I wrote this short review in 1997. I went into seeing The Crucible with an expectation it must a meaningful film as the book the film was based on dealt meaningfully with a serious subject. Here is this piece, on the anniversary of The Crucible. The film was released on November 27, 1996, twenty-five years ago to the day.
There is something about aging 50 years in a day that is intriguing. The latest thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, who has made a career out of thrillers, dabbles in interesting themes and Old (2021) is no exception.
There has been some argument in evangelical circles over the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life. Some say the Spirit does not ‘speak’ to us, but that we must listen to the Bible as God speaking to us and as God’s authoritative word.
“Magnificent fingers”, says Cecil Parkes, as he shows adolescent David Helgoff Rachmaninov ‘s sculptured fingers, serving as inspiration for the piano-playing prodigy, in the movie Shine (Released November 22, 1996). Parkes assists Helgoff hit the right note on playing Rachmaninov No.3 while the young musical genius is on a scholarship at the Royal College in London. They say the No.3 is feared for its inherent challenges in perfecting, something Helgoff’s father Peter, a German Jewish immigrant in Australia, insists his son perfects. The pressure of life gets to Helgoff and he is taken to the psychiatric institution. His upbringing under the expectations of his father makes him need to please and, in the end, disappoints. But despite these darker moments of life, I observe that Helgoff seems to learn the “joy of living” for the first time in his life.
The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981). Released November 20, 1981. A lively Warner Brothers cartoon feature film featuring the famous cartoon characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Tweety Bird, and others, in various stories, one a crime story, another a western, and so on, with some sort of moral to it (self-control, temperance, and so on). Also quite ‘violent’ perhaps when Yosemite Sam goes seeking revenge. However, what should be, depending on one’s disposition, a good time. What works well is how the pop culture icons play off each other in rather clever fashion. Yet, for me there were only sporadic laughs to be had, more amusing than funny, mostly tired. However, I had worse movie experiences.
U2 was at the peak of their career when they released Achtung Baby (1991). More relaxed than when they started their musical career, U2 produced with Achtung Baby an album rather than anything resonating beyond the four walls perhaps, but I could be wrong. See the end of this review for more.
Casino Royale (2006). Released November 17, 2006. As you would expect from a James Bond film, there is an opening action sequence (across high-rise scaffolding no less) that defies belief. Yet this latest Bond outing adds more to the Bond sense of style and takes us into new territory for the spy character.
The following church minister responded to anti civil unions protestors whom marched to the New Zealand parliament in 2004. Kevin Ward, a cultural researcher, wrote to me about the issue at the time after I requested an interview. The following article is a direct response to the actual rally itself.
I took an instinctually opposing view to the seemingly prevalent Christian view on Harry Potter. Here’s my review of the first film which I think reflects a grind against the status quo. Of course I was emotionally right at the time, but whether I am or not, I located a common theme and an okay movie which some would say is positive.
The rub that Christians had against the film was it representation and depiction of ‘witchcraft’ but other Christians said the depiction of witches and wizards was sketchy and mechanical and could not be taken realistically.
However the strongest argument against Harry Potter was how children could take the magic in it. Adults may take it as sketchy, but do children have the ability to? To them, it may be fun-fantastical. But Christian were warning that witchcraft is not to be flirted with as it can lead to real life magic.
However, some children may not even be aware of the so-called magical inferences.
In sum, Christians with differing angles all came from a Christian basis. So, we had Christians with the same basis writing and speaking about the same movie from differing angles.
Here’s what I said. I took Harry Potter as fiction with all that entails and included my own Christian perspective on the theme of the film. This is different than approaching Harry Potter as film which is what those against the film did. They had a negative view of the film as a film. The view taken was obviously that magic is wrong for children and they should not engage the film.
As for me, I took the film without raising an issue of conscience for me individually. It was something to watch. I saw it as a story, as fiction, something with a theme. I didn’t take the magic in the film seriously.
Space Jam (1996). Released November 15, 1996. Unfortunately, this is a redundant animated fantasy in more ways than one. I expected better. When it comes to films where you expect a lot of fun, there can be a falling short of one’s expectations, though.
It’s a novel idea which attracts one to watch (but just an idea until fully executed) where outer space aliens set up a basketball match against the Looney Tunes, those famous Warner Brother cartoons. They get assistance from Michael Jordan as himself (back in the day in character mode) who comes out of retirement to face the aliens on court.
One of the things I have noticed in the evangelical church in New Zealand is a willingness to transform the culture with the gospel. But it looked like the ‘others’ were winning the cultural wars.
Kevin Ward said the culture weren’t going along with the evangelicals and their transformative gospel. He said the church needed to adjust to this cultural reality and reach those outside in a more significant way.
Personally, I doubt the gospel is about transforming the culture. I read the gospel in the light of Jesus supporting and helping individuals who then go and live the gospel of love or try to in their daily lives. I think the gospel isn’t about trying to change the world but is lived daily and in being lived daily can do good in the world whether big or small.
But as far as transforming things I take with some suspicion and I treat with alarm those that attempt the aggressive take over in some way shape and form. I think the gospel has never been about cultural transformation but is about being a disciple of Jesus in our lives. But as far as the changing the world, we will continue to wait and see..
For an annual that covers significant films released in 1981, Chariots of Fire (1981) was not reviewed in this annual, but there is an easy explanation. The film was released before the coverage period of this annual (July 1, 1981 – June 30, 1982, in Great Britain). Chariots of Fire was reviewed in the previous annual.
Otherwise, the author, in his introduction, praised the film for its artistic qualities. He also signaled it out for the fact that it was British and a major contributor to the British film resurgence in the world at the time. He saw more positive signs in British film production and gave a survey of places in the world – apart from America – where production was taking off.
An example of churches working together — at an alternative to Halloween, October 31st. The Saints and Angels Party, conditions permitting, usually happens each year around the globe. This article reports on one locally — in 2003. The local churches include everyone who want to come.
On my odyssey through the New Zealand church my understanding grew about the issues the evangelicals were facing. As far as I see, the key concern the evangelicals (Bible believers) had with decriminalizing prostitution, granting civil unions to couples, and legalizing gay marriage was the message it sent to their children.
These conservative Christians intended on bringing their children up in the ways of the Lord God, which meant all of the social reforms the government of New Zealand were brining in could send the wrong message to their children, thus making prostitution and those others things open and acceptable. It could seduce their children into thinking that certain behaviors were okay and so send them off the path that leads to life, the way of the Lord. So, they fought against the reforms and I did a couple of articles on the issue, maybe more, although these issues weren’t my main focus at the time.
I may as well post these articles as I am writing about this. They should be posted over the next month or so. The first one is below. It features the most vocal opponents of the liberal reforms. Destiny Church organized a rally to protest the reforms and to oppose the government’s sending of a liberal message to the country and what it would do to their children.
These days, the Destiny head pastor is now fighting the Covid lockdown measures with protests aimed at restoring freedom.
Here’s the article about fighting the liberal reforms of New Zealand. I include comment from the other side as well. In terms of the writing of this article, it would have been better as two articles. One for comment on the issues, and the other on the actual rally. But I combined the two with focus on the issues and comment.
Although Jesus’ disciples were journeying with him, his disciples left him. But Jesus was not bitter. Although being abandoned is not sweet. Perhaps the experience of the disciples leaving him was, as we say, “bitter sweet”, as at the time of this trial Jesus was not alone because he had his heavenly Father for closeness and friendship. Jesus had his heavenly Father to bond with rather than giving up. If we go through trial, we also need the lifeline that sustains us. Jesus showed his humanity by needing the closeness and intimacy of his Father in heaven when all others abandoned him. Powerful, strong stuff. Jesus indeed can be our strength and sustainer when we go through trials of various sorts as he has been through trials as well and his Spirit can help us.
Meditation 2. The disciples needed courage on their journey with Jesus. Jesus tells them to be brave. They will have to journey more with him to learn the ways of being his disciple. This despite the disciples abandoning Jesus once. They would have to gain their courage and go forward with Jesus. Take courage, therefore, his disciples. He knows your weaknesses and identifies with them yet can help you become more like him in love and in action.
The Lockdown Sessions (2021), by Elton John. Released October 22, 2021. Others contribute to Elton John’s latest album, such as Miley Cyrus, Charlie Puth and Dua Lipa. This has popular appeal, but the commercial tropes begin to wear it down with a beat and bass too many.
Blessings and Miracles (2021), by Santana. Released October 15, 2021. The title indicates a positive feeling, perhaps in contrast to so much negativity around recently, that an upbeat album was the order of the day. Santana delivers the upbeat vibes, just more of the same from Santana.
Ookii Gekkou (2021), by Vanishing Twin. Released October 15, 2021. The mind boggles with the title. The music quality, which is dreamily jazzy, feels disjointed from the spacey vocals. Perhaps they are trying for something overall dream-like, but the elements don’t come together.
How does one understand today’s poem “The Persian Rug”. Although it may sound like red carpet service for politicians despite their misdemeanors, it does not mean that at all. I can imagine a politician’s flaws being overlooked, though, and life goes on as normal, but this has nothing to do “The Persian Rug”. Quite simply the poem is spiritual. I am not using a strict religious metaphor from the Bible. I could have used another idea than the one I did, but I use “Persian rug” because it sounded like something exotic and transcendent which fitted in with my meaning. It is about how Jesus treats a person despite their flaws and sins. He died for sin but is not condemning someone for their sins. In a way he is treating the person in my poem like royalty even though he does not deserve it. This is God’s goodness to that person.
It is a powerless thing to truly understand that one is not qualified to judge when you do the same things you judge them on. But such a realization does not strip one fully of the need to judge. One still flirts with the idea.
Non-judgmentalism can feel disempowering and weak, but can one make something else in the place of judging others? Can one replace the need to judge with changing one’s mind? So, one is fair and consistent with the reality that one does the things one judges others on, but even goes further: in seeing the good rather than what’s flawed and wrong. Of course there will be flaws and wrongs, but love always believes the best.
In terms of art, you will see my pure and simple likes and dislikes in the category “like or don’t like”. The other ones that don’t fall into that category are pretty much, ‘I may not have liked it, but I see good points and negatives’. This I think pretty much sums up the reviewer’s lot. They judge and assess a lot, but don’t like a lot. They like a few. Doesn’t that reflect us all?
Follow up to 1996’s Space Jam, Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021), features NBA basketballer LeBron James as the demanding father to a son. The son would rather make video games than play ball, but his father would like son’s eyes on the ball. Then, son goes missing….father can get back son if he faces off on a computerized ball court against a mean team. So, he has to get a team together — from Cartoonsville.
Cultural theme: Why do fathers and sons get on one another’s nerves? The son wants to be a video game programmer, the father wants the son to be a basketballer. Fathers can be demanding and expect a lot from their sons, but this film says it is the father who has to learn to be understanding towards his son.
The theme has a kind of Christian soul.
One may call the film overblown but the first forty or so minutes is pretty conventional as the story establishes itself and is quite entertaining. The rest of the film is visual effects, cartoons-ville aka Looney Tunes, gags aplenty, and a big basketball game between the Goons and the Looney Tunes. It is all a bit of good fun that should please homely audiences.
Friendly Fire (the album; 2006), by Sean Ono Lennon. Released October 2, 2006. Sounds like friendly banter, a friendly conversation, with a point to get across as well, but firing not with all cylinders and palatable on the ear. Otherwise too middling for my taste and perhaps the title track sums this up best: “Dead Meat”.
The previous ‘poem’ I wrote, “The Friend”, was written out of more a matter of intent than designing something artistic. There is a debate that says one should always write or create something excellently or this does not matter as much as what one is saying. Well, “The Friend” is inclined to be in the latter camp. I had intent with my idea and the art was second on my mind. I don’t think this poem is really that artistic as there are uneven spots; sometimes it rhymes and then it sounds cheesy in a way. But I trust the intent gets through and that’s felt in the poem’s effect. I was wanting to show that Jesus respects women after hearing the song “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Jesus never came with a iron fist, but was gentle. I was reminded that Christianity can be regarded as an oppressive religion but this isn’t so when you read how Jesus related to women in the gospel.
That Jesus was just (just the main word here) a good teacher is quoted with suspicion by preachers, who are quoting the culture and not themselves or the Bible. But I have never heard, as far as I can recall, someone saying to me personally, that is to me personally, that Jesus was just a good teacher. Though I somewhat took on board the preacher’s words that people have used this description of Jesus, that he is being called ‘just a good teacher‘.
In the gospel of John (John 16:25a to be exact) I see evidence that Jesus was a good teacher (not just a good teacher) and of course he was more.
The Elephant Man was released October 10, 1980. My first encounter with the film The Elephant Man was a striking black and white photo in a hardback book. Because of the photo, and the interesting caption, I was drawn into the sense of the film. There must be more to this film that, as they say, is substance. And there is.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I would be posting more literary material, and that I have been doing, with straight reviews, reflections, and poetry. Unrelated to that I was inspired to change the name of this blog. I thought it was a good idea because it would reflect the more literary stuff I am publishing than before, so thought to re-christen it The Write Mix, which means the mix of writings I am presenting here.