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Thursday, March 21 2002

Movie tastes

I subscribe to several daily email letters besides this one, and my favorite is Chicken Soup for the Soul. And in that letter, I most like the ones that make me sniffle a little, even if it's embarrassing to be caught blowing my nose and red-eyed at my desk at 10 a.m. Those letters help me transcend the ordinariness of my tiny cubicle of the workaday world. Wednesday's letter, however, didn't make me sniffly, but that was okay as I'd had enough sniffles in the past two days. Instead, it provided a good escapist topic for today's entry, tastes in movies. Having been a movie reviewer for upwards of 20 years (though I see precious few in the course of a typical year now), I have many thoughts about many movies.

Unlike music (for which my tastes are much well defined and I have honed down my nearly 600-song playlist—as described in length here over a year ago—to just four all-time favorites), my movie tastes are more eclectic, all over the map. For example, my favorite kids' movie is Pinocchio, despite the fact that even before the devolution of the Disney Company that company's philosophy about wholesome entertainment wasn't quite my cup of tea. In general, I've long been persuaded that realistic movies have more "redeeming quality" than romantic ones (not Doris Day-Rock Hudson-type romances, but movies that have a happily-ever-after or romatic worldview).

So here are a few of the "realistic" adult-audience movies I've liked in the past 20 years, with a comment on each, attempting to capture its essential quality.
American Gigolo - a woman learns the meaning and importance of sacrificing self for the other.
Pulp Fiction - a collection of sketches presenting a mosaic of the times it's set in, and that dares to ask the most basic of questions of the human condition and quest.
Hard Core - classic George C. Scott photoplay melding Christian middle-American values and the tenderloin of West Coast urban centers. Scott is the father of the prodigal daughter, but rather than waiting for her return, goes out to save her.
Sling Blade - a morality play in which a mentally challenged man sees life more clearly than most "normal people." Many strong threads are woven to create this rich tapestry.

Movies I've seen in the past year that are worth seeing: Shrek, an animation re-creation of classic children's literature, but with levels open to adults only; This Boy's Life, which is one of those "little films," about smalltown life that gets under your skin, and, The Lord of the Rings, a morality play with whole new worlds within worlds, a classic good vs. evil epic. Unlike all the others except Shrek, it has no R-rated language, but does have lots of fight scenes and tension.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

American ingenuity

When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered the ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 Billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300C.

The Russians used a pencil.

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Lenten thought for the day

In his book, "Great Souls," journalist David Aikman describes how Mother Teresa never relied on worldly power. Instead, she relied on the moral authority that came from God—the authority she gained from living the Gospel as she ministered to the poor. And she was persistent. On one occasion, the young Mother Teresa "came across a dying woman whose body . . . had been eaten by rats and ants." When the staff of a nearby hospital balked at accepting the woman, Aikman writes, "Mother Teresa simply refused to move until they changed their minds."

—Charles Colson, Breakpoint

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