Friday, October 28, 2011

Footloose and Courageous--A Time to Dance

 
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the movie Footloose, and wrote about my impressions of it here.  After that movie ended, I walked out of the theater and into the next showing of the movie Courageous, just a couple of screens away.  I don't normally get to see a movie in theaters very often, much less two movies in the same afternoon, but the stars lined up for me that day (meaning a grandmother showed up unexpectedly to watch the kids, and I found some serendipitous money in a shirt pocket).

I don't know if you have seen Courageous, or even heard of it.  A lot of my Facebook friends had seen it and given it status shout-outs, but I hadn't really seen it promoted very much, so I didn't really know what to expect.  I knew enough to take some extra toilet paper from the theater bathroom in with me, because it had a weepiness potential to it.  I probably should have taken a whole roll in, though.  It was that moving and that good.

The story follows 5 men (4 of them police officers), as they work, share life, struggle, and try to be good men, husbands and fathers.  Definitely not the kind of movie that is normally offered to the public.  You know, the ones with idiot men (and women) who are selfish and flighty and vulgar.  THIS movie was good.  And touching.  And thought-provoking.  It was very well made, and has been holding its own with the current movie releases for several weeks now.

I've found myself making comparisons between the two movies quite a bit, particularly with regards to a few of the fathers in the movies.  Both movies feature fathers who make tough decisions for their teenage daughters, based on their desire to be the kind of fathers that they feel God has called them to be.  They love their daughters, and they know too well the dangers of not placing protective barriers aaround their children.  They want to do the right thing, even when it is hard.  They both realize that they are not called to be their daughters' friends, but their fathers.

What is interesting to me, however, is how this protection is portrayed in each movie.  In 'Footloose', the father (Shaw) is acting out of a place of fear and control, and his daughter (Ariel) rebels against it completely, with potentially life altering consequences.  Ariel has no respect for her father or his rules.  However, in Courageous, there is also a father who has placed strict boundaries on his teenage daughter's behavior.  Although she does not fully appreciate her father's rules, she abides by them out of respect for her father, knowing that he has her back.  His protection is based on a long standing commitment and love.  And the speech he gives her at that restaurant with the promise ring?  Oh. My. Goodness.  It made me almost wish I had a girl.  Almost.  It sure did leave me hoping that my future daughters-in-law are being raised by daddies like that.

Then you have the whole dancing thing.  Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Footloose probably knows where that father stood on the issue of dancing.  Maybe he needs a lesson in dancing from another of the Courageous fathers.  I had to keep my eyes closed for 'that' dancing scene--my measly tissue had gotten soaked way too early to make it through that scene unscathed.

Three fathers.  All loved God and their children.  All wanted to protect.  Some did a better job of it than the others.

Both movies have gotten me to thinking--what about me?  Am I doing a good job with my boys?  What lessons do I still need to learn, and am I willing to learn them?


Courageous (movie) Lauren Etchells as Emily Mitchell in ``Courageous.''


And, to take the comparison a little bit farther--I call God my 'heavenly Father', so I have to wonder:  what kind of daughter am I?


Werewolves, and Zombies, and Vampires--Oh, My!

Night of the Living Dead Christian
About a year ago, I read an amazing book called Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos.  I was so intrigued and excited about it that I told just about every Christian reader I know about it.  It was such an interesting concept, and very original.  (You can read that review here). 

So, I was very excited to see that he had written a new book, called Night of the Living Dead Christian, with the subtitle ‘one man’s ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be truly transformed’.  Again, it was such an interesting idea. This is how the back cover describes it:

Night of the Living Dead Christian is the story of Luther, a werewolf on the run, whose inner beast has driven him dangerously close to losing everything that matters.  Desperate to conquer his dark side, Luther joins forces with Matt to find someone who can help.  Yet their time is running out.  A powerful and mysterious man is on their trail, determined to kill the wolf at all costs…


This doesn’t sound like standard Christian fare.  In fact, that is why I think I like it so much.  I chose to review the book based solely on the fact that Mikalatos wrote it, and was curious to see what he would do with the whole monster thing.  I wasn’t sure I would like it as much as I did Imaginary Jesus, because it could come across as kind of silly or hokey.  But, like before, this book was brilliant. 

The general idea of the story is that a man (Matt) befriends his neighbor, who happens to be a werewolf that has driven his family away and is desperate to be released from his torture.  Thrown in are a mad scientist, his robot android, a vampire, a monster hunter and an ego-maniacal preacher, among others, who interact and deal with the monsters in various ways.  Beyond the very funny dialogue that combines pop culture humor with some pretty deep theological discussions, there is a story of how to deal with evil desires and impulses, and how to people spend so much energy keeping these impulses from becoming known or taking over.  In essence, it is a story of hope.

It is hard to explain just how Mikalatos does this so effectively, but a blurb by Publishers Weekly on the back cover sums it up very well:

“Startling, contemporary, meaningful…Mixing questions of suffering and free will with a nexus of weirdness, Mikalatos throws Christian fiction into the world of Comic-Con and Star Wars.”

The older I get, the more I embrace weirdness and Comic-con-ness.  For an author to be able to produce a work that not only incorporates these types of quirks, but celebrates them, while at the same time not diluting the message of Jesus, is someone I want to continue to read and support.

You can find out more about Night of the Living Dead Christian and Matt Mikalatos at www.mattmikalatos.com.  You can also read the first chapter here and check out a short video from Matt Milalatos here.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Night of the Living Dead Christian from Tyndale publishers for review purposes.  No other compensation was received.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Everybody, Everybody Cut Footloose!

Like a lot of other people my age - those of us who had the privilege of growing up in the 80s - I was more than a little skeptical when I heard that someone was doing a remake of the movie Footloose.  Not many remakes can stand up to the nostalgia factor of a good original, especially iconic movies.  And Footloose was definitely iconic.  Catchy music, teen angst, dancing feet/shoes, Ren reading out of Ecclesiates (a time to mourn, a time to dance...)--the works.  I can't tell you the last time I saw the original, but I can still remember the lines, lyrics and moves.  Maybe that is because I saw it before the beginning of the brain cell die off after each kid.

Anyway, so I went to see the remake today more out of curiosity than excitement.  I had heard that the theme song was a country version, and not Kenny Loggins, but that was about all I knew going in to the theater.  There weren't many other people there, which probably doesn't bode well for opening weekend box office receipts.

It turned out to be a very good remake, in my opinion.  Large portions of it were lifted out of the original, with the same dialogue, reactions, and even the lighting of the scenes.  The music was very different in places, but it seemed to fit.  The characters were well cast, and made the roles their own.  There were a few significant changes, such as why Ren moved to town, and his relationship with his uncle, which I liked even better in this updated version.

However, the drama and the angst and the dialogue in this version were definitely increased.  I remember this to some extent from when I was a teenager, but seeing it as a parent and middle school teacher made me filter it in a very different way.  It is not a movie that I would want my younger children to see, and I cringe just thinking about the words and phrases and images that will now be impressed on the minds of the many students that I know will have seen Footloose.  It is rated PG-13 for a reason.  There are very good, detailed movie reviews online, and I wish more parents would us that as a form of review criteria before ever taking their kids to any movie.  But I digress...

A key scene in Footloose is when Ren is giving his speech to the town council, trying to make his case for why the Senior class should be allowed to have a dance within city limits.  He states how it won't be too long before they all graduate, and have jobs and families with responsibilities, and won't be able to really enjoy life like they are able to as a teenager.  I remember me and the girls I was with cheering out loud in the theater years ago, like we totally agreed with him and appreciated his stand for teenagers everywhere.

There wasn't any cheering today from the group I was surrounded by.  But I sure had a big grin on my face just remembering.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Quote of the Day - Einstein

Everyone is a genius.

                         But if you judge a fish
                         on its ability to climb a tree,

                         it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

                                                                             - Albert Einstein