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The Sad Optimism of La La Land

The Sad Optimism of La La Land

In the end of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone get what they’ve always wanted. Once it’s theirs, though, they realize it’s not what they were expecting. Stone’s imagination steers us through the final scene, a montage of what could have been. It’s funny and heartbreaking, in turns. Her quirky, unsuccessful play premiers to a sold out auditorium, and Gosling’s depressing gig playing mood music at a lousy restaurant wins impossible acclaim. It’s not what actually happened, and it’s not the way things ever happen. Happy endings are the stuff of fairytales. And though it feels…

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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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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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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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Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

A couple of weeks ago my husband, back from an extended work trip, gave me the greatest of gifts: an overnight stay in a local hotel. No, not with him. This was the gift of solitude for nearly twenty-four hours, a joy rarely experienced by mothers of young children and highly coveted by the same, particularly the introverted sort such as myself. Granted, the gift was born out of a demand on my part after a sleepless night and an overflowing toilet, but let’s avoid looking at this horse directly in the mouth, shall we?

When the time arrived, my…

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Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: This Season’s Best Introductions to Horror For Kids

Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: This Season’s Best Introductions to Horror For Kids

Welcome once again to Ian and Blake’s annual Halloween series about a genre that does what few others can. This month, keep your eyes peeled for weekly top-five horror lists–with blistering #hottakes below. Be sure not to miss last week’s installment of the series with October’s Creepiest Urban Legends, too!

5. Dead Man’s Bones’ debut album

I am constantly keeping my ears open for music that places me within the ambience of Halloween whether it be merely how the musical atmosphere hits me or if the lyrics explicitly find their inspiration in the season. However, finding music of this variety that I would feel secure in having my niece…

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Playing Chess with the King of Kings: Moments of Grace in The Queen of Katwe

Playing Chess with the King of Kings: Moments of Grace in The Queen of Katwe

This one comes to us from our friend, Jason Thompson.

Disney’s The Queen of Katwe prefers subtle nuances over soap-boxy platitudes, which tend to posit overly simplistic answers to the complexities of life in a fallen world. In veteran director Mira Nair’s vision, we see references to faith quietly pervading the film without ever becoming overbearing. Here, we have the kind of creative and engaging expression of spirituality found in such recent works as 2015’s Selma and The Revenant and this year’s Hail Ceasar!, Hell or High Water, and Birth of a Nation.

Based on true events as chronicled in the 2012 book Tim Crother published for ESPN, The Queen of Katwe stars…

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Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: October’s Creepiest Urban Legends

Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: October’s Creepiest Urban Legends

Welcome once again to Ian and Blake’s annual Halloween series about a genre that does what few others can. This month, keep your eyes peeled for weekly top-five horror lists–with blistering #hottakes below. Be sure not to miss last week’s installment on horror double features, too!

5. The Man In the Backseat

This urban legend, like many others, takes a mundane scenario (driving home at night) and downloads an entirely new operating system into it. It toys with our capacities to intuit danger by presenting us with the “obvious” threat–the truck menacingly tailing the protagonist, repeatedly flashing its high beams and following her every…

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Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: This Season’s Best Horror Double Features

Ian & Blake’s Terrifying Top Fives: This Season’s Best Horror Double Features

Welcome to Ian and Blake’s annual Halloween series about a genre that does what few others can. This month, look out for weekly top-five horror lists–with blistering #hottakes below. 

Trick ’r Treat (2008) / Southbound (2015)

There is nothing better than an anthology horror film that actually attempts to weave its stories within a grander wraparound narrative. Most find themselves framing the short films with characters telling each other stories, but a newer breed of anthology films is attempting to make the framing device just as compelling by truly weaving the vignettes in with the wraparound. Enter Trick ’r Treat, arguably the best…

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The Beatific Vision of Knight of Cups Director Terrence Malick

The Beatific Vision of Knight of Cups Director Terrence Malick

This post was written by Gilbert Colon.

A Vanity Fair headline commenting on the trailer for filmmaker Terrence Malick’s recent film Knight of Cups – starring Christian Bale as a lost soul screenwriter wandering the wasteland of hedonistic Hollywood – read “Existential Despair Is So, So Beautiful” (by Nick Romano, 11/25/15), as if Malick’s body of work was merely the empty aestheticization of suffering. Some commentators, perhaps parroting one another, went so far as to dismiss his films as feature-length perfume ads, but these detractors have entirely missed Malick’s point.

If Malick’s films are indeed existentialism, they are the existentialism of Søren…

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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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