On Whether the Marvel Movies Have No Clothes

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On the whole, I’ve been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it has progressed.  I think their straightforward, crowd-pleasing style is a welcome and refreshing change of pace from the grimmer fare offered in the way of Christopher Nolan’s Batman and other ostensibly-mature superhero movies.  But after the release of Age of Ultron earlier this year and Ant-Man some few days ago, there seems to be some recent naysaying from the formerly-faithful.  Moreover, I’ve engaged in numerous conversations with skeptics of the project, who are looking for more substance from their superhero movies, or who question the critical acclaim they have received from the Internet/nerd community.  So I present an earnest opinion, based on what I’ve seen so far of the project: are the movies overrated?  Is their acclaim deserved, or the product of overzealous praise of mediocrity?  Have they outstayed their welcome?  Are they as good as we have been making them out to be?

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Loyalty: Part One – “A Greater Power”

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Dostoevsky contended in “The Grand Inquisitor” that we human beings want nothing more than to give up our freedom to a cause, and to defer responsibility from ourselves – even for our own lives and personal decisions.  We are, at heart, all followers.  And I believe this is true in our day as well, but I’m not sure if that’s the primary problem with our culture.  We are, by and large, informed, literate, opinionated, convicted people, with our own set of axes to grind and causes to champion.  We are sharply individualistic.  And we are trained – by the media, if not by our teachers and parents and history – to suspect authority.  We are taught to reject convictions without examining both sides – we are trained to look for the “other side” to any discussion or dilemma.  We are trained to withhold judgment until all the facts are in.  Which is why it is so difficult to talk about faith in a contemporary context.  Faith is fundamentally about subsuming oneself in the service of something greater than ourselves – admitting that our judgment is inadequate to properly understand or govern our own lives.  So the question I mean to address here, and in the rest of this series, is whether or not one can intelligently and deliberately practice loyalty – the art of subsuming oneself to a greater power – without contradiction or blind (and therefore corruptible) faith.  Is it possible to avoid the extremes of apathetic skepticism on the one hand and indiscriminate devotion on the other – to find faith as a process both engaging one’s reason and discernment and also rationally, carefully suspending it?

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The Virtue of Sadness

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Last week I had the opportunity to see Disney/Pixar’s new movie: Inside Out, and while I suspect it is not up to the artistic merits of many earlier entries from the collaboration (especially the Toy Story movies), the model it provides of the way our minds work is compelling and fascinating to talk about, in multiple ways.  In this post I’d like to concentrate specifically on its treatment of sadness, cross-referenced to other, similar wisdom I’ve encountered on the same subject.  Spoilers will abound, as we can’t talk about the mechanics at play in the movie without discussing the final resolution, so I would highly recommend seeing it before reading this, if you have any inclination to do so.

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Being an Introvert in an Extroverted World

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I sat down to write this post about an hour ago, and in that hour have not managed to get even as far as this first line, but here goes anyway.

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Ecclesiastes and the Speed of Life

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Let me begin by apologizing for not posting for so long.  My life has taken a number of unexpected turns in the past several months, and between those and the expected responsibilities and stress I’ve had, there has been little time for me to ruminate at all, much less post my ideas in some kind of organized, coherent fashion.  So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the meaning of life.

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What Women (Shouldn’t?) Want

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Art affects people.  Not only insomuch as it makes us laugh, or cry, or shudder, or bristle, but because it changes the way we look at the world.  We are inspired by our heroes and want to emulate their heroism.  We learn respect for the perspectives of others and come to understand differing viewpoints.  Art challenges our convictions, stokes our imaginations, and guides our fears and fantasies.  I would even contend that we are socialized by art – that we understand justice and injustice, good and evil, and our own place in the world, in terms of art and the stories it tells us.  And for the most part, I have in this blog recorded positive interactions with art, cautioning against errors of craft or errors of underestimating a given story’s power.  But today I want to talk about chick flicks, and bad art.

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Protestantism Against Catholicism

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In my reading for class this week, I stumbled across this paragraph in Walvoord’s The Revelation of Jesus Christ, a commentary on the book of Revelation.  In reference to the theory that each of the seven churches listed in Revelation 2-3 represent an age in the history of the church, Walvoord writes:

The message to the assembly in Thyatira seems to foreshadow period of church history known as the Middle Ages preceding the Protestant Reformation.  In that period the church became corrupt as it sought to combine Christianity with pagan philosophy and heathen religious rites so that much of the ritual of the church of that period is directly traceable to comparable ceremonies in heathen religion.  During this period also there began that exaltation of Mary the mother of our Lord which has tended to exalt her to the plane of a female deity through whom intercession to God should be made, and apart from whose favor there can be no salvation.  The prominence of a woman prophetess in the church at Thyatira anticipates the prominence of this unscriptural exaltation of Mary.  Along with this, the church experienced spiritual depravity, and idols in the form of religious statues were introduced.  Not only gross immorality but spiritual fornication resulted, much as was true in the church at Thyatira. (Walvoord, 75)

I’m mad as a hornet about this, so let’s talk about it.

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Nightcrawler: Moral Art Doesn’t Have to Depict Morality

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Morality in art is a keen interest of mine, as is no doubt evident from the many posts I’ve made analyzing the failings of art from the perspective both of its craft and of its message.  I believe, quite firmly, that good art is moral art, in the line of Plato, who contended that art is compelling and potentially dangerous and devoted a great deal of time to discussing what kind of art would and would not be acceptable within The Republic.  But most discussions of morality and art quickly tend to degenerate into superficial condemnation of content (language, violence, and other issues more the matter of ratings boards than moral practitioners) or equally superficial understandings of theme (why aren’t the bad people sufficiently punished?).  So today let’s discuss Nightcrawler, because it is a perfect example of how art can be moral without moralizing.

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