Category Archives: Moving Pictures

The Adjustment Bureau and How to View the World: Free Will vs. Predestination

**warning – possible spoilers**

Amanda and I recently saw The Adjustment Bureau and it really got me thinking about some big theological concepts.  First of all, however, it is a spectacular movie to watch.  The world David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellars (Emily Blunt) occupy is a stark one.  It is the city, made of concrete, rigid pillars, highly structured politics, and plenty of police and authority figures.  Norris is a rising young politician who is being groomed for the Presidency but is currently running for Senate.  Elise is a dancer.  They meet in a bathroom after Norris is defeated, but the chaos of Elise Sellars and their mutual attraction, inspires him to give a candid rather than scripted speech.  Slowly, however, you find that even that random encounter is not random.  There are agents assigned to great people (the movie hints that they are a sort of angelic force who watches over humanity). When Norris’s watcher slips up and misses an opportunity to make him spill coffee and miss a bus – Norris meets Elise a second time, they flirt, and Damon begins to reorient his life.  The watchers look in their book of plans and see their characters off course.  That wasn’t supposed to happen. (The Predestined begin to make their own lives).

Next – a whole new world is opened.  Agents take Norris to a different dimensional warehouse for interrogation.  From this point on Norris is aware that he has to live rigidly according to plan, that his life and Elise’s will not reach their full potential unless he stays away from her, and that if he purposely defies or reveals the existence of the Agency, his mind will be erased and he will fall into obscurity and insanity.

This is where the movie gets into the kind of mind warping that the movie Inception brought about.  Doors are revealed that if opened using a certain hat, they warp the agents from spot to spot.  They are not omnipresent and they can’t control everything, however they have different degrees of skill in bringing about “The Plan”.  They are extremely hierarchical and they employ “riot police”.  They are also afraid of upsetting the top tier of The Agency, including the Top Dog who appears to be God himself.

To be honest, this is a scary version of the world. It presents the very basics of the concept of Predestination in theology.  That God has complete control and brings about His plans regardless of what we perceive to be choices.  In this case, the agency is the wall that keeps us in our tracks.

Then, the concept of Free Will is broached with Damon’s character begins to break the tracks.  God somehow loses control at times or gives up control to see if humanity can handle free will and make good happen.  The breakout of the two world wars were told to be a Time with God allowed humanity a chance to live freely.  We failed, and God took control back with the agency with this Gestapo like Angelic Super Squad with fashions stuck in the 50s.

In the end, Norris and Elise take the case all the way to the highest court – God Himself.  Though God isn’t actually present, he has been watching the whole thing and when the two main characters break through everything in their path to stay together, God gives a report to the agents and allows their Plans to be removed, or changed.  They win and God is pleased.  You will have to see the movie to see how this whole thing plays out.  I enjoyed it.

But it did make me uncomfortable in a lot of ways.  One, God continues the Hollywood streak of being a hands off kind of being.  The one who created everything allows an Agency to run the Created.  The allowance of a Holy Spirit interacting in human affairs and moving the hearts of people isn’t directly part of the script.

Also – the negative view of humanity is devoid of the great good that people do every day.  It just shows that we automatically assume that we are all sinful creatures with little hope of redemption.  Very Calvinist.  But theologically, Christ came to redeem creation and make it new and whole again.  Being an optimist, I don’t see the world like this film portrays it.  The world is full of hope because Christ came.  The World Wars happened, but great forces of good stood up and Pushed against Evil, and the Axis fell and fell hard.  The good folks who fought to bring freedom to the persecuted peoples of the world learned from the reconstruction mistakes in World War I and did things differently.  The world has lived in the shadow of our greatest darkness and the greatest light since then.  You can’t present the darkness of people’s hearts without recognizing that God originally created us for Good and His goodness in Christ transforms people from the inside out.  We still mess up, but we are getting better!

I would love to hear how the film struck you.  Do you feel the world is rigid like this?  Do you feel that the world is merely being maintained? Or is the will of humanity being transformed and moving towards a better Kingdom – The Kingdom of God?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Feel free to comment below.


Arcade Fire: The Suburbs Presents A Short Film “Scenes From the Suburbs” by Spike Jonze

Since seeing Arcade Fire perform “Wake Up” with David Bowie a few years back, they have continued to be my favorite band.  Their EP “Funeral” is one of the best composed albums I have ever heard for many reasons.  They recently released “The Suburbs” which won a Grammy this year – so I picked it up at Best Buy (old school, I know).  Actually have been listening to it in my car for the last week and a half now.

(1) Listening through once it was a beautiful album with a lot of energy in explosive points.  Track 15 blew me away.

(2) I listened to track 15 and 1 over and over again.

(3) I realized I was going to kill 15 (The Sprawl 2, Mountains Beyond Mountains) so I relistened to whole album.  Amazing.

(4) Tracks 1-4 Rehaunt me. Absolutely poetic and the second round of listening through is better now that I’ve started looking through the lyrics.

This video from youtube is actually a Preview for a 30 minute short film based on the album “The Suburbs”.  I just watched it and found myself realizing how real the images feel.  The suburbs they show look just like my neighborhood in South Carolina (though the shots are from California probably).  The crisis at the end with the police, sirens, and disturbed tranquility happened right in my neighborhood recently and I remember kids on their bikes just watching.

There is a reason this album won a Grammy.  Make sure to read the lyrics.  I will be watching this short film when I can.  Blew me away.

“Scenes from the Suburbs” Info:



Pass It On: Dog on Piano – Enough Said

The Hunger Games will be made into a Movie – Fans Gasp

Movie Next March by Lionsgate

I have just finished reading the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy (Mockingjay), and it was a brilliant follow up to the first book (The Hunger Games). has reported that the dark Distopian novel about a distant future of North America (now called Panem) will be made into a movie that will be released March 23, 2012.

Gary Ross, who directed Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, will helm The Hunger Games; the project is expected to begin shooting in late spring or summer…In fact, Lionsgate has hired The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn casting director Debra Zane to choose the perfect actors to portray Katniss, Peeta, and the members of the other districts.

On the official Facebook Page, fans have noted that Suzanne Collins will be writing the script herself.

The dark nature of the books, has fans wondering if it will be able to be made into an appropriate screen adaptation.  The Hunger Games themselves, are gladiator style death matches between children and teens from districts subservient to a Capital City.  If pulled off, the movie will be intensely psychological and full of intense action.

It is my hope that these movies will not follow lead from any other films, such as Twilight or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians films.  At least in my own mind, these movies are gritty, confusing, and action oriented.  The feeling of suspense should be prevalent, and thin threads of hope in the face of complete despair (similar to the darkness of The Lord of the Rings and certain parts of the Dune series) should be the mood.  I’m crossing my fingers (as I would also with the Enders Game series) as another human being takes what has been put into our minds and presents visuals.

A New Kind of Sacred – Contemplating Cultural Religion

Prelude: There is a new term out there for the up and coming Generation, and its “Millenial”.  Basically anyone born after 1980.  We are people who have watched it grow, or have always known of the internet.  I’ve read in the book “Me, Myspace, and I” that in contrast to other generations, we are very different.  I suppose because the greatest technological advance ever (more people on earth), tech and symbol and communication, and everything are changing more rapidly than ever before.  “Change” is the “stability” in my opinion.  While people will want more things not to change, culture is leaving those people behind.  These same people realize it, and then adapt as well, and they enter the Millenials world.  Our technology is people, our stability is change, and our expectations on society and culture are huge.  The whole world must change for us, by us, and our energy produces little in tangible goods.  Since machines do most of the labor, our generation does not produce warriors, or food, or product on the whole.  We consume these things.  We produce thoughts, songs, entertainments, and endless ways to escape.  That transcendence that we are looking for, produces its own religion.  Its not even materialism anymore.  That was a scary thing and we are surrounded by its effects.  But our religion is “Creation-ism”.  We have been told we can do anything, and so we are trying to accomplish the impossible.  The impossible to us, is not doing regular work – it is being a star.  So we have religious leaders.

Watch this video and read on:

Radiohead and Experience: My friend posted this on facebook today.  Its of the band “Radiohead”, an incredibly influential band in my generation.  Like many bands, they have symbols to be known by.  The dim lights, the technology surrounding them, the sounds that they make which are unique to the experience they provide.  And they work hard to create a space that people can experience in their presence.  It is an incredibly serious task.  It involves who they are (in the lyrics and the sounds their instruments make), it involves the sacred space (the place between the artist and the consumer (where the symbols are given and received and interpreted and appreciated), and there is a transcendence that elevates a person beyond normal existence (one does not experience the world like a concert in normal life).  In a world that is less and less religious, Radiohead, and countless other bands, provide a religious experience that changes peoples lives.  They leave the concert saying to themselves, “Something” happened here.  And they never forget whatever happened to them.  They process it and it stays with them for the rest of their life.  It becomes a marker, and they try to re-experience it over and over, but nothing is like the real thing- Radiohead, in person.

Religions Ferver All Over: Religion is popping up everywhere.  The passion that people used to direct toward God is now focused in other realms.  Politics, War Strategy, Patriotism, Charity Work, Entertainment, Celebrity, Family, and many other parts of living as a human in community.

A few hundred years ago, one would have had to go to a John Edward’s sermon to have a life altering experience, or a sermon by Whitfield, or Wesley, or Finney, or whatever missionary roved about.  Now the bands move from city to city, popular culture gives meaning to my fellow millenials.  There is no pulpit, but there are microphones and synthesizers. And they are listening to the sounds, whether the artists know whats moving through them or not.

I wonder what God is doing with all this?  I wonder how much of this is healthy?

The Church and a Response: Some churches are looking at this and making worship services that reach the Gen-X crowd (who were anti-program and institution in nature – think X-Files), and some are moving beyond and seeing that millennials are different and seek more intense transcendent experiences involving light and sound, that convey a moment where they are completely open to receive the Gospel.  But their quest isn’t always a healthy one considering how expensive the experiences they demand cost.  Think how much a concert ticket costs, and wonder a bit about how much you are willing to pay to go and experience worship of God.  Interesting, no?

Conclusion: All things are ultimately in the hands of a great God who will rule over all people with justice and love – and I wonder how it will all mix when Radiohead fans meet up with the peoples of ancient cultures, and all make some show of their appreciation to God for the gift of music in our lives.

New world, new symbols, but humans are still the same.  We always need a few basics, even when we want alot of things that distract us.

House is Finished (preboxes)

Hey all.  Just so you can see pictures (using my iphone so lighting is off in some), of the house after the work was all done take a look here.

Moving to a New Place

Amanda and I will be moving a bit farther out into Bluffton soon.  This week (fingers crossed) we should be closing on a two level, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 1 car garage home just off of Buckwalter (after the Movie Theater and the Publix plaza.  If you live in Bluffton, SC or Hilton Head Island, you know what I’m talking about.  For those of you scattered abroad, here are some pics:

Anyways.  Thats an incomplete picture.  As we move in we’ll post more photos of the moving in process.  I have more photos, but they have someone else’s furniture so I don’t want to use them ;)

Be back w more soon.


Pass It On: Le French Director

So you thought it was over, but its not.  Mark and I did tons of video and the videos you have already seen are just the tip of the iceberg.  Here is a piece that I did impromptu, probably while high on Dr. Pepper and doses of Tasty Cakes (from Pennsylvania), with Mark, his shoe, and a strange machine as the subject matter.  It is quite amazing for the low tech that we had, and I expect this to be at the Sundance Film Festival with a full version sometime in the next year or two.  Keep an eye out for it.  Here’s the vid:

You have no idea what is yet to come.   Really. Really!


Pass It On: “It’s over…When I’m DEAD!”

A long time ago in a place called St. Augustine Florida I met a guy named Barak Hardley who was a member of Isaac Improv, a hilarious comedy group Dj Why and the Image would open for from time to time.  Anyways, he’s moved out to the wild west, and has a great site: Pretty amazing stuff.  Anyways, here is a video I wanted to pass on:

Pretty Amazing stuff.  Thanks Barak.

Reassessment of Top Movies

These movies are intense and awesome to me for varying reasons.  This is a personal list so I can come back to it later.

Gladiator (Kingdom of Heaven as well, and soon hopefully – Robin Hood also by Ridley Scott and w Russell Crowe)

Iron Man (1 and 2)

About a Boy

The Devil Wears Prada

Hot Rod (Brilliant)

The Secret of NIMH

The Hobbit (Animated Classic)

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)

The Dark Knight

What About Bob

Groundhog Day

The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston)

The Fiddler on the Roof

Terminator (1,2,3, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Salvation)

Star Trek (All – but especially the New Reboot)

Star Wars (original trilogy – specifically)

The Book of Eli

Rush Hour (1,2,3)

Alien(s)  (1,2,3, not 4)

Predator (1, not 2, not Alien vs. Predator as much)

All Die Hard movies

Xmen Origins: Wolverine

Humble Pie

That’s a start.  I’ll add more as I think of em.


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