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Film/Music/TV


December Playlist: Happy Birthday Baby Jesus 2016

Don’t rat me out to the Advent police — here’s this year’s Xmas mix.

Moana Leads the Way Home (and to the Horizon)

Moana Leads the Way Home (and to the Horizon)

One of the more attractive elements of grace-based living is that it removes (in doctrine, anyway, if not always in practice) the pressure to discern every decision correctly. Both the roughing-it-through-the-grind and seeking-the-horizon are both valid and acceptable approaches to life. This stance contrasts with FOMO-driven media in both the general and Christian spheres. Such movies, books, sermons, etc emphasize the importance of striving over settling. Persistence involves driving forward toward goals, not simply making it through.

Mbird contributors (and, I think, readers) have diverse views on theology and practice, but we are mostly united in our skepticism of the ever-striving-forward…

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On Being Outsiders…and Not Quite Bulletproof

On Being Outsiders…and Not Quite Bulletproof

Just wanted to let you know you can all calm down: I figured out the Election of 2016.

Okay, maybe I didn’t “figure it out” so much as “choose the theory I find least disquieting among all the ones being thrown around right now.” The narrative of this election, after all, is being told and retold all over social and traditional media. There seems to be no escaping the countless voices clamoring to be heard, the opinions on why the winner won and the loser lost. One of the refrains that caught my eye early, though, and still sticks, is that so many…

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A Love Letter from King George

A Love Letter from King George

I recently caved and jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon. The two-and-a-half-hour hip-hop soundtrack took me about four days to listen to all the way through, and, I must admit, I now understand and appreciate what the hype is about. Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and winner of eleven Tony Awards, tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton: how he came to America, his role in founding our country, and all the (romantic) drama in between.

One of my favorite songs at the moment—which is probably very telling about my taste in music—is “You’ll Be Back.” King George (Jonathan Groff) sings…

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Searching Low and High for the Who Behind The Who

Searching Low and High for the Who Behind The Who

A flurry of thinkpieces circulating at the moment about the dark side of identity politics—for reasons that should be fairly self-evident. Just before starting in on a contribution of my own, a guardian angel reminded me that I’d already spilled plenty of ink on that subject in The Who chapter of A Mess of Help, an earlier version of which appeared in the Identity Issue of The Mockingbird. Somehow that essay never made it onto the site. Well, no longer:

It was the mid-90s, and one of my older brother’s friends had decided to make our house a stop on…

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Lazaretto, or Where Is That Moral Progress I Was Promised? – Scott Johnson

Here comes the next video from Oklahoma, and the first of the breakout sessions. This one arrives courtesy of Dr. Scott Johnson, our resident expert in classical Greek and all things White Stripes-related:

Lazaretto, or Where is that Moral Progress I was Promised? – Scott Johnson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Arrival and the Problem with Drawing Lines

Arrival and the Problem with Drawing Lines

“Plenty of directors make violent movies. Denis Villeneuve makes movies about violence, which is not quite the same thing,” writes A.O. Scott in a review of last year’s Sicario. That film followed Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent enlisted in an off-the-record task force fighting cartels. Another Villeneuve film, Prisoners, featured Hugh Jackman as a blue-collar father seeking vigilante justice for his children’s kidnappers. In both, characters decide to draw their own morality lines, using their better judgment and a perceived “greater good” as barometers for action. In Sicario, we see the effect of this thinking in institutions whereas in Prisoners…

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When God Speaks To You (Personally) Through a Movie

When God Speaks To You (Personally) Through a Movie

Here’s one from someone named Paul Zahl:

I think we’re all agreed that movies and television have the power to help us abreact (i.e., bring to the surface) grief, feel (vicariously) painful emotions, and illustrate in arresting ways the Grace of God. It has almost been a “plank” in the platform of the Mockingbird project, that the visual arts, together with music, are marvelous ways in which profound convictions and universal experiences can be conveyed and observed.

I’d like to take this just a little further — “Just a Little Bit” (Beau Brummels). I’d like to ask you the question: Through what…

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A Grace Too Powerful to Name

A Grace Too Powerful to Name

Mike Birbiglia has touted his ability to make any awkward situation more awkward, but I think I win. Not long ago, I reply-all’d to a church discussion an a-propos-of-nothing question about how to take hold of grace. I immediately regretted it, because it was an unanswerable question. I know that divine forgiveness is, in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words, “a grace too powerful to name.” It can’t be summed up in an email.

Sometimes, though, it can be expressed in a song. The latter quote comes from “It’s Quiet Uptown,” a pivotal song in the musical Hamilton wherein the titular character mourns the death of his…

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Come Healing – Leonard Cohen (RIP)

Click here to read what feels like a divinely appointed lyric. The opening alone:

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Praying With Trump?

Praying With Trump?

Becket is a great film. Maybe the great film. It has the added advantage of being true.

It’s a film that tells the story of Thomas Becket. He was born sometime in the early 12th century, in all likelihood on the 21st of December on the day of his namesake, Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas).

Like many of us, he had a messy story. He hung around with elites as a kid but was the son of someone caught between the clear (and perhaps cruel) line between nobility and commoner. History tells us his father was perhaps a knight or modest landowner. But…

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Prince Philip and Me: On Relating to The Crown’s Most Awkward Character

Prince Philip and Me: On Relating to The Crown’s Most Awkward Character

Anglophiles still mourning the ending of Downton Abbey have begun watching The Crown, a Netflix original about the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The series is beautifully made, and instead of bingeing on it, I find myself wanting to savor it slowly. This piece contains some spoilers about the first half of the series.

One of the first scenes in the first episode focuses not on Elizabeth herself but rather on her husband-to-be, Prince Philip. In this scene, before Elizabeth becomes Queen, Philip formally renounces the Greek and Danish titles that were the privileges of his birth. He does…

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