25 May 2011

it’s okay to let this one in

When I commented last year on the movie that Let Me In is based on, the Swedish Let the Right One In, I finished with this:  “I heard a nasty rumor of this gem being redone for the American audience.  I fear that the intelligence and charm will be drained from it, just as surely as Eli drains her ill-fated quarry.”  My fear was only partly justified.  It is true that Eli (Abby in the remake) has exchanged some charm for some genuine ferocity.  Hammer Films is involved, after all!  Still, there remains the innocence(!) of young love. 

Kodi Smit-McPhee (as Owen, instead of Oskar) and Chloë Grace Moretz, who has been “twelve for a very long time,” are excellent in their starring roles.  For me, the deviations from the Swedish film maintain the story’s intelligence—and wit.  Ronald Reagan, speaking about good and evil in 1980s America, provides a recurring backdrop.  The consumer culture is a key player, as well.  As Owen eats his favorite candy, Now and Later, he sings the jingle, “Eat some now.  Save some for later.” 

As a music fan, I really appreciate its use in the movie.  When the two are playing Ms. Pac-Man at a convenience store, we can hear Culture Club on the PA system, with Boy George crying, “Do you really want to hurt me?”  Abby, the vampire, has the power.  But as she watches Owen playing the video game, it’s clear that that would be a mutual question. 

After Owen has discovered Abby’s true nature, there’s no more room for secrets.  It’s back to being the only preteens who can identify with the Greg Kihn Band as they sing, “We’d been living together for a million years.” 

There are other well-chosen songs, like David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and the Vapors’ “Turning Japanese.”  But my favorite one accompanies the scene in which Abby’s “father” (Richard Jenkins) attacks a student after being discovered in a car.  The car crashes, and he pours acid on his face, to avoid being identified.  The song is Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You.”  (A bit of grim humor, to be sure.)  Maybe the fact that it was BOC’s song that I really liked when it was first released has something to do with it! 

This movie stands alone, regardless of the excellent Swedish original, as one of the best vampire movies ever.  Let this one in.

15 May 2011

the road to awe

“Death is the road to awe.”  So speaks the Mayan king in The Fountain (2006).  Once again, I’ve been drawn to this excellent movie by director Darren Aronofsky.  It stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz on a mind-bending and heart-rending journey in the present, five centuries in the past, and (presumably) five centuries in the future. 

In the present, Jackman plays a doctor deeply invested in his medical research, because he’s desperate to find a cure for his terminally ill wife, played by Weisz.  In the past, he is a Spanish conquistador, and in the future, he’s a space traveler in a transparent bubble!  In all three time periods, Weisz is also present:  in the future, as an apparition who appears to him, and in the past, as the monarch of Spain, in all of her queenly beauty. 

And then there’s the tree of life, denied to humanity since the beginning.  It haunts Jackman in each of the centuries. 

I remembered the line, “Death is the road to awe,” because the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for the Fourth Sunday of Easter includes 2:43.  “Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.” 

We too rarely experience awe in our foolish, cynical culture.  But where else can death and resurrection lead us?

14 May 2011

another barrier falls

This past week, while our presbytery (Geneva) was meeting and listening to Phyllis Tickle, the news came that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area had approved Amendment 10-A, which gave it the needed majority to become part of our Book of Order.  Our presbytery had already approved it two months earlier. 

It replaces this language:  “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church.  Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.  Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.” 

…with this:  Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.  The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office.  The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.” 

A frequent complaint of those opposed to the change is that it waters down the standards for ordination.  I realize that this amendment is usually framed as being about ordaining people who are gay (and on that point, I do support it).  Still, when I voted for it, I found the text to be far from watered down.  To me, submitting “joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life” is very powerful language.  I see it as an even higher standard.  I understand that some people will choose to interpret that in whatever way they want, but then, the same thing happens with the Bible.

I can’t ignore the scriptures that portray homosexuality in a bad light.  At the same time, there are also scriptures that tolerate—or even command—oppression of women, denigration of those with physical deformities, slavery, and genocide!  I love the Bible, but I also recognize how it demonstrates the ongoing revelation of God’s light and love.  We see that within its pages, as the Hebrew prophets yearned for a deeper faith than that found at the level of sacrificing animals.  We see Jesus and the apostles finding “clean” what before had been considered “unclean.” 

And for the faithful far removed from that time, the Spirit continues to give new insights into the written word.  Relying on the Living Word, the scriptures again come to life.  We have to learn, over and over again, the difficult path of love.