Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Favorite Movies

A girl at church asked me to make a list of my favorite movies (she hasn't seen a lot of movies) Being a geek, that's what I did.  Here they are.
The Princess Bride – Funny fairy tale with derring-do.  Extremely quotable.
Groundhog Day – Bill Murray at his absolute best as he’s stuck in the same town, on the same day, day after day after day.
City Slickers – Billy Crystal’s one great movie where he leaves the city and visits a dude ranch to try to find his missing smile.
Ghostbusters – one of the funniest and most quotable movies of all time.  Careful – quote one line and people around you will s tart quoting a bunch of others. 
Monty Python and the Holy Grail – the other funniest and most quotable movie of all time.  King Arthur and his knights travel the land seeking the holy grail and acting very silly.
Arthur (the original) – also one of the funniest movies of all time.  This Arthur has to decide if he wants millions of dollars or true love.
Joe vs the Volcano – just a silly treat with Tom Hanks and multiple Meg Ryans.
Wayne’s World – I saw this in the theater more than any other movie.
There’s Something About Mary – shock comedy – must be watched with a group for full effect.
Harold and Maude – one of the quirkiest comedies I’ve ever seen – a young man and an old woman strike up an unlikely relationship.
Romantic Comedy
Love, Actually – Romantic comedy with multiple, intertwining storylines, each of which will move you.
My Best Friend’s Wedding – I call this the anti-romantic comedy.  It’s one of my very favorites.
Much Ado About Nothing – Joss Whedon shot this on a shoestring budget in his own house.  If you like Shakespeare, this is the good stuff.
Science Fiction
Star Wars – the original (which is episode IV) – because it’s a permanent part of our pop culture.  And while the first half hour can seem a little slow by our modern sensibilities, this is the movie that changed the pace of all movies that followed it.  If you enjoy it, move on to episodes V and VI.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan – if you’re going to see one Star Trek movie, this should be it.  Yes, you can skip the first one.
Back to the Future – wacky time travel adventure that never takes itself too seriously.
Independence Day – an action adventure alien invasion story with kick-ass Will Smith and dreamy Jeff Goldblum.
Serenity – sci-fi western about a roguish captain with a heart of gold and his fascinating crew.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - goofy guys.  Time travel.  What's not to love?


Aliens - space marines hunt for aliens.  Then the aliens hunt the space marines.  And Sigourney Weaver kicks serious ass.

Poltergeist (the original) - this, to me, is the scariest movie of all time.  I think because it marries horror with that Speilbergian sense of childhood familiarity.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – also a permanent part of our pop culture.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – yes, all three.  Once you watch the first one, you’ll want to watch the rest.
Die Hard – this is the action movie that all other action movies are trying to be.
Memento – Creepy (but not scary) vibe and it tells the story in a way no other movie does - backwards.  Our hero can only hold on to memories for a minute or so at a time – so how does he solve his wife’s murder?  Should have won best picture …
The Sixth Sense – supernatural thriller about a boy who sees dead people.
Moulin Rouge – Gorgeous cinematography, crazy dancing and singing and a love story for the ages.
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – OK, it’s not a movie, it’s a 3 episode web series.  But it may be my favorite bit of entertainment ever.  Seriously – ever.
The Sound of Music – pretty much the greatest musical ever made.
Mary Poppins – she’s practically perfect in every way.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut – if you’re OK with profanity (a lot) and crass humor, the guys that made this are, frankly, geniuses.  Four cartoon kids save the world from their moms and Satan.
The Muppets (2011) – heartwarming and funny – the muppets try to save their theater by putting on a big show!
Singin’ In the Rain – just singin’ and dancin’ in the rain – the best of the early musicals.
The Incredibles – my favorite of the Pixar movies (which is difficult, because they have so many good ones) gives us superheroes and familial love.
Frozen – I love the positive messages in this one.  I devoted an entire blog to it.
Goonies – a bunch of kids on an adventure looking for a pirate ship.
Speed Racer – candy-coated visuals and action adventure fun.  With a monkey!
It's a Wonderful Life - a man gets to see what the world would be like if he'd never been born.

The Wizard of Oz – gorgeous to look at, this is the moment when the movies switched from black and white to color.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing the Culture War and Why that May Be Okay

In light of today's Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage, I have some thoughts.

I am a Christian.  In some ways I'm very conservative and in others I am somewhat progressive.   But there are things in our culture that I do not like.  There are issues on which a bunch of us are on one side and a bunch of us are on the other side.  Things like abortion, sexual identity, global warming, and on and on.  And on a lot of these issues, lately, the other 'side' has been gaining traction.

Let me be clear here.  I don't hate people on the other sides of these issues.  While there are always going to be extremists on both sides who do spew hate, what these mostly come down to is a difference of opinion in how the world should be or what is actually best for people.  Folks on both sides really do want everyone to be healthy and happy - they just disagree on what that looks like and how to get there.

But the more conservatives (religious or political) lose ground, the more I wonder if they're fighting the wrong battle.  

Allow me to zig here.  I'll be back.

One of my favorite people is Saint Therese.  She wanted to be used by God in big ways - to go out into the world and convert masses of people.  But she ended up as a nun in a little convent, feeling like she wasn't doing much.  But God showed her that she could have a massive impact right where she was ... that she could change countless lives - just by taking the actions of love with the people right around her.  So that's what she did.  She loved on everyone, even the ones who were difficult to love.  And she brought light into their lives.  And because of her selfless attitude, countless people have been inspired by her.

And zag,

I've been reading about Mohammed and I was struck by the similarities and differences between him and Jesus.  When the city elders came for Mohammed to stop his religion from spreading any further, he snuck out of town.  He then raised an army and eventually crushed the city which had tried to stop him.  Over time, he became the ruler of a huge empire, taking huge territories by force.  When they came for Jesus, he let them take him.

And another zig.

Two of the people I respect the most in this world are Alan and Debbie.  They're raising four kids with good, solid values.  They're normal people doing their normal thing like all of us do, but they're thoughtful and deliberate about raising their kids with good morals and respect and good judgement and decency.

And we're back.  Getting to my point.

I don't think this is a war we can win.  I don't think that we can work the system to legislate how we want the world to look.  I don't think we can shame people into behaving the way we think they ought to behave.  And I'm not not at all sure we should even want to.

So what to do?  Go smaller.  Go smaller to go bigger.

I believe that Alan and Debbie are changing the world in an epic way.  By doing the ordinary, everyday work of raising kids right, I think they are actually sending ripples out into the world that will be felt by all around.  And I think we all need to make some similar small splashes.  By loving one another and doing good.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that if we each do our part then together we can have a big impact (although that may be true).  I honestly believe that the little things ARE the big things.  The small acts of love and decency and goodness ARE the epic things that change the world.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

What does Chris Pratt do in Jurassic World?

OK, first off, I totally enjoyed Jurassic World and I'm a huge fan of Chris Pratt.  But as I thought back on the movie, I realized there was something amiss.  What exactly does Chris Pratt's character accomplish?

Spoiler warning.  If you haven't seen the movie, you should turn back now.

OK, what does he do?  Well, first he lets the Indomitus Rex out of it's cage.  Not that I can blame him, as he was saving his own skin.  But if he'd just let the dinosaur eat him, then it never would have made it out of the pen.  Remember?  The Indominus chases him towards the door as it's closing, and the dino is able to wrench it fully open.

Next, he warns the folks in the control room, but they don't listen and kick him out.

Then, he goes with Ron Howard's daughter to save the kids.  Only they don't save the kids.  They don't even find the kids, and the kids end up saving themselves.

I believe his next big thing is when Bryce Dallas Howard saves him from the flying dino.

He tries (not very hard) to stop them from taking out the Raptors.  Instead he does the cool scene where he's riding the motorcycle alongside the Raptors to go take down Indomitus.  But the Raptors turn on him and he runs away.

Next you've got the scene with the Raptors chasing the van.  The van with Bryce and the two kids.  Chris Pratt doesn't even show up until he's zips up at the end of the chase.

And in the climax, who saves the day by letting out the T-Rex and leading it over to fight with the Indominus?  Not Chris Pratt.  Nope, it's Bryce Dallas Howard to the rescue again.

Plus, he doesn't even get any good one-liners.  I mean, come on.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why I Love Games

I love games.  Group or party games in particular.  Here are a few reasons why.

First, it’s social grease via structure.  I’m an introvert and I hate small talk.  I want to interact with people, but the bigger the group, the more uncomfortable I feel jumping into the conversation.  But throw in a game and presto!    Now we all get to interact!  And afterwards,  hopefully there’s some new common ground on which to converse.

Second, I love figuring things out, like puzzles.  And a good game is like a puzzle, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.  Even something as un-puzzly as charades still has that aspect – as the clue-giver, you have to figure out how to get your team to guess the correct answer while staying within the limits of the given rules.  That’s fun for me.  And, as a side note, I hate playing with people who bend or break the rules.  The fun, for me, is in figuring out how to do it within the given limitations.

Third, I’ve always felt that games can be a microcosm of life.  People (hopefully) get caught up in the fun of the game and forget about ‘acting’ or behaving how they think they ought , and just have fun.  I think playing games on a date is a great idea, as the date personas can drop away.  I think people who cheat while playing games are less likely to be trustworthy in real life.  And I think it’s wrong to bend the rules for just some people – I think that in the game and in life that diminishes the person for whom you bend the rules and makes the entire enterprise pointless.

A few more reasons.  Competitive games teach you about being a good winner/loser.  Cooperative games build your teamwork skills.  Some games let you lie through your teeth (as provided by the rules), and I think it’s both fun and healthy to have that outlet for my dark side.  Monopoly teaches you commerce.  Chess teaches you logic.  Trivial Pursuit reminds you that you’re not as smart as you think you are.  

Strategy.  Intuition.  Reading facial cues.  Learning new things.  And all of this alongside honest-to-goodness human interaction.

So, I love games.  And  all of us should play them more.  With me … come play games with me.  Just not Apples To Apples – that’s a terrible game.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Neil Patrick Harris

I just finished Neil Patrick Harris' book, 'Choose Your Own Autobiography'.  And it is brilliant!  It is one of the funnest and funniest books I have ever read.

I've long been a fan of NPH, from Doogie Houser to HIMYM to Doctor Horrible.  So when I happened upon his book, I thought it would be interesting, at least.  But it's completely, hysterically insane.

It's modeled after the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books that I grew up with, where every few pages you have to make a decision as to where the story goes, and turn to a specific page to see the result.  Oh, and it's all written in the 2nd person, so while you're reading it you are Neil Patrick Harris.  It's impossible to read straight through, even if you have a fairly good knowledge of his career.  I found myself going back and trying other choices to find the sections on Rent or HIMYM.  Plus, it has hidden pages and fake endings where you die horrible deaths.  And several magic tricks he has you perform on yourself.  One of them really has me stumped.

On top of that, there's a solid laugh on almost every page, whether from a bad pun or a silly footnote or just because of the sheer insanity of having to keep flipping back and forth to try to read the whole thing.

I highly recommend reading this book.  And don't do it on kindle or audio book - I think you're going to need a real, physical copy so that you don't miss anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Taking a Break

I think it's good to take a break from anything that you're 'into' once in a while.  Some examples:

Politics: After the last presidential election, I made the choice to step back and not pay as much attention.  I still browse the headlines and usually have talk-radio on when I drive somewhere (which isn't that much), but I don't as much click on those headlines or read all of the different blogs and editorials.  And you know what?  I'm happier for it.  I realized after a while that it was nice not to get amped up over stuff that I have virtually no control over.  I'll still pay attention and vote as best as I can, but I no longer get bent out of shape over political stuff.

Church: Several times in my life I've taken a break from going to church, for several months.  And when I went back, I felt better able to appreciate what was there and better able to see it for what it is - a bunch of people trying to make things work as best as they can.

Geeky Pop Culture: I don't buy a lot of stuff these days because I'm poor.  I have a 'say no to almost everything' policy, from video games to movies.  Don't get me wrong - I go to movies once in a while, but I try to make it a matinee and I try to make it only movies I really want to see.  And I buy 1 or 2 video games per year.  So I get my fix.  My mother buys us season passes to the Falcon Theater, so I get some good culture there.  And like most people, I watch too much TV.  I love The Flash and iZombie and American Ninja Warrior.  But it really isn't that important, is it?  It's ephemeral.  I cancelled my Netflix subscription a while back, and it led to more ... book reading!  Yea!   

None of these are bad things.  They're all fine to enjoy in moderation.  But I do think that Christians often get too caught up in things that ultimately distract them from God.  If it's politics, you can start to think that some of the answers to people's problems lie with the government (or in less government) more than in the warmth of personal relationships and relying on God.  If it's church, you can become sheltered and forget to mingle with people outside of your comfort zone.  And spending all of that time and money on pop culture instead of things that will truly last forever?

Just a thought.  Consider taking a break, so you can pull back and see things clearly.