Saturday, June 30, 2007

Of All The People In Bobby...

This post is about all the people in the movie Bobby, not playing Bobby.

In fact, I finally got a chance to see Bobby. A movie that at times last year I thought would make more a splash among AMPAS voters. But zero academy nominations later, Emilio Estevez's star studded historical slice-of-life film was generally overlooked.

But, since the funnest thing this film has going for it is it's cast, I figured I'd highlight my favorite performances from the film.

1. Freddy Rodriguez - He's touching, he's funny, and strangely natural in the role of Jose, a kitchen-staff employee who loves baseball and cares about Latino rights.

2. Sharon Stone - For the limited amount of screentime that each character gets, Stone's gets a little more of an arch...plus it's just a neat role and she does fantastic as the hair designer of the stars.

3. Demi Moore - Her melodramatic role is fun...Demi, want don't you try picking up some stronger roles so you could score your first academy award nomination...you have talent. The execution of Viriginia Fallon is tons of fun.

4. Harry Belafonte - And to think it's Demi Moore who sings in this movie. This was a touching inclusion in the film.

5. Svetlana Metkina - I don't even know why I'm included her, but her role as the Czech reporter is comical and reminds of a silly teen movie. Granted, this was not intended as a silly teen movie...but if it was, she'd be number one...Amanda Bynes, you have nothing on Metkina!

On par/good performances: Helen Hunt, Joy Bryant, Joshua Jackson, Shia LaBeouf, Elijah Woods, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Brian Geraghty, William H. Macy, Martin Sheen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Christian Slater, Jacob Vargas.

Square Peg/Round Hole: Nick Cannon, Laurence Fishburne, and Ashton Kutcher.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oscar Best Picture Predictions (June 2007)

Last year at the end of June I laid out my best picture predictions, and effectively got none of my predictions right! (I've never claimed to be a good guesser at this game).

Each of my top 5 films from this point last year did go on to score at least one academy award nomination, but generally, I missed the boat. 3 films in my next tier did get nominations, but I completely missed including Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen.

Despite my failings, why not through it out there again this year?

Best Picture Prediction (June 28, 2007 )
American Gangster
Atonement
The Kite Runner
Rendition
In The Valley of Elah

My next tier of 10 would be: There Will Be Blood, 3:10 to Yuma, Michael Clayton, Sweeney Todd, Margot at the Wedding, Reservation Road, The Other Boleyn Girl, Charlie Wilson's War, The Golden Age, Lions for Lambs.

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Manufactured Authenticity: Seeking Both Excellence and Honesty


Posted above is my probably my favorite painting. The picture above doesn't do it justice. This painting is large. In fact, it's 88 inches tall and about 120 inches wide.

The painting is called Stephen's Iron Crown, it was painted in 1981 by Robert Motherwell. Robert Motherwell used black paint thinned down with turpentine and splattered on canvas to get this image.

But wait? I thought you said that this image was over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide? How big of a brush did he have?

In fact, Motherwell took the splattered paint from one canvas and translated it over in a much larger form onto a much larger form, this time with precision and accuracy. In fact, he used more than just black paint to capture the accuracy, but also used shades of brown to capture the turpentine edges that separated from the black paint as it became absorbed into the canvas.

My friend Jon wrote recently about authenticity, and he was specifically talking about how a younger generation is looking for authenticity over excellence when it comes to the church. I think there is a lot of truth about what Jon is saying. We value and seek after the true honesty of real community, genuine interest, and no false pretenses.

At the same time, there is a conflict, and I see that in a post Jon wrote less than three weeks later when he says: "we’re most valuable if we get really good at what we do well and stop trying to do everything."

At this point, Jon is encouraging us to seek excellence in what we do. If we seek after excellence, focusing only on what we're good at, isn't there a chance that we might loose who we are and our honest authenticity will slip away in the pursuit of focusing only on our strengths? (What Jon says is no different than most buzz business strategy that says focus full force on what you're good at).

In an accessible generation, we're torn because with out excellence and uniqueness we are tossing ourselves into the global marketplace with destined failure, we will be shouting into the wind. Yet, at the same time, we long for something that is authentic, real, and honest.

This is why I love Robert Motherwell's work. It is authentic and natural. The image in the painting in natural, nothing more than the flick of a wrist and a couple natural brush strokes. But the final product, is a laboriously intentional effort to create something that looked authentic, but was the result of excellence and precision.

I don't know if I like this reality, but no other images captures an idea of manufactured authenticity quite like Motherwell's work.

Robert Motherwell's painting, Stephen's Iron Crown, is part of the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum's permanent collection and was acquired in 1985 Sid W. Richardson Foundation Endowment Fund.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Real Reality TV: The Up Series

Probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever watched has been all 7 episodes in Michael Apted's Up Series, which Kim and I finished watching last Sunday.

In 1964, Granada Television commissioned as a program in which they would interview 14 Seven year olds in London and surrounding areas from all different social, economical, and educational backgrounds.
The purpose of the original program was to paint a picture of England's future, and was based off the premise of Francis Xavier's quote: "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The Show was called 7 Up and was apparently a great success.

Yet, a really special thing happened. Seven years later they returned to find all 14 of the children in the original 40 minute television program and taped them at the age of 14 in a show they called 7 Plus Seven. In this reprise, they asked similar questions and tracked their hopes and aspirations even over the past 14 years.

This film was followed up every seven years, and its last installment came out in 2005. Through 21 up, 28 up, 35 up, 42 up, and 49 up, it's an incredible experience. I know the original intentions of the program seem to be about the role of social class in development, and while it is that, the films are even more so an amazing experience unto themselves. Even the story in time becomes less central to England as they film in Australia, the United States, former Soviet countries, and the middle East as appropriate.

In the United States with MTV's the Real World, and Survivor we became reality show junkies, but nothing is as real as what you experience in the Up Series because people are held accountable to their dreams and lives. Many of the participants talk about how they hate being interviewed because it's a painful experience to dig through the past seven years and reflect on the different films that have come out already. There is unachieved dreams, failed marriages, and rough stages of life.
Yet there is also hope and univeresal life stages and principles that hold these participants together and connect their story with any viewer. There is exciting achievements, there's the birth of children, job developments, etc. that are very exciting to see as well.

To me it is also an interesting film expirement in terms of technology and entertainment. The production methods and styles change over the 5 different decades these films have been made. And in the same way you see changing technology and film style, you also see the expected cultural changes and shifts in the second part of the 21st century including dress, hair styles, and so forth.

Watching these documentaries has really been one of the most fascinating things I have experienced, and I can not wait until 56 up comes out in 2012.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Top 10 Films of 2006

Of course, there are random films that I might pick up along the way. But here are my current top 10 films of 2006.

1. United 93
2. The Painted Veil
3. Letters from Iwo Jima
4. The Queen
5. The Departed
6. Dreamgirls
7. Little Miss Sunshine
8. The Prestige
9. The Blood Diamond
10. Thank You For Smoking

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

God is not Captain Planet (and spiritual gifts are not just for church)

In 1990 Ted Turner started a cartoon series called Captain Planet in which 5 ethnically diverse kids had the unique powers of earth, wind, fire, water, and heart. These powers were represented and embodied in the rings they wore. These power were to be used to ward off ecologically harmful villains and conditions like smog, toxic waste, and animal poaching.

Sometimes, eco-villians would be too powerful for the Planeteers to ward off by themselves and using their rings, they could enlist the power of the super-powerful Captain Planet, an almost unstoppable force with infinite powers and abilities which could ward off eco-danger.

I think sometimes we have an inept and independent view of God. It's as though in the American church we often get in to a mindset where we, aware of our God given talents and giftings try to do those most Christian things, and the hope is that with our powers combined we can illicit God through the work that is done through the divine-fully-functional, every-one-is-in-their-proper-place church. I think our view of God is limited that way...as if God can only do powerful things if every person is doing their part.

The Bible talks about how God/the Holy Spirit gives people different Spiritual Gifts, and compares the interconnecting of these gifts as though parts of a single body which God has created with different parts with different functions (eyes, ears, livers and kidneys).

In constructing the American Church, I think that at times we get into a view that God will only be manifested in the lives of people, the community, and the world if "the body" is properly organized and coordinated. This means eyes, livers, and toes need to be discovered within the "church body" and properly put to use in the church nursery, handing out communion, counting the offering, singing in the choir/worship group/rock band, and preaching the Sunday sermon. And when all people and pieces are in place, it is then that (I feel) many believe God will show up, save the day and be present for a whatever the desired purpose is (whether it ultimately is social, political, and/or spiritual impact that is sought).

I fear that God did not give people gifts so they could simply evoke his presence and power amongst each other. In fact I don't think God would, through Christ and his Spirit, give people gifts at all just to be used among each other, to draw forth an analogise embodiments of Christ.

No, instead I think God is not like Captain Planet at all. God is not the be called forth and drawn out. In fact, God is always there.

In so much as God has given us unique gifts in accordance with the grace given to us, it seems as though these gifts are given to be used in the most active of ways. It would seem a pity if a person had the gift of leadership, encouragement, or teaching and only used it in the confines of church.

Church is not the end all and be all of ministry. The purpose of Church is not to use our own gifts to beckon forth the full embodiment of God as though God were Captain Planet.

No, if Captain Planet was to be an analogy for the Christian faith (which clearly it is not, nor was it intended to), then when people have a life-transforming encounter with Captain Planet/God then he would entrust to them a gift/mission/purpose. To Abraham he was given Faith, which led him to go to follow God to go to a place where he would be the father of nation of Israel. Or after an encounter with God, the Samaritan woman at the well came to believe in the redeeming power of God and instantly told others about him and in a powerful way introduced others to him. The stories are endless, whether it's the apostles, Paul, the four friends who carry their friend to see Jesus, Nehemiah...it doesn't matter. Different people were given different gifts and roles in carrying out the message of God/Christ in a powerful way.

I believe that when we encounter God he gives us gifts to be used (although we may not be able to always neatly identify them) in whatever ways possible, so that he may receive Glory. After encountering God we are to be used by God.

I think that the body of Christ as represented and discussed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 is less so for God to have power (because he's already omnipotent), but instead it is to help those who've encountered Christ to continue to encourage and minister to each others as we see in the end of Acts 2 as the early church is described. As I see it, the purpose of the early Church was not to be or be used to beckon forth God, or even to be as an institution responsible for spiritual work, but was a natural formation of those who were following Christ as a source of encouragement, fellowship, power, and focus to bless one another as they used their gifts among each other and in the world.

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Captain America is only one of the memorable cartoon faces of the 90's. If you're looking to find out more cartoon wikis make it easy. Can't find a wiki of your favorite cartoon? It's easy to create a free wiki on the subject of your choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Life Change According to Robin Williams' Greatest Roles

Recently, I've been addressing the increased role of inspiration over information in our current society, as well as the dangers of reaching a point (or points) of inspiration overload, when the messages encouraging life-change all around would become so insistent, that we ignored them, became callous, or generally overloaded.

The quick flurry of comments to my recent post on Robin Williams top roles, clearly show we are familiar with many of his greatest performances, and after posting my own list, I realized that in each of my top 5 roles Robin Williams' characters effectively help induce life change in the lives of others.

Yet...while at times, Robin Williams is clearly inspirational (especially in Dead Poet's Society), as he uses words and poetry to effectively interplay with his students notions of life and the importance of "seizing the day." Yet, it's not inspiration alone that effectively creates the change at hand.

No, these powerful roles don't rest on inspiration alone...as a homeless man, a magic genie, a psychologist, and a cross-dressing housekeeper, Williams is able encourage change in the lives of others, not by inspiration, but by forming deep inter-connectivity.

While as John Keating is the most "inspirational" of characters in Dead Poet's Society, he connects with his students in unique ways uncharacteristic of other teachers at the boarding school. He doesn't just stick to poetry, but cares about their complete lives. He attends their plays, he asks them questions, and interacts at a deep level that encourages his students to change and live their lives in different ways.

Genie certainly has no desire to inspire Aladdin in many other ways, but that he might use his final wish to free genie from his fate. Yet, the Genie through his own power and interconnectivity is able to change Aladdin's life, including knowing that in Aladdin's weakness, drowning underwater, Genie takes on the role of Power of Attorney knowing Aladdin well enough to use his 2nd wish for him. And Aladdin's life is forever changed through the relationship Genie and Aladdin forge.

Sean Maguire plays an inspirational and actively connected role in the life of Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting. It is similar experience that is shared between the two men that Robin Williams' character, as a psychiatrist is able to do in Will Hunting's life what no one else can. Will Hunting begins to make choices for himself, risking the chance of failure.

When Daniel Hillard and his wife divorce in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hillard realizes how much his kids mean to him as well as what a loss the relational change will have on him as well as his children. Hillard works vigilantly to find a way to impact his children's lives in ways he never did before as he takes on the persona and form of an elderly English housekeeper. The lives of Hillard's children (and even ex-wife) are improved because of Daniel Hillard's interconnectivity.

And even as a homeless, psychologically deranged man in The Fisher King, Robin Williams' character Parry is able to save radio DJ Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) from being set on fire by gang members as well as saving Parry from the pain and suicidal desires he is experiencing after his words over the radio causes a killing rampage. Despite Parry's delusional desires to find the Holy Grail, his interconnectivity with Jack helps redeem himself in a meaningful way.

It is my belief that in a information and inspiration overloaded world, the most significant way true life changes can and will occur in our lives will be the direct result of deep interconnectivity and relationships.

The exciting and encouraging thing that can be seen in these roles as well is that when true life-on-life developments occur both parties are open to the opportunity to change. Whether it's Genie being freed from the lamp, Daniel Hillard having the opportunity to be with his children, or Parry getting the holy grail, the change-maker is changed as well.

My Favorite Robin Williams Roles

Robin Williams breathe's unique life into some of hollywood's most bizarre and engaging characters. Some of his roles have been a little too much for me (like Toys, or Jakob the Liar).
But thinking about Williams' role in the upcoming film August Rush, I've got Robin Williams on the brain.
So, here's it is...
My Top 5 favorite Robin Williams Roles.

1. John Keating, Dead Poets Society
2. Genie, Aladdin
3. Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting
4. Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, Mrs. Doubtfire
5. Parry, The Fisher King
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Looking to fall: August Rush

As I have become generally uninterested in the summer blockbusters, I have begun to increasingly look forward to fewer trilogies, and more original work in the fall.

One of the movies I have just recently begun to look forward to is August Rush directed by Kristen Sheridan (an Oscar nominee alongside her father and sister for their screenplay, In America). The film brings together the writing team who wrote the fantastically enjoyable Hook (Nick Castle andJames V. Hart). And has a fun cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Robin Williams, Terrence Howard, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and the sure-to-be-precious Jamia Simone Nash.
The story looks like the ushy-gushy stuff that makes films like Mr. Holland's Opus and Simon Birch magical and moving. It has the real life serious drama and trauma as two musicians Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers get pregnant, yet cannot (for some reason) commit to raising the child. Yet as the child gets older, through music he tries to find his parents, who are looking for him.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

5 Fatherly Traits Worth Admiring in "In America"

My favorite movie is In America, primarily because of the role and character of Johnny played by Paddy Considine.

In honor of Father's Day, 5 Traits of Johnny that make him an Admirable Father.


1. Personal Sacrifice - Whether it's physical, emotional or financial, we see Johnny pour out all of his energy, heart, and money into making sure his families needs get met. Even when he has to take the coke bottles to the drug store to get the air conditioner adapter, he seems all empty, but preservers with a desire to give it all, even if just for his families minimal comfort.



2. A Vision of Hope - In the worse heat and dire situations Johnny takes his family to see a movie and helps them enjoy life. While he is aware of the major sacrifices involved he dedicates himself to try to foster a vision of hope for his daughters and wife, even as he enters a very foolish carnival game.



3. Freedom to Experience - Johnny's first experience in America, is also his daughters first experience in America. By being a co-experiencer, they are able to all learn, grow, and make the most of their time together, including the opportunity to learn from one another. The relationship is opened up to be a mutual relationship, not just a one-way operation.



4. Undying Commitment to Family - The commitment Johnny has to his daughters as a father, means that he also must foster his relationship with his wife. If there mother is sad, depressed, disheartened, than his fatherly abilities are weakened. A commitment to his children is also a commitment to his wife, even to be there for her in her most dire times.



5. Accessible Love - It is not just provision, hope, experience, and home that Johnny gives, but it's himself in the act of love. He is present to hear, listen, and share life with his daughters and to show them the unique love only a father can give through affection, words, and time.

I'm thankful that my Father is so great in these ways, I hope I will be too. Thanks Dad.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

I Don't Picture Them Like This

The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) is my favorite website to waste time on. Clicking on movies, directors, actors, etc. I look at upcoming projects, who's received awards before, and so forth.

Most film people of notoriety have a main picture attached to their profile, and there are three particular pictures that when I see them I always am slightly annoyed because this is not how I picture them.
1. Brad Pitt -
The long hair, the way the dead on angle makes his nose look really broad. In fact, it looks like they picked Pitt up off the side of the road in his birth town of Shawnee, Oklahoma and took him to the studio and the rest was history.













2. Cate Blanchett -
The simple frustration here is that something about the hair color, the facial expression, and the body position makes Cate look like Kirsten Dunst.

3. Kate Winslet -
This picture does not bother me as much as the other two. Namely because Kate looks happy and like she out paddle boating with Sam Mendes or something. All the same, this al natural picture certainly would not be my first choice.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Luma Mufleh's Life Story Creates Hollywood Bidding War

Meet Luma Mufleh. She's the woman in red YMCA jersey. Mufleh is a 31 year old Jordan born woman who was the focus of a New York Times article last January.

Mufleh is the founder and coach of the Fugees soccer team. The Fugees started three years ago as a soccer team for refugee boys in the Clarkston, Georgia area. Mufleh, realizing the needs for her team were unique, began mentoring her soccer players as well as beginning after-school opportunities to learn and do their homework.

Warren St. John's New York Times article created quite a stir in Hollywood. Early on Mark Roybal, president of Scott Rudin productions wrote in an e-mail: "Today's article is probably one of the best pieces of journalism we have read in years." (via wsj)

The studio melee began almost as soon as the story was published, with bids coming in from DreamWorks, spearheaded by Steven Spielberg; Columbia and producer Mark Gordon; the Walt Disney Co. and Scott Rudin; Nick Movies; Sidney Kimmel; and the Weinstein Co., among others.

The inital bid was $25,000 and in the end Universal won out with a 2.25 million dollar bid, with half million going to Mufleh. Scott Stuber, Mary Parent, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy will be producing. Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) is currently the screenwriter of the film, who is suspected to wait until Warren St. John finishes a book on The Fugees before she pens the film script.

With this story already being an expensive film with powerful behind the scenes names attached, who will play Mufleh? Will any other big names be cast? Only Mufleh sold her life story, so the rest of the kids and families on the soccer team will be generic, and not based off of actual people.

Also, they will probably cast someone in a semi-villainous role as the Mayor of Clarkston, Georgia. Mayor Lee Swaney (right) received a lot of heat in the New York Times article as he tried to ban soccer from the fields were Mufleh and her team practiced. (The mayor's greeting on the city webpage is solely about this issue).

My first thought on who could play the role of Mufleh at this point (based off the picture above) is Keisha Castle-Hughes, although she might be just a little too young.

sources: cinematical, Risky Biz Blog, WSJ, NY Times and Fugees Family)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inspiration Overload

The concept of information overload is pretty well known. This concept has inspired my thoughts on accessibility of information, education, and in turn, the reasons why today inspiration is valued today over information.

Think about the messages around us? Everyone wants to inspire us. And while sometimes it takes inspiration to change our behaviors, whether that's to take better control over our finances, our health, or addictions, there seems to be a motivational threshold.

Part of the problem is that no longer is it just friends and family trying to inspire us to change our habits and live more fulfilling lives, but it is the market place as well. This is nothing new, we have come to expect this in advertising. We've seen the weight loss infomercials, and the advertisements that show us how this or that restaurants take-out services will allow for better times spent with friends and family.

Yet how about the Red Campaign which encourages us to support AIDS in Africa by buying Gap spirts, Motorola cell phones and iPods? Or alternatively what about Starbucks' "The Way I See It" cups that have various paragraphs of inspiration plastered on every cup. Is there a point that we reach a threshold of inspiration overload?

The way I see it, inspiration overload, much like information overload, is a point when our emotions and senses get tugged on so much, that we begin to doubt and become apathetic to the message. Perhaps we begin to see manipulation in the messages, or maybe just as we begin to be concerned about poverty in Ghana, we also begin to become concerned with local layoffs, and suddenly we become concerned about the increased amount of hormone's in non-organic beef. Before we can rally for one cause, and commit to a weekly exercise routine, and begin a comprehensive savings plan our ability to care has been maxed out.

I think there is a reason Mike Judge's movie Office Space resonates with so many people. The comical draw is that many people can relate to various office dynamics present in this film. But at an emotional level, I think there is a part of people that are also sick of being prodded and dehumanized with increasingly heavy inspirational and motivational approaches. There is a sense of success that is felt when Ron Livingston and his co-workers seek vengeance on the fax machine and experience these emotions.

The presents of inspiration over information can be traced at least as far back to around 400 BC with Gorgias, one of the fathers of sophistry. Gorgias, the Greek rhetorician, unlike other sophists did not profess to teach virtue and truth, rather he set about to inspire people to believe unpopular thoughts through performance, technique, and engaging the listener with well crafted speech.

Later Aristotle would criticize Gorgias' methods for lacking information and fact, as well as the fact that Gorgias was inspiring people to make money rather than to enrich people's lives. Plato criticized Gorgias for his lack of virtue and truth viewing him as a performer who persuaded people with out grounds for truth.

So if we clearly are less interested in information in our current time, what will happen if we reach a point were we no longer are influenced by inspiration either? What comes next?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Inspiration over Information

This post is not about fast food or about global warming, but rather about what inspires us to change.

Recently I have done a few post about our reliance upon accessibility, in that we desire and have more resources at our finger tips than ever, and thus in accessibility of information is more important than actually knowing the information at hand. As a result accessibility largely impacts the role of education as learning cold hard facts becomes less important.

In the post about education I gave a number of examples about how education played a cultural role in societies, often involving memorization of information, even as part of carrying a cultural and social legacy.

Yet, with excessive information at hand, it seems like information in itself has become less powerful. It's economics, as the available information increases, so does it's intrinsic values.

So how do you get people to change their attitudes, habits, and actions?

No longer is information the primary tool, instead it becomes inspiration.

In 2004, a popular documentary came out called Super Size Me, in which film maker Morgan Spurlock ate nothing except McDonald's for each meals for 30 days. This film was inspirational. Not in the chicken soup for soul way, but in a way that made people reconsider their eating choices, particularly fast food. I knew many people who after seeing this film forsaked fast food, with various levels of commitment.

Did Morgan Spurlock really provide very much information in the film? No, instead he used creativity and an eye-catching experiment to catch people off guard, cause them to make commitments and curb their behavior. The news that fast food was not healthy, certainly wasn't new information, but the presentation effected the lives of others.

In contrast, I would contend that the popular-in-Hollywood film by Davis Guggeheim, An Inconvenient Truth, did not inspire or change habits nearly as much as Super Size Me did.

In An Inconvenient Truth, I personally was bored by the highly informative power point presentation that Al Gore helped commit to film. While I don't stand to counter the concepts in the film, the presentation was based on information transfer rather than emotion transfer. Granted Gore presents dire realities for mankind, even as great as another ice age, but you have to wonder if the film was of Al Gore trying to survive an ice age for 30 days if the film would have ignited the green in more viewers?

If the goal is to move a group of people from point A to point B, in an age of accessibility and information overload, inspiration will trump information almost every time.

The application is clear. We'd rather be inspired to be healthy the learn the in's and out's of healthy living. We'd rather be inspired to use this or that parenting method, rather than read psychological studies conducted from ivy league universities. Our actions will change if we are inspired more than if we are informed.

Whether we are inspired to eat organic foods, pray more, protect the environment, commit to save more money, achieve higher levels of education, or donate money to fight off AIDS in Africa it's not the information the will effect our behavior it will be how the inspiration is delivered.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Substituting Aberrant Sexuality for Unmet Community

In the past I've done a few posts on what film has to say about community. Watching the film Notes on A Scandal what strikes me is that the two main characters Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) and Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) both long for deep community & affection.

These desires are generally accepted as healthy and good. Yet, both women demonstrate a desire for something good, except they go about getting what they want in ways the are illegal and secretive. In the end they are left feeling more empty in their journey, despite the temporary "gold-star" days that they have.

The MPAA taught me a new word when it rated this film R for "language and some aberrant sexual content." Aberrant is defined as: "straying from the right or normal way."

I wonder if most aberrant sexuality, (even in the form of grotesque torture, as discussed earlier in the week) is just an unfortunate way people find themselves replacing a lack of community & affection.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

The Author and Inspiration of Creativity

"It is not only Christians who can paint with beauty, nor for that matter only Christians who can love or who have creative stirrings. Even though the image is now contorted, people are made in the image of God. This is who people are, whether or not they know or acknowledge it. God is the great Creator, and part of the unique mannishness of man, as made in God's image, is creativity. Thus, man as man paints, shows creativity in science and engineering, and so on. Such activity does not require a special impulse from God, and it does not mean that people are not alienated from God and do not need the work of Christ to return to God. It does mean that man as man, in contrast to non-man, is creative."

- Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, Ch. 4

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Opposite of Fun

This Friday, Eli Roth's Hostel II (as mentioned on the summer vomit list) will be released into over 2000 theaters.

The big discussion of "torture porn" is totally relevant as more and more films begin to fit the bill. Whether it's this years Grindhouse or Captivity.

Eli Roth said recently in an MTV interview "When I go see an R-rated horror movie, I want lots of violence. I want nudity. I want sex and violence mixed together, Roth says. "What's wrong with that? Am I the only one? I don't think so." And this come from the man who Quentin Tarantino calls "the future of horror"

Where is the line? Why do the producers and actors agree to do this film. Does actress Heather Matarazzo have no pride that she would take a role where she gets dangled upside down naked and murdered in the most horrific way in the name of sexually horrific entertainment?

Strangely I think of the documentary Born into Brothels. Zana Briski does some incredible work in the Red Light District in Calcutta by giving young children the opportunity to learn photo skills to raise money to get out of the brothel lifestyle. Perhaps someone like Zana needs to figure out a way to help actresses get jobs where they will not be part of explicit negative torture films. Metarazzo, I must believe you must be better than that then the prostitute yourself to the eyes and minds of young perverts.

Granted, there are many base things in movies and art, but for a film of this nature to have such a wide release, truly demonstrate the moral turpitude we face as a society.

As David Poland says, "This is a film that Lionsgate should be embarrassed about releasing." Perhaps it is this depravity that has encouraged them to go to the other end of the spectrum with their Lionsgate Faith Based Films. Yet, it's not like there's a scale where Lionsgate can balance out the moral and immoral.

Please Zani Briski, please save Laura German, Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo, Elisha Cuthbert from the ills of Roth and similar director's minds.

According to imdb, Eli Roth told American Details magazine he'd love to torture Kate Hudson next. Roth says, "I'd love to torture her. But then again, sitting through one of her romantic comedies is its own form of torture. If I had to choose between watching Raising Helen or vomiting because of something I'd seen on the screen in Hostel: Part II, I'd pick the vomit every time."


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Reel People: Marion Cottilard is Edith Piaf

The film is titled La Vie en Rose, La Môme, or the Passionate Life of Edith Piaf. This French film won the Golden Bear at this years Berlin Film Festival. It is directed by Olivier Dahan.

Born Édith Giovanna Gassion, December 1915 in Belleville, Paris, a district that was known for it's large number of immigrants. Edith was allegedly blind from the age of 3 to 7, and deaf 8 to 14. The legend is that Edith regained her sight after her grandmother's prostitutes got together enough money to send her on a pilgrimage honoring Saint Thérèse de Lisieux. At the age of 14 she joined her father's street acrobat team. At the age of 16 she left her father, and had a child that died.

In 1935, At the age of 19, Edith began singing at a nightclub as well as having her first record producted. Only four feet-eight inches, later began singing at a night club where she was named La Môme Piaf (little sparrow kid).

Edith's popularity only grew, especially as she performed during WWII. Following the War she continued to cut more records while touring Europe and the Americas. Edith's popularity was broad, even in America, as she appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 8 times.
Below is a clip of Eidth Piaf singling her famous "La Vie en Rose" in 1954.

Even before stardome her love life was complicated, and over the course of her life she had many lovers and spouses.

In 1963, Edith died of cancer. Buried in Paris, Edith was denied a proper funeral by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle.

The film La Môme has already received significant praise and covers the life of Edith Piaf for birth to death.

Will this biographical film earn some critical awards attention this year for Marion Cottilard's portrayal of this
Real (Reel) Person?

To Christopher Hampton & Joe Wright (on a tough project)

Dear Christopher Hampton & Joe Wright,

After reading the novel Atonement I can't wait to see the film.

Chris, I don't know how you got roped into writing the screenplay for Atonement, but I imagine this is an incredibly difficult project. One that will prove a mastery of screenwriting, or one that will claim that you are out of your league.

Atonement was awarded book of the year in 2002 by Time Magazine, The Washington Post Book World, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, and Seattle Times.

Yet Chris, this book is rich in it's deep characterization, colorful and delightfully detailed writing style, and it's themes and ideas. Normally a story about the independent minds and thoughts of people would be characteristic of a more avant-garde film, maybe something by Michael Gondry, not something with a more classical feel.

I have the slightest ideas how I would ever begin to write an appropriate screenplay that would serve as a proper companion to this book. Yet, apparently what ever you have written has impressed Joe Wright and his producers.
Joe, I am very impressed with the cast that you have gathered for Atonement. Granted, you are recycling some of your cast from Pride & Prejudice a couple years ago (Keira Knightley and Brenda Blethyn), I think you have really assembled a great team. I'm interested in how you direct these characters since this book is such a character driven novel, rather than a novel built on plot.

When you read the book, many of the key moments are glossed over, and only discussed in terms of flash back or as only the events, as Ian McEwan focused much more on who these characters (Cecilia Tallis, Robbie Turner, & Briony Tallis) were. That is a lot of expectations for these characters, especially the triad of women who play Briony (Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave).

I imagine that of all the characters, I imagine that Robbie Turner's character (James McAvoy)will really get the fullest part, since so much of his role in the book (and hence the movie) is central to the action that is taking place, not as much the deeper emotional arches.

Chris & Joe, I am excited about this project and if this film is received half as good as the novel was received you two have done an excellent job writing and directing this project. I hope it's great and that this upcoming award season your ambitious project demonstrates creativity, hard work, and fine craftsmanship.

Sincerely,

RC of StrangeCulture
(pictured above right is screenwriter Christopher Hampton, the next picture is director Joe Wright with Keira Knightley)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Other People are As Real As You

"It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you."

(from Atonement by Ian McEwan, page 38)

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lead Singer of The Fray to Get Mansion from Stranger?

Isaac Slade, lead singer for the Denver-based band the Fray (previously mentioned on StrangeCulture here), is in the news...but for something relatively unmusic related. Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade is looking for an heir to give his 15 million dollar Somerset mansion too and has been putting on the search in a way that would make television executives proud. Currently Isaac Slade,26, and his wife Anna, 23, are in Somerset visiting with Sir Benjamin at Maunsel House.

Sir Benjamin has not liked the Slade's in Great Britian because he says, "They're very, very rich. They're just interested in boats and helicopters and jetting around. They don't worry about funny old houses down in Somerset."

Sir Benjamin has his own agenda for what he's looking for. First off, what is he not interested in: "Gays aren't very good because they're not going to breed," Sir Benjamin said. "I don't like communists. And I wouldn't want any bleeding heart liberals either."

So, besides the fact that Isaac Slade is not gay or a communist, why might Sir Benjamin choose Isaac? Sir Benjamin says:
  • "He is a very successful, clever young man. He doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't take drugs. They're all Christians in that band."
  • "I showed him all the cows, and he was very handy with the animals, actually. His grandfather was a cowpoke."
  • According to Sir Benjamin, Isaac "looks like some of the portraits of the ancestors."

The full story from ABC news can be found here.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Accessibility and Education

I mentioned yesterday, that today's world highly values accessibility. Most people would rather have resources at there fingertips than to plan and prepare what knowledge they would need to acquire. Unfortunately much of what is accessible is consumer driven or unrefined, unsupported information.

Yet, this presents of accessibility deters our incentive to learn.

In orthodox Judaism there is a history of young males going to Yeshiva and dedicating themselves to the study of Talmud and the Torah. Students would not only know massive passages of the Torah by heart, but they would also the beliefs of different commentators and other respected text.

This type of educational expectation is not drastically different than what you saw in Chinese culture between 600 AD and 1905 AD with their Imperial Civil Service Exam. In China, any young male of almost any class had the opportunity to climb through the ranks of the social hierarchy by taking a grueling civil service exam. There were three levels of exams, each administered upon passing the earliest one. These exams took years to prepare for, and involved memorizing long passages and books deemed Confucian classics, as well as military strategy, civil law, ritual, and art. The test took often took 24 to 72 hours which were to be taken in one sitting.

The education strategy of the orthodox Jews and dynastic Chinese are the furthest thing from today's education strategy. The emphasis is not on memorizing information and passages, but rather on super specialized skills. This has largely changed because of the emphasis on specialized labor (encouraged by economist Adam Smith in 1776 when he wrote Wealth of Nations, Henry Ford in 1910's when he mass-rolled out the Model T's and paid his employees well, and in 2007 when Seth Godin wrote The Dip).

If this is the way it is, an onslaught of a new time how do schools teach? Is a well rounded 13 years of primary and secondary school history, science, math, and reading still what optimizes students? If schools adapted with the social-economic business climate what would schools look like, and how long is this sustainable?

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