Reviews
Mining Netflix: The Common Mess of a Punch-Drunk Love

Mining Netflix: The Common Mess of a Punch-Drunk Love

(For the optimal reading experience, listen to the film’s soundtrack on Spotify while reading.) 

The phantasmal kid films of the mid to late 1990’s functioned as educational catechisms for my comprehension of cinematic storytelling. And make no mistake, the 90’s were a golden age for children’s movies. With the birth of Pixar in ‘95 and the far too premature peak of Nickelodeon Movies in the latter part of the decade, there surely was never a better time for school to be in session. There was, however, one common denominator, shared by nearly all children’s films, that severely irked me: the obligatory…

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Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

I was bonding with a friend in New York last week over our mutual affection for the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. After swapping a few favorite lines, he asked, with a twinkle in his eye, “So how’re you going to shoe-horn this one into your theological framework?” Quick wit that I am, I responded, “A story about adoption and inheritance that ends with an act of radical self-sacrifice – probably won’t need my shoehorn for this one”. Badabing! Obnoxious, I know. What’s even more obnoxious is that I’d been thinking for days about Grand Budapest and…

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New Music: The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams

New Music: The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams

“So maybe [anxiety]’s just a part of who we all are, and always were. My worry now, though, is that we are starting to nurture these neuroses of ours, and treating them like pets. That can’t be a good thing.” –Craig Finn, in The Independent

I don’t often remember my dreams, yet for some reason, I still have a fairly vivid memory of a dream I had a couple years ago—in that dream, my teeth were falling out. As I later learned, dreams about teeth are normally assumed to reveal anxiety about money, relationships, and, well, just about anything. For me,…

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On TV: “Two Swords”, Game of Thrones (4.1)

On TV: “Two Swords”, Game of Thrones (4.1)

Spoilers Below

“Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm or the gods or love – illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

-Littlefinger, Season 3

By the end of Season 3, the realm-spanning “War of the Five Kings” was well at a close. After the Blackwater, the Lannisters had eliminated their main threat from the South, and the Red Wedding took care of the…

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Mockingbird at the Movies: Ambition and Delusion in The Wind Rises

Mockingbird at the Movies: Ambition and Delusion in The Wind Rises

This one comes from Miyazaki guru Wenatchee the Hatchet:

Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film is unlike anything he has written or directed before. Famous the world over for stories that delight young and old alike, his newest film has stirred up controversy. After decades of being used to Miyazaki giving us films for children, what do we make of his semi-fictional account of the aviation engineer Jiro Horikoshi?

While some discussion and debate about Miyazaki’s possible endorsement of Japanese imperialism or failure to properly denounce the atrocities of imperial Japan have already been circulating, these debates tend to fixate on the “what” of…

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Mining Netflix: A Baller’s Sanctification in Linsanity

Mining Netflix: A Baller’s Sanctification in Linsanity

You didn’t have to be a basketball fan to know what “Linsanity” was in 2012, you just needed a pulse. When an athlete like Jeremy Lin surfaces, the whole world can’t help but oogle for a minute or two. Jeremy Lin, undoubtedly, earned the rights to that cagey nickname because, plainly, “insanity” was the only way to describe the speed of light metamorphosis that reshaped his NBA career.

As a member of the globally renowned New York Knicks, Lin reached a Rudy-like prestige, only unlike Rudy, Lin was actually good. Jeremy’s openness about his faith was a proverbial cherry atop his…

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On TV: “Form and Void”, True Detective

On TV: “Form and Void”, True Detective

[Spoiler Alert]

The closing installment of the hitherto brilliant True Detective may have disappointed some. There were all sorts of outlandish theories, complex and convoluted, some with only minimal support from prior episodes. Most notably, people thought that Maggie was going to be a killer, or her father, because her and Marty’s children arrayed their male dolls in a circle around a prostrate female one, re-enacting the show’s central, unseen cultic rape. The show is stronger without Maggie’s involvement – in that case, her children’s sexual acting-out is a plot clue, the result of a traumatic past. But the way things went down,…

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A Prayer for The Drive-By Truckers

A Prayer for The Drive-By Truckers

Another stellar contribution from Emily Stubbs:

In regard to Patterson Hood—front man for the Drive-By Truckers—my friend Graham recently said, “As far as I am concerned, he’s right up there with Rudyard Kipling.” In my humble opinion, and I think it is obvious that at least Graham would agree with me here, Patterson Hood is the greatest storyteller of our generation (that is not to say that Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, who is currently crushing it in his solo career, are not incredibly talented as well). Yes, maybe I am super biased because I am a Southerner and, moreover, I…

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Everything Is Awesome: Grace in The LEGO Movie

Everything Is Awesome: Grace in The LEGO Movie

Some thoughts on grace and the new LEGO movie come from Michael Belote, author of the wonderful reboot:Christianity blog and author of Rise of the Time Lords, doubtless the best (review here) geeky intro to Christian doctrine available.

Something weird is happening in Hollywood. Just four months ago, the world was introduced to Frozen, a children’s movie chock-full of theological nuance. As I wrote at the time, I felt like this was the best religious movie in years, and figured it would be quite a while until I saw something similar.

Boy was I wrong.

A few weeks ago, I took my sons (who are…

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Mining Netflix: Love Is Kind of Like Crazy

Mining Netflix: Love Is Kind of Like Crazy

This one comes to us from Netflix aficionado/guru Joe Nooft:

It’s over. The carnage is finished. Some blood may have been shed, but we made it; we survived. Yes, Valentine’s Day came and went. Your sentiment to its 362 day hibernation probably banks on your personal Facebook status, or maybe the functionality of your love life. Depending on your relational footing, last week may have been on the receiving end of a stubborn battering ram armed with personal complaints, all strategically targeting last Friday’s holiday. Or perhaps you drowned last week in an overflow of pastel colored, heart shaped candies, tattooed…

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John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

My Learn to Play Bridge program talks to me. Upon entry, “Welcome to Bridge Baron 23.” Upon exit, “Hope to see you again soon.” Mere visuals don’t work because, well, the voice is extraneous, but it’s hard to play a social game in solitude. I’m probably playing it alone, at any given time, only because I can’t find people to play with. The voice acts as an assurance, a psuedo-human element in an enterprise in which the human element could not be more glaringly absent.

The idea of depersonalization occupies us more and more: social media in particular serves as a…

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On TV: Sherlock, “His Last Vow”

On TV: Sherlock, “His Last Vow”

Without a doubt, the finale was masterful, the best of the series, partly because Sherlock wasn’t in control. Indeed, Charles Augustus Magnussen feeds off of control, licking, in the opening scene, an MP leading the investigation against him, merely to prove that he can. He refers to his game not as blackmail but as ownership; his ability to reveal the darker spots of public figures’ pasts places them all within his power.

At the level of public politics, this control is frightening but (mostly) impersonal. Where “His Last Vow” succeeds is in bringing Magnussen down to the level of everyday people,…

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On TV: Sherlock, “The Sign of Three”

On TV: Sherlock, “The Sign of Three”

After last week’s frenetic London chases, The Sign of Three opens with a scene of true, old-fashioned detective work, with a Lestrade, eighteen months thwarted, triumphant in at last making an arrest on a notorious bank gang. Sherlock texts him “HELP. PLEASE. NOW.”, and Lestrade cannot help but phone for maximum backup and forgo a major professional success. As he bursts into Sherlock’s study, his agitated body fills the entire doorway and camera shot – and then the angle switches to a Sherlock, recessed at his desk near the back of the room, hands on his temples, ensconced in his…

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On TV: BBC’s Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse”

On TV: BBC’s Sherlock, “The Empty Hearse”

BBC’s Sherlock has become one of my favorite shows on television, and it was immensely fun having some new material and quelling the peremptory curiosity left by the end of last season. It was genuinely enjoyable seeing Holmes back on the screen, even though, last night, Sherlock’s self-absorbed callousness was especially in-your-face – sort of making me wonder why I like BBC’s Holmes at all. All of his flaws were on high display, and they were made all the more irritating by his inability to apologize. And yet he remains compelling, not just immensely likeable, but even lovable, an obsession for some viewers…

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Another Week Ends: The Geel System, Secular Happiness, GMOs, the Faith of Malcolm Gladwell, and Bobby Petrino (Again)

Another Week Ends: The Geel System, Secular Happiness, GMOs, the Faith of Malcolm Gladwell, and Bobby Petrino (Again)

1) Aeon covers the small, “half-crazy” Belgian town of Geel, where the mentally ill have taken refuge and been given a family for over seven centuries. Given its reputation in the 1300s after the martyr Dymphna was killed by her mentally ill father, the town has become well-known by Belgians as a place of respite for the mentally handicapped, where they are brought into a family and treated as such. The tradition continues today, and people wonder where the lines have been drawn between “therapy,” whatever that means, and “belonging.” The people of Geel even built a hospital on the…

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