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Jan 312011

 What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to follow Jesus? And if I choose to do that, how can I ever expect to live up to his expectations and the expectations of others? This is the topic as we look at what it’s really like to follow Jesus. It’s not what you think.

Get Low Oscar Snub

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Jan 262011

No nominations.

I must admit, it’s hard to believe. From the moment we first screened in Toronto Get Low has generated Oscar buzz.  At some point it has been mentioned for just about every category there is.  I didn’t expect it to get nominated for all of them, or even most. But surely there would be one, right? Robert Duvall was amazing. Bill Murray was brilliant. Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, they were all great. It was shot beautifully. The music was spot on. I could go on and on.  My opinion is rather biased, particularly about the writing, but I didn’t just make this buzz up. Surely something deserved a nomination. 

And yet, there were none. 

I don't get it either, Robert.

It’s disappointing. It’s a great movie and I am thrilled to have been part of it. So many people did such amazing work and I remain very proud. I find it hard to believe that the Academy did not find anything worthy of nomination. Not me and the other writers, necessarily. That was a dream, but the fact is this whole thing has been a dream.  Casting, shooting, screening, release, they’ve all been a dream come true. An Oscar nod would have been a dream within a dream, and I’m fine with it not happening.  I am so thankful just to have been part of this crazy adventure that has been Get Low. 

My disappointment is for the others. For Robert Duvall, who I thought was very deserving. For producer Dean Zanuck, who believed for so long and worked so hard. For director Aaron Schneider and cinematographer David Boyd, the two most responsible for the gorgeous shooting. For Alison Krauss, whose version of “Lay My Burden Down” at the end haunts me still. All of you who worked on Get Low did such fine work. I’m sorry for you.  You deserved better.

Writing Ahead

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Jan 192011

I was talking with my friend Mike Buchanan the other day, and he’s pulling together three short Christmas films. The idea is to package them to a network as a one hour Christmas special. Since I only have two unfinished projects (ha ha), I decided to take a crack at one. It just sort of fell out, which was really nice. Then again, it’s only seventeen pages, so there wasn’t a whole lot to fuss over. Still, I’m optimistic. But I’m always optimistic. It’s called “The Bellringers Gift,” and it’s about a homeless Salvation Army Bellringer. We’ll see if it’s any good or not. I am meeting with Mike next Wednesday.

Even if he likes it, and even if it gets made, the reality is that it’s not in time for Christmas 2011. It’s too late. Which just blows my mind. The Christmas specials for this year have already been shot, and the spring and summer will be spent editing, packaging and selling. So we’re looking at 2012. Given that “Get Low” took ten years, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. But it never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to put a film together.

Here’s to a great Christmas 2012!

The Road

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Jan 102011

Viggo Mortensen stars in The Road

There are spoilers coming. I’m sorry, but I just can’t write about this movie without discussing the end. And I should also apologize because it’s not exactly a Christmas movie. Or any other  holiday. Veterans Day, maybe. Especially since Saving Private Ryancan’t be shown anymore because it has soldiers swearing. Because, you know, that was such a shock.

Back t The Road. This has been on Showtime a bunch lately and has been on my mind ever since I first caught part of it a month ago. It took me that long to figure out what the heck it all meant. It could be that I’m just that slow, but I prefer to think that Cormac McCarthy is just that deep. And this movie has a lot going on.  It’s a post-apocalyptic story where the world has ended. It never really says how, which is a bummer. I always enjoy finding out how the world ends. This time all we know is that it’s grown cold, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. It ended. If it ended for real, that would probably be all I would care about too. A few people are still hanging on. One family, a man and a boy, is still alive in the north and they decide that they cannot survive another winter where they live. So they head down south. “The Road” is the story of their journey. 

As they travel south the man and boy encounter terrible thing after terrible thing. Most of the terrible things are done by people to other people in an effort to survive.  This includes cannabalism, which I think we will all agree is pretty gross. There are plenty of other gross things too. This is not what you would call a “happy pretty fun” movie. It is dark, it is depressing, and it is hard to watch. The only thing that is redeeming about the movie is the father’s love for his son. He does terrible things himself, all in an effort to keep his son alive.  Through all the terrible choices his motive never wavers: he will keep his son alive at all costs. The father trusts no one, helps no one, and cares for no one other than his son.  Then the father dies, and we are left to wonder how the boy will survive. It turns out that he pretty quickly meets some good, kind people who will share this journey with him. And that’s when it hit me:

Oh, crap. The dad was one of the bad guys.

 The father was willing to do anything to anyone to keep his son alive. While that is a motivation any of us would support, that can only go so far. At some point in his noble quest, he lost his moral compass. It is something which could happen to any of us as we strive for those we love. All of us can lose our way, just like this man did. All evil is rooted in good intentions. The Nazi’s really thought they were making the world a better place.  “The Road” is a wonderful story of love and a warning that how we live out our love must be guided by our morals and values or we risk becoming evil ourselves.  Like I said, not “happy pretty fun.”  But in light of our current political climate and the demonization that takes place on both sides of the political aisle, it is a warning that is very much needed.

Thinking Ahead To My 2011 Christmas Wish

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Jan 032011

I continue to think about that Christmas Glee episode, and the more I do the more disturbed I get. I don’t blame Hollywood.  I have no expectations that any writer of any TV show or movie will show my faith properly on screen. That’s not their job. Their job is to tell stories and make money. I get that. So I’m not freaking out about Hollywood. It’s worse than that.

I’m freaking out about me.

Not that I’m really freaking out. But I am anxious over what I, personally, have done to Christmas. Have I truly lived it out in a way that would make Jesus happy? Because I think that’s the point. Not whether my mom likes her present, or whether my  kids see the Grinch. It’s not about making other people happy. It’s not their birthday. It’s Jesus birthday. Did I make Jesus happy?  Was my celebration of his birth one he would enjoy? Or would it make him throw his mug of eggnog at my head?

As I look at all my traditional Christmas trappings, the things I did this year and the things I do every year, I did more that would give Jesus joy this year than ever before. We read the bible together every night as a family (right before we played “Angry Birds” as our Advent Calendar).  We, as a family, gave as much money to providing clean water in the third world as we spent on presents. Both of these are new this year. As I have done for the past several  years, I had almost all of my shopping done since the Sunday after Thanksgiving so the season could be more spiritual. All of this made this probably my most spiritual Christmas ever.

I want more.

After this most spiritual Christmas ever, I want more. I’ve had my deepest drink of it yet, and I want more. And I want it bad.

Maybe what we did this year was enough for Jesus. Maybe he’s looking at it all and thinking “Hey, wow, that’s pretty good.” Maybe. If he is, that is a sad commentary on the state of my religion, because I know my Christmas could have been a whole lot more about Christ. My Christmas Wish for next year is that it will be. I’m going to make it be. I don’t know how yet, but I do know that this “same old same old” way of doing Christmas doesn’t even compare to the barest hint of the spiritual Christmas I’ve had this year. Jesus deserves better, and I want more. Somehow, someway, I’m going to figure out how to do that. It’s a really good thing I’ve got 356 shopping days to figure it out, because right now I don’t have a clue what that looks like.

Anybody got any ideas?

Follow the Star

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Jan 032011

Shortly after Jesus birth, wise men- Magi- followed a star to find him. In our star-obsessed country there are many stars telling us what to eat, how to dress, and who to be. How we keep our focus on the one true star- Jesus- is our topic for this week.