Wise Guise Warriors… I’m back! A lot has been happening in the world since I last posted. I got lots of questions about all sorts of topics in addition to many things I’ve wanted to blog about but haven’t had time. So, without further ado, here’s a Monday Morning Mailbag to cover most of the topics you wanted to hear about, most of the topics I wanted to write about, and some.
Jeff from Jefferson City, MO: Have you seen Jurassic World yet? How do you rank it compared to other modern-day summer blockbusters in addition to the original three Jurassic Park films?
So over the past several years, as 10-15 of you have seen (thank you!), I’ve done my top movies of the year lists. I’ve ranked anywhere from my top 25 to my top 50. Even the year I did my top 50, I semi-embarrassingly felt I had to make some tough cuts. I clearly see too many movies. But in an attempt to avoid ever becoming this guy, or this guy, both of whom not only saw way too many movies in 2014, but also have a lot of super questionable choices, I’m going to try out a new, awards-style format to display my favorite films of the year. I think the people deserve an awards process that doesn’t pander to Hollywood campaigns and that’s what I aim to do here. The “Grouchos” name comes from the obvious resemblance of our logo here at The Wise Guise to Groucho Marx and the fact that I’m pretty unabashedly a movie snob that easily gets grouchy arguing about movies. Just seemed fitting.
These awards are a kind of hybrid combo version of my personal favorites and what I personally thought was the “best,” all leaning more heavily towards my personal favorites in each category. I am the sole voter for these awards and, as you will see, I reserved myself the right to have as many nominees as I saw fit for each category. In addition to the winners, I would urge you to take close note of the nominees in each category. I took a lot of time to put real thought into my personal nominees regardless of what the Academy or Hollywood Foreign Press or anyone else has done.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Selma (**** out of 4) is ultimately about the hard sacrifices made by ordinary Americans “in order to form [this] more perfect union” mentioned in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. This sometimes means breaking unjust laws to establish justice or insuring domestic tranquility by disturbing the peace. Our nation’s history and the history of humanity in general is filled with such paradoxes in order to ensure the general welfare of our nation and other civilizations do not leave behind oppressed minorities who have historically been discriminated against and denied equal dignity. The blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity have not always been extended to everyone.
When I taught U.S. History and U.S. Government in a diverse high school, my favorite topics to teach were the causes of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. These topics allowed me to build from foundational knowledge and push my students’ thinking to new levels. One of my favorite activities was dissecting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and discussing non-violent protest with my students, pointing out how restrained and strategic agitation could successfully bring white moderates into the fold, forcing politicians to take action. But my favorite question to pose to my students was this: Would you be willing to be spit on, beat up, called numerous vulgar names, and not respond with any violence or hatred in return? If you knew your name wouldn’t be in the history books, would you still be willing to sacrifice your dignity temporarily so that dignity could be recognized by law and fact for yourself and your posterity?
Throughout my history classes, I tried to demythologize the legends from our own history. I tried to teach Lincoln, MLK, and others as the flawed humans they were so that my students could truly appreciate the obstacles they faced, sacrifices they made, brilliance they displayed, and history God gave them the opportunity to shape. I wanted them to know that these men and women were no different from them and that these eras in history required men, women, and children whose names we’ll never know.
Every year I rank my favorite films of the previous year in January or February. You can find past editions in our archives, including the 2012 edition when I ranked my top 50 movies of the year. Like I said then, and will reiterate now, I need to get a life. This year I want to share my work-in-progress list early and make sure some of these films that deserve your attention get it before award season. I still have a lot I want to/plan to watch (plus some films that haven’t even come out yet).
The order is very much subject to change but here are my current standings (plus a tweet-length review): Read more
On September 12, 1962, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University setting the United States of America’s Space Race goals for the 1960s.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
I wish we didn’t live in the cynical world we live in. I’m perfectly willing to admit, as my wife reminds me often, that I can be too optimistic for my own good at times. Matthew McConaughey’s character is similarly ridiculed as too optimistic and too much of a dreamer in Christopher Nolan’s latest epic cinematic adventure (and first since the conclusion of his Dark Knight trilogy). But the world where he farms and raises his children is Nolan’s vision of what could result if our cynical world devolves to its natural conclusion.
Disclaimer: First off, THERE ARE NO SPOILERS OF ANY KIND IN THIS REVIEW – I simply wanted to share the very basics of what I thought you needed to know about the film. I feel it’s necessary to begin this brief review by first stating that this film is very graphic in just about every way possible. It’s also very dark and very twisted. Not in like a “there’s a scene you wouldn’t want to watch with your family” way, but in a “there are a LOT of scenes you probably wouldn’t want to watch with your family” way. Jeremy Wilson, I’m talking to you. Do not see this movie with your family. Definitely see it, just not with your family. Everyone else… use your own judgment accordingly.