A Conversation with Sam Phillips: Revisiting The Image 20th Anniversary Interview

This weekend, Sam Phillips joined Joe Henry onstage for what was reportedly a knockout, 2 1/2-hour concert. Oh, if only I could have teleported down to L.A. to at the Coronet. I’ve been in a bit of a funk, knowing that I was missing one of my dream concerts. To cheer myself up, I’m revisiting [Read More...]

Rhiannon Giddens

What Do Rhiannon Giddens, Sam Phillips, and the Movie “Amélie” Have in Common?

When a music critic declares an album “perfect,” it tends to say more about that listener’s enthusiasm—and, perhaps, hubris—than it does about the record. So I’m holding myself back from that kind of overreach here. Suffice it to say that I’d have a hard time imagining a stronger “debut” record for Rhiannon Giddens than Tomorrow Is [Read More...]


My Favorite Film of 2014: The Strange Little Cat

[This review was included in my Favorite Films of 2014 post. But, for the archives, it gets a post of its own.] • In one scene, two young people play Connect Four. Do you remember Connect Four? I loved playing this game when I was a kid. There was the tic-tac-toe fun of trying to see [Read More...]


Oscars 2015: Listen to My Discussion and Debate with Dr. Jeff Keuss, Novelist Jennie Spohr, and Producer Anna Miller

Finally… an Oscar year that brings some much needed focus to a subject sorely overlooked at the movies — great men with big dreams! [Read more...]

3_Ashley Shelton (Margaret) and Linds Edwards (Tim) in Paul Harrill's SOMETHING ANYTHING_Courtesy of Self Reliant Film

The Looking Closer Beauty Pageant — Contestant 4: Margaret

Ida, Ewa, Gloria, and now… the final contestant in this, the Looking Closer Beauty Pageant. Readers, let me catch you up: In early 2014, I began a four-part series in which I focused on films that captured the rare cinematic marvel of a living, breathing, three-dimensional female character — somebody who does not capture our attention [Read More...]

Seek Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

Bear with me. This isn’t a movie review or a music review. This is just something that’s on my mind today. I’ll explain why, but first I have to write down the heavy stuff. [Read more...]

The Lone Bellow, U2, Bob Dylan, and Aaron Strumpel – or, How I Learned to Stop Scowling and Love Liturgy

I may have sensed, on some level, the dissonance between such prejudice and Jesus’ own teachings. But if I did, I suppressed it. That sense of superiority, of being on the right team, of having Jesus’ favor: they felt too good to give up. One of the easiest targets on my denominational dartboard was liturgy. [Read more...]

Two Visits to London, Two Well-Rounded Characters

This weekend, I had an incredible amount of writing to accomplish. So I only allowed myself two breaks, and I stuffed them with two movies. I chose wisely. The two I chose have a few things in common. Both films take us to London. Both bring beloved characters to life (one fictional, one historical). And both [Read More...]

God, Family, Country… Right? American Sniper’s Troubling Anti-War Truth

So, I avoided seeing American Sniper for a few weeks because the highly politicized debate about it was so intense. I’d been given a very strong impression from certain ugly responses to the movie that it was a celebration of heroism in the Iraq War; that it glorified the killing of Iraqis; that it depicted the [Read More...]

Looking Closer at Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups screened at Berlinale today. Here come the reviews… [Read more...]

Now Streaming: One of 2014′s Most Meaningful Thrillers

Even more evidence that films about faith are alive and well in contemporary cinema (and that there is no need for a preachy “Christian movie industry”): As It Is In Heaven is an intelligent, riveting thriller that shows wisdom on the subject of cults and their appeal. [Read more...]

Discover The Chrysostom Society: Meet Editor and Book Enthusiast John Wilson

In the early days, they plotted how to kill each other. [Read more...]

What Breakup Record Cuts Your Heart Open? Readers Respond!

I posted a question on Facebook and elsewhere: What breakup songs or breakup records mean the most to you? What music do you find entangled in your own hurtful experiences of separation? The floodgates burst open.
[Read more...]

Listening Closer: Bjork’s “Stonemilker”

Sharing your heart with someone who in turn takes sledgehammer to it understandably leaves an impression. [Read more...]

Looking Elsewhere: Starring… American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Sundance, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, Fairy Tales, Global Warming, Bob Dylan, Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Marilynne Robinson, and More

I’ll conclude with a few words about the American Sniper hubbub. But first, here are some of the things that caught my attention on the Wild Wild Web in the last couple of weeks… [Read more...]

Listening Closer to Joe Henry’s “Sparrow,” The Lone Bellow, and Jessica Pratt

The first song of Joe Henry’s album Invisible Hour — my favorite record of 2014 — is the subject of the second installment in my new series called “Listening Closer.” Plus: Two new albums well worth your time and attention. [Read more...]

“Our nation was born in genocide…”

He’s the great orator. Let’s make a space for him to go on speaking. If you read great words from this great man today, feel free to share them in the Comments here. [Read more...]

Why We Need SELMA

We need this movie. We need it for this reason: Wherever Martin Luther King Jr. carried his dream, racists and scoffers assembled. Americans have made some admirable progress since then. But is it over? Was the dream realized? When I praise this movie that was made in celebration of King’s dream — guess what happens. The taunters and scoffers assemble. [Read more...]

Do You Hear What I Hear? A New Weekly Adventure in “Listening Closer.”

This week, I begin a new year-long adventure: “Listening Closer.” I will write about one song every week, opening it up to consider what’s inside, where it came from, what it might mean, and why it has caught my attention and stayed on my mind. [Read more...]

The “Most Christian” Movie of the Year?

In Selma — and I’m pretty sure about this — there is more gospel quoted, more gospel celebrated, more gospel embraced and openly lived out than in any so-called “Christian movie” released in 2014. (Except the one that was, you know, a Jesus movie.) [Read more...]

Looking Closer at Selma: My Review and Some Other Perspectives

By choosing intimacy over an epic scale, by going small instead of large, by discernment and selectivity over throwing everything available to her at the screen, Ava Duvernay has surpassed all expectations with a masterfully crafted film that will become a standard by which historical films are measured. [Read more...]