J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Posts Tagged ‘zzz’

Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and 2

Posted by J on November 30, 2007

In our misspent youths, we played a computer game called Pirates: Gold! The object of that game was to assemble a pirate crew, sail the Caribbean, and plunder the ships and cities of various empires. The game had a lasting effect: it taught us the detailed map of the Caribbean, which we remember to this day. It also taught us that 17th century piracy was fun. Gold, babes, and destruction–what more can a young lad ask for?

In spite of this characterization, piracy in the 17th century wasn’t good times, nor is it today. As we learned later in life, pirates are essentially ocean gangs, packs of greedy barbarians who plunder private property and, if they can, rape and murder whomever. This is where Disney’s pirate trilogy comes in. Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, and probably 3 (we haven’t seen that one) depict pirate life–albeit a sanitized one–as whimsical and glamorous.

What’s the harm in that, one asks? It forms the conscience in a similar way as our old game Pirates: Gold! did to us in the late ’80s. The skull-and-bones flag, Davy Jones, squawking parrots, and Johnny Depp dominate the movie’s image of piracy. Theft and destruction, meanwhile, are far removed from it. This misses the essence of piracy, which is theft. Is it ever proper to depict thieves as they are not, in this case, as rockstar metrosexuals?

While the answer to such a sharp question seems pretty easy to come up with, we do admit to indulging in the viewing of this series of movies. The plots are nonsensical, and so if you enter the movies expecting anything but watered-down tripe for a story, you will be sorely disappointed. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the stunts and special effects a bit too much. Here again, movie-magic lulled us to sleep, because the portrayal of the dead is goofy and pagan. Thus we advise staying away instead of getting sucked in. You are better off answering the question at the end of the second paragraph, applying it to these movies, and sticking to the moral imperative of that application. Don’t give in to mass marketing.

Entertainment: 8
Intelligence: 0
Morality: 0

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Posted in Big-Budget Eye Candy, Silly but Entertaining | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Babette’s Feast; Tender Mercies

Posted by J on September 19, 2007

When we started this website, we were already far behind. Now we’re trying to catch up, but as the weeks go by we see that we’re getting farther and farther behind. Such is the nature of work and time.

So we just wanted to say this: we highly recommend Babette’s Feast and Tender Mercies. Ignore the junk in the movie theater and go rent these. Eventually, we’ll get to reviews of them, but since our recommendations are and probably will always be few and far between, we’re putting these two out there for you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

The Ox-Bow Incident

Posted by J on September 18, 2007

“Ultimate democracy . . . is really a tyranny divided among a multitude of persons.” — Aristotle, Politics

The Ox-Bow Incident is a morality tale about modern law and justice. It is such a morality tale that two things unusual for Westerns occur. First, Henry Fonda, our main character and starring role, is subordinated to the mob that he joins. Second, the movie clearly eschews romance by quickly bringing on and whisking off a love interest for Fonda, which tells us that Politics is more important than Love here. The Ox-Bow Incident was released in the middle of WWII (1943), and frankly we were puzzled that a studio released a non-propaganda film like this. It’s even prescient about ex post facto law being applied to the Nuremberg trials. The clear difference between this movie and other Westerns is that it uses a questionable mob instead of a singular hero out for justice/revenge, which provides a nice antidote to impersonal Man-With-No-Name shoot-em-ups starring Clint Eastwood.

The story moves quickly (the 75-minute running time is rather nice for those with crowded schedules). Fonda and his sidekick ride into town and enter a saloon. Soon after, the men in the town get riled up about a reported murder outside of town. A heterogenous lynch mob forms, featuring our star, a burly old woman, a black preacher, and an ex-Confederate soldier named Tetley. Most, but not all, are bloodthirsty. When they find three men camping out in an ox-bow, a sort of kangaroo court forms. What happens next forms our law-and-justice moral. We will report no more about it, except to say that this lynch mob thinks it’s lawful. It sticks to a semblance of the legal procedures it knows, as when the sheriff’s deputy deputizes all of the mob’s members. Tetley takes on the crucial leadership role, and he demands majority rule. Despite this, the mob is clearly practicing sham justice. They eschew the Biblical rules of accepting at least two or three witnesses and presuming the accuseds’ innocence. They are, in short, a democratic tyranny.

We had the disadvantage of reading the Walter Van Tilburg Clark novel that this movie is based upon, and to us the differences between a book and its movie still applied (the one always being far better than the other). Fonda’s sidekick is the narrator in the novel, a semi-trustworthy teller of events whose injury during the course of events is meaningful and impacts his taletelling. In the movie, however, this sidekick is a pointless character who receives a pointless injury. Also, in the book Tetley is a little complicated, but in the movie he’s an inhuman monster. The C.S.A. pin always easily visible on his hat, his status as a Southern gentlemen and mob leader displaces the movie’s application of its moral, changing it from a contemporary political critique to a commentary on the history of the American South, which we’ve been beat over the head with all of our lives.

Yet the movie does do one thing better: it gets right Fonda’s response to events at the very end. As a sort of accomplice to the mob, he has a burdened conscience, and that spurs him to go beyond the actions of James 1:27. Unlike John Wayne’s and Clint Eastwood’s many film characters, this is a hero we can learn from.

Entertainment: 4
Intelligence: 6
Morality: 8

Posted in Pretty Good, Western | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

On Movie Ratings

Posted by J on September 8, 2007

It’s difficult to say whether movie ratings–G, PG, etc.–are total shams or not. On the one hand, they give you a standard by which to gauge what a movie contains. On the other hand, the standards are vague and misused, and they have changed wildly over time.

Let’s give an example. We’ve had enormous problems with PG movies from the ’70s and early ’80s, before the PG-13 rating came out in about 1985 (because of the “heart” scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). In those years, movies got shoved into either ‘PG’ or ‘R’, which apparently meant that a movie was either family-friendly or for adults only. On that basis a movie like Barry Lyndon still carries a ‘PG’ rating, even though it has a half-second long orgy scene that would make Internet pornographers proud (unfortunately, we discovered this by experience). Similarly, a so-called family movie that critics say will “make you and your kids cheer and weep”–that is, Breaking Away–contained so much “mild” profanity in the first twenty minutes that we couldn’t imagine showing it to an 18-year old (we did not finish it). And Planet of the Apes, with a G rating, contains Charlton Heston’s bare backside.

The ‘PG-13’ rating alleviated these problems only to a degree. Filmmakers can now shoot for ‘PG’ or ‘PG-13’, the optimum ratings for big-budget summer fare that will be marketed heavily to children, teenagers, and adults. No one wants a ‘G’ rating, unless the name attached to it is Pixar or Disney, because ‘G’ does not sell to all key demographic groups and will not make as much money as, say, ‘PG-13’. Meanwhile, what is considered ‘R’ today is so horrific that ‘NC-17’ has become tantamount to pornography. There are unwritten codes that the MPAA ratings board uses to separate the PG fare from the PG-13 and the PG-13 from the R. These codes, you probably have experienced, are both silly and arbitrary and the difference between PG and PG-13 matters to few anyway. In recent years the board has been including brief descriptions along with ratings. For example, Batman Begins is rated PG-13 for “intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements,” while Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is rated PG for “frightening moments, creature violence and mild language.” So what’s the difference between “frightening moments” and “disturbing images”? And what in the world are “thematic elements”?

Let’s go back in time for a moment. In the so-called glory days of Hollywood, the first several decades of the twentieth century, major studios stuck to the standards known as the Hays Code. Some of the highlights from that code are as follows:

General Principles

  1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
  2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
  3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Applications

  • Nudity and suggestive dances were prohibited.
  • The ridicule of religion was forbidden, and ministers of religion were not to be represented as comic characters or villains.
  • The depiction of illegal drug use was forbidden, as well as the use of liquor, “when not required by the plot or for proper characterization.”
  • Methods of crime (e.g. safe-cracking, arson, smuggling) were not to be explicitly presented.
  • References to sex perversion (such as homosexuality) and venereal disease were forbidden, as were depictions of childbirth.
  • The language section banned various words and phrases that were considered to be offensive.
  • Murder scenes had to be filmed in a way that would discourage imitations in real life, and brutal killings could not be shown in detail. “Revenge in modern times” was not to be justified.
  • The sanctity of marriage and the home had to be upheld. “Pictures shall not imply that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.” Adultery and illicit sex, although recognized as sometimes necessary to the plot, could not be explicit or justified and were not supposed to be presented as an attractive option.
  • Portrayals of miscegenation were forbidden.
  • “Scenes of Passion” were not to be introduced when not essential to the plot. “Excessive and lustful kissing” was to be avoided, along with any other treatment that might “stimulate the lower and baser element.”
  • The flag of the United States was to be treated respectfully, and the people and history of other nations were to be presented “fairly.”
  • “Vulgarity,” defined as “low, disgusting, unpleasant, though not necessarily evil, subjects” must be treated within the “subject to the dictates of good taste.” Capital punishment, “third-degree methods,” cruelty to children and animals, prostitution and surgical operations were to be handled with similar sensitivity.

The Hays Code was slowly abandoned during the ’50s and eventually was junked in the late ’60s. Clearly, none of these standards are in place today; you may see all of them violated in one movie preview shown on daytime TV. This is not, however, to say that Hollywood movies from the 1940s were necessarily more “moral” than those today, although we believe that that’s generally the case. One of the most praised movies ever, Casablanca, blatantly glorifies the thought of adultery, and we have seen a number of Westerns that do in fact glorify the killing of Indians. But the now-discarded Hays Code, compared to present-day practices, demonstrates changes in cultural temperaments. Yes, there once was a time where standards existed. This is why, as a general rule, you will be fairly safe with an “old” movie. You knew this already, but the Hays Code shows you why.

Today there is only the shadow of a code in the MPAA’s ratings, and it will not take much more cultural disintegration before G, PG, and PG-13 are totally meaningless, if they aren’t already.

What’s an adult or parent to do if official movie ratings are vague and unhelpful? We use a site called Kids-in-Mind, though we don’t have children of age to watch movies. This is for our own use because our ideal is to try to watch that which is “true, lovely, and of good report.” We wouldn’t recommend that anyone work for the Kids-in-Mind site, and we wouldn’t pay for their services if they required subscriptions. The reason is obvious: someone is watching all the junk and writing down every four-letter word and piece of skin shown. Nevertheless, as long as the information is there, we’ll use it.

Posted in Short Essays | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

A Little Princess (1995)

Posted by J on September 8, 2007

Don’t let the title fool you: A Little Princess is not for little girls only. As a rich and well-directed production, we think it has elements that all adults may appreciate. The title signifies the plight of its main character, Sara Crewe, who at the beginning of the movie travels from her home in India to New York City with her father where she will stay in a boarding school for girls. As Sara says repeatedly, “any girl can be a princess,” and this she needs to remember because the cold, massive, dark-mint green schoolhouse is very foreboding, as are the streets of New York City. If Sara can’t be a princess, she can imagine herself as one. You see, Sara likes wild stories. She especially likes tales of Indian myths, which are not only told by Sara but shown visually during the movie. Sara in turn teaches her fellow girls that stories are richer and more rewarding than some of the humdrum rules and activities of boarding school life. Yes, there is a wicked schoolmistress and, yes, lightning and thunder literally crash when the schoolmistress goes on a tirade. However, the cliches are few and far between in this movie, thankfully. And if the few cliches bother you too much, you will marvel at the production design (including the use of color) and at the way the director uses the camera. If we were making a movie, we would put this one on our short list of movies to study.

The context of Sara’s storytelling is the dark-green schoolhouse, the loss of her mother, and her father’s participation in World War I trench warfare (he is British). She does not imagine for imagination’s sake, but she does so because of the cruel realities of the world around her. What happens to her father–his fate we cannot say–is the heart of this movie. His fate changes Sara’s life, who always makes use of her pleasant disposition and unlikely friendship with the school’s black servant girl. This servant is a virtual slave, a role that’s anachronistic for New York City circa 1914. Her incorporation into the girls’ lives, particularly Sara’s, is well constructed. It’s true: A Little Princess is one of probably two movies we’ve seen in which some themes of multiculturalism didn’t seem blatant, ridiculous, and hoaky.

This is not exactly true of the inclusion of Sara’s visions of India, though. There is a god-like or savior figure who pops up in the movie repeatedly, appearing to orchestrate key events in the lives of Sara and her father, and he is figured as an Indian mystic. He is very striking is in a movie that is deliberately colored dark-green, because his light orange robe stands out against that background. Sara’s mental life, moreover, is ordered according to Hindu religious tales. She in fact narrates the story of Ramayana throughout, which the movie deliberately parallels with her own story. The Hindu tale has apparently competed for and won Sara’s approval. This, of course, is in direct opposition to St. Paul’s injunction to know and live by the principles of Scripture stories and precepts. We wondered how much different this movie would be if Sara hadn’t associated exoticism and sacredness with a stereotyped vision of India, and instead had thought about how her relationship with her father was analogous to that of hers with God the Father. Christianity is totally absent from A Little Princess, a point to consider if you are going to let your children watch it, even though the original novel penned by Francis Hodgson Burnett (of The Secret Garden fame) probably draws at least loosely on Christian stories. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed the movie very much because of its excellent construction, which is a reason unto itself to see it.

Entertainment: 9
Intelligence: 7
Morality: 4

Posted in Pretty Good, Reality-Fantasy | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Howard’s End

Posted by J on September 7, 2007

Based upon a 1910 E.M. Forster novel, Howard’s End is firmly entrenched in the long tradition of British stories about aristocrats. Several things always happen in this tradition. The aristocrats always seek happiness in marriage. They move between the country and the city, demonstrating the urban-rural dynamic. There are always concerns, usually in the problems of minor characters, about family inheritance. Finally, they are typically comedies, in the sense that they always end well. Howard’s End toys with all of those conventions, but set in the early twentieth century–with trains, motorcars, and bootstrap capitalists–it distorts them so that the ending is not exactly comedic. In fact, it isn’t even close to happy. Howard’s End is basically a Jane Austen story that needs psychotropic meds.

To fully understand this story, you have to see the three levels of society it portrays. First there are the Wilcoxes. Henry Wilcox is a wealthy businessman who married an heiress with a small country house called Howard’s End. Next, there are the Schlegels, a lower-class aristocratic family descended not from Englishmen but from Germans. They can afford a nice London flat, but they can’t pay for it when the rent rises astronomically. Finally, there are the Basts, a poor couple at the bottom end of society. The interaction of these three groups is important. The Schlegels at first are a happy family, but they split themselves in two: one Schlegel sister has sympathy for the Basts, but the other Schlegel sister develops a devotion and dependence upon the Wilcoxes. This is one of the main sources of conflict in this movie, and what happens to the Basts and to the Wilcoxes will tell you the social moral that the movie trumpets.

It is not so easy to say that these families merely typify economic classes though. Margaret and Helen Schlegel are characters in their own right. The way these two split is the heart of the movie. While they enjoy their tea parties and London social life early on, they slip ever so slowly into an antagonistic relationship. Howard’s End does not depict this split as occurring instantaneously, as in one dramatic scene where something major happens. Rather, the two sisters slowly move away from each other, towards either the Basts or Wilcoxes. For Margaret, her communication becomes totally stunted, so that when she marries Henry Wilcox she is never able to talk to him honestly (as if Henry could be honest anyway!). For Helen, her passion moves her to alienation from the family and a sinful act. But Helen is not vilified in Howard’s End, as in earlier novels in the aristocratic tradition when fallen women are castigated (they usually die at the end of the story). Rather, it is Henry Wilcox who is castigated, primarily for being the one who is forgiven but who cannot forgive others. But this movie ultimately offers no solution to the decaying society it depicts, nor to the Schlegel family split or the problems between the Basts and the Wilcoxes. After Howard’s End ended, we were the ones who needed psychotropic meds.

Entertainment: 3
Intelligence: 8
Morality: 4

Posted in Period Drama, Poignant but Boring | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Spellbound

Posted by J on September 7, 2007

Spellbound tells the stories of eight teenagers as they seek glory at the 1999 National Spelling Bee championship. Glory, in this case, is fifteen minutes of fame on ESPN — that is, if they can spell ‘cabotinage’ and ‘opsimath.’ In one of these stories, we follow a young girl from Texas, whose father can’t speak English and may or may not be legal. In another story, there’s the white guy nerd from Missouri. In yet another, a 12-year-old son to Indian immigrants, living in California, who push their child to the point where he has almost all of the dictionary memorized. There’s also the black girl from Washington, D.C., whose mother appears to be single and says that her daughter hasn’t gotten enough props for her creds. Or something like that. So, while these are eight loose stories, they clearly tie together in a sentimental, N.P.R. kind of way. This, Spellbound tells us, is American diversity, and these are intelligent Americans.

Pardon us for waxing sacrilegious about an American tradition, but we don’t get spelling bees. The final rounds of the National Spelling Bee competition in 1999 were broadcast live on ESPN. In 2007 they were broadcast live on primetime network TV. The competition must draw in millions in ad revenue, so not only are spelling bees quaint high school competitions, they’re big business at the national level. But why spelling bees, we wonder? As one father says in Spellbound, a child works hard to memorize thousands of words that no one ever uses. Plus, aside from the apparent uselessness of memorizing “heleoplankton” and “apocope,” Americans also have a proud tradition of being poor spellers. George Washington wasn’t so great at it, though there were no grammar police in his day to regulate the art of spelling. Lewis and Clark were absolutely horrendous. Noah Webster concocted alternate spellings for numerous words, in order to make American spelling different from British. So it seems okay to us to be a little off once in awhile. Why not create a different bee, one more useful for the young ones later in life? Why not a biology bee? A history bee? Memorizing the names of and dates associated with Roman emperors and ancient empires sounds more valuable to us. Or, if these eight teenagers are going to study words all day long, they should just learn two or three foreign languages instead of the spellings of exotic words.

Spellbound is cute, no doubt. Some of these people will charm you, and some of the things they say will make you chuckle. Of course the camera, put right in their face constantly, demands that they talk and talk about themselves. Mothers of spelling bees contestants talk about how they feel. Fathers brag about their children. The children talk about themselves. For this narcissist fest we partly blame the interviewees and partly blame the filmmakers.

Because it tracks several contestants before and during the competition and because of its presentation, Spellbound is not unlike other documentaries about novel competitions; to name a few, Wordplay (crossword puzzles), Word Wars (Scrabble), and The King of Kong (arcade version of Donkey Kong). They all film quirky contestants who obsessively play a game familiar to us all, most of whom normal society would label nerds or freaks. This is the beginning of a genre. Should we call it Docugamery? Gamumentary? Sounds like we’ve created another word to add to the competition.

Entertainment: 4
Intelligence: 5
Morality: 7

Posted in Documentary, Okay, But We Won't Watch It Again | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

And It Only Gets Worse

Posted by J on September 1, 2007

We read today that the umpteenth sequel to Halloween, directed by sadist and ex-rock star Rob Zombie, is the #1 movie this September. We also note that this Halloween version has the first perfect score we’ve ever seen at Kids-in-Mind. It is anticipated that the movie will make 33 million dollars this weekend, meaning that somewhere over 400,000 people will see it.

So it’s a sure bet: World magazine will pay someone to watch it, and the ensuing review will tell us that it depicts the results of the Fall.

There have been eight Halloween movies. Meanwhile, there remains only about five or so characters identified with Christianity and portrayed positively in the last thirty years of Hollywood movies.

Lastly, we wonder why those willing to continue waging a War on “Terror” should be more afraid of Arabs in Mesopotamia than the moral decay in their own midst. If the resulting freedom gained from such a war included the continued bombardment of world populations with America’s and Europe’s cultural filth, we’re not sure we want to be a part of that kind of freedom. We don’t really blame Muslim nations for not wanting it either.

Posted in Brief Commentary | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Zathura

Posted by J on September 1, 2007

If we were ten-year old boys, we’d be enthralled with Zathura. In fact, this movie reminds us of clever but forgettable fantasy movies in the 1980s that we still remember fondly. Zathura is a mix of so many movie scripts that came before it that anybody who is on an originality hunt should look elsewhere. See if this plot sounds familiar: two young boys are bored in a big house. In the creepy basement they find a space-adventure boardgame that takes them on amazing adventures. The boys argue a lot, in part because their parents are divorced. But along the way, they reconcile and learn to become brothers and friends.

So Zathura is terribly derivative, but it is amazingly well executed. The DVD cover compares this movie to Jumanji, which is a bad comparison because we would be more entertained by a 3 A.M. lecture on C-SPAN than by Jumanji. What Zathura does perfectly, in our humble opinion, is to make the action exciting by confining it in a familiar location. The boys roam around a large, old house, and when they make it into space, their house is basically the spaceship. The action does not leave that vantagepoint, which actually gives the movie a homely feel. Of course there have to be aliens and robots and black holes, but these all come to the boys via the playing of the game; in a worse movie, the boys would be whisked off to other worlds and would visit the aliens and robots. Those who are fond of big, old houses will instantly find a sentimental attachment to this movie. Who hasn’t been bored at home, just like these boys are, even though you may have TV and video games readily available?

The dilemma is how to watch this movie. You cannot ask any questions about things that happen in the plot because that will ruin the way you are supposed to watch it: that is, with wonder and anticipation. Further, we don’t know if ten year old boys should be watching Zathura. While lessons may be learned by seeing the boys transform from bickering enemies to good friends, young watchers might pick up a few new colorful terms from the boys. We counted four such words in total, though there are more, which is entirely too bad. But Zathura is a lot of fun for viewers whose brains are nearly fried after a long hard week of work and thinking. For us, watching it wasn’t too much different from reading adventure stories. It was just too bad that it lasted only an hour and a half.

Entertainment: 9
Intelligence: 3
Morality: (everything okay except a few choice words spoken by kid actors)

Posted in Pretty Good, Silly but Entertaining | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Maxed Out

Posted by J on August 30, 2007

Exodus 22:25: If you lend money to one of My people who is poor beside you, you shall not be to him as a money-lender, neither shall you lay upon him interest.

Proverbs 22:7: The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

The United States is the largest debtor nation in history, by far. Americans now have a negative savings rate, meaning that each person spends more than he keeps for later. Yet we are encouraged, even in time of war, to spend like there’s no tomorrow. This encouragement comes from a number of sources, one of which is our inherently inflationary economy. Money will always be worth less tomorrow–the dollar has lost 95% of its value since 1913–so it only make sense to trade those dollars for stuff. Another source of encouragement is easy credit. It’s everywhere, and you probably received a few offers today in your mailbox totaling thousands of dollars, preapproved with no questions asked. In the context of the history of the world, this kind of lending is insane.

In a way, the 2006 documentary Maxed Out is about all of these issues. It shows, through the interweaving of a number of interviews and stories, America’s addiction to credit, especially credit cards. There is no first-person narrator, thankfully, as in Michael Moore films. But there is a clear point-of-view: the movie portrays lenders as sharks and debtors as sob stories. We sympathize with this portrayal a bit. What most lenders are guilty of is usury (under any definition), especially instant check-cashing centers and credit card companies. Banks, as well, are guilty of fraud. Banks are built on a fractional-reserve scheme; only a portion of what account holders have is actually (physically or digitally) in the bank itself. If all account holders were to withdraw their accounts at the same time, only a few would get their money back. No other business sells what it doesn’t have and can’t provide. Banks, therefore, are inherently bankrupt, and this very idea has caused a great ritual to occur every two decades or so throughout American history: the bank-run. Finally, the ultimate bank (the Federal Reserve; our country’s central bank) creates money out of thin air. This is effectively counterfeiting, that is, stealing. So all of our benevolent lenders are corrupt, and Maxed Out is eager to portray most of the individuals, who are involved in concocting credit schemes and then harassing their lendees, as corrupt, heartless jerks.

Yet we cannot sympathize with the debtors in this movie that much. Dave Ramsey, a money guru on the radio who comes from a Christian perspective (as far as we know), appears in this documentary. He makes a number of points about wise money choices, and shares his own helpful story. The debtors in Maxed Out have not listened to him. They have not been wise. We don’t understand their choices, frankly, because we don’t believe that it’s wise to enter into debt, unless it can all be paid back with ready collateral. Our credit card company must hate us, because they pay us to use their card. If everyone used a Discover card prudently, Discover would not exist. Clearly, the movie is playing to the audience, most of whom have some debt and will therefore be very willing to sympathize with the plights of other debtors. But we all know what happens to a fool and his money.

As we said, Maxed Out touches on usury, an almost vanished subject in Christian churches these days. That it is a vanished subject strikes us as beyond bizarre. Almost a complete reversal has occurred. For the first 1500 years of Christendom, usury was one of the sins most preached against. It was banned everywhere (for Christians). But the last 500 years? Not much of a peep, except from a few faithful souls. It’s not as if usury is a marginal topic in the Bible. It appears in a number of books, and it is clearly described as a heinous practice. Your question may be, what is it exactly? We’ll leave that lengthy discussion for another time and place; it is enough for us that people even care about and discuss a neglected subject in God’s Word.

As for Maxed Out, it’s a reasonable entry into individual and national issues concerning debt. Most of the information in it was old hat for us, however. We recommend, instead of the movie, that you study the Bible on the subject of lending and borrowing. Next, the book Empire of Debt is a fine entry on America’s problem with debt, particularly the last two chapters (written by one of our favorite contemporary business writers, expatriate multimillionaire Bill Bonner). Quick introductions to banking can be found here and here (the latter link is the first in a series of videos; however, its ultimate solution–more government intervention–is ridiculous). And finally, pray that Christians will be wise and will not get sucked into the innumerable debt schemes in our present age.

Entertainment: 4
Intelligence: 5
Morality: (a bit of unnecessary foul language)

Posted in Documentary, Okay, But We Won't Watch It Again | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »