Movie opinions: Me against the world

About a month ago I offered up a couple of my unconventional
movie opinions
and as a consequence received a few e-mails and comments
questioning my sanity. I’m veering off of my usual topic of marriage today
to clear up
my reasons
for saying such weird things.

Batman

First, I offered the opinion that Batman
Returns
was a better movie
than Batman. I
said this mainly because the villains in the sequel—Christopher Walken
as Max Shreck, Danny Devito as Penguin, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman—were
far more compelling than Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Walken is creepier and scarier
than Nicholson has ever
been,
and Nicholson did not understand his character at all. The Joker should be
one of the most terrifying characters in the history of cinema. The Joker of
the Batman comics is psychotic beyond anyone’s understanding. Normal psychos
are detached from reality. That makes them frightening and difficult to deal
with because no one can discern their motivations or predict their actions
(Hannibal Lecter is a good example). The
Joker is so detached from reality that he observes it from an elevated place,
in the same way that the sphere in Flatland could
view the two-dimensional world in a way that the poor flat circles and squares
could not comprehend. He is bizarrely inventive even in his own plane of existence,
which makes him completely incomprehensible in ours. His every move is precisely
calculated, but calculated using a system of logic known only to him.
He is terrifying because you don’t know his goal until it is accomplished,
and you don’t understand his motives until they are irrelevant. This is the
Joker.

Nicholson didn’t get that. His Jack Napier became the Joker out of anger,
bitterness, and lust for vengeance. What should have been a character larger
and more expansive than life became a petty thug who killed his boss for setting
him up to die in a police shootout and who wreaked havoc on a city so that
everyone would suffer the way he did. As a movie villain, this is run-of-the-mill
stuff and unworthy of the character. Not even as scary as Col. Jessup
in A Few Good Men.
But Nicholson wanted to play Nicholson and did not raise the
Joker even to the level of Harry Connick Jr. as Daryll Lee Cullum in Copycat.
I can think of only one character in movies that exhibited the kinds of qualities
the Joker
should
have—a character
that played by rules no one else could understand,
that was a little scary even when he
was being nice, that displayed a sort of genius that left all observers gaping
in astonishment—and that is
Willy Wonka played by Gene Wilder in Willy
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
.
Replace Mr. Wonka’s benevolence with wild, freewheeling evil, and you have
the perfect Joker. The difference
between
a Nicholson
Joker
and
a Wilder Joker is that people would look at the first and say, "There
is a man who will do anything to anyone in order to appease his twisted desires,"
while they would look at the other and say, "There is a creature who will
do absolutely anything."

I saw a Jack Nicholson biography program on TV the other day, and one of the
interviewees commended Jack Nicholson and his amazing accomplishment of infusing
the Joker with humanity. I would say exactly the same thing, but in accusation
rather than praise.

The Usual Suspects

WARNING: The ending is key to this movie, and it is with the ending that I
have a problem, so that is what I will discuss. If you haven’t seen the movie,
DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. Rent the movie. However flawed I think it is, it’s
still entertaining and worth watching.

When you watch a movie, you have to have suspend a certain amount of disbelief.
Each movie has its own rules and conventions that you must accept if you are
to enjoy it on its own terms. Some movies play with that and challenge your
imagination and intellect—The Sting, The Game, and The
Sixth Sense
, for example—but
they stick to the rules they lay down at the beginning. Their endings make
perfect sense within their own stories’ conexts. The
Usual Suspects
, on the other hand, pulls the rug out from under you and
gives you an ending that’s not foreseeable even in hindsight.

Some stories have unreliable narrators, which can be an effective storytelling
device. Memento was awesome,
and it had perhaps
the
most
unreliable
narrator
in history.
My
objection
is
that TUS was supposed to be telling a story, and instead it relinquished
all its responsibility to the character of Verbal. It doesn’t leave me wondering
what was real and what was made up. It leaves me wondering why I wasted
two hours caring about characters
that may not have even existed in the movie’s universe.

It’s fine that Spacey lies to the police for the entire movie. It’s inexcusable
that he lies to the audience for the entire movie since his story is the movie.
The ending is not a twist, not a turn, not a surprise that can happen within
the rules laid down at the beginning. It’s a copout ending, and it ruins the
story.

Everyone I know (including my own wife) disagrees with me on this.
They say that repeated viewings yield clues about the real truth. That
may be
true.
The
story
is compelling and skillful enough that I could probably watch it again and
enjoy it.
Maybe
seeing
it with
a director’s
commentary
would
help.
The
first
time I saw it, I was a little enamored with the ending, but that feeling
quickly gave way to disillusionment. To be fair,
I saw it
on video shortly after seeing The Sixth Sense in the theater, so
maybe my standards for surprise endings were a little too high at the time.
Still,
I believe it’s
okay
for characters
to contradict themselves and each other, but not for the movie itself to
do that—especially when it presents itself as cohesive.

Marriage links for the week

Right Thinking
Girl
has some blunt but excellent advice on how
to be a man
in
2004 as well as how
to be a woman

(link via Brutally
Honest
).

Kris Murray, on The Edge of England’s
Sword
, discusses the problems she sees
with modern feminism.

Lori writes about her excitement surrounding her upcoming
wedding and subsequent move
from Arkansas to Scotland. I went through some
culture shock moving from Texas to New York, but nothing like she’ll experience.
Wow.

Ray Pritchard celebrates his 30th
anniversary
with his wife:

I am amazed that she is still here, and when I say it, a beautiful smile
breaks across her face, then a serious look, then "I’m amazed I’m still
here, too." Then a grin and a hug. [Marriage] isn’t perfect, but
it is wonderful. And to my great delight, it
gets better as we go along.

Woodlief over at Sand in the Gears brags
about his wife in a touching
post
(link via Dean Esmay).

His and Hers XXII

His and Hers is a weekly discussion of a question or topic relating
to marriage. On Friday, my wife and I each write our thoughts on the week’s
topic. I invite other bloggers to do the same with their spouses as an exercise
in celebrating marriage. This week’s question is:

Make up a word that describes a phenomenon experienced
in marriage.

Mrs. Happy’s response

yesterever /YES tuh rev er/ n a state in which spouses
feel that they have known each other for a lifetime, while simultaneously feeling
as though they have just met

Curt’s response

arachnaline /uh RAK nuh lin/ n a surge of boldness,
bravery, and protectiveness a man experiences when his wife is scared by something
that
would usually freak
him out, such as a big hairy spider

Leadership

It took me longer than a lot of people to let go of childhood and begin growing
into adulthood. My turning point came when I realized that if some day I were
to get married I would probably end up having children, and that if I had a
son
he would likely grow up to be like me, and that if I had a daughter she would
grow up to marry a man like me. I could not abide the thought of any daughter
of mine marrying that sort of man, or any son of mine being that sort
of man, so I began making a conscious effort to grow and mature. It was probably
several years before any noticeable change appeared in my life, but I have
now almost reached the point that I could comfortably say to a child, "Look
to me for an example of manhood." I’m not saying I’m mature enough or that
I don’t need to grow any more, but the difference between Curt2004 and Curt1994
is staggering. I still have quite a bit of stuff to figure out, though.

After several years of pondering, researching, and picking the
brains of older Christians, I feel like I’m beginning to form an idea of what
a leader is. I shared some thoughts and the thoughts of others earlier this
year (in three parts: one, two, three).
Since then I have learned a little more and have formed a rudimentary idea
of what a leader is. To me, an effective leader needs three things: a love
of his people, a vision for their future, and the ability to move them toward
the vision’s completion.
For a husband/father, that means setting goals. A husband/father must set financial,
social, professional, educational, emotional, relational, domestic, and spiritual
goals for the family. He should have a plan and set about equipping and encouraging
every family member toward those goals. He should have new goals in place before
present ones are reached so that the family never stagnates. He should demonstrate
in his own life how individuals in the family should live and act and relate.
I’ve only begun growing into this role as a husband, and my understanding of
it will surely change as time goes on.

In a post yesterday,
and in a follow-up today, King
of Fools
pointed to a comment on
a post at Dean’s World questioning
whether being a good father has anything to do with being a good president.
I don’t know that there’s any correlation to be drawn between the two roles,
but I do know—as KoF so rightly said—that a man needs to be a strong
leader in order to be effective in either role. He discusses some of the issues
concerning leadership, which I will not rehash here. It is thought-provoking
stuff for me, since I have long wondered how a husband/father should fulfill
the role of leader in a household.

I don’t know that a man must be a good husband in order to be a good president.
Surely there are examples of excellent presidents who were wretched husbands,
and excellent husbands who did little more than occupy the Oval Office. As
I look for leadership qualities in the two current presidential candidates,
I must admit that neither comes across as a consummate leader. Honestly, I
don’t think I’ve seen a true national leader
in my lifetime (in the United States, anyway) except for Ronald Reagan. I do
feel like Bush truly cares about the people more than he cares about himself,
that he loves this country, and that he will defend it no matter what it takes.
On the other hand, I have not seen John Kerry demonstrate a single leadership
quality during his entire campaign. I have no idea if either, neither, or both
of them excel in the role of husband or father. But I do know who’s getting
my vote.

New word

Some friends of mine are on a kick where they’re making up new words to which they assign humorous definitions. Here’s my favorite one so far:

agoracurt: the fear of saying anything around Curt which may wind up being published on The Happy Husband site

Heh.

RLTBâ„¢

Mrs. Happy and I attended the penultimate session of our marriage class
at church
earlier this evening, leaving me no time to write anything of substance.
I must now go and begin acting on certain decisions we’ve made that can draw
us even closer to each other and to God. Real Life Trumps Blogging today, but
I shall return tomorrow.

Kaleidoscopic life

I read this earlier today and thought it was worth sharing here:

When sex is used destructively in a marriage it is both the consequence
of and the creation of a spiritual problem, a void within us and our relationship.
When sexuality is a healthy natural part of an intimate connection, it is
an integral part of the whole relationship. Imagine looking through a kaleidoscope
at all the color particles used to create a mandola [i.e., a circular
pattern used in many cultures as a representation of spiritual ideas—Curt
]. Imagine each color
representing a facet of your life. One color represents your [spouse],
another
your family,
another your friends, another your work, another your hobbies, and another
is your sexual relationship. As you turn the kaleidoscope, the particles
change, constantly recreating the design. Sexuality is simply a part of life,
sometimes more in the forefront than other parts, and sometimes in the background.
It provides color and beauty. It is neither a devil nor a god. It is a wonderful
part of an intimate marriage relationship.

—from One Good Year of Marriage by Dr. David and Janet Congo

Celebrate life and love

For about a year I’ve been friendly with one of the security guards in the
building where I work.
His name is Ted, and he’s a kind old man who’ll talk to anyone about anything,
though his preferred topic of conversation is sports. Back in February or March,
he
stopped
me as
I was on my way home and said, "Curt, guess what? My wife just told me
that she’s going to throw me a big party this year
for my 71st birthday. I was wondering if you’d like to come. It’s going to
be some time around the end of August or the beginning of September." I had
never
seen him so excited—not even when the Jets got into the playoffs (that’s American
football, for those of you who don’t know).

I didn’t hear about the party again. I assumed he would remind me of it when
the time got closer. Earlier this month, it occurred to me to ask about it,
but he stopped showing up for work. I asked a coworker of mine if he knew anything
about Ted’s absence, and he said that Ted’s wife had died. It broke my heart.
If there was anything that gave him greater joy in life than sports, it was
family. He absolutely adored all of his grandchildren, children, stepchildren,
and especially his wife. I knew she had been ill, but he had indicated to me
that she was on the mend, so it came as a shock. He spent some time away from
work for bereavement, and then some more time for a trip to California to visit
his son (a trip he had been planning for some time anyway). When he finally
came back I went out of my way to see him (he had been transferred to another
building), and we talked for more than half an hour about how he was coping
with his loss.

Toward the end of our conversation, he told me that his "adopted" son (a young
man Ted and his wife had taken into their home during a difficult time) had
taken over the duties for throwing the birthday party, so it was still on.
I got directions to his house, and on Sunday, Mrs. Happy and I drove out to
partake in the festivities.

Even though we showed up an hour late, we were the first to arrive. (New Yorkers,
even with their well-deserved reputation for tactless impatience, show an appalling
lack of concern for punctuality.) Before the other guests got there, Ted sat
down
with my wife and me and talked for a while. He had never met Mrs. Happy, but
appeared to fall in love with her instantly. Everyone does. He opened up and
talked about every member of his family in a way I had never seen him do before.
He talked at length about his wife, how she compensated for his weaknesses,
how she was a "beautiful ray of sunshine" in his life, and how the first time
he told her that she said, "You must be some kind of jive turkey."

I can’t imagine what it must be like to live with a woman for so long and
love her so much and then lose her. But the love shown by his family and friends
at the party was truly touching. Both my wife and I were honored to be part
of it.

Marriage links for the week

Nick Queen of Patriot Paradox celebrated
his one-year
blogiversary
this week.
To commemorate the occasion, he lists some of his favorite posts, one of which
is the story of how
he met his wife
.

Jared of Exultate Justi writes
about how a lot of men should treat
women with more respect
(Aug. 17 post, link via Brutally
Honest
).

King of Fools notes his 14th wedding
anniversary with a story of an engagement photo gone horribly,
embarrassingly wrong
.

Jollyblogger has been writing about what he calls The Purpose-Driven Sex
Life
(not exactly what it sounds like). It’s a three-post series that is excellent:
part
1
, part
2
, part
3
.

Adrian Warnock pays tribute to his wife in a rare (for him) foray
into scrapbooking
.

My well-dressed wife

I visited the local mall earlier today. I saw some of the latest back-to-school fashions “in the wild,” and I continue to be amazed at the clothing today’s youth thinks is attractive, or even acceptable. They could all stand to take a lesson or two in Dressing Yourself in Flattering Clothing 101 with Prof. Mrs. Happy.

As a lily among brambles,
    so is my love among the young women.

Song
of Solomon
2:2