When You Have 'Splainin' To Do and Don't Know It

The Big Kahuna is not necessarily the movie to see on Christmas Day. The options for the Harts are to re-watch Family Man (which is a very clever retread of It’s A Wonderful Life set in contemporary New Joisey) or Metropolitan, both with Christmas themes. (Unfortunately, the copies that we own of each are in VHS, which means having to find the old video cassette player — chore one — and then reckon with the existing shelves and wires — chore two on steroids.) If neither of these is available for free at Amazon Prime, we may trot out My Architect, a wonderful documentary about the Philadelphia architect, Louis Kahn, made by his illegitimate son, Nathaniel. What does My Architect have to do with Christmas? Not much, except that at holidays we turn nostalgic and Philadelphia’s presence in the movie reminds the Harts of our life there. (At the risk of going stream of consciousness, a recent viewing of Stories We Tell, by Sarah Polley, another poignant documentary about fathers and mother, reminded the Harts of My Architect and put us in the mood.)

Speaking of nostalgia during the holiday season, an outing to Ann Arbor yesterday allowed us to see a double-feature (for the price of two admissions, mind you) of Nebraska and Saving Mr. Banks. Nebraska has its charms, as do most of Alexander Payne‘s movies (among them Sideways, About Schmidt, and Descendants). But Saving Mr. Banks stole the show. I for one cannot get enough of Emma Thompson. But the portrayal of a proper Londoner (via Australia) having to reckon with Hollywood was priceless. It was in several respects the flipside of My Week with Marilyn, a movie about Marilyn Monroe’s starring in a Sir Laurence Olivier production, filmed at Pinewood Studios, The Prince and the Showgirl. (Seeing Kenneth Branagh play Olivier is wonderful.) Watching the clash between English formality and American casualness in both these movies is priceless.

This is a long-winded way of making available to Oldlifers — and especially Roman Catholic critics of Oldlife errors — a clip from The Big Kahuna that is arguably the best scene from a movie that gets evangelicalism right and portrays it surprisingly sympathetically. (For those pressed for time, the really poignant lines come around minute 2:50 and run for a minute or so.) And what the movie gets right is a born-again innocence that exalts in its own righteousness without noticing the log protruding from an outlook that overlooks the fundamental tension of the Christian life — being both saint-and-sinner. The scene also exposes the sort of self-righteousness that we often see in Protestants who convert to Roman Catholicism — an exaltation of the “true” church while ignoring all the warts that make Rome less than appealing and the claims of converts less than believable. Modesty is incumbent on all Christians. But for those with a church whose past is as tainted as Rome’s is (give Protestants time, we only have 500 years experience), such modesty is not simply becoming but necessary. The way Phil looks at Bob in this clip is the way I often feel when reading Jason and the Callers.

What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Nothing, really. No problem, though, it’s a secular holiday and I am grateful for the time off to watch movies.


30 thoughts on “When You Have 'Splainin' To Do and Don't Know It

  1. I’m warming to the 2k holiday Festivus, but it’s confusing — do I strive to keep the “fest”, the “I”, or the “us” in the blessed day?


  2. What keeps gettin’ to me (has been this for me since finding the marriage of inter-web and inter-church relations) is how the CtCers could have simply rejected protestantism and gone to blog about, I don’t know what, movies, bird watching, stamp collecting, anything but all the shortcomings of their previous religous tradition. It all smacks of “bite off more than you can chew,” and I don’t know what this online discussion will evolve into for all the characters who started this. As Darryl said in an earlier post, hitch yourself to the Pope, and one is in for who heck of a roller coaster ride. That clip, by the way from the Devito movie, was great.

    A festivus for the rest of us? It’s a well devised grumble against the requirements of the holiday season. One of my favorite ideas from the Seinfeld series, and for sure a theme from that show that lives on. Very funny wiki article on that topic.



  3. The whole clip is worth watching, as is the whole movie. The tie-in to Christmas and the call to Christian humility is spot on (though I’ll take grace over Stoicism offered by Devito, anyday).

    First you talk about being a bishop, and now a Christmas sermon? Wow! It’s Twilight Zone at Old Life.


  4. Darryl, yes — to the point of watching Premier League soccer replays with the royal she. Re: Festivus — given Muddy’s tenuous health he may be keeping the “IV” in Festivus.


  5. The coolest part of my movie was when the Orc got catapulted out of the boat and Legolas cut his head off. Sometimes I get artsy like that and watch movies based on books.


  6. Well, yeah, if you want to do movies the easy way you use sound and color. But for pure visual expression see The Man with the Movie Camera, a Russian documentary made in 1929.

    But I do have to see The Big Kahuna now that I’ve seen the scene. Parenthetically, there must be a movie about which you can say “I’ve seen the Siene scene.”


  7. Nice recommendations.

    At home I’ve been recording “Mad Men” on A&E and taking a 2nd pass through. Matthew Weiner is my Proust. The show is even better than on the first viewing.

    I’ve had “Hannah Arendt” out from Netflix and need to get it watched.

    You need to get that VHS hooked up. I have two ready to go at home. There are a lot of good things not on DVD or available for streaming.

    If the wife & I can get to the theater this week we’re going to see “American Hustle”. If the whole family can get there we are going to see part deux of “The Hobbit”. Also on the horizon – “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Scorsese), “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Coens), and “Philomena” (Coogan & Dench). I might see “Dallas Buyers Club” (McConaughey), but don’t tell the Baylys.


  8. I made the same mistake when someone referred to “Duck Dynasty” carrying A&E the other day. I named a bunch of AMC shows. I think I need pastoral counsel, or at least a subscription to “TV Guide”.


  9. In the final minute of the Heat-Lakers game. Wesley Johnson & Nick Young are leading the Lakers, LeBron James & Dwayne Wade the Heat. I think I know how this one is turning out.


  10. Erik, Hannah A. is pretty good though not 4 stars. Worth seeing.

    We found out yesterday that Llewyn Davis opens Jan. 10 in Ann Arbor. Can’t wait. Any movie that features a cat in its poster . . .


  11. A local OTA movie channel (I’m too Scotch to spring for cable) is airing “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Not only was that a great movie featuring an abundance of well-known actors (both in script and in cameo), but it brings everything going on today into proper perspective.


  12. 30 minutes left of this one left for tonight.

    And what the movie gets right is a born-again innocence that exalts in its own righteousness without noticing the log protruding from an outlook that overlooks the fundamental tension of the Christian life — being both saint-and-sinner.

    Here’s some of my high school philosophy class ruminations, which all of what I read out here continues to take me back to:

    Truth as well as life unite Yes and No, and only the courage which accepts the infinite tension between Yes and No can have abundant life and ultimate truth. How is such a courage possible? It is possible because there is a Yes above the Yes and No of life and of truth. But it is a Yes which is not ours. If it were ours, even our greatest, our most universal and most courageous Yes, it would be contrasted by another No. This is the reason why no theology and no philosophy, not even a theology or philosophy of “Yes and No” is ultimate truth. In the moment in which it is expressed, it is contradicted by another philosophy and another theology. Not even the message of Yes and No, be it said by Kierkegaard or by Luther or by Paul, can escape its No. There is only one reality where there is not Yes and No but only Yes: Jesus as the Christ. First He also stands under the No, as completely as a being can stand; this is the meaning of the Cross. Everything of Him which is only the expression of a finite life or a finite truth stands with all life and all truth under the No. Therefore, we are not asked to accept Him as the unquestionable teacher or as the always fitting example, but we are told that in Him all promises of God have become real, and that in Him a life and a truth which is beyond Yes and No has become manifest. This is the meaning of “Resurrection.” The No of death is conquered and the Yes of life is transcended by that which has appeared in Him. A life which is not balanced by death, a truth which is not balanced by error is visible in His being. He shows the final Yes without another No. This is the Easter message; this is the Christian message altogether. And this is the ground of a courage which can stand the infinite tension between Yes and No in everything finite, even in everything religious and in everything Christian.

    Paul points to the fact that the Christians say Amen through Christ. One cannot say Amen to anything except the reality which is the Christ. Amen is the formula of confirmation, the expression of ultimate certitude. There is no ultimate certitude except the life which has conquered its death and the truth which has conquered its error, the Yes which is beyond Yes and No.

    Paul points to that which gives us such a certainty: It is not an historical report, but it is the participation in Christ, in whom we are established, as he says, who has given us the guarantee of His Spirit in our hearts.

    We can stand the Yes and No of life and truth because we participate in the Yes beyond Yes and No, because we are in it, as it is in us. We are participants of His resurrection; therefore, we can say the ultimate Yes, the Amen beyond our Yes and our No.

    At the end of the day, I’m still with Tillich here before I’d join with a papist. To me, there’s no escaping, the idea of tension which you so rightly note here, Darryl, as being important for a Christian to come to terms with (understanding my use of tension is more broad than you are pointing out here, about saint-and-sinner).

    Catholics blogging about how great their religion is, is all fine and dandy to me. Catholics who were once protestants, and claim to speak for what Protestantism was and is, as a part of a sales pitch for their new found religion, will never sit well with me. The only thing we need to do as confessional reformed protestants, is point out that we sit under reformed preaching, and they do not. Even all the seminary degrees and PhD’s in the world don’t ultimately lead to the conclusion of this matter the callers seek. Because after all, how could Catholics ever fully speak for those of us who actually are what these guys say we are. Thus ends the shell game, and we can go on with our lives, and watch interesting movies, or do other such things, without having to visit their website, unless we feel like it. They continue to come here to talk to us, after all, right?

    Anyway, I’ve moved on (really). Darryl, you hold the line, and quite successfully, IMHO. Many thanks.


  13. Erik – I actually had that issue of Mad Magazine when I was a teenager. Wish I still had it – it would probably be worth a few bucks by now. But I think I gave it (along with old comics and original vinyl early 70’s rock albums) to my nephew who, knowing him, probably has sold all of it for a decent profit by now. ‘Oy to the World!’


  14. In other news, I lived in a neighboring town of 825 people for 9 years. There is, shall we say, a “live and let live” ethos that prevails there. Now I see that someone is puttin’ on airs and proposing to change the municipal code to restrict people from parking cars on their front lawn for over 48 hours. What’ next – curbs & gutters?

    Last night I changed the furnace filter and shut off the heat. I forgot to turn it back on. This morning one of my teenagers woke up because she was freezing and decided to just get up, go to the gym to work out, and head into work. My other teenager was still sound asleep when I left for the office at 11:30.


  15. The Dr Who x-mass special was one of the saddest, and best.

    another movie for those who like cats–

    Jesus Christ became also human, and thus mortal, but now–as mediator—back/forward to immortality

    which is not quite the same thing as age-less and time-less


  16. Mark,

    Nice recommendations. I like Mazursky. “Blume in Love” and “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” were both memorable. “Blume”, especially. I like Kris Kristofferson’s character.


  17. The clash of English formality and American casualness was indeed fun, but so was the notion of celebrity–Disney passing out pre-signed photos of himself and Travers guffawing at the very idea when asked. Would that American religious figures leaned more Travers than Disney (in more ways than one).


  18. On Paul Mazursky: I watched his “An Unmarried Woman” with Jill Clayburgh last night and liked it a lot. Clayburgh was nominated for an Oscar. It’s available for streaming on Netflix.


  19. Erik, great stuff pointing to Mazursky. New to me.

    What’s entering my brain lately is Horton’s The Christian Life, and I keep getting struck by surprise on how our Westminster “holies” (chuckle) keep bringing up Tillich (see my comment above). I’ve now read Fesko’s and Horton’s thoughts in published P&R theology books.

    Horton’s book is great, and a deal at only $8.99 for kindle. Makes for good reading while doing a morning stroll on the elliptical.

    Westminster and self promotion now complete. Smartphoner out.


  20. PS

    But to do justice to my locale, only one book I know of really speaks to my heart in a way none other does:

    maybe because the only legal excitement available to me is one that comes with landing a golf ball on a green surrounded by sand

    Unfortunately, that one won’t be at garage sales any time soon. It’s the gray covered one that flashes intermittently in the top left corner of your screen, unknown reader. Worth saving your pennies for..

    Now commerical ceasing. Apologies (emoticon).


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