Sunday, June 18, 2006

I've done the unthinkable...

...and quantified the unquantifiable.

Although my number of years of conscious movie viewing is short, I've decided to make a list of my favorites anyway, mostly for my own sake. I wish I could include more. This is not a list of the greatest films. How would I know? I haven't seen enough. These are just the ones that make and matter to me. Hope you enjoy.

My Top Films:

1. Junebug - dir. Phil Morrison

A revelation, quietly brilliant, and as close to honest as you're ever going to get in a film. It humbles other films about family and relational distance as it captures and wrestles with the ambiguous and sometimes invisible pains and joys attached to life in its every detail. Tremendously acted and unexpectedly fascinating, Junebug resonates with the intrinsic mysteries of all relationships. Movies like this are rarely ever made.

"Why would God let this happen? Why would he? I just wanted something good to come out of all this. I mean it... I really mean it."

2. My Own Private Idaho - dir. Gus Van Sant

Conceptually a work of postmodern genius, but it's greatest strength is found in it's heartbreakingly accurate story about the elusiveness of home, evoking perfectly that state of drifting need in a fallen world.

"I'm a connoisseur of roads. I've been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world."

3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy* - dir. Peter Jackson

By bringing Tolkien's masterpiece to physical actualization, the trilogy is the crowning achievement of cinema today.
*(By the way, since they were all filmed at the same time as if one movie, I don't consider it cheating to list all three as one. I mean no one asks questions when you call Jesus, God, so stop judging me!)

"It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why."

4. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - dir. Stanley Kubrick

Bordering on the edge of sanity like all great Kubrick films, Dr. Strangelove is both cleverly funny and shatteringly devastating; and surely the greatest political satire ever made.

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room."

5. Good Will Hunting - dir. Gus van Sant

It's a picture of hurt, our regressive nature that bends toward self-destruction and the need for community to be agents of undeserved love, hope, and redemption in bringing us back to be who we were created to be. What other stories should we tell?

"Yeah, well, I think that's a super philosophy, Sean. I mean that way you could actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody."

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - dir. Michel Gondry

An amazingly complex and yet strikingly affecting look at love, life and memory that gives us one of the greatest movie love stories ever told. One that understands that loving someone means knowing them in all their brokeness, bearing devastation and working for redemption through mercy. Most Hollywood films tell us we have everything we need within ourselves. Eternal Sunshine indicates that we need each other, even in those times when togetherness disrupts happiness. Visually and conceptually stunning it aims for the head, heart and eyes.

"I wish I had stayed to. I swear to God I wish I had stayed. I wish I had done a lot of things. I wish... I wish I had stayed."

7. Breaking the Waves - dir. Lars von Trier

Asking the question, "Can faith and love give the power to triumph over death and evil?" this bold, angry, and defiant, emotionally and spiritually challenging film hammers at conventional morality with the belief that God not only sees all, but understands a great deal more than we give Him credit for. Incomparable director Lars Von Trier finds the straight pure line through the heart of a story.

"God gives everyone something to be good at. I've always been stupid, but I'm good at this."

8. Chinatown - dir. Roman Polanski

Penultimate Film Noir thriller with career defining performances and mind-blowing storytelling bold enough to deal with the consequences of real life.

"'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

9. Schindler's List - dir. Steven Spielberg

An uncompromising vision of one of the world's greatest modern tragedies proving the power of filmmaking. Also the definitive Spielberg film where he finally realizes restraint can be a virtue.

"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

10. I Heart Huckabees - dir. David O. Russell

A knife to the heart of disconnect. Playful, intelligent, daring, absolutely hilarious and unabashedly hopeful.

"There's no such thing as nothing."

(11.) Manderlay* - dir. Lars von Trier

*I listed Manderlay because I have unfortunately only seen it once. Otherwise, I suspect it might have been listed higher.

The movie that understood everything that Crash didn't. A "fable for adults" that makes you see the world and yourself differently. As overwhelmingly complex, challenging, provocative, and heartbreaking as the subject matter it describes, this ultimately isn't a movie simply about history made and being made but about humanity itself. It will leave you breathless.

"Grace insisted, 'We have a moral obligation.'"

"A film should be like a rock in the shoe." - Lars von Trier

"I didn't want you to enjoy the film, I wanted you to look closely at your own soul." - Sam Peckinpah

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Praise Jesus! The Left Behind video game has arrived.

Jesus loves a machine gun! It's the new "Left Behind" video game, where you maim and murder and hate, all in God's name. Praise!

"Behold, blessed children, the new and upcoming "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game, based on the freakishly best-selling series of apocalyptic trash-lit books. It's an ultraviolent, hilariously inept, wondrously accurate portrayal of what every true right-wing Christian fundamentalist really fantasizes about after they've had one too many pink wine spritzers and have logged a few hours in the gay chat rooms and have sufficiently indoctrinated their happily numb kids with tales of vile homos and scary "progressive" liberals who want to buy them candy and tattoo their sacrums and feed them organic hot dogs.

What's the game actually about? How do you play? I believe the pro-religion Talk to Action blog describes it best:

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission -- both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state -- especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.

Ah yes, the neo-Christian ideal. The ultimate dominionist police state, a smoking, reeking, post-apocalyptic vision of New York, a world teeming with nonbelievers just waiting to be either converted or massacred by nothing less than a Christianized American Taliban, a world of righteousness and judgment and death, all in the name of one very nasty and bloodthirsty God. It's "Grand Theft Auto" for the Rick Santorum set. It's "Resident Evil 4" for American Family Association types who eat too much BGH meat and never have sex.

Is it worth delineating all the appalling whorings of Christ's true message in this thing? Do you need to imagine the explosive reaction if, say, a powerful Muslim organization came out with a major video game where Islamic fundies killed hapless Christians with machine guns in order to restore the world to Allah? Or if the KKK or Aryan Nations created a game where you get to "cleanse" 'Merka of all the Jews and blacks so happy white people can stop being so scared of hip-hop? Verily, you do not.

But it is worth mentioning that, while the vast majority of sane Christians will recoil from this silly video game as violently as any sighing Wiccan, the bad news is the 10 "Left Behind" books -- a certified phenomenon, they -- have sold nearly as many copies as "The Da Vinci Code" (upward of 65 million worldwide) and their rabid fans are legion and dominionist pastors and famed hatemongering homophobes like James Dobson of the AMA are indoctrinating countless new and militant Christbots into their happy shiny armies of God every single day. We can never forget: These are the people who still whisper into Dubya's ear when he's playing with his little green army men in the White House bathtub.

But hey, everyone needs a fantasy, right? Everyone needs an outlet for their violent daydreams, even fundamentalist right-wing bonk-jobs and their hapless 13-year-old male children, for whom (presumably) this game is designed. It's venomous bigotry made fun! More good news: The game should be ready just in time for Christmas."

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why Sloppy People are God's People & Neat People are Going to Hell

"Neat People vs. Sloppy People"
by: Suzanne Britt

I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people.

Sloppy people, you see, are not really sloppy. Their sloppiness is merely the unfortunate consequence of their extreme moral rectitude. Sloppy people carry in their mind's eye a heavenly vision, a precise plan, that is so stupendous, so perfect, it can't be achieved in this world or the next.

Sloppy people live in Never-Never Land. Someday is their metier. Someday they are plann
ing to alphabetize all their books and set up home catalogs. Someday they will go through their wardrobes and mark certain items for tentative mending and certain items for passing on to relatives of similar shape and size. Someday sloppy people will make family scrapbooks into which they will put newspaper clippings, postcards, locks of hair, and the dried corsage from their senior prom. Someday they will file everything on the surface of their desks, including the cash receipts from coffee purchases at the snack shop. Someday they will sit down and read all the back issues of The New Yorker.

For all these noble reasons and more, sloppy people never get neat. They aim too high and wide. They save everything, planning someday to file, order and straighten out the world. But while these ambitious plans take clearer and clearer shape in their heads, the books spill from the shelves onto the floor, the clothes pile up in the hamper and closet, the family mementos accumulate in every drawer, the surface of the desk is buried under mounds of paper, and the unread magazines threaten to reach the ceiling.

Sloppy people can't bear to part with anything. They give loving attention to every detail. When sloppy people say they're going to tackle the surface of a desk, they really mean it. Not a paper will go unturned; not a rubber band will go unboxed. Four hours or two weeks into the excavation, the desk looks exactly the same, primarily because the sloppy person is meticulously creating new piles of papers with new headings and scrupulously stopping to read all the old book catalogs before he throws them away. A neat person would just bulldoze the desk.

Neat people are bums and clods at heart. They have cavalier attitudes toward possessions
, including family heirlooms. Everything is just another dust-catcher to them. If anything collects dust, it's got to go and that's that. Neat people will toy with the idea of throwing the children out of the house just to cut down on the clutter. Neat people don't care about process. They like results. What they want to do is get the whole thing over with so they can sit down and watch the rasslin' on TV. Neat people operate on two unvarying principles: Never handle any item twice, and throw everything away.

The only thing messy in a neat person's house is the trash can. The minute something comes to a neat person's hand, he will look at it, try to decide if it has immediate use and, finding none, throw it in the trash.

Neat people are especially vicious with mail. They never go through that mail unless they are
standing directly over a trash can. If the trash can is beside the mailbox, even better. All ads, catalogs, pleas for charitable contributions, church bulletins, and money-saving coupons go straight into the trash can without being opened. All letters from home, postcards from Europe, bills and paychecks are opened, immediately responded to, then dropped in the trash can. Neat people keep their receipts only for tax purposes. That's it. No sentimental salvaging of birthday cards or the last letter a dying relative ever wrote. Into the trash it goes.

Neat people place neatness above everything, even economics. They are incredibly wasteful. Neat people throw away several toys every time they walk through the den. I knew a neat person once who threw away a perfectly good dish drainer because it had mold on it. The drainer was too much trouble to wash. And neat people will sell their furniture when they move. They will sell a La-Z-Boy recliner while you are reclining in it.

Neat people are no good to borrow from. Neat people buy everything in expensive little single portions. They get their flour and sugar in two-pound bags. They wouldn't consider clipping a coupon, saving a left-over, reusing plastic nondairy whipped cream containers, or rinsing off tin foil and draping it over the unmoldy dish drainer. You can never borrow a neat person's newspaper to see what's playing at the movies. Neat people have the paper all wadded up and in the trash by 7:05 AM.

Neat people cut a clean swath through the organic as well as the inorganic world. People, animals, and things are all one to them. They are so insensitive. After they've finished with the pantry, the medicine cabinet, and the attic, they throw out the red germanium(too many leaves), sell the dog(too many fleas), and send the children off to boarding school(too many scuff-marks on the hardwood floors).

This essay is from a book of essays called Show and Tell that was published in 1983. Suzanne has another book of essays called Skinny People are Dull and Crunchy like Carrots which was published in 1982.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Monsters vs..Robots!!!

Jars of Clay "Good Monsters" Video Shoot
& some photos of me in a robot costume.

And you can read more about it here.

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