Category Archives: film

Servants of the Subversive Kingdom

Luke 19.1-10 

We had a guest preacher today: Dr Janice McRandal. Janice is a public theologian working out of Wesley Central Mission, Brisbane.


In April 1940 the DC Comics Batman strip introduced to the world the now well-known nemesis of their great American hero: The Joker. Always depicted as the dark otherside in the battle for good and evil, the Joker, with his warped and whacky humour and relentless attempts to cause chaos and destruction, played a crucial role in moving the Batman stories along. He was dark and twisted, and a villain who approached crime and weaponry with great creativity and flair. The Joker’s backstory was scant: indeed, for the longest time, we were told that the Joker was an ordinary man who fell into a vat of chemicals, bleaching his skin white, reddening his lips and, fatefully, driving him insane. It’s the kind of fantastical comic book origin detail that does just enough to create a villain and nothing more. The Joker was a plot mover slim on relatability and high on homicidal rage. 

But the Joker story has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, and in 2019, the most controversial film of the year is a re-telling that throws everything we know up in the air. Entirely dedicated to the Joker backstory, the 2019 Joker is brought into a real world as a real-life character that might even make sense. In this psychologically heavy retelling, the chillingly plausible origin story of the Joker humanises this character in ways never thought possible. And suddenly the Batman and Joker story is not at all what we thought. It requires a different approach, a different way of thinking and analysing of the story. Something else is going on here. 

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The inspiring story of Pete Eckert

Pete Eckert is a blind photographer—yes, you read that correctly. His story inspires awe in me; read it here.

Here are two of his images:



See more of his work here.

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I went to see Skin today—I thought it was well worth seeing. That it is based on a true story makes it even more remarkable. (FWIW, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87%.)

UK-born Nigerian-Jewish actor Sophie Okonedo plays the central role of Sandra Laing beautifully (Ella Ramangwane plays the younger Sandra), and Alice Krige plays her mother well. You could almost (but not quite) believe that Sam Neill was Afrikaans.

Skin is unsentimental hopeful sad loving poignant despairing; it’s an “it is what it is” film. My eyes were moist leaving the cinema, and I always feel a film that moves me is worthwhile.

Here is Sophie Okonedo talking about the film:

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Golden Compass—the film

Karen and I saw the Golden Compass film on Thursday.  

What to say…? Karen commented that it wasn’t a film for children; there were too many threads to follow, and it really was more of an adult movie that happened to have a child at the centre. She wondered just who the intended audience was. She hadn’t read the books, and commented that the characters were not well-established; you just didn’t know what their motivations were. Having read the books, I’m not sure the characters were really well-established there either. 

Was it like the book? It followed the book in broad outline. It didn’t follow it in all details; I have to admit that I didn’t care except near the very beginning: <spoiler alerts> in the book, the Master of Jordan College attempts to poison Lord Azriel. In the movie, a member of the Magisterium pours the poison into the decanter, rather than the Master. That interests me, as I couldn’t make any sense as to why the Master should want to poison Lord Azriel. If others have found it hard to make sense of the book version, that may explain why the film has changed it.           

As the reviewers have noted, the film softens the anti-catholic Church propaganda. I did note that the bear re-took his armour from a building that obviously represented an Orthodox Church. This marks a change from the book in an anti-Christian direction.                 

Overall, while Dakota Blue Richards put in a very strong performance, I was under-impressed with the film. Had I been a fan of Philip Pullman, I would have been quite disappointed with the film.                                                   

Anyone else seen it? 

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