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Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This reflection comes to us from Tim Peoples.

I’m no hero, and that was brought home to me in a three-month binge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (twelve films and three TV series…thanks very much, Age of Ultron marketing!).

Several works in the MCU follow a wider cultural trend of the deconstruction of the American male (ht DZ at the Love, Suffering, and Creativity conference), which shows us how low our anthropology should be. For example, the Iron Man trilogy is mostly about Tony Stark’s attempt to atone for war profiteering, and the third installment even provides a post-Iraq/Afghanistan meditation on post-traumatic…

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Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Louis CK does a bit about marriage (it’s an old bit; he’s since gotten divorced, which makes the content both sad and prescient) in which he recounts his therapist’s recommendation that he take his wife on a date. “I went on a date with my wife, and you know what? I’m not going to call her again.”

My husband reminded me of this joke recently upon returning from our “vacation.”

I use quotes because, as anyone with kids knows (and some have written), any temporary relocation of the family unit would be more aptly described as a trip. I’ve been on vacations…

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Grace in A Most Violent Year

Grace in A Most Violent Year

2015’s cinematic rendition of the Rich Young Ruler comes to us from J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, which opens with the lead man, Abel, running—fast. Abel later explains that only cowards run, because they are too afraid to face the truth; Abel himself, however, firmly believes that he’s running towards something, not away from it. Later, his wife asks him a pointed question: “Are you delusional?” These kind of questions, of subtle inner conflicts, are central to Chandor’s latest work.

Despite the title and the promos, which cite that 1981 was one of New York’s most violent years, this film…

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From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

From the Forgiveness Issue: 11 Special Portraits of Forgiveness in Film

This list, from the Rev. JAZ, is our first free peek at our summer issue. If you’d like to order a copy, check them out here. 

Les Miserables In any version, this is the gold standard. You know the scene: Jean Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver in the middle of the night. When the police bring him back to the Bishop’s house to answer for his stash, the Bishop adds two silver candlesticks to the bag full of stolen property, and then dismisses the police. “Today I bought your soul.”

The September Issue (2009) A fine documentary about the ins and outs…

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PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

Episode 195: Shag (The Movie)

That’s a great little movie, from 1989. But I’m afraid it’s going to get banned one of these days, by the Ministry of Truth. Right from the “get go”, there’s an image in it that’s distressing today.

Which gives me a chance to talk Christianly about how to deal with
distressing or upsetting material? Do you rid yourself of it by burning it? By hauling it down and cutting it up, and “take out the paper and the trash” (The Coasters, 1958)? Ecrasez l’infame!?

I don’t think that works. (Wish it did.) The averse material, if it touches something…

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The Non-Binding Paradox (of How David Foster Wallace Had Fun)

The Non-Binding Paradox (of How David Foster Wallace Had Fun)

Tomorrow marks the release of The End of the Tour, the dramatization of David Lipsky’s book-length interview with author David Foster Wallace, (a number of portions of which we’ve posted over the years). As much as I admire Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, I’m in the camp of those who are ambivalent about the film’s production. Just feels too soon, and as his estate has made abundantly clear, there is no way the man himself would have wanted this to happen. The initial images from the set looked dubious, but then the first trailer appeared (below), and it was far…

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PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

EPISODE 193: Cross Dressing

“I’m absolutely captivated by a movie called The Gallant Hours (1959), starring James Cagney and directed by Robert Montgomery.

For one thing, it presents an ideal picture of how a person should be thanked for faithful service. And what a piece of work the “Church” is,
that it’s so rarely able to give thanks for the work of its servants. (Oh, unless they’re newly dead. Thank God he’s dead!) It’s almost as if the Church specializes in forgetfulness concerning the brightest and best. I’ve seen that happen in about 500 cases, my own, of course, being an exception.

More importantly,…

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Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

“You suffer from despair,” Emma Stone tells Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the trailer for Woody Allen’s new movie, Irrational Man. “It was at this moment that my life came together,” Phoenix chimes in later via voiceover, “I’m Abe Lucas, I’ve had many experiences and now a unique one … This was the meaningful act I was searching for!” With this exclamation, he seems to have shaken his despair, assumedly the inner conflict that the film will center around. But, unless Woody Allen has had an extreme change of religious conviction, I suspect that Phoenix’s transcendent, unique act won’t lead to…

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Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Of all the reversals we’ve seen take place in our culture of late, one of the most unexpected has to be what’s happened with “nerds”. If you had told me in 1988 that the group of oddballs who sold me and my friends our comic books every Saturday would come to dominate the mainstream, part of me would’ve wanted to believe you, but wouldn’t have.

Back then, “nerd” was a label to be avoided not embraced. It wasn’t a synonym for shy or misunderstood or even studious as it is today (though those traits often fell under its umbrella). Nor was…

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The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow in Tomorrowland:  Disney Does Eschatology

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow in Tomorrowland: Disney Does Eschatology

The futuristic city of Tomorrowland in the film Tomorrowland rises from the amber waves of a vast field of ripened grain, gleaming in the sunlight like, well, like the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). But this is the City of Man, or at least a possible city of humanity’s possible future as envisioned by writer-director Brad Bird. Bird’s vision is part utopian, part anti-dystopian diatribe, part pop eschatology, all wrapped up in a paradoxical package of American populist optimism mixed with elitist progressivism. With a little Steam Punk thrown in for good measure.

The city…

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Alfred Hitchcock: Artist of Anxiety

Alfred Hitchcock: Artist of Anxiety

Alfred Hitchcock agreed to sit down with François Truffaut for a five-day interview in August 1962. The Frenchman aimed to pick the master’s brain and snag some good tidbits for interested cinephiles. Gradually, their conversation started to flow and the product was a wonderful book. In its introduction, Truffaut calls Hitchcock an “artist of anxiety.” While he is pointing at his knack for touching on our “nighttime, metaphysical anxieties,” I found the examples of Hitchcock’s own daily worries very interesting.

Here’s Hitchcock on his anxious desire to keep everything running according to plan:

I’m full of fears and I do my best…

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Thou Shalt Never Feel Bad: Inside Out for the Ivy League

Thou Shalt Never Feel Bad: Inside Out for the Ivy League

Sadness is having a cultural moment, and that makes me happy. Much of this is thanks to Pixar’s Inside Out, that rare film which deserves all the success and acclaim being heaped upon it.

There are any number of reasons to laud the movie, as DP pointed out a couple weeks ago. Its artistic merits are beyond question, but so are those of, say, The Box Trolls (seriously!). What makes Inside Out so remarkable is its message. Pete Docter, et al, are saying something that strikes the almost impossible balance of timely, courageous, and, well, true. Which is that sadness, grief,…

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