Monday, May 24, 2010

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland captures perfectly the dream-like effect of making the fantastical and bizarre seem simply mundane, strangely unaffecting, even boring. I don't know if that's the effect he was going for. It makes for a seriously lacklustre movie-going experience. I liked the Cheshire Cat, and some of the visuals. Otherwise, there was very little in the film to be enjoyed. Maybe it works better for kids. Children who are not easily disturbed by the grotesque may find the characters amusing enough that they will remain interested in the story despite the film's lack of emotional depth.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Serious Infestation

The other night, I dreamed I was inspecting a broken down old shed, and it turned out to have rats. They were huge. One fell out of the ceiling--it was almost the size of a capybara. And really fat. It seemed only mildly concerned about the presence of humans and dizzily stumbled away (must have hit its head pretty hard). There was some guy (an exterminator?) with weapons who started firing on the rats. But then the rats had guns, too, and started shooting at us. We had to run away.

Rats with guns. It's comical, and seems to have some kind of philosophical meaning I can't quite make out. I try to pin it down, but nothing truly does justice to the image. It's more than getting a taste of one's own medicine, more than a commentary on the escalation of violence in war. Because they're rats, for crying out loud. Perhaps it's an image of a world gone horribly wrong--rats having guns is even worse, in some way, than children having guns. Animals should not be capable of intentionally doing evil. Animals can't commit murder. The dream-rats were not anthropomorphized; just enormous.

Perhaps it's silly to look for coherent meaning in a dream. But this one seemed to ask for it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thoughts on Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was awesome. Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, and Sam Rockwell all turned in delightful, top-notch performances. I thought the film was about as good as the first one, although I did not enjoy it as much. What blew me away about the original was not so much its artistic and technical merit per se, but that it was just so much fun to watch. But some of the themes Iron Man 2 deals with are darker, more frightening and worrisome; it made for a different movie-going experience--more tense--even thought-provoking. Brandon is still speculating on what political statement the filmmakers wanted to imply with the line about "privatizing world peace."

I was also irked by the introduction of Scarlet Johansson's character. Her personality can be more or less reduced to the words "super-sexy and dangerous." I think it is a sign of the failure of women's liberation that a female character is not allowed to kick ass unless she's all seductive about it.

That was another thing I loved about the first movie: they included the throw-away sex-object female characters, and contrasted them with Pepper Potts--strong, competent, loyal, caring--a real person--who also happens to be beautiful and sexy--but not hyper-sexualized, and not defined by her sexuality.

One of my professors was asking (rhetorically) the other day about why it is that the U.S. has never elected a woman to its highest political office. India, Pakistan, Britain, Argentina, and Chile are all, surprisingly, ahead of us there. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that here in the U.S., the image of the powerful woman is also hyper-sexualized (like Scarlet Johansson's character in Iron Man 2), which may be okay for a superhero movie, but not for a political candidate. And although Pepper Potts is still a strong character, and tough in her own way, she clearly plays a supporting role to Tony Stark, and is not a hero herself.

I don't remember the Kill Bill movies very well, but I think Uma Thurman's character was a good example of what it would look like for a female lead to be powerful but not defined by sexuality. (Although she's more of an anti-hero in some respects--not necessarily someone you would want to be like.)

Anyway ... Iron Man 2 ... like most films, it brings up some interesting issues about gender stereotypes in the media ...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Surprisingly, Convinced

My last post described how I balked at the expectations for the Company of New Pastors. After writing that post, I went home and discovered I was mistaken--it's not just 4 scripture readings; it's 5-7. (Plus the selection from the Book of Confessions.)

After gnashing my teeth and deliberating a while, I said to myself (teeth still gnashing away), "I will try following this spiritual regimen for a week, and I will time myself to see how long it takes, and I will get an idea of just how burdensome it is before I decide it is not for me." I held out no hope that the exercises would actually be worthwhile, but I was willing to give them a try.

So, it's been five days now. And I love this new spiritual practice! It's great! And it really doesn't take that long.

So ... the moral of this story is: don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

(Sesame Street, you have taught me well.)