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My Unvarnished Opinion On Seven Current News Items

What an exciting time for news. There is more things happening than I can really keep up with, especially with Easter on the horizon. But that doesn’t keep me from having opinions. I’ve always got opinions.


1. As it pertains to “March For Our Lives” this weekend, I have three thoughts. Thought one–I am proud of those students who marched, and I hope they learn something about civics, citizenship, and democracy. Thought two–A nation that doesn’t listen to its children will miss a blessing, because our children can often see things we’e become too hardened to perceive. Thought Three–A people that let’s children dictate the terms of the argument or worse yet, govern by mob or sentiment, is a people that will not last much longer.

2. This “Cambridge Analytica” thing is really a giant nothing burger. Facebook was designed to do this exact thing–gather data and sell it. Why do you think Facebook is free to users? I don’t understand why anyone is shocked that Trump organization would have used this data in its campaigning. Now, if they shared this with Russians, or got the information from Russians, that would be different (although historically, that really isn’t that big of a deal either) but just using the information is something all campaigns have always done. Anyone who truly follows politics knows this.

3. I pastored in 90s. I remember Monica Lewinsky. I remember the media’s constant reporting on it. I remember downloading The Starr Report on the internet before the internet had learned to walk. It took something like six hours to download. Morality mattered then. It matters now. I don’t want the details, I just want us to hold our leaders to account for their actions.

4. I am very pleased with the Final Four. I predicted two of them–Kansas and Villanova. Gonzaga let me down, but there is nothing new there. I adore the mid-major being in the mix and even though I got Kansas winning it all, I wouldn’t be mad if those Catholics from Chicago won.

5. As predicted on this blog one week ago, President Trump is on a firing spree. I polled you, and 18% predicted correctly that it would be H. R. McMaster who got the boot. Good job, 18%. What no one saw coming was that POTUS would replace him with a warmongering nut job who has publicly advocated for the United States to attack Iran and North Korea, is unrepentant in his advocacy of the Iraq War, and in general doesn’t favor diplomacy at all. Also, note how Trump keeps hiring people who are talking heads on FOXNEWS. If Eric Bolling becomes the chief communications director or Sean Hannity is announced as the new Chief of Staff, I think we’ll be in real trouble.

6. Expelling diplomats from Russia is at least something, but it seems the wrong something. We need diplomats to talk to each other. That is how wars are avoided. When you get rid of diplomats, war becomes that much likelier. Perhaps some kind of economic sanction would have been better, or more of those ‘targeted’ sanctions used in the past. But considering this all started with the death of a Russian double-agent sitting on a park bench in London under the protection of MI-6, I think the best use of this story is as the plot for James Bond 25.

7. Once upon a time, Republicans were fiscal conservatives. That was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. President Trump dumped really bad protectionist trade tariff’s last week and then signed a ginormous spending bill that people have already forgotten about because of salacious news (see number 1, above). This is when the GOP has control of both houses of congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court, for that matter.

 

Vote Early And Often–Who Gets Fired Next!

Vote in my highly unscientific poll. Which person will President Trump fire next?

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit, he is on quite a roll. Last week he fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then fired Andrew McCabe over at the FBI on Friday night, a mere twenty-six hours before his pension would have kicked in. Technically it was Jeff Sessions who did it, but everyone knows the order came from POTUS.

Now I’m wondering, who will he fire next? I predicted he would fire Jeff Sessions before July 4 LAST YEAR (click here to read that blog I wrote after Comey was fired). It might still be a safe bet he’ll be fired because, as I pointed out then, the first rule of an assassination is to kill the assassin. Sessions did the dirty work, now he’s got to go, too. As you vote, and for future clarity, remember a resignation counts here, because we all know those are ‘fall on your sword’ type things. For example, I suspect H. R. McMaster will not be fired, but will resign and that is the same, for our purposes here, as a termination.

So, vote below on who you think will get the axe next. Remember, you have to click on the “vote” button for it to go through, after that, you should be able to see how the voting is going.

 

 

2018 Oscar Preview and Picks

I watched them all. All nine of them. Here is a brief, no spoiler review of each Best Picture nominee. Following that, I will predict some winners in the major categories. Then I will elaborate on some themes from this year’s movie selections. So, here here we go, in alphabetical order.


Best Picture Quick-Review

Call Me By Your Name

Pretentious. Snobbish. Boring. The only truly great part of this film was the acting done by Michael Stuhlbarg. I can’t get the thought out of my mind that this film is nominated solely because it is a homosexual love story. If it were a straight love story, with all the same elements, people would yawn. What is not a yawn, though, is the very disturbing ages involved–a grown man and a 17 year old boy. I’m pretty sure that is a crime.

Darkest Hour

This film has some great one liners, and the storytelling is superb. It is hard to take such a well known subject and historical figure as Winston Churchill and make it interesting, but this movie does just that. There are some bits that are ahistorical, but that doesn’t take away from the truly outstanding film this is.

Dunkirk

If like you lots of scenic panoramas, then this is your film. However, if you like a little dialogue, then maybe not so much. I bet the screenplay for this movie is no more than a page and a half.

Get Out

Of all the films, this one surprised the most in how much I enjoyed. It is equal part Rosemary’s Baby, The Village, and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

Lady Bird

If you like Juno, you’ll love this movie. Great acting. Witty dialogue. Religious overtones, both positive and negative, as well as that great classic mother/daughter angst.

Phantom Thread

Asparagus. Mushrooms. and Loud breakfast. That is all you need to know. The acting here is superb, but the story leaves me flat. The MC is interesting, but not interesting enough to make me care.

The Post

Great historical film, but I think it misses the mark in terms of greatness. It wants to be Spotlight for the Vietnam War. This is not Spotlight.

The Shape Of Water

Of all the movies nominated, this was the one I was most excited about. Boy, was I disappointed. I know lots of people love this film, but I just couldn’t. The acting is good (again, Michael Stuhlbarg steals the show) but I hated the overall story. And what is with the Parisian arthouse soundtrack to a 1960s era movie set on the East Coast? This movie ruined some of the sweet nostalgia I have for The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Three BillboardsOutside Ebbing, Missouri

This is a disturbing movie. Its s loud, profane, vulgar, and shocking. These elements combine in a powerful way to evoke deep emotions. It reminded me of the Coen Brothers.


Predictions

Best Picture

I predict Darkest Hour. Billboards has a punchers chance, and Get Out is a long shot.

Director

This is the toughest one for me to pick. It should probably go to Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, with would split the best picture and best director categories. The problem is, Jordan Peele did so much with so little in the movie Get Out that I really think I want him to win.

Leading Actor

If anyone besides Gary Oldman wins it is a travesty. I love Denzel Washington, but if he wins it is because the academy feels guilty for not picking him last year for his outstanding role in Fences.

Leading Actress

Frances McDormand in a landslide. If Saoirse Ronan won, though, I wouldn’t be mad.

Supporting Actor

Woody Harrelson. He and Rockwell could split the vote, but I think Harrelson has this. The biggest question is why is Willem Dafoe even on this list. The best acting in The Florida Project was Brooklynn Prince as Moonee and Bria Vinaite as Halley, who aren’t nominated for anything anywhere, which is a real shame.

Supporting Actress

Laurie Metcalf wins.

Animated Feature

Coco

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049, although Dunkirk might sneak in there.


Themes

It is always interesting to me how the Oscar films tend to follow themes that might reveal a lot about culture and the times in which we live. This year is no different.

  1. The historical Dunkirk as the symbol of snatching hope in the moment of despair. This is the focal point of both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour. I  feel like these are companion films that should be watched together.
  2. Elaborating on that theme, the overall feeling of ‘trapped’ comes to mind. That is true in Dunkirk and Darkest Hour, but also Get Out, The Shape Of Water, and even Call Me By Your Name if you get right down to it. One can even spot that theme in the movie Lady Bird and it shines brightly in The Florida Project and MudBound.
  3. Only two films are set in the present time–Billboards and Get Out. (Caveat, it is possible in mind that Get Out is actually set in the future, but that is a different discussion). As the world gets more complicated and technologically driven, the stories we tell go back to simpler times. This might be because telling a story in the era of technology is difficult. This is what some of the problem was with the Blade Runner reboot. Technology is not all that interesting, and it removes opportunity for narrative.
  4. Women are the future. Water, Billboards, The Post, and Lady Bird are female driven films. This is a very good thing. The next hurdle for Oscar will be women behind the camera getting serious consideration for directing.

You know I’ll be watching the Oscars Sunday night. I guess we will wait and see who wins and how right or wrong I was. I still have not forgiven Oscar for Birdman, so disappointments are possible.

 

5 Things I Love About Billy Graham: In Memoriam

c93b53ad616e615faf39c2a908de98fd--billy-graham-quotes-travelingThere is a lot to love about Billy Graham. Learning of his death today at the age of 99 is bittersweet. Bitter because it represents the end of something special, but sweet because it is the actual beginning of something else–something Billy talked about so often–eternal life. I’m a little younger than those who were very influenced by Graham, for by the time I came into the ministry his primary years were already behind him. Nevertheless, he still had an impact on me as a believer and as a pastor. To be sure, he wasn’t perfect–only Jesus has that wrapped up, but he was a positive and powerful influence in the world. Here are five things I love about him.


1. I love the Billy Graham Rule. In a world filled with #metoo, we need to remember Graham was way ahead of the curve here. He pioneered the idea of never being alone with a woman who wasn’t your wife. I was taught this in seminary as the Billy Graham model, and it has served me well. A corollary to this involved the establishment of a board to handle money and make salary decisions. Graham taught us that staying away from temptation on the two fronts where men and ministers are most vulnerable is good ethics.

2. I love the way he adopted whatever media worked. We often think off I’m with the big crusades, but he used television, radio, leaflets, tracks, and even films. I am sure many of us remember watching those evangelistic movies from the BGEA. I am certain that if Graham were hitting his stride today, he’d be tearing it up on Twitter and Youtube. Scratch that, he’d be all over #thesnapchatofdecision.

3. I love his book on angels. I don’t really agree with everything he writes in it, but I love that he took the time, did the work, and wrote a theological treatise. It demonstrates to me that even though his gospel ministry was really the same message over and over again, he had a heart for academic pursuits and biblical knowledge.

4. I love that he helped found the magazine Christianity Today. CT is one of my favorite magazines.

5. I love his commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior rather than a commitment to politics, denominations, or particular churches. To be truthful, there were times when it seems like the power of politics, particularly during the Nixon years, threatened to sweep him away like yet another fad. Yet, to his credit, he chucked all that and turned back again toward his first love. He got burned, but learned his lesson.

Rest in Peace Billy. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.