Boycott North Korean Cinema!

north-korean-cinemaJust when you think the commies are down and out, they force a Japanese film studio to pull an undoubtedly lousy Seth Rogen film from theaters! Not since Michael Moore’s Sicko has Marxist perfidy left such a stench in the nostrils of American filmgoers (and no that’s not the month-old North Korean popcorn).

Well, I for one am not going to take this lying down, like I did that whole War of 1812 business. I do hereby declare that I will not be spending my somewhat-hard-earned money on any of the cinematic product coming out of Kaesong, North Korea’s Hollywood.

I encourage you to join me in boycotting the following:

A Cloaca for Dong. The heart-wrenching tale of a young man’s coming of age in a poorly performing porcelain factory.

Dear Leader… The heart-wrenching tale of a young woman who writes daily letters to Kim Jong Un asking when he is coming to visit her in a poorly performing porcelain factory.

Star Wars. The heart-wrenching tale of a group of young imperial soldiers fighting off counter-revolutionaries led by a delusional cult leader named Obi-hwa and a mercenary who always shoots first.

The 38th Parallel View. The heart-wrenching tale of a poorly performing North Korean porcelain worker kidnapped by South Korean capitalists and forced to work an eight-hour day for competitive wages among congenial, free-spirited coworkers.

Kim Jong Il: Master and Commander. A bio-pic of the late Korean leader’s rise from loading-dock manager of a poorly performing porcelain factory to the greatest human who has ever lived on any planet.

American Psycho Graffitti Splendour II. The heart-wrenching tale of a poorly performing porcelain factory worker brainwashed by American propaganda to join a CIA-backed band of cannibals who eat Party officials in a ploy to grow calamitously fat and sit on Dear Leader.

The Non-Producers. A laugh-out-loud comedy about two managers of a poorly performing porcelain factory who scheme to hold back production and pocket the unused resources to stage a musical about Josef Stalin, called Springtime for the Coryphaeus of All the Sciences.

The Hunger Games. A heart-wrenching tale of a young woman slowly starving to death because greedy Western bankers are buying up the world’s supply of straw.

Citizen Kim. The heart-wrenching tale of a young man wrenched from his loving family by an evil Western banker to start an American newspaper that will tell lies about North Korea’s poorly performing porcelain factories.







That Guy from the Crap Star Wars Sequel Is Playing Jesus and the Devil. Kill Me Now.

These isn't the deity you are looking for.

These isn’t the deity you are looking for.

So Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars—Episode One: A Really Bad Idea, as well as a heroin addict in Trainspotting, and also a salmon in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen although I may be mistaken about that, will be playing Jesus AND the Devil in Last Days in the Desert. I assume the desert in question is just east of Edinburgh. 

/Film has the scoop, as well as the description of the film supplied at the Sundance Film Festival:

Last Days in the Desert / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia) — Ewan McGregor is Jesus — and the Devil — in an imagined chapter from his 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert. On his way out of the wilderness, Jesus struggles with the Devil over the fate of a family in crisis, setting himself up for a dramatic test. Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ciarán Hinds, Ayelet Zurer, Tye Sheridan.

A family in crisis. Like…the Agrippas?

Garcia directed episodes of The Sopranos and the film Albert Nobbs, about a cross-dressing butler named Albert Nobbs, hence the title, so I really don’t want to see this.

All kidding aside, I really don’t want to see this.

But who knows, maybe it will be a thoughtful take on I really don’t want to see this.


The Torture Debate

guantanamoAs someone who experienced 12 years of Lutheran parochial schools, I have little sympathy for the prisoners at Guantanamo. (You have not known terror until you’ve had a six-foot-four-inch ex-Army chaplain, now a substitute religion teacher, ask you, age 11, whether you would like to share your “funny little joke” with the rest of the class or be sent to the front.*)

And so, when the government asked me, back in 2003, to come up with a list of appropriate “enhanced-interrogation techniques” to be used to elicit vital information from prisoners of the war on terror, I had no qualms about doing so, and submitted the following.**

  1. Prisoners will view nonstop episodes of That Girl until they admit that Donald was being kind of a jerk that one time.
  2. Prisoners will be subjected to random acts of karaoke. “Sister Golden Hair,” “All By Myself,” “My Heart Will Go On.”
  3. Prisoners will be told that, yes, your prison jumper does make you look fat.
  4. Prisoners will be tricked into thinking it’s 1971, and there is no such show as Happy Days.
  5. Prisoners will be denied access to the Qu’ran, and instead will be provided with Every Day a Friday.
  6. Prisoners will be forced to wear white after Labor Day, depriving them of their “fashion self.”
  7. Prisoners will be stripped of their given names and referred to solely as “Mr. Fancy Pants.”
  8. Prisoners will be asked repeatedly “Why are you hitting yourself?” until it becomes blatantly obvious.
  9. Prisoners will be kept on hold as they wait for Time Warner customer service to confirm that “sometime between 8 am and 10 pm” appointment.
  10. Prisoners will be split into two groups, which will then divide into factions, which will splinter into sects, which will form cells, which will result in the total isolation of individuals. In other words, within a month, they will all be Protestants.

After reading the results of the recently released reports, I have every reason to believe my suggestions were ignored. (And also that I enjoy alliteration.)

I leave you with this.

* I could never be sure if he meant the front of the class or the Eastern Front, his grasp of mid-twentieth-century history being notoriously “off.”

** This may have taken place in my mind.

Movie Star Starts Own Religion to End War in Middle East. Read That Again.

The GuruI swear it’s who you know. When I started my own religion, it went nowhere, because I couldn’t get the good MSM pickup that fuels interest and invites disciples to focus on the black dot on the far wall. But costar in some movie 17 people saw 15 years ago, and oh boy, CNN is all over it.

As Joey Donner in the 1999 film “10 Things I Hate About You,” Andrew Keegan attracted his fair share of fans.

Now, he’s attracting converts.

According to Vice, the actor has started a new age temple and spiritual movement in Venice, California. Full Circle is described as “advanced spiritualism.”

“Synchronicity. Time. That’s what it’s all about,” Keegan told Vice. “Whatever, the past, some other time. It’s a circle; in the center is now. That’s what it’s about.”

That’s what it’s all about. YOU thought it was about something else, like pie or dandruff. No—it’s about time. And isn’t it about time? I mean, it’s been aeons since someone’s come up with a really good new religion. The 19th century used to pop those suckers out like pimples on a rosy-cheeked teen. Latter-Day Saints, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Plymouth Brethren, Campbellites, Seventh Day Adventists—sects, cults, fads, restorationists, you name it, someone claimed they got it directly from God to set the rest of us straight.

Most recently we were greeted with Scientology, which is most famous for its most famous acolytes: John Travolta and Tom Cruise. It claims to have millions of adherents worldwide, but I’ve only met one, so I’m thinking the real membership numbers are somewhere between one and what the hell?

Starting your own religion is not as easy as it seems, let me tell you. I just wanted to get rich quick so I could start my Pie in the Sky dessert-delivery business. As for Andrew Keegan:

“I had a moment where I was looking at a streetlamp, and it exploded,” he said. “That was a weird coincidence. At a ceremony, a heart-shaped rose quartz crystal was on the altar, and synchronistically, this whole thing happened. It’s a long story, but basically the crystal jumped off the altar and skipped on camera. That was weird.”

Maybe for him, but not for me. I’ve experienced exploding streetlamps I can’t tell you how many times. But I used to live in Brooklyn. And jumping crystals? Please. Ever been to an East Village New Year’s Eve party?

Mr. Keegan has high hopes for his no-doubt soon-to-be-trademarked ju-ju. From that Vice article:

A few weeks later, I sat down with Keegan after one of his Sunday services. The meditation at the service had involved water crystals, which participants used to focus their energy to bring an ending to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. “We’re very, very aware of the shift that’s happening in the mind and the heart, and everybody is on that love agenda,” Keegan told me after the ceremony. “We’re very much scientifically, spiritually, and emotionally aware of how it works, meaning that there’s power in the crystals, there’s power in our hearts, there’s an alignment, there’s a resonance … and it transfers through water.”

So does fluoride. Which, as we all know, is a communist plot.

I have another theory about why commies are chronically dehydrated. The idea that there’s a connection between peacemaking and water is not that kooky. Lutherans also believe that water plays an integral part in ending war: that between God and man. It’s called baptism. But seeing as baptism, apparently, has done little to end the war in the Middle East, and that there are people who believe religion is the reason there’s a war in the Middle East in the first place, don’t expect Vice to give the Christian sacrament a fancy write-up anytime soon. And the only crystals you’ll find in Lutheran worship are in the glasses during coffee hour.

I can’t say I wish Mr. Keegan well, because he’s obviously out of his EXPLETIVE DELETED mind. But then again, there are people who believe Christians are too*, what with all that Virgin Birth, Resurrection, filthy sinners granted eternal life as a sheer act of grace stuff. So let he who is without detractors cast the first stone. Or crystal, as the case may be.

Then again, when Keegan’s religion founds a civilization, gives rise to the university, modern science, some of the greatest works of art and architecture, not to mention philanthropic adventures, in history, we maybe can talk parity.

Until such time, let’s just say that some people are more ASTOUNDINGLY RUDE SERIES OF EXPLETIVES SUCH AS WOULD MAKE SAINTS WEEP AND SINNERS GIGGLE than others.

*They’re called atheists, who believe first there was nothing, then there was something, then there was a really long period of time when “stuff” crashed into other “stuff,” then Einstein was walking around Princeton talking about a unified field theory. This is where reason alone takes you. Which is why you should always travel with a companion. And no, not Kevin. Kevin is the worst.

A Strange Preview: The Overnighters

The OvernightersSo you’ve all heard of this “oil rush” happening in North Dakota, right? If not, there’s this oil rush happening in North Dakota. People from every which place are flooding into the state to take advantage of the one million barrels a day of oil that are being produced—and the jobs that kind of production floats.

Only the promise of quick riches is proving to be empty for many who have forsaken everything to head north.

Documentarian Jesse Moss got wind of one community, Williston, affected by the influx of “immigrants” to the state in search of six-figure gigs pumping black gold, and the LCMS church that attempted to meet the needs of those would-be oilmen and women. Moss and crew decided to capture on film this “Steinbeckian” story of hopes of new beginnings dashed and the search for community in the midst of personal chaos.

Pastor Jay Reinke of Concordia Lutheran Church is at the heart of Moss’s film. His attempt to open his congregation’s doors to the desperate workers who found themselves homeless and helpless proved quite dramatic itself, it seems. The community of Williston, N.D., found these intransigents—some of whom have a long string of felony convictions—less-than-ideal neighbors, and so demonstrated the limits of Christian charity when human nature is pushed beyond its comfort levels.

The shocker of this story is not just the phony promise of fat salaries for the formerly unemployable, or the controversial practice of fracking that is making these wells gush, but of a scandal that finally pushed Pastor Reinke out of his church. Lloyd Grove has a piece up at the Daily Beast that whets the whistle:

At this particular moment in the film, Reinke is the pastor of the Concordia Lutheran Church, and—despite the concerns and even objections of his congregation, and the ire of certain citizens of the town—he has offered Army cots, floor space and parking spots to scores of unemployed men like Todd who’ve arrived from places as far away as Iraq, looking for work and shelter.

He throws his arms around Todd, who’s in the midst of confessing his evil ways and adding that he was born only because his mother was raped.

“Can I tell you something? You and I are a whole lot more alike than we are different,” the good reverend announces. “I’m broken. We’re broken. We’re just broken. We’re in this together.”

Little more than a year after documentary filmmaker Jesse Moss captured that fraught encounter, Reinke’s life, along with that of his wife and three kids, has been shattered apart and cobbled together in surprising, painful and possibly hopeful ways.

Reinke lost his pulpit and was drummed out of the conservative Missouri Synod of the Lutheran denomination. He has been hounded by muckraking newspaper reporters—one of whom is shown chasing him down the street and asking accusatory questions like a modern-day Javert.

He has struggled to keep his marriage together after confronting some inconvenient truths about himself. He has just begun to recover from an ordeal he calls “The Scandal,” only recently lifting his eyes from the pavement to greet neighbors as he strolls through downtown Williston. (The revelation of the nature of that “scandal”—no spoilers here—proves the film’s pivotal moment.)

I have avoided googling unnecessarily, as I would like to be surprised by the ending myself, should I ever get the chance to see the film. (It’s being rolled out slowly, theater by theater, city by city, by IFC Films.) But given the line about “keeping his marriage together,” I guess one can guess.

Here’s the trailer of a film that has already garnered excellent reviews and film-festival honors:

UPDATE: From the comments, someone who was a member of Concordia in Williston (with, I guess, a spoiler alert of sorts!):

Having seen this up close and personal, I can assure you that this “documentary” has a narrative that is anything but truly insightful. Jay is a guy with so many problems that will never be on display because that would justify the actions of the church, both local and national. He will be portrayed as a gay Robin Hood who always did the right thing but the locals crucified him. Gag. Now at least you know the truth.

… one more thing I have to point out (that the film conveniently neglects) is that most of the people who left Concordia, including us, did so before the overnighter thing or the revelations of Jay’s homosexual infidelities. I told Barb many years ago that I thought he was struggling with same sex issues. This documentary is a virtual lie and Jay is always nearly intoxicated with public attention, good or BAD, so this whole “fame” development plays to his issues. I told him repeatedly that he had “issues”. He couldn’t hear it. Notice how he is in the middle of it all, even though it casts a bad light on Concordia. I believe he has a true narcissistic personality disorder.

As I noted in the comments: I have not seen the film myself, as it is playing in only a handful of venues. But if this commenter’s assessment is true, then more former parishioners should speak up as to the film’s agenda and deficiencies as it garners wider attention (assuming it does).

A Strange Review: Left Behind

Left_Behind_-_Teaser_Poster-210x300On Intercollegiate Review Online. An excerpt:

So I’m watching Mars Needs Women on one of those goofily named cable channels in the upper four hundreds and a few minutes into this thing I realize the flaw in the premise.

You’re all familiar with this film, correct? Seen it a thousand times no doubt. It begins banally enough: there’s a couple playing tennis, a couple out to dinner, then suddenly poof! people start disappearing. And not just any people: women people. What’s going on? Where did they go? Who is responsible? (It’s 1967, mind, so there’s a lot of big hair. Is that a clue?)

As Dop, a medical missionary from the Red Planet, explains it, “A critical recession in the Y chromosomes in our genetics has resulted in a preponderance of male births over female.” Hence, Mars needs women. And not just any women: five volunteers, unmarried, in good health, “possessing the common indicators* of fertility and reproduction,” and, presumably, open to new experiences (this is the sixties after all).

So the whole thing is neatly explained in the first ten minutes of the film.

Except it’s not. …




“The Giver” and the Gift That Keeps on Taking

The_Giver_posterSo I have a review over at the Intercollegiate Review Online.

An excerpt:

“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong. Every single time.” So says the Chief Elder, a firm believer in the Reformed doctrine of total depravity, apparently.

In The Giver, the film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s 1993 award-winning, giga-billion-selling novel, we are introduced to a Community born out of the Ruins, the result of a cataclysm so devastating that remnant elites constructed an artificial environment in which there is no war, no suffering, no envy, no jealousy, no differences to fight over. Sameness is Gospel in this world composed only of shades of gray. Intimacy is monitored by pervasive video cameras, and the word love is a desiccated monosyllable. Equality is enforced by The Rules, by eugenics, and a rigid control over language and emotion. All citizens of the Community are injected daily with a medication that dulls pain, mutes feeling, and reduces everyone to a quotidian docility. The folks here are perfunctorily polite. Even the climate is finally under control. (Snow? What’s snow?)

And in the interest of creating true community, all citizens are white or light-skinned. Even superficial differences can result in competition, after all, and value judgments. (Although someone constructing the ideal “race” must have decided that whitish is rightish.) All memory of the variegated and multihued past has been wiped from everyone’s consciousness.

Well, almost everyone.