Oscar Win: The Shape of Water Reveals the Soul of Hollywood — Bestiality.

A sci-fi interspecies romance. A mute female janitor working in a 1960s top-secret government facility falls in love with an amphibious fish-man that looks like a modern Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Okay, so I have to give the Academy kudos for not giving the Oscar to the movie that celebrates adult sexual exploitation of teens. Instead, they opted for the movie that celebrates sex with animals.

That’s like kicking out Harvey Weinstein, but keeping Roman Polanski.

And it is entirely predictable.

A theater full of moral hypocrites, sexual predators and their enablers joke about how depraved they are, and avoid speaking truth to their power, while they award best picture to a Christophobic fantasy about sex with animals.

Please. Stop the madness.

Yes, I know they hinted at “the problem” by virtue signaling, but the Pharisees did not address it explicitly like they do with “other people’s sins.” Now, all of a sudden, they are sensitive and subtle. They were like a government agency that assures us they are investigating their crimes, “So don’t worry, we’ll clean up our mess.”

Yeah, right. While they arbitrarily destroy other men’s lives with mere accusations and think the fascist race for the guillotine is “justice”.

Their moral confusion is apparent in everything they do. It’s time for real change.

Social Justice for Animals

But back to the movie, an abominable SJW hate-fest against another caricature of Christianity, and an elevation of the very paganism that leads to the sexual predation that Hollywood is consumed with, while mocking Christian men, like Mike Pence, for their honorable chivalric actions toward women.

Remember, the director, Guillermo del Toro, made the very pagan Pan’s Labyrinth that was a fantasaical glorification of pagan blood sacrifice.

Well, he does it again in The Shape of Water.

The janitor is a lonely mute woman, Elisa, who works as a janitor at a government facility in the 1960s, a symbolic choice for the Cold War as a metaphor for “American paranoia” that supposedly leads to violent oppression of rights.

This is the stereotypical “Red Scare” narrative that worldwide panic was created by the vast right wing conspiracy about an ideology called Communism that didn’t murder over 100 million people and certainly didn’t threaten us with all those big scary nuclear weapons. And uncle Joe was a great guy too! Because we now know that 100 million weren’t murdered by Communism, but rather the paranoid fear of America!

So, the storytellers try to paint a theme about “civil rights” by making the protagonist a marginalized victim, who only has two friends, who just happen to be other marginalized victims in the social justice pantheon: Zelda, a black woman at work and Giles, a gay artist next door.

So, the set-up is to equate her story with one of oppression and forbidden love. You know those evils that only Christian patriarchy create.

Which comes to the villain, another vile caricature of Christianity… Continue reading

OSCAR WATCH • Brooklyn: This is What American Exceptionalism Used to Be


Circa 1950s, a young Irish girl makes her way to America to find work in New York, and finds herself falling in love with the Land of Dreams.

Saoirse Ronan gives an Oscar winning performance in this simple tale of Irish immigrants in the Big Apple. It follows her course as a young single girl named Eilis in Ireland from a struggling fatherless family of her mother and sister. She receives a sponsorship from a Catholic priest in New York to help her find work in America.

She arrives in the Land of Dreams and suffers homesickness and loneliness, until she meets a young Italian boy at a local dance who fancies Irish girls. They strike up a relationship that carries through to the end of the film with true American simplicity and honesty. He’s a plumber in a family with dreams to marry and to buy land and a home on an empty Long Island along with his family members.

It is truly the American Dream in its least corrupted form: hard working self-reliance coupled with family devotion and ethnic community that offers the hope of making one’s way in the world. The essence of the goodness of the middle-class. It is what made America great. Where normal people could come for a chance to work hard without the oppression of race, class or gender that plagued all of history’s cultures before.

It is tempting to find in Brooklyn an analogy with modern day immigration issues. But if anything, it is a rebuke to the tribalist rhetoric that dominates current minority and immigrant exploitation, creates a lawless defiance of legal boundaries, and promotes social violence.

Read on to see why…

Continue reading

OSCAR WATCH • The Theory of Everything: Unintentional Tragedy of a Crippled Atheist Mind.



The story of brilliant Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife Jane Hawking, based on her book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

If Eddie Redmayne does not win the Oscar for his portrayal of famed scientist Stephen Hawking, it will be a proof for the existence of Satan.

Hawking is as universally famous for his Quantum physics as for the debilitating disease that froze his body into a prison. This movie does a masterful job of capturing the heart wrenching decline of Hawking’s physical capacities that began in his college years at Cambridge. You cannot watch his transformation from a young idle but brilliant young man into the twisted frozen cripple without having your heart deeply moved by the pathos and irony of such misfortune.

But this movie is also a love story that embodies the additional irony of an uneasy relationship between faith and reason in our secular age. Felicity Jones is fabulous with nuance as Jane Wilde Hawking, who meets Stephen in college and falls in love with him just before his diagnosis of ALS, the disease of the baseball hero, Lou Gehrig. It cripples the body, but leaves the mind untouched.

What makes this story so fascinating is that Jane is an Anglican Christian while Stephen is an atheist. When Jane first finds out that Stephen is a “cosmologist,” he explains it is like “religion for intelligent atheists.” She asks him “what do you worship?” and he replies, “One single equation that explains the universe.” This motivation, which sounds suspiciously like a God substitute, becomes the Bethlehem Star for Hawking’s life journey as a mathematician who “can’t allow his equations to be muddled by a supernatural creator.”

Ad300x250-IncarnSubverBut Jane is no simple-minded pushover in her spiritual beliefs. She retorts with a feistiness that she carries through the film, “That seems less an argument against God than against physicists,” and thus their stormy relationship of passionate strange attraction that gives Stephen motive to live, and the spiritual repulsion that drove them apart. (In one point of the movie, they look up at the stars and Jane quotes Genesis One. But she doesn’t say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” rather, she says, “In the beginning was the heavens and the earth…” Which is revealing of the filmmaker’s bias in not wanting to give God too much screen time.)

The strain on their relationship develops when Stephen is incapable of helping Jane with family duties, He withdraws into his physics work as she raises their (ultimately three) children. He lives in denial of his disease because he refuses to be defined by it. He avoids using a wheelchair, keeps using the stairs by crawling up and sliding down, and worst of all, denies Jane the full time help she needs to take care of him. This character flaw in Hawking has the result of incarnating a paradigm for the triumph of the human spirit in the face of great adversity. An imprisoned body cannot keep the self-determined mind from flying to heights of grandeur.

The problem is that what the filmmakers seek to depict as a victory of boundless humanity over the boundaries of life actually becomes an unwitting tragedy of the self-delusion of mankind without God. As much as Hawking denies his limitations, he hurts the one who loved him most. He ultimately has to accept a wheelchair, can no longer climb the stairs and gives in to having full time help. Why? Because reality will always crush human pride and force us into submission whether we like it or not. (We. Will. All. Die.)

And that leads to the second tragic element of this story. The new help is a man who begins with genuine concern to help Stephen, but inevitably falls in love with Jane. And one can certainly understand the overwhelming temptation of having a “normal” relationship with a healthy equal under such strain. Jane and her reluctant lover manage to fight their baser instincts our of their moral convictions and apparently do not give in to temptation.

Jane’s own moral striving over the flesh is contrasted with Stephen’s selfish absorption. But the dark matter between them leads to Stephen’s own adulterous betrayal of Jane with one of his later female helpers. We see a twisted kind of loving control the new caretaker has with Stephen that draws him away from the one woman who truly loved him and sought his well being for 30 years. The mind is not the only thing that can overcome physical limitations, so can human pride.

But the real tragedy of this story is not so much in the physical captivity of a great mind, or the degeneration of love and marriage, as much as it is in the spiritual captivity of a mind in denial of reality. Again, this is not the intent of the filmmakers, but rather the inescapable deconstruction of their own godless theme.

At the end of the film, in an atheist sermon quite similar to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot foolishness, Hawking says to a crowd at the end of the film, “It is clear we are ordinary primates on a planet orbiting an average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred million galaxies. but ever since the dawn of civilization, people have sought for understanding to the underlying order of the world. There ought to be something special about boundary conditions of the universe. And what can be more special than that there is no boundary? There should be no boundary to human endeavor. No matter how bad life seems, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope.”

No boundaries, huh? Exactly what scientific observation or mathematical formula gives the physicist that idea? That may be a nice humanistic slogan of inspiration but it is deeply scientifically false and lethal to finding that simple equation for salvation. For our boundaries are so intrinsic to our existence that denying them is self-delusion. We are all going to degenerate and die. That’s a boundary condition that is scientifically irrefutable and inescapable (despite the sci-fi fantasy of transhumanists). We are contingent finite beings in a contingent finite universe—also a scientific fact.

If there are no boundaries, then physicist, heal thyself.
Or should I say, physicist, create thyself.

Ever since the Tower of Babel, Homo Ignoramus Rebellious has sought to “make a name for ourselves” by building our towers of self-deification. We don’t want to be accountable to a Creator, so we deny our own limitations and boundary conditions and in flying leaps of irrational delusion, conclude we are without limits. We can become as gods. Well, if you deny the central point of rationality, the Judeo-Christian God, it makes sense that you will replace him with an idol of yourself. The insanity of Original Sin.

It is in understanding the boundaries and learning how to let them guide you to the truth wherein real freedom lays.

Einstein once said that scientists are poor philosophers and he was right. Like Hawking, they call for the “end of philosophy and religion,” with their pseudo-science, while they make speculations that they themselves do not even realize are not scientific but philosophical and religious speculation.

One can claim that the universe is infinite, but in order to do so, one must be a science denier. To posit that everything came from nothing is anti-science. To posit that life came from non-life is anti-science. To posit a multi-verse of infinite universes is pure philosophical speculation without empirical support. It amounts to a religion created to salve the wound of the self-referential absurdity of atheism. Atheist scientific speculators like Hawking are merely creating their own religion in the name of physics—but make no mistake, it is religion and philosophy, not science.

The summary of Hawking’s life is sadly an incorrigible denial of the scientific and logical implications of his own pursuit of the origin and meaning of the universe: A Creator. He will not bow the knee to the higher power, so he makes up a fairy tale of a philosophically and scientifically absurd self-creating universe in order to justify his pre-determined philosophical conclusion, “What need for a creator?” “No boundaries, no beginning, no creator.”

At one point in the film, we hear the line from Hawking’s hit book, A Brief History of Time, about the hope that when we know the simple equation, we will “know the mind of God.” Jane mistakenly thinks that this is some kind of concession to the possibility of a God, but she misses the point. In context of that book, Hawking was redefining God out of existence by using “mind of God” as a euphemism for the impersonal mathematical equation that supposedly upholds and runs the universe (And they say Christians believe silly things). His intention is to say, call it God, if you want, but it’s ultimately an impersonal force (Always add after such statements: “And I am not accountable to it for my moral behavior” and you will understand the true origins of the black hole of human nature).


I have no desire to make light of Hawking’s brilliance or of his suffering in this world. To the contrary, as I watched this movie, I was profoundly moved. I wept at his suffering and the suffering he caused his wife and family. I could not help but think of how the mind untethered by God results in a captivity that is far more wretched than the degeneration of the body, indeed the universe. It moves one to posit absurdities of one’s own grandeur and the denial of the logical consequences of meaninglessness in an atheist universe. It drives silly tiny man to shake his trembling cramped fist at his Almighty Creator. “No boundaries! No beginning! No creator!”

After all, if we are really as meaningless and insignificant as Hawking concludes, then it is self-delusion to conclude with the absurd non-sequitur, “If there is life, there is hope.” There is no hope in such a case, there is only death and nothingness to look forward to. You can’t create meaning out of nothing.

Unless you live in denial of reality.

I finally got a glimpse of understanding of the beauty of the promise of resurrection in Hawking’s own misfortune of captivity. Here is a man who Jesus offers true hope, not false humanistic hope, of truly having final triumph over all the boundaries of life and death. How I longed to see this man rise up at the Resurrection of the Dead and become whole in mind, body and soul. In a way, he is a metaphor for us all, captive in our twisted pride and denial, seeking freedom everywhere but in the only one who can free us from our own self-delusion of “no boundaries, no beginning, no creator.”

These words of Jesus came alive to me with hope in the face of deep sadness:

Luke 4:18–44

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Twilight: Breaking Dawn (Part 2)

As bad as Breaking Dawn Part 1, was, this one is not much melodramatically better. But you have to admit, Kristen is A-L-M-O-S-T acting in this one. I have to say, she is getting a teency bit better with each of the series. She is no longer making her trademark shirks and ticks and lookaways. Go, team Jacob.

The first two of the movies in the series were very strong powerful arguments for sexual abstinence before marriage. Yes, the entire vampire mythology became a metaphor for the Mormon author’s moral worldview in a way that I have never seen in Hollywood movies. Wait until marriage because it is a fusion of souls and bodies that is not to be taken lightly. Suck on that natural law, fornicators.

And then Breaking Dawn Part 1 was one of the most pro-life stories in movie history. Do not kill the baby, even if Bella dies. Wow, those Mormons don’t win national elections with beliefs like that, but they sure can tell stories that resonate with the souls of the audience, when that audience does NOT have their political radars on. Ha, ha, Hollywood, you’ve been punked.

Part 2 is all about protecting the new child, the fruit of Bella and Edward’s union that appears to be a unique half-breed of humanity and vampirinity. The head vampire council in Italy does not like this “unknown.” For “unknowns” are what can expose them and have them all destroyed. They prefer having control by maintaining the “known,” so they want to kill the child and come, seeking a big battle with the vampires and now werewolves who protect her, the climax of the film.

What interests me in this story is the universal quest for immortality that resides in all of us. It is essentially an historical meme that still plays today, god and human hybrids. That’s right, the child, Renessme, or Ness for short, is basically a Nephilim. That is, the story reflects the ancient worlds’ notion of the gods mating with humans and bearing them offspring that are half human half god. Most ancient religions have this meme embedded in their stories. Genesis 6:1-4 talks about it as the divine sons of God in heaven mating with women and bearing them the Nephilim. I write about this storyline in my own Biblical fantasy novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim. It’s all the rage these days, Nephilim and the end of the world. But it’s more than a fad, it’s a universal drive in human nature. That’s why it keeps coming back in stories and it works so well.

The idea reflects the notion that man seeks to be like gods. The vampires, as immortals represent this “shining glory” as their own skin shines in the daylight, and they live forever. In this mythology, they also have individual powers like the ability to control the elements or read minds or produce shields of protection. Sounds a little like superheros? Yep. Sounds a little like the ancient pantheon of gods? You bet. We recycle these stories because WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE, AND NONE OF US WANT TO. We long for immortality, the desire to be united with divinity. I think Genesis captures this inherent longing in man best as man refuses to submit to his Creator and instead violates the image of God in man. He does this through murder, as well as the violation of the heavenly earthly divide. He seeks to be like God and so falls from his exalted place over creation, only to hunger because of his fallenness that the Bible calls the sinful nature.

Now, this is where Stephanie Meyer’s Mormonism comes in. Mormonism believes that we become gods (the immortal vampires), and for women, the highest pursuit in life is to become a god through this divine marriage. They believe in eternal marriage. That is why the ending of the movie stresses the words “forever” in relation to the happiness and married love between Edward and Bella. They will live forever and be married in love forever. Now, we all use the metaphor of “forever” when we speak of love. I do with my wife. But Mormons believe this literally, in that eternal marriages are the culmination of us becoming gods and marrying and having our own planets to reside over forever. Sooooooo, it’s not quite the same thing to us “normal” people and our emotional exaggerations.

But don’t let that ruin the movie for you. The reason the story resonates with so man is not just because of the female pornography of it, but because it taps into that impulse, that desire that we all have to seek immortality in our fallenness.

The Adjustment Bureau

Humanism and Open Theism. I got a chance to see an advance screening of this theologically and philosophically rich film, so you’ll want to come back later after you’ve seen it. It does prove once again, along with the blockbusters The Matrix all the way to Inception, that you can tell a good story and make a good movie AND have a rich philosophical discussion as the essence of it all.

David Norris is an aspiring Senator in New York who loses his latest bid and in a fit of authentic honesty, admits that so much of politics is poll driven (by controlled research) and not from the heart. But then one day, we see strange men with hats who are following him and we learn they are from “the adjustment bureau” following the orders of the “Chairman” and are controlling David’s life, along with many others’ lives, or at least intervening at key moments to keep him on track with the Chairman’s plan for his life. They carry little books that show blueprint like pages with moving lines to show them directions of people’s lives as they are making choices.

One day, David is supposed to spill his coffee, but the agent who is supposed to cover him falls asleep and David does not spill his coffee, thus making it in time to a bus he was not supposed to be on, and thus having a second encounter with a woman he had fallen for in a chance encounter during his campaign. The thing is, according to the Chairman’s plan, they are no supposed to be together, so the rest of the movie is David pursuing this woman and the bureau agents trying to stop that from taking hold.

But when David spills his coffee he sets in motion a series of events that allow him to get out of the sight of the bureau agents, and he stumbles upon something he is not supposed to see: The agents are engaged in a “readjustment” by freezing everyone at David’s work and scanning their brains to make them change their minds and get back on course with the Chairman’s plan for them. When David sees them, lead Agent Richardson is in a predicament of having to explain to David the behind the scenes scenario. He then tells David that he must not get together with the woman, Elise, because it will ruin the Chairman’s plan for both of their lives. As it turns out, David eventually learns that the plans are for her to become a world class Ballet dancer and for David to eventually become president of the US, and both would do great good for people. But David does not understand why he can’t have both, and like Jacob fighting with the angel, he determines to make his own way in life with his free will and fight for Elise.

Though the movie judiciously avoids saying it explicitly, the metaphors are obvious, the agents are angels, and the Chairman is God. The entire struggle of this film is between free will and determinism, or predestination. Are we absolutely free to make our own way in this life or does God control everything? The view of the storytellers is Arminianism, and more particularly Open Theism. The Chairman has a plan for most everyone, but mostly very important people who will do great things. The rest of us are mostly on our own. So people have free will AND there are chance events that keep mucking up the Chairman’s (God’s) plan so God has to send angels to try to fix things to some degree to keep things on track. But there are not enough angels to do so, so there are quite a lot of things that get out of God’s control. One higher up explains to David that throughout history, God has tried to give man free will and he messes it all up so God takes control again to fix things. So, in this movie, God gave men over to free will and we had the Dark Ages, and then God took back control and we had the blessings of reason and the Enlightenment and Renaissance (The Reformation is studiously avoided), and then God gave free will back to us in 1910 and we had the World Wars, so now God is trying to fix it all again. This is exactly the viewpoint prejudice of the Enlightenment that created the derogatory term “Dark Ages” out of its antisupernatural bigotry.

This points to another theme of the movie, that ultimately the reasoning intellect of man is safe and in control (which is a parallel to the Chairman’s control), but the emotions of man are unpredictable and messy. So the battle between free will and determinism is also a battle between control and chance as well as a battle between the heart and the mind, or emotions and reason. They’re all linked. Thus, our hero is an impulsive man whose impulses get him in trouble in the story. But the real trouble happens when he learns that if he stays with this woman with whom he has fallen in love, they will both not meet their dreams, she will not become a famous dancer, but will end up a simple teacher, and he will not be president and help the nation. So his choice is: should he “follow the plan” and give up his dreams of love or should he pursue his dream and ruin both their potentialities for goodness in society? So for the sake of his love for her, he gives up their love and let’s her go, only to be haunted by that decision for years.

By chance, he stumbles onto her again much later, but by now, he has decided that he wants both. Why can’t they have both love and greatness? David’s original design to be a politician is revealed to come from his inner emptiness for meaning. He seeks the “love” of the masses to fill a hole that only true love can fill: Another humanistic theme – human love is the ultimate meaning in life. So David fights to stop Elise from marrying another man and to show her why he had avoided her all those years: Because of the angelic plan. But revealing the behind the scenes is a dangerous no-no, and David will have to have his brain erased, because they can’t have the secret get out.

With the help of a rebellious angel, David decides to grab Elise and make a run for it to the Chairman to plead his case. He never makes it, but his sheer “free will” for love has so impressed the God Chairman, that God changes his plans, and allows the two to be together. The last shot, we see the plan book, with the two moving lines of David and Elise moving out of the planned zone and into a white area of undetermined uncertain future, but we all know it is hopeful and free will gives us the hope of uncertain but unlimited possibilities

The problem with the scenario is that it is ultimately unsatisfying. The God of this film is unwittingly the best argument against the Arminian notion of absolute free will, by depicting a God whose will is so often thwarted by humans that he is virtually impotent, running around fretting over the mess that he cannot seem to keep up with. God here is the antagonist, the enemy that man must free himself from, much like The Truman Show. This God is not very all-knowing either, as he is the one who realizes his plan was wrong for David and Elise. Rather than David struggling with God and learning a lesson about meaning and purpose beyond himself, God is the one who learns a lesson from David that true human love is better than a deity’s plan, that people should make their own meaning instead of accept God’s meaningful intent for them. Also, it is the God of Open Theism that only knows the future in the way that a very intelligent being can know where someone is headed based on intimate knowledge of the way a person thinks and acts – but this foreknowledge is really an educated guess not actual foreknowledge.

This is Open Theism. This is not a satisfying deity that is worth worshipping. In fact, watching it makes one repulsed at the pathetic excuse for such a meddling, inferior, half-assed puppet master getting his strings tangled on the few puppets he is trying to manipulate. One can only think, “For God’s sake, if it’s all too much for you to maintain control, then get out of the way and let us try to make our own way in life.” And that is in fact what happens in the movie. God gets out of the hero’s way and lets him have his “freedom” to chart his course in an unknown uncertain future determined only by human “love,” NOT God’s purposes. This is the humanistic existential man telling God to let him alone to create his own meaning and purpose in life out of his own emotional desires. In this story, politics may appear to help people, but it is ultimately a form of control that is determined by polls and manipulation. So David’s redemption lies in giving up his dreams of politics for the sake of individual love, in the same way that God must do so.

The Sovereign God of the Bible may be in control of every sparrow that falls from the sky, but at least such omnipotent power also comes with a Shepherd’s loving promise that is worth trusting. At least this God can actually accomplish his promises to work all things out for the best, and maybe he knows a little more than me, and maybe the world does not revolve around me and my passionate desires. Maybe it’s not all about me, me, me

To be fair, there are resonances with many Biblical characters in this story. One is reminded of Job who complains to God for his misfortune; or Jacob who wrestles with God and won’t let go until he is blessed by God: or Moses who persuades God to change his mind about destroying the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness.

And yet, one cannot help but see the differences that make this deity a false idol of the one in the Bible. For we do not see a God who rebukes and humbles Job into submission, or the God who won’t let go of His purposes for Jacob. Nor do we see the God of Moses who changes his mind on the basis on his own glory, and who separated and destroyed the rebellious Israelites for the sake of a remnant.

Up in the Air

A tale of cynicism and love in conflict, of reality and escape, isolation and human connection, techonology and humanity. Ryan Bingham works for a company that fires people. He spends 270 days a year on the road, or rather, in the air, flying around to companies firing them. And he is a pro. He’s got his life in a backpack, light and without messy human encumbrances. But when a young new girl at the company, Natalie, inspires a new idea of using computer terminals to fire people remotely, and thereby save hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses and time, Ryan reacts with hostility. Not just because his job is in jeopardy of becoming obsolete, but because, ironically, Ryan still cares about the humans to whom he is bringing bad news. He believes that they need the personal connection to help them “down from the ledge” of depression or despair. So he fights to protect that humanity, while simultaneously remaining a remote person to love, an island of self protection from the dangers of self-disclosure and vulnerability. In short, he is an unbeliever in love – he is a rock, he is an island. Sounds of Simon and Garfunkle ringing in my ears.

As Ryan also speaks at conventions about how to live life in a backpack, we hear his philosophy of life of shedding the weight of traditional life. We can see that it is a rationalization of his own solitude, which he revels in. But herein lies the key to his sympathetic stature with the viewer. Ryan is honest, he doesn’t lie or play games, he keeps it all up front that he doesn’t want marriage, doesn’t want kids, doesn’t want a house to tie him down, doesn’t want the “cultural baggage” of what most people consider “normal life” of “settling down.” In short, he is truthful and honest man, a kind of integrity of openness without secrets or a closet where he hides a dark side. So when he meets Alex, a beautiful woman who has the same traveling lifestyle and same “no commitments” approach, he has an on the road “romance” with her of traveling fornication.

And then Ryan has to bring Natalie along with him to teach her the ropes of personal care in firing people that he is so good at. Young Natalie is a 23 year old who wants to have a career, get married, get a house, yada yada. But when her boyfriend breaks up with her, her world is crushed because she is an incurable romantic who even moved to nowheresville Oklahoma to be near her boyfriend. In other words, she made choices of a traditional belief in love and was betrayed.

The struggle here is between traditional love, which requires vulnerability in order to attain the intimacy of human connection or the modern atomistic alienation of individuals as monads of self interest. The former means you can be betrayed and you will most likely suffer in life but can of course experience that human intimacy which brings shalom (shades of Tennyson, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all), and the latter means you will never be burdened with the “baggage” of others, you will never be betrayed and saddled with unfair expectations and demands, that you will be “free” to control your own life – and of course live and die alone in this life. Natalie makes the argument that what about the base notion of just having companionship, children there when you die. To which Ryan responds, that is a delusion. Most people put their parents in nursing homes at the end anyway, just as he did and his parents did before him. Everyone dies alone. More shades of Ecclesiastes.

But the problem is that we see Ryan falling in love with Alex.

A particularly poignant moment is when Ryan’s sister’s fiancé is getting cold feet on his wedding day, and Ryan is asked to go in and talk to him. Well, not only does Ryan not have a relationship with his sister (no attachments), here he is supposed to convince someone of something he doesn’t believe in. But he does it. And he does it by admitting all the crap and responsibility that the kid is afraid of, but he ends by getting the kid to realize that all his best memories of life are with somebody, not alone, and that the lonely sad times are when he is alone, so “life’s better with company. Everyone needs a co-pilot.” And it is at this moment that Ryan has shared out of his own lonliness and finally realizes he doesn’t believe in his lie of self-protection and solitude, that he too needs to be known and loved. He walks out of the middle of his next seminar on backpacking life, and runs to the airport (the formula “running to the airport” scene) and flies to Alex’s home, presumably to tell her he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, for her to be his co-pilot. So when he discovers she is married with children and considers their tryst only as a sexual escape from her boring “real life” he is devastated.

But her betrayal is not just of his romantic innocence, because even though she never told him about the family, she also was up front that a sexual tryst was all she wanted. She lured him into love and then cut his heart out with her own heartlessness. The monster has met his match with someone more monstrous than him, and he lost. What’s worse, Natalie, after hearing that someone committed suicide after she fired her, gives up her job and applies for a job that she really prefers. In her interview we discover that as the interviewer says regarding her decision to choose love over her career (in moving to Omaha to “follow a boy”) “I guess everyone does that at one point or another.” And we see her now prioritizing her career over love.

At the end, we are shown “live interviews” of people who found their significance and overcame their job firings by clinging to family over career and money. YET, Ryan ends up back in the air, perpetually alone, without a co-pilot, flying in the clouds above the unaware normal happy families. So, as a story, this hero’s journey seems to contradict the more sentimental notions of family and significance of love in its periphery, which I think creates confusing double talk. The hero’s journey is the one we sympathetically go on and are cheering for, yet just when he is changed in his character arc to accept love, he is burned by it and ends up alone rather than realizing he chose the wrong one. By returning to his old ways, it seems to suggest that he cannot achieve love even if he changes to be a lover. Meanwhile, his sympathetic side kick, Natalie, seems to lose her romantic notions of family and significance and ends up prioritizing career, which is what brought Ryan to the very troubles he suffered. She appears to be turning into him, and losing her hope of love. So, to me this story is ultimately cynical about love, because it shows “extras” pining on about love and significance in family, but the two main characters lose all hope for love and embrace career instead. Perhaps you could call this an “anti-romance” because it takes the typical love story of someone learning that love is more important than career and turns it on its head in the Hero’s own journey, as well as his sidekick’s. It makes the argument in the dialogue for the necessity of human connection and need, but then denies it to the hero and his reflection, Natalie. (A reflection is a character in the story who reflects the same pursuit as the hero but with different choices in order to illustrate antithesis that supports the main thesis or theme of the story).

Perhaps the theme of the movie is best encapsulate in Alex’s words when speaking to Natalie’s betrayal by her boyfriend, a “prick.” Alex says, “We all fall for pricks. Pricks are spontaneous, unpredictable and fun. And we’re all surprised when they turn out to be pricks.” This is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’s remark:

“And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our [educational] situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that our civilization needs more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests [hearts] and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

An Education

A feminist coming of age story about a young 16 year old British girl in 1961 England being swept off her feet in a romance with an older man, forcing her to choose between the traditional patriarchal role of marriage and the life of educated independence.

The very first shots of the film show school girls learning posture, dancing, and cooking which immediately set up the traditional notion that even a girl’s schooling is to prepare her for marriage. Jenny wants to go to Oxford to read English. Her parents are traditional in their relationship as well, being depicted as goodly and kind, yet hopelessly anachronistic. So when a dashing young man in his 20s, David, draws Jenny into a world of fun, dancing, restaraunts, art, and travel, she begins to question what the whole purpose of this boring schooling is for anyway.

The examples of “liberated” women are a school marm looking single female English teacher and the principle of the school, another uptight woman who believes education is salvation. They are made to look undesirable and education is made to look undesirable, but only for the moment. Jenny even gives a rather fair assessment from a teen’s perspective of how everyone around her talks of how important it is to be educated, yet everyone in education is boring, boring, boring, so why should she devote herself to a boring independent life instead of really having the fun and enjoyment? Jenny’s father reveals that even his desire for her education is only to make her more appealing to a rich man like David. And David even proposes marriage to Jenny, which she accepts at first, and gives up her education.

But ultimately David is shown to be a deceiver. He makes all his money through questionable, even illegal transactions. He steals, he moves black families into neighborhoods in order to buy old lady’s homes for cheaper when they sell out of racist fear. Oh yeah, and David is also secretly already married to another woman. And this is not the first time he’s done this to other women. He also happens to be Jewish, which makes this movie anti-Semitic in it’s affirmation of “the Wandering Jew” a racist myth from the middle ages of the Jew as satanic tempter, wandering around, making money by exploiting people and tempting them away from salvation. But in this case, salvation is feminist education, making this film anti-semitic feminist theory. Ironic, too, that this anti-Semitic movie would even make a reference to “the Wandering Jew” from the mouth of the father, who is, depicted in this story as ultimately being right.

Jenny is able to get back on track and manages to make it to Oxford, so she is “saved” at the end through education, a myth of the Enlightenment worldview. But it is clear that this movie is about everything not being as it appears. The traditional view of marriage of the man providing and taking care of the woman appears to be romantic at first, but is ultimately destructive seduction. The life of the liberated woman appears to be boring and lonely and uptight, but is ultimately salvation. Every man in the film is either a deceiver or a fool, and every woman who buys into this traditional interpretation is depicted as mindless (David’s partner’s girlfriend who is proud of her shallow ignorance) or a kept woman (Jenny’s mother).

The real education in this film is the education of experience that Jenny has with David, learning that the traditional notions of marriage is a seductive deception that ruins women’s lives by keeping them from independence, and education is salvation.

The Last Station

Based on the true story of famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s last year of life, 1910. This is a “love/hate story” about the traumatic relationship that Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) had with his wife of 48 years, the Countess Sofya, played by Helen Mirren. It’s told through the eyes of a young neophyte Tolstoyan, Valentin, who is hired to be a secretary to Leo. It is a clash of worldviews as Leo seeks to rid himself of private property and deed all the rights of his writing to the public domain, while his wife pleads for him to not do so in order to take care of his family. They are madly in love with each other, yet also hatefully at odds with each other’s politics. And this results in a passionate recklessness of extremes in their reactions to one another.

There is a Tolstoyan commune of people seeking to live without property and in moral purity, something not easily accomplished as Valentin immediately falls for Sasha, a girl who defies the rules and they begin a torrid sex affair. The irony of Tolstoy’s position is brought out as we see his followers refer to him as a kind of Jesus Christ, and yet deviously plot to have him sign away his works to the public domain, “for the people.” Sofya is outwardly portrayed as a desperate clutching paranoid gold digger worried about a conspiracy to manipulate Leo into changing his will, yet she is also displayed as not only being right about the conspiracy, but the only one who has been loyal to Tolstoy, to his happiness, the only one honest about his humanity and faults, and the only one who passionately loves him.

It’s as if this film is showing the clash between socialism and capitalism, a reflection of the current political debates we find ourselves in.

The young secretary enters the commune with pure ideology, which draws the cynical Sasha, but he also comes to see both sides of Leo and Sofya and ends up painfully unwilling to trash Sofya as all the other conspirators do because he sees her depth of true love for Leo. It’s as if the movie is showing us that ideology like socialism, which negates private property and prioritizes the public over the private, ends up destroying the passion and life of individuals in the name of “the cause” while the apparent selfishness of free market capitalism with its priority of private property ends up creating the freedom out of which true love and human individuality is bred. Sofya is not without her selfish and histrionic faults and Leo is not without virtue for his ideals, which is what makes this story an honest portrayal instead of propaganda.

As the conspirators draw Leo away to hiding, in order to let him write his great work which Sofya seems to be impeding, Leo is nevertheless depicted as needing her for his very breath in order to live. It is their passionate love that draws them unstoppably together, but it is their philosophies that draw them apart. As stated in the film, “To love and be loved is the only reality,” and “love is what it is all about.” Leo tells his secretary that the one thing that all religions have in common is love, that it is “love that binds all mankind together.” And in this story, it is love of individuals that transcends ideology of the community.

Evidently, Tolstoy had rejected the Russian Orthodox church (another reflection of socialism is the negation of religion) and his followers are so concerned that Sofya will visit him and bring about a death bed conversion back to the church, that they seek unsuccessfully to keep her from him as he dies. As Leo’s ideologue friend Vladimir tells the naïve secretary, “A deathbed conversion will destroy everything. A simple noble death is what we want.” In other words, the truth and the individual must be sacrificed to the movement or the ideology. At this ending, just before Sofya is brought in by the now more realist Valentin, she tells Vladimir “You want to create an image of YOU, not HIM.” And so it seems this story shows that those who seek to build movements and ideologies over the individual and love will end up manipulating the individual and controlling others.

Twilight: New Moon

In this Twilight series sequel, Bella, having fallen in love with a vampire, is now falling in love with a werewolf. What a dilemma for this love triangle. Should I love forever the vampire I cannot be with or the werewolf right beside me? Seriously though, first let me address the underlying myth that this shares with the first movie. We have a world in which the Cullen “family” are “good” vampires who seek to do good and abstain from their human bloodlust, as opposed to “bad” vampires who do kill humans. But all vampires are sworn to a code that dictates they never reveal themselves to humans or they will be executed by the vampire council in Italy. Now, we have werewolves who are not evil, but essentially good, and whose purpose is evidently, NOT to kill humans but to kill vampires. So in this mythology, werewolves only accidentally hurt humans if they get upset and their animal nature takes over.

I don’t know a lot about Mormonism, not being one myself, but I understand that the original author is a Mormon, which brings some clarity to the underlying worldview of the story. As I understand it, in Mormonism, redemption is ultimately achieved through moral living. People can redeem themselves by doing good deeds that outweigh their bad deeds. In other words, vampires CAN suppress their evil nature and be good. This is why Bella replies to a comment about evil nature, “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.” This is opposed to, for example, the Judeo-Christian view of human nature that what we are results in what we do. Orthodox Christianity claims that no matter how many good deeds we do, they cannot cancel out our evil nature, which ultimately condemns us. Redemption is therefore found in having our nature changed by spiritual rebirth not suppression of our evil drives. The reason why Edward won’t “turn” Bella into a vampire and therefore be together forever is because when you do so, you lose your soul and are damned. This is when Bella disagrees and tells Edward, “You couldn’t be damned, it’s impossible.” He does too much good as a “good” vampire. “It’s not what you are, it’s what you do.”

The big obvious metaphor that we are hit over the head with in the movie is Romeo and Juliet. We see Bella and Edward studying the play, and watching a movie version of it in class. And Edward can recite the dramatic sacrificial love lines from heart. And of course, this becomes their own dilemma, as Edward wants to have the vampire council kill him, once he thinks Bella is dead. She becomes his only reason for “living.” And then, when Bella saves him from the vampire council by saying “kill me, not him,” she shocks them all that a human would do this in love for a vampire. The whole thing is a reflection of the cross-cultural love story of Romeo and Juliet.

I believe that the reason why this series of stories is so popular with women is because it focuses on relationships affected by this struggle of human nature. Another element of Mormonism that seems to connect with middle America is it’s traditional values. Here is a story that depicts strong men with violent natures (both the vampire and the werewolf in love with Bella), suppressing that nature and turning it into positive redeeming protection of the woman. Maybe this is a kind of backlash to the emasculated men of modernity. Edward is erudite and educated, but his drawing power is in how he sublimates his primal drive for Bella’s sake. He would rather give up his eternity than let her become defiled. He protects her virginity. Even when she decides to become a vampire, he says he will help her do so, only on the condition that she marry him. This is NOT your average male mook, moron, or stud depicted in most advertising and entertainment. And Jacob, the werewolf, who falls in love with Bella, is a beefy mechanic earthy guy who also sublimates his own nature to let Bella in and to protect her (I heard the women in the theater breathe out sighs of joy when he takes off his shirt – I kid you not). These are all the negative stereotypes of the male in our culture that are subverted in the story into positive examples of strong powerful males rescuing, protecting, and providing for the heroine female. This is traditional moral values on the roles of male and female subverting modern notions.

SIDE NOTE: Something struck me that I didn’t catch in the first movie. This notion of the vampires shining like diamonds when out in the sunlight seemed a strange new idea to me, and I wondered where it came from. As I understand it, Mormonism believes in polytheism, that there are many gods. A Bible chapter they point to is John 10 where Jesus quotes Psalm 82 in saying, “Have I not said, you are gods?” But in Psalm 82, it talks about a council of “gods” that God sits amidst, also called “sons of God.” The problem is that the Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim, which has different meanings in different contexts. While orthodox Christianity understands elohim in that passage as divine beings (such as angels), Mormons consider them actual gods, and examples of what all humans can become. But here’s the kicker. An orthodox Christian scholar of ancient Near Eastern languages, Michael Heiser (thedivinecouncil.com), has made an argument that another verse in Psalm 82 describes these sons of God as “falling like the shining ones [‘princes”].” This is also linked to a famous Bible passage, Isaiah 14, believed to be talking about Lucifer, the fallen angel, “O star of the morning, shining one [son of the dawn].” Again, Christians would see this as divine beings such as angels, while Mormons would consider them as actual deities. Maybe this is too speculative, but it appears that the Mormon author is casting the preternatural beings of vampires, as elohim, gods, shining ones. Some are fallen, some seek to do good. At one point in the movie, Bella goes to Italy and the council of elohim, I mean vampires, actually meets somewhere in or around the Pantheon, the oldest building in Rome, which was a pagan temple to the gods (plural, as in vampires?).

Coco Before Chanel

The story of the beginnings of Gabrielle Chanel from a destitute French orphan near the turn of the 19th century to the beginnings of what would become her empire of fashion design. It’s feminist tale of liberation as Gabrielle seeks to make her own way in a “man’s world” as the end titles say. It portrays the French aristocracy as decadent and even boring in their life of leisure — to this woman, a hard working seamstress and bar dancer. So in that sense it elevates the protestant work ethic and self-made entrepreneurship over aristocratic inheritance and old money.

When Coco becomes a mistress of French millionaire Balsan, she pursues her hobby of decorating hats and wearing simple clothes that bucked the system of lavish overwrought women’s apparel with imprisoning corsets and padding of the time period. She seeks to give women freedom in their clothes and thus their bodies, and thus, their social status. Of course, she never really loves Balsan, who eventually falls in love with her and is willing to marry her against his social status. But it is too late, because she falls in love with Balsan’s best friend, “Boy” Capel, all the while maintaining her independent spirit.

The movie attempts to disconnect true passionate and meaningful love from marriage and link it to adulteress lifestyles. In the movie, all the rich men, including Coco’s lover, marry for socio-economic status, but have mistresses for true love, where they “really” experience the intimacy of being known and loved (which in the movie is depicted as nothing much beyond “fun trips and sex”). Coco complains that her mother married for love and ended up destitute and dead, with Coco and her sister in an orphanage. So marriage does not get very high marks in Coco’s mind of romantic hope.

Coco is devastated when she realizes she cannot marry Capel because he is getting married for status, but hardens herself and decides to never marry and just live the life of Capel’s mistress while growing her own business and maintaining her own independence. And they are able to do so until Capel dies in a car accident and we see in the face of Coco, a devastating loss – in the midst of her increasing success – that it appears she never overcomes for the rest of her life, since she never married.

In an ironic deconstructive way, the movie seems to bear the internal contradiction that regardless of this liberation of Coco, she doesn’t really have the intimate love she found in that one man and ends life rather sad, despite her worldly success. It seems that career may be a fulfillment of her genius, but is not the ultimate meaning for this woman who desired to be known by love, a love she sought outside marriage, a love that evaded her to her death.