Best Movie of 2009

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The Battle For Pandora

I love to watch movies.  Jill and our kids love to watch movies.  We have so many good memories of watching hilarious side-splitting movies, and nail-biting action/thriller movies, and well done just-for-fun animation movies.  And of course we all can appreciate a good romance story.  So when they came out with a movie that had all of these aspects, plus fantastic cinematography, there was little doubt in my mind that we had just seen the best movie of 2009.

Which movie do you ask?  Well, Avatar of course.  At least in my opinion it was the best movie of the year.  But then I checked online for what others were saying about the movie, and three of the top movie rating sites put Avatar easily within the top 10 movies of the year.  Here are some of the comments from the movie critics:

  • Avatar is the BIGGEST movie of 2009. There is literally NO other movie that in any way, shape, or form that could conceivably be bigger. Why? First, it’s the first theatrical movie written and directed by James Cameron since Titanic, i.e. the highest grossing movie EVER. Second, by all reports, Cameron has spent the better part of a decade prepping for Avatar and has allegedly completely reinvented 3D technology to make a blow-you-through-the-back-of-your-seat experience that will remind you why watching DVDs will NEVER replace the glory of seeing a movie up on the big screen. Third, it’s a massive scope sci-fi epic, a genre that Cameron does extremely well (i.e., Terminator 2 and Aliens).   (
  • Avatar is the event movie of the decade, a film you absolutely must see in theaters – in digital 3-D – to believe. Cameron employed technology created just for Avatar, and the end result is a groundbreaking, spellbinding, brilliant piece of art.   (
  • You’re probably already tired of hearing about how “James Cameron has completely revolutionized filmmaking” with his 12-years-in-the-making 3D extravaganza. Well, sorry to say it, but he kind of has. ‘Avatar‘ is the first movie in which 3D is seamlessly integrated into almost every scene to eye-popping and, frankly, gorgeous effect.   (

And another thing that I found out about while surfing the net to find out more about how well this movie succeeded, is that it has taken the lead for the highest-grossing film ever produced.  It was in 1997 that Cameron produced Titanic and it grossed worldwide over 1.8 billion dollars.  But Avatar blew right past this record by making almost 2.8 billion dollars so far, and it is still going.

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So why would I write an article about this movie?  What does a fictional story about the battle between humans and the native Na’vi have to do with my life and work as a missionary to Papua New Guinea?  Aren’t we suppose to go to the movie theaters to be entertained?  Or is there a connection between Hollywood and real life?  Well, to help answer these questions, let me copy here a summarization of the movie from IMDB (Internet Movie Database):

When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge’s intentions of driving off the native humanoid “Na’vi” in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland.

In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora. Written by The Massie Twins

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When I saw this movie, I couldn’t help but think about the contrast between the peoples of Papua New Guinea and the powerful industrial companies who have come to the pristine country of PNG and destroyed the land and cheated the people out of their own natural resources.  It is deplorable what some outsiders have done to the land and the people of PNG.

And what about the missionaries?  Where do they fit in?  I’m sure there are always going to be some examples of bad missionaries, but I would like to contend that most missionaries are similar to Jake in that they identify with the people and love the people and want to help them protect their culture and land, not destroy it as some anthropologists claim.

Of course we must also recognize that there are some significant differences when we compare missionaries to Jake.  Missionaries are motivated by the love of God and the desire to help meet the spiritual needs of people, as well as their physical and emotional needs.  And whereas Jake, by the end of the movie, went totally “native”, we as missionaries recognize that while many parts of local culture are good and need to be preserved, there is still much in all human cultures that needs to be challenged and transformed in light of the truths found in Scripture.

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And so I found myself captivated by this movie.  All too soon the theater lights came up.  But for a few hours, I was transported back to the times our family lived in a remote village of PNG.  I loved the people there.  It was a beautiful world, and yet also a tragic world.  Parts of their local culture was evil (with their sorcery and animistic beliefs), but then some of our Western ways are evil too (our commercialism and individualistic capitalism).  I just pray that as the missionary caught in the middle, that I was able to make a difference for good among these people, and that they might have a better life here, but an even better life hereafter for those who turned their hearts towards God.

Favorite Holiday Movie

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The Plinky Question for this week is:  “What is Your Favorite Holiday Movie?”

This question may look easy, but it’s not.  Where would a person start?  With the traditional classics?  Would I pick “It’s a Wonderful Life“, “White Christmas“,  or “Miracle on 34th Street“?  (Of course there would be a problem if I picked “Miracle on 34th Street” as I would then have to chose The Original, or The Remake.)

I’d really be in trouble if I said my favorite holiday movie is “A Christmas Carol“, as there have been four releases of this story, going back as far as 1938 for its first debut, and coming all the way up to as recent as 2009 starring Jim Carrey.  Oh, and of course I would have to include in this group the special Jim Henson version in 1992 “The Muppet Christmas Carol” starring Michael Caine as Mr. Scrooge, and Kermit the Frog who played the ever loyal assistant Bob Cratchit.

Perhaps I should stick to more family-centered movies, like “A Christmas Story“, or “Home Alone (#1 or #2?)” or perhaps a mighty belly laugher, gut-splitting anti-Christmas comedy movie like “Christmas With the Kranks“.  And speaking of Tim Allen, who plays Jolly ol’ Nick three times in the blockbusters “Santa Clause 1“, then “Santa Clause 2: the Mrs. Clause“, and finally “Santa Clause 3:  The Escape Clause.”   Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!  Too many choices.

And let’s not forget the animated movies that we all love, like “Mickey’s Christmas Carol“, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie“, “Frosty the Snowman” and let us never forget”The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  All of these terrific movies cannot be simply brushed away if I were to pick one and only one and claim that this is my most favorite holiday movie.

So what is the answer?  Well, we decided there must be some happy middle ground, and this is what we finally came up with.  As much as possible over the years, we have saved up money and collected these various movies so that we have a whole section of one binder dedicated to “Christmas Movies”.  And each year, for the most part, we start watching the first movie about 2 weeks before Christmas, and each night from that point on, we will try to watch another Christmas movie.

And what is the final Christmas movie that we watch on the evening of the 24th, the night before Christmas?  Inevitably, it is “The Muppet Christmas Carol”  So now I guess you have caught me in my words.  If we had to choose one above all the others, this wold be the one.  We laugh, we cry, we sing along.  And in the end, we raise our voices and say along with Tiny Tim (who does not die), “God bless us, one and all.”

The End

Final P.S.:  So what is your favorite holiday movie, and why?  Come on, you can tell us.

Celebrating Christmas

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Our Monthly Mission Update

To all our dear friends,

Once again it is the season to rejoice and to put our focus on the wonderful news that Jesus our Saviour was born.  We see this reflected in all the smiles we see and the Christmas greetings that are exchanged.  We experience this as we have family gatherings and special events.  What a wonderful time of year.

Just looking at our calendar for December, we can see that the 5 of us getting together to celebrate the season in special ways is really big for us this year.  We kicked off the events with an unbeatable Christmas concert with Michael W. Smith, who was joined by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.  Their sweet music, and his great songs were made even more special when they had the 2000+ audience join in on a number of Christmas carols.  That certainly was a night that will not be forgotten.

Last Saturday, Eric & Esther came back over to our place again so we could engage in some of our great Christmas traditions.  This year, I turned over the lights to Eric & Glen and they lit up our tree.  Jill prepared cookie dough, which was then attacked by fancy cookie cutters and then baked.  For the following 2 hours, we all had fun as we used icing sugar and food coloring to decorate our cookies and made them into masterpieces.  The evening ended with watching “Santa Clause” with Tim Allen.

Now on Christmas eve, we will have a pizza party and our traditional Christmas eve movie, “The Muppets’ Christmas Carol”, with Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy as Tiny Tim’s parents, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.  When we take the kids home, we will slowly wind our way through neighbourhoods and look at all the dazzling Christmas lights.

On Christmas Day, we will gather all 5 of us again, plus bring my mother over from her senior’s residential building.  There will be a few gifts exchanged, but not many this year, as we want this year to focus more on family and events to celebrate Jesus.  But I’m sure Jill will cook up a great dinner for all of us.

And then, on Monday the 27th, we will add in one final event.  The five of us will head to the theater and watch the newest Narnia movie, “Voyage of the Dawntreader”.  We are really excited about that, and can hardly wait to go see it.
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This December has turned out to be quite an exciting one for all of us.  But the New Year will see us having just as exciting, though different kinds of adventures.  On January 2nd, Norm will fly to California to help teach a week-long missions course at a Christian university.  Our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, likes to take its Introductory & Orientation Courses to other Bible college campuses when it can.

Norm returns from California on the 8th, and then basically turns right around in nineteen days to start his long trek over to Papua New Guinea.  He will be gone for nine weeks on this trip, from Jan. 27th to March 28th.  Jill will follow him on February 1st, and then return a bit earlier on March 14th.  We will tell you more about the upcoming trip in our January update.

So much to do……and so much to be grateful for.  Remembering Jesus and his miraculous birth who came to give His life for us.  And then the opportunities for us to give our lives back to Him in our service for Him.
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Please be praying with us then on these important points:

– in all our celebrating, to still keep Jesus first in our thoughts
– that Norm will be ready to teach his class portions in California
– that Norm will maintain good health and have the energy to teach
– that all the consultant prep work can be done before going to PNG
– that Jill will be okay to let Norm fly alone to CA, as well as PNG later
– that our boys will continue to do well at their Graphic Arts Design school
Finally, we give thanks once again, for all of our dear friends and churches which support us through prayer and financial donations.  As Paul would say, we are all partners in the gospel together, taking God’s Word to the ends of the earth.

Merry Christmas to all,

Norm & Jill Weatherhead
Pioneer Bible Translators