Sunday, December 20, 2015

Luke Skywalker: Star Wars VII the Force Awakens & the New Jedi

When the film opens, we see the iconic background of the round star lights, the yellow, slanted story lines opening with the familiar words with the theme gloriously playing in the background; why? To begin with, it pays homage to the original, as we all know, but demonstrates--in so doing--that it wants to continue with the original, not change it, and that is important (for example, in the opening of Spectre, the classic James Bond entrance and theme play as well, reminding us of the same thing). Just as the original Star Wars trilogy was designed during the Cold War to be anti-socialist and anti-communist, so, too, today's Star Wars would follow. But even the most sentimental fan couldn't help but notice how dated such a opening is, which leads us to a second point: the advances in technology due to the free market and demand for ever greater special effects in movies. It's always interesting to hear how a small film made due on the proverbial "shoe string budget," and such feats earn admiration, however, films have become massively more impressive in terms of their special effects and seeing the opening lines, while emotional and thrilling, also make you realize how far Hollywood and film makers have come in delivering ever greater narratives backed by incredible inventions and effects. This is just one of two references to the free market we will find in the film.
If you have not seen the movie, please, do not read this post until you have because I spend the greatest amount of time talking about the role of Luke Skywalker in the film and why he is so important. If you haven't seen the film and want to read the post anyway, Wikipedia has a good synopsis that will explain the plot of the film so you can get caught up.
We know that voice over about the Force is Luke Skywalker talking, but he doesn't actually say anything in the film, so why do they have it in the trailer? Because when Luke says, "You have that power, too," he's addressing us, the audience. There's no one else he can be addressing but us. So why would he do that? To remind us of how powerful each and everyone of us are in our individuality, which is what the film is truly about: being an individual, being you and who you really are and are meant to become (which is why Finn [John  Boyega] is so important). So, why does arguably one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history not get more film time? I think there are at least two reasons.
When the movie ends, Finn is in a coma and unconscious, alive, but unresponsive. Why? Finn has to go through a "resurrection" in order to become completely divorced from the First Order and fully become a member of the Resistance. For example, Finn should have known that when he helped Poe escape in a TIE fighter, the TIE fighter would still be TIEd up; that's an example of the "umbilical cord" complex, when a character tries to free themselves from something, however, something still holds them back. We saw JJ Abrams use this in Star Trek Into Darkness during the opening sequence with Spock being dropped into the volcano and the cord which attached him to the "mother ship" was snapped: this invoked the destruction of Spock's home planet and how, no longer having a real home to call his own, Spock felt like an orphan so he was willing to die in order to save this other planet while he couldn't save his own. The TIE fighter still being tied to the First Order dock is a sign that, while Finn wants to leave, there are things still holding him back: everything he knows he has been taught by the First Order, which has raised him and been "his family" (we also see this in action in the opening newsreel sequence for The Man From UNCLE: a man is escaping through the barbed wire of the Berlin Wall and his wool sweater gets caught and lifts up over his face so he can't see; he has had the "wool pulled over his eyes" about freedom in the West and he wonders if he will be able to really make it when the government isn't giving him everything he needs).  Does Finn and Rey have a romantic connection with each other? I don't think so, I think it's actually deeper than that: they are more like family to each other. Neither has ever known what it's like to have a family and Rey and Finn go through a lot together, very quickly, giving them a shared identity and memories unique to the other. Each of the character posters released for the film shows the character with a weapon covering one eye; what does Finn see and what does Finn not see? Finn doesn't realize how important he is. When he tells Han Solo he's a "Big deal" in the Resistance, Han knows better and kids him about it later on; the truth is, Finn will become a big deal, but he--just like Rey--has a significant amount of personal development they have to go through in order to be what they can. We know Finn doesn't have blue eyes (Maz Kanata looks deep into his eyes and we clearly see them are a dark brown) so why are his eyes blue in this poster? If the eyes are the windows of the soul, his soul has experienced a great deal of sadness in his lifetime. But that sadness also gave birth to wisdom, specifically at the village his unit attacks and his realizing that what they were doing was wrong. What about Poe's jacket, why does Poe let Finn keep it? As we will see with Luke below, when people do something bad to us, we lose a part of ourselves, but when someone does something good for us, we give them a part of ourselves, or we gain a part of them. The First Order gave FN-2187 his outfit, his mask, id number and code of conduct (non-conformity) but Poe giving Finn his jacket was Finn receiving a medal: everyone will know that Finn defected and saved their best pilot, and that puts Finn in the same category as Poe himself. Rather than a mask to hide his true identity like the Storm Trooper uniform, the fighter pilot jacket testifies to Finn's courage and paves the way for him to gain a new identity for himself.
One, because if we saw Luke even half way through the film, the mystery of who the Last Jedi Knight is would be diminished. Even though Luke has been in isolation (more on this below) he has obviously been through a ton, and that comes through in this brief moment when we see him: for Rey and us the audience, who also haven't seen Luke Skywalker in thirty years, the man is epic, and that comes through in this last shot. Secondly, where would Rey be if Luke had shown up and stopped Kylo Ren and Snoke all by himself? She would be back on Jakku, waiting for a family that was never going to show up. This second point is what feeds the theme of "individuality" throughout the film.
My vote for best entrance goes to C3PO. Perhaps you noticed, during the course of the film, a particular Storm Trooper who had a red shoulder pad on his left side? C3PO's red right arm operates in much the same way, but the mirror opposite. C3PO is a robot; the Storm Trooper is a human, but he's trying to become like a robot in his strict conformity to the First Order. Even though he's only a droid, and sometimes unbearable, C3PO is also incredibly loyal and devoted to those he serves (like Leia, Han and Luke). The Storm Trooper is also loyal; so, why do we the audience favor C3PO and despise the Storm Trooper? Arms symbolize strength, and as we will see with Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren, arms represent an important symbol throughout the film in their ability to distinguish the characters' spiritual states from one another. For C3PO, his strength is love. Even though he is a droid, he knows more about love than the human Storm Trooper with the red plate on his shoulder; what does that symbolize? The old saying, "A chip on his shoulder," is probably accurate. He has advanced throughout the ranks of being a Storm Trooper because he has hatred for the Resistance in one form or another. His hatred of someone or something is what those in the First Order believes makes them strong (like Kylo Ren's hatred of his father, Han Solo), but it's what makes them weak because hatred is a poison.
We know, that Abrams himself revealed the First Order existing on the same premise and operating on the same principles as the Nazis, so the storm troopers and Kylo Ren all symbolize aspects of socialism (and we shouldn't be surprised because the film Abrams--who is Jewish--did before Star Wars VII was Star Trek Into Darkness, and that was also a thoroughly and explicitly anti-socialist film as well). So, Star Wars VII: the Force Awakens provides us with three basic kinds of "lack of identity," three of which can be said to be good, and the other inherently bad.
The chaos of democracy is going to be destroyed by the First Order as Storm Troopers gather to watch the First Order destroy the Republic. Yes, there is a chaos to America and democracy, to individuality and free will. Do you know who Justin Bieber is? What about Kim Kardashian? Steven Spielberg? Regardless of what you think or don't think about these people, they are individuals, and they have made a mark--for better, or worse--upon culture and society. One of those Storm Troopers could be Daniel Craig, and none of us would know unless we were told, and even then, we would have to take someone's word for it. Even though I don't like Miley Cyrus and her twerking, she is a part of the chaos of democracy and freedom in the West which we endure so we, too, can have freedom: not just to say what we please, to worship, to bear arms, to choose our own career path, to wear the clothes we prefer, but also to make mistakes, to learn, to question and experiment. None of those things exist in the First Order. The priveldges which are denied to Storm Troopers are granted to the elite of the First Order. Remember Kylo Ren tearing apart the torture chair Rey had been strapped to when he discovered she had escaped, and two Storm Troopers hear him, turn around and walk away? None of them would be allowed to exhibit "chaotic" emotions like that, but Kylo Ren is because he is of the elite. Kylo Ren can take off his helmet/mask whenever he wants, but none of the other Storm Troopers are allowed to. This is what happens in socialist/communist societies, as the book Animal Farm detailed and Star Wars VII backs up. 
First, the bad example of loss of identity, Finn, who was given the name FN-2187 when Storm Troopers stole him from his family to raise him as a First Order Storm Trooper, When FN-2187 helps Poe (Oscar Isaac) escape, Poe asks his name and he replies, "FN-2187," the only name he has ever known. Poe replies that he won't call him that, instead, he will call him "Finn." What has Poe done? He has given Finn an "i," or, better, an "I." The "I" is what the First Order took from him, and it's what the Resistance gave back to him, and what he cherishes about himself. What about the other two examples?
This is an important scene: as Rey cleans some of the junk she has found that day, she looks up and sees an old woman doing exactly what she's doing and, Rey realizes, this is her fate: she will be that old woman one day if her family doesn't come for her (but they are all ready dead). This is the best image I could find of Rey's arms. As demonstrated above with C3PO, arms are important and symbolize strength; Rey's arms are covered up with fabric, so what does that mean? Her real strength is still hidden and has not yet been revealed. There's another important detail about Rey's costume: her hairstyle. When Rey has the flashback to her childhood when she is at Maz's, we see Rey and know it's her because her hairstyle hasn't changed since she was a little girl (she wears it pinned and pulled back). So, since hair symbolizes our thoughts, we can say that Rey's thoughts haven't changed since she was a little girl, namely, that her family is coming back for her. We can expect her to be sporting  a new hairstyle in the next episode, I'm sure. There's one more thing that's important: the alien being to whom she has to sell her junk. Since there is no free market on Jakku, she has only one place where she can receive wages and that varies according to the mood (or corrupt desires) of the alien in charge of giving out rations, which is exactly what happens when the government is put in charge of central planning and distribution: you have to pay an exorbitant price for basic necessities because the government never plans on making enough, so you have to create a black market where things like toilet paper are really valuable because there's never enough to go around; why not? Because it's not "the government" who owns all the industries, but favorites of the Party chairman who allows them to "own" in the name of the government the different factories necessary for people to live, and they do whatever they want to do to make their lives comfortable. If you don't believe me, read a book on the Soviet Union, or how China came to have so many billionaires, or how the elite in North Korea live.
Rey also has a lack of identity, but this isn't necessarily bad. Not knowing her family or where she came from is hard on a person, it creates a void, but Rey has actually become stronger because of this void in her life: she's self-sufficient. The third example is Luke Skywalker. He has become a myth, and so no one knows his real identity any more, even people like Han and Leia, because thirty years (especially in isolation) greatly changes a person). Luke's mythic stature inspires courage in Rey and Finn because, if Luke Skywalker is really real, anything is possible. His mistake with Kylo Ren, however, reminds us, the audience, that even the great Luke Skywalker, last Jedi Knight, is still only human just like us (please see caption below for further illustration of this point).  Are there any other examples?
Yes, Poe.
If we are supposed to know that Luke is human, in spite of his mythic stature, we--and everyone else in the universe--are supposed to know that Kylo Ren is not human (even though he is) but very real and threatening (remember when he has Rey in the torture chair and she calls him an animal hunting her). What is Kylo Ren? He's a human boy who was basically a mediocrity--he had failures and couldn't live with it--so he decided to get even with fate and join the Dark Side, just like all communists (we saw this character in the persona of Uncle Rudy in The Man From UNCLE). Like all communists and socialists, Kylo Ren likes to use methods on others to have complete control over them, but hates it when they are used on himself (consider the surveillance used by Mr. White on Blofeld in Spectre). Every socialist/communist wants to get "in the mind" of the people they control so they have complete control over them, but heaven forbid that someone (like Rey) should be able to do that to Kylo Ren and see what his fears are. Was Luke using the Force to be present during this moment when Kylo Ren was trying to extract the information from Rey's mind? I don't think he was, but I am confident he is aware of what happened, namely, that Rey was able to use the Force, but she used it only to defend herself and save herself, not to actually hurt Kylo Ren.  Like his grandfather, Kylo Ren uses a mouthpiece to talk; why? Because he himself is a mouthpiece for the Emperor, in this case, Snoke (which means "snake" if you replace the vowel). We saw this in The Dark Knight Rises with Bane (Tom Hardy) who had a large mouth piece over his face because he was a mouth piece for someone else. This is part of the loss of identity and individuality which socialists and communists are willing to trade for a small share of the power over others they hope they will have. 
Most people, at least in America, when they hear "Poe," think of the famed writer Edgar Allan Poe; is this accurate and what we should be doing? Sure. E.A. Poe had significant talent, but had even more significant struggles in his  life and didn't receive (hardly any) recognition for his talents while he was alive. This is a lesson in fame. However, for Poe Dameron  (who will also be in Star Wars VIII) he offers us the good example of how we should be the best at whatever it is we do--as he is the best pilot in the Resistance--and that which we are the best at, should be at the service of all humanity to preserve freedom and end tyranny. Poe is how we should all be, more or less. "Poe" might also refer to another film, however, specifically, the 1964 classic, Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. "POE" is used throughout the film as standing for "Peace On Earth," which could be a viable reference Abrams is making because the Dark Side (i.e., resurrected Nazis ransacking the world) are trying to bring us to the brink of war, either Civil War in America, a third World War in the Middle East or both.
Now, back to Luke Skywalker.
The image on top is from the earlier Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back when, battling Darth Vader, Vader tells Luke that he is Luke's father and wants Luke to join him on the Dark Side and Vader slices off Luke's right hand. This happened because Luke lost a piece of himself that his father was a traitor to the Empire, rather than dying honorably for the Resistance. In Star Wars VII, we see in the image on the bottom that Luke now has a mechanical hand placed atop R2 (and confirmed when Luke turns to Rey and pulls back his hood). Why did Luke switch hands? He probably didn't. When Kylo Ren left Luke to join the Dark Side, it's possible they fought and Kylo Ren cut off the hand of Luke, causing him to replace his right hand again. Why? We know Kylo Ren's real name is "Ben," which could have been after Ben Kanobe (Alec Guinness), but Abrams being Jewish, he probably was also aware that the name "Benjamin" means "Son of my right hand," so Luke having lost his right hand (again) would be related symbolically to what he lost when his nephew Ben severed his relations with Luke, the rest of his family and the Light and went to the Dark Side. Something similar to this happens in The Lord Of the Rings when Frodo (Elijah Wood) is at Mount Doom and is supposed to throw the One Ring into the volcano but can't, and Gollum runs at him, biting his finger off that has the Ring so Gollum can have the Ring again. Frodo lost a part of himself (his finger) as a symbol of what the Ring meant to him emotionally, but also what he had to sacrifice in saving Middle Earth. Luke, likewise, keeps loosing his right hand as his sacrifice of what he must suffer emotionally because of different members of his family.
Without a doubt, Luke Skywalker is the most important character in the whole film; why? Everyone is looking for him, which is why he has stayed in hiding,... or is it? What Abrams has done in withholding Luke's presence from the film--which, let's admit it, is quite a bummer and a let down--is incredibly brave and highly charged with symbolism, so what does it mean? As stated above, if Luke had come out of hiding and defeated Kylo Ren himself--a rumored plot point which was possible--other members of the Resistance would not have had the chance to step up and prove their worth. This has important political dimensions, namely, women in today's world (symbolized by Rey) and minorities in today's world (symbolized by Finn) have every opportunity to make something great of themselves, if they will accept the challenge, because that's the only way to make something of yourself; they can't sit around and accuse white heterosexual men of ruling the world when they themselves would rather be part of a self-entitlement culture. This is the reason why there is a map to find Luke Skywalker.
I have done a rather extensive analysis of Luke's costume here all ready, but let's recap some items, shall we? The image on the left is taken from Star Wars: a New Hope, when young Luke was quite young and he blurted out whatever came into his mind (note the wind tossing his hair about, which symbolizes his thoughts blowing in the wind). The image on the right is a costume test for Luke and what he wears in the last scene; why a hood? Since our thoughts originate in our head, hair and hats (or anything worn on top of the head) can symbolize what it is we are thinking. Wearing a hood usually means that someone is keeping their thoughts "under cover," or to themselves. The beard? in ancient times, only the barbarians--the uncivilized--wore beards, whereas the Romans who were civilized were clean shaven, so the beard came to symbolize a man who lived by his appetites rather than a code of conduct (such as social norms or religious principles). Beards, however, can also denote wisdom because a man has detached himself from worldly affairs (the vanity of being clean shaven) to pursue affairs not of the world, and this applies to Luke. The colors of his robe are earth tones and that denotes humility, unlike Kylo Ren who thinks he is so strong and invincible (in spite of his fear he won't be as powerful as Vader). Luke, then is humble and knows the Force is greater than he is and he's not going to fall for the vanity of the Dark Side the way other members of his family have. The belt Luke wears denotes both chastity (he hasn't been consorting with whores in his exile) as well as a vow he has taken, which we don't know what that is (maybe something like always serving the Light, or trying to convert Kylo Ren back, etc.). The outfit, while all the same color scheme, is several different colors; why? If it were pure white, then Luke would have arrived at where he needs to be, the summit of his training and powers within the Force, but even after thirty years of exile, Luke still has power that he doesn't know he has because he is so strong in the Force, his ability to use it is nearly limitless. 
If you are going into hiding, why on earth (or any other planet) would you leave a map telling people where you are in case they want to find you? The map isn't so much a map as to "where Luke is hiding," as to "how he got to where he is." That is, how Luke Skywalker, a simple no-body from nowhere, came to be the Last Jedi Knight; yes, there is a map for that. This answers the questions other bloggers and reviewers are asking: why is it that Rey, of everyone, is the one who goes to find Luke when they have never even met before? Because her trip she takes to find him is really a foreshadowing of the events to come in Star Wars VIII which demonstrate how Rey is really going to find herself. When she's climbing all those steps on Skellig Michael, and passing all that barrenness, that is what she herself will have to go through interiorly in order to fulfill her potential to become the new Jedi. Next question: does Luke Skywalker want to be found?
Yes.
This is a photo of Skellig Michael in Ireland where the scene with Luke was shot, i.e., Luke's place of exile. Why? Of all the places in the universe where Luke could have hidden, why here? Because it's surrounded by water, and it's a rock. Brilliant, huh? We know that water is an important symbol in its three stages. Water in liquid form means that someone has just begun to think about something; we see this when Han, Finn and Rey land at Maz Kanata's, and there is all this water: Han has started to think of having Rey has his second mate, Rey has begun thinking of what it would be like to have Han for a father (Kylo Ren divulges this to us) and Finn has started thinking about what he has to do to escape punishment by the First Order. So, what is it that Luke has been thinking about for thirty years but hasn't thought through completely? The existence of the Jedis. Who will be the next Jedi? When will they make themselves known? Will they turn to the Dark Side? The Force has revealed to Luke that Rey is supposed to, in some way if not straight out, be a Jedi or at least learn to use the Force. As stated elsewhere in the post, when Rey arrives, the steps she goes up, the quiet and solitude, the barrenness, foreshadows the journey and its hardships which lie ahead of her. Why is Luke on a giant rock? Because he himself is "a rock," solid and sturdy, unwavering in his dedication to the Light and fight against the Dark Side. There is another symbol for water that isn't as well known, but may very well be applicable, and that is water as a symbol for the emotional life. Rather than be locked up in a library and reading ancient texts, Luke is surrounded by his emotions (the water) and trying to steady himself (the rock) so his emotions can't be used against him in an upcoming battle (the way his emotions have been used against him with his father, for example). 
Other critics have contended that, when Luke turns around and sees Rey standing there, he doesn't want her, or anyone else, to be there, and I disagree with this. Why is it that R2D2 suddenly wakes up from his dormant slumber to deliver the rest of the map? Luke did that. Bear with me, if you will. Recall how, in Star Wars: A New Hope (the very first Star Wars film released when they were all young) Ben (Alec Guinness) is killed by Vader and while Luke is standing there, Ben says, "Run, Luke, run!" and how Ben is always "there" to help Luke along and guide him when to "Use the Force." Luke does the exact same thing for Rey in Episode VII which we have seen Ben and Yoda do for Luke. Luke all ready knows Han Solo is dead and that Kylo Ren did it; he also knows that Snoke has taken Kylo Ren to "complete his training." It's Luke using the Force at Maz Kanata's pit stop to open Rey's mind so she will begin to understand what she has to do, and find his light saber (it's undecidable if Luke guided Han to Maz's to get his light saber, or--knowing Han as Luke does--Luke originally left his light saber at Maz's because he knew Han stops there and could have someone retrieve it for him when he was ready for it; this point doesn't matter so much because, honestly, it's probably a combination of the two). Can we prove that Luke is using the Force to call to Rey at Maz's? Yes.
Why does Han Solo die? I have two responses. First, as you know, I believe that a character never dies unless they are "all ready dead," something about them is dead and that's why they can't go on and be crowned a hero. In the case of Han Solo, Maz Kanata tells us why he's "dead": he wouldn't fight the Dark Side. Han didn't join the Dark Side, even his estranged son Kylo Ren knew better than to offer his father to come join him on the Dark Side of the Force (the way Vader hoped Luke would join him) because Kylo Ren knew Han wasn't bad. But Han also had to be bribed and given a guilt trip to fight for the Resistance and do good from the very start of the story (remember Luke whispering to Han, "She's rich," as to why Han should help Luke save Leia?). Han was in his own world, into his own problems and while he believed in what the Resistance was doing and wouldn't do anything to help the Dark Side, he also didn't want to risk his neck helping the Resistance unless he had to. That is my first response; my second response is, did you notice how closely the death of Han resembled the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Vader tells Luke, "I am your father," and cuts off Luke's hand, and Luke drops down the air vent? I will confess up and front that I am probably wrong about this, however, knowing that Luke escaped that debacle alive, and with Luke knowing that Snoke would demand Kylo Ren kill Han (more on that in a moment) I think Luke might have done something to use the Force to try and save Han in Episode VII. How many times was Han there to save Luke? It doesn't seem right and balanced that Luke wouldn't be able to save Han; a light saber through the torso, however, is serious damage. Remember: Finn thought Poe had been killed when their stolen TIE fighter crashed, but he showed up later on; the scene with Han and Kylo Ren is just too eerily similar to the scene with Vader and Luke for fans not to notice and draw some conclusions. Furthermore, if you will recall, even before the first trailer came out, there was a serious rumor that Han would die, one, because he had been begging George Lucas since the beginning to kill off Han Solo, and two, because Luke would decide he needed to kill Kylo Ren (who was unredeemable) and accidentally killed Han when Han got in the way to try and save his son; that was a serious rumor, and it had no validity whatsoever; so what am I saying? I think the studios and Abrams have gone to a lot of trouble to hide narrative elements and keep surprises (like Luke actually not being in the film until the last scene) a secret because of the next episodes coming. So, now, why does Snoke insist on Kylo Ren killing Han? Han doesn't have the Force the way Leia or Luke does, so it's not like Han poses a real threat to Kylo Ren the way Luke's powers posed a threat to Vader. Snoke knows that Kylo Ren loves Han and wants Han to be proud of him and love him in return, and that's why Kylo Ren has to kill Han, because Han is the only one who really challenges Snoke's authority over Kylo Ren's allegiance. Remember, Han didn't have to go and try to save Kylo Ren; he could have set the charges and blown up the Starkiller without risking his own neck, but Han laid down his life for his son (probably also because Leia asked him to bring him back to them) and an act of love like this is a strong moving of the Force. It's possible that Han is dead, but I think's it possible--even if it's not probable--that Han is still alive.
In the sequence of events which Rey sees flash through her mind, one of them is briefly the image (posted up above earlier) when Luke puts his mechanical hand upon R2D2; that could not have come from within Rey herself--like the buried image of the First Order taking her family away from her did--Luke "gave" her that image, and communicated a part of his plan to her (Rey can't "remember" something she never saw, and she didn't see Luke putting his hand on R2, so it must have come from outside of her). So, if Luke did that, what other events has he controlled in the film? That's the thing, the utmost important lesson of the Force: you don't control it, you allow it to work within you. That's why Kylo Ren turned Dark: he wanted to control the Force rather than be an instrument of the Light. So how does Luke know Rey will not turn against him the way Kylo Ren did? There are two examples.
This scene, while bizarre, is also quite enlightening: Kylo Ren prays to Vader's melted mask like a holy relic. Why would Kylo Ren do that, seeing how Vader met his end and knowing that Vader turned back to the Light before dying? Kylo Ren probably doesn't know that. Liberals change history to suit their own ends and agenda, so Snoke probably lied to Kylo Ren about what happened and told Kylo Ren that Luke was the one lying: if someone as strong as Vader went to the Light, why is the Light so weak? The Dark Side is much stronger, more powerful. Remember the scene when Kylo Ren fights Finn and Rey in the snowy forest, and he keeps banging on his side where he's wounded? That was odd, because that is how Kylo Ren stays connected to the Dark Side: banging on his wounds. Aggravating what others have done to him, and the wrongs he has suffered makes Kylo Ren think he is stronger, but, again, he's drinking poison that embitters him against those who really love him. On a different note, we have seen a disenchanted young person trying to awaken their grandfather in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster, and also in Wrath Of the Titans, and this theme goes hand in hand with unleashing chaos into the world and destroying everything that has been built up so a "new and better world" can be built upon the ashes, just like what we have seen so far in the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse
First, when Rey frees BB8 from the scavenger and helps the droid, and she validates her choice when she could sell it for 60 rations and she doesn't because she realizes it's not hers to sell, it belongs to Poe. Rey has put others before herself when no one was really there to notice and she had a lot to gain for herself, but she did the right thing, simply to do the right thing. Secondly, when she fights Kylo Ren and he tells her that he would train her and be her teacher, so rejects him. Rejecting Kylo Ren is rejecting the Dark Side; Rey still has a lot she must do and learn, but Luke knows after this she can be trusted in a way that his nephew cannot.
Of all the character posters, this is the only one where the character can see with both eyes; there is something blocking the vision, but she can still see. As Han points out when he sees her, "You've changed your hair," and that's because she has changed her way of thinking. Leia has become quite motherly and nurturing. This is why Leia has become "General": she was born a princess, but she earned being a general, through every military, emotional and psychological battle she has fought, she has earned that title every step of the way. From this poster, we know that Leia sees something no one else sees; what? Probably the last thing she says to Rey, "May the Force be with you." Leia knows that Rey is being called to the Jedi, even Rey probably doesn't know, which is why she holds out Luke's light saber to him. Rey thinks she is there to bring Luke back to fight, but Luke wants her there to receive training to defeat the Dark Side. I think something we need to address is the odd way Leia's mouth looks in the film: did Carrie Fisher have so much Botox done that she can't move her mouth? Well, that's possible, however, I think JJ Abrams is trying to communicate that, in all the disappointments through her life, Leia has developed a "stiff upper lip," and while she doesn't let her emotions show, that doesn't mean that she doesn't feel them, and deeply. Back to this poster, we know that green symbolizes either hope (like the new life that is blooming at spring) or something rotten (like the green mold growing on old food inside your fridge). Leia is as honorable and noble as ever, so we should interpret the green to be that she has hope that no one else can see. What, that Luke will come and save them from the Dark Side? That Kylo Ren will come home to her? That Han isn't really dead? That they will be able to put down the Dark Side once and for all? I think all these are possibilities, because that what hope is, seeing the possibilities and wanting the best to happen.  
Leia and Han deduce that Luke felt bad about Kylo Ren turning to the Dark Side and so Luke went into exile, but we don't know that for sure because we haven't heard anything from the mouth of Luke himself. We can be sure that the next episode, due out May 2017, will pick up where Episode VII leaves off and many questions will be answered (Mark Hamill is all ready listed in the cast for the next film). In conclusion, this is an excellent start to the continuing saga, which demonstrates how the individual choices each and every single one of us makes in our day to day lives, are connected to everyone else, and when we make good decisions, everyone benefits, and when we make bad decisions, everyone of us suffers for it.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
The very last note: whenever you see two actors who have been in a film together before, doing a scene together in another film, it's because the director is, in some way, paying homage to that film where he saw those two actors, in this case, JJ Abrams is paying homage to the Coen Brothers and their film Inside Llewyn Davis, and the scene where Oscar Isaac (who plays Poe) and Adam Driver (who plays Al Cody) are singing a song with Justin Timberlake's character, Please Mr. Kennedy, about not getting sent into outer space (you can watch a clip of the scene on YouTube here).. Why? Abrams seems to be making the comment that, without space travel, we wouldn't have the saga of the Skywalker family, and all the great works of art which space exploration has given rise to (like Abrams' other pet project, Star Trek). Like the Coen Brothers, Abrams wants liberals to think about cutting our exploration of space because it has brought us so enormous benefits and helped to push ourselves to achieve great success.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star WarsVII: AMAZING

Actually, it was glorious.
I know there have been many who have expressed to me their doubts regarding the quality of the story and whether or not it would be,... "good enough." Without a doubt, it's a huge,... no, a HUGE task JJ Abrams and company took upon themselves to continue this saga and they have done so in an incredibly appropriate way. Please, do not read the post before you see it: it will contain the two big spoilers which you will not want to know about before you see it.

By the way,... I thought I had a "off time" ticket for my show today: people had been there for two hours waiting to get into that showing. Get there with plenty of time, and get your seats first, especially if you are seeing it in 3D. We were so cramped in there, people were sitting on the floor. Enjoy the show and may,... well, I won't say that.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, December 14, 2015

SABOTAGE: Star Trek Beyond Trailer #1 & Childhood's End (TV Series) & Sherlock Abominable Bride

I love this series. They have really done a great job with this, and this will be the best of the bunch. Period. No disputation. Just watch this:
What's the first thing you notice? Probably the music. The music is Sabotage by The Beastie Boys. Sabotage, by the way, has been rated as one of the greatest videos ever made. Why is it in this trailer? Because, literally, there has been sabotage committed. It's not just that music is playing, but that Scottie (Simon Pegg) draws our attention to the music with Kirk (Chris Pine) chiming in, "Nice choice," because the song is reflecting a greater plot detail. The plot is not known at this time, however, we can speculate that, given next year is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Star Trek saga to the world, it's going to revisit some roots, like, as in, especially, highlighting,... Klingons. Who are the Klingons? The symbol of communism which the 1960s TV show used to discuss fears of the Soviet Union during the long, tense Cold War. Idris Elba (Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim) and Sofia Boutella (Gazelle in The Kingsman Secret Service) are top billing yet their characters are not named. The USS Enterprise being destroyed (again) and all these people being assembled, with the ominous words (by Elba's character?) "This is where the frontier pushes back!" suggests the destruction of the government (the Enterprise symbolizing the "ship of state") but also the population. Tonight, premiering on Syfy, is Childhood's End, and the tagline is pretty impressive: "No war. No disease. No poverty. But at what cost?" sounds like the Democratic party.
The latest Tom Hiddleston film has just released its first trailer, and this is quite tempting in and of itself:
Just released a few hours ago, a new trailer for the Sherlock Victorian Christmas special, The Abominable Bride, featuring a bit more of the villain this time around:
MacBeth, with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, will have limited release; if you are one of the lucky ones, I would definitely go and see this; here is a clip of a battle scene:
Oh, and the first trailer for Independence Day 2 has arrived. I don't know. There is something about this I don't like. Maybe it's the UN troops being the first thing I see on American soil.
Now, we all know--myself first and foremost--that I can be wrong, and I always try to admit it when I am, and I know I could be exceedingly wrong in this case; given that disclaimer, this seems like it's going to be pro-socialist. How is this trailer different from the one above for Childhood's End? Well, it seems like this is from a socialist's perspective, and the "aliens" who are returning are conservatives planning on retaking the White House in the next election, and the socialists are going to fight with everything they have to defeat us, but they really don't have a chance. Whenever there is a film about aliens, it means one of two things. First, that there is something "alien" in ourselves, some characteristic or trait which we have developed that is not consistent with who we are or what we have typically identified with; the second possibility is that there is something "alien" in our midst, an idea, or new concept, but it's something which is ultimately going to threaten our survival. I hope I am wrong about this, but I think this is going to go pro-socialist.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, December 11, 2015

TRAILERS: X-Men Apocalypse, The Brothers Grimsby, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Tarzan, 2oolander

Sometimes the Lord works in strange and mysterious ways; sometimes, not so strange, and not so mysterious. I had intended to see Spectre today to double-check some of my analysis (in the post that is almost ready to post, I promise and am so terribly sorry for the delay!), however, I mixed up my times and ended up seeing The Letters with Rutger Hauer and Max von Sydow instead: it was very good. Regrettably, as we have discussed before, Christian films lack a certain quality to them: it might be the writing, or the acting, the cinematography or the plot; usually what is missing, however, is a deep understanding of the Faith. You cannot give what you have not received, and some Christians in the film making industry--while their heart is in the right place and they want to make faith based films--have not had very deep conversions from which they can draw their own experience of the Mysteries of Christ and the Word. This is not the case with The Letters: William Riead, who wrote and directs the film, thoroughly understands the Faith, as well as the phases of the spiritual life and he is able to communicate what is happening. It's definitely worth your time.
Today is Friday; next Friday, Star Wars debuts (well, technical it debuts on Friday) and I have my ticket and will be going to see it; before Friday, I am going to make a small, but important post (we all know what happens to my promises, right? Sorry about that) about what we need to know going into the film; one video I found, however, seems rather important, and I have included it at the end of this post for you to watch, but I will be going over in more detail some things which we need to be prepared for and, ultimately, why this is such an important film. Several character posters were released today and we will discuss these in-depth next week.
Several important trailers have been released--and I expect more are still coming--but I have a throbbing headache so we are just going to list the trailers and save explanations for later. First, let's look at the first trailer for the next installment of X-Men: Apocalypse. This does NOT disappoint:
There is a ton to say about this trailer, but let's move on. In a similar vein, the first trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 has arrived, and I think this is going to be good:
"We're just four brothers who hate bullies and love this city." Yea, that rocks. Remember, the turtle is a long-standing symbol for meditation; a "ninja" does not come into being without meditation and the self-understanding which arises from the interior life (a turtle in his shell represents). The idea of a "mutant" is that each and everyone of us is different and unique, and endowed with gifts which we must learn to use, not only for our own good, but the greater good of humanity as well. The fact they are teenagers is also important, because it signals that we should all begin with the interior life as early as possible; there shouldn't be any postponing of our vocation and self-development. More on this trailer later; for the moment, let's turn to,... The Brothers Grimsby:
Now, please recall, and with the next trailer, too, that there is a certain segment of the population that does not want to be educated: they want to escape. These are exactly the types of films they go to see and these films are attempting to educate them regardless of their escapist tendencies. In The Brothers Grimsby, something important is happening: the dumb brother (Coen), is a loser, but he's getting the chance to do something important because of his brother, not in spite of his brother; if you will recall in the Melissa McCarthy film Spy, she got to be a spy in spite of Jude Law and Jason Statham, not because of them, so The Brothers Grimsby is taking a very different approach. Now, let's take a look at 2oolander, i.e., Zoolander 2 (I normally wouldn't care about this, however, there is an interesting point being made): this is the first trailer:
No, really, trust me on this, it's working up to something important, trust me, just one more of these:
No, no, I did not gratuitously make you watch two Ben Stiller trailers to torment you. Really. There are two important points in these trailers: first, someone is killing the world's most beautiful people (regardless of what you think of Justin Bieber). What's so special about the world's most beautiful people? First, they are beautiful, and beauty IS a gift; secondly, that beauty opens other doors for them to do good (or bad as the case may be). We have discussed this before: you and I probably wouldn't make a Top 20 Most Beautiful People list, so what is a way to get lots of people to support an anti-capitalist agenda? You pick on people like those who are "most beautiful," those who are in an ultra select group that we could never possibly be a part of, and you attack them because no one wants someone to be most beautiful when they can't be themselves,.... then you just keep attacking people from there,.. the 20 most wealthy people in the world, the 20 most athletic people in the world, the 20 smartest people in the world, the 20 most religious people in the world, etc. The second point the trailers are making are the shifts in the human body from normal (Penelope Cruz showing her large breasts, which are a natural part of a woman, and Stiller's character calling them "gross," in spite of them being natural) and then All (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his unnatural androgyny. The polarized opposites of "male" and "female" are coming closer and closer each day to the point that differences are being eradicated so that everyone becomes the same. Enough of that for now. Moving onto The Legend Of Tarzan:
Tarzan is going to be pro-socialist, and it's the exact opposite of The Jungle Book also being released next year, so just to refresh our memories, here it is again:
Tarzan will find civilization to be evil and leave it to go back to Mother Nature; Mowgli will go and stay with other humans and find peace and happiness there. Why are these two films being made? Because, as we have discussed, Progressives aren't "progressive" at all, they are "digressives" and want to abandon civilization and return to life as it was in medieval times with no technology and no free market. Okay, now, there is a new, Japanese trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens which has some new footage in it; then there is a video about an important theory I think is pretty legitimate that we need to know about going into the film next week:
 If you have time, please watch this, I will probably post it again next week when we go over some issues, like the new character posters which have been released and Luke Skywalker:
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, December 7, 2015

TRAILER: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II: Sword Of Destiny or The Green Legend & a New Way To Watch New Releases

This is actually worth our time.
Not just because of the incredible trailer that has been released--especially for those who thoroughly enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon--but also because of the way the film industry is going to release the movie.
It's no coincidence nor accident that you saw the famed Netflix logo; they produced the film and plan on premiering it on Netflix February 26,... the same day it will also premiere in IMAX theaters. Well, select IMAX theaters,... "select" as in, the owners select whether or not they want to engage in this trial and error test market to see how people prefer to watch movies. This could be the beginning of the change in how films are distributed, released and watched (not to mention, publicized). The day after the announcement that it would be on Netflix and IMAX simultaneously, Regal Entertainment Group said they would not show the film, basically saying they were not going to release a film in IMAX that you could either choose to watch on a three-stores screen, or your cell phone screen,... other theaters have followed suit (it appears my local theater doesn't plan on showing it, either). I have to say, if Gone With the Wind was going to play at the theater, I would certainly go see it (regardless of how many times I have seen it on TV); and given the choice to see this new film on my computer screen or IMAX, I would definitely choose IMAX (for this film at least) and, when the Victorian Christmas Special of Sherlock comes out on TV, I will watch it on TV and then, a few days later, if it plays at my theater, I will go see it at the theater as well.
So there, Regal, try and figure that out.
Yea, so there are some problems with the title: it was originally labeled, The Green Legend, but then they have changed it to Sword Of Destiny, so you are apt to see both titles, but it's the same film. If you stop the trailer at 0:39, and look at the body language of this man and woman, you have to admit it's rather odd. We don't know much about the scene, but she is supposedly laying out some pretty heavy "end of the world" type stuff and they aren't even looking at each other; why not? Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen whom you may remember from that amazing fight with Jet Li in Hero that took place in the chess house) sits behind Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeow), which suggests that he is in her past, someone who is, literally and figuratively, behind her. She looks forward because she's looking ahead to the future and what the power of the Sword falling into the wrong hands means, so she is, also, figuratively and literally "stuck in the middle" between her past and her future. In the image above, which is used for the main poster, she wears the Sword on her back, a sign that it is a "burden" for her, she has to carry it, the way a superhero like Thor or Superman wears a red cape, symbolizing that their love for humanity is the burden they carry that makes them strong. Likewise, the Green Sword is a burden but because Yu Shu Lien can turn away from it (the life she has left for so many years because of the bloodshed) she is also worthy to yield it; yes, it is rather like the One Ring in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Now, the question is, what is the general vehicle of the film? It's incredible power getting into the wrong hands,... again. You might remember in the first film, it was Jen Yu (played by Zizi Chang who is not returning because Ang Lee is not directing, according to her agent); now, it's a big bully who is getting the sword. This brings up the (easy) question, "Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?" Only those who are corruptible themselves seem to answer yes, it is; those with more discipline, like Yu Shu Lien and Silent Wolf, realize that such power is a means of exerting personal control, because when you can control yourself, you can control anything; likewise, if you can't control yourself, you can't control anything, nothing at all. 
Let's talk about two details in the film: flying swordsmen and the music. First of all, when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon first came out, I was at a total loss of understanding why they were all flying around, until my brother schooled me that people fly in martial arts films; in the commentary, director Ang Lee pointed out that when a warrior gets to a certain degree of excellence, attains a state of wisdom, they have become "enLIGHTened," and being enlightened, they can "fly." It's not "flying" in the technical sense, it's really not being weighed down by earthly concerns, but elevated about the matters which are above earthly concerns. An important Eastern characteristic of this narrative device is that there is no distinguishing between good and evil: you can be evil and still be enlightened, which is counter-intuitive to Western audiences. In this way, "enlightenment" is more like the Force in Star Wars, that both Luke Skywalker (the good guy) and Darth Vader (the bad guy) can mine the Force for power regardless of what they are using it for or not using it for. Now, what about the music?
A new version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's apocalyptic song Bad Moon Rising plays in the background of the trailer, but it's been majorly updated; we've seen that technique in at least two other trailers lately: The Avengers: Age Of Ultron with the high-pitched singing of There Are no Strings On Me, and in The Last Witch Hunter and Paint It Black. Why employ this technique? If they want people to hear Bad Moon Rising, why not just play the song without the edgy, grungy effects? There are at least two reasons.
First, the "time travel" device mechanism works great in music: everyone loves hearing an oldie but a goodie; however, when we place an old song (like the entire soundtrack for Guardians Of the Galaxy) in a modern setting, that's taking the now back into the past; adding elements from contemporary music to the old song brings the past into the now. In other words (I use that phrase a lot, don't I?) we can understand something about now, the film makers are telling us, if we look back to the time the song was popular, and we can understand something about the past, if we apply where we have come and landed now in this particular phase of history. The second reason these songs are important is because of how they have changed in the "new editions" that have been released: they are all darker; more apocalyptic and fearful, but at the same time kind of resigned and calloused to fate.
Is that how we are?
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christian Symbols In 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'

I was going to write on this before Christmas anyway; really, I was. But, in case you somehow haven't heard, Obama has decided to turn Christmas into a political propaganda piece to advance his legislation. In America, we are onto Obama: we know he does intentionally idiotic things like this to intentionally upset people when he's really doing something corrupt and evil but wants people to be distracted away from what is really going on (the "wag the dog" analogy which has been going on for years) and this latest outrage--and it is an outrage--is just another example. What if a Christian said that Ramadan was just a means for Muslims to go on a diet and lose weight? That's not even as bad as what Obama has done to Christians. So I am not going to discuss him in any other part of this post. Merry Christmas to everyone, with all my heart, and may God preserve from this evil we have brought down upon ourselves. 
"I know no one likes me," Charlie Brown says, walking along, "so why do we have to have a holiday to emphasize the fact?" A Charlie Brown Christmas aptly summarizes the massive problem with Christmas: we want to be liked, we don't want to be loved. When we are liked, we are popular and successful; when we are unpopular and unsuccessful, that is when we discover we are loved. This is nothing new: it has nothing to do with the commercialism of Christmas or getting Christmas cards in the mail, it has every thing to do with Original Sin and the separation of humanity from the Face of God. Being liked is a feeling of immediate gratification: getting great gifts and going to glamorous parties makes us feel good about ourselves, but it passes. Listening to Linus tell the story of the birth of the King of Kings makes us feel loved and it stays with us. So how does a little animated film come to celebrate being watched by millions every year for fifty years? The power of its symbols and how they speak to our hearts.
The first images we see in the film are images of the barrenness of winter: dead trees and frozen water. Why? It describes the condition of the human heart before Christ entered the world. The water symbolizes Grace, and Grace is the very Life of God Himself: Grace is frozen, and it can't be accessed, it hasn't been released so it can help us to grow and live as we ought to live, that is, following God's commands and coming as close to God as possible, instead of just skating around in circles like the kids in the movie. Charlie Brown can sense that something is wrong, but he isn't spiritually mature enough to be able to discern what it is that he wants vs what it is he and all humanity need. 
The school building from which Charlie Brown and Linus first emerge is yellow; why is that important? Because yellow is the color of gold (like Charlie Brown's iconic shirt) and that yellow house symbolizes the soul, the soul filled with God's divine Grace; they are leaving the house because the rest of the film is going to be a presupposition that, "What if Christmas didn't happen? What if I knew nothing about Jesus and the long awaited messiah?" so leaving the yellow school behind is leaving behind the knowledge of the great dignity of the soul, the image of God in which we were created and by means of which we have been redeemed. That they are coming out of a school means that we ourselves are going to be schooled, that we need to receive an education and that is the purpose of watching the film.
Then they come to the wall.
Charlie wears a brown deerstalker (hunting) hat and a red jacket. We know that hats symbolize our thoughts, because the head is the place where our thinking originates, so we can say that with the hat, Charlie Brown is "hunting" for a reason to embrace Christmas and find inner-fulfillment. His red jacket means that, exteriorly, he has put on the "wedding garment" for the feast, but because of what he says, we know he feels empty-inside. Linus, on the other hand, has his blanket and keeps it close to himself; why? It's blue, so it's a sign of his wisdom, and him sucking his thumb and holding his blanket close to his head is a gesture of meditation. The green hat he wears shows that he has thoughts of hope; Linus isn't thinking about himself, he's thinking about the Gospel and the Angel of the Lord appearing to the shepherds, not the presents he will get or won't get. It's snowing, so this is a sign that Charlie Brown is experiencing a state of Grace (God is sending Charlie His own Life to help and direct him). It may not seem like this is helping Charlie, but if he weren't depressed, he wouldn't go to Lucy, and if not that, he wouldn't be asked to be the director, and if not that, he wouldn't get the tree or provide Linus with the chance to remind everyone what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. 
Leaving the yellow house which signifies The House Of The Lord, Charlie and Linus then stop to ponder at the wall and here is where Charlie articulates his problem; it's not in the words he says, it's that he is on one side of the wall, and the meaning he is searching for is on the other side of the wall. With Original Sin and the expulsion from Eden, man became separated from his home, his purpose and his father; with the birth of Jesus, the Way was opened to us to regain all that had been stolen by Sin. Charlie Brown, then, sitting at this wall, and feeling melancholy about the coming of Christmas is a remembrance of what it was like for humanity before the first Christmas, before the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.
Enter Snoopy.
As Snoopy skates upon the ice, he forms a chain which everyone seems happy to be a part of as they join hands and skate together, then Snoopy loses control and everyone goes flying in every direction. Taking Linus' blanket, Snoopy then catches Linus and Charlie and throws them around, with Charlie flying into a tree that shakes all its snow off and onto him. What does this mean? Because Snoopy is a dog, he symbolizes the animal appetites (like when he has his dog bowl full of bones he munches on, that's our basic, natural nature, to fulfill our appetites) and most people go along in life getting their appetites filled in an orderly way (the chain of skaters) with careers and marriage, for example, but ultimately, that ends in disaster, because those things do not lead to anything in an of themselves and they do not prepare us for our end, our finality; they are good, but they are supposed to serve a higher purpose and bring us closer to God.
No one likes to suffer, but suffering is the only way to redeem our souls. The symbolism of snow is important because it's a form of water (frozen): in the process of our thinking, there is the reflective state (water in liquid form), there is the boundaries and confusion of an issue we explore and go through (water in vapor form, such as fog, clouds) and then the thought that has solidified into an accepted conclusion or thesis: in this case, Charlie Brown has thought out that Christmas is a wonderful time of year, just not for him, and it's another example of how he's a failure in life and so, it's really no different this time of the year for him than any other time of  the year. 
When Snoopy grabs Linus' blue blanket, his blanket that symbolizes wisdom, Linus and Charlie are thrown around and basically spinning in chaos, which no one likes, but the "disaster" of Charlie spinning out of control and hitting the tree foreshadows the larger events that will take place in the film between Linus and Charlie. In other words, the little Christmas tree Charlie Brown gets from the tree lot and is rejected by everyone, is being foreshadowed by the tree Charlie hits when he goes flying out of control. Why do it this way? Because patterns such as these is how God Himself works in our lives, which leads us to the next point: Lucy.
This is a particularly important scene because it demonstrates how Charlie is being self-centered, and being centered on ourselves causes us an increase in pain. Not only does it separate us from God, but also other people, in this case, Violet. Charlie isn't thinking: it's rough not getting a Christmas card, so I will send out cards to make sure everyone gets one; instead, he's thinking, I'm hurt that no one has sent me a Christmas card, so I'm going to spread that pain to someone else so they feel hurt or at least embarrassed, which is what Charlie does in being sarcastic to Violet about sending him a Christmas card. 
When Charlie Brown goes to see "the doctor," it's because, as Lucy puts it, he knows something is wrong; the problem is, Charlie is going about it all wrong and seeing the wrong doctor. Christ is the Divine Physician, the "doctor" who knows what is really wrong with us. For example, in Exodus: Gods and Kings, when Moses (Christian Bale) has gone up Mt. Sinai looking at the Burning Bush, there is a mud slide and Moses breaks his leg (symbolic of how he misses his "standing" in Egypt as a general), and when God comes out, Moses wants Him to go get help but God says, there is much more wrong with you than just a broken leg meaning that Moses is dead in his soul, Moses has no faith nor knowledge of God or of what it is Moses should do with his life; we can say the same of Charlie Brown (please see Parting Red Sea: Exodus Gods and Kings for more).
As we discussed above, snow symbolizes a fact which we have all ready decided upon as being true. When we eat something, we are "digesting" it: we are taking it in and thinking it over, "chewing the cud," as the Bible puts it. The previous scenes have led up to this, which means we are supposed to ingest and digest what we have so far seen: not getting a Christmas card, being sarcastic, feeding our animal appetites (Snoopy and his bowl of bones he munches on) and decide how, if at all, we fit into this scenario. Linus saying that it "needs sugar," means that he does NOT fit into the scenario, that he is nicer and not as hard and sinful as the rest. Why doesn't Lucy eat December snowflakes? She waits until January, when Christmas is over, because then, when she has to digest the way she has acted, she doesn't, she can use all the times she was wronged to justify her position: "I know when I've been insulted! I know when I've been insulted!" she yells as she passes out the scripts. She isn't concerned with her own conversion, but using the treatment of others to justify not changing herself. 
Without realizing it, and in spite of her mis-diagnosis, Lucy suggesting that Charlie direct the Christmas play is actually a step towards Charlie Brown understanding what Christmas really is about: it's not about Charlie Brown getting involved, as Lucy suggests, rather, it's a moment of Charlie Brown putting himself in God's place and realizing what needs to be done and why.
What Charlie Brown really needs, and many people do, is to go to Confession, and his attempt at getting "therapy" through a crack psychiatrist proves it. Psychiatry can and does help many people, fundamentally, however, what causes problems in our lives are sins destroying our soul, and psychiatry doesn't do anything to help the soul, only God does (please remember that Lucy "really wants" to receive real estate for Christmas, demonstrating that she wants to invest her life in "this world," not the next world, she doesn't want to become a Christian--or a better Christian--she wants to become more worldly, which means, she isn't capable of helping Charlie Brown with his Christmas blues, and the very reason why she herself gets so depressed: she's asking for the wrong things, like many of us). Sally, Charlie's little sister, "Only wants what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share," but the truth is, like for so many of us, we really have earned nothing but hell fire because of our sins, and we certainly don't want our "fair share" of punishment for the sins we have committed. We always think much better of ourselves than what we deserve. Being a convert to Catholicism, I remember my trepidation at the idea of actually having to tell someone all my sins; however, it wasn't until I began going to Confession that I began to really understand what Love is, because that was when I was most naked, most vulnerable and the most unloveable, and that's when God showers us with His Love the most. That's the moment when you realize the difference between being liked and being loved. I heard the words of love and forgiveness in the priest's absolution and words of advice he gives (a priest doesn't "forgive" you of your sins, only God can do that, because it's against God that we have sinned, but the priest has the authority to absolve you of your sins, like a debt your owe for which he tears up the promissory note). No one likes having to admit they have messed up, but understanding and examining how you have abused your free will to choose something less perfect than God (or even morally fatal to your soul) is a huge step in self-awareness and decorating your soul with the glorious virtues that will testify on your behalf when you stand in judgment before God. For a lot of people, however, they don't want to have to confess their sins because they don't feel like they are really sinners; others don't want to because, after they have been forgiven, they are then called upon to forgive others, and they can't bear to do that. If you aren't Catholic, you can still go to Confession: when you enter, just tell the priest that you are not Catholic, but you want God to know that you are sorry for your sins (or you need advice or to talk to someone). Since you haven't been through Confirmation, the priest can't absolve you, but he can give you a blessing and making this peace with God, He will bless you according to the requirements of your soul that only He knows.
The idea of the Christmas play is a stroke of genius because it invokes the William Shakespeare conceit of "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely actors," from As You Like It (Act II, Scene VII). In other words, we are all in a play, the film makers are arguing, and we have to make a choice: either we will act out what the world wants us to act out, or we will act out the Christmas story every day in every moment of our lives. That is what it means to be a Christian. What happens next is what has happened historically: chaos.
To some degree, we can say that the "true meaning" of Christmas is to win money, money, money! When we make acts of charity, we bear with the shortcomings of others, we accept insults and failures, we have earned our rewards in heaven (not that heaven can be earned, but we are preparing our souls to receive what it is that God wants to give us when we are ready to receive it). The commercialism complained about in the film is no excuse not to enjoy Christmas: I have free will; as a Christian, I am bound to resist the temptations the world throws at me to keep me from God; if I succeed, I have glorified God and saved my soul; if I fail, I have abused my free will and chosen the lesser goods (or even the evils) to the perfect and glorious God. If, however, I am making sacrifices and offering my victories and struggles each day to God, in this way, every day becomes Christmas. I can't blame "commercialism" on not having a Christmas mood, or not being in the spirit, I choose to pray to the Spirit to help me do what I need and ought to do. When Snoopy decorates his dog house, that is a sign of our worldly appetites putting on the exterior signs of Christmas, but neglecting the interior realities that have to be put in order first. It's a fine symbol to put lights on the house at Christmas: the house is a symbol for the soul, and we hope that, in the world of darkness, our souls will be a light unto Christ, and filled with Him; are they?
Charlie Brown gives simple directions so the actors will know what to do and when: "It's the spirit of the actors that counts. The interest they show in their director," he tells the crowd. In this metaphor, we can see God as the director and in giving us the Ten Commandments: He provides us with His directions; don't commit adultery, don't take My Name in vain, do not covet what your neighbor has, do not kill one another, keep the Sabbath holy,... are you taking the Director's cues? Are you showing interest in what He wants you to do, or are you, like the Peanuts gang, doing whatever it is that you see good in your own eyes?
Music is good. Dancing is good. Being with friends is good. Relaxing is good. Doing what you enjoy doing is good. But when it interferes with time set aside to worship God, that is bad, because it reveals that you are doing what is good in your own eyes, rather than in the eyes of God, that your will comes first, not God's. In this scene, each is doing what is good in their own eyes, in spite of the fact that they have gathered together to do the Christmas play which will give honor and glory to God. 
Charlie Brown realizes that the group isn't interested in doing what they have all agreed they are going to do: put on a Christmas play depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. At this point, Jesus, Mary and Joseph haven't even been mentioned; no one is cast in the role of a member of the Holy Family and this is a sign that, metaphorically, we are still in the "Old Testament" (Lucy wanting to be the "Christmas Queen" is, basically, a usurpation of Mary's role: Lucy's name, meaning "light" in Latin, and her blue dress, symbolizing wisdom, would make Lucy a candidate as a holy woman, but because she has ignored the call of the spiritual life [remember, she wanted real estate] she doesn't qualify as the Christmas Queen, and not many women do). With Charlie Brown's idea of getting a Christmas tree, Charlie is, unconsciously, acting out what God Himself did: they won't listen to Me and My Commandments, so I will send them My Son, who is signified by the Christmas tree.
How?
The role of the Inn Keeper and Inn Keeper's Wife is, essentially, the role each and everyone of us play in the drama of life: our souls are the inn; quite simply, is there room for Christ? Are we too busy looking in the mirror like Freida to see when He is wanting in, or are we so dirty from our sins that we think we look better than what we thought we did (not as sinful as what we really are) like Pigpen? The digression on Pigpen's dirt is interesting because we are all made from dirt: from dust we came, to dust we shall return. But Pigpen misses the point: all the people Charlie names off, are those who were not alive to experience God's mercy, the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Christ. Those are people who died with the fear of returning to dust, but we live with the hope of life eternal; Pigpen, then, lives as if Christ never came. Freida, on the other hand, is so pleased with herself that she "doesn't need Jesus," because she feels perfect the way she is. 
As Linus and Charlie leave the play, something important happens: there is a repeating of the opening scene when Charlie and Linus leave the yellow school building to go out from it. Why? Again, we are being reminded that we are going to learn something. When Linus suggests following the search lights to find a tree, it's an interesting negative example of society (and not just modern society, but throughout human history in general): we have searchlights guiding us to buying Christmas trees, but we don't have searchlights directing us on how to become Christmas trees ourselves. We have to become living trees decorated with the golden ornaments of virtue, the silver ornaments of the Word of God, the red decorations of charity and aglow with the light of hope and faith.
What do the aluminum trees symbolize? The unnatural, specifically, hearts that are "hardened" and unnatural. The heart that puts on Christmas joy and cheer and enjoys the holiday, but that doesn't understand anything about opening the heart and letting God in to transform you into Himself. 
Who does the little tree symbolize? Charlie Brown himself. It's not that Jesus Christ needs Charlie Brown, but that Charlie Brown needs Jesus Christ. Just as the Burning Bush is a glimpse at what God will do to Moses' soul (Moses will be the bush who is on fire with love for God, which is a prophecy of Jesus who will be the Tree of the Cross on fire with Love for God) so this little tree is a statement about the state of Charlie Brown's soul: there just isn't much life there, is there? What would the tree look like if it were your soul being illustrated?
This is a good scene. Snoopy dancing obviously invokes the joy and fun of the animal appetites. The music Schroeder plays is meant to be elevating, but it's not Christmas music, it's secular music, it does not give glory to God (Beethoven wrote lots of religious pieces, Fur Elise just isn't one of them). Schroeder, then, is wanting to turn Christmas into the celebration of the secular. When he plays Jingle Bells for Lucy in a heavy organ style, she doesn't like it because it's too elevated and she wants something that is more "within her grasp" and easy to access, which is why she prefers the single, off-key notes of the melody.
As we all know, no one likes the tree when Charlie Brown brings it back in; why not? Because they tree symbolizes Charlie Brown, and if the tree were meant to set the right mood, it has: all the people who will be in the audience to watch the Christmas play are as spiritually deprived of the Gospel as Charlie Brown is, but no one wants to admit that. Why not? Because you cannot give what you have not received. In other words, the Peanuts gang are themselves just as bad--if not worse--than Charlie Brown spiritually, and that being the case, how can they comfort with wisdom and holy joy those who are coming to see the play to receive those very gifts? They can't. So the gang doesn't want "that kind of person" coming to the play, and also, they don't want to see themselves as poor little trees either.
Which leads us to Linus,....
Why would the shepherds be afraid of the angel of the Lord appearing to them to bring them good news? Sin. The angel is so pure in its being that it terrifies the shepherds who are but mere sinful mortals (and the shepherds probably aren't what any of us would consider to be "bad people," who are violent and looters, but decent people; however, when we are close to the presence of the Divine, and a being who is without sin [like angels because they never sinned] all of our sins are magnified thousands of times, the wounds become unbearable and we know how terribly we have sinned because we can feel it in our very soul). That is why the shepherds are afraid, and why the Gospel records that they are afraid: man did not have someone to whom he could appeal for mercy, for understanding about his sins or for intercession with the Father. Yea, those shepherds were terrified (remember, even Mary, the Immaculate Conception, who never knew sin at all, was afraid when the angel appeared and told her she was to bear the Christ). So, instead of continuing to be afraid, now we can rejoice, because we have a Way to overcome sin and enter into heave, which we didn't have before. 
Earlier, we saw Linus telling his sister Lucy that he couldn't possibly memorize all his lines as a sherherd, and in that short space of time; here, however, Linus has no problem reciting the Gospel account of the birth of Jesus with no problem, which is exactly as it should be. There are probably lots of useless things you and I can recite, but do we know anything truly meaningful like the story of man's redemption, when God came to the earth to save us because we could not save ourselves?
Notice that, as Charlie Brown leaves the school (which is now red instead of yellow, because red symbolizes the color of love, and Charlie has learned how Christmas means love), all the gang follows him; why? Because now he himself can act as a kind of shepherd, the message being revealed to Charlie through Linus and his recitation of the Good News. But hearing the Good News is not enough: now, he has to put it into practice. Like most of us, he doesn't get off to a great start. What does putting the red ball on the tree mean?
This is a great part in the film, and yet we don't like it when it happens in our own lives. Again, the tree symbolizes Charlie Brown and where he is spiritually and why he doesn't enjoy Christmas: he doesn't understand what a miracle it is. As he comes to understand, every day, on a deeper and deeper level, he will grow, and understand the sacrifice of the Cross as well. Each of the kids decorating the tree are decorating Charlie Brown's soul so he can mature from the puny little tree, into the well-decorated Christmas tree he wishes to become (because that is how the Holy Spirit works: He shows you what it is He wants to give you or do for you, then you basically have to pay the price so you are worthy of it and don't blow it when you get it or become it). Taking the decorations from the dog house (the symbol for worldly appetites and approbation) signifies a conversion, a turning away from the world and towards the spiritual. Each of the kids has insulted Charlie Brown in some way: "You block head, you can't do anything right!" "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Brownest!" etc. The insults they have heaped upon him are now the very same decorations which are being used on the tree: when we accept abuse and are humble rather than proud, God turns the wounds into virtues and the injustices become the vehicle of our crowning glory; so, the more abuse Charlie Brown receives, the more beautiful his Christmas tree (his soul) will become when he offers it up and unites it to the Sufferings of Jesus Christ
We know red is the color of the appetites: either a person has an appetite for love (and they try to fulfill the appetite with various forms of love) or they have an appetite for wrath, anger and revenge. We can be confident that, hearing the words Linus spoke echoing through the night, that Charlie Brown is filled with the love of the Holy Spirit, but that simply isn't enough, as most of us know: Charlie Brown is in his infancy as a Christian, not having a long, mature or seasoned soul in matters of spiritual warfare, Charlie Brown might want to make great acts of love (the big red ball ornament) but he simply isn't ready for that; there might also be some kind of self love involved: "I'll decorate this tree and show them it really can work in our play," so that he becomes a kind of hero and gets to win the moment. It's innocent enough, but it's also something we have to watch our for in our own lives.
Perhaps the most important element of the decorated Christmas tree is the base: I'm sure you noticed that the wooden stand is made in the shape of a cross, because the Shame of the Cross and the work of redemption was the basis of Christ being born; that knowledge, however, isn't enough, which is why Linus has to wrap the base in his blanket. Blue, as we know, is the color of wisdom: blue denotes sadness because wisdom is the most expensive treasure mankind can buy because it can only be bought with our experience which comes through suffering. Without our wisdom to understand the Cross, we would despair because of the agony of Christianity, or we would completely ignore its most important lesson. 
Why do they conclude the film with a song? Singing is the highest form of prayer there is; it's to unite your heart and mind in the praise and worship of God, so singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is to join in that celestial choir, and invite us, the viewers, to do so as well. Remember, dear reader, if you get upset about he commercialism of Christmas, rebel: turn inwards, and give praise to God, and that will go towards preparing your soul to receive Him all over again.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner