Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Monday, August 31, 2009

When Worlds Collide!

On August 6, 2009, I attended When Worlds Collide: The Science of Movies, an Academy of Motion Pictures event in the Samuel Goldwyn building on Wilshire. The event was sponsored by the Academy's Science and Technology Council and it was hosted by Adam Weiner, a high school physics teacher and author. The event included a panel of stunt and special effects experts as they reviewed clips of their respected movies. Mr. Weiner's goal is to see if what we see happening in the movies can happen in real life (i.e. within the realm of science). This is the approach he takes to get his restless teenage students to pay attention in class and maybe eventually to love science.

He reviewed the science and physics of about 20 movies and he even did physics calculation as the audience laughed or groaned playfully. Here's some of what he discussed.

Action Movies:
(1) Speed: How fast would the bus have to be going to jump over the 50 feet gap in the freeway?
or How does a bomb look when it explodes?

John Frazier, the special effects supervisor explained about the different ramps they used to propel the bus upwards with enough velocity (plus a bit of CGI magic) to make the bus jump look real. He also discussed as well the explosives he used to make the explosions and fires look good on film. Mr. Frazier has also worked on (Twister, Armageddon, Spider-man 1 & 2 (for which he received a Best Oscar), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Hancock and Transformers, just to name a few. The guy knows his stuff and he was very engaging to listen to. He especially lauded Keanu Reeves for doing a lot of his own stunts in Speed and the audience gave Mr. Reeves a big ovation even though he wasn't present. I wholeheartedly agreed with them as Speed is on the top of my list of all time favorite action flicks.

(2) Can motorcyclist in XXX do a vertical jump of 20 feet from a standing start?

John Frazier regaled us with a story of how a helicopter and a stunt motorcyclist collided in the air by accident after a miscue during a practice jump on the set of this movie. He said that the helicopter blades were chopping against the stunt man's helmet and the helicopter couldn't maneuver away from him. Gravity kicked in and the cycle plunged back to the ground but the guy never knew what hit him! They thought that he was a goner but thankfully, the stunt man lived to tell about it. After the event was over, I spoke to Mr. Frazier about on film set health and safety issues from a medical stand point. He re-assured me that they do their best to be very careful and that the stunt and effects crew are professionals but I know that they must also pray a whole lot.

Super-hero Movies:
(3) In Spider-man: Can Spidey's weight really be supported by a thin spidery web? Did they depict the Sandman's shape-shifting sand grain body well?
(4) Could the cable wire from Batman's motorcycle in Dark Knight really flip an 8 ton wheel semi truck?
(5) Iron Man: Could Iron Man really fly in a heavy armour suit and how much fuel would he need to carry with him to accomplish this?

I actually got to hold and examine one of the Iron Man masks that Shane Mahan, the sculptor and designer had brought with him. I was too scared to put it on b/c it might get stuck and I'd have to walk around looking like "The Man(Woman) in the Iron Mask" (lol). Mr. Mahan worked on the physical suits for Iron Man but he has worked on special effects on Aliens, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, Galaxy Quest, and Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull and most recently on GI Joe: Rise of Cobra and the upcoming Iron Man 2. See Iron Man's mask at

(6) Hulk: Could a human really survive gamma radiation without getting cancer or dying?

The Science of Space:
(7) Armageddon: can noise from drilling into the meteor be heard in space? (Hint; space is a vacuum)
(8) Did Stanley Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey portray space accurately?
(9) Apollo 13: Did the film depict the weightlessness of space correctly and what camera tricks did they use to achieve it?

Todd Hallowell, exec. producer and 2nd unit director and Robert Legato, a visual effects artist on Apollo 13, discussed how the weightlessness of space was simulated. (Hint: Does the name "vomit Comet" ring a bell?) Some scenes were shot upside down or on a see-saw. Mr. Legato was nominated for an Oscar for his work on this film.

Historic Wrecks:
(10) Titanic: Why did it sink?

Mr. Legato also worked on the movie Titanic, for which he won a best visual effects Oscar in 1997. Adam Weiner and Legato discussed the unsinkability of the real Titanic.

Other panelist were:

(1) Scott Stokdyk, a visual and digital effects artist with credits on films like The Fifth Element, Stuart Little, Godzilla, Starship Troopers, and Spider-Man 1 and 2 (for which he won an Oscar) Spider-Man 3 and G-Force which is in theatres now.

(2) Matthew Sweeny, a special effects expert who worked on movies like The Goonies, Lethal Weapon 3&4, The Fast and the Furious (original) and its sequel FF: Tokyo Drift, The Time Machine and Role Models.

(3) Dan Bradley is a stunt coordinator and second unit director who has worked on Bill and Ted Excellent Adventure, Independence Day, Three Kings, Spider-Man 2&3, Superman Returns, The Bourne Ultimatum, and help reboot James Bond in the Quantum of Solace and Indiana Jones in the Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It was a good night because I love it when my science geek side and my movie geek side can meet! I was even doing some of the physics calculations in my head as we looked at the clips. I have one big problem though. I like my movies with lots of action and realistic science but I'm feeling a little guilty as a health professional, knowing how dangerous these movie stunts are. I'm going to start praying for the safety of the stunt and effects professionals especially during the summer blockbuster movie season chock full of films filled with dangerous stunts and explosions.

For more on the event go to the Academy's website at

Ceck out Adam Weiner's book Don't Try this At Home: The Physics of Hollywood Movies at

I Got Baptized Today!

August 30th 2009

After years of debating the need to actually baptise again after my initial (and totally unrecollected) sprinkling as an infant, I finally took the plunge (literally)! It was a wonderful and truly life changing ceremony which was performed by Pastor Israel at the Living Faith Church in Eagle Rock. You may wonder how someone who proclaims to be a Christian and writes a blog declaring as much, could have the nerve to not be baptised as an adult and you would be right to feel as much because I have felt the same.

For years I had been debating getting baptized since I am now a mature and spiritually aware Christian adult and I know it is what I needed to do, as a sinner, to live a cruciform life with Christ as my example. The problem has always been that I have never had one moment, since I have known myself, that I did not (1) know and love God the Father, (2) know, love and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and (3) love and been aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, I didn't think I was in need of baptism because I didn't have a need of a conversion experience, so to speak, as that's what I've had since age 3 (as my mother can attest to).

However, I have definitely grown in my faith since childhood and l've grown leaps and bounds in my faith and knowledge of God's word in just the past 4 years. In fact, some who know me may say that I am an entirely new person. So, I have been watching and studying baptisms, Christenings and dedication ceremonies at every type of church I've attended (Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Seventh-Day Adventist, Evangelical) and even home baptisms and I have witnessed the baptism of several infants, children and adults. Recently, the feelings intensified and I felt compelled to attended every single baptism at church for the past 8 months.

I spoke with the pastors at church privately about my dilemma and they encouraged me to search my heart to know when I would be ready. So when the pastors announced the worldwide Day of Decision Event on September 13th, 2009 (which is my birthday, ironically), I knew it was time for my spiritual "rebirth". I reviewed all the scriptures about baptism like "you must be born again from above" and others like Galatians Chap 2:20, Galatians 3: 26-27, Colossians 2:12, Mark 16:15-16, Matthew: 28;19-20 and Acts 2:38-41. However, the ones that did it for me was (1)Matthew; 3-13-17 when Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him and John the Baptist protested that he was not fit to baptize the Christ. Jesus encouraged him to proceed saying "baptism fulfills righteousness" and (2) Romans 6:3-5 " during baptism, we die and are resurrected in Christ" and (3) 1 Peter 3:21 "baptism is the answer of a good conscience towards God".

I also found these two questions to ask yourself before baptism in a book I read online called Understanding 4 Views on Baptism by Tom J. Nettles, Richard Pratt and John Armstrong (page 144).

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Baptism:
1) Have I counted the cost of such a life in which Christ must forever increase and I must forever decrease?

2) Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit duplicate Jesus' cruciform life in my existence?

I answered yes to all of the above. Additionally, today's sermon in church was for us to seek salvation "while it could still be found" and the pastor implored us over the 1 hour and 45 minutes of the service to confess our sins and to not leave church today without accepting Christ. Still, I was surprised when I got dressed in the baptismal gown that I felt so giddy. When I was asked to describe it, the closest to which I could identify was that of a bride about to walk down the aisle to be married (75% happy anticipation and 25% clenched gut and butterflies) though I've never been married and the baptismal gown looked like a hospital smock. I thought maybe I felt that way because I had been trying on wedding gowns and watching tons of "Running of the Brides" videos on youtube. However, the Bible tells us that we, the church, are to be "like a spotless bride" for Christ, so I guess the feeling was appropriate.

I walked to the 4x6 ft inflatable pool and the pastor helped me in and he calmed me as he could tell I was nervous. What was truly funny was when Pastor Israel was about to submerged me, I had a brief uncontrollable moment when my body refused to let my head go totally underwater. I was surprised at this because I have no fear of water and I am an avid swimmer. I realized that my reaction was a fear reaction not of fear of water but because my life was literally in the pastors hands if he slipped and held me under incorrectly. CPR and life-saving images flashed inside my head for a split-second then I had to let go of control and choose to believe God. So, as Pastor Israel spoke those blessed words over me, I placed both hands over my heart I allowed myself to go under, as if in death, and to rise again in Christ. My church friends smiled and clapped, some even cried. I was crying a bit too, as the water streamed down my face and body. Then I was shaking and the most amazing feeling came over me and I just had to whoop loudly! Amazing God!

The rest of the day was just surreal with 100 plus weather and the smoke of the fires in the hills of the San Gabriel mountains as backdrop to my big day. Some friends from church took me to a Mexican fast food place and we had lunch to celebrate. I kept telling them I felt like I was in a dream or in a slow motion movie. I can't tell if it's from the baptism or the closeness of the smoke plumes or both.

As we were heading home, we drive by large billboards and posters advertising upcoming movies whose plot depictions seem absolutely ridiculous (late August is really a bad time for true movie-lovers). I looked at the hills in the direction of Studio City, where some big Hollywood studios are and reflected on Hollywood's take on Christianity and baptism. Many movies use conventional redemption as a theme for its hero (protagonist) and what he/she desires most as a catalyst for change and the driving force behind the movie but usually they shy away from attributing that change to spirituality and/or God, Christ Jesus (God with us) or the Holy Spirit. I can only think of one mainstream movie off the top of my head in the past 20 years that depicts baptism or a meaningful spiritual conversion among its lead characters and that is The Passion of the Christ. I'll do some research on the topic and I'll review the published movie guides and post my results at a later date. If I can't find another movie that shows an unabashed spiritual conversion then maybe I'll write one myself.

Later, I called my mom to tell her about my baptism and not to worry about my safety among the fires here. I told her how giddy and dreamy I was feeling hours after the baptism and she said, "you feel like you are new". Yeah, Ma, I feel like I'm new!

To learn more on Jesus and His baptism:

To learn more of the Day of Decision Event at

Learn more about my church at

Film review resources:

2007 Movie Guide by Leonard Maltin

Saturday, August 29, 2009

California Wildfires

August 29th, 2009
There are three new forest fires burning in Southern California and it is a sad reminder that this is wildfire country. This reminds me of my first forest fire experience shortly after moving to L.A. in 2007.

The Riverside County wildfire, the biggest of over ten area fires, started on Saturday October 20th, 2007 with a roar! Aided by the gusting strength of the Santa Anna winds it blazed through the chaparral and scrub bush of the nearby mountains. The governor called it a state emergency then the President declared it a national emergency, sending armed forces and national guard troops to help the firefighters. The whole area buzzed with activity as numerous helicopters flew over head, as they deployed to the site of the fire.

I had no previous personal experience with fires but I remember watching the Griffith Park fire on the news in May 2007, as it burned 600 acres of the park. For those who don't know, Griffith Park is near the L.A. Zoo and besides being a lovely park with all sorts of recreation, it's a popular location for TV, film etc.(the TV show, Monk, films there all the time). The Griffith Observatory is an historic site within Griffith park and it is also a popular location for many TV, film ( Paula Abdul's Rush, Rush video is filmed there as was it's inspiration, Rebel Without A Cause). Believe it or not, I moved to that same area in L.A. a mere 3 months later(lol). No, I'm not crazy, I just choose to believe God. So after lots of prayer and God's guidance about staying "fire-free" in California, I moved out here. At that time, my best and long-time Christian friend told me to believe God about my safety as I move to California and that also after a forest fire it takes awhile before another fire can happen in the area again (she's so wise).

Still, I stayed glued to the TV for any breaking news on how the Riverside County fire fight was going. Thankfully, where I live is many many miles north of the fire so I wasn't in any immediate danger. However, the air was thick and blackened with smoke. I mean it was totally not breathable and this was made worse by the 100 degree weather. Mindful of asthma and allergies, I followed the health experts advice and stayed in doors with the A/C. I ventured out only to the pool and even then I had to be very careful.

By day 5, I had decided that forest fires were just plain scary. The fires were still raging and I was praying constantly for them to go away already. I received worried calls from my friends and family and I reassured them that I was okay even when I was beginning to feel that I was not. Day by day, the skies were increasingly dark and gloomy with the acrid smell of smoke worsening. Over days, the atmosphere was so dark that eventually my mood started to feel dark too.

Amazingly, I even saw burnt embers as they drifted all those miles north then fell on us like dirty snowflakes. At night, the skies lit up with an eerie amber glow and at times I could have sworn I heard crackling sounds. All these elements combined and accounted, strangely enough, for one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen (if I wasn't feeling too scared or too guilty to enjoy it). I slept fretfully on night 6, then I had to use my faith and believe the fire would end.

The fires finally ended early October 27the 2007 after raging through southern California and ravishing over 500,000 acres and destroying 1,500 homes. The TV news was full of tragic stories of people who lost their homes and even some pets. Unfortunatly, there were three human lives lost but many in California publicly thanked God for sparing their lives. Many church services were shown on TV and the Salvation Army representatives were everywhere. Despite the sad circumstances, I am always happy when I see Californians openly acknowledging and thanking God.

That morning, it even rained a little as if God was washing away the embers and the bad memories. I was thrilled that I would be finally able to go out and enjoy the day so I got dressed to go grocery shopping to get some fresh produce. As I stepped outside, I took a deep breath of air, I enjoyed its refreshing smell and I thanked God! In 2008, fire season began again with a whole new slate of fires affecting lives and properties. Now, it's 2009 and we're at it again. Please, continue to pray for us.

For more info on:
Southern California fires go to www.
The Griffith Park fire:
Learn more about Griffith Observatory at
See films shot on location at Griffith Observatory at

See Paula Abdul's Rush, Rush video

Update: 8/29/09 10:00 p.m.
It's night out and I just looked outside and saw the mountains ablaze in the distance from the LaCanada Flintridge fire. Let me tell you that it was a very startling sight and my heart started to pound! I know I had smelled smoke but I thought it was from the BBQ grills as everyone was out today in the intense heat trying to wring the last out of the summer. I turned on the news and it said that they have issued evacuation orders for that area.

I first learned about LaCanada Flintridge earlier this year from the wonderful and whimsical float they entered in this year's Rose Bowl Parade in January. The float organizers encouraged me to visit the area and to enter their contest for float design in 2010. Well, I did the latter but my design was not selected. Still, I thought I had all the time in the world to do the former as, by all reports, LaCanada Flintridge is a nice area to live as well as to visit. Now, since I can actually see the flames glowing in the distance, I have started my emergency preparedness. This is way closer than I like to have a forest fire. My prayers go to the residents who live in the area of all the fires especially as the weather is not helping. Please, keep praying for them!

Friday, August 7, 2009

R.I.P. John Hughes

Sadly, another famous filmmaker has passed away. The press is reporting that writer/director John Hughes died today (8/6/09) of a heart attack. He was only 59.

Wow... In the '80s, I was a big Molly Ringwald fan (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club) and a big John Candy fan (Trains, Planes and Automobiles and Uncle Buck) which made me a big fan of Mr. Hughes. Home Alone (an example of a kid's power and resourcefulness), Mr. Mom (the first depiction of a stay-at-home dad) and Weird Science (science geek gets the girl) were all ground breaking films and are still among my favorites.

I also loved Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and still watch it even today. In fact, when I moved to L.A. 2 years ago, I was riding done San Vincente Boulevard and Jeffrey Jones (Mr. Rooney) was driving in the car next to me. He looked grumpy and he was hunched over the steering wheel just as he did in the movie. He glanced my way and our eyes connected for a moment as bits of dialogue and scenes from Ferris Bueller just flashed back at me in a surreal way. I could hear Jones as Rooney in my head screaming, "Bueller!" I resisted flashing him a Ferris-like smirk and just waved timidly instead. This must happen to Jones regularly because he just smiled at me and drove off. Trust me, the moment was priceless.

I am getting a bit emotional as I am writing this because this man's work has had a monumental impact on how I view both life and films in general. John Hughes genius was the right blend of comedy and angst, mostly the teenage variety but with some mid-life issues thrown in. His movies defined an era and made me want to make movies too. Even though he had not directed in over a decade, he will really be missed as will his special brand of film making. My prayers and sympathies go out to his family during this sad time. May he rest in peace.