Tag Archives: John Green

The Fault in Our Stars – Review

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Julius Caesar

fault-our-stars-movie-posterThe Fault in Ours Stars continues a tradition that has been seen from John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles all the way to Diablo Cody’s Juno; teens who sound more like middle age people while trying to deal with the rigors of high school. From the mind of popular teen author John Green come Augustus and Hazel who are not only trying sail the waters of adolescence but do so with cancer. The Fault in Our Stars strives to be anything but typical while at the same time using many familiar cliches. Girl meets boy, they fall in love and are separated, except this time one of them dies. The thing that sets this movie apart are the performances of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. They truly do sell the romance and the plight that these characters find themselves in. Where the film falters is in not allowing for more genuine expression. Augustus and Hazel sound more like philosophy majors much of the time and the authenticness of their views falls flat because of it. While the movie is good, there is something that is missing to make it truly a classic.

The Death of Hope

“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”  – Hazel

This movies’ philosophy on life is bleak. Hazel and Augustus have rejected that there is truly any meaning to life and are left to deal with their pain and misery all on their own. There is absolutely no hope for them to hold to; their worldview has ruled any such thing impossible.

There is an interesting scene in the movie where Hazel and Augustus are in Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. In the background there is an audio version of Anne’s diary playing. It creates a fascinating dichotomy between these teens. Our films protagonists are cancer patients in the prime of life, arguably a horrible situation. Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl sent to a concentration camp where she would die at the age of fifteen. What is astounding is the difference in her view of the world as compared to Hazel and Augustus’.

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Anne Frank

What Hazel and Augustus are facing is horrendous, yet nothing compared to the nature of Anne Frank’s suffering. One has hope that see’s her through the worst that life has to offer and the others have nothing concrete to hold on to. They find each other but as the film so deftly points out, even that is fleeting. And if there is not meaning, no higher purpose and oblivion is all that awaits, connection between humans can never be enough. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the bleakest and most depressing movies that has ever been made for teens and in the end, the fault lies not in the stars but in the philosophy of oblivion. Thank God there is hope,

Mystery and Victory I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55 ESV)

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Best Books I Read in 2012

The other day I gave my top ten films of 2012 and so I decided that I should do much the same for books. I love to read and this year read over 70 books. This list will not just be new books even though there are quite a few, some of them are also books that I have just finally gotten around to reading. I am going to rank them, but they should not be considered less if they are lower on the list. Each of these books is the top 9 out of over 70, not bad.

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars9. The Fault in Our Starts

John Green knows how to write. This book is not just for teens, it is for anyone that likes a good story that is not afraid to ask big questions. Hazel and Augustus struggles with mortality and the ultimate questions will leave you teary all while pondering the final questions yourself. Good books should always leave you thinking about something important and Green is not afraid to have his readers do just that.

 

0615_superman-book8. Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel

Ever since I was a child, Superman has captured my attention in a way no other superhero has. A man that is all powerful and yet, in the end, is forced to hide himself, his true self from everyone was actually very relatable to me (not the all-powerful part). Larry Tye has written the best book on the history of Superman, from conception of an idea to the new 52. Tye delves into the background of his creators as well as the ways in which Superman has reflected the generations to which he has been written; each generation getting the Superman that they need. For all those who have never liked Superman or if you have always been a fan, this is the book for you. Everyone who reads this will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the Man of Steel and all that he has stood for. Tye sums up the longevity of Superman well when he writes, “Our longest-lasting hero will endure as long as we need a champion, which should be until the end of time.”  My full review is here.

20110511_Jacobspleasurescover7. The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction

This is the first book that I have read about reading and it was well worth it. In a short 162 pages, Jacobs helps us understand the plight of reading in the 21st century. With the proliferation of technology in our lives and the distractions that it brings, reading is something that has fallen by the wayside. Instead of telling readers what they should be reading, Jacobs says read for whimsy. Read what you like. This is a long quote from an interview that Jacobs did, but is helps explain what he means,

Where this really got started was with the many, many students who have come to me over the years after graduating from Wheaton. And they think, Oh, there are so many important books I haven’t read. They come to many teachers, but I get my fair share of them. They come to me and say, “Give me 10 books that I should read over the next year.” Or: “Give me 10 books that you think everyone should read.” I always find myself thinking, Read what you want to read. Since you were 6 years old you’ve been reading things that people told you to read. Now you don’t have to do that anymore, unless you’re going to graduate school. Go out and read what strikes you as being fun.

I don’t think these students trust themselves to be readers on their own. They want to continue the sort of reading under direction that they have experienced ever since they started school. Over the years I’ve gotten absolutely stiff-necked about it. I refuse to give any recommendations. I say, “Go and read for fun,” because that sense of reading as a duty is not going to carry you through. It’s not going to sustain you as a vibrant reader, as you will be if you read what gives you delight. You may have actually lost some of that sense of delight over the years reading primarily for school. So go out there and have fun with it.

What will happen when people do that? Will they read frivolous things? Yes—at least I certainly hope so. I quote W. H. Auden, who says that the great masterpieces should be reserved for the “high holidays of the spirit.” You’re not designed for a steady diet of literary masterpieces any more than you would eat a seven-course French meal every day. At one point, Auden says it’s not only permissible but admirable not always to be in the mood for Dante. And I think that’s right. Sometimes you just want a lighter fare.

Auden himself liked detective stories and doggerel poetry and other things that many of his peers would have looked down their noses at. I want people to recover that sense of pleasure. Of course you’re going to want the heavier stuff. You’re going to want the stuff that’s possibly life-changing. But for heaven’s sake, don’t turn reading into a matter of eating your literary vegetables. I don’t think that’s healthy in the long run.

What I also really appreciated about his book is that he praises what Kindles, Nooks and iPads are doing for reading. Each of these devices are making it easier for people to read more often and for longer periods of time. Instead of carrying around bulky copies Anna Karenina or The Iliad, now they are stored in light-weight devices that also have built in dictionaries, enabling longer reading sessions in more places.

So pick up this short little book and be inspired to read all the more in 2013!

the-great-divorce6. The Great Divorce

Every year I try to read at least one C.S. Lewis book that I have not read before. The Great Divorce is a short book about people from hell visiting the outer regions of heaven. Each person that visits has a different reaction to this new place. Lewis’ keen insight into the human condition is on full display here. This is a challenge to read, there are many points you may find yourself in one or more of the characters and their excuses, but this makes it an important read. Start the new year off right and see what path you are on. For more on The Great Divorce go here.

when-i-was-a-child-i-read-books5. When I Was a Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson is one of my best-loved authors, her books Gilead and Home are on the top of my list of all-time favorites. Her newest collection of essays is well worth the read. She talks about America, religion, science, literature and more, weaving together a diverse set of thinkers and philosophers with ease. This is a short book and yet dense enough that it needs to be digested slowly and with a pen for notes and underlines. Accept this challenge in 2013, it is worth the effort. For good taste of her writing go here.

the narnian4. The Narnian

I own my voracious reading appetite to C.S. Lewis and his Narnia books. As a young boy I really did not enjoy reading and when I did I read non-fiction. After reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that all changed. Alan Jacobs has written a masterful book on the life of Lewis. This is not an exhaustive biography but a focused look at his life and how he came to write the beloved children’s series. Jacobs shows how Lewis’ experiences as a boy telling stories with his brother to his deep, life-changing friendship with Tolkien, each gave him a pieces to the puzzle that would become Narnia. This needs to be on your reading list fo 2013! My full review is here.

134978183. The Casual Vacancy

No writer has had more to live up to than J.K. Rowling with the release of her first novel post Harry Potter and no book could have been more different. Rowling weaves a tale of a small British town with the intricacy of Austen and the modern sensibility of McEwan all while challenging our notions of social justice. This is an important book on the level of novels like To Kill a Mockingbird; so if you missed it last year, read it in 2013. My full review is here.

12ExplicitGospel_L_8590274382. The Explicit Gospel   

2012 has seen a flood of gospel oriented books and I read quite a few of them, but Chandler’s book was at the top of the list. God has used the preaching of Matt Chandler and now his book to open up the truth of the gospel in new and life-changing ways for me. Understanding and thinking about the ultimate questions of the universe is the most important thing a person can do, so spend some time on that this year. I cannot recommend a book more to you for 2013! My full review is here.

riseofteddyroosevelt21. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

This is the first book in Edmund Morris’ trilogy on Teddy Roosevelt and it is fantastic. There is never a dull moment in this book so do not let the length dishearten you. Spending time getting to know one of the most interesting and influential men in American history was one of the highlights of my year. Roosevelt was forged in the fire of suffering and the American ideal. He will leave you captivated and inspired even when you might not always agree with his sensibilities. I am looking forward to reading the next two books in 2013.

What did you enjoy reading in 2012? Let me know, leave me a comment so I can add it to my list!

Owl Post 12-18-12

Owl Post 2-17-12

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It’s Okay to Shamelessly Enjoy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

gandalf_comes_knockingIt seems that ever since Peter Jackson announced that he was going to splitThe Hobbit into three movies, people have done nothing but predict disaster of epic proportions. Some immediately heralded the dawn of a new George Lucas, while others who had never been pleased with his interpretation of the initial Lord of the Rings trilogy triumphantly crowed, “I told you so!” to anyone within shouting distance.

So I’m awfully pleased to say it—The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is lovely. Please just go and enjoy it.

My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex:

 When a friend alerted me to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy in April, none of us had any idea it would sell in excess of 40 million copies within months, or that sales of whips, chains and other BDSM paraphernalia would skyrocket as a result, or that a European hotel would replace its Gideon’s Bibles with “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Many legitimate possibilities have been offered for the seeming success of “mommy porn.” Women are more sexually liberated than ever before. Couples are longing for ways to spice up their sex lives. Many women have a deep inner longing to be dominated by a man who’s absolutely obsessed with them.

Previously on Parenthood, Pt. 5: Perfect Love & Prodigal Returns:

phd_411_13This is the fifth installment in a look at the theological and pastoral wisdom found in the current season of NBC’s Parenthood, mostly regarding the intersection of unsuspected love in the context of suffering. It has been almost a month since I have written anything, mostly because I felt the program was in the middle of a filler-episode streak, understandably serving to carry on the narratives of its many subplots but not standing out with profound moments of grace in ways earlier episodes have. Don’t get me wrong. There were some touching moments in recent episodes like Adam caring for Kristina while she is retching on their bathroom floor due to chemotherapy, Joel taking Ryan under his wing at the construction site, and Max going to a middle school dance for the sake of his sick mother’s desires. The latest episode, “What My Wondering Eyes See,” despite some hokey elements mostly related to Santa Claus, broke Parenthood‘s recent streak though with some noteworthy moments highlighted here.

The Best Movies of 2012 – The Atlantic:

A few boilerplate caveats: I saw a great many films this year, but by no means all of them. In particular, I missed a few documentaries that might well have made their way onto this list. It was also a very good year for film—the best, perhaps, since 2007—so a number of movies that could have made the list in weaker years (ArgoThe Dark Knight Rises, Life of PiLes MiserablesSkyfall, etc.) have instead been consigned to honorary mentions. Finally, lists such as this one are inevitably silly, idiosyncratic things, and mine is no exception. So have at it. And after (or before!) you’ve gone through the slideshow of the best (ranked from one to 10), don’t neglect the still-more-idiosyncratic-categories below.

Peter Jackson and The Hobbit cast on The Desolation Of Smaug:

 

:Nerdfighter Book Recommendations:

Batman’s Evolution:

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