Monster

Recommended with Extreme Caution. This movie is on par with Se7en, one of the most powerful movies about the nature of depravity. Charlize Theron WILL win the Oscar this year for her acting in this film. There is nothing else even close in any other movie. She is absolutely brilliant in her portrayal of white trash Lesbian prostitute serial killer Aileen Wournos. Every move, every word, every gesture and look is superbly acted by Charlize. This is based on the true story of her killing spree back in the 80s, and her relationship with fellow traveler/”lover” Tyria Moore (In the movie, Selby Wall, played by Christina Ricci). It is a brilliantly written script that captures Aileen’s decline into murder from her abuse as a child and from the destructive world of prostitution where women are not merely dehumanized through objectification but through violent treatment. And writer/director Patty Jenkins carries us through the process with incredibly written voice-over narration by Aileen throughout the film. I do not buy the modernist argument that environment creates us, but I do acknowledge that it certainly influences us, has a major hand in shaping us, depending on our personal response, which is the ultimate category of responsibility. And this film certainly has a pretty good balance in showing the effect of our abusive society on women without negating Aileen’s personal responsibility. It theorizes that Aileen had a fairy tale fantasy of being loved by everyone and becoming a star some day that drove her to do what she did, even from her early days where she would pull up her dress for the boys to see in order to get a few dollars. The film then chronicles her real world experience that crumbles that fantasy, while she holds onto it in utter denial. It paints her picture as a human being turned into a monster, which is only fair because this is basically true, even considering the fact that we are born with depraved natures. She is portrayed as a heterosexual who is driven into lesbianism because of the male abuse of her as a prostitute, which again, is fair enough, though not universal, and I don’t doubt it’s what really happened. But even though there is a female sympathetic understanding of Aileen, they do not seem to fall into the all-too-typical Hollywood agenda of denying Aileen’s personal evil or responsibility. They don’t capitulate to propoganda, and because of this, present a pretty even-handed drama. And that is the power of drama. If done well, it can be one of the most powerful forms of argumentation for a viewpoint. There is no such thing as a neutral drama. All drama is crafted by the storyteller to prove a particular worldview or viewpoint and this film is no exception. The filmmaker no doubt used quite a bit of artistic license to make changes to fit her deliberate theme. But to tell the story in such a way as to ring true to the human condition and to the spirit of the persons involved is the goal. Jenkins’s interpretation of Wournos is clearly an interpretation but it is done very persuasively. The scenes of prostitution with the “johns” is so poignantly portrayed as pathetic that one can only be repulsed by it all. This is not titillating stuff, it is depiction of depravity the way it ought to be, as despicable, not desirable. Very much the way the Bible depicts evil. It shows Aileen’s “first kill” as an abusive killer himself who was going to kill Aileen and cut her up into pieces with a hacksaw. This is an obvious appeal to justification and sympathy and I doubt was the fact of the case, but it is certainly within the parameters of that world. But Aileen is not merely depicted as defending herself in every case. She becomes addicted to the killing and ends up even killing innocent men who are trying to help her as well. And she is also portrayed as sometimes NOT killing a man because of his innocence. By the end of the film, Aileen is caught and her companion confesses and is used by the FBI to trap Aileen into confessing to some of the killings over the phone. Aileen recognizes this with her street smarts, and in an act of sacrificial love, accepts complete and total blame for all the killings, in order to save her “lover.” Of course, the film portrayed Selby as completely innocent of any killings, but certainly a knowing accomplice. I think the title then is intended to be ironic. The film shows Aileen as a human being driven by love, albeit a confused love, who is made into a “monster” by a loveless cruel world. But I think it also fairly displays Aileen’s own rebellious inability to face reality in favor of her fantasy. So I think there is sympathy without negating responsibility. Excellent, powerful, persuasive drama. By the time Aileen is carried away to her execution, she has given up all her fantasy and has embraced the nihilistic conclusion that what they tell you in life, “All you need is love. Faith will move mountains, everything happens for a reason. [Laughs] Well, they gotta tell you something.” The transformation is complete. A true warning for our postmodern generation that ignoring the real evil in this world will crush you in its grasp.

Cold Mountain

Not really recommended. You know, after the moral atrocity that was The English Patient, I didn’t know Minghella could actually appreciate true virtues. Or at least try to, as he tries in this film to do so. Unfortunately, it ends up being the same old Romantic worship of individual feelings over higher values that The English Patient was. First of all, Nicole Kidman is brilliant, playing the Southern Belle waiting for her man, Jude Law, to return from the Civil War. Renee Zellweger is also great as a woman who teaches the aristocratic Kidman to learn how to fend for herself with pragmatic knowledge. This is a great and typically American critique of aristocratic high culture. Kidman can name the constellations in the night sky but doesn’t know true north to navigate. She can arrange flower displays, but doesn’t know how to grow flowers. She can play music, but doesn’t know a thing about a farm. And when her father dies and she is left alone to fend for herself and tend the farm, she is a failure until Renee shows up and teaches her like a student while she forces her to milk the cows and plant the crops. It’s a great critique of useless knowledge for status sake in favor of knowledge of how to survive. Aristocracy versus the working man – or woman. Unfortunately, Jude Law is completely soulless in his portrayal as the Confederate soldier who deserts the war to go back to his beloved to marry her. What was great about this film was how it elevated the honorableness of two lovers saving themselves sexually for each other, especially the man, through temptations and trials. Nice to see that such “antiquated” values are still elevated in some movies, surprising though it may be in a world filled with fornication to excess (although they usually have to take place in the “distant” past). This is something that was a noble part of Southern culture, respect for women and politeness toward them. Even when the lovers consummate at the end, there is an attempt to validate it through impromptu marriage vows, AFTER Jude says he will wait for the wedding ceremony even after all these three years of searching and finally finding her. Now, that is virtue. Virginity as virtue . I was grateful for the balance of viewpoints in showing both Northern and Southern soldiers as capable of goodness and evil. It is so typical and pure bigoted prejudice to always show the South as all wicked and evil people and the Northerners as heros. Two other movies that break that bigoted mold against the South are Ride With the Devil and Gods and Generals. Since it is an updating of the Odyssey, Cold Mountain plays with the idea of fate, as one character says, “There’s a plan for each and every one of us. We all got a job.” Sad to say, the true living God is ignored in this understanding, in a way that violates history, since most Southerners were very strong Christians. Of course, Christianity does get it’s stereotypical riddling in the pastor, played well by Philip Seymour Hoffman, guilty of being the secret wanton sex addict. Predictable stereotype. But at least Kidman’s father was an authentic man of God (a pastor too), so there’s some balance there. The real violation of this story is that it is another Existentialist war movie. It denigrates higher causes and elevates human lovers as the highest good to seek. This is woefully unsatisfying for anyone who has seen the true end of such things. The Existentialist lives for the moment, not for the future or for something higher than himself. As Jude Law says, the moments he had with Kidman were everything, even the moments that they dreamed in their hearts while separated. “It don’t matter if they’re real or made up. The shape of your neck, that’s real.” The Existentialist notion that abstract thoughts are nothing compared to real human experience. So Minghella’s worldview considers personal subjective experience of one another to be the significance of life. How shallow and empty because not only do people, including lovers, fail one another, but they are not eternal within themselves. Moments and experiences and people have no value if they are not rooted in an eternal, outside and higher than one’s self. If Minghella thinks the physical experiences with one another is all we have, then he’s living in the Matrix, baby. And you know, no matter what side you are on, North or South, the Civil War sure did have higher values worth fighting and dying for. To negate that as unimportant in a sort of “can’t we all get along” simplistic pacifism is worse than ignorant, it is criminal. This is very common now in war movies to reject the “higher cause” in favor of the individual. But we have to realize that the result of this Romantic Individualism is NOT to give value to the individual as they suppose, but to totally deny value to the individual altogether. Without a higher cause, there is nothing but the will to power. The strong eat the weak, and that’s just too bad for the weak. For more detail on this see my article: “War Movies: The New Trend in Themes”

I think one of the reasons why the movie is not doing well at the box office is because after this 2 hour and 30 minute journey of getting back to his sweetheart, Jude Law dies at the end. He is killed by the marauding bounty hunters who are tracking down deserters so they can get their lands and possessions, Kidman’s farm being the biggest prize. Well, I must applaud the storytellers here because it is a moment of higher values in a movie filled with Romantic individualism. Jude really must die because after all, he is a deserter that is deserving of death no matter what your side of the war. Desertion is cowardice and treason, which is not a good character trait to invest in your hero. That makes this a flawed heroic journey, and thus an unsatisfying one for the viewer.

Paycheck

Not Recommended. Pretty formulaic conspiracy story about seeing the future. Compared to Phillip Dick’s other stories that became Blade Runner and Minority Report, this is just terribly uninspiring. I never thought I would see Uma Thurman act so poorly. Ben Affleck is a reverse engineer who does illegal work for a corporate marauder played by Aaron Eckhart. After he does his work, his memories are erased with a special machine so he doesn’t know what he did. This latest job turns out to be a machine that can see into the future and of course, the bad guy wants to use it to get rich and control. There are some clever sayings throughout about the nature of fortune telling. Knowledge of the future controls people. If a futurist tells people that there will be war, then a country goes to war preemptively to get a jump on it (an obvious and inadequate reference to the recent preemptive strike on Iraq by the U.S.). If the futurist says there will be a stock market crash, everyone rushes to sell their stocks before it happens, thus creating the crash. Ben says, “If you show someone the future, they have no future. Take away the future, you take away their hope.” Knowledge of the future is a form of control over others. A Romantic materialist worldview is expressed by Uma when she says to Ben, “All we are is the sum of our experiences.” An interesting approach to this ability to see the future is used by the storytellers. They use the Eastern notion of palm reading. The big future-seeing machine is simply a technological palm reader. This is set up earlier by showing a palm reading diagram in Ben’s apartment as he plays with hand balls with the Tao symbols of yin and yang on them. This Eastern notion of fortune telling is a clever idea for explaining the basis of foreknowledge and is very chic now in movies, but it is pagan and fraudulent in truth.

Something’s Gotta Give

Recommended with caution. Finally, a movie about an older man who falls in love with a woman his own age, rather than the age of his daughter. For that, I loved this film. And of course, only a woman could have written it and directed it because of the adolescent understanding that most men in the business have of relationships. Of course, the fornication in this story is not recommendable, but the story about an aged man who finally grows up is very satisfying and mature.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Highly Recommended (Did you have any doubt??) What can I say about this movie to do it justice? It clearly should win the Oscar for best picture. It is the conclusion of the series and has all the best battle sequences, as well as pinnacles of honor. The themes of friendship, honor, loyalty, courage are at their height. And the overarching theme that we must fight and even die to save a civilization from evil is certainly not a well-loved idea by many who hate the freedom of Western civilization created by a Judeo-Christian worldview. And yes, that is exactly what the foundation of this mythology is, and I know some people just hate to admit that, but it’s true through and through. Those who would try to paint this series as racist because supposedly villains are “of color” in the film are themselves racists and bigots. Their racist hatred is blind to the fact that one of the biggest villains is white, as well as a host of other wild men and evildoers who joined Sauramon. I guess these racists would not be satisfied unless all the villains are white and all the good guys are of color. These racists must also be bigoted against small people since Gimli and Hobbits are heros and they are calling the story racist. And they must be against the environment since trees and ents are good guys. I guess facts don’t matter when someone is trying to stir up hatred and prejudice. You can be as balanced as you can and agenda-driven people will still see their conspiracy theory. The funny thing is, the whole point of Tolkien’s mythology is precisely multicultural — in the good sense. That is, all the races of men, dwarves, elves, ents etc. should stand together and fight evil in every form, no matter what race it comes from. The metaphor for race and color in this story is obviously dwarf, elf, man, ent, etc. Duh!

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Recommended with qualifications. A fictional story of the historical Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and the occasion of his famous painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The girl is portrayed as a maidservant hired by Jan’s wife, whose beauty becomes the inspiration for said masterpiece. It is a story about adultery. But not your classic tale of physical infidelity. There is never a consummation. But rather, it is about the reality of adultery of the heart. Jesus said that to even lust after a woman who is not your wife is considered adultery of the heart by God and is just as serious. Boy, that one doesn’t go over too well in modern society. But it is treated with exquisite subtlety and profundity here. Using an artist to do so is the most believable because artists are obsessed with beauty. They can spot and adore minute sensual details: the curve of a neck, the delicacy of an eyelash, every hair on a woman’s head, even to the perfect placement of a single strand. We artists can really worship every detail of beauty and thus can be the perfect metaphor for the reality of inner lust. Colin Firth plays Vermeer with understated poise and passion. Scarlett Johannson is hauntingly perfect for the role as Griet, the Girl with a Pearl Earring. This movie is like a dutch painting in many of it’s scenes as well as the minimalist dialogue with an emphasis on repressed passion. It is powerful. I have a couple problems with it. First, the ending is very Bridges of Madison County selfishness. It sets up the ravishes of adultery of the heart, but plays for the passion of lust over the passion of love. Griet is let go when Vermeer’s wife discovers she is the apple of his eye. That the girl can understand beauty and color and light like a painter. Because Griet has more in common with Jan than his own wife. The pearl earring is a powerful metaphor for the heart’s treasure as it is Vermeer’s wife’s favorite most exquisite and treasured piece of jewelry, the act of wearing alone which proves a violation of the marriage intimacy. It’s all really quite spiritual without capitulating to mere symbolism or allegory. I mean you really sense what is going on in the hearts of these people between the lines of their outward behavior. It’s brilliant storytelling that incarnates the theme in the behavior of the characters, not merely their words. And the last shot shows Griet receiving the treasured pearl earrings from Vermeer as a gift, indicating very clearly that she has his heart even without the physical consummation. This is the typical Existentialist or Romantic ethic that places passion as the highest value over honor. Follow your heart over do your duty. (And yes, another topic I write an entire chapter about in my book, Hollywood Worldviews). It had such good potential to end tragically for the moral high ground, but chose selfishness as virtue. Ah, will we ever be rid of self-obsessed selfish Romanticism? My second problem has to do with it being a fictional speculative interpretation of a real person’s life. I have a real love/hate relationship with this postmodern fictionalizing of non-fiction. On the one hand, I don’t have a big problem with telling a speculative story if you remain true to the spirit of the historical people or event (Witness Braveheart). But on the other hand, if your story impugns someone’s character as does this story with Vermeer (It accuses him of previous infidelity and suggests it as an ongoing character trait), and you have no evidence of such failings, then you are instilling unfair prejudice against a person. I am not aware that there is any knowledge of such behavior in Vermeer’s life, but if there was, even rumors of it, then that would be fine to portray it as a possibility, but if there isn’t any indication of such licentiousness, then to suggest there was is more than unfair, it is libelous.

Stuck on You

Recommended. A Farrelly brothers comedy about a pair of conjoined twins (NOT Siamese! Conjoined!) played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. For those concerned, this is probably the least offensive of the Farrelly brother movies, Me, Myself and Irene being the most offensive. It’s the story of these brothers who are total opposites in personality yet they find a harmony in sacrificial love for one another and the ability to work together as complimentary opposites. Matt gives up his freedom because he decided against the operation that would separate them. Why? Because he had most of the liver and that would jeopardize Greg’s life, so he chose his brother’s life over his freedom Wow, what sacrifice. Then Greg wants to become an actor in Hollywood and Matt is horrified since he has major stage fright. Not to mention the obvious impossibility of conjoined twins actually acting in movies. But of course, the impossible happens and Greg gets to costar with Cher in a TV show ( A wonderfully surprising self-lampooning by Cher as a snippy, self-obsessed, image obsessed, spoiled has-been superstar). Eventually, Greg decides to push for the separation operation because he sees that Matt is miserable in Hollywood and wants to go back to their small town. So Greg sacrifices and risks his safety so his brother can find his dreams since Greg got to find his. It’s all really rather touching and a great tale about brotherly love and self sacrifice for the happiness of others. It’s also about finding harmony in complimentarity, opposites can find interdependency as well as independence in a harmony, if we only compromise with giving love for one another. It’s about how true deformity and inhumanity lies in the Hollywood abuse of people and themselves. The people around these brothers are more disabled than they are. It’s ultimately about connectedness and interdependence, those things we all look for, but for which few are willing to pay the price. Also, what I love about the Farrelly brothers is that they use real people in their films who are otherwise discriminated against in Hollywood: the untouchables, the handicapped. Not just the actors playing handicapped, but actual handicapped actors playing roles. And they use them in loving ways without patronizing them. They address the ridicule that these precious people receive with a straight up honesty, but always have them rise above it with their own dignity. This is genuine and authentic human filmmaking. Tons of laughs and tons of beautiful humanity.

The Last Samurai

Recommended. Okay , this is “Dances With Samurai,” not a Cruise Braveheart, but it is very good. Brilliantly written script, great acting and directing etc. Should win some Oscars for sure. It’s the story of an American Civil War Hero, Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise, who has fallen into drinking and despair because of his involvement in military atrocities against American Indians (namely killing innocent women and children). He gets a lucrative offer by a Japanese industrialist to come over to Japan and train the Emperor’s troops to fight against the Samurai. Turns out the Emperor loves all things Western and wants to “modernize,” eliminate the ancient ways of tribalism and the Bushido Code. But when Cruise is forced into leading the Emperor’s troops into battle before they are ready, they are decimated by the Samurai, who are born and bred warriors. Cruise is taken captured by the General of the Samurai, Katsumoto, played elegantly by Ken Watanabe. In an effort to understand his enemy, Katsumoto keeps Algren alive and has conversations with him. As Algren gets well, he is drawn in to their disciplined living, and learns the way of the Samurai. In a strange and confusing twist, the Samurai “fight for the Emperor” even though the Emperor does not want them to. And so the final battle arrives where the government troops descend upon the Samurai with Howitzer cannons and gattling guns and a regiment of 2000 men against the 500 Samurai. By now, Cruise has sided with his captors and decides to join them, sealing a sure death.

One of the themes of this film is “discipline and determination.” These are two warriors, one fallen, one noble. They learn from each other (but mostly West learns from East). The Samurai are disciplined and worship honor. The American is determined, he does not give up even when he has lost and he does not kill himself in shame. (Although he lives in his shame and in a way “kills himself” with his drinking). I loved this theme. The Samurai, with all their “nobility” and code of honor and pursuit of perfection do not know the sheer will of American determinism. We don’t give up. The disappointing thing about this film is that it is predominantly the typical “East meets West and West has a lot to learn” movie. Is American filmmaking the only self-loathing enterprise? I am sick and tired of the postmodern accusation that western civilization corrupts everything. “Western civilization is what is wrong with the world.” Anti-Western bigotry is unfortunately a part of this film. The Emperor’s problems are depicted as arising from his desire to modernize and go “western.” In the very beginning of the film, Algren muses sarcastically about American Westward expansion, “Thanks to those who died in the name of technical advancement and commercial opportunity.” Even the bad Japanese guys are the ones who are westernized “capitalists,” seeking profit from their participation in backing the Emperor. Westernism is shown as without honor, honor that is being destroyed by eliminating the ancient way of Bushido. The Emperor is shown as an adolescent, waffling over his decision of whether to eliminate Samurai or not. He is becoming westernized, which is depicted as bad, but finally at the end, when he receives the honored sword of Katsumoto, who was killed wastefully in the last battle, he “becomes a man,” with a “mature” resolution and rejects the treaty with the West that everything was building toward. He finally makes a stand, and grows up by rejecting the West. He says, “We are westernized. But we cannot forget who we are or where we come from.” So its okay to criticize western European feudalism like the movie Timeline and others, but Japanese feudalism is somehow any different? And to top things off, Algren offers himself to the Emperor as his subject by offering to kill himself if the Emperor sees fit. This is an action of ultimate dedication and worship to the Emperor that reflects the mind of a Samurai. It shows that the hero too has rejected his evil western ways and become an Eastern disciple. Interesting that western filmmakers tell a story that reinforces a belief that would negate the very freedom and rights that they treasure.

This is where the imbalance of the movie comes in. I’ve learned a bit about the Bushido Code and the Eastern worldview, having done some research for my own movie. What I didn’t see in this movie was the negatives of the Eastern way of life. Sure, they worship beauty, peace, perfection and harmony, but they also are cruel and uncompassionate because of their Buddhist belief in karma. Seeking to better people’s lives is wrong and punishable with violence because they are supposed to work out their own past life “sins.” Under their calm demeanor lies a deceiving duplicity of brutality against individual’s rights and freedom. But we don’t see that. Where is the revelation of the evil oppression of the masses by the caste system of hierarchy? And their idol worship of the Emperor also feeds despotism that enslaves the masses in a have/have not system of power and oppression. (The movie shows that the Emperor is very human and imperfect, but it does not show the evil of this belief) And by the way, the Bushido Code is no better than the Western code of Chivalry. And boy, you know, women don’t fair well in this system either. Women as servants of men. It’s funny, that movies must show the oppression of women by men in a western patriarchal society, but when it comes to Eastern society, then all of a sudden, it’s “oh, let us respect their different culture.” Oh? So it’s terrible when the west subjects women to men, but it’s somehow “unique and appreciable” when the East enslaves women to men’s power? The notion of the individual in the East is entirely negated in favor of the collective (and in this case, The Emperor as god). This results in cruelty and feudalism and ultimately Fascism that Japan resulted in during the 1930s. When the individual is negated, freedom is non-existant and tyranny results. This is the philosophical problem of the one and the many. Yes, the western mindset is individualistic and negates the community in many ways, resulting in the tribalism and tyranny of modern special interest groups. This is the many over the one. But the One over the Many in the East results in tyranny and slavery. I’ve got news for self-loathing American Westerners and America haters the world over: It was the “cruel Western America” that saved the world from the “peace-loving, harmony-worshipping, oh-so-noble” Eastern Japanese who wanted to enslave the world in the 40s. It was the “evil western technology” founded on the Christian worldview that stopped the oppression of the ancient Bushido warrior code as it plundered Europe and freedom. Yes, the “quiet and gentle” Japanese just happened to think that white boys and blacks, as well as ALL non-Asian races were inferior. America is not perfect. It’s got PLENTY of problems with it. But so does every other nation and culture. Western modernism is loaded with evils. But so is ancient Eastern monism. To neglect that two-edged sword of reality is irresponsible and a double standard. None of the Kingdoms of Man, East or West, North or South, can find the peace and elimination of war. They all either favor the One or the Many and cannot find the true balance between them. Only the Trinitarian Creator of Christianity has the philosophical foundation to maintain that perfect balance. Without the living God, they all of man’s philosophy end in tyranny, the worship of the state as god. Only the kingdom of God can bring an end to all wars and usher in the peace and harmony we say that we desire.

Isaiah 2:2-4 Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.

For more on this notion of the One and the Many as well as an examination of war movies, see my article, “War Movies: The New Trend in Themes”

Elf

Recommended with Qualification. Will Ferrel is a human that was abandoned as a baby and through happenstance ended up at Santa’s home in the North Pole. So he is raised as an elf until he discovers one day he is actually human and sets out to search for his father who lives in New York. Of course, the father, played by James Caan, is a selfish SOB who doesn’t want anything to do with Will. The laughs come from the Elf’s naieve innocence in contrast with the cynical lost people of the city. But he wins everyone’s heart, including Caan’s, and a love interest as well. Sweet, sweet, sweet. This film is funny, warm-hearted, endearing, has some good values and is totally clean. And best of all, it’s theme is that innocence wins. So why don’t I recommend it? I want to, I really do. I wanted to support a wholesome valued movie. But values are more than the lack of sex and violence. They are also about worldviews. The reason I recommend with qualification is because it is a mythology that intentionally obscures the true and sacred meaning of Christmas: Jesus Christ. That’s right: Christ-Mass. I’m not against secular mythology per se. I have no problem with using prevailing mythologies or genres subversively to communicate good values. In fact, I’m not even against all Santa Claus movies, sight unseen. It’s just that I know that the Santa Claus myth has developed with the intent to divert attention from the true and sacred source of grace and redemption, and for that reason it is personally offensive. Now, I know that the fat old man in red was based upon St. Nick who was originally a Christian. But in this case, the man in red is more like the devil because of what he has become: a smoke screen obscuring the “true spirit” of Christmas. Let’s be honest, there is nothing about “St. Nick” in this popular image as he appears in this movie (And I’m sure radical activist Ed Asner certainly wouldn’t have played Santa if there was). And I know that Christmas was originally a pagan festival called “Saturnalia” that the Roman Catholic Church took over and reinvented as Christmas. And this is exactly what the Santa Claus myth has done, stolen back the Christian holy day and redefined it in secular terms of human goodness WITHOUT God. You know, naughty and nice, which is ultimately a system of salvation by good works. Pure balderdash. Damning balderdash at that. So the pagans have stolen the holy day back and made it a mere holiday that diverts man’s attention from the one thing he needs most: A Savior. That is the sacrilege of it. That is the rape of the Christian mythology.

The movie is all about innocence lost in a cynical selfish culture. Great intentions, bad results. And you know, it would not take much for me to turn around and change everything I just said. If only the storytellers had tied in the true meaning of Christmas, even subtley, in the background, then I would whole-heartedly embrace it. And wouldn’t that be creative irony, too? The myth pointing to the reality. Alas, God is IGNORED entirely. There wasn’t even a manger at the bottom of a Christmas tree. And for that reason, this film is disingenuine and subversively negative to Christmas. The heart of the story is that people need to believe in Santa in order to rediscover the innocence or goodness within themselves, the exact opposite of the truth. This is symbolized in the idea of singing out of your heart, as in Christmas Carols. And even then, they don’t sing real Christmas Carols. Maybe Santa could have given recognition to the true meaning by noticing a manger under a tree with even a slight nod, or the people could have sung true Christmas Carols as the expression of their “belief” rather than a Santa carol as they did in the movie. Even something as small as that would have been redeeming to the story. But no, we are slaves to postmodern fideism. Believe in a “good lie” is the solution in this film. Believe in Santa. The power is in the subject of belief, not the object of belief. It doesn’t matter that something is false, if it helps us accomplish the good. Let us do evil that good may come. Believe! Believe! Believe! — Just NOT in Jesus. And don’t even get me going on the Easter Bunny…

The Missing

Not Recommended. This is a very well done Ron Howard remake movie of the John Wayne movie, The Searchers. It’s about a woman in the western frontier, played brilliantly by Cate Blanchette (Isn’t she always brilliant?), whose daughter is kidnapped by some rogue Indians in order to sell as a slave in Mexico. She teams up with her father, (played by Tommy Lee Jones) an Indian convert himself, who she hates for abandoning her as a young child, to track them down and rescue her daughter. Its got it all. Excitement, suspense, pathos, great acting, good storytelling, etc. But it also has anti-Christ bigotry. The woman is clearly set up as a Christian and modernist because she is a nurse of sorts who helps people over their superstitions. The father comes around after abandoning her many years ago as a child and she cannot forgive him. Even though he is shown as in need of her forgiveness, in our politically correct culture, the judgmental exclusivist (read: Christian) is always the bad guy against the “open –minded” pluralist (read: Indian). SO casting the Christian as judgmental and contemptuous of other religions places her in an inferior position and her faith as undesirable. Her name is Magdalena, like the disciple of Jesus. Anyway, the Indian father may have a past that he is trying to reconcile, but he is shown as more sincere about his Indian religion than Cate is. She has nothing but contempt for his “savage” religion as she calls it. She is shown as prejudiced and arrogant and unforgiving. Okay, fine. Everyone has something wrong with them that they need to change. But her faith is clearly shown as without power compared to the Indian religion in the context of the movie. When the father gives her daughter, his granddaughter, who is with them, some moccasins to wear, Cate rejects them, until the little girl loses them and Cate is obliged to give in and let him give the moccasins to her. Then when he offers magic beads to protect them from the spirits, Cate rejects them also with condescension. When he scares her with a story about evil spirits, she lets him put the beads on the kid just in case. This is an obvious surrender, showing the weakness of her own religion to really truly protect. And when the Indian sorcerer who they are tracking gets a hold of a personal item of Cate’s he performs a voodoo ceremony that makes Cate sick with evil spirits. Her father and another good Indian set about to counter the black magic with good magic and they fight to heal Cate. Meanwhile, the little girl recites the Bible as well, so when Cate is finally released from the evil spirits, it is a bit ambiguous as to which religion made the difference. But it isn’t really. It’s really favored to the Indian side. It’s clear that the Indian voodoo has power over Cate, her relationship to Christ having no power to protect her (unlike the Bible and real Christian experience that indicate just the opposite). The little girl reads an irrelevant passage of “begats” in the Bible, making it words that are meaningless to the situation and ultimately irrelevent, and the girl’s words quickly blend in to sound not too different from the babbling tongues of the Indians, making her really subordinate to their magic. Also, Cate, after being healed, gladly puts on the protection beads, showing once again that her religion needs to keep submitting and changing it’s view because it has no real power. Cate’s faith is also without much conviction worthy of following when she is shown as being a fornicator, sleeping with a man who is not her husband. Meanwhile, the father is shown as happily and satisfyingly married to several woman, some at the same time, another pagan antichristian jab. Also the father’s religion is made out to make him “one with nature” as he talks to a hawk who leads him magically on to safety at one point in the film. The little granddaughter learns about dreams from the Indian father and she has a dream about their rescue, just like granddad suggested. So the little girl is helped and grows because of her attachment to Indian beliefs, not Christian ones. The Indian beliefs are shown as magical and with real power, while the Christian ones are not, and just lead to arrogance or condescension. At the end, Cate gives a cross back to her rescued daughter and says, “I thought I’d die wearing it,” another subtle negative reference to all things Christian. And you know, its funny, but you would think having Indians be the villains would be politically incorrect. But not here. You see, the bad Indians are only bad because they are US Cavalry scouts led astray by some caucasian army deserters. The Indians are only bad cause they’re hanging with white boys! So it is the white man who is really responsible for their corruption. Also, the sorcerer bad guy is portrayed as so ugly and mutated in his size and looks that he ends up being a freak oddity never to be confused with “normal” Indians. The rampant anti-Christ propaganda made this movie hard to appreciate and harder to recommend.