A few weeks ago the media was awash with stories and speculation as to which films and their cast and creative
crews would win at the Oscars. La La Land was the favourite for best picture - and for all of about 90 seconds at the Oscars
ceremony it seemed that it had won, only for it to be stripped of the award as it transpired there'd been a tremendous
cock-up and the film hadn't won at all.
Having not seen the film yet I cannot speak about it with any first-hand
knowledge. Certainly it seemed to have entranced the British film reviewers, with daily newspapers The Sun, The Mirror, Metro,
The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Times all giving it their highest score of five stars. So I was interested to read an
article in The Guardian by David Cox, a couple of days before the Oscars, which took a rather different view of the film's
content and worth.
Cox suggests that the film is about two people, Mia and Seb, who are ultimately self-centred, narcissistic,
vain, humourless and insensitive. He says that, unlike many of the well-known films referenced in the movie (for example,
West Side Story, Singin' in the Rain or Funny Face), La La Land doesn't really celebrate love and life, but quite
"Its principal characters don't find meaning in each other. For the most part, their relationship
is glossed over in montage. They get together when their careers are failing, and spend their time sharing notes. Once they
have co-mentored themselves on the road to personal advancement, they ditch each other... On their last night together they
pledge eternal love; but they also promise to follow their dreams. For them the latter was bound to trump the former: self-worship
brooks no distractions. If, at the end, Seb seems a little lonely and Mia seems a little bored, no matter. Their final smiles
indicate that both have attained what really matters: self-satisfaction."
Cox suggests, though, that it is a film
for our times, as many people who are in the public eye would have many points of connection with Seb and Mia and their ‘journey'.
Social Media and TV Talent Shows regularly reveal the unpleasant truth that there are numerous people who want to be famous,
despite having no real talents or ability. Slanging-matches abound on facebook and twitter, and selfies are ubiquitous. There
is so much more opportunity in today's world for connectedness and the sharing of life with all its joys and problems
but increasingly many people seem happy to live on the surface, in their own little bubble of vanity and self-interest.
all this in mind I turn my thoughts to the events of Holy Week and Easter as they loom ahead of us this month. The story of
God's love shown in the life, suffering and death of Jesus Christ is far from one which is about vanity and self-centredness.
We perceive at its heart a yearning for all people to reach fullness of life; for all people to be liberated from the weight
of the sins which bind us to the past, which paralyse us with grief or guilt or sadness. We see concern and compassion for
everyone to find ‘the life which is life indeed', whether they are rich or poor, high-ranking or lowly, men, women
or children, black or white, Jewish or not. When his disciples appear vain or self-interested, Jesus brooks no argument -
that is not the way of holiness; it is not the way of God.
We speak of ‘The Passion of Christ' as we enter
into the remembrance of his final days and hours of earthly life before his death on the cross, and rightly so: Jesus was
passionate about doing not his own will but that of his Heavenly Father. He was passionate about the people around him - and
those whom he hardly knew. He was passionate about life and how life can flourish rather than shrivel. The story of Easter
is a story of love and life.
What about us, though? What about our keeping of these holy days leading up to the celebration
of Christ's Resurrection? Will we be passionate and loving? Will we sacrifice some time to be with Christ - and with each
other as his Body, the Church - during the days of Holy Week? I worry that sometimes we are too easily tempted away from being
passionate about Jesus, about our relationship with God. In all the churches I've worked and worshipped in I have been
saddened by the small numbers who come to worship during these important days each year, especially Maundy Thursday and Good
Friday. Last year, I was astonished to hear that someone who had attended the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday had been
dissatisfied with the fact that they had taken nearly an hour - apparently, if, in leading them, I had kept to the words in
the book and not added an extra thought or two at each station, then the service would have been much shorter! Is it too much
to ask of those who call themselves Christians to spend an hour or two with Jesus and each other on Good Friday, of all days?
As we move through the next couple of weeks I'd like to challenge us all to consider the depth of our passion for
Christ; the extent of our love for God. I quoted David Cox as saying of La La Land's characters: ... they pledge eternal
love; but they also promise to follow their dreams. For them the latter was bound to trump the former: self-worship brooks
no distractions. If we have pledged our love to Christ, may we not fall into the trap of narcissistic self-worship this Holy
Week and Easter, but truly give ourselves to him who, out of love for us, gave himself for the world.
With my prayers,