up About ¾ of the way through Pixar's Up, Russell, the main child character, says something that sums up the whole movie very nicely.  I wish I could remember it verbatim, but I can't.  And I can't find it on the web, either.  So here's my best attempt.  He says:
The wilderness is a lot different than I expected.  It's a lot wilder than the books made it sound.
Up reminds us that it's not just the wilderness that ends up being different and wilder than we expected; it's all of life.  The two main characters can testify to this.  Carl has recently become a widower.  The first ten minutes of the film chronicle his relationship with his wife, Ellie.  It makes for a beautiful movie within a movie.  Russell is a boy growing up with an absent father.  (Are his parents divorced?  I can't remember.)  Both people are coming to grips with all of the ways that life has tossed them around and dashed their expectations. Be warned, if you're prone to crying at the movies, bring some tissues for this one.  There are Bambi's mother/"Baby Mine" from Dumbo kinds of sad moments.  I asked my 3 year old if he liked the movie and he said, "Yeah.  It made me sad." But please don't let me scare you away.  The other message of Up is that grace also comes in wild and unexpected ways.  One of the great joys of watching it is getting to see how these two people who are suffering their own losses find new life together.  (I can't imagine that I'm ruining the movie by telling you that it has a great, great ending.  It is, after all, Disney.)  With them, we learn that good things happen if we can let go of the plans we have made and embrace the unforeseen.  One scene illustrates this really well, but I don't want to ruin the surprise. As a Christian I can't watch it without remembering how Paul says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)."  Or how he reminds us that God is capable of making something good come out of even the worst events of our lives (Romans 8:28). Deep thoughts aside, the movie is a lot of fun.  Be prepared to laugh hard every time Dug the talking dog or any of his counterparts shows up.  And, once again, the artistry is stunning.  I could watch the balloons in all their translucent wonder all day long. Or I suppose I could blow up a real balloon and watch it.  Isn't it funny how good animation can remind us that there is beauty in the mundane?

A Little Perspective

Back in January, I traveled to Dallas with Rachel (as moral support) so she could take her final exam for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This was a grueling 3 hr. oral exam in which Rachel had to demonstrate that she was a physician deserving of certification. On the night before she had to take the exam, Rachel just wanted to go out to dinner and a movie in order to keep her mind off the test. I wanted to find a “feel-good” movie that would serve as a nice distraction. We went to see Slumdog Millionaire. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the light-hearted Bollywood romp I thought it would be. But it was an amazing film, entirely worthy of its “Best Picture” Oscar. (Not as worthy as Dark Knight, but I’ll spare you that rant.) As we were leaving the theater and deciding what trendy Dallas restaurant we were going to eat at for dinner, Rachel talked about how well Slumdog provided some perspective. As nervous as she was about the exam, even if she failed it, we would be fine. Our family would be fine. It would be a big nuisance to have to fork out the cash and spend the time taking the exam again, but that’s all that would happen. It kind of pales in comparison to growing up in the slums of Mumbai. With that in mind, I hope you’ll click here and read this “Letter to an Affluent Church,” featured in the latest issue of Relevant Magazine. It also puts things into perspective. H/t to Brandi for reminding me about it. As skittish as we might be, we are not the ones who stand to suffer the most in this global economic meltdown. I hope we can all dwell on this and then redouble our efforts to support At My Gate, our local church’s chance to alleviate some suffering. BTW, Rach passed her exam. She is now a Fellow of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. I dare say I’m the only male preacher in the Churches of Christ who’s married to a “fellow.” (Rimshot! “Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal and don’t forget to tip your server.”)

Lars and the Real Girl

It’s always nice to stumble upon a movie and really like it. You know what I mean? You hadn’t planned on watching a movie, there’s not one that you’re just dying to see, so you go to the video store or you pull up the On Demand channel and just see what’s there. But even after you look at the options you can’t find anything that you were really wanting to see. Rachel and I had that experience a while back with Lars and the Real Girl. This movie didn’t completely come out of nowhere for me. I remember that it was well received by critics and that it received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and that Ryan Gosling was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Actor. In addition, it had been recommended by friends whose opinions I respect. And still I wasn’t rushing out to see it. I think because I had misunderstood what it was about. I knew that it was about an awkward introvert (Lars/Ryan Gosling) who is so socially anxious and yet so lonely that he resorts to ordering a life-sized doll on the internet. I thought this was going to be some mad-cap comedy, a farce. I was wrong. What happens is extremely funny, but it’s also very moving and humane. I don’t want to say much more about it other than the fact that Rachel and I both came away thinking it was one of the best movies we’d seen in a long time (particularly because it was such a surprise). I’ll give you time to see it and then I’ll say more. The genius of the film is the way that “the real girl” actually becomes real and in the way that this small town reacts both to her and to Lars. I dare not say more, because it’s best seen for yourself. I’ll just say that there are lessons to be learned from this movie about kindness and compassion. They may be lessons that are coming soon to a Sunday morning near you.