Brush with Greatness

Many Beautiful Things lives up to its title. With lush visuals from the English countryside, the deserts of North Africa, and the watercolors of its subject Lilias Trotter, the latest from filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson pleases the eye while asking questions of the heart. If Trotter’s name sounds . . . . Continue Reading »

Devotio Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino once said, “Movies are my religion and God is my patron,” and yet, his movies can hardly be considered religious. Tarantino’s cinematic universe is characterized by unmitigated violence, terror, and a prolific theme of human self-destruction.

Spotlight on the Vulnerable

Any major American newspaper would immediately fire a reporter who was caught using composite characters or inventing quotations for his stories. Hollywood naturally plays by different rules. A film “based on” a true story is considered acceptable; “recreated” dialogue is the norm. We expect . . . . Continue Reading »

Not Quite Nihilism

Believing in absolutely nothing is harder than it looks. The ultra-skeptical ­Arcesilaus, head of the Platonic Academy in the third century b.c., tried his best: When confronted with the saying “I only know that I know nothing,” which was attributed to Socrates, he is supposed to have replied . . . . Continue Reading »

Suicide at the Oscars

This year two films on suicide took home Oscars: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 for best Documentary Short Film and The Phone Call for best Live Action Short Film. Both speak with quiet eloquence about the power of love in the face of death.

Calvary’s Lost Catholicism

Patrick Cassidy, the composer for the 2014 film Calvary, jokes about the film’s grimness: “It’s not exactly a date movie.” He’s right: The film follows a lonely Irish priest as he shepherds a cold and bitter village. Its harsh realism is profoundly humbling. Heavy as the film is, it is lifted by Cassidy’s classical score. Continue Reading »

Gnosticism 2.0

Humans typically situate their divinities at the border of the cosmos. The Israelites and Babylonians understood the solid sky to represent the edge of the created order and placed gods there accordingly. Whether YHWH or Marduk, deities reside at the farthest limit of the world. Modern science has expanded the cosmos so far beyond the ancient imagination that not only do we now find the idea of divinities living in the sky absurd, but we cannot even place new gods at the edge. There is neither absolute space nor privileged location in the new, constantly expanding universe. Continue Reading »