Monday, March 17, 2008

Top Ten Films

Yesterday I looked at a list of Time's assessment of the 100 best films of all time. Most I had never heard of, most of the rest I had never seen, and most of what I thought should be there was nowhere on the list. But there were a few movies I had seen and that I know should not have made it onto such a list.

So I scanned the web for other such lists, but they were much the same. Some films I think got on their lists because of their historic significance; they are milestones to look at when considering the development of the art of moviemaking. But is that a reason to put them on a best-of list? Intolerance? Birth of a Nation? Star Wars? Metropolis? Worth seeing if you are studying the history of film, but would one watch them over and over, getting more from them each time? Well, maybe you would, maybe they would be the first four on your list. But not on mine.

So, here is my. . .

Tentative* Top Ten Films of All Time
according to Doug who is no connoisseur

1 A Fiddler on the Roof: I’ve probably watched this more than twenty times over the years, but it grows with me and is at least as moving now as the first time I saw it.

2 Babbette’s Feast: The clearest portrayal of the gap between the grace we are given and the grace we perceive that I can think of.

3 Dekalog: Ten hour-long films, one based on each of the ten commandments. But the relation to the commandment is not always clear and one has to ponder the connection. I come away from some of them with the uneasy question, “Do I really, REALLY, agree with that commandment?”

4 Hamlet (the one with Mel Gibson): This is the least changed from Shakespeare’s language of the versions of Hamlet that I have seen, and by far the best. Through superb acting and intonation, and even through his eyes, the language is rendered so clear that one hardly notices we haven’t spoken like that in five hundred years. In fact, we never did.

5 The General: The funniest physical comedy around. And amazing when one considers that Buster Keaton actually performed those daredevil stunts on a moving train, without the aid of modern special effects. Also great are Keaton’s “Scarecrow” and “The Paleface.”

6 The Rabbit Proof Fence: True story of three Aborigine girls who were “relocated” by the Aussie govt, but decided to relocate themselves hundreds of miles back home. Their simple commitment to each other and to their family is beautiful.

7 The Trouble With Harry: Alfred Hitchcock’s hilarious murder mystery in which too many people are sure that they killed Harry.

8 Amadeus: The comic character of Mozart, mixed with his tragic relationship with his father, with Salieri, and with his wife, plus almost superhumanly beautiful music make one not even care if the history is accurate; it’s a great story. BTW, I don’t know if the history is accurate, it may be, but I expect they took some liberties.

9 Remains of the Day: A servant in the house of a British Nazi sympathizer. . . I can’t explain this one. Delicately woven story, such subtly portrayed characters, like no other film I know.

10 An Affair to Remember: They fall in love and agree to meet, but an accident postpones that meeting for many years. It’s a story of pride and self-sacrifice, full of Cary Grant humor.

Ten is too few, so here are some nearly-made-its.
Children of Heaven, Cry the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, Moby Dick (the old one), Rear Window, Arsenic and Old Lace, Spirited Away

*I reserve the right to revise this list after further reflection.

Anyone else want to log in with their favorites? Perhaps you'll remind me of one I should have put on my list.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Teacher's Pain

In seventh grade I had a teacher whom we, as a class, destroyed. We made his teaching experience very painful, and after that year, his first year of teaching, he never taught again.

He moved back to Iowa, took a job in a grain elevator, and was later crushed by a truck in that job. His children grew up without a father. His wife became a very young widow. His mother had to mourn her son.

And it was because we (and I was a ringleader in this) had purposefully organized ourselves to drive him out of our school. I've never seen anything more evil.

But in the midst of our torment of this teacher, I could tell that he was more pained by our (my) refusal of the gospel that he offered than by the effect our treatment had on him. And the memory of his concern for me followed me for years and was eventually a large part of what led me to the cross. His and his family's loss was very much my gain!

Recently I published an article about that school year in the Journal of Christian Education. Many of this teacher's relatives have read the article. While it was written in large part to honor him for his sacrifice for me, it is still hard for them to read of the torment that he went through at our hands.

When we send our words out how little control we have over who they reach and how they are received!

Recognition for Covenant and Community

I don’t want to imply by yesterday’s post that the Covenant and Community has not received any recognition at all. In fact it has gotten very nice comments from some scholars.

David Dilling, a philosopher and biblical scholar from Grace Theological Seminary and Purdue University praised it very highly as a beautiful book. Below is an excerpt of a letter from him.

". . . your book was to me a most magnificent combination of superb exegesis and devotional challenge. I not only found your exegesis of the original texts accurate and compelling, I was also moved to praise the Lord for this magnificent work which caused me to repent of my sinful past, to rejoice in the grace of our Lord in my life, and to well up with thanksgiving and praise for the glorious culmination of the Image of God in my own life that will be consummated in Christ's coming Kingdom.

Your combination of exegetical scholarship and devotional challenge are a rare blend in a work such as this. I have been thrilled with your theological insights, and that is all well and good; but as I have studied your work, I have been challenged to a life of greater holiness before the Lord of whom you write. That God made us in his image, as you have so successfully defined, is glorious. That we can participate in that glorious adventure here and now, and then have the prospect of participating in this glorious adventure forever is beyond comprehension!

Praise be to the Lord for what you have been teaching me!"

Charles Taber, the great linguist and co-author with Eugene Nida of “Theory and Practice of Translation,” which has been used for decades training Bible translators, praised in particular the book’s work on the prepositions in Genesis 1:26. They have generally been translated “in our image and according to our likeness,” which I think to be the wrong prepositions for the passage.

Tite Tienou, dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, speaking at Yale to a seminar of missions leaders from around the world, recommended that they all read Covenant and Community because it informs the discussion of intercultural communications. He said that had he gotten the book earlier he would have used it in preparing his lecture on “Ethnicity as Gift and Barrier.”

Robert Duncan Culver, a Brethren theologian and scholar who has written very many books, said that “It is well written and quite persuasive.”

Add to these Tim Tennnent, John Armstrong, Patrick Kuhlman, and Dennis Fisher, all scholars with very different denominational allegiances, who have praised it in manuscript form before it was published.

So, the silence is not from the world at large but only from my own home church.