MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM as CINEMATIC EULOGY

mandela movie idris elba

I hosted a screening of Mandela:  Long Walk to Freedom just two nights before Nelson Mandela died.   The legacy of Mandiba was already in the forefront of my mind before the news of his passing.  It will be tough to ever separate the movie (and its Christmas release) from the timing of his death.   Audience interest in Idris Elba as Mandela will widen following his funeral in South Africa.   The resulting box office and Oscar boost for the Weinstein Company will be considerable.  Mandela:  Long W … [Read more...]

Abundance and Open Source or Why I Wrote iGODS

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 It probably started at the trendy Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.  Ten years ago, I sat across a movie producer who had invited me to lunch.  And yet, he spent the entire lunchtime sending and receiving text messages.  I didn’t understand how he could be so completely outside of his surroundings, lost in the electronic ether.   Clearly, I needed to catch up with this strange new out of body experience known as texting.  Four years ago, I was struck by my students’ inability to resi … [Read more...]

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE–Beyond the Spectacle

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The mostly rave reviews are rolling in.   Advance ticket sales already make it another smash.  Why bother critiquing such a pop cultural juggernaut?   Because millions of impressionable teens will see The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire at a time when they are developing their identities and exploring what bravery, courage, and responsibility look like.    How might parents, teachers, and adolescents respond to the latest tale of Katniss Everdeen and the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell!) … [Read more...]

(un)Common Sounds: Christians, Muslims, & Music on ABC

Acclaimed Sumatran world music ensemble, Suarasama, perform in (un)Common Sounds

I am thrilled to announce that my newest musical documentary, (un)Common Sounds, premieres on ABC’s “Visions and Values” series starting this Sunday (check the downloadable schedule at the bottom of this post).   In 2009 and 2010, I had the opportunity to travel to Beirut, Lebanon and Yogyakarta, Indonesia with a group of music and scholars (ethnomusicologists!) from Egypt, Malaysia, Libya, Turkey, and the United States.   These Muslims and Christians study the ancient roots of their faith and it … [Read more...]

12 YEARS A SLAVE: Absolutely Essential

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How long can a movie stick with you?  Some popcorn flicks are so forgettable; they fade before the credits end.   Such temporary respites barely hold boredom at bay.  The best films may carry over to Monday morning and become worthy of a water cooler conversation.   In the month since I saw 12 Years a Slave, I have thought about it every single day.  No particular social cues resurrected the torture, terror, and exploitation of others found in 12 Years.   But the extended scenes of suffering are … [Read more...]

THE SPECIAL EFFECT OF SHORT TERM 12

Short Term 12

It has been a strong season for independent film, from the Southern gothic MUD to the inner city tale, FRUITVALE, and the nostalgic comedy, THE WAY WAY BACK.   The freshest, funniest, and most original film of the summer slips into theaters as students head back to school.   SHORT TERM 12 captures the angst of adolescence in raw, riveting and revelatory ways.   It focuses upon teenagers who are neglected and overlooked, offering them the dignity they richly deserve.  Brie Larson stars as Grac … [Read more...]

FRUITVALE STATION: Oscar, Trayvon, and Us

fruitvale-station-movie

There has been plenty of heat generated by the jury’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.   I have read so many heartfelt responses and blog posts in an effort to understand what transpired.   Some have been more helpful and insightful than others.   With the Florida jurors now chiming in, Trayvon Martin’s shortened life may be buried under the rush for television ratings.   That is why Fruitvale Station is such a timely and important movie.   It allows us to step into the shoes of another you … [Read more...]

Making Hay in the Man of Steel’s Cornfields

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 Some loved the reimagining of the Superman story in Man of Steel.   Others were not impressed by the wall-to-wall action that culminates in an uncharacteristic act by Kal-El.  Millions of fanboys and fangirls are definitely discussing it online.   I contributed to the heat surrounding the marketing of Man of Steel to the Christian community by penning sermon notes available at ManofSteelResources.com.   Eric Marrapodi at CNN’s “BeliefBlog” noted how pastors have both embraced and reje … [Read more...]

FROM TAKING TO RECEIVING: EYES OF THE HEART ALTERS OUR PERCEPTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Thomas-Merton-The-Sky-Hook

We don’t spend much time thinking about the nature of photography.   What is it we are trying to capture in a single frame?   How does the presence of the camera on our smart phones potentially undermine a beautiful moment?  I’ve often found myself so caught up in trying to document one of my children’s events (a school play, a music performance, a championship game) that I miss the experience itself.   How might we approach photography to enhance our sense of presence rather than as a barrier or … [Read more...]

MUD: McConaughey on the Mississippi is an instant classic

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Searching for a movie full of heart and soul?   Mud is a scrappy bit of Americana, hewn from the banks of the Mississippi River.   Filmmaker Jeff Nichols taps into his Arkansas roots to craft an instant classic, like Tom Sawyer, circa 2013.    But Mud isn’t just a sentimental glance back to life on the Mississippi.   It is a heartfelt paean to the power of love amidst trying circumstances.   The crippling effects of poverty may threaten families and undermine stability, but the desire to build a … [Read more...]

Greatest Graduation Speech of our Era? DFW’s This is Water.

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As a college professor, I have endured sooooo many graduation speeches.    It is a tough assignment, speaking to graduates who simply want to march across the stage.   The clock is ticking against graduation speakers before they even begin.   How to capture the attention of grads who veer between naivete and cynicism?   Steve Jobs delivered an inspiring salvo at Stanford. Speakers must resist the temptation to put forth empty platitudes.   The grads may respond to cynical humor that matches their … [Read more...]


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