Friday, March 05, 2010

Oscar Roundtable

an imagined conversation

Oscar Round-Table with Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, Ed Young, Jr, David Dark and the Rev. Smith, pastor of Berean Baptist Church.

CTT: Thanks to all of you for participating in our roundtable. First of all, I would like to ask what each of you brings to the table to discus film.

Mark: “I do love film, I love story. My degree’s in communication. I’ve got two home theater systems. I’ve got three Tivos, all right, I am not against technology and the arts. Our film crew just was in L.A. at Universal Studios shooting on the Spartacus set to get all of our footage for Good Friday. Some of my friends are filmmakers and poets and artists and we’re a very creative church.”*

Brian: While I would rather not discuss the material possessions that allow me to watch film on a high level, I am a former English teacher at the University of Maryland and have an understanding of the narrative aspects of film and how they align with the Biblical narrative.

Ed Young, Jr.: Well, I am sure my home theater system would put Mark’s to shame. Plus, I minister to some very influential actors, names I cannot share at this time. And, we do a really cool “At the Movies” sermon series in which I take a really popular movie and create a sermon around it. We even make our stage look like the film. I cannot wait to do Avatar. I will be blue!

David Dark: I have written on film for a number of years. I find it a form, while not superior to the written word, at least its modern equivalent, allowing the participants, on both the maker’s side and that of the watcher, to create a participatory dance through its use of images, light, sound, narrative and human involvement that is superior to other artistic forms (the written word withstanding) due to its ability to fully engage those said participants, whether it is the grandiose art of a Fellini, the sublimity of a Godard or the lowbrow comedic timings of an Apatow.

Rev. Smith: I write a newsletter each month for my congregants telling them which movies they should see and which ones they shouldn’t.

CTT: First of all, let’s discuss the film Avatar. What are your reactions?

Mark: Avatar is “the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen. That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me… it is a completely false ideology, it’s a sermon preached. It’s the most popular movie ever made, and it tells you that the creation mandate, the cultural mandate is bad, that we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t develop culture, that’s a bad thing. Primitive is good and advanced is bad and that we’re not sinners, we’re just disconnected from the divine life force, just classic, classic, classic paganism, that human beings are to connect, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds and that there’s this spiritual connection that we’re all a part of, that we’re all a part of the divine. It presents a false mediator with a witch. It presents false worship of created things rather than Creator God in absolute antithesis to Romans 1:25, which gives that as the essence of paganism. It has a false incarnation where a man comes in to be among a people group and to assume their identity. It’s a false Jesus. We have a false resurrection. We have a false savior. We have a false heaven. The whole thing is new age, satanic, demonic paganism, and people are just stunned by the visuals. Well, the visuals are amazing because Satan wants you to emotionally connect with a lie.”*

Brian: While I appreciate the passion with which Mark speaks, I must disagree on a number of grounds. However, I do have an issue with the film when I think of the costs associated. I wonder how many wells could be built to provide clean drinking water in Africa with the money spend on that film. In fact, a sustainable wind farm could be created to bring renewable energy to the entire subcontinent with the money brought in so far. This is an example of the false narrative that Westerners find themselves in.

However, regarding the film itself, I do appreciate the fact that the oppressive Colonialist forces that were attempting to rape the land of a primitive (in the positive sense) people group were pushed back, once again showing the crises each civilization faces when an oppressor is led by fear, greed and racism. However, I do believe that it was a misfortune that the Myth of Redemptive Violence was exalted once more.

Ed Young Jr: Man, did you see it in 3D? Wow. We are totally going to create a 3D theater in our video venues so they can experience our church as it happens in Grapevine. Man, what I would not do for a fraction of that special effects budget every Sunday. As for the movie? Yeah. I think I can find a way to spin it around to the Gospel. I think each person needs to be willing to become someone else to reach others for Jesus. That’ll preach, right? Can’t wait for the sermon series. It will be on the web. I am gonna be blue and the church will be Pandora!

David: I would rather spend time talking about the narrative structure in the Coen Brothers film A Serious Man and how it speaks to the consequences of inaction in Jewish life which is not solved by the American Rabbinical tradition.

Rev. Smith: Didn’t see it. Told my congregants not to see it. Sounds wierd.

CTT: Alright, let’s look at the other Best Picture candidates. Any that stick out to you?

Mark: My number 1 choice is Inglourious Basterds. I would like to metaphorically bash the skulls of the evil expressed in this film (and by modern day poor theology). I get what Tarantino is trying to do and while I believe that it was God’s will for the Holocaust, and I cannot question anything in God’s perfect timing, I think the Basterds were the kind of Jesus following young men I look for! I can do without the existential crises of A Serious Man and Up In the Air. These guys need to get over themselves. Blindside sucked. I liked the message, but the direction was pedestrian while still manipulative and Bullock overacts as if to say, “look at my, give me an Oscar.”

Brian: Once again, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the overarching theme in Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Up. I find this a disturbing trend. While I did appreciate District 9’s desire to understand the world from the side of The Other, especially through the Incarnation, I was disturbed by the Colonialism evident in its use of a white man to redeem the lives of the poor savage aliens who were unable to save themselves. I feel the same about Blindside in which a rich white Christian saves the life of a poor mute black boy. My favorite would be Up In the Air, in which a 50 something man that travels too much experiences a wholly Kierkegaardian crises of faith. I also love the ambiguity.

Ed Young, Jr: Precious was way too depressing and I didn’t understand the girl’s life. I get Blindside. She is our congregation. I know we will use Up for our sermon series. Balloons baby! We are doing Blindside. I am working out a deal to get Sandra Bullock to come speak that day. District 9 is too heady for a sermon, as is Up In the Air. I will use The Hurt Locker if it wins the Oscar, but no one has seen it, so that Sunday would be a waste. What are the other movies? Pretty artsy, right?

David Dark: How long do I have to express my thoughts on each film? I mean, I am not talking about Avatar or Blindside, but I have written a work on the redemptive traits of the canon of Quentin Tarantino and how those correspond to the historical understanding of Eastern European Gypsy religions. Of course, I am most interested in Tarantino recreating himself as a Golem taking vengeance that the Jews were not able to take upon the Third Reich. Listen, I can tell you were looking for controversial statements and pithy headlines. That’s not really what I do.

Rev. Smith: My wife made me go to see Blindside. I liked it. Sandra Bullock makes a pretty blond. I didn’t see anything else besides Up, when my grandkids brought it over. It was cute, but I didn’t like the chicken creature. Was it a girl? Thought it was a boy until the baby came along. I don’t like gender confusion. I did like the talking dog. That Hurt Locker sounds kinda interesting, but I suppose it has bad language. They always ruin the war films with bad language.

CTT: Any last thoughts?

Mark: If The Hurt Locker wins, it will make the job of every pastor in America even more difficult. Women will assume they can make movies also. I am just kidding. The director isn’t married, so she can do what she wants. Plus, she made Point Break. She is an honorary guy.

Brian: I would encourage everyone to look at the systemic issues at play in each of this year’s movies and think about how each of us can be a cure to these cancers afflicting our beautiful world. In each film, the conflict arises due to one of the 4 global crises. If we can create a new kind of Christianity that actually addresses these factors, then there will only be movies made from our imaginations, not based upon true stories of oppression, inequity, environmental degradation or fear. It is my prayer that films like Precious, District 9, The Hurt Locker, An Eduation, Avatar and Blindside become historical artifacts of a bygone society in which the factors that create these narratives are banished to history and a new Na’vi-like world is created in its place.

Ed Young, Jr: If you are interested in a sermon series based upon this year’s Oscar nominees and winners, please see my website, I will have sermon outlines, wardrobe ideas, film clips and stage designs for purchase. Our team has also created a special blue paint which does not stain, so you can use it for your Avatar sermon.

David Dark: I would appreciate this being an actual discussion of film next time, and not just an exercise is sound bite collection.

Rev. Smith: Nope.

*actual quote

yes, it is a joke. why would you even ask?


Dustin said...

you have way to much time on your hands. :) I did find it very funny though. nice work!

Matt Nightingale said...

This is amazing. Thanks.

Unknown said...

i love it!

Unknown said...

Well done Rick, brilliant!
I shall now un-hide you from my facebook status stream.

John Green said...

Man, this was hilarious! Pitch-perfect satire.