Category Archives: Interrupted by movies

Interrupted by a movie, First Reformed

Well, that happened. To truly understand it I would have to watch it again, but I just don’t think I can. Very inadequately this is about a pastor of a small church who is suffering emotionally and spiritually and tries to counsel a parishioner who turns out to be an eco-terrorist. It is slow and then suddenly — what happened? What does it all mean?

Two things have penetrated me: one because as my loyal readers know I’ve been doing a deep dive into Genesis for a while and a have a while to go. And somehow in my complete blindness I never connected Genesis — the story of God’s loving creation of a world that is good — with what is going on in “the here and now”, which is the destruction of that world. Perhaps completely. And perhaps, as the movie so eloquently asks, “Can God forgive us for destroying the world?” 

Can He? Can we be anything but ashamed? Can grace cover even this?

And then the other moment — out of many such — that stands out for me is the scene where the pastor at the “main church” who is our pastor’s boss talks to Toller (our pastor in despair). He says something like, “You are always in the Garden. Even Jesus was not always in the Garden! He was sometimes on the Mountaintop, sometimes with friends. You don’t have to be in the Garden.” I thought that Toller was in the wilderness. It was only much after the movie ended that I realized Toller was in the Garden, as Jesus was just before He died. Not that I am spoiling the ending because I have NO IDEA what happened. 

Here’s a review from NPR and there is much to be found on the web exploring this movie.  In point of fact, I was completely unspoiled about the movie and so many things completely shocked me. Some of the images I will never forget. 


Interrupted by movies: Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War

So, if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading. You have been warned.




I did not like this movie at all. Marvel’s got great characters, quips, jokes, actions — and once again the plot is stupid. To stop Thanos of course they try to kill Thanos, who wears a special glove that will channel the power of the infinity stones and give him power to kill in “a snap of his fingers” half of all life.

Clearly all you need to do is cut off his arm.

Remember, my friends, the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Remember the episode (season 3, episode 7) where a new watcher comes to train Faith and at first everyone thinks, wow this tough love lady may be just what Faith needs? Faith even begins to warm up to her — Faith who has not had love and friendship the way Buffy has had is covered in a shell of hardness and fear and anger. And once again she is betrayed: this watcher actually is an impostor and has her own agenda (for power), and she wants the powerful glove of something or other. So to save the day in the big fight scene, Buffy cuts her arm off, thus ending Ms. Post’s connection to the power of the glove and saving the day. It is a complicated and heartbreaking episode but one that stayed in my mind all these years.

So — Thor, Steve Rogers, any number of our superheros could have saved the day by just cutting off (or ripping off) Thanos’s arm. Thor restarted a sun (as I understood it) so of course he could have cut off Thanos’s arm.

I could be wrong — there was a lot of fast action so maybe I missed something.

I don’t like the horrific ending of this movie — in fact, I wish Marvel would give me my money back! This was not a fun time at the theater. There were a few tiny scenes here and there that I liked mostly early in the movie, and as many reviews say, if they had to make a movie with this many heroes then they did that. That happened as successfully as such a thing could happen. Not all the characters got to shine, but there were surprising beats for many of them.

But I don’t want a Marvel movie from the viewpoint of the villain!

I think we get the villain’s viewpoint in real life far too often these days.

A movie, like literature or other art, could be “the beautiful pain” — an inevitable tragedy, like Shakespeare. This isn’t that. We know perfectly well that most of the characters who died (if not everyone) will be back. The first death of Vision was beautiful, heroic, necessary, heartbreaking. “The beautiful pain” — I get that. But this movie is not tragedy and is not the beautiful heartbreak.

In a scene maybe halfway, Peter Quill’s team and Tony Stark’s team encounter each other and they don’t know they are on the same side. In the process of getting that sorted out, I think Tony says to Peter, “Who do you follow?”

Peter says, “What? Like Jesus?”

I wish I could see that scene again, and if anyone does watch this movie, take some notes there and let me know in the comments what you think. I think it was just supposed to be funny. I don’t think it worked and I don’t think it had a bigger meaning than a laugh. Seriously?

The ending of this movie could be interpreted as “a rapture” — which is bad theology and not actually biblical (in my faith tradition any way) and the point of that imagery baffles me. Every villain is doing good in their own eyes, perhaps. But eco-terrorism taken to such an extreme and faulty logic place? And there’s a fictional thing you hear sometimes, a burn-down-the-house-to-fix-it trope. That can work as a narrative, a type of “the beautiful pain”, but we know that is not what is going on here. There’s another movie coming! And anyway that “fix” for a problem only works when the “house” in question is full of the bad — memories, pain, suffering — and in this case many many many innocents were killed. The problem of suffering was not solved at all. Thanos “finally can rest” at the end because he has saved us all…. No. Nope. No. You don’t burn down your neighbor’s house so they can get a nice fresh start! No. Just no.

So —  I’m posting this, I welcome thoughts and comments. I should watch different movies — maybe, clearly — I just find so many of these actors extremely good and the characters they play compelling and charming.

The stories we tell have power.


Interrupted by movies: A Wrinkle in Time

Oh I just loved this movie! A Wrinkle in Time based on the classic children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle is out and just beautiful and delicious and full of … rage….

Meg, our teen hero, is angry, deeply angry: at her father for vanishing one night, at the world for judging them, at so many things, all the things, both personal and clearly also systemic. Sometimes you cannot just put on a happy face. Sometimes things are bad. Sometimes people do unfairly attack you. Sometimes you don’t rise above it. And, why should you have to? Why can’t you just be full of rage at injustice? Why can’t you be terrified that your father isn’t just vanished, which is bad enough, but has left you, rejected you, walked away? And why not be angry about that?

Normally in these stories by the end our heroine is remade: she was ugly and now is beautiful, she was picked on and now she is the queen bee, she was misunderstood and is now seen to be brilliant.

Meg is given — her faults. She is given her stubborn refusal to just accept the brokenness of the world. She is allowed her anger at injustice. She is given words. She has agency. She is seen.

She is a heroine without having to be remade. She is beloved just as she is with her flaws.

I completely enjoyed this movie and was not bored once, which is so extremely rare for me and movies. I didn’t even get sleepy. Normally put me in a chair for two hours and I’m asleep somewhere in the middle. Yes the ending is happy happy and love wins, which is great! But the best thing is that I don’t think Meg is fundamentally changed. I think she is still going to be angry, and still able to fight, and be seen.

The book, from an adult point of view, I have to admit is pretty bad and makes no sense and is extremely dated. The movie really transcends the book and updates it. I wish is was still explicitly Christian — the book is explicitly Christian in a way that was completely over my head as a child. Even so, in the movie, Meg is still fighting “powers and principalities” — evil — and the win is more than rescuing her father, it is pushing back on the darkness and brokenness of this world in all the little and not so little ways that evil worms in.

Let’s rejoice in a good movie!


Interrupted by Wakanda

I think it is amazing that a “superhero movie” — Marvel’s Black Panther — has so much to say to real life and real hearts in a number of ways. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote a wonderful essay highlighting and limning together text and subtext. Moreover, the sets, costumes, acting, music, and more all combined together to provide more than a couple hours of fun; it was more intense.  Yet me and my quirky brain are wondering about stuff that wasn’t in the scope of the narrative. Now I am delving into “movie midrash”, the way I do scripture, wondering what is off the page, what is happening just out of sight, or just deeper, or next. Thus, if I understand Wakanda, they have always been hidden and safe from the outside world. So presumably this included being “safe” from the good news of Jesus Christ.

What gospel might travel now to Wakanda? Would a cacophony of missionaries — protestant, Catholic, pentecostal, evangelical, etc. — head straight on over? What might they say? What might the Wakandan’s hear? Can this be separated from colonialism or be different from exploitation?  Or, since at least Shuri seems to know about the outside world’s “stuff”, perhaps Wakandans already have heard the message of Christ and created their own church and will be sending that into the world, and redeeming our flagging faith? I can imagine so many things.

The whole idea that is rather fundamental to Christianity is that God so loved the world, he sent his son to save it, not to condemn it. To heal the whole world by opening God’s love and grace and covenant to everybody and not just a select few. Yes?  And our Savior did that by dying. On a Cross. Suffering. And then he comes back to life after being really most sincerely dead. Christianity, at some basic fundamental level, wins by losing. Saves by giving it all away. Converts by loving each other.  Most people in Jesus’s day and the days of the early church saw this whole mess as “foolishness”. Count me a fool for Christ, said Paul.

Wakanda might see it just as foolishness too. After all their government doesn’t have elections but fights.  Their king is then imbued with the spirit of their god, the Black Panther. (Did I misunderstand? I really am new to this story. But otherwise where else does the Black Panther’s powers come from?) How would a people who literally believe that their king is divine, and have clear and physical proof of that, feel about the message of a Savior who died and rose again?

Perhaps rather like the Romans. They believed (I am told) that Caesar was a God/divine — or at least paid lip service to this. We’ve been here before, eh?

By the end of the movie Wakanda has agreed to be their brother’s keeper and is taking actions to help the world. They are very afraid — and Lord knows they have every right to be afraid  — will their country be a target? Will their country lose its freedom and independence? Will being their brother’s keeper end up costing them too much? Everything?

Here’s my hope, my prayer for Wakanda — may Christ’s love strengthen your will to help mend the deeply broken places of the world, in ways no superhero can, in ways that only human hands and human hearts can do. May your science and tech and beautiful uniqueness combine with grace and mercy and love to enlighten the world.

The stories we tell have power.