Of Gods and Men
Why does suffering exist? You might argue that random genetics or natural disasters cause suffering, that this is an inevitable implication of natural selection. But what about suffering caused by human neglect or intent? Certainly the state of our world today is a compelling question for believers: 'Why does God allow suffering?' Whatever philosophical or religious slant on life you take, you can't avoid grappling with the question of suffering. The movie Of Gods And Menallows us a unique view into how persons of faith existentially live this question.
Mary and Max
Sometimes strangers make the best friends. So reads the tagline for Adam Elliot's 2009 animated film, Mary and Max. And it certainly is an unlikely friendship that grows between an 8-year-old chubby Australian girl and a 44-year-old Jewish American man who has Asperger's syndrome. As unlikely as picking a name out of a phone book, which is how Mary first came to write Max.
Happy Go Lucky
Am I happy like Poppy in the movie ‘Happy Go Lucky’? Well, the answer would be ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I am an extremely optimistic person and like Poppy try to see the ‘silver lining in every cloud’ and the truly delightful in even the most dismal of situations. However, along the way both Poppy and I have met some characters who challenge our optimistic view of life.
Lady in the Water
M. Night Shyamalan's movie Lady in the Water reminds me that we habitually live relatively mundane, banal lives. Although our sensitive egos may disagree, our imaginations look out onto a rather narrow expanse. Yet when we are called on by the Transcendent, and we decide to cooperate, life becomes surprisingly three-dimensional and purposeful. By throwing our will into the search for our true vocation, is it possible that we will learn strange and mysterious things?
"How do you profit from it all?” My friend and I had been
discussing documentaries over coffee-break, when he suddenly posed this
question. He was asking whether all this insight and commentary was
just entertainment, or whether it evoked a response in us. His question
has been rolling around in my mind ever since, and came up again when
I watched The Matrix. It has been years since this movie became a phenomenon
yet I still feel the urgency of the question: “Do you want to
wake up?” I think the gift of The
Matrix was to bring this question to the forefront of pop culture,
particularly through three insights.
"Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush". So reads one
of the tag-lines for the movie L.A.
Confidential, which Watershed saw in November 2006. Said by
the editors of the tabloid magazine in the movie, it could also have
been spoken like a mantra by each character in the movie as they hid
their base, unethical lives....
I was early for the movie. Recently I had joined a Spirituality
and Film course. The night's movie, Pearl
Diver, was about estranged Mennonite sisters. As I waited for
the doors to open, I reflected on the irony of how Mennonites champion
reconciliation but also struggle with conflict within their congregations.
Perhaps, as Miroslav Volf maintains in Free of Charge: Giving and
Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, forgiveness and reconciliation
are related but distinct attitudes. I wondered how the movie would explore
"In no way, whatsoever, do I blame you for what happened."
If I had to pick the through line for The
Chumscrubber I would have to go with this one. At least that's
the phrase that has haunted me the most. Other lines would do too. For
example: "Don't ignore me" and "I'm not dead but you
call this living?" Each phrase is simple but voices a dark reality
that runs beneath suburban bliss...
takes us on a journey into unknown territory. Without language, plot
or narrative, the film immerses us in images of humanity’s relationship
to the earth. Manipulating time through rapidation and slow motion,
punctuated with Philip Glass’s mesmerizing music, Koyaanisqatsi
allows us to see the technological world we’ve built on nature’s
shoulders, and asks us whether life lived out of balance with creation
is ultimately tenable? Seen through a faith perspective, the movie evokes
the question of whether life outside covenant with God is possible...
2001: A Space Odyssey
When I learned that the first movie we would be approaching through
the Ignatian method was 2001:
A Space Odyssey, I was simultaneously excited and wary. My
first exposure to the film in 1968 blended seamlessly with my naive
countercultural utopianism. The scene that stuck with me most viscerally
was the psychedelic roller-coaster ride through the planetscape beyond
Jupiter. I can honestly say that the idea of being a loved sinner never
crossed my mind...
The Bay of Love and Sorrows
Watching the movie of David Adam Richards' The
Bay Of Love And Sorrows and reading the story of the great
banquet in Luke 14:15-24 was like having the same yarn told stereophonically.
The Bay Of Love And Sorrows kicks off with a party, a rural
New Brunswick booze-fest back in the heady utopian days of the early
'70s. Two men, Michael Skid and Everett Hutch, were celebrating their
homecoming: Michael from his exotic pilgrimage to India, and Everett
from his dreary confinement in a provincial penitentiary...
"Please God, let me talk to my mommy!" mumbles a desperate
four-year-old Ponette in her school's chapel. This prayer is her last
resort to bring back her mother who recently died in a car crash. The
follows the months after this tragedy as the little girl struggles to
come to terms with her loss...
is a collision of prejudices, of self-concepts, of what we thought was
the truth. It makes us look at ourselves differently, breaks apart our
self-illusions, lays bare both our deceptions and our tenderness. This
movie is about justice, but not the kind of litigious righteousness
we usually demand. Rather, the justice of the second chance, of undeserved
Pieces of April
We long to be whole, but as we move through life we inevitably
lose parts of ourselves along the way. And consciously or not, we spend
our lives trying to tie the pieces back together. Peter Hedge’s
of April, reflects this torturous journey in the poignant story
of a white middle-class family barely holding together at the seams...
Tuesdays with Morrie
I finished reading the inspirational book Morrie:
In His Own Words (Life Wisdom from a Remarkable Man) this week
and, in the hope of deepening our viewing of Tuesdays
With Morrie, I thought I'd let you all know a bit about it.
It was originally titled Letting Go by Morrie Schwartz. In
the wake of the success of Tuesdays, it was renamed in 1996...
No Such Thing
What if all myths were one myth? What if all fables were true?
What if our everyday lives repeatedly told tales of good and evil, monsters
and maidens? What if we failed to see this because we know there’s
no such thing...
Art Wilson, a Wolf Clan Chief of the Gitxsan First Nation, described
aboriginal spirituality with these simple words: “knowing who
you are and where you fit in.” Smoke
Signals (1998) can be seen through the lens of this
definition. Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan
Adams) are both on a quest towards a better understanding of who they
are and where they fit in...
The Last Temptation of Christ
The inscription on Nikos Kazantzakis' tomb in Heraklion, Greece
reads: I hope for nothing.I fear nothing. I am free. The same inscription
could have been placed on Jesus' tomb had they buried him in Kazantzakis'
The Last Temptation of Christ...
Jesus Chris Superstar (2000)
"Do you think you are who they say you are?" Debates
on the humanity and divinity of Jesus have raged for centuries. Often
the humanity has been pushed aside in favour of Jesus' full divinity.
The film Jesus
Christ Superstar (2000) turns the question on its head, assuming
the humanity and questioning the divinity...
jumps off the screen and into your gut from the beginning. There is
something chilling about the young boy playing war with his action figures
as his own city is bombed in the background. It's not the precariousness
of his situation; it's the revealing way in which his play mirrors the
front page news we all know. The boy is bloodthirsty...
Religious dogma can be a comic gold mine. This isn't necessarily
cynicism. If holding certain beliefs betrays the spirit of the original
spiritual experience they point to, it's time for change. There is something
healthy about opening up your beliefs to review, and laughing at how
you cling to old habits and religious props that no longer support or
feed your soul...
The Rapture (1991)
Rapture is difficult to evaluate. It honestly deals with the
struggle to overcome meaninglessness yet the screenwriter's point of
view is so cynical and apparently postmodern that there is no possibility
of any genuine healing or meaning...
more another response
Mill on the Floss (1997)
One night, needing some light reading before bed, I naively picked
up George Eliot's Mill
on the Floss . Several hours later, I was well into the book
and couldn't put it down. Far from being light, this story riveted me
back 140 years, into the heart-wrenching loves and hates of people caught
in forces beyond their control...
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
In thinking about the movie
tonight, I was struck with how free a character Mac was. Authorities
and limits didn't mean anything to him; neither did routine or regularity.
It was disturbing in a way to think how he might live his life. Not
because of what he would or wouldn't do, but because he saw himself
as free. Disturbing that we might choose whether or not we want to be
tells the sotry of Nicholas Gage, a driven New York Times journalist
who returns to Greece in the late 1970's to unearth the events surrounding
his mother's death at the hands of a Communist firing squad during the
Greek Civil War in 1948. Nicholas tracks down and confronts her torturer
and sentencer with the intention of repaying injustice in kind...
Immortal Beloved (1994)
The use of biography needs to be seen in light of our lenses.
For instance, if I put on the lens which admires genius and passionate
yearning, I can be quite encouraged when I see the ambiguity of the
person I am striving to understand...
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1941)
As Arthur Paul Patterson writes in his introduction to Watershed
pages, it isn't the gross out, gory stuff of horror that shakes us to
our bones; it is the searing truth of its indictment that nails us against
the wall saying, "here, look at this horrific spectacle - this is you!"...
Isn't there a lot of doggone hype about Shakespeare? Yet I often
wonder if someone's cultural popularity is often a reflection of their
superficiality. Consider the relative emptiness of Madonna or Quentin
Tarantino or Michael Jackson. How can the same culture adore a crotch-grabbing
Michael and also embrace a dead, white Renaissance playwright...