Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Monday, December 27, 2004  

Two Movies

Thus far during the holidays, my wife and I have watched two movies. We watched the third Hary Potter movie, Azkhaban, and we watched the foriegn film, Osama, which is Afghani and not about Osama Bin Ladin (except very obliquely).

I continue to be baffled by the popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies, for I find the books to be poorly written, and the movies to be painfully unwatchable. Yet, if millions of children can sit through the tendentious pacing of the films, the lack of drawn characters where individuals change in some meaningful way, where problems are resolved, and tedium is banished then the X Box generation can, hopefully, handle boredom in their futures.

There is no actual plot to a Harry Potter story because everything is determined ahead of time (Harry is the Savior who is invulnerable), and deus ex machina, every difficulty will be overcome.

Hogworts is a ridiculously tedius place where bored students learn boring magic. Yet, for all the magic they learn, they never seem to have much handy when they need it -- so what good is it? And having people pointing wands at each other instead of throwing punches gets very silly, especially when they keep dropping their wands and losing them to others. Again, what good is magic if you can't hold onto your own wand?

The characterizations of the students in particular is absurd. One malefactor and antagonist, Malfoy, a snotty brat is always courageously mocking Harry and his friends and sneering at them, but then reduced to wimpering, whining, and utter cowardice before them. His consecutive humiliations do nothing to dampen his spirits or his popularity with his own mob. He bounces right up for the next round of sneer followed by a drubbing.

and his friends don't seem to be friends at all. I do not see where they like each other in the least, and are completely unaffectionate. They are portrayed as loyal, yet without much regard in feeling for friendship.

Harry also appears to be insufferably hot tempered without redeeming qualities. He's nasty, breaks the rules, and no one seems to mind. His English accent appears quite hard and cruel, to boot. He lacks any patience for suffering or enduring hardship, and thus is unsympathetic. We like him less than his nasty relatives after awhile since his reactions are worse than the provocations.

Enough of that. Rowling simply can't write. She turned a certain felicity for fantasy invention (maps which track whoever is roaming around their territory) and a willingness to steal from Tolkien ad infinitum among others and parlayed that into a phenomenon that has become self-perpetuating not because it is good, but because people have been hooked into hoping for a real story to emerge.

One note. In the beginning of the film we hear a clearly satanic choir of boys and girls singing in harmony from MacBeth "boil and bubble, toil and trouble" and the effect is quite dismaying. I immediately understood why serious evangelical Christians would dispise the whole Harry Potter and black magic celebration. It is not benign, and for all the apologists who think that Harry is a character that exemplifies perserverance and overcoming challenges heroicly; good winning over evil, well, this is just straining for benevolence.

I find it hard to imagine that the audience for Harry Potter will remain steady for all the years to come to finish out the series. Yet, I know the sixth book is expected to be huge. Still, I can't see the sixth movie doing much.

The Wizard of Oz books had their run, and frankly, they aren't very good stories either apart from some inventiveness. The movie was cobbled together from a number of the books and is much better than anything that series offered by itself.

There is little doubt that children like romantic fantasy, and will enjoy it just as they will watch any animated TV or movie show regardless of how deficient it is of real meaning, value, or beauty.

Now, to Osama.

This story takes place during the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan. A woman who is a doctor is left withiout a job after the hospital is shut down. She's a widow with a mother and daughter, and no male relatives to help her.

They cut the daughter's hair and dress her as a boy to get her a job, but she's picked up by the Taliban for training in the madrassa where she is taunted for her girlish qualities.

The movie is slowly paced and bleak. It runs about 80 minutes.

Since the subject matter is bound up with world affairs and controversies, it is difficult to judge the movie on its achievement as a film. I expect that women will view the movie much differently than a man will. It made me very angry, wheareas it scared my wife on a deep level.

Sort of like the difference between a sincere Christian watching a movie about the rise of godless Nazism reacting to it as opposed to a European Jew watching it. There's a different level of threat.

It makes one glad to be American and Christian, while at the same time illustrating the inherently satanic nature of Islam. What we call fundamentalism is not an aberration but a central feature emanating from Mohammed and his acts and words. Islam is evil and their is no way around that as this movie makes plain.

Now, one could make a movie about Islam that illustrated piety and devotion to moral goodness. Islam has had members who were good, kind, tender, sincere, and compassionate. Sufism stresses mystical union with a living God that can lead to a merciful righteousness, but those are exceptions or aberrations from the actual content and substance of Islam which is truly a death cult like the Thuggies (pronounced 'tuggies') of India (from whence we get the word, thug).

But I don't believe that this movie was made to indict Islam so much as the Taliban who come across more as Stalinist thugs than as religious fanatics since it shows the men lording it over others without anything like we would call religious feeling or zeal. The scenes in the mosque or madrassa are reminiscent of the re-education camp and indoctrination schools than as a reflection of feeling for any divinity.

The Taliban are simply gangsters with an ideology. One does marvel, though, at characters who pretend to act for God and yet do not appear to have the slightest hint of actual relationship or understanding of their Creator. (Which is why I will always return to the meme that Islam is evil since it doesn't seem to foster any kind of personal awareness or insight into God apart from the idiotic ravings of Mohammed and those who wrote for him.)

There is no doubt that other religions have passed through oppressive periods, or ocassionally recycle into them, but generally the search for meaning by individuals and societies resolves itself into positive and redeeming values which strengthen and support life. Islam is unceasingly cruel, oppressive, vindictive, and barbaric. It is wolfish and ravening.

The movie, Osama, may or may not illustrate that to others, but it ought to be shown to every American schoolchild in sixth grade and again in twelfth grade. It makes our enemy personal in a rousing way as every boy or young man considers his mother and sisters, or as every girl and woman contemplates a possible future in the alternate universe of Islam.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 10:41 AM |