For those still interested in reading, I have relocated to a new blog website. Here is the link.
I was reading an article a while back about the NC-17 rating in movies. For a long time, films with these ratings have suffered in the box office, because NC-17 seems to have this dark cloud hovering over it. One of the first things that comes to mind when I have talked with people about it is that if a movie is NC-17, it obviously has gratuitous sexual content. That is the thought process because NC-17 just brings that to mind. There is a legitimate reason for that, however. Before 1990, NC-17 was actually the X-rating. However, the pornographic industry has pretty much taken the letter X in, and it is almost always associated with graphic sexual content now in the media. The rating was changed so that this might not be the case in people’s minds. This is why it was replaced with the NC-17 rating. The NC-17 rating is meant to show that a film is intended only for adults, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is because the film is graphically sexual in nature. It could mean that children just wouldn’t understand it because of the complicated subject matter.
The focus film of the article was the movie Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Michael Fassbender’s character is a sex addict who spirals out of control when his sister moves in and stirs up emotion of his painful past. Metacritic.com, a website that compiles many different film ratings from all around and combines them into an average, gave the film a 72 out of 100. For a total average of compiled reviews, that is pretty good. However, the film only made around $3.7M in the U.S. box office, falling very short of its estimated production budget of roughly $6.5M. It made roughly $8M in foreign box offices, however, keep in mind that the $6.5M is only the estimated production budget. Think about all the money that is spent on Marketing and Distribution via Print and Advertising.
So since it was unsuccessful, that obviously means that it was a bad film, right? Not quite. Success isn’t always measured by quality in the media. Just listen to pop radio. So should the film have taken out some of the graphic content to bring it down to at least an R rating? Some people would say yes, others would say no. For someone whose idea of a great film is one that is lighthearted in nature and tells the viewer everything they want to hear, Shame is probably a disgrace to films everywhere. But to a struggling sex addict who knows the horrors of what deep, painful addiction actually feels like, Shame is probably only a fraction of what it is really like. So, which viewer is right? Should a film censor out material so that everyone can benefit from its message, or should the truth of the subject matter be explored in full detail so that the honesty of it isn’t compromised?
I wish that sexual addiction didn’t exist just as much as the next person. But the fact of the matter is, it does exist, and it destroys lives all the time. I’m very sorry that it has to be this way, but if our idea of conflict is something that doesn’t offend anyone, then that is a problem. And yes, I think this is one of the reasons that Christian films appeal mainly to Christian audiences. The truth is offensive, and I know that when someone calls me out on something that is true, I am often heavily offended. But I soon realize that it is the truth and it needs to change.
My favorite film to date is The Shawshank Redemption, because it explores what it honestly feels and looks like to become desensitized by your surroundings, or as the film calls it, institutionalized. In order to show that honestly, however, the film explores what it feels like to live in prison for life. Things like gang rape, abuse from authority figures, extortion, money laundering, and much more, play a heavy role in setting the stage for the film. It also explores beautiful things like the freeing, redemptive power that music and deep, meaningful friendship can have on a soul. I love this film, however, I don’t believe it would last long in the DVD player of a church bus going on a trip.
Please understand that I do not in any way want to steer someone in the wrong direction with this argument. I am simply asking questions. The movie Up is PG, and it is just as beautiful. The movie Good Night, and Good Luck. is a phenomenal film and it is very much an adult drama, but it is also PG because it deals with public news and reporting rather than sex addiction.
Thank you for reading. Do not be afraid to disagree completely with me, but please feel free to comment.
Sometimes, to write something really good, I think you first have to write something really bad. I don’t mean kinda bad. I mean awful. And don’t stop writing once you realize how bad it is. If it’s a song, don’t just stop at writing a bad verse. Write an entire song. The same for writing a book, a letter, an email, a blog, or anything. Then when you’re done, start working on the good one, because now you have something to build off of. Seriously, for every one song that I write that I really like, and I mean really really like, I will probably write about 10 or 12 bad songs that I like for about an hour, if that long. To me, a song should still be meaningful after playing it over and over about 100 times. I had a Jack Johnson Live album that I used to play in my truck over and over and over. I bet it was probably in there for about 2 months, if not longer. That cd is pretty much toast now. I think that 4 or 5 songs on it skip pretty bad now. Luckily, I put all of the songs on my iPod before it got that bad.
Back to what I was saying. I could play any song from that cd right now and still enjoy it. I don’t know why I enjoy it. I just do. It works. To me, that’s what makes something special. I know how to go through the process of writing a song. Throw a chord progression together, add some lyrics to it, come up with a melody, and there you go. We have a new song. That’s all there is to it right? Not exactly. Unless your intentions are to get the song played on the radio. If that’s the case, then yes, you’re done.
I rode to Lansing, Michigan a few months ago with a few instructors of mine to attend a Michigan Film Incentives Meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to give the residents of Michigan a chance to speak to the state about why they believed that film incentives are important for the people involved in film in Michigan. One of the things that one of the speakers mentioned was that film will always require humans, because it is creative. You can build a robot to put together parts to a car, but it takes a designer to design the parts. That’s the case with film. Every film starts with an idea, or a dream. Robots don’t dream.
On the ride back, we were talking about this. It was a very interesting argument, and I believe that it is something to be recognized.
I recently wrote the 4th draft to the script that I shared on here a few weeks ago. To put this plainly, my 4th draft might as well have been written by a robot. The first draft that I wrote came out honestly. I knew what I wanted to write about, I knew why I wanted to write it, and I knew how I wanted to do it. The 4th draft, on the other hand, was written much differently. I had received story notes from instructors, and I had also begun to feel pressure from the group on making the film produceable. Instead of taking my original idea and crafting it, I took the idea and tried to make it fit inside of a box. What I came out with was a clean, produceable, lifeless script.
Finally, after destroying my original idea, I now know what the controlling idea is. I now know exactly what I want to communicate, and I know why I want to do it. Sound familiar? Yep. It sounds a lot like the way I felt before I wrote the original draft. However, I now know what not to do. I now know what the wrong script looks like. It pretty hard to see the opposite of nothing. It’s a lot easier to see the opposite of bad.
I hope this provides encouragement for you today. I know that one of my biggest struggles in faith is that I often live in the gray area. If there is one thing I’ve learned from living in the gray area, it’s that you will never make any mistakes if you never take any risks. You will also never accomplish anything. You’ll become jello, or as my Film History instructor would say, “Pumpkin Pie: The definition of mediocrity.”
So I encourage you to do something. I don’t know if I should say this, but I know I’m not the only person who has wondered this.
What if God had never created everything?
Well, He did.
“Our object should not be to have scripture on our side but to be on the side of Scripture; and however dear any sentiment may have become by being long entertained, so soon as it is seen to be contrary to the Bible, we must be prepared to abandon it without hesitation.”
I saw this quote online tonight and wanted to share it with you. I don’t really have much to say, other than this: I struggle with reading Scripture. I struggle with reading in general, and I have trouble sharing Scripture with people, simply because I have trouble reading it myself. If we are to spread the Gospel with zeal, we must be zealous about the Gospel ourselves. This is no big surprise to you. I understand that. It’s just the thing that has been on my mind. My challenge for you is to encourage one another to search the Scripture daily, and please, please, please, share it with each other when you are moved by a passage.
Why not start now? I’ll share one of my favorite Psalms with you.
Psalm 42 (NLT)
For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah.
1 As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
3 Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
4 My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
5 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and 6 my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
8 But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
9 “O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
I’m leaving tonight to head back up to the Great White North. I thought I would leave you with a script that my writing partner and I are working on for this semester to make into a short film.
Like I said, it’s impossible to describe a feeling of Liberation, but I wanted to share this picture with you.
What does the word “Liberation” mean to you?
What does it feel like to be Liberated?
I read an article a few years ago about ten abandoned cities throughout the world. Some of them became abandoned for health reasons due to harmful living conditions, and others just died out. I was immediately hooked.
I don’t know what it is about abandoned cities that sparks my interest so much. Something about them speaks to a deeper part of me that is hard to communicate. Maybe it’s the silence that they have. It’s as if I feel sorry for the city, town, or landscape that was abandoned if that makes any sense. What made a once thriving area become so lifeless. What’s so different about the picture I posted above and a picture of New York City? They both have tall buildings. They both have brick and steel. Why does one thrive while the other sits lifeless?
Have you ever met a person like this? They were a living breathing person, but other than that, they just seemed to be like a robot. Have you met people like this who it’s clear that they know they are missing something? Have you met people like this who appear that they have it all, but are completely dull on conversation?
Have you met people like this, who it seems as if they literally can’t feel anything?
I got to go on top of the roof of an abandoned building tonight. One of the guys said, “It’s so Liberating.” It really was. There was still snow on the roof. The wind was blowing, making it feel about 20 degrees. There were lights from the city all over the city. It was a moment of freedom.
What makes you feel most alive? When do you feel that you are truly alive?
I may lose you here, but there have been times when the inside of a church building has felt like one of those abandoned cities to me.
A friend of mine at my film school that I am writing a story with for next semester was talking about some deep things with me the other day. He grew up in a Catholic school, but he has never really sought out religion very deeply. We were talking about The Tree of Life, the movie I mentioned in my last post, and he said that he had been doing a lot of thinking lately. For instance, he mentioned that he has been trying to wrap his mind around things like eternity, and it just didn’t make sense. He said that he wasn’t sure it was meant to make sense to him.
I agree. That’s what makes it infinite. I told him that one thing that always got to me about the church was that we spent almost all of our time talking about what not to do, or this is the way to live your life, and things like that. I want to talk about the wonder of God. The majesty and the awe of God. Not about how nice the flowers look on the pulpit stage. I told him that if I, as a Christian, lived in a state of awe from experiencing God’s wonder, and if I truly felt that, spreading the gospel wouldn’t even be a decision any more. It would be natural, because of my love for the story I am telling and the God that it is about. And that is something that is so hard to share with people. I can tell someone how it feels to me to listen to a song by Explosions in the Sky, or to stand on the roof of a building at night, or to watch a scene from a movie that means something to me, but I can’t make that person feel it, and I can’t stand that.
There is no way to define Liberation. You just feel it. I can’t explain it without examples, but that still doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. There’s no formula.
I believe the same about being in love with God. Feeling him active makes every other moment without him seem fake and empty. That’s the message that I want to share, but I’ve got to really feel it myself first. I encourage you, as Christians, to search for these moments, and share them with each other, because they matter. That’s what will bring Liberation to an empty soul.
Thanks for reading, for those of you that made it this far.
Here is the link to the one of the articles I mentioned, for those of you who care to look at it.