Genesis: 1970’s Melodrama or Act I of an Epic?

During my senior year of high school The American Film Institute released their top 100 movies of all time. When I saw the list, I immediately started checking off flicks I had seen over the years. I was surprised, as an 18 year-old, how many I could check off the list, but many still remained. I had myself a challenge.

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1.22.11 – “The French Connection” by Movies in LA under license CC BY-NC 2.0

Little by little I would see one or another movie on the list and keep inventory. Over time, I began to see a disturbing pattern, particularly with films from the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Deer Hunter, The French Connection, Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Chinatown: Depressing. Even solid gold, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—spoiler alert—they die!

Now, fairy tales, for the most part, have relatively simple plot lines. Part of their allure and longevity is a result of their brevity, while still containing powerful, widely applicable lessons. They are, nevertheless, straightforward: one hero with one objective, one cruel villain and one major crisis before a happy and satisfying resolution.

But what happens when the hero of the fairy tale does not win his battle? What happens when we don’t get “happily ever after”?

It means one of two things. It means we’re either watching one of those myriad depression-fests of the 1970’s, or it may very well mean we’re simply in store for a longer, more complicated story than we had anticipated. Following the initial failure, a new layer of the story is introduced, with a goal for redemption.

The initial pages of Scripture may outline a fairy tale at the beginning, with God the Creator employing humanity, the pinnacle of his creation, to administer his life-giving glory throughout the creation. An enemy arises in the form of the serpent to threaten this endeavor, but the Lord supplies the tempted humans with a clear command with which to combat the snake’s charms.

But, as we all know, there is no “happily ever after” in Genesis 3.

Rather, Adam and Eve fail. The first couple, humanity’s archetypes, are given one simple task: trust God and don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Easy, right? But the serpent’s wiles gets them to question their Creator, to pluck the forbidden fruit and partake.

As a result, the creation itself is cursed and the Lord’s first priests are banished from the beatific natural temple of Eden. Humanity—meant to be God’s representatives pushing back chaos on the earth—is severed from the life-giving God.

So, what sort of story are we in for? Is the Bible a 70’s melodrama? Or could it be we’re embarking on a longer journey toward redeeming God’s first objective?

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I’m Not Feeling Blue about “Blue”, or I’m Feeling “Blue”

Over at Patheos, my good friend Jonathan Fitzgerald confessed his fears about the upcoming Blue Like Jazz movie.  As a writer in his own right (see what I did there?), this has been something of a running theme for Fitzgerald for as long as I’ve known him.  He’s an artist (though I don’t think he’d actually say that) and a Christian (he would say that) and he’s exceptionally thoughtful about both.  Read the post.  He raises some excellent points about the value of art and why so many have been frustrated both with contemporary “secular” art as well as half-baked attempts at “Christian” art, though for different reasons.

Anyway, this is about the trailer for Blue Like Jazz, whether I’ll make plans to see it, and whether those plans will be filled with trepidation or excitement.

I must confess, I don’t share Fitzgerald’s initial fears about this movie.  Watching the trailer, I’m actually eager to see the film, which is strange, because I generally won’t read popular Christian literature (Blue Like Jazz included) or see supposedly Christian films (I did rent Saved, though, and relished in the satire).  This film, to judge by the trailer, looks quirky.  I love quirks.  At some level, it bears the feel of something fantastical, to which I also aspire.  And more than that, it comes across as genuine.

As Fitzgerald rightly warned, we can’t judge a movie (or book) by its calculated promotional materials.  Yet these 100 seconds give the impression of a real struggle of faith that poses honest questions without trite and prepackaged answers.  It’s what I’ve come to expect of Stephen Taylor, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay.

It remains to be seen what sort of reviews Blue Like Jazz will receive.  It remains to be seen whether it will be a good movie on any level.  The film itself simply remains to be seen.  But here’s the question I find myself asking as I watch the trailer: If this were a story about a young Hindu woman who travels from India, loses her faith in America, and then regains the moorings of her youth, would it be considered a good story?  Would I be inspired, in my own context and my own (very different) faith?  Would it encourage me to ask good questions of myself and my culture?  Would it encourage me to diligently seek answers for beneficial reasons?

I will look forward to any movie that can do that.