Tag Archives: Film

Best of British

St. Trinian’s 2…….best film I’ve seen this year. Won’t spoil the plot but beside being v, v. funny in a Carry On type style at times it’s also an amazing bit of social observation. There are also some excellent cultural observations.

The sub-cultures have been updated from the first movie to reflect contemporary culture and cultural changes in the last couple of years. Chavs have been replaced by Rude Girls and the eco’s have been introduced.

Interesting look at the patriarchal attitudes which see men maintaining key positions in society and the writing of history, although I believe that a key historical character really was a bloke. There is a secret society involved whose meetings involved alot imagery associated with religion…incense being swung amid chanting, a chalice of wine being passed around and alot of candels with hooded vestments.

All in all an excellent film. Couldn’t resist thinking that I’d liked to have sat down and watched it with Bishop Michael Ali-Nazir. Was reading an article by him, in ANVIL’s 25th anniversary journal, entitled “Britain Today: How We Came to Be Here and What We Can Do About It” recently. The article included the type of accusations one would normally expect by a conspiracy theorist regarding the downfall of Britain and the traditional nuclear family. Within the article Nazir takes a swipe at Sociology, without directly mentioning the discipline, somehow lumping Anthony Giddens in with Gramsci and Marcuse when saying there has been a direct attack on the family. He criticised the move away from patriarchal, heterosexual norms which this movie was questioning. No doubt this movie is just another part of the cultural conspiracy to stop Christianity becoming dominant again.

Going back to the article, from a serious perspective, it sourced and backed up the New Right ideas put forward by Civitas. The data that comes from this source is grounded in what at first sight becomes “common sense” approach. However, a critical analysis of the data raises a series of questions about the underlying assumptions and interpretations. I won’t go into a critique of the view here, but there are holes within the position being put forward.

Further on in the article he goes on to to criticise pluralism and argues that Islamism is the replacement to Marxism in terms of ideologies to be battled. Again whilst there are some sensible points within this he fails to be convincing.

The article then goes on to criticise Dawkins and intellectual reductionism before going on to look at the relationship between history, philosophy and religion. He calls for an engagement in the public square to remind people of the Christian values which underpin our legal and democratic system. Yet, Nazir-Ali is careful to make clear he thinks there should be some gap between religion and the legal system. Thus he carefully seeks to reinforce Christianity whilst leaving no room for the incorporation of Islamic law into the English legal system.

He then calls for a growth in the coverage of Christian worship in the media.

All in all it is an interesting article, but one which reveals the link between the New Right and some elements of the religious establishment within this country.

I am not looking to crititicise the key points Nazir-Ali makes regarding the importance of family and traditional forms of family. I am, however, questioning the position he takes through much of the article. The society we are living in and the development of that society is much more complex than he is saying. I certainly don’t think that there was a conspiracy theory which bridged the pre-war Neo-Marxists and Third Way, late twenty-first century theorists. Just as Nazir-Ali accused Dawkins of intellectual reductionism this is what I think he was doing in his reductionist approach to Radical Orthodoxy, which again he did not mention directly although he crudely borrowed from it.

I don’t think that St. Trinian’s 2 is a bad film, rather I think it is one which has more positive to say than negative amid the anarchic, very British humour.

Noughties Teens – Holding Out for a Hero

So I am the mother of a child of the noughties. A child who, according to the Times, is likely to find herself facing the following issues due, in part, to the death of feminism. The article says, “The Noughties has left a generation of girls feeling puzzled and scared. They don’t know whether to be fat or thin, drunk or sober, clever or stupid. Why work hard to be a doctor or a lawyer when you can marry a banker or a footballer? A recent study, published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, covering the period 1987-2006, revealed that 15-year-old girls were suffering increased psychological stress. The pressures of getting to a top university and at the same time looking like Kate Moss have led to anorexia and binge-drinking. In this weird age of bleary celebrity, positive role models are few and far between.

That role model, of course, used to be feminism. Where, in this open dishwasher of female emotion, has feminism gone? Well, feminism just… went away. Feminism was last seen in the Celebrity Big Brother household: an old, grumpy Germaine Greer swaddled up like a boiler. For this generation, feminism had become little more than hairy patches and a weird preoccupation with one’s vagina. The closest anyone comes to saying anything these days is: “I’m not a feminist, but…” “

I smile but wince at the same time. I know that to a certain extent this is true. Third Wave feminism as espoused by Naomi Woolf has passed these girls by, whilst at the same time contributing to the contradictions.

Yet throughout the decade there has been one source of advice and comfort for these girls. Teaching them how to juggle the expectations and become slightly better human beings. Whilst their primary carers may have been pre-occupied with their own depression, messy relationships and career building they have had the teen movie. During the noughties there was the full development of teenage chick flicks, which kind of took the Brat Pack movie and domesticated it for a younger audience. Having a daughter of a certain age that I would regularly watch movies with, as a way of connecting, I have seen most of these films. Here are my pick of the decade. In no particular order apart from the top two which v. much do rate as the best and second best of the decade in my view.

1) Juno (2007) – This story of a teenager who gets pregnant before they are ready is definately one of the films of the decade for any age, even though it is intended as a teenage chick flick. In many ways it is up there with Breakfast Club.

2) Legally Blonde (2001)- The story of the bimbo who blags her way into uni and then uses her knowledge of both the beauty industry and the law is in its own way the film that sums up the decade and how to handle it for young women. It also, though, sums up soooo much why they have the study hard, look good problems the article was referring to.

The other key ones in no particular order

3) Twilight and New Moon (2008) and (2009) – Amongst other things they have an interesting take on celibacy, depression and difference.

4) St. Trinians (2007) – It returned and gave a facinating insight into the range of sub-cultures to which teenage girls belonged in the noughties.

5) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) – This one is fun and has a good soundtrack. Also shows facinating picture of the relationship between the teenage binge drinker and her best friend who ends up looking after her.

6) Mean Girls (2004) – Another morality play based around sub-cultures.

7) House Bunny (2008) – Difficult one morally as it promotes Playboy and Hugh Heffener but it also has a “be yourself” type storyline going on. Difficult to actually dislike, even if you find the promotion of Playboy and porn appalling.

8) Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) – It was the British version of the teenage chickflick. Unsettling viewing for a parent; just so much nearer the truth than the US films.

9) Princess Diaries (2001) and Princess Diaries 2 (2004) – Worth seeing it for the oh so worthy side-kick character and for Julie Andrews returning to top form.

10) Wildchild (2008) – Had the mix of English realism with US fantasy in a morality tale about a girl who turns it around at boarding school. Worth seeing it just for the English kids trying to get served in the off licence and then blowing it when they ask for a Creme Egg.

Religulous

Religulous, I believe, should be mandatory viewing for every Christian aged 13 and above (despite it’s 15 certificate). Within this comedy-documentary Bill Maher explores religion, as a doubter who is seeking to understand whilst remaining appropriately cynical.

This gives us the first lesson to be learnt from the film. A sizeable number of those we come into contact with who want explanations about our faith will be cynical doubters rather than enthusiastic seekers. We don’t just need to be “seeker” friendly, we need to be “doubter” friendly. To do this we will need to be more honest about our own doubts. We need to have the faith to let go of pretending to have certainty about things we are not certain.

One point Maher makes in the film is nobody actually knows what will happen to them after death. So rather than saying, “I know I will go to heaven” if I were being more honest my response would be to say, “I actually have no idea of what will happen, but I hope I am right that there is some kind of afterlife where I will meet God.”

The second lesson to be learnt from the film is that we need to be honest about the bible. It showed how non-Christians may actually know it as well or better than us. In the film there are a couple of places where Christians are ridiculed or given credibility on the basis of their responses to questions / issues raised in relation to scripture. We need to give intelligent responses based on what we know, not just what we have been taught to believe.

There is a scene with a Catholic priest who admits that the gospel does not support the oppulence of the Vatican, who is particularly well presented.

In relation to gospel teaching on the subjects of poverty and nationalism the comedian shows a depth of understanding about Jesus teachings which most of the religious people he talks to don’t. In part this is because, as with all these types of documentaries, it wants to promote a particular view of the subject. Therefore, there are a lack of moderates and progressives being interviewed. With relation to Islam it is why there is also an irritating lack of recognition of the different schools of thought.

Mehers conclusion is that those who do not believe or subscribe to any religion should speak up. He also argues that moderates should disaffiliate from religion because this is the only way to save the earth from disaster. His logic here is two-fold. Firstly, he claims that the philosophies of religions are based upon end times ideas and facilitate an attitude where destruction of the earth becomes acceptable and indeed necessary. Secondly, he claims that it is the support of moderates for religion that allows fundermentalists to operate. He points out few of us would stay within political parties if they allowed factions within them to promote homophobia, sexism and violence. He says we would resign our memberships in disgust and this is why he argues that those of us who do not support these things should walk away from religion and religious involvement. This was the point in the film where I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with him, (strangely).

He was right I believe that some of the bible is myth and should be treated as such. Yet I do not believe that Jesus Christ was a mythical figure. I believe that he was the son of God who voluntarily chose to die a violent death as a subversive act of atonement. The power of this act of peace was such that he overcame death. I don’t know for definite this is the case, but I choose to believe it. Thus, for me the key to my faith is that subversive acts of peace are what overcome the violence and oppression in the world.

For me communion acts as a symbolic act but also has a supernatural element I don’t understand. Communion is or should be a subversive act of peace. It is where I come together with others very different to myself, with differing views, and say I have the power within me for power and oppression but I choose to follow Jesus, however hard it might be. Yet it is also the place where I constantly have to return to acknowledge my need for forgiveness and renewal recognising that I do mess up and cause violence and oppression, all be it unintentionally through unchecked words or convienient economic decisions.

To walk away from my religion and particularly to walk away from that table would be let the oppression and violence win. It would be to stop celebrating the most subversive act of peace the world has everseen, when the most powerful person ever chose to give up that power for humanity.

Meher was 100% right when recognised that Jesus taught against nationalism and against the misuse of wealth. This is the God I follow, not the one of power and oppression. The way I see it is that the only hope the world has and the only way the powerful oppressors will be overcome is through subversive acts of peace and hope. That is what I believe true religion (and not just in Christianity) promotes.

I don’t know if I’m right, I’m probably wrong about lots of it and for definite there is loads about my faith I don’t understand. I am happy to admit that. Knowledge is power and so if the misuse of power is to be overcome perhaps the key is to be more ready not to have knowledge and be less hungry for power.

As said, then, at the beginning I believe this is a film every Christian teenager and adult should watch if possible. Yes some of it will be offensive, (it was directed by the same person as Borat and Bruno) and no I don’t think we should agree with it all. However, it raises a string of important questions as Christians we need to consider. If we are to be effective in evangelism, (i.e. helping others connect with God rather than trying to fight them into agreeing with us), in an increasingly secular age we need to know how to respond to the issues raised in the film. So, with a readiness to explore the bible and discuss the issues with other Christians, I believe this would make an ideal resource if people are looking for something to base a series of housegroups around. A discussion around the issues in the film might also make an interesting alternative to Alpha.

Modern Morality Tale

Last night in the hot weather I reverted to emergency measures to stop Third Party being overly irritable….an evening spent chilling over a chick flick.

Confessions of a Shopaholic , (Wiki link for info),was the film chosen to bring peace and harmony to the household. Now I have to admit I wasn’t overly keen initially. I’d tried the book and gotten bored. However, sitting with a glass of wine over ice and a no brainer film seemed a reasonable way to show some parental attention.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film though. This, as with most chick flicks, is a modern morality tale. Without ruining the plot for those who haven’t seen it, it revolves around a woman who discovers the true costs of credit cards and an obsession with shopping. It was one of those films which takes a serious topic and addresses it through humour and entertainment. I was really glad I sat and watched it with Third Party, it raised some issues which I found it useful to discuss with her.

So anyway if you have a teenager who likes chick flicks and you want to help them with their financial literacy I can’t recommend this film highly enough.