But first, here are some of the things that caught my attention on the Wild Wild Web in the last couple of weeks…
- Michael Sicinski’s review of The Imitation Game is brilliant.
- Then, continuing the awesomeness, Sicinski talks about the legacy of great religious cinema… and how the new “Christian movies” look miserable by comparison.
- Alissa Wilkinson is keeping a Sundance Film Festival diary for Christianity Today. Today she reviews The Witch.
- Steven Greydanus delivers his Top 10 of 2014. Several of those titles still haven’t opened in Seattle. (Sigh.)
- Michael Leary at Filmwell on Paul Harrill’s wonderful film Something, Anything. It’s streaming now on iTunes!
- Look at the new Cannes jury co-presidents!
- Alex Malarkey: “I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” Well, it certainly made your publisher a lot of money, Alex. And now it has thrown fuel on the fires of cynicism about the idea of heaven for people who were already skeptics.
- Artur Rosman interviews Gregory Wolfe, and it’s great.
- Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing “Coleridge on the Reading of Fairy Tales.”
- Isn’t it amazing how those who argue that global warming is real have actually rigged the entire cosmos to back up their silly ideas?
- My favorite sports event of the year: The NFL Bad Lip Reading.
- Here’s the first review of Bob Dylan‘s new album: Shadows of the Night. And here’s an interview in AARP. And here’s a song.
- Listen to the new Punch Brothers album, produced by T Bone Burnett, at Press Play. It’s full of joy and harmony and invention and astonishing musicianship. “This Little Light of Mine” will never be the same (“Little Lights”).
- The Guardian calls Carrie and Lowell “The Best Record Sufjan Stevens Has Ever Made.” I can’t wait.
- St. Vincent has an awesome new song: “Bad Believer.”
- Bettye LaVette‘s new album, produced by Joe Henry, features covers of Bob Dylan and Over the Rhine. It’s streaming here.
NOW… ABOUT AMERICAN SNIPER…
Last week, I saw people making comments on Twitter that implied Selma is a movie for liberals and American Sniper is a movie for conservatives.
That made me sad: Why spoil works of art by reducing them to partisan politics, when there is so much in both films for everyone to enjoy, admire, examine, and discuss?
Then I came across this, from Marilynne Robinson’s “Imagination and Community”:
When definitions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ begin to contract, there seems to be no limit to how narrow these definitions can become. As they shrink and narrow, they are increasingly inflamed, more dangerous and inhumane. They present themselves as movements toward truer and purer community, but, as I have said, they are the destruction of community. They insist that the imagination must stay within the boundaries they establish for it, that sympathy and identification are only allowable within certain limits. I am convinced that the broadest possible exercise of imagination is the thing most conducive to human health, individual and global.
Read that quotation again.
Then consider these quotes from Chris Kyle, the “hero” of American Sniper:
On being a sniper:
“You do it until there’s no one left to kill. That’s what war is. I loved what I did… I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun.”
“I wondered, how would I feel about killing someone? Now I know. It’s no big deal.”
“There’s another question people ask a lot: Did it bother you killing so many people in Iraq? I tell them ‘No.’ And I mean it.”
On the moral ambiguity:
“I have a strong sense of justice. It’s pretty much black-and-white. I don’t see too much gray.”
Personally, I would be cautious to take as gospel anything said about moral ambiguity by someone who suffered a lot of PTSD.
And the actor who played Chris Kyle says that the film was not meant to express political support for, or criticism of, the Iraq War. It was supposed to be a movie about the damage that our veterans have suffered, and how we need to take care of them.
If it’s not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets. It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even…It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.
Maybe if we heeded Robinson’s words — which are actually a translation of the Gospel message regarding how Jesus calls us to open our arms to people of different cultures, classes, vocations, and genders — we would help break the cycle of violence in the world. It could begin by referring to our “enemies” (and yes, even those who might provoke the term “savages”) as our “neighbors,” and learning how to pray for them and desire God’s mercy on them (as Jesus did), instead of fooling ourselves into believing that gunning them down will advance God’s kingdom in the world.
P.S. My friend Lindsay Marshall linked to this article , and noted:
It seems to me the heart of the problem is when believers (of any kind, religious and otherwise) expect art to serve as their echo chamber. They look to it to confirm their opinions rather than as a vehicle for exploring others’ experiences. We rob ourselves of a rich opportunity to build empathy and deepen our understanding of Truth when we do that.
But heck, if we’re just going to use film to confirm our beliefs, let’s at least get it right and pick the film with a main character whose values actually line up with the teachings of Christ.