|Trevor's View on Hollywood||
How funny, the core message of this beloved Christmas movie ironically is also a core theme to Christianity: “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” You see that in society all the time; common sense has convinced most of the human population that God could never exist, whereas the other tiny percentage chose to believe faith instead, the same way a child believes a fat man could fly in a single night around the entire planet with flying reindeer. Though whatever you believe, be it Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Evolution, or anything really, it requires your greatest amount of faith to ignore the doubts. It would be difficult to believe that a man could walk on water, the same way it would be difficult to believe natural selection could somehow cause the human race. Faith is an unavoidable matter in an individual putting together their own moral code, which means common sense must also be ignored at times. Miracle on 34th Street fully understands that struggle, especially when major corporations are fueled by their common sense.
It’s said at one point in this film, “Through love comes calm, and through calm comes thought,” which can easily be spotted as a message intentionally meant for an extreme, violent time fueled by social injustice, such as the time we’re in now. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was made with that very purpose of unveiling the fabric of hatred within Americans, which it does to powerful effect. What it teaches about how to handle our anger against the political system is also what the Bible teaches: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The most immediate sign of Christian existentialism in this film is the scene where Mildred, the film’s protagonist, is confronted by the Catholic priest in the town concerning the billboards she rented. They were put up right on Easter, and read: “Raped while dying, and still no arrests? How come, Chief Willoughby?” The priest tells her that the church ultimately detests the billboards, and that her response to her daughter getting raped and murdered is a toxic one. She just responds by comparing the church to a gang, since they’re like their own little cult that the rest of society just sees as a thorn to their side. The subject of church is never brought up again after this early scene. While this could be looked at as attacking the church, it’s still crucial to notice how this proves the way many atheists see the church: condemning outsiders and ignoring the world’s greatest problems. While this priest is seen talking to Mildred in the most loving, well-meaning way possible, he still misunderstands the real problem—the reason she put up the billboards in the first place.
It’s one of the scariest horror movies ever known, directed by one of the most articulate, most mysterious directors ever known, and adapted from a book by one of the most troubling horror authors ever known. But just how much of The Shining would Jesus approve of? Surprisingly, a lot.
First, to define what this “shining” is: it’s described here as a way two can share a conversation without opening their mouths. The key character in this film with that ability, Danny, has a shining that talks to him, and he only gets to talk to one other person with the same ability, a worker at the Overlook Hotel named Dick. Right upon their introduction, Dick wishes to get personal with Danny, he even knows that his parents like to call him “doc,” like Bugs Bunny’s catchphrase, “What’s up, doc?” Right there, it seems that a cartoon is the sole way Danny can communicate with anyone, which is an important motif throughout the movie.
Perhaps the most iconic work of Christopher Nolan’s career, this monumental blockbuster captured viewers everywhere with its genius approach to the human mind that took on narrative levels once thought impossible, while utilizing old philosophies that are further explored visually in ways only the medium of film could achieve. Yet as much as this grand achievement earns its respect, the moral nature behind Inception takes on a worldly, even pagan perspective about humanity that completely disowns the existence of God. Its value instead is on achievements made by personal merits without the help of any supreme deity.
There is an attempt to make this experience give off Biblical vibes though, as right away in the iconic first shot, Cobb washes up onto the seashore much like Jonah. (Jonah 2:10) It sets off water as a common symbol throughout the feature, especially when he receives a “kick” to wake up from this dream when his colleague pushes him into a bathtub. Then much later toward the climax, Cobb returns to his dream on the seashore, and this place is revealed to be Limbo, where distinction between truth and fiction evaporates. Thus, the water symbolizes waking up in the same way God uses water throughout Scripture to symbolize pulling sinners out of chaos, which is where the meaning of baptism comes from. In addition, the first time God destroyed the entire earth, He did so with a great flood, and when it was over, He made a promise He would never destroy the planet with water again. (Genesis 9:12-16) This theme of water being used as a form of destruction and rebuilding is used all throughout the Bible. (Exodus 14:16-29; 2 Kings 2:8,14; Matthew 3:13-17)
Pixar’s newest feature film Onward, now available to watch on Disney+, tells a classic type of story that aligns to some teachings by Holy Scripture. Among the more profound verses that supports it includes 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” It means that the Holy word always marks the right path, which is rarely the easy path, much like how this movie teaches kids and parents alike that the easy path is almost never the right path, that you need to take risks in order to grow, that you must rely on Christ as He commands you to take risks. (Proverbs 3:6)
The fantasy world of this film focuses on two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley, in their quest to bring their deceased father’s full body back before sunset. This quest is far from easy though, as the two brothers are quite different: Barley loves to take risks while Ian loves to remain in his comfort zone. Their differences cause them to mess up multiple times as Ian’s preference for what’s convenient clashes with Barley wanting to follow his gut instinct. The biggest asset that contributes to their conflict is Ian persistently thinking that his brother is a screw-up, which is ironic, since Ian is himself seen being the real screw-up in their obstacles. (Matthew 7:1-5)
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” Disney’s Hercules shows how this famous Greek mythological figure gained immortality once he put another’s life above his own and learned to do so after an epic journey that echoes some of the beats from Jesus’ preaching. While it’s still got issues, this satire on Greek history depicts what makes a true hero to the extent where those qualities are much like Jesus himself. He died and rose again to overcome the world, (John 16:33) a lot like how Hercules wasn’t considered a true hero until he was willing to die for the woman he loved, and cast the god of the underworld into the river of death. (Revelation 20:13-14)
Now of course, Hercules was a mere mortal for almost all his life, meaning he sinned like any human, so had to learn over time how to use his abnormal strength. The rest of society thought he was a freak, so he felt he belonged nowhere. This is a universally common desire that everyone who doesn’t know Christ feels, because God designed man to desire a home in Heaven. (Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 13:14) Once he learned his destiny and sought out training to be a true hero on earth, his drive became mere public approval. When out searching for danger to improve his reputation, he was actually happy to hear that two boys were trapped in a gorge. His overconfidence of course led him inside the jaws of a hydra, but being in the belly of a beast caused a death and resurrection (Daniel 6:16-18, Jonah 2, Matthew 27:57-61) into the life of a mass celebrity.
“Anyone can cook!”
Now, Ratatouille isn’t saying anyone has the ability to cook well, while yes, anyone “can” cook, that doesn’t mean anyone “should.” Rather, good quality cooking can come from anywhere it’s not expected, showing much coming out of little the same way God chooses the most unlikely followers to carry out His duties. No matter where it comes from, newly discovered talent must be celebrated, (1 Peter 4:10) even if the talent often comes from somebody whom society disrespects. (Matthew 21:42) God always uses the weak to humble the strong, (1 Corinthians 1:27) He even put Jesus in a lowly position as a carpenter to further prove His point!
Though it’s considered dangerous for a rat like Remy to pursue his passion of cooking in a kitchen, as he’s considered a pest there, but those types of places are where God comes in to pull us through deadly waters so that we could use His gifts. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) If you really love doing something like dancing or painting, God will make sure you’re pursuing it for His purpose, discovering and creating as Remy describes humans doing. In that way, we can discover His glory as we create things such as songs of praise. (Psalm 117:1-2)
Last year’s winner of Best Picture, Green Book, rightfully says that the way 1960s southerners treated Blacks was wrong, but says so through an interracial friendship where the White guy is a total jerk from start to end, while the Black guy is apparently holy from start to end, meaning it gets many facts wrong. The surface level friendship depicted between these real-life people just presents a case of two men attempting to master the other, both eventually thinking he won.
Throughout their travels, Don Shirley seems intent on forcing his driver Tony Lip to change, yet he does not expect to change his own poor behavior. However highly he thinks of himself on his African-adorned throne, Shirley is not as Christly as he thinks of himself: he lies by basically writing Tony’s letters to his wife for him, and he secretly engages in homosexual acts, even when Tony rightfully orders him not to leave his side. (Matthew 7:12, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, James 2:10) Tony is just as bad; no matter how much Shirley tries to press that violence always fails, Tony’s case has only ever went the opposite: when one manager won’t let Shirley play on a Steinway piano like his contract says, Tony resorts to violence, and it works. Even in his efforts to defend Shirley, Tony does so while basically rewarding the cops who perform the abuse. Although he does righteously defend Shirley after getting beat at a bar, but even then, his resort is to violence, not mercy.
Elf is still a common seasonal favorite sixteen years after its release, obviously many love it for its humor, but deeper reasons exist to why it’s still watched every Christmas. This supposedly happy time of year is in actuality stressful: planning family gatherings, seeing problematic family members, spending hundreds on Christmas decorations, feeling depressed because people aren’t celebrating Jesus’ birth, feeling depressed because people ARE celebrating Jesus’ birth, the list rolls out longer than Santa’s naughty list. That’s why Buddy the Elf is such a memorable character: he reminds us how we should keep feeling that joy on Christmas, and every day of the year.
It seems to be a part of this movie’s intention to restore the joy in New York that was lost after the 9/11 attacks, which happened only two years before it came out. It does that by first attacking corporate America’s phony vision of Christmas, where the “fake” Santa says, “ho-ho-ho,” until his beard is removed, and his short fuse is exposed to the traumatized children. Whereas, the real Santa in this movie never says “ho-ho-ho.” Once the façade of Christmas commercialism is removed, Buddy’s contagious spirit touches all of New York until they sing together on Christmas Eve.
“Some people are worth melting for.”
“An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”
“Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper.”
You probably grew sick of the Frozen craze long ago, you probably still refuse to “let it go,” but wherever you land on the Frozen spectrum, the impact this Disney instant-classic’s themes left on multiple kids-at-heart remains irrefutable. Rare for a studio as money-focused as Disney, it successfully testifies a bit of Biblical love, that it’s an action, rather than an emotion.
Romans 12:20 teaches, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Such instances of the feature visualize the idea of a frozen heart thawing, which can be done with the warmth of a hug. The opening song explains the strength of ice, and indeed it is: God uses ice throughout the Bible as a form of judgment. (Exodus 9:13-35, Revelation 16:21) But the beauty of ice remains present, as first seen by the aurora borealis that starts Anna and Elsa’s playtime, right before seeing the trolls, because the “sky’s awake,” then Olaf says it again right before their second encounter with the trolls. This theme of ice being beautiful yet deadly keeps consistent. As Anna and Kristoff search for Elsa, they see the beauty of ice, which is the precise moment Olaf arrives. His “In Summer” song goes right back to the villagers suffering from the dangerous ice, then an icicle “impales” Olaf. Those strong modes of contrast in ice project God’s incredible ability to create beauty from deadly coldness.