Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Apology to Daniel Day-Lewis

In my last post about best actor nominee potentials I was alerted that I used the wrong picture from There Will Be Blood of Daniel Day-Lewis.

Daniel Day-Lewis...I am very sorry. When I was editor of my college yearbook, this was my greatest fear...mis-identification.

Apparently, I am not the only person to make this mistake. A very similar picture as I used also appeared in People Magazine. Apparently it's an actor named Vince Froio. Take note of the Vince Froio picture below from People Magazine.
As an apology, I am posting three pictures...count that one...two...three pictures of Daniel Day-Lewis from the movie There Will Be Blood.

The young boy in these pictures with him is Dillon Freasier.


The people magazine picture above is from joblo.com.

My error was pointed out to me by Gustavo Cruz.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Best Actor Predictions for 2007 (little change since May)

Back in May I had laid out how the Oscar race seemed pretty set early on in the best Actor category. Despite the many potential best actor nominees, early on names like Daniel Day-Lewis and Denzel Washington were being thrown around.

While I was more impressed with Crowe's acting in American Gangster, it's clear that Denzel Washington has the buzz behind him and an excellent shot at getting his 6th academy award nomination.

George Clooney's role in Michael Clayton while certainly not over the top and dramatic, is a nuanced title role in a film that won't be completely void of buzz and award announcements (plus the Academy loves him and other co-stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson will likely have buzz as well)

Daniel Day Lewis is still bringing in the buzz for his much anticipated role in P.T. Anderson's film There Will Be Blood.

The crazy buzz for Reservation Road and Jaoquin Phoenix had died. (Last March I blogged about how Reservation Road seemed to have unprecedented buzz behind it...it did)

And while Tom Hanks had his glory days with the Academy it's still unclear as to what role Charlie Wilson's War will play in this years award line-up, but more and more, I'm thinking Tom Hanks will not be receiving his 6th Oscar nomination this year. While Johnny Depp has turned up the juice, and could receive his 3rd nomination for Sweeney Todd (they're loving him this decade).

The only name clearly worth adding to the four remaining contenders from may (Washington, Clooney, Day-Lewis, Depp) is James McAvoy whose buzz for the highly anticipated film Atonement just seems to continue to grow.

So with that I present an updated image of the face of the predicted best actor nominees for 2007:

It would seem to me at this point that the shakiest nomination potential are for Clooney and Depp (Tim Burton isn't known for scoring nods for his actors). Yet the lack of a clear replacement secures there place.

The other true potential nominees in this catagory as I see it could be: Emile Hirsh, Into The Wild; Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah; Phillip Seymore Hoffman, The Savages or Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.

If you haven't seen the movies mentioned here yet consider buying them online. If you're taking a trip it's easy to enjoy cheap movies from your hotel room with portable dvd players and other quality electronics.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What to do with $100?

When I first started this blog almost 2 years ago I added some simple code with a small ad unit (as you see above). Using Google AdSense. Every time someone clicks on an ad you get a certain amount of money though Pay-Per-Click advertising. Once you reach $100 Google either sends you a check or direct deposits the funds.

My wife previously made fun of my ads on her blog here when an Anne Hathaway post triggered an ad for "gay friendly autos."

Well...I'm officially up to $96.71 in my Google account, and now I'm beginning to ask...what should I do with that $100 once I receive it?

My intentions are not to buy groceries or pay rent with it...I feel like I should do something unique with it? Maybe something that relates to this blog.

(If I was making money through AdSense faster I would use it to buy a new computer...but if I waited for enough money from ads, this computer would die long before I had enough money.)

I'm open for suggestions. Any ideas?

Who the Heck is Paul Giamatti?

The Following is a conversation in a mall elevator where two middle aged women are looking at the Fred Claus poster (right).

Lady 1: I want to see Fred Clause.
Lady 2: Me too, Vince Vaughn is in it, and he's never done a bad movie.
Lady 1: I love everything he's been in.
Lady 2: Who the heck is Paul Giamatti? I've never even heard of him before.
Lady 1: I don't know. Maybe he's famous for playing Santa Claus.
Lady 2: Probably.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

12 Initial Enchanted Thoughts

This post will contain spoilers to the newly released movie Enchanted, read no further if you want this film experience protected.

1. Go see Enchanted it truly is a delightfully enchanting movie. During the movie I and everyone in our theater were laughing aloud, interacting, smiling, and we all left singing.

2. I think this movie will capture the hearts of people who loved Disney classic animation, especially in the 90s (Beauty and The Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin). While this movie plays homage to the original fairytales it's style is of the Mouse House success of the 90s.

3. Part of what makes Enchanted great is composer Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and The Beast) writing the songs for this project. He is so talented, and the perfect composer for this project.

4. I wonder what song(s) will garner an Academy Award nomination? While Ever Ever After sung by Carrie Underwood, and even So Close sung by Jon McLaughlin seem to have the most potential, I would love to see "That's How You Know," or "Happy Working Song" make the cut.

5. Amy Adams is amazing in this film. It's as though the only reason they hadn't made this film sooner is because they hadn't found the right actresses to play Giselle.

6. Amy Adams scoring an Oscar Nomination? I would love to see it happen, but this role obviously is light and fluffy. Yet she plays the role perfectly. Cate Blanchett couldn't touch Adams mastery.

7. My friend Andrea talks about how James Marsden always plays "The Other Guy," and somehome even Prince Charming, rather Prince Edward, played by Marsden works his way into the other man role.

8. It's sad that Tony Award winner Idina Menzel didn't get her own song to sing.

9. Pip was cute...and usually that comic relief character drives me crazy. Pip was not too much, and in fact earned my sympathy.

10. I appreciated the limited pop culture references that tend to cheapen a potential "classic."

11. Rachel Covey was adorable as the 6 year old Morgan, Patrick Demsey was an okay casting decision, but in my opinion, probably the casts weak link.

12. I Hope Disney theme parks incorporate this film into it's park...especially in their parade.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving-Themed Movies?

For as many Christmas-themed movies that come out year after year, there really doesn't seem to be enough Thankgiving movies.

If you haven't seen Pieces of April which came in 2003...this may be the year. Peter Hedges' film stars Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, and Patricia Clarkson. (Clarkson, like normal, is great in this film). The film is also a great film about community.

If I had more Thanksgiving films to recommend, I would recommend them...but alas I can't think of any others.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Friday Terminology

It's sort of ironic...

The day we're to remember the death of Jesus is called Good Friday.

The day after Thanksgiving when people go shopping is called Black Friday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Drama Free: A Conversation About Movies in 2007 with My Wife

My wife just watched Fargo for the first time the other night with me. I thought it would help her make a decision about whether or not she'd be interested in seeing No Country For Old Men.

Liking Fargo a great deal, Kim says to me, "Why hasn't there been any good movie dramas like this come out this year yet?" She then went on to list Hotel Rwanda and The Motorcycle Diaries as favorite movies of hers from a couple years back that she couldn't find any parallels to in the films she's seen this year.

The openness to this years Best Picture race was in essence, annoying to my wife. She wanted to know what "the big Academy movies were." We discussed the potentials for Atonement, The Kite Runner, There Will Be Blood, and reminder of movies that she liked this year, namely Zodiac, Michael Clayton, Hot Fuzz, Hairspray, Ratatouille and Gone Baby Gone.

To which she responded to each with some degree of affirmation that she enjoyed these movies. To which point she reminded me how much she particularly liked Zodiac & Michael Clayton and would be fine if they got a lot of awards (but my Academy-savvy as wife has become also realized Zodiac didn't have a prayer due to early release...look how smart she is!)

Nathanial R at The Film Experience wrote a great post about American Gangster, and Russel Crowe's more interesting role. Yet in it, he degenerates to mention that currently American Gangster is ranked #24 so far in US Box Office, and is the only dramatic film so far in the top 50. Just outside of the top 50 currently sit The Brave One, Freedom Writers, Zodiac, and Michael Clayton.

In the past week I was seeing that many of this years dramas are failing and that many of this years Oscar nominatable actresses are appearing in comedies and musicals not dramas.

We're certainly not out of 2007 yet, and there are many films I'm looking forward to seeing. But it's hard to know what to make of this years lack of traditional drama films.

Any explinations out there? Are your current 2007 favorites drama free?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Daily Advertising Portal (or, Mail Used to Be Fun)

When I was a kid, it always seemed like mail was fun. Birthday cards from grandparents. Letters from pen pals. Letters from your parents at camp. Fun magazine subscriptions like highlights.

Oh, the memories. My grandma would always put stickers for me and my sister in her letters. There was something magical about getting the mail from the mailbox and even more special was getting your own mail addressed just to you.

Today I went to get the mail, no catalogues or large bulky mail just lots of envelopes, and I think, maybe there's something good.

Yet, even in all my unnecessary hopes it was just ads in envelopes and on postcards. Things like promotions to clothing stores, credit card and phone ads. Nothing bad, but nothing good.

There's still people who had tried to remain the last remnant of people who have chosen not to get a cell phone and some how they survive. Similarly, many people are giving up there house phones and just using their cell phones. As e-mail, electronic banking, and e-bill pay become more popular, do you think that maybe I could give up my mailbox.

"Thanks post-office, but I don't really want one of these." I'd say. But somehow, I don't think the post master general would let me get away with giving away my physical address.

It's just...I don't really need this portal of space that solicits my consumer dollars. And frankly, that's all it is...one big advertising portal. As if gmail reserved all the junk mail I might get in one day and send it to me everyday right when I got home from work.

Oh, how I wish mail could be fun again. Perhaps I can talk my grandma into sending me some stickers in the mail.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Best Actress Short list - Many Are Funny, Lighthearted, or Sing!

Last month I put together the list of top 10 Golden Globe best musical/comedy actress predictions, largely because with the race as open as it is this year, the golden globes, could play a big role.

Traditionally, the golden globes drama nominees most closely mirror the academy award nominees, yet this year many of the potential comedy/musical nominees for the golden globes could become the eventual Academy Nominees themselves.

Yet, many of these previously buzzed films have lost significant buzz upon release (consider Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Reservation Road, Rendition, Lions for Lambs, etc.)

In September I listed 15 potential best actress nominees.

8 of the original short list of 15 are deleted: Jodie Foster, The Brave One; Jennifer Connelly, Reservation Road; Meryl Streep, Lions for Lambs; Reese Witherspoon, Rendition; Naomi Watts, Eastern Promises; Halle Berry, Things We Lost in the Fire; Keri Russell, Waitress; Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding.

But there are actually 2 names that will get added. The first one is Helena Bonhem Carter for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, who's role is being campaigned as lead instead of supporting.

The second addition is an odd one, and one I can not trace it's origin, but the buzz for Amy Adams in Enchanted is certainly curious, and if this talented actress is able to race across the Academy nomination finish line for this role, that I see that as a triumph. The movie looks like a lot of fun, and of course, early word says Amy Adams does a terrific job as the fairy tale princess in the real world.

So the top 9 potential best actress Oscar nominees as of Nov. 14th are...

1. Ellen Page (Juno)
2. Keira Knightley (Atonement)
3. Julie Christie (Away from Her)
4. Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
5. Cate Blanchett (The Golden Age)
6. Amy Adams (Enchanted)
7. Laura Linney (The Savages)
8. Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd)
9. Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)

Notice, that 5 of the 9 remaining contenders would be considered by the Hollywood Foreign Press as lead actresses in a Comedy/Musical (1,4,6,7,8...assuming Cotillard falls in that category).

Am I honestly forgetting someone who has a true chance of being nominated for an academy award in the lead actress category? Did I prematurely eliminate anyone from the race in the 8 I eliminated?

Also will the buzz for Blanchett's supporting role in I'm Not There, be strong enough to remind people of her performance in Elizabeth: The Golden Age?

The interesting question this year is probably what actress is going to sneak into the Golden Globe drama best actress category this year that doesn't have an academy award prayer?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Revisiting Supporting Actress Oscar Predictions, It's Time

Sometimes you buy green bananas, and think they'll ripen up just when you want them. Sometimes your dead on, sometimes your wrong and the banana goes in the fridge for banana bread.

What am I saying...back in April I decided to throw out a bizarre 5 of supporting actress nomination predictions...in a category that is much tougher to predict then the best actor category has been this year (the list for best actor I put together in May is not that far off from most people's current predictions)

But whoa is my April Supporting Actress list poor...

  • Catherine Keener in Synecdoche, New York...nope, the film isn't even coming out until 2008. Her only chance would be if Into the Wild picked up major steam and picked her up with it.
  • Samantha Morton in The Golden Age...probably not, especially when Cate Blanchett's role in The Golden Age is hardly a shoe-in. If Morton get's critical recognition this year it could easily be for the bio-pic Control, rather than this Elizabethan role. I'd love to see Morton get her third Oscar nomination.
  • Mena Suvari in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh...it's November and still no release date, no buzz, and no distributor. Not looking pretty.
  • Meryl Streep in Lions for Lambs...between the poor reception of Lions for Lambs and Rendition, Streep's 15th nomination looks like it may need to wait.
  • Vanessa Redgrave in Atonement...this one might actually happen, although with a smaller part the recognition could easily be shifted to her co-stars and/or co-selfs.

So of all those April potentials, let's look at a new set of top 5 predictions for mid-November.

My Supporting Actress Academy Award Predictions (November 13, 2007)
I want to include you, but I don't have room: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton & Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.

Other possibilities: Samantha Morton, Control (or Golden Age); Kelly MacDonald, No Country For Old Men; Romola Garai, Atonement; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding; Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson's War.

Popularity of Middle East Themed Movies in 2007

This weekend Lions for Lambs was released with a dismal first weekend box office (estimated just over 6 million). This poor box office came after a heavy advertising campaign including many network television commercials.

Early this year I kept on trying to write up a post about all the middle-eastern/Iraq/Afghanistan based movies that were coming out this year. And yet, I had a really hard time ever completing the post, because part of me didn't know if these movies would really be a success. Would it really be the year of the middle eastern film, I asked myself.

So far we've seen the movies A Mighty Heart, In The Valley of Elah, and Rendition all released with minimal box office pickup. Even the action thriller The Kingdom in it's domestic run didn't cross the $50 million mark.

Yet, there are still more middle eastern films around the bend. The Sundance hit Grace is Gone starting John Cusack comes out December 7th, and I can't see it having much of a theater run.

The popular novel turned film The Kite Runner comes out on December 14th. Novels turn film have their own unique hurdles, but I hope this film is a worthy adaptation.

Charlie Wilson's War releases on Christmas day, and with it's star power it has a decent chance, but it's so hard to tell if this film is actually going to be good.

Other similarly themed films thought to come out this year have been pushed back to 2008, or are still in production including Stop Loss, War Inc., The Road Back, and the untitled Kip Williams project.

Perhaps it's a year that could have been the year of the Middle East movie, but perhaps the American movie going public wasn't ready or interested in that, perhaps it's too early to be reflective when a war is still going on, when soldiers are still overseas.

The difference we might see with Charlie Wilson's War and The Kite Runner is that their stories are based on past events, with much of their setting happening in previous decades.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Film + Faith blog-a-thon

Please read, enjoy, comment, and discuss the following post that have been submitted for the Film + Faith blog-a-thon hosted here on Strange Culture. Thank you so much to everyone who participated. I think this project has been a great success. I've enjoyed reading each of your post, and hope you find time to read through many of these unique and different perspectives and thoughts.

Maul of America metaphor in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Tractor Facts Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (A non-horror Vampire film)
Strange Culture the misfitting of Jesus in the Good vs. Evil film theme
Stale Popcorn Religion in Films & South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Movizzz Blog Interview with Dave Christiano
Culture Snob Christian film reviews and their morality rating at Decent Films
Culture Snob Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist
Explorations Seeing Beyond the here and now in film
Explorations Potential Offensive Elements (POE)
M.A. Peel Dudley the Angel from The Bishop's Wife
Cinemathematics Roberto Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis
Cinemathematics The Short Film The Monk and The Fish
My Voice Should Christian's Use Movies to Teach?
Life of Ando Christianity and legalistic attitudes towards movie theaters
Lazy Eye Theater L.A. Story & Signs from God
Culture Snob Interview Martin Doblmeier's documentary The Power of Forgiveness
Boy on Film Lars Van Trier's Breaking the Waves
The Last Palace Hearing God in the burning bush
Jake Weird William Miller keeping his faith in Almost Famous
Only the Cinema Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice
Jeremy and the Movies It's A Wonderful Life Clip
SpoutBlog Podcast over spituality in various film & the curse of portraying Joan of Arc
Moviezzz Blog Interview with actress Stacey J. Aswad of 7th Street Theater
Culture Snob Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) in Magnolia
DVD Panache Spiritualism in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited
Windmills of my Mind C.S. Lewis & Shadowlands
is that so wrong? Heaven, Hell & Angels in David Lynch's Twin Peaks
Only the Cinema Rossellini's Flowers of St. Francis and Herzog's Wheel of Time
Joe's Movie Corner The Prince of Egypt
Live. Work. Play. Stories: What Churches can Learn From Movies
Coffee Coffee and more Coffee Buddhism and Brian Gibson's What's Love Got To Do With It?
The Listening Ear Monty Python's Life of Brian
SF Gospel "Belief" in Serenity and Firefly
All About My Movies Spirit of the Beehive
The B-Movie Catechism The Enviornment, Pope Benedict XVI & Frogs
CaLIfe Christmas: What Would Jesus Buy? & Muppet's Christmas Carol
For Cinephiles by A Cinephile Robert Bresson: Catholic Christian Existentialist
Pastor Kes Garden State, This House is Not My House
eHome Hope and Hope Floats
Last Minute Post
gee bobg Different Religious ideas in Sagan & Zemeckis' Contact
Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind Pastor Richard Gazowsky & Audience of One
Rebelling Against Indifference Match Point, an explination for faith in God
Film Experience Blog Leaving the Church after The Rapture and Priest
Cheaper Than Therapy God becoming accessible through Oh, God
Cahiers du cinema Silent Light

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Good vs. Evil & Jesus

Earlier this year I went to Universal Studio's Island of Adventure theme park...a park that I'd classify as one that tries to cater to an older audience then Disney World, with more thrilling rides, and scenes that play off darker themes.

In fact, because many of the rides are trying to incorporate film themes, it suddenly became redundant in how ride after ride there was the striking theme of Good vs. Evil, which was certainly overplayed.

This theme appeared in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barge, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, Poseidon's Fury, and The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show.

Of course, Good vs. Evil is an easy theme to play off of, and comic books and cartoons can easily divide people into good guys and bad guys.

And yet, we know life isn't that easy, in fact so many movies thrive off presenting the gray zones that are a part of life.

Yet, during a "ride" like Poseidon's Fury dealing with mythological themes that are far more remnant of Star Wars Episode I than any Greek mythology I've studied, there were certainly feeling and thoughts of spiritual overtones.

Yet, I think one of the worst misrepresentations of Jesus is that in a world of Good vs. Evil, that Jesus looks like Spider-Man, Popeye, Poseidon, Sinbad, or any of these other characters fighting off evil.

While many films and books have characters deemed Christ-figures, they are usually identified as Christ-like in the fact that they make an ultimate sacrifice of themselves as a redemption of others (think Aslan, or Lord of the Rings,The Matrix, or Lord of the Flies).

Yet, one of the things that astounds me about Jesus is that "sinners" where generally attracted to Jesus, while "the righteous" were generally unhappy with what Jesus did and said.

I recently listed to a sermon by Andy Stanley of Northpoint Community Church called "Follow" (which can be listened to or viewed here, originally preached 9/30/07). In this Sermon, Andy Stanley does an excellent job talking about the call of the disciple Matthew who was a tax collector, which in Biblical times made someone considered very dishonorable and unrighteous. And yet, Jesus chose and asked Matthew to follow him and become his disciple.

And not just that, people were attracted to Jesus. They wanted to be around him, they wanted to listen to him.

Yet, it was the religious leaders who were angered at Jesus. It was the religious leaders, the keepers of the law that Jesus was criticized by, and criticized.

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with "tax collectors and sinners," Jesus' response was "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12).

Although Jesus was good he associated with those who were considered bad and made them his own. On the other hand he ostracized those who were considered good and called them evil.

As much as I have tried, I can not think of any character in film that has had a parallel relationship to Jesus with regards to good and evil.

Who in film is considered Righteous, perfect and good. Yet at the same time is adored, followed, and respected by those who are considered evil?

When characters are good, they are typically attacked by the evil and/or unable to be a part of society (take Spider-Man or any other superhero as an example, or Richie Roberts in the recent film American Gangster). Or other times when characters are good (take Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Carribean or the Iron Giant) we see that at times, they can be pushed to do evil and enter a grey (as discussed earlier here).

I think this complicated nature and uniqueness of Jesus, is really part of what makes Jesus unique and wonderful. Jesus' divine ability to show grace and mercy in the midst of our own evilness is beautiful and draws us towards him. Also his justice and truth makes him critical towards those who pretend to be like Jesus but miss the beauty and heart of Christ.

I'm challenged by Jesus' Seven Woes in Matthew 23. Jesus' strong language like: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." If you read Matthew 23 you will not wonder how these people could have hated Christ and had him killed.

There is no person more complex and yet so simple as Jesus. He doesn't fit into our standard paradigm's of Good and Evil.

They could not adequately make a thrilling Jesus ride for a park like Universal Studios. Jesus' would be attacking the righteous, and he wouldn't be running from or trying to capture evil people, instead he would be embracing them, loving them, and showing them a way to truly know Him.

This post is my official contribution to the Film+Faith blog-a-thon hosted here on StrangeCulture.

(the picture at left is titled Saint Matthew and was painted by Spanish painter Jusepe de Rivera, and is part of the perminent collection at the
Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Amazing Grace in American Gangster

The title for this post in not a metaphore, it is in fact about the moment in the movie where the classic hymn provides the overwhelming sound during on of the most crucial moments of the film, and while American Gangster is not really the type of film with surprises, if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to ruin "the surpise" then stop reading. In American Gangster, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is finally caught and found out by Richie Robert (Russel Crowe) and in a very cinematic moment, Washington walks out of his church doors, with wife and mother behind him, and he quickly realizes he has been caught.

During this scene, Amazing Grace is sung and spliced into the surrounding scenes. And the feeling and emotion in the scene is certainly heightened with the use of this emotional and climactic song, but there are many aspects of it that don't fit naturally.

First off, the context of the song is that it's being sung by the 1970s inner city black Harlem church. Director, Ridley Scott, definitely did not try very hard to make 70s Harlem look and feel like 70s Harlem. Rather it seemed he tried to make Harlem look and feel like other cities and times of gangster films, like Scarface and the Godfather. Other then the obvious "gangster stuff," Harlem seemed relatively tame. So, it seemed that there was a whitification of Harlem life, and instead of singing black gospel or spirituals in this sing, the popular Amazing Grace was the song that Scott and his team chose.

Second, at this point, there does not seem to be much "grace" in the film, especially considering that Frank Lucas is the protagonist. Lucas, has been at this point caught, and is no longer able to run from the one honest cop, who's not seeking a bribe, nor can he run from the disasters that are spinning out of control in his own life and business.

Is this the grace? That the law would catch up with him before any more of his life spirals out of control? Is it because it's going to be more challenging to acquire and produce "blue magic" upon the completion of the Vietnam War, that there is grace in being caught? Is conviction for Lucas also redemption?

The irony of such thoughts is hard to ask. I've been told I lack grace before, and even an understanding of it...but this is either a very mature understanding of grace as his arrest is saving him from something worse, or this song was simply selected to create an extra heightened emotional climax, as though the moment was divinely orchestrated by the hands of God to bring about God's ultimate end of taking care of Harlem's drug problem.

(side notes: Why is grace and drug movies often tied together? and I certainly think Elaine would see Mr. Frank Lucas as having grace, because you either have it or you don't... as Mr. Landis says, grace isn't something you pick up at the market)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Black and White in American Gangster

"...what makes him interesting to me is he lives in a world of black and white, right and wrong, and certainly not in the world of relative morality."

That's what I said last week about Casey Affleck's character in Gone Baby Gone, and yet that same line could apply to Russel Crowe's character in American Gangster.

An early scene in American Gangster shows Russell Crowe and his police partner finding a million unmarked dollars, and despite the obvious corruption among the New Jersey police force, Crowe, a man of black and white, right and wrong turns in the money, which results in his isolation and contempt from the other police officers, but also leads to a unique opportunity to run a newly formed narcotics team.

My favorite part of this film is the way it handles and opens up questions about these issues of morality. I think that many people find themselves at time justifying what is right and what is wrong. And our justification of right and wrong is so common.
Yet I think the portrayal of Richie Robert's character (in terms of his police work and ethics) is very noble. Living on principles of right and wrong in his police work allows him to in time make a significant difference. I think that relativistic thinking tends to deal far more with short term payoff.

Most of the characters in this movie pay a penalty for the relativistic thinking. This includes Harlem Gangster Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), who sees nothing wrong with the crime and distribution of drugs...his thought process, if he's not doing it someone else is. Grandma Lucas (Ruby Dee) ignores and turns a blind eye to what's happening, yet reaps the financial benefit, but watches her children's lives destroyed. Various cops and city officials take short term payoffs and bribes, but for many of them it explodes in their face.

Granted these "reap what you sow principles" do not all surface instantly, but I don't think they usually do. Even if you can justify doing what is wrong, it doesn't stop it from being wrong.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Untitled X Files Sequel joins Summer 2008 line-up

When I posted the sequel and remake line up for summer 2008 the response was unique, everything from: "...Maybe 07 was THE year" (Art) to "2008 won't be the year of the sequel. Can we say creativity?" (Will).

And my favorite comment: "How far are those stupid pants gonna travel!" (Andrea)

But in addition to The Dark Knight, Prince Caspian, Mummy 4, Indiana Jones 4 and a handful of others...big news was announced as Variety announces that the untitled X-files sequel (X-Files 2? nah!) will be released July 25th, 2008. Just over 10 years after the last X Files movie was released in theaters.

Creator Chris Carter is to begin filming X-Files 2 in December. (That is after he finds those traveling pants!)

Related post: My favorite X-Files Episode, David Duchovny vs. Gillian Anderson, Reconciling Personal Thoughts on Spirituality and the Paranormal
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