Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Paris

YouTubevotional: Locked in Love

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

In 2013, Walt Disney began releasing new Mickey Mouse shorts. It all started with the Mouse. Mickey came into being in the late 1920’s and started in some brilliant animated shorts for years. The animation of these new Mickey Mouse shorts are nothing like the originals though, and take a little bit of getting used to, at least for me it was. The animation is similar to what you might find on Cartoon Network, for better or for worse.

In the short below, Mickey and Minnie are having a romantic evening out, and plan to place a lock on the bridge, like so many others, as a symbol of their love for one another.

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Sermon: Dangerous Hope

This is the sermon I preached at Peakland United Methodist on the first Sunday of Advent. The text was Luke 21:25-28. You can listen on the Podcast app by subscribing here.

A Prayer for the World

CTukshqVEAAZdHXI was on my iPhone, causally scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I realized that there were a lot of things being said about Paris. I turned the news on, and saw the reports of what would be multiple attacks across the city, killing hundreds. I like many have been in a state of shock over the events. To the point that my journaling was just a list of words or phrases, no complete sentences, reflecting the impossibility of complete thoughts forming.

Today, I attempted to form that list of words and phrases into a prayer:

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Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)

poster212x312Serge Gainsbourg, born Lucien Ginsburg in Paris in 1928 to Russian-Jewish emigrants, was possibly the greatest European cultural icon of the twentieth century, most widely known (and celebrated) for the songs he wrote for beautiful female singers. Not to mention the affairs he had with each of them. This French film follows the life and career of this cultural icon, including his troubled relationships, bouts with depression, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Just as celebrated in France is the writer-director Joann Sfar who is a comic book artist and musician.  The animated opening of the film is all the work of Sfar.  Throughout the film an animated version of Gainsbourg might pop up here and there.  When we consider Sfar’s artistic inclinations, it becomes clear that he is the perfect candidate to explore Gainsbourg’s roller-coaster of a life and career.

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The Broken Tower (2011)

brokentower_poster_001Hart Crane was an early 20th century modernist poet. His poetry was difficult to understand, it was highly stylized, and very ambitious.  James Franco, as writer, director, and actor, brings to us the complicated life of the mustachioed gay romantic living mostly in his own head in The Broken Tower. As complicated as Crane’s life and poetry was, so is this biopic based on Paul Mariani’s biography of the same title. Shot in black-and-white video, Franco’s film uses repetitive, stop-and-start-like cuts that are very chaotic and could simply mirror Crane’s life, that of a man who ended his own life by jumping from the steamship SS Orizaba at the age of 32.

Franco tells the narrative of Crane’s life using a chapter-based structure (not unlike a technique used by director Lars von Trier). These chapters are called “Voyages,” which is the title of a series of erotic poems written by Crane. The Voyages help guide the film through Crane’s narrative, moving us from his early years in Cleveland, to the streets of New York, to trips to Paris and Mexico.

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Hugo (2011)

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of 3D.

Confession: I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese.

Scorsese, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest storytellers of our generation. At some point in my life I came across this quote from Scorsese: “It is as though movies answered an ancient quest for the common unconscious. They fulfill a spiritual need that people have to share a common memory.” This philosophy/theology is the backbone for Scorsese’s newest film Hugo.

The film is set in 1930s Paris, with the elegant Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Hugo (played by Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the walls of the train station. He knows every nook and cranny of the building. He observes carefully the daily activities of the train station regulars in order to snatch food when able. In between snatching food for survival and keeping the clocks in the station running in the absence of his drunken uncle, he carefully observes the old man at the toy booth. He patiently waits until the old man—whom we later learn is George Méliés (Ben Kingsley), a great filmmaker—falls asleep to sneak up to the booth and grab spare parts.

The spare parts are for the hidden automaton that Hugo’s father (Jude Law) was fixing. This is the only remaining thing he has to connect with his dead father. The mystery of the automaton leads Hugo and his new friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), George’s goddaughter, on an adventure through the magical world of cinema that leads to the true identity of George Méliés.

Scorsese, in his own right, is a film scholar. As such, the film brilliantly weaves the humble beginnings of silent film into a story about the quest for purpose. The nonworking automaton represents broken humanity. “If we lose our purpose,” Hugo says, “it’s like we’re broken.” There are pieces missing that we must find in order to fulfill our purpose. The missing piece for George is reclaiming his past in the film industry he has tried to bury. “Forgetting the past only brings unhappiness,” Hugo’s wisdom continues.

Remembering the past, something Hugo does throughout the film as he tries to piece together the mystery of the automaton, is something that George is reluctant to do. The film turns the typical understanding of the wise old man teaching the young boy on its head—much like Jesus did in the Gospels. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” To change and become like a child is to reject standards—the “norms”—of the world. This is the contrast the film presents between Hugo/Isabelle and George. The standards of the world do not heavily influence Hugo and Isabelle. George has seen too much, experienced too much, lost too much to the point where remembering is painful. Hugo and Isabelle scheme to bring the last surviving film made by George to George. This moment of viewing this film together becomes, as the Scorsese quote above says, the fulfillment of “a spiritual need.” For George the past he was trying so hard to forget, was his very identity as a filmmaker. Discovering who we are is indeed a spiritual quest.

In short, the film is brilliant in every way. Scorsese uses the medium of 3D to enhance his storytelling capabilities. I have to agree with James Cameron when he said at the Director’s Guild in LA, “It’s absolutely the best 3D photography that I’ve seen.” Except for the awkward 3D glasses you have to wear, you don’t realize it’s a “3D film.” It’s more than that. Scorsese pushes this technology and embraces it, as Cameron says, as part of his medium. So, while I’m not a huge fan of 3D, I have become a fan of Scorsese’s 3D, and hope to see more 3D films like this one. Like many things, 3D is far superior in the hands of Martin Scorsese.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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