movies

A Bit Of Culture & Some Bad Theology

On Easter Sunday NBC aired “Jesus Christ Superstar Live!”. This past weekend Wifey® and I finally had a chance to watch it (thanks to the modern-day miracle of DVRs). I am quite familiar with this rock opera, having “stolen” the concept album (released in 1970) from my sister. I listened to it constantly. I could sing every part, yes, even Mary Magdalene’s  “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (I figured if Judas reprises the song I could sing it too).

I have to admit that I am very partial to this version of the opera. With Ian Gillian (lead singer for Deep Purple) as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary (this pre hookup with Eric Clapton), the power of these voices far outshines most the follow-up versions. John Legend did a very nice Jesus in this version and Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas and Sara Bareilles as Mary were exceptional.

The 1973 movie adaptation was terrible. Ted Neely, who was the understudy to Jeff Fenholt as Jesus in the original Broadway cast, just didn’t have the voice to carry the part. The 2000 movie version had cool costumes but still lacked the “power” behind the voices.

The choreography in the “Live” version was exceptional. As was the instrumentation. The blending of the 70’s era rock with the traditional orchestra instruments may be the biggest reason this opera has stayed with me for so long.  I loved the way the electric string instruments came running in with the chorus (they go by the name of Choir! Choir! Choir!), and the violins and either a bass or cello,  were seen in several scenes on stage playing. I can’t imagine the conductor keeping all these musicians spread across the stage in time with each other. A very impressive feat.

Since this opera debuted in the 70’s its theology is a bit dated. One of the most glaring problems is that it casts Mary Magdalene as a “woman of loose morals” to put it politely.  I know there are still some folks who believe that Mary was of a questionable background. But I can’t find anything in the Bible that says she was a prostitute. All I can find is that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (if anyone has any reliable proof of this assertion, please pass it along). My thought (just my opinion), is that folks tend to combine Mary with “the woman caught in adultery” story that’s found ONLY in the gospel of John (and many modern biblical scholars claim that the story is not found in our earliest copies of the gospel. The current thought is that it was added much later by a scribe!).

The other bit of “culture and bad theology” I’d like to talk about is “Godspell”. I believe this would be a musical as opposed to a rock opera as JC Superstar is. I was lucky enough to see Godspell on stage at the Coconut Grove Playhouse way back when 1976. It was very close to the movie version. Wifey® and I have watched this musical several times at some local churches. It’s usually performed by traveling college groups and are usually very good performances.

Godspell is supposed to be based on the gospel of Matthew. And just like “JCS” it takes some liberties with the gospel. Since are both products of the 70’s, taking liberties wasn’t uncommon, especially for anything having to do with the Bible. And that doesn’t bother me at all. I do believe that the Bible is a good thing to read and understand, but then we should also read the Qur’an, and books of other religions, as well, but I do not subscribe the “inerrant” view of the Bible.

One of the major controversies of Godspell is that Jesus is wearing clown makeup. Again, not a problem with me. It doesn’t portray Jesus as a clown, he just has a clown face on. It sets him apart from the rest of the cast, just as Christians have set the historical Jesus apart from the rest of humanity.

Needless to say, both of these shows played a major part of my theology growing up. It wasn’t until much later that I came to realize just how bad their theology was. That doesn’t stop me from enjoying them though. To me, it’s just artistic license. And as long as they keep cranking out quality shows, like the Live show, I’ll keep watching them.

Have you seen either of these shows? Tell me your thoughts if you did!

Peace,
B

P.S. I went looking for a video of both of the shows on YouTube and there were too many to pick from. So it’s up to you to check them out.

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Falcon 9 Heavy

As a little boy, I wanted to be an astronaut, not uncommon for young boys. As since I grew up in Florida, we visited Cape Kennedy (it has now reverted back to its original name of Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space Center has been built for tourists) several times. Looking at the rockets that came back, everything from the original Mercury capsules and the giant Saturn 5 rockets that took us to the moon (or did they? – think I’ve been watching too many X-Files), and especially the Shuttles kept the wonder alive for me. But I have to admit, over the last years, as NASA has constantly had their budget cut and less and less space programs are originating here in the USA, my interest has waned.

But today we have another “big boy” launch. The Falcon 9 Heavy. This excites me. I worked at Cape Canaveral for a short time (it was cut short by 9/11 when my sub-contract was terminated as many others were).  And if I’m not mistaken, this was the launch pad I worked on.

But one thing I find almost humorous is that Elon Musk (@ElonMusk) has put one of his Telsa Roadsters, with a “spaceman” in the driver seat (no one is in the suit, in case you were concerned). The mission, as I understand it, is not only a real test of the Falcon 9 Heavy engines but to travel to Mars.

falcon_roadster

Tesla Roadster with its Spaceman driver

Not only is this cool as hell, it reminds me of one my all-time favorite movies, “Heavy Metal“.  This animated movie, released in 1981 (not good for little children – see the link), starts off with a spaceman leaving orbit in a 1959 Corvette and reentering earth.

hmvette

Heavy Metal

This intro always intrigued me. It was obvious that no one could survive such a reentry, but what the hell, it’s a cartoon, and we well know that physics do not apply in the world of cartoons.  I was down with it. Now, this Telsa Roadster will sadly, not be landing on Mars just left orbiting for eternity. Still a cool accomplishment.

So now we have a roadster blasting off into space, or as Elon said: “it blows up in a million little pieces”.  It could go either way, this is the first launch of this rocket model. And no matter how much testing they put it through, it’s still a bit of a crapshoot.

If you want to watch the launch from the comfort of where ever you’re reading this, the launch window is 1:30 – 4:00 PM EST. You can watch the live webcast at the SpaceX website (along with a host of other sites). The feed usually goes live about an hour prior to the launch window opening.

I’ll be watching, hope you can too!

Peace,
B

 

Christmas Movies

Since I STILL haven’t heard John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas”, I thought I’d do a post about Christmas Movies.  I’m not talking the made for TV crap that Lifetime and Hallmark channels play. You could cut whole scenes out of those movies, switch them with scenes from another movie and other than there being different actors, you wouldn’t notice the damn difference.

So I checked out several sites that have rankings of Christmas movies to see who ranks which movies versus other lists.

I looked at Rotten Tomatoes, Thrillist, and Buzzfeed simply because they were the first three in my Google search (links above go to the lists I used).  What I basically learned from these sites is that I have not seen damn near any of this movies.

Let’s start with some of the classics;

White Christmas; #25 on Rotten Tomatoes, #33 on Thrillist and not listed on Buzzfeed.  I have only seen snippets of this movie.  Usually when Wifey® elbows me to stop snoring and I wake up just enough to see that it’s still on before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Elf; #19 on Rotten Tomatoes, #6 on Thrillist, and #12 on Buzzfeed. I have never seen this movie nor do I intend on ever watching this movie. For whatever reason, I just have an aversion to Will Ferrell.  Nothing personal, just don’t care for the man.

A Christmas Story; #9 on Rotten Tomatoes, #2 on Thrillist and #6 on Buzzfeed. Again, never watched it. I can’t really give a reason why not. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Miracle on 34th Street; #2 on Rotten Tomatoes, #3 on Thrillist, and not listed on Buzzfeed.  Nope. Not interested at all.

It’s A Wonderful Life; #1 on all three sites. It’s a bit strange that I’ve never seen this one. If I understand the plot (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the main character (Jimmy Stewart?) wishes that he had never been born.  Someone (Santa maybe?) grants this wish and he gets a glimpse of what his loved ones/town/I don’t know, would have lived without him. Since my bipolar depression leads me into those kinds of thoughts on a semi-regular basis, maybe I could learn something from this movie. But that damn phrase “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets her wings”, is enough to keep me away. That did come from this movie right? Or am I confusing it with 34th Street??

So now, some of the movies that are listed as Christmas movies for reasons I don’t understand.  No rankings on these.

Die Hard; Just because this movie takes place during a company Christmas party doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas movie. Last time I looked, Christmas is (for some – not all) about the birth of the “Christ Child”. I don’t see how blowing shit up and automatic gunfire qualifies. I have seen this movie, it was during my Army years, and then I enjoyed it. Now, not so much. I’ve grown way to pacifist for this level of violence.

Trading Places; Again, just because the storyline takes place during the holidays doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Maybe it’s the greed versus the people on the margins of society that qualify it, I don’t know.  But I have seen this one and I did enjoy it. I enjoy both Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

Batman Returns; Seriously? A Christmas movie? SMDH… (But did enjoy the movie).

Now let’s talk about some Christmas movies I have seen.

Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer; My favorite character is Lemny the Elf who wants to be a dentist. A good study in breaking out of a class structure.

A Charlie Brown Christmas; One of my all-time favorites. Even with Linus’ soliloquy of Luke (a direct quote too). An interesting fact is that the network pressured Charles Schulz to take the bible quote out. He refused, and it’s still there to this day. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is also a classic holiday treat.

The Nightmare Before Christmas; A Tim Burton masterpiece!  Absolutely love this one as it spans two holidays. And the animation is just so cool.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas; The original animation from 1967. I have not seen the live action mainly because I don’t want to compare it to this one. This has become my favorite Christmas cartoon.

And my All-Time-Favorite Christmas movie is (drumroll please); National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. How did you not see that one coming? Without a doubt, this movie cracks me up no matter what time of year. The script is amazing, the acting is beyond belief.  I have an Army buddy that’s nicknamed “Sparky” in tribute to Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold. But all in all, my favorite character of all the Vacation movies is Cousin Eddie. He reminds me of a sudden depressive episode that comes with the bipolar. He shows up at the worst possible time, he turns the situation upside down, and you just can’t get rid of him.

An honorable mention goes to Christmas With The Kranks.  Wifey® got me to watch it just last year. And while not quite up there with Christmas Vacation, it was still quite enjoyable. And I will admit I will watch Jamie Lee Curtis read the phone book.  I’ve always enjoyed her work.

So there’s my list. I’m sure I’ve left off your favorite movie, or maybe you disagree my views. It’s all cool!  Leave me a comment below and let me know! (And don’t text me bro!)

Peace,
B