The Appointment: Part 1

Here we are, you guys: The Appointment, about the hellbound reporter lady.

I suppose I’ll give credit right away: this movie actually centers around a woman.  A single, sinful, atheist woman, mind you, but a woman all the same.

Written, produced, and directed by Rich Christiano, of (most recently) Time Changer fame.  In our timeline of Christian(o) films, The Appointment came out a few years after The Pretender, and right before Second Glance.

Much like Pamela’s Prayer and The Pretender, The Appointment stars a bunch of people we’ve never heard of before.  These were Ye Olden Days of Christian films, when starring in them was a one-way ticket to nowhere, not an indication that you are a former B-lister who can’t get work anywhere else.

It’s kinda fun that we’re hitting this movie right after Six: The Mark Unleashed, because it really does show how far the genre has come: quite a long ways in terms of effects and getting name actors, not so far in terms of storytelling or offensive theology.

It doesn’t help one tiny little bit that the movie opens with two of the worst actors I have ever had the privilege of seeing here.  They are a pastor and his wife (we know this because they declare it VERY LOUDLY to each other), and their purpose is to introduce us to the writings of our main character, a newspaper columnist.

Seriously, I hate to harp on this, but these people cannot convincingly wish each other a good morning.

Plus, it would have been much more effective to simply skip the bit with this couple and start with the next bit—shots of people from all walks of life reading the paper, as the writer reads her words in voiceover:

At last count, there were nearly 400 denominations of the Christian Church in America.  Weren’t there only twelve apostles?  You’d think there’d be only twelve groups.

*snicker*  I kinda like this lady.

But more denominations mean more churches, which mean more jobs for those fast-talking, three-piece-suited prophets of God called preachers, where the love of money seems to be the root of all their sermons.  I’ll support the United Way any day.  There may be a god, but the hypocrites playing church are giving him a bad name.  Let’s get on with our programs of feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and reforming the downtrodden.  Then, issue them this warning: stay out of a church, because if you go there, you’ll end up more messed up than you were before.  Amen, brother?

Honestly, this is not so bad.  Coming on the heels of Six and Brody’s and Jeseca’s views on those who believe in Jesus, it’s downright tame.  Nonetheless, we cut to the newspaper office, where our anti-heroine, Liz, is fielding her fourteenth critical phone call of the day.  She is nonplussed by this, though, as are her (largely) nonbelieving coworkers.

Nameless coworker:  Some people take their religion too seriously.

Amen, brother.

The one exception to this is clean-cut young Eric, who whines that Liz “keeps going after the religious issue.”  Um, yeah.  Seems to be working out for her, what with being the most-read columnist in town and all.

Vaguely angelic music plays as a POV shot crosses the street to the newspaper office…

…and a coworker asks Liz out.

Is this as bizarre a conversation as I think it is?

Bill:  Hey, Liz.  What’re you doing Friday night?

Liz:  Hey, Bill.

Bill:  I have it all planned: we’ll have dinner, I have tickets to a play—

Liz:  No.

Bill:  Liz, we’ll have a great time—

Liz:  How old are you?

Bill:  Thirty-four.

Liz:  Bye-ee.  *wanders off*

Bill:  *calls after her*  Thirty-one?

There is no possible way Liz could be more casual about this, btw.  The “no” and “bye” are practically sing-songed.  And, not for nothing, but why is thirty-four too old for her?  Liz looks to be around that age herself.

I admit I don’t get it.

POV Shot enters the elevator.  Angelic music continues…

Liz arrives in her office and rips the date off her calendar—it’s September 11th.

Damn, remember when that date wasn’t automatically ominous?

(It’s a Tuesday, in case anyone is interested.  The Appointment came out in 1991, but is obviously set in 1990.)

(And it looks like it was shot in 1983.)

Angelic POV Shot wanders around, and an employee asks if he can help him.

Shouldn’t the angel (or whatever) know everything anyway?  Like exactly where Liz’s office is?

Angelic POV Shot manages to find his way there, and confronts Liz.  (You can see the main thrust of the conversation in the trailer.)

Angelic POV Shot:  I have a message for you; it’s from the lord.

Liz:  Lord Who?

APS:  The Lord Jesus Christ.

Har.

APS:  Liz, on September 19th at 6:05 p.m., you are going to die.

Damn.  And, just as with getting asked out, Liz is almost comically blasé about it.

Though at least she acknowledges that it is a threat.

Liz:  Nobody’s threatened me quite like you have. … If you’d like to file your opinion with the editor, his office is right down the hall.

APS:  I’m not here to threaten you, Liz.

YOU JUST DID!!!

But here’s the weird thing: even if Liz was a believer, there is no reason she, or anyone, should think this POV Shot (that we never see in human form) is an angel at all.  Other people on the street and in the newspaper office, see this guy and treat him like any other person, so it’s not like he glows or appears only to specific people or anything like that.  (Unlike the angels in the Left Behind series who, credit where it’s due, did do such things and thus made themselves different from ordinary folks.)

***

Later that day, Liz has lunch (or possibly dinner) with a guy names Steve.  I’m unclear whether Steve is her boyfriend or just her friend.  Anyway, they repeat the “from the lord,” “Lord Who?” joke, and Steve shows a modicum of concern for Liz’s safety (more than she seems to have herself) and warns her that one of these days, one of the crazies is going to kill her, “thinking they’re doing God’s work.”

Still later that night (Liz is home alone, so maybe she and Steve are Just Good Friends), Liz learns that she and her coworker June have been tapped to go to Hawaii for ten days (damn, what paper do they work for?)…starting September 30th.

The next morning, Liz finds that Angelic POV Shot is waiting for her in her office.  Which is deeply creepy, but Liz once again barely bats an eye.

APS:  The lord is giving you information that others never get.

Heh, yeah, I guess so.  Still, it might be more productive for the lord if he sent it in a way that would make Liz take it seriously.

Liz:  Well, until you can prove to me that you’re from the lord, I guess I’ll sit tight.

This is by far the most reasonable point raised so far…and it is completely ignored by our Angelic POV Shot.

And this is really troubling, since if we’re talking about an omniscient and omnipotent god, he knows exactly what it would take to make Liz believe, and he has the power to make it so.  So if he’s just sending Some Dude down to Earth to talk to Liz, and she has no objective reason to believe he is anything other than Some Dude…then God’s really just toying with her.

Also, if God is omniscient…doesn’t he already know whether Liz will change her mind?

Angelic POV Shot has pre-placed a Bible on Liz’s desk for her (since we never get to see his body), and Liz has one parting shot for him.

Liz:  Oh, by the way, mister, I can’t die on the 19th.  My boss is sending me to Hawaii on a business trip on the 30th for ten days, and I’ve never seen Hawaii.

APS:  And you never will.

Okay, that has to constitute a threat!

Liz tosses her Bible off her desk after Angelic POV Shot leaves…and fresh-faced Christian Eric sees it!

But it’s a nice copy!

The mayor drops dead of a heart attack that very day, which makes Liz think about death even more, to the point that she can’t sleep.  Also we pan over Liz’s nightstand, which has the most bizarre collection of objects on it…

Nightstand

What is she taking medication for?  And what’s with that lady?

(Like so many women in the movies, Liz goes to bed without removing her makeup.  Also, I can’t blame her for not being able to sleep, since she has the LOUDEST TICKINGEST ALARM CLOCK IN THE WORLD.)

The next day, Liz takes out her frustration and sleepless night on poor, hapless Eric, telling him of the “Jesus freak” who told her she’s going to die in a few days.  Eric, like almost everyone else, is nonplussed that Liz was threatened.  He keeps his eyes on the prize, you see:

Eric:  Don’t categorize all Christians as freaks.  And don’t let this guy affect your view of Jesus.

Thanks, Eric.  You’re a true, supportive friend.

It segues into a religious debate:

Liz:  What makes you think your way is right?  There are so many religions in the world and I know a lot of religious fanatics who don’t live any better than I do.

Too true, but the Christian (as usual) avoids any difficult question.

Eric:  I know there are a lot of different religions in the world, but there are only two different ways that people are trying to get to Heaven.  They’re either trying to live a good enough life to earn Heaven, or they’re receive [sic] eternal life as a gift by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus as their lord.  All religions and people fall into these two categories: you take Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, or most of the people in the church—they’re all trying to earn their way into Heaven.

Or, like Liz, who is standing right in front of you, Eric, they don’t believe in any sort of god or afterlife.  Or their afterlife has nothing to do with Heaven.

Films like this do themselves no favor at all by showing how ignorant they are of the world.

This puts me in mind of one of the many problems with Pascal’s Wager (Hi, Brody!): the underlying idea is that there are only two ways to be: Christian and Not-Quite Christian.  You can understand Pascal, in the sense that he lived in a world that seems much smaller than ours, with little to no exposure to other peoples and religions.  But Eric has no such excuse.

Liz:  I thought you weren’t going to preach at me.

Eric:  DON’T YOU WANT ETERNAL LIFE???

Damn.  Dude, chill.

Eric then goes on to talk about all the “joy” and “peace” he has since he became a Christian.  Yeah, you’re really showing it, pal.

He then challenges Liz to take a poll on the street about how to get to Heaven.  Liz snarks that she totally would, but for the death threats she might receive from someone like Angelic POV Shot.

There is no possible way Eric could care less:

Eric:  But what if he’s right?  What if you do die on September 19th—then what, Liz?  Where are you going to spend eternity?

Well, me, after I die, I’ll be dead.  I wasn’t conscious of not existing before my life on Earth began, so there’s no reason to believe I will be conscious of not existing after I die.

But, of course, Eric is Really Making Liz Think…

Next time.

 

 

 

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Posted on November 23, 2014, in Movies, The Appointment. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. >>>Written, produced, and directed by Rich Christiano

    Is he related to that Christian White guy from Kirk Cameron’s latest movie?

    >>>And, not for nothing, but why is thirty-four too old for her? Liz looks to be around that age herself.

    Maybe she prefers younger men. Being a godless carreer woman and all.

    Though I might be unfair here. The last telenovela I watched (four years ago or so) was about the older woman/younger man relationship, and, to my surprise, neither of them eventually fell for someone their own age (as it usually happened in older soaps). And telenovelas are… not very atheist-friendly. So that woman of course had to be a Godly woman at least nominally, and she still was allowed to have her happy ending with much younger man.

  2. APS: The lord is giving you information that others never get.
    Yeah, why did he do that exactly? And why doesn’t he do it with anyone else. I’m not sure yet if this film ends with Liz converting or not, but either way, god already knows. If she doesn’t, god is wasting his time here for the sole purpose of giving her a told-you-so at the pearly gates.
    But if it does… well, then why doesn’t god do this kinda shit more often. With more supernatural looking APS’s, preferably, so these repeat visits aren’t neccesary.
    RTC fiction tries to have it both ways, claiming that it’s outragous to ask for proof of god while simultaniously dropping huge heaps of proof on the nonbelievers. Sometimes within the same movie.

    Eric: Don’t categorize all Christians as freaks. And don’t let this guy affect your view of Jesus.
    First things first. Promoting the virtue of your religion comes before comforting your coworker who is seemingly being stalked by a man spouting deaththreats. Also, Ruby didn’t quote Liz’s exact words, but wasn’t she refering specifically the APS as a Jesus Freak? So far, he’s talked about Jesus, and he’s a freak. That would make Eric an even bigger asshole.

    Eric: But what if he’s right? What if you do die on September 19th—then what, Liz? Where are you going to spend eternity?
    I wholly agree with Ruby here. These arrogant asshats really think that’s all everyone worries about.
    And they all assume that anyone whom they preach at enough to make them really think about it will come to the conclusion that they’re hellbound. Why would Liz think that? We haven’t seen much of her, but she doesn’t seem to have explicitly rejected god, she just rails against organized religion. Has it ever occured to that dipshit Eric that she may sincerely believe that, yes, her focus on suporting the poor without corrupt churches will get her to heaven, regardless of whether it’s true or not?
    Also, Eric is reminding me of this comic: http://chainsawsuit.com/comic/2014/10/15/the-perfect-crime/ . The comic was a sneer at gamersgate, but it describes Eric’s actions perfectly too. “Don’t lump us good Christians in with that scary man, we’re nothing like that! Oh, and by the way, I think his words are very insightful, and you should think long and hard about your soul, just like he wants.”

    • Also, Ruby didn’t quote Liz’s exact words, but wasn’t she refering specifically the APS as a Jesus Freak? So far, he’s talked about Jesus, and he’s a freak. That would make Eric an even bigger asshole.

      Well, Eric is a slightly smaller asshole than that: Liz is talking about “the nut” who threatened her, and ends with, “What is it with you Jesus freaks?”

      So Eric kinda has a point…but still could not care less about the threat.

  3. Okay, I’m not as schooled in fundeism as some of y’all, so I was wondering if someone could help me out by answering this question: if someone makes a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, but never goes to church because they have issues with organized religion, do they still get into Heaven? After all, an oft-heard metaphor in Fundieland is that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than standing in your garage makes you a car.

    • In theory, it’s all about your personal relationship with Jesus. In practice, I suspect you’ll get shifty looks if you reject invitations to go to the church of the inviter.

  4. The book on her nightstand is a biography of Lee MillerM, the photographer. I suppose it’s the sort of book a godless feminist newspaper columnist might read, but why not something by Marilyn French or Gloria Steinem? For this movie, it’s a bit of an odd choice – would a RTC even know who Lee Miller was?
    Of course, they might just have chosen it for the cover picture of an assertive-looking woman dressed in pants and holding a glass of something that looks like booze. Is Liz going to turn out to have a drink problem?

  5. Starting with the representative image from the trailer, I was guessing mid 1980s. It’s from 1991; a mere 5-10 years behind is probably more up to date on fashion than Christian™ movies usually get.

    OK, I’m guessing after the intro that our heroine is anti-religious (which to an RTC obviously means anti-God too) because of a Traumatic Past, probably relating to her father. (And not in any way relating to a bad pastor, because they don’t exist.)

    What if you didn’t die on September 19th? What if you fell under a bus tomorrow? The angel would look pretty silly then.

  6. People have always tossed around the accusation that evangelism is kind of like sales, and the comparison seems more apt here. If you can’t convince someone with how awesome your product is, just make the competition sound scary or dangerous, or use some implicit threat. Choose our local hardware store because the big box stores are impersonal and staffed by teenagers who don’t know the difference between a kitchen sink and a chainsaw. Buy this latest toy or your kids will never speak to you again. Buy our vacuum cleaner–do you want your family to be choked by giant bacteria?

    There’s not much difference between that and “Accept (our interpretation of) God, and buy into every dot and dash, or else when you die, the God that loves you so much will torture you forever”, except the threat is a lot more explicit.

    • The thing that always throws me is that this sort of stuff ought to be a warning — in much the same way as “those warm glowing rocks are emitting invisible rays that will damage your body”, “dying without being in this specific state of mind will lead to your consciousness being tortured for eternity” shouldn’t be something you feel happy about telling people, more “it sucks that this is the way the universe is, but life isn’t fair”. To call that the Good News is just perverse.

      But it’s clear that evangelising techniques haven’t really moved on from the era when most people they might meet were nominally Christian and the main challenge was to get them to come to their church rather than someone else’s. The only models of atheism they seem to have are the “Jesus, who’s he” approach (© Jack Chick) or the “har har spit on the cross and eat babies” approach (everyone else).

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