Movies

The City Podcast: On CGI

by Timothy Motte on February 3, 2014

The City, a podcast of Houston Baptist University: Smart. Sane. Spiritual.

Featuring: Dr. Holly Ordway, Cate MacDonald, Dr. John Mark Reynolds

Will we ever be able to be in a movie the way we can be in a story when we read a book?

We love movies. And we love stories. So here we are, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of CGI versus models versus imagination.

Spoiler: Imagination wins.

Recommended in this podcast: On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Email us at podcast@hbu.edu with your thoughts, questions, or suggestions for future episodes.

The City Podcast: A Cinema School for Houston

by Timothy Motte on April 23, 2013

The City, a podcast of Houston Baptist University: Smart. Sane. Spiritual.

Featuring: Joshua Sikora, Cate MacDonald, and Dr. John Mark Reynolds

The old regime is changing.

Digital media and the internet mean that anyone can make films, anywhere.

That’s why Houston Baptist University has hired Joshua Sikora, an independent film director who has had success outside the studio system, to lead its new Cinema & New Media Arts program.

In this podcast Josh talks about the difference between media and film, the emerging need for more creative jobs than technical, and the advantages of being in Houston.

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Keep up with the Cinema & New Media Arts program at their blog: cinema.hbu.edu

Email us at podcast@hbu.edu.

 

The City, a podcast of Houston Baptist University: Smart. Sane. Spiritual.

Featuring: David Gilbert, Cate MacDonald, Dr. Holly Ordway

SPOILER WARNING We’re talking about The Hobbit, book and movie, and book-to-movie. Bibliophile and English scholar Holly Ordway and film producer David Gilbert may not see eye-to-eye on whether Peter Jackson’s project succeeds, but they have fun talking about the difference between movies and books, what each does best, and whether true adaptations of stories can happen.

Send your feed back to podcast@hbu.edu.

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Avengers: Soulless Fun

by John Mark Reynolds on May 7, 2012

Avengers is a great comic book movie, but nothing more.

That is no insult from me, because I enjoy comic books movies the way I enjoy Edgar Rice Burroughs novels: quickly, but without remembering much about them.

There are moments of Avengers that makes me laugh out loud, shout, and shudder and for Whedon fans the news is good: it is more television Firefly than Serenity Whedon. The self-indulgent Whedon of Dollhouse, working out his hangups is mostly gone, and the Whedon of Buffy, willing to listen to writers, is on full display.

This is, I repeat, a great comic book movie and it will have its monetary reward.

But it could have been more, almost was, and is not.

At moments, Avengers echoes Lord of the Rings. I do not mean the “Legolas” reference, though that proves it was on the mind, but the start which reminds one of Peter Jackson in Fellowship and the all but Elvish council of super heroes in the film.

Avengers was great fun, but it lacked a moral center. When Americans bowed to Loki, I wondered, “Where are the Christians?” Millions of Russians died rather than bow to false gods, but Whedon has all but one New Yorker bow to Loki. I loved the New Yorker who stood up, but evidently is was only memory of heroism that provoked this old man to stand.

World War II haunts the film. It is as if it is the one moral certainty in a better time: Nazis are bad. Why are they bad? It is not certain in the film, but it has to do with control, boasting, and posturing. What is missing . . . in every character but Captain America is a compelling moral vision. We know New York is in danger and don’t like it, but don’t know why other than prejudice against monsters that we should dislike our fate.

What is at risk? Liberty? Truth? Justice? The American Way?

That would be old-fashioned and despite bows in that direction, there is no defense of the old comic book platitudes.

It is, perhaps, very sad that old Stan Lee comics from decades ago have a stronger moral center than a blockbuster film.

There is nothing to offend in Avengers, but nothing to cheer beyond “winning.” The alternate ending, where the heroes all eat together, battered, silent, is perfect Whedon: funny and a bit morally impotent. Avengers is not immoral, but it lacks a coherent morality.

And that is where a film that might have been great, as great as Lord of the Rings, does not transcend the genre. There simply is not a cause greater than the war. The corruption of all sides stinks through the film . . . Loki is not much less likable than the shadowy global government . . . and average New Yorkers are more fodder than folk.

One ends up caring more for the survival of the Empire State Building than any given citizen.

Go see Avengers, I will twice, but I cannot help but mourn the missing moral vision. I am a Christian, but it need not have been a Christian vision to have been a coherent movie or one with more depth. The heroes needed something beneath their suits.

It is for that reason that I wonder if Captain America will not endure longer . . . even if it made less money.

Joss Whedon has made a beautiful, paper mache movie, but the moment I left the film life began to batter at it and it fell apart, but no candy was inside . . . only an advertisement for a sequel.

 

 

Learning from Movies

by John Mark Reynolds on May 3, 2012

Movies are one of my favorite forms of entertainment. When in despair sitting in a movie theater with a Diet Coke is a cheap form of therapy, but movies are more than fun and therapeutic: they are educational.

Movies showed me my poor understanding of physics: explosions would not rip me up but push me forward. Phasers make noise in space and Spock could do many things without his brain.

It was one thing for Mr. DeMint to claim these things were false in science class: I saw them with my own eyes.

When thinking about religion and education, I have learned five basic truths from film that also contradict my reading and experience. However difficult, my goal is to overcome my prejudice toward experience and academic work and embrace what Hollywood has shown me.

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