Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Lord Save Us..." The Movie

Can I just say that generally speaking, I avoid movies made by Christians about Christianity. It is not that I don't appreciate the attempt to redeem the arts and give a talented individual a venue for using his or her gifts. I don't even fault them for using film as a way of espousing a particular theological or philosphical viewpoint...filmakers and screenwriters do that all of the do musicians and authors. I guess that my beef has always been not that it is Christian film-making, but that it is bad film-making. I remember back in the 60's when Pat Boone starred in "The Cross and the Switchblade". Then in the late 70's and 80's there was a rash of rapture/second-coming movies. The "Left Behind" book series spawned an equally insipid movie, and then there have been a few more in recent years that have been more universally appealing and higher quality. I'm not saying that you have to have a big producton budget to have a quality movie. Independent films and documentaries have proven that is not always the case. Last year our friend Justin Dillon did a marvelous job with limited resources and donated talent to make a startlingly beautiful and compelling rockumentary, "Call and Response", addressing he issue of human trafficking in the world.

Well another such noteworth effort by a Christian just trying to raise the valid question about the state of the church and its ineffectiveness in meeting the needs of the world it professes to love is documented in Dan Merchant's wonderful documentary openin in austin this weekend, entitled, "Lord Save Us From Your Followers - Why the Gospel of Love is Dividing America!". I had coffee with Dan a couple of weeks ago as he was making a whirlwind pass through Texas trying to get some inertia for the opening of the moving in the Christian community. The Portland native is funny, down to earth, refuses to take himself too seriously, and has a deep passsion for helping the followers of Jesus rethink the way they relate to culture and to the needs of the world. He began his pilgrimage to engage people on he street with discussing the their perceptions of Jesus, God, followers of Christ and the Church by standing in Times Square wearing a garish jumpsuit (Sorry Dan, you looked like my Grandpa Tony ready to roll up on a creeper under a jacked-up 51' Chevy pick-up) decorated with bumper stickers carrying varous Christian sayings and messages. He gets some interesting and insightful responses, as you would guess. He also interviews talking heads from both sides of the theological and political aisle like Tony Campolo, Michael Reagan, Sister Mary Timothy, Al Franken, and many more.

I believe Dan's movie raises some valid questions about the way we has followers of Jesus are hurting the cause of Christ and not helping. I urge you to take some time to see it this weekend if you are here in Austin (Gateway Regal Cinema)or to check the movie website to find out if it is playing in your area.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and Nostalgia

I'm not sure exactly when Ariele got her copy of Judi and Ron Barrett's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. She was either one or two years old, but she says "I don't ever remember not having that book." I would put her to bed each night and not only would we read the book from cover to cover, she always wanted to play the "Show Me" game which meant that I had to pick out some obscure object or person on a particular page, and it was her job to locate it. It was kinda like our own personal "Where's Waldo" game. It was easy and fun to do with this book because there was so much going on with every page. The tradition continued as both Hannah and Calla got old enough for me to read to them at bedtime as well, and that old book became worn and tattered as the years passed. Several years ago at Christmas, with all three girls in college, I got each of them a brand new copy of the old book we had all loved, and gave it to them in their stockings at Christmas.

It was spring of this year when, Ariele heard the rumor that there was going to be an animated movie based on the book. We were, of course, excited until we saw a brief trailer. The animation didn't look like the illustrations in the book at all, and it was obvious there were major plot changes in the storyline. Our hearts sank. This summer when Calla and Ariele and I were at the midnight show of the latest Harry Potter movie installment, they ran the theatrical trailer for the Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs movie, and again we were disappointed in what we saw. There was also that same night a trailer for the amazing children's classic "Where the Wild Things Are", and not only were we blown away, but the trailer got a round of applause when it concluded...yup, the trailer...I was shocked... and still disappointed that CWACOM was not going to make the grade.

Well here we are in September and the movie opened here in Austin and around the country to decent reviews. It was actually the highest grossing film in the country last weekend, so I couldn't help it...I went tonight to see it. Not only was I not disappointed, I was delighted. Yes the storyline doesn't look much like the book's, and the animation is completely different than the illustrations in the book...and it is in 3-D. It may come across as a little preachy on the subjects of relationships to parents, taking care of the environment, wasting food, and world hunger, but this film was cleverly written and voiced, and those are all messages children and adults in our world can't hear often enough. Even the 3-D worked to enhance the experience and not detract from it.

But...mostly the movie tonight was a trip down memory lane for me, as I remembered those nights at my children's bedside, reading and laughing and ending the day in a way that no mom or dad can get enough of. As parents, we have worked all day long, either at a job or as a caretaker at home for our kids (sometimes both), but those few, precious moments are cemented in their hearts, and in ours, for eternity.

Keep reading, keep talking, keep praying with and for you kids,



Monday, September 14, 2009

Serena Williams outburst at US Open semi-finals

I Still Get Surprised...

I know in my head that big rap stars, tennis champions and congressmen are all just people, and they lose their cool like I do... all of the time, but somehow I still get surprised when folks like that pop off, make fools of themselves, and in the process, their sport or vocation. It is an embarrassment for them and others to be sure, but the part that bugs me the most is the arrogance to think that you can say anything you want anytime you want...with the direct and collateral damage ending up being the intended targets of your spoken diarrhea. Last week during President Obama's address to Congress, Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, heckled the President in the middle of his speech with a boisterous, "You lie!". My guess is that particular criticism could be yelled at any of us at different times in our lives, as well as Barack Obama, but to choose to do so in the middle of a nationally televised presidential address was both disrespectful and rude. Wilson did apologize, but has also gotten significant political mileage out of the incident, seeing a boost in fund raising and fan mail.

I've been watching the U.S. Open Tennis tournament with interest, as there have been several compelling stories running throughout the tournament. First the skyrocketing interest in 17 year old American Melanie Oudin was a delightful story as this spunky, tenacious 5' 5" ball of energy defeated four consecutive Russian, highly seeded opponents on her way to a spot in the quarter-finals. She would fall there to a young Danish player, but it was an inspiring run. The other intriguing story was with Belgian player, Kim Clijsters, who retired from tennis after winning the U.S.Open in 2005 at the age of 22 (there were injuries and she wanted to get married and have a family) who had returned to competitive tennis earlier in the year. She indeed had married in the years that followed and now has a beautiful one year old daughter. The Open was only her third competitive tennis tournament back, and frankly no one considered that she would be a threat to compete for this major championship (or any other for that matter) anytime soon. Yup...So much for assumptions...Sunday night Kim Clijsters, the wife and mother, defeated that same Danish teenager who eliminated Melanie Oudin in the quarterfinals in straight sets to take the Championship. That is not what surprised me. In the semis Clijsters was facing the powerful, experienced, and heavily-favored Serena Williams. Kim played well...Serena did not... and after taking the first set, Serena was serving to stay in the match at 15-40. On the next serve she was called for a foot fault, which just means that the line judge, observed that Serena's lead foot touched or crossed the baseline as she was serving. The rule is, in fact, that the server must not touch the line with his or her foot until the serve crosses the net, BUT it is very rarely called, and almost never at this stage of an important match. That meant that Serena had one more serve chance to put the ball in play, but instead of serving she chose to approach the line judge and threaten to cram the ball down her throat, with several F-bombs inserted. It was a little scary and a lot bewildering that Serena chose this time to completely meltdown emotionally. The chair judge then assessed a point penalty to Serena, because she had gotten a warning earlier in the match for slamming her racket to the court, which meant she lost the point, and as a result, the match.

Last night at the VMA awards, 19 year old country music phenom, Taylor Swift won a video music award for female artists and in the middle of her acceptance speech, Kanye West walked on the stage, took the microphone from Taylor and proceeded to insist that that Beyonce's video should have won the award. Interestingly enough, when Beyonce actually did win something a little later, she chose to call Taylor back on the stage and gave her part of her own acceptance time to finish her speech. To his credit, Kanye later apologized.

Tonight on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Conan quipped that NBC was piloting a new show starring Kanye, Serena and Joe Wilson, entitled, "America's Got A-Holes".
He's right, we do, but I still get surprised. Maybe I should be surprised that I still get surprised...or not.