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Blanked Out Reviews, Y9 (TOP 25!)

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This is going to be fairly unstructured, and get into the secret past of Blankments a bit. Gonna be lookng at the movie both attached to, and separated from the subject matter.

 

Jesus Christ.

 

These two words are the only way to describe my reaction after seeing Darren Aronofsky's Kansas. Let me back-pedal a bit. When I heard Alpha was writing a movie against evangelical Christians, I was naturally a little apprehensive. After all, I am an evangelical Christian. That said, I was open to the film simply because Alpha's a good writer, and in real life, I've seen several movies that go against my core beliefs that I do enjoy, simply because they have something to say.

 

Unfortunately, Kansas has absolutely nothing to say.

 

Or rather, I guess Kansas has something to say that sensationalizes Evangelical Christianity as a cult that brainwashes young children. I wouldn't be so pissed off by this movie if it wasn't so clear that this was my sub-denomination, being totally slandered on the big screen. I'll get back to this eventually, but I'm gonna talk a bit about the movie itself first. The way the movie is set up kinda reminded me in a way of one of my own "CAYOM classics" was. I'm referring to Innocense, which took a matter-of-fact approach to storytelling about the sexual culture in the Middle East and child abuse. Kansas attempts to do the same with Christian summer camps, but there's a major difference between Innocense and Kansas. Where as Innocense was kept in the realm of possibility of things happening, Kansas gets so ridiculously over-the-top in it's "OMG PRAISE JESUS" characters and the fact that the camp is full of uber Christians anyway.

 

"Oh, but Blank," you ask, "Most Christian camps are like that; Alpha is just being accurate with the setting." My answer to that is no, most Christian camps are definitely not like that. Time for some Blank backstory time. When I was a young child, I went to about five different Christian camps over the course of five years. I don't live in Kansas, but Indiana is pretty dang close in the "hick"ness of the state. I'll give y'all a basic outline on how every one of these camps worked, and how much God/Jesus was involved.

 

8-9AM - Breakfast (pray for the food)

9-10AM - Morning mass (obviously about Jesus)

11AM-1PM - Activity such as archery, banana boating, crafts, rock climbing, etc. (Jesus/God was never mentioned in these sessions at all, except for maybe some making some cheesy religious jokes, because, come on, camps like these are the only places where you can get away with those jokes at age 8-13.)

1PM-2PM - Lunch (pray for the food)

2PM-4PM - Activity like 11AM-1PM

4PM-6PM - Pool/Beach/Water slide if they have one (again, nothing with God or Jesus)

6PM-7PM - Dinner (pray for the food)

7PM-9PM - Evening mass (same as morning mass)

9PM-12AM - Random party of the night (only one of these that ever directly related to God/Jesus is if they got a Christian rock band to show up for a concert.)

 

Besides this schedule, the counselors after the first day never really talked to us about God/Jesus at all, instead just shooting the shit with us about random stuff going on in life or the activity we were doing. Most of the fellow children there were like me, just coming for a fun week of summer camp, for socializing and crazy activities. I want to reiterate that this was the way every camp worked. This was not a one-off "Oh, that camp wasn't as religious at the other ones."

 

What Kansas describes is more similar to a youth conference. Unfortunately (or I guess more fortunately), a youth conference is also not nearly as insanely radical as the camp in Kansas. A youth conference is a convention similar to ComicCon where everything is about God/Jesus, but it's because you get to meet with Christian authors, singers, or professors that it is kinda cool. Regardless of your opinion on the faith, there are plenty smart people in the faith.

 

This is all kinda besides the point though. Kansas is ridiculously alarmist and inaccurate in even more ways. Every single character in this movie is a "Jesus Freak." This is NOT the way Christian camps work, and it's honestly an insult to my intelligence even ignoring my faith. I believe it's a trope of films dealing with Christian camps that there's always the juvenile delinquent that was sent by the parent to try to whip some sense into them. Kansas does not have this character, but the thing is... it's a trope because it's true. Jacob starts off as a doubter of the faith, but then becomes a Jesus Freak like everyone else in the damn movie. The film needed a character that didn't change and remained doubting his faith. I'd say at least half of those camps I attended, I felt absolutely no difference after the camp.

 

Okay, after this I'll start analyzing the film besides my issues with its massive inaccuracy, but first, an Expedecade style list of inaccuracies of this film with the five Christian camps I attended along with the youth conferences.

 

    • I have never seen an actual Christian flag flying, or heard the Christian pledge in real life.
    • I have not once, despite going to five Christian camps, two youth conferences, and helping out with about six Vacation Bible Schools, seen any child cry about Jesus or God. I've seen tears, yes, but that's more because of kids being kids and hurting each other.
    • What the fuck is with the repeated cult imagery in this movie? The Internet has given Christianity an awful reputation as an evil cult that demands all adhere to their ways. In my general experience, the only cultish Christians are those who are homeschooled, and even then, they are usually functional members of society, if a bit judgmentally prude.
    • "Mary also announces the church’s camp in July, the Followers of God Camp, which brings another round of applause, and that the kids in the audience should pray if they can go this summer." Jesus fucking Christ. No one actually says, "you should pray to go somewhere." Most evangelical Christians are, well, evangelical. By this I mean that what makes evangelical Christians different than most other denominations is that they are focused on the outreach aspect of ministry. My personal denomination teaches that praying for yourself is not the way to go, and if you do pray for yourself, you better be happy with whatever answer God gives you. This is all besides the point though, since if they're attending this church, their parents are obviously not gonna have any issues with them attending the camp, and also, if they couldn't afford it, the church typically will sponsor a scholarship to the camp. Basically this whole line of dialogue makes no sense.
    • Fasting? Fasting? I have never met an evangelical Christian, either within my own denomination or others, who fasts. Evangelical Christianity is one of the most liberal denominations; the only issues they have that are conservative are gay marriage and abortion. (FYI, just to clarify, I'm very lax in carrying about these areas. I frequently defend gay rights in my family.)
    • "Some people seem as if they’re in a trance, murmuring random words. Some people start yelling in the children’s ears, that they can fix this world, and change humanity." ... honestly I don't even know
    • This is followed up with a scene where Jacob deals with his uber-religious mom despite  his doubts in the faith. This could be done well, even in a satirical way. If the mother had started quoting a Facebook repost, this scene could've both been hysterical, and make a good point for any Christian who might actually be watching the film; that those "share or go to hell" posts are just. Instead, we get a reddit story personified through all the anti-science rants of some Christians in one scene.
    • Harry Potter rant. Wow. Cannot believe Aronofsky actually wasted his space with that. To clarify, even though I personally was banned from reading Harry Potter as a child, it was because I was a child. Around age 10, the books were opened up to me but I just never bothered reading them. I have homeschooled Christian friends and even a Mormon friend (a religion I believe to be more strict in general,) who have read every single Harry Potter book. The Harry Potter controversy died a long time ago, and even it hadn't been, it's an overplayed complaint.
    • The counselor doesn't like ghost stories. News flash: most of the counselors that work there themselves are pretty casual in their faith. I'd say four out of five of my counselors told ghost stories to us, and one of them even told us about his frat parties at college.
    • I don't even know how to respond to the hammer scene. I thought it was something obscure in Christianity like the Christian flag but I googled it and there's nothing. I was just watching that scene and literally saying "What the fuck" over and over and over again.
    • Day 5 was another eye-roll scene. I'm starting to get tired of ranting honestly. Scene by scene this movie just sucks. You know what, I'm done with these bullet points.
    • The movie itself is awkward too. The documentary format is annoying rather than intriguing, refusing to let you get attached to any character or caring about them. The film tries to get away with its insanity by having a Christian radio host character who is much more moderate. The issue is though that this radio host is literally the only sane character in this movie. The acting is fine and the direction is fine too, as expected.

       

      Unfortunately, the film just stings. The cast, director, and premise could've made this an excellent movie regardless of faith. I personally loved Aronofsky's NOAH, which got me thinking a lot spiritually. There's a lot of potential in a CAYOM movie about Christian camp or about some of the actual problems. Perhaps following a kid struggling with homosexual feelings toward another camper and not knowing what to do about them since he's being told to repress them. Maybe a movie about a Jesus freak going to public college after being homeschooled her whole life. Honestly, Kansas makes me want to write one of these two movies, because there are interesting ideas to be explored with the concept, especially with the blurring of cult and religion at some points. Unfortunately, Aronofsky does not blur the lines and instead chooses to make his movie simply an over-the-top condemnation towards Evangelical Christianity and its followers.

       

      Rant over, but a final disclaimer: sorry Alpha, but unlike with other religiously themed CAYOM films (The Wanders comes to mind), Kansas came off too much as a personal attack towards me, my family, and my friends for trying to make me feel like I'm living my life wrong. You may feel like I'm being a prude, but to respond to that, I'd like to point out that one of my biggest films this quarter involves Satan being killed by Jamie Foxx. I'm fine with films tackling bases of my religious faith; I'm not fine with a condemnation letter disguised as a film.

       

      It also was a pile of shit in general though.

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    I don't know if you've seen it or not but... I would highly recommend watching "Jesus Camp".

     

    I'll need to see it at some point. However, my impression of that film is that it depicts a single camp, whereas Kansas depicted its camp as the absolute norm IMO

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    From the FYC thread:

     

    Kansas

    Best Picture

    Best Director, Darren Aronofsky

    Best Actor, Jared Gilmore

    Best Supporting Actress, Holly Hunter

    Best Original Screenplay

    Best Original Score, Clint Masnell

    Best Cinematography

    Best Film Editing

    Best Sound Mixing

    Best Sound Editing

    Best Use of Action

     

    No no no

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    Based on your review, it sounds like the script was written by a user of r/atheism. As an atheist myself, even I'm annoyed by the sheer arrogance and circlejerk-ish nature of that site.

    That's exactly what it came off as. If you pardon the pun, the whole time reading the film I got a holier-than-thou vibe, with the message "LOL, all Christians are sheep LOL"

     

    I'd honestly say it's the worst non-filler film I've ever read in CAYOM.

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    Blank, I know you're mad, but don't turn this into a big huge argument that spirals out of control. Trust me. I don't want to see you guys getting into a heated discussion and end up never really talking to one another again. It'll be like iFunny all over again. It's not entirely Alpha's fault. Sometimes, personal ideas can seek through an artist's work.

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