Sunday Matinee #11 Bird Box
I can do this blindfolded. I have to. Or we don't make it.
Hello, Dear Reader, and I wish you well today. R-Rated Movie Club has proven to be a fun creative outlet for me and I want to say “thank you” for being a subscriber, it means a lot to me. Today is a poll day so that means be sure to take it before it closes in one week and we’ll look at results in two weeks. Here’s the poll:
Audience Reaction Poll - Double Feature!
Today, we have two polls. Substack polls allow up to five choices and run for up to one week. That isn’t a very large poll and that isn’t for very long. If you’re reading this in the archives, sorry you missed it, and glad you’re here! For us today on March 12, 2023, it’s also Oscar Night. We have two polls and they’re both about Best Picture. Hopefully, you open this newsletter today and take the poll before they reveal the big winner. But either way, I want to know what you think.
The first poll is what is your pick for Best Picture from the five nominated movies that are rated R. The second poll is your pick of the five nominated rated something else. Who am I fooling? This is 2023. Of course the other five are rated PG-13. Do people even allow themselves to watch anything rated PG anymore? Answer: only if they’re smart enough to watch Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Amazing movie, sincerely!
We’ll talk about the poll results right here in two weeks, and thank you.
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Quotes With Notes
Full Text: John 11:1-45 (Revised Common Lectionary)
5th Sunday in Lent (March 26, 2023)
Sign up for a free course at EnterTheBible.org to learn more.
Context: Jesus has received word of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, in the village of Bethany. Lazarus has fallen ill, and Jesus is compelled to visit him. However, his disciples remember his life had been at risk in this area from their earlier travels.
7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble because the light is not in them.”
Bird Box (2018) | Netflix
Starring Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Vivien Lyra Blair, Julian Edwards
Written by Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Josh Malerman (novel) | Directed by Susanne Bier
Context: A tightly-tied blindfold appears to be the only way to survive in a world taken over by horrific monsters. If you can’t see them, you survive. In the opening scene of the movie, a flash-forward before a stunning climax, a woman named Malorie (Sandra Bullock) tells two children (Vivien Lyra Blair, Julian Edwards) the plan. They have a journey ahead of them and there’s only one way to take it and survive.
Malorie: Listen to me. I’m only going to say this once. We’re going on a trip now. It’s going to be rough. It’s gonna feel like it’s going on for a long time, so it’s gonna be hard to stay alert, it’s gonna be even harder to stay quiet, but you have to do both. You have to do every single thing I say or we will not make it. Understand? Under no circumstance are you allowed to take off your blindfold. If I find that you have, I will hurt you. Do you understand? It’s cold. We have blankets. Boy, you have your dog. Girl, you have your kitty. This is just a place. There's nothing more that we need from it. Do you understand? And no talking on the river. You must listen as closely as you can. If you hear something in the woods, you tell me. If you hear something in the water, you tell me. But you never, ever take off your blindfold. If you look, you will die. Do you understand?
Despite four gospel tellings of the life of Jesus, the raising of Lazarus is unique to the Gospel of John, and the story takes up almost the entirety of chapter 11 (John 11:1-45). These verses don’t necessarily get skipped, but the highlight of the story is the moment when Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. Second to that may be John 11:35, famously the shortest verse in English in the King James Version Bible: “Jesus wept.” (There are others that are technically shorter in the original Koine Greek.) And after that may be Jesus and Mary talking about whether Lazarus would have died if he’d been there in time. Those three beats are part of a powerful climax to this story.
These few verses about setting out on the journey stand out, though. In a journey to bring and restore life, Jesus risks his own life. It isn’t as simple as taking the light rail or arranging a car pool. The disciples warn Jesus that last time they were in the Judean region, his life had been in danger. They go anyway. If they stay, death wins. When he speaks of traveling by the light of day, he’s also speaking of traveling by faith. Likewise, when faith grips you, act on it. Don’t wait. When our strength in faith fades away, we can get less active, even stumble. Walk now while you can. Jesus conveys a sense of urgency to his followers here.
I’m reminded of another moment when Jesus speaks with the disciples about the journey ahead. While this story of Lazarus is unique to the Gospel of John, we have another story in the synoptic gospels but not John. Here, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to teach the good news and heal the sick (Matthew 10; Mark 6:6-13; Luke 9:1-6). He gives them a set of instructions, including to travel light so as to simultaneously not be overburdened with worldly things while experiencing the burden of relying on other people. Don’t bring extra clothes or provisions; trust that some people will help you. Travel by faith. Just go. Let urgency lead you.
Bird Box starts with urgency. This speech from Malorie to Boy and Girl sets up the tension right away. We may be confused as viewers for what the situation is, but we definitely understand the stakes. It’s life and death. There’s no choice in the matter. If they don’t travel when they can, if they don’t travel light, if they don’t understand and follow directions, they won’t make it. It’s tough to expound much on this first scene without spoiling large swaths of the movie. After all, this is a “flash forward” to open things. But suffice it to say, the next two hours are essentially watching people either live the life that Malorie lays out for Boy and Girl, or not live it out. And tragically in this movie universe, if you don’t live it out, you don’t live long at all.
Making people understand your point of view is hard enough. Making a plan of action simple and compelling enough that you can just “go” without nitpicking and voting and committees is hard, too. Making people understand you when urgency is on the line adds a whole layer of challenge. There are times when slowing down is better. But there are times when you have to say “Today is the day” and go. When I coached improv performance, I would often give say that as sideline coaching. Performers were hesitant to have their characters make a definitive choice, to move the action and the relationship along. If you go into the scene with the mindset “Today is the day,” things will happen. In our own lives, “Today is the day” isn’t just for January 2 when we put those new year’s resolutions into practice for the first time. It can be every day.
Living in the light of faith and grace and mercy is a matter of urgency. We can just go. We can take the journey even with risk. We can travel by faith. Where is Jesus calling you with urgency? What is the path before you and how are you approaching it, body, mind, and spirit?
That does it, Dear Reader, we’ll see you next time. May you be open to the wonder that is around you and may it inspire you to live with generosity and kindness. And to today’s preachers, may gathering for worship with your community encourage you in your own personal faith journey. God’s peace and good movies to you!
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