Order Not Chaos

By Wayne Johnson

Twelve years ago I began my first college class as an instructor. It was a scary and exhilarating experience to give my first lecture. I was teaching an Intro to Computer Animation Class in Softimage. The first assignment was to create something like the whale ship from Star Trek V.

One year later I was the head of the program and had a direct hand in guiding the philosophy behind the program. It was my job to unify the ideas being expressed so that the students would know how to use all of their skills to create their unique vision on the screen.

Today I stumbled upon the document I created that all of the students received when entering the program. It was a list of goals:

Master Our Craft
Unify Our Artistic Language
Show A Great Story
Make Our Animations Live Not Just Move
Make Our Animations Cute and Funny
Orient The Viewer
Advance The Plot
Reveal Character

Even thou the two in the middle referenced animation specifically, those goals are the same for me today as they were 12 years ago.

I would like to point out to the artists that I have trained and worked with over the years that these goals should be very much a part of your artistic life.

Mastery of our craft is an ongoing affair. It is a combination of academic study as well as empirical experience. We have to understand and embrace the tools of our time and take into account the world in which we live and the audience in which we speak. There must be a balance of human expression and the technological tools of our trade.

We must also use a medium that is relevant to our day. Following the footsteps of the great wood cut artists or triptych painters is a great exercise but there is no one looking for the expression of truth in those mediums today. Painting (and even photography) in general has become relegated to decoration and is rarely looked at as a means of expressing ideas and emotions to the general viewer.

The dominant form of expression is the moving picture and will be for the foreseeable future. Yes, music and literature still have a hold on a portion of our society but the moving picture is the prime source of expression. It combines all art forms into one pure form of expression that has the ability to communicate and express ideas and passions like no other medium man has used before. It can reach all levels of society and all levels of education and cross even the most diverse cultural barriers. The moving picture has power to shape and change our world in a way we have not yet fathomed.

But it also saddles the artist of this high art form with the responsibility to use it with an understanding that it can change things, for better or worse. We have to understand that our broken humanness has a tendency to express without thinking through the results.

One perfect example in philosophy is the work of Karl Marx. When he was a young boy his family was very religious and his father expected that the family follow every one of the tenants of their faith. However when the family moved to a new town that was dominated by Lutherans, Marx’s father switched faiths because it would be good for business.

Marx was devastated by the sin of his father and set out his life to build a world with no religious ties. But he did not see the possible consequences of this world without a moral foundation. He was driven by his desire to break free from his father’s mistake and build a world that stood apart. Do not artists seek to do the same?And what have been the devastating results of Marx's ideas!

And if we seek to express those truths and emotions without thinking through the possible consequences of those ideas we are not taking responsibility for our expression.

For those that hold a more Post Modern, Existential, Nihilistic view of existence I ask you to seriously explore the logical ends your faith promotes. Belief in random chance and relativistic ideas has only one end, totalitarian oppression of all.

What does my side story of ideas have to do with the list of goals laid out so many years ago? Without a solid truthful foundation of existence, goals and rules have no meaning, no purpose, no point. Art and expression are completely and totally a waste of time in a world that believes there is no creator.

As I come to the end of my twelve years of teaching, I still believe that those goals still must be followed, and that there is a creator who built and orderly world.

Wayne's commentaries can also be found on his site New Discourses On Art.

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Weekend DVD Recommendation: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Sophie Scholl The Final Days Movie PosterDirected by: Marc Rothemund
Written by: Fred Breinersdorfer
Starring: Julia Jentsch, Fabian Hinrichs, André Hennicke and Gerald Alexander Held

Not Rated: No questionable material outside some mild language.

Buy this movie hereBuy Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Irish political theorist Edmund Burke stated “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” We all would like to think that if we were faced with evil we would have the fortitude to stand against it. Unfortunately, history shows that people not only don’t confront evil, often they fail to recognize its presence until it is too late.

During the Nazi Party’s rule in Germany, a small University of Munich student group called die Weiße Rose (The White Rose) did what they could to bring attention to the brewing evil in their homeland. The group would secretly distribute leaflets and put up graffiti. Their anti-Hitler campaign brought attention from the authorities and the eventual arrests of members by the Gestapo.

As the title suggests, this film follows the final days of die Weiße Rose member Sophie Scholl. Scholl (Julia Jentsch) was executed by the Nazi regime along with her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) and friend Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter) for their righteous treason.

I consider this film to be one of the great hidden gems of the last decade in cinema. The screenplay by Fred Breinersdorfer offers what has to be the best display of combating worldviews put to screen. Breinersdorfer takes the interrogations of Scholl and turns them around on her captors. Scholl is being interrogated but her steadfast morality actually ends up putting the worldview of the Nazis on trial.

On one hand we have the Lutheran Scholl whose view of the world is determined by Christian principles. Her faith informs her decisions and actions. While she initially attempts to defend her family and friends and deny the charges of high treason, she eventually relents and accepts responsibility for her deeds.On the other side of the argument is Gestapo functionary Robert Mohr (Gerald Alexander Held). Mohr represents the Nazi worldview. He attempts to defend his desire for the Nazi philosophy to be correct.

Breinersdorfer contrasts Scholl’s slightly watered down Christian ethos against Mohr’s sputtering belief in Hitler’s promises of a man made paradise. The interrogation scenes alone are worth the price of admission. They are masterfully written and acted by Jentsch and Held to near perfection.

Beyond the interrogation scenes, the film also does a strong job of showing the wheels of dictatorial “justice” in action. Scholl is hurried through the procedures of the legal system as if she were just another widget coming down the assembly line. There’s hardly a moment for human interaction or thought. The Nazi machine was a massive rubber stamp regime that utilized the bureaucratic tools to dehumanize the process of killing people. Once Scholl gets caught in the machine her doom is inevitable.

In the context of the film, the bureaucracy expresses the lack of justice in this world. Scholl’s beliefs are based in God’s Law and His ultimate justice. His law is eternal and consistent. The feeble law of man is hindered by the sway of man’s inclinations. Yes, the legal system that killed Scholl was a functioning organ, but it was poisoned by the sickness that is Nazism. Scholl’s beliefs are consistent because she relies on God for her direction, not the machinations of man.

Even if you do not like films that have subtitles, this is a fantastic production that deserves your attention.

Julia Jentsch and Gerald Alexander Held in Sophie Scholl The Final Days

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

Pulp Fiction Movie PosterShould I see it?
Film Students/Geeks: Yes.
Real Humans: No.

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Quinten Tarantino and Christopher Walken

Rated R for detailed depiction of drug use, brutal violence, rape, sexual content and harsh language throughout.

Rent or Buy This Movie Hererent Pulp Ficition

Quentin Tarantino is blessed with a genius for language. He also has a talent for wielding his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and pop culture. Unfortunately, he is also a master at squandering his gifts on self-indulgent pap.

There are good reasons why Pulp Fiction will be the film Tarantino shall be remembered for. It will consistently be placed as one of the most important films of the 1990’s. The film is a knot of four stories, each centering on underground characters in Los Angeles. The stories mingle with one another in narratives, characters, and timelines in such a way that a character killed in a scene will reappear in a later one. The disorienting ordering of scenes combined with the rapid fire dialog makes this film a unique presentation. Tarantino's masterful dialog also makes his script a textbook for aspiring screenwriters.

From a technical point of view, the film is quite remarkable. Tarantino has masterful dialog, carefully crafted scenes, and memorable performances from the cast. All these things make Pulp Fiction a film worth noting. If I can so easily offer it such praise, how can I honestly turn around and tell you not to see it?

Tarantino paints a brilliant picture, but fails to infuse it with any purpose. Art without purpose is design. While design is fun, it doesn’t hold anything for the soul – it is made for the eyes. This is a very “cool” movie but it is hardly fulfilling. There are plenty of thrills, as there are numerous striking scenes of violence, sexual depravity and drug use. There are scenes which will stick in your mind, including a male rape scene, a detailed how-to scene on shooting heroin; and even worse, Bruce Willis naked. Again, Tarantino paints of brilliant picture, but his subject is truly ugly.

For the extent of the run-time you are watching hideous people doing horrendous things to other hideous people. Everyone is an amoral beast carelessly drifting through the world causing mayhem and bloodshed along the way. Instead of pulling the various plots together into a decisive moral point, Tarantino is comfortable letting the loose ends float in the wind without resolution – therefore there is ultimately no point.

No one in the film matters, because in the universe Tarantino presents, life has no meaning. If life is meaningless, so is death. As an example: Marvin, a young black man, is shot in the face while riding in a car with a pair of hit men. Marvin’s head explodes all over the backseat. The moment his brains splatter, Tarantino has him referred to as “dead nigger” for the remainder of the scene (and often uses the term as a joke). Marvin is no longer a man, he not an individual, he's not respected. He’s just a "dead nigger" who needs to be mopped up. If it were clear that Tarantino were trying to show the world as an amoral jungle this may be forgivable, but he never delves that deep into his own philosophy.

Pulp Fiction Honey Bunny and Pumpkin

What is very frustrating is that there is actually a hint of depth in the film’s prologue and epilogue. Two petty thieves, known by their intimate nicknames Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, hastily plan to rob the crowded diner where they are drinking coffee. The film opens with them plotting the caper. In the film’s closing scene we return to the couple as they rob the shocked diner patrons. Unfortunately, one of the patrons is a career criminal who refuses to be robbed. In this final scene of the movie the pair of petty thieves is actually cast in the role of the sinful Adam and Eve. The professional criminal who is turning from his wickedness becomes a de facto Christ figure (who spews a made up extended version of Ezekiel 25:17). I understand it sounds bizarre, but Tarantino manages to shoehorn this into the film. Just like the nihilistic aspects of his script, he fails to focus long on this spiritual aspect, leaving the audience with the sense something was expounded while really skirting the whole issue.

The movie was made simply to consume, and that is all. There is no overriding reason to see the film other than it's "cool". This is fine if you're a simpleton who has no expectation from cinema other than titillation. If you break this film down and look at it, it is hollow.

Yes, many critics and cinephiles rave about this film. Their excitement is understandable, but I believe it is misplaced. This is a memorable and invigorating film to be certain. Under close inspection, there is little going on beyond popping dialog and flashy moments of grotesque evil. Ultimately, this is a vile trip through the imagination of a man who is stuck in his corrupted adolescence. As I have stated on this site before, Tarantino is a legitimate talent, but he has the instincts and mentality of an abused twelve-year-old boy left alone with a box of frogs and firecrackers.

Click below to view the trailer
Pulp Fiction Marsellus Wallace

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews

Scott Nehring Christian Movie Reviews
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