Thursday, December 29, 2005

Beasts on Film

The two biggest movies out during the holidays now are The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and King Kong.

There is one thing that both have in common besides being reasonable hits, and I'll elaborate on that in a minute. But first some thoughts about the films.

I loved the Chronicles of Narnia book series, and like all C.S. Lewis fans I reveled in the way he made what was biblical into fantastic allegory. There are just flatly certain things we long to engage in, and brilliant, beautiful fantasy helps us connect with that. Lewis acknowledged wonderfully that God did not give us imaginations for nothing.

But I must say that I was disappointed with the film. As much as Christians all around have said that Disney kept all the "Christian" stuff in, for one, that's not exactly the point, and for two, it was still a grand Disney simulation. Being completely Disneyfied, it was not only missing critical dialogue, but all the uniquely enchanting Lewis charm was eviscerated. Some even said it was The Passion of the Christ for kids. Nah, it was more like The Lord of the Rings for kids, and I for one can't stand the Lord of the Rings.

King Kong was one of the groundbreaking films in the 1930's that blew away audiences, and it was as much its horror as its astounding (for its time) special effects. This year's effort was pure silliness. Director-of-epics Peter Jackson plus state-of-the-art special effects does not equal magnificent filmmaking, and I think everyone thought it would. There were just too many times my suspension of disbelief was brashly spat upon (when it so didn't have to be) that the whole thing just became exasperating. After about the 14th time the Naomi Watts character and Kong looked lovingly into each other's eyes, I'd had it.

So here're two widely promoted and very expensive features panned by me (with some reservations). The key thing that got me about both films, indeed the one thing that concerns me most about them, is that each had a beast.

A beast. In Chronicles, it was the lion. In Kong, it was the gorilla. Both were in some measure the featured character, if not the protagonist all together. And both died for the love of another. So in a very profound way, they were both Christ figures (with the lion Aslan the more unashamedly obvious one).

But the thing I want to point out here is that they were both mere images. They were deftly-drawn, graphically-impeccable, computer-generated images. Ironically, in Kong is a scene in which they are deep into the distant terrifying Skull Island, and the filmmaker in the film, played by Jack Black, comes across a wide gorge filled with Brachiosauruses (you know, the big hulking dinosaurs we used to call Brontosauruses). As he cranks his 1930's movie camera, he asks his male lead movie star to step into the scene. This is so the people who see the movie back home won't think what they are witnessing is fake.

Well, it is all fake. And the fakeness is looking more and more real. I couldn't help but think while I watched Chronicles, and confirmed watching Kong, "they worshipped an image of the beast." Now I don't exactly think moviegoers will bow and sing hymns to either image at the theater.

But if they don't know Christ-- the true risen Jesus Christ of Scripture-- then how susceptible will they be when the media experts make remarkable images of things they want them to worship?

Thing is, they already do. The question is how much further lost will the Catholicist be when he or she gets sucked into better and more meaningful idol worship, as produced by the grand Walt Disney simulation machine?

Want to see a list of a lot of those idols? Click here.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Best Television Show Ever

One of the most wonderful matters of all time is the show that is being broadcast right now on channel 7. (I'm blogging about it now because I saw it when it was shown last week.)

It is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." No, it is not merely the best Christmas show ever, but the best television thing ever to beam across that medium. Why is it the wonderful matter that it is?

It is thoroughly and enchantingly imbued with all that does matter: relationship, discovery, accomplishment in all of its bountiful glory.

In and around a Vince Guaraldi soundtrack that is phenomenally brilliant (something few would deny), children interact with one another to find what the season is really about. Linus actually takes precious secular airtime to speak some of the most beautiful words ever spoken. They are from the book of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 to 14. All they do is make plain pronouncement of the One thing that rescues man from his utter abject desperation.

Charlie Brown represents that part of us that desires what is real, and in his quest he encounters so much turgid opposition that it seems hopeless. But he perseveres (the accomplishment), he does so with the eventual support of his friends (the relationship), and he finds what it is all about after all (the discovery). It all concludes with all of them singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," and every time I see that part I weep buckets.

Why on earth would I do that? It's a cartoon for goodness sake! It's not even one of my favorite Christmas hymns! And they're all standing there next to a dog house in the snow, all part of mediocre comic strip drawing (as Charles Schulz himself confessed)!

I do it because all of who Jesus Christ is and what He's done is made profoundly meaningful. That one moment as they sing and shout "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" is like touching paradise.

Why is Jesus all you would ever want? Click here to see.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Dramatized Pope

A couple of renditions of Pope John Paul II's life were on television the past couple of weeks. The ABC version was called Hear My Cry, and CBS featured Jon Voight as the pontiff. Looking at Voight's regal depiction of John Paul in the teaser promos made me think of one thing: yes, this man is the Ruler of the World.

I saw a bit of each episode, and the little I saw was filled with all the typical pleasantries of mundane Catholicist drama featuring every facet of his person: the courage-- bringing down communism; the sensitivity-- attending children's events; the inclusivity-- dining with individuals of diverse religions and ethnicities; and the mercy--sitting with his would-be assassin in prison. It was all peppered with the pithy wisdom of the man who keeps the World on track to destruction.

Neither show got many viewers, at least according to the expectations of the networks. You'd think this is because no one cares, and that may indeed be the case, but it isn't because the Pope has no meaning to them. Most Catholicists just don't know how much the Pope is in charge of their sin management, and that's probably just fine with the Pope. The less they know about his true role as Cain's legacy, the more they'll continue in their evildoing, and the more he may continue to be their condemner. It's best they just see him as some stuffy religious character who was a pretty decent world figure, his anti-progressivism aside.

Can't say it isn't good work. Just look at the publicity. Pretty spiffy.

But the fact is he'd be out of a job if everyone actually allowed the Son to take out their evildoing completely.