Sunday, December 23, 2007

Life lessons from White Christmas

White Christmas is a classic. It can't help it. It has Bing Crosby singing, Danny Kaye mugging for the camera, Rosemary Clooney's temper outbursts and "choreography".

Basically its a romance and a comedy and a musical and a Christmas movie all in one, you can enjoy it for whichever or all of those if you wish. Our eleven year old watches it over and over, all year long, Christmas being a sidebar to the whole movie's plot.

Honour is a great theme of this movie. Honouring soldiers, or being honourable in our behaviour. Oh, and honouring those we hold debts too as well, Danny Kaye would remind us!

I don't know what else to say here. Maybe there is no life lesson here, just a reminder of what following some things that we already know may look like if we try.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Life lessons from Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands. It sounds like a horror movie, and in some senses it is pretty horrific. It shows the pressures to conform and their terrible effects. Visually it is an intriguing piece of art.

Edward Scissorhands shows that the perfect suburban life is not always the perfect suburban life. It shows what one woman in her naivete is able to do with one poor outcast. It shows how we as humans have an idea of how we are to be but how we often sell out. Similar to Its a Wonderful Life I suppose, but George Bailey sells out his own dreams to help others realize his own. In Ed.Sc. the pressure on Edward is to see a "doctor who could likely help him".

The most remarkable about the movie as art to me is the contrast between Edward's personality and his physical appearance. When matched up with the physical appearance of suburban life, in all its pastel "beauty", Edward's pale, punk appearance with metal hands that keep people at arms length and then some offers a stark reminder that you can't judge a book by its cover.

It is easy to find yourself in both camps. Edwardian backwardness, holding back because of fear. Angry because we're not like everyone else. Then again, I'm suburban, I want to be "normal", to blend in, to be socially acceptable. Why? So that people will accept my Jesus? Or, so that people will not notice him???

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Life Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Movie… oops, I mean , Life.

Does a life of sacrifice matter?

Can you give up your dreams and still have a wonderful life?

Is there more to life than pursuing your own desires?

This is one heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring movie. You can’t help but cheer for George Bailey. You can’t help but want something to go his way once along the way. But it doesn’t. He never wins. He never gets what he wants. He just barely gets the girl, okay, so in this case he really does win. He loves and loses all the way and in the end, he’s standing tall as the biggest winner you could imagine. In fact, and I just went and looked this up… “It’s a Wonderful Life” just last year won the award from the American Film Institute for the most inspiring American movie of all time. I thought “To Kill a Mockingbird” was it, but thankfully, this is number one, and I love “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Not bad for a movie that came out way back in 1946.

This movie has everything good about movies, but, most importantly it has an amazing lead character (have I ever mentioned here that I love James Stewart as an actor, I think when we’re done going through all of AFI’s top whatever list, I’m going to try to convince Sabrina that a James Stewart marathon would be a valuable thing!) When George heads home screaming to the Bedford Falls sign, the car, the savings and loan, and anyone in ear shot, chills run down my spine. One part Jimmy Stewart, one part great moment.

My only complaint with the movie is that the old banker, Potter, never does get his comeuppance. Not officially. When George tells him off, you certainly see him acting out the way you feel watching the movie.

The pain of watching George lose it at home is really sad and hard to take. You have to feel for the whole family who are now suffering the consequences of their husband and father living his life for others. This does not justify the man of the house going off on his own children, but to see such an honourable man turn so, well, I think the only word is “insane”, is painful and sad. It gives me pause as a George Bailey wanna-be.

I’ve also been looking for parallels in the life of George Bailey and the life of Jesus. I’m seeing two people living their lives for others, one a capitalist, the other, the Son of God. Both though, doing things for the poor, those the upper crust of society are ignoring or taking advantage of. They both come to a crisis; George faces death on the bridge, Jesus at the cross, both wondering if there is some other way. Jesus cry for Jerusalem reminds me of poor George heading home from the bank after 8000 dollars goes missing. Likely the one word that stands out to most people who have watched this movie would be the word, “sacrifice”. Sacrifice. Sacrifice. Giving up yourself for another. Sacrifice. Greater love has no man than this! In this, George Bailey is the poor shadow of the rich original in Jesus.

A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lessons from... The Life of Pi

Let me first say that I likely didn't give this book a fair shake, I got so bogged down in getting him "off the boat already" that I stopped focusing on what the author was trying to say. It was an interesting read, plodding but interesting. I know there is much more to this book than I'm pulling out here, but sometimes we miss the forest for the trees.

1. Search for truth brings joy and confusion. Pi dives headfirst into Christianity, Hinduism -and Islam simultaneously and those around him find themselves confused by his ability to concentrate on all three and his lack of conflict while practicing them. This of course shows ignorance of the tenets of the religions of Christianity and Islam, but in this anti-Muslim and anti-Christian society we live in, to see those two ideas living side by side in one person’s mind is interesting to contemplate and even to consider how two groups who disagree could possibly be able to work together, concentrating on the similar desires of each.
2. Having focus brings hope in hopeless circumstances. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a tiger. The focus of the remainder of the book is on whether it is possible for man to dominate a tiger…or is it about whether man is able to dominate their impossible circumstances. Hope (and an unbelievably well stocked lifeboat combined with the convenience of knowing about animal nature as Pi’s father was a zookeeper) help Pi to survive. The will to survive, hope for the future, are demonstrated by the ease with which he overcomes the realization that even when he is rescued, his whole family has been taken by the same sinking that left him stranded in the Pacific.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Life lessons from The Bells of St. Mary's

Bells of St. Mary’s is a classic movie of Father O’Malley and his efforts to turn around old St. Mary’s school and, in spite of, and because of his efforts, a “miracle” happens and all ends up right with the world. It stars Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.

The movie poses several things to think about, I didn’t write anything down as I was watching it tonight, (the third or fourth time I’ve seen it, but I barely remembered the ending from before.) so its likely that I’m missing things.
1. As a teacher, it is difficult to know what is the best idea when wimpy little Eddie doesn’t fight back and Father O’Malley pats his more aggressive schoolmate on the back for being such a good fighter. This is followed up by a quiet debate on whether the world was better off for teaching people to stand up for themselves or whether people standing up for themselves is the problem. Though Sister Benedict does not agree with Father O’Malley she soon teaches young Eddie the art of boxing. Eddie later proves himself a worthy pugilist on the playground, but the obvious joy he has as he first bates his nemesis and then toys with him in the ensuing fight helps us to realize that there is something about his new power that is frightening and dangerous.
2. A second dilemma arises when Father O’Malley tries to help young Patricia, a girl with little help from home in the first 13 years of her life. Her final act of intentionally failing her year end \exams in order to stay at this one true safe place for her one more year demonstrates the importance of teachers, schools and that we need to get to the heart of the matter before we leap to logical conclusions, as in many cases, logic does not really come into play. Sister Benedict’s desire to adhere to the rules and standards of St Mary’s is commendable and right, but Father O’Malley is also right in his desire to show grace.
3. Lastly, we see Mr Bogardus and his struggle to say “no” to God. For a movie with main characters who are a priest and a nun, God rarely makes an appearance in this movie. The most beautiful part of the movie takes place in the grade one class as the children put on their own interpretation of the Christmas story. Here alone do we see Jesus, and one of the few times that God is referenced. In spite of this oddity, there is little doubt that God is chasing down the curmudgeonly old Mr Bogardus. It is a tip of the hat to both the sovereignty and love of God as we see the older man give in to God and experience the joy of generosity.

Does God show his face in this movie? Yes. Is there room for more of Him? Isn’t there always more place we can make for Him in our lives too? This is a movie of internal struggles, about trying to figure out what is right for others, about obeying God. All in all, it’s a wonderful movie to re-view as often as possible.