Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The greatest thing since sliced bread 

...is an overused phrase that's lost its impact. People use it all the time now for just about anything and half the time they're being sarcastic. But this my friends, this may be the zenith of human achievement. This may be the greatest thing, not since sliced bread, but perhaps bread itself. I may never leave the house again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

We must never EVER 

let this story reach the children.

Monday, March 29, 2004

STAR WARS names 


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Quote of the day 

"Professional journals may do a better job at compiling some stuff in one place, but if you learn how to navigate the blogosphere you can gather more and better facts and analysis that you can by reading any mainstream periodical or daily." Via Jessica's Well

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

If I had a dollar 

for every time I said, "Man, what I wouldn't give for an Oral Disco.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

If I had a dollar 

for every time I said "01001001 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110011 01101000 00100000 01001001 00100000 01101000 01100001 01100100 00100000 01100001 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001 00100000 01110100 01110010 01100001 01101110 01110011 01101100 01100001 01110100 01101111 01110010 "

Friday, March 19, 2004

Hey! Guess what! 

Apparently I belong to a cult. (efforts at deprogramming will be met with fierce resistance)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

This am a good article 

on, like, the...um...improperuseabilityness of words and stuff. Via arts and letters daily.
(Update: more word thingies)

Well I guess we all saw this coming 

If I had a dollar 

for every time I said, "You know, the internet shall not achieve its true potential until there is a site devoted solely to men who look like Kenny Rogers."

Quote of the day 

"I'm like a superhero, only without any powers or motivation." (seen on a tee-shirt)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A handy primer on computer viruses 

from IMAO

Quote of the day 

"We put the food in boiling water. Then we take it out." (The definition of Irish cooking by William Bulger, former President of the Massachusetts Senate, at his annual St. Patrick's Day roast.) Via the corner.

Monday, March 15, 2004

If I had a dollar 

for every time I said "You know, what the world really needs in a good 30-second re-enactment of The Excorcist done by little bunnies."

Monday, March 08, 2004

Not just StrongBad emails 

Homestarrunner also has the latest teen girl squad movie.

Before you do anything else 

Go now, and get your cyborg name.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

My Passion Review 

On Saturday, March 6, I saw the 4:00 showing of The Passion of the Christ at the Esquire. The theater was about 70% full. There were several large groups that appeared to have bought their tickets in advance and there were a few buses in front from different Protestant denominations so I'm guessing maybe a fourth to a third of the audience was there as part of a church function. Many of the reviews I'd read talked of the hushed, almost reverent, crowds that had been present at their screenings; how, when the movie was over, you could hear nothing but the occasional sob or quiet weeping. So I was little worried at the rambunctious crowd around me. Lots of jibber-jabbering, lots of cellphone talk, lots of very young (too young) children. Somehow I just assumed that there'd be no commercials or previews, but boy was I wrong. So far it was clearly just a movie like any other. I attended alone and concession-free and heroically resisted the temptation to beat up some Jews on the way home. Go potty now, 'cause here's my review:

The majority of commentary on this movie (both positive and negative) has, by my lights, fallen into three categories. As is so often the case, people tend jump from category to category, all willy-nilly and I would very much like to avoid that so I will try to address them separately.

First, are the strictly historical elements that do not ultimately affect the story in any substantive way. Things like the language choices, whether the nails were in the wrists or palms, whether Jesus carried the whole cross or just the cross beam, things like that. Now Mel Gibson has done loads of talking about this movie and I've only been privy to a tiny portion of it but the thing I kept hearing from him was that this was the most historically authentic representation of the passion to date. I thought, and think, that that was a somewhat reckless boast to make. There has been a whole lotta crap floating around lately with "Biblical scholars" arrogantly asserting that of course Jesus had short hair, and of course it's just foolish to think that He was nailed through his palms, and of course now we know that Caiaphas and co. were just hapless pawns to the scheming Pilate, etc. A good rule of thumb is to be highly skeptical of Bible scholars, especially the go-to guys for most reporters. More often than not the guys you'll see/read are scholars who will deny the divinity of Christ as a starting point and are more interested in having a unique insight that they can publish than they are in genuine exegesis. The real ones aren't as likely to turn up on the evening news and they sure ain't part of the Jesus Seminar.

There's a range within which we are free to speculate. Mel (may I call him Mel?) had his own experts advising him. He made some unlikely choices. I understand that most scholars would've had a lot more Greek and a lot less Latin. If the scourging scene was inaccurate because it was excessive then certainly every other cinematic representation is inaccurate because they don't go far enough. But I'm not aware of anything in this first category that falls outside the realm of legitimate historical thought. Mel is being foolish if he's sure he got the details right, but others are being just as foolish if they're sure he got them wrong.

Second, are the historical elements that directly pertain to the story and its characters. Here the stakes are higher because this category is where we get into the charges of anti-Semitism. Once again, there's a range of thought that's perfectly acceptable and I believe this movie falls well within that range. One of the more common criticisms of the movie is the suggestion that it paints Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin as scheming greedy bloodthirsty scoundrels rather than thoughtful patriarchs trying to preserve the peace and negotiate with that awful Pilate brute (who's portrayed as a noble, conflicted leader). Well, anti-Semitism aside, either extreme is possible but in the movie I saw neither leader was greedy, both were equally bloodthirsty and ruthless but ultimately Caiaphas acts on principle while Pilate is willing to condemn a man he believes to be innocent. The give and take between Pilate and Caiaphas is complex and the arguments about which of them was "more responsible" pretty much miss the point. (For more background go here.)

Third, is the spiritual theme behind the story and here is where the movie really shines. This is less of a "right or wrong" thing than a "either you get it or you don't" thing. Non-Christians may see this as a tragic two-hour exercise in pointless sadism (especially given the lack of context). But the movie is infused with theological meaning. The flashbacks are not just cinematic tricks or respites from all the gore. When Jesus is stripped and we cut to the unwrapping of the bread and He lifts up the bread and we cut back to Him being raised up on the cross the symbolism is no less powerful for being obvious. There is blood everywhere in this movie and every drop is precious.

In summary: I was well pleased. I'm hardly an expert on Jesus movies but I imagine this must be the best. That's a little like saying "the best Chuck Norris movie", the only other serious contender that I'm aware of would be the "Jesus of Nazareth" miniseries but it's largely apples and oranges.

The scope of this movie is very small. It's a passion play pure and simple. That is both its strength and its weakness. Lots of people have noted how the resurrection scene is maybe half a minute and boom we're done. What hasn't been noted is that there's nothing after Jesus' death except for that. No embalming. No Joseph of Arimathea. No guards at the tomb. After Jesus is taken down from the cross we have a long fade to black and then the resurrection. These are the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. These are the stations of the cross in every Catholic church. The machinations of the Sanhedrin were not really on Mel's agenda this time around. We are to be witness to the sufferings Jesus endured so that He could steal us back from our own sin.

This is a hard movie to watch. It is graphically violent, yes. It may be the most violent movie that most of you will ever see. However many of the reviews are just plain wrong about the scope of the violence. Context notwithstanding this is not a two-hour snuff film. Hell, I saw "Kill Bill" a few months ago. There's no comparison. If you don't have the stomach for cinematic violence regardless of the theme then skip this, but don't be conned by those suggesting it's fifteen minutes of dialogue and an hour and a half of scourging.

Is the movie anti-Semitic? I wouldn't presume to say but I was looking reeeeeally hard and I just didn't see it. As a catholic who's used to seeing Catholics and catholic priests portrayed as whackos and scoundrels at every turn I'm sensitive to what that prejudice looks like. Mel may be a bigot, I dunno what's in his heart and a few of his statements were not as clear as they could've/should've been. But as someone who shoots himself in the foot by putting it in his mouth (and mixing his metaphors, too!) he could not have been more clear in his assertion that first and foremost it was he who was responsible for Jesus' death. I take him at his word.

It has been said that this film is something of a Rorschach test. I think that's an overstatement but there is some truth to it. There's no shortage of people who didn't have a problem with the monumental historical and theological absurdities of the openly offensive "Last Temptation of Christ" or who thought it mildly humorous that Catholics might get their noses out of joint at "Dogma" because after all Kevin Smith is a faithful catholic because he said so himself. Many of those same people are now nearly apoplectic with rage at a film that is truer to the spirit of the gospels than any other film in nearly thirty years. As one critic said, "The movie is worth having, not as a means to salvation, but as an affront to the contemporary depiction of Jesus as a gliberal 'nice guy'. It nails the meat back on the empty cross. Mr. Gibson has hurled a much-needed slab of bloodied flesh in the face of 'Christianity Lite'." This is not an "either you're with us or against us" situation; there's more than enough room for thoughtful criticism and it's certainly not a perfect film. But "Who do you say that I am?" will tend to be the lens through which we interpret it.

For more informed reviews that you won't find in the mainstream outlets go here, and here and here. (Update: and here.)

Anecdote: When I returned from the show, Bobby, who knew what I was going to see, said "Well? How was it?"
"Wellll...." I said.
"Was it gory and violent and sad and cool?"
"Hmmm...Why yes. Yes it was."

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Movie Poster Quiz 

Here. Lemme know if anyone gets them all.

Update: I don't know why the link doesn't seem to work. If it gets fixed I'll re-post. In the meantime, nevermind.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Quote of the day 

"I'm trying to be lazy, but my house won't let me."
(Pat the pirate)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?