Monday, May 28, 2007

Everybody else is doing Memorial Day stuff. I'm going to do a movie review.

I very rarely see movies in theaters any more. Mostly because people, as a whole, suck. (Have I said that before?) For example, we went to a theater the other day (summer blockbusters often require the Big Screen), and I ended up with some cackling idiot behind me who talked to the screen. Apparently, the advent of the VCR took away the inclination of parents to train their children with the most important life lesson of all:
Shut the hell up during the movie!
So my wife and I get most of our movie-watching experiences at home on DVD. And the other night, we were looking for a random piece of fluff to watch - nothing too intellectual or high-brow. And since we'd enjoyed the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore vehicle "Music and Lyrics" last week, we decided to rent the other music-related Hugh Grant movie from last year, "American Dreamz."

Let me make the following disclaimers here:
1. I'm not the world's biggest Mandy Moore fan. In fact, I make it a policy to avoid movies by pop princesses. But that's just me. I've never seen a Britney Spears movie (is there more than one, yet?). I never even saw a single episode of that Jessica Simpson reality show. On the other hand, I did see Dick Tracy, despite the fact that Madonna was in it. Likewise Vibes, with Cindy Lauper. (You see? I'll never get those hours of my life back. It's important to stick to your principles, even in movie-watching.)

(It's strange, really. Drew Barrymore, then Mandy Moore. Mr. Grant seems to be picking his female costars from the ranks of women who most of America think are amazingly beautiful, but who I don't really find attractive. It's like he's stalking me, trying to force me to watch movies with his costar, despite my disinterest in them. But I suppose that my paranoid fantasies are entirely unrelated to the subject matter at hand. As is my nightmare of Ann Coulter as a dominatrix, for that matter...)

2. I often enjoy the work of Hugh Grant. (But that's because I'm amazingly shallow.)

3. I have never seen an episode of American Idol. (Apparently, I'm not shallow enough.)

4. And lastly, I did, in fact, enjoy this movie. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to find fault in it.
For those of you who haven't seen it, this is a comedy about what happens when a Muslim terrorist cell infiltrates the cast of a show identical to American Idol, in a plot to use a bumbling (but music-obsessed) suicide bomber to kill the bumbling (but recently-reelected) President of the United States because of the damage he's caused in the Middle East. Hijinks ensue.

There are other "Dreamerz" (American Idol lookalikes) who I can recognize, even having avoided the show - Clay Aiken, Bo Brice, and a third one who might be Fantasia but I don't know enough about her to recognize any of her quirks.

Apparently, somebody wanted to make a parody that had enough pop culture (Mandy Moore, American Idol, and to an extent, Hugh Grant) that they could skewer the President, and still make money in red states. (And maybe they had dreamz of Joe Sixpack in Utah seeing this movie, having an epiphany, and suddenly becoming a Democratic activist. Yeah, good luck with that.)

This is a hugely unsubtle movie. Everything was painted with these huge, wide strokes that would make a housepainter proud. I'm not going to use the phrase "thinly-veiled" to describe anything, because this movie had no veils at all.

Not even on the Muslim women.
~~ ba-DUM!! ching! ~~
(To be honest, there were no Muslim women in evidence, except for a few who were thoroughly Americanized. So no burka's at all. There were no women at the terrorist camp at all, unless they were behind a couple of the cheap fake beards, doing some kind of Life-of-Brian homage. But I'm going to assume they weren't, at this point.)

My biggest argument with this movie, aside from the huge, unforgiving club they use to hammer their points home, would be the fact that their Bush-clone is a mindless drone whose only responsibility for the mess in the Middle East is the fact that he allowed himself to be led into it.

I can accept certain aspects of that.
a. George Bush is a hugely unimaginative C-student who is more than willing to allow himself to be led by people who appear to know more than he does.

b. George Bush has little or no knowledge of the Middle East.

c. Other people have instigated all of the damage he has caused in America and around the world.
However, rather than allowing himself to be led blindly into this mess, I personally believe that George Bush walked into everything with open eyes. He may not have been smart enough to set anything in motion himself, but he is the man in charge, and he's just too flamingly stupid to see that he's leading the charge into a bloody morass that's going to take years, if not decades, to dig our way out of.

In the movie, the Bush-clone is actually a good person, if stupid, who would stop the mess if he could. I don't believe that.

But, sure. See American Dreamz. Just don't expect anything world-shaking.

On the other hand, maybe you should rent it for your teenaged daughter and those proto-Republican mall-girls she hangs out with. Maybe it'll work on them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Did God get tired of Falwell misrepresenting Him?

Jerry Lamon Falwell was born in Lynchburg, Tennessee on August 11, 1933. He died on Tuesday, May 15, 2007. It's now been five days, and he didn't rise after the first three. So maybe he had no right to judge people the way he did.

Jerry Falwell has done more harm to the American scene than most other people of his generation. His fanatical hatred of everything and everyone who didn’t follow his personal viewpoints on life, morality and religion caused him to create the Moral Majority, which can easily be said to have started the factionalism currently infecting the American political landscape.

I will give the man this much credit. He apparently never said that Tinky-Winky (one of the Teletubbies) was gay. That was a claim made by an unknown writer in Falwell’s National Liberty Journal. Which means that, although Falwell was responsible for the quote, he didn’t actually say it.

Falwell’s hatred of most of humanity led to him making all manner of stupid statements. I think that the most famous would have to be his attempt to blame 9/11 on everyone who disagreed with him.
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell…

Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this…"

Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "
Some people will follow that statement with the claim that he later apologized for saying it.

But in a phone call to CNN, Falwell said that only the hijackers and terrorists were responsible for the deadly attacks.

"I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says 'living by God's principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame,'" he said.

Falwell said he believes the ACLU and other organizations "which have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded."

"I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812," he said.
If you read that carefully, he never apologized. He just said that, while the pagans (and abortionists and feminists and everybody else he didn't like) didn't actually fly the planes into the buildings, it was still their fault. (He also ignored things like geographical separation, and the other attacks on "our soil." Anybody remember the 1993 World Trade Center bombing? Or what about domestic terrorists like the Unabomber?)

The man basically decided that anyone who didn’t follow his personal belief system was under the control of the devil. He didn’t support the idea of equal rights for anyone. Except, of course, white males. Even women, despite the fact that they make up more than half of the American population, were, in the dark and shadowed recesses of his closed mind, a “minority group.”
Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc. are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status.
But Falwell never had a positive view of any minority group.
At the height of the civil rights movement, in 1965, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, an ambitious young minister in Lynchburg, Va., gave a sermon called "Ministers and Marches."

Falwell laid into Christian leaders who were actively supporting civil rights, reminding them of a Bible verse that fundamentalists often invoked as evidence that God did not want them to participate in politics: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh" (II Corinthians 10:13)...

Falwell was plain enough about his views; in 1964, he told a local paper that the Civil Rights Act had been misnamed: "It should be considered civil wrongs rather than civil rights." His "Old Time Gospel Hour" TV program hosted prominent segregationists like Govs. Lester Maddox of Georgia and George Wallace of Alabama.
He later backpedaled from those views when they proved unpopular, and might have impacted on his collection plate. But he also, in 1985, supported the white minority government in South Africa, saying of Bishop Desmond Tutu "I think he's a phony, period, as far as representing the black people of South Africa." Although that statement was something else he had to apologize for, he still, in the words of a 1985 Time magazine story, "urged the good Christian folk of America to buy up gold Krugerrands and push U.S. 'reinvestment' in South Africa."

So, hide it though he might, and no matter how much he apologized for some of the blatantly wrong-headed bile he spewed to his followers, Jerry Falwell was a narrow-minded bigot, and his loss does not diminish the world in the slightest.

And let me just remind you of the words of a certain philosopher you might have heard of, Jesus of Nazareth. We won't even make it all the way to that seventh chapter in the Book of Matthew (7:1, if you're curious), where He says "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

That's NIV, by the way. Me, I prefer the KJV language of "Judge not, lest ye be judged." But let's stick with the NIV for clarity of language, for now.

We'll stop at Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 1 through 6. And yes, this qualifies as Holy Gospel, incidentally.
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Words to live by, I think.