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The Highwaymen: A Review

Mrs. Greenbean was gone this weekend, so I was left home unsupervised and in complete control of the remote control.

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I watched the new Netflix movie The Highwaymen starring Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, and Kathy Bates. The movie was enjoyable for me on so many levels. Let’s start with viewpoint. This is the first I’ve ever seen, and perhaps only film about Bonnie and Clyde that is told from the law’s perspective. It tells it the way it was, cold blooded criminals who were as violent and mean as any terrorist today. I appreciated that view of things.

A second enjoyable part was the view of Texas in the 1930s. My home state has changed a lot, and this was a look at the Texas my father grew up in. I don’t know where they actually filmed the movie, but the drive to Lubbock from Austin looked pretty realistic to me, as did The North Texas plains.

The third enjoyable aspect was the acting of Costner and Harrelson. I was suspicious going in, but they were perfect. There were a couple of shots of Costner that reminded me of what my father looked like when he was in his 60s–a rugged and strong man who has gained a few pounds but refuses to buy a larger shirt, and thinks he can do what he used to. In fact, the best scene is where he tries to shoot bottles flung into the air, and this is when he realizes he is an old man. Harrelson has the best lines, though. Of particular interest is his reaction to wiretap and how he doesn’t really know what it is, but he uses it several times, and each time not quite in the correct way. Reminded me of George Bush saying interwebs. Bates was good as Ma Ferguson, but I think this is one area where the screenplay may have taken liberties. My reading of history (and I could be wrong here) is she was a proxy for her husband, Jim.

There are some drawbacks in the film. The language can be a little harsh, and I doubt that was historically accurate. The movie also dragged on a bit. Solid editing could have trimmed ten or fifteen minutes. There is some gore, but, in the opinion of this historian, the gore is important here, for what we are dealing with are murderers and the Texas Rangers who caught and killed them. One more flaw, and it goes back to wiretaps. Portraying Texas Rangers as technology averse or ignorant is not accurate. In fact, my understanding is the Rangers were always ready to employ new technology to get the job done.

And now for analysis. One of the themes of the movie is the historically accurate perspective that the masses of people loved Bonnie and Clyde. This is true. A careful viewer will pick up on why–America was in the midst of terrible economic problems, and the bankers and lawmen who protect them were viewed as the enemy. Make no mistake, Bonnie and Clyde were awful human beings. However, to people living in migrant squatter camps, living from day to day, and starving to death bank robbers and cop killers can look like heroes. It also shows us that tension between under-represented communities and police officers is not a new phenomenon.

The Cross Is Not A Secular Symbol

The Texas Department of Transportation is using signs that include a red cross against a blue background to indicate a spot on the highway where a motorcyclist died. The family has to pay $350 for the sign, and there are no options. They have to use the red cross, regardless of their faith commitments. So, a Muslim motorcyclist’s family has to use a red cross. So to a Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or even the supposed atheist. They all have to use a singular red Latin cross. (My information on this comes from the Austin American-Statesman Sunday paper left on my back porch by my kind neighbor down on the cove.)

The reason for this is TxDOT says, and it is backed by the Texas legislature, that a cross is not a religious symbol but is instead a ‘death symbol.’

I found this picture of it on Patheos.com.

RedCrossTXSign

Now, the Pastor Greenbean Blog is all about my opinions, so here are my opinions.

  1. TxDOT is full of bologna. The cross is most definitely a religious symbol–and to me it is the most cherished religious symbol for it is the cross that is the scandal of Jesus’ death and the symbol of my life of discipleship. The cross is what I take up daily.
  2. Here is the thing I don’t get most. That blue sign in no way indicates anything about public safety. It doesn’t say “Motorcycles Watch Out” or “Be Careful” or anything helpful. All a person knows from that sign is that the individual, may he rest in peace, died on that date.  The reason I know he died is because it says “In Memory”, not because of the giant red cross. In your mind edit the sign with just the red cross, the name and date. Edit out the “In Memory” and what would you think it was for? I might come to the conclusion it was a dedicated Christian who paid for that stretch of highway. Or a billboard for a new ministry in town. I’m not sure I would come to the conclusion that the person had died there.
  3. If we, as Christ-followers, allow the state to co-opt our precious symbolism in order to communicate something about public safety, then we are guilty of selling out our faith for public recognition. The is a sin and a mistake.
  4. A related opinion: if they take the cross as a state symbol, how long before they come after the wine and bread? The baptismal waters? The ceremonial anointing oil? How long before they make a church get restaurant licensing in order to have potluck? The point is, once you go down this road, the state will always grab more and more power and more and more control.
  5. The cross was a death symbol two thousand years ago in the Roman Empire. It was a symbol of power, the power of the state to do whatever it wanted to compel obedience and submission. Christ-followers turned it around, though, and it became a symbol not of someone’s death, but of someone who was decidedly not dead–Jesus is alive.
  6. Why can’t TxDOT find another symbol? May I recommend a motorcycle?
  7. To be honest, I am completely baffled by TxDOT’s opinion that the cross is not a religious symbol but a “non sectarian symbol of death.” Do they really believe this, or is it some kind of covert attempt to “Christianize” the unChristian, like Mormons baptizing in absentia for the dead? I can’t believe anyone with any sense at all would think of the cross as anything other than a religious symbol.
  8. The cross is a very appropriate symbol for the resting place of a Christ-follower, a cemetery,  crematorium, crypt, etc… However, it is a violation of what the cross means–a choice a person makes in their waking, living lives to follow Jesus–to impose it upon someone who never made that choice. Likewise, the decision to impose it weakens its meaning to those of us who have made that choice.

So I finish with a plea–TxDOT, please leave our symbols alone and get your own.

 

LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN, AND AGAIN AND AGAIN . . .

What year is it again?  Someone remind me.

GREAT SCOTT!
GREAT SCOTT!

Its either Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or, if you want something milder maybe Back In Time from Huey Lewis, via the film Back To The Future.  Pick your theme song.

But we need one or the other, because I can’t figure out what year it is.  Here is why.

1.  People keep talking about the movies Mad Max, Terminator, and Star Wars.  Oh, and Poltergeist opened this week.

2.  Two top candidates for President of the United States are named Clinton and Bush.

3.  Outlaws rode into Waco, Texas and had a shootout.

4.  My copy of Texas Monthly arrived and Urban Cowboy featuring John Travolta is on the cover.

really?
really?

I’m beginning to think we are stuck in an infinite time loop, caused by a merging of lack of creativity, nostalgia, and cultural dementia.  My sources tell me if we can find the flux capacitor and get Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick to break it, then we can return to real time.  It also occurs to me, maybe only Texas is caught in the time bubble?  If that is the case, then the fix involves Sarandon and Bostwick have to eat chicken fried steak while breaking the flux capacitor.

image from mentalfloss.com

2015 OSCAR BEST PICTURE NOMINATIONS: THEMES AND THOUGHTS

Yesterday I blogged my overview of the best picture nominations, and you can CLICK HERE to read those.  Here are some thoughts I have about the nominations as a group.

best-pic_3166072kThought One:  This is the year of the troubled genius.  The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything both feature brilliant scientists.  Alan Turing (brilliantly portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in Imitation) and Stephen Hawking (equally brilliantly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in Theory) both are super-duper-smart but also have troubles.  Hawking’s trouble is the motor-neuron disease while Turing’s is his antisocial, asperger-like behavior.

These are the obvious ones, but not the only ones.  Chris Kyle, the main character in American Sniper, is in the same category.  He is the ‘best’ sniper in American history, but he also suffers from guilt, PTSD, and a very exaggerated sense of duty.  Martin Luther King is the genius orator and leader of the Civil Rights movement in Selma, but his marriage and personal life is in tatters.  Andrew Neiman is a brilliant drummer in Whiplash, but he is unable to live any kind of meaningful life other than to consistently take the verbal whipping of his abusive music teacher.  The actors in each of these roles, Bradley Cooper, David Oyelowo, and Miles Teller do wonderful work tapping into that complexity.

Thought Two:  Words.  None of these, really, are wordy films.  Budapest and Selma are the wordiest, but Sniper, Imitation, Theory, and Whiplash amaze me with how much they communicate without words.  This is also true of Foxcatcher, which should have been listed instead of Birdman.  I hated Birdman.  I bet the entire screenplay for Foxcatcher is only about five pages single spaced.

Thought Three Boyhood and American Sniper have more in common than you might think.  These two films are about as different as night and day in terms of what you see, but they both cover the same period of time and they are both anchored in the Texas experience.  Kyle grew up in Texas and it was a tough, Texas childhood and early adolescence that lead him to join the military.  It was a unique Texas testosterone that fueled his view of duty, guns, violence, and family.

In Boyhood we see Mason grow up in a different Texas.  He is led by his mother (Patricia Arquette) and father (Ethan Hawke) to go on a voyage of self-discovery and self-obsession.  He plants yard signs for Obama in Houston with his dad, slackers around Austin, and becomes an artist in San Marcos.

Of special interest in this comparison, remember when Mason’s grandfather gives him the shotgun for his birthday?  Maybe Mason’s grandparents hung out with Chris Kyle’s parents?

Their lives are so different, but it is altogether possible that if these were real tellings, Mason might have been at Pedernales Falls State Park with his father when maybe Chris Kyle was there with his wife and kids.  More pointedly, it might not be too much of a stretch to think that Kyle, when he was a rodeo professional, might have been a possible love interest for Mason’s mom.

Seriously.  These two movies overlap in so many ways, but they portray two different Americas, two different kinds of Texas.

Thought Four:  Thankfully, the nominations this year are not as sex-laden as last year.  I wonder if Hollywood has realized that they went too far last year with The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club.  You can read last years reviews to see how I felt about those, but for now it is proper to acknowledge how ‘unsexual’ the 2015 movies are.  The only one that comes close to anything graphic is The Grand Budapest Hotel, and that is more ‘yuck’ factor than anything else.

Why is that? It could be that the last three winners have been The Artist, Argo, and 12 Years A Slave.  None of those were overtly sexual.  Sure, 12 Years has nudity, but it is not sexual.  It portrays the ugly exploitation of slavery.

Thought Five:  Not much to say except, this years Oscars is about as male-centric lily white as one can imagine.  Diversity has been kicked to the curb.  Consider this piece (Click Here) from the L. A. Times.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on the films.  Tomorrow, if time allows me, I will blog my predictions as to who will win the major awards.

image from telegraph.co.uk