The Moviegoer: The Colossal Vitality of Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby Illusion

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.I went into Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby with some reluctance. Luhrmann's penchant for superabundant style--made famous by Moulin Rouge, whose popularity still escapes me--could go one of two ways insofar as it is a competent filmic rendering of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel. Undoubtedly, Luhrmann's eccentric auterism could serve well both the source material's extravagant parties at Gatsby's … [Read more...]

Mad Men Recap 6.7: Are Good Deeds Ever Just Good Deeds?

Bob Benson always seems to be around. Whether conspicuously eavesdropping, or dropping in at opportune times, Bob has been something less than a full fledged character--more a recurring bit of odd comic relief. If you're like me, you may be asking yourself over the course of this season: who is Bob Benson. If so, know that we're not the only ones. It's not just that Bob's always around, but that he's often always available to help. Whether he's serving up a cup of coffee for Don because he … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: Exorcising Iron Man’s Demons

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Sometimes, amidst the explosions, one-liners, and frantic pace of our superhero movies, a memorably interesting image appears, however briefly. During my mostly entertaining two hours with Shane Black's Iron Man Three (why Three, by the way?), one such image is Tony Stark sitting on the couch beside his Mark XLII suit, staring off into the distance. Part of a particular sequence in rural Tennessee that is my favorite … [Read more...]

Mad Men Recap 6.5 & 6: Hoping for Eucatastrophe, Worrying About the Bomb

Mad Men Recap 6.5: Hoping for EucatastropheMichael Ginsberg's father, Morris, is a holocaust survivor who, in the riotous aftermath of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, is most worried about his son's perpetual singleness. His bachelorhood isn't marked by mad philandering, but something more sheepishly innocent. Morris is so concerned that his son find a woman to love that he even sets him up for a blind date without Michael knowing. The date isn't a total disaster, but Morris isn't … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: The Renovative View From Up on Poppy Hill

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.During an early scene in Gorō Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill, our attention is directed to a high school in Yokohama, Japan. Poppy Hill tells the story of 16 year old Umi Matsuzaki who, in this particular scene, is sitting outside enjoying lunch with a couple of friends. Suddenly, the lunch is interrupted when, next door, a crowd of boys from the high school emerge dutifully from the Latin Quarter, an ancient, dusty bu … [Read more...]

Have mainstream critics ignored the “Christian message” in Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder”?

In a piece that's been passed around quite a bit, Damon Linker suggests that film critics in the mainstream media have, for whatever reason, largely ignored its religious outlook. Here's the key assertion from Linker: [T]he vast majority of mainstream critics have failed to treat [The Tree of Life and To the Wonder] as the profoundly religious — and specifically Christian — works of art that they are. Whether or not the silence is a product of the theological illiteracy and scriptural ignorance … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: Tracking the Legacy of Tragic Secrets in The Place Beyond the Pines

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.An essential image in Derek Cianfrance's latest film, The Place Beyond the Pines, is of roughened, local-star stuntman Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) sitting idly on his motorcycle at a traffic light intersection, looking up at the looming TrustCo Bank. It's one of the few pauses during the film's first hour, when Luke is often flashing like lightning across each scene. We're not exactly privy to what's running through … [Read more...]

Mad Men Recap 6.4: The Many Roles that Mad Men Play

Last week, I noted the irony in Don Draper's compliant devotion to Raymond, the Heinz Beans Guy who didn't want the younger, more suave and successful Heinz Ketchup Guy "screwing" his proverbial girlfriend. Heinz Ketchup would mean big business for Don and company; yet, there was Don: beckoning Pete Campbell to ensure fidelity to Heinz Beans, even as the two of them are cheating on their wives. From here on out, I suppose, just consider apparent ironies as kinds of prophecies embedded in the … [Read more...]

Mad Men Recap 6.3: Sexual Collaborations as Trade Secrets

"We consider it quite a vote of confidence," Ken Cosgrove says, smiling awkwardly at the Heinz Beans representative named Raymond. The younger, more successful Heinz Ketchup Guy has just strolled out of the office. Ken and the gang have been led to believe that they are on the verge of landing Heinz Ketchup as their next central product for advertisement. Secretly, though, Raymond is ragingly jealous of his younger colleague's meteoric success and tells Ken and Don Draper that they're not to … [Read more...]

“Popologetics” for Evangelicals: Ted Turnau’s Missional Defense of Pop Culture

One of the first notes I made when reading Ted Turnau’s book, Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, was that he struck me as a missionary delivering a message tailored to reach fellow evangelicals. The structure of his argument primarily orbits around this question: why should we care about, and how should we critique, popular culture? And, if sectors of evangelicalism are his third world country of cultural impoverishment (my explicit assessment—his implicit), the shape of Tur … [Read more...]