Arimathea
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There is need in human life for levity. So, enjoy your time here in leisurely frivolity, where no Puritan can condem you.
Wednesday, May 27, A.D. 2009
Pancake a Car?

Cars, speed, explosions, and destruction? A medley of adolescent nirvana can enjoyed in the Mythbusters segment below, wherein the myth busters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman figure out if it is indeed possible to “pancake” an automobile. They first demonstrate that the common car pancake urban legend is false; two semi trucks that smash into a car from oppositive directions at normal maximum speed do not flatten a car. However, the mythbusters wonder just what speed would be necessary to achieve such a result. The experiment is pretty cool.

Yep . . . awesome.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, May 27, Anno Domini 2009
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Tuesday, May 26, A.D. 2009
Dateline Interview with George Lucas

In continuation of my heaping scorn on Uncle George, allow me to share a skit from MADtv wherein “Jane Pauley” interviews “George Lucas” on Dateline (Rated PG-13).

My favorite part is the interaction between Pauley and Lucas at the beginning, but Aunt Jar Jar Mimah is pretty funny, too.

Poor George . . . we are so ungrateful.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 26, Anno Domini 2009
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Monday, May 25, A.D. 2009
George Lucas Luther

Thirty-two years ago, Star Wars appeared in the movie theaters. What a wonderful movie!

However, it occurred to me this morning that George Lucas incurs a similar blame as that of Martin Luther. For Lucas took something that was beautiful and marred it significantly. The difference is that Lucas tarnished his own creation, while Luther messed with God’s. Uncle George has less guilt, then, than my friend Andrew’s ggggggggggggggreat-grandpappy Marty.

You may find it sacrilegious, or sacrilicious, that I compare Star Wars to Christianity, but I admit that Star Wars had a rather profound influence on my childhood. Luke Skywalker was my hero, I dreamt of flying an X-Wing, and, naturally, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight when I grew up. I pretended that our vacuum cleaner was my R2-D2. I bugged my parents to buy me the consumerist goods that made Lucas rich; I had sheets with our beloved droid odd couple, I owned many toys, and I used Star Wars shampoo. (Do you remember the bottles in the shape of the characters?) I even read most of the books.

George Lucas thus shaped my young imagination as I endeavored to live in his fantasy. To this day, I have retained a certain disgust for fire arms, and my soul aches when old Ben delivers his explanation to the young farm boy from Tatooine:

Your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

Light summer action fare for teens, maybe, but the original movies have so many moments of pure movie delight. “Before the dark times, before the Empire.” It’s perfect!

So, back in the 1990’s, I looked forward to the second and glorious coming of my favorite Hollywood franchise. I celebrated the original movies’ rerelease in the late 1990’s. I sat through an awful movie that I cannot even remember to see the trailer for The Phatom Menace on the trailer’s opening day. I camped out to buy tickets for the first showing of The Phatom Menace. I did my part—and Lucas failed. Like so many fans, I feel somewhat betrayed by the new Star Wars trilogy of prequels. Of course, I watched all of them at midnight on the opening day, and I obviously saw them several times at the cinema. Still, the experience was like attending a sterile Congregationalist Sunday service after having lived the joy of traditional Christian worship. George Lucas Luther kept the name but threw out the spirit.

Now, it is true that Protestants occasionally muster up some beauty in their religiosity. I have always found the hymn “How Great Thou Art” wonderful, and I appreciate the dynamism of many “evangelical” bodies. Similarly, the prequels have their moments of movie magic. The architecture of Theed on Naboo was lovely, Natalie Portman was gorgeous, and the final prequel, Revenge of the Sith, helped to redeem the other new films. As Luther, Lucas could not utterly efface the glory of that which he corrupted. Yoda, like Paul, manages to call to us through the mire.

Nonetheless, Lucas scandalized me with his folly. What is his excuse? Dort steht er, er kann nicht anders?

Posted by Joseph on Monday, May 25, Anno Domini 2009
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Monday, May 18, A.D. 2009
Coraline

Last month, my brother Adam treated me to a showing of Coraline at one of those last round cheap seat cinemas (you know, the ones where the show movies before they send the film rolls to places like Bolivia). I had intended to see the stop motion animated film directed by Henry Selick when it came out in February, but I never got around to do so. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline has a Burtonesque feel—which led many people, The Chicago Tribune and myself included, into thinking that it was directed or at least produced by Tim Burton. As the Tribune points out, the only production connection between Burton and the movie is that Selick and Burton worked together on The Nightmare before Christmas. Nonetheless, the formal resemblance is strong; if you appreciate Burton, you will like Coraline.

I had to enjoy this film. It is written and directed by Selick (who also did James and the Giant Peach), it has a wonderful voice acting cast, including Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, and Dakota Fanning, and it features a song by They Might Be Giants. I did not know that beforehand, but as soon as the “Other Father Song” began to play, I knew that John and John were behind it. I consequently bounced in my seat and jabbed Adam to let him know, much to the disturbance of all.

Coraline is beautifully made, charming, and somewhat humorous. Like other Burtonesque films, it threads the delightfully macabre through surprising, imaginary stitches. The imagery of the “other world” is wonderful, especially in its contrast before and after it unravels as Coraline, in lovely Grimm fashion, comes to understand that most things that seem to good to be true are not true. There is always a dreadful price for satiating our appetites.

If you wonder how an animated film merited a PG-13 warning, let me just say that you get to see French and Saunders au paranaturel. It is pretty funny, and you just have to see it for yourself.

My only complaint about the story is that it felt very rushed at the end. Until Coraline returns to her “other world” to free her family and friends, I think that the movie is perfect. Indeed, as she crawls through the tunnel to face her challenge, I momentarily escaped my absorption in the film to reflect on how good of a flick it was. However, the dénouement occurs too quickly and with too much ease, and this imbalance affects the film for the worse. Nonetheless, it is a fun movie, and I heartily recommend it.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, May 18, Anno Domini 2009
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Sunday, May 10, A.D. 2009
The Miracle Maker

Last week, Auster criticized forensics specialist Richard Neave for depicting a 35,000 year old European man with marked Negroid facial features, noting that Mr. Reave’s depiction has more to do with Leftist wishful thinking than with any evidence. Then, Auster attacked Neave for his imagined portrayal of Jesus, and he remarked that the claymation production in The Miracle Maker was far more convincing in its portrayal of first century Jews in the Holy Land.

I had never before heard of The Miracle Maker. So, I found it on Hulu and watched it. You may watch it, too. [The original Hulu movie was removed. Here it is on Gloria TV with Hungarian subtitles.]

It is a Welsh and Russian cooperative production, and it is not bad. Sadly, the Welsh won out in the film’s depiction of Mary Magdalene. The movie shows her as possessed, but then it also makes her the sinful woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house. Still, I noticed that the Russians depicted her in her iconic garment colors. I found the film’s treatment of the Theotokos a bit disappointing—more Welshiness there. Gibson’s Passion of the Christ does her more justice, but we should expect some Marian piety from a traditional Latin. Cleophas and his fellow traveler to Emmaus get more attention than usual. Indeed, the film makes the unnamed companion Jairus, whose daughter Christ raised from the dead. The girl provides the child’s perspective throughout the movie.

There is only so much that a children’s movie can do in ninety minutes, but I found it well done for a claymation film. There were moments of real artistry, such as the rending of the vail in the temple. I think that the tempter scenes with Satan are nicely executed and that the movie handles Judas Iscariot perfectly as the disappointed Jew with messianic hopes. Mary Magdalene’s possession and her grief at Christ’s crucifixion are moving, too. All in all, it is a fine depiction of the gospel narratives in the form of a children’s movie.

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, May 10, Anno Domini 2009
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Friday, May 8, A.D. 2009
Trekkies on The Onion

To celebrate the release of Star Trek, I offer you a funny video on the Onion New Network—“Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film as ‘Fun,’ ‘Watchable’” :

I love the fans.

I have never been a Trekkie myself, though my friend and nerd mentor Andrew has helped to initiate me a wee bit into the cultural awareness of the cult. I just find the technocratic, secular, Cartesian, Leftist worldview pretty revolting. However, like most sci. fi. (or space fantasy, for you purists), it has its charms. I especially love the fictional anthropology of fantasy and sci. fi., and Star Trek gives us some admirable races like the rational Vulcans and the thumotic Klingons.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 8, Anno Domini 2009
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Friday, May 1, A.D. 2009
Officer Krupke

I usually like the comic relief numbers from musicals, such as the splendid “Gee, Officer Krupke” from West Side Story.

Watch out for those social diseases.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, May 1, Anno Domini 2009
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