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Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

Raising the Stakes Is Lowering the Stakes for Justice League

From Justice League expert Jeremiah Lawson, here is an insightful look at the recent holiday season blockbuster.

It may be a law of blockbuster cinema that there is an inversely proportional relationship between how high the stakes are raised in explicit and implicit narrative terms and the actual significance of said stakes. In a phrase, when everything is at stake, you can be relatively confident nothing is at stake, and this is, in sum, a weakness that the film Justice League can’t shake off.

The plot is as follows: in the wake of Superman’s death through Kryptonite exposure and injuries fighting General Zod,…

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When Kiss Means Kill: Reflections on the Apocalypse of Language

When Kiss Means Kill: Reflections on the Apocalypse of Language

“As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, firstly slowly then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt the misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened by soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free… Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought….

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The Hidden Link Between Martin Luther and... Peter Parker?

The Hidden Link Between Martin Luther and… Peter Parker?

Can’t say I was expecting the following (timely!) illustration to pop up in the Substitution chapter of Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion, ht RS:

A substantive argument against the motif of atonement and substitution is that people in other cultures around the world do not see themselves in the categories we have been discussing–guilt, incapacity, bondage, shame, failure, defeat. Yet the more one hears this, the more the categories seem to pop up. Here is an example that originated in American comic-book culture and spread around the world. In a highbrow essay review of Spider-Man, the blockbuster movie of 2002, Geoffrey O’Brien,…

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Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

This spooky little treat comes to us from Caleb Stallings.

“Fail to see the tragic,
Turn it into magic!”

– Marilyn Manson

“Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago, which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.”

– Psalm 74:2, NRSV

Halloween came strangely early for me this year. By the time September was settling in, I was already halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with The Cramps’ Off the Bone constantly buzzing in the background. And as soon as October arrived, the un-carved pumpkins were placed, the paper skeletons were hung, and the ghoulish festivities were well under way. Horror was on my…

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PZ's Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

PZ’s Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

EPISODE 236: Psychosis

“Psychosis” is a very strong word for a cultural phenomenon. But it allows us to speak of a fissure over against reality, when groups of people see things around them in a way that is divorced from the facts.

You can apply the phenomenon of group fissure from reality, to anything you like. I can see it in the way a very specific historical reality, the Anglican Church as the English expression of legal and official Protestantism, has been so completely buried by a different “narrative” that it is as if the reality never was and never existed.

So completely,…

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The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

I spent the better part of my 20s working with teenagers in one form or another. Whether as a youth minister, a creative writing teacher, or a photography TA, one dazzling thread remained the same: Gaga. I spent time with kids who didn’t just adore her music, they worshiped her. They felt freed in some way by who she allowed them to be; she allowed them to be themselves (or whatever version of themselves they wanted to be) in all their average weirdness. In Gaga: Five Foot Two (a documentary released last month on Netflix), one of Lady Gaga’s fans…

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Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

Art and Death in A Ghost Story: An Interview with David Lowery

This interview was conducted by Daniel Melvill Jones. A Ghost Story is available for rent on iTunes and other outlets as of today Tuesday, October 3.

Director David Lowery burst onto the filmmaking scene with his breakout indie hit, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. This led to Disney entrusting him with last year’s remake of Pete’s Dragon, a critical success praised for its personal vision. But nothing prepared critics for this year’s Sundance hit, A Ghost Story. Wholly unique, this small film has a scope at once cosmic and contained. It elegantly expresses questions of loss, death, creativity, and the permanence of…

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Pennywise the Clown, Stephen King, and Jesus

Pennywise the Clown, Stephen King, and Jesus

This piece was written by Jill Moran.

I married a man who learned from God through fiction. My husband swears by the hand of Stephen King in his spiritual life just as he does Brennan Manning, G.K. Chesterton, and the Apostle Paul. The sceptic in me, at first, saw only blood and horror at the sight of a Stephen King book. I wanted nothing to do with it, as I don’t with most dark things, assuming there is nothing sacred to be found in the midst of gore. I now see something much deeper as I peer through the pages of these…

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Mother!: Sinners in the Hands of a Petty God

Mother!: Sinners in the Hands of a Petty God

This look at the controversial new film was written by Caleb Ackley. (Spoilers ahead.)

Mother! was advertised as a mystery-thriller and the trailer, which was riveting, left much to the imagination. Thus, on opening weekend, hordes of thrill-seeking men and women went to see it, each with their own set of expectations. Some came for horror, some expected gore, many came to see Jennifer Lawrence, that darling of the silver screen, be terrified herself; but most of all, they, and I in many ways, came that Saturday night to simply be entertained. Stuffed to the gills with excitement and no small amount…

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All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

Did anyone actually see Miss Sloane in theaters? I remember seeing a trailer for it some moon cycles ago, but never did hear much buzz about it. That is, until last weekend, when, after some coaxing from my sister, I watched it on Amazon.

In any case, you don’t have to see the movie to know, essentially, who Miss Sloane is. You’ve likely encountered her “type” before, whether in movies or daily life. She’s a ruthless fast-talker, wicked-smart, but terribly lonely. The kind of person some would call a strong, independent woman and others would call an obsessive-compulsive conniver. A notorious…

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Roughing Up an Isle of Dogs

The debut of the unbelievably delightful first trailer for The Isle of Dogs (which arrives in theaters on yours truly’s birthday – coincidence?) is as good an occasion as any for posting a few paragraphs from the Wes Anderson essay that opens Mockingbird at the Movies.

“The very mention of a religious dimension to Wes Anderson’s films may sound surprising, even bizarre. It is certainly not what he is known for. Critics praise his visual imagination, his attention to detail, his pet themes and oft-imitated (but never replicated) whimsy. They do not, as a group, gravitate toward spiritual language when discussing his movies. If anything, Wes has been criticized for the emotional distance of his dollhouse-like visions. The net effect of the fanciful scenery and mannered dialogue is to keep the viewer from fully entering into the picture, heart-wise, to say nothing of the spirit. Everything is so gloriously precise; it seems there is no room in a Wes Anderson film for any deity other than Wes Anderson.

While such a view may not be entirely unfounded, it does not account for the stories themselves, in particular the trilogy of The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. What emerges is something more akin to the fake Italian talk show interview with Wes that’s included on the Criterion edition of The Life Aquatic. Following a series of increasingly awkward exchanges, the befuddled host asks the director point- blank if he believes in God. Wes answers, “Eh, I think so. Yeah. I mean, roughly.”

By “roughly” he no doubt meant “approximately,” yet given the films in question he might as well have been using it in the physical sense. In Anderson’s films, God intervenes upon hapless human beings with force, often in the guise of something cataclysmic and unpleasant–as a divine interruption as opposed to something engineered by one of the protagonists. However precious his sensibility may be in other ways–that is, the opposite of gothic–Wes demonstrates time and again an implicit grasp of what novelist Flannery O’Connor once described in relation to her own work:

I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.

Where Flannery speaks of hard-headedness, Wes’ characters tend to be softer, not so much calloused by suffering and indignity as consumed with charming minutiae and narcissistic navel-gazing. But the inwardness proves intractable and warrants just as much of an abrupt, outside interruption.” (pg 16-17)

To read more…

PZ's Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

PZ’s Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

EPISODE 234: Turning Point

This theme of the insuperability of at least one problem in your life continues to absorb me — and in the light of hope and hopefulness.

I tell the story of a woman who recently attended a meeting of church executives, almost all of whom are absorbed by current issues and questions of identity in political terms. This person said to me afterwards, “It seemed like a voice spoke to me, as I listened to the virtue-signalling: ‘This form of Christianity has no future.’ ” What she meant was that there was no SAVING being proffered, nothing related…

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