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Lady Susan Finesses Downward Mobility in Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship

Lady Susan Finesses Downward Mobility in Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship

Just in time for the DVD release of Love and Friendship, here’s a wonderful post about the film from our friend, Jeremiah Lawson.

The character Charlie Black made an observation disguised as a question in the 1990 film Metropolitan: why is it that the stories about social mobility Americans are drawn to only have upward trajectories? When’s the last time you saw somebody tell a story of downward mobility? Just to be clear, this downward mobility is not the Faustian rock and roll burn out but the fading away. Not that Charlie Black would have put it that way; he probably…

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The Mission of Self-Justification in Hell or High Water

The Mission of Self-Justification in Hell or High Water

This one comes to us from our friend Jason Thompson.

David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water must be the year’s most unintentionally Christian film. Aimed more at capturing the mood and the cultural atmosphere of rural Texas than it is at making an argument for or against religion, the film ironically succeeds at presenting us with a rich tapestry and various threads of religious iconography, Biblical themes, and a soundtrack (performed partly by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) that not only underscores key plot points, but accurately reflects the inner lives of the conflicted characters, namely a bank robbing fraternal duo hellbent on…

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PZ’s Podcast: 1,2,3 Red Light

PZ’s Podcast: 1,2,3 Red Light

EPISODE 220

I’m getting more and more convinced that we’re doing our peers a disservice by not talking about Satan. Satan is alive and well; and, as the New Testament says, he is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour.

This cast touches on assisted suicide — doffing my hat to the new upcoming issue of The Mockingbird, which concerns mental health. “Please… Don’t Do It” (The Band). Under any circumstances. If you don’t believe me, read Kipling’s short story “Uncovenanted Mercies” (1932).

But I’m not just gunning for assisted suicide. I’m warning you about The Burning Man. People who cultivate…

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The Justification Of Faith

The Justification Of Faith

I recently had a conversation on the Mockingcast with evangelist-turned-humanist-chaplain Bart Campolo. Those who’ve listened know it was a provocative exchange, yet one that was really stimulating for me. To follow up, I thought I’d write a few posts on the nature of Christian faith in the modern world. These are not meant as a rejoinder or refutation of anything Bart (who I count as a friend) said, per se. They are just thoughts that don’t quite fit with my role as interviewer and are probably too long and dense (and maybe boring?) for the roundtable segment of our podcast. 

Before…

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What Has Hollywood to Do with Jerusalem?: Production Values and Proclaiming the Gospel in the “Ark Encounter” and Ben Hur

What Has Hollywood to Do with Jerusalem?: Production Values and Proclaiming the Gospel in the “Ark Encounter” and Ben Hur

If size matters, the new theme park in northern Kentucky, the Ark Encounter, is a massive success. The center-piece of the park, which opened in mid-July, is a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, over 500 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. It is, according to the Ark Encounter website, the “largest timber-frame structure in the world.” The first phase of the park also includes “Ararat Ridge Zoo (with a petting zoo), a 1,500-seat restaurant, a gift store under the Ark, and a zip line.” Future attractions will include “a pre-Flood walled city, the Tower of Babel, a…

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This Week: Come See Stars in My Crown With PZ in Stamford, CT!

You Are Invited: This Wednesday Aug 24th at 7:30pm to the final installment of our summer film series, “Religious Hope From the Movies”, at the Avon Theater in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. To whet your appetite our host, Paul Zahl, produced the following blurb:

stars-in-my-crown-movie-poster-1950-1020537482I’ve never met someone who didn’t fall for this movie. We’re talking about a Hollywood Western entitled Stars in My Crown, which was released in 1950 and starred Joel McCrea. Stars in my Crown was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who made many movies you’ve heard of, such as Cat People (1942) and Out of the Past (1947).

Interestingly, Stars in my Crown was Joel McCrea’s favorite movie in which he acted, and Jacques Tourneur’s favorite movie that he directed.

You’ve got to come see this movie with us next Wednesday at the Avon Theater in Stamford.

Why?

Well, it presents a Christian minister who is the essence of grace in practice. Somewhat episodic, Stars in my Crown tells the story of a sincere, delightful, and persistent minister who is faced with problem after problem after problem in the small town where he has planted a church — from the strong resistance of the local doctor, who is a rationalist, to a power play from the town’s “big man” (and also the Klan) against an African-American senior, to an inward assault upon the minister’s own faith and confidence when a typhoid epidemic brings his ministry to a standstill.

Stars in my Crown is one of the few mainstream movies — together with the French movie Leon Morin, Priest (1961), and a small handful of others — that depicts a minister or priest with accuracy, empathy, and sympathy — in short, with Christian understanding.

At 7:30pm PZ will introduce the movie — which we featured, by the way in Mockingbird at the Movies (2015) — and right after the movie’s over, we have a special guest. Our special guest is Peter McCrea, son of Joel McCrea, who will talk about his father’s spirituality, and why it is that Stars in My Crown was his dad’s favorite.

Hope you can come.

Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

I’m a mom, so I run primarily on adrenaline and guilt. Throw in some coffee in the AM, some wine in the PM, and you’ve covered the structure of most of my days–but I’ll be damned if anyone but me reduces my life to a cliche. I’ve seen some pretty bad representations of the pulled-in-all-directions nature of motherhood, so when the trailer for Bad Moms popped up on the internet a few months ago, I approached it warily. A major Hollywood studio accurately portraying my constant ambivalence? A script penned by two men (the writers behind The Hangover, no less)?…

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The Blessing of The Cursed Child

The Blessing of The Cursed Child

A quick disclaimer before reading: I will be giving a positive review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will, in the words that follow, go so far as to recommend Harry Potter fans read it. So there. If you’ve already decided that the seven books will be the only books, that you will never touch the apocryphal supplements that come via screen or stage, I will not call you a pureblooder…that decision, to close eyes, ears and hands to some idea of magical purity–that’s entirely your decision. A rather pretentious one, I’ll grant, but your decision nonetheless. Everyone…

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“I Must Have Done Something Good”

“I Must Have Done Something Good”

When I was a little girl, our family’s acquisition of a VCR coincided with my older sister’s debut in several small town musical productions. This meant that I could watch Annie, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Fiddler on the Roof to my heart’s content, when not elbowing my brother out of the way when he wanted to watch Star Wars. I watched the Fiddler on the Roof on VHS so many times that the tapes warped. We also had vinyl records of musical soundtracks, and hearing a needle hit the vinyl still makes my throat catch before I…

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The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, here is another essay from our new anthology of movie essays, Mockingbird at the Movies, available in print here and on Kindle here. 

Before anyone calls bluff on a Harry Potter essay found in a book about movies, let us first consider a fact about the Harry Potter movie franchise. As of July 2015, total movie sales for the eight Harry Potter films had almost surpassed total Harry Potter book sales, a ridiculous feat when you consider how much money that is (over $7 billion). And when you consider…

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Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped put on last night’s screening of The Pawnbroker as part of our summer film series at the Avon Theater in Stamford, CT. What a wonderful night! We’ll be showing the third and final selection, Stars in My Crown, on Weds 8/24. On a related note, our recent book Mockingbird at the Movies, is now available on Kindle! To celebrate, we thought we’d post the first half of John Zahl’s closing essay on Red Beard, which many readers (ourselves included) have mentioned as a highlight.

 

Discussing Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (1965) in any detail is…

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Come See The Pawnbroker in Stamford with PZ (Weds 7/27)

mBdFO2DLxyDyz14zjeiZOu6NG7RThe Pawnbroker came out in 1965 and stars Rod Steiger as a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz who is suffering from acute P.T.S.D. The Pawnbroker was notorious at the time for a scene of nudity that was a “first” for Hollywood. It also contained a way of editing flashbacks that was exciting and fresh. Moreover, The Pawnbroker was the first mainstream movie to deal directly with the Holocaust.

But seeing it now — and all the above are true — it is even better. The film observes a man under overwhelming stress from suppressed memories. They simply will break through. The Pawnbroker also makes some powerful observations about men and women. A scene towards the end between Rod Steiger and Geraldine Fitzgerald is almost worth the entire movie.

For religious people, and specifically for Christians, there are images in The Pawnbroker from the Passion that are both moving and somewhat controversial, especially if you believe, as many do, that the Holocaust is the possession solely of its actual victims. I myself think the iconography of The Pawnbroker works. When I saw it 51 years ago, I was affected to my teenaged core and didn’t know why.

Join me, Paul Zahl, this Wednesday in Stamford, CT at The Avon (right off I-95 and parking is easy); the theater is also short walking distance from the Stamford RR station — for the second in our Mockingbird-sponsored series entitled “Religious Hope from the Movies”. That’s Wednesday, July 27 at 7:30 pm. I shall introduce the movie briefly, and moderate a short discussion afterwards.