BP_blog

'Boyhood' Mixes Life's Rawness and Grittiness with Hope

14233-1The purpose of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is to realistically tell the story of a boy, Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), from the age of five to 17 by filming the same actors over a period of 12 years and adding to the script as the years progressed. This technique brings the rawness of normal life to the screen in an unexpected way. As the viewer, you are in the moment with the actors and the developing stories of the individuals. As you see Mason age, you also see the important things in his life take shape, and questions that were small in the beginning bloom into something unexpected.

Mason, Jr.'s story begins at the age of six, where he lives in Texas with his single mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister, Samantha (Lorelai Linklater). Olivia is overwhelmed with the responsibility of having two children before she had a chance to experience life. After the children’s biological father, Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke), returns from an extended stay in Alaska, Olivia decides to move the children and pursue a degree at the University of Houston. Mason, Jr., fears that his father will not be able to find him, since they had only been reunited recently. Since the relationship between Olivia and Mason, Sr., is very strained, the best his mother can do is reassure him that their Dad can find them through their grandmother or by calling Information.
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'The Giver' Warns Us of the Consequences of Forgetting

harvey-weinstein-forced-the-giver-movie-to-change-the-books-endingYears before “Dystopian Book Adaptation for Teens” became a Netflix category, Lois Lowry dreamed of a world without painful memories. I first experienced her novel “The Giver” in my early 20s when I taught eightth grade, and I fell in love with the story for the questions it raised. Though frequently banned in schools, it seems to be a favorite book among teachers, so it’s not surprising that a teacher, the wife of Walden Media President Micheal Flaherty, influenced the company to pursue the book. (You can read my interview with Flaherty here.)

It could not have been in better hands. Director Phillip Noyce along with writers Michale Mitnick and Robert Weide created an adaptation that remains true to the essence of the story; however, they were not afraid to take the liberty to interpret ambiguous scenes. The final result is a movie that I honestly believe is better than the book. Read More >
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Changes Worth Celebrating in the CBA

woman-reading-on-a-cold-day-beach.jpg.pagespeed.ce.nixvATQKv6Recently Mike Duran wrote a piece for the popular site Novel Rocket that spoke to some of the limitations of Christian fiction. Duran discusses, among other things, some of the classic novels appropriated by today’s Christian readers for their obvious theological message. He wonders if they would have trouble finding their place on the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) roster during a current publishing cycle.

I write not to argue Duran’s point, but rather to expound on a commonly held belief that Christian fiction as a whole is a place for that which is squeaky clean, saccharine, and sweet. Further, I write to inspire those Christians who may have written it off to consider re-engaging.
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‘Ragamuffin’ Artfully Portrays the Life and Faith of Rich Mullins

Ragamuffin_DVD-CBA-copyThe music of the late Rich Mullins has always touched me. Twenty years ago he provided the soundtrack of my childhood. Those were the golden days of “contemporary” Christian music, and for me, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and especially Mullins evoke a time when life was simple and faith came naturally.

I never knew much about the man whose dulcimer and acoustic guitar now take me back to yesteryear. I sang along with him about the prairies calling out God’s name, the color green filling Irish fields with praise, and the chariot of fire he hoped to borrow from Elijah. Now I know that the eternal peace and faith his music conveyed rarely hinted at the restless heart and struggles with doubt that punctuated Mullins’ life.

Seventeen years after his death, this musician who built a career making comfortable Christians squirm still has a lot to teach us—particularly as believing artists search for their role in a changing culture and young evangelicals question middle-class Christianity.
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'The Hundred-Foot Journey' Is a Celebration of Both

NEzzwzr4HLebCG_1_4Hassan Kadam’s (Manish Dayal) introduction to the power of food as a vehicle of life and memory first came from his mother (Juhi Chawla) in the family kitchen. His family’s restaurant was his school, and the streets and markets of their Mumbai home were his texts—the meats, vegetables, and spices the components of his would-be livelihood.

But everything changed when his family’s restaurant home became the scene of a fiery riot that claimed the life of his mother. Seeking political asylum, Hassan’s Papa (Om Puri) packs up his family and they immigrate to England, the first step on a long journey in search of a new home and purpose. It’s a journey that holds the promise of making or breaking Hassan’s future, for the self-described cook with the inherent natural talent of the world’s finest chefs must decide what he where his heart lies: in the riches and acclaim of the world, or the promise of home found in every one of his mother’s treasured spice jars and family recipes.

Based on the novel of the same name by Richard C. Morais, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a refreshingly heartfelt, quiet little film in the midst of a summer blockbuster season more often than not defined by noise, fury, and non-stop action.
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'Guardians of the Galaxy' Is a Breath of Fresh Air for Marvel

guardians-galaxy-movie-previewIn a summer full of superheroes, last weekend saw Marvel unleash arguably its riskiest film yet. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” based on the 2008 comic, is the tale of a ragtag band of space-traveling misfits: a pirate, an assassin, a muscle man, a genetically modified raccoon, and a sentient tree . . . hardly the brand of superhero one has been conditioned to expect from Marvel’s recent efforts.

But in the grand tradition of science fiction epics that started with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars and continued through the 20th century with the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, “Guardians” is a smartly executed blend of Marvel’s hero brand and space-opera tropes. And though they’d be the last to admit it, Star Lord Peter Quill and his motley crew are a powerful illustration of the longstanding power and appeal of the heroic journey in faith and fiction, and a breath of fresh air at the same time they’re part of Marvel’s proven formula for cinematic success.

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The Films of 1939, Part 8

2_Victor_Fleming_The_Wizard_of_Oz_DVD_Review_Judy_Garland_PDVD_009The Wizard of Oz” is the first movie I can remember seeing. Alas, I remember very little of that first exposure at age four or five. When I sat down to watch it again recently, my head was filled with all the cultural associations we now have with it.

The music and characters have become part of our collective consciousness. We sing the songs in choir in high school. We don’t need any context to understand a quote that comes up randomly in conversation. “The Wizard of Oz” has been remade and rewritten and re-sequeled and prequeled to death. One of my favorite pieces of science fiction is a vaguely steampunk miniseries version of “The Wizard of Oz” called “Tin Man.” Another sci-fi favorite, “Stargate,” references the movie so many times I’ve lost count. Internet memes make fun of its logical fallacies. The book and musical “Wicked” completely turn the story upside down and make the Wicked Witch of the West a sympathetic character. Even if you’ve never seen the movie before, still, if you decide to give it a try, very little of it will be entirely new.

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'Wish I Was Here' Inspires Old-Fashioned Heroism in Postmodern Times

wish_i_was_here_-_h_-_2014I don't entirely know why I love Zach Braff, but I do. He walks the line between absurdly immature and completely grown up in a way that is charming rather than irritating. Other people must feel the same way, because they funded his movie idea. "Wish I Was Here" is a Kickstarter project. I hope the people who paid for it were as pleased with the outcome of their investment as I was.

"Wish I Was Here" opens with a Scrubs-like daydream sequence. Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is imagining he's a Space-Knight. (Which is apparently a real thing? I'm not as nerdy as I pretend to be.) He tells us that he and his brother always wanted to be heroes when they were little, but "maybe we're just the normal people—the ones who get saved."

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Seven Things I Learned from Timothy

paul-and-timothyDiscipleship is something we’re all called to in Scripture. It’s not a spiritual gift or a thought or a whim from the Lord. It’s a direct calling. We’re called to go and make disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19).

People always look at discipleship as “Paul teaching Timothy,” right? Teacher and pupil. Radically simple. But any pastor or youth leader or spiritual figurehead knows I speak the truth when I say: It’s not always that simple. No relationship is truly ever one way when it comes to wisdom. Sure, one side will be of greater merit, but both parties tend to walk away more learned. Paul speaks of this in Philemon, where he says that Philemon gave him “joy and encouragement” from loving others. Students will always have some effect on their teachers.
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The Poetry of World War I and Our Need for a Physician

Worcester_Regiment_sentry_in_trench_Ovillers_1916_IWM_Q_4100I volunteered to write this article about the 100th anniversary of World War I, because I had a million ideas. I considered writing something about the German matchbox case that my mechanic gave me, which bears the motto "Gott Mitt Uns": "God With Us." But then I remembered this review by Benjamin Wetzel and decided to leave that angle to the experts. I thought about talking about the comedy show “Blackadder Goes Forth” that was set in World War I, and specifically its surprising final episode, "Goodbyeee." But that speaks for itself.

I thought about the Oxford English Dictionary's “100 Words That Defined World War I”—containing terms like "The Great War," "The War to End All Wars," as well as "Lost Generation" and "unknown soldier"—but again I realized that there are many who could write much more knowledgeably about it. I even thought about some of my childhood literature obsessions that brought on my interest in "The Great War"—specifically, “After the Dancing Days,” the only book I ever went into the YA section of the library for, and the only book whose entire second half I read through hiccupping sobs and tears—and, of course, about the war experiences of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Ultimately, though, I dabble in World War I. I'm fascinated and horrified by it, and I think it is worth my study, and the study of any Christian, but I am not qualified to lecture you about it for 1,000 words. Instead, I will walk you through two of many amazing poems by young Englishmen who died in World War I, and explain why you, too, should be ransacking your library's World War I displays.

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A Review of Lamin Sanneh's 'Summoned from the Margin'

9780802867421As I noted in my review of Todd Hartch’s “Rebirth of Latin American Christianity,” Christianity’s demographics worldwide are rapidly changing. In 1921, the French Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc could state without fear of contradiction, “The Faith is Europe and Europe is the Faith.” This is patently no longer the case. Over the past century, Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted south and east, so that the number of Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia far outnumber those in Europe and North America. In this second installment of a series on “global Christianity,” we will focus on Africa by examining the autobiography of the continent’s most important (expatriate) theologian.

Lamin Sanneh was born in 1942 in the Gambia, a tiny nation in West Africa. How this man who was raised in a staunchly Muslim family eventually became an important Christian theologian at Yale Divinity School is the subject of his 2012 memoir “Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African” (Eerdmans). In what is mostly a religious autobiography, he chronicles his upbringing in Islam, recalls his conversion to Christianity, and fleshes out at some length his key scholarly insight: that the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages empowers unreached people groups.
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'A Long Way Down' Misses an Opportunity

LongWayDownweb_2817260bWaiting an additional four months for the U.S. release of “A Long Way Down,” the film version of Nick Hornby’s novel of the same name, made this longtime Hornby fan consider traveling across the pond. (How much is a ticket to London? Sigh.) It’s been more than 10 years since the last Hornby film adaptation, “About a Boy, which I count as one of my top 10 favorite movies. My expectations were high.

Unfortunately, the movie was not worth the wait. Pascal Chaumeil’s film adaptation gives us yet another example of a book not translating well to film. At times the pace feels too slow. Some of Hornby’s best lines from the book are left out of the film, concealing much of each character’s inner thoughts. The characters are relatable, but not endearing, and I found myself wondering if such a story could really happen.

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The Choice That Faces Every Believer in America

SMAPicture three young American men, who have moved up through the ranks in this government against certain odds. They are good at what they do, and they are respected.

One day, they and all the members of Congress, lobbyists, and members of the press in the capital are summoned to a great conference on the Mall, facing the Washington Monument. There is also a small stage with an assortment of musicians. When all have assembled, the White House press secretary announces that when the musicians begin playing, every single person must literally fall down and worship this image.

If any man does not comply, he will be promptly bound and thrown into the Potomac River, never to emerge alive.
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‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Is an Unusually Smart Summer Blockbuster

dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-pics-10Summer movies have earned a reputation for shallow storytelling and effects-driven action. These films cater to disengaged students on break who have more interest in entertainment than entertaining profound thoughts. Try diving head first into July’s cinematic offerings and you may suffer a concussion.

And summer sequels may require you to purchase a frontal lobotomy along with your popcorn, making up in explosions what they lack in exposition (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). But once in a while, a summer movie aspires to be more than just a diversion. That’s the case with this week’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a science fiction thriller that doesn’t monkey around with its themes of conflict, justice, prejudice, and evil.
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Teaching Young Women to Have Truly Godly Expectations

WR703740Of late, I’ve become aware of websites like Stay-at-Home Daughter and Raising Homemakers that advocate homemaking skills and domestic pride. In a way I can see the point. In a society saturated with immodesty and frivolous waste of life and money, we are a culture hungry for tradition, and it is wonderful to establish a respect for the domestic arts in young people, both women and men.

Yet I’ve been wondering if the number of blogs and websites dedicated to these arts is unintentionally feeding an idolization of a domestic sphere that many Christians will never inhabit. I am not criticizing these sites. Rather, I use them to raise awareness that we may be facing a problem in our churches. I should add that I’m speaking specifically to the female experience, though I have no doubt that similar insecurities are experienced by my brothers in Christ.

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