Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hakuna Matata

According to a reader who posted on the TWE Facebook page (and apparently a book called The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, which I have not read), Disney's The Lion King has a lot to say about the Christian's journey to become the person God intended him to be, and I'm inclined to agree. From the beginning, when the newborn Simba is anointed and presented to the entire kingdom (think baptism), until he comes to reign over the kingdom at the end (Revelation 2:26-28; 3:21), the film certainly has religious overtones a discerning Christian should not ignore.

Consider these quotes that seem to mirror Scripture:
"Everything the light touches is our kingdom." - Mufasa (Colossians 1:11-14)
"You see? He lives in you!" - Rafiki (John 14:23; 1 John 4:15)
Along the way, the movie illustrates the insidious nature of temptation and how it leads us into danger, gives an example of God's sacrificial love, and shows how Satan tries to use guilt, lies, and accusations to keep us from living up to our calling. But rather than simply rehash what was written on the Facebook post, I want to focus on the motto taught to young Simba by Timon and Pumbaa in a pivotal scene:

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Measure of Success

Last week, I mentioned that James Dean was one of Elvis Presley's favorite actors. Dean had major roles in only three movies, but ever since his untimely death at age 24, he - like Elvis - has persisted as a sort of cultural icon of the '50s. While he is perhaps best known as the star of the teenage battle cry, Rebel Without a Cause, today I'm looking at James Dean's final film, George Stevens' Giant, also starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

This sprawling epic was actually the highest-grossing film in Warner Bros. history until Superman came out 22 years later. (Read some of my thoughts about Superman here and here.)

Giant tells the story of Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Hudson) as he struggles to raise a family and pass on his values to the next generation. His wife, Leslie (Taylor), challenges his views on everything from gender roles to parenting styles and race relations. Over the course of several decades (and a movie only 14 minutes shorter than Gone with the Wind), his life is contrasted with farm hand Jett Rink (Dean).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Paging Dr. Elvis

Thirty five years ago today, the King of Rock 'n' Roll left us. I wasn't born when Elvis Presley died, but for millions around the world, the moment they first heard the news is engraved in their memories. For millions more, his memory lives on. He continues to sell records and pack stadiums. Over 600,000 people flock to his Graceland mansion each year (I was there not long ago). He has his own 24/7 channel on SiriusXM satellite radio. And every year since his death, fans have gathered at the gates on August 15th to hold a candlelight vigil in Elvis' honor. Last night, Memphis police estimated a record 75,000 fans were in attendance!

Elvis in 'Change of Habit' ©1969 Universal Studios
Elvis as Dr. John Carpenter in 'Change of Habit'
If you're a fan like me, you know the words to many of his songs, maybe you've been to Graceland a time or two, and if you're not celebrating Elvis Week in Memphis, maybe you're watching TCM - they're playing 24 hours of Elvis movies today!

Elvis starred in 33 movies - 31 Hollywood features and 2 concert documentaries. Critics dismiss many of his films as formulaic musicals with little substance. However, Elvis always dreamed of being a serious actor like James Dean or Marlon Brando, and he occasionally got the chance to show what he could do. Fans often point to Jailhouse Rock and King Creole as proof of Elvis' acting abilities. I want to look at another his more serious films and point out some lasting lessons that are worth your time whether you're a fan like me or not.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Goodbye, Norma Jeane

As a child, Norma Jeane Baker had a rough life. Passed between foster homes and relatives, abused and lonely, she looked at the movie screen and imagined how nice it would be to escape and have it made like Jean Harlow. Modeling herself somewhat after Harlow, Norma Jeane hoped to rise above her circumstances as she transformed into the unforgettable persona of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe in 1957 © Sam Shaw Inc.Although she is best known for her stereotypical role on film as the quintessential "dumb blonde", in reality, Marilyn was neither dumb nor a natural blonde. While her popularity was largely based on her looks, she was business-savvy, demanding contracts that gave her the right to approve her directors. And when she didn't like the direction of her career under 20th Century Fox, she broke her contract and began her own production company. She used everything at her disposal in effort to get what she wanted out of life.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Holy Metaphors, Batman!

After the tragedy in Aurora, it took me a little time to get around to seeing The Dark Knight Rises. After finally seeing it, though, you had to know I'd have something to say about it!

Logo for The Dark Knight Rises © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding, LLC
The Dark Knight Rises logo
For those who haven't seen it yet, I recommend you see the movie before continuing, as A) it's very good, and B) this post will necessarily contain some important spoilers. For those who continue, I'll explain how The Dark Knight Rises has a lot to say to Christians about spiritual warfare.