Monday, May 09, 2005

Summer Vacation

It's been a crazy week. From a joke-argument that ended up upsetting people to procrastinating on a scary marketing presentation to seeing an enjoyable yet problematic movie, there's been a lot to think about; a lot to consider posting on. I have started posts on all these things and only finished the one--well, ones--on the movie; the others I wasn't sure if they were really worth posting on.

Summer vacation is three days away from starting (for me), going home is about five days away, and then a whole other spiel of activities and projects will start in their own right. What's more, we may not have a computer hooked up for a while (or at all) over the summer, so it looks like this blog will be going on summer vacation itself--though I will try to post now and then, as I'm given the time and opportunity. But, come fall, I plan to start it up again and continue recording the exciting adventures of my lives--er, life. Yeah.

I hope to post at least one more time before the week is up and the summer properly begun, so look to that, my imaginary friends. :) Until then, farewell and peace be the journey.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

An Afterthought

I realized after posting my impressions of "Kingdom of Heaven," that I probably was being too hard on them. After all, everyday life is not always about the hardest decisions and the stickiest situations. Those come now and then and test our mettle but they're not our whole lives, or we might die a whole lot earlier of heart failure. It doesn't change that those tend to be my favorite moments in a story, the times of testing; though they are not my favorite times in my own life. It's more often the results; when I've survived the storm, made my decision, etc, that I'm happy--if I passed the test.

Overall I thought the movie roughly enjoyable, though not without some troublesome flaws, as I already mentioned. And I am very thankful my friends took me out to dinner and a movie and made sure I had a good time for my birthday. :)

Kingdom of Heaven

(Another too-long movie review. A few spoilers.)

I'm not entirely sure what I think of "Kingdom of Heaven." I'm not entirely sure I have anything worth saying on the subject. The music was lovely, the action very bloody, the I guess it was hard to get completely drawn into the story itself, perhaps because some of the maneuvering (of armies and men and such) was a bit confusing. And then there was the whole spiritual wishy-washiness that left me feeling mixed. I'm not sure if it was that last one or perhaps the fact that the movie just generally felt unfocused, constantly on the move, rarely stopping to delve deeper into anything. Perhaps I am just slow or nit-picky, but that's how it felt to me.

There were good things, too. A deep sense of honor. Many characters reiterated the importance of a good life over spiritual pomp and circumstance. One character said something about how a good life is about of living right and "defending the helpless." I leaned over to my sister and whispered, "That's in the Bible!" Because it is. There's more than one verse that says that that's what true righteousness is all about. James 1:27, for instance. That doesn't mean living right by any god's definition; but finding out who the true god is and what he wants. I think it was even partly the repetitive "what God wants is here and here" type comments (pointing to the head and heart), that partly contributed to the slightly sugary, unreal feel of the movie. Don't get me wrong--I basically agree with that statement--but how many knights in the crusades went around saying stuff like that, and in that slightly peace-and-flowers way? I don't know; maybe they did. It just didn't ring very true to me.

Even if the knights did go around saying stuff like that, it doesn't prove much. Anyone can go around spouting pretty-sounding platitudes--many do. But how am I to know it isn't just more pomp and circumstance if you don't prove it to me? As James also says, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18).

I don't mean that the characters were all corrupt exactly; it just didn't feel like they rose above the sort of obvious and popular morality we mostly believe in today, at least in our country. Maybe I'm being too hard on them; I do love seeing good choices in tough situations--perhaps I aspire to it--and maybe it's too much to expect that every movie should have that quality. But the thing is few enough movies do have that quality these days, and I miss it sorely. There's not much I respect more or find more beautiful than a person willing to put someone else's needs and desires before their own. Self-sacrifice is to me one of, if not the, most beautiful thing on earth--or heaven, I think.

There was one example of this I did appreciate, and that was, appropriately, from the main character, Balian. "It is a kingdom of conscience or not at all," he says when refusing to have a man killed so he can marry his wife, take the kingdom, and prevent more warfare. (A sticky enough choice that I'm not entirely sure what was the right choice, what with the husband being a bloodthirsty man who would only cause more death and bloodshed, but Balian's intent was good, and that's important.) ...Evidently sleeping with the man's wife didn't count--just so long as he didn't kill him. *sigh*

My sister had a different take on things, saying that they were at least "searching," and it is true enough that at least two of the main characters were searching for forgiveness and perhaps even for God. It's just didn't feel like they found him; more as though they concluded he didn't matter or couldn't be known--a thing too many people think today, unfortunately--and probably have throughout history and time. And the truth is, I would certainly rather watch this kind of movie than the revenge flicks that seem so popular these days. But I would still rather watch a movie that feels more authentic, that delves deeper and tries a little harder to face the hard issues, that perhaps rings a little truer. There are a few out there; they're just harder to find.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Postscript

Although, I may not have been completely satisfied with the movie, I may just check out the books, thanks to Decent Films' good word.

Lemony Snicket

(Note: Some spoilers.)

Yesterday I finally saw Lemony Snicket. Finally--after all these months. All in all, I felt like it was a rather uneven portrayal, what with the odd combination of humor, outright weirdness coming right out of left field (or really I don't know what field), and the occasional shock of reality, of the unsettling variety. Though the humor was all pretty much so-called "dark," it still seemed an odd fit with the few jolts of "reality" that got thrown in, startling me. Okay, really it was mainly one instance that shocked me a little, and you may laugh when you hear it. It wasn't blood or gore; it wasn't crude or really even offensive. It was just when the boy, Klaus, got slapped by his uncle, Count Olaf. Okay, I'm a weird one, but I can take a certain level of violence and not really be phased by it. Good or bad, that's the truth. But there are certain things that will make me step back, even despite the fact that they might be smaller than the big violent things the movies often wallow in so much. I can watch a man get beat up--no big deal. I see a kid get spit on, and it shocks me. (Real example--Power of One.) Analyzing my reactions would take a whole (much longer) essay, but the bottom line, I think, is that humiliation impacts me far deeper than "mere" violence.

I'm not sure what category the slap falls under, but it just seemed so--I guess real that it startled me. I guess it touched below the surface humor of disastrous events and dire happenings that the movie plays off of, touched deeper to something that seemed realer and more disturbing. Most of the events seemed so outlandish and ridiculous that it stood out in startling contrast. It felt like stepping out of the fantasy movie-land into some real-time videocamera effect that was jarring. Maybe it epitomized the whole wrongness of the situation, the way the uncle was treating the children--making them slave for him while he made plans to come into their inheritance--and then slapping one of them. Just--treating Klaus like he was worthless and Count Olaf's property to be slapped and pushed around. Disrespected. I think that's at the heart of it. Slaps are hardly the most violent thing you can do to a person, and yet to me they seem to be deeply disrespectful. Like the aforementioned spitting incident; I hate to see a person disrespected or humiliated. I guess there's not much that bothers me more than that.

I'm talking like slapping and spitting are the worst things that can happen to a person in the so-called Real World. I don't mean that at all. I just mean, they seem the closest and realest to my world, the easiest to imagine. While houses burning down and oncoming trains (while you're locked in cars straddling the tracks) and murderous uncles seem far less real to my sphere of experience.

Besides that, the death of a new friend during the course of the movie, the fatal dangers that somehow weren't fatal (at least when Count Olaf underwent them) struck an odd and perhaps surreal chord alongside the humorous tone of the move, dark or not, however you please to call it.

Other little points throughout the movie touched me in a different way. The children as they faced the ruin of their lives and loss of their parents--wandering amid the charred remains of their house; here an unscarred telescope, there a blackened plaything. Later, rolling up their sleeves (or in Violet's case, tying up her hair) as they made the best of a bad situation in a makeshift tent at their uncle's house, with a locket of their parents' profiles watching over them as they played and laughed together. And, at the end, reading the belated letter from their parents, written so many years before, with words of such goodness and hope and all the things the movie purported not to be about. “At times the world may seem like an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe us when we say that there is much more good in it than bad... and what may seem like a series of unfortunate events might, in fact, be the first steps of a journey.” Things didn't turn out perfectly for the kids. Uncle Olaf escaped. Their final fate hangs uneasily in the air, left unknown to us. But the yellowed letter, arriving years late, and all it reminded of the light among the clouds that gives us hope of things better and an underlying sense, was as close to a happy ending as a movie about deplorable circumstances and unfortunate events might dare to be. Though I might've wished for more reason to the hope and sense to the puzzles, and maybe even a little evidence of the goodness, I came away warmed, at least, by the moments that rang true.