Did you know that being married is like being nibbled to death by a duck?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Instead of Movie Review Part II...

I figured I could offer up some funny at my own expense.

For my art class, the assignment was "Upside down drawing" in which we were instructed to copy a drawing by Pablo Picaso, but look at the original upside down so as not to worry about drawing fingers/face/ears but rather just following the lines.

So... above is my masterpiece. If you are thinking "hey, how come the shoulder goes at that weird angle..." then shut up. If you are wondering "wow, that's a really big lump on his head..." then stop it right now. And if you are starting to criticize the hands... shut your mouth. Just shut up, okay? I'm sensitive about my art.
So basically Picaso has nuthin' on me. I mean, seriously, look at that picture. Awesome doesn't really begin to describe it, and I'm pretty much quitting school this week to pursue art as a career. You can all say you "knew me when..."

That is, as long as you knock it off about the fact that the legs on the drawing belong to a 450 lbs Sa'amoan man. Just shut it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Movie Review: Religulous (Part 1)

At the request of my good friend Big Pappa, I am watching the Bill Maher documentary Religulous and offering up my commentary.

I think it should be offered up as a disclaimer before I start that A) I'm not a fan of Bill Maher and B) based on what I've seen in the previews, his view of Christianity is not the same as my own. That being said, I will watch it and offer up some thoughts.

The film opens with Maher stating that, when the Book of Revelation was written, "only God had the power to destroy the earth," but now we do because we have nuclear weapons and global warming. So...it's gonna be like that, is it Bill? Well here we go, then...

He says that he simply "can't" understand why people cling to religion, and that it is a "detriment to humanity." Isn't the inability to understand something the same as being ignorant of it? For instance, I completely understand why people are atheists, regardless of whether or not I agree with them; I understand why people choose different political parties in spite of my own views; I understand a lot of things I don't agree with. I even understand why people think being a progressive liberal is a good idea -- because they are missing a portion of a logical-thinking brain.

With a brief review of his childhood -- which was one of having a Jewish mother but being raised Catholic -- Bill has a discussion with his mother in which she reveals that the biggest reason they left the Church was because they used birth control and Catholicism is decidedly against birth control. Obviously they weren't into it soon enough, but I think I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first stop in his journey of "seeking the truth" is at the Truck Stop Chapel in Raleigh, North Carolina, and begins asking them (all seven people at the chapel) hard questions about what man has done to change Christianity from what the Biblical intent was. Way to challenge yourself by tackling some real intellectual heavyweights there, Bill. A couple of obese truckers can't answer you to your liking, so clearly you're right.

Well I stand corrected -- he's now interviewing Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and author of the very interesting The Language of God. Maher uses the argument that the historicity of Jesus has never been proven, and when Collins tells him that he is setting up a standard that is impossible to meet, the interview disappears through the magic of editing and is replaced by Maher talking about how Jesus must have had an "awkward" childhood. He then claims that none of the Gospels are "history" and that they were not written by people who knew Jesus. My problem with this is that he states it as an accepted fact by historians. This is simply not true. Of course there is dispute regarding the historicity of the Gospels, but to deny them outright as not historical at all would be to discount much of what we have today in terms of non-religious history, as well. And last time I checked... nope, Bill Maher is not a historian. Huh.

Back to Collins so Maher can ask a question... and then not let him answer.

The next interview is with some sort of tele-evangelist-type dude who dresses like a pimp because he "likes gold" and says that "Jesus dressed very well...he was not poor." Once again an outstanding representative of Christianity. The guy can't even correctly quote one of the most widely known verses in the Bible. Crimeny who is this guy? Jeremiah Cummings. Remind me to buy his DVD.

Next up is the question of being gay, and how organized religion has approached the issue. Maher questions a pastor about whether or not someone can be born gay or not. Whether the answer is yay or nay, how does this impact the truth of Christianity? It's called playing to the audience. He knows it's a "hot button" topic and stirs people up. There's absolutely no value to the debate in an intellectual sense, but it's fun to make people uncomfortable by throwing the words "fag" and "gay sex" at them.

Back to the conversation with Bill's mother and him covering the topic of how upset he was when he found out that Santa wasn't real and then jumps back to a conversation with a shop-owner about the story of Jonah and how unbelievable it is to him that a story like this could happen. In other words he is taking the stance of presupposing that miracles cannot happen, therefore treating the simple mention of a miracle with pure mockery. Which is what makes his next foray -- into the topic of the founding fathers of American history and its relationship with Christianity -- all the more ironic. Given the circumstances of the American invention, I'd say the fact that we came to where we are is a pretty good example of a miracle.

A couple of quotes are thrown up on the screen from Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, seemingly with the intent of showing the viewer that the Founding Fathers were not Christian as many claim. Oddly enough he leaves out any quotes by James Madison. Interesting. I think he was kinda important... Moving on to modern day politics he interviews Mark Pryor, a Senator from Arkansas, about the Ten Commandments. Bill commits a common fallacy here after he suggests that people could figure out murder is wrong without religion by stating that "more killing has been done in the name of 'my God'..." Though he fails to complete the thought, it is left hanging as if to imply that religion has caused more murder than any other source in history. This is a great line of thought...as long as you don't pick up a history book. Ever. If he can come up with a single religious-based war that caused more deaths than Stalin did during his time in power, then that would be a greater miracle than anything Jonah ever did.

On to the topic of evolution, Maher uses another classic: saying that scientists "pretty much agree" on evolution. Uhhh...what? Try this: Google "origins of life" and then tell me that scientists are in agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth. And here's the real kicker: Christianity isn't in agreement on the subject. There are several very well-educated Christians who propose old-earth theories -- some of which pre-date Charles Darwin. Crazy talk, I know. But notice that Maher didn't include this line of questioning with Dr. Collins -- opting instead for a bumbling, good ol' boy Senator.

I'll get to the rest later. But I'd like to note that I'm half-way through this thing and so far my biggest complaint is that Maher has not challenged himself at all. Yes, Dr. Collins is a heavyweight, but his answers are edited out or cut short. He states at the beginning that he is searching for the truth, but if that were the case why would he purposefully seek out those who can be mocked with ease for their lack of understanding? One can find a fool in any discipline if their intent is to make the discipline look foolish.

Will try and do the second half tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hollystupid: Part II of the New Game

Remember Val Kilmer? That guy who was so cool in Top Gun, Top Secret and played a wicked version of Doc Holiday in Tombstone? Yeah, well... I'm not quite sure what to say about this piece of work.

In case you don't want to read the whole thing (and I personally recommend you don't), I will give you the highlight. In response to a question by the interviewer "you understand how it feels to shoot someone as much as a person who has actually committed murder?" Kilmer has this to say:

I understand it more. It's an actor's job. A guy who's lived through the
horror of Vietnam has not spent his life preparing his mind for it. He's some
punk. Most guys were borderline criminal or poor, and that's why they got sent
to Vietnam. It was all the poor, wretched kids who got beat up by their dads,
guys who didn't get on the football team, couldn't finagle a scholarship. They
didn't have the emotional equipment to handle that experience. But this is what
an actor trains to do. I can more effectively represent that kid in Vietnam than
a guy who was there.

I would love to tell you it gets less crazy from there, but... I'd be lying. He goes on to say how he understands Moses and how it would feel to be Jesus... Geez, this guy manages to insult veterans and Christians without even discussing politics. That's fairly impressive.

Though I would love to spend the next 30 or 40 minutes kicking the crap out of the above statement, I think it speaks for itself. Just remember, these are the people making millions of dollars to entertain and enlighten you. Then tell you how horrible you are for being a greedy capitalist and for hating minorities and children. I hope you are all ashamed of yourselves.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

Before taking my review at face value, keep something in mind: this is my type of movie. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world and deals with the topic of The Bible and Divine intervention. So it's right up my alley, in other words.

That being said, it is an excellent movie. Denzel Washington, playing the lead character, is on a journey across what was once America, some 30 years after a nuclear holocaust. He is in possession of the last remaining Holy Bible, and is compelled by "a voice" to take it to a place he is not sure of, but knows he will when he gets there.

Of course there is a bad guy -- in this case played by Gary Oldman -- who is in control of some other bad guys and wants to expand his bad guyness into more territories and over more people. He believes the best way to do this is to get a hold of a Bible; its words and teachings can be used for the purposes of controlling the masses.

Because of this conflict between the protagonist and his adversary, an interesting sub-theme is developed which poses the question of power in regards to religion and how people use it. Which is interesting for me because the majority of debate I have engaged in regarding religion ends up focusing more on what Christianity has done, rather than what it should do. For most who oppose religion and belief, a large portion of their argument is dedicated to "well what about when 'the Church' did _____." Whether or not "the Church" actually did what is in question is often irrelevant; the point is that people see the actions of a group in power as being indicative of the source documents from which that power builds itself.

However, this is, as I stated, a sub-theme; the primary theme is that Denzel Washington's character, Eli, is one bad mamma-jamma. To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, he's on a mission from God and people who get in his way are generally less well-off than they were before. It's not a non-stop action movie, but the action that exists is very well done and the pace of the movie certainly does not make you feel like you are watching a film about religion.

Aside from a couple of small technical flaws (like, where did they get the gas for the vehicles 30 years after everything was destroyed? And how do they keep them running?) I thought it was an extremely well done movie with great acting and a thought-provoking storyline. In fact, whether you are a believer or not, you would be hard-pressed to disagree that it is quite rare these days for Hollywood to put out something with a positive spin on anything Biblical and/or relating to the Christian faith. This manages to do just that while still addressing a pertinent argument that many anti-theists make against organized religion.

But a solid two thumbs up from this guy, for what it's worth. It's not a super-fancy special effects extravaganza, but it certainly keeps you engaged and makes you think about a few things in a different light, for sure. I highly recommend it for anyone making a trip to the theater. Especially for those who are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre like myself.

Unfortunately, however, there are, in fact, no zombies. The film could certainly have used some zombies.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How To Know if You Should Be Taken Out And Shot: Part I

If you have experienced depression after seeing a movie because you come to the realization that the fantasy world depicted in said movie is, well, fantasy, then you should probably be put out to pasture. Your time is over. Whatever possible usefulness you may have had towards society has been used up, and you are now a drain.

Thank you for playing, but we kindly ask you to leave now.

This is literally where we're at in this country -- people are creating forums on the internet to discuss "ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible." No, really. You just read that. And it was a quote on CNN. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

So, again, for anyone out there who shares those feelings or feels "despair" regarding the human race after seeing the movie Avatar, please see yourselves out quietly.

As for me, I'm headed to see The Book of Eli this afternoon and should have a review up later tonight. Should be a pretty good movie, as Denzel rarely disappoints, and it has to do with the apocalypse and Bible stuff. Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Review: Hurt Locker

Has anyone reading this been to Iraq? If the answer is no, then... YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS LIKE, MAN!!! YOU WEREN'T THERE!!!

Whew. Now that I have that out of my system...

The Hurt Locker came out on DVD yesterday, and as I had read several very positive reviews from reputable sources, I went ahead and bought the DVD so that we -- myself, J, and Big Pappa, all hardened combat vets ourselves -- could watch it and offer up a review.

Let me begin by saying that, overall, it was a good movie. The pace was good, acting was well above average, special effects were quite well done, and the production was exceptional considering that it's not exactly a high-budget Hollywood flick.

The movie follows a team of Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) soldiers during their last couple of months in Iraq. The team is forced to adjust to a new leader who seems to be a bit of a thrill-seeker after losing their first one in a bomb blast. Due to the adventurous nature of the new leader, the team finds itself in multiple situations that raise the heart-rate to a near-explosive level for the other soldiers.

Now for the down and dirty (enough of this "plot" nonsense, eh?): although I liked it, there were some glaring problems I saw that could have been corrected with little effort on behalf of the production company and the film would not have suffered. I do realize that dramatic license must be applied from time to time in order to make things more enjoyable for the viewer. But most of the problems I saw were not ones that would make it less exciting, but rather just more realistic.

For instance, at the beginning of the movie the caption on the screen reads "Baghdad, 2004." We see a very well done set that very much resembles Iraq (not sure where they filmed it) and some soldiers patrolling, all in their uniforms which were very well done and completely accurate. If it were 2008. The U.S. Army did not have ACUs in 2004, but rather DCUs; nor was everyone using M4s (many units were still carrying the old musket, the M-16). Many viewers probably say "so what, it's not that big a deal." Well... yeah, you're probably right, but it's the attention to detail that I think sets movies apart; just overlooking stuff and saying "ahhh skip it, only a few people will notice" lends to shoddy work all around.

Which leads to the next problem -- throughout the movie, our heroes are seemingly out on their own. They arrive at the scene of a bomb/IED...alone. They patrol up a street to the bomb....alone. They go out to dispose of ordnance...alone. Granted, I was not there in 2004, but I've never seen EOD do anything alone. Ever. In fact, the only time they got out of their truck was to inspect ordnance. No patrolling, no pulling security against snipers, nada.

Keep in mind, this is not to take away from EOD. On the contrary; they have a very specific job that they do quite well. They are not needed for the other tasks, and because of that they are free to concentrate on their job -- preventing things from blowing up where they shouldn't, and making them blow up where they should.

In other words, their job is pretty exciting as it is. Hollywood magic is not really necessary to spruce it up.

My biggest point of contention with the film comes at what is probably the best action scene in the movie. The EOD team is out -- alone, again -- and runs into a team of British...contractors? Special Forces? They are dressed in Haji garb and it's never made clear what they are for sure. Either way, they are dressed like dudes who have been there and done that, and have a couple of prisoners.

I won't completely spoil the events, but all of them together come under fire from some bad guys and are forced to take cover in a ditch. One of the Brits has a .50 caliber sniper rifle, so they attempt to use it to engage the snipers who attacked them, who are...apparently over a thousand yards away. So far, in fact, that the Americans and Brits have problems hitting them accurately with their .50 cal.

For those non-gun people out there, let me explain: there is no hand-held rifle in the arsenal of any Arab military force that can cover that distance accurately, let alone out-shoot Brit snipers with that kind of weaponry. Which leads me to the issue I have with this: why would the producers of the movie go out of their way to make bad guys look better and Western forces appear incompetent? I know it's a small detail, but it's almost like a conscious effort in movies these days to make our military look weaker than the enemy we are fighting. As critical as I am of the U.S. Military, we are far superior to anything a Middle Eastern country has produced. Ever.

The classic blooper of the movie occurred at this point, as well, when they tried to use the sniper rifle but couldn't because it was jammed. Why was it jammed? Because there was "blood" on the bullets in the magazine. Uhh...what? If blood makes weapons jam, we are in serious trouble... Rest assured, it would have worked just fine. But here again, it would not have detracted from the movie had they changed this part to reflect a more realistic problem. Like, say, maybe a female soldier unable to participate because she was asleep? Ohhh come on, that would never happen, right? RIGHT??? Keep telling yourself that...

That being said, I liked the movie. It was definitely the best thing I've seen regarding the current conflict, and it did a good job of staying away from the whole everyone-comes-back-broken-with-PTSD theme that plague so many films in this genre. It may also be good to keep in mind that I watched the movie with two friends who I deployed with, so we may have had a lot of open commentary that forced us to miss portions of the film. Possibly.

I would highly recommend it in your Netflix que or from the Redbox, as it is certainly better than most of what is out there.

On a slightly related note, Kelly Crigger has a great piece over at Ranger Up telling about the passing of a true American hero, and how preoccupied people are with Tiger Woods and the like instead of guys like Robert Howard. Take the time to check it out.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Game

I think I'm going to start a new game that will take the blogging community by storm. And by "blogging community" I basically mean myself and the three other people I know who have blogs. So you should play too, as it will assuredly be great fun.

The game will work like this: who can come up with the most idiotic thing in Hollywood -- be it a quote, an idea, or a random happening -- and explain how it is that these people are able to continue not only living in our society, but earning substantially more money than we are while doing it.

My first nomination comes from one of the champions of Hollywood-stupid, none other than Oliver Stone. Poorly constructed historical efforts regarding Alexander the Great, Nixon, and the 60's in general not withstanding, Stone may very well have out done himself with this one.

Stone announced yesterday that a 10-hour crash course in the history of the 20th century he is putting together for American TV is designed as an antidote to the inaccuracies and biases he believes exist in the conventional historical narrative dished out in American schools and mainstream media. The title alone gives an inkling of what lies ahead: Oliver Stone's Secret History of America.

Because Oliver Stone is a highly trained historian. Oh wait... He then went on to discuss how he would portray Hitler and Stalin "in context" because he was able to empathize with them, and say how the film would cover Mao and...McCarthy. Apparently outing communists in your own government while being a drunk is equal to the genocide of millions of people. Seriously. It is. Look it up.

Anyway, that's the coup de grace of stupid in Hollywood this week as far as I can find. I'm looking in the direction of Big Pappa and his roommate to come up with something better, and am confident they can.

Tomorrow I will be watching The Hurt Locker and hopefully reviewing it soon, as it is supposed to be a pretty good flick. And later in the week I will be going to see The Book of Eli as I am more than just a little excited about that one. Let's hope Hollywood can restore my faith in entertainment. After all, if I lose faith in famous people, where does that leave me???