QUADRIVIUM

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for December 2007

Six things that annoy me at Christmas time…

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Complaining that “Xmas” somehow means Christmas without Christ.  Maybe an atheist somewhere was feeling clever one day and posited that particular meaning, but X is the first letter of Christ’s name in Greek.  “Xmas” is just shorthand.  Nothing to get in a twist over. 

Bunt cake in holiday movies.  Whenever bunt cake shows up in a holiday movie, it’s only to allow the opportunity for some stoic character to declare “I hate bundt cake,” thus earning everyone’s scorn.  Nobody cares. 

Quibbling over Christmas trees.  Yes, we borrowed the Christmas tree from a pagan festival years and years ago around the time Christians decided to celebrate Christ’s birth in December, even though the event more than likely took place in the spring.  If we were to really get into this issue, we’d find a number of practices in the Christian church out of sync with biblical historicity.  A messianic rabbi told me once that it wasn’t a Jewish custom back in the day to even celebrate a loved one’s birth.  They celebrated a loved one’s death.  Easter, then, would be the holiday everyone lined up for.  Yet, the very name “Easter” has its own unsavory connections.  It just goes on and on and on…

Songs from The Sound of Music passed off as Christmas carols.  When did “My Favorite Things” become a Christmas carol?  There’s one line of loose relevance in the entire song.  One line!  Next thing you know we’re gonna start singing “Edelweiss” for the 4th of July. 

Last minute shopping.  Every year I vow that I’ll have all my shopping done by August, and every year I’m scrounging around for gift ideas right up to the night before Christmas. It’s embarrassing.  Yes, I am a part of that gargantuan crowd feverishly storming Wal-Mart for their last remaining gift items when all you want to do is buy egg nog.  (Quick tip, the line at the garden center is usually shortest.)

The reminder that I don’t have money.  There are always gifts I would love to get someone that have to remain on the shelf because I simply can’t afford them.  Thus, the gift card becomes a great tool.  And I hate it.  It lacks personality.  In some respects it’s useful; it says, hey, I want you to get something that you enjoy.  On the other hand, it misses the personal statement—the time and thought invested to find a gift that will make a real memory. 

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Written by taj

December 21, 2007 at 10:05 am

The best show on television returns January 31st

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LOST. Season Four. See the promo here.

Thanks to the writer’s strike, we’re only going to get eight episodes this year (as opposed to the 16 that were planned).

Written by taj

December 21, 2007 at 7:09 am

Posted in Television, Writing

A Question of Time Travel

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Last night, watching the Journeyman finale, I asked my wife, if she could travel back to any time and place in history, where would she go?

She thought about it for a moment, looked at me and said, “I’d want to go meet Jesus.” 

There are times in a marriage when you feel eleven inches tall.  I was thinking I’d like to go back to Oxford in the mid 1950s, try strike up a student-mentor relationship with C.S. Lewis.  In the wake of her answer, I felt a little silly. 

I told her she’d have to learn Aramaic if she were to do that.  But then my imagination took over.  This is the Son of God.  He’d see her strolling down the dirt lane, and though the people on the road would look at her clothing 2000 years removed and assume she must be a wandering gypsy from south of Galilee, Jesus would likely pull her aside, smile in that knowing way of his, and say something like, “You’re not supposed to be here, are you?”

My wife would hear this in English, of course.  If Christ could heal the sick, give sight to the blind and raise Lazarus from the dead, performing a little work on her tongue and ears allowing her to speak and understand Aramaic would be such a small matter. 

She’d witness that part of Christ’s life that never made it into scripture; that part we can only interpolate from the evident traits available in the four accounts we have of his life.  She would witness his humor, his patience, his compassion, his humility.  I always imagine Jesus had a stellar sense of humor.  You’d need one, dealing with the likes of Peter’s pride or Simon’s zeal.  She’d see his fearlessness in the face of opposition.  Witness his cunning.  And his grace. 

There would be precautions, obviously.  Someone would find her a robe so she wouldn’t look so out of place.  She’d have to bury her shoes—the fabric of the space-time continuum is rather fragile, you know.  Although I’m sure the Roman’s would have appreciated Nikes. 

Written by taj

December 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Posted in General, Marriage

“The world needs more Hank.”

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Corner Gas.  One of my new favorite shows.  (Click the link to see a clip!)

HT: The Point

Written by taj

December 17, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Television

“To them, you’re just a freak…like me.”

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I think most people probably cocked an eyebrow when they learned Heath Ledger had landed the part of the Joker in The Dark Knight.   

We’ve seen pictures of Ledger as the Joker posted here and there.  And we know he looks good. This trailer, however, will dispel all doubt. 

Heath Ledger IS the Joker.

Written by taj

December 17, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Movies

New Review

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I have a much amended review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix up at Infuze.

In the original review, I camped too much on the adaptation quotient. I still think turning an 870 page book into a 130 minute film cannot capture the essense of the author’s story, but it can come close. Phoenix just about gets there, even if it does play like a highlight reel.

I tried this time to focus on the more positive aspects of the artists involved. However, some of them (I’m talking to you, Michael Gambon) deserve their criticism.

***

Before anyone ever sat down to adapt the 870-page Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the franchise already faced considerable challenges. Film franchises begin to tire once they reach their fifth installment. Many of the artists, writers, and designers who helped to tell a successful story in the beginning have started to check out, and creative endeavor splinters under the pressure to deliver another $100 million hit.

The immense popularity of the books, and some wise decisions on the part of Warner Bros., kept “the boy who lived” above water for four films. Steve Kloves, who adapted the first four films, had already proven an immense story could condense well onto film and still run under three hours. The Goblet of Fire, however, carried many visual elements that transitioned well to the screen. Phoenix — a darker, longer, and much more cerebral tale — does not.

After witnessing the death of a student and the return of Lord Voldemort last year, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) ambles along the streets of Little Whinging to pass the summer days before he can return to school. Dementors interrupt his cousin Dudley’s (Harry Melling) cruel taunts, propelling the boy wizard into another cauldron of trouble. Soon he’s whisked into hiding by the Order of the Phoenix — the underground resistance formed by Headmaster Dumbledore in the first years that Voldemort terrorized the wizarding world — now reestablished to counter the looming threat of the Dark Lord’s return.

Back at Hogwarts, Harry endures eerie visions in his sleep, and struggles against the accusations of lies alleged in the papers and shared by many of his friends. A new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (Imelda Staunton as the devious Professor Umbridge) only fortifies the Ministry of Magic’s suppression of Harry’s version of events, and refuses to instruct the students on how to defend themselves. In an effort to prepare themselves for the coming war, Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) convince Harry to teach the students how to fight.

With a new director at the helm (David Yates) and a writer needed to develop a script after Kloves’s departure, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg stepped in to handle the chores. Goldenberg, who had already proven his ability adapting Carl Sagan’s Contact in 1996, manages to capture the rage that hovers within Harry for much of the film. Certain elements from the novel had to go to keep the running time down (leaving those of us wishing for a rousing rendition of “Weasley is Our King” mildly disappointed), but Yates and Goldenberg keep the gargantuan plot moving and manageable.

Much of the novel’s more visual elements make it into the film. The growth of Dumbledore’s Army, edited to taut precision by Mark Day, make up the finest moments of the film. Yet where film is more concerned with telling a visual story, many of the character elements that moved the fans of the novel never reach their fullest potential.

Harry’s relationship to Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) receives enough attention to endear the greasy haired rebel somewhat to the audience, but it’s far from a homerun. The same goes for Harry’s relationship with Cho Chang (Katie Leung) and the development of Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). Dumbledore, whose humble power roared in the novel, receives a terribly underwhelming treatment from veteran actor Michael Gambon. The dénouement in the headmaster’s office that so powerfully resonated in the book gets a scant minute and a half of screen time, feeling more like a highlight reel than an actual resolution.

Imelda Staunton, however, captures the cringe-inducing Delores Umbridge to near perfection, reading Goldenberg’s lines as though they were scratched from the surface of a blackboard. Nicholas Hooper’s score rises in places to the level John Williams set on Prisoner of Azkaban, creating a subtle and charming theme for the oddly amiable Luna Lovegood, and sweeping the audience through Harry’s sessions with Dumbledore’s Army. Director Yates wisely keeps to the same design and atmosphere established by Alfonso Cuaron on Azkaban, and adds more handheld camera work to breathe frenetic energy into the film’s climactic action sequences.

At its finish, however, the film feels stretched between creative trims and cuts to produce an entertaining movie, and the studio’s fiscal concerns to produce a film that can play enough times in a day to earn enough money.

DVD special features include an electronic version of the film for your PC or portable video device (sorry, iPod users, the file won’t play with Apple’s iTunes software). Deleted scenes add little to the experience and fortify the editorial choices in the film, although Emma Thompson does get to show off her comedic genius in an extended cut of the opening feast. Following Tonks actress Natalia Tena around the movie set will score some chuckles (keep an eye out for the refrigerator — turns out Tonks has an affinity for Coca-Cola). Two other documentaries are included: “The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter,” which makes for an entertaining recap for those only familiar with the movies, and director Yates and editor Day walk through the Dumbledore’s Army sequences.

Phoenix would likely have played better had certain elements received their due attention, but that would mean a running time perched dangerously close to three hours. And Order of the Phoenix is not The Lord of the Rings.

(edited by Sam Gaines)

Written by taj

December 14, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Trailer Park

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Alas, no sign of Reepicheep.

Written by taj

December 4, 2007 at 11:58 pm