Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Carter - not a bad way to spend an afternoon (but a terrible way to spend $250m)

Yesterday I took some time to witness for myself what is being described in some places as “Disney’s biggest flop”, the movie John Carter.

Let me start by saying that I went with a friend, and we saw this as two guys who’ve been working a bit too hard recently, and needed something entertaining and not terribly challenging (Tree of Life sits on my desk and mocks me for not finding time yet....). John Carter was perfect for us, lots of action, lots of effects and nothing too troubling in terms of plot.

Taylor Kitsch plays the title role, and seems to be reprising some of his Gambit role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Battle-weary, and tired of serving others, this civil war veteran finds himself transported to Mars (a planet the locals call Barsoome) and becomes embroiled in a struggle for the future of the planet.

It’s not a totally vacuous movie as some have claimed. There are interesting spiritual themes (a Goddess called Issus plays with Isis and Jesus metaphors, quotes from New Testament scripture placed in alien mouths), and some environmental subtext about people fighting one another whilst not noticing the death of a planet. But at its heart it’s a “kill the bad guys, save the world, get the girl” romp. Think period drama meets The Sixth Element. And you know what? It’s totally enjoyable.

So, the plot has not much challenge, and it’s mostly totally predictable, but there are some lovely moments, and some humorous scenes. A few poignant reflections on the nature of leadership, family and belonging keep interest going. The battle scenes are exciting enough, but yes, the pace slows significantly between them. The bad guys are stereotypes, and the good guys quite bland, there are few Oscar nominations here, but some of the CGI was stunning. We saw it in 2D (in order to appreciate the story over a few jump effects) and the Tharks (a four-handed, green skinned Barsoome species) were the most well realised digital characters I’ve ever seen. No Jar-Jar Binks, nor Na’vi here, there were moments when they were totally believable.

I guess, when one hears the cost of making the film ($250 million apparently) that certainly raises expectations. And yes, this film could have been far better (I’m guessing not much of that money went on the script). There was some heavyweight acting talent left cringing behind some horrible plodding dialogue, which seemed positively wasteful. But I’d say it wasn’t such a failure. As action movies go, it was entertaining, as far as sci-fi, well we’ve all seen much worse. 

As a way of switching the brain into neutral and being taken on an adventure, this tired guy thought it was just what the doctor ordered!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Should you sign the Coalition for Marriage Petition?

I’m someone who likes to thrash ideas out in a conversation. It’s in the cut and thrust of a good challenging discussion that I best formulate ideas and opinions. I like to test aloud how something sounds, hold an idea in the midst of the debate and examine it from many angles. The writer of Proverbs says, as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

So, blogging can be an unusual way to express opinions for folks like me. Yes, sometimes it can lead to a good conversation in the comments section, but often it hangs in the ether, like a written statement, instead of an invitation to conversation.

With those thoughts in mind, I want to share some of my thinking around the current debate regarding marriage for same-sex couples, and how the church could respond.

My first comment is that I don’t think it is the role of the state to dictate to communities of faith the meaning of a sacrament.  We would be rightfully outraged if the government sought to dictate to the Church how we were to baptise, or conduct communion, or who we were to include in those sacraments. It is simply pushing beyond the boundary of reasonable government interest. It is for communities of faith alone to decide how best to conduct the sacraments they offer, and to whom they may be offered. Any changes must surely come as a result of a process of theological reflection, pastoral insight and long discussion.

My second comment is that perhaps we need to find a new language, and that here is an opportunity to for the church to become a distinctive voice. Perhaps we need to talk about civil marriage and (for want of a better name for now, please suggest one) sacred marriage.  The former would be a contractual agreement, based on love and commitment, for sure, but done by and on behalf of the state. The latter would be the lifelong commitment to exclusive partnership and shared love and commitment, done within the context of an act of worship, and actively seeking the involvement and blessing of God.

 I think, as a pure mater of justice, that if the state is to offer civil marriages, then it ought to offer them to same-sex couples, anything else would be unjust.

Faith communities ought to be free to decide for themselves within their own structures who they would offer marriage services for.

So, as much as I dislike some of the commentary around the Coalition for Marriage petition, and certainly agreeing with UKIP and the Sun leaves a bad taste in my mouth (go ahead, call me a liberal lefty), I think we ought to speak against the government’s current suggested ideas of redefining, and perhaps push towards something far more radical, a clear distinction between the sacrament offered by communities of faith, with all the privileges it brings, and the contract provided by the state, with all of its rights.

It’s a bit messy, but it might be a lot more honest.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

KONY 2012

This is the reason #stopkony is trending worldwide, it's a 30 min video, but really worth a watch.

Maybe more relevant (in terms of the actions they are looking for) for US viewers. but ought to serve as a prompt for people worldwide to ask their governments what they are doing.

Make War Criminals famous is an interesting strategy, I pray it works.

Yes, you can follow me on Twitter

From time to time I get asked or emailed the question, am I on Twitter?

Yes, I am, and you can follow me @baptistjon

This blog post will be syndicated to my FB and Twitter feeds, so if you're reading this from Twitter, you're already following....

If you leave your @ in the comments section, I'll look you up.