Friday, January 29, 2010

A Charming An Education

As I read this post, I realize that in choosing to focus on one theme, I don’t represent the full movie well.  Know that I really enjoyed it, I recommend it (for mature, thinking audiences), the performances are a delight, and there is much joy in the telling.  And now to theme…
A couple years back at Comic-Con, I attended a panel on Faith and Comics, and watched as one panelist spouted off on why he felt that folks like DC and Marvel could not possibly be moral (his opinion, his bad, stupid, shallow opinion).  His reasoning?
“They make evil look attractive.  There is nothing attractive about sin!”
Several of us sat stunned.  A number of the faithful applauded him – that is the kind of mindless rhetoric that asks for applause.  And finally, one panelist called him on it – and I paraphrase:
“Are you a freaking idiot?  Of course sin is attractive – that’s the very definition of temptation.  No one would sin if it weren’t attractive.  Sheesh.”
Which puts me in mind of AN EDUCATION.
Spoiler alert:  I will be giving away plot points ahead.
The appealing movie deals with Jenny, a young woman (16 going on 17), and her relationship with a much older man, David, who seduces her.
What keeps such a premise from being just out right icky (there is a sub-tonal icky throughout, but it never rises to, say, VENUS level icky) is that Nick Hornby specialty: David is so very charming.
In fact, after their first delightful meeting in the rain, I was convinced that David’s intentions were pure and platonic.  David will be good for Jenny, thought I. 
Just like Jenny’s dad (played to perfection by Alfred Molina), I went from “Of course not” to “well, maybe” about David being with Jenny.  I can’t say as I ever embraced the relationship, but I will admit that I thought “maybe.”
He is, after all, so very charming.
And the defense against David wasn’t as charming – but true to life.  I felt for the school principal who could only say that an education was important, but couldn’t begin to articulate why. 
How often have we encountered arguments that consist of “Because I said so,” or “Because every one knows it” or “Because that’s the way it’s always been”?
Not good enough for the Jennys of the world; at least not with the Davids whispering such pleasing, attractive reasons why not.
In a brilliant, pivotal scene, Jenny is walking out on David, having discovered one of his secrets that she knows crosses the ethical line.  David pursues her, and presents her with two arguments.
First – Jenny has gone along with all the small indiscretions he has led her through thus far; in essence, she’s already guilty.  Why would another small transgression change anything?
And the irresistible argument that wins her over:  This is who I am, claims David.  And you like me, right?  So if you like me, and this action I took is just part of who I am, how can you judge my actions?
I think it was at that point that I turned to Cath and said, “Oh, this movie can not end well.”
Jenny is seduced by charm; David is revealed as truth comes out; and everyone has to live with the consequences.
All in a delightful package, with only a slightly icky undercurrent.
Just my thoughts,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Famous Tweets from History: Donner Party Edition

“Been cleaning the wagon all day.  I think Daniel is bringing someone over for dinner tonight!”

Time to Get Hoodwinked

When Cath and I roadtrip, there are a couple of tunes that absolutely must be played, or it isn't a real roadtrip.

Cast album of BIG RIVER; cast album of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.

The slightly lesser known cast album of FELLOWSHIP! THE MUSICAL.

And the essential: soundtrack of HOODWINKED.

The music is pure fun -- from the classic Disney-esque opening, to the hard hitting "Triple G" (every Grandma needs a theme song), to the amusingly cursed Goat (he can only speak in song).   Such a wide variety of solid tunes on one soundtrack!

If you are fans of Blick Van Glory, you'll recognize the sound.  If you aren't a fan of Blick, check out the video for "Sophmores" and become one!

We got the HOODWINKED soundtrack before it was pulled from the store shelves and disappeared from online stores -- apparently a dispute between the film's producers and the record label.

Well, now it's back!  According to Cory Edwards, you can now order the soundtrack from i-tunes.

And we can all dance to the rhythm of the Boingo Beat...

Just my thoughts,


A sample: 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Letters of Note

I've found a new "favorite" website.  (How many favorites can one have before being suspected of not knowing what the word "favorite" means?)

Letters of Note showcases correspondence "deserving of a wider audience."

Such as this note from a young girl trying to trick Franklin Roosevelt into creating a draft policy that would put her father at the back of the line.

You can find letters from the famous (Mark Twain), the infamous (Harvey Weinstein), and the average citizen.

Look around -- you can see the original letter that prompted the response:  "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

If you get lost, send me a postcard, I'll come find you.

Just my thoughts,


Famous Tweets from History: Persian Edition

"We're heading for Thermopylae where the king of Sparta awaits with only 300 men. lmao. Roadkill!"

Courtesy of guest poster David Goulet

Monday, January 25, 2010

Famous Tweets from History: Carthaginian Edition

Hannibal, somewhere in the Alps

"Arrgh. Anyone know how to get the smell of elephant dung out of leather?"

Courtesy of guest poster, David Goulet

Friday, January 22, 2010

Can't Wait for Lost?

A few things to keep you busy until the premiere.

First, The Onion does a report on what producers promise for the coming season:

Final Season Of 'Lost' Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

And to get you caught up, a family recreates the first five seasons in their living room (thanks, Tamara!):

Tired of drinking games that take you hours to get drunk?  Use this Lost compilation, and take a swig every time Desmond says "brotha."  (Again, thanks to Tamara.)

Cath and I have watched the whole series over the past few months -- from the pilot up to season five, which we hope to have done before the premiere. 

Yep, my career counselor told me I needed more specific goals for my life.  The challenge was answered.

Just my thoughts,

Latest cartoon from

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Famous Tweets from History: Lady Godiva Edition

“Totally bummed.  Have a big protest today; been through my closet like 50 times, and I can't find a thing to wear.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Animated Insight to Late Night

The best explanation of the network late night TV kerfluffle? Taiwan's NMA News.

Despite the fact I don't understand a word they're saying.


Just my thoughts,


Monday, January 18, 2010

Famous Tweets from History: Martin Luther King, Jr. Edition

“Worried about my speech.  Having dreams about it.  Wish I could talk about my dreams instead of my speech.  Hee hee. :)”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jesus Rocks

Latest vid that I wrote for our church. Just having some fun:

Just my thoughts,


Famous Tweets from History: Hindenburg Edition

From the Captain

“About to land in NJ.  Before we do, I’m gonna sneak out and light up a stogie to celebrate a safe crossing.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Famous Tweets from History: Roman Edition

Caesar, March 15th:

“Real excited.  Brutus has a surprise for me, and said to meet him at the Senate.  I hope it’s a party, and he brought all my friends.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Miller and Robertson

Donald Miller has a thoughtful response to statements made by Pat Robertson about why the Haitians deserve what they are suffering.

Donald Miller's thoughtfulness prevented me from throwing a stapler through a wall.

Thanks, Donald.

Just my thoughts,


Famous Tweets from History: Pompeii Edition

“Woke up this morning to the Old Smokey spewing up some pretty red lava. Marius says it is a bad omen, but I think it is beauti”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Waiting It Out...

Catherine and I talk after church.
When the service is over, and others head to the door, we take time to chat with our neighbors.
We seek out friends, and catch up with them.
We find our friend’s kid, Elliot, and chase him around the empty-ish pews.
We take our time.
Why?  Because we are great social beings? Because we feel we need to spend time in community post worship experience?
It’s because we want to avoid the greatest destroyer of good moods, the one thing guaranteed to erase any feelings of good will toward man that may have been arisen during the church service:
The church parking lot.
Jon Acuff over at Stuff Christians Like has come up with some rules for Church Parking Lots.  (#7 is my personal favorite.)

The comments are also worth a gander.  My favorite question from the comments:  “Is it something about having a Jesus fish on your car that makes you a lousy driver?”
There's some value to that theory...
Just my thoughts,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Up In the Air

How do you define your worth?
UP IN THE AIR is a movie that my wife wishes could be shown at our church (the R-rated content will prevent that).  It’s the kind of film that asks all the right questions, gives no pat answers, and can lead to the important searching that we all should do every now and again.
The movie intelligently (and entertainingly) asks us about definition:  how we define our worth, our community, our family, our existence?
The Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner screenplay, based on the Walter Kirn novel, forces the question front and center:  the protagonist, Ryan, fires people for a living.  We are shown person after person responding to the devastating news – they no longer have a job.
And if your job defines who you are?  As one fire-ee asks, who am I when I wake up without a job tomorrow?
The film doesn’t stop with occupation, but has an intersection of characters probing other ways we define ourselves – through family, significant other, community, home, possessions, and on.
And what if after we’ve defined ourselves, we don’t like that definition?  How do we live with the consequences of our definition?
Ryan is the perfect tour guide through such questions, as a man who defines himself by absence – removing all the ties that bind.  He sets himself up as a role model; this being drama, expect his notions to be challenged.
I should also mention – this is not a movie of easy Hollywood wrap-ups; it is a movie that may point in a direction, but ultimately leaves the answers in your hands.
It asks its questions of you:
How do you define yourself?

Just my thoughts,

Friday, January 08, 2010

Photo by Mark Baer.

Holding Out For a Hero; Or Why Jumper Doesn't Work

I got caught up on a lot of movies in the last month. Hence outdated posts like this one...

JUMPER is a lame movie in many, many ways, but I’m going to focus on just one reason why it doesn’t work – because it is a reason that crops up a lot these days.

It comes down to theme – the movie doesn’t answer the big question that it asks of itself.

SUPERMAN RETURNS was plagued by the same problem – it hit us over the head with the big question, as Lois writes “Does the world need a Superman?”

And then answers, “Uh, not really.” The only positive thing that Superman accomplishes is to fix a problem that only came to earth because of, well, Superman.

And so it is with JUMPER - it doesn't answer its big question in a satisfying way.

For those who didn’t see the movie (wise though you are), JUMPER is about a kid (David) who discovers he has the super power to teleport anywhere in the world he can imagine. And David uses those powers for purely selfish gain, breaking into banks and sating any physical desire his whim comes by.

Standard set up for super power movies – Peter Parker initially used his gifts for self-centered gain. And JUMPER does indeed want to ask the big question.

Before the action gets hot and heavy, David is in his apartment surrounded by his stuff, listening to a news report of a flood. The reporter shows stranded people, claiming they are going to die, because there is no way for anyone to get to them.

Aha! A jumper could get to them! Question asked in subtext: will David learn that with great power comes great responsibility, and become a hero? Well, this is a super movie, so of course…


The question of being a hero comes up once more, as another Jumper tells David that Jumpers aren’t heroes (despite the fact that said Jumper, Griffen, turns out to be the only one that acts heroically in the movie); so one would think that David would at least toy with the idea of being a hero.

But David continues to act only out of self-interest, all the way through to the closing credits when he and his girlfriend announce that now they are free to do whatever they want with his power, and they are going to continue seeing the world, robbing banks and feeding their selfish desires.

To be fair, he does do one thing – which I hope the creators don’t think makes David a hero, but a lot of people out there do get confused about – and that is he saves his girlfriend.

However, it’s not an action motivated by selflessness; rather he does it because he wants to possess her – he can’t stand to lose her.

Imagine if we substituted any other possession for the girl, would we consider it heroic?

David risks his life going back into the burning building to get his X-box. Heroic?

Maybe if it was someone else’s X-Box. Maybe if he was willing to trade his own life so the X-box could live. But because he really wants to possess the X-box?

Not so much.

It’s almost worth getting behind the villain of the piece, who hunts down Jumpers because he is convinced that there is only negative value to their existence (David tries desperately to prove him right).

JUMPER asks the question – is there any responsibility that comes with power?

And it answers it with a “eh., why bother?”

Just my thoughts,


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why Fred Claus Worked

Finally got around to seeing FRED CLAUS.

It’s an okay Christmas movie – hits all the emotional beats, not too complicated, doesn’t do anything to upset the kiddies (or the people who think they know what upsets the kiddies).

For me it was just a decent addition to the Christmas oeuvre, until one scene elevated the whole movie for me. SPOILER ALERT, this scene comes at the end of the movie, so I will be giving away all kinds of plot points.

It’s an unexpected scene – in its tone and subtext. And the unexpected is what makes it work.

Let me set it up a bit. As is wont with this kind of movie, Christmas is almost cancelled (and by Christmas being cancelled, we mean that Santa doesn’t give presents to kids – see Coryopolis 82: Saving Christmas, about halfway through the Steelehouse Podcast #82 – to find out why Christmas can’t be “saved”).

But at the last minute, Fred’s heart grows three sizes and he saves Christmas by delivering all the presents just in time. Here’s where the party scene is supposed to take place (the writers even talk about a post-delivery party earlier, setting you up for a dance blow-out celebration).

You know the scene, where everyone applauds and cheers, and Princess Leia hands out medals, and the party atmosphere fills in any lingering doubts about the victory of the movie.

But instead of a party, the elves celebrate with another tradition (one that we never knew about, another reason it works). They all gather around the snow globe that allows Santa to see any child at any time (in order to determine if they are naughty or nice), and everyone that worked so hard to get the presents out there…

Watch as the children of the world open their gifts.

This is a heart rending moment, and here’s why:

The tone. This is not a moment of wild celebration, but rather one of reverence. Rather than party music, an appropriately worshipful “Silent Night” fills the sound track. We are watching something more than presents, more than stuff, we are watching something transcendent…

And the theme, which coalesces at this moment. As with all such movies where Christmas needs saving, this one has to tell us what Christmas is. Not so easy, especially in a world without Jesus (wouldn’t want to turn anyone off by having Linus give a speech about God).

Even Ron Howard’s Grinch movie couldn’t come up with anything more than a generic “Christmas is good cuz we all feel good at Christmas” – even though his source material gave him all the clues he needed. (And why his movie doesn’t work, a mon avis.)

What about Fred Claus? There’s a whole lot of themes, family (Santa has a brother), love, taking risks, blah blah blah.

But as to Christmas, the movie initially looks very standard. But it isn’t so.

Three points intersect here:

One, a lost kid gets found. A standard set up, an orphan kid worries that Santa won’t be able to find him Christmas morning, as he is a lost child that no one cares about. (Rest assured Santa/Fred finds him.)

Two, it’s not about the greed. It is made clear that not every kid is going to get what they want – some in fact are getting what we adults might consider pretty lame gifts. It isn’t about “what” they get – but rather that they are the recipients of a gift (or the gift, depending on how well my argument comes out here).

Third, who is worthy. One of the ways that Christmas is sabotaged is when Fred ignores the “naughty/nice” list, labeling every kid “nice” – thus creating the need for more presents than the North Pole can handle.

Fred even tries to defend his actions morally, telling Santa that there are no naughty kids. Okay, I admit I turned off here. Every criminal is good at heart, we just need fewer prisons and more group hugs. Yada, yada, yada. This is Hollywood, after all.

But I don’t think they are saying what they are usually saying. It isn’t about throwing out consequences.

What is really being said is that Christmas itself isn’t about consequences – Christmas isn’t about getting what we deserve – there are other times and places to get what we deserve (Fred does have consequences to his actions, and he knows that he is the one that earned them).

Rather, Christmas is about everyone (for all have been naughty and fallen short of the nice list of Santa) being so loved that they are actively sought out, found and offered a gift.


Which is why watching the children of the world open their gifts, be it bicycles or hula hoops, is a moment deserving of reverence.

And why this movie works.

Just my thoughts,


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Focusing Our Efforts On Defeating Others

My first post of the new year is political in hopes that I can get it out of my system and devote the rest of the year to books, movies, television and Poptarts.

A confirmation came today as to why I’m weary of American politics.

Jim Greer, the Florida Chairman of the Republican Party, made this statement:

“These individuals who have turned their guns on fellow Republicans instead of focusing our efforts on defeating Democrats have done nothing to serve our party. But at the end of the day the future of the party must come first.”

What he meant to be doing was talking about the reasons he is resigning.

What he did was explain the philosophy that is tearing this country apart.

The Republican Party believes that its primary job is to defeat the Democrats.

Which is balanced, because the Democratic Party believes that its primary job is to defeat the Republicans.

Neither party has “serve America’s best interests” on their job list.

Let me preemptively respond to those who will immediately come to the aid of their party with an, “But the only way to get the best for America (meaning what we want) is to focus all our energies on defeating the competition!”

Good for you.

But imagine what you would think if other companies shared that philosophy.

For example, my studio’s main focus is to create quality (and hopefully popular) films.

But what if, instead, our leadership told us to stop spending so much time on our own movies, and instead devote the majority of our resources to making Disney fail?

Instead of spending marketing money on “Sherlock Holmes,” we should use those resources for a negative campaign on “Up.”

Instead of hiring writers to improve our scripts, we should have those writers spend their days creating stories we could leak that make Pete Docter look bad. (Oh, as a side benefit, we have to target any director/writer/actor/grip who works for the competition, naturally.)

Eh, I’m already tired of this analogy.

I want to work for a company whose main focus is making a quality product.

I wish I had a party whose main focus is making a quality country.

Just my thoughts,