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Nothing Redemptive About “August: Osage County” and “Like Water for Chocolate”

7 Nov

I am a big fan of redemptive themes in movies and literature, even those that are not overtly Christian.

I even secretly believe that God Himself might make these films and books somehow fit for the eternal state, so we can enjoy their uplifting spirit forever.  After all, all truth is God’s truth, right?

That said, I have been watching movies lately with strong female ensembles.  There are several worthy of their own blog post.

And then there are these two dogs.  I was completely prepared to like them both.  “August:  Osage County” because it features Meryl Streep *and Julia Roberts, not to mention Benedict Cumberbatch.  “Like Water for Chocolate” because it is set in Mexico, land where I first traveled as a Spanish major in college.

But, no, both feature families with sisters and daughters and intrigue and secrets and secret sins.  Both feature families that literally implode due to the evil within them.  The only personages worthy of any respect in either one turn out to be the hired help.

There is not one redemptive moment in “August:  Osage County,” despite the fact that it contains no sex or violence.  It *does show the banality of evil, as the viewer spends two hours wondering why a movie was made that only involves family members spouting cruelty, filth, and profanity at each other.

“Like Water for Chocolate” is much the same, only it involves Mexican syncratic religion, a combination of Catholicism and paganism, with the evil mother haunting her daughter after her ignominious death.

Just wanted to review these two dogs to save anyone else the necessity of watching them all the way through, thinking there will be a point to them in the end.  There is not.

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“The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”

5 Jul

Why does it always take me so long to act on excellent suggestions?

Someone told me several years ago to walk, not run, to the rental store to get “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Now that we have Netflix, the movie has been available at the tap of a screen for over a year.

It is everything a movie should be and more, all tied up in one neat package, with a pretty ribbon!

A biography (of Gladys Aylward, a British missionary to China).

A piece involving sweeping and exotic geography (China).

A historical piece, intersecting with World War II.

A faithfilled movie, exalting Christ.

An upbeat movie, with Miss Aylward and a band of refugee children never, ever giving up, despite weeks of little food and cold weather as they traversed the mountains in wartime.

An adventure (and not just the mountain journey, which is the last half hour of the movie).

A story of love, for a country, for a village, and for individuals within that village. The sort of love that led Miss Aylward to take Chinese citizenship and to never run away from her people during wartime dangers and discomfort.

And, best of all, an old-fashioned love story, with people willing to chastely wait for each other during the frequent movements and relocations required by the war. Both Miss Aylward and her beloved knew they had missions to perform and both bravely moved forward with them, believing they would be reunited after the war.

They don’t make movies like this anymore!!!

It was like “The Sound of Music” only the mountain journey was much longer and more intense.

It was like “Bridge on the River Kwai,” only the marchers were not men whistling the movie’s theme song, they were children singing “This Old Man.”

It seems that the number of stories produced by World War II is infinite, not only because so many millions of people were directly involved, but because, even if it were possible to tell every one of their stories, there are so many fictional accounts that could be spun off from them.

Truly I have spent a lifetime reading about (and watching movies about) World War II. It is my most fascinating period of history and I never grow tired of it.

But this movie is an utter triumph! Ingrid Bergman may have outdone her role in “Casablanca” with it. And that is saying a mouthful!!!

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Reaching a Child with Autism through Disney!

10 Mar

Reaching a Child with Autism through Disney!

Amazing first person story by a journalist who raised his profoundly autistic son using dialogue from Disney films!

Somewhere in Time . . .

24 Feb

Due to the month of run-up to the Oscars on Turner Classic Movies, I have just viewed (binge watched) 29 movies since the beginning of February.  It is not always possible to get so many Oscar-nominated movies so easily within the same month, so my husband and I have taken full advantage of that on TCM, and plan to do that every year from now on.

I just saw “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” for the first time–it reminded me of a handful of similar movies like “Ghost” and “Somewhere in Time.”  Also, “Berkeley Square,” another oldie which I saw earlier this month.  

Beautifully romantic, these movies perfectly portray the Greek philosophical teaching about the nature of the afterlife, as two disembodied spirits spend eternity together (or borrow bodies to be together again on earth, as “Ghost” portrayed).  

Beautiful and romantic but not in line with Christian teaching.  

You see, we will live again in these bodies.  The bodily resurrection was taught in Judaism all the way back to the book of Job (possibly the oldest book of the Old Testament).

So disembodied spirits will not wander the empty spaces eternally, enjoying the sharing of ideas together.  Our real, resurrected bodies will be able to touch each other again.

They will be glorified bodies, but our own bodies nonetheless.  This is consistently taught throughout Scripture.  It is only because we have listened more to the Greeks than to the Jews that we don’t get that.  

Our faith came from Judaism.  We would do well to read their Scriptures/our Old Testament.

Yes, Jesus did say there will be no marriage in the afterlife.  He gave the example of five brothers all marrying the same widow (the first one married her when she was a maiden).

In some wise way that is beyond our understanding, the marital relationships many of us need to have now will not be needed in eternity.

It is not just that God could not figure out which brother gets the widow.  That was the dilemma presented to man to make him think.  God could have figured out a way to deal with widows, had He seen that it was best for us to have marriage in the afterlife.  

So, by faith, we hear that He does not have couples as part of His plan for eternity, but He does have the marriage of Christ to His bride, the church.  

Oh, great mystery!

I am sure when it is revealed to us, it will be so wonderful and wise we won’t even be able to describe its splendor.  

We will dwell with Christ, who is already in a glorified body, in our glorified bodies.  

Forever.  

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Elsa in “Frozen” and Using our Talents for God

24 Feb

Elsa in “Frozen” and Using our Talents for God

I haven’t seen “Frozen” yet. Now I can’t wait to do so.

Yes, I am the one who watched old movies with my dad, my grandmother, and my cousins growing up.

I didn’t go to the movies much prior to the 1980’s because I was a serious student who was always studying (to become valedictorian of my high school class; to graduate college Magna cum Laude–I had to earn that stuff as it didn’t come naturally to me!).

As a junior officer in the Navy, I probably saw 50-75% of the movies that came out in the 1980’s. Light-hearted comedy fare was my favorite.

I then settled down to marriage and motherhood and mostly saw only the Best Picture nominations in the 1990’s.

I have hardly even seen the Best Picture nominations since 2000 as I regard today’s movies as largely a wasteland of form over substance.

So I get excited when I see bloggers swooning over a new movie that can lead to deep discussions, even theological discussions!

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Dear Diary . . .

14 Feb

Dear Diary . . .

My perfect Valentine’s Day has downsized over the years. It had to do that, because I have been married to a frugal guy for almost 25 years and . . . when we marry someone, we inevitably change each other. That seems to be one of the reasons God instituted marriage in the first place–to smooth off the rough edges.

I started my Valentine’s Day at 2:45 AM. I had intentionally set my alarm, going to bed at 10 PM so that I could get up and watch “Woman of the Year” with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on Turner Classic Movies.

They did not disappoint me! I love that pair. Sad that their relationship never was based on the sound marriages they portrayed in their films, but their onscreen pairing certainly made a strong case for enduring marriage (and for forgiveness within marriage).

In “Woman of the Year,” Ms. Hepburn is portrayed as more the selfish, unreasonable partner who needs to change.

In “Adam’s Rib,” which I saw again earlier this week, Mr. Tracy is more the selfish partner who changes by the end of the film.

So they balance!

As do Noel and I. Two imperfect people, bonded by Christ’s love as well as romantic love.

After the movie was over, I crept back up to bed, only to find my husband already awake. He had fallen asleep in his recliner early last night while I was at Bible Study. He was slowly waking up for the day.

We lay there, talking for almost an hour before I drowsed back off to sleep and he got up.

What a precious time. I always think of the early morning quiet and darkness as velvety and intimate, not frightening like darkness can be at midnight when you are rushing a child to the emergency room or when you are lost on the road somewhere.

Such a good time to share your hearts in ways that belong just to the two of you, never to be shared on a blog.

This morning, when I finally got up, I scrambled us egg whites and served them with leftover blueberry scones I made for our meal at Bible study last night. It was a good enough treat. We don’t need heartshaped donuts!

Tomorrow night we will attend a Valentine’s party at the home of friends.

And, with that, I am content, having found a place to belong in a world that sometimes seems frighteningly random.

In the Downton Abbey Tradition: 1956’s Giant

12 Feb

I know, I know, Giant came first.  But Downton Abbey came first historically.  And so did England.

There is something so refreshing about Downton and, yes, it is in the same tradition as Giant and other important and influential films of its era.

They have a clear sense of values, of right and wrong.  

Those who do well, end up being rewarded, eventually.  Those who do evil are eventually exposed and fall by the wayside.  

Note that, theologically, nothing is said about people being inherently good or evil.  We are all born with a sin nature.  But in this world and on into eternity, our choices after birth matter.  

Downton Abbey shows that.  So does Giant. 

I saw Giant for the first time today.  I got up at 6 AM and watched it till almost 9:30 on Turner Classic Movies.  Yes, it is an epic.  And, yes, I am glad I made the time for it in this period of unemployment.  

In fact, since Noel was already awake, it was kind of fun to sit on the end of our bed, watching with the lights off, on top of our warm comforter, with a quilt across my lap and a plushy throw around my shoulders.  Very cozy on a day when we expect more snow . . .

I have long “collected” epic films that start with “G,” most of them war movies:  Gone With the Wind, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, Gladiator, The Grapes of Wrath, and Gallipoli (well, that one is a bit shorter than the others but packs a punch nonetheless).  I will add Giant to that number.

It is said that Giant was Rock Hudson’s best film ever and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s best.  They aged beautifully across two generations.  

It was James Dean’s last film.  He remained the rebel till the end, still without a cause, except he envied the wealth of the other two, and their ranching family, and became a self-made man merely to get revenge (and to try to marry their daughter).  

The lessons were clear.  Rock Hudson’s character was changed by being married to Elizabeth Taylor’s character, who brought to Texas and to ranching a kind disposition toward everyone, especially the Hispanic people who already lived in the state when the U.S. acquired it.  

Everything ties up neatly, throughout the movie, not just at the end.  

The way Downton Abbey neatly ties up approximately one storyline per week.

In an era when the majority of movies are made to promote not just ambiguity in life (which we all face every day as an inevitable part of our existence) but ambiguity in values, a movie like Giant is refreshing.  Most movies in our era end with totally messy outcomes which we can second guess for weeks.  It is not just that it is hard to figure out the complex situations in these movies, it is that they are never resolved.  Resolution itself appears to be held up as a bad thing.  

It is good to see films and television series in which the director sets out to use situations and problems in the lives of the characters to cause them to grow morally.  If that results in neatly tied up endings, all the better because our lives rarely do that for us.   

We will never become perfect on this earth, but we can all grow.   

And I will never tire of such stories as Giant, inspiring us in that direction!  

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