How rare for a movie to allow kids to be kids in all their ferocious glory. They are capable of wreaking so much wondrous havoc in their natural, unfettered state. The frankness and fearlessness of the children in The Florida Project is both refreshing and disarming. Director Sean Baker revels in the anarchic, comedic spirit of kids. We meet Moonee, Scooty, Dicky, and the newest member of their gang, Jancey, as they race through the breezeways of The Magic Castle… Read more

Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence. One of these is not like the others. How could the same director who repeatedly reveled in the high cost of unchecked male rage also deliver the meditative and masterful Silence? Feudal Japan seems so far removed from the Mean Streets of New York City. Catholic priests dispensed wisdom and sacraments in both milieus, but the pace, tone, and body count is so different in the two… Read more

Bad times often produce great music. The socio-political disaster of 2016 was met by remarkably moving, relevant, and inspiring songs. Thank God for African-American artists who continue to rise above trying times with sounds of praise and protest. We have so much to glean by simply listening. I was raised as a music buyer and still enjoy owning a physical album, yet some of the finest songs of 2016 were only available in digital formats. Self-released mixtapes could prove even… Read more

What animated the most enduring films of 2016? While our nation suffered from our inability to empathize with the Other, thankfully the finest filmmakers reminded us how compelling compassion remains. Empathy turned a ‘small’ film like Moonlight into an immediate masterpiece. Not a shot, gesture, or line is wasted in Barry Jenkins’ gorgeous triptych. The evolution of Chiron across the mean streets of Miami communicated with such clarity why Black Lives Matter. The West Texas plains of Toby and Tanner… Read more

Rarely has such a small, independent film been forced to carry such weight on its shoulders. Purchased for a record breaking price at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and positioned as an Oscar contender months before it was released, The Birth of a Nation can’t really sneak into theaters. As soon as writer-director-producer-star Nate Parker audaciously titled his Nat Turner story, The Birth of a Nation, he was taking on the tangled history of Hollywood and race relations in America…. Read more

On the heels of Holy Week, National Geographic presents The Story of God, an ambitious, expansive six-part series hosted by Morgan Freeman. This is an impressive interfaith study, with Freeman traveling to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Guatemala, India and beyond in search of God, or at least humanity’s efforts to reach God. From the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to bathers on the Ganges, we follow Freeman and his guides to spiritual hot spots connected to prophecies and religious rites. Digital imagery… Read more

Who has time to answer a child’s questions amidst racial strife, religious conflict, and a refugee crisis? There is so much uncertainty and anger surrounding our search for a new leader, threats can lead to violence at any moment. And if we fail to see the parallels being the tumultuous ancient world that Jesus entered and our context today, then we’ve missed the poignant, life affirming point of the captivating new movie, The Young Messiah. Opening in movie theaters this weekend,… Read more

The Greatest Story Ever Told is also one of the most oft told cinematic tales. So how can filmmakers bring a fresh take to Jesus’ death and resurrection? Directors often succumb to the digital temptation of bigger, louder, faster in an effort to instill faith in their audiences. Unfortunately, relying on spectacle only builds fascination with the special effects. Risen restores my faith in the Gospel film by doing the hard work of finding a new angle. It places us… Read more

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square. This month we’re asking: Has Hollywood Become Our National Conscience? Read other perspectives here. While some decry the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an exclusive club deserving an #OscarsSoWhite label, others see it pushing a liberal agenda through every ribbon displayed at the annual Academy Awards. Given the conservative nature of the economic decision-making in Hollywood, the truth resides somewhere in between. Filmmakers may see themselves… Read more

Spotlight is a throwback to the golden age of seventies cinema. It is a whip smart tribute to investigative journalism, rooted in character and grounded in a world where the most special effect is human emotion. Spotlight follows the tireless efforts of a team of reporters from The Boston Globe to uncover the sexual abuse perpetrated by far too many Roman Catholic priests. The most disturbing revelations in this true story involve the systematic cover up by Cardinal Bernard Law… Read more

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