Best Picture – well acted and executed by the filmmakers.  As I said, this is a film every Christian needs to watch.  Some may protest that due to the rough content, but I find movies like this helpful to watch.  Helpful for the reasons listed above, but also helpful to assault the idols of comfort and ease in my heart.  So, rent 12 Years a Slave and be thankful for your freedom, and think of ways in which you can stand against injustice in our current culture.

Facing The Impossible

Posted: September 29, 2014 by jperritt in Drama, True Story
Tags: , , ,

impossible-posterI avoided watching this movie for a while, because a few people told me it was terrible.  However, they did not mean it was terrible artistically, or stylistically.  They would affirm that the acting was good, the story was good (it is based on a true story…even though we know how those often go).  They informed me that the movie was terrible, because of the pain that was depicted on-screen.

The Impossible follows the story of a family traveling to Thailand.  While the family is in Thailand, they become one of the thousands of people afflicted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  The film’s depiction of this disaster is remarkable.  The acting and special effects marry in such a way that will be deeply moving for most movie-goers.

At many times this movie is very hard to watch, but I would say it’s a necessary movie for Christians to watch.  Why would I say it’s necessary?  At least two reasons:

We Hate Pain

Now, this is an understandable reality.  No one in their right mind enjoys pain.  Pain is a result of the Fall, so mankind understands that something abnormal is happening when we experience pain.  However, pain is now a common part of life that is unavoidable until the return of King Jesus.  Even though Christians will hate pain, we must expect it, prepare for it, and know that God uses pain to grow us into the image of His Son.

Even though Christians understand that God uses pain to grow us, most Christians do everything in their power to avoid it.  Often times this is seen through our idolatry of comfort and pleasure.  Without a doubt, we are commanded to have joy, because of Christ’s finished work.  But, we must know that any comfort or pleasure we have is fleeting.  That is why I say this is a necessary film to watch – it assaults our idol of comfort.

Sharing in Suffering

Secondly, I think a film like The Impossible teaches us what it means to bear each other’s burdens.  As Christians we are called to share in Christ’s sufferings as we also share in his comfort (2 Cor. 1:5).  Instead of simply sharing an apathetic, I’m sorry to hear that, I’ll pray for you.  We must share one another’s burdens and seek to feel the pain they feel – true empathy.

You know, when the Tsunami of 2004 hit, I’m pretty sure I didn’t pray once…maybe it was just once.  But, I can almost guarantee you it wasn’t heartfelt.  Watching The Impossible was deeply convicting.  It was a movie that exposed the selfishness of my own heart.  Why didn’t I pay more attention to those suffering from the tsunami?  Why wasn’t my heart moved to consider families that lost loved ones?  I was too fixated on my little kingdom and my little concerns to stop and consider what people around the world were going through.

The Impossible, however, grabbed my heart and mind and wouldn’t allow my mind to trivially consider the pain these people experienced – it brutally depicted it on-screen.  It was this brutality that convicted me of my prayer life.  Why didn’t I stop to consider what these people were going through?  What else was vying for my attention?  If I went through this, I would want others praying for me.

Something else struck me as I watched this movie on a Saturday night.  We typically don’t watch movies on Saturday, because they can sometimes distract us the following morning during worship.  However, it occurred to me that most people are watching/attending football on Saturdays.  I had watched some football earlier that day and football is often a great time of fun and fellowship.  But, I couldn’t escape the excessive indulgence often surrounded by football with the contrast of what I was watching.  At football there’s so much food at tailgating it’s often tossed in the garbage.  At football we gather to pour so much time, money, and energy into a game.

Please don’t misunderstand me, we don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying something like football – I enjoy football.  However, I couldn’t ignore the suffering in the film, just like I couldn’t ignore how much of our life we spend on trivialities in the midst of so much suffering.

So, I do think The Impossible is a film Christians would do well to watch.  It will assault your comfort, it will assault the pain-free life we often seek, it will convict, but it will encourage at the same time.  You see, the film gets its name because of the joy one family experiences in the midst of such tragedy.  However, when great tragedy strikes any of us we can often think, Why me?  I can’t believe this is happening.  In other words, this is impossible!  Frequently reminding ourselves that we don’t live in a pain-free world can assist us whenever we face the impossible.