Sunday, April 29, 2007

"The horror ... the horror!"

Saturday's journey to Chattanooga culminated in eating at a place I had never experienced before and never ever want to experience again: CiCi's. Apparently, CiCi's is a pretty popular place down South ... that comes as no surprise to me, as it is an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for $4.99. Everything about the place was so immeasurably gross. I saw a worker stick her unwashed hand up the ice dispenser to try to fix it. I swear that no person over 30 in the whole place was under 250 lbs. The pizza was nothing but grease and left an awful taste in my mouth. The floors had a half-inch layer or grease on them, as well. It was like walking on top of a layer of lard. So gross. I'll never go to a CiCi's again!

As I walked out of my final class of my first year of college on Friday, the weight of work wasn't lifted like I thought it would be. My two biggest finals (English II and WCiv II) are tomorrow and I still have to pack up the room and take some of my bigger items to storage. In any case, I'll be home in less than five days. Then ... happiness.

I ended up getting to McKay's twice this weekend. I took Brett's car and went by myself on Friday. I picked up the soundtrack to The Mission and the complete dossier edition of Apocalypse Now (which includes the original and the redux). On Saturday, Colton and I stopped by and I picked up an awesome edition of Plato's Republic and a Sam Phillip's CD. All this for less than $18. I love getting a good deals.

Since I didn't have much work other than studying this weekend, I watched Apocalypse Now. It's one of those movies I've always wanted to see but have never gotten around to watching. What a great film. There's some pretty ground-breaking stuff in this movie, from the cinematography, to the first of 5.1 sound. I'm tempted to say that it's better than The Godfather when it comes to Coppola films, but I'll have to wait until a second viewing to find that one out. In any case, if you like great war films, you'll love Apocalypse Now.

Lately, my mind has been swirling with things I want to do this Summer. Perhaps its a good thing that I won't be working at Csehy. As much as I'm going to miss the place, its abscence will give me some good time to build up the bank account and get alot of things done. It will be the first Summer in years that I won't have big events to attend. It's going to be quite a change. Who knows ... maybe a change for the better.

I did have something slightly profound swimming in my head because of something I read last night, but that will have to wait. I doubt most of you would read it anyway. I'll get to it sometime.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nashville Film Festival

This weekend, I went to the Nashville Film Festival with a group of people from school. I was really excited because it was the first film festival I’ve been to. I really didn’t want to leave. I’ve had so many meaningful artistic experiences this weekend that its hard to describe. I’ll summarize some of the films that I really liked and leave out the crappy ones. My words won’t do some of them justice … talk to me in person for more info.

I’ll start with the biggest disappointment: a 90-minute thriller called Adrenaline filmed completely in one take. It was about a guy who buys a new car and immediately gets his OnStar-esque system taken over by a guy who supposedly has kidnapped his daughter. What followed was a disappointing one-take race against time that had an unsatisfying ending and little or no technical merit.

Many times when I watch a film, I may think that it isn’t that great, but then when it is over, I look at the whole and realize how great it is. Such was the case with Darrat (Dry Season). The film was about a young man in an African village that sets out to kill the man who killed his father. It was beautifully shot and worked spectacularly as a meditation on the nature of revenge. I’d like to see it again.

Swedish Auto was about a very homely guy that works at a car garage. He becomes infatuated with a beautiful violinist, but ends up falling in love with a simple girl that works at a diner who has problems of her own. My opinion of the film was low at the beginning, but got higher and higher as the movie went on. At the end I didn’t think it was a masterpiece, but it was better than many things I’ve seen out of Hollywood recently.

The last film I saw at the festival was a documentary by Tony Kaye, director of American History X. It was called Lake of Fire and is the definitive documentary on abortion. It was presented every side of the debate equally, only leaning slightly toward the pro-choice stance. Everything was there, though: scientific and philosophical debate, religious protestors, Republicans, Democrats, graphic termination footage. It even featured the complete abortion experience … from walking into the office, to walking out after the procedure. It was TOUGH! Probably the hardest thing I have ever watched, but something I think everyone needs to see. I don’t care how graphic it is: its real. Supposedly we’ll see this film in theaters around September.

For me, the best part of the festival was the first film I saw. It was called Forever and was a documentary from the Netherlands by Heddy Honigmann. I was transfixed with its beauty for the whole two hours of its running time. I was stunned that every frame of this gorgeous film could have been in a photography exhibition. Needless to say, I was deeply moved.

Forever is set in the Pere Lachaisse Cemetery in Paris where Chopin, Marcel Proust, and many other great makers of art are buried. It wasn’t about these people, though. It was about the people that visit their final resting places because their lives have been so changed by art … art produced by the deceased. Through this whole film, I saw people whose belief systems and lives have been shaped by the power of ideas expressed through art. These visitors could not stop talking or contain their excitement about how the ideas and art of these people had shaped the way they lived their everyday lives. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I really can’t express how I was moved by it … it was that good. I read somewhere that this will be released in theaters around September. I doubt I’ll be able to find it anywhere, but after I watch it again, it will most certainly become a favorite.

I loved the festival so much! I felt like I really belonged there because I was surrounded by people who appreciated and were interested in engaging great art. I could talk to any person in line for a film and have an intelligent discussion. I also realized how much of a mission field the film industry is. It invigorated me and made me want to go out and make a film. I’m definitely writing a script this summer, now that I’ll be home. It’d be so great to engage people’s minds for the sake of the Kingdom.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eyes wide open...

Wednesday night was The Commoner Forum on human trafficking.

It would be cliché of me to say something like: “My eyes were opened up to a world I never knew existed!” or something like that, but in this case, I’m going to be cliché because that statement is the truth. I knew things like what the speaker discussed last night happen in the world, but I didn’t know to what extent.

I didn’t know that in some countries, vir ginal children can be bought for a price of anywhere from $2.50-$10,000. I had no idea that 83% percent of Internet child por nography is of children under the age of 12, 39% is of children 6 to 12 years of age, and 19% are under 3. Nobody had ever told me that all over the world there are communities of people who will abuse people as part of a ritual; an or gy of abuse taken out on anyone … from infants to adults. It disturbed me, along with many other people. As the speaker said, human beings are being devalued to being worth “nothing more than a head of lettuce” by “conscious people without a conscience.”

What also disturbs me is that while this is going on all over America and in other countries, some American film studios are producing torture-po rn films like Hostel and Saw that tend to hit the top of the box office charts whenever they are released. These are films where people are killed in the most gruesome fashion … films where the torture of a human being is put on the screen as entertainment. I know these movies are merely an illusion of cinematic magic, but they are training America’s next generation to be sadistic perverts who come out of the theater saying, “Dude, that was frickin’ awesome!”

I read an interview with Frank Darabont (the writer/director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the new adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist) yesterday. Obviously, Darabont likes to work with literary genius Stephen King, America’s master of horror novels. The interviewer asked him what he thought of this new genre of “torture-po rn” movies and I was very happy to hear his response:
The torture-porn thing is pretty distasteful. I'm just not into it. Horror unfortunately tends to go in these cycles where it puts itself back in this ghetto. I just don't find anything amusing about people getting tortured. I wish we weren't making these movies. I think it degrades the culture. I think it diminishes the human spirit.
Torture is especially un-amusing when things like the events portrayed in Hostel actually go on overseas. I wouldn’t complain about a movie showing the serious gravity of this kind of situation, but one that indulges in making entertainment out of this … it makes my stomach hurt.

American needs to realize the gravity of this situation and do something about it. The people who back these films and sell them to our teenagers need to see what’s actually out there. Maybe we need to show them pictures of people being skinned or infants being violated.

Flannery O’Connor once said that a desensitized culture needs to be shocked into action.

I think that’s what we need.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Down to the wire...

I have 19 days left here for the semester. That’s not much, but every time I look at the calendar, I think about all the stuff I have to do before then and it seems SO LONG! This next week I have a Western Civ. group project to finish, I have meetings for a (very big) Biblical Foundations group project, there is research essay due, and I accompany four people in Rep. class. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff that I’m forgetting at the moment, but that’s still a lot.

Even though this next week is going to be quite rough, I have the weekend to look forward to. Hot Fuzz comes out on Friday and the Bryan Film Festival awards ceremony is on Saturday night. Sunday morning, I’ll get on a bus at 8:00 and go to the Nashville Film Festival for two days. It will be my first real film festival, so I’m very, very excited. I’m probably seeing five films while I’m there and they all sound really great. Two documentaries, a comedy, a drama, and an action movie filmed in one take (I’m not expecting much out of that one). One of the documentaries I’m seeing is called Lake of Fire and is said to be the quintessential documentary on abortion, done by Tony Kaye, the director of American History X. I’m also visiting the Frist Center for the Arts while I’m there for their Picasso and Matisse exhibit.

24 returned to form this week with a really great episode. They brought David Fury, a writer from season one of Lost, in to dig them out of the giant hole they had made for themselves and start anew. Thanks goodness.

Lost was one of the best episodes ever this week as well. I love an intense characters study and that’s something the writers of Lost are really good at. I’ve been reading a graphic novel in my (very little) spare time called Watchmen that is sort of like Lost. It has well-developed characters that we learn about through flashbacks. One of the things I love about Watchmen is how it will cross cut from one scene into another situation, using the dialogue from the previous scene to give the new one meaning. Its really great stuff and is quite affecting at times. I long to write a really good story, but don’t have the talent or the time. Oh, well. I guess that’s the dilemma of many people … not just me.

I suppose everyone has heard about Don Imus of Imus in the Morning's new antics. I don’t usually listen to him, but I’ve really been keeping up with the trouble he has got himself into lately. Apparently, he called some Rutgers women’s basketball players “nappy-headed hos” on the radio and is now in big trouble (i.e. he’s been taken off the air). I just got done listening to a little speech he gave on the radio apologizing for it. I was hoping it would be good, but it wasn’t. He just spent twelve minutes talking about how he’s not a racist because he has a ranch where black children can come in the summer and he has some black friends. He tripped over his speech the whole time. It was really sad. It was sort of like the man was trying to jump out of his own grave, but was unintentionally making it deeper with every failed attempt. As the Bible says, “…the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” I’m still trying to figure out if he just had a weak moment, or if the guy really is a racist. I guess we’ll never know.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Last night, I saw Grindhouse.

Not being a big fan of Robert Rodriguez (I despised Sin City), I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not. But after 20 minutes of Planet Terror, I knew I was in for a darn good time. Planet Terror is probably the most fun I have ever had at the movies. Its such a delightfully dumb and clichéd piece of film. Everything about it is just insanely hilarious and we were quoting it all the way home. It has to be one of the most quotable movies ever and I had a darn good time!

Before going into it, my concern was that the violence would be very much like “gore porn” (where the powers-that-be decide to capitalize on human suffering a la Hostel and Saw), but I was pleasantly surprised. It was just funny schlock that ended up being extremely entertaining. Not to mention that it includes one of the funniest endings to a movie ever.

There are a couple things about Planet Terror that I thought went a little bit too far. Robert Rodriguez seems to have an obsession with emasculation and some plot points relating to that were a little too gross for my liking. There’s also a completely terrible attempted rape scene that pushes propriety off the ledge of Mount Everest ... one of the only parts of the whole Grindhouse experience that made me feel like throwing up.

Tarantino’s Death Proof couldn’t be more different from Planet Terror. Instead of being driven by schlock horror, Tarantino’s film is very dialogue driven. It’s good dialogue and definitely has the Tarantino flair, but gets far too crude at times. I got extremely tired of hearing women constantly swear gratuitiously. I didn’t mind Pulp Fiction at all … this was just annoying at times, though.

BUT, complaints aside, the car chases in Death Proof are completely amazing. Tarantino chose not to use any CGI for his movie and the result is fantastic. They are probably the most daring, edge-of-your-seat car chase I have ever seen. The end of Death Proof is also insanely hilarious and had me cracking up all through the credits.

I love how Tarantino and Rodriguez have duped us with the Grindhouse trailers. The trailer says something like “a Grindhouse was a theater that featured uncensored sexuality!”. In the movie(s), both times some sort of sexual scene is being promised, the film melts away into a missing reel message. For me, those scenes provided some of the biggest laughs, but I can imagine how some horny teenagers might be disappointed. Serves them right.

The fake trailers were a riot as well. Werewolf Women of the SS has to be one of the best movie titles ever conceived and Edgar Wright's trailer for Don't (makes me all the more excited for Hot Fuzz in a few weeks) had me rolling on the floor. Eli Roth’s trailer, though, is the lowest point of Grindhouse. It's perverse and disgusting and totally broke the light-hearted tone of everything else.

I really don’t know how to conclude my thoughts on Grindhouse. I don’t see many movies I think won’t be worthwhile and this one is definitely a really cool piece of film making. As much fun as it was, its devoid of any meaning whatsoever. I don’t necessrily think this is a bad thing sometimes, but today's movie-going audience usually feeds only on this kind of entertainment. This worries me. If you're going to watch movies, you need to balance the "fast food" with challenging pieces of film. I try to do this and find a good, challenging film extremely rewarding.

That said, I really really loved (most of) Grindhouse, and if you can handle the violence and some swearing, I think a lot of movie lovers will as well.

Most stressful week of the year: DONE.

This week has been extremely busy. It’s been a week full of projects, exams, personal trials, and some other things that usually compile a stressful week. I got through it, though, and have come out relatively unscathed.

The biggest high point of this week was finishing the video for the film festival. After a big scare where I thought almost all of my work had been deleted, I finally got it done and turned it in on time. Since its not really “my” film, it would have been an extreme disappointment to a bunch of people if I had lost everything. I turns out that my external hard drive was not formatted correctly for my MacBook Pro. No harm done, though. I’m going to reformat it before summer.

I took today to sleep pretty late and do a lot of cleaning. I basically took everything out of the room and swept. Then I picked up every bit of trash that had been accumulated (mostly by my roommate), dusted everything and did laundry. Lets just say the room looks like a different place not.

Wednesday we had a really good chapel, even though I almost feel asleep during the message part. The worship band was the best part even though they were a bit too loud. We sang some awesome Easter-related songs that I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was also great to see a Professor up playing the piano with the band and quite obviously having a ton of fun. Seeing that kind of stuff always makes me feel good.

Yesterday (Good Friday), I went up in the woods for a while to do some reading and praying. It was great, even though it was a little cold. I listened to some music I hadn’t listened to for a very long time and had a really great time in the quiet. I borrowed an old Minolta film camera from a friend and shot off a role of scenery. I’m waiting to get it back, but I’m hoping they look good. If they come out well, I’ll probably buy an old Minolta from someone for cheap.

I’m heading into another semi-big video project I think. Brett is doing a magic show at our alma mater (good ol’ Shalom) on May 10 and needs it to be the best possible show because it could open a whole ton of options for other magic shows for him. I need to compile a rather atmospheric intro for his “Searching the Supernatural” show. It’s going to involve some shooting in a graveyard, clips from supernatural thriller/horror films/TV shows and some cool titling stuff. I’m excited because this show needs to be really good.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


phillip, i don't care how strange this sounds, but out of all my friends, you are undoubtedly my best friend. and i miss you a lot.
Hearing things like this is one of the reasons I'm glad to be alive ... however discouraging or disheartening life may be at the moment.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Angst: an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom.

Saturday was a bad day. I decided to go up to Pocket with the guys to explore the woods, thinking that we would be going on the trail I like up to Laurel Falls … a very relaxing spot. Instead, the guys decided that we would go on a far more treacherous trek up to Naked Falls (no idea about that name). Along the way, I ripped the left leg of my favorite shorts all the way up to the crotch, fell numerous times, got bruises, got cuts, dropped my phone in some water, got water on my video camera (thank goodness it still works), got my good sneakers soiled by falling in water and mud (they washed out well), and slipped about ten feet done a small mountainside. That last item ended with me falling off rock ledge five feet into pile of leaves.

Needless to say, today I have a headache and am feeling quite battered. It’s frighteningly similar to the time that I went skiing up at Whitetail.

It seems that every time I get hurt physically (I try to limit these times), I end up thinking about my emotional and spiritual state as well. It could be that this is God checking up on me. Sort of like He’s asking me to make sure I’m where I should be. I spent about 15 minutes talking to Him while I was sitting on a rock up at the waterfall, refusing to explore any more.

I’m just feeling majorly unsatisfied right now. This is not to say that I don’t like my current situation. I love it here at Bryan. I have some great friends and some even better teachers.

The last two days, my music collection hasn’t been satisfying me. This may not seem like a serious issue, but it is to me! Every song I click, at least right now, just seems old and battered. I think that’s because of my attitude. Quite frankly, it stinks. The only song that is fitting my mood right now is Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” and that certainly doesn’t help my mood be any happier. I tried putting on happy music, but everything just leads back to “And So It Goes.” I don’t know why it fits right now because I’m not coming out of a painful relationship by any means. One line is catching my ear now though: “Every time I’ve held a rose, it seems I’ve only felt the thorns.” That’s sort of my attitude right now in my bruised and headachey state.

Its just that right now, there is a sense that I should be doing more! I feel sort of dead. Its not because I just sit around watching movies all the time. I don’t. I haven’t watched a movie in the last week! Its not that I don’t do my homework. I’ve done almost every assignment this semester. Admittedly, I don’t spend enough time in prayer and in God’s word. Maybe that’s the reason. Who knows.

Right now, I’d like nothing more than to take a car and drive around. Just drive. Anywhere. And do something. Maybe smoke a cigar. Maybe find a theater that is playing Into Great Silence. I think it’s a movie I could really benefit from right now.

Or maybe not. Maybe I need to do something loud and exciting to get my adrenaline pumping and hike my brain out of this weird and depressed state.

Damn it all, I don’t know what I want. I really don’t even know what I need, aside from a big dose of God’s grace.

Sorry for the randomness of this post … it’s sort of a Faulker-esque stream of consciousness thing right now. I’m sitting here in my bed listening to Billy Joel thinking I need to do something more. And I don’t really know what it is.