Tuesday, December 29, 2009

(N) is for Nutcase

I saw this video of Ricky Gervais singing a lullaby to Elmo. I thought it was funny. I think kids would laugh. Then I see some website called parentdish did not find it funny at all. This is much of what they said.

Elmo is jolted out of bed, twice, scared and frazzled. At the conclusion of the nightmare-inducing song, Gervais offers Elmo a cup of soothing warm milk but the damage is already done, with the poor puppet's hair standing on end.

According to the people counters at the Public Broadcasting System, viewers didn't share our reaction. "As of today, Viewer Services didn't receive any comments of note from parents regarding that episode," PBS spokesperson Jake Landis tells ParentDish.

How that can be is beyond us. Kids need images of trustworthy grown-ups, especially as they're relaxing at bedtime...

You missed the boat on this one, Seseme Street. -Parentdish.com


Is this just an isolated nut or an example of something bigger?

Aren't we protecting our children to the point of hurting them down the road?

Are children all over the world lying awake in fear of Ricky Gervais?

Isn't an effeminate monster more unsettling?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best Film Of The Decade

#1 No Country For Old Men

"The question is: Where would it get you if something that's a little bit ambiguous in the movie is made clear? It doesn't get you anywhere." -Director Joel Coen (in reference to Barton Fink)

Ed Tom. Anton. Say it quickly.

It is no coincidence that the words sound similar off the tongue. The complete opposite sides of the same coin.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell chases Anton Chigurh, a man who is evil personified. Maybe he is a ghost. More likely, he is the grim reaper.

He seems to be on his way to collect Llewellyn Moss. Moss is overall a good man, but one who sees his opportunity for the big score and is taking it.

While Anton is the flashiest character, the film is not about him really as much as it is about the reaction of the characters who encounter him. And the main characters never see him. But they still feel the effects of the encounters. Llewellyn claims that he has seen him, but he really only saw his boots.
Anton Chigurh does have a code. "I got here the same way the coin did." He feels he is simply floating along. That the fate he delivers was foreseen long ago, anyway.

Anton: "If the rule you followed, brought you to this...of what use was the rule?"

The character of Carla Jean breaks Anton's rule of the coin.
Anton: Call it

Carla Jean: No. I'm not gonna call it

Anton: Call it.

Carla Jean: The coin don't have no say. It's just you.

His fate and chance concept has been jarred by Carla Jean not taking part. And in a sense she gains a small victory. Chigurh is off kilter from that moment.

Just maybe she is the hero of the film.

Sheriff Bell: "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job -- not to be glorious. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.

You can say it's my job to fight it but I don't know what it is anymore. More than that, I don't want to know. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He would have to say, OK, I'll be part of this world.... "

Ok, I'll be part of this world. Does Sheriff Bell agree at the end to be part of this world? Or has he unequivocally said, 'no thanks'. Is the interpretation of the ending, decided by what the viewer thinks the answer should be to that question?

While this film was still in theaters, I swayed one of my closest friends, who had not yet seen the film, to go see it with me. I had seen it already but wanted to see it again.

I could tell he was enjoying the picture throughout. Then it ended. My friend looked at me and said, "really?" And not in a happy way.

Much has been made of the ending and to me it could not be better. So many films end in a way that betrays everything that came before. No Country For Old Men gets it just right.

This is a masterpiece.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rolling Stone Magazine's Album Of The Year

The result was an album with a sense of drama that no one could match all year — more proof that a band that isn't busy being born is busy dying. -Rolling Stone

People know I am a U2 fan. Save a cover song they did for a new charity website this time last year, I have purposely stayed away from talking about them. But the Rolling Stone critics just named their album No Line On The Horizon as the best of the year.
They also named the song Moment Of Surrender as the best song of the year, stating; "The most devastating ballad U2 — or anyone — has delivered since 'One.'"

So for that, I thought I would share things I know/think about this album, from the religious viewpoint of it. So, going down most of the songs and many lyrics....

No Line On The Horizon
"That moment where the sea and the sky blend into one. It's an image of infinity.” -The Edge

(an overt praise song)

Oh, Magnificent

I was born
I was born to be with you 

In this space and time
After that and ever after
I haven't had a clue

I was born
I was born to sing for you 

I didn't have a choice
But to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry
It was a joyful noise

Moment of SurrenderA drug user letting go and surrendering to GodWe set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her
It's not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me (1 John 4:10)Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down 'til the pain will stop

Unknown Caller

The most difficult song on the album, to get a handle on. But currently a favorite.
The same man from Moment of Surrender receives a call on his cell from God, even though the phone has “no signal at all.” Trying to reach his dealer during a relapse, instead he gets curious texts. Seemingly nonsensical at first look.
3:33 refers to one of Bono’s favorite bible verses. Jeremiah 3:33
"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." He has referred to it as “God’s telephone number”Bono put 3:33 on the cover of the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album…as a gate number behind the band as they stand in an airport.
I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face

Speed-dialing with no signal at all

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself and gravity
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak

Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you, enter here, right now

You know your name so punch it in
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak

I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy TonightA classic dual meaning: “letting go and letting God in” but its not always easyIt's not a hill, it's a mountain
As you start out the climb
Do you believe me or are you doubting
We're gonna make it all the way to the light
But I know I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight

'Cause the sweetest melody is the one we haven't heard
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear? 1 John 4:18 (perfect love drives out fear)

Get On Your Boots
If there is ONE word that is the recurrent theme of the album, its SOUND. Sound as in the sound we hear…. the sound as in a body of waterLet me in the sound
Let me in the sound, now
God, I'm going down
I don't wanna drown now
Meet me in the sound

The central eschatological metaphor of No Line is the sound of the divine song, heard only by those who have the ears to hear it, yet unconsciously sought by everyone, for all people were created to hear and sing this song.
-Baptist Free Press

Stand Up Comedy
I can stand up for hope, faith, love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
But while I'm getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road
Like a little old lady

Out from under your beds
C'mon, ye people
Stand up for your love

God is love
And love is evolution's very best day

White As Snow (John 1:29)Melody is based on “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” It is the last moments of a soldier who has just been hit by a road side bomb in Afghanistan.Where I came from there were no hills at all
The land was flat, the highway straight and wide
My brother and I would drive for hours
Like we had years instead of days
Our faces as pale as the dirty snow

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

Now this dry ground, it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land, the seeds we sow
Where might we find the lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow

The soldier's remembrance of his baptism, having received the forgiveness of "the lamb as white as snow." But he also remembers his post-baptismal life with regret, for neither his heart nor the hearts of others who have brought him, and the world, to this point have been "as white as snow."
-Baptist Free Press

Every day I die again, and again I'm reborn (see John 3:3)

We are people borne of sound
The songs are in our eyes
Gonna wear them like a crown

I've found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it's all that I found
And I can breathe
Breathe now

Cedars of LebanonThe Cedars of Lebanon are mentioned often in the bible. The wood used to construct Solomon’s temple.
The song has Bono singing in the 3rd person. He is playing a character again. This time the character is a war reporter in Afghanistan.
He seems to be having an affair possibly or maybe just is in an inward turmoil
You say you're not going to leave the truth alone
I'm here 'cause I don't want to go home

You're so high above me, higher than everyone
Where are you in the Cedars of Lebanon?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best Films Of the Decade (4-2)

#4 In The Bedroom

"… a genuine modern tragedy. It's also the best movie of the last several years: the most evocative, the most mysterious, the most inconsolably devastating… I could barely breathe; I swore at the screen; I called for blood; I cried for vigilantism to restore the natural order; and I sat in shock when the natural order was and wasn't restored. That's the thing about a masterpiece like In the Bedroom. It isn't over when you leave the theater. It isn't over when you brood on it for days. It's just always going to be there, in the air." - David Edelstein
Slate Magazine

Matt sits inside, Jason on his lap. He reaches into a WOODEN BOX of RUBBER BANDS with a BANDING WRENCH and bands the crustacean’s remaining CRUNCHER CLAW.
Jason stares at the disfigured creature.

Oh Boy…now you see what happened to this poor fellow?


Well, the trap has nylon nets called heads—2 side heads at both sides, so the lobster can crawl in. The “Bedroom” head inside, holds the bait and keeps it from escaping—you know the old saying “two’s company three’s a crowd”?

Jason nods.

#3 Kill Bill Volume 2

Watching a Tarantino film is watching the work of movies' biggest fan. His films aren't about any one thing as much as they are simply about your experience watching them.

My first knowledge of Quentin Taratino was that he created a specific scene that was considered so brutal, it was talked about endlessly. (The torture scene in Reservoir Dogs). But for as violent as Tarantino's reputation is (and he is) what of that torture did he actually show? None of it.

Tarantino knows the build up is where the greatest tension is.

"I'm gonna deliver you a genre...but I'm gonna deliver it to you in a cockeyed way."-Quentin Tarantino

Both films taken together, you have a 4 hour revenge epic that ends with 30 minutes of dialogue.

"There is a love story going on. It's a crazy, wacked love story. But a love story never the less." -Quentin Tarantino

#2 The Passion Of The Christ

A more violent film than the last one. But probably the most effective and essential use of violence in any film, ever.

"For me it's the most effective part. The sacrifice. The sacrificial part of the story." -Mel Gibson

...Just as there were many who were
appalled at him
his appearance was so disfigured
beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness Isaiah 52:14

"This is not a Passion like any other ever filmed. Perhaps that is the best reason for it...

It is a personal message movie of the most radical kind, attempting to re-create events of personal urgency to Gibson. The filmmaker has put his artistry and fortune at the service of his conviction and belief, and that doesn't happen often...

I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be, but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it." -Roger Ebert

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best Films Of the Decade (7-5)

#7 Lost In Translation

I assumed most people would find this a charming film at the very least. It happens to be one of the most devisive films on the list. It is a love it or hate it movie that I fell for totally.

People have slowed down the film and used audio technology to try and figure out just what they are saying at the end. That's the whole point! Luckily, it remains a mystery. Must every film explain every darn thing to us?

Sometimes you meet the exact right person for the exact right moment.

"It is my favorite film ever, that I have appeared in." -Bill Murray

#6 Signs

M. Night Shyamalan does his best Hitchcock impression. It is funny, touching, and even deep.

"I cannot think of a movie where silence is scarier, and inaction is more disturbing." -Roger Ebert

#5 The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut.

The need for people to reach out to one another. The value of friendship in a state of such other loneliness. Grace. Redemption.

"Tommy Lee Jones wrote his Harvard thesis on Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor...
You'd swear Jones had uncovered the great lost Flannery O'Connor story and turned it into a movie." - John Hurst Christianity Today

Saturday, December 12, 2009

#10 - #8

10: Pan's Labyrinth

"Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the cinema's great fantasies, rich with darkness and wonder. It's a fairy tale of such potency and awesome beauty that it reconnects the adult imagination to the primal thrill and horror of the stories that held us spellbound as children." -Roger Ebert

That is not to confuse this with a "children's film" which it is not. As Ebert also says, "it is a harsh and uncompromising film." Uncompromising to its great credit.

9: Almost Famous

It just makes you feel good. The fact that Cameron Crowe can create a film like this and "Say Anything" just makes it all the more frustrating when he fails (as in Elizabethtown). Made Kate Hudson a star. Still waiting for her to equal this one.

8. Inglourious Basterds

A collection of great long scenes. Almost all of which are interrogation scenes. Tarantino also shows faith in his audience. Maybe we don't always know why we are a bit on edge, but explaining why, would just ruin the moment.

Example: Shoshanna, a Jew who is obviously hiding that fact, while eating with Nazi Col. Landa at dinner. The undercurrent tension is when Landa orders her the crème fraiche. We get extreme closeups of the dessert. Just what is it about that crème?

Critic David Bordwell: Landa is looking for signs that she won’t eat dairy products not prepared according to Orthodox dietary rules. Few filmmakers today would trust audiences to imagine this possibility on their own; instead we’d get an explanation to an underling. (“So here’s a quick way to find out if we have a Jew ….”)

While there are plenty of great things to ponder in the film such as this example, the key is it turns out to be just darn entertaining. If Tarantino could have only written history. In this case, he did.