I recently discovered the work of artist Owen Klaas. He is a painter who sells his work through his company Fiendish Thingies. When I first saw his paintings, I was astounded. These pieces were dark and moody, and seemed to owe a lot to the German Expressionist films of the 1920s. They were primarily landscapes, featuring bare, ragged trees, angular mountains, and lonely paths winding through the darkness. It’s what the world would be like through the eyes of Dr. Caligari.
And yet these paintings were not altogether hopeless. They did not seem to be mere exercises in a melancholy, eerie tone. Were they simply that, I don’t think I’d have looked twice; I’d have noted the unique visual quality and moved on. However, there was something about Klaas’ work that grabbed me. Within most of the paintings, in the midst of harsh and drab landscapes, there was often a single element that stood out; a splash of color or vitality that broke up the isolated sadness of this world.
This was most clear to me in his piece “Light My Path”. In it, we have a large, ominous full moon shining down on a mountainous forest. In a clearing, however, we have a lone tree, leafless and skeletal. This tree grows next to a narrow path that winds its way towards the far off mountains. Hanging just above the path, from the lowest branch on the tree, is a lantern. It is lit, but doesn’t seem to give off much light. Just enough to illuminate this specific section of the path, it would seem.
And so we continue with my inexplicable tradition of ringing in the New Year by listing some of the notable movies that are now ten years old. This year, however, this is particularly poignant for me, because my wife and I moved to Los Angeles in January of 2007. It was also the same year that I started podcasting over at Battleship Pretension.
Little did I know at the time that 2007 would be one of the best movie years of my lifetime, with no less than four absolute masterpieces being released over the course of the year (see if you can guess what they are!).
The following movies are now officially 10 years old. Happy New Year!
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
3:10 TO YUMA
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
INTO THE WILD
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
GONE BABY GONE
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
I AM LEGEND
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
One of the salient features of a particular kind of film marketed explicitly to evangelical Christians is the use of what Tyler Smith calls “the emblem.” Among other characteristics, it typifies what Tyler has classified under the umbrella of “Christian social drama” in his master’s thesis. Examples of this genre include movies like Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, God’s Not Dead, and Do You Believe. The form of the emblem varies from movie to movie, but consistently, there’s some monument or object that represents the characters’ commitment to family and faith.