Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good Movies

Gran Torino
Wow, this is one of the most redemptive movies (i.e. it tells the Story) I've seen in awhile. 

This has a thick story line, with so much to reflect on afterwards. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order. If you haven't seen it, only read #1...

1. Gran Torino told the truth about the world: it's a jacked up place where hope is found in a very unusual place. 

The movie was extremely vulgar and boldly offensive. And yet, by the end, I was in no way tempted to sin. In fact, I hated sin for its death-giving effects. My mind was engaged, and emotions moved. I had the thought, "That was worth watching."

Cicero is famous for naming the three functions of rhetoric: docere (teach), motivere (motivate), and delectere (delight). In my mind, Gran Torino accomplished all three.

Warning: spoilers ahead... read after watching...

2. I rarely see the complexities of life in the inner city so up close and personal

- The fighting and hate among ethnic groups such as Hmong, Hispanic, African American, etc
- The diversification of "white" neighborhoods. One thinks, "Why can't you move out?" while the other, "Why did you have to move in?"
- Racism is often overcome when we actually take the time to get to know people. There's something to love about every culture. God is as much Hmong as American.

3. The power of sharing a meal. 

Americans are not good at this, but in other cultures, sharing a meal is a participation together in something spiritual. That's why it was really throwing down when Paul says about the immoral "Christian" in 1 Corinthians 5, "with such a man do not even eat." It also reminds me of the power of communion- what it means to share from one loaf.

4. The challenges of generational conflict.

I loved and yet hated Walt. That generation in particular was not good at showing their emotions, unless it was a fit of anger. But they were fiercely loyal and patriotic citizens (Notice how much the American flag was in the camera shots?). How insightful that he considered not reporting $900 on his taxes to be one of his worst sins.

This is such a "Me" generation, with no respect for elders. His granddaughter was basically waiting for him to die so she could get his couch. 

The generational issues were also depicted at the party in the juxtaposition of the older Hmong upstairs, while the teenagers were in the basement. 

I think one of the points in the movie was that this is an issue that we're all going to have to address, whatever our ethnicity. It's especially hard for immigrants to lose their ethnic identity in this melting pot called America. I wonder how the early immigrants dealt with this.

5. What manhood is

The movie had an interesting take. It was some truth mixed with worldly nonsense. I'm in the middle of listening to a great message from Mark Driscoll on manhood. This would be a better source for information about Biblical manhood:

6. The challenges of Father/Son relationships

As far as his son was concerned, Walt had become a means to get tickets to a football game. Walt was to blame, and that was his greatest regret in life.

That should cause us to pause: What are we doing as parents that we'll look back and say, "I wish I would've _________ (or wouldn't have__________)" 

Walt's true friend became Thao. This was a form of redemption, as Thao became the relationship he never had with his sons.

7. The crucifiction scene

Amazing. Notice how he was laid out on the ground.

8. The heaven scene

This was beautiful and stirred so much emotion in me. The image of a road along a beach that never ends. There was no line on the horizon both vertically (the road) and horizontally (the beach), representing eternity.

Walt died so Thao could be free.

9. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

For me, this was the most important take away from the movie. The aftermath of the drive-by shooting scene was unbearable. Everything within me wanted justice. My flesh wanted it now- for Walt and Thao to throw down on those abhorrent thugs.

But in a twist of irony, justice was accomplished through a courageous act of sacrificial love. 

In spite of the aforementioned "heaven" scene, the movie rightly left us with the tension that we experience in this world: joy mixed with sorrow, satisfaction filled with longing, and a hope infused with the sting of loss.

There's so much more to say about this movie... Walt's baggage of guilt for having killed men in war, the role of the priest in Walt's conversion, the power of confessing sin to another human...

I was moved by this movie.  I'm not sure how many readers I have under age 18, but I would definitely ask your parents before you watch this.

Movie #2= Seven Pounds

This was another great movie. Brilliantly told. To me, one of the greatest apologetics for Christianity is guilt. Why do people feel guilty? How do we solve the problem of guilt?

Notice Ben Thomas' job: tax collector. 

Spoiler Warning...

The only way for him to get redemption was to offer himself as a sacrifice to atone for his guilt. 

This was another great movie. Once again we see that Hollywood can't help but telling the Story. It's written on our hearts. 


J and J Masson said...

seven pounds-our good spanish friend has been very much jacked up by what the catholic church has told people about redemption for ages. he continually tells us that he is a very good person, and that the more good he is, the more God will accept him. yet we know he has this sense of guilt that we all have and want to be rid of. he LOVED this movie and we know that a lot of that probably comes from seeing someone pay for their own guilt, just like he tries to do daily, by being a good person. it's been a great movie to talk through with him we loved it.

Lissa said...

Oh Mark, I like you, but I thought Gran Torino was just plain bad acting. :) Our team watched it together and we all thought so. Jason informed me today, sadly, that you liked it. The storyline was good, but the acting was awful. But we did like 7 Pounds. The end.

Mikaela Kate said...

Another good movie I think you would enjoy is Defiance - true story on the Jews in Russia. Check it out!

Tad Asay said...

I find it funny that I watched Grand Torino and listened to that exact Mark Driscoll message on the plane ride back from Turkey yesterday...crazy. I must say, I liked the movie as well and agree with a lot of your about that Driscoll message :)

Ed Noble said...


What an insightful review of the GT. I'm in the middle of prep & took a break to ck your blog. Thanks. I'm stealing bro! I totally missed the heaven scene. Totally! Thanks.

Lissa, I'm sorry, I thought, with Roger Ebert that this was Clint's tour de force!

May He give us the grace to take up our cross.

Metropuritan Mark said...

J and J-
It's cool how you sought to use 7 pounds as a bridge to the Story!

I wasn't a fan of the priest's acting. But the overall story was so well told. I'm glad we can agree on 7 pounds :)

I will definitely check out "defiance". Thanks for the tip.

That's funny stuff! Great minds think alike. I can't wait to hear about your time in central asia.

Bro, I can't wait to hear your message on Gran Torino. I still get emotional when I think about that last scene. Driving in a car he didn't earn (we get in on God's inheritance!!!!), on a peaceful joyride with no foreseeable end, with such a breathtaking ocean expanse to look out on. That's especially sweet to some landlocked Iowan... like me. How moving!

Finally, I thought I'd post this comment from an email I got...

"______ & I sooo agree with you about Gran Torino!! Thanks for your blog posting on it. I tried to get someone from our Connection Group to go to it when it was in the theater and they would not, because it was not a Christian movie.
Thanks for the posting, and thanks for always having your eyes open. :)"

The thing I wanted to comment on was...
1. This is one of the most "Christian" movies I've seen in a long time. There was actual sin in the movie. Not just "nice bad guys." That sin was atoned for, which made the atonement so precious.

2. We still have to remember to respect people for their movie this case refusing to see the movie. I respect that. There were some crude and offensive scenes in this movie. It was extremely vulgar. But as I mentioned in the original post, I think it was done in a way that neither glorified sin or caused me to stumble by it.

- Mark

clarkitect said...

On Seven Pounds. It was a good movie and I found myself pondering it for a couple days afterward. There was something that made me uneasy after watching it, and perhaps that was the point. However, I couldn't shake that what Will Smith's character did was incredibly selfish. Which seemed contradictory since he gave his life for someone else to live. Taken as a metaphor perhaps it works. The probables that kept running through my head was how many lives were changed because he chose to leave his job (or close his company), or because HE decided it was in HIS best interest to end his life. In the end it seemed like an out on life. A very good movie though, and at least it caused a little thought.

Marti said...


I'd like to get a hold of a copy of the book Kingdom Triangle by JP Moreland. Do you think the Cstone office has one I could borrow? I'm going to a conference at the end of the week where he's speaking and I'd like to read it before I go. I should have ordered it weeks ago but didn't get around to it. Sorry I'm posting this here but I don't have your email. Thanks.

Marti Skow