An Unexpected Movie

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Oct 062010

Gripping, thoughtful and completely unexpected

I sat down on the couch today to write out some cards for church and flipped the TV on for some background noise. It came on to Showtime, which was showing a movie I had never heard of called “Day Zero,” with Elijah Wood and Chris Klein. It seemed good, but I didn’t have a clue what it was about so I called up the guide. The baseball playoffs were on, so I went to TBS to watch them. It didn’t take long for me to remember why I don’t watch the baseball playoffs: I don’t like baseball. So I flipped back to “Day Zero” and got out the cards. An hour later I had a pile of unwritten cards and a head full of thoughts. This was quite the movie.

“Day Zero” is an independent film from 2007 that made all of $16,659 at the box office. No, you didn’t miss the ‘million’; it’s not there. Sixteen thousand six hundred and fifty nine dollars. That’s all it made. Which is a crying shame and shows hard it is to make any money with an independent movie. Also starring Jon Bernthal, it is a ‘what if’ story about three friends in a mythical United States where the draft has been reinstated to fight global terrorism and these three young men have been drafted. They have thirty days until ‘Day Zero,’ which is the day they have to report. The movie is about how they deal with the prospect of fighting, killing and possibly dying in the war on terror.

I loved this movie because it asks two great questions. First, what would you live for? Second, what would you die for? The two are not always the same. This film is a beautiful study of how these three men answer those questions.  The acting is wonderful, as in “it filled me with wonder.” I was completely sucked in by their subtle yet powerful performances. It was riveting.

 I’m not going to tell you whom they would live or for whom they would die. That’s not the point of this movie. The point is to experience their answers and to think about how you would answer those questions. It certainly got me thinking about them, and it’s always good to be reminded of what’s important in life.  It was a very nice surprise.

The Message of Get Low

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Oct 062010

I’ve always thought that one of the hallmarks of good art is that people take things from it that are true but go beyond the scope of what the creator intended. If people find things there that the painter, writer, sculptor or whatever never intentionally put into it, that’s a clue that it’s art and not just something cobbled together.

Get Low, as I linked to in my previous post, has turned out to be a true work of art. People are finding all kinds of things that Chris and I never even considered when we started writing it. Obviously, I can’t take credit for that. Those different things come from so many elements we had nothing to do with: the cinematography, acting, and music, plus some I’m probably forgetting, are things other people brought to the experience that we could have never imagined.

But one thing I am proud of is that the movie does address the original theme I wanted to tackle, with is guilt and forgiveness. If you click on the picture of the old poster, you’ll see that on the left side it says “Every secret dies somewhere.” There are other themes in the movie, some of which are intended and some of which are not, but it is about what I originally intended: a story of guilt and forgiveness.

Click for a larger image

Now that I’ve had ten years to think about it, I think the reason I wanted to tackle this topic is because guilt is something we all deal with but that has become taboo in our culture. We don’t know how to deal with it. That includes all churches except the traditional mainline ones. These usually open their worships with a “Confession and Forgiveness.” Everyone else avoids the topic as much as possible. Church experts will tell you that people don’t want to come to church and hear how bad they are. They don’t want to come to church and be confronted with things they have done wrong. Instead, they want to hear a positive message. Which is fine. I get that. I don’t want people to come to church and be beaten over the head with talk of their sin and how much they suck.

But when do we talk about guilt?

Because it’s there. People feel guilty about things they’ve done. Even in the era of moral relativity, there is still guilt and shame. There is still a need for forgiveness. Guilt and forgiveness is a core part of the human experience. that has not changed and will never changed. But we don’t know how to handle it anymore. We don’t know how to deal with it in public, we don’t know how to deal with it in private, and we don’t know how to deal with it in church. One of the reasons this movie touches is because it does something that is really hard to do: help people deal with their guilt without feeling bad about themselves. I’m glad for that. I’m glad that our little movie could help people deal with their own guilt and need for forgiveness.

Now if I can just figure out how to do it in church, I’ll be all set.