Too big to be good

tooBig2There’s an infamous saying that almost brought down the American economy. “Too big to fail.” (I already wrote about this in my other blog here, but this post takes the idea in a different direction.) My own take on that absurd concept is, if something’s too big to fail, it’s too big. Period. Note that the statement is actually a lie. Nothing is too big to fail. Failing happens regardless of size. Just ask the Empire.

My own preference is for small: small cars, small churches, small stores, small restaurants, small businesses in general. I’ve worked for big companies – I’m talking BIG companies – and small companies. There’s no comparison. For the most part, the big ones are hell, the small, paradise.

My preference for the petite extends to movies and movie theaters. Yes, there’s a place for the blockbuster playing at the regional Imax theater, but it’s a small place. (That shouldn’t surprise you.) This was brought home to me in the most tangible way possible this past week. I saw BIG movie in a BIG movie house. A few days later I saw a small movie in a cozy little theater. The former was torture, the latter a joy.

technicolorAt the risk of life and limb*, I’ll tell you about the BIG movie. “Interstellar” was BIG in stars, budget, marketing, and most painfully, length. It felt more like a three hour physics lecture than a story. (You remember “story”, don’t you?)Yes, of course the special effects were amazing. Let’s agree that effects are always amazing and be done with it. They no longer have any meaningful impact on the quality of a movie, any more than the fact that it’s in “full living color!”

For my money, the more important contributors to movie quality consist of things like the following: Consistent characters, cohesive story, and humility of length, all in short supply in Interstellar.

When the credits finally, mercifully rolled, I realized I’d forgotten it had been directed by Christoper Nolan, a man who specializes in BIG, at least since “Dark Knight”. So I hated the BIG movie, with its physics borrowed from Madeline L’Engle, interviews stolen from Ken Burns, and everything else taken from Stanley Kubrick.

And the venue? There’s nothing to like about Generic Cinema 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-∞.

LunaTktForget BIG. Let me tell you about the small venue. It’s called “Luna” and it’s found in a remodeled mill building, nestled in with a bunch of funky little (do you see a theme emerging?) shops. The audience sits in easy chairs with tables nearby on which to put snacks and drinks. None of the seats are half a mile from the screen from which the movie is just a rumor. Even the tickets at Luna are cooler than the the ones at Generic Cinema 1-2-3-4-5-∞. See what I mean? →


Take a seat, any seat at all.


Luna in your living room.

Which looks like a more enjoyable way to see a movie?


The movie I saw at Luna was small. It was about people, not aliens – ideas, not bombs – real places, not CGI landscapes. Most movies happen to you. I like a movie I can settle into. There’s a place for both in the world, but not in Generic Cinema 1-2-3-4-5-∞.

I don’t think there’s a place for me there either.

* Publicly criticizing a Christopher Nolan movie, I’ve come to find out, can be hazardous to your health. When I made disparaging comments about “Inception” in this post, I was taken to task with a profanity-laced harangue from someone who must have a degree in Missing the Point. I expect to hear from the same guy this time, with his master’s thesis in Cluelessness.

What’s *your* story?

storyI love Jesus. Not just because He loves me and died for me, although that’s pretty cool and would be enough. I also love the fact that He’s a master storyteller. When people ask Him profound theological questions, He usually tells a story. It’s almost as if He’s trying to evade the question. Rather, I think, He’s getting to the heart of it.

Ask a theologian to tell you what the Kingdom of God is and you’re bound to get a tedious multi-volume treatise on the ins and outs of Jewish culture, a summary of a couple millennia of church history, and a detailed exegesis of Greek New Testament passages. Ask Jesus and you get a story about one of the following:

  • Some sad old woman who spends the whole night looking for her spare change in the sofa.
  • A farmer who’s having mixed success with his crops.
  • A sleazy middle manager who makes good by cheating his old boss.

legoparableThe parables (fancy theological word for stories) of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are more than tales that have become part of the nerve fiber of our culture. They’re great stories.

Why does He tell stories? Because people listen to stories. Sermons? Not so much. Even those of us who listen to sermons don’t always listen. If you know someone who’s heard a sermon recently, ask her what it was about. You’re more likely to hear about the joke the preacher told or the simple family anecdote that illustrated a forgotten moral lesson.

We’re wired to listen to stories. No matter what the era or the dominant philosophy thereof, people love and crave stories. They used to be told around campfires and now they’re seen on a phone or in a cineplex. No difference. It’s the story, the people, the ups and downs of fortune, the clawing after the goal, the battle of good vs. evil, the boy-meets-girl, the life-and-death struggle.

cleaversOne reason I believe stories resonate so well with us all is that we somehow, without even thinking about it, realize we’re in our own story. You might not be a writer, but you’re writing your life story. You’re the lead, the hero. That doesn’t mean you have to be Indiana Jones or Aragorn. It might be enough to be June or Ward Cleaver.

Most of our stories are pretty boring. They’d make lousy movies. Hitchcock was quoted as saying, “Movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.” By that criteria, most lives would make brief movies indeed, more like music videos or even commercials.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What if your life was interesting enough to be made into a miniseries? Or a sitcom that runs 20 (or more) seasons? What’s to stop it? You’re the writer. You might have no pen, pencil, laptop, or vintage Underwood, but every day you’re writing the story of your life with your words, your loves, your priorities. Some day this volume of that story will end. (Lord willing, there will be a sequel.) Meanwhile, make it interesting, something worth telling. Something people want to hear.

Including you.

Title, heading, name, label, legend, banner, headline

badjailThis is a short [story, tale, saga, history, report, narrative] about an [event, happening, occurrence, incident] that never was. It’s just an [excuse, reason, pretext] for using a lot of synonyms of the type I’ve come to call “slangonyms”. Over the years, some words in the English language have spawned so many slang terms to refer to the same concepts, it seems there’s no [end, ceasing, hard stop, finality, culmination, last word].

One [night, evening, after hours] I was at a [party, bash, soiree, affair, shebang, blowout, gala, shindig] with some [friends, buds, pals, mains, BFFs, amigos, homeys, chums, bro’s]. To be [honest, forthright, on the up-an-up, straight arrow, tell it like it is] I was feeling a bit [drunk, tipsy, faced, zonked, merked, high, wasted, totaled, three sheets to the wind, blitzed, corked, tanked, plastered, potted, sloshed, juiced, feeling no pain].

Suddenly the [police, cops, fuzz, flatfoot, pigs, heat, badge, copper, law] showed up and they hauled my [rear end, butt, tail, glutes, tush, fanny, keister, bottom, backside, derriere] off to court. I didn’t have any [money, cash, loot, bucks, lettuce, scrilla, greenbacks, bread, clams, simoleons, scratch, moola, coin, dough], so they slapped me in the [prison, jail, hoosegow, slammer, pen, joint, graybar hotel, up the river, big house, clink, pokey, cooler].

I was so mad, I could just [swear, cuss, curse, spew, be foul-mouthed, flame]. But there was nothing I could do, so I just [went to sleep, passed out, hit the hay, copped some Z’s, got some shut-eye, sawed some logs, crashed].

Other than that, the party was [great, awesome, wicked, fabuloso, slammin’, far out, boss, all that, groovy, hip, epic, cool, stellar, the bee’s knees, fierce].

The end, fini, ball game, end of the line, exuent, finito, done, no mas.

(Don’t you just love the English language? There’s no excuse to be boring!)