Saturday, June 27, 2009

not really more than meets the eye

i don't have any interest in discussing whether Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a good movie in cinematic terms. i think it's best to assess a film based on what the film is attempting to accomplish. a small dramedy can be brilliant and still be small. it's not Titanic; it's not trying to be. (for a brilliant small dramedy, by the way, go see Away We Go.)
a popcorn movie can be just a popcorn movie, brain candy, escapism, whatever, and that's fine. it's fun!
of course, it's possible to be a popcorn movie and also be intelligent, and interesting, and have great character development, and a story that holds together, AND be lots of fun. as in, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Batman Begins or Titanic or Notting Hill or 3:10 to Yuma or Amelie or Pirates of the Caribbean [only the first one] or ...

here's what i want to note about Transformers 2.

1. there are no strong female characters in it. at all. Megan Fox plays the bimbo hot girlfriend ho-bag. there's the mother, who's ditzy and funny and looks crazy most of the movie, and she's endearing, like a 21st century Lucille Ball. so, she's not powerful. there's the temptress girl at college who is, of course, another ho-bag.
that's it. no women in leadership in the military or in politics. no female autobots that i saw, and if there are any, who can tell? no women professors at college. no women soldiers. (well, i did see one. she has one line.)

2. there are virtually no people of color who are strong. there's the african-american solider played by Tyrese. but no leaders in the military or politics. no one powerful enough to serve as a significant presence. there's the college roommate, who's hispanic, but he turns out to be a goofball.
there ARE two autobots who are ostensibly african-american. what's their job? comic relief. one is step-it and the other is fetch-it. or, one is amos and the other is andy. they're hollywood stereotypes of the silly, dumb black guy.

3. it's all about dicks. what are robots' giant arms and legs and rockets and missiles and lasers and swords and cars and trucks and jets and helicopters? what are the giant guns of the soldiers? what is the car that turns into a weapon? they're all phallic symbols, all the young-man's-disease of 21st-century hollywood showing off its adolescent culture's desire for empowerment. like teenage boys (and lots of grown men who are still just teenage boys inside) who are constantly swinging their machismo around, and engaging in the ancient ritual known as dick-stomping (mine's bigger! look at this stick/staff/sword/gun i carry! look at this car/jet/truck/boat i drive! look how far i can hit/throw/kick this ball! look how fast i can run/drive/aim and shoot! i'm bigger than you are! you're a jerk/nerd/loser! look at me! i'm a big boy!)

and that's why there are no strong women in the movie. the energy of the boy is intimidated by the energy of the strong woman. and, sadly, that's why the men of color are reduced to stereotypes and stooges: it's all about white adolescent boy energy. which, when the game is for white boys only, is wrong and anti-american.

i am all for good masculine running and playing ball and driving. i, in fact, drive a truck. and i love fishing and shooting guns and playing softball and golf and poker. those things of themselves are not the point.

the point is, this is a movie that has nothing to offer but adolescent white boys dick-stomping vicariously through gigantic toys. and it's not exactly what i hope 21st century culture is learning about what really matters, and what is worth living for.
however, if that's what you're into, go for it.

my wife and i saw it yesterday afternoon and it was fun. a little boring, but the robots were cool. and lots of shit blew up. so that's entertaining. although, after the hundredth explosion, which in this case would be the first five or six minutes, it can get a little old. and the movie is 2 1/2 hours long. just fyi.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

this was my first favorite michael jackson song.

the year i graduated from high school. come on! it's awesome!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


all some people want and long for is a fairly simple answer with a clear right and wrong. they want borders. and they want to accept those answers and borders, and be at peace.
that's alright. jesus said that we must become like little children, who trust with simplicity.

all some people want and long for is to continue to chew on their faith and questions and answers, and to brood over them and watch them and question them.
that's alright. the name "israel" means "wrestle with god."

and it happens, too, that sometimes the desire for simple faith isn't so genuine. sometimes that desire for simplicity and clarity is really about fear and shadow, the reluctance to step out into mystery.
and it happens, too, that sometimes the desire for wrestling faith isn't so genuine. sometimes that desire for complex, wrestling faith comes from fear and shadow, the reluctance to trust.

god can work with any of that. because that's where we are. and how we got where we are is sacred. and this moment is sacred.
we got where we are because of our choices along the way - about what to do with the tools and roles we were given, and chose, and about how to face and deal with our pain, and about how to respond to what we were learning.
and god is in all things.

for decades i believed that god is thwarted by our refusal to be open and learn - the "hard heart." that this exercise of free will is the only thing god cannot penetrate.

but i think now that god knows that everything is temporary. and that the process of learning and healing and liberation does not ever have to end.
i know some doctrines say that god is not going to wait forever. but i don't believe that. i believe that god and love are neverending; it is we who do not want to wait forever.

and god is patient.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

what we do and what we think and what we become

this is a video of A. J. Jacobs talking about what he learned in his experiment detailed in his book The Year of Living Biblically. even if you don't have 17 minutes to watch it, let it run while you're working on something else and listen for what speaks to you. what spoke to me was his assertion that what we do with our actions and words has a huge effect on who we become, and how we think and feel. which is of course living as jesus talked about it - forgive, love, serve, pray, fight injustice ... even if you don't feel like it.