Saturday, October 06, 2007

Wordpress. Inevitable.

I'm moving to Wordpress. I'm sick of the Blogger color schemes and world of no options.

So, from now on you can find me at:

Farewell, Blogger.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Xbox Fever

Halo 3 came out a few days ago.

It is in times like these that I thank the Lord that I am not a video game addict.

I know there’s fun in it and quality time with the Xbox can yield marvelous entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment … in moderation.

Most of the gamers I know spend there days full of nothing but entertainment.

An hour ago, I sat at my desk in my comfy chair and took in David Gordon Green’s All the Real Girls. It was wonderful. I experienced truth and beauty. I feel enriched.

During the same amount of time, my two friends across the hall sat and pressed buttons while watching things explode.

Call me an old fart, but I think I'm better off.

Monday, October 01, 2007

News bits - 10-1-07

I was checking my email today and saw this little news article scrolling along the top of my browser.
A German man who had been drinking heavily at Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours while trying to climb into a friend's apartment, police said Friday.

After finding his friend was not at home, the 27-year-old climbed on to the roof of a neighboring building at about 2 a.m. Thursday and headed for what he thought was a gap in the wall between the two houses.

He found himself sliding almost 30 meters (98 feet) head first into a chimney, a spokesman for Munich police said.

An 82-year-old janitor from the hotel next door eventually heard the man's calls for help and he was rescued at around 2 p.m. by fire brigade officers who knocked a hole into the side of the chimney to liberate him, the spokesman said.

He had managed to turn around and had removed his clothes to try to help him squeeze back up.

"Miraculously, he was only slightly injured in the fall, sustaining just grazes and bruising," police said. The man was taken by helicopter to the hospital, where he is being treated for hypothermia, they added.

Also of note is a school-wide email sent out today by the Dean of Students reminding everyone to stay modest for Spirit Week. This little piece of advice was tagged on as well:
There are certain items that may seem like a perfect fit as props for some days, but think before you do it. I am thinking particularly of Western Day and I remind you that possession and/or use of firearms and knives is not permitted on campus. So go to the dollar stores and purchase plastic toy pistol, but no real firearms are permitted.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some more bad cover art

Yet another example of some strikingly bad cover art.

Of course, Season Six of 24 was pretty much a strikingly bad season. The show should have changed it's name to 12 instead of just writing the terribly cliched episodes that pervaded half of last season.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A few moments with Zoo

I had heard about Zoo (2007, **3/4) when it premiered at Sundance this year. I love to watch this kind of controversial stuff just to see if it's worthy of all the whinging people tend to do when they see something that offends them. The following is a rather stream-of-consciousness message I sent to a friend after watching this new documentary. I didn't feel like taking the time to organize it into something that actually sounds somewhat nice...
Zoo is neither graphic nor exploitative in the discussion of zoophilia/bestiality. There are no talking heads, just voiceover from different people including other zoophiles who knew the guy that was killed and were in the same group of zoophiles that would get together at a guy's ranch near Seattle.

All the images are a dramatic restaging of events surrounding and during the incident when the man was killed (they don't show the man "with" the horse though, of course). The subject matter is less than appealing BUT the film is shot beautifully and the music is stunning! Some of images are just ... wow. The filmmakers really paid attention to making this accessible to people.

The main point of the film is not to get people to think that zoophillia is perfectly normal, but just to get in the minds of zoophiles to discover why they do what they do. The main idea that came across from the zoophiles themselves was that they just have a love of animals more than most people. It never takes into account that some of these men are just perverts, but tell us that every zoophile feels an emotional connection to animals like "you would your spouse or child."

This logic is faulty ... you don't have sex with your children! Perhaps that may be the next controversial documentary.

There's an interesting point in the movie. When all these men got together for "retreats", it’s not just about participating in questionable activity with animals. They talk and have a good time like most groups of men do when they get together. They would watch sci-fi movies in their spare time. The director says in the commentary that,"30 years ago people would say that we couldn't get a man on the moon. The imagination would have to go places to consider such an outrageous thought. I think that "zoos" who are doing something that is on the very edge of being able to understand is a great mirror to this."

Totally faulty logic again. The reason they love animals so much is much of the reason that some people are gay: lack of meaningful human contact because of sin let into the world by the Fall.

It's as simple as that. It'd be nice to enable them to understand that.

I highly recommend watching it. It's SO technically well done and I'd love to see more docs done in this style. It's just ideologically incomplete.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hope for Forever

My GreenCine RSS feed popped up with a link about Forever today; an awesome documentary I saw at The Nashville Film Festival last May. I consider it the most moving artistic experience I've ever had and was shocked and elated to find out that it is now playing in Manhattan. This may possibly mean that there is hope for a DVD in the future.

I sure hope so, because this is one I want to show all my friends.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Time for some controversy

My roommate showed me an article on today entitled, “Kiddie Porn Movie Rocks Toronto as 'Feel-Awful' Film of the Year.” The article is about Alan Ball’s (American Beauty, Six Feet Under) new film Nothing Is Private based on Alicia Erian’s novel Towelhead about “a young Arab-American girl struggling with sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War.” Roger Friedman tells us that:
The movie — so odious that many people have simply walked out during the screenings — shows actor Aaron Eckhart having sex with a 13-year-old girl played by a now 19-year-old actress, Summer Bishil. The actress only turned 19 recently, however, which means that she was just on the cusp of 18 when she made the movie last year.
I was wary of this article from first glance, so I went to the bastion of fair and just opinion (ha!): the IMDb forum. I found some unique views here as well:

It was wonderful, and Alan Ball handled the material honestly, and graphically without being exploitive
Still not convinced, I scrolled down to find this opinion:
I've got to say you guys all strike me as being sick. There's nothing artful, cool, or "must see" about depicting child pornography and child rape. This is a real issue that ruins the lives of women, leaving them emotionally scarred for life. I rue our society if we have come to the place where we can watch the depiction of child rape and call it entertainment.

Why don't all of you (especially those women who have been commenting) take a look in the mirror and try to imagine if such a thing happened to you or to your 13-year-old daughter. These things are horrific. Our culture danced on the edge with "American Beauty" and "Thirteen". This movie, by all accounts, plunged us over that edge to a place of darkness. If this goes unchallenged, what's next for us? How long until we allow Dakota Fanning get naked to increase the realism of a 12-year-old being raped? I, for one, think this is disgusting and hope the MPAA slaps this with at least an NC-17. Shame on the Toronto Film Festival and shame on Alan Ball.
Ok. I can agree with some of that. I don’t think that having a 12-year-old actress simulate a rape scene is morally right. BUT, if one could creatively film the scene without the actress participating in rape simulation, I might not have a problem with it. If the plot point is necessary to the story, by all means … it should be included. If it’s not, then the artist is guilty of exploitation.

But even the Fox News article makes it clear (albeit unintentionally) that there is more to this story than the pedophilia in question.
The father regularly hits Jazeera and threatens to beat her to death.

Her mother is a self-absorbed American (Maria Bello) who cares nothing for her child and loads her with more baggage than a porter at JFK.

And that’s not all. Jazeera, abandoned and then seduced by next-door neighbor Eckhart, has already been abused by Bello’s second husband.

She also falls into a kinky sexual relationship with a boy from school.
Quite obviously, there is more to this story than pedophilia and “kiddie porn.” Here's what a reviewer at Ain't It Cool News said after a preview screening: simply call [the men in the film] "abusive" "lecherous" and "horny" is to do disservice to them all: these are extraordinarily complex characters. As bad as they are, all have redeeming qualities. And in their own ways, all of them care very deeply for Jasira. Where one is a failure, another picks up the slack. She's caught in a devil's bargain, in a sense, bouncing between three men - each of whom give her something she needs, emotionally, but each with a heaping helping of a lot she could do without.
Back to another IMDb poster:

If you see the film, you will realize that Alan Ball is not trying to make the rape of a child "artful" or "cool" as the last person said. When people with the same opinion as [the poster above] see this movie, they will realize that the film isn't about making the rape entertaining, but far from it. During the Eckart/Bishil rape scenes, you could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. Very awkward to watch, but it wasn't bad enough for anyone to walk out.

Very little of the story is actually about Jasira being raped. It's more about just what the plotline says. Completely ignore comments made by people like [the poster above]. Fantastic cinematography, great music, and an incredible screenplay.

And one more that should pretty much make clinch the whole issue:
I've read the screenplay, Alan Ball stressed that it's imperative that there's no explicit nudity and that the actress playing Jasira is not compromised in any will be "appropriate" in the sense that neither the actress nor the subject matter will be exploited.
All the controversy around this brings me back to my favorite film: American Beauty. I remember all the controversy when it came out. I remember reading conservative reviews saying things like Steven Isaac at Focus On The Family:
It's bad enough when films trade in sexual fantasy for box office dollars. It's worse when that eroticism is directed at a high school cheerleader by a
middle-aged man.
In 1999, I was 12 years old. I remember reading these kinds of things about American Beauty and being sickened by it. I stayed away from the film like the plague because, from what I was reading, it was just a sinful, sick, perverted defense of pedophilia. I remember saying a prayer for Alan Ball and everyone behind American Beauty … a prayer that they would realize the error of their ways and start walking down the path of righteousness. In my eyes, they were nothing but hideous pornographers.

As I grew in my understanding of the purpose of art, I began to take my thoughts captive more and more. I started seeing film as art and not just entertainment. I found other Christian reviews of American Beauty that actually saw the ideas of the artists as something to be engaged and thought about. I even found a book by Robert K. Johnston called Useless Beauty that built a bridge between the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes and a few modern films, one being American Beauty.

Near the end of my junior year in high school I rented American Beauty and watched it three times in one weekend. I was totally enraptured by it. I thought about it. I engaged it. I began to see that this was not the work of pornographers trading “sexual fantasy for box-office dollars” but the work of extremely talented artists, putting their worldview in front of me and asking me to think long and hard about the concept of beauty.

People fear and even hate what they don’t understand. Sadly, this means that most conservative Christians hate a film that shows them something that offends them, which American Beauty most certainly does. Roger Ebert said that American Beauty is not about a twisted sexual relationship, but “about yearning after youth, respect, power and, of course, beauty.” Look closer. It’s not so much about the actions of these characters but what these actions represent.

In then end, I do not wholly agree with the ideas of American Beauty and recognize some of them as completely unbiblical. This doesn’t change the fact that I greatly value the film. I value it because it is a perfectly crafted piece of contemporary art that has made me think and evaluate my perception of beauty. Aesthetically, it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It packs an extremely important piece of advice as well: look closer.

When Nothing Is Private presents itself to cinemas across the country, this is exactly what audiences will have to do.

Why haven't I heard about this?

Naomi Watts and Tim Roth in an English-language Michael Hanecke film about two psychotic young men who take a family hostage in their cabin?

Bring it on!