fiddlers gun

A.S. Peterson Presents a Christmas Playlist

A Christmas playlist from adventure novelist and Rabbit Room editor A. S. Peterson… [Read more...]

sarah dark2

Sarah Masen Presents a Christmas Playlist

I began listening to this post’s guest DJ late, and by a rather circuitous route. First, I discovered the writing of David Dark, whose books are among some of my favorite cultural commentaries. Then I began hearing about his immensely talented “better half”: Sarah Dark. Or, as she is better known: Sarah Masen. The name [Read More...]

chris willman

Chris Willman Presents a Christmas Playlist

I was already a fan of Chris Willman’s work in the early ’90s when he singled out U2′s greatly misunderstood, hastily dismissed album Pop as the #1 record of that year. I was glad to find somebody who was listening closely enough to appreciate the complexity and stylistic audacity of the record. I already knew about [Read More...]

fault in our stars

The Fault in Our Stars (2014): First Impressions

If I were struggling with cancer, I suspect this movie would come across as punch in the gut. [Read more...]


Agents of Future Present a Christmas Playlist

Ready for another Christmas playlist? This one’s full of surprises. [Read more...]

Moses and Errin’ — A Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings

Dear Ridley Scott, My name is Aaron. I’m the brother of Moses. In the Holy Scriptures, when Moses balks at God’s call for him to go and free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, claiming a lack of eloquence, God gets aggravated and assigns me to travel with him, to face Pharaoh, and to act as [Read More...]

A High-Wire Act From the Director of Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Flight

Robert Zemeckis took us back in time with Marty McFly and again with Forrest Gump. This time around, he might as well recycle a famous Back to the Future quote: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” [Read more...]

Over the Rhine Presents a Christmas Playlist

Here now, is what Over the Rhine would play for you if you asked to hear something besides their own extraordinary Christmas recordings… [Read more...]

Coyote Hunting at Christmas: Linford Detweiler Talks About “Blood Oranges in the Snow”

In this, my fourth Looking Closer conversation with Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine, we talked about the stories behind the songs on the band’s third “Reality Christmas” album, Blood Oranges in the Snow. [Read more...]

Alissa Wilkinson Presents a Christmas Playlist

When inquiring of my favorite writers and artists about the Christmas music that means the most to them, I turned habitually to someone I tend to ask for recommendations in almost everything. [Read more...]

Sara Zarr Presents a Christmas Playlist

2014 marked the tenth anniversary of my friendship with YA novelist Sara Zarr. In the decade since we happened to sit down at the same table for a fiction workshop led by author Erin McGraw, Sara has written five of the best-reviewed new YA novels. (She became a National Book Award finalist for her first. Not [Read More...]

Looking Elsewhere: Blood Oranges, Image, Hurray for the Riff Raff, PJ Harvey, Lightsabers, P.D. James, and More.

Here are a few recent distractions and discoveries from elsewhere on the web that gave me fleeting moments of relief from the storms of a Bad News Week. [Read more...]

Ashley Cleveland Presents a Christmas Playlist

Our Christmas Playlist Party continues! Here’s one of the most soulful musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live: Grammy award-winning gospel singer Ashley Cleveland. [Read more...]

Joe Henry Presents a Christmas Playlist

Our first Christmas Playlist Party host? Please welcome Grammy award-winning producer, poet, and musician Joe Henry, whose new album “Invisible Hour” is, at this writing, my favorite record of 2014 and the one I have played most often. [Read more...]

Cinematic States Contest Results: And the Winner Is…

Last week, I invited you to tell us which movie best captures the character of your home territory. The winner would receive a signed copy of the book “Cinematic States,” Gareth Higgins’ thought-provoking tour of the U.S.A. by the way it is revealed through its movies. Whose name did I draw from the hat? [Read more...]

Exodus: Gods and Kings — Justin Chang Posts an Early Review

Film critic Justin Chang, a consummate professional over at Variety, is among the first out of the gate with a detailed review of Ridley Scott’s major Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings.  I’m seeing the film in a few days, and this review has surprised me by making me much more eager to see the film…. [Read more...]

Looking Closer’s Thanksgiving Movie: Terrence Malick’s The New World

So, putting on my film critic hat, I will do as I usually do at Thanksgiving — I will recommend that we remember the origins of this nation, that we reflect on the early days of European culture converging and clashing with Native American culture, through the lenses, the imagination, the eyes, and the conscience of Terrence Malick. My Thanksgiving movie is the “Extended Cut” of The New World. [Read more...]

Rough Neighborhood: A Note About Facebook, Comments, and Social Media Manner

It’s been a rough week in America — and that means it’s been a rough week on social media as well. Yesterday, I posted something on Facebook that I wanted to offer as food for thought: Mostly, the consolation of Scriptures — messages assuring us that our longing for justice will be completely fulfilled by [Read More...]

Coming Not Soon Enough to a Troubled Neighborhood Near You

“This film does more to advance new conversations on the legacy of human rights and the ever-present threat of violence and trauma in black life- something that seems so regular within the racist hierarchies that allow it, but when broadcast across the world and into homes of fellow human beings, becomes grotesque. There is no [Read More...]

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 — My First Impressions

Our futures will be shaped by the capacity of rising generations to challenge and test what their screens and gadgets tell them about the world, and The Hunger Games is a parable for them, about them, summoning them to demand freedom, human rights, and the truth. [Read more...]

Which Movie Captures Your Part of the World? Tell Me, and You Might Win a Great Book.

“This is really wonderful stuff. Thoughtful, unique, insightful, and funny. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.” That’s what Scott Teems, director of Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey and That Evening Sun, and writer for the hit TV series Rectify, says about Cinematic States, the new book by my friend, the Northern Irish film enthusiast and author Gareth Higgins. Marc [Read More...]