Tuesday, April 29, 2008

If I Am Alive This Time Next Year

My life is all about movie moments. I am defined not by the years I’ve been alive but by the movies that defined me while the years passed quickly by. For example...

1999 is not 1999 but the year that Magnolia and Fight Club were both seriously overlooked in the Oscar ceremony.

1997 is Titanic, period.

1994 was when I became incredibly sick of the phrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates-you never know what you’re gonna get,” thanks to Forrest Gump.

1993 is not 1993 but the year that Philadelphiabrought the issue of AIDS and homosexuality, and more importantly acceptance of homosexuality (too bad they had to use a dying gay man as the catalyst for acceptance but at the time, that was culturally where we were at I guess).

1992 is not 1992 but the year I first wept while actually in a movie theater. That movie was of course, My Girl.

And 1991 isn’t just 1991 but the year, for me especially, where I experienced celluloid salvation, thanks to a dollar theater viewing of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Ever since 1991, movies have defined me and this presents a theological problem for many people in my life, I think.

I was talking to one of my best friends tonight on the phone and was reminded of how much I ache for movies that depress me, I thrive on exploring the madness, the sadness, and the helplessness so many (usually independent) movies offer nowadays. I only need a shred of hope; please save the happy-happy sports/hero/man-triumphs-over-adversity-yet-again for someone else. This is not to say I'm above this story structure or even that I'm tired of watching movies that follow such a story structure, I'm simply saying I like movies like About Schmidt, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days. Why does that make me such an "other." A "them," even, in so many "Christian" circles? I'm not sure. I guess I'm beginning to care less and less how I'm seen in those circles anyway so maybe asking such a question is futile (even to begin with).

Perhaps I'm viewed weird because Christians follow a person who's own life ended so happily. Perhaps the way Jesus triumphed over torture on the cross is how people justify their strange glances toward me. Because when his mother Mary was beside him on that hill, I'm sure she was just waiting for the applause to happen and for God to wink and say, "Just kidding! Everything's gonna be alright!" That's probably why people look at me funny sometimes. Because "their" Savior was just so damn happy all the time. Wasn't he?

Was he?

I don't think I want a Savior who puts Gladiator as his favorite film, or who sees his own life timeline of movie moments being captured in scenes from Radio or The Game Plan or Big Mamma's House.

I want a Savior who's comfortable with poop. Not just poop in the toilet but poop in people's lives. In our tragedies, depression and tears.

I thought that's who Jesus (the Savior of the Church) really is. But looking around in today's churches, and looking around at how they treat the gospel, how they see movies, how they look for the happiness around every corner, I wonder. I doubt. Over and over again.

I doubt.


Anonymous said...

These are good thoughts, friend.
I often think about telling friends to go see such and such a movie and then think twice. I am afraid of what they will think (of me) after they see the most depressing film (also the most realistic) they will see all year.

I like what you're doing. Thanks for your kind words about my silly little short story. It meant a lot, so seriously, thanks.

Ask me about what a speaker (at a camp I worked for) said to me about Jesus and depression some time. It was good and has changed some things for me. Your point about a happy savior and a God who cracks jokes resonate with me.

Also, forget Titanic, L.A. Confidential was overlooked!

Chalupa said...

dude i just watched The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford last night. It was depressing. I was so sad at the end. Great movie nonetheless. I was impressed, yet not surprised, by Casey's performance.

Oh, and did I tell you The Dude is supposed to be doing an interview with us soon?

nateshorb said...

Wow...you're so depressed you had to change your background color to BLACK?!? I'm beginning to worry.

Stephen Becker said...


d said...

What movie is 2006? We are movie soul-mates you know.