My Irrational Love For the Karate Kid Franchise

Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have? 

Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like? 

Daniel: [laughs] No, I meant… 

Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants. Daniel-san… [taps his headKarate here. [taps his heartKarate here. [points to his beltKarate never here. Understand?

 

 

Nearly everyone loves the sports underdog. Nearly everyone loves it when a bully gets his comeuppance. Nearly everyone loves a sage mentor teaching a protege about life and skill.

So it’s no wonder that the 1984 movie The Karate Kid was so well received in the U.S. that it spawned three sequels and a remake that all together earned well over $400 million at the American box office.

But even with that success, I still sometimes feel like I love theses movies a tad too much. Well, most of them. They were a cultural phenomena in the 80s and to many I am sure have not aged well. But to me, I adore them more now than back then. And in honor of the 33rd anniversary of the release of the original this week, I wanted to give my thoughts on each of the five movies in the franchise.

 

The Karate Kid (1984) 

Karate Kid PosterAmerican moviegoers in the 80s had a ton of martial arts exposure thanks to still legendary names like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. By that time we already had a pantheon of movies about a sports underdog overcoming great odds to win. Yet we had not seen the two put together quite like this.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this movie is that Daniel comes across as a whiner for much of the movie and his love interest isn’t interesting at all to me, yet the aforementioned tropes are so good they overcome the lesser aspects.

Most notably, Pat Morita gave the world a gift with his performance as Mr. Miyagi. He is utterly quotable: “Lie become truth only if person want to believe it.” His broken English is insanely endearing. The scene where we learn that this humble, easy-to-overlook maintenance man can kick major hindquarters in karate makes me ridiculously giddy.

But the star moment of the movie to me is the way he teaches Daniel-San karate. He makes him wax his cars and stain his fence and other menial, backbreaking chores. And of course Daniel eventually gets upset by it and threatens to break their pact and quit. So in one of the truly special moments to me in movie history, Mr. Miyagi shows him that everything he is doing is subconsciously teaching him karate. He is teaching Daniel his way with Far Eastern methodology and without the dojo mentality. Mr. Miyagi in this scene does an epic mic drop before that was even a thing. “Wax on, Wax off” was a huge part of the 80s American movie vernacular.

Make no mistake, this movie hinges on how good Mr. Miyagi is. Beyond the karate, we feel for him deeply when we learn about the death of his wife. And his excellence in bringing this unique character to life overwhelms the weaknesses of the other two main characters to me.

Kreese, Johnny and the Cobra Kai are excellent villains and perfectly easy to hate. The climactic fight in the tournament is superbly dramatic and the music compliments it well. There is so much to love in this movie that how poorly it has aged has not affected my fan hood in the least.

 

The Karate Kid II 

Is it possible that I love this sequel more than the original? This is something that rarely happens, especially if you take out Top 1% movies like Empire Strikes Back and Godfather 2. Yes, yes it is possible.

Maybe it is the fact it takes place in Okinawa. And the stakes become more real. This installment definitely captures the magic of Rocky in that it finds a new, fresh way to keep our champion in the underdog role. Mr. Miyagi’s telling Daniel near the end, “This not tournament, this for real” pretty much captures how they were able to take a great idea and two years later make it even better. Beating Johnny the Cobra Kai in a city tournament was classic. Facing Chozen in a theoretical fight to the death is just terrifying. And intense, even if it is a tad over the top. I pretty much stop breathing during this scene every time I watch.

But the movie scores big to me as well because it develops Mr. Miyagi even more, teaching us more about his past and his failures and his reason for leaving. These scenes are not cheesy at all.

But at its heart, the story is the Miyagi/Daniel relationship. Even as Daniel is getting throttled by Chozen, Miyagi is shouting out instructions that help Daniel. And even though I’ll never understand how Daniel merely swinging his arms back and forth turned the tide in the fight, no one can deny the music, the choreography and the cinematography of this scene come together for a chill bump-inducing masterpiece.

And for it to end with Peter Cetera singing The Glory of Love…well that is just the cherry on the captivating movie conclusion sundae.

 

The Karate Kid Part III 

Karate Kid III Whereas the second one masterfully kept us interested in Daniel-San as the underdog, this one absolutely fails in every way. This movie is an abomination. It’s horrible in every way it can be. It is tired, boring and unnecessary and the fact the first two made $200 million in the US between them and that this one tanked at $38 million is proof.

When I showed my wife this franchise early this year I refused to show her this one. I will tackle her if she ever tries (since we own all of them). The fact that this movie exists and it doesn’t cause me to feel any less passionately about the whole series is a testimony to how good the others are. I saw this movie a couple of times in the 80s and tried to give it one more chance about ten years ago. Nope. I am surprised I have not just thrown it in the garbage yet.

 

The Next Karate Kid 

The Next Karate KidAs far as quality we find this reprisal of sorts in the franchise between the magic of the first two and the dumpster fire of the third one, released in 1994. It was obvious that Daniel was done as a character so to add some spice they make Mr. Miyagi’s new project a female. And not just any female: Hiilary Swank several years before she shocked the world with two Best Actress Oscar wins.

So the fact that you have such an acting talent alongside the iconic Mr. Miyagi means this movie has some redeeming value. The story itself is retread and does not capture the imagination of the beginning of the franchise. But at least it brings the novelty of a girl, Julie-San, being the one who needs to overcome demons and bullying. Not a necessary movie but I don’t mind watching it if someone wants to see all of the “Karate Kid” movies.

And we get to see Mr. Miyagi light somebody up one more time before retiring the character forever so that alone almost makes it worth watching.

 

The Karate Kid (2010)

The Karate KidFirst, let me be clear that there is no doubt this movie belongs to this franchise. The title, as well as the obvious and subtle references to the plot of the original manifest its strong connection to the 1984 version.

And I had little faith they could redo the original in a modern way and not destroy it. They did the opposite. It exceeds the original in my mind and competes with KK2 for the best of the franchise.

First, Mr. Han is an incredible updated version of Mr. Miyagi. I had never seen Jackie Chan like this. He absolutely knocks this role out of the park.

This can be seen best in the re-imagining of the “menial task is teaching kung fu” scene. As memorable as this moment is in the first one, I think this movie improves upon it. Dre doesn’t hang up his jacket like his mother wants him to. So Mr. Han uses that as the basis for developing his muscles and reactive instincts, by having him take off and hang up his jacket for hours at a time. Which is a small but powerful difference from “wax on, wax off”. And the mic drop speech given by Mr. Han at the end of this scene is even more potent: “Kung Fu lives in everything we do. It lives in how we put on the jacket, how we take off the jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is Kung Fu.” Please note that as a Christian I don’t believe this in real life but I cannot deny it makes amazing cinema. I stood up and clapped in the theater at this moment.

Jayden Smith is pretty good in his role but just as with the originals, it rises and falls on the mentor. I could not love Mr. Han any more and I refuse to try to pick who is better out of him and Miyagi.

 

So as summer heats up and Hollywood makes the news with regularity, we at REO take time to remember the summer blockbusters of yesteryear. For me, almost nothing tops The Karate Kid, or three variations at least. I love them, indeed, far beyond logic.




It’s Easy to Love Chris Pratt

The Humble Beginnings of the future Star-Lord

Before there was Andy Dwyer and before there was Peter Quill, there was Bright Abbott.

I watched Everwood religiously from 2002 to 2006. A guilty pleasure for sure. As far as a person with a Christian worldview can be over a TV show, I was devastated when it was cancelled. I had just moved to Chicago and was dealing with girl problems, so I saw myself in Ephraim since he dealt with the same things. But in my watching I could not help but love Bright as well. He wasn’t funny or intelligent or the star of the show. He was just likeable.

So why did I like him? At the time I wasn’t sure. But a few years later the man I knew as Bright and whose real name I may have sort of known at the time, appeared on my TV screen in a trailer for Zero Dark Thirty. It seemed obvious to me that he didn’t have a big part, but just his one-line speaking role in the trailer made the movie almost as appealing as the the actual story.

And I watched it. And later I watched Moneyball. And “Bright Abbott” continued to make me smile and remained close to the top of my Hollywood conscious.

 

Johnny Karate’s Greatest Hit

Then a few years ago the guys from REO were championing a modern sitcom called Parks and Rec and eventually I realized that I needed to watch it. And voilà! There he was again! And for the million reasons Parks and Rec worked as a sitcom and landed at the number 3 spot on our list of Top Ten Sitcoms of all-time, Andy was a huge one.

I doubt anyone in sitcom history has a higher laugh-per-line ratio to me than Andy Dwyer. Even George Costanza. George is still the best to me because he makes me laugh and applaud the hardest, but nearly everything Andy says is funny. Playing the role of the clueless doofus has been popular in sitcom history, like Joey Tribbiani on Friends. But no one has done it like Chris Pratt. It’s a wonder to behold. My wife and I just finished Parks and Rec for the second time, and Andy has caused pools of tears in laughter. See this scene for a classic example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4KIm9y6Rss

 

It’s not hyperbole to me to say that Chris Pratt is a comedic genius. Some of it is innate, which can be seen if you watch PnR outtakes (caution: they have cursing) and Pratt just shoots from the hip without a script and has all of his co-workers on the floor laughing. But some of it is just him understanding what is truly funny and having the courage to do what would embarrass 99% of people.

Summer Blockbuster Cool

Somewhere in all that I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. By accident. Even though Chris Pratt was that guy I liked I apparently didn’t know enough about this movie to know he was in it. But one August night in 2014 I went to see the new Ninja Turtle movie and got the showtime wrong. I watched Guardians instead. Needless to say, by the end of that movie Chris Pratt rocketed to the top of my “I want to see it because he’s in it” list.

So when it was announced a few years ago that he was going to be in the new Jurassic Park movie I was bonkers. I already love the franchise, even the oft-disparaged second and third volumes, so his involvement in Jurassic World made it an opening weekend viewing for me. So I was there opening Friday night front and center to experience what would surely be amazing American cinema. I didn’t think it was a great movie but I was not disappointed even one iota in Chris Pratt. Star-Lord and Owen prove that he’s not lovable just because he’s funny. He has something special that goes beyond that. These movies sell themselves on many things, but I don’t think it’s an accident that Pratt has been in three of the top 50 domestic grossing of movies of all-time all in the last three years (Guardians 2 being the other).

Everwood Was His Bosom Buddies

In the book Blink by Malcom Gladwell, he talks about the first time Brian Grazer met Tom Hanks. Grazer says, “He came in and read for the movie Splash, and right there, in the moment, I can tell you just what I saw. We read hundreds of people for that part, and other people were funnier than him. But they weren’t as likable as him. I felt like I could live inside of him. I felt like his problems were problems I could relate to.”

I think Chris Pratt has the same thing Hanks does. I have never met him and doubt I ever will. But if I ever saw him I would feel like I was meeting a buddy from high school. It would probably be surreal since he is famous, but almost paradoxically I think it would feel so familiar. Because Pratt just comes across that way. Recently he was caught in the middle of a typical American controversy that some thought would offend the deaf community. And Pratt’s response it–by signing an apology in sign language–was as touching and real as anything you’ll see from Hollywood off screen.

 

We’ll follow your lead, Star-Lord

In the Season 6 Parks and Rec episode “New Slogan” Andy is trying to find bands to play for a unity concert and by accident he discovers that Ron is Duke Silver. This is a unique episode because Andy ditches, for the most part, the dim-witted persona. When he talks to Ron, he’s more of an adult. In sharp contrast to “ambling down the street naked on crutches” Andy, this Andy is smooth. And cool. And bears semblance to Pratt’s other roles. I am not sure why he’s like this for one episode but I realize as I’m watching that it’s not the shtick or the writing that makes Andy great. It’s the man behind the character.

And I have little doubt his white hot career arc is just getting warmed up. Because he will bring this undefinable Tom Hanks-like personality to whatever he does. And on his 38th birthday, we celebrate the privilege of seeing his career unfold in real time.

 

 




500WoL: Wonder Woman

I am convinced that if Wonder Woman had been released ten years ago, it would have been rejected by most critics and the majority of audiences. The template had been set: heroes needed to be flawed and conflicted. They needed to have their own personal demons to fight, because that would humanize them. Wonder Woman is not that film and most certainly not that kind of hero.

Sometimes, a film is delivered to the world at the perfect time. We live in an era of extremes. Our politics are divisive and partisan. Our cultural conversations are loaded with hostility and vitriol. 2017 is cynical and angry. I believe people are grasping for hope and inspiration; something to help make sense of the world around them. An ideal worth celebrating.

Enter Wonder Woman.

Rejecting every modern convention on how to present a hero to the world, Wonder Woman opts for something more inspired. Diana, Princess of  Themyscira, is not the hero our society deserves, but she is definitely the hero we need. She is brave, kind, selfless, noble, loving, and strong. The film never calls her Wonder Woman, but anyone that sees her in action could not conceive of a more appropriate name. The film wonderfully eschews the need for the hero to grow and overcome internal flaws. Diana sees a need – the slaughter of innocents at the hands of World War I – and she does everything she can to make matters right. All this said, she is not a static character. She still has room to grow and evolve as the story is told. As events unfold, her driving motivation changes, going from a sense of duty to a more profound impetus to help.

The two leads, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, have fantastic chemistry and elevate the movie in every way. The supporting cast does fine work, adding color and humor. The music is epic and moving. The cinematography is excellent throughout. The action sequences are well staged with a fantastic sense of pacing and speed. There are many “hero shots” in the film, and virtually all of them add a true sense of spectacle and awe.

I have enjoyed the DC films up to this point, outside of the completely inane Suicide Squad. I am a big fan of Man of Steel. I appreciate and even love sections of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I realize that might cloud your opinion of this review, since those films are not loved by most. Wonder Woman is better than all of them. It is a film soaked in light, with none of the angst and darkness. It is worth your time and money if you love movies about heroes that are truly heroic. I recommend it as highly as I can.

(The film is rated PG-13 due to violence and frightening imagery. There are also a few scenes that discuss sexuality, but do so in a way that is incredibly tactful and mild.)




Five Classic Curmudgeons of TV and Film

Movie and Television history is profuse with amazing and unforgettable crusty old men. Mean, cranky, ancient, eccentric – got to love those aged dudes and their disdain of all these hippies (everyone under 50) and newfangled contraptions. In our adoration of these wise, gray-haired, ne’er-do-wells, we have decided to highlight five iconic crusty old curmudgeons from either film or TV lore. Note: This is not necessarily a “best-of” list. These are simply the five cantankerous old coots that we have chosen to write about. – Ben Plunkett

 

Arthur Spooner – The King of Queens
by Gowdy Cannon

Frank Costanza could go from 0 to outrageously psychotic in two seconds. Arthur Spooner could get there, just a bit more slowly. And sometimes that was actually funnier. Arthur was Carrie’s dad, but it was his interactions with son-in-law Doug that showed how uninhibited Jerry Stiller was as a comedic actor and that caused me to cry tears from laughter. From the simple way he called him “Douglas” to their insane, petty, over-the-top, roll-on-the-floor-laughing showdowns in the kitchen, Arthur Spooner was just different enough from Frank, yet just enough the same. My favorite moments:

–Arthur tries some of Doug’s kids breakfast cereal and gets the prize 3D glasses. Doug is clearly upset because the cereal is his but he tries to be an adult about it. But he can’t because Arthur won’t stop acting juvenile. So Doug acts childish in return and the back and forth ends with Arthur ripping up the glasses and Doug destroying the still-full box of his own cereal as Carrie walks in.

–Arthur asks Doug how many stamps he needs for tickets he is mailing. Arthur doesn’t like Doug’s answer so Doug insults Arthur’s mooching off his family. It ends with Arthur destroying Doug’s sandwich and Doug destroying Arthur’s mail.

–Arthur asks Doug to pass the “catsup”. Doug won’t until he says “ketchup”. Arthur refuses so Doug pours an insane amount of ketchup on Arthur’s burger, demanding that Arthur call it “ketchup” as both yell back and forth until Arthur cedes. “And that’s how we learn”.

(And my personal favorite)

–Doug is answering a political survey over the phone when Arthur comes in and tries to make a phone call on the same line. He realizes what Doug is doing, insults his answers and this begins an exchange of severe putdowns between the two (including “Why don’t you tell him you’re enormous?” and “Why don’t you tell him you live in our basement?”) that ends with Doug asking “Why don’t you tell him your total salary last year was $12?” To which Arthur replies: “That was after taxes!” I don’t know why that Arthur line is so funny. Maybe the look on his face. Or the volume of the conversation. Or how inane the comment is. But I hurt from laughing at it and I’ve seen it several times.

As far as cranky old curmudgeons, Arthur Sponer takes a backseat to no one.

 

Carl Fredricksen – Up
by Phill Lytle


Merriam Webster defines crotchety as: subject to whims, crankiness, or ill temper. Thesaurus.com gives us these synonyms for crotchety: Cantankerous, crusty, grouchy, grumpy, and ornery. When we first meet the older Carl Fredricksen, he is all these things and more. He has grown sour after the passing of his beloved Ellie. He is prone to outbursts of anger, is mean-spirited to Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer.”, and doesn’t seem to enjoy much about his life anymore. In other words, every second he is on screen is a joy for the audience. His complaints are hilarious. His lack of patience with Russell, and anyone else for that matter, never ceases to amuse. Buried deep down in Carl is a noble, honest, and good man. It takes some time for the audience to find it, but the journey is no less enjoyable during the search.

Favorite moments and lines:

Already exasperated with Russell’s constant talking and enthusiasm, Carl says, “Hey, let’s play a game. It’s called “See Who Can Be Quiet the Longest”. The line is perfectly delivered by Ed Asner, one of the great curmugeonly actors of all time. But the response by Russell takes the joke to another level, one that makes us laugh, but also reveals a great deal about our main characters, “Cool! My mom loves that game!”

Once they have nearly reached their destination by air, they are forced to continue the rest of the way on foot. Carl, wanting things quiet delivers this little nugget of gold to Russell, “Now, we’re gonna walk to the falls quickly and quietly with no rap music or flashdancing.” I’ve always loved that the two things Carl mentions are rap music and flashdancing, as if those were obviously things Russell would be involved in.

Finally, early in the film, when the builders are trying to get Carl to leave his home, he spots one of the businessmen in the distance. The man is wearing a suit, looking distinguished and professional. Carl yells at him, “You in the suit! Yes, you! Take a bath, hippie!” I think that one speaks for itself.

 

 

Merlin – The Sword in the Stone
by Ben Plunkett and Phill Lytle

He is, perhaps, the progenitor of all curmudgeons. Merlin is both cranky yet full of vigor. Quick tempered yet a great teacher. Ornery yet kind and caring. The first time we meet this magical old hermit is right after young Arthur literally drops in on him and Merlin is literally waiting. Along with Merlin’s even more curmudgeonly pet talking owl, Archimedes, Arthur is prepared for his rightful place of king. Every kid I knew wanted to have a mentor like Merlin, someone who could transform us into a fish or a squirrel. Someone who could teach us about the world. Someone to take note of us and invest in our lives. Someone who would fly off the handle and disappear to Bermuda when he got angry…

Favorite moments and lines:

Merlin tries to explain the way of the world to young Arthur, telling him that everyone faces adversity, “Oh, bah! Everybody’s got problems. The world is full of problems.” Merlin gets his beard caught in the door and yells, “Oh, blast it all! There, now! You see what I mean?”

When Merlin transforms Arthur and himself into squirrels, an older, lady squirrel becomes quite enamored with Merlin. Growing every more frustrated, yelling “Madame!” at key points of discomfort, Merlin finally decides enough is enough, “By George! I’ve had enough of this nonsense! ALAKAZAM!” He transforms himself back into a human being, leaving the female squirrel confused and upset. “There! Now you see? I’m an ugly, horrible, grouchy old man!” Even Merlin recognizes that he belongs on this list.

While he could be a very grouchy curmudgeon, Merlin also had times of great wisdom, like when he taught Arthur the lesson of love during his very squirrely adventure: “Ah, you know, lad, that love business is a powerful thing,” said Merlin.
“Greater than gravity?” asked Arthur.
“Well, yes, boy. In its way, I’d, uh… Yes, I’d say it’s the greatest force on earth.”

 

 

Frank Costanza – Seinfeld
by Ben Plunkett


Ah, Frank Costanza. Prone to psychotic outbursts. Hilariously and boisterously confrontational. No wonder his son George is a mess (with the very capable assistance of the almost equally psychotic Estelle, of course). The senior Mr. Costanza was portrayed to perfection by Jerry Stiller, whose acting, I imagine, was key to making Frank one of the most iconic crusty old curmudgeon’s of all time. But like all of Seinfeld, there was seriously great, hilarious, and memorable writing going down. A handful (but not nearly all) of Frank’s most memorable quotes and moments:

– “Serenity Now!”

– In my mind the episode “The Strike” is the perfect Seinfeld episode in just about every way. It is in this episode that much to George’s chagrin, Frank’s creation, the alternative holiday Festivus, is revealed to the world.

– “This is Frank Costanza. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We’re moving in lock, stock and barrel. We’re gonna be in the pool. We’re gonna be in the clubhouse. We’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court. And I dare you to keep us out!”

– Festivus wasn’t the only case of Frank thinking outside the box. In the episode “The Doorman” in another insane fit of invention Frank collaborates with Cosmo Kramer to invent the Bro/Mansierre to assist older fellas in holding up their increasingly sagging chests.

– “He stopped short. You think I don’t know what that’s about? That’s my old move! I used it on Estelle forty years ago! I told everybody about it! Everybody knows! (demonstrates the move) Mmm! I stopped short.”

 

Lt. Mark Rumsfield – The ‘Burbs
by Phill Lytle


I’ve long considered The ‘Burbs to be one of the Tom Hanks’ greatest films. I realize I am in the minority, but I am not alone. I’ve met many people that believe the film is wildly underrated. What makes the film work so well is not just the fantastic performance by Hanks, but the wonderful and eccentric supporting cast. No one steals more lines and earns more laughs than Bruce Dern as Lt. Mark Rumsfield. Rumsfield is a retired military man, yet still living in constant vigilance and readiness for war. He is opinionated, suspicious of everyone, and ready to jump to the worst conclusion possible at the drop of a hat.

Favorite moments and lines:

Unfortunately, most of his dialogue is salty, after years in the military, and I will not reprint it on REO. (The film is rated PG-13, so the saltiness is not as extreme as it could have been.) Just watch the movie and enjoy his well directed vitriol and sarcasm. But, for the sake of this article, here are a couple I can mention:

Rumsfield takes great pride in his yard. Unfortunately, he has a neighbor (Walter Seznick) down the block whose yard far surpasses his own. His reasoning why his yard can’t compete with Walter’s, “That old fart. He’s got the best lawn on the block. And you know why? Because he trains his dog to crap in my yard.” A bit coarse and rough around the edges, but straight to the point.

When a group of our main characters head over, uninvited, to the new neighbor’s house, Rumsfield does his best to make everyone uncomfortable with questions, poking around, and examining as much of the house as he can. His interaction with the new family, the Klopeks, is delightful in its boldness and rudeness. One particular exchange has always cracked me up. Introducing himself to the youngest of the Klopek family, “Rumsfield’s the name. Don’t think I caught yours, sonny?” Hans, responds nervously, “H-H-Hans.” Rumsfield responds in the most natural manner possible, “Hans! Oh-ho! A fine Christian name. Hans Christian Andersen! What are you, Catholic?”

That should give you a good idea what to expect from Lt. Mark Rumsfield and an indication why he made our list.




Five War Movies to Honor the Fallen

No one on the REO staff has served in the military. We have never had to risk our lives in service of our country. Yet, we recognize the bravery, courage, and sacrifice that so many of our citizens have displayed throughout the history of our nation. We recognize and we admire those men and women who have fought and died to protect those of us on the home front. There is little that we can do to honor that ultimate sacrifice. Our words amount to so very little in the end. Even so, we will forever be grateful.

So that we do not forget, the REO staff has selected a handful of movies to commemorate this Memorial Day. These films range in style and focus; some telling the story of a few soldiers, while others tell the story of many. Some were made decades ago and some are much more recent. All of them capture the nobility and sacrifice of the soldiers that fought and died so we can have freedom. Take some time this weekend to remember those who have given their all so that we can be free.

 

The Longest Day – by Benjamin Plunkett

The Longest Day recounts the hours immediately preceding and then every single hour on the day of the Invasion of Normandy. I have loved The Longest Day ever since I was a kid. However, it has not always been my favorite. I do not deny that I have had a long illicit love affair with war movies in general. It has not been until the last ten years or so that this has taken first place among the library of war movies that I love. There are a number of reasons it is a war movie to be deeply appreciated. Two are tops in my mind:

1) A huge international cast of some of the most famous actors of all time. Some of the most recognizable actors of yore appear in this movie, all-time greats like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, and Rod Steiger. While that is a very impressive lineup, it is only a sampling of the amazing cast from the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. This means that multiple languages are spoken throughout the course of the film, which, of course, means plenty of subtitles.

2) The meticulous attention to historical detail. The examples of this in the film are legion. And many of the scenes are said to have been among the most complicated scenes to shoot in movie history. To do this multiple directors and units collaborated on the project to make it painstakingly accurate. Two that are particularly impressive: The paratroopers dropping in Mere Eglise and the assault on Ouistreham (which was supposedly the most complicated shoot in the whole thing).

This blurb barely scratches the surface of this great war movie. Its place as a historic educational tool is massive. D-Day was one of the greatest and proudest days in the history of mankind. This is one of the best ways to learn about that very historic event.

 

The Thin Red Line – by Phill Lytle

“This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might’ve known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?” – Private Edward P. Train in The Thin Red Line

Meditative. Poetic. Profoundly spiritual: Qualities rarely used to describe a war film, but they serve as the perfect descriptors for Terrence Malick’s World War II masterpiece. There will be many who will walk away from this film bored or disengaged, but for those fortunate enough to understand the unique cinematic language, the film contains unexpected and unrelenting rewards. Malick uses narration, inner dialogue, and sublime visuals to move beyond the words and actions of the soldiers who fought and died. He allows their spirits to speak to the horror, the passion, and the humanity of war. The Thin Red Line transcends the usual movie treatment, presenting instead an exploration of our deepest questions and longings viewed through the prism of combat and war.

 

Saving Private Ryan – by Mark Sass

Very few movies truly redefine a genre. Saving Private Ryan was one such film. At the very least it revolutionized audio/visual techniques, style, and tone for war sequences in film. Prior to Saving Private Ryan no war movie had ever looked so real on screen. The film made a commitment to communicating the horrors of war like no other. At times the movie was visceral to a degree that was difficult to watch. However, the realism of the film encompassed much more than only violence. Audiences didn’t merely watch the film; they experienced it. Several scenes stood out in this regard, but none so like the 22 minute sequence on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. Unlike many other war movies nothing was glamorized, toned down, or embellished in this film. To this day many regard the Omaha Beach scene as the most realistic depiction of war ever put on film. Audiences got the smallest taste of the true nature of war from the film. And that was very different from how other movies portrayed it. For this reason it’s difficult to say this was an enjoyable movie. No, it’s better said the movie was one to appreciate and respect. Saving Private Ryan told a story that was worth telling. The plot masterfully jumped between the events of WWII and present day in a way that captivated the viewer. Familiar emotions for the genre such as courage, heroism, and sacrifice permeated the film. Led by Tom Hanks, the entire cast delivered top notch performances from beginning to end. The acting, cinematography, editing, music, FX, and everything in between, all came together to deliver a film of the highest quality which will never be forgotten. Saving Private Ryan might be the pinnacle of director Steven Spielberg’s long and illustrious career.

 

Sergeant York – by Gowdy Cannon

When I was a teenager I did not like history. Yeah, I was a doofus. I didn’t like black and white movies. I didn’t like war movies. So when Mr. Marshall Thompson, my 10th grade American history teacher, showed our class a movie that was both, and that I loved, he basically did the impossible.

Based on his personal diary and with the demand that Gary Cooper play the lead, Alvin Cullum York let Hollywood give us his story in a truly remarkable and unforgettable way. I bought the VHS and watched it over and over. I would go around randomly saying “Killn’s agin the book” and “I’m fer the book” in high school and college. I did my character presentation for Mr. John Carter in U.S. History in college on him. (And to this day I regret not doing Sergeant York’s turkey call when classmate and future best friend Joshua Crowe tried to prompt me to during the Q&A time.) I love “Give Me That Old Time Religion” because of this movie. Every time I am driving into Nashville on the interstate and see something off of an exit dedicated to him, I still smile.

A tale of not just war heroics but of a man’s personal and riveting journey, notably of the struggles that come with the Christian faith and its convictions, I think most people can enjoy this film. Even the knuckleheads who do not normally go for movies of its age and genre. I am thankful to it for teaching me how good those types of movies can be.

 

Band of Brothers – by Phill Lytle

Though not a film, no list of this type would be complete without including the HBO adaptation of Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. First released in 2001, Band of Brothers is a ten-part epic mini-series that follows the formation, training, and World War II experiences of “Easy Company”, part of the Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Due to its longer run time, Band of Brothers is able to do something that no film can: it can tell a long, sweeping, fully immersive story that features dozens of main characters, locations, and battles. The viewer is able to spend time with these brave men. We are able to get to know them, understand their strengths and weaknesses. See them perform heroically time after time.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, every detail is handled with care and respect. These were real men that are portrayed on screen by an assortment of incredibly gifted and committed actors. There are interviews with the actual soldiers before and after episodes, which adds another layer of authenticity and power for the series. For my money, there is no greater picture of the war than Band of Brothers.

 




J.K. Rowling, Chekhov’s Gun and the Joys of Rereading

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.[1.Valentine T. Bill (1987), Chekhov: The Silent Voice of Freedom, Philosophical Library]” (Anton Chekhov)

 

(Editor’s note: Major spoilers are included in this article. You have been warned.)

The only thing I have found more enjoyable than reading through the Harry Potter series is reading through it many times.  

My reasons for reading it twice a year or so (with the intention of continuing to do so a minimum of once a year ’til I die) are legion and normal. I get just as many chills the 5th time I read Harry call for his Firebolt during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament as I did the first time I read it. I got just as emotional during Dobby’s death and during Snape’s final pensieve memories the last time I read as the first time.

Some things are better when I reread, such as the final battle between Harry and Voldemort, which is so rich in detail it had my head spinning the first time. I needed several times to grasp it all. Sometimes I just miss details ’til I reread, as I didn’t note ’til about my third reading that Ron put his socks on Dobby’s feet before they buried him, a detail so touching and impacting I cannot believe I missed it the first times.

But on that note, there is one thing that stands out about Harry Potter than causes me to adore rereading beyond the typical reasons. They call it “Chekhov’s Gun” and J.K. Rowling was a master at introducing seemingly minor plot devices in passing that turn out to be hugely significant hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages later. Some were major their first appearance but even then their magnitude after the gun goes off blows me away as I reread.

I am pretty much the opposite of someone like Sherlock Holmes; I don’t notice detail immediately and that actually helps to get lost in stories while reading and watching TV and movies. Plot twists and fired guns catch me completely off guard. Which is a glorious feeling. And Rowling was a magician at these things for over 4000 pages. I remember during my first reading my wife told me: “Rowling doesn’t introduce anything by accident. It all has a purpose.”

And while her plot twists are already legendary, and as they are so well covered, I want to focus on these Chekhov’s Guns, which is trope of a different color. There are many and I’ll mention several but not nearly all.  These are more or less my favorites after having been through the series several times (note I may have some minor details wrong on these and if I do I welcome correction):

 

The Vanishing Cabinet(s)

First mentioned in Book 2 when Harry hid in the one in Borgin and Burkes after he ended up in in Knockturn Alley by mistake. The Hogwarts twin is mentioned that same book when Harry is in Filch’s office for getting in trouble for spreading mud on the floor. They become a bigger yet still minor part of Book 5 when the Weasley twins trap Slytherin Montague in the one at school, where as a result he realizes there are two and that they connect. And that becomes the basis for how Draco uses them to help kill Dumbledore in Book 6.  Amazing.

 

The Necklace at Borgin and Burkes

In the very same scene on page 52 of Chamber, Draco notices the poisonous necklace that he eventually uses in Book 6 to try to kill Dumbledore, but instead nearly kills Katie Bell.

 

The Hand of Glory

Yet again first mentioned in Book 2 when Draco sees it in B&B (how insignificant these details–in such a short scene–seem at the time!) Then, early on in Book 6, Ron mentions that Draco has a HoG. And it becomes a crucial part of how he foils Harry’s friends from stopping him in the climactic scene.  

 

The Tiara on the Mannequin

This one and the next one win for “Most random, easy-to-overlook-while-reading detail that becomes monumental later on”. In Book 6 when Snape has Harry trapped for using the Half Blood Prince’s potions book, Harry hides in in the Room of Hidden things and marks its location by noting it is next to a bust with a wig and tiara. Finding that Tiara is as crucial to anything in Book 7, as it was a horcrux.  

[Not quite as cool but still on topic is that halfway through Book 7 Luna casually mentions the “lost diadem of Ravenclaw” in passing and her father was wearing a (sort of) replica.]

 

The Locket at 12 Grimmauld Place

The mention of the locket is so brief in Book 5 when they are cleaning the Order’s Headquarters that I’ve twice read the book looking for its mention and still missed it. It’s so brief and camouflaged by a million other details on the page that only the most brilliant, hyper observant people likely remembered it the first time through when Hermione recalls it in Book 7. What a gun to go off in the last book!  Covering pages and pages and chapters and chapters of finding the locket, stealing it back, carrying it around and then finally destroying it. And think of all that happens in those pages: the break into the Ministry, Ron leaving, Ron coming back, the doe, the sword, etc.  

 

Dumbledore’s Broken Nose

3,500 pages or so between gun appearance (the very first appearance of Dumbledore in the first book mentions his nose) and gun going off (Rita Skeeter publishes that Aberforth punched Albus coffinside at Ariana’s funeral). Incredible!

 

Ron’s Prophecy about Bat Snape

Not nearly as crucial to the plot as the others but very funny: Ron says in Book 4, “…not unless [Snape] can turn into a bat”…and in Book 7 Snape escapes, by turning into a bat.

 

Dumbledore’s Prophecy About Wormtail

As Harry bemoans letting Wormtail go free at the end of Book 3, Dumbledore assures him one day he will be grateful he did so. And in Book 7, thousands of pages later, Wormtail’s mercy in return helps them escape certain death.  

 

Dumbledore and Snape’s Argument

In Book 6 Hagrid lets it slip that they were arguing so Harry thinks it’s a reason to not trust Snape. Book 7 clears up that they argued about whether Snape would kill Dumbledore.  

 

Dumbledore references the Room of Requirement

In Book 4 at the Yule Ball, Dumbledore casually claims he found a secret room to use the bathroom when he needed it most.  In Books 5 and 7 that very room, the “Come and Go Room” (or “Room of Requirement”), becomes the room for the Hogwarts anti-Voldemort movement.  Thank you, Dobby. And sadly, in Book 6 it is used to plot the eventual death of Dumbledore.  

 

The Diary

This is a huge gun shown in Book 2 (marvel at the moment towards the beginning of the book when they are going to King’s Cross and Ginny forgets the diary at home and they have to go back and get it) that goes off at the end of that book. But even more impressively, it goes off again in as it ends up being deemed a horcrux in Book 6.

 

Marvelo Gaunt’s Ring

Another major gun first mentioned in Book 6 in a pensieve memory, it is so significant that it turns out to be a Hallow and a Horcrux by Book 7.

 

Dumbledore and the Mirror of Erised

No, Dumbledore doesn’t see socks, as he tells Harry in Book 1; Harry surmises correctly all the way at the end of Book 7 at the Hog’s Head what Dumbledore really sees, as Aberforth unloads truths about the Dumbledores that even Rita Skeeter could not dig up.

 

Harry’s Scar Prickling

This one is very early, less than halfway through the very first book and of course we think it has to do with Snape. But we learn quickly that it does not. And it goes off over and over, Rowling adding layer upon layer to why Harry and Voldemort are connected. So while not as obscure as many others, I mention it because amazingly, the final firing of the gun (and the richest detail) isn’t until the penultimate chapter, at King’s Cross in Book 7. We find out that Harry was the horcrux Voldemort never intended to make. This makes reading about the first prickling of his scar in the Great Hall his first day in Book 1 so much more meaningful. And speaking of this…

 

Dumbledore Tells Harry (Essentially) That He is a Horcrux…in Book Two 

This is probably my favorite of all.  Read this dialogue, with the end of Book 7 in mind:

“You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,” said Dumbledore calmly, “because Lord Voldemort can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do I’m sure.”
“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?” Harry said, thunderstruck.
“It certainly seems so.”

Mind. Blown.

 

 

Did I miss some you consider your favorites?  Let us know below!

 

 

 




Five Movie Resurrections and Why They Matter

In honor of Easter and our celebration of the resurrection, I have decided to compile five of my favorite film resurrections. Now, some of you more pious and holy readers might be shaking your heads right now wondering if you should continue reading this, with its borderline-sacrilegious-sounding premise. I assure you, no sacrilege or disrespect is intended. I just happen to be a huge movie fan and I believe strongly in the concept of art imitating life. Or in this case, art imitating death-then-life. I am convinced that resurrection, in a variety of forms, is a powerful storytelling device, primarily since it is grounded in the truth of the greatest story ever told. This will not be an in-depth exploration of these films. There is simply too much ground to cover. I do reserve the right to revisit these films down the road with a more thorough examination. With that in mind, here are five of my favorite movie resurrections. Warning: Many spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

 

Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings)

Tolkien scattered Christ figures throughout his most popular work, with Gandalf being one of the most obvious and powerful. Director Peter Jackson, though not sharing Tolkien’s faith, fully embraced many of these allusions and in some ways, upped the ante. When Gandalf falls to the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, in the first film in the trilogy, he “dies” with his arms extended in cruciform. He gives his life to save the fellowship. When he returns in The Two Towers, he returns transfigured. He descended into the bowels of death and is raised up again in power and glory.

 

E.T. (E.T. The Extraterrestrial)

Everyone knows about E.T. If you don’t, stop reading this and go watch it right now. It is one of the greatest films ever made and you are less of a person if you have not watched it. The film includes one of the best Christophanies, which is ironic considering it was directed by a Jewish man who had no intention of making that connection. E.T. dies, comes back to life, performs miracles, and ascends to the heavens by films end. Awesome stuff which is only helped by the incredible John Williams’s score.

 

Neo (The Matrix)

Whoa! I realize that the religious symbols, words, and imagery that are liberally sprinkled throughout the film were included not out of any devotion to the truth, but more in an effort to tie the film to older and deeper archetypes. For the most part, it is effective. The final scenes in the film step into the eternal conversation about death and rebirth and while the filmmakers divorce their exploration of these things from Christian ideals like selflessness and sacrifice, they do touch upon the concept of Messianic necessity.

 

Truman (The Truman Show)

At some point, I am going to do a deep dive into the spiritual and social truths layered into this film, but for now, we will just hit some highlights. The Truman Show is the story of one man – Truman Burbank – who lives a false life. He doesn’t realize his life is fake, but everyone around him does. He is the unwitting star of a television show that has followed his every move since the day he was born. His entire world is fake; the makers of the show even construct a city-sized studio to preserve the illusion. Late in the film, once Truman has discovered that things are not what they appear, he is confronted by Christof, the creator of the show. Christof summons a storm to destroy Truman’s boat, leaving Truman tangled in ropes and unconscious under water. For the lack of a better word, Truman dies. Then he rises from the dead. Truman continues his attempt to escape, using the still floating  boat and Christof, in a final, desperate attempt, uses the studio’s sound system to speak to Truman. He is the very voice of the god of this fake and empty world. He tries to convince Truman to stay. Every plea and bargain rings hollow and Truman remains steadfast in his desire to leave. There is imagery throughout the final moment of the film that are clearly signposts to the crucifixion, Jesus, and the empty tomb. Combined with the thematic ingenuity of the film, the ending makes for a powerful and satisfying resolution.

 

Thor

Scoff if you want, but in my mind, there are few films that incorporate the ideas of self sacrifice and resurrection better than Marvel’s Thor. Without getting too specific, Thor, the god of Thunder, goes through a massive character transformation; going from arrogant and foolish to noble and selfless during the course of the film. The emotional climax of the film occurs when Thor offers his life to save his friends. He is rewarded with death and then a return to life in a powerful and triumphant bit of cinematic magic. In the clip below, the elements that truly sell the moment are the amazing score by Patrick Doyle and the radiant smile on Lady Sif’s face when she realizes that her friend is not dead.

So there you have it. Those are a few of my favorites. I would love to hear your thoughts on them. Or, you can tell us about some other resurrections in popular culture that mean a lot to you.




“I’m Offended!” What Biblical Offense Is (And Isn’t) In 21st Century America

Be careful, there are some people out there who are ‘professional weaker brethren.’
[Chuck Swindoll]

 

Language is not like math.

That’s what I tell my ESL students often when they ask me about translation and pronunciation rules. Not much we learn in this realm is quite like “2+2=4”. For example, if you ask me how to say “lose” in Spanish, I’d need to hear it in a sentence. I know of at least five ways to translate it and having a limited knowledge of the language, there are probably many I’m not aware of.

Very few words mean only one thing. “Offensive” and all of its forms is a very good example. Something can “offend” me in the sense that it annoys me. It can offend me in the sense that it hurts me. Even in the Bible it can mean that someone is aware of their sin because of Jesus Christ, and angry as a result. And many nuances exist within each of these meanings.

But there is one special meaning of the word in the Bible I think gets confused with other definitions and causes confusion and even at times misuse of the Bible as a result. In 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15, the discussion of what Christians are free to do should cause us to think of “offense” being at times the idea of causing another Christian to stumble morally and fall back into a sin with which they used to struggle.

The concept is not that difficult to get. Paul says it is understandable to have convictions in the sense that you are “fully convinced in your own mind” that you should avoid certain things or that you should do certain things. The examples he gives are things like not eating certain foods or believing that some days should be observed to worship and not others. Convictions often are formed based on weaknesses in our faith, based on temptations that can easily cause us to sin.

He is absolutely clear that you should not force your convictions on other people. One person believes they should not eat meat, since during that time it could lead to struggling with a former life of idolatry. Another believes all food is okay to eat because he has no struggle. Both can be right if they are fully convinced in their own minds what is best for them.  Convictions are not absolute truths, which are true for all people everywhere and for all time. The Bible has many of those (Jesus is the only way to God, etc.), but much of Christianity is figuring out how to live in the way that is most pleasing to God and that will not look the same for all people.

But Paul also goes as far to say that if your liberty to do certain things causes offense to other Christians, you should avoid doing them.  An example that is easy to think of in our culture today is that if I’m with a Christian friend who used to struggle with alcohol and I do not struggle with it, then I would not be acting in love if I drank in front of him or her. (For the record, I choose not to drink for a variety of reasons.)

Sadly, this is the starting point for the aforementioned confusion and misuse of the Bible. It my opinion, based on my lifetime experience dealing with churches and Christians, that people often try to say “this offends me” as if to say you shouldn’t do it because of what taught about not casting a stumbling block. But in reality, they are not offended in that way. They are not really even harmed. They are merely annoyed. Which is a totally different type of offense. Many Christians would not be even a little tempted to drink if another Christian drank in their presence. So are they “offended”? Not in a 1 Corinthians 8-10 or Romans 14-15 manner.

I’ll be frank–I am not overly concerned most of the time with annoying people. I am not acting in love if I annoy people on purpose, generally speaking. But if the fact that I watch a movie or TV show or do something similar that merely annoys people, then I do not have a biblical mandate to not do it based on causing anyone to stumble.

To really practice what Paul was talking about with 21st century American entertainment, I could easily envision a scenario where a friend of mine watches a TV show with more sexual content that I can handle and even though he is not tempted to lust by it, he chooses not to watch or discuss it around me. My conviction is to avoid the show.

Much of entertainment does not cause me any offense. I can certainly make it into something harmful by taking in so much it wastes my time I could doing other things that are better for the kingdom of God. But generally speaking, this isn’t about that. It’s about me being fully convinced in my own mind that I am free to do things others may feel they cannot. And far more often than not, the word “offense” comes up in these discussions meaning “I’m annoyed” and not “I may fall back into sin”.

I recognize this treatment of the issue doesn’t deal with parenting. As a non-Parent I’ll let others speak to that aspect of it. But in my personal life, I want to be careful how I use words, especially words in the Bible, and how I teach them. “I’m offended” may be something serious or it may be something not all that significant. May God grant us the wisdom to know the difference.




500 Words or Less Reviews: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

For an explanation as to why we went to see this movie in spite of controversy surrounding it, please go here.

 

After a two year wait to see this “tale as old as time,” we were not disappointed in the least. I (Kayla) have played Belle in the musical before and have seen the 1991 animated feature more times than I have fingers and toes for. And I’ll admit: there are minor differences in plot, conversation and music in this version that were a tad unnerving for about the first 30 minutes. Yet once the movie settles in, the novelty of live action and the heart of the classic story make this an exceptional viewing experience.

There was some public doubt about whether Emma Watson could pull off this role. Whether or not you wanted her to get this part, most would agree she is a fantastic actress and her European roots give her an advantage as Belle. At the very least we both agree she has separated herself from the 10-year role she had as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies.

The plot altering showdown with wolves and the Beast is cinematography at its finest and incredible to behold in live action. As a first time viewer, I (Gowdy) was mesmerized by this scene and how the story unfolds from there. The Beast becomes captivatingly sympathetic that he is extremely attractive from that moment on. The magic of Disney storytelling is absolutely at its finest during this stretch of the two main characters interacting, culminating with the renowned images of them dancing together. Fans of The Beauty and the Beast story in any version will appreciate how easy it is to get lost in fantasy of those few moments. The perfect lyrics, the immaculate music, the heart-stopping improbable romance…this is why Disney has made a gazillion dollars over the last few decades.  They capture the absolute best of human imagination and make it feel so real.

Not to be outdone at all is the castle staff-turned-castle objects, who are utterly endearing and show how far our uninhibited technology has become at making anything possible on the big screen. Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, et. al, add much depth and humor. Luke Evans as Gaston is a fine antagonist and Josh Gad as LeFou brings plenty of laughs and personality. We have very few criticisms with the film in general, especially with acting and the portrayal of the characters.

And, on a final note, we are sure people are curious about the aforementioned controversy. It is our opinion that it was much ado about nothing. Nothing about LeFou is stated plainly in regards to sexuality. You can make assumptions (we try not to in real life) and the “moment” that caused the headlines can be interpreted how you wish, but we are both doubtful that many people can find any of it offensive. If you have questions you may ask them below.

We plan to see it again, and I (Kayla) have never seen a movie twice in the theater.  It’s that good.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of Five




Why My Wife and I Are Not Boycotting ‘Beauty and the Beast’

There are two things I would love for the readers of REO to know before reading this. One is public and one is more private.

First, we have been clear that it has never been our intention to constantly opine on the social media debate of the week in the US, whether political or cultural. We occasionally do so, but to give a proportion, we’ve written around 150 articles in the last nine months, and about 4 of them have mentioned Donald Trump or anything explicitly political by name. We write about what we love and we do not want to be a click bait website.

Secondly, and something we have not talked about as much, we organize pretty thoroughly behind the scenes what we want to do and how to go about doing it and when to publish what we write, etc. There is feedback and discussion and nothing is published without being filtered through the staff. And in an attempt to be prepared, we will often give ideas for articles months ahead of time.

As far back as late January, I bought tickets for my wife and I to go see Beauty and the Beast in our local theater the night of March 16th (the first showing possible) and then communicated to the REO staff that I wanted to write a 500 Words or Less review for the site to run on March 17th. So people who plan to see it can read a review from our site before going. Beauty and the Beast is easily my wife’s favorite Disney production; I’ve known since nearly the beginning of our relationship how much she adores Belle. And even I was a little excited to see the woman I know as Hermione Granger playing the lead.

In the last few days, however, this movie has made waves among many people we know due to the announcement of a gay character being introduced. Christians in particular have been vocal about not wanting to watch it and even using words like “boycott.” This has caused me to wonder how to go about handling my review next week because my wife and I still plan to see it.

In an attempt to be transparent with our readers–and not to cause conflict just to shamelessly gain clicks on our site–I want to explain ahead of time why we are still going so that when our review comes out next week there is no surprise.

To our knowledge, my wife and I have never “boycotted” anything. We never considered boycotting Target last year and I have not boycotted anything for political or religious reasons as far back as I can remember. There are definitely things I have refused to see or participate in (like any of the 50 Shades movies), but we have never avoided something we would normally see or patronize because of a change in policy or a change similar to the one Beauty and the Beast has made for this 2017 live action version.

The reason is that it simply does not offend me in the sense that it will cause me to do, think or believe anything wrong. If a movie I wanted to see decided to have nudity, that would be one thing. This is different to me. I, personally, would find it hypocritical for me to pick and choose certain things to be offended by in entertainment and not others. I have written about numerous books, TV shows and moves for this site, nearly all of which feature things Christians could claim to be offended by, but they quite often do not. To be consistent, I have settled on defining ‘offense’ as things that truly cause me to stumble in my faith. What Disney has decided to do does not qualify as that any more than an average episode of Seinfeld.

Also, I personally have decided that as a Christian I can do greater good by having conversations with people I disagree with instead of boycotting things where communication and attempts to dialogue often do not take place. I do not judge  anyone who chooses to boycott this movie. Please note the continuous use of the word ‘personal’ in this article. If someone wants to boycott things, that is their right. I just think in my life and in my context I would do more harm in culture wars to boycott with a public announcement, instead of trying to facilitate productive discussion. Especially if I am not engaging people outside of social media to try to practice being slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to get angry.

We hope this does not cause anyone to think less of me or REO in general, or even to unfollow us. Every one of our writers believes the Bible is the Word of God and that it is true in all that it teaches. We maintain historical, orthodox positions on all doctrines as best we understand them. But I personally believe the way we live out the Bible in the culture wars may change person to person. I, Gowdy Cannon, choose to not boycott Beauty and the Beast for the reasons in the recent news. I think I can do good by not doing so.

But we love to hear back from our readers and I am not above criticism. We welcome comments of any stripe that are conducive to healthy discussion. So if you would like, please let us know what you think below.