“The Big Sick”: romantic comedy about caregiving covers Muslim assimilation

The Big Sick”, directed by Michael Showalter, written by comedian Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, does, even as a romantic medical comedy (if there is such a thing) lay out the issue of assimilation for religious minorities, especially Muslims.

Kumali, playing himself as having come with his parents as a little boy from Pakistan, does comedy gigs at Chicago nightclubs, more or less on Rush Street. His more conservative but well assimilated Muslim parents urge him to go to law school and become respectable.

Kumali falls in love with a (Gentile) girl Emily (Zoe Kazan), and they start sleeping together.  One day Emily twists her ankle in a supermarket, and a few days later is in a medical coma with what looks like a life-threatening opportunistic pneumonia.  Kumali is the only one present until family arrives and pretends to be the husband.  The doctor asks if she has HIV, which could mean that Kumali has been exposed to AIDS himself. (Yes, heterosexuals can spread it.)

But it turns out that Emily has an unusual automimmune disorder, related to genetics (and probably an earlier infection like mono).  Eventually she pulls through, and the end of the film will deal with whether they still have a relationship.

The film presents a few social issue confrontations. Early in the film, when Emily shouts out at him, he scolds her for harassing a  comedian, which is considered rude behavior in comedy clubs.  (Ask Kate Clinton, whom I have watched on Netflix.)  Nevertheless, that helps start the relationship.

While Emily is in the hospital, a caricature of a while nationalist and “Trump supporter” harasses Kmali in the club as a recruiter for “ISIS”.  The boorish troll gets tossed by security, but not before he is told he is  “bad person”, part of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”.

Then there is the scene where Kumali is confronted by his parents.  Why doesn’t he think about his family instead of himself, they say.  Why is an arranged marriage to a Muslim girl not god enough for him?  Why won’t he grow his beard?  (He looks quite handsome and charismatic as he is, clean-shaven but with his hairy body;  most middle Eastern people are actually “white”, a fact that gets lost on a lot of people.)  Why won’t he kneel and pray five times a day facing Mecca?  Kumali does not such formality is necessary to have the personal faith.

I worked in I.T. or 30 years, and I always encountered software people from India and Pakistan. Until 9/11, nobody thought about religion in the office.  Everyone was assimilated. The parents are shown as well off, with beautiful Islamic interior decorations and art work in the house, and well assimilated into American capitalism and business.

At the end, Kumali moves to New York to start in a new club, and Emily has to make a choice.

Chicago picture (wiki).

There was a short film called “Murphy” about a boy, a dog and an animation in the pre-show (M2M).

Name: The Big Sick
Director, writer:  Michael Showalter, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/9/10
Length:  120
Rating:  R
Companies:  Amazon Studios, Lionsgate, Apatow
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017m at 12:30 PM EDT)

“A Ghost Story”: what to expect during your own “life review” when you pass away

Richard Lowery’s new little “horror” film and Sundance hit, “A Ghost Story”, does indeed provide an interesting theory about the afterlife.  In a sense, heaven is for real, and not just in the Christian sense.

The basic idea here is that C (Casey Affleck, covered in an inexpensive bedsheet as a prop, right out of the morgue) goes through a “life review” (the Monroe Institute talks about this) first, experiencing his widow’s (Rooney Mara) grief as he mopes in their rented house in exurban Dallas.  But, since they weren’t together long enough to have kids, he has to find some other chains of “space-time boxes” to connect his own lifeline to.  These tesseracts are connected to the rural house itself, it’s history (back to the days of the pioneers and Indian attack) to the future, when the house is torn down and replaced by commercial real estate as the Dallas area keeps expanding.  The same fate as the gay club Town DC a year from now.

The film has a bare-bones look in the beginning, shot 1.37:1, to create the feel of old movies (though in color) and enable closeups, At a critical point in the screenplay, twenty minutes into the film, we see the aftermath of C’s fatal car wreck in front of his house (he was T-boned getting out of his driveway, but we don’t see the accident in motion).   But toward the end, as M does his time travel, the visuals get quite impressive.

There are some other social gatherings, as the Hispanic family that rents the house after M leaves, and the kids play with Brio toys – and people try the out-of-tune piano that never leaves the house (right out of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck”).  Then there is a pot party with some other people, where Prognosticator (Will Oldham) gives a monologue on whether consciousness lives forever through music – using Beethoven’s Ninth as an example.  I thought he could try the completed Bruckner Ninth as an example (Dec 3 posting).

I thought particularly about Casey Affleck’s earlier tragic film “Gerry” (2002) , Gus Van Sant’s film where he and a friend played by Matt Damon face loss in the Mojave Desert.

Also, I remember Peter Straub’s mammoth 70s novel “Ghost Story”, with its long middle section about Anna Mobley, and the character Stringer Dedham, who didn’t die when the “life ran out of him”.  The movie (1981, John Irwin) was underwhelming.

Name: A Ghost Story
Director, writer:  Richard Lowery
Released:  2017
Format:  1.37:1 (old-time aspect for close-ups)
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic Fairfax VA 2017/7/14 late night small audience
Length:  91
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  A24
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)

“The Story of Ruth”: Fox 1960 CinemaScope spectacle plays up the issue of idol-worship in presenting a maternal ancestor of Jesus

In the 1950s, 20th Century Fox promoted the spectacle genre after it premiered Cinemascope in 1953 with Llyod C. Douglas’s “The Robe”.  I saw it at the old Jefferson in Falls Church, one of the first “neighborhoods” to be converted to wide screen, and, yes, I cried at the end.

The Story of Ruth”, directed by Henry Koster, appeared in 1960 and is somewhat lower keyed than earlier spectacles, yet the film, with very crisp cinematography, makes the ancient world of the Judges in the Bible look interesting.

Ruth, as we remember from Sunday school perhaps, was the humble woman who became an ancestor of David and therefore eventually Jesus Christ himself.

But the film adds a lot of material in the beginning to the Old Testament book “Ruth” which is complicated enough in all the migrations and family ties.  “The Story of the Bible” by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, 1936, a favorite of my late father (p. 143, Chapter 10), and Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, 1939,  Story 21, p. 196, “The Young Woman Who Forsook Idols to Serve God”, give the details with some variation.

The film starts with presenting Ruth (Elena Eden) as an idol worshipper, preparing a Moabitess girl Tebah (Daphna Einnhorn) to be sacrificed to the pagan god Chemosh.  Quickly the film presents the obvious dilemma:  idols can indeed have clay feet and break, and, well, and idol is only what you see;  beauty is only skin deep.

The complications of the story, as the film returns to the Biblical text, involve Ruth’s conversion to Judaism and worshipping the one god Jehovah, accepting poverty and returning to Judah out of family loyalty, and gleaning in the fields.  Accepting the charity of others becomes part of moral purification.  The film covers how easily inherited wealth can be lost, and also the idea that men were expected to marry widowed family members.  At the end, Ruth turns down a man she does not love, as a good man named Boaz (Stuart Whitman).

Back around 1952, public schools were allowed to have religious classes after school, and I can remember confessing “I have idols” in writing in a note to the teacher.

“Boaz” happens to be the last name of a prominent libertarian writer and officer at the Cato Institute in Washington DC.  In the film, the character seems to be the most respectful of all of the liberty of others.

There are several newer versions of the story, as one from Pure Flix.

Name:  “The Story of Ruth”
Director, writer:  Henry Koster
Released:  1960
Format:  CinemaScope (slightly wider than the usual anamorphic today)
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD
Length:  123
Rating:  PG
Companies:  20th Century Fox
Link:  Pinterest

(Posted: Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 1 PM EDT)

“The Discovery”: a mad scientist develops TV to look at the afterlife and finds it a strange loop

The Discovery”, directed by Charlie McDowell, and produced by Endgame and Protagonist,  is Netflix’s proudest release for this spring, a science fiction film about layers of reality that seems inspired a bit by Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, and some ideas (for the straight world) borrowed from the gay time paradox film “Judas Kiss”.  But it doesn’t have the visual sweep of either of these films.

The Discovery of the mad scientist Thomas Harbor, played by Robert Redford with all of his conservative charisma, is that the Afterlife of people after brain death has been recorded.  (There is some record of this sort of thing like in Eben Alexander’s book “Proof of Heaven”).  In a guarded mansion on Newport Beach, Rhode Island, Harbor carries out his work, with a machine than can render paranormal experiences on a 50s-like black and white TV, shaking, and no Philco Halo Light.

The film opens with a broadcast interview (with Mary Steenburgen), where a production assistant commits suicide on camera.  Pretty soon Thomas’s son Will (Jason Segel) and a soutmate Isla (Rooney Mara, of course) take a ferry to the place, where they are escorted by Will’s long-haired, chain-smoking brother Toby (Jesse Plemons).

In the mansion there is a whole “family” of subjects, in orange uniforms, rather like a cult in a horror film. As the film progresses (the details of the plot, in Wikipedia, are lengthy and somewhat convoluted, as in a Nolan film) bad family secrets crawl out of the metalwork like blobs.  The equipment is 50s stuff, with electrodes and mesh that would threaten a male subject’s chest hair (and there’s plenty of the stringy stuff attached to pates, too).  In time, the controversy seems to be, are the visions just dreams (like “Inception”) or are they really alternative reality paths in parallel universes that your consciousness jumps into when you die.  “The end is only the beginning” and maybe everyone really is a strange loop.

Indeed, the film will take some twists as Will and Isla fall in love, that only quantum paradox keeps from becoming tragic.

I think there are more interesting ideas to try, like merging together into group consciousness, for future redistribution (like in my “Angel’s Brother”).

It’s interesting that Netflix picked this up, because the Sundance film would seem to be capable of attracting a theatrical audience in chains like Landmark or Angelika.

Name:  “The Discovery”
Director, writer:  Charlie McDowell
Released:  2017/3/31
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant Play
Length:  102
Rating:  NA (PG-13)
Companies:  Endgame, Protagonist, Netflix
Link:  Facebook, Netflix (requires logon and subscription)

Picture: Bridge near Newport, my visit, Aug. 2015

(Posted: Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)

“The Case for Christ”: a journalist (Lee Strobel) becomes Christian after a rigorous “fact check” of the Resurrection

The Case for Christ”, directed by Jon Gunn, is based on journalist Lee Strobel’s own autobiographical book.

Lee (Mike Vogel), a graduate of the University of Missouri journalism school, in 1980 was working as a high profile crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune.  His wife Leslie (Erika Christiansen) congratulates him as a “published author” for “Reckless Homicide? Ford’s Pinto Trial”  (I had owned a Pinto myself in the mid 1970s in New Jersey).  Remember, this was in the days just before the PC (like the TRS80) as available, and writers still used typewriters. Self-proclaimed atheists, they seem to be doing a good job as parents of a young daughter.  Vogel is also working on a complicated story about a shooting of a policeman, with informants and other crooked cops and fall guys – which will turn into a major subplot worthy of the Innocence Project (or maybe of Andrew Jenks’s new series “Unlocking the Truth”, Oct. 29).

One evening at a restaurant, daughter Alison (Haley Rosenwasser) nearly chokes on a cookie in a restaurant. The movie doesn’t explain why the parents didn’t know the Heimlich maneuver (there’s an example of it in my first “Tribunal and Rapture” novel document where a Christ-like young man rescues a child at a Texas barbecue).  But a nurse Alfie (L. Scott Caldwell) appears and saves the child with the maneuver.  Leslie believes, with a little prodding from Alfie, that this is a miracle from God, and begins to attend church and is baptized.

Lee goes on a journalistic voyage to look at the real evidence for Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross and his Resurrection.  One of the most interest aspects of the evidence is the number of eyewitnesses (up to the time of Pentecost), and of the ability to track actual original handwritten documents almost to the time of Pentecost. (The movie points out that the Koran would not be written for another 500 years.)   He e travels to California to talk to a med school professor about the evidence that Christ really died.  In the meantime, his marriage almost falls apart. At times, the film takes on the adventurousness of an Irving Wallace novel (like “The Plot” or “The Prize”).

What he winds up is a journalistic “proof beyond reasonable doubt” based on witness testimony that Jesus rose from the dead.

Vogel would eventually become a pastor and major best-selling author of Christian books. ‘

Had I lived at the time of Christ and been one of the 500 witnesses, the experience would have defined my own intellectual world.  That still fits in to my modern idea of cosmology.

The movie seems to be more about whether faith must become personal.  But what I find difficult is the faith required to accept the vulnerability involved in really serving other people with their “real needs” and letting them be important.  That takes real hands on skill, not intellect.  It gets personal.  It’s more subtle than the collective faith you see in praise services.

But what I want to see is someone live up to the ideal that Christ created – whether another young Clark Kent (even “alien”) or a filmmaker like the second (reincarnated) Danny of “Judas Kiss”.

Name:  “The Case for Christ
Director, writer:  Joe Gunn, Lee Strobel
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards, Alexandria VA, fair crowd
Length:  111
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  PureFlix
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, April 14, 2017 at 11:30 PM EDT)

 

“Last Days of Jesus” gives a new theory on the politics of the Crucifixion

The documentary “Last Days of Jesus”, from Blink Films (114 minutes, apparently an Australian produce, no director named) aired on PBS last night and will air numerous more times until Easter.

The film advances an interesting theory about the political struggle that led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The documentary style is one of narration with actors.  A UNC religion professor gave a lot of commentary.

It starts by tracing the boyhood of Jesus, and showing the remains a of a stone house in Nazareth that suggest that Joseph and Mary were economically better off than generally believed.  Jesus developed the skill to become a building contractor.

But as a young man he was always are of his mission, and as in the Bible, his personal epiphany came from meeting John the Baptist.

When Jesus was a teen, a political struggle in Rome developed that would have a bearing on how his own life would end.  This had to do with the rise of a young man and soldier with Shakespearian ambitions, Lucius Aelius Sejanus.  Apparently he arranged the poisoning of political rivals and became the top confidant of Tiberius, who even wanted to build a city in his name on the Dead Sea.  When he became deputy emperor, he became somewhat friendly with the Jewish establishment in the Holy Lands because he wanted stability. But a few months before Jesus’s Passion, he was summoned by the Roman Senate, expecting a “promotion” but instead was imprisoned and executed for the murders.

The Sadducees, as a conservative sect of Judaism at the time, emphasized the written law of God and were somewhat unpopular with the people in the various towns around Jerusalem.   The Pharisees, often reviled I Sunday school as wanting to be heard “for their much speaking” were actually somewhat populist in some sense.  (I mention the Pharisees at the opening of the last story in my “Do Ask. Do Tell III” book, that is, “The Ocelot the Way He Is”;  I’ll take this up soon on my DADT Notes blog.)

In the meantime, Herod had wanted to become viewed as “King of the Jews”.  He liked working with Sejanus.  After the execution of Sejanus (the political scandal somehow remind me of the 2016 elections) perturbed the political climate in such a way that Herod and Pilate were affected, as well as the relationships among the various religious groups.  Herod had even supported the idea of a separate religious “kind” (that is, “two kings”).  That also upset the political situation of Judas, among the disciples, in particular.

The film supposes that “Palm Sunday” really happened in the fall, and that Pilate took some time before deciding to jail Jesus, who would not be crucified for several months.  The political story of Judas many vary somewhat from previous accounts (like the 2006 NatGeo film “The Gospel of Judas”). It may even bear on the plot ironies surrounding a short film called “Judas Kiss” embedded in the controversial 2011 gay science fiction film by that name (the lead character Danny (Richard Harmon and then Charlie David), a filmmaker, is presented as having a Christ-like charisma but yet is troubled by a certain paradox).

The film notes that writers in the first centuries may have avoided mentioning Sejanus out of fear and self-censorship, so his narrative did not make it into the New Testament.  Sounds familiar?  Like Trump’s battle with journalists?

PBS program link.

PBS DVD sales link.

Modern view of Nazareth, wiki.

(Posted: Wednesday, April5, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT)

“Finding Altamira”: discovery of prehistoric cave art in Spain in 19th century triggers a science v. religion controversy

Finding Altamira” (2016), directed by Henry Hudson, about challenging religious precepts with science, something quite daring in the 19th Century.

In 1879, explorer Marcelino Sanz de Sautuloa y de la Pedrueca (Antonio Banderas), an amateur explorer, investigates a vaguely known cave in northern Spain.  His daughter Maria (Allegra Allen) notices the prehistoric paintings and in time makes the discovery known.

The local Catholic church establishment sees this as a threat, as personified by the Monsignor (Rupert Everett).  Pretty soon Marcelino is pilloried and “unpopular” in a way common today for people who don’t go along with their peers.  This film certainly seems timely given Donald Trump’s populist strategy and his apparent disdain for science as privileged and elitist.

There is plenty of dialogue about the tension between individualistic rationalism and the ability to “love people”.  There are lines to the effect, that God made the world, and created it for his own glory; to maintain otherwise (including questioning the virgin birth) is anathema, to demand excommunication from the church.  Even Picasso would see this as “decadent”.  Marcelino’s wife, Conchita (Golshifteh Farahani) challenges the monsignor, saying she will place her husband before God but not before “you”.

The cave art is thought to be 35000 years old, maybe Neanderthal.

The piano music background includes Mozart (Sonata 15), Scarlatti (who draws comment), and a transcription of the Prelude to Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”.

The film has some interesting animation sequences of the bison in the drawings as the child dreams.

Wiki picture from cave.

Wiki picture of Bilbao, east of caves, which I visited in April  2001.

Name:  “Finding Altamira”
Director, writer:  Henry Hudson
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD 2017/3/28
Length:  93
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Samuel Goldwyn
Link:  official;   NY Times

(Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 11:15 PM EST)

“Life After Death”: the geography of the Afterlife (Martin)

I received, from author Stephen Hawley Martin, a complimentary review copy of his Second Edition (2017) “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”.  I think the first edition was in 1995.

The author believes that consciousness generates the Universe and permeates it.  Consciousness exists apart from matter and energy – you could wonder if it has anything to do with dark energy, or with unused dimensions in string theory.  Consciousness tends to aggregate into concentrates that seek some sort of physical vehicle for expression.  Since ultimate conscious entities can make choices, in theory conscious entities – expressed (on this planet at least) with reproductive life forms, oppose entropy, which would cause the Universe to degrade.

Human being (and animal) individual consciousness comes about as genetics and “morphogenetic” influences cause a “soul” or conscious entity to become expressed or “received” by a physical body.  Many other sources talk about “free will” and self-awareness as connected to microtubules within neurons able to deal with quantum uncertainties.

Martin’s book, which is a bit random in its presentations style, focuses most on evidence from “near death experiences” or NDE’s, and many examples of reincarnation.  He mentions AMORC, or the Rosicrucian Order, as well as the Monroe Institute (20 miles south of Charlottesville VA) which he says the CIA has used to train agents in remote viewing. He cites cases of intelligent people with very little cerebrum matter, and notes that even plants can “behave” despite not having brains.

I think there is a logical question.  Do most newborn babies develop a “new” soul, or are most actually reincarnations?  If the universe expands infinitely and has infinitely many centers of consciousness, there could be an “infinite series” of reincarnation – but then again, some series will converge! He mentions AMORC’s (Rosicrucian) teaching that typical reincarnation cycles last about 140 years.

The author suggests that homosexuality may result when the person was of the opposite sex in the previous incarnation (although this idea runs the risk of confusing sexual orientation with gender identity or fluidity, very different concepts).  It’s all too easy to imagine the “Putin” argument that acceptance of homosexuality can lower procreation (and give returning souls another chance).

He also talks about “life between lives”, as being “what you want”.  Some souls “get stuck” as “asylum seekers” and become ghosts.  The sites “Afterlife Knowledge” and Mike Pettigrew’s give a geography of the Afterlife.  Note the “hollow heavens” available to those with strict religious beliefs;  “Focus 27” seems to be the most advanced level.   The author notes that a lot of souls got “stuck” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but not after 9/11, because the deaths were more instantaneous. That would suggest that the way you die does affect your next course in the Afterlife.

The  soul life might be the “real life”, whereas earthly life is like a “dream” (as in the song “Row your boat”);  In a dream during sleep, you don’t remember how you got there, although you know who you are.  This is the concept of Christopher Nolan’s movie “Inception” (2010).  Other films worth mention here are “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), or even  the “Chiller”, “The Disembodied” (1957). The appropriate term for a person who has passed away is “discarnate”.  We could also ponder “Our Home: Astral City” (2011, Brazil), “What Dreams May Come” (1998, Robin Williams), and “Defending Your Life” (1991).

Martin mentions the “life review” that occurs at time of passage, that seems to give the person access to every moment in his or her life as if on a video.  The term reminds me of “content evaluation” in the POD book industry.  As evidence of his theory, Martin also notes that people with Alzheimer’s disease often become lucid and get most of their memory back just before they pass on, as if the memory came from a repository of cosmic consciousness.

Martin also talks about Grace as a cosmological concept that matches up with that in the Christian and other faiths, as organizing nature.  He explains telekinesis (or maybe self-teleportation as with young Clark Kent in “Smallville”) as instances of “mind over matter”.

He does mention angels a couple times, and I’ve wondered if these are immortal physical beings, or maybe someone like Jason Ritter’s hero character Sean Walker in NBC’s series “The Event“, someone who doesn’t know he is an alien, and almost immortal, until the end.  In my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I play with the idea that a soul could experience another (younger) person’s body through “consolidation” (through a fictitious virus) but the process backfires when one of the persons separates as piece of ball lightning and then reconnects himself.

Martin mentions the Myers-Biggs personality charts (p. 173), and considers himself “INTJ” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-judging), about 2% of the population.  I fall into that category (“feminine subjective” by Rosenfels), and can be unpopular, viewed as a spectator rather than a participant.

I think the concept of relation between soul and living person can be put into analogy with a phonograph recording of a performance of a music work.  This concept may have been more applicable in the past before the Internet and digital age with cloud storage.  But an “instance” recording of a work can wear out (bad styli in the past) and need to be replaced, but the actual work and performance still lives forever.  You could even draw a comparison to object-oriented programming, with “classes” and “instances”, where rebirth is “instantiation” (or “construction”).

I have visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute (Aug. 2014), but you have to arrive very early for a one day event.   The long sessions with Hemi-Sync require a considerable time commitment.   I visited the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose CA in 1975.

Author: Stephen Hawley Martin
Title, Subtitle: “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”
publication date 2017, 1995
ISBN 978-1543134322
Publication: Oaklea Press, Richmond Va; Paper, 13 chapters, 206 pages
Link: sales

(Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:15 PM EDT)

“The Shack”: Christian film with a sci-fi plot line and charismatic messiah figure

The Shack”, directed by Stuart Hazeldine, is a Christian film set up as a road science fiction adventure, so to speak.  It also has a slow, expansive, narrative style.

The film is based on the self-published best seller Christian novel by William P. Young   I guess the novel provides a lesson in how self-published authors can make themselves popular and actually sell books.

The film has an extensive prologue about the abusive father or central character Mack Phillips (Sam Worthington), before settling on present day, where Mack has adjusted in life and is raising a good family with three kids near Portland, OR (much of the actual filming was in British Columbia – but  the film has outdoor scenes near Multnomah Falls and Mount Hood).

He takes the family on a camping trip.  In a boating accident, his son Josh (Gage Munroe) almost drowns but is brought back quickly by CPR.  But in the meantime, his daughter Missy disappears.  Soon there is overwhelming evidence that she was murdered by an unapprehended pedophile in an abandoned shack near the camp.  Mack goes into grief and his ability to function interpersonally or carry on his marriage stumbles.  He wants justice.  The film doesn’t mention John Walsh and America’s Most Wanted, but it would fit.

One snowy day he finds a bizarre handwritten note in his mailbox inviting him to go back to the shack. He arranges to do so, taking a gun and a friend’s pickup.  A bizarre series of events ensues:  a near miss with a crash with a rig, and then, in the frozen shack, he stumbles and falls.  He first sees a deer, and then seems to recover.  When he goes out into the woods, the weather suddenly warms and the snow disappears, and he meets a charismatic stranger “Jesus” played by Israeli actor Avraham Aviv Alush.

He returns to the shack, which is now suddenly repaired and furnished, with other comforting people, especially “Papa” (Octavia Spencer) and later Male Papa or “God” (Graham Greene).  In the ensuing sequence (about 45 minutes), Jesus takes him through miracles, like walking on the water.  He is also placed in a position of playing “judge”.  There is a climatic scene in a field where the departed are depicted as columns of light, as a view of a hollow heaven or the afterlife.

“Jesus” is slender and attractive (maybe about 40), and would be viewed as desirable, for example by old fashioned gay male values.   There is an inherent problem in asking a major character (and the audience) to believe that a charismatic young man is actually Jesus, or some sort of supernatural entity, or maybe a kindly extraterrestrial alien.   It’s more believable when the protagonist has gone on some sort of unusual pilgrimage (or “Way”) to reach the destination.  Is “Jesus” different from other charismatic young adult male characters in other sci-fi (such as young Clark Kent in “Smallville” or Will in “The Dark Place”, which presents this sort of character in a gay drama).  I mentioned this in my review of “A Cure for Wellness” on Feb. 20, comparing it to my own story, “Ocelot”.

The “return” to the “real world” is a bit corny and not that satisfying, unless you want a merely religious explanation for what has happened, and for the repair of Mack’s soul.  I would like to see more.

Bonus music: Franz Liszt: “St. Francis Walking on the Water”, second of the “Two Legends” for piano solo.

Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls, Oregon (I visited in 1996).

Chart.

Name: The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
Director, writer:  Stuart Hazeldine, William P. Young (novel)
Released:  2017/3/3
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2017/3/3, afternoon, small audience
Length:  132
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Lionsgate, Summit, Windblown Media
Link:  movie, book

(Posted: Friday, March 3, 2017 at 10 PM ESY)

(Picture: Near Tioga Pass, CA, mine, 2012)

“Apostle Peter and the Last Supper”: church film actually poses a challenge in the science v. faith debate

Sometimes Biblical dramas produced explicitly for churches do pose real questions about how faith applies today, and how people could view Biblical narratives in comparison to their own modern lives.

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper” (2012, directed Gabriel Sabloff) presents an elderly Peter (Robert Loggia) in jail, a few days before his own crucifixion, giving his jailer about his own time with the real physical Jesus, including the Last Supper.  A deleted scene on the DVD actually shows the Ascension, also.

The “back story” is about the life of the apostles following Jesus on his journeys, witnessing his miracles, and them coming down to the climatic Last Supper.  The young man Peter (Ryan Alosio) certainly experiences upward affiliation for Jesus (Bruce Marchiano), and wonders how Jesus can be so sure that Peter will deny him, and that at least one other disciple will betray him with the “Judas Kiss”.  There are a few brief moments where Jesus appears supernatural in the flesh.  Life is quite communal; there is no intinction.

The men had apparently given up “normal” economic and family life the follow Him around, behavior that in the modern world would seem insecure and immature for a young adult male, who ought to be raising his own brood.  I’ve been in that situation myself.   (But some of the disciples were married.)

The Last Supper scene is indeed intimate. Jesus washes Peter’s feet, as if Jesus were showing and experiencing humility.  I did wonder, why was Peter’s leg hairless?  He was still a young man.

In thus ancient world, at a special time, all knowledge comes from religious authority, and there is no opportunity to map it onto science as we know it today. “Following me” could be appropriate in their world when it would not be in ours.

Imagine if a teen Clark Kent like in “Smallville” really does exist, maybe as a twenty-something now.  You would have to see it to believe it; there could be no Doubting Thomas.  Even then, it would be hard to make “Him” credible;  in social media it would be seen as part of the fake news aggregation.  Clark Kent might well stay off social media.  There could be a risk that if he tried to get a following, the group would become a cult.

In the modern world, there is a schism in what we are asked to believe, compared to what an “I” in the ancient world could experience.  A personal relationship with “Him” still seems abstract. But it was not so for Peter, even if he “denied” Jesus momentarily to avoid taking an unnecessary “bullet”.  For the disciples , to become apostles, they had seen and lived it.

I call to mind an incident in 1979 in west Texas, at a camping weekend sponsored by MCC Dallas, when a particular young man put his arm around me and stated I was lost and tried to “recruit” me to follow “Him”.  But “He” was still invisible, and no longer personal.  But the young man at the camp was all too personal.  What if one really could return to the original setting of Resurrection?

In fact, there is a 1969 novel “Behold the Man” by Michael Moorcock that sets up this dichotomy with tike travel; I vaguely remember reading the paperback while living in Dallas in the 1980s.

I’ll add that in the 2011 gay sci-fi film “Judas Kiss”, the title refers to a short film made by the character Danny about his abusive father, but I don’t recall the real connection to Judas.

It has always struck me that Jesus, as depicted in the past, was always shown as a young man who would be seen as perfect by conventional gay male values.  Perfect for upward affiliation, except from the Rich Young Ruler, who has too much to lose so he panders Jesus.  Jesus was seen as someone who would never be desecrated, until He allowed the crucifixion to pay for our sins.  But then, he “came back”, in perfection, and rose to the Heavens in perfection.  Today that’s the stuff of UFO’s and science fiction.

If a “Clark Kent” really exists somewhere (even in “Kill Bill 2”) it could mean the end of time, for us at least.

Note the meaning of the terms “apostle” and “disciple”.

The film was shot around Malibu with Italian money. But a lot of the scenery looks constructed. The DVD has a 20 minute “Behind the Scenes” and 11 minutes of deleted scenes.

Name:  “Apostle Peter and the Last Supper
Director, writer:  Gabriel Sabloff
Released:  2012
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix DVD
Length:  93
Rating:  PG
Companies:  PureFlix
Link:  NA

(Posted: Friday, February 3, 2017 at 11 PM EST)