God and the Shawshank Redemption

 

The Shawshank Redemption is a film directed by Frank Darabont.  It stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.  It was released in 1994, and it was based on the Stephen King short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.    It is currently the highest user rated movie on IMDB.com ,with a 9.2 out of 10 and over 500,000 votes.  There is no question, this is one of the best movies to come out in the past two decades.  But what is it about this film that makes it so… good?  Certainly, it is perfectly directed and wonderfully acted, but how is it able to capture the attention and adoration of such a vast audience?  After watching it over a dozen times (probably well over 20 times) I have found that the film borrows heavily from the Bible, and more specifically, the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the gospels.  If any of you are rolling your eyes, I ask you to consider the following evidence and observations. As I go along I will assume that you have seen the film.  If you haven’t, you should do so immediately.

  • Like the gospel accounts, Shawshank is told, not by the main character, but by one who knew him personally.  In the Bible, Jesus asks his followers, “What do you say about me?”  Likewise, Andy asks Red, “What do you say?”  In both cases the subject is personal, and the narrator’s relationship to the protagonist is a critical element of the story.
  • Andy Dufresne is sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit.  Like Jesus, Andy enters a condemned world an innocent man.
  • The crime that Andy is accused of is the murder of his adulterous wife and her lover.  In the Bible, the Church is often refered to as the Bride of Christ.  When the bride chooses to “go to bed” with the world, she commits adultery in the eyes of God.  Also, Andy’s wife is murdered immediately following her affair, which fits with the Biblical teaching about sin and death.  Genesis 2:17 promises death for sinning.  Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death.  James 1:15 says,” after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  It is said over and over in a number of ways, but the point is the same.  Red even states, “They send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take.”  The condemned are robbed of life.
  • When Red speaks of his first impression of Andy he says, “I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over.”  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Jesus when he writes, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).  Jesus was a poor carpenter, and not a stunning specimen.
  • The Warden believes heavily in discipline, the Bible, and judgment.  He attends church groups and encourages his inmates to read the Bible.  When he meets Andy, he tells him, “Salvation lies within.”  But the Warden is an evil character.  He is a hypocrite and a liar and a murderer.  The Warden is like those religious people who put on a holy face, but are dead on the inside.  He does not love God, and uses religion for his own ends.  In his office hangs the verse, “His judgment cometh and that right soon.”  The Warden is subject to this judgment at the end of the film when he takes his own life.  So even though he does not live by what the Bible says, he is still subject to what it says.
  • Red says, “Andy was as good as his word.”   Jesus is the Word of God. And only God is good.  Jesus lived as he taught.
  • When Andy tells Red about his elaborate means of cleansing the Warden’s dirty money, Red replies, “Did I say you were good?  You’re a Rembrandt!”  First, Andy cleanses the dirty money as Jesus cleanses the world of sin.  Second, Rembrandt created many biblical paintings, and a number were of Jesus.  Jesus is a Rembrandt in this way.
  • There is a theme throughout the film of “coming out clean”.  In a grand sense, Andy and Red come out of jail cleansed men.  Also, Andy crawls through 500 yards of feces and “came out clean on the other side.”  And, once again, Andy cleans the Warden’s dirty money, which he uses in his new life.
  • “Everyone’s innocent in here”, is a phrase repeated throughout the film.  If the world knew and accepted its sin and condemnation, it would turn to God in repentance.  Jesus says, “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts–so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” (John 12:40)  Only after Red has grown close to Andy does he admit to being “the only guilty man in Shawshank.”  Similarly, when Peter recognizes who Jesus is, he cries, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”(Luke 5:8).
  • The Warden has Andy do “the hardest time there is.”  This suffering is like that of Jesus who endured the cross and the weight of humanity’s sin.
  • Andy uses posters of women to cover up his escape route.  Remember, it was a woman (his wife) who caused him to end up in prison.  Through a woman, Andy faced condemnation.  And through a woman, Andy received salvation.  In the Bible, Eve is the first to sin.  Through the woman, sin and death enter the world.  Then, Mary gives birth to the son of God.  Through the woman, salvation comes into the world.  Also, you can see the tunnel that Andy crawls through as a birth canal of sorts.  Jesus says that people must be “born again” of the spirit in order to have life.
  • Andy creates a character on paper, which he later adopts as himself when he escapes.  This act of creation through the word reflects the creation of God’s word at the beginning of time.  “In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God. And the Word was God…Through Him all things were made” (John 1:1-3).   The word becomes reality.
  • Through the word, Andy also condemns the Warden.  He kept all of his books, and he handed over all of the evidence when he escaped.  Note that this word only has power once Andy has escaped.  Likewise, the power of God’s word is found in the resurrection of Christ.  Without the resurrection, there is no hope of life for the believers, and there is no reason to trust God’s word.  Christ is alive, and that’s why His word matters.
  • If Andy had not escaped and started a new life, Red would have no hope once he was released.  If prison is the world, then we can view the world outside of prison as the afterlife.  His friend is alive and well, and that gives Red a reason to live.  Jesus is alive and well, and that gives his friends a reason to live, now and into eternity.
  • Consider that Redemption begins with RED.  The character that receives redemption is Red.  Red is redeemed by his friend, Andy.  Red is also the color of blood.  And it is by Christ’s sacrifice and spilled blood that mankind is redeemed.
  • Andy tells Red in a letter, “No good thing ever dies.”  This is the promise found throughout the Bible.  Only God is good.  And God is eternal.
  • When Red has his third and final parole hearing, he has accepted the guilt of his crime.  He says not a day goes by that he doesn’t regret it.  But, he also says that he doesn’t give a damn what happens to him.  He has accepted the truth of his own guilt, and he has stopped trying to save himself.  He gives up his life, and in this way, he receives it.  He is released.  Jesus says,” Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
  • Andy escapes to the pacific ocean, which is a place that has no memory.  The Bible states, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  (Isaiah 43:25).

 

The final thing I want to leave you with is my thoughts regarding the end of the film.  These are the final words spoken by Red.

I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

Red walks toward Andy as he works on his boat, and the two look at each other and smile.  Then they share an embrace as dear friends.  This is the hope of those who live and die for Jesus Christ.  When it’s all said and done, and this world melts away, we will stand face to face with the one who taught us how to live, and who gave us life.  The relationship between Red and Andy is far closer to the relationship between Jesus and his followers than what many people perceive.  To many, God is distant and cold.  He is words on a page, or a created character.  He is a dead figure in a dead religion.  But this is not the case.  Continue reading “God and the Shawshank Redemption”

The Disney Vault

The Walt Disney Company has implemented a policy in which certain classic films are stored and released from “The Vault”.   For years, a film will be very difficult to find, and one has to either pay extra or settle for a bootleg copy until it is re-released by Disney.  This is to create artificial scarcity.  It’s a business strategy.

According to Wikipedia, these are the movies currently under this policy.

Believe it or not, I actually think this is a good idea.  In our instant gratification culture it’s good that certain material goods are withheld for a time.  We’re so used to getting what we want when we want it.  Sure, it sucks when you want to buy one of these films and you can’t get it without paying too much, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.  When it is finally released from the vault, you can choose to purchase it at a more reasonable price.  Disney isn’t keeping food from the public.  They are choosing to withhold specific forms of entertainment for a time, with the aim of maximizing their profits.  It’s well within their right as a company to do so.

I want to accuse them of some wrong, but the more I think on this the more I agree with their vault policy.  The films are celebrated whenever they are re-released and Disney makes a profit.  There is an increase in value at both ends of the exchange.  If you simply have an issue with a major company making a profit, you’re going to have to re-think more than what movies to buy.

My Thoughts on the 3D Trend in Movies

It seems as if every new movie coming out is featured in 3D. Many of them are geared toward children, but some are aimed specifically at adults; Avatar and Resident Evil 3D to name a few. There is no sign of this trend stopping. What do I think of this new craze?

Movie ticket prices are already criminally high, so to add on those extra dollars for a 3D experience makes purchasing them unjustifiable. In my local theater it is about $11.00 to see a movie. The usual matinee price is around $8.00. 3D ticket prices can go as high as $14.00. That is about the price of your average DVD.
And don’t forget that snack purchases are even more outrageous. A box of candy will cost between $3.50 and $5.00. A bag of popcorn will cost at least $5.00. Even an Icee will run you $5.00. A family of four could easily spend upwards of $60.00 if they see a 3D film and have a few snacks. That is criminal.

Another issue I have is that 3D is almost universally used as a gimmick. Can you tell me how 3D adds any real depth to a plot or character? It is merely visual stimuli to make you feel that the movie is reaching into your space. But is this necessary? I know that a movie is good when I forget that I’m watching a movie. That is magic! And it is the result of a competent director, writer, cast etc. How will birds flying at me or glass shattering on me make me care about a lame story? Even Avatar, the best 3D movie to use 3D well, loses some points in my book. When the film becomes all about how it looks over how well it is written and acted, it loses the magic. It loses me.

Think of all the great films of the past century. Would any of them be strengthened by the addition of 3D? Would any of your favorite films be more cherished by you if they had this extra element? I suggest that 3D is bad for film, and as a result, bad for our society.

Dream: Street Fighter

Once in a while I have a vivid dream on an epic scale. I had one last night. Take a shot at interpreting it if you’d like.


Food Eaten Before Bed: 2 Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches From Trader Joe’s

Sleeping Conditions: Mattress on the floor of my old Amherst apartment with two small fans for white noise and air flow.

Last Item Viewed or Discussed: Watched 3 episodes of Arrested Development with Paul.

Dream Description: I am in what looks like a conference center with many rows of chairs. Surrounding me are characters from the original Street Fighter (1994) movie, most notably Jean Claude Van Damme as Guile. Then I notice that M. Bison is there. The odd thing is that he isn’t the actor from the movie, Raul Julia, but instead, Samuel L. Jackson. He demonstrates to us that he is unbeatable with his strength and quick movements.
Then the dream shifts to me becoming aware of an inability to escape the conference center. Bison has poisoned us with something that makes us deathly ill once we leave the building. So, we are forced to return.
Then my father appears in the dream. To teach me a lesson, Bison has his goons drag my father to the front of the room with the intention of killing him. I become enraged and desperate. I start attacking everyone around me as I try to save my father. The dream ends with almost everyone dead, but my father and I survive.

What is going on?!? Can I blame it all on the Chipwich?

Inception


I wanted to write about my experience with Christopher Nolan’s Inception immediately following my first watching, but I knew that a film of this type requires a repeat viewing and a little time to process. By the way, this is going to be riddled with SPOILERS, so if you have yet to see it please read no further.

Based on the trailers I was expecting a crime drama. I thought that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character was going to betray Leo’s character and through it all Leo was going to deal with some intense memories dealing with the love of his life. It turns out that was only half true. What Inception actually is is far better than what I was expecting.

Chris Cavalieri made a good observation after my second viewing when he recognized that the movie could have easily been silly and ridiculous. After all, the concept of going into a dream with other people is outlandish. As if a dream is a tangible place that you can inhabit. Nevertheless, I never scoffed during the movie. I was never distracted by the impossible things that the movie was suggesting. Of course these people can enter into your dreams. Nolan took good care to create a believable universe for us built on rules. But at the same time he doesn’t overdo it. He tells us what we need to know. The totems and the rules of time and limbo and the subconscious etc. He lets the world exist as it is. He lets us fill in the gaps.

One concept that I really liked was that of time within dream layers. This is not too hard to accept since we often experience what seems like a very long dream over the course of a few hours. Time is not the same within our dreams. So when we are told that time goes slower (or faster depending on how you look at it) as you descend into further dream levels, it isn’t a stumbling block for the audience. In fact, it adds great depth to the plot. Now we can have characters existing in various worlds (dream layers) while moving through time at different speeds. It is a creative way to expand the scope of this universe and adds to the suspense. You have a slow motion van falling off a bridge in layer 1 as Arthur moves through zero gravity in level 2 to prepare the needed jump to wake up the people who are in level 3. Once again, this could just be ridiculous, but it works. Nolan takes his craft seriously.

A stellar cast works to make the world of Inception believable and interesting. Leonardo Dicaprio is one of our best modern actors and Jospeh Gordon Levitt is repeatedly proving himself with films like 500 Days of Summer and Brick. I loved his role as Arthur. Ellen Page has been a source of love and hate for me in the past, but I liked her as Ariadne (the name of someone who created a labyrinth in Greek mythology I believe) since she deviated from her usual wit and sarcasm. She just played a genius. I also liked Ken Watanabe as the super wealthy corporate guy. And Tom Hardy as the forger is very likable and a good actor in his own right. Marion Cotillard as Mal pulled off a haunting, seductive, mentally unstable performance. And of course Michael Cain. Always a treat.

I love that this movie makes you think.

Was it all a dream? We see the totem spinning in the end and we can’t be sure if it will fall or keep spinning. This leaves it open for us to decide whether or not he is in a dream or in the real world. But even more, it makes us question the nature of reality. Cobb’s main purpose is to be with his kids “up there in the real world”. But is the real world the real world or is it just what Cobb believes is the real world? He has released the guilt that ruled him after Mal’s death by the time he returns to his children. Only then can he look at their faces and embrace them. So whether or not it is “real”, Cobb believes that he is united with his children again. The fact that he walks away from the totem before he can see if it falls indicates that his love for his children is greater than his fear that it isn’t real. But for what it’s worth, I believe he is in the real world. Nolan just leaves it open to force us to think about what makes this world real.

Is Inception possible? For me this has to deal with the topic of free will. Where does inspiration come from? How do we form our core beliefs? Can one conversation, one verse, one word shape us without us realizing it? Interesting to think about.

What is reality? Is it based on our perception or is it a truth apart? If a tree falls…
And how could we be sure? Must we take a leap of faith?

I love how this movie gets you thinking. One of the best I’ve seen.

9 out of 10

My Most Anticipated Films of 2010

I’ve realized that Youtube videos have become commonplace in my blog. I hope this hasn’t been a turnoff to any of you who prefer the purity of the written word. I intend to write more video-less blogs in the future, but for today’s purposes, I’m turning to Youtube yet again.
Also, it has been a couple of weeks since my last post. My apologies. Cookouts, laziness, excuses, etc etc…

There are three movies that I am really looking forward to this year. There is one that I’m just looking forward to (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1). Here are the three.

#1 Inception (July 16) Directed by Christopher Nolan and Starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Ellen Page
Here is the trailer

http://www.youtube.com/v/66TuSJo4dZM&hl=en_US&fs=1

What I like about this before even watching the trailer is that Christopher Nolan is at the helm. Can you say, Dark Knight? The director of both incredible Batman films, and The Prestige has certainly gained my trust. He has proven himself to be an intelligent and competent filmmaker. Beyond the credentials, this trailer really has me excited for the finished product. The subject of dreams is of great interest to me. And there is also some kind of love story between Leo and that woman from that Russel Crowe movie where he moves into an old french house. It looks like The Matrix meets The Dark Knight with a very good cast. Mystery, suspense, romance, action and people floating upside down! I’m psyched.

#2 Scott Pilgrim Vs the World Directed by Edgar Wright and Starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Here’s the trailer

http://www.youtube.com/v/O_RrNCqCIPE&hl=en_US&fs=1

Honestly, if Edgar Wright wasn’t directing this, I would probably not be looking forward to it this much. But, Edgar Wright is directing it. He is behind both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Now, also behind these films is Simon Pegg, who starred in both. Simon Pegg is not in Scott Pilgrim. Basically, I’m mostly going on faith. I have faith in Edgar Wright so I have faith in Scott Pilgrim.
Michael Cera is starting to annoy some people. He isn’t annoying me yet, but I do have a sense that this movie will make or break him in my book. He has a tendency to play that quirky, quick witted lovable goofball that quirky outcast girls seem to like. I don’t think it is wrong to say that he has played himself in pretty much every movie he has been in. I want to like him. But he’s skating on thin ice.
I’m liking the style of the film. That comic book, video game, over the top thing. We’ll see. I’m looking forward to it. But I have my reservations. I predict it will be polarizing.

#3 Tron: Legacy Directed by Joseph Kosinski and Starring Jeff Bridges and John Hurt
Here’s the trailer

http://www.youtube.com/v/L9szn1QQfas&hl=en_US&fs=1

Unlike the other two films, Tron: Legacy is sold purely on the trailer. I don’t know about the director and I’m not a huge Jeff Bridges fan (I like him, but I’ve never seen a movie because of him). I also have never seen the original, though I plan to soon. I just really like this trailer. It’s so cool. That’s it.

Hopefully these films will live up to my expectations.

The Humbling Effect of Paul Blart: Mall Cop


There are moments in life where you have to accept that certain things cannot be grasped. The concept of eternity. The distance between galaxies. The depth of love a parent has for their children. Now I add another; the appreciation that baby boomers have for the film, Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

I don’t want you to think that this idea simply popped into my head, recently. I didn’t just decide to write about this observation after a few hours of thought. No, this observation has been in development for over a year, and after many critical exchanges.

My father was the first middle-aged person to say to me, “Hey, did you see that Mall Cop movie? It looks funny.” Of course I responded that I had not seen it and couldn’t imagine why he would have any interest. I brushed this off, and prepared to let the whole matter go.

Then I heard from a friend that his father asked him the same basic question, which implied that there was a definite interest in the film from the older gentleman. Later, if I recall correctly, my friend’s father rented the film and enjoyed it.

I began to make a connection in my mind. Perhaps there is something about this movie that attracts the older generation. But I still didn’t have enough evidence.

Eventually I sat down and watched the film in its entirety. It wasn’t very good. This didn’t surprise me. And still there were no clues as to why anyone over thirty would be drawn to it.

As time passed, I noticed the film all over the place. It was on posters in the video store. It was on internet advertisements . There were entire shelves devoted to it at Walmart. Clearly, someone was buying this movie. There had to be an audience keeping it alive.

The final piece of evidence came tonight, when another friend admitted that his own mother had expressed interest in the film. And yet after all of this evidence, I am helpless to figure out why the baby boomers are so drawn to it. Helpless.

There are certain things we will never grasp, and it is best to accept it. I do not understand the allure of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I never will. At least not for another 20 years.

The Dark Side of Back to the Future


Let me begin with a little disclaimer. I love Back to the Future. I think it’s a great trilogy. What I’m about to say is not meant to diminish its greatness in any way. I just have some thoughts.

Marty Mcfly is pretty cool, but his parents are losers. George Mcfly is spineless and clueless.
He is at the mercy of Biff. Lorraine is an alcoholic and by all appearances a poor mother. Then Marty goes back in time, alters the past, and his parents become “better” people and Biff becomes a spineless pushover. It’s all well and good, but let’s take a closer look.

Put yourself in the shoes of George, Lorraine, or even Biff. Your life isn’t perfect, but at least you’re you. You are who you are and no one can take that. Even if they kill you, they can’t steal your identity. They can’t rob your essence. But what does Marty do? He alters the past and changes you! And you know what the worst part is? You have no idea that it happened!!! What happened to the old you?

Marty was almost erased from existence when his parents almost didn’t get together (his mom had the hots for him. Another dark element of the movie) . I suggest that his old parents, the losers, were erased from existence when Marty changed the past.

Marty Mcfly is worse than a murderer. He is worse than a sorcerer with the power to steal souls. He is a soul eraser. And no punishment could ever suffice.

(Above, Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat steals souls)

But, maybe I’m being too harsh. Besides, he didn’t know any better. If anyone is to blame, it’s Doc Brown. He invented time travel and threatened the entire universe.

Equilibrium : Why I Love It

Chances are, unless you are one of my male friends, you have never seen or heard of the movie, Equilibrium.
It came out in 2002 and starred Christian Bale before he became a household name. The story is that mankind had nearly wiped itself out with what we can assume was WW3. Some time after, the remainder of civilization came together and decided to resolve the root of humanity’s problems, emotion. So they formulated a serum that eradicated intense feelings of any kind. They sought to create a utopia in which violence and hatred would be replaced with peace and serenity. Unfortunately, many humans remained outside of this new civilization, in the borderlands of the great city.
Here is a quote from the movie’s intro that sums up nicely:
“In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”

The Grammaton Clerics seek out those who refuse to submit to the new order. They are highly lethal. Here is another quote to illustrate what I mean.
“Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.”

Christian Bale is the best of the best among Clerics. He even kills his own partner after discovering that he has stopped taking his medications and chosen to feel. But this quickly causes him to question his own humanity, and starts a chain of events that threatens to take down the entire new world order.

There are many reasons why I love this movie.

The Action: Ever heard of Gun Fu? Let me explain. When you fire a gun, you’re usually aiming it carefully in front of your face. I’m sure some of my friends could elaborate on that, but that’s the basic idea. Gun Fu, as I understand it, takes a gun and turns it into an object of highly stylized violence. To put it another way, it’s martial arts with guns. Not much of the careful aiming you find in reality. Equilibrium has a number of ridiculous shootouts that pit one man against dozens. It’s completely unrealistic, but that’s not the point. It’s awesome.

The Actor: My friends and I saw this movie before Christian Bale’s star caught on fire with movies like Batman Begins and The Prestige. For that reason, it feels like he belongs to us. I suppose it’s like when you love an unpopular band. They are small enough that they could just belong to you. Then they get insanely popular, but you still hold on to the part that was yours.
Also, Bale does the “no emotion” thing very well. His breakout performance in American Psycho
proved this as well.

The Emotion: Most young men love violence. And I bet most older men do as well, even though we understand that it is mostly an evil. This movie at once satisfies that underlying desire to kill and win (a line I have stolen from Hot Shots: Part Deux) with its relentless action while simultaneously forcing us to examine its darkside. When emotion rules us it ruins us like a spark that starts a forest fire. But without feelings, namely love (this is more than a feeling but humor me for now) , we are just a ticking clock waiting to expire. Equilibrium illustrates the internal eternal struggle that rages in every man.

Man’s Best Friend: Do you love dogs? Christian Bale does.
http://www.youtube.com/v/lcTft47wsDg&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

If you’re willing to overlook the fact that he kills all of those men for the sake of a dog, you’ll really appreciate such an anti- Old Yeller moment.

This movie has a special place in my film library. It’s not the best, but it doesn’t need to be. It just kicks ass.