Just Ahead of the Curve | Excellence Over Mediocrity VI

“I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.” | The Joker | The Dark Knight 

I’m not a really a movie-person. I prefer TV shows and even then, I’m reallyyy picky. Without trying to sound like a snob, I have to confess that most movies/TV shows don’t grab my attention. I’m really don’t mean to sound pretentious at all so I sincerely pray my words my don’t come across that way. I simply find a lot of the plots stale and redundant or just plain immoral. Many of the films pouring out of Hollywood are rated R for things like sexual content and profanity. Even ones with a PG-13 or PG rating can be quite raunchy as well. I know I’m not the first person to say this but it seems as if in order for film content to “sell”, the plots must be centered around filth of one kind or another.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this bit since it’s not the main focus of my post but, lovely humans, as Christians, we seriously need to ponder each and every show/movie we watch. I’m speaking to myself here as well. We’re letting filth slide ’cause “it’s not that bad” or “it’s none of your business what I do in the privacy of my home” or “Jesus understands” or we’re just simply not being vigilant and we get apathetic (that last one is very much me…).

This is mediocrity. And it’s mediocrity of the worst kind because it’s sin. We were made for so much more than the toys of this world.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what it meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” | CS Lewis | Mere Christianity

Mmkay, back to the topic at hand.

The one filmmaker/director who consistently blows my mind with his complexity, layering, and top-notch quality is…(this is so you can possibly guess the name before I write it….) 🙂

The Legend. Christopher Nolan.

He is the very definition of choosing excellence over mediocrity when it comes to the movie-making industry. He doesn’t churn out films left and right, preferring to let ideas percolate and marinate until they’re ready to be birthed. His movies (the several I’ve watched) are filled with pure artistic genius. He’s a breath of fresh air in the often-times stuffy world of entertainment.

I do have to preface everything I’m about to say by pointing out that I haven’t seen all of his movies so I (obviously) can’t vouch for all his creations. Perhaps some of his other movies are filthy, I don’t know. But the ones I have seen have completely impressed me:

Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Rises
Inception
The Prestige
Dunkirk

*Nolan’s films are not light-hearted, feel-good movies. They’re very much Alive since they deal with heavy themes.*

I could go on and on and on…and on about these films and all the literary parallels and tropes and genius but I’ll save it and focus on something else. Though, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, I created a website dedicated to Nolan as part of a Digital Humanities project in Grad School and I’ll link it here. Please be advised, there are MAJOR spoilers to three of his films (especially The Prestige) on the website since I analyzed them in a bit of detail. So I’d definitely recommend watching them before going to the website (especially The Prestige). But once again, only if you’re interested 🙂

Anyway, for the remainder of this post, I would like to focus on Nolan’s commitment to excellence and the life-lessons we can learn from it.

Nolan only creates a movie when he believes he has an idea worth sharing with the world. He’s stated in interviews that he doesn’t believe in churning out sub-par movies so frequently that the plots become stale and redundant.

“The best film you can make is one that interests a person to look at it a second time and get something different out of it.” | Christopher Nolan

He would rather sit on an idea for years (cue Inception where he allowed the initial idea to marinate for ten years before he took concrete action) than spew out the first thing that pops into his head. The longer he lets his thoughts take shape and come together, the deeper the viewing experience for his audience. That’s why his films require multiple viewings to appreciate all the different angles, layers, and nuances. It’s the sort of thing where you leave the theatre scratching your head and chewing on what you saw for several days afterwards.

Nolan wants to make his audiences think, in a world where thinking has become less of an art form and more of a nuisance. We prefer instant gratification, instant coffee, fast-food, same-day-shipping, lighting-fast WiFi, etc etc. We don’t slow down for much of anything. Thinking and reflection are the least of our concerns when there’s so much Life to be lived.

The fact that Inception took Nolan 10 years to fully birth brings me much comfort as a writer and I hope it comforts my fellow writers reading this as well. Over-night successes don’t happen over-night, as cliche as that is. Quality takes time. So if that book just won’t come together as quickly as you’d like, stay calm. Patience and perseverance are secret weapons that take a life-time to cultivate, in all areas of life; not just writing 🙂

I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way: not everything that pops into your head needs to be spoken aloud. Not everything that happens needs to be commented on. As a dear friend of mine once told me: let things simmer, bring it to the King in prayer, and then act. This goes for in-person interaction but it also holds true in virtual interaction.

Not everything needs to be posted about or shared at that very moment.

I struggle with this when it comes to writing Instagram posts or blog posts even. An idea blazes into my head, I get thrilled-beyond-belief, and then rush to articulate it. The result is often a jumbled mess. I could have been more coherent and useful if I had exercised patience and allowed my thoughts to coalesce and take shape. There’s a lot of mindless chatter in this world and the last thing I need to do is add to the pile. I pray about every blog post I write, asking the Most High if I have something worth sharing in the first place, but also petitioning Him for clarity and usefulness. I want to be an encouragement, not a hindrance. A help, not a stumbling block. I don’t want to write to hear myself talk, as it were.

So I want to challenge us all to think before we speak, before we post, before we share, before we hit send. To let our thoughts and feelings marinate. Solomon wrote numerous Proverbs on this subject and I encourage everyone to head there for timeless and God-breathed Wisdom. We could save ourselves a lot of embarrassment and sin if we paused to think before acting or speaking. Night changes many thoughts, Aragorn said, and he was right. In the morning, after we’ve slept on it, things look different and perhaps, more clear.

Self-restraint. It’s one of the Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and it’s INCREDIBLY difficult to learn. Difficult but not impossible because with Christ, all things are possible and in Him, we have strength and sufficiency for even this. So take heart, lovely humans.

And all that learned from a filmmaker’s commitment to excellence in a world of mediocrity 🙂

I can’t end without explaining the quotation at the top and how it ties in to this post.

When The Joker said those words in The Dark Knight, he spoke more truth than perhaps even he knew. He wasn’t a monster. He simply studied humans, figured out their weak spots, and pushed on them…hard. He did what everyone has wanted to do in their darkest moments: deal out their own versions of justice.

I know I said I wasn’t going to analyze any of the films in-depth but I just can’t resist so hang with me for a minute 🙈

The Joker is a terrifying, extreme example of what happens when we humans usurp the Most High’s place. When we think we can manipulate outcomes and string people along like puppets. He’s frighteningly fascinating because there’s more of him in our sinful hearts than we’d like to admit. That’s why I don’t recommend watching The Dark Knight too often and I completely understand why some would choose to never watch it at all.

He was just ahead of the curve, but it a wicked way.

Christopher Nolan is also ahead of the curve, but in an excellent way. He’s pioneering a new frontier and taking us along for the ride. He’s fighting to keep quality film alive and I am here for all of it.

So may we strive for excellence in our entertainment. May we only watch things worth watching. We use precious time when we sit down and watch a two-hour film or a forty-five-minute or twenty-five minute TV show episode. That’s time that we won’t get back again. Time given to us by the Most High God Himself. If we then spend the better part of those minutes deflecting arrows of conviction as sex scenes flash before our eyes and profanity saturates our ears, we’ve wasted our time and grieved our Father.

But all praise to His Name, there is forgiveness for even this! By His grace, we too can be just ahead of the curve.

cs lewis

|We’re in a War, my friends, and we all need Courage on the Front Lines ❤ |

 

 

 

 

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