More from Roger Ebert on von Trier's 'Antichrist'

Almost as soon as I'd posted, the feed from Ebert's blog brought news of a second, more in-depth post on Antichrist. He starts by noting that the film 'will not leave me alone' and goes on to say, 'I rarely find a serious film by a major director to be this disturbing. Its images are […]

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Roger Ebert on Lars von Trier's 'Antichrist'

Roger Ebert's comments about 'Antichrist' by Lars von Trier

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Angels and Demons

An article by Tony Watkins on Angels and Demons, directed by Ron Howard and based on the novel by Dan Brown.

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Angels and Demons - discussion guide

This discussion guide was first published on Culturewatch in 2009. Summary Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is woken by the ringing of his telephone in the early hours of the morning. The caller is Maximilian Kohler, Director of CERN, the largest particle physics research facility in the world. He wants Langdon’s help because of the murder […]

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Being Charlie Kaufman

Jeffrey Overstreet interviews Charlie Kaufman for Image Journal (10 November 2008) Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York finally reaches UK cinemas this week. I'm really looking forward to this, though I know it will be somewhat weird and bleak. Kaufman is best known for writing the screenplays for Being John Malkovich (dir. Spike Jonze, 1999) and […]

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Scaring kids

Some quotes from Lewis and Tolkien on fairy tales.

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Star Trek

Article by Tony Watkins on Star Trek.

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Article by Tony Watkins (first published on Culturewatch) about Henry Selick's film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book, Coraline

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Reflections on Movie Nazis

Mike Hertenstein, 'Movie Nazis & After the Truth', Filmwell, 28 April 2009 Mike Hertenstein writes a very interesting piece about 'Movie Nazis' over at Filmwell. Primarily it's a piece reflecting on After the Truth, a film written by Americans but finally made by German filmmakers in the late 1990s. But in a long introduction, Hertenstein […]

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Article on X-Men Origins: Wolverine, focusing particularly on the struggle within Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) between his 'animal' and 'higher' natures.

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State of Play

Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is covering the story of an apparently random shooting in Washington DC for his paper, the Washington Globe, when he sees an old friend of his on the news. Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) is a rising star in Congress. He’s handsome, bright and ambitious, and is chairing a committee investigating defence spending. What catches McCaffrey’s attention is that Collins’s attractive young research assistant, Sonia Baker, has died – and Collins is clearly very cut up about it. McAffrey is irritated when a very junior colleague, the Globe’s political blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), comes to ask if Collins was having an affair with Sonia. McAffrey rebuffs her enquiries, but before long their demanding editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) has them working together on the story. It’s a story of deceit, corruption and murder. Apparently unrelated events turn out to be connected, and nothing is quite as it first seems.

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50 Dead Men Walking

The troubles in Northern Ireland are a very sensitive subject for a film. The worst of the violence is still a recent memory, with many families across the province continuing to live with the grief of having lost a loved one to guns and bombs. A film which takes one side will be anathema to the other, and one which tries not to take sides stands a good chance of annoying everyone. But staying neutral was exactly what writer/director Kari Skogland believed she had to do with her retelling of the true story of Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess). Skogland is a Canadian and so very much an outsider looking in. Being an outsider has the advantage of allowing one to stand back and reflect coolly on what both sides of the conflict are saying. But it can also lead to an inadequate understanding of the complexities of the situation. Skogland felt that by maintaining neutrality, she would force the audience to make up their own minds about what happened, but her film has prompted criticisms that it is too pro-IRA, most notably from McGartland himself.

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Directed by Vicente Amorim, starring Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs (Lionsgate, 2009) This article was first published on Damaris's Culturewatch website, and is used with permission. © Copyright Tony Watkins, 2009 How does an ordinary, decent man become part of one of the world’s greatest evils? This enigma is at the heart of Good, and […]

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To really see what's going on in a movie, you need to look

Bob Davidson, 'Eyes Wide Open', Christianity Today Movies, 14 April 2009 It's good to see Christianity Today Movies publishing an article about getting beyond the surface level of film-viewing. CTMovies has some great reviewers, some of whom are online friends and very active in the Arts&Faith forum, but Bob Davidson's article helps people to engage […]

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The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria begins in 1837, when Victoria (Emily Blunt) is seventeen. She is heir to the throne of her uncle, King William IV (Jim Broadbent), and so is protected to an extraordinary degree. She is not allowed to sleep in a bedroom on her own, but must sleep in her mother’s room. She is […]

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Revolutionary Road

This article was first published on © Tony Watkins, 2010 With Revolutionary Road, director Sam Mendes returns to the territory of his Oscar-winning film, American Beauty. Ten years after that film explored the dissatisfaction, emptiness and desperation behind suburbia’s tranquil facade, Mendes is once more giving us a window into the shallow lives of […]

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Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is an exuberant, emotional and uplifting film from Danny Boyle. Sukhdev Sandhu, writing in the Daily Telegraph (9 January 2009), compared it to Usain Bolt’s world record-breaking performance at the Beijing Olympics: ‘funny, shocking, spectacularly turbo-charged. It takes your breath away at the same time as it makes you want to holler with […]

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Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema

Once more good intentions of keeping up with blogging have gone the way of most good intentions. Anyway, the book, Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema was officially published last Friday. My copies arrived on Monday - always an exciting moment to see the results of so much hard work nicely printed (11 pt […]

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The Da Vinci Code - more audio

I've now added the recordings of Wednesday evening's events at Above Bar Church, Southampton, which I shared with David Couchman of Focus. I talked about the appeal of The Da Vinci Code, its opposition to orthodox historical Christianity, the sacred feminine and goddess spirituality. David addressed three key claims in the book: that the Gnostic […]

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Da Vinci Code audio

I've done a number of Da Vinci Code events recently, some of which I recorded. The audio files are now available online for a limited period (as new material becomes available, older material will be kicked out). The first is from an event in London which includes some material on Leonardo and on the supposedly […]

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Getting Da Vinci-ed out!

I'm beginning to feel like I've overdosed on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Hardly suprising I guess since it's been such a huge bestseller since publication and especially given the amount of over-the-top hype from Sony (which is, frankly, setting people up to be disappointed with the film - all the advertising makes people […]

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All in our Genes?

I've just watched the film Gattaca for the second time. It's written and directed by a New Zealander, Andrew Niccol who also penned another of last year's big box-office hits, The Truman Show. This is a man to watch out for - these two films are two of the most intelligent and thought-provoking I've seen in a long time.

Gattaca is set in the "not-too-distant-future" and opens with a quotation from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:13 which says, "Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?" The film tells how our civilisation may one day attempt to do this.

As soon as the hero, Vincent, is born, his DNA is analysed and his future capabilities are predicted - including the fact that he has a 99% chance of dying of a heart disorder when he is 30 years old. As a result, he is condemned to a life of menial labour.

However, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) has a dream - to get to Gattaca Space Academy and join space missions. Through sheer determination - and the use of someone else's very superior DNA which he buys illegally - he manages to achieve his ambition.

This is a world in which "normal" children are genetically engineered to be free of significant diseases and social hindrances such as left-handedness. Those born by "old-fashioned" methods (i.e. not by IVF) are significantly inferior - they are designated "In-valid" and are the scum of society. No longer is discrimination on the basis of race or gender - it has become a science based on analysing someone's genetic code.

What's so disturbing about Gattaca is that this frightening scenario is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

When Andrew Niccol was asked why he wrote this film, he replied, "My genes made me do it. I don't know when I first thought of it, but you can open a newspaper today, and I'm certain that you'll read something about a new gene, and it became inescapable for me as a story idea."

It sometimes seems that hardly a day passes without the media reporting some new discovery in genetics. Again and again we hear that scientists claim to have isolated a gene for a certain disease. Increasingly we are told that aspects of our personality can be attributed to our DNA. Just last year we heard about genetic connections for lust, being a good parent and religious inclination and several others.

Insurance companies want to increase the amount of genetic testing they carry out in order to identify high-risk applicants for life-insurance. We are already getting to the point where our society is attempting to define us by our DNA.

This is an issue that raises extremely difficult ethical issues. The Human Genome Project (a vast undertaking to identify every human gene) is ahead of schedule and has already led to major steps forward in diagnosing and treating a number of diseases. It's something for which we should all be grateful.

But how far should we go? Should life-insurance companies have the right to know about our susceptibility to heart disease? When does treatment become meddling? How do we prevent ourselves reaching a situation where discrimination on the basis of genes is normal?

One of my concerns is that there is not enough debate going on about the ethics of genetics research - but the research continues at full speed. It is important for Christians to get up to speed on these issues and make sure that we have something to say - to our friends if not at a wider level. Otherwise things will move on regardless.

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© Tony Watkins, 2020
The Tony and Jane Watkins Trust oversees and supports the ministries of Tony and Jane Watkins in Christian training, education, and communication. It is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 1062254.
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