Complex, real world problems

I saw the new Captain America movie last night. It wasn’t bad, for a comic book movie, and there were a number of things I very much liked about it. The super-heroes weren’t that super — technologically enhanced, really, really good at battling the forces of evil, but also human and vulnerable to mundane menaces like bullets. I think I also like stories that don’t end neatly with the good guy beating up the bad guy, and presto, problems solved. Instead we have deeper issues that aren’t neatly resolved, because we live in a complex and difficult world full of messed-up human beings.

Speaking of a complex world…I arrived at the theater shortly before the 9:00 movie. I was surprised — there was no parking in any of the usual places within a block of the theater, and I had to park a whole block and a half away. That may not sound onerous to you, but it was unusual for me, since this is Morris and I can usually show up 5 minutes before the movie starts and park right outside the theater. The place was jammed. Swarms of people were there for the 7:00 movie.

Heaven Is For Real.

Captain America: sparsely attended. Ludicrously stupid movie that claims Jesus is waiting for you in a magical land of flowers and eternal youth: packed. Both are totally escapist fantasy, but one is honest and openly admits to being a made-up story based on a work of patent fiction, while the other is feel-good bullshit that puts up a pretense of being a true story. This is the reality: that a large part of the population here wants to be reassured, wants to be told that the dumb stories they were brought up on are really true, and wants to be promised that they don’t have to worry about this world because the next one is really nifty … and it’s not the same population that wants to go see a gosh-wow spectacle based on comic books.

Obviously, I don’t see a problem with wanting to be entertained by a work of fiction, but I do see a problem with mistaking fiction for reality, which is the entire premise and appeal of this Heaven bullshit.

Now if I were really sucked into thinking the fantasy worlds of Marvel were parables for how to handle a difficulty, I’d suggest a solution: I just have to find the one nefarious priest in town who has been poisoning the minds of the citizens, and engage him in an epic battle in downtown Morris. Sure, a few storefronts would be smashed, and a few craters would dapple Atlantic Avenue afterwards, but boom, the malignant influence would be gone and the happy people of Morris (who would all be lining the barricades around the city center, cheering) would be free. The End.

But that’s not how it works. There are no bad guys here, no foci of evil. The people sincerely want magical reassurances of a cosmic plan for their lives, and a destiny of bliss and goodness, and they specifically want the fantasy stories passed on by their parents to be literally and completely true. I have no super powers, and in fact, the ideas that I know to be true and verified by evidence and reason — there is no magical resurrection, superbeings like the supernatural Jesus did not and do not exist, we have this one life to live and nothing after death — would mark me as the villain in this story.

Man, real life makes for a lousy action movie.

By the way, the next movie coming to Morris is God’s Not Dead. It’s the story of a villainous atheist villain who is defeated in a final battle with a good-hearted Christian hero. It takes the trope of the movie that supports the reality of a superstition, and combines it with the very worst element of the superhero movie, the ultimate showdown that determines what is right. I imagine the theater will be packed again.

My entertainment options

The tradeoff for small town movie theaters is that you have to maximize your attendance, and that’s tricky in a place split between liberal weirdos at the university and narrow-minded Christian conservatives in town. So we get double-bills like this:


I’d like to see one of them, even though I’m getting tired of the genre. Can you guess which one?

As for the other one, the only question is…how much will you pay me to sit through it?

It gets even more fun next week, when the two movies in town will be The Grand Budapest Hotel vs. God’s Not Dead. I don’t think there’ll be much overlap between the 7:00 and 9:00 crowds.

The guy’s an evolutionist, and there’s nothing in the whole course description about biblical creation as even a plausible alternative!

Oh, joy. We’re getting another cheesy Christian movie in which the college professor is the evil bad guy. We just had Kevin Sorbo pretending to be an angry atheist philosophy professor in God’s Not Dead, and now we get Harry Anderson playing an angry atheist biology professor in A Matter of Faith.

Rachel Whitaker, a Christian girl, heads off to college for her much-anticipated freshman year. New friends create situations that require important, quick decisions—some about her social life, some about her core beliefs! Rachel begins to embrace the ideas of the university’s immensely popular biology professor (Harry Anderson) who boldly teaches that Darwinian evolution is the only logical explanation for the origin of life, and the Bible therefore cannot be true. When Rachel’s father (Jay Pickett) senses something changing in his daughter while she is home on a weekend visit; he begins to look into the situation and what he discovers catches him completely off guard. Now very concerned about Rachel drifting away from her Christian faith and the clear teachings of the Bible, he accepts an impossible challenge and tries to do something about it!

Can you guess what the impossible challenge is? He’s going to debate the biology professor on evolution.

Gosh, I wonder who will win?

It’s rather clear that people who believe in the Bible don’t have much connection to reality in their entertainment.

Ben Affleck’s new Batman costume…revealed!

There were groans of dismay throughout Nerd-dom when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman in the next movie in the franchise. But then the always over-the-top Kevin Smith saw the costume.

“I saw the Batman costume. More than that, I saw a picture of [Ben Affleck] in the costume…I don’t want to give anything away ’cause that is up to them and stuff, but I am going to say this…I instantly bear hugged [Snyder]. You have not seen this costume on film before. For a comic book fan, it was mind-bending… Because every other movie does this Matrix-y black armor thing…There wasn’t a single nipple on this suit. I think everyone is just gonna be like ‘Holy S**t!’ It’s its own thing. We haven’t been down this path before. Even the hardest core [most skeptical] person will be like ‘Alright, I’m ready.’…It seemed like it was very [Redacted] influenced.”

And as we all know, the most important thing in a superhero movie isn’t the plot or the acting — it’s the special effects and the fancy costumes.

But I have to agree with Smith. I have seen the costume, and it is awesome. It’s going to make the movie for sure. And here it is.

[Read more...]

I’m a scientist, I believe in proof

Near as I can tell from the trailer for I, Origins, the movie is about an affectless neuroscientist who takes pictures of eyes for Science, and then because he finds someone with similar irises to his dead lover, decides that reincarnation has been proven.

All I know is that whoever wrote this dreck has no idea about how scientists think.

Oh, joy. Another What the Bleep Do We Know, a bad and stupid movie that clueless nitwits will be throwing in my face for years to come to inform me that science is wrong.

There goes the Minnesota tourism industry

The movie Fargo warped the image of Minnesota—and now the FX channel is going to be showing a new, 10 episode miniseries titled… Fargo, starring Bilbo Baggins with a Minnesota accent.

An original adaptation of the Academy Award®-winning feature film, Fargo features an all-new “true crime” story and follows a new case and new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice” that made the film an enduring classic.

Yep, that’s exactly what living in rural Minnesota is like: funny accents, and grim, understated humor over all the dead bodies littering the snow. It’s a sensibility that has always informed my blog, dontchaknow.


Don’t worry, this video is perfectly safe for work, except for the little fact that if you watch to the very end you’ll get sucked into your computer screen and transported to the 19th century. This morning, I had to fight my way through a mob of Norwegian farmers who hardly spoke any English to find a zoetrope and phenakistascope (which were very scarce on the empty Minnesota prairie, I tell you) and play them backwards to get home again. Bracing.

(via The Verge)

Ken Ham was right about one thing

The reviews for Aronofsky’s movie, Noah, are coming in, and they’re mixed. There are parts that are brilliant and provocative, and others that are ludicrous, over-the-top, action movie CGI. One thing everyone is agreeing on, along with Ken Ham and me, is that it is decidedly unbiblical, which is totally unsurprising. Don’t people ever read their Bibles? Most of these famous myths out of that old book are short, with little characterization or context, and are more like an elevator pitch than a full narrative…so every Bible story has to be padded. Turning a one page sketch into a two hour movie? What do you expect?

Apparently, this version of the Ark story is more action/fantasy story than reverent Bible worship, which is fine by me. This is pretty much what I expect:

There’s so much delusion and so much delight in “Noah” that I have trouble distinguishing one from the other, or determining whether its most outlandish flourishes qualify as mistakes or as strokes of genius. But let’s be clear that the CGI-animated opening sequence, an “earlier on our show” montage that tells the story of Genesis from the creation through Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, is a mistake. Even there Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique deliver striking images – the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge pulsing like a human heart; the father and mother of us all as golden-hued, naked super aliens – but the net effect is something like a Catholic Sunday-school video mixed with the scenes Ridley Scott rejected as too hokey for “Prometheus.”

I may have to watch it after all. “Prometheus” was so bad it was entertaining.

By the way, Ridley Scott is working on a Biblical movie, too — a retelling of the Moses story. He’s also going to make a sequel to “Prometheus”. Oh, and also, Michael Bay is remaking the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It looks like it’s going to be a banner year for really bad big-budget movies. I don’t like bad movies all that much.