Some call it progress, others crazy

A hit in its day, almost forty years later The Gods Must Be Crazy hasn’t lost its luster, a certifiable comedy classic.

The hilarious documentary-style comedy from late South African filmmaker Jamie Uys is about absurd civilization and the simple life.

A Botswanan bushman Xi stumbles on an empty coke bottle that was thrown out of a plane. The refreshingly simple Xi mistakenly thinks the gods sent the bottle—but they didn’t.

Xi and his family was once peaceful, but fight over who can use the bottle which has its uses.

Their simple life becomes complicated and stressed because of the bottle, so Xi thinks the bottle is evil and must be thrown off the end of the world.

The point is how progress, which is supposed to make life simpler, did not make life simpler but interfered with the simple life. A subtler theme is of how evil entered paradise and how we wish for the innocent life all over again.

The Gods Must be Crazy is completely witty on delivering its message. It is scene after scene of absurdist hilarity that always hits the mark, centering on the story of Xi and the coke bottle but diverging into other absurdist directions involving obsessive terrorists, a story-lite journalist, and a girl shy scientist, all interlinked.

The Gods Must Be Crazy, Year: 1980, Starring: N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Michael Thys, Louw Verwey, Director/Writer: Jamie Uys, Country: Botswana/South Africa, Rated PG (Contains naturalized nudity)

My response: Better one. Experience positive, virtue positive. Followed by a sequel, The Gods Must be Crazy II (1988), a family film comedy.


Denial undoubtedly important

Have watched Denial which is a film (now out on DVD) about a defamation case brought by David Irving (Timothy Spall) against Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) for discrediting him in her book.

He claimed that the Jewish Holocaust of World War II was a lie to promote sympathy for the Jewish state. The film is based on Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier.

I remember when this story broke out circa 2000. I was infuriated with Irving’s claim that the Holocaust did not happen. The eventual judgment of the trial was naturally a relief.

The film of the story isn’t a hard-headed courtroom drama which is what it should be. It lingers on the sentimentality of the story especially at the Auschwitz sites. Lipstadt is often given to moralizing and sentimentality. For a drama which established itself as going to deliver the goods in an uncompromising way, it falls short.

However, in the courtroom scenes and moments around the trial, it regains your faith that this is undoubtedly an important story and a story about when justice and truth wins the day.

Denial, Year: 2016, Starring: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Director: Mick Jackson, Rated PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language

My response: Better one–with reservation. Experience positive and negative, virtue positive.


Reading week

Visceral entertainment and thought-provoking, reflection, and the off-putting: my reading week so far.

The original Star Wars novelization was the first.

The book of Job the second.

And Dante’s Divine Comedy the last.

Star Wars the novel doesn’t seem to compare to the movie, but with the movie in mind, the novel is added entertainment on top of the movie and a good read. Thought provoking in the sense that where is Luke Skywalker’s journey taking him and how? And I love the peppering of words that require a dictionary. Not that there are many.

The book of Job is reflection and a very centering one. I love it, although I admit takes a bit of effort.

But I am surprised that I officially no longer like Dante’s Divine Comedy. I have read the first part and saw the point although the poetry itself was hit and miss. I skipped the second part and went for what I thought would be the best part, Paradiso. But this is when I realized that the Divine Comedy makes some good points, but not everything stacks up for me. I’d rather read Job and the Bible for spiritual reflection. And Dante’s poetry just didn’t jell this time.

Well, that’s how my reading week may have ended, but the last passage I read was from Star Wars and I’m in the throes of taking the Divine Comedy to the second hand bookshop.

Contributor adventures and misadventures

Contributing has the share of busy times and quieter moments as far as I know. There are also the times when a contributor may look for that next publication to contribute to, but it is slow in coming.

A contributor may have self-publishing work, but may keep on looking for that next publisher and if it’s a nice fit.

The rejection is two-fold. The writer may reject a publisher as unsuitable from the outset and the publisher may reject the writer after the writer submits a piece. And if in the throes of a job, one of the parties may terminate the job.

But if going by track record, a contributor has faith that their work has potential and can be picked up again.

It’s a faith-building exercise when someone accepts your work when there had been a number of set-backs in the process of submitting. So the lesson, if there is one, is that when one gets an acceptance, it will build confidence to submit to the next one. But no one needs me to tell them that. It’s pretty self-evident.

Through the quieter times of researching the next publisher, one must persevere as best as possible, and keep on waiting and see what happens. Then after a while one can see what kind of future their contributing has.

One must have faith, but also be realistic, after all is done to pursue the possibilities.

A zany Batman

Zany The Lego Batman Movie is not to be taken too seriously—except for the theme that no one is an island. It’s based on the DC Comics superhero with plenty of references to other Batman movies, but is animated in the appearance of Lego blocks and figurines.

Those familiar with the Batman material will recognize the sending up of the Batman character.

As well, there are easy to understand explanations of Batman lore that newbies to Batman will latch onto. So if young children watch this movie they may learn about Batman in an easy to understand way if they are new to it.

However, for this reviewer this movie loses momentum from the middle section on (but children may not complain).

Even so, The Lego Batman Movie has got some very amusing scenes and lack of seriousness.

And the takeaway thematic point is that Batman ala Bruce Wayne—who is a lone ranger type (which is accentuated for comic effect)–needs a little help from his friends (other superheroes and law enforcers) so he can battle injustice, and fill the relational void in his life.

Individuals were made for each other is the underlying message, all done with a light touch.

The Lego Batman Movie, Year: 2017, Starring: voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis, Director: Chris McKay, Rated PG for rude humor and some action

My response: Lukewarm. Experience positive and negative, virtue okay.


Dilemmas in writing

When I was twelve, I wrote a story called “The Drypton Dilemma”. There was no dilemma writing that story.

The writing life can come up with real life dilemmas unlike the fictional ones.

Like last week’s one.

But the answer is in decision, as much as possible. Sometimes taking on too much means a writer must cut down somehow without the feeling of selling one’s self short. I know this myself. I have too many ideas of what I can do.

We know that being decisive is about being decisive. There is no middle ground, there is no relenting or going back on your vows. You go through with it. But instead of going through with many projects on the go, go through with one or two at a time.

This is indeed inspirational and a relief. When one decides on a course of action, rather than doing everything at once, there is a sense of inspiration and relief, relief that one does not have to stretch it. But one sticks to the project at hand and does the job then later on tackles the next project.

I think this concentration of focus produces energy to do the project or task. And one can do a very good job of it, something that one can be proud of. Just carry through with the vision or purpose of the project until complete.

Positives of 2017

The Boss Baby

The boss baby (Alec Baldwin) is from Baby Corp and isn’t officially seven-year old Tim’s brother although Tim’s parents believe he is. The boss baby’s entrance into Tim’s world is to find out more about Puppy Co’s latest product as Tim’s parents work for Puppy Co. There’s action, spectacle, humor, and secondary characters that add spice. It leaves something to the imagination and is a well-conceived, heart-warming tale.

My response: Suitable. Experience neutral, virtue somewhat positive, film’s well done.


Bitter Harvest

This low budget film from Canada is not a massive production of scale, but is well-meaning and effective.  Death by starvation in the Ukraine, which was only revealed after the dismantling of communist Russia years after the fact, is a tragedy that can only be construed in meaningful terms.

My response: Suitable. Experience somewhat positive, virtue positive, film okay as a film.


A Dog’s Purpose

A Dog’s Purpose is a playful comedy and a touching drama. A purpose of a dog is explored over a dog’s several lives from the 1960’s. Josh Gad provides the dog’s thoughts throughout the film. The themes of a dog’s life are: Freedom to explore the world, but dogs find they are controlled. Dogs adapt by playing different roles, be that a pet (mostly the case in this film) or a police dog (in the middle section the dog becomes female police dog Elle). A dog’s role makes them very useful to others and their nature is to love and give whatever the circumstances.

My response: Better one–with reservation. Experience positive,  virtue positive, film okay.


Monster Trucks

Teenager Tripp (Lucas Till) happens to stumble on a monster—which is rather cute, a cross between a dolphin and a squid with Free Willy’s set of teeth. Tripp protects the monster from company men who don’t want the authorities to get wind of the monsters they are hiding. The family film has a moral slant and one and a half hours of pleasantries, action, and an okay story, one which will make you like monsters.

My response: Suitable. Experience neutral, virtue positive, film okay.


Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is based on the popular Japanese anime of the 1990’s and follows Mira (Scarlett Johansson) who is cyber-enhanced for the purpose of being an anti-terrorist soldier. This action science fiction movie is quite cold and keeps one detached and aloof. The story becomes a revelation of how the high-tech system of the future shouldn’t enslave humanity, but should serve humanity. Sounds true enough, but humanity is put at the center rather than the Creator.

My response: Off-putting. Experience negative, virtue somewhat positive but also negative.



Logan follows a dying Logan (aka Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman) who takes under his wing a powerful young mutant girl. She has escaped Transigen, which is a group harvesting mutant DNA to make child soldiers. With Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) they journey to a mutant safe haven to protect the child. This is an in-between movie, caught between liking much of it, but acknowledging that despite several good points, Logan is a mix of profanity and graphic violence.

My response: Off-putting. Experience positive and negative, virtue a mix coming down on negative.


Power Rangers

Power Rangers is real teen life (which is quite well done) and the supernatural. The teens are assisted by their new found supernatural abilities to conquer their own problems and the problems in the world. It is good material for a Christian perspective. But when the name of Jesus is cursed or profaned, I turned this movie off.

My response: Off-putting.


Are niche videos really worth seeing?

I hired out a DVD that I hadn’t heard of before.

Alone in Berlin looks like it could play respectably on Sunday night theater. It has that insular dramatic feel to it and a respectable-ness that covers the flaws but not entirely.

A couple of big name actors headline the film. Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson make one want to watch Alone in Berlin.

They play a German couple during World War II, at the beginning of the war, in 1940. It’s important to note that they play a German couple for the following reasons.

They receive a letter that their son has died in the war and the letter is written in German. When she is dismayed at the news, in hearing distance of her German husband, she speaks in English with a German accent. From a coherent perspective, something’s amiss already. The character should only speak German since the character lives in Berlin and wouldn’t be speaking English to other German nationals.

There must be a reason for this apparent discrepancy. Alone in Berlin was released in English speaking countries New Zealand, United Kingdom and South Africa. It was also released in Italy, Portugal, France, Netherlands and Greece and in these countries subtitled English speaking movies would be acceptable and make some inroads.

Alone in Berlin does have an audience in these countries.  It’s the lovely people who like watching movies that require the same level of concentration of reading a literary novel. It’s the people who want to follow important-sounding stories to their conclusion especially as the story relates to their part of the world.

This niche video does have an audience. I thought it may have been me, but alas I was wrong.

One can say that there is always going to be an audience for niche videos and that film-makers care enough to produce movies that are about important things even if the execution is sometimes off track and kilter.


Should there have been The Road to Hell?

Pop folkster Chris Rea’s The Road to Hell caused at least one person to ruffle his feathers. “Don’t listen to it,” he said.

I know why. It’s in the title. He probably hadn’t listened to the album himself, but he took an educated guess. The Road to Hell would be song after song of abject depression that bogged one down. I bet that’s what he thought. It’s the only explanation I could find for rejecting the album from the outset.

I listened to it again today because it was Chris Rea day at my listening post. I have five of his albums and I listened to two.

Rea, Chris (1)

Chris Rea (Pictured) in later years still playing riveting guitar.


Rea started in the business in 1978 and nabbed a Grammy-nomination with the song Fool (If You Think It’s Over). His debut was well-received then followed by many albums in workmanlike fashion over five decades.

One of those other albums was Water Sign (1983), gentle, easy listening and occasionally rock-filled. Sometimes it rose above a general steadiness and laid-backed sound.

Six years later out came The Road to Hell (1989) which was Rea’s most ambitious of the decade.

It is an epic album of riveting guitar moments and ideas about the state of the world and where we are going. Will the world find the exit from the path of destruction?

There’s a song about the “evil” television news and then one about finding the rainbow and the album ends on the note ‘Tell me there’s heaven’. No doubt evidence that The Road to Hell isn’t thoughtless AC/DC.

Back to the original question: should there have been The Road to Hell? To answer that question, one has to ask why this is a question. And ask what purpose does the album serve?

The album is a problem because there’s a natural reluctance to embrace an album about hell on earth and the everlasting hell. But I think many potential listeners to The Road to Hell aren’t embracing hell by listening to this album.

They are seeing what Rea sees, a world that’s gone to the dogs and if what we do on earth will have eternal consequences.  Are we all destined for eternal hell since hellish destruction marks much of the earth? Where’s heaven?

Heaven seems to be the great secret that hell on earth covers up. The Road to Hell takes us to the point of needing heaven in a world going to hell.

Hence it serves a purpose—one may just find a better reason to live because of finding the heavenly—and done in an original and bold manner that rivets the ears in place.

My response: Better one. Experience generally positive, virtue okay to good.

God even cares about this

I was going to the CD part of the department store to find a cheap CD case for myself. I would later use the case for another CD.

I would have to buy an actual CD (or album of songs) because they didn’t sell empty cases or the kind of empty cases I wanted. So the type of artist didn’t matter for my intents and purposes.

I wanted a cheap CD, so went to the bargain bin. One dollar would be best, but I could live with three dollars. Five dollars was too much. There were many five dollar CD’s which was very annoying.

While I was onto it, I looked for an artist I may like as well.

There were albums for Dads and Christmas ones and ones I thought may have seen the light of day in a CD store many moons ago. It just had that cover that would have put it at the front of the shop. Alas, it’s now selling for five dollars.

I was discouraged that I couldn’t find something cheaper than five dollars.

But when I picked an album my mother may have liked, it had the right price for my intents and purposes.

Perhaps this was the hand of God, all designed and organized for this moment.

I grabbed the CD and shot off to the counter. I got my CD case and my mother loved the wonderful collection of Christmas songs from Andrea Reiu.

I went for selfish purposes, but it all worked together for someone else as well as for me.

I wasn’t expecting to get the right priced CD for my purpose and in the process find a CD for my mother. I could have picked any CD, but someone else benefited from the one I stumbled on.

Could of worked another way. Could it be that God works in mysterious and efficient ways? I thought so. God even cared about that.