Sunday, June 21, 2009

For Crying "Up" Loud

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Disney/Pixar’s “Up” is the best reviewed film so far in 2009 for good reason: it is the best film that has come out this year. An animated film, it truly is “fun for the whole family”. (Often when you see “fftwf”, it means the parents are to get some fun out of watching their kids laugh at pratfalls and poop jokes. It this film, there are characters that people of every age [except maybe preschoolers] can relate to and find appealing and humor for sophisticated and innocent tastes.)
So, we’ve established this much: “Up” is a worthy film, and if you go to the theater to see movies, then you should go to this one. If you watch films on DVD, you should put this on the list of films to rent or buy. And if you don’t like it, don’t blame me, blame 98% of the critics at
I just want to write something about people watching the film. Shortly after the film came out, I talked to a high school girl about her viewing experience (I’d rather not use your name, Hannah Wycoff, because I wouldn’t want to embarrass you). She noticed a man in her row in the theater began sobbing during a portion of the film. She was baffled because she thought the film was funny throughout. Why was this guy crying?
All right, I’ll admit it. I got misty eyed watching this film. The story of Carl Fredricksen, a 78 year old widower, has a dominant theme of loss: loss of possessions, loved ones and dreams. And it got to me. So here is a question: why do people watch the same film and some cry, while others just laugh or stare like robot automatons?
Obviously, we approach a film with different life experiences. If you come to the film “Up” with loss in your life experience, it may touch you in a different way than those who haven’t experienced loss. Or perhaps the difference in reactions can be accounted for in peoples varied imaginations or emotional make-up or levels of empathy.
Some of it is just a mystery. Art has a way of creeping around our emotional defenses. A simple painting of the sea side can touch some unexpressed inner longing of the heart. A symphonic movement can make us laugh with joy just as a piece of chamber music can make us suddenly somber, and we may have a very difficult time explaining either reaction. The human heart, mind and spirit are complex entities, and we often can’t account for our own responses.
I find these same mysteries come to play in worship. Our reactions to the hymns, choruses, sermons, testimonies and readings can be unpredictable. The same service that bores one person changes the life of another person. That’s all right. Every congregation is an eclectic group of saints and sinners and combinations of the two. So God will work in every person in very different ways (if we allow him to work).
Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit of God works in ways that we cannot understand, crying out to God on our behalf for our great and real needs that we sometimes don’t even realize we have. It’s good to know that though we don’t always understand why we cry or why we laugh, why we feel elation or despair, God does. He not only understands our very real needs, He is ready to meet them.
(Addendum: 5 Films That Make Me Cry
I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I get a little weepy watching certain movies. For a great scene about cinematic weeping, watch “Sleepless in Seattle” in which the women talk about crying during “An Affair to Remember” and the guys respond by talking about tears during “The Dirty Dozen”. This is a chick flick, of course, so women can watch the whole film and men can use chapter selection to get to this one great scene. For some reason, I am more likely to get teary at joyful moments than sorrowful ones. Anyway, here’s my top five:
1) “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) The end is what gets me, when we find that George Bailey is the richest man in town.
2) “Henry V” (1989) When Henry gives the speech before the Battle of Agincourt (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”). That guy Shakespeare wasn’t too shabby a writer. [Rated PG-13 for violence]
3) “Field of Dreams” (1989) Sure, it’s about baseball. But it’s really about bringing together fathers and sons. But I repeat myself.
4) “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) Or just about any film that recreates the crucifixion of Jesus. [Rated R for violence]
5) “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” (1993) Okay, this one is kind of embarrassing. But I used to watch the video of this a lot with my kids, and every time I see Shadow, the old dog thought dead, come over that hill, and the music swells, I just… well…um…sniff…I think we’re done here)