In the wonderful movie Magnolia (my favorite movie, for those wondering), Tom Cruise plays the incredibly distasteful Frank T.J. Mackey, creator of “Seduce and Destroy,” a system for men to manipulate women into having sex with them. During one of his seminars, he sits down for an interview with a female reporter. She systematically tears down the carefully constructed facade he has created for himself, and, in response, he retreats into anger and silence, claiming only to “silently judge” her. Later, he is confronted with the evil man (his long-estranged father) who has created the monstrous Mackey, and he is reduced to tears despite his oath: “I won’t cry for you.” I was reminded of the last meeting of the Gospel According to The Office, which dealt with reality. Mackey created a reality that he bought into, and wanted everyone else to do the same. When confronted with the REAL reality, he self-destructed. It was only through this self-destruction that he was brought anything like redemption.

My church’s weekly cartoon is a down-and-out cockroach bemoaning the fact that he once owned his own company, until someone yelled, “Hey! He’s just a big cockroach!” The faux reality comes crashing down, and the truth reigns supreme. This interplay between realities, the ones we create for ourselves and “the real” (See The Matrix) is a hallmark of what it means to be human. What happens when one takes over? When we begin to believe we are the thing we have created? Is it the crash that allows redemption to come in, as it did for Frank T.J. Mackey? Is it, in fact, “always darkest before the dawn?” There are myriad reasons to watch Magnolia (but there are SERIOUS potty-mouth warnings here, and Frank Mackey is a truly nauseating character), not the least of which is to see John C. Reilly do some good work before he went off the Dewey Cox comedy deep end, and its argument for an involved, active, and redeeming God. William H. Macy must be seen to be believed, and utters one of the most profound and tragic lines in the history of cinema: “I have so much love to give…I just don’t know where to put it.” Great movie no one has ever seen: Tigerland, 2000 (Joel Schumacher) Yes. It’s true. A great Joel Schumacher film.