Month: December 2012

Some thoughts on Christmas

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

~Matthew 19:21-22

 

It might seem weird to start off a post about the Christmas season with a verse like that, but hear me out.

In America, we live in a culture of instant gratification. Basically, we get what we want when we want it and how we want it. Many foreigners and tourists come to the big U.S. cities and roll their eyes at the greediness and commercialism of American society. We are spoiled – there’s no getting around that. The great Queen song “I Want It All” might as well be a second American national anthem.

One of the best Christmas movies is the original animation of Dr Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We’ve all seen it and it is frequently watched on Christmas by millions of Americans. But I wonder, how many Americans actually think about the storyline? Sure, none of us want to be a “Grinch” and “steal Christmas,” but I think we miss the real point of the story.

The part of Grinch that always stuck with me as a kid was when the Grinch has successfully “stolen Christmas” and stands upon his sleigh to look down upon the village of Whoville. But he’s shocked at how everyone in Whoville is reacting to the news that none of their presents are there.

Instead of throwing tantrums and being sad about what they didn’t get, the Whos are standing in a circle holding hands and singing. Regardless of what they have or don’t have, they’re happy. I remember watching that part of the movie as a kid and I teared up quite a bit. Everyone in Whoville was so…joyful. I wondered to myself, “Why can’t I be joyful? Why am I depressed that I don’t get a certain gift?”

There’s a difference between happiness and joy. Too often we mix the two together. Happiness comes and goes; that’s a harsh reality of life. But joy should be a constant thing. I’ve heard many real-life accounts of people who go to third-world countries and see despair and disease everywhere, but they also see joy on peoples’ faces. You don’t have to always be positive or optimistic to be joyful, nor do you have to have the best life on earth. In fact, some people with the fewest material possessions are happier than the multi-billionaires.

For example, I was recently at a friend’s house for the first time. Out of etiquette, I didn’t say anything, but I could tell that she and her dad were struggling financially. But to be perfectly honest, I never would have guessed that when I first met her. She’s a very positive person and is always wanting to help others. She is truly grateful for what she has, even if it’s not as much as other people.

So, this Christmas, don’t be the Grinch. Don’t steal Christmas from others with your lack of joy. Be like the people of Whoville, who were happy even when they didn’t get what they had wished for.

Candy (2006)

So I apologize for not blogging the past several weeks; school has been pretty stressful and I needed to keep my priorities straight.

Right before Thanksgiving break, I saw a wonderful little indie film from Australia called Candy. It follows two young 20-somethings, Candy and Dan, who are crazy in love. We see them go through the ups and downs of a typical boy-girl relationship, only with a unique twist: they’re as addicted to heroin as they are on each other. Basically, the relationship is seen through the eyes of their mutual addiction, and it eventually becomes a love triangle: a boy, a girl, and a drug. The film is presented in various “stages” – going from Candy and Dan’s romantic oblivion to their drug-induced behavior and back again – in order to simulate the actual stages of addiction.

Although not a grand-slam in the way that fellow “drug movie” Requiem for a Dream was, Candy is an outstanding achievement that would have gotten a lot more recognition if it had a wide release outside of Australia. Based on Luke Davies’s book Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction, the film was directed by Neil Armfield and adapted for the screen by Armfield and Davies.

Candy is played by Abbie Cornish, who I had never heard of until this movie. An attractive blonde, she plays the role with passion and conviction. Dan is played by the late Heath Ledger, in one of his final films. Acclaimed Aussie actor Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) co-stars as a chemistry professor who supplies the couple with the heroin.

Being a big fan of Ledger’s work, I felt that it was one of his finest performances of his all-too-short career. Say what you will about Ledger’s personal demons, he threw himself into every role – be it a huge box office phenomenon like The Dark Knight, or a small indie film that very few have seen outside of Australia.

But I digress.

Candy can be very intense and disturbing due to its subject matter. I consider myself to have a very strong stomach, but some of the heroin withdrawal scenes made me seriously wince. Despite not getting a wide release in the US, the MPAA still gave Candy a rating of R for “pervasive depiction of drug addiction, disturbing images, language, sexual content and nudity.”

This is definitely a powerful film about the dangers of heroin and the damage it does, and like Requiem six years before it, Candy gets its point across in an extremely effective way. Children should never see this; those easily offended by drug addiction or sexual content shouldn’t see this. The thematic material might seriously hit a nerve for people who have dealt with drug abuse themselves or who have had friends or family who have struggled with abuse.

Essentially, Candy isn’t a film you can “un-see” – which might actually be a good thing given its all-too relevant message. I recommend it with caution.