Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Look - Same Guy & This Week's Top Ten List

Why change the format, especially since you've got so much do. Whelp, needed a study break, and my wife couldn't stand the old format, so ch-ch-ch-changes were made. Hope you like them. I'll be adding links (that work) to my other Beeson Pastor colleague's blogs in the coming days.

Don't miss...

  • This Week's Ten Things I Think I Think...
  • The article "Oil Safari" which linked in my last post
  • A chance to win a copy of Brian McLaren's "The Secret Meaning of Jesus". Just email me at with 1) your name and address, 2) why I should give you a copy of the book, and 3) a suggestion for a future blog post

Am totally fried after a day largely composed of writing, so I thought I'd add a new weekly feature to the blog: The Weekly Top Ten List. The "TTL" can be about anything... it can rip off David Letterman (just like Leno), or be some sort of personal list of things I really like (books, artists, cars, blenders... whatever). Most of the time it'll just be something else you can read, scratch your head, and say "This guy's a pastor?".

But let us dally no more, as my final paper for "Spiritual Leadership" awaits editing:

This week's Top Ten List: Top Ten Movies as measured by the quality of the viewing experience. OK, confused? Well, have you ever watched a movie in the theatre, had a great experience, stumbled on it at about 1am on TBS seven years later and went... "uh, I liked that?" Well, the experience of viewing of movie isn't just a measure of how good the movie was written, directed, and acted. The actual experience of viewing can add or detract a lot.

I mention this because a couple of weeks ago while and Aimee and the boys went home to get some items in order, I took off into Lexington to the Art House cinema for a late-night showing of "Thank You For Smoking" (rent it... It's a great "dark comedy", and not too many of those are made anymore - it's Rated "R", by the way, so don't bring it home for the kids). The movie was hilarious, but the theatre had five people in it, and two of them (I'm guessing) were there either because they won passes from a local radio station or someone lied to them ("Oh yeah, we're showing Superman. 8 dollars please"), and they just weren't quite sharp enough to realize they'd been duped. Anyway, for the duration of the film I had to live through an endless barrage of "I don't get it", "oh those shoes are cute", "Aren't cigarettes, like, bad?", and "Hello? No I'm not doing anything, just watching this stupid movie".

Great movie... lousy viewing experience. Doesn't make the list. You get it? Here we go.

Excluded From the List

The Passion of the Christ - only movie that made me feel guilty for bringing popcorn into a movie theatre... left totally numb and couldn't speak for, like, two days. The most violently beautiful movie I'll ever see.

Honorable Mention:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - couldn't' go to a party in the eighties without Ferris on a TV somewhere

The Waterboy - saw it with my brother in Toledo... to this day "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" is his ringtone on my cell phone

Secret of My Success - it was at the drive-in for some unknown reason the entire summer of 1987... saw it with all my high school friends multiple times, and then we all left for college or the military

Star Wars - should have put it in as it was a mind-boggling experience for a seven-year old

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Jeff Gluck had to pay for my ticket cause I didn't want to see it. I paid the next time we went, the next day

One-Hundred-and-One Dalmatians (the animated version) - Cruella DeVille still scares the crap out of me, and my best friend Jason owned two dalmatians when we saw the movie... he liked it so much his mom got him the soundtrack

When We Were Soldiers And Young - saw it with a Vietnam Vet who actually fought in the battle and was suffering from PTSD. A very powerful experience.

Raising Arizona - I can watch it alone because it is possibly the funniest movie ever made

Shrek - watched this one with the staff at Goshen First at a theatre in Boyne Falls that had 12 seats in it, tops. Spent the whole movie laughing hysterically while my boss kept asking, "What's so funny?". Great times!

10) Purple Rain - There are movies, there are good movies, and then there are movies on nights you remember as pretty much magical. I was about 15 years old... not old enough to drive, zits in all the wrong places, and awkward as could be. I was in Charleston, West Virginia, visiting two good friends, and since one had his license, we went out cruising every night. My last night in town we hit the multiplex on opening night for the late show (the best time, when you are teenager, to see a movie). The place was packed and it was filled with people trying to dress like Prince and the Revolution (i.e. lots of purple and paisley). If you've ever seen the movie you know that the only thing that holds it together, as the plot is nebulous at best, is Prince performing live on stage (well, that and Apallonia... hey, I was 15!). The guy can play a crowd, even via the medium of film. All night that theatre rocked, with people singing along to all the songs. People even got up and did "The Bird" with Morris Day. People literally danced all the way out to their cars. Then we went out, cruised, hit on a bunch of girls, picked up a couple phone numbers, and got a couple of cokes at Taco Bell. Just one of those defining "teen experiences" where you can feel the whole world opening up.... getting goose bumps just thinking about it now.

9) The Shawshank Redemption - Saw this with a bunch of friends from college during a "gang reunion" in Columbus. I was in seminary at the time, and thus on the lookout for any kind of theological metaphors I could find. Once again, the theatre was packed, and why not... Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins - what's not to like? I don't think in any way, shape, or form I was prepared for such a great story of grace, repentance, and redemption. When Andy Dufrane crawled through 300 yards, that's the length of three football fields, through waste so foul I don't even want to imagine, and then he emerges on the outside, standing triumphantly in the rain, arms outstretched to heaven, the whole theatre cheering, I remember thinking "every baptism should be like that". And when Red makes it to San Juatinao, well, let's just say it got a little dusty in the room for men and women alike. A movie that taught us that "you gotta get busy living, or get busy dying".

8) Scrooged - I love Bill Murray. The guy is just a comedic genius. I'll admit, this isn't really one of his best films, but I saw this my freshman year of college with a bunch of friends at a crowded, tiny movie theatre (you noticing a theme here), filled with college students facing a week of finals. Everyone pretty much just wanted to laugh, so while the movie is OK, the crowd just loved every minute of it, especially Bobcat Goldthwait, who steals the show when he tries to hunt his former boss on the day he fired him. Plus, I mean, it's still Charles Dickens... do you want a funeral where nobody shows up and Tiny Tim dying? I didn't think so. The crowd even stayed after to watch the credits, following Murray's instructions to sing whatever carol ended that movie. Great night!

7) Mission: Impossible/Twister (tie): These are both pretty awful, especially Twister, but they opened the same weekend. In those days, (i.e. before kids) Aimee and I saw a lot of movies. For whatever reason, be it the big screen, the filled theatre (it was a pretty big deal at the time), good popcorn, etc... Aimee and I came out of that flick pretty amped (I think we both loved the "flying cow scene"). Anyhow, we decided to take off directly from that movie, to go see M:I1. It was "adrenaline junkie" day at the Bucher house.

6) Patton: I saw this in an American History class in the 8th grade. Mr. Harrington, who probably figured that we had enough "fill in the blank" sheets (where you filled in the blank with the answer you found in the book... y-a-w-n), decided to show us a movie as a way of illustrating WWII. At the time, I had just found outt that my grandfather had fought under Patton in the 172nd Infantry (The Lightning Division). Most of the girls hated the movie, the guys loved it, and I developed a whole new appreciation for the sacrifice my grandfather had to make as a soldier in that war. Just watched this again with my father and father-in-law... it never ceases to amaze.

5) A Fist Full of Dollars/A Few Dollars More/The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (the Spaghetti Western Trilogy): In college, my friend Steve (who ended up being the best man in my wedding) introduced me to Sergio Leone, master of the close-up, and "The Man With No Name" who wasn't really a hero or villain, just the baddest man alive. Since Steve's family lived in San Jose, there were a number of times he ending up going home with me over a long weekend, and inevitably, we'd go get the trilogy to get lost in the American West as interpreted by an Italian. We tried to get the rest of our friends into it, but I don't think they ever really got it. Probably, to this day, if I popped in on Wheeler (who now teaches elementary school in Boca Raton), or he popped in on me, I'm pretty sure we'd make time for Clint Eastwood and his gun that never runs out of bullets.

4) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: I lived in a dorm at Miami for three years (until I got married, bought a trailer, and experienced a new side to America I had never seen before). I think every room on my floor had a VCR and TV (except John and Chuck who lived across the hall from us. John said he didn't need a TV cause he watched ours and Chuck played "Bard's Tale" on his Apple IIe computer right up to the minute he got kicked out of school for not going to class), but none of us owned any movies. It wasn't like today. Video stores didn't stock a thousand copies of the latest hit, and then sell them for practically nothing. Taped movies were generally pretty expensive, and we were college students, so we'd just rent instead of buy. Except, at the time of night (or morning) we were ready to see a movie we a) either were too lazy to walk uptown to "Late Night Videos", b) had the will, but not the money cause we'd spent it on, uh, other things. Anyhow, Paul and Wayne owned a copy of this movie, so, by default we ended up watching about 10,000 times, which is great because then you could quote the movie randomly just about anywhere, and get a laugh out of those guys. To this day my wife won't watch it with me. I always give away the lines in advance.

3) The Blues Brothers: My favorite place in the world to watch it is at my parents house with my Dad. Dad never stops laughing throughout the entire movie. He loves Jake and Elwood. He loves all the times Carry Fisher tries to kill them. He loves the scene in Bob's Country Bunker. He loves seeing all the cops in the ballroom at the big show. He loves all the car chases. And, most of all, he loves how the Blues Brothers pay off the $5000 the orphanage owes for property taxes (although, it's church owned, so it would be tax exempt in Cook County, which is immaterial cause the movie is really all about good music and car crashes) only to be surrounded by every law man with a gun in the City of Chicago. I don't know what I like more... watching the movie or Dad.

2) Field of Dreams: This movie cost me a "C" in Theology 101 at Methesco. The prof, a woman who hated men (and with good reason, as the previous year her ex-husband almost beat her to death) assigned us a project where we had watch a movie, and then explain it's theological premise. I wanted to do Field of Dreams because there was a time during my childhood that I quit throwing the ball with my Dad, which I know hurt him very much, and grew up enough that our relationship was able to thaw. This movie touches on the complex relationship between father and son at a level that just... well, let's put it this way: after my son was born, I begged my father to come with me so he, I, and Max could all play baseball together at the actual "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa (true story). Now my brother and I bring our ball gloves every Father's Day so we can "have a catch" with our Dad. It's that important.

Anyhow, this theology professor, who hated men (with good reason), wouldn't let me review "Field of Dreams" because all it was "a dumb father/son movie with no deeming value". Pretty ticked off after arguing how wrong she was, only to be denied, I let her choose the movie. She chose "Gandhi", who upon my viewing, I tore apart as a self-absorbed, terroristic pagan, just to see the Prof get angry in class cause I knew he was one of her heroes. It worked, and I got a "D" for the project, and ended up with a "C" for the class. I think Ganhdi would have been proud.

1) It's A Wonderful Life - My earliest memories of this movie is watching it when I was Xavier's age with my entire family at my grandparents' house on McDonel Street in Lima. I can see everybody in the room... Popo (my great-grandfather), grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and all my mom's siblings crammed into the living room watching the movie while we ate "Harold's Chicken" on Christmas Eve. Then we washed the dishes (my job was to lead the carol singing with Popo), and then we'd open presents (as legend had it, my great-grandmother couldn't wait until Christmas morning). A couple of those people are gone now, and the family has scattered to the four-corners of the globe, so when I hear Clarence the Angel say, "Don't you understand? Each man's life touches another", I remember, and say a silent prayer of affirmation.

Whoops, it's getting a little dusty in here... gotta go.

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