Friday, December 30, 2005

Evan's Most Favored 2005 Awards

Every year I give out awards of my favorite things. This year is special, because I will actually send awards to the people who win them. Here are the winners:

Most Favored Movie 2005
This was a difficult desicion betwee these five 2005 favorites: Sahara, King Kong, Millions, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They were all fantastic an entertaining movies. And the Most Favored Movie 2005 is . . . Millions.

Most Favored Talk Show Host 2005
The winner of this award is new to me this year and in fact is responsible for my new love of XM radio. And the Most Favored Talk Show Host 2005 is . . . Glenn Beck.

Most Favored Telivision Show 2005
While usually I am not a fan of hospital dramas (at all), but this show is worthy of DVRing every week! And the Most Favored Television Show 2005 is . . . House.

Most Favored Magician 2005
In a dramatic coup d'etat, this magician steels the all time reigning champions of magic and illusion. And the Most Favored Magician 2005 is . . . Ricky Jay.

Most Favored Book 2005
This was an easy one for me. This book, which would normally be a work of fiction is in fact a work of theological Orthodoxy with nuances of all the good parts of sectarian faith lumped together! What a concept. And the Most Favored Book 2005 is . . . a Generous Orthodoxy by Brian D. McLaren.

Most Favored Musician 2005
This was a tough choice between the winner and the band Weezer. I have had huge respect for him since the middle 1990s. And the Most Favored Musician 2005 is . . . Ben Folds.

These are the awards. Have a happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Great Grape Ape

Funny I would think of Hanna-Barbera when thinking about King Kong, but I do. I will say that I wasn't thinking about cartoons when I sat (riveted, I might add) watching the 3 hour Peter Jackson phenomenon this past weekend. I've had to think extensively about what I would write or I would have written it sooner. I had a great fear that I would be so positive about the movie that it would sound trite, but here goes nothing.

I have never (this is not just hyperbole) been so emotionally drawn into a film in all my life. There, I've said it! Don't make fun of me, just read on! This movie is not (dare I repeat myself), is not just some action adventure flick with lots of guns and high-kicks, a grunting evil doer, and a building full of C4. There is no real clear antagonist, as much as we want to pin Jack Black's Carl Dunham down. This film is about relationship. Ann Durrow's (Naomi Watts) relationship with Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Ann Durrow's relationship with King Kong. Carl Dunham's relationship with Jack Driscoll. Carl Dunham's relationship with Preston (Colin Hanks). Jimmy's (Jamie Bell) relationship with Hayes (Evan Parke). Each of these relationships go through tramatic changes that deepen friendships and love. This is not to say King Kong is without both action and adventure. The 3 hour film spends the first 40 minutes letting you get to know the characters before throwing the ship against the craggy rocks of Skull Island. There was one point as Ann Durrow is hanging from a breaking ladder from the Empire State building when I lost my stomach. King Kong is as engaging as movies come these days.

Peter Jackson's wide seeping camera shots capture the heart and soul of city and jungle (albeit CGI). Jackson pulled off the Art Deco New York in the 1930s transformation. The choice of shots and angles really pulled out the memory of the original King Kong film while giving just enough of the new to make Jackson's film as original as a remake could ever be. The choice of Jack Black as Carl Denham, while at first may sound like Mickey Rourke as St. Francis of Assisi (Francesco), Black pulls it off with room to spare. Naomi Watts' performance as Ann Durrow redeems her from The Ring 2's perfomance which nearly spoiled I Heart Huckabees for me. Overall, Peter Jackson's King Kong was a terribly fun and will surely be ranked one of the top 5 movies of 2005.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Lion's Share

In a year of less than favorable movies it is good to know that there are a few shining examples of good film making. While I will probably comment on Peter Jackson and his King tomorrow, today I would like to spend some time with The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I remember my mother reading C. S. Lewis' books to me every Sunday afternoon. She would read until she was too tired to read (she fully expected me to take a nap afterward). When she fell asleep, I would slip out and go play. Since then, reading aloud has become something I love to do, and something I love to hear. (digression is one of life's hallmarks.) When I found out last spring that Walt Disney and Walden Media were teaming up (sort of) to make this first installation, I was very excited. I knew that with the CGI movement, it would mean that the characters would neither be silly nor would they be too scary. The actors chosen to play the children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy were brilliant with the heaviest weight on Edmund and Lucy. They must have taken direction like a dream. Edmund was perfectly sinister until his reconciliation through Aslan with the other children. Lucy could not have been more perfectly played. The CGI characters were wonderfully and nearly flawlessly created. What a beautiful film that will continue to inspire children as well as the books have.

Oklahoma Forum prognosticator and Jornalism professor Kathryn Jenson White spoke out against the crusadic images in the film saying that the timing of such imagry in a film is unfortunate. The question posed was "What were the worst films of the year?" White placed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in the same cinematic category ("worst films") as Bewitched, and The Dukes of Hazzard. She went on to say that the film (LWW) was overtly Christian and that the good guys were obviously Christians and the bad guys were obviously not Christians (as thought being Christian were an offense in and of itself). Despite the obvious tone of anti-Christian dogma, let's look at the images that in her words were crusadic. The lion on the shield reminded White of Richard the Lionheart. I can't say that I didn't think of good ole' Richard while watching the film, so there is a connection to what she's saying. However the real connection White is working with is associating the current war in Iraq with the crusades. To say that this country is involved in a Christian movement to reclaim Jerusalem (oh, goodness, I guess we're not fighting for Jerusalem are we?) is an offense to my Theological and historical sensibilities. This country is not Christian. White is looking for connections to add fuel to the hyperbolic soundbites that suppress real thought and discussion. Her bumper sticker journalism will continue to damage how folks think of Christians. Isn't it bad enough that we have to deal with folks like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell? Now we deal with folks on the other side giving Christians a bad name. One more question, why is it that when folks can't come up with a real argument why Christians are bad, they bring up the crusades? I don't bring up slavery everytime I want to come up with an argument why Americans are bad.

Now that I've gotten all the compliments and defences out of the way, let me say that this film was not without its problems. I have but one criticism that will actually keep this film from being the Evan Abla's Best Movie of the Year. In C. S. Lewis' book, while the children are with the Beavers in the dam, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the children about a prophecy in which Aslan will make things right when he comes. However, in the film, the prophecy is about the how the children will make things right. Now, to some this won't sound like much, but it is. The Deuteronomistic history (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings) is filled with stories about folks who tried to do it themselves. Time and again God showed his people that God does the delivering around here. This is a huge distinction. Gideon didn't conquer the Midianites. God did! There was no "Gideon did it." That story, like all of the stories in Judges is about God. Here, C. S. Lewis would agree, LWW was all about Aslan. Allegorically, of course, Aslan is the Christological figure in Narnia. In the book, it was all about how Aslan delivered Narnia. The movie fails in this aspect by making it all about the children and how they delivered Narnia. All I can hear are the echoes of Judges 7:18 "When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, 'For the Lord and for Gideon!'" Too bad Gideon thought it was about him. Remember, Gideon began his life as a Baal worshiper died a Baal worshiper after he was done with God.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Holy Trinity

With Christmas so close, I thought I would take some time to comment on the hope and grace we have in Jesus Christ. My friend Ben Felder wrote a great little article on the Holy Trinity on his blog, Ben, commenting on what Robert Jensen has written on the Trinity, "the Trinity is the scripture in a nutshell." What a statement. I think this is most clear in the movement of the Holy Trinity, facing in and moving out. The Holy Trinity, that is, Father, Son, and Spirit, faces in relationship with one another and moves out to effect the transforming grace in the world.

A relationship with the Other is most difinitively expressed vis a' vis, face to face. Not present or absent, but in the face to face. The Trinity faces in, the visage of each person of God facing the Wholly Other visage of each person of God. This is a model of relationship within the church. We must face each other, come together, be present to one another despite our absence. We must congregate, purposefully to model the Trinity (worship, fellowship, community). This is our calling to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." Deuteronomy 6:5 NRSV.

A relationship with the Other is fulfilled in the action beyond/ignighted by/necessitated by facing in. The Trinity does not stop at the mere facing in (expressed by some deistic models of God as well as a simple "unmoved mover" model), the Holy Trinity moves beyond him/herself. The Trinity moves out into the world to bring blessing, effect grace, and love in the perfect act of reconnecting God and man. In the same way, we must move out into the world, bringing blessing to the other, reflecting God's grace, and making disciples (compassion, disciple-making). This is our calling to "Love your neighbour as yourself." Leviticus 19:18.

By this, we can see that "the Trinity is scripture in a nutshell." To model the Trinity is the Great Commission!