Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Movies Like "Noah" and "Exodus" Aren't Working

Well, it's been a while. Last time I wrote, I had just finished a 5K and was on a runner's high. After that, my life slowed down. A lot.

Seriously, I'm just not that interesting lately. The weather has been nice, life has been smooth, and Easter/General Conference is just around the corner. For those readers who have questions about what General Conference is, read this article. Yes, in case you haven't noticed, I am a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) and I love it. I also am more star-struck by the men and women who speak at General Conference than I would be if I ever met Tom Hiddleston. And that's saying a lot.

Considering that the speakers at General Conference are prophets, apostles, leaders of Church organizations, and more, my love for them may very well be justified. And then President Monson does something like this:
Love him!

And it falls on Easter weekend, which makes it all the better. That means that between sessions of hearing uplifting and spiritual talks about Jesus Christ and what I can do to be a better person, I get to watch The Prince of Egypt.

(Side note, here: I've recently been looking at a job that would rock hard, but to get it, I need to write a paragraph on a movie I hate and how I would fix it. I decided to go with Moulin Rouge, but the topic of "why bad movies are so bad" has been on my mind. Okay, back to the flow of this blog.)
I love The Prince of Egypt. Great music, awesome voice cast, lovely animation...and most importantly, it's an example of a movie based on a religious text that actually works.

Admittedly, I have not seen Noah and Exodus, two Bible-based films that came out recently. I was warned off them, and I heard enough to decide that my time and money were better spent elsewhere. I know that Exodus got panned by Rotten Tomatoes, which also influenced my decision. Noah did well, box-office-wise. But from the people I talk to, active Christians who love the stories that are being told in these movies, they were both described as terrible movies that I shouldn't see.

Why? When a book is made into a movie, the fans all turn out. They may hate the film, but they will all go to see it. They won't warn fellow fans off it, knowing that it's something that needs to be seen. Why isn't this happening with some of these religious movies?

I'm no expert on films; I just know stories. I also love retellings. As I said, I adore The Prince of Egypt. I also love The Nativity Story and would watch it outside the Christmas season if I thought I could get away with it. Friends agree. Why do these succeed while the other two are hated?

The art of the retelling. That's it, pure and simple. When writing a retelling, the story in question is already accepted and loved. That means that something about it is already loved by the people who know the story. That needs to be present or the retelling rings false or even obnoxious. Imagine a retelling of Cinderella without the ball, the fairy godmother, the prince, the shoe. Or worse, imagine one where Cinderella loses and stays, serving her stepfamily, forever. You'd throw a pillow at the screen, right?

This goes double for religious stories. These aren't just nice tales to the audience that loves them; they are scripture. If they are not treated with respect as a religious text, they fall flat and the religious people who love the stories come away feeling annoyed. It's worse than when the movie tramples the source book (or TV show, in the case of The Last Airbender), as this goes deeper than fandom.

The two films I like are very respectful of the religious significance of the stories they tell. They don't mess with the tale, but flesh out the people until we, the viewers, relate with them and care. They take what is present, take what is already loved, and keep it as it is. They build on what is there.

This is a hard topic to talk about, as religion usually is. People have different tastes, and some may have found the movies I like boring or the ones I was warned off really inspiring. With this post, I hope to draw attention to the need to consider what audiences value in a story before you go and retell it, especially with religious texts. The story is getting retold because it already has power in some way: why not borrow that power?

Last, here's "Through Heaven's Eyes," because it's awesome.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Five Kilometers Later

Something very bad is happening to me. I want to blame my parents and my brother, but deep down I know it's my own fault. I acted, and now the consequences are my own fault.

Let me clarify.

Today was the Rex Lee Run, a 5K/10K run that donates 100% of its proceeds to cancer research. It looks like this:

This isn't a current picture. I'm not in there.
Anyway, I participated this year. I need to tell you, I don't have a good history with organized racing. I remember running 5Ks before, but I can't tell you how long ago it was. Before college, for sure. Maybe even before high school. And I hated them. I couldn't run more than a few hundred yards without having to stop and rest, and they hurt and I hated them. Therefore, I didn't understand why anyone would pay money for the honor of killing themselves for no good reason.

Flash-forward to a few days ago when I registered. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, or as much of a spur-of-the-moment decision it could be while still getting in with the pre-registration price. But I have been running regularly for a few years now, 100% of the proceeds were going to cancer research, not just awareness (I swear there's a difference), and what with me sleeping through the nights and waking refreshed lately, running has become...almost fun. I mean it, I never knew how much that affected my stamina. But now I sleep well and I have the energy to fly down hills and almost not feel it when I go up. So I figured, hey, why not try the 5K thing again? After all, I run about that length three times a week anyway.

Why is any of this a bad thing? I'll get there. So I get up this morning, underdress for the cold weather in hopes that running will warm me up (it did), and go down to the race start. I pin my number to my back and then my front, trying to do this race thing right. Opening ceremonies happened, the day warmed up, and I stashed my sweatshirt and swag from booths somewhere safe. Then, when the time came, I started the first 5K I've ever paid my own money to run in.

Some things I thought about as I ran:
- I WILL NOT walk. I will run this whole thing if it kills me.
- It might very well kill me. Or make me throw up.
- How would the other runners react if I threw up?
- Oh, there's my professor. I should say hi.
- I'm passing people. HA! And another one gone, and another one....
- Hey! Stop passing me!
- Ha, knew you'd have to stop after a sprint like that. Passing you again!
- Aaaaand you're passing me. See you next time you have to walk.
- How does one drink water without stopping? (Apparently, you take one sip, spill half of it down your shirt, dump the rest on the road and throw the cup down where someone else will have to clean it up.)
- If my character Jeremy was here, he'd be acing this. (Jeremy responded that he's a sprinter. He doesn't do distances. Yes, I know he's fictional.)
- Downhill. YESSS! I AM FLYING!
- Uphill. Great.
- My nose won't stop running.
- You know what would be great on a running T-shirt? Morituri te salutant. Latin for "Those who are about to die salute you." It would be perfect for marathons, really set the right tone.
- Did I really pay money to do this? Where's mile 2?
- Miles are a lot longer than I thought they were.
- Uh, just kidding.
- I'm not going to walk this close to the finish line.
- I can see the finish line!
- This guy has been in my shadow this whole time, and now he's speeding up.
- Dude, you won by a nose. Don't let it go to your head.
- Where are the orange slices and bagels?
Why is it always these? Is it biology or tradition?
After that, I got my results and a little more swag. I now have running socks and some athletic shirts not given to me by my mother. One of them I even earned.

How did I do? For my first 5K in forever, not bad. I succeeded in my goal of running the whole time, keeping a steady pace. I ran an 8:45 mile, which was more or less expected. I finished in 27 minutes, in the top 33% in my division, top 25% in my gender, and in the first 50% overall.

I'm too proud of this. The results were pleasing, but nothing special. I'm writing a blog post on it, possibly because, even now, my endorphins are singing, "We Are the Champions." Seriously, I do this three times a week. Why is today any different?

Because today is when things have gone wrong. Before now, I would never call myself a serious runner. I run, yes, but I wouldn't train for a race. Mom and Dad and my brother...they do that. They do it a lot. I see it happen, and I followed them into running for health, but I'm not the person who would train for a marathon.

But today, a few minutes after finishing the 5K, I felt ready to run again. The race was too short; I wanted more. How could I possibly want more of that? Then I remembered, there's a 10K in July. I could train and be ready for that, and it would be more fulfilling than this 5K.

I've tasted the gateway drug and now I may be hooked on organized racing. Where will it lead? Half-marathons? Marathons? I shudder. I don't know how I got hooked, it may have started by watching my family run these things, but in the end, I think it was my choice to sign up and run this one. It's too early to tell, but I may be in danger of addiction.
Please watch this PSA before you, too, do something foolish and find yourself hooked. As for me, I'll be on Google Maps, planning a longer running route.