Throughout the week, a gentleman named Eric Greene was leading a discussion on the Planet of the Apes movies in the “Flickerings” tent. The place was aptly named. The light was terrible, it was hot in the tent, and the projector sucked–but it was a surprisingly great discussion of “How does popular culture help people wrestle with their deepest conflicts?”
My little brother and I went to go hear Aaron from mewithoutYou speak on whatever topic was on his mind that day (always an unpredictable, but ridiculously honest and interesting conversation). Unfortunately, we got the host of that particular tent instead, who got up and promptly began rambling on in the most defensive way possible about his own ministry and his past endorsement of Aaron. The tent was jam-packed with kids, who all looked very confused as the gent talked about “the responsibility of the stage.” I leaned over to my brother–“I think this is leading up to a disavowal of the band because of the latest album.”
Sure enough, after a ton more rambling for the better part of an hour, someone finally yelled out “is Aaron coming?” whereupon the host became even more defensive and said “I don’t know where he is!” Needless to say, the tension got even more awkward by that point–especially when he asked if anyone else had concerns about mewithoutYou’s last album and proceeded to lead group prayer for them, after saying how much he loved them, of course.
Word of advice. If you’re ever in a situation like that, just start off by saying the speaker isn’t coming–and leave it at that. Defensive manipulation will never help you or anyone else, in the long run.
And especially don’t go into that dreaded tangent about “Satan was a worship leader in heaven.” Sorry, but to the best of my knowledge, that’s a ludicrous argument on every possible level, and completely without any theological backing whatsoever (besides a solitary mistranslated, vague scripture from the King James–but feel free to prove me wrong in the comments).
Up until that point, Cstone had been an incredible model of faith-filled dialogue and tolerance for wrestling with big questions, such as I’ve rarely seen modeled by religious communities. I mean, this is the place that semi-famously welcomed avowed atheist David Bazan back with more or less open arms. Ahh well, maybe it was just the cost of each of the many tents being independently run, more or less–and thankfully, it was the only incident of the kind that I heard about or witnessed.
With an uncomfortable taste still in our mouths, we went back to the Gallery stage (where we spent most of the festival, come to think of it) and listened to some new Nashville talent. Rhona Kelly had a great alt-country voice and we had fun chatting with her when we ran into her later in the day, as well.
Kirsten had fun participating in a songwriting seminar with Jan Krist throughout the week. It paid off–I had fun sneaking in and watching Kirsten entrance a tent full of participants the next day with her song. (As an interesting sidenote, Jan is apparently the mother of one of the members of Blind Pilot).
You never know who might show up to listen along with you…
It was great to hear Brooke Waggoner with a full band this time around (Nate R, eat your heart out). Her live show is (surprisingly?) energetic and the hipsters around us were smiling a mile a minute–definitely catch a show, if you ever can.
In case you were wondering, gentle hipster folk was not necessarily the main draw at the festival, given that there were well over a hundred bands officially playing. Out of curiosity, I checked out some of A Plea for Purging‘s brutal set…and was amused by the scene, as always.
The Almost (the drummer from Underoath‘s main gig, now) on the mainstage–another place we didn’t spend much time. And Cstone was very unique in that the mainstage didn’t feel like the mainstage–very few people seemed to camp out there all week long, with so many other stages constantly pumping out a wide variety of music. Throughout the week I tried to gauge how many people were at the festival–25k? 50k?–but to no avail. They were simply too far spread out.
Yeah, Skillet brought their mainstream crotch-rock ethos and it was ridiculous. And I sort of smiled at the one song I checked out. I mean, there were great balls of fire (whose heat I could feel from the back of the crowd), the guitarists went up and down on elevator platforms, and there was a live, dueling string section. Pre-recorded or not, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that kind of cheese-tastic show.
Getting back to our regularly scheduled program, Kate York lent her jaw-dropping sense of melody to the hymns project of the host of the gallery stage that day, The Wayside. Really, if you don’t check out anyone else, you owe it yourself to take a listen to her deceivingly simple, honey-coated bitter-pill sad songs.
Tsotsi (a Golden Globe, Academy Award winning film from South Africa) was simply superb. Heartfelt–yet I felt it took enough unexpected twists to avoid cliche. I thought it handled the backstory with particular grace, explaining the characters without explaining away the consequences, and creating a deep sense of empathy for Tsotsi himself, without regarding him as a mere pawn in the grip of fortune or some other such nonsense. Moreover, the violence and language, while quite hard hitting, were never gratuitous or made to look “cool.” Watching the titular character encounter and react to a part of life that was finally able to break through his walls was truly sublime.
Brazil was the second Terry Gilliam film I’ve seen. I hated 12 Monkeys, so I approached this viewing hoping to walk away with a better impression…which in some ways I did, but I still ended up hating the “message” of Brazil.
The world that Gilliam creates in Brazil is truly madcap and humorous, with a cohesive visual style that rivals (and in many cases, surpasses) any of Burton’s more bizarre landscapes. The film exaggerates and satirizes the repressive elements of society to great effect, and occasionally even gives the viewer a life-giving glimmer of hope in the midst of the claustrophobia and paranoia. Robert de Niro’s character, for example, is truly cheerful and crazy at the same time (unlike his disastrously lame appearance in Stardust. Sorry) that gives the movie a much needed Robin Hood character.
Alas, Gilliam does not linger on redemption. Fatalism is his goal…not fighting athe stereotypical “the man,” not finding life in the midst of a nightmare, nor even finding a good death. We are pawns of each other and of destiny, he states, and he states it well with a satirical logic that is soul shaking and mind numbing.
It is a truth that fails to take into the consideration that there is a surrender that trumps surrender to the system. It is a truth that fails to take into account the glimpses of beauty that can alleviate the fallen nature of mankind. It is a truth that is a harsh, evil god…that cannot see the promise of heaven for the hell that is all too clearly apparent.
As Puddleglum said in that truly transcendent moment in Lewis’ The Silver Chair, “I’d rather go on living thinking that there is an overworld.” That simple story (I recommend you read it) sums up my reaction to this kind of art, no matter how good or how poorly it is made. I fear for my friends that have given any part of their being to the lies of the witch and have forgotten the previous reality of the sun and the friendship of the overworld for the depressing reality of the man-made lamp in the bewitched and oppressed underworld kingdom.
There is hope, Mr. Gilliam. While I acknowledge and appreciate your clever, even creative recognition of the darkness around us, I ultimately and wholeheartedly reject the lie of your fatalism.
Last night, we watched Juno.
Sidenote: A pirated copy–which I did not procure or facilitate. Yet, I watched it. Hmm. I’m not sure what the moral implications of this are…
Regardless, the film is simply stellar. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone watch it. It’s funny enough to draw everyone in (think Gilmore Girls at their most promising…damn, I just referenced the @#$$# Gilmore Girls??!) and it’s deep enough to engage the brain of anyone who wants to engage said apparatus.
It’s been interesting for me, having read about this movie for some time before…but it seems that this and other recent movies have even challenged a number of hardened critics to rethink their stances on abortion.
I find this fascinating.
It is my hypothesis that both the left and the right have made this issue such a political, polarizing hot topic that the humanity of each and every case has been very, very lost. I am glad there are films coming out now that do not have an agenda, but merely tell human story with sympathy, insight, humor…and considerable emotion.
A lot of times, life speaks for itself the most effectively.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus spoke in story? And then he let his words speak for themselves, to those that had ears to hear.
I look forward to following this up at some point in the near future with 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, a Romanian film that takes a much grittier look at a story drawing from similar basic plot material.
Sophie Scholl:The Final Days–An amazing, character-driven independent film that fully explores just about every individual it introduces. Surprisingly well-acted (with the exception of her attorney) and well-shot (with the exception of some of the tv-lighting-glow). Sophie’s grappling with truth and the dire consequence of death gripped all those I watched the film with…and challenged us to think about moral slippery slopes. After watching this movie, I was all the more challenged to oppose torture, no matter how many lives it “saves.” This was not an overt argument of the movie, by any means, but its stand for righteousness and its depiction of men who have compromised is both absolutely sobering and truly heart-breaking.
Heima–A music video/”documentary” as pretentious and absurd as Sigur Ros themselves. And as achingly beautiful and captivating. The movie could easily double as a travelogue for Iceland (and that’s a good thing). Some of the visuals were rather dubious at first…such as the reversed shots of waterfalls. But in time, their simplicity drew you in and deeper into what we were watching, as trippy and mesmerizing as the music itself. The interviews were the greatest weakness on the disk and could have been condensed into two minutes of meaningful dialogue. Then again, what else would you expect from a band that gave this historic talk to NPR?
Grizzly Man–The most intimate, deepest personal biography/documentary I have ever seen, with some of the most fascinating, complex discussions of environmentalism, troubled psychology, and confused spirituality ever depicted. And it’s all (purportedly) real…the scope of what this movie addressed or attempted to address was staggering, perhaps simply because it honestly showed a complete portrait of someone in a hundred and forty minutes. I was impressed by its ability to tackle such convoluted and intricate subject matter and still have something to say amidst all its post-modern-tinged depiction. Bravo. And wow. Grizzlies are big bears. And poor, confused Californians make good snacks (as do all furries. Maybe that’s what Colbert is really hiding).
Being John Malkovich–“Can’t you just be entertained?” I was asked after seeing this film. To which I firmly reply: “No.” I hated everything about this movie and found nothing insightful, thought-provoking, or interesting about it. I cannot be entertained by something unless there is a reason for me to be entertained by it. There were no reasons here, because I am not amused by skewed sexual behavior, mind possession, relational unfaithfulness, or any of the other slew of shallow behaviors shown without any artistic provocation to cause the viewer to think or consider. Some of the puppetry shots were beautiful (but that’s what youtube is for). No, overall this was an ugly movie in every way imaginable, with no redemption of any kind for the ugliness shown. If I wanted that, I’d have picked up the P.O.S. rags at the supermarket or watched daytime television.