Happy Valley: The Delusion of Penn State's Paradise, Lost

I grew up—and still live—in Penn State country just outside of State College. Nearly everyone knows the area by a different name: Happy Valley. Reasons abound as to why one would be happy living in the heart of Pennsylvania, but the main reason for the colloquialism is that Penn State has been a nationally esteemed place to raise a family. We have been dubbed the "least stressful," ranked 19th among the "50 smartest places to live," and counted the number one "safest small city in America." The i … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: Egoistic Young Adults, Noah, and Other Link-worthy News

I intended to see The Rum Diary (starring Johnny Depp), but those plans fell through—and that may have been a good thing. So, instead of a review this week, I thought I'd pass along some interesting movie-related links. Enjoy!Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells has some early impressions of Jason Reitman's upcoming black comedy, Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron. Here was my favorite line from Wells: [I]t's darkly funny during the first two-thirds to 75%, and sometimes hilarious;  it … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: Buck (Meehl, 2011)

Early in the documentary Buck, Dan "Buck" Brannaman tells a crowd of attentive, aspiring horse trainers that there are rarely "people with horse problems" but most often "horses with people problems." Yes, Buck is interesting because he’s a primary inspiration for Robert Redford’s 1998 drama The Horse Whisperer, but his story becomes especially fascinating as we learn of what this real-life horse whisperer has endured to become a magical horseman.Buck possesses an uncanny ability to train hors … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: The Ides of March (Clooney, 2011)

Early in the superbly-acted political thriller, The Ides of March, Governor and Presidential hopeful Mike Morris (George Clooney) remarks in a debate that he is neither a practicing religious person nor an atheist; rather, he “believes in the Constitution.” The political platitude perpetuates the popular notion that it is only the government’s job to protect people’s freedoms.  On the surface, the sentiment that only job-functional responsibilities matter is attractive in the sense of avoiding a … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: 50/50 (Levine, 2011)

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Admittedly, I had high expectations for the cancer-battle dramedy, 50/50. The human capacity for the comedic in the face of a death-ridden existence is one of the most intriguing indicators of the possibility to overcome death; as Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger has remarked, maybe the child’s enjoyment of peek-a-boo signifies something radically transcendent. But while the premise of 27 year old Adam (Joseph Go … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Looking Closer"

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Intermittently, I want to use this column to provide a “critic spotlight,” with the hope of leading readers to the film critics who have helped shape me as a moviegoer. For nearly fifteen years, Jeffrey Overstreet has been a film reviewer and columnist. He’s written for Christianity Today’s movie website, Seattle Pacific University’s Response Magazine, and Paste. More recently, his critical work can be found regularly on Ima … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Moneyball" and the Art of Reinvention

Bennett Miller’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, Moneyball, is the story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and General Manager Billy Beane’s (Brad Pitt) reinventing the path to success in Major League Baseball. Because of the hordes of money that teams like the New York Yankees have at their disposal to attract quality players, small market teams like Beane’s A's have seemingly no chance of making the playoffs—let alone winning the World Series. But with the help of Yale-educated, statistic … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: A History of Driving

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Editorial note: in case you've forgotten, positive reviews or general praise about any media on CaPC should not be taken as blanket approval or recommendation. CaPC is not a replacement for discernment. Driver contains violence and sexual content. Also, you should be aware that the following column contains many car-puns. Read at your own discretion. The buzz for Drive (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) kicked into high gear at C … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Contagion" and the Horror of Purposelessness

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Frankly, I need to see Contagion (Dir. Steven Soderbergh) again, because I remain conflicted as to whether the film is quietly effective horror or nihilistic storytelling.Steven Soderbergh made headlines a few weeks ago when his buddy Matt Damon was quoted as saying that the filmmaker was on the verge of retirement. One of Damon’s comments was particularly striking: "[Soderbergh’s] kind of exhausted with everything that in … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "The Debt," 9/11, and the Ethics of Recompense

After seeing The Debt (Dir. John Madden), it struck me as fitting that the film was released just before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. This sentiment was somewhat justified by a Madden interview with The Atlantic in which he was asked if the film made a moral statement. Madden’s response was interesting: “the argument is that a man like [Doktor Bernhardt] deserves to be brought to justice,” but the film also “points [to] the notion [of] politically expedient means pursued toward an end that blee … [Read more...]