Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Thursday, February 05, 2004

A curiosity: my review of Secondhand Lions is far less verbose than for Lost in Translation. The reason is simple - Secondhand Lions is about old-fashioned integrity. It may have a few minor flaws, but it is far more view-worthy than the other movie we saw this week. So I can say: get it. See it. Enjoy. No further explanation is necessary.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

William Buckley's West Point commencement address, June 1971: Buckley comments on John Kerry's antiwar speech which was in the Spring of that year. Pay attention to Buckley's key question, akin to the priest asking "Is there a God?"
Lost in Translation movie review.

We caught this one last night on our late-night DVD cinema. Tuesday nights after Bible Class are good for movies we missed at the theatre, and I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about regarding Bill Murray's Oscar-nominated performance. I'm a fan of Bill Murray since the old SNL days, and Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Caddyshack still make me chuckle when I catch them. Now Murray takes a dramatic turn in Lost in Translation.

Warning: this movie is not for the average moviegoer. A survey of user reviews at Metacritic reveals that this one is quite polarized outside the world of move critics. Of course, one should take great caution at reading the words "critics agree," which translated means, "normal people won't agree." The critics' reviews of Lost in Translation strike a resoundingly unified thumbs up pose, but the users are polarized. The two kinds of people who didn't like it were those who thought it racist (it wasn't), and those who thought it boring. Those who loved it were in the movie critic camp. I have my own interesting test - the Rene' test. If Rene' doesn't like it, it's probably because it's too rough or unvirtuous for her demanding principles. So... Rene' fell asleep, and her comment at the end was, "I had a good nap." Lost in Translation failed the Rene' test.

But let's go deeper. This is a quirky remake of Roman Holiday. Its theme is romantic love in an exotic location. Now Rome in Roman Holiday is very romantic, and the love that blooms between the princess and the reporter is a wonder. In Lost in Translation Tokyo is not romantic, but a monstrously foreign and puzzling place, and the two lovers are married. Both marriages are in trouble: the young woman, Charlotte, has lost the identity and romance of her husband of two years, and the world-weary older man Bob is seriously out of love with his own wife, who calls and talks about domestic things, and is doubtful of his interest. She has reason to doubt. For a few days the two yearn for each other, enjoy the slipstream of mutual experience and ignore the inevitability of their parting. There is no question that in the singularity of the time and place of their meeting they have fallen for one another, each for their own reasons. One person at Metacritic observed that Bob is the future of Charlotte's husband, and Charlotte the past of Bob's wife. She longs for the time when her husband will look at her again with the same eye as their courtship, and he longs for the time that he can never redeem, when he loved his wife of 25 years. Bob sees in Charlotte's youth and beauty something of the past.

Lost in Translation records the flawed logic of such an affair with faithfulness. Charlotte asks Bob if he is in midlife crisis, and later states plainly that he is. "Maybe you need a Porche." But she latches onto him nonetheless, in hopeless and tragic fashion, and this is the way in a godless world. People without God need one another with a desperation that goes beyond reckoning, and from the outside looking in it is painful to watch.

That's the point I really want to get at. Director Sofia Coppola has a knack for the feelings and logic of the godless world, and Lost in Translation is a funny, touching, and ultimately hopeless film. With great skill, she brings out the looming of their parting, and the final silence and emptiness of the first stage of that, and then the false hope of the second stage with an equal eye to detail. But make no mistake: the unreal singularity of their mutual event is just that. They connect, it feels real, and then it's over. Ouch.

Regarding morals, it's an interesting mix. Bob and Charlotte don't consummate their physical relationship, and even at the end, when there is a physical expression of affection, it's just this: "We felt that way, but we didn't do it." But Bob has four relationships with women in the course of the movie. A loveless, dry, tired relationship with his wife of 25 years; a puzzled, humorous rejection of a Japanese prostitute; a one night stand with an American cocktail singer; and a falling-star brief romance of the heart with Charlotte. So... Bob has blown it with his long-time wife (which could be fixed by the grace of God), he has rightfully said no to the prostitute, but it was not difficult to do so because the cultural gulf is laughably wide. He gives in to the singer, largely because he deeply loves the young woman, but knows its going nowhere and doesn't want to bring destructive sexuality into something that is far deeper than physical love. Those four are knit together with great logic, showing the complexity of the sinful nature of man.

But that wasn't Coppola's intent, because she genuinely likes what happens between Bob and Charlotte. The acting and directing was great. Murray deserved the Oscar nod he got, and Johansson is a marvel for a 18 year old playing a confused 22 year old. Look out for her in years to come. But... the movie was an almost realistic look at an affair of the heart, and the twilight of a mid-life crisis. If only I could whisper "There is a God" into it somehow, it might have real value. And if only it wasn't quite as wistful and loving of what happened between the two, it might have even more value.

Lost in Translation is another example of the axiom, "Skill is Not Virtue." Go rent Roman Holiday and enjoy the genre in its more noble form.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Re: Super Bowl II.

The Beer Dogs commercial was somewhat funny, but it made our day since the triumphant dog was a Border Terrier, the breed of our very own Frisky.
Big Tuesday is back. I'm back on a five hour a week teaching schedule, one that is much more demanding. On Tuesdays especially I have to study like a whirling dervish just home from Starbucks, or else the rest of the week slides into chaos. Today I am putting the finishing touches on the Doctrine of Trial and Temptation. I've been at it hard since 6:30 AM, and I should be done with that shortly after lunch so that I can move on to write the history of Israel during the 9th Century, B.C. as the prelude to our Obadiah study. Obadiah has some significant parallels to the past two years on the geopolitical scene, and should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Re: Super Bowl.

Great game that was almost completely marred by the worst halftime show in history. Thanks for the showing the world the most degenerate side of our nation possible. There are too many things to mention and who wants to anyway, but wearing a flag like a poncho does a tremendous disservice to what it stands for.

Here's hoping the NFL has the sense not to award the Super Bowl TV contract to CBS for a long, long time. And... Phil Simms is the worst announcer since Harry Caray in his dotage. He's like fingernails on a blackboard to fans who have any sense at all. It is sheer agony to have to hear him pontificate during Broncos TV, but hey you can turn him off and listen locally to Dave Logan, one of the great ones. Not so on Super Bowl Sunday. Ugh.