Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Some Quick Takes: A 2nd Viewing of Narnia, A Push Back at the Elitist Left, and an Invitation
A SECOND LOOK
I waited almost six weeks, but I went back to see LWW again in the theatres this past weekend. I surprised by how much more I enjoyed it without my critical lenses on--focusing on virtues rather than shortcomings. I was also surprised by how many people were there--such a healthy crowd, a seemingly first-time crowd, for a Saturday afternoon in Toledo, OH. The acting is stronger than I remembered, the battle sequences not quite as long, and the overall impact bracing. I wonder what is on the cutting room floor; we shall see around Easter when the DVDs come out. I had picked Serenity
as my top movie of the year
with LWW as a distant second; it made up some of that gap this weekend for me.
THIRSTING FOR A THRUST at the cultural elitists who despise Narnia?
Take a look at Frank Furedi's thoughtful reflections
on the way the UK elites, in league with some American commentators, used Narnia as a staging ground to express their "anti-religious hysteria." After quoting William Davies (Institute for Public Policy, London) in his depiction of the "The liberal, secular left" as having "somehow to find ways of supplying citizens with emotional and metaphysical comforts even when it does not itself believe in such things," Furedi further explains:
This provision of so-called metaphysical comforts serves the same function that adult-invented cautionary tales play for children. Which takes us back to Narnia: clearly the problem is not the comforts provided by CS Lewis, but the way in which they're branded. . . . The very term 'metaphysical comforts' suggests values built by calculation, instrumentalism, manipulation and cynicism. Morality marketed by people who do not necessarily 'believe in such things' is unlikely to set the world on fire. That is why they resent and hate the Narnia film so much. For all its faults, the movie attempts to transmit a powerful sense of belief, bravery and sacrifice. Such sentiments are alien to a cultural elite that regards the expression of any sort of strong belief as another form of that dreaded fundamentalism. Envy, bad faith and instrumentalism: these are the raw materials that fuel today's anti-religious crusade.
CALLING ALL RESIDENTS in the Greenville, NC Area (sorry about the Panthers!):
I will be speaking this weekend (Jan. 27-28) at St. James United Methodist Church, Friday evening at 7PM, and Saturday AM, 9-12Noon. Registration is required but the event is free. More details here.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Alison Lurie Speaks on Narnia: NY Strikes Again!
The Feb. 9 edition of the New York Review of Books
features an article by novelist Alison Lurie that is partly a movie review, partly a dual book review of Alan Jacobs' The Narnian
and a pop-philosohy/pop-psychologost/pseudo-academic collection of essays called, Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles
ed. Shanna Caughey. The review is curious for its late entry into the Narnia-bashing sweepstakes, and for its alternating numbingly ingratiating style and deadly condescending tone. It's as if Lurie wishes there were something she could say that would free Lewis from those dreaded evangelicals that so love him--but she can't, since she herself buys into the false notions of writers like The New Yorker's
Adam Gropnik and A. N. Wilson that Lewis wrote Narnia out of a painfully anachronistic adolescent faith (she would have had Lewis say, famously, "Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things, including the desire to please Americans. . .") in a Supreme Being which, dash it all, If-he-only-were-as-smart-as-Lurie, would realize is a quite foolish waste of time. Her coda for the article:
"In Narnia faith in Aslan, who comes among his followers and speaks to them, may make sense: but here on earth, as the classic folk tales have told us for generations, it is better to depend on your own courage and wit and skill, and the good advice of less than omnipotent beings."
If only Lurie had read The Narnian
more carefully and less mockingly, she might have written at least a more interesting, if not more witty, review. As for the other volume, its main redeeming feature (other than an essay by a practicing Wiccan), and it's hardly worth buying the book to get, are essays by Colin Duriez and Joseph Pearce; your money is best spent on buying the books they have published under their own names.
Hey, if you've never surfed there, you will want to check out Professor Peter Schakel's recently refurbished C. S. Lewis site that boasts the complete texts of Professor Schakel's quite original but out of print works on Narnia and Till We Have Faces.
And, you will want to check out a delightful new CSL-related blog, Never Enough Tea, by apologist, scholar, and critic, Roger Overton, a writer whose clarity and grace are superseded only by his devotion to the Red Sox.
As a Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros fan, I fully understand, however vicariously, the joy Roger experienced in 2004 when "the curse" was broken. Next: C. S. Lewis on Baseball (a very short blog entry.)
Monday, January 9, 2006
Hoopla Subsides: Whither Narnia?
The movie has surpassed $550 million worldwide, a breathtaking take-and is soon to tower above most Disney releases, including Snow White and Cinderella, when the DVDs arrive. What do we learn from this phenomenal achievement, even with the notable flaws and missteps of the movie's script, now well-noted, both below and among other commentators?
- The public has a nearly insatiable appetite for well-made movies that are kid- and family-friendly, based on beloved classics that don't compromise their integrity, and they will pay to see them twice, thrice, or more times.
- The theme of sacrificial love poured out in the pursuit of overcoming evil and restoring proper authority and righteousness appeals even to those who, if presented with these as abstractions rather than embodiments within carefully drawn characters, would reject them out of hand
- The media's hysterical attempts to render Narnian landscapes and storylines as overt propaganda and mere proselytizing ("the allegory") failed miserably, and all the hand-wringing of the New Yorker and New York Times affected exactly zero viewers.
- Lewis's popularity not only will not diminish but will expand further up and further into the 21st century, on all cinematic continents, and the next time around, i.e., when Prince Caspian is released, his public image will not be obscured with the tired editorializing that painted him as a relic of an imperialistic age (though most of this occurred in the U.K.)
- Hollywood will clamor for Narnia-imitations that will likely yield a plethora of pale, poorly conceived projects that will only accentuate the quality of the Narnia series.