Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Why I Don't Go to the Movies Often

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- So I caught Ron Howard's adaptation of the popular novel The De Vinci Code this weekend.

The film, apparently, is now officially a hit. The novel the film was based upon, written by author Dan Brown, continues to dominate the World of Infotainment.

Tom Hanks is unbelievable as a tenured faculty member - too compassionate and not self-absorbed enough. Could he pass for an instructor of a First Year linguistics course? Certainly.

But a highly published scholar? The guy from Forrest Gump? Please.

Ian McKellen gives one of the most lifeless performances I've seen from the actor. And I don't blame McKellen one bit. With a cookie-cutter script like that...

I won't completely trash the flick. It's not bad... if you're paying $4.50 at a Sunday matinee in a small town.

But it's not great, either.

And that's the problem. It's a Trojan horse of a film, lacking substance where there should be substance, rather lacking in terms of cinematic cajones.

Hype. That's the word I'm looking for... all hype.

Audrey Tautou (who portrays the female lead here) is still just as frigging hot as she was in Dirty Pretty Things, Amelie, and just about every other film on her resume.

That's my film review and I'm stickin' to it...

* * *

One of the things the film did do was to get my ol' History of Christendom juices flowing again.

It's been a while since I've thought much about Gnosticism, the various Mary Magdalene cults throughout history, the influence of secretive organizations - Knights Templar, Freemasons, and Opus Dei - on the creation of this behemoth called "Western Civilization."

Seriously. I used to ponder this shit almost daily. The rise of Early Christianity fascinates me - how did a minor cult within Judaism manage to overwhelm the same Roman Empire in only a few short centuries?

It's also been a long time since I took time to ponder the magic and mess Roman emperor Constantine I created, way back in the 300s, three centuries removed from the time when a Galilean tradesman supposedly walked the earth, performed miracles, and was crucified as a traitor to the Roman Empire.

Constantine, as much as that Nazarean rabbi and his followers, deserves credit for building a monotheistic cult into, essentially, the world's first political party. With the decriminalization of Christianity, power struggles were allowed to flourish in public between doctrinal opponents. With the convening of state-sponsored eumenical councils and meetings, the figure of the historical Christ became blended, irrevocably, with the image of a Christ shrouded in metaphysical ideology.

Over the next two millennia, thanks to things like the Council of Nicea and the tying of a simple faith to a complex, often opposite political reality, Western Civilization would grow to become a faith-based, blood-soaked cultural powerhouse - driven by passions, beautifully procreative and simultaneously destructive, supposedly inspired by the Son of Man.

The same melding of politics and religion that gave rise to the Renaissance also gave rise to the Inquisitions throughout Europe. The same inspiration that provided De Vinci with both patronage and artistic license also gave rise to the sinister, brutal genius of the Malleus Maleficarium and the Summis desiderantes affectibus of Pope Innocent VIII as a means to further maintain religious monopoly on Europe.

Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity, depending on the version of history one reads, either on his deathbed or after a battle in which he supposedly was granted victory over an enemy. Some have speculated that his conversion was influenced by his mother, known in Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic traditions as St. Helena.

Above all, Constantine was, of course, a politician - the leader of what was considered to be the cultural capital of the Known World. At some point, I'm sure he not only weighed the value of Christianity in terms of immortal souls but in terms of immortality within the annals of history...

Blah, blah, blah...

Um yeah. See, this is what happens when I get bored.

I could go on, but I'll spare everybody the thought process. I have a head like a slingshot most days - stick the right ammunition in that sucker, and I'm off on a tangent.

This probably explains why I've never been very good at the whole "dinner and a movie" thing...


Cat. said...

I thought what you were saying was interesting...but then I'm an Early Church Nut too.

Check out Huston Smith's The sould of Christianity: restoring the great tradition. Great, easy read, and full of "oh wow!" moments.

Cat. said...

er...."Soul" rather than "Sould" jeez

Anonymous said...

um hey man :-)

I know you're not big on miami students posting here but my roommates next year read your web site. They both think you're completely cute. You know one of them but - haha - not talking.

You're the cute library guy. But you're obviously very intelligent, too. That makes you hot in my book.

Not bad looks wise. But I'd go to the movies with you any time :-)

Tried IMing you at about 5 tonight but you said you were busy. Hope I wasn't bothering you.


The ZenFo Pro said...

Actually, I think I have that floating around the house somewhere...

Early Christian history is fascinating. The creation of mainstream Christologies, the Schisms, the in-fighting and back-biting...

Spelling? Lol...Cat, have I ever told ya that it's not hard to figure out you work in Tech Services ;)

Authority control, baby!

You know, I'm talking to you online right now, but I wanted to apologize to you and any oter Miami student I may have offended. I guess I was a bit harsh - didn't mean to dress anybody down. The problem was some students were starting to cross boundaries inappropriately and, well, you know where I work and why that's an issue.

I.e. - don't want up to me and call me The Zenfo Pro at work or ask about my sex life in the lobby of my library. You wouldn't do that, but some students have.

Just to clear the air a bit...yep, I can date students. Where I work, it's discouraged but not forbidden, unless it involves either grading, funding, or supervision. And I have indeed gone out with several students - really, who else am I supposed to date in a town this tiny? I don't, however, mix work with pleasure...

Thanks for the compliments, btw...

Heck, two of my favorite blogs in my sidebar are written by Miami undergrad and grad students.

And no, you weren't bothering me :) Sorry - I was talking to someone else and finishing up some work simultaneously. If you have any problems with connecting to the proxy, let me know. I'll pull the article for ya...

KFigment said...

You went there so now I have to. I was probably one of the few people on the planet who actually bought the book before all the hype and the A & E specials started. I had read Deception Point also by Dan Brown and enjoyed it. Here is what I don’t understand a good author takes enough pieces of reality and mixes it with imagination and if the author is really good they can keep you guessing. Dan Brown questioned the government, NASA, and science in Deception Point yet people are not going crazy and looking for aliens and massive cover-ups.

As far as the religious aspect of it women’s role in the bible has always been an item up for question as well as those “missing” years. Fact is that the Christian religions will never be able to prove one way or another what or who is right. That is why it is called FAITH not TRUTH. Get over it.

As far as the movie goes the book is always better (just another reason to go to your local library) and I figure anything with this much noise surrounding it has to be sub par. However if this movie gets people to shut off their cell phones and palm pilot and actually have a conversation with a real human being I am all for it. In fact if you are really brave here are some other movies that make you think, American History X, Crash, and The Power of One.

BTW I miss our very long random talks.

Smurf said...

...driven by passions, beautifully procreative and simultaneously destructive, supposedly inspired by the Son of Man. (I am going to say something to you Jason that you aren't really going to like. But you knew I would respond to this one.) ;) Ok... What separates men from beasts? ( I am not sure if this is a good analogy or not... I am not drunk, but can't sleep, got into a fight and its 230am... so if I am hard to follow, please try to bare with me... ) 1- ability to reason and 2- free will .. for us to not be robots God gave us FREE WILL. Now people will whine and cry for the rest of our days here on Earth about whether or not He SHOULD have given us free will and did He really? The fact of the matter is He did. He may have known what would happen... but then you could also go to 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. "... Keeping the thought of us knowing in part in mind, then go to Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways,"declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Both of these clearly state He is in control and we may not understand everything here...

Ok, back to the topic at hand. I don't think Jesus was married.

oh yea, and what I was getting at at first was the fact that whenever humans get in charge of things we mess them up... so of course when people that have corruption within them are in control of something... you will see it slowly start to get tainted. I have more to say, but its a quarter to 3 and iHave to get up in 3 hours to get the kids off to school... *hugs* talk to you later! GREAT POST BTW

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person in the world who has not read the book? Nor care to? :-)

There is a problem when the crux of a religion balances on the life of the teacher more than than the teachings. As a ex-Catholic, turned Buddhist, I can back up and get some perspective on early church history since my faith doesn't depend on the fact of the historical Jesus. In fact, in Buddhism, the Dharma -- the teachings -- would still be the Dharma if the historical Buddha had never lived. Siddhartha simply became aware of the Dharma (thus becoming a Buddha, or Awakened One -- which is something we can all become) and taught it. Christians -- at least orthodox ones -- must accept the life of Jesus and the events in it as fact. My understanding (thanks, Elaine Pagels) is that many of the Gnostic sects were more like Buddhism in the sense that the teachings were more important than the born-died-resurrected story.

I'm tellin' ya, J., we gots to get together for coffee and chat! This is fun!

Ok, off to the pool.

cooper said...

Haven't seen it but have heard similar reviews and as I read the book and enjoyed it for what it was I don't often see movies based on books.

The history of Christianity is something I rarely attempt to dissect because it seems to get me into arguments with everyone.

I find the metamorphosis of Christianity into system of both philosophy and politics in order to prevent too much intellectualization by the masses quite interesting.

The sociological/philosophical and political entity becoming one and a fairly well thought out system by which the people were exploited, unbeknownst to themselves, by some very shrewd minds is just politics and control in slow motion.

Em said...

Jason hey ~

Got on fine and thanks!

haha Glad I didn't upset you w my comments. I'm kinda flirty ;-)


The ZenFo Pro said...

Of course I go there...very few places I don't go these days ;)

Actually, I tried reading the DVC but just couldn't get into it. Reminded me too much of a lot of the other Holy Grail conspiracy theory books I've read.

As for women in the church, I think the big thing books and films like this accomplish is in promoting thought - the truth is, we don't really know much about it. That's why archeologists, anthropologists, historians, and the like research this part of global human history.

A priest once told me faith is not about answers; its about questions. Very good way to look at it, I think.

Lol...chica, personal statements really don't leave me much to like or dislike. Comment away! I may not agree with you on some things, but, dammit, this here is a free speech zone :)

Truth is, hon, nobody understands what's going on. Kfig's right - that's why it's called faith and not truth. There is no logical, rational methodology to determine the validity of any one religion's claims.

Take, for instance, the quotes from Scripture you cite - there is enough historical evidence to pretty much prove, beyond much reasonable doubt, that the concept of a "Bible" is a man-made concept - given the sheer number of translations, the differences in canonical and apocryphal books between denominations, the discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, etc, Holy Doctrine is indeed negotiable and apparently more fluid than water.

Personally, I think Jesus probably was married, or at least had some relationship, with a woman, probably Mary Magdeline. The line borrowed from the Gospel of Philip by Brown (and uttered by McKellen in the film) is one of many often used to support this claim.

But were they married? Did Jesus really do all the things attributed to him in the first place? Did they have kids?

Who knows? It is all open to debate - just as it was at the various eumenical councils centuries ago, during the Reformation, and in the current era.

I tried. Seriously. But just couldn't get into it - gave up two or three chapters into it. I'm a chapbook/short stories kinda guy ;)


Lol...you? Arguments? For some reason, I just can't picture that happening ;)

You know, that's why I tend to think of political parties basically as secular church systems...

No prob. Of course not... who'd get upset at being called cute?

Smurf said...

Yes, Kim said that very well. Now, I don't think that Jesus was married, now I know there is a big debate on that.

But why would the church be listed as "the BRIDE of CHRIST" if he had an earthly bride?

Now yes there are many translations NOW... and you have always had a thing about the dead sea scrolls... but here is a thing for me... now... think about something... just food for thought... I am not asking you to think like I do, but think about this for a second... If God is God, you really don't think He could orchestrate the finding of the particular books he wanted put in what HE WANTED us to use as a reference to get to know Him? I sit here and argue the point, but you want to know a secret Jason, I am at a point in my life where... *sigh* I believe in God, I have enough fear in God to not be brave enough to say that Jesus is NOT who He said He was or that the WORD of GOD isn't His... but I wonder at times. Just about things... When I fell into my depression, it was because I have tried so hard for so long and yet... I keep getting screwed and my life seems to ... anyways... tmi for here... but... anyways... I think that the lustful factor couldn't be there for him to be a perfect sacrifice... he had to be a perfect sacrifice to carry our sins... "if you commit the sin in your heart... you have commited it" <-- bad paraphrase I know... but you know which one I am referring to. Also... why would Paul say its better to not get married so you could focus on God if Jesus had been married.. there are a lot of examples I could use for why I really don't think he was married...but I am very aware of the fact a lot of people believe he was...

honey.. you have several close female friends.. you and me... we were together a lot... we never came close to sex or marriage... just food for thought... and at least to me.. you and me... we were really close and I still love you with all my heart... *hugs* ;)

Anonymous said...


Yeah, you know -- the swimmin' pool. The kind with water in it. Some days I call our pool "Old Lady Soup" cuz of all the old ladies bobbing up and down in it.

Though I actually missed pool time so I "ran" 2 miles. And what did I get for my effort? Blisters! Bah!