22 May 2007

 

On Hiatus

We here at Luther at the Movies have a family member seriously ill, and who will require our full attention.

And so we are putting the blog to sleep for a while. We hope you understand.

Luther (Doktor)

21 May 2007

 

A Man of Contradictions

A nice piece by Deborah Caldwell on meeting Jerry Falwell. If you doubt what the late Baptist preacher says about his ability to turn enemies into friends, read this.

Tonsure tip for the latter article: Mere Comments.

 

Wilson vs. Hitchens: Round 4

Sound thrashing Wilson gives Hitchens re: the "sorting out of competing impulses" business.

Hitchens is also interviewed by my miserable execrable assistant's former colleague Laura Sheahen over at Beliefnet. Hitch comes off as much more amiable and reasonable in this exchange than he does in many—at least at first. Then, just as the discussion of Jesus comes round, the devil comes out to play.

 

I'm Shocked—Shocked!

—to learn that Sylvester Stallone was ingesting more than a multivitamin, his brand-name pudding, and a metric ton of horsemeat to maintain his physique!

What is your nation coming to when you can't trust a movie star to come clean about his hGH consumption! In my day, we Augustinians were so juiced, I could bench press three cardinals, a bishop, two abbots, and one costello before breakfast without retching!

For you diehard Sly fans, here's a preview snippet from the new John Rambo:




Note once again the Christian penumbra, in the spirit of Rocky Balboa.

Tonsure tip: Empire Online. (I used the YouTube version, as the link provided by Empire had some filthy naughty dirty words.)

20 May 2007

 

And Another Bites . . . And Another One Bites . . .

Another one bites the dust!

Do you find his argumentation persuasive—not to the extent that you would pack your confessional bags but that you understand why he did? Or is it so much rhetorical slight of hand, playing texts off one another so that one is left with no other recourse than to cry "Ultimate Authority!" and "Development of Doctrine!" no matter how absurd the doctrines are that are developed? Is he right about justification by faith alone—or is this no more than one more attempt to prescind from what it means to be saved solely by the merits of Jesus Christ, which would preclude so much of what Rome teaches dogmatically?

I say it is time we either set up some kind of conference in which we address forthrightly these defections, or we simply set up a travel agency on the LC-MS website: "See Rome and Die."

18 May 2007

 

And I Once Found an Old Subway Token in My Blow-up Pool

And what if the original owners want the coins back? Ever think of that? I would be more circumspect before logging on to that eBay account . . .

 

N.T. Wright on Jerry Falwell

A most generous and appropriately reserved statement.

Please note that Herr McCain, of Cyberbrethren fame, is now a regular blogger on the Reformed Catholicism site.

These gang blogs are becoming all the rage. I have resisted adding additional bloggers to this site, given that I am more personality than any six people, and that my ideas are pluriform in nature. In fact, were you to enter a fourth dimension of reality, I would probably already be there, cogitating and making a general ruckus.

 

Stamps, Unlike Diamonds, Are Not Forever

Remember: If it is too good to be true, it is probably emanating from the federal government.

And yet, despite all the whining I hear about the postal service in this country, it actually boasts superior performance than can be claimed by comparable services in most other countries. I remember mailing a letter to Katie while making my futile pilgrimage to Rome in 1510, and only yesterday it was returned to me marked "insufficient postage"! Gee—ya think?

 

Pulp Calvinists in Love

I just had to pass this along . . . heh heh heh heh . . .

And when are we, my Lutherans, going to have a comic book of our own? The Adventures of Martin Luther and His League of Original Evangelicals! Now that I would pay 25 cents for! (But no more; I am currently having a liquidity problem—and no, I am not speaking about my bladder!)

 

And Just When Jim Had Asked Her Out!

Poor Pam Beesly! The actress who portrays her on the high-sterical The Office has fallen down the stairs and broken her back!

We wish Ms. Fischer a speedy recovery. Isn't it bad enough that I must wait four months to find out what happened to Karen? Did Jim leave her in New York? Is she coming back to Scranton? Did they break up? O the tension! O the anticipation! And now I must worry whether Ms. Fischer will recover in time for the season premiere! Has she no conscience?! One foot in front of the other, you jackanapes! Make sure you always have a designated stair-descender!

WHAT WAS SHE DOING IN A NEW YORK BAR IN THE FIRST PLACE!? Why do these actoids not have handlers to watch over them! They have a larger duty to the community—to suppress all natural and personal desire in the cause of entertaining the masses! Between seasons they should be kept locked in a safehouse somewhere in New Mexico—and they must always remain in character!

Double-ach!

 

Vitamins Can Kill You

As I have always said, a sound diet is one that is at least 85% hops and sausage, the remaining 15% to be composed of foam rubber, glass, and nickel-plated shells expelled from recently discharged firearms.

Exercise should come exclusively from kicking semi-pelagians and chasing down Anabaptists.

It has worked for me and look: I am 523 1/2 years old, and I don't look a day over 327. (I do moisturize, which was a key point of contention between me and the Romanists, and the sole reason my Protestant confreres refused to attend any of the sessions at Trent. That and the fact that they were given the crummiest seats, right by the kitchen.)

17 May 2007

 

Welcome, Googlers

Over the past couple of days, traffic to Luther at the Movies has been quite robust. I soon realized that this was due to multiple Google searches of the term "VTech Rampage"—which, if you can believe it, my Lutherans, is now a game of some sort, the "brain" child of a seriously sick Australian.

And seeing as we here at Luther at the Movies had previously published a post with the provocative title "Was a Movie to Blame for VTech Rampage?" we have been showing up in the search results, drawing curious Web searchers to our humble blog.

Welcome, one and all. To those of you unfamiliar with our crew, this link will perform the honors. (Although I am sad to say that Ms. Dellaponti is no longer with us. She was seriously injured in an exercise involving superglue, latex, and a copy of the Patrologia. Don't ask . . . I SAID DON'T ASK!)

And so, if you feel you are qualified, we are currently taking applications to fill her position. We offer no salary, no benefits, no pension, no 401(k). I am abusive, ungrateful, and supernaturally overbearing. This cannot possibly lead to a promotion, so should you stay on with us, you will probably die slumped over your milk-crate desk, the life essence having been drained from you as you performed the very same rote tasks over and over, day in and day out, year after year. Coffee is $1.89 a cup. No vacation or sick pay. Expect to be on call 24/7. No personal phone calls. No personal conversations; in fact, no speaking. No looking directly at me or anyone else. Movement should be kept to a minimum. One bathroom break per workday (and then you must use the one in Winkie's Hardware Heaven around the corner). Should you choose to leave this position for one with another company, you will receive no recommendation, only libelous calumny, no matter how fine your work performance.

We do have summer Fridays...

 

Herr Veith Weighs in on Beckwith

I would add to this analysis the genuine frustration experienced by many people who wholeheartedly seek the truth when confronted with so many contradictory "versions" of Protestant worship and theology. Even within a single denomination—who finally can say what is God's truth?

The appeal of a catechism that explains it all for you, not to mention a man in a big hat who will swat heretics with a wave of his bishop's crook, is irresistible for some.

We all are looking for our home. But it is not here. Not in Rome. Not in Canterbury. Not in Lynchburg, Virginia. Not in Constantinople. Not even in Wittenburg.

Our true home is the heavenly Jerusalem. And so we are pilgrims here. And we are called to walk with Him—and he too often takes us down dead ends, blind alleys, and forked roads. The reason: So we will trust him to lead us home, and not out of weariness be beguiled by gilded altars and towering statuary and dead languages to settle for something less in the name of "something more."

Until then, we can be consoled by His presence: in Holy Communion, in the Word, and when two or more are gathered in his name.

It may not always provide the ambience of a mighty cathedral . . . but it will do.

Tonsure tip to Herr McCain at Cyberbrethren.

 

George Lucas Thinks Spidey 3 'Silly'

No, honest. The man who brought us Jar Jar Binks thinks it's silly.

Oooh-ke-e-y-y-y-y.

Tonsure tip to Ross Douthat.

 

'He Sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father'





Happy Ascension Day.

 

A Lutheran Pastor in Delaware Says, "Here I Stand!"

And he's ELCA!

16 May 2007

 

No Moore, Please, No Moore . . .

But I may start watching Law & Order again.



The latest Moore mockumentary, Sicko, comes to a Cuban movie theater near you June 29. I'm certain it will prove to be as entertaining as any manipulative, deceptive paeon to socialism can hope to be.

 

'No One Really Cared About Being Lutheran'

Kill me now. Just kill me now.

Oh wait . . . never mind.

 

Wilson vs. Hitchens: Round 3

What makes Hitchens' book pop from the stinkhole of similarly minded pop-atheist tomes is his personal experience in the trenches of sectarian violence around the world. The question he puts to his reader is: Would there be so much wretchedness—in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, India, etc., etc.—if it were not for the absolutist claims of warring definitions of God.

Now, perhaps someone has produced this retort (although I haven't seen it), but the reason you find religion so often where you find war is because wherever this is war—there are people. And people are religious. You may as well state as your thesis that wherever you find war you find eyebrows.

"Yes, Herr Doktor, but eyebrows do not animate wars. They are not the cause of conflict and bad feeling. Eyebrows are merely accidents of human physiognomy—"

SILENCE, IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR! Are you telling me that facial features—such as melanin content of the skin or shape of the eyes—have never been a cause for violence, enslavement, even genocide?

Take away religion and man will find another reason to war—whether over political ideology, money, natural resources—or eyebrows. That man's volatile nature is not ameliorated by religion—even when threatened with eternal punishment—is not an argument against the existence of a Creator but for the existence of Original Sin. Otherwise you are left as an explanation the vagaries of biochemical reactions produced by evolutionary trial and error, and how long before the professional atheists begin medicating a generation to "calm them down"?

Oh, wait, perhaps I am too late...

Well, how long before atheists begin advocating designer babies—"better" progeny—in order to secure a more sophisticated and placid future?

Oh, wait, perhaps I am late here too . . .

 

The Bogeyman Is Dead

I commend to you this short obit by Joseph Bottum, editor of First Things.

The Reverend Falwell was different things to different people. His legacy shall be mixed. He was both a voice for the Too-Often-Silent Majority, as well as, well, just a voice, or rather a mouth.

He had this tendency to see the judgment of God in events such as September 11. This is theologically daft. God's judgment on sin came finally, irrevocably, permanently, at Calvary. There is no other judgment in history.

The nations shall be judged, yes—but at the end of history. And I promise you, my Lutherans, that judgment shall make 9/11 look like a bar fight . . .

 

This Kid They Let Live . . . Because . . .

I have two comments on last night's episode of House.

1. What happened to the poor loser who got socked in the face with the chess clock in the opening scene? Yes, he was a means to an end—i.e., the establishment of the strange condition that would drive the miserable hell-child to House's clutches—but not a word of what charges might be brought against the monster for assault, thereby increasing his suffering and our pleasure?

2. Hemochromatosis is the most common genetically transferred condition among males of northern European extraction. A simple blood test should have detected off-the-charts iron levels. A secondary test, also not uncommonly done, is for ferritin levels—stored iron, which, in someone with hemochromatosis, would also be in the danger zone. (Especially if iron had seeped into the joints and internal organs to the extent it had in the case illustrated last night.)

In other words, this condition should have been detected with a lot more ease than was demonstrated for dramatic purposes.

But give the show's writers credit for not explaining away the child's demonic disposition—no reductionist theories, no "It's all mommy's/the disease's fault" here. He is simply rotten, and deserves to be isolated in a cell somewhere, a la Hannibal Lector, where he will be given nothing to do but watch Exit to Eden over and over and over again. Yes: Rosie O'Donnell in black leather—a most fitting punishment for the little guttersnipe.

15 May 2007

 

Goodbye, Doug and Carrie

The most underrated and underappreciated show on television, The King of Queens will be sorely missed.

The snooty critics could not appreciate a working-class comedy that was not class-conscious or incessantly profane. That Kevin James, Leah Remini, and Jerry Stiller were not nominated for Emmies on a regular basis just goes to prove how daft these award shows are.

Who will forget the "Doug and Deacon get layed off" episodes, or Arthur's immortal words to his only daughter: "Birth control pills? DOES HE TOUCH YOU?!" Or the very special relationship shared between Spence and his roommate, Doug's cousin. (Remember when Arthur and Spence decide to go into business together and in a matter of hours are on the verge of bankruptcy out of sheer neurotic perseveration?)

Oh, well . . . I still have The Office and House, which redeemed itself from what was quickly becoming its culture-of-death mission statement: "The only good patient is a dead patient."

12 May 2007

 

Throw Momma from the Train While You're At It

And so MSNBC.com has created a list of "10 Great Movies for Moms and Daughters to Watch Together."

Some of these are no-brainers, I mean Postcards from the Edge and Terms of Endearment and The Joy Luck Club. Right. Gotcha. But Star Wars Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith?

Why not Exit Wounds or Hostel—other examples of torture? Why not Spaceballs for that matter? (Or should that be seen only with Dad?)

The explanation given by the MSNBC writers is that, in the prequels, we learn that Princess Leia was merely "following in the footsteps of her mother, Amidala."

This is what we in the medical profession call strained.

And where is Mommie Dearest?

Nevertheless: Here is a list of "Seven Films Mothers Should See With Their Sons":

1. The Jerk
2. The Krays
3. Mother
4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
5. Psycho
6. Five Corners
7. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Some people may ask, Why? Others may ask, Why not? And still others just drone on and on and on until you want to stick their head in a pea sheller and do your time like a man . . .

Happy Mother's Day.

11 May 2007

 

Another Lutheran Popes—I Need the Large Polo Mallet*

I ask you to read carefully what this man has to say. We must take to heart his critique, even though most of my readers are not members of the ELCA.

With that said: I would like someone to explain to me how anyone can reconcile himself to the notion of indulgences, which remain a rank perversion of the very notion of grace. And how does he reconcile himself to prayer after prayer in which the Blessed Mother of Our Lord is held up as the intercessor between sinful men and God Almighty?

And yet, more and more Lutherans, not to mention other Protestants, don their water wings and cross the river Tiber. (I have been to Rome; I can only hope the river is cleaner now...)

I was alerted to this event by a post on a Romanist site.

What must we do to stop the bleeding? Only one thing: Preach the gospel of unmerited love, grace, justification—and sanctification; administer the sacraments; bring Christ to a fallen world.

Our Lord asks for no more. And even if we remain a tiny minority, even within the so-called Lutheran world, so long as we are faithful to our calling, that is enough.

"I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."

"Only 7,000, Lord? It's a big world!"

Obviously, that was enough.

*Special thanks to Mr. W. Allen for the reference.

10 May 2007

 

Wilson vs. Hitchens: Round 2

Ooooh, I'm all goose-bumpy!

But where is the invective? You cannot debate these issues without repeated, nauseating invective! Otherwise, you're just doing a tango. I want blood! I want screams of psychic pain and holy terror! I want the wretching of the wretched, the gasping of the ghastly, the hemorrhaging of the heretical! I would also like a box of Mallomars . . .

 

Quasimodo Call Your Office

I would not object so much to these efforts if the same courtesy were extended to the undead. Why a helping hand to terrestrial border jumpers but nothing for those of us transmigrators? Just because our internal organs have disintegrated into a fine powder is no excuse for discrimination and name-calling! Do you know how hard it is to get a decent health plan when there is a bird's nest where your liver used to be?

Oh the trouble I had when I first made my way back to the land of the living (if you can call this living). I immediately sought succor in a Lutheran Church on Lexington Ave. in Manhattan upon arrival here in three-dimension-la-la-ville and, because of my extremely moldy garb and the stench of death about me, was told I would have to leave because I was "bringing everyone down."

Me? The King of Fun! Down?! Who was the first man in Europe to make a papal-shaped pinata for the kiddies? Who invented the party game "Dunk the Dominican"? Who is in the process of securing sole copyright to a new board game, the object of which is to chase as many Anabaptists out of your town as you can within the prescribed time limits!

Down?! Who was voted "The Most Up Magisterial Reformer of 1540"?! Who was the first named on every nun's wedding-guest list?

I'll give them down...

09 May 2007

 

Just Don't Eat from the Vending Machine of Good and Evil

Wait until they get a load of Noah's Arkland, scheduled to open Summer 2008 on Mount Ararat. But I wouldn't pet the unicorns if I were you . . .

08 May 2007

 

Dawn of a New Career

So Ms. Eden will be in the moving pictures. A documentary, yes, but still presumably moving. She deserves credit for her courage, as she will no doubt be banned from the Upper West Side of Manhattan for quite some time, which means no Zabar's.

I too hope to make it to the big screen one day, in The Wonders of Me. Directed by Me. Screenplay by Me. Photographed by Me. Of Me. Doing Me Things, like harrassing semipelagians and rousing indulgence peddlers from their beds of heresy!

It will star Me. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Philip Melanchthon and Dina Meyer as Katie. Possibly Jerry Stiller as Elector Frederick and Jason Alexander as Pope Leo X.

It will, of course, be shot in LuluScope.

 

Prince to Spend Time with the King

—of Kings, that is . . .

 

Professional Atheists vs. the Kid from Growing Pains

I kid you not. Ach! Let's assume he's a delightful lad—but COME ON, PEOPLE!

Yes, can we please press into service Douglas Wilson or Alvin Plantinga or Alister McGrath or David Hart or any number of Lutherans, from Wolfhart Pannenberg to Robert Jenson—anyone who wasn't associated with those fukakta Left Behind movies! Let us be clear here: the Rapture rap is to serious theology what a fortune cookie is to an MRI!

I must lie down. Bring me my Hot Pockets . . . I must have my Hot Pockets . . .

Get This: Not Wilson or Hart or McGrath, but Al Sharpton took on Christopher Hitchens. While I am decidedly not a fan of Mr. Sharpton's modus operandi—you know, he didn't fare too badly . . .

UPDATE: And so Wilson contra Hitchens was not merely pie in the sky, but is taking place as we speak! Hurrah!

 

Where Slack Careers Go to Die

Sequel-Landia.

Which is not to say that Gekko and his protege, now presumably out of prison and enjoying a second career in a cheesy hit sitcom, might not provide some compelling social commentary, given all the busts in the post-boom economic landscape.

But why do I have a feeling this will prove as potent a follow-up as Basic Instinct 2: Why Is She Sitting Like That?

 

You Can't Go Rome Again

Last night I listened to the testimony of one Patty Bonds, sister of Reformed Baptist apologist James White, on Marcus Grodi's Journey Home program. She related a sad and painful tale of abuse and abandonment as she saw her fundamentalist faith shatter, along with her marriage, followed by a slow turn to Rome, where she is now ensconced in a lay apostolate.

By all appearances she is now happy and at peace.

But she asked a very interesting question—or, rather, put an interesting question to a caller who inquired about the "true church." She advised asking interested Protestant parties to read the early Church Fathers and compare the church as the Fathers describe it with any Protestant church today. Ms. Bonds was convinced that the Prots would not fare well by comparison.

What was interesting was that the caller identified herself as a Lutheran. I am convinced that the Lutheran church, above all churches, would mimic closely early church worship: baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (with only a spare and biblical Eucharistic blessing), confession of faults, prayers of thanksgiving (but no prayers to dead men for dead men), and what appears to be a congregational polity ("Elect, therefore, for yourselves Bishops and Deacons worthy of the Lord," Didache, Ch. 15).

So take Ms. Bonds up on her challenge: Study the Didache or other early accounts of Christian worship and see which communion best transmits the simple traditions—the Lutheran, or the Roman with its centuries of devotional accretions and heretical doctrines, such as that of indulgences.

I have taken to watching many of these Romanist programs on EWTN, which feature many energetic converts. As I have always been a shining example of irenic ecumenical dialogue, I will continue to reach out in a civilized and discrete manner to all Romanists in order to disabuse them of their errors, while also showing Protestants and Evangelicals that not all that is said of Rome is true. For example, the idea that the pope grows horns after making his blood pact with the devil has been proved to be a falsehood. The blood pact with Satan, taken upon accession to the papal throne, does not necessarily issue in physical deformity. So let us put that lie to bed once and for all.

07 May 2007

 

Spidey 3 Breaks All-Time Record: World Yawns

At this rate, if the webhead stays in release just two months, or 61 days, he will gross a little over $3 billion—not counting Spidey merchandising crappola!

And I will see none of it, despite getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and suffering the chaos wrought by packs of mewling, puking, whining cretins hanging from the rafters and spitting out peanut M&Ms across the freshly installed stadium seating at the Atlas Park Regal Theaters for the 9:15 a.m. showing!

Ach!

 

Whoomp! There It Is!

That sound you heard was the Anglican Communion going cr-r-r-r-a-a-a-c-k!

A sad, sad business. Many believers of goodwill are suffering much heartache as the church they love sinks into the huggah-muggah of competing theologies, political powerplays, and a genuine disregard for their own confessional authority (such as it is--given the unsettled history of the Elizabethan Settlement, were the Thirty-nine Articles ever regarded as more than just the Thirty-nine Suggestions?)

While that spiritual pigmy and mass murderer Henry VIII was no friend of mine (or vicey-versey), this is no time to boast: Let he who is without silliness . . .

Update: Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria writes "Dear Rowan" letter...

06 May 2007

 

Marty Likes It, He Really Really Likes It

Perhaps it is about time for me to introduce such goodies on the LATM blogsite.

How about a T-shirt with a red slash through the word "JACKANAPES"? Or a sweatshirt that reads "SILENCE, IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR!" Or "KICK A SEMIPELAGIAN TODAY—YOU'LL FEEL BETTER"? Or "MARTIN LUTHER: RIGHT SINCE 1517"?

Ach, it sounds like more work than it's worth, and I'll probably only get stiffed on the royalties—AGAIN!

05 May 2007

 

Spidey 3: He Gets By with a Little Help from His Friends

"If you want forgiveness, get religion," Peter Parker tells a rival (and unscrupulous) photograph at the Daily Bugle.

But it is Spider-Man who gets religion—and learns that Darth Vader is his father (or something very similar).

Yes, the Spider-Man has a dark side—and don't all superheroes, especially when you have run out of story lines. He also has a wider selection of villains this time around: Gremlin Jr. (James Franco); his rival for the staff position on the Bugle turned evil nemesis (Topher Grace); and, the real star of the gee-whiz CGI show, The Sandman, created when escaped convict Flint Marko tumbles into some nuclear waste and develops the single worst case of eczema in recorded dermatological history.

So: is the negative criticism warranted? This script is a mess, and could afford to lose at least 45 minutes, which is how long it takes before you actually discover there is a story and not just more hemming and hawing over will he or won't he finally pop the question to Mary Jane Whatserface, played by a devotee of maryjane, the loverly Kirsten Dunst.

And when a film becomes excessively self-referential, basking in its own commercial success, you know it is time to pull the plug on this franchise.

But once Spidey 3 gets down to the nitty-gritty, by which I mean more than the sand in Spider-Man's shorts after tussling with Marko, you will enjoy a truly morally inspiring piece of entertainment, in which Evil is depicted as not only a condition of the heart—which can be fostered by rationalizations or foiled by the power of forgiveness—but as something outside oneself that can literally possess you, and which only the tintinnabulation of church bells seems able to eradicate.

"You always have a choice," Spidey tells one antagonist. And while the pelagianism is laid on hot and heavy, given the preponderance of vile messages sent out to kids these days, a reminder that you can always choose to do the right thing, and that there is a very real difference between justice and vengeance, is worth a pass on the theology exam and a few extra theses for a social conscience.

Again, the romantic dribble becomes ponderous, but the last 45 minutes of stupendous special effects and the lessons taught about moral discipline and the value of friendship are well worth the initial tedium.

And so I give Spider-Man 80 Theses.

"But Herr Doktor, your movie-ratings scheme does not allow for 80 theses—only 75 or 85—"

Silence, imaginary interlocutor! Was Luther made for the ratings or the ratings made for Luther? This fell between goodish and good, so shut your pie hole and have another Sno-Cap. Or have another Sno-Cap and then shut your pie hole. Whatever you do, do it quietly!

 

The Hoax: Who Played Whom?

And so a writer of mediocre gifts named Clifford Irving decides he will scam McGraw-Hill and Life magazine out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by convincing them that the reclusive and paranoid billionaire Howard Hughes had contacted him and wishes to write his autobiography, with Irving as exclusive amenuensis.

With money-grubbing fact-checking buddy Dick Susskind in tow, Irving steals files from the Pentagon, forges documents, and just generally lies lies lies to everyone in pursuit of fame, fortune, and the perfect convertible.

This is the era of Watergate, and so mendacity is in the air—but little did I know that the fake autobiography of Howard Hughes was, in its own way, what in fact triggered the scandal!

Fun, fascinating, and repellant, The Hoax is a story of American ingenuity gone haywire.

Richard Gere gives probably the best performance of his life as a man for whom truth is something you barter for power. Alfred Molina is his usual buggy self as the manipulative and manipulated friend with just a speckle of conscience. And Marcia Gay Harden, best remembered (at least by me) as the long-suffering spouse of dribble king Jackson Pollock, is quite pathetic as Irving's, well, long-suffering spouse.

In the end, Irving the con artist, who feeds off a man's life and reputation, gets a wholesale lesson in how some people attain their level of success and power. And it ain't because they're too scared to come out and play.

I give The Hoax a hefty 90 Theses.

And now: Off to see Spidey-3!

03 May 2007

 

Where, Pray Tell, Is the Guy Who Played Urkel?

If Tyra Banks had not made the list, I would have shot myself. (Well, maybe not shot myself, but I would have punched myself really, really hard.)

I am also pleased to see that Lisa Randall, string theorist from Harvard University, has made the final cut. I too have a theory about string: It is long and thin and easy to wind into balls. There—and without an advanced degree in any of the hard sciences! (Theology is a medium science, unlike psychology, which is a soft science, or economics, which is a mushy, drippy science.)

 

Meditate on David Lynch

A very revealing Beliefnet interview.

Q: How much money are you looking to raise [for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace]?
A: I say $7 billion would get a real good start.

A good start, yes...

But my favorite line: "Well, I was raised Presbyterian..."

That explains so much, and yet so little. Who did kill Laura Palmer? And why does the midget laugh? And why is Naomi Watts making that funny face in Mulholland Drive?

 

The Queen Is Coming! The Queen Is Coming!

I LOVE Helen Mirren!

And I have nothing to wear! Ach!

I wonder if she would sign my copy of Diana: Her True Story? Maybe not . . .

And where exactly is Virginia? I mean in relation to me. Where I am right now. I'm facing left.

 

That Darn Cat: The Director's Cut

O joy of joys! O delight of delights! After all these years, there is finally in release a director's cut of . . . Payback—the Mel Gibson masterwork that was mercilessly butchered by The Man!

"Surely you must be kidding, Herr Doktor!"

OF COURSE, I'M KIDDING! (and don't call me Shirley)

WHO GIVES A RAT'S TUTTI-FRUTTI ABOUT WHAT WAS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR FROM PAYBACK? Unless it was a script and a director—who exactly is the audience for this thing? (Although, it made a not unrespectable $81 million in its initial domestic release.)

Ach—maybe I'm just getting old. (ALL RIGHT, VERY OLD!)

What is next: Casper: The Director's Cut, wherein we are given an alternate ending where Casper turns out to be one of Satan's minions, and his flesh and blood companions are taken kicking and screaming to the fires of Gehenna (and Christina Ricci is finally given her just deserts for years and years of listless performances in stench-ridden independent drivel)?

How about the very special edition of The OH in Ohio, in which the audience does not slit its collective wrists just to be granted release from its agony?

Oh, con artist thy name is marketing director!

02 May 2007

 

Empire Says Spidey 3 Good, Not Great

As for the reaction from the former colonies (New York in particular) . . . even good would be pushing it.

We will see. Ohh, we will see . . .

 

What A.I. Doesn't Want You to Know

And by A.I., I don't mean that über-dopey movie by the otherwise gifted Steven Spielberg.

 

The National Magazine Awards Are Ugly

I mean the award thingees themselves. They look like malformed elephants, or blind space creatures.

But it is nevertheless considered a great honor to win one.

New York cleaned up. And Beliefnet.com, for which my miserable execrable assistant used to work, beat out ESPN.com and Slate.com for General Excellence Online. Congratulations to Steve Waldman, Elizabeth Sams, and the rest of the Bnet crew. It's been a long, hard haul.

I am stunned to learn that anyone reads Rolling Stone anymore, never mind celebrates it. That it is considered superior to The New Yorker, admittedly a shadow of its former classy self, is definitely debatable.

But to give so many awards to magazines with "New York" in the title may have been pushing the generosity of the participants beyond reasonable limits.

01 May 2007

 

Tom Poston: R.I.P.

Whenever he made his appearance on a sitcom, I knew it was going to be one notch funnier.

Understated, goofy, and—yes—clueless, Mr. Poston was from an old school of comedy, which, when the last of its graduates—Bob Newhart, say—passes from the scene, will be torn down to make room for Borat.

That is not progress.

 

The Onion Snarks the Sequel-less

The Onion's A/V Club has a very amusing list of movies clearly intended to be the first installment of an ongoing franchise of endless sequels—but which tanked, either at the box office, in the critics' pages, or in the hearts of the stars themselves. (Dick Tracy, if I remember, made a bit of cash—but can you imagine Warren Beatty being relied upon to churn out film after film in anything like a timely manner?)

Of all of these selections, Buckaroo Banzai was the most creative, and Master and Commander the best film of the lot, period.

Now we should see a list of films that spawned a franchise but that shouldn't have. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

 

Brando: The Documentary

I will be interested in hearing what Pacino and Duvall have to say about the man, both having worked with him.

It is a shame he squandered his considerable talent late in life, in mediocre fare and court appearances. From what I have read, Mr. Brando simply didn't take acting very seriously, and only money or political engagement could pry him away from island life.

Can you imagine a 70-year-old Brando treading the "boards" one last time? What would an orchestra seat have gone for—$1,000? $10,000? What play would have pulled him back to the stage? Perhaps he would have played Edna Turnblad in the musical Hairspray . . .

30 April 2007

 

Italian Scientist's Sticky Idea

So one day a Spider-Man may be more than a comic-book and Big Screen superhero. What is next? Will someone invent a formula for invisibility, super-bendiness, auto-combustion, and rock-hard superskin, thus making the Fantastic Four a reality as well?

I prefer simple super-pleasures. For example, Batman: All you need is a subterannean hangout, a cool car, some black tights, and a wicked neurosis and you're set to go. And the Green Hornet? A fedora and a Chinese sidekick. How about Mystery Men? Any high school geek with a pocket protector is in business.

Then there is Noho Man, my personal favorite. He just sits on a bench North of Houston Street and whines about high rents. No latex boots or Spandex suit required.

29 April 2007

 

Shutting Out the Sun

A new book by American journalist Michael Zielenziger—Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation—is a portrait of modern Japan that is quite enlightening, not to mention depressing.

The culture is collapsing from within, as more and more Japanese withdraw from society, rarely if ever leaving home—or even their bedrooms. Japanese are withdrawing from marriage, from childrearing, and from personal responsibility.

A nation that emphasizes what the group wants, what the group thinks, what the group demands is producing citizens incapable of functioning except on automatic. Without a spiritual tradition that impresses upon them the absolutely unique value and inviolability of the individual, Japanese experience a pressure to conform that is paralyzing, and the shame that follows perceived failure is overwhelming.

Depression is widespread—yet no one talks about it, because there remains a stigma; admit that you are suffering from depression and you are admitting that you are weak and unable to keep up. And so, without a medical or spiritual outlet, with no one to talk to and little experience expressing one's feeling, suicide is epidemic, especially among men, where the rate is 36.5 per 100,000, or roughly twice the American rate.

(Interesting to note: It was a Lutheran pastor in Japan, Yukio Saito, who developed the nation's first suicide hotline back in 1971. Needless—and sad—to say, he is still going strong.)

Zielenziger goes on to compare Japanese culture, economic development, and political structure with neighbor South Korea, and discovers that the two countries are worlds apart. South Korea embraced not only Western-style technological development and modernization, but many Koreans also followed Westerners in their Christian faith, producing a very different set of values, expectations—and personalities!

I highly recommend Shutting Out the Sun. It is a necessary reminder of what a life without Christ can become—not the liberating experience of mutual cooperation and endless progress, but a deep, dark, and empty well of endless expectations and futile pursuits. In short, a descent into hell.

 

Hitchens No Heart Islam—or Utah

or Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Christopher Hitchens is one more pop-atheist blowhard, to be sure, and his "critique" of religious faith will no doubt prove as devastating to religion in America as Robert Ingersoll's proved to be. (You remember him, surely. No? Oh well . . .)

But you must admit, the man is a breezy, entertaining writer. And it never hurts to know what your enemies really think of you, just so you're prepared with a witty riposte when slammed at a cocktail party.

And never let it be said that we Lutherans are humorless! Why, we have no qualms about laughing at others who are laughing at us!

This is Part II, by the way, of a three-part screed. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Hitchens takes on Mermanism in Part III. While I have found mermans to be quite sweet, and decidedly good citizens, their religion is quite daft (with all due respect, given your American right to believe as you please). Imagine: Believing that God is half man, half fish! What kind of nonsense is that!

Give Hitchens credit for taking on the Mohammedans, too, no punches pulled—including in the very provocative title of the book. Too often such atheists mask their fear and loathing of other religions by beating up on Christians exclusively.

"But Herr Luther, why give this man the time of day? Why give him the satisfaction of reading his work or promoting his name? Don't you risk exposing weak faith to the corrosive—"

SILENCE, IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR! Weak faith will be undermined by a bad head cold and a tax audit. Strong faith has nothing to fear from the Hitchenseseses of the world. And what is strong faith but one that looks to the Cross, where all human resources were abandoned, exhausted, and Our Lord could only cry out to the Father—as must we. What is to fear from some jackanapes' magical thinking (where everything is explained, and explained away—including the human mind—by simply stating that it took a very long time to develop) in the face of Easter Sunday!

Also consider this from Slate.com. Now religion is all in your head—actually, your brain. I see that Slate No Heart Faith of any kind, but they're big on MRIs. What happens when the MRI shows something inoperable? What illusion will the Slatesters turn to? The one who raised Jairus' daughter, perhaps?

28 April 2007

 

The Greatest Car Chase in Movie History

I am willing to venture the unprecedented opinion that those staged in the two Bourne pictures together constitute the greatest car chase of all time. Of course, you can't vote for both Bourne pictures, and so I am sorry for wasting your time.

Tonsure tip to Titus One Nine.

 

The Lives of Others: And You Thought Homeland Security Was Tough

The much-deserved winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, The Lives of Others is a most moving and riveting look at life in East Germany pre–Wall Fall.

The year is 1984 (when else?) and an apparatchik of the state secret police—the Stasi—thoroughly bugs the home of a celebrated playwright (Sebastian Koch), thought until now to be quite loyal to the German Democratic Republic and its socialist ideology. But Herr Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) believes his loyalty is weak, even feined, and becomes determined to get the goods on yet another untrustworthy "artist."

What Herr Wiesler does not anticipate is falling in love with Christa-Maria, the playwright's actress lover (Martina Gedeck). Wiesler realizes that if he accurately records all that his eavesdropping reveals, including a plan by the playwright finally to stop playing the company man and publish in the pages of the West German Der Spiegel an expose of the horrendous suicide rate among East Germans, the writer will be whisked away and Christa-Maria will fall into the hands of the repulsive Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme).

Mühe is a marvel to watch as his early Teutonic rigidity and sense of duty to Party and Nation melts under the influence of his fixation with the actress. Torn between his feelings and his job description (not to mention his own freedom), Herr Wiesler must make some hard decisions in a totalitarian regime that does not appreciate individuals making decisions for themselves at all.

This fine motion picture just reminds me what treasures my beloved Germany could have produced for the world had their once-vibrant industry not been waylaid by that Austrian slophead and, later, his vile rivals on the Left. I am just grateful those respective nightmares are over. And I most definitely recommend that you run out and see this potent reminder of what "progress" once looked like.

I give The Lives of Others 90 Theses. (I withhold five theses because, while director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has done a fine job of telling his story and guiding his cast, his visual style, while intending to capture the bleakness and banality of mass conformity, borders on the pedestrian and dull.)

Nota Bene: After you watch this, consider renting again Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation—a nice double-bill that would make!

27 April 2007

 

May Your Next President Be a Strict Baptist

At least he won't dance.

 

Willie Wonka, Call Your Office!

This is an outrage! What is next? Potato chips made with shoe leather? Gummi bears made with industrial adhesive? My berri tartelettes made with wood shavings and Kleenex?

Thanks to my good friend Cranach for bringing this to my attention! (I would be more than happy to repay him the money I borrowed, just as soon as I am paid all my back royalties on sales of my works, which, according to my calculations on my nifty Xerox XRX-230 office calculator, amounts to skatey-eight hundred million billion trillion kajillion guilders, which, at current exchange rates, translates into about six hundred and fifty bucks. Wait . . . no . . . that can't be right . . . Wait—I have a defective decimal point! Piece of junk calculator! Ach!)

 

Why Lists Should Be Left to the Professionals

So the Church Times, which describes itself as "the world's leading Anglican weekly newspaper," which is like boasting that you are the greatest hockey player in all of Ecuador, a dubious achievement at best, has published its "Top 50 Religious Films."

Most of these even a simpleton with a spike embedded in his frontal lobe could have come up with: The Apostle, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Chariots of Fire, The Ten Commandments, Wings of Desire.

But The Last Temptation of Christ? (All right, the PC crowd had to get their favorite in.) Priest? (I like to kick a papist when he's down as much as any other right-thinking Lutheran, but give me a propaganda break!) Spartacus? Why, because he wants to be free? So does a convicted axe murderer! Man for All Seasons? I know it's hip to like old Thomas, but does no one remember that the poster boy for conscientious objection was a notorious persecutor of Protestants? I guess following one's conscience is all well and good so long as the conscience is yours and no one else's.

Some of these choices I would put under a "spiritual" heading—such as Ikiru, an excellent film and an interesting choice.

The Name of the Rose leads me to believe that if the film had anything to do with "religion," and was in any way provocative, it received recognition. Some choices, such as Field of Dreams, are just nutty. Why not throw in Ghost and be done with it!

Where is The Matrix, for that matter? That film was certainly "religious" and "spiritual" in the broadest of definitions obviously employed here. Or Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome? Isn't Max a messiah figure?

And good golly miss molly: WHERE O WHERE IS SLING BLADE? They included Scrooged, a dopey, witless mess, but omitted one of the finest depictions of a man struggling with his own capacity for evil by means of the power of baptism by water and blood ever depicted on screen?

And would you have scored The Mission as the No. 1 of all time? The two most memorable aspects of that film were (a) Ennio Morricone's magnificent score, and (b) Robert DeNiro's breakdown/conversion scene. But No. 1?

Tonsure tip to both Adrian Warnock and Think Christian.

 

One More Disturbing Trend in the LCMS

The reading of books OTHER than the Bible in Bible studies before and after services on Sunday.

I see Charles Stanley, Rick Warren, novels, everything but Scripture being pored over in sessions putatively designed to confer a deeper understanding of the Word.

Tired of the Gospels, are we? Bored with Paul? Put off by Peter? Then I suggest you close your doors altogether and go do something useful with your life. I hear Target is hiring . . .

If your pastor does not teach Bible in Bible study—boycott it until he does. (The Bible study, not the church.)

"But Herr Doktor, surely you are being precipitate. Cannot a Christianity-inspired book be a means to illustrating Bible themes? Cannot such books be a gateway to Scripture study, a means to an end? Cannot such—"

SILENCE, IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR! I am not interested in Scripture themes! This typically is a euphemism for sentimental claptrap! I am not interested in reading Scripture's clear Word of truth through the lense of some celebrity—and usually a non-Lutheran at that! This is one more "method" of engaging a supposedly bored audience. All this means is that the pastor has failed to rely on the Holy Spirit when he reads the Word, rendering it null and void. In other words, the problem is with the pastor—not the Book! Teach it by the power of God's own Spirit and you will have not trouble engaging your congregants (not, ahem, your audience!).

And, if you—YES YOU—the one in the pew—think you know all there is to know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ already, then I suggest you get up and teach us. If you are unwilling to do that—then shut your piehole and listen!

26 April 2007

 

Yes, But Is There a Starbucks?

I have no difficulty in believing there is life on other planets. How else do you explain the jackanapes who run television networks—or Belgium? Obviously aliens from outside our solar system.

I also believe that the "life" discovered will be composed of odiferous and repellant beings with two heads incapable of resolving the simplest of disputes because of constant disagreement. Which will make them prime candidates for elected office.

Update: Lest I forget, here is a link to the greatest aliens-on-earth motion picture ever conceived by man or borg. E.T.—get lost! (cloying, hydrocephalic little zit face...)

 

Can I Vote for Myself?

Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World magazine, has posted this on the World blog and asks What book has most influenced you?

I will limit my selections only to those I have encountered during my most recent sojourn among the terrestrial; otherwise I could offer only (ONLY!) the Holy Scriptures, St. Augustine, my small catechism, my large catechism, my commentaries on Galatians and Romans, my beautiful exposition of the Lord's Prayer, and my Bondage of the Will.

But enough about me.

Since I have returned to the land of the so-called living, I have been deeply influenced—for better and for worse—by the following (nota bene: a couple of these titles are pre-1982, but I had a lot more catching up to do than most):

1. My Cat Spit McGee. Oh the predicaments that feline gets himself into!
2. Cod. Who knew? A stupid fish—but so influential!
3. Salt. After all, what's cod without salt?
4 & 5. How to Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life and The Jenny Craig Story. What inspirations! Since reading these and other diet books, I have managed to gain only 88 kilos! (But it's mostly muscle. Honest.)
6. The Idiot. I must confess, when I saw the title I thought someone had written a biography of my miserable, execrable assistant. While I had no desire to review his achingly dull existence, I thought I might glean from the book's pages where exactly the idiot hid my supply of berri tartelettes.
7. So, You Think You're Psychic? No. And neither are you, or you would have known that no one would buy YOUR STUPID BOOK. (See above.)
8. Citizens or Papists? Papists, I say—papists!
9. Millions Now Living Will Never Die. Written in 1920. And don't threaten me.
10. Those Truculent Poopies. One of many poopy books I have enjoyed, including Poopy Phonics and Fluffy Humpy Poopy Puppy.

What say you?

 

The NY Times on Film: What a Zoo

As if I needed to introduce into evidence one more example of the decline of serious film criticism, this from the august New York Times should suffice to bring a close to any more discussion about whether the so-called intelligentsia of the East Coast has finally, irreparable lost its marbles: A review of something called Zoo.

A documentary about a man who knows horses in the biblical sense is treated to a serious, almost reverential review by one of the Times' film critics. Is there no mental cavity to which these critics will not descend in order to prove they are not "prudes" or "philistines"—even to the point of treating with kid gloves, as if it were just another reel of arthouse fare, this piece of unmitigated crap?

"But Herr Luther—it's fair to say you have not seen the film. Perhaps this, er, eccentric cinematic offering has something important to say about certain erratic personalities, about our culture societal taboos, about—"

SILENCE, IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR! KA-KA IS KA-KA, no matter the imported fragrance you use to mask it! And leave it to the NY Times to offer it up as pudding!

This is the nadir not only of societal norms but of critical thinking. To give its imprimatur, however haltingly, to this abuse of our beloved medium—not to mention the poor horse!—is one more reason to forever abandon the Times' movie section in favor of far more intelligent and less politically correct writing on film. Owen Gleiberman and Kris Nashawaty are two Luther favorites. While I may not always agree with their individual assessments of individual films, they are not afraid to call teufelsdreck by its rightful name—and in English!

25 April 2007

 

Why I Left My Church

Because they were trying to kill me.

But back to contemporary matters . . .

I do not believe this survey tells the whole story. There are various hidden motives for so-called church-hopping today, many of which I have gleaned from private correspondence and addelpates assaulting me on the street with their petty personal problems.

Here is a short list:

1. No gummi bears at coffee hour.
2. The speaker system is not Bose.
3. The minister insisted on talking about "religion" all the time.
4. I am thrust among hordes of barbarians. That is why we are in pews—"pee-yew!"
5. We were not allowed to do the "wave" during recitation of the Creed.
6. Ritual beatings of the wretched take place only on alternate Sundays.
7. My prayer request for a movie version of MacGyver never made it into the bulletin.
8. As lector, I was told to stop ending every other Old Testament verse with "now," a la The Beach Boys.
9. The idiot behind me used to make loud rustling noises with his newspaper during the Collect.
10. No T-Mobile Hot Spot wireless connection.

 

Too Bad Ahmadinejad Is Still Visible

Here in New York, we desperately need similar measures—strict laws demanding that women wear something! Most of the time, their hair is the only thing covered! Ach!

And those who do bother to dress wear jeans cut so low, you would think they had just come from a visit to their gastroenterologist!

I would also like to see citywide crackdowns on men whose jeans droop to their knees. I realize this is an attempt to mimic prison "culture" (a word I am officially banning from this blog for the next week), but unless you are also willing to make license plates and shower in plain sight of armed guards, I suggest you join the rest of us, who wear our pantaloons at the waist!

Will everyone please just pull up your pants! Even a properly toilet-trained four-year-old knows how to do this!

 

Speaking of House . . .

Poor Foreman. If ever there was someone who needed absolution. But did he commit sin? Or was he merely in error? Most obviously the latter—unless he has caught Dr. House's ego virus, which prevented him from seeking simple solutions to the poor woman's problems.

But in any case, his conscience pained him. He needed someone to forgive him. It was all too obvious that much had been weighing on his mind and heart for some time, which became overwhelming in the face of his own failure to save a life.

Chase recommends praying to God and making believe someone is there to hear you. House recommends a priest or alms to the poor, or whatever ritual might help Foreman cope. Both "solutions" are tossed at Foreman from a bag of cynical cliches.

And yet, House is right despite himself: Foreman does need a priest. Either an ordained minister of the gospel who has been given the authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ, or, at the very least, a member of the priesthood of all believers, namely, Foreman's own father (played by the underutilized Charles S. Dutton).

Foreman needs a father to forgive him—a father who knows him by name.

As do we all.

 

He's the Worst! No, He's the Worst!

I do not watch this insipid program, American Idol (except for the last 30 seconds on Tuesday nights, just before House comes on). I couldn't give one soiled gulden about who's cover of "Candy Man" or "You'll Never Walk Alone" stinks less.

But I am fascinated by this trend of deliberately voting for the worst. Is this a sign of cultural health, or merely adolescent hijinks?

Is it possible that the audience is finally sick of these talent shows, in which young Americans grovel before overpaid jackanapes in order to accrue their allotted 15 minutes of fame? So much so that they're willing to undermine the "authority" of the judges and only vote for contenders whose talents are just south of rotten?

Or is this just another example of postmodern irony, in which the best is the worst and we hold up for idol worship individuals of dubious if not downright nugatory achievement?

I will bet you a one-way ticket to Finland that the ultimate outcome of this "Vote for the Worst" campaign will be a new show: You Suck Die Soon, in which young people from all walks of life are brought onstage before millions of viewers purely for the purpose of being humiliated and having their dreams crushed. Not only will it provide a good laugh but it will also make the vast majority of couch potatoes feel superior to somebody!

And after all, if we're better than no one, then we must be the very worst of all, no?

24 April 2007

 

Coens x 3

You take your eyes in your hands (so to speak) with a Coen Bros. picture. Their audacious homages and bombastic throwbacks can leave you falling in love with cinema again or shoving your fist up the skirt of a Fandango hand puppet.

Their most overrated: Fargo. I find the plaudits lavished on this thing incomprehensible. Had you fed all the characters into a wood chipper, I would not have batted an eyelash; quite the contrary—anything to make them shut up.

Most disappointing: The Big Lebowski, which I was enjoying up until the John Turturro character was introduced, which has forever soured me on that film. Notice how he pronounces his name and the language that spews forth—a sick little bit of business.

Second most disappointing: The Ladykillers. What a waste of celluloid, not to mention the considerable gifts of Mr. Hanks. I found the whole motley crew to be repellant, and the nihilism that is often the closest thing to a philosophy the Coens have working for them was a welcome relief from having to take any part of this debacle seriously. (Frankly, even the original, despite the presence of the one and only Alec Guinness, was less than a masterwork. The pacing was just south of molasses.)

Most underrated: The Hudsucker Proxy. Just fun.

Critical acclaim just about right: Barton Fink. Yes, as I saw all too closely during the peasant uprisings, the common man, often lionized, romanticized, and celebrated, is all too often a monster. It's called original sin.

So let's see what these three new films have to offer. I await them eagerly, even though I know at least two will leave me wanting to strangle the ticket taker with a roll of licorice whips. Ah, but that third one . . .

 

Good Bishop Tom: Right or Wrong?

Read Bishop Tom Wright's assessment of a recent book on the penal substitution theory of the Atonement.

Two notes:

1. While he does not discount a substitutionary aspect to the Atonement, he denies that it can be limited to this idea.

2. Scootch down to the end of the article and you will see that, according to his lights, the Atonement has "political" implications. While he alludes to my affirmation of a Christus Victor interpretation of the Atonement (as if I ever denied that Christ died "for me," and so saved me from the penalty of my sin, which is eternal death, i.e., damnation, by a great exchange of attributes), he also implicitly rejects my Two Kingdoms doctrine.

Why do I think the good bishop's Christian political schema—the "kingdom of God on earth as in heaven life"—will bear a striking resemblance to the left-wing of the Democratic party's platform? Which itself is radically secular. Which is merely a subsitution of the religious left for the religious right. Which is roundly criticized for politicizing the gospel. Which is, I believe, what we in the medical establishment call a tumerous mass of contradictions.

I am afraid that Bishop Tom too often engages a controversy with a torrent of verbiage, seemingly carving out a middle ground between what he perceives to be inadequate and crass extremes, yet without ever defining what his position is. His theory of justification being a case in point. I would love to say that I either love or hate it, but that would entail my having understood it, which would require his explaining it in such a manner that he explicitly comes out and says what the hell it is.

Thanks to Pyromaniacs for pointing me to Adrian Warnock's Blog as well as to the Adversaria site, which finally hooked me up with Wright's article in Fulcrum.

Post Scriptum: How many of you believe that such controversies over Reformation theology has more to do with a distancing oneself from the so-called religious right than it does with serious theological re-formation? (Not that the latter does not play some role, but I cannot help but believe these re-formations, the Emerging Church phenomenon being primary among them, is a reaction to what has become a bogeyman in church talk.)

23 April 2007

 

Boris Is Borscht

Who will ever forget that day in 1991 when Yeltsin stood atop that tank as a symbolic gesture of loyalty to Mikhail Gorbachev—former McDonald's spokesperson—and the onrush of reforms that transformed the U.S.S.R. into what it is today—tsarist Russia without a tsar (or at least not a hereditary one).

But once the reins of power had slipped into his hands, Boris proved he was Badenough—and then some. So what, the man drank heavily, fell into deep depressions, and proved unable to control the various factions that were unleashed with the collapse of the old regime.

A man after my own heart . . .

Boris Yeltsin—R.I.P.

 

I Think, Therefore I Rate (Updated! New and Improved!)

Rebellious Pastor's Wife, otherwise known as . . . Rebellious Pastor's Wife, has awarded me a Thinking Blogger Award.

This is an inestimable honor. We at Luther at the Movies continue to work day and night to provide you with the very best of whatever it is we do here. (And if you can figure that out, please let me know at your earliest convenience . . .)

We thank you—but more important I thank you.

And now . . . mousse cake!

UPDATE: I have been awarded yet a SECOND "Thinking Blogger Award"! This time by Mr. Ariel Vanderhorst of Bitter Sweet Life. He has declared my blog to be "ridiculously brilliant"! Obviously, Mr. Vanderhorst is a man of exquisite taste and refinement.

DOUBLE TRIPLE UPDATE: Herr Cranach has also included Luther at the Movies on his list, for which we are doubly, triply grateful.

Now, let me venture out and contribute a list of my own, which no doubt will be considered authoritative:

In alphabetical order:
Ask the Pastor
Cranach
Cyberbrethren
Peter Leithart (though I do not always agree with this Calvinus devotee, I must admit he makes me think!)
Three Hierarchies

22 April 2007

 

Tim Conway: Just South of Genius

Those of you old enough to remember The Carol Burnett Show—even in rerun—will no doubt also remember pains deep, deep in your bowels from laughter so intense it threatened to destabilize your digestion for weeks to come.

That laughter was more often than not the result of watching this man.

Oh for the days when comedy did not entail blasphemy and single entendres whose meaning could be gleaned by a coma patient.

 

Lonely Hearts: Noir in Sepia Tones

So I'm sure you're just dying to see Lonely Hearts, starring John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Selma Hayek, Jared Leto, and Laura Dern.

What? You've not heard of this film? No matter. This sordid and often repellant 1940s detective picture, based on the true story of Lonely Hearts killers Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck, is one script draft short of an L.A. Confidential. (David Mamet or William Goldman, call your respective offices.)

Two Long Island homicide detectives—Travolta and Gandolfini—get caught up in what is apparently a job for the "bunco" squad. A sad-sack con artist—Leto—seduces lonely single women into believing he's the man of their dreams, only to empty their bank accounts and move on. Problem is, once Hayek latches onto Leto, playing along as his spinster "sister," with all the possessiveness of a neurotic carbuncle, they begin empting bullets into their pathetic, lonely dupes.

What could have been an interesting psychological thriller is just a sordid mess, as the characters are never fleshed out and the social milieu given justice to make this into even Chinatown's sickly granddaughter.

While there are a couple of tense, fun turns between Travolta and Gandolfini, they never evolve into anything deep or significant. I would like to see these two paired again in something richer.

If anyone steals the film, though, it's Hayek—a lovesucking sociopath who does her earnest best to render a distaff version of Denzel Washington's psycho cop from Training Day. She manages to transcend the stereotypical Latin spitfire with an affecting emotional duplicity that's played strictly through the eyes. She almost makes the film worth the ten bucks.

Almost. A volatile dame, hardboiled bombast, and buckets o' blood do not a first-rate crime thriller make. And the last-minute short-circuited death-penalty introspection rang as false as Scott Caan's profane swagger.

I give this film 65 Theses.

How many of you believe that Travolta has become an infinitely more interesting actor since he's packed on forty or fifty? Yes—fat, the secret weapon in reviving a burned-out disco-era career. From Look Who's Talking to Pulp Fiction to Michael, Phenomenon, A Civil Action, and Primary Colors, an excess of avoirdupois has aided and abetted Mr. Travolta's screen presence in more ways than one. And I can't wait to see him as Divine's successor in the upcoming Big Screen version of the Broadway version of the original film version of John Waters' Hairspray, recognizing, of course, that cross-dressing is definitely a transgressive afront to good taste, decency, and the American way. But just keep telling yourself that the Brits built a mighty empire on such shenanigans. (Although there were exceptions to this rule: Britain's collapse in the Third Afghan War, of 1919, is often attributed to its troops dressing as Yum-Yum, Bo-Peep, and Pitti Sing from The Mikado, a startling raiment tactic that only emboldened the Afghan khan, who took to dressing as Hroswitha of Gandershiem, for reasons known only to the khan and his mother, Pearl.)

 

No Doubt This Will Be Good

Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are set to star in John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning play Doubt in its Big Screen incarnation.

As I wrote sometime ago, this was a well-crafted and most compelling work of drama and psychological intrigue, which Shanley will adapt himself.

I smell Oscars. (Or is that my lunch? Ach!)

21 April 2007

 

Knievel No Longer Evel

While Robert Schuller's ministry is not one I am likely to endorse, anyone who witnessed Mr. Knievel's testimony—a man once the epitome of physical courage now barely able to breathe and walk on his own—could not help but be moved.

The 68-year-old Mr. Knievel admitted to a vague belief in a "god" while running from His Son—but you cannot outrun the Light.

I dare say the former daredevil's public baptism and witness to his newfound faith in and love for Christ was by far the bravest act of his life—a mighty leap of faith, in which he was upheld by the hidden God and propelled by power of the Spirit.

Let this be a lesson to all those who revel in their youth, strength, celebrity, and wealth—"You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"

 

Fracture: Hannibal Lecter Lite

A rich and devilishly ingenious aeronautical engineer (Anthony Hopkins) shoots his wife. He confesses to the crime—even signs a confession.

A gifted public prosecutor (Ryan Gosling), on his way to the high-life of a swanky private firm, takes this case as one last exercise in civic duty. A no-brainer—the guy confessed. They have the gun. He can lock this up with one brain tied behind his back.

The thing is, he can't convict. The confession was made to a detective who just happened to be the now-comatose shooting victim's lover. The shooter says he confessed under duress. And the gun that was found on the premises? Never been fired.

Fracture is a quiet, deliberate, and smart Columbo-like thriller, with Anthony Hopkins enjoying life as Hollywood's go-to supergenius criminal. Gosling brings just the right combination of youthful overconfidence and wounded pride to his role as a young master of the universe watching the effects of entropy destroy everything he's worked for.

The Hollywood tricks are feinted at, then rejected, keeping you guessing. There is no deus ex machina. Could this monster possibly get away with attempted murder? (Keep the attempted in the back of your mind.)

Catch this while you can. It probably won't break box office records and may not last long, which is a shame, but predictable. Not much in the way of violence, no nudity, just mind games. Not exactly the stuff of video games.

I give this film 85 Theses.

One quibble: What does a recently fired gun feel like?

20 April 2007

 

Babies Freed from Limbo. Film at 11.

It took them how many centuries to figure out what good Lutherans knew already?

Now if only B-16 would turn his attention to Purgatory and "free" the souls supposedly trapped there, we might get somewhere with this ecumenism business . . .

Imagine the absurdity of august, serious theological minds pondering the nonexistence of something invented by their forebears and which has lingered in the minds of the faithful for centuries and which, while merely a notion and not a doctrine (or so I am told), has probably caused more than one poor mother of a dead infant intense distress.

So this Limbo is a notion and not a doctrine, and the declaration that this notion, really an invention, probably does not relate to anything real is merely hypothetical, for they cannot say conclusively that it doesn't exist, for that would be taken as an infallible statement about what is theoretical but yet possibly real.

So Limbo remains in limbo.

Is there any wonder why some people throw their hands up at religion and prefer mere
"spirituality"?

I would love to know where, exactly, these guys meet to discuss major revisions to such theological notions. Is lunch provided, or do you bring your own? Are there periodic smoking breaks?

"Hey, Bob—whadda you think about this Limbo business?" "Absolutely. Good enough for St. Augie, it's good enough for me." "Whaddabout you, Joe?" "Heck no. Hate it. Too depressing. No Limbo." "OK, that's one for limbo and one against. Larry, your turn." "I say there is a Limbo, but there's a springboard to Heaven when enough prayers are said by the right people in the right posture at the right time." "Lovely. Lovely image. And it keeps people on their knees. Carl, whatsay you?" "No Limbo. Too indefinite. People like closure." "OK, that's two no Limbos. So that's that. No Limbo. Curly, get the press on the horn. Tell 'em—no Limbo. All those people who believed their unbaptized babies were deprived of Heaven and the immediate presence of God, well, they can buck up. Granted, they're all as dead as Maximus the Confessor, and so already figured this out on their own, but we need to close the files nonetheless. Now where exactly are those files? Maxie, get Gracie on the horn. Ask her where those Limbo files got to. Every time I turn my back, some skeezix makes off with the files. That's why the Inquisition got closed down, don't you know? Lost the damn files. What's the point in interrogating heretics if you can't keep files. Theology 101, people."

(As you can probably tell, I've had my cookies and am feeling much better now . . .)

 

Christian Publishers Killed in Turkey

American media . . . asleep. Indifferent. Stupified. Or just plain stupid? (Get Religion wants to know.)

Is it that CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC do not want to offend Mohammedan sensibilities? Or that they do not want to cast Christians in the role of martyrs? Or that they do not want to flame the so-called culture wars?

Or that so long as it is Christians being murdered for being Christians, there's no story worth telling in their view?

 

This Is Anti-Catholic Bigotry!

Obviously Mr. Tony Auth, whose cartoon this is, is joining in the chorus of Catholic bashers, simply because five good men decided, through some strange biochemical reaction in their craniums, that sucking out the contents of an infant's cranium was a bad thing.

One wonders if the ruling's detractors have not had the contents of their craniums similarly sucked out. To all those so exercised over this decision, fear not: You can still kill your children; you simply must be more circumspect as regards the means. Just as there is such a thing as cruel and unusual punishment meted out to a convicted murderer—you may still execute him, but you can't hack him to death with meat cleavers (or force him to watch Keith Olbermann for, say, 40 hours at a time).

Obviously, the symmetry in this comparison is all wrong, as the infant making its way through the birth canal is an innocent, whereas the convicted murderer is, by definition, not. But you get my drift—you can still kill, just do it in a humane way! (Try getting through this if you suspect the horrors of partial-birth abortion are exaggerated.) There's still dilation and evacuation, salt poisoning, chemical abortion—loads of gruesome methods! So cheer the hell up!

And let's stop ridiculing the poor Roman Catholics for merely being the conscience of the nation! Haven't Catholics had to endure enough from bigots calling them all sorts of hideous names down through the centuries!? Sure, they tried to kill me, but that's water under the bridge. A mere bag of shells, as Mr. Kramden liked to say. Can't we all just get along?

I . . . I must lie down . . . is it just me or is the room spinning . . . cookies . . . I must have cookies . . .

19 April 2007

 

Blogger's Choice Awards

It would be funny if the atheist won . . .

Why do I see no Lutheran blogs here? I see only Romanist blogs! Who is running this thing—Cardinal Cajetan?

 

Meet Lutheran Singles!

And so I was bored from watching the moving picture box and started surfing the Web thingee. On Beliefnet.com I encountered a link to something called "Church Lutheran," which took me to a taoism site, which once again offered a link called "Church Lutheran," which promised to hook me up with Lutheran Singles online, but which sent me to something called Christian Singles.

As Rick Moranis asked in the immortal Spaceballs: Everybody got that? (He also said, "My brains are going into my feet," but that is neither here nor there.)

What would a strictly Lutheran Singles Online Match.com-type website look like? What would Lutherans be looking for in each other? What would they consider to be the key attributes of the "perfect" Lutheran? Here are some questions I think should be asked a potential Lutheran date (the correct answers follow in reverse order):

1. Say you are waiting in line to pay for your lager and someone attempts to cut ahead of you, what is the appropriate thing to say?
2. Can you spell LC-MS?
3. How many children do you want, and how many of them shall be called Horst?
4. What month do we celebrate Oktoberfest?
5. If asked to receive Holy Communion in an Anabaptist church, what is the correct response?
6. Which of Herr Luther's commentaries is your favorite: Galatians, Romans, or Babette's Feast vs. Chocolat?
7. If your pastor enters the pulpit wearing a "Jesus Is My Homeboy" cap turned backward and carrying a karaoke machine, which exit is it most appropriate to leave through?
8. In the Smalcald Articles, "On the False Repentance of the Papists" appears in which part?
9. Is it ever permissible to pray the rosary?
10. Have you ever committed fornication with a non-Lutheran?

Correct Answers
10. I would never commit fornication! (But if I did—and I'm not saying I did—but if I did—and I'm not saying I did—does an ELCA-er count? You know how they are!)
9. Only if you are strong in the faith. And since I have yet to meet anyone in the 21st century who uncategorically qualified, the answer is no.
8. Three
7. The one you will drill through the pew you are sitting in.
6. Romans
5. "What am I doing in this Anabaptist church? I thought it was a bowling alley! Ach!"
4. Every month, dummkopf!
3. Four. Two.
2. If they forget the hyphen, they are probably WELS—or a Calvinus sycophant!
1. "Here I stand!"


 

Was a Movie to Blame for VTech Rampage?

I don't think this terribly disturbed young man needed a movie to spur him on to do the horrendous things he did; the film may have, at most, provided a "pose" for him in the commission of his crimes.

As for the debate over whether NBC should have shown the photographs and played the audiotapes mailed them by the shooter: No, they should have resisted this temptation. They have given him exactly what he wanted—infamy. And they gave themselves what they crave—ratings.

Now, will that—media immortality—spur others to commit equally heinous acts?

And God rest the souls of all the slain—and let us not forget the courage and self-sacrifice of a true hero, Liviu Librescu.

18 April 2007

 

Finally! Sanity!

Your U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is no such thing as a constitutionally protected right to crush an infant's skull.

At least five of those justices learned something in law school . . . or perhaps once they were out of law school . . . or before they ever entered law school . . .

Some commentary can be found on Mirror of Justice and World Views.

 

Apted to Direct Narnia 3

The man who brought us Amazing Grace is said to be onboard to bring another installment of The Chronicles of Narnia to the Big Screen—Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Michael Apted's career has included an eclectic selection of subject matter: from Coal Miner's Daughter to a Bond film to his much-celebrated "Up" series.

Keep in mind that Narnia 2: Prince Caspian is not set to debut until 2008! That will be directed by Neil Burger, who most recently brought us The Illusionist. So Narnia 3: Voyage of the Dawn Treader will probably be in your friendly neighborhood theater sometime around ACH! I'M SO OLD!

But before all of that, we will have to endure the miserable materialistic ravings of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Why O why would Nicole Kidman consent to lend her considerable talents to this dribble? And how could anyone make his way through his turgid, clumsy prose? I've read parking tickets that were more compelling! Ach!

(Yes, yes, I know: They've made a concession to the "marketplace" by supposely removing all references to God or to religion—big whoops. The message remains the same: You're on your own, give or take a daemon or two. And for those who think the Magisterium at the plot's heart is simply the Roman Catholic Church, and so, from a Lutheran or Evangelical or Protestant perspective, good for Pullman, keep in mind—he hates us all. The Church of Rome is simply the easiest, most visible target for his venom. The spin given to the Magisterium now is that it is a stand-in for all totalitarian governments—including communism. Right. I'm certain Stalin, Mao, and Kim Il Sung were foremost in Mr. Pullman's mind when he sat down to compose his opus vomitus maximus. In any event, I leave it to you whether you think the film fit for your children to view.)

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