To the Wonder aspires to nothing less than showing us Absolute Reality in the face of brokenness.  It is a sun kissed paean to the power of love that unfolds at a maddening pace.   Director Terrence Malick has made a ballet, a symphony, a kaleidoscope that harkens back to the glory and simplicity of silent film.   Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures luminescent moments.  Five editors (!) were called upon to craft the free flowing improvisation into musical passages.   It is cinematic sympho … [Read more...]


On the occasion of Roger Ebert’s funeral, I pause to offer two days of appreciation.   My movie love preceded “Siskel & Ebert At the Movies,” but not by much.   For my generation of film fans, they were the key critics at the right moment.    Their weekly, televised reviews arrived in the eighties at the same time that so many classic movies arrived on home video.   What had previously been the province of film societies suddenly opened up to a much broader audience.   Gene Siskel and Roger E … [Read more...]


The History Channel has an epic new mini-series premiering this Sunday night.  I saw a huge, four-page fold out ad for it in this month’s Wired (right behind the cool Star Wars cover).    Billboards along Sunset Boulevard declare “The Storm is Coming” with the airdate, “3.3.13”.   The Los Angeles Times Calendar has a front-page story and photo on it today.   A reviewer at io9 raved that “it’s like Game of Thrones without the nudity.” All this buzz is being directed at a show about Vikings.   Not … [Read more...]


After all the hoopla generated during Hollywood’s awards season, I feel the need to regain some perspective, to rally around something other than a golden idol.  Seth McFarlane's 'humor' made me eager for a post-Oscar detox.   For a class experiment at Pepperdine University, I have our communication and media majors unplug for a day.   No electronic devices allowed.    They are fine with giving up email or laptops, maybe even the car stereo, but the thought of separating from their mobile devices … [Read more...]


Here it is--first glimpse of the cover (not finalized) for my next book.   What do you think?  Does it draw you in?  Intrigue you?  I definitely value your feedback and comments.Thanks to the book, I've fallen silent on this site recently.  It is tough to generate blog posts when you're already pouring so many words into a new project.    So I've taken the long view--investing in my upcoming book for Brazos Press rather than the shifts of Oscar season.I have been quite energized by the re … [Read more...]

ZERO DARK THIRTY is the Best Film of 2012

1.  Zero Dark Thirty—A brilliant distillation of the costs, compromises, resolve, and results of a manhunt.   Screenwriter Mark Boal grafts news reports we heard and ignored alongside intelligence gathering techniques we’d rather not acknowledge into the best part for any actress this year.  Heroism has many faces, but none more meticulous than the lead investigator, Maya.   Jessica Chastain evolves from innocence to insistence, navigating two intransigent systems. The Oscars may have snubbed dir … [Read more...]

OSCARS 2013: Lincoln Leads but Beasts and Amour Surprise

With the Oscars just announced, many were shocked to see Benh Zeitlin, young director of Beasts of the Southern Wild get nominated over Ben Affleck, director of Argo.   The Academy can be mercurial.   The sheer joy pouring from Zeitlin’s take on a Bayou Bathtub somehow exceeded the respect for a Hollywood insider’s homage to the power of movie magic to befuddle Iranian authorities.    I enjoyed the craft of Argo more than Beasts, but kudos to Zeitlin for his burst of independent originality.   Wh … [Read more...]

LES MISERABLES: A Truly Moving Picture

Adapting a beloved novel to the big screen is a dicey undertaking.   Bringing a rapturously remembered musical to the movies is even more risky.   Following up an Oscar winning film is also fraught with danger.   And yet, Tom Hooper expands his remarkably assured direction of The King’s Speech in the epic, poetic, and nearly overwrought Les Miserables.   Opening on Christmas Day, Les Miserables embodies the Easter narrative—sacrifice, death and resurrection.   It is about the eternal tension betw … [Read more...]

TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2012: Year of the Musical Comeback

So much of pop music is meant to be disposable.  Dance now, forget later.   But the finest songwriters connect our current context to the larger questions that cut across eras.   The best music is timely and timeless.    2012 was the year of the musical comeback.   From Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” to Sinead O’Connor’s “How About I Be Me (and You Be You),” the best of the 80s and 90s came roaring back.    If anything, the righteous anger that flows from our most resonant artists resurfaced … [Read more...]

The Best Music of 2012: If you can find it…

Having purchased several thousand albums, cassettes, and compact discs in my lifetime, my switch to digital downloads has taken AWHILE.   I still prefer a physical rendition of the music (probably because I expect Apple iTunes to change their user terms someday; I don't want to repurchase MP3s.)    But I can't argue with the convenience that comes with digital.   It is so fast, so easy, so simple to download.   And it is amazing how many songs can be crammed onto an iPod.     I'd still rather buy … [Read more...]


As we head into the thick of winter, the comforts of home are more appealing than ever.   A favorite sweater, comfortable couch, and a hot cup of coffee comprise some of the most profound and simple pleasures in life.   So it is understandable why Bilbo Baggins might slam the door on a wizard offering an adventure.   If thirteen rowdy dwarves barged into your kitchen pantry, you’d probably be as miffed as our hobbit.Director Peter Jackson takes his time, immersing us within Bilbo’s comfor … [Read more...]