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

Rhiannon Giddens

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 My Turn, an album that seems to immediately negate its own title by declaring “Today! Today belongs to Giddens.” … [Read more...]

My Favorite Film of 2014: The Strange Little Cat

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[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 connections before somebody else did, but it was more complicated than tic-tac-toe, and it also had tactile elements that made it more satisfying: the sound of the chips clattering together, the sound of them … [Read more...]

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

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Finally... an Oscar year that brings some much needed focus to a subject sorely overlooked at the movies — great men with big dreams!But seriously: Really, Oscars? Were all of the best films of 2014 about ambitious but misunderstood men with big visions for art, for change, for science, for innovation? … [Read more...]

Something, Anything

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

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 by being fashion-model "perfect," but rather by evincing a far more human kind of beauty.The fourth part of the series has been long delayed because it to … [Read more...]

Seek Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.

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"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."- Micah 6:81. Seek justice.2. Love mercy.3. Walk humbly with your God.Sounds like one of those "Pick two" jokes. … [Read more...]

Two Visits to London, Two Well-Rounded Characters

Paddington

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 of those characters are... shall we say... well-rounded? … [Read more...]

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

American Sniper

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 Iraq war as another case of Americans saving the world; and that it failed to question why in the world we went there in the first place.Well, I was greatly relieved to find out that t … [Read more...]

Looking Closer at Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups

Knight of Cups

[This post will be updated with more reviews and excerpts as I discover them.]Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups screened at Berlinale today.And since Looking Closer readers have, historically, been more excited about and more interested in Malick than any other director, it's worth paying attention.Here come the reviews... 1. Slant (Fujishima)With Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick achieves the sense of stylistic ossification that many accused his last feature, To the Wonder, of emb … [Read more...]

Now Streaming: One of 2014′s Most Meaningful Thrillers

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I will not mention Terrence Malick when I review As It Is In Heaven. I will not mention Terrence Malick when I review As It Is In Heaven. I will not mention Terrence Malick when I review As It Is In Heaven. I will not... Oh, forget it.To reference Terrence Malick in reviews of films about faith is becoming as common as referencing Flannery O'Connor in reviews of Southern fiction. But that's the power of an artist's vision: Malick and O'Connor both sought to reflect hard truths without … [Read more...]

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

Books and Culture1

In the early days, they plotted how to kill each other. That may sound like unseemly behavior for a group of celebrated Christian writers. But you can read all about the murderous conspiracies of The Chrysostom Society in their first collaborative literary effort: Carnage at Christhaven. It’s a serial murder mystery — satirical, smart, and subversive — each grisly chapter contributed by a different society member. (It was first published in 1989.) None of them, not even the writers themselves, … [Read more...]


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