Category Archives: Strange Reviews

My Environmental Abberation

Strange Confessions: If I was one of those environmentalists who felt very strongly about their convictions, I’d be the kind that would want the whole human race eliminated. Like all gone. By disease or forced voluntary death/evacuation. However you do it, it is going to be a difficult task and you couldn’t be entirely sure everyone was gone.

So enters my review on Noah. I didn’t generally feel it was that bad… Perhaps it is good I rebooted my that one site account, for there were posts and opinions about it where I might get the snarly-lip thrown at me. I knew enough about the film that I just realized it was Darren Aronofsky’s fevered dream about how horrible the human race is and that the environment above all is what should be preserved. There is some truth in it too. I read once that within all stories is a story that reflects the gospel, and you don’t have to look that hard to see it here in Noah.

The beginning reveals, in a very well done/classic stop motion way, creation and the first murder, and angels showing empathy toward humans and the Creator cursing them. The earth is a barren wasteland with very little growth and people roaming around committing violence and looking for meat to consume. Noah and his father wander in isolated areas away from what they call “humans.” When they are gathering, or whatever they are doing, and they hear other men coming, they say with disdain and fear, “Humans! Hide.” Noah later does this with his sons. I did not comprehend what they thought of themselves, perhaps they thought that as a group or collective, influenced by each other in violent means, that these were “humans.” As a boy Noah witnesses his father being killed by other men.

So, to the main story at hand. Noah has visions of floods, him at the bottom of this flood and bodies all beneath him. In reality, incidentally it is hard to tell the difference between what Noah is really seeing or is having a vision of, Noah sees a harsh, violent, irredeemable mass of people eventually covering the earth. Noah takes his sons to see Methuselah to find out about his visions. On the way there they rescue a girl from death among the dead, and are chased by humans bent on violence. They seek refuge in the land of the Watchers, the fallen/cursed angels who helped the humans. The Watchers are mostly suspicious and fear humans. They are giant rock creatures made using stop motion animation. I really like the way these looked. Of course there is obvious disdain for these creatures by the Christian community, because it is really a stretch for Aronofsky as the Nephilim mentioned in the Bible. When they see Methuselah, he gives them a seed that will help him in his endeavor to save the animals from the cruel humans by building an ark.

Other stuff happens, but let’s get to the point. Noah is planning on preserving his line on the ark until he goes to find Ham a wife among the humans. This is where Noah truly sees humans. As he wanders this camp that is planning on taking the ark when the flood comes, we are disturbed by the stealing of human children by bandits to exchange them for meat that the crowd tears apart and shreds with their teeth. The crowds are getting out of hand and meat is thrown to calm them, but it only throws them more into a frenzy. They are bloodthirsty fiends that Noah has never seen this close. As he looks around from a high vantage point of all the chaos surrounding him, he sees his father tearing at an animal, thus seeing himself and if his line is preserved he and his family will carry on the bloodthirsty rages that defines the humans he sees. I can see his point of view and it is a biblical view, whether or not it was Noah’s. Noah begins to become violent and fearful to his family as he tells them about how his line, the whole of people will end with the death of Japheth. There is another remarkable scene that uses stop motion, where Noah tells his family the story of creation and how animals were first and it was only when humans came about that things truly fell apart, which for the most part is true.

I use to go to parties or dances or clubs where there were lots of people and the music was loud and people were stupid. For a time it was fun, but eventually I got claustrophobic and had to get out. It always ended that way. I’d get out depressed and feel as if the whole world was dark and disturbed for giving in so much to themselves; and this was before I became a Christian. I hear people talk about how we evolve and we are getting better, but I didn’t ever see it. I see the whole environmental movement as a failure. We’ll never get it right, because no matter what we do to make things better, I believe for the most part it will only get worse. Yes, I have a pessimistic view on the human race, which is why I believe our only hope is Him, is Christ and His coming back and making all things new. Every effort we make for ourselves will fall. Things might seem better for a time, but we will only find better ways to bring about earlier destruction. Dark, I know, but that is how I see it, but it is one of the reasons I was drawn to Him. Which is totally why I could sympathize with the way Aronofsky portrays Noah in this.

I haven’t seen any Aronofsky since his very first film, Pi, but I have followed his career. Most of the stuff I haven’t watched for personal reasons, but I must say I admired his stance much more than that ridiculous made for TV version starring Jon Voight several years ago. The Jon Voight rewrote the story to garner more action and “story,” it considered the audience dumb. Aronofsky does not consider his viewers dumb, but in seeing much of the criticism for this film, I would not be surprised that his perception of Christians was brought low in his creative story telling. I admire him for that. And I liked his film.

~Stranger

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Strange Confessions: Follow the Leader

Strange Confessions: I have a story for every favorite genre of music or band that I like, of the origin for how I discovered them, except for one: rap.

I’m going to be one of those old men who drive their grandchildren crazy with stories of no great importance about the time I chose not to go waterskiing, or the dream I had in grade school about ruining my school uniform and the only back up clothes the nuns could provide was a washcloth, or how I loved playing with elaborate doll houses and that made me think for a time I could be an architect, or about the first time I ordered fajitas at Papacita’s in Houston, or how I had the longest birthday ever when our family flew to Hawaii.

Yup. I’ve led a pretty eventful life.

Then I’ll pull out my little, ancient ipod, plug it into the nursing home speaker system, and introduce them to all the songs from my yesteryear. All the other residents will either roll their eyes in exasperation or clap for the little bit of diversion in their day-to-day existence at the home, because Mr. Mayo has locked himself inside the control room with his grandchildren sharing with them what he thought was the best and most unappreciated music of his day. I’ll tell them about how I heard “The Statue Got Me High” on some radio station as I was driving myself to work one day, and that we didn’t have the internet back then to find out who it was, but I actually had to call the radio station to find out who it was. I’ll share with them my rebellious moments at Judge when we’d wander the halls blasting Judas Priest and Rainbow, and that “Long Live Rock ‘n Roll” was the first album I acquired through illegal means. I’ll speak of my old friend and how he owned a death metal record shop, and the day he suggested I might like some of this Apoptygma Berzerk.

“Hey Papa, tell us about how you discovered this band, Eric B & Rakim.” they’ll request of me.

“You know what kids,” I’ll say, “I have no dern-blasted idea how I got into Eric B & Rakim. There was a period of time from about 1988 to 1991 that I really got into rap. I had no friends who were into it, there was no rap stations in Utah at the time, I didn’t hang out in Hip-Hop clubs getting down to the rhythm. How in the world did I discover I liked rap? In fact, the only “rap” that was out at the time or was popular was those stupid Beastie Boys and that “Party” song made me gag.”

Hold up here for a second… I just got a flashback. College, Utah State, dorm room of… what’s his name… Mexican kid with thin mustache and dude who hung out at the fraternity who was from California, who told us about playing basketball and used the phrase, “Get that **** outa here nookie,” when blocking a poorly tossed shot. Also, that fat New York dude who told me to forget about finding a girl who was saving herself for marriage… Boy, that came flooding back in a hurry. I can still see him holding up that cassette of IceT’s “Rhyme Pays.” I went out and bought “Power” soon afterward. IceT was overtly violent, anti-authoritative and super-sexualized.

I wonder about my state of mind back then. I’ve written a couple of stories about being at Utah State and how depressed and needy and lazy I was. My life was ripe to be introduced to something that had so much definitive self-assurety overflowing, especially in terms of those guys I knew and the music they introduced me to. But it was later when I was gone away from all that, I bought Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet.” Those albums were angry and loud and racist. I was a loser white kid, in Salt Lake City, Utah, who just lost his grant at college and started working retail. How could I relate to all this?

And then I found Eric B & Rakim, my favorite. These guys were it man. The rhymes, the beat, the tempo, the lyrical mastery, and most of all: the lack of racism, sex, violence, and drugs. I, somehow, found this album, “Paid in Full” and found it fascinating. I had to have more. Then I got “Follow the Leader”: a Hip-Hop album masterpiece. I listened to this tape over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. For those few years, I was a rap fanatic, but not of the stuff that was coming out in the pop-culture. Those albums that had females in bikinis on the covers were not for me. And there was a lot coming out back then. Those few years were the age of transition for most music. The glam-metal scene was turning to grunge. The New Wave genre was fading and combining into other aspects of dance and rock. The hard metal music, much appreciated by me, was shooting off into differing categories or just plain getting old. Rap was gaining mainstream popularity, because those albums appealed to the suburbanite teen who wanted to buck the system and find a new place, a new rebellion, a new message. With rap, especially, you see the fruits of today what was planted in the past. When I hear a rap song now, all I think of is that horrible transition it went through back then, and I want no part of it. Eric B & Rakim were of a different, emerging sort that rapped about murdering and drugs, but from the standpoint of all that referring to… rapping. It has rhythm, it has hook, it is fun to listen to and to try to rap along to. Even years later I find myself rapping a line or two or three from twenty plus years or so ago. I still listened to Public Enemy, but less so then EB&R, and IceT? He was gone, I couldn’t stomach much of that for long.

One day, my best friend and I were in Raunch Records scoping out music. He was of the death metal scene, and I just went along with him because we were probably going out to eat or to the comic shop. Somehow or another I found out about a band called 3rd Base and bought it at Raunch. It was more than likely my only purchase there. That album signified the end of my rap phase of life. I don’t remember the music at all, I just remembered, I, was, done. The End.

But I do recall Eric B & Rakim fondly. In fact, I just purchased Follow the Leader off of itunes. I’m trying to get my kids to like it, but they are all, “Ugh, Can you turn this off?” I explain to them that if they meet someone in the future that is a true rap connoisseur/historian and they tell them they know of Eric B & Rakim, the person’s sock will be blown clean off… Whatever that means.

~Stranger

Strange Reviews: Lungs

I eased myself into the high passenger seat of a large white suburban. We were men on a mission to see a brick building of interest. The driver, whose quirky personality is difficult for me to figure out, starts up the engine. (I imagine others find it as difficult to see what lies beneath this skull of mine, but he is quicker to smile, laugh, and empathize and thus is seemingly more easy to be with.) Several notes come out of the stereo system, and another man in the back asks excitedly, “Is that the Avett Brothers?” Driver answers in the affirmative, that indeed it is the Avett Brothers. “I knew there was a reason I liked you,” back seat passenger conveys the message of an instant manly bond of music. I take note of band and catch some notes of note, then take some mental notes for later perusal of agreed upon bonding band.

Some days later my wife presents to me a late birthday gift of an itunes card worth, (drumroll please) twenty-five dollars! I haven’t had money for itunes since I wrote my last album review dated May 8th. I figure that an album review here to be forthcoming and begin the search for what to buy… what to buy. I instantly remember the band that brought about the bond that I so much like to experience, of which I semi-wrote about on that one site SIR page. I sent a message to back passenger asking them to remind me of band, then checked them out. Well, they were okay. Not necessarily my style, more on the easy country/rock. My country and/or country rock demands more of a hook and less of, hmmm… shall I say mainstreamism?

I flashed back to my appreciation of 80’s thrash metal, and found nothing that made me want to buy. It is very hard to buy an album when you rarely get the funds to go for it, after all there is so much to choose from and where do you go? Do you pick from your past? Do you go for the stuff you received some moderately impressed praise for having and finding some more of the stuff? Do you go for something new that itunes may recommend? Last time I asked for recommends, I got a lot of no responses or stuff that I wasn’t nearly interested in. Then I remember a song that I first experienced while browsing the net. It showed a kid and his response to a song and the lack  thereof. Very funny video, and the song got stuck in my head. The way the kid reacts is the way I am when it comes to music: if it makes me move, I like it.

I found the song and the album, then listened to the samples. It didn’t thrill me right away, but then I remembered how I use to have to work hard to like an album; listening to it over and over again, so it’d grow on me and it became part of me and I could sing it on a whim. Now wait a sec, you may think that I was forcing myself to like something just because others liked it and I could… bond with them? Nothing could be farther from the truth. It wasn’t that I didn’t hate it and forced myself, but that I knew it had potential to move me.  I love music, I just don’t connect immediately with the specific sound. Like when your friend posts a video of a guy doing the guitar rhythm to an old song that you liked way back when and says to check out the fret work, you suddenly realize that you never really heard the instruments separately, but always as a whole. You never fully realized the work and talent that went into such simple melodies, and how beautiful each part can be on its own. My goodness! How perspectives can change in an instance. Music is the stuff that shows us how beautiful a gift God gave us when it comes to hearing. Alas, like so many other good gifts given us, we make it ugly and spiteful. Yet I suppose that is a part of human existence too.

Back to the review at hand. Since this is a review of an album I don’t have much of a history with, I don’t know it totally in and out, but will give my initial reactions to each song.

Dog Days Are Over: This is the song that I referred to earlier. Great, haunting, lively intro. Her voice instantly takes me in. Love the deep tones and then ukulele(?). Clapping hands and tambourines and a harp builds up the crescendo to the chorus. With pauses in the middle and strong come backs. This is a great song to jump up and down to and sway in melody.

Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up): This one could be on the extreme, alternate, late-night, weekend playing Christian music station. It is a song about offering, sacrifice, change, gifts. Don’t misunderstand, it is not a Christian band as you will soon see, and this is not a Christian song, it just has a great spiritual presence and the beautiful melody will have you swaying.

I’m Not Calling You a Liar: The Machine seems to rely a lot upon the light instrument, harps, cymbals, tambourines. They have great harmony together, and this one showcases that. It is about love and how hard it is to give your heart, it is like dying.

Howl: This one, might be the first to delete. It is a good song, but the lyrics don’t impress me. I do lie more on the puritan side of things when it comes to the gift of relationship God gave man and woman, and this one is just to feral for my tastes.

Kiss With a Fist: Okay, this one is the first I’ll delete. All I here is violence and mutual domestic abuse. In fact it is already gone.

Girl With One Eye: Three songs in a row to delete? This isn’t going so well… but it does get better.

Drumming Song: Another song that I just love her voice. More crashing sounds in this one than usual. It does sound like she is a bit crazy as she tries religion and suicide(seemingly) to rid herself of the drumming. But it is just another one about love and how the emotions inside take over when you see the one you love, the passion is seemingly out of control.

Between Two Lungs: Words and their effect on you? Meh… just doesn’t roll out the barrel, if you know what I mean.

Cosmic Love: Another great one, gotta say her voice is just amazing, they don’t need all the heavy instruments. This one though, reminds me that it should come with a warning that Paul McCartney knew how to do. “You’d think that people would have Had enough of silly love song But I look around me and I see it isn’t so Some people wanna fill the world With silly love songs And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know ‘Cause here I go again.” Okay! I get it. You’re a woman with strong emotions. I guess this is your outlet. Many a great artist creates out of pain. Here is what I’m going to imagine it as: End of the world, deep in the darkness, with only one person… to face the end of the world.

My Boy Builds Coffins: This one is my favorite so far. Just check out these lyrics: “My boy builds coffins with hammers and nails He doesn’t build ships, he has no use for sails He doesn’t make tables, dressers or chairs He can’t carve a whistle cause he just doesn’t care
My boy builds coffins for the rich and the poor Kings and queens have all knocked on his door Beggars and liars, gypsies and thieves They all come to him ’cause he’s so eager to please My boy builds coffins he makes them all day But it’s not just for work and it isn’t for play He’s made one for himself One for me too One of these days he’ll make one for you For you For you For you.” Those are enough for the price of admission. Yes! A song about dying… Wait, what? All these have something about dying in them. This one is different though. Check it out.

Hurricane Drunk: Women have emotions on a level way beyond the average male, and this one is no exception. This time her emotions are carrying her away like a hurricane. Again, this sounds like something that could be on the alt, alt, alt Christian music station. Just sayin’.

Blinding: A more somber and dark one then the usual lighter ones. Heavy drumbeats mark its entry. She cries out, “No more dreaming like a girl.” Apparently dreaming about the love she has always sought, but then she awakens from the fantasy because she kills someone. Just kidding, she doesn’t kill anyone. But there is something deeper here, perhaps the way we now seek out love? Ugh, my manliness is starting to kick in the gag reflexes to upchuck all this emotion about love and stuff… Let’s look at the last one.

You’ve Got the Love: Wait, this one has “love” in the title. Okay, hold up again. I’m going to say that this one is truly about God. Forget about the fact that all these others are about the pain love brings, or the emotions that destroy from unrequited love or relationships that are just physical, or death and dying from poetic broken hearts. This one is about a love that will never let you down. A love that you really need, a love that picks you up. And listen to the harp this time, it sounds like an angel in heaven is playing it. In the end it all comes down to going back to God; He’ll never let you down. At least that is what I’m going with.

Hmm… Maybe this is why I rarely bond with people over music anymore.

~Stranger

Strange Reviews: The Transfer of Evil

Some years ago when Shrek and Shrek 2 came out, there were some protestations from Christians condemning the films because they believed the creators were trying to undermine the idea that historically, ogres are evil and we have to get to the core of our motivations to find out why we do what we do. They claimed that the softening of what was generally considered evil, was making the world more sympathetic towards those who appear evil. Now I don’t disagree with this view-point, but I always feel that Christians jump the gun when it comes to protesting art and entertainment, which more or less backfires on them. I just roll my eyes and move on and pray that those who know I’m Christian aren’t swayed to the idea that I’m as close-minded as all that.

I’ve seen two movies this week that has got me thinking about the stories we change or the motivations we create to drive a story forward or make something more compelling, and thus has to change our idea about evil.

So I’m just going to come right out and say it first of all: I believe there is evil in this world, and I believe that the source of this evil is trying to change our viewpoint about evil as well as making evil appear to be good and good appear to be evil. That being said, I am in no way protesting these films, for I enjoyed both of them thoroughly and will definitely own a DVD of one of them in the future. In my contemplation of them I see how they could be seen as manipulative in the way evil is portrayed.

The first one I saw was “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Incidentally, the first one should have been called “Dawn” while this one should have been called “Rise.” If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know some of the nuances of it, read no further, but, definitely come back and check it out. I won’t go into all the details of the film, for I want to quickly get to my point without throwing you off the trail. So we see this world with few humans and many intelligent, and speaking, apes in conflict. There are good humans and there are bad humans, just the same as in the ape camp. A particular bad human only see the apes as the cause of all that has happened in spreading the disease that has killed off most of the human race. He has nothing but hate, fear and mistrust for those apes who are in the way of getting some electricity back to the small group of humans still living in the city. He is the intolerant jerk we are supposed to hate. He even has a line, “Okay, so I’m the @$$-hole,” and many in the theater would have agreed with him. But let’s think about this for a moment: If we have seen all the people around us dying and then gone for the past ten years, then, there is hope for salvation in the form of electricity, which means music and lights and flushing, then standing in our way is the very form of the disease that has caused our whole existence to shatter, wouldn’t we have an excuse to be an @$$ too? Isn’t there justification for mistrust, for fear. But, we need that person in this movie. We need someone whom we can relate to and the one that we hate. We can even cheer a little when he is killed, even if it is by the same ape who we are supposed to have the same feelings toward.

Which brings us to the next character, an ape, that is the representation of the bad. This is Koba, an ape that was with Caesar from the beginning. Koba would do anything for Caesar and has humbled himself before him several times. Koba only knows humans as evil, for after all he was a laboratory ape. The humans hurt Koba beyond repair. All he sees if fear, mistrust and hate when he looks at humans. Koba soon finds out that the humans have many weapons in their possession. He tries to warn Caesar but finds Caesar collaborating with the humans to get them their electricity. Koba then challenges Caesar but loses and Caesar won’t kill another ape. It is at that point that Koba makes the decision to betray Caesar, and every choice after brings Koba further and further along in his choice of evil. We are to see Koba as how horrible we are as humans. He only chose this evil path because of how horrible humans were to begin with. We understand this about Koba, but as for the evil human, we don’t get that backstory, we don’t want to understand his motivations. We even scoff at one point when the leader spoke about reclaiming back what once was ours.

We are so easily manipulated to hate those who seem so intolerant, who are so jingoistic, yet have a compassion for those we know the motivations for, even though their actions are despicable and violent. But, then again I think that is why we like movies. It is easier for us to hate things we don’t understand, those we don’t even try to understand. Now going back to my belief in evil, I believe people choose evil and are evil and will never be “talked” out of their evil ways. We can have hundreds of conferences with insatiably, violent dictators trying to convince him that what he is doing is wrong, but he will never stop, because he is evil. Only violence will stop some people from doing evil. But, I suppose that doesn’t mean we should never try.

Now to the second film: Maleficent. We see this film from the viewpoint of the “evil” witch or faerie from the Sleeping Beauty fable. Here we see her motivations and the reasons why she is filled with such hate, and how she is justified in it. We see her backstory, all the way back when she was just a wee faerie, falling in love with a boy who only has dreams of living in a castle. Because of the boy/man’s final betrayal, all Maleficent knows is hatred and mocks at the idea of “true love.” The story is changed because Aurora is telling it now. Which begs the question: Who told the original story? We are made to believe that somehow the story was changed by the telling of it. It wasn’t the now evil King Stephen, for he was killed at the end. It couldn’t have been any of the other people because Aurora was made an honorary queen of the faeries, I suppose in addition to the duties she now had to fill because of her Father’s idiocy. So, we see Maleficent as the truly sympathetic character, who is the one who gives true loves kiss, because of her adoration of Aurora. And oh how the tables have turned for who we once knew as Good King Stephen in the previous iterations of the story, but now we know none of his backstory or motivations for being so dastardly evil, save for the fact that he has no parents and lives in a barn. He is now the evil one who must be vanquished. The strange is now good, and the different is now beautiful and accepted. All who don’t know this are deemed the intolerant ones. Just as things are today…

Just something to think about.

~Stranger

Strange Reviews: Among the Living

Lately I’ve been exploring a lot of the music of my past. Specifically stuff from 1986-88. More specifically thrash metal. Extremely specifically a band called Helloween. “Oh my,” you say, as you brush the imaginary dirt from your hand sewn denim skirt that goes past your ankles. “You listened to a band with the word ‘Hell’ in it?” Yes, yes I did.

This “Strange Review” isn’t just about the music, but about the time. A time in which our only limitations was the amount of bus money we had in my pockets. The mountains were right there when I left the front door of the home we lived in for the last 10 years. Summer was our season to hang out in the basement listening to music or watching lame horror movies, that I inevitably always picked, and getting pizza delivered right to our face, the pepperoni oozing the grease so healthy for young dudes such as ourselves. I wandered home with my mind reeling from the images planted by a lot of ridiculous ideas swarming in the culture of Reagan and stupid hair bands only my brother liked and Mtv and leg warmers… We’d drive around in my big Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme doing 5-point U-turns after water-gunning unsuspecting youths, when the thing worked and was available. In the Fall I threw on my jeans jacket and strutted around town in my black Reeboks, listening to my knock-off Walkman to tape mixes of British and Thrash metal, as I traveled to my grandparents home to spend the night watching HBO all night. Winter was the depth of school, snow and cold. We’d hole up again, when together, but a lot of time was with family; holidays were the best of times. Spring was much like Fall, only the dread was a bit heavier because the Heat was coming, but with the heat always came the Fall. And Fall was my favorite. Fall was dark, industrial, cool, and thrash.

I was an angry young man, in a cynical, dark, and yet comedic way. My best buddie, JR could vouch for that. His greatest memory of our friendship was the day I found out my parents were getting a divorce. He said it was cloudy, dark and mellow. If that was the way the day was, it matched my mood perfectly. Throughout these years that day defined me. In some fashion, I had joy. Maybe you could call it relief, more or less. My best friend and I could be angry and sarcastic, shouting and mocking, to a world we were growing into, but deep down we were both “good” guys. We weren’t bullies or jerky-jocks, just kind of angry and loud, but in a funny way. You know, you read some of my stuff… possibly.

As I remembered these times and looked through the itunes store for Helloween and Helloween related music, I came across Anthrax. They were one of the first metal bands that incorporated a harsh rap sound, and they were angry and cynical, but in a funny way. They also had songs based off of Stephen King novels and novellas, which of course this particular author I was very much into back then. Remember back when everyone yelled, “NOT!” in response to any inquiry? I think Anthrax started that too. I found my favorite album, “Among the Living” for only $5.99. I had $6 something after buying a Voivod song, so I was all like, “Buy It.” Then I delved deeper into the past.

Some albums are so tied to a date or a time frame that future listenings seem harsh, like fingernails on a blackboard coming through through the wormhole in your dark, damp basement as you wander blindly, looking for that lost sock… much as Judas Priest is now, my favorite band back then. Anthrax has that feel, although not as bad, and it could be better if the sound was a bit cleaner. So let’s look at each song individually:

Among the Living: This is the title track dedicated to the Stephen King novel “The Stand”. It’s focus is the main antagonist called the Walkin’ Dude. One of the few tracks that doesn’t deal with how angry Anthrax is.

Caught in a Mosh: This song is about how angry they are at people they think are stupid. Key lyrics: “Which one of these words don’t you understand /I’m caught in a mosh! /Talking to you is like clapping with one hand”

I Am the Law: This one’s about angry comic book hero, Judge Dredd, and how angry he is at the criminals in the future that he is judge and jury, and usually ends up killing them. Key lyrics: “A man so hard, his veins bleed ice /And when he speaks he never says it twice /They call him judge, his last name is dredd /So break the law, and you wind up dead”

NFL: Not about football, not worth commenting on except for the fact that they are angry at a lot of different types of people, perhaps businessmen climbing the corporate ladder.

A Skeleton in the Closet: Based on a King novella, “Apt Pupil” one of my favorite stories back then, but perhaps a bit too dark and angry now.

Indians: They are angry at how the Native American Indians were dealt with by our government in the past. Joey Belladonna, the lead singer, is part Indian and so was I and I related to this song. It made me angry at the government. Key lyrics: “Our Indian brothers’ getting burned /Original American /Turned into second class citizen”

One World: This is the one about how scared we all were at nuclear armageddon, and how angry we all were at the government and the people beating war drums from the ridiculous cold war. Oh, did I suck this all in. Key lyrics: “Russians: They’re only people like us /Do you really think they’d blow up the world /They don’t love their lives less. America: Stop singing hail to the chief /Instead of thinking s.d.i. /He should be thinking of peace.” What in the world does “s.d.i.” mean?

A.D.I./Horror of it All: This is one of the cleanest sounding songs on the album, and was an attempt at the epic metal song so common at the time. It reminds me of Metallica’s Battery. It also has some other, deeper meaning that I can’t yet glean, but they are angry about something. See these key lyrics: “My memories there’s nothing harder /Anger and hatred fill the page /So smash the walls it’s time to rage”

Imitation of Life: This one is my favorite and most connected with me at that time. I hated fake people back then, now I more or less disassociate with them. I was open back then as much as I am today, but people had to demonstrate some kind of trust before I let them in. This was before I really started my distrust of humanity during college. I saw a video the other day of some teenage fakery dude taking a self-video about how much he hates all these fake people. Then someone walks by, says, “Hi,” he says, “Hi” then comments on how much he hates her. This kind of behavior makes me just so angry. If you’re going to be angry at fake people, then don’t be fake! What are you thinking? I suppose though he is young and stupid, as I was, but I never was fake like that, and Anthrax sure was out there about who they hated and who they admired and were never a pretender. Obviously this song is about fake people, especially those in the music industry. I suppose a lot of hate could come from that. Key lyrics: “There’s nothing I hate more, than all these plastic people /With all their plastic promises, and all there plastic deals /They just can’t be themselves, and live their own lives out /They’re just an imitation of what life’s all about.” Plus, as a bonus, they rallied against the stupid hair bands at the time: “Bands dress like women with hairspray and lace /I’d pass an image law, stick it in your face! /Let’s see how long they keep dressing this way /Wearing this image twenty four hours a day!”

Amazing that I’m not as angry as I could be filling my mind with a lot of this stuff in my youth. I do so appreciate though the rhythm of that time and that thrash metal was the stuff that connected with me; it spoke my language. This was also the time that JR went a little more death metal, while I was discovering U2 and R.E.M. so we did some diverging there at the time. But you’ve read a lot about that too.

~Stranger

A Sunset in a Sky on Fire

Last night’s Person of Interest was excellent, yet again. And I have a theory that I want to be made public, so when it comes about you can say you heard it here first. First though, I am copying my review that I wrote on my work site. Excuse me for such a quick sounding review, but when I get on in the morning, I have to get it written and out. People are depending on me don’t ya’ know. You can skip over the review and just go to the end to find out my theory. Oh, and there are spoilers in here too, so don’t read on if you haven’t seen it.

Well, we finally seen some of the Vigilance back story we’ve been waiting for. A blatant disregard of the human condition with unlimited power would drive many to the terror Peter Collier inflicts on those he calls his enemy. The price of freedom is not worth the rights that are lost to the individual. In a society where terror forced the hand of those in control to little by little ensure safety by taking a bit of freedom here and a bit of freedom there, has made the man Peter Collier. I always believe that we should hold ourselves to a responsibility for our own bad actions and stop blaming the government, our parents, those bullies, whomever, and Collier has taken that responsibility and taken a very strong action. An action of revolution. This episode has made me rethink whose behavior are we responsible for, how far should our actions take us? Should those of the American Revolution just been more tolerant of the actions of the British? I very much enjoyed last nights episode and the thoughts it brings, but back to the main plot points of the show…

Vigilance, as I predicted, was instrumental in the last few episodes, but not in the way I had seen. They don’t have the idea just to take down the surveillance systems, but to take out those responsible and put them to trial. Also, as suspected, there is someone behind the face of Vigilance, financing, perhaps brainwashing those minions so willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause… Were those of the Revolution just as dedicated? Have we got to the point where nothing really should matter that much to the point of sacrificing ourselves? Perhaps this is the message of Vigilance, that there is and will always be causes that are worth our lives. We have just given ourselves over to the McDonald’s culture so much, we forget there are things worth dying for. Our comfort is what is most important, we believe, and there are others who will fight for it.

Hersh, or should I say George is back as well. The ever vigilant protector of Control, he swoops in but too late. Reese and Shaw reluctantly join forces with him for comedic effect during this episode. The argument over who gets to drive is classic. Hersh, although blinded by Control and the power she has to protect the country, knows his place in this play and that it is right to team up with them for the common goal of rescuing the “good” guys.

And Root is the hero of the show now. She has her own little minions, wanting to go where she goes, please her with keeping on deadlines. They looked like sad little puppies when she tried to send them away. How much you want to bet they’ll follow her into the Samaritan’s lair? She is the only one that has any right to confidence, for she is the voice of the higher power. But did she or did she not know that the third number is Greers, holding Shaw and Reese back from rescuing Finch in order to complete the Machine’s tasks?

At this point we are unsure whether anyone really has any control of any situation. Who is controlling Vigilance? My wife just throws it out there that it is the Machine or Finch. How else would they know Collier left that meeting at just that time and in the state of mind he was in. I have my doubts…

Then there is the conversation between Greer and Finch. I just thought about what Greer might mean, and the Scottish origin of the name is “watchful or vigilant”… Hmmm… very interesting. That name is not just a coincidence. Anyway, there is a very poignant moment when Greer tells of his time in England during the War and the bombing and blackouts. He remembers a time that they were running for the tubes a little late and saw the sunset. But he found out that it was just the sky on fire. All that beauty was just an illusion, much like our freedom or the fact that we are in control. He reveals to Finch that his goal is to make sure that Samaritan is up and running before he can assuredly eliminate Finch. He wants to see the birth of this intelligence, watch it take shape and make decisions that aren’t effected by emotion. He mocks Finch as a father crippling his child, but Finch is aware of the danger of trying to control something as powerful as an omniscient computer. How does Greer think he’ll control Samaritan? And Greer answers why would he ever want to control the thing…

Now, onto my theory: You can see from above that I figured out Greer means watchful or vigilant and that I think the name is not coincidental. I have surmised over this season that Greer has always worked for the Chinese. Collier received a text last night after leaving the meeting with the callous government worker regarding the suicide of his brother. His anger was complete and just above the surface. If he would have fallen into a vat of toxic waste he would have become a super-villain, but this is real life, and someone knew the torture he was going through in a surveillance culture of the government’s creation, and contacted him at just the right time. It has been obvious that Vigilance has a lot of money, and perhaps like Decima, they have a program where if you are not caught, but die in their service, your family gets a huge bonus check. So, my theory is this: that Vigilance is funded by Decima. There may be some die hard revolutionists in the group, but I believe most of the men are Decima. I’ve always wondered how Vigilance’s men could die so easily for cold and callous Collier. It seems that any call for revolution is really just a bunch of people who want to camp outside of banks and smoke pot and just create a nuisance of themselves. These people are for the cause, but what if the cause we think they are dying for is actually the cause of anarchy, which is what Greer seemed to be indicating to Finch in regards to not want to control the Machine. The Chinese want America’s economy to crumble as their’s is built less and less on ours and in fact is actually surpassing the US. Look at the current relevant news headlines regarding Stephen Hawking afraid of an AI, and China’s economy surpassing that of the US’s. POI is relevant to our world’s fears. Collier probably doesn’t know that he is actually working for Greer or ultimately, the Chinese. And whatever chaos the US is thrown into because of the revolution or Samaritan going online, is a win/win for the Chinese, at least for the moment.

Person of Interest: Death Benefit

Spoilers ahead:

Did the Machine really give them a number that, if murdered, would eliminate a threat to its existence? To the existence of the team? Was it really its intention that Reese or Shaw pull the trigger? This episode, more than previously, looks at the ethics of taking action against a threat, even for those who purpose has always been to save lives.

I wrote  just a week ago, for the need for us to have a healthy disillusionment with our government representatives, and this congressman who is this weeks number, perpetrator and potential victim, even though fictional, is a great representation for that very need. He is loved by all his constituents because he can appease even the staunchest of detractors. He even tries to use his “magic” to wheel and deal his way into the psyche of Finch, not even aware of the threat to his existence being debated and struggled with in the next room. He has made a contract with his wife that even affairs don’t matter to him, the people around him and, if it ever came out, to the public. Appealing to everyone just to survive is not governing a people, it is an ineffective diplomacy that creates an illusion that you are getting what you always wanted. This congressman says, “The simple truth is, the people want to be protected, they just don’t want to know how.” At the same time his representative battle against surveillance, he is making back door deals with the same group he has a rallying cry against, and he doesn’t see any conflict of interest with it.

Are all representatives of the people who have such duplicity deserving of death? These people are traitors to those they represent, if they don’t deserve death they at least deserve being kicked-out, but even that process reveals the red-tape we have to tear apart just to find out what happened, what were the motivations behind their actions. It is a sad commentary of this once great idea, and how easy it is to give our freedom away for drama.

But enough ranting about the plight we have put ourselves in, let us get back to the aching struggle of choice against purpose that is tearing the team apart. This episode reminds me of a film called Arlington Road, where the suspected hero turns out to be the perpetrator the whole time. The team realizes that the Machine has drawn their attention to a number that is a threat to everyone and everything. Do they murder this threat? I don’t know… and again this issue is brought up about programming and true self-realization. A few episodes back the Machine opened up Root’s mind to the possibility that there is a grander purpose in knowing everything; that you can either destroy or save lives. Root opened up to the possibility that the Machine “cares” about people and in fact “cares” how you feel about the people you are called to protect. Just Monday night they showed the episode where Shaw suddenly starts caring about the people she saves through the little “spy” girl. Coincidence? I think not.

So then we come to this ethical dilemma: I am going to present my theory. I believe the Machine predicted Reese or Shaw would not be able to eliminate the threat. For what purpose then did it lead them to threat? The Machine always “knows” of the human element involved is not always predictable, but, that is the way Finch created it. There is the human element involved and the Machine is exemplary at knowing what that human element will do. It has been online for several years and has stopped many terrorist threats because it know humans so well. So why put it’s administrator in a position where there is a deep personal struggle to choose what is right and what is wrong. For me the choice is… almost… clear cut: eliminate threat. But for our team whose values toward life, purpose, and meaning have been elevated through the interactions with each other and the Machine, the choice is not so clear. Whose life is more valuable? Who gains more by the choice of redeeming a life? It may be one of the biggest regrets our team will face, but they did not go against their values that have been built up and bonded each of them to the other, and that is what is the most important choice they have made.

~Stranger

(A fellow bloggers review.)

Strange Reviews: Born Into Brothels

My wife has been a constant reader of Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog, Looking Closer, for a few years now. I generally don’t like reading movie reviews unless there is a specific movie I was confused over and wanted a bit more information. I’ve always considered myself a “movie” guy except for the last 10 years or so, since I’ve grown a bit more discerning on what I choose to view. Since reading JO’s blog my wife has been more interested in film and it’s concept as art, although she hasn’t increased her movie watching time. She got herself one of his books, “Through a Screen Darkly” and has been opened to Jeffrey’s beginning love of film and some of the many reasons he has loved many types of movies and his view of the decline of film as art. She has compared JO to Francis Schaeffer; as Francis sees art as creation and that relation to the creation and humanity’s relationship to the Creator, in the same way Jeffrey sees it in film. My opinion of him is changing because of the transformation I went through last year regarding legalism.

I read an article of his a couple of years ago that she urged me to peruse. I angrily disagreed with his point of view. I called him an idiot and thought he did not see the world as a “good” and responsible Christian should, he even linked and agreed with some liberal writer regarding the film. I don’t remember what film he reviewed, but it completely changed my opinion about him and I quickly disregarded anything she might say about any film he reviewed. That is, until she started telling me about his reviews on the Hobbit films and subsequently the LotR movies. I think the choice of going with a three film release for The Hobbit was Peter Jackson’s first mistake. I saw the first film and felt it was way over the top and it was just aiming for a prequel of LotR rather than the beautiful stand alone story Tolkien meant it to be. The second release was even more so, just a prequel. Although, a bit shamefully, I still went, and enjoyed them as they were: a slightly better than average action/fantasy epic.

Which brings me to a film that Jeffrey Overstreet reviews in his book, “Through a Screen Darkly”. My wife asked if I had ever seen Born Into Brothels, a documentary that JO really liked. She gave me a short description and last night I looked it up and found it so she/we could watch it. I don’t watch a lot of documentaries, except for the occasional nature ones. I’ve always felt that most of them had a particular agenda they wanted to sell, which usually went against my personal beliefs. But, I’m open to any documentary people recommend, especially my wife.

The film was about a female American photographer who went to Calcutta to photograph women in the Red Light district. She became interested in the children who were born into this lifestyle and were expected to become a part of it since they were born. She soon starts a photography class for a group of children and the film interviews and presents the photos they have taken. The way these children see their world is captivating and the woman begins to explore options for them to escape from the life they were born into. One of the more gifted children loses his mother in the progression of filming and you can see in his eyes and bearing that he has given up on life, he says that life is hopeless. The process of getting these children into a boarding seems a more difficult task than she has thought. These children are the offspring of criminals. The caste society they are in sees no way out for those who are born into a situation. This is a huge difference in our culture: we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to get out of situations we find ourselves in. In India, there is no way out. The woman, incredibly, is able to get almost all of them into a boarding school, and get the gifted boy to represent India in Amsterdam at a photography exhibition. The boarding school is strict in its standards of not involving yourself outside of the school even if there is a death in the family. The parents can pull them out anytime, but with no hope to get back in. The ending tells what happens to the children. All but one of them are taken out of the school, to be brought back into a life of prostitution.

It is a dark and depressing film, but tells of someone who sees this darkness and tries to get them out of it through art, through creativity. It makes you want to act, to do something yourself to bring hope into a world filled with hopelessness. Who cares for those who have no hope? If not us, then who?

In the Perspectives class, this is what we are learning. Go to places where the gospel needs to be heard and share it, share the hope. Sadly, so many choose or are forced back into a life of darkness rather than hope, but the Christian can and should offer hope that is willing to go back into the darkness and share that light. One of the things my wife says that Jeffrey laments over is the lack of review Christians have given the film. Sure, it has a lot of angry, horrible swearing in it, and much directed toward the children, but that is the culture we are witnessing. It is part of the darkness they are in. It is part of the drama that makes us want to act. Where are the type of films like this sold to Christians? Part of what we do as Christians is stay in our little part of the field of the world, cozy and comfortably together, why should we do that when we look at film? It is such a feel good thing for us. We either need to see the sufferings of Christ or feel good about what we just saw, feel justified about our lifestyle.

One scene that truly effected me was when the woman took them to the beach, probably something they’d never seen in their lives. With joy and shock they tromp through they cold waves, joyously photographing one another. I thought that it was such a false hope: that they would just have to go back to the Red Light district after such a grand time out. How can you enjoy anytime away from what is so dark, knowing you’ll just have to go back. I thought that is the way I feel many times. My work is so joyless and needlessly complex, that it depresses me, just the thought of having to go back no matter where I am. I thought that I live too much in the future, I need to embrace the now. I look back and think how careless life was and write about it, then think about the dim near future and get depressed. I need to focus on the (possibly) far future, when God will set all things right. I also need to remember not to be so thankless in what he has given me in such a supportive job. I see a film like this and know how good my life is, that I go to bed just glad that I have one, but know that there are people out there who need true hope, the hope of a future with God… forever, and if I have to live for a time like these people, if God calls me, then so be it. I just pray that I, and especially my family is ready, wherever, whenever He calls us.

Let us, as Christians, see the bigger world as we need to: a dark place with created beings who need love and hope as we all do. Let us embrace this type of film and open up the world. If you are 18 or older, watch this and see how it may affect you.

~Stranger

Strange Reviews: Person of Interest: One Life, Changes Many

I don’t watch many shows on television, but one I do watch, as much as I can, is “Person of Interest”. Last night’s episode finished up a three part story called “End Game”.

If you watch the show, and haven’t been caught up, there are spoilers ahead.

The whole “End Game” bit was the final confrontation between the corrupt group of police and politicians known as HR, the Russian mafia group headed by Peter Yogorov, the evil but lovable Elias, and our friends, the heros of the show, the Machine Gang. Carter has still been building her case against HR, seeking to bring down the group that killed Beecher, right after Carter realized that Beecher wasn’t corrupt and was starting to see him as a romantic interest. Her laser beam focus was making her drive away everyone who cared for her, because she didn’t want to risk anyone else’s life. However, the episode two weeks ago revealed that she did bring in the rest of the gang in the final push to get a warrant against Quinn. In the aftermath of finally bringing him in, she won back her respect, her detective status, a new interest in Reese, and some safety for her family and the city, only to have it come crashing down when she is shot by Simmons and dies in Reese’s arms. Last night showed the consequences of Simmons’ actions.

We were witness to four specific flashbacks. All of them were interviews with our remaining protagonists. Each of them revealed the changes that one life, Carter’s life, lived in rightness, affects those closest to them when the life is suddenly taken away.

First we see Finch, right after his best friend and partner is killed, and Finch has decided to let the world, and the love of his life, Grace, believe that he is dead. He is talking about grief and the responsibility taken because it was his fault. The psychologist suggests that grief is temporary and that Finch shouldn’t take any drastic steps because he feels responsible for his friend’s death. What the psychologist doesn’t realize is that Finch is responsible for Nathan’s death and he will take the drastic step of taking over his legacy in being responsible for the irrelevant numbers. Carter’s death makes Finch, along with what Root said last week, feel, almost overwhelmingly, responsible for those he has recruited in this purpose. He realizes that his only hope is in Root, who he can’t trust, but has a very different relationship with the machine. Will he give up some of the responsibility he feels so strongly, or just be so afraid to put those in harm’s way that he is frozen with indecision?

The next interview we see is Shaw’s. She is a brilliant surgeon who just can’t get herself to care about whether a patient dies or not and that is the concern of the interviewer: that she doesn’t care enough to eventually not get bored. We see her start to care when she saves the young “spy”, and perhaps the passion she has always lacked in her pursuit of Simmons. Like Reese, her violent pursuit is what she knows, but still doesn’t understand that this drive is her concern for what happened to Carter. She came to know and… appreciate Carter, almost as a friend; at least as much as Shaw can have a friend. Carter’s death made Shaw face the fact that she is now part of a family, and what affects everyone else, affects her. Will we see a drastic change in Shaw toward love and concern, or will that come out in being more angry, sarcastic or other strange characteristics displaying her affection?

We come to Reese, where we believe he is being interviewed prior to entry into an assassination program he is already involved in. He acts weak before this man, who is someone he is sent to kill. It is reminiscent of a cat playing with a mouse before snapping its neck, without care or concern about life and death. He is cold in his killing. This was before being assigned with Stanton, which made him disgusted to see her enjoyment in killing people. We saw last episode, what Carter meant to Reese. By the way, I believe the kiss wasn’t romantic in nature, it was more of a display of unique affection and bonding that Reese feels for Carter. Carter’s death is the released pin of Reese’s grenade like personality. Finch’s giving Reese a purpose was a very, if not the most important concept of the first season. But, Carter did make Reese stop considering suicide as a reasonable option, and gave him a much needed perspective. The reason for him having such a passion of ultimate retribution, is not only what she did in saving him, but because he finally revealed this to her, and he felt the weight of responsibility for all she stood for sifting through his fingers in her final moments. Even Finch can’t talk him down before he collapses. I want to say he pulled the trigger because through his delirium all he saw was hate. I hope it wasn’t that all Reese now sees is that good will never triumph by the law, but only by destroying all evil,will good win; obviously this would be very faulty logic for Reese to take on. Will Reese continue in his passionate purpose to save all he can, or will he stop shooting at knee caps and aim higher?

The final, and my favorite change of character is in Fusco. He is interviewed by the police psychologist after he was involved in a shooting. Fusco is weary of this ridiculous process, not because he is playing tough, but because he gladly killed the scumbag who had recently killed another young police officer. In this interview, you can see the reasons Fusco has chosen the path that would lead him into being involved in HR. It is not a justifiable killing, just revenge for a fellow officer. You can see Simmons becoming the way he is in the same type of situation; no need to justify his actions, he is a cop: the ultimate judge and jury on the street. Fusco has suffered some very bad consequences because of the choices he has made, and because of Carter, he has wanted to do right. He gives a wonderful, redeeming speech to Simmons, just before he arrests him. Simmons says that he always knew Fusco was a killer and eggs him on to just go ahead and kill him. Fusco asks if he should throw away all the good Carter has done in his life. He says that Carter saved his life. She made him want to be a good father, a good friend, a good cop. Should he ruin it all for a scumbag like Simmons? Then there is him arresting Simmons and bringing him through the police station: it made me cry. Fusco’s redemption was something I always knew was just on the surface, and he never had an opportunity to prove he could be good; and there it was, facing Simmons’ ugly, bruised, evil mug. It would have been so easy just to get rid of him, but Carter’s memory stopped him. Unlike Reese’s blind, delirious rage, Fusco knew that this was the turning point of his life. Whether or not he would make Carter’s trust worthy of him, or just become the corrupt cop everyone always thought he was. In this option we see no question of what Fusco will become: a good man. I am reminded of “Saving Private Ryan”: at the end, Private Ryan questions whether his life was worth all the deaths of those men who sacrificed themselves to find and bring him out. Fusco will make his life worthy of Carter’s death. He will become all that we knew he could be. I am very excited to see his role in future episodes.

Other notes about this episode: The beginning was expertly done. We all know what happened the previous episode, but the music and lyrics and camera technique, drew us to what it was all about; a loss of a very important person and all the implications that come from it. I loved it. Root is a very intriguing character, but why can’t she help without that smarmy smile… but, oh I see it now. She is the voice of god. She knows only “she” talks to her, and eventually all will beg her to help them. It was great that she put herself back in her cell, and Finch closed, but did not lock it. What is the storm on the horizon that only she can see? Everyone freaked out when Carter died, but this episode showed the need for it, the changes that will and in some cases needed to happen for these characters. Elias. Oh, Elias finally got to Simmons, but his speech about how he and Simmons were alike, but Carter was different, and how he liked Carter, but she didn’t necessarily like him, and how he wasn’t going to kill him he was just going to watch. It was perfect. I love Elias’ character, but now wonder what he is going to do, now with HR out of the way and the Russians power dwindling because of their alliance.

Speaking of Fusco changing his life for the better: There is one death that occurred two-thousand years ago that should drive me to become the man I was always made to be. Will my life be worthy of Christ’s death? Although time is a big distance between me and Him, it is no less important to me. Or, at least it shouldn’t be. We sing songs about how He walks with me and He talks with me, but it is hard to live a life worthy. He is there but I forget. We all need to have some point in our life where we decide to be the man God intends us to be or give in to the sin that is always there, that is always an easier choice, and we face them everyday. This week is Thanksgiving and maybe what I need is a fresh reminder of the sacrifice of God for my benefit. I will be reading over this on my time off from work, as an in my face reminder of who I can be because He works through me, because of what He has done. May my life be a worthy sacrifice, oh my Lord and my God.

~Stranger

(Pictures taken from this article)

Strange Confessions: Three Movies I HATED and One That Redeemed a Name

Strange Confessions: There are three movies I absolutely hate. If I can use the immortal words of Roger Ebert, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie.” Although, none of these movies are “North” of which Mr. Ebert spoke of and which I have never seen, the reasons I hate these movies are vastly different.

Before I got married and was blessed with kids, I was a Movie guy. I watched all sorts of movies. I had access to movie rental places, the library, great movie theaters, including an independent theater where you could rent all sorts of odd stuff. I wanted to be a director or writer, someone involved in the creation of film, revealing your vision: be it funny or serious, fantasy or reality, scary or light hearted, strange or sensical, family or mature, dark or light… I watched them all. Now, there are lots of movies I don’t particularly care for, but I always appreciated what the creators were trying to do, even when they failed.

About twenty years ago, I noticed that independent film started to get more dark, more challenging, more disgusting, and more revealing. I chose not to watch a lot of the movies that were coming out. Of course that was around the time I was changing, because I had Christ in my heart. Even though my tastes were changing, I still believe film was getting worse. It has even gotten into the television. There is not much on television I can watch with my kids. Oh for the days of “The Cosby Show”.

The first movie I really hated, was the first one I never finished watching because it made me so angry. It was “The Accused” with Jodie Foster. The movie came out in 1988, but I didn’t see it until years later. After seeing her in “Silence of the Lambs”, “Maverick” and “Nell”, I wanted to see Jodie in some previous work. She is a superb actress and I wanted to see more. But, “The Accused” was so horrid, and awful that I couldn’t even finish watching it. Yes, it was displaying the evil in the hearts of men, but it was just too much for me at the time. Men committing acts of heinous evil and others standing around, not doing a thing about it, some even cheering them on. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I think that is what disturbed me the most: the fact that when you are younger you believe in the goodness, the rightness of men, sure they do evil things once in a while, but, we are all good, and we just have to be getting better, but then, one day, you realize that it is not true. Men are evil through and through. I reached that point while watching this movie. I hated men… no, I hated sin. Hate what it makes men do, to ourselves, to each other. I hate sin, and this movie made me realize this. It should have made me get up and do something about it, but it didn’t then, not until years later. But, I hated this film.

The second movie I really hated was “Natural Born Killers”. This film made me realize that Oliver Stone is an idiot. No, scratch that. That the whole Hollywood establishment has some major idiots infiltrating all aspects of filmdom, and Oliver Stone is one of the biggest. I remember seeing his justification for this film as farce, as satire. I look at the film, then look at his comments, then look at his film, and I think, “What in the world is he thinking?” He couldn’t possibly believe what he says. Either he believes what he is saying and has a mixed up viewpoint of what satire is, or he is completely insane. Today I believe it is a little of both. He has no idea what true art is, or the idea of what responsibility means. To him, his craft is all about agenda, and he has revealed himself to be the irresponsible lout that he has always been. I’m not alone in my assessment, why here is what John Grisham had to say about this film, this culture. Stone glorified the violence he was portraying and in my ignorance of accepting all film, this one made me see the ugliness that was hypocrisy, idiocy, and the agendaism that comes out of many of the films of today. I hated this film, but appreciated the way it made me more discerning in what I chose to watch.

The third movie I hate was almost the downfall of my appreciation for cinema altogether. This movie was THE most hated film on my list. If there was a scale of movies I disliked from 1 to 10, 1-5 being not liked for any number of reasons, 6 being hated, and 10 being the most hated, this movie would receive a 12. This movie was lauded across the board for its visual beauty, for its artistic ambition, its enduring power, its primal, mystical and childlike fantasy style for adults. It received a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Thankfully, there are a whopping 9 critics out of 202 on that site who didn’t appreciate its art enough to be able to recommend it. Here are a couple of the reviewers snippets who might agree with my assessment: “…a maze of naive politics and gruesome brutality. It’s no more about Franco’s Spain than a can of Franco-American spaghetti is about Italian food.” says one. Another says: ” but the whole is such a dingy downer that despite the fine performances on display, it is impossible to recommend it.” This movie is “Pan’s Labyrinth”. I wanted to like this movie, I really did. The trailers were awesome, the creatures like nothing seen before, a story seemingly dark and mysterious to draw me into it’s world of fantasy. But, alas and alack! This movie had such a slap in your face political agenda that I could not get past. And, grim?! You bet it was. It was so dark and dingy and incomprehensible, except for the part that you are supposed to hate the self-loathing fascist, and love the lovable forest dwelling communists. It absolutely drove me nuts! I can never, for the life of me, understand how I finished watching this movie, other that hoping against hope, that it would all make sense in the end. That there would be sense made. That the world presented was actually topsy-turvy, and the director was playing with us, making us think one thing and in reality hiding another until the end.

I came home from that film, and threw my television out the window, burned all my DVDs and VHS tapes, shredded all my books on film and my screenplays, sledge-hammered my players and computers, destroyed all that reminded me of the legacy that was my life of film appreciation; for it was all for naught. Well… maybe I didn’t take such drastic action, but I did in my mind. For the longest time I hated new movies, had suspicions of all film and their inciting agendas. I hated Guillermo del Toro. Even when I gained back my bearings and could enjoy movies again, I hated seeing his name. Even some of the creepier productions that he presented, that I thought I might like, I disdained. Because it was del Toro. When there was rumor that Peter Jackson was going to allow del Toro to direct The Hobbit, I cringed with aversion. Eventually my derision for him cooled, and his name going with things didn’t rise within me the hatred I remember. But, I never watched again anything that had his name attached. Until last night…

Once I saw previews for Pacific Rim, it intrigued me. Then I saw who was the director. I was interested, but I wasn’t going to watch it. I saw more previews for it and also read the reviews: it only received a 72% from RT, but that is pretty good for a giant robots verses giant monsters movie I must say. It has been at the Redbox for some time, and I resisted for a while, and I was getting to the point that I really wanted to see it, sort of. So, I casually rented it. I’ve got to say, Guillermo has redeemed himself a bit in my eyes with that movie. It was a lot of fun. He also did a great job of giving it the feel of the old Godzilla movies, but obviously in a more modern view. Some of the things that has bugged me lately about this type of film, has been that the director has taken themselves way too seriously with it, and Guillermo didn’t. In fact, my two favorite characters, harkened back to those old Japanese films, where the slightly-off doctors take insane risks and get all the answers the world needs to succeed, and they were interesting and very funny too.  The action was well done, and I kept wondering how they did it all. The story was contrived, but who cares? There is a giant robot fighting a giant monster out there! Guillermo obviously had a lot of respect for those old films and did a great job honoring them. It isn’t one of my top films of the year, but in terms of an oft-hated name redeeming themselves in my eyes, this one is tops. Kudos to you, Guillermo. Well done.

~Stranger

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