jesus the cynic?

It’s interesting to view Jesus scholarship over the last 50 years. Most of it seems to reflect more on the political climate of the era it was written rather than on the actual historical Jesus, i.e. by turning Jesus into “Jesus the Revolutionary”, “Jesus the Mystic”, “Jesus the Philosopher”,etc.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Arguably I make it when I refer to Jesus as a “populist” figure of the time (I don’t mean that as a compliment. I mean that in its most literal sense: Jesus was addressing working class problems in a religious/political context.) It’s very difficult to separate our biases from the subject being analyzed, especially one as controversial as the historicity of Jesus.

I think there’s a (growing) minority consensus that Jesus took some influence from the Cynics. Some quack scholars might even say he was an outright Cynic.

I think this is an interesting question. In my view, the majority of mainstream scholars, both Christian and secular, wish to paint Jesus as a figure that almost emerged from a vacuum. It makes sense actually. All of the earliest, independently attested documents (The hypothetical Q…which survives almost in its entirety between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke…the epistles of Paul, Gospel of Mark, and Josephus) make no mention of Jesus’s origins (Q and Mark both start with the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist). So an attempt to say anything about Jesus’s influences, other than that of John the Baptist, would be pure conjecture. But there are some interesting parallels between Jesus and the Cynics: Mark 6:8, the location of Nazareth and its proximity to an apparent hotbed of Cynicism, Jesus’s confrontational style and eschewing of fame and fortune, embracing of poverty, etc. etc.

But read the Cynic texts. To the Cynics, Diogenes was their “Christ figure”. They all tried to emulate him. And to be honest, he was a disgusting asshole. While Diogenes definitely had his influence, I doubt he would have accumulated very many personal followers. I mean, many might have tried to ACT like him, but there’s no way anyone could have spent more than 10 minutes around him. Jesus, meanwhile, was probably trying to do something entirely different and would have certainly disapproved of things like…I dunno…MASTURBATING and SHITTING in public.

In my humble view, the Cynic modus operandi was likely something that was in the air at the time which some itinerant and apocalyptic preachers might have adopted. But just because that aesthetic was in vogue at the moment doesn’t mean that they were practicing Cynics.

While it’s fun to speculate, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one: Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish preacher preaching to a mostly Jewish audience.

your damn right ignorance is bliss!

Ever wonder how nice it would be to not know how to read?

Or how about being a eunuch? You never have to have sex again. Sounds like a good deal to me.

What about being a monk? You know, never having to talk, being separated from society, and you get to read all day.

Or better yet, how about being a eunuch monk that doesn’t know how to read?

Sounds like my ideal existence.

woyzek and ninth configuration

I swear that I don’t plan what movies I’m gonna watch. I sit on my ass and scroll through some app on my smart TV and find random shit.

Oddly enough, the two movies I watched back to back were Werner Herzog’s Woyzeck and William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration. Both films are about military personnel dealing with insanity and philosophy….not subjects that you find in most films.

This is probably not one of Herzog’s more appreciated films and I wasn’t entirely certain what to make of it. If you watch it, it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to you that it was shot in 18 days. For a period piece, it’s very small scale and stage-like. But knowing this might help on a second viewing.

Klaus Kinski plays the titular character Woyzeck. He’s a lowly soldier that’s essentially being gaslit by his commanding officer and a quack doctor. He’s a loving father and husband, but his wife sleeps around with another officer and that officer publicly humiliates Woyzeck. Finally, he murders his wife.

Other reviewers called this an “anti-Enlightenment” film. I think that’s apt. The two men egging on Woyzeck’s decent into madness are obsessed with science and philosophy. The officer even mocks Woyzeck, stating that he lacks “morals” due to his status in society. Woyzeck defends himself, claiming that as a man without money or education, he simply does what’s “natural”. When viewed from this perspective, the Enlightenment ideals espoused by the Officer and Doctor come across as abusive, while Woyzeck is actually the only sane and moral person in the movie. The small scale of the movie contributes to the anti-enlightenment narrative, as it isn’t flashy or self-congratulatory like we’ve come to expect with these kinds of films.

Meanwhile, The Ninth Configuration couldn’t be more different. I could tell you what it’s about, but then I’d be lying. I just know it takes place in a castle acting as a psychiatric ward for Vietnam vets, Stacy Keach is in it, and there’s a bar fight. The movie is totally disorienting. At times it’s a psychological drama, other times it’s a comedy, and at one point it becomes an 80s action flick. The tone is all over the place. Perhaps that’s by design but I’m not totally convinced. Either way, this disorder contributes to the overall mystique of the film.

It should also be noted that The Ninth Configuration apparently exists in The Exorcist expanded universe. Not that it has anything to do with those films, except that one of the characters is in the first one.

To be honest, if I watched these movies in isolation, I wouldn’t be a fan of either. But they work very well in tandem. The military aspect of both films seems trivial, but when we consider the discipline and order that the military provides, it contrasts with the chaos associated with insanity. Additionally both films expose the problem of insanity in different ways. One is very plain and straightforward. The other is a complete fucking mess. Woyzeck proposes that insanity is brought forth by the imposition of morals, logic, possession, and science. Ninth Configuration says that it’s the absence of such ideals…or more precisely, the absence of God… is it’s true driving force. Woyzeck is nihilistic. Ninth Configuration is hopeful. Yet both might agree that insanity arises out of the eternal battle between chaos and order.

moon raker

Now hear me out:

If you get REALLY high, then Moonraker can become a decent, but not a GREAT film instead of the cocaine-fueled nightmare that is now.

What I love about the James Bond franchise is that it’s pure spectacle. It doesn’t shy away from that. In fact, it full on embraces it…at least during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

What people don’t realize about the Sean Connery through Timothy Dalton era is that the plot DOES NOT MATTER. At all. Not in the slightest. They’re all screenplays based on story beats: 1) Cold open 2) Titles 3) Moneypenny/Q/M 4)Intro to villain, etc etc. and it always ends with the villain lair exploding and Bond fucking the Bond Girl. The facade of a story is always in service to hitting those beats.

It’s like listening to a Phil Spector produced album where the sheer scale of the production covers up the limitations of the artist.

Now Moonraker crosses the line from being spectacle to straight up insanity. It’s obvious that the producers were just throwing shit up on the screen in a desperate attempt to compete with Star Wars. But underneath all that bullshit, there is a decent James Bond film.

The scene that is often cited as being the moment Bond jumps the shark is the gondola chase. But did you know that that scene is completely useless? It advances the plot in no way. Who’s chasing Bond? Why are they chasing him? It’s assumed to be the villain’s henchmen, but that’s never made clear. As far as Bond knows, it’s just random dudes. There are no consequences for the chase either. You can cut it out completely, and nothing in the story would have been missed. Not even a story beat. The very next scene is a fight with a henchmen where a shit ton of glass gets broken. There is literally no point in the gondola chase.

Honestly, half the shit that takes place in Venice could be cut. Only two important things happen there: you learn that the villain is using a chemical agent in his diabolical plot and the Bond girl is actually a CIA agent. The death of the first henchmen takes place there, which explains the appearance of Jaws later in the film, but I’d argue that this character could be cut completely and nothing would be missed.

Could Jaws be cut out? Probably not. Unlike most things in this film, Jaws actually advances the plot. But his character could be made less ridiculous by introducing him in the Rio Carnival sequence (who cares why he’s there? It should be obvious). Unfortunately that stupid ass love interest ends up becoming useful for Bond at a key point, so that shit has to stay in. BUT all that crap afterwards can be cut out.

Now the film goes completely off the rails after Bond escapes the ambulance, and not much can be done to fix that. 007 has to go into space 🤷‍♂️. But if roughly 1/4 of the movie gets edited out, you’d have a nice little spy film.

I wish someone would make a fan edit of this.

faith based (2020)

So I was watching Spalding Gray’s Terrors of Pleasure when I thought “I’d probably enjoy this if I was sober.” So then I searched for something on Amazon Prime.

I came across a comedy called Faith Based, about two buddies that try to make a Christian film. It had all the ingredients to make a good film, or at least a movie that I’d enjoy. But it serves as a good reminder of how difficult it is to make a good motion picture.

It’s a story that I’d otherwise enjoy: about mediocre, yet good natured, talent trying to break into the big leagues by making a movie to help save their father’s church. Naturally, they discover the business is populated by cynical assholes.

Some of the jokes land. When the lead characters explain that “no one wants to see a movie where they don’t recognize anybody” and the camera lingers on the two actors you don’t recognize, I chuckled a bit. The film could have used a bit more of that self-awareness.

But I really am like my lead character in A Shot at the Title: I rarely watch a movie that I don’t want to completely rewrite and redirect. I think the film could have been salvaged by jettisoning all the Office inspired interviews and extending the length. The movie couldn’t have been made for very much money, but the production quality is pretty good. Maybe lingering on some of the shots would have extended its impact.

Of course, it’s not my movie, but if I were making it, as the lead characters go through their trials and tribulations, I would have played with audience by getting the movie as close to a shitty Christian film as one could possibly go before pulling the rug out from under them. That would have accentuated one of the film’s themes: that all of our hopes and dreams are actually just a scheme to make some asshole more money.

But if you’re interested, despite its subject matter, it’s not an anti-Christian or anti-religious movie. At its heart, it’s a film about family, community, and belonging. Nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before.

Anyways, now I’m sober. Back to Spalding Gray.

another shot @ the title (part vi)

“This proceeding has been a disgrace to the Los Angeles Superior Court, to the State of California, and to the justice system as a whole,” the judge ruled. “I have no choice but to rule in favor of the plaintiff. James ACHOO 🤧…excuse me, I sneezed…will get full credit for directing AND writing Like A Fart in the Wind. But do not count this as a victory James. With your reputation for belittling and suppressing governments and various newspapers around the globe, I deem you to be a menace to society. Unfortunately, this is a civil case and not a criminal one. But I have seen the final cut of this film. I am doing Dallas Howard Austin Antonio and Pee-Wee Weepee a favor for not giving them credit for this picture. I can’t think of anything worse than giving you, James, sole credit for this disaster.”

“Thank you for your ruling,” I said to the Judge. “But with all due respect, I believe you to be a bitch that wouldn’t know art if it bit her in the cunt. I believe this picture to be my finest work….far exceeding This Tastes Like Ass. Court stenographer, take note: Like a Fart in the Wind will be the greatest motion picture ever made. Thank you and good day.”

I walked outside the courtroom where Pablo greeted me with a cigar and bottle of brandy. “You were brilliant,” Pablo said. “With the attention that the case brought to the project, this movie is on pace for being the highest grossing film ever made.”

“Any publicity is good publicity,” I replied.

I lit up the cigar. “You know Pablo,” I continued, “I just want to thank you for bringing me back into the game. If I went on with retirement, I would have been dead in a year. Now I feel more alive than ever.”

Pablo cracked open the brandy and we began drinking at the courthouse. “James, you’re a rare talent,” he said. “After this film succeeds at the box office, I have the feeling that this will be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.”

We both patted each other on the back and shared a few laughs as we walked down the courthouse steps and into the beautiful California sunset.

****

From the Idaho Statesman

He Will Never Work in This Town Again“ says Steven Spielberg

By Dick Shaftsburg

“Hollywood is in a panic over the abysmal opening weekend of Like A Fart in a Windstorm. It grossed $1,500 against a $10 Billion budget.

Produced by Kathleen Kennedy of Trainwreck Productions, and directed by (name redacted due to ongoing legal disputes between the individual and the Idaho Statement. Henceforth, he will be referred to as the “Director”), the project was fraught with problems from the beginning…from various court cases to the death of its leading actor, Christian Bale.

Critics panned Like a Fart in a Windstorm from the beginning. Leonard Maltin stated that, “I’d rather have tweezers shoved up my pee hole than watch this shit again. Christian Bale deserved better.” Even Roger Ebert came back from the dead to ask, “Who was the leading character? Was it Christian Bale? Or was it his disgusting ass cheeks?”

After her firing from Trainwreck Productions, Kathleen Kennedy has become the first woman to have been exiled from the United States to Saskatchewan, Canada, often called the “hairy taint of North America.”

Meanwhile, the Director has gone missing. Given his obscene wealth, he’s likely in Namibia where Prime Minister Wesley Snipes has named him Finance and Defense Minister, as well as Attorney General.

Given the poor box office performance of Like a Fart in the Wind, it is unlikely the Director will return to Hollywood. In addition to his professional troubles, he is also under investigation by the EU, UN, and FBI for allegations regarding human trafficking, racketeering, and bribery of numerous foreign governments.

“If I had known that I was going to be in the same profession as him (the Director),” explained acclaimed Hollywood legend David Lynch, “I would have prostituted my asshole years ago.”

“He’s a disgrace,” said Martin Scorsese. “Just a total disaster, just like Shutter Island.”

THE END

another Shot at the Title (part v)

After Christian (Bale’s) funeral, I began lamenting some of my decisions at the production studio. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to gain 150lbs,” I said.

“You’re one arrogant son of a bitch,” Jeffery Greco said.

“Don’t blame me for his death!” I replied. “Chris could’ve turned down the role!”

Kat was two sheets in the wind when she spoke up. “I’m finished in this town,” she said. “Because of you, I’ll never work again.”

“Lay off the sauce, Kat,” I said. “Now pour me a drink.”

“There’s no way we can release the film now,” Kat continued. “$7 billion down the toilet!”

“Now calm down!” I interrupted. “We’ll just have to do some reshoots. I’ll step in for Chris’s role. I’m an Academy Award-winning actor too, ya know?”

“Hold on there bucko,” Greco said. “There ain’t no way the studio will let you back on the set. Not after the lawsuit with Dallas and killing your leading man. That’s to say nothing about the numerous investigations into your international holdings!”

“If the film’s gonna be completed,” Kat said, “then your assistant, Pee-Wee, will finish production.”

“Well that Machiavellian son of a bitch,” I said. “I knew he had an ulterior motive.”

“Since we are 90% finished with filming, we’ll use CGI to complete Chris’s scenes,” explained Kat. “That will considerably jack up the budget, but we have no other choice.”

“Then I guess I’m fired,” I said as I stood up. “But I still want full credit for directing this picture.”

“Not happening,” Kat replied.

“Kat, you’ve crossed me for the last time,” I said. “I’m going to the Director’s Guild. If you want a court battle, you’ve got one sister!”

TO BE CONTINUED

Christian Bale (1974-2021) 😞