Posts Tagged ‘Oscar’

81st Academy Awards¨ Press Kit ImagesMost of us are familiar with the story of Aaron creating a golden calf for the people of Israel to worship. Aaron apparently made the calf by mistake – “I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf'” [Ex. 32:24]. Hollywood, however, has taken Arron’s lead and forged a golden statue of their own and given it the name ‘Oscar’. This little golden statue represents joy, sorrow, jealousy, anger, covetousness, and just about any emotion imaginable for Hollywood stars and starlets.

Even though I can’t remember the article or publication, I can remember reading Matt Damon’s reflections on his Oscar aspirations. He took a role in Courage Under Fire, which required him to lose a great deal of weight. Without the assistance of a personal trainer (he didn’t have extra cash because he wasn’t the powerhouse he is now), the pounds began to come off. He successfully lost a significant amount of weight, but the film and his acting didn’t get the recognition he hoped for. Plus, he saw a doctor after all the weight loss and he was informed that this rapid decrease in weight almost cost him his life.

It wasn’t until many years later that Damon won an Oscar for Screenplay in his 1997 Best Picture nominated film, Good Will Hunting. Even though I cannot recall his exact words, Damon states that his name was called out, he went onstage, received his little golden man and thought, Is this it? Is this what I’ve been longing for? Is this little golden statue what I almost gave my life for?

I don’t think Matt Damon is a Christian, but I honestly don’t know enough about his personal life to say one way or the other. However, he is illustrating the idolatry that we know is present in each of our hearts. Even though we may not be longing for an Oscar, we have our lists of little golden men. Maybe they come in the form of a new car, a bigger salary, a slimmer waistline, more vacations, or [fill-in-the-blank]. I’m not picking on Damon, because I really enjoy his films and he is like the rest of humanity. Plus, I’m glad that he saw the emptiness of his idol and I pray that he follows after the only One who is able to fill the void in his heart.

In just a few more days, many more golden statues will be passed out to Hollywood hopefuls. Maybe you’ll be cheering alongside these actors, actresses, and filmmakers with a similar desire for them to win. Maybe you won’t even tune in to see who takes home the prize.

Whether or not you care I think it is an important event for Christians to take note of, because it is a window into the heart of our culture. Whether we like to admit it or not, Hollywood wields a great deal of power. Actors and actresses have influence. And, on Oscar night, we get to see which films they think are noteworthy. They let us in on what they consider to be worthy art. We so often want to know what messages are being communicated through film and what truths resonate with this culture. Well, Oscar night takes much of what Hollywood holds dear to their heart and displays if for all to survey.

So go ahead and tune into the Oscars with a watchful eye. Learn a little bit about the culture we live in. And, see if it grants you greater opportunities to bring the Truth to bear in this, often, dark sphere of our culture.

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The Oscar season is upon us, and we here at Reel Thinking want to take the time to highlight some of the films being released this fall and winter. Blaine listed his last week (in no particular order), and John’s top 5 are listed below. Also, sound off in the comments, letting us know what movies you’re looking forward to this fall.  And yes, we do have a few of the same movies listed, but John tried to branch out a bit and list some other notable forth-coming titles.

John’s Top 5:

Interstellar: Okay, so Blaine and I seem to disagree on Christopher Nolan (it’s okay, friends can disagree).  I’ve really enjoyed most of what he’s directed since I was first exposed to his filmmaking in Memento.  In my opinion, Nolan can make a film that’s appealing to the masses without sacrificing quality work.  He has been a master at mixing genres, and it appears that he’s doing it again – a heartfelt sci-fi/drama.

Unbroken:  If I had to pick one movie to watch this year, it would be this one.  Simply watching the trailer makes me think they should go ahead and give it the Oscar for Best Picture.  While I’m not crazy about Angelina Jolie directing, I am crazy-excited about the Coen Brothers writing the screenplay.

 

Foxcatcher: So, this story sounds too insane to be true, but it is.  I admit that I’m just a little curious to see Michael Scott…I mean, Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum pull off roles that seem to go against their normal characters.  Will we be seeing Oscar noms for these two?

 

The Imitation Game: I’m with Blaine on this one!

 

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings:  I’m not sure if we’ve got another Noah on our hands, but I am curious to see what Ridley Scott does with this film.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of Scott’s previous work, and although I’m unsure if I will be seeing this, I am a bit intrigued.  Not to mention that I am a fan of Christian Bale and Aaron Paul.

 

The Oscar for Best Picture will be given to one of the below films this Sunday.  It seems that most of the experts are claiming that Argo has it in the bag.  However, we want to know which film you think deserves to be called the Best Picture of 2012.

joker-oscarsWell the Oscar winners will be announced in less than a week (this Sunday for those of you who did not know), and I must admit that I’m a little upset with the Academy. I know, I know, I couldn’t imagine having the job they have of selecting a handful of films out of the possible contenders. To put yourself in their shoes, try and pick your favorite film of all time. Or, simply list your top 10 films. It’s not easy, right? You can pick some, but you leave some others out.

Even though there’s a certain level of grace we should give the academy, I’m going to go ahead and state that they really messed up by not – at least – nominating The Dark Knight Rises. I understand that filmmakers created some of the best films our cinemas have seen in recent years, but come on.

Just like everyone knows that Saving Private Ryan should have won Best Picture over Romeo In Love (some of you didn’t even realize that’s the incorrect title, which proves my point), everyone also knows that The Dark Knight should have been nominated in 2008. It would have been considerate of the Academy to at least admit their obvious error, by nominating TDKR.

I know the TDKR has received its fair share of criticism. Many people have pointed to the obvious plot-holes in the film and other minor issues with the story, but that is EXACTLY why TDKR should have been nominated. That is, it actually had a story to critique! When was the last time a comic-book adaptation had a decent story? You never hear people picking apart The Avengers or The Amazing Spider-man, but they’ve elevated their expectations of TDKR because it’s a higher caliber film.

You see, the Academy failed to nominate this film, because they honestly didn’t know what to do with a comic-book-action film that was actually just as good, or better, than many of the other dramas released. The Academy had never seen a superhero portrayed in this way and it caught them off guard. They were ready to admit that it was a good action film, but they were completely blind to the fact that these films have forever changed actions films.

They would also be hard-pressed to name a trilogy that has been complete as this one. My friend James Harleman states, if you didn’t like The Dark Knight Rises, you didn’t like The Dark Knight. These three films possess some of the most consistent, tightly woven story-lines to ever grace the silver screen. And what recognition does Christopher Nolan get? Nothing. What about the fact that Christian Bale actually portrays three characters in every film, any notoriety? Nope. What about the fact that almost every comic-book action film has used the Batman trilogy as a template for super hero movies, does that account for anything? Guess not.

It’s hard to measure the difference these films have already made and will continue to make, but the fact that they have changed filmmaking is worth far more than a golden statue.

What does this have to do with theology? Everything. Anytime someone makes a unique piece of art, and a timeless piece at that, it is something we should take notice of and appreciate. Christopher Nolan obviously has a gift and used many gifted actors and filmmakers to hone his story, but that’s what we should applaud. Any gift we have is a grace. There is a Giver who bestows the gift and the lengths at which we strive to sharpen those gifts, gives glory to the Giver. We don’t need an Academy to tell us that.

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: November 7, 2012 by jperritt in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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The buzz about Skyfall has been extremely favorable.  Many have said it’s the best Bond ever.  Because of these rave reviews, there is even Oscar buzz surrounding this Bond.  Does Skyfall have a chance of receiving any big nominations?  Best Picture?  What do you think?

I remember a couple of years back being at RUF staff training and one night, after our meetings, going to see the movie No Country for Old Men with some other campus ministers. This, of course, was the very dark, existential Cohen Brothers adaptation of the brilliant writer Cormac McCarthy’s novel. It won an Oscar for best picture in 2007. I remember being speechless when it was over. As I walked out with my friends none of us said a word. We had an encounter with a great work of art that yes, according to the film makers at least, seemed to be a story where no God was present and man was left to himself. And yes, the feeling I had was not a very good one, but I knew I had encountered something that impacted me and had to be reckoned with. I think any work of art that leaves an imprint within our imagination and cuts to the core of humanity in some way, is something that by nature has truth and worth and therefore intrinsic value. Well, as I made my way through the halls of the theatre I walked past a group of men, Christians no doubt by the way they talked, who instead of being speechless had an awful lot to say. They seemed to be having a break-out session of sorts with each person giving their take on authorial intent and how it reflected different trains of thought in our culture, and it seemed as though they were ripping this work of art apart. For some reason their attempt to immediately move in to ‘apologetic mode’ left me a bit queasy.

The same sort of thing happened recently in the wake of the release of Terrence Malick’s breathtaking film The Tree of Life, which was nominated for an Oscar for best picture last year. Contrary to No Country, The Tree of Life was much more pleasant to watch. It was stunningly beautiful and left me with a completely different feeling. The only way I could summarize it was….well I couldn’t really, except that it somehow made me want to be a better person. I think the best art has a quality about it that, although we can’t quite articulate, makes us want to be better people. The same thing happens when I watch the beautiful sun rise over the majestic Northeast Tennessee mountains. I can’t really put what I’m seeing in to words, all I can tell you is it made me want to worship God and for that day be a better person. However, many in the Christian world who would dare risk seeing Tree of Life had a different response, and they certainly had much to say. There was some religious imagery used throughout the film, and as a result many Christians rushed to explain and clarify and even refer to the film as a ‘Christian’ movie. And as a result I was at times left with the same pit in my stomach as I heard and read some of these summaries.

The reason I think I had this visceral reaction to many of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters responses to these two films and many, many others is two-fold:

  1. I think it is quite arrogant of us to think we can exactly interpret the artist’s multi-layered reasons for doing what he or she does; especially when the artist might not even know. At times I think there really is something bigger at work, and the truth is I’ve never met a rationalistic artist that was any good at least. I think by rushing to an explanation, we are in a way demeaning the art which leads me to my second and I think most important reason…
  2. When we treat art as simply a means to something else, like ‘understanding’ culture so that we might better know how to evangelize it, or for some other purpose; we are in fact abusing the art. When we do this, I think we bring dishonor to the one who created the work, and even worse, we bring dishonor to THE Creator Himself.

Does this mean we cannot talk about art at all? Absolutely not! I just think often times we are having the wrong discussion. Those of us in the Reformed tradition have historically at least seen value in engaging in the culture and the arts, but I do think at times we are misapplying our Biblical world and life-view. There is a very subtle distortion in our presuppositions when we approach art as a tool for something else. And correcting this presupposition won’t always leave us completely in silence; but it will change the nature of the discussion in a way that I think is more Biblical and honoring, both to the artist who created the work, and to the the Master Artist whom the artist is simply imaging.

So what is this subtle presuppositional mistake? Well, it is this: I think in function sometimes we treat the chief end of man as to glorify God by evangelizing the world, instead of what the Westminster Shorter Catechism actually says which is to “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The first is man centered. You see, our primary purpose is to worship God, and evangelism fits UNDER that. In the Reformed community we are quick to point out when others confuse this, but I’m afraid we are making the same mistake in our approach to art. Good art has an intrinsic value to it, and is an end in and of itself, and it does not have to have an overt, evangelistic message to be good. Good art is intrinsically worshipful and just going to the movies can be a way of glorifying God. It can even be a way of experiencing the pleasure of God. Who can forget the iconic scene in the classic movie Chariots of Fire when Scottish runner Eric Liddell says these words: “I believe God made more for a purpose, but He made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.” My favorite part in that scene is watching the audience’s response to Liddell’s accomplishment, because in that moment they realize they are beholding greatness and Christian or not, they cannot help but worship. There are times when I am reading a book, or at a movie, or taking in a concert and I behold something great and regardless of the religious beliefs behind the one creating the art, I am left in a state of worship. In that moment it is as if I am God’s audience and He is telling me something about myself or even better, He is delighting in me and I too feel His pleasure because like any good Dad, He delights when His children take joy in something that ultimately comes from His hand.

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Rev. Chad Smith is the RUF Campus Minister at East Tennessee State University in beautiful Johnson City, TN. He grew up in Memphis, got a BA in History at the University of Tennessee and a Master of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. Chad is married and has three lovely children. You can follow him on Twitter @ChadMSmith2

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: January 25, 2012 by jperritt in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
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The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday. You can check out the list here. Which movies got robbed? Who will win? What’s your vote for best pic? Etc. Let us hear your thoughts on the Oscars in our comment section below.

A first glance at this premise and you might think this should be a made for TV movie. However, once you notice Academy Award winning director, Steven Soderbergh, and the Academy Award winning/nominated cast (Cotillard, Damon, Fishburne, Law, Paltrow, & Winslet), one may take more than a passing glance at Contagion. You can also throw in a screenwriter (Burns) who has played a part in The Bourne Ultimatum, The Informant, and the much-anticipated remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo, and you realize this might actually be a great picture. Maybe not Oscar material (even though there is some Oscar buzz about it…we just created some) but a well-made thriller.

Not only do the cast and filmmaker cause one to think that this film takes its craft very seriously, but the story is one that truly resonates with all audiences. The story follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that kills within days. Just like several of the movies we’ve discussed on this blog, we have a story that employs the element of fear to get people into the seats.

Contagion uses a likely scenario to strike fear in our hearts but, it hits on a deeper level than that. It’s a disease that drives people into isolation, which ultimately goes against the way we are created.

As this airborne contagion is becoming more widespread, the characters of the film are attempting to remain immune, even though the origin of the virus is unknown. We hear one character remark, “Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anyone, stay away from other people. We may not realize this because we’re surrounded by people each and everyday, but being completely alone is terrifying.

Some people think they want to be alone and when we get moments of solitude those can be nice, but to be completely cut-off and separated from mankind is terrifying. It’s terrifying because we weren’t designed to be alone; we were created for community.

As we have said on this blog before, every human is created in the image of God – whether they recognize that or not makes no difference. We are created in the image of God and God is three Persons in One; i.e. the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [Gen. 1:26]. These three persons dwell with each other in perfect communion and fellowship. Therefore, we too desire to have perfect communion and fellowship with one another. That’s why going to the local theater is not an individual experience, but a shared experience. Movies are typically funnier when the whole audience is laughing and they’re scarier when the whole theater is screaming. This is true because these experiences are shared.

This is why Contagion is all the more thrilling and frightful. It’s terrifying because a widespread disease is something every human realizes could become a reality. But the design of this film adds another layer to the fear by creating a virus that divides and separates human beings from one another.

The reality is, sin is our contagion. Sin divides us and wars against community. It separates and drives us into isolation. It causes paranoia and fear in each of us. Although sin spreads faster than an airborne virus and its path causes great destruction, we do have a Cure for our contagion. We will look more intently at this tomorrow.