Friday, January 27, 2006
Unfortunately, the lack of heart was not the only problem with this film. The script was incredibly uneven and, consequently, hard to follow. Much of the cinematography was barely functional. The acting in the first third of the film left a lot to be desired. As a result, I wasn’t as affected by the story as I should have been. A better movie would have made me cry; as it was, I only got misty-eyed a few times.
A word on the violence. Even though there are plenty of killings in the film, not once do we actually see a spear hitting someone. We may see one flying through the air or being aimed at a person, but the camera always cuts to a different shot before we see the impact. I believe the filmmakers’ desire was to present the violence of the Waodani people without glorifying the violence. Kudos to the them for that. True, we do see some of the aftermath of the attack on the missionaries—and it isn’t pretty. It was still nothing compared to normal Hollywood violence, and yet the simplicity of the acts (crude spears impaling people without over-the-top sound effects) made the tragedy all the more real. Thus, the violence in the film avoids the extremes of being either fake or gratuitous.
Still, the movie’s weaknesses almost outweigh its strengths. The music was one of the few things that kept me interested (I’m listening to it right now, actually—surprised?), and even that was inappropriately placed at points.
It’s hard for a horse to stumble out of the gate, break two of its legs, and still hope to finish the race in good order. Maybe the best thing I can say about the film is that it does finish the race, and I was glad I had seen it once the end credits finished rolling. But with a tighter script, better acting, more creative cinematography, a more clear portrayal of the centrality of the gospel, and more effectively used musical score, End of the Spear could have been much better.
Artistic merit: 5/10
Personal marks: 6/10
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I had a late breakfast at work. No omelets and Belgian waffles today. No, this time it was a bag of Tom’s Bar-B-Q Flavored Corn Chips and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (with Caramel) 2-pack. The realization? I don’t eat as healthy as I thought I did. Thank goodness my metabolism creates more energy than the sun.
Food for thought (pun intended).
Although...now I'm starting to feel a little queasy... Ugh. High metabolism doesn't fix everything, I guess.
Now, to be fair: Leslie did a good job of posting stuff that I probably would have written—except for Franklin being the cutest dog in the world. Oh, and I really am not annoyed by Leslie. In fact, I think I annoy her more than she annoys me. It is largely because of my friendship with her that I came to Cornerstone. And Cornerstone has literally changed my life. So how could I thank God enough for Leslie Bowden? Her maturity in the Lord continually provokes me to grow in godliness.
And so Leslie has that dichotomy of being an hospitable hostess and an intrusive computer hacker. Talk about a well-rounded individual.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
I'd like to take a break from my normal routine of blogging about he cinema and the study of God to blog about a friend. A very good friend. A friend who has changed my life and, indeed, help shape me into the man that I am today.
My friend's name is Leslie Bowden.
Things that you should know about Leslie:
- Leslie and I were camp counselors at Camp Westminster in Conyers, Georgia during the summer of 1999.
- Leslie always made me pitch her tents and start her camp fires on camp outs when we worked together. This heavily annoyed me.
- One time Leslie helped me feed the horses and sunk calf deep into a big pile of muck in the stables. She had a good attitude though and just washed the poo off of her feet. I don't think that she ever helped again.
- Leslie calls Wallaby Stew, Wampajaw Stew. I don't like it when she does this.
- Leslie was my favorite Senior Counselor Girl at Camp.
- Leslie used to yell at guys on the work crew because she found them to be immature and lazy. The guys on the work crew found Leslie to be bossy and lacking in the humor department.
- Leslie used to sneak into the pool at night with the other girl counselors, this was definitely against the rules.
- I found out that Leslie had attended New Attitude 1999 and decided that even though she was one of those reformed Christians, maybe she wasn't so bad if she liked Josh Harris.
- Leslie beat me over the head with this reformed theology stuff and it drove me nuts, but I just smiled and listened to her calvinistic rampages. Then I found out that Leslie went to a church that was also charismatic. I was charismatic, but this freaked me out.
- Leslie talks a lot.
- Leslie drinks a lot of caffeine.
- Leslie likes to make fun of me. It bothers me.
- I try to be of great encouragement to Leslie.
- Leslie owns the cutest dog in the world.
- Leslie is a great cook and charming hostess.
- Leslie can be really nice, but sometimes she is also very mischevious and mean.
- Leslie likes to TP cars.
- Leslie enjoys discussing issues and is always up for a debate.
- Leslie has a blog too! And it is super fun and interesting!
There is more that I could say, but I think this is enough. So, here's to you Leslie! You're great!
I love my job.
I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
‘Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go,
But oh, I know my Guide.
My prideful heart often does want to know the way my feet will tread. I may know my Guide, but I also want to “know the way I go.” Anxiety is a common fruit of this mindset, and yesterday I struggled with a particularly strong episode of anxiety.
Thankfully I had some free time in the afternoon, during which I found comfort in an unexpected place. As I was flipping through the pages of Isaiah, my eyes came across chapter 6. (Just to be clear: I’m not saying the Bible was the “unexpected place” of comfort—just this particular passage.)
Sometimes in seeking answers to specific questions, I find God giving me an answer to a larger, more important question. This was one of those occasions. The reason my specific concerns—which are still important to God—can and will be answered is because of what Isaiah 6:1-7 says.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”
Reading through the passage several times, I discovered four pillars of truth. I list them in order of importance, which also reveals a cause-and-effect sequence; that is, each pillar leads to the next.
Pillar #1: The Lord is sitting on His throne, high and lifted up (verse 1).
My viewpoint is limited. In fact, apart from the light of the gospel of the glory of God, I see nothing clearly. The Lord, however, sits on His throne. He is the King. He is sovereign. Being “high and lifted up,” He not only sees all—He controls all.
Pillar #2: The Lord is holy, and the whole earth is full of His glory (verse 3).
There is none like the Lord, seated on His throne, the essence of holiness. Only holiness is truly beautiful and only God is holy. He is beauty incarnate. His glory is displayed in all the earth. His perfection is complete; He is without flaw or blemish or spot.
Pillar #3: Because of my sin, I am undone (verse 5).
Like Isaiah, I am unclean in the presence of this holy God. My lips—and, consequently, my heart—are stained with depravity. Tarnished by my sin, I am cut off from the Lord, for holiness can have nothing to do with anything unholy.
Pillar #4: My iniquity is taken away; my sin is purged (verse 7).
Solely because of Another’s work, my sin has been removed. My rebellion against God was atoned for. The holiness that demanded my destruction also secured my redemption.
Anxiety is a heavy burden, a burden I was not meant to bear. The responsibility for sovereign control lies on the shoulders of the Sovereign God. I am not God. I am the creature, not the Creator. Scripture calls me to cast my anxieties on God, for He sovereignly cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). And because of the four pillars of Isaiah 6:1-7, God can handle the weight of every anxiety I will ever have.
As an addendum: John Piper has written the two best articles I have ever read on the topic of anxiety: “Anxieties: To Be Cast Not Carried” and “Are You Humble Enough to Be Care-Free?” (I was going to provide a link to both articles, but I’ve not been able to figure out how. I’m pretty stupid when it comes to HTML. If anyone could e-mail me and explain how to do this, I would greatly appreciate it.)
Monday, January 23, 2006
In fact (to go off on a tangent for a moment), there’s something going on with the combination of rainy weather, my car, and me having trouble. Just last week, I was attempting to get my niece’s car seat in my car, hurrying through the process because it was raining. (Might I point out: hurrying in the rain is not a cool thing do to. You know the song, “Singing in the Rain” from the film Singing in the Rain? There’s all that running and dancing and twisting without anyone taking a spill… That’s a big, fat Hollywood LIE!) I’m still not sure exactly how it happened, but the car seat collided with my lip in a blinding moment of less-than-ecstatic sensations. At first, I thought the pain was all I was dealing with. Then I felt my face and realized there was a huge gash where my lower lip used to be (okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration). So I had to finish buckling the car seat in while trying to keep from making my backseat look like a bloody crime scene.
Anyway, back to the present. One of the benefits of having your entire immediate family in the same apartment complex is being able to borrow someone else’s car. So I set out about fifteen minutes late…but then I couldn’t find the place where I was scheduled to meet with my accountability partner. Because I don’t have a cell phone right now I couldn’t call him and I began to wonder if I would ever find the place. (Eventually, I did.)
Here’s the really cool part: by God’s grace, I didn’t even get upset. With the comfort of acknowledging God’s sovereignty in all things, I was able to recognize His goodness even when things didn’t go as planned. My tire could have blown out while I was driving. My family members could have needed to use their cars today. I could have missed meeting with my accountability partner. Or, I could have made the meeting and been so flustered that I didn’t get anything out of it. Instead, God flooded my morning with mercy and filled my early morning meeting with grace. My little trial today was miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but it was a reminder that God’s purposes in suffering are the good of His people and the glory of His name. “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Craig Cooper is a care group leader from my church. Yesterday evening at Volunteers for Christ (our church’s college ministry), he gave an outstanding message on the doctrine of the church, taken from Ephesians 4:1-16. The message helped renew my enthusiasm for the local church. One excellent quote he used (among several) was from Charles Spurgeon:
I know there are some who say, "Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church." Now, why not? "Because I can be a Christian without it." Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s command as by being obedient? There is a brick. What is it made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.
I was humbled when, earlier in the week, Craig asked me to share my testimony at the end of his message. As Thursday neared, he helped me organize my thoughts and clarify my points. By God’s grace I was affected even as I read my testimony to the students. Anyway, I decided to post it here (with only a few minor changes).
I was basically born and raised in the church. Growing up, I remained quite active, although much of my church participation was steeped in legalism—an attempt to earn acceptance before God through my works, rather than trusting in Christ’s finished work. I didn’t really have a strong opinion about the local church one way or another. Like Joshua Harris in his earlier days, I wasn’t any more passionate about the church than I was about the local grocery store; it was there and I was thankful for it, but I never got all hyped up about visiting Save-A-Lot.
In January of 2000, I went with Leslie Bowden and some other people from Cornerstone to a conference entitled New Attitude. While there, God radically changed my life. I’d been under the impression that I had been born again at an early age—and I might have (I really can’t say for sure, to be honest)—but I do know that Christ became my treasure that weekend. I had been operating under a mindset of duty and God began to change that to a mindset of delight. On an interesting note: Cornerstone had rented a large bus that year, which we all rode up in, so on the way back from the conference I sat next to this guy who discerned some legalism in some of the stuff I was sharing and called me out on it. It was Mike Plewniak. Even today, he continues to provide me with wise counsel.
After New Attitude, I started growing in my appreciation for the local church. A few years passed before God placed on my heart the desire to seek membership at a church that was grounded in sound doctrine. The search wasn’t that hard. In fact, I don’t know if you could even call it a search. Through my friendship with Leslie, I had known about Cornerstone and decided to attend the new member’s class. I was hooked. It wasn’t like there was a huge list of Reformed charismatic churches to choose from anyway, but I sensed God calling me to Cornerstone.
How has this church affected my life? An easier question to answer might be, how has it not affected my life? But for the sake of clarity, I’ve narrowed it down to three areas. First, Cornerstone has affected me in the area of sound doctrine. Until recently, I had been unaware how tainted my views of Scripture were by humanistic reasoning. Not only that, but I failed to recognize the centrality of the gospel, not just for the unbeliever, but for the believer as well. As I already stated, my tendencies toward legalism are strong and pervasive. Rooting my theology on the cross of Christ has helped reorient my heart to what really matters. My problem is not poor performance, my problem is sin. The solution is not meeting my felt needs, it is the gospel of the grace of God. I knew God before coming to Cornerstone, but it’s almost like that old Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial: “taste them again for the first time.” In a very real sense, my local church has reintroduced me to my Savior.
Second, Cornerstone Church has introduced me to Biblical fellowship. The people here are genuinely concerned about each other. They are purposeful in asking questions. They desire to encourage, exhort, and (where needed) correct each other for the purpose of pursuing holiness. I have never had so many men personally invested in my life—care group leaders, college students, fellow singles. There are several care group leaders—ones that aren’t even my care group leaders—who seek to invest in my life.
Third, Cornerstone has affected my priorities. I’ve always been interested in filmmaking—since birth, practically. I love making movies. I used to have a desire to make it big in Hollywood, and even though I disguised my craving to win an Oscar as being “for the glory of God,” I really had my own glory in mind. I still have a desire to make movies, but that desire has become secondary to my desire to serve in the local church. Cornerstone is my home. If God called me to another church, that would be one thing, but the only way I would stop attending Cornerstone is if I kicked the bucket. Until then, I’m staying right here. I believe my desire to make films is a desire given by God, but I also believe He will sovereignly orchestrate it so that I will not have to sacrifice my relationships and involvement in the local church to pursue that.
Finally, why do I participate in my local church? Because God’s renewing power has changed my heart to love Him and not hate Him. At the same time, my pride is still very present, so I am desperate for God’s grace and I am desperate for humility. Through serving in the local church, I am enabled by grace to pursue humility. I am realizing more and more that I need to be equipped pastorally with sound doctrine, to pursue biblical fellowship with others, and to have my priorities defined by God’s Word. I am also realizing that the gifts that God has given me are for the good of his church and the advancement of the gospel, not simply for self-fulfillment. God is building his church, and my desire now is to live, by grace, for his glory.
I thank God for Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. It is a tremendous means of grace in my life. Without it, I would be a lone brick flopping around on the ground, doing no good.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
For much of my life, I have had a warped view of this doctrine. To me, repentance was looking at my sin with an attitude of, “How could I be like this? I know better than this. I am better than this. All right, I’ll try harder.” Such a mindset reveals legalism, not repentance. Too often, I have been more upset over my tarnished “track record” (which was tarnished from the outset of my existence) than the fact that I have violated the glory of God.
Paul explains that godly sorrow is different from worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow produces heartfelt repentance, which leads to genuine salvation, not to be regretted. The sorrow of the world, however, produces death (see 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
God is showing me the need for what I’m calling persistent repentance. I like the word persistent because it denotes an ongoing process and a fervent attitude. Repentance is both a command of God (Mark 1:15) and a gift of grace (2 Timothy 2:25). If not for the merciful work of Christ’s Spirit in my life, I would quickly grow callous to my sinful tendencies. I have often found myself trying to deal with a particular sin and wondering why things aren’t working right. Well, more often than not, it’s because I have reverted to “Pharisee repentance”—purposing to do better, instead of crying out for the mercy of God.
To paraphrase what I heard a fellow believer once say, "If poor performance is my problem, then I’m without hope. If my problem is sin, there’s a Savior who died in my place." I can receive mercy for past sin and grace to fight future sin. The throne of God is now a throne of grace, all because of the cross. The gospel both charges me with the guilt of my sin and grants me a full pardon. May I, by the grace of God, both desire and receive the gifts of humility, godly sorrow, and persistent repentance.
Monday, January 16, 2006
KING KONG (2005)
Even four days before King Kong opened, I had no interest in seeing the movie. The trailers completely failed to engage my interest. As an independent filmmaker (albeit, a fairly inexperienced one), I can’t watch movies without analyzing them to death. Very rarely do I come across a film that I consider both expertly created and thoroughly engaging. The hype surrounding King Kong failed to hype me up at all. But as I started hearing one rave review after another, and in the process learning a little more of the story (I’ve never seen any of the previous Kong flicks), I became intrigued.
Let me see if I can sum up my response to the film: Peter Jackson is the greatest cinematic storyteller of our time. (Hyperbole? Not in the least.) I really didn’t believe he could create something on par with Lord of the Rings...but he may have done just that.
Granted, King Kong has its faults. The setup was a little too long (though not by the gargantuan proportions claimed by others) and suffered--though only slightly--from a pretentious self-importance, which made a few things a little too hokey. Also, a couple plot elements (including the bug scene) could have been jettisoned. Nevertheless, as pure moviemaking spectacle, I can think of few movies in filmmaking history that have delivered a solidly entertaining story like this one.
As an action/adventure film, I don’t know if anything is its equal. The sequence with the stampeding brontosaurs is quite thrilling, to put it mildly. A lot of people have complained to me that it is entirely unrealistic--even campy--but I think they're missing the point. Of course it defies logic (in several ways), but the execution of the sequence is what makes it amazing, in spite of the implausabilities. I also remember reading a review that said the T-rex fight scene was one of the best action scenes ever filmed. I thought, “There’s no way. It’s a couple of CGI characters fighting [which, I found out, was actually 4 CGI characters]. How involving can that be?” Well, it may be the greatest action scene I have ever seen. “Tour de force” doesn’t begin to describe it. This action scene goes on for quite some time and left me breathless. The climactic sequence on the Empire State Building was masterfully crafted as well. Glorious, beautiful, and tragic.
Talking about glorious and beautiful, the CGI work in this film has set a new standard. Heck, it raised the bar so high, it’ll take years for anyone to match it, much less surpass it. If I remember what I read correctly, the budget for King Kong was only fifty million dollars more than that of The Chronicles of Narnia, but it looks like they spent four times as much money on the film! I thought Aslan looked great (which he did), but Kong looks so real. The dinosaurs weren’t as impressive, but what Jackson did with them was more than impressive.
Granted, with me hyping up the CGI, you’d think the movie would lack heart. Not so. I deplore films with visual spectacle and little-to-no story. Peter Jackson, unlike a Star Wars producer who will remain nameless, knows how to implement visual effects that advance the story, not just make it look more flashy. True, I would like to have seen more interaction between Kong and Ann. But even as it stands, the relationship that develops between these two pivotal characters is highly effective. One could even argue that the best parts of the movie are the few quiet scenes with just Kong and Ann. These scenes bring tears to the eyes (or, at least to mine).
The emotional impact of the movie is greatly enhanced by James Newton Howard’s score. I’m truly sorry for Howard Shore (whose own score for the film was rejected during the eleventh hour), but at the same time I must say JNH did a phenomenal job with his replacement score. The action music is intense and the main themes are sweeping and heartfelt. On the occasions when they are used, the choir and/or soloists pack a real emotional punch. I got this film score for Christmas and I still haven't listened to it enough.
I’ve already seen it twice and am planning on at least one more viewing before the film arrives on DVD. This is, by far, the best movie I have seen in the last couple years. Descriptions like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” “masterpiece,” and “instant classic” are too often used, but I would say they are very appropriate for Peter Jackson and his newest labor of love.
First, I am not attempting to make fun of the United States. On the contrary, I’m quite patriotic and a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. (Hence, the play on words.) In spite of her problems, the U.S. is a country blessed by the grace of God with innumerable freedoms and privileges.
Second, the word “scores” refers to music composed for movies. For the few thousand of us in the world who listen to film music, scores make up a fine musical genre worthy of our admiration and respect. Scores should not be confused with those deplorable “songs inspired by” collections. Those are not scores. Those are evil. If you want a good idea of what music sounded like before the Fall, listen to film scores. If you want a good idea of how the Fall affected music, listen to “songs inspired by” albums.
Why start a blog now? For several reasons:
1) Everyone else is doing it
2) If I am to maintain my individuality in this world of blogging I must conform to the status quo
3) As a writer, I would like a convenient corner of cyberspace in which to hone my skills
4) As an independent filmmaker who likes to write, I’ve wanted a place to archive my musings on various films and filmmaking issues
5) As an independent filmmaker/writer who has been saved from the wrath of God by the grace of God through the sacrifice of the only begotten Son of God, I enjoy studying theology and discussing how sound doctrine and filmmaking can work together to achieve the glory of God
So, let the belated blogging begin!