Spotlight, Outsiders & Church

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Not enough has been written about the role of Liev Schreiber and his role in spotlight. Yes Ruffalo is great, Keaton outstanding and Tucci wonderfully manic in their roles but Liev Schreiber for me was the key role.

Schreiber plays Marty Baron the new boss of the Boston Globe. He is an outsider. His non interest in sports is the first red flag thrown in the film never mind his Jewish faith background in a city dominated by the Catholic church.  This however is the key to Baron he is not like the others and by being an outsider he does not hold the same ideals in relation to the church. While others on the Spotlight team profess to be ‘lapsed’ or ‘non-practicing’ it is the difference that drives him on. He does not hold the church in the same regard and therefore encourages the team to investigate the allegations when the team has reservations.

The outsider holds the key.

So what of the church today? How comfortable are we with the outsider?

How comfortable are we when someone not like us enters ‘our world’ and points out our flaws?

I saw a quote this week that got me thinking

“…we know when we are really preaching and living the way of Jesus because it’s the Christians that are often most offended….”

– David Capener

All too often, when challenged,  offence becomes the go to reaction. Outsiders are not afraid to let us within the church know when we aren’t getting it right. Yet we often take it badly. Offence is so often the go to feeling. Often that is because the truth is uncomfortable. The truth will push us outside our comfort zones.

Personally I’d rather be outside my comfort zone that have my faith stagnate. Without the challenges from outsiders my faith becomes a pointless character accessory that can be reduced to a social media bio point or degraded to a meaningless hashtag.

The outsiders are vital.

We are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner.

Yet when we are called on it we become uncomfortable.

We need the outsiders.

They might understand Jesus better than we claim to.

 

 

 

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Exodus: Gods, Kings and Conversation Starters

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Exodus: Gods and Kings is an attempt to reinvigorate the biblical films that were once Hollywood gold. Telling the story of Moses and the Hebrew Exodus, Ridley Scott takes things to an epic scale with his interpretation of the well known tale.

The key thing though is that this is his INTERPRETATION. As per usual when a biblical film surfaces so do the standard Christian criticisms ‘it doesn’t stick to the text’, ‘God depicted as a child?’, ‘it is full of bad theology’, ‘the plagues didn’t happen that way’ etc.

This troubles me. The desire among some to knock down rather than build up is a worrying trait that is such a turn off to engaging with Christianity.

This film is flawed, it is not perfect. For one thing it is not clear throughout the film which side we are supposed to be on. Should we be routing for the emancipation of the Hebrews or should we empathise with the Egyptians particularly as they face plague after plague sent by God to free his people?

A flawed film however does not mean it is without merit. Films like this and the recent Noah film should should be great opportunities for conversations about our faith. Rather than focusing on the negatives the positive opportunities should be embraced.

The film asks difficult questions around God and the tendency towards violence (particularly in the Old Testament) and how we square that with our faith in 2015.The depiction of God as a child is somewhat interesting in this regard as it almost depicts God as the petulant child non wavering its desire to achieve the end result regardless of the consequences. There is a difficult conversation to be had in this regarding the difference between the Old and New Testament and what each teaches about faith. Finding those willing to have this conversation is almost as challenging as the thought itself!

For those who argue that it doesn’t stick to the text my argument is why would it? Any adapted screen play in Hollywood makes changes tr cuts to the text from which it it is taken but we are seem unable to apply this thinking to biblical films for some reason. The thinking being we should stick faithfully to the text as it it is deemed by some infallible. I don’t buy into this argument at all as the text taken word for word on screen may not be the most engaging for a viewer and dare I even suggest which translation we use???!!

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a decent watch engaging in places and epic in scenic scale. It is flawed, it is not perfect, that however does not mean we should not talk about it.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Let’s be clear before I get into this. I’m a comic book guy. I love them they help me escape the mundane of day to day living into worlds you can only dream of. When converted to film they consistently entertain, can at time amaze and also get me thinking.

That said I know I’m not the only person who feels a little tired of sitting down in their local cinema and seeing the Marvel branding in front of them. This is not to say that the recent spate of Marvel films have been bad they haven’t. Thor 2 not overly memorable but no bad, Iron Man 3: Sir Ben Kingsley scene stealer and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I have yet to see). Not to mention in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the preceding Wolverine. None of these are bad but the regularity of Marvel films makes them feel less of a movie event and more of  a conveyor belt  experience.

This is not to say this is Marvel’s fault. These films are consistent hits at box office and studios want hits. At a time where it feels like the world is searching for heroes more than ever, where better to look than the Marvel catalogue.

So as I sat down to watch Guardians I wasn’t as excited as I had been in the past. In combination with I had no Guardians background knowledge to influence me going in which in many ways is a good thing compared to some comic book purists who watch these films looking for inconsistencies.

I enjoyed Guardians it romps along well, is action packed, is consistently funny has characters you care for even if they are giant walking trees with limited vocab. Chris Pratt is funny and charming, Zoe Saldana is a good strong female character (which is a rarity) and Dave Bautista for me steals the show with some great lines over and above the CGI racoon and tree combo of Rocket and Groot.

I had a good time and I was pleased to see at the climax a message letting us know that the Guardians will return because ultimately so will I when it comes out.

What Marvel and Disney have done here is create a family friendly inoffensive offering that will no doubt generate cash by the bucket load and accompanying merchandise to boot. What isn’t overly clear is what Guardians is for. It didn’t (to me at least) appear to fit in with any ‘on-going’ Marvel story line, although Thanos does make an appearance as he did in the Avengers post credit sequence, (my tolerance for these post credit sequences is becoming less and less) but it seemed to be more of a stand alone film.

So while Guardians is entertaining fair I did however find it difficult to see its role in the wider Marvel universe / storyline other than cash cow which takes me back to my earlier point

Marvel have a plan for films going forward into 2019 and while this vision should be applauded in some regards if it continues to produce films that introduce characters from its universe with great style but not much substance it should maybe be approached with caution.

While I have no real problem with Guardians and again would reiterate my enjoyment of the film my over riding thought was maybe the conveyor belt needs to stop and the cinematic events that these films used to be return instead.

Noah, biblical inaccuracies and why wait and see is better

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Noah is released this weekend and I’m hopefully going to get the chance to see it soon.

It’s been a divisive topic out there in the Christian blogging world (which is as odd we are normally such a tolerant bunch). Many are excited about the possible conversation starter this film could prove to be in their workplace, some are hesitant in the depiction given that Aronofsky is an atheist, some are real radicals and have said they want to see it first before passing judgement (imagine that world).

Much more however has been written  about the biblical inaccuracies. Parts of the story not included or detailed incorrectly from the Biblical account. 

I’m going to wait and see for myself and I’m hopeful for the conversation starter aspect of the film.

I’m not however bothered by any supposed ‘biblical inaccuracies’.

Noah is a great bible story. Sunday school is where it’s main audience lies.

Faith to believe you are asked to build a massive boat  and look after a floating zoo shows great faith and trust while your peers look on and mock. Noah’s failings later in the story are also great learning for adults. The Noah story shows that even those with great faith can make great mistakes (they don’t go over that part in Sunday schools for obvious reasons).

The main point is that I am a Christian and as such wish to engage with art in all its forms and where possible bring Christ into those conversations held after the event.

Here’s the thing how many Noahians do you know? None? No me either.