Thursday, March 31, 2011
To have a proper relationship with Magnolia requires an understanding of the Scriptures. I John 2:15 and 16 states, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.”
In John 17:11 Jesus says, “Now I am departing the world. I am leaving them behind and coming to you.” Verse 16 says, “They are not part of this world any more than I am. Verse 18 says, “As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.”
What is I John referring to? I don’t believe this is talking about a physical state, such as a physical world. But I think it has more to do with a spiritual condition. How can a beautiful sunrise or a walk in the park be evil? Jesus certainly seemed to embrace life and often did the things that most people engage in. The real issue is when we put anything above and before God. I John is referring to this spiritual condition. It’s at that point when it becomes evil because we put it before God. It’s what we want to do versus our willingness to submit to the will of God. In other words, it’s idolatry. By applying this standard, it means that everything in the physical world has the ability to be good or evil. Remember, Jesus left us in the world for a reason, and that’s to fulfill the Great Commission. We can’t do that unless we embrace and love life, which means we have to love the world, not hate it. If we are not capable of reflecting this, do you think nonbelievers want what we have?
The only way we can make sense of the scriptures and how to live our lives as Christians is to put God first in all things.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
In fact, the central theme of the movie is that there is no past wrongdoing that cannot be undone and forgiven. Magnolia did exactly what I wanted it to do. It started a discussion and a dialogue with the class, which is exactly what any good movie should do. We had a lively debate. Most of the people in the class could see the merits of why Magnolia could have such an impact on people searching for answers. Others were still doubtful about whether or not they could view such material.
I think there are three reasons why I recommend Magnolia and other films that are similar. I was interested in this film because I had read many articles about how it had impacted both Christians and nonbelievers. It made me wonder, “Is God at work here?”
When you read comments such as—it touched me greatly; this film heals; the film explores ways in which we hurt each other and the need for forgiveness—it’s obviously going to get our attention. Magnolia helps us to see a bigger picture. If God can be at work in a mainstream, Hollywood film, a place in which we do not think he could possibly be at work, then that means he could be at work in anything, anywhere. If we embrace this concept, that means God does not fit neatly into our perspective of how we think God operates. We serve a big God.
And, finally, Magnolia helps us to relate to the lost. We can better understand their situation and what they’re facing. After watching Magnolia, it’s hard to remain judgmental or to condemn people for their actions. We want to offer them hope and forgiveness. The real beauty of Magnolia is that it offers us an opportunity to dialogue with people who are asking legitimate questions.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Can you imagine having the money to buy anything you wanted, being able to go anywhere you wanted on a private jet, or to live in a 17,000 square foot mansion in Pasadena? Well, that’s exactly how Tom Shadyac has lived his life.
Most of us can only dream of such a life—to be famous and rich beyond our imagination. But is it all what it seems to be? After a horrific bike accident, which led to a serious concussion, Shadyac started to ask some questions. Is all of this stuff really important? What are we living for? Shadyac isn’t that different from most of us. It seems that our culture is teaching us that having more is better and that the meaning of life is found through the things we own. Shadyac began to wonder why we accept the life culture presents to us as the one we should be striving for.
His self-described spiritual journey caused him to re-evaluate his career has led him to produce a new documentary, I AM. He hopes this project will help him to understand what is wrong with our world as well as what is right. I AM features many great minds who talk about society’s big and complicated issues. Shadyac feels the film presents an opportunity to explore why today’s culture is so obsessed with competition rather then cooperation and why people are more aggressive rather than compassionate.
I’m sure some people may accuse Shadyac of being the typical liberal, Hollywood jerk who is only interested in telling all of us how we should live our lives. But I think he is sincere and actually makes a good point. After all, he did have everything you and I could ever want. Apparently, that did not bring fulfillment or happiness.
It’s refreshing to see someone willing to take a look at our society and not just accept things as they are. Is it possible that God has a more fulfilling life for us than the one most of us live?
I AM was released in February 2011. It’s definitely worth a look.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
By 1969, shock had turned to outrage when Midnight Cowboy became the first X-rated movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. This is the type of move Hollywood would have never made before the rating system. The story is about Joe Buck and Ratso, who are living on the fringe of society. Joe moves from Texas to New York City to make money as a male gigolo. Ratso is a third-rate con artist living by his wits to survive on the gritty streets of New York City. Midnight Cowboy is a journey into the dark side of human existence.
Overnight everything changed in Hollywood. Christians were outraged. They felt betrayed. Over the next few years, Christians would begin a long process of withdrawing from the industry. Hollywood would be branded as the enemy. We would discourage our young people from seeking careers as filmmakers and media makers. Soon boycotts and protests would become the norm. And Hollywood, without a production code, would begin to portray Christians as idiots, fanatics, and hypocrites. As a result of our withdrawal, we have allowed Hollywood to become a dark place. That’s our fault, not theirs. We are responding out of our emotions not out of our theology, which states that we must love everyone and that we are called to reach the world, including Hollywood.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Hollywood had capitulated for its own survival and accepted a form of censorship. You can only imagine how they must have felt. For the most part, the films that Hollywood produced in the 1920s and early 1930s contained virtually no nudity, violence, sexuality or graphic violence. What were they being punished for? Perhaps the lifestyles of a few directors and actors created a backlash against Hollywood. Can you imagine if Hollywood told the Church what they could preach and proclaim in their pulpits? Do you think we would protest? Consider it an injustice? Whether we like to admit it or not, the Body of Christ imposed censorship and control on Hollywood.
What resulted is what many call the Golden Age of Hollywood. We have to ask the question whether this is because of the Hays Code or in spite of it. God has always been at work in Hollywood. His Spirit has been present from the very beginning. With a code or without a code, God will fulfill his plan. I’m convinced that the Code was more of a hindrance because God always chooses free will. God wants to speak to filmmakers and will reveal his truth. He does not need a production code to do that.
By the mid-1960s, everybody was looking for a way out. The solution was a new rating system administrated by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA). Movies would now be rated according to their content and restrictions would be implemented by age group. For example, R-rated movies would be restricted to anyone under the age of 17. It seemed to be a workable solution for all parties.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Faced with the growing threat of government censorship and the ongoing pressure of church leaders, the motion picture industry realized they would have no choice but to agree to a self-censorship program. In fact, since the early 1920s, the industry already had a loosely-rendered list of 13 prohibitions that included nudity, crime, gambling, and illicit love.
Hollywood hired Will Hays, the former National Chairman of the Republican Party, who also was a Presbyterian elder, to oversee the enforcement of the Production Code. The Production Code became known as the Hays Code when Joseph Brene, a Roman Catholic newspaper man with deep ties to the Catholic church, was hired as the new Production Code administrator. Now both the Protestant church and Catholic church had direct and indirect influence and control of every film Hollywood would produce from the 1930s through the 1960s.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
No finale can tie up all the lose ends or answer all the questions that fans may have. I’m sure many people still have problems with Lost, Seinfeld, or The Sopranos. But if feels like the producers of Big Love did find a balance in providing a satisfactory conclusion. In case you’re not familiar with Big Love or have not seen the finale, I will not spoil it for you. The previous four seasons are available on DVD if you are interested in catching up on the series.
If you know something about Big Love and have not been a fan, you’re probably wondering why an evangelical Christian such as myself would find this program interesting and worthy of my time. Why did I love this show so much? What drew me in? Was there a message in Big Love? Oh yes, I do realize that the creators and writers, Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, are both gay and married to each other.
Each wife, along with their children, have separate houses built next to each other. You can only imagine the complications and problems that arise with such an arrangement. Making matters worse, Hendrickson has an ongoing feud with Roman Grant, who is played by Harry Dean Stanton, a self-proclaimed prophet of Juniper Creek, the same compound that Hendrickson was thrown out of as a teenager.
Juniper Creek is a sore spot for the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Mormon Church. This provides a significant conflict for the Henricksons as well as the political backdrop that Big Love plays out on. Of course, you can imagine that over five years there are multiple plot lines that take place. One thing that defined the show was Bill’s desire to lead his family according to his heavenly Father’s plans. He was the shows protagonist (hero) in every possible form. He tried so desperately in his own mind to do the right thing—to be the best husband and the best father possible. But what I believe makes Big Love special is that it portrays an honest and forthright discussion and dialogue on matters of faith and family. This is extremely unusual for any weekly television show whether on broadcast or cable television.
Whether you agree with what they believe or not, you cannot escape the fact that faith matters to the characters in Big Love. I realize that the writers both being openly homosexual could be making a case for redefining the concept of what a family is. I’m certainly not sure what their original intent was. But I think they have been fair with the material and not heavy-handed.
However, somewhere along the way in the development of Big Love, something happened. This show started to be about something. I can’t prove it, but I have to believe that God was at work on the set and the writing rooms of Big Love. I certainly don’t endorse the concept of plural marriage or for that matter the teachings of The Church of Latter Day Saints. But Big Love did challenge me. If only, as Christians, we could be this committed to our faith and live our lives in such a way that is pleasing to God. Could we put our convictions into practice as the characters did in Big Love?
I know you may still have some reservations; however, I highly recommend the show. You might be pleasantly surprised to find the possibility that God could be at work in this television series called Big Love. After all, isn’t that what God is really about—Big Love
Monday, March 21, 2011
But these days, advertisers are selling more than a product. They seem to be interested in selling you a lifestyle. Use our product, and we will make you the person you want to be. You can be sexier or more successful.
This past weekend, I saw a very disturbing advertisement. Hey, I realize sex has been used for years to sell everything from cars to clothes. But Lynx Excite goes beyond the accepted parameters of good taste. If you haven’t seen the spot, let me set it up for you. Their new commercial is titled, “Even Angels Will Fall”. It’s a big-budget affair and looks like it’s straight out of Hollywood. As I said, it has a theatrical feel and presence that pulls you in with stirring music and drama.
The message couldn’t be any clearer. In fact, let me be blunt and spell it out for you. Wearing Lynx Excite will cause even heavenly angels to fall. So if that’s possible, you can only imagine what kind of impact it would have on moral women. In other words, if you’re looking to score (and I’m talking in sexual terms) Lynx Excite promises to deliver the goods.
I believe they have crossed a line. If you agree, let your voice be heard. Call the network and complain. Don’t buy the product. Send a clear message. Some things are worth fighting for. I realize this spot doesn’t have nudity or bad language, but the message it’s communicating is frankly many times worse. Let’s not let this just slip by as the same ole same ole. Take a stand today. If we don’t let our voices be heard, what will they do next?
Friday, March 18, 2011
The hard battle is finding a distributor whether that’s theatrically or straight to DVD. You want to find an audience. It’s a real disappointment after the fundraising and your hard work to finish your movie to realize that only you and your friends will get to see it. But the fact is, that’s a reality for many low-budget filmmakers.
In August of 2010, several of my closest friends, whom I worked with over the years, shot a full-length feature film. At the time of production, they had no distributor. I have good news for you. Today I can report that Hitting the Nuts will be available for sale on April 15, 2011.
The producers have launched a new website, hittingthenuts.com, where you can pre-order the DVD. You can also see an extended trailer and other related information about the movie. Hats off to all of their hard work and effort in making this a reality.
Hitting the Nuts has done extremely well in the film festival circuit. It won the Best Feature at the 2011 Derby City Film Festival and won the Audience Choice for Best Feature Film at the 2010 Cincinnati International Film Festival. If you enjoy comedy, especially improv and mocumentories, you should check this film out.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Now it’s easy to understand why so many of the movies we see feel familiar. When Hollywood executives have a hit, they want to repeat it. If you bought a movie ticket to see Knowing, a movie about the end of the world, why not offer you a similar film like 2012? All we have to do is to change the characters, the setting and the situation, but the format is the same. Once you understand the format, you can unlock all the movies that have ever been produced.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Not only is there a physical process of construction but also a complex, psychological process of meaning and values. What is constructed by a few people can become normalized with the rest of society. We often take this for granted, and it usually goes unquestioned. Often we don’t get to see what words, pictures or arrangements that were rejected during the building process. We see only what the media maker wants us to see. Critical viewing cues vary in nature according to the type of media created.
Colors can convey emotions. Sky blue can represent thoughts that are peaceful and calm. It can suggest honesty, good will and wisdom. Green can suggest eternity, jealousy, money, growth, rebirth or creativity. Silver can be seen as cold, alien, and futuristic. Red can represent anger, debt, warning, violence or sex. Lighting is used to create mood. Comedies are often well lit with bright colors to encourage a sense of happiness and humor. In suspense thrillers, it is just the opposite. They are dark and mysterious. The color palette is intentionally toned down.
Another way to convey meaning is through metaphors and symbolism. Filmmakers use animals, plants, weather, objects, occupations, numbers and places to communicate emotions to viewers. An owl can suggest wisdom, occult powers, death, or a supernatural protector. Sunflowers can be used to convey a sense of the sacred or attractiveness. Lightning can suggest that unexpected changes are coming. Coins can suggest wealth. The sun can suggest creative energy. Even a geographical direction like the South can evoke an emotional response of earthly passion or sensuality. A gate can suggest new beginnings or a change in state. A lawyer can suggest a server of justice or a person with shark-like instincts. The number seven is used to represent the mystical or spiritual. It is used for good luck. The number 6 is for structure, balance and order.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Now my rant is not about hiking or mountain climbing in general. It's about a funny phenomena I have noticed lately. Today a number of people seem to be more concerned about getting to the top than enjoying the experience along the way. Sure, I’m like any climber. I want to get to the mountain peak. But the real experience is the journey. Stopping to enjoy the view and listening to the wind blowing in the trees is just as enjoyable as the thrill of getting to the top.
But these day, it seems we are so goal-oriented that we forget to stop and enjoy the world around us. Have we become that results-driven that we can no longer just savor the experience of living? As the old saying goes, you have to stop and smell the roses.
Maybe it’s just some form of media virus—the absolute need to be connected at all times. If there’s a place to drop off the planet and enjoy life, wouldn’t you think it would be on the top of a 14,000 foot mountain? Do we have to be in constant contact with the world?
So my rant is how do we unplug, slow down and pay attention to the important things and start to enjoy life? Is it possible to leave our cell phones, our computers, and I-Pads at home for once and spend a little time connecting with the things that really matter? As I said, my fear is that we’ve all been infected with this media virus. Perhaps we can work on trying to find a cure.
Friday, March 11, 2011
The New Myths
Traditionally, a myth has been defined as a story or idea that helps to explain customs of a people group or society in general. Myths are the motivating stories or ideas that help to define cultural practices. Often they motivate daily behavior.
The key to recognizing new myths of today’s modern media culture is to think of them as ideas that emerge from long exposure to certain patterns of images. These myths are unconvincing unless you think of them as emerging from a huge array of images, which come from many sources, including advertising, entertainment and news.
First, we have an immediate emotional response wherein we recognize, for example, the image of a flag, a cross, a sunset, or a house, which leads us to react in a way that taps into our inner emotions, past stories and experiences.
Second, we view that image within the context of hundreds of other similar images. By doing this, the new myth that the image is communicating is clearly seen. Otherwise, it cannot stand apart because it would be obscured by powerful stories and the emotional connections that are used to sell the image.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I’m sure you’re thinking “that’s impossible”. Well if you have the determination and the drive, anything can be accomplished. I was there, and I saw it firsthand. I know many people who dream about making movies. And that’s exactly the problem, they only dream about it. Isaac is a filmmaker. He looked at what resources he had available and created a story that was manageable within his budget.
To be honest with you, when Isaac told me he was going to make a movie and shoot it in eight days on his vacation time, I thought he was crazy. He proved me wrong. In fact, his film, Community Spirit, has the potential to actually connect with audiences. So, if he can do it, can you? Is it possible? Absolutely!
First rule of thumb to being a low-budget or no-budget filmmaker is make friends. Here’s an interview clip of Isaac as he provides more details and insight into the world of independent filmmaking.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
For example, I love to climb mountains. My destination is the top. But if I don’t take time along the way to enjoy the experience, I miss the entire reason for getting to the top. It’s the journey not the destination that’s important. Mindfulness means that you take time to watch the passing clouds or listen to the wind blowing in the trees. The experience provides the framework for meaning.
Media mindfulness requires us to have a proper response to the message the media is trying to communicate to us. We must process what we see and hear by our value system and respond by either accepting or rejecting the message. Without practicing media mindfulness, we can watch a television program or a movie without any feeling or response to what is going on and not remember a single thing at the end. However, everything we have seen and heard has been stored on a subconscious level. That’s how media can affect us either positively or negatively when we do not practice media mindfulness. What is lacking is our attention to the present reality we live in.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
What is required is an inner vision. Mathew 6:22-23 states, “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. And if the light you think you have is full of darkness, how deep that darkness is. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness." NLT Jesus uses the metaphors of the eye and the lamp to convey the significance of the proper ordering of values in life. Biblical values will help us to develop a discriminating inner vision.
Monday, March 7, 2011
It’s a valid point. If you go on record and announce to the world that you are trying to save people for Christ or proclaim yourself a media missionary, it could have negative repercussions. You could be seen as another nut case, a crazy evangelical pushing your beliefs on people who don’t want to hear it. In other words, all of your hard efforts to gain trust, build relationships and develop friendships could fall apart.
But remaining in the closet has another downside, one that I think that many Christians who work in media and entertainment haven’t recognized. To effectively reach Hollywood and the entertainment industry and to build the case that indeed Hollywood is a valid mission field requires the help and the support of the Body of Christ. We need the local church actively involved in this effort. But how are they going to see this as a mission field if they don’t know what’s actually happening on the ground floor? If they don’t hear the stories and the testimonies of Christian filmmakers and media makers living missional lifestyles, then how will they be motivated to embrace Hollywood as a mission field?
Yes, there are a few voices out there. Karen Covell from the Hollywood prayer network has been speaking on these matters for years. But it’s going to take more people to reach the Body of Christ and the local church. Without the local church actively involved through prayer, resources and finances, we will never effectively reach the entertainment industry for Christ. It will take a team effort. So the question remains. How do we balance the need for confidentiality for Christians who work in media and entertainment to be effective in their ministries while, at the same time, having the ability to tell our stories to the local church? It’s a perplexing problem.