Theme: Extreme Weather (Week: April 4-10/14)

This has been a harsh winter in the Maritimes. Because of this, the last three months were hard to bear, though it was nothing compared to the horrendous torture on Facebook and Twitter. Which reminds me, if you made any mention of the weather on a social networking site since Christmas, you should know that we are not on speaking terms.

Considering last week’s “blurricane” that happened in this part of the globe, the nominees this week are all movies that involve extreme weather:


SAND STORM: Lawrence of Arabia (1962, #80)
TORNADO: The Wizard of Oz (1939, #177)
BLIZZARD: Groundhog Day (1993, #213)

Seven deadly movies, and one with Brad Pitt in it

This week’s Movie of the Week is… Se7en!


The seven deadly sins come to us as the result of a combination of biblical passages and Christian writings that have developed over history. It is an intriguing list–it doesn’t include stealing, torture, suicide, or even murder. But then again, they’re called the “deadly” sins, not the “worst” or “biggest.” The sins included in the list of seven are little sticky tar pits that seem harmless until we step in them. They lead to  bigger things. Here is a list of movies that match each one:

PRIDE: About a Boy. Joy planned our seventh wedding anniversary and part of that night was going to see this movie. I was disappointed at first, hoping we’d go see Spider-man or Attack of the Clones, which were also out that June night. After watching this it became one of my favourites. There is no better movie that depicts a person overcoming this effortless vice.

COVETOUSNESS: The Pursuit of Happyness. Now I don’t suggest that Will Smith’s character struggled with coveting. In fact, this movie is a perfect picture of a beautiful opposite. Chris Gardner couldn’t be anymore broke or in trouble as he was already. He was destitute to the point of homelessness, and he had a son to raise. Alone. He sees a sports car he loves and asks the owner what he does for a living. From there he chases his dream of becoming a stockbroker. But it wasn’t because he was covetous. It was inspiration. Myself, I don’t like trying to keep up with any Joneses nor serving an almighty dollar, but when I think of this movie I think of what I do want. Support for a family and a dream to chase.

LUST: American Beauty. Most would find the sex scene in this movie too much to take in. Admittedly, it’s not just steamy or racy, it involves a married man with an underage girl and it goes farther than it should for the sake of the story. But this movie gives a great depiction of restoration for Lester and an apparent 180 degree turn away from this lust. Though very unappreciated in the Christian world (sadly, many classics are), this movie is a true work of art.

WRATH: Star Wars. I suppose any movie with a good antagonist can show you a good story of wrath and what it can do to a person. You have to watch at least three movies to get the message, but the story of Darth Vader (or Anakin Skywalker) is one that centers around wrath. I chose this movie series for this sin because it has maybe the best story of redemption in light of it.

GLUTTONY: Supersize Me. Yeah, this documentary is a very uncomfortable reality check for all of us. But I have to say, this movie doesn’t criticize or damage McDonald’s as much as it appears to. I still love that place and I still eat there. After watching this movie I am more keenly aware, however, of our culture’s love affair with gluttony. I am not referring to obesity either. Gluttony is so accepted in our society that it’s practically a beloved child. Not even churches condemn it. If anything it’s encouraged. Unfortunately, it is overweight people who take the scolding and the humiliation. We all need to own it.

ENVY: Freaky Friday. Where covetousness wishes you had some possession, envy involves wanting to be someone else. In this movie a mom and her daughter each insist the other has a much easier and better life. They switch places and the rest is magic. Well, it’s at least entertaining. This was the first movie I’d ever seen in a drive-in, along with another Disney movie called Gus about a donkey who plays football. Over thirty years later I watched the remake with my kids.

SLOTH: Office Space. I can’t even tell you how much I love this movie. The main character, out of frustration with his boss(es) decides to do nothing at work. I won’t say anything more, but some of the best caricatures I’ve ever seen are in this movie.

Now I can’t just list seven movies without talking about Se7en and Brad Pitt. First of all, this movie fits in great with the “twists” movies of last week. The ending is memorable with a tie-in like you’ve never seen before. The story is gripping, the acting is excellent–if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, well, you should.

I mentioned before that I think Pitt is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. Even though everyone knows his name and sees him as a bigger-than-life sex symbol, this fact overshadows his supreme acting ability. Anytime I hear of a Brad Pitt movie coming out, I want to see it. I don’t need to be sold on the story. I don’t need to be given a teaser. Not even a preview. I know it will be good because I know how good he is.

Congratulations Se7en, this is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress:
Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark. She fit into her role in Inglourious Basterds so effortlessly it was an experience just to watch her. Interesting bit of trivia: My name is Troy, she stars in the movie Troy, and the main character of that movie is played by none other than Brad Pitt. Huh!
Best Actor: Other than Brad, this week is a tough choice. We have Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Christoph Waltz, Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro  and Michael Fassbender. This week I think Christoph Waltz deserves the prize for his role as Col. Hans Landa. His scenes in Inglourious Basterds are mostly mere conversations yet they are terrifying. So far he has won two best supporting actor Oscars, and really I can’t imagine anyone beating him in this category.
Best Quote:
Tyrone: I don’t want that dog dribbling on my seats.
Vinny: Your seats? Tyrone, this is a stolen car, mate.

Again, those seven sins are considered deadly for a reason: they lead to much bigger things. Often I look at the bigger, badder things that happen in life. I think we all do. A man who wishes he owned his friend’s Porsche or a woman who did nothing productive at work don’t make headlines. In our own brains we should make them headlines. We need to be a little more aware of these deadly vices and their effect on us. Perhaps Saint Brad will remind us.

Theme: Brad Pitt; Week: March 28 – April 3/14

Mar 28-Apr 3 14

Snatch (2000, #94)
Se7en (1995, #22)
Inglourious Basterds (2009, #102)

So I’ve been told I resemble Brad Pitt. Yeah this is something I find hard to believe but can’t say I don’t like hearing it. But really, it’s because of his acting. Seriously! Would I trade in this head for that… that… hairy one? Don’t even get me started on my invaluable Carruthers eyebrows. I could smother ten terrorists with these bad boys.

This is my second favourite actor of all time (second only to the great Daniel Day Lewis) and I’ve been looking forward to having a MOTW dedicated to his great work. He is the fourth most represented actor on the IMDb top 250, and in my opinion the most underrated actor today. People forget how good he is and only remember that he’s one of the tabloids’ favourite cash cows. So let us all know which of these masterpieces deserves the attention this week.

NOTE: Obviously one of his best performances and greatest movies is missing: Fight Club. It is omitted, however, because it has already been up for MOTW. I love all three of the ones represented and wanted to see which of these would end up taking the cake.

Life’s Unexpected Twists

This week’s (Mar 21-27/14) movie of the week is… Fargo!

I have always loved stories with twists and turns. The kind that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next. I think we all like that. It can be hard when it happens in life, however. And it does. A lot. I had no idea three years ago that I was going to be let go from my job as a ministry professor. Coincidentally I had just watched Up In The Air a few months prior, a movie about a man whose career is travelling to different corporate business and firing their staff for them. Some of the things that George Clooney’s character said to those newly-former employees started coming back to me at this time of my life. He encourages one man to chase his dreams. To another he says,

“Look, anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.” The people he was talking to were facing an unexpected turn. A rather sharp turn. He was offering to them a way to respond to it.

For years I’d heard sermons about “the call” that God puts on people to work full-time for him. Most of these I heard while I was training to be a minister. I also engaged in conversations about what “the call” meant. I heard personal stories of people who earnestly believed that God called them away from chasing their dreams to instead serve him. At first it sounded like he was a bit sadistic, maybe even dictatorial. But they always insisted that they were much happier after obeying than they ever could have been if they’d gone after what they wanted to do. I had said, like all of my ministerial peers “It’s not about me. It’s about God’s will.” As a professor and program director I heard students repeating this just as I/we had years ago.

I do not take away from anyone’s story or beliefs on this; however, I have learned over the years that, yes, it is about you. If God is a loving father–something I claim to be myself–then I can understand the Psalmist who encouraged his readers to follow God as loving and giving to his children the desires of their hearts (37:4). I decided I would not let there be any guilt creep into my mind if I decided to do something different.

I became a minister when I was 22. I did believe God blessed this and was pleased, but I do not put the onus (or blame?) on him for this decision. I became a  youth minister because I wanted to be one. And now here I was at a turning point in life, and I wanted something different. This was a fresh start. The twist/turn that just occurred wasn’t easy. In fact, it sucked. But I could see this as a debilitating blow or an opportunity for adventure.

Was it my dream to run a mobile repair business? No, I guess not. But there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to pursue this. It was certainly a desire I had for myself and my family. I was excited about it and couldn’t wait to get started. There are many reasons why and anyone who is interested in knowing them I gladly fill them in. I won’t use this space and time to do that, but I will encourage you to take those twists and turns in life and make them something great. Everyone else has an opinion of you and what you should/shouldn’t do, but only you can make the decision. Only you should make the decision. And make it with confidence. I decided that if I was to invest in a business I would be glad I made the decision, no matter what. If I fail and lose everything I have, I will still be happy with my decision–because I did something for myself and my family and gave it everything I had.

So Fargo isn’t a movie about following one’s dreams, but it, (like The Usual Suspects) has those twists that we moviegoers love so much. Not that they’re all delightful twists. Sometimes we wince or get that punch-in-the-gut feeling when they present themselves, but we still love those movies for doing that to us. Good movies can make you think profound thoughts. Great movies can make you feel profound feelings.

And Fargo does both of these things. I love this movie. In 1997 I watched The English Patient win best picture for 1996, beating out other great movies, including Fargo. I found it so interesting two years later that AFI released a list of the top 100 movies of all time. Fargo was still brand new but it made the list. The English Patient didn’t. As great as TEP was (I also love that one), time would determine the truly great one.

Congratulations Fargo. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to:

Best Actress: Frances McDormand. She won Best Actress that year and I remember everyone seeing her as a shoo-in then. Watch this movie and you will see why.

Best Actor: Kevin Spacey. My favourite role he plays is Lester Burnham in American Beauty, but this one is a close second. An honourable mention to Steve Buscemi. One of my favourites and he kills it (no pun intended) in Fargo.

Best Quote: “That rug really tied the room together.” – The Dude

I have no idea what awaits me and my family in the future, be it disease, death, new life, new challenges, wealth or poverty. But I will face those twists with courage and confidence. Well, most of the time anyway. I’m sure I’ll be a scaredy cat at times too.

Now I feel inspired to bowl more. Minus the hallucinations, of course.

A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do…And What He’s Gotta Do is What He Must

This week’s movie of the week is… Dial M for Murder!

Can you think of one thing you did today that you just had to do. Not something you just did out of ritual or habit like brushing your teeth or locking your door. Something that you just couldn’t not do. You were compelled. Can you think of anything?

This week’s movies seem to be ones that involve people taking action that they felt they must do, and one who laments that he didn’t. The most admirable “must do” character, in my opinion, is Will Kane in High Noon. He believes with all his being that when a dangerous criminal comes to town wanting to kill him that he must face him, whether anyone stands by his side or not. People tell him to go home. People tell him to ride away on a horse. But he knows what he must do and doesn’t change his mind.

This week’s movie of the week has a couple of “must do” characters. One feels he must have his wife killed. Then framed. Another feels he must solve a mystery and therefore find justice. This latter individual, Chief Inspector Hubbard is the closest thing to Will Kane in heroism. He does not ignore the facts and hunches, no matter how minor they are. He must find out who is guilty and save the innocent.

Sometimes I’m bothered when watching heroes. I am reminded how little “must” things I have in my day that really matter. Sometimes I must get this bumper repaired. Sometimes I must pay that bill or make that phone call. But how often do I have a “must” on my mind like, “I must take my daughter on a date today,” or “I must show Joy how much I love and value her,” or “I must do something today about the problem of slavery, starvation or brutality that is happening in my world.” I love heroes, but I hate looking in that mirror.

I have always believed that movies are healthy. They inspire us. They inform us. Not all of them are great, but there are enough great ones at our disposal that can better our lives. In this week’s case, I would suggest that anytime we watch a heroic deed on film that we take the time to self-reflect. Look in that mirror and if what you see is ugly, change it.

Congratulations Dial M for Murder. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to:
Best Actress: Grace Kelly. She is beautiful, delicate and easy to sympathize with. Her performance is what is most memorable in this movie to me, especially the attack scene.
Best Actor: Gary Cooper in High Noon. I realize that the heavyweight Marlon Brando is being snubbed here and probably has been before on this blog. However, Gary Cooper really impressed me when I watched this movie. I wasn’t very familiar with him until watching it and I loved how both his look and the sound of his voice reflects a much more relatable everyday man than that of other actors at this time like Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster and James Dean. Add to that the fact that with his performance in this movie he won best actor, beating out Marlon Brando and Kirk Douglas that year. And while we’re talking about actors, I loved seeing Uncle Billy and Colonel Potter making appearances in High Noon.
Best Quote: No question here. Quote of the week has got to be: “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.” – Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront.

Some of the characters who have lit a fire under me the most with regards to making me ruminate on something that I must do are Guido (Life is Beautiful), Oskar Schindler, Jerry Maguire, Rocky Balboa, Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), and Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happyness). I don’t say this to ask any of you to hold me to this, nor to try and shame you to do a similar thing, but from now on I plan to ask myself every day what I must do. Not what I can or should. What I must.