Luther at the Movies: "Here I sit!"

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About 10 years ago, an intelligently entertaining (and often spiritually edifying) pop culture blog went on permanent hiatus. It's worth revisiting, in this year of the 500th anniversary of its pseudepigraphous author's great historical moment.

The premise of Luther at the Movies: The Great Reformer, famed for his blunt speech, reviewing the latest cultural effluent from Hollywood.

The blog's tagline:

Join me, Martin Luther (Doktor), as I do to contemporary cinema what I did to the Whore of Babylon. Unless I am convinced that a motion picture does not emit a stench to choke a sow, my conscience is captive to my impeccable taste. Here I sit, in a comfy Loews stadium-seating theatre, replete with Nacho bar and adjustable arm rests! I can do no other!

From the Blogspot "About me" section:

Although alive in Christ, as far as this vale of tears is concerned, I am currently as dead as Chevy Chase's movie career, though I have not let that interfere with a robust drinking and blogging career. My favorite color is blood red and I like walking in the rain.

From the inaugural post:

...Well, beware you purveyors of pompous pus foisted on shepherdless sheep--I'm back! The wretched of the earth who seek to escape their miserable lives for two hours only to be tricked into seeing V for Vendetta now have a champion!

Hollywood, New York, London, Rome, Bombay--listen well! The only cheek I will turn is the one on my backside--for you to kiss as I eviscerate your contemptible contributions to the common culture. And yes, I mean derivative crap like Lucky Number Slevin!...

Luther did not limit himself to music:

And turn off that colon-wrenching opera music! I hate opera! If I want to hear Italians screaming about tuberculosis, I'll visit a Sicilian brothel! Even the German stuff sets my liver quaking! Mozart was a degenerate papist--I'll give you "Amadeus"! I was the only one who was championing Salieri! He was a mediocrity, I'll grant you, but at least he wasn't played by that pathetic wretch from "Animal House"! And Salieri could appreciate the tortures of the artistic process. Mozart passed wind and out came Symphony 41. Did he fall to his knees and thank God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, from Whom all creative talents flow, for this unmeritable gift? No-o-o-o-o-o! He was too busy looking up prostitutes' skirts!...

A review of Sydney Pollock's documentary about starchitect Frank Gehry....

This documentary by Sydney Pollack, about the life and work of architect Frank Gehry, is an art film. Translated: You will probably not find it in your local cinema. You will probably not find it in any cinema. I currently reside in New York City. You cannot swing an Anabaptist without gouging out an artist's eye. Yet this film is so obscure, despite the Best Director Academy Award sitting on Mr. Pollack's mantle, that I had to take two trains, a bus, a ferry, then descend underground 2.3 miles and work a miner's trolley until I found the sheet thrown against a rock face upon which the film was projected. And my gummi bears were stale.

You have probably witnessed some of Gehry's work, either in person or on the pages of overpriced glossy magazines: The Guggenheim Museum, Bilboa, Spain. The Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am-Rhein, Germany. The Walt Disney Concert House in Los Angeles. At first glance, they look like aircraft fuselages burrowing into the ground and warped by the sun. Or Martian wads of aluminum foil. Or corrugated tin sheds with rickets. In short, at first glance it is easy to mock these designs as the laughable flapdoodlings of yet another emperor sans Tommy Hilfigers....

...turns into a meditation on revolution vs. reform:

I was immediately put in mind of all revolutionary movements, whether in the political or the artistic realm. First there is an explosion, an iconoclastic rampage that effaces, terrifies, and uproots what has come before. Then the dust settles and order is reestablished so ground is not lost, often resulting in a conformity and moralism much more constrictive than what was supplanted.

From the outside, a Gehry creation is a jaw-dropping wonder to behold. But the few glimpses we have of experiencing it from the inside tells another story. The innovation, the severe confusion caused by the intimidating and foreign design, the stairwells and ceilings that look as if they may collapse at any moment, and the retaining structures that intrude and impede your movement appear to me to be oppressive and disorienting. I would not want to live in a Gehry house. I would be confounded by its idiosyncracies and would grow weary of trying to negotiate its crenellations and detours.

So goes all revolutions. They are enticing and seductive from the outside. Then one gets inside them, and instead of ennobling the soul, they impoverish it with ruthless, insatiable demands....

I have no use for revolutions. Reform, however, is a perennial duty of fallen man. The church needs reform--it does not need a revolution. A radical rips up a tree by its roots, thereby severing it from its source and denying its nature. A reformer prunes and waters. A reformer seeks to bring it back in alignment with its source so it can be true to its nature and grow healthily.

A reformer of the church need not burn its liturgies, its music, its altar rails, its stained glass, its crosses and images of Our Lord. He waters it with the Word. He prunes with the confessions.

Only then will Christians be able to live in it as Christ intended, and not merely thrill at innovations.


Just as Luther's works may be found in the lowest levels of Harvard's Widener Library (where I started reading them back in my college days) but not in the local Christian bookstore, Luther at the Movies is no longer on Blogspot, but it is preserved on the Internet Archive, whence all the above links lead.

I was reminded of Luther at the Movies when a query to a publisher (asking if a new edition to the excellent guidebook Choosing the Right College was forthcoming) received a disappointing reply (no) from Luther's "miserable, execrable assistant," his "amanuensis," Anthony Sacramone, these days the managing editor of ISI Books, the publishing arm of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

About a year after Luther at the Movies went on hiatus, Sacramone returned to blogging at Strange Herring and continued writing there off and on for the next seven years, in addition to editing and writing elsewhere. His personal website has links to a selection of Strange Herring articles and reviews.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 29, 2017 11:16 PM.

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