Thursday, January 23, 2014

Inspiration In Under 37 Seconds VI

Posted by Michael

Today’s inspiration comes from southern wordsmith Mark Twain. I know I’ve used him before, but anyone who has such an amazing amount of common sense wisdom and a kickin’ moustache deserves to be heard!

”Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Even a Broken Watch is Right Twice a Day
Posted by Tony

My lovely niece Morgan came up to me recently and said, “I read your blog Uncle Tony.” To which I replied, “I think you may be the only one.”
Michael overheard this conversation and interjected that from some of my predictions and comments last year, Hollywood may in fact be following our blog.

Case in point:

In May I blogged that I felt that this was TV’s “New Golden Age” of dramas.  In October, CBS’s Sunday Morning proclaimed that TV was entering a second “Golden Age.” In October, actor Kevin Spacey in a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival said TV is now in a third “Golden Age.” Yes, I am being ripped off by several sources.

In a September blog about the Breaking Bad episode, “Ozymandius,” I called it “the finest hour of one of TV’s best shows. In December, Entertainment Weekly proclaimed “Ozymandius” the best TV episode of 2013 and called it “the finest installment of TV's Baddest and boldest drama.” Almost a word for word rip off. Can’t EW come up with any original thoughts?

In May I suggested the following actors should be noted during award season. Here are the results:

Robin Wright-House of Cards
Won-Golden Globe

Corey Stoll-House of Cards
Nominated-Golde Globe

Elizabeth Moss-Top of the Lake
Won-Golden Globe

Aden Young-Rectify
No love

Vera Farmiga-Bates Motel

Let's see how I do in 2014.

Tony’s Top 10 Movies of 2013
The list of “best” movies that Michael and I compose each year is of course very subjective. It is difficult sometimes to define or even agree on what “best" means,  For me, the “best” are those movies that are highly entertaining, evocative and/or educational. I love movies that stay with me long after I have seen them.  Unfortunately I felt that 2013 was not a great year for “best” movies. Most of what I saw was immediately forgettable. These are the exceptions…
10. Pitch Perfect
OK-this movie probably wouldn’t make anybody's “best” list but I thought it was fun. Turn your brain off and just sing along.
9.  Django Unchained
As always, I look forward to Tarantino’s wonderful storytelling. However, “Django” is less a story and more a series of wonderfully detailed and acted scenes. Not Tarantino’s best but certainly entertaining.
8.  World War Z
Worth watching for the scenes when zombies are swarming over major cities like a tsunami and scaling  the sides of buildings and walls like army ants. The story lags toward the end but the middle is terrific.
7.  Life of Pi
Visually amazing and a well told tall tale.
6.  Zero Dark 30
Another war gem from Kathryn Bigelow. Jessica Chastain was brilliant.
5. Silver Linings Playbook
I agree with Michael-David O. Russell is on fire. 
4. In a World
A very smart and likeable comedy from Lake Bell. Keep an eye on her.
3. The Art of the Steal
This documentary is a few years old but I watched it on Michael’s recommendation. It is a wonderful conspiracy story of the biggest art “heist” in history.
2. Room 237
Another documentary movie-this one about one of the most interesting and enigmatic movies in Stanley Kubrick’s portfolio. Is The Shining an allegory on the treatment of Native Americans, a hidden story about Nazi Germany or Kubrick's admission that he helped fake the moon landings? All these theories and more are seriously explored in an entertaining and fun way.

1. Compliance
A disturbing and horrifying movie about the abuse of authority and the desire to avoid conflict at all cost. The fact that the story is based on a real-life scenario makes it even more frightening.

The Top Films From 2013

Posted by Michael

Each year Tony and I compile our list of best movies from that year. We’ve enjoyed sharing these lists, because we always get some good feedback and usually get a tip or two on a great movie that we have missed. So, we would love for your to send over your top movies from the past year, they don’t have to be in “Top 10” form. And now, on to my list……

10)Saving Mr. Banks: Tom Hanks is great. Emma Thompson is great. The story is interesting, but a bit heavy. It was expected to be a great movie, but misfired just a touch, and fell a little flat, but still a good movie.

9)Room 237: This must have been the year of documentaries for me. This film and one other made my Top 10 list, and The Stories We Tell would be an Honorable Mention (if I had an Honorable Mention list). This quirky, funny, and interesting look deep into the film The Shining was very enjoyable, but I will let Tony talk more about this one….

8)Prisoners: Dark, painful, and unrelenting. This film is a great look at the nature of loss, justice, and revenge. If we are not careful we can all become prisoners to something.

7:Salinger: This is the second documentary on my list. J.D. Salinger was a fascinating man, and this film delves into his eccentric and talented life in such an interesting way,  that it made me go back and read The Catcher in the Rye. Any film that drives you to action after you have seen it is worthy of a Top 10 slot.

6:The Great Gatsby: It’s impossible to translate a book as amazing as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby onto film, but it’s also impossible to not be engaged by this classic story. Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan were great as usual.

5:Zero Dark Thirty: I felt this film was overlooked during awards season more for political reasons than for its actual merits. It’s an intense and driven look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain was brilliant and in my opinion should have received the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance.

4:The Way Way Back: Heart-warming tales of overcoming family dysfunction are a Hollywood staple right now. So, it’s rare when one is thoughtful enough to stand out, but that’s exactly what The Way Way Back does. It’s honest without being too gritty or depressing and hopeful without being cheesy and predictable. Also, who knew Steve Carell could play such a convincing jerk?!?

3)In A World: There always seems to be an indie movie or two that pops up and surprises. This year it was In A World, a movie about family, love, hope, and of course, doing voice-over work for movie previews. It had heart and avoided being cheesy or too self-important. Lake Bell did a terrific job as the drifting and aimless underdog who finally takes a chance on the career of her dreams.

2)Fill The Void: This film was the most emotionally evocative of any I saw in 2013. It left me thinking long after the movie had ended. It’s a glimpse into the life of a young Hasidic Jewish woman who is pressured with regards to marriage and family. The story delves into tradition and the law as it slams up against love and mercy. If you are ready for a film that will make you feel and think, and won’t do all the work for you, rent Fill the Void immediately!

And #1……

Silver Linings Playbook: Jennifer Lawrence was literally flawless in her role as the young eccentric widow with a passion for life. Bradley Cooper does well as Pat, a young man fresh from a stint in a mental hospital. His return home is difficult, as he battles his own thoughts and the expectations of the world around him as he seeks for contentment and direction. This film struck all the right notes for me. It told an entertaining story without reaching or preaching, and was incredibly enjoyable. Also, is there any way that David O. Russell isn’t the best director in Hollywood right now? His last three films include The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

Weigh in here or on Facebook, I would love to hear about the best films you’ve seen in the past year….

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Film Review: Philomena

Posted by Michael

I am always looking for movies that make me think and I adore movies that have heart. Philomena contains both. Directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomena is based on a true story of a teenage girl who endured a scandalous pregnancy and was then forced to give up her child for adoption. Philomena grows and eventually has a family of her own, but  out of shame, keeps her secret for decades. When she can bear it no more and opens up to her daughter, a beautiful story of love and loss is set into motion.  It’s a story about how people cope with the painful realities of life. It’s about love and redemption, but at its core it’s a story about faith. Judi Dench is remarkable as the fragile-appearing yet optimistic Philomena. Coogan plays off of her perfectly as the hardened skeptic, Martin Sixsmith. Films at their best not only entertain us, but challenge us to have a deeper look at ourselves and our world, Philomena succeeds brilliantly on both counts, and is well worth your time and $10. So, if you are heading out to see a movie with explosions or robots or a plucky divorcee who overcomes all of the odds (yet again), see Philomena instead, I believe you will be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Change The World: Part 1 - Why?

Posted by Michael

The political landscape is changing and with it the direction of our nation.

For most Christians this is a source of great worry and stress. In the not too distant past a so-called “moral majority” existed. The “majority” was made up of Christians and people who professed and preferred Christian-based values. Many politicians were Christians (or claimed to be) because they knew they would suffer in the ballot boxes if they didn’t get a photo op at a local church and thank God in their acceptance speech. The moral majority had the ability to sway elections with the number of votes they brought to the table. If they didn’t like the way your company was behaving, they could even muster a somewhat effective boycott of your product to get your attention. Whether you agree with those tactics or not is not the point of this post (but would probably be a great post later on…). The point is that the moral majority no longer seems to be a majority, and this has many Christians wringing their hands in fear. After all, how can you change the world if you don’t leverage political, financial, or military power? The answer is more simple than you would think….

We embrace the method of change introduced by Jesus over 2000 years ago.

To do this, however, means that we have to ask ourselves a very challenging question: Do I want to change the world for my comfort or for its betterment?

That is, do I want to reduce crime in my town because I care about the criminals who are throwing their lives away? Does my heart break for the children who are left alone due to their parent’s toxic decisions? Does my heart break for the parents whose lives of hatred and selfishness have created a prison of blindness and hopelessness for themselves?

Or, do I just not like the thought of those criminals hurting or stealing from me and those I love?

Am I seeking change so that me and mine can have more and be safer? Or do I want those filled with hate to have hope and a future as well? These questions may be somewhat uncomfortable to you, they certainly have been for me. Real change begins with "why", and our "why" has to match up with Jesus' "why" if we plan to embrace his method of change. So, why change the world? To love the world for the good of the world, not for the protection or promotion of me.

Once we've embraced "why" we can get to "how"..........

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inspiration In Under 37 Seconds (Part V)

Posted by Michael

 Someone once asked the Dalai Lama what surprised him most about humanity and he answered…

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future, he lives as if he is never going to die, and dies having never really lived.”

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Goals That Tear Down

Posted by Michael


A new year.  A new chapter.  A fresh start.

And the first thing many of us do is heap up a ton of expectations that weigh us down and inevitably lead to frustration and disappointment. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about goals. I have set some goals for the new year, and try to maintain a list of goals that evolves throughout the year. There is a difference, however,  between healthy goals that can help us stay motivated and pointed in the right direction in our relationships and careers, and the expectations/resolutions that many of set when we are throwing out our outdated calendars.

To put it simply: we chase healthy goals, unhealthy goals chase us. Unhealthy goals drive us because we feel as if our worth as a person depends upon them. We work relentlessly to prove ourselves. This sort of striving is stress inducing and rarely leads to contentment. If we do accomplish what we’ve set in front of us, we blame ourselves for not finishing sooner, or secretly feel that the goal wasn’t that impressive in the first place. Accomplished goals do not bring personal worth, they bring more goals.

God alone solves the deep hunger for worth and significance that we exists inside each of us. God’s approach to us is to remind us of our value before we set off trying to change the world. It’s our value in God’s eyes that gives us the courage to attack the problems in front of us. As you roll into 2014, I hope that you know how deeply you are loved by God, and I pray that the confidence that comes from being so greatly loved motivates all you do in 2014.