Thursday, January 12, 2012

In Matters of Taste - Hugo

The "Special Features" on a DVD is an amazing thing when you think about it.

When they opted to pull back the curtain on the movie-making process and reveal the details regarding making films on the same DVD as the film itself, I'll bet it was a visceral decision, akin to a magician giving us a look-see behind the stage, or a master chef allowing us to snoop in his recipe file. But as it turned out, letting the secrets be known (at least some of them, anyway) has not diminished our love for movies. In my case, in fact, catching a glimpse into the magic box of filmmaking has amped up my appreciation for the art.

If that's true for you, as well, you should see Hugo.  Seems that Martin Scorsese admires film, too, and Hugo is an homage to all that is art in film. The secrets, the skill, the technology, the beauty, the art of the process, from idea to the work to the end product to the audience in the theater--all of it is honored and adored in this film about film makers.

Wrapped in a children's book story of a boy-to-man human whose one goal is to bring the same transition to bear on a wind-up-robot, Scorsese builds his plot on the mystery and joy of invention, labor, and purpose. It's hard to miss the point: can we find the missing piece of life's greatest puzzle? - Where do I fit? How do I find my place? What is my purpose? What happens when I lose it? Can I find it again? The answer to these questions tells the story, and the Story--yours and mine--is the point.
  • The appeal for me is a film that brings the BIG QUESTIONS to the table of our minds in a simple, profound way.
  • The appeal for me is the unmentioned but very bold backdrop of theology: You are here on purpose. There is a Maker and he knows what he's doing. Finding the place where you fit is the magic key for making sense of the world, and that key is out there, waiting, even if you've misplaced it.
  • The appeal for me is the unifying theme, lived out and revealed in each character, even the side-kicks and bumbling clowns serving in support of the story. Even puppies find their place here.
  • The appeal for me is a movie that kids will enjoy and parents will think about.
  • The appeal for me is the breath-taking beauty of a single shot or scene--a flower stand, a Paris landscape at night, a journey through every child's dream-land of hidden places--and Hugo offers a gallery of these sequences.
And that is why, by the way, you should see this film in 3D. Technology and art is the central core of Hugo. It only makes sense that Scorsese would use the latest and greatest in service of the plot, and he does so in elegant form. This is not 3D for the sake of oohs and ahhhs, but in conscription to the artistic heart. This 3D does not leave you saying, "OH! WOW! It was like it was heading for my face!" Instead, it aims at the tender parts of our senses that determine what is true and beautiful. When the busy marketplace of a Parisian train station is brought to life in this way, it's like sitting in front of a van Gogh landscape and smelling the place.

Hugo keeps coming into my mind, weeks after I saw it, without disturbing me in the process. That's enough to say it was good.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

In Matters of Taste

God expresses himself and his truth in stories. The Bible, to be sure. But elsewhere, too. Many of these stories bear themes of redemption, grace, love, and home. I like stories like that. I eat them up.

To find them, I like reading books, watching movies, and viewing TV shows. I don't like everything I taste. I might not care for something that you enjoy. I also don't have time to watch and read everything. But like a recipe that's really good, or a restaurant discovery, it's fun to share what you like. When I find a book, movie, or TV program that I like, I want to talk about it.

Which makes people tire of me quickly.

So to spare the chatter, on Tuesdays I will write about what I like here. I'll attempt to give you a taste of the stuff that flavors truth and puts redemption on a plate. I'll also let you know what I think doesn't live up to the picture on the recipe.

And I encourage your responses and critique. As long as we all understand, De gustibus non disputandum est-- In matters of taste there is no debate.

Next week: the movie, Hugo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Carols

Do you hear what I hear?

  • Humming and singing and whistling while they're in the shower or walking through the house.
  • The buzz of voices, a jazz composition that allows fantastic flights of improvisation, sounds rising and dipping and merging and floating to the top, but with a meter and beat that is familiar like old socks.
  • Laughter. More than any ear deserves. Laughter as simple audible grace.
  • Dice rolling on the hardwood table. Scrabble tiles being stirred in the bag. Shuffling cards. The ear-splitting shaking of Boggle cubes.
  • The distinct, utterly unique scraping of hands through buckets of Lego bricks, searching for the right one, one in a million.
  • Silent breathing in a dark room with the Christmas tree lights on.
  • Feet tumbling down the stairs, identifying by the cadence, landing, and creak of wood the individual who walks with them.
The kids are home. All is well. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Grandma Tales

Grandma's pet phrase, ever since she moved in with us seven years ago, has been "It's no fun getting old, but everybody does it." When she said it seven years ago, it was always the punch line to a funny joke--a way to bridge the gap between an old-age foible and on-going conversation.

In the last few years, it's not been a joke, but a statement of truth. Point of fact. It really isn't fun to get old. Not fun at all.

And then about a year ago, the phrase just lifted to the top of her brain as the thing to say whenever she couldn't think of the right thing to say. Those moments of not knowing what to say came more and more frequently. She would say it dozens of times a day. Over and over, back to back.

She said it once yesterday. It's not the phrase it used to be. As much as I was sick of hearing it, I wish she would use it again.

It's been replaced with two other phrases. The first is, "I just want to go to heaven." Completely understandable. If I were in her position, that's what I would want, too. This one is sometimes altered to "I just want to die" and that is sometimes changed to "I don't want to die" and once it came out, "I don't want to go to heaven." Well, we know that isn't true.

But more often than "I just want to go to heaven," she says, "I don't know what to do!" She says it as if she's just bounced a check, or lost her toddler, or discovered a giant chicken in the room. She is quite worried about what to do. When she says "I don't know what to do!" we query her.

FAQ from the family when Grandma says, "I don't know what to do!":

  1. Do about what?
  2. What would you like to do?
  3. Is there something you think you need to do?
  4. Why are you worried about what to do?
  5. Is there a giant chicken in here?

Grandma is dying. I understand that. We're all OK with it.

I just wish she knew what to do.