He's the "man who can...for two hours a day." Radio in L.A. is a spotty affair for me. Apart from the music shows on local public radio station KCRW (you can check out their fantastic music offerings online at KCRW.com), which I tune into all the time, there is little else that attracts my attention. Radio here is intensely competitive and very commercial, so playlists tend to be small and therefore highly repetitive and narrowly focused demographically, crap, in other words--except for Jonesy's Jukebox. Indie 103.1 is a fairly new station attempting to cater to the indie rock crowd and initially was pretty similar in format to other comparable stations and largely uninteresting until they gave the lunch hour to Steve Jones, founding member of the Sex Pistols. Jonesy's Jukebox is a breath of fresh air. His playlist knows no bounds and covers all that you would expect musically from one of the architects of punk; Iggy Pop, The Clash etc., but alongside this you get plenty of ska and early reggae, Boston, The Sweet, and the phenomenon that is the British pop novelty song--Ernie the Milkman and the like--all those horrid songs from the 70's that competed with 'real music' for the ears of the U.K. listening audiences. But it is not the music really, it is the man himself. Jonesy makes no effort to be anything other than who he is---there is no slick radio voice, no attempt at finesse on any level, instead he burps, groans, and moans his way through two hours everyday--filling us in on his various aches and pains, playing his guitar and whistling songs, chatting with a lot of music industry friends who drop by the studio and breaking out in an infectious giggle--all of this interspersed with the weirdest and most interesting playlist on radio. He has single-handedly introduced L.A. to cockney rhyming slang, the delights of supporting Chelsea (for him anyway!), and the Wombles. For me the show is a heavy dose of nostalgia--we are about the same age and came of age in an interesting time socially and of course, musically. The stuff he talks about I can connect with both as a Brit and a resident of L.A. The music he plays reminds me watching Top of the Tops and listening to Radio One back in the day. I am actually not much of a nostaligist--forward is my bag, but music in a sense is a shared pathway through which we negotiate the "impersonal wilderness of urban life"(Ruth Finnegan) and thus, hearing Harry J and the All Stars or Max Romeo or Skinhead Moonstomp whilst driving around the city reminds me of the musical pathway I have forged in my life, some of which brought me to this city and besides that it humanises my own experience of living in L.A. in ways I can't really explain, it just makes me fella bit better. The success of his show has opened the door for new formats on other stations that are expanding their playlists and widening their choices in an effort to become broader in their appeal, but they still don't have a clue about Mud, or the Wurzels--how could they?
The BBC online news service had an article about the ordination of one Sarah Jones into the priesthood recently. Nothing new about that really, the Anglican Church has largely reconciled the issue of women in ministry, and female church leaders are not that rare. What is different about this situation is that Jones spent twenty-nine years as a man before undergoing gender reassignment surgery and becoming a woman. This has not made everyone happy, but the Bishop of Hereford, who conducted the ordination service, said that Jones was a great candidate for the priesthood and that culturally the "issue of gender dysphoria was understood a lot more clearly in the twenty-first century as we understand lots of things more clearly." I always think that someone who goes this far to reconcile internal feelings with external realities is a brave soul--few are those willing to undergo such invasive and painful means to achieve their dreams. Theologians struggle with this sort of stuff. But gender, like the rest of self-identity in the twenty-first century, seems to be in a state of flux for many people. This means that there will have to be new conversations about all of this--it is the tip of an iceberg I think. There will be probably only isolated instances for a while but eventually I imagine that this will become a much more accepted and mainstream phenomenon. Surely yet another encouragement towards a new exploration of sexuality as it plays out in a theological framework. There isn't too much to work with. Most of the major modern theologians operate from a sense of gender as something fixed and determined. Karl Barth for instance, had no trouble with new possibilities in the meaning of gender identity; what it means to be male or female, but insisted nonetheless, on the underlying stability of sexual identity and orientation. He wrote, "That God created man as male and female...(it) is something which can never lead to a neutral It, nor found a purely external, incidental and transient sexuality, but rather an inward, essential and lasting order of being as He and She, valid for all time." As I said, I think we will see more of this fluidity expressed in the cultural mainstream, and of course, the ordination of Sarah Jones comes on the heels of the 2005 Mercury Prize being awarded to a transgendered singer, who performs under the moniker of Anthony and the Johnsons. An entirely different context and issue of course, but another example of different gender issues coming to the surface. It is not really a question of whether one is gay or straight anymore; sexuality and gender identity is in a new phase it seems. I was reading in a doctor's office today, that a growing percentage of teenage girls have experimented with same sex experiences, not necessarily pointing to a rise in homosexuality as much as another example of a new fluidity in the expression of sexuality. I think that rather than being fixed gender identity today is something that is mapped onto a body, and contingent upon a number of issues related to the self's orientation in the world. For many people their gender orientation may not be in question, but for some it most certainly is, and in this day and age, thankfully, they have the opportunity to do something about it. I am much more concerned about Sarah's challenging journey as a priest in the world today than I am about her sexuality and gender history--the former is a bigger challenge in my estimation.
I should have expected it but I didn't, silly me. I teach a class on theology and film at a small school which accommodates students from all over the country who have aspirations about careers in film. The school serves a large number of Christian colleges from around the country and gives those institutions the opportunity to provide a semester of internship and education in Los Angeles.The basic goal is to offer a broad introduction to life in the movie industry combined with some instruction into thinking about the intersections of faith and film. My part of the course is to generate conversation on culture and theology. One of the films assigned for the students was Nicolas Roeg's, The Man who Fell to Earth. The students watched it last night and we discussed it this morning. I can safely say that for most of them it was not an enjoyable experience. To be honest, I was completely unprepared for the largely negative, and decidedly hostile reaction, to the film from some of the students. There were questions about why such a movie would be considered appropriate for the course, others issues about what Christians should or should not be exposed to, and comments about 'keeping oneself pure' etc. The bone of contention was the sex--of course it was, how stupid of me. I forget how limited the dialogue regarding sexuality is in most corners of the Christian community, and what a shock this movie might be to someone from a largely 'christianised' environment--church, christian family--christian preschool-private christian school/college etc. all christian all the time-- . Apparently for some of the girls it was the first time they had seen a man naked, and maybe that is a shock, especially when it's Rip Torn!--of course, this in itself is something that I find totally surprising, but it serves as an indicator of what sheltered worlds some of these kids come from. I have no problem with resistance to particular issues be it sexuality or violence or whatever, but I was a bit taken aback by the wave of hostility that arose over this film. What becomes quite obvious when watching this film is how the 70's were so much more graphic with sexuality than movies are today--maybe it was the times but there is a rawness to the portrayal of sexuality that doesn't find its way to the screen very much these days--here we are living in a society saturated in sex, and yet a film from the 70s highlights how much less sensual and erotic our times are--all that bumping and grinding on MTV has diminished the power of sex rather than amplify it. Perhaps that is partly why the film was so troubling to many of the students. The film is also one of those movies which expects the viewer to do a lot of work and draw their own conclusions and again this was a point of contention and frustration for quite a few of them. That a film provoked such reactions was not a bad thing, it is that we couldn't really get anywhere in a conversation because of the theological baggage generated by it. Part of the reason for viewing and discussing The Man Who Fell to Earth was to look at what is on many levels a deeply spiritual film, or at least one with the potential to generate dialogue about the nature of spirituality.The frank nature of the film blinded many of the students to that potentiality. It is the story of an alien who comes to earth to get water for his own planet which is suffering a life-threatening drought. He arrives, literally falling from the sky, and dropping virtually unnoticed into a lake. One of the inspirations for the movie is the story of Icarus--the man who flew to close to the sun. The particular take on the Icarus tale which provides the context for the film is drawn from a painting by Pieter Breugel called Landscape with the Fall of Icarus(1558) which shows Icarus falling into the ocean and the world ignoring the event. This is the premise of movie; that the alien comes to earth, but society is too self-obsessed to really even notice. It is a film not about the alien as much as it is about us, about late twentieth century consumer culture, about our fascination with looking at, but never really seeing, ourselves--again, a rich field of discourse to be mined. The alien, played by David Bowie, is drawn to earth by his attraction with television, but it quickly becomes apparent that the televised self he is drawn to is much different to the state of the humans he meets. There is a comedic twist to the tale, but we never really got that far, in fact, we really didn't get very far at all because there was so much baggage to get through. Not all the students were antagonistic and some were quite eager to move past their preconceptions and wrestle through the implications but that small cadre of brave souls were caught up in a sea of other issues that had to be addressed. What it comes down to partially is how one understands the nature of theology. For many it seems that theology is little more than a pre-fabricated and fully complete grid which you place over everything and determine whether a particular situation is holy, acceptable, or whatever. For others theology is something else, more of a process and dialogue with the world. For me, theology is not a static thing but an ongoing conversation and there is nothing outside its scope and range--and nothing to be afraid of. Theology could be termed the science of God, and like science, it's theories, concepts, and formulas need to be retested when new evidence or data becomes available. Sometimes I get the sense that we are still living in the Middle Ages when I listen to some people talk about how they view God and theology etc.
What I didn't get to bring up in our conversation because of time constraints, and the pointlessness of even raising the issue, was that in the novel by Walter Tevis, from which the film came, another sexual issue is raised, Newton, the alien, has a homosexual veneer to him, something which Roeg avoids in the film. Considering the ruckus the heterosexuality caused for some of the students I can't imagine what they would have thought if they were exposed to the queer-end of sexuality as well! David Bowie played Newton, and he was perfect for the part. John Gill posits that Bowie's varied sexual personae in his early career made him the perfect vehicle for opening up cultural space in which even heterosexual men could be relieved from the burden of normative heterosexuality. In the movie Bowie-as-alien makes it possible to see that what is supposedly natural to the body might also at the same time be alien to it(Gerard Loughlin's observations from his book, Alien Sex). A pretty rich topic it seems to me. This provocative issue of how the normative can be burdensome at times, and not just sexual normatives, is a key issue for theological dialogue today. There is little in the way of solid theological conversation with this and many other issues raised by the film. Or if there are, they are way on the fringes of the Christian community. The Man Who Fell to Earth, is more about the state of the earth he falls into than it is about the alien. "Cinematic theology attends to the practices of cinema and the language of film in order to think theologically with and through cinema. It is theology in the mode of cinema, and as such acknowledges the possibility of doing theology in and through film." (Loughlin, Alien Sex, xx).
Kundalini yoga, feng shui, prana breathing, geomancy, sacred geometry, Tibetan Buddhism, pre-tibetan buddhism, meditation, rebirth techniques, mantras, interior design and that was just the first seminar! LAPOV (Los Angeles Point of view) was a one-day conference on the state of the arts at the dawn of a new century, sponsored by Dragonon publishing and held in the very cool space that is the Pacific Design Center here in LA. It was an eclectic gathering of people, from alternative healing arts practitioners to conscious hip-hopppers and all points inbetween. The overall goal was to eamine what is happening in the arts today with particular focus on the relationship between art and new technology. The day began with a panel on the healing arts which I thought was a shrewd move, it expanded the idea of what constitutes art from the get go. The panel was hosted by Jay Levin, one of LA's seminal figures in alternative healing and religion, and founder of the LA Weekly, an alternative paper. The 'tipping point' language was in full effect and there was plenty of talk about the new future and some old new-age lingo ('age of aquarius etc.) but what was most interesting was the integration going on in the lives of all the panelists--I found the combination of feng shui mastery, jungian psychology and interior design--treating the living space as a way of connecting with oneself, particularly intriguing-a sense that where and how we design our living spaces has much to say about how we view ourselves in the world---it is that remix thing again. My favourite quote of the day came early, one of the panelists said that kundalini yoga was like a "disneyland ride to higher consciousness"-- great image for the way many seem to perceive the religious process! In the audience, which was not very large, were experts on crop cirlcles, sacred musicians, electronica musicians, and all kinds of people involved in alternative artistic endeavours. There was a great panel on how technology has affected music--much talk of Jacques Attali's seminal work, Noise: the political economy of music, in which he writes of a 'succession of orders' with regard to music, and there seemed to be a consensus among the panelists that, largely because of technology, music has now entered a new phase--composition, the stage in which people make music for themselves rather than simply consume what is offered. Particularly insightful was Brian Kane, part of the Emergency Broadcast Network, a pioneer in video-sampling technology and creator of many hilarious and biting remixes of political speeches--who urged the audience to learn their crafts and not simply chase the tools. The highlight of the day was a plenary session with Erik Davis, author of Techngnosis--a book I highly recommend to anyone considering the implications of technology on culture. His talk was a multi-media extravaganza with dj's, vj's, painters and sound manipulators, and was on the subject of visionary experience design. He traced a line from paleolithic cave paintings through Bosch and William Blake to the early abstractionists and finally to filmmakers, advertising, theme parks and movie special effects, arguing that our immersion into a sound and visually-driven culture is putting us into collective environments and pushing us towards visionary, epiphanic experiences--media as a vehicle for visionary experience. He said that what we have today is more than art, it is an environment within human experience. Davis always has a different take on things and this address was no exception--right wing talk radio as a cybernetic engine for sustaining anger, fear, and ignorance--an emotion machine, not just talk. It was a great way to end a day of exploration into the state of the arts and one more reminder to me that the old paradigms simply do not factor much in the conversation about where the world is headed.
Down the street from where I live is a store called Pharmaca. It is an integrated pharmacy, meaning it carries western and alternative medical supplies and resources. You can get your drug prescription filled and consult with a chinese herbalist at the same time. It's a pretty cool space, they offer free seminars on a wide variety of topics related to wellbeing as well as yoga, massage and other stuff. One of the things they have in large supply is chocolate. All kinds of chocolate, most of it organic, but none of it like the Cadbury's chocolate of my childhood. These days it seems everything can be a vehicle for healing and transformation, and apparently chocolate is no exception. Alongside chocolate bars whose sale will benefit the rainforest or endangered species, are others which tout more than a mere taste treat. One company, New Tree, has a whole line of aromatherapy infused belgian chocolates with names like, Tranquility or Energy, which are laced with lavender or other essential oils and fragrances and purport to offer healing along with great taste. They are quite tasty--I don't know if they work, maybe they function like placebos--the very idea of healthy chocolate shifting the psyche and bodily responses. Aromatherapy seems to be everywhere these days and in all kinds of food and household items. A couple of years ago it was simply sold alongside candles, exotic combinations of essential oils offering scents designed to remedy particular emotional, spiritual or physical needs (a friend gave me one called Heartsong when I was going through a particularly dark time last year--I don't know what it did, but it certainly smelled lovely) but these days you can find aromatherapy in chocolate and even in a brand of household wall paint. Apparently the paint will leave a gentle aroma in the room for about six months and there is a list of recommended fragrances dependent upon which colour one chooses. Lavender is recommended as both a colour and a fragrance for bedrooms as they both promote relaxation and calming energies--if sexual energy is something you need in your bedroom then other options are recommended! I find it interesting that fragrances and the idea of healing fragrances are becoming so pervasive--our life is becoming an increasingly complete sensorial experience--music for our ears everywhere you go, scents for our noses(you can smell an Abercrombie and Fitch store before you can see it), soft and luxurious fabrics for our touch(think about how soft things are these days whether it be denim or cashmere), and beautiful things to look at--and all of it combined to make us feel good about ourselves and about our world. I live in Los Angeles and it is probably true that there is more of this sort of thing here than other places, but I have been travelling around the U.S. a fair bit this year and have noticed that even in less trendy spots around the country elements of this can be found. I think that this infusion of other ingredients into familiar items is another example of the ongoing collapsing of boundaries which seems to be underway in our time--and it's not just things like the relationship between the sacred and the profane or the material and the spiritual, it's a redefining of everything, the fusion and mixing of traditions, concepts and understandings, including how we think about what is "good for us." Chocolate has been around for a long time and its benefits as an aphrodisiac amongst other things has long been touted--these days that stuff is old hat--the bricoleurs are remixing chocolate and what emerges is a tasty-healing experience--now if only Cadbury can jump on the bandwagon I'll be happy!
Picked up Huston Smith's latest book, The Soul of Christianity. Given the emphasis on intereligious dialogue which has marked Smith's literary outputs this one caught my eye. In it he presents a perspective on his own faith, Christianity, in this time of religious transition and change. His focus is on what he terms, The Great Tradition, the faith of the first millenium believers, and he presents this as the 'soul' of Christian faith and the remedy for our times. I am not all the way through yet, but what I have read so far is pretty interesting. He takes on modernity and how religion has manifested in modernity, but like a lot of people he wants to go back in order to go forward. The jury is still out for me on that one--I am not sure that we can ever go back, get back even, but I like his perspectives. Zizek argues that if you want to reinvent Marxism one has to return to Lenin and to reinvent Christianity one has to return to Christianity's architect, Paul--that I can get my head around somewhat--the idea being that it is necessary to return to the person who put feet to the ideas put forward by Marx or Jesus or whomever and try to capture the moment before the idea became institution. But I think religion itself has evolved into a new phase and now manifests in ways not necessarily coherent with traditional religious practice. I think spirituality is the way religion manifests in our time and it is something quite different. I know that spirituality is often dismissed as a catchall word that doesn't mean anything concrete but I actually think that it means many things and is the right word to use as an umbrella term under which to describe what's going on in the world of faith today. In a post-secular spiritual environment(which is what I think we are living in), the role of the traditional religions is not the same as it used to be. While it is certain that for many people adherence to traditional faiths is the dominant way by which they celebrate and practice their faith(but even then, the ways in which those traditional faiths are practiced are deeply influenced by cultural contexts and are not really always as traditional as people think they are), for many others the major religions function more as a resource from which they fund and fuel their new religious/spiritual expressions--a sort of second tier. In this context modern arguments over dominance and ascendancy--which religion is the right or true one become unnecessary--they are all equally beneficial for funding of the new impulses. You can see this in lots of ways. People speak about being 'zen-christians,' or some other combination of highly personalised beliefs and practices--they lack the language often to fully express what is going on inside them but something is and it is very real and different and it is very challenging to traditional faiths. I also think that the rise of global fundamentalism will only increase this dynamic--"enough already with the religious wars." What Smith attempts in his book is a revisiting of the early formulas of Christianity: resurrection, hell, salvation, virgin births etc.and looks at them again, filtering the essence of the ideas through his many years of religious exploration and his own deep love for God as manifested through Christian faith. It seems to me that it might prove more helpful to people who are still attempting to fashion their spiritual lives via Christianity and struggling with it more than those for whom Christianity holds little interest. As Christopher Partridge writes in his great book, The Re-Enchantment of the West, "There is simply not the required sociological, psychological and spiritual soil needed for such Christian seeds to take root." Post-secular western society is not religious in the way the medieval and pre-modern world was. The vapor trails of Christianity still thread through the air of our culture but there is not the same kind of rootedness and connectedness to it as there once was, and I am not sure that trying to get people back to thinking about Christianity as a sort of monolithic religious idea that works for everyone is the way to go. That is not to say that I don't think Christianity has valuable things to offer, I do, it is the rootedness of my own spiritual life but I doubt that future holds some vast cultural return to Christianity. The other week I got into a conversation with a bunch of people at a theological seminary about Jesus' statement, "I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father but by me." This was advanced as proof that Christianity is the only true religion and Jesus the only way to get to God--the classic exclusivist position--I couldn't disagree more. Jesus also says I am the bread of life and I am the vine and a few other "I am's"--do we really think he wants us to take them as literal statements as well? that he really is bread or vine? I think that there has to be some real wrestling with this kind of thinking and I am pretty sure that while Smith's ideas are really good and perhaps even right, they lack a certain edginess to fully shake things up because he is still presenting traditional religion as the way forward and I don't think it is. Amongst my friends who have spiritual lives outside of the traditions there is no animosity towards them, just a sense that they don't see anything they need there--until that changes the future of religious traditions remains precarious as far as I am concerned--and I say that even though much of the world at present still practices its faith around many of those ideas. I should probably stop now because I am starting to blather a bit--I'll come back to this later.
I visited a new gym today--well gym is hardly the right term, a therapeutic exercise environment perhaps? The deal with this place is that you only have to go once a week and the exercise only lasts half an hour--sounds too good to be true? You shouldn't be fooled into thinking that this is some kind of smooth sales pitch, it is actually a very intense and intensive exercise theory which is very demanding and quite tough. Their basic philosophy is complete and total failure--a good one for me. As a Brit I thrive on negativity and cynicism, and an exercise regime based on failure seems to fit all of my cultural inclinations. Of course what they mean by failure is not what I mean, but it is good to go somewhere where positivity is not leaking like sewer water through the pours of every person present! Failure is to reach the point where one's muscle can no longer function--it is like reaching the limit of your strength and then learning to push through and in so doing retrain one's muscles and get stronger and healthier. It is strength training really, and the machinery used at this gym is usually found in rehabilitation centres where a different approach to health and strength is used. I thought I was just going to have a chat with the trainer and see the equipment, but he put us through a typical workout--it was knackering!! It involves going very slowly, holding muscles in tension, feeling the burn, and pushing one's muscles to the limit--lots of breathing and no more than three minutes on any given machine and only focusing on one set of issues per visit. My arms are still shaking--for a while they felt as though they had been severed and sewn back with the nerves reattached incorrectly! Now they just ache a bit--but I must say that even though it was hard I felt and feel pretty good right now. I am certain that tomorrow morning I will be completely incapable of any coordinated movements and thanking God that this only happens once a week. It is not cheap so I am going to have to think about how to finance it (getting healthy is never cheap it seems) and that will mean an inventory of what I might need to give up in order to make this happen--could be the end of Starbucks for a while but that wouldn't be a bad thing, I did it for a few months earlier in the year. It is interesting how we seem to have incorporated failure into our philosophical grid--I remember when Nike started airing commercials with Michael Jordan in which he listed all the times he had failed--it was quite revolutionary at the time, a sort of granting of permission not to be perfect, or at least to understand that even the greatest among us don't get it right all the time--that sentiment has definitley made deeper inroads into the cultural psyche now--and now a gym where 'total failure' is the clue to health and well-being.
I figured I should probably check out the third network show to deal with aliens this new tv season, so Tivo captured the premiere of Invasion for me. While Threshhold and Surface take a little time to unleash the alien factor Invasion jumps right in. There was some tension before the shows airing because it begins with a hurricane in south Florida and that is a little close to our cultural bone at the moment, so we were duly warned that the subject matter would require our sensitivity before we were allowed to enter into another alien saga. Someone said that Invasion is a show about two kinds of aliens: alien invasion and alien-ation in family relationships and that seems to be borne out in the first episode. Where the other two shows follow the team-of-experts-handling-the-strange-happenings style, Invasion takes a different tack, and has the aliens taking over individual members of a small Florida community isolated by a hurricane and dependent upon each other in only the way one can be in a small town. This show has more of a family drama feel to it, much less CSI much more Everwood--only with the alien factor. Once again the aliens seem to represent our inability to deal with present without the presence of 'otherness' and again, rather than having the Other be God or something similar, it is the alien who threatens what little thread of normalcy and stability is left in our fragmented and deconstructed postmodern world. A family already in disarray, torn by ugly divorce and bitterness but forced into ongoing interaction by obligation(work) and necessity(family/children etc.), is drawn into new relational dynamics as they all must come to terms with the strange goings on in their family and community. By the end of the first episode we seem to have a handle on who is possessed by the invaders and it is an interesting group: the police chief, his wife, who is the local hospital's chief doctor and the also the embittered ex-wife of the family who are the main focus of the drama, and a priest---it's all very Peyton Place on one level--a bit predictable, more than a little stereotypical---but the alien factor...makes it worth a second look just to see what happens next. After viewing all three shows here's what they have in common: the aliens aren't friendly--they mean us harm; they like water or at least they use water to enter our world hang around until the right time; and there is always some kind of shining lights--usually bluish and extremely bright; and somehow we are all going to have to come together in ways we may not have expected in order to survive and get through----stay tuned.
Nicolas Cage is not one of my favourite actors but I thought the artwork for the movie poster was interesting--they say that you can't judge a book by it's cover--but that is not always true in my experience--in fact, I make a lot of purchases based on cover designs. Whoever invented that saying obviously did not live in a design economy, where the surface sometimes tells you everything you need to know about what is inside. Anyway, back to Lord of War, a film I highly recommend on a number of levels. Firstly, the subject matter--arms dealers. Based on actual events, Cage plays Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian-American who stumbles into his life's vocation which is a unique ability to smuggle and sell arms, and the film revolves around his story of arms dealing through the latter part of the twentieth century. What I found particulalry interesting about the story is that Orlov's character doesn't really experience any sort of redemption he begins and ends the movie in an amoral state--nothing seems to shake this guy off of his focus--and some pretty intense stuff happens to him throughout the course of the film. This kind of static character arc serves the larger story of the film well--it is essentially a tale of our times--about our commitment to kill, to support wars, to foster aggression, and to make money off the back of moral and societal decay, and ultimately it is about our lack of desire to really do anything about it. The movie is fictional but it is peppered with facts and figures on the result of arms manufacturing and is sobering in its indictment of the nations who do most of the dealing. While the film is centred around an individual who trades in arms the film makes no bones about the fact that the bulk of arms dealing in the world is done by governments--the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are the largest producers and distributors of weapons--that's messed up, and that is what the film wants us to walk away with. A second recommendation is the visual style of the film-it has a hip and inventive approach cinematically--in the opening sequences we follow a single bullet from its manufacture in a factory--around the world--down the barrel of a gun and finally into the head of a child soldier in Africa. Lord of War is quite violent, although given the subject matter, it is hardly excessive. Cage's actorly style--that blank kind of look he effects actually serves both him and the overall movie well this time around--his face doesn't register much in the way of shock and horror and his slow speech reaction make his verbal responses to the carnage going on around him all the more weighted. Third, and not unimportant, a really good soundtrack which adds the right amount of gravitas and madness to what we see and hear on the screen. This is social commentary--it could have easily been a documentary--but fortunately it is a really savvy and creative piece of storytelling which lends weight to the issues it deals with. You can check it out here http://www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/lord_of_war/