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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.

Lively Perspective from a Malodorous Corpse: Christian Liberty in Swiss Army Man

Lively Perspective from a Malodorous Corpse: Christian Liberty in Swiss Army Man

This one comes to us from contributor Josh Encinias:

Repellent as its non-stop farts, bone crackling, and other embarrassing bodily functions are, Swiss Army Man joins a new tradition of movies, beginning with Jean-Luc Godard’s film Goodbye to Language and Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog, that force the viewer to dig deep for empathy, accepting foibles of human will as humanity’s default mode. Otherwise, in these movies as in life, you will come away with a deeply cynical, solipsistic view of humanity. This movie may not be for everyone because of its purportedly divisive qualities, however, they are mostly joke fodder and background noise, masking the old story of death and…

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Hollywood Teaches Us How to Be Good Friends: A Much-Belated Review of The Intern

Hollywood Teaches Us How to Be Good Friends: A Much-Belated Review of The Intern

I inwardly sighed last week when my wife suggested that we watch the 2015 Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway comedy The Intern on HBO Now. One has to admit there are problems with the film’s setup.

Robert De Niro plays Ben Whitaker, who is a retired, widowed, 70-year-old who spent 40 years climbing the corporate ladder at a telephone book publisher. He applies for a “senior internship”* offered by a hip start-up, About the Fit, which has set up its open-office, iMac- and MacBook-heavy workplace in the building where Ben’s factory used to make the now-obsolete phonebook. Ben gets assigned to the company’s…

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The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

I know it may not have received very good reviews, but Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner may be one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.

In my opinion, it’s better than The Mission. It’s better than Of Gods and Men. It may even be better than Red Beard.

Why? It’s because you don’t see it coming. You have no idea of the irresistible grace that is headed your way as you watch the movie unfold.  And it hits you, again, and again (and again).

Russell Crowe portrays an Australian farmer, Joshua Connor, who allows his three sons to enlist with the ANZAC troops in World War I….

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Leaky Pipes and Potty Training: How to Save a Life

Leaky Pipes and Potty Training: How to Save a Life

First-world/grown-up problems alert: the plumbing in our suburban home continues to flare up and send me into an anxiety spiral every few weeks. Our master bath shower, situated above the formal dining room we never use (#kids), will occasionally–usually once I’ve forgotten it’s a possibility–develop a leak that sends water dripping onto the floor below, causing our older son to rush in, point to the puddle, and proclaim, “Uh oh. Wet,” just before transferring his point upward to the ceiling and the makeshift opening that’s been there for months, a product of the first of four plumbers we’ve had evaluate…

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The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

The Short-Term Memory of God: The Gospel According to Finding Dory

Finding Dory–Pixar’s latest box office smash–picks up where Finding Nemo left off, a year after that rebellious little clownfish was found and rescued from the dentist’s tank in Sydney, Australia. Nemo’s friend, Dory, a ‘natural blue’ who suffers from short-term memory loss, isn’t adjusting well to daily life in the Great Barrier Reef–she repeatedly stings herself swimming into the sea anemone and regularly disrupts Nemo’s class, and although she has found a place to call home, her memory loss continues to affect her and everyone around her, every moment. In some ways, it consumes her identity so completely that it becomes her.

The…

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When the Infinite Becomes Real: Thoughts on The Conjuring 2

When the Infinite Becomes Real: Thoughts on The Conjuring 2

“In and through every preliminary concern the ultimate concern can actualize itself. Whenever this happens, the preliminary concern becomes a possible object of theology. But theology deals with it only in so far as it is a medium, a vehicle, pointing beyond itself.” – Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology Vol. 1

This week I saw The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist on opening night (apologies in advance for referencing the horror genre twice in two weeks, but it is what it is), which is the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, 1970s ghost hunters working unofficially for the Catholic Church. They are invited to investigate…

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The Impossible Law of Just Being Happy

The Impossible Law of Just Being Happy

A few years ago I received a comment on my personal blog appraising my writing as too “depressing.” People were starting to talk, according to the commenter–an acquaintance brave enough to, ahem, virtually step forward. The message, enveloped in faux concern, delivered an insidious warning: you’re not saying the right stuff. P.S. Keep it up, and you can’t sit with us. I remember wavering between amusement at the projective nature of the opinion and rage at the idea that I could spend an afternoon writing a thousand heartfelt words only to have the verbal equivalent of a bag of flaming…

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Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

Call Me Aaron Burr, Sir

During a 1995 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Pat Conroy related a story about his father, Don, that epitomized the patriarch’s delusional view of identity. The two men were discussing why Pat’s mother left Don when the elder Conroy broke down sobbing. Thinking that Don had finally realized the error of the ways, Pat quoted the ensuing conversation to Gross: “‘Dad, do you understand what you did wrong?’ And Dad said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘What is it, Dad? What did you do wrong?’ And my father said, ‘I was too good. I didn’t crack down hard enough. I was…

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To the End of the Line: Captain America: Civil War and the Demands of Love

To the End of the Line: Captain America: Civil War and the Demands of Love

How far would you go for your friend?

Not an acquaintance, not an associate, not a work buddy: a friend, your companion, the counterpart whom you love. To what length would you go to protect her? Is there anything that would compel you to hesitate rushing to his side? What if the entire world were arrayed against him? Would you consider what the world had to say for even a second? Or would you grit your teeth and absorb its fury like a lightning rod for the one you love? Captain America: Civil War poses this question and shows us how…

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Beyoncé, Lemonade, and the Things We Inherit

Beyoncé, Lemonade, and the Things We Inherit

This one comes to us from Heather Strong Moore.

What happens when one of the most successful and influential artists of our time experiences a deep and fairly public heartbreak? She takes those lemons and makes them into Lemonade. Beyoncé’s “visual album” was released on April 23rd and already it’s made history with every track appearing on the Top 100 charts. In her hour-long film that accompanies the majority of the tracks, she tells the story of a broken relationship and the process one goes through when one’s life falls apart.

This story appears to be about her 8-year marriage to Jay-Z and a…

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