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The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is a new movie starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett, and Hugh Bonneville. Set during the waning days of World War II, it is the story of an unlikely platoon of men tasked with recovering, and restoring, works of art stolen by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Positioning itself as an epic among the likes of Saving Private Ryan, it is nevertheless a tale that takes place in smaller, quiet moments. Going in, we do not know much about the Monuments Men, other than they are scholars, professors, art historians, architects–men who love art. Despite this lack of back story, we learn who they are by what they do.

They characters are revealed by their respective actions. Though they wrestle with it, struggle to come to grips, each believes the mission is one worth dying for. That these monumental works are worth preserving. That by keeping culture alive they are keeping hope alive.

That by preserving history they are safeguarding the future.

Though it is somewhat disjointed at times, with abrupt tonal shifts, this movie brings home the high human cost of war. Not through the horrors of the concentration camp, but rather through small moments (a character hanging a painting in an empty apartment, never to be occupied again by the people who left it).

It is a journey worth taking.

Go see The Monuments Men.


The news has recently broken that Nicolas Cage is rebooting the Left Behind film franchise. Yes, it’s a real thing. Christian production company Cloud Ten is behind it. Apparently, the the film is budgeted at only $15 million. Yes, I know–it’s a staggering sum for us mere mortals, but in Hollyweird that’s peanuts. Consider for instance M. Night Shyamalan’s almost-universally panned The Happening. That apocalyptic film had a budget of $57 million.

I heard that sharp intake of breath, suddenly silenced. That’s right, folks: that was the best they could do with $57. Million. Dollars!

I don’t know about you, but a budget of just $15 million doesn’t give me much hope for a film which ostensibly aspires to capitalize on the “adventurous aspects” of the Left Behind franchise. I mean, come on, how much ILM time can be bought for $15 million? I’d guess not a whole lot.

So there must be something else going on, right?

Why this, why now, why Nicolas Cage?

Is he knowing something we don’t? Are there signs pointing to something perhaps a little more sinister?

I think there are.

Let me explain:

Here’s an actor who went from winning an Academy Award for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas to starring in The Rock. And from thence to Con Air.

In fact for every Leaving, and Adaptation, there were bizarro career choices like the Wicker Man, and

Ghost Rider.

And that’s an interesting one; in it, Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcycle rider. A rider who makes a deal with the devil to save his father’s life. The deal is made, and the devil being a liar, Blaze’s dad dies anyway.

However, in addition to being a liar, the devil has an elephantine memory, and calls Johnny’s payment due–turning him into the supernatural enforcer, Ghost Rider.

And that right there, folks, is the key to unlocking the mystery of the Left Behind remake: that deal made on celluloid for all to see.

Let me ask you: who is the antagonist of the Left Behind series? Nikolai Carpathia.

Whose name does that sound like? Nicolas Cage.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, they share the same name! (A cursory Google search has shown that “Carpathia,” when translated from Romanian, means “Coppola,” which is Cage’s real last name).

Nicolas Cage = Nikolai Carpathia.

Thus I conclude that Nicolas Cage is in fact the antichrist. There’s no other explanation for these (awful) movies being remade.

The payment on his career is coming due, and that payment is undisputedly Left Behind.

What do you think?

The simple genius of Blue Like Jazz is to me this:

It presents the world as it is–not as we would have it be. In this way, it is like the Bible itself, which presents the human race as we are: as sinners. (Yes, even Christians sin. Shocking, I know).

So there are:

Lesbians, drug references, partying, and general debauchery portrayed on the the screen. Should this surprise us? I defy you to show me a college campus (the movie’s setting) where none of the above occurs (yes, even Christian ones).

This may ruffle some feathers, but so did Jesus. We need to be shaken, to feel uncomfortable. It’s good for our souls.

By that, you’ve probably gleaned that this is not a movie interested in preaching to the choir. What it is interested in is the story–the journey that young Don takes. To me, the road he travels is reminiscent of:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:7-12, ESV).

And that to me is the difference between Blue Like Jazz, and other “Christian” films; specifically, that it’s not afraid to show us Don’s (and our) darkness, but in the end it’s not about embracing that darkness, rather it’s about sharing what Jesus means to each of us individually as believers vs. telling others what Jesus should mean to them.

The simple genius there? Show vs. tell. And Donald Miller, Steve Taylor, and company do it very well.

Like the apostles of 2000 years ago, it is my hope that this movie turns the subculture of Christian cinema right side up.

As I asked in the post’s title: “Going the movies this weekend?”

See Blue Like Jazz. Get your tickets at Blue Like Jazz Tickets

You’ll be glad you did.

'Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher' photo (c) 2009, Josh Jensen - license:

In case you’ve been living under a rock, and didn’t know, it appears Hollywood power couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are headed for a divorce. These are the headlines that could be:

In effort to save failing marriage, Moore offers Kutcher a Striptease; Kutcher too “tired.” Says he wants No Strings Attached.

Hearing of his affair, Moore goes all G. I. Jane on Kutcher’s sorry white butt. After beatdown, he asks Dude, Where’s My Car?

Asking Kutcher Guess Who, Moore shouts “Here’s Demi!”

Moore thinking nothing but Mortal Thoughts; Kutcher gathers Personal Effects.

Folks, I would be remiss if I didn’t
point out that today’s post was inspired by The Good Greatsby. Head over and read his awesome blog! Not sure how I found him, but I believe it was a link off of Ricky Anderson’s blog. In any case, read those and grow wise. Or maybe just laugh a lot!

One more for you before I leave:

Proving its attraction Stronger, and that he’s already LOST, Rob Bell resigns his pastorate, and moves to Hell(ywood). Carlton recuses himself of all spiritual content.

Peace out peeps!

How about you give it a try? Make some headlines using movie titles in the comments below.

>heart to heartphoto © 2006 Divya Vibha Sharma | more info (via: Wylio)

Recently, my wife and I saw the film, Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s apparently based upon a children’s book of the same name, which having never read it, I can’t comment upon.

Having seen the film, I can say this: the movie has heart. And honestly, that’s what’s important to me: how much, or how little, heart a film (or book, or whatever) has. While not a great film, it’s nevertheless a good one–because it has heart. (I realize this is a very subjective opinion, but hey!, it’s my blog). Anyway, it’s better than any film about a man turning his New York penthouse into a penguin house has any right to be.

I say this because again, despite the silliness inherent in the plot, it’s really about a man finding his heart. In fact, the backstory is a sobering, and altogether too real, one: a little boy, Thomas Popper, for all intents and purposes, has grown up without his dad.

This had emotional weight, had resonance, with me–because I grew up much the same: without my dad. I imagine with the divorce statistics being what they are, I’m not alone in this. But I digress.

With this framework, it’s very easy to see how the character of Thomas Popper turned out as he did: shallow, an overachiever, disconnected from his kids, divorced, and lonely.

And what did it take to break through his defenses, his carefully constructed veneer? Penguins. Penguins sent as a final gift from his explorer father. Thomas Popper learned, for once, to care about something–or someone–other than himself.

I see this altogether too often in children of divorce, this drive to protect the self. Indeed, I’ve lived it. But again, I digress.

In learning to care for the penguins, Tom found something fragile and unexpected: his heart. And in so doing, he found his way back home–past his careful constructed persona, and into the arms, and hearts, of his children and ex-wife.

In finding his heart, he got the one thing he always wanted, but dared not hope for: a second chance.

And like It’s a Wonderful Life before it, that’s a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading!

Question: have you seen this movie? What do you think of it? How have you reclaimed your heart?