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Archive for the ‘Movie Trailers’ Category

Here they are, in no particular order.  Feel free to share yours in the comment section! (And yes, Die Hard does count)

1. Disney’s A Christmas Carol

2. Home Alone

3. Elf

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

…and, of course…

5. It’s a Wonderful Life

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A few of my favorites/honorable mentions, listed in no particular order…

Saving Private Ryan

We Were Soldiers

American Sniper

Unbroken

Glory

Trailer Link (Turner Classic Movies): http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TCM/cvp/container/mediaroom_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=1091318

Band of Brothers

Trailer Link (Internet Movie Database): http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi3629711385/imdb/embed?autoplay=false&width=480

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If you are going to accuse me of anything on the basis of this post’s title, let it be lack of originality (a charge I would gladly accept, as I think originality is overrated): I have chosen to construct my title out of those of not one, but two previously existing works — namely, Clint Eastwood’s recent blockbuster film “American Sniper” and popular Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’ 1940 essay “Why I am not a Pacifist.”

First, the movie.  I won’t go into great detail, other than to say that it is based on the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) — hailed as the deadliest shooter in American military history — his experiences in the Iraq War, and his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return home.

Ben ReedAt the beginning of the film, me meet a young Chris Kyle (Cole Konis), who fights a group of bullies in defense of his younger brother.  Chris’ father, Wayne (Ben Reed), tells his young sons that there are three kinds of people in the world.  Most people, he says, are sheep — that is, people who “prefer to think that evil doesn’t exist in the world.”  And then there are the wolves, who prey on the weak and thrive on violence.  Finally, there are the sheepdogs, the strong who defend the vulnerable against the wolves.

Wayne, a Christian father raising a Christian family, intends for his sons to be the latter.  His goal in this instance is to make sure that Chris was acting as a sheepdog rather than as a wolf.

C.s.lewis3

“C.s.lewis3”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG#/media/File:C.s.lewis3.JPG

It is with that in mind that I cite the following passage from Lewis’ essay (which is published along with a number of others in “The Weight of Glory“):

The relevant intuition [used in support of pacifism] seems to be that (…) helping is good and harming bad.  (…) [T]hat intuition can lead to no action unless it is limited in some way or other.  You cannot do simply good to simply Man; you must do this or that good to this or that man.  (…) [W]hen B is up to mischief against A, you must either do nothing (which disobeys intuition) or you must help one against the other.

Between these two citations — the scene from “American Sniper” and the snippet from “Why I am not a Pacifist” — we can gain a pretty decent understanding of how a Christian can choose to go to war, or use force in any instance.

americansniperposterIt is not my intention to get into a discussion of whether the Iraq War meets Just War criteria, nor whether sniping, as a practice, constitutes a form of just warfare.  But a lot of people tend to make this automatic, knee-jerk assumption that to fight in a war or use any kind of force is ipso facto incompatible with being a faithful Christian.

But, as Lewis and the elder Kyle suggest, part of one’s Christian duty is to defend the weak.  And sometimes, this requires force — on individual, communal, and sometimes even national and international levels.  To be sure, such force should always be as minimal as possible, restraint must be preferred to killing, and the death of a “wolf” should be avoided whenever reasonably possible.  But if we want to issue a wholesale condemnation of all warfare, it should give us pause that the weight of reason, history, and even Christian tradition itself is against us.

Needless to say, I am only scratching the surface of Lewis’ essay.  But since my main intention is a treatment of Eastwood’s film, I think I’ll just encourage you to read it yourself and leave it at that.

As for the movie, more to come.

Photo of C.S. Lewis from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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I don’t think I have ever physically kicked myself.

But I am a little tempted to do so, in opposition to the generally accepted sense of the term, when I recall that Disney’s “Frozen” was playing in my local theater shortly after it first came out, and I did not go see it.  Had I known what a sensation it would become, I might have rethought that decision.

Anyway, I did finally get around to seeing the film a couple weeks ago.  Apart from some broader reflections that I offered last week, here are the thoughts that stand out most in my mind:

René_GirardElsa, the “snow queen” (voiced by Idina Menzel), made me think of Stanford University anthropologist René Girard’s great book “The Scapegoat,” in which he demonstrates the universality of the scapegoat mechanism across all cultures and its concealed presence in world mythology.

ElsaElsa qualifies as a scapegoat in the classical sense — not merely as one who gets blamed for everything, but one who is:

1) distinguished by some unusual mark or deformity — in Elsa’s case, her (often uncontrollable) magical powers of being able to produce and manipulate ice and snow (if we are looking for a more concrete physical mark, it would be the white gloves she wears to conceal these powers);

2) somehow perceived as the cause of the pestilence or curse on the community — Elsa does, of course, set off the “eternal winter” (though not on purpose); and

3) perceived at the same time as the one who can cure the community’s misfortune — a big part of the quest to rescue Elsa is to get her to stop the “eternal winter,” after all.

Contrary to what you might think, the latter is especially troubling with regard to traditional scapegoats.  Very often, this was where human sacrifice would come into play.  The one with the special “mark” would be killed (“sacrificed”), and this person’s death was thought to bring about the harmony and safety of the community.  Subsequently and as a result, the scapegoat would be deified or “mythified.” This basic societal impulse would morph into a variety of well-known stories (the blind Oedipus, for example).

Anna_Elsa2I hope I haven’t got people depressed.  If so, know that the analogy doesn’t end here.  “Frozen” is a much more upbeat and hopeful tale than Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” on which it is loosely based — and, ironically, the scapegoat mechanism doesn’t seem to make it into the latter at all.

Hans-elsa-stormBut before I move on, just one further illustration of how Elsa resembles the traditional scapegoat.  I’m thinking of the scene in which Prince Hans (voiced by Santino Fontana) and his band of men come to capture her in her secluded “ice palace.”  In the face of these intruders who appear to mean her harm, Elsa unleashes her powers in self-defense.

At this point, Hans pleads with her –apparently with concern and sincerity — not to “become the monster they think you are.”

If Elsa’s situation in general reminds me of the scapegoat mechanism in general, then this scene in particular makes me think of perhaps the most striking living example of this societal impulse mentioned in the Bible: The Gerasene demoniac.

Healing_of_the_demon-possessedMost people know this to be the gentleman out of whom Christ cast a host of demons, whom he then allowed to enter a herd of swine.  But if we read the Gospel account carefully we find that beforehand, the demoniac’s community carefully maintained his status as village outcast by chaining him to the tombs.  What results is a vicious circle.  The demoniac rages about, breaks his chains, gashes himself with stones…in short, “becomes the monster they think he is.”

This chaining is both literal and symbolic.  It is a concrete manifestation of the community’s determination to keep him trapped in his scapegoat status.  Elsa faces a somewhat similar situation in “Frozen.”  But, like the Gerasene demoniac, she is rescued by Christ — although in a more indirect, disguised, and admittedly symbolic form.

We’ll get into that next time.

“Frozen” stills obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia

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Not a new film, but probably sufficiently little-known that it can stand a “spot.”

 

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Not to be a prude…but if you watch this trailer, just be aware that there is some profanity/obscenity in it.

Alexander Payne’s latest film, “Nebraska,” is probably the best comedy of the past couple years.  It might not be as much of a belly-roller as, say, “This Is the End” or “22 Jump Street;” but unlike most contemporary comedies, it manages what the genre actually does best: It incorporates an underlying layer of tragedy.

As the film opens, we meet Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an elderly man walking alone in the midst of traffic in Billings, Montana.  We soon learn that he is trying to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect the $1 million he has won in a sweepstakes.

Film Review NebraskaWoody’s son, David (Will Forte) tries to get him to understand that this is a come-on, meant to lure him into buying a magazine subscription.  Nevertheless, Woody is convinced he has winnings to collect, and is determined.  For the sake of his father’s happiness and against the judgement of his mother, Kate (June Squibb), David agrees to drive him to Lincoln.  There begins the road trip that is the life of the movie.

Nebraska_PosterA few things struck me about this film.  First, and unmistakably, there is a sense of deep longing.  Our main character is nearing the end of his life with broken dreams and unrealized hopes.  Solace seems to come to him chiefly in the form of alcohol.  The sweepstakes, as his son shrewdly observes, has given him a newfound hope, something to live for.

June Squibb – Nebraska

Much of Woody’s discontent appears to be tied to his marriage.  We get the definite impression that this is an unhappy union from the perspectives of both partners (although Kate’s unhappiness with Woody seems more like frustrated love than anything else).

This doesn’t surprise me.  Much of the ambiguity, turmoil, and sadness of the human condition seems inextricably entwined with upsets in marriage…and vice versa.  Don’t get me wrong — marriage is beautiful and permanently essential, and of itself the source of nothing bad whatsoever; but if we recall that the Fall of mankind happened within the context of a marriage, we will not be surprised if the Fall touches marriage in a particular way.

What must be particularly upsetting for Woody and Kate is to see that their perseverance in matrimony is not reflected in their progeny.  Toward the beginning of the film, we briefly meet David’s live-in girlfriend, Noel.  To make a long story short, there is no hint of marriage and a surprising lack of commitment between them.

Stacy KeachTo make matters worse, Woody’s old friend and business partner Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) comments thus: “Divorce used to be a sin.  God must have changed His mind” (emphasis mine).

Imagine things from Mr. and Mrs. Grant’s perspectives.  They “stuck it out” for decades, each likely having to make very difficult sacrifices along the way…only to find their grown children (or at least one of them) not reflecting the validity of this commitment in their turn.  I imagine there are more than a few married couples from the pre-Sexual-Revolution days who have experienced similar disappointment.

Don’t misunderstand me: In no way am I suggesting that all, or even most — or even very many, for that matter — pre-1960 marriages were unhappy or driven by mere “stick-to-it-iveness.”  Nor am I suggesting that marriage is dead today.  What we are looking at here are two different philosophies of marriage and life, and this contrast bears very much on the storyline of “Nebraska.”

I’ll explore this topic in more depth in part two.

“Nebraska” poster obtained from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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Note: This is essentially a “reblog” of the October post titled “Why Huge Monsters Destroy Big Cities (I Think…),” but slightly edited to go with the recent “Godzilla” movie.

The King Kongs, the Godzillas, and all the “Its” from beneath the sea or outer space are among our cult favorites and also, ironically, our worst nightmares.  One thing is for sure: While we haven’t seen any of these revered titans roaming our cities yet (knock on wood), in terms of popular culture they’re not going anywhere.

I have yet to see the new “Godzilla” movie; but from what I’ve heard, the film sets the monster scenes in the background while primarily focusing on the troubled relationship between the main character and his son.  I always welcome this sort of approach, as it makes incredible situations seem more real by putting real people with real problems in their midst.

I think being confronted with realism in the context of the unbelievable — or vice versa, depending on how you look at it — has a way of getting us to think about the greater meaning of the unbelievable from a gut level, rather than in a cerebral and detached fashion.

It_Came_From_Beneath_The_Sea_poster

I happen to think guilt and fear have something to do with many narrative preoccupations, including this one.  So what does it mean when we see giant monsters attacking big cities, exactly?

In some sense, it might be intended as a commentary on nature’s resurgence against the pride of a hyper-technological society.  But at bottom, I wonder if there is not something deeper at work here.

Elsewhere, I have written about the fact that

(h)uman beings have sinned.  The animals, the trees, and the rest of nature have not.  But when we turned away from God, we dragged the whole of creation down the road to destruction with us (“Wolves and Whales: Man and Nature in ‘The Grey’ and ‘Big Miracle’ — Part Two”).

But there’s something else we have to keep in mind as well.  In the second century, St. Irenaeus of Lyons made a key observation when reflecting on God’s determination that mankind should not be lost in spite of Original Sin:

It was for this reason, too, that immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man. Genesis 3:16, etc. (“Adversus Haereses,” III:xxii — bold added)

FullMetalJacketDeluxe_1I am reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film “Full Metal Jacket,” in which an inept private named Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) brings the wrath of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) upon his fellow basic trainees.  A little ways into the film, Sergeant Hartman announces to everyone that from that point on, whenever Private Lawrence messes up, they – not he — will be punished.

And what do Private Lawrence’s comrades do eventually?  They gather around him as he sleeps and pelt him with rolled-up socks.

Obviously, this is an imperfect analogy in many ways.  But being in a sense the carrier of our curse, nature — whether in the form of natural disasters, animals (fictional or real), or otherwise — is not one to cry “(p)eace, peace … though there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

But St. Irenaeus did not stop there…

But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken. (Adversus Haereses, III:xxii — bold added)

Our task of stewardship over the earth was never abrogated (though it was made more difficult).  And especially now that Jesus Christ has Himself borne our curse upon the Cross…well, just as we led creation into darkness, we must now lead it into redemption.

To the extent that we are fulfilling our task, we have nothing to fear.  But the more we are leading lives dedicated to worldliness, self-indulgence, luxury and greed, the more of a “wake-up call” we need.

“It Came from Beneath the Sea” still from Wikipedia; “Full Metal Jacket” still obtained through a Google image search.

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