The Best Films of 2013

A still from Alain Resnais's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet1. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (dir. Alain Resnais)

I suppose it should be no surprise that the wisest, most mature film of the year should come from perhaps the wisest, most mature living filmmaker.  Now at 91, Alain Resnais has long ago earned the right to settle down and make whatever senile, esoteric film he wants, but instead he makes this remarkably perceptive film on the delicate interaction between life and art; individual dreams vs. a shared cultural heritage; and the fragility of time and memory  (an oft repeated theme in Resnais’ work).  Not only is this perhaps his best film in thirty years, it strikes this viewer as the work of an old magician showing his audience that he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve, and the hurried, impassioned work of a man trying to make a poignant final statement about life, death, love, and his art before time, that great equalizer, finally and inevitably catches up to him.

nebraska2. Nebraska (dir. Alexander Payne)

Following in the spirit of the great American road movies of the 1970’s (Five Easy PiecesHarry & Tonto, even Paper Moon), Alexander Payne’s best film to date journey’s into the heritage, and consequently, legacy of a Midwestern family.  Bruce Dern has been working his entire career towards this role which he inhabits with aplomb.  Mistaken by some for condescension and use of Midwestern stereotypes (a sin for which Payne was regrettably guilty of in his previous, Hawaii set, The Descendants), Payne actually exhibits an almost Todd Solondz-like mastery of tone which reveals the essential compassion at the film’s core, as well as Payne’s deeply felt, personal understanding of the milieu.  Note the subtle eye for detail in the characterization of June Squibb’s very Catholic, bawdy vulgarity vs. Bruce Dern’s pained, stoical Lutheranism.

to the wonder3. To The Wonder (dir. Terrence Malick)

Seen by many as the forgettable stepchild, or B-side to Malick’s operatic and highly praised The Tree of Life, if anything this may be the superior of the two.  Both less cosmic and more disciplined than it’s predecessor, To The Wonder is nonetheless a triumph of poetic and personal filmmaking.  Rather than contrasting (or connecting) the triumphs and tribulations of a single family to the unimagined vastness of the cosmos, instead Malick equates love, the virility of nature, and the quest for spiritual identity with the search for God.  At its best, his exalted visual style bestows a sense of holiness and reverence on even the most mundane of subjects.  And, at it’s best, is the closest modern film has come to producing a cinematic act of prayer.

prisoners4. Prisoners (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

If there was one film this year that caught me off guard and proved to be unexpectedly compelling, it would be Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners.  This intense, slow building, morally complex thriller turns the “revenge drama” sub-genre on its head by exploring its characters in philosophical and spiritual terms rather than using them as cynical and facile political allegories.  Like Mystic River, this film suggests the seemingly conflicting natures of justice and faith, yet Hugh Jackman’s everyman rage proves far more salient and pitiable than Sean Penn’s actory histrionics.

like someone in love5. Like Someone In Love (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)

In his two most recent outings, Iranian master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has turned his lens from his native land to two very different, almost disparate cultures: Italy (Certified Copy) and now Japan.  Like To the Wonder, Kiarostami’s latest seems to have suffered critically by being the follow up to a highly praised predecessor.  Rather than a step back in filmmaking, if anything the critical confusion seems to rest in a sense of cultural dislocation: the warm, inviting Italian countryside of Certified Copy vs. the cold, impersonal Tokyo metropolis.  The difference between the two films is almost an East vs. West dichotomy.  And that’s the point.  It’s the sense of cultural disconnectedness (a theme often employed by Ozu) of the two principal characters, and that need for understanding, connection, and human warmth that they both seem to have lost (or possibly abandoned).  Kiarostami’s technique may be intentionally distancing at times, yet his effect is poignant, and in the film’s final moments, quite surprising.

 

the world's end6. The World’s End (dir. Edgar Wright)

Film by film, Edgar Wright is proving himself to be the master comic filmmaker of our era.  With The World’s End, Wright achieves what Tarantino seldom (or never) has: the ability to digest familiar genre tropes and regurgitate them as intensely personal reflection and even film art.  The film’s dramatic thrust–reconciling nostalgia and illusions of past triumph with the reality of a world that you need more than it needs you–is so well and movingly captured that it takes a mid-film twist into 1950’s sci-fi territory in order to contain it.  Despite the emotional immaturity of some of the characters, as a filmmaker, Wright proves to be both insightful and compassionate, while the film succeeds simultaneously as a buddy comedy, reunion drama, political satire, sci-fi/horror film, and parody.  No easy task, but he does it.

 

in the hosue7. In The House (dir. François Ozon)

François Ozon has developed as a filmmaker in recent years.  From the unsettling, erotic thrillers of his early career to the more humane domestic satirist he has become, Ozon has never lost his skill for balancing the beautiful with the sinister.  Ozon slyly attacks bourgeois institutions such as contemporary art, literature, smug intellectualism, and middle class home life with a film that essentially exposes how contemporary culture has come to define itself by these things rather than the other way around.  In fact, the approach of In The House is essentially surrealist and would feel at home in Luis Buñuel’s oeuvre right in between The Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.  Though, in reality, it’s most closely related to Pasolini’s bizzare-o satire, Teorema.  Thankfully, however, Ozon is less alienating and more compassionate than his Italian counterpart.

 

the we and the i8. The We and the I (dir. Michel Gondry)

If nothing else, music video wunderkind Michel Gondry’s latest experiment triumphs for use of the most philosophically and politically prescient title in years.  Here Gondry utilizes the device misused by Richard Linklater in Dazed and Confused, by charting the longings and insecurities of a diverse group of inner city Bronx high school students on a bus ride home after the last day of school.  Where Linklater attempted a more cerebral, and ultimately condescending tone, Gondry’s inclusiveness and emotional honesty charts the profundity of adolescent moral development.  The resulting observation, which discovers the process of forming one’s individuality in the context of social interaction and the greater culture at large, is as vibrant and natural as any film you will see.

 

bullet to the head9. Bullet To The Head (dir. Walter Hill)

Sylvester Stallone cements his return to action film stardom in this, the best of his now several “comeback” films.  Best because at last he hitches himself to Walter Hill, a director who understands the fundamental dynamics of action films better than virtually any other living director.  Hill, in comeback mode himself, a director who studied at the schools of masters such as Howard Hawks, John Huston, and even Jean-Pierre Melville shows an emphasis on moral reckoning and codes of ethics over mindless violence and CGI bombast.  For Hill, action is character (when properly contextualized) and the line, “Sometimes you have to abandon your principals and do the right thing,” perfectly captures that professional ethos.  For Stallone and Hill, two dogged veterans of the action genre, violence proves not to be merely a contrivance to advance plot, but an illustration of human weakness.

 

the grandmaster10. The Grandmaster (dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

If Walter Hill is one of the masters of the action film as it has developed in the West, then Wong Kar-Wai (along with Zhang Yimou) is the master of the action film as it has developed in the East, even though neither Wong nor Zhang is exclusively tied to the action genre.  In The Grandmaster, action and choreography become the primary tools of emotional expression in a film that seamlessly combines national history with cultural myth.  The visage of the two leads (Wong regular, Tony Leung, and the always gorgeous, Ziyi Zhang) promotes inscrutable mystery and emotional distance, yet when in combat there is an explosion of passion, as if they can only truly express themselves in the terms of their art, even if it is a martial one.  Though this may not be Wong’s best film (that distinction belongs to the underrated 2046), it exhibits many of his most potent themes, including the tragic tenuousness of time and cultural memory (a theme which, to bring this list full circle, he learned from Alain Resnais).

 

Honorable Mention:

Caesar Must Die (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani), Passion (Brian De Palma), Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel), Pain & Gain (Michael Bay), 42 (Brian Helgeland), American Hustle (David O. Russell), Mud (Jeff Nichols), Byzantium (Neil Jordan), Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland), The Lords of Salem (Rob Zombie)

 

The Forgettable and the Overrated:

Before Midnight, The Bling Ring, Blue Jasmine, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prince Avalanche, Spring Breakers, The Wolf of Wall Street

 

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New LETTERBOXD account…

For those of you interested in following a running log of the films I’ve been watching, along with a star rating of each, feel free to follow my Letterboxd page at: http://letterboxd.com/ahstanleykubric/

No longer will I be maintaining a viewing log directly on this blog, so check out the letterboxd page.  Feel free to comment here, comment there, comment everywhere.  Also, I will continue to periodically essay certain films, books, ideas etc, here on the blog.

Mozart’s “Requiem” and Prayer’s For the Dead

Requiem – Mozart by Gardiner – YouTube.

Over the last few weeks, my girlfriend and I have found ourselves in the presence of some of the most glorious music ever written, including symphonies by Beethoven and cantata’s by Bach.  And while experiencing the fourth movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony is sublime, the work that I am most interested in addressing is Mozart’s Requiem which we saw performed at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.  I claim no musical expertise.  I play no instruments, my sense of rhythm is shoddy, and my voice is an insult to shower singers everywhere.  Unlike literature and film, in which I have a certain working knowledge, my understanding of music theory and even basic terminology is limited.  I do believe, however, that I can recognize great music when I hear it, and like everyone, I love great music.

That the Requiem was Mozart’s final work (and what a finalé to an astonishing oeuvre!) is unquestioned, but what has become a rather well known piece of music lore maintains that while writing it (at the behest of a generous benefactor) the great composer was well aware of his impending death and focused all of his passion and energies into completing what he might well have considered his own funeral music.  Whether this is true or not (I tend to think so) is up for debate, but the music speaks for itself, and like Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, it sings out with the fervor of a dying man’s final plea for mercy on the souls of dying men.  Kyrie Eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.  Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.  Lord, have mercy on us.

The Requiem’s merits as a work of art and music have been well established, probably from its very first performance, but what of its merits as a work of theology?  I find it very difficult to separate the two, because the very tone, substance, and spirit of the music is derived from its theological intent, namely an extended prayer for the dead: a Mass set to music.  The often grim texture of the music reflects the grimness of its subject matter: death and the hope of posthumous salvation.  As far as I can tell, the idea that the living can, through prayer, influence the souls of the dead–specifically, those souls in Purgatory–is exclusive to Catholic theology (and ancient Orthodox Judaism).  The Eastern mystic might claim that there is no such thing as death, only the transference of one energy into another, thus there is no sense in praying for those who have merely altered states; for the Protestant it might seem like little more than a quaint anachronism, instead claiming that one’s eternal destination is determined in life and cannot be altered afterwards; and to the atheist, the very notion of praying for the dead might seem like borderline lunacy, for death has to it a grave finality.  Yet to the Catholic, it is an essential part of the Christian life dating back to the early, primitive Church, and to St. Paul, and inherited from Orthodox Judaism from before the era of the Maccabees.  There are prayers, services, and Masses devoted to those who have passed away, and none more beautiful than the Requiem Mass.

But beyond the historical evidence which confirms that the public practice dates back a good deal further than many of its opponents would suggest, praying for the dead is inseparably linked to the doctrine known as “the communion of the saints” which holds that what St. Paul metaphorically referred to as the “body of Christ” (i.e. the Church) is composed not only of the living followers of Christ, but of the departed–the Saints in Heaven and those souls in Purgatory.  Salvation, therefore, it would seem, is not a purely individual effort, but one in which the entire body of Christ takes part and is held accountable for.  Unlike Cain who denied responsibility for his brother (in order to hide his crime), we–both the living and the dead–are in part responsible for each others well being, for the body need all of its parts in order to function fully.  Far from being either morbid or sentimental (as it has alternately been accused), the communion of saints and consequently, public prayers for the dead, is a doctrine of compassion and brotherhood in which the intercessor and those for whom he/she prays are bound together in hope and love.

I can be quite certain that the Christian doctrine of the communion of the saints is true and be equally certain that Mozart was in no way trying to prove it by writing the Requiem.  It is not an apologetic work, nor an argument, nor is it particularly cerebral (unless, I suppose, you happen to be a music theorist); it is a work of art–and a great one at that–but beyond that, or perhaps because of it, it is also a work of charity and love in which a great artist utilized his considerable talents for the benefit and spiritual enrichment of those whom he had never met, and provided for all time a voice for the voiceless and a song for those who, like myself, might otherwise never hear that eternal melody.  Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Grant them eternal rest, Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.  Amen.

Concerning Beauty and The Night of the Iguana

the-night-of-the-iguana

It may be a futile task for anyone to attempt a purely objective analysis of a work of art.  I say that not because I adhere to the ridiculous maxim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or because I believe that beauty is an inherently subjective matter; in fact, I hold both of these statements to be false.  I believe there is such a thing as objective beauty–a rose, a sunset, and a pietà are beautiful regardless of one’s capacity to appreciate them.  However, while I do believe in objective beauty, I believe one’s response to that beauty can only ever be subjective.  The French writer Stendhal responded rightly when upon viewing Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in Florence in the 19th century, he fainted at the sight of its magnificence and as a result had an entire syndrome named after him.  I have never been to Florence and thus have never seen the David in person, however, I suspect that I would not faint in its presence, though the problem is mine and not Michelangelo’s (nor David’s).  I have seen hundreds of photographs of the statue, and while I fully accept that to experience it in person would be a thousand times more sublime than to see only a photographic reproduction, that I have seen so many images of it–even inadequate images of it–I have doubtless been numbed to its full aesthetic impact.  Fortunately for Stendhal, he had not been numbed by photographs and coffee table art books, and was thus able to properly gauge its true beauty.

I say all of this to point out that for me to attempt to objectively discuss a work like Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana would be an exercise in futility, because it is a work that I hold dear, not only because I respond emotionally to it, but because in some ways I feel as though I might have written it; nay, I almost feel as if I did write it.  I say this not out of vanity (indeed I’m quite certain that I’ve never in my best work come close to equaling the poetry of this play), but because like Stendhal seeing the David, I wept upon reading the play for the first time several years ago, and might just as well have fainted.

Last night, my girlfriend and I went into Houston see Theatre Southwest’s revival of what many critics consider to be the last of Williams’ major plays.  Personally, I disagree with that analysis.  I find it hard to discount later works such as Small Craft Warnings, or even experiments such as In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel or Vieux Carré as minor works, though Iguana was undeniably the last of his major Broadway successes.  Regardless of one’s views on late-career Tennessee Williams, I find The Night of the Iguana to be not only Williams’ greatest work, but one of the two or three greatest works ever written for the American stage–in close company with Eugene O’Neill’s towering, The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

The production itself was adequate, though far from anything like Broadway standards.  The facilities were intimate, the set was well designed, and the performances were satisfactory, with a couple of them being quite good.  But those elements only really matter to an extent.  I suspect it would take a poor production indeed to fully extinguish the lyricism of Williams’ prose.

For decades, audiences and critics seem to get lost in his characters various sexual tropes–in this case the Reverend T. Lawrence Shannon, a disgraced Episcopal minister turned tour guide with an eye for sixteen year old girls, not to mention the recently widowed Maxine Faulk, owner of a dilapidated hotel in the rainforest on the Mexican coast, who amuses herself with a couple of Mexican cabana boys, and Hannah Jelkes, the virginal New England spinster whose story of the two “love encounters” in her life provides the play with one of its most moving sequences.  Yet as much as sexual confusion is a recurring theme throughout Williams’ work, to say that the play is about sexual confusion is to mistake the forest for the trees.  The story is no more about sexual disfunction than it is about an iguana, though like the titular iguana–captured and tied up by the cabana boys to be later fattened and eaten–sexual disfunction becomes a convenient central metaphor (the iguana, like Shannon, is literally at the end of his rope).  Williams’ real concern here is the spiritual and emotional battles which we all fight, and the genuine healing power of human sympathy and kindness.

The Rev. Shannon has long since been locked out of his church for “fornication and heresy”, two vices which he practices with relish as much outside the church as in, and has turned to leading tour groups to see the wonders of God’s world with a minister of God.  His latest tour is a group from a Baptist women’s college in Texas, but prior to the plays opening, the good reverend has either seduced or been seduced by (depending on who you ask) the youngest member of the group and having been found out, takes a detour to the remote, coastal hotel owned by Maxine and her recently deceased husband.  His plan, such that it is, is to hold up until he can first suffer a nervous breakdown and regain his emotional sanity, and then second, dissuade the group from either a) filing charges against him of statutory rape, or b) calling the tour company to get him fired.  Enter Hannah Jelkes and her grandfather, Nonno, who at age 97 is the “worlds oldest living and practicing poet”, hoping to finally complete the poem he has been working on for the last twenty years.

If the play had ended after the second act I’m convinced it would still be a major work of American theater, but it’s the third act which elevates it to a level with few peers.  Here Williams unleashes his entire arsenal of emotional turmoil, compassionate humanism, and poetic reverie.  What stands out is not the more lurid aspects of the characters lives, but the compassion with which Williams views them and his utter lack of condescension in dealing with human weaknesses and flaws.  He casts a caring eye, neither condemning nor condoning his characters foibles, but rather suggesting that through kindness and understanding lies the hope to heal past traumas and induce emotional and spiritual growth.

Though in part kicked out his church for heresy, the Rev. Shannon’s vision of God as a tropical thunderstorm rather than the “senile delinquent” which he had been preaching, brings him closer to orthodoxy than I suspect even he intended.  His desire to preach the “gospel of God as Lightning and Thunder”, while certainly a personal and mystical vision, becomes unintentionally closer to the depiction of God in the Book of Job as arriving in a whirlwind.  But God operates through a variety of means, including the natural world and a kindly spoken word.  Both things are beautiful, and I would argue objectively so, because they both point to an Ultimate Beauty.  To Job, God appeared as a whirlwind, but lest we forget that to Elijah he appeared as a still, small voice.  So what then are we left with?

“How calmly does the orange branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.

“Sometime while night obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever, and from thence
A second history will commence.

“A chronicle no longer gold,
A bargaining with mist and mould,
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth; and then

“An intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth’s obscene, corrupting love.

“And still the ripe fruit from the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer,
With no betrayal of despair.

“O Courage, could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell,
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me?”

Beautifully said, Nonno.  Most beautifully said, indeed.  Stendhal was right to faint upon seeing the David and Hannah Jelkes was right to thank her grandfather for composing such a lovely poem, so it seems only right for me to thank Tennessee Williams for writing such a lovely play and then cry after reading it one more time.

Why I Believe In God

For my first post related neither to movies, literature, nor my own work, allow me to tackle a biggie, and that is to do my best to explain why I believe God exists.  While it may seem like questions related to God are primarily theological matters, I would argue that they also very closely relate to the nature and purpose of art.  For if God exists, then that makes a difference as to what art is and its purpose.  If He does not exist, then that too has ramifications as to the nature of art.  My own work, whether it be writing or filmmaking, is informed (consciously or not) by my understanding of God.  The same is true of my writing about movies–my view of film and what constitutes good art from bad is directly linked to my belief and views of God.  I fully believe that if there is any single root factor which informs and governs one’s view of life, one’s opinions, and one’s very manner of thought, then it must be how one views God and whether or not there is such a being.

As I continue with this preface, let make two points to begin with: first, by necessity a single blog post can in no way be comprehensive on this most profound of topics.  Entire books and volumes of books can and have been written eloquently and by others far wiser and more intelligent than myself.  Find them and read them; it can do you no harm.  Second, I am here going to try and focus merely on why I believe in God as opposed to believing in no God, rather than attempt to explain why I am a Christian rather than a member of any of the world’s other great religions.  That is a different and equally exhaustive topic which I may one day in the future attempt to distill into this blog, but not today.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways approach this issue: as a theist (one who believes in God), or as an atheist (one who believes in no God).  Theists, of course, branch out into a myriad of different religions and beliefs, whereas atheists must almost exclusively be Materialists (those who believe that the universe is of entirely material and natural origin).  A third way to approach the issue is as an Agnostic, which is simply a translation of a Greek term meaning “ignorant”, but I will not address that particular view since to hold any opinion at all means to believe a thing is knowable and by definition, agnostics believe things to be unknowable.

To begin with, I’d like to dispel a common misconception in popular culture which claims that as a worldview, atheism is open minded–a kind of mental tabula rasa in which evidence is evenly weighed without prejudice and conclusions are subsequently drawn.  Whereas with theism, it is commonly asserted, this is not possible, for to accept a particular religion, one must accept certain dogmas and creeds which hinder one’s ability to make an unbiased evaluation of the evidence.  The atheist, who accepts that there is no God, is therefore free from such dogma’s and prejudices and able to weigh the evidence more clearly.  This is plainly untrue, and an increasingly common misstatement.  When asked, atheists will often say something to the effect of, “I don’t believe in God”, when it would more correct to state, “I believe in no God.”  As I noted above, the actual definition of the word atheist is a belief in no God.  Atheism is not a denial of belief, but an affirmative belief in Nothing, or at least in no God.  This may seem like semantics, but the difference is important.  There is no such state in which one is utterly open minded and free of bias; there can be no such thing as a pure denial of belief and still remain a thinking creature, unless, I suppose, one is a plant, for so far as I know plants are supremely open minded.  Human beings, however, are not and cannot be.  To make any positive statement is to hold a belief, and to hold a belief is to be dogmatic.  The skeptic is no less biased than the believer, for he holds a definite bias in favor of skepticism.  In order to believe in no God, one must hold certain things to be true, for example, the purely material origin of the universe.  The atheist, in other words, who holds a Materialist view of reality is every bit as rigidly credal and dogmatic as the Nicene Creed of Christianity, or the Jewish Shema, or the Islamic Shahada.

Why do I believe in God?  Perhaps for the same reason that when I hear a symphony I listen for the voice of the composer and when I read a book I search for the perspective of the author.  And how much more infinitely complex is the universe than any book or symphony and how eerily beautiful it is.  A work of art is beautiful because it is orderly, but not merely in the sense of being neat and tidy, rather in the sense that the artist has arranged and ordered the elements in a way that is aesthetically pleasing; in the same way, the universe is beautiful, but not merely in the sense that it is aesthetically pleasing (though images from the Hubble telescope suggest that it most definitely is), but in the sense that it has purpose: the sustainability of life.  Without order, the conditions could not exist which are capable of supporting life and certainly not for any length of time.  The Materialist must maintain that the chaos of the Big Bang eventually ordered itself into the universe we have today–a universe capable of sustaining life.  Yet chaos does not beget order–not on it’s own, at any rate.

St. Thomas Aquinas used the analogy of the “Unmoved Mover”, and I feel it appropriate to quote his own explanation of the analogy:

“We observe that all things that move are moved by other things, the lower by the higher.  The elements are moved by heavenly bodies; and among the elements themselves, the stronger moves the weaker; and even among the heavenly bodies, the lower are set in motion by the higher.  This process cannot be traced back into infinity.  For everything that is moved by another is a sort of instrument of the first mover.  Therefore, if a first mover is lacking, all things that move will be instruments.  But if the series of movers and things moved is infinite, there can be no first mover.  In such a case, these infinitely many movers and things moved will all be instruments.  But even the unlearned perceive how ridiculous it is to suppose that instruments are moved, unless they are set in motion by some principal agent.  This would be like fancying that, when a chest or a bed is being built, the saw or the hatchet performs its functions without a carpenter.  Accordingly, there must be a first mover that is above all the rest; and this being we call God.”

Here the Materialist might point out that “principal agent” mentioned by St. Thomas which set everything in motion was the Big Bang, and the “instruments” are what is known as Natural Law, which governed the elements after the Bang released them.  To this day, the motions of the universe and the principles which bind it together are determined by Natural Law.  Yet even here, the Materialist cannot help but to fall back on a self-defeating metaphor.  In no way do I deny that there are principles which bind the universe together and that they are aptly known as Natural Law, because much as we might delight in the notion of eliminating Congress, there can be no law without a lawmaker.

Why do I believe in God? because everything from art, to ethics, to the complexity of nature points to it; because I believe in such concepts as beauty and truth; because I believe that liberty, equality, and the brotherhood of mankind are real, genuinely existing values to be strived for–concepts which have no foundation in a universe formed without purpose and utterly at odds with a humanity that takes the strictly Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest as its motto for advancement.  Why do I believe in God? because it is reasonable to do so.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

These are clearly not the final words on the topic; it is one that will continue to be argued and debated until the end of time.  You must forgive me also for making some fairly broad statements; it is the restrictions of time and length that prevent me from going into more detail regarding some of my raised points, and it is the same restrictions which prevent me from even raising a hundred others that I feel might also validate my perspective.

Feel free to chime in and comment.  If I’ve been unclear, I’ll try to elucidate my statements.

 

No Rest For the Weary

nrftw title

In addition to my novelistic impulses, I am also a screenwriter and director with one feature film to my credit titled, The Deserted.

I just completed a new draft of a screenplay that I have been periodically working on for the last few years called, No Rest For the Weary. It is a Western (one of my personal favorite genre’s) about an aging bounty hunter on the trail of an outlaw that has evaded capture for years and has been branded “uncatchable” due to his ruthlessness and cunning.  When the two encounter each other it becomes a moral battle of wills with the outlaw fighting for his life and freedom and the bounty hunter battling for his sense of justice as well as his dignity and self respect within the community.

So if you or someone you know is a producer on the lookout for some killer material and a hotshot young director, then I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Why The Devouring Flame?

If you haven’t guessed already based on the large banner image at the top of the page, this blog is named after the title of my hopefully-soon-to-be-complete first book, The Devouring Flame.  It is a project which I have been steadily working on for over two years now and from which I just recently completed a workable draft.  Naturally it still needs some more work and I plan to do one more rewrite before attempting publication.  Nevertheless, having a full draft of my first novel is an immensely satisfying feeling and one which even a few years ago I would have never anticipated for myself.

To satisfy any lingering curiosity, the novel is about a young man named Alexander Djuric who, though intelligent and articulate, lacks inspiration and purpose in life and feels that it is not to be had on this side of the world.  In an attempt to satisfy these yearnings he decides to take a trip to Europe where he finds his way to Lisbon, Portugal–an unfamiliar town in an unfamiliar country–where he discovers a young girl on holiday with her family.  The very sight of her awakens something in him and he begins to follow and observe her from a distance.  The more he sees her the more intrigued and even obsessed he becomes, leading him steadily down a path of self-destruction.

Is your curiosity piqued?  Are you sitting on the edge of your seat dying to know what happens?  Then hopefully when the time comes I will be able to count on you to pick up a copy.  I plan also to use this blog to promote the progress from manuscript to publication and will keep you updated with any new developments.  Stay tuned!