I already reviewed Blue Like Jazz once here http://live.hollywoodjesus.com/?p=9968. After watching it again I still feel the same way I did back then, I still don’t really get this movie. But after getting the DVD and watching the extra features I started seeing something a little different. I started thinking about Star Wars. See, the original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t trying to be anything but a great story told like a classic three act play or opera. Of course the original trilogy became arguably the greatest trilogy ever made! And I’m not sure George Lucas set out to make the greatest trilogy ever. I think he just set out to make a great story.
As I take you through some of these special features, I think you’ll see that the makers of Blue Like Jazz seemed focused on making a ground-breaking film, one that transcends barriers of Christian vs. mainstream film. I’ll let you decide whether they succeeded, I’m not sure they did. I think it might have been because they were trying too hard to make a category-breaking film rather than tell a great story.
First up: the Making of Featurette:
-One part shows Steve Taylor telling a focus group that this film was made in the extremes, because people aren’t interested in average. So instead of just a non-Christian, liberal college Reed would become the uber anti-Christian college. And the church Don went to wasn’t just going to be conservative, but over the top offensively sticky sweet hypocrites. I don’t know. I had a hard time watching the extremes, but maybe that’s just me.
-There was also a bit where Donald Miller was talking about the movie. This is where it really hit me that they were more into making a statement movie than putting a great story to film. Even though he said they wanted to be more truthtellers, not salesmen, which most Christians making movies end up being. The funny thing is they were salesmen, just a different kind. Instead of selling Jesus like some try to do they sold an in your face movie.
Next: the Music Featurette:
-Now this is where the Star Wars thing really came together for me. I remember hearing how Lucas wanted the original trilogy to have a 70s disco/psychedelic kind of vibe. He went with the incomparable John Williams instead. The makers of Blue Like Jazz? They picked a weird dude. He literally goes around in this featurette with his dog and plays music and talks about random things, all while playing a broken guitar. It made me wonder if Blue Like Jazz was the original Star Wars trilogy with disco/psychedelic music and what would it have been like with a more Williams type composer.
Save Blue Like Jazz Featurette:
-Did you know that Blue Like Jazz at its time was the most successful Kickstart venture ever? And that to date it is also the biggest crowd-sourced movie? Me neither.
- I was surprised Penny is Australian!
-The actor that played The Pope made a great observation: His character didn’t have a name other than The Pope. The actor loved the symbolism and the reality that after he gave up being the Pope he was left with just being himself. He had to face the reality of who he is. Not just the character, but even the actor started to realize he was on a faith journey. I thought that was really cool.
The Animator Featurette:
-This was a piece with a cute little kid (the animator’s son?) narrating five things to know about Jonathan by Steve Taylor. Jonathan is sitting in the background pretending to work and not know they are talking about him.
This is My Story Featurette:
-I didn’t really get this featurette, but it had a bunch of people talking about how Blue Like Jazz was their story. Again, felt contrived. Like they were trying to make the movie a great great work by having people talk about how it was “real” and it “really hit home.”
Deleted Scenes Featurette:
-This was mostly extra footage from scenes that went too long, but had funny reasons for deletion like: SC 23: (Reed Scrounge Table) Reason for Deletion: Disgusting. This solidified the trying-too-hard theme for me. I usually look forward to the Deleted Scenes because they give me more color on the movie, because usually there are meaningful scenes that just had to get cut for time’s sake. This was funny, but snarky for cool’s sake. I don’t know, it just didn’t sit well with me.
Master Class: Directing Actors On Set Featurette:
-A funny little montage of Steve using Director speak while helping his actors during the movie. Would be funnier if I understood the lingo… kind of an inside joke. Much like the Deleted Scenes featurette.
I wanted to LOVE this movie. I loved the book so much. All these months later I still can’t love it. I wish it was made as a great story instead of a blockbuster type film that was going to change the way people think about Christian films.
I think that’s how we all are, though. I hear a lot people talking about striving for their dreams and making things happen and I wonder if that’s how it really works. I wonder if people really make their dreams happen or become a big success because they were trying so hard to do it. I’m sure there is an element of that, but I often wonder if the truly successful, the ground breakers if you will, were just trying to be the best whatever it is.
I think about another ground breaker: J. R. R. Tolkien. I don’t think he went out to make a whole new category of literature called Fantasy. From what I have read and watched he was just trying to meticulously put a great story together. In epic fashion he did it by inventing a new language and then wrote and re-wrote the The Lord of the Rings. The rest as they say is history.
I see this in myself. I need to focus on being the best lover of Jesus I can be, the best husband, father, etc. and let the rest take care of itself. There are only so many ground breakers and I may not be one of them, but I can take care of loving Jesus, being a great husband and father. I need to let God take care of the other stuff. Leave it up to his will. In other words: focus on what I can control and leave the rest to God.