Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year 2011

Thanks for reading, please consider following, tell others about NonModern, and of course keep visiting! Here is some data about the blog’s performance for 2011:

Entries in 2011: 298 (2010 was 278)

Page Views: 35,400+ (Up from 14,500+ in 2010 and 7,851 in 2009)

Visits came from 2,452 cities on six continents.

Countries: 124 and all 50 States

Top ten countries by viewers: USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, Philippines, India, Brazil, France

Top ten states by viewers: Texas, California, Georgia, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio

(For comparison here is the 2010 entry.)

Some of the most viewed entries in December:

A Buffy Excursus: Repentance

“Fringe” Season One

Further Styrian Adventures: Monsters

An Illustration for Yesterdays Post

“Midnight in Paris”

Inception: A (Spoiler Heavy) Critique

The Twitter Experiment

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7a)

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

The Christmas Special of “Doctor Who” has become a tradition. It is tradition that the Doctor will have one more light hearted, sentimental but largely un-impactful adventure every year on Christmas Day. The early years when Russell T. Davies was penning the special also required that they occur on our current, real world Christmas Day and that the Earth be threatened by alien forces. This aspect has had to be corrected quite a bit in the Moffat run of the show, because well… we were all there and nothing like an alien invasion happened. Moffat has also managed to use the special both years to have fun telling stories that are inspired by other Christmas fiction. Last year was loosely based on “The Christmas Carol” and this year turned to Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

That's Real Lady-like

I’m not a consumer of “raunchy” comedies. Looking back over the past decade or more, I have missed out on just about every one of them. It is not out of a sense of offense—I must admit, for instance, that bodily functions can be some of the most amusing things in life—but rather because the sort of comedies made these days tend to fail in the humor department. Where a well played poop-joke brings me to tears; over using language or simply shocking the audience into laughter strikes me as lazy, not funny.

However, with all of the buzz surrounding “Bridesmaids” this year, I decided to dip my toe back into what passes for comedy. The results were mixed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why “The Hobbit” Trailer Makes Me Sad



Last week the teaser trailer for the highly anticipated film, “The Hobbit” was made public. A friend lamented that there was a year-long wait ahead of us and consoled herself by saying that she might reread the book in the meantime. My initial thought was that that might ultimately be a more fulfilling experience. The second was sadness at how the experience of that book is about to forever change.


Not that there is a fear that the movie(s) will be bad. Jackson’s trilogy was done to perfection. It is among my favorite films. I know people (readers mind you) who consider the films to be superior to the books. Still, it is merely an interpretation of the story. In today’s culture however, the film version of a story tends to become the dominate interpretation. It is sad to think that today, a large portion of “Lord of the Rings” fandom have never ever read the books. That is what is about to happen to “The Hobbit.” The sad fact is that most people will not read a book once having seen the film, especially when it is considered to be a difficult or long book.

“The Hobbit” is a children’s book. Like all great children’s literature it is intended for kids and adults; but the point is it is an easy read. (Or at least it was considered an easy read back when people were literate.) If you have never read it, please take advantage of the time you have and get this book read before the movie comes out next year. If you have already read it, consider experiencing it one more time before it is forever colored by the experience of the film’s interpretation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7b)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.

<--Season 7a

The surprising result of revisiting season seven during this year’s exercise was to discover that it is less compelling than season six. That is often overlooked because the stand-out episodes are well done and memorable and the grand finale—that episode that sticks with one when all is said and done—is so satisfying. It has already been mentioned that the season’s overarching tale plods rather slowly and dominates most episodes in a “soap opera” style. This is only accentuated this half as few episodes have somewhat self contained ideas:

Monday, December 26, 2011

“You Can’t Take It with You” (1938)



It is always amazing just how well a Capra movie holds up. Seventy Three years after its release, “You Can’t Take It with You” plays like it was made for today’s audiences. The messages of the film are things that today’s audiences need to hear. Of course, the generational cycle has come back around to a point very similar to where we were back in the twenties and thirties, so it does make sense that films and stories from those days would ring true today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sing Out of Christmas 6

Salvation
Is here.
Now God is nigh.
Good will
One night
Under Bethlehem’s sky.

The sound
Of Angels
For unto all men.
Christ has come, died,
Has
Risen again.

Is the
Season not more,
Transcending one day?
Most Assuredly
Aye, To
Souls who are saved!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best of Christmas Markets





I have seen a lot of “Best Christmas Market” lists going around the web. Surprisingly only half of them include the true best of the best. To be fair, most of them seem to be constructed by reputation. I certainly doubt any of the writers have really been to all of the truly great markets. For one thing there are truly a lot, and you only have about 4 weeks in a year to see them. I have not been to many, even in six Christmases, but I can share some of the best that I have experienced—and maybe more helpfully—share some of the characteristics that make up a good market to help people evaluate markets throughout Europe.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sing Out of Christmas 5

Sing the carols
Through the night
Out in the meadows
To the sky
Of Christ who came
For you and me
Christmas canta
To the King

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 2a)

<--Season 1b  Season 2b-->

The second season of STNG starts out a little worse than the first season, if that is possible. It does quickly improve, however, and manages to address a couple of interesting philosophical things. (That being said, these episodes are not up to today’s expectations. A full hour of television devoted to one simple idea is no longer the way things are done. It is surprising today to look back on these shows and see how slowly and simply television writing was. One can watch these episodes at 2x speed and understand every word spoken and keep up with the plot completely.)

In a quick outline, here is what this half had to offer:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Canonicity" in Real Life

In terms of the Bible, canon refers to those works that are accepted by the Church as being authoritative. Teachings can be based upon canonical texts. They accurately reflect God’s truth—reality.

Over time, the term canon has been applied to other collections of writings. It all started with the fictional history of Sherlock Holmes. Those stories written by Doyle were “canon” while those by other authors or even just fans are not. None of the stories told about Holmes are real; they are all fiction. However, for the sake of people taking about Holmes—or even people who wish to write further adventures about him—the canon writings are the ones that must not be contradicted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MIB Insight

The “Men in Black” movies are mostly just clever entertainment. A new one coming out next year has prompted me to revisit the first two. There is not a lot of deep thought or insight here, outside of the most generic of bits about how small we really are in the grand scheme of things, how clueless people are to reality, and about the sacrifice of serving humanity.

There is, however, a moment of unusual insight in the first film when K is recruiting J for the agency. J asks why there is such a need for secrecy. He thinks people would be able to handle the weight of the truth. K’s response is revealing:

Monday, December 19, 2011

"What Would Buffy Do" by Jan Riess

This is one of several books released in the past decade that look to popular culture for insights into spiritual matters. Like most of them it is not a “Christian” book. It abounds with quotes and thoughts from many different religions. That being said it does have good, quality thoughts about what Whedon’s series has to say about life.

The fact that so many of these books exists is evidence of how preoccupied art is with the spiritual side of life, even these days. Or maybe more so these days. That is a good thing for people interested in sharing the truth of the Gospel with others. Interest is up and people are searching. Tom Wolf says that very culture has a mythos that is incomplete and wrong in some places but has some echoes of the truth. Every culture has people who have aspects of the truth in them. Pop culture does as well. These are points of contact.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Put On," Underwear (Colossians 3:12-15)

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15 ESV)

Rather than encouraging attempts at self-improvement through rules and prohibitions; Paul has instructed believers to remember that they are dead to their old, sinful behaviors. Instead, having risen in Christ, they are to take on His characteristics. If you carry the “put on” metaphor forward, these are the undergarments. That which is closest to us, that which shapes who we are and how others see us. This is not a costume that hides our true nature.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

“Guilty Pleasure” Holiday and Winter Songs

Even while keeping the “main thing” about Christmas the “main thing” and not misleading my kids, I don’t think everything about the Holiday season has to be on message. Here are some of my favorite songs this time of year that are not Christ-massy:

Songs celebrating the “feeling” of the season: 
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season
White Christmas
The Christmas Waltz

Songs with no mention of Christmas at all, more like winter songs: 
Marshmallow World
Winter Wonderland
Sleigh Ride
The White World of Winter

The possible “coal recipient” songs, the acceptably naughty: 
Santa Baby
Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Others?

Friday, December 16, 2011

This Post Is Not About Tebow

Tim Tebow has been the biggest source of conversations this NFL season. Everybody has an opinion, and he has generated a lot of controversy. Part of that is due to the fact that he is a bit more open and serious about his faith than our secular society is comfortable with, but that might not be the main reason. What Tebow is exposing and revealing about our culture today is that we have become whole-heartedly committed to the Cult of Self.

The knock on Tebow going into the league is that he was not a good quarterback. The only problem with that assessment is that, since he has taken on the starting quarterback role for his team, they went from a one win and four loss record to winning every game but one. How is it possible for a “bad” player to lead a team to so many wins?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Accidental Tourism and Random Adventures

While travel is amazing, tourism is rather lame. Nobody likes to be seen as a tourist, even when they are traveling in a strange place they have never been before. Even if they are there to see sites. Nothing produces such generic results as the guided tour. People who take the tour are certainly informed, but they end up knowing the “official” version of a place that everyone knows—the one that they could have gotten from Wikipedia.

The antidote to generic tourism is to simply explore. If you get the chance, when you go to a new place you should first seek to get lost. If you have enough time in a place, you should spend the first day or more with no agenda and simply explore. If your time is limited, or the area you are visiting is huge and overwhelming, do some research to get an idea, but do not plan an itinerary.

The results of such travel are discovery and a unique experience. You will never forget the things you find this way and often they will be treasures that only you, the locals, and no “tourist” know about. Even the famous sites, when stumbled upon this way, are more interesting and special because you have found them on your own. Every city visit is benefited through exploration; you don’t need world famous sites to discover things worth seeing. Traditional or more informative travel has its place, but if you get a chance to wander first you will gain far more appreciation for the places you get to go.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cross Walk Religion

In most parts of the Germanic world a cross walk is an important thing. You can see crowds of people standing at the light, waiting for it to turn green when there is no traffic to be seen. Even in the late hours of the evening (towns tend to shut down completely at 8:00 pm) when no cars are on the street, people will stop and wait for the light.

Now, lights are there to protect people. They give them a clear window in which to cross the street with no danger of vehicles. And it is a good idea to respect the light on a busy road, or even a non-busy road when there are children watching. You don’t want to be a bad example. However, to some extent an adult ought to be able to decide for themselves whether it is safe to cross a street or not. When there are no cars, or when the light is broken, punishing an adult for crossing crosses from protection to legalism.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Spellbound"

When Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” is brought up, most people think of Salvador Dali and the (in)famous dream sequence. Perhaps some think of it being Bergman’s and Hitch’s first collaboration, or the somewhat ridiculous and misogynistic plot. However, the standout detail in my latest viewing was the over-the-top psychoanalysis as modern religion angle.

The big issue in the film is that of guilt and specifically the fact that it is a lie we tell ourselves to punish us for something we did not do. This is all well and good in the case of a mystery story—if the protagonist is indeed innocent. The only evidence that our heroine has to go on in the case of Peck’s character is the fact that she loves him. Every time new evidence appears to implicate him, she goes back to the argument that he can’t be guilty because the feeling of guilt itself is a sign of innocence!

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams

This was the one I was dreading as I decided to read all of Williams’ novels this year. Years ago when I first decided to read all seven, “Descent” is the one that undid me. Reading the previous five this year was a good preparation and training apparently. That, and as they say: the third time is the charm.

Some, like the reviewer quoted on the back of my copy, say that this is Charles Williams’ best novel. It does certainly best communicate his theology. That is also where the problems arise.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Take Off (Colossians 3:5-11)

Whenever anyone begins to point out that the Bible is against legalism, everyone assumes that they are teaching that anything goes. This is no more a Biblical position than legalism. Paul is always consistent in pointing out that the true antidote to legalism is not hedonism. However, instead of teaching a set of rules and guidelines he always fights for a change of behavior—like a change of clothes.

In Christ, the believer is a new creature. The new creature comes with a new drive—a new desire—new duds. Before we can truly put on our new way of life—or maybe as we change—we have to take off the old outfit to make room for the new.

In this metaphor, the legalist is arguing for a striptease. We are expected to merely take off all our old, negative, and now unnatural behaviors and stand naked and dying for something—anything—to put on. Instead, Paul is going to stress the new outfit far more than the old. What we should clothe ourselves in rather than what we should shed. However, it is only natural that we take off the old repulsive things before or as we put on the new.

Even then, this is not a detailed “how to” of what to remove. He simply reminds the believer of the things that are no longer natural for the believer, the things that go against love: sexual immorality, idolatry and hatred. The sort of thing that would suggest to a girl how she should dress; but not the type that would have her applying a ruler to her skirt to make sure it is a short as is allowable without breaking a “law.”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top Cities I Would Like to See:

[Updated April 20, 2012, January 31, 2015]

As this post goes online, I will be returning home from a short glimpse at a city that was at the top of my “Cities to See in Person” list. (London) Hopefully it will now be moved to my “Favorite Cities I Have Visited” list, but that is another post. Here is the newly adjusted list of the top 15 cities I would best like to visit some day:

15. Marrakesh
14. Oxford
13. Bruges
12. Jerusalem
11. Brasov

10. Oslo
9. Nice
8. Amsterdam
7. Stockholm
6. San Francisco
5. St. Petersburg
4. Edinburgh
3. New York
2. Machu Picchu
1. Cairo

Florence (Was # 7, been there, would go again)
Rome (Was #1, been there, done that)
Athens (Was #11, been there, done that)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spirituality in "The Santa Claus 2"

The sequel to “The Santa Clause” is not a great movie. Then again, it is simply continuing the trend of the first film aiming to be a minor seasonal entertainment. It also shares with that first film a surprising insight into things that matter—into illustrating some spiritual truths that are worth considering.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Fringe" Season Two

Season Two of “Fringe” was a disappointment for the most part. The writers improved on their ability to tell a story that was interesting from a mechanical standpoint. The played with storytelling devices in a creative way. However, that overall season-long story was not terribly compelling until right at the very end. Meanwhile, their individual, episodic stories were far from interesting and fairly prosaic—for the genre. Especially for people who had watched the series that clearly inspired “Fringe.” “The X Files” had already done many of these themes far better.

That being said there were a couple compelling moments this season, especially in the redemptive thread that runs through the series (so far) in the character of Walter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirituality in “The Santa Clause”

I was a bit of a Santa spoiler as a child. My parents didn’t “do” Santa. In spite of that I had incredible and memorable Christmases. As parents, my wife and I carried that tradition forward. We don’t ban Santa or anything. We just never taught our kids to believe in him. They always knew that he was a "game" that some people played, but we didn't.  We take faith too seriously to cloud the issue with lies—however well meaning they may be.

Ironically, the 1994 movie “The Santa Clause” has something to say about the subject, and actually stumbles upon a very deep truth. When the new Santa arrives at the North Pole for the first time, an elf tells him, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.”

This is something the Bible teaches as well. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the assurance of things not seen. It repeatedly teaches that the Gospel is impossible to understand without faith. This highlights the somewhat misguided attempts of “Modern” Christians who tried to “prove” the truth of the Gospel, or to convince people of the reality of God through reason alone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Inside Missional Baseball

The goal of believers with a “Missional” outlook is to do things that will positively effect change in culture through the multiplication and growth of communities of believers. Such a cultural movement is usually called a church planting movement. These movements occur somewhat rarely but there are usually a few occurring somewhere in the world. A current and particularly exciting one has been featured in a book highlighting some of the factors and methods that helped this movement flourish.

The two factors that went unmentioned in the book are somewhat surprising and unexpected given that they go against a lot of the dominate thinking in missiology these days:

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Illustration for Yesterday's Post

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and the goal of this Blog is brevity, here is an illustration that may make yesterdays thoughts clearer:

“Youth Ministry” is a frustrating mix of leading people to truth that can change their lives and “pre-discipleship” using a heavy dose of legalism. Part of that is dictated by the fact that you deal mostly with teenagers who are not yet in Christ and therefore can’t be expected to behave as He wishes. Mostly, however, it is due to the fact that you are dealing with a bunch of parents who insist that your job is to keep their kids religiously in check and therefore out of trouble and decidedly NOT in helping their kids be passionate for God.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alive in Christ (Colossians 3:1-4)

[3:1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

The key for followers of Jesus trying to live a life pleasing to God lies in knowing who they are; not in following a regimental system or list of prohibitions. Sure, there is always the struggle between who we are and who we used to be, but overcoming in that fight is not something we do but something that God does in us.

The mistake a lot of people make when reading this passage is to think that it is about some Gnostic knowledge that we must obtain. As if everything about the physical world is negative and we are supposed to spend eternity on a cloud somewhere playing a harp. (Why aren’t harps bad like other “earthy” instruments?) The “things above” are not otherworldly, they are things the way God intended them to be. The Kingdom of God is and will ultimately be an earthly kingdom, but on earth as God wants it to be.

As His followers we are a part of that kingdom. Instead of focusing on what it is no longer our nature to do, we concentrate on doing the things that we know we should be doing. We live as Christ would live because we are hidden in him. The more we seek to live like Christ, the more the Spirit empowers us to do so.

Friday, December 2, 2011

X-Men First Class



The X-Men stories have always taken the super hero escapism and adventure and delivered unsubtle social commentary and, well… sermons. It stands to reason that Marvel Comics would eventually go this route, what with most of their heroes a result of radiation induced mutation. When they decided to have a whole slew of heroes whose mutation is a step in human evolution they had the perfect metaphor for addressing discrimination and intolerance towards those different in society. The fact that they came up with the concept in the 60s made it even more of a no brainer.


The series of X-Men films have all addressed serious issues while delivering diminishing levels of enjoyment. Some of the problems the films have are intrinsic to the story itself. The fact that the evolutionary mutations are occurring so quickly, haphazardly and with no limits other than each character generally has one special ability, push suspension of disbelief to the extreme—not to mention the huge cast of characters one must juggle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Must Remove My Jacket

(Inspired by Maroon 5 and Ashlyn)

Just look at the stars
On winter nights
It warms up the heart
Christmas tree lights
Memories of days
When our parents would say
We’d better behave

All the cold and the snow
And we waited
Time passed so slow
Now I see it
I feel I’m a kid
This season’s a thrill
But what’s blocking my bliss
My problem is this:

There’s just far too much sun
It’s way too warm
Hot chocolate to be drunk
But it’s too warm
Makes you want to lose your jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

I don’t need all the sunlight
I need more snow and more cold nights

Instead, I want to lose my jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

No snow in the yard
When I want to be
Bundled and scarved
My gloves and hat
Long underwear and white tee
They make me sweat
Woe is me

So I get in the car
I can drive forth
Wherever I want
Maybe up north
But I’m beginning to fear
That there’s no snow this year
My holiday bliss
is stifled by this:

There’s just far too much sun
It’s way too warm
Hot chocolate to be drunk
And it’s too warm
Makes you want to lose your jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

I don’t need all the sunlight
I need more snow and more cold nights

Instead, I want to lose my jacket
I must remove my jacket
I must remoooooove… my jacket

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Marine Story and Forwarding in General

Back when people used email, I never forwarded the latest junk mail. I nearly always used to delete the forwards that came across my desktop. In today’s Facebook world I have my system set up to avoid seeing such posts from everyone but my closest friends. Even the “interesting” news tidbit or video is something I post with caution. For one thing, most of those aren’t new at all, and I don’t want to appear to be out of touch or behind the times. (Someone actually posted a link to that “Evolution of Dance” video yesterday! Hello, 2006!)

The one that has been really getting my goat this year is the “Laptop Thief Meets Marines” story. I’m sure you have read it—it is actually from last year. That is the first reason it bugs me. People either forgot they already read this story and are posting it again, or else they are a year behind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 7a)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday.

<--Season 6b    Season 7b-->

Buffy recovered from the near stumble that was season six with a near return to form. Whereas Six had been an examination of real life and the mundane challenges everyone faces; Seven would examine something just as universal, but a bit more challenging: the nature of evil itself. Buffy and co. would face off against the Buffyverse version of the Devil—evil personified. How would that look? It will take the second half of the season to really understand “The First,” but we do get glimpses of It here. The problem with this season, and particularly the first half of it, is that so little develops over the course of each episode. The show has taken on a more soap opera pace where one story flows over the whole thing and individual episodes do not stand on their own at all. When comparing these 12 episodes to the first season’s 13 one is struck by how little story is told. Here is what we get:

Episode 1. “Lessons”
There are some genuinely creepy moments here, but added together this feels like a minor prologue. The High School is reopened three years after it was destroyed and the ghosts of missed chances or failures from the past show up to torment Buffy. It is a bit too spot-on for a “going back” or “you can’t ever really go back” story, and that is not what this season is interested in anyway so we get the feel that things haven’t gotten going yet.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Further Styrian Adventures: Monsters

Styria is the home to, or at least the source of, some interesting oddities of crypto zoology—what some may call mythological beings. Historical records speak of dragons in the area. “Carmilla,” one of the earliest vampire stories, takes place there; and Stoker even set his most famous novel in Styria before changing the setting to Transylvania at the last minute. In fact, Count Eric Von Stenbock in 1894 wrote, “Vampire stories are generally located in Styria.”



Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The World" and "The Flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23)

[20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—[21] “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23 ESV)

This is a good place to highlight the way Paul uses language in a technical manner. When he refers to “the world” or “the flesh” he is not referring to creation or the material side of humanity. That is what the Gnostic leanings in our thought and teaching would understand, but it is wrong.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Critical Confessions

Any “respectable” film buff knows that certain films are simply great. It doesn’t matter if they “like” the movies or not; you HAVE to like them or no one will respect your movie opinions anymore. While I recognize why many of these films are important, here is a list of movies that I do NOT like and therefore do not deserve to be seen as having REAL opinions worth being heard…

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Super 8" A Story Like They Used To Make

With “Super 8,” J.J. Abrams appears to have done the film equivalent of make-a-Spielberg paint-by-numbers, but he has done it very well. It may be a somewhat entertaining experience for youngsters, but for those who grew up in the eighties it is a film like they used to make.

Looking back on those eighties childhood adventure films like “Goonies,” “Monster Squad,” or “Stand By Me” one is surprised that we got away with watching them. Kids in eighties films took on real life and death adventure, needed a good mouth washing, and were not supervised at all. The kids in “Super 8” are the same stock only with modern special effects.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Take a Deep Breath, and Slowly Drop That Turkey Baster!

As we gather around the table and TV today, I would like to make an appeal to all my fellow Americans. Relax. Choose your battles carefully. Slowly drop your turkey basters full of venom and embrace the spirit of the season.

Whoops, sorry, I sort of let one of those key phrases out and lost a bunch of you. I can hear it now.

“Don’t talk about the ‘spirit of the season’ yet! It is not Christmas time! That doesn’t kick off until we all get up at ungodly hours tomorrow to engage in the true meaning of Christmas—materialism and violence!”

I understand the origins of your anger. For years we have tried to deny that we are at our core an utterly materialist society and have tried to be offended that stores start bringing out the Christmas fare earlier and earlier. We seem to insist that Thanksgiving be its own holiday. However, I would like to argue for the idea that Thanksgiving and Christmas should be a part of one, huge, beautiful, two month long celebration of the most wonderful gift ever.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Twitter Experiment

About two and a half years ago I started to experiment with Twitter. I was doubtful. It seemed to be a place for people to broadcast all sorts of life minutia into the World Wide Web that, frankly, I had no interest in reading and couldn’t imagine people wanting to read from me. I was pretty cynical about it really.

However, I was advised that it could be a good place to promote things that I wanted people to be aware of and, even better, a place to meet people in my area of the real world. So I jumped in.

How has it turned out?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 1b)

<--Season 1a  Season 2a-->

Seeing the second half of season one makes me glad to have missed it on its original run. It is an improvement from earlier episodes, but in today’s television programming this series would not have made it into further seasons which would have been a shame as many consider it to have gone on to be among the best series ever aired on television.

This set of episodes has a few more clunky attempts to be too “spot-on” with a message:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Discipleship Dangers

The essence of the Biblical Gospel message, as it relates to mankind’s response to God, consists of repentance, surrender and trust. There are multitudes of people in the world who sense the problem. They recognize evil and sin that is in the world and even acknowledge their own part in it. Where they struggle to accept the solution as the Bible presents it is that they cannot accept that they have to believe in the existence of a good God nor in the fact that they—in faith—must yield to Him and surrender their own will.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Empty Shadows (Colossians 2:16-23)

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ… These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:16-23 ESV)

Every religion has at its core a means of assuaging guilt through behavior—either prescribing things to be done or prohibiting things that should be avoided. At their best they fall far short of doing anything to wash away wrongs that have been done; at their worst they are exercises in futility.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1970s in Film

Prior to the Eighties, my knowledge and experience of film becomes less and less adequate to do any sort of justice to an annual “Best of” list. Even tackling the decade is a questionable undertaking, but here we go anyway. There are many, many movies of note in the Seventies that I have not gotten around to and that will therefore not make an appearance on this list for now. Among others: Apocalypse Now, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Slaughterhouse Five, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, and Dog Day Afternoon. Then again, they may not have placed anyway.

Top 25 Personal Films of the Seventies:
25. Patton
24. Love at First Bite
23. Family Plot and Frenzy
22. The Muppet Movie
21. The Rescuers
20. The Phantom Tollbooth
19. A Clockwork Orange
18. Young Frankenstein
17. Revenge of the Pink Panther
16. Alien
15. Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
14. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht
13. Murder on the Orient Express
12. Robin Hood
11. The Return of the Pink Panther
10. Death on the Nile
9. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II
8. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
7. Chinatown
6. Jaws
5. The Sting
4. Murder by Death
3. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
2. Fiddler on the Roof
1. Star Wars

What does your list look like? What have I missed?

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Source Code" ...Mehhh

The latest film from Duncan Jones is getting a few mentions on critics’ best of lists for the year. It has been called Hitchcockian by some. Others are impressed by the plot twists and the mystery.

“Source Code” is not as good as its press would have you believe. It is not bad, but it is no great work either. The “twist” if you can really call it that is fairly clear from early in the story. (So far both of Jones’ films have clearly broadcast their twists in the trailers—and not due to poor editing or construction of the advertising. Any previous experience in the genre leads one to proper conclusions regarding the plots.) In the case of “Source Code,” astute observers know who the bomber is fairly quickly due to the editing. It is no coincidence that they keep highlighting—but not focusing on one passenger in particular.

Ultimately, this story is a huge exercise in societal wish fulfillment. We all wish there were ways we could fight the big battles of our time with the benefit of hindsight. It is unfulfilling ultimately because of the very nature of multi-verse stories. Any catastrophe that is averted in this sort of story still occurs in most all the potential—or in this case real—alternate realities. The audience is pleased when our hero averts the tragedy, only he hasn’t averted it. He has simply taken us all along into another reality. His reality didn’t change. He is simply stealing the life and reality of poor old Sean Fentress; and no one seems concerned at all for him in this story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Mr. Deeds Goes to Town"

Capra-corn may have been around earlier, but “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is where it really goes over the top and is infused into every frame of the film. Longfellow Deeds is surely too good to be true. The crowd in the courtroom can’t laugh hard enough at every single thing said in the trial. And the snarky, sneaky reporter can’t stand being deceptive from the very start.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Fringe" Season One

I am always looking out for the next “X Files” type of show. It is not enough for the show to be dark, weird and scary, however. Those types of show are a dime a dozen, but most don’t last very long because the true formula for success behind “The X Files” was more than that.

This year “Fringe” entered its fourth season, and that combined with the fact that the first two seasons were available for a steal on DVD prompted me to see how the show measures up. So far, having plodded through the first season the jury is out. In its favor is the fact that most shows usually take a season or so before they find their voice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Needed: More Grown Ups

If you keep up with news—or even if you just casually catch it in between your sports or entertainment choices—you can’t have missed the biggest news story in the US these days: the terrible occurrences and apparent cover-up over the past 15 years at Penn State. This story hits home for anyone who works with or cares about children, which is just about everyone everywhere.

Monday, November 14, 2011

U2, Divine Belly Dancers, and Potty Talk

This coming Saturday will be the Twentieth anniversary of the release of “Achtung Baby,” U2’s seventh, and in some ways, most important album. It carried them out of the eighties, out of their more purely serious, activist phase into the flippant, fun-loving but still persistently preachy Nineties U2 and beyond.

For me it was a bit disappointing at first. I had heard of them with “Joshua Tree” and bought into them with “Rattle n’ Hum.” “Achtung” didn’t sound like U2, and of course that was the point. I graduated High School less than a month after the release and in college the next two years I couldn’t avoid hearing these songs everywhere I went.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tradition (Colossians 2:8-15)

[8] See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ… [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:8, 15 ESV)

The Gospel is a truth that flies in the face of all of the religions invented since the Fall. It exposes the futility of all traditional attempts to pay down and eliminate guilt in our own efforts. It reveals the fallacy of all Gnostic attempts to make salvation about the attainment of secret knowledge or spiritual “passwords.”

It simply explains the problem that all humanity has and feels and struggles against and then points out the equally simple truth that God has already provided the solution to the problem, for all who will trust in and surrender to Him.

Even “Christian” tradition and interpretation, in all its forms, is contaminated with tradition and philosophy of men. The Bible frequently speaks out against tradition. (Mark 2:22; Isaiah 29:13,14; Matthew 15:2,3,6; Mark 7:5-13; 1 Peter 2:18,10) Even when it is born out of a truth that a person discovers and applies to their life while following Christ, it can become an empty tradition when simply imitated and taught by others. Subsequent generations of believers could place the importance on the practice as a pursuit of holiness all the time missing the truth that had been applied.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Best Spielberg Films?

Last week’s review of “Tintin” asked where it should be placed in Spielberg’s best works without really answering the question. Well, here is the NonModernBlog list of Spielberg’s ten best films. (Incidentally, “Tintin” ranks outside the top ten, in the twelfth spot; and for the record, I cannot include some of his films as I have not yet seen them. Namely: “A.I.,” “Amistad,” “Always,” “Empire of the Sun,” “The Color Purple,” “Close Encounters,” “Sugarland Express,” “Duel,” and “War Horse.”)

10. “Catch Me If You Can


Friday, November 11, 2011

"Midnight in Paris"


Woody Allen’s latest effort is a gem. It is a wonderful and entertaining piece about a dreamer, a man who would like to live in another time. It is about nostalgia and escapism, and a reminder that everyone can become disillusioned with life when they are only focused on seeing the good in other circumstances.


It is also a wonderful bit of escapism itself. Paris is a beautiful city, but here it is perfection that can only exist in the digitally color-corrected world of cinema. The story itself is a bit of magic-realism that everyone would love to experience, and for an hour and a half everyone can.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Religion and Politics

One of the scariest things in the real world is a mass of uninformed irrational people demanding what they think they want, but really what they have just been told that they need. This is why true direct democracy is a scary thing. Most countries that people call democracies are usually watered down forms, such as republics where rule of law—not the whim of the masses—reigns.

In any case, this is also why religion—institutional systems built on faith—should not be allowed to influence or run government. It makes manipulation of uninformed masses of people too easy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Top Films: "It Happened One Night"





It is somewhat amazing how many times Hollywood can tell the same story and people will pay increasing amounts of money to go see it. Many genres (by definition) do this but one of the worst is the by-the-numbers, predictable-to-the-minute romantic comedy. Instead of investing hundreds of dollars seeing this formula play itself out with interchangeable players on the big screen or collecting the similarly packaged disks that come out several times a year, consider getting one well made one and return to it again and again for your fix of fictional, never-really-difficult true love between the sexes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 1a)

Season 1b-->

Star Trek the Next Generation has a unique place in television history. In a time when new networks were increasing and audiences had many more programming to choose from STNG took first run syndication to new levels of success. At the same time it promised to bring back the sort of television that explored issues and ideas seldom dealt with in the sitcoms and commercials posing as cartoons in the eighties.

That being said, we had to get through the first couple of seasons. Most of the first 13 episodes are a mess where no one really knows what they are doing:

Monday, November 7, 2011

"The Sacred Journey" by Charles Foster





The last book in “The Ancient Practices” series is a wonderful collection of musings and meditations about that itch that we all have—the itch to wander. For some—those who look to “Christian” books as a source of truth and instruction to be absorbed—this book will be a problem. The theology here is speculative. It is instructive and brilliant in places, but isn’t really given in the spirit of unquestionable revelation from on high. It should encourage thought, invite us to stretch outside our comfort zone, and dare us to think about what is lacking in our comfortable, static lives.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Suffering... Again. (Colossians 1:24-2:7)

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body…”

Just when did the American understanding of the Gospel become so distorted? Paul repeatedly stresses the suffering that is a part of the life of those who follow Jesus, yet we seem to actively teach the opposite. Specifically here we see that the apostolic ministry entails a high level of suffering. Yet it is hard to imagine some people who do this ministry today rejoicing in their suffering. Missionaries in past generations were quite realistic about the level of suffering and even sacrifice they would be undertaking when they took the Gospel message to other cultures. Today many people who “feel called” to spend their lives in a cross-cultural context barely make it past the first two years.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

(some of) The Most Viewed NonModernBlog Posts in October

October was a continuation of the explosive and steady growth NMB has seen in the past couple of years. There were over twice as many page views as six months ago. Here are some of the most viewed posts over the course of the month:

The 20 Best Horror Movies 

The Top 25 Animated Films 

10 of the Scariest Films I Have Seen 

Vampyr 

Oh Those Kooky Virgins! 

"Fright Night" 2011 

(The better, earlier version is reviewed here)

Let the Right One In 

"Wir sind die Nacht" 

Demonology and Eschatology, Hollywood Style Part 1 

Inception: A (Spoiler Heavy) Critique

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn





Some movies are not about deep thoughts, insightful lessons or revelations about humanity—some are simply good yarns. For a long time they were the territory of B films and serials; but Spielberg changed all that in 1981 with the adventure film to define all adventure films. The artistry and near perfection of “Raiders” raised that effort to the level of classic, and created a slew of imitations—some of which are actually good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gospel Essence

Over time words lose their impact. They become too loaded. Too many differing ideas of their nuance erode the meaning attached to them. Christianity is one such word. It no longer means anything precise enough to truly be used without qualifying. One qualification that has also begun to lose its aim is the old “religion vs. relationship” comparison.

The qualities that distinguish a follower of Jesus from a tower to heaven builder are trust and surrender.

Religion is all about self-reliance. The point of every religion is construction of a worldview that supplies the ascribed with the means to appease the powers that be for wrongs and shortcomings they have committed. Sometimes the powers that be are really just religious professionals exerting power. Other times the individual gets to determine how they apply the religious ideas they agree with or like. Either way, religion is all about saving oneself.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Early 30’s Capra

The early thirties seem like a good place to go for insight in today’s world of economic hardship and increased paranoia. If nothing else, it is surprising to see how compelling, current and entertaining stories conceived and crafted 80 years ago can still be.

Two of the stories Frank Capra worked on in the years before he hit his incredible run of critical success are “Platinum Blond” in 1931 and “American Madness” in 1932.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 6b)

This post is inspired by the ongoing Buffy Re-watch being conducted over at Nik at Night. Check them out for a better, more detailed look at each episode every Tuesday. 

<--Season 6a  Season 7a-->

Buckle up! It is time to go down the tubes of despair, self-pity, and self-destruction with the characters we were led to love for the past six years…

Actually, to be quite fair and honest, I have to admit that I liked this season a lot more this time than the first time I watched it. It has been years too. I had actually re-watched the whole series a few years ago and skipped right over this season altogether then. The “threat” this year is largely real life. And it is true that I usually prefer science fiction and fantasy stories for escapist fun even while they are metaphorically commenting on real life issues. That is why this season is still easily my least favorite. But the issues it deals with are dealt with in an honest and perceptive way.

Monday, October 31, 2011

“Dracula” and “Drácula”


Less than a decade after “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens” Universal studios obtained the legal rights to “Dracula” from Stoker’s widow, and filmed what is quite possibly the most famous vampire film ever. Directed by Tod Browning, it is based not on the novel, but on a popular play version of the story by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. The play had done well in England and both on and off Broadway in the United States. As a result of the requirements of the theater, the number of characters is reduced, and the Transylvania sections of the book are absent from the play.

The Browning version of “Dracula” has been criticized for its lack of vision in using film techniques. In spite of the work of gifted cinematographer Karl Freund who had filmed “Metropolis” and would go on to direct Universal's “The Mummy,” it comes across as merely a filmed play, with few of the embellishments that the medium of film would allow. Some go so far as to credit any good portions of the film to Freund and not Browning. (The Spanish version, filmed concurrent with the English has a more creative approach to the subject.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The 20 Best Horror Movies

Here is a list of—in more or less ascending order of quality—the best horror films ever made. Not scary thrillers or tense action, but the stories that creep that disturb on a thoughtful level. These are not the scariest, goriest, or the most squirm inducing films. They have something to communicate. They want you to think about things that are important to think about. That does not mean that what they have to say is always right, but they are making an attempt.

20. Shaun of the Dead (2004) (for more thoughts click here)

19. Shadow of the Vampire (2000) (for more thoughts click here)

18. Dracula (1931) (both versions as the Spanish one is better in some aspects)

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Vampyr"





One of those movies that everyone seems to praise these days simply because it is old and cutting edge for its time, “Vampyr” was largely panned in its day. If “real” people were to watch it today (rather than film historians or artsy critic types) they too would probably not give it much praise. The film is lethargic and dreamy, if you can stay awake. Any early sound picture, it is a poor example of the use of sound—even for those early days. An example such as Hitchcock’s “Blackmail” is a much better first effort.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Fright Night" 2011

This year’s “Fright Night” gave us a perfect example of a remake that hits the basic plot points of a story but manages to completely miss the point. The original was so much more than just a “vampire next door” story. That and the fact that the characters share the same names are almost all that these two films have in common.

In the original, we had a fan of classic horror fiction realizing that such monsters were real and that one lived next door to him. He had to spend a good deal of the movie convincing others of that fact, and then fight the monster to save the day. In the original, he teamed up with a has-been actor who was an expert in the fiction but someone who had to be convinced of the reality of the situation. The film was mostly about faith and believing in a reality that most cannot or do not want to accept.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Let Me In"


The remake of “Let the Right One In” is unusual. Often an American remake of a foreign film is either unnecessary because the only “improvement” it brings to the equation is that American audiences do not have to read subtitles; or a shame because they change things that make the picture worse. In this case the differences are subtle, but a slight improvement in some areas. In the end, however, it probably ranks in the unnecessary category.

Among the changes that are improvements:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Wir sind die Nacht"


“We Are the Night” is a light piece of contemporary vampire fiction. One cannot call these sorts of films horror anymore, as there is not attempt to scare people in this new wave of the genre. On the positive side, at least this is not one of those “vampires are so wonderful” stories. Actually it may be more of a response to that.

In this tale the vampires start out glamorous and powerful, but their (un)lives are empty and unfulfilling. All of them are female, as the male vampires were too reckless and attracted attention leading to them being killed off by humans or, eventually, the females seeking more anonymity. (Laughable with the high profile the females in this film maintain.) The story is told from the perspective of a thief whom the main vampire turns. She does not hold to the evil ways of vampiredom and gets the others all noticed and killed.

Overall the film is well done. The second unit shots of Berlin are great, in fact. The director Dennis Gansel’s previous film “Die Welle” is high on my list of German films to see, but this one is not on the same level of importance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Demonology and Eschatology, Hollywood Style Part 2

The world after the turn of the century is similar in many ways to the way it was in the seventies. (See Part 1) In spite of the changes in world politics and in cinema technology, the same sorts of stories are speaking to people. In the supernatural horror genre, much of the commentary from the original “Exorcist” and “Omen” apply to their sequels and reboots. However, some of the battles against demonic evil explore some interesting ideas.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10 of the Scariest Films I Have Seen

Most “scary” movies are scary the first time around. There’s always the unknown—will there be a jump right around the corner? Is something gross about to pop out of nowhere? However, after you know what is coming, there is almost no movie that can truly scare. Perhaps gross-out, depress or traumatize but that is not exactly scaring. Most horror these days is not about scaring people—at least not in the way that makes you keep thinking about the scariness and the implications of the horror after you leave the theater. What follows are ten plus movies that truly do scared me, and still do every time I see them:

1. “Rear Window” 

The well crafted suspense thriller from Hitchcock places the viewer in the perspective of the hero/man damsel in distress so effectively that when the killer looks right at the camera towards the end, audiences audibly react, and I still get shivers every time.

2. “El Laberinto del Fauno” 

Creepy throughout in that fairy-tale way; especially in the scene where our heroine is tasked with stealing a dagger from the Pale Man. All she has to do is resist the food on his table. Anyone familiar with fairy-tales sees what is coming a mile away and is on pins and needles throughout the scene.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Demonology and Eschatology, Hollywood Style Part 1





Hollywood has a renewed interest in the Christian audience (and its wallets) since the success of “The Passion of the Christ.” However, that is not the first time Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—has generated a lot of interest from the movie industry. In the seventies, there was a huge interest (not overly welcomed by the Church) generated with films like “The Exorcist” and “The Omen.”


The thing that stands out in these films is the religious nature of the Church. Normally, a Christian worldview informed by the Bible would see reality as being completely under the sovereign control of God, with no power in creation able to oppose Him. All creatures and all of history are under His control. Instead in the Hollywood version of Catholicism (as well as unfortunately throughout the history of the Church) Christianity is just one among many religions representing competing, often regional deities. The priests in these films always seem on the verge of failing and, in doing so, screwing up the will of God.

The demonology and eschatology of Hollywood is—not surprisingly—unbiblical and quite messy. Is that all these films have to offer, or is there something to be salvaged among all the questionable theology? Looking at the examples from the seventies will get us started:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Russian Horror Fantasy

A few years ago, Russian director Timur Bekmambetov made a splash in world cinema with his “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” movies. It was for Russian cinema sort of like the moment in 1977 when Lucas released his first “Star Wars” film. Both are instances of elaborate, visionary and epic story telling while still a bit corny and technically limited by circumstances. Unfortunately for Russia, Bekmambetov was scooped up by Hollywood. His production “Apollo 18” came out this year and he directed next year’s highly anticipated “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

His “Night Watch” films are entertaining and rich, if a bit hard to follow in their complexity. It is your classic good vs. evil story in the same vane as “Star Wars.” However, much like “Star Wars,” it contains a troubling and widely held flaw of a worldview.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Let the Right One In"





One of the biggest dangers for film critics (especially “real” ones who get paid to watch nearly every film released in a year) is the fact that novelty and distinctness stands out and is rewarded. Sometimes the critic forgets to ask, “Is this film great?” and falls into the trap of rewarding a film simply because it stands out as being unique. Uniqueness is good, but only one among many factors by which a film should be measured.


Others would be things like technical quality, intrinsic beauty, and the qualities of the story—its truth, its message and its structure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Red State"

Kevin Smith comes across as a somewhat talented, intuitive storyteller. He may work at studying and developing his craft, but that isn’t apparent in the results he has produced thus far. That being said, “Red State” is unlike his other work in tone, style and themes. Where it is not, is in his effort to make a statement about the wrongs he observes in the culture; as well as in his resulting need to tweak the conventions of that culture.

In “Red State” there is something for everyone. The most talked about inspiration for this movie has been the most recent in a long line of groups co-opting the name “Christian” to spout hate and vitriol. However, there is also plenty of uncomfortable satire reserved for the American government as well in this movie. Both of these targets are thematically and ideologically tied together in American culture; with the way that our society has been increasingly isolated into extreme camps of thought since the early nineties. Thus the name of the movie, which refers to the division as seen in the red vs. blue states; although the film may be seen to imply that the conservative elements in society today are the only ones capable of extreme tendencies.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"The 'Burbs"


“The ‘Burbs” is not cinema greatness. Even in the cannon of Joe Dante films it is not among the first few to spring to mind. It is good eighties fun though. You have the Americana setting, the dark humor, and Tom Hanks still in his “funny” everyman as opposed to his “respected and powerful” everyman. Everything is great up to a point.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

1981 in Film

1980 may have been a tough year to rate here, but 1981 is decidedly harder. One of the more entertaining tools one can use to help rate films and jog the memory is over at www.flickchart.com. However, a perusal through 1981’s films makes one wonder where a bunch of those movies have been hiding for the past thirty years; though most don’t make one want to go find them. Here are the meager memories of 1981 from NonModernBlog:

Personal Best Films of 1981: 

1. Chariots of Fire
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. The Great Muppet Caper
4. Buddy Buddy
5. For Your Eyes Only
6. Clash of the Titans
7. The Fox and the Hound

Films I Still Need to See:
Reds
On Golden Pond
Time Bandits
Stripes
Die Bleierne Zeit
Christane F. Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Formative Film Moment

When I was sixteen years old, a classmate of mine told a bunch of us that he had a movie we had to watch. He said it was art. Now, that could go one of two ways. I had classmates who were really into film. One of them had a notebook where he kept a record and review of every single movie he had ever seen. Then I had the classmates who were into the things that 16 year olds were into. I didn’t know which sort Alejandro was.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh, Those Kooky Virgins!

Why is it that in the world of movies, all the crazy, psychopathic women are repressed virgins?



Last year we had Nina Sayers in “Black Swan.” The story received a lot of critical acclaim. It was well made and interesting viewing, but hardly among the top ten most riveting stories told. At first glance it seems to benefit from its novelty, but it really isn’t that fresh. The story is the old one of a girl who is too nice to succeed and must find her darker self to overcome. It has the old elements of a haunting doppelganger (which will concern this blog later this year in more Charles Williams fiction), the currently popular body horror, and the nutty female who is afraid of sex.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Mist" ...a Review with Spoilers





This is the movie that caused my wife to declare she will not watch any more of my horror movies with me ever again. That is not because it is scary. She doesn’t generally scare anyway. Let’s just say it is the feel-bad movie of its decade; and we saw “Children of Men.”


Premise: man and son head to the store after a major storm to stock up on supplies before they are all sold out. While there a mist covers the town and there are things in the mist that kill people so no one can leave.

In this sort of story you don’t really have to fear the monsters. It is easy enough to shut them out and stay away from them. What you fear is society, the people in the store with you. You can’t easily get away from them and you never know what a group of people under stress will do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Buffy Excursus: Repentance

Willow and Buffy demonstrate some good illustrations of repentance in season six.

In “Smashed” and “Wrecked” we see Willow descend into the depths of denial and addiction to the point where she actually hurts others. In the before this crash happens, she is warned by her friends that she has a problem, and she even says she will do something about it when Tara threatens to end their relationship. However, this is a good example of the way others cannot force us to repent of something that we do not see as a problem.

A Buffy Excursus: Community

One of the major themes in traditional vampire literature and story is the importance of the community of faith. It is not always highlighted in film adaptations and interpretations, but the novel Dracula accentuated the need for a group of people to band together to resist the evil threat.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has always made a point to stick to this theme. Even when most see the core idea as one of feminism and inverting the damsel in distress trope; the thing that makes Buffy the most successful in the long line of slayers preceding her is the fact that she has a group of friends and family that help her in her quest. She does not stand alone against evil.

The Buffy Rewatch (Season 6a)

Season Six has always been my least favorite prior to this viewing. That does not mean it does not have a lot to say, nor that it is not well made and thought out. It is just some of the hardest good television to watch.

<--Season 5d  Season 6b-->

As the series reached its end on the WB Network it pulled out all the stops and came up with a great, climactic END. When UPN resurrected the series, the storyline suffered much of the same difficulties that the characters were facing. The result is a depressing look at some depressing characters making a bunch of poor life choices.

This is metaphorically seen in the way I am watching the seasons this year. Seasons one through five (and seven for that matter), are all ones I have owned for years and are on region 1 DVDs. They do not contain the “previously on Buffy” introductions before each episode. Season Six, being the one that I never cared for and therefore didn’t own, is region 2 and does have the handy recap scenes included. This serves to heighten the soap opera aspect of the show; which is a bit over the top this year.

The big change/problem of this season emerges right away:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hollywood and Another Spirituality Fail

Hollywood has always tried to tap into the religious market, and to tell stories that explore spiritual and philosophical themes. In the last decade, “The Passion of the Christ” reminded them that this audience in particular is a good target to shoot at, and renewed interest in stories that address spiritual and religious directly. Of course, horror has always tended toward those ideas but even before Mel Gibson mixed Christianity and Grand Guignol, filmmakers started taking a closer look at faith and the philosophy of religion in movies like “Candyman,” “In the Mouth of Madness,” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.”

So, when Craven wrote and directed last year’s “My Soul to Take,” and the previews showed a potential spiritual aspect to the story, interest here was peaked.
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