The Doomsday Machine

My wife and I did not see—and have no plans to see—R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger, Olympus Has Fallen, and various other big budget movie offerings from 2013. However, not long ago, we sat in the comfort of our basement, which is like a home theater, and watched Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha—a buzzed-about 2013 black-and-white American comedy-drama that had a semi-wide theatrical release beginning in May. No cars, skyscrapers, or people were destroyed in Frances Ha, but the scene in which Fr … [Read more...]

Overgrown

Overgrown

 When James Blake debuted on the independent music scene in 2011 with his self-titled first LP, his appeal lay not only in his musicianship and songwriting abilities, but in his unique, genre-defying sound. Fusing dubstep with serious classical piano chops, jazz chords, and soulful vocals, Blake’s music is strikingly unique, yet surprisingly cohesive. Pair all of this with charming interpersonal awkwardness and a British accent, and you have an instant commercial success. While it isn’t … [Read more...]

Two Sides of Paradise

terrence-malick

If one were to construct a spectrum of contemporary filmmakers, ranging from the minimalist to the fantastic, one would find Baz Luhrmann and Terrence Malick on very opposite ends of the spectrum. Where the former is loud, explosive, and flashy, the other is introspective, discreet, and nuanced to a fault. And yet, the two movies they had in theaters this summer (The Great Gatsby and To the Wonder, respectively) revolve around the same dynamic tension. In some prior reverie, a man and a woman f … [Read more...]

The Ear of the Heart

to_the_wonder

A friend recently gave me the autobiography of a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut, entitled The Ear of the Heart.  In the first part, Dolores Hart, also known as the girl who first kissed Elvis, tells how she left a promising career in Hollywood, and broke off her engagement to a great guy, in order to enter the convent.   The decision looked dramatic, but from Dolores’ perspective, it was a simple act of attention to the Voice that she could no longer ignore.  Over th … [Read more...]

Faith, Fiction, and Reason

narnia

T.M. Luhrmann is a Stanford anthropologist famous for her research on evangelical devotional life, studying the mechanics of God's presence in their lives. A few days ago, in a NY Times article, she asked and answered the following question: "Why is C.S. still a rock star for evangelicals?"  In her view, it boils down to his fiction, particularly his Narnia series, which paints a complex picture of God that is "insulated from human doubt about religion." The series, she argues, "helps us to … [Read more...]

The Summer Pop Culture Found Religion

vampire weekend

Behold the summer where pop culture (or at least its high priests) found religion. Two of the biggest, most influential albums to drop this summer place religious questions and symbols at their core. More importantly, both promise to be memorable works. One, Modern Vampires of the City, marks the critical and commercial highwater mark of indie-rock impresarios Vampire Weekend. The other, Kanye West’s Yeezus, has received rave reviews and, given the artist’s current pop culture ascendance (cf. “Ki … [Read more...]

The Spirit and the Letter

Gutenberg_Bible

As director of The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann made a controversial choice in choosing to depict the parties of the Roaring Twenties with music featuring today's top artists and styles. In one sense, this made the movie a less "true" depiction of what life during the Jazz Age was life. The minor allusions to that era, the droning trumpets and hints of blues, are authentic twenties, but the rap styling and rapid beats would have been foreign to those alive during that era. Yet in another sense, Lu … [Read more...]


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