Film · Loneliness · Longing · Love · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Eighth Grade – Review

EG_final-onlineBo Burnham’s directorial debut Eighth Grade is the most uncomfortable, real and important movie of the summer. The film follows Kayla Day as eighth grade comes to a close and life is on the brink of another titanic shift from middle school to high school. What follows is an intimate look at the life of kids today, who must navigate the digital deluge all while trying to figure out who they are and who they’ll be.

All Too Real

Eighth Grade is a raw movie. It offers an uncompromising and unflattering look at the state of adolescence in the United States in the 2010s. These are the children of the digital revolution, with iDevices in their hands before they can walk. For them there has never been a moment without some form of entertainment at their fingertips. Constantly inundated with images and messages, their perceptions of reality are filtered through Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. The struggle to be “cool”, with its ever-changing standard, is real. The digital domain is pervasive, so that even when these kids are hanging out with each other, it’s usually half-heartedly, lest they miss something coming in from the never-ending stream of social media conscientiousness. It’s a lonely way to live, constantly being reminded that you’re never going to be good enough, skinny enough, funny, hip or cool enough.

It’s said that information is power, yet this generation has all the information of the world in the palm of their hands but lacks the wisdom or experience to use it well. They know way to much, way too early and are in turn forced to think about and deal with things they are just not mature enough to handle. This 24/7 marination in pop culture  makes it difficult for anything else to impact them on the same level. How can parents hope to have anywhere close to the same influence when time is not on their side? The movie does not have many answers, but it does shine a light on something parents are going to have to start addressing as the film shows just how harmful these devices of unlimited potential can be on children.

Unconditional Love

Throughout the film Kayla makes YouTube videos. They are little vignettes of advice on all the things she portrays herself to be an expert on, yet the rest of the film shows she’s anything but. She’s constantly being told that she should be all of these different things through social media and, consequently, she is lost. She has no idea who she is or wants to be beyond what she’s told is “cool”. So each day she works to earn the friendship and respect of others based on what she thinks people want. It’s exhausting for her.

Throughout the film, the one person who’s tried to truly interact with Kayla has been her father. He tries to talk to her and get to know who she is, but she constantly rejects his help and love until the end of the film. When Kayla finds herself at the end of her rope, she finally asks for her father’s help to burn something in the back yard. As they sit there, watching her sixth grade time capsule burn, he asks her what they are doing. She answers that she’s burning her hopes and dreams. She then asks him if he is sad to have her as a daughter. It’s a powerful moment as he begins to tell her how much joy she brings him, how unconditionally she is loved and that he’s always been honored to have her as his daughter. In that moment she climbs into his lap and is held in the arms of love. This moment brings a change in Kayla. She lets go of her videos and the need to be “cool”. It’s almost as if her father’s words of acceptance have nestled into her heart and freed her from the need to earn the acceptance of others.

There is a bit of beautiful Biblical truth in this scene. Isaiah reminds us that all of us, like sheep have gone astray, we’ve searched for everything under the sun to fulfill us and make us whole. Yet there is only one thing that can and because of this God has laid on Christ, the sin of us all, to allow us the opportunity, like prodigals to run back into his arms. Kayla’s rejection of “cool” and acceptance of love brings to mind Psalm 139, we are wonderfully made by a heavenly Father to be something unique, fully known and fully loved by the creator of the universe. Truth and reality are not defined by the forever-changing concept of “cool” but by God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever and his love never ends.

Conclusion

If you are someone that works with youth, if you are a parent, if you have children this age or will have, this movie is one you should see. In fact, if you have children this age, you should see this movie with them and talk about it together. This is an important film that takes seriously the ways in which our changing world is impacting the coming generations. It’s painful to watch sometimes, but ultimately rewarding. Eighth Grade is rated 4.5 out of 5.

 

Fandom · George Lucas · Star Wars · Uncategorized

#StarWarsLove

SWL

If you lived through the Special Edition and Prequel era then this time period in Star Wars fandom is all too familiar. Beginning with the SE, Lucas did some things with the Original Trilogy that sent some fans into literal hysterics. The arguments over whether “Han shot first” got ugly, but that was nothing compared to what happened after the Prequels. Lucas, the mild mannered creator of the galaxy far, far, away was accused of “raping our childhood”. One “comedian” went as far as to say he wished he could go back in time and kill Lucas with a shovel so he couldn’t create anything past the Original Trilogy. And not to be outdone, a TV show showed Lucas to be a rapist because of the fourth Indiana Jones movie. It was in vogue to do this, it was considered “funny” to say these kinds of things about George Lucas, it was accepted. Sadly, we’ve not learned from history.

For some reason in fandom, it is still acceptable to say these kinds of things about directors, actors and heck, anyone involved in the process and social media has only made the problem 100 times worse. People can now hide behind an avatar and anonymously say anything they want about anyone they want. People in creative positions are constantly treated less than human, getting insults and death threats regularly over….. yup, that’s right…. movies, tv shows, comics and books. This is not acceptable. It never should have been acceptable. These creatives are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity, grace and respect! Let’s remember the Golden Rule folks! Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Remember when your parents told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Maybe we should start practicing that again.

Yoda famously said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate, leads to suffering”. There is so much suffering happening out there because of fandom and it needs to stop. So my challenge is to stop treating creatives like some sort of commodity that owes you something, treat them like real people, BECAUSE THEY ARE! They pour their heart and soul into their work, let’s begin to respect that. Will we like every single thing that comes out of every single fandom? No. But does that give us the right to treat people like less than human? NO! Constructive criticism of art has happened for centuries and it’s fun to debate others about what we think about the latest movie or tv show, but again, we don’t have the right to treat people like less than dirt.

It says in the Bible, “Perfect love casts out all fear”. Even if you are not spiritual, I think we can all see the wisdom in this. My last challenge is to focus on what we love, to build each other up in that and not tear each other down. It’s fashionable to work very hard to be the snarkiest on social media about the latest thing in any fandom. I challenged you, let go of your Hate, as Luke Skywalker would say, embrace the light side because the cynicism of our age is slowly killing us. Let’s celebrate what we love and when we criticize, let’s remember to do it constructively, thoughtfully, respectfully and with grace. And above all, treat people, all people with the respect and dignity that’s due them. I hope you will join me in using the hashtag #StarWarsLove to pass on what we love about Star Wars. Let’s set an example to those that follow, it is not ok to treat people the way George Lucas, Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Kelly Marie Tran, Rian Johnson and so many others across so many fandoms have been treated. Galadrial said in the Fellowship of the Ring film, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”, so let’s change it! Will you join me?

Christianity · Faith · Family · Friendship · Movie Review · Movies · Sherlock Holmes

Mr. Holmes – Review

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It is often remarked that Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed movie character in the history of cinema. One might question the validity of another movie about him and yet none have been so person as Mr. Holmes staring Ian McKellen. He plays the famed detective in the twilight of his life, memory is failing and one last case that must be solved; a case that may just be the most important of his life, enough to alter his future.

Missing the Point

Holmes is the original Spock. He is cold emotion and facts wrapped in a smoking jacket. He’s able to deduce the most minute detail about a person, observe what others cannot see and crack cases no other could. Yet, with all this knowledge and logical deduction there is something that is missing, wisdom and heart. Spock says to Valaris in Star Trek VI that logic is only the beginning of wisdom. Holmes becomes acutely aware of this in the most dreadful way. A husband of a distraught wife comes to Holmes, pleading with him to figure out what is wrong with her. Holmes quickly deduces the woman’s case, finding that she is overcome by the loss of two children from miscarriages. What she wants is to spend time with Holmes. She senses that he’s lived a solitary life and is seldom understood. She desires to just spend time with him to ease her loneliness. Holmes, unable to see past his logic to the emotion to the heart of her despair sends her home to her husband, only to find out the next day that she’s committed suicide.

Mr-Holmes-Ian-McKellen-Hattie-MorahanKnow and Loved

Holmes begins to understand the depth of his mistake and the loneliness that he’s felt his whole life. Even Watson never really knew him. Watson had chronicled the life of a character he’d created, not the man he never really knew. Watson thinks he knows Holmes, yet Holmes is jut playing the fiction that’s been created around him. He personifies the expectations fiction has placed on him, never truly able to reveal himself for fear of alienating readers, fans and in the end friends. Holmes lacks the courage to be himself as well as the safety of a true friendship with which to do so.

After the incident, Holmes retires to the country in exile. It is there that he meets his redemption in Roger, his cook’s son. Roger is smart, like Holmes he has a sharp mind and a quick wit. His father was lost in WWII and he’s grown up with only vague memories of him from his mother’s stories. He and Holmes strike an unlikely friendship over the care of bees. Together they become the person that knows the other like no one else can. We’ve all experienced it, knowing that certain someone who gets you in ways others just can’t. It feels as though you’re more complete because finally you’re understood to the core of your being. Holmes finds that missing piece of himself in the most unlikely of places and it changes him forever.

mr-holmes-ian-mckellen-860x442The beautiful thing is that Roger is changed as well. For him, Holmes is the father he never had. Holmes is able to stimulate Roger intellectually and spur him on to a life he’d never have if not for the way he’s known by Holmes. The film beautifully reminds us that cloistering ourselves away hurts not only ourselves but others. It’s when we risk and interact with those around us that true life happens. There are many Proverbs about the importance of friendship yet one stands out as relevant to the film, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes echo just as loudly when he says,

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

We are strongest when we are not only together, but know fully, deeply and intimately.

Conclusion 

Mr. Holmes is the perfect antidote to superheroes, explosions and dinosaurs. None of these have been bad things, but Mr. Holmes stands above these with it’s reminders of the importance of community and truly knowing those around us and allowing ourselves to be known. Go see Mr. Holmes and revel in the quiet mystery of a film doing what the medium does at it’s best, teaching us through a good story and good characters.

Film · Movie Review · Movies · The Gospel · The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now – Review

spectacular-now-final-posterSutter Keely is the life of every party and with the hottest girl in school at his side he is a king. In a perpetual haze of alcohol, his life is lived in the now. Numb to pain or love, Sutter is oblivious to anything but the hedonistic pleasures of this world. That is, until a misunderstanding leaves him single and being woken up in an unfamiliar front yard by a girl he doesn’t even know. Life will never be the same again. What follows is the best movie of the summer. The Spectacular Now  is a masterpiece with more heart and honesty than the entire summer’s movies combined.

L-O-V-E: 

Sutter has grown up in a broken home, with a father who is gone, yet he defends and a mother he is sure is hiding something. His older sister is already married and even though she loves him, she is not really an influence in his life. For Sutter, life is best lived in hiding from his feelings and everyone else. Living in the “now” allows him to focus on others, never really able to feel what he is feeling, giving him the appearance of being okay but inside crying out for love . He has no guidance on how to be a man because there is no one there to show him. His father is not around and his teacher as well as his boss, even though they care do not reach out and take up this young man’s training. In fact, most of the adults in this film are so wrapped up in their own worlds that they have little or no effect on the children they are meant to be raising. It is a sad commentary on the self-obsessed culture that the world has so readily embraced. With no one there to model for these teens manhood and womanhood they are left to figure out life on their own.

Sutter has a good heart, one that wants to love others and take care of them, but his own emotional wounds leave him inadequate to the task. He ends up feeling like cancer to people’s lives, worthless and broken. He has spent a lifetime, looking for love, longing for it, yet never having true love modeled for him he cannot understand it.

Amiee Finecky is the girl that wakes Sutter up in the yard. She is not anyone popular in school and yet there is something about her that draws him in. Sutter has the ability to see the things people need. He can encourage them in just the right way, make them feel like they can do anything. So against his better judgement he finds himself trying to help Amiee out. What he does not realize is that it will be her that revolutionizes his life.

the-spectacular-now-shailene-woodley-miles-teller-21-laps-entertainment-a24There is a powerful scene in the movie that’s the turning point in the film. Sutter, who is always slightly, if not fully intoxicated, has finally met his dad for the first time since he left. He finds a broken man who is incapable of truly loving anyone else but himself. Sutter and Amiee, on their way home and most certainly inebriated, almost run into another car head on. The first thing that Amiee does is turn to Sutter and ask him, “Are you ok?”. Sutter cannot believe his ears. He is faced, for the first time in his life with unconditional and sacrificial love and it freaks him out. True love has invaded his life and he has no infrastructure to support what Amiee is giving him. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel in action. Amiee loves Sutter. He has not earned it, she just gives herself and her love as a gift. It is this gift that begins to transform the way Sutter sees himself. It is not a perfect gospel picture but the power of redemptive love is fully on display and will leave you moved long after the film is over.

Conclusion:

This is a powerful film. The performances by Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley will leave you in tears as you feel every single emotion of the characters. This is the kind of movie that makes you thankful for the art of cinema. I cannot recommend this film more.

 

Christianity · Love · Movie Review · Movies

The Tale of Two Loves – Anna Karenina Movie Review

Joe Wright’s new interpretation of Leo Tolsty’s epic Anna Karenina is an audacious spectacle and a worth adaptation. He uses a very unique visual style in the film, placing almost everything on a theater stage. The lives of Imperial Russia are constantly being watched in the big cities and everything that happens is just a performance for the those watching. In doing the film this way, Wright is able to add character clues in the visual style which helps him flesh them out. The book my be 900 pages, but the film can only fit in so much story, so this style allows for more character study without elongating the film. This movie is a visual treat and well worth the price of admission.

There are two main stories in the film and they are the antithesis of each other; there is the love of Levin and Kitty contrasted with the “love” of Anna and Vronsky. The story of Anna and Vronsky is what happens when we allow our carnal natures to run wild and get lost in a sea of obsession and selfishness. Anna has many times that she can say no to this temptation and yet she harbors it in her heart, nourishing her desire until she cannot do anything by give in to the monster she has been feeding. It happens to all people. There are things that look so enticing and yet we know them to be wrong, destructive or unwise. But instead of banishing such ideas or running from them, we give in. Obsession takes over and what would once have seemed impossible to be apart of has become the very thing are engaging in with all our might. Anna and Vronsky’s “love” is an idol that they must serve and it leaves them insecure about their place in this world and with each other. Anna especially can never be reassured enough that she is fully loved and accepted. Her deceit, selfishness and obsession have left her empty and like so many of us, she just looks for more of what is not working to satisfy her. Her desire is insatiable because she is drinking from the wrong well.

Her moment of realization and awakening comes as she sits at the opera house she can see the way people look at her and treat her. She is the laugh of the town, seen as a fool. There is always a moment where our choices reach up and finally slap us in the face and we can see clearly what we have become. It is in that moment that we have the choice to continue down the road of destruction or to turn around and find a new path. Anna decides that the only course of action is to follow the rabbit hole as far as it goes. It leads her to morpheme and death. She becomes the embodiment of the Proverb, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

The desolation of this story is contrasted with the beauty that is Levin and Kitty. She rebuffs his early proposal, swept up in the bonds of infatuation with Vronsky. Levin is heartbroken and returns to his country home, yet try as he might, his love for Kitty is never extinguished. For all the talk of love in this movie, their’s it the most pure. They do not love the selfish idea of love, but the person. They both commit themselves to more that fleeting pleasures and mere sexual desire; longing for the promise of mutual care and support. Love in the end is not for personal gain but the betterment of another.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13 ESV

Christianity · Faith · Suffering · Uncategorized

Backpacking Burdens

The question of whether or not to go on had been taken away; the situation was, get to water or continue suffering; a rock and a hard place. There was nothing else to do but sling the backpack back over our shoulders and amble on. Some broke down along the path. There was nothing left in reserve, it had all been consumed. There were those who could not saddle up, the pack was just too heavy and it could no long be shouldered. Someone else was going to have to carry the load and someone did.

It is interesting how much can be learned from backpacking in the mountains. When you are in the wilderness there is very little you are in control over. The weather, the accuracy of the map, the amount of water you need to drink, the terrain, the exhaustion, the amount of oxygen in the air, all of these and so much more is mostly out of your hands. It is a good lesson for life’s journey; you are in control of almost nothing. Job found this out when he questioned God and God probed him with some very hard questions:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:1-7 ESV)

God made it very clear; it is he that is in control of this world and not us.

Yet this is does not satisfy the souls longings and groaning, especially when the burdens of life get too heavy and collapse feel imminent. The Heavenly Father has an answer for that as well. Jesus says;

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Just like Jesus, there is a call for believers to carry one another’s burdens. Like the backpacking trail, the pack of life can get too heavy to carry and another step cannot be gone, so the call is to unload not only on The Father but one another.

“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)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1-3 ESV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

So, brothers and sisters do not walk alone. Remember what Paul says in Corinthians;

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)

Carry one another, bear the load that is too heavy for each other and love one another just as Christ loved you and took our burdens to the cross and paid the ultimate price for our freedom to walk in newness of life. Feel the freedom of a pack-less back and the view from the top!