He Shall Feed His Flock: A Christian Reflects on Manchester by the Sea, by Esther O’Reilly

17 Jan

Several New Year’s roundups noted the plethora of faith-friendly films released in 2016, including more than one positive depiction of Christians from heavyweight Hollywood directors. Perhaps the two most notable were Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and Martin Scorsese’s Silence (if you count the latter’s limited 2016 release). Gibson, drawing from life, and Scorsese, drawing from literature, presented full-bodied Christian characters that demanded to be taken seriously. They were neither caricatures nor cardboard cut-outs, but complex men putting skin in the game for their deepest convictions. Tim Gray at Variety also noted John Hurt’s portrayal of a wise priest in the biopic Jackie. It may seem pathetic to be grateful when Hollywood gives us a priest who is neither a megalomaniac nor a pedophile, but the change is still welcome.

Despite this good news, an effectual Christian presence was lacking in one Best Picture contender, ironically one of the films where it was most sorely needed. I’m speaking about Manchester By the Sea.

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The Fear of God: Let Me In

17 Jan

In this episode, Reed and Nathan discuss Matt Reeves’ Let Me In.

There Were Angels Too, by Reed Lackey

15 Jan

“The river flowed quiet again, reaching toward a gentler shore.” – William Peter Blatty, from The Exorcist

There are stories which are so affecting, so deeply impactful, that they become the standard-bearer for their genre – or for stories in general. To the horror fan, one of the unrivaled masterpiece standard bearers is The Exorcist. The author of that novel, and of the screenplay which became the film, has passed away.

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A Lovely Night, by Bob Connally

14 Jan

If his first two features are any indicator, Damien Chazelle really wants all of us to love jazz. We may be indifferent to it- or possibly even hate it- now, but with 2014’s Whiplash and now his musical La La Land, Chazelle appears to be making that his life’s work. Whether or not he reaches his ultimate goal, as long as he keeps making films at the level of his first two, he is certainly achieving something special.

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Episode 181: Hell or High Water

12 Jan

In this episode, Tyler and Reed discuss David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water and Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan.

The Fear of God: Dracula (1931)

10 Jan

In this episode, Reed and Nathan discuss Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula.

Fun with Fear, by Reed Lackey

9 Jan

Have you ever had the privilege to sit around a crackling campfire and listen to somebody’s unshaven, twisty-haired grandpa tell you a ghost story? You know, the ones where it’s almost as silly as it is scary, but at just the right moments he’ll quiet down, almost to a whisper, right before shouting his next word with a leap and a burst and causing everyone within earshot to jump right off their seats?
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Light My Path, by Tyler Smith

8 Jan

I recently discovered the work of artist Owen Klaas. He is a painter who sells his work through his company Fiendish Thingies. When I first saw his paintings, I was astounded. These pieces were dark and moody, and seemed to owe a lot to the German Expressionist films of the 1920s. They were primarily landscapes, featuring bare, ragged trees, angular mountains, and lonely paths winding through the darkness. It’s what the world would be like through the eyes of Dr. Caligari.

And yet these paintings were not altogether hopeless. They did not seem to be mere exercises in a melancholy, eerie tone. Were they simply that, I don’t think I’d have looked twice; I’d have noted the unique visual quality and moved on. However, there was something about Klaas’ work that grabbed me. Within most of the paintings, in the midst of harsh and drab landscapes, there was often a single element that stood out; a splash of color or vitality that broke up the isolated sadness of this world.

This was most clear to me in his piece “Light My Path”. In it, we have a large, ominous full moon shining down on a mountainous forest. In a clearing, however, we have a lone tree, leafless and skeletal. This tree grows next to a narrow path that winds its way towards the far off mountains. Hanging just above the path, from the lowest branch on the tree, is a lantern. It is lit, but doesn’t seem to give off much light. Just enough to illuminate this specific section of the path, it would seem.

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Episode 180: Sully

5 Jan

In this episode, Tyler and Robert discuss Clint Eastwood’s Sully and Paul Greengrass’ United 93.

Beyond Words, by Reed Lackey

4 Jan

Netflix has certainly earned its place among the pioneers of serialized storytelling. Their original films, though ranging in quality, have certainly established a brand to notice and to follow. Among the latest additions to that brand is an eight-chapter story called The OA, which poses as a mini-series but feels more akin to a seven and a half hour film (or a short novel for TV viewers).

Knowing how much to reveal about The OA is tricky. There are elements of this story which deserve to be discovered rather than briefly summarized. However to say anything substantial demands a certain disclosure of narrative beats.

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