For years I never watched movies more than once. Doing so just didn’t appeal. Then I changed. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it has something to do with so few films, despite the overwhelming number of choices available, that are actually good?
At any rate, now I like to watch certain movies again and again. I know the dialogue, can quote the best lines, and revel in the most compelling scenes. I’m not talking about critically acclaimed films, just enjoyable ones. In no particular order here’s a short list of movies, at least from my point of view, which are worth watching again and again:
--Groundhog Day (1993).
--Quigley Down Under (1990).
--The Breakfast Club (1985).
--Apollo 13 (1995).
--Shall We Dance? (2004).
--A Christmas Carol (1984).
--Cast Away (2000).
--Crossfire Trail (2001).
--Open Range (2003).
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.
Say “Ben Stein” and the word “comedian” is more likely to come to mind than “intellectual.” And Ben is certainly funny. But he’s more than that and proves it in his feature film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
This film asks the weighty question, “If we expel freedom in science, where will it end?” To find the answer, Stein travels to 12 countries on 4 continents, interviewing an impressive list of scholars in the sciences, theology, and philosophy. He asks them why “Big Science” makes no use of the hypothesis of God and why Intelligent Design discussions are suppressed. The answers he records are breathtaking in their political correctness, disdain for religion and religious people (“idiots,” one scholar said), cavalier attitude toward debate, and fear of free speech.
Expelled is not an advocacy flick for Intelligent Design. Rather, Stein probes why a scientific elite is systematically betraying one of America’s founding principles: the freedom to create, explore, fail, overcome, inquire, debate.
I.D. is simply the study of patterns in nature best explained by intelligence. It is not necessarily Christian or religious. Yet in its zeal for Darwin’s theory of evolution, the scientific community stifles serious consideration of Intelligent Design. I.D. is called propaganda, a racket, stupid, an excuse to introduce creationism into the classroom, and my favorite—boring. But what could be more intellectually engaging than to allow evidence, rather than the courts, to decide the merits of I.D., evolution, or any other theory of origins?
No matter. In the scientific community today, power trumps freedom in the name of truth.
The intellectual supremacy that rules science is on full display in Expelled. It’s a supremacy based upon a worldview, a philosophic paradigm rejecting the idea of God, or even the idea of “an Intelligence,” while embracing the “staggeringly improbable” idea that life began by chance. In this view, human beings, along with the rest of the universe, were not created by the Sovereign Creator of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, nor by some kind of Intellect. Life began when, by chance, crystals or particles or an explosion generated a molecular cell. Life (you and me) just happened. Thereafter, Darwin’s evolutionary processes took over and the cell became an organism became a fish became a monkey became a cave man became our Great, Great Grandpa.
Some anti-theists waffle a bit, suggesting the cell was initiated by a visitor from another galaxy—a brainy being of some kind—but they’re uncertain about what or who. Though there’s not a shred of evidence for this fantasy, anti-theists still smugly maintain the alien space traveler wasn’t God. And they conveniently avoid explaining the origin of that alien species.
Proponents of Darwinism-sans-deity claim their pseudo-religion grants us freedom from primitive superstition. But it’s a faux freedom that enslaves human beings to meaninglessness. No deity? Than no objective standard for determining right from wrong. No morality. No accountability. No responsibility. No life after death. No certainty, just chance, just chaos. Most devastating of all: No hope.
You see, suppression of freedom to debate all ideas in the scientific classroom is about more than Evolution vs. I.D. It’s about more than academic freedom. It’s about scientists teaching a philosophy that devalues human life (what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death”) and—literally—makes anything acceptable. Eugenics, euthanasia, ethnic cleansing, genocide. Why not? If life begins in the Great Lottery in the Sky why should we believe it ends any differently? And if life begins and ends meaninglessly, than what happens in the middle doesn’t matter either.
Scientists who suppress freedom inexorably create an Orwellian world where only two choices are left to us: Nihilism—pointless, violent fear and loathing, or Hedonism—pointless, immoral, pleasure-seeking. Is it any wonder that so much of cinema today is about one or both?
Ben Stein’s Expelled does freedom proud. And in doing so he serves up truth and hope.
Originally published: “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Why Ben Stein says “No Lie Lives Forever.”),” The Dove Foundation , (March 17, 2008); and Family Entertainment Central, (March 19, 2008); and The West Michigan Christian, (April 2008), p. 1.
© Dr. Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2008
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.
“The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance,” is a socially and historically significant film. It is a story of the Dutch resistance to Nazi occupation of The Netherlands during WWII, a story of Jewish resilience in the face of a systematic state policy of annihilation, and a story of religious faith.
Conceived, written, filmed, and produced by John Evans and Corey Niemchick of StoryTelling Pictures in Grand Rapids, Michigan, “The Reckoning” features several up-close interviews of survivors of this period of Dutch history. Diet Eman, now in her eighties and living in Grand Rapids, is one of those survivors whose personal experiences as a resister are featured in an especially compelling and heart-wrenching presentation.
Viewing this film, like visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., is not “fun,” but it is nevertheless something everyone in their teens and older should do. It is reality even if disturbing reality. It is a depiction of the depths to which humanity can sink in hatred, depravity, and tragedy—but it is ultimately a depiction of triumph, for in this major piece of history the bad guys do not win.
Evans and Niemchick are the creative talents that brought this documentary to the screen. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture will fill hearts and souls for a long time to come.
Cornerstone University partnered with StoryTelling Pictures, a for-profit enterprise, to make possible “The Reckoning,” a non-profit endeavor. The university counts it an honor to have played a role.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.
If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code, the book, don’t bother watching “The Da Vinci Code,” the movie. Depending upon what part of this over-long movie you’re viewing, you’ll be disappointed, befuddled, grossed out by the self-inflicted violence of one of the characters (gratuitously, because his spiritually wrenching self-flagellation is unnecessarily shown twice—in detail—I closed my eyes) , or most of all, just plain bored.
If you’re a Tom Hanks fan you’ll know he could have done so much better. If you like mysteries, you’ll not really recognize one here because most of the middle period of the movie is a seminar on what you should be thinking. If you’re a Christian, you may be offended, but more likely you’ll be relieved. If this is the “threat” to Christian faith people were worrying about they overstated the problem.
I watched the movie at its opening today because people have been asking me what I think and I wanted to give them a credible answer. I think this movie tried to do too much even if it is longer than the average flick. I think this movie at times offers blasphemous content, but the movie is so stilted the content is more deadening than spiritually unsettling.
It’s possible, of course, for people whose understanding of their faith is limited or for people who are spiritually confused to in turn be confused, misled, or spiritually harmed by the content offered in this movie. But I think it’s more likely that whoever you were and whatever you believe when you go in to the cinema will be who you are and what you believe when you come out.
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has sold over 43 million copies so far, so he is laughing all the way to the bank. But I read a lot of novels, and I did not think Brown’s plot was all that engaging. At times, the book, like the movie it spawned, is downright slow. I did not appreciate the author’s twisted history and theology. I did not like reading about the Lord Jesus described in a manner I considered dishonoring to him.
I am concerned about superstitious people embracing a book of fiction as truth, but I don’t think this book will have a long shelf life. I especially am not worried about the book’s ostensible threat to Christianity. There is always much new error but truth is eternal. Surely we do not think that a book as shallow as this one can overturn the evidence of centuries and of millions of people’s lives that God Is and that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Christianity has survived much greater threats than this. I’m not understating the book’s blasphemous themes. I’m just saying the Sovereign God is not surprised by them.
In my estimation, “The Da Vinci Code” movie is DOA.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.
“Syriana,” executive producer George Clooney’s latest cinematic offering, is being widely praised by critics as one of the best films of the year, a thinking person’s film. I hope people are thinking---first, to skip this film, and second, if they do choose to see it, to recognize its leftist message.
“Syriana” is directed by Stephen Gaghan and contains some interesting acting performances by Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Jeffery Wright, and Christopher Plummer. The acting is good, but the story insofar as there is one leaves a lot to be desired. It’s an “R” rated film for language and violence, particularly a Clooney torture scene you don’t want to see (I closed my eyes).
I don’t go to the movies very often, but recently I saw “Narnia” and now “Syriana.
While these two movies could not be more different in tone and message, I’d tongue-in-cheek classify both as “fantasy adventure.” I enjoyed the first movie while I nearly walked out of the second. The first encouraged my heart. The second gave me a headache.
“Syriana” offers a convoluted, difficult-to-follow, choppy storyline, about greed and corruption in the American oil business and the United States government. In the “Syriana” view, virtually everyone is corrupt, except possibly for certain poor Arabic individuals. According to the film, these people’s poverty was caused by American greed, so they have “understandably” been drawn into extremist religious groups. These extremists eventually resort to terrorist acts against American interests as, according to the movie, the only thing they can do to make their political voice heard.
The CIA gets into the corruption act by assassinating an heir to his country’s throne, apparently because he is interested in elevating his people through enlightened means and is less friendly than his brother to U.S. interests. In the end of the film, American oil tycoons receive awards and Middle Eastern religious extremists become suicide bombers. The video symbolism is hard to miss: Americans succeeded by skewering others.
Everyone turns on everyone in this film. Clooney’s character is a U.S. agent who discovers he’s been “used” by his government employer—throughout his career. Damon’s character is an energy analyst who sides with the idealist prince, apparently with no qualms about his American roots or loyalties. Wright’s character looks for closeted skeletons to make a show of due diligence and to use as leverage against people, including one of his own attorney colleagues. Peete’s character turns against her husband, while Plummer’s character is a manipulative oil man. And so it goes.
The message of this film appears to be this: “The United States government and American “Big Oil” will do absolutely anything to protect oil interests and profits, including lie, steal, assassinate, or go to war. No one in government or in business tells the truth or can be trusted.”
So you walk out of this film with your anxiety about geo-politics in the real world having just jumped several notches. You no longer feel you can believe anything anyone says. You feel used, abused, dirty, and despairing.
While there undoubtedly have been and are dishonest and unscrupulous government and business people, this film paints with a very broad brush. It feels like Oliver Stone or Michael Moore directed it rather than Stephen Gaghan. It’s a “postmodern” film in that it offers us little beyond uncertainty and angst—because truth doesn’t exist.
Nowhere in this film will you find any intelligent notation or discussion of free enterprise, the multi-varied roots of religious extremism, American patriotism, people-who-hate-America-because-America-is-prosperous, or any other non-politically correct idea.
This film not only tells its story poorly, it tells a poor story. The critical acclaim “Syriana” is receiving tells us much more about the critics’ political perspective than it does the film’s cinematic achievements.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is everything the critics are saying that it is—a first class work of cinematography. Even more, this film is a wonderfully presented fantasy adventure depicting the individual and world-changing truth of Christ and the Gospel. “Narnia” opens nationally today.
The film, produced by Walt Disney Company and Walden Media, brings to the big screen C. S. Lewis’ beloved “children’s” classic in all its beauty and complexity. Mixing live actors and computer-generated talking animals, dwarfs, witches, and other strange creatures, the film makes the story easy to understand, entertaining, and moving. It’s about children’s make-believe, and it’s about good triumphing over evil. In short, it’s “magical.”
My three grandchildren are under four years of age. If they were five years old and up, I’d take them to this film. I recommend this film to anyone, regardless of age or religious persuasion, and I suggest you see it more than once. You’ll grasp more of the nuances of the story the second time around.
Christians, conservatives, and conservative Christians have all verbally assaulted Hollywood for years, decrying gratuitous sex, language, and violence in films and lamenting movies and television that appeal to baser morality. Whether this “anti” strategy really accomplished much is subject to debate. How much better it would be to praise Hollywood for good productions, and how much better still it would be to place Christian professionals in the industry. Christians “separated” themselves from “Hollywood movies” as they used to be called, and we have paid too great a price.
This is one reason Cornerstone University initiated a new “Media Studies” program this year. This coursework will prepare students to work with emergent media in Hollywood, the theatre, video gaming, story-telling, radio and sound design, high definition video, and more. It’s a way of preparing students to pursue their interests and God’s calling so they can be “salt and light” influencers of the media productions of the future. Pollsters like George Barna say media are the predominant form of cultural influence, while the church is exercising virtually no influence at all. If Barna is even half right, the way to the hearts and minds of Twenty-First Century citizens is clearly through media—consequently, that’s exactly where Christians need to be.
If “Narnia” is successful, and by all accounts it appears it will be, plans are in the works for a sequel each year. C.S. Lewis wrote seven “Narnia” tales. Let’s hope that if the others make it to the big screen they will be as compelling as the first one.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005