Movie Commentary: The Blind Side- Building up others by acts of faith and love.

The Blind Spot is a must see movie.  The movie brings to the big screen the story of Mike Oher and the Tuohy family.  It tells how the Tuohy’s came to reach out to Michael Oher and his life was changed, as was theirs.  The movie was filled with excellent acting from all members of the cast with Sandra Bullock leading the way.  This is a movie you leave impacted emotionally.   The movie does show that it was not just the Tuohy’s involved in changing Michael’s life but many choices along the way. There was “Big Tony” Henderson, Mrs. Beasly, and Miss Sue all who made choices that helped Michael.  Now the reality is that the movie is powerful but the story alters from the facts to fit the director’s vision.   The full details of the story can be read in detail in Michael Lewis’s book: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.  A sampling of the story can be found in a New York Times article written by Michael Lewis titled: The Ballad of Big Mike. It gives a fuller grasp of the elements of the true story. Regardless the movie in the film is powerful. 

Now the film gives a perspective related to the change fighting with the director John Lee Hancock’s viewpoint. In an interview, John Lee Hancock indicated that he did not feel the Tuohy’s faith was a major factor in the story; it was simply part of who they were. In his mind, it could have been anybody.  The story was about the way a young man was helped and how both touched each other’s lives. It is a story about actions that changed a life and the relationships involved.  Many of the lines used by the director/writer in the book are quotes taken from statements made by those involved.  Not at some level, John Lee Hancock also alludes to social trends and the lives of those who do well compared to those who do not.  It showed the real dynamic of acts of love not being trusted by others, and being fueled by motives of secondary gain.  Rather, the movie significantly displays that lives were touched as people responded in keeping with who they were. That this story has such strong impact that it reflects acts of love even if you remove the contributions of faith to the story. 

An interesting element of the director’s take on the story was the focus on protectiveness.  A measure of “protectiveness” is added as a measure of intelligence to portray that Michael Oher had a profound sense of protectiveness and loyalty. He cared for others and truly needed to connect with others.  Family is seen as the primary need and a comparison is even shown between those that reach out in love to those that use and destroy (Tuohy’s versus drug dealer/gang.) Ultimately, Michael was shown to care so much about others that he would protect at cost to his own self.

Another element the direct highlighted was that we all have blindsides or blind spots.  Michael constantly is protecting himself from the painful memory of separation from mother.  Near the end of the film the character talks about surviving by simply closing his eyes.  Emphasis was also pointed out toward how others can be blind to real need and giving is just a superficial part of being in society and giving out of surplus.  The Tuohy’s though went beyond that, and like the Good Samaritan reached out when others may not have.

Personally, the film for me showed the importance of giving in such a way that builds up another, reflecting the love of Jesus.  It did serve as part of the inspiration of the giving challenge issued in an article written on Black Friday. The Tuohy’s gave and it touched Michael Oher in a way that built him up and touch not only his life, but now the life of millions of other people.  Their act of love ultimately draws attention and glory to the King of Kings.  Sure, they are now famous, but famous for living the life of people following God’s lead and helping others.  Their actions were not an act as evidenced by the reaction of Sandra Bullock to exposure to the family. In an article by Terry Mattingly, Sandra Bullock stated “This family, they were themselves for no other benefit other than because they wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return” and she also as indicated that she regained “faith in those who say they represent a faith. I’ve finally met people that walk the walk.”   For those of us who follow Jesus and entered into the kingdom of God, that is words the uplift.  As Leigh Anne Tuohy stated in that same article “We absolutely believe that none of this was a fluke. This was God-driven from the start.” Life was lived in love in such a way that others see the actions and see ultimately Jesus as faith and deeds match.  The Tuohy’s in their actions truly reflected Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

So for any reading this commentary, if you haven’t seen the movie please do so.  And if you have, take a look at yourself and whether you follow Jesus or not, examine how to walk in love of others by giving in ways that touch others beyond the superficial and in a way that builds them up.  Michael Oher’s life was changed by such actions.  It is not about whether a person is built up enough to develop worldly success, rather it is about touching a person that elevates and enables them to walk with confidence into the journey of life.  



 

Sean, Leigh Anne, and Michael

Movie Commentary: The Mummy-Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Yes, I actually spent time watching another movie. I do enjoy movies, even some that are not the best done. I went with my wife and mother and saw The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And to the reader, again a reminder that my commentaries when read will include spoilers, so you may want to stop reading if you care about spoilage.

 In terms of the technical merits of the film, it was at best an average action film.  Plenty of fighting, gun shots, explosions, and other special effects fill the screen.  The movie even tends to have some developed themes to the script. The writers and director of the film do not take themselves too seriously. I think of the three mummy films, this one was not as well done as the other two but definitely a fun movie to watch and worth viewing. 

However, the film is not real artful in presenting the product.  The acting is mechanical and devoid of true emotional connection.  The movie does more “telling” the story then showing the story. You really don’t feel the emotion of the conflicts depicted on screen, but really get told they exist, or if shown, shown mechanically. The movie does have a lot of interesting puns, some entertaining, some fall flat. They even have the actress playing Evelyn (Maria Bello, 2nd actress playing role) stating “I’m not that person.”  The funniest moment for me was the Yeti putting up arms for a field goal after kicking a soldier head through some posts of some sort.  

The film of course relies heavily on special effects. The most interesting was the three-headed dragon. The most impressive special effect to me was the avalanche with the evil emperor mummy walling it with a wind for a short period.  There are some instance though that the special effects are not real clear.  Twice the evil emperor mummy transforms itself into some form of beast, but it is not real easy to figure out what he is supposed to be.  Overall, though the film was fun and enjoyable and if you enjoyed the other movies, you should enjoy this one.

Now that the technical merits have been examined, now time to explore the themes of the story.  I will of course examine things, as always from a Christian perspective.  This movie, like most Hollywood movies contains themes that can be related to Christian theology and symbolism, but it is clearly coming from a non-Christian theme.  The movie displays a magical and mystical view of the supernatural with magic being a force used for either good or evil.  And I don’t want to dwell on that fact any further, since there are more interesting theme dynamics to examine.

I think the movie all boils down to a central theme of being when we are reconciled and work together, even if coming from different perspectives, we can defeat evil.  This was really made evident in how they defeated the evil emperor. Rick (Brendan Fraser) initially states that the plan is to divide and conquer.  In the process of fighting the evil emperor, the special dagger that needs to go through the mummies heart to kill him, breaks in two.  Rick and Alex (Luke Ford) come together from different angles and reconcile the knife in the heart of the mummy, resulting in the mummy’s death and defeat. This scene encapsulated the varied themes of the movie into the central theme of ultimately coming together.

 The coming together and reconciling is important in the movie.  Rick and Evelyn at the start of the movie are missing each other and basically living in their own separate worlds.  They also are alienated from their son, who isn’t telling his parents what he is up to.  Everyone is doing there own thing.  When they come together for this adventure, they rediscover what they have in common and ultimately reconcile around those common elements, which ultimately is based on their love for each other, but also the similar ways they interact with the world.

As such, the movie also points out the need to be true to ourselves. We need to be doing that which fulfills how we are wired and created.  When we step back from our place in this world it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately conflict and isolation.  Rick and Evelyn came alive when they were back in the action versus being retired and holed up in their mansion.  

The movie does put a lot of emphasis on love.  The movie has love betrayed by the evil emperor resulting in the death of his general.  There is love restored between Rick and Evelyn, and there is the new love being formed between Alex and Lin (Isabella Leong).  Amidst these relationships also runs the theme of the value and importance of sacrifice.  The writers designate that the pure in heart sacrifice for those they love. Evelyn was willing to die for her husband.  Rick received a fatal wound for his son, Alex.  Lin and her mother sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) have their immortality sacrificed for a spell to raise those the Han Emperor (Jet Li) unjustly killed building the Great Wall. So by their sacrifices the writers designate the characters as good, pure in heart.

Of course as in any movie with mummies, resurrection is also a theme.  The movie has Han Emperor resurrected by water from a fountain in Shang-ri-la.  There is  Rick being spared from death by same fountain.  There is the resurrection by spell bring back  those wronged by the Han Emperor. There is also the immortality of the sorceress and her daughter.  The resurrections are generally limited to their tasks.  The emperor would become permanently immortal and set to take over the world. The resurrected wronged time ends when the evil emperor is defeated.  The sorceress and her daughter lose immorality in completing task to stop the emperor.  We don’t know the effects of the water on Rick other then keeping him from death.  Actually the movie does also draw from passing on of purpose from father to son, which is a fairly common theme connected to resurrection, that our lives and purpose carry on through our children.

So you have themes of reconciliation, love, sacrifice, resurrection, and purpose. These themes all taken from a standard secular view.  The movie shows love is epitomized through the romantic relationships as well as passing on of through our children.  The secular view is also seen in the reconciliation of coming together under the common bond of purpose, which is that of fighting evil in the film. 

These messages are positive and uplifting and definitely being cause for reflection, but it misses the boat when compared to Christian beliefs. Evil has been defeated through Jesus at the Cross and no need to fear some mummy coming to life to conquer the world. Christians believe there will be on last great political figure intent on taking over the world and who will be defeated when Jesus returns.  My mother  felt a connection to the resurrection of the Saints related to the resurrection of the oppressed and unjustly killed.  However, the resurrection of the Saints will not be just a bunch of flesh rotted corpses and skeletons but with new bodies. 

As a Christian, love is vitally important but love doesn’t stop at those we care about. Love doesn’t stop and burgeoning romance.  Love is to be displayed toward all and not a love that looks out for own needs but matches what is shown in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

The essence of that love as played out in sacrifice is found only in Jesus who is the true fountain of eternal life.  Eternal life is not some mythical fountain or spring, it is found in the gift of Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  Any sacrificial love on our part, is reflective of Jesus on the cross.  To have true eternal life, true resurrection, a person simply needs to accept Jesus sacrifice, and turn from the self-seeking and power grabbing that occurs in building kingdoms of self.  God has created true purposes for each person, things to do in the Kingdom of God that truly fulfill how you were created and no matter how successful you are, until you walk in the true purpose in the Kingdom of God you will not be satisfied.

Movie Commentary: Bella

From time to time on this blog I will make comments on movies, television shows, or other culturally significant issues. When I make comments on a movie I am not going to censor content. So if you do not want content spoiled it is best to read my thoughts after viewing said movie.  If I think a movie is not worth viewing I will state so up front.

            This weekend I watched the movie Bella with my wife and mother.  I had heard good things about this movie and heard it had a strong positive pro-life,  even pro-God/Christianity message. 

            In watching the film, I found the message to be rather straight forward. In terms of the message of the film I found it to be a mixed bag.  On the positive side, the movie definitely has a strong pro-life message. It stresses the importance of relationships and the value of life.  I did find the movie to contain more elements of kharmatic thought over essential Christian themes. 

            The main character essentially saves the life of a child, in essence undoing the life he cost.  It came off as promoting the good done to replace the bad. Some elements of it would seem to fit into an episode of  My Name is Earl without the humor. 

            It do admit that the movie does have a strong positive message. It does a good job of showing a character moving beyond being wrapped up in self and reaching out to others but again it comes off more as kharmatic versus essential Christianity. The main character even is shown with a guru-like, messiah type persona. Perhaps you could stretch the presentation to have allegorical references but the essential themes of the film do seem to fit kharmatic line of thought.

            In terms of the pro-life message I did find it to have value. However, I look at the content of the film and the emphasis on the life of the child and I see the persistent cultural theme of having a child is the apex of humanity. The film does a good job of contrasting selfish pursuit versus looking out for others. However, I do not see complete selflessness in the film. 

            The film did have some moments referencing God, including a blind-man interacting with the two main characters with a sign behind him stating “God made me blind so that I might see” (any errors are do to my faulty memory.)  If anyone who reads this blog and has different thoughts please share them. Am I missing something in this film?  Is the value of this film simply the pro-life message?  I would appreciate any comments.