Left Behind – way, way behind

I’ve always held a deep distrust of the Left Behind phenomenon. It seems to preach to the “I’m saved and you’re not” school of arrogant Christianity.

So I got a kick out of this review of the Nicolas Cage “reboot” of the series on film:

They want churches to book whole theaters and take their congregations, want it to be a Youth Group event, want magazines like this one to publish Discussion Questions at the end of their reviews—want the system to churn churn away, all the while netting them cash, without ever having to have cared a shred about actual Christian belief.

They want to trick you into caring about the movie. Don’t.

(We tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it.)

Yes, that review is from Christianity Today.

Also good, from Rotten Tomatoes (and I think I know the writer): “Yea verily, like unto a plague of locusts, Left Behind hath begat a further scourge of devastation upon Nicolas Cage’s once-proud filmography.”

comedy, movies

How ‘Reality Bites’ and the dictionary screw up irony

It’s no longer funny to dump on the Alanis Morissette song Ironic. It’s been done, ad nauseam. We get it — rain on your wedding day is not ironic.

But Alanis isn’t to blame for a generation’s misuse of the term. I blame the wretched film Reality Bites. Ethan Hawke’s character, who is supposed to be some sort of underachieving genius, says this: “It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.” To which a Wolfgnards blogger adroitly responds:

It seems very much correct. But this would mean that all opposites are ironic and doesn’t take in the incongruous nature of the situation.

Exactly. Hawke’s loser dude has basically defined sarcasm. “Great catch” when a catch is dropped. At best, he has defined one narrow sliver of the ironic pie.

“Opposite” isn’t enough to make something ironic. Another football example: A pass being intercepted isn’t ironic, even though it’s the opposite of what was expected. Now let’s say a pass to the end zone is intercepted, and the defensive back who picks it off was a high school teammate of the quarterback who threw it. Even better, let’s say that defensive back also played receiver in high school and caught the touchdown pass that won the state championships. That has to be ironic.

To get a second opinion, I’m putting up that example on the site, which lets readers vote on possible irony. But consensus isn’t always there.

The “most popular irony” on the site is on Paul Walker’s death. The actor from The Fast and the Furious series died in a car accident in which the driver was doing the same sort of fast and dangerous driving that was endemic to the films. Seems ironic to me. Yet 62% say it’s not.

Dictionaries often don’t bring clarity. (Is that ironic?) Merriam-Webster offers three definitions, none wholly satisfying. The first definition — “Socratic irony” — just defines how Socrates demonstrated flaws in others’ arguments by asking questions. (Which reminds me that every law school is using “Socratic” incorrectly, but that’s another rant.) The second is almost what Hawke-dude said, but it’s more expansive — “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite.”

The third definition is what we usually think when we hear “irony”: “incongruity between the actual event of a sequence of events and the normal or expected results.” distills the definition to this point: “A simple way of putting it is that irony usually signals a difference between the appearance of things and reality.” Not bad.

But then the same blog moves on to the Wikipedia definition, which twice uses the phrase “exactly opposite.” Again, I don’t think so. If a B-52 accidentally drops a bomb on a B-52s concert, I don’t think that’s “exactly opposite.” It’s UNexpected, yes. But the opposite? No one goes to a concert thinking, “I think a B-52 will not drop a bomb on this concert.”

The Alanis song lists mere coincidences. Or unfortunate things. I think she’s actually closer to the definition than Hawke-dude. Irony has some element of coincidence. Like this:

Maybe we’re all just like Winona Ryder’s character in Reality Bites. She can’t define it, but she knows it when she sees it. Maybe the non-definition is better than the definition. 

Now that’s ironic. Don’t you think?


Losing one’s virginity in films — male punchline, female ordeal?

Slate columnist makes a persuasive case for MTV’s show on virginity loss, saying it’s about time someone tackled the subject honestly and even-handedly. Because we ain’t getting that in the movies:

If it’s the girl who’s having sex for the first time, forget gross-out humor. The act is now freighted with consequence. In Juno, a girl has sex and gets pregnant. In Saved!, same. In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a girl has sex and then more sex and gets pregnant. In Cruel Intentions, a girl has sex and gets betrayed. As a Yahoo! Shine writer pointed out, when boys have sex it’s typically the culmination of a movie’s plot, whereas for girls, sex is where the movie’s storyline begins, unspooling into lies, tough choices, and shattered relationships.

via MTV never should have pulled the plug on its show about losing virginity, My First … – Slate Magazine.


comedy, movies, tv

Rules for Scooby-Doo

Direct-to-DVD/Cartoon Network films, yet another series … the Scooby Doo folks are busy these days.

But they’re often forgetting two important rules:

1. No romance. The Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. series is horrendous. It lacks the whimsy of the terrific What’s New, Scooby-Doo? series from the mid-2000s and the films of the same era. The animation is full of shadows, aiming for a “darker” feel but really making the show a chore to watch. 

But the worst aspect of Mystery Inc.: It’s a soap opera. Velma loves Shaggy, who isn’t all that interested. Scooby gets jealous and doesn’t like Velma any more. Velma backs off. Shaggy starts to miss the attention. Something is up with Fred and Daphne. Sue Ellen isn’t welcome at Southfork Ranch because J.R. is trying to protect Ewing Oil from Cliff Barnes. 

Did anyone need to see all that?

2. No actual supernatural stuff. The traditional Scooby-Doo reveal: The “monster” is unmasked as Prof. Sniffington or some other ancillary character. Velma finally shares all the information she’s been hoarding for the whole episode to explain how the whole thing was done with elaborate costumes, electronics and so forth. Sometimes, it’s ridiculous — Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? includes Velma’s implausible explanation that she created a swarm of locusts to do her bidding because she learned to breed them in science class. But that’s part of the charm. Actual zombies? Not so much.

3. Jokes and music? Good. Where’s My Mummy? and some of the other direct-to-video films in heavy rotation on Cartoon Network have preposterous plots. But they’re funny, and they usually have good pop/rock tunes. Some of the newer films keep the jokes but borrow their music from scarier films.

Scooby-Doo is supposed to be escapist fun. Not &*^*&#$ing Twilight.


Sickness and stupidity? Box office gold!

The film Contagion sounds educational. And it sounds like something I would derive no joy or benefit from watching.

What is our morbid fascination with worst-case scenarios these days? The only nuclear annihilation films I remember during the Cold War are The Day After and a handful of films that served as Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder. Not blockbusters with big names in the cast.

Film Review: “Contagion” | Popdose