C.S. Lewis · Christianity · Government · Politics · Superheroes · The Avengers · Tim Challies

Owl Post 5-24-2012

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Two perspectives on The Hunger Games:

Why Hunger Games is Flawed to Its Core:

Almost everywhere I go, I’m asked about The Hunger Games (book, not film). The questions used to fly about Twilight and Potter, but Katniss and dystopic death-matches have taken over.

Amusing Ourselves at Their Deaths:

Neil Postman begins his ground-breaking – and still controversial – Amusing Ourselves to Death by famously pitting the dystopian vision of George Orwell’s 1984 against that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In summary, he noted that Orwell’s great anxiety was that the world would be controlled by fear and the suppression of truth, whereas Huxley suggested it would be manipulated through hedonism and distraction from truth. Big Brother inflicts pain, whereas the World State inflicts pleasure. Part 1, Part 2

Seven Key Ideas from C. S. Lewis:

I have heard it said that many well-known thinkers have only two or three key ideas that they develop from various angles throughout their lives. It might be asked: What are C.S. Lewis’s key ideas? I have chosen seven to summarize in this essay.

Joss Whedon on Comic Books, Abusing Language and the Joys of Genre:

Geeks love Joss Whedon. In his TV shows and movies — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Serenity, Firefly — he gives them not necessarily what they want, but definitely what they need.

His characters are smart and self-aware. He’s steeped in pop culture and has a clever way with the twists and turns of science fiction tropes. And he infuses the potential clichés of genre writing with emotion and heart. Plus, he writes female characters who kick ass, which makes him so rare as to besui generis in Hollywood.

The Age of Innocence:

The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.

U.S. Craft Beer Brewers Thrive, Despite Small Share Of The Market:

It’s a good time to brew beer in America. According to beer expert Julia Herz, U.S. brewing isn’t just on the upswing, it’s on top. “We’re now the No. 1 destination for beer, based on diversity and amount of beers,” she says.

The Ledger:

Near the center of every religion is a ledger. Every religion acknowledges, on one level or another, that people do good things and bad things and every religion then maintains a tally, supposing that one day there will come a reckoning. Every religion hopes that on the day of accounting, the day of the audit, the good will outnumber or outweigh the bad. There is hope for those who come to that day with a surplus and no hope for those who come with a deficit.

Marvel Movie Infograph:

Movies · Music · Scores · Soundtracks · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Oxygen of Films

I’ll be up front. I like scores from films, and I have quite a few of them. Recently I have been listening to a lot more of them; this has been brought on by the re-release of the Star Trek scores which are being remastered and presented in full (nothing is better for a film score lover than to get your favorite expanded, it really adds a lot to the enjoyment). In light of these things I thought that I would share some of my favorites with you.

There are two types of scores out there: the ambient score and the thematic score. I was doing some reading on the two and thought I would just allow some people from the film-making industry tell you about them.

The first type is the ambient score. Joss Whedon was talking about what he listens to when he is writing his movies or TV shows and he did a good job explaining the ambient score. He said,

I do listen to music. Movie scores, exclusively, because it’s all about mood and nonspecificity. I love the way modern movie scoring is all about nonspecificity. You know, if I shuffled the tracks from Inception, I challenge you to tell me which is which. But … you feel incredibly heightened during all of it. I don’t know what I’m very excited about but I’m very excited. Or worried. Or sad, I’m not sure which, but it’s all happening. And that’s really great.

He is so right, ambient scores try to set the scene for you. These are not my personal favorites because there is none of that specificity in the music to tell you something about the characters, it is all about the mood music (even though, when done well I really enjoy an ambient score).

The second is the thematic score. I read through The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler a while back and remembered John Williams talking about the way he wanted its score to sound. He also happens to be the foremost thematic film score composer alive today (and possibly ever).

I think the music relates to the characters and the human problems, even when they are Wookiees, Williams says. This is the gut thrust of the thing in music – a very romantic theme for the Princess, a heroic march for the Jedi Knights….. What we needed where themes of our own, which one could put through all the permutations of a dramatic situation…… I felt we need our own themes, which could be made into a solid dramaturgical glue from start to finish.

What I enjoy most about this type of film score is that it not only informs me about the characters, but it also does a good job of taking me out of this world and pulling me into the world of the film. It is the glue, or as Jimmie Mac from the Forcecast likes to say, “It is the oxygen of the film”. So here are some of my favorites, I hope that you will comment and share your favorites, I am always looking for good scores to add to the iPod.

Star Wars: Episode V – Empire Strikes Back:

This is not only my favorite Star Wars film but also my favorite score. Williams adds to the brilliance of his work in the original film by giving us some of the most beautiful and iconic themes ever created for film. Each of them really makes this score shine. The depth and emotional complexity of the story is accentuated by the perfection of Williams musical cues. Who wouldn’t want to have a theme like Vader’s? Notable tracks are, The Astroid Field, Imperial March and Yoda’s Theme.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

I remember seeing this movie for the first time and the first three cords began and it was as if was was being transported into the world of Harry Potter. Williams had captured the magic of Harry in music and made us all feel as though we were part of that universe. Notable tracks are the Prologue and Hedwig’s Theme; even though, honestly, I love this whole score.

Pride and Prejudice:

This is probably my favorite ambient score. I listened to this repeatedly during seminary as I studied and it got me though many long hours. The piano work in the film is exquisite. The tracks are more ambient, but at the same time sweeping themes work their way through the film and anchor us to the character of Elizabeth. Notable tracks are Dawn and Liz on Top of the World. If you like scores and don’t have this one, you should get it right now.

The Man from Snowy River:

This was one of my favorite movies as a kid. The grander of the Australian outback had the feeling of an old western. I have a personal connection to this score in that I learned on of the pieces on the piano as a kid. I loved playing it for people. This is a really fun score with surprising intimacy. Notable tracks are the Main Theme and Jessica’s Theme (Breaking in the Colt).

Hugo:

This is one of the newest score on my list. I find myself listening to a lot. It has such a melodic and listenable quality that I can turn it on while doing anything and be transported to Hugo’s world. Shore captures the loneliness urgency of the characters while subtlety reminding us we are in Paris. Notable tracks are, The Thief and The Invention of Dreams.

I have fond memories of this score. My dad feel asleep to it every night for more years than I can remember. Rachel Portman writes such beautiful themes for films and this one captures the fun, playful and heartfelt story Austen tells. It has the ability to make you feel joyful just by listening to it. Notable tracks are Main Titles and The Dance.

Rudy:

Jerry Goldsmith’s work on Rudy is a perfect example of a score completely setting the tone for a film and gluing every piece of it together. I dare you to listen to it and not want to go out and conquer your dreams. It’s rousing and hopeful melody will have you whistling for days. As an aside Jerry Goldsmith is one of my favorite film composers. Notable tracks are Tryouts and The Final Game.

Jurassic Park:

This score has the privilege of being my first CD. This movie’s score blew me away when I saw it. The majestic nature of the main theme exudes the power that stands up to and accentuates seeing dinosaurs on screen (and for the first time they don’t look like a B movie from the 50’s and 60’s). I played the main theme on the piano as a kid and even now after years of not playing, I can still sit down and play the beginning few cords. Notable tracks are Welcome to Jurassic Park and Remembering Petticoat Lane.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Again, you should be catching a pattern here, favorite film and favorite score from a popular movie series. This is a very thematic score, Shore does a brilliant job of creating the sound of the cultures in Middle Earth, so that when you hear certain refrains you automatically associate it with a people group. What makes this one stand out for me is the theme of the Rohan, it is haunting yet beautiful. This is an epic score and in it’s complete form is nothing short of a masterpiece. Notable tracks are Edoras and The Battle of the Hornburg.

Star trek VI: The Undiscovered Country:

This, like The Empire Strike Back is my favorite Star Trek film and score. This score has recently been updated to the complete score and I am loving it. What is so cool about it is that it sounds like Holst: The Planets: I. Mars, the Bringer of War. The darkness of this score sets it apart from the other Trek movies and establishes the tone for the Original crew’s final mission. Notable tracks are the Overture and Dining on Ashes.

There are many other scores that I love and just don’t have the time to talk about. Here are some  of them: The Mission, Lawrence of Arabia, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Casablanca. What are your favorites and why? Comment and let me know!

atheism · Christianity · Identity · mbird.com · Movies · The Avengers

Avengers – The Review

Avengers-Alternative-Minimalist-Movie-Poster-063I went into the theater with trepidation. So many summer comic-book movies have let me down in the past few years. Green Lantern was a CGI mess and Captain America and Thor left me wanting more. I have not truly been surprised by a comic-book movie since the original Iron Man. Avengers had a lot to live up to, especially since it involves the aforementioned characters, plus the Hulk, who has his own string of failed films. Lastly there are two characters who are relatively unknown; they have had very minor roles shoehorned into the previous Marvel movies. So, here is the good news (that all of America already knows because they have already seen the movie): Avengers is simply amazing. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves a thrill ride and a movie that will make you think, if you are paying attention.

Director Joss Whedon had a very important decision to make with these characters: Who should be the center of the film? Should it be the narcissistic, billionaire, genius, philanthropist playboy? Maybe the rage-weary scientist who can’t seem to keep a lid on his temper (and you won’t like him when he is angry)? There is the aloof demigod from another world who sounds like Shakespeare in the park. Or maybe the damaged spy with a thirst for redemption and salvation from a past filled with bloody mistakes. Penultimately there is the archer, silent and strong, but he was taken hostage by evil in the first 10 minutes. So this leaves us with the virtuous man out of time, Captain America (aka Steve Rodgers). Even his name harkens back to a bygone era where the name America did not engender hate, and being captain of it would be a badge of honor and courage. As the other “heroes” bicker and literally fight one another to prove that they are the most worthy, it is Captain America that serves as the voice of moral reason and sanity. Rodgers is able to stand between the other heroes and help them see that this is not about their petty differences and personalities; like a good soldier, he helps them to see the importance of the mission and teamwork to accomplish what none of them could do on their own. Rodgers gives us a picture of what has been lost to our past – a clear moral compass, a sense of duty and honor, and doing unto others as you would have them do to you. It is this heartbeat that that enables the team truly act as one in the end.

“Kneel before me. I said… KNEEL! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.” – Loki

This is a huge part of the movie, this idea of freedom and subjugation. Loki says that all people are looking to be ruled and of course, as any good bad guy, he believes that he is the one best suited to do that ruling. He craves the adoration and the worship of others. He craves them because of the inferiority complex that he suffers because his brother is Thor, the biceped demigod of Asgard. In the end, Loki is as much a slave as we all are, driven by a desire to be loved and validated as a person. In his quest to rule he makes himself a slave to his need for control and power. Recently Joss Whedon made a speech in accepting the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Humanist Society. He is an atheist and was talking about what the atheist response should be to the world. He said,

How do we codify our moral structure without the sky-bully looking down on us telling us what we’re suppose to do?…..The enemy of humanism is not faith; the enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person, in the world. That is the thing we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God is believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. (From mbird.com)

What I am struck by is that this flies in the face of reason and plays out in the movie. Loki, who longs to be free and to rule, is driven by his fear and feelings of inadequacy. Each of the heroes is also a slave – slaves to narcissism, pride, guilt, shame, fear, anger and so many other things. In the end, the axiom is proved that we are all slaves to something. I like the way cinemagogue.com puts it,

We lose our joy in a mad scramble for identity by attaching it to something lesser, binding our hopes and dreams to a celebrity, a politician, a spouse, a fictional universe or hero, a national identity, a career, a co-dependent relationship, or vicarious achievements through our children. We “freely” soil our knees on these shifting foundations hoping these things will satisfy, give us purpose and worth. Worst, we effectively see ourselves as “god”, the center of our own life and universe, and find ourselves kneeling to an identity that is certain to let us down, shackled to our own fallibility and finitude.

Loki is right again: we crave subjugation and lose our joy, chasing a “freedom” (that is actually enslavement) and declaring it as our identity.

We are constantly waging this fight for freedom and like Wheedon says, the last thing we want is some cosmic sky-bully telling us what to do. Like Adam in the garden we want to be like God, to know it all and be our own master, captain of our own ship. Bonnie over at Mockingbird.com says,

I agree with some parts of Joss’ point. He considers the “dark part of man” to be the enemy of humanism. And every person has this dark part inside of them. I don’t disagree that there is evil inside all of us (we call it “sin” or peccator). What I am surprised (and a bit confused, to be honest) by is why he would still put his faith in humanism if the enemy of humanism is in every person, including every humanist?

Is not looking for something different even after you have seen it proved again and again a definition of insanity? The thing is, we are meant to live in freedom, freedom from living as masters of our own fate and in submission to the one who is truly Master, even over death. The apostle Paul reminds us of our place in his letter to the Colossians:

He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

It is only by understanding our place in the universe that we can truly have freedom, and this brings us back to the heart of the story, Steve Rodgers. It is his belief in good, right and wrong, and the duty of a soldier to put himself in harm’s way to protect others that give us the clearest picture of the gospel. It also flies in the face of atheism and the glorification of humanism and self. In the end, it is all the other heroes that take on the characteristics of Captain America and become willing to lay aside their desires and even their lives for the lives of others. This is clearly seen at the end of the film where Tony Stark, the most egotistical and self-centered hero in the group, is willing face to certain death to save the world.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 ESV)

It is only in letting go and thinking of others before ourselves that we truly become free. We are not slaves to serving others, we are freely putting aside our insecurities and self to make others a priority. I can be a slave to myself or freely give to others. Which will you choose: the way of Loki or the way of Captain America and the Avengers?

Really liked this video from Cinemagogue.