Longing, Communion, and the Great Gatsby

Like most of us, I read The Great Gatsby in high school, and although I forgot most of the plot, I remember the elusive feelings that the book evoked, and liking them. I was surprised, then, when the movie mesmerized me, but also left me feeling kind of sick.I can see the source of the film (and book’s) attraction.  The green light perpetually burning on Daisy’s dock is a powerful sign of human desire, reaching, perpetually reaching – for another plane of human existence, for a life that is m … [Read more...]

Art and The Mysterious Beyond

A couple of posts over at “Good Letters” have thoughtfully addressed art’s purpose and how it interacts with and reflects a greater reality. In the first of these pieces, Vic Sizemore responds to a recent article by Michael Chabon in the New York Review of Books. Chabon argues that the artist’s function is addressing brokenness in the world by putting back together the “‘scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw puzzle’ according to [the artist’s] own vision.”  A creative work “is authenti … [Read more...]

Waiting for the Bells

One of the greatest scenes in the history of cinema comes at the end of an obscure Russian movie about a medieval icon painter, Andrei Rublev.  The film, written and directed by Andrei Tarkosvsky in Soviet Russia (an unlikely Dostoevsky among directors in a secular age), tells the story of the painter and his struggles in seven episodes spanning the period from his early adulthood to old age.  The seventh and final episode of the film, entitled “The Bell”, focuses on a young man, the orphaned son … [Read more...]

The Beast in Its Tracks

I found myself dreading the release of Josh Ritter’s latest album, which is strange, because he’s been a favorite of mine since I first heard The Animal Years back in 2006. His songwriting is truly superior, and he’s got a talented and versatile band supporting him. If Fare Forward were electing a poet laureate, he would be my nominee.His attitude toward Christianity is an especially powerful current under his music. His lyrics are saturated with biblical and theological language, but unlike … [Read more...]

Art and Friendship

When one thinks of art and its relation to ethics, one of the first things to come to mind is Plato’s treatment of poets and painters in the Republic.  Neither group is beloved of the philosopher: the poets do too much to lead the passions astray and create false notions of divinity and the afterlife; the painters create objects which form the lowest rung on the Platonic chain of being.  For Plato, immaterial forms are the untainted essences of things, while material instantiations of those forms … [Read more...]

Keeping Great Movies at a Distance

Did you see The Master?  I did, when it came out.  It was disturbing, filled with a kind of psychological grit that I'm accustomed to seeing only in Swedish movies.  The photography was incredible.  I'm still haunted by the film's recurring transition shot: a slow motion image of water churning in the wake of a boat.  And Joaquin Phoenix?  Amazing.Beasts of the Southern Wild?  It must have been the most humane and moving film of the year.  The director is a 31 year old New Yorker who somehow … [Read more...]

Argo: The Year’s Best “Good Movie”

 If a big theme with this year’s Best Picture nominees was a lack of tension and challenge, Argo is the clear outlier. Like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, Argo was saddled with a story where the ending was never in doubt. Yet Ben Affleck managed to take that story and develop an engrossing, all-purpose thriller with some meaningful commentaries on the stress of human existence. It would be poetic justice, and just plain just, for Argo to win Best Picture in a year when so many movies f … [Read more...]