Random Movie Review – Evan Almighty +

So this time the old Randomatic 3000 spat out Evan Almighty, the follow-up to Bruce Almighty. I’ve seen them both before so this will be an almighty second coming.

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Bruce Almighty

Director:
Tom Shadyac

Writers:
Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk

Cast:
Jim Carrey – Bruce Nolan
Morgan FreemanGod
Jennifer Aniston – Grace Connelly
Philip Baker Hall – Jack Baylor
Catherine BellSusan Ortega
Lisa Ann Walter – Debbie
Steve CarellEvan Baxter

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 23 May 2003 (USA)

Awards:

BET Comedy Awards, USA 2004

Nominated
BET Comedy Award
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Box Office Movie
Morgan Freeman

Black Reel Awards, USA 2004

Nominated
Black Reel
Film: Best Supporting Actor
Morgan Freeman

Image Awards, USA 2004

Won
Image Award
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Morgan Freeman

Kids’ Choice Awards, USA 2004

Won
Blimp Award
Favorite Movie Actor
Jim Carrey
Nominated
Blimp Award
Favorite Movie

People’s Choice Awards, USA 2004

Won
People’s Choice Award
Favorite Comedy Motion Picture

Teen Choice Awards, USA 2003

Won
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie Actor – Comedy
Jim Carrey
Nominated
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie Actress – Comedy
Jennifer Aniston
Choice Movie Chemistry
Jim Carrey
Morgan Freeman

Ratings:
USA: PG-13
Flickchart Global Ranking: 2382
IMDb: 6.6/10
Metacritic: 46/100
Netflix: 3.5/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 14+

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Jim Carrey & Morgan Freeman

I’ve decided that how you feel about Bruce Almighty will depend largely on how you feel about two controversial figures: Jim Carrey and God.

Let’s start with Jim Carrey. He’s a gifted mugger and can be genuinely funny in small doses…and if I’m in the right mood.

Then there’s God. The way I see it, people’s beliefs about God break down into 8 categories:

1.   God doesn’t exist.
2.   God may or may not exist. I’m not sure.
3.   God probably exists but he’s a cold, distant sonuvabitch who doesn’t care about us anymore.
4.   God exists and loves you, but fuck up once and you’re in the fryer.
5.   God is one with all of us and is in and of everything. That tree outside? God. That tape dispenser? God. The lint that fell out of your pocket and is now attached to the bottom of your sock? Totally God.
6.   God exists and is all powerful but you’re…

a. Worshiping him the wrong way or…
b. Calling him the wrong name.

7.   God exists, loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life…and good luck figuring out what the hell it is.
8.   God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and it’s all right here in this book that has just been translated into today’s modern English. LOL.

I have, at one time or another, subscribed to all of the above with the exceptions of #1 and #5. Right now I’m semi-comfortably camping in the neighborhood of #7. At the beginning of BA, Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is firmly in the #3 camp, with a dose of Depeche Mode‘s “Blasphemous Rumours” thrown in. He thinks God has a sick sense of humor.

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Gimme seven!

Bruce is a bit of a whiner. He has a great life. He’s healthy, gainfully employed, and living with a woman who looks like Jennifer Aniston…what more could a guy want? As it turns out, quite a bit.

Bruce is the wacky human interest reporter at a Buffalo, NY TV station. He gets the hot scoops like the local bakery that’s trying to set the record for the world’s biggest cookie. He really wants to be anchor but the job looks like it might go to the hotshot news reporter Evan Baxter (Steve Carell). When this comes to pass, Bruce has a spectacular meltdown on the air – complete with the one PG-13 allowed f-bomb – and is fired. This sets Bruce on a series of rants where he accuses God of being a big poopy head and tells Him that he could do a better job. So this is exactly what God (Morgan Freeman) decides to do. Give Bruce his powers.

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Bruce, being n’est pas mature, uses his omnipotence to lift skirts of lovely ladies, make his girlfriend Grace’s boobs bigger, get (very painful) revenge on some street thugs, cause Evan to blow his first night as anchor, and get the anchor job himself.

Eventually God comes back and challenges Bruce to…oh, I don’t know…use his powers for somebody other than himself. That’s when the prayers start coming in. Some of them are painful and heartfelt. Most of them are of the “gimme gimme” variety. Not having the patience for this, Bruce just decides to answer “yes” to everything. Give everybody what they want. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I won’t go any further. But BA does bring up a number of questions. What is the real reason for prayer? Does God really answer them? What would you do if you were God? Is it OK to be mad at God? And most importantly…

BruceAlmighty38

God is a Yankees fan? Are you kidding me?

I applaud any filmmakers who bring up these questions, especially in something that’s meant to be popular entertainment. In the DVD commentary director Tom Shadyac indicates that he’s a practicing Catholic, and it shows. As a recovering fundamentalist Christian, I think Catholics and other more liberal Christian traditions have been better at asking questions than fundies.

BA ran into some trouble with fundies of the Christian and Muslim variety. Mainly due to the afore-mentioned f-word and some other crudities. Also Bruce and Grace are living together and one of Bruce’s uses of his power is…well, let’s just say it wasn’t a good night for their neighbors.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Bruce Almighty worked for me. It made me cry at the right moments and, like I said, it brings up some good questions. I have to agree with some of the criticisms about the PG-13 crudeness. I would like to be able to sit down with Boodles, watch BA and have a discussion about God. If only some of the same filmmakers could get together and make a movie from a more PG perspective…well, stay tuned.

tomservo

Tom Servo

44-Evan-Almighty

Evan Almighty

Director:
Tom Shadyac

Writers:
Steve Oedekerk (Story & Screenplay)
Joel Cohen (Story)
Alec Sokolow (Story)
Steve Koren (Characters)
Mark O’Keefe (Characters)

Cast:
Steve CarellEvan Baxter
Morgan FreemanGod
Lauren Graham – Joan Baxter
John Goodman – Congressman Long
Wanda Sykes – Rita
John Michael Higgins – Marty
Molly Shannon – Eve Adams

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 22 June 2007 (USA)

Awards:

People’s Choice Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
People’s Choice Award
Favorite Family Movie

Razzie Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
Razzie Award
Worst Prequel or Sequel

Teen Choice Awards 2007

Won
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie: Scream
Steve Carell
Nominated
Teen Choice Award
Choice Movie: Comedy
Choice Movie Actor: Comedy
Steve Carell
Choice Movie: Hissy Fit
Steve Carell

Young Artist Awards, USA 2008

Nominated
Young Artist Award
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor – Comedy or Musical
Jimmy Bennett
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor – Comedy or Musical
Graham Phillips
Best Family Feature Film (Comedy or Drama)

Ratings:
USA: PG
IMDb: 5.4/10
Flickchart: 9284
Metacritic: 37/100
Netflix: 3.4/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 23% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 8+

churchsign

God has a long history of appearing in media, despite these depictions being forbidden by Judaism and Islam. From Renaissance paintings of an old white dude to the movies where He appeared mostly as a booming voice of an old white dude, usually either British or John Huston. The movie Oh God! and it’s sequels broke the mold and had God appearing in person. As an old white dude.

Monty Python and later Terry Gilliam also portrayed God as a cranky British Gentleman (“I am the nice one.”). Atheist Seth Macfarlane on Family Guy portrays him as a horny old white dude who drives an Escalade. Even though we know that God isn’t a He, He is usually portrayed as male. One exception was the TV show Joan of Arcadia where He/She appeared as a different person every week. Basically, whether in popular media or in sermons on Sunday, because God isn’t a copyrighted character we get to create Him in our own image and get Him to say whatever we want Him to say.

Noahs_Ark

The flood story in Genesis Chapter 6 is where many Christians get off the biblical literalism boat. Seriously? God is so cheesed off at humanity that he just decides to trash the whole thing and make it rain. And Noah and his family are the only people on Earth that he finds worthy to not kill. The guy that get’s so drunk that he passes out, then when he wakes up he sees that his son Ham noticed that Noah’s bits and pieces were exposed. Know what Noah does in response? Thank his son for covering him up so his bait and tackle can’t be seen by everyone? No, he curses Ham and all his decendants. Really? This guy was the best God could find?

Yes, I know that there’s a brand new movie starring Russell Crowe out right now. Maybe I’ll get to it, but if I wait any longer to finish this post it’s going to burn a hole in my brain.

We can have a big discussion as well about the flood itself. Did it really cover the whole world, or just the world as Noah knew it? Or was there literally a flood or is the whole story an allegory? Scholars disagree about whether there is any scientific proof. Actually, I could buy a flood that covered the known biblical world, but like a lot of things I’m OK with the fact that I don’t know.

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When he made BA, Steve Carell was pre-Office and 40 Year Old Virgin. When it came around to sequel time he was no longer second billing material so Evan Baxter became Evan Almighty…except not so much with the almightyness.

The first problem with EA is the character arc that former Buffalo news anchor Evan has apparently undergone. In the first movie he was egotistical and selfish, but somehow in the past couple years we are supposed to believe that Evan has suddenly grown a conscience and decided that he wants to be a Congressman and “change the world.” Well, maybe that all fits into the character’s megalomania. Who else would set themselves up for failure like that?

Really? Running for office touting “hope” and “change?” Good luck with that.

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Anyway, Evan has bought himself a big house in Virginia and a big fat Hummer to establish that he’s a power player in DC now. He’s got a beautiful wife (Lauren Graham, tiger growl) and three fine young sons. He’s successful, powerful, handsome, and happy. Or so he tells himself every day. The night before his first day as a Congressman he decides to pray that God will help him “change the world.” Big mistake, especially when Freeman God’s around.

Things are looking pretty good for Congressman Baxter. He ended up with a primo office and he’s being taken directly under the wing of the powerful Congressman Long (John Goodman) who has a bill he wants Evan to co-sponsor. Then God shows up to muck everything up. God wants Evan to build an ark just like in Genesis because on September 22 at midday, there’s going to be a flood.

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L-R: Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett, Steve Carell, Lauren Graham, & Johnny Simmons avant le deluge.

Here’s another problem I have: God tells Bruce in the first movie that he can’t mess with free will, but God breaks his own rule in this movie. Even though Evan eventually gives in and decides to build the ark, it’s not like God really gives him a choice. A boatload of wood mysteriously shows up in his yard, two of every animal in existence start following him around, and then his appearance starts changing. At first the normally fastidious Evan finds that his whiskers won’t shave off, then his hair starts growing, and by the end he is in full-on Noah mode sporting a “very comfortable” robe and sandals. Naturally none of this behavior goes over very well in DC. Long kicks Evan out and Joan and the kids, thinking that Evan has cracked, consider leaving him while he pursues his newfound nautical hobby.

Perhaps in response to criticism that BA was too dirty or irreverent, Shadyac worked with Christian organizations to overcome some of those issues. I remember seeing an ad for EA in a conservative Christian magazine before it came out. The result is, as far as I’m concerned, quite reverent. I can’t imagine why any fundies would object to it. The screen play even addresses the idea of literal vs. figurative interpretations. At one point Joan asks Evan if he really thinks there’s going to be a literal flood instead of maybe a “flood of awareness?” Evan replies that if that’s the case he is going to “be so pissed.”

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Evan Almighty didn’t get very many good reviews, and the source of all knowledge claims that it didn’t make it’s money back at the box office. I don’t hate it. I think they did a pretty good job of handling some tricky material with humor but without becoming too irreverent.

It makes you think about what you would do if God asked you to do something big? The fact is that He/She asks us to things every day. There are ten of them: Don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, etc. Then Jesus added another biggie: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Most of us, whatever religion or creed we follow, manage to blow off most of these commandments on a daily basis. We aren’t faithful in the little things, so how could we think that God can trust in the big things?

Despite its flaws, I give EA a lot of credit for asking these questions in a mainstream comedy.

cambot

Cambot

Closing Love Theme

I’ve mentioned in a previous review that my favorite screen depiction of God was in Time Bandits, but I think I’m going to revise that. My all time favorite is from Kevin Smith’s scatological and profound movie Dogma. At the end God shows up to clean up the mess that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have made as two renegade angels, and She appears as a strange, enigmatic, oddly beautiful creature played by singer/songwriter Alanis Morrisette.

Perfect. Marvelous. Maddening. Funny. Mysterious. Awe-inspring. Unfathomable. Ultimately – and is this really surprising? - unknowable.

But just because our finite brains can’t really comprehend the infinite, does that mean we should stop trying?

A MISPLACED BOY WILL RETURN

in

DOG EAT DOG (Perro Come Perro)

A Few Lines

So, you probably haven’t heard anything about this. There’s this company named Apple. They used to just make computers and now they make phones. A few people seem to like them.

OK, I kid. Of course you’ve heard of freaking Apple because the iPhone 5 has just come out and people have been standing in lines around the world waiting to get them. Well, the lines haven’t literally been around the world…but they’ve been pretty long.

Now, some people (including the site from which I stold copied downloaded with proper attribution the above picture) have called Apple fans cultists.

Yes, you can also consider this post your Graph of the Week. Remember those? Still doing it…just not very much.

Now one could say that over the years I’ve been involved in a cult or two: MSTies, Bondians, some might even say fundies, but I have actually never owned an Apple product. Nothing against Mr. Jobs et al but when I first got a computer in the 90s I bought a PC (from a friend who had gone Mac) and I never went back. I also have never had an iPhone. I currently have an Android (awkward).

But speaking of iPhone lines and fundamentalist Christianity, there’s a Christmas song that I’ve come across called “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?” I don’t know if it would have made the cut for my Good/Bad Christmas Song list that I did a couple years back, frankly I didn’t listen to it past the first verse and chorus. It got me thinking though. It’s easy to laugh at people who are so invested in getting the very latest gadget that they are willing to camp out in line for it, but what would I stand in line for?

I’m not talking about a piddly line of six people at the bank or the grocery store, I mean a serious line that you’re in for hours. Disneyland I guess. You pretty much have to for the big rides. It’s been a long time since I’ve been though. Maybe for concert tickets, Springsteen or somebody like that, but I haven’t done that for a while.

The longest line I’ve been in lately, if ever, was a couple years back when I was still in California. The actual Emancipation Proclamation was on display for just a couple of days at the Ronald Reagan Museum. I went with Tania, Boodles, and another friend. That line was huuuge because they only let it out of the Library of Congress for a few days at a time so as not to damage the paper. At the time Boodles was five so having her stand in line was impossible. I figured the least I could do was be the line guy while Tania kept Boodles busy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to see the document that freed their slave ancestors from being treated like cattle for so many years in this country. It was worth it. As Tania looked at it, a small tear fell on the glass.

Actually when you think about it, if Jesus actually showed up in the flesh again, who wouldn’t stand in line to see Him? That line would literally be endless. Everybody would bring their sick family members. There would probably be some people in line with big Sparkletts water bottles. Follow them when they leave because that’s where the party is.

It’s probably sacrilegious to say this, but hell yes I would stand in that line for days. First of all, I would want to see what he looks like. My fervent readers will know that I have a pet peeve when movies, TV, and before that Renaissance artists portray Jesus as a white dude instead of a man who was from the Middle East. It’s a pet peeve, but it’s a big one. It’s like a Great Dane peeve.

After I got a good look at the Son of God I might get around to asking him to fix my brain, and maybe put some hair on my head. I hear Amy Poehler is single again, would it be too much to ask…well, let’s not get greedy. Keep it moving, Jesus is a busy God.

So what about it, fervent readers? What would you stand in line for?

Fails of the Week – Bad Christmas Ornaments

So, we’ve established that Christmas trees are evil and want to kill you and burn down your house. In spite of this, many of you will ignore my warnings and put up a tree anyway.

Fine. Be that way. If you insist on doing the whole tree thing, I offer the following bad, tacky, and downright tasteless Christmas tree ornaments for your consideration. And I don’t mean tacky as in something your precious first-grader made for you, I mean tacky as in…well, you’ll see:

♫ Up on the rooftop/Sick, sick, sick ♫ From Zazzle

The Baby Jesus may not have cried, but I want to cry just looking at this. From Wacky Owl

Oh…so these were the reindeer games Rudolph wasn’t included in. From InventorSpot

Carlton Cards “Heirloom” Ornament? Sorry, but if it has anything to do with Grease, it’s not the one that I want. From The Shark Guys

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

And finally, I give you the tackiest and most tasteless ornaments of all. I saw these at my local Walgreens:

I had so many reactions to this that I couldn’t choose just one, so I’m going to list them all and let you tell me which one you like best (or write your own):

a.) Is it just me or do the plastic versions look more lifelike?

b.) Collect them all, just like the Jersey Shore cast members collect STDs.

c.) Something tells me this won’t be the first time Snooki has hung from a tree by her hair.

d.) Three words: Ho, ho, ho.

And, as a public service, I give you…

…a Snooki upskirt (now we’ll see how many search engine hits this post gets).

The New Nativity

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from WalMart that all the world should buy cheap TVs and waffle irons made by slave labor. And all went to buy cheap items, every one into his own city.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night and eating hormone injected turkey with instant mashed potatoes. And, lo, the CEO of Target came upon them, and the glory of Best Buy shone round about them: and they were sore and afraid.

And the angel of Kmart said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great savings, which shall be to all people who hath credit cards.

For unto you is born this night in the city of Toys “R” Us a sale, which is called Black Friday. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find other shepherds, truck drivers, and telephone sanitizers in line to purchase cheap shit. You shall also find babes wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in shopping carts because their parents could not find babysitters.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising Savings, and saying, Glory to Money in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward corporations.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto the mall, and see this thing which is come to pass, which hath been made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found TVs, waffle irons, Barbies, and pepper spray. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this sale. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But some who heard kept all these things, and pondered them in their hearts.

Random Movie Review – Superstar

Here we go again. To make a long story short, I pick a movie at random, I review it, you read the review and find me brilliant and insightful, then you write a comment. For details on how it works, the MST3K scale, etc. Click here.

Superstar

Director: 
Bruce McCulloch

Writers: 
Molly Shannon
Steve Koren

Cast:
Molly ShannonMary Katherine Gallagher
Will FerrellSky Corrigan
Elaine HendrixEvian Graham
Harland WilliamsSlater
Mark McKinneyFather Ritley
Glynis JohnsGrandma
Emmy LaybourneHelen

Country:
USA

Language:
English

Release Date:
8 October 1999

Ratings:
USA: PG-13
UK: 15
Common Sense Rating: Age 14
IMDB: 4.5/10
Metacritic: 42/100
Netflix: 3.1/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% (Rotten)

Yeah…this is what it’s all about, having a good excuse to watch a movie that I might otherwise not go out of my way to see. I was mildly interested in this movie when it came out, but I never got around to seeing it.

So I will admit that I have a thing for funny women, and since Saturday Night Live first premiered I have harbored crushes on many of the female cast members, Molly Shannon being one of them. Her character Mary Katherine Gallagher was just sexy enough with her too short Catholic school skirt, and yet so awkward…and don’t get me started on the whole armpit/fingers thing.

Mary is a misfit, and we all love a misfit because most of us can relate. High school and junior high were hell for me because my sense of humor wasn’t developed yet, and I was a misfit of course. Mary has a lot of special problems, her parents are dead due to a horrible accident that may or be not be shark related, she is being raised by her Grandmother who gets around in an electric wheelchair, and she has trouble expressing herself without quoting a monologue from a 1970′s made-for-TV movie.

What Mary really wants is to be loved, and that means a kiss. Not just a peck on the cheek or lips, mind you. She wants a full on Hollywood kiss where the music swells and two souls connect. What songwriter Bruce Cockburn calls “the suddenly compact universe of skin and breath and hair.” The guy she really wants this experience with is Sky Corrigan, the high school hottie. Played by Will Ferrell, Sky isn’t the full of himself jerk that he could be, he’s actually quite thoughtful and often has a kind word to say to his fellow students as they pass by (“Hey Tom, sorry your Dad’s dead. Hey Bartholomew, nice name!”). The problem is that Sky is already dating Evian, “the prettiest, most successful, most bulimic girl in school.” In order to rectify this situation, Mary must become a…

Superstar!

Now, I’m not even going to try to hide my affection for this movie. Maybe it just hit me as the right antidote for the mood I was in at the time, but it just seemed to me to be a sweet, innocent, check-your-brain-at-the-door movie and I liked it a lot (obviously more than most).  It’s always risky to take a 10 minute SNL skit and blow it up to a whole movie, but this one worked for me. Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell may have been a bit too old to play high schoolers at 34 and 32 respectively, but Stockard Channing was 34 and Olivia Newton-John was 30 when they made Grease and a lot of people like that piece of relentless crap so quit complaining!

Sorry.

The movie was directed by The Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch and features another Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney as the principal of Mary’s school. He does a bit where he’s eating a piece of burnt toast that may be the funniest thing in the movie. Mary’s Grandmother is played by Glynis Johns from Mary Poppins for gosh sakes! Will Ferrell is always fun, and I found Emmy Laybourne adorable as Mary’s very energetic friend Helen.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Movie Scale

Remember that the scale goes from Dr. Forrester (bad) to Joel (good). So for a check-your-brain-at-the-door movie it was cute and funny and I’m giving it a…

Crow

And finally, here’s my Random Quote Whore Quote: Remember, it goes like this: “[Movie Title] is a [adjective], [adjective] [noun] of a movie! [Star of Movie] is [adjective]!!!”

“Superstar is a conducted, godly plasterer of a movie! Molly Shannon is chemotherapeutic!!!”

The 12 Bad Songs of Christmas: #2

OK, so far here on the bad list we’ve covered a lot of territory: Good songs ruined by singers who shouldn’t be singing them, songs with bad lyrics, songs about holiday date rape, and songs by annoying rodents, but so far we have yet to tap into a rich vein of Christmas coal: The depressing Christmas song.

Somehow, over the years the celebration of new life and hope coming to the world in the form of a baby boy has morphed into a time when many people get the holiday blues. It’s natural for some folks who thrive on sunlight to get seasonal affective disorder, then you add all of the other stressors that come with the holidays and voilà, you have a tasty little dish that we call Holiday Depression.

As if all that wasn’t enough, songwriters throughout the years have decided to kick it up a notch by writing songs that make you want to hang a noose by the chimney with care.

Some prime examples of this genre: John Denver’s classic Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas,a heartwarming tune that has also been recorded by Alan Jackson and The Decemberists (appropriately). Then there’s Eddy Arnold’s Will Santy Come to Shanty Town? from his Christmas album that I grew up listening to. And it’s hard to beat Pretty Paper written by Willie Nelson and sung by Roy Orbison.

I could go on and on, but one thing separates the songs listed above from my #2 bad song choice, they seem sincere and authentic. Yes they’re depressing as hell but they seem to come from genuine emotions and possibly real experiences. Not manufactured out of thick schmaltzy goo like so many Christmas McNuggets with the sole purpose of wringing emotions out of the listener, like….

The Christmas Shoes – NewSong

Words and Music: Bob Carlisle

Bob Carlisle was in a couple of Christian Rock bands in the 80s but apparently he became aware of two very important things: That there wasn’t enough a.) schmaltz in the world, and b.) money in his pocket. He set out to rectify those problems with his first solo album Bob Carlisle Lays It On Thick, followed by Bob Carlisle Lays It On Even Thicker. Finally in 1997 he had a big hit with Butterfly Kisses, a very sentimental song that he wrote for his daughter. The song appeared on his album Bob Carlisle Lays It On So Thick You Could Tar Your Roof With It.

Because it’s no longer enough to have a hit song, Butterfly Kisses: The Song was followed by Butterfly Kisses: The Journal and Butterfly Kisses: The Golden Book. Butterfly Kisses: The Breakfast Cereal was in the works but Mr. Carlisle wisely decided that he had pumped all he could out of the Butterfly Kisses Well and that the marketing would stop with Butterfly Kisses: The Microwave Popcorn.

Singer, please. We can’t all be Thomas Kinkade.

Then one night a few years later, Bob Carlisle was visited by three spirits: The Ghost of Money Past, The Ghost of Money Present, and Ernest Borgnine. Mr. Borgnine was successful at convincing Bob that he wouldn’t be able to continue upkeep of his mansion on Butterfly Island unless he wrote a new song. A Christmas song.

Years ago when I was still trying to become a big time Hollywood screenwriter, an actor friend told me that I should write a Christmas movie. “Christmas movies are always successful,” he said, “Even if they suck.” My friend obviously had great faith in my ability as a writer, but he was right, and the same thing is true about Christmas songs. Hell, every year for the entire month of December about nine radio stations in every market go all Christmas songs all the time. That gaping maw has to be filled.

Bob Carlisle did write a new song, he would eventually release the new song on his album Bob Carlisle Is Going To Make You Cry If He Has To Squeeze Onion Juice In Your Eyes, but first he sold his new song to a group called NewSong. And the rest is mediocrity history:

The song is about a self absorbed yuppie (do we still call them that?) who is waiting in line to buy “that last gift or two” when he uncharacteristically notices something other than himself:

Standing right in front of me
Was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing around like little boys do
And in his hands he held
A pair of shoes

And his clothes were worn and old
He was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn’t believe what I heard him say

Sir I wanna buy these shoes for my Momma please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry Sir?
Daddy says there’s not much time
You see, she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes will make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful
If Momma meets Jesus, tonight.

Well, it turns out the young man does not have enough money to buy the shoes so that his Momma will look beautiful when she meets Jesus. And we know what that means; Jesus will say “Come into my Kingdom my good and faithful…wait, not in those shoes!” He will then snap his fingers in a circle and it will be straight to Hell with Momma and her butt ugly shoes.

He searched his pockets franticly
And he turned and he looked at me
He said Momma made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir
What am I gonna do?
Some how I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes

Now, just picture this. It’s Christmas Eve at WalMart. The line to the cashier stretches all the way to sporting goods, and this dirty kid is digging through his pockets for change? I’m sorry, but not only is nobody going to help him out with his shoes, he’s going to be lucky if he survives. He’s at WalMart, WalMart customers don’t play, they kill people.

But in the fantasy world of this song, the narrator has a pang of conscience and buys the shoes. And he knows…he *sob* knows that God sent this little poor boy to teach Yuppie McSelfishpants a lesson.

I knew I caught a glimpse of heavens love as he thanked me and ran out.
I know that God had sent that little boy to remind me
What Christmas is all about

That’s right, Bob. God created that family, made them poor, had their Daddy lose his job because the factory moved to China, made the Mommy have to get two jobs, and then gave her freaking cancer so YOU could learn what Christmas is all about. Because, after all, it is all about you. That woman is going to die tonight but it’s all good, because you learned a valuable lesson.

If you were made out of Brawny towels you couldn’t be more self absorbed.

And what the holy hand grenades is this kid doing out by himself on Christmas Eve?

And why doesn’t somebody tell him that his Mother doesn’t want shoes when she’s dying, she wants to hold her little boy and look in his eyes and tell him how much she loves him so he’ll never forget.

This song makes no damn sense. This song only works in a fantasy world and in the cynical money grubbing minds of people who write and release this shit so gullible people with tears in their eyes will part with their money.

And, of course, The Christmas Shoes: The Song was followed by The Christmas Shoes: The Movie Starring Rob Lowe, then not only The Christmas Shoes: The Book, but four books. It’s The Christmas Shoes: The Saga.

But I need to calm down. It’s all OK because all of the royalties for this song and its by-products have been donated to build schools, homeless shelters, food pantries, and start a shoe manufacturing company in the US that pays its employees a living wage and offers generous health benefits.

What?

Oh…now I guess I’m living in a fantasy world.

≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

And, just in case the original version isn’t bad enough for you…ladies and gentlemen, The Chipmunks:

Finally, if you think my take on this song is cynical/horrid/I deserve to be turning on a spit for all of eternity with demons roasting chestnuts over me, then you might want to avoid this video from comic Patton Oswalt. He makes some of the same points but Scout’s Honor I didn’t see it until I wrote this (NSFW due to language):

Fail of the Week – Jesus Toast

Thanks to RELEVANT Magazine for turning me on to this.

Friends, are you tired of waiting every morning for a divine miracle to sear the image of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ onto your toast? There you are with your oleo margarine and grape jelly ready to partake, and time after time you put in your Webers bread, awaiting the miracle…and nothing. Tears are your only meat once again (well, tears and bacon).

Well, no more! Introducing The Jesus Toaster©:

Yes, now you can take and eat of the body of Christ (well, the face and upper torso of Christ) daily. Smear jam, jelly, or marmalade onto the loving visage of the only begotten Son of God as you count your blessings to live in such a blessed time in history.

While the Jesus Toaster© won’t help you with your spelling…

…it will surely get your day off to a tasty and righteous start!

Disclaimers: No actual miracles are implied by the use of this product. Strawberry jam bleeding stigmata accessories sold separately. Not available in Utah.

And remember friends, if Jesus isn’t your bag we have peace sign and hemp leaf toasters instead.

Book Review – Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess

A young man stands in the back of a church auditorium. It’s another Sunday. Pastor Nolan has preached another sermon, one that contains elements of the same sermon he has been preaching for years. Now it is time for another altar call.

“Every head bowed and every eye closed.” Pastor Nolan orders. The young man in the back ignores that edict, not because he’s rebellious, not even because he is now a teenager and an usher in the church at this point – so he has a good reason to keep his eyes open. He does it because he is troubled by something. He wants to know what is really going on in the church that he has been going to since he was five.

Matthew Paul Turner and I have a lot in common, despite his being 15 years younger than I and growing up on the opposite coast. I was also “churched” my entire life. Where MPT (that’s what I’m going to call him because I think it’s cool to use all three of your names and then abbreviate them like JFK) went to a very conservative Baptist church, I was raised in the very conservative Assemblies of God.

If the name Assemblies of God rings a bell it’s probably because of the many luminaries of the Christian faith that came from the denomination. Hallowed names such as Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Benny Hinn, and Gene Scott all started out as AG ministers. In fact when a televangelist or other well known preacher gets in trouble, there’s a good chance he’s AG.

So, yes, like MPT I was churched. In fact I was so churched that to this day when a bible speaker says to turn to a particular verse I race to it to try to beat the person next to me like we used to in Sunday School Bible Drills. I don’t stand up when I find the verse though…usually.

I was so churched that my first word was “Hallelujah.”

I was so churched that when I found out that my 7 year old friend was Catholic I tried to cast the demon out of him in the name of JEEESUSSSS!!!

I was so churched that whenever I hear a classic bible story like Noah’s Ark or David vs. Goliath I always picture it on a flannel board.

OK, that will be enough of that.

MPT is one of a number of Christian writers that I’ve discovered in the past couple of years who approach their faith with humor, honesty, and the awareness that the answers aren’t as easy as traditional fundamentalism seems to portray them. For me, discovering these writers has literally been a Godsend. Writers like MPT, Susan Isaacs, Don Miller, and Jonathan Acuff have done more to draw me back to my faith than The Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose Driven Life, and The Shack combined (none of which I’ve read of course, but they sit there on my bookshelf encouraging me anyway).

These are Christians who take their relationship with Christ very seriously, but are able to turn a cynical eye at Christianity and point out it’s foibles as practiced. One of my favorite features of MPT’s blog Jesus Needs New PRis the Jesus Picture of the Day where he collects and displays the most horrid depictions of our Lord and Savior ever perpetrated, usually done in all sincerity, and of course Jesus is almost always Caucasian. Here are a few of my recent faves:

“Betty, was the billboard your idea? Don’t you think we have enough perverts coming to our church?” – Tom, church billboard committee member

“I just feel safer carrying your burdens.” -Jesus

Jesus loves the little white kids, all the white kids in the world.

At the age of five, young Matthew and his family were snatched from the satanic – well…Methodist – church that they were going to and placed in the loving arms of the Independent Baptist Bible Church led by Pastor Dave Nolan. Apparently many in the Methodist congregation no longer felt that God was attending a church where the pastor would use Yertle the Turtle as a sermon illustration.

Personally, I think the collected works of Dr. Seuss are filled with allegorical meaning for children and adults and are excellent sermon material. From there to here, from here to there, wonderful insights are everywhere. But maybe that’s just me. I’m a big fan of the good doctor.

As MPT points out, fundamentalism “made lots of people weird. But I think some people at my church believed that was the point, that somewhere in the Bible, Jesus declared, ‘Blessed are the weird.’ Our weirdness was a form of obedience to God.”

As a recovering fundamentalist myself, I can tell you that there is some comfort in it. Even though it separates you from the mainstream population and makes you “weird,” it gives you a set of clear cut guidelines on most issues. It eliminates gray areas and cognitive dissonance. Most importantly, in most fundamentalist churches, if you have any questions about how to live your life, there are plenty of church folk around who will be glad to tell you.

Pastor Nolan and his ilk had no problems telling people how they should live. He was filled with wisdom about how a Baptist should dress, how to cut your hair, what movies to watch (none basically), what music to listen to, what to watch on TV (avoid The Smurfs, not because it was a lame cartoon, but because the cat Azrael was satanic), even how to stand:

“…it was obvious Mr. Harry didn’t love Jesus. Not the way I did. For one thing he slouched. Pastor Nolan told us that a man’s posture said a lot about his character. All the men at church stood up straight. I did too. Every time I saw Pastor Nolan at church I pretended to be a soldier – a tall one, with a gun and a slew of badges. He would walk by me like he was a king inspecting his knights, and if he approved, he would pat my head and say, “You’re a good kid, Matthew.”

In Churched, MPT describes his journey through the thicket of fundamentalism with honesty and humor of course, but with a surprisingly light touch. Although he skewers some of the conclusions that the people in his church came to, you never get the sense that he holds the people themselves in contempt. All of this makes for a very readable book with just enough cynicism to keep it entertaining, but not enough to make it bitter and unsavory.

In the church where he grew up, he obviously was instilled with many worthy values. One of them was honesty, and this is where things began to unravel for him. As he grew older, became an usher, and was privy to more private conversations between church leaders he noticed that the talk of “souls being saved” focused more on numbers and percentages than on people’s lives actually being changed.

As he stood in the back of that auditorium that Sunday, his head not bowed, his eyes not closed. He watched Pastor Nolan ask for hands of anyone who wanted to become born again. He watched as Nolan said, “I see that hand.” Five times he said it, indicating five more souls to enter the Kingdom of God that day. The problem was that Matthew, head up and eyes open, didn’t see any of those hands.

At the end of the book there is a scene where MPT is talking to the pastor of the church where he currently attends. He confesses to the pastor that he has some questions about some important tenets of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, and he wants to make sure that he and his doubts will be welcome at this new church. This is at the end of the last brief chapter called ‘Benediction’ where MPT talks about trying out different churches. I would like to have seen more about his journey from fundamentalist to believer with questions. Some of this may be fleshed out in his new book Hear No Evil, which I am still reading and will be reviewing here next week.

The pastor seemed to understand and welcomed Matthew to continue his faith journey with the congregation. And isn’t that all that any of us can ask for?