My reviews

Notes on 10 Years of Blogging

Notes on 10 Years of Blogging

As utilitarian and burdensome as they sometimes feel, blogs become part of the blogger. For good and for ill, they are places to vent and process aloud, to praise and critique, to know and be known. My blog has allowed me to develop ideas that eventually became books, to engage and celebrate the many things that captivate me, and to make lots and lots of lists

Recent Writings / Fall 2016

Recent Writings / Fall 2016

A collection of links to my publications from August-November, 2016. Includes film reviews of 'Hacksaw Ridge,' 'Arrival,' 'Ben-Hur' and 'Voyage of Time,' as well as articles on religious liberty, Christian higher education's impact on the common good, California Senate Bill 1146, uncomfortable church and a review of 'Good Faith' by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman.

The Politics of Nostalgia

The Politics of Nostalgia

Richard Tanne's Southside With You, a compelling cinematic depiction of the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama (played brilliantly by Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter), is on one hand a smart romance in the vein of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise trilogy or James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now. It's a quiet, simple love story that captures the innocence, awkwardness and impermanence of the early days of relationships. Southside is a snapshot of a couple of lawyers in 1989 Chicago who two decades later would be ruling the free world in the White House. That's the obvious hindsight angle that makes the film interesting as narration of a particular m

Considering the Lobster

Considering the Lobster

How are we humans actually different than animals? In The Lobster humans are mostly Darwinian creatures fighting simply to survive natural selection. The film is full of Hunger Games-style hunts. When characters die there are no tears. Sex is very urge-driven and emotionless. Even the characters who do find “matches” do it merely for their own survival. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, in more ways than one.

Everybody Wants Some (More Time)

Everybody Wants Some (More Time)

It may be true that “You cannot conquer Time,” but the attempt to conquer it through moment-capturing art and particularly cinema can be quite beautiful. This pretty much sums up Richard Linklater’s "Before" trilogy, his "Boyhood" masterpiece and his just-released "Everybody Wants Some." Linklater is a filmmaker who knows well the powerful potential that cinema has to capture that peculiar, elusive mystery of time.

Knight of Cups

Knight of Cups

Never have I seen a movie so full of beautiful imagery and sound, yet so simultaneously empty, unsatisfying, and downright sleazy, as Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. But this is precisely its point. The film’s 118-minute parade of bodies, beaches, and landscapes, accompanied by painfully brief snippets of Grieg, Debussy and Vaughan Williams, provides a glut of beauty that is also a deprivation.

The Hateful Eight and Jesus Christ

The Hateful Eight and Jesus Christ

When it comes to Quentin Tarantino, one of the things I've long pondered and have recently been writing about, is the way his films exemplify an "incarnational aesthetic." It's not that they are about the Incarnation of Jesus Christ explicitly; but that their bodily, sensory, cultural preoccupations reveal a reverence for incarnational, embodied existence in a manner that helps the viewer re-sensitize to the physical, fleshy world in which Christ lived, breathed, died and rose.

Spotlight

Spotlight

We need more journalistic reporting like "Spotlight," Tom McCarthy’s excellent film about the Boston Globe’s groundbreaking 2002 coverage of systemic clergy sex abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic Church. We need it because humans are very prone to doing bad things and really, really good at covering up those bad things. Someone needs to shine the spotlight on darkness, even if it means implicating ourselves too.

Amy

Amy

The new documentary about Amy Winehouse, Amyis devastating. Whether or not you were a fan of Winehouse's music, it's hard not to be moved by this film, directed by Asif Kapadia (Senna). It chronicles the singer's rise to superstardom as well as her roller coaster struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other destructive behavior which ultimately led to her tragic death-by-alcohol-poisoning in 2011.

The Salt of the Earth

The Salt of the Earth

The headlines today--or any day--reinforce the tragedy of life on this planet. Hundreds Feared Dead After Boat Filled With Migrants Capsizes. Video Purports to Show ISIS Killing Ethiopian Christians. There are ample reminders of the world’s calamity, horror and heartache in our daily social media feeds.

Interstellar

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is one of those films I wish I could have seen three times before I wrote my review. As it is I only had a few hours to process the (insanely mind-bending) film before I had to turn in my review for Christianity Today. Because of that I want to share a few further thoughts I've been mulling over in the week since I've seen the film:

Best Films of the First Half

Best Films of the First Half

We're midway through 2014 and so, as I do every summer, I've compiled my list of favorite films so far this year. I have yet to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood(which doesn't come out until July 11 anyway), which I assume will make my year-end list.  I love Linklater and last year at this time I already knew his Before Midnight would be one of my top films of the year.  In general it's been a fairly standard first half of the cinematic year: a few great films but not a lot of memorable ones. I'm excited to see what's to come this fall. Here's what's stayed with me so far in 2014.

Films About Faith That Are Actually Good

Films About Faith That Are Actually Good

There have been quite a few "faith" oriented films to come out this year, including the excellent Noah but also quite a few terrible Christian films: God's Not Dead, Heaven is For Real, Mom's Night Out, Son of God. And coming this fall: Left Behind, Nicolas Cage style. Thankfully there have been several really excellent "secular" films that have either directly or indirectly explored Christianity, God, faith and morality, and I've had the pleasure of reviewing several of them for Christianity Today

Review: Noah

Review: Noah

Does Noah take liberties with the biblical account? Does it embellish and expand upon what’s there in the text? Yes and yes. And it must. The Noah account in the Bible covers four chapters in Genesis for a grand total of about 2,500 words. Everything that happened is surely not recorded. Furthermore, the film’s setting — a mere ten generations removed from Eden — is so unknown to history and so charged with mystery and the miraculous; it’s difficult to tell any sort of story in this context without lots of educated guesses as to what it was like.